Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story

Aaliyah was one of those girls. The popular ones, who told everyone what to do with a smirk on their face without a care how they hurt others. Despite her attitude she was a beautiful young lady. With curly hair in a dark afro, she was unapologetic of her lineage. Her dark mocha skin matched beautifully with her hazel colored eyes. Her best friends were Maria and Sarah, both blonde hair, blue eyed beauties.

It was a morning, no particular morning, Aaliyah sat at her desk in class. A drab room, the walls were bland white with a chalk board and marker board. Her teacher's desk sat in the back corner where the short, curly haired lady made her way up front. Aaliyah chuckled and nudged Sarah sitting next to her.

“She waddles like a penguin,” she whispered as she and Sarah burst into giggles.

The teacher, Ms. Watson, glanced over, and then back as she found her spot in front of the classroom. She addressed them with hands clasped in a saddened voice.

“It has come to our attention that Mr. Jefferies has been diagnosed with cancer for some time. He will return to school tomorrow.” She pulled off her glasses as a few tears fell down her face. “Unfortunately the chemo has taken his beautiful hair and he is already immobilized from his waist down. When he returns I don't want anyone staring or being rude. It'll earn a one way ticket to the office,” She paused and spoke again. “Mr. Jefferies is strong for winning this battle my students. He has shown admirable courage.” The teacher looked directly at Aaliyah. “Maybe having some courage of your own to share with him would change not only his life, but yours.”

Brandon Jefferies lost the use of his legs when he was five years old due to an illness. He'd been in a wheelchair ever since.

Aaliyah blushed and stared down at her desk. Sarah beside her nudged her before she threw a balled up paper at Shannon across the room. Shy Shannon never messed with anyone, Aaliyah thought to herself.

Shannon glanced back looking around and tried to sink smaller into her desk.

Is this how Aaliyah made people feel?

She pulled out her notebook as the teacher was teaching, but instead of taking notes she thought of what her teacher said:
About courage...

That night after dinner Aaliyah spoke with her mom and told her what her teacher had said about Brandon. She had an idea forming in her mind, one she was sure would show Brandon that she would share her courage with him too.

The next day Aaliyah had a doctor's appointment. Checking her vitals, she left and got to school right before lunch.
As she entered the building, she put on her dad's old baseball cap and made her way to the cafeteria for lunch. On the way she ran into Maria and Sarah.

Maria laughed, “Why are you wearing that ridiculous hat?”

Sarah just stared. “Brandon's back. “He's such a loser,” she said. “At least I have my gorgeous blonde hair still.” She shook her head as her locks gracefully flowed to the wind.

Aaliyah was paralyzed with fear for a moment. Did she do the right thing? She remembered what her teacher said as she looked her in her eyes.

“Maybe having some courage of your own would change not only his life, but yours as well.”

Aaliyah firmly jutted out her jaw and took off her father's cap. Instead of feeling embarrassed or ashamed she was proud.

“I have my own courage to share with Brandon,” She said boldly. “Maybe I can give you some courage too.”

As she graced past them and into the cafeteria Maria scoffed, but Aaliyah wasn't paying attention. All she saw was Brandon, all alone in his wheelchair eating lunch.

She made her way, not noticing the hush that had fallen over the cafeteria. Her mind was completely focused on him.
He glanced up as she sat next to him without getting food.

His jaw dropped.

Aaliyah smiled and gently touched his hand.

“My teacher told me to have some courage because it would change me, and help you.” She ran her hand over her marble smooth scalp and smiled. “But it's okay Brandon. We're twins now.”

She sat down next to him as tears fell from his face.

“Thank you,” Was all he managed to say before he burst into tears. “I wanted to give up so many times. I honestly don't know what kept me going.”

Aaliyah looked into his eyes. She saw the pain there, the same pain she saw in Shannon's eyes yesterday. She felt no pity, but instead respecting him as she would anyone else.

“Courage,” she said as she glanced at her lap and then trying to fight back her own tears. “It was your courage.”