In honor of next week’s release of the Deep Secrets and Hope bundle from Harmony Ink Press, here’s the first couple pages of the short story that started the whole thing. Some of this made it into the novel version of Nail Polish and Feathers.
I was hiding in the library again. I didn’t have much choice. It was the only place Jim Frankel and his goon squad wouldn’t find me and beat the crap out of me for being a “fag boy.”
I hadn’t even done anything to them this time. I’d just been walking down the hall on my way to chemistry class. Okay, so I’d been wearing blue nail polish at the time, but that wasn’t a big deal. Some of the goth guys at school wore black nail polish, and they didn’t usually get beaten up for it. Then again, some of the goth guys were kind of scary, and they all stuck up for each other. I wouldn’t have wanted to mess with them either.
So I’d been walking down the hall with my blue nail polish and my zillion-pound backpack, and Frankel had backed up from his locker. Right in front of me, like a giant tractor trailer. Or maybe a dump truck. He didn’t look behind him or anything. Then again, he didn’t have to. He was one of the popular guys, and everyone else was supposed to stay out of his way and stop if he was moving. Like I had time to stop. I tried. Believe me, I tried. The last thing I wanted to do was plow into him. But that’s exactly what ended up happening.
I got the worst of it, since he was about twice my weight. I bounced off him and staggered backward, propelled by the brick wall of Frankel and the many tons of books on my back. The only thing that kept me from falling flat on my back was that one of his goons was right behind me. So I fell against the goon instead. He shoved me forward, and I pinwheeled my arms trying to keep from crashing into Frankel again. Somehow I managed to catch myself.
“You goddamn fag!” Frankel shouted. “Watch where the hell you’re going!”
I straightened myself up just in time for him to shove me right back against his goon buddy. The buddy smacked my backpack and shoved me against the lockers. I looked around, but if anyone else in the hall had noticed the gay kid getting the snot knocked out of him, they didn’t seem too inclined to do anything about it. Not even the teacher standing two doors down.
“I’m sorry,” I said, trying not to sound like a whimpering baby. “I didn’t see you.”
“Then open your frigging eyes, you freak.” He spotted my nails. “Is that nail polish, queer boy? You’re wearing frigging nail polish?”
I straightened up again. If no one else was going to stick up for me, I would just have to do it myself. “Yeah. Pretty color, don’t you think? It matches my eyes.”
I should have known better. Keeping my mouth shut was always a better bet than mouthing off to dipwits like Frankel. He grabbed one of my backpack straps and yanked me toward him, so close I smelled the stale tuna casserole from lunch on his breath. I gagged and barely managed to keep from puking all over the guy. “You’d better stay the hell away from me,” he snarled.
My temper snapped, and my mouth got ahead of my brain again. “That’s kind of hard to do when you’re holding me so close, sweetie.”
He let go of my strap and roared. Like a freaking lion. Teeth and all. I slid between him and goon #2, hoping for a quick getaway. At least a temporary one. They would find me again, but maybe by then their Neanderthal brains would have forgotten why they were pissed off at me. Frankel’s buddy tried to grab me from behind, but I shook free and ran.
They thundered after me. A freaking goon stampede. Half the kids in the hall turned to watch us run past. None of them did anything about it, of course. Why would they bother trying to help the gayest kid in school? They just watched. A couple of teachers did the same thing, and I spared a second from my bid for survival to be pissed off at them. Bullying was supposed to be against the law, and teachers were supposed to do something about it when they saw it. There was no way in hell they weren’t seeing me getting chased up the hall, but they were just standing there like nothing was going on.
I rounded a corner and almost plowed into another teacher. She yelled something at me, but I didn’t even hear her. I just kept running. She kept yelling behind me, and I hoped she’d managed to stop Frankel and Goony. Even if she just slowed them down a little, I’d have a chance to hide out somewhere until I trickled out of their so-called thoughts. A few minutes would probably be long enough for me to be safe.
At least, I hoped so. I already had three tardies to my Spanish class, and Senor Mankowski was jonesing to give me detention. The fact that I was always late right after lunch because jerkwads like Frankel were always on my case didn’t seem to matter. If I was late, I was bad.
Stupid teachers really didn’t have a clue.