"Hey, you alright man?"
Jim had his "I'm trying to look just fine but really, I'm so furious you better not get in my way" scowl on again, which always meant something had gone wrong. And Mark was pretty sure he had a good idea what had happened.
The same reply that was always given.
"Your dad again?"
Jim's eyes flashed in anger at his friend and neighbor. "He's not my dad. He's a bully."
Mark picked up the basketball that was laying in the grass and started to dribble it. Jim's step father had a bad temper and tended to pick on Jim about everything some days. His mother would also get the brunt of it, which Jim couldn't stand. It wasn't physical, just emotional. Mental. Damaging all the same.
Jim was sixteen now. He had just earned his licence, something he was happy about. It meant freedom. But it was for him, not his mother. Why couldn't she see that she picked a bad guy? She loved him dearly and tended to skip over his faults. Well, Jim sure didn't.
"Play?" Mark asked, spinning the orange ball on the tip of his finger.
Surprising enough, Jim just shook his head. Usually, he'd allow Mark to challenge him, take his mind off of his steaming anger. Not today.
Instead, he sat down in the grass, running his hand over the short blades, his eyes reduced to slits, lost in thought. "I don't like bullies." He said softly.
Mark was by no means a sensitive guy, but that sad kid pulled at his heart. Depressed now too, he headed back home. Jim would want to be left alone anyway.