One day when I was in the second grade, a new student was introduced into the class (let’s call her Rebeca). It wasn’t the first day of the school year, nor was it a new student of the school. Rebeca was a first grader who was doing exceptionally well in class that the school decided that in order to be challenged academically, they would skip her a grade.
I remember Rebeca putting her head down on the desk and crying because she was scared.
I went up to her, in all of my 7 year old glory, and told her not to cry.” I will be your friend” I told her.
And we were- the best of friends for many, many years to come.
Rebeca was an extremely shy, book smart girl.
I was VERY outgoing and liked to be the center of attention.
We meshed so perfectly together.
Rebecca’s parents always packed her nutritious snacks to take to school- a head of broccoli, some carrots. My mom would give me cash to buy snacks from the vending machine – which I did daily.
I would walk with Rebeca hand in hand to the mecca of all snack machines and we would pick out what we wanted. We then got two plastic plates and divided the booty between us.
I’m sure her healthy conscious parents knew nothing about this.
As we got older, I started to realize that something was off with Rebecca’s father. He was always hovering, and would constantly berate his daughter. He never let her go out to movies with friends, and one time when a bunch of girls and boys went out to the theater , he showed up and smacked her across the face in front of everyone.
He punished her for a long time, and never let her out of his sight. He didn’t want us speaking.
She always feared him.
Often, she would call me when her father wasn’t home At that age, naturally all we did was talk about boys. He once recorded our phone conversation, called up my house and told my mother that I was a bad influence on Rebeca and that he had a tape to prove it. He said that he didn’t want us to be friend’s anymore and that I should never call his house.
As I watched my mother talk to this lunatic on the phone, I started to shake. He never liked me. How was I a bad influence?
I will never forget my mother’s crowning glory, when she took that phone into her bedroom, locked the door behind her and went off on this man. She told him that I came from a good home, that his hovering and suffocation of his daughter will ultimately come back and bite him on the ass. My mother predicted that he was the one who was ruining his daughter.
As she hung up the phone, my mother told me that his voice got lower and lower when she stood up to him.
As I was crying in my pink bedroom, over losing the only best friend I had known , my brother walked in and said that Rebecca’s father was outside of my house.
I flipped out.
I walked out (behind my mother of course) and there he was, with Rebeca (who seemed freaked out). I hadn’t seen her in months.
He came all the way to my house to APOLOGIZE to my mother, and said that Rebeca and I could be friends again.
We ultimately ended up in different high schools, but always remained close.
When Rebeca was signing up for college, she was going to stay local and go to my school, but a last minute fight with her father caused her to apply to a school further away . She left for college- and away from her father.
Being independent for the first time, she did many things that she was sheltered from her whole life. She started drinking, doing drugs, and battling depression- even tried to kill herself.
She applied for a bar tending job, but the place said they did’nt need bar tenders.
They did need dancers.
So, she became an exotic dancer.
My sweet, book worm, shy best friend was no one I recognized.
She became a person who dropped out of college, had a 60 year old sugar daddy (who she then had to take out a restraining order against because he was stalking her). She became a person who would date an ex con and become pregnant with his baby twice ( 2 abortions). She became a person who was so far removed from who she could have been, if it were not for her father.
We stopped speaking for a few years, but we were always in touch. It was hard for me to accept that the friend who I grew up with and loved- was not the same person that stood before me. She was now someone else.
She still comes around for my birthdays, the girls celebrations and many dinner parties I have.
She still hasn’t spoken to her father.
It’s funny how at the end of it all, I really wasn’t a bad influence like her father thought. Here I am: a a college educated, married mother of two- while his daughter is still looking for a place in this world and never quite feeling like she fits in anywhere.
I don’t say this often, but… I guess my mother was right.
And even after 21 years, and all the life that is between us- I will always be the one to hold her hand and lead her to that vending machine.