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Against the Grain
It was bright out and the sun was scorching my sensitive green eyes. Everything was clear and the day seemed to be in HD. My toes were in the sand, and all I could hear were the sounds of children laughing and waves crashing. There were many couples and families who decided to come down this weekend to Florida on vacation, after all it was May and school was almost out. I was laying sun tanning as the rays hit my sun kissed skin. I was looking at the clouds while trying to figure out what they looked like. Clouds have always looked like blobs to me. I could never quite configure them right. My dad once showed me one that he said looked like a herd of Saharan animals running. All I could see was the generic shape of a cloud: fat, lumpy, and boring. My dad seemed like the most harmless man until you figured out that he signed his only daughter up for karate at the age of eight. He signed me up for self defence classes after the night my house was broken into. That night my mother was murdered. He then signed me up so that I would always be able to protect myself when he wasn’t around.
There is a ton of irony here that I am just going to point out now. I am perfectly capable of defending myself, but I am bullied at school. Now before you get your panties in a twist let me tell you why. You see, I was born with arthrogryposis. Now to put that in human language terms, it means that I was born with joint contractures and it affected the way I walk. So I walk with a limp in my left leg. My disorder was another reason for my dad to sign me up. It took a lot of hard work and passion to learn karate with a disorder, but I had faith. So my title is pretty weird at school because I am kind of confusing. Madison Riley, the girl with a limp who knows karate but is bullied. Go ahead, laugh if you want, but it’s not physical bullying, it’s verbal. Many people have mocked the way I walk and think since I can’t run fast I won’t be able to catch up to them knock some sense into them. The thing is, I don’t want to beat them up. As tempting as it may seem, I wouldn’t do it because this is only a stupid little phase and it will surely pass.
As I sat up from my towel I gazed into the ocean’s entrapping beauty. It would hit the ground hard and loud like a boom of thunder and it would happen fast like lightning. Just as I thought this moment couldn’t get any better, I felt a person grab me from behind and hug me tight. It was my best friend, Charlotte, or Charlie. She is my all time favorite person on Earth. I have known her since third grade and it’s almost been eight years. Our first encounter was during lunch when I accidentally bumped into her and made her drop the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She was ready to throw hands until I offered to give her my sandwich as an apology.
“Don’t ever ruin my food again you meany! If you do I’ll tell my mommy on you,” she yelled.
“I didn’t wanna mess up your sandwich, it was an accident!” I yelled back
After all of the vacuous bickering about a little sandwich she decided I was pretty cool for giving her my sandwich as an apology. My dad always taught me to never fight anyone for silly reasons, so we bargained. I would give her my sandwich and in return she would be my best friend. We go way back, and we continue to go way forward. Charlie stands up for me almost all of the time and will literally get into a fist fight for me. Sometimes I wish I could see past her thick black glasses and pale blue eyes to see what goes on inside her head. As I snapped back to reality I noticed that she seemed happier than usual. You can tell when she’s happy because she usually plays with her hair and flips it. I think every girl should be able to work the hair flip, but they would never be able to top hers. Charlie’s strawberry blonde hair is telegenic. She looks like she belongs to a television show where everyone looks stunning and attractive. She tells me that I look fantastic all the time, but I never really knew how to feel because I didn’t feel pretty, but I also didn’t want to contradict my best friend.
I have caramel brown wavy hair that basically tells you all you need to know about me living in Florida. I have beach bum hair and it never cooperates. Anyway, Charlie had informed me on her good news. Yes, this does involve a boy and yes I hate talking about this stuff, but we’re going to suck it up for Charlie. Right before she had came and hugged me from behind, she was at the snack bar getting us sodas when this boy apparently started flirting with her. She described him as, “Tall, hot, and adorable.” Before she said anything else, I asked her a very important question, “Did you get the drinks?” She gasped and laughed as she ran back to the snack stand to get them. For the rest of the day we had gone in the ocean, talked about the boy, and then went to dinner before calling it a night.
Monday had come fast and I did not want to get out of bed. I knew today was going to be a bad day since my dad was in a bad mood considering he was late for work and still had to drop me off. I pulled myself together and ran out the door into the car and buckled my seatbelt all while trying to eat a piece of toast. He dropped me off at school and I walked in to start the day while meeting up with Charlotte. I was waiting all day for school to end so I could go home and take a nap, but it the day lingered on. I finally reached eighth period gym and school would be over after one more period. I knew what I was walking into in the locker room, and I didn’t like it, but I had to suck it up.
“How was your weekend, limpy,” Christina teased. There are a group of three junior girls who absolutely love to tease me about my condition and have been doing it since eighth grade.
“It was wonderful, Mooncalf.”
“What did you just say to me”
“What? Mooncalf? Well I thought since you gave me a nickname I should give you one as well. You don’t catch on fast do you?”
“Excuse me? You’ve got some nerve talking to me like that. I hope you realize you’re nothing so you can stop acting like something ” She was offended now and I was just starting.
“I've seen people like you, but I had to pay admission.” I replied.
“You think this is all a joke don’t you?”
“Ok seriously if ignorance is bliss, then you must be the happiest person on earth.”
“Oh shut it. I could crush you like an eggshell so I’d be quiet and move along.”
“And would that be the smartest thing to do at school? Oh wait I forgot you only have street smarts. Sesame Street smarts that is,” I couldn’t help but laugh as she struggled to say something else. Everyone around us was also laughing.
“That’s it,” She said as I was laughing. Before I could notice, she wound up her fist and punched me hard in the face. I was falling for what seemed like forever. The pain on my face had lingered like thunder and traveled as fast as lightning. The last thing I felt before blacking out was the cold hard ground.
I jolted up to the feeling of water being poured on me. I was in my bed and I opened my eyes to see a kid about ten years old screaming, “Maddie get up we are gonna be late to school!” Ok first of all, who is this kid and what is he doing in my house? More importantly, why doesn’t my face hurt? Disregarding the confusion I got up and got dressed to go talk to my dad. However, I stood paralyzed for a few minutes while I had walked over to the door. I wasn’t limping. Both my legs were equally balanced and I walked like a normal person.
“What is going on?” I repeatedly asked myself. I ran to my mirror and saw my body fully balanced out. I was standing straight and looked amazing. I puzzledly ran out to my father screaming, “Dad! No limp! No limp! Dad!” As I reached the kitchen I saw my father who was trying to get the kid to go brush his teeth. He heard what I was yelling and we broke out into a confusing conversation.
“Limp, what limp?”
“Dad, the limp I’ve had since I was born. The arthrogryposis? Just tell me when I’m ringing any bells.”
“Maddie we don’t have time to discuss this arth-arthro-arthritis whatever you are talking about. Get ready for school we need to leave.”
“But dad I’ve-”
“Maddie, go,” he ordered sternly.
As confused as I was I got ready and hopped in the car with that kid who I had never seen before in my life. I had asked him who he was, but he ignored me and didn’t reply. What a snot. He was dropped off and then I was. The school was the only thing I could recognize so far. As I was walking in I wondered what had happened to me the day before. My lights were knocked out and all the sudden I am cured and have an adopted brother or something? I needed to go to Charlotte and ask her what had happened because I could always count on her. I was headed to first period to see her when I was stopped by a boy who grabbed me and kissed me. After another few moments of shock I looked at him like he had three heads and said, “Who the-what the-” after I was cut off when he said “See ya later, lovebug.” I mean, I had no problem with him kissing me because he was cute and seemed nice, but I would prefer not to be kissed by a stranger.
I made it to first period where these popular girls were all sitting around my desk. They greeted me and asked how I was. I ignored them and went straight towards Charlotte who was sitting in the corner of the room reading. I ran up to her and hugged her as tight as I could, but she pushed me away.
“Uh I’m sorry what are you doing?” She asked.
“What do you mean? I can’t hug my best friend?”
“Why are you joking with me? You guys already get your kicks with me during gym. I don’t see why you have to bother me now as well”
“I’m sorry, Girls like me? Did I hear that right? What are you talking about? It’s me. Maddie. Your best friend since third grade.”
“Um no you’re Maddie, one of the ‘popular’ girls who watches as I’m beat up in the locker room.”
I stuttered to figure out what to say next. I noticed now that she had a black eye that was covered by her hair before. I looked at and tried to say something, but as I was about to Mr. White walked in and told us all to get in our seats. I sat down in my seat as my heart sank into my chest. What was happening? No one can give me any answers. A couple of periods went by that gave me time to try and find out what was happening. For the most part, I assumed that this was all a joke that everyone was playing on me, but a mean one. It didn't make sense though considering I could walk normal now. I finally made my way to gym class to see what Charlotte was talking about. As I walked into the locker room Christina caught me and smiled. She told me to wait and watch.
I waited and watched. Charlotte had finally walked into the locker room and as I was about to greet her when Christina tripped her and pushed her to the ground. I was fuming mad. She has some pushing down my best friend. What’s even funnier is that she thinks she is going to get away with it. I yelled at Christina who looked confused as to why I was defending the fallen. I kneeled over to Charlotte to see if she was ok, but she just told me to leave her alone.
“Charlie, please, let me help you.”
“Oh that’s rich. You want to help me? Well why don’t you start by leaving me alone you dipstick.”
“Oh, I know you aren’t talking to me like that,” I said.
Charlotte was so confused as to what to say that all she did was shoot me the dirtiest look. One of the bullies had enough so she went to kick her Charlie in the face while she was still down. I tried to block her kick since I know how, but I suddenly forgot how to and poor Charlotte was bleeding by the time I looked back over at her. I don’t care whether Charlotte does not remember me or whether she doesn’t think we are friends because I was still going to kick the fudge out of them.. Nobody, and I mean nobody, messes with my best friend. I was extremely angry so I got up and gave the bully an uppercut to the face.
“Don’t you ever kick her again, and if you do I will find you, and I will kill you,” I screamed to her.
The bully was on the ground and my fist hurt, but it was definitely worth it. I turned around to look at Charlie who was shocked but also smiling. I offered her my hand and she took it. Neither of us knew what to say, but we didn’t have to say anything at all. The silence between us screamed a million things that the both of us would hear someday and thank each other for later. I stared into her eyes and she stared into mine. Before she awkwardly walked away she smiled at me and quietly whispered, “Thank you.” As she walked away my vision blurred. Everything was dizzy and flashing. I turned around towards Christina and she said, “Wake up,” before tapping my shoulder. I was falling again, and the same sensation I felt when I had been punched the first time had come back.
It was dark again and all I could feel again was the cold ground. A couple of visions circled me. Visions of my mother when I was younger, visions of Charlotte and I first meeting, visions of my dad taking me to the beach, visions of Christmases and Halloweens. I then opened my eyes. Everything was quiet for a few seconds, but then I looked up to see Christina looking at me devilishly. Charlotte was next to me looking at me with the most concerning look on her face. The good news was that my face hurt. I knew I was back from whatever had just happened to me. I stood up and stopped Charlie from starting a fight with Christina. I hugged her tight and was glad to know that she was not the victim anymore. I was glad I was in the position I was in right now because I took my fist, turned around, and punched Christina so hard that I thought I knocked her brain out, I mean if she had one anyway. The last thing I said before walking away was, “You see, the thing about deception is that it can be returned, painfully.”