Sammy peered into the bathroom mirror, watching helplessly as red blotches spread like connect-the-dots across his face. Intent on creating a safe distance from the eighth-grader shaking down the younger kids for lunch money, he’d scampered away from the bully. Once outside the lunchroom, he shoved his sandwich down his gut without checking its contents. Big mistake!
Crumpling the bag with the remains of the offensive sandwich, he slam-dunked it into the garbage can, which was already overflowing with used paper towels. He paced back and forth anxiously. No way can I go to math now. Focusing on how to extricate himself from his unfortunate dilemma, he failed to notice the entrance of a girl with purple-streaked hair and piercing blue eyes.
“Hey,” came a mocking voice.
Sammy whirled around, his heart pounding. “What are you doing in the boys’ bathroom?”
“Escorting you to math.”
He shivered so hard, his teeth chattered. “Someone’s going to see you and you’ll be in big trouble.
“I don’t think so.”
Sirens went off in Sammy’s head. He instinctively inched backwards. “What do you want?”
The girl eyed the urinals. Then she spat on the tiled floor. “You guys actually pee in these stinky things?”
A loud noise split the air.
“It’s the bell. We’re going to be late,” Sammy said, suddenly eager to get to math class.
The girl flicked a blotch on his cheek. “You can run from the lunchroom, but you can’t hide.”
Sammy stepped backwards, puke clogging his throat.
“Think you’re big shit, dissing me in class? You’ve got learning disabilities. You’re not supposed to do better than me.”
“I don’t diss you.”
“You calling me a liar?” Ellie asked, advancing on him. “You need to be taught a lesson.”
A girl was beating him up. “Just let me get to math and I’ll make more mistakes from now on,” he pleaded.
“And get even more attention from Mr. Gimmel and Ms. Maven?”
“You make them hate you,” Sammy mumbled.
A wild daring took hold of him, and he kept going. “You act crazy in class.”
She grabbed him and pushed him through the stall door. “I’ve had enough of your backtalk. Get in that stall and face the toilet.”
Sammy froze, his feet heavy on the floor tiles. “What?”
The next thing Sammy knew, he was on his knees, his face being smashed into cold clean water, then lifted. Sputtering through the waterfall, he looked up from his kneeling position in time to see Ellie slam past Tremayne, who’d just entered the bathroom.
“You okay, man?” Tremayne asked, helping Sammy to his feet.
Sammy stood there, tears flowing down his cheeks.
“Shit! A girl done that to you? Let’s get her ass booted out of here.”
“No, don’t say anything,” Sammy begged. “You’ll only make it worse.”
“I ain’t afraid of nobody. You comin’ to the principal or do I go myself?”
Sammy’s eyes fell to the front of his shirt. “I’m dripping wet.”
“You in or out?”
Sammy meekly followed the older boy out the bathroom door. He cast his eyes down as he drifted past the school custodian and his mop bucket.