Chapter 1 - Cornered
The row of green mountains in the distance was a welcoming sight. With bright blue skies and scattered clouds, Lisa stared into the distance with her ears listening to a melancholic tune that made her somber. Her best friend, Bonnie Thornson sat next to her; sleeping soundly with her mouth half-open. Bonnie had been carsick the first half of the journey, puking and cursing at her weak stomach, so when Bonnie had gotten tired and had fallen asleep Lisa was glad for her. Someone who was sleeping could not possibly feel carsick. It was better that she slept now because the road had turned to a zig-zag that made Lisa too a little ill. uncomfortable with the changing direction of the car, Lisa decided to sit straight and stare ahead instead of the window, despite the beautiful few outsides.
In front of her, she could see the head of Roger Simmons just peaking over the short blue seats of the bus, his golden hair messy from constantly turning from one of his friends to the other. She had dreaded the seating arrangement the moment she had held the seating map the day before.
Roger was a bully most of the time and he showed no remorse knowing he had made someone cry. Worse, he looked thrilled to know he had made someone so hurt. Lisa’s mother, Dian, had told her some people enjoyed the feeling of having power over others and Lisa had thought it fitted Roger’s description just right.
Still, it brought anxiety into her life more than she cared to admit. She wondered how someone such as he, who was not even taller than her, who had lower grades, though handsome could bring so much discomfort in her life. And Lisa wondered sometimes how she can shake off his mental power over her. At home she thought often while looking into the mirror, secretly judging herself for being so cubby, that Roger was no one. Therefore he should not be allowed to make her feel so afraid of him, of his friends. It wasn’t even physical! Just stupid words that made her feel so insecure. ‘Are you going to munch on double the portion today fatty Lisa?’ Roger would say. He would say it most casually while passing her as if just greeting her. She refused to let it bother her, but it still hurt all the same. Lisa wondered why did he say it in the first place? What made him think it was alright to say such a thing to her? It made no sense.
And as always at the end of her thought, as she watched the mirror in her room, done with her self criticism, that she would not let him make her feel horrible about herself. That this was her life and no one had the right to make her feel bad about herself except for her own actions. She felt strong after but it was different when Roger was there. She could not bring herself to stand up to him, to tell him to go away, and it made Lisa feel like a failure. Even more when she could not stand up for her best friend; Bonnie.
She thought to herself if she could stand up for herself, she could stand up for Bonnie as well, and she could protect her friend. She never could and she knew this outing trip would just be another reminder that she could never stand up for Bonnie during their school years, no matter how hurt it made her feel to see Bonnie cry. How could she? When she could not even stand up for her self?
In the mid of her gloomy thought of failure and feelings of letting down her friend, Lisa felt one of the headphones was pulled out by force. She snapped out of her thoughts, in a daze of being pulled back into reality. As she dreaded, Roger had taken notice of her. He leaned over his seat and was now looking down on her from his higher position. His eyes were a striking icy blue color and his gorgeously messy hair stood around his strong jaw. If he was not a bully but a kind boy, Lisa was sure to have fallen in love with him.
“What are you listening to?” He asked, but his face did not show genuine interest, instead of one who intends to make a mockery of it.
Lisa gritted her teeth then put back her headphone where it was before, anxious she chose to ignore him and stared out the window where the faraway mountain had turned to a rich green forest. They must have been near the destination. Not accustomed to being ignored, Roger pulled out her earplug one more time, this time harder than before. Lisa cringed from the slight pain than looked at him with disdain.
“Leave me alone Roger,” Lisa said in an irritated tone.
“Rude. I was just asking what you’re listening to.” He retorted, looking as if he was treated brutally.
“What do you care anyway. Leave me alone.” She demanded once more, looking out the window where she saw the blue calm surface of a wide river; large stones slicing the steady stream of water. To her relief, Roger did not bother her any further. She knew him for most of her youth so far. Going from the same kindergarten to elementary, to junior high, and now starting high school, she always knew him as the persistent type. Telling him no did little effect but Lisa was grateful that he had quickly left her alone and soon she understood why.
They finally arrived at Resting Giants. Lisa looked out the window in awe, eyeing the two beautifully carved giants; one female and one male, holding up a sign that said ‘Resting Giants, Close to Nature’. They had been huge, Lisa realized, since the size had grown over the shortened distance. Their colorful body newly painted, beautiful flowers grew just below their feet and as she had hoped for; the student houses where they would stay looked lavish. It was not the ordinary boring long rooms where bunk beds were set next to each other in an uncomfortably close distance. Each of them looked like houses, prompted by thick wooden pillars below the house since the land was not flat. They were after all up in the mountains.
Lisa turned to Bonnie in excitement, in horror finding Lindsey Barton taking pictures of her friend sleeping with her mouth open. Spontaneously Lisa slapped the phone of her hand, sending it flying to the floor under a chair a few seats back. “Stupid bitch,” Lindsey murmured loud enough while she went to get it. Impatiently she woke Bonnie from her blissful carsick-free slumber. She opened her eyes in a sleepy daze, the transparent glistening line of drool went down her left lip. She blinked for a moment.
“We’re there already?” She asked sleepily.
“You’ve been out for a long time buddy,” Lisa said with a smile. Bonnie smiled too, rubbing her eyes as half of the bus had made their way out.
Mr. Connor, their gym teacher stood just inside the bus, “Alright everyone! Welcoming ceremony in front of the Mother House, take your bags, and let’s go!” He then jumped off as fast as he climbed in. Lisa waited patiently as Bonnie waited for others to pass. She knew Bonnie didn’t enjoy the feeling of someone waiting for her to be done and so Lisa did not push. By the time Kimberly, the class sweetheart had passed they were the last one on the bus. Lisa got her own backpack which was not too heavy than proceeded to help Bonnie. Last time Bonnie did it herself she sprained her wrist.
“By the way, I think you should know Lindsey took your picture while you were asleep.” Lisa brought it up, hoping to stop the future shock of discovering a humiliating picture of her face pinned on Pacebook. Lisa knew it wasn’t the first time it happened.
Bonnie’s jaw dropped, “What? And you didn’t stop her?”
Lisa made an apologetic look, “I was looking outside, the entry gate is gorgeous. When I turned around I saw her taking pics.”
Bonnie sigh, “Oh well, you’re not my bodyguard anyway. Come on before Mr. Connor decide we should sleep on the bus.”
Lisa doubted Mr. Connor would do such a thing. Her parents, in fact, all of their parents, had paid a handsome amount to send their children to this personality-growth camping sight in hopes of planting good moral seeds before they started their high school. Making them sleep on the bus would no doubt anger both their parents, especially Eliza Thornson who was aggressively vocal and loud whenever she felt her child was being mistreated. Knowing her mother Lisa suspected Dian would just let Eliza do all the talking while she nodded in the background.
The two girls quickly left the bus. The large vehicle started to drive away the moment they stepped off. Lisa saw Mr. Connor’s disapproving-head-shaking gesture as they joined the crowd, thankfully early enough to hear the schedule of the day.
“... now I know you all think this is going to be boring, classes, listening, bla bla bla, but I assure you all you will enjoy every single activity for the next three days. I guarantee it. We won’t be sitting indoors listening to someone talk about morals! No! The best way of learning is by doing it first hand so we’ve made a schedule filled with groups activity -”
“Oh God” Bonnie said, losing interest. Lisa didn’t blame her. Group activities were more times challenging than enjoyable.
“I told you Netplix and chill was a better idea.” Bonnie continued on, regretting their decision for coming already. As disheartening it might seem Lisa still thought it was a good way of finding new friends to add to their small circle of two. Bonnie would always be her number one friend, but adding more people into the group seemed like a good idea to fight off their bullies. The more the stronger. Surely Roger would think twice before he approached a large group of girls. If only one stood up, he wouldn’t feel threatened, but if more did he would back off for sure.
“Trust me this is going to be fun. Maybe we’ll make more friends,” Lisa told her in a whisper. Bonnie looked at her as if she was insane.
“Why would I want that? I have you.” Bonnie said. But as sweet as it was and how deep it had touched her heart, Lisa couldn’t agree.
“We’ll always have each other. But if we have more people we can push away the bullies.”
Bonnies’ face came into a sad realization, “Are you still coming up with tactics to fight off Roger and his crew?”
“Talking to the mirror didn’t work?”
“Any chance it’s the mirror?”
Lisa glanced at Bonnie with a sideways smile. Sometimes she wasn’t sure whether Bonnie was serious or not with her questions but she sure did look serious now. Lisa returned her sheepish look with a smile, “Maybe it is the mirror. I’ll see if it works if I use my Mom’s.”
“Good idea,” Bonnie said, satisfaction on her face
The schedule as it had turned out was not so bad after all. They all had their chance to settle in their assigned homes and was sent to investigate the camping sight which was freedom in its best form. That feeling of freedom did not last long, however. Lisa had sat on the sofa after leaving her stuff on her bed of choosing which was beside Bonnie than daydreamed of having a home just like this one day. A fulfilling job, a loving husband who adores her, and maybe two or three children who would all inherit her abilities. It was an idealistic daydream but Lisa had allowed herself to daydream whatever she liked over time especially when she was feeling happy.
In her own secret world, she felt dread when she heard a familiar voice. She moved to the far end of the couch, looking out the window to see Roger and his crew coming their way. Her feet felt cold and for a moment Lisa felt so angry with this unfortunate arrangement that she wanted to punch Roger’s face so hard. Beside her, Bonnie joined with the same curious look. Lisa could see her face quickly changed to fear. It was never nice to share a dorm with a life long bully.
“Why are they coming here?” Bonnie asked, starting to peal access skin off the frame of her nails.
“Obviously we’ll get the honors of sharing the house with them,” Lisa said, now frowning at the images of misery in her mind.
“Where’s the honor in that?” Bonnie asked to no one in particular.
“Well, considering they’re nice to no one we’ll be the one to take the downfall of living with them,” Lisa answered anyway.
“Who arranged the housing?”
“The temporary class council, Bethany.” Lisa gulped as they were at the stairs already. So close to getting inside.
“She sacrificed us.” Bonnie sadly said. Lisa couldn’t agree more, Bethany was not a bad person, but she listened to what everyone wanted. At her young age, Lisa understood that was an impossible task to do. No leader can make everyone happy, some people have to be left unsatisfied. Lisa can understand that this happened, she was more surprised she didn’t see it coming. She and Bonnie were the least important to Bethany since Junior High, so it made sense to let them live with the unwanted bullies.
Lisa sat leaning back, Bonnie next to her, as the group walked in. They were loud as always but in the walls of the house, they sounded louder. Roger, with his blond hair and blue eyes, walked in first, followed by Lindsey with her ribbon slim figure; her long straight black hair tied by a golden hairband. After Lindsey, followed Jenny who turned around like a ballerina after dropping her seemingly heavy backpack; her curly ginger hair was beautiful. And finally behind them followed Rammy and Jack. They two were painfully attractive in their own way. Rammy who was quiet but watchful made you feel he could see right through you and Jack had a playfulness that everyone enjoyed; despite his questionable choice of friends.
It was Roger who first noticed Lisa. He looked at her, her mouth wide open with amusement. “No way! We’re staying in the same dorm!” Roger clapped his hands annoyingly, “I guess we’ll be having personal servants after all!” He exclaimed.
“Hope you guys know how to open a coconut because that’s going to be my first order!” Jack added, laughing as Roger shuffled his hair playfully. While Rammy did not even smile, he gave her a guilty look which was not new to her. Lisa always wondered why he was in the group in the first place.
“Hey slut, I saw your bed on mine so here you go,” Lindsey said, throwing her backpack on her feet. Lisa gritted her teeth. She wasn’t sure whether to run away and cry or attack her senseless. She felt Bonnie holding her arm tight when Jenny walked over not long after, throwing Bonnie’s luggage right next to hers. “I want the window bed, you can go somewhere else.” She said casually, chewing gum at the same time.
They both looked at each other with satisfaction than back at them both.
Lisa glanced at Rammy who’s face was as hard as stone. She had always taken him as part of the group but she saw also that he didn’t enjoy it. She gave him a look that begged him to do something, a damsel in distress if that was still a thing. To her disappointment, Rammy looked away. Without looking up Lisa beckoned Bonnie to join her. The two girls took their luggage to the smaller upstairs room. A large part of upstairs remained empty. Lisa suspected this was the part of the house where they gather for small group activity when it rains.
Lisa sat on her bed, none of them speaking, and imagined herself bravely standing up to the two girls. Still, Lisa knew how she is with confrontations. Her feet turn cold, her body starts to tremble, her heart beating out loud. In the heat of the argument, she’ll start to cry and it was the biggest obstacle. She’d rather be bullied to another room than to cry in front of them.
“I’m going to put a rock in Bethany’s soup.” Bonnie murmured to herself.
Lisa smiled at that. She wanted to put more in that girl’s soup. But it wasn’t Bethany Lisa felt she needed to have a firm talk to, it was Roger.
“Let’s just pretend we don’t mind. Come on let’s go outside, we need to see what they have.” Lisa took her sling bag from her backpack and slipped in a bottle of water and a small camera she got from her father last year. Bonnie looked as if she was asked to walk through hell, but Lisa knew it was just because Roger and his crew were in their group. Lisa held her arm, hand in hand they went downstairs to join the group. Not to their surprise, they were gone.
“Should we look for them?” Bonnie asked.
“Yes. Look for them, spot them from afar, and stay in a safe distance.” Lisa said, copying a naturalist who studied lions in Africa. She had seen the program just a week ago on television. Bonnie nodded her agreement than the two ventured out to spot the wild Bullie-lions. They were all wandering off to the river, none of them noticing both Lisa and Bonnie hot on their heels.
“Hey! You two!”
Lisa turned. Mr. Connor was standing with one group in particular by the other house, “You need to be in your group! Safety measures go!” He clapped his hands, beckoning them to join their group. Lisa nodded enough for him to see before giving Bethany a good look. The other girl looked away guiltily.
“So much for staying in good distance.”
“They don’t want us to get lost. It is a big forest.” Lisa reasoned. They stepped up, following the small group of friends heading towards the river. They weren’t all going there, it was a free discovery session and everyone was permitted to choose where they were going first. Well in a large group they did.
“Oh look, the servants finally caught on,” Roger said, walking backward so that he was facing them. Lisa’s face was as hard as stone. Jenny and Lindsey looked back, giving them a mean mocking look. Jack jogged backward so that he was walking next to Bonnie, “So Bonnie, you slept like a princess in the bus,”
“More like a frog,” Jenny said.
“But Lisa didn’t hear it though, she had her earplugs in,” Lindsey added.
“That’s probably why she did. Couldn’t handle Bonnies snoring.” Jenny retorted. They both then laughed. Roger made a fake loud laugh just to add to that. While Rammy and Jack stayed quiet. Bonnie didn’t say anything, instead, she moved closer to Lisa. She wondered what kind of pleasure they had from this and seeing how they made others feel, don’t they feel guilty?
“I was glad she’s asleep, she was carsick. Better asleep than feeling like crap all the way.” Lisa said to no one in particular. If any of them made a face she didn’t let herself notice. She can’t get hurt by something she doesn’t know. Lisa thought with triumph.
Lindsey made a noise. Lisa looked over just before the black-haired girl dragged Bonnie away, the other girl struggled. “Let me go!”
“Lindsey! What are you doing!?” Rammy said, his face a hard mask. Lisa looked at him, the way he looked at Bonnie. Could it be?
“What’s wrong Rammy? Don’t you want to play?” Jenny said, looking annoyed that one of their own was against their actions.
“Not like this. We’re a group. Everyone should have a good time on this trip.” Rammy answered. He went to Lindsey, her lips tightened when he put a hand on her wrist, silently beckoning her to let go of Bonnie’s arm.
“Lindsey, let go,” Rammy said with a warning tone.
“What are you going to do about it?” She dared. Lisa watched it all in the background, glad that someone did something. And what Rammy did sure was something. He grabbed Lindsey’s arm and squeezed it. Lisa could tell he put all his power in it, his fingers dug deep into her flesh. “Ow! Rammy you’re hurting me!”
“Let her go!” Rammy raised his voice.
Immediately Lindsey let Bonnie go. She stepped back, her eyes locked with his. Lisa never knew, never noticed, but now she knew why Rammy had always looked as if he was tortured. He had fallen for Bonnie and he never had the bravery to leave his group of friends.
Roger pushed Rammy back but he didn’t move more than an inch. Comparing to Roger who had a sweet face and short body, Rammy was taller and his face looked coarse. The two boys stepped in each other’s faces while Lisa took it upon herself to take Bonnie away from the coming fight. Rammy looked as if he wanted to punch Roger.
“Lisa, what are you doing?” Bonnie said in a hushed tone, her eyes wandered back to Rammy. Lisa looked at her with bewilderment, “You want to get hurt if the fight gets out of hand? What if Mr. Connor finds out? We’ll get punished along with them.”
Bonnie looked at her in disbelief, “He’s going into this fight for me Lindsey! I have to stay!” Bonnie shrugged Lisa away. She looked after her friend as she found her way to the middle of the two and Lisa couldn’t help but feel proud to call Bonnie her friend. She would hate it if she’s involved in it and it goes the wrong way, but she wouldn’t leave Bonnie either.
“Stop! Don’t fight!” Bonnie stood in front of Roger, Rammy behind her. The taller boy looked at Bonnie, he seemed touched by her bravery to stand between them. Roger however didn’t look away from Rammy for a second, he stepped closer to him and Bonnie put both arms out.
“I said stop!”
“You think it’s alright to touch my girl?” Roger said ignoring Bonnie. Lisa looked at Lindsey with her smug face. No one knew they were a thing.
“She’s not your girl, you’re just desperate to be with her,” Rammy said. Lisa saw Lindsey’s eyebrows raised, slightly nodding. So that was also going on. What a load of drama. Lisa thought. She hated to admit it but it was fun to know these sorts of things about them. In fact, she started to think that maybe staying wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Lisa couldn’t help but smile. Roger saw that.
“Oh, you’ve crossed the line asshole,” Roger said. Angrily he pushed bonnie aside, strong enough that she flew down a few steps away. Rammy avoided his punch, with his elbow he socked the back of Roger’s head. The blond-headed boy fell face first, to Lisa’s surprise the two girls and Jack laughed instead of coming to his aid. What kind of friends are they? While Lisa was already kneeling next to Bonnie, helping her sit up. The whole of her right arm was bloody and full of scratches. Bonnie looked at Lisa with teary eyes, “I should have listened to you.” She said.
“I thought you were awesome,” Lisa told Bonnie. It brought a weak smile to the other girl’s face.
Roger stood up, preparing for another blow, his chin had a deep cut dripping blood to his old green jacket. Once again the two clashed, Lisa, failed to notice when they needed to move as the fight was coming towards them.
Roger punched Rammy and he fell over Bonnie, the girl screamed while Roger went in headfirst. Lisa leaned back then kicked his chest before he could grab Rammy. Roger stepped back, a look of surprise on his face. Than anger. He didn’t care anymore who he was fighting and why he was, he was just angry. Lisa held her breath when the boy picked her up the ground, his wrist holding the front of her collar tightly. She was frightened.
“I’ve always hated you smug little know-it-all bitch,” He growled.
“Roger! That’s a girl!” Jack shouted to him somewhere behind them. Lisa couldn’t look anywhere else but his angry blue eyes, she felt her knee weak, her feet cold, and her hands shaking. She couldn’t muster a sound when he dragged her to a large tree, pushing her body hard against it. Lisa felt a heavy, bubbling feeling in her chest, a mixture of fear and anger, and all those years he had made her feel like a failure. She saw the first seconds he had raised his wrist to punch her. She could hear Bonnie screaming in the background, Rammy and Jack running towards them. But Roger was faster, Lisa felt her teeth greeting, than shut her eyes. All the emotions piled up into one angry scream. She felt her body releasing tension with great intensity as if each part of her skin could push everything away. The depth of her scream made her throat tremble as she let out the last bit of breath in her lungs.
Then she stopped, her eyes opened, and felt her heart sink with what she saw.