I have made a few changes based on stuff I've heard. I hope I didn't make it absolutely shittier.
His eighteenth birthday was the worst day of his life. And not because of everyday pettiness, but because his best friend in the entire world was just a pile of ashes. Tomorrow, he would sit in a neat urn placed beside photos of his mother who had passed and his sister who didn't even talk to him. Julian never imagined Thomas dying with a cold bullet pierced though his lungs while he defended nothing and no one.
His thoughts circled. Fellow students chattered outside. Julian stared at the mirror, and saw a room full of Thomas's belongings behind him. The necklace Thomas had given him that day still dangled on his neck. Julian examined it. He loved the way the clear glass shone in the light, but mostly, he loved the touch of it, smooth. He took the necklace off, and dangled it in front of his face. Inside the clear glass was a clover. A special kind, with four leafs, forming the perfect X. For good luck.
Julian put the necklace under his shirt collar, and thought about the morning of his birthday.
He tried to remember that morning. He did. At least some of it. He'd woken up as usual—to the screeching of an anonymous guitar. He couldn't fall back asleep, no matter how hard he tried so eventually he gave up, and listened to Thomas snore. The costume makeup from last night still remained on Thomas's face, faded, but still visible.
Julian rolled out of his bed and threw on a t-shirt and sweatpants. He passed several boys, who warmly wished him a happy birthday. Julian, warmly, thanked them, and he continued to go though the motions, hoping that others would get the hint.
On the way to the common room, he noticed a large poster stuck tobulletinboard in his dorm. Little caps and gowns were painted on it and in large letters, it read ELEVEN MORE DAYS CLASS OF 09. Eleven more days. Truth be told Julian had One Hundred and Ninety-One days, Thomas was the one who only had eleven and he couldn't imagine having a roommate that wasn't Thomas.
He tried not to think about. Julian ducked in the shadows, as if he was trying to avoid the florescent light, which almost always made him look like paper. Once he got to the common room, he asked if he could come to school early to practice an assignment. The teacher said yes, and so he ran to the auditorium, taking the long way to avoid the other students. The last thing he wanted was birthday punches.
Once he reached the auditorium, he stepped on the stage. Julian couldn't help but to feel as though he looked like a pile of dirty laundry—small, wrinkled and in need of disposal. The stage owned him. He could never command it. And so he began. Back shaking, he stood up and delivered his first line.
"Here we gather," hoarse. He cleared his throat.
"Here we gather," he repeated, but it came out too week. He tried again, and became someone else—a tall man with a top hat and a booming voice, "Here we gather in the meadows, the shadows." He practiced same few lines, again and again, "Here we--
Julian stopped when he saw the door open. His face flushed red as if he got caught doing something wrong.
"Julian!" A booming voice overpowered the sound of the slamming door. When Julian looked over he saw Thomas dressed in an old fashion suit, overtop of his favorite 'pirate' shirt. His white teeth seemed out of place against his black hair. Dark makeup covered his eyes, making him look even more like a Goth kid than usual. Julian expected Thomas to scream across the room, but instead he ran towards Julian, jumped on the stage, tackled and nearly crushed him. Before Julian could escape, Thomas put him in a headlock.
"I have come!" he said in a falsetto, "To wish you a happy birthday," Julian would have been annoyed had he not been laughing.
"Ugh, don't remind me."He said between laughs.
"Dude you're likeeighteennot forty."
Julian stopped laughing as Thomas released him from the headlock. "Still old," Julian frowned. In response, Thomas rolled his eyes.
"You still have the summer to decide where you want to apply to college."
Julian cringed at the idea of colleges because it meant leaving his life at Northeastern Prep behind and he just couldn't do that.
Thomas sensed his friend's distraught, even if he didn't show it on his face. From Thomas's expression, Julian knew that he was going to say something comforting. Julian turned away and tried to tune him out.
"You're going to do fine without me. If I can survive, so can you."
"Right." Like he could survive a second, when he'd given up two summers with Thomas. When they had won dare week by drinking five gallons of coke. When Thomas had taken him to Egypt, Canada, Africa and back. Yeah he could survive without him. But what would his life be?
There was an unusually awkward silence between the boys. At this time, Thomas stepped in center stage, and looked towards the sky. Even when he didn't speak, he commanded the stage. It seemed impossible that anything could hurt him when he held his head so high, and sucked the audience in with his silence.
It was then Thomas fumbled with something in his pocket. "I got you a gift," he said, "I hope you like it…even though it's…well you'll see," He pulled out a small box wrapped in Halloween wrapping paper and gave it to Julian.
Quietly, Julian thanked him, as he pulled out the object. The auditorium became silent—which was rare for them, since Thomas never ran out of stories to tell, or opinions to share.
"I probably should have given you something, well, more manly, but you know."
Julian pulled out the object, and than laughed. For a second he thought it was a gag gift, but thenfigured it was too cool and valuable. "No, this is great. I'll wear it forever." He said somewhat sarcastically. His smile became bigger, as he put the necklace around his neck. Thomas gave him a creeped out look, and then laughed.
It was the last real conversation they had, before getting immersed in the evil that occurred later that day. He couldn't remember the rest of the day, or the week for that matter. All he knew was that he was alive.
He came up with a list of unsolved mysteries. Who exactly was this Blake kid that shot Thomas? What were his motives? How had he received transportation to the school? He figured the only person able to answer his questions was Thomas's sister Alice, for she'd known Blake. Before Alice left Northeastern, Julian used to see Blake with her all the time. She didn't like him very much, but then again, she never seemed to like anyone that much. He hadn't seen Alice in years but nevertheless, she was Thomas's sister, and as his sister, he could only hope that she would choose to attend his service.
He spent the entire night running though a forest only he didn't know what he was running from, only that after a while of running, he found himself perched at the edge of a cliff, unable to keep his balance. He fell infinitely. And when he woke up, the room remained unchanged from a few nights ago. A pile of chips remained on Thomas's unfinished book report. A book mark was stuffed in his latest epic.
Julian didn't dare cross Thomas's side of the room. Instead he found himself crawling towards his corner. Without Thomas, the room seemed bigger and suddenly Julian understood what it was like to see through the eyes of a child.
He opened his window only to find crows perched on the field below him. The full moon illuminated his room, as the summer sounds filled his silence. In one corner, Thomas's dusty suit hung. In another the shadow of the alarm clock contrasted darkly with the white walls. As Julian walked towards his mirror, he could taste the blood from the cuts in his mouth. Somewhere in the back of his conscious he thought that biting his lip could erase at least some of pain.
A boy stared at him, though the glass mirror. Pale. Frail. He had yet to see the summer sun. The boy ran his hand over his scalp, feeling the soft touch of his close cropped hair. You need to sleep. Julian thought, as he stared at his reflection. But he didn't sleep. Instead he waited for the moon and the sun to exchange roles, for the alarms to ring and for this new start to begin.
Once he got tired of waiting and it became time, Julian put on his suit and walked past the other boys lined up against the wall like toy shoulders. When they asked him what he needed, he told them he wanted to be left alone. In reality, he craved for anyone.
Outside, the dark clouds threatened to pour down rain, as he waited for Emma.
Julian saw a flash of what looked like fire coming out of the girl's dorm. Eventually Emma came out, and ran straight into Julian's arms nearly knocking him down. After the two of them hugged, she pulled back. He could see the dark shadows covering her face, as if she'd been up all night. And while, normally, she was a fireball bursting with energy, today she remained unusually quiet and only spoke to ask Julian if he was okay. Julian couldn't help but notice that her bright orange hair seemed out of place with her black turtle neck and black dress pants.
And so the march began. Hand in hand, they marched to the center of the campus, passing the emerald trees, and the wilted flowers roasted from the June air. As the two of them walked, there was silent agreement between each other; not to cry, because they both decided crying was stupid a long time ago. If the heavy sky could hold out, why couldn't they?
At the exact time Julian and Emma reached the center of the campus, it was empty, except for a few posters decorated by the student body, and the teachers that had volunteered to set up the service. Within no time, students started to file in. Immediately, Julian recognized Frances. Despite the swarm of humanity, the area remained quiet except for the occasion cough, sneeze, or squeaky shoe. It was so crowded Julian had to give up his seat and stand. As the principal spoke a few words, Julian couldn't help but notice that as he spoke, and people filled in, the campus seemed to grow smaller. Still Alice failed to show. In the midst of the speeches, Julian found his eyes darting back and forth.
When it was his turn to speak, he did not look at the crowd, nor did he look at what he'd written. His words flowed effortlessly, as if he'd developed muscle memory. He didn't look anywhere for comfort. Although, he failed to sweat or stutter, he couldn't help but to feel like he was the only person walking this earth, that the rest of the people on campus were mere figments of his imagination. Yet, towards the end, he couldn't help but hear Frances sobs filling the plaza. Sure, there were other people crying—but she seemed like the only person actually making a scene. Julian wasn't sure why. Frances and Thomas were only first cousins and had barely known each other most of their lives. All he knew was that every time she cried out, his words slowed down and he couldn't help but look her and wonder if there was a way to make her feel better. He was tempted to stop, but he forced himself to continue, hoping that his eyes remained dry.
Towards the end of his speech he saw Alice, glaring at him. He glanced at her. Quickly, he finished his speech and moved to the back of the crowd. The two of them locked eyes. The sounds around him seemed to stop. He gasped for air. Then she was gone. He put his hands on his knees to stop from falling, yet the world continued to spin around him as if it were teasing him. He saw her once again, as soon as the funeral ended. Ignoring Emma and everyone else, he darted out the door. Quiet whispers formed behind him, but he only kept walking. He slipped across campus and watched her run down the block. He followed her.
"Alice!" he screamed. Instead, he saw a flash of her blond hair, continuing to walk as if he hadn't made a sound. He followed her trail. Followed the tap of her sneakers. Followed her as she ran into the tunnel of trees, not even bothering to turn back. Julian chased her. Even in dress shoes, he was faster than her. The gap between them quickly became smaller. He put his arms out, as if catching a ghost, and as soon as she became in reach, she was gone. Julian landed face first into the dirt, soiling his suit. I'm losing my mind. He thought. But he trusted himself enough to know that she'd been there and so he continued to explore the trail, until he'd covered every square inch. He walked down the trail, hoping to see her blond hair again, but it seemed as if she'd become at one with the emerald trees. He went downtown, hoping to find her, but she wasn't there. She was nearly impossible to track. She was also like that, would drop in for a few seconds, wander off and disappear. The only time she was found was when she wanted to be found, which was almost never. He had fallen into her sick, twisted game.
As Julian ran though his town plaza, clouds thickened. Humidity caused his eyes to water, yet he continued to run figuring that he would eventually run into Alice. But he never did. Perhaps he imagined the whole thing. The traffic buzzed around him. The starched seems of his shirt seemed to stiffen as he ran. It was then he heard a few sniffles. He huffed around the pavement until he reached an alleyway. He poked his head in the alleyway, felt the cracks between the bricks, and walked to its end only to find Frances sitting in a corner with mascara running all over her face. He stood there, hoping she would stop crying. At that point, he wanted to turn into a sponge and soak up her sadness.
Instead, he inched closer. Frances continued to cry. At the same time she couldn't help but to trust him, let him hold her, and drain all her problems away.
"I was in the room…with him," she said.
"Of course," Julian pretended to understand. He glanced at her, she glanced at him as they spoke without words and Frances's tears fell silent.
Julian felt like a boy made of paper, wearing down into nothing but dust. But at least that was something. At least around her he felt like something—a hollow something but that was a start.
"I just really wanted to save him." she continued.
Julian turned away, trying to hold himself together, because falling apart himself would only make things worse for her.