Since the last one got a good many views, and two Facebook likes, I decided to go ahead and continue this series. If any of you like anything in particular about it, or see something that looks like it could just use a tweak here or there, just give a friendly shout-out in the comments! 🙂

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Wren Brown stared dully at her schedule taped to the inside of her locker door. Chemistry next, huh. She’d never liked Chem. So many terms, so much to cram inside one’s head, yet so little made sense to her. After all, she didn’t think in terminology, chemicals, and numbers. Her eyes slid downwards to the photograph just barely hidden beneath the schedule: Her, Charlotte, and Phoebe. Arms linked through one another’s and grinning merrily at the camera man– no cares in the world. Wren allowed her fingertips to brush the edges of the photo gently– Soon, guys, she silently promised. Soon. 

She was about to slam her door shut and sling her bag over her shoulder, as per usual, when a large hand suddenly shot past her and yanked the photo off of the door. Wren spun to face her tormentors, all at least six foot two and pure muscle. Jocks. Stereotypical meatheads. For all the meat that they possessed in their bulky bodies, Wren was certain that not an ounce of it was actually brains. Even some of the witless popular girls slowed down their paces with friends to catch a glimpse at the action. She scowled, shoving out a small, pale hand. “The photo, Hilbert. Now.”

“Careful, Bert,” drawled one of the meaty, brainless lackeys, Max. “The witch might just use one her spells on you!” He waggled his thick fingers mockingly at her, casting imaginary spells. The rest of the hooligans howled like hyenas; eyes gleaming with taunting menace.

Don’t let them get to you. It’s only a show. That’s all they want– quality entertainment. Don’t give it to them, or you’ll lose your leverage and your dignity. 

“Keep it up and I’ll do worse than that,” Wren warned through clenched teeth. “The photo, if you’d please.”

“Awww, how cute,” Hilbert taunted, torn between eyeing her and eyeing the possession in his grasp, “the little witch has friends. Well, apparently they weren’t your friends if you made them disappear, POOF, like that, were they?” He held the picture up higher. “If you want it so bad, if you wanna prove that you’re not REALLY a witch–” he laughed wickedly– “then make your precious little picture disappear outta my bag and reappear in your hand. If you can’t, I guess it’s not yours anymore, is it, little witch?” His meaty, vein-knotted hand shoved the photo carelessly into a pocket inside his bag. “Well? We’re WAITING.”A magic show. That’s all they want. And if I can’t do what they say, I’m never getting my picture back– just like I may never get either of them back. Wren lowered her head, brow furrowed, fighting the nausea, the emotions that roiled up inside her each time this happened.

“Awww, is the witch gonna cry?” sneered Clare, stereotypical cheerleader and Hilbert’s girlfriend. She laid a hand on Hilbert’s arm almost tenderly. “Don’t make her cry, Hil– I’ve heard witch tears are used in ALL kinds of potions and spells and she could hurt you just TERRIBLY.” Wren could hear the bite behind her words as they dug deep, cutting like glass. She didn’t care about Clare, didn’t care about any of the meatheads. Why, then? Why did the words still slash and shred to ribbons what her soul held most dear? What had she ever done to them, save for ignoring them?

Who needed to be self-harming when others did it for you all the time?

Wren had been fighting breathing all this time, feeling emotional weight on her chest. If she caved now, if she attempted a breath when her chest felt like exploding, they WOULD come. The dreaded, infuriated sobs. She had to get away so she could breathe and get to class. Even if it meant navigating the now rather large crowd before her– the one that didn’t look like it’d be letting her leave any time soon. She edged toward the smallest part of the crowd, where resistance would be weakest. Unfortunately, she could feel every pair of eyes in the group following her movement, and Max darted out in front of her, arms spread wide like a goalie’s. Grinning like a big cat about to devour its small and relatively helpless prey. “Where ya going, witch? You haven’t shown us–”

“Enough.”

All heads turned. The vice principal, Mr. Creedy, stood small and intimidating before them all. He cleared his throat. “Mr. Bornyak and Miss Percinsky. I would like to see the two of you in my office, please.”

“What for?” barked Hilbert. “C’mon, Creedy, lighten up, we were only having a laugh–”

“A laugh, eh? Well, we’ll see who’s laughing when you, your girl, and the rest of your cronies end up in detention or possibly worse if you don’t come along now, quietly. Or would you rather this go onto your permanent resume?” Already the flock was beginning to scatter; suddenly disinterested murmurs and excuses being made as people fled the scene. Hilbert looked about almost frantically, glaring at those who departed, and face going pastier than Elmer’s Glue.

“Well, then, I think that settles it,” said Creedy, calmly whipping out a pen and a small notebook. “W-wait!” sputtered Clare. “We’ll go, we’ll go! I can’t risk not being in Mosseters Uni’s sorority!” Creedy’s notebook snapped shut. “Come along, then. And kindly return the girl’s photo to her, while you’re at it.”

Hilbert slowly reached inside his bag, and delivered the crumpled picture to Wren with the threatening whisper, “This ain’t over… witch.”

As they walked off, Wren stared after them, mind blown. Since when does this happen in your average high school? Answer: it doesn’t. Not normally. 

It may have been her mind or eyes playing tricks on her, but she could’ve sworn that Mr. Creedy, in a glance over his should at her, tossed her a wink. Of all things. A wink.

Maybe I really am losing it. Maybe I really am a witch….She shook her head. She didn’t have time for this. She scooped up her bag, and half-sprinted to her next class.

&&&&&&&&

Wren slowly trudged out to her usual spot in the cafeteria, half-expecting her crowd of tormentors to join her– but was startled when they didn’t. Whatever. She shrugged. She preferred it better this way, anyway. Alone with her thoughts was far better than alone with an emotion executioner squad.

She was nibbling on an oatmeal cookie, lost in thought over the day’s previous incident, when a lanky young man with dark hair and deep, ocean blue eyes plopped his jeaned rear down in front of her. “Hey.” She tilted her head up at him. “What do you want?”

She guessed she must have sounded naturally defensive, because he raised his arms up in surrender. Initially, she thought he was mocking her, like all the rest, and opened her mouth to tell him to get lost, but his words and expression both stopped her short. “I’m sorry for how those jerks treated you earlier. I saw the whole thing.” Large cerulean eyes filled with something like… sympathy? “I know it’s hard to make friends if you don’t have anyone you know or can trust. Believe me– I’m in the same boat as you are. Nobody knows me from beans, seeing I just moved here. And I think you need a friend just as bad as I do.”

Wren gawked at him. You have GOT to be kidding me. She lowered her gaze, realizing it impolite to stare like that. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll think twice about being friends with me,” she said. “Everyone here either hates me or avoids me. You really want that kind of treatment, too? Because that’s the expense you’ll pay to be friends with me– fear, doubt, and hate everywhere you go. Gossip in every hallway. Eyes staring you down in each class. The constant threat of guys waiting to jump you for kicks when you leave school. You’d never really be safe from any of that until you reach home, and even then you might get stalked. So tell me,” she went on, leaning across the table from  him, arms folded, “why would a stranger like yourself help a lowly little outcast, nay, a wretched little witch,” she spat out the word disgustedly, “like me?”

There was a long, drawn out pause. “Because,” the young man said slowly, “I know that look in your eyes. It’s one of longing, one of craving for acceptance. You may act like you don’t care about others’ opinions of you, but I think deep down, it really guts you, doesn’t it?” Seeing her stiffen, he continued, “I’m like you, I don’t give a crap what others think of me. It’s in my nature to help out when needed, and since we both need friends so badly anyways, I figured, it’s a start.”

Wren shook her head. “You’re crazy.”

“Maybe I am. But that doesn’t change all that.” He bit into an apple he’d brought out from a brown paper bag. “I’m Guy, by the way. Guy Rithers. You?”

“Wren Brown.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Wren,” Guy said, reaching across the table to offer a handshake while simultaneously munching away. Wren couldn’t help feeling a tiny smile– just the smallest one– tug faintly at the edges of her mouth. Then a thought suddenly occurred to her. “Hey, wise… Guy. Do you happen to know Mr. C?”

“Mr. Who?”

“Mr. Creedy. The vice principal. The one who broke up the fight-to-be earlier, saved me from possibly getting pounded, and the one you just stood by and watched?”

His smile faded. She almost regretted her words. Almost. “Never heard of him til now, actually. …Why?”

“He normally holes up in his office. Hardly ever comes out of his little cave, except to go to the bathroom and home in the evenings. And yet…”

“And yet he came to your rescue,” Guy finished rather thoughtfully. “I’m guessing you think I had something to do with that?”

“Well, you DID just say…”

“But there’s always a chance your incident caught him on his bathroom break or something. I can promise you it wasn’t me. I mean, maybe if I’d known he was that guy, yeah, I probably would’ve reported it, but he just kinda popped in out of the blue, like he just knew. Weird.”

“Maybe,” Wren admitted. She bit into her elderberry jelly and peanut butter sandwich. “Just forget it; it’s not as important as some other things.”

“Like finding lost friends?”

Wren accidentally bit her tongue in chewing. “They… they put you up to this, didn’t they,” she whispered in anger, recalling Hilbert’s threat. Guy looked puzzled. “What are you even talking about?”

“Hilbert and Max asked you to get revenge on me for them, didn’t they? Asked you to play the role of the cutesy new guy, hope I’d lower my guard for you, and…” She was breathing in fast, angry pants now. Guy cut her off. “No, Wren, it’s not like that at all. I promise you. Why would I even be interested in them? Like I said, they’re jerks. Jerks who don’t know the meaning of friendship or compassion, or even morals. I just want to be your friend and help you, that’s all.” He reached out to touch her arm gently. She flinched, but not enough to pull away. She didn’t know what she was tired of most– the tormentors, the false hope, or herself. Why did she secretly long for love and acceptance? For help and friendship– even one sympathetic ear? Why open herself up and make herself more vulnerable than she already was? No. I won’t have it. She finally brought herself to yanking her arm away from his hand. Part of her told her she was going to regret this later, but the rest told her it needed to be done. She needed to break these bonds before they decided to break her.

“If you’re who you say you are, then I’m sorry, Guy.”

She left the cafeteria.

To Be Continued…

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Image Credit: http://flappinessis.com/category/lists/

 

 

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