The Cafeteria Fight

Warning – this scene contains spoilers for The Heir!

This scene has never been seen by anyone but me until now. I wrote it when I was trying to cut some scenes that I felt slowed the pace of the story, and originally I planned to use this scene to join two together. It didn’t really work, but I loved the scene, so I thought I’d post it here.

“Ms Wilkins?”
We turned to see Coach Unwin, our teacher, coming towards us. She glanced impatiently at him.
“It’s your turn to help put the gear away,” he said, pointing out her name on his list. We all had to take it in turns to help.
Jillian scowled, but turned back to go and do her duty. “Wait for me?”
“Sure,” I told her.
She gave me one last look before hurrying away.
Once she was out of sight I turned and left the gym. I wasn’t going to wait for her. I was sick of her attitude. I wanted to see Dan.
However, when I arrived at the cafeteria he wasn’t there yet. None of his class were. They must have been held late or something. I sighed and sat down at our table. Now I was bound to have Jillian grumpy at me for not waiting, and I hadn’t even gotten to spend Jill-free time with Dan. What a waste.
I kept my eyes on the door, watching for any sign of him. So when I heard one of the chairs being pulled out at my table, I looked up in surprise, which quickly turned to horror.
Frank Howell took a seat right next to me.
I stiffened. I hadn’t paid much attention to Frank in the past few weeks. His behavior towards me had become nothing more than an unpleasant memory, owing to the constant presence of Dan at my side. But Dan wasn’t here now – neither was Jillian – and it was clear that Frank was going to make the most of it.
Frank’s face was a mask of fury. He sat and stared at me. I went white in response, and glanced back at the door, hoping that Dan would appear.
“He’s not going to save you now.”
“Your boyfriend.” He leaned towards me, and I tried not to shrink back.
“You can tell him this from me,” Frank hissed. “If he thinks he’s going to get away with what he did, then he has another think coming. And you won’t get off either. You should have kept your mouth shut.”
I looked at him, confused. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know.” He eyed me scornfully.
I floundered for some way to respond, trying to stop from shaking. I truly didn’t know what Frank was talking about.
A shadow loomed over the table. We both looked up to see Dan towering over Frank, his face enraged.
Frank rose and backed off. It was difficult for him; his leg was still in plaster. I could see fear on his face as Dan stepped slowly around the table, coming towards him.
“What? You going to finish the job?” Frank said. Although there was fear in his eyes, he was trying to be defiant.
“You will stay away from her!” Dan told him, his every word menacing.
I jumped up. I hadn’t seen Dan like this before. I came around the table, hoping to caution him. Looking around us, I could see the entire cafeteria was watching the confrontation. I looked for a teacher, someone who might defuse the situation, but I could see no one.
“Or what?” Frank spat.
“Or else!”
Jillian appeared at my side. “Dan!” she said, trying to distract him. I could see teachers just outside the door …
Dan ignored her and continued to move towards Frank.
“Yeah, you’ll take another shot?” Frank said, hobbling back, trying to make his limp more pronounced.
I scowled. “What?”
He gave me a disgusted look. “Come on! You said yourself I didn’t fall down the stairs. What do you think happened? Are you so stupid you can’t tell?”
His words seemed to trigger something in Dan, who suddenly lunged towards him.
Keridan!” shouted Jillian.
I turned to her. What was that?
That finally caught Dan’s attention, but this time he turned to her in a fury. For some reason whatever she had just said angered him.
Suddenly there were teachers beside us. One of them was Mr Hatchet. They stepped between the two boys, Mr Hatchet the closest to Frank. Dan turned back towards Frank, but he had calmed down now, although he eyed Frank carefully.
“That’s enough, boys,” said Coach Unwin, as he regarded both of them.
Mr Conroy appeared on the scene. “What is the meaning of this?”
Neither boy would answer him, but Frank’s expression was triumphant, and Dan’s still furious.
After a moment of looking between them, Mr Conroy spoke again. “In my office, the two of you. Now!”
Both of them marched away. Frank still looked smug, but Dan’s face, although still angry, held some level of guilt. I saw him glance at me before he moved off.
Now that the fun was over the teachers began settling the rest of the students. Mr Hatchet glowered at everyone, and they returned their eyes to their tables, talking animatedly about the almost-fight.
I sat back down, looking across at Jillian. She looked a good deal more serious than usual.
“What was that all about?” I demanded. I was pretty sure what Frank had been getting at, but I wanted to be sure.
Jillian sighed. “Nothing.”
“Like hell it was nothing!” I said. “Jillian, tell me.”
She fidgeted uncomfortably in her chair, and shot a look towards where the boys had departed. “I think you’d better talk to Dan about that yourself.”
She said nothing more, but I started to think she was right. It would be better if I heard it straight from Dan.
Dan did not come back to the cafeteria. Nor was he in Trigonometry or Visual Arts. I was starting to think the school had sent him home. Would he be expelled? Suspended? I shuddered at the thought.
I was sure he wouldn’t have left me to make my own way home, although I was prepared to seek Jillian out if I couldn’t find him after Visual Arts. I needn’t have worried. Once class was over, he was waiting for me outside the door.
His face looked troubled, although he tried to smile as I came up to him. “Hey.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say just then, so I let him lead me to his car.
Once we were on the way home, I expected him to talk about it, but he seemed determined not to. But I couldn’t let it go. I needed to know the truth. “What happened back there?”
He sighed. “Nothing.”
I wasn’t buying that. “What was Frank talking about?”
He shuffled a little in his seat, but refused to answer.
Suspicions had been forming in my mind all afternoon, and I was pretty sure that I knew the answer to my question. But I tried to keep myself calm as I asked it. “What did you do to Frank?”
He had pulled into the garage by this time, and he turned the engine off before he answered me. “What makes you think I did something?”
“He seemed to think so.”
“You believe him?”
“I will believe you,” I assured him, as I got out of the car.
He looked at me for a moment; a long, searching look. Then he turned and started up the stairs.
“Dan, please, tell me what happened.”
“Frank’s just trying to cause trouble.”
I could well believe that, but I could tell by his face that he was still avoiding the question. I decided that it was time to put my suspicions into words. “Did you hurt him?” I didn’t want to believe it, but I was sure that Frank was suggesting that Dan had been responsible for his injuries.
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, it does.”
He didn’t like that response. His face puckered a little, and I felt as if I’d slapped him. He gazed at me a moment longer before he answered.
“Why should it, Sarah?” he said, his voice rising in volume. “Why do you care about him? What does it matter what happened to him after what he did to you?”
My mouth dropped open in shock. “How do you know about that?”
He didn’t seem to hear my question. “I don’t understand you. I thought you’d be happy!”
“Why would I be happy because you beat Frank up?” I demanded. “Is that what you did?”
“Yes!” he declared. “And I’d do it again tomorrow. He hurt you!”
“How do you know that?”
He ignored me. “Why the hell do you defend him? He’s a coward and a bully!”
“That doesn’t mean it’s okay to break his leg!” I said. How could he think that way? “How could you do that? How could you hurt someone like that? What makes you think you have the right to do that?”
“The right?” He looked at me incredulously. “I was defending you! No one else would have punished him. Do you really think it’s okay to let him off the hook?”
“It’s not your place!”
“Who else was going to do it?” he said, his voice growing ever more frustrated. “I truly don’t understand you! Why are you defending him? Are you crazy? Are you seriously going to feel sorry for him? Would you feel sorry for the guys who murdered your father? Don’t you want them brought to justice?”
Those words brought me up short. I felt tears pricking my eyes, and the out of control feeling welled up in me, consticting my throat.
As he looked at my face, his grew horrified. “Sarah, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” He had to speak quickly, because I had turned and run up the stairs, heading for my room.
“Sarah, please!”

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