The Black Shadow
After her parents divorced, Gracie and her mother, Lilly, moved into an old, two-story, riverfront home, where demons were just as real as the dreadful bus ride that Gracie took to and from school each day. Her new bus route included a rotten seventeen-year-old boy named Denny. He was tall and muscular, with greasy black hair, and his acne was as terrible as his venomous demeanor. He harassed Gracie to the point of tears every single day. It all started on the first day of school, when she unknowingly sat in his seat on the bus. When Denny reached what he had claimed to be his seat, he cussed at her, called her dreadful names, and he physically forced her to move closer to the front of the school bus.
Denny grabbed the young girl tightly around the wrist and yanked her out of his seat. He jerked her arm so hard, that Gracie could have sworn that she heard her shoulder pop. He marched her down the aisle of the bus, shoving her with the sharp point of his finger each step of the way, as he forced her almost to the front seat. Gracie sat quietly crying, as Denny returned to the rear of the bus, and she was offended that the bus driver had done nothing to stop the harassment. The burning, blood red impression from his hand circled her wrist, and Gracie worried that her mother would see it. This was not the time to upset her mom, she concluded, as she sat alone, humiliated, and in pain, waiting for the bus to finally reach her house.
Gracie hated the fact that her town was so small that the elementary, middle, and high school students were forced to ride on the same bus together. The older students used their seniority to claim the best seats for the entire school year, and the younger kids, like Gracie, sat in a different place everyday. She didn’t care where she sat, really, as long as she never had to be near Denny again; and especially if he never touched her again. Gracie’s only hope was that Denny would be getting his driver’s license soon, which would rid him from the bus and her life for good.
As the weeks dragged along, the cool fall air twisted into a bitter winter chill, but to Gracie, nothing was more bitter than Denny. The despicable boy abandoned his own seat on the bus and started making a point to sit in the seat next to her or behind her, and she was mortified. Denny continually whispered nasty things into her ear and called her by every derogatory name that he could fathom; he was a deep, dark well of endless insults. Gracie was only thirteen; a tall, blond, naive, plain stick figure, and she had never heard anyone use such foul language before. With each new day, Gracie boarded the school bus with an insufferable fear. She had done nothing to provoke this sort of behavior, yet the name-calling had increased, and Denny eventually began making violent threats.
As Gracie boarded the bus one afternoon, she was relieved when an older girl offered to share a seat with her. She scanned the bus nervously for any sign of Denny, but she didn’t see him. Gracie had never seen this girl before, so she assumed that she was a new student at the high school. Teresa was short, thick, and curvy, with curly black hair, and her clothing was very provocative. Surely, Denny would have been all over this newcomer had he been on the bus that day.
Gracie settled into the seat next to the girl, as the bus began its hour-long route toward Gracie’s home. The two girls sat in an awkward silence for only a moment before Teresa spoke to her.
She popped a huge bubble with her chewing gum and asked, “So, what’s your name?”
Gracie welcomed the thought of having a pleasant conversation on the bus for a change. “I’m Gracie. What’s your name? Are you new?”
In a matter of seconds, Teresa’s kind demeanor changed. “No, I’m not new. I just usually catch a ride to school with my boyfriend, and you don’t need to know my name, Gracie. All you need to know is that I’m Denny’s big sister, and I don’t like the fact that you’ve been messing with my brother’s head. You stupid little tease!”
“What?” Gracie was dumbfounded, and when she heard the abrupt sound of Denny’s voice coming from the seat directly behind her, she was so frightened that she tried to get up and run.
Teresa grabbed Gracie’s arm and held her down, so she couldn’t get up. “You ain’t going nowhere, girl. My brother wants to talk to you, and you’re gonna to listen. You got it?”
Gracie found herself speechless. Denny had been harassing her for weeks, but she had always refused to react to his insults. She usually stared out of the window and pretended that he didn’t exist. She always avoided making eye contact with him, and she had certainly never engaged in a conversation with him; more less been a tease. Gracie wondered what lies Denny had told to his older sister to make her believe that he was the victim.
Teresa smacked Gracie in the back of her head. “Did you hear me talking to you? You ain’t gonna just sit there and ignore me, girl!”
Gracie’s rage grew out of control for the first time in thirteen years, and she snapped, “I heard you! The thing is, I don’t have anything to say to you or your loser brother. In fact, I’ve never spoken to your brother at all. He’s disgusting, and he harasses me every damn day of the week, and I’m sick of it! Now, let go of my arm, or I’m going to turn both of you in.”
Denny and Teresa both began laughing hysterically, and Denny teased, “Turn us in to who, Gracie? The bus driver? Your mommy?
Gracie spun around to look at Denny. “Yes, Denny! Exactly! I could have you both suspended for harassment!”
Gracie then turned to Teresa, in hopes of gaining some sort of sympathy. “Are you really going to take part in helping your brother harass another girl? I’ve done nothing to deserve this!”
Teresa still had a strong hold on Gracie’s upper arm, and as she dug her fingernails in sharply, Gracie screamed at her, “Let go of my arm right now, you freaking psycho!”