The Bullied

Chapter Two

"My first impression of Emmeline? I can't even remember. I barely know anything about her. Though thinking back, I guess I must have noticed something about her the first time I saw her but I really don't know."

"Were you attracted to her possibly? Physically or emotionally? Did it ever bother you when she didn't look at you or pay you any attention?"

"No." [Laughter] "What the hell. I just wanted her to die."

One Year Ago

I walked into my math class, slowly and carefully. Possibly the most scarring incident to one's social reputation, however small that reputation may be, is to make a bad entrance. I, sadly, speak from mortifying experience.

There had been a time, back when I was in Grade three, that still haunted me today. I had been sick during the first week of school and, despite my tantrums and whining, I had not been allowed to start together with the rest of my beloved classmates. When I did finally get better, I rushed to school ready to see everyone in my new class. As a child, I was the type that got on well with most kids. I still remember that horrible day. I had just burst into my new classroom, a little late because my dad had to speak with the office, when I slipped on a pencil near the doorframe and broke my arm. I know I had come into the class with a big smile but now all I can remember is the vivid pain I felt as I left screaming in an ambulance.

Sadly enough, after that incident I never looked forward to starting a new Grade again although my mom thinks it's an age thing. I had unfortunately frightened away many new potential friends on that day because of my screaming. Only Aya played with me during recess after that.

However, I was older now. I now knew to watch for pencils and the like. I would not screw up this time. Never again.

I safely navigated my way towards the back of the room and as luck would have it, there was a window seat right beside the back corner. I happily sat down and proceeded to pull out a fresh notebook and my pencil case from my bag. Only after I finished did I realize the room was set up so that each person would have a desk-mate. It would be so amazing if Roman had this class.

At that particular moment, Roman walked into the classroom.

I held my breath. There was no way. He wouldn't take the seat beside me. I bit my lip and wondered wildly what I would say if by chance he did sit beside me. He was in the middle of the classroom now. He seemed to be slowing down... and then he sat. I felt a tiny wave of disappointment wash over me but I tried to pathetically comfort myself. It's not just me; it's probably the seat's fault too. No one would want this seat! I mean, it's in the back corner; it's hard to see from here. Plus you can't really socialize well with other people. Not to mention you'd be last to leave the classroom. Why would anyone sit in this corner? It's definitely the-

Jace Gibbs sat down beside me.

"Hey, I hope you don't mind?" Jace smiled brightly as he lifted his bag into his lap, clearly already certain of my consent.

"Oh no! Not at all!" I said in a strangely high-pitched voice. Jace seemed to take no notice of it and continued to pull out his things.

"I think we have history together, second period. I'm Jace Gibbs," he said politely. I nodded then added in a hesitant voice.

"I know who you are, I've seen you around in Grade nine. I'm Emmeline Simmons," I looked at Jace then and he smiled.

"Yeah, I've seen you around too. Kind of weird meeting like this when I've already seen you for a year. I can't believe we have Bailey for math. I heard he's the hardest," said Jace, I looked up again and felt myself smile a little in spite of my nerves. There was something very calming about Jace; I could suddenly understand exactly why everyone found him agreeable.

Maybe this would be a good time to briefly mention but my exposure to boys in my entire life has been fairly limited. It's only gotten worse at this age. I have no brothers and my dad can't really count as a relatable kid anymore. Somehow, although not so much in kindergarten, I'd always just been more comfortable with girls. Despite all that, I could tell that Jace was different.

"That's what I heard too. I should warn you as your desk-mate that I'm fairly lousy at math." I teased, smiling as I did so. Jace grinned.

"No worries. I can help you out if you're stuck. I happen to like math." I must have made a face, though I can't be certain, because Jace laughed. I felt myself relax and suddenly a part of me was grateful that it had been Jace who sat beside me. It felt as though I would be making a good friend this year.

The teacher, Mr. Bailey, called for attention and begin distributing the course outline as was routine in every class on the first day. Jace took two and passed the rest on, smiling as he handed me my sheet.

After the sheets were passed around, Mr. Bailey cleared his throat and began to read the unnecessarily long course outline in his best monotone voice. I could instantly tell this was a class where I'd be learning the math from a textbook. Mr. Bailey was a sturdy man with grey hair and a grey beard. Personally, I thought he looked more like a gym teacher than a math teacher. He didn't seem unkind but supposedly he was strict and unfair.

The majority of the lecture passed in relative boredom. Jace and I played tic-tac-toe on Jace's course outline; I think it should be said that normally when in class, I would pay attention. However, as it was only the course outline and no actual material was being covered I decided it couldn't hurt. During the last 20 minutes of class, I leaned against my elbow and watched in mild concern as a small Asian student named Jenny Yang, passed out the heavy textbooks which threatened to overpower her small frame.

Possibly the most eventful thing that happened was our class getting interrupted. We still had a paragraph left on Behaviour and Conduct in the Classroom but at that moment, many papers on the teacher's desk fluttered around to the ground; the window by the desk was open and a stiff start-of-fall breeze was coming straight into the classroom. Mr. Bailey rushed over to shut the window which was evidently stuck open.

It was amazing really, the number of cell phones being whipped out at that exact moment our teacher had his back turned. I smiled to myself. Incidentally, I also owned a cell phone but most of the time and much to my friends' complaints, it was shut off and buried in my backpack. I briefly thought about fishing it out and texting Aya or Nanami but I decided I was too lazy to search my bag. Like our classmates, Jace took advantage of this prime opportunity and began stealthily checking his phone and so, to give him some form of privacy, I decided to look around the classroom.

I could see Roman sitting with the cool people in the center of the room. He was casually leaning back in his chair, looking unfazed and understandably, bored. I admired his relaxed attitude and casualness; personally, I had never been able to pull off that kind of look of calm attitude. In my mind, I'd ideally have liked to be someone who others saw as calm, collected, and always in control. Someone people could rely on and turn to for help. Despite my wishes, I just couldn't come off that way; instead I was either overly shy and quiet or worse, giggly and constantly cheerful. Out of my friends, Nanami sometimes had thatquality, that grace, that I always wanted but she didn't seem to know it herself.

Roman was clearly a guy who knew who he wanted to be and could be himself in a seemingly effortless way. No doubt his good lucks were a plus; a very big plus. Especially when it came to deciding his place in this school's popularity scale.

And judging by Roman's seat, news of his rising popularity had spread because he was literally in the center of everything. I took note of Roman's desk-mate, it was Karen Jacobs; the resident queen bee of our grade and Courtney Manning's on/off best friend. Courtney's "paragraph" about me in history earlier that day was still on my mind but I tried not to let it bother me; it really wasn't Courtney's fault I didn't talk as much as I should. I still didn't believe Courtney to be an unkind person; maybe a little inconsiderate, but not a bad person overall. I resolved to be more talkative around Courtney so she would see that I'm not always quiet person.

In this school, for girls in my grade and below, really, if there was anyone to be wary of, it was Karen Jacobs. She was definitely the one to watch for. Karen was blessed with good looks, lots of money, and a daddy who could fire any teacher at this school and have any student expelled. As the superintendant, Mr. Jacobs only visited the school every now and then but the sheer power of that family was something to contend with regardless. No one openly disliked Karen for that reason alone but she was not in shortage of enemies made from the countless people she had victimized in her first year.

Karen was a rumour-spreading kind of girl. Occasionally, she'd engage herself in physical battle with another girl but that was only for special occasions. The one merciful trait of Karen's was that if you stayed well below her radar, she wouldn't go out of her way to hurt you. Unlike Courtney's long straight golden blonde hair, Karen had bleached out blonde hair that was usually curled and rested slightly above her shoulders. At some point in Grade nine, both Courtney and Karen had had the same golden blonde hair, blue eyes, and a similar build so sometimes in Grade nine people had gotten them confused, much to Karen's fury. Immediately following winter break, Karen had come back with her curly bleached hair and to this day, no one has seen her original colour.

"Damn this window..." muttered Mr. Bailey. He was still attempting to close the window. By now, it seemed as though most of the class had finished with their silent cell phone checking and had started to whisper and murmur; collectively, it sounded like a low hum.

"Roman, what do you think of Jefferson Secondary so far?" Karen asked at normal volume, while shutting her cell phone. The teacher, still immersed in shutting the open window near his desk, did not hear her or chose to ignore her and the suddenly louder chattering breaking out.

"Yeah. Pretty chill so far," Roman replied with a cocky smile. Another popular guy who was on the volleyball team that I knew by name of Nathan Lester sat in front of Roman and turned in his chair.

"Dude, just wait 'til lunch next period, the food is actually legit here," said Nathan. Some other guys immediately agreed with Nathan and then proceeded to explain to Roman what the best item on the cafeteria menu was. At this point, I tuned them out to think once again about Roman. We have the same lunch...

I mentally locked away the precious information that Roman had fourth period lunch like me away in my mind. Although nothing would undoubtedly come from it, it was nice knowing we may pass each other walking in the hall during lunch. Thankfully, Nanami, Aya, and I all had the same lunch and would not be separated; this was especially good as both of them would make sure I wouldn't do anything too stupid should I ever run into Roman during lunch. Thinking about lunch, I realized with a jolt that I was feeling quite hungry. All last year I'd had lunch third period which was a good time as I was hungry but not starving by that time. Fourth period lunch really did seem a little too long to wait to eat so I was only a little startled to hear my stomach growl at that precise moment.

"Hungry?" Jace smirked as he put his phone into his pocket. I blushed a little in embarrassment and put a hand on my stomach as though trying to prevent it from making any more noise. Under the desk, I noticed Jace opening a small bag of salt and vinegar chips. I vaguely wondered when he'd gotten them out of his bag. He pushed the bag near me, offering. I shook my head, smiling a little ruefully. He shoved the bag again more forcefully and I gave in to the strong smell and overwhelming sense of hunger.

"Thanks." I took a chip from the bag and immediately popped it into my mouth.

"Don't mention it," replied Jace. Mr. Bailey called for attention as he straightened from his bent posture. He had finally gotten the window to close. I looked up towards the clock; five minutes left. He could hardly teach anything with that amount of time. Mr. Bailey seemed to be thinking along the same lines after glancing at the clock himself.

"Alright, I guess we'll end here. Don't leave until the bell rings! Also, read the rest of the handout tonight for homework." As if anyone will bother.

The class immediately began talking freely and loudly. Mr. Bailey rolled his eyes and walked over to his desk and began reassembling all the papers which had flown to the ground. I began to pack up my bag and beside me while Jace crinkled up his finished chip bag and packed his bag too.

"Jace! Dude, I didn't know you had this class!" said Nathan Lester loudly. I felt myself freeze. Nathan had just drawn the attention of the majority of the class to the back corner. I looked through my short eyelashes. Virtually every person had turned to look at who Nathan was talking to. Many people turned away afterwards, uninterested; Jenny Yang and her friends among them. Others watched on, like Karen and Roman. Karen was standing by her and Roman's desk, her large handbag at her side. Roman was still seated but his desk was clear, I made eye contact with him and felt myself hold my breath. His eyes are beautiful.

"Yeah man. Just got switched in today," said Jace. It took me a moment to realize he was replying to Nathan's comment. As soon as Jace had finished speaking, Roman's eyes had moved from me to Jace and I felt myself feel a little disheartened. Well it's not like he'd keep staring at you forever! I sighed quietly and stood up.

"I'll see you tomorrow," I murmured quietly to Jace, aware that people may still be watching. I held onto the straps of my backpack tightly and walked around the perimeter of the room.

"Oh yeah sure! See you tomorrow Emmeline!" replied Jace, loudly. Well, actually it wasn't loud at all. In fact, it was spoken at a perfectly normal volume; but it sounded loud to me. I smiled weakly back at him and walked towards the door. I stared straight at the floor as I walked; being mindful of stray pencils and bags. I carefully avoided the center of the room. Had I been a little braver and maybe looked up once in awhile I might have noticed that Roman was looking at me again. Unluckily though, my eyes stayed firmly to the ground.

The bell rang just as I reached the door. I could hear people behind me immediately getting up and rushing for the door. Relieved that class was over and that I could leave quickly, I left right behind Jenny's group and made my way to my locker. It had undoubtedly been a good day so far; I had made a new friend in Jace and, equally importantly, I so far had 3/5 periods with Roman.

Author's Note: Well, I'm happy to say I'm actually having a bit of fun writing this so far. It's kind of like a learning experience for me really. Probably right now my biggest concern is that I'm pacing this story too slowly but I'm trying to keep it as realistic as possible.

To my very first reviewer, avidreader:

I was able to get this chapter out because of you. I hope you'll read this one too. I'm definitely going to be playing around with the timing of this story. I hope the pace isn't too slow! Thank you so much for your review!