![pexels-photo-9382260.jpeg](https://files.peakd.com/file/peakd-hive/bornben/23tSen7Hdg5qG86NhN6sWoqBxZH2YxSfUssm9rJfmqGqHHrfxwDJg7W6Gere2rC3wNFdU.jpeg) [Source](https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-black-boxing-gloves-9382260/) Growing up, being in school means you are either smart or dumb, there is no in-between and there is no both. As for me, I am intelligent. The only thing that I got from my father was his intelligence and the one piece of education that he let me take. My mother wasn't so lucky; she was smart too, but not as smart as my father. But, I wasn't always intelligent, It all started as something I'd like to call magical. My school had a policy on children being smart, so I never learned anything outside of school which meant I spent more time in my bedroom doing homework than I did playing sports or doing any social activity. I was always ahead of my classmates because they were all extremely intelligent than me. On several occasions, I tried to show my intelligence by becoming the best in class and all my attempts were all successful. I had never met anyone before who was smarter than me at school until, well, until this day. I mean I guess it could be said that I haven't met anyone since the other kids in my elementary school but no, this was something different. This was another person. And it didn't matter if he wasn't the smartest child in town; no one ever compared to him, nobody ever beat him in academics, and he was always ahead of everyone else, including me. When he first came into our classroom I instantly felt intimidated and shy. I tried to make eye contact with him but I just couldn't. He stood out, the way he held himself, especially during gym class. Where even though the rest of us were wearing gym uniforms; he wore a black long-sleeved shirt and a blue jeans. Even the teachers noticed his intelligence, but for once I didn't care. He was my classmate, and his name is Deji. Deji arrived at my school on a wave of accolades, excellent scores, and perfect teacher reviews. He took up every single seat in every available space, making friends within his first day of school. I could see him talking to people and laughing with them. His smile lit up the room whenever it came across his face. When he was alone, I could only imagine him drawing pictures or writing letters to some of his female fan clubs, one of which included the cheer squad. His smile, his laughs, his whole demeanor just radiated happiness. But still....He was my rival. One afternoon during lunch break, I made my way to his table, hoping to ask him if I could sit with him. “Hey Deji!” I called out, trying to sound friendly. “Can I sit here?” He looked up from his food and smiled at me. “Of course!” I sat down next to him and began eating my own lunch. “So, what are you doing after school today?” I asked. “Oh, I don’t know yet! Probably working on some assignments or studying.” Studying? That doesn’t seem like Deji. “Do you want to hang out after? We could go to the library and maybe play some games together.” “No thanks. I already have plans to study, I don’t need anymore distractions.” I smiled sadly. “Okay, I understand. Maybe next time.” After eating my meal, I returned to my desk and waited for the final bell to ring. By the end of the period, it seemed like every student in the classroom had been dismissed. I gathered my stuff together and made my way home. Although my attempt to friend Deji had failed, my rivalry with him academically, intensified. The next few school week were like fire and water, constantly fighting over the same position in class. In our third week of classes, I managed to secure the top spot in most of my classes except for chemistry and physics. The teachers were still giving us quizzes, and I was pretty proud when I scored an 87 on mine. As far as academics went, I think I got a 94. Deji had a 97 in physics and Chemistry, and even though, I could see why he would place higher in these two subjects, I still wasn't ready to accept defeat. And even after all this defeat, the competitive aspect of me hadn't diminished. I wanted to prove my mind as the greatest of all time. So during lunch, I walked up to Deji with my head held high. He was sitting in the cafeteria surrounded by the school cheerleaders who were all giggling while he ate his usual lunch. I cleared my throat and challenge him to a chess match.. a game to end all rivalry. He paused for half a second then looked at me confused before nodding and saying "Fine." I smiled and said "Great!" During the game of chess later that day, I noticed that Deji's knight was moving slightly faster than usual. “You're not playing your best, Deji,” I stated. His eyes grew wide and he stopped moving his pawns, causing me to move my king to attack his rook. "Wah!" I exclaimed. "How did I guess you'd move? You're cheating!" "I'm not," said Deji, continuing to look directly into my eyes. His gaze had turned from cold indifference to full on hatred. "Yeah right," I snorted, shaking my head. "You can't be that smart." “You're right. I'm not that smart.” My heart skipped a beat as he suddenly moved his bishop. “What are you trying to say?” “That I am better than you.” He moved his queen across the board, forcing me to move my rook. “This will be the last time you see me ever.” As soon as he said this I realized it wasn't a joke. If I lost tonight it would destroy my pride, and my dreams, as well. “No,” I said, shaking my head. “You're going to lose this round, Deji.” He smirked as he moved the last piece, sending me on my way to the afterlife. “Not quite,” he whispered. Then I felt a hard impact on my side of the board. I gasped as pain shot through my body..."checkmate!! You lose.." *** The next day the who school heard of my defeat, the news flew freely in the air to the ear of every student who wished to listen. The teachers and staff started looking around, wondering how Deji's victory was achieved, and even some of the students were curious about why I lost to him. In my third week, after a lot of effort, Deji had finally defeated me in grades and at chess, and now I was the one who was in the dumps. I was sitting in the library with my head buried in my books, trying to ignore the world around me. Unfortunately, my mind was on other things, however, I didn't realize it until a hand gently tapped my shoulder, bringing me back to reality. I slowly raised my head and saw a boy standing in front of my desk. it was Deji. “Hi Deji,” I replied weakly as I struggled to keep myself together. His expression remained calm as he continued to speak. “You should really start paying attention to your surroundings.” He pointed to the window behind me which had my initials and now, the word loser written on it. "So you came to gloat?" I asked Deji, instead of replying, he let out a funny but friendly laugh, "do you really think you lost?", he asked. For some reason, this made me angry. "Why are you so surprised? What do you expect me to do? Cry and beg to be picked again? That won't help me!" "Why don't you try asking yourself why you lost," said Deji. "Huh?" I replied. "Why don't you try being honest with yourself instead of blaming someone else, huh? How come you think you lost?" "Well.....because.... I..... uhh.....", I stuttered, not knowing how to respond. “That isn’t true.. If there's any truth to this story, you won... You got me to play a chess game with you, and now everyone is still talking about you..once again you're still the center of attention... instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you should celebrate your achievements and be happy". My mouth fell open and my heart started beating faster, my body reacting to his sudden words. But before I could say anything, Deji had gone away without even bothering to give me a goodbye. I thought of what he said, and it hurt. It hurt because I knew he was right. It hurt because he was also the one who was the center of attention. Because no matter how many times I told myself to stop chasing after him, to stop trying to make him my center of attention, I knew it would fail and in the end, I would find myself running back to him. But then, he pushes me to be the best, he makes me want to stand out more than anyone else. And after a period of intense thinking and soliloquizing, I found a new goal, one that doesn't have to see me get humiliated over and over again. I found a new focus, and that focus changed into a new goal. Eventually, I and Deji teamed up to be the most unstoppable force in the school, we shut down inter-school competitions, and organized competitions like the **cowbell contest of champions**, where he came first and I came second. Our force was unmatchable and known nationwide, and although seeing him as an ally was painful and frustrating, I knew I couldn't stop now. He was my friend and in a few years to come, my husband. And together, we are still winning..