Confront your problems, Beth’s dad had said.
She was my fucking problem, and not Emma’s. Besides, what did I have to lose? I couldn’t become a pilot. I had nothing left. Nothing here.
I didn’t drop my gaze, instead just looked her in the eye. Her smile faltered for a moment as she realised I was returning it like for like. Emma’s eyes flicked between us, confused.
I didn’t know if she had been planning to, but now I’d gotten her attention she came to us. My fists were clenched under the table, but I didn’t stand to confront her. I still had some self-control.
It was just taking all of my effort to keep it, to push down the urge to just jump at her.
She walked up to our table casually, but a few heads still turned. The air was sharp, charged with a hint of apprehension. People weren’t stupid, they knew what she was. They knew what she did to those like me.
She wouldn’t actually do anything though. Not here in the canteen. Just a few too many witnesses even for Haley. A trip or insult. A small show of power. They were passable. Anything bigger would get noticed. She was more careful than that.
I had no reason to be careful anymore.
“Well, what do we have here?” she said, coming to a halt in front of our carefully chosen table at the back of the hall. “You’ve replaced Beth, Alexis. That was fast. I don’t think this one is quite so ugly. I mean, she does look like she’d been hit in the face with a spade… but that’s an improvement over your old one.”
I froze at the mention of Beth. My fists were clenched so hard my broken fingers screamed at me. The pain distracted. Emma’s eyes shone with fear as Haley stood behind her. Not daring to turn around instead she stared directly at me.
“Oh but this little thing is quite a joy to play with,” Haley continued. Her hand brushed Emma’s hair. She winced.
I was twitching with pent up anger, wound up like a spring. Ready to move. But I held back. “You wouldn’t believe what we made her do while you were away…”
A blush blossomed on Emma’s face, her cheeks flushed. I didn’t want to know what they’d done to her. If it was anything like what they had done to me she’d hope no one would know, that it’s never spoken about again.
“Shut up.” I whispered, my voice somehow level. I just wanted her to stop speaking.
“What?” she said in a sharper tone. Her brows creased together and her lips lifted into an ugly sneer. “What did you say to me?”
“I said,” louder, “Shut the fuck up.”
Her hand flashed forward, her needle bared – but not against me. She grabbed Emma’s wrist, pressing it to the table and touched the tip of the needle against the back of her hand.
Emma let out a whimper.
She resumed talking, but I couldn’t decipher the words over the pounding of blood in my ears. White noise. “Don’t you-”
Don’t fuck with my friends.
My hands reached for the closest available weapon. I grabbed the pressed metal lunch tray from the table in front of me and threw it like a Frisbee. Her words turned into a strangled choke as the steel edge caught her in the throat.
Before she could recover enough to follow through with the threat against Emma I vaulted onto the table and followed through with a crude kick to the face. Her head snapped back and she collapsed in a heap.
That was easy.
But it wasn’t over. There were three other girls, looking as shocked as Emma at my sudden outburst of violence. One recovered enough to try grab me. For what purpose, I had no idea. It was pathetic. I was used to fighting people who could kill. I took her unbalanced legs out with a short stamp to her knee. I simply stood aside and she fell face first.
A second grabbed my hair from behind, I managed to twist – ignoring the pain. Hair grabs can work, as I knew all too well. But once she had a handful of hair she just held me with a straight arm. She tried to land a few slap like punches on my face.
Fucking idiotic. I grabbed the wrist in front of my face and slammed my forearm into the back of her elbow. She let go with an ear splitting screech. I didn’t let go. With a quick twist I rolled her into an arm lock, one of the simplest, and put all the pressure I could on the delicate hinge of the elbow.
They were like dolls: relaxed, malleable and soft. I didn’t need to put any effort in, she hardly even resisted.
Only now did I recognise the girl as Felicity. She let out a shout, but I wasn’t messing around. Fuck Felicity. There was a snap and she fell to the ground screaming.
The first had scrambled back to her feet. I jumped to face her, already in a fighting crouch.
She threw a punch, which I deflected without much effort. After her second attempt I followed through with a neat punch to her open core, hitting her solar plexus. A second jab to the temple knocked her clean unconscious. So undefended, it was like hitting a child.
I scanned around, but the third girl had run.
There was a moment of calm, other than the screaming. The room was deathly still, forks paused half way to mouths. All eyes were focused on me. Further away, people had stood up to watch even though the whole fight had lasted only a handful of seconds.
There was no chanting or jeering that often accompanies a school fight, just slack jaws and wide eyes.
I’d just fucked myself on an epic level. I had to get out of here. I wouldn’t be able to return. Even if I didn’t get permanent expulsion I’d be home for a month at least. Let’s not even think about prison. Could they press charges?
The screaming died down. Felicity fell in shock – quiet, pale and shivering.
I shook my head, trying to free myself from the entrancing crowd of stares. I needed to move. But as I took a step a slow groan stopped me dead. I pivoted on my heel, my attention on Haley. She rolled onto her side, clutching her face.
Now. This was my chance. How many times had I played this scenario though in my head? How dreams did I have where I get a chance to hurt her, to humiliate her, to grind her face into the floor?
With two strides I seized her by the hair and hauled her up. I could hold her weight, she wasn’t heavy. She was taller than me so her legs were hanging limp, toes still touching the floor, knees bent.
I’d obviously broken her nose, a good injury. It wasn’t fatal, but was damn impressive and messy. Hopefully it would be fucking hard to correct. I hope you enjoyed your pretty little nose.
Her eyes opened a fraction. Her pupils contracted in the harsh white lights. They rolled around, confused and unfocussed.
“I said shut up,” I had no idea what I was doing. I just let the words fall out, “Don’t fuck with my friends, you hear me?”
The drip of spittle dribbled from her mouth as it moved. Was she trying to speak? I didn’t know.
“You think I couldn’t have done this earlier? I could have always beaten the shit out of you Haley,” I realised it was true. For month’s I’d been fighting fully grown men. I could have torn her into pieces.
“And now I’ve finally realised what the fuck is important to me.” I pulled her ear close to my mouth and whispered a threat to her, like she had so many times to me. “If you think you have any power over me, think again. If you push anyone around I will come back and I will break your fingers. I will fucking cut your fucking ears off. Do you like your ears? Do you want me to do that? Because right fucking now I am sorely tempted. Don’t fucking push me any further.”
A few bubbles formed around her mouth. Was she even listening?
I twisted her head to face Emma. “This girl. Do you even know her name? She’s called Emma. Can you say that for me?”
There was a noise. It was difficult to determine whether it was another pitiful groan or a terrible attempt at ‘Emma’. I made the assumption that she was being co-operative.
“Good! Now, I will speak to her regularly. She will tell me if you are being a good girl and playing nice with the others, even if I’m not here,” which I won’t be.
I lowered her down from face height, but kept my grip on her hair for good measure.
The silence remained. Felicity was just clutching at her broken arm and slowly turning a sickly shade of green.
Two teachers were pushing their way through the crowd of onlookers. I recognised them both. One was Mr Forzoe, gym teacher. The other… I blinked at the sight of Kayla Andrews. My counsellor.
I couldn’t help but glance down at Haley, still limp, blood dripping slowly from her broken face. Looks like the counselling didn’t pay off… I hoped no one thought badly of her. She was honest with me at least.
“Holy shi-” Mr Forzoe said quietly as he approached the scene.
It wasn’t even that bad. I’d seen much worse. I’d done much worse. This was a small scrap, no one was that badly injured except Felicity. No one died.
Haley would be healed in a few weeks. A good surgeon would fix that nose. She’d probably get praise, attention and admiration for surviving that time the crazy girl snapped for no reason at all.
“Alexis.” Mz Andrews said. “Calm down. Just let her go and we can talk through this,” I nearly laughed. Talk through this?
“Oh, I’m perfectly calm Mz Andrews,” I said. Surprisingly, I was.
“Okay then, that’s good.” She didn’t know what to do in this situation. When did they cover this in counsellor training or whatever the fuck she learned that shit? “Think about what you are doing Alexis. Please, put her down. We can sort this out.”
Fuck Haley. “I have already thought about this. A lot.”
I glanced at Emma, and she didn’t look at me with fear. She wasn’t scared. She had hunger in her eyes. Lust. She felt the same as me.
Fuck her up, she was saying, do it.
I made a decision then that I was never going to be the kind of person who let things lie. Who stood casually by and watched someone get beaten up because I was too much of a coward to intervene. Not again. Never again. No more hesitation.
I wasn’t ever going to roll over out of fear, to let someone have power over me.
It would be so easy. Within a second I could slam her face into the corner of the steel table. Teeth, that would last – she’d have that wonderful pain whenever she ate anything that I had power over her.
I was tempted. For a moment I was going to do it. I turned to lift her head and smash it down.
She held nothing over me now. Breaking her any further would just serve… selfish purposes. It would do nothing but feed my revenge. No one would benefit.
I let her limp figure drop a second before I heard Ms Andrews shout. Two gorilla arms of an ageing gym teacher grabbed me from behind.
Fucking perverse gym teacher.
I lashed out with my heel and scraped down a shin. Then when he lurched backwards I rammed my head back and used his shock to wriggle myself down from the bear hug he’d got me in.
As I lowered myself through the loop of his arms I grabbed one and pulled it over my shoulder, pushing my back towards him. A simple throw, easy when you are half the size of the person you’re throwing. He passed over my head slowly, but landing on his back winded him.
Though I kept hold of his wrist I didn’t follow through with lock, or any joint destruction. I just wanted a point of control.
But no one else attacked. Mr Forzoe struggled a little so I bent his wrist and gave it a twist until he stopped.
What the hell was I going to do now?