Stone Cold

“Cadence,…” Gale called her daughter as the girl exited the car. The bony girl adjusted her backpack as she turned around. She swept loose strands of her coffee-brown hair out of her eyes.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“If you ever feel cornered…,” Gale began. Cadence sighed at the subject matter but stayed long enough to listen. “…look, honey, don’t worry about school. Whatever happens, I’m on your side. Don’t be afraid to fight back. Sometimes people need to learn lessons the hard way. Teach them not to mess with you.” Cadence rolled her eyes. Ever since she opened up to her mom the night before about being bullied, she’s been encouraging the girl to fight back.

“I’m not beating anyone up, mom. They’re just annoying assholes. School’s over in a month, I can make it until then.” She shut the door on the conversation and walked off. Gale fumed in her seat.

“Those little shits,” she mumbled to herself and left the school grounds. The previous evening, her rage grew hotter and hotter as her daughter explained the situation.

“They hide my things,” she said. “They call me names and push me around in the halls between classes.” Her daughter listed more than a dozen instances of things that individually, wouldn’t be worth noticing. Adding them all up, however, painted a very clear picture. Her daughter was being bullied. Gale fought hard to contain her anger; she did not want Cadence knowing about her villainy just yet. She knew she would have to be honest eventually, but she felt the girl wasn’t ready yet. Gale pulled into her driveway and left the car.

“Pushing her down?” Gale growled. She did a quick spin in her front yard to take a look around. Her neighbors were all gone to work, the street was quiet with no passing cars. The ground opened beneath Gale and swallowed her whole. Seconds later, she grew out of the ground head first. Her white blouse and black slacks were replaced by a green and brown outfit woven entirely out of roots and vines. Her short dark hair was covered by long green, flowering vines that almost reached her waist. “I’ll just have to go push them down.”

At school, Cadence was in the middle of P.E.. She jogged along, alone, around the large track that circled the school. She rounded the furthest spot from the school ready to head back when she heard familiar laughter. The path ran near the edge of a forest. The school grounds were once enclosed by a fence, but over time kids picked at the fence until it was no longer a solid border. Cadence turned toward the laughter and found a trio of girls. They stood at the edge of the forest on the other side of a hole in the fence.

“Hey, Cadie,” the tall one in the middle said; she flashed a sinister grin. “We’ve been waiting for you.” She took a menacing step toward Cadence, but she tripped. The tall girl fell face-first into the tall grass; Cadence did not hesitate. She saw her chance and bolted back to the school as soon as the girl fell forward. The two shorter girls tried to run after her, but they tripped also. Once they were on the ground, they had trouble getting back up.

The tall girl tried pushing herself up but vines sprouted out of the ground and slithered up her arms.

“Oh shit,” the tall one said when she realized what was happening. “It’s Gaia!” she told her two friends; they were being held down by vines also.

“That’s right!” Gale laughed as she walked out of the forest behind them. “On your feet girls, we need to talk,” she said. At her words, the vines moved like tentacles. Thin green vines turned the girls around on their backs. Then, they rose into the air and lifted them to a standing position while keeping them bound and gagged. “I’ve heard that you’re giving Cadence Stone a hard time,” she said. Gale took a step toward them and pulled a stone dagger out from under her vine-clothes. She stood in front of the tall girl and held the dagger up for her to see clearly. “Is that right?” she asked. All three girls eagerly confessed with silent, energetic nods. Gale growled in frustration and slapped the leader with the back of her hand; then, the vines loosened enough to let her speak.

“What the hell, Gaia?” she shouted at the villain. “You told us to!” Again, Gale slapped the teenager, then she lifted the knife to the girl’s face; inches from her eye.”I didn’t tell you to bully her you idiots,” she growled but the vines loosened around all three girls. “I said, ‘make her life HELL!'” Gale grabbed the girl’s hand and gave her the knife. “Now go and STEP IT UP!”

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