"Nikki? You should get up, dear. You'll be late for school," my mom said. She was sitting on the edge of my bed. I could tell she was still upset, but I didn't really care... I was mad at her for last night, and all the other nights.
I sat up and clapped on my light, blinking several times.
"So, who was that boy? I came in to check on you and he'd said you two were talking last night on the fire escape, but you'd fallen asleep. He didn't want to leave you out there so he brought you inside. I thought that was very nice of him." She told me. That caught me off guard, and I stared blankly at the window, realizing that the stranger had been in my room last night.
"His name is Sam. He's new in town," I replied without thinking.
"Oh... He's kind of cute." She tried to sound nonchalant about it, but she was a terrible actress. I rolled my eyes and got up.
I put eye drops in my eyes to wet my contacts after accidentally falling asleep in them. After throwing my hair up in a pony tail and changing my shirt, I looked at myself in the mirror.
I looked a like a mess; my sweat pants were really baggy, and my hair was greasy because I didn't wash it. However, I liked it. I no longer cared what anyone else thought about me. With no friends, it didn't really matter much any more.
I just couldn't bring myself to care. At first, this new attitude scared me; but now, I felt like a ton of weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I could breathe freely again. It was refreshing
When I passed Lucy on my way to first period, she stopped me, looking innocently surprised.
"Wow, Nikki, that's quite a change. I didn't think you shopped at the Good Will."
"Actually, these are the sweat pants you gave me, or don't you remember."
"It's no wonder I got rid of them," she retorted, looking me up and down with undisguised disgust.
I smiled at her, and said, "Look, Lucy, you can say whatever you want. You're not going to make me feel bad about myself. At least I'm not walking around like I've got a giant stick shoved up my--"
"Hey ladies, I thought you weren't talking to each other any more. Glad to see you've made up," Gill said cheerily. Lucy actually snorted, which was really unattractive. I just walked away, unable to see the two of them together. Even though I couldn't decide who I hated more, the wounds were still fresh, and the pain made my stomach weak. I swallowed hard, forcing past the lump that somehow got lodged in my throat.
"Whoa, Nikki, wait up. I wanted to talk to you."
"Oh, come on Gill, she obviously doesn't want to talk to you. She looks like she just crawled out of bed because she probably stayed up all night crying," I heard Lucy pur to him.
"Shut up, Lucy. Nikki doesn't cry; she's stronger than that," Gill growled. I ignored both of them.
"You should've seen her the first time you hurt her. That's all she did for hours on end. I would know, I was there."
"Lucy, you're not as funny as you think you are. So shut up before you make a fool of yourself."
"I'm just saying. Nikki isn't Wonder Woman, you know. And she doesn't want you back, so you might as well give up. Besides, she's no better than trash now."
"I told you to shut up, Lucy." I wasn't able to catch the rest of what he said as I passed out of ear shot. Listening to Lucy get rejected like that made me unspeakably happy.
The rest of the day was uneventful. Lunch was a quiet event, although Lucy kept glaring at me from eight tables away. I knew people were whispering about me, but I still didn't care. Not caring was suddenly my new found freedom, my new addiction. The less I cared about, the more the chains around me fell away.
Sam didn't sit with me today, instead sitting with his other new friends. I was fine with that though. I didn't want to talk to anyone.
A few hours later, I heard my name being called. Anger pulsed through my veins at the sight of the boy. Twice in one day was just too much for me. I was planning on turning and walking away, but he caught up to me too quickly. "Nikki, we need to talk," he said.
"Gill, I don't have time for this right now."
He didn't seem to hear me, because he went on. "You've been avoiding me, and I'm sick of it. Why won't you talk to me?" he demanded. He advanced towards me, and I was forced to retreat until my back was pressed against the wall. This seemed oddly familiar, and I was again reminded of the day I saw him kissing Lucy, and I felt a chunk of ice drop to the pit of my stomach.
"Gill, we're broken up. You can't boss me around anymore. Now get out of my way, I need to go."
"No, not until you answer my question!" He smacked the wall on either side of my head. I flinched.
"Leave me alone, Gill!" He backhanded me, leaving a sting I would feel for hours. I looked him in the eye, forcing myself not to look scared. His dark hair was a matted mess, he had dark circles under his eyes; his breath smelled of alcohol, and I knew he'd been hitting the bottle again. How he got away with it at school was a mystery to me. The smell curled up inside my nostrils, and I felt the sudden urge to retch and gag.
"Hey! Leave her alone!" Someone shouted. Gill ignored the boy, instead continuing to shout at me. I stared at the floor, not listening to anything he was saying.
"I said, 'Leave her alone.'" I looked up to see Sam standing like a rock behind Gill... He had to have been at least a head taller. He was quite intimidating, and I swear his eyes could have ignited, he was so angry.
"Sam, go. This isn't your fight," I told him. I was ready to say more, but was rudely interrupted.
"Yeah, Sammy-boy. Run along now, and mind your own business," Gill purred patronizingly.
"Gill!" I yelled, drawing his attention back to me.
"You first" was Sam's only reply. I could tell he didn't like being called Sammy-boy. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I made a note to never call him that.
Gill turned around and sized up his opponent. I could feel the testosterone radiating around the hallway. Or maybe it was just Gill's appalling odor. "You should've left when you had the chance," he said. Before I knew what was happening, Gill drew back his arm and aimed a punch at Sam's face. I shrieked as his elbow caught me in the head, knocking me onto the floor. A group of kids crowded around in a circle to watch.
"Stop it! STOP IT!" I yelled.
Shouts and yelling sounded from down the hallway as teachers ran to break up the fight. The next few minutes were a blur for me.
Mr. Caro looked at me expectantly as he waited for my reply. I was sitting in the principle's office for only the second time in my high school career.
"Nikki," he repeated. "Did Gilligan Borrows hit you or not?"
I nodded, staring at the floor. My cheek still stung, and I wondered if there was a hand print.
"Was today the first time?" I shook my head, still staring at the floor. "Thanks, Nikki. Your mom is on her way to get you," he explained.
"Mr. Caro, I don't need her to get me. I can walk, it's not like my legs are broken."
He looked at me with pity in his eyes, and suddenly I wanted to yell and scream and throw things. I wasn't a child anymore; everyone could stop feeling sorry for me.
"Sorry, she's already been called."
I remained seated, lost somewhere in thought. "What'll happen to Sam? He was only sticking up for me. Gill threw the first punch. Sam shouldn't get punished. He won't, will he?"
Before Mr. Caro could answer, the clerk stepped in, announcing that my mom was here. I left the office with a sinking heart.
My mom stood in the doorway, glaring at Gill; meanwhile, he fiddled with his shoe laces, very interested in the individual stains. He looked dejected, and I wanted to spit in his face.
Sam sat against the opposite wall, his expression blank. As much as I appreciated him, I was mad that he'd gotten involved in this whole mess; I could've handled myself. It's not like today was the first time he got drunk and started shouting at me.
"Nicole, are you okay?" My mom asked me. She was still glaring at Gill.
"Mom, I'm fine. You didn't have to come, I can walk. My legs aren't broken, I--" no one ever seemed to let me finish a sentence anymore.
"You're coming home with me whether you like it or not. Besides, I need to talk to you. Grab your bag, let's go."
My mom herded me out of the main office like it was an infirmary full of patients infected with the plague. I was utterly mortified, and resented her more than I ever had before.