I broke Mark’s arm. It bought me a one-way-ticket to my high-school principal’s office and its dull grey painted walls. The one spatter of color comes from a large floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks a grass field. The dense leaves of one strategically placed tree shields us from an unforgiving sun, but it won’t stop him from roasting me.
“I should grill you over Mark’s broken arm,” he says.
His otherwise delicate features get somewhat countered by a fierce hawk nose and intense dark eyes that I evade not to drown in them. Nevertheless, I worry that I somehow disconnected Mark’s arm, allowing my principal to use it as fuel to grill me.
“But I won’t, mister Montague Glupie,” he pronounces my name with an indeterminable French accent.
Officially Montague means pointed mountain, but because both French and Flemish use qu or ‘q’ as a slang for behind, pronouncing it as Montaqu changes that into pointed behind. To add to the insult, without its last ‘e’, my surname translates as ‘stupid’ in Polish. I never should have told Mark all of that, but not so long ago I considered him my friend.
“Instead, I hope you tell me what happened.”
I focus on his name tag. Damon Royal. Students love him and teachers do what he asks. They call him kind, smooth and sophisticated; everything I’m not. Damon comes from the Greek word ‘daman’, meaning ‘to tame’ or ‘subdue.’ Some may even argue it means ‘to kill.’
His heavy, aristocratic voice echoes through the clean space and drowns out the noises from the corridor. He pushes me, and I don’t like that.
Again, that slight French accent no one else but me catches. I hate it when he does that. In an attempt to ignore it, I press my lips into a white, thin line and wrench my fingers together. I focus on what really matters; the translation of that last sentence of the Manuscript I found five years ago. I’m this close to ridding myself of… That one obstacle that stops me from making the friends I so long for.
“Okay. I will respect your silence,” he says.
No, he won’t. To keep me from saying that out loud, I count to ten in as many different languages. It generally soothes me, but not today because of Royal’s unstoppable bullying.
“… And therefore, I will tell you what your classmates all told me,” he continues.
He shouldn’t say “all.” He never talked to my best and only friend, Storm.
“Please correct me if I’m wrong,” Royal says.
Until I do so, he never accepts that.
“Mark was playing with his football when you bullied him.”
I make a fist and wish my nails were long enough to scream into my palm’s skin, so I have a reason to scream with my principal present. That’s not exactly how it happened. I was waiting for Storm when Mark stepped toward me.
“You demanded he played somewhere else.”
Mark had kicked his football with a nerve-wracking thud-whizz and aimed it at the post where it made a painful bham. I asked him to stop. He didn’t.
“He ignored you, so you started calling him names until he walked away. That’s when you followed.”
He called me names and I walked away. Mark followed.
“He tried to ignore you, and that’s when you lashed out. Does that sum it up, so far?”
I press my lips together so hard they turn into another thin, white line to keep that word from escaping. Royal would use it against me.
“When he defended himself, you kicked him and finally slammed him into a wall. You broke his arm because you felt like it.”
I never “slammed” Mark into anything. I pushed him. Gently. It’s not my fault he broke his arm because he has brittle bones. I shift my gaze to a bookcase against the wall, filled with pristine books on childhood development, sensitivity, learning disabilities, and special needs. Books Royal obviously never bothered to read.
“Mark’s a dumhuvud,” I hiss.
It means ‘moron’ in Swedish. Originally, I chose the Malaysian term ‘dungu,’ but I decided against that. Royal stopped with ‘dung’ and that’s not what I meant. Dung can’t be blamed for its shitty situation.
Royal places a heavy folder containing my disciplinary history between us. He adorned it with my official name in red letters. I’m sure he is aware that I hate that color because of what happened to Dad. Another matter I hope to solve once I translate the last sentence.
“Maybe you feel it’s okay to offend people in foreign languages because you think no one understands. Is that how you use the internet? To learn foul words?”
That would be glupi on my part. The school implements a firewall to keep track of every online move. For our safety, they claim, but they are scared we’d pirate movies and watch porn.
He opens my file; probably on the page that lists everything I did. Wrong. He always stresses that last word, as if it matters. To get away unscathed, I better stay silent.
“I expect an explanation of what happened, Montague.”
Again, that slight French accent, as if he mocks me, but not really.
“I hope you realize Mark’s parents can charge you with assault and battery? Your claim you have ASD, won’t save you anymore.”
My Autism Spectrum Disorder never saved me, and it never will. Wikipedia calls it a social impairment. I lack the intuition about others that many take for granted, fail at communication and take things too literal. Add restricted interests and repetitive behavior and you complete my picture.
“Karut!” Or nonsense in Malaysian because I’m not impaired.
I fear I said that with my spoken voice, not with my inner voice, as I intended. As a result, Royal uses his French accent again.
“I pushed Mark because he thud-whizzed and bhammed,” I say.
I’m losing control and it gets worse as Royal looks at me as if he no longer understands plain English.
“That’s the sound he makes when he kicks his football and hits the goalpost?” I growl.
My outburst makes it worse.
“You do realize I will have a hard time keeping Mark’s parents from filing a complaint, which forces me to expel you?”
If he expels me, Mom sends me to boarding school. I. Hate. Boarding school.
“They don’t really want to, because you two were friends once. They want to understand what went wrong between you two.”
Ask Mark about my birthday invitations!
“I told them I had no idea.”
A. Lie. I try hard to evade Royal’s diarrhea-colored eyes. You don’t put a kettle on a fire and act surprised when steam sends the whistle in to overdrive.
“Ignoring me won’t make it go away, Montague. I won’t stop asking you about it in much the same way I won’t stop asking you about the Slaughter House.”
A ruined ranch house at the border of town where two decades ago a newlywed couple disappeared. Popular gossip points in the direction of a bloody murder, but they never found the bodies. Still, most town people believe some mysterious sadist slaughtered those newlyweds; hence the ranch house’s name. My own research uncovered a fuzzy picture of a male and female on a website dedicated to unsolved crimes. I recognized Royal in the picture, even though he was twenty or so years younger, but everyone else said I was crazy.
“You found a key in there,” he insists.
I didn’t, but that never stopped him from calling me a liar.
“Hidden by my twin brother. It holds some importance to me. If you return it, I will still reward you,” he says.
He forgot what happened, but because I found nothing, that won’t happen. My last chance is escape. Fast.
The corridor behind me is out of the question since it’s filled to the brim with students and teachers. Instead, I rise and jump out of the window onto the grass field.