The sky was significantly cloudy and a light drizzle fell as you walked to school the next week, feeling relatively calmer than usual. An entire two days without having to go to school gave you time to take a break and rid your mind of the haze of events that had occurred, and you didn’t feel as tense and uncertain as you had been when you walked to school now.
Last week had been one of the craziest and unusual that you had ever experienced in a long, long time. In just a matter of a few days, you were able to talk to Francis, who people believed horrible rumors about, become friends with him, attract attention to yourself, become pestered by your friends, yell at your friends, and become friends with someone who actually believed what you were saying about Francis being a good person. In just one week you had gone from being a regular, simple student in your school to being one whose name was already known by everyone in the school. _____. The first person to become friends with Francis, the “rapist.” Just thinking of that word made you shudder in disgust.
The school already coming into sight, you continued walking with your gaze dropped down to the sidewalk, which emitted a dull shine under the drizzle that continued to fall. You lifted your gaze when you had reached the front of the school, and you were already prepared to head towards the front entrance of the building before you noticed something out of the corner of your eye.
Francis was sitting by himself against the wall of the front of the school, a few yards away from the entrance. Sitting. Right on the wet ground. You paused, turning slightly to stare at him through slightly squinted eyes. You weren’t sure if he had noticed your presence, but he didn’t seem to lift his head and look in your direction. He was looking down at the ground, so the possibility of that happening didn’t seem too high. you stood there in silence for a few moments, debating on whether or not to approach him. kids heading towards your school walked past you, unaware of Francis sitting against the wall. You figured nobody walking to school at this moment would make such a big deal if they were to find you sitting alone with him. Even if they did, you wouldn’t care.
You stepped off of the sidewalk and headed towards Francis, who still hadn’t lifted his gaze from the ground. upon closer inspection, you were able to notice that he had a somewhat depressed look on his face, his brows creased and features drooped in an emotion you weren’t exactly sure of. It was hard to tell whether he looked worried or upset.
“Francis,” you said, pausing when you were about a foot or two in front of him. He slowly lifted his gaze up to look at you. A brief moment of silence passed between the both of you until you spoke up again. “What are you doing sitting here in the rain?”
Francis dropped his gaze down again, shrugging and closing his eyes. “I’ve been...thinking.”
“About what?” After a moment’s hesitation, you removed your backpack from your shoulders and sat down on the damp ground next to him, placing your bag beside you. “Thinking about what?”
A brief silence passed between the both of you. “About...” Francis sighed and opened his eyes. “I just don’t know whether to feel relieved, depressed, or concerned.”
You blinked. “What for?”
“I just cannot help but feel that you’re getting yourself into a lot of trouble,” Francis said quietly, turning his head to look at you. “I’m worried that someone would eventually try to hurt you, in either a physical or emotional way, because you’re spending time with me and defending me against everyone else and doing something that isn’t normal. It’s wonderful that you’re trying very hard to make people understand who I am, especially when you have someone else who believes you, but I can’t help but feeling that something bad might happen out of this. I know you keep telling me not to worry about this sort of thing happening, but...it’s hard not to.”
“Oh.” You were silent for the next few moments, unsure of how to reply as your gaze continued to lock with Francis’s. “But...” You swallowed. “But why do you care so much about what happens to me? You should worry more about what happens to yourself, since all these people are targeting you, not me.”
“Yes, but I feel like it’s my fault that you’re doing all of this,” Francis said, lowering his voice and dropping his gaze down in front of him. “I feel like it’s my fault that you decided to walk up to me and talk to me and try to convince everybody that I’m not what they thought I was. If it weren’t for my actions, the rumor wouldn’t have started, and you wouldn’t have—”
“Don’t say that,” you interrupted. “Instead of thinking about reversing what’s already happened, you need to think about changing what’s happening now. You’re not going to get anywhere if you’ll just keep thinking about how things might’ve been different if you’d done something else. It won’t work.”
Silence passed between the both of you once more, only this time, it lasted for a much longer amount of time. The slight drizzle had already turned into a shower, and before long, you were able to feel yourself slowly becoming soaked.
“Eww, Francis is sitting with that girl!” some high pitched voice squealed a distance away. You lifted your gaze and saw a group of three girls standing on the sidewalk, staring at the both of you with disgusted expressions on their faces. Francis was looking at them too, his eyes filled with an emotion you would have been unable to detect even if you had looked at them. The expression on your face was blank, and you weren’t close enough to the group of girls for them to see the cold, hard stare that penetrated from your eyes. You watched as they stood there, exchanging looks with each other and murmuring things that you were unable to detect.
Finally, the girls stopped talking and turned their heads to look at the both of you. The girl standing in the middle cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted, “Hey, Francis! Why don’t you go back to raping people in France! Everyone at this school would feel so much better if you just left for good already! We don’t you and your filthy hands here in our school anymore! Just leave this place or go die or something!”
You were able to here a tiny sound from next to you, and when you turned your head to look at Francis, you found that he was looking at the girls with a slightly open mouth, eyes glistening with newly formed tears that were only seconds away from leaking out of his eyes.
That did it. You stood up from your seat slowly, finding your soaked pants clinging to your butt, but you didn’t care. You clenched your fists, lowering your gaze slightly and taking a small step forward, followed by another, and another, never taking your eyes off of the girl in the middle.
“Aww, see that, Francis?” the girl in the middle continued, unaware of the death glare that emitted from your eyes. “Even this girl doesn’t want to be with you anymore! Maybe she finally gained enough common sense to realize you’re a horrible person and not worthy to hang out with anyo—”
She never got the chance to finish her sentence before you swiftly ran up to her, drew your fist back, and gave her a swift punch to the area between her chest and the top of her shoulder. She let out a startled squeak and fell back, landing on the ground first on her butt, then on her back, her carefully selected outfit instantly becoming soaked and dirty.
The two girls standing let out a gasp as they watched her fall, staring at her with wide eyes. The girl on the ground let out a shrill cry, getting into a half sitting position on trembling arms. “Oh my god!” she gasped, frantically examining all parts of her outfit, which was significantly dirty. “Oh my god! My outfit!” She looked up at you with wide, angered, yet horrified eyes. “You’re insane! How could you do this to me!?”
You stood silent, the expression on your face void of emotion as you kept your fists clenched. “Maybe you need to learn to think before you say something that isn’t true.”
“Oh my god!” she kept babbling as her friends grabbed her by her arms and pulled her up. She francically attempted brushing the dirt and wetness off of her outfit, though it was pointless. “I’m telling on you. You’re not going to get away with what you’ve done!”
You said nothing as you continued to stand there, watching as the girls left, the one in the middle dramatically letting out exlaims such as “My outfit is totally ruined!” and “She’s gonna get in trouble now!”
“Tch.” You turned around after a few more moments to look back at Francis, who was still sitting against the wall, though he had dropped his gaze down. You walked back to him with slow, calm steps, as if nothing unusual had occurred in the last minute or two. “Francis.” You paused in front of him and looked down at him, excpetcing him to lift his gaze up to look at you. “Francis,” you repeated, a few moments passing without any movement from him. You sat down on the ground next to him, turning your gaze to look at him. “Francis?” Your voice had softened a bit, but it was then that you noticed the miserable expression that was on his face and you instantly felt your heart rate increase slightly in concern. “Are you...okay?”
“Everybody hates me...” Francis murmured softly before burying his face in his hands, his body shaking and tears leaking from his eyes as he broke down and began to cry into his hands. “N-Nobody likes me. That girl is right. M-Maybe I should just move back to France because nobody wants me here...”
“Oh...” you murmured, unable to find anything else to say. Without thinking, you extended your arms and wrapped them tightly around Francis’s trembling form, pulling him to you and resting your chin on his shoulder as you listened to his cries. “That’s not true. Don’t listen to her.”
“D-Don’t like to me, _____,” Francis said shakily. “Y-You know it’s true...”
“I like you,” you replied softly. “You’re my friend. How could I hate you because of something that’s not true?”
“Because...I-I'm just an extra weight on your shoulders,” Francis replied. “You’re going through so much because of me. and now you’re probably going to get in trouble, too. You should just...l-leave me alone and let me deal with things by myself....”
“I'm not going to do that,” you said quietly, pulling him away from you and looking at him. you removed his hands from his face and used your finger to gently wipe away the tears that stained his cheeks and continued slowly falling from his eyes. “I’m not going to leave you because you don’t deserve it and it would be wrong. I promised to help you, and I’m still going to help you. Don’t think that just because an extra weight might be put on my shoulders, I’m going to just stop talking to you and make things easier for myself. The most important thing for me is making things easier for you, first.”
Francis had fallen silent, staring at you with eyes dull and miserable as you continued to slowly wipe his face with the tips of your fingers. You finally dropped your hand and met his gaze, smiling softly. Francis let out a sigh and dropped his gaze down to the ground. “Th-Thank you, _____. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“It’s nothing,” you replied. “I just want you to be happy.”
The both of you continued to sit there in silence for the next few minutes, the shower lightening to a drizzle once again, before the sound of the bell ringing cut loudly through to quiet atmosphere. You immediately stood up, turning around and helping Francis up on his feet. “Come on. We’re going to be late if we don’t leave.”
“But we’re wet,” he observed, briefly examining both his and your clothes.
You shrugged. “Just let them believe that we walked here in the rain. We’ll dry soon anyway.”
With that, the both of you proceeded to head to the school. Thinking back on what happened a few minutes ago, you didn’t really care if you were going to be called on by the school staff for punching a girl. You were willing to do anything to get people to leave Francis alone, even if it meant risking suspension.