Disclaimer: See Part I.

Author's Note: I'd like to thank everybody who reviewed 'Different'. Your encouragement meant a lot. Thanks, guys.

Words in / / = Thoughts.

Words in * * = Italics.

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Part V: Adam.

"Geek!"

"Nerd!"

"Loser!"

"Freak!"

He runs this gauntlet every day but it is always just as difficult as it was the first time.

Mocking faces, like leering gargoyles, line up by the lockers on either side of the hallway, chanting their insults, relishing in the look of pain on his face.

At first sight, you can tell that he is out of place.

He's different.

They know it.

They hate him for it.

At not quite thirteen, he is the youngest pupil in the high school, at least four or five years younger than most of his classmates.

They revile him for his youth.

/Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me./

His silent mantra fails to block out their jeers and catcalls.

He avoids entering the classroom until he can hear the teacher's footsteps echoing in the hall.

He knows better than to make himself a sitting target.

He learned that lesson the hard way.

He enjoys his classes, particularly the science lessons.

The biology teacher often tells him that he is the only reason that he doesn't quit the teaching profession. He calls him a symbol of hope, proof that there are still kids out there who are interested in education, that they are not all complete morons.

Such remarks do not endear him to his classmates.

His test scores are always the highest in the class. Teachers tell him that if there was a score above one hundred per cent, he would get it.

His fellow students accuse him of raising the average, of throwing the grading curve, lowering their own scores.

It is yet another item in the long list of grudges they hold against him.

He knows better that to try to tell him that he doesn't mean to, that all he wants is to learn.

He is torn between his desire to get along with his classmates and his fear of disappointing his parents and the teachers who have so much faith in him.

In his heart he knows that, no matter what he does, his peer group will never accept him.

His grades are all he has left.

He spends hours studying every night, determined to achieve perfection.

No score below three digits satisfies his own exacting standards.

Ninety-nine makes him feel like an idiot, a disappointment, a failure.

Adults call him a genius, a prodigy.

It feels as if they are laying a curse upon him, as if it is a sentence he has to serve.

Sometimes his teachers try to comfort him. They tell him not to worry, in ten years time he will be a successful self-made millionaire while his detractors will be flipping burgers and servicing his fleet of cars.

Their consoling words don't make the gauntlet any easier to bear.

"Geek!"

"Nerd!"

"Loser!"

"Freak!"

He knows now that the rhyme is a lie.

/Sticks and stones *may* break my bones, but words will *always* hurt me./

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THE END.