Revenge wasn’t sweet like the saying goes. Fred closed his eyes, feeling miserable and empty. Becoming famous didn’t bring him the happiness he sought, so he thought revenge would. Seated on the plane, waiting for it to take off, he relived those things that caused him to seek revenge.
Growing up in a small town might be ideal for some, but not for him. His childhood had been anything but pleasant. He had carrot-colored hair, huge freckles, was always the shortest kid, and his dad was a drunken loser.
He was teased unmercifully, even bullied at times. Red Freddy and Freckles were just a few of the names given him by classmates. Being the smartest kid in the class just exacerbated things.
He was always the last kid chosen in gym class. Although his essay was the best, it wasn’t chosen for the school newspaper. He was the better actor, but the popular boy got the lead in the school play. He learned early that it was the beautiful, popular ones who got handed everything on a silver platter.
His only friend was Claire. Poor chubby Claire with her thick glasses, short, choppy, unruly hair. Claire was brainy like him and got teased, too. They started a journalism club in high school but no one else joined. Still, they worked to perfect their writing, although that never got acknowledged either.
Claire stayed in Winterdale, got married and had kids. What a sucker! Fred moved away as soon as he graduated high school. He completed college at the top of his class and pursued a career in writing. He became famous with his Young Adult series about Dimitri who was bullied in school.
Dimitri had secret super powers and used those powers against his perpetrators, much like Stephen King’s Carrie. The difference was Dimitri’s dad was in the Army so his family moved around a lot. Each book had Dimitri in a different city in a different high school.
Fred thought he could assuage his childhood angst through his character, Dimitri, but it didn’t help. He sought revenge, so he wrote a non-fiction book, Life In Winterdale. His book named names, and told the dirt on everyone. It was pay-back for every time he was teased, bullied, overlooked, or ignored.
The upcoming release of his new book was already being advertised when he decided to visit Winterdale. He couldn’t wait to show everyone the new Fred Carson. He was taller, his hair had darkened, and his freckles had faded. He was handsome, successful, confident, and wealthy. His books were being made into a movie.
Everyone in Winterdale kissed up to him, fawning over him with flattery, acting like he was their best friend. He delighted in being rude, brushing them aside like they’d done him so many times, pouring out his contempt. He reminded them of how he had been treated. “In case you’ve forgotten, you’ll read about it in my book,” he told them. It brought temporary pleasure to watch them squirm.
So why didn’t he feel better when he went to bed in his hotel each night? Why didn’t Claire agree with him? That was the biggest disappointment – the way Claire acted like she felt sorry for him.
Claire was actually very pretty now. Tall and thin with long, beautiful hair, she was a fitness and health food advocate. She’d thrown her arms around him and seemed genuinely happy to see him. “Freddy, I’ve missed you. I’ve followed your progress and I’m so proud and pleased for you.”
But, when Fred shared with her the reason behind his character, Dimitri, and why he wrote the book, Life in Winterdale, she frowned. “Is that all you remember from Winterdale? Not everyone treated us like that, Freddy. Yes, there was teasing, and that’s never okay. My husband’s a math teacher, so I know how schools have worked for awareness and to protect students.”
“Look how it hurt us, Claire, how it damaged us. I want people to suffer for how they treated me. It wasn’t just their meanness, it’s how we never got recognized, how we always got the short end of the stick.”
“Is that what you think? That I’m damaged? I forgave any offenses long ago. I want to be healthy in all areas of my life. Let it go, Freddy! The person you’re hurting the most is you.”
The plane’s engines roared for take-off. For the hundredth time, Fred wondered why he didn’t feel vindicated. Was Claire right?
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