I turned over and put my pillow over my head. “Be quiet Hope!”
“Oh Joy,” Savana Laughed. “We are at this boarding school, River Valley, not home.”
Her expression softened. “It’s okay Joy. You can get a pass and go to the nurse’s office. Just try to stay awake from now on.” The Teacher walked back up to her desk.
As I walked out of the room I saw a girl raise her hand.
“Then use Roberta’s!” She snapped.
Why was she being so nice to me? I wondered. Then it dawned on me. She knew about my chronic illness.
I was at my door, trying to get in. The lock wouldn’t open, and Savana wasn’t around to help me. Suddenly this girl walked up.
“Need some help?”
I stepped aside and let her do her thing. In seconds the door was open. I took a step toward it, but The girl motioned toward her own door, the one next to it.
“Wanna come in, Joy!”
“Sure, wait, how do you know my name?”
“You are the one who fell asleep in class right?”
She opened her door, and we walked in. It was one of the more expensive, nicer rooms, that only the richest families could afford. I realized that the girl must be part of the ‘popular group’ for they were the only ones with expensive rooms. She hopped up onto the bed and motioned for me to follow, but I stayed on the stool.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“Good. I admire your courage Joy. I’m Roberta, but my friends call me Bob.”
We talked until the dinner bell rang, and when it did Roberta invited me to sit with her, and I said yes. Because I liked Roberta.
Savana was spending more time with her horseback riding friends, and we didn’t have any classes together, so I started hanging out with Roberta. Her group was the popular one, the one everyone loved and wanted to be with. This group wasn’t all that great though….. While we were eating lunch I saw Savana wandering around, looking for a place to sit. I waved her over to where I was.
“Sit with us Savana.”
“Her! Sit with US?” Serenity answered. “Nope. Go sit with the rest of your loser friends.”
“Then I’ll come sit with you.” But Savana had already turned away.
It wasn’t bad though. It was kind of fun being in the popular group here. But really I just missed Savana.
I don’t know how they do it. Really I don’t.
At that moment ‘it’ was have a sleepover, stay up till two in the morning, and then go to classes. The rest of the girls at Roberta’s sleepover had slept in her room, but since mine was right next door I went to my own.
And when I woke up I was exhausted. I knew I couldn’t do classes that day. I just couldn’t. I saw that there was a notebook right next to my bed. So I grabbed the book and scribbled something. Sick today can’t come to classes -Joy “Can you deliver this to the secretary?” I asked Savana. She grabbed the note and read it.
“I guess.” She sounded worried. “Are you really going to be okay by yourself?”
“Don’t worry Savana.” I insisted. “The secretary will send the nurse down here to make sure I’m really sick.”
“Okaayyyy.” She still sounded worried. “Feel better Joy.”
Then she was gone. And pretty soon Ellen arrived.
“Oh it’s you Joy. I wasn’t sure who was in room 768.”
“Yup it’s me.”
“Normally I would check to see if you are really sick, but with you, I think it’s fine. You can stay in here today.”
“How are you feeling.”
And that’s when I lost it.
“What do you think! Would I not be going to classes if I was okay?” Ellen plopped in the chair.
“Oh Joy.” She sighed then seemed to come up with something. “Have a nice day.”
And then she was gone.
This was only the beginning of such sleepovers. I would have skipped them, but I was scared that my friends wouldn’t like me. So I went to all of them, staying in my room to sleep every day after. I fell farther and farther behind in my classes, but at the moment I didn’t really care. I just wanted to make it through alive.
Roberta was the first to pick up on it. One day she confronted me about it. “Joy, I want to know why every time we have a sleepover you skip classes.”
“Um.” What could I say to that? “I have a reason, but for now you don’t need to know.”
Roberta was not satisfied with that. She told the rest of our group about it, and the were always pestering me, being quite mean. They didn’t believe me, and they really wanted to know. One time I even caught Roberta reading my journal. After one really hard day I was taking a nap. Savana came down to our room. “Joy are you okay?” And then to my surprise I had smacked her, and she was laying on the ground.
I cried myself to sleep.
For Christmas Break we had awhile off. Savana’s parents were taking her home, and since Dad would be home most of the time it was decided I could come too.
Savana’s mom dropped me off at home. Nervously I went into the house.
She looked a lot better. I was glad.
“Oh Joy, I’m so glad you are here! We have so much to do. Let’s start with making cookies!” I looked at the clock. It was already nine forty, and I’d had a long day. At school lights out wasn’t till ten but I was always so tired I went to bed before nine. “Mom.” I started. “I’ve had a long day. I’m going to bed. You can make cookies if you want, but I’ll help you in the morning.” And I did.
After we were finished making cookies the next morning Mom announced we were going to the zoo. This time I just rolled my eyes.
“Take the little kids to the zoo. I’m staying here.”
That was a good day. But the best part came when I went upstairs. “Oh yay.” I was muttering as I walked up the stairs. “They got rid of the extra bunk bed because Grace went to college, and I left. Now how are we supposed to sleep extra people?” I started climbing up the ladder.
My sister was home from college. Awhile later my cousins Elli and Ana arrived. As we were making cookies in the kitchen Elli asked about how I was dealing with my school. “Welllllll.” I was afraid I was going to cry. “All my friends want to know about my secret, and are not being very nice to me. I don’t know how to make them stop.” Little Ana spoke up. “If you want them to stop, just tell them your secret.”
“I guess I can do that.”
Elli spoke next. “Joy it turned out well last time. There’s no reason it can’t turn out well again.”
Right after school my group met in Serenity and Roberta’s room. That’s when I decided to make my move. I was going to come straight out and tell them, but they started taunting me about it first.
“So Joy?” Serenity asked. “When are you going to tell us your secret?”
I took a deep breath. “Right now.” And then I poured out my whole story. I told them everything. I didn’t want to deal with them trying to find out my secret. And to my surprise…..
“Wow Joy!” Riley said. “You are a good storyteller. Now tell us the real stuff.”
“B but” I sputtered. “I DID!”
“No you did not.”
This time I tried to be calmer. “Please believe me guys. I’m telling the truth.
“Is a chronic illness even a real thing?” Serenity asked. “It’s not. Tell us the truth.”
Now I was just so mad. I yanked my feet out from under me and stood on the chair. I probably shouldn’t have started yelling at her, but no one’s perfect. “Not a real thing? How could you think that? Don’t you get it? I’m not lying to you! Do you think I would say that I had something this bad if I didn’t? I don’t want to have it! And I didn’t want to tell you either but I did, and THIS is how you treat me!”
Serenity was now almost on fire. “I’ve tried to be friends with you! I’ve tried to get past how stupid you are and make a friend. But no, you are just taking advantage of us. No one could have things so bad happen to them!”Serenity got up and left. Apparently I wasn’t worth being with.
A lot she knew.
Now Riley got up and left.
“How could you, Joy?” Roberta asked. “I thought you were my friend. But you Lied to me!”
After I told my ‘friends’ my secret they left me. No one belived me, and they thought I was taking advantenge of them. Savana had been hanging around with other friends, and I don’t even think she noticed anything was wrong.
I spent most of my free time alone, often crying.
One day I was flopped on my bed in our room. I wasn’t really doing anything in particular.
Savana and a girl I didn’t know came in. I watched this girl look around the room, barely noticing me.
The girl looked over her shoulder in my direction.
“Your roommate is the girl who lied to everyone?” She gasped. “How can you stand it?”
Savana didn’t actually agree to it, but neither did she deny it. “Yeah, that’s Joy.” She just said.
“Come on Callie.”
Then they left without even a second glance at me.
That next morning I could barely pull myself out of bed so I didn’t bother. It wasn’t like anyone wanted me there anyway. I would have asked Savana to take a note up to the office, but she had already left so I just went back to sleep.
A couple minutes after the bell rang I heard a knock on my door.
“Can I come in?” It was Ellen.
“What’s wrong Joy?” She asked
“I don’t feel good.”
“That’s understandable, but why didn’t you tell someone you wouldn’t be coming?”
“Savana wasn’t here, and I didn’t feel like getting up,”
Ellen sat down in the chair. “Is everything alright?”
I thought about just telling her that I was sick so I wouldn’t have to tell her about the girls picking on me, but I told the truth. “A few girls have been picking on me because of my illness.”
“You know, you can’t let them hurt you.” She told me. “You have to decide that you don’t care about they they are saying.”
“Sure.” I said sarcastically.
“I have to go now,” She said. “but if you need me I’m here for you,”
When I went back to classes the next day my ‘friends’ set out to make my life miserable. It worked.
I remember seeing them crowded around my locker as I pulled my stuff out if it.
I jumped back as a jar of dirt and bugs spilled everywhere. It was positioned to fall out as soon as I opened the door.
By the way the girls were laughing I knew they had done it on purpose.
The janitor handed me a broom, and I heard Roberta whisper something to Serenity.
By the time I had finished sweeping the mess up I was late to Art, and the halls were deserted.
I hadn’t had time to grab my art supplies, so I went to the teacher to try to explain what happened.
“I’m late because some girls put a jar of bugs and dirt in my locker and I didn’t have time to clean in up. I didn’t have time to get my art supplie-”
One of the other girls in Roberta and Serenity’s group waltzed in.
“She’s making things up Mrs Oakwood. She’s lying. No one did anything to her, she just didn’t want to paint.”
“Is this true Joy?”
“Of course not! It’s-”
“You are going to believe JOY?” The girl asked. “The one who lied to everyone about her illness to skip school?”
“Good point Cinnamon.”
“You are going to believe Cinnamon?” I burst out. “What abo-”
Mrs Oakwood cut me off. “That’s enough Joy. We need to start.”
And so I got to stare at an empty easel the entire time.