It was just a typical Tuesday afternoon at Havensdale School and Sixth Form College. Some of the kids from year 7 were running carelessly around the courtyard in the brisk, January air and the sound of their laughter billowed in through the open window. The older sixth form students were hurrying between lessons or busy working on their latest pieces of coursework. And as for me… I was hanging from a coat hook in the boys’ P.E. changing rooms. I know it’s hard to believe that something so embarrassing could happen to a fully grown seventeen-year-old, but there you have it. It was happening. I was strung up by my collar like a piece of meat at a butcher’s shop and there was literally nothing I could do to get myself down. My hands had been bound tightly behind my back with some spare rope from the P.E. cupboard. So tight in fact, that my wrists were starting to ache from the friction burn. I had been certain that if I struggled about enough I’d eventually shimmy myself loose, but after ten minutes or so I realised it wasn’t happening. My feet were flailing helplessly above the floor and thrashing them around wasn’t helping me in the slightest. In the end, I decided to accept my fate and simply hung there limply in the pitch-darkness, waiting for someone to come and find me. I took a deep breath in and then out again. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Some stressed out students would probably have killed for such a moment of calm in their hectic, overworked days. Also, I was only missing a maths lesson and I felt pretty on top of all my work there. I tried to convince myself that this was not the most excruciating moment of my life, but a nice bit of thoroughly needed relaxation time. If I could just block out the stink of sweat in the changing room and ignore the fact that I was seriously starting to need the loo, then perhaps I could actually enjoy the peace and quiet. I closed my eyes and imagined a serene ocean scene. I had to remain calm. This was a busy school building and someone was bound to find me sooner or later. There was no point in getting myself into a panic for no reason. If I was lucky I might even be rescued by the next group of hot, half-naked upper sixth boys who needed to use the changing rooms. Only there were no hot, half-naked boys to come to my aid. Or any person in general for that matter. I was left hanging in the darkness for what felt like an eternity. I kept calling out for help as loudly as I could, but the soundproof doors of the changing room blocked out my feeble attempts of getting anyone’s attention. Time spiralled away into the ether. I started to sing out loud in an attempt to keep myself sane, opting ironically for the classic anthem “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. Just as I was mentally preparing for the ridicule that would ensue if I accidentally wet myself, I heard a light rap on the door. “Hey, is anyone in there? I’m looking for Scotty.” My heart did a backflip of sheer relief. It was Olive, my very best friend. “Olly! I’m in here! Help me!” There was a pounding sound as Olive tried the door, only to discover it was locked. “Scotty, what’s going on? I can’t open the door. Did it happen again?!” Oh right. I probably should have mentioned that this isn’t the first time this had happened to me. I’d been hauled up on a coat hook once before, only that time I had somehow managed to get myself down again. This time I hadn’t been so lucky. “Hang on a minute!” There was a short pause, followed by the sound of clinking keys as Olive began unlocking the door. She was the head girl of the sixth form and, as a result, had access to the school key cupboard in case of emergencies. I guess this may have been classed as an emergency. The door clanged open, spilling light from the corridor outside into the room. Olive groped around for the light switch. “For God’s sake Scotty, they left you in the dark?! This is getting totally out of hand! I was wondering where the heck you’d got to. How long have you been here for?” I gave a half-hearted shrug which Olive probably couldn’t see in the darkness. “I dunno. They got me on the way to maths.” “Bloody hell!” she exclaimed. “That was over an hour ago! Have you just been stuck here all this time?!” Finally, Olive found the light switch and brought the room back to life. It stung my eyes after being in darkness for so long and I squeezed them shut behind my thick, black-rimmed glasses. When I opened them again, I saw Olive looming before me with a look of total dismay on her face. I must have made for a truly pathetic sight, it has to be said. “Come here then,” Olive sighed, holding her arms out to me in order to get me down. She has always been a good head and shoulders taller than me, which comes in handy when you’re stuck on a coat hook. Gripping me as firmly as she could, she lifted me up off the hook and helped me safely onto the ground. Then she gave me a big hug as I stifled the urge to cry and wail into her arms. I couldn’t even hug her back as my hands were still tied up behind me. She spun me round and began tugging at the rope, slowly but surely getting it to unknot. “This is ridiculous Scotty, they can’t keep getting away with this. You have to do something about it!” I didn’t need to tell her who was responsible for this particular incident. It was always the same guy and his bunch of cronies. Taylor Raven. King of the school tennis court and head of the Scotty Williams hate campaign. Olive finally snapped my hands free from the rope and I shook them about to regain feeling in my fingers. “It doesn’t matter Ol, there’s no point. He’s untouchable in this stupid school. It’s only going to make him worse if I say anything.” I turned back around to face her, taking in her exasperated expression. Olive is actually an exceedingly beautiful girl, but she manages to hide it well. Her glorious mane of thick, untameable, blonde hair doesn’t quite fit the stereotypical Havensdale standard of style, plus her long, skinny arms and legs seem to trip her up wherever she walks. She also wears thick glasses and braces, which have always labelled her as a bit of a geek by the popular crowd. I simply adore her exactly how she is, but sadly the rest of the school seems to mock any girl without a fashion sense they deem socially acceptable. Luckily, Olive couldn’t give two hoots about what her peers think about her. She stood beside me with her hands on her hips, her tone of voice heading into full-on head girl lecture mode. “If you’re not going to alert someone about this, and I strongly suggest you should, then can’t you at least start sticking up for yourself? Stop letting him get at you all the time. Fight back a little!” I knew she was right, but it was easier said than done. “It’s all well and good to say that Olive, but it’s a different matter when there’s a whole bunch of meatheads ganging up on you. What was I supposed to do?” Olive shook her head, her blonde curls tumbling all around her heart-shaped face. “Oh, I don’t know Scotty, surely you could think of something? You’re the smartest guy in Havensdale, couldn’t you have used your dazzling wit to talk yourself down?” I gave a sarcastic laugh. “Oh yeah, I’m sure my dazzling wit would work wonders with the Brainless Baker Boys!” My number one assailant Taylor Raven was actually very smart, but his two henchmen were anything but. Billy and Bobby Baker (and no I’m not making that up) were identical twins, both with shaved heads and more muscle than sense. They were in the bottom of every academic class and had barely made the grades to get accepted into the school’s sixth form. However, they simply shone when they were out on the sports field. Whether it was football, rugby or tennis, they seemed to have a knack for any game they tried their hand at, as well as the ability to barge violently past any opponent that got in their way (which tended to be a tactic that worked less so well in tennis, but they still gave it their best shot). As I’m a person on the more petite side of the spectrum, it was never going to end well once The Brainless Baker Boys set their sights on me. Between them, they shoved me up on that coat hook like I weighed nothing more than paper. Olive was now pacing around the changing rooms, her anger almost visibly rising from her gangly body. “I really hate those guys! What on earth did you do that was so wrong to make them turn on you like this? I don’t think I can keep standing by and watching it happen anymore!” I put my hands on her shoulders to stop her frantic pacing and knocked my forehead affectionately against hers. “It doesn’t matter Ol. Honestly, I’m fine. There’s only a year and a half to go, then we’ll both be off living brilliant lives at uni. And when we’re big successes, they’ll still be rotting away here with nothing but their precious memories of school sports day to keep them warm at night.” Olive gave a little laugh, showing off the braces on her teeth (adult braces, she would hasten to tell you). She knew I was right. School was always going to be rubbish for kids like us who were clever and motivated and not afraid to stand out from the crowd. But we were smart enough to know this hellish little microcosm was merely a tiny fishbowl in the grand scheme of things. It was just a case of sticking it out. Sometimes I wondered if I should have transferred over to another college in the city, particularly when the bullying was getting so bad for me. But Havensdale Sixth Form was the most academic of all the local colleges and the best place for me to achieve the grades I so badly wanted. I couldn’t risk going somewhere else that wouldn’t run the same level of courses. Besides, there was no way that I was leaving my best friend. “I know you’re right,” Olive replied to me. “I’m just worried about you. This isn’t right Scotty! You don’t have to keep putting on a brave face all the time. Taylor Raven is a total bully and it’s about time someone put him in his place. Seriously, all you have to do is say the word and I’ll get him reported to the right people.” I shook my head. “You know he’s Havensdale’s golden boy. And you also know his Dad funds half of the building. The most he’ll get is a slap on the wrist and then I’ll have even more hell to pay.” Taylor’s father, Alan Raven, was a retired professional tennis player (hence where Taylor got his talent at the game) and was an incredibly rich man. The whole Raven family lived on a massive estate on the outskirts of the city and funded the school very nicely indeed with generous donations of their wealth. It was pretty much an unwritten rule that in return they expected preferential treatment for their son. Whatever trouble Taylor got into, the Headmistress of the school Mrs. Patricks always seemed to turn a blind eye. Not to mention he received plenty of extra coaching and opportunities to represent Havensdale in tennis matches all across the country. It always seemed that Olive forgot this very important point when she was giving me her usual Scotty-pep-talk. She opened her mouth to argue with me, but I cut her off. “No arguments! It’s pointless and it’s just going to cause more upset for me and my Mum. She doesn’t need any more stress. I’m just keeping my head down and ignoring the stupid idiots.” I knew that my Mum would worry herself sick if she knew about Taylor’s stupid little stunt and it wasn’t worth it. Not when she was finally getting over what had happened to us a few years ago. That day when, out of the blue, we got the news that my Dad had died in a car accident. After you experience a day like that, being stuck on a coat hook for an hour is just a tiny dot in the ocean. Believe me. I think Olive could tell she was fighting a losing argument and her face eventually softened in acceptance. I had known her since primary school and she had always been there for me through good and bad. In that time, she had grown to realise that where my Mum was concerned, she was better to just leave things alone. “OK, fine. But I mean it. One word and I’ll do everything in my power to sort out those horrible bullies. And I do have a bit of power you know.” She gave a smirk as she raised her blonde eyebrows. I did not doubt for a second that Olive had most of the teachers in the school wrapped around her little finger and that anyone other than Taylor Raven could probably be expelled in a second on her say-so. “Thanks, Ol,” I said sincerely. Then I suddenly remembered my overwhelming urge for the loo. “I’ll be right back, just going to freshen up.” There was a toilet inside of the changing rooms, which also held a row of showers. After I’d finally relieved myself, I turned on one of the showerheads and ducked my head underneath the falling water. I needed something to knock me back into reality after all that time alone in the dark. The ice cold water felt so good running down my neck, despite the fact my dark curls were also getting soaked. My hair was probably going to get frizzy, but it was usually a little unkempt anyway so I didn’t really mind. After a minute or so I turned off the tap then wiped the lenses of my glasses using the corner of my shirt. As I peered at myself in one of the bathroom mirrors, I couldn’t help but see someone pitiful staring back at me. I was the pale, scrawny, homosexual nerd. The easy target. I should have been feeling sorry for myself and wishing I was anyone else at that moment in time. But instead, I smiled at my own reflection. I actually quite liked being me. I mean, maybe I wasn’t the coolest or most attractive guy in the world, but I wasn’t exactly hideous. In fact, Olive always said I was handsome in a dorky kind of way. I was the guy with brains and determination. With a fabulous best friend and a loving family. I was the guy who got trapped on a coat hook for over an hour and lived to tell the tale. I was not going to be the victim here. I strode triumphantly out of the toilet feeling totally resolute. Olive was waiting outside and I threaded my arm through hers. “Come on Ol, let’s get out of here!” We marched out of the changing rooms, like king and queen of the nerds. I wasn’t ashamed of who I was! I wasn’t going to let this little incident set me back and I most definitely was not going to let Taylor Raven intimidate me in any way. And just as these thoughts were running through my mind, Olive and I came face to face with the man himself. Taylor Raven, his girlfriend Patricia and The Brainless Baker Boys. Oh brilliant.