“So, does this happen a lot?” Kat said, pulling the first aid kit down from the top shelf.
A layer of fine dust covered it. There weren’t a lot of mini-golf related injuries.
Jeremy shrugged. “I guess so.”
He looked so small, sitting in a folding chair, clearly wishing he’d bolted before Kat had brought him inside. His demeanor was suspicious bordering on defiant, as though he wasn’t willing to believe Kat wanted nothing more than to help.
“Why do they pick on you?” she asked as she lined up the supplies she needed.
“I dunno,” he said. “Because I exist.”
“Yeah, well, since that’s not going to change anytime soon,” Kat said, opening a packet with an alcohol wipe, “maybe you should take some self-defense classes. This might sting.”
She gently dabbed the wound, expecting Jeremy to squirm, but he didn’t so much as flinch.
“I could defend myself if I wanted,” he said, his jaw tight. “Then they’d really be sorry.”
“What do you mean?” she said, trying to keep her tone light while she opened a packet of antibacterial ointment.
He wouldn’t be the first bullied kid to take revenge using a weapon, possibly hurting others in the process.
“Nothing,” he muttered. “I wouldn’t do it anyway.”
“That’s good,” she said. “I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
His mouth twisted into a sneer.
“I’d be fine,” he said. “They promised me that.”
The hairs on the back of Kat’s neck rose. They?
Go slow, Kat. The only thing you know for sure is that he needs help. No way to know for sure what kind of help. Yet.
“Well, then, it’s a good thing you’re too nice a kid to really want to hurt anyone,” she said, squeezing the packet over Jeremy’s wound.
“I’m not a kid,” he said, jerking his hand away, leaving a trail of gooey ointment on the floor.
Dumb, Kat, she thought. Kids never liked to be called kids.
“Sorry,” she said, grabbing a paper towel, then squatting down to wipe up the mess.
She slid the towel across the dirty linoleum and was about to stand when something caught her eye. Jeremy was wearing flip-flops, and there on the top of his foot…
Kat’s pulse quickened and she looked up, looking into the eyes of the small, scared, dangerous boy in front of her.
“Ki–Jeremy, your life is about to get so much better.”