The next day at school, I found myself staring out the window as usual. I soon felt a presence lingering over my shoulder. Turning around, Jason looked out the window as he towered above me. His torso was brushed against my back and I could feel his body heat through the loose black long-sleeved shirt he wore. The smell of pine trees and soil drifted to my nose. Realizing just how close Jason was, I blush fiercely and shoved him back.
"What's your deal?" He asked casually, as if he did nothing wrong.
"You-You're too close! Ever heard of personal space?" I stammered.
He seemed to pick up on what I was referencing to. After all, it wasn't just his torso that was touching me. He smiled mockingly as my heart thundered in my chest. I can't say I didn't like it but I wouldn't admit that to him.
"What were you d-doing anyway?"
"Just wondering what you found so fascinating out there. You're always staring off into space. I was just curious what goes through your mind."
Jason plopped into his seat next to me. He heaved a big sigh.
"Huh?...Nothing. School's just so boring."
"Yeah, I know. I hate it."
"Yeah well, I think our reasons for hating it are very different."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I only let the conversation drop because it looked like Jason was absorbed in a bittersweet memory and I was pretty sure he wouldn't talk about it even if I asked. Still, I had a few questions for him. I'll ask him later.
Jason pretended to pay attention to the teacher while I continued to daydream, mostly about him. I felt Jason glance my way a few times, but I pretended not to notice. Every time he looked, I started to sweat. It was distracting. He was distracting...and always on my mind.
Eventually, the bell rang for class to be over. Jason and I filed out with everyone but, just as I was about to head towards my next class, someone shoved me from behind. Losing my balance, I fell. As I started to go down, my book bag caught on the door handle of the classroom, causing my bag to rip and its contents scattered across the floor. Nearby students groaned and walked around me. Others snickered. A shadow stood above me.
"Watch where you're going, airhead."
The voice belonged to Matt Durant--popular jock, captain of the basketball and football teams, and the town's biggest bully. He hated me because my dad exposed Mr. Durant's affair, causing Matt's parents to divorce. Of course, since we go to the same school, I become the primary target of all his shallow rage.
Feeling triumphant, Matt intentionally stepped on my things before striding away with his buddies. He took a few steps before he was tripped up. Like me, but with much more grace, Matt fell. He looked up at the bastard who dared to target him. Jason stood looking down at Matt with his sly, mocking grin. I stared on in shock. You idiot! What are you doing?
"You trying to start something, newbie? Do you know who I am?" Matt threatened as he stood up. He towered above Jason--a good foot taller than him. Jason seemed unfazed and glared back silently. "You mocking me?"
"'Course. Since you like to make fun of people maybe you should know what it's like to be on the receiving end. Besides, I think you owe Rachel an apology."
"Oh I do? And you're gonna make me apologize? That's the stupidest thing I've heard all day! Come on then if you think you can take me."
"You're the one with a reputation to uphold. You first."
Matt swung at Jason who dodged easily. Again and again Matt charged. Jason sidestepped and ducked, avoiding Matt's fist as if it was nothing--something he did on a daily basis. I was so stunned that I forgot all about my torn book bag and its contents. By this time, a large crowd had gathered around them. They shouted and cheered. Teachers quickly approached and tried to squeeze their way through. Once they reached the fight, they hesitated at Jason's movements. It wasn't a fight they were used to. In fact, fights rarely ever happened and only lasted a few seconds. They were usually between Matt and a another guy a grade or two younger. This 'fight' had already gone on for about a minute. Matt was clearly running out of breath, only attacking out of pure anger and humiliation. Jason also seemed to notice the strangeness and popularity of this fight. Jason hesitated after dodging on of Matt's attacks, leaving himself wide open. Matt punched him square in the nose. Jason stumbled back and Matt nailed him again in, this time in the eye. The whole crowd, myself included, gasped. Then it was over as the teachers restrained Matt. I rushed to Jason who sat on the cold floor, bleeding.
"Alright, the fight's over. There's nothing left to see here. Go back to class. The three of you, stay behind'" one of the teachers ordered.
The crowd complained but reluctantly left. Of course I'm involved in this again. It is kind of my fault though. Still, Jason didn't have to go that far. Remembering my things, I scooped them up as quickly as I could and stuffed them in what was left of my bag. As I reached for my Science notebook, Jason picked it up and handed it to me. His face was purple and swollen already but I wasn't sure which was more shocking--the damage Matt did with two hits or the fact that Jason seemed to care more about helping me gather my belongings than his injuries. I couldn't help but feel guilty. I looked down. The next thing I knew, tears were sliding off my cheeks.
"H-Hey..." Jason began.
"Why? Why'd you do that?"
"Well, it wasn't to upset you."
"...I just don't like bullies. Besides, he's got no right to pick on you. You didn't do anything to him."
"How do you know that? You're an outsider. You don't know anything about me."
"Huh, I guess I don't really know that much about you. I do know this, you're not the type of person to treat anyone badly, no matter how you're feeling inside."
"You know that how?"
"...Because my mom was just like you."
"Yeah, she passed away six years ago."
"Ahem. If the three of you are done, let's go to the principal's office now," the remaining teacher said.
Jason helped me up and we followed behind Matt and the teacher. Matt kept glancing back at us the whole way.
"Hey," I whispered.
"...Thanks. I don't think anyone's ever stood up for me before."
"Then that's their mistake. Do me a favor though."
I blushed. "N-Not that! No way!... Just tell me your favor already!"
Jason grinned painfully.
"Walk home with me and tell me about yourself."
"Sure. It's like you said, I don't really know you. Besides, it'll be a 'payment' for me taking those hits for you."
"I knew it! You let Matt hit you on purpose. Why?"
"So he'd be the one in trouble. I didn't fight back. They can't exactly say I'm at fault since I didn't hit him. Right?"
"Damn, that's brilliant. What are you, some kind of genius?"
"Dunno, but 'genius' has a nice ring to it. You said it first."
"Yeah yeah. Don't get used to it."