When Hansel straightened back, shrugging his shoulder, he was on his feet due to the force of the attempted blow. When he refocused on where Garret had sat, it wasn't to see a kid on the floor, or - worse - a sprawled out body. It wasn't to a bloody nose or a shocked cry, even a hurt glance. It was to a wiggling jaw, a straight back, and that same smug look. Hansel's fist curled instinctively at the stinging knuckles, bruised against the hard bone of Garrett's cheek. The rage ebbed, pulsed, roared in his ears as Garrett opened his mouth.
Tapped his other cheek.
Pick up the other side, little man.
If the rage was a flowing river, swirling him up, the shame and horror of his action was a Tsunami, washing through the empty ghost town that was his pride and his belief, needing and wanting to stand up to the onslaught of smug superiority and attempted logic that Garrett had brought to the lunch room table. Of all the ways he had seen this ending, of all the predicted futures of this encounter, he'd never imagined it'd be standing here with an open sore on his middle knuckle, a drop of his blood dotting Garrett's face, while he felt ashamed and disgusted with himself.
He didn't allow himself to analyze the sudden wash of shame, didn't allow his brain to focus on the reasons behind it. But there was a niggle. A tiny little worm that tickled the back of his brain, doubt that maybe had slept all along, maybe had hidden behind bigger, stronger emotions.
You could be wrong.
Instead of focusing on that thought, instead of turning the microscope inward, he abruptly stepped back, knocking the chair back behind him as he reached forward to grip the table with one hand, steadied himself from more than the imbalance caused by the quick motion. He opened his mouth, worked his jaw, eyes still on the drop of blood - Hansel's blood - that dotted Garrett's cheek.
His mouth moved, a vague motion that might've been I'm sorry.
When it stopped, he whirled and stormed out of the lunch room, leaving his bag and half eaten lunch on the table.
((Hansel Williams continued in Quixotic