It's the last period of the day now and, even though my stomach hurts like hell because I barely ate lunch, I feel good. But only because I know I'm going home soon. Only because I know that when I get home I'll be greeted by my sweet, loving mother and a warm dinner ready and waiting on the table. It'll be one of those frozen dinners that she popped into the microwave, but it'll still taste good. At least no one will throw it on the floor and stomp on it.
The bell rings and I'm the first one out of class, bounding down the hallway towards my locker. In less than a minute it's open and I'm shoving all my new graded tests papers and homework in the growing pile underneath my backpack. I grab the black pack off it's hook, sling it over my shoulder, close my locker, turn to leave, then stop. Because someone's standing in my way. A tall girl with long, straight, dark brown hair, bright blue eyes rimmed in mascara and a small silver nose stud. She smiles shyly at me, revealing straight white teeth and dimples.
"Hey," she greets. "I'm Hayley. I'm-I'm new here."
"I know." I say, my voice a little colder than I intended. "You're the girl who didn't stand up for me after Chloe Brawnson deprived me of my lunch. Thanks alot." Whoa, what are you doing? I ask myself. A hot, popular girl is actually talking to you, that never happens, and you're just gonna ruin the moment? You're gonna ruin your first shot at having a friend, or more? Yes, I decide. She's pretty and popular and that's why she's Chloe's new bestie. Hayley belongs with her, not me. I was made to be alone. If I were made to have friends, I would have had some already.
I start to walk away, but she reaches out and grabs my arm, stopping me. I pause, turn and glare at her, hoping she gets the non-verbal message and backs off.
"Look, I know we got off on the wrong foot. You're right, I should have stuck up for you...but..." she begins.
"But what?" I ask. "What's your lame excuse?"
"I-I don't really have one." she admits quietly. "I was just so in shock I couldn't really speak or anything. I'm sorry. I'll do better next time." I wiggle out of her grip and stomp away from her.
"There won't be a next time." I grumble, walking faster, hopefully losing her in the crowd. And there goes your one shot at getting a friend...or more. You completely blew it dude. I tell myself, resisting the urge to look back at Hayley. I trudge forward, making my way down the stairs, through the hallway and out the front doors of the school. The school buses usually arrive after school ends, so we have to wait. There are little wooden signs all along the front lawn of the school displaying the bus numbers, and every student who gets on that bus to go has to wait at that sign. As I walk to the sign saying 103, my bus number, guilt starts to settle in. Hayley's a nice girl; I went to hard on her. But then again, if she were really nice then she wouldn't be hanging out with Chloe. But just the mere fact that she came up to mean and said hi, means she's really sorry and wants to start over, right? Right?
I sigh. See, this is why I have no friends. And why now is the perfect time to follow through on my self-punishment and put myself in the pathway of a bully. And luckily, I see one now: Skipp Madison, Chloe's boyfriend. He's standing with his buddies near the sign for bus 099, laughing and talking about whatever friends laugh and talk about. Skipp has a temper; nearly anything you do can tick him off. Whether you accidently step on his foot, your hand accidentally brushes his butt or you stare at him for just a moment too long, you can expect to beating. Physical or verbal. Today, I don't care which form my beating comes in.
As I walk past him I purposefully bump my shoulder into his. It's a death sentence that I'm ready to write.
"Hey loser. What did you do that for?" Skipp bellows, grabbing me by the shirt collar and whipping me around.
"Who are you calling the loser?" I ask, raising an eyebrow. "Everyone know that you're the loser." And with that, it's over. I know it is, the second I see his nostrils flare.
He raises his fist, ready to punch me and I close my eyes, ready for impact. I'm determined not to retaliate, determined to let him beat the living daylights out of me if he wants to. Though I'm not feeling pain at all right now. What's taking him so long to punch me?
"What do you think you're doing!" a voice yells suddenly. I open my eyes, startled, thinking it's a teacher, only to see Hayley charging towards us, looking a mix of worried and protective. "Are you okay, Patrick? He didn't punch you yet, did he?"
"No, but what do you think you're doing?" I ask her. "Are you insane, getting in the middle of a fight like this?" But she ignores me and turns towards Skipp.
"Leave him alone!" she yells. "Or you'll be sorry." Skipp just laughs.
"You think I'm scared of you?" he asks. He had put his fist down, but its still balled at his side.
"Do you think I am of you?" she asks, her voice strong, sounding fearless. The small crowd that has gathered around us gives an 'ooh' of surprise. She turns back to me and grabbing my wrist, drags me away, through the crowd further back towards a tree on the lawn closer to the school. I wiggle free from her grasp, again, and turn to glare at her. She just smiles innocently up at me.
"Told you there would be a next time." she says.