Don't like this one as much as the first one I posted (fair-weather friend- give it a review if you have time! :)), but criticism is much appreciated.
Maybe your parents were right. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to walk all the way here, alone, right before dark. I pull my hood over my head and tighten the strings, covering my ears as if it’ll block out the dialogue in my own head.
It was only about a mile both ways, so really, it’s extremely minimal time on the road, even if that road wasn’t exactly the best area in the world. Why can’t we have a drugstore in the better area of the city? Why does it have to be all the way out here? I tuck my hair into my hood, trying to make myself look as boyish as possible. Or maybe looking shady just made me more prone to being approached by other shady kids - that’s what my dad told tells me.
You’re always looking for trouble, you know. My mother had said, shaking her head as I insisted on walking all the way across the city for a small errand this late at night. I know you think you’re all tough, but one day it’s gonna bite you in the -
Snap. The breaking of a twig about a hundred feet ahead. I stop in my tracks as I see a few figures standing on the side of the road. As they turn, I shake myself and started moving again.
As I get close enough to get a good look at their appearances, my heart sinks. I knew I’d see these guys at some time or another.
As I approach them, I think about my mom’s words over and over again. Don’t go looking for trouble.
Even if they swing first? Another voice in my head joins the discussion.
No, not even if they swing first. Plus, they can’t even recognize you in this light.
But you know that if they hit first, they’ll get charged with the assault. Especially because there’s three of the and one of you. Three guys against a girl? You’ve got every advantage you could ever ask for.
I pass by them silently and the knot in my stomach begins to loosen as they watch me wordlessly and without moving a muscle. See? No trouble. You didn’t even have to talk.
You could do anything you want to them, and you know you want to hurt them. You know what those kids did to your sister. You’re not gonna be able to stop yourself if they even lay -
A hand grabs my arm. I can’t suppress it - I yelp. The shortest of the group is gripping my wrist, and the other two are approaching from behind him.
“Hey, I think we know you. Or maybe it’s just someone who’s got a lot in common with you.” he says, his voice arrogant and low.
“Look, I think you’ve got the wrong kid.” I respond, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “I don’t know you.” I try to convince myself this isn’t a lie. If they don’t recognize me, which there’s no way they could, I have no reason to put myself in harm’s way.
But even though I’ve never found myself face to face with them, it was hard to pretend I didn’t know their faces. I’d memorized every word of my sister’s hysterical, sobbing descriptions, and scoured social media for hours on end until I’d located each and every one of them. And even in the dim light, I recognize them right now.
“Oh, I don’t think we do.” Suddenly, he flips me around so my back is to him and his posse. My heart sinks to the bottom of my stomach as I realize my mistake - the back of my sweatshirt from last basketball season, emblazoned with my last name. The same last name as my sister’s. I curse myself out in my head. They must have seen it when I passed by them.
The guy still holding my wrist, chuckles. Even though he’s a good three inches shorter than his counterparts, he still towers over me. I could tell he wanted to say something that he knew would tick me off. Something that really made me want to -
“Well, come on then. If you don’t know us, then keep moving, it’s not like we like you standing here. I mean, you are the one who tried to ruin our lives after your sister made some bad decisions, right? ” He looks me up and down judgmentally, one eyebrow slightly raised.
My anger flares up, and I clench my left fist over my grocery bag. I bite my tongue to keep my mouth shut. Don’t hit first.
“Don’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault for assuming your big sister could take care of herself, now is it?”
I can’t keep myself quiet this time. “Do you really think you’re better than everyone else? Because you go around here and you just screw everyone up?”
“Not better, necessarily.” The shortest one continues. “We just have the most fun than everyone in that preppy-ass, stuck-up place.”
“Not preppy, just polite. That’s why you shouldn’t hang around here. This kind of place is for people who know how to act.” I hiss back.
The shortest one moves to the center of the three. “Well, if you think you’re so much better than the rest of us, why don’t you prove it?”
My heart pounding, I step closer to him so that our noses almost touch. I clench my right fist too. “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Especially not you.”
Then comes the first punch. As soon as he swings left and clips me in the jaw, I realize I failed to take into account that after being punched in the face, ones first reaction is not celebratory, even if are the one who can press charges now.
I drop my grocery bag on the ground and take a hard swing back. I miss, barely grazing him in the ear. The group chuckles, and I taste blood in my mouth. I’ve bitten my cheek.
I swing again, and hook him in the nose this time. Now it’s his turn to spit blood on the ground. He looks back at me, but doesn’t look scared. It’s a terrifying look of amusement and vindication.
“For people who know how to act, huh?” He said. His nose is bleeding. “Guess you and your sister don’t belong here after all. All it took was a little push and you’re fighting just like us.
My stomach drops and I suddenly feel sick. I start to get up, but instead of going in for a tackle, I forfeit. Grabbing my bag off the ground, I take off running.
I hear jeers and yells behind me, but I don’t stop running until I got home.
“It wasn’t the best idea.” I admit to my mother as I lay on the couch with an ice pack on my face.
She’s silent still. My heart sinks as I realize how angry she probably was, but know in my heart she’d get over it eventually. This wasn’t the first stupid thing I’ve done, especially not since Sadie.
Finally, she speaks. “You know those kids weren’t your problem, Jossy.” Her voice is level, and I’m surprised to realize she didn't even sound upset. She sounds more like she was expecting this, like this was a lesson she had rehearsed. “You have to learn to stay in your lane.”
She’s right, says the voice in my head as I adjust my ice pack so I can respond.
Those kids put this mess in your lane the second they messed with your sister.
“It’s not my problem anymore.” I say out loud. I realize I’m not just speaking to my mother, but to myself, to the ever-intrusive thoughts that push me to insert myself in situations like this. “They can shape up on their own.”
“That’s the attitude.” My mother says soothingly, wiping my face with a wet towel again.