“Here comes Miss Young. Make sure you tell her we answered all your questions,” April murmured hastily.
“Do you have any questions?” Renee asked. An amused look flickered across my face. Somehow I think Miss Young, if she had overheard, would have been more impressed with Renee’s approach than April’s.
My head jerked to the right, and I saw the skinny blonde-haired boy lurking in the empty hallway. Discretion prompted me to walk on.
"Get back here! I'm talking to you!" he hissed.
My steps slowed to a stop and I looked back over my shoulder.
He jammed his hands in his pockets. "I have a message for you," he said.
"From who?" I asked.
He looked as nervous as a cat on a waterslide. "From the guys in the alley." He rocked one foot back and forth as if the rhythm would help him recite. "If you even think about causing trouble, you are gonna wish you never set eyes on them."
"I already wish I had never set eyes on them. What's new?"
His eyes narrowed. "That guy won't always be there, and when he's not they are gonna cream you." His chin dropped to his chest and he shrugged. "And so on...I forget the whole message."
I stepped closer and lifted my chin defiantly. "That's where they are wrong. 'That guy' will always be there. Even if they can't see him, he is forever watching. And if they even think about attacking me, they will regret it till the day they die." Boy, it felt good to say that. And, as impossible as it sounded, I sort of believed it.
The boy's eyes widened in fear. "I can't repeat that! They'll smash my face in!"
"Then don't," I said. "Walk away. Don't go back."
His fists balled up, crumpling the edge of his shirt. "I have to go back," he said.
It made me mad, watching him grovel on the inside to a bunch of punks. "No. You don't. Walk away. Get real help."
He shook his head and fixed his eyes on me. Something inside of me shrunk back under that stare. There was hunger and desperation in it, running deeper than I had ever imagined, and it terrified me.
"I'm not strong enough," he said, his voice shaky.
"Talk to your parents," I said.
He gave a sort of panicked laugh. "If they knew I was..." He let the end of his sentence dangle.
"You want them to find out now while there's hope? Or later, when...?" I let the end of my sentence dangle as well. We both had sufficient imagination to fill in the blanks.
His eyes looked sad and empty now. "There's already no hope," he said. He turned to go, pulling his collar up to his ears. "Just watch your back, okay?"
"Stop it, you idiot," I shouted.
He pushed open the door at the end of the hall and disappeared. I spun and hit the wall with my fist. I hated it. Hated that hunger and emptiness. Hated to see people looking for fullness in a place that would only make them emptier. It made me want to scream. I slammed my fist into the wall again. I hated it.