"How was school?" Karen asked her daughter.
Emily tossed books onto the kitchen counter and savored the fresh-baked cookie aroma of the kitchen.
Reaching for one, she answered, "Good. There's a new girl in my science class."
"What’s her name?"
"Tisha. She transferred in from North Bay."
Karen frowned. "That’s a tough school. What brought her here?"
Emily shrugged. "Don’t know...guess her Mom didn’t like her friends or something like that. Anyway, they moved here a couple weeks ago. Mr. Edwards asked me to be her Lab partner to help Tisha get caught up."
"That’s nice. What's she like?"
Emily chuckled. "Ummm, unique. But she's cool. We like some of the same music--you know, stuff like that."
"Well," Karen offered, "be hospitable and bring Tisha home some day."
Emily lowered her eyes, grabbed another cookie and her books. "Yeah, sure. I have homework to do." She retreated to her room.
In the weeks that followed, Karen noticed changes. Emily spoke of her new friend but never brought Tisha home. Karen decided to talk to her daughter.
"Emily, I've been noticing some things lately that rather disturb me.”
“Like your language and how you've been dressing."
"What do you mean? I'm not doing anything different." Emily answered defensively.
"Yes, you are. Off-color things have come out of your mouth lately and it’s inappropriate." Karen said sternly.
Emily turned away with a toss of her hair.
"Whose clothes are you wearing today?"
"Tisha and I traded."
"That shirt is unacceptable for school. It's too low-cut. You need to return it and get your own clothes back."
Emily flared angrily. "You’re too old-fashioned! Everybody wears this style. There's nothing wrong with this shirt."
"You heard me, Em."
"You're going to ruin everything! I've finally got a popular friend and cool guys are starting to notice me even when they don't need help with their homework. I won’t go back to being boring old Emily--the science geek!" Emily yelled. She ran to her room slamming the door behind her.
Karen waited a few minutes before entering. Sitting on the bed next her daughter, Karen gently said, "Em, you and I have always been able to talk. So, I don't get it. Is this how Tisha dresses and talks? I've heard comments from other parents about her--not favorable things. If you hang out with her and do what she does, people will think you are just like her."
"That's really judgmental, Mom!"
"Perhaps. But it's the way things operate."
"Tisha's really nice. She's just made some bad choices sometimes."
"People who make bad choices make bad friends. But you're smart enough to make the right decision concerning who your friends are. Maybe Tisha's mother tried to give her a fresh start by this move. If a girl has to act promiscuous to be popular with boys, is that right?”
Emily picked at the stuffed animal in her lap. With a hug, Karen said, "I'm going to pray about this situation. I hope you do, too. I trust you'll come to the right decision."
After school on Friday, Emily called her mother. “Tisha invited me and some other girls over to her house to just hang out and stuff. Can I go?”
“Will her mother be home?” Karen asked.
“I think so. Anyway, it’s just a bunch of girls, Mom.”
“I guess it’s OK. Call me later.” Karen agreed but was plagued with misgivings.
Hours later, the phone rang. Karen grabbed it quickly. “Mom?” Emily whispered. “Can you come and get me–right now?”
“Absolutely. Where are you?” Emily gave the address of a gas station several blocks from Tisha’s home. “I’m on the way.” Karen said grabbing her car keys.
Emily was visibly shaken when Karen arrived. “Have you been hurt?” she asked immediately. Emily shook her head.
“Tisha didn’t invite other girls and her Mom was working. Two guys from Tisha’s old school showed up. They were all drinking. Tisha and Ryan went to her bedroom. Jake tried to kiss me. He pushed me down on the floor.” Emily broke into tears. “He kept saying things like ‘You’re a friend of Tisha’s so you must like to have fun, too.’ I got away–pretended I was going to throw up. I ran out the back door. Mom, I was so scared!”
Karen started to speak. “You don’t have to say it.” Emily interrupted. “I know...bad choices... bad friends...I get it.”
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