In the hallway, a group of kids were crowding around Austen's locker. And right in the middle of the crowd was Austen himself, trying unsuccessfully to break free and get to the cafeteria. JJ was on her way to lunch, but she could't help but stop and stare.
"Hey!" shouted Stasi, JJ's best friend. "What do you get when you cross a baby with a hippo? I know! Austen, since he's a fat crybaby!"
The joke was stupid, but JJ laughed anyways to save face. She didn't want to appear as though she disapproved of the way her classmates made fun of Austen. Otherwise, she might be labeled as a social outcast, too.
Yet as JJ passed Austen, she saw the tears in his eyes. Normally, she'd join the other kids in laughing at his tears, but today, all she felt was guilty, guilty, guilty. Suddenly, Austen's outdated clothes - evidence to the fact that his father had lost his job and the family couldn't pay for nice things - and his watery eyes didn't matter as much. All JJ could think of was the pain Austen was going through.
For a moment, JJ considered stopping to help Austen. She stopped walking and surveyed the scene, weighing the consequences.
"Hey, um," JJ began. Austen raised his head at the sound of JJ's voice, but his response to JJ's words was knocked out of him as the bullies gave him one last shove into his locker. As the crowd disintegrated, JJ took off, catching up with Stasi. She felt pretty awful, but she couldn't allow herself to help Austen.
And after all, nobody wants to help the boy who cries.