When the end of the day finally comes, after hours of the same thirty people sneaking looks at me constantly, the only thing I want to do is curl up in bed and forget today happened.
As I exit the school, a scuffle at the edge of the school’s property catches my attention. There’s two guys towering over another one. Shorter and wider than the two, he steps back, arms up in defense.
I sigh, shoulders lowering. Bullies suck worse than first days. No matter what, I don’t ever allow myself to be bulled. People can speak negatively about me behind my back all they want, but they’ll never say anything to my damn face and make it out unscathed.
I glance to the right, seeking out a teacher on duty, but most of them seem occupied with organizing the bus lines for the younger kids. Everyone’s so worried about young kids’ safety, leaving the older ones to fend for themselves.
Maybe it’s dumb of me. Maybe I shouldn’t make waves on the first day. Either way, it doesn’t stop me from marching over there and pushing between the three bodies, even noting the two bullies are much larger than me and can easily squish me if they wanted to.
“Hey!” I call, shoving my hands on one’s chest. “Back the hell off. What is wrong with you?”
Both guys stop what they’re doing, their gazes dropping to me. One sneers, but his attention remains locked on the kid they were pushing around. “Thorne, you’re pathetic. Needing a girl to friggin’ protect you.”
“You’re pathetic,” I counter, before the guy—this Thorne—can speak, “for picking on people. God, what is wrong with you? You realize there are bigger issues in the world than your pettiness, right?” Past the bully’s body, I catch the eye of a teacher, who’s finally turned around, noticing us. “Look, a teacher is watching. There’s nothing you can do now anyway, without getting in trouble.”
The one I pushed away steps farther back, his fist clenching his friend’s shirtsleeve. He rolls his eyes, scanning me, his gaze stopping on my ratty shoes. “Whatever, you two are made for each other.”
Grumbling, they run off, and once there’s a few feet of distance between us, I do too, marching in the opposite direction.
“Hey, wait! You can’t just leave after that.”
I spin on my heel, arms crossed and hip cocked out, as the kid I saved jogs closer to me. His blond hair hangs over his eyes, as is the style with most guys my age right now, but his kind smile shines through.
Still, I don’t fall for it. Every foster family I’ve ever had smiles kindly in the beginning. Then it goes downhill. “Why, because you want to insult me for ‘taking care of you?’ Sorry for having a heart.” Guys are all the same—unable to handle being “saved” by a girl.
“No, I wanted to thank you.” His hands at his sides curl, his sapphire eyes darting all around my form.
Oh. “No worries.” I turn to leave again, shrugging off his apology. Being a decent human doesn’t mean I need a reward.
And again, as if he’s a glutton for punishment, he speaks, “It is a big deal. Not everyone does stuff like that.”
He’s not going to let this go apparently. I spin again until I face him and roll my eyes. “That’s the issue. Too much bad in the world, and we’re not saving each other often enough. Why were they bullying you anyway?”
“Look at me.” His hands gesture to his body. “I mean, they’re on the track team. Fit. Popular. And, well, I’m not.”
Like he suggests, I scan him. I suppose he’s on the thicker side. Some would call him fat, but I’m not some. Weight doesn’t really matter. Fat or skinny, if someone is evil, they’re evil. Everyone worries about looks, but it’s personality and having a heart mattering more.
“Still no reason for them to make fun of you.” I shrug again, wondering when he’ll be satisfied enough with this conversation to allow me to leave.
Not yet, apparently, since his next words are, “You’re the new girl, right?”
Of course he knows me.
“I’m in the other grade seven class, and well, you were mentioned,” he adds, stuffing his hands inside the pockets of his baggy jeans. “What’s your name?”
He seems harmless enough and is, so far, the only kid to look at me like I’m worth a moment of their time.
So, I say, “Teagan. Yours?”
“Brent. I like your hair,” he comments, his bright eyes landing on my head. “Cherry red.”
My fingers find the edges of my most noticeable feature. “Yeah.” Does he want me to say anything more to that?
“It’s too bad we’re not in the same class, but tomorrow for recess…” He trails off and shuffles his feet side to side as his teeth sink into the corner of his lip. “Wanna hang out?”
Is he trying to be friends with me? I tilt my head. It happens so infrequently in all the schools I’ve been to, I forget what friendship looks like.
He’s—Brent—is offering me a hand. Kindness. Friendship. And though I may not be in this town for long, there’s no reason I shouldn’t take the leap and risk it. Time will tell if he remains so, or if he’ll tire of the new kid, like so many others have in the past, and ignore me.
Little did I know on that random Tuesday, Brent would become my everything.
M.L. Philpitt is Canadian-born and raised, and enjoys representing Canada within her novels. As a Ravenclaw, she loves education, having undergraduate degrees in English Literature and Sociology, a certificate in Autism and Behavioural Sciences, and a MA in Counselling Psychology.She writes in various romance new adult genres including paranormal, fantasy, dark romance, and contemporary. She has lots of crazy trapped in her head for readers to enjoy.When M.L. Philpitt isn’t making up stories, she’s devouring those imagined by other authors. Her love of reading began when she was a young child and only grew with age. She enjoys many genres, as reflected in her writing preferences.