After the events of the previous day, Francis was dreading going back to school. He still knew nothing of the other language in his workbook and could already hear his teacher yelling in his head. Due to his nerves, he did not sleep well and did not wake until Arthur came into his room and gently shook his shoulder.
"Francis", he called softly. "You need to wake up or we'll both be late today." It was only for the sake of Arthur's job that he slipped out from under the warm covers, brushed his teeth and hair, and pulled on a pair of brown pants and a light green shirt. "Ah, thank you," Arthur said as he reached the bottom step, smiling at him. "I appreciate your promptness. I have a busy day ahead of me as I'm sure you do as well." The boy tried not to think about what his day was going to include. Instead, he chose to watch Arthur grab his backpack and hand him a small, poppy seed muffin. "You slept so long you don't have time for breakfast so I thought you could have that on the way. Normally Jeffrey detests eating in the car but he's agreed to make an exception this time." Arthur looked down at his watch. "And we really must be going now." Turning around, he opened the door for Francis. He could see Jeffrey standing next to the car in the drive, also holding a door open, like he did every day.
Francis walked past him and over to the waiting car, Jeffrey helping him in as usual. His driver buckled the boy into his booster seat while Arthur approached them. Their system was well oiled and Jeffrey was already finished helping Francis and standing on Arthur's side of the car, waiting to assist him. He held the door open for the Arthur while the man slid inside and closed it behind him before returning to his own seat and starting the journey.
With a sigh, Arthur set his briefcase and Francis' backpack on the seat between him and the boy. Looking to the side, he saw that Francis was staring out the window, muffin forgotten in his cupped hands. "Francis, are you going to eat your breakfast?" The boy didn't seem to hear him. "Francis?" Still he received no response which caused him to frown. It reminded him of the previous day. Something was bothering Francis but he wasn't going to be able to pull it out of him. Francis would talk about it when he wanted to though it would be several days before he would find out what was on his mind.
Francis had chosen to wear one of the tunics he had brought to Arthur's house today. Despite the torture that each day delivered, he felt a little less miserable on this day in the pretty, yellow tunic. It was lined in thick fabric to keep him warm during the cold month.
His schoolwork hadn't improved in the past week nor his relationship with his peers. As he was walking back to his seat after sharpening his pencil, one of his classmates stuck out his leg and tripped him. The sudden change in balance knocked him to the ground and caused a stabbing pain to shoot through his palm. A surprised whimper slipped out of his mouth and laughter flared up around him.
Looking down in shame he went pale. The newly sharpened point of his pencil was impaled in his left palm, blood slowly dripping to the floor. He stood up with shaking legs, wobbling over to his teacher. His knowledge of his teacher's language was still nothing so he simply held up his hand to show his distress. The teacher barely glanced at him, only pulled out the pencil, handed him a tissue, and pointed at his desk. Francis stared at him, dumbfounded, so his teacher glared before pointing again. Sighing, Francis went back to his desk.
Once again Francis was halted at the door. His teacher pulled him back into the room and closed the door. Francis automatically looked down as his teacher began yelling at him like he did every day after class. He had yet to understand what the older man was saying with such venom but he nevertheless persisted. Today he seemed to take longer than usual so he clenched his right fist, waiting to be released.
Peering out the car window, Arthur could not see Francis waiting for him so he asked Jeffrey to drop him off once more so he could look for the child. Entering the school, he saw the same woman in the office and she called down to check on Francis. She informed him that the teacher was talking to Francis and would send him down soon. As she started to hang up the phone, something in her face changed and she paused. "You might want to hear this," she said quietly, pressing a button.
At once angry yelling and harsh words filled the room.
"It's no wonder you get no work done in this class!" he heard, frozen to the spot. "No one likes you which is why Damien tripped you, Frank! You honestly had it coming! You turn up dressed like that and they think they need to toughen you up. If not, you're going to end up a fag-!"
At that Arthur snapped back to himself. He stomped toward the exit of the office, barely hearing the angry words of the teacher or the pleas to come back. All common sense had gone out the window when he had heard that horrible word. He just knew that he had to get to Francis.
Following the shouting, he found the classroom and threw the door open. He was fuming and seeing the fear in Francis' big blue eyes when his head shot up at the noise only made him more furious. He was at the boy's side in a second, protectively pulling him into his arms. His eyes, however, were burning holes into the teacher.
"How dare you yell at my child like that?" he seethed. He refused to yell, partly because he didn't want to sink to the teacher's level but mostly because he didn't want to scare Francis more than he already was. "His name is Francis, not Frank, and he doesn't know any English so you can't just yell at him when he has no idea what you are saying." He turned Francis to the door and began to lead him out. "I will not allow my child to be in your class any longer."
His temper continued to flare until Francis was safely in the car. Once the door had closed behind them both, Francis threw his arms around his neck and burst into tears. He could feel his shirt start to grow damp but he didn't complain. Instead, he pulled the boy closer and held him while he cried.
"Has he been yelling at you like that every day?" Francis nodded. "You should have told me. That's not right, Francis. I would have done something about it. Please tell me if something like that happens again." They were silent for a long time while Francis cried and Jeffrey drove. Absentmindedly, Arthur began to gently run his fingers through the boy's soft hair.
Something that the teacher said before he entered the room popped into his head suddenly.
"Francis," he murmured, "I heard that you were tripped today. Are you alright?"
The boy hiccuped and shook his head, letting go of Arthur and sitting in his lap to show him his hand. The one tissue he had been given was pressed into his palm and soaked through.
Arthur felt his temper flare up again.
"I was holding a pencil."
"Why do you only have that tissue?"
"That's all he would let me have."
He tightened his grip on the boy. "I won't let you go back to him. I promise." He might have imagined it but he felt like Francis' crying softened a little.
AN: Italics- speaking in French or internal thoughts
No Italics- speaking in English