There are no guarantees, but these ideas may prove useful. Just remember: if the person doesn’t like you back, still treat them with respect. Things could change in the future! And if you don’t like the person who likes you, don’t make fun of them—they have feelings, just like you.
By the way, it’s always a good idea to hang out in groups of guys and girls rather than being alone with the guy or girl. It’s more comfortable and it can be more fun. It’s a lot safer.
I never dreamed it would happen to me. It went against everything I believed in; I knew it was wrong, and I was convinced it was foolish. Why would anyone with even a bit of sense even consider doing it? That was how I had felt all 12 years of my life—until it happened to me.
Mrs. Blatch, my sixth-grade teacher, had just returned my English homework.
Cautiously I turned to the last page, where I spied the grade, which was capitalized in bright red. I sucked in my breath, closed the paper hurriedly, and peeked to the left and right at my classmates.
Good. No one saw it! I thought with relief. I didn’t want any of the guys knowing. I wanted to fit in. To me, it was a life-and-death issue.
Then I felt someone tapping my back. I turned slightly to see a familiar face looking up at me. It was Jeffery, the most popular boy in the school, and he was hunched down so Mrs. Blatch couldn’t see him talking to me.
“What did you get?” he whispered.
I stalled. Telling him would be the same as telling the other guys. And that would make me the center of their teasing. I just can’t take that! I thought.
If I tell him I won’t get into the group!
But this was Jeffery. Jeff, who was funny and good-natured. Jeff, whom everybody always listened to. Jeff, whom all the athletes hung out with before school, at lunchtime, and after school. Jeff, whose father owned a nightclub and who helped bring world-famous singers to our community.
Jeff was like a mini-entertainer himself. He wore tailor-made pants and shiny Italian shoes, while the rest of us wore jeans, khaki pants, and off-brand sneakers. His wavy brown hair was as dazzling as the hair do of one of his father’s entertainers. Although he couldn’t shave yet, he used aftershave, and all the girls thought he was handsome, appearing to almost faint when he merely glanced in their direction.
I wanted to be like him, and her e he was asking what I had gotten on my English paper. Who was I not to let Jeffery Jones know , no matter what happened?
“I, um, I got . . .” I said, my voice trailing off and stifling the dreaded grade in a muffle.
“I didn’t hear you, Kerry,” Jeff said, encouragingly. “Just tell me. No one’s gonna hurt you or anything.”
With that assurance, I stuttered, “I got an A.” Jeff’s eyes brightened, and he leaned back to an upright position, a broad smile spreading over his face.
“See you later,” he mouthed soundlessly.
Now what have I done? I thought. I could just hear him and his friends mocking me at lunchtime, their words piercing me like bullets, their laughter once again making my attempts at fitting in unsuccessful.
“Whatcha got for the homework, Teacher’s Pet?” they would ask, adding mournful whines to a cycle in which they repeated the question.
They would close ranks like buffalo protecting their calves from a pack of greedy wolves, and I would be denied admittance into their group—forever!
Miserably, I flipped open my English textbook to the page Mrs. Blatch now announced, and prayed that Jeff’s mouthed “later” would never arrive. At lunchtime I tried making myself scarce, but it was hard to do in our small school. Plus, it seemed Jeff had been on the lookout for me. He walked over to me, leaving his throng of admirers, who were puzzled by this action. “Catch you later,” he called to them over his shoulder. As if on cue, they broke up, going in separate directions.
Boy, am I in for it now! I thought, but I was determined to keep my dignity.
But he just gave me one of those fancy musician-style handshakes and then asked, “Did you really get an A on that homework assignment?”
“Yeah,” I said, looking him dead in the eye. If he was going to make fun of me for it, I wasn’t going down without a fight!
He whistled in amazement. “You must be really smart.”
“I studied hard for it. Plus, I like English.”
“And a whole lot of other subjects,” he observed, pausing momentarily. He now looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’ve been watching you, Kerry. You get good grades, and I don’t.”
“I study hard,” I repeated. “And I could help you get good grades too. I could help you study hard . . . ” Jeff winced. There goes my plan to join the group, I thought.
“No, no. I’ve got a better idea,” Jeff said earnestly, pulling out his wallet.
“See, all you gotta do is help me out for a couple of days.”
“What?” I was shocked at what he seemed to be implying.
“Just do my homework,” he continued, “and I’ll pay you big.” From a stack of bills, he pulled out one, waving it enticingly. “Five dollars a pop.”
“I . . . that would be cheating . . . ” I sputtered.
“No problem,” he pressed. “No one’ll ever know. Besides, it’ll only be for a couple of days until we get past this rough English unit.” Seeing my reluctance, he squeezed the $5 bill into my moist palm. “Plus, you’ll be helping a friend,” he added with a smile.
Helping a friend, I thought. But not just any friend . . . Jeffery Jones! The key to my acceptance into the group! But what about Mom? She’s always taught me to work hard for what I got and never to cheat . . . Although Dad’s been dead since I was 7, she’s always been there for me. Lunch money every day. And although not in the latest styles, nice clothes . . . It would break her heart if her only son became a cheat.
“You’ll be helping a friend,” Jeff persisted.
A friend. A friend. I tightened my hand around the money and said, “Sure.
Anything for a friend. When do we start?”
And that was the beginning of my cheating gig with Jeffery Jones. Long before classes began, his chauffeur would drive him to school, where I waited with his homework already done. With no one around, there would be an exchange—paper for paper, money for a completed assignment; loneliness for acceptance; surrender for a ticket into the “in” group.
Jeff was good to his word. The exchange happened for only a short while.
He was satisfied; he got the grades that he wanted. I was satisfied; I got the friendship that I craved, with the bonus of all the candies, chocolate bars, ice cream, and trinkets that a steady stream of $5 bills could buy a 12-year -old.
But soon the sweetness of the candies turned sour , and the joys of the toys vanished under the increased nagging of a guilty conscience. I had given away far more than I had received. I had exchanged self-respect and honesty for something that could not begin to equal them. Worst of all, I had betrayed my mom’s trust in me.
I made up my mind never to cheat again.
Today, I am an English teacher, and I do all I can to help my students avoid the costly mistake I made so many years ago.