Hurting In Spite Of Popularity, Brains, Good Looks, and Talent

Like busy chipmunks, the girls scurried around the room. They moved risers, props, and costumes. I still wasn't sure about this fashion show idea, but who could resist their contagious excitement? As far as my friends were concerned, this was a winning idea.

Since coming to this boarding school, I'd learned to look forward to weekly Girls' Club meetings. I found the club friendly, though a little exclusive - no boys allowed!

Of course, the boys had their own club. In fact, they were the cause of all this scurrying. The Boys' Club would be our audience tonight. At the fashion show we'd entertain them and announce our new Girls' Club officers.

I slipped behind the heavy green curtain where girls now waited. I saw as many types of outfits as there were models for them.

Erica waited in a sporty ensemble of loose black-and-white polka-dot top, cool white cotton pants, and chainlike belt draped twice around her. She was her usual bubbly self, exclaiming over the styles of everyone else.

I couldn't help thinking of how capably she'd served two terms as president of our club. Yes, Erica was a born leader. Now, like a true winner, she encouraged the new officers and enthusiastically supported them.

I exchanged a few nervous comments with a friend in line. We waited our turn to step out onto the makeshift walkway of wooden risers.

But I continued to watch Erica out of the corner of my eye. She had her hair tied on top of her head so it stood up straight, then cascaded down like a fountain. The style complemented her outfit and effervescent personality.

All at once I allowed myself a moment of deep-green envy, and my admiration turned ugly. Oh, what I wouldn't do to have her flair! A church mouse personality like mine looked pretty bad in the presence of her charisma.

Just then she spotted me in my simple white blouse, kilt, and black boots. She had a compliment for me before she stepped out into the spotlight.

That's her place, I thought. On stage. She's a natural.

The boys whistled.

Stage Hand

Somehow before the evening was over, I too walked out to face the bright lights and Boys' Club.

After the show we headed for our dorm rooms and study hall. I had monitor duty, which meant I'd have the big challenge of getting everyone quiet and studying after the festivities.

But things settled down, and after a half hour of library-like quiet, I began routine room check. I had to jot down each girl's activity on the monitor's report. Everyone was used to this procedure and hardly acknowledged it when I peeked in on them.

Erica's room was at the end of the hall. I opened the door. She sat sprawled on her bed, staring into space.

“Whatcha doin'?” I asked. “Just thinking,” she replied.

I wrote her response down beside her room number and the time.

I'd hardly gotten back to my textbook when a door suddenly opened. There stood Erica, her eyes big and serious. Her dramatic hairstyle now accented the urgent, almost desperate, expression on her face. She asked to see Mrs. Ho, the dean.

“Sure,” I told her, “go right in.” From the looks of things, I thought she'd better talk to someone.

As I stared at the bare wall in front of me, Mrs. Ho dashed out of her office and down the hall. Before the truth dawned on me, she came running back with two pill bottles from Erica's room.

“Ohhh no,” I whispered. What could I have done to prevent this? What could I do now? Pray!

Without stopping to knock or even notice whose room it was, I opened the nearest door and motioned for the two girls to kneel. They stopped mid-giggle and waited for an explanation.

“Pray with me for Erica …. Please … can't tell you now, but she is … well, she could be in big trouble.” I stumbled over my words, but they got the message and bowed their heads as I prayed.

“Don't tell a soul until we find out some facts,” I instructed and left.

Studying was pointless now, so I prayed silently. Erica and I hardly knew each other. On the pedestal I'd put her on, she'd seemed distant, without fault or feeling. How could someone - the ultimate somebody, as far as I was concerned - want to end it all?

The next day Erica came to school late, but she came. And I sent up a thank-You to God. No one mentioned her overnight stay in the hospital. And only a few knew that the dark circles under her usually sparkling eyes came from a sleepless night having her stomach pumped. Her smile was back - a little tired. It grew broader as a friend greeted her.

I heard the other girl comment on Erica's being late to class. She added jokingly, “You weren't dead after all!”

I cringed. How little she knew!

But Erica brushed it off with “No, just feeling a little sick.”

Such an actor, I thought. And probably not alone on the stage.

I wondered, How many others are out there, hurting in spite of popularity, brains, good looks, and talent? How many in my school? How many of my close friends?

“God,” I prayed, “help them each, and teach me to be not envious, but caring and sensitive.”

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