I had always had the same dream. Ever since I could remember, my dream was to ice-skate in the Olympics. I worked very hard at it, skating in all my free time. Although I loved skating with all my heart, the time it took to practice left me with very little time for my friends.
I knew that I was lucky to have three close friends, because I was shy and it was difficult for me to make friends. When my parents told me that my father’s company was transferring him to another state, I was heartsick.
“Mom, we can’t move,” I protested. “It will mess up everything! I’ll have to get familiar with a new rink, a new practice schedule, a new coach. And since I’ll be unknown at the new rink, I’ll go to the bottom of the list for practice hours. And I won’t know a single person in the whole state, except you and Dad.”
“I know, Melissa,” Mom soothed, “It isn’t going to be easy for any of us, especially you. But we’re all going to have to do our share of sacrificing. You may have to work a little harder to reach your goals, but you’ll manage somehow.”
I knew that Mom was right, but I was still terrified of facing a new situation, and the thought of trying to make new friends made me feel sick to my stomach.
Mom and I drove to the ice rink in Danville, our new hometown, the first night we arrived. It was a Friday night, and the rink was open for public skating. Mom had an appointment with the owner to discuss practice time. I wanted to try out the ice.
I slipped into my skates and joined the twenty or so people on the ice. My spirits were so low that I just glided along without really putting any effort into it.
I watched the people closely. Most of them were in groups of two or three, except for a few girls my age. There were four of them, and I could tell by the way they were skating that they were not beginners. These laughing, boisterous girls were the girls I’d be sharing ice time with.
I tried to get up the courage to say hello and introduce myself, and I almost did—until I realized that they had noticed me and were eyeing me with interest. I knew that they were trying to size me up, and I lost all my confidence. I was relieved to see Mom coming out of an office door. I exited the ice quickly.
“How’s the ice?” Mom asked.
“It’s OK,” I mumbled.
“Well,” she started, “as you guessed, you’re going to have to share ice time. Practice times are Monday and Wednesday afternoons from four to six, and Tuesday and Thursday from three to five. You can be on the ice every morning from five to seven, but only with your coach. I set up an appointment for you to meet the coaches tomorrow. The sooner you pick one, the sooner you can get started.”
Mom went on and on about the business end of skating, and I was happy to let her. I was afraid if she tried to involve me in the conversation, she’d see how miserable I was feeling.
I chose a wonderful coach, and after a couple of weeks we had a routine down. We practiced every weekday morning for an hour, two on Saturday, and two hours in the evenings, Monday through Thursday.
I went to school and church and skated with the four girls I’d seen that first night at the rink. But I still had not made any friends. I knew that it was mostly my fault, because I hadn’t really tried. It was easier to pretend that I was too busy. But now that my schedule was no longer new, I was getting bored and lonely. I wanted to be friends with those girls more than I’d wanted anything since we’d moved. I decided that I was going to make an honest effort to befriend them.
Mom made a batch of her best fudge brownies, and I took them with me one Monday morning. It was just the icebreaker I needed. That day I became friends with Julie, Ann, Michelle, and Kelly.
For the next couple of days, everything went well. I was thrilled to have them for friends, and they seemed to like me, too. Danville was starting to feel like home.
On Friday night, we all met at the rink during public skate time to have a little fun. It was nice to just glide along the ice with a chill in my face and my hair blowing behind me and not worry about figure eights or double toe loops.
We had been on the ice for about twenty minutes, when Julie snickered and pointed to a heavyset girl of our age, coming onto the ice. “There she is again! I can’t believe that cow is coming on the ice.”
I couldn’t believe my ears! Who is she? I wondered. I hadn’t seen her here before.
“Hey, Moo-ey Mary, who let you out of the barn?” Julie hollered at her.
The other girls giggled. I looked from face to face, trying to decide what to do. I looked back at Mary, who was trying to ignore them, but I could see that her feelings were hurt.
My first thoughts were for myself. Why is this happening? I know that going along with them is wrong, but if I say anything, I’ll probably lose them as friends. Maybe I could just ignore the whole thing. I grabbed Ann’s arm. “Come on,” I said, “let’s skate.”
“Wait a minute,” she said. “I want to watch this.”
“Try not to crack the ice,” Julie yelled, and the girls laughed as if on cue. Then they all began to moo.
I looked over at Mary to see what her reaction to this would be. I could see tears running down her cheeks. She was so upset that she was shaking. Everyone on the ice had stopped to look at her.
Mary tried to continue skating, but as she reached us and realized that she would have to pass by us, she went completely white in the face. I had never before known what it meant to feel dirty, but I did now.
I had already noticed that she wasn’t a very good skater and that she had labored to get this far without falling. The other girls were calling her names now, too, and I saw some boys coming our way, laughing.
Mary let go of the handrail, which she had clung to for these past few minutes, and tried to pass us. I could tell that she wasn’t going to make it. Michelle jumped out at her, knocking her off balance, and she fell with a thud to the ice.
The boys, who had joined our circle, started to shake in imitation of an earthquake. It made me sick to my stomach to watch the girls go into peals of laughter over this. I felt angry—mostly with myself.
“Why are you doing this?” I blurted out. “Why don’t you leave her alone. She has as much right to be here as we do.”
Julie turned toward me, all traces of friendship gone from her face. “If you like her so much,” she spat at me, “then why don’t you be her friend?”
I hesitated. But I knew right from wrong, and this was wrong!
“I will!” I said. “I’ll be glad to.”
I skated over to Mary, who had been trying to get on her feet without success. I took her arm, and as I did, I saw that Kelly was reaching for the other one. Together we helped her to her feet and to the handrail.
“My name is Melissa,” I said. “And this is Kelly. Don’t pay any attention to them. They made mistakes and fell when they were learning to skate, too.”
“That’s right,” Kelly agreed.
“Thank you,” Mary managed to say. “Can you help me get to the gate?”
“Oh, please don’t go,” I pleaded. “Stay and have some fun. Kelly and I will give you a free skating lesson, won’t we, Kelly?”
“You bet,” she said. “You can have as many as you like.”
My actions caused me to lose three friends that day. But I made two lifelong, special ones, and I’ve never been sorry for making the right choice.