A Penny for your Friendship

By Lora Danley

“I’ll bet you a penny, I can jump off this pipe and touch that branch,” LeAnn said.

I didn’t know LeAnn very well.  She hadn’t ever been in my class at school, and the only time I would ever see her was on the playground.  We were both in the second grade, but I didn’t think we’d ever even spoken before.

I started to open my mouth in protest but before I even got the first word out, LeAnn had catapulted herself off the large fragment of pipe that lay underneath the branch of the sole tree that inhabited our playground, an old, knotted, oak tree.  Sure enough, she was right.  It was no effort for her hand to graze the branch on her way down to the ground.

“You owe me a penny,” LeAnn told me.

Great.  I didn’t even know this girl, I hadn’t had a chance to decline the bet, and now I owed her a penny.  Why had I even been playing near LeAnn in the first place?  I liked the pipe, that’s why.  If you scrunched your knees toward your chest, you could curl up in it and hide yourself from the world.  I liked hiding from the world.  I liked small, enclosed spaces.  There was something about being squished in them that made me feel secure.  Typically I spent me recess inside the pipe with my best friend Lenore, but as it so happened Lenore and I currently weren’t on speaking terms.  I’d won the war of the pipe, spending the entire recess period inside it by myself.  I had just emerged from my private enclave when LeAnn had accosted me.  

As far as I was concerned, LeAnn hadn’t played fair.  I’d never bet anyone anything before, but I knew that a bet is when both parties agree to something, and I hadn’t agreed to anything.  Still, LeAnn had said I owed her a penny, so the next day I dutifully toted to school the brown copper coin I had procured from along the floorboard in our hallway where typically at least one or two resided.  At recess I presented it to LeAnn.

“Thanks,” she said. “I didn’t think you’d actually bring it.”

What?  I had assumed that she would pester me until she got it.  If I had known I she wasn’t actually expecting a penny, she certainly wouldn’t have gotten one.  This girl was strange.  First she didn’t actually allow me a choice in the bet, and then she didn’t actually expect her reward.  I was puzzled.  LeAnn was impressed.  That night she called to invite me over for a play date.

After school the following week, I followed LeAnn home, as planned.  We sat on the light brown shag carpeting of her room and played a few board games and made what at least I considered to be futile attempts at conversation.  I didn’t know why, but it was such a contrast to being at Lenore’s house.  Despite her mother’s smothering kisses and her annoying little brother, I always had fun with Lenore.  I just couldn’t seem to have any fun at all with LeAnn.  Talking to her was like talking to a statue.  

I didn’t return the invitation.  In time Lenore and I made up, and LeAnn went back to being the girl that I barely knew.  There were certain kids in school that you just knew were best friends: Karen and Annie, Patty and Rachel, Lenore and me.  I’m not sure that LeAnn had a best friend at school.  I didn’t ever pay enough attention to her to know.  She might have played by herself all the time, as she was doing the day she bet me the penny.  Looking back, I feel badly that she’d tried to be my friend in the only way that she knew how and in the end I’d rejected her.  Today I would probably try a little harder, give her a few more chances, but second grade is a very trying time.  How could I possibly have spent time so valuable as recess with someone with whom I just didn’t click?  

Lora is a New York City based writer who has dabbled in all genres. When not writing, she can be found teaching chemistry, training for a marathon, practicing bikram yoga, or wandering the streets of the city with her camera. She can be reached at lora.danley@gmail.com.

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