1 Will you be my friend?

"Tag! You're it!" I ran away from my friend to the wide school park during recess. I spotted a boy sitting by himself, long stick in hand, scratching the dirt. I stopped in my tracks and asked my friend, "Who's that?"

Jina looked at him and snorted, "Don't talk to him. He's weird. Let's continue playing, Annika."

"Don't be silly! I'll ask him to play with us!" Despite her protests, I merrily skipped over to the lone boy. I stopped right in front of him, covering him with my shadow.

"Hi!" I waved my hand enthusiastically. He looked up, and a pair of sharp eyes greeted me. "Hello?" "My name is Cano Annika. But you can just call me Annika! It's nice to meet you! Want to play with us?" I peered over his shoulder to see what he was doing to the dirt. "What are you doing?" He stared at his dirt drawing, "I'm painting."

"Wow, that's so pretty! You are so good at art!" I praised him. He didn't take my compliment, "No it isn't." I crossed my chubby arms and huffed, "Hmph! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! If I say it's pretty, it's pretty to me." He rolled his eyes, "That's just a dumb phrase."

"Well, you're a dumb boy!

"Go away, shortie."

"What did you just say!"

"Short. Shorter than my pinky."

"I change my mind. I don't want to play with you! Jina!" I cried and ran to her. She shook her head. "I told you so."

After school, I walked back home by myself. While walking back, I spotted the dumb boy. He was walking into a strange dark alleyway. I remembered that my mother had warned me such places were very dangerous. "Should I follow him?" I thought for a while. "I should follow him." I quietly followed him to an abandoned reservoir. A tall structure stood, rusty, and full of overgrown. It was so high! The dumb boy was living up to his nickname, climbing up the tall, unstable structure.

"Hey! Get down from there! It's very dangerous!" I screamed up. The boy ignored and continued. "You'll fall and hurt yourself!" I stomped my foot in frustration. This boy wouldn't listen to me! So I did the only logical thing to do in that situation: I climbed up too. Genius!

Once I reached the top, I scolded the boy. "I-I told you! This is dangerous!" I probably looked like a mess, drenched in sweat.

"You shouldn't have followed me. Why're you even up here!"

"Because I wanted to tell you it was dangerous, but you wouldn't listen! Dumb boy!" I blew a raspberry at him. He rolled his eyes, "You're so annoying! Leave me alone!"

What was this boy's problem? I just wanted to make sure he didn't get hurt! I started to cry. "You're such a big meanie! I didn't even do anything wrong!" Tears burst out of my eyes. His eyes widened in shock as he hurried to stop my cries. "St-stop crying! Why are you crying so much!"

"Now you're calling me a crybaby! You're so mean! All I wanted to do was to be your friend!" I cried even more.

"It's because you want to be my friend, that I don't like you! You're just like everyone else! Friends, friends. friends. But once I become your friend, I'll just be labeled that. Just Annika's friend.

"Or it could go both ways. I could be dumb dumb boy's friend," I argued back. He seemed shocked at my point. "What are you willing to give?" he asked. I was confused. "A gift? It's not your birthday, is it?"

"No- Not yet. If you want to be my friend, you'll have to lose something.

"Pfft, that's easy. I lose things all the time!"

"Not like that! You'd have to lose something valuable. You would have to lose your friends."

"Or... I could have both you and my friends. Ta da! More friends for me."

"You can't do that. You need to lose something to gain something. Otherwise, it's selfish.

Selfish? Me? Selfish? "That's dumb dumb boy logic. And I'm not selfish!" I angrily climbed down and walked back home.

My Bok* greeted me as I walked back home. "Welcome back. Why're you home so late? It's dangerous and you're only seven." Aww, Bok was so caring about me. I assured him that I was fine and not to worry.

"I can't help but worry. What if something bad happened? Mom would kill me."

That night, I had a nightmare. I dreamt that I was back at the big structure. The dumb boy stood at the edge. Before I could scold him for standing too close to the end, he jumped into the swirling pools of water below. It scared me.

"Why're you following behind me? It's creepy."

"I want to be your friend and see what you're doing!"

"I just called you creepy."

"So?"

Truth be told, I was worried about him. Sure, it was just a dream, but it felt so real. I made my decision to stay close to him. Every day, I'd ask to be his friend, then follow him up the tall structure, to make sure he didn't fall. I did this for the whole year, until December 31st. The last day of the year. By then, I was starting to give up. Dumb boy didn't like me, so I felt disheartened. I went up early, with a wrapped box in hand, waiting for him to come up.

"Well, you're here early."

"Yeah. I wanted to tell you something important today, so I wanted to be up here first."

"Well, go ahead."

"It's been months. I've asked you every day to be my friend. Every day, you reject me." I looked down disappointedly at my feet. "I- I give up. I can't get you to be my friend, because I don't want to lose my friends. Because I'm selfish. So today is the last day of the year. I don't want to ask after this year ends. So, let me ask you an important question. Do you want to be my friend?"

He just stared back, speechless. I took it as a sign he would say no again. I handed him the wrapped box and forced a smile. He looked down at it, his face a mix of confusion and touched.

"Happy Birthday."

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