All In This Together by Ayden Reece Thoma

1st place, Concordia Lutheran School
2017 Fiction Contest Winner (7th/8th Grade Division) 

 
I sat alone in my cramped room, time slowly ticking away as I wait for hope that will never be found. I hear the occasional cough from the room next to mine, for Anna, my sister, became sick four weeks ago, and it has only gotten worse and worse. My mother can’t afford medicine, much less a doctor. Poverty was something foreign to me. Wealthy nests had overwhelmed my life. My dad, Edward Hailden, made his fortune in construction. One night, he met another woman who he ran off with, divorcing my mother and leaving us with nothing. Who knew that one action could save the life of my sister and change me forever? My name is Jeremy Hailden, and the action of one girl saved my life.   
 
School, the only way to pass the time. When not in class, I am being bullied by Aaron and his cronies, Smash and Crash. “Hey, Peasant!” I hear a call after me as I exit B-Wing. I pick up the pace, hoping that they were guessing of my presence. “Yeah, you know I see you, Peasant!” I slowly turn around.    
 
“Look, I have nothing, what do you want from me?” I hope he’ll let me go, but I knowAaron, and he won’t let me go anywhere.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” She mumbles.    
 
“I starve everyday at school. I have not had lunch in a long time. Thank you.” I begin to scarf it all down, coming up for air every few bites.   
 
“Hey you should probably slow down, you’ll choke,” she exclaims as I finish the sandwich and go to work on my apple.   
 
“Sorry.” I say, just as the lunch bell rings.   
 
“Well,” Paige says cheerfully, “ I guess I’ll see you later. Bye!” She waves and walks off.    
 
The next day I see Paige at her booth again, but this time she has a line of people depositing money into the jar. I rush by again, and stay as unnoticeable as possible. I go on with my day like the last, unnoticed until lunch.     
 
When I walk into the lunchroom, I hear footsteps walking up to me. I expect it to be Paige, but I turn around to see Aaron!    
 
“Hey Jeremy,” He says, no hint of snarkiness or bitterness in his voice.    
 
“Not Peasant anymore, huh?” I ask, trying to sound brave.    
 
“No, and I never should have called you that. It was wrong,” he replies.    
 
“I’m not buying it.” I say, unable to believe his words.    
 
“Look,” he explains. “I have been beaten by my step-father countless times. I thought that I could toughen up if I let my anger out on the people around me. I learned that from him. When you told your story at lunch the other day, I realized that you have gone through much worse situations than I have, but you don’t show it, so I came here to say sorry. Will you forgive me?”
 
“Yes, I forgive you,” I reply. He nods and turns to leave.    
 
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot.” He tosses me a bag. “It’s my life savings. I also put my doctor’s business card in there. Use it to get your sister the medical attention that she needs.” I open the bag and count the money. $1,327! After school I go home, wondering what surprises will come the following days.    
 
At the end of the week, Paige comes up and hands me an envelope. “For you,” she says. “It’s about $3,000. I know it’s not much, but I hope it helps.”    
 
“Thank you,” I exclaim. She turns to leave. “Wait,” I call. She turns around. “Why did you do this?” I ask.    
 
Her answer is one that I will never forget my entire life. “Pretend there is a mountain of food on one side of a ravine. On the other side is a starving man. You are the starving man. This school and I are the bridge. We will do whatever it takes to get you to the other side. Remember, we are all in this together.”
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