The Power of Friendship This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Oomph. The nearly inaudible sound escapes my mouth seconds before I collapse, doubled over in pain. I lie on the smoldering asphalt desperately trying to regain the breath so forcefully knocked out of me. My ears are ringing, my heart pounding, and I can feel the tears welling behind my eyes. I won't cry. No, I won't give them the pleasure. However, before I can stop myself, I am silently weeping. I roll over, stand up and look where the kickball came from. All the kids are pointing and laughing at me. One pitiful sob escapes my mouth before I turn and run to the swings.

"Another kickball to the stomach?" my only friend, Brenda, asks nonchalantly.

Her blue eyes pierce mine, and I look at the ground in shame.

"I don't even see why you try to play kickball. It's a popular kids sport; people like you and I don't belong there, as you can see," she says, with exasperation, gesturing at my tears.

Elementary school can be really difficult when you are cross-eyed, overweight, and have teeth so crooked that they hang out over your lip. Add some dingy-looking blond hair dominated by an excessive amount of crookedly cut bangs, plus eyebrows that connect, and you have one beast of a child.

Six years ago, that beast was me. I went home crying every day because of what other kids said and did to torment me. By the time I entered middle school, I had gotten braces and corrected my eyes with bifocals, but I still had only enough self-confidence to fit in a peanut shell with room left over. Needless to say, I was a mess.

I figured it would take nothing short of a miracle to make me happy with myself. Well, I met my miracle on that first day of school. Sitting in the back row, wearing the coolest outfit I had ever seen was a gorgeous blond girl with crystal blue eyes. Oh God, I thought, here's another person who will torture me. I resolved to hide from this pretty preteen before I was harassed, but my plan backfired since the only available seat was next to her.

I sucked in my breath and walked to the empty desk. Maybe if I don't make eye contact, she will just ignore me, like everyone else, I thought desperately. But the next instant, my whole world did a back flip.

"Hi, I'm Jessica. What's your name?" she asked amiably.

What? She is talking to me? No way. I waited a moment for someone else to respond, and when nobody did, I looked up at her. A million thoughts zoomed through my mind as I cleared my throat to respond.

"I-I-I'm Tracy," I stammered.

And thus began the most important friendship of my life. I had never met anyone like Jessica. On that first day, simply by talking to the geeky girl with braces, she crossed vast barriers. Gradually, Jessica and I became best friends, and I became more and more confident. She taught me to love myself because I was worthy of being treated well. After seven years of being told I was worthless, I had pretty much accepted it as fact. When she made me stick up for myself, she instilled strength in me.

Just last year, I was attacked by a girl who had bullied me for most of my life. Knowing I did not deserve to be yelled at, I stuck up for myself. The 30 seconds that passed after I rebutted her comments were the biggest triumph of my life. Unfortunately, it came to an end as she proceeded to strangle me. I ended up in the office, staring at my feet. I was beginning to doubt myself when Jessica burst into the office. She got to talk to me for roughly 2.5 seconds before being shooed out, but in those seconds she told me I had done the right thing and that she would fully support me. She is a walking, talking miracle.

Jessica and I have been best friends for five years now. Through our friendship, I have found the security and strength to discover myself. I owe her my life, and will never forget that. All too often people outgrow their childhood friends, but I am sure that Jessica and I will never outgrow each other because we have grown together, every step of the way.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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