Mr Davis clears his throat to push the tedious presentations along, sending a wave of giggles across the room, each one a brutal reminder that Simon continues to sway under the glares in the room. His lip quivers, urging him to stutter through the first sentence on the importance of a democracy versus communism.
'Democracy... um... well, it began back in Ancient Greece,' Simon says. His voice fails him and drops out.
'To—to—today junior,' Peter taunts from the back of the room. The bully throws his head back in a fit of laughter. Simon has heard all this before and worse. Mr Davis doesn't flinch, he never does when anyone tries to start a fight in class. His weekend haze continues to stump his reactions to student behaviours. 'Come on snitch, we don't have all day for your crap, or are you going to run to the authorities again?'
Simon's knee twitches, his body panics. His wobbling hand tears the paper in half.
'I don't have anything,' Simon mutters to Mr Davis. 'I haven't prepared for this presentation.'
'What's that in your hand then?' The teacher groans.
'It's just a blank page. I thought I could make it up.'
'If you'd just say that to the police none of us would be in trouble snitch,' Peter fires across from his corner in the room.
'Ignore him,' Mr Davis says. 'You have until tomorrow to get something together or it will be a fail.'
Simon shuffles back to the safety of his corner by the window. No one will walk in front of him unless they want to but he knows there's nothing anyone wants from him. He's cursed, trapped in this place for another two years before he can find true refuge in an interstate university. The scholarships are all lined up, his medical degree will be on the way once the last grade from this small monstrosity of a school is handed down. Today's close fail won't dent the record Simon has going, not a dent like Peter and his mates are threatening. All they had to do was keep it hidden and away from Simon and none of it would have happened.
It was all during the school break. Simon was riding home, the last of the summer heat pushing against his back on the trek by the small lake and scrub. The gravel road shakes through the handles irritating his tired arms. The day of posting junk mail had exhausted all of his muscles. The stench of the stagnant lake reeks and his nostrils protest as Simon got closer to the water's edge. A low yelp, chased by cackling laughter snapped Simon out of his daydream. He braked and looked around him in search of the noise. Across the lake he spotted Peter, his girlfriend Tiffany, and three of their mates staggered down the dirt path tossing stones at a red mess ahead of them. Simon gasped recognising the shape as a struggle Jack Russell limping painfully away from the taunting mob. The group casually pursueed their victim. The rocks become bigger and bigger as they got closer to the dog. Peter reached for a fist sized stone and loomed over the whimpering pup.
'No fair, its. My turn,' Tiffany complained. She squeezed onto Peter’s arm, begging him to surrender the rock to her.
'You're next,' Tiffany whispers behind Simon while the next presentation is enthusiastically performed at the front of the room. 'That bitch knew how to take a beating. I don't think you'd be half the mongrel she was.'
Simon focuses at the bland wall in front of them. He chokes back the tears steering their way out of his eyes. His glance slowly shifts to face Mr Davis in a desperate plea for him to come to his aid. No response comes. Simon is alone.
By the lake in the summer, Tiffany pelted a stone against the whimpering dog. A weak growl shivered out of the dogs muzzle in a feeble show of strength. Tiffany smacked the rock against each leg, shattering the bones so her victim can't flee. Tears streamed down Simons cheeks. No muscles in his body tempted to move yet the fluids flow freely.
'That's my girl, show her who's truly in charge,' Peter egged her on.
'Yeah go Tiff. Show her who's boss,' the others encouraged.
Simon sat on his bike, frozen and staring at the circled mob. The final crack came swiftly. The crunch into the skull cruel and deafening. The lake falls silent. Simon gasped relief, the whimpering his gone, the misery ended.
'Awesome,' Peter nodded his approval.
'I could have never done this without you babe. You showed me the way,' Tiffany leaned in for her reward of a kiss.
Simons mind snapped back to reality. His body flinched desperate for an escape. He pressed down on the peddle, the rocks crumbling under his unsteady and desperate shoving to find instant speed.
'Oi you, what you doing here?' Peter bellowed from across the lake.
Simons body shivered into instinctual movements. The bike shuddered into a faster pace.
'Oi faggot, get back here,' Peter’s command failed to halt Simon's charge home.
'You're next,' Tiffany continues in her hideous whispering. 'We're getting you. Thanks to you we have to go to court. If we're going to court it's for what we do to you, you little bitch.'
Mr Davis doesn't move. He shakes his head as he rubs the black marks around his eyes and jots notes on the grade sheet.
Simons body opens up, the rigidity on his body frees to an obsessively precise series of motions. He stands up slowly, turning face his peers, they hush awaiting the sniping comments that are sure to follow, ready to embrace the delicious distraction from their history class.
'Oh look, snitch finally remembered his lines,' Peter shouts and points. Mr Davis shakes his head again, finding ignorance in the sheet of paper on his desk. 'You’re a fucking dead man walking, were after you.' Gasps inhale across the room as the details of their summer conflict slowly leak into their gossip steams.
'You're next bitch,' Tiffany yells, suddenly confident.
Simon snatches up the scissors from his pencil case. The plastic handle sit comfortably in his dry hand. He hides it behind his back and marches up to Peter. Peter stands, pouting his chest in a show of dominance.
'What you going to do faggot?' Peter tempts.
'Boys, stop it,' Mr Davis grumbles.
Simon thrusts the scissor blades into Peter neck. He drags it down, slicing deeper down Peter's throats. Screams shriek around Simon. He doesn't hear the piercing sounds. He twists slowly to face Tiffany as Peter grasps at his throats and crumbles to the ground. Mr Davis continues rubbing his eyes, blinding himself to the complaining students.
'No Tiffany, keep it up,' Simon says calmly, ' and you'll be next.'