(A/N: This was supposed to be <300 words, but I really couldn’t find anything I wanted to take out. So here it is, in its full 892 word glory!)
All my life I’ve had little to nothing. Little clothing to wear, little food to eat, and few friends to do anything with. It’s the inescapable fate of poverty.
But one day everything changed. I was walking down the street, ignoring the many people who stared at me in disgust. It was a warm summer’s day, with the sun’s red glow just peeking its way over the distant mountains, determined to bring sunshine if it died trying. The half-light reflected off of the many tall buildings and wide roads, amplifying its effect and making it almost too bright to bear looking at directly.
I enjoyed watching the sunrise every day in a secret place known only to me. I made my way through the busy streets of town until I came across a hill, which I then scaled. At the apex of the climb I encountered a cliff face. I had come here many times and knew of a small grove of trees hidden from view.
I turned around and used my arms and legs to begin descending the cliff. Ordinarily a person’s feet would get many cuts and scratches, but my calluses were sufficient that this wasn’t necessary.
Reaching my destination, I then looked around for the rock I usually settled upon to gaze at the sunrise. This grove was on the side of the cliff and contained some trees, soft grass, and a stream trickling with clear water. I felt like it was made just for me.
But the issue was, I wasn’t the only person there that day.
“Woah!” I yelled as I noticed a young boy sitting on the very rock I had been searching for. He was wearing dark jeans and a black T-shirt, with fancy grey shoes. He looked around at me in surprise, and immediately I raised my fists, ready to fight to the death if I had to.
“Hold on a second!” he replied defensively, putting his hands up in a classic you’ve-got-me fashion.
“How did you find this place!?” I demanded of him, brandishing my dried knuckles at him once more. I felt violated; I felt angry at him for disturbing my secret place.
“I just happened across it while rock climbing!”
I glared at him for a moment longer, then lowered my fists and stood up straight, “Well, I’m glad that’s settled.”
He then glanced me up and down and said, “Why are you wearing a sheet?” His tone of voice seemed less than kind, and apparently he realized it, because immediately thereafter he began babbling apologies my way.
Deciding to let this one slide, “No, it’s fine. My family has been in poverty for the last six generations,” I smiled at him, and his face turned to one of relief. We stood in silence for a moment, then he stood up.
“I can help you with that,” he replied, standing up and extending his hand. “My name is Ben. I’m not exactly loaded with stuff that I can give you, but I can at least provide you a shower, some clothes to wear, and a decent meal. My mother is kind and I’m sure she’ll whip something out of her pocket.”
Impulsively I held back, eyeing him suspiciously. Guys had offered these kinds of things to me in the past and most of them ended up trying to take advantage of me. I had stopped taking offers for help a long time ago.
But something about Ben seemed almost… Comforting. He wasn’t being too forceful, and he was giving me the option of denying him my cooperation. I really felt like this time, at least, someone was telling the truth.
“I’m not so sure… I’ve had bad experiences with offers like this.”
Ben seemed to understand, “Yeah. This city is full of idiots.”
I pondered for a moment, then looked him in the face, “I’ll go with you. But keep in mind: I’m not going anywhere near to the inside of your house until I see your mother and talk to her.”
“Sure thing,” he smiled, taking my hand and shaking it. “What’s your name?”
“Well, Amanda: Nice to meet you!”
We began to climb out of the grove, with Ben going first and me following behind him. He was fairly skilled climber; Almost the same skill level as me. We got to the top, stood up, and Ben showed me the way to his house. And as he had promised, I saw and talked to his mother before receiving a hot shower (in which his mother had to show me how to turn on the water), clothes (which were VERY odd – I had never worn actual jeans before) and a hot meal.
Thanks to Ben and his family, I was able to get a job and raise money to support myself. I was able to go to school, starting off with kids much younger than me but quickly progressing to be one of the top students in my graduating class (and only two years older than them.)
Now Ben and I are married and have two kids, and I’ll forever be telling them stories of how he quite literally saved my life. Before that day I had never appreciated life more than I do now. I found something that I love, and I have no intention of ever letting it go again.