Ian walked out of the boys bathroom as a distraught girl ran into him. Her books went flying as she fell to the floor. Gales of laughter followed her demise as a group of boys hooted and hollered at her. Ignoring them Ian kneeled in front of her “are you alright?”
The girl hung her head refusing to look at the boy in front of her. Was he going to torment her too like the others? She hated this school, this town. If only she could have stayed in Riverview. Her dad didn’t want her and her Aunt was never home. Her mom…. her mom was dead. She didn’t have anyone except maybe the housekeeper.
“Hey are you alright?” the boys gentle voice broke into her troubled thoughts “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“What?” she glanced up into the gentle gaze of the fair-haired boy with violet eyes “I ran into you…I’m sorry…” His smile felt like sunshine compared to all the jeers and cat calls from the group behind them. She watched as he picked up her books and held them out to her.
She hesitated before taking her things from his hands as a boy from the group called out “hey Bennett don’t waste your time with the frigid bitch.”
She watched as a frown marred the beauty of his face, hardening his features “Mal leave her alone,” his tone harsh but firm as he spoke anger sparking in his clear violet eyes. Ignoring their rude comments that followed Ian held his hand out to her to help her up saying “just ignore them. They’re a bunch of jerks.”
“Aww look how cute,” a girl with blond hair and a ton of makeup in a really short dress sneered “our first celebrity couple.”
“Quick roll out the red carpet,” called another boy laughing like an idiot at his own joke.
Ignoring them Ian smiled at the girl “you’re in my history class.”
“I am?” she asked biting her bottom lip
“Yeah you always sit in the far corner away from everybody. I’m not surprised you haven’t noticed me.” He grabbed her elbow guiding her past the pack of idiots who were jeering at them “I’m Ian Bennett by the way.”
“I’m…Celia Nugget” she waited for him to say something about her name. They always did.
His lips quivered as he said “it’s nice to meet you Celia. Your Aunt is one of my sisters favorite singer.”
She rolled her eyes a the comment but kept her feelings to herself. “Thank you Ian but I’m alright now. I don’t need a babysitter,” she pulled away from him and stomped down the hallway away from him.
Sighing Ian ran his hands through his hair. What did he do to deserve that he wondered. A hand clasped his shoulder “hey bro what’s up?”
Turning Ian smiled at his younger brother “Matty why are you always in such a good mood?” He smiled finding himself unable to resist Matt’s perpetual happy smile. Being around Matt was like being around a puppy. You never knew what antics he’d get up to.
“Good clean liv’in my man,” he grinned practically dancing in place. Ian couldn’t help but grin in return. His brother had boundless energy and was an eternal optimist. Ian was the only person who knew that beneath the happy-go-lucky exterior that Matt presented to everyone hid a scared insecure kid who still had nightmares about the night their Uncle Robert was killed. He died in front of them in their Aunt’s arms. There was nothing the paramedics could do when they arrived. Ian knew that night haunted Matty and there wasn’t a time Matt didn’t blame himself for what happened. He’d wake up in the middle of the night crying and at times he would mumble in his sleep that he was sorry. He believed if he hadn’t tried to get to Ian then Patricia wouldn’t have been startled into shooting. Ian would do anything to change what happened to rid those thoughts from his super sensitive younger brother.
“Well look who we have here,” a familiar voice from behind said.
“Malcolm leave us alone,” Ian said squeezing Matt’s shoulder as he turned to face the school bully.
Standing in the boys path Malcolm smiled “you interfered with my fun. It’s pay back time.” The older boy grabbed Ian forcing him against the locker.
“Leave my brother alone,” Matt yelled trying to pull Malcolm off Ian.
Calling over his shoulder Malcolm said “someone get the gay boy off me.” Several of his minions grabbed Matt and pulled him from behind.
“Just because he likes to dance doesn’t mean he’s gay,” Ian struggled to break free from Malcolm’s grip around his neck.
Malcolm squeezed tighter cutting off his air flow. A nasty smile spread across his face as he listened to Ian gasp for air. Without turning he commanded “teach the gay boy a lesson.”
Helpless to assist his brother Ian increased his struggles as he watched as two boys knocked Matt down and someone sat on top of him punching his face. His vision began to blur and darken as he began to lose consciousness from lack of air.
“Hey what’s going on here?” a female voice asked
Stepping away from Ian and releasing him Malcolm grinned his best charming smile “well if it isn’t the Barbie twins.”
Stephanie rolled her eyes as Jasmine went to check on Ian who had slumped to the floor. Inspecting the red swollen welts around his neck. Jasmine then went to check on Matt who had a bloody nose and the beginnings of two black eyes. Helping Matt up and over to where Ian leaned against the lockers. Jasmine asked “are you hurt anywhere else?” Shaking their heads they continued to sit where she had put them too drained to do anything else.
Standing up Jasmine narrowed her eyes at the senior “why don’t you pick on someone your own size.”
“Now where’s the fun in that Barbie girl?” he smiled at her as he tried to put his arm around her.
“Oh I don’t know maybe the pleasure of seeing you get what you deserve,” Stephanie said from behind him.
“Hey now is that anyway to talk to your man?” Malcolm’s eyes narrowed as he looked at her.
“What man?” Stephanie retorted “all I see is an overgrown boy.” Turning to the others “Come on guys let’s blow this pop stand.” The boys stood up with assistance from Jasmine.
“Come on Barbie girl let’s go some place and party,” Malcolm said grabbing for Stephanie’s arm.
Whipping around she kneed him in the groin “how lame can you get? I wouldn’t go anywhere with you creep.” Her comment had a few of his gang smothering giggles.
Holding himself Malcolm screamed after her “you’ll regret this.”
“What’s the matter Mal?” Stephanie asked “I thought you’d be used to the pain by now. Don’t all your dates end this way? Sooner or later that things just gonna fall off.” She laughed as he snarled at her. Turning she followed her siblings out the door.
As the boys walked inside the house and Aimee saw the state they were in she flew from the sofa exclaiming “OMG what happened?” She gingerly inspected Matt’s bruised face and the welts around Ian’s throat. “Who did this?” she demanded.
Ian jerked away from her touch wishing this day was over. He knew their problems with Malcolm had just begun. “It’s nothing,” he mumbled his voice hoarse and his throat sore.
Staring at her son in disbelief “this isn’t nothing,” she said her voice rising.
Hearing the commotion Gene came downstairs. Observing Aimee’s distress and the embarrassed looks of his boys he interceded “looks like the boys have been fighting.”
Waving her hands in the air Aimee glared at Gene “that’s pretty obvious. I want to know why.” She reached out to touch Matt’s face. He stepped backwards shooting his dad a pleading look.
“Aimee you’re embarrassing the boy,” Gene said his tone stern. He put a gentle hand on her shoulder as he kissed her cheek “I’ll talk to them. The last thing they want right now is to have their mother babying them.”
She looked into his eyes nodding. It was hard to accept that her babies were growing up and no longer wanted her kissing their bumps and bruises. “Ok you win,” turning to the boys she added “I don’t want my boys fighting.”
Gene and the boys watched her walk away before turning to each other. Ian eyed his father for a moment before volunteering “it wasn’t our fault.”
“I didn’t say it was,” Gene said keeping his voice flat and void of accusation. “Boys I understand there will be times when you need to fight to defend yourselves or someone else. But if your just picking fights for the fun of it then something’s wrong. I know you well enough to know that you’re not like that. So help me understand what’s going on.”
“Malcolm started it,” Matt muttered looking at his feet “he set his goons on me….”
Gene’s jaw clenched. He should have known that boy was involved. “Why?” he asked.
Ian looked at Matt’s downcast face before answering “Malcolm was upset with me because I interrupted his harassment of a girl. I guess I spoiled their fun,” he shrugged.
Gene leaned to one side taking the weight off his bad ankle “is the girl alright?” he asked in concern.
Nodding Ian said “she’s fine. At least she was the last time I saw her. I think she turned Malcolm down because he kept calling her a frigid bitch.” Ian smiled as he recalled the scent of her hair, it reminded him of a field of lavender. The soft silky feel of her skin as he held her hand in his. The sadness in her eyes…
Gene smiled at his son recognizing the signs that his son liked this girl “Ian I’m proud of you for standing up for this girl. I’m sure she appreciated your help.”
Frowning Ian looked up with a confused look “I don’t think so. I mean at first she was then she seemed to get mad at me.”
Chuckling a little Gene said “next time you see her don’t smother her with concern. You’ll probably get a different reaction.”
Curious Ian asked “how do you know?”
Shrugging Gene said “I don’t but if she’s the independent type she’s probably uncomfortable with a lot of focus on her. Ian don’t take this the wrong way but you’re a lot like your mother. It took me a while to get used to it so trust me this girl may need a little space.”
Smiling Ian could see Celia might be a little uncomfortable with attention. She definitely didn’t like him hovering over her. He’ll try to give her a little space the next time he saw her and he was going to see her again. He had to get to know her.
Crossing his arms Gene asked “so how do we get to Matt getting beat up from you rescuing the girl?” He noticed the color deepen on Matt’s face “let me guess Malcolm was calling you gay again?” Anger deepened his voice as he spoke. He really didn’t like that kid.
Nodding Matt blinked back tears “I’m not, I promise I’m not….”
“Matty I don’t care whether you are or not. It doesn’t give Malcolm the right to beat on you just because he doesn’t like who you are.” Turning to Ian “how did that happen?” Gene asked gesturing towards the ugly red swollen welts around his throat.
Ian brought his fingers up to inspect his throat, grimacing as his touch caused him pain. “I tried to get away from Malcolm to help Matt but he pinned me against the lockers.”
Gene walked over to inspect the damage “looks like he tried to strangle you.” His voice vibrated with repressed rage “what made him stop?”
Both boys turned to look at each other before saying “the girls interrupted him.”
“They were there,” Gene’s jaw clinched.
“Yeah they came looking for us when we didn’t meet them at the car,” Matt told him “you should have seen them dad,” Matt’s voice was full of pride for his sisters.
“They really handled themselves well dad” Ian added “Steph had Malcolm rolling on the floor.”
Gene smiled as he absorbed the information “you do realize that Malcolm will be looking for ways to get even with you?”
“I know dad,” Ian said sobering at the thought. “He’s not going to like that a girl got the better of him and his gang saw it.”
“I’ll have to inform the school of what happened,” Gene sighed watching the boys “we could always try private school….”
Matt lifted his head brightening at the thought. Malcolm scared him even when he wasn’t Malcolm’s target. Now things were worse than ever before. He looked over at Ian who was shaking his head “I don’t want to go unless Ian does.”
“If it get’s worse I’ll consider it,” Ian said. How could he tell Matty that he was willing to get beat up to see Celia again? A girl he had never spoken to until today. He didn’t know why but he felt drawn to her. Maybe this is what they meant by love at first sight?
“Ok keep me informed of things,” Gene told them. As the boys walked away Gene sighed. He knew he’d be able to gauge how things were going by the bruises they came home with. Looking towards the stairs he wondered how he was going to explain this to Aimee without her going berserk in trying to protect the boys.
Later that night Ian was awakened by the faint cries of his brother. Getting up Ian made his way over to his brother “Matty?” he whispered. Matt stirred in his sleep moaning softly. Scooting into bed Ian held his younger brother until he calmed and was sleeping peacefully. Ian knew the days events were too much for Matt to handle. Holding his brother Ian wondered if he had made the right decision. Maybe he should have agreed to go to private school for his brother’s sake. Was he being selfish in wanting to get to know Celia? He had only talked to her once, was that enough to put his brother at risk? Maybe he should tell his dad he had changed his mind. Matty couldn’t function without him. Sighing Ian knew that one day Matt would have to but did he have the right to force him into things he couldn’t handle? Was a girl a good enough reason? His brain told him no but his heart told him yes. He wondered which one was right.