Trusting your instincts, having respect for yourself and settling for less than you deserve can be a hard lesson for a teenager. And in Marcella Dario Fuentes’ case, a tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship turns high school into a tough time. In Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School, learn how Marcella chooses to handle it.

Written by Marcella Dario Fuentes, published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School

He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was spring of my junior year, and I’d just found out my barely-ex-boyfriend was taking someone else to the prom. In fact, let’s face it -- until this moment, I guess I didn’t totally realize he was my ex. I’d thought we were just having one of those fights we’d been having more and more often lately. I’d lost count of how many times he’d been a jerk and I’d dumped him. A day or two after, he’d always come crawling back and apologize sweetly until I took him back.

Girls had stabbed me in the back. They’d talk behind my back; they’d gang up with other girls and not speak to me or eat lunch with me. But not boys like Lucas.

We had started as friends, soon after I came to the district in middle school. Actually, we soon became best friends. I always said I liked boys better as friends -- they were more straightforward than girls. They told you exactly what they thought. They got mad and then they get over it. Girls had stabbed me in the back. They’d talk behind my back; they’d gang up with other girls and not speak to me or eat lunch with me. But not boys like Lucas.

I’d really loved Lucas as a friend -- we laughed at the same stuff, but I could also tell him just about anything. One day, he took me to explore a cave on a steep hillside near our houses. He climbed like the amazing monkey boy, but afterward, I couldn’t make it back up to the field. It started raining, and the hillside turned to slick mud. I was half-crying, trying to hold on to little twigs and stuff, but my feet kept sliding. I seriously thought I was going to die.

We were already past the time we were supposed to be back, and both my brother and the other boy who’d come along took off for home. But Lucas stayed behind until he got me back up to safety. I could count on him like that.

Well, things got weird at the end of eighth grade, when he started asking me to go out. For a long time, I told him no; I was afraid it would ruin everything. I said, “If we break up, I’ll have lost my best friend.”

Homecoming date

But he kept acting so sad, I felt sorry for him. He was so down on himself and always asking if I thought he was ugly. I tried to fix him up with other girls, but never had any luck. They thought he was too goofy, too skinny, too weird. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t see him the way I did. He was such a cool person, and he had the world’s best smile.

Finally, freshman year, he asked me to go to Homecoming. I said okay -- just as friends. But after that, it all changed pretty quickly. Maybe it was being all dressed up, having him give me flowers, going dancing. But when he asked me again to go out, I said I would, and we were boyfriend and girlfriend from then on.

I wasn’t allowed to single-date until I was sixteen, but we were always going to movies or to eat with a bunch of friends. We talked on the phone every night. We talked about where we’d go to college together, somewhere with programs for both of us. He wanted to get married someday and live in the woods, and we talked about names for our kids.

Things weren’t perfect. In fact, he sometimes drove me flat-out crazy. Time and again, we’d make plans and I’d turn down my other friends, only to find that at the last minute he would cancel because he was grounded, or had to go to his grandparents’ house, or get his hair cut -- whatever.

He could still be so sweet, but more and more I was seeing a not-so-nice side of him.

By the time we were sophomores, it seemed without fail he’d call the night before I had a big music audition and start a fight, accusing me of flirting with another guy or something. I’d cry till I made myself sick because he wouldn’t believe me, and we’d be on the phone much too late. After a while, I noticed a pattern, and began to wonder if he didn’t want me going away to music festivals -- or maybe just outshining him. He could still be so sweet, but more and more I was seeing a not-so-nice side of him.

By junior year, we were broken up at least as much as we were together. I’d always looked forward to prom, but that spring he said he didn’t want to spend the money on it. Then we got into another fight over my not making a big enough deal out of his birthday, and we broke up. Again.

Upset teen

I told one of my friends, “I guess I can’t go to prom at all now. It would hurt Lucas too much.” But next thing I knew, he was taking a girl he worked with. And once that came out, guys I knew told me he’d been seeing her while I’d been away at festivals, “and they seemed really into each other.” They hadn’t told me because they had thought it would hurt me too much.

Those were probably the hardest few months of my life. I had to go to school with him and all of our mutual friends every day. Worst of all, everybody still seemed to see him the way I once did -- a nice, funny guy who had simply made a “mistake.” Some tried to get us back together. Others listened to him and bought his side of the story -- that I’d been controlling and mean, and that I’d been cheating on him! My reputation was in shreds. Still, I had to walk the same halls, sit in the same classrooms, and eat lunch in the same cafeteria.

Somehow, I limped through each day. I found a prom date, and I went and held my head up, even though I thought I’d die when Lucas walked in with his date. After that, the shy Lucas I used to know disappeared. Suddenly, he seemed to have dozens of girl friends -- a lot of them coworkers from other schools. When they saw me, they called me names, wrote things on my car, or gave me the finger. Nobody seemed to believe me -- or care, even if they did.

When they saw me, they called me names, wrote things on my car, or gave me the finger. Nobody seemed to believe me -- or care, even if they did.

I’d like to say he eventually apologized and we became friends, but it never happened. Surprisingly, years later when I was in college, I was still meeting girls he’d been going out with at the same time as me! What happened as a result was I became a lot stronger. I knew the truth, even if nobody else did, and I had learned a lot about which of my friends were truly my friends. I also realized high school doesn’t last forever.

Going away to college was a great new beginning for me -- I made so many new friends, had exciting experiences, and accomplished a lot. Finally, I did start dating again. But I’ve become quick at weeding out guys who disrespect me or just aren’t good for me. I’d never want to go through that year of high school again, but in the end I think I’m a better person because of it.

*****

Even though she had that rough year, Marcella chose to be stronger because of it, instead of letting it diminish her. For the teen in your life, pick a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School for other supportive and relatable stories!

Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC © 2008. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.

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