Chapter 7

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Hope is the destination that we seek.

Love is the road that leads us to hope.

Courage is the motor that drives us.

We travel out of darkness into faith.

The Book of Counted Sorrows

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Cree had been steadily recovering since that fatal night so long ago. Miss White helped show her how to deal with the problems she had shoved aside in the past. She was still somewhat wary of others, but slowly was learning to trust again. But most importantly, Cree was learning to live again. Things she had enjoyed before made her smile again, and slowly but surely the spark that had dimmed during the months of depression lightened her eyes once more. Then Miss White decided it was time to re-introduce her into the classroom.

Cree nearly slipped back into her old habits when she learned she would be returning to her old class.

Two months before the end of the year, Cree walked down the hall, trembling badly. She had made a leap of faith, wearing a pair of jean shorts that clearly showed her scars, but she knew she could never hide them forever. She stood outside the door, a thousand "what ifs" racing through her mind. What would she say to her classmates? What would they say to her?

Her teacher, Ms. Zeno, chose that moment to step outside, smiling. "Hello, Cree. It's good to see you again!"

"Hi, Ms. Zeno," Cree murmured, self-consciously massaging her wrists. The slashes she had made that night had scarred over. The scars of depression would never leave her. As long as she lived, her scars would give a silent testimony to what had been the hardest battle of her life.

"Everyone's waiting for you," Ms. Zeno said, stepping aside.

Cree stared at the door knob, as though it had grown teeth and threatened to bite her; finally, biting her lip, she slowly turned the knob and opened the door. She froze, gasping.

Ms. Zeno hadn't been kidding when she said everyone was waiting. Cree's class stood there, as well as teenager she recognized from the ninjas, Maurice, Chad, Abby, Hoagie, Nigel, Fanny, Wally, Kuki, Tommy and Mushi, all the kids in their classes standing there. A large white banner painted in green and blue glitter had been strung above the windows. In light blue glitter the words, "Welcome back, Cree!" were written. "Welcome back, Cree!" The whole room chorused, waiting just for that moment when Cree would walk through the door, echoing the words carefully written on the banner.

Cree's eyes widened; she swiped at them, realizing she was crying, and not feeling at all ashamed. "You guys," she choked out.

Abby took that as a signal to run from the crowd and hug her sister as tightly as possible; when she pulled away, she took Cree's hand, leading her to the crowd. "I know it's kinda crowded," she said, "but everybody wanted to make sure you were okay."

Maurice stepped forward, giving Cree a quick, light kiss, and the kids swept forward, hugging her in one massive group hug. Her lips trembled as she smiled, and a few lone tears coursed her cheeks as she began speaking to Hoagie and Tommy, who didn't hesitate to tell her how much their new baby-sitter sucked, would Cree be coming back soon?

Abby slipped off to the side, smiling slightly. She hastily wiped tears from her eyes as tears streaked Cree's cheeks. It would probably take a year or two more of treatment before things were completely back to normal, but it really was going to be all right.

The End

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Well, that's it. The end of Strong Enough. Please review!