The next morning was the hardest morning of my life. I didn't want to get out of bed. I didn't want to face the reactions that my parents might give. I didn't want to face the reactions that the other students might give. I didn't want to face the reactions that the bullies might give.
Packing my bag in a hurry, I skipped breakfast, feeling to sickened by fear and anxiety to eat anything.
I knew that skipping two meals in a row was a bad idea, but I wanted to get out of the house as soon as possible. Avoiding my parents, I slipped out the door and began the long walk to school. It seemed long, anyway. Every step felt like I was lifting something twice my weight. I thought maybe this was my brain telling me not to go to school.
But I wasn't the type of person to skip school, no matter what the circumstances. I wasn't going to start.
I realised that by not making an appearance at school, I gave the bullies more ammunition. If they thought that their attack had upset or scared me, then they were wrong.
With the same positive feeling in my stomach that I held almost every morning, I held my head up and picked up the pace on my way to school. Although I was wary that my mood would have changed dramatically by the end of the day, I was determined to ignore the imminent pessimism that would begin to wash over me within the next few hours.
Strolling through the school gates, I heard various whipsers, some of mild concern, others cruel laughs, but I ignored all of them. This was just a normal day. I kept repeating in my head. This is just a normal day.
Walking in the hallway, I struggled to compose myself as I passed two out of the four boys that had put me through yesterday afternoon's pain. However, I kept my head up and my eyes straight ahead. I was almost passed them and inwardly cheered, but I was caught by surprise when a third bully approached me.
'Hey Franklyn! Surprised to see you today!' I stopped as he blocked my path and the other two gathered round.
'Whoah!' said another, looking at my bruised eye. 'What the hell happened to you?!' He reached out to touch it. This was starting to unease me. I tried to reason with them.
'Please, it's still a little sore. Could you just leave me alone?' I used my best polite voice, but evidently they did not acknowledge my attempt to befriend them.
The hand came towards me still, threatening to prod and poke at my wound, causing 'accidental' pain. I tried to edge away, but another bully blocked the path behind me.
I watched the hand close in the gap, and I was gradually becoming more and more uncomfortable... Before I knew what I was doing, I had acted...
My right hand came out from the side, blocking the foreign hand from touching my wound, and my left hand came around, clenching into a fist, and before I could even think about my actions, it had connected with the right cheek of the bully standing before me.
His head twisted to the side, and he flew to his left, hitting his head straight into the locker adjacent to him. He clutched his head and sunk to the floor, face in his hands.
My jaw dropped as the other two looked to him, then to me.
'You freakin' punched him! What the hell is wrong with you, freak?!'
They dropped to their knees to check on their friend, and I instantly regretted my actions.
'I'm so sorry. It was just- It was just self-defence!'
'Oh my God! He's bleeding!'
The boy who I had punched was shuffling in pain and groaning. He took his hands way from his face, and I could see tears streaming down his face - not from actually crying, but from the sheer shock of the punch - it had been unexpected to all of us.
'Are you okay?' a bully asked the one on the floor. There was no answer, just a groan. 'You're a freak!' he said to me, then, getting his hurt friend to his feet, led him off and around the corner.
I stood there until the bell for lessons went, with my jaw on the floor.
I had punched somebody in the face. I was just as bad as the bullies whom I hated so much.