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Stepping Out of the Bubble
“Your project will be to explain, using examples from the various characters in the novel, how seemingly insignificant gestures can have a huge , often unknown, affect on others .” The teacher began writing the question on the board. “You may work in groups.”
Around the classroom, students squealed and grabbed each other’s hands in a show of who was working with who.
Brianna tossed her mane of long, wavy hair over her shoulder as she craned her neck to catch her friend Chelsea’s eye.
“Work with me?” She mouthed across the room.
Chelsea nodded vigorously, gathered her books and jumped up. The two friends were inseparable and worked together every chance they got.
Adira sat at the back of the classroom, slowly sketching in her art book; two girls, arm in arm, laughing and swinging school bags as they walked along a dirt road; a snapshot of her old life, her life before she moved, when she knew everyone and everyone knew her. It was not like here, not at all. Here, no one knew her. No one noticed her. The problem, she decided, was that she didn’t have much practice at making friends. She had never needed to work at it before; she fell into friendships with people she had known all her life. People whose parents knew each other, who she went to school with, played with when she was younger, gossiped and laughed with, and celebrated holidays with. When Adira had first arrived in her new country, she had been too homesick to do much about fitting into her new life. Now, feeling out of place and culturally different, she didn’t know how to start. What could she talk about with her alien classmates? To be confident, it takes friends to begin with; you can’t take risks without someone to catch you if you fall.
No one from her old village would recognize her now. She didn’t recognize herself. Rather than laughing, she sketched. Rather than talking, she listened. Rather than living, she observed.
Briana chattered excitedly with Chelsea about an upcoming slumber party she was planning.
“….and Pamela told me she can’t come,” Chelsea said
“I wish she’d said so before, I planned all the activities for eight of us. It’ll work with seven people though, I guess.”
“Have you chosen the movies yet?”
“Well, I was thinking about getting that new chick flick. The one about a guy who’s in love with his best friend, but can’t tell her because –“
“With Mark Robinson?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. What do you think?”
Ordinary conversation, but something that Adira deeply missed. She longed for a best friend, or even a friend at all for that matter. Someone to talk and laugh with. The more she thought about making friends, the harder a goal it seemed to be to accomplish.
“Are you two working?” the teacher asked, stopping in front of Brianna and Chelsea’s desks.
“Yes,” Chelsea answered too quickly, “Of course.”
“We’re about to,” Briana said with a sheepish grin. She turned to her friend, “Do you want to make a poster? It’s more fun than just writing notes then speaking to the class.”
“Sure. I’m no good at drawing…I can do the title though. Let’s ask Daphne to work with us – she’s good at drawing.”
Briana caught sight of the quiet, new girl sitting at the back of the room and scribbling away in her sketch pad. A sudden thought crossed her mind. Why not invite Adira? She didn’t seem to have anyone else to work with.
“Adira’s good at drawing too.” She didn’t know this as a fact, but it seemed a safe enough bet.
Chelsea looked at her oddly.
“Why don’t we just work with Daphne?”
“Don’t you think it’s weird to have classes with someone we’ve never really talked to? It’d be cool to get to know her, at least.”
“Whatever,” Chelsea shrugged, “She can work with us, I don’t mind.”
“Adira! Hey, Adira!”
At the sound of her name, Adira’s head snapped up. She looked around, slightly dazed at being pulled so abruptly from her world of drawing.
“Want to work with us?” asked Briana.
Still not certain that she was the one being spoken to, Adira nodded.
“We were thinking of doing a poster, is that alright with you?”
“Yes, please.” Adira responded, her quiet voice coloured with a slight accent. She stood up and made her way over to the two girls in the centre of the class.
She took a seat and the three girls discussed the project they were assigned to do. Briana and Chelsea did most of the talking, and Adira nodded and agreed a lot, occasionally adding a comment when prodded for her opinion. Briana was talkative and seemed to keep the conversation going singlehandedly. She reminded Adira of herself. At least, how she used to be. She couldn’t understand how she had changed so quickly.
Gradually the conversation turned to other topics.
“So, where are you from?” Briana asked.
“Romania? I went there for a holiday a couple years ago!” Chelsea said. “It’s a beautiful country.”
“What was it like, living there?” Curiosity lit up Briana’s eyes.
“I lived in a small village with all my family. My cousins, my uncles and aunts, my older siblings, my grandparents . . . we lived minutes apart. I’ve known my cousin and neighbour, Leila, since I was born and we’re best friends. We used to walk to school together and spent every day at each other’s houses.” Talking about Leila made Adira miss her all the more. Her life here was so different.
“You must really miss her,” Briana said sincerely. “I couldn’t imagine leaving my family or friends like that – it’d be horrible. Tell us more about your life in Romania?”
Adira began to open up. Perhaps it was talking about her old life or maybe because Briana and Chelsea were listening in rapt attention, but as she talked she gained confidence. As the three girls laughed and joked, Adira began to feel more like her old self. The class flew by.
“Adira, I’m having a sleepover this weekend,” Brianna said, as the bell rang, “Would you like to come?”
She looked up and smiled. Maybe making friends wasn’t as hard as she thought. She had found herself again.