As promised, the YA story is coming right along, and as what always happens, the cast of character sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night demanding that I get their yarn woven into the current tapestry of tale….
Enjoy! (As always, feedback is deeply appreciated!)
The school year progressed and Odie, under Dr. Belling’s tutelage, had become a much better student through the hours of time spent around his mentor and friend. Honors Chemistry was a course that strained the gray matter of all its’ attendees, but Odie it appeared, had a natural gift for working the most difficult of problems. Excelling at schoolwork is not exactly part of the formulary for dealing with bullies, however. Especially if your bullies are on the football team and grades below a C got you benched for a game, or until you brought your average up. While he’d managed to escape the usual crush tactics at his locker, and the expected trip in the school cafeteria, Odie had his own set of tormentors who delighted in tagging him with the name “Slug-Boy.” This year, they were not above including his friend Anya in the abuse; pulling her hair, grabbing at her breasts, slapping her on the seat of her jeans, teasing her in derogatory innuendo and making racist remarks about her half-breed status by yelling out “Hey, Tomahonky! Slug-Boy treating you right?” She’d not revealed the depth of the bullying to Odie; he was working so hard on his own scholarship that she wasn’t going to let his defense of her honor get in the way of college opportunities for the both of them. But reporting the bullies wasn’t going to stop them if she went to the trouble. Anya was a “half-breed rez kid”, and anyone that cared for her welfare was a rarity.
Odie was weaving his way through the maelstrom of students leaving class just before the Christmas holidays when he saw Anya hiding her face in her coat. From her defeated posture and the shaking of her shoulders, he could tell she was sobbing. He reached out to gather her close to him, “Anya! What happened?”
When she turned to face him, it was apparent what the problem was as a large swath of her hair was chopped off in front to make ragged bangs. A volcanic rage roiled up in his demand through a gravelly harsh voice, “Who did this to you?” His anger was just below the surface but rolling through his body. Anya was stunned almost out of her tears; she’d never seen him so enraged. Haltingly, through the tears she explained, “Those jocks, the ones that are always teasing you were mouthing off, and I told them to shut up. Billy pulled a knife, while the rest of them held my arms and…OH, Odie, my hair!!” She dissolved into tears again, and Odie gingerly pulled her into a gentle, if awkward, embrace, placing a gentle kiss on her forehead.
A sudden, complete understanding flooding him; if the thugs couldn’t stop him one way, they’d use their tactics on whomever he cared for as an additional tool. In their obscene need to dominate through testosterone and fear, they’d either forgotten or failed to care that there are consequences for outright assault on another student if you left enough evidence. With a firm voice Odie wrapped his right arm around his girlfriend, “Come with me, Anya.” As if he was a force of nature, Odie separated the traffic flow of students and pulled her along back into the Chemistry lab. He wasn’t going to stop, he wasn’t going to allow anyone to stop them either. With a hard edged voice he announced into the nearly vacant classroom as they entered, “Mrs. Turner? I need, um, we need some help, please.”
Amanda Turner was hard pressed every year to explain why she returned to teach High School Chemistry, however every year there was some student that showed some sort of promise that confirmed her commitment to teaching one more year. Odie Fentner was her reason for this year and possibly next year unless he tested out; he had a natural gift for understanding the most difficult of problems, and she was looking forward to writing his recommendations for college. With possible cut backs in budget and layoffs, retirement was looking like a better option; besides, the local school board had always been slightly hostile to math and science teachers.
But there was another consideration when Amanda Turner began seriously considering drafting her resignation letter. Students were always getting themselves into situations that would have been better handled with a good sex education class or sometimes a lawyer, but it appeared that Fate would hand her those challenges to handle with her calm good sense and an intuitive sense of human nature instead. Upon hearing her prize student’s voice cut through the between-class vacuum Mrs. Turner was a bit startled, but the no-nonsense experience within her took over.
“How can I help you, Odie?”
When she turned around to see a tear-streaked young woman that had clearly been assaulted, that calm good sense abandoned her and a sense of indignant rage boiled up. Anya Zoltiz was one of the “rez” kids – students from the local reservation that were incorporated in the school district when the Bureau of Indian Affairs shut the funding off for the reservation schools. Because most of them were from impoverished families, the children of local stockmen and ranch owners had been told they were the equivalent of human detritus. It wasn’t any better for Anya that even the “rez” kids wouldn’t talk to because “half-breeds” were considered lower than cockroaches. Anya was one of the better students, one that Amanda Turner knew would be able to make it out of the reservation given a chance.
“Who did this, Odie? Oh damn, come here young lady!” Anya burst into tears again as Amanda Turner enveloped her with a swift hug, and then held her at arm’s length to look at the damage. Odie and Anya began to detail the identities of the offenders and Mrs. Turner interrupted them, “Ok, first things first; Odie, use the classroom phone and dial the front office. I want Mr. Kingley here, now. And I want him to call the sheriff; they have laws against this kind of thing.” She quickly took Anya back to her office and set her down, then opened the connecting door to the classroom next door to speak to a colleague. “Ann, can you cover my next class? I have another situation.”