I was ten when my parents decided to switch churches.
My mom had been hired as a daycare teacher at the school operated by the new church. One of their rules was that in order to teach there, your family had to attend church there. So, we prepared to switch.
My parents asked me if I also wanted to switch schools to the new school. I wasn’t sure. I loved going to Rockford Baptist. The kids in my class were great, and I was learning a lot. I also loved my teachers. However, I could see how much easier it would make things for my parents if I agreed to switch schools. So, I did.
I met Josh, along with the rest of my classmates, at the beginning of my 5th grade year. Almost immediately, I was starry-eyed over my new teacher – the lovely, enchanting Mrs. Swanson. The new class was about the same size as my old class, and I’d already made several friends in Sunday School the summer before school started.
I still remember standing there in front of the class as Mrs. Swanson introduced me in that perfect ladylike way she always seemed to have. I was a little nervous, but excited, as I surveyed my classmates. It was comforting to see a few familiar faces. None of the new faces seemed threatening, just curious.
It didn’t take long for me to settle in and be part of the class. Unfortunately, it also didn’t take me long to discover that Berean was almost a full scholastic year behind Rockford Baptist. Sitting at my desk, reviewing the material, I realized I had learned almost the entire curriculum the year before.
Thanks to my year’s head start, I began to get straight “A’s” and quickly caught up to the smartest kid in the class – Josh.
Josh. Don’t ask me how a ten year old kid managed to be so charismatic. People were just automatically drawn to him. He was smart (and also, I discovered later, conniving, manipulative, and a master of deceit). He could also be charming and sweet, if he wanted to be. In fact, part of the reason nobody believed my abuse stories was because Josh was so highly respected. He had everybody fooled.
He had fantastic eyes. Believe me, I know. I saw them up close. You can’t avoid that sort of thing when someone is yelling inches from your face or slamming your head in a locker. I saw his eyes sweet, charming, mean, nasty, and enraged. They were piercing ice blue and tilted just slightly upward. Add perfect skin and sun-kissed blond hair, and you’ve got the most popular kid in school.
Josh exuded confidence. He’d perfected this self-assured walk – where he’d stick his hands in his pocket and just kind of shuffle forward. It was VERY “Aww, shucks, I’m just a regular guy” and yet VERY “But a cool regular guy.”
The girls in our class were crazy over Josh. During the three years I knew him, Josh “went out” with almost every girl in our class. Except, of course, the obvious lemon in the bunch – me.
Josh was used to being the class’ star pupil, and he wasn’t at all sure he wanted any company. I think that maybe, at first, he tried. Long before he began to ridicule me, he made a comment on how “we” were the smartest kids in the class.
I eventually surpassed him and became the top student in the class. Little did I know how that would affect the next three years of my life.