What Relationships Mean in Our Lives

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Peer Groups: Students' Work -
Short Stories


A Promise

Different Situations, Same Feelings

Is That Love?

The Gladiators

The Self-Help Group


teens sharing music

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A Promise

Since her daughter had returned to work, she was responsible for picking up their grandchildren at the school gate. But that day seemed slightly different from the rest. She had the feeling that someone was staring at her. She looked again through the gate and she craned her neck to look for Germain and Amparo. Then, she looked down and she moved the sleeve of her jacket enough to see the time. Five o'clock, they would come anytime. It was then, when she shook her head slightly to accommodate her hair, when she saw him. She turned her head again, but this time to look at him more carefully. It seemed an illusion.  It could not be him. It had to be a mistake. It had been too long, although she was sure it was him. He had the same expression she remembered from his youth, but his age was reflected on his skin. He was still as handsome as she remembered. She hesitated before looking away, but she forced herself to look into the school. She could not think of him again. She did not want to do it. Those years of suffering had passed and she had promised she would not fall into the abyss. She had rebuilt her life.

A crowd of children began to leave class. Mercedes looked around again until she found them talking animatedly with their friends. She approached them and gave them a kiss. After that, she took her grandchildren´s hands and they began the march to the park. He looked at her when she passed near him and smiled because he had achieved his objective, now she knew he was alive, and she could not escape from the truth. 

Mercedes could not forget Claudio for the rest of the day. At home, memories assailed her with more energy, and helplessly, she looked at the picture which was on the television set. From there, a man immortalized in black and white, looked at her seriously. When she looked at those such black eyes, guilt returned from the depths of her soul and a tear fell down her cheek. She could not do this. He was not alive but, she felt something for him. He had been her pillar in good and bad moments. He had been with her in her achievements and he was the shoulder where she cried when she had been Claudio´s girlfriend. She believed that if she thought about Claudio, she was betraying Matthias. She was tired and decided to go to sleep. She was sure that she would see Claudio again.

On Saturday morning she decided to go shopping, and when she was buying food, she found him.

Claudio looked at her, then he went to her and smiled. 
"Hey Mercedes, it has been a long time."
"True, there have been many years. How did you know I was here right now?" she asked changing her tone.
"I have a cousin who knows you because he had seen us together when we were young, your name came up in a conversation, so thanks to him I know you live near this market."
"That still does not answer my question."
"I've been following you." It confirmed what he already sensed.
" How long?"
"For two years." He hesitated before saying it.
She swallowed hard, deep in her heart she was glad that he had not forgotten her.
"We need to talk," he said.
"I agree, but this is not the best moment."
"How about this afternoon? In the park where you usually take your grandchildren?" he asked optimistically.
"No," she replied automatically. "There will be too many people that I know and then everything is known."
"All right, there is a new coffee shop two streets away from your house. I see you there at five o'clock."
"Okay," she replied and then she continued her routine, trying to ignore him.

It was almost the time. She had dressed better than usual and she did not have a logical explanation for it. She turned to look at herself in the mirror. Her face reminded her why she had been trying to keep herself busy. She put on her shoes and smiled at the mirror, trying to show that she was relaxed. Before leaving she gave a last look at the photo of Matthew and she promised to herself that she would not betray him.

When she arrived to the coffee shop, he was at a table next to the large window which illuminated the place. She went over, greeted him and sat down.
"First of everything I want to apologize for not appearing before," Claudio began.
Both were silent, thoughtful.
"Do you know? I thought you were dead. You stopped writing to me," she said, "What happened?"
He sighed. "One of the tractors overturned and fell on me," he replied tersely.
She looked up, at him, waiting for a more detailed explanation. "Sorry, but I can´t tell you a lot, I just remember the white room in the hospital."
"What happened?"
"They diagnosed partial amnesia ... the doctors said it was a matter of time that I recovered. Three years passed until I remembered your name. But when I found you, you were already happily married to your best friend and I knew he was going to give you the best future he could."
He sat silent, watching her. At that moment he would have given anything to know what she was thinking about.
"I went to France and continued with my life. But I did not forget you at any time. The same cousin who said to me that you were living here, told me how your life was. The last time we spoke he told me that your husband had died because he had cancer. So I came here thinking I would have the courage to approach you but this poor old man didn´t find the perfect moment. So I decided to follow you and expected to have enough guts to talk to you. And technically that's the whole story," he said with a sigh.

They sat, silently calculating the weight of his words until she recovered her speech.
"Why didn´t you talk to me?"
He looked at her blankly.
"Why didn´t you come to see me? Why did you stay like a spectator?"
"Would you have liked me to break your marriage? You were happily married, and you forgot me, I only wanted to forget you too."
"If you didn´t want to break my marriage, why did you show up now after all this time? Why didn´t you stay there if you knew I was so happy? Why are you now here and when I needed you, you weren´t?"
"Because now there is nothing that can interpose between us," he said looking into her eyes.
She shook her head. She couldn´t believe what was happening.
"Now I have children, and precious grandchildren with whom I want to spend most of my time. We can´t look back and think what would have happened if you hadn´t gone and I hadn´t married. We can´t live stuck in the past."
"But I still love you! Think about yourself. You love me, I know."
Mercedes swallowed hard before speaking.
"I spent many years attached to my husband due to his long illness, and I suffered a lot when I though you were dead. Sorry, but I don´t want to suffer more. I hope you understand."
She got up and she left without looking back.

Time passed, Claudio returned to France where he had spent most of his life. He built a house in the country and he lived happily the last years of his life, recalling every moment from his youth and his happiness with Mercedes, the only love of his life.

Mercedes continued taking their grandchildren to school and speding time with them. She never heard about Claudio again. She kept the promise she made to herself until the end.

J., Spain


Different Situations, Same Feelings

Some years ago, there was a boy, 17 years old, called Jack. His father had a complicated illness and he had to take care of his two sisters, one brother and his mother. Jack worked and studied at the same time, and he dedicated his free time to play with his brothers, he could never go out with friends. His mother, called Alma, was very worried  about him because she thought that he was losing his youth. One day, she decided to talk to him.

"Jack, I was thinking, now your father is better, so maybe you could stop working in the evenings and you could study and go out with friends."
"No, mom," answered Jack, "until dad doesn´t begin work again, I won´t stop my work and I won´t leave you without help."
"No!" shouted his mother angrily, "You're too young to take care of us! Besides, your father is  almost recovered. Until he is completly recovered, we could survive with my salary."
"Mom, give me time, I need to think about it," he said slamming the door.

After that, he needed to go out therefore he walked around the village for some time. He was thinking about all the things he had lived until that moment ... the first time that he had ridden a bike with the help of his father, the first time that he burned the food with his mom, when he found his first job in the bakery ...

Thinking about all those things, he didn't see where he had arrived. He was next to the river and what he saw shocked him. There was a girl crying and he knew that girl. Jack sat next to her and he asked,
"Are you Sophia?"
"What?" she answered.
"Yeah, we are classmates, I'm Jack, I'm sitting in the fifth row in class."
"Oh, yes, sorry ... I was thinking about a big problem that I have."
"What's wrong?" he asked her surprised.
"My parents ... they have had big problems and now they are thinking about ..."
"Thinking about what?" He was very worried.
"My father wants the divorce and my mother wants to go to the city," she answered and she began crying.

He immediately gave her a hug. Since the first time he had seen her in class, he was interested in her, but he had never had time to ask her for a date. He decided to tell her his problems.
"Do you know what? I have a problem too."
"What? What happened?" She moved away from him blushing.
"My dad had an accident months ago, and I decided to take care of my family ... I have had big problems with my mom because she doesn´t like my decision, she said I should study and I should meet with friends but I don´t want to listen to her ... until my dad  is recovered I should work."
"Maybe your mom is right, she wants the best for you. How can you do this? You're one of the best in class, do you have enough time?" she asked surprised.
"Well, in the mornings I study, in the evenings I work and before I go to sleep I read my notes ..."
He was interrupted. "Do you know what? I don't understand why you do that if your mom has a job."
"I should help my family, they gave me all the things that I have now. We must take care of each other."

Sophia's eyes were full of tears, she didn't believe that a boy with the same age was  so brave. Together, they discovered that the only way to get over a problem was being brave, being yourself and trusting someone, because if you try to solve a big problem alone, you can lose your hope.

They spent all the evening talking, laughing and sharing secrets. But the night arrived and they had to go back to the real life, they should face their problems. Before the farewell, Sophia said,
"We could come here every evening, don't you think so?"
"Yes!" Jack answered shily. "See you tomorrow," he said while he disappeared running.

When Jack arrived home, he had made his decisión.
"Mom, I'm going to leave my work. I'm going to focus on my studies and I will meet with my friends, but with one condition: Please, let me take care of all of you... what do you think?"
Alma ran towards him and she gave him a big hug, she knew that her little boy had chosen well. All she could say was that after that decision, it was his moment, the moment when he began to enjoy his youth.

In another place, Sophia was talking to her parents. They said to her that they had decided not to divorce for the moment but her mom would move to the city.

Three months later, Jack's father returned to his work, Sophia's parents definitely didn't divorce and they lived together again.

One afternoon, Jack and Sophia were walking by the river and she decided to confess something:
"I have to tell you something," she said, a bit afraid.
"Yeah, tell me." He smiled.
"Look, I was thinking ... I want to tell you something but I don't know how you will react ..."
"Sophy, you know you can trust me."
"Jack, I have been thinking, maybe we can give ourselves a chance, we can know each other better than now ..." She lowered her head.
He didn't react, the only thing that he could do was smiling. She broke the silence.
"If you don't want I can understand. I know I'm like a sister for you ..."
At last, he reacted. She couldn't finish because he was kissing her. He said that he was convinced because they always needed each other after they had been together.

They discovered that trusting somebody was a very good option, and they had found  in each other the person who could help them and made them happy.

N., Spain


Is That Love?

I was thirteen when I met him. And I knew that he was a special person ... He was three years older but like a child. I don´t know but I like that ...

And only a few days later we were best friends. He made me laugh. He understood me. I was really happy when I spent time with him. I loved him like a brother.

After some time I was sure that I had fallen in love ... But he was three years older and had a girlfriend. I was very unhappy. The feeling was new so I didn´t know what to do. My relationship to the boy changed. I was very scared about what had changed ... I didn´t know what to do and avoid him but I couldn´t do that. He was too close.

Three months later ...

We spent every day together. He didn`t live nearby but he came to see me and we phoned every evening.

I pondered over my feelings. Was it love? Should I tell him about my feelings? I didn´t know. I had never felt like this before.

And then it happened. We phoned like every evening. And then he asked me the wrong question. He wanted know if I had fallen in love. He knew me well and then after a while he asked me if I had a crush on him. I couldn't tell him a lie and so I tell him the truth. He said he had to think about this situation.

The next two days we didn`t have any contact. I was very unhappy. And then after the weekend we met. It was a strange feeling to be with him.

In the evening we chatted ...

He: "I must tell you something but don´t know how."
"Okay ... don´t be shy, you can tell me everything."
"I´m scared. Perhaps our friendship will be destroyed :( …"
"It can't be that bad. Come on, then you will feel better."
(After a while) "Okay. It´s very cowardly but ... I must tell you that now. I can´t wait any longer ..."
"I think I fell in love with my best friend ... I think I am in love ... with you ..."

That was a shock for me. I looked at the screen and read the sentence again and again. I don´t know for how long. But suddenly my telephone rang. It was him. We phoned the half night but I couldn`t speak a lot. We arranged to meet the next day.

I was very excited but when we met I was too shy. I didn´t say a lot, he spoke and we sat on a bench hand in hand. Then I had to go away. We kissed each other goodbye. I was very confused.

The next morning I had a message on my phone.

Dear Sarah,
I don´t know how to say it ... I don´t think that we are in love ... We are only friends. Please don´t be angry. It´s cowardly of me but I can´t do it when I see you ...
I hope we can stay friends.

From this day we didn`t have any contact.

S., girl, Germany


The Gladiators

Nepax breathes hard. He has fought since 10 minutes against the dreaded Cassius. Both are just 15 years old and have the same history: They are slaves. The crucial difference is that Nepax is from Africa. Back then he was 13 … One day the  Romans attacked his village. He remembered that day clearly. It was sunny again, but for a few days it had rained, that’s why it wasn't surprising that the men were a little drunk. Strictly speaking they had drunk the hole liquor, because of their happiness over the rain.

When the legion had come, there was a massacre he remembered exactly: everywhere was blood, and the warriors were killed. They had just taken the best of the warriors with them and of course also the women and children. His mother had fought, together with his dad and his brother. Always that scene came back into his head: His father impaled on a spear, the mother who had scratched out the eyes of two Romans, but then had been turned to pieces by the Romans' hunting dogs and his brother. He was 18 and a very strong man. Seven men died just under the strokes of his hands, thirteen from his sword. He had a wall of corpses around him but the came this cowardly archer, who just had shoot from the back into his spine. But his brother had fought and fought and killed ten more men. Finally he died from the high loss of blood.

For Nepacs his brother has always been the best and strongest warrior. But he died. And that he cannot believe. Every time he uses the terrible rage to overcome his opponent. So he stands in the sun and tries hard to be superior.

Already the next shock comes, this time from above. Cassius' sword thunders onto his shield and some wood splitters fly in all directions. Time to fight! So he strikes from bottom right to top and right after that from the side back to the ground. One more time Cassius withstands the hit! It is impossible, that he was so by powerful.

One more time an attack! Suddenly he recognizes the sign. That sign which will change everything: the triple spiral from bottom right, followed by a high hit with the backhand.

Now the last nights come into his head. He met Cassius. It wasn't difficult for them to meet. His dark skin wasn't noticed. So they always met and worked on a plan. An easy, crazy and suicidal plan. The death of the procurator of Antium!

So he takes a run-up. He runs back to the middle of the arena, while Cassius stands and waits. For the people on the seats it seems, as if he is waiting for Nepax' attack.

One more time the last evenings come to his mind: They laughed despite the grave theme, they became friends. They counted on each other and trusted to each other. They had so much in common.

He starts to run. He runs faster than ever before. He runs as if Hades chasing him.

The secrecy should be over now!! Down with the empire! Back to their home! They will show all the people their way back home!

Cassius is kneeling down. His shield is like a ramp. He stands right in front of the procurator's balcony.

The people jeer with satisfaction.

The jump! Be ready! Then he is there. The shield bounces under the enormous power of the jump. It is quiet as in a temple. Everyone is silent. He has jumped.

Cassius turns back and runs to the gate to challenge the other gladiators to fight for their freedom. Then Nepax is on the balcony and strikes his sword into the face of the procurator. And is happy to have a friend behind him.

D., boy, Germany


The Self-Help Group

Johnny: My name is Johnny and I'm 15 years old. I have a big problem. I'm an outsider at school, because I'm a thief. I am sorry for this but I'm very addicted to that. I want to tell you my story how I became to a thief. But I hope you can help me. And don’t laugh at me.

Mr Brown: Nobody will laugh about you and you have to know that what you will tell us will stay here. Please trust us like the others trust you. So how old were you when you first stole something?

Johnny: I was 13 years old when I first stole something. Before I became a loner I was in a gang and they wanted me to steal something and I did it. It gave me a good feeling because I'd never had expensive things because we are not rich. The next day I stole an iPhone and I'd never had an iPhone before that.

Danny: Sorry to interrupt you but why did you feel good? It was not good when I stole something, I felt really bad and I hated that.

Johnny: I felt powerful.

Danny: Didn’t anybody notice that you suddenly had an iPhone? You know it is really expensive, and you said you don’t have a lot of money ?

Johnny: The person who noticed it first was my mother, she asked me from whom it was and from where it came. My excuse was that it only cost 40 dollars and that it wasn’t original. She believed me and so the next day I stole headphones. I know it wasn’t right but I had to do it.

Danny: What do you mean with “I have to do it”? Nobody has to steal anything! Why didn't you ask your mother if she could give you money?

Johnny: “Because my mother doesn't like to give me money for things which I don't need. She always thinks about the future and that's why I stole things.

Ben: That is also the reason why I stole cigarettes. Did your classmates see that you stole or why didn't they help you?

Johnny: The first time when my classmates saw me steal something was when I was 14, it was 27 October 2010. I will never forget this day. On this day, my mother didn't give me pocket money because I had told her that I wanted to go to a rock concert. She didn't want me to go because she thought that there were many persons there who take drugs. Tom, who was the head of our gang, persuaded me to steal money from my classmates. I did!

Danny: Why did you listen to him? Because they didn't give you money or lent you money? That shows you that they were not real friends.

Johnny: When I  learnt that I left the gang, but it was too late. While I searched through their bags, Tom told my classmates that I was stealing their money, so they stormed into the class and saw how I stole. I was in love with a girl called Jamie and she looked at me really awfully and hard. Jamie said, “What are you doing here? I heard that you stole but I didn’t believe it. You are a thief! Wait here, we will call our teacher!” This day was the worst day in my life. The girl who I loved called me thief.

Tom: How did you feel?

Johnny: My feelings were in a mess because she was right, but what could I do?  Should I have been sad or should I have been ashamed or should I have been shocked? I don’t know how to handle this. My teacher came into our class and he said that I had to go to the principal. He took me to this room and the principal sat there and was marking tests. “Come in”, he said. Mr Miller said, “Hello, Sir. I have to tell you a special thing. John stole something in the classroom and my students caught him while he was doing it.” The principal looked at me and said, “This boy? John, why have you done this? I am really disappointed of you." I said , “I am really sorry, Mr Watson and Mr Miller.” Mr Watson told me, “I have to tell this to your mother, but first could you tell us why you did it?"

Danny: What did you say to him? Did you tell him the truth or did you lie?

Johnny: At first I didn’t speak about it but the principal threatened that he would call the police.

Danny: What did you do then?

Johnny: I did not tell him the real story. I told them that I needed the money for my cousin's operation.

Tom: Did they believe you?

Johnny: At first they asked me weird questions and I only answered, “Sir, I couldn’t talk about this and nobody knows it, only me and my cousin in Birmingham and her parents”. At least they believed me and didn’t call the police. When I opened the door, the principal said, “You can go home.”

Danny: What? They sent you home? It sounds funny because when I stole something they phoned the police and my mother.

Johnny: At first I believed them but later he said "Wait, Wait! It was a joke. I hope that you did not believe that you just can go. Johnny, I have two bad news. With which one would you like me to start? With the bad one or with the worst?" I was shocked but I also didn't know what I should do. I could run away but I didn't.

Tom: What did you answer?

Johnny: I said, "Please, with the worst, Sir." The principal looked at me in shock and he answered, "The worst is that you've been kicked out of school and the bad news is that we called your mother while you were lying. She just said that your cousin has no disease. She will come to pick you up."

Tom: This is really hard but I think the worst was the happiest message for you . For me it is the best message.

Johnny: No, it was not the best thing in my life that I got kicked out of school, because from that day I had to work in a bad and dirty restaurant. It was not the best time in my life. Now I am here because of that. I have no friends, no family, I have nothing. No one wants to become friends with me and my mum threw me out of our home. I have to take care of myself and I have to buy my things.

Danny: Are you still stealing?

Johnny: Yes, I am still stealing things and money because I could not live without money and I do not earn a lot of money. So I have to.

Tom: Where do you live?

Johnny: Now I am living again with my mother but she is really strict. I have to go to the therapist and that's why I am here. The therapist told me to go to a self-help group.

Tom: Do you really want to become to a better person and not steal again?

Johnny: Yes, I want to! But I also want a good friend or friends who help me with this. I need someone who helps me because I feel really lonely.

Danny: We could help you. We also have problems and we also need friends so why could we not become friends.

Mr Brown: That is the best solution I've ever heard . You guys have to support each other. Sorry, but the lesson is over. I will see you tomorow and you can speak about your problems.

Johnny: Thank you Danny. Bye , see you tomorrow.

Danny: Bye.

D., girl, Germany