Nothing Stands Against a Hero!
“Try to have a good day today, mate. Alright?”
“Okay, Dad,” I muttered, slamming the car door closed. In the front seat, David’s head flopped to one side and whacked off the window. He flicked his eyes towards me, and I smiled in at him, trying to get him to look at me properly.
“Bye, bro!” I called. He blinked, and his eyes rolled away from me again. I sighed. It was weird how much worse he’d become since Mum had decided to go back to France. By herself. “It won’t be forever,” she’d said. So far, though, it had been. David didn’t talk to me with his eyes any more, and he’d given up doing that goofy grin he used to be so good at.
He was my big brother, but sometimes it didn’t feel that way.
Dad beeped, and pulled out. David’s school was twenty minutes away, and then Dad had to head on to work. I watched the car until it vanished.
Then, I couldn’t put it off any longer.
I shouldered my bag and started the long trudge up towards the big glass lump that passed for my school. Three weeks in, and I still had no clue how to get around the massive building. I pulled my timetable out of my pocket as I went, trying to work out where my first class was. It had been so much easier last year, in St. Colman’s, where I’d known everyone. Now, in secondary, I was a nobody. Or so Barry Peters told me every day, anyway. But I tried not to think about him, because it made my stomach hurt.
Then I remembered I had History right before lunch today. I knew what that meant. As if Mondays weren’t bad enough, now I had lunchtime to worry about, too. I stamped off to Maths, hoping I could stay there forever.
Of course, the morning zoomed past. I slipped into the corner of the History classroom, keeping an eye on Barry Peters. He ignored me, for once, too busy trying to impress Emmeline Josephs with some stupid rubbish on his mobile. He shouldn’t even have his phone in school! I did my best to squash him down into the bottom of my head, and hoped he’d leave me alone today. Just once, maybe I could eat my lunch in peace. When the bell rang after class, I legged it for the door, stuffing my textbook in as I went. Maybe today I’d be quick enough.
“Here!” came the familiar shout behind me. “Walsh! Where d’you think you’re going?”
I was nearly at the door to the outside, so I hurried up as much as I could without looking obvious.
“In a rush, are we?” taunted Barry, somewhere behind me.
I pushed through the door without looking back. Once I was outside, I knew I could run. I put my head down and made for the corner of the lunch-yard, praying I wouldn’t trip.
“Would you look at him!” I heard the laughter before I’d even made it half way. “He’s like a demented chicken.”
The laughter. Always the laughter. God, I hated it. I hated him.
I turned around. Something was boiling in my throat.
“What do you want?” I yelled. “Just leave me alone, alright?”
Before I knew it, he was on me. He thumped me up against the wall. I couldn’t catch a breath, and stars floated in my eyes. Barry stuck his face right up into mine. His breath smelled awful.
“I want your lunch money,” he said. “That’s for starters.” He ripped my schoolbag down off my shoulder. It hurt, but I kept my mouth shut.
“What have we got here, then?” he said, unzipping it. My History book and pencil case went flying over his shoulder. Then, he grinned and turned my bag upside down. He shook it until everything — books, papers, notes, random pencils, paperclips, a half-eaten apple, my calculator — ended up in a huge heap on the ground. He kicked through it.
“This is just rubbish!” he half-laughed, staring at me. “Where’s your cash, Walsh?”
He gave the bag one last shake, and something else dropped out of it. Not my lunch money (that was safe), but something totally unexpected.
“What is that?” Barry laughed. “Lads, c’mere! Look at this!”
I couldn’t believe it. My heart started to thump so hard I felt sick.
“Is that a sword? Like, a kid’s sword?” Emmeline’s voice was squeaky as she hurried over. “What a stupid thing to bring to school!” Her laugh felt like fingernails scraping down my face.
“Seriously,” echoed Barry, holding the sword up like it was a dirty sock. “You’re in secondary now, Walsh. Didn’t your Mum tell you?” He laughed in my face. “Oh, sorry. I forgot. She’s still on holiday, isn’t she?”
I felt my fists clench up. How could I tell them the sword was David’s? His Hero sword, the one that recited the words ‘Nothing Stands Against a Hero!’ if you pressed a button on the hilt. I wanted to scream, though. Why had he put it in my bag? It was his favourite thing in the world. He loved it. Why would he give it to me?
“Shut up about my mother,” I said. “It’s none of your business.”
Barry just sniggered, and dropped the sword.
“I’ve no lunch money,” I lied. “I brought sandwiches today.” Beside Barry, Emmeline sighed.
“Come on,” she whined. “This is bo-ring.”
Barry glared at me before chucking my empty bag down on top of my stuff.
“See you tomorrow, wimp,” he said as he walked away.
Eventually, I started packing up my stuff. The last thing I put back into my bag was my brother’s sword. I pressed the button and listened to the message. On the plastic blade, I read the words ‘You’re a Hero’!
Well, I thought. Maybe I am.
“Not if I see you first,” I whispered.