We’re two months into the school year at Rawlings Middle School. The second bell rang 10 minutes ago meaning school started. They just finished the morning announcements. I’m in 8th grade and my name is Dean Oxford. Right now I’m in Social Studies. One of our Leadership students named Josi- she has long brown hair that stops at her hips, with pale skin, freckles, and light green eyes-walks in with a girl following behind her.
“Hello Josi. How may I help you?”, asks Mrs.Daniels, standing in front of her desk.
Mrs. Daniels has short black hair with light tan skin and bright blue eyes.
“I have a new student and I thought I’d introduce her before she joins you”, replies Josi.
“Go ahead”, motions Mrs.Daniels.
“Hi everyone. This is Anastasia Dellaria. She just moved here from Utah and has been homeschooled for her whole life. I hope you treat her nicely”, says Josi, nodding to the girl.
I look up at Anastasia. She has long blonde hair that stops at the bottom of her ribs, with pale skin, a few freckles, and big-beautiful-icy blue eyes. She’s not as tall as Josi, but she’s still really pretty. She looks up at me then quickly looks away. I guess she’s shy.
“Nice to meet you Anastasia. Thank you Josi”, says Mrs.Daniels.
“You’re welcome. Bye Anastasia”, then Josi walks out of the room.
“Go ahead and take a seat next to Saleena. Saleena, please raise your hand”, says Mrs.Daniels.
Saleena raises her hand. She has bangs that cover her eyes and are pure white, while the rest of her hair is light brown and a few inches past her shoulders. Her skin is a light tan. Anastasia sits next to her. They’re just a few seats ahead of me.
Anastasia has a few other classes with me-Language Arts, Art, and choir-but she never talks, unless the teacher calls on her. She sings beautifully in choir. when she reads her stories in front of the class in Language Arts, her voice is gentle, soft, and quiet. She’s really good at writing. I wish we would just get a chance to talk.
One day, my friends-Andre and Leo-and I are at my locker when we see Anastasia just opening hers. Then Josh and his friends walk up. Josh has short, curly brown hair with light tan skin and brown eyes. His friend Jack has three-inch long blonde hair, with pale skin and gray eyes. His other friend Chase, has short black hair with light tan skin and green eyes. Then his last friend Briadhe, has a shaved head, with tan skin and hazel eyes. They immediately start messing with her. Call her names, push her around, and laugh at her. I start to walk towards her, when Andre and Leo pull me back.
“Are you crazy?!”, whispers Andre, holding my shoulder.
Andre has three-inch long black hair, with tan skin and light gray eyes. He’s about the same height as Josi, so he’s up to my eyes.
“Someone has to save her”, I whisper.
Andre lets go and Leo grabs my wrist. Leo, has short hazel colored hair, with light tan skin and black eyes.
“Do you not remember what he did to you?!”, Leo whispers.
I ignore him and come out from behind my locker door, closing it, and stand between Anastasia and Josh. I “accidently” stepped on Josh’s foot.
“Dude seriously?!”, he yells as he picks up his foot and holds it.
“Oh I’m so, so, sorry...I-I’m-”
Then I punch him in the face, knocking him out.
“Sorry I had to do that”, I finish, staring at Josh’s body lying on the floor.
I knock out Jack, Chase and Briadhe, before they even touch me. Then I grab Anastasia and pull her outside, to a corner where we meet Andre and Leo.
“Was it really necessary to knock them out?”, asks Leo.
“What would you have done?”, I snap.
“Probably the same now that I think of it”, Leo says quietly.
I roll my eyes and look at Anastasia, letting go of her wrist. I just realized that I was holding her wrist, and try not to blush.
“Thanks”, she says.
“Ya”, I reply, remembering how beautiful she is.
Then she looks me up and down. First, noticing that I’m like a foot taller than her. Then looking at my two-and a half-inch long brown hair. Next, looking at my light tan skin, stick out ears, full lips and light brown eyes.
“Let me guess,”, I say. “I look like Tobias from Divergent”
She laughs-what a beautiful laugh and smile. “Only because you’re wearing all black”
“Right, that’s why”, Andre rolls his eyes.
“What’s your name?”, asks Anastasia, ignoring him.
“Dean”, I reply, standing up straighter.
“Anastasia, I know”
I smile. She smiles more.
I look down at the ground, losing my smile. “Most people would think that the least popular kids were the only targets, but being popular can just increase the chances of becoming a victim”, I say, changing the subject.
“Why’d you save me?”, Anastasia asks.
I stuff my hands in my pockets. “Bullied kids can suffer from feelings of sadness, increased worries and thoughts of suicide...I don’t want that to happen to you”, I answer.
I look up at her, then look back down once Andre starts talking.
“Josh, the kid that bullied you...also bullied Dean”, says Andre.
“One time, they fought and Josh put Dean in the hospital for a few days”, Leo adds.
“A couple of years ago, a boy complained to one of his teachers about being bullied and was ignored...I was that kid”, I close my eyes, and picture the memory as it comes out my mouth.
“Well if the mentor is aiming to move up the social ladder, targeting the popular kids makes sense”, Anastasia informs.
I open my eyes and look up at her again. She looks at me with pity in her eyes. Then I stand up straighter again, not taking my eyes off her. “Clearly it’s not normal, and things have changed and the issue is becoming more visible and central in public discussions. Schools should at least be a protective space for students”
Anastasia nods her in agreement. I take my hands out of my pockets and look at the doors of the school, while putting my hand between her shoulder blades.
“Let’s go back to class”, I say.
No one argues. We all walk back inside and hurry into the hallways, blending in with the crowd, so Josh and his jerk friends can’t find us.