• "I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had who was smarter than you. There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher." –Mazer Rackham; Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

    Before I begin this story, you should know that I was never ill tempered as a two-year-old. I was an angelic child with golden curls and curious green eyes, and I remember that I liked wearing dresses and bows in my hair. I tried to be friends with everyone, and at the time had not grasped that not every little boy and girl was going to like me. Consequently, I had not known that Kylie Philips (or some other name of that nature) would antagonize me until I finally struck back.

    Kylie’s name should have been Lilith, or something equally demonic; in fact, it might have been, but my mind has grown since then and some things were forced out. We were yin and yang, but did not coexist peacefully; her hair was a dark, stringy brown and she had depthless, soulless black pits for eyes. She wore a permanent scowl on her face and her brow was constantly set in a hard, belligerent line. They say to never judge a book by its cover, But in Kylie’s case, the only cover on her book was a transparent plastic sheet. She terrified me.

    I do not remember why she had it out for me. Perhaps I had taken her animal crackers. Stolen her best friend. Maybe I just looked at her funny and she internally combusted. Whatever the reason, it was a catalyst for things to come. If it had been her side of the story, she would childishly say, “she started it.”

    It started innocently enough, a playground rivalry. She would shove me on the daycare playground as she raced her friends to the swing set, trip me on my way to the bathroom, and knock books out of my hands. They were the classic tricks, the oldest in the bully book. It was only enough to annoy me, but at the time, I knew it was not enough to act on it, or tattle. No teacher would believe me unless she caught her in the act, and even then, it would be time-out for the she-devil, something we both knew would never stop her.

    Eventually, things progressed. I ignored her as my mother advised, but unlike she said would happen – that she would catch on and eventually forfeit this one-sided battle – it only egged Kylie on further. Her petty crimes evolved into something more hateful, more painful. They made me cry, as any distressed two-year-old would. I cried, moped, sulked, and worse yet, I bled.

    It was free play – then again, daycare is free play all day – and I was contentedly tinkering with a shiny red toy car when Kylie slunk over to my spot on the rug and plopped down. Her entire being was dripping with hate, but I was too distracted with the pretty red toy to notice her mood. I looked up, saucer-eyed and slack-jawed, to find her blank eyes traveling from my bewildered face to the car clutched in my now bone white knuckles. I knew she was silently asking for the toy, and I, silly, naïve little girl I was, silently surrendered it to her in hopes of a truce.

    It was not to be. She looked at the car and a malicious little smirk marred her pointed features as she lunged toward me, slamming the car against my upper lip. I froze, the instinctual war between fight or flight playing tug-o-war in my mind; I was not used to it and it confused me. Kylie raised her arm to strike again and every muscle in my body tensed. This time, though, the teacher noticed and pulled her off me before anything could happen… but the damage was done. Before my mind caught up to the situation, an anguished sob ripped from my throat and my tiny hands flew to my wounded face. I was barely bleeding, but two-year-olds hyperbolize everything, and it was magnified tenfold in my little body after the trauma my mind had suffered.

    Kylie was called to the office and I did not see her for a week.

    I wrapped myself in a personal security blanket and relished in the attention and sympathy my bruised lip attracted, until one day, the little brat showed up the next day in the middle of our story circle. There was nowhere for her to sit, but next to me. I reluctantly scooted over and she stiffly sat down. The tension was thicker than rising bread as we leaned away from each other and barely listened to the teacher, Miss Amy’s, voice. I was hyper aware of her every move. If she uncrossed her legs, I would tense and straighten by back. If she scratched her head, I would flinch away and squeak under my breath. It was a tango of tension.

    Miss Amy decided to mix things up a bit and passed the book around for us to see the pretty pictures, even if we could not comprehend the words describing them. I glanced down at the picture, noting the cartoon mouse munching on a cookie, and attempted to pass the book to Kylie, not even looking at her or practicing the extreme caution I vigilantly upheld when we were within a ten-foot radius. She glared hatefully at my downturned head and grabbed my wrist, tossed the book, and chomped my hand in one fluid motion. The question of why she had decided to have me for lunch floated across my mind, but the intense pain of her feline-sharp incisors digging into my metacarpal bones shooed it away. Another scream, more tears, and another week of no Kylie.

    I decided then her biting me was the straw that broke the camel's back, and I was determined to find oasis in this desert of hate. I needed to end this mess forever. What was it that Kylie used against me? What was it that made her keep winning? What was I doing wrong? The first time, I had handed her a toy. The second, I was not even looking at her. It was then that the epiphany struck.

    I was keeping my guard down. Every single time, I was not prepared for what she was about to do to me, because she always caught me when I least expected it. I would have to wait it out. Keep an eagle eye on her and keep my defenses up. When she least expected it, I would strike.

    The opportunity presented itself on a March afternoon, clear and bright. The sun’s rays danced through the tree under which I sat, casting dappled shadows on my outstretched legs. I felt every part the predator, keeping narrowed eyes on my prey as she sat characterless on a seesaw. Her face was cast in her trademark blank mask, and buttery sunlight bounced off her dark, greasy hair. I glowered a little harder, as if my own gaze could cause her physical harm. I watched her watch others, probably learning their weaknesses and strength, just as I learned hers. She was my enemy, and she was my teacher. She taught me everything I knew to triumph over the evil-hearted.

    Miss Amy called us in shortly after, breaking me out of my odious stare. I stood and trotted inside, transforming into a skip mid stride over to the sink. She could not know what I was planning. I had to remain casual. There was a long stretch of mirror above the sink, in which only adults or children on stools could see their reflection. I stepped up and washed my hands cautiously, wary of the malignant presence behind me. I tensed and continued cleansing, watching the sudsy water slip down the drain with mild interest. A question appeared in my head – where does the water go – but was distracted by an impatient sigh behind me. I turned on the stool and saw Kylie with her arms crossed and her foot tapping an edgy rhythm, a haughty expression on her face. I remember being mildly shocked; it was the first expression on her face other than boredom and disdain.

    I hopped off the stool and put my nose so high up it would have gotten stuck in orbit. Kylie slunk past me and stood on the stool as I stared at her back.

    This was the moment. My eyes widened and a delighted smile played upon my face as I snuck up on her, standing on tiptoes. My hands inched upward and I checked the mirror. I could not see myself, which meant she could not see me. I allowed myself a mental pat on the back and forced all the energy into my arms, and sent Kylie Philips (or some other name of that nature) sprawling and screeching onto the ground. Miss Amy rushed in and looked from me to Kylie, then back again. I nodded, confirming her silent suspicions.

    “You know you have to go to the office.” She said, kneeling to my eye level.

    I looked her in the eye, boxed my shoulders, squared my jaw, said, “I know,” and turned on my heel, marching to the door awaiting an escort to the office.

    Pride surged through my veins. I had won. I had learned from my enemy, my greatest teacher, and she would never bother me again.