Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)
TITLE: One True Friend
By Karlene Jacobsen
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Visions of kids laughing, teasing and making fun of her brother flooded her mind. His cleft palate affected his speech so badly, it was difficult to understand him; and his mouth so disfigured from the cleft lip made him the brunt of every joke. Their cruelty toward him flooded over to her, except it was worse; they were merciless. She never knew who her friends were. There was always someone who feigned friendship to gain ground in the game of cruelty. She knew she would never be able to escape her tormentors; unless, that is, if she went somewhere no one knew of her brother.
This school promised to be such a place. Only she would be known to the student body. Rallying her nerve once again, she forced herself forward.You can do this. It’ll be different here.
Gripping tight the handle, she gave the door a firm push and entered in. She scanned the hallway, empty now because she was late. Lockers lined the pristine floors, all standing at attention. Florescent lights glared at her, demanding her to give account. Ugh, what am I doing? She hesitated before finding the principle’s office to retrieve her class schedule.
Schedule and hall-pass in hand; she navigated the hallways, listening to the sounds of music playing as she approached her first period assignment. She stood riveted outside the door and soaked in the work of Brahms played in perfect harmony. I’m way out of my league. She waited for the music to stop, hoping to gather enough nerve to allow this group of musicians the pain of hearing her meager attempt to play the Clarinet.
The music stopped. Well, here goes nothing. She opened the door, drawing all eyes away from the instructor to her. Her cheeks began to burn; she reached out handing him the hall-pass and class schedule. “I-is this the right room?” she barely squeaked.
The instructor glanced at the paper then back to Anne. “It sure is.” He turned to the class, “Class, this is Anne; she’ll be joining us for the remainder of the semester.” With his hand he motioned for her to take the seat, third row, last chair, next to a boy wearing a patch on his left eye.
He smiled and shoved his music stand between them. “Hi, my name is Kevin.”
She gave a wary smile and whispered, “Thank you.”
By the period’s end, Anne was certain she did not belong in that band class, and determined to see the counselor about transferring out.
Kevin followed her, “Where’s your next class?” Sighing, Anne handed him the schedule. “Hey, we’re in math together!” He continued to walk with her, talking non-stop.
The rest of the day passed in a blur as Kevin escorted her from class to class, telling stories and asking questions about her. He had adopted Anne, determined to show her around, introducing her everyone. She had to admit, she liked the attention. She had spent most of her school career standing on the outside, looking in, and here was this guy pulling her into his circle.
Spellbound by his obvious confidence…and lack of tormentors, Anne ventured to inquire during study period, “Kevin, may I ask you something personal?”
Whispering, “What happened to your eye?”
“Oh that.” He smiled. “I’m blind in that eye. Have been for as long as I can remember; it looks weird so I keep it covered.”
“Doesn’t it bother you? I mean, do kids tease you? Oh, I mean…”
“Yeah, kids teased me.” His voice softened, as though understanding her personal struggle. “Kids can be mean; I had a really good friend though who stood up for me. He challenged everyone who teased me to a wrestling match.” He chuckled. “No one wanted to fight Jim…he was the school’s wrestling champion every year since joining the team in junior high.”
“Where is he?”
“Graduated last year and joined the Marines.”
“Nobody teases you with him gone?”
“Nope, I had two years with him here, plus junior high; others got to know me for me.” His tone softened again. “One true friend and a lesson in forgiveness made the rest less painful; and now…anyone who teases, is one who has no understanding. If they knew, they’d act differently. At least, that’s what I choose to believe.”
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