The next week my walk to school was tough – The weather was too warm to get the kind of foot-deep snow that happens mid-winter but it managed to be icy and slushy at the same time. The wind cut through my jacket.
Even through my 3 pairs of socks my toes were freezing. I was shivering when I got to school. It took me half a lesson to warm up.
I had another counselling session. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be getting from them. Going over my problems with someone listening didn’t resolve anything.
I knew what my problems were. I went over them enough in my head trying to sleep at night. The last session, the first time I’d told her some of them I felt good – like getting it off my chest. This time though that feeling didn’t come.
It just reminded me that I was helpless, I couldn’t deal with Haley.
I hated it.
Haley kept calling me Alex, which was beginning to get to me. I have always been self-conscious about my body, I’d put on weight which was nice – but I was still thin. None of the weight had gone to my chest so I didn’t look any more like a girl.
Maybe cutting my hair had been a bad idea. I’d been mistaken for a boy a few times since I’d had it cut…
It came to Thursday. Mrs Andrews had been picking and picking about what Haley had been saying to me.
Honestly? It was almost as bad as the bullying, she was trying to pry out the doubts I had about myself for her to look at and study.
It was one step removed from the kind of targeting Haley did.
I reacted badly to it I guess, I just wasn’t prepared to share things like that. I didn’t trust her enough. In the end I just got up walked out while she was mid-sentence – I didn’t want to do anything I might regret and I was finding it harder to restrain myself.
I really wanted to throw something – maybe childish tantrums are a constructive relief at times but not in front of a councillor, especially when I had to go to her because of a ‘violent outburst’ however unjustified.
So I was left at the end of school with my forehead resting against the cool metal of my locker and my fists clenched trying to calm myself down.
It was inevitable really, the shout I heard from behind.
“Hey Alex! Oh god, what happened to your face?” I’d gotten used to people asking like that, but my bruises were beginning to fade now and Haley had seen me on Monday when I’d been much worse.
“What?” I asked, turning to face them. I didn’t want my back to them at any time.
Standing in front of me, closer than I was comfortable with was Haley and Felicity, who I dubbed as her second in command.
“You were looking so much better on Monday, were you wearing makeup or something? It was such an improvement. Now your face is as ugly as it normally is… Urgh, you make me want to puke.”
“Can’t you hide it or something? I’ve got a bag you could borrow” Felicity said.
“Oh you do not want to lend anything to her; if you get it back it would stink so bad you’d have to throw it out.” Haley said, grinning.
“Or burn it, don’t want to catch anything.” Felicity replied.
Haley took a step towards me, I backed against the locker. She stood about half a foot taller than me. Not really tall by anyone else’s measure but my eyes were level with her chin, which was jutting outwards at me.
She was actually looking down her nose at me.
She grabbed a fist full of my jacket at the collar. Having her so close, it was claustrophobic. The anger I’d been feeling after my counselling session dissolved away. I no longer felt like throwing anything… I felt like running away, but I couldn’t will myself to move.
My hands were shaking for a different reason.
A voice echoed down the empty hallway.
“Hello ladies!” Mike? His causal, forever cheerful tone was so contrasting to my emotions, it didn’t fit. “Hi Alexis.”
Haley’s head snapped round to look as he walked down the corridor.
“This looks like fun.” He said.
I was confused, what did that mean? I wouldn’t say I was friends with Mike, I’d hardly spoken to him but Beth liked him… he seemed nice.
“Haley, I didn’t know you felt that way about Alexis. It looked like you were going for a kiss.” He grinned at her. “You really should keep that kind of thing in the bedroom. You wouldn’t want it getting round school would you?”
Haley dropped me and stood back, I looked up at her face – her eyes were wide and she had a furious blush. Mike’s grin got even wider, if that was possible, at the reaction.
“No one would believe you over me” Haley said, but she didn’t sound convinced.
“Oh, well, you never know – they might not. But then I might have some evidence that could persuade a few people…” He left the sentence hanging.
“Don’t you fucking dare.” Haley was backing off.
“Turn around and leave Alexis alone and you never need worry.” He turned to me and leaned casually against the locker. “How was your lesson?”
“Uh… Fine.” I stammered.
“Good!” He looked up at Haley. “Still here?”
She turned and walked off, fast. When she got round the corner Mike let out a long breath.
“Well, that went well!” He said, smiling again.
“I… Why did you do that? We hardly even know each other…” I asked. I was still pretty shell-shocked by what had just happened.
“You don’t need to know someone to know they need help Alexis. It was no skin off my back. Besides, Beth cares about you and I care about Beth.” He shrugged.
“I…” Really didn’t know what to say. Keep it simple. I looked at my feet. “Thanks.”
“No need! I had no idea it would work anyway.” He said.
“Yeah, what the hell did you do to her?” I asked, curious at how he made her react like that.
“She is a bit sensitive when it comes to the whole ‘liking girls’ thing. Don’t ask me, I’m not really at liberty to say.” That didn’t clear things up for me; it was a bit cryptic…
“She’s a lesbian or something?” I asked.
“I’d put money on it. In serious denial. I really can’t go into details.” He said, he’d lost his jovial tone from earlier. “Beth told me to keep an eye out for you. I don’t get it though. You could beat two shades of shit out of those two – why didn’t you just knock em round the head?”
I sighed. “I don’t know if I could and I’d get expelled for one.”
“Oh yeah, forgot about that.” He said.
“Also…” I looked away. “I just kind of freeze up when it comes to her.”
He nodded slowly.
“Well, doesn’t matter. Hopefully she will back off from now on.” He said.
“Do you really have some evidence?” I asked.
“Hell no, that was a bluff.” He grinned at me. “She probably won’t risk it though. Beth’s on one of her Cadet meets, she can help spread the word. I’m off, you heading home?”
“No, I usually hang about here for a couple of hours and get some work done.” I said.
“Okay, see you tomorrow lunch then. Oh man, Friday – cannot wait!”