Demonic pleasure glimmered in his eyes. I’d only been there for about a minute. I knew in that second that something was going to happen. I just wasn’t sure what. Or how far he would actually go.
They always had their little games at the bus stop. I generally stayed quiet and didn’t draw attention to myself. The feel of the lumpy wall digging into my back was a familiar feeling. I flattened myself out against it. Hoping not to be noticed. It never worked, but I still did it. He always saw me, and always had some torture implement at the ready… Be it verbal or physical.
I got used to it. Learned to pretend that I didn’t hear, or that it didn’t hurt. But I did hear. And it did hurt.
That day started like any other. I got up and got dressed in my school uniform, (A welsh wool skirt, blue shirt, blue and green striped tie, blue school jumper with the school logo on, and my coat). My uniform was no different to anyone else’s. The school was the only supplier. I put my bag on my shoulder, and then left the house for the bus stop. I was happy that morning. Excited even. We’d just got a new computer and I was full of the joys of the Internet. That changed when I saw the bus stop.
As soon as I saw it, I knew that something was going to happen. I could see them all crowded together. As I walked down the road a feeling of dread spread through me as the gap between him and me got smaller. It was the same each day, this one being no different. It was only when I saw the look in his eyes. I knew then…
When I got to the bus stop, I saw that they were all there. Kelsey, Sarah, Gary, Casey, Daphne, Cam, Han and him. Will was there too, but wasn’t huddled with them. When I got there, I flattened myself out against the wall. Some of them glanced at me and murmured names and comments. He hadn’t seen me yet though.
They were always playing with lighters. I’d seen them before. I just didn’t look. The last thing I wanted was for them to have more ammunition. I saw through a gap in the huddle what they were doing. Lighters again. They were using a deodorant can, and a lighter to burn the wooden bench. The smell was a mixture of acrid deodorant, lighter fuel, and scorched wood. I could see a spreading black mark, as the bench got hotter. That day, for some reason I couldn’t look away.
They were all laughing and joking. Casey was the one burning the bench, he was concentrating but still talked with the others.
It wasn’t long before he found me. When he did, he looked at me for a minute, and then grabbed the deodorant can and lighter from Casey, and said “I think it’ll work better outside by penfold”. It really hurt hearing that name. I didn’t even know why he was calling me it at the time. He walked slowly and purposefully towards me.
I started walking backwards. I never turned my back on him as he was walking towards me. I was scared it would take too much time and that he’d catch up with me. I backed all the way across the road as he followed me. I came up against a wall, so I changed direction slightly and carried on backing away in circles as fast as I could, my bag banging against my leg as I went. I never seemed to get any real distance between us.
I was moving only on pure fear of being caught. I didn’t know what he was capable of. I felt sure at that moment that if he caught me, I wouldn’t be getting on the bus that morning.
There was no one around to stop him. It was a small village in the mountains. No one much came along the road at all, let alone that early in the morning. I was totally alone. The others in the bus stop just watched. Some may have made comments, but I couldn’t hear anything except my head shouting ‘Run!’
Finally, after what felt like forever, but was probably only a few minutes, someone called out “Leave her alone”, and he did. He crossed the road to the bus stop, and joined the others. I stayed on the other side of the road, leaning against the wall of the chapel.
Some of them said “Come on penfold. Come back over”, but, crying and shaking, I refused. They asked what was wrong, saying that it was only a joke. That was when I slipped up big time. “I’m scared of fire” I said. No one came over to me. Some were too scared; others just didn’t care or found it amusing. I tried to calm myself down. Tried… but failed as the images of myself on fire, being burnt as the simulated blowtorch raged on, and their faces laughing, flooded through my head.
A few minutes later, the bus came. The tears had dried up, and I got on and sat down. No one on there knew that anything had happened. I could hear him at the back of the bus as we drove to school. I just looked out of the window, and tried to imagine that I was a million miles away. My heart was still pounding, and the knot in my stomach continued to twist anxiously inside me. When we arrived at school, I was one of the last people off the bus. As he walked past me, he waved the lighter at me.
Later on that day, on the bus home, he asked if I’d told anyone. I said I hadn’t, and he said “Good. You’d better sleep with your eyes open from now on”.
It wasn’t the first time he’d done this. And it wasn’t the last but it was the most memorable. And the only time I let my guard slip and my fear show. That time he really had found my one true weakness.
I can still see the images as clear as day. The flames: the bench: their faces looking at me. And then there are his eyes. I’ll never forget that look… Ever.