No one was home when I entered. “Mom?” I hollered out, just to make sure. I then made my way upstairs to my bedroom.
I stopped at the door and peered into the room. My computer was missing. I hurried back downstairs to look for it. It wasn’t in the family room or kitchen. I then went back upstairs and looked in Glenn’s room. It was on a table next to his bed. A stack of my video games was beside it.
“This isn’t right!” I shouted out as I walked over and collected my games. My parents had given me the computer, but most of the games I had bought with my allowance money. Others were given to me as birthday and Christmas gifts. Glenn had no right to them.
As I was heading back to my room, I heard the phone ring downstairs. I went into the kitchen to see who was calling on the caller ID. I didn’t recognize the name, so I waited for the person to leave a message.
The phone made a loud tone, and then a woman spoke. “Marion, I’m so sorry,” she said to my mother. “My daughter told me about that awful picture. You must be heartbroken. Call me if you need someone to talk to.” She hung up, and I erased the message. There were six other messages, most to my mother or father from friends who were ‘feeling their grief,’ as one friend of my mother stated.
One message was from an anonymous caller who wanted me to suck his dick. I was glad I was able to erase it before Mom heard it. I turned off the messenger so it couldn’t receive any more messages and then went upstairs to my room.
I sat on the edge of the bed and looked around. “Will this still be my room tomorrow?” I wondered. I had no idea what the future now held. Mom and Dad could send me away to a relative’s house. My dad had a brother and two sisters. Mom had two brothers. I guess they could probably talk one of them into taking their wayward son.
I looked over at Jon’s unmade bed. His sneakers were strewn about, and a couple of tee shirts were lying on the floor. Even though we had never really gotten along, I would still miss him if I had to go someplace else. I tried not to cry, but a few tears managed to escape my eyes.
I jumped when someone started pounding on the front door. I slowly made my way downstairs to see who it could be. When I peered through the curtains to the front porch, I could see Ross pacing back and forth.
“It’s about time,” he said as he barged in when I opened the door. He stood before me and asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I replied sarcastically. “Things couldn’t be better.” He followed me to my room, and then he explained what happened earlier at school.
His eyes sparkled with excitement. “Man, you should have been at school.”
“What happened?” I asked nervously.
“First,” he began, “they locked the school down right after lunch.” I nodded as I waited for him to continue. “I have history fifth period with Mrs. Henderson.” Again, I nodded. “Someone looked out the window and shouted that cops were outside. We all hurried to look out just as a bunch of police entered the building.”
“What happened then?”
“Kids started calling their parents on their cell phones,” he said excitedly. “They thought someone had gotten shot.” He walked over and sat down on the bed. When I sat beside him, he continued. “About fifteen minutes later they took that bastard Metzger out of the building in handcuffs and put him in a cruiser.”
“Yeah,” he grinned. “Cindi Roberts videoed it on her cell phone. Anyway, about ten minutes later, they brought Dewberry out in handcuffs and put him in a cruiser.” He started grinning. “You should have seen the look on everyone’s face. Even Mrs. Henderson was shocked.”
“Then what happened?”
“We had to stay in our fifth period until school was out,” he explained. “No one was allowed to leave the room. If you had to go to the bathroom, the teacher had to call for a security officer to escort you there and bring you back to your class.”
“No shit?” He giggled when he saw the surprised look on my face.
“Yeah,” he said. “Everyone was wondering what happened. It was kind of cool that I knew and no one else did.”
“You didn’t say anything, did you?”
“Of course not,” he assured me. “But I think some kids were starting to piece things together by the end of the day. You know, your picture and their arrests.”
I asked worriedly, “Did a lot of our students see it?”
His mood became somber. “Yeah,” he replied with a sad expression. “I think before all this happened, most kids had seen your dick on either their phone or someone else’s. It was the talk of the school most of the morning.”
“Oh, God!” I moaned as I buried my head in my hands. Ross began gently rubbing my back. I looked up at him.
“Maybe they won’t believe it’s me.” Ross looked quickly away. I could tell the news wasn’t going to be good.
“A couple of girls called Brandon and said they didn’t believe him,” Ross explained. “Brandon sent them the picture of your face from the chat room. They sent it out to some other students.”
“Shit,” I mumbled. I was screwed. There was no way I could deny it wasn’t me.
We looked at each other when we heard a door slam downstairs. I glanced at the clock on my desk. “That’s Dad,” I said with a quivering voice. He was the last person I wanted to see. I held my breath when a few minutes later I heard him coming up the steps.
He opened the door and peered in. His eyes narrowed in anger when he saw Ross sitting beside me. “You have to leave, Ross!” he barked angrily. “Woody isn’t allowed any visitors.” Ross stood and told me he would see me at school. Dad didn’t even move when he tried to go walk past him. He stood a few seconds and looked down angrily at me before finally going back downstairs.
I knew from the angry look in his face that he couldn’t deal with me any longer. I was relieved that he didn’t order me to pack my bags. However, going somewhere else to stay might be better than living under his roof until I left for college in a few years. He never really liked me. Now he hated me.
I lay across my bed and tried to get some sleep. I wasn’t particularly sleepy, but I had nothing else to do. Without my computer, it was going to be a boring life. It had always been, but now I would have to face just how miserable my life really was. Again, I would have to face the real me- that scrawny, suffering, little tree.
For just a few minutes the past couple of weeks, I had started to come out of my empty shell. Now I was being drawn back into it. I guess nothing really changes.
It’s not easy being me.
I could hear my family downstairs as they began to come home. Glenn came running up the steps and went into his bedroom. A few minutes later, he poked his head in my door. “Hey!” he shouted. “Did you take my games?”
“They’re not your games,” I shouted back. “I bought them.”
He turned and I heard him holler as he went downstairs, “Dad!”
Minutes later, Dad appeared at my door with Glenn peeking in behind him. “Give Glenn the games,” he ordered angrily.
“But they’re mine!” I insisted. “I bought them with my allowance.” He didn’t say anything as he walked over and took them from where they were beside me on the bed. For a second, I considered snatching them back from him, but I was afraid of the consequences. He handed them to my little brother. Glenn turned and stuck his tongue out at me before leaving. Dad closed the door and didn’t even look back.
“Woody!” My mother called up the stairs about an hour later, “Dinner is ready.”
I didn’t want to go downstairs to eat, but I was sure Dad would come up and get me if I didn’t. Everyone, but Jon, was sitting at the table when I entered the kitchen. Mom had fixed fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. She already had a plate ready for me when I sat down.
Even though my father would never speak to me again, it appeared Mom was going to ignore that anything had happened. She was trying to make everything seem normal. I knew if wouldn’t be long, though, until Glenn and Glenda began to hear rumors about me since many of my classmates had brothers and sisters their age.
We ate in eerie silence. Glenda started to talk a couple of times, but my father quieted her. I mainly pushed my food around on my plate as I listened to Glenn chomping on his food across the table from me. When he and Glenda got up from the table, I left without saying a word and went back upstairs.
I took a quick shower and got into bed around eight. There was nothing else for me to do except try and sleep. I was ten-years old the last time I went to bed so early.
I was awakened a little after eleven when Jon came into the room. I squinted my eyes so he would think I was asleep as I watched him undress and go across the hall to the bathroom. When he returned, he sat on the edge of his bed and peered over at me.
“I know you’re not asleep,” he muttered as he crawled into bed. Before turning out the light, he added, “By the way, you owe me a new phone.” I lay awake most of the night listening to him snoring loudly.
I knew when the alarm went off and my eyes were wide open that it wasn’t going to be a good day. There’s a saying that goes, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” I guess it’s supposed to mean something good. However, what if it is the first day of the rest of a horrible life? That was my thought as I dressed for school.
I was surprised when I entered the kitchen and Dad was reading the paper. He didn’t even look up at me. I looked over at Jon. His bruised eye was beginning to lighten, although it was still a dark yellow. Mom was placing bowls of cereal in front of Glenn and Glenda. When she noticed me, she prepared a bowl for me.
Like dinner the night before, no one spoke. Glenn kept looking at everyone, wondering why no one was speaking. He started to talk about something that happened in gym the day before, but Mom told him to tell her later. He shrugged his shoulders and continued eating his cereal. When Glenn and Glenda finished eating, my mother told them to go to their room and stay until the bus arrived.
When Jon rose and headed to the door, I got up to follow him. “Sit down, Woody,” my father said harshly. Jon turned, looked at me and then headed out the door.
“Your father has to take you to school this morning,” my mother explained. “Mr. Calloway has scheduled an appointment for 8:45.”
“Why?” I asked. I didn’t see why I had to meet with the principal. I had already been questioned by a detective.
“Pastor Sparks has requested it. He’s afraid for your safety, Dear,” she replied as she sat down and took a sip of her coffee.
“Yes,” she said. “He’s worried how other students might treat you now.”
Dad grumbled something, but I didn’t understand what he said. I could tell by the worried look on my mother’s face that things might be worse than I expected. I knew students would talk about me. I had certainly given them enough to talk about. By now, the entire school had seen my dick on a phone. I was also sure that most students had probably figured out that I was responsible for Mr. Dewberry and Brandon’s arrest.
When Dad got up from the table, he made sure that he left the front page of the paper facing me so that I could read it.
LOCAL TEACHER ARRESTED ON SEX CHARGES
Under it in smaller letters was printed: AT LEAST TWO STUDENTS INVOLVED
I started to read the article, but Mom snatched it off the table. Mr. Dewberry’s picture and name appeared, but I didn’t see Brandon’s name or mine.
At a little after eight, Dad walked out the door without even saying anything. Mom told me I should grab my book bag and go with him. She gave me a quick hug as I was leaving. The ride to school was eerily quiet. I could hear Dad breathing heavily as I’m sure he could hear me. Not once did he look over at me or say anything.
When we arrived at school, I followed a few feet behind him to the office. Thankfully, first period had begun, so no students were in the halls. Lucas and his father were waiting in the lobby when we arrived. Pastor Sparks rose and shook Dad’s hand, but no words were exchanged.
I sat beside Lucas as Dad sat several seats away. He stared ahead, watching the secretary as she typed something on the computer. I wanted to reach down and hold Lucas’s hand, but I knew that I couldn’t. We looked at each other and smiled nervously.
Mr. Calloway came out of his office and motioned for us. As we took our seats, he walked around behind his desk, sat down and thumbed through some papers. After a minute he looked up and scowled,
“You Boys have sure put the school in an awkward position,” he grumbled.
Pastor Sparks spoke angrily, “I don’t believe we are here to talk about the school’s image. We’re here to discuss these boys’ safety.”
The principal mumbled something under his breath as he rearranged the papers on his desk. Finally, he looked up angrily. “Fine,” he growled. “I’ll do what I can to provide for their safety.”
“That’s it?” Pastor Sparks asked, throwing up his hands. “You’ll provide for their safety?” I glanced over at Dad, but he didn’t say anything.
“What more do you want?” He looked angrily at me and Lucas. “These boys got themselves into this mess.”
“What!” Pastor Sparks stood and shouted down at Mr. Calloway. “My son and Woody aren’t responsible for what one of your perverted staff members did to them.”
Mr. Calloway stood and banged his fist on the desk. “Now wait just a minute!”
I jumped when Pastor Sparks hit his fist on the desk. “No!” he screamed, “You wait a minute! You’re the principal of this school, and it is your responsibility to see that my son is provided safety.” He looked over at my father expecting him to come to my defense, but he didn’t. He sat watching the exchange unemotionally.
Pastor Sparks sat back down. He leaned toward Mr. Calloway and said threateningly, “I sit on several committees and boards with Dr. Chavers, the superintendent of this school district.”
“I know who Dr. Chavers is,” replied Mr. Calloway angrily.
Pastor Sparks informed him, “Then you’ll be interested in knowing that I called him last night and told him that you might react this way.” He looked at his watch. “He should be here in a few minutes.” Pastor Sparks sat back and folded his arms. “I have nothing else to say until he arrives.”
Mr. Calloway’s eyes narrowed in anger. He and Pastor Sparks stared challengingly at each other until Mr. Calloway looked away. I thought it was pretty cool that a mild-mannered preacher could hold his own against a gruff, ill-tempered principal.
Several minutes later, a very distinguished looking gentleman entered the room. He was dressed in a three-piece suit. He was tall, and his gray hair was beginning grow bald. Mr. Calloway jumped from his seat and attempted to shake his hand, but Dr. Chavers ignored him as he began speaking to Pastor Sparks.
“Hello, Pastor Sparks,” he smiled. He looked down at Lucas and me. He extended his hand toward us. “You must be Lucas and Woody.” I nodded as he gripped my hand tightly. He then walked over to my father. “You must be Mr. Fields.” After shaking my father’s hand, he then sat down. Mr. Calloway looked frustrated as he returned to his seat.
Dr. Chavers spent the next half hour discussing the situation at school and how students might react to us. He instructed Mr. Calloway to have a staff meeting after school to discuss how they should handle situations that might arise. The principal grumbled but agreed. Dr. Chavers said he would be present to answer any questions they might have.
He also apologized several times for what Mr. Dewberry had done to us. He said because of a pending trial, he could not allow us to discuss what had happened. He also warned us that we should not discuss it with any other staff members or students.
He tried to get my father to talk, but Dad remained silent. Except for an occasional yes or no, he said very little. At no time in Mr. Calloway’s office did he look over at me. As we sat there, I knew that I no longer existed in his life. He was going to ignore me. It hurt, but I was used to it. It was not much different than how he had always treated me. As long as I didn’t have to leave home, then I guess I could survive a few more years.
We didn’t leave Mr. Calloway’s office until the middle of third period. He had his secretary write us a pass to class. As my father stood to leave, Dr. Chavers asked him and Lucas’s father to remain behind. Reluctantly, my father sat back down as Woody and I left the office.
We were walking to class when Lucas stopped and turned toward me. “Do you ever sometimes wish that you weren’t here?”
“What?” I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“You know,” he replied as tears welled up in his eyes. “That maybe things would have been better if you just weren’t born.” A single tear fell down his cheek. I looked around the hall before taking his hand and leading him to a restroom down the hall.
Once inside, I wrapped my arms around him. He collapsed against me, and I was afraid his weight would send us both crashing to the ground. “I can’t do this,” he cried.
“Sure you can,” I said soothingly. “I’ll be here with you.” I began to hum Seasons of Love into his ear. After a minute, he giggled and stepped back. He looked so cute with his eyes filled with tears.
“I guess that is going to be our song?” He smiled as he leaned down and kissed me quickly.
“I guess so,” I replied as I returned a quick kiss. He walked over, pulled off a paper towel and wiped his face dry.
“You know I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for you, don’t you?” He turned and smiled at me. “I’d be home and Mom would be home schooling me again.”
“I know,” I replied as I took his hand. “I’m glad you stayed.”
He smiled, “Me, too.” After a quick kiss, he said, “Let’s go do this.” We left the restroom and I walked him to his class. After he entered, I headed to mine.
The room was rather rowdy when I entered. The teacher had given an assignment, but it didn’t appear many students were doing it. A hush fell over the class as I walked over and handed her my hall pass. I hung my head as I walked back to my desk, knowing that everyone was watching me. A couple of girls started giggling, and I heard a couple of snickers from a few guys.
When I sat down, everyone had turned to look at me. I tried to ignore them as I took out my book and began doing the assignment that was written on the board. They began talking again, and I heard my name mentioned frequently, along with Mr. Dewberry and Brandon’s. I assumed the entire morning had probably been spent spreading one rumor after another.
It was an agonizing half hour until the bell rang. I waited until most students had left before I got up. As I exited the class, Jeff was waiting against the wall for me.
“Hey,” he said timidly. I knew it must have been difficult for him to decide if he wanted to remain my friend after all the talk surrounding me. If it were me, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to remain his friend.
“Hey,” I smiled nervously as we began walking down the hall toward the cafeteria. “Aren’t you afraid to be seen with me?”
“Fuck ‘em,” he replied as he put his hand on my shoulder. It felt good to know that one of my only friends in school hadn’t abandoned me. As we walked through the cafeteria, everyone stared at me. If Jeff hadn’t tightened his grip on my shoulder, I would have left. When we headed to the food line, Lucas was standing off to the side waiting for me.
He smiled nervously and said, “Hi.” He threw up his hand and gave me a quick wave. We went through the line, got our food and headed across the cafeteria to where Kate and Anna were sitting. The tables we passed got quiet until we had made our way past them. The students would then giggle or whisper something.
Kate stood and hugged me when we approached. “Are you all right?”
“I suppose,” I replied. She knew I wasn’t, but what else was there to say? Anna looked over and waved. I didn’t know if she was aware of what happened, or if she was clueless to the events of yesterday. With Anna, it is hard to tell.
I sat down and Jeff and Lucas sat on each side of me, pressing their bodies close to mine. I knew they were trying to protect me, but I was beginning to feel smothered. Anna was the first to speak. She looked over at Lucas and asked him if he had completed the homework assignment in algebra. She couldn’t figure out the answer to one of the problems. Good old Anna.
Lucas seemed relieved at the distraction, and he quickly began helping her with the problem. Kate, however, kept staring worriedly at me. “I’ll be okay,” I assured her. She smiled, but I knew it didn’t alleviate her concerns.
After lunch was fifth period- Mr. Dewberry’s class. It would be the most difficult class to attend. When the bell rang, I hesitated before I got up. Jeff grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet.
“Yeah,” I said worriedly. “I got Mr. Dewberry’s class next.” I left the cafeteria with Lucas, Kate, Anna and Jeff surrounding me. When we stepped out into the hall, Ross was waiting against the wall.
“I thought I’d walk you to class,” he grinned as he stepped beside me. Everyone, except Lucas, told me goodbye as they headed off to their classes.
“You guys okay?” Ross asked as we walked toward my class.
“Yes,” I replied. “Everyone’s been staring at me, but no one has said anything yet.”
“You come get me if they do.” I nodded as I walked up to Mr. Dewberry’s door.
I glanced over at Lucas. “Can you make sure he gets to class, too?”
Ross smiled, “Sure thing.” He grabbed Lucas’s arm and they headed off toward his class. I took a deep breath, turned and opened the door.
A young woman was sitting at Mr. Dewberry’s desk. She was hollering at students to take a seat, but my classmates were ignoring her. Instead, they were talking excitedly about the police coming into the room and removing Mr. Dewberry from class the previous day. Several students looked over and pointed at me as I sat down.
“Class! Class!” The young woman shouted. “Please sit down!”
No one paid any attention until the door opened and Mr. Calloway barged in, crossed his arms and scowled. There was a flurry of students rushing to their seats. He waited until everyone was seated before standing authoritatively in front of the class.
“This is Ms. Williams,” he said harshly as he turned and pointed to the embarrassed teacher behind the desk. “She will be teaching this class the remainder of the school term.” He surveyed the class. I met his eyes, and then looked down at my desk. “You will show her the same respect you showed the former teacher.” I found it interesting that he didn’t even mention Mr. Dewberry’s name. “If she reports to me that any of you have misbehaved in this class,” he paused a second, “then you will be suspended for five days.” He paused again as he scanned the room. “Any questions?”
“No, Sir,” several students replied. He then turned, nodded to Ms. Williams and then took a seat in the back of the room. He remained there the entire period as the young teacher nervously lectured about the effects of global warming on the environment. One student turned and looked at me, but he quickly faced the front when Mr. Calloway very loudly cleared his throat.
He did the same thing sixth period. After I entered the class, most students started talking about me. The teacher was having a hard time getting students to quiet down. Ten minutes into the class, Mr. Calloway dramatically entered the room, stood by the door and glared at students as they scurried to their stations. He didn’t say anything, but he remained in the room for about a half hour, walking around as we completed our assignments. He didn’t say anything to me, or even acknowledge that I was in the room. However, every student knew why he had come in to observe the class. It was his way of demonstrating that he would not tolerate anyone harassing me.
He left fifteen minutes before the end of class. A few students whispered to one another, but I think everyone was afraid he might return. A few minutes before class ended, he made an announcement that all teachers were to meet for an emergency meeting in the cafeteria immediately after school. It was a mandatory meeting, and no one would be excused. Many students looked over at me when he finished.
When class ended, I hurried to my locker. Jeff and Kate were waiting for me. “How was your day?” Kate asked.
“I survived,” I sighed. “I guess that is something.” I put my books in my locker. “Listen, Guys. I gotta go. Dad is probably waiting for me.” I turned and hurried away.
When I exited the building, Dad was sitting in his truck. He didn’t even look at me as I approached. We rode home in silence.