Chapter 52

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F I F T Y—T W O

      A FEW DAYS passed of Cyrus, Jay, and Tyler making an active effort not to avoid me more than the usual in school. Of course, the one day they decided to stay home with Ryder again happened to be the day that my new found tormentors decided to attack.

      I didn't even know his name. I barely even recognized his face from one of my classes. I'd never done anything to him, never even spoken to him, so it didn't make sense why he would target me.

      He wasn't the first. Only the most recent.

      My books were slapped out of my hand before I had time to register what was happening, and in the next second, pain flared through my spine as I was shoved back against the lockers. I sunk to my knees as he laughed and walked away, left with the echoes of other students laughing at my misfortune.

      I left the school before anybody could see my tears.

      I wasn't left alone for long. Julian caught me by the shoulders and drug me to a stop, eyes taking over me to check for any visible cause for my sobbing. "Hey, hey—what's going on? What happened?"

      The majority of my explanation was a humble of pathetic whimpers. By the time I was finished and had calmed down a little, he'd sat us down at a bench on the side of the school building, shielded from any windows. I sniffed, then snorted out a laugh at my self. "I'm being stupid."

      "You're not being stupid." He continued to rub his hands up and down my arms in an attempt to be comforting. It didn't work very well. "Can I tell you a story?"

      "What at am I, five?" I attempted humor. It also didn't work very well.

      His lip twitched with half a smile. "Do you remember when I told you I was bullied?" When I nodded, he continued. "It was really bad back when I lived in London, but my friend got it a lot worse. He had broken bones more often than not form people throwing him around and swinging punches. He had a lot of family issues to top it all off."

      "This isn't sounding very encouraging."

      "Don't interrupt," he jokingly scolded. "After taking the torment for about a year, he took his own life. It's why I moved to the U.S. and ended up here." He leaned forward and lifted my head to force me to look at him. "I'm watching it happen all over again with you, and I don't want that."

      "I'm not going to kill myself," I told him, then winced at how blatantly I'd said it. "My mother died during child birth, and just that one death has altered and ruined my entire life. I know how death can affect a person."

      Julian sighed. "My point is that I don't want you to sit around and let people treat you this way. Talk to somebody, or let your friends help you."

      I dismissed the idea immediately. "They can't talk to me in school."

      "They can't, or you won't let them?"

       I wouldn't let them, but I wasn't going to admit that out loud. Letting them be around me now would not only force them to commit social suicide, but it would reveal who I was after-hours and leave me at risk for legal punishment. Not to mention, them helping me would make me feel like a burden or some the of Charity case.

      I shook away my thoughts and waved off his answer. "I need to go to class." I paused. "Can we talk later?"

      "What about?"

      I pursed my lips. I wasn't in the mood to deal with the not-date we'd had. Something told me it wasn't a not-date to Julian. "Last night."

      He nodded, and with that, I started back to class.

      I turned the corner at the end of the hall, nearly at my classroom, when my heart dropped to my stomach. I suddenly forgot how to breathe.

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