Charlie knew he took for granted the default role he had as leader of his group of friends. He had known as far back as a sophomore in high school when the role was thrust upon him by the leader before him. Charlie hadn’t been the obvious choice, though, since he hung out with gang members during his middle school years. Charlie’s cousin, who had been the leader before him, took him under his wing when he saw how Charlie changed during his freshman year of high school.
He gave Charlie responsibilities he was preparing to relinquish as Charlie showed he had truly changed his ways. In turn, the gang members bullied Charlie more than anyone else in the group.
Smashing in his locker had been the latest outburst from them when Charlie took over as leader in his sophomore year. They hadn’t done that this year, though they made sure to roughly bump into him in the hallways, along with saying things about his family to try and prod Charlie into a fight with them. Things Charlie expected from them by now.
They should have known better since they knew Charlie studied martial arts when he hung out with them in the past. Charlie knew they would gang up on him in any kind of fight, so he just kept turning the other cheek.
They had been leaving him and his friends alone an unusual amount since Charlie’s senior year started. They knew Charlie would leave his role as leader to someone close, but they didn’t know who he had in mind. That made Charlie think they were trying to figure it out, though his choice had already been made with a longtime family friend, Fiona, since she lived in one of the tougher areas. He just hoped they would keep being stuck wondering the rest of the year and that they would bully her less than they had him.
That lasted until Halloween, when they decided to force his hand. Charlie had just gotten home from school when he started getting flooded with text messages. All of his friends wanted to know if he had heard about Tara, his girlfriend, and Fiona being attacked by the gang members from Fiona’s part of the city.
Charlie read the text messages with an inferno as if Hell itself was erupting within him. He saw red as his eyes took on steel-like focus. He dropped his phone, reaching into his closet to pull out a pair of black jeans, which he rarely wore, nd a solid black t-shirt. He changed clothes and left with the front door shaking as he slammed it behind him.
Charlie headed for where he knew the gang members in Fiona’s part of town hung out. People in his path stepped out of his way. They saw the look in his eyes spelled trouble for someone, and they didn’t want to be part of it.
As he approached the door to the gang members’ hangout, the ones that were hanging around out front hoping to be included in the gang scattered like fleas from a dog about to get a bath. Charlie didn’t bother knocking. Instead, he kicked the door in off its hinges.
“I’ve had enough of your shit! It stops now!” Charlie roared, daring anyone to step up and be first as he entered the hangout.
Everyone in the room looked around as if they were suggesting that the person nearest them should be first to approach Charlie. He waited briefly for a response. When he didn’t get one, Charlie grabbed the nearest gang member and threw him like a pillow across the room into the rest of his buddies. They chose to dodge their flying partner and charge Charlie instead. The first gang member to reach Charlie was met with a kick to the groin followed with a knee to the jaw.
As that one fell, another reached Charlie and went to punch him. Charlie grabbed him by the wrist as he brought his palm down across the gang member’s elbow at the same time. A crack as loud as a gunshot sounded from it as the gang member fell to the floor, clutching his newly broken arm. Charlie kicked the next gang member to come at him in back of the knee followed with an earth-shattering kick to the chest, leaving the gang member on his back gasping for air.
That provoked their leader to step forth with a machete, which he swung wildly at Charlie. Charlie dodged it and kicked his knee at the same time, causing it to shatter in response. The gang leader fell to the ground, trying to chop at Charlie with the machete as he did. Charlie sidestepped the chop and grabbed him by the wrist. He twisted his wrist, forcing him to drop the machete. He then broke it with a twist, leaving the gang leader just staring up at him.
“There will be no more intimidation happening, and everyone that chooses a path outside of the gang will be left alone or I will come back a hundred times worse,” Charlie said so calmly and stone cold it left the room speechless.
You could hear dust moving in the room as Charlie walked out, leaving the gang with the unspoken dare to tell the cops it was him who had attacked them. He doubted they would since it was not their style.
It was clear the next day, though, that something had happened when everyone saw them, Fiona, and Tara at school. The gangs steered clear of Charlie instead of trying to provoke him from then on.
Charlie noticed what looked like a high heel hole with a bandage under it on one of the gang members that day. That told him either Fiona or Tara had gotten in a good hit when they were attacked, which calmed him a bit. He made sure both of them only had minor injuries as they tried to assure him they were ok while working to calm him at the same time, though they knew they were probably too late by the looks of things.
The rest of the year went smoothly for everyone around Charlie. At graduation, though, when he gave his speech as the Valedictorian, Charlie made sure the gangs got the message that he would be watching.