Juliano walked into his room with clenched jaws and threw his bag on the floor, making a loud sound. He was having a really bad day. He had failed in Math again and Rosanna ate his lunch again which resulted in a huge fight. No, you are wrong. They didn’t have a verbal fight but a physical one. And damn that girl was strong. She was as strong as a male boxer with anger issues. Wait, she did have anger issues.
For those who are wondering who Rosanna is, she was Juliano's best friend. They had been friends for over a year now.
Juliano was about to crash in his bed and sleep for the rest of the day to avoid any more crappiness when he heard a knock and his mother entered the room.
“What’s the noise and Jesús who gave you that black eye, mijo. Was it Rosanna again?”
“Sí,” he said in a sour tone.
“Why won’t she see a therapist about her anger issues?”
“I don’t know ma, she won’t listen to me.”
“But this has to stop, mi amor. This is negatively affecting her life as well as yours. You come home every day with fresh scars. I wonder how you manage to keep up with her!”
However angry Juliano was, he could never hear a word against Rose.
“You do not have any right to say that about her. She was there for me when I had no friends. It is not her fault that she was born with issues. So cut her some slack. She makes me happy. I can bear with her anger as well,” he retorted, hurtfully.
“Ok, back off Juliano. Calm down. I was just stating facts. And you’ve asked her out already. You cannot be more obvious about liking her.”
“No, I don’t,” I retaliated with red cheeks.
“Ok, whatever you say,” Nelia teased him and went out of the room.
But his mother’s words had caught him off-guard.
He searched online:
Signs you have fallen for someone:
· You always think about them. Check.
· You want them to be happy. Check.
· They can never be wrong. Check.
· You don’t mind when they do something unattractive. Check.
· You feel unusually optimistic around them. Check.
“Oh shit,” Juliano said to himself, “I am screwed.”
While Juliano was fantasizing about his love life, Nelia was determined she was going to help Rosanna in some way. She decided to talk to the headmaster of Liberty High.
The next day, Nelia left for Juliano’s school only after she made sure that he went to school as she knew he would never allow her to do what she was thinking.
As she entered the headmaster’s office, she was welcomed with a firm nod and a “Good morning”.
“Good morning Mr. Edison, I want to speak to Juliano’s class teacher about one of his classmates,” Nelia said.
“No problem Mrs. Martin. Is everything alright? Is someone troubling Mr. Juliano?” the headmaster asked with a poker face.
“No, I am just concerned about one of his classmates.”
“Okay, Mr. Jackson will be here in a moment. Please make yourself comfortable at the reception.”
Nelia thanked him and went outside the office.
“No, there is no girl named Rosanna in Juliano’s class or in the entire 10th grade.”
“Huh? How is that possible? Maybe you might have made a mistake. Can you check once again, please?” Nelia asked the teacher with questioning eyes. No longer than five minutes had passed before Mr. Jackson appeared in the reception area.
“Hello Mr. Jackson, I am Nelia Martin, Juliano’s mother.”
“Hello, Mrs. Martin. How can I help you?”
“I came over to inquire about Rosanna, Juliano’s classmate. It has come to my knowledge that she has some issues that needed to be looked into. I am concerned about her,” Nelia said. She had wanted to say more but she held herself after seeing the frown on Mr. Jackson’s face.
“I am sorry but can you check the records once?”
“Alright, if you insist, Mrs. Martin. I’ll check again.” Mr. Jackson said before leaving.
After about fifteen minutes Mr. Jackson returned with the same answer, “Sorry we don’t have any girl named Rosanna in our school.”
Nelia was shocked after hearing these words. She could not make any sense of the situation. This was all very weird. Many thoughts were meandering in her mind. Who is Rosanna? Was her son lying about her? If so, why was he lying? Her thoughts were spiralling endlessly.
She was forced out of her thoughts when a boy came up to her and said, “Hello Mrs. Martin, I am Ben and I am your son’s classmate.” After earning a nod from her he continued, “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. Juliano is being bullied by a guy named Joe. He hits Juliano, destroys his work , eats his lunch, and calls him names. No one tries to help Juliano because everyone is scared of Joe as he is very popular. But Mrs. Martin, your son has been acting weird for a year now. When Joe bullies him he just stares into space with a blank look which creeps people around him. He doesn’t talk to anyone and sits alone in a corner of the class.”
Now all of this started to make sense to Nelia, who was horrified by the truth. Her son was going through a lot of which she never knew. She felt like someone had stabbed her thousand knives. She wished to be stabbed if that meant her son was in a safe and sound place. What a cruel mother she was! If only she had not been so absorbed in her work, had she maintained her work-life balance instead of constantly being away on business trips, she might have been able to be there for him; she might have realised that there was something not quite right with her son. She might have realised that something was off when he made excuses when she asked him to invite Rosanna home; realised that he was unlike the normal teenagers who were always on their phone; realised that it was weird when he would sit quietly in the dark like there was an imaginary television above him and suddenly smile; realised that he had been skipping meals and was not like his usual self. But now hearing Ben’s words, all the pieces of the puzzle and the whole picture made sense and she loathed the picture.
“Ma?” the voice jolted her back. She wanted to run out of the room and curl in a corner and cry her eyes out when she saw him. Her beautiful son. He didn’t deserve this, any of this. She ran to him and hugged him tightly, letting a tear or two fall through her eyes. She had been so lost in her sorrows that she had not heard Mr. Jackson reassuring her by saying that he would take severe actions and this would not happen again and she had not noticed when he had asked Ben to call Juliano and Joe. He asked Joe to stay out because he knew Nelia was not ready to see Joe right now.
“Juliano, why did you never tell me anything about being bullied? Why did you lie about Rosanna?” Nelia said with a croaked voice.
“What ma, no. I am not lying about Rosanna. She is still there, sleeping in class. She always does that in the History period. Why doesn’t anyone believe me? She makes me happy.”
Hearing her son’s words, Nelia couldn’t hold back her tears anymore.
“I know, mijo, I know. The thought of her does make you happy.”
Author ~ Khushi L
Editor ~ Suryakshi Surve