Silent StrengthJun 17, 2021
By Cynthia Shi
What time is it? Eh- I don't really care, I’m just so tired. I don’t even feel like moving a finger. I sluggishly glance at the tiny clock, squinting in an attempt to read the tiny numbers, it’s 8:05 AM. I watch all the other kids rush out of the classroom for a good few seconds, before snapping back to reality and realizing: Great. Just wonderful. Now I’m going to be late for my math. Mrs. Zalish is going to have my head. I haphazardly grab my homework, stuffing it in my slowly breaking tote bag (it was a violation to carry a backpack around) and practically run out the door to my locker.
As I run, I suddenly remember Mira wanted me to wait outside the science classroom. Nope, I don’t feel like it. I’m not waiting for her, I’m already late enough as is. 34, 13, 43, and click. I flung open my locker and grabbed my math binder. As I am about to close my locker I feel a presence. Oh no-
“Heyyyy, why didn’t you wait for me?” Mira, my “friend” says.
“If I did wait for you, I would have been late for Math.” I say matter of factly, as I slam my locker shut and immediately start speed walking. Trying to avoid what was about to happen, but it was too late.
“So mean! I don’t have aNy rEaL fRiEnDs.” she says as she dramatically faints backwards.
Maybe it’s because you discard your friends after they are no longer interesting to you… I thought as I remember how she would hop between tables at lunch, never staying with a group of friends for more than a month. Not to mention all the drama, the “betrayals”, the “backstabbing”... How do these people even have time for schoolwork?
I continue speed walking away, hoping she would leave me alone (not likely since we have the same math class), but she starts following me. I decide to run, hoping to shake her off my tail, but instead she just starts skipping.
“My parents are so unfair, they totally took away my phone! Why does everyone else get to stay up till 3 AM? Right? Hey? You there? It’s like - It’s like - the whole UNIVERSE is against me!” Mira exclaims in the most dramatic teenager voice ever while pouting.
“Mhmm, interesting.” I answer, not listening to a word she is saying.
I jumped at the sudden noise. I was late for math. Again. Whose fault was it? None other than Mira’s. I groan in frustration realizing that I would probably end up with another lunch detention.
The rest of the walk is the same as always, Mira talking about her problems while I nod my head. I sigh as I push open the door to math. The classroom is really loud, that's unusual, it's never this loud - I glance around and look at the teenager-filled classroom, full of chattering people. I’m confused for a second before I notice a substitute. Sweet. Don’t have to try today. Today is basically a free period. I internally do a happy dance as I practically skip walk to my desk and sit down, not wanting to test my luck any farther.
As I sit down, I what a monotone voice say,
“Hello, I am your substitute for the day, Mr. Smith. Your math teacher left you an assignment, and says you can work with partners or individually.” He pauses and adds,
“ I don’t care what you do, just keep it quiet.” Then goes back to passing the papers around to everyone.
After I get handed my paper, I take out my pencil case and begin the problems. I plan to work alone, but the universe apparently had other plans, because as soon as I was about to begin the worksheet I hear a shrill voice say Augustus (the person sitting on my right),
“Get out of that seat. I’m going to sit there because me and Cynthia are working together.”
Ok rude. And you aren’t even going to ask me if I want to work with you? Just because you're popular doesn’t give you the right to be a huge jerk. I don’t want to work with you, can’t you see I’m working alone? Don’t you get it?
I open my mouth to say something, but close it immediately. Why can’t I just tell her?
“Fine, whatever.” Augustus replies as he walks to his partner's desk.
I sigh as Mira plops down on the desk next to mine and I monotonously say:
“ Ok, let's get started on the worksheet. I’ll do the first half, and you can do the other.”
It wasn’t even 30 seconds before I heard Mira mumble,
“ Jeez you're so rude, this is supposed to be a partner project!”
“ You should be helping me with these questions. I don’t even know how to do them!”
Still no answer.
“ Hey! I go out of my way to work with you, and you just ignore me?”
You want to say that again? All you ever do is complain, and I’ve put up with it for so long. Can you just leave me alone? Just as I open my mouth to say something in retaliation; I hear Augustus open his mouth and interrupt my train of thought,
“ Hey I need to grab my binder from under my seat. Is that okay?” Augustus asks.
“ No. You should have gotten it before.” Mira replies sassily.
“Mira - it’s his seat - just let him get the binder so he can leave…” I reply exasperated, completely forgetting about what I had gotten so worked up about earlier.
“ No, this is my desk for the period.” Mira replies, slightly louder.
“ Just give me the binder-” Augustus says as he bends down to grab the binder.
“ No!” Mira says as she slaps his hand away.
Clearly annoyed, he pulls the chair backwards in retaliation for the rudeness, and along with it, Mira. I watch in confusion as Mira hits the carpet floor. She stands up immediately, practically fuming with anger, and then dramatically says,
“ I’m in so much pain! Cynthia, can you believe Auggie did that? My spine could have broken! This is harassment! I could have died! I’m in so much pain right now!”
You seem fine enough to talk…
“First of all, don’t call me Auggie, second of all, it’s your fault for making a big deal about everything.” Augustus replies with a level of sass I did not think he had. You go dude. Mira scoffs and approaches the substitute (who was enjoying a Youtube video), and starts making a big deal and claiming how “injured” she is and how she needs medical attention right away.
The substitute, clearly annoyed, just says,
“ Ok, just take a buddy.” and then goes back to his Youtube video, not even bothering to glance at us again, let alone write a hall-pass.
“ Lets go to the nurse’s office!” Mira exclaims, clearly already having recovered from her “injury”.
I sigh and put my pencil down, following her out the door. Better than math I guess. I walk next to Mira to the nurse's office through through the dead silent hallways until Mira asks,
“ Can you wait outside the nurse’s office for me?”
“No, sorry. But I don’t have a hall-pass and I need to get back to math,” I reply, clearly not ecstatic about the idea of sitting inside the nurses office for hours.
Mira pouts again and I ignore her, instead glancing at the stained carpet on the ground. It was her fault that she was in this situation right now, I opened my mouth to say something before realizing that she would not like what I was thinking.
I’m not fond of drama, and I know this was going to spark a lot of it. Miras nice I guess. She’s just so dramatic. I became friends with her because I felt sorry for her, and how she always seemed to be excluded. I don’t really want to be her friend. I’m just too much of a pushover to break it off.
“ I’m going to tell on Augustus, and you have to back me up ok?” Mira says suddenly.
“No! Of course not! It was clearly an accident, and it's partly your fault too!” I reply anxiously, not wanting to have a “talk” with the vice principal.
She walks away, clearly ignoring what I just said.
After I sent Mira to the nurse's office, I didn’t see her in school for the rest of the day. I don’t think much of it because we don’t have any other classes together.
Right now I’m sitting in 8th period. Almost done with the day, only 30 minutes left I think, as I put away my binder when suddenly the phone rings. I look around the dusty old classroom anxiously, tapping my foot on the carpeted ground. The teacher picks up the phone and after a few “mhms” turns to me with the expression of “what the heck did you do”, points at me and states,
“ Hey Cynthia, the main office needs you.”
Well crap. I guess she really did get me involved, it’s not like I'm surprised though. I get up slowly and walk out of the classroom.
On my trip to the main office, I grow more and more annoyed. Why was I dragged into this? It’s your own fault so stop getting others involved. Slowly, as I descend the stairs to the main office, all the anger and annoyance turns into nervousness. I’m about to have a serious conversation with one of the most important people in the school district. What if Mira told me off too? (she had a history of making up stories) What if he calls my parents? Before I know it, I’m there. Right in front of the main office. I put my sweaty hand on the cold handle and open the door to the main office slowly, all I can hear is the adrenaline pumping in my veins. The vice principal himself greets me, he is quite tall, looks intimidating, and has an award-showy smile. He opens his mouth and greets me,
I nod and squeak out a pathetic excuse for a greeting.
“Right this way please,” he says as he directs me into his office. The office was intimidating, looking more like an interrogation room than an actual office. There was a desk facing the door, and a chair in front of the desk, nothing was out of place. Everything is perfectly placed. He pulls the seat out and signals me to sit down. After I sit down, he walks to his own chair behind the desk and sits down.
“Chocolate?” he asks, before getting straight down to business and asking,
“ So do you know why you're here?” like it's not the most obvious thing ever...
“ Yes, it’s about Mira right?” I replied quickly.
“ Yes, can you tell me what happened?” he asks.
What do I do? I could get Augustus suspended, it was just an accident. If I don’t stand up for Mira though, she’s going to get mad at me…. AGH I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!
“ Uh- so, um Augustus tried to get his binder and uh… uh- Mira and Augustus got into an argument and Augustus pulled the chair from under Mira. It - it was an accident though… but I didn’t actually uh - see anything. Yea - I didn’t-” I explain nervously.
“ From what I heard from Mira, Augustus did it on purpose. So which was it?”
Of course. Now he thinks I’m lying. Mira’s had a lot of conversations with him; he must trust her more than me. Not wanting to get involved any further, I just say,
“ I don’t know, I was actually looking the uh- other way so I didn’t um notice. It might’ve been an accident or not, I don’t know” I lie.
“ Well thank you for your time, you may go.” He replies, obviously frustrated not being able to receive the answers he wanted.
I get up and quickly leave. Walking out of the main office all I can think is, why couldn’t I just tell the truth? Augustus is going to get into so much trouble because of me. Why can’t I even stand up for a classmate who’s done nothing wrong?
As I ascend the stairs, I can’t help but feel this massive amount of disappointment; my inability to just say something and selfishness piling onto me. When I get back to the classroom and settle back into my seat, I realize what I have to do. I will no longer just be some pushover who's too afraid to do anything. I pick up my phone and take a deep breath, and start typing: “ Hey. I don’t think we should be friends anymore. We aren’t going to work out.” I look at the test message. Then I hit the send button. I take a deep breathe and put my phone away. I feel as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Mira never replied to my message. Ever. We still see each other in the hallways sometimes, but we treat each other as nothing more or less than strangers.
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