You sat by yourself in the far corner of the cafeteria at an empty lunch table, absently drumming your fingers against its surface with your chin in your hand, your stomach giving off loud, impatient growls every few seconds. How you wished you had your lunch money with you at that moment and would have been able to buy at least something to keep you from being as hungry as you were now. If you had known that something like the previous incident with Gilbert was going to happen, you would have at least brought your own lunch, even if you would've risked him getting angry at the fact that you didn’t have any money.
You lifted your gaze, which was previously fixed on your fingers tapping against the table, and let it focus on a group of boys sitting a few tables away from you. You were instantly able to make out Gilbert sitting in that group, laughing loudly and obnoxiously as he stuffed random foods in his mouth, probably bought using the lunch money he stole from you. You let out a tiny growl and drifted your gaze back down to the table, a faint burning sensation coming from your stomach due to its extended lack of food.
You were 17 years old and in your 3rd year of high school, a place which you had always dreaded going to for as long as you could've remembered. Ever since the first month that you started attending this school, Gilbert had always been on your case, bothering you whenever he got the chance or opportunity. It at first started off as simple teasing, but over the three years it escalated to physical pain, such as shoving you against the lockers and pulling your hair, and other forms of bullying that would have made you upset, such as taking your homework or your money.
To be honest, you simply had no idea why Gilbert always bullied you. When you first arrived at your high school, you were actually kind of looking forward to making new friends, which hopefully would've made the four years you were going to be staying here go by a lot faster. The first time you met him had been at an empty lunch table one day in the cafeteria that he had been sitting in. You thought he seemed lonely, and since you didn’t have any friends at that moment, you had walked up to him and introduced yourself to him, hoping he would've accepted your offer at being friends. But him turning around, looking up at your face for a few seconds, and harshly rejecting you was what started the bullying. Ever since then, he always did things to make you feel either depressed or in pain. You had had a feeling that high school was going to be filled with difficulties, but you never imagined that they would've involved getting bullied and still staying without friends up until the current point you were at, sitting hungry and alone at an empty lunch table.
And one of the parts that made you the most upset was that throughout all these three years you had been getting terrorized, nobody seemed to try and help you. All the times that Gilbert had bullied you out in the halls or some other public place in the school had gone without anybody stepping in to help, though many watched with fascination. You didn’t trust any of the teachers at the school, so you didn’t go to them. Your parents were always at work and always came home in the evening looking tired and exhausted, so you decided that they were already under a lot of pressure and didn’t want to deal with the extra weight of the fact that you were being bullied.
That left you with only one other option to attempt to release the depression and pain coming from inside you. Almost every day after school, you ran home, put your stuff down, ran up to your room, plopped face-down on your bed, and cried into your pillow. You cried until you felt all the stress and emotion of that day completely leave your body. Often you asked yourself why you were the one that had to be bullied, that had to go through all this stress and pain, both emotional and physical. Sometimes you just wanted to end it all, but you knew that that was definitely not an option and you would never, ever try to do something like that. You kept on convincing yourself that you only had to put up with all of this for a little over a year and then you never would have seen Gilbert again. But that seemed very difficult considering the fact that every day seemed like a year to you.
Now it was the beginning of April, and while everyone else was buzzing about spring exams, your stomach continued to growl, a bit more loudly this time, up until the point where you couldn't take it anymore and instead chose to plug your fingers into your ears to try to drown out that annoying noise. You always hated when spring came, partly because there were always exams and your stress only multiplied. Not only were you constantly bullied, but your grades were also pretty low, up until the point where you were in danger of failing if you didn’t make an effort to improve. But how were you were supposed to make even the slightest effort when you had Gilbert to deal with?
Your thoughts were interrupted when you felt a clenched hand slam down on the table directly under your nose, causing you to jump in surprise and let out a gasp, instantly removing your fingers from your ears.
“What's wrong, _____?” a loud voice taunted amusingly. “Trying to go deaf?”
You instantly lifted your gaze directly into the gleaming eyes of Gilbert as he stood across from the table you were sitting at, staring down at you with a prominent smirk on his face. You were able to notice that he was also with two other boys, but you paid no attention to them as his gaze continued to lock with your nervous one.
Just as you were about to say something, you found that you had suddenly lost the ability to speak, and instead only felt a squeak escape your mouth as you continued to look up into his eyes.
“Well?” Gilbert asked, more loudly and impatiently this time as he slammed both of his hands down on the table and leaned slightly towards you, causing you to jump once again at the loud noise. “Are you going to answer me, or are you also trying to lose your voice?”
This caused a laugh to escape the two other boys, but you made no attempt to reply as you continued to look up at him. The tense silence that passed between the both of you was interrupted by the abnormally loud growl of your stomach, causing a blush to make its way to your face.
“Oh, are you hungry?” Gilbert asked you, and when you met his gaze once again, you saw that it was filled with actual concern.
Not knowing how else to react, you gave him a tiny nod.
“I think I might have something for you,” he said as he stood upright, stuffed both of his hands into his pockets, and began digging through them.
All you could've done at that moment was stare at him in confusion. When he pulled out a sandwich a few moments later and extended it towards you, your confusion replaced with shock as you stared down at the food. Gilbert, who was so cruel to you for three years, who always made your life miserable instead of trying to help you, was actually giving you a sandwich?
This has to be some kind of a joke...you thought as you lifted your gaze from the sandwich and met his. Instead of finding laughter and amusement on his face, you were able to notice a tiny smile forming on his lips and his eyes filled with what seemed like...care.
“I-I...” you stammered, unsure of how to reply. “What—”
“Just take it,” Gilbert encouraged, his voice quieter than normal as he edged the sandwich a bit closer to you. “You need it more than me.”
You dropped your gaze back down to the sandwich, surprise and confusion still prominent in your eyes as you didn’t know how to react. Could it be that after all these months, Gilbert decided that it was wrong to bully you and finally decided to be kind to you instead, partly by offering you food when you were absolutely starving? Maybe he finally wanted to be friends with you, just as you had asked him the first month that you were at this school back when you were a freshman.
“U-Um...okay...” you murmured silently as you hesitantly lifted your hand towards the sandwich Gilbert still held in front of you, already feeling saliva form in your mouth at the thought of finally eating after what seemed like forever. However, just as you were about to grasp the sandwich, he quickly pulled it back towards him before you had the chance to even touch it.
“Nope!” he yelled as he instantly burst into a loud fit of laughter, the two other boys instantly joining in and giving each other high fives.
You stared up at them in confusion, your mind still processing what just happened, before you finally realized that Gilbert being kind, actually offering you his sandwich in attempt to help you, had actually been all a joke. It had been just to make you believe that you were actually going to eat something and that he was actually being nice to you and then have all your hopes smashed when he pulled the sandwich away from you. You felt hot tears instantly form in your eyes as you stared up at them, clutching your more-than-empty stomach with trembling hands.
“Oh, are you going to cry?” Gilbert asked mockingly as he briefly stopped laughing and looked down at your trembling form. “Don’t worry; I've got something else for your hungry stomach!”
Before you were able to react, you watched as he jumped over the lunch table so that he was standing right next to you. Almost instantly, you felt him firmly grasp your collar and haul you to your feet, causing you to let out a tiny yelp. Before you were able to even analyze what was going on in front of you or take in your surroundings, you felt a fist fiercely punch your abdomen, causing your eyes to widen and a single squeak to escape your mouth. Your legs instantly felt like jelly underneath you, and you collapsed onto your knees, pressing the palms of your hands against the cafeteria floor.
“Look at her!” Gilbert laughed as the two other boys walked over and stared down at your figure. “She’s so weak; she can't even stand back up!”
You were able to hear them laugh once again and walk away from you, leaving you sitting there on the floor with your head bowed. You were able to feel an acute, intense pain come from your stomach after the contact, accompanying by a stinging sensation that was so strong it caused you to desperately clutch your abdomen and fall down onto your side, the loud voices of other kids in the room drowned out by the pain you were currently feeling.
Oh, my stomach...you thought, grimacing at the aching pain that slowly seemed to keep on growing and growing.
There was no way that you were going to be able to stand up with this kind of pain, let alone get into a sitting position or at least breathe. With both hands still clutching your stomach, you closed your eyes.