chapter eight

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As I draped the sleeves of my red cardigan over my stinging wrists, I heard the bustle of voices outside and froze when I recognized Pete's.

"Hey, have you seen Patrick?" he was asking, urgency and anger in his tone.

"The new freak?" another voice replied, snickering.

"The fuck you mean by that?"

"Jeez, chill out. You know I'm right, though. Dude doesn't talk. Like, at all."

"And? So what if he doesn't?"

"Why do you care? It's just weird is all. He's probably a school shoot - ow! Jesus Christ! Take a fucking joke dude!"

"I'm gonna ask you one more time. Have you seen Patrick?"

"He went in the bathroom. Christ."

Footsteps rounded into the restroom and I looked up in time to see Pete slam the stall door open, his expression hardened by fury and concern. I flinched, and immediately his stance softened.

"Hey, Patrick, I'm really sorry," he breathed, his voice cracking like it pained him to think about what the bully had done. "I went to talk to a friend real quick, I didn't see Kenny there. I would've stopped him, I promise."

I nod reassuringly, believing him. There was nothing fake about the way his eyes glinted with worry for me and hatred for the boy that had pushed me to the ground. He held out a hand, and I took it, pulled up from the seat by his caring touch.

I expect him to let go however his hand still holds my own and he looks down at our palms, and for a second I am worried about my sleeve pulling up to reveal the scars I acquired just seconds prior. But instead he just traces his thumb along my life lines, the gesture simultaneously awkward and well-meaning.

He seems to realize what he's doing and drops my hand. Pete blushes and heat rushes to my own cheeks, and then we both leave the bathroom and to our respective first periods.

Part of me is relieved that Pete didn't find out about what I did, however as I make my way down the aisle of desks and nod a greeting to David and Joe I feel guilt snatch at my gut.

***

"Today you will be working together on an assignment." Third period, Psychology. "I will let you choose your partners, but please do not pick someone you will spend the entire class chattering with. Otherwise, I'll pick for you." His last sentence carries a note of dismissal and the room bursts into a small flurry of activity, students rushing to friends and arguments breaking out on who wanted to partner with who first.

I can't help but nearly scoff at his words; as if me, the mute freak, would be chattering with anyone anytime soon. I expect a slacker to come up to me and offer their partnership only to have me do the work, as that often happened in my previous schools, however when I looked up at the tap on my shoulder I saw Andy looking down at me. "Mind if we worked together?"

Smiling, I shook my head and scooted over to let him sit. I knew he was quiet too, not much of a talker. Afterwards we received the worksheet. It was a matching assignment; at the top of the paper was a word bank containing various disorders and psychological diagnoses, which were to be paired with the long list of cartoon characters on the side. For example, Tigger would go with ADHD, Belle from Beauty and the Beast would go with Stockholm Syndrome, and continue from there.

I recognized a few names, however having had no time for children's entertainment and no Internet access after my mother's death, I didn't know any of the more recent figures. Thankfully, there was another sheet stapled to the assignment containing a one-sentence description of each character listed that more or less provided a hint to what disorder they had.

critical veins || peterick au [REVISED/REWRITTEN]Where stories live. Discover now