What happened to my bully (and how we became friends)
Let me tell you the rest of my story.
I told you in my last blog post about my terrible first year at boarding school, away from home at the age of eleven. It was lonely, hard, dark, cold and long.
And it was horrible mostly because of one particular girl, who had it in for me from the start. She used every trick in her bag to make me suffer, and from my point of view, that bag looked big. She was mean.
But she was also scared.
She knew that at the end of Grade Six, she was going to have to go back to the country she came from. Not only would she have to spend six months there, before they came back, she’d have to go to the local public school.
And – to make it tougher - that local public school would be a high school. (High schools in Australia and England go from Grades 7 to 12.) She’d have to start Grade 7 somewhere totally new and foreign in every way.
Most of our English-speaking community did this: we lived overseas in our adopted country for three years or so, and then we’d go back to our homeland for six months to a year for a break before coming back. Most of us didn’t love living in the place we came from; we preferred to be in our adopted land, but the idea of the travel and change was nothing new. It was the timing that was freaking her out.
For me, the timing was a blessing. ‘Four months until she goes,’ I thought. ‘Two months until she goes.’ And then, ‘two days until she goes’.
Whew. She’s gone.
Grade Seven began and my life improved. With no dedicated enemy making things miserable for me, I found my feet a little, took some breaths, and grew some emotional muscles. I had space to plan for her return; I would do things differently, be tougher, not put up with so much rubbish, and generally tell her where to go. I was older now, and stronger.
Even so, I still felt terribly anxious before my foe was due to arrive back. Would I be able to handle it? Would she still hate me as much as she did?
When she walked through the doors the first time back, she was mobbed by her enthusiastic friends. I stood to the side, not sure of her reaction – or my own. But she seemed to smile at me, at least a half smile. And it seemed genuine.
Later, she came to talk to me. In private. On our own.
“I have to apologise to you,” she said.
“For what?” I said.
“I was awful to you.” She put her eyes down. “Grade Six. You know. I was mean.”
I didn’t know what to say, but she kept going. “It was so awful in Grade Seven over there. They gave me a really rough time. And I realised that was what I did to you, before, and I wanted to apologise.”
You know what? I hugged her. And she hugged me. Because the world can change when one person apologises and the other person forgives.
After that, we became friends, and when we both left boarding school to go back to our home countries at the end of Grade 10, we were best friends. It was happily ironic. We wrote letters to each other for years. (Yup, there was still no internet, email or skype and international phone calls were still outrageously expensive.)
So far I haven’t written a book in which a main character become best friends with a bully. Charlie Franks comes close when she makes peace with Baylor at the equestrian competition. There’s a hint that maybe they’ll be friends, or at least good-natured competitors in the end.
But in general, my books are about reconciliation, where it’s possible – reconciliation with friends, family or your own self.
I like good endings. I was fortunate enough to get an apology from my adversary, and after that we both worked to make our relationship a good one. I like to show in all my books that good endings are possible, with grace and forgiveness on both sides, and kindness going into the future.
It's my hope that when you read my books, you'll make good endings part of your own life.
Here’s to good endings, both that we make, and that we read about.