"Is he okay?" I asked quietly, looking on as the nurse bandaged up Charlie.
Mrs. Patrick shot me a look that wasn't very nice, and I stopped asking questions. Charlie wasn't crying anymore, and he had stopped bleeding, but I still felt bad.
"Alright then," Mrs. Patrick said to Charlie, "you're all done. You can go back to class."
Charlie moved to the door without looking at me, and I started to follow him when the nurse stopped me.
"Not so fast, mister. You need to go see Mr. Locklear, Caliban."
I'm sure that my eyes got really big just then. Mr. Locklear was the principal, and he was mean. I didn't say anything, though. That wasn't cool. Instead, I just grabbed my backpack and brushed past Charlie to go to the office.
"Sorry you're in trouble, Cal," Charlie called softly.
I looked back at him and grinned. "It's okay. Sorry you got hurt."
Charlie shrugged. "I'm okay. See you tomorrow."
Mrs. Patrick took my arm then, and marched me all the way to the principal's office, as if I was going to run away. We approached the big, thick, wooden door, and she knocked loudly, three times. Knock. Knock. Knock.
"Come in," came the big voice of Mr. Locklear. He sounded as mean as I'd heard. I gulped. Mrs. Patrick opened the door and gave me a little push through the threshold, then quickly snapped the door shut behind her, leaving me alone with the principal.
The office didn't look so bad. The desk was big, but not scary. The walls were really tall and they didn't have any pictures, but they did have a lot of books on the shelves, and I was used to that, because Niko was always reading.
I gulped again. He was going to be mad.
Mr. Locklear cleared his throat, and I stopped looking around.
"What's your name?" he asked in that big, booming voice.
"Cal Leandros." I tried to say it loud like he did, but it came out more like a whisper.
"I see." Mr. Locklear reached down to open a drawer of his desk, and my throat tightened up. I'd heard stories about what he kept in his desk drawers. All he pulled out, though, was a thin file.
He opened it up and looked at the papers inside. "This says that you're in kindergarten, Mr. Leandros. Is that right?"
"Speak up, Mr. Leandros."
"Yeah, I'm in kindergarten."
"And you have a brother?"
"What grade is he in?"
"Umm. Fourth grade. He's big."
Mr. Locklear opened the drawer again and pulled out another file. "Niko doesn't get into much trouble, does he?" he asked.
"No." Niko never got in trouble, because he never did anything bad. I always got in trouble, though, and Niko didn't like that. He was going to be mad.
Mr. Locklear sighed. "Would you like to tell me what happened today, Mr. Leandros?"
I didn't know why he was calling me Mr. Leandros, but I didn't like it, and I didn't like him. I shook my head.
"You don't want to be in trouble, do you?"
I stared at him. That was a pretty stupid question, if you asked me.
"If you don't tell me what happened, you're going to be in big trouble. Do you understand that?"
I blinked, but didn't say anything. Not only was he stupid, but he thought I was too.
"Answer me, Mr. Leandros."
His voice was getting louder, and he was starting to act mean. I didn't want to be here anymore.
"I want to go home," I whispered.
"You can't go home yet. You have to tell me what happened to Charlie first."
"I want to go home."
Mr. Locklear glared at me, and I shrunk lower into my seat. After a few seconds, he picked up the phone.
"Miss Brown, will you please send Niko Leandros to my office?" he said, then paused. "Thank you." He hung up.
"I don't want Niko to be in trouble too," I protested in a very, very small voice.
Mr. Locklear didn't answer. He just sat there, in his big chair, staring at me. He looked really mad, and really mean. I squirmed around, but I didn't cry. I made sure not to cry. I stared back at him for awhile, but he was really scary, so I stopped and stared at the ground instead.
A long time passed without either of us saying anything. I imagined that Niko had heard how bad I was, and that I got sent to the office, and that he left, because I was so bad. Sophia left a lot when she got mad, but Niko never did. But…I'd never done anything this bad before, so he might.
Finally, after hours and hours had gone by, someone knocked at the door. Three big knocks. Knock. Knock. Knock.
"Come in." The first words that Mr. Locklear had said in forever sounded so bad that I wished he'd kept to not saying anything.
The door opened, and Miss Brown, the secretary, walked in, followed by Niko.
"Thank you, Miss Brown," said Mr. Locklear. Miss Brown nodded and left.
"Cal?" Niko said, looking back and forth from me to Mr. Locklear. "What's wrong?"
I started to get up, to go to Niko, but as soon as I did, Mr. Locklear barked, "Sit down."
"You have a seat, also, Niko," he said, and Niko came and sat in the same chair as me, because it was big enough for both of us.
"Are you okay, Cal?" he asked, putting an arm around me.
I leaned over to whisper in his ear. "I'm in trouble," I said, looking down, because I didn't want to meet his eyes.
"What happened?" he asked.
"I hurt Charlie."
Niko pulled back and looked at me, confused. "You hurt Charlie?"
I nodded miserably. "I'm sorry."
"Well, Cal, how did you hurt Charlie?"
"That is what I've been trying to find out for the past half an hour," Mr. Locklear said.
"Why won't you tell him, Cal?"
"'Cause I wasn't the only one that did something bad."
"Oh," Niko said. "Hmm. Mr. Locklear?"
"Would it be alright if Cal told me what happened, and then I told you?"
"That would be fine, as long as it's fast. School will be over in five minutes."
"Yes sir." Niko turned back to me. He seemed to think for a minute, and then he leaned forward, and whispered in my ear, "If I tell Mr. Locklear that you got into a fight with Charlie, and that that's it, will you tell me what really happened when we get home?"
I glanced at Mr. Locklear, but he was filling out a form. He was really old, too, so he probably hadn't heard what Niko said.
"Okay," I whispered back.
"You'll tell me the truth?" he asked, pulling back to look me in the eyes.
I nodded. "Promise," I whispered.
"Mr. Locklear?" Niko said loudly. The principal looked up.
"Cal and his friend Charlie got into a fight today, that's all. Charlie wasn't sharing, and Cal tripped him, and he fell and hurt himself."
"Is that right, Mr. Leandros?" Mr. Locklear asked me.
I nodded. "Sorry, sir."
"Well. The bell is about to ring, so I'm going to let you go with a warning this time. If anything like this ever happens again, and you don't tell me yourself what happens, then you're going to get a whole lot more than a warning. Do you understand me?"
I shrunk a little lower in the chair, and Niko elbowed me in the ribs. "Yes sir."
"Good." Mr. Locklear handed the form to Niko, telling him very sternly that it was to go to Sophia to 'inform her of this incident' and that I had to bring it back signed by tomorrow. Niko took it and put it in his pocket.
"You are dismissed."
I didn't know what 'dismissed' meant, but Nik got up, so I did too, and I followed him out the door.
He'd picked up both of our backpacks, and he handed me my mine now, taking my hand in the process. I held on tightly, and Niko squeezed back.
Nik didn't mention anything about it all the way home, and I began to think that maybe he didn't mind that I'd gotten sent to the office. I stopped every now and then to pick up a rock or a penny and he didn't stop me, and after a few minutes, I decided that he definitely wasn't mad, and I started talking about my day up until 'the incident'. Nik let me babble on all the way to the trailer and all the way to our room, but then he gave me a serious look and I stopped talking.
"What?" I asked, hoping he wasn't going to remember. "Do you want to get a snack? I want a snack…"
"Okay, so we won't have a snack. You wanna help me with my homework? I got adding problems. Ten of 'em."
He was still looking serious, and he didn't seem to want to do homework.
"Sit down," he said, and I wondered why kids always had to sit down when they were in trouble. I did sit, though, but I made a mental note to ask Niko about it later, when he wasn't mad.
"I think you've got something to tell me, huh?" he said, crossing his arms.
I took a big breath. I was going to tell him. He was my big brother, and I promised, but he was going to be the only person that I told. "Well, see, Brian is a bully, and he said that my mom was…" I glanced up at him, "a whore. He told that to everybody. And Charlie, he told Brian that my mom wasn't a whore, and that Brian was just a mean bully, and then Brian got really mad. So then Charlie and me decided to play a trick on Brian."
"A trick?" Niko asked.
"Yeah. A bad one. To get back at him."
Niko sighed. "What did you do?"
"I put a worm in Brian's sandwich during lunch," I mumbled, peeking up at him.
I was hoping he'd smile, but he didn't. "That still doesn't tell me what happened to Charlie."
I became really interested in the floor until a hand appeared in my line of vision and gently pushed my chin up. "Hey," he said, kneeling in front of me. "Look at me."
I looked at him. His face was still serious, but his eyes were nice. I really didn't want to tell him, and I really didn't want him to make me. So I tried the pity factor, and wrapped my arms around Nik's neck and buried my face in his shoulder.
Nik hugged me, and when he pulled back, I held on. "Cal," he said, prying my arms away. "Just tell me."
I stalled for as long as I could, but finally, I said, "Okay. Brian…found me, and he asked me if I was the one who put the worm there, and…I said that it wasn't me, and he asked me who did, and…" My voice trailed off.
"What'd you say?" Niko asked after a several seconds of silence.
Very, very quietly, I said, "That Charlie did it." Ashamed tears began to well up in my eyes, and I pulled away from Niko even more. "And then…then Brian wanted to play a trick on Charlie, and he said that I couldn't say anything, so I didn't, and when it was naptime, we…we, um…we tied Charlie's shoes together, and when he stood up…"
"He fell and hurt himself?" Niko asked.
"Mmhmm," I mumbled, wrapping my arms around myself and scooted back on the bed.
"He could have been hurt a lot worse, you know."
"Mmhmm," I repeated miserably.
"I know that tricks can be funny, but when someone gets hurt, then it's not worth it, is it?" Niko asked, still sitting in front of me.
Sniffing loudly, I shook my head.
"I want you to try to do something for me, okay? You have to know that doing things that hurt people isn't good, and I want you to try really hard to not do something on purpose that will hurt someone. Okay?"
"Because if you do, then I'll have to hurt you." My head shot up at this, but Niko smiled, and I knew that he was kidding.
"So you're not mad?"
"Cal. How many times do I have to tell you? You can't make me mad at you."
"Even if I killed someone?"
"Even if you killed someone," he said, ruffling my hair.
"What if I turned into a monster?"
I felt Nik's hand freeze, and he hesitated before he stood and picked me up. I smiled, because Niko almost never picked me up—no one did, really—and I buried my face into his chest again. "Cal," he said slowly, "I'm going to be here for you, and I'm going to love you no matter what. Even if you turned into a monster. Remember that, okay?"
"Okay," I said easily, happy to be cuddled when I probably should have been lectured.
"Just remember that," Niko repeated.
So, the prompt over at The Writer's Guild was to write about a time when one of the brothers played a trick on the other that went wrong, and hurt someone, and I originally wanted to make Cal or Niko play a trick on one another, but I just couldn't come up with a scenario where Cal could one past Nik, and I also couldn't imagine Nik playing tricks, period. So...this is what I wrote instead. Let me know what you thought.