The ringing only got louder the further down the hallway I walked. It was like the jeers and laughter and names just followed me, everywhere I went. I didn’t understand why they were so mean to me; I suppose, it was because I was different, but since when is different a bad thing? I stood out like a sore thumb. I was the outcast, ever since I started school here. I was fourteen and had just gotten my first proper boyfriend. But you know kids. They spread gossip faster than wildfire. News gets around.
My locker was outside the canteen, so I was always surrounded by loads of people. All I wanted to do was get my backpack and go home. Not bother anybody. Not talk to anybody. Not draw any attention to myself, and yet, somehow that’s what always happened. I opened my locker and began to pull my backpack out and ignore the loud talking behind me, but they pushed me before I’d even had a chance to put my jacket on.
‘You’re so weird,’ one of them laughed, closing the locker door on me. ‘Don’t you guys think he’s weird?’
They were laughing, cheering in agreement. I was claustrophobic, and being stuffed inside a tiny locker day after day was beginning to give me panic attacks. I pushed against the inside of the door, knowing I was outnumbered; it was always a group of them who held the door shut so I couldn’t fight my way out. Why were there no teachers around to help? Where were my mates? I’d forgotten I didn’t have any.
I should have spoken up. I was shy and much too afraid to draw attention to myself. So I huddled inside the locker whilst they held the door shut and suddenly the door burst open and I fell out into the hallway. They were watching, and laughed as I hit the floor. ‘Loser,’ one of them jeered, ‘do you even know how to talk?’
I didn’t like it when people saw me cry, so I took a deep breath and tried to keep my face straight as I picked up my bag. I wanted to go home, and not come back. I’d already asked my mum about homeschooling, and she always gave the same response. You need to break out of your shell a little bit.
One of the boys kicked me, and I looked up. ‘Oi,’’ he waved a hand in front of my face, ‘are you deaf, too? You’re a mute and a freak. Come on, guys.’ He led the rest of them away, loudly, pushing through people to get through the hallway.
My backpack snagged on a doorknob on my way to the door. I had to tug it off, and bumped into somebody accidentally when I lost my footing. A boy a few years older than me was sneering when I turned around. ‘Watch where you’re walking, homo. And don’t touch me, I don’t want gay all over me.’
I didn’t respond, just started to run. The first boy I’d ever properly dated was waiting for me by the doors, with a cut on his cheek, holding his arm. ‘They pushed me down the stairs,’ he explained, before I could ask. He was looking at me sadly, and my heart was beating rather quickly, as it always did around him. ‘What did they do to you?’
I pulled my backpack higher up on my shoulders. ‘Pushed me in a locker.’ I was afraid he was going to tell me something bad, because of the look on his face. ‘I’m sorry they’re so mean to you.’ I could feel tears on my face, and wiped them away impatiently. None of this was fair. The fact that we were tormented so mercilessly for being ourselves…
‘Kyran.’ He was looking at me, not even seeming to care about my tears, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’
My breath caught in my throat. ‘What do you mean?’ He couldn’t leave. He was the only friend I had. Time seemed to stand still as I waited for him to acknowledge me.
He was sympathetic, I knew that, but it was hard for me to understand that he was only trying to keep us from getting even more hurt. ‘I want to break up.’
I wanted to cry. He was all I had and now he was leaving, too. ‘What?’ I stammered around the lump in my throat.
He sighed, and gave me a sad hug. ‘It’s not that I don’t care about you, because I do. But if they see us together, they won’t stop bullying us and this is our only choice if we want it to stop…’
He was right, though I hated the thought of it. I stared at him through my wide, teary eyes and mumbled a simple, ‘Bye then,’ before turning and running away.
My mother was waiting outside, and I burst into the car and huddled up in the seat and started to cry. She didn’t say much, just gave me awkward hug and told me that there would always be people who were mean to me, and all I could do was try and forget about them. Easy for her to say. She wasn’t the one being tormented into tears every day.
I stared at her as she started the drive home. ‘I’m not going back to school. You can’t make me.’
I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t just homeschool me. She didn’t have a day job; she only worked when somebody had an appointment. ‘Kyran,’ she replied, without looking at me, ‘if you spend your entire life ignoring obstacles, you’ll never learn how to stand up for yourself.’ I could see her face in the mirror, and stared at her silently, tears streaming down my face until she looked at me sympathetically and said, ‘I’ll talk to the principal tomorrow, alright?’
That was better than nothing. I nodded, and wiped my face with the sleeve of my jumper. ‘Alright.’
I was looking out the window, it was silent for a few minutes before she spoke again. ‘If the bullying doesn’t stop, I can look into getting you transferred to a different school.’
‘Thanks,’ I mumbled, even though I didn’t know if I believed her. She and I’d never been close, and ever since I came out, it only seemed to push us further apart. I knew she meant well, but she still hadn’t come to terms with the whole ‘gay’ thing. For the rest of the ride we sat in silence, and I stared out the window.
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