Chapter I

"You sit there in your heartache,

Waiting on some beautiful boy to

To save you from your own ways.

You play forgiveness.

Watch it now, here he comes."

-When You Were Young


Have you ever been misjudged? Mistreated? The world had transformed into some empty, dark and endless void that you couldn't get out of, no matter how hard you tried. And maybe if you had tried, and you were almost to the surface, reaching all things light and heavenly, only to be pushed back down into the abyss.

I've been down there so many times, I've lost count.

There was always something wrong with me that everyone had to tease me about. I was small when I was young, or at least, smaller than others, and my nickname from first to fourth grade was Squirt. That's what Christopher Summers called me when everyone was playing a game of tag, or when we were paired up for finger-painting during art class. He used my height to push me down and away from others, those that didn't deserve my company. I was left alone, eating my animal crackers by myself until Chris flew in and stole those, too; but not before tugging on one of my dark-brown pigtails and cackling away.

I was in a terrible situation, you see, and soon after the small remarks, Chris and his whole fleet of older kids would shove and push me around like I was a ball they were all passing around. I'd come home with scabs on my knees and scratches on my palms, crying as my mom stuck bandages on them, always telling me day after day that I had to be strong; and no matter how hard I was pushed down I always had to get back up.

After about a year of this, my mom, seeing my battle wounds double, decided that it was time to make new friends. She took me to a dance studio, where nice girls the same age as me were dancing to beautiful music, and in my excitement, I learned how to dance too.

So I always got up from the ground and I always fought back, which of course, made Chris furious and with his fury came more teasing. After fourth grade, I grew so that I was a tiny bit taller than everyone else, and he had no reason to call me Squirt anymore. I was jubilant as he stood there, stuttering over things because he had nothing to say that would hurt my feelings. Of course, things changed. One day when the sixth graders were running a five-mile marathon, I never completed it.

That was the day that I discovered that I had asthma. I remember being shoved by Chris on the third mile, and when I fell, I never got back up. Chris, of course, was confused when he saw me laying there, trying to catch my breath that I just couldn't grab. Unbelievably, he came back and had asked, "Why aren't you fighting back, Bree?" He had cried for help when I couldn't, and I thought this would be the start of a teasing-free life. Of course, when I came in the next day with an inhaler in my pocket, he just sneered and laughed, and I knew, then and there, that it was only going to get a lot worse.

In seventh grade, I came to school with reading glasses and braces, and this made Chris laugh even more. Metal Mouth, Four Eyes; all of it was used. Of course, with me developing into a teenager, I bit back at him. I started to return remarks that just made him smirk and keep rolling with all the insults. It pushed me deeper into the dark and swallowed the happiness that I had, and the only person who could make me feel better was my mother and my dancing friend, Allison; a sandy blonde, hazel eyed jock who went to a different school entirely.

In this depression, poetry was my light. After writing and jotting them down, my dancing twisted into it, and soon a beat would entwine and make a song entirely. That was the year that I started singing, and I loved hearing my voice- as did my mother, who played the piano for me as I started to write new songs. Soon, she taught me how to play the piano myself, and she'd smile and make dinner as I wasted such precious time pounding on the keys and singing softly to my creation. It was my only escape from the boy that had flipped my world inside out, and I was softly swimming on the surface here, floating on my back and looking up at the sun from a dark, murky place.

In high school, my braces were taken off; all that was left were the glasses, the inhaler, and the rude remarks that chased after them. After seeing a poster in the hallways announcing a talent show, I was astounded and star struck by the fact that I could show people that I could actually do something that wouldn't cause people to laugh and point.

In my lime light I raced back home and to tell my mother my brilliant idea. She was proud, and smiled a crinkly-eyed smile as she wrung a towel over the kitchen sink, and I immediately ran upstairs to practice. I remember practicing in front of a mirror the night before the big day, staring back at my stormy gray eyes from behind my glasses- which I was going to take off for the performance- when I heard a loud boom. Looking down from my bedroom window, I could see a group of men holding guns, shooting at the house next to us.

In a hurry, I had ran downstairs, only to find my mother, strewn on the floor, unable to get up and fight back the shot that had missed and had aimed straight for her.

I remembered crying that night, and a part of me died; the part that had kept me standing. I watched as it collapsed in a heap of rubble. I remember looking out of the dark window at the red lights flashing ominously through tear-full eyes. Paramedics were strolling a stretcher out of the front door, and after they had piled the body into the ambulance, my grandfather had rushed into the house and welcomed me with open arms, telling me that everything was going to be okay.

It wasn't okay, though, because my happiness had been shot away with a single bullet, and nothing would make my life complete for a long time.

I walked into school the next day with a sickly feeling in my stomach and misery swimming in my eyes. I tried my best to look like every other day, but I just couldn't do it. Chris had bickered me about that, too. At the talent show, I had walked onto the stage, with my guitar that I had so willingly learned how to play in my hand, but I just couldn't make my fingers hit the right cords, and I couldn't make a word come out of my mouth. After a second or two of silence, after Chris and his posse had shouted insults and boos in my direction, I ran off the stage.

I remembered being stopped by the devil himself after school and he insulted me in my face. After hearing him announce the words, "So what are you going to do now, Four Eye: run home to your mommy?"

I did the only reasonable thing that could be done in a moment like this- I punched him in the face, giving him a big fat bruise. With a stern look, I growled, "Better check yourself, Summers, because my mother's dead."

I walked away with a stomp to my step and my hands curled into fists. I piled into my grandfather's car and looked back at Christopher Summers on the opposite side of the window, seeing him stand there, still, with shock spread on his face and a blankness in his blue eyes.

Serves him right, I had told myself, as the car had rolled away.

I am proud to say that I never saw Chris again after that day, because I moved to New York with my grandfather. I got caught in a web of music as my grandfather encouraged me to play, and I mastered it all. Slowly, light peered through dark holes, and my life was filled with non-pestering Christophers. My awkward stages passed me quickly and I had changed into someone else entirely: a soft, sweet girl with a strong step and a good handshake, and a heart of gold. What people didn't know was that I was always hiding the fact that something was wrong, and acting as if everything was okay.

I went to a performing arts school in Manhattan and was reunited with my friend, Allison, and after college I moved into a nice apartment near Rockefeller Center with her. We were stuck like glue after we came together, and she was the friend I never really enjoyed having in my childhood. We spent our time decorating our beautiful apartment and listening to music on the tiny portable radio she had put on the table, and to this day, I was still quite shocked to hear his voice come out of it, as if haunting me.

Allison had smiled and said, "Chris Summers is so dreamy. He's very popular in the music industries, you know."

I had screamed in my pillow that night in spite of myself.

After the apartment was all set up, with Allison's dancing equipment in her room and my musical instruments practically sprawled all over the house, she went away on a tour with a famous band as a backup dancer, and I was left alone to celebrate a new way of living.

There was a feeling of despair welling up inside me, and I couldn't help but think that Christopher Summers had followed me into New York City without him knowing it. I always pushed him out of my head as best as I could, but the idea that I could randomly run into him one day and suddenly be exposed to the harshness of his bullying was haunting me. I convinced myself that it couldn't happen. I wasn't going to be pushed down and brought to tears in any way, I had told myself, looking out the window at the sprawling city. I would create music, send it to a record company and take their breath away. I would grow up to be a successful musician. And I vowed, then and there, that nothing could go wrong.

And a little part of me knew I was lying.