Chapter 16 - Relentless
Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
Thanks to Calo, Angela and Miranda openly admitting their truths, more people joined in and told their truths. Some minor truths, like crushes, have been admitted openly. But there had been students who had a truth they didn’t want to share with the entire school. They took the dare and partially acted like me for another day.
And I took the dare Calo and Pyper gave me, trying to not organize my stuff. Or at least, not as much as I usually do. I started with my notebook, since I slide it around during my writing anyways, and in the end of the day, I left my pencils in my pencil case, I piled my book and notebook until I needed either one of them, and I didn’t use the regular order, all without feeling too restless.
Not just Calo, but Pyper, Angela and my parents told me how proud they were of me. It had been a very good day.
What surprised me most, is the fact that Kaley told me about her having a borderline personality disorder, surprising not only me, but Angela too.
And after Kaley, two more students came up to me to open up about their illness, one telling me she has OCD too, but not as bad as I do. Farah feels like a bit of a cry-baby because she knows how hard my days can be, while she only compulsively counts, counts, counts; everything.
I’m surprised by their revelations, and the fact they now seem to be supportive of me.
And instead of spending my lunchbreaks on my own, or with Pyper or Angela, I now sit with Calo, Kaley, Miranda, Angela, Farah and her best friend Libby.
For the entire week, people had been coming up to me to apologize for treating me badly and I can’t help but wonder if it had been Calo’s game, or the school lecturing about bullying, that caused people to support me more.
It’s putting it lightly to state that I feel a bit uneasy at times.
Just like today.
Ever since people started opening up about their own fair share of problems, Jimmy and Luke lost a lot of popularity. Their group of friends grows smaller and smaller, and their hurtful words aimed at me, are mostly punished by others snapping at them to stop acting childish.
Calo isn’t in school today. He texted me in the morning to tell me I inspire him, and he made an appointment with a new therapist, to see if he could lessen the frequency of his episodes.
He also told me he expects to be physically exhausted after the visit, so he would skip the entire day.
But since Calo isn’t my only friend anymore, I still don’t have to sit alone. Pyper’s suspension is done and she’s been hanging out with me and the girls during recess and lunchbreak.
But since all friends but Calo are girls, I’m alone most of the time during P.E. The girls are playing hockey on one field, while the guys play soccer on the other field. And I’m seated with Coach Brynn, going over my essay.
He’s pleased enough to give me a B, explaining what it is I missed in my information.
I just can’t help but feel a bit distracted, as I keep finding myself worrying over Calo’s appointment with a therapist. I know how much he hates them, and I know how exhausting such therapy sessions can be. I just hope he’ll be fine afterwards.
“How are you doing these days?” Coach Brynn casually asks me as I fold the papers to put them in my pocket. “Think there’s any hope of joining at least one class of P.E. before you graduate?”
“It’s not really my main focus to join P.E.” I admit with a careless shrug. “I’m trying to focus on making it through the week without any panic attacks. This week is going surprisingly decent so far.”
“Well, keep focusing on your main goals, and all the rest will come later. I spoke to your mother the other day and she’s pretty pleased with how you’re doing lately.”
“You talk to my mother?”
“She’s in the same book club as my wife. They, however, never really discuss any books. They rather spend their time talking about the kids and other hobbies.” Coach Brynn smirks.
“Oh, right.” I nod, knowing how those meetings of mom’s book club go. Mom organized a meeting once, but it was too much of a hassle. Off course, it was on the same day Pyper started getting ill again, while I was suffering from a bad case of the stomach flu. She had to call off the meeting halfway through the evening and after that, she decided our household is simple not suitable to organize meetings or parties, or other sorts of get-togethers.
“Say, class is over in 10 minutes, why don’t you just get back to school already and enjoy a small break?” Coach Brynn nudges me.
“Oh, uh, okay!” I nod, desperately wanting to get back to my phone to see if Calo by now has send me anything to let me know how his appointment went. “Thanks.”
“No problem Neo, I’ll see you next class.”
“Thanks again, Mr. Brynn.” I smirk a bit, before I hurriedly start making my way back to the gym and to the locker rooms. I might not ever join in for P.E., but I’m not allowed to keep my phone with me either due to school’s regulations and them not wanting to make an exception anymore than they already do.
If needed, Coach Brynn has the numbers to both my parents, and even Pyper’s just in case.
I unlock my new lock which had to be replaced after Jimmy and Luke broke the last one, to grab my stuff, instantly diving in to grab my phone. I’ve never really felt the need to constantly check my phone, but I’m worried about Calo and I’m excited when I notice a notification that tells me Calo did send a message during P.E.
Calo: Do you find it hard to open up to your therapists too?
Calo:I practically didn’t tell him shit.
Calo: He seemed to be a bit of a creep…. ;)
I smirk as I read his messages, knowing how hard it can be to tell a complete stranger everything about yourself at the first meeting.
Neo:Don’t worry, I didn’t tell your dad shit until the sixth or seventh meeting ;)
Neo:And I stillhaven’t told him everything
Like the fact up until I met Calo, I was struggling with suicidal thoughts, or more, the wish to just drop dead and liberate people from my existence. Like the fact, every so often, I still wish I was dead. Just not today. Just not lately.
Calo:I was getting worried over your lack of response
Calo:How is school?
Neo: Pretty much boring, but okay.
Neo:Without you here, I only have girls willing to hang out with me
Calo: How are things with Angela? She’s cool, right?
Calo:And she likes you…
Which is flattering, but I don’t know what to do with that piece of information. I, in no way, feel interested in her, or spending time alone with her. She’s cool, she’s nice and caring. I consider her as a friend nowadays.
But I am not interested in dating her.
And she hasn’t said anything about it either.
Neo:She’s just a friend :)
By the time I look up from my phone, the rest of the guys are in the locker room and some even got dressed, ready to leave the locker room.
They’re all just ignoring me and since we have a free period anyway, I don’t really feel like hurrying to get anywhere.
Calo:Just a friend? No possible gf?
Calo: You two would make a cute couple…
I disagree, and I can’t explain why exactly I’m not interested in Angela in any other way than being friends. She’s considered cute and sweet. She’s smart too. I just don’t feel any giddy feelings when I’m with her.
Or when I’m texting her, which I by the way never do.
I don’t feel as happy when she shows up, as I feel when Calo shows up.
Which leads to a rerun of our short, very passive kiss a week and a half ago. It didn’t give me any feeling back then, but it might be doing now.
“What are you sheepishly grinning over?” Luke’s voice sneers close to my ear, waking me up from my stupor as Jimmy snatches my phone from my hold.
“He’s texting that stupid Delgado-kid.” Jimmy throws the phone towards Luke, who reads the conversation.
“What, Calo is seeing a therapist?” Luke laughs out. “Off course he does. Hanging out with you must have driven him nuts.” Luke drops my phone on the ground and I want to catch it, but as I lean forwards, he lifts his knee, causing it to collide with my face.
My phone hits the floor first, and then I do myself. I scan the locker room, but I’ve stupidly enough didn’t notice that we’re now alone, and evidently, that causes fear to rise inside me.
“Lost your tongue, Faulty Favre?” Luke kneels beside me as I cover my nose, already feeling blood starting to sip out of it. “Why’s Delgado seeing a therapist?”
“None of your business!” I snap, wondering if they’re really as stupid as they come across right now. Last week, Calo blurted out in the school cafeteria that he is chronically depressed. Now, why would he be seeing a therapist?
“Oh, we’ll make it our business.” Jimmy hisses, grabbing my hair, holding my face in place as Luke pulls my hands away from my face, only for them to be replaced by Jimmy’s fist.
I whimper in agony, rolling to the side and underneath the bench, hoping to shield myself at least for a bit.
It’s a futile attempt to snatch my phone with me and since my conversation with Calo is still open as I slide to unlock the now cracked screen, I try typing as quick as possible.
I lock the phone as Jimmy pulls my leg to pull me away from the bench.
“What are you doing?” Jimmy hisses, slapping the phone out of my hands, causing it to slide over the floor and against the wall on my left. “Nobody cares about you, Neo, only other fucked up crazy people. Calo needing a therapist only proves you aren’t worthy of any normalfriends.” He kicks me in my stomach repeatedly, while Luke holds me down by grabbing hold of my throat.
“Your crazy friend ruined our reputation.” Luke hisses in my face, some spit hitting me, causing me to shudder and wanting to throw up. “We are going to get back at him for doing that. He should know better than the help out a faulty person like you. You don’t deserve any attention, or any pity. You’re pathetic and you should just go and kill yourself.” He spits in my face, while tears started rolling down my face, as I repeatedly cry out in pain, gasping for air since Luke every so often squeezes my throat shut.
“Now, you can help us out by telling us why he needs therapy, and this will be over.” Luke suggests, as Jimmy stopped kicking me. “Or you can remain silent, we willfind out what his secrets are, and we willtake revenge, on both of you.”
I shake my head, closing my eyes, refusing to tell them what the reason is for Calo to visit a therapist. If they know how weak Calo can be, they’ll use it against him. If they don’t understand what his illness exactly means, they might not be able to do much with it. They might not be able to hold his illness against him, like they are using my OCD against me.
“Fine, suit yourself, Faulty freak.” Luke spits, hitting me once more in my face, before the two of them yet again pull me into the shower area, over the tiles and into the furthest corner. As they leave me, I simply roll myself up to a ball, making myself as small as possible, hiding my bashed-up face by covering it with my arms as tears roll down uncontrollably.
I really, really, hate my life.
My whole body hurts, feels stiff, as I hear the door to the locker rooms open and footsteps rushing in.
“Neo!?” Coach Brynn’s voice sounds worried, while I’m pretty sure there’s more than one pair of footsteps. “Oh god damn it.” He curses, as I feel his hand on my shoulder. “Neo, can you hear me?”
I simply refuse to respond, because I don’t want him here with me. I don’t want to be in the company of anyone. I want to be left alone. I want to die in peace, which is a thought that scares me, as I remember Calo crying out practically the exact same words when I was comforting him during one of his last episodes.
“Neo?” Then there’s his sweet voice, full of worry. “Please be okay…” Calo whispers, as he pulls me towards him, causing me to roll over to my back.
“Who did this?” Coach Brynn demands, as I notice Lorenzo standing behind them, his face shock written, his fists clenched.
I shake my head, knowing it’ll only make their revenge worse if I tell on them. But then again, they probably already know it’s them.
“Jimmy and Luke, right?” Calo cups my face, whipping away what I assume is blood that is still seeping from my nose. My sleeves are covered with bloodstains, tears and snot and I’m grossed out by myself.
I nod in response, coach Brynn instantly rising to his feet. “I’m calling your parents to pick you up, and then we’re going to punish those two shitheads…”
Lorenzo and Calo smirk over his name calling, though I’m not surprised. He does that more often.
“We can take him home.” Lorenzo offers. “Just inform his mother we’re driving him home.”
“I don’t think she’ll agree on anyone else taking him home.” Coach Brynn shakes his head. “It’s best to just let his mother come and pick him up. Sadly, this isn’t the first time this happened, and we know how to deal with this. Luckily, due to recent more active approaches against bullying, I think Jimmy and Luke are in for a heavy punishment.” He seems pissed and I know for one he’s one of the few teachers that actively tried to protect me from the bullies. For instance, by allowing me to leave P.E. a little early to prevent me from running into them in the unsupervised locker rooms.
As coach Brynn grabs his phone to call my parents, Calo sits down beside me, pulling my head on his lap while Lorenzo hands him wet paper towels. Calo begins cleaning my face carefully, while seemingly completely focussing on his task, while I savour the feelings of having him close to me again.
“They swore to take revenge on you for ruining their rep.” I whisper, staring up, feeling a bit entranced by him.
His flawless skin, the light brown eyes darting from one spot on my face to another, as he cleans it. Those very same eyes look tired. It’s when I observe his face, his eyes, his breathing, that I notice Calo is indeed exhausted after his visit to a therapist, and he’s wearing and oversized sweater of which he pulled the hood over his head. He seems ill, even. He looks that bad.
“Did you have a rough weekend?”
Calo smiles by lifting one corner of his lips. “A bit, yeah. Is it that noticeable?”
“You look terrible.”
“Says who?” He chuckles, as his fingertips graze my cut lip gently. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here t protect you.”
“You can’t always be here…”
“I wish I could, though.”
“I know you would, if you could. That’s enough.”
And then coach Brynn shows up, Lorenzo following him too, them interrupting my moment with Calo, that felt more… intimate then it might have seemed for an outsider. Coach Brynn telling me my mom agreed on letting Lorenzo and Calo take me home.
“Will you stay with me?”
Calo now smiles with his whole face, a meant smile, before he nods. “I’ll stay with you, yeah.”