By: Sai Skanda Tummala

The sky was dark and gray. As I walked through the lonesome path, I noticed the trees looked like toothpicks with branches. The foliage was droopy and lifeless. Even I, once happy and full of life, couldn’t help but wipe my tears away. The forest was dead silent. Perhaps, it was because everything in it was nearly dead.

I sat down on a huge rock, too depressed to say anything. How did this happen? Everything was going fine. I made friends, and my grades were perfect until now. What went so terribly wrong that I was suddenly left with no one to talk to? I tried to remember what had happened over the past five months. After a few minutes of thinking, I remembered when it all started, when I decided to come out of my shell. . .

You should know that my name is Allegra. I am eleven, and I am a redhead with hazel eyes. People have said that I am very quiet and independent, but that’s being generous. The truth is I’m kind of a loner. I have no friends even though many people have tried to be my friend. Usually they say I’m stuck up, but I’m just quiet. I love to read, bike and play basketball. Those are pretty much my only interests, but I hope to have some more, one day.

It was a windy day in the beginning of October, and I was sitting at my desk reading. Our science teacher, Ms. Davern, was trying to explain Newton’s three laws of motion to us. I wasn’t listening, as usual. I was reading this great book and couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Our teacher said something, and suddenly the room became quiet. I looked up, slowly, to find everyone’s eyes on me. She must’ve asked me something, I thought. I asked her to repeat it, which resulted in a huge, endless round of laughter from my classmates.

My mom had always told me to laugh with people when they were laughing at you, but right now, I couldn’t. My eyes filled with tears, but before I could let them see me cry, I turned and ran out. My teacher called after me, but I didn’t stop until I got home. Luckily, my aunt wasn’t home yet, so I wouldn’t have to answer any questions. I unlocked the front door and ran upstairs to my room.

In many ways, my room was unlike the room of any other girl my age. My walls were painted pale gray and had nothing hanging on it, except for an old clock. My bed was black with white sheets. My dresser had nothing on the top of it except for a book. My Aunt, who I lived with, had tried to hang things of the wall and change my sheets, but I had always refused to let her do that. I didn’t care how my room really looked like. The only thing I did in it was sleep.

I have heard that a person’s closet says a lot about a person, and that is definitely true for me. My walk-in closet’s walls are painted rainbow colors and have many pictures of my favorite things and people hanging on it. The floor of my closet is filled with boxes with all my favorite books in them. I have my trophy case that is full of my accomplishments. I have medals from soccer, trophies from basketball and dance, and certificates from my teachers.

That was all in the past, though. That was when my parents were alive. I miss them very much, and since I was with them when they died, I remember everything. They died in a car crash when I was six, and I was the only one who survived the crash. I was sent to live with my Aunt Rhea, who is a fat, happy woman and a great cook.

The sight of my closet made me feel good, but for me, a happy moment wouldn’t ever last long. I once again remembered what had happened in school. I realized that I was making life difficult for myself. After five years, I was still saddened by the death of my parents, therefore stopping myself from having friends. Then, it hit me. I couldn’t take it anymore, being alone. I was going to be loud and colorful. I was going to make friends.

The next day at school, I made my first move in the cafeteria. I usually sat and ate in the back of the cafeteria where nobody ever noticed me. People used to pity me, but now, they think that sitting alone didn’t bother me. But it does.

I came to a table with a bunch of kids, girls and boys who looked pretty cool. I spotted a girl that I recognized from the hallways, Lily. She had black hair, coffee colored skin, and gray eyes. She was dressed in green and purple. Those two colors might seem weird together, but they actually looked good. I slowly reached my hand out and tapped her on the shoulder.

“Hi, can I sit here?” I asked the girl at the table, stumbling over my words.

“Who are you?” she interrogated.

“I’m Allegra,” I mumbled and asked her again, “Can I sit here?”

“Sure. I’m Lily,” she introduced. “Are you a new student?”

“No, actually. I’ve been in this school since the beginning,” I told her.

“That’s weird. I’ve never seen you before,” she said.

“Probably because I’ve been sitting in the back of the cafeteria until now,” I said bitterly.

“Sit here. I’ll introduce you to the rest of the table,” Lily offered.

I nervously took a seat between a boy with dyed orange hair and a girl with huge glasses. Lily introduced me to her friends just like she said she would. I left the table, happier than I had ever been in years.

Sitting at the table made me feel like I had friends. Then, an amazing thought occurred to me. Maybe I had made a friend! Maybe all the kids at the table were my friends! I can’t believe I had gotten this far in just one day. All through the day, I wore this big happy grin on my face. I was so happy, something bad was bound to happen, and something bad did happen.

In class the next day, I felt like a new person. I had a friend and a place to sit during lunch. But in class, everyone was still unaware of me changing. In English, we had to choose partners for writing a story. As I looked around, everyone already had a partner, and I was the only one without.  The teacher, Mrs. Haver, offered to be my partner, but I refused.

Instead of getting upset about it, during gym, I sat next to one of the kids from our cafeteria lunch table.  I remember his name was Brian, and he loved basketball, just like me.

“Hi!” I said, nervously.

He said hello back and smiled. I couldn’t believe it! He actually smiled. A boy who was popular and nice, actually acknowledged me. In gym, we played dodgeball, which I suck at, but Brian was captain, and he chose me to be on his team. Our team ended up losing, but for once, I had fun.

In the hallway of our school, there was an easel board that read, JOIN OUR CLUBS. Then, on a table next to the board, there was a list of clubs like songwriting, chess, and my favorite, a basketball club for boys and girls. I signed up for it, along with a few other clubs that sounded fun. It would be a great way to make friends and get my grades up. My grades were fine, but I would like to get at least one A+ on my report card. I also got a D in social studies, but that was only for lack of participation.

Anyway, after that, for a few weeks, I was super busy. Lily became my best friend and was in many of the clubs I had joined. I had become close with Brian, also. They were really nice, and because of them, I had become very popular throughout the school. I met many other people, too, and my grades went up. My teachers, especially our social studies teacher, Ms. Grant, were really pleased with me, because I did my homework.

My bedroom slowly changed. I started to put up pictures and other stuff up on my walls, and I painted my walls four different shades of green. I also put up canvas paper, so I could paint. I had actually become fond with art, thanks to our art club teacher, Mrs. Brilliant. My Aunt and I had become very close, and I would try my best to forget about my parents’ death. I couldn’t help but think about my parents every day, and it made me sad. But, everything other than that was perfect.

Then, one day, in the middle of November, not so long ago from now, I met Cindy, one of Lily’s friends. She hated me. That was for sure. Cindy made fun of my short hair and told me I looked like a boy. She would always try to pull Lily away from me. I didn’t know why. Then, one day, Lily didn’t talk to me at all. She wouldn’t say hello, and during lunch, she sat with Cindy and her friends instead of with me. I was so sad that when I got home, I locked myself in my room.

The truth was that I was jealous. I was jealous that Lily was talking to Cindy more than me. Now she wouldn’t even talk to me. Before Cindy came, it was all perfect. Now, it was all ruined. I sat on my bed, in silence. I didn’t cry or do anything. I was frozen.

“Allegra, what are you doing?” I heard my aunt ask from outside the hallway.

“Leave me alone,” I told her finally speaking.

“Allegra is this about one of your friends?” Aunt Rhea asked

“Sort of,” I replied, reluctantly. “Lily won’t talk to me anymore”.

“I knew I shouldn’t have tried to make friends,” I regretted, forgetting Aunt Rhea was still there.

“Maybe you should try to find out why she isn’t talking to you,” my aunt suggested, trying to be helpful. “It could just be a misunderstanding”.

“I could try,” I said at last. “Okay, I’ll find out tomorrow”.

“I’m glad you are willing to talk to her, Allegra,” my Aunt Rhea exclaimed.

“I am glad we had this talk, Aunt Rhea,” I said. “Thank you.”

My Aunt Rhea was the best. She would always know when I was sad of mad or lying. She always knew the right thing to do.

The next day, I talked to Lily. She told me that Cindy didn’t want her to talk to me. She was jealous of me having friends, even though she had more than me. She was trying to bring me down, and turn everyone against me. Lily said that she wasn’t friends with Cindy anymore. I was relieved, but part of me felt like I needed revenge. Cindy had made me feel bad, and more than anything right now, she needed get a taste of her own medicine.

Now that I think about it, I can’t even remember what exactly I had said to Cindy, but I think I told her to go find friends because Lily didn’t want to be her friend anymore. I said a few more things, and I only stopped when I thought I saw a tear running down her face. As soon as I stopped talking, Cindy ran in the direction of the bathroom, and I stood there, shocked. I couldn’t believe it! In the past few years, I had never said one mean thing to anybody, but now I felt like a totally new person. I felt bad. I shouldn’t have said anything to Cindy, even though she deserved it.

The next day at school, Cindy seemed to be back to normal. Then, during math, I heard from one of my classmates that Cindy was spreading rumors about me. Now, people thought that the only reason I wanted to be with Lily and Brian was to be popular. Lily was shocked, along with Brian, and refused to sit with me during lunch. People thought I was too loud and obnoxious. Maybe even if I was, I wasn’t trying to be! Cindy fake-pitied me for having no parents. But, I knew that I couldn’t do anything. I regretted trying to make friends.  For the rest of the day, I kept my feelings all bubbled up inside of me because I knew that at home, I would burst.

At home, I collapsed onto the floor of my bedroom. What had just happened? After all the mean things people had said to me, I thought hurting someone’s feelings back would make me feel better. It sure did make Cindy feel hurt, but not as hurt as I was feeling right now. I knew making friends would help me overcome my grief and quietness, but I had no idea it would be this hard. But in some twisted way, I felt like I had achieved something. I had learned something. I had learned that hurting people makes you feel horrible. I knew better than to dwell in the past, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in square one again. I felt as sad as I was when I was alone. I suddenly realized I was silently crying. When I was little, I had heard that the worst kind of crying is the loud kind of crying, and you can’t stop your tears from going down your face. But, now I knew that the worst kind of crying is the silent kind, when you are left all alone on the ground with no shoulder to cry on.

Those four months led to now. It was only yesterday that I was on the floor of my room, crying. I had wandered into this forest to think about things. It was Saturday evening. Aunt Rhea was out of town. I wished I could start all over again and make things right. Then, it hit me. Maybe I could. It was true that most of my energy and happiness was drained out of my body just yesterday, but I still had some spontaneity left inside of me. I still had all my happy memories stored safely in my brain. That was all I needed to start over.

On Monday, after winter break, I gathered up all my courage and stop Cindy, Lily, and Brian in the hallway. To Cindy, I said sorry.

I had forgotten how apologizing had felt, but as soon as I did, memories of me apologizing came flooding back into my brain. As soon as I said sorry, everything I ever did wrong seemed to disappear. As soon as I did, my guilt was washed away. Apologizing didn’t make everything perfect, but it made everything right. To my surprise, Cindy smiled, and said sorry back.

“Why?” I asked.

“For everything, Allegra”, she said. “For being mean to you and spreading fake rumors.”

Cindy explained that she was jealous of me and Lily. Lily had been her best friend since preschool, and Cindy told me that it felt like I was coming between her and Lily. It all made sense. Cindy was just mad at me because she thought I was trying to steal her best friend. That was why she was being mean to me. That was why she was trying to bring me down.

I forgive her. Now, I feel much better. I’m glad I apologized. I’m glad I tried to make friends. I’m glad that I can finally talk openly to whoever I want. Cindy, Lily, Brian, and I were all friends now, at last.

After school, I took another walk. But instead of finding myself in a dark, dead, lonesome forest, I found myself in a beautiful one, with snow on the ground and bright green evergreen trees around me. I laid down on the snow, laughing to myself. I had learned many things during the past four months.  I learned that I should never cover up my grief with a fake smile. On the contrary, I also learned to try to keep cheerful no matter what. I learned that everything is better with friends, but they are not necessary for everything. Cindy taught me that sometimes things aren’t anything like they seem. I learned to live up to my name, Allegra, which I found out, meant joy and energy in Italian.

Most of all, I learned that life is like a ten foot tall boxer, and he is going to knock you down. That boxer knocked me down many times this year, and part of me wanted to stay down. But now, I realize that I did the right thing by getting up for another round. I had finally won this epic war against myself.

Sai Skanda Tummala is a 6th grader at Chesterfield Elementary School in Chesterfield, NJ.