• High school is hard, right? And that’s with all of your closest friends walking beside you, ready to take freshman year by storm.
    So high school would be even harder without all of your friends to help you along, am I correct?
    Yeah, I thought I was.
    See, there’s just so much I want to tell you right now, but the only way I can think of to explain it in a way that makes sense is chronologically, and I really hate that, but I have to.
    Okay, so I grew up in a cul-de-sac that sits on top of a hill. If you go from my house, down the hill, you will come to a stop sign. From then on, you can take a left or a right. It’s a three-way road, basically. But back to my Circle of Family. It’s pretty much children that live there. We have three toddlers and an infant on my right, a toddler to my left, and a toddler even farther left, along with a nine-year-old almost across from us. Down the street, however, are my two closest friends, Jamie and America.
    America was born here, but my parents didn’t know she existed until she was about three, because her parents never took her outside or said anything to any of the neighbors. Anyway, we became really fast friends.
    Jamie moved in when we were all four years old. We all went to pre-school together, and were in all of the same classes all through elementary school. We rode the bus together and were literally best friends. Of course we had our fights, and it was hard having three of us in a group because usually it would mean two-against-one, but we always overcame it, some quicker than others.
    Once we hit middle school though, things got trickier. Jamie wanted to be popular, and therefore didn’t hang out with America and I as much as she used to. Sure, we were all in string orchestra, and when it came to class work she was all over us, because America and I always manage to do extremely well, even though I’m better at academics than America. But when it came time to ride the bus home, Jamie sat with the other girls on the dance team (and whatever boy she had a crush on), leaving America and me in the middle of the bus, listening to the blaring music of our mp3’s and reading-slash-moping, only sometimes talking, but never about Jamie. We never spoke aloud how her actions were tearing the three of us apart.
    Such was three years of middle school.
    Towards the end of eighth grade, our school had an assembly, during which teachers from a high school half-an-hour’s way from here told us about the fine arts magnet program at said high school. There were different arts: music, dance, drama, and visual arts, and in the music category were orchestra, band, and chorus. Since I’d been playing the violin in the school’s orchestra since sixth grade, and had been rated first ever since, I decided to audition, and made it, jumping up and down and hugging my dad when I open the acceptance letter: Miss Athalia Jordan, we are pleased to inform you….
    Being in the magnet program meant that I would attend Mt. Clayton High School as a Mt. Clayton student during the regular school day (which ran from 8:15 in the morning to 3:05 in the afternoon) and then attend two magnet classes in the afternoon (which meant I had to stay until 5:15 every day). It also meant that I would have to leave America and Jamie behind, and that we would not be able to take over the 9th grade together.
    As summer ended, I got my bus information, and was informed that I had to take two high school shuttle busses in the morning, but only one in the afternoon, meaning that I had to catch my first bus at 6:30 in the morning, and not get home until 6:00 in the afternoon. Yeah, so by this time I was really looking forward to my 12-hour school days.
    Which brings us to where I am now. My alarm blares rock music at me; I forgot to turn the volume down last night. The time reads 6:00. I groggily get up, take a shower, get dressed, comb out my hair, brush my teeth, down a quick glass of milk, and am out the door at 6:24.
    I walk down to the end of the street where my first bus will pick me up in six minutes, carrying my book bag over one shoulder and my violin in my other hand, my purse close to falling off my wrist. I pull out my phone and quickly text America and Jamie, telling them that I’m about to leave for my first day of school without them. While America’s bedroom light immediately comes on and she runs out the door and down the street to say good-luck, Jamie merely sends a message back to me stating “G L!”
    Sometimes I really have to wonder if Jamie even cares about me anymore.
    America reflects the warm glow from the street lights, making her look even more beautiful as she runs down the street in her untied robe, showing her long legs and bare midriff as she is dressed in short-shorts and a cropped T. When she reaches me, she throws her arms around me in a bear hug and hangs herself from my shoulders. She buries her face into my neck and sighs. “I’m going to miss you so much today,” she whispers.
    “And you think I’ll be terrific without you?” I answer back, wrapping my arms around her and trying not to cry. “Promise me you won’t lose Jamie,” I whisper, speaking the fear we’ve both had for years.
    “You know I can’t promise that. We can only promise not to lose each other,” America says after a few seconds of silence. “Promise?”
    “Only if you do.” I feel more than hear her take in a shaky breath before she nods. “Hey, I’ll see you this afternoon, okay Rica? Meet me here at six.”
    “Wouldn’t miss it. You have to remember everything so you can tell me. I want to know details on everything, got it?” She pulls back and holds my hands in hers. “I want to know boys, teachers, music, cliques—everything, got it?”
    “You know it,” I say, just as the bus stops behind me. “Same from you, okay?”
    She breathes in one more time before nodding. “Definitely.” She hugs me again, kissing me on the neck before pulling back. I reluctantly turn to board the bus, and she yells to me, “Más tarde, hermana!” Later, sister!
    Como siempre, muchacha!” As always, girl!
    Speaking phrases in Spanish has always been our thing, Rica and me. We’ve always loved the language, and think it’s so magical.
    I sit down in an empty seat towards the middle of the bus and look out the window. She mouths the words “le amo” to me; “I love you.” Since I know she can’t see me through the window, I press my fingers against the window in the shape of a heart.
    After the bus pulls away, I briefly wonder why she’s being so sentimental. Suddenly a terrible thought comes to me: does she believe we’ll lose each other? Surely not. We live on the same street; we’ll see each other every day. We’ll always be sisters. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you look at it) I can’t say the same for Jamie.
    Since it’s the first day of school, I guess waking up having had only seven hours of sleep hasn’t taken its toll on me yet, so I am wide awake for the entire hour-long ride to the station.
    The station is a gigantic parking lot, and there are two rows of busses, each facing the opposite direction, with three police cars between the two rows. There are people in red shirts with clipboards checking to see which busses haven’t made it to the station yet. I sit there, wondering why nobody has gotten off the bus yet.
    After the rows fill up, a buzzer sounds (which I find out is really the horns from two busses parked in front of the rows) and everyone gets out. The parking lot is filled with high school students trying to find their second busses.
    I think I forgot to explain that Mt. Clayton was not the only high school with programs including students not zoned for that particular school. Lovejoy High has an IB program, which students from all over the county can attend, and then there’s Georgia’s good old No Child Act, meaning that anyone new to the county that doesn’t like the school their Precious Darlings are zoned for can get permission from the Board of Education to take the shuttle busses in the mornings and go to a school they are not zoned for. So this all explains why there are so many students currently in this parking lot.
    Walking around, trying to find my bus, I feel exactly like the person I do not want to be: the nerd with the book bag full of supplies she doesn’t need on the first day weighing her down, the geek in the orchestra, the girl who can’t afford anything other than her small, khaki-like purse. At least my hair’s done, I think.
    After much wandering, I finally find my bus and step on, along with four or five other kids my age. I sit in the third seat from the front, the only empty seat left. The other kids that walked on with me move past me and sit with their summer-gone friends. I sit alone. Again.
    As I sit through the thirty-minute ride to the high school, I think about what I will do without all of my friends there. I know that there are other people from my middle school that made it into the magnet program, but I don’t know them really. I also know that some kids from Honor Orchestra (a group for seventh- and eighth-grade student string instrumentalists) were accepted also.
    I was going to make friends. I had to.