My life’s blood pours from me as I drop to the ground in defeat. That which I originally perceived as my foe’s weakness would at last be my undoing. My knees land hard upon the stones and dirt.
The cackling of those gathered round about me grows louder. “Finish him off. Finish him off,” they begin to chant in unison. “Finish him off!”
Every nerve screams its pain, as I watch the bloodstain on my shirt grow larger. The blows, you see, were landed in quick succession, leaving me little time to strategize my defense. Yet time, or at least my perception thereof, seemed to slow as each new injury was applied.
Though the battle had lasted for but a few moments, the torment would be sure to linger.
The noonday sun illuminates the battlefield, creating metallic reflections which nearly blind me. Weapons raised, my opponent’s lips curl ever so slightly. The devilish grin of the victor.
The stark realization of my ineffectiveness, coupled with the silhouette of a hand nearing my head, causes me to recoil. I soon find myself lying in a ball, on the dirt, unable to comprehend how all this had come to be.
Why had I come to war against such a beast?
A temporary lapse in judgment has led me to this place where I will pay the ultimate price.
How is it that I would allow myself to be cut down in my prime, and by such an insignificant adversary?
My weaponry is greater in size and has proven its mettle time and again. I am a formidable fighter, who has clashed with those who were of much greater stature than I. Yet here I lie, beaten. Moreover, I have been humiliated to the point of desperation. I wait for the end to come.
The laughter swells from the crowd which has gathered to see the spectacle. The once mighty has been brought low. And by what? A girl?!
The hand remains, silently hanging in the air above me. Where previously it had been a tightly clenched, and quite effective, instrument of my destruction, now it holds within it a softness which belies the fierce nature of its sting.
“Come on, take it.” she says. Her compassion cuts through the din of laughter and disbelief surrounding us. “I’m not going to stay here all day.”
Slowly rolling onto my buttocks, which were firmly planted in the playground dirt, I reach out to her. The moment she takes my hand in hers, I sense it. There is a strength I had not noticed before, but would not soon forget. Not that anyone in the school would ever allow me the luxury.
After this day I would be forever seen as the guy who was beaten, thoroughly beaten, by Sally Maxwell.
An audible groan escapes me, as I am raised to my feet. Still I find it quite difficult to fathom that all this pain was caused by a sixth-grader. I mean, this is the year that I am supposed to rule Park West Junior High. At least that is what I have always been told. The eighth-graders are the top of the food chain, and I am their King.
Was their King. Past tense.
“I’m sorry about your nose.”
Her comforting is as a rare sweetness that soothes my inner turmoil and quiets my mind for a moment.
“Here.” She hands me her kerchief. “If you wad it up and shove it up your nose, it should stop the bleeding.”
“Thanks.” I notice the lace corner, the light pink monogram, and the faint scent of lilacs.
“I have brothers” she says, feeling the need to explain her knowledge of such things.
“Ah.” I nod at her, knowingly. “I… I get that.”
We walk out from the midst of the crowd, toward the school doors.
“I guess that’s the last time you’ll snap a girl’s bra strap, eh?” she says with a braced smile.
“First and last” I say, as she opens the door.
Special thanks to Donna Turner, for her editing assistance.