Angie looked around the room at all the strange faces as the teacher introduced her. Today she had the opportunity to make her lifelong dream a reality; she would be popular in her new school. She only had to figure out who the popular girls were and make friends with them. She knew only one of the faces looking back at her. She had met Shayna in Sunday School in first grade, three years ago. Their parents were good friends, but would being friends with Shayna stop her from getting into the “in” crowd?
Mrs. Caner assigned the very pretty girl with brown curls as Angie’s guide. Kimberly smiled at her as Angie put her notebooks and pencils in her new desk. Was Kimberly popular? Was Mrs. Caner assisting her in her dream? Angie smiled back as she took the math book Mrs. Caner handed her.
Kimberly showed Angie which door to use at recess and where to get the playground equipment. Kimberly and her friends grabbed a playground ball and invited Angie to play with them. Just as they were getting to the playground, Angie heard Shayna call her name.
“That’s Shayna.” Kimberly whispered. “We try to avoid her and Jolene. They aren’t any fun. Pretend you don’t hear her. See that line on the ground right there. We can run when we reach that line. Come on.” Kimberly started running a few steps early. The rest of the girls followed suit.
Stick up for your friend. Angie ignored the voice in her head. If being popular meant being Shayna’s friend on the weekend and Kimberly’s at school, that’s what she would do. She couldn’t let Shayna ruin her chances of fulfilling her dream.
Angie continued to play with Kimberly and her friends, ignoring constant warnings in her head about how they treated Shayna and Jolene. She pretended to laugh at their cruel jokes and to add a few small, harmless details to their bullying plans. Somehow her details were either dismissed or blown up to where they were no longer harmless. Angie told herself it wasn’t really hurting anyone. She would still be friends with Shayna at church. It wasn’t like she was the one who actually said or did the hurtful things to Shayna and Jolene. Shayna would understand her need to make new friends. They had talked before about their desire to be popular.
After a few weeks the warnings in her head seemed to have given up – she no longer listened anyway. On Friday of Angie’s third week, Mrs. Caner pulled her aside as the class got ready to go home. “Angie, I noticed that every answer on your math test is exactly the same as Kimberly’s – even the work for the wrong answers. I expect friends to share, but not test answers. You may stay late and retake the test or take an F.”
Angie tried to hide her tears as she hung her coat back on the hook, the giggles from Kimberly and the other girls piercing her heart. She had not cheated, but she knew that she could not tell on her friend. But is Kimberly really your friend? Would a friend cheat on a test and let you pay for it? Angie willed the voice to go away as she took the test paper from Mrs. Caner. How could she convince Mrs. Caner that she hadn’t cheated without telling on Kimberly?
Looking at the test, Angie realized that Mrs. Caner had not given her another test on the same material, but the exact same test. Angie decided she had one chance to prove her innocence. Jesus, I know that I have not been very good lately, but You and I both know that I didn’t cheat on this test. Please, Lord, help me to get every question right that I got right on the first test, and maybe a few more. And the ones that I get wrong, please help me to make the exact same mistake I made on the other test. And help me to be a better friend. Amen.
Angie didn’t want company that evening, and she certainly didn’t want Shayna to see her crying, but their parents got together every Friday for Bible Study. “Angie? Can I come in? Sorry about what happened after school today.”
“I didn’t cheat on that test, Shayna. Can ...can we.... will you ...will you forgive me? For being part of Kimberly’s clique instead of being a friend?”
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