I was named Rocky Apollo. Yup, the parental unit was obsessed with the Rocky movies. Unfortunately, I did not turn out to be a super buff boxer as they hoped. Nope, I was just a scrawny gay nerd living in Bum Ass Nowhere, USA. And I was about to start high school in the sophomore year, moved up a grade due to my brains. As if I all that did not already make me an easy target for bullies, my childhood friend suddenly decided he hated my guts and took it upon himself to make my life hell.
"Mom," I groaned in disbelief, burying my face in my hands, which was stupid because I smudged my glasses. But there was no use changing her mind.
"Rocky Apollo Smith," she said. It made me feel ridiculous, being named after two famous boxers when I was such a tiny weakling. "That is entirely your fault for getting good grades in middle school." She looked away from the road as she was driving, and the jeep started to veer slightly to the left as she made dramatic eye contact. "And for someone who hates people so much, isn't one less year of high school a great deal?" The woman had a point. I would skip an entire year of adolescent stupidity. But at what cost?
"Besides, for you and Paul aren't getting along much these days. Aren't you glad you won't be in the same class?"
I nodded sullenly. It sounded all right the way she put it. But she could never understand that by skipping a grade I would be violating the rules of social strata. And my ex bestfriend Paul hated my guts, to put it mildly. Not to mention other bullies yet to be discovered. Oh God, how I wish I were homeschooled. The minute the roll call came and the entire junior class watched a little nerd called Rocky Apollo stand up, my life would be over.
Turns out, I didn't have to wait until roll call to get my head shoved into a locker. Paul and his cronies were lying in wait. The dude needs a life, seriously. So he suddenly hated me and wanted to pretend being friends are entire lives suddenly meant nothing, I get that. But why did he have to constantly pick on me?
"You deserve it, faggot!" Paul snarled, his once warm brown eyes dark with fury. He grabbed my backpack and dumped its contents onto the floor. I dived after it, which earned me a knee in the face.
Little red drops formed on my fresh new notebooks. I put my hand to my nose to stop the bleeding. "Asshole," I muttered and watched them rob my wallet. Getting what they came for, the cronies walked off. Paul spat on me and turned to follow them.
I hid my face in my hands but I was too overwhelmed to cry. I should be put in the World Records for quickest to be bullied on the first day of high school. Not that anyone would care. Many people were laughing at me. Others had pretended not to notice anything. Through my fingers I watched them get bored and start chatting with their friends - or rather, allies. All except a pair of blue eyes watching me coolly from a few feet away.
Their owner was a tall, dark, angry looking fellow. He was dressed in a faded black shirt and blue jeans, and he was smoking a cigarette on the school premises, which was not allowed. Very Rebel Without a Cause. Our eyes met and he took a long drag, then gave me the finger. I looked away miserably.
High school was extremely unfriendly territory. Wiping my nose on my blue sleeves, I stuffed my books into my bag and trudged to the bathroom to clean up as best as I could.
I was late to class of course, making my grand entrance to Algebra II in a blood soaked sleeve and mangled glasses. The room was full of jocks - no, worse- hot jocks. They all stared in mild horror at the beat up nerdling trembling at the doorway.
"Ahem," the teacher coughed, her thin eyebrows raised. "Are you the special student I was told about? Rocky Apollo?" The class erupted into laughter at that. I didn't blame them.
"Class!" the teacher scolded. The juniors settled down a bit, stuffing fists into their mouths to stifle their snorts. "Everyone, this is Rocky Apollo Smith. He is only 15, but he did so well that we thought he could handle a sophomore workload." I stared at her in disbelief, willing her to stop, just leave me alone, let them think I'm normal. "I hope you will be a good example to him and support him through his academic endeavors. Have a seat, Rocky. And don't be late again." I was too stunned to move because this witch clearly wanted me dead.
"There's a spot here," one meathead said, cracking up and patting an empty desk. I was sure there was a trick, but I was too discombobulated to process anything. Like a zombie, I stumbled forward. That's when I noticed biker boots occupying my spot. I glanced up in annoyance to see the blue eyed Rebel Without A Cause who had been watching me earlier. My heart sank. "Could I please sit here?" I said it meekly.
I didn't meet his bright cold gaze, not directly. I observed faint scars around his strong jawline, and one of his brows was split at the end. Rugged. My eyes passed over sharp cheekbones and a predatory smirk. It would hurt to take cruelty from such a pretty face.
Rebel Without a Cause slowly moved his legs from the chair. My sigh of relief was echoed by my many of my new classmates. I guess they expected a showdown. Wearily, I flopped into the seat. I tried very hard to follow today's lesson, but my thoughts were too scattered to focus.
Someone's hand tapped the back of my shoulder, stayed there. I straightened in my chair and started shaking. Warm breath passed over my ear, lightly ruffling my unruly hair. "It's not 'cause you're gay," he said quietly. Dear god. His voice was the perfect combination of deep and gravelly.
"What?" My heart was pounding in my ears, heating my face tomato red.
"The reason they are bullying you."
"Then why?" I croaked. Why? Why?
"'Cause you don't fight back." The hand left my shoulder. I stared blankly ahead, grinding my teeth in confusion and anger. The lesson was completely lost on me. I just wanted to survive my first day of school.