Somewhere I Belong

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Chapter 5: Trenton, North Carolina - September 20, 2001

Lunch came, and I was not looking forward to recess. It had been a week since I started at Trenton Elementary and unlike my mother’s promise that I’d have friends by now, I had none. The girls in the class seemed to like to pretend I wasn’t there. Not that I tried to reach out to them. I was just fine spending time alone. It was easy in class. During free time, I would sit at my desk and write. Recess was the horrible part. I wasn’t allowed to bring paper or a pen out with me. I was forced to stand around like a loser while everyone hung out on the playground.

By the time Friday came around though, I’ve had enough. Reaching into my jacket, I pulled out the tiny notebook and pen I had hidden in there and walked over to the back corner of the playground. It was behind the jungle gym, a safe distance away from everyone else. Sitting in the wood chips with my legs crossed underneath me, I started writing. I had finished my story with the fairy and had moved on to an action-packed tale of a spy trying to find a mystical crystal that can control the weather. Since this notebook was so tiny, I could only write ideas down in it, not the actual story. It would be pointless since I’d have to rewrite it all in a large book any way.

As I was scribbling away, the shadow of a person casted over me. Turning, I saw it was a boy in my class by the name of Peter Andrews. Everyone called him PJ though. He was a redhead with a mean streak who liked to pick on anyone he could. He was a terrible bully who enjoyed making everyone cry when he could. I had managed to stay under the radar for the most part, him targeting the other girls and the less popular kids. I realized my time had come though when he smirked down at me. Bending over, he ripped my notebook from my hand. Jumping to my feet, I tried to grab it back from him but he was too quick.

“Are you writing in your diary?” He asked, flipping through the pages. Two of his friends, Craig Matthews and Brandon Rivera, walked over. The two were always with PJ, not having enough brains to think for themselves.

“Give that back to me!” I exclaimed, trying for it again. He moved out of my reach, stopping on one of the pages I had just written.

“Kerri Oliver? Who is that? Your girlfriend?”

“No. It’s a character in a story I’m writing. Give that back to me!” I reached for it but he tossed it to Craig who then tossed it over my head to Brandon. They soon made a game of Monkey in the Middle with me between the three of them. Frustrated, I felt tears beginning to form behind my eyes.

“If you want it so bad, get it.” PJ said, dangling it in front of my face. I jumped for it but he held his arm out, shoving me back. I landed on my behind, the wood chips digging into my palms on impact. Craig picked up his foot and kicked, spraying me with the small pieces of wood. I shielded my eyes with my arm as I felt them hit me in the face and torso. A tear slipped down my face as him and Brandon both continued to do so, PJ reading from my notebook above me. “Kerri is a brave, smart and pretty girl running from her Dad. She meets a spy and falls in love. They fight the big enemy and end up together. Is that about you? Cause you ain’t pretty.”

“Leave me alone.” I said, trying my best to not cry any more. I heard a ripping sound above my head. Glancing up, I saw he was tearing the pages out of the notebook and throwing them at me. A huge smile was on his face and he laughed as each page fell to the floor. More tears slid down my cheeks as I watched him helplessly. I wanted nothing more than to disappear right now. I closed my eyes and buried my face in my hands.

That’s when the sound of two bodies slamming into each other met my ears. My head shot up as I noticed PJ was no longer standing over me but rather was on the ground under someone. The person holding him down began punching him in the face as best as he could. It took a good second before Brandon and Craig realized what had happened. I jumped to my feet as they ran over to the unknown boy. They tried their best to pull him off of PJ but it was no used. Craig started in with his own punches, trying to connect with the stranger’s face. Bending over, I grabbed a handful of wood chips and flung them at him. He howled in pain as they blasted him in the eyes. Brandon turned towards me, attempting to shove me away. Making a closed fist, I blindly swung at him. My knuckles made contact with something that cracked. He also let out a cry of pain, crumbling to the ground holding his nose.

“Hey! Knock it off!” Mrs. Jory’s voice demanded as her and the other lunch aid came running over. Mrs. Jory was a larger woman with jet black hair and a face that would scare the spots off a leopard. Bending down, she grabbed the jacket of the kid pummeling PJ and yanked him to his feet. That’s when I saw it was Cory Forester, the kid who sat next to me in class. He looked so mad and was still trying to get at PJ who was scrambling to get to his feet. Blood was coming from his lip and he had a large red mark around his eye that would be a nice shiner by tomorrow. Brandon was nursing what looked like a broken nose, blood dripping from both nostrils while Craig had chips of wood stuck to his cheek and eye brows. He had to squint to look around. “Everyone to the principal’s office. NOW!”

The group of us were escorted to Principal William’s office. PJ, Craig and Brandon were sent to the nurse’s office first while Cory and I were made to sit on the bench outside of the main office. Mrs. Jory was in there now, telling Principal Williams what she had seen. I sighed, putting my hands in my lap. My parents were going to flip when they get this phone call. I had never gotten into a fight before. I knew I was done for now. I’d be grounded along with a sore hand. The palms where I had landed on the ground hard were scratched up and bleeding a bit. The knuckles where I had connected with Brandon’s nose were red and swollen. I had never punched anyone before. It was thrilling at the moment but now I was terrified.

“You’ll be fine.” Cory muttered, catching my attention. Turning, I saw he was looking at me.

“What?”

“Your hand. It doesn’t look broken. You probably caught it on his face just right. Make sure you ice it when you get home. Sorry about your palms. And the wood chips.” I knew they were all over me and in my hair. I had pulled clumps of them out of there as we were marched here.

“It’s fine. That’s not what I’m worried about. I’ve never been sent to the principal’s office before.” He let out a soft chuckle, smirking at me.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine in that area too. You were protecting yourself from those assholes.” I gasped as he swore, looking around for any adult that might have heard them. “What?”

“You swore. At school.” I whispered, afraid someone might have overheard.

“Yeah? So, what?”

“Aren’t you afraid of getting into trouble?” I asked.

“Ha. My middle name is trouble. Pretty sure Principal William’s has my house number on speed dial.” He leaned his head back, looking at the ceiling. Glancing at his hands, I saw his knuckles were bruised and bloody as well.

“Thank you for helping me.” I said. He turned his head back to look at me, the tips of his ears turning slightly red.

“You’re welcome. Here.” Reaching in the pocket of his cargo pants, he pulled out the tattered remains of my notebook. With it, he pulled out the pages that had been ripped out as well. “I did my best to get them all while Jory was dragging me away. Sorry if I missed any.”

“Thank you!” I exclaimed, taking it from it. Shuffling through the pages, I saw they were all there. Small smears of blood and dirt were on some of the pages but I could still read them. “You got them all. Thought for sure they would all be lost.”

“You’re welcome.” The blush spread from his ears to his cheeks now as he turned away from me. The door on the right of the bench opened and Mrs. Williams walked out. She gazed at Cory with a hard expression, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“Mr. Forester, I believe we have a lot to talk about. I’m waiting for your mother to get here for that though.” She said.

“She’s not my mother.” He muttered under his breath.

“Principal Williams?” I asked, standing up. She looked at me, her expression softening.

“Abby, you can go back to class. I know you were in the wrong place at the wrong time for this whole mess.”

“No. I was there because PJ, Craig and Brandon were picking on me. They stole my notebook, they were kicking wood chips at me and kept pushing me down. Cory came over to help me when PJ started hitting him. Craig and Brandon tried to beat Cory up too. That’s why I punched Brandon in the nose. If Cory is in trouble, I should be in trouble too. He was only helping me.” I said, trying to sound brave. Her eyes flickered from me to Cory for a moment before landing back on me.

“Are you sure that’s what happened?” She asked. I nodded. Sighing, she looked over me at Cory. “It’s your lucky day, Mr. Forester. I’ll call your mother back and let her know it was a misunderstanding. Next time something like this happens, you should get an adult not take things to this level. You two should go to the nurse’s office and get something for your hands.”

“Yes, Mrs. Williams.” We both said. The sound of sneakers on tile floor made us turn. Mrs. Jory came around the corner with the three bullies. PJ’s eye was already turning black as well as Brandon’s nose where I had punched him. Craig’s had scratches all around his and his eyelids were puffy. PJ was also sporting a band aid on his forehead. The three looked at the floor when they stopped in front of Mrs. Williams.

“Oh, you three. I suppose I’ll start with you, Mr. Andrews.” Principal Williams’ opened the door and escorted PJ inside. Standing, Cory grabbed my elbow and nodded towards the direction of the nurse’s office. I followed him until we were out of eyesight.

“Thanks for saving my ass.” He said, smiling back at me. I shrugged, shoving my notebook and its ripped pieces into my coat pocket.

“It was true.”

“Yeah but not a lot of people are willing to stand up for me like that.”

“You mean like a friend?” He shrugged.

“I guess so.”

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