I see the desk as it careens toward me. Everything slows down.
How did I let myself get cornered?
Not a minute ago, I had been packing up my backpack. School ended early. A half-day for teacher meetings for something.
I stood up and got in Ryan’s way. Ryan did not like me getting in his way.
“Move,” he grunted. The word bounced around the empty classroom. I froze. Realized my mistake. I should have hustled. Like everyone else. Joyous for half a day off.
But Mom and I had a fight before school. So I dragged my feet. Prolonged getting in the car with her.
“Move.” Ryan growled the word. Low. Dangerous. His lips drew back over his teeth. His eyes narrowed. I shivered. “Oh wait, that’s right. Your legs don’t work.”
Then the desk hurtled. Right at me. I didn’t even see Ryan move.
I’m on the ground, shins aching. Radiating hot pain to my knees. The desk lies askew nearby. Someone is yelling.
I can’t see. My vision clouds, heart thundering. My face is wet. Is it raining?
I blink a few times. Look up. Mrs. Birdy, the gym teacher, stands in front of Ryan.
Someone saw it. Someone told a teacher.
I’m helped up. I shake Mrs. Birdy off. She teaches P.E. I don’t take P.E. Maybe I should. Maybe I would be stronger then. More capable. Able to defend myself against desk attacks.
I peep around.
Ryan is gone.
My hands start to shake.
“Are you OK?” Mrs. Birdy asks. Her steady hand still grips my shoulder.
I manage a nod. My ankles throb. I swipe at my face.
“What did he do? What did he say?”
Mrs. Birdy needs me to tell her what happened.
My tongue sticks. My jaw won’t move.
“Well, I saw him anyway.” Mrs. Birdy releases me. “He’ll probably be suspended. I hope that’s some comfort. We do not tolerate bullies in this school.”
This new does not comfort me. Ryan will think I talked. The bullying will continue. I shiver and Mrs. Birdy shoots me a look.
“If other kids are bothering you, you should report them,” she urges. Like a dog hunting for a fox.
If I did report my peers, it would only get worse.
So Ryan is suspended for a few days. He’ll be worse when he gets back. Especially if he thinks I told anyone.
I hurry down the empty hallway. The ninth grade wing echoes with my fear. Mrs. Birdy’s gaze sizzles against my back.
“How was school?” Mom asks as I climb into the van.
“It was OK,” I say. Tears prickle as the shock starts to fade. I try not to cross my aching legs. “Nothing really happened.”