At the End of the Day
"At the end of the day, when it comes down to it, all we really want is to be close to somebody. So this thing, where we all keep our distance and pretend not to care about each other, is usually a load of bull. So we pick and choose who we want to remain close to, and once we've chosen those people, we tend to stick close by. No matter how much we hurt them, the people that are still with you at the end of the day - those are the ones worth keeping. And sure, sometimes close can be too close. But sometimes, that invasion of personal space, it can be exactly what you need."
-Meredith Grey in "Grey's Anatomy"
The first thing I thought when I spied him for the first time was that his hair was fake. No, not fake. Unnatural—and I dared anyone to tell me differently. There was nothing normal about the shock of bright red, Ronald McDonald-colored hair that sat atop his head. Even without the nearly imperceptible dark roots that sprung from his scalp, I could tell that it was dyed. You would have had to have a negative IQ not to know that it was.
I don't know why I was obsessing over his hair, though, when there were so many other interesting things about his appearance—like his lip and eyebrow rings, and his disturbingly purple eyes, from colored-contacts, obviously, that so starkly clashed with his hair color. Maybe it was because my own hair was dyed, though it was dyed a natural shade of light brown as opposed to vibrant red. My original hair color was a really light blonde, but I got sick of it. I was tired of dumb blonde jokes, and people making a big deal out of it when I didn't want a big deal to be made. Besides, guys were more likely to date blondes, and I didn't want to date guys. Males were just an unnecessary hassle that I didn't need—relationships didn't seem worth it when they almost always ended in tears. Both my mother and my old friends had nearly died of distress when I wanted to turn my fair locks dark, but I'd gone ahead and done it anyway. Now I had glossy brown hair as opposed to light hair that looked as though I'd been in the sun too long.
But back to this intriguing boy sitting across the classroom from me, whom I decided to christen Ronald McDonald. I was in my third class of the day, AP Calculus. The teacher had the chairs set up in an odd fashion, with half the desks on one side of the classroom, and the other half on the other, so we were staring into the eyes of our classmates as she blabbered on about whatever she needed to blabber on about. The bell hadn't rung yet, though, and we were all sitting down and peering across the classroom at the people we would be stuck with for a year. I wondered if the teacher would assign us seats; my first period teacher had, but my second period teacher hadn't.
All around me was the chatter of summer vacations, who hooked up with whom, who got the best tan, who had the best party. As the newcomer to the school, I stayed out of conversations and studied Ronald McDonald. Right away, he fascinated me. He didn't partake in any of the conversations surrounding him; instead, he remained slouched in his seat at the back of the classroom with a bored and impatient expression on his face. He had high cheekbones, an angular jaw, and a strangely-shaped face that was somehow a sort of mixture of an oval and a square. Of course, I already mentioned the strikingly purple eyes that practically glowed, his startling red hair, the silver loop on the right side of his bottom lip, and the black barbell in his left eyebrow. There was an aura of mystery around him that I instantly felt attracted to—but not romantically. I was attracted to him in a sleuth-like way. Mysteries captivated me more than anything else could. As a young girl, I'd devoured Nancy Drew books like they were the word of God. I didn't really read whodunits anymore, but I still loved to solve mysteries.
As I scrutinized Ronald McDonald, who was sitting directly across from me, his purple eyes suddenly made contact with my dark green ones. He glared at me, but I was undaunted as I continued staring back at him. I was not one to break eye contact first, no matter how intimidating my opponent was.
A scowl spread across Ronald McDonald's face when he saw that I didn't intend to look away. Even the freakish, inhuman color of his eyes couldn't force me to back down. If he planned on having any more staring contests with me, he should learn soon that I always won. No questions asked.
The bell rang, and Ronald McDonald ripped his gaze away from mine. I smirked in triumph and looked towards the front of the classroom, where the teacher was closing the screen of her laptop and standing up from the desk. No one quieted down, though—they all continued prattling on about their summer vacations.
"Class," the teacher demanded forcefully. I don't know what it was about the way she said it—that one syllable—but it got nearly everyone to settle down and look straight at her. I took the opportunity to study her. She wore a pair of black slacks and a hot-pink, v-necked tee-shirt. Definitely not what you would consider teacher attire. She had dark blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, and fringed bangs that stopped roughly above her eyes. There was an air of authority about her that only school administrators managed to pull off. Yet at the same time, she seemed approachable and understanding.
I was seriously going to have to learn how she exuded all of that just by standing there.
"I hope you like where you're sitting," she continued, "because I'm making a seating chart, and that's where you'll be for the rest of the semester. Oh yeah, and I'm Miss Ludrow."
I looked at the girl's surrounding me. On my right was a glamorous Asian girl who looked like she'd come straight out of a magazine. On my left sat a girl, her dark hair pulled up into a too-tight ponytail, with square-framed glasses. Directly across the room from me sat Ronald McDonald, who didn't even seem to be paying attention to what was going on.
Miss Ludrow began reading off names from the class list, and then scribbling into a seating chart where which person was sitting.
"Patrick Fitzpatrick?" she called out.
I was the only one in the entire class who snickered. All eyes swiveled and bored holes through me, the newbie who didn't know her place.
"Don't call me that," Ronald McDonald growled, glowering first at me, then at Miss Ludrow.
She narrowed her eyes, obviously displeased with his disrespectful tone. "Then what would you like to be called?"
"Thrasher," he responded curtly.
And from then on, there was never a time I didn't wonder about the purple-eyed, red-haired boy across from me.
I didn't realize how much I had taken friends for granted until I walked into the cafeteria for my fifth period lunch. Back at my old school, I had a place, somewhere I was always sure I could be, people I was always sure would like me. But now I was placeless, unsure of where to be, unsure of whether the people here would like me. I thought about all the times I'd seen a girl sit in the bathroom for lunch during a movie, and all the times I'd heard about it back at my old school. Instantly, I regretted not having been nicer to the new kids.
I stood by the doorway for a few minutes, almost waiting for someone to just come up to me and invite me to eat lunch with her. I mean, that was what always happened in the movies, right? Some random person would befriend the new kid, and then ditch all of her (the person was usually a girl) old friends and become best friends with the new kid.
Then I spotted Thrasher—well, his hair, actually—sitting at a lunch table in a corner, eating lunch by himself. I wasn't stupid; I could tell he wanted to sit by himself. That he was all alone on purpose. I think it was the circumstance of my being the new kid—and possibly those fascinatingly disquieting purple eyes—that injected a sudden boldness into my personality and caused me to walk over towards him.
As I neared, I saw that he was reading a thick paperback book. In front of him sat a lunch that was typical of a teenage guy—two slices of pizza, French fries, and a can of soda. I watched as he picked up a fry and dipped it in ketchup, keeping his eyes on the book. He raised the French fry to his mouth and frowned when a gob of ketchup dropped onto the page he was reading. I couldn't help but think that his hair was even brighter than the ketchup. After he dabbed the ketchup off of his book, he flipped a page and continued reading. He didn't even look up as I slid into the seat across from him and dropped my backpack onto the ground.
"Hi." My voice trembled as I nervously smoothed my hair back. He didn't respond, just kept reading.
"I'm Lindsay. I'm new here," I continued uneasily. "I was in your AP Calculus class."
He didn't even pretend to acknowledge me, and I knew it was because he wanted me to leave him alone—I mean, the lunchroom was loud, but not that loud. And there was no way he was so into his book that he couldn't hear someone speaking directly at him.
"Whatcha reading?" I asked conversationally. My voice sounded high and squeaky, so unlike its natural tone.
Slowly, as if someone had pushed the slow-motion button, Thrasher lifted his head and locked his creepy purple eyes, gleaming with anger, onto my own. When he realized I was the same girl who had stared at him in Calculus, the eyes narrowed.
"What do you want?" he hissed lowly, forcing me to strain my ears to hear him.
My anxiety got the best of me as I began to babble. "Well, I'm new here, so I don't have anyone to eat with, and—"
"Is that my problem?" he interrupted, his voice cold.
I gulped. "Well, no, but I saw you sitting by yourself, and I figured that you needed a friend or something, so I—"
"Do I look," he began as he cut me off once more, "like I want to be your friend?"
I frowned when I heard that a slight lilt to his words—like a hidden accent lurking underneath that threatened to burst forth. If I'd been curious before, I was absolutely ravenous for facts now. Who was Patrick Fitzpatrick? And why did he go by Thrasher?
"Did you grow up in America?" my betraying mouth blurted out.
I have never seen a more hateful glare than the one Thrasher directed at me at that moment. "Do you have a death wish?" he growled, the lilt gone.
More bravery swept into me. "You don't own this table. I can sit where I want."
If looks could kill . . . well, I'd probably have been dead twenty times over by now.
"I don't have anywhere else to sit," I told him, gesturing widely around the cafeteria, even though there were most certainly other empty spots where I could have chosen to sit.
"There are plenty of empty seats," he responded moodily, his thoughts on the same track as mine.
I shrugged. "I'm already here. What's the point in moving?"
He glared at me, but I, never one to back down, stared straight back into those icy, haunting purple eyes of his. Why did he use colored contacts that were such a startling color?
Maybe he's trying to scare off pests like you, a voice in the back of my mind piped up, but I ignored it.
"Fine," he finally conceded when he finally realized that I wasn't going to give in. "You can sit there. But DON'T talk to me, or I WILL kill you, girl or no."
I shrugged and pulled my lunch out of my backpack, keeping his threat in mind. Despite his beliefs, I really didn't have a death wish, which is why I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the lunch period, eating my sandwich in silence. But it didn't stop the questions about Thrasher from piling up in my head.
I didn't see Thrasher again until the last period (or rather two periods, since it was a double period) of the day, AP Biology. When he walked in and immediately made his way for a desk in the back corner—a corner that people had avoided like the plague when picking seats—I couldn't help but wonder what he was doing in advanced placement classes. I hated to sound stereotypical, but from my experience with people like him, they skipped class all the time and never did their school work.
But I guess, stereotypically, all blondes were complete bimbos who said "like" every other word and slept with any guy who was mildly attractive—be it by money or by looks; and stereotypically, they would never, ever dye their hair brown.
I was seated smack dab in the middle, but I saw Thrasher stomp down the far right aisle, terrifying the kids he walked by, to get to the corner. He must have felt my eyes on him, because he suddenly turned those disconcertingly purple eyes onto my face and scowled. As always, though, I looked straight back at him until he turned his head away and slouched into his seat.
Victorious, I turned back to the front of the classroom.
"Hey, you," I heard a girl's voice say on my left. I turned to look at her, surprised to see that she was staring straight back at me. I hadn't seen her before, but that wasn't a big surprise, seeing as how this was my first day in the school. She had an orangey tan and long, straight, dark brown hair with sweeping bangs in the front half-covering her left eye. Her eyes were a shocking blue—so shocking that I realized she must have been wearing colored contacts—and I vaguely wondered if the only fellow seniors whom I would talk to at this school would have colored contacts.
"Me?" I repeated, wondering what business this girl had with me.
"Yeah." She nodded. "You. You were the one sitting with Thrasher at lunch today; weren't you?" She said this last sentence in a quiet voice, her eyes nervously flicking over the corner where he was sitting, as if she was afraid he would hear. Why were people so fearful of this guy? Because he wore abnormally colored contacts, dyed his hair Ronald McDonald red, and had lip and eyebrow piercings? Or was there something more? Did he have some sort of reputation that I didn't know about?
"Um. Yeah," I responded hesitantly, unsure of what her intentions were.
Her eyes widened to twice their normal size, and for a second, I preferred Thrasher's purple color to her vibrant blue one. "Ohmigosh!" she shrieked, clapping her hand over her mouth. "I can't believe it!"
I looked at her with the intention of asking what she was talking about, but she turned to her left and proclaimed to all her friends, "I told you she was the girl!" Immediately, I felt their calculating gazes land on me, taking in my dyed brown hair, my forest green eyes, my red Coca-Cola tee-shirt, and my jean Bermuda shorts that stopped just above my knee.
The girl with the scary, blue eyes turned back to me. "You're new here, aren't you?"
"Yeah. . . ." I answered hesitantly.
She nodded. "I figured." Here she lowered her voice and leaned in closer. "That's the only reason anyone would sit with Thrasher. Because they're new here."
I lowered my eyebrows. "What are you talking about?"
Shaking her head, she backed up and, with a wave of her hand, avoided the question. "Nothing. But what was it like? What did he say?"
I crossed my arms over my chest, peeved. "Absolutely nothing."
"Nada." When she frowned, I translated: "Nothing."
Obviously upset at the lack of gossip, a frown creased her face. She looked over at her friends uncertainly, and they all nodded eagerly, as if she needed moral support to interrogate the girl who had sat with Thrasher at lunch.
The bell rang to signal the beginning of the period, but the teacher was still nowhere to be found.
"Are you gonna sit with him tomorrow?" Freaky Blue Eyes inquired again, blatant intrigue in her voice.
I shrugged. "Probably not. Especially not if I find somebody else to sit with."
She frowned again. Jeez, could she be any less expressive? I could practically read this girl's mind just by interpreting her actions.
"Well, if you don't sit with him, you can sit with us," she told me, though the offer didn't sound quite as sincere as I would have wished. But I shrugged this off; I wasn't in the position to be picky about the lunch invitations that I received.
Behind the girl, her friends exchanged glances. I knew deep down that they hadn't really expected that, that they weren't really as open to my sitting there. Yet Freaky Blue Eyes had already spoken. It was too late.
"Sure," I replied with a shrug, ignoring her friends. "That'd be cool. I'm Lindsay, by the way."
Freaky Blue Eyes introduced herself as Sam—I was only to call her Samantha on pain of death—and briefly explained to me where she and her friends sat, while the teacher walked in and began shuffling through stacks of papers on his desk. Just how he managed to have that many papers already was beyond me. Then again, he was a queer fellow in general, with a sort of mad scientist look going for him. He had round glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, as well as graying brown hair that stuck up messily around his head. His figure was slight and gaunt, his head probably coming only up to my chin, and he wore a blue oxford with a hideous, mismatching purple tie, khaki slacks, and ugly brown loafers.
"I'm Mr. Mayhelm," he told the class once we were quiet enough. More like mayhem, I immediately thought, despite how little I knew about him. "Welcome to AP Biology. Now I've got a little seating chart here—"
Groans erupted from my classmates.
"What?" Mr. Mayhem, as I'd newly christened him, looked genuinely troubled.
"Seating charts are stupid," some kid from behind me pointed out. Murmurs of assent followed.
"They're not for eternity," Mr. Mayhem explained. "You only have to sit in your assigned seats until I figure out all of your names. Then you can sit wherever."
"Why don't you just make a seating chart out of where we're sitting now?" the same kid asked.
Mr. Mayhem shook his head. "I've already got this made up." He approached the desk on the far side from the door in the first row and put his hand on it. "Now don't get up and move until I'm done, okay? Patricia Albatross, you'll sit here." He continued down the columns, resting his hand on a desk and calling out a name. When he got to the second desk from the front in the third column, he announced, "Patrick Fitzpatrick."
The room hushed up as everyone recognized Thrasher's real name.
"It's Thrasher," the red-haired boy announced casually. "And I'm not sitting there."
Poor Mr. Mayhem peered up at Thrasher with a bemused expression. "Why not?"
"Because," he stated, "I sit here."
There was silence as Mr. Mayhem considered Thrasher's demand. I was the only person in the entire classroom who twisted in my seat to see the expression on Thrasher's face. It was cold and steely. Some red hair tumbled across his forehead, a few strands falling into his face, and his purple eyes flashed dangerously. The barbell on his eyebrow quivered.
"Okay," Mr. Mayhem finally agreed. Thrasher shot me a death glare, and I turned to face the front again. "I suppose that's all right. Remy Daly—"
"It's Daily," the girl in front of me corrected.
"Right. Remy Daly—" though this time he pronounced it daily "—you'll sit here, then. Patri—er—Thrasher, you'll just sit there."
I almost expected this Remy Daly to protest having to sit up closer to the front because of the demands of some stupid Ronald McDonald-esque kid, but she said nothing as she prepared to move her seat. In the meanwhile, Mr. Mayhem continued down the aisles, touching desks and calling out names. Eventually, he got to me.
"Lindsay Callahan," he declared as he touched a desk in the row second to the back, and in the column next to the column where Thrasher's seat was—the column second to the wall. I studied the seat first with excitement, then with apprehension, then with a mix of both. In that seat, if I merely twisted my body to the right and looked behind me, Thrasher's seat would be diagonal from mine.
For what felt like the thousandth time that day, Thrasher's eyes roughly locked onto mine. I could read the antagonism in them. Was this why people were afraid of him? Because he sent baleful glares the direction of anyone who even dared to look at him?
I was going to figure him out even if I died before I did. And by the looks of it, that was exactly what was going to happen.
I do not own Coca Cola, or anything else in this chapter that you recognize.
This chapter is dedicated to my awesome beta, woodstock1969. :D
At long last, here is the first chapter of that story I've mentioned or may have mentioned before. If you're worried that this chapter is short, have no fear—this is the shortest chapter in the whole story. I've got several other chapters pre-written, so you can expect regular updates until I run out of those.
Next chapter will be up next Saturday.
Since this is quite a different type of story for me, I'd love to hear what you guys think! If you're a returning reader, be warned that this is unlike any of my other multi-chaptered stories. If you're new, then enjoy:)