That night I went to sleep and dreamed I was being chased. I ran from the dorm building to the hole in the fence, I slid under catching myself on the spikes and ripping my sweater. I stumbled up and down the streets, it was dark. My hands were scratched, bleeding, and stinging from my falls. I kept going, taking turns into dark alleys behind houses, keeping out of sight of street lights and whatever was chasing me. I thought I saw Porter ahead of me. I paused and he came back out beckoning me.
Was I supposed to follow him? Was he leading me to safety or danger? Did I trust him?
I was startled awake by my alarm. I looked over at the clock, it was 6:30 am and time to get up and get dressed. I groaned and flopped back onto the bed. I eventually got up, undressed myself and went into the bathroom to shower. I got out ten minutes later and threw on clothes. Unlike most private schools, we had no uniform aside from school appropriate attire. So, I threw on a shirt and jeans and got a new sweater and put the clothes I’d worn yesterday in the hamper to be done on Friday.
Each grade was assigned a day to do their laundry, Seniors were on Friday, Juniors were on Saturday, Sophomores on Sunday, and Freshmen on Mondays. I found my homework, textbooks, papers, pencils, sheet music, and threw them in my bag which I put by the door. I looked at myself in the mirror, I went back into the bathroom and pulled my contacts out of the mirror. I set my glasses aside and popped the contacts into my eyes, I blinked a few times until they adjusted and I could see clearly.
I shut off all the lights and opened the door. I noticed whoever it was I heard yesterday rattling my door had carved Pied Piper into the top center of my door. I must have not noticed in my tired stupor last night. I ignore it and turn in the direction of the staircase. I jump again at the sight of Porter. I catch my breath before he notices and looks up from his phone, I really disliked that I couldn’t hear him coming like everyone else.
“Good morning, you going to get breakfast?” he asks.
“Yeah, what are you doing here?” I reply.
“I thought we could go get breakfast together, unless you have someone else you want to go with?” he didn’t say sarcastically or matter-of-factly, or like he thought he was better than me, he genuinely thought I could have someone else to go with.
“I guess that’s fine,” I reply scratching the back of my neck, kind of embarrassed.
“Let’s go then,” he replies getting up off the wall. “Are you going to tell anyone?”
“About what?” I ask.
He points back towards my door, “The vandalism?”
“They didn’t renovate my floor like the rest of the building. Do you honestly think they care about it?” I question.
“Have you ever told anyone? About the bullying?” he continues.
“It’s high school. It happens,” I answer.
“You’re acting like you deserve it,” he comments. “You’re a good person, Ryker. Different, but good.”
I look at him to see if there’s any deception in his eyes but all I see is sincerity.
“Let’s just go get food,” I reply.
That kind of attitude was what was going to compromise his chances of being normal and fitting in here. There were two rules here, Ryker is a punching bag and you’ll follow everyone else if you also don’t want to be a punching bag or fool.
Porter follows me down to the cafeteria which is a separate building away from the main schooling buildings in the back. It looks like a greenhouse and in the summer, it’s almost as warm as one. There are tables in this giant area and there are plants along the edges. The walls are mostly windows except around the kitchen. We line up with our trays. We get some toast, and eggs and then we walk through the fridge section, Porter picks out an orange and some chocolate milk, I get jello and a cranberry juice. We find a small table near the exit back to the boys’ dorm rooms and sit down.
“So, how many years have you been here for?” Porter asks.
“Three,” I reply. “This will be my fourth.”
As soon as my dad could send me away he did.
“So, you leave at the end of this year? Where are you going after? An Arts school?” he asks.
“I don’t know, as much as I like music, I don’t really like the spotlight and being called crazy. Plus, I don’t really have the money for it, and my father’s never really saw anything in my talents, he thinks it’s pointless and not a real job,” I answer picking at my food.
“Why were you sent here in the middle of high school? Was it just because of the bullies?” I ask.
“My high school career started off normal, but after two years they started making threats to beat me up if they caught me looking at them in the change room, so I kept my head down until the end of the year and I thought about going back but I just felt ashamed of who I was and what I felt so I moved schools for eleventh and twelfth grades. My parents sent me to a private school for a better education but mainly because they thought there’d be stricter rules about fighting and bullying, I can see that they were wrong about that now,” he replies.
So, he was a year younger than me. Meant we most-likely wouldn’t be sharing any classes.
I was glad we’d gone early to eat; more people had started filtering in after 7:30 am and it was getting loud. I finished my food and took my dishes up to the window by the kitchen so they’d get cleaned.
“I’ll be outside,” I told Porter as I passed back by the table, he was still finishing his food.
“I’ll be out in a minute,” he replies.
I exit the cafeteria and stand outside in the cool air. Having a wall between me and people is incredibly helpful for my eardrums. I hop on the concrete wall around the area down to the doors of the cafeteria and sit, I close my eyes and imagine my mother’s life song, it was faded and far away as I woke up that morning. I remember having to focus on it to hear it as the day went on.
In the middle of my daydreaming, I feel someone push me off the concrete wall down to the concrete ramp up from the cafeteria doors before it meets with a grass field that, about fifteen meters from it is the boys’ dorm.
I gather my barrings and turn over to look at the top of the concrete wall. I see Julian Pigment, if I wasn’t crazy and musically inclined I’m sure someone would say something about that last name and if he wasn’t my tormentor he might be considered cute. He had a mop of strawberry blond hair and gray-blue eyes and the girls chased after him for those qualities as well as his sports talents and tall height, he played basketball and ran track.
I sigh, get up and dust myself off and get up on the other side of the valley going down to the cafeteria doors so we’re on even ground again and have some distance between us. He could jump the gap if he tried. I spotted two of his buddies behind him. This wasn’t good. Julian jumped the gap and his buddies followed him, I backed up through the tall grass until my back was against the cafeteria building and they were in front of me.
“Hello, Pied Piper,” Julian hisses.
All three of them towered over me, I really wished I hadn’t stopped growing before reaching average height. Julian grips the front of my shirt and drags me up, scratching my back on the brick wall until I’m the same height as him and my feet are dangling off the ground. I was glad I hadn’t worn my glasses today, I didn’t want to have to send my father the bill for another pair. If he could afford it, I’m sure he would have gotten laser eye surgery for me so he had to deal with me even less.
Their songs were taunting, horror melodies. I could hear violins, a slow guitar with building speed. It reminded me of “When You’re Evil” by Aurelio Voltaire.
“Hey,” I hear Porter shout.
We all turn in his direction.
“This your boyfriend, Pied Piper?” Julian sneers.
“His name is Ryker,” Porter hisses coming closer and getting Julian to let go of me and pushing him away.
I slide down the wall, injuring my back further.
“You okay?” Porter asks offering me a hand.
I ignore his help and get up by myself to save his reputation of holding my hand in front of these boys if he still wants to be normal in the future.
“That’s right baby, run home,” Julian comments after me as I walk back to the boys’ dorms. Porter follows me.
I take off my sweater so it’s not rubbing against my back. I grab the end of my shirt trying to put it tight so I can see my back partially to see if I’m bleeding.
“Here, let me help you,” Porter appears and takes the edge of my shirt to lift it.
“I’m fine,” I reply pulling away.
He looks a little sad that I won’t accept any of his help. But it’s for his own good in the end. He can still be normal.
I go inside the dorms to the staircase, leaving Porter outside. I climb the stairs to my room and go in. It’s almost eight now, classes start in about twenty minutes. I go into the bathroom and take my shirt off. I look at my back in the mirror. Some skin has been scraped off but the bleeding is minimal. I get a cloth and attempt to wipe the blood but it’s hard to reach.
Knocks on my door startled me again. Goddamn it, Porter.
I go open the door and let him in because I highly doubt he’ll go away if I don’t answer it.
I stand back, shirtless and my arms crossed as he enters.
“Let me see,” he replies.
I go back into the bathroom and he follows me to the doorway. I sit on the edge of the tub so he can see my back, I feel one of his hands settle on my shoulder, he takes the cloth I was attempting to use and cleans up the rest of the blood.
“Have they ever hurt you before?” he asks.
“They’ve done much worse,” I reply shifting as he touches a painful area.
“Sorry,” he replies holding the cloth lightly in place so the bleeding will stop.
He sits on the edge of the tub with one leg in the tub and one out, the cloth still on my back.
“Where are your glasses?” he asks.
“I wore contacts. It’s a good thing I did, too. They would have trashed them,” I reply.
“They seriously don’t do anything? They don’t even get detention or anything?” Porter questions.
“What’s it going to teach them?” I reply. “They’re pompous rich kids, whose families have money and lawyers, the only way anything happens to them is if I get seriously injured or end up dead and even then they might just say its suicide.”
“Classes start soon, shouldn’t you get going?” I continue.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asks. “Are you going to class?”
“Of course, I have to get out of here and away from them somehow,” I mutter.
He looks a little saddened by the last prospect because then he’ll be alone here probably. Maybe I was a bit too harsh on him. Maybe he didn’t want to hide himself anymore and if I was his only friend than that was enough for him.
“I’ll be okay, Porter. I’ve survived this long on my own, I can survive walking to class by myself,” I say apologetically.
“Okay,” he replies patting my shoulder and leaving the bathroom.
He throws me a shirt.
“See you at lunch,” he says on his way out the door.
“Yeah, see you,” I reply pulling on the black shirt and putting my sweater back on.