A short story written for one of my creative writing courses in 2005 that draws on my childhood experiences regarding bullying and bullies. Request permission to reprint through the contact page.
Vera, over the course of her brief thirteen years, had been the victim of bullying many times, but this was to be the last. As she walked down the hallway of lockers to the side entrance of the school, her stomach was in a knot as she propelled herself forward. All around her, kids were whispering and watching as she passed, and if she had turned around she would have seen the eager entourage of spectators in her wake. She was almost to the double-doors leading to the stairs that funneled out of the building. As she turned the corner, she collided with Kelsey who pursed her sharp lips and delivered a fierce slap to Vera’s face.
“That’s for going out with my boyfriend, you bitch,” she spat venomously. With the sharp sting of the slap, Vera threw her body forcefully into Kelsey’s, knocking her into the bar of the opened door with a thud.
“Act your age!” an adult voice yelled at them from the stairwell. In the reflection of the glass, Vera saw a small round face peering out of a tightly packed snowsuit, inquisitively viewing the scene, while holding the hand of his mother. Vera abruptly recoiled from her aggressive grip on Kelsey, as though she had just snapped out of a trance.
Kelsey stomped off down the hall, spewing, “We’ll finish this tomorrow!” Next time I’ll wait until she’s off school property. She’s gonna wish she never got involved with him. I can’t believe I though she was my friend. A friend wouldn’t have done this to me. I hate her!
Vera sighed, slightly rolling her eyes. Her quiet moodiness at home that evening was noted but dismissed by her mother as a symptom of puberty. In the evening, she told Peter – her new boyfriend – about the incident over the phone. Then, alone in her room, she mulled it over, replaying the scene of humiliation. Vera kept imagining the curious expression of the little boy. When she thought of her brother who was the same age, she felt regret.
Before this fallout in the friendship, Vera and Kelsey had been friends for about a year. At the center of their conflict was a boy. The boy, Peter, had been the object of Kelsey’s affection for a whole month, short a day, when Kelsey broke up with him. Being devastated by the loss, Peter called Vera to determine what he could do to get Kelsey back. One call led to another and another, and one day Vera realized they no longer talked about Kelsey. She also didn’t tell Kelsey about these calls. Vera, even though feeling guilty for the secret calls, couldn’t bring herself to stop. For awhile, she kept these calls a secret from Kelsey, but with the increase of romantic tension, she blurted the whole thing to Kelsey and asked her permission to date him. Kelsey consented, but became withdrawn. Vera knew now that it was definitely not okay with Kelsey.
If she’s really my friend, she won’t do this. I shouldn’t have to tell her it’s wrong. A guy that your best friend used to go out with is off limits – everyone knows that. I’ll never forgive her if she does this.
As Vera fretted over the present situation, she recalled what happened last summer at the park. Kelsey and Vera went there to swing. When they arrived at the park, there was a girl swinging alone.
“Hey, watch this,” Kelsey said to me, as she approached the girl who had a long, straight chestnut mane and large, round walnut eyes. “What do you think you’re doing in my park?” The girl didn’t speak, just turned her head to the side, away from Kelsey, as she continued to swing. “I’m talking to you, you little slut,” Kelsey scowled as she grabbed the swing and jerked it to a stop.
“Leave me alone,” the girl spoke weakly, barely moving her lips. Vera felt a snake-like churning in her stomach. She stood staring, immobilized, ashamed to witness this disgusting scene.
Holding the metal chain links of the swing in her left hand, Kelsey delivered a vicious punch to the girl’s stomach. The thud of her fist was a haunting sound that replayed in Vera’s mind for days. The girl began to cry and walk away. In one final act of meanness, Kelsey ran up behind her and pushed her to the ground.
Kelsey walked back to the swings laughing. “That was funny, eh?” Vera remained silent, smirking numbly, as the girl stumbled to her feet and trotted away. “She’s such a wuss,” she sneered. “I can take her any time,” she continued with arrogant confidence.
“You’ve done this before?” Vera questioned evenly, masking her disappointment.
“Yeah, a bunch of times. She always runs home to mommy.” Vera had forgotten about the incident until now.
Evelyn walks around like she’s a quiet, prissy girl who’d never do anything wrong. Well, she’s square – that’s for sure – but she’s not as nice as people think. I think she’s a snob. I’ve seen her looking at me, my hair, my clothes. Like I don’t already know her family’s got more money, and her parents still live together. I’m going to teach her for acting like she better than everyone else.
The end of school was a release for Vera, as the conflict ended without the forced daily interaction of class. The relationship between Vera and Peter carried through much of the summer, but fizzled suddenly with the fall of the heat in late August. Although not friends, the two girls stayed clear of each other and the animosity was not rekindled, until Vera overheard that Kelsey was going to pick a fight with Rebecca.
Vera approached Rebecca and a couple other mutual friends at the end of the day and informed them of Kelsey’s scheme. “We have to stick up to her,” Vera urged, after enlightening the group.
“It’s not your butt that’s on the line,” Rebecca argued, blinking profusely as her head darted rapidly, like a nervous little bird.
“That’s the point,” Vera continued. “She always picks on one person at a time. If we ALL stick together, we can stop her.”
Kelsey approached the group in the crowded hallway, safe from the eyes of teachers. She immediately began her performance, snapping at Rebecca, “I want to talk to you outside.”
“I didn’t do anything to you.”
“Maybe I just don’t like your face.”
“We know you’re trying to start something for no reason. If you want to talk to her, you’ll have to talk to all of us,” Vera stated loudly in defiance. Her heart was beating in her ears, her hands were shaking involuntarily, and her head was light with fear. Kelsey looked from Rebecca to Vera and to the other girls, opened her mouth the speak, then closed it again. Vera thought she saw Kelsey’s eyes water in the reflection of a hall window after she turned away. Kelsey rushed out of the school.
Vera, and her friends, felt liberated. They had been set free by their united front. They had successfully created a defensive coalition.
What just happened? Everyone was standing there, staring at me. They used to be on my side. Why did everyone turn on me? Last week they were talking about Rebecca behind her back and now they’re acting like they’re her best friends. This wasn’t even Vera’s business. Why did she have to get involved?
The next day, they all had music class together. While getting their clarinets from the cupboard, Kelsey and Vera stood next to each other without speaking. Feeling bold, without thinking, Vera knocked into Kelsey, then apologized with a sneer and a smile. Such things were easy to perform without teacher detection. Following her lead, the others in the group joined in ostracizing Kelsey whenever the opportunity arose. Nudging her in the hall. Whispering insults. Excluding her from school activities. Overnight, Kelsey had plummeted from popular to pariah. Her misery became our amusement.
I don’t even want to go to school anymore. Since I tried to fight with Rebecca, I didn’t have even one friend. The boys talk to me, but they still laugh when the girls make fun of me. My mom knows there’s something wrong, but I haven’t told her what’s going on. I know she’ll go to the principal, and I don’t want her to do that. I’m not a rat.
Near the end of the first semester, taking the bus home from the show, Vera saw Kelsey with Peter. Neither looked at her, or her friends, when they got on the bus and dropped their fare into the electronic box. The girls went to the back of the bus, past the seat occupied by the couple. Peter turned once to deliver an icy stare to Vera. A week later, when second semester classes started, Kelsey was absent. At first they thought she was sick, but after a couple weeks they found out she had switched schools.
I still get a knot in my stomach when I see them, but now that I’ve changed schools that’s not very often. No one at my new school makes fun of me, but I haven’t made a real friend yet either. When Peter called me, I was so glad to hear his voice. He was upset when he heard what was going on. It’s nice to have someone to talk to again.
“Wow,” thought Vera, “she switched school because of us.” She felt a bit guilty, but suppressed it. Kelsey deserved what she got, for all the times she had hurt other people in this way. “She was finding out what it was like,” Vera thought with satisfaction.
The girls forgot about her for awhile in her absence. Then, one night, when they were having a sleep over, one of them suggested pranking her house.
“Let’s send her a pizza.”
“Just call and hang up.”
“Who’s going to do it?”
“You do it,” said Vera.
“I’m not doing it.”
“Come on, you go first and we’ll each take a turn.”
The first girl dialed Kelsey’s number and waited for an answer. It was after eleven but on a Friday night. Kelsey answered the phone. They sat in silence while she said hello a few times, then hung up. They laughed uncontrollably. Each girl took a turn, and then another. Eventually, a man answered and yelled obscenities into the receiver. Each reaction created a desire to call again.
Vera began to call Kelsey’s number at home whenever she could get away with it. She was enjoying this new way of creating a small hell for this girl.
I feel sick to my stomach when the phone rings. I don’t even want to answer it anymore, but sometimes I just want to scream into the phone. Because I don’t want them to have the satisfaction, I don’t. But every time someone hangs up on me, I feel like a door’s been slammed in my face. I thought I’d gotten away from them for good.
A couple weeks later, Vera got a call from Rebecca.
“Vera, they tried to hit me!” she exclaimed in a loud whisper.
“I was walking home after my piano lesson, and this car zipped by me and swerved in like it was going to hit me.”
“Are you sure it was her?”
“I saw them,” she stated emphatically. “Peter was driving. Kelsey was beside him. They were really trying to hit me!”
“I don’t think they’d be so stupid as to actually hit you,” Vera responded with sinking doubt.
We’ve had alot of fun since Peter got his license. Scaring Rebecca felt good. We weren’t looking for her, but when we happened to come upon her in the car while she was walking, we decided to have a little fun. Boy, did she look scared! That’ll teach her for all the things she’s done to me.
The following night, Vera returned home from her part-time job to find a police car parked in her driveway. She dreaded entering the house. What was she going to say? How was she going to get out of this? The snakes shifted, tightening around her lungs as her dread increased. For the first time, she felt scared. She didn’t want her parents to find out. Her heart pounded as she entered the porch and heard her parents talking to the officer.
“We’re going to put a stop to this behaviour. It’s bullying. There’s no other name for it. Charges can be laid for this type of harassment,” the unfamiliar voice filtered to her in the porch from the living room.
“Such mean behaviour,” said her mother.
“I can’t believe they would do this,” said her father. Vera stood immobilized in the porch, not wanting to enter the living room. “Vera, we’d like to talk to you,” my father called from the next room. Forcing a smile, she entered the room and looked from her parents to the officer without speaking.
“Hello, Vera. I’m Constable Harris. I have a few questions for you. You know Kelsey Morris and Peter Thurston,” he stated.
“Yeah, we used to be friends, Kelsey and I, and I went out with Peter in the summer.”
“They threatened your brother this evening–“
“They stopped their car where he was playing across the street and threatened him. We don’t know exactly what they said.”
“Did they hurt Owen?”
“No, your mother ran over when she saw the car, and they drove away. She recognized them and decided to call us.”
“Do you know why they’d do this?”
She understood alright. She shrugged. “We were friends but she got upset when I went out with Peter. They’re together now. She like to bully people.” Each statement was framed with a pause.
“So there’s nothing going on between you right now.”
“She doesn’t even go to my school anymore. I don’t see her.”
“Well, I’m going to talk to their families and warn them that this is harassment and charges could be laid.”
I always liked Vera’s little brother, but this is about payback. We’d never actually hurt him, but she doesn’t have to know that. If she stops calling my house, it will all be worth it. If she doesn’t stop, she’d better watch her back.
As the adults resumed their conversation, Vera escaped to the bathroom up the hall. Staring in the mirror at her reflection, Vera was mystified by her clear, vivid complexion and innocent bluish, grey eyes. She appeared so innocent. The shame within her began to swell, as she felt the horridness of her actions. That day in the park she had lost respect for Kelsey, but now she had acted no better. Sticking up to Kelsey for Rebecca was the right thing to do, but her continued vigilante justice was unmerited. She was terrified of being discovered. As abruptly as she had started, she stopped. It was the end of her brief but influential career as a bully.
When the police came to our house, I was shocked. Peter and I were watching a movie, and my mom wasn’t home. He talked to us about threatening Owen. I was so angry. I didn’t talk to him though. I don’t trust the police. He wouldn’t care about what those girls had done to me anyway. My family was trash to him. I’d stop because I didn’t want to get in trouble – as long as she stops too. If she doesn’t, this means war!
The knowledge that she was capable of hurting someone was disturbing to Vera. The memory of this series of events of which she was a part had a sobering effect. She realized that she and Kelsey were not so different as she thought.