Chapter 1: Knife & Skaters

Jake Moore brushed his dirty blonde bangs out of his eyes as he pushed the double doors of his school open, feeling warm summer sunlight wash across his freckled features. As the echoes of the final bell echoed down the hallway behind him, mixing with the garbled cries and shouts of the students as they left for summer vacation, Jake somehow found it in himself to smile. It was the summer of 2006; he was officially a senior now, which meant he only had one more year of school to get through. One more year of the bullies, one more year of teacher favoritism, and most of all, one more year of Jarrett Pickering and his stupid little clan of popular skater punks. He could go home now and watch his favorite movies, read his favorite books, play his favorite games, and work on his all-important book of poems that he carried under his arm in a battered old notebook encrusted with band stickers. All he had to do was keep walking, ignore everyone near him—

"Hold up a sec, faggot," came the usual sneering voice he was so used to hearing. It was followed by a chorus of snickers and cackles. Jake closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, feeling his knuckles whitening on the books under his arm. Today was the first time he had dared to bring his poems to school with him.

"Please, just let me go Jarrett," he said, trying his best to sound halfway amiable. He really didn't want to fight; he simply wasn't a fighter. Jarrett only laughed, letting his skateboard drop to the ground as if insulted. He ran his hands through his spiked blonde hair and actually nodded in agreement, and then actually left. He was leaving.

What the hell? Is that all it took? Maybe I can—

Two hands slammed into his chest and he tumbled backwards, his arms pin wheeling for balance. He cried out as he dropped the concrete walkway, knocking the wind out of him. His notebook of poems and the rest of his schoolbooks scattered in the grass.

"Aww, I can't let you go, freak. Since your mom fucked my dad, we're like… family or something," Jarrett said, grinning at his buddies for approval. Jake stared up at the leering circle of punks, feeling the stab of hurt and anger driving right for his heart.

Your dad is the reason why my parents are divorced, asshole.

He wanted to say it, but he couldn't. He couldn't because sometimes his pills couldn't keep his anger under control, and it was just best to keep the beast caged. Not to mention Jarrett had the body of an Olympian; even when enraged, Jake doubted he could take him. He wasn't the Hulk, for Chrissake.

Jake gritted his teeth and tried to stand, eyeing his notebook. They let him get to a half stand before a foot from somewhere behind him connected with his lower back, knocking him forward at Jarrett's dirty Etnies. He cried out in pain as the aching throbs dug into his back, traveling all the way up to his shoulder blades. He grimaced, seeing nothing but Jarrett's boyishly charming smile staring down at him.

"Jarrett, I don't want to fight man," he said, not quite resorting to begging. "I haven't done anything to you. I just wanna go home, that's all."

"HA!" Jarrett said, kneeling down and touching Jake's shoulder. "No, you wanna go home and pop your pills, write your little faggot-ass poems and call your little slut girlfriend up. How is she, by the way? Does she still like to moan my name at all? Man oh man, I loved every second I spent on top of her. Almost as much as she did."

"Oooooh," said the other boys, snickering and grinding the dirty wheels of their skateboards over Jake's things. Jarrett's foot was planted firmly on his notebook.

You mother fucker.

Jake felt the blind rage surge through his system. His breaths hissed through his teeth, and he clenched his fists hard, the nails biting into his palm. He felt the pain in his back start to diminish as adrenaline flowed through his veins, and his anger pills began to fail him like they always did.

"She never touched you," he said, his voice low and dark. His words shook with anger. "She's too good for a stuck up piece of shit like you. She's the one girl you can't get, you son of a bitch."

Jarrett stuck his tongue into his cheek, half smiling, his bright blue eyes impossibly happy. Then, he said simply, "Get him."

The other kids were on him in an instant, grabbing him under the arms and yanking him to his feet. He roared and thrashed like a caught shark, kicking his legs and pumping his arms as hard as he could, swinging and lunging for anything he could. He was overcome with the scent of body odor mixed with cologne and hair gel.

Why is no one helping me, somebody please help me!

Jake felt his shoes dragging through the grass as they wrestled him around behind the edge of the school building, cool shadows falling over him as he struggled. A heavily muscled arm around his neck choked off any scream he might have produced, and it hurt to swallow the spit that was steadily diminishing. The guys shoved him into the hard bricks of the building, ripping the dangling backpack from his arm and slamming it into the ground hard.

"Take this you little fag," said one of the kids Jake didn't know, and he punched him squarely in the groin. Jake felt the pain explode in his crotch and his knees went liquid, and all he could do was drop and curl into a ball. The pain was so intense that his vision and thoughts were hazy, and in a dreamy voice the kid said, "Balls are broken anyway."

"Listen to this one, guys," Jarrett said. "'One night when God was working, his eyes were long and blue. But suddenly they brightened when he started making you. The stars sparkled like diamonds all across the velvet skies. Because they were so beautiful, God placed them in your eyes.'" The boys laughed like hyenas as Jarrett ripped the pages from the notebook, crumpling the long hours of writing and working into tiny wads of trash and throwing the tattered remnants into a crumpled heap behind him. "Absolutely pathetic," he said, grabbing a handful of Jake's shirt. He dragged him to his feet and socked him squarely in the jaw, Jake's head whipping to the left as the punch connected. He tasted blood as Jarrett shoved him back into the wall by his throat, his skinny hand sliding into his pocket. He pulled out a small, dark object.

"Now you listen to me, bitch," Jarrett said, his bright blue eyes full of hate. Jake stared right through him, his blood hot, his fury boiling. He felt a rivulet of blood crawl down his chin, and he was positively shaking with anger. The other guys saw it too, because they stepped in to help hold him to the wall.

"I'm having myself a little party tonight, since my daddy isn't gonna be around," he said, and Jake heard the snick of the object in Jarrett's hand. He knew what it was before he saw it.

Knife.

Jarrett lifted the blade to Jake's face, turning it to let the sunlight gleam on its smooth surface. The other guys licked their lips nervously, but they had to follow their leader. They held Jake even tighter as Jarrett pressed it into his throat, leaning in to whisper into his ear.

"Your little slut girlfriend is dropping my sister off after practice tonight. And you know what Jake? I'm gonna fuck her. I'm gonna fuck your girl, and if she doesn't let me, I'm gonna take it from her. I'll take it. What do you think of that?"

Jarrett smiled, and then brought his knee into Jake's crotch, hard enough to lift him from the ground. Jake's anger dulled the pain, but it was an explosive blow nevertheless. He dropped heavily to the ground, seeing nothing but the scuffed sneakers of his captors as he groaned in pain, his breaths shaking and furious. He felt defeated; but worst of all, he felt helpless. But most of all, he was scared for his precious Amanda. She was strong morally, but physically she would be easily overcome. And Jarrett would do it.

I won't let you hurt her.

"You touch her," Jake said through panting breaths, his tongue touching a raw spot on the inside of his lip, "And you're dead."

Jarrett laughed, folding the blade closed and sliding it into his pocket.

"Fair enough," he said, smiling. "At least I'll get laid first."

He dropped his skateboard to the ground and did an Ollie, the board clattering hollowly on the pavement. "What a fucking clown," he said, and with one last triumphant look over his shoulder, the group skated away. Jake slowly climbed to his feet, grimacing as the waves of pain shuddered through his body.

I have to get to her before he does.

Jake scooped up his book bag, hearing the broken parts of his CD player rattling around inside. He flipped up the pocket on the side and felt for the small plastic tube, the little container of pills he was supposed to take at lunch every day. The pills that were supposed to keep him from hurting people. The pills he wouldn't need anymore.

Jake squeezed the tube tight enough to crack the plastic, and with a roar of pure hatred he slammed it into the ground, the tiny white ovals scattering everywhere. His chest heaved with his breaths; his palms were red and bleeding from the nails digging into them. His eyes were dark, and so were his thoughts.

To be continued...