Skylar stopped at the corner, looked around, and stepped into the alley. He fidgeted with the straps on his backpack and cursed the man for being late. Where was this guy? Skylar glanced at his watch, seven-thirty. Sky was on time; the guy was not. Finally, the man entered the alley and walked over to Skylar.
“Hey, kid, sorry I’m late. You got the money?”
“Yeah. Right here.” Sky showed the man a bundle of cash. “You got what I asked for?”
The man pulled something out of the pocket of his hoodie. They exchanged the money for the merchandise. “Kid, don’t do anything stupid. I don’t want to regret my decision to sell to you.”
Skylar scowled. “Give me a break, dude. You know you don’t care what I do. You have your money, don’t worry about anything else.”
“Whatever, kid.” The man turned and left.
Skylar shoved the bundle into the bottom of his backpack and walked the rest of the way to school.
Jack sat in the back of the classroom and watched as the new kid, Skylar, arrived not ten seconds before the last bell rang. He also watched as, once again, Nate tripped the kid, sending him sprawling down the aisle between the desks. Idiot. Bullies are such cowards, and the people that laugh and do nothing are just as bad. Jack decided that the time to act was coming soon, maybe even today.
Skylar got up off the floor and quickly sat down. He blushed furiously when almost everyone in the class laughed. Sky held his backpack in his lap and caressed the outline of his new purchase. He was tired of being the target of bullies. If no one was going to help him, then he needed to help himself. Skylar decided that the time to act was coming soon, maybe even today.
Jack was in the cafeteria, eating his lunch. He saw Skylar walking across the room, tray in hand, looking for a place to sit down. He was about to call out for Skylar when he noticed Nate walking quickly, angling straight for the boy. Jack decided that the time to act was now. He got up so fast that his chair fell over and rushed towards the other two boys.
Skylar was walking through the cafeteria just trying to find a quiet place to sit down. The next thing he knew, his lunch tray flipped up, spraying the food all over him. He looked up just in time to see Nate’s fist connect with the side of his head, knocking him down. Tears of pain and rage welled up in Sky’s eyes. He didn’t even hear what Nate was yelling at him. Unthinkingly, his hands unzipped his backpack, and he reached inside. His hand reached the bundle that he put there this morning, and he began unwrapping the cloth from around it.
Jack reached the other two just as Nate knocked Skylar to the floor. He crouched down next to Skylar. “Hey, you ok? You want me to call a teacher or the nurse?” He rested a hand on Skylar’s shoulder. “First let me get rid of this idiot.” Jack gave Skylar a reassuring smile.
Skylar was unsure what to do. No one had ever helped him before. He decided to let go of the item he was holding and see what happened. He zipped his backpack securely closed again.
Jack stood up in between Skylar and Nate. “Nate, what is your problem anyway? Are you so insecure with yourself that you have to pick on other people? Grow up.”
“Shut up and stay out of this, Jack. This is between me and the little fairy.” Nate said with a sneer on his face.
“Fairy? Name calling now, Nate? What is this? Third grade? Your bullying of him and of everyone else for that matter ends today. Unless you want to try and bully me.” Jack’s track teammates had started to gather around the boys.
“What are you a fairy, too, Jack? Sucking dick in the locker room after school?”
“Whether I am or whether I’m not, that isn’t what this is about. It’s about you trying to target someone who you think you can get away with bullying. That stops now. You can stop on your own, or I can stop you. Your choice. I almost hope you want me to stop you.”
“You know what? Screw you. Screw all of you. I’m outta here.” Nate turned and stormed off.
Jack turned and saw his friends gathered in, watching. “You guys can go finish lunch. Thanks for having my back, but I can handle jerks like Nate.” After the crowd dispersed, he knelt next to Skylar. “Hey. He hit you pretty hard. You want me to walk you to the nurse?”
“No. I’m ok. Why did you do that? No one has ever helped me before. I didn’t think anyone even cared. Usually, everyone just laughs at him.” Tears streaked down Skylar’s face, though he tried his best to make them stop.
“Hey. Stop that.” Jack reached over and brushed away Sky’s tears. “Let’s go somewhere more private.” They walked out of the cafeteria and into an empty classroom. “Skylar, I’m so sorry I never stepped in sooner. I never laughed. I… I don’t know. I should have said something to a teacher or did something sooner. I’m so sorry.”
Skylar looked up at him through fresh tears. “I’m surprised you even know my name. I loved my old school, but I hate it so much here. No one even talks to me.”
“Well, that’s gonna change, starting right now.” Jack put an arm around Skylar’s shoulders. “You’re under my protection.” They both grinned. “By the way, don’t you have a study hall with Mrs. Jamison next period?”
“Ditch it. Come to art class with me. I’ll have Mr. Jenkins call her and tell her he said it’s ok. I’ve seen the drawings in your notebook. You need to show them to Mr. Jenkins. You belong in art more than I do!”
“You’ve seen my doodles? I didn’t think anyone even knew I existed in this school. I’m not really that good, but I’ll come to class with you.”
“Good. Come on. Let’s go.” The two boys headed down the hall towards the art room.
The last bell rang, and all the kids ran out to either catch a bus or walk home. Skylar looked around for Jack, not seeing him, he started walking home. He was just crossing the Stormy Brook Bridge when he heard Jack yelling from behind him. “Skylar! Hey! Wait up!”
“Hey, Jack. I thought maybe you took a bus. I don’t even know where you live. I forgot to ask you which way you went home before we left art class.”
“I live on Mitchell Drive. What about you?”
“Only two streets further. Monument Street.”
“I guess we get to walk home together then.” Jack nudged Sky’s shoulder with his own.
“Jack, I need to tell you something. I know we just started talking, and we don’t really know each other very well yet, but I need to tell you this. You have to swear to me that won’t tell anyone. Not your parents, not my parents, not the police, no one! Promise me!” Skylar said, leaning against the railing of the bridge, with tears forming in his eyes.
Jack grabbed both of Sky’s hands and held them in his own. “I promise. Whatever it is, I promise. You can tell me anything, Sky.”
“I bought something this morning. It’s in my backpack. I bought it because of Nate and all the people who laugh instead of stopping him from hurting me. In the cafeteria today, I had my hand in my backpack. I had it in my hand. I was going to use it. Then, like a miracle, you showed up. I don’t know why you picked that moment to show up and help me, but if you hadn’t, I would have used it.” Skylar had slid down the railing. His head was resting on his knees, his arms wrapped around his knees, sobbing uncontrollably.
Jack knelt and wrapped Skylar in his arms. “Shh, stop crying. I’m glad you told me this, and I’m glad I was there today. If that had happened, I never would have gotten a chance to meet you and talk to you. I’m sorry I didn’t get involved sooner, Sky. I’m sorry you felt so alone, but I’m here now, and I’m not going anywhere. I never want you to feel alone ever again.” He took Sky’s face in his hands and made him look at him. “If you’re talking about what I think you’re talking about, what do you plan on doing with it now? Are you going to keep it?”
Skylar stood up and set his backpack on the railing. He fished the bundle out and held it in his hand. Sky looked from item in his hands to Jack and back to the bundle again. He slowly unwrapped the cloth revealing the gun that he had been carrying around all day at school. He reached over the railing and dropped the gun into the river below. He smiled as relief flooded over him. “It actually feels like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders today. Jack, what you did for me means more than you can ever know. I’m happy for the first time since I moved here.” Skylar’s smile lit up his whole face, his bright blue eyes twinkling as he looked at Jack.
“I’m so glad you dumped that gun. If you hadn’t, I might not have done this.” Jack leaned in and kissed Skylar. Shocked, Skylar pulled back at first.
“Oh, my God. I’m sorry. I’m such an idiot. I thought you …. Oh my god….” Tears of embarrassment filled Jack’s eyes.
“Hey… hey stop. You were right. I do. You just surprised me.” Skylar grabbed the front of Jack’s shirt and pulled him close for their first real kiss.
Jack grinned from ear to ear. “For a minute I thought you were straight, and I’d ruined things already.”
“Hell no. How can I be straight when I’m around hot guys like you?” Sky teased.
Jack rolled his eyes. “I’ve created a monster.” They both laughed and continued their walk home.