Chapter 7

Now if my prior experience failed to open my eyes I would gladly give you the right to attack me. Yell at me, beat me and hell - push me into a locker if you want to.

Considering that that is not the case this time, I'll keep that offer for something else.

It's been a few weeks since the last major incident. And no, nothing has changed.

Apparently it's bothering my family because Dad, Ava and Vi have all tried to talk to me separately. On several occasions.

Excuse me for being childish, but I don't want to hear it. Any of it.

They're conspiring to get me to talk to her. Taz will talk to me if she has to, but that's it.

Usually, today being Sunday and all, we'd all be off doing our own thing. Conveniently, we all happen to be free today so we're going to have a nice family lunch and dinner.

The only problem with that is anytime Taz and I are in a room together for more than two minutes it gets very tense.

Hey, I could just be imagining all the tension but since you're listening to me you may as well take my word for it.

At about one o'clock someone knocks at my door. To be precise: Vi bangs insanely on my door. She's the only person who tries to destroy a door instead of waiting for it to be opened, so I automatically know it's her.

"Spazz!" she bangs again, harder. "Lunch!"

A moment later it occurs to me that she's actually knocking. Violet does not knock on my door. Especially when it's unlocked.

A quick look out the window confirms there's no getting away; Ava waves at me before I shake my head and go to lie down on my bed.

Less than five seconds later my door crashes open.

"Lunch," she states.

We stare at each other for a while until I turn away, "I'm not hungry."

She walks, read: stomps, up to my bed and grabs me by the back of my tee shirt, choking me in the process.

In between fighting to get away from my sister and struggling for air, I once again feel bad for Chad. I think we've already established I have a skewed sense of self-preservation.

Right? Good. Glad we're clear.

Nearly five minutes of fighting, pulling, "you little punk, stop kicking," and "let me go you oversized spinster" later we end up in front of the dining room.

As I lie on the floor and wait for the spots to clear from my vision, Vi straightens her clothes and hair slowly. She's waiting on me to go into the dining room first, so I won't try to make a run for it. A quick glance tells me that if I do, my chances of making it are slim. Very slim.

With a resigned sigh I stand, brush myself off carelessly and glare at my sister before walking into the dining room.

The remaining three members of our family look up as we come in and I frown before taking my seat.

"You two took your time," Ava tells us as Vi takes a seat, her tone mock upset.

"Al is slow."

I glower openly at everyone in the room, dropping my gaze when I reach Taz.

I am definitely not in the mood for this.

-=-

Luckily, lunch passed without incident.

Unfortunately, it's only made me suspicious.

That nothing happened earlier means that something is definitely going to happen at dinner. And there's no way I'm going to get out of this one.

"Alright, we've got an announcement."

"Pregnant?" Taz guesses hopefully. Imagery I did not need, thank you.

"Divorce?" Vi supplies disinterestedly. She never was one for optimism.

"Vacation," I murmur before shoving a forkful of food into my mouth.

"Uh, that's right Al," Ava confirms, glancing at the girls.

"Allison, eat like you've got common sense." He hesitates for a moment at the look I give him, "well try to anyway."

The faster I finish, the faster I get out of here but I nod to placate him.

"So, we'll be going at the end of next month," Ava says quickly before someone can sidetrack the conversation. "Less than a week, maybe four days. Vi, you're in charge while we're gone."

"And don't abuse the position, like last time."

"Sure thing Dad," she smiles, but all I see is malicious intent.

"What happened last time?" Taz asks softly, shooting a glance in my direction that I ignore.

"I went away for a weekend a few years ago and she locked him in the basement for two days."

Taz chokes on her drink and stares wide eyed at Vi while I try to will myself into invisibility. Not good memories.

"What? It was punishment," she explains innocently.

"You forgot him there and went out with your friends Vi," Dad points out dryly.

She shrugs and I shove another forkful of food into my mouth and stand. "Done," I pick up my still mostly full plate and turn to go into the kitchen.

"No you don't; sit down and eat Al," Ava tells me, watching me. She waits while I stand there, motionless.

Finally, I sit and place my plate down, though I don't touch my food.

I cannot do this.

I can't.

"-Al?"

I haven't heard a word any one has said. "Excuse me," I mutter, standing.

I leave the house, pulling the door shut behind me, ignoring them.

I have no idea where I'm going. I have nowhere to go.

So I just follow my feet.

-=-

To relapse for a moment, if I didn't see this coming then you'd have all right to attempt to beat some sense into me.

"Hey Allison, it's been a while. I want to talk to you for a minute."

I cast an unconcerned glance over my shoulder, already knowing who it is. Nothing that involves me being at my locker ever turns out well.

Marcus is your average stereotypical jerk; he's on some type of sport team year round, looks like he's been on steroids since he could eat solid foods, and makes hell for anyone he considers beneath him – in other words anyone who can't do something for him, isn't a jock or a pretty girl.

And we already know I don't fall in any of those categories. In fact, Marcus has been in the same school as me since Pre-K. Yup, Marcus has led the way in every one of my torments since before he could tie his laces.

"I don't care," I say as I turn back to my locker.

I pull back slightly as he slams my locker shut and leans against it. I inhale in a slow, low hiss – my fingers are caught in the door.

"Let's talk for a bit Allison," he says lightly.

Blocking out the pain in my hand, I keep my expression disinterested, "no."

His eyes narrow as he goes on, "we want to talk to you Allison. About our friend, Taz." No, he doesn't refer to himself in plurals, although he should. He travels with a sort of entourage for whatever reason, to make himself look cool or some crap. And usually it'll grow in number whenever he sets in my direction; spectators looking for a little action and wannabes trying to impress him.

But this time it's personal. The most the crowd can do is push me back towards him if I get close enough to them. They don't concern me.

"Who has nothing to do with me. Go talk to her."

I know it's coming before he actually moves but my hand is still trapped so I focus to keep any sound I make to a minimum when his fist collides with my stomach. It pisses him off when I don't react and I take my victories, however small they may be.

He finally pushes off of my locker and I pry my fingers from the between the metal, running my good hand along the ridges made by the pressure with detachment. I try to wiggle my fingers; my middle and ring fingers remain mostly still – mostly likely fractured.

Marcus swings at my head while I'm distracted and I duck under his arm, still inspecting my hand as the blood rushes back making it swollen and discolored.

Quick list of things I'm doing wrong right now:

I'm ignoring him. (I'd like to point out that I would ignore him anyway but to a lesser extent.)I'm ignoring him and he's not landing any hits.I'm ignoring him, he's not landing any hits and we're in front of a pretty big 's pissed off and I really don't care.

Now if I were a lesser man I'd be cowering in an attempt to get away. Hell, if I were a smarter man I'd be trying to get away period. No, I'm not a glutton for punishment or a masochist, I assure you.

He swings again and I force myself to clue in and take the hit. It's harder than it normally would be since I've been dodging and it knocks the air from my lungs.

I have to stop to catch my breath and make myself an easy target.

"Who do you think you are?" he swings again and I'm likely to have a black eye on my list of bruises once this is over.

Of course I don't answer cuz one, it's a stupid question. Two, it's a rhetorical question. And three, he's not worth an answer.

It's hard enough to stay coherent with this idiot pummeling me.

"Oh my god, Marcus, what are you doing?" The icing on the cake; Taz shows up.

"Getting rid of the problem," he growls, pinning me to the locker.

Excuse me for being vain but problem?

I stare him down, expressionless but defiant. I'm not scared of him, never have been and he's known that all along.

If I were more sensitive, I'd be getting upset at the words spewing out his mouth about me. Instead, in an obvious loss of sanity, I laugh. Quietly, but still.

His fists cocks back but hits the locker a moment later. Turning slightly, Marcus glances down at his arm and I do the same. "Let go."

"No, you let go," Taz shoots back, hands tightly braced on his elbow.

He tries to shake her off, but she clings tighter.

I think I am wrong.

I hope I am wrong.

Someone tell me now that I am wrong and Marcus didn't literally throw Taz across the hall.

Anyone.

What? No one? Fine.

So then, we all agree that I am completely justified when I slam the hand I can close into a fist, into his face?

Just making sure we're on the same page.

He swears heavily as he drops me and clutches his hand to his nose.

Whatever. Taz hasn't moved and Sara breaks through the crowd to go to her side. The other one stays where she is.

After having been ignoring the group of spectators the whole time, I finally clue in and face him. Wow, unless my blood splattered on him – which is definitely a possibility, I made him bleed. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty proud of myself at the moment, or I will be until he looks over and catches my smirk right… about… now.

He comes at me like a charging bull before I even process that he's moving. His fist hits me hard enough to stun, making me stumble a few steps backwards before I fall onto my butt.

Wasting no time, I find myself becoming well acquainted with Marcus' boot. After a few kicks, I roll with the last one to put space between us, but he's quicker and lands a kick to the back of my head that leaves me dazed and limp on the floor.

The slight twinges of pain that emanate from my left hand reconnects me to consciousness enough for me to realize I'm not being attacked.

"You're going to kill him!" I snap my head up despite the severe vertigo it causes me, to see Taz standing defiantly between me and Marcus. Who the hell does she think is going to stop him from killing her?

"Exactly," he says stepping closer to her. "Move, Taz."

"No!" Taz shoots back, widening her stance.

What the hell does she think she's doing? Idiot, move. Get out of here.

"Last chance, Taz. Move, or I will move you myself."

"Why should I?"

Marcus stalls for a moment, relaxing as though realizing that person standing between him and me is a five foot nothing girl. "Taz," he says in a tone I've heard him use on every girl in our school. It's his 'See? I'm a nice guy' voice. I'm not fooled. "Taz, come on, don't be like this. I'm just trying to make things a little better."

He starts moving towards her, in a slow, cautious manner, testing her reaction.

Screw waiting around. I may be useless, but I'm not going to be passive about it.

"Make things better for who? You?" She takes half a step back as I hoist myself to my feet, slowly trying to regain some sense of balance. "Things are fine, Marcus, thanks."

He snorts at her words. Hell, I would too and I doubt Marcus knows what goes on between the two of us at home. "That's complete bull and you know it Taz. You barely talk to anybody anymore. You don't hang out anymore. You changed Taz," he says, turning his eyes to me, "and it started with him."

Taz moves to retort but, he's already moving pass her, focused on me once again. Marcus doesn't get the chance to hit me because I'm tackled at the last moment. I pull Taz with me as I stumble out of the way, trying to keep her out of his way.

"Is that your choice, Taz? You're really siding with Allison?" he hisses when she stands between us again.

"There was never a choice to be made Marcus. You can't take this out on Al. I didn't ask you to, nor do I want you to. Leave us alone."

I've finally figured it out: Taz had a mental breakdown after our fight and now she's suicidal.

Marcus nods grimly, "have it your way, then."

I'm up before he finishes speaking, pulling Taz behind me and blocking the punch he throws with my broken hand. "Do not," I emphasize heavily, "lay a hand on her."

I push Taz towards her friend, not taking my eyes off of Marcus. He tried to hit her. Hitting me, that's no big deal. It's like kicking a soccer ball - most people don't even bat an eye at it anymore. But Taz, that's like hunting the last of an endangered species after discovering it right in front of you.

I may not be on the best of terms - by choice - with her at the moment but I will never just stand by while someone tries to hurt her - especially if it's to get to me.

"You want to fight. I will fight you." Before he has time to react I slam him against the lockers, punching whatever I can reach.

What? I never claimed to be physically weak. I'm not as strong as he is but I'm stronger than he thinks. The fact that he underestimates me and the complete suddenness of my attack gives me the advantage that I would lack in a normal situation. Factor in my utter rage and disregard for my own safety and you get a very dangerous combination.

Adrenaline, unfortunately, doesn't last forever and I eventually start to slow.

Marcus manages to reverse our positions a moment later, slamming me repeatedly against the cool metal of the lockers. He pauses for a moment to wipe the blood from his faces, no longer as composed as he was at the beginning, but unconcerned with the fact that I might retaliate. His over confidence is completely justified - I'm likely moments from passing out, if the hazy veil over everything and the slight ringing in my ears is anything to go by. The most I'm capable of at the moment is leaning limply against the lockers. If Marcus didn't have me pinned, I'd probably - no I would be lying prone on the floor.

"Wow Allison," he lisps around bleeding, swollen lips, "didn't think you had it in you. If I didn't know any better I'd think you were just pretending to be a sissy little wimp all these years. But that's impossible for a little girl like you, isn't it? No wonder Taz tried to protect you - such delicate, breakable limbs."

What. The. Hell. This is what happens when they let psychopaths slip through the system.

"If I didn't know any better," I slur at him softly, "I'd think you're just a bully with a crush Marcus." He freezes and I laugh at his furious expression. "Is that why you insist on calling me Allison? Trying to justify your-" his fist drives itself into my stomach, shutting me up and causing me to blackout momentarily. I jolt back to consciousness as he slams me against the lockers again and I struggle to focus. "No means no Marcus," I tell him in a chastising manner as I find the energy to push him away and stand on my own.

He goes into a loud exclamation of exactly what he thinks of both me and my statement, complete with loads of colorful swears, that leaves the crowd confused as they've got no clue what I've been saying. I grin and he comes at me, both of us slower than usual but I intercept the punch somehow. "You're blushing."

Whether Marcus screams in anger, frustration or embarrassment I neither know nor care. He pulls away suddenly, and I sway unsteadily as a teachers furious voice demand we break apart.

Honestly, this school is so incompetent.

Marcus dutifully steps away, not that it matters much now and I turn to face Taz, who's been calling me for a while.

"Al," she hesitates a few feet away, as if she's afraid I'll attack.

But no, it's not me that she's afraid of I realize somewhat belatedly as I turn only to get punched in the side of my head.

I stumble away from him and then collapse.


End (of the chapter)

A/N: Late. Sorry; school, life - blah. Not very happy with the end of the chapter, but it's done.