The Badge of Loneliness

by Nina He, CA

My life was boring. No one bothered about me. No one cared. I think it would be a miracle if someone knew I existed. 

I’m the son of Leo and Mary Charman. My name is Liam Williams Charman. I go to Fountwater Elementary. My life was…fine. But I didn’t make any friends.

I would love to, but I was just…shy, I guess. Very shy. I’m like a turtle hiding in its shell.

Except I never came out. 

This particular day, I was feeling sad. That was typical. I always feel sad and lonely and rarely anything else at all. 

I rode the school bus to school in my own row. 

No one sat next to me.

Their friends had already “saved” spots for them. I don’t have any friends to save spots for me, and no friends to save spots for. So I didn’t save anything and just sat there, looking out the window.

When we arrived, I trailed after the others. 

In books, people always go greet the lonely kid and BOOM! suddenly they’re best friends. 

Not for me. No. No one ever bothered about me. Well, maybe except my Mom and Dad, because they have to take care of me, and my teachers, because they have to grade my tests and homework, but nothing else.

I walked to Mrs. Barlina’s classroom and listened to her ramble on and on about the Civil War. We had a test on the book Island of the Blue Dolphins, and then it was recess.

I sat on the benches and ate my banana very, very slowly so that by the time I finished it, recess would be over. It wasn’t, though, by the time I finished. Then I saw something, glimmering on the ground.

I picked it up and on it said: LONER’S BADGE. It was perfect. Shiny, and I think it was made of gold. I sat back on the bench and stuffed it in my pocket.

A girl approached me and said, “Hey, you.”

I pointed to myself.

She nodded. “Yeah, you.My heart soared; maybe she wanted me to play with her!“Can you hand us our ball? It’s at your feet.”

I looked down and saw a small, purple ball wedged tightly in between my feet. I looked at the girl. 

Short brown hair, black eyes, red jacket. 

And then I did the dumbest thing in the world. I stood up, and…ran. I ran all the way back home. Whew. 

I don’t know why. I think my shyness got to me, or something else. But I ran. I ran upstairs, into my room, and laid face-first in my bed.

My parents weren’t home. At least I thought so.

Someone opened the door and said, “Hey…Liam.” Mom.

I fought the urge to groan. “What?” I asked instead, into my pillow. “Don’t ask me why I ran home. I have no idea either. Anyway, I don’t want to go back.”

“You’re not going to if you don’t want to,” Mom said. “I’ll call the school.” She hesitated for a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a second before closing the door.

I took the badge out of my pocket and pinned it to my shirt. Might as well wear it, since I am a loner. A very lonely loner.

“Why am I so dumb?” I mumbled. “Why am I so shy? Why don’t I have any friends?”

If only I knew that was going to change on Valentine’s Day. 

The next day at school, I didn’t raise my head and listened with my ears. And when we had to look somewhere, I raised my head ever so slightly, just enough to look.

Then, when I did that, the girl I met yesterday snickered and whispered something to her friend, pointing at me. I felt like I was about to cry.

“Mrs. Barlina?” I asked weakly. “May I use the restroom?”

“Sure,” she replied. “Just make sure to come back before recess—”

Before she could finish, I was already in the boy’s bathroom, sitting in a locked stall.

The rest of the days were pretty much the same. Until the day I made my very first friend.

I walked out of the school bus as usual, and the girl who asked me for the ball said, “Hey, you.”

I was feeling quite bold today, so instead of shrinking back and pointing to myself, I said, “What?”

She snickered. She pointed to the badge, and said, “Matches you. By the way, I didn’t know you could talk.”

“And I didn’t think anyone could be so ugly,” I shot back as I grasped my badge for luck. Very untrue, but then again, it was only fair.

The girl looked surprised, and I shoved past her and walked off. But then she caught up to me and, putting a hand on my shoulder, said, “You’ll regret that—”

I slapped her hand away. “Shut up.” Wow. I was surprised by how bold a shy guy like me could get.

Then, instead of running away like I did last time, I kept my pace and walked steadily toward my classroom. When I arrived, many people were talking about me and my strange behavior. They didn’t see me as I entered, and I said, “Hey, I can be bold too.”

The talking stopped immediately. Then another girl sitting next to me extended her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Amy. Thanks for standing up to Geneviève. She always bullied us, but I never was brave enough to stand up to her.”

I shook my head, still a bit shocked, and said, “It’s not that hard. You just need to be brave for a few seconds.”

And then suddenly everyone explained how Geneviève had bullied them too and how unfair it was and how brave I was to stand up to her. When Geneviève herself walked into the room, her face red with anger, and shouted, “Shut up! All of you!”

Amy glanced at me and whispered, “See? She’s so mean!”

Geneviève stomped to her seat and sat down, glaring at me. “And you! Why did you ruin my life!? Now my friends won’t play with me!”

“Because you’re so mean,” Amy said, and almost covered her mouth, but she continued anyway, “You always bully people and talk about them behind their backs, so maybe if you were nicer you might have more friends!”

Geneviève didn’t reply, instead, she looked down at her desk.

And it was that same day I made a bunch of friends. Amy, Chole, Ethan, and Nathan! Four friends! I came back home in a happy mood and told Mom and Dad all about my day: how I made friends and stood up to a bully. My parents seemed surprised at how happy I was, but they were happy too.

Then, at school, everything changed! I had friends to play with, spots to save, and friends who saved spots for me! Geneviève now sat on the benches, alone and depressed, and somehow, I made friends with her! She isn’t mean anymore, and turns out, under all the bullying, she really is a nice person! 

When one day, it rained, I thought, Finally! Rain! When before I had friends I would think, Ugh. Rain. There’s nothing good about it.

That same day, I put my loner badge in the same place I found it.

Two months later, a new girl called Lily found the badge, and I thought, it was time to make a new friend.

And that was how my boring and lonely life turned interesting and fun.