Seager reviewed his notes for his upcoming history test at the breakfast table across from Roy, who kept sticking his tongue out at him through his milk-stained lips.

Over the stomping from upstairs, Seager heard his mother yelling at his father. He screamed something back, but Seager couldn’t hear it clearly over Roy slurping his Frosted Flakes. Plus, he gave up trying to keep up with what his parents fought about a long time ago.

Hearing hurried steps come down the stairs, Seager refocused on his notes.

“Good morning, sons,” Tom said. He gave both boys noogies. Roy laughed and Seager forced a grin.

Their mother kissed both their cheeks and asked, “How are my loves doing this morning?”

“Good. Just reviewing notes before my test,” Seager said.

 “Oh, Seags,” Tom said as he poured himself coffee, “don’t worry too much about it. You’ll do great.”

“I know. I’m not worried.”

“Good. I have to get to the airport for a business trip, so, I’m going to take you to school a bit early. That okay, bud?”

“Yeah. I can get there early,” he said.

Seager considered asking his mother if she could take him closer to the start of class, but she was preoccupied with Roy.

After getting out of his father’s car, Seager saw Brock and Harlan notice him out of the corner of his eye. He tried to keep his gaze forward but couldn’t help himself from looking up. He immediately regretted doing so because that’s when he saw both nod towards their designated spot. Seager turned around to make sure his father was already gone before heading to the tree-covered creek where no other students or staff would find them.

 “Sup, pussy,” Harlan said when they were under the trees. He punched Seager’s shoulder and knocked him over. Brock and Harlan laughed and kicked fallen leaves and sticks towards him.

 “Oh, come on. Get up,” Brock said.

   Seager stood up and turned himself towards them, too ashamed to lift his gaze from their feet. He set his backpack down and took his shirt off before taking the piece of duct tape Harlan handed him. Seager slapped it over his mouth and extended his arms out so Brock could tie his hands together.

 “Ready?” Brock said.

Seager closed his eyes and started crying.

Cleaning himself up in the bathroom almost made Seager late for his test. He heard Brock and Harlan snigger behind him as he gingerly made his way to his desk in the front of class.

After reviewing test protocols, Mrs. Campbell handed it out herself and made sure Seager was the last student to receive his. When she got to him, she knelt next to his desk and asked, “Seager, sweetheart, can you please come with me outside?”

He nodded and got up too quickly, feeling the pain most in his ribs.

Brock was bouncing his leg up and down and Harlan was chewing his pencil as Mrs. Campbell and he walked by.

Mrs. Campbell shut the door behind her and asked, “You look hurt, sweetheart. Is everything okay?”

He knew his eyes were bloodshot and glassy from his tears. Both his emotional and physical pain were begging him to confess, but he couldn’t work up the courage. That would only put him in more danger, and besides, he knew problems eventually went away if you just ignored them.

“Thanks, but I’m fine Mrs. Campbell. Just a little nervous.”

Mrs. Campbell let the silence sit there for a bit, hoping he’d cave and tell her the truth.

“Would you tell me if it wasn’t?” she asked.

He nodded.

She took a deep breath and said, “Okay. Good luck on the test.”

Seager muttered his thanks and headed back to his desk.

Not far behind him, he heard Mrs. Campbell tell her son, “Harlan, stop chewing on your pencil and take your test.”

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