The boys said nothing. Lips busted, jaws swollen, the two alternated between nursing their wounds with ice packs and scowling at each other. Sophomores Cameron David and Robbie Rodriguez sat fuming in the guidance counselor’s office. Their mouths clenched, silence seemed to be the one thing the two Black teens both agreed on.
“We can stay here as long as you like,” Ms. Summer said, “But no one is leaving until we resolve this.”
The two students glanced at the new petite guidance counselor. She was the preferable alternative to the other figure in the room. Leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, Mr. Zephram easily mimicked a Sicario. More than once Cameron watched Coach Adkins, a former marine, abruptly exit a room whenever the new science teacher entered. This was also why neither he nor Robbie mounted any resistance when he broke up the fight and separated them. Cam glanced at the digital clock on Ms. Summer’s desk. Odd, he thought. While the time was correct, 11:45, he noticed the year was set to 2042. That wasn’t the only thing that was weird to Cam. He noticed both Zephram and Summer wore identical necklaces that had an arrowhead as its pendant.
“Now, you both know we have a zero tolerance for violence, and Mr. McCall wanted to suspend the two of you, but I convinced him that I would get to the bottom of this,” Summer said. “Now, this isn’t like either of you. You’re both honor-roll students, and between the two of you, you’re involved in almost every extracurricular activity offered. So, what’s going on here?”
Robbie and Cam pursed their lips and gazed at the opposing walls.
“You hear her talking to you?” Zephram snapped. “Answer her!”
“Ask Robbie,” Cam said. “All he’s done is rag on me the whole year. He keeps giving me crap because I’m adopted.”
“Is this true, Robert?” Summer asked.
“No,” Robbie replied. “He’s lying. I don’t care about him being a charity case.”
“Careful,” Zephram warned.
“It’s true,” Cam continued. “He hassles me every day. I’ve tried ignoring him and steering clear of him, but nothing works. He’s even managed to turn most of the school against me. I also think he hates me because I’m gay.”
“Dude, my cousin is gay,” Robbie snapped. “I don’t care who you’re into. You’re a loser. It’s not my fault no one else likes you.”
“Right, just like it wasn’t your fault when you jumped me today?” Cam said.
“I told you, something shoved me into you,” Robbie replied.
“We heard,” Zephram said. “Some invisible force picked you up off of your feet and chucked you into Mr. David.”
“It’s the truth!” Robbie cried, before sheepishly adding, “Except for the invisible-force part. Maybe someone shoved me. I don’t know! It wasn’t my fault.”
“You see,” Cam said. “He’s always lying. I was at my locker, and as usual, Robbie shows up and starts ragging me. I didn’t say anything. I just ignored him and grabbed my books. The second my back was turned, he tackles me to the ground. I had no choice but to defend myself.”
“I really want to resolve this so no one gets suspended and no one’s parents are called,” Summer said.
Robbie scoffed, “Like they’d care.”
Tucking a tendril of red hair behind her ear, Summer cast Zephram a glance, who in turn arched an eyebrow.
“Oh,” the guidance counselor said, peering at her file. “Today is your birthday, Robert. Now, I know you don’t want something like this to ruin your day. I’m sure your parents have something special planned for you.”
“What the hell do you know?” Robbie exploded. “You don’t know anything! Go ahead, tell my parents! I’ll call them for you! You know what they have planned for me? Not a damn thing! Same as last year! They didn’t even remember!” Tears streamed down his light brown cheeks. “You know why? Dad’s too busy being a cliché, banging his secretary, thinking we don’t know, and Mom’s too worried about making partner at her stupid firm. They can’t be bothered with little things like their son. Call them! Be ready to sit on hold for an hour.”
He kicked his chair into the wall and stormed out of the office. Silence fell upon the stunned room.
Zephram turned to Cam, “Go get him.”
“You think that’s a good idea?” Cam asked.
“You think questioning me is a better one?” Zephram replied.
The sophomore darted out of the office.
Zephram yelled, “And don’t come back without him!”
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