Chapter 4: Bullies

I was surprisingly nervous about my first day at this new school. I had low expectations for this day. I took my time showering, hoping the scalding hot water would wash away the worry knots in my neck and shoulders.

Ordinarily I would be worried about the time and the person who got in the shower after me, but Thomas had been up since the ass crack of dawn and was probably ready for class.

I wasn’t even used to getting up at seven thirty for my nine am class.

I got out of the shower; knotting a towel tightly around my waist and trudging reluctantly back to my room to change.

I shrugged into my uniform, taking care to tuck my white dress shirt into my beige slacks. I fastened the belt around my waist and glanced into the mirror on the inside of the closet door.

Even without the sweater and tie I looked like a total looser. If I hadn’t been looking at my own reflection I would have punched this stranger in the stomach and demanded his lunch money.

I draped the tie around my neck and ventured out into the living room, for the sole purpose of brewing a pot of coffee, no matter how crappy.

Thomas was standing in the kitchen, over a bowl of cereal and one of his text books.

He also had a mug of coffee in front of him.

“Hey, there’s cereal.” He suggested. “If you want some… I just have cheerios, though.”

“I don’t usually eat in the mornings. I just have coffee.”

“Oh, well I have that too.” With the spoon in his hand, he pointed to the coffee maker pushed into the corner of the counter.

“You are officially the best room mate ever.” I answered, reaching down a mug from the cabinet.

We had worked out a schedule for cooking, cleaning and doing the dishes. We’d even come up with a plan for groceries. We would put everything together and divide the total cost in half. It seemed fair, and we’d both agreed on it.

The dorm came with pots, pans, dishes and silverware which were a huge bonus. We had to supply towels, but thankfully my mother had packed that.

I hardly knew Thomas, but we got along okay, and so far things seemed to be going well.

I poured myself a cup of black coffee, leaning against the counter.

“Can I ask something?” I said brazenly.

Thomas shoved his glasses up on his nose. He nodded.

“How does a person not look like a complete douche-bag in this stupid uniform?” I demanded.

Thomas frowned and glanced down at his uniform. “It’s not so bad… some people believe it equalizes us. If we’re all wearing the same thing, then no one can pick on someone else for the kind of clothes they wear. I don’t mind it.” He paused. “But if you want a tip… you should tie your ties all at once. Tie them and leave them on the hanger in advance. So then you can just throw them on in the morning.”

“Huh.” I mused. “That’s actually a good tip, thanks man.” I clapped him on the shoulder.

Unwillingly, I put my coffee mug down on the counter and began looping my tie.

“So what class do you have first?” Thomas asked.

“I have math, I think… with Professor Ingram? Room….” I removed my schedule from my pocket. “Room seven-sixteen.”

“Me too. Weird. I’ll walk with you.” He offered. “I can show you where it is.”

“That would be great. The maps the school gave me are insane, man. How is anyone supposed to make sense of those things?”

“They’re not so bad. Do you have them?”

“Yeah.” I passed it to him.

“Can I see your schedule?”

“Sure…” I said hesitantly. I gave him all the papers I had.

He picked up a high-liter and began drawing on my map. I finished looping my tie and drained the remainder of my coffee. I set them mug in the counter.

“Okay, I’ve high-lighted the best route for you to take to your classes. That’ll shave minutes off your time. But I’m sure if you’re late for your first few classes, the teachers won’t mind. I mean, it’s a confusing place.” He handed me back my papers.

“Dude, thanks. That’s a huge help.”

“Any time.”

“I’ll return the favor sometime, I swear.” I vowed. “I need to finish getting ready though.”

“Sure. Let me know when you’re ready to go.” He agreed, returning to his breakfast.

I marched into my room and shoved the blue uniform sweater over my head. The school crest looked weird on my chest, but I couldn’t help it. Even if it completely didn’t suit me, I didn’t have another choice. I glanced in the mirror again as I reached for my shoes. I looked completely different.

I shoved my feet into the stiff shoes and tied them neatly. I stood and grabbed the books I would need for my first day, making sure I had plenty of pens. I shoved everything into the leather messenger bag my parents had given me one year for Christmas.

I slung it over my shoulder. I was sure I looked like a total nerd, so I didn’t bother looking in the mirror.

I met Thomas in the living room; he looked like he’d been ready for hours.

I sucked in a deep breath, telling him I was ready.

We walked to our first class, and he filled me in on all the things that Professor Firestone had neglected to mention, such as the extra curricular activities, the chess club he belonged to and the planned movie and theatre nights that the drama club held.

I nodded along, barely listening to him. I was thankful to have someone who knew how this place worked, but I was also trying to memorize where I was going and the faces I was meeting.

Our first class was in the main building, and Thomas took a seat in the middle of the class room.

I wanted to sit near the back, but instead I took the seat directly behind Thomas.

The class itself was incredibly boring. Even I knew most of it. I was called on to answer a simple trigonometry question, but luckily I knew the answer so I didn’t look like a complete idiot. Either way I still hated math, and was glad when the class was dismissed.

I gathered my books and stuffed them into my bag.

Thomas stood, gathering his books quickly and with a clumsy finesse.

“Sorry, but I have to go quickly. My next class is on the fourth floor, and if I don’t hurry I’ll be late. Do you know where your next class is?”

“I can find it. Thanks for all your help, man.” I replied, nodding.

He hurried out the door. I was in less of a rush, so I followed him after ten or so people.

I heard the noise before I could see anything.

I heard shouting and the crunch of lockers before I saw anything.

“Hey, hey!” I heard. I recognized the voice, but temporarily couldn’t place it.

I squeezed through the bodies of the students who had gathered to watch.

“Come on guys, don’t. Please?” I heard the same voice ask. He wasn’t quite begging, he was simply asking.

The crowd around him seemed to cheer, urging on the two guys.

I glanced up to see Thomas, being picked up by the arms and forced into a locker. They wedged his scrawny body into the locker and shut the door behind him.

I rolled my eyes. What was this, middle school? I’d shoved plenty of kids into lockers, but this time it just seemed mean and immature. For a fancy prep school full of snobby rich kids, these people weren’t very original.

“Alright, that’s enough.” I said loudly. I approached the two guys who were holding the locker closed around Thomas. “Let him out of there.” I commanded boldly.

Neither moved. These guys were big, probably the football players that Thomas had warned me about. However, I stood my ground and I wasn’t about to show these guys any fear or mercy. I’d dealt with worse.

“Now. I’m not kidding. Move or I will move you.” I drew out the last sentence slowly so they would know I wasn’t kidding.

One of the guys snickered and advanced toward me. “What are you going to do about it?”

I knew I was on academic probation, and I knew that if I reacted to this with any force or violence, the dean was probably looking for a reason to get rid of me; and this could be it.

I grabbed the guy who advanced toward me. I shoved him hard against a set of lockers, with enough force to dent the metal beneath him.

“Back off now.” I warned, crushing him hard with my forearm pining his shoulders to the locker. If my arm had been a few inches higher, I would have been choking him. But I wasn’t about to cause serious damage, especially when I knew my being at Pine Crest depended on my behavior.

“I mean it,” I seethed. “Leave him alone before I do some serious damage to your face.”

He struggled against my arm, swinging a fist, but I beat him to it. With all the strength I had, I threw a punch hard, connecting with his side. He doubled over, groaning in agony. He fell to his knees, I’d hit him so hard. And here I thought I was a little rusty.

The second guy folded his arms over his chest defiantly.

I sighed. I grabbed him by the shirt, feeling the stitching fray. I shoved him hard into the lockers, causing him to wince. I threw him behind me, tripping him with my own knee and sending him sprawling on the hard concrete floor on his hands and knees.

With the path now clear, I yanked open the locker, pulling Thomas out. “You okay, man?” I asked.

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m fine.” He answered. He straightened his clothes, blindly.

He dropped to the floor and began scraping together his papers and books. He didn’t seem to be able to see very well, his hands had to make several attempts before they found the item he was looking for.

I realized he wasn’t wearing his glasses, so I glanced around at the floor. I spotted the thick black frames on the floor by the lockers.

I picked them up and handed them to him. They were dirty; he wiped them on his sweater and shoved them back onto his nose. He blinked like a blind man finally getting his sight back. He glanced around worriedly and I grabbed his arm; pulling him neatly to his feet. The guy maybe weighed ninety pounds soaking wet.

The two guys who had put him in a locker had snuck away when my back was turned, and while some students were still lingering around to see if anything else would happen, the large crowd that had once surrounded us was now dispersing.

“You sure you’re alright?” I asked.

“I’m fine. Thanks man.”

“No problem. I don’t think they’re going to hassle you anymore, but if they do let me know and I’ll take care of them, alright?”

He nodded. “You don’t have to do that…”

“You’re my roommate man. And let’s face it, you’re the only friend I’ve got in this place. You’ve got my back and I’ve got yours.”

He nodded, shoving his glasses onto his nose. He was staring at the ground as I led him away from the crowd. He seemed terribly embarrassed.

“Dude, don’t worry about them. We’ll get them back.” I swore. “I don’t know how yet, but we’ll get them.” I pat his shoulder. “Get to class and forget about those assholes.” I shoved my thumb in the direction of the scuffle.