PROLOGUE

 

 

18 months ago

 

I WAS down again… flat on my belly in the grass this time. There was no use in trying to get up. I was outnumbered, and most of them were bigger than me. Something sharp smacked into the back of my head. This time it was a high heeled boot; it tumbled past my face. I pushed my chin harder against the ground and stuffed my head under my arms.

“Flip him over!” Liz Trainer’s voice was unmistakable.

“Looks like the moment of truth has arrived for you, hon.” I recognized Elly’s nasal whine, as well.

With what little energy I still possessed, I clawed my fingers into the damp grass, trying to hang on to it, so they couldn’t turn me over. I didn’t know exactly why, but I was somehow certain I shouldn’t let them flip me onto my back.

“Whatsa matter, princess? Now, just calm down and look at it this way: we’ll be doing you a favor by letting you know if you’re a dude or a lady….” That was Liz again. The tone of her voice sounded almost soothing. “After all, you seem to be incredibly confused about that subject.” Then her tone changed and she spoke as the leader she was, who expected immediate compliance. “Now, flip him over!”

I heard some nervous feminine laughter, but at that point, I was beyond caring. Unk! Another shoe slammed against my shoulder. This one felt heavy, like a basketball sneaker. A good sized one… and it came at me from close range. As if it hadn’t been thrown like all the others, but instead, I’d been slapped with it. I smelled perfume… and it was overpowering, even though we were outside. Then I received one more whack with the high top. I knew it was Marcy.

“Ugh!” I had tried not to make any noise through this whole ordeal, but the ferocity in that last swat took me by surprise.

“Over you go, little she he!” Marcy exclaimed as she single handedly flipped me onto my back. She looked down upon me with a huge grin, her sandy bangs unable to cover the glee that sparkled in her eyes. I had no choice but to breathe in her strong, sweet scent; I choked back vomit.

Then Liz and Elly approached me, backed up by a small army of “in crowd” girls. They did so in a manner that was admirably unhurried, considering the extreme adrenaline rush they must have been experiencing from the total power they presently exerted over their brainwashed minions. As well as over me—couldn’t forget that. They glared right into my face; the Queen Bees weren’t smiling. The faces of the others, however, sported varying degrees of approval—from full fledged toothy grins, to closed mouthed, pursed lip smirks—and these were my so called friends. The very same freshman girls I’d gone miniature golfing with tonight, and had been laughing and joking around with… until we took a shortcut through the high school soccer field on our way to get ice cream.

That’s when everything had changed.

The Queen Bees smoothly knelt down in the grass on either side of me. Marcy was now squatting behind my head, her upper body bent down and locked onto both of my arms, restraining them. I tried to kick but a couple of my other “friends” plopped down on top of my ankles. Closing my eyes, I made a choice not to look at my supposed BFFs’ expressions as they tormented me. I knew seeing their faces would hurt almost as much as whatever it was they were planning to do to me next. And then there were hands at my crotch… unbuttoning my fly first, tugging at my zipper. Soon I felt the cold ground on my butt, as my skinny jeans and my briefs were dragged gracelessly down to my knees.

“What do you know? It’s a boy!” As soon as I was exposed, Liz and Elly stepped away from me and stood up; I opened my eyes. “Hold his legs in the air!” Again, Liz was the one with the creative idea. Without hesitation, the girls who sat on my legs popped up off me, grabbed my feet, and raised my ankles to their chests. “It’s a boy!” Liz again declared, and she smacked my now bare rear end. “Come check out the baby boy!”

I’m not too sure how it was decided; nobody said anything in actual words, but one by one, each girl took a turn spanking my butt. The only sound on the field was the sporadic slapping of skin. I was sure that my face burned every bit as red as my backside, but thankfully it was too dark outside for them to see the bright color. I struggled against them, but not too much, I’ll admit. Fighting this was pointless. I focused on surviving without having a nervous breakdown.

“Drop him.”

Inside of a split second, my butt slammed to the ground. The cool grass soothed the burn, but I quickly turned onto my side and curled up into a ball in an effort to cover my privates.

After gathering their shoes from where they lay scattered all around me, the girls clustered together behind my fetal form. “Let’s go get ice cream now,” Elly suggested brightly. As if nothing unusual—nothing entirely life changing—had just happened.

Liz waited for the others to take a few steps away from me before she again spoke, this time rather softly. “I don’t know what you’re waiting for, Casey. My suggestion is that you just go and kill yourself already.”

 

 

1

NATE’S DIARY

 

 

November 5

 

 

“Dude Least Likely to Keep a Diary.” Out of the whole junior class, that’s what I’d be voted.

But in your face—cuz here it is! Yup, Nate DeMarco’s Diary.

Nate’s feelings.

Not gonna make no excuses for it. And I sure as shit don’t owe nobody no explanation, even if there was a soul alive who cared to hear one, but I figure that this journal is gonna help me keep my shit together. See, I’m no talker, not that I’m some wise old owl who sits up there in the oak tree watchin’ and thinkin’ and figurin’ shit out. Not him either. I’m just the smart motherfucker who’s already put it together that the shit hits the fan way the fuck less when I keep my goddamned trap shut. And I learned my lesson the friggin’ toughest way possible, but there’s no need for me to spill out all of those dirty details at this stage of the game. It’d take too long, anyhow, and I haven’t got all day here.

It’s like this: I keep my mouth shut, say, ’bout 99 percent of the time, and sometimes that sucks. So from now on, so as to avoid explodin’, like I almost did on my little sister last night, if there’s somethin’ so major it’s gotta get said, I’m gonna write it the fuck down right here.

Too bad little “Mr. Pink Polo Shirt” hasn’t figured that out yet; the kid babbles like it’s goin’ outta style. Like in Survey of French class today, this is what went down: the little dude set himself up for gettin’ completely shit on. A fuckin’ gain. I don’t know why he always tries to sit with those bitchy girls. Probably, it’s cuz none of the dudes’ll let him sit with them. Like they’re all scared shitless they’ll catch “gay” from the kid. Funny thing is, Mr. Pink Polo Shirt, I think his name is Casey, or somethin’ like that, well, he’s never tried to park his sparkly ass at my lonely table. Guess he has his own set of prejudices against big dumb oafs.

The dude’s probably creeped out by me. I have that effect on people, so I been told. Whatever. And I told that bitch who was dissin’ him where to get off. Said somethin’ like, “Lay the fuck offa him, or we gonna have us a problem.”

Know what? She lay the fuck offa him. It won’t last.

But before he started chatterin’ nervously again, to no one in particular, Pink Polo boy kinda stared at me. Never seen blue eyes so fuckin’ big.

 

 

CASEY’S REAL LIFE

 

 

“I WANT to go back to online school, Mom. I hate it here.” I dropped down beside Mom in the passenger seat of the Volvo. “Can I? Pl eeease….”

Sometimes begging works… at least, it’s worth a try.

Mom glanced into the backseat where my little sisters were going absolutely berserk, trying to get my attention. They’d gotten used to having me around when I was schooled online last year, and they missed me now when I was at school all day. “Stay in your car seats, girls. Casey will play with you when we get home.”

“Hiya, my pretty Sarah lee, and my sweet Lola belle!” I spun around in my seat to face the twins. I wasn’t about to throw a hissy fit on these two little angels. “Mom’s right. Casey will paint your nails at home, but for now you’ve got to stay in your car seats. That a deal, ladies?”

My little blonde dolls looked at each other, nodded, and then settled back into their seats. Fiddling with her ponytail, Lola asked, “How long ’til we get home, Mommy?”

“It won’t be long.” My mother looked over at me and smiled patiently. “So, back to you and high school…. What happened today to make you want to go back to McMartin Virtual High School?”

“It’s not just what happened today. It’s every day… nobody gets me there. I don’t fit in at Benjamin Franklin High.”

Any more than Wendy fits in with the Lost Boys….

Or Clay Aiken fits in at a Metallica concert….

Or Grey Poupon mustard fits in a peanut butter sandwich….

Or… well, face it, I could go on forever, but I thought I’d spare the effort and stop there.

“I don’t know why I can’t just do online high school like I did last year.” So maybe I was having a minifit, but it was a last ditch effort to stop myself from getting depressed. Some people might relent in the face of my tantrum, but not my mother—the woman was always convinced that she knew best. “Believe me, nobody there would miss my, as they call it, ‘glittery butt,’ if I got hit by a car and died tomorrow.”

Casey, the girls will hear you!” She was way too protective of the girls. She was also way too late with her warning.

“Glittery butt!”

“Glitter butt, Casey!”

“I want glittery nail polish, Casey!”

“Me, too!”

My sisters were cute but they were like Yellow naped Amazon Parrots. In their presence, anything, and everything, that came out of your mouth was fair game to be repeated, just like “Polly want a cracker?”. And so, to an echoing chorus of “glittery butt, glittery butt, Casey has a glittery butt,” I tried to very earnestly spell out my position to Mom. As I said before, it was a last ditch effort at maintaining my sanity. “I got all A’s in McMartin Virtual High School last year. And I was happy doing it. Deliriously thrilled, in fact….”

“You had no one to socialize with but me, Dad, Sarah, and Lola.”

I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes, but I did that a lot, so I couldn’t be positive. “What’s wrong with you guys? Nothing, and I mean nothing is wrong—you guys are my peeps!”

“Peep! Peep!” Backseat commentary.

“You need to associate with kids your own age.”

“So they can rag on me mercilessly? Sign me up for more of that!” My eyes were rolling now; there was no way around it.

“You need to develop coping mechanisms… your doctor said so.”

I snorted as spitefully as I could manage, knowing fully well that the twins would hear and copy it, which they did. But neither Mom nor the doctors understood the way it felt to be me at school, and it was frustrating.

“Unk! Orph!” from the backseat.

“And you need to be involved at school, so you can be accepted into a good college.”

I snorted again. “I’ll get involved at the soup kitchen—you, of all people, know I can cook. Or maybe I could volunteer my time as some little old lady’s personal shopper! That would be a win win situation all around.”

“Rmph! Urf!” The backseat snort fest continued.

“Really, Mom, the Benjamin Franklin High School band director has made it abundantly clear to me that he doesn’t want a male baton twirler to lead the marching band in the homecoming parade, and that’s the only extracurricular activity I’m qualified for.”

“What about art club?”

“Just because I like rainbows doesn’t mean I can draw them.”

“Okay, then. How about joining the band as an instrumentalist?”

“The last time I picked up my clarinet was in fourth grade. I’d have trouble playing Hot Cross Buns!”

“You could be on the basketball pep squad.”

“I’ve already been warned against that. I’d be taken down on my way out to the parking lot after the first game I went to… and by the cheerleaders, not the players.”

Mom pulled the car in to the driveway. “Have those girls been giving you trouble again? Because, if they have, I need to make an appointment to see the principal so we can sit down and discuss it with their parents again. Remember, Casey, they are the only ones who have been officially warned of anything.” She got out of the car and went to the backseat to take Sarah out. I could tell she was getting worked up, and I told myself firmly to suck it up. After all, the kids at school may call me “crybaby” and “wimp” and “sissy” but that didn’t mean it had to be true. And I needed to figure out how to put up with their bullcrap, anyway. Mom didn’t have to know that Elly and Liz and Marcy, and their whole gang of mute disciples, were on my case again, like white on rice.

And there was no reason Mom had to know that I’d again become scared, as in, seriously worried about my physical safety. Knowing me, the “drama queen,” as they all said, I was overreacting and merely feeling slightly intimidated, not truly scared. “Intimidated” was the best word to describe my constant emotional state since first grade. That is, until everything escalated and I’d shifted from “intimidated” to “petrified” during freshman year.

Casey, your mother is absolutely right; you need to develop some coping mechanisms. And maybe learn to kickbox.

I stepped to the back of the car, opened the door, and unbuckled Lola. “Out you go, girlfriend!” As I placed her on the ground beside the car, I remembered the one unexpected thing that had happened to me today. When Liz had knocked my binder off the table to let me know that my “twinkling presence” wasn’t welcome anywhere near her, that enormous scary guy who always lurked in the back of the room in French Survey had stepped forward, sent Liz a look to kill, and growled something like “Lay off him, or we’re going to have a problem.” It was a very dramatic moment, for me, at least.

Nobody has ever defended me at school before.

 

 

zanderZ@catchme.com

 

Dan the Man

Soccer season’s gone, gone, gone, as Phil Phillips would sing. (Not a bad tune—you think?) Wish like hell you could’ve seen me play, though. I kicked some serious ass in the last couple of regular season games. Did okay in regional playoffs, but not okay enough, looks like. No championship for Benjamin Franklin High School this year. That totally sucks.

Ma had a date Saturday night. The dude was a big time player. So maybe “PLAYER” was written all over him, but Ma couldn’t see it for the life of her. Surprise—NOT! She was all “Billy, come on in,” “Billy, how about a drink?”, “Billy, don’t worry, I’ll do you later.” And you’ll never believe this LOL :) Their date mostly happened in her bedroom, and “Billy” didn’t leave until Monday morning. Come on, Ma! That sucked too.

Shit, I miss you, man. Don’t mistake my meaning—I’m pumped about what you’re doing. College is where I’ve set my sights too, but it still bites that you’re halfway across the country. I’d frigging kill to sit down with you for an underage brew. Hehehe.

You asked about my classes and grades. I got that shit under control. Chemistry with Jenkins isn’t easy, but I can’t say you didn’t warn me. Real glad I didn’t take honors. And I’m definitely throwing in the towel on math after this year. Calculus isn’t in the cards for me. But I’m acing Am Lit, Psych, and PE.

And then there’s Survey of French. It’s got such a weird mix of kids in it. Take me—I’m in it to check out the language, in general, to see if I might want to take French I with one of my senior year electives and then maybe keep going with it in college. (If I’m not going to take any more math, I figure maybe I’ll go for a second language and hopefully the college admissions boards will realize that I’m not lazy, I’m just not mathematical.) But most of the kids in Survey are just trying to fulfill the language requirement for graduation, so there are a lot of “who’s your mother’s?” in there. (You know, kids who would be challenged by the question “Who. Is. Your. Mother?”) It’s easier by a mile than French I, but it still counts.

And there’s this one really smart kid in Survey who gets ranked on so frigging badly, Dan. It’s tough to watch. (Remember that thing I told you about me? You know, how I think I might be. This kid, Casey Minton, is definitely that way. And he can’t hide it, or even tone it down, I don’t think.) Casey’s biggest problem is that, since all of the dudes stay away from him like he’s got a STD they could catch by sitting in a chair beside him, he tries to hang with the girls. And the girls in our grade, bro, they can be real nasty when they want to be. Especially when they get together in a pack and target somebody. Let me tell you, it’s like “ouch” watching that kid try to survive at school. Today, one of the girls pretty much diced him up into bite sized morsels and ate him for a midmorning snack. Scariest thing is, she’s a “friend” of mine. Liz Trainer. Come to think of it, bro, all of the nastiest girls run with my gang. So what does that say about me?

Anyway, how’re your classes going, dude? Has economics become any clearer to you? It’s all just supply and demand, right? Hahaha. And what about that girl from the third floor of your dormitory you said was cute—Abby, right? Any progress in that department? Fill me in ASAP. Little brother must know all!

GTG, D man. Homework is calling and if I want to get my ass out of this town, I have to get into a decent college somewhere else. Which translates into—do your homework, dipshit.

I’m out.

Zander