Bully Buster
by: Ashley T.

“Danielle, you’re such a dork!” The classroom boomed with laughter. I felt my face flush red. It sounded like a full house at the comedy club. I scrambled back up to my feet and stooped over to gather my scattered books. I walked back to my table and sat down next to my best friend. He was the only one not laughing. As soon as I sat down, he took my hand and squeezed it.

 

“Don’t worry about it, Dani,” he whispered into my ear. Alex Young always knew how to make me feel better, even when everything seemed to be going absolutely wrong. I don’t know what I’d do without him. Although I didn’t feel like it, I managed to give him a tiny smile. People continued to snicker even after the teacher walked in.

 

“People! This is chemistry class, not Saturday Night Live,” he said, in his nasally dry voice. I saw a lot of people biting their lips to keep from laughing more. Mr. Newton adjusted his little round glasses and turned to the chalkboard. Then she turned around in my direction, and like a very mature seventeen year old, she stuck out her tongue. Her bright green eyes twinkled.

 

“Miss Black, pay attention!” Mr. Newton scolded. She quickly turned around in her seat, facing the teacher again. Gretchen Black: she was the cause of my fall. She was the cause of most of my “incidents” these days. I cringed. Alex tightened his grip on my hand.

 

“Dani, it’s ok… don’t pay attention to her. By the way, we have a quiz tomorrow,” he smiled. How did he know I was having a hard time focusing? I looked up at him and grinned.

 

“Thanks, Alex,” I whispered. He quickly let go of my hand and gave me his blue pen. I wrote “Chem. Quiz” on the top of my left hand.

 

Class seemed to drag, but I wasn’t entirely looking forward to it being over, either. I would have to face her. The bell rang. I gathered my books and headed out the door, with Alex close behind me. Gretchen was leaning on the lockers directly in front of me. She smiled a mocking smile.

 

“Hi, Danielle! Nice performance in class today. Too bad I wasn’t selling tickets… I think people would have paid big money to see that show.”

 

“Shut up, Gretchen!” I yelled. Her smile widened. “Go away.” Alex walked to my side.

 

“Gretchen–” Alex began, but she cut him off.

 

“Oh, what? Now you’ve got your boyfriend standing up to me?” Gretchen’s eyebrows pulled together.

 

“Gretchen!” I screeched, “He’s not my boyfriend!” I wanted to slap her. I thought middle schoolers teased about that sort of thing.

 

“Yeah, sure,” she was smiling again. I grimaced.

 

“Leave me alone, Gretchen,” I was almost to the point of shouting. She started laughing. She knew she had gotten to me. I scowled and stalked off to my locker. Alex was right behind me.

 

I fumbled with the dial on my locker. It took me a minute to get it open. I chunked in my books and grabbed my purse. Alex was staring at me with a concerned expression on his face.

 

“What?” I demanded. I was still fuming over the conversation I had with Witchen . He shrugged his shoulders, and we walked to the cafeteria. Gretchen already had her food, and she was sitting at a table not too far from where I was standing in line with Alex. She smiled at me and gestured towards Alex with her fork. Then she made a heart with her fingers. I glowered.

 

“What is it?” Alex asked.

 

“Nothing,” I grumbled, but he knew exactly who was bothering me. He looked over at Gretchen, who was laughing. We got our trays and headed to our table.

 

“Ok, Danielle, listen,” Alex began, opening our Cokes. “I’m tired of watching Gretchen get the best of you. You need to start standing up to her.” I started gnawing the rubber-like pizza on my plate. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to. I could feel his gaze burning a hole through me, but I didn’t look up.

 

“Dani, please?” he said quietly. I couldn’t help it. I looked up at him and stared into his blue eyes. They were full of such concern – concern for me. I sighed.

 

“Ok, fine,” I said, giving up, “but I’m going to need some help,” Standing up to Gretchen was not going to be easy for me to do, let alone trying to act calm whenever she did something mean to me.

 

“We can always pray about it,” he said, reassuring me.

 

“That sounds like a good idea,” I said quietly; but that thought was interrupted.

 

“Oops,” I heard Gretchen’s overly calm voice behind me. Then I saw my Vera Bradley purse hit the ground, sending everything sliding across the floor. My wallet, makeup, iPod, and my never-charged cell phone flew in every direction. It took me a minute to find it all.

 

“You missed this,” she said, smiling that evil smile, holding out my mascara. I snatched it from her hand and shoved it into my purse. I was about to yell at her, but this was my chance to try the impossible. Help me, Father ! I prayed to myself.

 

“Thanks,” I said as I nicely as I could – as if she were giving me a gift, “I didn’t realize I missed that.” She blinked.

 

“Huh?” she asked, obviously shocked by my response.

 

“Thanks,” I said slowly, “you know, for getting my mascara…”

 

“Oh… yeah…” That’s all she could say. She walked away quickly, put her tray up and left the room. I turned around to see what the expression on Alex’s face was. He was obviously as shocked as Gretchen was. I was a little miffed that, apparently, he didn’t have very much confidence in me. I guess I showed him.

 

“Breathe, Alex,” I joked. He stood up. He was smiling now – I started smiling, too. Then he threw his arms around me, and spun me around.

 

“Dani!” he seemed to be at a loss of words, “You… you did it!” he whispered in my ear. He put me down.

 

“That was just once, though, Alex.”

 

“What? Do you not think you can do it again?” he asked, laughing.

 

“Well… yes, but–” he cut me off.

 

“Don’t worry about it… you’ll be fine,” he said, putting his arm around my neck – something he had never done before. Butterflies filled my stomach.

 

“We’ll see.” I rolled my eyes, and we left the almost empty cafeteria.

 

Later that night, I fell asleep praying. God’s help and Alex’s encouragement were the only things that could get me through this. And I needed all the help I could get.

 

The next couple of days were rough. She tripped me up several more times. In Chemistry she “accidentally” spilled some kind of green concoction on my notes and clothes – it was harmless, but I thought the smell would clear the room. And in Art she found some way to get paint splatters on my canvas. Somehow, I kept a straight face, and I always was nice to her – no matter how badly she acted.

 

I was standing in line at the cafeteria with Alex. I was starving; it had been a long day. I thought even our school’s impossible-to-eat-food would satisfy me.

 

“Danielle?” I heard a small, sweet voice behind me. I whipped around to see who it was. To my great surprise, it was Gretchen. I tried to say something, but my voice only cracked and popped. I couldn’t get anything to come out. She smiled.

 

“Don’t worry… I’m not going to do anything,” Another popping sound came from my throat. Was Gretchen Black really talking to me – and actually being nice ? She smiled again. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but, uh, would you mind if I sat with you during lunch today?”

 

“Uh, sure,” I squeaked. What did she just ask? Did she just ask if she could sit with me during lunch? And did I just say… yes ?! Was I out of my mind?

 

“Thanks, Danielle!” Her face lit up, and she bounded off to the back of the line. I think my eye twitched, because Alex started chuckling to himself. We got our food, and we headed to our table.

 

“You know, Dani, I think I’ll go eat with Zach today, if you don’t mind,” he looked at me, waiting for my response. What, he was just going to abandon me, when I was about to have lunch with Gretchen Black ?

 

“Ok,” I said. That’s all I could manage to force out. He smiled.

 

“Good luck, Dani,” he bent down and kissed my cheek. I felt lightheaded, and I thought my knees were going to buckle under me.

 

“Thanks,” I whispered, and I tripped my way back to my seat. Gretchen joined me.

 

“I thought you said he’s not your boyfriend?” she giggled. I blushed involuntarily.

 

“He’s not,” I laughed. Not yet. Then we were quiet.

 

“Um, Danielle, I– I want to apologize.” I choked on the mouthful of pasta in my mouth.

 

“Wh – what?”

 

“I’m sorry I’ve been such a jerk… You and Alex are the only people that have ever been nice to me… and, and will you forgive me?” she pleaded. I think my brain popped. Then, all of a sudden, a wave of calm came over me. A Bible verse Alex had read to me came back to my mind – And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Eph. 4:32. I smiled.

 

“Of course I will, Gretchen.” I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. My voice sounded foreign to me. Here I was, just letting Gretchen off the hook for all the things she had done to me since elementary school. How was that possible? Her face beamed and, at that moment, everything was alright. I didn’t care about all the things she had done to me anymore. It was like they had never happened. She jumped up.

 

“Oh, thank you, Danielle! Thank you!” she gave me a huge hug, “I promise, I won’t ever bully you again.”

 

We left and headed to Chemistry class together, and then a thought hit me. I replayed her words in my mind. You and Alex are the only people that have ever been nice to me…

 

“Hey, Gretchen, you know… it’s Wednesday, and Alex and I go to a youth group on Wednesday nights… would you like to come with us?” I asked, while I watched her face, which was already like the sun, get even brighter.

 

“You want me to come with you?” She was ecstatic. “I would love to do that!”

 

“Great!” I said. Alex came and sat down, and Gretchen babbled to him our plans. He smiled. The bell rang, and the three of us walked out – against all odds but God’s – together.