“All of a sudden, to my surprise, one of my loyal followers decided to go to the loser’s side. I gasped, then quickly regained my composure. What was going on?”
“I’d like to welcome Erica Middleton to this class,” Mrs. Evans, a 7th grade homeroom teacher at Riverside Middle School, announced on the first day back from Winter Break.
A timid girl stood up at the front of the room, shivering at the thought of even standing in front of her class, let alone speaking to the students sitting at their desks.
“Hi? I’m Erica Middleton, and I moved from England?” Erica spoke softly with a slight British accent.
Another girl with a short bob of blonde hair spoke up, “Um, Erica, do you even know if your name is Erica or not?”
“Lacie, when did you become the teacher?” Mrs. Evans asked sharply. She glared at Lacie Kibbel, the leader of the popular group.
“What? I was just pointing out that she should have told us rather than asked us.” Lacie rolled her eyes.
I knew from the beginning that Lacie was not going to like me. After all, I was shy and unpopular. Probably the exact opposite of her. Lunch came so slowly, all the teachers kept asking me questions. Like, where did I move from? Why did I move? What school did I use to go to? When I answered, every time, Lacie Kibbel snickered. Which, of course, made practically half of the class snicker.
But then lunch finally came. I deliberately sat at the table farthest from Lacie’s group. So I sat at an empty seat where I thought I was safe from other people. I was wrong.
“Is anyone sitting here?” a girl named Brianna asked. “And you’re Erica, right?”
“Yes. And are you… Brianna?” I asked back. “Are you friends with Lacie?”
“Yes, I am Brianna and no, I am not friends with Lacie. She claimed I was her worst enemy in 5th grade. I think she forgot about it a week after,” Brianna ranted. She sat down next to me. “I hope you aren’t like her, she is so…annoying, popular, and stuck up.”
Across the room, I could see Lacie and her popular group looking at me and pointing. I pulled out my phone and saw Lacie’s smug expression turn into a shocked one. I could see her mouth forming the words, “She has an iPhone 6S?” I laughed to myself softly. Then I texted my cousin, Kate. Kate Middleton, the world-famous Duchess of Cambridge. I know, you’re probably really shocked right now –– or… not. Her dad is my dad’s older brother, so that’s why we have the same last name. I texted Kate, about my ‘situation’, and she was really sympathetic.
“Who was that?” Brianna asked, curious.
“Oh, just my cousin,” I answered nonchalantly. Then conversation turned to the usual. None of were us talking, just eating in silence.
Soon enough, recess came. As I stepped outside into the frigid winter air, Lacie strode up to me, sneering.
“Oh, were you just… let’s see… texting your dear mum? Who had to save her salary for years just to get you that phone? Huh, Erica?” Lacie taunted, as I debated with myself to tell her about Kate.
Don’t do it, don’t do it… I begged myself. So I didn’t. I walked away and began to jump rope.
“Hi Erica” I saw my best friend, Sage Blick, yell to the new girl. “Wanna do a jump roping contest? And I like your shirt, it’s really pretty.”
“Of course!” Erica replied. “Your shirt is pretty, too.”
Lots of my other friends followed Sage’s lead and complimented Erica on her designer clothes. None of them have complimented me on my clothes. Mine are much nicer.
I strode up to them and eyed Sage. “Um, I’m pretty sure Sage doesn’t want to talk to you, she’s just… faking it. Right, Sage?” I nudged her –– more like shoved her –– and she finally agreed with me. Was I seeing things, or was there a flicker of disappointment in her eyes?
During the next period, I had a little talk with Sage. Long story short, she was glad that she didn’t have to be in the popular group. Seriously? And worst of all, she went to hang out with Erica.
“Lacie, do you have any good book recommendations?” Miranda Jis asked me. That girl loves to read, and she can be, well, pretty crazy without a book. Anyways, we ended up talking about a lot of books. So then I recruited her as my new best friend. Of course she said yes because my puppy-dog eyes and blinding white smile and good fashion sense are pretty hard to resist.
I had expected that, by the end of the day, Sage would have come up to me and apologized. She didn’t. She almost seemed to like her new life as a loser was better than when she got special treatment as my best friend.
In Social Studies, Ms. Norman gave us partners for the Lewis and Clark project. I got paired with Sage, and Miranda was paired with Erica. Why do all the bad things have to happen to me?
“Ms. Norman?” I asked sweetly. “Can Miranda and I be partners, and can Erica and Sage be partners? Please?”
“No, Lacie. You must do the project with Sage, and Erica must do it with Miranda. Understand?” Mrs. Norman replied curtly.
“Yeah… Sure, whatever you say…” I muttered, rolling my eyes.
Miranda and I got together to brainstorm for our project. She really is nice, even though she’s Lacie’s best friend. It really is hard to believe that she would ever be as mean and as harsh as Lacie, since Lacie trained all her followers to be mean and harsh, like herself.
So, on Friday, Miranda and I hung out at my house. We got some work done, but mostly talked and laughed together.
“Erica, you’re so nice. I wish that we could be best friends,” Miranda said thoughtfully. “I know, you and Sage and Brianna could become part of the popular group, and we could be friends. That way, all your friends and my friends could form a super mega awesome group.”
I smiled weakly. Did she not know that Lacie was basically my mortal enemy? But, oh well, she liked me, and I would do anything to make sure I didn’t get another enemy.
“Uh, sure.” I faked cheeriness and smiled, but inside I was thinking: Oh no, please don’t do this to me, please don’t. Don’t you know that your new best friend is not nice? That she hates me? Please, Miranda.
But Miranda seemed oblivious to all this and left happily. Then I went to contemplate what I needed to do on Monday. Maybe I could fake being sick, or tell Miranda I didn’t want to. I didn’t want Lacie to tease me 24/7. Thousands and thousands of possibilities popped into my head. Then suddenly a small voice at the back of my brain woke up.
Hey, wait a moment., the voice yelled at my thoughts. Since when does Lacie Kibbel control what you do and don’t do? Last time I checked, you’re supposed to think for yourself, Erica.
“Fine,” I wanted to yell. “Fine, I’ll think for myself, now stop bothering me.”
On the dreaded Monday, I walked into homeroom trying to look confident. I guess I did a pretty decent job, since Lacie whispered in my ear, “Think you can overcome the popular group, huh? Well, you can’t.”
Later that day at lunch, Lacie didn’t miss any chance to insult me. When I was buying a slice of pizza, Lacie sneered, “Ah, I see that you don’t really care about your appearance –– pizza is really fattening, you know. I got a salad.” Lacie waved her salad in the air. “But on second thought, pizzas are the cheapest meal, so that’s probably the only thing your poor mum can afford.” The kids in the cafeteria gaped open-mouthed at us. Some of the popular group was glaring at me, but what did I do? Just bring out the nasty side of Lacie?
“Well sorry, Lacie, but I’m pretty sure that last Friday, you got and extra cheesy pizza and a double order of deep fried french fries. Is that true?” I asked, almost mockingly.
“Oh… Well, you must have seen one of your BFFs,” Lacie said. Then she said something that sounded a lot like ‘Sage Blick’, and turned back to me. “You got that meal. Didn’t you, Sage?” Lacie smirked, as Sage turned a shade of bubblegum pink.
“You know what? I think I have a headache. I’ll go to the nurse,” I scooted out of the cafeteria as quickly as I could.
Before I left, I heard Lacie howl with laughter. “You’re admitting defeat, aren’t you? Poor peasant girl.”
After Erica left, I went back to eating my salad in peace. But I never thought that those losers would have the guts to stand up to me.
“Seriously?” Asked Sage. “Lacie, I was your best friend for four years. Those first two years, you were the greatest friend I could imagine. You were so nice. I never imagined that you would be so rude to another classmate, but those last two years… I didn’t see a speck of that old type of you. Nothing meant more to you than popularity. It surprised me. I would gladly be your best friend, if you ever became your old self again.” By the time Sage ended her speech, she was close to tears.
“Seriously, you’ve been really mean to Erica, Lacie,” Brianna spoke up. “I know that you love your popularity, but seriously? Unless you actually become nice, not your fakey-fakey type of nice, Erica’s going to become the new popular girl. And… you’re going to be out of the game.”
“Oh well,” I stuck my nose in the air and puffed up my chest. “I’m pretty sure that you two and your poor friend Erica will never overthrow my popular group.”
All of a sudden, to my surprise, one of my loyal followers decided to go to the loser’s side. I gasped, then quickly regained my composure. What was going on? Well, at least I still had the majority of the grade on my side, the right side, so I thought.
One by one, my popular group walked over to the loser’s side quietly. Soon, only Miranda and I were left.
“Miranda, I knew you would stick by me, we’re BFFs forever,” I put my fist in the air, ready for a fist bump. But Miranda shook her head.
“I’m really sorry Lacie, but…” Miranda started inching toward the loser’s side.
“What is going on here?” I exploded. “Somebody explain, right now.”
“Um, well, I guess that I think Sage has a point?” One of my former buddies mumbled. “And, I guess, you should be nicer to Erica?” I glared at her.
Then Miranda, the biggest traitor of all, started talking.
“Um, Lacie? I think that everyone here thinks that you’re being way too nasty to Erica. She doesn’t deserve any of that. I know that Erica is actually really nice. Please, Lacie, please just give her a chance.” Miranda asked, on behalf of all the losers.
“No way.” I practically yelled. “She comes from a poor family. If we were in England, we would say that she is a poor peasant girl. Why would I want to befriend her?”
Sage just sighed, “Lacie, you are hopeless.”
The next day, as soon as I sat down at my usual lunch table, the whole popular group swarmed around me. What was going on? I felt just a bit of sympathy towards Lacie –– having the popular crowd practically worship you one day, and have them ditch you the next. I had no idea what had happened.
“Um, Erica?” Lacie asked, her voice sugary sweet. I knew immediately that this niceness was all fake. “Can I sit here?”
“Sure,” I replied. It was the least I could do for Lacie, after all, she just got ditched by her so-called friends.
Lacie sat down gingerly, smoothing her skirt down. She was still rude to me, but her ego seemed to have been cut in half.
At lunch, it it felt like the first day of school for me all over again. Questions were asked over and over again, but this time by different students. Only Lacie was quiet.
I, meanwhile, was texting Kate. In case you don’t remember, Kate Middleton is my cousin. Like, the duchess.
Erica – Hi, just BTW, Lacie doesn’t
seem to hate me as much now.
I dunno what happened.
I think I should tell her about
how you’re my cousin.
Kate – Awesome If you decide to
tell her, just don’t say it like a big
deal. Just casually. Tell me their
By the end of the lunch period, several questions about my family came up. I told them all about Mom and Dad. But I didn’t mention Kate at all. Then, finally, at the end of lunch, I stood up to dump my garbage out, and said, “ooh, and by the way? My cousin is Duchess Kate Middleton.”
That practically freaked everyone out, especially Lacie.
“What?” Lacie screeched, horrified. “You? That’s impossible. You’re a liar, and your family is poor. It is absolutely impossible.” She glared at me, her posture radiating hatred.
I shrugged: “Oh well –– if you don’t want to believe me, then don’t. See ya.” I started towards class, but Lacie stopped me by pulling on the back of my sweater.
“Erica Middleton, you are a liar and a fraud. If you actually pay attention, you will notice that nobody believes you. Just tell the truth,” Lacie snapped. “Just admit that your family is unbelievably poor. After all, it’s the truth.”
“Well,” I replied. “Like I said before –– don’t believe me if you don’t want to. Your choice. I might come to school with proof tomorrow or the day after that, Lacie. You might just want to wait and see.”
“I don’t need proof to know that you are lying, Erica,” Lacie snarled.
“Okay, Lacie. I don’t care if you believe me or not. Just drop the topic,” I said without turning around. Then I walked to class.
Erica just said to “drop the topic” But I can’t, really. All my life, I have obsessed about the royals, but I’ve never met one. I have always wanted to be one. But then Erica said that she was related to a royal. More specifically, Kate Middleton. Like, she is absolutely so pretty, and so perfect, and I really want to be just like her.
But, that proved my suspicions. As soon as she said, on the first day, that she was Erica Middleton, I had a sneaking suspicion that she was related to her. After all, their last names were the same, and they both were from England.
That night I went to bed, but it took forever to go to sleep. I tossed and turned, thinking: What if Erica was related to Kate Middleton? Then what would happen to my empire? What would happen to me? I thought worriedly. As I fell asleep, I hoped that the next day would be be a lot better.
The next day, as I walked into homeroom, I noticed the slight chatter. Mrs. Evans saw me come in, and said: “Oh, hi, Lacie. Erica told us that a special guest from her family was coming to visit. She’s arriving in a couple of minutes.”
I nodded, having a feeling that it was Kate Middleton.
A couple minutes later, an announcement was made for the 7th grade to go to the auditorium. Erica was going to meet her guests with two friends, for an up-close meet-and-greet. She, of course, chose Sage and Brianna. I was so jealous. Even though I never wanted to be friends with Erica ever, I still wanted to meet Kate Middleton.
When we got to the auditorium, Brianna and Sage sat down excitedly with us. They were whispering to my former friends. I could make out some of what they were saying.
“You’ll be surprised,” Sage said. “She is even prettier in real life.”
“Yeah,” Brianna added. “She even signed the Polaroid photo that Mrs. Norman took of me, Sage, Erica, and her.”
Then, finally, Kate Middleton came out. It was so awesome, like a dream come true, I was sooo happy. Well, until I remembered that Erica had made it happen.
“Hello,” Duchess Kate said, in the most gorgeously awesome British accent, “It is a pleasure to meet all of you. My cousin Erica speaks of you so often. Your school, Riverside Middle School is just so beautiful, and I’m sure that the teachers here are so very kind.”
Then she went on and on and on about living in Great Britain, and yada yada yada. Instead of listening, I looked at her absolutely awesome designer outfit. She was wearing a super pretty navy and white striped sweater, and skinny jeans. Also, her high heels were, just, fabulous.
Now, as she started walking around, Erica started to hand out pictures of the royal family: Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Prince William, Princess Kate, and baby Prince George. They weren’t signed, but oh well, they were still awesome.
When she finally got to me, Princess Kate asked me, “Are you Lacie?”
“Yeah,” I replied. Erica probably told her all about me. Of course, it probably was super, um, negative stuff. But still, she knew me from my face.
“I love your outfit. Erica told me you weren’t the nicest to her, but to your close friends you were really nice. And I think that you probably should branch out more –– even to kids that you don’t want to be friends with. Be nice.” Kate Middleton said to me. My idol was having a conversation with me. I knew that she was vaguely hinting that I should have been nicer to Erica, but my main focus was: Omg, Kate Middleton is talking to me, and she actually said she loved my outfit. All I was wearing was an oversized lime green hoodie, and some jeans.
Then, I actually thought about what she said. She told me to try to be nicer to Erica. Even though Kate was doing it for Erica’s good, I couldn’t erase it from my head –– Kate Middleton told me to be nicer to her. So of course I was going to do it. But, I would be forcing myself –– I never wanted to (and probably never will) be nice to Erica.
I don’t know why, but I just despised Erica from the beginning. Probably because she was super pretty, and Sage liked her so much. She was the best at everything. Her life was definitely absolutely perfect. It would be so fun to be her. Glitz, glam, and glitter. She must be so happy. What about maids or servants or something? She should have that stuff in her house, shouldn’t she? After all, her family is royalty. How come she got lucky, so that she could be related to Kate Middleton? How come I couldn’t be Erica?
“Lacie,” Mrs. Kim, the math teacher snapped. “Concentrate.”
“Okay,” I replied meekly. I worked on one problem, then stopped to doodle on the margins of my paper. Soon enough, Mrs. Kim spotted me doodling again.
“Miss Kibbel, I’d like to see you outside. Now,” Mrs. Kim frowned.
“Yeah what?” I asked, glaring. It was so embarrassing to be called out of class, especially since the teacher was Mrs. Kim. She is the most carefree teacher in like, ever.
“Lacie, I’m disappointed in you. I thought you were a good math student.” Mrs. Kim reprimanded me.
“Well, I guess life hasn’t been so nice to me, and I know I need to concentrate?” I said Hopefully, Mrs. Kim would let me off the hook.
“No, Lacie. You have to concentrate, and life’s not fair. Your excuse is not valid. If I see you doing that again, you will be sent straight to the principal’s office. Do you understand?”
“Yeah sure, whatever,” I shrugged.
Later that day during lunch, I sat at my usual spot at the popular table. If Erica wasn’t stopping me, I wasn’t going to stop. I was sitting next to Miranda, and we were sitting across from Erica, Brianna, and Sage. All the other girls sat at another table, because Erica asked them to. It wasn’t like they wanted to, Erica had complete and total control over them.
“Guess what, Erica?” Sage said to Erica, obviously wanting me to overhear. “Today in math, Lacie got called out of the room, by Mrs. Kim. Didn’t you, Lacie?”
“Wow, Mrs. Kim? She’s literally the nicest teacher ever,” Erica gasped, surprised.
“Yup. She got in serious trouble. I heard that she got close to seeing the principal.” Brianna added.
“I did not,” I interrupted indignantly. “Just because you’re BFFs with a girl whose life is perfect, and she’s related to royalty does not mean that you get to insult me, Sage. I’m not sure if you’ve realized it, but you’re kinda popular. And I’m not. You shouldn’t be picking on a non-popular person seriously.”
“Well, Lacie, that’s basically you,” Erica said, as if it was the most obvious thing ever. Which, by the way, it wasn’t.
“Well Erica, I don’t think that you should be part of this conversation because your life is absolutely perfect. You’ve never experienced what I’m going through right now. Just saying, you have everything you could possibly want. And you’re so greedy, you want even more. And of course, your parents spoil you. Don’t hide it, because it’s––”
“Not the truth,” said Erica. “Do you really think that my parents are as carefree as yours? Have you seriously not thought about me as an actual human?”
I shrugged. “Well yeah, duh, you’re a human. Like, everybody knows that.” What was the big deal? She was still related to Kate Middleton.
“Have you ever moved across the ocean, and had to leave all your friends? I’m telling you, I’ve cried myself to sleep practically every single night since I moved to Riverside,” Erica looked at me with tears in her eyes.
“Yeah, so? It’s not like you don’t have friends here,” I pointed at Sage and Brianna.
“Do you know how much it hurts to be insulted over and over again by the same person? I’m telling you, it is like you’re being poked with multiple needles hundreds of times in a row.”
“So? That’s happened to me. It doesn’t hurt,” I sneered. Out of excuses yet? To be honest, I had never been poked like that before, but…
“My parents are strict as can be. The reason? My cousin. They don’t want me to grow up thinking that I’m royalty, because I’m not. My cousin is, and I’m not spoiled. Kate Middleton sends me all these clothes. My parents would never do that. Ever,” Erica sighed. “Convinced yet?”
The other table was watching us, and so were the boys.
“Clothes? Seriously? Your parents don’t buy you clothes?” I screeched.
“They do, but only the necessities,” Erica said sadly. I began to feel a pang of sympathy for Erica.
“So Kate got you every expensive thing you own?” I asked, in awe.
“Yup,” Erica nodded. “And, are your parents stay-at-home?”
“Only Mom,” I replied. What did that have to do with anything?
“Well, both of my parents work full-time. It’s not like I sit around chilling all day after school. I wash the dishes, wash the clothes, clean the house, and so much more. Do you do that, Lacie?” Erica asked. Now, I felt full on bad for her. She had to do practically everything in her house. I couldn’t imagine doing any of the things she does.
“I’m sorry, Erica,” I said genuinely. “I really mistook you for a princess, like your cousin. I guess… well, you’re not.”
Erica looked at me with an expression that was a mixture between amusement and annoyance. It was as if she was saying, Well, isn’t that obvious?
“Your family isn’t even richer than mine. So, I guess I hope that you’ll accept my apology. I know you probably can’t trust me too much, but please, just give me a chance,” I asked.
After I realized that Erica was actually a normal person, I just felt that she was so much… better than me in so many ways. She was just… herself. She didn’t care what others thought about her. I admired that. Maybe that was why I just hated her, she was so much more comfortable in her own skin.
“You’ll have to build up my trust first. If you really want me to be your friend. Seriously,” Erica replied. She wasn’t exactly forgiving me, but it was a step.
“Good morning, everybody.” Mrs. Evans said, grabbing our focus.
“Good morning, Mrs. Evans,” we chorused.
“Today’s project is a partner project –– and you are to write a 4-paragraph essay about the definition of bullying, and what you will do if you see somebody getting bullied. I’ll assign partners. So… Sage and Brianna, Miranda and Bridget, Erica and Lacie,” Mrs. Evans rattled off a list of names. As soon as I heard my name and Erica’s together, I froze.
Erica? And me? Was Mrs. Evans blind? Couldn’t she see that Erica and I were not friends? At all? I thought that she was trying to be a ‘kind and thoughtful homeroom teacher. That was not kind or thoughtful at all. It was as if she wanted to put us together and torture us. I could see that Erica was upset too. Finally, she turned to look at me and shrugged. I sighed. If Mrs. Evans wanted us to work together, then we had to.
“Now… you can get together with your partners and start working. If you don’t finish, you’ll have more time tomorrow,” Mrs. Evans smiled. “And, just saying, this will help the Board of Education with the anti-bullying system, they’re your audience. If you have any questions, just come up to me.”
“So…” Erica said. “I guess we’ll have to work together.”
“I guess,” I replied. “So if we see bullying, we report it to an adult at home or at school. Right?”
“Yeah. The definition is when someone repeatedly picks on someone else because of a certain characteristic,” Erica added. “So, I guess we’ll start writing.”
She took out a piece of lined paper and started working on our essay in her super neat handwriting. I wanted to compliment her about it, but I didn’t know how.
“I… like your… um… handwriting,” I blurted.
“Thanks, Lacie.” Erica smiled genuinely. “Yours is nice too.”
“Let’s focus. Do you want to write the whole thing? Or should we take turns?” I asked.
“I’ll write,” Erica replied. “So, the intro paragraph should be about the main thing. In this essay, you will learn about the definition of bullying and what students will do if we see someone getting bullied. Hopefully, this essay will help with the anti-bullying system.”
“Great. Next paragraph is about the definition of bullying,” I added. “So… From our past experience, bullying is when a person repeatedly picks on someone else because of a certain characteristic that they have. For example, whether or not someone wears glasses, or has braces. Something that makes bullies bully people is when they feel insecure about themselves.”
“And sometimes, the bully has been bullied by someone else, so he or she will bully others.”
All of a sudden, a thought flashed through my mind. Even though it was vague, it was specific enough for me to know that, even though I didn’t want it to, the thought was true. It was completely true. I was a bully. I was the one person who repeatedly picked on someone else because of a certain characteristic. I had bullied Erica Middleton. For a completely invalid reason, I had picked on Erica from the first day she had come to Riverside Middle School. She had made me feel insecure about myself from the very beginning. The way that Mrs. Evans cherished her as a student just irked me. There was no point in hiding it –– I was the bully that made Erica’s life miserable. I could feel myself shaking.
“Lacie,” Erica said in alarm. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“I…” I whispered. My eyes filled up with tears. “I’m sorry. I’m a bully. I’m nothing but a bully. I shouldn’t even be writing an essay about how to prevent bullying. I’m a bully. I’m worthless.”
“No you’re not, Lacie.” Erica exclaimed. “You’re who you are, and nobody can change that. Lacie, you’re yourself. You shouldn’t be intimidated by someone else, you’re special in your own way.”
“Well,” I frowned. “I guess.”
* * *
On the last day of school, Lacie and I hugged goodbye.
“Bye, Lacie.” I called as we went our separate ways. “Be sure to write.”
“Bye, Erica,” Lacie hugged me. “Thanks for being such a good friend. After all I did to you…”
“You’re a great person, Lacie. I probably haven’t acknowledged it too much, but you’re a great friend. Just be comfortable in your own skin,” I smiled reassuringly. “See you next year.”
“Yeah, see you,” Lacie called. “All I wanted you to know was that… you’re not at all what I expected.”