As I walked through the halls to my English IV class, I immediately noticed something was off. For starters, half the class was gone. That wasn’t something that usually happened. I turned to a girl whose name I couldn’t remember and asked, “Where is everyone?” She stared at me uncomprehendingly for a second, her eyes almost bugging out of her head. After a few seconds she flipped her hair and started spinning it around her fingers. “I think they’re, like, outside, or something. But, by the way, I think your pink cast is really… sexy.” She smacked on her gum and winked at me, attempting to be seductive. Normally, I wouldn’t have cared – I mean, she was pretty hot – but today I just wasn’t in the mood to mess around with girls who only wanted me for the popularity status. I wanted to know where everyone was. “Yeah,” I mumbled in response, sort of blowing her off. I felt bad for it coming out like that, but not enough to apologize. I just shrugged and walked away while she stared after me. “Do you know where everyone is?” I asked one of the guys sitting at a table across the room. He smirked and I felt my stomach tense. “Between you and me,” he started, leaning closer to me, “I heard some of the guys talking about ganging up on that Shepherd girl. She called Zack Miller a pig. She had it coming, you know?” He laughed evilly and expanded the space between us, resting his back against his chair lazily. I swallowed, my throat suddenly dry. “Where are they?” “Out back, I think. Why, you ‘gonna join them?” He laughed again and stared approvingly at me. I didn’t even bother mumbling a response or telling Mr. Raker that I was leaving. I didn’t care. After everything I’d learned about Amy, I felt somewhat responsible for how bad her life really was. I didn’t say anything against the signs. I was cruel and a selfish jackass for doing that. But now I had a second chance. I rounded the corner where the door outside was slowly, trying to calm my nerves. Defending her – the freak, the outcast – would kill my reputation. I wouldn’t have been Jake Benson, the stud. I would’ve been Jake Benson, the guy who stuck up for a girl with a retarded dad. I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t care about my reputation at all. I wish I could say that I didn’t stand there watching a group of guys surround her outside while she kicked and screamed. I wish I could say that I didn’t hesitate before helping her. But I did. I watched for a good two minutes before doing something. Until I saw Zack Miller punch Amy in the stomach and face for the third or fourth time, I just stood there watching. Before I knew it, my fist had reached someone’s face. “Damn it! What the hell are you doing, Benson?!” Zack shouted, rubbing his bleeding nose. But I didn’t listen to him. Instead I ran to where Amy was lying, curled up in a ball. “Are you okay?” I yelled, praying to god that she could move. She looked dead. So I did something I never thought I would do. I defended Amy Shepherd. “I’ll kill you!” I shouted, overcome by rage and passionate hate. “If you ever do something like this again, I’ll bash your f***ing face in!” I turned back to Amy hysterically, who had woken up some since I’d last seen her. Her eyes were opening and closing quickly, looking around at everything but not seeing. While I was mentally checking her for signs of serious injuries, I felt a shin bash into my chest. I staggered backwards, having trouble breathing. Zack had forced all of the wind out of me. “That’ll teach you to mind your own damn business, Benson,” Zack said bitterly, thinking I was down for the count. But I wasn’t. Not even close. I stood up, panting ridiculously loud. It was damn near impossible to breathe. “Don’t… touch her,” I choked out. “Why?” Zack laughed, his entire group of friends joining in. “What are you ‘gonna do about it?” The breath returning to me, I charged towards him. I felt my fist touch flesh, and I beat him in the stomach, over and over again. His friends were trying to get me to calm down, some trying to peel me off of him, but something inside me wouldn’t stop. And that scared the crap out of me. After what felt like hours of using Zack as a human punching bag, someone finally pulled me off of him. Surprisingly enough, it was Amy. “Jacob, he’s not worth this!” she grunted, terrified, into my ear. “He’s done! He’s not getting back up!” She kept her hands on my shoulders, tearing me away. My animal instincts faded out. I was left, breathing heavily, watching someone who used to be my friend lying on the ground puking his guts out. I didn’t know what had come over me, why I was suddenly so violent. Sure, I played football, but I’d never gotten in a fist fight that intense. Ever. I heard myself say, “What did I do?” so quietly that no one else could hear it. “Jake,” Amy whispered, causing me to turn around and look at her for the first time since I’d wanted to kill Zack. She had blood dripping off of her lip and the first signs of what I recognized as a hundred bruises all over her face and her arms. She looked like she’d been mugged. And it was my fault. Why didn’t I help her sooner? “Amy,” I said, furious at myself for even thinking about something as stupid as my own damn reputation while she was getting beaten and bruised. “Amy, are you okay?” She nodded slowly, still staring at me intensely. Tears were welling up in her eyes and it took everything in me to not attack Zack and his friends again. Fortunately for me – and for them – they’d run away while they had the chance, so I didn’t have to worry about my primal instincts kicking in again. I didn’t want to end up in prison for the murder of Zack Miller. “Why did they do this to me?” she asked softly, the tears starting to fall. “What did I do?” “You didn’t do anything!” I shouted. “Nothing is wrong with you, Amy!” I softened my voice and tried to be even remotely comforting for her. I didn’t know what to do. “They’re not going to hurt you anymore. I promise…” She sniffed loudly, crying even harder now. Before I could say anything she whispered, “Jake, it hurts so much…” I wanted to kill Zack all over again. “Come on,” I commanded, putting one of her arms around my shoulder and picking her up in one quick movement. She flinched a bit at the contact, but besides that she melted into my arms. She was surprisingly light. “Where are we going?” she groaned, flinching at the pain her injuries were causing her. “I’m taking you to a hospital. Can you sit in my car?” I waited for a response, but one never came. She was unconscious, lying in my arms like a doll. I panicked and started running as fast as I could to my car, trying to be gentle when I put her in the passenger seat. I buckled her in and shut the door. I climbed into the driver’s side and drove as fast as I could without killing us both to the nearest hospital. I was freaking out. Even though Amy Shepherd wasn’t someone I wanted to be friends with, she didn’t deserve this. No one did. I pulled into the parking lot labeled EMERGENCY and stopped right in front of the main doors. “Help her!” I shouted to the nearest person in scrubs I saw. I picked Amy out of my car carefully and shouted to the doctor, “Come on, man! Do something!” He immediately bolted for the door, calling out for me to follow him. I walked as fast as I could without moving Amy too much, entering the hospital. It was loud and busy, but there were people there waiting for us already. They told me to lay her down as gently as I could on the gurney and I obeyed. Before I knew it, they’d hustled me out of the room to the main office. I had to fill out paperwork while Amy could’ve been dying. “Sir, we need to know what happened to her!” the nurse shouted when I demanded that I be with Amy while they worked on her. “She was beat up by a guy from our school named Zack Miller,” I answered distractedly, staring over at the doors she’d been taken through. I wanted so badly to be in there with her. I wanted to save her. Because I felt guilty for not doing something sooner. “What exactly happened?” she gasped, pulling out a clipboard. “I… I don’t know, I wasn’t there for all of it! I wasn’t there for her! I wasn’t there for her when she needed me!” I choked out those last few sentences, feeling all the wind get knocked out of me again, this time not from a kick. I’d finally accepted the fact that worrying about my damn reputation had cost me things that I couldn’t even imagine. The nurse stared at me worriedly, saying, “This isn’t your fault. We’re going to save your girlfriend. Her injuries are minor.” The fact that she’d called Amy my girlfriend didn’t even register in my head. I was so overcome with guilt that nothing anyone could’ve said would’ve gotten my attention. “I need to see her,” I whispered pleadingly. “Please, I have to be with her!” The nurse nodded and came out from behind the counter, taking me through the doors and to where Amy was. To my surprise, there was no dramatic scene going on. Doctors weren’t rushing her into surgery or starting her heart again with giant paddles. They were just hooking her up to a few IVs and checking her heartbeat. She was going to be fine. “What are you doing?” I asked blankly, walking over to where she was. The bruises on her face were starting to appear and I shivered. The guilt was still overwhelming me. “Right now they’re giving her some medicine,” the nurse from before explained. “Her vitals are fine, so all they have to do now is wait for her to wake up so they can examine her.” “She’s going to be okay?” I asked, searching for some reassurance. The nurse smiled softly and whispered, “She’s going to be fine.” “Thank you,” I said, meaning it more than anyone could ever understand. In my head, she’d basically just told me that this wasn’t my fault. I don’t know how I’d come to that conclusion, but in that moment I’d felt a small sense of forgiveness. She nodded and smiled slightly again, walking out of the room. I turned my attention to Amy, who had finally started to show visible signs of life, and sat down at the foot of her bed. She was so small she barely took up any of it. She grunted quietly, which caused a doctor to approach her. “Miss, can you tell me your name?” he asked gently. I realized then that they didn’t know either of our names, but that was a good way of testing her memory, anyways. “Amy Shepherd,” she whispered. The doctor smiled, saying, “Well, Amy, it’s nice to see you’re awake. My name is Johnathon Allum, and I’ll be your doctor. Can you tell me how you got here? How did you receive these injuries?” “I… I fell down the stairs,” she answered. “I’m really clumsy.” “What?” I heard myself shout. “Amy, tell them what Zack did to you!” “Excuse me?” Dr. Allum asked, confused by our different stories. “She was attacked by a group of guys at our school,” I said desperately, wondering why she would lie. “They could’ve killed her!” Amy groaned, trying to turn over but wincing in pain before she could even move an inch. “Amy, is this true?” he asked worriedly. Eventually she nodded, looking at me painfully. I heard her mumble something, but I couldn’t tell what it was. “Amy, we need to take you in for x-rays now. It’s going to hurt for you to move, but without them we won’t be able to find out what’s broken and what isn’t. We’re also going to need to file a police report. Okay?” She nodded again, tears forming in her eyes, and looked up at me. She whispered, “Come with me,” and it was impossible for me not to agree to her demand. I had to be there for her, because I wasn’t before. The only time I left was when she had to take off her clothes and get into a hospital gown. After I heard the words ‘clothes’ and ‘off’ in the same sentence, I panicked and ran out of the room. A few minutes later a different nurse opened the door and told me I could come back in, laughing quietly at me. But I didn’t care, because Amy was crying while they moved her for each x-ray. She was in pain. And it was my fault. “Amy,” I whispered, going over to her. She looked up at me through her tears and painfully reached out for something. When I held out my un-casted hand, she took it full force. It lost its circulation while she squeezed it, but I tried not to pay attention to her nails digging into my skin every time they moved her. It hurt like hell, but if this was something I could do to make up for what I didn’t do, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Half an hour later, Amy was getting an MRI done to make sure none of her internal organs were damaged. After that, we were in a hospital room being told exactly what was wrong inside of her. “You have two fractured ribs,” Dr. Allum began. “Luckily, no permanent damage was done inside of your body. But, unfortunately, your liver is bruised. That will go away with time and medication.” He paused and looked at the two of us. “Now, I can’t do anything else until your legal guardian is here with us, Amy. It’s the law. I can’t administer professional care to a minor without parental consent.” “My dad is mentally disabled,” she replied, in a little less pain since they’d given her pain relievers. “He won’t understand what’s going on.” Dr. Allum sighed. “I still need his consent. I’m sorry. It’s not my rule.” Amy groaned and mumbled some string of profanity under her breath. “Fine,” she muttered. “Jacob, can you pick up my dad? He won’t understand, but just tell him that I need him and that everything is going to be fine. Dr. Allum, I need to tell him that this was an accident. He won’t understand. He’ll get scared.” She stared, begging with her eyes for the guy to understand exactly what life was like with someone like her dad or my brother. Sometimes the truth was a bad thing. “I can’t lie to him, Miss Shepherd,” he replied. “But, unless asked directly by your father what happened, I won’t say anything.” “Thank you,” she whispered. “Jake? Will you get him for me?” “Yeah,” I answered after a few seconds. “I’ll be back in ten minutes.” After I was safely in my car I called my mom and explained to her what had happened and that I didn’t know when I was going to be back. Though she was in hysterics – she hadn’t told me this, but apparently she loved Amy – I eventually got her to calm down. A few reassuring phrases and nine minutes later I was on the highway towards her house. I hated having to leave her again, because the entire time I was driving away from her, I had to fight back the urge to find Zack Miller and hit him again. I was going insane with rage. But eventually the rage went away and all that was left was me, alone, shaking, asking myself how I could have let it get so far. How could I have just sat by and watched? Why didn’t I do something? Why?