AN: I wrote this in the sixth grade, four years ago. It was my first short story, and really corny, but it means a lot to me. Please r/r! I know its corny but bear with me! I have a sequel too and will post if I find it.

Bruce: The Finding of a Friendship

I learned to love the cave. I used it as a place to get away. My parents didn't understand. Being taller than everyone in the ninth grade with long, straight, dark brown hair and green catlike eyes, I suppose I was attractive, in a lanky sort of way. But I had no friends in the world. Well, I had my cat, but that was it. Looking back, I realize that it was my own fault. I never opened up to people, I was shy and afraid of rejection. No one knew how I felt. But that was about to change.

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"Brrriinngg!" the alarm rang in my ear.

"Mrowr!" the cat cried in surprise. She sprang onto the table, and batted the clock to the floor. It stopped ringing. Forever, I hoped.

"Come here, Birdy," I said. She jumped up on the bed, purring. I petted her for a while. I was startled when I heard my mother calling, "Katherine! You'll miss your bus!".

"Coming, mother!" I called back, grumbling at having to get up so early. I got dressed, then looked over at Birdy. She was climbing onto my dresser. She gently lifted the book I was reading at the time with her teeth, daintily jumped down from the dresser, and placed the book at my feet.

"Thanks, sweetie," I said bending down to get it. But Birdy pulled it away from me with her paw.

"Mrowr?" she asked.

"Oh, okay," I said heavily, knowing what she wanted. I opened up my backpack. "Go ahead," I said. Once Birdy was safely inside, I zipped it up. "Sometimes I think that cat is too smart for her own good," I muttered.

"Mrowr!" Birdy replied, offended.

Dashing downstairs with Birdy bouncing along, I grabbed money for lunch. "There you are, Kat. I've been wondering what kept you," my mother said. "Have some breakfast."

"Okay." I said. I ate my cereal in silence.

"By the way, where's Birdy? I haven't seen her since last night," Mom said.

"Oh, um, she's still in my room sleeping," I said nervously. There was no way my mom would even think of thinking of letting me bring the cat to school. I had to get out of there. "Bye, Mom, gotta go!" I cried grabbing my backpack and running outside.

"But you haven't finished breakfast!" my mom exclaimed from inside. I slammed the door.

Going to the back of the half-empty bus, people stared. Okay, I thought. So I'm six foot three. What I'd give to be normal. I settled down, beginning to think about having friends, maybe even a boyfriend. Those thoughts turned to dreams.

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"Last stop! Everybody off!" A yell broke my sleep.

"What?" I said groggily.

"Miss, it's the last stop. You have to get off," the bus driver said. My mind snapped back to reality. I had gotten on the bus and fallen asleep. And had a wonderful dream. I had missed my stop. If I recall, this bus goes straight to the forest. It'll be a long walk back to the school, I thought. Oh, yeah. I can take the other bus. Duh. I began walking to the nearest stop across the road.

"Meoww!" a voice cried out.

"Birdy!" I said slapping my head. I opened my backpack to see if she was okay. She bounded out of the bag and began licking herself indignantly and giving me an annoyed glance from time to time. Suddenly, she rose her head stiffly and her ears perked up. She turned and ran toward the forest. I followed her in annoyance, calling her name. At the edge of the forest she stopped.

"Where do you want to go?" I asked her. Quietly, she walked into the forest, and I followed her with interest. We walked for quite some time. We stopped at some bushes.

"Rrorr," Birdy whined, shrinking away from the bushes.

"What? Do you smell something?" I asked. Only one way to find out, I thought. I picked Birdy up and pushed my way through the bushes.

A cave! I looked around in wonder. "Wow!" someone said.

I stiffened. "Who said that?" I asked, surprised. No one else was there, right?

"Oops," said the voice, in a whisper now.

"Birdy?" I asked, "was that you?"

"Um, yes. I mean no. I mean meow!" the small voice replied, scared.

I laughed. "Don't worry. I always knew you were smart." I said. I was a little surprised, after all, cat's aren't supposed to talk. But then again, Birdy had always been strange, even as a kitten.

"I wish I had a flashlight so we could explore," I said.

"You do," Birdy replied. "You accidentally brought your camping bag." I looked over my shoulder. She was right.

Huh, I mused. That's strange. It's as if something wanted me to find this cave. Things just keep falling into place. I abruptly stopped my train of thought and opened the bag. I began rooting through it, found my flashlight and flicked it on. "Birdy, will you walk?" I asked. In response, she and jumped down from my shoulder where she had been perched.

Shining the light on the walls, I walked in further with Birdy at my side. We walked and walked, leaving a trail of fishing wire behind to find the way out again. When we came to a dead end, I sat down.

"Wow. I bet no one knows about this place," I said.

"I do," said a new voice, deep and obviously male, but gentle and soft.

"Okay. Who is it now?" I asked.

"I'm Bruce" he said.

"Im Kat," I replied, "And this is Birdy. What are you?" I asked.

"I am a bat," Bruce answered.

"It must be nice," I sighed.

"That really depends on how you look at things," Bruce said.

"It is quite nice to fly and live in a cave. But, if we bats ever go into the light of the outside world, people scream and try to kill us. I was almost ready to be on my own when my mother was trying to find food for the younger children. She was eaten.by a dog!" Bruce said sadly.

"You must be lonely. Kat, let's stay for a while. I like it here," Birdy said.

I thought about it for a few moments. "Okay. I like it here too." I stay in my room so often my parents won't even notice I'm gone. I know they don't care about me, I thought.

"Kat. Birdy. Go outside and get yourselves some food. There is a berry bush and a deserted camper. You might find something there. I have to get my own food," Bruce said.

"C'mon, Birdy. Let's get some food," I said, rising to my feet. Birdy stood and stretched herself fluidly. We followed the trail of fishing wire out of the cave.

I went to the deserted camper while Birdy went to put berries into my backpack. Bruce had gone off to find bugs somewhere. Success! I found a small refrigerator plugged into an electrical socket. It had plenty of food inside. It seemed to have been abandoned for long enough for about half of the food to go bad, but there were still plenty of less perishable foods.

There was no way I could push the fridge back to the cave. Besides, caves don't have electricity! I ran to the bush where Birdy was pulling off berries with her claws. "Birdy. I'm going to need my bag."

I told her about the fridge. "Okay," she said. "Give me your sweatshirt. Dump the berries in it." I did as she said. "Okay, tie the arms in a knot. After I bring this back to the cave, I'll dig some holes to put the food in. Just get food, ice, and a few big rocks." I gave her the berry-filled sweatshirt. She walked to the cave with it dangling from her teeth, and I made my way back to the camper.

"Whew!" I exclaimed, dropping down my finds. I had brought back small pots, utensils, ice, food, firewood, rocks , and a box of matches. I showed them to Birdy. She pushed them into two deep holes she had dug. I helped. We covered the holes with ice and the rocks.

"A makeshift refrigerator," I said. "Great."

Just then, Bruce flew in. "Any luck?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied, flying to the ceiling of the cave and hanging from the stalactites.

I built a fire with the wood and matches. When finished my task, I sat against the wall of the cave contentedly. Birdy began grooming herself, removing the dirt she had gotten on her paws from digging the holes. "Bruce. Tell us about your life," I said. So he began.

"So to befriend others, you must respect yourself," Bruce finished.

As I fell asleep to the dim glow of the dying fire, Bruce's words echoed in my head. Befriend others... respect yourself.. "Bruce!" I said sitting up abruptly.

"Yes?" he replied, a little startled.

"Will you teach me?" I asked.

"What can I teach you?" he asked.

"Everything. Everything about life," I said.

"Yes," he said nodding as he clutched the ceiling of the cave. "We will begin tomorrow."

Content, I slept.

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"Take the mouse for example. A quiet and timid creature, yet humans are afraid of it," Bruce said. He was on my shoulder, since bats can't walk that well. Birdy was walking beside us. Bruce was doing as he had promised, teaching me of life.

"You and I both know what that feels like," I said.

"Yes. As a person, you must keep an open mind. If someone likes you, they too need a friend. Befriend the friendly." Bruce said. Somehow, strangely, I understood.

About two weeks later, Bruce told me; "It is time you learned how to hang."

"What do you mean?" I asked, confused.

"Like this," Bruce said. He fluttered up and grabbed the ceiling with his claws. "Just climb up the wall and hold onto the ceiling with your hands. Swing your feet up until they touch the ceiling. Then hold on only with your toes. Trust me, it will be safe. "

I nodded and began. Grabbing the ceiling, I switched to my toes. "Whoa!" I almost fell. Then I felt claws sprout from my toes. I wobbled a bit, but remained attached to the roof of the cave. "You're magic!" I exclaimed.

"Yes. Hush," Bruce said. "It will be safe."

This is pretty comfy, I thought, wrapping my arms around myself.

"Sleep," Bruce said. So I did.

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Day by day, strange things started happening. The claws remained. My legs, arms, and even face began to grow silky brown fur. My teeth grew sharper. Each day my bones rearranged. When I asked Bruce what was happening, all he would say was: "Practice your lessons and you will see." So I continued my lessons, trusting him. All I had to was wait.

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I looked up and saw the ground. I had slept "hanging" again. "Gmornig," I said. I had tried to say good morning, but my vocal chords seemed different. Maybe it was what Bruce was talking (or not talking) about.

"Bruce! Birdy!" I called.

"Yes?" Birdy asked sleepily. Her eyes went wide. She went to my backpack and pulled out a small mirror. She showed it to me. In the mirror was a bat. It took me a moment to realize that the bat was not Bruce; it was me.

Just then, Bruce awoke. "Are you happy Katherine?" he inquired.

"Yes!" I said ecstatically. "Let's fly!"

"One thing," Bruce said. With a flick of his wings, he flew to Birdy. He brushed her face with his wing, and she changed to bat like me, except taking much less time. I realized that my slow changes had been progressing as I learned more. Birdy had not needed to learn about life, but I had.

"We can go now, once I teach you two the basics of flying," Bruce said, proud of his work.

"Wow! This is great!" I said happily. We had been testing out our wings for at least seven hours straight, only stopping occasionally to catch a few bugs for energy.

"I love flying!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, me too," Birdy and Bruce said in unison.

"And we must go back to the cave now." Bruce continued. "We've spent much of the night flying. You can return to your bat form any time you like. Both of you. All you have to do is think of a bat. If you only need one part like wings, think of them. But the claws will never disappear on you Kat, because they were the marking point of the change in your view on life."

"That's okay. I'll think of a way to use them," I said, grateful for the ability to transform.

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I'll never forget that fateful day. I woke up to a howl. A wolf! I thought. Bruce was not in the cave.

"Birdy, stay here," I said. I grabbed a log to defend myself and ran the convoluted pathway which I knew so well out of the cave.

"Help!" cried a frightened voice.

"Bruce!" I cried, and ran to the sound.

I saw a wolf with Bruce in its jaws. The wolf was shaking its head madly, trying to kill my friend.

"Go!" I yelled, swinging the log at the wolf. It hit him in the back with a small sound and splintered on contact. Just my luck; the log had been rotten.

The wolf didn't flinch. He still held Bruce in his jaws, but was holding him loosely. Still, I had to find a way to get Bruce out of danger.

My powers! I thought. I focused on the wings, and giant ones sprouted from my shoulders. Menacingly, I waved them in the wolf's face, continuously slapping him. I scratched him in the eye, and he howled in pain, dropping Bruce on the ground and fleeing.

"Bruce! Are you all right?" I asked.

"No," he said. I saw a deep gash running down his side. His organs were exposed, and I could see them bleeding severely.

"I will not survive. Bury me by the cave. You have been a good pupil, and a true friend," he whispered.

He was still, and I cried.

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I followed his words. Birdy and I held a small private funeral. I wept, and Birdy and I reminisced about the little time we had spent with Bruce. He had affected me so much, and Birdy was the only one besides me who had known him. My life would be forever changed by his teachings to me, and I had lost him.

I planted irises above Bruce's grave. They were his favorites.

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It's been two months since it began. One of those I spent in the cave. My parents had worried about me. They had searched frantically for me, calling the police and organizing a search. It was touching how much they worried. I promised them never to run away again.

Bruce once said, "Open your heart to others," so I did. Now I have several kind, close friends, and a sweet boyfriend. They are all true friends, and they never let me down. They are the kind of friends that Bruce knew are so important to life.

Birdy and I still visit the cave. We plan to for as long as we can. We visit Bruce's grave, and I give him thanks for all that he has done for me.

As for Bruce, I still have hope because he said one more word before he died. And that was - "reincarnation."