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Samuel Roylston, 13 - Texas

Double swinging doors led out of the cafeteria into the first floor's main set of hallways. Samuel passed through them like a marathon runner breaking the tape at the finish line. Catching his breath a little he turned left toward the gym. He heard the door swing again and then two sets of feet. The feet followed him down the hall. Though Samuel knew that one pair of feet belonged to Kyle, that didn't stop him from wishing it wasn't so.

"Mr. Roylston, how are you this fine afternoon?" Kyle will make a great prison guard someday, or a permanent resident in solitary confinement. Samuel had a theory that there was a formula that Kyle used for torture. Perhaps, Kyle even kept a flow chart with Samuel's picture on it. "Guess what I'm going to do to you?" Kyle taunted.

Samuel turned to face Kyle. The kid with Kyle was a slim but muscular boy who had made it onto the JV wrestling team. Samuel blinked slowly. There was certainty in any interaction with Kyle, unlike with the other kids at school. In fact, Kyle's brutality was one of the few constants in Samuel's life.

Today's beating was thankfully swift. Still, Samuel figured that in about three minutes, the corridors would be filled with fellow students. Girls would quickly rush past classroom doors, having overestimated the time they had before the next class. They would pile into the bathroom, vying for room in front of a scratched and filmy mirror. The boys would groom themselves as well, but their goal was to look as if they had done nothing at all. But with all the commotion, with all the frantic bustling about, Samuel knew no one would miss him hobbling with his left shoe half on, his pale right thigh bruised, wearing a dark blue, sweat-stained t-shirt and ill-fitting, white boxer shorts.

From the rear Samuel resembled a beaten and battered wrestler making his way to the locker room. Except Samuel had taken the hits with a fear-soaked patience. He had not put up a good fight. No one had ever taught him how.

It defied reason that a boy so big could be made to look so small. Yet, Samuel's shoulders were hunched. His head hung low. His wide back seemed to curve around his chest. From the rear he looked older than thirteen. His face belied his age as well. His eyes and the dark circles under them told of the terror that began long before Samuel met a boy named Kyle. It started when Samuel was eight, if he chose to remember. Often though, Samuel chose not to.

In his gym locker, Samuel found a pair of gray sweatpants. As he recalled the drawstring had gone in on one side. Sure enough, he wasn't going to be able to tie them. No matter, he would just roll the waistband over until it fit. Samuel stood up and took everything out of his locker. He put his dirty clothes in his little plastic dirty clothing bag. He put the books in his knapsack. He walked back through the gym.

Samuel climbed the stairs that led up to the third floor where the main offices were. The secretary barely acknowledged him as she chatted away with her sister on the school's dime. He opened his purple folder and took out his math homework. He stuffed it in Mr. Gerhardet's mailbox. The folder he tossed in the trash.

"Did you need something?" the secretary asked as she covered the mouthpiece of the phone with one hand.

"No" Samuel replied, as he closed the door behind himself.

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