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Lost

Chapter Six

U.S. History turned out to be one of those classes where doing the work was optional, and the teacher - a middle-aged man with greying hair who went by Mr Bailey - made a point of ensuring his students knew it. It wasn't the first time that Lysander had encountered such a teacher. They were the sorts of teachers that many people would observe and swiftly judge them as having given up on trying to tame their classes, but Lysander knew better. He knew perfectly well that 'optional' meant something more along the lines of, "Do it now, or you'll regret it when the tests roll around."

He decided against taking notes regardless.

He and Jack sat in one of the corners at the back of the room, where they had a good view of everybody else that sat in the room. Lysander had no doubts that Jack had chosen the table for this very reason. He wasn't about to complain, though. It was a win-win situation. Jack got his vantage point so he could see anybody coming the moment that they stood up, and Lysander got his view of Eliza Beth where she sat across the room.

Her dark hair glittered in the window light whenever she turned her head, but it was her smile that held Lysander transfixed this time around. She sat with three of her friends, looking neither up at nor down on any of them. Even from across the room it was apparent to him that her group housed no leader - that she was her own, independent person. He admired her for it.

She seemed like the sort of girl Dakota would get along with: bright personality, but darker clothes, and thus far it didn't seem like she had any enemies. In fact, whenever he had seen her around the school, she had made a point of being polite to everybody. She would say hello to anybody who looked her way, she would help the freshman with the broken arm carry his books to his locker, and she would bring out a smile even in the saddest faces. Her personality was the most beautiful thing about her.

Lysander wondered at whether she had a boyfriend. She probably did. He'd had his fair share of girlfriends before, but in the end he had liked them as nothing more than friends. Eliza Beth was the sort of girl he could see himself getting serious with. He wanted to get to know her better. He couldn't tear his eyes away from her.

She never even looked his way.

Back in their little corner of the classroom, Jack was dealing with issues of his own. In the opposite back corner of the room there sat a group of boys - five of them in total - who were taking it in turns to throw crumpled paper balls at the boy. Jack carried on scribbling into his notebook as if it didn't bother him, but the way that he had quickly grown tense and quiet told a different story.

Immediately Lysander was ashamed of himself. He'd been so caught up in watching the girl across the room that he had failed to notice his new friend's discomfort until he had fallen into a complete silence. He drew his attention back to where he felt it should have been.

"Those are the guys who bully you?"

Jack nodded, his head bent and his eyes never leaving the book in front of him. He seemed determined not to show any sign of weakness, but it only seemed to egg the boys on.

Lysander looked to the offending party. They looked like the sorts of guys that he had made friends with back home - athletic and acting like they were on top of the world. But the fact that they had taken to bullying Jack completely unprovoked told him that any friendship he had started with them would never have lasted long.

The balls kept coming. Unless they came to land somewhere that interfered with the mindless drawings that Jack was jotting down, they were ignored. The few that got in the way were casually brushed aside. Many of them littered the floor around the desk.

"How long has this been going on for?"

"Since freshman year," Jack replied with a shrug. "A few weeks after high school started, really."

That meant more than a year, Lysander noted. He looked over at the boys again, somehow even more disgusted than he had been before. He had never been able to understand how the mind of a bully worked. He had heard the theories, of course - that they did it out of jealousy or self-loathing - but he wasn't seeing any of that here. Their lack of reason - even a stupid one - unsettled him.

"Why?" he asked simply.

Jack's pen halted. Lysander saw his friend glance at him with a frown that he didn't even bother trying to hide, and this only heightened his worry and his curiosity. He'd expected a defeated, "I don't know" or something similar, but instead was being met with hesitant silence. He immediately felt bad for bringing it up.

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," he said gently. "I'll understand."

"You're going to find out eventually," Jack said, and now he did sound defeated. "It may as well be while I'm prepared for it."

With that, he took up one of the crumpled pieces of paper and handed it to Lysander.

"Open it."

Lysander looked at it. Judging by its lack of size, it wasn't even that big a piece of paper. He found it difficult to believe that the answers to all the torment Jack was put through could be contained by the tiny scrap. Regardless of his doubts, he opened the thing up. On it was written a single word - one that he had always hated hearing. One that his sister had always spoken out against.

FAGGOT.

Satisfied that Lysander had seen it, Jack looked away. His pen went back to work half-heartedly, his doodled drawings a little less carefree than before. Lysander watched him, taking the moments of silence to process what the writing on the paper truly meant.

"You're gay?"

"Yep."

Another series of balls landed on the desk, and this time Jack did react. He brushed them away with such force that they hit the back of the girl in front of him.

"I'll understand if you don't want to be friends anymore," he went on, ignoring the agitated look that the girl shot him over her shoulder. "I'm sure they'll still be willing to let you join their group, seeing as you had no idea. Just tell them I lied to you the whole time or something."

Lysander stood, taking the paper with him. He heard Jack sigh in defeat. He reached out and gave the boy's shoulder a reassuring squeeze, earning himself a confused look that he didn't stick around long enough to eradicate. He made his way across the room.

The boys watched him coming, the dopey grins never leaving four of their faces. The fifth - the one that sat in the very back of the corner - looked a little more weary. Clearly he was the smart one, Lysander decided. And probably the leader.

"Whose idea was it to throw the papers?" he asked the boys casually, dropping the offending piece onto the table in front of him. It fluttered down and landed word-side up. The black ink glared back at him.

"Mine," the one closest to him spoke up at once, a satisfied smirk on his face. "Genius, don't ya think? It's enough to get on the fag's nerves, but not enough to get into trouble for."

Lysander lashed out before even he had comprehended what he was doing. His fist met the boy's nose without issue. There was a sickening crack that made him feel bad for only a split second before he remembered why he was there, and then he felt only satisfied.

The boy cried out at the same time as his four friends jumped to their feet. Despite having expected it, Lysander didn't have the faintest idea what he was going to do about them. It was therefore a relief that the boy's cry of pain had drawn the attention of the rest of the class and Mr Bailey alike.

"What's going on over there?"

"He hit Jeffery, sir!"

"We didn't even touch him!"

"Guy's a maniac!"

Jeffery himself sat in silence, both hands clutching his steadily bleeding nose. Lysander took a step back as the teacher approached, giving him easier access to the injured student. The man took one look at the boy and sighed.

"Mr Peersen, take Mr Hallon to the nurse."

The boy closest to Jeffery took his friend by the arm and pulled him up, shooting Lysander a glare as he navigated his friend out of the room. Lysander watched them go as his teacher turned to face him.

"Mr Maverick, grab your things and follow me."

He did as he was told without complaint. As he made his way back over to the corner where he and Jack had taken refuge, he was able to see his friend's face again for the first time since he had left the desk. Jack stared with his jaw quite literally dropped, his wide eyes never leaving Lysander. Lysander gave him a reassuring smile as he packed his things and made to follow Mr Bailey out of the room. His only hope was that now Jack wouldn't suffer so much.

It was like all the life had been sucked out of the room when Jeffery had yelled. The room was deadly silent as Lysander followed his teacher to the door, and he cast a glance around at his classmates to find out why. Every last one of them - including those that had been intent on doing their work - was now focused on him. Some were grinning. Others looked as stunned as Jack. Much to his relief, only the boys in the back corner were giving him any sort of hateful look.

In the single moment before he walked out the door, he found his eyes on Eliza Beth. She stared back at him, her lips parted as if she had frozen mid-speech. But it was the look in her eyes that stayed with him as he left. She wore a look of pride, much like he knew Dakota would have.

He knew exactly where Mr Bailey was taking him without needing to be told. The journey to the principal's offices was mercifully a short one, so it wasn't long before he was being asked to wait in the hallway whilst his U.S. History teacher went in and explained to the headmaster what had happened. He lent against the wall closest to the door and passed the time examining the photographs that hung across from him - group shots of students who had graduated in the past. He wondered briefly if his father was in any of them. There was no time to check, however, as Mr Bailey returned to the hallway and sent the boy on into the room.

Lysander's first impression of the principal's office was that it was much bigger than he'd expected. His eyes had to sweep the room a second time before he even located the head of the school, sitting at his dark mahogany desk on the opposite side of the room. He didn't look up from the paperwork that he was filling out as Lysander approached, but he did motion with his hand what Lysander took to mean, "Have a seat." He did just that, sitting in one of the two chairs positioned in front of the principal's desk. His bag remained at his feet.

A plaque on the desk declared the man to be Principal James Randall. He was getting on in years, his hair greying and his hands unsteady as they went on filling out his paperwork. He squinted at his own writing, despite the fact that he was wearing thick glasses. He seemed harmless, Lysander decided.

"Mr Bailey tells me that you hit one of your fellow classmates," Principal Randall said eventually, though his attention remained focused on his paperwork. "May I ask why?"

"Because, sir," Lysander said, deciding that the truth would be best, "he was insulting my friend because of his sexual preference."

That got the principal to look up. He set his pen aside and clasped his hands together, his full attention suddenly on the boy in front of him. Lysander straightened. His gaze met the principal's squarely.

"Mr Maverick, isn't it?" The man sorted through a small stack of papers to his right. When he came to the one that he wanted, he set it out in front of himself and scanned it quickly. "Zachary Baker's boy?"

"Yes, sir. That would be me."

"Mr Maverick." Principal Randall pulled off his glasses and tucked them neatly into his front pocket. "I don't know how things worked at your old school, but here at Huntington Beach High we have a no violence policy. No matter how noble your reasons may have been, it will absolutely not be tolerated."

Lysander had to bite his tongue from responding with a remark about how verbal abuse and bullying were just as bad - if not worse - than punching a boy in the face. Principal Randall may have looked harmless, but he looked like a smart man, and Lysander knew better than to get on the wrong side of him so soon.

"I understand, sir," he said instead.

"Ordinarily," the man added, "the parents of all involved parties would be contacted over this."

Lysander froze. He hadn't considered for even an instant that his father may have been called up about this. A sense of dread developed in his stomach at the mere thought of it. How disappointed would the man be, he wondered, if he learned that his son had started a fight so soon after starting at the school? What would he think of Lysander then? Would he still see a son that needed his help, or would he instead see a trouble-making teen?

He didn't care what anybody else thought of him - the students could call him a bully, the bullies could call him a faggot - but his father's opinion mattered. He and Zacky were just getting to know each other. He didn't want their relationship to be strained over something so trivial, and so soon.

"Please, sir," he said, "it was only a misunderstanding. You don't need to call any parents."

"It says here that your mother recently passed away. Is that true?"

Lysander was so thrown off by the question that for a moment he couldn't respond.

"Yes, sir. She did."

"I wonder, Mr Maverick, if that has anything to do with your recent actions?" The principal gave him a sympathetic look. "I can arrange for you to speak with somebody if you feel that it's an issue."

A counsellor. That was what he was talking about. But Lysander had spoken to a number of them in the days after his mother's death, and he had no desire to speak to anymore. Politely, he shook his head.

"No, sir. I don't need to speak with anybody. It was an act of defence that I felt needed to be executed. It won't happen again."

The principal studied him for several moments before nodding.

"See to it that it doesn't, Mr Maverick. Because if it happens again, I will have to inform your father. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

Principal Randall nodded. "You may go."

At some point during their conversation, the bell must have rung to signal the end of class. There were students rushing through the hallway just outside, making their way from one class to the next. Lysander hoisted his bag up further on his shoulder and joined in the rush, heading towards his next lesson. He was halfway there when Jack found him.

For a moment they only stood and stared at each other, two statues in a raging river. Lysander didn't know what to say, and he could see that Jack was trying very hard to piece the words on the tip of his tongue together. After several failed attempts at speaking, the boy only shook his head and said, "Thank you."

"Don't mention it," Lysander replied automatically. "Somebody had to do it."

"Yeah, but you've just put a target on your own back. They're not going to let you walk away from this unscathed." Jack looked at him squarely. "You get into any trouble off Randall?"

"Nothing more than a warning."

Jack nodded. He let out a breath that Lysander hadn't realised he'd been holding, looking more than just a little relieved. Lysander couldn't help a smile at his new friend. He hadn't realised that the boy had been worried about him.

"Don't worry about me," he added, gesturing for Jack to lead the way to their next class. "I'm pretty good at taking care of myself."

Jack led him to the desk that they sat at when they shared Science together, and Lysander did a quick sweep of the room with his eyes. He found those students who had been in his U.S. History class staring at him with looks of awe, disapproval or simply pity, and it quickly became apparent that word had even spread to a couple of those who hadn't been there. He wondered how fast word would travel, and what that word would be.

The last person he locked eyes with was one of the bullies that he had confronted back in their previous lesson. Lysander recognised him at once as the one he had mentally declared the leader of the little posse - the only one who hadn't seemed thrilled to have him approach their table. He narrowed his eyes at Lysander now, keeping as quiet as he had before, but he was making himself perfectly clear. The threat lingered in the air between them.

Jack was right: he had a target on his back.

Comments

I read this here, I read this at Mibba. I'm just obsessed with this story! I love it!
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
4/8/13
Update! Soon! Please!
I can't help reading this twice. I love it! LOVE IT!!!
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
3/13/13
I read this on Mibba & I re-read it here! It's really great.
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
2/18/13
Update soon or i will DIE