Lauren Hill is a 9th-grade award-winning writer mentored through Mississippi Matters' sister organization, The Well Writers Guild.
Before I came to Richland, in 3rd grade, I attended another school. Let me just briefly explain the setup of things there. Even back in 2nd grade, people had cliques. There were, traditionally, the “Nerd group,” the “Athletes,” the “Gamers,” the people who obviously didn’t want to be there, and the “Cool group.”
Between all of those specific groups, there were those kids in the crowds who didn’t really fit in anywhere. These were the kids who longed to be in a group but always ended up lurking in the background, hoping that one day, maybe one of the cool kids would notice them and take them into their clique. Pfft, those losers.
Oh, I’m sorry. Did I forget to mention that I was one of those losers? Well... I was. I wanted nothing more than to become a part of the “cool group.” It consisted of three distinctive girls. The main girl, Georgia, was the “Queen Bee” of the school. She was the girl that everyone else wanted to be. Second in command was Olivia. The last girl was different from the others. Her name was Alice.
I’d only heard Alice speak about two times. She was the exact opposite of the other two girls. Everyone always wondered how a girl like her could get into a group with them. I’m not gonna lie; I wondered the same thing. She just seemed so different. Because she was so peculiar to everyone, Alice was the laughing stock of the grade. People would make fun of her all the time and tease her about how she didn’t talk. Was it nice? No. Did they care? No.
I had even seen Georgia and Olivia make fun of Alice on many occasions, but I never said anything. It was one particular day, and I’d gotten in trouble. I had to stay inside while the other children played. After my teacher eventually let me go to recess, I walked solemnly outside.
Georgia walked by me that day, causing curiosity to bloom inside me. Back then, I thought she’d talk to a trash can before she said a word to me, and I was probably right. She asked me if I’d gotten in trouble, to which I responded with a hesitant “yes.” She grinned at my response and invited me to sit with her for the day. I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything. I just wordlessly followed Georgia back to the “cool table” and took a seat with her, Olivia, and Alice. Georgia and Olivia talked to me and included me in their conversation, but I was more interested in Alice. Not once did she say a word or try to engage in a conversation with me or the others. How could she not be thankful for what Georgia and Olivia were doing for her by letting her into their group? I thought.
I believed that she was ignorant, so I ignored her. Ironic, right? In fact, as the time went on and I was let into the “cool group,” I began to value myself over her, and I treated her like the dirt beneath my feet. Was it nice? No. Did I care? No.
That is... until one day on the playground. I cried heavily over a fight that pitted me against Georgia and Olivia.
That day, Alice walked up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. She sat beside me and put her hand on my back, patting soothingly. She comforted me. The rest of recess consisted of me talking to Alice, who always responded with a nod and a smile. It was beyond me how she could be so nice to me after the way I’d treated her for so long. Alice was bullied all of the time; however, it was like she never let it bother her and brushed it off easily. I envied that about her.
My thoughts were so consumed with Alice, I had forgotten all about Georgia and Olivia. That is...until I got to school the following day.
On the playground the next morning, I was greeted by the sight of Alice on the grass, Georgia and Olivia towering over her. As I closed in on them, I could make out a thin stick, clutched tightly in Georgia’s right hand. It didn’t take me long to put two and two together and get four. Four little 7 or 8-year-old girls standing in the middle of the grass, people around them completely oblivious to what was happening. Without thinking, I yelled, “Hey! What are you doing?”
Olivia and Georgia turned towards me abruptly. “What did you just say?” Georgia asked me threateningly.
“Y-you can’t hit her,” I enforced.
“Fine, I won’t. You will. If you want to stay in our group, you have to. And if you don’t, then we won’t talk to you ever again.Your choice,” she said, shrugging.
I took a deep breath. I knew that if I hit Alice with the stick, I’d lose one real friend to two fake ones. On the other hand, if I got kicked out of the cool group, I’d forever be that shy nobody in the crowd who longed to be in the group and lurked in the shadows. So, I made the decision I believed would give me the best benefit.
I took the stick.
Wait...let me rephrase that. I grabbed the stick and broke it in half; I then threw it far away from us. “I don’t care, and I don’t want to be your friend anymore,” I asserted. Georgia recovered from her shock quickly and simply scoffed. She turned and walked away, Olivia following her closely.
Once they were gone, I examined Alice’s skin. There were red welts gathering, which worried me. As I tried to help Alice stand, so that we could get her help from a teacher, I could see the gratitude in her eyes. At that very moment, I heard the quietest whisper come from her. It was nearly impossible to make out, but after straining my ears to hear what she’d said, I could finally make out the two words that had an enormous effect on my life from that point and on.
Alice had said, “Thank you.”
After Lauren won a national short-story contest put on by Ole Miss, mother Sheila enrolled her to study writing at The Well Writers Guild, Mississippi Matters' sister organization. Lauren is now working on a book of short stories plus a novel, both to be published in the next year. The Well identifies and mentors young select writers - those with gifts truly equal in their field to "select" peers in sports, music and dance. Currently, The Well mentors three college interns and seven young teens. Does your child have "select" writing ability? If so, visit wellwritersguild.com to learn more. Of her experience, Lauren says, "I am very thankful that God allowed me the opportunity to share my story through the Well Writers Guild." We are too, Lauren!