“I think it was just you,” he said evenly. I nodded and said nothing, but knew right away that he wasn’t telling the truth.
The next day arrived far quicker than I wanted it to. The weather was no better than before, the clouds still casting their shadows and gloominess over my house. The mood over the school was no better as I arrived, as the glares followed me around as soon as I entered the gates. Kurtis in particular was sending me the sort of look that incinerates people.
Thankfully, I found Bob in the corridor by the lockers, before anyone could make their way over and fit me into one of those aforementioned lockers. Thanks to my miniature stature, the lockers were a favoured place to beat me up and leave me in.
The story of my standing up to Kurtis seemed to have spread like wildfire around the school’s gossip columns. Most of the people who watched me walk past did have those characteristic sneers on their faces, the look of disgust that was commonplace of those who disliked the fact that I had an opinion.
And yet, a few of the cloned faces didn’t even bother putting up that expression on the face of their mask. They were the people who I could sense hiding... the ones I’ve told you about before. I ought to stop pressing on the fact, you’ve probably understood my descriptions well enough by this point.
There were some people that weren’t attempting to murder me with their thoughts, which was a bonus, I suppose. I walked into my first lesson that morning to see Pete talking animatedly, in the seat next to Ray. When he saw me, a broad grin split across his face.
“Hey, man! I still don't think I thanked you enough for yesterday, nobody's ever stood against Kurtis like that. You deserve a high five," he said.
“Okay?” I was confused but I still accepted the high five. I just stared at him, slightly bewildered at his overwhelming happiness. He studied my face but misinterpreted my confusion as disdain, and he quickly stood up from his seat.
“Oh, um... did you want to sit here? Cos you’re the new kid and all, I don’t think you’d want to...”
“No, it’s cool,” I said, spotting an empty seat at the back of the classroom.
“Alright then. I’m Pete, by the way,” he said.
"Yeah, I was told yesterday," I said, then I smiled shallowly and moved to the empty seat. As the tables in the room were tables for two, there was of course someone in the other seat there; I only moved away from Pete and Ray because I recognized the figure sitting there. It was the quiet boy from the day before, Gerard.
“Hello,” I said, sitting next to him. He looked up from underneath his floppy black hair and nodded. “You okay?” Gerard just shrugged, keeping his mouth firmly closed, turning a pencil over in his long, pale fingers. I sighed, accepting that I wasn’t exactly going to get much from him.
Kurtis wasn’t in that particular class, so the only people watching me were the quiet clones, and the two morons named Pete and Ray sitting at the tables in front of me. Pete seemed to have a small thing for making a nuisance of himself. For the last thirty minutes of the lesson he produced a laser pointer from God Knows Where and kept pointing at the teacher’s nose. She was getting really annoyed by the tiny red dot that she could make out in her peripheral vision, and kept spinning around like she wanted to catch it in midair. Somehow, Pete never got caught. I guessed that he was used to annoying everyone and getting away with it.
By the time it was time to leave, the teacher was almost in tears and she strode out of the room angrily with her books in her arms as soon as the bell went. My cheeks were hurting from my trying not to smile, especially when she's batted the tiny red dot on her nose and her glasses flew off her nose into the rubbish bin.
“What have you got next?” I asked Gerard. He just looked down at me (him being taller than my tiny 5’4”) and frowned, probably wondering why I’d bothered talking.
“Maths...” he said, quietly, packing the rest of his books in his Misfits bag. I nodded and looked around the room quickly, before turning back with the intention of asking him to show me the way (as Maths was my next lesson, too), but he’d already disappeared out the door. I sighed and made my way over to Pete and Ray
“Hey, where’s the Maths rooms?” I asked. Pete looked up and grinned at me.
“Follow Satan’s footprints, the Maths rooms are hidden in his lair,” said said. I let a smile crawl up the side of my face.
“And... when we don’t have the power to detect where Satan’s been?”
“Pete, just take him with you, dude,” said Ray. Pete pouted.
“I was gonna skip.”
“I can skip too,” I said, scratching my neck. “I’m not exactly a fan of Maths, either.”
“Good! Ray, you can piss off to wherever you’re going,” said Pete, grinning. Ray raised his eyebrow.
“I have P.E., you really think I was going to go?”
“Seriously, we’ve been here for over half a year and you still don’t know my timetable?”
“No, I don’t. You expect me to memorize everything?”
“You’ve memorized Patrick’s and Mikey’s.”
“Guys, shut up,” I said. They both looked at me, and Pete poked out his tongue.
“He’s right, we should have been out by now,” he said. As a three, we exited the classroom.
The halls were still stuffed full of people making their way to their various lessons, but as we reached the end of the corridor the crowds of teenagers had thinned out, and there were very few as we exited the building into the playground.
The grounds were large and rather plain; we made our way over towards the back, where a collection of picnic tables rested amongst a few large oak trees. I assumed this is where Pete and the rest of his unseen friends had been at lunchtime the day before. One of the tables rested right at the very back of the grounds, up against the fence, hidden by the large trunk of the oldest, gnarliest tree in the grounds.
There were already a few people sitting there; I assumed the people had all decided to skip from the horrors on their timetables that were Physical Education and Maths. Bob was sitting there, obviously, on the bench next to Patrick, the one with the trilby that I’d stood up for the day before. Today he had a black flat cap on.
The last boy there was a slender, timid-looking boy wearing a fuzzy grey beanie and square-framed glasses, straight brown hair falling into his eyes. He smiled shyly at Pete, Ray and I as we approached.
“And there he goes,” said Ray, as Pete began to run-run-leap awkwardly towards the three sitting at the table. “Will you...! Oh, never mind.”
“Talk about crazy,” I said. Ray laughed and nodded.
“I thought that was obvious already?”
“Just a bit.”
“Hello again, Frank,” said Patrick when we finally caught up with Pete, who was now lying down across the entire table top. I waved a small hello back, smiled awkwardly and instead of joining the friends at the table I perched on one of the low-hung branches of the gnarled oak tree.
“Oh, Frank, this is Mikey, he’s in the year below,” said Pete, sitting up and resting his folded arms on the grey-beanie-guy’s head, who batted him off irritatedly. I raised my hand at Mikey, who returned my greeting with a small smile. I sighed and leant backwards, balancing on the branch so I was nestled in the crook where the branch met the tree trunk.
As conversation within the group grew around me, I sat back and put in my headphones, shutting out the voices that weren’t including me. It was okay, I suppose. I wasn’t exactly a sociable person.
We remained in that spot for the whole period, and all through break as well. I didn’t say much, not even when Pete flopped down in front of me and tried to get me to join in the conversation. I sent him a look that clearly said 'leave me alone' and he pouted before returning back to where everyone else was discussing TV programmes or something.
“You’re pretty quiet,” said another voice soon after. I looked up from the comic I was reading, irritated, but was met by the soft, friendly features of Patrick’s face. I shook my head in reply, and he just smiled and sat opposite me on the branch, pulling out ‘Dracula’ from his bag.
"You're really brave, you know that?" he said, opening his book to where his bookmark held his spot.
"Because of what you said yesterday."
"Everyone's been telling me that," I said, frowning. "Is Kurtis really that bad?"
"Yeah. He's been like that ever since we got to the school." At that, he tucked his legs up and continued reading.
I followed he and Ray back into the building at the end of our break on the way to our next lesson, but both of them went their separate ways as I walked into my classroom. Hooray, I was left on my own for... whatever this particular class was. I noticed it had the same arrangement of people as my class the previous morning, so I automatically scanned the room for the one figure that I knew wouldn’t scorn me away; sure enough, Gerard sat at the back, just as he had the day before.
“Could I sit here?” I asked. He looked up at me from underneath the locks of black hair and nodded. I smiled kindly and sat down, siting back in my seat and pretending to watch the rest of the students file into the room.
Gerard was leaning back in his seat, a sketchpad balanced on his knee and he was concentrating intently on the picture he was creating. I watched over his shoulder at the cartoon he was working on, my gaze flickering between the picture and the kids that surrounded me. As Kurtis strolled in, he looked over and caught me eye, raising his eyebrow when he saw who I was sitting next to and sneering at me.
I smiled and waved politely at him, knowing that being friendly would probably piss him off more than getting angry and rude. Kurtis said nothing, as Mr Whatshisface was already sitting at his desk and waiting to start the lesson.
“Why did you stand up to him?” came a quiet voice from beside me. I turned and looked at Gerard, who had put down his drawing and was watching me intently from underneath the hair that covered his eyes.
“What do you mean?”
"When you talked back for Patrick.”
“They were being rude. Though I’m pretty sure Pete, would have ripped his head off if I hadn’t said anything,” I said. Gerard nodded.
“He does that.”
We remained quiet for a few moments whilst the teacher began explaining.... something... before Gerard spoke up again.
“You don’t speak much.”
“Neither do you,” I said, looking back at him. I couldn’t read the expression hidden under his hair, but he nodded in agreement and turned to look at the front.
“Were you scared, yesterday?” I asked. Gerard looked back at me.
“When that oaf came up to me yesterday, I turned around and you looked scared of them.”
"Yeah. Or was it just me seeing things?" I asked.
“It was just you,” he said. I nodded and said nothing, but knew right away that he wasn’t telling the truth. How did I know that, you ask? Well, I’ve seen so many different people that I can tell when someone’s lying. Don’t ask how I know, I just... know.
My entire week continued much in the same way, dragging on in that same, quiet, quite dreary manner. That lesson in which I sat only next to Gerard was History, and we had it three times a week; Monday morning, Tuesday after break, and Friday afternoon. They were the only chances I had to speak to Gerard, as I had no idea where he hid himself away at lunchtimes. Nothing had happened in terms of Kurtis attempting to shove my head down a toilet in revenge or whatever it was he did to scare people. But I didn't figure out why people were scared of him, either.
By the time Friday morning arrived, I was no longer dreading stepping through those gates. I had done on the Wednesday because I was wondering what might happen in terms of angry Jocks seeking vengeance, but on Thursday morning, Bob and Pete had actually been standing together at the front gate, waiting for me to arrive. The handful of people who I had begun to hang around with were friendly to me, unlike most of the people in the school.
I was pretty comfortable talking to them, which was a bit odd for me, but in a nice way. They weren’t actually people who were trying to burn my head off, like everyone in every other school that I had been to before.
Okay, that was a bit of a lie. In my last school I had made two friends, named Ryan and Brendon. I still talked to them across email and the phone. I didn’t miss the school one bit, but I did miss those two. They were both very musical and we’d had fun just messing around on our various instruments.
But hey-ho, the past was the past. I was in this school where the people weren’t actually out to murder me, which was a relief. Then again, it scared me a bit. Because the people were hiding, and I wanted to find out why.
I realized on Friday morning, as I walked to school, how people did hide. I hid, too, in a way. I mean, I wasn’t one to shy away and I was happy to speak my mind, but often I couldn’t help but think, it THAT all just illusion? Inside, I hated to make myself seen and heard. But I did it anyway; I mean look at that first day, it had taken about an hour for everyone to know that I was there. And I didn't help the situation by sticking up for Patrick.
It’s interesting, isn’t it?
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