A/N. This is another alternate sequel to 'Little Hollow' because I decided that I am trapped forever in that world. SO everything I have to write now has to have an 'LH' reference. Haha! ANYWAY, time to be serious. I love to write stories about real life problems we face in our daily lives. This story is no exception because unfortunately, it does happen in real life. I'm doing a bunch or research for this so that it's as accurate as possible. I do want to warn you though that this is a touchy subject matter and I'm trying to handle it in a sensitive way. It will be rather dark though because like I said, it's real life. Unfortunately. I don't own anything.
"Hey, James!" Kendall knocked impatiently at the bathroom door. "Are you almost done in there? We have to get going or we're going to be late." He glanced at his watch anxiously.
The door opened to reveal a grinning James. "I'm ready now." He said, running a hand through his smooth brown hair.
Kendall wrinkled his nose slightly at the overwhelming small of James' "man spray". He loved James like his own brother but sometimes the other boy could be a bit obsessed with his image. "Good." He said, restraining himself from teasing his friend. They were already running late and an argument, even one done only in jest, would do nothing to help them. "Let's go. Logan and Carlos are already outside."
"Gotcha." James took one last stroke with his lucky comb before sliding it into his jeans pocket. "Come on, slowpoke!" He was out of the apartment before Kendall could blink.
Kendall rolled his eyes and shook his head but he grinned all the same. James could drive him crazy sometimes but he wouldn't have him any other way. "Bye, Mom!" He called over his shoulder as he grabbed his backpack. "We're finally leaving!"
"It's about time you finally got out here!" James exclaimed in exaggeration. "We've been waiting forever!" He laughed at Kendall's glare and then held up his backpack. "Hey, look what Logan remembered to bring for me!"
Logan shoved James. "I swear, James. You'd forget your head if it wasn't attached to your shoulders."
"No way." Carlos shook his head as the boys hurried to the corner to wait for their school bus. "The Face is on his head remember?"
At that, Kendall and Logan smirked at James which he returned with another brilliant smile. "That's right, Carlos. I could never forget The Face."
"Anyway," Logan interrupted. "James, I hate to change the subject but don't you have a history test today?" When his friend's smile disappeared he went on. "How do you feel about it? Are you ready?" He shifted his heavy backpack so that it rested more comfortably on his slight frame.
"Um. . ." James stammered for an answer. His face flushed red in embarrassment and he shook his head. "Probably not. We're studying the Cold War and I don't really get any of it."
None of his friends seemed surprised. With the exception of Logan, who was brilliant, the boys all had one subject in school that they each struggled with. James' was history and even though Logan was often swamped in his own work for the honors classes he took, he never failed to lend a helping hand when it was needed.
So James wasn't surprised when Logan adopted a thoughtful look before speaking. "Well, we don't have any classes together and our study halls are during different periods. But we have the same lunch time so do you want to go over some things then?"
"That would be great." James admitted with a sigh that relaxed his tense posture. "Thanks, Logan."
"No problem." Logan mumbled in embarrassment. James caught the trademark move that Logan's hand made to rub the back of his neck where it reddened. The sound of an engine made him straighten up. "Here's the bus." He said, making a face. "I hate riding the bus.
Kendall clapped a hand on Logan's shoulder. "Believe us." He said with a straight face. "We know. You only tell us every single day." He raised his eyebrows. "That being said, I can't really blame you."
The bus pulled to a stop by the curb and the boys climbed in. "I don't get it." Carlos commented as he ducked a paper airplane. "Why can't we just drive? We all have girlfriends. Can't we carpool at least?"
"Public transportation is healthier for the planet." Logan stepped over a leg that was strategically placed to trip him and glared at the person it belonged to. "And the girls take Jo's car that can only fit five people."
"I think I should be allowed to go with them." James cringed. "This vehicle can not be good for my complexion."
"James, what on earth do you think it could possibly do?" Kendall asked. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, a banana came flying towards him, missing his own face by inches. "Never mind." He said, shaking his head. "Still, if anyone of us were to go it would be me. Jo is my girlfriend. Remember?"
"Maybe we could take turns!" James suggested brightly. But the bus suddenly lurched forward and they all stumbled into each other.
"We should sit down." Logan steadied himself and quickly sat down. Before James had any choice in the matter he found himself sitting next to Logan. "Now we have an extra twenty minutes to study." He said when James protested that he wanted to talk to the new kid who played hockey. "Kendall and Carlos can talk to him. Judging by the expression on your face when I first brought the test up, you'll need all the help you can get."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence." James grumbled. But he couldn't really argue so he tugged his history textbook out of his backpack and opened it to the section that confused him no matter what he did. He bent his head over the pages and tried to shut out the cheers and jeers from the other passengers.
A burst of laughter broke his concentration and he looked up. A tall, scrawny kid, James couldn't remember his name, lay sprawled on the filthy floor of the bus. As James watched, the boy fumbled around before his hands located his thick glasses and placed them back on his nose. He straightened up and grabbed a pile of books from under the seat in front of him and quickly sat back down, eyes downcast.
"Jerks." Logan muttered with a dark look at a bunch of football played seated in the back. It was obvious that they were behind the cause of the accident. He tried to catch the unfortunate victim's gaze but the kid suddenly seemed fascinated with the strap of his large backpack.
"What happened?" James asked, unable to go back to his book.
Logan sighed. "Sean Williams threw Andrew Morison's books on the floor and then tripped him when he stood up." He scowled as he and James watched Sean trade high-fives with his jock buddies while Andrew slumped down further in his seat, staring moodily at his feet. Very little made Logan angry but bullying was one of them. "It's people like them that give athletes a bad reputation."
"Are you angry because you're a jock too?" James teased. "Maybe hockey players are nicer, Logan."
Logan snorted. "Yeah right. I'm not mad that I'm a jock. I'm not even a jock. I'm mad because bullies are just so insecure that they have to make other people's lives miserable to feel better about themselves. Remember back in Minnesota?"
At that, James frowned. Back in Minnesota, Logan and Carlos had often been the victims of bullying. Especially Carlos with his rich Hispanic heritage. "Yeah." He agreed softly. "They're all idiots."
"You know what really bothers me?" Logan asked. Clearly the subject of James studying was completely forgotten. "No one does anything about it. The teachers and the rest of the 'adults'," Logan gestured with his fingers. "They don't do anything to stop it. Like the bus driver just now." He glared at the driver in the rear view mirror. "He had to have seen what just happened. It's against the rules to be so rowdy in the bus. Something could happen. He should have said something."
"Well," James said slowly. "Why don't we?"
Logan nodded. "You're right. When we get to the school I'll say something to the driver and then when I get the chance I'll report the incident to the principal." He shrugged. "They're probably all numb to the concept of bullying now but maybe it'll help."
When the bus finally did pull to a stop at their LA high school, James bent to stuff his books back where they belonged. He then sat and waited for the rest of the bus to fill out when a sudden movement out the window caught his eye and he suddenly bolted up and shoved his way outside.
Sean Williams and his followers had Logan backed up against the bus. James tripped over his backpack's loose shoulder strap and would have fallen if Carlos hadn't steadied him. Kendall was the first to reach the group.
"Do not touch him" Kendall was in the protective mode that they all knew so well. His voice was low and calm but had an edge of anger to it that was enough to back the bullies away from Logan.
"You'll pay for that, Mitchell." Sean sneered. "No one messes with me and gets away with it."
"What was that all about?" Carlos dropped to his knees and gathered Logan's scattered books.
"Nothing." Logan muttered. He took the books with a grateful smile then absorbed himself in the task of putting them in his backpack.
"Right." Kendall snapped. "Like we believe you."
"Fine." Logan replied in a tight, clipped tone. "They just happened to hear me tell the bus driver what Sean did to Andrew and they didn't exactly appreciate me reporting them. You know they could get suspended from the team if they get too many offenses."
"Logan," James said. "It was great that you stood up for Andrew but you need to be more careful. No use getting both of you hurt. Next time wait until they can't hear you ratting them out. You'll end up as next week's target."
Logan sighed in frustration. "I know." He said quietly. "I'm sorry I snapped at you guys. It's just so stupid how these guys get away with so much." He looked around. "Where is Andrew anyway?"
Carlos pointed out the bullied kid, heading toward the school doors. His backpack seemed extra heavy on his thin shoulders. "What does he have in there, bricks?" Carlos shook his head. "Man, we're all going to wind up with bad backs if they keep loading us with so much stuff."
"So he's fine." Kendall said to Logan. "Now let's go. The late bell is going to ring soon."
"Well?" Logan pushed his lunch tray away and stared expectantly at James. "Do you get it now?"
James considered lying but Logan knew him too well. He shook his head. "No. I mean, I guess a little better than I did before but I'm still stuck."
Logan glanced at the huge wall clock and bit his lip in deep thought. "Okay. You have study hall next period right?"
"Yeah." James nodded. He studied Logan in an attempt to understand his friend's train of thought.
"Go there. I'll join you in a minute." Logan stood up and grabbed his lunch tray with one hand and his backpack in the other. Before James could question him, he was out of sight.
Since he didn't have a clue what was going on, James obeyed Logan's orders and headed over to his study hall. He sat down and had barely begun to think over Logan's words before Logan himself was sitting down next to him. "What are you doing here?" He asked. "Don't you have Math?"
"English." Logan corrected. "But all we really had to do today is hand in our essays. So I ran over there, handed Mrs. Roland my paper and explained things It was fine with her."
James would never fully understand his best friend. "Logan, you skipped a class?" He said in disbelief.
"Well, sort of. Technically I mean." Logan grinned. "But when you're an awesome student like I am the teachers tend to bend the rules for you every now and then."
"Thanks, Logan." James sighed in relief. "This really means a lot."
Logan shrugged. "Well, I figured that. . ." His voice caught suddenly and he cleared his throat before going on. "I figured that since we missed out on graduating last year that I'd do everything I could to make sure it didn't happen again."
James stared at Logan's determined face and replayed his words over in his mind. He thought back to the previous year and how they had almost lost Logan to leukemia. He, the brilliant one of the four, had dropped out of his senior year after only a couple weeks because he was too sick to handle his studies. The other three had followed after Christmas break. James knew it had been hard for Logan to throw away all of his academic dreams and he really wasn't at all surprised that Logan's determination had only doubled as time had gone by.
"Hey! James!" Logan snapped his fingers in front of James' face and looked at him in concern. "Earth to James. Are you okay?"
James jumped and refocused on the present. "Yeah. I'm good." Really he was. He pushed back the unpleasant memories. Logan was fine. The cancer was gone. With that thought came the familiar, almost overwhelming sense of relief. It had been six months since Logan had been pronounced cancer free and since then he had returned to his normal, healthy self. They were moving on. So that was why, despite his words, James' eyes filled with sudden tears. They weren't the sorrowful tears that he had cried when Logan was so sick. They were tears of a joy and happiness that could only be experienced and not explained. "I was just thinking." He finally said, knowing that Logan would understand.
Logan started to rub the back of his neck but stopped. He smiled before opening James' history book. "Only because of you guys." He whispered so that only James could hear.
It might have been six months since the sun had broken through the seemingly endless wall of clouds. But the thought still brought powerful emotions and James had to compose himself before he could concentrate of Logan's tutoring. "Sorry." He muttered, brushing a hand across his eyes.
"You're fine, James." Logan said patiently. He waited until James had control of his emotions again before he began to explain the Cold War once again.
Often Logan explained things better than any of James' teachers. Maybe it was because he knew James and he knew how to make things easier to understand. But in ten minutes, the fog in James' mind had started to clear. "I get it!" He said in amazement.
"See?" Logan smiled broadly. "Our minds are like filing cabinets that store up all the information we gather over the years. The trick is finding the key that unlocks a particular drawer." He laughed when James' rolled his eyes at his explanation. Then he glanced down at the pencil he held in his hand. "Be right back okay? This thing is pretty dull. Read this paragraph again." He pointed to a specific passage then got up and made his way to the front of the room.
James grinned at his mental breakthrough and obediently started to read what Logan had indicated. He finished it and had started to read it over again when a sudden commotion caught his attention.
"My bad." Sean Williams grinned innocently at the study hall teacher, Mr. Heath. "Sorry, Andrew."
Andrew was staring at his desk with a blank expression on his face. His books lay scattered on the floor around his chair but he made no move to pick them up again nor did he respond to Sean's false apology. James couldn't take his eyes off of the bullied kid. There was a strange glint in his bright blue eyes, behind his glasses. From where he sat three rows behind, James could see a dark look on the normally placid face. Out of the corner of his eye, James could see that Logan had paused his pencil sharpening to take in the scene.
Things can change in the blink of an eye but they often seem to happen in slow motion. In the moment that followed, James saw everything in perfect detail.
In one smooth motion, Andrew reached into his overstuffed backpack and pulled out a gun. It seemed to James that the sound of the first bullet being fired and the screams of terrified teenagers happened at the same time.
A/N. I love how it's the first chapter and I already left off with a cliffhanger. I'm sorry. Really I am. It just. . . happened. Anyway, I realize that I promised that this would be posted on Sunday and I failed. I apologize for that. I was unexpectedly but pleasantly busy then. As for yesterday and today, well, work got in the way. I also need to tell you that I start school tomorrow and I will not be updating as frequently as I usually do. But I hope to be able to update quite a bit just the same. Anyway, I'll stop rambling so you can maybe leave a review if you liked it. Thanks for reading!