Brian was your average seventeen year old, with a tousle of reddish hair and deep green eyes which didn't quite hide his pain. Quite friendly and extremely popular, Brian was a great friend and confidant to many schoolmates.
Although he often livened up a dull day in the classroom with his unusual antics, teachers rarely reprimanded him for such behavior because Brian was one of the brightest and most athletic pupils in his class. Model student, terrific friend and talented athlete, Brian appeared to be the typical teenager to any outsider - one who had had the luck of being overlooked by life's bitter tragedies.
But Brian was not just an ordinary child. He had had a more troubled past than people suspected. As a young child, Brian had been abused by both his parents. Each day he was subjected to their flaring tempers which usually resulted in both physical injuries and emotional pain. When he was eight, Brian's father died. His mother abandoned him soon after, leaving him in the care of a distant aunt and uncle.
Obviously, this had had a serious impact on Brian, but he still attempted to hide his psychological scars. Psychiatrists tried to aid Brian in dealing with his past, but he always discontinued sessions after a few weeks, believing they weren't helping him. Besides, he didn't see the point in dredging up the past over and over again when he could deal with his problems on his own. So few people were even aware that Brian had had a traumatic childhood, and that was the way he wanted it to remain. Since the past was over and done with, Brian felt it had no influence on his life now, despite the echoing of the falsehood of those words in his ears.
That was Brian's mental attitude that dull Tuesday morning when the student body was shuffled into the auditorium for the Big Brother/Sister volunteer program. The presentation sparked some interest as an addition to his high school transcript, so much so that when the members of the organization asked if anyone was interested in signing up, Brian was among the first to apply. Little did he realize how much that signature would alter his life permanently.
At first, the work involved was relatively routine. Brian went to a few meetings about what was expected of him as a Big Brother and was also given advice on how to perform his duties. Then he was assigned to Matthew, a rather small and lonely eleven-year-old who possessed matted brown hair and dark brown eyes. The two of them got along immediately, forming a unique friendship which included going to the movies, playing basketball, and enjoying baseball games together. Yet even from their first day together, it appeared to Brian that Matthew was holding something from him, that he was forcing himself to suppress some secret he deemed dark and mysterious.
Although his better judgment told him to investigate the problem, Brian delayed asking Matthew about it until one day it was apparent that Matthew was deeply troubled. When Brian questioned him, Matthew refused to answer. Then when Brian pressed him further, Matthew responded by bursting into tears. In between sobs, the confused youth managed to reveal his secret. It seemed that during a number of months, Matthew had been the victim of both physical and sexual abuse by his stepmother. Brian had to camouflage his own feelings of disgust, anger, and shock. The revelation hit him so hard that it was as if someone had punched him. It seemed as though Matthew had known about Brian's shameful childhood and realized that he, of all people, should understand his problem.
Brian comforted Matthew as best he could that afternoon and they contacted his advisor. After a long, anguishing phone call, he knew what he had to do.
In the room were several chairs, all occupied by children and teenagers of various ages. One by one, each stood up, said their name, and recounted their ordeal. Then a muscular, red-haired boy stood up. While clutching the little hand tightly next to him, he slowly lifted his eyes off the floor, took a deep breath and with a trembling voice, he addressed the group:
"Hi, my name is Brian. I'd like to tell my story."n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.