Saved By The Bell
Mr. Styles was beginning to notice Louis’s grades progressively drop over the course of the second semester, and history was his best subject typically, so the D was inexcusable. And every day he walked into class, he seemed to be sporting a limp or a bruise or a cut or a poorly concealed black eye.
“Louis, can I talk to you real quick?” he asked, as Louis gathered up his binder and notebook. He nodded, approaching his teacher’s desk, sheepishly.
“Lou, I know it’s your senior year, and there’s a lot of stuff going on, but you’re a promising student, and you can’t let your grades suffer,” Mr. Styles explained, gesturing Louis to sit down across from him. Louis scoffed, and Mr. Styles raised his eyebrows. “Is something funny?”
“You want to talk to me about suffering,” he said, shaking his head, and slinging his backpack over his shoulder, getting ready to leave. “I’ll work on bringing my grades up, Mr. Styles.”
But Harry didn’t let the discussion stop at that. “Lou, is something going on in your life that’s hurting you-your grades, hurting your grades.”
Louis opened his mouth, when a car honked in the distance. “I have to go, that’s my dad…” he said, shuffling out of the room. Harry got up after him, but the boy rushed out the door, leaving behind his binder before Harry could even call out to him to wait. He narrowed his eyes, squinting at the man whom he got in the car with, and watching Louis shrink. He cowered as his father yelled at him, and Harry gasped when Louis’s head snapped to the side, with the force of the smack to his jaw he’d just received. The car sped off, and Louis could be seen biting his lip, and looking down. Harry felt his hands shaking as he held the binder in his hand, and looked down, opening it.
His eyes widened at the binder paper tucked in the corner, folded over but the Sharpie it was written on in bled through, and Harry read it as “Top 10 Reasons to Kill Myself”. Too disturbed and upset to dare read it, Harry closed the binder, setting it aside in his desk drawer and deciding to hand it back to Louis the next day, if he even showed up. His attendance had been lagging as well.
Harry was right in predicting Louis wouldn’t be there the next day, and after the final class was dismissed, he hurried to the office student directory, looking up Louis’s name and address. He knew it was against policy to search personal information for non-school related reasons, but this was more important. He began to fear the worst, as he drove to Louis’s house, the binder sitting in the passenger seat, and his heart beating faster. He sighed a little when he noticed the driveway was empty.
He got out, walked over to the front door, tapping the binder lightly, after he rang the doorbell a couple times. There was no response after awhile, so Louis hesitantly turned to leave, when he heard the chain lock release behind him.
“M-Mr. Styles?” Louis’s strained voice spoke. Harry turned around, his heart sinking at the sight of the bruise on Louis’s cheek and the newly forming one on his forearm. Harry walked back up to the front door, handing him the binder.
“You left this behind yesterday, and you weren’t in class today.”
“Are you allowed to do this?”
“I don’t know. What I do is I’m obligated by policy and law to report child abuse if I see any of my students—”
“What?! Who told you I’m—I’m not abused!” Louis snapped, defensively, but his eyes showed more fear than conviction.
“Louis, it’s okay, you can trust me. I can help you. Your father can’t hurt you if—”
“Shut up, and go away!” Louis yelled, and Harry gestured him to keep quiet. “You don’t fucking know me, I could call the cops, you know?”
“And what, tell them your teacher is just trying to protect you from a father who beats you on a regular basis? What you need to tell the cops is—”
“I said shut up and go away!” Louis said, beginning to cry. Harry frowned, thinking he should’ve approached this situation differently. But before he could even argue for himself, the car from yesterday pulled up into the driveway, and a hostile older man got out, slamming the door behind him.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked, angrily.
“I’m Mr. Styles, I’m your son’s history teacher. I was just dropping off his binder and some assignments he’s missed.”
“What, are you fucking your teachers just to pass your classes? Is that the kind of piece of shit you are? Fucking around just like your whore of a mother?” barked Louis’s dad, and Harry furrowed his eyebrows, wanting to repeatedly smash his fist into the man’s face, and judging by the look on Louis’s face, the feeling was mutual.
“Sir, I’m afraid I’m going to have to call the police if you’re in any way abusing Louis here,” Harry spoke up sternly, and the man’s eyes flicked over to him.
“Excuse me? What makes you think you have the right—”
“Don’t talk to me about rights, Mr. Tomlinson. If you can’t take care of your son, there are foster homes that can. I might even apply to be his legal guardian,” Harry told him, mostly for assertive affect, but Louis looked to him, a faint hope emerging in his eyes.
“You look hardly a few years older than him. You’re more set to go to jail for fucking a student than I am for beating my dumbass son.”
“I’m willing to find out then,” Harry challenged, taking Louis’s hand in his. “So until you learn to acknowledge your son’s basic rights, I’ll use mine to ensure he’s somewhere safe.”
“This is kidnapping!”
“This is rescuing,” Harry argued. “I’m taking him to CPS, not my place to do anything illegal. Much less can be said in regards to you,” he added. “Come on, Louis.”
Louis looked at him, with such admiration, he felt tears spring to his eyes. He blocked out the swear words and empty threats of his father in the distance, as he was escorted to Harry’s car.
“Are you really taking me to Child Protective Services…I mean, I’m eighteen,” Louis explained, suddenly getting nervous and wary of trusting Mr. Styles.
“I’m not, I just couldn’t tell him you’re staying with me until we handle this legally, if you want to, that is.”
“Take this to court?”
“That, and if…if you are okay with staying with me. Do you have anyone else who can-”
“No…I…I’m fine staying with you.” He paused. “And thank you, Mr. Styles,” he added, appreciating all of this, and knowing how far out of his way Harry was going to do this, how risky it was…how heroic it was.
Harry looked over to him from his steering wheel, and smiled, softly.
“Call me Harry.”