Rotten Apples

Chapter 3 – Save Them

“…What’s going on, here?” I heard, Ms. Silverman, my home room teacher, break the silence and tension of the four of us standing in front of one another as the three boys pinned me to the brick wall outside on school grounds in front of a bunch of other children.

With fake innocence in his eyebrows, Jesse immediately replied “Ooh! We were just showing Billy where he can eat, outside, if he wants to at lunch. You know? It can get preeeeetttyy hot in that lunchroom for us students, sometimes, you know?” He said with such a fake smile & emphasis in his words that it almost made you feel like you were choking from its obnoxious charm.

She turned to me, sharply, and asked, “Is this true, Billy?”

I peeled my gaze up and saw Jesse look at me as the long haired boy nodded “No.”

After processing all that had already happened and what WOULD happen if I made the wrong decision in that situation, I slowly nodded, “Yes.” while my head was still down.

She then turned to look at them.

“Welp! Better head off to do some studying! I’ll catch ya la-“ Jesse said as he attempted to proceed to walk away, but, the teacher stopped him mid sentence and coldly grabbed his arm, shocking all of us as he looked up at her.

With a tint of malice of her own she said to him slowly as though a wicked witch were casting some sort of a spell on him, “I’ve got my eyyyye on you, Bradford. Don’t think you can get away from me like Regina…” That comment calmed his eyes for a moment as he gulped and, then, snatched his arm away. With an angry & furrowed brow he gazed at me before leaving with his friends.

I didn’t know what type of past surrounded her Jesse or this “Regina”. I assumed it was possibly Jesse’s sister that I overheard her mention to him. But, I could tell that whatever had happened or was STILL happening, certainly wasn’t good.

After they walked away, she walked closer to me and gave me a look as her eyes peered down at me. “Billy… if you ever need anything, …you come to me. Understand? …You come to me.” She talked completely different at that moment than how I initially expected her to ever have spoken before when I very first met her. It seemed however it was that she knew Jesse, it wasn’t a happy story at all. It was almost as if it was personal.

I simply nodded and said. “Yes ma’am.” She smiled at me and rubbed my shoulder before walking off. As I stood there alone, I took notice of some kids looking at me, but, they weren’t giggling, staring, or whispering. Most of them …looked sad.

Over the course of the following week since I had ever first met Jesse, his best friend, Sascha, and his dark haired friend, Micheal Smith, I experienced my very first daily patterns of bullying which extended from mild childish insults, to downright verbal abuse. Not only were most of their comments, remarks, & statements bordering the lines of sexism, slander, & racism, at times, but, some were the absolute definition of immaturity its finest. Many of their routine insults sounded as though a group of 3rd graders were mocking a child who was wearing a funny Halloween costume that they had decided to wear for that year.

Examples of this were, one day, in the hall, all three boys walked up to me as I was trying to grab my algebra books and prepare for my next couple of classes as I was at my locker. The darker haired boy, Micheal, said to me in a sing song voice to try & provoke and issue a negative response from me,”Heyyyy poopieeeee. Heyyyyy, Poop!! Ew, he smells like poopie!” as the kids in the hall turned to look at us while Jesse tried to contain his laughter and compose himself.

I began to get extremely embarrassed and frustrated while everyone was looking at us and lost my patience. Finally, with my shoulders tensed up and my arms down I turned to him and said, “Mah name is not POOP!” I said, loudly. I said it a little louder than I originally anticipated, so, all of the other kids in the hallway started to laugh at what I had just blurted out. After this, Jesse, literally, basically died and dropped almost to the floor a bit and laughed a silent and really hard uncontrolled laugh that made no sound as his face was red making his blonde locks of hair appear to be a magic platinum in contrast to his tomato like complexion with his mouth wide opened. He was stuck like that. He couldn’t stop laughing to the point where his friends had to help him back up.

Jesse made no hesitation, whatsoever, in emphasizing and stating how BAD I was at sports, particularly during my first day of gym class when we were all assigned to play basketball. Not only could I not shoot from the 8ft line, but, I shot about 2 feet below, above, or to the side of the actual net EVERY single shot! Even I thought I was bad & was ashamed of that. No one wanted to pass me the ball. I didn’t know what the heck I was even doing throughout the game or what I was SUPPOSED to do and even the teacher said, “Wow, uhm. Irving, let’s uh… let’s take a 10 min. break shall we?” Which really was a 20 minute break.

In the locker room as I was changing out of my gym clothes, a traumatic experience for me since I oddly found many of the boys… attractive for the very first time in my life, Jesse said, “Fu++, you shoot worse than a CAAOOWW in the winter tiiiimmmee.” In an old man cowboy accent identical to my own. I didn’t respond. I just ignored it. “Ayy… HAYY! I’m talking to yuu, Banana Irving Boy.” I still tried to ignore him as best as I could while my face turned red from social embarrassment. “Answer me, HILLBILLY.” He threw a sock at me. It hit my cheek softly, causing me to turn around.

“Leave me ‘lone, please.” I said briskly.

Ignoring my request, he whistled like a boy would at a pretty lady and said, “Damn, boy. Look at ‘em Girly legs. Nice thongg baby.” He giggled as some of the other guys began smirking at me as he taunted my dark blue speedo cut undies which revealed my full legs & thighs. I didn’t see anything wrong with this type of underwear, whatsoever. I DON’T like the other ones that they wear as they really make me feel uncomfortable with all that unnecessary material. If you ask me, THEY were the real weird ones when it came to that. I caught something, though. That long haired boy, Sascha, kept eyeing me every here & there and I couldn’t tell why. Every time I looked back at him, he was looking at me or turning away from me as though he WAS looking at me. He didn’t speak that whole period about me or to me. So, I just ignored it.

Other instances were when Jesse Bradford and Sascha Konovski threatened me to never talk again out of class or they would do something to me every time I did. They said that no one wanted to hear my stupid ugly sounding voice and that many kids told them that. They said that they were trying to protect the school from suffering. What was worse, is since I was innocent and lacked a hefty amount of basic social skills & had little to no knowledge of the norms of modern society, I actually believed all of this. And, they knew that; they thought it was hysterical. They loved how they had power over me and my mind and could ‘train’ me to believe, think, or practically do anything that they came up with. And, they took advantage of that; they really did.

I really took this to heart and started to HATE my own voice. I walked around with my head down most of the time and didn’t make eye contact with anyone. I started to be ashamed of people hearing me speak. I started to actually believe what they were saying was true and that everyone hated me and no one wanted to hear me. I hated the way I looked. I didn’t know it, but, for that entire first week and a half of school, I was depressed. It may seem comical to take offense to such statements, but, I was a sensitive kid and I took them all seriously, especially, when one day they caught me talking to a classmate out of class. The following day, they had apparently found some clever and mischievous way to get inside of my locker and stuffed the entire thing to the brim with raw broccoli, whole cabbages, carrots, apples, grapes, bananas, turnips, collard greens, & other obnoxious random selections of vegetation that they had nabbed from their own parents’ fridges in order to mock my family’s home life of cultivation. As I casually opened my locker, all of the produce FLEW out and hit my face and chest as it rapidly cascaded all around my feet on the floor in front of everyone. Seeing such a ridiculous scene as a freshman having raw produce scattered all around them who came from a farmlife household, the hall went absolutely silent, then, went to a deafening pitch of vocal reaction.

“What the fu++” one senior asked with his friends.

“Keri, look we can make a soup. Didn’t you wana start that diet?” One blonde asked her friend as she went red in the face.

“IISS thissshh youurrrssh, shhonnny??” The old janitor asked me, loudly. Everyone thought it was MINE!! I was going to say, ‘No’ But a voice beat me to it.

“IIIttt suuuree iiiyyaasss.” Jesse Bradford said from a corner across the hall standing next to his friends, answering the janitor’s question in an exaggerated sharp Southern accent. “Iiit’s his lunnnch, sirrrr, Woopiiee Kaa Yay!” He said mocking me, slapping his knee in a cowboy fashion as though he was slapping his horse.

I really couldn’t anymore. I just slumped my shoulders, closed my locker, and noticed one girl staring at me with concerned eyes before I walked away.

I didn’t tell a soul about anything that was happening to me or about the bullying that I had been experiencing. Why would I? It was incredibly embarrassing to talk about, much less, even admit it to myself. I couldn’t admit any of it to my family, especially, my little brother, whatsoever; that was out of the question. Imagine? Imagine Shannon knowing that the one person he looked up to the most in this world, besides our parents, was being bullied?! That would make me feel like an absolute loser & a failure to him and our family. So, I was stuck. I was alone & it was beginning to slowly destroy from the inside out. Just like our old apples, it was rotting me from the inside out no matter how ‘normal’ I appeared on the outside. It was only a matter of time before the insides, that I was hiding on a daily basis, creeped their way to the outside for all to see. Any and all confidence I had in myself was slowly beginning to deteriorate. I was rotting.

I remember feeling extremely guilty and ashamed while I was sitting with my family at our new glass table as we were all eating my daddy’s favorite dinner, a Southern chicken fried steak, salted buttered grits, a homemade apple biscuit, & some turnip greens on the side. My mother decided to make slight celebration out of our first week in our new house. She wanted to make the move as positive as possible and wanted us to only look up & never look back.

Once my momma got used to the new kitchen equipment, she started dishing out all of her recipes without a single care in the world and not one problem. She raved about how she loved the new tools that she had been given. I would have helped her. But, with everything that was happening to me, I was too sad and preoccupied to even touch a single cooking utensil. I had lost my passion. I lost my drive. I wasn’t as happy as I was anymore.

I couldn’t eat much that night, despite, how comforting eating that meal would have been. For anyone who hasn’t been bullied before, they simply don’t know the heavy burden is to carry the hidden black secret that you keep from everyone. It hurts more to hide your bullying from society out of shame than the actual bullying itself, most of the time. That night, I simply decided to state to my family that I wasn’t hungry, asked to excuse myself, and went to sleep.

I woke up instantly with my palms faced down on the ground. I got up slowly and looked around at my surroundings. I was standing in the middle of a very large field with one large wooden home and an apple tree orchard filled its land in the backside. I recognized it immediately as the winds all around me grew to elevated speeds, barely allowing me to remain standing. The background noise that emanated throughout the air, far out into the blackened skies, was a deep and grim low growl, as though the entire Universe, itself, was finally coming to an apocalyptic end.

I, somehow, managed to get all the way back to my old house. I was all alone & not a soul was there with me. “How did I GET here!?” I thought as I looked all around wondering why I was there, wondering what was happening as the scene began to get blacker as the clouds in the sky grew darker and conjoined together.

The noise in the deep background got lower & lower as its’ echoes swirled to all corners of the scene. The sound that I heard was not one that I had ever heard in real life before, but, was one that sounded half physical, and half from another realm. It sounded as if outer space was giving a disapproving growl at how upset it was at everything that was happening, currently, in the world.

“Hello?” I heard my voice echo in the air.

And, then, in a extremely beautiful & mysterious voice that sounded as if Mother Nature, herself, was speaking to me, I heard echoing within the incredibly fast winds, “Follow him…” I didn’t understand what that meant. I waited for a moment, paralyzed with wonder as to where the voice was coming from. “Follow him…” I heard it again. I looked all around to try & pin exactly where the magical voice was coming from, but, it seemed to come from everywhere & no where. I saw nobody on the dark & empty field as I stood there all by myself as the clouds got darker & darker. I looked down to my right and took notice of an unusual shiny army type, dog tag necklace that was laying on the field. It was metallic in color. And, as I was looking at it I heard again, “…Follow him…”

“Follow who?” I yelled at the sky. I heard nothing, but, the voice speak again in an alternate tone unusually as she said, “Save them…” I looked desperately around as I noticed the clouds begin to cover the background of my house and orchards field in a terrifying blackness that felt, not only dark, but, as though it’s power was derived from every negative emotion ever felt by mankind and I felt a haunting & eery fear creep up my spine as though a dark evil was coming up behind me, but, it didn’t want me to see what it was. I couldn’t turn to look at it. I was stuck.

Echoing from the clouds, I heard circling in the air as if it was coming from above the sky, the sounds of childrens’ subtle laughter. And, I heard one of them say- “I HATE this piece is SH++!!” And, just as it said that, a violent bolt of lightning struck my house shooting sparks into the air and all over the field.

“Save them…” I heard it again.

“Save who?!!” I screamed looking all around. “I don’t understand! Who are you?!” I heard my own voice echo all around me in an alternate dimension repetitive manor as the echo of my voice got deeper and faded away.

I, then, saw a black cat walk from behind my house around to stand about 1 foot away from the front wall of the house on the field and stare at me.

“Mee-mee?” I said. It was- it was Mee-mee. My lil’ friend was right there.

But… as I looked at her she didn’t seem happy to see me. She just stared at me as she began to hypnotize me with her eyes just as she used to before & they began to glow a bright green that was so florescent you could easily see them from miles away in the black field. “Save them…” the unusual voice said again.

The voice… the voice was coming from mee-mee! The moment I realized that, I felt her peer into my soul & I couldn’t move at all. “SAVE THEM.” the cat said stronger than before. The moment I was able to move again, I began to run to give her a hug. But, the moment I took my first step she jumped towards my direction and then violently blew away in the wind along with the entire house and field. I eventually couldn’t fight anymore and saw myself getting sucked with the whole field into the unknown black hole of empty nothing as I heard in the echoes of the wind a violent scream from my mother while everything got sucked into the massive blackness as I felt as though my body was going to rip apart.

“GASP!!!!” I woke up.

My body was covered in sweat, my spine was cold with shivers, & and my hoarse breath began to heave in and out as my body involuntarily tremored in fear and shock from the unusual nightmare that I had just experienced in my sleep. I didn’t mean to, but, I began to subtly cry as I breathed heavily eventually causing my little brother, Shannon, to run in my new bedroom door as I sat up in my bed at 7:00am.

He said with such an innocent and cute look, “What’s wrong, Billy?” He looked almost sad as he looked at me and could tell that something was scaring me and bothering me.

“Uhm. I’m- im so sorry, Shay.” I said to him. I didn’t even know why I was apologizing. But, I felt as though everything was my fault. And, it made me feel responsible for him and for our orchard, somehow being ruined. And, that dream. That dream haunted me for the rest of that day.

He snaked his little arms around my neck as his scent of strawberry shampoo was etched into his blonde locks of hair making him smell like Cupid the Love angel, himself. His hug made me somehow relax almost immediately. Something about my baby brothers little touch, smile, or voice, instantly, made you feel warm and better inside as you smiled, to yourself. He was like a reminder of the little things in life and how much they matter as opposed to whatever superficial things you were more likely than not worried about or bothered by. He was a little reminder that everything will be okay. He was like a sugar cookie displayed out during a Christmas party as you smile and take it. It was perfect. He was perfect in that sweet way. I may have helped him multiple times in the past, but, unknown to him, in many ways, Shannon helped me. Shannon was my Christmas sugar cookie with glistening sugar colored sprinkles on top.

Later on that day, as I was sitting slumped in my chair during lunch hour and I was tapping my green jello with my pointer finger in thought, I couldn’t help, but, wish I was like everyone else. Everyone had at least ONE good friend. I had no one. I didn’t have Jesse or his friends around me that day at lunch, though which was a relief. But, I didn’t know why they weren’t there. I assumed it was because they had some practice meeting for a sport in the gym or something or another. I also didn’t like the dream I had one bit. It was in the back of my mind and wouldn’t leave me alone. It felt more than real. It felt a little TOO real. But, it really made no sense to me. I didn’t understand. So, I ignored it and figured my negative thoughts pertaining to the dream were simply a culmination of everything that I was feeling and currently going through.

Something distracted me, though. I saw two people standing right in front of me and I looked up. It was two girls, one with dark hair, and the other with blonde hair. They looked my age and were fairly sweet looking. The dark haired girl seemed to look like one of those really popular kind of girls so I was instantly a bit nervous to have her look at me. They giggled at one another and the brunette spoke. “Uh-uhm hi.”

“Hello.” I said lowering my gaze to my table as I say slumped in my chair from everything that had been going on.

“Can we sit here?” She asked with a little grin.

I furrowed my brow in utter confusion. “Uhm, why?” I said. I didn’t understand why she would want to sit with me.

They exchanged a look and she said “Well, why not?” After the numerous things that I had experienced in that school up until that point, I really didn’t really trust many people there & these girls were on that list simply because they were alive and I couldn’t fathom anyone actually being nice to me or wanting to BE with me.

I couldn’t really say much else about the matter, however. So, I shrugged my shoulders, slowly, as I sat in my chair and said “Okay.”

After a few minutes of me staring at my tray not knowing what to say she spoke up. “So, you’re Billy right?”

I said, “Yeah. That’s me.”

She kept the conversation going as best as she could, “Well, I’m Sarah. And, this is Jessica.”

I sort of curved my lip as I was staring at my tray from feeling uncomfortable and had a mixture of other foreign emotions all at the same time.

“And we-“ she started.

“Why are you here?” I interrupted her.

They seemed a little confused and said. “I don’t- What do you mean?”

“Why would you wanna sit with me?” I paused. “Errrybody hates me.” I said softly.

She looked at me like I was utterly stupid and said. “Uhm. Why would you think that?”

Her friend whispered in her ear. She paused for a moment and started talking to me about it. “So, … Bradford introduced himself to you, huh?”

“… I guess.” I said.

She started as if she was a bit upset. “Unbelievable. That is sooo typical Bradford.” She made an irritated noise and shoved a broccoli piece in her mouth with her fork. “Like, this kid didn’t even start with him, I bet.”

“He sure didn’t. You should’ve seen the hallway when they-“ her blonde friend started. I realized she was the girl who looked at me with concern before I walked away from my locker when Jesse and his friends stuffed my locker with fruits and vegetables.

“Okay. You gotta admit, Jess. That’s sort of funny.” Sarah said with a smirk. Looking back at it, I guess it WAS sort of funny, at least to others watching, anyway. At least these girls were nice to me …sort of.

After about 15 minutes of all three of us talking to one another, I figured out that these girls actually wanted to BE with me. They were talking with me. We giggled here and there. And I liked Sarah’s sort of rough personality & sarcasm; she had a sense of flare. Her personality was one that a female motorcyclist would have. All she needed was the leather jacket and that was her when she got older. That was her one hundred percent. She was different than most girls in the school. It was obvious why she was popular.

“Oh, please.” Sarah said to me. “You never had Jell-O before? That’s sooo cute. You gotta taste it.”

I giggled. “Hehehe. Uhm okay.” I slowly put some on my spoon as I struggled with my other hand to keep it on and put it in my mouth aiming as accurately as I could to not allow any of the Jell-O to spill on my lap along the way with my mouth wide opened, which it spilled, anyway.

BLEH. I tried to hide my face of disgust but she and her friend caught it.

“Wow. Is it really that bad to you?” Sarah said with a smile.

“It’s jiggly.” I said with a slight look of distaste. There was a slight childish immaturity to my tone, just then, that I think Sarah thought was endearing the way she looked at me.

Out of no where Jessica said, “I really like your shirt.”

I sort of froze. She likes my shirt? A shirt that IIIIII picked out? She likes it? Really? It may have seemed like nothing to some. But, for me, it was a very important milestone in my teenage development and life. It was a moment in getting the approval and validation from one of my peers to acknowledge something I wore and picked out on my very own. It made me finally feel like someone approved of me. It made me become ‘one of them’. I was included. I was special, just like them. I smiled and said, “Oh. Thank yuu’. Yeah I picked this Mello Yellow color cause it’s kinda summerish and remaaanded me of lemonade. I like it. Even though blue is mah favorite color.”

“Blue is my favorite color, too.” She said to me sweetly as we both gazed into one another’s eyes for a moment.

Clearing her throat Sarah said to me seriously, “All I’m saying is, if Jesse and them messed with you that much, there’s GOT to be a reason… Ever think of that?” She said to me raising a brow.

I never really DID think of it. “I don’t know…” I said not understanding one bit.

“Okay. Listen… you seem pretty cool and I like you so I’m gonna tell you something, okay? But, if you tell anyone I’ll beat your lil’ a$$. Got it?” She said hunching over the table in a lower voice. I simply nodded. “I’m not supposed to really say anything. But, two freshman, one named Mia & another named Trish were totally talking about you in the girl’s locker room two days ago. They said you were totally cute.”

My mind couldn’t really process that at first. For about 10 whole seconds after she told me that, I said nothing. Cute? Girls think I’m… “Cute”? Never in my life did I ever consider myself to be or thought anyone ELSE would ever see me as attractive in anyway. It just seemed like some foreign scenario out of my reach, yet, here it was already in my hand. Girls ‘like me”. ME.

After we finished our lunches and I threw out my Jell-O in the trash can, we parted ways after Jessica said, “So what’s your number?” I got flustered for a moment and simply lied to her.

“I-I my new phone is being shipped I don’t know my new number, yet.” I said sadly.

“Oh, okay. Cool. Well, throw it at me when you do, mmk?” She said happy and gave me a small hug. “Bye!” She said and I froze from the contact.

“Wow.” I thought. I was too happy and on a temporary euphoria from the high of everything that just happened to even CARE that I never had a cellphone in my whole life. I simply brushed that fact off and happily walked to my next classes.

Later on, that day, I had to walk home as my mother was with my father at the new orchard properly preparing things for the season and getting the fields up to par with our family’s standards on running things. I decided to take a shortcut and cut through a semi-deserted road that had a large bridge which cut over it and the railroad next to it. It was surrounded with many bushes, small families of trees, and human-size tall grass all around the railroad and along the edges of the main road.

I heard a twig snap. But, after looking around I saw no one and just decided to walk quickly under the bridge and get out of the deserted area as fast as I could.

Before I could register what was happening, Jesse Bradford popped out of one of the large cement stabilization beams that held up the bridge and when he saw me grabbed my shirt by the collar section and pulled me hard and threw me onto the other side of the Column so we were partially unseen by the road. There were hardly any cars passing by that road, anyway, but where we were, ensured that little to no passing byers would see or disturb us in the slightest. His two friends appeared right next to him on either side.

We just stared at one another for a moment as I looked innocently up at him wondering what was going on. There he was. Jesse Bradford, the king of my entire grade who everyone practically worshipped the ground he walked on was just glaring at me behind those pretty blonde bangs of his making one eye hidden. With his nostrils flared, him gritting his teeth behind his closed mouth, and without a single extra warning or time for me to really process what was actually happening, he took his fist and pulled back as far as it could go and quickly punched me with all of his force extremely hard right in my mouth.

“Ugh!!” I involuntarily shrieked in shock from ever being hit in the face as hard as he hit me as my body lunged back, making the back of my head slightly hit the column that he and his friends had pinned me against. I picked up my hand and tapped it onto my nose and saw blood dripping from it onto my skin. Scared and shocked I looked up at him quickly only to have another swing be deliberately swung at the top of my head. I didn’t know what to do. I was so scared and shocked by this new form of physical abuse & hearing the loud sounds of his knuckles banging onto my skin and bones made me shriek in terror. He didn’t stop as I crouched down trying my best to shield myself. He swung quickly over and over again like a madman attacking the murderer who had just killed his wife and kids in cold blood. He didn’t and wouldn’t stop. And, the pain and shock of it all made me emotionally curl up in a shell like a hermit crab on the sand being threatened with a flame fire.

“Jesse, stop!” The dark haired boy shrieked as my vision began to get blurry.

After a while of him swinging at me I heard, “You’re- you’re gonna really hurt him!” The other one, Sascha, said with a scared look on his face.

He tried to stop Jesse but his blonde friend pushed him away and said, “Shutup!” Jesse responded angrily at his friend and continued to swing at me. Then, full of hate and frustration, he spat out, “I HATE THIS PIECE OF SH++!” While he kept swinging full force at my skull. It echoed in the back of my mind. I heard that voice before. And, it said that very same statement. It was Jesse who said it; it was his voice that I heard, echoing in the clouds.

Jesse picked me up and pulled my body by the collar of my flannel red shirt I had on and stared at my bloody face for a moment.

When a boy hits another boy, that’s one thing. But, when he slaps him that is a blatant show and sign of utter and downright disrespect. It showcases to the Universe that he has no compassion or appreciation for that human being under any circumstances, hates him, and has absolutely no respect for him as an equal part of his own gender. And, within a millisecond of time, Jesse Bradford slapped me with his right hand on my cheek so hard that my upper body flung a foot from the impact; the contact made my skin feel like it was on fire or had just devoured the hottest pepper known to man. The shock of it all and the terrible sensation on my skin, made my eyes involuntarily fill themselves with scared tears. Jesse was beating me. I was being beaten and physically abused for the very first time. And, it hurt more emotionally when he slapped me than when he very first punched me. That slap meant more to me than any other form of hatred anyone had ever shown to me prior to that moment. It killed my little heart; it burned me physically and spiritually. It felt terrible. It ate away at my soul. It felt like pure evil had touched me in teenage form if that makes any sort of sense.

After I had been slapped, Jesse continued to hit my head over and over again despite his friends trying to stop him. I started to not be able to feel the pain. I felt as though I was drunk. Everything began to move in slow motion and I actually felt my mouth curl up into a small smile from the euphoric feeling of high that I was beginning to experience from being hit so hard. I was loosing consciousness and the hitting wasn’t stopping. I felt as though I was flying away somewhere else, for a few moments until something changed everything. And, this ‘something’ changed my life.

Out of nowhere, I saw a boy dressed in a bright red hoodie and black pants with high top army boots appear and turned Jesse’s following jab away from me and pushed him HARD in the other direction almost making Jesse fall. He did it with little to no effort. It just DISMISSED his effort of hitting me as almost an inferior move against the world. It was like this boy said to him through that one movement “NO.”

Jesse looked up and met the foreign boy straight in the eye and a moment of silence was exchanged among the two of them. It was a pause of 5 seconds; they knew each other from what I could tell. And Jesse HATED him from the look I saw him give him as he then lunged forward.

Before Jesse Bradford reached him, his friends grabbed him by the arms and shoulders to pull him back as they both stared at the red hoodied boy to try and stop Jesse from fighting him. It was as if they knew better. They were trying to prevent their friend from challenging this boy or DARING to do so as if attempting such a thing was a sheer feeble mistake to make.

Jesse struggled against his friends’strength for a few moments, lost in his own high of emotions and frustration.

“I wouldn’t, Bradford.” The new boy said in a raspy, maturing, pubescent voice that hadn’t broken, yet.

“UGHHHH!!! GET OFF, me.” he commanded his friends and broke free.

Jesse then attempted to hit the new boy. And, even though slightly conscious, I was amazed at what little of the fight I DID see.

The new boy began to fight. But, he fought in a way that I NEVER saw a person in real life ever fight before. The moves that he was doing looked like some extremely fast & advanced foreign style fighting maneuvers. But, they didn’t seem like those cheesy style moves that kids learn in those karate classes chopping wood. No. These looked like some nauseatingly fast movements with intense power that fueled each one of them. He fought and acted as though he was some secretly trained dark ninja of a hidden force, who patiently awaits his targets & strikes them in the blackness of the night while no one is watching. What was more interesting to watch, was that he really didn’t go out of his way to really HIT Jesse. He just seemed to strategically use Jesse’s own force against himself, somehow. He did it all with little to no effort, whatsoever. But, his moves were extremely violent in the amount of aggression and power that they each had. The power that each fast jab, jolt, and bend of his wrists & arms, had made his face make a violent look each time he issued one of them as he scrunched his nose and mouth, applying deadly force into each one of his movements. There was no way you could POSSIBLY defeat him, not, with his energy like that, anyway; not at all. It was like fighting a shadow. You could only see him, but, not inflict any damage. He was visible and, somehow, not fully visible. He was next you, and yet, untouchable.

To this day, he reminded me of one thing: a Cobra. A deadly venomous snake who was so accurate in his use of venom was exactly what this boy represented and felt like in human form. He didn’t hit Jesse in the face. But, if he decided to, it would have ended just as badly as I could have imagined it, just like how a snake decides to use his own venom in accordance with his will to decide, whether, or not to kill his prey. Jesse’s life was in this boy’s hands whether Jesse realized it or not; and, he really didn’t. He was stubborn. He was ignorant.

Finally, the boy twisted Jesse’s hand in an unnaturally way and pushed him hard making him fall hard on his own butt against a giant stone that was nesseled in the ground.

“Get… out.” The new kid said not moving much.

Jesse’s friends managed to pull their blonde friend away regardless of the struggle they had to endure from him as they dragged him along. “I’LL GET YOU, PRESCOTT. You’ll GET Yours!! Ughhhh… your A$$ is GRASS!” Jesse shrieked as his friends violently struggled to get him away from me and the other boy before he made things worse and hurt himself more than he already was hurt by his own movements.

After the three of them had gone and I was left, exhaling on the ground, the new kid turned in my direction quickly and ran to me and grabbed my face as he pulled me up.

I was so scared of what had just happened, that I tried to just push his hands away. “No-NOO!!! Ughhh. S-stoppp.” I said and started to cry.

“Shhhhh. Shhh. It’s okay. Relax.” He tried to ensure me.

“Don’t!!” I said still shocked from being beaten for the very first time as I tried to push his hands away from me as he bent my head back to peak up my nose, closely.

“I need to check, okay? Shhh. It’s okay…. I’m going to help you.” His breathy voice said calmly. He was trying so hard to reassure me. “I need to take you back to my place. I’m two blocks from here.” He said to me.

“No-nooo!” I said under my breath, trying to push his hands away. I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to be alone. I was scared.

I, then, saw dangling around his neck, a metallic colored shiny army dog tag necklace. I froze realizing what it was. It was the exact same necklace I saw laying down on that field. “Follow me.” He said, the very second I first layed my eyes on it. I just froze from the realization of everything that was going on. Being too shocked to even respond from the coincidence of the situation in direct correlation to that haunting nightmare, exhausted, and shocked from the recent beating that I had just endured, I simply followed him to his house as he pulled me up and assisted me to walk down the road.

After we had arrived at his home and his dog was licking my knee from my torn pants as I sat up on his counter top, I finally began to calm down and recollect all of my swirling thoughts. This boy- this boy had just fought for me. He just defended me and was now attending my very own wounds, sweetly and attentively. It made me look up at his face for the very first time. He had this crew cut freshly designed haircut that was a buzzed cut but faded to the top and had a very nice curved design on the sides. His face was extremely handsome with a sharp pair of agile looking eyes that were identical in color to my own. His cheeks looked downy soft and smooth to the touch with a tint of red healthy blush on each one of them. He was extremely attractive to my eyes and the instant attraction that I physically felt towards him was almost primal.

He had taken off his bright red hoodie and had on a white tang top tee underneath that just displayed his chest, shoulders, and arms in such a sensual manor; it took all of my breath away. He had this creamy white skin that looked baby soft to the touch. He looked like the human form of Vanilla. If Vanilla had a skin color, that would be it; that was him. He wasn’t tan. He wasn’t pale. He was this incredible in between of the two colors in an alluring and addicting mixture for me to look at that was just so addicting for me to stare at with my young eyes. He was intoxicating. I couldn’t stop looking at his skin. He was the very first person that I ever stared at as I breathed my hot breath, slowly, and thought “Wow. He’s… sexy.” I thought that he was ‘hot’. I carefully and sensually examined his body as he worked on me. I liked his forearms that led up to his biceps which were a bit defined, naturally from his exercise & vigorous training. I took notice of his beautiful broad shoulders that seemed slightly visually stronger than mine, but, not overly muscular. I could tell he didn’t lift any sort of weights; he was all natural. And, I liked that. I loved it. He was sexy to me in ways that I still couldn’t understand. I was too innocent to fully comprehend what I was feeling or exactly why I felt that way. My body began to react to him, physically, for the very first time as I saw his bare chest behind that tang top tee that he had on & I squeezed my legs together in response. I looked at his dog chain necklace that teasingly trailed its length all the way down under his low tang top & was hidden behind his shirt over his breast plate. How, I wish I could have just taken my my fingers and run them over that warm & soft forbidden area on his chest in between his breasts that I could barely see, that, I knew his necklace resided in between of.

“You don’t seem to need stitches. Just keep this on your nose and hold the ice on your forehead. You might have a concussion so don’t you dose off on me. Drink this.” He said as he gave me some iced coffee that had been lying around on the counter since earlier that morning. I winced at its bitter and unsweetened flavor, but, obliged and did so, nonetheless. “I should call your folks they might…”

“No!!!” I interrupted him stopping him in his tracks.

“What? What do you mean? They gotta know what happened to your-“ He said trying to calm and reason with me.

“No! Don’t! They’ll—- they’ll know. Just uhhh. Don’t tell them anything.” I said worried that my family would discover that I was being bullied; I didn’t want them knowing anything about what had just happened or the beating their own son had just endured.

“What? You can’t- you can’t be serious. They gotta know! What are you gonna say about your nose?” He said.

“Just-Just…” I tried to figure out what to say in an anxious manor. “Tell them I fell.” I told him. He seemed extremely hesitant that I said that and almost angry.

“I’m not lying to nobody. If you wana say that, fine, but, I don’t wana be responsible. Don’t expect ME to.” He said to me.

“I’ll… I’ll be FINE.” I said embarrassed that this boy even saw me being beaten. I just wanted to run away. I wanted to leave as…. Cute as I thought this boy was, I wanted to leave.

I shyly stared at him for a moment and said, “Uhh, thank yuuu’ for your help. Uh, I bets be goin’ now.” I said to him. He rubbed my shoulders and said to me his answer.

“Okay. Just be careful, okay? Stay awake like I said.” He said looking at me, concerned.

“Okay. Thanks. What’s your name?” I said to him.

“William. But, everybody calls me Liam.” He said.

I smiled at the name we shared, “I’m William, too. But, errrbody calls me, Billy.” I said giggling subtly to myself not wanting to meet him in the eyes out of shyness.

“I know.” He said as he rubbed me reassuringly.

“Well. I gotta go.” I said briskly and then proceeded to leave his house through the side door, trying not to let his dog out in the process. “Bye.” I said to the boy before I left.

Not only did my family completely believe that I fell that night when I got home, but, telling them a new boy helped me issued my mother to grant me a very special dessert as a get well treat. She baked me her very famous apple pie recipe topped with some vanilla ice cream and pecans; ice cream being a rarity that I hardly ever got to enjoy with my brother back home from lack of a market nearby our old house that sold it.

The following morning as I was sitting in my homeroom before class started, I tried my best to hide my wounds, but, some kids asked me about it. They actually seemed concerned. But, I kept my story that I had fallen. And, they reluctantly agreed to the lie and said they hoped I felt better, but, I think even they weren’t that stupid. They knew something was going on. They knew something serious had happened to me and looked concerned for me; two of them even rubbed my back before they walked away.

As a bunch of kids were giggling and having some random conversation to the far right of the classroom as one boy was telling them all a funny story of something he witnessed during his last football game that he played with his team, I couldn’t stop thinking of everything that happened the day before, and more importantly, about my unusual dream I had about Mee-Mee and the creepy and mysterious things that she had told me. The moment I thought that, something caught my attention, immediately and made my skin crawl. Walking into the classroom wearing a white shirt with a picture of a GIANT green eyed black cat, I saw Sascha, Jesse’s best long haired friend, walk in by himself. The moment I saw that giant cat the other kid in the other conversation just so happened to scream “SAVE THEM!” And all the other kids giggled at whatever it was he was talking about.

My body felt as though it fell 60 degrees below zero. “Save them.” I thought as I looked Sascha right in his very own eyes as he stood there looking at me before he walked to his seat alone and gathered his belongings and waited for his friends. He didn’t seem angry, sad, hurt, or scared. Just as I felt when I saw my father look at our burnt old orchard for that very first time, Sascha, looked dead on the inside as he stared into nothing.

I saw him take out of his bag, an apple. He bit it and, then peered at me. And, just how when I looked at my old cat’s eyes, when I looked into his, I saw something. There was something wrong about him, not WITH him, but, about him.

And, the same way that I knew things about Mee-Mee that I couldn’t explain, I didn’t know how I knew that about him, but, I did.

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