I listened to the pitter-patter of my footsteps as I ran and ran around the reservoir in Central Park, wishing for the angry string of emotions to disappear. But they wouldn’t. What people could do to you was shocking, and especially when you thought you knew them so well. When you thought they were your friend.
I could still hear the snickers and the taunting shouts as my best friend, Elise, and I glared at each other, and I thought of how she betrayed me in the worst way possible. But I didn’t feel sadness build up inside of me while I rushed through the wind. I was boiling mad, upset that someone could do this, and cursing the blue sky above me. I wanted to take back what was mine. I wanted to show that I wasn’t afraid to do the same to Elise as she did to me. If she would hurt me, when we were so close to each other, I would have to hurt her too.
The bitter expression on my face morphed into a wicked smile, spreading the scary happiness throughout my body. And as I kept running, running, running, I started to think of a plan. A plan that would be dangerously mean, but get back at the person who took a secret that wasn’t hers, and gave it to another who didn’t need it, nor want it.
As I completed my second lap around the reservoir, I went off the path and started to run home, dodging the passing bikes as dark thoughts curled around my mind. When I reached the comfort of my bedroom, I immediately sank into my desk chair and grabbed a blank sheet of paper and a pen, scribbling my horrifically terrible ideas to hurt my ex-best friend. I stared at my list and chose the ones that seemed to work the best. I was going to try them all, and I wouldn’t stop until I felt that I had done enough.
I woke up to a rainy, muggy day. I swiped my brown hair into a ponytail, then stepped out of my apartment, feeling the cool, moist drops on my bare arms. I checked to make sure the list was in my pocket.
Day One: Ignore Elise.
It wasn’t the best idea, but I knew that I could never forgive her, and I wanted to make sure that she understood that.
I reached my school, and walked through the hallways, trying to ignore the stares and whispers that trailed me as I trotted to homeroom. It meant that my secret had spread, and it only made me more anxious to get on with my revenge.
Once I reached room 309, I sank into my second-row desk seat, unfortunately next to Elise. They were the seats we had picked out together in the beginning of the school year, and we hadn’t changed them since.
“Hey,” she said to me.
I opened a book and started to read, slightly turning away from her.
“Um, Hannah? I want to talk to you,” she said.
She sounded desperate. I kept reading.
“Hannah, I need to tell you something. I’m sorry.” She looked away, hurt.
I almost gave in. I wanted to talk to her, wanted to say something as if nothing was wrong. But everything was wrong. I kept reading. The bell rang. I closed my book and walked away from Elise and her sad, sad face.
For the rest of the day, Elise stared at me with cold eyes, while I looked away and focused on what I was doing. I didn’t want anything to do with her.
Leaving school felt like I was a bird being let out of a cage. I needed to get away. So far, the first plan had worked, but it was just the beginning. I needed to show her how much it hurt, how terrible it feels when someone you thought you knew betrayed you. But before I could think of how to continue, my mom walked into the room on a phone call. I was startled, and quickly folded the paper, dropping it into my backpack.
“Okay. I’ll make sure to talk to her. I’m so sorry,” my mom said.
She hung up the phone. She looked at me, and I stared back.
“Honey, that was Kacey, Elise’s mom,” she said with a sigh.
This couldn’t be good.
“She said that Elise came home crying today and told her everything that happened in school between you two. Why did you ignore her? She was trying to say sorry.”
I frowned. I was the one who should be crying, not her. She deserves what she’s getting. I stayed silent.
“Hannah, I don’t need to know why you ignored her, but I can guess. I know she hurt you so much, but you guys were so close. Is there any way you can fix things with her?”
I shook my head.
“Well, this is getting out of hand. I think you should at least talk. Call her.”
She held out the phone, waiting for me to grab it and dial the number I’ve dialed a thousand times. I shook my head. She sighed.
“It’s your decision,” she said, leaving the phone on my desk and closing my baby blue bedroom door behind her.
It would be so easy. I could just reach out and grab the phone, dial, and talk to Elise. I would confess my feelings, she would tell me she’s sorry, and we’d be friends again. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had to finish what I started, because revealing a secret about me, especially one so personal, was unforgivable.
Day Two: Take Elise’s friends away from her.
This was harsher and more difficult than yesterday’s plan. I thought about it all the way to school. It wasn’t going to be easy.
The second day of ignoring my best friend was even harder than the first, but I reminded myself of the secret she stole, and my plan to get revenge was back on. I sat down in homeroom without even bothering to look at Elise, instead focusing on the girl with the wispy blonde hair, striking green eyes, and perfect lip gloss on my other side. Her name was Stacy Robertsson.
Elise’s new best friend.
My eyes focused on her as if zoning in on prey. I shifted my weight to her side and started talking.
“Hey, Stacy,” I said, a little too cheerfully.
Stacy’s green eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“Um, hello, Hannah,” she replied, monotone.
She looked away, uninterested. I sighed. This was going to be tougher than I thought. I had to figure out a way to get Stacy to like me.
Before I could say something again, the bell rang. Stacy and Elise got up and linked arms, walking to class together while whispering furiously. Probably about my sudden need to be friendly. I zipped up my backpack and slung it over my shoulder, then ran off to class.
During lunch, I sat all alone with no food. I didn’t want anything to eat, especially after my secret let out. It was strange, thinking that what Elise told everyone would’ve, in a perfect world, given me more supporters. But this clearly wasn’t a perfect world. I stood up suddenly to leave, filled with rage, but someone stopped me. Someone with bright blond hair. It was Stacy.
I froze, completely in shock.
“Hey, Hannah. I’m sorry about being rude earlier. I’m just not used to you being so friendly to me ever since I became friends with Elise. Are we okay?” she said kindly, her eyes showing her sincerity.
I slowly unfroze my body, forcing my mouth to move.
“Oh!” I said stupidly. Then, remembering my plan, I spoke again, more confident. “Yeah, Stacy, we’re fine.”
“Great! Do you want to sit down and talk a little?” she said happily.
My eyes narrowed. Why was she so nice all of a sudden? But I didn’t linger on it for too long.
“Sure,” was all I could manage to say.
We both took a seat on the bleach-white cafeteria benches. We sat in silence for a little while, both of us unsure and uncomfortable. Stacy cleared her throat.
“So,” she started, “how are you?”
“I’m fine!” I replied, eager to start a conversation that could launch my plan for day two.
“Um, Hannah, I have to tell you something,” she said uncomfortably.
“Of course,” I said, unsure of where this was going.
She took a deep breath.
“The reason I came over here was because Elise is moving next Monday, and I thought I would try to make some new friends. Since you and Elise were so close, maybe we could try being friends. I know this is really sudden, but I would like to get to know you,” she finished with a sigh of relief to get everything out.
My mind slowly processed what she had just said, and my guard went down. I had no idea Elise was leaving in less than a week.
“I would like to get to know you too, Stacy,” I said with a smile.
My plan could finally work. After school, Stacy and I plopped down onto my pale pink comforter. I had invited her over so we could get to know each other better, and my mom was practically ecstatic when she saw me bring home a “friend.” She had rushed over to see if we wanted a snack, rambling on about smoothies and cookies that we could eat, until I said, “It’s okay, Mom, we don’t need a snack.”
She stopped talking, then smiled and said, “Well, I’m here if you need me!”
We started to talk about ourselves. Stacy had two siblings, twins, and both of them boys. Her dad was Swedish, and her mom was from Canada. She became friends with Elise two days after my secret was no longer mine. Had it really already been a month? I began to tell her about me, how I was an only child, how I had been friends with Elise for six years before we started drifting apart, until we finally split. I was going to ask her a question, but she interrupted me before I could say anything.
“Hannah, I know,” she said.
“Know what?” I said with a strained smile.
I knew what she was talking about. It was what Elise told everyone. Of course Stacy would know. She fumbled with the soft, ivory fabric of her shirt.
“I know that you’re insecure about your weight.”
And that’s all it took. I froze, and even though I already knew that most of my grade had found out, it was worse when one of them talked directly to me. I wanted to disappear, wanted to escape into a different world. A tear blurred my vision, until everything was gone.
“Hannah. Hannah. Hannah…”
Someone was saying my name. I slowly opened my eyes, and I was lying down on my bed. There was a bit of dull pain in the back of my head, and my whole body felt sore, but somehow refreshed. I sat up, surprised by the sharp pain in my temples. I squealed from the pain and fell back down on my pillow. Someone was standing next to my bed. It was my mom, a crease between her brows forming from worry.
“How are you, honey?” she asked, sound worried. “You passed out for a while.”
“I’m… okay, I guess,” I replied. “How long was I out?”
“A few hours. It’s 7:00 pm now.”
“What happened to Stacy?”
“She’s still here. She decided to stay after you passed out and wants to talk to you.”
I wasn’t sure what she wanted to talk about. I thought our conversation was over, but at least she was nice enough to stick around. Stacy rushed into my room, immediately crouching down by my bed.
“Hannah, I’m so, so sorry. I guess I caused you to pass out when I took you by surprise by telling you I knew your secret. Then you fainted and hit your head, and it’s all my fault.”
I was surprised that she was apologizing. It wasn’t her fault, after all, that she knew my secret. I interrupted her before she could say anything else.
“Stacy, it’s okay. Really. I don’t blame you at all, and I know that the rest of the grade knows about my insecurity and fear. It just took me by surprise when you told me.”
I didn’t want her to feel bad. She was really sweet, after all, and I thought she was brave to come out and tell me what Elise told everyone.
“Really?” she said, the worry in her face melting away slowly.
“Really,” I replied, smiling.
I couldn’t believe I actually felt okay with what happened. Stacy cared enough to stay. She looked me straight in my hazel eyes, and she said something I never imagined coming out from her.
“I want to help you.”
She was back to looking slightly sad, but behind that, I could see the determination.
“Help me with what?” I said, puzzled for a second.
“I want to help you with your body confidence because no one thinks you’re overweight. Nobody ever did. In fact, we all want to help. Everyone’s just too scared to be the first one to try.”
I was stunned. This whole time, I thought everyone was mocking me, making fun of me, when really, they wanted to help. And that meant so much to me. Who would’ve thought that my revenge plan would actually give me a new friend. A friend who showed me what was really going on in everyone else’s minds when my secret reached their ears.
I was speechless. Stacy had astonished me with her kindness, and I was so grateful that we had become friends.
“Thank you… for telling me,” was all I could manage.
I was frozen from her concern, but I smiled. A real smile.
“No problem,” she said, grinning, tears swelling in her eyes. “I thought you should know because I’m gonna try my hardest to help. I promise.”
And then we were hugging, tearing up next to each other, until she had to leave. I sat on my tearstained bed, smiling when I thought of my new best friend. She seemed to understand my troubles more than Elise ever did. I believed that I could try to get over my insecurity, but it was going to be hard.
The next few days at school, I had forgotten about my revenge plan. I didn’t try and cower when other kids looked at me. I made a small smile and said hi. They returned the favor, and some even grinned. But they weren’t mean or trying to mock me like I thought. They were genuinely nice to me, and that was comforting. Stacy really was telling the truth.
I still ignored Elise. She seemed extremely sad about it, but I couldn’t forgive her. Even though other kids were supportive, I didn’t understand why she would release that secret in the first place.
After school on Friday, Stacy came to my house again to start what she called “The Hannah Mission.” She plopped onto my navy blue rug decorated with white hearts and motioned for me to follow her. I sat down across from her, underneath the dimly lit lightbulb in my room, and I couldn’t help but feel nervous. I had no idea how she was going to try and help me.
She tossed her blond hair, and smiled at me. “Let’s start with a simple conversation. Can you tell me why you’re so sensitive about your weight?”
It seemed like an easy question, but I took a deep breath. It was scary to admit my true feelings. I began slowly.
“When I was a young girl, about five years old, I ate a lot. I had a huge appetite, and slowly began to expand like a balloon. I was getting dangerously big, until my parents were forced to put me on a diet. I’ve shedded all the excess weight since, but I’ve become extremely insecure about gaining it all back. I’ve become scared, and sometimes I skip multiple meals.” I closed my eyes, forcing myself not to cry from admitting everything to someone I had become friends with the previous day.
Stacy was genuinely kind and was going to help me. Her eyes softened with understanding. She scooted herself closer to me and held my hands. Her green eyes turned glossy with tears and stared into my own teary ones.
She whispered, “Thank you for telling me. I know that was probably hard for you.”
I shook my head. It was easier than I thought, and it felt relieving to finally let go and tell someone. I hadn’t even told Elise when we were friends; I had just told her that I was insecure. Somehow, Stacy was becoming one of my closest friends ever.
I had one more question, though.
“Why did Elise tell my secret to everyone?”
Stacy looked down. She played with the strings hanging from her dark ripped jeans. When she gazed up at me again, I was surprised to see even more tears hanging from her light eyelashes, and a small, sad smile on her face.
“She wanted to help you.”
My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe it. Stacy continued, the smile still lingering on her lips.
“She told all of her other friends, including me, and asked for help to give you confidence. She was horribly depressed when you took it the wrong way, and even more when the secret spread. She never meant for everyone to know. She trusted us, and I’m still not sure who spilled the beans.” She finished, still staring at my now petrified face.
All this time, I thought she had deliberately hurt me. The days leading up to when the secret spread, we hadn’t been talking much, and our friendship was already fading. When I thought that she gave away my private information, I thought we were done. It turns out, she was helping me all along. I felt so terrible about blaming Elise. I had to fix it.
“Thank you for telling me,” I said quietly.
Stacy nodded and said, “See you on Monday.”
She picked up her lavender-colored backpack and smiled sadly, then closed the door behind her. For a few moments, I sat on my rug, unsure of what to do. Then I got up, took out the piece of paper with my plans for revenge, crumpled it, and threw it away.
The weekend passed slowly. Stacy had plans to visit her grandparents, and Elise was spending time with her visiting cousins, as Stacy had informed me. I needed to talk to Elise face-to-face anyways. I needed to apologize to her.
When Monday morning came, the walk to school felt like I was running a race. I was worried that I couldn’t get there in time to say goodbye to Elise. Worried that she would leave before we could set the record straight.
Arriving at school, I started to search for the long, black head of hair that belonged to Elise. I ran through the hallways, looking at every face that passed by.
I didn’t see her.
Reaching the end of the hallway, I was panting like a dog. Horribly depressed that Elise was nowhere to be seen, I walked into my classroom, sighing as I sat down at my desk. I reached into my bag to grab my book, when I saw a pair of those basic black-and-white adidas shoes. Elise’s shoes. Of course! She sat right next to me; we had chosen our seats together. I brought my head up quickly, and there was Elise, with her long black hair and olive-toned skin. I laughed and threw my arms around her.
She wanted to help me.
She wanted to help all along.
I could tell she was stunned by my sudden movement, for her body froze up almost instantaneously. But then, her arms wrapped around me just as tight, and I was never so happy to be with her.
The bell rang, pausing the moment. We let go, and she stared at me with her dark brown eyes.
“Thank you for trying to help me,” I whispered ever so softly.
“No problem,” she whispered back, a small giggle escaping from her mouth. “I can’t believe you finally know. I never realized you might be upset that I told your secret to my friends. I was just trying to help, but I should’ve kept the secret to myself.” She sighed.
“Thank you. I mean it. Stacy’s helping me now, and I think I might be able to get over this fear. I just have to be confident with myself.”
I laughed. I couldn’t even believe I said it. Elise smiled, showing all of her pearly white teeth.
“At least something good came out of this.”
For the rest of the day, it was as if nothing had ever happened. Stacy, Elise, and I hung out like we were always friends, walking around school, linking arms.
But Elise was leaving. At 4:00. One hour after school ended.
When the bell rang to signal the end of the day, the three of us gathered at Elise’s house to send her off. A huge truck was parked outside her bronze-toned house, with the words “Sam’s Movers” written in big, fat, red letters on the side, and a picture of a bunch of big brown boxes.
We walked inside Elise’s house to help her carry the rest of the boxes outside. I walked around her now empty house, the place I spent so much time during my childhood. We’d have sleepovers in her living room and listen to the popcorn kernels come to life. We’d beg her parents to stay up late. I’d come after school and sit down with Elise, eat a chocolate-chip cookie, and we would talk about our day.
It would all be gone in thirty minutes.
I suddenly had a pure feeling of sadness. My childhood friend would be leaving, even if we hadn’t talked for the past couple of weeks.
I burst into tears, surprising myself. Elise rushed over.
“Are you okay?” she said, sounding worried.
“I’m fine,” I said, my voice breaking. “I just can’t believe you’re leaving.”
She hugged me, and after a few moments, Stacy joined our embrace. It was comforting to stay like that for a few moments.
“At least you can visit. I’m only going a few hours away,” Elise said, smiling.
We walked downstairs and out of the house. When we spotted her parents, who were in the middle of saying goodbye to their neighbors, her mom said to me, “Hi, Hannah! It’s been such a long time! I’m so glad you guys made up.”
She looked sad, obviously upset that we had to separate so soon after we became friends again. Elise’s dad said the words that brought on a second wave of sadness over my body.
“Elise, it’s time to leave.”
She hung her head, her long, black hair falling around her face. She hugged me and Stacy, then walked away sadly with her mom and dad to their dusty, blue Toyota.
As we watched them drive away, the truck already far in the distance, Stacy turned to me and said with an unexpected smile, “Ready for Hannah Mission, Day Two?”
I laughed and nodded. I was ready to get over the fear that had taken hold of me for long enough.