My mom shook me awake. “Aylin, get up, Cai is already here to pick you up.”
“What?” I mumbled. I really didn’t care about my appearance right at this moment so I through on a hoodie and sweat pants and braided my hair as I was walking into the living room where Cai was standing awkwardly. I grabbed my bulging book bag and led him out the door. “I thought you were only taking me home after school today, not picking me up.”
“I was a bit ahead on time so I said, why not?”
I climbed into the truck and chucked my book bag into the back next to his. He jumped in and we were off. We stopped in the parking lot. “You ready?” He asked me.
“Yes, I am.”
He handed me my book bag and snatched his before getting out of the truck. We walked upstairs together. I braced myself for what terrible thing was going to be happening today. FUGLY was written across my locker. I sighed. We put our stuff in Cai’s locker. He was letting me use his since I obviously couldn’t use mean. We went to the bathroom and each grabbed some paper towels. It came off pretty easily today and we used the rest to get the “weirdo” off of my Algebra desk from yesterday. Cai’s desk had a note today also; it read “loser.”
“I’m sorry to have dragged you into this Cai.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He assured while he scrubbed the word off. “I would rather scrub it off because it happened to me than scrub it off because I got caught writing it.”
“I see your point.”
“Besides, this is great bonding time for the two of us, wouldn’t you say so?”
I laughed. “It shall make a good story someday.”
“Hopefully one of us will make good money selling it to a publisher.”
The pattern continued today. Nere attacked, Cai walked me to and from class, Josh didn’t really speak to me except in between sixth and seventh hour when I met up with them going to Cai’s locker, Josh left, and Cai released me to Echo and Sabella. Today, one of them accused me of dating Cai and I had to state that I wasn’t dating anyone.
I passed Josh in the hallway as I was going to meet Cai. I avoided any eye contact but he grabbed my arm and pulled me to the side of the corridor. “Are you avoiding me?”
“I just feel that it is a good idea not to have so much contact at school. Nere has her lackey’s watching my every move. Do you think I have not noticed? She always has her eyes on you and now she is watching to see how much I associate with you.”
“You’re going to give her what she wants? Just like that? Why should you?”
“This isn’t only name calling any more Josh. They could egg my house, fork my yard, teepee my trees, slash my tires, break a window, or worse they could attack me or one of my friends who are trying to protect me from her. If all I have to do is avoid you at school then why shouldn’t I?”
“Why do you keep adding at school to everything you say?”
“I have thought I made you up for six years. Now I know that you do exist. Do you think I’m going to let you drift back out of my life that easily? Not if I have anything to say about it.”
He started backing away. “I will talk to you later.” At least he finally listened to me.
I waited for Cai at his locker, wondering how I managed to get there before him. Then I saw a giant football player, twice the size as Cai, carrying him on his back. He got to the trash can where we had thrown away all of the notes and threw Cai in head first. I could see Nere at the end of the hallway, laughing. I walked over there slowly and grabbed Cai’s hand when it hit the edge of the can. I helped him out while asking, “Are you okay?”
One of his hands was crushing mine and the other clamped on his forehead. “I will be fine, don’t worry about me.”
“Let me take you to the nurse.”
“Really, I’m fine. I just need to sit down for a moment.” He leaned against the wall and slid until his was actually on the ground. He dragged me down with him on accident. “I’m sorry. I forgot I had your hand.” He let go of my hand right then.
“It’s fine.” I saw with him for about a minute before I stood up and said, “I guess I should hurry and catch the bus.” I started walking away.
He grabbed my hand. “What? Why?”
“There’s no reason for me to drag you into this. I don’t want to see you get hurt because you’re protecting me from Nere.”
“I don’t care about her. She can do whatever the hell she wants to me.” I could only stare at him. “Help me up. We should get going.” I pulled him off the ground and he slowly moved his other hand off of his forehead.
Nere was standing at the entrance to the school. When we passed her, I growled, “Do whatever you want to me, but stay away from my friends.”
She replied back cheerfully, “Just stay away frommyJosh and we won’t have this problem ever again. Right Gunne?” She asked the football player who was standing next to her, who happened to have thrown Cai into the trash can.
He grumbled intelligible and most likely unintelligent words that no one understood, except maybe Nere, but if she did, she didn’t care enough to repeat them to us. We continued walking away from them and towards Cai’s car. I was afraid of what might have happened to his truck today, but it was unharmed at least for today.
“I know that you probably won’t agree with me on this.” He began we were both situated in the car and waiting in line. “But, I want you to stop associating with Josh.”
He cut me off. “Hold on. Let me finish. I know how you feel about him. It’s obvious, to me and to everyone else. That’s why Nere is attacking you. I don’t want to see you get hurt and the only way this isn’t going to escalade is if you don’t talk to Josh anymore. Please.”
“Cai, I already told him I wasn’t going to talk to him at school.”
“People, especially people like Nere, can find things out even if they aren’t around. I’m not sure the two of you should even talk outside of school.”
“Who is going to find out if and when we chat on Facebook. I think you’re being just a bit paranoid.”
He didn’t seem like he wanted to say what he was going to say next, “You don’t understand how cruel Nere can actually be.”
I had an urge to ask him what he wasn’t telling me but it seemed very private and personal. I let it go. He would tell me eventually or he wouldn’t. I put my hand on his shoulder. “I’ll be fine, truly.” I assured.
He stated. “I have a feeling that bubble wrap won’t help in this situation.”
I replied with a chuckle, “I doubt it; I highly doubt it.”
“You and that mouth.” I teased.
“You love my mouth. You think it has a nice shape and the words that come out of it just make your heart flutter.” He mocked.
“In your dreams.”
He retorted, “I believe you meant, every night in my dreams.”
He put on hand on his heart, even though he was driving, and said, “There you go again, Aylin, wounding my heart. I need to buy it some chain mail or something.”
“Let me know how buying your heart armor works out for you.”
“I don’t see why there’s any question that it wouldn’t. It is such a brilliant idea.” He rambled.
“Uhuh, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that idea. Not even the fact of how you get the armor around your heart without serious surgery and finding somewhere to put it and making sure it doesn’t mess anything in your body up. Yeah, I don’t see anything wrong with this, at all.”
“I give you the rights to the book. I will become a millionaire off of heart armor. Think of how many people would buy it!”
“Actually, the said thing is that a lot of people would buy it. Then their families would all sue you for killing their family members.”
“Frakkin’ legal system taking away all my money.” He said as he pulled into my drive way.
I grabbed my bag and jumped out of his car. I waved as he backed straight out of mine and into his. He got out and waved. I could see him laugh at the fact that I was standing there waving at him.
I walked into my house and got bombarded by my mother’s questions. Was I okay? Was I bullied today? What did they do? Was I sure I was okay? Did I want to go see a therapist? Did I want to go talk to the principal? Did I know why they started picking on me? Was it because of the scar again?
I was fine. No I wasn’t bullied. They did nothing. I was sure I was okay. No I didn’t was to go see a therapist. No I didn’t want to go talk to the principal. No, I didn’t; but it was fine because they didn’t pick on me today. No, not mention of the scar has come up. All of my usual lies but she was the one who continued to pretend to believe me.
I was waiting for the day when she would force me to the principal’s office, the day she would make me confront the bullies, the day everyone who is every bullied has to be forced into. It was my worst nightmare. I talk big in front of Cai, telling him that I could easily win in a fight. The truth is that there is no way in hell that I would win. I would be cowering in my corner getting pummeled.
Nere, and Agnes before her, scare me. It was completely ridiculous, but they literally terrify me. I can sit here all day long, in the dark, by myself, and watch every horror film ever made and I will be fine, a little frightened but not enough to actually scare me. But just the thought of Nere and Agnes makes me shudder in fear, more fear than any of those horror movies could ever do.
I sit in my room all day long and hope that she will never make me stand up to them. I think she can see that and that is why she won’t make me. It makes me think about what kind of parent she is though. She would rather let her daughter sit and suffer for the rest of high school than help her stand up and fight and suffer for a bit, but slowly recover afterward. One of these days, I will find the courage to do it myself, or at least I can keep telling myself that.