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By Lauryn Farrell

She stands at the foot of the stairs to the heavy doors of her school, staring as if daring it to try and give her a hard time. As she clutches her backpack tighter, she thinks about the staircase that represents her life. She may have gone down, all the way down, to the dark depths of uncertainty. However, she is bouncing right back up, to try again. She thinks back to how she got here, remembers that little boy who knew where she needed to go, and helped her to see it too.

It had all started one rainy evening, when her father had come home with news that would change their lives forever. "I've lost my job."

Since then, life had become terrible for them, a downward spiral. They had been evicted from their home, and had sold nearly all their possessions. They packed what they had left, into a small suitcase each. Not knowing where else to go, they had moved into one of the subway tunnels; trying to stay warm, stay hopeful; living off the extras others could spare them.

She had always loved school, and living in poverty shouldn't have changed that. But it did. Every day, the others at school would tease her. They would call her names, and make fun of her. And the ones that didn't hurt her ignored her. They walked around her as they walked around the debris on the subway stairs, easy to overlook, if you didn't look that way.

One day, it got to be too much. Her class had been discussing what each of them wanted their future to hold. When she'd proclaimed loudly, "I want to be a scientist..., to change the world," her class had been stunned into silence. Then, they began to snicker. Their rude laughter grew louder and louder, and they had pointed at her, teasing and taunting. "You can't change the world," they retorted. "You can't even change your clothes!"

They'd hit her weak spot. She just couldn't take it anymore. She'd walked right out of school, towards the subway tunnel she called home. She stumbled down the dusty stairs, tears rolling down her cheeks like a waterfall. She sat down on the last stair, overcome with grief.

As she sat there, crying her broken heart out, a little boy had come up and sat down beside her. He was about six, with a sweet, kind face, but he looked wiser than anyone she'd ever seen. He had curly brown hair, and was dressed in a crisp white shirt and white shorts. But the thing that struck her the most about him was his piercing blue eyes. They seemed to stare right into her soul.

"What's wrong?" the boy inquired. She told him everything, the words pouring out of her mouth like the tears from her eyes. When she was done, she and the boy sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.

Finally, he broke the silence. "You know," he said thoughtfully, "you shouldn't let them get to you. When you let them crush your dreams, you're letting them run your life. I think you can make your dreams come true. I believe in you. And as soon as you believe in yourself too, you will be able to accomplish great things." The boy took a deep breath after this long speech, and looked at her as if expecting her to say something.

"You're right!" She exclaimed through her tears. "I need to take my life into my own hands. I can't continue to let other people control my life, to make all my decisions for me. I need to be strong, and not let their words stick to me like the graffiti on these walls. It's my life, and I must live it my way. I'm taking charge of my life" As she spoke, a shaft of bright light fell onto her, through the doorway out of the underground tunnel. It was almost like it was a sign, telling her that was she was going to do was right. It had invited her to break free, to climb the stairwell of her life. She had reached the very bottom. The only way to go was upwards now!

All of a sudden, she remembered the boy. When she looked around to thank him, however, he was gone. He had vanished. "Thank you," she had whispered in her heart, smiling through her tears. Somehow, she knew that he would hear her.

Now here she stands, staring at the school she once ran away from. But she was different then. Now she stands with her head held high, her shoulders held back, and straight and tall, the image of confidence itself. Never again will others be able to crush her. She is starting fresh. She is going to change her life. She takes a deep breath, and begins the climb.

Did You Know

TumbleBookCloud is an online collection of read-along chapter books for students in late elementary to high school. In addition to the same content previously found in TumbleReadables, TumbleBookCloud includes videos from National Geographic, new Audio Books, and 44 additional chapter book titles. TumbleBookCloud?