Emma ran into the house and charged up the stairs to her room, slamming the door. She never wanted to go back to church after what happened that morning. Grabbing her stuffed bear she curled up on her bed.
A few minutes later Gran knocked gently on the door and peeked in.
“Emma, what is it, honey?”
“I’m never going back, Gran!” Tears were dripping off her nose, making a big wet spot on her pillow.
Gran sat on the bed and smoothed Emma’s hair away from her face. “What happened?”
Emma rolled onto her back, still hugging her bear. “Stacey found a note she said I wrote to Derek and she read it to everyone. I didn’t write it; I would never write anything that sappy. Derek was there and heard it all, Gran. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my whole life.”
“Did you tell them you didn’t write it?”
“Yeah, but Stacey waved the note and said it had my name on it. Gran, I can never face them again.” Tears trickled into her ears.
“You can and you will. If you fight this it will just make it worse, but if you go back with a smile and simply remind them you didn’t write it and move on, it will eventually be forgotten.”
Emma blinked tears away, “You think so?” she asked hopefully.
“Do you think people will believe you or Stacey?”
“Well, after her stunt last week, I don’t think they trust her too much.” Emma sat up, her bear resting on her lap. “Why would she do that, Gran?”
Gran looked out the window before answering. “Think about her home life, Em. Since her dad left, her mom’s had to work two jobs and she’s not been around for Stacey. I think Stacey is trying to find attention and love, but she’s going about it the wrong way. She doesn’t realize she’s driving away the people she wants and needs. What she did was wrong, but I think she’s just trying to get noticed.”
“I keep forgetting about her dad.” Emma hugged her bear tight. “She’s not a mean person,” Emma said slowly and quietly, wrestling with her emotions. “I think you’re right. I think she needs friends and lots of love right now.” Taking a deep breath Emma looked at Gran. “She and I used to be friends; maybe we could be again. Do you think it would help her?”
“Can you forgive her for embarrassing you like she did?”
“If I’m gonna try to be her friend, I guess I better, huh?”
That evening at church Emma’s friends were laughing and teasing her as they made her sit in the middle.
“Don’t worry, Emma,” one of them said, “we know you didn’t write the note, you’re not that sappy. After you left, one of the girls grabbed it and said it was Emma Landon’s handwriting, not yours.”
Just then Derek sat down beside her, draped his arm around her and winked. “I never knew you felt that way.” Leaning close he whispered in her ear, “Actually, I wish you did.”
Emma’s eyes widened as she looked at him, then quickly looked away as her face turned red.
Derek leaned close again, “Do you? Is that why you’re blushing?”
Emma’s face turned scarlet and she turned away, hoping he couldn’t see it. She was saved by church starting. Later, as soon as the service ended, she jumped up to leave, but found her path blocked.
“Hey, Emma, a bunch of us are going for ice cream. Wanna come with me?” Derek invited her.
Behind Derek Emma saw Stacey duck her head and turn away, but not before Emma saw a sheen of tears in her eyes. Looking back at Derek she took a deep breath, “Sure, but can Stacey come with us?”
At Derek’s look of surprise Emma smiled and quietly said, “She needs friends and love, Derek. Since her dad left she’s been pretty much on her own and she really needs us.”
A smile of understanding spread across Derek’s face. “You’re right. She was probably just trying to get attention this morning. C’mon, let’s go get her and go out for ice ream. There’s always room for one more, besides, without that note I wouldn’t know you like me.”
Emma opened her mouth to protest but Derek laughed. “Don’t worry, I’ve liked you for a long time, so I’m glad you like me, too.”
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