Lissa was the most popular girl in the seventh grade class. She had curly dark hair and a winning smile. The boys all said that she was pretty, and they also said that I wasn’t. But I didn’t think she looked that different than I did. Sure, she wore brand name clothes and makeup, and I didn’t. Sure, her hair was glossy and combed and perfect, and mine wasn’t. Sure, she could carry on a conversation that didn’t involve a book or an animal, and I couldn’t. Sure, she was interested in boys, and I wasn’t. To me, we were really just the same.
Everyone wanted to be around Lissa. To sit at her table at lunch, to walk with her in the hall, to carry her books. Her upcoming birthday party was the talk of the cafeteria. I heard that the invitations were selective, not the normal “everyone gets one just for being in class with me” type we had grown up with. I heard that she was handing them out herself. I heard that they were on glittery Lisa Frank Stationary, with cute, brightly colored animals plastered all over them. I heard that there would be boys at the party.
I viewed the invitation as a ticket to … something. And god, did I really, really, really want that ticket. I wasn’t sure why. Did I want to fit in? Make friends? Finally get interested in a boy? Or did I really just want to be invited somewhere, to be a part of something?
Lissa’s shoes clacked against the cafeteria tile as she walked towards the seventh grade area, invitations in hand. My seat was at the edge of the table, with at least two spaces between me and everyone else. Just out of conversation range, because no one really talked to me anyway. I stared at my bright red compartmentalized lunch tray, digging my spoon down and scooping up mashed potatoes that might as well have been soup before letting them drip back onto the tray without putting them in my mouth. I held my breath as Lissa got to the table.
She gave an invitation to everyone.
Everyone except me.
There would be no cute glittery animals. No party. No presents. No boys. Not for me.
For the rest of the year, I refused to eat lunch in the cafeteria. I stayed in one teacher’s classroom or another, reading books or doing homework. It only cemented in my classmates’ eyes how weird I was, but I didn’t care anymore. I figured that if I wasn’t going to fit in anyway, I might as well not fit in doing something that made me happy.