"Nice work, Gerard," the teacher said from behind him. He gave the slightest of nods in acknowledgment, never taking his eyes from the paper. "Anything to do with today's weather?"
Gerard froze. He hadn't even thought about that.
He glanced between the gray window and his drawing. It could have been a snapshot of what he had seen this morning: the rain-soaked sidewalk at his feet. The lines were crisp and clear; he was only planning to use darker pencils to color it. Not charcoal, though. It was too messy; he didn't feel like dealing with it at the moment.
He glowered at the window. There was definitely something he did want to deal with. He wasn't sure he could wait until after school. Just the thought of that insolent eighth grader...
He turned his full attention on the drawing. There was a pool of water next to the sidewalk. Maybe he could draw a reflection in it. He smiled to himself. That would be a true test of his talents. It might even calm him down for the time being.
He took a piece of charcoal out of its box.
Mikey felt his heart racing. There were only thirty seconds left in the day. The rain was still pounding on the windows relentlessly. Perfect weather for Gerard's mood. He glanced over at Bob, who was dutifully completing his homework. Mikey sighed sadly. He hoped it would be quick.
The bell rang. The students fled the classroom as if a floodgate had been opened. Mikey kept up with them. It was an understood rule between him and Gerard. He could never be more than three minutes late if he planned on them walking home together. He shivered as he stepped out into the hallway. His last class was right by the door leading outside.
Mikey pulled the hood of his black jacket over his head and walked outside. Frank was already standing in front of the school, speaking to Ray. They saw him and waved. He nodded and walked over to them.
"Any sign of Gerard?" Ray asked. Mikey shook his head.
A sudden cry came from the side of the school building. Frank and Ray walked in its direction. Mikey swallowed nervously. That had sounded like Bob. He suddenly ran ahead of them, approaching the side of the building cautiously. He tentatively looked around the corner.
He immediately wished he hadn't.
Gerard had Bob shoved against the brick wall. The eighth grader's nose was bleeding profusely, and it looked like he was crying, though it was hard to tell because of the rain. His face was smudged black with dirt, and a large bruise was beginning to form over his right eye. His left arm was bent at a strange angle.
Gerard threw him to the ground angrily, where he fell into a puddle of muddy water. Bob writhed in pain and sobbed, his cries lost in the rain. Gerard kicked him once for good measure before grabbing his backpack from its place against the wall and approaching his friends nonchalantly. He gave a single nod, and they began walking.
Mikey silently cried the whole way home.