After being bullied at his previous school, Charlie was desperate to fit in with a group of kids led by a wannabe bad boy, Drake. But one day, Drake stole his father’s huge bike and ran over a girl. That’s when Charlie had to decide if he was really “cool.”
Charlie walked into his new school hesitantly, hoping that the same thing bullying that happened at another high school would not occur again there. He didn’t know what he did to anger those kids, but he planned to lay low and avoid anyone who looked too menacing.
His plan was derailed when he ran right into a tall guy in a leather jacket because he got distracted reading his schedule. “Hey, dude. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t looking,” Charlie said, picking up what he had dropped.
“Well, at least it’s just me and not a wall. That would’ve been embarrassing,” the guy joked and chuckled.
“He would probably kill anyone who messed with his daughter,” another kid said.
Charlie looked up and saw the kid, who was ten inches taller, had an awesome hairstyle, and rocked a toothpick in his mouth. He reminded him of the main leads in one of his mom’s favorite old movies, like “Grease” or “Rebel Without a Cause.”
“I like your jacket. It’s really cool,” Charlie commented.
“Yeah? I got it from a thrift store. Can you believe it?” the guy said, twirling, opening the sides. “My mom says I look like James Dean. I don’t know who that is.”
“That’s what I was thinking. He’s an actor. Like one of those cool guys from old movies that got all the girls,” Charlie explained.
“Awesome!” the guy said. “I’m Drake, by the way.”
“I’m Charlie. I’m new.
“Cool. Hey, you wanna hang out with my friends at lunch?” Drake offered, and Charlie tried to nod slowly despite his eagerness.
“OK! See you then!” Drake said, slamming his locker and walking away.
Charlie hung out with Drake and his hang at the cafeteria, and it was immediately apparent that these guys were the cool kids in school. Everyone was looking at them. But more importantly, Drake seemed to be their leader. They all agreed with whatever he said.
“Aren’t Charlie’s sneakers cool?” Drake said, and the others nodded, asking questions. Charlie had never felt included in all his school years, much less by the popular crowd, so this was a new experience.
“Yeah, they were my Christmas present. I collect other sneakers,” Charlie said, shrugging.
“That’s pretty awesome,” Drake nodded, and everyone oohed and aahed at Charlie’s shoes.
At the end of lunch, Drake asked Charlie if he was busy after school. “Come hang out with us at the junkyard. No one bothers us there. We can do whatever we want. Sometimes, Oliver brings beer,” his new friend suggested.
Charlie knew his parents would hate that, but he could not pass up friends, so he nodded. He made it to the junkyard in time to see all the kids gathered around something. Drake turned, spotting him, and opened his arms in greeting.
“My man, you’re here! Check this out!” he stated loudly and pointed towards… a huge shiny motorcycle.
“Wow! Cool! This is your bike?” Charlie wondered, getting closer and eyeing the hog.
“Nah, I kinda stole – borrowed it from my dad. But he can’t find out,” Drake said conspiratorially.
“Man, you’re brave. I could never do that,” Charlie said, still focused on the bike.
“You wanna ride? Since you’re the new kid, I can let you have a go first,” Drake offered.
“Really?” Charlie asked, shocked. The other kids started chanting “Charlie!” urging him, so he got on the bike quickly. “I don’t know how to start it. But I look like my neighbor. I call him Big Bruce.”
“You know Bruce? Man, he’s the scariest dude. He’s friends with my dad but always stares at me like he can see all my secrets. It’s a little odd,” Drake said, shaking his head.
“Yeah, he’s scary. He’s my neighbor. I haven’t talked to him. I just hear his bike come and go,” Charlie nodded.
“Do you know Bruce killed his wife?” a girl in the group said.
“What?” another girl asked, shocked.
“Yeah. Well, no one really knows. But that’s what everyone thinks. He’s a scary dude.”
“Really?” Charlie wondered.
“Are you crazy? No! Run! Run! Let’s get out of here!”
“No way. Bruce’s wife died in a car accident. That’s what my dad said,” Drake shook his head. “But I don’t know if he had killed anyone else.”
“He would probably kill anyone who messed with his daughter,” another kid said.
Charlie twisted his lips in deep thought, distracted.
“Charlie, come on! Ride!” Oliver clapped, and they all focused on the bike again. Drake showed him how to turn it on and what to do. Surprisingly, Charlie was a natural at it. The kids applauded when he turned the bike effortlessly.
Drake seemed impressed by him, which made Charlie feel like he was ten feet taller. So, he went home and immediately told his parents about his fantastic day at school.
“I made friends, and Drake is the coolest, Mom. He let me ride his bike; I’m so good at it. Can I have a bike for my birthday?” Charlie asked.
“You already have a bicycle,” his mother frowned.
“No! A motorcycle, Mom!”
“What? You went riding motorcycles after school? Are you crazy? Do you know how dangerous those things can be? I already have nightmares when the neighbor turns on his big thing. No! You can’t have a bike!” his mom scolded.
Charlie looked at his dad, who had a serious expression. “Where did you guys ride bikes?” he wondered.
“At the junkyard,” Charlie responded quietly.
“A bunch of 16-year-olds were at a junkyard riding bikes?” his father continued, his jaw moving from side to side. “Charlie, son. Listen, kids that hang out at junkyards don’t go anywhere in life. They aren’t the cool kids. They’ll lead you down the wrong path. I mean, it’s nice that you have friends at your new school, but you didn’t have to pick delinquents.”
“They’re not criminals, Dad! We just rode Drake’s dad’s bike and hung out. They like me. Don’t judge them like that,” Charlie said, not realizing his slip-up.
“Drake’s dad’s bike? Oh! These kids stole a bike and rode it around like it was nothing?” his mother questioned, pointing a finger at Charlie. “Listen to me. I won’t allow you to become a bum. Don’t hang out with those kids again, Charlie.”
“You’re ruining my life!” he yelled at his parents, slamming his fists on the table and storming to his room.
Despite his parents warning, Charlie didn’t stop hanging out with Drake and his gang. He was just more discreet about it. He told his parents he had joined the chess club, but that was a lie. His new friends were getting into all kinds of mischief, but Charlie only cared that he finally had friends.
Unfortunately, his parents discovered the truth after the police called them. They had to pick him up from the station because the cops caught him and a few others stealing from a candy store. Charlie hadn’t taken anything but was technically “keeping guard.”
“I didn’t do anything!” Charlie whined in the back seat of the car.
“Maybe not, Charlie. But aiding and abetting is still a crime,” his mother turned in the passenger seat and stared at him with desperate eyes. “We told you not to hang out with those hoodlums! And you still did it! You lied about chess club!”
Charlie crossed his arms. “You don’t get it. I… didn’t know what they were planning,” he muttered, trailing off.
“Charlie,” his father said, looking at him through the rearview mirror. “Son, the kids you associate with can pull you down. I know having friends is important, especially after everything. But kids who want to steal things are not good influences. Stealing is never good, Charlie.”
“It was just candy,” he mumbled.
“Even candy. Someone built that store with sweat and tears; you just cost them money. Plus, being arrested can hurt your chances at college. The cops let you all off easy. But they won’t be lenient again,” his father sighed. “We can’t control what you do at school. You have to realize that these kids are not cool at all.”
Charlie didn’t say anything else and was quiet at dinner too. His parents grounded him for two weeks. He had to return home from school immediately, or they would call the cops themselves. However, he decided to sneak out on the fourth day of his “prison sentence.”
“Charlie! My man! You’re back from prison!” Drake greeted, and the others cheered as well.
“Yeah, sorry. I had to sneak out anyway. I have to be back before my father gets out of work. But I couldn’t stay in my room any longer,” Charlie explained, patting Drake’s shoulder. “Oh, you brought the bike again.”
“Yeah, I just saw this cool trick on Youtube. Here, record. You got here just in time,” Drake said, pulling his phone from his pocket and giving it to Charlie.
He started filming as his friend got on the bike, revved the engine, and took off quickly. “Follow!”
They all ran after him out of the junkyard onto the street. Luckily, no cars were around. Drake made a dangerous turn, but the guys hoorayed as he returned to them speedily. That’s when the worst happened. A girl rode a bicycle perpendicularly to the road, and Drake had no time to stop full.
She flew from the impact, landing on the cement and hitting her head on the pavement. They all watched in horror. Drake also fell off the bike, but it wasn’t that bad.
Charlie shrugged, still timid. “It was the right thing to do.”
“Oh my God!” yelled Oliver. “That’s Daisy, Big Bruce’s daughter!”
Charlie saw all his friends scramble in horror towards the girl and followed. She was unconscious, and he feared the worst. “We have to call 911!” he said. The others stared at him for a second and looked at Drake.
“Are you crazy? No! Run! Run! Let’s get out of here! Bruce can’t find out I did this. My dad can’t find out either!” Drake said, dashing to the motorcycle and getting on.
“NO! You can’t leave her here. We have to help her! Drake!” Charlie shouted, desperate for his friend to see reason.
“We’re leaving, Charlie. Right now,” Drake said firmly. But Charlie stood his ground, not letting him pass with the bike. “If you don’t run away right now, I’ll destroy you. I’ll blame it all on you, and things at school won’t be pretty, Charlie.”
“I’m not leaving,” Charlie crossed his arms, feeling anger and disappointment. Drake had become such a hero to him, but right now, all he saw was a coward.
“She’s nothing, Charlie. She’s autistic. She won’t even be able to tell on us. You have to listen to me,” Drake said pleadingly.
But Charlie wouldn’t move. “We have to take her to the hospital.”
“I don’t have to do anything!” Drake said, his eyes flaring and his forehead sweating. He made his bike move, and Charlie had to get out of the way or risk getting hurt.
“You’re a coward, Drake!” Charlie called out.
“If you tattle to the cops, I’ll make you pay!” Drake clapped back as he rode away. The rest of the 16-year-olds had already left, but the girl was still helpless on the road. Charlie didn’t have a choice. He knew he had to do the right thing.
Therefore, he grabbed Daisy as best he could, which wasn’t easy because she was tall for a 12-year-old, put her on his back, and ran to the nearest clinic. The emergency staff tended to Daisy and asked Charlie what had happened.
He opened up entirely, and the hospital called the police. Charlie wasn’t afraid of Drake or that he would get blamed because, in all the commotion, his “cool” friend had forgotten that Charlie had his phone and had recorded everything.
After the crash, Charlie placed it in his pocket without stopping the video, so even the conversation with Drake was filmed. He gave the phone to the police and went home after the nurses told him that Daisy would be alright and her father was on her way.
He still sneaked into his house through the window and deliberated on how to tell his parents what had happened. He wasn’t sure what to say or how to apologize. However, he was sure of one thing: he would never be around Drake or his buddies again.
His father had been right. They were not “cool” at all.
However, he didn’t get a chance to say anything that night because he didn’t realize how tired he was from everything and fell into a deep sleep.
Charlie jumped from his bed in fear and thought he had a nightmare but couldn’t remember anything. However, his fear had nothing to do with his dreams. His house was almost shaking from the resounding of several engines, and he knew what that noise was.
The teenager peaked through his window and spotted more than 20 men outside his home with their motorcycles still running. Big Bruce was in the front, and Charlie saw his mother exiting the house to approach him.
“God,” Charlie muttered. After a few minutes, his mother turned and walked quickly into the house.
“Charlie! They’re waiting for you! Come out, right now!” she called from outside his bedroom door.
“The bikers are here. Come on!”
Charlie didn’t even need to get dressed. He had fallen asleep in his clothes, so he didn’t need to get dressed. He walked slowly out of his room and stared at his mother. “Why are they here?” he mumbled.
“I think you know,” his mother said, crossing her arms. But she wasn’t angry per se.
He didn’t know what to think, so he just went out and balked at the tall bikers in the front. He faintly remembered what Drake said about how Big Bruce could see into your soul, and Charlie felt the same. The big man reached out unexpectedly, grabbing Charlie’s hand in a strong grip. The teenager had no idea what that man was going to do, but it wouldn’t be pretty.
“Charlie!” Big Bruce finally said and smiled. He pulled the boy into his big arms, wrapping him in a big hug. “Thank you, son! You helped my daughter! Thank you! I saw the video too. Standing up to your friends, especially wannabe bad boys, is hard. But you were brave, kid. I respect that.”
Charlie shrugged, still timid. “It was the right thing to do.”
“Yeah, it was. But I heard you like bikes. So, do you want to hang with us today?” Big Bruce offered, smiling.
Charlie looked back at his mother and father, standing in the doorway and watching everything. Someone must have told them. “Can I?” he asked them.
“Go!” his mother said.
Charlie jumped on Bruce’s bike and held on. He learned more that day than ever before and couldn’t believe the nasty rumors about this man around town. He wasn’t scary or a killer.
He loved his daughter, and after her diagnosis, he and the rest of his motorcycle club decided to help other parents with disabled children. They volunteered at a local center for special-needs kids, and Charlie asked if he could go with them, too.
Big Bruce was pleased. After lunch, they went to the clinic, where Daisy was doing better, and Charlie officially met her. She thanked him, and it eased Charlie’s conscience at last.
That weekend, he went to the center with Big Bruce and some of the guys. To his surprise, Drake was there, mopping floors as punishment. He stared at Charlie with a twist of his upper lip, and Charlie knew school would be difficult from then on. But he didn’t care. He didn’t want friends like him anymore.
“His dad is one of my closest friends. I don’t know why that kid turned out like that,” Bruce told Charlie.
When Daisy got better, she accompanied them to the center, and Charlie realized how smart and kind she was. She didn’t resent anyone and wanted to help other special-needs children as much as possible.
At school, Charlie started hanging out with some of the siblings of the disabled kids from the center, and he finally joined the chess club. Drake and his friends sometimes passed him in the halls and tried to intimidate him, but Charlie felt above them.
He didn’t care. He realized what was cool now. It wasn’t a group of losers trying to stir trouble and act like they knew everything. Being cool was being kind to others. Big Bruce and his club showed him that. Daisy and his new friends were cool.
He might not be a rebel without a cause, but Charlie knew he was unequivocally cool, too.
What can we learn from this story?
Kids want to fit in at school so much that they might get mixed with the wrong crowd, so parents must be vigilant.
Being brave and acting kindly toward others is the only thing that can make you cool.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.