Title: The Rules
Word Count 353
It was his own fault. He had failed to get out in time. Usually Matty could get out of the school quickly enough to be out in front, and to walk home without having to see anyone.
He had to be home before dad, and he could not speak to anyone on the way. Those were the rules. He had made the rules for himself years ago, when he first started walking home from school. He had told himself that if he could get home without speaking, without opening his mouth once, it would be one of the good days when he got there.
It was stupid. He was 12 now and he knew better. But some part of him wanted to think it mattered anyway. Some childish part of him wanted to believe that if he could just do everything right, maybe it would be one of the good days. He went on thinking it even as he realized that the good days were fewer now.
And today everything had gone wrong. He had been getting his things, looking down and he had been rushing. Somehow he had dropped his notebook, and all his papers came flying out. Everyone had looked at him. He had felt himself go shriveled and hot. By the time he had stuffed everything back in, all crumpled now, the rest of the class had been out the door ahead of him.
And there, up ahead, were Kevin and Bobby, and the new boy was with them, Horatio. They were telling him something, something that made them all laugh. Trickles of sound came back to Matty. They had not seen him. He lagged, scuffling his feet in the dust. Kevin and Bobby would turn at the next street. That was when they might notice him. The Horatio boy might look, might speak to him-- and what would Matty say?
The idea of speaking to him made Matty's insides lurch and prickle. Better to lag behind. Even if it made him late, it was better to stick to the rules.