Morgan stood on the bus, staring at the girl's back.
It had been a month since he started school again, and it was getting colder. The forecasters were predicting a harsh winter. That was always a figurative saying for Minnesota, all the winters were bad.
His jacket was warm. Lucy had went out yesterday and bought him a new one, after she noticed that he was just wearing hooded-sweatshirts all the time. He had gloves too, which was good because the wind was only getting colder.
The girl was dressed in a jacket that was too big for her, just like all her other clothes.
He stuck his hand in his pocket and found the ribbon. Morgan had no idea why he carried it around with him, or why he just didn't give it back to her. He saw her on the bus every day. Every time he saw her in the halls at school he would stare at her, trying to call out to her, but didn't.
Luke was waiting at the stop as Morgan walked off. They clapped hands, and then headed towards the front. He frowned, staring at the girl who walked silently in front of them. She was out of earshot, so he turned to Luke.
"Who's that girl?"
Luke looked forward, and frowned, "Willa....Willow. Yeah, I think it's Willow-something."
"Oh, that helps."
"She's really quiet. I've been in school with her since sixth grade and I don't think I've ever heard her say a thing. It would make sense, though."
"What do you mean?"
Luke shrugged, "She used to get picked on in middle school. Really badly," he said, "She had a group of really close friends, and they all kind of turned on her when she first got a boyfriend. It was a big in gossip at the time. Her friends spread all these nasty things about her. In the end, the boyfriend broke it off and left the school, and Willow ended up getting beat up a few times."
Morgan didn't know why he was suddenly pissed, but he was. Pissed about the treatment of a girl he hadn't even talked to before.
Her name was Willow Landon. She was in Morgan's math class, and even though she rarely talked, he could tell she knew her stuff. Willow sat in the seat behind him, and would occasionally answer a question, but only if she was called on.
"Willow," Mrs. Hanson replied, not even turning to look at the girl, "Can you solve this problem for me?"
Her voice was soft and quiet, like she never used it.
"The square root of two over four."
Morgan grumbled. He hated math. It was always the hardest subject for him. Luke was good at it, and he figured that maybe he could get a little help. If he didn't keep his grades up, he'd go back to jail.
He vaguely wondered if Willow would help him if he asked.
She never went to lunch.
It took him a few days to realize it, but Willow never showed up in the lunchroom. She also never road the bus home. He wondered, while Luke was gabbering on about a nightclub in Dinky Town, where it was that Willow went during the day.
When school ended that day, Morgan stood at the bus stop, his headphones in his ears. Luke had agreed to tutor him, and they had made an appointment for tomorrow night. All he had to do was talk to Lucy about it, and Morgan was sure that she would be okay with it.
Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Willow walking around the corner of the school.
Looking around, making sure that no one saw him, Morgan left the bus stop and walked towards the end of the school. His hood was pulled over his head, so no would would recognize him right off. Leaning against the corner, he glanced over the edge.
She was standing there with Bradley Thane, who was the resident school heart throb. Girls dropped at his feet and followed him around like lost puppies. He was head of the student council, had the highest grades in the school, and Morgan thought he was a bastard.
"Do you have it for me?"
"Yes," Willow fished in her bag and pulled out the paper, "It's all done."
"Good," Brad smiled, and then glanced back at her. He dropped his head and kissed her.
Morgan felt a surge of anger, seeing the girl freeze up. It was obvious that she didn't like it, but she allowed the boy to kiss her. Willow's hands were tight at her sides, her fingers fisted so tightly that they were white. Brad's hand strayed over, and began to lift the hem of her shirt.
She whimpered as her back was pressed into the wall.
"You're always so good at helping me out," Brad smirked.
Morgan couldn't take it anymore. He marched around the edge of the building. Before Brad could slip his hand under her shirt, Morgan grabbed the back of Brad's jacket and yanked him off Willow.
She stared in surprise as Morgan probably knocked his fist into the guy's head. Brad dropped to the ground like a rock.
Staring in shock at her rescuer, Willow was still pressed into the brick, her eyes wide. Morgan frowned, knowing that Brad hadn't seen him, so there wasn't a danger he would rat to the school. There was, however, a danger of someone walking around the corner of the building and seeing them. He looked forward at Willow, who still hadn't made a sound.
Morgan held out a hand, "Come on."
He knew what had been going on. It was never his method to mess around with defenseless girls, but he knew the ploy. The popular guys would prey on the smart, nerdy girls with promises of dates and affection. Willow seemed to be the victim of this ploy. Maybe with the headache, it would teach Brad a lesson not to be a total prick in the future.
Her hand shakily reached towards him, and Morgan took it.
They ran. At first, he really didn't know where he was going, but Morgan pulled her down the street with him. The bus was gone, and another wasn't coming for another hour, so he wracked his brain for where the next stop was.
Willow clung to his hand as they paused at the end of the block. She was breathing heavily, but she said nothing. He had a feeling that she wouldn't say that she needed to rest.
She followed, and sat on a bench by the bus stop.
It was starting to rain, and Morgan was grateful for the glass shelter built around the stop. Willow sat with her bag in her lap, her head bent.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
Willow glanced at him from the corner of her eyes, then said, "Yes, thank you."
Morgan slumped into the bench. They had an hour to kill. Great. What the hell was he supposed to do now?
She nodded, and then said, "I know."
"You're the new guy," she said, "I've seen you on the bus. You get on after my stop."
There was another bout of awkward silence, and suddenly, her head bent forward.
"He said...he would take me on a date if I did his paper for him."
Morgan turned towards her. He didn't understand why she had to explain herself to him, but she did anyway.
"He..." Willow sniffed, "...he's so perfect and popular, I didn't think that he was trying to use me," she was quiet, and then she asked, "You probably think I'm pretty stupid, right?"
"No, not really."
He could tell his answer surprised her, but he simply let her sit in her thoughts. His hands were in his pockets, and he fingered the ribbon in his hand. Gritting his teeth, he sighed, "You dropped something."
"Hm?" she looked up, tears in the corners of her eyes. Her hair almost hid them, but not enough from his glance.
Morgan drew the ribbon from his pocket and handed it to her. Her eyes grew wide, and she took it from him. For a moment, she ran her fingers over the pink silk, and then she smiled.
His heart skipped a moment.
Her smile was soft and gentle, and like a warm breeze in the cold air.
"Thank you, but-" she held it back to him, "I dropped it for a reason."
Willow shrugged, "You had such sad eyes, it was more then I could bare," she said, "I dropped it so you would notice."
Morgan gaped at her.
"I'm Willow," she said, "Willow Landon."
The bus pulled up to the stop forty-five minutes later. When they boarded, he stuck his hand out to help her on board, and she held his hand until he left.
News that Bradley Thane, school jerk-off, had mysteriously been cold-cocked by an attacker spread like wild fire. There was nothing that Morgan did to stop the gossip. As long as no one knew the truth, he was safe. But more importantly, it also meant that Willow was free of the bastard.
"Bunch of vultures," Luke mumbled as he dug into the Italian dunkers. They were the only thing on the school lunch menu that he would eat. Every other day he would bring a lunch instead, "I can't believe you won't say anything to stop them."
"It won't help any," Morgan replied, scowling at the carton of milk. It didn't matter what age or where a person was, cartons of milk were uncool. He wanted a Mountain Dew, but the school had decided pop was too unhealthy for teenagers. The soda machines were now full of juice and bottled water, and there was no way in hell Morgan was going to spend a dollar forty-five on water.
"I swear, sometimes you're so unresponsive to things I wonder if you really care."
"Who says I do?"
Luke when back to mumbling.
Both boys looked up to see Willow. She was standing in the lunch room, a sheepish look on her face.
"Is there anyone else sitting here?"
Morgan and Luke glanced back at the table, it was completely empty.
"Nope," Morgan replied.
"Can I sit with you?"
"Sure," Luke shrugged.
She gingerly sat next to Morgan and took out her bag lunch. There was a sandwich with peanut butter and jelly, a chocolate pudding cup, string cheese, and carrots. She munched on the sandwich, looking incredibly unsure.
Morgan hid the fact that he was celebrating in his mind. The girl was sitting with him! Then he was confused, trying to remember why he was so happy about it. He didn't give a shit where the girl sat as long as she didn't bug him.
She didn't bug him at all, and that's what was worrisome.