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Jess sat dejectedly on the playground swing. She kicked the sand around her feet as if personally punishing it for her lack of friends. It wasn’t fair that she should have to sit here on this swing, lonely and bored, while the other kids had a great time. Her eyes flickered restlessly from face to face, until they landed on Sarah Smith and her posse who were happily making fun of some poor kid whose mom still dressed him in the fifth grade. Jess had a burning hatred for Sarah. It seemed to Jess that Sarah’s favorite pastime was making fun of Jess and her all-black wardrobe. Even though Sarah was mean, Jess still wished that she would stop to admire her bright red Converse high-tops, or how good she was at reading. No such luck. People never seemed to notice Jess. She wasn’t pretty or ugly. Her hair was stick straight and reddish and her eyes were a muddy brown. And she certainly wasn’t an athlete, unless running away from doing her chores was athletic. Jess was an outcast, a loser, one of those people who just fade into the background. In fact, the girl walking toward the swings right now probably just saw the red brick of the school behind Jess, not Jess herself.

Jess was just about to walk away when she really looked at the girl coming to the swings. She tried not to stare, but it’s hard not to when the person you’re staring at is so weird-looking. The girl had electric blue eyes the size of the moon and light blond hair so curly it reminded Jess of a poodle. Unlike Jess’s, this girl’s skin was really pale, as if the sun didn’t touch her. Apart from the scary eyes and pale skin, the strangest thing was that she didn’t have a gaggle of friends with her. Weird, Jess thought.

Jess and Lizzy girls on the swing
“I saw you sitting here by yourself and thought you could use some company!”

“Hi there!” The girl plopped down on an empty swing.

“Uh… hi?” Jess’s face had turned scarlet. She wasn’t used to talking to people her age.

“I saw you sitting here by yourself and thought you could use some company! The name is Lizzy by the way!” Lizzy smiled.

Apparently, Lizzy’s grin was infectious because Jess couldn’t help but smile back and say, “My name’s Jessie, but you can call me Jess.”

“Oooh, I love the name Jessie! That was my dog’s name!”

Jess wasn’t sure if that was a compliment, so she said, “Yeah, OK. By the way, I… uh, don’t think I’ve seen you here before. Are you new to Penbrooke?” Jess crossed her fingers that Lizzy actually was new and Jess hadn’t just been unobservant.

“Oh yeah, I’m new in Mrs. Raymond’s fifth grade. You’re probably in the other fifth grade, right? Isn’t Mrs. Marsh, like, really mean or something?” Lizzy looked at Jess curiously.

Jess let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and replied, “Yep, I am in Mrs. Marsh’s and she’s super nasty. She reminds me of a bird ’cause she has a beaky nose and weird beady eyes.”

“Caw, caw!” Lizzy giggled, imitating a bird.

Jess smiled and laughed.

“But seriously, you have to tell me about this school,” said Lizzy.

“What do you want to know?”


So Jess proceeded to tell Lizzy about the cutest boys, nicest teachers, and the way Sarah Smith thought that using Proactiv acne medicine was something to brag about. Lizzy laughed at the funny stuff, was sympathetic at the right times, and not once did she call Jess a loser. Jess was elated and she could tell Lizzy was excited to have a friend too.

When the bell rang, Lizzy turned to Jess smiling and said, “So I guess I’ll see you around. Maybe we could go to my house sometime?”

“Sounds like a plan!” Jess grinned. As they ran off to separate classrooms, Lizzy yelled, “By the way, cool Converses!”

Jess walked to class with a huge smile on her face. So maybe Lizzy was a little odd, but who was Jess to judge? All that mattered was that Jess finally had a true friend.

Jess and Lizzy Maia Donahue
Maia Donahue, 12
Midland, Michigan

Jess and Lizzy Zoe Hall
Zoe Hall, 13
Rockville, Maryland