Trying To Help

(Takes place Tuesday after school...Before dinner)

(Appearance by Conner approved by Redsword)

Conner had asked Zander to look into Mel’s past and find out what, if anything, Doug was using to control Melissa. When Conner told Courtney what he had found out; Courtney had to think about what to do next. It was a hard call. Do they talk to Melissa about what they now knew and possibly have her get mad at them for prying, even if their intentions were to help her? Or do they just keep it to themselves?

Courtney made the choice that they needed to talk to Melissa about what they had found and hopefully, she would understand why they pried into her life. No matter what Mel said they would support her, after all, the past is the past and it was likely that much of what they had found out was exaggerated anyway.

Courtney had managed to get a message to Melissa to meet her after school in the auditorium; she hadn’t said what it was about. Considering what it was it was probably a good thing to not involve too many other people; Courtney hadn’t mentioned it to Matt and had asked Conner to be there just in case any of the rich kids showed up and wanted to cause trouble but Courtney figured the auditorium would be a fairly save bet as it would empty. Nothing that would take place there, like rehearsals for the play, had started yet.

Courtney and Conner arrived first and Courtney asked Conner to wait by the door to let Mel in. She figured the other girl might need help, as Mel was still on crutches. They weren’t waiting too long when their friend showed up.

Melissa wondered what was going on. She had been told by a member or a few of Doug’s entourage that she should stay away from Courtney and that Doug had told Courtney to stay away from her. She assumed Doug had figured out that Courtney was trying to interfere when he would want to take Melissa off someplace. She did wonder, a little, why they were meeting in the auditorium but thought maybe Courtney just wanted someplace they could talk.

She was a little surprised when Conner opened the door but still said hi to him, and then she took a seat near the other girl. Conner seemed to be more or less just standing there which confused her even more. “So, what did you want to talk to me about?” She asked Courtney as she glanced back over at Conner.

Courtney noticed Mel looking at Conner giving the girl a slight smile. “Oh, don’t worry about him. He’s what you might consider our bodyguard; you know, in case we have any problems.” Once Melissa nodded, Courtney continued. “Before I tell you what I wanted to talk to you about. I need to let you know that whatever you tell us won’t go past this room.”

Melissa was starting to look a little nervous; could they have found out? Why would they have looked into her past? She, however, said nothing.

Courtney continued. “We know that you had some problems at your old school. That’s why you’re here?”

Melissa nodded. “Yes.” There was more to the story but she wanted to know how much they knew.

Courtney then said. “We thought Doug might have something on you and be blackmailing you. So, we looked into it.”

Melissa started to get up; she figured the next words out of Courtney’s mouth would be that they couldn’t be friends any longer but what happened next surprised her.

Courtney put her hand up. “Stop. Don’t leave. We did this to try to help you. We, and I’m pretty sure I can speak for Conner, are still your friends. To be honest we don’t believe most of what we read but even if it was true we’d still be your friends.”

Melissa stopped trying to get up, sat back a little, and glanced over at Conner who nodded in agreement that they were still her friends. The girl took a breath; “Ok. I still don’t understand why you’re telling me that you know.”

“Because we want you to tell us the truth. What happened at your own school? And anything else you want to tell us.” Courtney knew that the only way to maybe come up with some way to help the other girl was to find out the truth. Maybe, they could come up with a plan.

“How far back did you go?” Melissa asked.

“About two years. We figured Doug probably didn’t go back any further than that,” Courtney responded.

“Oh, he didn’t even go back that far.” Melissa took a breath then turned to Conner. “You might want to sit down; this might take a while.” She paused for a moment and then said. “You’re right most of it isn’t true. As you probably already know; the girls at my last school hated me. I was their favorite target and if they couldn’t attack me in person they did so online or through rumors but you probably read all of that.”

Courtney had read what the girls from her old school were saying about her; even now. How they were glad she was gone; how they hoped that no other school had to put up with her because she was, well, the kind of girl that got around (as people in the little rural area of Tennessee Courtney was from would say). The posts about Melissa were vicious and cruel and wished things on Melissa that Courtney had a difficult time even reading.

Melissa continued on. “Well, the part about how many guys I’ve slept with isn’t true. I will admit I flirted with guys and, yes, I did flirt with guys who were a lot older than me but I was just flirting. I admit I did go to parties that I shouldn’t have been at and I can’t say I never drank but I wasn’t drunk every night and I never did drugs though they were at some of the parties I went to.” She paused. “I’ve been noticed by older guys since I was eleven, at the time high school boys, and I have to admit I liked the attention but getting all that attention from boys completely backfired on me.”

“The first school I was at; I was at first there with my brother and sister but they are two years older than me so they eventually went off to high school. Even with them there the boys all wanted me to pay attention to them. The girls hated that I got so much attention from the boys. I tried to never flirt with any of the boys that were taken but it’s not like they always told me or I always knew. The bullying there got worse, after my brother and sister left, and I started hanging out with more of the older boys. I’d cut class or stay out too late just to spend time with them. My parents thought the boys were getting me into trouble and decided that maybe moving me to an all-girls school would be better. The girls from my second school knew some of the girls from my first school and they would talk about me. Being there were only girls, the rumors about me quickly spread and then, even more quickly, became exaggerated. Then the girls started targeting me. They hated me. Not just a few of them but all of them.”

Melissa took a long breath but then continued. “It started with them saying things to me in the hall or whispering behind my back, then it went online, then they started getting physical; let’s just say it was bad.”

Courtney took in everything Mel had said. She had already figured the rumors had been exaggerated but there was a question she just had to ask. “Did you tell anyone?” That was said with no judgment; more wondering as it seemed like Melissa kept a lot of things to herself.

Melissa shook her head. “I probably should have. I know you’re wondering why I didn’t tell the teachers; they weren’t too fond of me, I already had a reputation of being a troublemaker. My parents or siblings are who I probably should have told but didn’t. I don’t want you to think the wrong thing about my family. They do love me and care about me but, well, there is other stuff that I don’t want to get into right now that makes it hard for me to tell people what’s going on in my life.” She paused. “I know if you went back that far you know about Mr. Eckland. That entire thing is not true. Mr. Eckland was a fairly new teacher at that school when I got there. He was young and attractive and taught a class that I needed extra help with. He offered to help me, after school, and some of the girls saw and started saying we were having an affair. They almost ruined his career because they hated me but it was all lies. Still, it was then the attacks on me got worse. They were no longer confined to the school or the internet and I started being followed on the way home from school or they would jump out of alleyways. I was going to go to high school the next year and thought if I could just hold off until then things would get better. But things got really bad before that happened.”

When Melissa had said it was going to take a while she hadn’t been exaggerating. “I was starting to fall into my old routines of going to parties and things like that and one night on the way home from one of those parties; a few of the girls who went to my school pulled me into an alleyway and threatened me if I went back to school. They also threatened my family.” She didn’t know how to explain how terrifying that had been. “I now realize they were probably bluffing but I thought it was real.” She paused. “I knew I had to get out of there so I ran away. I went to New York City for about a month. I had been talking to a guy online, who I thought was sixteen, and he told me I could come and stay with him for a while. I fell for it, which was dumb of me, needless to say when I got to New York; I quickly realized he was not who he said he was. He, though, gave me a bunch of excuses for lying to me. Anyway, one weekend turned into a month, it was at that time that I realized I needed to figure out how to get out of there. Fortunately, for me, he liked his booze and drugs more than me so I escaped, one day when he was passed out. I got to the nearest police station and called home.” Melissa knew if they went back two years they knew she was gone for a month and her family had been looking for her. “After I got home I told my parents everything. They hired a tutor and let me homeschool for the rest of the year. It was then we started looking at the possibility of boarding schools. They wanted to send me to one of those therapeutic border schools but I convinced them to let me try here first. However, this is, in a sense, my last chance to prove to them I don’t need one of those other schools. I hate the idea of going to one of those places.”

Courtney listened to all of it. It was a lot and yet she knew not everything. “Is that why you won’t tell them what’s going on?”

“Yes, partially.” Melissa signed. “Doug knows about the teacher and my reputation at my last school. He said he’d spread it, not only all over this school but any school I go to in the future if I leave here. I can’t deal with that. I can’t go back to a school full of people that hate me.”

“I...don’t think…” Courtney started to say but Melissa stopped her.

“You don’t think that the rest of the school might just believe what a junior, popular rich kid and one of the star football players said about me? I have a hard time believing that they won't. I certainly believe he will track me to my next school.” Melissa was upset and frustrated at what Doug was putting her through and her words had come harder than she meant them to. She hadn’t meant to do that to Courtney. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have taken that out on you.”

Courtney shook her head. “There’s no need to apologize.” And she meant that; Melissa was a friend and she would rather have a few harsh words thrown her way, if not really directed at her than have the girl keep bottling it all up; as she had been.

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do, both of you, but I don’t think anyone can help me. I think the only thing that will help me is if I found something out about Doug that was just as bad or worse and had proof. I don’t think that’s very likely.” Melissa’s phone buzzed, she looked at it. “That's one of the girls from Doug’s group; I really have to go before they come looking for me. I’ll never hear the end of it if I’m caught talking with you.” Melissa texted something and got up. “I really hope one day all of this will be over.” With those words, she made her way out of the room.

Courtney just sat there for a moment; after Melissa left and then said. “So, I’m at a loss. I really don’t know what else we can do. I’m sure Doug has secrets he’d like to not get out, he seems like the type that would, but how would we even find those out, and would it be worse than what he has on her?” She was more thinking out loud and not expecting an answer from Conner as she was pretty sure, for the moment anyway, there was none. So, Courtney stood up and left the auditorium with Conner, making sure no one saw them leave after Mel.

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