It was lunch hour for Jake and he had just exited the line with a tray full of food. He scanned the cafeteria for an empty table. He saw Angela sitting off in the distance. For a second he thought about asking to join her, hoping that news would have spread of his run in with Stan and that she’d feel sympathy for him. This thought depressed him to no end. He seriously hoped forsympathy points to woo her. God, you’re pathetic he thought to himself. He noticed Dave and Ash sit next to her and that Sarah girl, which swiftly caused him to switch direction.
He continued to look around the caf and saw Mike and Alicia sitting at a table. Jake made a beeline towards them, and sat down next to Mike. Mike gave Jake an uncomfortably weird look.
“What are you doing?” Mike asked.
“Sitting,” Jake said. “Why? Is this seat taken?”
“No, but you can’t sit here,” Mike said bluntly.
“Why,” Jake asked, rage building in his gut.
“Look,” Mike said in a smug voice. “I know why you chose to sit here. It’s because of earlier in class. But, dude, just because I saved you—”
“Saved me?!” Jake cut in.
“—doesn’t mean I like you,” Mike finished.
Jake got up fuming and moved to an empty seat just behind Alicia. He was so mad; his eyes couldn’t help but water. He could hear Mike and Alicia arguing behind him.
“What,” Mike asked.
“What the hell?” Alicia responded.
“What would people say if they saw us sitting with that outcast?” Mike said.
“Wow,” she said after a long pause. “You are kind of an ass.”
“Alicia,” Mike said with a smile, trying to be smooth. “I just wanted to sit here alone with you.”
“I actually don’t think there’s room for me and your ego,” Alicia said harshly as she got up from the table.
Jake felt a tap on the shoulder.
“Can I sit here,” Alicia said as she eyed him with pity.
“Sure,” Jake said.
“Look,” Alicia said in a friendly voice. “I’m sorry about that. You are welcome to sit by me any—”
Jake stood up and left the cafeteria, not looking back. To think, moments ago he was thinking of fishing for sympathy points. Now, he had them and he swelled with anger.
* * *
Julia and Jake walked home from school that afternoon. The sun had broken through the clouds that settled in at midday, but the wind carried with it an icy chill. The two chatted peacefully as, unbeknownst to them, Stan, Ash, and Dave lurked closely behind them. Jake noticed the crunching sound of snow grew more rapid, which caused him to turn right as Stan threw a jab to the chest. He jabbed Jake again in the stomach, which dropped Jake to the frozen ground.
“Leave him alone!” Julia yelled, taking swings at Stan.
Dave moved in and caught one of her fists and pulled her in to a bear hug. She struggled, but Dave held her back in his tight arms.
“Kitten’s got claws,” Stan said impressed.
He redirected his attention back to Jake who was trying to get up. Stan extended his booted foot to Jake’s shoulder and pushed him back to the dirty snow.
“Thought that was really funny,” Stan said threateningly. “Didn't you? Everyone laughing at me. Me getting suspended. Well, guess what ass-mouth? Suspension over! It was only for the rest of the day. That means I’ll be seeing you tomorrow. You find a way to get me in trouble again I’ll kick your ass so badly they’ll need a dental squad just to figure out who the hell you were!”
“Do they have dental squads?” Dave asked. “Is that a thing?”
“Isn’t that who does all that CSI shit?” Ash asked.
“Those are forensic investigators,” Dave said.
“Would you two shut the fuck up?!” Stan shouted, and then turned his attention to Julia. “And, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop hanging out with shit like that.”
He pointed to Jake, then let him up from the ground. He approached Julia closely and brushed her hair from her face.
“You are kinda cute,” he told her. “Too bad you like to hang out with fucks like him.”
He nodded to Dave who let her go. The three of them walked away. Julia rushed down to help Jake off of the ground.
“Get away from me,” Jake barked.
“But…” Julia said wounded.
“I’m not going to do the assignment,” Jake said as he tried to control his anger and humiliation. “I’m just gonna go home. I want to be left alone.”
Julia looked at him with big hurt, yet, understanding eyes. She helped him stand, and he walked away from her with speed.
* * *
He let out a bellow of rage once he entered his house. He ditched his backpack and tore up the stairs to his bedroom. He paced in short, concise circles muttering angrily under his breath. This went on for several minutes, followed by the occasional outburst wherein he punched the wall. Suddenly, he stopped his raging and sat at his computer taking long soothing breaths.
“I better do it,” he sighed.
He turned his computer on and went to Google typing in Joseph Matthews.
* * *
Jake sat on the couch in the dimly lit living room. He was cuddled up with Angela. The two had been locked in a tight embrace. His arms wrapped over her in a comforting, protective manner. The TV was on in the background, but Jake paid little attention to it. He was staring at the goddess in his grasp, but her eyes were glued to the screen. Jake glanced at the screen and saw a strong muscular man in a Clinton mask hacking up young teens.
“What is this?” Jake asked.
“A nightmare,” Angela said in a velvety voice. “We needn’t watch.”
Jake smiled and looked into her sparkling eyes.
“Why do you let Stan get to you?” she asked. “You have to take a stand.”
“What are you talking about?” Jake asked.
Angela leans in for a kiss, but Jake pulled away and rose from the couch. Standing before them is Stan, dressed in a similar wife beater that the killer is wearing in the movie playing behind him. Screams echoed from the television. Jake, now on his feet, stands in front of Stan who towers over him, but Jake didn’t back down. Angela was at his side, looking at him with love and admiration. She leaned in and kissed him softly on his lips.
Jake woke with a start at the sound of him alarm, and the realization that his cozy vision of Angela had just been a mere dream paralyzed him. You have to take a stand echoed through every fiber of his being. He lay awake with his eyes open, both literally and figuratively.