|Photograph by darkpatator|
This is a flashback of the day Tom defended Ruby against Griffin, the boy who attacked her during her stay at a juvenile detention center.
Dresden Heights Detention Center – Ten Years Ago
The teacher, old Mrs. Hardwick, stopped mid-sentence when everyone’s head whipped left to the open windows on the side of the Biology class.
“Griffin!” Tom’s angry scream ripped through me. I scrambled out of my desk and ran to see outside.
My movement spurned the rest of the class, and everyone rushed the windows. They jostled and pushed around me while I struggled to see down into the grassy field. Someone knocked off the purple bandana wrapped around my ruined hair.
Panic shot through me as I watched Tom run toward Griffin, his fist cocked back. I banged on the window. “Tom, no!”
Too late, Griffin spun, meeting Tom with a tackle. They flew sideways onto the grass, twisting and hitting each other in a vicious, squirming knot.
The students around me shouted and hollered in unison. “Fight, fight, fight!”
I turned on my heels and ran for the door of the classroom, but Mrs. Hardwick blocked my path. Her arms across the door, she shook her head, face flushed.
“Stay here, Ruby,” she said and yelped a little when I ducked under her arms and ran out of the room.
I raced down the hall, terrified for Tom. Griffin, a foot taller and twenty pounds heavier, wouldn’t stop hitting until someone pulled him off of Tom. I’d seen him pummel a boy last month over a brownie. The kid transferred to a medical facility to recover. More shouting from outside hit me as I pushed through the swinging doors. A crowd of kids encircled Tom and Griffin, chanting Tom’s name over and over again.
Confused, I writhed in between two yelling girls.
Tom bobbed around the inside of the circle, his arms up like a boxer. He pulled Griffin around with him like they were magnetized. The bigger boy swung and missed as Tom ducked and came up with an uppercut to Griffin’s chin, then bounced out of reach again. Griffin’s pulled his mouth into a bloody grimace and swung. He missed again.
“Is this why you pick on girls, Griffin?” Tom shouted.
He reached out and slapped Griffin on the cheek, the loud smack resounding through the throng of onlookers. The students, some still chanting Tom’s name, started laughing and pointing. Griffin’s eyes slid over them, his face growing crimson. He swung at Tom again, and missed again.
Tom, a smile on his face, locked eyes with me and his face fell. His eyes wandered to my exposed hair and I brought my hands up, embarrassed. Distracted, he didn’t move in time to dodge Griffin. A crushing blow threw Tom down onto the grass. He scrambled to his feet, anger flashing across his features. His fist sprang back, ready to punch, no longer playing. Blood trickled down from a gash near his eye, my stomach lurched.
“Stop this,” I screamed. “Just stop!”
Griffin, panting and sweating, grabbed at Tom’s shirt. Tom twisted, ramming an elbow into Griffin’s face as he yanked away. Griffin stumbled to his knees, the crowd of kids screamed louder, shouting for Tom to kick him.
Tom looked down at Griffin, wiped the blood from his eyes, and looked at his hand. He seemed surprised to see that he was bleeding.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Beau dive into the crowd. The enormous security guard batted the teenagers aside like they were nothing, his eyes on Tom.
“Watch out,” I shouted, but I was too late.
Beau launched himself at Tom, taking him to the grass in a beige streak of uniform and pasty skin. The crowd scattered, including Griffin. I stood on the field, my stomach twisting as Beau flipped Tom onto his stomach and pulled his arms back, cuffing him with plastic ties. Another guard chased after Griffin.
“Is this about you?” Beau growled at me.
I shook my head and wrung my hands together, unable to speak through the lump in my throat.
“Leave her alone,” Tom grunted. His face half obscured by the soft dirt and tattered grass. “Look at her hair. Griffin did that!”
Self conscious of the stares swinging my way, I smoothed the bandana back down over my forehead. My fingers brushed my scar and my face burned red.
“She couldn’t prove it,” Beau shot back and pulled Tom to his feet. “You have no right to take this into your own hands, boy.”
“Oh yeah, who else woulda done something about it?” Tom shouted back, his pale eyes furious. “Who cares what happens to the throw-aways, right?”
I stood frozen in the grass, cold despite the sun beating down on me. I watched Beau lead Tom away, my heart squeezing with fear. Tom’s attack on Griffin would only make things worse. I knew in my bones that this wasn’t over.
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