It wasn't my family that I should've been worried about running into. I spent so much time on the way to the shop worrying that either my mum or dad might be going for an evening out around here and see me, that I gave absolutely no thought to the people that spent a good four years or more making my school years hell.
At least, I gave it no thought until I was walking back from said shop, lighting a cigarette when I heard "hey, isn't that the faggot we used to play little games with at school?"
"Doesn't have his boyfriend to protect him no more," another voice somewhere behind me said. I tried to ignore it. I tried to just walk away and do nothing to provoke them.
I say tried, because they've caught up with me now and stopped me.
I freeze as a clumsy hand slaps down on my shoulder and holds me still as the other two stand in front of me, with this shared look of near glee on their faces. Like they just hit some kind of jack pot.
"Aw, look. He remembers us." Depends on what you mean by remembering. I remember them kicking the shit out of me, but I couldn't tell you their names. "Shall we play a game? I'm sure you know it, gay boy. It's called Find the Faggot. You got ten seconds." The hand on my shoulder lifts and I don't need any more telling.
I drop my cigarette and run.
Needless to say, the ten seconds they so kindly gave me to get away, were revised to five, the moment I was out of ear shot. Three sets of footsteps follow, all faster than my own. I do my best to keep ahead of them, but when one of them tackles me and sends me flying, there's not really much I can do about it, is there?
I put my hands out to break my fall, letting out a low hiss as the tarmac digs sharply into my palms.
"Poor baby," I hear above me, but I'm concentrating more on the foot that's about to kick my hands out from under me. I get up as far as kneeling before one of them grabs my hair, laughing. "Look, he wants to suck cock!" He tries to shove my head towards his crotch, but there's one thing they weren't counting on when they decided to start picking on me again.
I'm not the terrified thirteen year old they used to bully. Granted, I'm still no good at fighting, and it doesn't take an amazing amount of effort to intimidate me at the best of times. But I'm still a whole lot better at self defence than I used to be.
So it takes the guy holding a fistful of my hair by surprise when, instead of wailing or pathetically trying to hit out like I used to, I grab his legs, digging my fingers into the backs of his knees hard. He yelps and lets go of my hair, trying to pry my hands off him. I pull, forcing him to the floor. He sort of falls back as I pull, and cracks his head on the road beneath him. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a satisfying sound.
Of course, my small victory is cut short by a fist to my temple. You'd have thought bringing one of them down hard enough to render him useless for a few minutes would maybe put them off a little bit, but apparently not.
Put off by the blow to the side of my head, I have absolutely no time to defend my balls as a foot comes swinging towards my crotch. For the second time in a week, I double over, gasping for air. Except unlike last time, no one waits for the pain to fade.
This time... this time, I end up being driven off in the back of an ambulance.
Brilliant. I'm supposed to be flying back home in less than 24 hours, and I'm being dragged off to hospital.
Still, it'll make me think twice about giving into nicotine cravings.