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Feeling Left Out

by Elisa Richards

The other senior girls had a secret meeting, but no one invited me! Can you say “mad”?

 The phone rang and I sighed as I laid down my grading pen to answer it. It was four o’clock, and the academy office was nearly empty.

“Ouachita Hills, this is Elisa speaking.”
“Hey, Elisa,” said Alicia, sounding anxious. “Is Leilana there?”
I looked around the office, but Leilana’s desk was empty. “She’s already off work,” I said.
“She’s not there? I really need to talk to her!” Alicia sounded panicky. Instantly I wondered if something had happened. Alicia was Leilana’s cousin.
“I can leave her a message,” I offered.
“No, I need to speak to her in person,” Alicia insisted.
I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “Did someone die?”
I was relieved to hear shaky laughter from the other end of the line. “No, no one died,” said Alicia, her voice still strained. “Just tell Leilana to call me if you see her, all right?”
Still wondering what was going on, I agreed and suggested that Alicia try calling the girls’ dorm before hanging up. Reluctantly I went back to grading the overwhelming stack of English workbooks on my desk. The clock’s hands were barely moving, and the combination of the afternoon sunlight from the window and the constant buzz of the fan was making me sleepy.
Then the office door opened, and in walked Leilana, holding a few envelopes in her hand.
“Alicia called for you,” I told her.
She frowned. “She called me at work?”
I shrugged as I told her, “She seemed pretty desperate to get a hold of you. I’d call her back if I were you.”
Leilana thanked me before putting her letters in the mailbox and departing for the girls’ dorm.
At last the little hand finally reached the number five. I quickly put away my things and clocked out before heading back to the dorm to change into comfortable clothes.
As I headed up the stairs, I ran into my friend Christine. She frowned at me. “What was that meeting all about?”
I looked at her. “What meeting?”
Her eyes widened. “You didn’t know? Oh, I thought you were there. The senior girls were having a meeting for the past half hour or so. They locked the rest of us out.”
Instantly I felt a rush of anger and jealousy. They held a meeting for the senior girls . . .  without me?
Our school was small, about 40 students in all. There were only four girls in my class, and even fewer guys. During my sophomore year I’d  completed both my sophomore and junior classes. So this year I’d joined the senior class.
The seniors were happy to have me join them, but they were already close to each other, which made it challenging for them to  accept me into their little clique. It was all right—I had my own friends among the other students. But this was too much. Calling a meeting of senior girls and not inviting me was unacceptable!
“I can’t believe they left me out!” I fumed as Christine and I walked to bell choir practice a few minutes later. “Did they just forget that I’m a part of their class too?”
Christine didn’t say anything, she just put a comforting arm around my shoulder.
“Maybe they remembered that I was at work and just thought I wouldn’t find out,” I continued.
 “Maybe . . . you should listen to their side of the story . . . before you draw your conclusions,” Christine said hesitantly.
“I don’t need to know their side of the story,” I shot back angrily.
A little part of me insisted that Christine was probably right, but I shoved those thoughts away, content to dwell on my anger. They don’t even care. Whatever their meeting was about, they aren’t even giving me the courtesy of telling me about it, I silently fumed.
During practice I rang my bells a little harder, putting some of my frustration into the music. Then another thought struck me, Maybe they don’t yet know that I’ve heard about their little meeting.
 “I’m sure they didn’t mean to leave you out,” said Christine, still trying to console me as we walked to the cafeteria after bell choir practice. “I still think you should talk to them.”
Then I felt someone touch my arm. My classmate, Leilana, had caught up with me. “Can I talk to you for a moment?” 
Christine smiled encouragingly at me before disappearing. Leilana fell into step beside me. “You won’t believe what happened to me,” she said, looking upset. She didn’t seem to notice my set jaw and clenched fists. “My cousin called and told me that my house burned down this afternoon.”
The momentary shock made me completely forget why I was upset at her. I stopped and stared. “Are you serious?”
She nodded numbly, looking away. “We lost everything—my mom’s piano, our pictures, all of my baby toys, our furniture . . .”
“Was anyone hurt?”
“No, they were all gone, thank God.”
As we entered the cafeteria, I caught up with Christine. “Did she tell you what was wrong?” asked Christine.
“Yeah,” I admitted begrudgingly. “But that’s still no excuse for calling a senior meeting without inviting me.
We loaded up our plates with burgers and fries and sat down at an empty table. Only a few minutes later the senior girls came and sat right next to us. Halfway through the meal, they seemed to notice that something was wrong.
“Are you all right?” Caroline asked me.
“I’m fine,” I lied.
Caroline watched me closely, and I looked away.
“You’re not all right,” she said quietly. “Elisa, what’s wrong?”
“Here’s what’s wrong,” I said, clenching my fists as my self-control began slipping. “You three had a meeting this afternoon for senior girls, and no one even bothered to tell me about it!”
Caroline and Christine looked confused, but Leilana’s eyes widened in understanding. “Elisa—” she began.
“Listen,” I coldly cut her off, “if you three really don’t want me around, I wish you’d told me back when I announced that I was joining your class. It would have saved me a lot of grief.”
Suddenly the anger and frustration and hurt I felt washed over me like a wave. It  appalled me when my eyes started watering—I definitely didn’t want to cry in front of the three of them. “I’ve got to go,” I mumbled and ran from the table to hide my impending tears.
Outside the sun was setting over the western border of trees. I strode back toward the dorm, not really caring where I went. Eventually I ended up sitting on a bench swing outside one of the staff homes, still trying to choke back my tears. I knew I was acting unreasonably, but I couldn’t help it.
A twig snapped and I looked up to see Leilana standing there, her face stricken. “Can I sit down?” she asked.
I shrugged, but she didn’t move.
“Fine,” I sighed, and she sat down on the other side of the bench swing, still watching me carefully.
She didn’t speak right away. When she broke the silence she asked, “Do you really feel like we leave you out a lot?”
I shrugged, not meeting her eyes. “Sometimes.”
“I’m really sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t know.”
“It’s OK,” I said quickly, regretting my outburst and feeling eager to make peace again.
“No, it’s not,” she insisted, straightening a little. “We’ll try and include you more. But Elisa, we didn’t hold a senior meeting this afternoon.”
I frowned. “You didn’t?” I said in a small voice, suddenly wondering if I’d made a mistake.
She shook her head. “I called Alicia and was so upset about the fire that I went to Christine’s room to tell her about it. Caroline just happened to be there, and they were both comforting me. I’m sorry. I would have told you first thing, but I just saw them first.”
I could feel my cheeks flushing in shame. “I’m sorry too,” I mumbled. “I jumped to conclusions, and I shouldn’t have shouted at you like that.”
I knew why I hadn’t gone to my classmates and asked them what had happened, like Christine had suggested: You were too proud. You let your anger take control, my conscience told me smugly.
“So all’s good?”
I managed a tiny smile. “All’s good.”
I mentally berated myself for jumping to conclusions. Not only had I caused myself hours of anger for nothing, I’d been unkind to my friends. To think I’d been so wrapped up in my anger and frustration when Leilana had just lost her house to a fire!
“Do you want to go back to supper?” asked Leilana, standing up from the swing.
“Sure,” I answered. I had a few more apologies to make.
Elisa Richards is currently a college student working on a double major in nursing and English. She has been to 14 countries on 8 different mission trips and enjoys reading, writing, and having adventures.

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