Across the Road and Three Doors Down

A large shadow loomed over Aiden's lunch. He gulped, almost certain whose shadow it was. He looked around slowly, hoping he was wrong, but of course, wasn't. "Hey scum!" taunted the booming voice of Michael Cross, captain of the football team and champion wrestler. Aiden tried to shrink down into his seat. Maybe Larissa wouldn't notice who Michael was talking to, but by now the entire cafeteria had turned their attention to their hero. "Hey scum!" Michael repeated, "I saw you at wrestling practice." he drawled, "I saw you get flipped by Rosenbaum." Rosenbaum was the smallest guy on the team, and Aiden was about twenty pounds heavier. Michael just laughs. "Pretty pathetic!" there is a small bout of laughter from the students.

Aiden wished he could just tell Michael off, but knew he didn't have the guts. "Come on, scum, why don't you show me some of your moves?" Michael says from behind him. Aiden turned his head back to Michael in complete horror. He was in starting position, he really meant it. "Come on!" he barks. Hastily, Aiden lifted himself out of his seat, feeling the sweat dripping from his face and mimics Michael's position. Michael pouts, "Aw scummy, you scared?" he must have noticed Aiden's shaking hands and sweaty forehead. Michael's forehead isn't sweaty, and his hands are calm and firm, ready to take action. Aiden briefly wondered why Michael was wearing long sleeves when it was so warm outside.

Michael lunges forward, as though he is about to attack, but then just as he was about to throw himself onto Aiden's frightened, tense, and easily pinned frame he lurched back. He stood there for a moment, just staring at Aiden, laughing. "And you wonder why you didn't make the wrestling team." He stalked away, and was soon joined by all his just as horrible cronies. The entire school was laughing hysterically. Aiden just stood there, horrified. His heart was pumping so hard he would have thought he would have been able to move, but he couldn't. Only when he was sure Michael and his friends were settled at the other side of the cafeteria did he let himself settle back into his seat among all of Michael's victims. Although they did pity him for being the victim this time, he knew each and every one was glad that it wasn't them.

"You're such a jerk, Michael." said Aria irritably as they sat down at their table. Michael shrugged as he wolfed down his cafeteria-bought cheeseburger.

"He's pathetic, he needs to learn that." he said casually. Aria rolled her eyes. She had always thought Michael was an idiot, but had never said so because Christy liked him so much. Christy was a pretty blonde girl with big green eyes. She and Michael looked like opposites, she slightly short, pale and waif-like, he muscular, tan, and tall.

Christy looked at Aria's irritated expression quickly before she said, "Aria's right, maybe you should be nicer…" Michael tensed, and Christy began to babble, "But if you don't want to be, that's okay, it doesn't matter, he doesn't matter, it's no big deal!" Michael gritted down on his jaw.

"I'm going to go down to the wrestling room." he said shortly. Travis and Ryan stood up to follow him, their girlfriends each looking up to their man, unhappy that they were leaving.

As soon as they were gone Aria muttered to Cassie and Shelly, Travis and Ryan's girlfriends respectively, "Good riddance." They knew she meant Michael, and nodded.

Travis and Ryan caught up with their friend and followed him into the wrestling room where he immediately began punching the dummy that was set up for the very purpose. Ryan and Travis just watched Michael let out all his anger on the doll. It was a pretty impressive sight. If the doll had been human it would be more than dead right now. They had never understood where Michael's anger had come from, but he was never without it. They watched in awe for a few minutes before taking out a basketball from the storage and playing with it. A few other students came into the wrestling room, all steering clear of the famously hot-headed alpha males of their school. In reality, Travis and Ryan were pretty cool-headed, and it was only Michael who did things without thinking, but they would back him up just because they were friends.

Michael's long-sleeved shirt was stained with sweat by the time the bell rang, and Travis and Ryan were glad they had taken theirs off. Michael was cool about it though, he simply pulled his jacket overtop of his overheating body and filled a water bottle up with tap water to cool himself down. When they sat themselves down in their first class the girls all giggled and complained about their smell, but they knew that they didn't mind. After all, that was the price of being hot.

Michael came home that night at about one in the morning. He was probably the only one of his friends that hadn't gotten completely washed that night. Just the thought of putting any sort of drug into his body frightened him too much, no matter how tempting it was. But at least he could completely relax around his drunken buddies. It wasn't like they'd remember anything that had happened in the morning.

All the lights were off when he crept into the kitchen. He breathed out a sigh of relief. He was safe. Then they turned on in a sudden burst of light and Michael tensed horribly, feeling chills run down his back. "Michael, I didn't tell him, I swear!" his mother told him desperately before his father turned to her.

"Shut up, you stupid woman!" she froze in her seat at the table, and Michael knew she'd be quiet for the rest of the night. Michael's father turned to him, his finger pointing at him accusingly. "What have I told you? You come home at seven! How pathetic can you get? You're six hours late." Michael didn't say anything. He knew it was stupid of him to do it, but each night he tried to stay out as late as he could. It wasn't like he wasn't punished when he behaved perfectly, anyways, so he may as well keep himself out of this hellhole.

His father to advance on him. He was a muscular 33 year old man that was barely inches taller than his son, but so much more powerful. After all, since his son's birth he had been trained to defer to his father. It seemed like years had passed by the time Michael's father was up in his face. "This might hurt." he whispered, and slammed his fist into his son's stomach, doubling him over onto the ground.

Christy stood outside her door. Michael had told her he would pick her up from school, and she had been waiting for him for the past fifteen minutes. "You sure he's coming?" asked her mom hopefully. She didn't like Michael very much. Most mothers wouldn't. After all, he was muscular, gorgeous, popular, five foot ten, angry and mysterious. A bad boy. Mothers usually wanted their daughters with the boring, sweet, and harmless boys.

Just then he pulled into the driveway with his jeep that was falling apart. He had bought it himself. Christy grinned. He hadn't forgotten after all. She gave her mother a kiss on the cheek and ran down their steps to the car. She settled into the seat next to him he had reserved for her. Turning around she discovered she wasn't the only one in the car. Somehow Travis, Ryan, Aria's boyfriend Jason, Cassie, Shelly and Aria had all fit into the five-seat car. They had to hope that the cops wouldn't stop them, because if they did they would find people sitting on each other's lap and a few drunken minors.

Just as she buckled herself in Michael leaned over and whispered, "We're not going to school today." she looked at him, surprised. She shrugged. Oh well. It wasn't the end of the world. She had skipped before a few times, and no one really cared. She was a good student who acted respectfully in class, and as long as she did that no one cared what else she did.

They all chatted loudly, and everyone began to pass around the beer. Christy felt so proud that Michael didn't drink anything, but that didn't stop her from taking any herself. They finally stopped by a park that led into a small forest that held a creek at its center. They all made their way to the creek easily, without a care in the world. By now they were all singing camp songs loudly. The sun shone on them for hours, noon approaching quickly.

"Michael!" Ryan slurred drunkenly. Michael rolled his eyes at him, a small smile on his lips.

"What Ryan?" Michael elongated his friend's name in the same way Ryan just had.

"Why're you so moody? We thinks sometime you're PMSing!" Ryan said, not expecting the reaction he got from his friend. Michael pushed him. "Woah, dudes! Chill, iss no big deal!" Michael pushed him again, angry. Shelly giggled. Christy wondered briefly how much alcohol she had drunk herself. Two bottles? Four bottles? Something like that. She couldn't remember anymore.

"Michael… Be nice!" she slurred. Michael punched his fist into a nearby tree and just left.

"I'm going for a drive." he said. Christy was impressed at how well he walked straight. Not to mention his pretty bum.

"Bye bum bum!" she giggled.

They heard his engine rev up in the distance and his junky car drive away, but they were too drunk to care.

They were all sleeping by the creek by ten that night. They were woken at about nine the next morning by nudges on the shoulder. Drowsily they all woke up to handcuffs on their hands, and Michael still gone. They were driven to the police station and all sat down. On the table in front of them was a photo, which Christy quickly picked up. It was a picture of Michael, but there was blood on his face and he seemed… cold somehow.

"What happened to Michael?" she asked, no longer wasted.

One of the cops sat down, "Is that his name? We found him last night around where you were. He died in a car crash." he looked at them all as shock registered on their faces. Just the morning before everything had been normal. Michael wasn't even drunk, anyways. Christy thought about it for a while and realized that it was usually Michael who took them all home at night so their parents wouldn't worry. The cop sighed, "We don't think it was a suicide. The other driver said they were driving when they feel asleep at the wheel. This boy, Michael, swerved and fell off the road. It turned upside down, and he got some severe injuries to the back and neck. He might have still survived, except the nearest hospital is a city away." Christy began to cry, shocked. "We also found some bruises unrelated to the crash. We suspect it might be abuse."

Travis shook his head. "No. It can't have been. He was in football and wrestling." Ryan on the other hand looked thoughtful.

"Don't you remember? He never took off his shirt, and he didn't let us come to his house. He might have been." he said. Travis shook his head. No. Not Michael, he would have told them if he were being… abused.

The cop breathed in heavily, "The other matter is you were all defiling public property, and consuming alcohol. You're going to be able to get off with just a warning, but don't do it again." He got up and placed some tissues in front of them.

They all reacted differently. Some of them bawled openly, some tried to hide it, and some were too shocked to feel a thing.

They held the funeral a few days later, and most of the school showed up. Aria noticed that Aiden wasn't there. She didn't need to ask why. Michael's father was there, standing stock still, shock still on his features as his wife cried. Her face was red and puffy, and Aria didn't doubt that she hadn't stopped crying since she had been contacted by the police. And that's how it ended. With tears, memories and thoughts. They all remembered him differently, and not all remembered him well. Almost more than his pain though, what haunted them most was that he had been in pain for so long and none of them had ever known it.