“Hey look! Here comes three-fourths of the gruesome twosome.” The boys at the lunch table laughed, pushing each other, pointing. They might as well have thrown a knife, so sharp was the pain. Cindy gripped her lunch tray.
“Do it!” she told herself. “Here’s your chance.” Refusing the urge to look down at the tray, Cindy shook her too short, frizzy hair back, and laughed as she passed the table. “Yeah, that’s me,” she said over her shoulder.
“OK, Gruesome,” they called to her. She just kept walking, a smile pasted on her face.
She sat beside the two girls she knew at the school. “Dorks,” they said, “Don’t worry about them.”
“Yeah, no big deal,” she answered. The stabbing pain eased to a dull ache.
Tenth grade - high school: a new school, a new start, a chance to change. That’s what she’d been telling herself all summer. She’d had it with worrying all the time what everyone was thinking about her. She was just tired of running away when kids made comments about her clothes or hair.
“When they laugh at you, you’re going to laugh with them. If they make jokes, you’re going make jokes back,” that’s what she’d promised herself. But, she’d never been sure she could do it.
Since Cindy moved to this city in fifth grade she’d never fit in, never had the right clothes or hair, always just a little too fat, just not cool. She didn’t swear, obeyed the teacher, couldn’t go to certain movies, and went to church every Sunday with her family. She got used to the jokes, got used to being chosen last for games and not being invited to parties. Mostly she just kept to herself, tried to be as unnoticeable as possible.
It had been different in her old town. She’d been the one giving parties and choosing teams. There, all the kids went to church and hung out with their families, and no one much cared what anyone else wore. There was only one theatre and it mostly showed Disney movies. Here that was all just weird, and it only got worse through Junior High; seemed like she was crying all the time.
She had some friends at church, but they’d mostly gone to Christian school all their lives. They didn’t understand. So she’d been happy when her parents decided to send her and her brother to the Christian school. The gruesome twosome; scorned as usual.
She thought about something her youth pastor said, “We walk around worrying so much about what everyone is thinking about us, but everyone else is worrying the same thing. Nobody is thinking about anybody else. God doesn’t want us to be that way.” That’s when Cindy decided she was going to change. She just wanted to feel like herself again, be happy, have fun.
She wasn’t surprised though, at being called Gruesome the first week of school, even Christian school. Guess maybe it wasn’t all that simple, this no one is thinking about you thing. So what; she was sticking with her plan anyway. It took a whole bunch of guts to laugh at their joke, but it felt good to see the surprise on their faces.
Still, she cried at home and looked in the mirror and thought it was true. But, maybe they just wanted to see how the new kid took it. Whatever. She wasn’t going through high school the way she had through Jr. High.
She looked at the verse she’d taped on the mirror before school started so she’d see it every day, Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." God didn’t want her stuck inside herself, trying to be what everyone else thought she should. She was going to be bold and strong and concentrate on being what He wanted.
Lots of kids started calling her Gruesome as the year progressed, but now it was just a nickname for fun, because they were friends. Cindy was back to her old self. Sure, sometimes things still hurt. It wasn’t always easy, but Cindy had learned how to get through it.
Now she sees lots of other kids stuck inside themselves, sad and lonely. She recognizes them easily. She knows how it feels. She was a lot stronger inside than she knew. They probably are too. All they need is a friend.
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