“Samantha Banks! Get a hold of yourself, woman! I have a girlfriend!”
And as if on cue, everyone’s snooping eyes in the entire Lediville High universe were on me, awaiting my reaction as they held their breath. It wasn’t too long ago when I, Samantha Banks, heedlessly involved myself in the school’s scandal of the year with the most popular and pompous jerk, Aaron Lanter. Well, I gave the full credit to my one and only best friend, Chloe Windsor, for what really happened.
Ever since our little scandal, he had reduced me from being non-existent to a jester—Lediville High’s source of entertainment. Aaron Lanter was obnoxious and a bully, but everyone couldn’t seem to see that. They were so blinded by his ridiculously mesmerizing blue eyes, stupid blond hair and absurdly perfect smile. Unbelievably, they couldn’t see past those shallow attributes.
Today was another demonstration on how to strip me an ounce of my slowly decreasing dignity—by announcing to everyone in the cafeteria that I was into him.
I wasn’t, and I would never be, but they didn’t know that. They eat on whatever he would feed them.
I woke up late this morning, and my stomach was already growling when lunch period came. And with an empty stomach and an unstable disposition, I looked down at my tray as an idea formed in my mind. I did the unthinkable without hesitation. I flung my tray at him.
“What the f—" Aaron hollered as the sticky spaghetti and salad hit him. His blond, tousled hair was now smeared with a common shade of spaghetti sauce.
“Woah!” The students that had circled us gasped; eyes in horror and anticipation for Aaron’s retaliation. But, I wasn’t an idiot to just stand there and wait for him to do something to me. I knew what had needed to be done next—run.
“Douchebag!” I managed to yell over my shoulder as I bolted out of the cafeteria door like the great Jesse Owens.
We played this game so many times already that I could already predict Aaron’s move. I knew he would order his pathetic little helpers, Zack and Jasper, to come after me.
I dashed and sprinted to my haven—the girls’ washroom. I had realized a month ago that none of his brute sidekicks could actually touch me there. And so, it had become my place of refuge and hiding there had become so frequent too, that the last cubicle on the left had become my favorite spot.
Sitting on the toilet, catching my breath and tending my hunger, my mind brought me back to the night my world first rammed hard with Aaron’s, like how some planets smacked into each other over billions of years ago. Before the collision, I was happy and peaceful in my own orbit, until I attended Diana’s stupid party and got drunk. We played one of the most cliché games humanity invented to extract information forcefully and give the desperate an exclusive chance to exchange saliva with each other. As humiliating as it may sound, I had exchanged saliva with someone, and the worst part was that someone had to be Aaron Lanter, the most bigheaded prick in the universe.
I hated him so much that I could no longer count the terrible adjectives I used to describe him. He was that terrible of a person. I seriously think he should be awarded Bully of the Year and be pushed off the cliff as a reward for everything he did to me. But, bullies couldn’t scare me. I could manage them on my own.
But why am I in here now? Hiding?
I checked my watch. Thirty minutes had already passed. I could go and grab a sandwich on my way to my next class. When I was completely sure that the coast was free of Aaron’s sidekicks, I left my cubicle.
“Sam!” A girl caked in make-up called out to me as I turned left to the outdoor cafeteria.
It was Chloe, my best friend, and my complete opposite. While I worshiped Coldplay and U2, Chloe was overly devoted to Lady Gaga and Beyonce. While I would never let people see me with lip-gloss on, Chloe would never leave the house without being dosed up with some dark mascara, blush, and eyeshadow. My wardrobe consisted of gray, white and black shirts and jeans. She, on the other hand, had two closets full of skimpy skirts with as many colors as one could find in a packet of Skittles.
Today, Chloe was wearing a pastel pink skirt and her favorite sky blue tee. She graciously flipped her shiny blonde curls, strutting towards me.
“What’s up, Barbie?” I greeted.
She hugged me and grinned when she finally decided to release me. “You totally kicked Aaron’s ass, loser!”
I wrinkled my nose. “You heard?”
“Yes. What do you expect? Gossip 101 is everybody’s favorite subject. I wish I were there to take pictures,” she said, laughing loudly. “That handsome jerk! Who does he think he is?”
I scowled at her. ”Handsome jerk, huh?”
She pinched my arm, trying to make a point. “Well, you have to admit it, Sam. Aaron is one hot piece of meat,” she said sheepishly. “Sexy blond hair. Deep blue eyes. Perfect jawline, and those kissable lips... damn!”
“I can’t believe it. You’re drooling over the enemy.” I shrugged her off.
She giggled and continued to annoy me by praising the devil all the way to the outdoor cafeteria. I awarded my bravery with a fifteen-minute meal time instead and had three ham sandwiches, an apple, a tart and a bottle of soda. I was that hungry.
I arrived at my next class just in the nick of time and had to sit in the back corner of the room. Ms. Penny’s lecture on the conflict in ideologies of communism and capitalism that became a foundational factor of the Cold War had sent half of the class into a coma—except for me. I topped most of my important subjects, the ones that really mattered. Gym class, not included.
Getting good grades, for me, was a piece of cake. I fell in love with literature as soon as I read Leo Tolstoy when I was ten. I briefly flirted with Math and soon realized that I really had to love it and live it too to maintain my class standing.
The day went on as expected. My recent run-in with Aaron went viral again, like how our previous encounters did. Some cheered and some jeered. And the same jovial reaction greeted me when I came to The Tutor Club Headquarters. Some of my fellow academic tutors smiled at me while others merely stared in sheer amazement.
I didn’t care what they thought; I was there to get the name of the student who needed my help and not talk about my squabble with the cretin.
I checked the row of small boxes that were attached to the announcement board. Each box was labeled with the name of the members of the club. I sighed loudly when my box was still empty.
What’s going on?
“Bruce, I think we now have a problem with the distribution of tutees.”
Bruce Carson, our club’s president, looked up at me behind his desk from the thick stack of paper.
“I don’t think so, Sam. Mira’s box has been empty for two weeks now.” He smiled, his eyes sparkling behind his black-rimmed glasses. “By the way, I heard Nicole was really pissed off. You made spaghetti art on Aaron’s shirt today. And I heard she bought him that shirt.”
I rolled my eyes. “That guy’s a moron. And Nicole is an even bigger idiot for being with him. Her boyfriend thinks he owns the school.”
“Well, when your parents are wealthy, you automatically get a free pass to be a jerk.”
“Whatever. You do know that’s an incredibly disgusting excuse to inspire injustice. He can’t take his wealth with him when he dies. And frankly speaking, he will die. He’s not immortal.” I walked to the door and sighed again. “I’ll check again tomorrow. I’m going home.”
Like the rest of the underprivileged students in my school, I owned a bicycle instead of a car, which I was pretty okay with because that was what I actually asked for my fifteenth birthday. I didn’t want a car. My mother was a very lucky woman. Her eldest daughter was low maintenance.
I turned up the volume on my headphones and listened to “Viva La Vida” and stepped on my pedal. It was a good autumn afternoon. I smiled as I breathed in the earthy smell of falling leaves while I passed by the trees already glowing in vivid hues of red and gold. I loved Lediville, Ohio, this time of the year.
As I scanned my iPod for another song favorite, a puppy in the middle of an empty road caught my eyes. I hurriedly went to its rescue and carried it to the side. I checked and saw that it was male. And as I rummaged for some leftover in my backpack, I felt someone came up from behind me and grabbed my arms. “Hey!”
It was Zack. Of course. He pushed me up against a large tree. My heart jumped when I saw a dark blue Mustang convertible not far from where I was pinned. Quickly, I was already thinking of ways to escape when the devil himself stepped out of the car. Jasper was not far behind him, mocking me.
“Cute puppy, right? It’s my sister’s,” Zack told me.
“You guys are pathetic!” I snapped. Poor puppy. Poor me.
“You think that was funny, Sam?” Aaron asked as soon as he joined his nitwit friend. He looked as if he was ready to smack me down. I looked around, and my heart sank when Zack and Jasper blocked my sides, leaving me with no chance of escape.
“And do you think it’s funny to use a defenseless, scared little puppy as bait?” I could feel my own anger building up. How could they use an innocent creature to do the dirty work for them? Had they not have any morality left? Had they sold their souls and went completely to the dark side?
“Leave us alone,” Aaron ordered. And before I could even protest, he had already enclosed me. He was so close that I could feel the air coming out of his nose. He towered over me, and the smell of nacho cheese and onions from his mouth was disgusting.
What did this idiot have for lunch?
No matter how desperate I was to punch his face, I had to control and lower down my fist. There were three of them. I would never win. I was feeling both angry and scared. The only thing I could do was fix him a death glare.
“Am I making you nervous now, Banks?”
“Nervous? In your dreams. You don’t scare me, Lanter.” I lied. Every inch of my body was afraid like a mouse in a cat litter box.
“Ass,” he snarled.
“Prick,” I snapped back. I thought he was going to hit me or murder me, but for a moment we just glared at each other hatefully. As the clock ticked, I finally realized what was happening; he had not quite planned the part where he finally caught me. Typical. He was all that—imposing threat and then nothing after that.
Our glaring contest stopped as soon as we heard a loud honk. We all turned to the same direction. I felt a sudden flush of relief as my favorite teacher’s car came into view. Aaron instantly stepped back. I quickly grabbed my backpack from the ground and dashed to Ms. Penny’s car.
“Do we have a problem here, gentlemen?” Ms. Penny asked and then looked up at me. “Are you, okay, Sam?”
Aaron flashed her a smile that had half of the female population at school mooning over. “No problem here, Ms. Penny. Sam found Zack’s puppy. She was just returning it.”
I gritted my teeth. I couldn’t believe how natural he was at lying.
“Here?” But Ms. Penny couldn’t be fooled.
“Well, I may sound like a total jackass, but I can’t be seen with her, Ms. Penny. I didn’t want anyone from school to get any funny ideas about us. People talk, you know.”
“Really, Aaron?” The slight disgust on Ms. Penny’s face was pretty obvious. But, Aaron didn’t really care, he instead just continued to smile.
I didn’t want Miss Penny to interfere with my personal business, so I cut in. “I have to go, Ms. Penny.” The last thing I wanted was for Ms. Penny to pity me. I could handle Aaron and his hound dogs on my own. I didn’t want to end up like Shelly Brown.
I walked to the puppy and gave it a quick, tender hug before picking up my bike. “See you tomorrow, Ms. Penny.” Without looking back at them or waving goodbye at Ms. Penny, I rode my bike and took off. I couldn’t let any of the teachers interfere and become another Shelly Brown. Teachers and parents alike thought they had the conundrum of bullying figured out. They were wrong about what they thought.
Shelly Brown’sparents were wrong when they acted irrationally. They thought stepping in strongly would stop the bullying, they couldn’t be more wrong; the bullying intensified, and Shelly’s struggles worsened. Everyone ended up blaming themselves when Shelly couldn’t take it anymore and, using her dad’s gun, shot herself before her fifteenth birthday.