AN: So, this is sort of short, too, but it's something. To say things have been hectic lately is an understatement. :/
Eli stumbled into his house with his head down, the way it had been all day. He dropped his backpack in the middle of the living room and sulked into the kitchen to get a juice box.
"Eli! Honey! How was your day?" His mom asked, shuffling into the room with a huge smile.
"Bad," he muttered, sipping the watery juice that he didn't even like.
"Aw, do you want to tell me about it?" His mother took his shoulders in her hands and stared into his eyes. His lower lip trembled, but he knew he had to tell his mom about what had happened.
"Th-the big kids, they br-broke m-my MP3 player," he managed before bursting into tears. Mrs. Goldsworthy wrapped her arms around her son.
"Shhhh, it's okay," she soothed, stroking his hair. But that just made Eli cry harder.
"It was my favorite present!" He blubbered.
"It's all right, Honey, we can get you a new one." His eyes lit up a little.
"Sure. Daddy gets paid at the end of the week; we can get it then. And we can get the same exact one, if that's what you'd like." Eli sniffled and nodded. His mom released him and began cooking a grilled cheese.
"So who were these bullies who wrecked your music player?" She asked.
"Big kids. Fifth graders."
"What were their names?" He shrugged.
"Ralf Westel and his friends." Mrs. Goldsworthy shook her head, disgusted.
"Well Mrs. Westel is going to get a very articulate phone call." Eli's eyes widened. He wasn't sure what 'articulate' meant, but that didn't matter.
"No! Don't call his mom! They'll make fun of me even more!"
"Of course I'm going to call his mother," she scoffed. "Nobody makes fun of my baby and gets away with it." He groaned, humiliated, as she handed him his grilled cheese and began flipping through the phonebook. The next day would be such a delight.
Eli's dad drove him to school the next day on his way to work upon hearing of the bus incident, and his mom offered to pick him up afterwards. But the bus wasn't the only place Ralf could find Eli.
Oh no, Eli thought. Not at recess! Recess was everybody's favorite part of the day. The big fifth graders couldn't ruin recess for him, that was just unthinkable!
"How come the big kids are looking at you?" His best friend, Ronnie, asked. His chestnut eyes were wide and fearful.
"They smashed my MP3 player," Eli explained. "And my mommy called his mom."
"You have an MP3 player?"
"I had one."
"They're coming over here!" Ronnie exclaimed. "I have to pee. Bye Eli!" He took off at a speed that made Marion Jones look like a…turtle. Which left Eli on his own as the bullies trudged over to him.
"You got me grounded for four days," Ralf spat.
"I t-told my mom not to c-call yours," Eli said feebly.
"But she did." There was a menacing tone in Ralf's voice, one that nobody could miss. The teacher for Eli's class had gone inside to use the bathroom, and Ralf and his friends hadn't come out with a teacher. Most of the kids in the class were too busy having fun to notice what was going down.
"You broke my favorite present though!" Ralf's dark eyes went deadly (well, as deadly as a fifth grader can look).
"You want to go?" Eli blinked, his brows furrowed in confusion.
"Go wh—" Before he could defend himself, the bully shoved him back, where his left shoulder blade smashed into the monkey bars behind him.
"Ow," he whimpered, trying to rub where it hurt, but his arm wasn't long enough. Ralf wound up for another push, but Eli swiftly hopped up and bolted out of there.
He sprinted across the parking lot, his hair whipping around his face. It looked like it might rain, and he absently noticed his class getting ready to go inside. He couldn't worry about that now, though, because Ralf was right behind him. He could hear several sets of loud, heavy footsteps quickly approaching him.
Suddenly, a huge weight slammed into him, and he crashed to the pavement. Ralf was on top of him, pinning him down so that his chin was pressed into the concrete.
"Get off of me!"
"You tell you're mom about this," he warned. "And there will be more where this came from." It sounded like Ralf watched too many PG-13 movies. Eli felt blood welling up on his scuffed chin, and his elbows and knees were probably banged up too, not to mention the bruise that was forming on his shoulder blade.
Ralf cupped his big, meaty hands around Eli's bony shoulders and forced him up, into a standing position. Only to push him back down again, and laugh as he landed on his butt.
His teeth rattled together from the impact, and it took him a while to get up. The fifth graders scurried away, and Eli was left wondering what he'd ever done wrong.
"Eli! Sweetie! What happened to you're face?"
"I fell at recess," Eli lied, his head down. That's what he'd told his teacher, too, and the nurse. He said he fell off the monkey bars. Nobody had noticed him getting chased and thrown down, and he was too scared to tell the truth.
"Aww, you poor thing. You've got to be more careful!" He nodded solemnly.
"Okay Mom." Mrs. Goldsworthy glanced at her son.
"Are you okay? Did those mean boys give you any more trouble?" He shook his head.
"No. I wasn't on the bus, remember?" She shifted uncomfortably.
"Well, about that. See, I have to go into the office tomorrow, so you'll have to take the bus home."
"What? No! I'll walk."
"That's ridiculous, Eli. We live eleven miles away. Something could happen to you." He crossed his arms indignantly.
"I'm not going on the bus. Can't Grammy pick me up?" Grammy was his grandma on his dad's side, who lived just down the street.
"Grammy's busy, sweetheart. Just sit somewhere away from them, and if they try to talk to you, don't listen." Because that would work, Eli thought bitterly, but he nodded anyway. He knew he couldn't win the argument.
He spent the night wondering how he could get out of the fateful bus ride. He considered riding his bike, but he knew his mom wouldn't approve. None of his friends lived in his neighborhood, so that was out of the question.
He was at a point of desperation. He felt that he needed to do something, anything. He couldn't just sit there, day after day, and let himself get beat up.
That's when the idea came to him: he could fake being sick! Groan a few times, cough some, and talk through his nose and there was no way his mom would suspect him as a fraud.
He thought that maybe, if he stayed clear of the Ralf for a little bit, he'd leave him alone. And then, when he got his new MP3 player, he'd let him listen to it in peace. And he wouldn't hurt him anymore.
He crossed his fingers and shuffled down the steps, putting on his best sick face.