Chapter 1: A Bad Start
Becky got ready to go home from her frustrating day at school. Her fist was soaked from all the sweat dripping between her fingers. She grabbed her backpack. She was still sad that her friend deserted her. She’d been excited to go to Sarah’s party, but suddenly she was uninvited. Becky was Sarah’s friend since kindergarten, but when Sarah met other people she forgot about Becky. When Becky got home, she grabbed the peanut butter and jelly sandwich her mom made for her. The jelly was squished out of the side of the bread, but Becky didn’t mind the mess. She licked her fingers as she climbed the stairs and closed herself inside her bedroom. Even from inside, she smelled the moist air from the rainy day.
The front door swung open, and her mom shouted up the stairs. “I’m home! Where are you?”
Becky felt dreadful now. She couldn’t have a nice, peaceful day with Mom’s endless questions. She tiptoed to her little brother’s room to retrieve the telephone charger he’d swiped from her. She plugged it in and belly flopped onto her bed. Starring up at the ceiling, kicking her legs in the air, Becky typed in Sarah’s phone number. She pressed “send” and waited a long time for Sarah to respond, but after what seemed like a hundred rings, she gave up hoping Sarah would answer the phone.
Becky wasn’t surprised. It had been a long time since Sarah was a real friend to Becky –– at least eight years. Becky was eleven now, and she wished Sarah would be her friend again.
She jumped out of bed when her mom called her for dinner: grilled brussel sprouts with mashed potatoes. Afterward, she brushed her teeth with super bubble gum pop ice cream flavored toothpaste, and then crept into the family room without her mother hearing her. She sunk into the soft purple velvet couch and started watching The Big Bang Theory, one of her favorite shows. After her eyelids started drooping, she returned to her room and fell asleep in her cozy pink bed, dreamily clutching her kitten-patterned comforter.
The next morning, Becky slipped out of bed and changed into the flowered dress her Aunt Nelson had given her for her birthday. Becky pranced to the door and down the stairs. It was Book Fair day, and she was so excited. She’d been waiting so long to get more books and participate in the drawing contest. Too bad she had to suffer through the boring parts of school first.
In homeroom, number 234, she tried to pay attention to her teacher.
”Okay, students, open your math notebooks to page 225,” he said. “We will be reading page 225-230, and also, do not forget to answer all of the problems. Remember, there are 24 problems on one page.”
Becky didn’t want to answer any amount of problems. She sneakily removed her diary from her bookbag, opened it on her desk, and wrote:
Ahh man, I wish I could make the teacher disappear, and then he could be a torturer for my little brother, but not me. But Torture Class is almost over and it’ll be time for social studies with… Oh, I can’t remember all my teachers’ names because I have seven teachers. That’s way too many teachers. Yesterday in social studies we learned how much trash has been dumped on earth, so we talked about how we can stop having so much trash. My idea was to get a machine that helps cancer but eats trash so then kids will be helped and there will be less trash. But the teacher said impossible things can not be included, but then I told her it’s not impossible. Then the teacher gave us worksheets, but I just ripped it slowly and then started to cut it into tiny squares that were nicely ripped.
Becky went into the cafeteria and had her favorite lunch: a salad from the salad bar and fried chicken. The salad bar had almost all the toppings you could want: tomatoes, croutons, olives, and lots more. Becky chose tomato salad with olives. After lunch Becky went to recess. It was indoors because it was lightly raining outside. She picked up her diary.
I really hate this school. It’s really boring. If somebody talks, the whole class has to put their heads down for the whole recess. Another really bad thing is that whenever a teacher needs a substitute, it’s my mom. One time a teacher here needed a sub and my mom came it. She told other kids really embarrassing things about me!
Sarah went over. “What’s this?” she shrieked. She bent over and threw Becky’s diary across the room; it almost went into the trash can. Behind Sarah, Becky could hear Sarah’s friends. The boys roared. They were weird, and Becky rushed over to get her diary, but then one of the friends came and ripped the page out.
“Here’s your stupid diary,” he said.
Sarah and her friends walked away.
When recess was over the teacher came in and said, ”We’re going to do a pop quiz.”
Everyone moaned, “NOOO!”
Everyone in our classroom hates test and work. I’m stuck on the question 32 x 5. Ooh! I’ll pull out my calculator!
The teacher saw Becky reach for her calculator and glared across the room. “Becky, please sit at the back table. I’ll see you after class.”
Becky grumbled as she walked through the rows to the back of the classroom. As she stomped, she saw Sarah was halfway through her test already. That was when she saw Sarah’s arm covered with the answers for the test. Becky was about to tell on Sarah, but the teacher called her name. Becky walked to the front of the classroom.
“Tell everyone what you were doing.”
Becky hesitated, and then she told everyone. “I was getting a calculator.”
“I will give you a reflection. Tell your parents to sign it and bring it in,” the teacher said.
I got in big trouble from my parents today. At dinner, they called me down to ask what happened. I told them I needed the calculator. I told them I was stuck on the question. I told them about Sarah being mean and how she had the answers written on her arms. And Mom and Dad said they didn’t care about Sarah. They only cared about me. They told me if Sarah’s doing that, that’s her problem, not ours. That I should focus on my own business. But Sarah is my business, because I want to be friends with her.
For dinner, Becky had salmon and mushrooms. Becky quickly ate the salmon, but she didn’t like the mushrooms, so she made a big pile.
“Becky, eat those mushrooms, or you won’t get ice cream for dessert,” her mom said.
But Becky knew they didn’t have ice cream, so she knew her mom was lying. Becky ate it anyway, though, because she didn’t want to get in more trouble. She went to bed and put on her favorite fluffy pajamas with pictures of hamsters from head to toe. She went to the bathroom and started brushing her teeth with blueberry mint toothpaste and her puppy-patterned toothbrush. She yawned and her eyelids drooped. She was ready for bed! She slipped under her covers and fell into a dream.
She dreamed about her friends. She dreamed about the girl in her class, Olivia, and dreamed about how she could be her friend. But then Sarah entered the dream and was really mean to her.
Why would she want to be Sarah’s friend? Becky thought. She abandoned her, she took her diary, she made fun of her, and in the last few years, she mocked Becky’s last name with her gang of meanies. Olivia was there again, happy and sweet and welcoming. Maybe Becky should be friends with Olivia instead. But, despite how nice she was, no one wanted to be Olivia’s friend, and Becky wondered why. Then she remembered that Sarah had told everybody not to be Olivia’s friend because if you played with her she’d steal all of your stuff.
Becky woke up, confused. The next day, she quickly ate her banana chocolate cereal with fresh milk from the cows in her dad’s farm for breakfast and went to school. During attendance, Sarah went over to Olivia and pushed her out of her chair.
“Oopsie,” Sarah said insincerely, and the class laughed at Olivia.
Becky stood, her hands on her hips and said, “Stop. I’m tired of people saying and doing mean things to Olivia.”
Olivia eyes welled with tears as she stood and approached Becky. “Wow. You’re so brave. Do you want to sit together at lunch?”
So they sat together at lunch. Olivia had a salami sandwich her mom made, and Becky bought a Philly cheesesteak from the cafeteria. They shared bites with each other, just like best friends, but they were so distracted that Becky didn’t notice Sarah creep up and grab her backpack.
“Ha! Look what I’ve got!” Sarah said. “After I got it the last time, I thought you would’ve stopped carrying around your dumb diary.”
Sarah opened the diary again and began reading aloud:
What’s wrong with Sarah?
The girl stopped and looked at Becky with wide eyes. She cleared her throat and continued reading, but it wasn’t what Becky had actually written!
I hate Sarah. She is so mean, and nobody likes her. I bet she’s bad at school, too.
“Hey!” Becky exclaimed. “I didn’t write that!”
“So you just talk about people behind their backs. You’re the real mean one, Becky.”
The cafeteria buzzed with conversations, and several kids fired mean looks at Becky. Even Olivia looked concerned. Sarah looked like Queen of the World as she shook Becky’s diary in the air. She pouted her bottom lip like her heart had been broken, but Becky knew the truth. She hadn’t written those things about Sarah. She’d written nice things.
At recess, everyone in the class appeared to hate Becky. No one would talk to her or play with her. She had to get her diary back. She had to show them the truth.
Sarah was on the playground, flipping through the diary pages, when Becky stomped up to her.
“Can I please have my diary back?”
“So you can write more lies about me?” Sarah asked. Her voice boomed across the playground, and kids gathered around them.
“You’re the liar!” Becky said. “I didn’t write those things, and I can prove it.”
Becky ripped the diary out of Sarah’s hands and flipped it open to the page Sarah had lied about.
I think Sarah and I could be really good friends. The only thing is that Sarah is mean to me sometimes. She says we can hang out, but then she deserts me. She even invited me to a party, but then said I couldn’t come because it’s only for “cool girls.” I think I’m pretty cool. I wonder why Sarah doesn’t think so. I wish Sarah would be my friend and be at least a little nicer to me. Then she’d have a lot more friends, and I think people would like her instead of being scared of her. Sometimes I think that’s the only reason people hang out with her. She’s popular and everyone says she’s the best person, but I think that’s because she’d be mean to them if they don’t say they like her.
I could like her. I could be her real friend. We could all be her real friends.
Becky showed the kids the diary, and they gasped.
“She was telling the truth!” Olivia said. “And Sarah was lying.”
Sarah’s cheeks turned bright red, and her face crumpled in sorrow. She looked like she wanted to crawl into a hole and hide forever like a meerkat.
“Why did you lie to us?” a girl asked Sarah.
“And why did you trip me the other day?” a boy added.
“And why do you keep stealing Becky’s diary?” Olivia asked.
Sarah lowered her head. “I don’t know. I guess I just thought being tough would make me more popular and cooler. I thought people would like me more.”
“People like other people when they’re nice,” Becky said. “When they share and are fair and have fun jokes. You should treat people they way you want to be treated. Like your favorite pet, or your family, or ––”
“Like a best friend!” Olivia interjected. She wrapped her arm around Becky and smiled.
Sarah stood there, mouth hanging open in shock. But Olivia and Becky reached out to her and smiled as they said, “Join us, Sarah. You can be our friend.”
Sarah was hesitant. No one had offered her kindness and friendship like this before, and she didn’t know if she could trust it.
But the girls and the other kids on the playground encouraged her to take their hands, to stop being mean, and to be friends with Becky.
Becky was so happy. She was still a little mad at Sarah for being mean to her, but now that Sarah was going to change her ways and be a good person, Becky could overlook her remaining anger.
She threw one arm around Sarah, one arm around Olivia, and as the bell rang to signal the end of recess, Becky wasn’t upset about having to go back inside.
At her locker, she pulled out her diary and pressed it against the locker to write.
This was a really hard year. But Sarah has finally become my friend and will stop bullying everybody. Olivia and I are best friends now. Even Mom has stopped asking me so many questions, and I can finally have a peaceful day.