Something Not To Forget
Everything, well close to everything, began with tattoos and a blue-haired pacifist.
A silent and awkward drive had led us to a rather reluctant location: Frankie & Jane's Tattoo shop. It was notorious for being the favored hang out amongst the goths and punks, but that was probably because the lot was absent of a 'no loitering' sign.
The drive, above all, to Frankie & Jane's was purely a spontaneous, lack-of-all-common-sense decision on my part. If it hadn't been for my best friend, Madison Grey, and her very selective prejudices, I wouldn't have to prove a point somewhere I had never been before.
Madison fiddled with the dial to her poorly tuned radio, stopping on a station that was blaring a Paris Hilton song—which was reduced, mostly, to static. I was grateful. Bad music would only make the situation more unbearable than it already was.
"You know, I feel bad for Landon. He's perfect," Madison exaggerated, her eyes sparkling with something akin to adoration. "But then he spends one night with them and he's on the fast track to becoming the next Jimmy Hendrix."
I rolled my eyes, feeling anger penetrate through my skin. If only it could've paralyzed Madison for a split second, making her realize how narrow-minded she was really being. She had too bad of a habit of saying the first thing that came to mind without thinking it through, first.
"Madison," I stressed, wanting to yank out my hair at her lack of sense. To her, Landon was a god on an unbreakable pedestal, and I was sick of hearing it. "You're trying to compare Landon to an idolized rock star. The two are incomparable." I blew my bangs out of my face, trying to catch my bearings. "It's not fair to blame Landon's decision on someone else. He's a big boy."
Madison's eyes shimmered with angry tears. "Get a grip, Alex. You've known Landon way longer than all of us. Is this really something he'd do for the sake of doing something?"
Again, my best friend had made a mark that hit well below the belt, leaving a stinging, almost real welt in its wake. But Landon was one of our closest friends. She was right about that. It was only within the past few years that he had shed his 'good boy' rep for something a little more exhilarating. In the face of pressure, Landon was known to cave.
It just so happened that Madison refused to believe he had changed. And I had been in the very same boat. In a way, I still was, but at least I was open to the fact that our best guy friend made questionable decisions.
I sucked in a deep breath. Maddy's cold-hearted stare caused a ripple of goose bumps to infest my skin. "I think Landon's capable of anything, Mad. We're all capable of anything. And seven years worth of friendship can't change that."
She flicked her hair over her shoulder. "You're such a heartless bitch sometimes," she hissed. "I'll prove that he's perfect, just like I'll prove that these goths and punks aren't half as wonderful as you think they are."
I stared out the window.
It was hard not to get worked up over her choice of words.
- - -
The parking lot was mostly a barren wasteland; garbage from McDonald's to the town's only grocery store littered the ground. Tire treads were permanently burned into the pavement, and even with the window only cracked open, I swore I could smell the remnants of burnt rubber.
My eyes spanned the west end of the parking lot where a lone care was parked, hazard lights blinking, and the hood propped open; my eyes zeroed in on the punk-ish looking guy, with his head swallowed by the hood of the car. I wondered, with a restrained amount of amusement, if tumbleweeds were going to roll behind him and across the parking lot like they often did in westerns. But nothing happened.
I sighed, more out of boredom than necessity. It had taken two, solid months worth of pleading to con Madison into hearing my point of view. And when she had, she turned the tables and dragged us out to the one place we'd never be welcome—or fit in. Unwillingly, she drove, hardly breathing a word of her disinterest in what I had to prove.
Her insecurities shimmered like a bright beam of light as she put the car into park, leaving the engine running. When her hand slid along the door, ready to lock them on instinct, I knew that I had to say something before things spiraled out of control.
"Madison, tattoos don't mean you're condemned to a life of crime. And I'm going to prove it to you," I hissed, jumping out of her car spontaneously. Stumbling forward, I slammed the door shut harder than I met—breaking the glass. And for a split moment, the goths and punks turned to stare at me.
I winced. An entrance like that wasn't going to earn me any points. The goths and punks would make the assumption that I was being a show off. And maybe, just maybe, they had the rights to that assumption. If I didn't make waves, they wouldn't notice.
"Alex!" Madison hissed angrily. "You're going to pay for that."
"I know, I know," I whispered. "In more ways than one."
With a half, awkward wave, I slowly zeroed in on my objective—the unsuspecting goth's. They were crowded in an elbow-to-elbow circle, talking in hushed voices to one another. It wasn't until my eyes flashed towards the back of the circle that I caught a glimpse of Jordan Pierce—who lived up to his name—because he was decked in piercings galore that shimmered under the dull, flickering lamppost.
Jordan was notorious, probably one of the most notorious goths. Over the years, he had tallied up quite a record, giving him the bad boy reputation he so desperately wanted. But, the truth was, no one really knew what he had done to ruin his permanent record. All anyone knew was that it was bad.
As I was fifteen feet from the goths, a hand came out of nowhere, grabbing my elbow, and yanking me backwards so hard that I fell into a warm, solid, chuckling chest.
"If I were you, I wouldn't do that." His warning rang clear. He spun me around and during that moment, recognition seemed to flash through his eyes. "Alexandra, Alex, Hastings?"
All I could do was blink, stare, and gape like a fool. He was quite taller than I was—maybe five foot eleven; he had deep, electric blue hair that was shaped into a faux-hawk. And he sported an eyebrow piercing that brought out his blue eyes.
"How do you know me?"
He jabbed his finger towards Madison. "Her younger cousin hangs out with my little brother."
"Oh." God, I felt stupid. "Who are you?" I asked calmly, remembering that I had a point to prove to an already anxious Madison, who was watching my interaction with pretty blue-haired punk up close. She clutched her cell phone in her right hand, and I knew she was ready to speed dial 911 at the first sign of distress.
"Callum," was his smooth, breathy reply. "Callum Black."
"Okay, Callum. Why shouldn't I talk to Jordan?"
Callum seemed nice—maybe even different. But he was holding me back from what I needed to do. And Madison would never back off unless I got up close and personal with a goth. She had always feared them more than punks, anyway.
"He doesn't like strangers—especially girls. Believe me, he's not nice."
I nodded, my bangs falling into my eyes and stinging them; I blinked back tears and looked to the ground before he could notice.
"Thanks for the warning, but I think I can take care of Jordan perfectly fine on my own."
Callum took a step backwards. Any trace of a smile had been washed away by my foolishness. If only I had realized how 'foolish' I was being right then.
"If that's how you really feel," he murmured, echoing in deafening waves of disappointment.
Callum shook his head. "Unbelievable," he murmured, his striking blue eyes piercing into my soul. He jammed his hands into his jean pockets with his head hung low as he turned and walked away—muttering things I was unable to hear.
My skin stung like it was burned from fire.
I had just unwillingly hurt someone, and I felt terrible.
- - -
Jordan wore a black trench coat that hugged his form a little too perfectly. And he had long silky black hair—pulled into a low ponytail—that almost sparkled in the sun. For a moment, I forgot just who he was and what I was doing. But I was thankful that his back was to me when I approached him.
It gave me time to plan out my words—even though there wasn't anything to plan.
I opened my mouth. One, pathetic word escaped. "Jordan."
His laughter ceased. When he turned, he stared me down—hatred burning in his dark brown eyes. He was wearing a plain black t-shirt and oversized black pants with chains. His hair was such a deep black that it almost looked purple in the right light.
"Now what," he grunted, breaking out of the circle, and turning to stare. "Who the fuck are you and what are you doing here?" Before I had to change to answer, he continued. "And no one calls me Jordan but friends, freak. And you sure as hell don't look like a friend of mine."
I bit the insides of my cheeks. I was going to take the plunge. I had faith in Jordan, and that he would come through for the goths in the end. And I sure as hell wasn't going to give into my doubts. Callum had to be exaggerating.
I gave Jordan a half smile. "I'm Alex Hastings. I'm a senior at Terrance Bay."
He played with his lighter. Flame. No flame. Flame.
"And what makes you think I care?"
The girl, hanging at his side, who I took as his girlfriend—laughed, running her hands through his silky hair. At her touch, his expression, softened slightly. But it curved into an evil grin seconds later. I shivered.
"Don't fret, baby," she murmured, rubbing the back of his neck affectionately. "She's a stupid bookworm. I have English with her."
Hope. I felt hope as I stared at her. Jordan didn't have the slightest clue who I was, but his girlfriend did. Maybe the situation wasn't as hopeless as I was beginning to think it was. I knew I was on the right track if a goth—under any circumstance—knew who little me was.
"I just wanted to say hi. And, uh, I like all your piercings," I stumbled, forcing a smile. Truth was—he had too many holes in his face. It hid the beauty and innocence in his face, but maybe that was what he had been aiming for.
Jordan laughed obnoxiously. "What the fuck? Are you mental?"
"No." I was suddenly very angry; I was being nice. I was giving a goth the benefit of the doubt, and there he was, acting like a dick. Since when did having 'goth' as a label give him the right to act like an asshole?
"I was just trying to prove a point to my very biased best friend. I told her that goths and punks aren't stereotypical assholes." I glared as hard as I could at him. "Maybe she was right . . . about the goths, after all," I seethed, pointing at him harshly.
Screw being nice. Jordan Pierce didn't deserve nice. Not from me—one of the very few neutrals at school about labels. Maybe labels were put out there for a reason.
He growled, taking a step forward. "Who do you think you are?" His girlfriend grabbed his elbow, tugging him backwards slightly, and when her pale face turned whiter than a ghost, I knew I was in trouble. "This is where I hang out with my friends—not some stupid geek. Besides, I only hang out with goths, and you don't look like a goth, do you?"
"That sounds very stereotypical of you. And yet you talk shit about the jocks." I paused, placing my hands on my hips. Despite the fact that I was a head shorter than Jordan, I wasn't going to let his intimidation tactics scare me from standing up for myself.
I was a fighter. I wasn't going to let him walk away so easily.
Jordan stomped forward, breathing heavy and muttering the kinds of profanities that made my ears ring. I didn't realize how bad things had turned until he was inches from my face with his right hand in the air. And I didn't need to be a genius to know what was coming. So, I squeezed my eyes shut, knowing that I had crossed the line beyond any point of return.
Madison won. But I didn't want to admit defeat or show fear. Maybe, after all, there was something else to prove.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," a smooth voice cut in. A sense of déjà vu hit me as I pried my eyes open. Blue-haired punk was standing in front of me with his back towards my face. He was about five inches shorter than Jordan.
"I wouldn't?" Jordan tested. "C'mon, Black. This girl deserves a good smack upside the head. Who does she think she is?"
There was a tentative moment of unwavering silence—in which Callum didn't say anything. A part of me automatically assumed that he was siding with Jordan, but when he spoke up, I knew that was the farthest thing from the truth.
"Pierce, she didn't mean any trouble. She was just being friendly." He paused and glanced at me. In that moment, I swore his eyes shone with disappointment. It left an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Why slap her for something silly like that?"
Jordan nodded slowly, but his heavily eye-linered eyes flashed full of anger. He had a lazy—almost cocky—smile on his lips as he threw a careless arm around his girlfriend's neck. She didn't say much at all.
"You're right. Besides, I don't hit girls. I hit guys."
I gasped, squeezing my eyes closed tighter. "No. This isn't the way," I whispered, knowing that no one would hear my pleas.
Callum shook his head firmly. "I'll make sure you never have to see her again. I promise." And with the sincerity rolling out of his mouth, I didn't doubt that Callum would do anything in his power to keep me miles away from Frankie & Jane's parking lot.
"Black," he growled, "I don't want to hear your pacifist bullshit. I am not some fucking fuse you need to blow out."
I sidestepped Callum, anxious to see Jordan's expression. And when I caught sight of his expression, I gasped. His eyes mirrored a kind of anger that made me recoil in fear. It was one thing to stand up for myself in words, but to physically fight Jordan over opposing views was stupid.
I'd surely be pummeled.
"Get behind me," Callum whispered, agitated. "Don't move."
I stole a quick glance behind me and frowned when I caught sight of Madison. She was frozen—watching the entire thing like she couldn't believe it was happening. I knew—by the way that she paced—that she was on the verge of leaving. Madison never handled conflict well, and I didn't blame her if she high tailed it for the freeway.
Madison was the one with the abnormally large fear of goths, after all.
Looking back, Callum gently shoved me behind him. It wasn't until I could feel his back pressed up against me that I realized we had quite literally been pushed into a corner. My back touched Frankie & Jane's Tattoo Shop, and it was then I realized how bad things really were.
"You're a real piece of work," Jordan laughed, insulting Callum again. "For a pacifist, you're sure defending that little bitch." He quirked his eyebrow. "And what I can't understand is why?"
"Piece," Callum began calmly, his voice holding a razor sharp edge, "she didn't mean to make you angry. It was just one big misunderstanding."
I knew that Jordan reacted badly because Callum backed up. And my eyes filled with terror as I saw Jordan face to face with Callum. If a battle of the fists, Jordan would win. He was stronger, taller, and meaner.
"I don't have beef with you," Jordan added. "It's with Little Miss Bitch behind you."
I was an idiot—the biggest idiot of all—as I closed my eyes and buried my face into the back of Callum's shirt. And I cried out when my hair was yanked on. My scalp felt like it was on fire, and I just wanted to collapse and pass out.
"You stupid girl," he bit out, tugging a little harder.
Unknowingly, I wrapped my arms around Callum and clung onto him even tighter than before. His breathing was shallow and labored, and I just knew how angry Callum was that Jordan had laid one finger on me.
"Jordan, let go of her now."
When Jordan only pulled harder onto my hair, I let out a strangled cry.
The pressure on my scalp was relieved at about the same time I heard a 'crack'. I peeled my eyes open to see Jordan Piece, goth extraordinaire, stumbling backwards with his hands covering his face. When he stabilized, he removed his hand and glared at me, probably Callum too.
I was speechless. A red ring was around his right eye. I looked around, spanning the area, and I came to the conclusion that most of the goths had trickled away. The only ones loitering and watching us was Jordan's girlfriend, and a few little goths. They looked no more than fourteen. Obviously no one was willing to get into the middle of fights, and I didn't blame them.
Jordan was hostile and a bully. And he was just downright nasty and violent. It was one of those things that made me wish I had heeded Madison's warning and just stayed away. Maybe, all along, she had been right to make her judgments. Maybe all goths were stereotypical jerks, who fed off the misery of others.
Callum, shockingly, was the first to speak. "I'm sorry," he apologized in a rush. His apology didn't sound very sincere, but I wasn't going to call him out on that. "I don't know what I was thinking."
Jordan grunted, still reeling in shock. "You lying bastard. Pacifists don't fucking punch people."
"I had to level the playing field. And sometimes that means I have to go against everything I've become to stand up and do the right thing."
"Right thing? You are an asshole."
"No, I just defended a girls honor that you tried to beat up, Pierce. I am normally a pacifist and calm, but you never ever in a million years lay a single finger on a girl. It's common sense."
"The second she's unguarded, I'll hit her as many times as I have to. No one insults me in front of my group. End of story."
I stood there, my mouth agape, trying to comprehend everything. After everything that had gone down, Jordan still wanted to beat me, a freaking girl, into a bloody pulp. I suddenly had the urge to throw up.
"You're disgusting," Callum hissed, wriggling out of my death grip. He charged forward, his blue hair flying everywhere. And when he made contact with Jordan, I noticed that they both hit the ground with a sickening, bile inducing thud.
Jordan jumped onto an unprepared Callum, using his brute force to roll himself and Callum across the pavement.
Punches were thrown, profanities were shouted, and blood was shed.
I could only witness the whole fight through my fingers.
Things were going to end badly, very badly.
- - -
Daylight burned away, and as dusk settled in, the lampposts flickered on—buzzing noisily. It was enough of a change that Jordan rolled off an unmoving Callum. Jordan's trench coat was left in tatters, covered in holes, blood, and patches of gravel. When he got to his feet and turned around, I caught a front row view of his face, and it was then I realized that it hadn't faired much better than his trench coat.
His face was dotted in cuts and scraps that were oozing blood and dirt. The skin of his knuckles was busted and dripping blood, and the rubber band that held his hair had snapped. Jordan's hair was wet, clinging to his face, and there was a time I would've been fascinated with it, but things had changed.
"Fuck this," he hissed, staring directly at me. "You aren't worth this bull." And with whatever dignity he had, he bolted through the parking lot, his girlfriend supporting him all the way to the car. I shivered as she sent me death glares. It looked like Jordan Pierce wasn't the only goth I had to face come Monday morning.
My eyes scanned the parking lot. Madison was in her car, zigzagging through the trash-ridden parking lot. I smelt burnt rubber as she hit the break as hard as she could, and then she jumped out before the car was barely in park.
"Alex!" she cried, throwing her arms around me. "Are you okay?"
"I'm okay," I whispered, staring at Callum. I wanted to cry. God, I wanted to have a do over. "But I don't think he is. I need to check on him."
Madison nodded, loosening her tight hold on me. "I can't believe Callum Black defended you."
The thought had never crossed my mind as unbelievable. Callum was a decent guy, and maybe he was just doing the right thing because it was the right thing to be done. There wasn't any silver lining or hidden meaning in his actions. I knew there wasn't. We weren't friends, and I hadn't known him before today.
"My little cousin, Jamie, hangs out with Callum's little brother, James. And whenever Jamie gets into a fight, Callum just says he's a pacifist and he refuses to get into the middle. He's entirely too stubborn. But then he defends you, and you don't have any family ties to him. What the hell did you say to him?"
"Not much," I squeaked, pulling out of her hug. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, and I didn't want her to know that her comment about Callum had unnerved me. "But I need to see if he's okay. This whole stupid idea was my fault."
Madison nodded curtly. "I'll call your parent's and let them know you'll be home late. I'd stay longer if I could, but I can't."
"Keep him close," she added, somewhat cryptically, as she got into her car. I swore she spoke in a double meaning, but I couldn't decipher it. "I mean it."
Her eyes met mine. "Yeah?"
"Give Landon a chance. He might've changed, but he's no Jordan Pierce."
"After today, I think Landon deserves more than a chance."
And with an unspoken understanding, Madison pealed out of the parking lot.
The fact that Madison was being nice to a punk meant something—it meant a whole damn lot. Maybe I had over exaggerated her abidance to stereotypes. But I knew that it wasn't worth lingering on. We were working on a clean slate, and I knew that I wouldn't be making anymore rash decisions.
- - -
It took a lot of battling with my mind to make a decision.
I bit my lower lip in a failed attempt to keep it from trembling; I got to my knees, looking over Callum's injuries. His face was scraped up, and his cheeks looked swollen; his jeans were torn, but he looked a million times better than Jordan.
"Callum," I whispered, lightly nudging him.
He groaned and stirred. When his piercing blue eyes met mine, I froze. I was so close that I could hear the gentle thudding of his heart.
"Alex. Damn." He winced. "I hope you learned a valuable lesson."
"I admit, Jordan wasn't the nice guy I thought he was. But you're a pacifist, Callum! Why would you attack Jordan?"
Callum's lips set in a firm line. "Are you serious? Do you really need an answer to that question?" I nodded. "It's because it made me angry when he hurt you."
"That's sweet," I murmured, "but up until today, we were strangers."
Callum laughed but his face twisted in pain. I looked down at his face and noticed his split lip. Without thinking it through, I touched the split skin with my pointer finger. When he winced, I pulled it back like it was venom.
"I knew who you were before today."
I blushed, recalling our conversation. He had recited my name so quickly, so sure. I hadn't expected it. I was the kind of girl that was masked by the shadows that high school cliques cast; I had never been a part of a clique.
"Terrance Bay. We're both seniors. I'm in your art class. I sit behind you."
It was clearly like a moment of déjà vu. Art, from as far back as I could remember, art was my favorite class. There was always something so beautiful about art that I tended to be off in my own world, daydreaming about art. I never really talked to anyone in that class because Madison and Landon were the only true friends I had managed to snag in the sea of Terrance Bay students.
"You have beautiful art. You're amazing with charcoal. That picture you did, a few months back, of old vinyl records scattered on a floor was mesmerizing. And every day since, I've wanted to ask you if I could have it."
I swallowed the lump in my throat as I realized that Callum had propped himself up onto his elbows. We were less than half a foot apart. And I wanted so much to tell him that he could have it, that it was the least I could do since he had saved me. But I didn't. I chickened out.
"Callum Black, you're ridiculous," I teased, shoving him playfully in the side. "We should be talking about getting you to a hospital, not my art. It's not important."
"But it is," he whispered huskily. "Because I like you and because you're important to me."
"You're battered, Cal. You shouldn't be making passes at me. At least wait until we get you to the hospital."
"Did you call me Cal?"
I blushed. "Yeah," I murmured.
"I like it. In fact, I demand you call me that."
"And what makes you think I'll see you after today?"
His eyes flickered in amusement. "Because of this," he stated plainly, putting his warm hand over my heart.
"My h-heart?" I stuttered. "What's that have to do with anything?"
"It's beating a mile a minute. I think you like me."
"Get real, buddy. I don't even know you for half a day."
Callum looked unconvinced. And I was running out of clever rebukes. With slumped shoulders, I leaned against him, suddenly more tired than I was willing to admit.
"And what difference does difference in time make?"
"A damn lot," I admitted, sucking in a deep breath. I caught a whiff of his intoxicating cologne, and I instantly knew that I was a goner.
"I've always liked you," he admitted out of the blue. "Maddy gives me info every now and then, you know. She always thought we were a great match. Hell, it was her idea that I come here. I think she knew something bad was going to happen."
I shook my later. Later, Madison Grey and I were going to have a very, very long talk.
"Damn, she's conniving, isn't she?"
Callum nodded. "Yes, but she's a damn good matchmaker. Don't you think?"
If my heart was beating fast before, it was no comparison of it now. Callum's lips were inches away from mine, but at the last minute he raised his head and kissed my forehead. "I know this is a lot to dump on you." By then, our foreheads were touching, and I could hardly hold back my smile. "But I promise I'll take it slow for you."
He was so gentle and kind that I wanted to cry. In four years of hell at Terrance Bay, how had I ever overlooked him?
"That's okay," I stuttered out. "But I want to kiss you now rather than later."
Callum used his thumb to rub my cheek affectionately. "What's stopping you?"
I looked at the ground embarrassed. "It's my first kiss," I mumbled.
"It's my first kiss," I replied a little more loudly.
His grin widened. "Can I have it please?"
I barely nodded before his mouth covered mine.
He didn't have to ask for my second, third, or fourth kiss, or even the hundreds after that.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I know, I know. This was all intense and then it turned into fluff. Hey, I had to build up to something good. But I just wanted to get something out there that was somewhat lighthearted and fun. It's kind of a cliché, but it works for me. And I hope it works for you. I am hoping to get back into the art of writing one-shots. So, keep your eyes peeled.