Amanda would never forget the first day with her back brace. It was strapped to her for 16 hours of wear and it had driven her crazy! It was like getting braces on your teeth. At first they feel horribly wrong because you cant take your mind off of them for a single second. After a couple of days, however, things start to feel a bit better. She clearly remembered how uncomfortable, awkward, and aggravating it had been. Luckily she had also remembered what the doctor told her to expect.
On the second last Friday before the Christmas holidays, she explained to her teacher and classmates that she had been diagnosed with scoliosis. Whats that? Michael blurted out before she even had a chance to give any details. She hadnt minded his interruption. It was typical of Michael and she knew that it was a sign he was concerned about her. Scoliosis is a medical condition. It means a persons spine is curved from side to side instead of being straight. Amanda had successfully made it over the second major hurdle. The first had been finding the courage to talk about her condition at school. As she continued, she noticed that everyones face now showed signs of concern. Im going to be away for a week while I get my back brace. Its designed to help stop the curve in my spine from getting worse and hopefully it will help to straighten it out. Its important for me to wear it now while Im still growing, Amanda added.
At the end of the day, everyone wished Amanda well and a Merry Christmas. Her best friend, Julianna, reminded her that shed only be a text away, day or night. Michael promised to keep her up to date on all the work she missed. They both laughed knowing that Michael was always the one to ask Amanda for help with his homework. Hey, does this mean you might be as tall as I am when we return from the winter break? Michael asked with a look of worry. She might be! Julianna teased back. Yeah, youd better start eating more wheaties for breakfast, Amanda added. Im a good inch taller than you, kid, and it had better stay that way! Do you hear me? Michael replied and the three of them laughed as they started to head to the mall before dinner.
The holidays were over and Amanda missed joking around with her friends. It was time to go back to school but was she ready? No one from school had seen her yet with her back brace. She knew it couldnt be detected under her winter jacket but would people stare when they saw its outline under her school sweater she wondered. Her mom and dad reassured her that by first recess, her classmates would not be paying much attention to it at all. Julianna had also been texting, promising that everything would be fine.
By Friday morning, Amandas dad finally noticed the smile back on her face as he drove her to school. Your mother and I are really proud of you, he said. This week was not easy for you but we knew you were strong enough to get right back into the swing of things. Amanda agreed. It hasnt been too bad, Dad. I survived gym class and I got an A on my history test. Since its a bit icy in the school yard I was asked to be an office monitor all week. And Julianna and I both tried out for the trivia team yesterday, too. And now youve made it to the weekend. Way to go! Are you going to make your usual visit to the mall after school today with Julianna? I hope so. Ill call mom right after school to let her know.
By lunchtime Amanda was surprised that no one had mentioned any plans. At last recess she noticed Julianna talking with a few other friends in the hallway. She waited until Julianna was alone and asked her what was up. I think Im just going to go home after school today. My mom and I were at the mall last night. Maybe we can catch a movie next Friday, Julianna suggested. Okay, sure, Amanda agreed. It had been a tiring week. After the last bell, she walked home, looking forward to taking her brace off for a bit and stretching out on the couch. So, youve got a free night to spend with your lonely mother, Amandas mom teased when she came in from work and saw Amanda watching TV. How was your day? Good, Mom. I made the trivia team! Practices start next week.
Congratulations! Hey, why dont we celebrate your first week back at school with a trip to the mall? We can pick up some dinner at the food court, too. Rest up until the end of your show and then well go. Amanda and her mom checked out the racks of sidewalk sale items. They found a great deal on winter boots and were heading back to the car with their takeout dinner. Amanda stopped for a second to look in the window of her favourite store. Suddenly Julianna and two other friends from school walked out with shopping bags. Amanda was crushed. She couldnt believe Julianna would do this to her. She had tried so hard to be brave this week. She had ignored the whispers. She had pretended not to notice the stares. She knew the extra questions and curiosity were to be expected but being left out of your best friends plans really hurt. Despite hearing her name being called, Amanda turned and walked quickly towards the mall doors. She kept her eyes closed and head down the whole drive home.
About an hour later Amandas mom handed her the telephone. Hi, Amanda. I want you to know how sorry I am, Julianna began. I wasnt trying to keep secrets from you or avoid you after school today. I just didnt know how youd feel about going shopping for new clothes now that you have a back brace. I realize I should have been open with you and asked you how you felt. That would have been the right thing to do. Im so sorry. I thought you were embarrassed to be seen with me, Amanda admitted. What? Thats crazy! Youre one of the bravest people I know! You can handle anything. Me…Im afraid Ill never have the courage to smile again when I get my braces on my teeth on Wednesday, Julianna explained. Dont worry. Youll get used to them. But dont order popcorn when we go to the movies on Friday. Youll look hideous with all those kernels stuck in your teeth! Amanda teased.
On Monday morning at school, Julianna handed Amanda a shopping bag. Amanda pulled out a book – Trivia Quizzes for Kid Whizzes. The weather is going to be bad again this week so I asked if I could be an office monitor with you at recess. We can practice for the trivia tournament, Julianna suggested. Amanda smiled and thanked her friend. Hey, you dont need this book, blurted Michael. Just ask me! Anything you want to know. Ive got all the answers. Try me! Come on. The longest river in the world? Easy! Thats um…umm…the Nile…or is it the Amazon? Okay, Im not sure about that one. But the tallest free standing structure in the world? Thats the CN Tower…or well it used to be. Hmmm, let me see that book for a minute. Amanda and Julianna rolled their eyes and smiled. Amanda knew things were going to be okay. As long as she could laugh at Michaels jokes, things were going to be okay.