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HEART OF SE TEXAS A twin learns to find her own way at school

April 17, 2019

The new friends and the cowboy boots helped, but my little shoulders still bore the weight of the stress and anxiety that comes with being a seventh-grader in a brand-new school. I walked the halls with the overwhelming fear that I might never fit in.

My newest friend, Felicia, who we called Fefe, did all she could, but I just didn’t connect with her group of friends. I was shy and still clung to my twin for true companionship, and it was becoming a problem since she was not in all my classes. I did not have someone to pass notes to, someone to gossip with as the teacher went over homework.

I kept my head down and stared at my binder like it was the most interesting thing in the world, praying no one would notice me.

Lunchtime was even more terrifying than usual. The slow march from the lunch line into the expansive room filled with my whole grade, their multitudinous cliques and the staring faces I was trying to avoid was excruciating.

Once I found my twin, with Fefe, I sat by them. On the really bad days, she would be surrounded by these friends and I would smile and eat my food as quickly as I could before escaping to the bathroom to hide until recess.

It was on one of those days that I met the other Felicia, one of Fefe’s childhood friends. She was as mean as she was beautiful, had the temper of a viper, and seemed just as deadly. Naturally, I was afraid and tried to avoid her as much as I could. I remember sitting at one end of the lunch table while she held court at the other end.

Her demands boomed across the lunchroom and her confidence shook me to my core. I hated her because she had the qualities I wished to possess, but in my own way. Who was I? And who would listen to me? I felt in my heart that I did not want to be her friend.

So I kept quiet and made plans to find a new group of friends.

I looked around the room and studied my peers with renewed interest and horrified that I would have to approach any group without the help of my sister. The choices were stark: the cheerleaders, the burnouts, the social pariahs.

Cheerleaders, it would be. I made my way into their circle and was invited to sit with them at lunch.

My decision caused a stir at Felicia’s table, as it did with my own insecurities. As I put my tray down, I looked up. Amid the shocked faces, I zoomed in on Felicia’s glare. The heat rose to my face, as I sat down and tried to pay attention to my new friends.

It took about a week to realize I had made a grave mistake. It had nothing to do with the way Felicia’s glare made me feel. These girls spoke of boys, hair, cheerleading — and then more about boys. At that time in my life, I was still going home and playing with my Barbies.

I broke down and told my sister at home that I wanted to hang out with her again. I was always welcome, of course. She didn’t act like I’d done anything wrong at all.

I joined her the next day, and no one acted as if I turned my back on them for greener pastures. They smiled and went about their conversations as if nothing had happened.

Everyone except Felicia. Her feelings were brought to life vehemently as she shamed me for pretending to be someone who I wasn’t. I was humiliated, and I tried my best to ignore her, but I was on the verge of tears. I knew that she was right, and I hated that she was.

Soon, my relationship with this Felicia changed as we were thrust into each other’s lives almost as if by fate.

She was held back in the seventh grade and my mom, tired of me hiding behind my twin, made the decision to put a whole grade between us. And since I was the one who was mentally younger, I got to stay in the seventh grade as well. That was the year I gave my Barbies to my younger sisters. I did not like being referred to as a baby, and because of that, I did not get to stay with my twin.

I felt like my mom was punishing me for loving my sister too much.

Linked this way in our mutual anger, Felicia and I put our differences aside, became friends. This newfound relationship kicked off my transformation from being shy and reclusive to the loud and assertive Sierra Kondos who I am today.

I finally had an opportunity and acceptance to possess the qualities that I had admired in Felicia’s loud and commanding personality. And being in a new grade, facing new peers, I was given a clean slate to become who I wanted to be.

It took me years to understand that my mom saved me from myself and, even though it was risky, she gave me a chance to change for the better. All I had to do was seize the opportunity, and I did.

Sierra Kondos is a freelance writer in Vidor.