Ten minutes proved to be scantly enough time for Mercedes to pry herself off of the field and drag her tired body back to the dormitory, let alone arrive in class.

After collapsing on her bed, and lying there for a few minutes, she showered, brushed her teeth vigorously, eager to get the bitter taste of vomit out of her mouth, and dressed in a clean school uniform, feeling cleaner, but no less exhausted.

She threw her dirty camies in the garbage bag provided for her dirty laundry, along with her underwear and clothing from yesterday.

Mercedes spared no luxury getting ready for class today, knowing that she was already very late for class, and was not worried about tacking on an extra half hour. She blow dried her hair, and brushed through her curls laboriously.

Unlike many curly haired girls, her locks remained sleek even when she simply left them un-styled. Mercedes had no false illusions of modesty when it came to her hair.

Her makeup didn't take nearly as long, but by the time she arrived to class, looking well groomed, yet tired, she was over an hour late.

Mercedes didn't flinch when the teacher assigned her a detention. She didn't mind terribly sitting in a room doing homework. It was not as if there was much to occupy her in her pathetic little dormitory.

By the time lunch arrived, she was ravenous, feeling slightly dizzy with hunger and exhaustion. She barely noticed the boy whispering and pointing at her.

Kids at this school were a solitary crowd. It was not unusual for students to sit alone, as Mercedes did. But against all of the shiny crew cuts, her wild curls stood out like a single red rose among fields of daisies.

Several older boys joined her as she finished her lunch and got up to leave. One of them, the hawk faced senior who had pushed her during the run introduced himself.

"I'm Hans Griffen, and these are Charlie and Joseph. We thought maybe you'd like a tour of the school, since you are new here. I know some pretty out of the way places that nobody knows about. There is a lot more to Wilson than most people know."

Mercedes smiled warily. "It seems like a small school. I feel so out of place here," she confessed.

"Oh, you shouldn't feel bad. I expect you'll get along just fine. Follow me, I want to show you something." Hans drawled.

Mercedes shrugged, "I kinda need to get to class."

There was something about this boy that made her feel uneasy. Maybe it was the change in his manner from how he had treated her at the run.

"Oh come on. We have plenty of time."

Mercedes couldn't have objected if she had wanted to. Hans had his arm strewn through hers, and the others boys seemed to fall into place around her, pinning her between them as they walked.

She listened as they boys jabbered away, pointing to this building and that. Eventually they reached the dormitories, and Hans motioned to a small alleyway between two of the buildings.

"Come in here for a moment. There is something I want to show you."

By this time, Mercedes had a very bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. Why were these boys leading her into a tiny little alleyway? She looked about nervously, but there was not a soul in sight.

"I really think I need to get back to class. I'd hate to get two detentions in one day." Mercedes turned to leave, but the boys insisted, now almost pulling her towards the alleyway.

When they were a good ways in, Hans turned to her and pressed his lips over hers in a sudden kiss.

Mercedes jerked back in surprise. "I gotta go."

This time Hans didn't protest. He just pulled her tightly against him and kissed her again, this time pressing her against the narrow wall. Mercedes twisted and tried to get away but he held her tightly, easily overpowering her.

After struggling for a few minutes to no avail as he tore her bra off from beneath her unbuttoned blouse, Mercedes resolutely brought up her knee into his groin.

Hans grunted, and then shoved her hard against the wall. "Bitch!"

The other boys had circled in now.

Mercedes called for them to stop, scarcely believing that this was happening.

Hans dropped all pretentious of courtesy, and hit her across the face, easily pressing her to the ground and muffling her cry.

He climbed on top of her, kissing her again and rubbing his hands up and down her thighs, reaching his sweaty hand into her panties, and pulling them down from under her skirt.

Mercedes flinched back in horror, as he unbuttoned his pants and revealed his bulging package. The thought of losing her virginity in the back of a dark alley way was too much for her and she started to cry weekly, almost resigned to her fate.

But one last swell of anger ran through her. She had been through too much today, and she was not about to let this Neanderthal rape her in some dirty alley.

Just as Hans was about to thrust inside her for the first time, Mercedes twisted aside, slamming her forehead into his noes as hard as she could manage.

Hans cried out, his hands flying to his face and Mercedes, taking advantage of his weakness, kneed him again in the crotch.

She crawled out from under him, pushing desperately past the two other boys, and ran as fast as she could towards her dormitory.

She lay crying for a few minutes, before sitting up shakily and dressing herself fully again. She changed into her last school blouse, noticing the blood which had ran down from her bleeding upper lip.

She arrived late again for class and received another detention. She avoided the glance that Hans gave her as she entered the class, choosing a seat near the back, pretending to ignore the stares that were coming her way.

She noticed in particular, the senior who had helped her after the run, glancing back and forth from Mercedes' bleeding lip and blackening eye to Hans' swollen nose.

Her thoughts drifted during the lecture, in her head she was debating whether to tell someone what had happened. She could think of no one to tell. All of the adults here seemed so foreign and threatening, almost as bad as Hans himself.

Fear and exhaustion seemed to course through Mercedes' system, competing for sole ownership of her misery.

As the class ended, Hans slipped her a note. She opened it with shaking fingers.

"I will see you again. If you tell, it will be ten times worse."

Mercedes folded the note in silence, her fingers shaking even harder.

In the hall, she jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Mercedes was relieved when she saw the friendly senior who had helped her.

He introduced himself as James Olson, and asked her if she was doing all right.

Mercedes wanted to tell him all of her problems, and collapse in his arms in tears, but she only nodded and forced a smile.

He looked skeptical. "Well, if you need anything, just ask. If any of the guys do anything at all that you don't like, just tell me and I'll take care of it."

It seemed to Mercedes that he noticed her shaking. "I'm fine. I can take care of myself."

James smiled ironically, "If you say so. But just remember, you can take up my offer any time."It would be a lie to say that Mercedes enjoyed or even paid attention to any of her remaining lessons of the day.




It would be a lie to say that Mercedes enjoyed or even paid attention to any of her remaining lessons of the day. After the final bell rang, she reported to classroom 3A, where her detention was to be held.

A teacher stood in front of the classroom, and gave Mercedes a harsh look as she entered the classroom.

Mercedes refused to acknowledge the teacher, waiting to be spoken to. After five minutes of silence, the man spoke.

"Detention?"

Mercedes nodded. It seemed such an effort to make even the smallest gesture. Her whole body ached from this morning and her mind ached from what had almost happened this afternoon.

The teacher glanced down at a list. "Gamin," it was a statement, not a question. "Detention in this school is not a game. You will run the obstacle course . . . twice."

The teacher led, and Mercedes followed, dreading more physical punishment. An obstacle course did not sound particularly forbidding, but any physical exertion beyond a simple nod seemed a cruel torture at present.

She didn't have the strength to gasp as she saw the course. It was a series of fences to climb under, robes to climb over, barrels to run around, and obstacles to jump over. Mercedes estimated that it would take her approximately half an hour to finish.

The man blew the whistle, and she started. It was slow going, and whenever she slowed or stop, the teacher would scream in her ear. Soon she vaguely noticed that she had an audience.

Once she glance up and she saw, among the jeering boys, Hans' face, sneering confidently. That only gave her the inspiration to go faster, harder. She had to get away from them, the boys, all three were there, shouting to her, cat calling.

Other students were watching as well, most just in it for the casual entertainment, a few just to make fun of her.

Mercedes could now relate to the ones who had been picked on in her school. Only back then it had been her friends who had been doing the bullying, and he who had stood by, too self conscious to stand up for the poor victim.

Once she missed an obstacle that she had been supposed to jump. She was forced to go back and do it again. By the time she finished the first round she felt as if she had just run a marathon.

While she stood panting, procrastinating beginning the course again she saw Hans motion to her. "I'll wait for you after your detention." he said clearly in her ear before striding off with his friends behind him.

"Move Gamin!" the teacher called.

She went slower the second time, almost trying to put off walking alone to her dorm. If Hans tried to jump her again she doubted she could hold him off in this condition.

When she was done, she considered asking the teacher to escort her to her dorms. Maybe she could tell him what had happened. But as she opened her mouth to speak, only gasps for air came out. The teacher walked away, leaving her gasping for air and struggling to call him back.

She waited there, on the field until breathing came much easier. Sure enough, just as she approached the way to the dorms, three bodies joined her, Hans taking her arm in his own.

Mercedes jerked back, but he tightened his grip, twisting her arm ruthlessly. "I'll break it if you make a sound," he warned.

They passed several Drill Instructors and teachers, but none noticed that anything was wrong. Just as they approached her dorm, Mercedes wriggling uncomfortably James stepped out in front of them.

"These are the girls dormitories," he stated calmly. "I'm afraid your companions will have to leave you here miss."

Mercedes felt a swelling of hope in her chest. She might survive yet. She felt Hans' grip relax and then tense again.

"Come on Olson, we're just having a little fun," one of the boys protested.

"Save it." This time James' face was like stone.

Violently, Hans shoved the girl to the ground, and stormed off. "Later sweetie." he said almost bitterly as he left.

James helped Mercedes to her feet. "Need any help?"

"I'm fine," her tone was almost defensive. Mercedes pushed past him into her dorm where she lay with her eyes closed, not sleeping.