83: Bully for Me

83: Bully for Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Bully for Me

A brother is a friend given by Nature.

~Jean Baptiste Legouve

My big brother was a brat.

For eighteen years, I felt like Kyle was The Enemy. Always teasing and tormenting me. Only eighteen months my senior, he knew which buttons to push and he pushed them just for the exquisite purpose of pushing. That and, of course, the reactions from me he loved to induce. In fact, I found it hilarious that people talked about older brothers looking out for their sisters, protecting them. Older brothers fought off their sisters’ bullies. Huh? My brother was the bully.

When we were little, his roughhouse shenanigans caused my only black eye, stitches in my lip when I bit through it once, and even a nosebleed or two. I often wished I were an only child!

We ended up attending colleges two thousand miles apart, and that was fine with me. Yet, oddly, that’s when we began communicating.

Through the miracle of e-mail, we kept in constant touch. My fingers flew over the keyboard; mostly I whined. Freshman year was not an easy adjustment for me, as I dealt with serious homesickness, impossible roommates, difficult classes, looming career decisions, and... dating. At a particularly low time, I cried to Kyle about my shattered confidence, my broken heart, and the particular jerk who broke it. Shredded it. Stomped it into dust.

And that’s when it arrived.

I hefted the thick package delivered to the dorm one day. “What’s this?” I muttered as I tore into it.

The box revealed a sweatshirt. “Phi Delta Theta? That’s Kyle’s fraternity.” I frowned. Why would he send this? I shoved it aside and dug deeper.

Envelopes. A stack of letters. And they were all addressed to me.

I opened the one on top.

“Katrina,” it said, “your brother showed me your picture and I think you’re awesome, beautiful, absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, sure.” I opened another letter. And another. Eighteen in all.

Each one was from a different guy. They complimented. They gushed. They invited me on tantalizing dates. They... wooed me. And they tried to convince me to make a trip out to Knox College and meet them.

“This is over the top!” I snickered. Before long, I was laughing out loud.

And then it hit me. As president of the frat house, Kyle was initiating (or hazing?) freshman pledges. Knowing Kyle — and know him, I did — he’d decided to kill two birds with one stone. He had a parcel of boys to keep busy, and he had a sister who needed a boy. Who needed a boost to her trampled-on feminine ego.

I loved it. I didn’t care about the motive. I liked what the guys said and I liked getting fan mail. Mostly, I adored the idea that my big brother had pulled it off. Forget e-mail. I picked up the phone.

“Kyle, the box came and I can’t believe what you did.”

But Kyle wasn’t accepting compliments. “Oh,” he mumbled, “I was just tired of reading your woe-is-me e-mails.” His voice deepened, gruffer. “Were their notes all clean? I warned the guys, ‘Nothing off-color or you’re going down.’”

“The letters were perfect,” I whispered into the phone. “Just perfect.”

Big brothers, I decided, really did protect their sisters. And mine fought off the biggest bully I’d ever encountered — my own self-doubt.

~Katrina L. Hatch as told to Carol McAdoo Rehme

More stories from our partners