Disclaimer: I do not own the Breakfast Club or any of its characters.
Summary: Andy’s attack on Larry Lester cuts deeper than either of them realize. One-shot.
Characters: Andy Clark and Larry Lester
Rating: T for violence and language.
Originally posted: Sept. 2006
A/N: Not really much to say about this, except that this may be the angsty-est thing I’ve ever written in my life, which is really saying something, considering what an angst whore I am. Oh, well. Thank you, Lori, for beta-ing this for me.
A/N, II: Still as angsty as hell, but I'm over it.
I am running.
The trail is empty on Friday morning, which doesn’t surprise me at all. I rarely see anyone out this early unless they’re walking their dog, and dogs aren’t allowed on the trail, for good reason. This leaves the walkers and the runners. I belong to the latter group, which is a small group, indeed. Very few people use the trail for jogging or running, and even fewer get up this early on weekdays to indulge in the sport. I wake up at six o’clock every day, including weekends, and run for one hour.
On Friday, the air is cold and wet, and the ground sinks beneath my feet with every step. I go through my schedule in my head, listing off my classes, making sure that I finished my homework and did all of the studying that I needed to. Today I have a Physics test, which I’m not looking forward to, and an English quiz, which won’t be too bad. We’re reading Grapes of Wrath, and I’ve been keeping up with the assignments, so I think I’m covered. Besides, Mrs. Gentry thinks I’m the best thing since sliced bread, so I’m pretty sure nothing can hurt my grade at this point.
I arrive back at the house a few minutes after seven o’clock. I smell pancakes, or maybe waffles. Whatever it is, I want at least five of them. With extra syrup. I walk into the kitchen.
My mother is at the stove flipping pancakes, and my father is sitting at the table flipping the pages of his newspaper. He glances up when I sit down next to him.
I nod. “Yeah, kind of.”
He nods briefly and looks back at his paper. I watch him for a minute, but he doesn’t look up again. A few minutes later, my mom brings me a plate loaded up with pancakes.
Third period, I’m sitting in physics, trying not to fall asleep during Mrs. Winthrop’s lecture. God, I hate physics. It’s almost as bad as Calculus, and that’s really saying something because I hate Calculus more than anything on the planet. There are too many numbers and letters and symbols that stand for things that I can’t remember, and I never can keep them all of those formulas straight in my head. Acceleration, speed, terminal velocity…when does anyone really use that? If I fall out of an airplane, I’m probably not going to be thinking about my body’s rate of acceleration vs. the speed of wind resistance.
But I have to learn it anyway. It has something to do with getting into college, or so I hear. My father doesn’t really ask about my grades, but my mother does all the time. I tell her that it doesn’t really matter since I’m pretty sure they’re not going to take away my scholarship at this point, but she still asks me about it almost everyday. “Did you finish your homework last night, honey? What about that French test you had yesterday? Do you think you did well?” I love my mom, but sometimes she annoys the crap out of me.
My dad is a completely different story. I’ve always suspected that I was a bit of a disappointment to him. Back when he was in high school, he was the Big Man on Campus. You know the type probably. He was popular with the teachers and the students and played a ton of practical jokes, but somehow never seemed to get in any real trouble. He was also really involved with sports: football, basketball, wrestling. If there was a sport offered at his school, he probably played it, and played it well. Sometimes I sit on my bed and look at all of the plaques and trophies cluttering my wall and my bookcase, and I wonder if I have as many as he did when he was that age. The thing is, I know I don’t, and I’m pretty sure that he knows it, too.
“Test on Monday over chapters seven and eight. Do the study questions at the end of each chapter if you want extra credit.” Mrs. Winthrop closes her notebook and moves away from the blackboard, where she’s written down some page numbers for us to study. I hurry and write them down, finishing up just as the bell rings.
After packing up my bag, I head straight for the locker room. The coaches never give us more than five minutes to get changed, and I always try to get there early so that I can take my time and not feel so rushed. There are about twenty guys in the room, most of them changing into uniforms that look exactly like mine, and not one of them is paying attention to me. I pop open my locker and start taking off my clothes.
I’m standing there in nothing but my underwear when suddenly I feel it. Someone pulls down my briefs and sticks something against my butt cheeks. I whip around to see who it is, but it’s a mistake. My nose makes a sickening cracking sound, like a tree being struck by lightening, and my hands fly to my face to ward off a second blow. Another mistake. The next one hits just below the waist, and I double over, my nose momentarily forgotten.
But they haven’t forgotten me, whoever it is. They kick me in the stomach, then the face again. I sink down onto the concrete floor, chin tucked against my chest, arms crossed over my face and shoulders to protect myself. Another kick, this one connecting with my elbow. I fall onto the ground, hands clawing uselessly at the hard, cold floor, and they keep kicking me.
I should feel angry, but it’s all happening too quickly for me to feel anything except confusion. A few seconds ago, I was thinking about my physics test and wondering if Coach Williamson was going to have us do laps around the athletic fields again. Whatever is going on right now seems so out of place, like it’s not really happening. Another blow to the face. Flashes of color explode behind my eyes, and the red hot pain makes everything else go out of focus for a few seconds.
Suddenly it dawns on me that people are talking. No, not talking. Laughing. Another kick to the stomach and I realize, in a warm flood of shame, that I am naked. I am naked, and someone is hitting me, and people are watching, laughing, pointing, cheering. The realization hits so sharply that I let out a little choking sound and close my eyes to make sure that I can’t see anything. Another kick to the stomach and I coil into the fetal position, desperate to make it all stop. I want to curl up inside of myself, to burrow in so deeply that I don’t have to feel anything anymore. My eyes are clenched shut, and I imagine myself in a warm, snug cocoon, safe from the outside world.
Then it stops.
“What the hell is going on here?” There are footsteps, and someone is pulling on my arm, trying to get me to roll over. I pull away from them, curling up tighter. “What is this?” they ask. Something brushes against my buttocks, and there is another flash of fire behind my eyes. The room is silent.
“Holy shit,” someone whispers.
I don’t want to open my eyes, but I do it anyway. Everyone is staring at me, including Coach Williamson, who is crouched next to me holding a small piece of paper in his hand. No, not paper. A strip of athletic tape. It’s covered in hair, and I know immediately where it came from.
Coach Williamson turns around and stands up straight. “What the hell happened here, Clark?”
I look at the boy that he is talking about, one of the wrestlers, the one in the school newspaper all the time. He looks stunned and scared, just like me. His face is wet, but I can’t tell if it’s from tears or sweat. He glances down at me, then looks away.
“Let’s get you to the nurse’s office,” someone says quietly. One of the other coaches is squatting near my head, and he helps me to my feet. Everyone is still staring at me, and I want to tell them to stop, but I can’t. The older man hands me a pair of shorts, and I put them on, along with a t-shirt. Everyone is still staring, except for the wrestler and Coach Williamson, who are gone. The other coach leads me out of the locker room and into the hallway, which is thankfully empty. I don’t know what I would do if someone saw me like this.
Which makes me think of my parents, of course. They’re going to find out. The school will call them and tell them that their son was beaten up at school today. My mother will probably cry, but I don’t know what my father will do. Nothing maybe. I don’t know if I should feel relieved about this or not.
In the nurse’s office, the nurse helps bandage my wounds, and I try unsuccessfully to fight off the waves of embarrassment that don’t seem to be letting up. In fact, I don’t see an end to the embarrassment anywhere in sight. Everywhere I turn, there is another reason for my face to heat up, for my insides to churn, threatening to expel the pancakes I ate for breakfast. The nurse’s soothing tone, the vice principal’s bewildered expression, the memory of a dozen faces contorted with laughter; all of them remind me that I was exposed and beaten and that I should feel ashamed. I try to imagine when all of this will be over, but I don’t think that it ever will.
I am lying on my stomach in one of the small rooms in the nurse’s office, still dressed in the same dingy gym uniform I was given before being escorted from the locker room. My eyes are fluttering open and closed, and I want to curl up and go to sleep, but I can’t. Then the door cracks open and someone walks into the room.
“Oh, Larry,” my mother says.
When we get home, my mother offers to fix me a grilled cheese sandwich, but I feel so nauseous that I know I won’t be able to keep it down. I tell her that I am tired, and she nods understandingly, her eyes clouded over with pity.
I sleep for a couple of hours and wake up to find my room much darker than it was before I laid down. The sun has gone down, and I can see the warm glow of the streetlights through a crack in the blinds. I roll over to look at the clock on my nightstand. It reads 6:38.
I know that my father is home before I enter the living room; after years of living under his roof, I have become good at it. The air is charged with cold, silent control, and I can feel the particles buzzing in my ear like static. I walk into the living room to see him sitting on the couch, watching the baseball game.
He looks up when I walk in, and his eyes flicker over the bruises on my face. I am holding my breath, looking for signs of tenderness or sympathy, but there are none. “Rough day?” he asks lightly, glancing back at the screen.
I can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic or if he just doesn’t want to talk about what happened. I walk past him and go into the kitchen, where my mother is putting up leftovers. When I walk in, she looks up, her face softening immediately.
“Did you sleep well?” she asks.
I nod. “Yeah.”
She reaches forward and brushes my hair out of my eyes. Her eyes settle on the bruises, and I duck out of the way, going over to the fridge for milk.
“You don’t have to go to school tomorrow,” she says.
I pull the milk out and open the cabinet above the sink to grab a glass.
“I’ve already talked to Principal Tracy. He says you’re excused for the rest of the week, until you’ve recovered.”
I pour myself a glass of milk and leave the carton sitting on the counter. I can feel my mother’s eyes on the back of my head.
“Larry…” she says quietly.
The sympathy in her voice is making everything worse. “Just stop it,” I tell her.
Even though I’m not looking at her, I can tell that she’s frowning. “I know you’re upset,” she says, stepping forward to put a hand on my back. I bristle at the touch and step out of her way.
“I’m going back to bed,” I tell her, making my way towards the door.
“Larry!” she calls after me. But I am already in the living room, brushing past my father. He says something to me, but I don’t catch it all, and I’m pretty sure that I’m better off not going back and asking him to clarify. I rush into my room and shut the door behind me, locking it for good measure. I set the glass of milk on my nightstand and collapse onto the bed.
I lie there for a long time, staring at the wall. Even in the darkness, I can see all of my plaques and trophies glittering stupidly from the shelf above my desk. Second place, Academic Decathlon. Third place, district-wide creative writing competition. First place, regional history fair. I want to throw them out the window.
On Saturday morning, I rise before the sun. The air outside is cold and wet, and the ground is already soggy from the dew. I am wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a thin cotton t-shirt. My arms and legs are freezing, but I don’t care. I want it that way.
The trail is empty, and I am glad for this small blessing. I run faster than I usually do, pushing as hard as my body will allow. After a while, my arms and legs are burning, a sweet contrast to the cool sheen of sweat covering my skin and the sharp, cold breaths that I’m dragging into my lungs. My stomach muscles are on fire, but it feels good.
I run for about twenty minutes before it hits me. The memory of laughter, of silence, of red hot shame. I stop running and walk over to the nearest tree, putting my hand against the trunk and leaning forward in case I have to throw up. I don’t. I stay that way for a long minute, taking deep breaths to calm myself. It doesn’t help. The laughter grows louder, and the shame is burning in my chest.
Suddenly, I stand up straight and hit the trunk of the tree with my open palm. It hurts like fire, but I do it again and again until the inside of my hands are raw and bleeding. Again, and I imagine that I am hitting him instead, like I should have when it happened. I imagine making him feel everything I felt: the tape, the punches, the shame, everything. I imagine his nose breaking, imagine that the blood on my hands is pouring out of his nostrils. I imagine that he is the one left humiliated, that it’s his father who is ashamed of his loser son. And then, without even realizing what I am doing, I rear back, curl my hand into a fist, and punch the tree as hard as I can.
My wrist vibrates dangerously, and the pain is so incredible that I know I’ve probably broken something. Somehow, this doesn’t scare me the way it probably should. I step back from the tree, cradling one limp, bloody arm in one hand.
I’m not sure how long I stand there like that, but it feels like an hour, maybe five. By the time I remember where I am, the throbbing in my wrist and fingers has become so painful that I can practically hear the blood pounding in my head. Bump bump, bump bump. The rhythm carries me back down the trail, one foot in front of the other. Bump bump, bump bump.
I walk back to my neighborhood, which takes a lot longer than it would have if I was running. I feel like a wounded soldier, carrying my swollen, bloody arm like it’s in a sling. I kind of feel like one, too. The numbness has set in, in my arm and in my head. I’m not really focusing on where I’m going, but my feet are on auto pilot.
I’m about three blocks from my house when I see him. He’s across the street, standing in front of a modest two-story house, glancing down at his watch. There’s a brown Bronco in the driveway, just a few feet to his left. He’s wearing his letter jacket, buttoned all the way up to protect him from the cold.
I stand there staring at him for a good thirty seconds before he looks up. I can tell the moment he recognizes me, because his eyes grow wide and his mouth drops open a little bit. He looks like he’s trying to say something, but the words aren’t coming out right. Or maybe he is saying something, and I’m too far away to hear him. I don’t know.
Suddenly, a man walks out of the house and slams the door behind him. “Andrew!” the man barks.
He looks up, startled, then goes around to the passenger side of the Bronco and opens the door. Before he gets in, he looks back at me one more time. I want to do something horrible, like punch him maybe, right in front of his father. But I don’t have any energy left, and there’s something in his eyes that stops me from saying anything at all. Before I can figure out what it is, he slips into the vehicle and shuts the door behind him.
I watch the Bronco disappear around the corner before I turn around and continue walking home.