. • • • .
Roger was just really, really bored. He was sitting in his room flicking his lighter on and off and staring into the depths of its orange-and-blue heat. There was nothing to do. Internet was down, it was dark and cold, and he wasn't even tired (albeit it being four in the morning). He had just been out with his buddies doing whatever destructive acts juvenile delinquents do. Eventually he decided to come home so his mother wouldn't shit herself worrying about whether he was safe or getting the piss beaten out of him by some
other gang of juvenile delinquents. His family lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor. He was soaked through to the bone with rain.
Roger clicked the cap back on his lighter, threw it on his desk and threw himself on his bed. He sighed amid the gloom. Everything was so dull, so boring. It was the same old thing every day. Roger didn't know how much longer he could take it. He hoped his intake of cigarettes would lead to an early death via lung cancer so he could just get out of this hell hole.
Roger finally concluded it was high time he should hit the sack despite his not being tired, so he did, sighing as he stripped to his undies and curled into his Batman sheets. He settled into an uncomfortable slumber.
. • • • .
The next day didn't bring much more excitement than the day before. When Roger woke up he put on some leather pants and made his way to the kitchen at a slow crawl. After pouring himself a bowl of Cookie Crisp he finished getting dressed and shuffled down to the bus stop. He hated school. He hated this dreary life.
During his free period, Roger decided to go out to the back of the school and smoke with his "friends." These weren't his real friends because he didn't need real friends. They were fake and plastic and brought him no joy. They, just like everything else, were gray and boring.
Random, faceless girls were the usual thing to see during smoke breaks. Often they flirted and hit on him, but he always paid no attention. Roger didn't have time to think about some stupid skanks. He had better things to do than listen to them, like trying to kill himself with cigarette after cigarette and dreading tomorrow. Oh well, if they didn't give him a migraine he might just let one of them give him a blowjob. That would be the peak of her accomplishments in her lifetime.
Roger arrived at the conclusion that he did not wish to return to class after his free period. All he had was math and history. Who really needed those things anyway? Not him, that's for sure. Instead, Roger travelled by bus to the nearest big city, which was only about 10 miles away. Malbourne occasionally held something moderately interesting. Arcades, cafes, bars (which only let him in if he put an X on his hand) were some of the places he went to. Sometimes there was a concert or a party he could attend as well.
Today Roger could find very little to do around Malbourne. Although it was teeming with people (most of which were old ladies, groups of college students and ladies with small children), not much was happening. It wasn't late enough to go to a bar and in broad sunlight it was obvious he was playing hooky. He frankly looked like a delinquent. His leather pants and long, bright-red hair did nothing to improve his image. Maybe he could just go for a walk someplace darker where he might blend in a bit more. Besides, he looked really weird standing next to the flower shop.
Lighting another cancer-stick, Roger found himself in the bad side of town. Things were starting to look slum-like and he had already walked past quite a few prostitutes, all of which tried to lure him in with promises of good times and worth-your-whiles.
"Hey kid," the voice of a man called, piercing.
Roger glanced into a dark, wet alleyway. A shady-looking man gestured for him to come closer. Roger decided he had nothing to lose and so proceeded to shuffle over there, taking a puff of his cigarette.
"Ya want some 'a this?" asked the man, smiling. He held up a little baggy. It had a bit of white powder in it, at which Roger stared.
"How much?" he hesitated.
Coke. Was he seriously going to buy coke?
The man's smile broadened. It resembled yellow pins and needles.
"Not much, only seventy bucks," he said pleasantly, seemingly laid-back.
Roger eyed him critically.
"For a gram?" he asked, raising a brow.
"Oh, yes," replied the man. "This stuff's hard to get these days. I assure you, mine are the best prices. Other places might even charge you twice for less."
Roger, uneducated in the world of drug sales, pondered for a second before reaching in his pocket and pulling out his wallet. He had exactly seventy dollars. If he bought this, he'd be out of money and would go hungry until he finally meandered back home. He could go without food for a few more hours but he couldn't do anything else without money. But then he remembered that he could just go to the bank if he wanted to.
"Deal," he declared. "But gimmie the powder first. No shanking and no bailing and it'll be peachy keen."
"Pleasure doin' business with ya, kid," said the man, who handed over the baggy. Roger completed the trade by giving the man the money and stuffing the bag in his pocket. He left the alley as quickly as he could and took a long drag from his smoke.
"This is fucked up," he muttered to himself, looking around to make sure the coast was clear.
When Roger finally got home it was around midnight. He hadn't really done much in Malbourne. He hadn't forgotten about the little parcel in his pocket, either. It was still right there, pressed hot against his thigh. He still couldn't believe he had actually bought cocaine. One thing that came to his mind was that if his parents found out, although they generally liken him to a piece of dirt of the floor of contempt, he would be dead meat. They would throw him out on his scrawny ass before he could give a lame excuse like, "So-and-so said it was powdered sugar, how was I supposed to know?"
But now there was only one thing he could do with it: do it.
. • • • .
When Roger went to school the next day, he was a bit different (putting it lightly). He had decided that since he was always so tired in the morning, he could do the coke before school. The drug was already taking effect. Roger was almost as energetic as he was when he was a little kid. He was basically running around and being loud. Things suddenly seemed a lot more colorful. His friends hardly even recognized him. Every break he fled to the bathroom to do more since the high didn't last too long. During their normal smoke-break Roger thoroughly freaked them out when he exclaimed, "Sheeeee-it, this smoke is fucking amaz-- I FEEL LIKE RUNNING!"
But there was one problem: Roger wanted more. He felt good. He felt like now the world was actually worth while and not just a boring, dingy blur. Everything was chromatic. Nothing was gray. Color... it was beautiful. It was worth while.
Once school got out he was back to normal, since the buzz wore off and he ran out of coke. He missed the effects, though. He missed being interested in things. He missed the color, the blood pumping through his veins.
So he fled to Malbourne and took seventy dollars out of the bank. He went back to the slums and searched through the alleys, looking for that shady-looking man. He had to be there somewhere. But really, how many shady-looking men can there be in the city? Hundreds, probably. Perhaps even thousands.
"Yo," called a voice. Roger turned on his heel to greet the owner of said voice. It was the same man from yesterday. Well... that was easy enough. "You come back to visit, kid?"
"You got any more?" Roger asked.
"Did ya like it?" the man smiled. Roger just stared at him.
"You got any more?" he insisted.
"Pushy, I see," said the man. "But yeah, I got some. Ya willin' ta pay?"
Roger took out the seventy clams and the trade was sealed. Roger hurried out of there and got back onto the main road. He looked around again to see if he was caught, but no one seemed to be there.
. • • • .
The next day carried on much like the day before. Roger did coke before school and during breaks and was energetic until it let out. He went to town and took seventy smackers from the bank and met with the shady-looking man. He never found out the man's name. Maybe he didn't want his name known? He could have given a fake name, but Roger didn't care much anyway, as long as he got his fix. His mom was going to be pissed that his savings were going down the drain, though.
This routine carried on for a long time, too long. Roger got addicted. He loved the effects of the drug. He felt energetic and the natural paint of the world stood out. Although he wasn't as hungry (which scared his mother, as Roger usually ate like some sort of pillaging beast), he didn't really care. As long as he could find a way out of this dreary reality he lived in, he was okay with it. It was his salvation.
. • • • .
One day, Roger got a bit carried away. He blasted music so loud he couldn't hear himself think. That was okay, though, because who needs to think when you're about to get high, huh? If the neighbors were banging on their walls to make him turn it down, he didn't hear nor care. He was too preoccupied using his debit card to separate the snow-white powder into thin lines. Snorting wasn't his favorite, as it often made him sneeze, but it was quicker than spreading it on his gums. He wanted a quick fix. He had also bought a bit more than usual. For about a week he feared his parents would discover the drug and stopped buying it, and now he was making up for his loss.
It took a few minutes for the effects to kick in, but once he felt the high, he grinned. He didn't think at all. He gave a loud whoop and tore off his shirt. His shoes went next, and then his pants. Perhaps his mother banged on the door, but the door was locked and he couldn't have heard her anyway. The music and the drugs put him in his own little world. He lit himself a cigarette. That was a bonus, right?
Suddenly he felt very warm and threw open the window. Cool autumn air flowed in and surrounded him. It enveloped the whole room, but he was still warm. He then became worried that his mother might be able to open the door somehow. What if she could pick locks? What if she got an ax and hacked his door open? Paranoid of this, he decided he must escape. If his mom caught him, he'd be a goner. He climbed up on the ledge of his window.
The world flew by, then it all disappeared as if the sun was turned off. All his senses could perceive was the faint scent of chrysanthemums and something dreadfully hard and cold. In a flash, they were gone as well as the rest of the world.
. • • • .
Roger woke up. What time was it? He opened his eyes and looked at the clock. Ugh, 7:30. He needed to get ready for school.
As Roger was getting out of bed, he realized something. He wasn't exhausted like he normally was at this ungodly hour. He actually felt rested. How long had he been sleeping for him to feel this good, a week?
He looked out the window. The sky was bluer than he had ever seen it and only had a few cotton clouds. When he opened the window, the air that flowed in was sweeter and crisper than it had been before. Roger was confused. Normally the air carried the musk from car exhaust and smokestacks. Normally it was stale and grey. Normally waking up was followed by a feeling of need, a feeling that was cancelled out by spreading cocaine on his gums or by snorting or some other means. The only feeling Roger felt was a dull rumble in the pit of his stomach. He was hungry. That was all.
When Roger was dressed he went to the kitchen. His mother was cooking breakfast and his father was reading the paper. He rarely saw his parents in the morning, let alone in anything like this tranquil breakfast scene. The smell of freshly-cooked bacon and eggs penetrated him. It smelled heavenly, as if it were of some sort of ambrosia of the gods. Had bacon and eggs ever smelled this good before?
Roger's father glanced up from his paper.
"Mornin', son," he said pleasantly, and began to read again.
Roger stared. This scene was too wild for him. His father, reading the paper like a stereotypical middle-aged dad and calling him "son?" Roger considered himself lucky if his father didn't beat him with the toaster. What in the world...?
"What's going on?" Roger asked, looking somewhat worried and helpless his skin-tight bluejeans.
His mother turned around inquisitively.
"What do you mean, dear?" she asked.
"'Dear?' I don't..." he said, lost for words. "Look, I'mma just get some Cookie Crisp."
"What? But I made all this food," his mother frowned, absolutely heartbroken. Roger was getting freaked out.
"What's the occasion?" he asked, getting a bowl out, trying not to sound too weirded out.
"I don't need a special occasion to make breakfast for my son!" she declared with a passion. "I cook breakfast every day, what's gotten into you?"
"Son, don't trouble your mother, just eat the bacon and eggs," his father said, butting into the conversation but still looking at his paper.
"Mom, you only cooked breakfast when I was a kid, I do my own thing now," Roger replied. "Fuck, I'm seventeen."
"Watch the language, son," his father said.
Roger paused. His mother looked worried he'd gone insane. His father cared when he cussed. What in the world had happened?
"I'm going to school now," he announced, and just grabbed an apple before leaving. He didn't have a chance to take out the cereal and milk and didn't even put his bowl back. If things were any weirder at school, he'd probably shit his pants.
. • • • .
Once Roger arrived at school he noticed that the campus as a whole was much brighter and cleaner than it had been the last time he was there. The whole way to school was nicer, too. Other kids were laughing and joking around in front of the large building as Roger shuffled inside. Even the hallways and corridors were nicer. Classrooms were nice. Did they redo the entire school overnight? The whole town? No one else seemed to notice, as if it had always been that way.
As Roger was walking to his first class, he heard a yell, shoes squeak on the linoleum floor and a few seconds later felt an impact. Papers, pens and textbooks flew around as Roger and the perpetrator collapsed into an ungraceful heap.
"Shit, ow," Roger cursed, rubbing his side, which he had crash-landed upon.
"Sorry, are you okay?" asked a voice in a hurried manner. Roger looked in it's direction.
A girl with sapphire-blue eyes and long, blonde hair looked up at him. The eyes were as clear as the sky.
"No," Roger answered back, standing up and dusting himself off. "Watch where you're going."
"Well, sorr-y," replied the blonde. "I thought I was going to be late."
"Late? Class starts in five minutes," Roger stated, lending her a hand. "You a freshie or something? Lost your map already?"
"No, I just moved here," the blonde said, rolling her eyes. "I'm a senior."
"You're pretty puny, parents feed you only celery?" Roger smirked.
"Oh, yes, we can't afford to buy anything that has more than the nutritional value of water," she said sarcastically. "No, I'm just like this."
"The name's Roger," Roger said vainly.
"Dolly," the blonde replied pertly.
The bell rang and the pair jumped at the sudden sound.
"Well, time to get to class," Roger declared. "See ya later."
. • • • .
Dolly, Dolly, Dolly. The name stuck in his head and would not come out. Why? She was just some other chick. Roger caught himself scribbling the name on his notebook more than once, though. It wasn't only the name that caught his attention. Roger thought of cool, blue pools and golden wheat and it captivated him. Roger concluded that it was just a trick of this brighter world he now lived in.
At lunch, Roger sat with his friends. In the far corner, he could spy the blonde sitting with a boy with a mohawk and an angry expression. He seemed to have the same cerulean eyes.
During his free period, Roger retreated to the back of the school for a smoke. Just like always, his friends and a couple of girls crowded around him. This time was different, though. Instead of girls asking for lewd displays of affection, they chatted about TV shows and homework. His friends didn't smoke, they just joined in the conversation casually. Was this all just a plot played on him by everyone he knew? What if Dolly was in on it, too? Roger blew circles with the smoke of his cigarette thinking how he never knew what good actors everyone was.
Roger discovered that Dolly was in the same AP history class as him. He used his time creating paper footballs and flicking them at the back of Dolly's head. When the blonde turned around Roger made the biggest grin he could muster and waved enthusiastically, earning him a snort most of the time. After a few times, Dolly started glaring at him in annoyance, so he stopped.
After a few minutes Roger started up again making the footballs. This time he aimed for Dolly's desk instead of the back of her head. Inside the football was a note. When Dolly opened the football she read the message, "Wanna hang out after school?" scrawled in chicken scratch. Roger watched her take out a pen and scribble an answer before refolding the football and placing it in her desk.
When Roger passed Dolly's seat once class got out, a paper football was placed in his hand. He glanced at Dolly and noticed a faint smile on her face. When Roger opened the note he read, "Sure, let's meet out front," written neatly.
. • • • .
"Sooo where did you move from?" Roger asked, trying to be smooth.
"I just moved here with my brother and parents from Southshore," Dolly replied.
The two of them were sitting on the bus making their way towards Malbourne.
"Oh, really?" Roger inquired. "You're so pale, though."
"Actually, I burn in the sun instead of tan so I've always been pretty pale," Dolly replied.
"I guess that explains it," Roger said. "Never imagined you to be from the coast, though."
"Well, I'm originally from Cambridge," Dolly answered.
"Quite an extreme change, isn't it?" Roger asked.
"Yeah, but we manage," Dolly shrugged. "So what about you? Been in Pleasantview all your life?"
Roger stopped and stared at Dolly with a cocked brow. Pleasantview? Weren't they in Malbourne?
"Wait, where?" he asked. The blonde looked at him, confused.
"Pleasantview, you know, the city we live in...?" she repeated, probably thinking that Roger was the biggest idiot ever.
"Isn't this Malbourne?" the redhead asked.
"Malb-what? This is Pleasantview," Dolly insisted, eyebrows furrowing together. The bus passed a shop with the sign, "Pleasantview Pawn Shop," which Roger could have sworn should have been called, "Malbourne Pawn Shop." Roger stared at Dolly dumbly for a few seconds before looking away and sitting up.
Malbourne, Pleasantview. Malbourne, Pleasantview. The names whirred in his head like a hamster on a hamster wheel. Dolly continued to watch him with a puzzled look on her face.
"You know what, never mind," Roger said after a minute or two. "Pleasantview, whatever. You like coffee? I like coffee. Let's get coffee at The Dutch Bros."
"Um... okay," Dolly hesitated, still confused.
The bus dumped them out in front of the flower shop and they had a nice, yet awkward jaunt over to the coffee shop. The didn't talk much and just got their coffee. When the pair found out that Dolly didn't have enough money on her to pay for her coffee, Roger chivalrously proposed that he would pay for the both of them, and Dolly thanked him.
After that they went to the arcade and played games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario as well as a couple first-person shooters and racing games. Roger was surprised to find that Dolly was really, really good at video games and beat him almost every time.
Once the sun was beginning to set, Dolly glanced at her watch.
"I have to get home," she said, frowning.
"This early?" Roger asked. "My folks let me stay out way past midnight."
"In my family we go through a cycle of who cooks dinner and tonight's my turn," Dolly explained.
"I guess I'll follow you home then," Roger said.
"That's really creepy, but okay," Dolly stated.
"Thanks, babe," Roger smirked.
"If you want, you can stay for dinner," the blonde suggested.
"Hmmm... sure," Roger mused.
. • • • .
Dolly's house was a lot nicer than Roger's (which had somehow become nicer that day, along with everything else). First of all, she lived in an actual house and not in an old apartment. Secondly, she lived in a good neighborhood. Third, it was a fuckin' Victorian.
"Damn," Roger said. "You keep doin' things that make me jealous."
"Like what?" Dolly asked, opening the front door and inviting him in.
"Like living in a nice-ass house," Roger replied. "And kicking my ass at video games."
"No, you just suck," Dolly stuck out her tongue and closing the door. "I'm hooooome!"
The punk that was sitting with Dolly at lunch that day was hiding behind the door with a devious expression and Roger suppressed a snort, knowing what was going to come about.
The inevitable happened. The kid leaped from his hiding place and landed on poor, unsuspecting Dolly with a cry. The two crashed to the ground while Roger stood watching. A guy with curly, bleach-blond hair walked by and looked at them as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
"Get off!" Dolly wailed under him, flailing her arms. "I have company!"
"You're late, it's your turn to cook dinner!" the boy returned. "Mom almost made me do it!"
"Should I leave?" Roger inquired.
"No, stay!" Dolly exclaimed, managing to push the kid off of her and scramble to her feet, panting.
"Roger, this is my brother, Lloyd," Dolly stated, gesturing to the one to her side. "We're fraternal twins."
"Fiesty," Roger commented. "Nice ta meetcha."
Lloyd glared super mega daggers of death and resentment.
"If you hurt my sister I will destroy you," he threatened. He then got distracted by something in the other room and wandered off.
"I guess he has someone over too," Dolly mumbled, shuffling into the kitchen. "Probably Rowan..."
"He's scary," Roger frowned.
"He's a big bully on the outside but his insides are pure sugar," Dolly laughed. "What do you want? I don't know what to cook."
"What do you know how to cook?" Roger asked.
"...Food," Dolly replied blandly.
"Wow. Didn't see that one coming. You know, you have such a way with words. You have this way of explaining things that's just magical," Roger remarked. "How aboooout... pasta?"
"I have an idea," Dolly declared, ignoring Roger's snide remarks and throwing her arms in the air and beginning to bustle around the kitchen getting this and that. "Could you get the container of parmesan from the fridge for me?"
Roger did as he was told, not questioning the authority of this blonde beauty. They found bags of frozen broccoli and shrimp in the freezer and mixed them together with pasta and buttery alfredo sauce.
After about ten minutes into the procedure of cooking the meal, a petite woman walked into the kitchen. She had crystal-clear, azure eyes just like Dolly. Dolly's mother? She looked so young. Dolly turned and glanced at her.
"Hey mom," she called. "I hope you don't mind, I brought over some company."
Dolly's mother smiled.
"Of course not!" she exclaimed. "What's your name, sweetie?"
"The name's Roger," he replied.
"Rowan's over!" exclaimed Lloyd from the other room.
"Well, what are you making?" Dolly's mother asked. "It smells great!"
"Some sort of shrimp-broccoli-pasta thing..." Dolly replied, busily stirring the sauce so it wouldn't burn or stick to the bottom.
"And I helped!" Roger included.
"I'm sure it'll be delicious!" she smiled and wandered off.
Roger and Dolly shared a sigh.
"Is your mother always so perky?" Roger asked.
"Yeah," Dolly replied.
The redhead chuckled. "So this almost done?"
"Yeah, we just need to mix it all together," Dolly said, picking up the saucepan and pouring it carefully in with the broccoli, shrimp and pasta. Roger got out a spatula to get as much sauce into the mixture as possible and make sure it was thoroughly mixed.
"Can you get... let's see..." Dolly pondered. "Six bowls from that cabinet?"
"Sure," Roger replied, and proceeded to grab said bowls while Dolly yelled "Dinner!" at the top of her lungs.
Soon each family member and guest was situated around the dinner table, each with a bowl and fork to call his own. Sitting across from Roger was Dolly and Lloyd's father, a man with blond hair but dull, green eyes. He kept glancing at Roger as if he didn't trust him. Roger couldn't really blame him, though. He was a suspicious character, even he could see that. You can't trust a guy in tight, leather pants.
After dinner Roger and Dolly filed into Dolly's living room to play more video games. Some of the games they had were Lloyd's. He liked one-player fantasy RPG games, apparently. He liked them a lot. He also liked those games that are rated E for Everyone that release when some Disney movie comes out, like Toy Story 3 the Video Game.
Eventually Lloyd and Rowan came in and joined them, and the four had a Rock Band party. Lloyd wanted the microphone for every song they played and they just let him have it, despite his not-that-good (putting it lightly) vocal skills.
Once it turned midnight Dolly's parents made them turn off the games and Lloyd and Rowan scampered off somewhere.
"Well, it's gotten late, I should probably head home," Roger declared, a lamp dimly illuminating the room.
"Really? Well, yeah, I guess it is late," Dolly said, stifling a yawn.
"But yeah, it was real fun comin' over," Roger grinned. "And eating your cooking."
Roger failed to see a faint pinkness sweep over Dolly's features in the dull light.
"I'm not that good at cooking," the blonde mumbled. "It was fun having you over, though."
"Puh-shaw, Dollface, you're awesome," Roger waved his hand.
"What, we going by nicknames already?" Dolly giggled. "Fine then, Rog."
"Or maybe... we could switch the letters in our names around?" Roger suggested. "I get Ergor."
"I get Lloyd," Dolly snorted. "See how original my parents were in naming my brother and I?"
Roger couldn't help but laugh.
"Well, whatever, you can just call me Rog and I'll just call you Doll or something like that," he said, opening the front door. "See ya at school tomorrow."
When Roger closed the door he wore a shit-eating grin.
. • • • .
The trek home was cold and lonesome. The city sky was clear. Usually it was orange from smog and lights. All he could hear were his footsteps on pavement and the faint sounds of the city in the background. This was the new world he lived in.
12:30, Roger opened the front door to his apartment. He could hear his father snoring in the other room. Both his parents were fast asleep. Roger himself was dead tired and completely convinced that once he fell asleep he wouldn't wake up until morning. He shuffled to his bedroom, closed the window he had opened that morning, stripped and climbed into bed. He was glad it hadn't rained that day or else the many things cluttered around his window would have been ruined.
• . . . •
The next morning Dolly awoke to her alarm clock blaring in her ear. Lloyd or someone was pounding on her door, yelling at her to wake up. It was 7:53 and if she didn't get up now, she'd be late for the bus. So she fell out of her bed and rolled over to her dresser (as best she could with so much stuff on the floor from not being completely unpacked yet). She took out the first things she laid her hands on. She didn't really care what she wore as long as her parents didn't beat her for being late to school yet again, not like they would anyway.
She ran a hand through her hair in an attempt of putting it in order. Whether it worked or not, she didn't care much. She descended the stairs two at a time and shot into the kitchen. She didn't feel like waiting for even a poptart to toast and just grabbed an apple and headed out the door. Lloyd was already long gone and Rowan had left early in the morning. Well, earlier. He had to catch a bus home.
When Dolly finally made it to school she saw something that immediately brightened her day: A shock of red hair. Dolly broke into a fair trot and cantered over to her tall, gangly friend.
"Mornin'," Dolly chirped. She was surprised at how much happier she was once she was with Roger.
"Good morning," the redhead grinned. "You seem to be in a good mood. You a morning person?"
"Naw, I 'spose I'm just in a good mood today," Dolly hummed. "Let's sit together at lunch, see ya!"
The bell rang and the two separated to their respective classes.
At lunch Roger ditched his usual group and went to sit with Lloyd and Dolly. The three of them were content with idle chit-chat, at least that's what Dolly thought. She actually kind of wanted Lloyd to go find himself some of his own friends so that she could talk to Roger and get to know Roger all by herself.
During history, Dolly wondered whether Roger would throw more paper footballs. He didn't. Dolly supposed that he had wasted enough paper the day before. She had lost count of how many footballs had been flicked at her head and wondered if there were any stuck in her hair from yesterday.
After history, Dolly went up to Roger as he was packing up.
"Hey, wanna go into town and get some ice cream?" she ventured.
Roger looked up at him and smiled. Dolly wondered what Roger could be thinking about.
"Sure, Doll," he replied, swinging his bag to his shoulder. The strap looked like it was about to break. What in the world was in that bag? Lead, perhaps?
"Well then, let's go," Dolly adjusted the strap of her own bag so it crossed over her chest. "Ice cream doesn't buy itself!"
"What's your favorite flavor?" Roger asked.
"Cactus ice cream!" Dolly had trouble keeping himself from licking her lips at the very idea of eating some.
"Cactus?" Roger wrinkled his nose. "That sounds really weird."
"Oh, but it is the most delicious flavor of all!" Dolly preached, throwing her arms in the air dramatically. "I'll let you try some of mine."
"I dunno, Doll..." Roger said, wary.
"Trust me on this one, you'll love it."
"Well, okay. It's worth a shot."
• . . . •
"I'd like one cactus ice cream, please."
Dolly and Roger had successfully found their way to Pleasantview by bus and were now standing next to a small "specialty" ice cream stall on the sidewalk. Dolly paid for her ice cream and offered the first bite to Roger.
"I dunno, it's gonna look kinda weird with me eating from the same bar as you," Roger protested.
"Oh, c'mon, it's fine," Dolly rolled her eyes. "S'not like either of us is terminally ill or has AIDS or anything."
"Okay, fine, Miss Insistent," Roger scowled. He took the ice cream from Dolly's small hand and took a bite. Dolly watched for a negative or positive reaction. Roger chewed and held a deliberative, thoughtful look.
"It's as if..." he trailed. "I'm drawing water from a cactus after wandering through the desert for days."
"Not bad, but it might be an acquired taste on my part."
"Acquired taste or not, it's good, right?"
• . . . •
A little bit later, the pair split up, each intent on reaching home. When Dolly got home, she immediately went right to her bedroom, closed the door behind her, threw her bag at the floor and nearly attacked her twin-sized bed next to the window. She snuggled her face into her pillow and closed her eyes so shut you would have needed a crowbar to open them. She dosed for a couple minutes before turning around and gazing up at the ceiling. Her mobile moved a bit, wind flowing in from the open window.
She thought of Roger.
Really, she had only known Roger for a couple days and yet it felt like she had known him for years. When she was with Roger she felt different. She didn't really know what it was. Roger was different. Everything in the world seemed like it was made to be perfect. Colors were bright and rarely anyone did something bad. There was the exception of petty thieves and politicians, but other than that, life was good. Houses were clean, lawns were mowed and things seemed to exist in harmony. Then why was Roger different? He wasn't perfect, Dolly could see that.
When Dolly was little, she used to love going outside and finding things. Usually the things she found were perfect. An untarnished flower, a blemishless fruit or an unbroken seashell. One time, though, she found a leaf that had been partially eaten by a caterpillar. This was the first imperfect thing she had found. Despite having spots chewed out of it, it was beautiful because it held the crimson red of fall, though it was still a bit emerald green from summer and spring. It was beautiful because it was different and imperfect. To her, this leaf was Roger. The leaf, like Roger, was imperfect. It was different. It was beautiful.
. • • • .
Roger was greeted by his mother once he stepped through his door. She was cheerfully awaiting him with dinner. When he had plopped his bag down next to the couch, she came over to him, stood on her tippy-toes and kissed him right on the cheek with a "Welcome home, sweetie!" To Roger that was, frankly, very odd. She hadn't kissed him since he was in grade school. She skipped back over to the kitchen counter.
"I hope you're in the mood for brisket!" she sang, spinning around with the dish of beef in her hands. Roger decided he was always in the mood for brisket.
After dinner, he went right to bed. Sleep was something he didn't get much of before, as he always stayed out way late with friends. He would savour it however much he could.
. • • • .
"Meet me out back.
The note had been carefully folded into a paper football and pushed through a slot in Dolly's locker. Roger stealthily tip-toed away from it, leaving nary a trace of his being there. He would have flicked it at Dolly's head during history, but they had been caught by the teacher and were denied from continuing this action.
It was currently right before last period began and since Dolly had already been to her locker and had hurried over to history, Roger had no risk of the blonde seeing him. And who cared if Roger was a little late, anyway? It was normal for him to be late to classes and punishments were significantly less severe in this "era" of his life than before.
When Roger entered the classroom (late!) the teacher was as placid as usual.
"How nice of you to join us, Roger," he said pleasantly. "Please take your seat."
Roger put his hand up in acknowledgement and mosied over to his seat, glancing at Dolly along the way, whom was rolling her eyes and smirking at our red-haired protagonist. Roger returned the favor.
About a month had gone by since the pair had met. Many mornings, afternoons and evenings they had reserved just for spending time with each other. Several weekends spent playing video games or watching movies had sped by. Time was a vortex and they were being sucked in, oblivious to it. They discovered things about each other. Favorites, first times, likes and dislikes, wishes were shared by spoken word and occasionally by text or email. They settled differences in little more than a huff and grinned over similarities. Most importantly, they grew closer; Each liked the other more than they showed, and they showed quite a bit.
After school, Roger hurried out of the classroom quick as a wink, leaving a confused Dolly in the dust. He just hoped Dolly went to her locker. If she didn't all his beautiful plans would be ruined! Except it wasn't plans. It was just plan. So if this got screwed up, he was stumped.
Alas! As the red-head was waiting in back of the school, pacing nervously, he spied his favorite short, blonde Dolly. He debated waving her over and decided against it.
"What, do you have something important to say?" Dolly asked, grinning. "Gonna tell me any dirty little secrets that can't be uttered within earshot of others?"
"More or less, though I wouldn't phrase it like that," Roger pondered. Was he trying to buy time? No, he should just get it over and done with! Enough feeling like a pussy.
"So what did you want to ta--"
"I like you."
Did she not hear him? No, she had to have... Maybe he should say it again?
"...I... I like you," he repeated. His palms were getting sweaty, despite it being 50 out. "I really like you, actually, s-so..."
Instantly, a rush of red and pink color flooded Dolly's face and heated her features to the tips of her ears. She pried apart her lips, as if to speak, but no sound escaped. She tried again.
"R... R..." was all she could muster.
"R?" Roger frowned, blushing himself. "Roger? Rapunzel? Retard? Ranunculaceous?"
"R-really?" the blonde exclaimed, probably lost for words.
What in the world was she doing asking such a juvenile question? But it didn't really matter at this point... neither of them were really acting perfectly in their right minds.
Roger noticed that they were now very close. When he had confessed the first time, weren't they a yard apart? Now they were less than a foot. When did that happen? Oh, that didn't matter, either! Mostly because Dolly was inching slowly closer as if by some impulse, all the while glancing away and then back to Roger in spastic intervals.
Eventually the scant space between them was finally closed and sealed with a rather quick, hasty kiss. The perpetrator of said kiss recoiled and stepped back, covering her face.
"Sorry, I couldn't really control myself, I was too nervous... I didn't really know what to say," Dolly sputtered, peeking through her fingers up at Roger. "It kind of surprised me, too."
Roger's mouth was sorta, kinda, a little bit agape.
"If you didn't get the message..." Dolly started, face painted red as roses behind her hands. "I like you too."
Roger threw his head back and burst out laughing. This kid was too cute.
"So, I guess... wanna go out?" he asked.
Dolly laughed. It sounded like music.
Roger was really glad that awkward moment was over and that it had ended as well as it had. Who needs a plan B? Although he really wished they hadn't acted like lovesick puppies the whole way through... it took a good bit away from his manliness.
"So... what do you want to do on our first date?" Dolly asked, grabbing Roger's hand and intertwining their fingers as they made their way to the bus stop.
"Hmmm... I'll have to think about that," Roger replied. "I hadn't thought that far ahead yet."
"Really? Wouldn't that be boring and little kid-ish?"
"Maybe a bit little kid-ish, but I think it's fun."
"Okay, mini-golf it is, then. Friday?"
"At seven! And we can eat there, too. There's a little hamburger joint attached to the side of it."
"Okay, see you then. Want me to accompany you home, miss?"
"Uhh, it's not needed, Prince Charming."
"Fine, be that way."
Dolly got off at her stop.
"See ya, gorgeous."
. • • • .
Seven o'clock sharp, Friday night. Roger had arrived at Dolly's house for their first date, and damn was he nervous. He wasn't normally the type to get all mushy and search through his closet for the best outfit. He had even tied his hair back into a ponytail in order to look a little more well put together.
Normally his dates consisted of getting lucky and normally his dates were sluttier than him. With Dolly, this was completely not the case. He felt that there was something there, something special. Something he would deny was there because it was just way too cheesy.
Roger approached the door and hesitantly rang the doorbell. He could hear the chime resonate through the house from where he was standing on the welcome mat. He heard footsteps and talking.
"What do you want?" asked the man who had opened the door. It was Dolly's dad.
"Um...I'm here to pick up Dolly, sir," I replied, stomach fluttering. The man looked up at Roger (who seemed a towering giant next to this man of 5'6") and grunted. He allowed Roger to come in. Roger indeed did come in and after which avoided Dolly's father like the plague. Even though Roger was much taller than him, his presence seemed to tower over him as if he was a bug that was only good for squashing.
Roger ventured up the stairs and to Dolly's room, where the blonde was probably still getting ready. Roger hoped he would catch himself a good eyeful before Dolly punched him in the face and called him a perv.
Alas, Dolly was all ready and was actually only surfing the internet on her laptop when Roger opened the door (without knocking). The blonde looked up at Roger and took off her bulky headphones.
"Hey, Rog." A hint of bashfulness coated her voice.
"You ready for our date, Dollface?" Roger smirked.
"I can't wait," she replied. "I even got ready early and I've been on the computer, ready, for the past hour or so."
"Well, then, vamos," Roger said as he took Dolly's hand in his and they pranced away. He could feel her father's gaze on the back on his neck as they left.
. • • • .
The mini golf course looked like it was made out of rejected children's toys. Each hole had a different theme. The first theme was dinosaurs, and there was a little T-Rex and you had to putt your ball into its mouth and it came out the other side. Other themes included dolls, clowns, aliens and many others.
"Why did you ask to come here, and why did I agree?" Roger asked Dolly as they were at the booth to get their putters and balls. He didn't even know there was a mini golf place in Malbourne (or rather, Pleasantview).
"Because it's fun," Dolly replied, picking out a purple ball.
"Fun? No, all this stuff looks like crap," Roger commented, taking a green one.
"Try it, maybe you'll like it," Dolly grinned. "I'll even show you how to hit the ball."
"Why do you know so much about mini golf?"
"Because my family is full of dorks who like to do stuff like this, including me."
"Fine, how do I hit this stupid thing?"
"I'll go first and you watch me."
Dolly placed her little ball on the tee and lined herself up so that her knees were a little bent and her arms and the putter were in a Y shape. She brought up her arms a little and gently hit the ball. It went right into the dinosaur's mouth, came out the other side and went right into the hole.
"Hole in one, fuck yeaaahhhh!" Dolly exclaimed throwing her arms in the air and making sure not to accidentally bludgeon Roger in the face with her putter.
"God damn, why are you good at everything?" Roger frowned, crossing his arms. "Boyfriend is jealous. I give up, you win by default."
"That's no fun," Dolly said, still grinning from her victory. "I want you to at least try!"
"Fine, but I don't want to do this one," Roger replied. "You already ruined my hopes and dreams for this hole."
"Okay, okay, next hole, then," Dolly rolled her eyes and led Roger to the next hole, which had a dog theme.
"Watch the master at work," Roger drawled, trying to imitate the stance Dolly held at the hole before and failing. His putter was much too short, which made it difficult for him.
"Sure thing, 'master'," Dolly snorted, standing back to watch. "Remember, the par is two."
Roger had no idea what the second thing Dolly said meant, but he figured it wasn't very important. The first time he tried to hit the ball, he hit it too hard and it bounced off all the sides before stopping feebly before Roger's feet, all tuckered out. The second time, he hit it too softly and it only went a few inches. After several more tries, he had managed to get almost nowhere. He was already getting fairly pissed at this game.
He turned to Dolly.
"Dollyyy, it won't go innn," he whined.
"Ugh, fine, I'll do it for you," Dolly sighed. "Honestly, you can't take care of yourself at all, you big baby."
"Yaaay!" Roger clapped.
Of course, when Dolly tried to hit the ball, it went in the first time she hit it.
"You probably don't want to do any more holes, do you?" Dolly asked, ready to laugh.
"Well... I don't really wanna waste twenty bucks since we only kind of did two holes," Roger pondered. "But at the same time I kinda wanna quit. Failure date, huh?"
"Naw, we still have plenty of time," Dolly said. "Wanna get a burger, though?"
"Sure. Then maybe we could just walk around the city and find something fun."
. • • • .
"Hey, Rog..." Dolly trailed.
"I had fun tonight."
"I'm glad. Me too."
The pair were sitting on the bus, exhausted. That night after getting dinner they had taken the bus back into the main part of the city and discovered there was a concert. They really had nothing better to do, so they went. They snuck a little closer to the stage than their "seats" said they were supposed to be, but no one stopped them.
"Wanna just go home, Doll?" Roger asked, absentmindedly stroking Dolly's hair. They were nice and snug together with Dolly leaning on Roger.
"Hmm... yeah," Dolly replied, leaning into Roger's touch.
"Good, we partied too hard," Roger attempted chuckling.
"We can hang out on my porch," Dolly said. "There's a swing on there."
"Sounds like fun."
When Roger and Dolly sleepily arrived at Dolly's house, they just collapsed on the porch swing. It was nice to hear silence once in a while. The bus engine was loud, the concert was very loud. Quiet was good.
In the serenity, Roger noticed his hand was clasped with Dolly's, though he didn't remember when it had happened or who had initiated such hand-holding. He didn't say anything, though, and just relished the feel of Dolly's hand pressed against his.
Dolly also drooped a little and leaned her weary head against Roger's shoulder. Roger leaned his head against Dolly's head.
"Tonight was really fun..." Dolly yawned. She rubbed her eye cutely.
"We should do this again," Roger said.
They shared a comfortable silence.
"Hey, Doll?" Roger asked.
"Hmm...?" Dolly mumbled softly.
Why was he getting so flustered for? Getting flustered was for virgins and people who hadn't had their first kiss yet, and Roger was neither of the two. He had lost his first kiss when he was 13 to some random chick and he had lost his virginity two years later to a girl in his class, of whom he could not quite remember the name. That didn't matter right now, though. He was nervous, and that was not good.
"I lo--" he began, but then looked down at Dolly.
He felt her breath come out in warm, even intervals. She was asleep. Roger sighed.
He could always tell her in the morning.
. • • • .
Bird chirping... what was that? Had he stayed over at Dolly's house? He had fallen asleep on that porch swing, hadn't he? Roger pried his eyes open and wiped the sleep from them. Wait... he wasn't at Dolly's house.
He was in a bed with white bedding. The clothes he had worn on his date with Dolly were gone and what replaced them was a white smock. Surrounding him were white walls. Machinery of all sorts were all around him. The IV and heart monitors were the only ones he recognised. He was in the hospital. What had happened? Why was he here?
Suddenly a door on the other side of the room opened. An older man in a lab coat came in studying a clipboard. His face was pointed and dignified. His eyes trailed from his clipboard to the confused redhead.
"Oh, good, you're up," the man said matter-of-factly.
"Bro... what's going on?" Roger asked.
"Oh, nothing much, you've been in a coma for a little while and--"
"A.. wait-- A COMA?" Roger exclaimed at this blunt reply, almost leaping out of his skin. He felt green.
"Let me call your parents."
The man turned on his heel and went right out the way he had come, leaving Roger to think about what could have possibly happened.
He remembered drugs. He remembered getting high. He didn't remember, however, how he could have ended up in the hospital in a coma.
When the doctor returned, Roger's mother and father were following him. They gave their son a glance. At least they cared enough to come.
"Thanks for calling us over, Doc," his mother said, taking the doctor's hand and shaking it thoroughly.
"I'm sure," he replied stuffily, retracting his hand. "Now, here's the story. Your son was taking part in illegal substances."
A blank look.
"He did drugs. Cocaine to be specific, and he most likely got addicted."
Roger's mother grabbed a chair and sat down next to his bed, holding his hand. Roger didn't really know why she was doing it, though.
"A civilian found him unconscious on the sidewalk and brought him in to us. From there we discovered he was your son. There was a small investigation in which we found he had most likely jumped out of his window in a high. Roger, you've been in a coma for a little less than a year. Just in time to start school, hm?"
"Ex... excuse me?" Roger asked, quite stunned. This doctor just cut right to the chase, didn't he?
"Did you have a nice nap? Dream about anything?" the doctor's lips curled. The smile seemed devilish and wicked to Roger.
A... dream? Oh...
A sudden realization hit Roger.
Everything was a lie. The brighter world, the cleaner city, the nicer parents... and Dolly. Dolly did not exist.
Dolly wasn't real. She was a lie, too.
Dolly was just another illusion in his dream world that shattered into a million pieces and fluttered away once he opened his eyes to reality.
"Repeating senior year... how do you feel about that, Roger?" his mother asked.
Frankly, Roger felt sick, but not about that.
"Shitty," he grumbled. "But who cares about school?"
Everything had been going so beautifully... it was perfect. And then he woke up. Why did it have to happen? Why couldn't he have just stayed in a coma forever? He thought of everything he hadn't gotten a chance to do with Dolly. He felt a warm, stray tear trail down his face and hoped no one noticed. No one did, like always.
Roger had to stay in the hospital for a few more weeks for physical therapy and rehabilitation. It was a bit hard for him to walk for a couple days, but then he got used to it and built up muscle in his legs. There was a small gym in the hospital for him to work on other muscle. Pretty soon he was fit enough to leave and move back to his room at home.
When Roger got home, he noticed all the imperfections. He noticed the musky air, the peeling paint, the noisy neighbors and creaky floorboards. He noticed how different reality was. After his dream, everything was infinitely worse than before. Why did he have to wake up? It wasn't fair.
One day, Roger realized he was eighteen. It had really been a year, hadn't it? Roger decided to do something to change himself, on the outside at least. He decided to get a tattoo. He had been thinking about what he wanted for a long time and he finally settled on a phoenix. Now that he was eighteen, he didn't need parental consent. That was what was really holding him back from getting it before. His parents would absolutely not let him get one. So he went out a got his tattoo. He felt like a badass on the bus ride home. He tried no to think about the heart attack his mother would have when she saw it.
"School starts next week, are you excited?" Roger's mom asked him one morning. He grunted in reply and retreated to his bedroom with a cup of steaming instant ramen.
Only a day left until school. How would he revert to the old life he had? In his dream, Dolly didn't like the smoke, so he had been trying to quit and it stuck with him even now. He had little desire to smoke. Maybe he could start again. That afternoon he went out and bought a pack of cigarettes. He hung out of his window for the rest of the day, smoking away.
The next morning, Roger actually got up for school. He was thinking about not going at all. He didn't feel like hearing his mom bitch and moan, though, so he decided he needed to go.
He checked his tat in the mirror to see if it was really, truly there. It was kinda weird having a tattoo, but at the same time he loved it. Best decision ever. After asking Dolly out, of course, but that never really happened.
Once Roger got to school, he was immediately critical of it. It was drab and musty and there were weird stains on the walls. He had no clue how he had missed these before. Though one thing he noticed most of all was that people drew back in fear when they saw him. Who wants to mess with a giant guy with a tattoo and bright-red hair? Fuck yeah, no one, that's who.
On his way to his first class, Roger experienced the oddest feeling of déjà vu. He shrugged off the feeling. Suddenly, he heard a yelp and a squeek. He figured it must be some kid running from bullies.
He listened to the sounds around him.
"Ohmigawd, he like, totally asked me out and I was like, 'uh, no way!' And he was all..."
The girly teeny-boppers who liked to gossip and use the word "like."
"Hey there, pigtails..."
Popular girls making fun of a "dweeb."
Pulling her hair, perhaps?
"Hey, come back here!"
She ran away, did she? Poor, poor, brave soul.
And then Roger felt an impact. There it was again, that feeling of déjà vu. Pencils and books sprawled and flew around, hitting the ground around the same time Roger and the person who ran into him did. Why did this seem so familiar?
"Looks like you got yourself saved this time!" the bully cat-called and walked away.
"I am so sorry, I... are you okay?" the perpetrator said, but got distracted by the look on Roger's face.
He was in awe. Directly in front of him was a girl with sparkling blue eyes and golden-wheat hair. She was also the spitting image of Dolly.
Roger remembered he had a first impression to make, and he wasn't doing well as it was.
"Oh, uh... yeah," he said, getting up. "Sorry, I kinda... dozed for a sec or something."
Smooth. Real smooth.
He held out a hand for the blonde and began helping her pick up her things.
"Oh, that's okay... are you alright? I wasn't looking where I was going..."
"No, I'm fine. So what's your deal, kid? You got a name?"
Roger paused. He felt like crying.
"The name's Roger," he said, smiling warmly to himself. His heart felt like it would burst.
. • • • .
Greetings, readers. Thanks for reading! c: I really hope you liked it.
This is basically an "original" version of a fanfic I wrote (which you can read on my profile if you like manlovin' and AkuRoku). I found it hilarious that I had both a blonde character with a twin and a read-headed character that I could place in there instead of Axel and Roxas. :'U So yes. Very convenient. Is it weird that Roger is originally supposed to be a pirate and live around the 16th century? Yes, that's right, I have a ginger pirate and he's amazing.
Also I'm in the middle of shaving writers block/s writing a story all about Lloyd and Rowan (starting before the move). Are you excited? I'm excited. It's going to be awesome. And hey, you'll discover some things you didn't know about the twins (and Rowan, but you don't know anything about him anyway). So look forward to that, if you want. c:
As always, thanks to each and every reader and reviewer (even though I already thanked the readers four paragraphs ago[this is a paragraph I copy/paste into the author's notes anyway rofl]). I love you gaiz. Your reviews make me smile and make me want to write more. Unless you is a hater. Then your reviews make me want to punch you in the face with a walrus. Indeed.