Under the Bleachers

Tyler rounded the back of the bleachers at the same furious clip he used to get everywhere, the speed that kept him out of the mitts of Jordan and Asher and those guys. He didn't think they were anywhere near the school at this time of night, but he'd been jumped before when he'd calculated it was almost impossible, so now he was vigilant 24/7. They gave him a beat down if they caught him, so he'd decided it was his job to make sure they didn't catch him. Three steps ahead at all times, no entering into the chamber of deep thought out in the open. Jordan had taught him that much.

He picked up his pace after the ninety-degree turn and his violin banged his leg. It was almost dark. He saw a dark shape under the bleachers, right down by the lowest ones, a billowing of dark cloth. Muffled panting came from the shape. He took a couple of steps nearer just to try to understand what it was. He pushed his glasses up to get a better look.

"Help. I need help. Please help me."

Tyler looked back where he'd come from and then all around. Was the voice talking to him? Was it some trick? Jordan might be trying to ambush him, have somebody lie in wait and then--bang! But he saw no one. Nothing. Just the shape rising and falling. The panting got rougher, more panicked.

"What? What's the matter?" he said.

"Come. I need your help."

Tyler inched closer. It was just dark enough that colors were all flattened to dark gray, but in the center of the billow was a face, teeth bared, the whites of the eyes glowing around dark pupils. A girl. A girl from school. He almost turned and ran right then. Girls were just a pile of mess that he had no intention of touching now, if ever. Nope. He stepped back.

"No! Don't go! Don't go. Tyler, help me." She was out of breath, her panting getting serious now.

He was amazed she knew his name. He peered into the deepening dark under the bleachers and saw her headscarf, conjured her smooth brown skin from the matte gray background. It was Fadumo from homeroom.

She pulled the tail of her headscarf into her mouth, her teeth flashing in the low light, and bit down on it hard. The panting switched abruptly to groans.

"What's the matter? What do you need?"

A sliver flash sliced the darkness on her left. She groaned again, and dropped a knife at her side.

"Help! Help me!" she nearly screamed and pulled up the bell of her loose overcoat-like dress. Tyler saw her knees and then a slick shiny ball between her thighs. A hairy yet shiny ball and it was pulsating there, half in, half out.

"What can I do?" Tyler wanted to run. He almost did, but the panic in her eyes brought him closer.

"Help me stand up. I can't get up." She grabbed at his arm, the one holding the violin case. She tried to steady herself, but it was all too awkward. He tossed the case to his right and took her by both elbows. She came up slowly and then descended into a high squat, folding her long dress up to her thighs.

"Let me brace against you." The groaning started again and this time he could feel it resonating through his bones. Her fingers gripped his forearms like crab claws.

"It's coming! It's coming!" Her groans became lower, quieter even, but more urgent and continuous.

"What should I do?" Tyler could see something dark dripping from her now.

"Get the knife." She pushed him away and he saw the knife there on the ground and knelt to pick it up. When he turned back to her, a little curled shape was there on the ground between her feet.

"Cut it. Cut it now," she hissed at him.

He looked into her eyes for the first time. Hard as marbles. He brought the knife closer and she guided his hand to a rubbery veiny thing hanging out of her. She held it out for him. "Between my hands. Cut. Hold this end. Don't let go." She eased back on her heels, sat on the ground with a slow plop and said, "Don't let go." She took off her headscarf and picked up the curled shape with it, began rubbing it, too hard, he thought. The knife was still in his hand. He looked away from her, what she was doing, and on the ground near his foot he saw a heart carved into the cement, initials inside it: "J + L." He let the knife fall from his hand. Blood dripped from the knife into the upright of the "L."

"Don't! Don't let go of that!" With her knee, Fadumo bumped his other hand still holding the veiny thing sticking out of her. "Here it comes." A blob of blood jello came sliding out of her. He was holding its leash.

"I've got to go. I've got to get home. My dad is going to be so mad that I'm late. You can't tell anyone about this. You never saw me. You don't know what happened to me. We don't talk in homeroom. Not now. Not ever. But get rid of that for me, will you? Throw it away. Don't tell anybody. Nobody. You hear me?"

Tyler nodded. He was still holding the fleshy veiny leash when she stood up and holding the bundle in her headscarf under one arm, grabbed the knife with the other hand, and took off. He watched her until the dark blotted her out, maybe a hundred yards away. He looked down at the blob. He picked it up by the root and walked it to a border planted with stunted rose bushes and dug a hole. He put the blob in and covered it with dirt. He tamped the dirt down with his shoes, then brushed the foot prints off the surface. He walked back and picked up his violin and continued on his way home. Slowly now. He wasn't afraid of Jordan or Asher or any of them. Not anymore.