Happiness | Teen Ink


February 25, 2015
By Isaiah17, Thornton, Colorado
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Isaiah17, Thornton, Colorado
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Author's note:

I used to suffer from anxiety, and depression. No one was really there to help me, and I had to get through it on my own. I used to think I was alone and i know how it feels to be alone. I just want people to know that they're not alone, and even if they feel like they can't handle it, there is a strength in everyone. 

Happiness, what does it mean? I pondered that question since the accident. What if

happiness is all a lie to ourselves so we can’t face the truth? What if there is no happiness? What

does it truly mean to be happy? It started out when I was young. I was a happy kid. Then

everything changed. My name is Liam Black and this is my story.

The bell rang just as my dad dropped me off at school. He hugged me goodbye as I rolled

my eyes. I got out of the truck and muttered a goodbye. I was wearing my favorite sweater, a

plain black hoodie. I looked around at the other kids. They were all laughing and having fun with

friends. My dad pulled away and waved goodbye. I put my hood over my head and continued

walking in the school and found a familiar face.

“Hey Liam,” Adrian said.

“Hey,” I muttered back to him.

“Why so down?” he asked.

“You know why, it’s the same every day,” I answered.

“You got to get over the depression man,” he said. I nodded but didn’t really care. I told

him I had to get to class and that I would see him at lunch. I walked to class when the principal

called me over the intercom. I sighed and changed my course to the principal’s office. I didn’t

know why he wanted me but I knew that it wasn’t good.

I opened the door and saw that my mom was in there as well. She looked at me

disappointed like. It was no surprise to me she always looks at me like that since the accident.

“Please sit down,” Principal Adams told me. I sat down and crossed my arms.

“Sit up straight,” my mom said sternly. I sighed and sat up. The principal started telling

me how my grades were bad and I didn’t comply with anyone or anything. I rolled my eyes.

“This is serious young man. If you don’t shape up you can be suspended or expelled,” he

“Then do it,” I shot back. I got up and stormed out. I heard my mom calling my name but

I didn’t care. As I walked out the 1st

walking through I heard the voice that I hated so much.

“Hey freak!” he shouted. It was Derrick Matthews, the most popular guy in school. I

hated him so much; he always picked on me. I turned slowly. I wasn’t in the mood. Everyone

circled us.

“I thought I told you to stay home today? Why are you here?” he snarled.

“I have to come to school moron. Otherwise I’ll be as dumb as you,” I shot back. He was


“You want to die today don’t you?” Adrian whispered behind me.

“You want to die today don’t you freak?” Derrick shouted. I turned and looked at Adrian.

“Wow you guys are like twins,” I said sarcastically.

“Shut up,” Adrian said.

“Freak! I’m talking to you,” Derrick yelled.

“Do it I don’t care. There’s nothing you can do to hurt me,”

“See you are a freak. My parents told me about your little accident when you were

younger. Such a shame it wasn’t you who died in that car crash since you want to die so much,”

he said. That comment did it. I saw red. I lunged at him but he threw me to the ground. I got up

and turned around. I saw a gigantic fist come at my face. He made impact and I fell to the ground

and blacked out. I woke up at home on my bed. My head hurt something fierce and I had a black

eye. I walked into the living room and saw my parents sitting and talking. They looked up and

saw me. My mom gave me a disgusted look and stormed into her room and shut the door. I sat

with my father and he talked to me.

“Your mother loves you. You just need to do better that’s all. We’re going to put you in

another school. Jefferson High. It’s a new start. Why did you fight him?”

“He said things about the accident. He said that it should’ve been me who died. The sad

part is, he was right. I screwed up,” I said.

“No you didn’t. I love you son. It is never your fault don’t forget that,” he said. He

hugged me and we stayed silent. I went to my room and laid down on my bed. It was a new start

tomorrow and I knew that it was all going to be the same. Little did I know it was the beginning

of a brand new change.

Jefferson High. A high school in the country where everyone knows everyone. Great. My

dad pulled up to the entrance and we saw a lot of kids outside. They all stared at me. My anxiety

kicked in. I started breathing fast. I looked at my dad with wide eyes. He understood.

“Take deep breaths son, everything is going to be ok. Here are your pills. Take one,” he

said. I nodded and hugged him goodbye. I took a deep breath swallowed the pill and opened the

door. Kids were still staring at me. I ignored them and put on my hood. I walked inside and saw

the familiar face again.

“Adrian?” I asked.

“Hey bro. What’s up?”

“Why are you here?” I asked

“I couldn’t let my best friend be at a new school alone. I transferred,”

“Cool. Well let’s get this over with.” I walked into the cafeteria and sat down in an empty

seat. They were having a pep rally of some sort. Adrian and I compared our classes while we

waited. We had all the same classes together so that was good. Just then we heard a whistle.

“Please welcome your Jefferson High Bobcats!!!!” a voice shouted. Pop music proceeded

to play, nothing I would listen to. Cheerleaders did cartwheels into the cafeteria. Football players

ran out and started cheering. Everyone was clapping and cheering. Then a boy stepped in. He

had a football jersey on and he looked like the quarterback. Everyone cheered when they saw

“Who’s that?” I asked Adrian.

“That’s Chad Brooks, the most popular boy in school,” he answered. He certainly looked

like the popular kid. He had the nice clothes, the looks, and the notoriety.

“Hey Jefferson High, how are you doing today?!” Chad shouted. Everyone cheered.

“Good, good. Well we know why we’re here today: Tonight is the first game of the

season. We play a tough team. But today we’re all here together. I know that we all have our

disagreements and we fight, but today we are all united as a family. To be honest my parents are

never around and I’m an only child. So you guys are as close to a family that I’ll ever have. So

let’s show them that our unity is strong and will never be broken!” Everyone cheered and started

stomping their feet. A girl ran up to Chad and kissed him. I assumed that was his girlfriend. She

was beautiful. He grabbed the air horn again.

“I also have another announcement,” Everyone stopped.

“I want to welcome a new edition to our family here. Liam Black! Come up here buddy

and introduce yourself,” he said. I froze. Everyone was looking at me. My anxiety started to kick

in. I started breathing rapidly and my eyes darted from face to face. I closed my eyes and took

three deep breaths. I opened them and I was up next to Chad. He patted me on the back and

handed me the air horn. I was speechless, but then I managed to blurt out:

“I’m Liam Black, and go Bobcats!” Everyone cheered and jumped up. I smiled weakly at

the crowd. Chad shook my hand. Then he whispered something to me that I will never forget.

“Welcome to the family.”

Once I got passed all the eager hand shakers in the hallway, I finally made it to my class.

Adrian was already sitting down. I picked the seat next to his. I was about to say something but

then a boy came up to me.

“You’re in my seat,” he said. I glanced at Adrian, he shrugged.

“I don’t see your name on it,” I replied. He got angry. He slammed his fists down on the

“I don’t think you know who I am. I’m the running back for the football team. So when I

say move, you move,” he growled. I laughed at him.

“Something funny freak?” That word got me. I felt anger rise up in me.

“Bryce!” Chad yelled, “Leave him alone.”

Bryce glared at Chad and then at me. He muttered something and moved to another desk. Chad

shook his head at Bryce and sat down in the seat next to me.

“Sorry I never got the chance to personally introduce myself. Chad Brooks,” he held out

his hand. I hesitated before I shook it. He smiled at me.

“So Liam, tell me about yourself,”

“Well ummm,”

“Ok class! Quiet down its time to work!” the teacher shouted.

“I’ll talk to you at lunch ok?” Chad said and turned around. I stared at the back of his

head. Why was he so interested to know me? Was it some trick to embarrass the new kid? Or

was he being genuinely nice? I had a lot of questions and not a lot of answers.

I grabbed my lunch tray and surveyed the lunchroom. Everyone was laughing and eating.

I didn’t see a sad person in sight. I sighed and put on my hood. I spotted Adrian and sat next to

him. He smiled and proceeded to eat. We usually were comfortable with silence while we ate.

Just then a tray plopped down beside me. It was Chad.

“Mind if I sit here?” he asked. I gave Adrian a look. He shook his head.

“It’ll be fine,” I whispered.

“Huh?” Chad asked.

“Uhh I said sure,” I answered. He gave me a puzzled look as he sat down. I stared down

at my food uneasy.

“Hold on before you say anything, my lovely girlfriend is going to sit with us. She is

eager to meet you too,” he said. He looked by the lunch line and saw her. He waved her over to

where we were at. She smiled and walked over to us. We waited patiently as she sat down. Chad

kissed her and smiled.

“How lucky am I to have this beautiful goddess as my girlfriend?” Chad asked. I looked

at both of them as they stared at each other. I didn’t know much, but I know true love when I see

it. They kissed one more time and then looked at me.

“Oh! I’m sorry where are my manners? Liam this is my gorgeous girlfriend Ashley.

Ashley this is Liam,”

“Hello,” she smiled and put out her hand. I shook it and smiled back at her. Chad


“You know, you’re supposed to say ‘Hi’ back,”

“I don’t know if you noticed but I am not like other kids. I have anxiety and I am

extremely shy,” I told him.

“I’m sorry I didn’t know that. You know I used to have anxiety and be really shy too. I

can help you overcome it if you want,” Chad said. I thought about it.

“Sure I guess. If you really think you can help,” I said. He smiled and nodded.

“Do you really think it’s a good idea?” Adrian asked.

“It’ll be fine,” I told him. Ashley and Chad exchanged a look. They looked back at me


“Are you all right?” Ashley asked me. I realized what they were thinking. I nodded

without saying anything. I got up quickly and grabbed my tray. I took off without looking back.

I watched as Liam took off in such a hurry. I looked back at Ashley.

“Who was he talking to?” she asked.

“No clue,” I responded. I thought to myself, “I’m going to help that kid.” I grabbed my

tray and got up.

“I got to run beautiful,” I said as I kissed Ashley. She smiled and hugged me goodbye. I

put my tray away and ran to the office.

“Hey Delores, you’re looking as lovely as ever,” I told the secretary.

“Oh Chad, aren’t you quite the charmer,” she giggled.

“Do you mind if I use the telephone?” I asked her.

“Chad. You know students aren’t allowed to use the telephone,”

“I know. It’s an emergency though. My mom comes back from Japan today and I just

wanted to call her and see if she wanted me to pick her up at the airport,” I pleaded. She gave me

a disapproving look.

“Fine, you have five minutes,” she said. I smiled at her appreciatively. I dialed my

mom’s number and it rang. She picked up on the 3rd


“Hi mom! I just wanted to see if you wanted me to pick you up from the airport after

school today,”

“No. Chad I’m on a plane to Germany right now for another business meeting. So you

just have to stay with your father,” she said. I felt as somebody punched me in my stomach.

“But you promised you would be home for Thanksgiving, plus Dad had to go to New

York for a business meeting,”

“Well I’m sorry. It looks like you’ll have to spend the day with Ashley. We can’t come

home right now. Chad I have to go, I’ll talk to you soon,” she hung up. I hung up the phone

solemnly. Delores looked at me curiously. I put on a quick smile and thanked her for letting me

use the phone. I hurried off and punched a locker. I breathed in a couple of times and cooled

down. I put on my smile that I’m always good at and walked to my class.


As the final bell rang I went to find Ashley. She was at her locker.

“Hey gorgeous,” I said and kissed her, “I talked to my mom. She’s not coming home for

Thanksgiving. Do you think I can go to your place again?”

“I’m sorry Chad, but we’re going to Aspen for Thanksgiving,” she said

“Oh ok. I guess I’ll just pick up an extra shift at my job,”

“Babe, you work at a grocery store. They’re not open on Thanksgiving.”

I got mad at myself for not realizing that. I just stared at the ground.

“Awww. Listen I’ll Skype you every night, so you won’t be alone,” she said putting her

arms around me. I nodded and kissed her.

“I’ll miss you,” I said.

“Me too,”

We held each other for a long time. Then I let go because I had to get to work. I kissed her

goodbye and then walked out. I went to my locker and got my work clothes. Then I walked to

the bathroom to put them on. As I opened the door I heard laughter and water bubbling. I looked

around the corner and saw two boys pushing the head of a freshman in the toilet.

“Hey! Leave him alone!” I shouted at them. They turned around and let him go. The

freshman was gasping for air.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t Chad Brooks. Loved you’re speech today. You really showed

us that you give crap speeches,” one of them sneered. I recognized one as Billy Pike, a senior.

The other was Evan Reed also a senior. The freshman was Albert Hoth. I knew what was going

to happen. We were going to fight. A lot of people don’t know that I am trained in karate, kung

fu, and boxing. I like to keep that a secret. I took a ready stance.

“If you don’t get out of here in the next five seconds we are going to hurt you badly,”

Billy said. Evan cracked his knuckles.

“I’m not going anywhere, unless Albert goes with me,” I told them. They chuckled. Evan

charged at me. His first mistake. I used his momentum against him and threw him into the wall.

Billy threw a punch at me. I dodged it and threw one back, it hit him in the jaw. I kicked Billy

aside and got Evan up. I punched him three times and then kneed him in the groin. Billy grabbed

me from behind. I head butted him with the back of my head and then pushed off of Evan. We

fell and I got up and kicked Billy in the head. I stood over them breathing heavily.

“You ever bully someone in my school again, it’s going to be worse than this,” I

threatened. I helped Albert up. He looked at me thankfully and we left the bathroom.

I checked my phone messages after school. I saw my dad’s text: hey buddy I have to

work late, so you’ll have to walk. I grimaced at the text and put my phone in my pocket. I walked

down the hall when I found Chad and another boy who was soaking wet. Chad said something to

him and the boy nodded and hugged him. Chad patted him on the back and the boy ran off. Chad

looked at me and smiled.

“Hey man, what’s up?” he asked.

“Uhh nothing. Hey do you know where the nearest bus station is?” I asked.

“Where are you headed?”


“Jeez that’s a far distance. I’ll give you a lift,”

“What? No. that’s ok I don’t want to waste your gas,”

“Come on. What did I tell you this morning? You’re family now,” he said patting me on

the back. I shrugged. I followed him to his car. It was a nice sedan. We piled in and drove off.

We were in silence for a few minutes.

“Quite the conversationalist, aren’t you?” he joked.

“Sorry... I just feel more comfortable in silence,”

“Well if I’m going to help you, you’re going to need to open up more,” he said. I sighed

and gave in.

“Fine. What do you want to know? I asked. He smiled.

“Why are you at our school?”

“I got expelled from Cornwallis High,”

“For what?”

“Well... I didn’t want to try in the school and some guy said some pretty mean things to

me and I got so mad that I lunged at him and I got expelled for fighting,” I told him.

“Oh...wow. Who was it?” Chad said.

“Derrick Matthews,” I said. The car skidded to a stop. Chad turned and looked at me. He

looked angry.

“What did he say to you?” he asked. I hesitated and looked at him. He looked concerned

and angry. Like he knows Derrick and how big of a jerk he is.

“Well he told me that I was a freak. He teased me because I talk to Adrian,” I said.

“Who’s Adrian?” he asked. I ignored him, my feelings took over me and I couldn’t stop.

“I didn’t know that was going to happen. How should I know that the truck was going to

smash into us? I was just playing around with him...I didn’t mean for his seatbelt to unbuckle

when the truck hit us. It’s all my fault,” I said with tears. Chad stayed silent. I looked at him and

I saw anger on his face and he was blinking back tears. I stared down at the floor.

“He told me that.... It should have been me who died in the accident. The worst part is

that he was right,” I told Chad.

“He was wrong,” Chad muttered. He put the car in drive and pressed the gas.

“Where are we going?” I asked. He didn’t say anything. I respected his silence. We drove

for about 20 minutes when we stopped in front of a house I didn’t recognize. He got out of the

car and motioned me to follow him. I got out and followed him to the front door. He knocked

loudly on the door. We waited for a minute and the door opened. I was surprised to see who it

“What do you wa---? Chad Brooks?” he asked. Then he looked at me, “Freak? What are

you doing with the freak Chad? Did you come back to see me kick his butt again?”

“Derrick I think you owe Liam an apology,” Chad said. Derrick looked at me puzzled.

He chuckled.

“You must be crazy Chad. I ain’t apologizing to no one,”

“Well you don’t have a choice Derrick. We’re not leaving until you apologize,” Chad

demanded. I looked at him; he looked stern and ready for a fight. His fists clenched. Derrick

must have seen it too; he looked at his fists and started grinning.

“Did Freak ever tell you about his accident?” Derrick told Chad, “His mom, dad, brother

and him were taking a little drive at night. Freak over here and his brother were hopped up on

sugar and messing with each other. Then Freaks mom told him to settle down. But you didn’t,

did you Freak?”

I froze up. How could he possibly know this story? I looked away and closed my eyes.

“That’s none of my business Derrick. Just apologize to Liam, before I get mad,” Chad

“I’m not done yet Brooks. Don’t interrupt. Any way Freak kept messing with his brother

after he was told to stop by his mom and his brother. It got out of hand and Freak unbuckled his

brother’s seatbelt,”

I covered my ears. Chad told Derrick to shut up, but he kept going. Tears were coming

down my face as I recalled the event.

“After he unbuckled his brother’s seatbelt, his mom yelled at him to stop. That’s when

the truck slammed into their car. Everyone survived except the freak’s brother. What was his

name? Oh yeah, Adrian. What about you Brooks? Hows Ashley doing? Does she miss me yet?

Are her bruises still ther--?” Derrick didn’t finish. Chad had enough. His fist impacted against

Derrick’s jaw. Derrick staggered back. He wiped the blood from his jaw and looked at it. He

smiled at the sight and looked at Chad. He lunged at Chad and tackled him on the front lawn.

Chad kicked him off and got up quickly. Derrick got up quickly and smiled menacingly at Chad.

They circled each other waiting for the other person to make the first move. Derrick decided to;

he ran at Chad with a punch. Chad was expecting it and used his momentum against him. Chad

grabbed his fist and twisted his arm, Derrick yelled in agony. Chad punched him in the face and

swept his leg. Derrick fell hard, he got back up.

“Wow, Brooks. You learned how to fight since the last time I saw you. Too bad Ashley

didn’t learn at the time we were dating. She could’ve defended herself. She just sat there and

cried as I hit her,” Derrick said. I looked at Chad expecting to see him angry and furious; instead

I saw determination and focus. Chad ran at Derrick. Not lunged, ran. Derrick threw a punch;

Chad dodged it easily and threw one right back. Derrick threw another; again dodged. Chad kept

dodging and threw punch after punch. This continued for another 2 minutes. Then all it took was

three simple moves and Derrick was out. I’ll never forget it, every time I think about it, it’s in

slow motion. Derrick threw his last punch; Chad deflected it and punched his jaw with his right

hand. Then again with his left, then he delivered a final uppercut to knock out Derrick Matthews.

I walked up to Derrick and kicked him in his ribs. I looked at Chad and smiled. It was my first

one in months.

It was silence as we were driving home. Chad was surprisingly quiet. I decided to speak

“So... what was all that about?” I asked. He sighed and gripped the wheel.

“When I was in middle school, Derrick used to date Ashley. We were all friends and I

had a crush on Ashley. Derrick was my best friend and I couldn’t do anything about it. Anyway

I found out that Ashley liked me back and that she had for a while. I was about to tell her that we

can’t be together because Derrick is my best friend. Then we kissed and it was amazing and it

felt right. Then she....,” he sighed, “she showed me her bruises, Derrick had been hitting her and

she was scared to tell anybody. That was the day we fell in love. Anyway I confronted Derrick,

we got into a fight and he got expelled to Cornwallis. Ashley and I have dated ever since,”

I stared at my shoes.

“I guess he got what he deserved huh?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess so,”

“Thanks Chad. For sticking up for me,” I told him. He looked at me and smiled. He

patted me on the back.

“You’re family now Liam. Don’t forget that,” he replied. He dropped me off at home and

then he sped off. I went inside. My mom and dad were waiting for me.

“Where have you been?!” my mom yelled, “We have been worried sick!”

“I’m fine mom; I was out with a friend. We hung out for a bit and he drove me home,” I

assured her. They both got quiet.

“You were with a friend?” my dad asked. I nodded my head.

“Oh honey I’m so proud of you! And on your first day too!” my mom cried as she

hugged me. I rolled my eyes. My dad smiled at me and patted me on the back.

“So who’s your new friend?” he asked.

“His name is Chad Brooks. He’s a pretty nice guy,” I told him. The doorbell rang. My

dad answered the door.

“Hey Liam, you dropped your phone in my car,” Chad said holding up my phone.

“Thanks,” I said reaching for the phone, “Mom, dad this is Chad Brooks. Chad, these are

my parents,”

“Nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Black,” Chad said, “You have a wonderful son.”

“Thank you very much Chad, you’re very polite,” Mom said, “Your parents must be


“Actually, they’re never really around. We were supposed to have Thanksgiving together,

but they decided work was more important,” He replied.

“Why don’t you have Thanksgiving with us?” my dad asked.

“I’d love to,” Chad replied.

I told Liam and his family goodbye and walked to my car. I started it up and drove away.

As I drove to my job all I could think about is Ashley. I had to call her. I dialed her number and

she answered on the second ring.

“Hey babe,” I said.

“Hi! What’s up?”

“I uhh..,” I sighed, “I saw Derrick today,”

“What happened?” she asked.

“Well... I found out that he was the reason Liam got expelled from his old school. He

called him a freak and made fun of his dead brother. So I drove Liam to his house so Derrick

could apologize. Then he started talking about you and asking if your bruises were still there.

Babe I couldn’t take it anymore so I hit him. We fought and I beat the crap out of him,”

“Baby, I’m sorry that happened. Thank you for sticking up for me. I love you so much.

He deserved every bit of it. Thank you for telling me,”

“You’re welcome. I love you too gorgeous. I met Liam’s family today. They’re really

nice. I’m spending Thanksgiving at their house,”

“That’s nice. I’m glad you have somewhere to go,”

“Babe, I got to go I just got to work. I’ll call you later ok? Be safe,”

“Ok. Bye babe,” she replied. I hung up the phone and parked the car outside. I put on my

work vest and walked into the grocery store. Work time again.

“Ahh Thanksgiving. A day of thanks and giving,” I told Liam when I arrived at his

“Thank you captain obvious,” Liam joked. I laughed and patted him on the back.

“How are you buddy?” I asked.

“I’m good. Better,” he said.

“That’s good man. I’m glad you are starting to be more optimistic,”


“Boys! Come and eat!” Liam’s mom shouted. We walked into the kitchen and sat down.

Liam’s mom went all out. She made turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn, green beans,

cranberry sauce, bread rolls, ham, and pumpkin pie. Everyone dug in and started eating.

“Mrs. Black,” I said, “Your food is awesome! It’s like God himself made this wonderful


“Thank you very much Chad. You’re so sweet,” she replied. We all laughed and shared

stories with each other. It was a great dinner.

“Mom, dad my anxiety pill is making me drowsy. I’m going to go take a nap,” Liam said.

They nodded their heads and gave him a hug.

“Well... I better get going,” I said to them after Liam left.

“Nonsense,” Mr. Black said, “Stay and have some pie. We don’t want you to go by


“Sure,” I said. Mrs. Black handed me a piece of pie and coffee. I thanked her and took a

bite, it was delicious.

“So Chad, Liam tells me that you want to help him with his anxiety,” Mrs. Black said

sitting down.

“Yeah. I used to have it when I was younger. In elementary school my aunt worked at

my school. I made friends and everything, but it always made me safe to know that my aunt was

there with me. Then my aunt moved to Oregon and I had to go to middle school. It was a new

experience and that meant new friends and a new start. It terrified me. Plus I didn’t have that safe

feeling because my aunt wasn’t there. Anyway I started to have panic attacks and I didn’t want

to go to school. My parents were never around so I couldn’t get the help I needed. So one day I

looked in the mirror and I saw a kid who I didn’t recognize. I didn’t like who I saw and I knew

that wasn’t the real me. So I said to myself: I’m stronger than this, I am going to get through this

for me. So I started facing my fears, I started talking to new people. I made new friends I joined

clubs and sports. Then I met the love of my life. Her name is Ashley and she is just amazing.

She’s in Aspen with her parents right now, but she helped me a lot with my anxiety. You know I

wake up in the morning and the first thing that comes through my mind is her. I love everything

about her. I couldn’t live without her,”

“Wow. That’s an amazing story,” Mr. Black said, “I’m glad you overcame it and you

want to help our son,”

“The way I see it, he’s family now,” I said to them. They smiled and gave me a hug.

The next few months were the best months of my life. Chad, Ashley, and I became the

best of friends. Chad taught me how to focus on the more positive outlooks in life. I became

better. My grades were amazing. I joined the debate club and people didn’t treat me like I was

invisible anymore. I don’t talk to Adrian anymore either. He faded away. Life was good. I was

Happy. I never thought I would say that.

But like life always is, what goes up must come down. I would never forget March 5,

2013. It started out as any other day. My dad dropped me off at school and I went to the place

Chad, Ashley, and I always hung out. It was the cafeteria. I went to say hi and I saw that Chad

was holding Ashley and she was crying.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Derrick showed up at Ashley’s house last night and she slapped him. He got mad and

said that she’ll pay for what she did,” Chad replied. I got angry. I put my hand on Ashley’s


“He’s not going to do anything. Chad will make sure of that ok?” She sniffed and


“We better get to class,” she said. She gave Chad a kiss goodbye and gave me a hug.

“So are you getting better at your kicks?” Chad asked me. He was teaching me kung fu

also. He said that it helps a person focus.

“Yeah, I think I’ll almost be as good as you soon,” I told him. He chuckled and patted me

on the back. We both walked to our class.

It felt like forever in our 1st

answer a question when we heard a loud pop. Everyone was puzzled. We heard two more follow.

The alarm went on. Mr. Edwards, Ashley’s first period teacher came into the room clutching his

shoulder. Blood was oozing out of his shoulder.

“What happened?” Chad asked him.

“A kid with a gun came into our classroom. He asked where Ashley Banks was. I told

him that I couldn’t tell him and he shot me,” Mr. Edwards said. Chad looked at me frantically.

“I got to go,” Chad said to him.

period class. Everyone was bored. Chad raised his hand to

“Chad stop!” I yelled. It was too late he was already out the door.

Got to find her. Got to find her. I kept thinking to myself as I pushed passed terrified

kids. One kid was lying down with a wound in his leg. Tears were streaming down his face. I

knelt beside him.

“Are you ok?” I asked him. He shook his head. I took his hand away from the bullet hole

and examined it. The bullet had gone through.

“It’s going to be ok,” I assured him, “The bullet went through,”

“L-l-lucky m-m-e,” he stammered. Glad to see his sense of humor was intact. I smiled

weakly at him and helped him up. I carried him outside and put him on the grass.

“Call 911!” I shouted to a nearby student. I ran inside to look for Ashley. My eyes darted

from face to face trying to find her. I spotted one of Ashley’s friends.

“Beth! Have you seen Ashley?” I yelled to her.

“She went to the bathroom before the shooting happened,” she told me. I thanked her and

ran to the bathroom. I went to the nearest girl’s bathroom by her 1st

went around the corner cautiously. I saw a girl sitting on the ground. Her eyes were wide with

terror. I knew her as the girl I fell in love with.

“Ashley!” I sighed in relief, “Are you ok?” I ran to her. She pointed behind me in terror. I

looked behind me to see a figure pointing a pistol in my face. I put my hands up.

“Chad. I was wondering when you’d show up,” Derrick told me.

“Derrick. Just take it easy. It doesn’t have to be this way,” I told him.

“Yes it does. You humiliated me in front of this school. You humiliated me in front of

my neighborhood. You took the only girl I ever loved and made her hate me! So this is it,”

“Derrick don’t you see that you did all of this?” I told him, “You became the person you

are right now. You made yourself this way, but that’s the thing. You’re young. You have the

opportunity to change and be better. In the end, it’s your choices that make you,”

“It’s too late. There is no stopping this,” he said. He cocked the pistol and pointed it at

Ashley. I shook my head. I closed my eyes as he pulled the trigger. I heard the loud pop and saw

my life flash before my eyes as I drifted into darkness.

As we evacuated outside I didn’t see Chad or Ashley. I asked several students. They

hadn’t seen them. Then I saw Beth.

“Where are Chad and Ashley?” I asked. She told me they were in the bathroom. Some

officers were outside evacuating people outside. I ran inside when some kid was arguing about

getting his friend. I went to the closest bathroom by Ashley’s first period classroom. I went in

cautiously. I saw a girl huddled over a boy’s body crying her eyes out. I went to her and saw that

it was Ashley. I looked at the boy on the ground and couldn’t believe it. It was the person that

helped me through everything. It was the boy who believed in me when I couldn’t believe in

myself. It was my best friend. My eyes teared up.

“What happened?” I asked Ashley through tears. She pointed behind me. I turned and

saw Derrick looking down in disbelief.

“I didn’t- I didn’t mean to shoot him. I was going to shoot Ashley and he jumped in front

of her. He was my friend and he was trying to stop me. I got mad and just pulled the trigger. I-I

am a monster,” he trembled. He looked at his hands. Then he looked up at me. His eyes had guilt

and regret all over them.

“I’m sorry Liam. For everything,” he said to me. Nothing could prepare me for what he

did next. He raised the gun to his head and smiled at me. I looked away and I covered Ashley’s

eyes. There was a loud pop.

The next few weeks were hard. After the cops found us in the bathroom everything

changed. Ashley and I had to go to therapy every day. The school wasn’t the same anymore. We

lost a leader, a protector, a brother, a friend. The memorial for Chad was sad. His parents were

there and they were devastated. Ashley couldn’t go; it was too much for her. My family went and

paid their respects. I looked at the crowd. It seemed like the whole town was there. When it was

time for people to speak a lot of people came forward.

“Hi, my name is Albert and Chad was an awesome guy. I never knew that I was

important to him. One day I was getting bullied in the bathroom at school and Chad stopped

them and helped me. I’ll never forget him,” Albert said.

“I’m Sophia. Chad was a great person. I remember this one time, my mom was sick and I

couldn’t afford to buy her medicine from the clinic. Chad found out and bought me 3 weeks’

worth of the medicine,” Sophia said. More and more people went and talked.

“Hey man! Long time no see,” Adrian said.

“What are you doing here?” I whispered.

“Dude it looks like I’m not totally out of your head,” Adrian said.

“Thank god you’re here bro. I really need you. I don’t think I can get through this alone,”

I told him.

“No you don’t Liam. You don’t need me. Look how far you’ve come without me. I know

how strong you are brother. Think about what Chad taught you. You have the ability to make

new friends and smile. To be Happy. Don’t you see that life and Happiness is based on your

choices? Everything you do impacts you in some way. Every choice you make impacts you as a

person. It molds who you are. I know who you are Liam. You are strong. You are brave. You are

Happy. You’re not alone man. You have mom and dad; they love you so much. You have your

community at school. You have Ashley. I’ll always be here bro, but you need to stop blaming

yourself and move forward,” Adrian said. I smiled at him through tears and patted him on the

“Goodbye bro. I love you,” I said. He smiled back and faded away. I walked up to the

podium and spoke.

“Hi everyone. I’m Liam Black. I just wanted to say a few things about Chad Brooks. I

arrived at Jefferson High in November. I transferred there because I was expelled from school.

When I was little my brother Adrian died in a car accident. After that I was depressed and I had

anxiety because he wasn’t there anymore. So I didn’t care about anyone or anything. Then I met

Chad. He introduced me to the whole school and welcomed me to his family. He believed in me

when I didn’t believe in myself. He taught me to overcome my depression and anxiety. He was

my best friend. He died saving a life and he was a hero. He never gave up on anybody. He was

the example of greatness. He taught me to be Happy. I always asked myself what it means to be

happy. Well that’s the thing. Happiness isn’t about that job you’re going to get, or the car, or

even the person that you love. Happiness is a choice; it’s a mood like if you are tired, or hungry.

We are who we choose to be. Happiness is inside all of us, we choose whether or not we want to

let it out. There is always a silver lining. Goodbye, Chad. You may be gone but you are not


Everyone cheered and wiped their tears. My parents ran and gave me a hug. A lot of

people hugged me and shook my hand. Then I saw her. Ashley. She was standing in the doorway

with puffy eyes and a smile on her face. I ran and gave her a big hug. We held each other for a


“You’re not alone. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere,” I said wiping her tears.

“I know. Thank you Liam. You’ve grown into a great person, “she said.

“I learned from the best,” I smiled at her. She smiled back and kissed me on the cheek.

The feeling came back again. The feeling I’ve had all along. Happiness.

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