Title: The Great Escape
Author: FANG Productions
Dedication: Happy birthday, Booky aka The Bookmaster aka Joseph.
Disclaimer: I don't own the song "The Great Escape." I don't mean any offense to anyone by this. Really. Also, this might not pertain to the real world, depending on where you go to school and your social status in said school.
Summary: They will try to bring us down. Tonight, we'll just laugh in their faces.
We won't hear a word they say.
They don't know us anyway.
I incline my head towards Joseph as a chorus of giggles circles us. It is somehow harder to ignore them when I'm alone. Of course, I'm not really alone. Joseph's still here, but with only two of us, there's still something missing.
Today is an optional school day and, evidently, the rest of our friends decided not to show.
When a girl too close to us raises her voice, letting me hear just the dashes of her whispers, Joseph speeds up, his knuckles white by his side. I shoot a hopefully menacing glare to my side and rush to keep up.
"Just ignore them, right? Right, Jo?" I say.
"Don't call me that," he says automatically, scowling. His features relax when he actually takes time to consider what I said. "I know, I know. It's not like we don't deal with this every day. It's not that bad; I just don't care to know what they think."
It's not the same, I almost say. It's not the same because we're alone this time.
"Right," I go. "They're just losers. They don't know anything." If it sounds like I'm trying to reassure myself, Joseph doesn't comment.
I don't know why I went to school today. It isn't like we do anything important on days like this. Just some weather make-up day that no one really cares about. Half the school is absent so it is illogical to teach anything. The hours pass in a blur until I'm sitting at a lunch table, half of my sandwich in front of me, biting into the other.
I almost spit it out as I snap out of my reverie, straightening and looking around as I recognize my surroundings. How did I get here? I was in History – first period – just moments before.
Joseph gives me a strange look that I am all too used to. The kids we sit with, the poor unfortunates who deal with our crap every day because they don't have anyone else, continue to talk like they really don't care about my sanity level.
"What happened to the morning?" I mumble, kind of disoriented. Anyone would be confused to see half the day vanish mysteriously.
Joseph rolls his eyes. "Well, it passed and now it's noon. Hate to break it to you, but that happens sometimes."
"But where did it go?" I protest. Before he gets the chance to insult me further, I hastily add, "Never mind. What'd we do in class?"
"Nothing," he says. "Just some crap about Maslow hierarchy of something. I wasn't paying much attention either. Did you fall asleep or something?"
I shake my head. "No, I think I distorted some time barrier and travelled through… Oh, wait. Actually, I guess I vaguely do remember something like that. Go figure."
"And he was like, 'no way!'" says Unfortunate Male Student Number One. "And I was like, 'totally way!' Can you guys, like, believe it?"
"That's mind blowing," Joseph and I say in unison, on reflex. Surprise flickers to life on his face, and I guess that it mirrors my own expression. The feeling disperses after a second, and I wonder if it was my imagination acting up like with the time travel theory.
"Yeah, dude," says Unfortunate Male Student Number Two who sits on the opposite side of Joseph. I jump because I didn't see him there. He does, I guess, look vaguely familiar, but that might just be the fact that he shares the same hair and eye color as half the school.
Or, you know, I don't pay as much attention to my surroundings as I like to think I do.
Three tables behind us, laughter erupts along with a sole shriek of…some emotion I tried hard not to identify. The Unfortunate Students turn to look at the victim, maybe try to fake a laugh. Joseph and I stare straight ahead, silent, until the cafeteria returns to a comfortable ocean of chatter again. It's like something – I don't know what it is – is in front of us and, try as I might, I can't, can't, can't reach it. My arms aren't long enough and it's receding and receding, and then Joseph shakes me and I wake up realizing that I don't know what I'm after in the first place.
What's wrong with me today?
"Dude, you look like you've seen a zombie," laughs Unfortunate Male Student Number Two.
"Dude, she is a zombie," says Unfortunate Male Student Number One.
"It's mean, but you know, they're, like, totally right," says Unfortunate Female Student Number One. Again, I am flabbergasted, though not because I am being compared to the undead. I didn't know there were any girl Unfortunates, but I guess her chest proves me wrong.
They snicker, and Joseph turns to me and mutters, "Is it only me who finds them just the tiniest bit annoying?"
"I'm drowning in your sarcasm," I say, recovering quite nicely if I do say so myself.
But then I tune out the Unfortunates, and I start thinking like I do whenever I've got nothing to do. I was just insulted – they'd called me a zombie, laughed at me. I hadn't even flinched. Their insulting skills are lame, I reason, but I know that even if they called me every curse in the book and then some, I wouldn't care. I'd laugh. Why?
Because the Unfortunates never really seem to pay attention to us, I relay my question to Joseph. "You don't care 'cuz they're dumb," he tells me. "They're stupid. They don't know anything about you."
I consider this.
"Their opinions don't matter," he continues.
This is true.
And it brings up even more questions that I don't have the answers to. I lack the audacity to ask Joseph again.
We don't normally walk home.
I don't really know why we're walking today. Taking the bus is faster, but Joseph said that he wanted to be alone and away from the chaos of the school bus. My backpack has decided that it liked killing my back, but I still do appreciate the silence of his suggestion.
Or at least, I revel in the silence while it lasts.
I think we are being stalked, but I dpn't want to turn around and check. Voices that spike periodically with mirth follow us, even when we cut away from the normal roads and on to the footpaths.
"…he…you…my…no… Oh, my gosh! …no…"
Joseph closes his eyes like he has a bad migraine, and his jaw is set in a firm grimace. That tone of voice, that manner of speaking…
The warning bells that are doing the cancan inside my head…
The voices approach. I hear Joseph curse under his breath, and he looks up, down, anywhere except for me and behind us.
"Look who it is," a girl says.
"Looky here," repeats another girl.
"Who'd have guessed?" repeats the third girl.
We don't turn around. We won't give them the pleasure of our attention. We walk, head ducked, slightly quicker than average. Why did I decide to bring my textbook home today, of all days, when it was perfectly comfortable in my locker?
"Hah, they're ignoring us, Ceci," not-so-whispers the second girl who I recognize as Isabella. Isabella and Ceci, meaning the third girl is Aubrey. Three girls, who apparently like to patrol the city, looking for unsuspecting children to pounce on.
"Aren't they so cute walking home together like boyfriend and girlfriend?" coos Ceci.
Aubrey giggles. "No way, guys. That's so mean. You know that no one would want to date them, not even themselves."
They laugh at the slightly less than intelligent jibe.
Joseph stops abruptly. I look up, startled.
Somehow, while we weren't paying attention, the girls had passed us. They stand now blocking our way. I can see the street sign behind them, labeling the intersection of Patron's Tower Street and Tina's Avenue.
I can see the house just three mailboxes ahead.
We're so close.
"Look at me," Ceci commands.
I look at her. Joseph reaches out and places my wrist in a firm clasp, telling me don't, telling me not to. But it's too late, because I've caught Ceci's eye and I can't look away.
"Get out of the way," Joseph's tone trembles. He catches himself. "Move," he says, much fiercer.
Aubrey crosses her arms. Two seconds later, Isabella and Ceci mimic the gesture. "Make me."
"Wimp," Isabella sneers.
I want Joseph to fight back; I really do. But I don't know whether I can attribute it to our friendship or to the growing feeling of oh, thank god it isn't me.
I also know that he won't. Not now. No one ever does. It would hurt too much.
I inhale. It hurts. Why am I hurting? Because of Joseph? No, it was definitely before that. When… It is because of the girls. I shouldn't even question it.
"It doesn't hurt," I say to myself, quietly. I must sound scared or something because Joseph looks over at me a little concerned. Either for my feelings or my ever diminishing sanity, I don't dwell on it.
I take a small step forward, rejuvenated when Ceci blinks and takes a step back. We walk forward, and they backpedal because they can see that we truly don't care if we plow into them.
"They're dumb," I murmur.
Realization hits Joseph, and I can see he's hiding the smallest smile in his eyes.
"They don't know anything," he says to me, and only to me. His voice is so soft that the girls don't hear.
And then he turns left on to the driveway, and I do too. Isabella and Ceci and Aubrey stand still, but honestly, I really wouldn't care if they followed. I know there's home waiting behind that beautiful front door.
"They don't know anything," I repeat, mouthing the words more than saying them, but Joseph knows. He looks at me and smiles. I smile back.
The door opens and familiar faces – friends – pour out, with balloons and random greetings and grins so wide that I'm surprised their faces don't split. All doubt dissipates and I am left wondering why I was worried about bullies in the first place? Why was I upset over them when I could have looked forward to this?
They're just losers. They don't know anything.