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The screams bombarded me from every direction. The sounds were muffled, my senses hardly comprehending the gruesome scene unfolding before me.
Angie made her rounds after school through the hallway, smiling at everyone as she walked by. “John, hey! Sam, you look so cute today! Tell Mr. Walker I’ll be there in five minutes.” Angie walked with a pride that others envied. Her blonde hair sprung from the top of her backpack as if to dance with joy. Her eyes twinkled with an angelic, shy blue when she saw her closest friend, John.
“Hey where ya headed?” John questioned Angie as he turned to walk her direction. John was always concerned with Angie. She was sweet, innocent, and fragile. He felt the need to protect her, as did many who surrounded her. Her small frame barely compared to his basketball-star height and her pale skin faded against his sun kissed hands.
“Oh, sweet. So you’re having trouble in a class? You need help? What class?”
“No, not tutoring for me,” Angie chuckled, “I am going to tutor other kids.”
“Oh, really? I heard that group was a little…special”
“John, they’re just people that need a little boost with some classes. I’m sure there are times you need help too, right?”
“Well, yea, but I mean…” John cut off mid sentence, sensing defensiveness in Angie’s expression. “Just be careful, alright?”
“John, it’s tutoring. It’s not war.”
“After school. A pretty girl like you. Working with those kids. It doesn’t have to be war, Angie, it just doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
“I have been blessed with the knowledge that they need. Why wouldn’t I try to help them in every way possible?”
“Fine, help them, but buy pepper spray,” John suggested, only halfway joking.
“Yea okay John.”
John stopped in the hallway, blocking Angie’s path and put his hands on her shoulders in a friendly yet firm way. “Call me when you are on your way home.”
“John, I wish you wouldn’t…”
“Angie,” John started.
“Okay. I’ll call you,” Angie agreed in exasperation, but not disregarding his urgency. “You know I do this every week, right? It’s really no big deal. Nothing has ever happened.” Angie added as John made his way down the hallway.
“Call me,” John shouted over his shoulder.
Angie started again down the hallway toward Mr. Walker’s class. The art teacher had been her favorite in her four years at Edgebrook High. He challenged her thinking and helped her expand her horizons.
“Angie, hey,” Mr. Walker greeted as he prepared the exercise for tutoring.
Angie set her backpack down on the nearest table, ready to get started. “Hey, Sam. Hey, Mr. Walker. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Can you pull those chairs over here?”
Mr. Walker had always done things differently. His ways of getting the students’ minds ready for tutoring had been something that the school tried to do away with, but concluded that his methods were working. His unique outlook put some on edge, but Angie had faith that he would always do what was right for the students, so she never questioned him. Well, she never questioned him out loud. At times she had her doubts. Following the example of someone so adventurous was trying at times. He had taken on the students that no one wanted to deal with; the students that teachers had given up on and wanted simply to pass through high school without a disruption.
“Sam, start pulling people in from the hallway. It’s go time,” Mr. Walker said with pride in the setup of the room. His comforting brown eyes allowed all who glanced upon them to feel the same joy. This week was supposed to be special. He was going to have the students stand in a circle and tell one life lesson they had learned. It was going to be a breakthrough for some of the kids, especially Patrick. Patrick had been the product of a foster family gone wrong and Mr. Walker took it upon himself to pull him out of the shell that had grown so thick. He knew that hiding behind the shaky exterior were the buds of beauty. He was always watching with his ebony figure shrinking toward the back of the room.
“Alright let’s take roll,” Mr. Walker said after everyone was seated as he clapped and rubbed his aching hands together. “Ben Abbot?”
“Here, Mr. Walker.”
Mr. Walker made his name through the list until he got to Patrick Wallace. He felt defeat wash over him as he repeated the name twice with no answers. He had worked so hard to get Patrick this far and he couldn’t afford a no show.
“Alright, then, lets begin.”
As the door slammed open I felt a jolt of pain enter my mind. It was as if I knew what was going to happen. My stomach turned when I saw Patrick standing in the doorway with a gun in hand. I wanted to scream out like all the others. I wanted to scatter with them but I couldn’t. The gun was pointed at me and I froze in time like kite stuck in a tree. Why? I kept asking myself over and over if I had done something to him. Had I said something? Was there anything I could have done differently? With the crack of the bullet exiting the gun, my body jerked. Silence filled the room. I can’t recall if it was a pure silence or if I had just not been aware of anything but directly involved me. I fell to the ground with a thud so muted that I could hardly recognize it as my own. My frantic hands searched chest that was bleeding profusely. My initial reaction was to use my hands to hold in the blood, but the pain of the situation was too much abuse for me to handle. The pool of blood made its way to my knees and for the first time I screamed out.
“NO! Somebody help! Mr. Walker! Someone call 911! Mr. Walker!”
Why? Why did he jump in front of me?