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I slammed him against the lockers and the bang echoed. He grunted but didn’t fight back- I didn’t think he would. Coward. I put my hands on his shoulders and pushed, pinning him.
Gage glanced around desperately, like he was hoping someone would help him. It was forty minutes after school got out- there was, of course, nobody around. And who would want to help someone like him? He looked up at me- I’m about two inches taller, exactly as strong, and have a whole lot more attitude than him- and I saw something in his eyes. It was fear.
“What’s the matter?” I hissed. “Are you afraid of me?”
The answer was clearly yes, which was good. I wasn’t going to hurt him badly- just give him the worst scare he’s probably ever had.
“Did it ever occur to you,” I snarled, getting up a little closer to his pierced nose and blue mohawk, “that maybe other people can feel the exact same way as you? That maybe Emma was just this terrified? That maybe Nick was this scared of you? Did you ever think how much it hurt when you beat up Alex? And did you even consider the consequences when you absolutely humiliated Justin?”
His eyes flicked away from my face. “I- I didn’t mean…”
“Oh, you didn’t mean to? That must make it all okay!” I squeezed his shoulders and looked him in the eye. “It was stupid to mess with my brother, Gage. It was stupid to mess with anyone, but especially Justin. Listen very carefully.”
Like he had a choice. He darted a look at me and I held his gaze until he glanced away.
“I don’t want you ever to come near my brother again. I don’t want you to ever treat anyone else like that ever again. No more pushing, shoving, tripping, mocking, stealing, spitting, humiliating, hitting, ‘accidentally’ spilling stuff, or generally making people miserable because you think it’s funny. You nothing but a bully who can’t deal with anyone in your own grade. It’s going to stop, and it’s going to stop now. If I ever hear about you hurting anyone ever again, I’m going to make you wish you’d never laid eyes on anyone in this school. Do you understand?”
He started to nod, frantically, but then his eyes widened as he glanced at something to the side. I followed his gaze- and there was Justin, standing there, watching me deal with Gage.
“What are you doing?”
I let off some of the pressure on Gage’s shoulders. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m teaching Gage how he should treat others. Especially you.”
My little brother looked up at me nervously. “I- I didn’t ask you to.”
Afraid Gage would retaliate later? “No,” I admitted, “but it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on. The lunchroom incident was pretty obvious.”
An idea struck me- I pulled Gage off the lockers and spun him around to face Justin, keeping a firm grip on his hands behind his back. “I want an apology. Now.”
He hesitated. I yanked one of his arms upward, just to the point where I made my intention clear but before I started hurting him. “Apologize.”
“I’m sorry,” he blurted, not looking my brother in the face. Justin watched carefully.
“And?” I pressed.
“And… I- I won’t do it again.”
“You’ll leave him alone,” I snapped, and gave Gage a final shove. He tumbled onto the floor and I stepped over him. “Come on, Justin. Let’s go home.”
He trotted nervously after me as we went down the hall, leaving Gage sprawled on the tiles and scared to move. “Justin,” I said when we were out of earshot, “next time something like this happens I want you to tell me. No more of this ‘suffering in silence’ crap. Besides, odds are you’re not the only victim.”
“Okay,” he said, as I opened the door and stepped into the March afternoon. We headed towards my car in the parking lot. “Katie?”
I glanced at him- he had a slight smile. “Yeah?”