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The first thing I wanted to do was put on another shirt. The last thing I needed was for Joel to ask why I had it off in the first place. Then again, he's so used to just guys being around other guys, he hardly thought anything was strange about it. I guess I should consider myself lucky for not being on his 'maybe' radar. As far as he was concerned, I was straight as an arrow. And I planned to keep it that way by not having him burst in on me and Tanner having sex!
I hurried over to my closet and grabbed a t-shirt. Tanner thought to grab the small jar of vaseline by the bed and put it in a drawer. There was a moment of worry as we checked the room for anything that might be out of place. And once the coast was clear, Tanner smiled at me with the most adorable blush in his cheeks. We shared a quick giggle, and I just couldn't help myself. I moved over to him, and lightly pushed him against the dresser, my lips connecting with his, my groin pressed tightly against his own. I felt Tanner melting like a warm marshmallow in my arms, and with a sigh, his hands slid around my waist and held onto my ass.
"I love you." I said.
"Love you too." He smiled, and we shared another quick peck on the lips and rubbed our noses together before hearing the toilet flush across the hall.
We were quick to put some distance between each other, but I already felt his absence from my embrace. I don't think that I was ready to stop just yet. In fact, I was already thinking of ways to maybe get rid of Joel for another few hours or so, just so my boyfriend and I can slide back into bed together for a while longer.
Joel came back into the room, and jumped up on my bed. "Alright, so spill it. Who jumped you?"
"Joel....dude, really, it's no big deal. It happened, it was really fucked up...it's over. Ok? Just leave it alone."
"Ummm....yeah, that's not gonna happen." Joel said, all ready to take off and sucker punch the first person I pointed a finger at. He turned to Tanner. "Did you see it? What happened?"
Tanner was surprised, and a little intimidated, by the sudden question. "I uhhh..."
"He wasn't there. It happened between classes." I said, sparing Tanner from any further interrogation.
"So it happened at that rich boy school of yours, huh?" He said. "Was it that 'Chris' faggot that did this? Oh PLEASE tell me it was him. That little pretty blond smartass deserves a serious beat down." Tanner and I traded a look. I hate that Joel can throw that 'F' word around so easily. I hope it didn't sting Tanner while he was standing right there next to me.
"Joel, I'm only gonna say this one more time. Leave...it...ALONE! Alright? You're only gonna make things worse."
"How can I possibly make things any worse? I mean have you looked in the mirror, dude? This isn't just something you can walk away from. What's the matter with you? You KNOW I've got your back, dude. If you want me to take a day and go up to that school, I will. You and me can whip their asses together. You can even take your boy, Tony, here with you."
"Tanner." He said, softly.
"Yeah, Tanner. Let him get a few shots in too." Joel was really pushing this.
"That's not gonna solve anything." I said.
"Well neither is you turning the other cheek like a wimp and going back to school like nothing happened. Derrick...I've seen people get jumped like this before. If you don't handle this shit right away, they just keep coming for you. Next time they might break something. Or worse."
"I'll deal with that when the time comes, just..."
"The time is already HERE, dude." He said. He gave me a weird look, and turned to Tanner to say, "Is he kidding me, or what? Please tell me he's just joking around."
Tanner spoke up and said, "Derrick...maybe Joel's got a point. If nothing else, you should at least tell somebody what's going on. They can help to protect you."
Joel sort of rolled his eyes at the idea, but he didn't say anything. Instead, he just leaned forward and said, "I'm telling you, one day, you let me go up there with you, you point him out, and I'll handle it." Before I could even say anything against it, he stood up and said, "I'm gonna munch on something. What's your mom got in the fridge? Anything from the diner?"
I mumbled, "I think...there's some fries down there. Maybe half a sandwich or something...."
"Sounds good to me. I'm on it." He walked out of the bedroom and down the stairs in a rush. That boy is going to eat me and my mom out of house and home, I swear.
Tanner took advantage of the moment, and I felt his tender kiss on my cheek as soon as we got the privacy. "Derrick...you and me, we can go down to the school office together and we can get some help. You know we can."
Sulking a bit, I said, "They're not going to do anything, Tanner. They can't. The worst thing they can do is call Johnson and his friends into the office and tell them to lay off. Then the second they catch me off of school property, they'll hurt me worse than ever. What's worse, they'll hurt you too. They already told me what would happen if I said anything to anybody..."
"That's what bullies ALWAYS say. You can't just let them scare you into being helpless." He was soooo worried. All I could do was lightly caress the side of his face, run my fingers through his hair, and kiss his sweet lips. Trying to give him some peace. Hoping to settle his worried mind. It wasn't working.
"I'll find a way to make this go away. Ok? Right now...I just need to stay out of their way. Not just for my sake, but for the both of us." I kissed him again as his bottom lip began to quiver, his eyes swelling with the beginnings of tears. "It'll be ok. I promise." I heard Joel coming back up the stairs, and I gave Tanner a few more kisses and wiped his eyes for him, before we parted and took our 'positions' again.
Joel walked in and noticed that something was a little bit different about the mood in the room this time. He stopped for a moment, saw the saddened look on Tanner's face, and asked, "Ummm...did I miss something? What's going on?"
Tanner said, "Nothing. I was just leaving." He kept his head down, but turned to say, "I'll talk to you later."
"Um...wait, I'll...walk you downstairs." I said. Joel was too busy feeding his face to care much anyway. I went down with him to the front door, and even though he tried to avoid my eyes, I made sure to catch his gaze anyway. "You know I'd never let anybody hurt you. You know that, right?"
"When they hurt you....they are hurting me."
"Well, I'm not gonna let them do that either." He didn't say anything. He was trying to bite his tongue. I told him, "It's not gonna be as easy as buying me a basketball hoop to keep me out of the park this time. Heh...but that doesn't mean that I won't be ok."
His head dropped even lower, but after a moment, he leaned into my and hugged me around the waist. "I love you so much, Derrick. I just want you to be safe."
"I know, baby. I know." We had been at the door for a while. Joel might start eavesdropping after another few seconds of me being gone. So I gave Tanner one last long kiss goodbye, and held him in my arms for as long as I could. "I'll call you later."
"K...." He sniffled a bit, but left with his head up. I don't think he believe me. I don't think I believed me either. But for now, it was good enough, I suppose.
I made my way back up the stairs, and saw Joel finishing off the last few bites of a thick ham and provolone sandwich. I looked at him with eyes wide. "Dude....what are you DOING?"
He was like, "What? I looked for the fries and shit, but there was only a few left. But I found this righteous sandwich in the back of the fridge instead. So I'm chowing down."
I put my hand over my face. I was like, "DUDE...that was my MOM'S food! You CAN'T just....you can't..." I bit my tongue, but a part of me was really upset over the fact that Joel was consuming what little food we had to share between each other like it was nothing. My mom doesn't work her ASS off to come home and have her only means of sustenance devoured by another teenage boy. She's only responsible for ONE of us after all.
I frowned up, and Joel looked at me like I was overreacting or something. "Don't sweat it, Derrick. Geez! If you want, I'll buy her another sandwich or something..."
"It's not about that, Joel, it's just....dude...we don't have enough as it is...." I started to say more, but he looked hurt over the comment. I didn't want to turn my best friend away. If I had food to give him, I would. If I had a better means of supporting myself and my mom...it would be no problem. But....dammitt.....I just DIDN'T! His very presence here was hurting us both. And I didn't want to be the bad guy in all this, but having him around was making a bad financial situation even worse. My mom would never say it out loud...but we were struggling. Every DAY we were struggling. It's a sickening feeling when you have to choose between 'electricity' and 'eating for the next week'. Joel doesn't understand that. Not when he's leeching off of us while his mom spends all her dough on God knows what.
Joel,took another bite of the sandwich, and he put it back in the carton it came from. He said, "Sorry. Your mom isn't gonna trip on this, is she? I only took a couple of bites...."
I said, "Whatever. Finish it. Maybe she won't notice. Just...take it easy on the fridge raids, ok? She needs to eat too, you know?"
He smiled at me, and put the sandwich back, wiping his hands off on his pants. "No problem. Dude, all you had to do was say something. I know how it is. We both do." He wiped his mouth, and smiled at me. "Dude...do you remember when we were little, and my mom would take us to the grocery store?" I have to admit, I smiled at the memory. He said, "We'd eat as much fruit as we could from the produce section before they told us to get lost. And the samples they had? We'd take like FIVE of them and take off! Hehehe! Do you remember?"
I snickered. "Yeah...I remember."
"And do you remember when we would hit the reset button on the cable box over and over, and then call the company to tell them that we were having connection problems? And they'd give us free premium channels for a month so we wouldn't have to go to the video store?"
Again, I laughed. "Hehehe, yeah...I do."
Joel said, "Yeah. Good times. See? That's what guys like you and me do. We take a bad situation and we work hard to make the best of it. We fix it ourselves, you know? This problem you've got at school is no different." I wish he wouldn't pursue this any further, but he quickly added, "I mean...those rich kids...they don't know shit about survival. They've had everything handed to them from day one. They don't know what it's like to have to truly WORK for something. They never had to go to bed hungry or worry about making rent. Look at your friend Tanner today. Did you HEAR him?" He made this really whiny voice, and I took offense. "Oh Derrick....we can tell somebody. They can make everything better. What kinda shit is that? That's rich kids for ya. They want everybody else to do things for them. What can they do for themselves? Huh? You want this fixed, then let's fix it. You and me. By ourselves. We're not taking the pussy way out and whining and complaining to the higher ups. They wanted violence...so let's fucking give them violence! Fuck all of this diplomatic 'tattle tale' bullshit. C'mon! Where are your balls? You never would have put up with this before?"
"Maybe I've grown up since then." I said.
"Or maybe you've just grown SOFT. Have you thought of that?" He said. "If you think they're suddenly gonna change their minds about you, and make you their poor boy mascot someday...you're WRONG. Save that happy ending bullshit for the movies. Bottom line, they all look at you like you're a piece of shit on the bottom of their shoe. And as soon as they get a chance, they're gonna toss you in the garbage and get a new pair. Why can't you see that?"
I won't pretend that some of what Joel was saying to me was making perfect sense. A lot of it, actually. But I just couldn't shake the feeling that any response to Johnson's bullying was going to make things INFINITELY worse! Taking it to levels that I couldn't even imagine at this point. No....no I had to be smart about this. This wasn't just a 'beat him up worse' solution. This wasn't something that was just gonna go away just because a friend of mine came to school and flexed some muscle in their faces. There had to be more. My gut feeling told me to find another way. And I was sticking with it. No matter what.
Trying to convince Joel to just stay out of it was a long a tedious process that night. And even then, I doubt my excuses did much good. People are so quick to use their knee jerk reactions to assume that instant 'payback' is the answer. It isn't. They might argue that I'm being unreasonable or a wuss by refusing to drop to Johnson's level...but I'll let that be THEIR problem. Let them be frustrated. So what? It's not their problem. It's MINE! And they have no idea how I feel right now! So they don't have any business judging me on my decisions. However they handle their own problems...it has nothing to do with me. I'm all on my own. And the people who judge me for it....they're not gonna step in and take a single punch for me. So I wish they'd just leave me the fuck alone and remember what it's like to be my age and scared shitless about how I'm gonna make it through the next few days. That's all I want.
It's all I want......
Later that night, Joel was watching TV in the living room, while my mom had to retreat to her room to watch her own shows. I made sure to go in and kiss her on the cheek. I don't know why. Maybe I just felt guilty about Joel just...taking over the house when he had a house of his own. My mom was having enough troubles with food and bills before...now she's got another teenager coming by to help put her further into debt. The thing about my mom...she's one of those people who will stretch everything as thin as it can possibly get for a house guest. And she'll feel truly GUILTY if it isn't enough. She'd never say a word out loud, but I was reaching the point where I would. I know that Joel is going through a rough time with his mom...but that's not our fault. And we can't just 'take care' of him as though we've got enough money to spare. Everything is so tight that my mo can't do anything more than work, sleep, and worry about bill collectors. I don't even answer the phone anymore. It's ALWAYS someone trying to get money from us. The phone rings all day long. I hardly even notice it anymore. The incentive to pick it up, even when it's Tanner, left me long ago. The very sound of the phone annoys the shit out of me at this point. And anyone who doesn't leave a message will NEVER get a call back. My mom and I just can't risk it anymore.
Sighhhh...how do I tell my best friend in the world that my mom just can't handle him being around anymore. I mean he's all on his own. He was sleeping on Johnny Rourke's couch not long ago. Should I send him back to that? I can't send him back home by himself. I just...I can't...I mean....
You know...it aches inside to say it, even in my own head....but Joel's company was becoming more of a burden than a blessing. I know my mom felt it. But now I'm feeling it too. That just sucks. It really does.
I had to leave my room while Joel checked his email and facebook on my computer...but I kept my word...and I called Chris before he went to bed. He sounded....a bit sad to hear my voice on the line. It made me regret even dialing the number.
"Hey...." He said softly. "I didn't think you'd actually call tonight. I'm....flattered. Or whatever."
I said, "I promised I would."
"Yeah. I know. I just..." He stopped. God...I was hurting him again, wasn't I? "...I'm glad. It's good to hear your voice." He said.
Chris and I had a very 'cautious' conversation over the next few minutes. Both of us trying to avoid any topics that would end up being a nightmare for the other boy listening. It's not that Chris wasn't sweet, or cute, or cool to be around. He just wasn't my choice. Tanner was my angel. Pure and simple. The heart just wants what it wants. I'm just sad that Chris got the short end of the stick in that situation. Because he'd be an amazing boyfriend for anybody lucky enough to be in his favor. He really would be.
After 20 minutes of ignoring the big issue...Chris said, "So...you and Tanner...." Then he took a breath, and said, "You two seemed....'happy'."
I didn't know what to tell him, other than, "Yeah. We...we are."
"Yeah, that's what I thought." He sulked quietly. "Well...that's cool. you know....I guess. Whatever."
There was a pause between us. A long one. And I started to speak again, "Chris....just because...me and Tanner.....Tanner and I..."
But he interrupted me. "Derrick....Please....don't try to come up with something to say that will make me feel better. Because it won't. Ok? Just...let me wish you well and be done with it. Alright?"
It sounded like he really needed this, and a this point, there wasn't much that I could deny him. So I accepted it. I told him I'd be quiet about it, and we talked for another few minutes before he gave me a heartfelt goodbye for the night. It was the kind of infatuation that made you feel guilty for not returning the sensation. It was an ego stroke like you wouldn't believe, and it really did mean a lot to me to have him feel so strongly about me. But it wasn't love. Not for me, not for him either. Whatever connection it was that we had...it was destined to fail over time.
Or...at least that's what I told myself. Somehow, it made my decision easier.
The next morning, I was faced with the awful experience of having to go back to school. My bruises hadn't healed enough where I could just pretend that the beating I had taken had never happened. Instead, the Frankenstein monster face was being sent into battle with teen boys and girls who already hated my guts and had enough ammo to keep that hatred going for the rest of my high school career. I could have appealed to my mom, but as she looked at me with sympathetic eyes, it only would have made her meddling instincts boil over and force her to side with Joel in the whole "I'm gonna go down there and 'fix' this" idea. Joel, I could handle. A period of name calling and a few weird looks, and Joel was done with it. My mom was a whole different story altogether. She was standing on the line of letting 'boys be boys', and going into full blown 'Mommy mode'! She'd take over and FORCE her way in if I let on that things were as bad as they really were. My only defense was keeping her at bay. Make her think that it was no big deal. I know she didn't really buy the act, but the fact that I was able to maintain it was enough to keep her from sinking her teeth into the situation. At least for now.
I got on the bus with my head held low, my chin pressed as firmly against my chest as my vertebrae would allow. A baseball cap on from the closet to hide my shiner and various cuts on my face. Even when Tanner got on the buss later, he couldn't do anything but quietly hold my hand during the rest of the trip to school. The gesture made me tear up, but I didn't cry. I was just glad that he was there with me, standing strong by my side as I tried to suffer through this. It helps to know that I'm not alone. I don't think any other offer of affection would count.
As I got off the bus...I felt myself getting nervous. Flashes of my face being forced into the toilet....that cold water surrounding my face as I tried hard to push my way back out of it. The punches to my stomach. My eye. My back. The helplessness of it all...it was overwhelming. But it was nothing in comparison to the shame of having to be in class with bruises like that. The moment I stepped into my first period class...my teacher told me that wearing a hat would not be tolerated. So I was forced to remove it. Just to fit into his Gestapo rule book of class conduct. And the moment my face came into light, the whispers and giggles began.
Closing my eyes, and shuffling down in my seat was my only shield. Not that it helped much. They were laughing at me. At ME. Maybe I deserved it. Maybe it was all I was worth. At least in that place.
I think it was about two hours later when Tanner came to see me outside of my classroom. He was clutching his books to his chest, and as lovely as he was, I can't say that I was happy to see him. It was just another reminder of the hard times to come. It was the last thing that I wanted to think about.
"Hey. I thought I'd walk with you today." He said. He was trying to be nonchalant about it, but he wasn't fooling me. Hehehe, Tanner might have been the waifish little boy next door type, but the way he stood before me at that moment, you would have thought that he was 6' 3" with 280 pounds of raw muscle. Hehehe, my baby...trying to protect me. How could I say no?
"I feel safer already." I said, letting him know that I was fully aware of what he was doing. He only blushed slightly in response, but said nothing to affirm or deny his intentions.
Tanner and I were walking the halls, and I was almost to my next class. Hehehe, it was so cute the way that he was playing watchdog for his sweetheart the way he was. But....before long, I saw Johnson and three of his friends coming down the hall from the other way. My joints locked up on me, and an ice cold shower of fear washed over me as I saw Tanner walking happily beside me. Nooooo.....not now. Please God...not now.
I said, "You know what? I'm already close enough. I can go from here. Just go. Hehehe, you're gonna be late."
Tanner said, "Why? It's ok. I've never been late to fourth period. My teacher won't mind...."
"Yeah, but I would mind. You shouldn't be...I mean....it's stupid for you to be late when you don't have to be..." I said, but it was too late. Tanner saw Johnson and his goons at the end of the hall, and he tightened his lips. His eyes eyes narrowing slightly as he stood his ground. "Tanner...."
"No." He said. "Let's go to class. That's what we're here for, right? So let's go." And he nudged me forward to walk past the swarm of assholes meeting us from down the hall. I couldn't stop him. I couldn't talk him out of it. I couldn't do anything but follow him as he lead me forward, his determined walk defying them with every step.
I tried to keep my head down, hiding my shameful scars from the people who inflicted them upon me. Just praying that there wouldn't be any further trouble. But Tanner didn't give them the satisfaction. He held his head high, and he stared them right in the eye. I think there was something in his confidence that incited them. Made them unruly. I just wish that I could have walked by untouched....
"Afternoon, ladies!" Johnson said, his friends giggling at the sight of my screwed up face. "Awww, what's the matter? Poor boy got himself some permanent 'eyeshadow' from my big, mean, fist?" He laughed.
Tanner and I kept walking, but I think he was angered by the fact that Tanner didn't back down from him. So he put out an arm and stopped me dead in my tracks.
"Hold on a second! I didn't say that you could walk down my hall? Did I tell these cocksuckers that they could walk down my hallways?" Johnson said to his friends, who all giggled and shook their head to say that he hadn't.
Something inside of me said, "Just leave me alone....."
Tanner and I tried to walk around them, but they stood in our way, aggressively cutting off our passage. "No no no...we don't leave you alone. You leave US alone. That's how it works. You fuckers are intruding on OUR property! Not the other way around! Now what are we gonna do about that, huh?" He said. And then he pushed me hard up against the wall, and two of the others took a hold of Tanner as he moved forward to defend me. Johnson stared me down and said, "What the fuck you gonna do, FAGGOT??? Huh??? WHAT???" He pushed me again, and I was definitely scared to make a move on him. But when I saw Tanner struggling with the others, that gave me strength. I pushed Johnson back, and stood right there in his fucking FACE! But it did nothing to back him down. Not an inch. He was bigger than me, stronger than me, taller than me. And with a group of friends who would beat me to a pulp is he asked them to. What level of advantage did I really have over someone like this?
He put his hand on my face, and pushed my head against the lockers. I shouted, "FUCK YOU!!!" But it didn't do much more than make him angry. And he shoved me harder against the chest. This time, my elbow hit the wall really hard, and I grabbed it as the pain set in. The next thing I knew, I heard Tanner yelp in pain as he was pushed down to the floor, and without thinking, I jumped to his defense by swinging on the boy nearest to him. But there was a blur of activity that ended up with both me and my sweetheart being knocked back on our asses. My elbow hit the floor hard, and my whole arm felt like it went numb. Despite our protests...they were just bigger than us. Our fighting back was a bullshit attempt a best.
It was then that I heard an adult voice from further down the hall saying, "HEY!!! What's going on here????" Thankfully, it was a teacher, and the boys were quick to back off after that.
But not before Johnson roughly lifted my chin with his hand and said, "Don't worry, FAG!!! Didn't you see the commercials??? 'It'll get better'!!! Hahahahaha!" And he gave my head another shove against the wall before the teacher hurried over and ran them off. He asked me if I was ok, but all I could think about was whether or not Tanner had been hurt. There were tears in his eyes, but he bravely stood up as though there was nothing wrong. I could tell that he had been shaken up by the experience, and yet he hid it well. The teacher sent us on to class. What else could he do? What else was he required to do? It can be a really humiliating position to be in sometimes...getting beaten up and not really knowing what to do about it.
A Tanner walked beside me, I noticed that he was slightly favoring one leg with a limp. And it was all my fault. ALL of it. Now he was on their radar too. This is exactly why I wanted him to stay out of this. Why I just want EVERYBODY to stay out of this!!!
That night...I kept my head down as I sat at the dinner table across from my mom. It was an awkward moment of silence that caused her to look up from her plate and take notice of my exposed arm. I hadn't really taken notice of the fact that there was a purple colored bruise just outside of my elbow. She was quiet at first, but gave me a look that was almost...angry. She tried to keep her composure, and said, "What happened to your arm?" I tried to avoid her eyes, and just shrugged my shoulders while taking another bite of food. She didn't let it go. "Derrick...what happened to your arm?"
"Nothing. It's fine."
"It's not fine."
"Mom, it'll heal. Just like everything else is."
I heard her put her fork down on her plate. "So you're going to sit there and tell me that bruise was there yesterday?"
"I...Mom, it's just a scratch..."
"You're going to lie to me now? Is that it? Is that how we're going to communicate now?" She said.
"I'm not lying to you. Why are you being so difficult?"
"DIFFICULT???" She said with a raised voice. "Look at me, Derrick. Right here. Eyes up." I sighed, and did as she asked. She told me, flat out, "I'm not doing this with you. Do you hear me? This isn't working for me. At all."
"Mom..." I got agitated and wiped my hands to excuse myself from the table. "You don't get it...just leave me alone."
"This isn't about leaving you alone, Derrick. This isn't over." She said, but I hurried up the stairs anyway. "Derrick! You come down here and talk to me. Derrick?" She sounded even angrier than before, but I shut the door to my room and just...curled up on my bed. Nothing could be worse then having to bear this kind of shame in front of your own mother. It's a sick feeling. One that I wouldn't wish on anybody.
Tanner tried to call me that night. I didn't answer. My mom attempted to talk to me a few more times, trying to make it seem safe with a tender tone of voice. But I didn't answer her either. Alone is what I needed to be. Even when Joel came in and tried giving me a few pokes, he got the same cold shoulder. It made for a long night, but it gave me time to think. Much needed time to think.
Going to school the next day was hard. Tanner held my hand the entire time we were on the bus. It was one of the few things that was able to make me smile that morning. But half way through my first period class, someone walked in the room and handed my teacher a hall pass.
"Derrick?" I looked up. "You're wanted in the main office."
"I'm what?" I asked, but I wasn't given any further details about it. I just had to grab my stuff and go.
Confused, I walked down the hall and made my way down to the principal's office. To my shock and horror...the second I opened the door, I saw my mother sitting in a chair right in front of his desk.
"What....what is this? What is she doing here? Mom...what are you doing here???" I said, but the principal told me to have a seat.
He said, "It has come to my attention that you've been having some rather serious problems with some of the other students recently. Would you like to tell me what's been going on?"
I glared at my mom. I know that she was trying to help, but I specifically told her to leave it alone. She totally betrayed me by not respecting that. I said, "This is ridiculous. Principal Payton, this is just a mix up. I'm fine."
"You know, we have a very strict policy about bullying here. It won't be tolerated...." The Principal started, but furious, my mother didn't even let him finish.
"A policy? That's what you have here? A policy?" She pulled up my sleeve to show him my elbow. "Look at his arm. Look at his face. You have a 'policy' against this?"
Principal Payton said, "I assure you, if there's anything that we can do to solve the problem..."
My mother stood up and approached the desk. "There IS something that you can do to sole the problem. You can find the boys that did this and put them in a CAGE where they belong!" I don't think I had ever seen her so fired up before. It was actually kinda scary. "You listen to me....I read the papers. I watch the news. Over and over and over again, I see stories about kids being bullied to the point of disgust! Beatings and murders and suicides...and MY child is not going to be one of them! Do you hear me? Now once you get through making those little written amendments to your policies on bullying, I suggest somebody in this school gets off of their asses and DOES something! Because if my son comes home with just ONE more bruise....just ONE...I'm not only going straight to the police, but I'm going to the MEDIA! I'm gonna hoop, holler, and scream, to anyone and everyone who will listen, and I'm going to let people know what kind of place this is for decent hardworking people to send their children! I'm sure some of these stuck up little trust fund brats don't want their school blasted all over the 9 o'clock news."
"Now, I'm sure all of that won't be necessary..."
"This is my SON, Principal Payton. My son. He may not have all the fancy gadgets and the name brand clothes that these other kids have, but he has the right to come here and get an education just like anybody else. He shouldn't have to FIGHT in the hallways like an animal just to get from class to class. Now you close up your little notebook of bullying 'policies' and you FIX it! Because if I have to come up here every 45 minutes and walk my son from room to room personally, I'll do it. I'm his mother. Keeping him safe is my job. Why don't you help me by doing yours?" And with that, she grabbed her purse and keys and took a hold of my wrist. "Come on, Derrick. You're coming home for the day.
The principal was speechless. I was speechless. But my mom was being such a badass about the whole thing, I didn't dare give her any lip about it. We walked out of that room together, and I had NO idea what to say to her. My eyes were still a bit wide, maintaining a certain level of shock over the whole incident. Did that really just happen?
She marched me out to her car, and gave a quick, but angry, kiss on the forehead. "Get in." She said.
"But...what about work?"
"I'm not going to work. I'm taking the day off. Get in. You and me are going to have a long talk. Let's go."
Was I being...kidnapped here?
She started up the car, and she said, "Don't make me get out and PUT you in this car, Derrick! Move it!"
"Yes, Mom." What else was I going to say? I guess....I was going home for the day. I couldn't tell if I was in trouble or not, but one thing's for sure...Johnson and his group of bullies were the LEAST of my worries at the moment!
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