Our high school classes were housed on the floor above our monstrous gymnasium. Often, when the younger kids were at recess, they would accidentally throw a basketball up the stairs. The ball would roll down into the hallway, and during the class break, we’d roll any stray balls back down to the elementary kids. It was an everyday occurrence.
Then, one day, I made an honest mistake. A horrible, honest mistake.
I got a pass from study hall to go out to my locker and get some homework. When I was out there, I saw a basketball in the middle of the hallway. It was a brand new, red and black, Michael Jordan edition. Figuring one of the elementary kids had thrown it up there; I gently rolled it down the stairs. My friend, DC, came out of study hall just in time to see me.
A few minutes later, when the class break bell rang, I heard Josh. He was asking everyone if they had seen where his new basketball was. The realization sunk in. I had just thrown his new basketball to the wolves – the little kids who often destroyed everything in their path. I sunk back against my locker and held my breath as one by one my classmates denied having seen it.
Suddenly, and without thinking, DC blurted out, “Hey, Ann-Marie, didn’t you roll a basketball down the stairs earlier?”
Josh’s head whipped around as he narrowed in on me. “You did what?”
I looked at DC, her mouth an O, as she realized her mistake.
I tried to explain that it was an accident. An honest mistake. Josh had his fists clenched at his side, but he finally relaxed them. The whole high school – even the Seniors – were looking at us. Josh might have had the entire 7th grade under his thumb, but he didn’t have the student body.
He seemed to calm down. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll just go get it, then.” I watched him disappear through the door to the stairway and thought I had dodged the bullet.
Later that day, our history teacher gave us seatwork assignments. When I finished mine early, I got a hall pass and went out to my locker. I was kneeling down looking for a book when the basketball smashed into my neck. The impact forced my head into the back of my locker. I could taste blood in my throat. More blood dribbled into my mouth from my nose.
I staggered back to a sitting position. And there he was, smugly holding the basketball he had just bounced off my head. I wiped the blood from my nose and swallowed the lump in my throat before I stood up.
It was my intention to pass him. To get back to class. But he had other ideas. He blocked my path and shoved me against the wooden door of a deserted classroom. I could see my sweaty face and drying blood in the wood’s shiny reflection.
He pushed the side of my head flat against the door and held it there with the basketball. He whispered angrily in my ear. “You better never touch anything that belongs to me again. You understand?”
I nodded the best I could under the circumstances. He finally released the pressure, let the basketball drop, and walked back to class.
I just slumped against the side of the door, sucking in air through my bloody nose. That’s when I saw her, DC, standing just outside our history class door. She waited until Josh passed her and went back into class before coming to me.
“I’m so sorry. That was so stupid of me.” She found tissues in her locker, and I wiped my face clean, while she cleaned the blood off the inside of my locker. When I had finally composed myself, DC gave me a little shoulder squeeze, and I did the only thing I could do.
I went back to class.