As I passed the lot, I smelled cigarettes. Three guys with physiques like gorillas stood together, smoking. I knew better than to make eye contact. Their kind meant trouble for regular guys like me. I’d been pushed around plenty of times. Being the president of the Science Club made me somewhat of a geek. So I knew not to antagonize gorillas. But before I could look away, I noticed the car next to them. It was a green Beetle. Brittany’s car.
I froze in place, my heart racing. Brittany went to school here. Maybe I would bump into her in the hall. Would she remember me?
“Hey, jerk. Who do you think you’re staring at?”
I registered the words as background noise. I imagined myself walking into class to find Brittany there, her hair black and shiny, an empty desk beside her.
Someone grabbed the front of my shirt. “I said who are you staring at?” one of the gorillas growled in my face. “Are you dense or what?”
“He’s lost,” another said. “Aren’t you, new kid?”
“Is that right?” said the one creasing my shirt. “You lost? Do you want me to call your mommy for you?”
That just hit me wrong. All my anger about my parents and my unjust banishment welled up in me. I didn’t want trouble. Heck, I didn’t want to be there at all. And I didn’t appreciate having it thrown in my face.
Usually I keep my head down and try to talk my way out of trouble. This time I looked up. Just looked. After a moment, the gorilla’s gaze wavered. His grip on my shirt slackened.
“Keep your eyes to yourself,” he muttered, and banged into my shoulder as he and his cronies walked away.
After they left, I felt both glad the exchange hadn’t escalated and sorry he hadn’t taken a poke at me. I’d never been in a fistfight, but with my increasing bad mood, I wondered what it would be like.
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