Story Contest 2017 #1 - Outstanding Stories » You Changed Me

You Changed Me

“You Changed Me” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2017 written by Swetha Mahadevan, Singapore.

You Changed Me

It was my first day at Oaks Girls High School. I was used to people staring at my deformed leg. I never understood why people judged others by their physical appearance.

That is when I saw Ruby for the first time. She walked into the class with three other girls. She was about as tall as me and had elegant hair which was dark brown almost to the point of being black, and it hung loosely over her shoulders. She said, “Can you get up and go to the last bench. This place is reserved for us.” I silently got up and went to the last bench.

The teacher entered the class and said, “Please welcome the new student Rina. Please be friendly to her and help her to adjust to this school.”

Our teacher then asked us to open our books and she started reading out Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” to us. She asked if anyone could explain the play. I stood up and started explaining. Just then the girl who had asked me to get up a while ago started muttering to herself “Thank God she is not dumb.” Teacher heard it and said, “Get out of the class Ruby.” Ruby picked up her books and went out of the class.

Bell rang and all the students were rushing home. I picked up my bag and started to leave when I was stopped by Ruby and her friends. Ruby said, “You think you are very smart. I know your type. Always want to look pitiful to others.” I said, “I am sorry if I offended you. I want to be your friend Ruby.”

But Ruby had already decided that I was her enemy. She and her friends insulted me at every chance they got. One morning Ruby pushed me down the staircase. The fall hurt me, yet the agony in my heart hurt more. I felt that I was hated by all and that I was not capable of making friends. I had to be taken to the hospital, but when the headmistress asked me, I replied that I had slipped and fallen down the stairs. Ruby was afraid that she would be punished by headmistress. But when that never happened she thought that I was afraid of her and hence I never complained. After that incident, we never spoke to each other.

One month passed and our annual exams were round the corner. It was March 2nd and a curfew was declared in the city due to riots. The school was closed and holiday was declared. All the students went home except Ruby. She was waiting for her car. An angry mob had set the car on fire and beaten the driver badly. He tried calling Ruby’s parents but they were busy with their meetings. The driver was taken to the hospital. Ruby was all alone.

My mother came to pick me up. My mother and I decided to help Ruby. Ruby hesitated for a moment but reluctantly agreed to come with us when my mother insisted.

She was welcomed into a small one-room hut where there was an old torn mat in the corner. The small room was divided into hall and kitchen. My mother cooked porridge on a small stove. My mother offered her share of the porridge to Ruby as the food was enough only for two. I offered one of my gowns to Ruby. The gown was torn in many places and had seen a minimum of ten stitches. Tears welled up in her eyes. Ruby said, “I am very sorry for what I did to you. I made fun of your disability. I even pushed you from the staircase. But you were always good to me.” I hugged Ruby and said, “Let us forget the past and move on. I know that you have realised your mistake. Let us be friends from now on.” We happily chatted all night long.

Ruby’s parents were worried all night as they could neither contact the driver nor knew where Ruby was. They called all her friends but none of her classmates knew where she was. Her parents went to her school but Ruby was not there. They decided to call the police first thing in the morning. The next morning curfew ended and the city was back to normal. Ruby’s parents were trying to call police when they heard Ruby’s voice. “Papa!” Ruby came running and hugged her parents. Ruby introduced me and my mother to her parents and narrated the whole incident. We soon became best friends.

We studied day and night to get admission to the best medical school. But my mother could not afford hostel fees. I decided to stop studying and started looking for a job. Ruby asked her father to help me because she knew it was my dream to become a doctor and help disabled people like myself. Ruby’s father convinced me and my mother to accept his help.

Both of us became doctors and started working at Ruby’s father’s hospital. Today I am considered to be one of the best cardiologists in town. Ruby took over the NorthBridge hospital administration from her father.

Yesterday, it was the Oaks Girls High School Batch 2006 Class Reunion. My headmistress gave a speech appreciating our contribution to the society. The whole auditorium was in absolute silence. All eyes were fixed on Ruby. She narrated our story, called me on stage and hugged me saying, “Dear friend, you taught me what is friendship. Thank you for being my friend. Today I am here because of you. You changed me.”

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