Allie's excitement about starting middle school is spoiled when she tries to befriend a girl who shuns her. Her friends warn her that Mandy is just mean and should be avoided. But against everyone's advice she wants to get closer to her, and she is not prepared for what happens next.
When Mandy is suddenly missing from school, Allie grows concerned and delves into her disappearance. She is devastated to discover that Mandy's life is shrouded in secrecy. She wants desperately to help her, but how? Finally, Allie becomes convinced that the solution lies in the simple act of true friendship.
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As luck would have it, Allie arrived at the school right behind Mandy. She watched her stroll up the walkway and ran to catch up with her.
“Hi,” she said cheerfully.
Mandy turned her head with a confused look on her face. She seemed surprised to see it was Allie standing there.
She stopped in her tracks and placed her hands on her hips. “Are you following me?” she demanded.
Allie gulped. “Following you? We're going to the same place.”
“So what do you want?”
“I just wanted to say hi,” she stammered.
“Well you did that,” Mandy snapped. “Now can you move on?”
Allie felt the hurt in the pit of her stomach, like someone had just punched her. “I'm sorry I bothered you,” she mumbled and stepped around Mandy.
She tried to ignore the feeling of Mandy’s eyes burning into her back and the hurt was bearing down on her chest like a boulder. Because she could hardly see through her tear-stung eyes she stumbled on the one step leading into the school. She went down hard. Her book bag hit the cement sending its contents flying. Her hands burned from breaking her fall and, as she lay prone on the pavement, hot tears threatened to spill from her eyes. She began snatching at her papers before the wind stole them for good. As she was grappling for her school work, she looked behind her and noticed a copybook rolling down the walkway – right in front of Mandy.
She swallowed her pride and, in a small voice, asked Mandy, “Could you get that?”
At that moment, Mandy stepped on the book, leaving a dirty shoe print, and continued walking past Allie as though she had never heard her request. As though she couldn’t see Allie hurt and struggling to retrieve her belongings. How could anyone be that mean, Allie wondered?
She rolled over to sit on the step, noticing her hands were bleeding where they had scraped the cement. Digging into her bag, she extracted a tissue to clean her palms, dabbing gently. The morning bell sounded. If Allie didn’t hurry, she would be late. She jumped up and reached for the runaway notebook, ignoring the soreness in her stomach from the fall, and then hurried into the school.
She couldn't see any students in the hallway; her eyes were blinded by Mandy's coldness and her own embarrassment. As she hurried to her locker, she thought about what had just happened. Maybe some people just couldn't be friendly. Or maybe Mandy really didn't like her. Either way, Allie intended to stay out of her way as much as possible. She didn't need to set herself up for any more hurt. Patty was right – there was nothing but meanness in that girl.