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2013 Contest Winner

How I Changed My Ways
Written By:   Mabel Parker, 11 years old, LA, California.

So there I was, silently reading under a tree, when I came up to her and grabbed the book she had been reading out of her hands.

"What are you doing?" she asked, scrambling to grab it back.

I held it higher. "What are you doing, Olive" I smirked.

She glared, and I grinned back at her.

"When I ask you what you’re doing, you tell me what you’re doing!" I snapped, hugging the book close.

She ran away in tears. I walked back to where I had been sitting all alone at a bench. I longingly watched groups of friends walk by, laughing and talking. This was how I spent my days back when I was a bully.

When I trudged through the door that day, Mom could tell something was up. "What’s wrong, Olive?" her eyes followed the tracks the tears had made on my face. A look of realization came to her face as she said, "It was Natalia, wasn’t it?" I nodded, before bursting into tears.

As Olive lay sobbing on the table, I had an idea. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Every day for months, Olive had come home in tears because of some girl named Natalia, and the only way I could think to stop the teasing was to visit an old friend of mine. It had to be done. Eleanor.

"Olive, honey, why don’t we take a walk? That would be nice, wouldn’t it?"

The poor girl lifted her head from the kitchen table and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Yeah, I guess so."

Mom and I walked around our usual route, until Mom turned a sharp right on the corner and walked briskly down a musty side street. I, with my short legs, struggled to catch up.

"Why are we going this way?" I asked, panting.

"To visit an old friend of mine", she said simply. She walked quickly and kept glancing behind her as if she was afraid someone was following her. We walked for some time until we came to a big white house that looked very fancy and out of place in this dark, dingy side street, but it also looked like nobody had live there in at least 20 years. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, my heart began to thud violently in my chest. "I don’t like it here. Let’s go home!" I said, franticly tugging at my mother’s sleeve.

"It’s ok. Come on," she said, half dragging me into the house. It was dark inside the house, even though it was the late afternoon outside. The only light in what seemed like a long corridor were candles with their flames flickering ominously. The door slammed behind us and the candles nearest to us went out. Out of the darkness appeared an orange-haired, middle aged woman with her pinned up in a sloppy bun and curly wisps of fly-away hair falling around her face. She wore a dark purple dress that fell all the way to her toes and a musty green shawl. She wore a lot of necklaces and even more beaded bangles and rings. She snapped her fingers, and dim lights throughout the house flickered on.

"Olive, meet Eleanor." My mother gestured to the strange woman.

"Hello, Olive!" She turned to my mom. "Why, Cleo, what brings you here? I haven’t seen you in ages!" Mom whispered something in her ear, and she nodded knowingly.

"Hmm… I see. Alright, then. It will be done." She nodded at me. "Olive, darling, why don’t you go amuse yourself in the sitting room? There’s a television in there. Your mother and I have some, er, catching up to do."

Eleanor hadn’t lied, there was a television in the sitting room, except that it looked as if an ornery child had put their foot in it about 5 years ago and cobwebs had started to form inside the hole in the screen. Instead of watching TV as Eleanor had suggested, I strained to hear what my mother and that strange women were "catching up on", but all I managed to hear was some hoarse whispers and the clang of a pot.

When, I slipped into bed that night, I told my mom the truth.

"I don’t want to go to school tomorrow," I admitted.

"Don’t worry about it! It will be fine in the morning," she said soothingly. "Good night, Olive."

"Good night."

"Good night, Natalia."

"Good night, Mom." As I slipped into sleep that night I had no idea that the dream that I was about to have would change my life forever.

I was sitting under a tree, and, oddly enough, I was reading! I hate to read! I thought, "Why am I reading?" I heard footsteps, and I looked up to see--me! It was me, staring down at me. Yes, staring down at me. I grabbed the book out of my hands and held it high above my head. I stood up to find that I was much shorter. Had I shrunk?

"What are you doing?" I asked, jumping to my feet.

"What are you doing, Olive?" My voice rang with high, cruel laughter.

Olive? Why was I calling me Olive? I gulped.

"When I ask you what you’re doing, you tell me what you’re doing!" I suddenly changed into a strange woman who wore lots of necklaces and a dirty green shawl. I woke up cold and clammy and didn’t go back to sleep for the rest of the night.

The next day at school, I didn’t have the heart to pick on anyone, and I even stood up for Olive! At first, Olive seemed confused by my sudden change of nature but after a while, we became close friends. I was happy to finally have a real friend.

I’ll never forget when I as a bully and the day I had that odd dream. I will never forget how I changed my ways.

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