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Rated: 13+ · Prose · Inspirational · #1402567
An inspirational story about how just saying a few kind words can change someone's life.
    About twenty years ago, in middle school, I had a friend named Charlie Young. Charlie and I were inseperable. No one ever recalled seeing us apart; he and I were constantly side-by-side, laughing at jokes and trading the contents of our sack lunches. We had identical class schedules. The teachers loved Charlie a little more than me, but that never created any conflict. He was one of those all-around good kids, and I guess you could say I was his sidekick.

    There was a girl in our seventh grade class who nobody liked. She came from the side of town where the parents wouldn't let their kids go after six in the evening. She had long, choppy dark hair that always looked unwashed, dull eyes, and sat in the back where she would stare blankly at the chalkboard. Everyone knew she had a horrible family, even though she never talked if she could help it. Her mother was a drug addict who didn't have any money whatsoever to care for her outcast daughter, and her father was an umemployed alchoholic. Every day she came to school, smelling of smoke and wearing the same clothes, and no one ever cared if she was sick, and if she dropped her books, no one helped her pick them up. She was a mystery to most of the pampered, adored seventh-graders who came from good families. Charlie and I never gave her a second glance. Her name was Evelynn.

    One day, just a few months into the school year, Charlie and I were on our way to the cafeteria along with most of the other students, when Charlie realized he forgot his lunch.

    "I'll wait for you," I said loyally, and Charlie rushed back down the brightly lit hall toward his locker. As I watched, a little impatient, he stopped abruptly, and someone stepped out in front of him.

    It was Evelynn. The first thing I noticed about her downtrodden figure were two puffy red eyes; she had been crying. Charlie took an automatic step back, and it was then that I knew something wasn't right. Evelynn was holding something in her hand. I strained my eyes to see. It was a gun.

    Instantly, something freezing cold crept through my body and paralyzed me. My stomach plummetted and my feet felt like they had been fused to the floor. I didn't dare yell for a teacher in case she saw me from the other end of the hall and turned the gun on me. I wanted badly to scream at Charlie to run, but I couldn't.

    Even though I was fifty yards away, I could hear what Charlie said. He spoke only one word.


    Her hand began to tremble violently and her eyes bulged. She raised the gun higher.

    Then Charlie tackled her and they both fell to the ground, the gun skidding away on the tile. She flailed madly and her frustrated screams echoed across the hall; she bit and scratched and kicked Charlie as hard as she could, but he continued to restrain her.

    I sprang into action. "MR. STEVENS!" I bellowed, calling the name of my Geography teacher whose classroom was the closest. "MR. STEVENS! HELP! EVELYNN HAS A GUN!"

    Several teachers burst out into the hallway at once. Mr. Stevens grabbed the gun on the ground, away from Evelynn's outstretched hand, and immedietly unloaded it. He threw ten shiny bullets to the ground. Mrs. Blackwell, who was the math teacher, and a muscular custodian who had been nearby pulled an injured Charlie off Evelynn, who shrieked and scrunched herself into a ball. A few seconds later, or so it seemed, the principal and a police officer were running down the hallway. They pushed through the crowd of students and staff that had gathered and took Evelynn away. No one was sure exactly where she went. Charlie was driven to a hospital, where he was treated for a lot of deep scratches on his arm where Evelynn had gouged him, and a sprained ankle. I was held in the vice-principal's office for the remainder of the day to tell the story of what happened several times, over and over.

    Charlie was a hero. When he missed school the next day, I was asked to repeat the scene dozens of times to a crowd of watchers, who listened intently to my ramblings. I tried to tell it as truthfully as I could. Charlie had been so amazingly brave that it was hard not to embellish the story a bit. I had been so afraid for my best friend's life that I was now filled with resentment toward the girl who had tried to take him away from me. The day Charlie came back to school, he was greeted by thunderous yells of, "Thanks, Charlie!" and a flood of get well cards and pats on the back. He was very humble about the whole thing; he never tried to make himself sound like a big hero or said an unkind word about Evelynn.

    Evelynn came back to school our freshman year. No one knew why the superintendent let her back in, and for a few days the incident with the gun was a fresh topic again. On her second day back, in English class, the teacher told us that we were doing a special activity. He went up to the chalkboard and wrote, "Evelynn is..." Then he asked each student, one by on, to write a word or two that described the dangerous act of violence she had committed in seventh grade.

    There was not one kind word written on that board. The list contained, "selfish," "ugly," "stupid," "uncaring," and even "a bitch." Each time someone new went up to the board, the class cheered and shouted out suggestions. Evelynn buried her head in her arms. When it was my turn, I wrote, "unfriendly." All the better words had been taken.

    Charlie was the very last one, having the last name of Young. The class roared with hoots and cheers. Charlie hardly reacted. I remember him turning his back when he reached the board. The anticipation in the air was tangible as the class waited to see what the hero would write.

    He put the chalk down, turned, and briskly returned to his seat.

    The list of nasty words was unchanged, except the very beginning. Instead if the top saying, "Evelynn is..." it now read, "Evelynn isn't..."

    You could hear a pin drop in the classroom. I was stunned. Everyone's eyes were fixed on Charlie, my best friend. How could the boy who had saved the school from a shooting suddenly take the shooter's side? I remember feeling betrayed and hurt. I had been there, I had seen her raise the gun and prepare to pull the trigger...

    A few days after that incident, Evelynn moved away. "Good Riddance Bitch," was written on her locker in black marker. Several years passed, and Charlie and I forgot her and became best friends again. I think I knew, deep down, that he would never have written anything bad on that list. He wasn't that type of person.

    We graduated from high school together, were roommates in college, and got married in the same year. Our wives had babies in the same month. Our children were best friends just as we had been, and my family was always welcome at the Young's for a Saturday barbecue.

    One afternoon while I was at work as a local baseball coach, Charlie called me. He was a psychiatrist who worked in a large office in the city, and he began to tell me about a young woman who had come into the office that day.

    He told me that she had made an appointment and asked tentatively if he would listen to her troubles. She confessed that she was at the end of her rope. She was a drug addict, had been released from prison six months before on felony charges, she had no job, no family, and she was considering suicide. He asked her more about her past, and she willingly told him about the incident in middle school when she had planned to kill everyone who had made her life a living hell, and been stopped by a boy she hardly knew. She remembered going back to school in nineth grade and being so cruelly insulted that she went home and tried to kill herself, except she couldn't because the boy's face kept swimming into her mind.

    "Evelynn," Charlie then said to the distraught woman, who had chosen before to remain anonymous. She began to wail openly. "My name is Charlie Young. In seventh grade, you tried to shoot me. I forgave you a long time ago. Now, you need to forgive yourself."

    Evelynn became Charlie's regular patient. She came into the office every other day and confessed everything to him. He was never judgemental, but he helped her to realize that she was a human being and needed to respect herself. Through painstaking effort, Charlie turned her life around. Over time, Evelynn's self esteem rose. She quit her drug habit. She cut her hair, got a job and an apartment, and became Charlie's good friend. A few years later she started speaking to middle schoolers about violence and drugs, and she would later become famous throughout the nation.

    It is amazing how such a few simple words can heal a broken spirit. Even now it's hard to believe that Evelynn was the deprived, lonely little girl who smiled only when she imagined death. Somehow Charlie saw through her ratty clothes and smoke scent. He saw the shattered soul that was inside her, and by reaching out a hand and saying a few words of forgiveness, Evelynn was able to abandon her past and was taught that no matter what, there is always someone who is willing to open their hearts instead of run away.
© Copyright 2008 Erin-bo-baron (cupcakesgorawr at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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