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Chapter no 15 – Bathroom breaks and Propositions Shannon

Binding 13

When people say something is too good to be true, then it usually is.

That was exactly how I felt when I stepped out of the bathroom on Tuesday evening after school and collided with a hard chest.

Surprised to find anyone standing outside the bathroom when the final bell had long gone, I let out a small squeak.

“How’s it going, Shannon?” the blond, vaguely familiar boy asked, grinning down at me.

The halls were relatively empty, with only a few students rambling down the corridors, leading me to believe that he had been waiting out here for me.

After all, the girls’ bathroom was an unusual spot for a boy to loiter outside of, especially one togged out in a jersey, shorts, and football boots.

Panic mixed with a large dollop of wariness flared to life inside of me. “Um, fine,” I replied, tucking and then re-tucking my hair behind my

ear, a nervous trait. “How are you?”

“Better now I’m talking to you,” he announced, confirming my worst nightmare, as he stepped closer, the studs on his boots clanging against the floor.

“Were you waiting out here for me?” I forced myself to ask, needing the vocal confirmation. Don’t ask me why, but I needed to clarify the crazy. “In

your –” I gestured to his attire, “P.E kit?”

“I was training and forgot my mouthguard in my locker,” he explained, not one bit embarrassed by any of this. “I saw you going into the bathroom when I was heading to my locker so I figured I’d wait around to talk to you.” Shrugging like his nonsense explanation was a perfectly acceptable one, he added, “I’m Ronan, by the way. Ronan McGarry. We have French together.”

His tone was friendly, but I knew better than to be fooled. Friendly could turn to bully in a nanosecond.

“Yeah. I know.” Taking a step back to regain my personal space, I added, “Well, it was nice of you to come say hi, but I have to go catch my bus. It leaves soon and the driver won’t wait –”

“I saw you on the pitch that day, Shannon,” he purred, voice low, eyes alight with excitement. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” He took another step towards me, invading my space once more. “In your knickers? Those killer legs… I saw all of you.”

My heart sank.

Every muscle in my body locked tight with dread. This was it.

What I had been waiting for. The inevitable taunting.

I was vaguely aware of Ronan McGarry, having sat in front of him in French class the past few weeks, but I hadn’t realized he was on the rugby team.

I hadn’t noticed him on the pitch last week, but then, I hadn’t noticed anyone other than Johnny that day.

I guess it made sense though, what with the muddy kit he was currently wearing and the bruised cheekbone.

But I didn’t have anything to say to him, so I kept my mouth shut and waited for him to speak.

He would.

They always did.

“And I have to be honest, Shannon.” He reached up and tugged on my braid with his mud stained hand, not hard, it was in more of a playful way, but I didn’t like the intrusion. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since.”

Feign indifference, Shannon.

Pretend you don’t care.

Stepping sideways to free my hair from his grasp, I brushed off his words with a small shrug and readjusted my bag on my shoulders.

He stared at me for a long time, eyes dancing with excitement, before saying, “You’re a shy little thing, aren’t you?”

“No,” I replied, voice small, and it was the truth. I wasn’t shy.

I could be as outspoken and verbose as anyone when I was with people I trusted.

But I was cautious.

I had good reason to be. And I didn’t trust him.

“Well, shy or not, you’re fucking gorgeous under those clothes,” he stated lowly, dragging his bottom lip into his mouth as his eyes roamed shamelessly down my body. “I would really love your number.”

My mouth fell open. Was he serious?

I gaped up at his face, trying to gauge him. He looked completely serious.

“I, ah, I, no…” Shaking my head, I narrowly avoided his hand once more when he tried to tug on my braid again. “I’m sorry, Ronan, but I don’t give out my number to strangers.”

The very last thing I wanted to do was give anyone aside from Claire and Lizzie my phone number.

Giving out my details meant the bullies had a direct line to my psyche 24/7.

And while I had made that mistake once before in my old school, a new phone number and the burning remnants of hard-earned wisdom meant that I would never do so again.

Ronan scoffed. “I’m hardly a stranger.”

“You are to me,” I replied, forcing myself to stand strong.

“Come on, Shannon, I don’t bite.” He continued to smile at me, but it was harder, his eyes a little cooler now. “Just give me your number.”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know you well enough to give you my number.”

“You could always get to know me,” he purred, placing a firm hand on my shoulder.

Even though I couldn’t feel his touch through my thick winter coat, I immediately recoiled from the contact, but he didn’t move his hand.

“I have a bus to catch,” I strangled out, repeating my earlier words. My shoulders were stiffer than concrete when I added, “I need to go now or I’ll miss it.” I was clutching at straws, but I wanted away from this boy. “Seriously, the driver won’t wait for me.”

“There’ll be another bus,” he shot back. “There won’t be another me.” Dear god, I hoped not.

“Listen,” Ronan pressed, tone taking on a flirtatious lilt. “I’m supposed to be at an after-training talk with the team down on the pitch. Coach likes to get us all together to talk strategy after our training sessions.”

He told me this like he actually thought I cared. I didn’t.

I only cared about him getting the hell away from me.

“But I don’t have to go.” His hand trailed from my shoulder to my elbow. “I could blow it off for you.” His hand moved lower, tracing the hem of my skirt. “What’d’ya say?” he asked, leaning into my ear. “Fancy going back into that bathroom and getting to know me a little better?”

“No,” I snapped, jerking away from his touch. “I’m not interested.”

“Come on, Shannon,” he snapped, tone heated now, eyes flashing with frustration. “Look around.” He clamped his hand on my shoulder again, not gently this time. “No one’s going to see us –”

Ronan didn’t have the chance to finish that statement when he was carted off – literally dragged away by the scruff of his neck by a much bigger, much older, boy.

“You’re a suicidal little fucker, aren’t you?” the boy was saying in an oddly light tone as he sauntered down the hallway with his huge hand cupping the back of Ronan’s neck, forcing him to double over and waddle to keep up with his long strides.

He was dressed in the same attire; a black and white striped jersey, white shorts, and boots that made clickety sounds against the floor as he walked, sods of muck and grass falling away from the studs.

The only contrast was a number 9 on the back of Ronan’s jersey and a number 7 on the big guy.

Immediate recognition hit me. Number 7.

Gerard ‘Gibsie’ Gibson.

Claire’s crush.

The cat walker.

The strange one.

Thank god!

The students still loitering in the hallway all stopped what they were doing to watch the drama, but no one stepped in.

Not one person intervened on Ronan’s behalf as the giant, fair-haired, man-child marched him through the corridor.

“Get the fuck off me, Gibsie,” Ronan was screeching, trying and failing to break free of the monster man’s hold. “I was only messing around.”

“You know he’s going to kill you, don’t you?” Gibsie asked, tone laced with humor, as he walked Ronan over to the front entrance and then ceremoniously tossed him out the double glass doors.

“Gibsie!” Ronan was screaming, red-faced, as he battled with the door handle. “Stop messing around. I was only being friendly to her.”

“That didn’t sound friendly, kid,” Gibsie taunted. “That sounded desperate – and a little rapisty.”

Right now, both boys were pulling; with Ronan furiously trying to pull the door open, and Gibsie pulling it closed with reasonable ease.

“Let me the fuck in, Gibsie!” Ronan roared, yanking on the handle like a lunatic. It was a push and pull system and he was failing to push it inwards. “I need my inhaler.”

“Nope, don’t even try that shit with me, McGarry,” Gibsie called out with a laugh, holding the door shut when Ronan tried the handle. “You knew the rules – and you don’t have asthma.”

“So, what?” Ronan demanded, looking outraged. “You’re just going to lock me out of school because he said no?”

What?

“Absolutely.”

What the hell were they talking about?

“He’s not my captain!” Ronan snarled, pressing his forehead to the glass.

I was so confused.

“Oh, but he is,” Gibsie called back, still laughing, and I was sure he was finding the situation highly amusing. “And dogs that can’t behave themselves around Cap’s new buddy stay outside.”

“You’re going to pay for this, Gibs,” Ronan hissed. “I swear to god, if you don’t let me in, I’m going to tell my uncle about this.”

“Is that so?”

“You’ll be thrown off the team for this.”

“For the threat, I’m going to fuck your mother, McGarry,” Gibsie shot back. “And then I’m going to cum all over her tits, and she’s going to love every minute of it.” With another chuckle, he said, “Go and tell uncle- coachy all about what I have planned with his sister.”

“I’m going to kill you!” Ronan screamed, slamming his fists against the glass.

“Suck my balls –”

“What’s going on?” a familiar male voice boomed through the air. Recognition immediately dawned on me.

I knew that accent.

Without conscious decision, my eyes searched frantically for the owner of the voice, and when I found him, walking stiffly out of the lunch hall, holding an icepack to his right thigh, my heart hammered wildly against my ribcage.

Standing a good twenty or so feet away, I was at a visual disadvantage, but I was close enough to see how every inch of Johnny’s upper body strained against the confinement of his jersey, from his broad shoulders to his tree-trunk sized biceps and long, lean torso.

His legs were long, his thighs thick and muscular, all of which were caked in grass and mud. I noted the small tear on the sleeve of his jersey where his bicep was bulging.

Lord, he was quite literally bursting out of the fabric.

He was dressed identically to the other boys, in the same jersey and shorts, but was incomparably different because of the sheer size of his body.

He was almost too big. Too muscular.

Too scary. Too beautiful. Too much.

Shaking my head to clear my wandering thoughts, I focused on the heated discussion occurring at the far end of the hall.

“What did the little bollox do now?” Johnny demanded as he closed the space between himself and Gibsie.

I mentally noted that he was walking with that same slight limp I’d observed on countless occasions.

It was barely noticeable, but if you looked closely enough, like I constantly seemed to do, it was clear that he tried to keep weight off his right leg.

My gaze danced between all three of them; moving from Ronan, who wasn’t yanking on the handle anymore – in fact, he’d taken a few steps away from the door – to Gibsie who was grinning like a Cheshire cat, before landing and staying on Johnny.

Seriously, as tall as Gibsie was, Johnny towered over him.

There was a streak of dried mud on his cheek that he attempted to bat away with the back of his free hand.

His dark brown hair was sticking up in forty different directions. Probably from sweat, I mentally noted, or playing outside in the rain.

He was standing in such a way that I could see his side profile and the way his frown deepened as Gibsie spoke quietly in his ear.

I couldn’t make out what they were saying and was unwilling to leave the sanctuary of my corner outside the bathroom, knowing I could always bolt inside and lock myself in a toilet cubicle and phone Joey if this turned ugly.

Seconds later, Johnny’s body visibly tensed. “What?”

Tossing the icepack on the ground, his hands balled into fists at his sides as he turned to glare out the glass, revealing the number 13 on his back.

He took a step forward, stopping just shy of the door when Gibsie clamped a hand on his shoulder.

“You’re fucking kidding me!” he roared, reacting to whatever his friend was whispering in his ear.

Johnny’s head turned in Ronan’s direction before quickly snapping towards me.

His eyes landed on my face and holy crap, he looked livid.

It was only a fleeting glance and he quickly turned his attention back to Ronan.

This time I could clearly hear what he was saying.

“I’m going to give you a five second head start, Prickface,” he roared through the glass panel. “And then I’m going to cut your cock off and feed it to you.”

“Fuck you, Kavanagh,” Ronan shouted back, but his face was much paler than earlier. “You can’t touch me.”

“One,” Johnny barked. “Two, three, four…”

“What are you waiting for?” Gibsie called out, waving his hands in the air encouragingly. “Get going, Forrest.”

Were they really going to fight?

Over me?

Was this really over me? It couldn’t be.

They didn’t even know me.

No way.

I didn’t like confrontation, I couldn’t cope with it, and this sure looked like it was about to snowball.

Deciding to detract myself from the situation, I turned on my heels and bolted into the bathroom, not stopping until I was safely tucked away in one of the stalls with the door locked behind me.

With trembling hands, I pushed my bag off my shoulders, allowing it to clatter against the tiled floor.

Dropping down on the closed toilet, I leaned forward, rested my elbows on my knees, and buried my hands in my hair, reeling.

What the hell just happened? What was that?

What would I have done if Gerard or Gibsie or whatever his name was hadn’t come?

Where would I be now?

As my earlier adrenalin deflated, tears dripped down my cheeks, but it wasn’t because I was upset.

Okay, yes, I was upset, but my tears were those of anger. I was pissed off actually.

Who the hell did Ronan McGarry think he was? More, who did he think I was?

Inviting me into the bathrooms with him.

God, he looked like he actually expected me to say yes.

Blinking away my tears, I clenched and then unclenched my fists, knees bopping as anger and humiliation coursed through me.

I hated humans.

They were such a disappointment.

And to think, god switched dinosaurs for man.

He must be raging.

Rubbing a hand over my face, I quickly swiped at my damp cheeks and battled to get a handle on my emotions.

I was annoyed with myself for being the kind of person who cried when angry.

I wanted to be a shouter.

A shouter was much better than a crier.

I was disgusted with myself for freezing, too.

He had no right to put his hands on me and I did nothing to stop him.

Words didn’t seem enough for that boy, and instead of kicking him in the junk or slapping his hand away, I’d clammed up just like I always did.

I should have learned by now that being a pushover didn’t do me any favors, and not fighting back wasn’t an option either.

In situations like the one that had just happened, I had to fight back. I needed to stop letting the fear take ahold of me.

I was entitled to stick up for myself.

It wasn’t rocking the boat to defend yourself.

I knew this, but the problem was, every time I was faced with a confrontation or crisis, my body –and my mind – always reacted with the same broken instinct; freeze.

People talked about the fight or flight instinct. I had neither.

Instead of fighting back or fleeing, I froze. Every fucking time.

Dragging in a few steadying breaths, I exhaled long and slow, striving to steady my nerves and erratic heartbeat.

It took three tries of shaking out my hand before I had the coordination to successfully undo the top buttons of my coat and retrieve my phone from my shirt pocket beneath my jumper.

Trembling, I unlocked the screen only to release a fresh surge of panic into my bloodstream when my eyes landed on the digital clock on the top of the screen.

It was 5:47.

My bus left on the dot at half past five. I’d missed it.

There wouldn’t be another one passing through the route I needed until 9:45pm tonight.

“Shit,” I whisper-cried, quickly scrolling into my contacts lists to find my brother’s name.

Pressing call, I held the phone to my ear, but instead of the typical ring- ring sound that came with placing a call, I was greeted with the pre- recorded, robotic voice letting me know that I didn’t have sufficient credit to place this call. “Dammit!”

Groaning, I quickly tapped in the code that allowed me to send a free ‘call me’ text message to Joey.

When I didn’t get an immediate response, I sent another, and then I sent three more for good measure.

Mam was at work and wouldn’t have her phone on her, and I’d rather sleep right here in this toilet stall than call my father to come get me – not that he would even come if I asked.

Thirty minutes later and I had sent at least twenty more freebie ‘call me’ messages to my brother, but to no avail.

He obviously either didn’t have his phone with him, or it was switched to silent.

My bet was it was on silent mode since Joey rarely left the house without it. He probably forgot to take it off silent-mode when he left school.

I didn’t know what else to do other than just wait at the school until the next bus was due.

I knew the school remained open until late for afterschool programs and tutoring.

It technically never closed considering it was also a boarding school, but the main area would be open until at least 9pm.

My stomach rumbled loudly, breaking the silence. Checking the time again, I noted that it was now 6:18pm. I had those slices of bread tucked away in my lunch box.

I could go and make some toast in the common area while I waited.

I would be in serious trouble when I got home, but there was no way on god’s given earth that I was going to walk the fifteen miles home.

The walk, I was sure I could handle.

It was who I might meet on the walk that troubled me.

Standing up, I tucked my phone back into my shirt pocket, re-did the buttons on my coat, reached for my bag, and let myself out the stall,

stopping to wash my hands before leaving the sanctitude of the bathroom.

I pressed my ear to the door and listened for a long moment.

When no sounds of violence and shouting came from the other side, I opened the door and stepped out.

Like a horrific case of déjà vu, I walked out of the bathroom and straight into a hard chest of muscle.

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