Talent Show Triumph
Most people made fun of Sheila in junior high. Now she was on stage getting ready to sing--would she win everyone over by showcasing her talent?
BY: Andrea Weyant
We’d known each other since junior high, so I looked forward to seeing some of my old classmates at my friend Diane’s wedding. “Even Sheila Reardon’s promised to fly in,” she told me over the phone one afternoon.
Sheila Reardon? The name sent me back to 1971. I was a seventh grader again, dialing the combination to my locker. Up ahead a girl stepped awkwardly into the hall, her thick-framed glasses peeking out over an armful of books. Sheila Reardon looked down at the floor as she limped past a group of boys.
“Hey, Sheila,” a boy named John sneered. Sheila tried to ignore him. John hobbled up beside her in a cruel imitation of her walk. His friends cackled. My stomach tightened. Leave her alone! I wanted to scream, but the words would not come. I put on my jacket, ashamed of myself. I’d seen what happened to people who stuck up for Sheila. They got laughed at too. Some girls—girls like Diane, who were confident and smart—were brave enough to risk the name-calling, but not me.
“I wonder if Sheila will remember me,” I said to Diane, half-hoping she wouldn’t. I’d never forgiven myself for not standing up for her that day. I hung up the phone, remembering another afternoon in seventh grade. This time I sat in the auditorium watching our end-of-the-year talent show, wishing I had the courage to get up onstage too. But talent shows aren’t for people like me, I thought, or for people like—
“Sheila Reardon!” the principal announced from the stage. Gasps sounded all over the auditorium as Sheila walked slowly to center stage, carrying a microphone. I felt my own face go red, anticipating Sheila’s humiliation. Please don’t let them laugh at her.
The piano introduction began. Sheila raised her microphone. “Born free, as free as the wind blows…” she sang. I sat up. Could that strong, clear voice really be Sheila’s? I sneaked a glance at my classmates—did they understand the remarkable thing that was happening on the stage? Sheila was standing in the spotlight! The girl who was mocked if she spoke a single word in the cafeteria was singing to a packed auditorium. “Born free to follow your heart,” Sheila sang, and held that last note.