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The Right Thing


Suzanne Tetreault 

Lily Madison’s blue eyes stared intently as she spied her friend Nicole Swift quietly lift an expensive pair of earrings off the shelf and drop it into her pocket. Lily’s stomach felt queasy and she her heart began to thump. She and her friend Nicole had gone to the store after school to shop and now Nicole was stealing, and she was with her! Panicking, Lily stumbled toward the door, ran down the street, and all the way home. She ran up the familiar stairs to her room and sat down on her bed. Nicole had never done anything like that before! What should she do? Should she tell or not? She cared a great deal for her friend but Nicole was stealing! She resolved not to say anything, until she caught her again and could speak to Nicole…

“Hey Lil,” said Nicole.

“Yeah,” answered Lily back.

“Do you want to go shopping?”

There was the fateful question! “Do you want to go shopping?” Her head screamed no, but she knew in order to help her friend she would have to catch her friend doing it.

“Sure,” she answered shakily.

They walked the few blocks to the department store. Nicole began to walk to the door when she noticed Lily wasn’t following.

“Are you coming?” she questioned.

“I feel sick, I’ll wait out here,” was all Lily could say.

“Alright, I’ll be out in a few minutes,” said Nicole as she walked through the door.

Lily watched her go in and then she followed her along the aisles through the window. She saw her look around, then she picked up lipstick. She examined the price and then, to Lily’s dismay and alarm, slipped it into her jacket pocket. 

“Oh,” breathed Lily faintly as she leaned back on the brick wall beside her, a thousand things racing through her mind.

She peered back just as Nicole looked up. Her eyes opened wide as she realized that Lily had seen her. She quickly slipped the lipstick back on the shelf as she ran to the door.

“Lily!” she said nervously, “It’s not what you think!”

“Nicole, you stole! I saw you yesterday too!”

“Oh Lily, please don’t tell my mom! I only took it because we are low on money and I didn’t have enough to buy those things!”

“You could have asked me!” said Lily in a loud tone.

“Don’t you understand how that would have made me feel to ask you to buy me that?” sighed Nicole.

“It doesn’t matter Nicole, you stole-“

“Just think before you say anything Lily, I’m your best friend!” interrupted Nicole.

“You just can’t keep stealing!” said Lily, but Nicole didn’t hear a word, she had already walked away. 

Lily looked up and saw her friend walking around the corner, it was no use trying to catch up with her, Nicole was so stubborn when she was upset. What was she going to do? It was either having a friend that steals or telling and not having her for a friend at all.

She sat straight up in the middle of the night. Lily could not keep thinking about Nicole. She lifted herself off her bed and went to the window. She stared across the street and several houses down, almost out of sight, to Nicole’s old house. Not a light was on in the building; how could Nicole sleep? Drawing back from the window, Lily made her way to the door. Her parents were asleep across the hall and just down it so was her brother. She had no one to talk to. She had to think. She made her way downstairs where she eased down into the recliner. She had to confront Nicole about it; she needed her to promise never to steal again, and she needed her to prove it. Otherwise Lily knew what she’d have to do.

The morning light shone into the window as Lily roused herself from the chair where she had slept the night. She glanced at the wall clock and noticed that it was nine o’clock. She stood up and walked into the kitchen where she found her parents; they were always early risers. “I noticed you were sleeping in the living room last night,” said her mother, Donna, "Is something wrong?”

“No, well, I’m okay,” stuttered Lily.

“Sure?” she asked again.

“Yeah,” answered Lily, “I’m fine.”

Walking to her room she collapsed on the floor and tried to get up her courage to tell Nicole’s mom and probably lose her friendship. She couldn’t! She’d have to wait a few more days, she didn’t have the courage to tell Nicole’s mom. Deciding that she would confront Nicole one more time, she walked next door.

She happened to meet Nicole on her way there. 

“Hey,” said Lily.

“Hi,” said Nicole, “ I’m sorry about all that, can we just be friends again?”

“Umm, sure,” she managed to say.

“So where are you going?” questioned Nicole.

“Just for a walk,” answered Lily.

“Well, can I come?” asked Nicole.


They walked and talked. She just couldn’t bring herself to bring up the subject again. As they walked down the main street of Detroit Lily found herself led by Nicole into a store. She knew she shouldn’t go, but maybe Nicole wouldn’t steal with her there. Lily followed her in.

They walked down several isles and then came to the candy shelf. 

“Oh, look at this,” sighed Nicole.

“They look good,” answered Lily.

“Hey, what’s that?” questioned Nicole as she pointed toward the door.


“Never mind,” answered Nicole, “must have been seeing things. Well lets go."

“Okay,” said Lily.

As they walked past the counter and through the door an alarm went off. Lily froze dead in her tracks as Nicole looked as if she would faint.

“Hold on there, young ladies,” said the desk clerk as he approached them, “Do you have anything in your pockets?”

Lily reached into hers and turned them inside out - there was nothing. She sighed with relief.

“And you,” urged the man.

Nicole reached into her jeans pockets - nothing. Then the man made her look through her jacket.  Breathing nervously, she lifted out 2 packages of candy. Lily’s eyes widened as she realized what her friend had done.

“Hand it here,” said the angered man.

“I... I don’t know how it got there,” stammered Nicole.

“Why don’t you, the one with nothing in your pocket, go over there and wait,” he suggested.  “But you,” he said, glaring at Nicole,” stay right here.”

Lily walked over near the door and Nicole swallowed hard as she realized the trouble she was in.

“How did that get there?” he asked.

“I don’t know!” exclaimed Nicole.

Lily remembered when Nicole had seen “something” and she had turned; Nicole had never put the candy back! How could she!

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Nicole Swift.”

“And your phone number?”

“568 674 8765,” she said nervously.

“You hold on right there,” said the annoyed man. 

He picked up the nearby phone and dialled the number.

“Wait!” shouted Lily.

Putting down the phone he turned to her. 

“Please don’t!”

“And why shouldn’t I?” he asked. He must have heard the fear in her voice and the honesty because his glare softened. 

“Fine, I won’t tell anyone, but don’t you ever,” he emphasized the word, ”ever let me catch you doing anything like that in here again. You understand me?” he asked angrily.

“Yes,” replied Lily nervously.

Nicole nodded her head vigorously, as tears welled up in her eyes.

After that stunning encounter with trouble, Lily decided she had to confront Nicole again and give her the choices.

The very next day she got up early ad went over to her friend’s house.

“Ding dong,” went the doorbell.

“Hello,” said Nicole solemnly.

“Nicole, I need to talk to you,” said Lily.


“Yes, right now,” stated Lily.

“Come in,” said Nicole.

“Nicole we have been friends for a long time, and I didn’t think you were the person who would steal. Well you do,” sighed Lily, “and honestly I don’t know how to handle this. Please help me out. I need you to stop, please! If you stop now, I might not say anything, but if not, I have to."

“Fine, I won’t do it ever again!” said an angered Nicole.

Thinking she was telling the truth, Lily left. After walking most of the way home it struck her that Nicole was probably lying.

Later on that day while she was biking down the street she spotted her friend going into a grocery store. Just to be sure, she went up to the building and peered in the large window. Sure enough, Nicole was slipping some things Lily couldn’t see off the shelf and into her pocket.

Her mind was racing. Nicole must have a serious problem. She had promised not to steal and she had. 

Deciding that confronting Nicole about it hadn’t helped, she resolved she had to tell her mom and ask her what to do.

“Mom, I have to talk to you,” she said quietly when she reached home.

“Yes honey,” asked her mother.

“Nicole has a problem,” she said.  Then, sighing, she continued, “and I saw her stealing.”

Mrs. Madison’s smile turned to a confused and somewhat angered look.

“Have you been too?” she questioned in a tone Lily didn’t like.

“No!” she clarified, “I saw Nicole, I told her I would say something if she didn’t stop. She promised she wouldn’t, but I caught her again. What do I do?”

“I think you know what to do, honey,” answered her mom, “The right thing.”

What was the right thing? Lily knew it, she just didn’t want to face the realization that she would have to tell Nicole’s mother. 

“I know,” she sighed.

“Okay, I trust you to do the right thing Lily,” said her mom.

She walked silently to the front door of Nicole’s house. With a knock on the door she stood back, shaking noticeably.

“Hello,” said Nicole’s mother as she opened the door. “ Nicole isn’t here right now.”

“I don’t want to talk to Nicole, I need to talk to you,” she replied.

“Oh,” she said surprised, “Come in.”

She could feel her heart beat faster as she sat down in the chair opposite Mrs. Swift. With the loss of the calmness she had tried so hard to save she proceeded.

“This is really hard to tell you Mrs. Swift,” she said quietly.

“Mary,” she replied, clarifying that she wanted to be called Mary not Mrs. Swift.

“I was with Nicole at the store and a few times I have seen her stealing, once I was there.”

“Stealing? Nicole?” she said in disbelief.

“I’m so sorry to have to tell you, but I felt I should; I don’t want her to get in trouble, she already did once. He let her off, and me, but-,” she paused.

“Thank you for telling me,” she said, almost in a daze.

“I better... I better go,” Lily stammered.

“Yeah,” she replied wearily.

On the way out she met Nicole coming up the driveway. Lily smiled solemnly as she walked on. Nicole knew she had told her mother. She reached over and gave Lily a hug. 

“I know you told,” she whispered.

“I did,” answered Lily sadly, “I’m just trying to be a good friend. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Nicole sighed and Lily could tell she was going to forgive her sometime, or so she hoped. As Nicole opened the door she looked back at Lily as she swallowed hard. As Lily walked away she could hear Mrs. Swift’s loud tone of voice, but she kept walking.

She didn’t know how the situation would end. Would Nicole hate her forever, would she forgive her, would she stop stealing or not? If Nicole forgave her, could she ever trust her again? She didn’t know, but she did know that she had done what was best. She had done the right thing.

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