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icon 17.06.2013 icon 0x icon 1547x
"Come on Melody! Hit it out the park!" My best friend Elizabeth shouted at me. I was caught up in the sweet spring breeze and the sun beating down. Baseball was my first love, and everyone's favorite recess activity. I swung my bat and heard that sweet crack as I sprinted around the bases. Safely on third base, I looked up to see Lizzie giving me two thumbs up. That's when I noticed him.
He was just a small scrawny kid with messy brown hair. He was hiding behind a tree, quietly observing our childhood rivalry. The playground had become our arena. Baseball was our battle and we were warriors. I watched him sit down in a swing before I became entranced in the game again. I focused back in at the batter on home-plate just as the bell rang to come back inside.
As we all sat back down at our desks inside, I saw the boy from the playground standing awkwardly at the front of the room. That's when it hit me. I watched my classmates as they all drew the same conclusion I did. We had a new kid, a new specimen. I'd never heard anyone more tentative than this boy as he whispered, "Hi. My name is James Alexander Bake, and I just moved in from Austin, Texas."
I thought about what Texas must be like. A lot different from Missouri, I decided. I wondered about this new kid. Would he fit in with my friends? The next few days my whole class watched in anticipation, waiting to see where he'd fit in. As I saw Alex struggle in class, though, I knew sports would be his only savior. We all waited for PE Thursday, and when it finally came, I prayed Alex had something special. But as the hour wore on, it grew more and more painful to watch him struggle. As we all discovered he had no coordination, I knew that Alex couldn't fit in here. In 6th grade, because of the arrival of one kid, my world turned upside down.
I knew what bullying was. . . sort of. I'd seen the videos, been give the talks. But I'd never seen it in action. I'd never expected to either. I was 12, after all, and I knew everything. I'd seen it all, done it all. And then, the first insult was flung.
It was a beautiful spring day. There were just a few more weeks until school was out for the summer, and you could feel the excitement in the air. Me and Alex were playing on the swing set when Rider and Jazmine walked up.
"Hey guys!" I said. "You wanna play with us?"
"Now WHY would we wanna do that?" Rider snapped back. He looked straight at Alex and said, "You're good for nothing. And stupid. I bet your parents don't even like you. Now give me your swing." He tossed a few more words in Alex's face. I'd never heard such ugly words.
Alex and I got off the swing. I saw him try to shrug it off, but I knew he was affected. Poor Alexander. He struggled not only with school, but also the kids in it. Everything directed at Alex was bittersweet. Like vanilla. It smelled pretty, but was deceivingly disgusting. Even compliments showered on Alex were dripping with so much sarcasm they were truly meant as insults.
I could never stoop to the level of those kids, though. I was nice to Alexander. No matter what it meant for me. I took the insults upon me and restrained myself from tossing them back. I became the batter hitting the balls back before they could reach the catcher.
For some kids, all they wanted was a new toy. For Alexander, all he wanted was a friend. So I stood by him. I tutored him to help his grades and I defended him from the confidence crushing gorillas the boys in our class had grown in to.
High school had finally arrived, and while some people were thriving at the top of the social food chain, Alexander was fighting for scraps at the bottom. No one ever picked him for their team or wanted to be lab partners with him. With our differing schedules I knew I couldn't help him much anymore. I would still sit with him at lunch and walk to class with him. As I heard insults shouted down the hallways, it saddened me to realize we had grown but not matured.
I tried to take Alex under my wings, but by then I had fallen, and with one broken wing and barely enough strength to pick myself back up, it hurt to realize poor Alexander would have to do it alone.
My family was going through a rough patch. Mom and Dad never really saw eye to eye anymore. It was all I could do to keep my grades up in the midst of the chaos.
As another winter turned into spring (like they always do), I struggled to keep my head above water. April 13, 2012 was the day I found out we were moving to another town. Now it was my turn to be "the new kid."
I slowly spiraled into despair, wondering what Alex would do without me. I cried big crocodile tears the day I told him. He sat there and comforted me the best he could. He assured me he'd be okay.
Months passed and I became settled in my new house and made new friends. Then one night, as I was going thought my 10th grade memorabilia, I found a not from Alex. It read:
Dear Melody,
Thank you so much for showing me what a friend should be. You didn't know me, and you still chose to be a saint. You'll have a beautiful pair of wings one day. You taught me so much about friendship and strength. You also taught me to be myself. And though you're moving, I'll keep you with me. You're an amazing person. Keep your head up and I will too.
-Alex

I wiped my tear-stained cheeks before they could crash down on the paper. I turned it all over in my mind. I realized bullying may harm, but friendship heals. He couldn't forget the things they said, but more than that, he couldn't forget the friend he had either. Alexander taught me the value of friendship. Though I've grown up and moved a few times, I will never forget one of the strongest people in my life. This is the story of me, Melody Kendall Lewis. The girl who changed a life.
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