Bullies by Anastasia Carl

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.”

 About Anastasia Carl