A Challenge of Courage

Submitted into Contest #153 in response to: Write a story about a character learning to stand up for themselves.... view prompt

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Inspirational Creative Nonfiction Friendship

Zack, a baby-faced teen, went to the local high school. For the most part, a lot of the girls were fond, of him. But he was bullied by many of the young men in his class. They teased him, mocked him, and, to an extent, were physical with him. But Zack never fought back or tried to stop them. He thought the less he fought the sooner it would end. And the sooner it ended the sooner he would be able to carry on with his life. That was until she came into his life. Her name was Naomi, and she was the student body president.

She had shown an interest in Zack and he fell head over heels for her. Because of his youthful appearance he was often not taken seriously. Being seen as younger than he actually was became a hindrance in many instances. Even so, he was just happy to know someone was finally starting to take him seriously. Someone saw him as a more than capable person. So when Zack and Naomi became official and made it apparent to their peers, that's when life got harder. One of Zack's known bullies, Markcal, found out about their relationship and he started to get more intense in his bullying to the point that he even started to harass Naomi. When Zack got word of this he tried to put a stop to it.

However, when he failed to sway Markcal to leave Naomi alone Zack felt defeated. He lost the will to go to school anymore or do anything he enjoyed. He failed to mention the bullying to the teachers and parents early on so they didn't interfere much, not sure how they could intervene without destroying what was left of his self-esteem. Naomi and her friends visited Zack to try their hand at getting him to leave his room, but even that didn't work, they left feeling sorry for him. It was after they left that Zack watched a commercial about martial arts and how it could help him become stronger physically and mentally. Zach watched as someone appearing to be a newbie became a professional within the few short years of their training there, and that touched his heart. He felt drawn to that path, and so decided to see what something like that would look like.

He told his parents he was going out for a stroll and they were happy to see him out of his room and thought some fresh air would do him some good too. So he left out, heading to the only Dojo he knew to be nearby. Along his walk though he was followed and cornered in an alleyway after realizing someone was tailing him. With his back to a dead end, he faced his attackers, a young girl with two guys at her side. "They're probably muggers," Zack thought. "Just great. I leave the house for a few minutes and I'm already targeted. Welp, let's hope they make it quick." Preparing for the first blow, he shuts his eyes, but it never comes. One of his attackers, a man in his early 20's, and wearing a bandana with his hair tied back, threw a punch, but stopped it just centimeters away from actually punching him. He could tell by Zack's body language that he wasn't much of a fighter.

"I hadn't even touched you yet and you're quivering kid," he sighs, folding his arms.

"What's the hold up?" said the other young man who was in his late teens.

He appeared less disciplined than the older man as his untucked shirt hung loosely, and his hair laid slicked back.

"This kid's a joke, that's what," said the older gentleman.

"I..I'm okay?" asked Zack as he was certain the man was going to punch him.

"Yeah, I didn't hit cause you look ready to collapse kid," he said, shrugging a bit.

"I'm not kid, my name is Zack," He told the man, getting annoyed by his chosen nickname.

"Sure you are," the man replied with a roll of his eyes. "Name's Leo."

"Guess we're doing an introduction," said the second man as he smirks. "Some call me Killer, others call me Moss, so call me Killer Moss."

"What are you guys doing? We have a job to do." Said the girl around Naomi's age.

She was pretty as far as Zack was concerned. Her hair was wavy and she had a bow on top of her head, her eyes murky green as she wore a dress shirt with skinny jeans and flats. She didn't seem like one who you'd wanna mess with on a bad day.

"Hey Cel, we were just chatting with the wimp here," Moss explained.

"I'm not a wimp!" Zack exclaimed, feeling emotional, although he didn't like to admit it, but knowing it wasn't far from the truth.

"Whoa, strike a nerve, huh" Moss teased more.

"Cut it out Moss, leave the kid be," Leo said, taking a seat on one of the trash cans nearby. "Say Zack, what's a high schooler like you doing out here? Don't you live on campus or something like that?"

"Well, actually I'm staying with my parents," Zack explained. "It's easier for me to save up my money."

"Alright, but you didn't answer my other question," Leo pointed out.

"Bet he was off to see his girlfriend," Moss snickers.

"Cut it out Moss, it's not cool," Cel told him as she elbowed him.

Hearing this, however, only reminded Zack what he lost and couldn't defend as he started to get teary-eyed. It makes Cel and Moss stop messing around as Leo eyed him with some genuine concern.

"He..hey are you okay?" Cel asked, taking a step forward.

"I.. I'm sorry it just brought up some recent memories," Zack wipes the tears that had begun to fall and collect around his chin.

"You see.. my..my girlfriend she's being harassed by my bully and I can't do anything for her. He's only doing it because of me."

Zack continues to sob a bit before Leo stood to his feet and punched him hard in the gut. Zack fell on his butt as he gasped from the pain, clutching his stomach.

"Leo what was that for?" Cel asks, feeling worried about the kid.

"Dang Leo, you got a problem with the kid or something?" Even Moss had been taken back by Leo's sudden aggression.

"So you're telling me you just let some guy harass your girl while you're too scared to do a damn thing about it?" Leo snatched Zack by the collar of his shirt lifting him up.

"Plea..please don't hurt me," Zack's words were quiet and barely audible to the three, except Leo who stared with a glare like a venomous snake.

Still that didn't save Zack from another punch to the gut as he coughed hard feeling his eyes get teary and he gasped for air. But Leo was relentless, as he let the collar of his shirt go before kicking him in the side causing Zack to fall into the heap of trash bags. Zack whimpers in pain as he tries to catch his breath panting. It wasn't until Cel and Moss stopped Leo from doing more damage that Zack isn't hurt further.

"Leo, what's your deal?" Cel asks as she pushes him away from Zack. "You're gonna kill him."

"If I kill him then I guess he wasn't worth the effort of that girl of his," he spat on the ground before looking towards Zack. "You hear me? If you die then you don't deserve that lady friend of yours. She's beyond your level."

"Geez, Leo you're pretty harsh ya know," Moss shakes his head a bit.

But something sparks in Zack hearing Leo's words. They weren't words of caring or overprotective people. They were words that were meant to challenge his will to either keep things how they were or try and change. Try and make a difference. Coughing a bit and still crying, Zack gradually pulled himself together getting up.

"Y.. you're wrong," Zack said, pushing himself to stand now as he held his stomach grimacing from the pain. "I love her with all my heart and she loves me!"

"Yeah, well love can only get you part of the way kid," Leo smirks a bit seeing a fire he hadn't seen in Zack till now. "If you're just gonna talk about your love without backing it up then it's useless. A man who can't fight to protect what he believes in is just not a man. He's just a kid too scared to get himself hurt. But that's not living. And I think you know that all too well. So it's only a matter of time before you get sick and tired of me beating the crap out of you that you'll do something to change it. Isn't that right, kid?"

"I told you to stop calling me that!"

Without thinking Zack lunges at Leo as he tackles him to the ground and they start to brawl. Cel and Moss were surprised by the kid's sudden act of aggression as well towards Leo. At first it seemed harsh and cruel of Leo to pick open the wounds on the kid, but in reality he was actually helping him. Helping him to see just what he could handle and was capable without fearing the consequence. In truth, he taught Zack an important lesson he didn't learn from anyone else. How to fight despite what he looked like and despite what he felt. Despite any odds that if he wanted something hard enough he had to fight for it. They fought up till the evening as a crowd had gathered around the two. People were making bets between Leo winning and Zack maybe getting a few lucky strikes. But by the end of it their fight was broken up as Zack's worried parents showed up.

Leo was pulled away with his nose bleeding and a cut on his lip as well as a few bruises, as Zack was pulled away with a black eye and bruises here and there. However, Zack didn't back down or seem scared; he seemed more alive than ever, his eyes full of a fire he hadn't felt at all before. Sure he was hurt, but with it the fear of pain was non-existent to him. What did he have to fear from Markcal who bullied and was even physical to little extent. Zack considered he had been through worse thanks to Leo's pushing him to pass his own limited thinking. Zack finally understood what he needed to do. His parents threaten to call the cops on Leo and his gang, but Zack's words next surprise them.

"Thank you! Thank you so much Leo," Zack said with tearful eyes as he grins wide.

"No problem kid, now take what I taught you and you let that jerk have it," he pants a bit smiling.

"Yes sir I will," Zack nods softly wiping away his tears. "Can.. Can I see you guys around?"

"We'll be in the neighborhood so I'm sure about it," Cel said as she smiles glad to see things turn out well.

"Zack you can't be serious about meeting up with these hooligans?" His mother is concerned they'll get in more fights.

"Yeah, I am sure," Zack nods.

"Take care Zack," Moss saids as Zack was led into the car of his parent's.

"See you around kid," Leo adds as Zack waves bye through the window.

When they got home Zack was scolded about getting into fights ruining his baby face image, but Zack didn't seem phased by it, in fact he was more happy as he felt his baby face was holding him back. He rested up a couple of weeks after the fight with Leo before attempting another day at school, though his mother warned if something went wrong she could always pull him out if it became too much. As much as Zack appreciated his mother's protectiveness, he told her it wasn't necessary as he was going to be okay. So when he returned to school he told Markcal to meet him outside after classes to settle the score once and for all. Markcal, thought Zack was a bit cocky for being one who didn't lift a finger when he was bullying him and thought as well this would be no different. Zack met with Naomi and told her he regretted not being there to protect her when Markcal was harassing her and wanted to earn the right to date her again. This surprises her, but she agrees to give him another chance with her. So after school Zack went outside to the school yard and Markcal as well as his buddies were there, followed by the students of all the classrooms and teachers. Some wanted to break up this fight, but were told to wait til afterwards as the principal wanted to give Zack a chance to resolve the issue himself seeing a new fire in him from returning.

Leo and his group of friends were also there watching from across the street wanting to see Zack get his pay back. Cel felt they should step in, but Moss and Leo both knew this was between men and she couldn't intervene otherwise Zack may never know if he had it in him. With a few words of warning from Markcal he took charge at Zack reeling his fist back to let fly across the empty space to land a direct hit against Zack. And as Zack took the punch he smirks realizing Leo punches were way harder and doesn't hold back now as he gave Markcal a punch of his own. Fists flew back and forth from both directions as the students chanted his name. Some for Markcal, others for Zack. And the teachers just pray that none was hurt too badly while the principal betted on Zack winning the fight. By the time the fight was over Zack had given Markcal a black eye and gave him a bloody lip as well as roughed up his clothes. Markcal himself gave Zack a few bruises here and there and even landed a few hits on his gut which was still very sensitive from his fight with Leo.

But overall Zack had won because his fighting spirit was much stronger than anything Markcal could throw at him. Everyone was proud of Zack and cheered for his name. Of course he was given detention for picking a fight with a student on school grounds, but it was very mild compared to Markcal's punishment, who was expelled due to his harassment of several students. Zack now knew it didn't matter the size of the threat or the coming dangers that are said to come. If he just had faith and stood his ground nothing was likely to move him again. He was stronger than he ever knew and believed. And that was how Zack overcame bullying and the hardship of high school.

The End.

July 06, 2022 21:44

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2 comments

Susan Williams
01:21 Jul 14, 2022

Hi Ruby, you did a good job conveying a large amount of action in your story. I could easily visualize the scene taking place. Good work.

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Ruby Pix
01:55 Jul 14, 2022

Why, thank you. It's not too often that I write fight scenes so I'm glad to see it has made someone's day to read. I look forward to doing my best for many more stories like it.

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