There’s a fight going on in the parking lot after school. I already know who’s involvedbefore I stand on the top step that acts as a secret entrance to the gym and hear chants, voices rooting Christian on. It makes me sick that people enjoy this stuff. There’s a giant crowd watching, some cellphones out taking pictures or recording the whole scene. There’s a chorus of oooooh’s and daaaaaaang! It must be a good show. Christian sure knows how to give people the thrill they seek. Maybe he should be put into those violent action movies. He’s already entertaining enough, why not get paid for it?
I can hear the impact of flesh with bone from where I stand, even over the lurid mantras of the crowd. I cringe as I see that Christian is pummeled to the ground, his face smashing into the pavement. That must hurt, knock out a tooth, even. He wasn’t even at school today. I sat alone in class, working on the project by myself. We have four days left to finish it and all we have are notes. The presentation needs to be put together, and it needs to be perfect.
So why did Christian come back? Just for a fight? So unbelievable! Does he even have a good enough excuse for not coming, for abandoning me with the project? Why would he come back for a fight?
Christian jumps up and swings an arm, blood spraying from his mouth. He looks vicious, almost untouchable. It’s completely worth drawing, but I don’t have the time to do it now. I snap a picture with my cellphone – the perfect shot – and save it to copy later.
I move towards the crowd and push my way through. People sneer at me, girls making snarky comments. The taller guys let me through, thinking that I’m so small and just want to get a good look at the demonstration. I reach the front and am almost stumbled over. The guy shoves Christian into the crowd and girls scream, guys holler, and instinctively I clutch Christian’s arm to sustain him. He starts to move forward, spitting blood onto the pavement, but I yank him back and he looks at me, wild-eyed. It’s terrifying, but I don’t let my fear show. He tries to loosen my grip and continue the fight, but I give him a look that says No more. Let’s go.
His eyes calm, his palms fanning out of their intense fists, blood returning to his knuckles. The guy shoves Christian again and, just as quickly as he had calmed, Christian raged and swung his fist, clocking the guy right in the jaw. There’s a cracking sound. I think Christian broke his face, but he doesn’t seem to care. He turns to me, calm again, as if rage hadn’t dominated his being a few seconds ago, and I lead him away from the crowd. Some of the kids start booing at me, complaining, wanting the fight to go on, but I can tell by the look in Christian’s eyes that he’s done; his body is powering down.
It was difficult to convince my mom to let Christian come with us to the house, but she looked at his face and sympathy washed over her. All she did was nod and I settled Christian into the backseat. He was asleep before we even pulled out of the parking lot.
I pull Christian out of the backseat with the help of my dad, who pulled up to the house a few minutes before we did. Christian is still in a daze. I sling his arm over my shoulder and his weight nearly sends me plummeting to the ground, but I manage, finding balance.
“I got this dad. Thank you.”
I drag Christian up the stairs to my room with much difficulty, but I finally throw him onto my bed. He let his body go slack long ago, allowing himself to be dragged around like a rag doll. I can tell just by looking at him that he’s hurting. His face is already starting to bruise, blood dries on the curve of his lower lip. I feel a heavy weight in my heart just by looking at him, but I shake it off and get him an ice pack and a cloth to clean his face.
“Is he alright?” my mother says, leaning on the frame of the bathroom door.
“He should be,” I say. “He gets into fights all the time. It’s nothing he hasn’t been through before.”
I run the cloth under warm water. My mom stares at it once I turn it off, watching anxiously as droplets fall into the sink. I know that when I leave she will stand here and turn the knob tightly until no more water drops fall out.
My dad doesn’t say much when I fill a Ziplock back with ice from the refrigerator. He kind of just watches me until I head back upstairs.
“Be careful with that boy.”
I hesitate, wanting to say something but coming up with nothing. There’s nothing to be careful of. I’m not involved with him. He won’t be coming back to the house once the project is over, I promise. I don’t voice any of these thoughts.
Christian has his eyes open when I step into the room. He’s staring at the ceiling, eyes wide, as if he doesn’t know where he is. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he has a minor concussion or something. I crawl onto the bed and hover over him. He looks stunned, paying no mind to me as I run the cloth over his face. He doesn’t even look at me. His right cheekbone is already swelled, puffy and purple. Looking at him makes my own face hurt. I place the ice pack over his cheek gently, hoping not to upset him. Last time I touched him he shoved me into the bed, and not in a pleasant way. Not that I’d want him to.
His eyes finally settle on me, distantly, as if he’s seeing me, but not. He looks as if he’s looking through me like I’m a ghost. I smile at him, holding the ice pack to his delicate skin.
“Hold this,” I say, looking at the ice pack. He lifts his hand and holds it to his face, wincing lightly.
I continue to clean his face, wiping away the dry blood from his nose and his lips. His breathing is even but heavy, as if something is clutching his lungs and folding them into each other. I start to life his shirt, which is soaked by blood, but he stops me, quickly sitting up and tipping over. He leans on his elbow and curses, squeezing his eyes shut.
“Fine,” I say softly. “Lay back down, you’re making yourself dizzy. Sleep if you need to.”
“But the project –” he says hoarsely.
“We have time,” I say, easing him back down. I prop him up so he’s reclining at a moderate angle. “You look awful.”
“Thanks,” he sneers. He glares at me. “You don’t have to help me you know. I’ve done fine on my own before.”
I drop the cloth onto his shirt and step off the bed. “Fine. Don’t accept my help. Clean yourself up.”