Lucas crept through the back door to his grandmother’s house. He arrived late, hoping that she had gone to bed. However, the living room light was still on which meant she was watching television.
He tiptoed quietly down the narrow hallway to his room. He could hear the television booming from down the hall. His grandmother was losing her hearing, so she had the volume up. Once inside, he carefully closed the door. He didn’t turn on the light because he was afraid she might see the glow coming from under the door. She had appeared in a good mood when he left the house, but her moods were unpredictable. By now, she might have changed her mind about letting him stay.
He removed his clothes, and he lay down in his boxers on the bed. He was still angry about the guys getting off the bed together as if to avoid him. He hadn’t meant any harm to any of them, not even Neil. He had always enjoyed the power he had over his smaller friends, but he never intentionally hurt them. He was usually able to intimidate them into doing what he said, so there was no need for threats.
However, that afternoon, things seemed to have changed. He felt that it was if it was them against him. They were even talking to Neil, and he had warned them not to do that. It was as if they had turned their backs on him, and now were joining forces with Neil.
When he called Neil, it was just an attempt to regain his authority. He hoped that the others would rejoin him for fear of his reprisals. However, he now knew they wouldn’t. He saw the fear in their eyes. He had crossed the line, and he had lost the few friends he had.
“Fuck ‘em,” he muttered to himself. “I don’t need nobody.” He knew he was deceiving himself, but it made life more tolerable to think that he didn’t need friends. He closed his eyes and sleep soon overtook him.
He was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night by someone barging into this bedroom. His Uncle Raymond shouted, “There you are you son of a bitch!” Lucas raised his arms to prevent being hit by the baseball bat being swung at him as he attempted to raise himself from the bed.
“I’ll learn you to run away from me, Boy!” threatened his uncle as he continued to hit Lucas as he staggered with the bat in his hands.
Suddenly, the room went dark.
* * * * * *
Neil was awake early. He was still haunted by Lucas’s threat the night before. He was glad that Owen had been with him. He still hadn’t accepted the fact that his best friend hadn’t deserted him. Without Lucas’s influence, all his friends had united around him. That fact kept him awake most of the night. He was afraid that now he was putting them in danger for being his friends once again.
He quietly dressed so that he wouldn’t wake up his little brother who was snoring lightly across the room. The glow from Brett’s fish tank illuminated the room enough for him to find his clothes without turning on the overhead light.
Once dressed, he grabbed his book bag and headed for the kitchen. He was surprised to find his mother sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. She looked up and smiled at him when he entered.
“Hello, Sweetheart,” she said looked up at the clock on the wall. “What are you doing up so early?”
“Morning, Mom.” He confessed, “I had some trouble sleeping.”
She gave him a worried look and asked, “Is something wrong?”
Neil walked over and sat down at the table beside her. “You know Lucas, right?” She nodded her head. “I think he wants to hurt me.”
Brenda seemed surprised by Neil’s statement. “Why would he want to do that?”
“He doesn’t want the guys talking to me,” replied Neil. “I think he wants to hurt them, too.”
“Oh, Dear,” she exclaimed. “I better call your father.”
“No,” insisted Neil. “There’s nothing he can do about it.”
“Then maybe we should call the police.” She reached over and grabbed her cell phone.
“Mom,” responded Neil as he took the phone from her hand. “They are not going to do anything until he does something.”
“By then,” she replied nervously, “It will be too late.” She took the phone from Neil’s hand and said, “I’m going to call Daniel.” She looked at Neil and added, Mr. Collins. He should be aware of what’s going on.”
Neil didn’t say anything. He felt better knowing that someone in authority at school knew about Lucas’s threats. Maybe he and his friends wouldn’t be safe from Lucas outside of school, but at least they might be protected while they were there.
As his mother called Mr. Collins, he got up, walked over to the cabinet and took out a box of cheerios. He turned suddenly when he heard his mother say, “Oh, Dear. Are you sure, Daniel?” He waited anxiously as his mother looked up at him as she listened to what Mr. Collins was telling her.
Finally, she said, “Thank you, Daniel,” and put the phone on the counter. The expression on her face indicated that something bad had happened.
Neil asked, “What’s wrong?”
Tears welled up in his mother’s eyes as she informed him, “Something terrible has happened. Lucas is in the hospital.” She sat at the table and started to cry.
* * * * * *
Neil couldn’t wait for the bus to arrive. He wanted to see if any of the other guys knew anything about what happened to Lucas. Mr. Collins didn’t have any details. He said that the police called the school as soon as he arrived. They wanted to verify that Lucas was a student at the school. The only information they provided was that he was hospitalized in critical condition.
He scurried on the bus when it arrived. Ned and Robbie were sitting in the back with Sammy. He hurried and took his seat beside Sammy.
They shook their heads when he asked excitedly, “Did any of you hear about Lucas?”
“No,” responded Sammy. “Did that asshole get hit by a truck?”
“I’m being serious,” Neil responded excitedly. “Mr. Collins told my mother this morning that Lucas is in the hospital. He’s hurt pretty bad.”
“Oh, my gosh,” replied Sammy. “What happened?” The first thought that crossed her mind was that Alex may have gotten into a fight with him because he messed with his little brother.
“Mr. Collins didn’t know,” remarked Neil. “All he said was that he was in pretty bad shape.”
Just then, the bus came to a stop and Owen boarded. He could tell that something was wrong by the expressions on his friends’ faces. “What’s happened?” Neil excitedly explained what he knew. Owen listened attentively and shook his head.
“I wish I could say I was glad,” he remarked sadly, “but Lucas has been our friend for a long time. It’s only been the past couple of weeks he’s been a total dick.”
“Yeah,” responded Ned. “I wonder if he’s going to be all right?”
“First, we have to find out what happened,” replied Owen as the others nodded their heads in agreement. The rest of the ride to school involved speculation on what had happened to Lucas.
When they arrived at school, things seemed normal. As they walked down the hall, they listened to hear if anyone was talking about Lucas, but no one was. Alex was at his locker when Neil arrived.
Alex looked over at Neil and asked, “How’s it going?”
“I don’t know,” replied Neil. “Have you heard anything about Lucas?”
“No,” he responded, “Why?”
“My mom called Mr. Collins this morning, and he said Lucas was in the hospital.”
Alex looked puzzled. “Really?” He then added, “Maybe that’s why Collins has called all the junior Student Ambassadors to his office.”
Just then, Sammy stepped up beside Alex and asked if he had gotten the message from Collins. She asked, “I wonder if this has anything to do with Lucas?”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” replied Alex. He put his arm around Sammy and told Neil they would see him first period. Neil shrugged his shoulders as they walked away.
When Neil arrived in biology class, he headed for his regular seat, but Robbie called out to him. They pointed to a chair beside them. It was the seat Lucas where Lucas normally sat. He hesitantly walked back and sat down.
He looked around for Owen, but he didn’t see him. Then he remembered that Owen was also a Student Ambassador.
Robbie whispered to him, “What’s going on? Where’s Owen?” Neil explained that Mr. Collins had called him to his office.”
The bell rang and Mr. Norris began writing formulas on the board. He told the students to take out their notebooks and take notes. Ten minutes later, Mr. Bowers announced on the PA, that all juniors were to immediately report to the cafeteria.
Robbie gave Neil a puzzled look and asked, “What do you think this is about?”
“Dunno,” replied Neil as he stuffed his notebook into his book bag. The class began to file out of the classroom and walked quietly to the cafeteria.
Neil immediately knew something was wrong when he saw Owen and Sammy standing beside Mr. Collins at the front of the cafeteria. Sammy was crying, and it appeared that Owen had tears in his eyes.
Ned stepped up beside Neil and Robbie and asked, “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” replied Neil, “but it don’t look good.”
Mr. Collins walked around and asked students to take a seat. The boys sat down at a table near the front so they could be closer to Owen and Sammy. Alex had joined Mr. Collins in trying to get students to sit down.
When they were seated, a hush fell over the room when Mr. Collins asked for their attention.
“Young Men and Women,” he began nervously, “I have called the junior class here this morning to share with you some sad news.” Neil quickly glanced over at Ned and Robbie.
He continued, “Last night, one of your classmates was seriously injured. He is Lucas Prescott.” There was a collective gasp in the silent room. Sammy began to cry, and Alex walked over and held here as she buried her head against his shoulder.
“I don’t have all the details to share with you,” informed Mr. Collins, “However, he is presently in the Intensive Care Unit in critical condition.”
“Damn,” muttered Ned. Neil looked over and tears were forming in his eyes. Robbie looked like he was going to bust crying any second.
“I know that Lucas has been an important member of this class since the first grade. You’ve grown up together, and when one of you is hurt, then it affects all of you. That is why I have called this meeting.”
He paused a minute before continuing. “I’ve asked the school counselors here this morning, as well as your Student Ambassadors, to help you deal with this situation.” I have also asked a couple members of the clergy to be in attendance this morning. He looked over at two men dressed in suits who were standing beside the wall. Most students knew them because they attended their various churches.
“I want you Young People to know that the situation does not look good for Lucas.” He stopped and choked back tears. He looked over at one of the pastors. “Reverend Downing was at his room this morning to pray for him.”
The two pastors joined Mr. Collins in the middle of the cafeteria. “I am going to ask for a moment of silence.” An eerie silence filled the room. Neil looked up at Sammy and Alex. Sammy was still weeping uncontrollably. Owen wiped his eyes with his sleeve.
After several minutes, Mr. Collins ask for everyone’s attention. “For those of you who wish to remain, please stay seated. Reverend Downing and Pastor Fields will be available for those who need them.” He looked over at the four students to his side.
“I have also asked our Student Ambassadors to assist as well,” he said. “They will circulate around the room and be available to help you deal with your grief. For those of you who wish to return to class, you may.”
About thirty students rose and quietly exited. Neil, Robbie and Ned decided that they should remain. Sammy and Owen hurried over to the table and sat down. Alex walked over and sat down at a table filled with athletes.
Sammy was still upset when she sat down. Owen seemed better, but occasionally he would sniffle. He looked around the table and asked, “Are you guys okay?” Robbie and Ned nodded their heads.
Neil asked, “Do you know what happened to Lucas? Mr. Collins is just saying he’s in the hospital.”
Owen shook his head. “I don’t have a clue,” he replied. “I heard Reverend Downing tell Mr. Collins he had been hit in the head with a baseball bat.”
“Shit,” muttered Ned. “Who would do that?”
Sammy responded, “He’s been an asshole lately. He probably picked on the wrong person.”
“I think we should wait until we learn the fact,” said Owen. “We don’t want to start any rumors.” Everyone at the table nodded their head in agreement.
They sat for about forty-five minutes talking about what had happened. Alex joined them for a few minutes before moving on to another table. He seemed to be taking his role as a Student Ambassador seriously. I watched as he moved from table to table trying to comfort other students. Sammy joined him and followed him as he moved around the cafeteria.
Owen remained at the table with his friends. He seemed really distressed. He felt sorrow for having turned against his friend. The others tried to convince him that he wasn’t to blame for what happened.
“If I had only kept my mouth shut,” he said somberly as he glanced at Neil.
“It’s not your fault,” insisted Ned. “Lucas has been bullying everyone for years. We were all too scared of him to do anything about it.”
Owen shook his head sadly and replied, “I just hope he’s alright. I don’t want to see anything bad happen to him.” The others agreed.
Halfway through third period, Mr. Collins told everyone that they should return to their classes because the lunch period would be starting shortly. He said if anyone still needed to talk to a counselor or pastor, they would be available in the library. It appeared that everyone decided to go to class.
As they made his way toward Ms. Yarber’s class, Mr. Bowers announced over the PA that teachers were to allow students into their classes without a permit. Alex and Sammy walked together with Neil. He glanced over to notice that they were holding hands.