Chapter 4

I was hungry, unfortunately there was nothing resembling food in the house at least nothing I would eat for lunch. The only thing available was that cheap sandwich bread, a near empty jar of grape jelly and a couple slices of lunchmeat left, of the kind of meat I wasn't sure.

I poked around in the fridge in the cupboards for a few more minutes before giving up. If I wanted something to eat I was going to have to do this myself so I took my coat and my car keys and headed for my little rental car which was parked on the curb. As I walked out of the apartment and I glanced at my watch it was a little bit before four which meant Tyler and Nathan would be home in an hour or so. I knew this was the long way around for a sandwich, but at the moment I didn't care.

The first shopping center I found was within walking distance of the University and I glanced at the large cluster of buildings for a few minutes before heading into the store.

I came out of the store a few minutes later carrying a bag with the essentials I would need to make a simple sandwich and since I had decided against buying anything perishable I decided to walk around the shopping center a little bit more. I only stopped to put together the sandwich I wanted from the ingredients in my bag and was sitting on one of the benches eating my sandwich when saw it. There were four boys that were clustered around the car which was trying to get out of the parking lot. Intrigued, I shoved the last piece of my sandwich and my mouth and walked towards the entrance of the parking lot.

Leaving my car I crossed that the crosswalk and headed for the closest parking lot and it was there I saw the scene more clearly. Four boys were pounding on the windows of the car, they were shouting profanity which from where I was standing in the parking lot sounded like it was coming out of a badly tuned radio. Without thinking I strode up to the car not even sure of what I was going to say.

"Hey! What are you doing? Let this person go!"

"He hit on me!" A young man stated bluntly, "who's idea was it to let someone like him teach here?" He looked offended, disapproval sketched deeply into his features.

My mind scrambled trying to put the pieces together.

"Let him out, let me talk to him." I said calmly, unsure of at the moment whose side I was on.

Slowly, reluctantly the four young men stepped away from the car and I did a double take, I knew whose car was I knew who was in the driver seat. A few minutes later Nathan, head bowed, exited the car and I watched carefully as one of the figures around the car let him pass.

"What happened?" I asked Nathan in a low voice.

"Nothing," he said quietly, "I swear. I asked," he gestured to the young man who had made the accusation, "Darren if he wanted to go for coffee to discuss his notes and upcoming paper." Nathan said softly, he still not fully meeting my eyes the uncomfortableness of the situation was rolling off him in waves.

"Still sounded like you are asking for a date to me!"

My mind was still scrambling as to how they had found out it wasn't the type of information Nathan would volunteer certainly not to someone he barely knew.

I rounded on the boys because at the moment that's what they were acting like.

"How do you even know that it's his preference?" I demanded without being too specific and making Nathan more uncomfortable than he already was.

Another guy spoke up, this one had blond hair and would have been good-looking if it hadn't been for his heavyset features.

"We're all in Mr. Clarence's class and we were leaving the other day when we overheard him on the phone…"

"That gave you no right to do what you did." I said sourly, "what business is that of yours?"

They didn't answer.

"It's weird…" Another one of the guys complained, his voice sounding high and childish, "what if he's attracted to one of us?"

I took another step forward.

"If there was a problem I'm sure his advisor would take care of it or go to the head of the University." At the moment I was grasping at straws I didn't know how true any of this was.

"How do you know?" Another one of the guys demanded, "you don't go here, do you?"

I drew myself up to my full height, which was still ridiculous next to the guys who were almost a foot taller.

"No," I admitted, "I don't, but that's my best friend you're messing with and if you have a problem with him you're going to have to go through me first."

The stocky blonde who had spoken before looked me up and down and laughed.

"Yeah, who is stopping us?" They were closing in now and someone else had grabbed Nathan's arm that they were just standing there are not moving.

Standing there I had a flashback to when I was seven years old and there was another blonde bully another person that was picking on Nathan for some aspect he couldn't exactly control.

Suddenly I am standing on the playground at my old elementary school staring into the flashing blue eyes of another bully, Michael Anderson.

"You leave him alone Michael!"

"Oh yeah, who is going to stop me?" Michael had asked sneering. Even as an eight-year-old I had found him imposing.

"What did he ever do to you?" I snapped, my words coming fast and furious, my heart speaking before my head could intervene.

Michael laughed.

"Live."

I wish snapped out of my reverie so quickly I didn't even know what had brought me out of it, but then I felt the stinging slap and the ground rushing up to meet me.

"Hey! Leave her alone, she's not a part of this!"

From my place on the ground where the asphalt scratched my hands and hurt my hip I had fallen on I could see Nathan standing in front of me. His voice was quiet but he sounded annoyed. "Any more and I will report you."

The laughter was jarring and cruel.

"Yeah, what are you going to do about it?"

The profanity felt like a slap in the face and a second later Nathan was on the ground next to me the gravel spraying in our faces. We just lay there in the parking lot next to Nathan's car for a few minutes trying to catch our breath, blinking the grit and dust out of our eyes.

Finally Nathan stood and helped me to my feet. It was then I got a good look at his face. He had a black eye and the skin around it was rapidly turning black and blue.

"Come on Vi, let's go home." He chuckled ruefully, "I think we need some ice."

"My car." I protested, "it's still across the street."

"Don't worry, I'll have Tyler come get it."