A Courageous Battle (Chapter 2, page 1 of 2)

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Chapter 2

THE LONELY days turned into lonely weeks and years. Her teachers praised Lacey for her excellent work. Their appreciation was the only source of esteem in her desperate life, but it also gave the kids who picked on her more ammunition; they could add 'brown-noser' to their scornful name-calling. She rejoiced every June when summer offered a respite from the bullying.

Lacey spent entire days sprawled on her bed engrossed in the lives of the Bobbsey family, and Nancy Drew or Frank and Joe Hardy. And whenever she could, she went to the park when Roger was playing baseball, or the arena where he played volleyball. After he got a summer job as a lifeguard, she devoted herself to swimming.

By then he was resigned to Lacey's presence in his life and he bantered with her when she showed up at the pool. "What's up brat? You swimming today?" he would ask.

She would dive back flips and somersaults and twists and knee tucks, all in an effort to gain his approval. Sometimes, when she finished, he would call out, "Well done, brat," and she would writhe with pleasure. Then he would turn his attention to his latest girlfriend and Lacey would sit by the pool and watch them until it was time to go home.

One summer evening she saw him shooting hoops in his driveway. She rushed outside. "Hello, Roger. Can I play?"

He shrugged and looked around to make sure no one was watching. "Okay, I guess. Defend!" he challenged.

Elated, Lacey leapt in front of the dribbling Roger and knocked the ball out of his hand, pivoted, and threw a perfect jump shot. Roger was astounded. They bobbed and weaved.

As Roger moved in on the net, Lacey jumped up to defend. In mid air they collided and Lacey was knocked hard onto the driveway cement. She cried out, tears springing to her eyes, blood pouring from her skinned arm. Roger bent down to help but she shook him off.

"I'm all right. Let's play," she insisted.

"Good girl." He gave her the ball and let her dribble and shoot. She was ecstatic.

The next morning, emboldened by Roger's kindness, seeking to spread the good feeling to other parts of her life, she sat down at the table where her father was reading the paper.

"Daddy, no one likes me and I do not know why. They make fun of me."

Harold Wilson looked uncomfortable. He folded his paper and stood up. "I don't know what to tell you, girl. You should talk to your mother. I've got to go now," he said, leaving the kitchen. He did not notice the tears that glistened on his daughter's cheeks.

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