The following is an excerpt from Chapter 20: Three Days and Four Nights (Part Two). Click here to read the chapter in its entirety for just $0.99
Chapter 20: Three Days and Four Nights (Part Two)
Ruth’s phone buzzed as they entered the St. Bart’s parking lot. “It’s CC. I’ll put it on speaker,” she informed Beth after glancing at the screen and answered, “Hello.”
“Are you guys in here yet?”
“We’re just pulling up, why?” Ruth asked.
“Swanson is back, but Hugh can’t come until after first period,” CC said.
“He’s coming at all? I thought that they messed him up pretty good?” she asked while looking at Beth who responded with a simple shake of the head and shrug of the shoulders.
“They did, but if he doesn’t go to three of the classes then he can’t play today, and he’s supposed to pitch. So he’ll be here, but right now we’re just trying to make sure that you all get to your classes all right, so don’t go walking in until we all meet up. All right?”
“Well, we’re here, so what do you want us to do?” Ruth asked.
“Just wait in the car, and we’ll come walk you in.”
“What’s going on?” Beth asked as Ruth hung up, “This seems almost exactly like my idea last night, you know, except CC isn’t from the Ukraine.”
“I don’t know. But he doesn’t want us walking in without supervision. Last week I would have tried to make a joke. Today, I might pay for his lunch,” Ruth mused.
They had no other conversation while waiting in the car. Each girl stared out her window as different students walked with great exaggeration while shouting enthusiastic greetings to one another. “I’m serious,” Beth thought, “None of these clowns were this excited to come to school before this week.” She began clicking her fingernails together while shaking her foot up and down. “Here they come,” Beth pointed out and they emerged from Ruth’s BMW as CC, Swanson and Gwenn approached. “What’s going on in there?” she asked as they both stood outside of Ruth’s car.
“I don’t know, and I’m hoping that if we just mind our business and get to class that nothing will go on in there. So let’s just walk and hustle and get through this, all right?”
No other words were exchanged as the five moved quickly through the parked cars, and across the lot. Many people known to be associated with different gangs were waiting outside each door, though they were allowing one and all to pass through without disruption. The five remained silent as they made way up the sidewalk toward a door through which Mikey Johnderson emerged. He paused, put his hands on his hips and as Gwenn approached he said, “I remember these soooo well,” and he grabbed both of her breasts with both of his hands.
For the third time in as many days Costa went blind with rage. With his left hand he took Johnderson by the throat and with his right he struck him repeatedly in the face. It all had happened so quickly that each of Costa’s friends stood in a paralyzed stupor. And as had happened the previous day the many allies that would have been for his opponent were frozen with surprise. After a moment it wore off as three guys began hitting and kicking Costa who, after recognizing the assault released Mikey and turned his attention to the other three while grunting an order of, “GO!” to the four others.
“You better go!” one of the girls shouted as Swanson spread his arms to encompass the three girls and hurried them inside.
“What about CC?” Gwenn asked as tears approached.
“I think he’ll be all right,” Swanson speculated, “Who’s class is closest?”
“Whose class is closest? Who cares!” Beth bellowed through thick emotion. “Why don’t we just get out of here? Let’s go home and leave these people to themselves?”
“I don’t know,” Swanson said as he hurried toward his first hour thinking that at least they all might be safe inside. “I mean, I got baseball, so… Do you want me to take you back to your car?” He asked Beth and Ruth.
“Well, there’s our class,” Ruth mentioned as they approached the pod.
“All right, hurry in,” Swanson said while pausing for a moment to make sure that they safely entered.
“Quick, get on your phone and try and find out if he’s all right,” Ruth ordered.
“What does it matter?” Beth asked, “If they don’t get it done today, then they’ll just keep going until they get…what exactly? This is all so stupid…”
The two friends messaged and checked messages, but no word came regarding their friend.
Seconds ticked by like minutes, minutes trudged on like hours as Ruth worked to remain cool throughout her first period. The bell rang and Beth said, “Let’s just wait in here and we’ll walk as far as we can together.”
They waited as the class emptied and finally Spurlock asked, “Girls, shouldn’t you be getting to your second hour?”
“Uh,” Beth stammered while looking over at Ruth. Ruth’s eyes fluttered as she started to say something. Words failed as she instinctively grabbed her books and started out.
“Let’s get to your class first,” Ruth suggested.
“What about you…?” Beth asked.
“I’ll be fine,” Ruth said with such conviction that she believed it herself. “Did you ever get any word from Costa?” she asked. Beth shook her head. The two girls kept their head down and motored toward Beth’s classroom while working hard to keep any imagined or uttered threats in their imagination’s periphery. When they reached Beth’s class without incident she quickly glanced at Beth and apprehensively said, “All right, see you back in Spurlock’s class.”
She likewise made it to her second hour without incident, but the class was nowhere near as smooth as the first. Passersby would slink past the open doors and let out a long high-pitched chirp as they passed the gape into the classroom. As their noises continued Ruth’s head swung back toward the door with greater violence. As her class realized the anxiety she felt as a result of the torment they laughed at her discomfort until finally the chirping seemed to start coming from inside the classroom. “Huh,” Ms. Sanchez mused, “I guess there’s crickets out there, or something,” he tried to joke while completely oblivious to the pain being caused one of those in his care.
When only moments remained in the period Ruth felt the strain take its toll and she asked, “May I go use the bathroom,” in such a sudden manner that it surprised everyone, even those who had been making her the butt of jokes in the class.
“Uh, no…there’s only three minutes of class time left. I think that you could probably wait until the bell rings,” Sanchez said in continued oblivion.
The issue was not whether or not Ruth was able to wait until class was over. Rather, she was not confident in her ability to withstand whatever menace she perceived was waiting for her in the halls after class was over. The feeling that one and all were looking at and plotting against her propelled her from her seat as she frantically stuffed her belongings into her bag and quickly made a path toward the door.
“Ruth!” Sanchez called, “You can’t just leave, Ruth!” but the calls went ignored as she bolted from the class and hurried toward Spurlock’s room.
Each hall had the sound and feel of having more than the customary number of students considering class was supposed to be in session. But Ruth had no idea of exactly how many students were truant and filling those halls. Her head never looked up. She walked briskly and with the sole purpose of arriving at Spurlock’s classroom without incident. It had seemed as if she had been successful as she rounded past the final corner and just a few steps to safety into a hall that instead of the relative peace the previous halls had offered met her arrival with a crescendo of celebration from lofty numbers.
“Whoa!” yelled a muffled and overly-nasal voice, “Why don’t we let this one through? Huh?”
The crowd booed. The reaction was so bizarre Ruth forced herself to look up for the first time since skipping the final moments of her previous class. No fewer than 50 people, mostly boys, were gathered in the pod with Cholo Rodriguez and Mikey Johnderson at their center. Johnderson had been leading the cheers and approached Ruth as she slowed. “Ahhh!” he said to the crowd while looking at Ruth and motioning up and down with his hands, “She looks pretty scared. The big thing is…she probably…should…be.”
A deafening hoot erupted from the crowd save for Cholo and Mikey how silently nodded their approval. Ruth stood still looking down and away. Her strategy was directed in part from emotion, but she also worried of offending the two lead thugs as their wounded faces bore the evidence of unsuccessful fisticuffs made frustrated by some of her closest friends. She could feel tears approaching, yet wanted nothing more than to abstain from crying in front of her tormentors. Johnderson eventually stood aside and allowed her to pass. Rodriguez walked backwards to wait for her with his face leaned against the door.
No desks were available as Spurlock was completing his lesson. Though the class was surprised that Ruth had entered, the instructor said nothing. While she waited Ruth pulled her phone from her bag and checked messages of any variety. Her heart sank when none were new. “Come on,” she whispered aloud without realizing, “How can CC not be here, but that Mikey be right outside?”
“Oh, you want to know what up with Mikey?” a stranger in the back row asked.
“Whuh…what?” Ruth tried to ask, “I mean, I’m sorry?”
“Yeah, that’s right. See, the school knows who’s gettin’ pushed around and stuff, you know what I mean? The school knows how messed up it is that all you showed up and took it over. This is our school and we about to take…it…back.” He winked at Ruth as he completed the threat, and then subtly blew her a kiss as the bell rang.
Contact DS Palmer at email@example.com