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Surviving

I have often wondered what my purpose is in life. Am I a leader, a follower or a lost soul wondering aimlessly through the barren wasteland that we call home? I don’t know who I am but I know who I am not. I am not the person tormenting me every hour of the day. I am not the cruel maniac who takes mercilessly and gives nothing back. I am not the hero who can stand up to the bully, even to protect myself.
Maybe I could be that hero, maybe I am that lost soul and maybe I am something completely different; a species unknown or unaccepted by the human race. Whatever I am, I am a human being; capable of compassion, anger, love, hatred and forgiveness. I am Amelia Gregdon; the lost piece in the ever changing puzzle of life.
~
It all started in 5th grade, the year I changed schools. I knew no one and no one knew me. I was an outlier; shy and quiet, usually sitting by myself. The cliques had already formed and their locked doors had no keys. Sealed off and unprotected, I had no shelter against the tornado heading for me.
Her name was Chloe Brigham; an innocent enough name for a rotten apple. Chloe was a church girl, literally the pastor’s daughter. Yet for a person who should be filled with the Holy Spirit, Chloe was pretty low on the purity scale. She was cute with a freckled face, shoulder length blond hair, brown eyes and lightly tanned skin. To top it all off, she had a good sense of humor, when it was pointed in the right direction. Being on her good side was exhilarating, until you realized that she was not the world revolving around you. Instead, you were the Pluto revolving around her.
That’s how I felt, like Pluto. A small, forgotten, miscellaneous rock floating through space; untouched by the warmth coming from the sun. Yet, I stayed and diligently carried out my part, following an unwritten list of obligations that stayed with me wherever I went.
Carry Chloe’s books
Save a spot for her in any line
Let her budge in lunch
Laugh when she says something mean
Pretend she doesn’t touch you when she slaps you
Give her the answers to the homework
Conform to be the person she wants you to be
NEVER STAND UP FOR YOURSELF!
Obligations, restrictions, rules; call them what you want but to me they were a sentence. A sentence to a lifetime of obedience, conformity, deception and lies. I was trapped by my puppeteer, unable to control my own strings and everyday she would pull tighter until the strings became a noose. Suffocating and unable to untangle myself and all the while appearances went on as usual.

After a while I began to learn my new school and its system. The layout was strange to me, pods of classes mixed together; a fifth grade room with the fourth graders, a first grade classroom with the second graders. It just didn’t flow like I needed it to. But I got used to it; as well as I could. This new school had so many more things to do and learn than my previous one. Compared to it, my education was very splotchy.
I didn’t test in well and was put into all the low classes; and it turned out that Chloe had many of the classes I did, all but one. We even joined band. I didn’t join for her, I joined because of my love for music, but boy did she tell people another story. Band became my release, my safety zone during the week. Unfortunately even this became a contest.
Slowly, I was dying. I was claustrophobic, unable to move from my little cell and all the while it was closing tighter and tighter. Inside I was screaming, outside I was silent. But like history shows, people can’t remain trapped forever; rebellion was forming, needing very little to erupt.
~
A trimester later I had moved to the top of my classes; I didn’t feel that I was there but I was proud of my work and took pride in my achievements. Chloe didn’t like this and, no matter how hard I tried, nothing was ever the way that it “should be” with her. Education became the start of my rebellion; my quiet and completely natural way of doing what I wanted to do.
Finally, I had had enough and the dam burst, at home, and water spilled from my eyes. I told my mom everything that had happened; my unescapable prison, my hardships in school, the reason for my anger at home. I sobbed, letting my emotions flow freely for the first time in months. It wasn’t until she began to cry that I finally realized how crazy this was. Why should I let Chloe, an insecure child, control my life? I had an answer to that; I was scared of her. I didn’t know why but I was, or, more scared of her reaction than anything else.
But were my mom’s tears more painful to me than Chloe’s reaction? Chloe wasn’t just hurting me, she was hurting my family. I had to stop this, no matter the cost. I would not hurt my family any longer for this girl; it was time to end this cycle of abuse.
My first plan of action: stop carrying her books and break the chains of dependance. I prepared, went through every scenario, every conversation, every safe comeback I could make when she tried to cut me down. No matter how much I prepared, the day came too soon and butterflies filled my stomach. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but Chloe sitting two tables away in Homeroom. I couldn’t do anything but think about the coming moment when I would unleash the devil from her cage.
Time slowed down and the moment wouldn’t come fast enough and all of a sudden “RING”. It was time, I was heaving breathing, I couldn’t move and yet I was walking towards my books. Past the desks, out the door, there she was waiting for me. That glint of expectation came into her eyes and the books started coming towards me.
With a small voice I said, “I don’t want to carry your books today.”
Like she didn’t even hear me, she added her book weight to mine and looked at me, challenging me to do something. I didn’t, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t say no. Chloe smiled and in that moment I felt a wave of hatred smash into me so hard that I had to control myself.
“I don’t want to carry your books, Chloe.” I said a bit more strongly, testing out my new strength.
“What? I didn’t hear what you said.” Chloe replied playfully.
“I won’t carry your books!”
Instantly, she changed; her eyes became daggers; I had one chance to take it back, to be forgiven and my lapse of judgement forgotten. I wouldn’t do it, I gave her books back and walked away, shaking from the adrenaline rush. I walked into class and everyone was oblivious. They couldn’t see anything different, couldn’t sense my newly found strength, couldn’t feel the freedom coursing through my veins.
As soon as Chloe walked in, however, the tension in the room skyrocketed and our separation was known by the whole room in seconds. They didn’t know the story but they didn’t need to know. Chloe was a wolf in sheep’s clothing and right now the flock was heading to her table, hungry for their sister that lay upon it.
Somehow I knew this would happen, I knew I would lose everything but I gained everything in return. What I lost was something that I didn’t need in the first place and I gained back something more. I won back my freedom, my life, my sanity. All that I had been missing was suddenly present. But my power over myself and my life would be tested, stretched to its breaking point and beyond. I had to succeed; there was no other option. I had tasted life and I was never going back.
~
Solitude returned and took it’s place at my side. I sat alone in the lunchroom, played by myself on the playground, walked to classes silently and sat during passing time studying instead of mingling. The tormenting started and I couldn’t go anywhere without being stared at or whispered about. No one had come to me to hear my story; they were attracted to gossip and Chloe was ready to dish it out.
“Did you hear what happened to Chloe?”
“Oh, yeah. How could someone do that to her? She's so sweet.”
“She’s really hurting right now, someone said that when she goes home she cries because this is so painful for her.”
“Hey, look who's coming.”
Staring silence.
I was alone and yet I was happy. Isolation became normal to me and I began to enjoy my quiet time. It startled me if someone asked me a question and more than half the people in my classes didn’t even know what my voice sounded like. I put even more time into my education; mastering the curriculum and doing extra when things were easy.
Unfortunately, the more immune I became to these swarming parasites the more acid would come from their mouths. Rumors sprang out of the darkness like weeds to choke me out and force me to beg for release. I tried to cope as best I could but my school life was becoming more and more unbearable. The whole time Chloe stood in the background and let the story play out so far that the traces of her involvement had been washed away by salty tears.
Occasionally, Chloe would get very bold and carry out things on her own. Many times I had my books nocked out of my hands and sometimes my projects would wind up mangled on my desk. These were the things that hurt me the most and tore down my defenses.
Then, about three months after I stood up against Chloe, I was sent an angel. Rebecca Williams, a new girl from Wisconsin, was placed at my Homeroom table. Of course, the other kids swarmed her, eager to meet the new girl in the school. But for some reason, she didn’t seem interested in any of them but more interested in...me!
This angered Chloe and she went after Rebecca mercilessly, winning her for that days lunch period. She and Rebecca went through the lunch line with Chloe laughing loudly at whatever Rebecca said. I went through quietly, got my lunch and went to go to my table when I heard someone behind me say, “Watch this.”
All of a sudden, someone came from behind me and smashed their hand into my tray. My lunch went all over the floor and the people around us got quiet.
“Oops, I am so sorry. Clumsy me.” laughed one of Chloe’s minions.
Crying, I picked up what I could and went to sit down and eat. To my surprise, I had a guest join me.
“Are you okay?” asked a soft voice.
I looked up surprised and found that it was Rebecca. I couldn’t talk without sobbing so I just nodded my head.
“She had no right to do that, you deserve to be treated better.”
Happiness welled up inside me to hear someone say that and after that day, Rebecca became a bit of a guardian to me. Chloe didn’t dare mess with Rebecca or she would lose the support of the class. We began to get to know each other and in a few weeks we became inseparable.
Rebecca turned others around, forcing them to see me for the person I truly was. Some people even decided to hear my side of the story and were shocked by it’s truth. Slowly, people began to turn from Chloe and I began to get used to knowing people again. When spring hit, Chloe had lost most of her support system and I had gained it instead.
But one day, the rejection became to much for her and she lashed out harshly. Cornering me in the hallway alone, she began screaming at me.
“Who do you think you are? Taking everything from me! How could you do this to me?!”
I was so stunned, I couldn’t respond.
“Ha, your nothing without your precious Rebecca. Where is she now? Huh? See, how worthless you are, she doesn’t even care enough to protect you right now.”
“She's going to a different class.” I tried to say.
“She's going to a different class," Chloe mocked, "That’s a pathetic excuse, she doesn’t care and you know it.”
Suddenly, Rebecca pulled Chloe away from me. Looking her straight in the eye she said in a clear voice, “Stay away from her.”
Rebecca stared at her, challenging her to say something. But Chloe didn’t, instead she ran from us with tears in her eyes, going to tell her story to uncaring ears.
“Are you okay?” Rebecca asked me.
“Yeah.” I replied shakily.
“Come on, we’re going to be late for class.”
~
I have often wondered what my purpose is in life. Am I a leader, am I follower or am I something completely different? I am not completely sure but if I could be anything, I want to be someone’s Rebecca. To be there to change someone’s life for the better and make their world worth wile again.





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