“Going to cry again, little boy?” she sneered, and pushed his work and books off the desk. The papers fluttered to the ground, and the books fell open with a thud that echoed in the empty room, as the pages bent in various directions.
Riley pushed his black, wire-framed glasses up the bridge of his freckled nose, which he always believed to be too feminine for his already delicate features. He was pretty, not handsome, and when you threw in his willowy limbs, the combination had made him a target for bullies since he started school. The ringleader being the tall, leggy blonde in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform, who stood over his desk–Sasha.
His only saving grace came about over the summer break, when he’d sprouted to being one of the tallest in the class. Still, old habits died hard, and people continued to tease him, which in turn meant he continued to seek refuge during lunch in the classrooms of sympathetic teachers. He rotated through them to avoid confrontations like this, but Sasha seemed hell bent on making his life miserable.
Riley stood, the chair squeaking across the scuffed linoleum, and he leaned down into Sasha’s personal space, his warm chocolate eyes level with the cerulean of hers. A flicker of doubt passed through them, and she took an involuntary step back.
“Not so little anymore, Sasha,” he said, his recently deepened voice rumbled through his chest. Her breath hitched, and she took a few more steps back, out of easy reach. “It’s a miserable human that finds pleasure in the misery of others,” he continued, and bent down to gather his papers and books.
“And I should care what a bastard like you thinks?” she hissed, malice dripping from her voice like corrosive acid.
A half-smile quirked his lips, and when her eyes narrowed he chuckled. “Yes, I’m a bastard by birth, but at least not in temperament. If that is the worst of my sins over the years, I will count myself lucky, and your opinion on the matter means less than nothing to me.” He put the papers and books in his black messenger bag, and walked past Sasha and her clenched jaw and fists.
“Do you want to go out sometime?” she asked, and despite the small flutter in his stomach, it was more about being recognized by the opposite gender than about who had done the recognizing. The workings of the female mind boggled him, however, and he didn’t see that changing anytime soon.
He didn’t stop, just kept going until he made it to the door, where he turned to find the most arrogant sneer adorning her classically gorgeous features. Her right hip jutted out suggestively, and her arms were crossed over her chest, waiting.
“No, I think not,” he said, and she started in surprise. “I’d also say leave me alone, but I can take what you dish out, Sasha, if for no other reason than to keep you from setting your sights on a lower classman. I’ll shield them from the potential agony of dealing with you,” he finished with a small, humble smile, and left her standing there, utter shock written in every line of her body.
Over the years Sasha never let up, and Riley kept his word to keep her wrath from those defenseless against it. For a total of ten years this happened, counting before and after the classroom discussion. It was ten years later at their reunion, and the still spoiled girl searched the crowd for the only person to ever turn her down. Anticipation turned to bitter disappointment as the night went on and he never showed. As she sat at a table and contemplated her years of verbal abuse toward one of the nicest people she’d ever known, the misery she inflicted on others settled about her shoulders like a heavy cloak.
As for Riley, he went on with his life and was now reclining on his couch with his kind-hearted and beautiful wife, watching their favorite movie and laughing the night away. Not a single thought was spared for the reunion, or the girl he hated, then finally pitied in the end. All because one day, many years ago, he took a stand, and from that day forward he refused to back down.