Dana and I began to map out our strategy at the end of our freshman year. After reading the generic inscriptions everyone had scrawled in our yearbooks – have a great summer, stay cool, wish I’d known ya’ better – we pledged to become popular. It wasn’t like we were unpopular. We definitely have friends and, most importantly, we have each other. We’ve been best friends since junior high and it’s almost like we function as one person.
Sometimes we complete each other’s sentences or we just look at each other and know what the other is thinking. But we wanted more for our sophomore year. We wanted to be known. Stacey Meyers is someone who’s known. She can walk the halls of East Valley High School and command attention. She’s never alone – someone always saves her a seat in the cafeteria or a cute senior waits at her locker to give her a ride home. She sat next to me in biology last year, so I could peek at all the notes she and her friends passed during class. They were always writing about that weekend’s big Basically, Stacey Meyers is the reason Dana and I decided to try out for the field hockey team ? and why I find myself trying not to bite my nails at today’s tryouts. This is step one in our popularity plan, and Stacey’s the model on which we based our blueprint. Since she’s the ideal, Dana and I spent all summer trying to walk in her shoes – learning all the tricks, perfecting our stick work…we ate, drank, and slept field hockey. It was hard work that I didn’t enjoy, but I had to do it because it’s all part of the plan.
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Glancing over at her now, I see she’s surrounded by a swarm of other hopeful girls trying to get some last-minute tips. Dana glances at me. I can read her mind. I know, I think, that will be us after today. She nods in agreement. “Steph, this is it,” she says. “We are completely ready for this.” “I know the stick drills inside and out, but I still feel like I’m going to be sick.” I say as my stomach twists. “I didn’t think I would feel this nervous. Did you?” “You’ll do great,” she says and flashes a reassuring smile. “We both will.” Suddenly, the head coach’s voice jangles us out of our conversation. “OK ladies, no more messing around. These drills are the real thing…to the fifty and back.” “So what time are they supposed to pick us up if we made the team?” I ask Dana, hoping my nervousness isn’t too obvious over the phone. “I’m not sure. But I think before it gets dark.” We’re both waiting to find out if our performances on the field were good enough to make the team. As part of tradition, if you’re chosen, the other players come to your house and kidnap you for an overnight slumber party.
Goofy stuff happens: Last year the newest team members were seen dressed in completely humiliating outfits, performing a cheer at one of the busiest intersections in a neighboring town. It’s amazing that people actually look forward to it and even more amazing that Dana and I are “Well, I suppose I should get some homework done before they get here,” I say, quickly glancing out my bedroom window for any sign of an approaching car. “We’re going to be so busy with practices, I thought I’d get started on our English assignment.” Our assignment is to take a position on a controversial subject and write about it in the form of a newspaper editorial. Dana and I got permission to write ours together. We decided to write about the new “seniors-only” open-campus policy that allows seniors to come and go from school as they please but “Make sure you write that part about having to watch them all come back with Taco Bell while we’re gagging on cafeteria food,” she says. “God, you’re so calm, Steph. How can you think about school at a time like this? I’m freaking out,” she whines, adding hesitantly: “What if we didn’t make it?” “Don’t say that.
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I’m sure we…” but before I can finish my sentence, Dana screams into the phone. “They’re here! They just pulled up. We made the team! I’ll see you soon.” I hang up the phone and jump up and down with excitement. It’s all paying off, I think to myself. All that stupid practice really did help. I stuff a sweatshirt into my duffel bag and put all my overnight gear near the door so that I’ll be ready. And then I wait. I wait for almost two hours, anxiously pacing around my room. What could be taking them so long? Until it hits me: I didn’t make the team. At school the next morning I can only hope that my three layers of cover-up are working and that no one can tell I’ve spent the entire night crying. I also hope I don’t run into Dana.
I can’t decide if I’m more hurt or angry. The whole idea was for us to be “field hockey stars” together. I can’t believe she still wanted to be a part of it without me. Had I been chosen, I would’ve told them I wouldn’t do it unless they let Dana on the team. So much for loyalty. I can see Dana waiting near my locker as I turn down the hallway. Great! She’s the last person I want to see, I think. But she sees me before I can turn away. I smile faintly and walk toward her. She’s dressed in the most ridiculous outfit, polka-dot boxer shorts and a tee-shirt all the other team members have signed. Her hair looks stringy and she doesn’t have any makeup on. “What happened to you?” I ask. “You look terrible.” “Hey, thanks,” she says sarcastically. “I didn’t get much sleep.” “What did they make you do? Was it horrible?” “Well, um,” she hesitates, “I promised not to tell – we took a secrecy vow.” She can’t be serious! I’m her best friend. I give her an incredulous look. “Whatever,” I mumble “Steph,” Dana reaches for my arm, then pauses. “Look, I’m sorry you didn’t make the team.
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“No big deal,” I say. “I gotta go to class. So do you want to work on our English assignment “I can’t. I have practice. Can we talk about it at lunch and then you can write it?” She looks at “You mean do it myself.” I can’t believes she’s being so blatant about dumping this on me. She doesn’t seem to notice my agitated voice. “No. I’ll help you with the ideas. But…” She looks around distractedly. “Steph you’re the better writer anyway.” The bell rings and she disappears into the crowded hallway. “I’ll see you later,” she calls In the next few weeks, I’m lucky to spend any time at all with Dana. Mostly I spend my free time working on the English assignment we were supposed to do together. It seems like she’s always ducking plans with me for field hockey. We still talk every night and eat lunch together every day. Somehow, Like yesterday, I was waiting for her at our lunch table when I saw her sit down at a different table with Stacey and some of her friends. Dana motioned for me to come and sit with them, and I did, but then I had to listen to them talk all about their first field hockey game next week and Stacey’s big party Dana leaned over to whisper, “I was going to tell you about Stacey’s party.
She just told me this morning and she really wants you to come.” “I’m sure she does,” I answered sarcastically. “No really, Steph. She does. I’ve been telling her about some of the fun things we did this So now tonight I’m hanging out in Stacey’s living room watching two really cute guys fawn all over her. Looking around the room, I realize that I don’t know a soul except for Dana. Even worse, not one person has said a single word to me since we got here. I bet they’re all secretly wondering why I’m here. They’re probably just saying to themselves, “Oh, it’s that girl who hangs on to Dana.” I refuse to sit I get up and escape to the solitude of the front porch. As I’m contemplating how long the walk how would be, Dana emerges from the house. “What’s going on Steph? Are you alright?” she says in a concerned tone. “Nothing. I just needed to get away from all those superficial people.” This puts a hurt look on Dana’s face, but I continue. “Seriously, Dana, I don’t know how you can stand them – especially Stacey.” “What?” she looks shocked.
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“You are very wrong – especially about Stacey. She’s been helping perfect the new plays. If you’d just give her a chance…” “Is that all that’s important to you? Field hockey? What’s happened to you? Before you made the team you would have never bailed on the English assignment.” “Listen, I’m sorry I flaked on the assignment, but I’ve been practicing really hard because I don’t want to let the team down. Our first game’s coming up.” She pauses, then adds, “I’m having fun. It has nothing to do with that stupid popularity plan.” “Not you, just that silly plan. it was dumb to think that cloning Stacey would make us popular.
We have to do what interests us, what we’re good at.” “That’s fine for you and your new ‘field hockey’ friends, but what about me?” I can feel my lower “C’mon, Steph, be honest. You didn’t really want to make the team anyway. You complained every time we practiced. It’s just not your thing.” I don’t say anything. It’s true. Field hockey wasn’t my thing, but it was something we were going to do together. When it’s clear I’m not going to say anything she adds, “You know, I am kind of hurt, too.
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I tried to be understanding about you not making the team by not talking about it too much, but you didn’t “Let me get this straight. You’re dumping on our popularity plan.” Dana nods in agreement. “But it worked for you,” I say softly. “What am I supposed to do? Just watch you make all these new friends and meet cute guys as I get left behind?? I can feel the tears welling up and I don’t want to stick around for her answer. “No thanks. I’m outta here.” All weekend long, I can’t stop thinking about my conversation with Dana. Some of what she said is true. I didn’t congratulate her for making the team, and I really haven’t gotten to know any of her new At school Monday morning a guy from my English class approaches me in the hallway. “Hey Steph, I really liked your article.” “The one in the school paper about the open-campus policy.” He holds up a copy of the latest issue of the East Valley student newspaper. “Let me see that,” I say and grab the copy out of his hands. It was the editorial that I had written for English class, the one that Dana had bailed on! How did it get in the school newspaper? Throughout the day, people approach me and congratulate me on my article, people I didn’t even think knew my name.
I didn’t know so many other underclassmen are as angry as I am about the new school rule. I still can’t figure out hoe it got printed. I’m on my way to the student publications office to ask the newspaper advisor when I see Dana. “Hey Dana,” I take a deep breath. “Listen, I’m glad I ran into you. I’m sorry about the way I acted at Stacey’s party. I guess I kind of felt left out.” “No. I should have introduced you to more people from the start.” She smiles and hands me a copy of the paper. “Did you see your article?” “You submitted it?” I ask. “Why?” “Because it was so good. I told you: You have serious writing talent.” “Yeah, you should join the school paper or maybe even run for student council,” she says.
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“People really supported your idea about open campus.” “Maybe you could help me put together a campaign plan,” I suggest. “Oh, no,” she replies emphatically. “I’ve had it with our wacky plans. Plus, I’ve got practice in a few minutes.” I can tell she’s worried about how I will react. “But I’ll call you later and we can talk about it, OK?” she reaches for her sports bag and gives me a hug. “OK.” I smile and hug her back to reassure her that I’m not angry. “Dana?” She looks at me expectantly. “Thanks for submitting the article and…have fun at She smiles and turns to walk down the hall, leaving me alone at my locker. I watch her walk away. I’m happy that we talked, and even though I can’t ignore that our friendship is changing, for the first time I get a sense that it’s changing for the better. I realize that she is right – we both have different interests, and checking them out is what growing up is about, even if it means growing apart. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends. Right now, I am going to make two promises to myself: One is to start writing for the school newspaper regularly, maybe even get on the staff. Two is to make sure that I make time for Dana once field hockey season is over – and I’m the school’s star reporter. Yeah, I like that. Sounds like a plan!