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Taste of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III

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Taste of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III




  Backlist, LLC, a unit of

  Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC

  Cos Cob, CT

  We dedicate this book to

  all the teenagers who sent us

  their courageous stories

  and their heartfelt




  Experience Is a Teacher Julia Travis

  Why Rion Should Live Sarah Barnett

  My Best Friend Lisa Rothbard

  Healing With Love Cecil Wood

  Ghost Mother Michele Bender

  Terri Jackson Sydney Fox

  A Name in the Sand Elizabeth Stumbo

  Inner Sustenance Michelle Wallace Campanelli

  Center Stage Jane Denitz Smith

  Finding a Vision Talina Sessler-Barker

  Who Is Jack Canfield?

  Who Is Mark Victor Hansen?

  Who Is Kimberly Kirberger?



  The Faces of Our Youth

  Many older people seem to take an unmerited pride in the mere fact they are adults.

  When youth comes crashing in on them with

  enthusiasm and ideals, they put on their

  most patronizing smiles and send them out with what they call their blessings.

  But you and I know that they have not given their blessings but a cold shower.

  They pat the young man or young woman on the back and say:

  “You’re young. Enjoy your enthusiasm and your ideals while you can.

  For when you grow up and grow out into the world you’ll see how foolish your ideas actually were.”

  And, the trouble is, young people do grow up and grow away from their ideals.

  And that is one reason why the world into which they go gets better so slowly.

  Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  32nd President of The United States of America

  Experience Is a Teacher

  The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don’t know what to do.

  John Holt

  I was shaking when I heard the car pull into the driveway. I blamed it on the chill in my house, although most likely it was because of my uncontrollable nerves. When I opened the door, Becca was standing on my porch with a smile plastered on her face.

  “Hey,” she said. As she stepped inside the doorway, the guys behind her became visible. “Oh, ya,” she added. “This is Dan, Josh and Kevin.”

  “Hi,” I said, and they replied the same in unison. They looked kind of like deer in headlights, standing outside the door, hands jammed in pockets, mouths half-open. As Becca made her way into the house, the guys followed her, and I felt awkwardly lost, unsure of what to say. To avoid forced conversation, I took the opportunity to jot a note to my mom, explaining where I was going.

  Eventually, we made it out of the house, and I found myself in the back seat of a navy-blue truck, wedged between Josh and Kevin, two older guys from a different school. Becca was chattering away in the passenger seat, changing the radio station and singing along. My legs began to shake, a sure indicator of my nervousness, and I had to put my hands on my thighs to steady them. We soon reached the restaurant, and I was thankful for the chance to get out of the truck.

  Dan was toying with the miniature coffee creamers at the end of the table. “I don’t trust these,” he announced. “They’ve probably been sitting here since 1982.”

  At the opposite end of the table, next to Kevin, I ­giggled, probably for the eighth time since we’d sat down. I wanted to smack myself. Between my legs shaking and my ridiculous giggling, my immature nervous habits were driving me crazy, and I prayed that nobody else noticed.

  Suddenly, Becca stood up. “I have to call my mom. Dan, come with me.”

  “Um, I’ll come, too,” I said. Feeling the need to elaborate, I continued, “I have to call my mom, too.” I felt stupid following Becca and Dan out to the lobby, like a girl in elementary school who can’t go anywhere without her best friend.

  As we waited while Becca called her mom, Dan nudged me and said, “So, what do you think of Josh and Kevin?”

  “Josh is pretty cute,” I said, figuring that honesty was the best way to go.

  “Not Kevin?” Dan’s eyes sparkled, and I knew what Becca had been talking about when she said how wonderful he was.

  “No . . .” I looked out the window. “But don’t tell him that I said that.”

  “I won’t.” Of course he wouldn’t. What did I think this was, elementary school? I felt like a child in a world of adults, unsure how to act or what to say.

  “Josh thinks you’re really hot,” Dan continued.

  His statement immediately grabbed my attention. “Oh, really?” I was flattered.

  Becca hung up the phone and caught the end of our conversation, saying excitedly, “You have to sit by him when we go back to the table!”

  “No,” I protested. “That’ll look dumb.”

  “No it won’t,” she insisted, and Dan agreed.

  “Yeah, we’ll just move stuff around or whatever.” It was obvious that this was an argument I was not going to win.

  When we returned to the table and assumed our new seats, Josh didn’t say anything. I wondered if he had ­figured out our juvenile plan, and then I wondered if he even cared. But I quickly tried to brush the thoughts out of my head and proceeded to giggle at everything Dan said.

  Next we went to the movies. Without Becca next to me in the theater, I felt completely defenseless. I gripped my knees for support, angry at myself for being nervous. Why couldn’t I have more self-confidence and be as charming as other girls are? I leaned my head back against the headrest, watching Dan and Becca out of the corner of my eye. No contact yet, I noted. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, and it seemed like they took on a life of their own as they repetitiously roamed from my knees to my thighs and eventually gripped the edge of my purse.

  I felt a nudge on my right arm. I looked over at Dan and watched as he mouthed the words, “Make a move.” He then grinned at me and raised his eyebrows in Josh’s direction.

  “No!” I whispered emphatically.

  “Why not?” he replied with a kind of urgency.

  I half-shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know.” How could I explain to him the way my mind works? I could never “make a move” on anyone; I didn’t have the nerve. My fear of rejection was too intense. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Becca was leaning on Dan’s shoulder, and his hand was resting on her knee. I sank farther into my seat.

  On the way home from the movies, Becca asked Dan if he had a piece of paper. I knew immediately what she was doing and wanted to object, but couldn’t. When she handed me Josh’s number on a torn piece of paper, I ­didn’t even look at it. I just played with it between my fingers, bending the edges and running it along the folds of my jeans. Josh’s reaction to the piece of paper in his hand was similar.

  We pulled into my driveway, and I thought that I was finally safe at home as I said good-bye to everyone and sauntered up to my porch. But as I turned around to give a final wave good-bye, I found Josh standing on the lawn.

  “Hey,” he said, in a way only older guys can. “When are you going to be home tomorrow?”

  “Probably all day,” I managed and immediately thought of how dumb I sounded.

  “Okay, then. I’ll, um, call you around one.”

  I flashed a slight smile. “Okay. Bye!” I ste
pped inside my house, allowing myself to breathe only when I had closed the door and was safe inside.

  I washed my face, wondering if he would think that I was “really hot” without makeup. As I curled up in bed, the phrase “If only I had . . .” crossed my mind so many times that I became exhausted. But then I remembered that experience, even if awkward and uncomfortable, or in the form of a guy named Josh, is always a teacher. With that, I gradually fell asleep, knowing tomorrow was a new day, and I could rest assured there would be more lessons to learn.

  Julia Travis

  Why Rion Should Live

  Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.

  William James

  High school didn’t frighten me. Oh sure, the endless halls and hundreds of classrooms were overwhelming, but I took it in with all the pleasure of starting a new adventure. My freshman year was full of possibilities and new people. With a class of nearly two thousand newcomers, you just couldn’t go wrong. So I, still possessing the innocence of a child concealed in a touch of mascara and lipstick, set out to meet them all.

  Spanish One introduced me to Rion. By the student definition, he was a “freak:” the black jeans, the well-worn Metallica shirts, the wallet chains, the works. But his unique personality and family troubles drew me to him. Not a crush, more of a curiosity. He was fun to talk to, and where interrupted whispering sessions left off, hours of phone conversations picked up.

  During one of these evening conversations, “it,” as we like to address the incident, unfolded. We were ­discussing the spectacular height of Ms. Canaple’s over-styled bangs when I heard Rion’s dad yelling in the background. “Hold on,” Rion muttered before a question could be asked. I could tell that he was trying to muffle the receiver, but you could still hear the horror as if his room were a dungeon, maximizing the bellows. Then the line went dead.

  Shaking, I listened to the flatline of the phone for a minute before gently placing it in its cradle, too scared to call back for fear of what I might hear. I had grown up in an ideal family setting: a mom and a dad and an older sister as a role model. This kind of situation took me by surprise, and I felt confused and helpless at the same time. A couple of tense hours later, after his father had gone to bed, Rion called me to apologize. He told me his dad had received a letter from his ex-wife, Rion’s mom, saying she refused to pay child support. Having no other scapegoat, he stumbled into Rion’s room in rage.

  “I can’t take this anymore. All the fighting . . . it’s always there. . . .” His voice had trailed off, lost in painful thought. “All I have to do is pull the trigger, and it will be over.”

  “No!” I screamed. “Don’t talk like that! You know you have so much to live for.” It was becoming clearer every second how threatening the situation was. A cold, forced chuckle came from the other end of the line. “Yeah, right,” was his response. We got off the phone, but only after promising to go right to sleep.

  Sleep, however, was light years away from me. I was so worried and had a feeling I was Rion’s only hope. He had told me repeatedly that it was hard to open up to anyone but me. How could someone not want to live? I could literally list the reasons why I loved waking up every morning. Frantically, I racked my brain for ways to convince Rion of this. Then the lightbulb clicked on. I took a piece of notebook paper and entitled it, “Why Rion Should Live.” Below, I began listing every ­reason I could think of that a person had to exist. What started as a few sentences turned into twenty, then thirty-two, then forty-seven. By midnight, I had penned fifty-seven reasons for Rion to live. The last ten were as follows:

  48) Six feet of earth is pretty heavy.

  49) They don’t play Metallica in cemeteries.

  50) Braces aren’t biodegradable.

  51) God loves you.

  52) Believe it or not, your father loves you, too.

  53) Spanish One would be so boring.

  54) Two words: driver’s license.

  55) Satan isn’t exactly the type of guy you want to hang out with for eternity.

  56) How could you live without Twinkies?

  57) You should never regret who you are, only what you have become.

  Believing that I had done my best, I crawled into bed to await tomorrow’s chore: saving Rion.

  I waited for him at the door to Spanish the next day and handed him the paper as he walked in. I watched him from the opposite side of the room while he read the creased sheet in his lap. I waited, but he didn’t look up for the entire period. After class, I approached him, concerned, but before I could say a word, his arms were around me in a tight embrace. I hugged him for a while, tears almost blinding me. He let go, and with a soft look into my eyes, he walked out of the room. No thank you was needed, his face said it all.

  A week later, Rion was transferred to another school district so that he could live with his grandmother. For weeks I heard nothing, until one night the phone rang. “Sarah, is it you?” I heard the familiar voice say. Well, it was like we had never missed a day. I updated him on Ms. Canaple’s new haircut, and he told me his grades were much better, and he was on the soccer team. He is even going to counseling with his dad to help them build a stronger relationship. “But do you know what the best part is?” I sensed true happiness in his voice. “I don’t regret who I am, nor what I’ve become.”

  Sarah Barnett

  [editors’ note: Rion was lucky. Everyone isn’t as fortunate. If you are depressed or thinking about hurting yourself (or if you think any of your friends are in this situation), please call for help, toll-free: 1-800-suicide. Remember, you are not alone. People care and can help you. we love you!!]

  My Best Friend

  Mmm. Look at those eyes, crystal-blue with just a touch of green. Those long eyelashes are just reaching for me. I can feel it. Oh, my God! Is he looking over here? No, that’s silly. I’m looking at him; therefore, there is no way that he’d be looking at me. I mean, that doesn’t happen in my life. Or maybe he actually is! No, no, that’s just my imagination playing tricks on me. Well, you never know, crazy things do . . .

  “What’s up, Katie?”

  “Oh, hey,” I replied as my best friend, Michelle, abruptly interrupted my ongoing battle of mind versus heart.

  “So who have you got your eye on tonight? I see those thoughts circling around in that mind of yours. Maybe tonight you’ll actually act upon them!”

  “What are you talking about? I don’t have any of those thoughts in my head, as you like to put it. I’m perfectly content to be by myself right now.”

  I could feel the obviousness of the lie throughout my entire body as I tried to look Michelle straight in the eyes. I’d never lied to her before, and I’m not exactly sure why I did right then. I couldn’t believe that I pulled it off. I mean, that’s what best friends are for, to obsess over our crushes with. But something inside me prevented me from telling her about this one. I really liked this guy and, as horrible as this sounds, I didn’t want any of my friends to mess it up. Every time I even mention that I think a guy is cute, Michelle goes into full matchmaker mode and won’t snap out of it until she feels she has accomplished something. Needless to say, that never happens. She makes my crush into such a big deal that I become completely nervous around the guy, and then he thinks I am a complete idiot. I ­wasn’t about to let that happen this time.

  “Well, whatever you say. Let’s go talk to Tommy, he’s hot!”

  What did she say? Tommy?!! How did she know? I didn’t even tell her this time. No! Now she’s going to become little miss matchmaker again and screw things up. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe she just thinks Tommy is cute. No, that’s terrible! We can’t go after the same guy. Michelle would never be interested in Tommy. He’s too short for her. Okay, nothing to worry about.

  “Come on, Katie! He’s walking away!” Michelle screamed as she forcefully tugged on my cute new suede jacket.

  “Okay, okay, I’m comin’.”

  All right, so
now we are approaching him. My right foot just got closer. Now my left, right, left, right. STOP THIS! I’m not in the army! It’s okay. I can do this. What is the big deal about talking to a guy anyway? He’s just a human like me. Oh, but he’s such a beautiful human! Look at that body! I can’t do this. I can’t do . . .

  “Hi, Tommy. How’s it goin’?” Oh, my God, I must have sounded like the biggest nerd!

  “What’s up, Katie? Hey, Michelle. You girls are looking good tonight. Having fun?”

  His voice is so sexy. And he said I looked good!! But he said girlssss. He can’t flirt with both of us. That’s not allowed. “Oh, Tommy, stop it. You’re so silly. Ha ha. You’re ­tickling me.”

  Michelle’s giggling was loud enough to interrupt all of the conversations at that party. I couldn’t believe how much she was flirting with him. Even worse, he was flirting back! Here is my best friend with the guy of my dreams—even though she doesn’t know that—and the guy of my dreams was rejecting me more and more by the second. I couldn’t exactly pull Michelle aside and ask her to stop. That would only make things worse. She would either be mad at me for not telling her before or she wouldn’t even believe me. The only thing I could do was sit there and be quiet.

  The whole drive home from the party I had to listen to Michelle go on and on about how amazing Tommy is. She was completely “in love” with him.

  “Did you see the way he was flirting with me? I think he likes me. We were talking for an hour and he didn’t seem to be paying attention to anyone else! Aren’t you happy for me?”

  I had always admired Michelle for the amount of confidence she had when it came to guys. If she wanted one, she went for him. Now she just sounded arrogant, as if any guy would be stupid not to like her. I just clenched my teeth, nodded my head and kept on driving.

  After what seemed like the longest car ride in human history, we finally reached Michelle’s house. I dropped her off, and the second I heard the door shut I started bawling.

  Why was this making me so mad? She is my best friend. I should be happy for her. But I thought this was going to be my turn. I was really going to go for Tommy and make something happen with him. Michelle doesn’t like him the way I do. But it’s too late to say anything. We always promised each other never to let a guy come between us. I guess this is the tester.

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