Ezra is a mess of secrets and fear. He's learned to hate himself and it's eating him up inside. Who can save Ezra? His father? God? The college student that shows up at Ezra's school? Ezra himself? Or is he a lost cause? (M/M, abuse, violence, self-harm, rape, torture, brainwash)
"Ezra Walker, please come to the office," the intercom in the corner buzzed with the secretary's bored voice. "Ezra Walker, to the office."
There were a few snickers as Ezra hunched his shoulders before shoving his notebook and pencil in his ratty backpack and heaving himself upright out of his desk. He tugged his hoody up over messy mahogany locks as he snagged a pass from his geometry teacher, Mr. Stiles.
"The assignment will be on the class website." Mr. Stiles said coolly. "It would be nice to see you turn something in on time."
Ezra nodded with a jerk as another snicker rolled through the class, making his pale cheeks burn as he tugged open the classroom door to escape into the wide hall. The seventeen year-old was a senior, but he was regularly mistaken for a freshman. It was a constant frustration for the kid. His dad told him not to worry about it, that he'd get a late growth spurt in a year or two, but Ezra doubted it. He was sure he'd be stuck as a gnome forever. An ugly, skinny, faggy little gnome.
Ezra scuffed the toe of his shoe as he shuffled slowly towards the office. He knew why he was being called down. He fingered the soreness around his eye. It had bloomed into a nice shiner. He wished he had a sister or a mom to steal makeup from so he could at least try to cover it up. Unfortunately he had neither, and he didn't have money to get makeup from the store. He wouldn't even know what to buy or how to use it. He was hopeless.
So, instead he got to tromp down to the office and talk to the vice-principal or the counselor, maybe both. That would be just great. His shuffle slowed to a crawl as he imagined being faced with both Mr. O'toole and Ms. Garcia. The school wasn't big, though, and it wasn't long until Ezra found himself standing in front of the secretary's desk. She pointed at a row of chairs against one wall. Ezra knew the drill, slouching over to park his saggy panted butt in one of the hard chairs. He pulled his hood lower, shadowing hazel eyes. It was only a few minutes until his name was called. He glanced over into the vice-principal's office to see Mr. O'toole standing next to Ms. Garcia.
The door shut behind him and Ezra found himself in a slightly more comfortable seat, but his guts felt like they were trying to crawl up his throat as the V.P. and the counselor stared at him.
Mr. O'toole's bald head shone in the room's fluorescents as he cleared his throat awkwardly. "So, Ezra… Your father called me this morning, very concerned."
Ezra groaned and slumped lower in his seat. Maybe he could disappear if he tried hard enough.
"Do you know why your dad called?" Ms. Garcia asked, resting her hands on ample thighs in a nonthreatening manner. "Ezra?" she prodded when the teen didn't respond.
Ezra sighed, gesturing to his face. "Because I got popped."
Ms. Garcia folded her hands together, the sparkle from the fat stone in her wedding ring sparking in the light. "And how did that happen?"
"I got in a fight." Ezra shrugged.
"On school grounds?" Mr. O'toole asked sharply, earning him a stern look from Ms. Garcia.
Ezra shook his head. "It was walking home from school… and I don't know who it was."
The V.P. and counselor both stifled sighs.
"As you well know from previous… incidents, there isn't a lot we can do about fights that happen off school grounds." Mr. O'toole's face was serious. "It's unfortunate that we can't do more, but we are more than happy to facilitate if you ever need to speak to the police about violence that happens off campus."
Ezra was already shaking his head, the V.P. held up a hand before the small teen could speak.
"I know, I know, you didn't see anybody." The man shook his head. "You never seem to see anybody, but you need to know that if you ever need assistance, we're here to help." O'toole shifted awkwardly in his seat, making it creak jarringly. "Your father is very concerned you're being bullied."
"We're concerned as well, of course." Ms. Garcia added quickly. "The school district has a firm stance against bullying. We have programs and rules in place to help eliminate bullying, we're worried you're falling through the cracks."
Ezra shrugged. "I'm fine. It was just a dumb fight. He got a lucky punch in."
Ms. Garcia's lips tightened. "Ezra…"
"This is the fourth time you've been called in this semester, and it's not even November." O'toole interjected. "This is the third time your father called us because you came home from school with obvious bruises and the other time was when one of your teachers was concerned about an injured arm. I'm not naïve enough to think that those are the only four times you've had run-ins with… persons unknown." The man steepled his fingers. "I also sincerely doubt that you are starting these fights. We've never had that kind of trouble with you in our school."
Ezra sat silent. The adults stared at him awkwardly.
"So," Ms. Garcia finally broke the silence. "What can we do to help keep this from happening again? On school grounds or off, we want all our students safe."
Ezra shrugged again.
"We can't help you if you don't let us, Ezra." Ms. Garcia said softly.
"It's not a big deal." Ezra finally said. "Just guys being jerks. I'm really fine. It's just a stupid bruise."
"Well, your father seems to think it is a big deal." Mr. O'toole said sternly. "He's even mentioned pulling you out to homeschool you if it continues."
"What?" Ezra's eyes snapped up. "No!"
"Yes." The V.P. shot back. "And we cannot afford to lose students, the district is poor as it is."
"George." Ms. Garcia said in a scolding tone.
Apparently reminding a student that their enrollment equaled dollars for the school was a no-no. Ezra thought it was a little cold, but at least O'toole was honest in his motives for keeping his classrooms full.
The V.P. seemed to realize he'd overstepped, though, and his tone softened.
"Look, Ezra, nobody wants to see you getting beat up or bullied." Mr. O'toole told him wearily. "We know you've had some problems in your past and we want to help keep you out of trouble. We can't bus you home because you live too close and I know bullying happens on buses, too. Your father says he can't drive you from school and you don't have a license to drive yourself. It seems like these things are happening when you walk home?"
Ezra said nothing.
"Do you have friends who could give you a ride home after school?" Ms. Garcia asked.
Ezra shook his head. He didn't have friends, not really. There were people he sat with at lunch and people he talked to in a few classes, but no one he could call a friend. They were all just people who didn't ignore him or bother him as much as everyone else.
"Well, none of the faculty or staff can drive you home. It's too much of a liability." Mr. O'toole blew out a breath. "I suppose we'll just have to talk to your father and see if he has any other options and I will have you speak with Ms. Garcia about effective methods of avoiding confrontation and violence with peers."
Ezra fought not to roll his eyes. This meant more pamphlets. He fucking hated pamphlets.
"There's also the issue of the ACT." Mr. O'toole added. "Are you still planning on taking it with the juniors since you had to miss it last year?"
Ezra had been in the hospital when they'd offered the ACT test the previous year. He could have gone to the local university and taken it on a different date, but it would have cost quite a bit more than taking it at the high school. Ezra knew he was going to do terribly on it anyway, so it didn't matter. He just needed a score good enough to get into the university or even the community college. Since Ezra wasn't trying to get into any fancy schools his late ACT wasn't going to be a problem, Ms. Garcia had said. She'd added some letter to his college applications that she said would make it fine as long as he took the test this fall.
Ezra was worried about having enough credits to graduate anyway. If he didn't have that, the ACT score wouldn't mean a damn thing. He couldn't stand the thought of another year trapped in high school. He wanted out so badly, but he didn't know if it was going to happen. Ms. Garcia told him they'd figure something out but Mr. O'toole was less optimistic. Ezra tended to agree with the V.P.
It was mostly bullshit platitudes Ezra could ignore after that. He was happy when they finally were going to let him go back to class. Ms. Garcia caught him by the door as he tried to slip away.
"I understand you aren't seeing a therapist anymore," she said softly.
Ezra stiffened. "No."
"Are you being… safe with yourself?" She asked hesitantly.
With nearly any other teen the question would have been about sex and condoms. Ezra wished they were talking about birth control right now. It would be so damn nice to be discussing STDs.
"Yes." He bit out.
The counselor looked at him searchingly then glanced at the oversized sleeves of his green and black hoodie. "Can I see?" She held up a hand as he started to sputter. "Please, Ezra, it would make me feel much better."
Ezra gritted his teeth as he yanked up his sleeves, flashing his wrists and forearms. The counselor caught glimpses of silvery lines of scars up and down pale slender arms before the dark fabric was back in place. She thought she'd caught sight of some bruising, but there didn't seem to be any cuts or burns on the teen. Ezra crossed his arms protectively over his chest.
"Thank you." Ms. Garcia reached out to touch the withdrawn teen's shoulder, but pulled her hand back when he flinched away. "I'm very glad you aren't hurting yourself anymore. I'm very proud of you for that. Take whatever time you need getting back to class. Harriet will get you a pass." The soft-faced counselor pulled back towards her own office. "Just remember I'm here if you need to talk about anything."
Ezra wrenched his backpack over his shoulders and spun to make a hasty escape. He yelped when he ran into a tall body he hadn't noticed.
"Whoa!" Ezra heard as strong hands gripped his shoulders, keeping him from landing on his ass. "Careful, bud!"
Ezra peeked through his shaggy brown hair to look into brilliant blue-green eyes. He'd never seen anything like them before. They weren't aqua, it was more like the iris started out an odd mossy green in the middle and then halfway out it shifted to blue. Like the eyes couldn't decide if they wanted to look like the grass or the sky, so they chose both. The lashes around the eyes were thick and lush, like girls complained about some guys having.
Ezra's eyes dropped to the man's lips. The top lip dipped in a cupid's bow, with a soft full lower lip beneath. Two silver rings pierced the lower lip, one on each side. Snakebites, Ezra remembered they were called.
It was probably the sexiest thing Ezra had ever seen.
It took him a moment to realize the lips were moving, speaking.
"Y-yeah." Ezra stammered, looking back into blue-green eyes.
"Shit!" The guy hissed. "I didn't do that did I?"
The young man gestured helplessly at Ezra's face and it took a moment for Ezra to realize he was talking about his black eye.
"Wha-No." Ezra shook his head. "That's from… That was there."
"Okay, thank god." The young man said. "Mr. O would kick my ass if I started knocking shiners into students."
Ezra stood, unsure what to do as the young man ran a hand through spiky light brown hair. The guy was too old to be a student but too young to be a teacher, maybe a college student. While the man's attention was on him, Ezra found it impossible to sneak away. He felt frozen to the spot.
Finally the young man's attention was drawn away from Ezra when Ms. Garcia peeked out of her office.
"Joshua Kline? Is that you?" Her smile was wide and genuine. "You staying out of trouble?"
Ezra snagged his pass and slipped away from the handsome stranger, face burning.
"No way, Ms. G!" The young man, Joshua, said with a self-deprecating laugh. "I'm nothing but trouble, you know that. But, hey, you are just who I was looking for. I need some help for my psych course at the U."
Ezra let the door click shut behind him, huddling in his jacket as the conversation became muffled by wood and glass. Ezra stood stiff for a moment, sucking breaths before he bolted for the bathroom across the hall. Luckily it was empty and he burst into the empty stall before retching into the toilet. Nothing came up, he hadn't had breakfast, but his body heaved anyway.
When the urge passed, Ezra crouched next to the white porcelain, arms wrapped around his knees. He gripped his dark locks in his fists and tugged, trying to get the handsome face of the young man out of his head.
"No. No. No." The teen whispered harshly to himself. "Stop it. Stop being a faggot."
He pulled his hair harder, when that wouldn't exorcise the thought of the man's lips or eyes, he banged his head back on the cold cement blocks of the bathroom wall. A few hits left him blissfully dizzy and he was able to get his breathing under control.
He hid in the bathroom until he felt like he had control of himself and his unnatural thoughts, then escaped back into the halls where he could get lost in the crowds of high school students.