Fuck, I hated it. I hate all of it. That place, those people, everything.
I knew all along it would happen. I didn’t blame Summer for her decision, although I didn’t like it that much. When I saw her with her friends I thought she was really going to leave me, but when she put that note inside my pocket I knew I was wrong. She wasn’t going to simply stop talking to me after everything we’ve been through, and by that I mean the fun moments, and also the bad ones - after all, it was because of those she started talking to me in the first place.
What she told in the music room before she left, about understanding me and such, was entirely true, although incomplete. However, her partial understanding (which was already one hundred times more than anybody’s) did not only make me happy, it also made me relieved. Finally, someone in that shithole understood me, how hard and frustrating my life in this prison was, and for that I was thankful.
After Summer left the music room, I waited a couple of minutes and followed suit. As I entered the loud canteen I noticed she was already sitting in her previous seat and was laughing happily with her classmates. I looked at my own colleagues and imagined myself having a good time with them. Impossible. I could never have a good time with those snob kids, ever.
I looked at Summer again. I could only see her back from where I was standing, but it was enough. Her long golden hair cascaded down her back perfectly, her feet were crossed under the table, and sometimes I caught a glimpse of her face when she turned to the side to talk to someone. Her smile bright, her cheeks slightly red and her eyes gleaming... How could she, after the conversation we had, look so normal, as if nothing had happened? I would be a total nervous wreck if I were her; she was basically hiding the biggest secret of her life, a secret that, if found out, could be her ruin. That was when I discovered she had a talent for lying… Good, just like me.
Dinner eventually came to an end and everyone went back to their Wards. I walked silently in the thin snow with my hands in my pockets. The yellow lamps were the only source of light that illuminated the way to Hall B, but anyone could still trip on a rock if not cautious.
The walk was about two minutes, and once I got to Hall B, I calmly walked up the stairs to my room. Around me, there were some guys walking around shirtless and a teacher chasing them, boys banging their doors and playing with a football in the middle of the corridor, some were singing loudly and others were just sitting in random and weird places. It looked like a freaking jungle.
A group of eleventh graders were sitting on the bottom of the stairs, blocking my way up. I recognised one of them as being the guy that went to talk to Summer when she was waiting in line for lunch.
I stood there, waiting for them to move, but nothing. No one moved or even acknowledged my presence. I sighed in frustration and crossed my arms in front of me.
“Are you going to let me through or what?” I rudely asked them.
“Hey chill dude, relax a bit,” one of them said. I didn’t recognise him, which was odd. I knew everyone in that school.
I rose both my eyebrows and clenched my fists “You must be new here...” I inched my way closer to his face “What’s your name?”
The other guys shot worried looks at the new kid.
“Zach,” he said as he swallowed hard.
“Well, Zach, you didn’t choose good friends,” I told him. He looked confused “They should have warned you about me.”
“What?” Zach furrowed his eyebrows, clearly not getting what was going on. Fucking prick. His friends just stared at both of us. They knew better than getting involved.
“You don’t mess with me, I don’t mess with you, get it?” I warned him in a serious tone.
The guy Zach looked at his friends “Oh, I see...” he stood up “So you think you are the bad guy, that you run the place-”
“Zach, don’t,” Summer’s friend interrupted him, but he didn’t listen. Bad idea.
“In fact, they did tell me about you. I don’t see what the fuss is all about,” he laughed. Then he looked me straight in the eyes “You don’t scare me.”
He was definitely looking for a fight, or at least a lesson. I could just push him to the side and it would all be over, but I had to leave a permanent mark, something he would never forget. That way he wouldn’t defy me again.
I grabbed his head and slammed it into the wall on my right. His friends immediately got up, but didn’t dare to do anything. They just watched wide-eyed at what was about to happen.
Zach tried to fight back, but once he swung a fist at me I grabbed his arm and twisted it with all my strength. The pain made him fall on the floor, but I wasn’t done yet. I grabbed him under his arms and lifted him over the protection bar of the massive staircase, over the handrail.
“What if I dropped you now, huh?” I shouted in his face. Some kids downstairs looked up to see what was happening. Their horrified faces were priceless. Zach was trying to grab my face, but his arms were too small.
“Say you’re sorry!” I shouted again. He looked down and his face went pale.
“I’m sorry!” he said urgently. He was mine now. “Please stop!”
“Not so fast...” I gave him a devilish smirk “Repeat after me: I will never sit on the stairs again.”
“I will never sit on the stairs again,” His legs were shaking widely and I was starting to lose strength, but his fear was giving me so much joy I couldn’t stop. I looked around and more and more kids were watching, but none dared to come any closer.
I faked that I was going to drop him. Zach screamed in terror, but it wasn’t enough yet. I leaned my face close to his ear “I bet your friends haven’t noticed you have a little crush on the governess, that old wrinkly lady. I think they should know. Say it.”
“I have a crush on the governess...” He said shyly, too low. I wanted to humiliate him, I wanted him to feel it.
“I have a crush on the governess!” He shouted, this time much louder. Everybody’s jaw was on the floor. The hundreds of heads that peeked from the stairs were paralysed.
“Hey! What’s going on?!” A chubby teacher with a bald head shouted on top of his voice as he saw the scene in front of him.
Zach’s face was pale, tears were forming in his eyes and he was shaking. He learned his lesson.
I gave Zach one last nasty look and pushed his body forward. He hit hard on the bannister of the staircase and I let go of his body. He desperately grasped the handrail from fear of falling. His so-called friends immediately ran to him and grabbed his body in every single place they could. They grabbed his arms, hands, shoulders, even his shirt as they desperately tried to lift him up, which didn’t take long, I suppose. Zach wasn’t that heavy.
Before I could see that scene happen, I calmly went up the stairs, back to my room where I originally intended to go.
I woke up the next morning feeling sluggish. I intended to wake up at six thirty so the bathrooms would be free, but I let myself sleep and it was already seven thirty when I got out of bed. I decided to take a shower after dinner, the bathrooms would be chaotic at that time in the morning.
Once more put on my uniform and tied the laces of my shiny shoes. I waited for Anna to be ready so we could both go downstairs to wash our teeth.
“Oh my God, have you heard what happened in Hall B?” I heard one girl say as I combed my hair in front of the mirror. “Harry Edwards almost threw a new kid named Zach, I think that’s his name, from the upper floor to the ground floor, you know, through the middle of the stairs,” I felt a shiver running down my spine. I momentarily stopped combing my hair.
“Shut up! No way!” The other girl said, putting her hands on each side of her face “Why?”
“I think Zach made Harry mad... You know how Harry has a bad temper...”
“Excuse me,” I turned to the girls “How do you know this?”
“My friend went to have breakfast earlier and some boys that were there told her,” The first girl told me.
All of the sudden I started to see everything cloudy. The bathroom started to spin and the sound started to become opaque. No way, he couldn’t have done that, no.
I quickly left the bathroom and ran to my room. It was difficult to catch my breath, difficult to see which way I was going. Then I remembered that my friends would still be in my dorm room and I could already feel hot tears accumulating in my eyes. I turned around and went to the community room.
Luckily it was empty and I closed the door with a loud bang. How could he do such thing after everything? I thought I had changed him into a better person, I thought I had at least made him a bit less violent, but I was wrong. And I was a fool for believing he could change.
I thought he had compassion, mercy. What I had heard couldn’t be completely true, I was sure Harry didn’t want to drop him on purpose. Harry was impulsive, yes, but I knew the guilt he felt from making John kill himself would stop him from actually hurting anyone. I could see it in his eyes that he tortured himself thinking about it. He wouldn’t do it again.
But what he felt didn’t change anything. There was no excuse for what he did. What if he accidently let him fall? It Harry had hung him from ten metres high, Zach had vast chances of never walking again, or worse. Harry was literally holding Zach’s life in his hands, and he had no idea what he was doing.
I sat on the long couch and felt numb. It felt like he betrayed me. I put my faith in him and he disappointed me.
All of a sudden I lost my appetite. In fact, I felt sick.
Eventually I looked at my watch. I had six minutes to go to my first class, History. I didn’t even realise how time had passed so fast. Reluctantly, I got up, picked my backpack and walked out of the empty building. I walked silently in the snow-sprinkled ground.
Once I arrived at the main building I went straight to the classroom. The class hadn’t started yet, which I made me feel incredibly relieved. I didn’t want to be late on my first day of classes.
I sat on my usual seat next to Anna that already had her books on top of the desk.
“Where have you been?” she asked, “I didn’t see you at breakfast.”
“Oh, I had to talk with a teacher,” I simply said.
“About what?” she asked. I could feel my nerves threatening to show, but I tried to hold them together.
“Huh...” For the first time, I didn’t know what to say. I was so emotionally distracted with what Harry did that I didn’t even make up a good cover story. That was when our teacher entered the classroom. I immediately turned my attention to him as a way to avoid her question.
As the class went by, I was starting to get more and more nervous about what was going to happen. I agreed with Harry the day before that I would meet him at the bleachers, although the last thing I wanted to do was see him. But I was a woman of my word, although not showing up would be what he deserved. I didn’t even know what to say to him... Where would I start? How would he react? I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration. Why did he have to act that way? Why did he have to ruin everything?
The bell suddenly rang and everyone started to pack up, but I stayed completely frozen, my limbs couldn’t move, didn’t want to move.
“Finally free time!” said Anna cheerfully approaching my table, breaking the bubble I was in “I’m going to grab a book to read, do you want to come with me?”
“Sorry, can’t,” I told her “I’m going to write a letter to my parents, I haven’t written in ages,” She rolled her eyes and told me to meet with her for break time, as if we didn’t do that already every day.
Once she walked away I took a deep breath, adjusted my uniform and walked outside, putting my overcoat before doing so. There were no clouds in the sky, the sun was shining right on my face, even though it didn’t make me any warmer. The sun was weak, but I had no doubt it would melt the snow in now time. I had had enough of snow.
I walked slowly to the football field where I would find the bleachers. After all, I had no rush whatsoever on getting there. My heart was beating fast against my chest as I approached his silhouette that could already be seen a hundred meters away. I put my hands in my pockets and looked at the ground. Suddenly, my anxiety was replaced by anger, and I took some deep breaths.
I stopped walking once I was ten meters away from him, I didn’t trust myself to be any closer. I didn’t look at him once, only at his feet.
“How...?” I simply asked in disbelief, disgust lingering in my tone. I didn’t know what else to say, I didn’t need to say anything else.
“Why did you come?” he asked, not looking at me either.
I sighed in frustration. Because I’m not like you, I wanted to say, but held my tongue, although I couldn’t find a reason why I did so.
“You know Harry,” I started as I approached him “Maybe you were right, maybe I do have a reputation to maintain. With that said, I will leave you to your own conclusions. Now if you excuse me, I have some civil friends that need me,” I turned my back to him and started to walk away.
“Don’t you dare walk away!” He said between greeted teeth. I didn’t listen and continued walking. Then I felt him get closer and closer to me, when suddenly he grasped my arm and turned me around with such force I almost fell on the floor.
“Let me explain,” he said as I jerked my arm away from his grip.
“You don’t need to explain anything Harry! I thought you were done with violence, but I was wrong, so terribly wrong.”
He ignored what I said, “I had to remind them that I am the one they can’t mess around with, I had no choice!”
“You had no choice?!” I said disdainfully “Are you hearing yourself? Zach could have died! I guess history is repeating itself.”
“Don’t say that...”
“Don’t worry, I won’t spit in your face what you already know,” I swallowed my anger and looked at the ground “Please tell me with sincerity, are you feeling any guilt?”
He didn’t respond at first, but after some seconds “Yes, I do.”
“Do you feel guilty for what you did to Zack or for what you are making me feel?” I looked him in the eyes, defying him, but he turned away “Oh Harry, when will you learn?”
There was silence, a long and painful silence.
“I promise I won’t do anything like that again,” He said in a low voice.
“Now that the damage is done I hope not.”
He looked me in the eyes for the first time since the conversation had started “I don’t have anything here, no friends, nothing. Well, except you but that’s not the point. The point is that the only way people will respect me is if they are afraid of me, why would they do otherwise? I don’t deserve anyone’s respect, I know I’m a fuck up, and I swear I am trying to change, I really am. Please, give me one more shot.”
I didn’t answer him. His face was radiating sorrow, despair actually.
Harry ran his fingers through his tangled hair “I should have never talked to you that day, I should have never let you become my friend, because now I’m dragging you down with me, and no one like you should be dragged down.”
He wanted me to feel sorry for him, and God, after those words I swear I was, but I couldn’t show them. That was when he wrapped his arms around me. I kept my arms to the side and he squeezed me tight, as if I was his most precious treasure.
“What have I done?” He finally realised “I don’t deserve you.”
That was when my heart broke into a million pieces. Nothing could justify what he did, but nothing could change it either. Hesitantly, I lifted my arms and put them around his shoulders.
“Harry?” I asked him, still embracing him “Can you describe a person who deserves me, or at least my respect?”
He pulled his head away from my neck “Someone who doesn’t make you worry, or mad, that you are not embarrassed to be seen with. Someone who puts you first and helps you, that can protect you. Someone you can trust everything with. Someone who can make you laugh and feel special for all the right reasons. Someone who can make you happy.”
We were facing each other, but because he was much taller than me, I had to look up to meet his gaze, which after what he said I didn’t dare. I just looked straight ahead, at the beginning of his neck.
“Well, then I want you to be all of that, okay Harry?”
He swallowed hard, making his Adam’s apple rise “I’ll try.”
Without a word, I hugged him tight. Our heavy and voluminous overcoats made it hard to reach all the way across his back, but I still managed to place my head against his chest. His heart was beating fast, faster than normal. After those series of events I wasn’t surprised. We went from fighting to peace in a blink of an eye.
That was when I heard the sound of people laughing and running. Harry noticed it too because he turned his head around. Without warning, he grabbed my hand and dragged me to a place where no one could see us behind a bush.
“Do you think they saw us?” I asked him as I tried to peek through the plant.
“No,” he said. Then he turned to face me “You better get going or your friends will start to ask questions.”
“And thank you, for the second chance,” he said with sincerity.
“It’s your last one, I’m not kidding,” I told him.
“I didn’t say I didn’t believe you.”
I rolled my eyes and said, “When do we meet next time?”
That made him smile from ear to ear, and it made me smile too “What about tomorrow after lessons?”
“Sorry, I have the whole day full and after school I have practise.”
“Can you do exercise already?” He asked, looking at my wrists
“I’ll find out tomorrow, but surely I can.”
“Then what about after tomorrow?” He asked hopefully.
“Okay, near the bench we spent New Year at six?”
“Don’t you think there will be lots of kids there?” He asked.
“We’ll walk deeper into the forest,” I told him “Now I have to go,” and with that, I ran to the canteen where my friends would be waiting for me