It was an ordinary school year for possibly one of the least ordinary teenagers that I know of in the entire city of Richwood.

My name is Isaak, I'm fourteen, and I would soon find that my life would revolve around a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl and a fourteen-year-old Muslim foreign exchange student. Sure, they weren't the brightest or the smartest in the school, but at least they were friendly, unlike the Trowdy Boys.

They are the toughest, meanest, STUPIDEST teenagers I have ever seen in my life. The oldest of the three, Damien (I believe), got held back two grades - eighth grade and…actually, I'm not sure of the second time. I've never actually had a normal conversation with him. You see, I get bullied all the time by the Trowdy Boys, and boy, do they make my life a living -

Zack is the meanest, and he'll do anything to me. You guessed it: wedgies, stealing my lunch money, and even embarrassed me over and over again in front of the whole school. He's the middle child in the Trowdy family, so I can tell why he's always so grumpy. Damien, the oldest Trowdy Boy at 19 (he was the one that got held back) could get VERY ill-tempered if it comes to extreme cases, but overall is just as mean as both of his younger brothers. And finally, there's Eric: the youngest Trowdy Boy. He doesn't speak that much, but with just his devilish stare, it's enough to knock a wimpy kid like me out.

Anyway, now that's out of the way, I should probably tell you my story - the story of how a little kid like me was able to take down the wretched Trowdy Boys and learn how to grow up and mature along the way.

Rafiq arrived at Richwood High School around September, about a month after school was back in session. And a month after I officially entered the often terrifying and stressful world that is high school.

His full name was Rafiq al Qasim al Mustafa, but his American name goes by Rafiq Mostafa. Rafiq's not from the U.S.; he originally attended some American International school over in the United Arab Emirates, and had moved here because his family could not afford to live there any longer.

Anyway, when I saw him getting bullied a lot (and I mean A LOT) by the same Trowdy Boys that would often bully me, I decided to do something rash.

"Hey, back away from him!" I stepped in front of him with my arms wide, trying to protect Rafiq from the boys.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't Little Sour Lemon and his new Muslim friend!" Zack acknowledged both of us with a cold smile. "Come to play with us again? We were just about to teach this boy a lesson about leaving his stupid country!" Damien said devilishly.

"Hey, you can't do that! I'll report you to the office!" I tried to fight back. But there was no way I couldn't. And I would find out soon enough.

"No, we'll report YOU to the office!" Eric chimed in. I was confused by this, not necessarily because he rarely spoke near me, but what he meant by this.

Zack pushed me out of the way to get to Rafiq, then he and Damien grabbed our arms, with us struggling to free from their wrath. Then, he formed fists out of our pale hands and forced us to punch them, like how a villain forces the hero fighting him to 'quit hitting themselves' but was, to my opinion, quite the opposite.

When the treachery was all over and done, the Trowdy Boys looked badly beat up from our fists (but their influence). They lied about what happened and reported us to the office. I didn't really care about this otherwise alarming news. I ratted them out multiple times, and I've never received any punishment because of it, while the Trowdy Boys would just slug off to their biology class while Damien and Zack look at me with eyes that said "I'm going to kill you, squirt!"

Me and Rafiq looked at each other. The teachers were totally not going to fall for this old trick by the Trowdy Boys. I'd say that the worst punishment we could possible get out of the whole situation would be -


"WHAT!?" I cried out.

"Hey, calm down, dude!" This was the first time I had heard Rafiq talk since I met him that very day. "And why are we getting expelled!?" I asked the assistant principal of the school, Mr. Hall, the one who said 'Expulsion'. WE WERE FRICKING FRAMED! is what I wanted to say, but I held back, for obvious reasons.

"You're not getting expelled, so calm down!" Mr. Hall tried to assure me. If my parents found out that I got expelled from school, they'll never love or care for me ever again…

"Just think of it as a momentary suspension, until we can work out what exactly happened with you and the Trowdy brothers... "

"Seriously? I thought that you wouldn't give me a suspension, because I didn't do anything…"

"Keep quiet, Lemon!" Mr. Hall exclaimed at my sudden outburst. Just pointing out the situational irony in all this.

"I saw it, sir." a girl suddenly walked in and saw both Rafiq and I sitting in front of Mr. Hall. She gave a weak smile, and Rafiq tried to look all cool, but to no avail, so now he sat there, looking like a total nerd, in front of a pretty girl. Way to go!

"You saw what happened, Ms. North?" Mr. Hall asked the . I regained my consciousness upon his saying that. I'm not saying that I'm going crush crush crush crush crush on here, but anybody would be if they were dating her.

"I saw everything," she responded, 'Do you want me to tell you about it?"

Apparently, the girl's name is Vanessa North, and she is fifteen years old. She used to date one of the Trowdy Boys...wait, DATE!?

"Yeah, it's kinda a long story." she remarked. We, along with Rafiq, were sitting on a bench in the park. It was a Saturday, but that doesn't mean "It all began when me and Eric were at Auburn Middle School…"

I was going to ask her if that school had any resemblance to the famous university I always wanted to attend, but I shut my mouth and let her speak.

She had told me about how Eric "Baby Trowdy" Thorderson was actually a nice dude, and Vanessa obviously fell for him. They were in a healthy relationship, until the other Thordersons came to the school. All of a sudden, he became abusive to her, saying that "if she started hanging out with other boys" then she would have her "disemboweled". Okay, that's not what he actually said, but Vanessa believed that that would've been better than what he said.

I just sat there next to her, on the bench, patiently listening to her words, while Rafiq just looked at her, practically mesmerized by her beauty.

Then I found myself not being able to breath as much as I usually do. I turned my head to see that there was something unusual on my neck. I touched it and found that it was a bulge of skin, as if something was dug inside my body that was poking out of that region…

"Hey, are you okay, Isaak? That looks like you have…" Rafiq noticed my bulge and was now worried.

"Yeah, I'm fine. It should go away soon." But it wouldn't. But I didn't know that until it was too late.

I had lymphatic cancer.

The next day, I had found myself in the hospital, which sucks. Besides the Cancer Perks (special perks or gifts that only cancer kids get), being sick everyday, having to wait in agony until you die, no one remembering you a few months after you die - it's the worse. And now that I have cancer, I'm more different than the Trowdy Boys - more different than anyone - and they are just going to bully me anymore.

I told this to Vanessa and Rafiq, who were right next to me on my bed, to which they both replied in unison with:

"We need to take them down!" Rafiq blushed after saying this.

"But how? We got suspended," I asked my two friends.

"Actually, we ended up getting expelled…" Rafiq's words echoed in what was left of my head after the neck surgery.

"Expelled!? Then we need to expose these frauds once and for all!" I exclaimed. "And I know just how to do it!"

Once i was found NEC (no evidence of cancer; luckily, I had spotted the cancer almost as it was pre-cancer - it hadn't gotten a chance to multiply and spread out throughout my body), we met after school by the football field. We saw the Trowdy Boys on the opposite side of the field and the town citizens sitting in the bleachers to my right.

Vanessa, Rafiq and I were planning on playing the Trowdy Boys in a 3-on-3 football match, to see who gets to stay at the school. When I told the Trowdy Boys about the challenge, all three of them laughed and accepted the challenge.

"I'd be glad to show the whole town what a loser you are, Lemon!" Damien had told me then.

"Let's do this, team!" I said now.

Our team, the Starboys, and the "Trowdies" - their team - met at midfield, where the referee was doing the coin toss. I used one of my Cancer Perks in order to hold this specialized game.

I saw my family in the bleachers - wait, I never told you about my family? *facepalms* Sorry about that (I can't believe I forgot about that.

I have only one sister, and I live with her and my mom and dad. They're usually nice folks, unless they are strict with me and my sister, but they rarely get time to their themselves, and rarely go on honeymoons or vacations. Their real names are Louis Lemon and Sarah Wrangler - I got lucky and chose my dad's family surname. And my little brat of a sister, Paulina Lemon-Wrangler, is three years old. She secretly has a ton of toys hiding in her room, but I'm supposed to pretend not to know that, or else she'll "report me to the toy police!" Lately, I've been more respectful towards her, because I actually did love her, and I didn't know what I would do if she was never around. Things would be a lot quieter, that's for sure.

When we started the game, we got the ball first. However, we gave up an interception by Damien who ran it for a touchdown. Next play - we fumbled the ball, Zack picked it up and ran it for a touchdown. Following play - I threw the ball to Rafiq who caught it, then fumbled it, only to be picked up by Eric and ran for a touchdown.

The score was 24-0, Trowdy Boys, at the end of the first quarter. Why did I think we could beat them?

"Hey, you inspired me that day when you stood up to the Trowdy Boys!" Rafiq started talking to me. "You inspired me to stand up for something that is mentally OR physically abusing you. And I am still not giving up after what you did to inspire me. That's why I'm your friend. It doesn't matter where I'm originally from or what I believe in. So either you are still not giving up, or you didn't have as much courage as I originally thought."

Rafiq's words there have truly inspired me.

Vanessa and I switched positions. She was now the quarterback, and I was a receiver. And apparently, it worked. Either that or we were filled with some sort of inspirational energy.

I caught a touchdown. Rafiq caught a touchdown. We made a field goal. I made a fumble, recovered it, and made another touchdown. Rafiq made an interception, which we scored a touchdown (and two-point conversion) off of.

25-24. We were leading. 4th quarter. 5 seconds left. The Trowdies have the ball.

I kept on repeating to myself as the last play drew down even closer: I'm still not giving up. I'm still not giving up. I'm still not giving up.

"Hike!" Eric called out. Meanwhile, the fans in the stands cheering furiously, They have been throughout the entire game.

I ran at Damien. Eric threw the ball. Higher and higher. We both jumped into the air, our arms tangled up. The ball came closer and closer until…

Damien caught it. Game over.

Just kidding! I intercepted it! The fans were going CRAZY!

"WE WON!" Rafiq cried out. Vanessa was also cheering in excitement by what happened, then suddenly stopped, and kissed Rafiq on the cheek.

We did it. I had now officially began my journey through coming of age. I had stopped the Trowdy Boys from bullying the entire school, made nice friends, and learned that my friends and family, no matter how stupid or annoying they can be sometimes, mean the world to me.

But this isn't the end of me yet. I'm going to tell you a story soon about how I made it to college and how Rafiq and Vanessa got together. But that's for another time…