Reaching out to a friend can be hard.

Source :

Sometimes it's hard to reach out and make friends.“I’m cooked! Can’t wait to hit the water!” Kehau exclaimed, wiping her sticky forehead and brushing back her thick black hair. She grinned in anticipation of that deliciously cool first plunge.

“Yeah, and hear Mrs. Lee say, ‘All right, boys and girls, four laps. Don’t hold back. Breathe properly, and let’s see a strong kick’”, mimicked Sandra in her best “Mrs. Lee” voice.

The girls giggled as they trudged across the ball field toward the community pool. The sky overhead was a cloudless blue canopy.

“I hope I can keep my hair dry,” Sandra confided. “My permanent will frizz if it gets wet.”

“Good luck to you, then,” said Kehau. “You know how Mrs. Lee is on swimming. ‘We live on an island, so you must learn how to swim properly.’ Well, at least were not in the baby pool anymore, blowing boring bubbles.”

“Yeah, but the big pool’s pretty spooky sometimes. When I get tired and I know I can’t touch bottom, man, I panic!” Sandra said.

“Main thing, no panic. You panic, you’re dead, my dad says,” Kehau answered.

As the sixth-grade class trooped along, no one spoke to the tall, lanky girl walking a little apart from the group. Her dull blonde hair hung in limp strings just past her ears. Her round glasses dominated her thin face. All arms and legs, Harriet was the tallest girl, the tallest student, in the class. She marched along resolutely, head stiffly erect, eyes focused on some distant object she seemed to find fascinating.

“All right, boys and girls. Start with four laps, freestyle. Concentrate on your breathing, and don’t forget to kick. Go in groups of five,” intoned Mrs. Lee as the swim class began.

"I thought you were trying to drown me."Kehau and Sandra glanced at each other and stifled a giggle as they stepped into their places.

A half-hour later, Kehau shook her head in annoyance. “Phew! She sure does have an eagle eye! Picky, pick! Now I have to practice more laps on my free time.”

“Do it quickly, said Sandra. Then we can mess around.”

With a sigh Kehau began her extra exercises. All around her, classmates were jumping, diving, and chasing one another in the water as she swam past.

“Finally,” Kehau thought as her arm reached for the pool’s edge at the end of her last lap. “And Mrs. Lee isn’t even watching!”

Just then an arm descended from nowhere and landed on her head, pushing her down. Through the water, Kehau’s startled eyes could see Harriet’s face grinning at her, attached to the arm holding her down.

Suspended in time, seconds seemed to last forever as Kehau struggled to reach the surface.

“What’s that stupid girl trying to do?” she thought angrily. Her eyes burned, and her lungs felt as if a million needles were stuck in them. Her heart was a big bass drum somewhere in her head.

“No panic! No panic!” Kehau thought frantically. She tried to calm herself, then realized that Harriet wasn’t holding her, only pushing her down. She quickly reversed herself, went down, and she was free! Gasping, she broke the surface.

As Kehau pulled herself out of the water, she spotted Harriet and glared venomously at her.

“Stupid haole!” she shouted as she advanced on her target. “Are you trying to drown me or what? How do you expect me to breathe when you hold my head underwater like that?”

The grin disappeared from Harriet’s face, and she turned and ran for the locker room. Kehau stomped grimly after her.

The locker room was dark and cool after the sun’s blaze outside. Kehau blinked to focus in the sudden dimness.

Harriet sat huddled in the corner, head scrunched down over drawn-up knees, her skinny shoulders shaking with sobs.

Surprised by such misery, Kehau asked in a quieter voice, “Why’d you do that? I thought you were trying to drown me.”

“I’m sorry,” Harriet whispered, not looking up. “I wasn’t trying to hurt you, really. I was only playing. You all dunk each other all the time, but no one wants anything to do with me. I’m too tall and too skinny and too ugly and too—too haole!” she blurted out the Hawaiian word for “foreigner.”

“But it’s not because you’re haole that the kids don’t talk much to you,” Kehau said. “And being tall is great! Look at me, I always get beat in basketball because I’m so short and I can’t get off the ground. We figured you didn’t want to talk with us. After all the big cities you’ve been to, this small town must be kind of boring.”

Harriet shook her head vigorously. “Oh no! You guys are great! Always joking and helping each other. And everyone’s so different from each other! I’ve never been anywhere like this, ever!”

“Then maybe you should talk to people,” said Kehau. “The kids think you’re stuck-up because you never talk to them.”

“Stuck-up!” Harriet sputtered. ”I never know what to say. I know I sound different from you guys, and I feel stupid when I open my mouth. I just don’t know how to make friends. We’ve never stayed in one place long enough.”

“Gee,” said Kehau, “I never thought of it that way. Traveling all over sounded neat. I’ve never even been off this rock. But, OK, let’s think. You play basketball?”

“Not really. I know I’m tall, but I’m also kind of clumsy.”

“That’s all right,” said Kehau, shrugging. “Nobody on the team is that good. But being tall should help. You want to shoot baskets after school? And if you don’t like that, well figure out something else, OK?” Kehau rattled on, planning Harriet’s activities in her mind.

“I’d like to try . . . if you think the other kids won’t mind. And Kehau, Harriet began uncertainly, I really am sorry—”

“Forget it,” Kehau cut in. “Come on, let’s get going. We’re wasting our free time!”