“’Whatever, let him stay,’ I heard Billy say. Relief flowed through me. He was my friend! ‘We can choose some other seats.’
As they walked away, Billy leaned over and whispered, ‘You owe me one, remember that.'”
“We’re going that way.”
My friend, Billy, sounded so sure of himself when he announced the route we would take across the river. Our kayak was bobbing in the current, and we were running out of time to decide which way to take. “But that direction is the one with the stronger rapids,” I told Billy impatiently. “We’re just beginners. Do you really think you can go that way?”
Billy snickered and leaned into my face. “You scared?” he taunted.
I shook my head. “Come on, Billy, let’s just go that way, okay?” I begged.
“Okay, scaredy,” Billy sneered. “We’ll go the baby path.”
I felt both offended, but relieved. I never really expected for this trip to turn out well, but I didn’t think that I would have to go through such a rough current, either. None of the trips that my mom planned really worked out well. I was not exactly eager when she told me about her idea for me to go kayaking with Billy, especially after seeing him act slightly strange for a few days.
“Why don’t you go kayaking with Billy?” she had asked me. “He hasn’t hung out with you for a while. It’ll help your relationship.”
We kayaked over to the right just as we reached the area where the river split into two. The left path had a very rapid current, and the other way was way more appropriate for beginner kayakers. At least, I thought so. We paddled silently for a while. Then, the rapids started to get rougher. We bumped up and down quickly along the river.
“Um, Billy?” I asked nervously. “Uh, why is this so… rough?”
Billy did not respond. The farther we went, the stronger the rapids grew. Soon, when I felt like I was about to fall right out of the kayak, I saw a very frightening sight right ahead of my eyes.
It was a waterfall.
I panicked, and I started kayaking away from it.
“Billy! It’s a waterfall!” I shrieked to him. He glared at me without a word. We were both wearing life jackets, but the water was freezing cold. Billy, however, had an idea. He began steering towards a log floating in the river. Once we were close enough, he pushed me off the boat and onto the log. He climbed on after me, and grabbed the boat out of the water. We walked across the log and onto land, Billy still carrying the boat. He had just saved our lives.
I had to thank him. “Billy?” I began. He turned to me and glared. A lump formed in my throat. “Um, never mind,” I told him nervously. I decided not to thank him. If he was going to treat me that way, he did not deserve to be thanked.
We walked back in silence. Billy had been my friend since I was 4 years old. Now, were we just going to break that friendship because of an accident? Of course not! He’s still my friend! I thought. But as we walked in silence, I didn’t feel so sure.
Soon, we reached the area where our parents were waiting for our return.
“Back already?” my mom asked when she saw us.
“What happened?” she urged. I shook my head. I was not in the mood to explain, and she didn’t make me, either. “I want to go home,” I told her. She didn’t object so I waved good-bye to Billy, and I headed home.
The entire car ride home was silent, but once we got home, my mom asked the question.
“Bob,” she asked me. “What happened at the river? You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but I would appreciate it if you did.”
I sighed as I shook my head. Somehow, I found myself spilling the whole story to my mother. She deserves the truth, I thought. But that was my biggest mistake. I guess I should have told her that this story was personal, because in less than 3 minutes, the story of my relationship with Billy was posted all over Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
The next morning was Monday, which meant going to school–with Billy. I hoped that Billy didn’t have an Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook account. That would be a nightmare, I thought. But it was nothing compared to what actually happened.
At lunchtime, Billy, who had always sat at the “losers’” table with me, didn’t make it over without a bunch of popular kids crowding in his face.
“Yo, Billy!” one of the kids called out. “You going around kayaking waterfalls?”
Billy looked shocked. “What are you talking about?” he asked.
The kid stared. “My friend told me everything that happened in the river. He told me that you kayaked down a waterfall! At least, that’s what I heard. He told me that his friend’s father saw something about that on Instagram,” he explained.
The other kids nodded. “Well, hey, that’s cool! Wanna join us here?” another kid asked.
I was so shocked. I had no idea about all these rumors going on about the river incident.
“Billy, no! Don’t go with them! You’re my friend…. right?” I pleaded. But Billy didn’t hear me. He smiled, nodded, and sat down at the popular kids’ table, deserting me.
I couldn’t believe what I just saw. Billy… a popular kid?! I thought. No way! He’ll be a friend of mine again in no time. But still, I was desperate to prove to myself that Billy was still my friend. It was hard to believe, though, seeing Billy hang around and talking with the popular kids, as if they were old friends. I felt left out and alone.
By the time school ended, I had a plan. If the plan succeeded, then Billy was truly my friend. However, if the plan failed, Billy was so totally over me.
On the bus, I sat at the seat reserved for the popular kids. I knew that when they came over and found out that I had taken one of the reserved seats, they would be angry. Then, what happened next would decide if Billy was still my friend.
I had to wait a while for the kids to come. When they finally arrived, I could see that Billy was among them. “Get out of my seat, loser,” one of the popular kids sneered. I looked over at Billy, waiting to see his reaction. He remained emotionless, just standing there.
“I said, GET OUT!” the kid shouted once again. I held my breath, waiting.
“Whatever, let him stay,” I heard Billy say. Relief flowed through me. He was my friend! “We can choose some other seats.”
As they walked away, Billy leaned over and whispered, “You owe me one, remember that.”
When he rejoined the popular kids, I heard one of them whisper to him with a frown, “Meet me this afternoon at the schoolyard. We need to talk.”
When I got home, I immediately went on to Twitter. I wanted to see what my mom posted about me, and I really wanted to see where the popular kids had gotten the information. What I saw completely shocked me. In front of my eyes was an article, an article so fake that I just couldn’t believe that my own mother had written it:
My poor son, Bob! His mean friend, Billy, went kayaking with him, and he didn’t know that Bob was only a beginner! He chose to kayak the route down the waterfall! Poor Bob was scared to death, and I felt so bad for my son. He could have died from that kayaking trip! What was Billy thinking?
At first I did not know how to react. Then, the reality began to sink in.
“Mom!” I shouted. “What have you been posting on Twitter?!” I ran out into the kitchen, holding the laptop.
My mom was busy making dinner. “What is it, honey?” she asked, surprised.
I held the laptop up for her to see. “What – why -” I was so mad, that if I had been in one of those cartoons, smoke would be coming out of my ears.
“How could you have posted something like this about me on Twitter, where everyone could see it?” I demanded.
She looked shocked for a moment. “Relax! Calm down, and show me.” She sat down on one of the dining room chairs, and I handed her the laptop. Slowly, she read the article.
“I… I’m not sure what’s wrong with what I posted,” she told me finally when she was finished. I glared at her.
“How can you not see?! Don’t you know that people at my school can read this stuff?!” I yelled in response. “Besides, this information isn’t even accurate! You just assumed most of this stuff!” I stomped off to my room and slammed the door.
“Young man!” my mom shouted. “Come back here, right now!” I stayed where I was, but I heard her footsteps coming towards my room. The door opened, and my mom was standing in my doorway. From the look on her face, I knew that I was about to get busted.
“Come over here,” she told me, beckoning me towards her. I stood up and followed her into the living room.
We sat down on the couch, and she calmed down immediately. “Go ride your bike,” she instructed me. “Ride a few laps around the schoolyard. When you feel calmed down, come back home, and we’ll talk.”
I followed her instructions and rode my bike out of the garage. Suddenly, I remembered what the popular kids had told Billy.
Meet me this afternoon on the schoolyard. We need to talk.
Something important was going to happen. I couldn’t miss it. I peddled as fast as I could, and when I reached the schoolyard, I could see figures standing on the basketball court. One of them was unmistakably Billy. I parked my bike and ran over, anxious to see what was happening.
Billy was standing on one side of the court, and all the popular kids were on the other side. I could hear them arguing. It didn’t sound so good.
“I take back what I said at lunchtime. You aren’t loyal to us. Why did you defend that loser when we were on the bus? If you want to be one of us, you can’t be loyal to anyone else.”
Billy looked scared, but I couldn’t blame him. The kid was taller than him, and looked very tough. I recognized him–John, a kid in my English class. He could be so intimidating that even the teachers didn’t dare to mess with him.
Billy sighed, and didn’t say anything. Then, he looked up and saw me, standing there. His eyes suddenly grew hopeful. None of the popular kids noticed.
“Just a few minutes ago, when we were pushing the little kids, what were you doing? You just stood there, watching. You can’t be one of us. You’re… a loser.”
John nodded to his gang, and they charged at him. They lifted him up, and threw him onto the ground. I couldn’t watch. I ran towards them, even though they were all taller and heavier than me, and I had no chance of beating them in a fight. Even so, I tried to push them off Billy, but they were too heavy. Now, the entire gang was focused on me, so Billy stood up. I wasn’t so fortunate, though. They pushed me down to the ground, and I couldn’t get up. Just as I felt as if I was suffocating, Billy came to the rescue. He grabbed one of the kids off of me and pulled me out of the human pile. Then, he pulled me up, helping me to my feet. I stood up and ran off.
I thought I was safe as I ran towards the edge of the basketball court. However, I didn’t expect that one of the kids–Ben–was standing there at the edge. He tripped me over as I ran, and I struggled to get up. Then Ben leaped on top of me.
“Help!” I yelled. Billy, however, was running over to save me.
It was just that look in his eye, that look of concern, that told me that he was my friend again. It all seemed to happen in slow motion, the way he took each long stride over, coming to save me. He was no longer mad at me, and now, he was going to save me. I couldn’t thank him enough.
Billy shoved Ben off of me from behind, and grabbed my arm. He pulled me towards the edge of the schoolyard. “Run!” he shouted to me.
I began to run out of the schoolyard, with Billy following me. I looked back, expecting to see Ben following us. I saw him sitting on the basketball court, looking surprised and shocked. He won’t be chasing us anytime soon, I thought. As I ran out of the schoolyard, I grabbed my bike and began riding with Billy running after me. I didn’t know where we were going, but it felt good to be going somewhere with Billy again. I realized that I was heading home, and I looked back at Billy. He nodded, telling me to keep going. So I biked on.
Once I was at my house, I hopped off my bike and turned to Billy. “You were quite impressive,” he told me with a smile. “That was really cool, the way you took them out.” I nodded. Did this mean he was my friend again? I decided to find out.
“Hey, Billy, wanna come inside my house and hang out?” I asked. To my relief, he nodded. When we headed inside, I found my mom hanging out on the laptop. Uh oh, I thought. My mom doesn’t mix well with computers. I walked over to her.
“Uh, mom?” I asked nervously. Billy, seeing that this was between me and my mom, took a step back. “Have you been posting… other stuff?” I walked over and looked at the screen of my mom’s laptop. Twitter. That wasn’t a good sign.
My mom smiled at me. “Bob, I’m really sorry if I had been posting offensive things about you and Billy. I promise that I’ll try to control myself better on social media.” She turned the laptop over to me. “Here, I wrote an article to make it up to you.”
Nervously, I read the article.
I’m sorry about the article that I last posted. Turns out, it isn’t so true, and Bob’s friend Billy is far from mean. And Bob is way more capable than I thought. He survived the trip down the waterfall, and that was way more than I expected. So, Bob, please understand that I am sorry for what I posted. You are braver than I thought you would be, and I am proud of you.
For a moment, I was silent. Well, close enough. I sat up and embraced my mom, not at all embarrassed. “Thanks, Mom,” I said. “Thanks for posting this.” My mom smiled back, hugging me tighter.
“I’m very proud of you, Bob. You acted very wisely, and I am glad that you survived, and I’m sorry for posting the offensive material. Now, why don’t you go hang out with Billy for a while? I don’t want to distract you guys,” she told me, letting me go. I nodded to her, and walked over to where Billy was standing. Suddenly, an idea popped into my mind.
“Hey, Billy, I just wanted to ask you something,” I told him. He turned to me, and nodded. I felt so happy that we were speaking to each other again now. I couldn’t resist smiling.
“Well, I wanted to ask… would you like to go on another kayaking trip with me?”
Slowly, a smile formed across Billy’s face. “Yeah, sure… I guess so.” He was practically grinning by now. “Hey, by the way, I wanted to tell you… I’m really sorry about the whole kayaking thing in the first place. I shouldn’t have called you a scaredy, and I’ll admit that I had a really bad temper.” He sighed. “I guess you deserve to know what happened.”
I nodded. Billy went on.
“Well, the popular kids–they wanted to be my friends, and I wanted to have them as friends, too. I cared so much about popularity at that time. But then, when they found out that I often hung out with you, they rejected me. They told me you were a dork, and that you weren’t “cool” enough. So for me, the only clear solution at that time was to get rid of you. Of course, that wasn’t the right solution. You may be a dork, but you are a loyal friend, unlike the popular kids. When I found out the truth about the popular kids, I couldn’t believe it. They weren’t my friends. You are, and you always will be.”
It was hard to believe that Billy could be so foolish, or that he thought I was dorky, but I didn’t mention that. I nodded, and smiled. “Hey, it’s fine,” I told him. “Wanna go find the kayak in the garage? Maybe we can go tomorrow.”
He nodded, and we walked side by side into the garage, the way we had since we were 4 years old. Because we were friends, and we always will be.
And, like Billy said, nothing could ever change that.