It was raining just hard enough to be really annoying. It wasn't hard enough to stop the game, no matter how Andy wished it. There was also no thunder or lighting, although the cheering audience did sound like thunder, and the flashing lights from the cameras looked a lot like lighting.
"Hey, blonde dip shit, are you listening!?" Andy Conners tore his gaze away from the dark sky, his search for deadly weather interrupted. It was funny that even though there were at least three other guys in their huddle that were blonde, everyone knew which blond dumb ass Kyle was talking to. "We're carrying out play number twenty one."
"Which play is that again?"
"You know what fucking play that is! I swear to God, if you mess this one up, I'm going to mess you up." Andy believed him. Kyle had been the kid that had beaten him up nearly every day of his life during middle school. Their relationship was complicated now. Kyle seemed to gain some respect for Andy once the loser started working his ass off at football. At first Andy had sucked at it but now he was one of their best players. Kyle admired him because of it but he still hated him just enough to make sure Andy's life wasn't perfectly easy. Andy liked the challenge anyway.
"I'm sorry! If we weren't playing against fucking gorillas and their leader King Kong, I wouldn't be pissing my pants! Look at him! There's no way he's human!"
"Concentrate, Conners!" Kyle spat out the name. "Play twenty one!"
"Yo, got it! Let's do this!" Andy sort of remembered play twenty one. A lot of the plays were too similar for him to remember all of them exactly but he knew the just of it. Just gotta catch the ball.
"Ready, set, hut!" Andy charged forward. His favorite part of the game was the initial run; the charge of energy as the entire team took off at once, leaping away from the enemy. He was good at it, from all the years of practice. He always seemed to be running from people that wanted to harm him.
"Conners!" Andy looked up at the sound of his name and suddenly remembered that play twenty one called for him to be on the other side of the field. Good thing he was fast. No biggy. He was just going to have to win the game in a dramatic, just-barely-catching-the-ball leap, like he always did.
Sprinting around the goal post, he set himself for the catch, leaping into the air to reach the ball. Suddenly, King Kong appeared out of no where, tackling him just as the ball touched his fingertips.
This was going to hurt.
Don't drop the ball, don't drop the ball, don't drop the ball, do not drop that ball.
As the two of them hit impact with the ground, Andy felt the wet ball slip from his hands like a bar of soap. The momentum from the collision allowed Andy to stay underneath it, and luckily they seemed to be going in the same direction. The ball fell into his arms a second time, and he hugged it to his chest tightly, scoring the winning point.
As people begin to file out from the high school field, Andy searched the crowd, looking to see if he could find anyone he recognized. A smile split his face when he saw his best friend in her brightly dyed hair (the color of this week was hot pink), standing under a large umbrella waiting for him. He limped over to her, his back stinging from where he had landed during his duel with King Kong. She looked annoyed by his slowness. She was obviously not happy about the rain.
"You showed up. Didn't think you cared."
"Don't flatter yourself. I came to see the game, not you." She held the umbrella like she was trying to shield Andy from the rain but she wasn't doing a good job of it. Actually, Andy was just getting hit in the head from the fat drops of water that were coming off the umbrella.
"Jenny, can we go soon? I think mud is getting into my shoes," Ann complained behind his best friend. Ann was the only one Andy knew that would wear pink pumps to a football game in bad weather. She was more Jenny's friend than Andy's. The only reason why the two tolerated each other was for Jenny's sake. Andy didn't particularly like Ann. She was one of those blonde, pretty rich types that didn't seem to ever like him. Jenny tended to be nastier when she was around as well, not that she wasn't nasty by herself.
If only Jenny would accept her undying love for him and stop playing the game that she swore she didn't play. She had given her heart to someone else long ago, and when he broke it, she declared she would become a lesbian with Ann. Unfortunately for Andy, they weren't really lesbians. They just pretended, leaving out all the sexy parts, and keeping the "boys are assholes" parts.
"How'd you like the game? Pretty exciting, right?" he asked, ignoring Ann.
"You're a moron. You had no idea what you were doing."
"I won. I should get a prize. If you kiss me, I won't tell anyone."
Jenny stepped back, taking the umbrella with her. "Stay away from me. You smell bad." She scrunched her nose.
He sniffed himself. "Not that bad! The rain washed most of the sweat away."
"So now you smell like old damp clothes and sweat."
"Gross," Ann agreed. She liked to do that, like her whole purpose in life was just to enforce everything Jenny said.
"Hold your breath then! I need to get more guy friends. They understand that when you run, you sweat!"
"Then you could kiss one of your guy friends."
"That's not what I meant!"
Andy used to have a guy friend.
"CONNERS!" There was an angry voice as Kyle pulled himself away from a congratulating crowd. "I'm going to kill you Conners!"
"Oh shit! Jen, help me."
"Come on Ann, let's go to that new snack bar where the gas station used to be. They got Coke brand."
The two girls started to walk a brisk pace away, Andy trying to keep up but his back hurt so much he was hardly able to move his legs forward. Just as Jenny and Ann were a safe distance away, Andy was tackled to the ground.
"WHY DID YOU GO LEFT WHEN PLAY TWENTY ONE CLEARLY CALLS TO GO RIGHT?!"
"MAKE THE GAME MORE INTERESTING!?" Andy cried out helplessly.
An even more bruised body later, Andy caught up with Jenny and Ann near the bleachers. They hadn't walked far, mostly because Andy had the car.
When Andy was close enough, Jenny grabbed his face and frowned at it. "You bit your lip."
"If you didn't notice, Kyle attacked me."
"You should stop pissing people off, and they won't beat you up as much," she said before spinning sharply and heading for the car.
"Nah, it's all cool. He's was just playing anyway."
Almost everyone had left the field as the three teenagers heading for the parking lot, except for one sole person that sat on the bleachers. He wasn't really noticed by anyone. In fact, if you weren't looking for him, you wouldn't even had see him. His black sweatshirt helped him blend into the dark, night sky. He sat at the very top, at the right corner, not making a single move through out the entire game. He had been in a good mood. He had enjoyed the game. What he didn't like was watching Kyle beat up Andy. He didn't like bullies.
He really didn't like bullies.
He actually had almost went down there and pulled out his switch blade but that would have been stupid and he wasn't stupid. Besides, the loser was laughing the entire time as the bigger kid hit him. He guessed it was a good thing for the kid to do, to show the bully that he didn't fear him.
He sat where he was until he was the only one left. Only when his phone beeped from receiving a text message did he move, pulling the phone out of his black jean pocket. The message was from 302-4521. The numbers would add up to 17.
Party tonight. 16 carpenter hill rd.
That meant the actual address would be 17 blocks away from where ever 16 carpenter hill rd was. North.
He wrote back.
Mary, Angie and Mandy
He let out a low whistle as he brushed some of his black hair away from his face. Full house
"I thought you wanted Coca Cola!" Andy cried out impatiently as the girl behind the counter glared, annoyed at him for taking so long to order.
"I'm thinking!" Jenny replied. "Maybe orange cream. They hardly ever have orange cream."
"An orange cream and two colas," he ordered quickly. If she changed her mind, which she would, they could just trade.
"Wait, scratch that. I don't have any money."
"For the love of..." Andy took out his wallet. "I pay for you every single time we come here!"
"That's very nice of you," Jenny replied idly.
"It's almost like we're a couple."
"You know, I didn't ask you to pay."
"Fine maybe I won't!"
"Could someone please pay for the drinks?" The girl behind the counter was really annoyed now.
"Ann, could I borrow two bucks?"
"I'M PAYING FOR IT!" Andy shouted as he slammed his money on the counter and Jenny smirked.
As they went over to the small eating area with their drinks, Ann was going on about how hot and great Ryan was. Andy knew Ryan, and what Ann didn't seem to realize was that the guy was about as dumb as a post. He didn't mention that to Ann though. She could find that out the hard way.
"I thought you guys said you were giving up on men."
"We're giving up on imperfect men," Ann answered.
Andy narrowed his blue eyes at her, knowing he fell into that category. He wasn't particularly bad looking—or he didn't think so anyway. But girls didn't find Andy romantic in any way, shape or form. Andy was pretty clueless in what made girl's happy. Fart noises probably weren't one of them. But that was too bad for Ann, because Ryan also liked fart noises.
"I should have gotten a Coke..." Jenny murmured as she stared at her orange cream soda and Andy wordlessly traded with her.
As Ann yammered, he noticed that Jenny didn't participate much in the boy talk, doing little more than nodding. There was a time when Jenny would get that excited when talking about boys, one boy in particular.
It had been awkward when Jenny had been obsessed with Skyler because not only did Andy like Jenny but Skyler was Andy's best friend. It was also before Jenny started hanging out with Ann, and not having anyone else to talk to about her feelings, she told Andy. Andy knew everything about Jenny. Skyler didn't know because Jenny made Andy swear never to tell him anything. Not that it mattered anymore. Skyler was gone.
Andy didn't think about Skyler everyday but every once in a while, he'd pop up again in his thoughts.
They had been best friend for four years. Andy wasn't a social butterfly. Having no parents, he had been through a series of foster homes, acting out until he was thrown into the next one. When he was eight, George Matthews decided he liked Andy too much to send him to another foster home. Andy didn't nearly like George as much as George liked him. In fact for a long time, George was on the list of people he didn't like. To this day, Andy still refused to call George 'Dad' but eventually, after all the ice cream cones, trips to the park and goodnight kisses, Andy sort of warmed up to George. Not to say he was an easy kid. He still had acted out, defacing property, making jokes in class, pissing people off in general but that didn't seem to turn Skyler or even Jenny away. Jenny had been reluctant to be Andy's friend at first. Andy was the weird kid. Nobody was supposed to like the weird kid. When Andy had moved here, they had become neighbors, and after all the force play dates their parents made them have, Jenny just sort of gave up trying not to be friends with Andy. She even seemed to laugh at some of his jokes every once in a while. Then I few years later, Skyler moved to town.
His friendship with Skyler was even more unusual. Skyler had the sense of humor of a rock. He was perfect in school in every subject, from gym class to math. He had a face like the statue of an angel, and by middle school, he already had a long list of girls drooling over him. His family was rich too. He should have been part of the popular crowd.
But he wasn't. He was with Andy and Jenny. It didn't make any sense. He didn't even seem to like them most of the time. He found Jenny annoying and was almost always fighting with Andy. Skyler and Andy would argue about everything and had nothing in common.
The only quality that either of them had that was similar was that both of them absolutely hated to lose. It didn't matter what it was. It could be whoever had the best time in running the mile, or who won at the board game Candy Land. Andy, feeling like a nobody for most of his life, wanted to prove himself, and Skyler, having the biggest ego problem on the planet, needed a constant reminder that he was better than everyone.
That was when things were good. It all changed when Skyler's parents were murdered during a robbery. Skyler changed. Andy tried to be there for him but Skyler had told him there was no way he could have ever understood. Andy never really had anything, so he didn't know how it felt when you lost it. After one of those huge fights, Skyler just stopped coming back to school.
It didn't help that Jenny had decide that during Skyler's lowest point in his life, that this would be the best time to confess her feelings for him. Andy guessed she thought knowing someone loved him would make him feel better. It didn't.
Skyler had moved in with his uncle. He had wanted to move in with his older brother but nobody seemed to be able to reach him. Skyler's brother had always been sort of an iffy character anyway. Andy had never met Skyler's uncle and didn't even know where Skyler and his uncle lived. Skyler never bothered to tell him. He didn't even bother to say goodbye.
At first, Andy had been so mad at the bastard that he didn't give a fuck but as years went by, he forgave Skyler. He would find himself wondering what Skyler might be up to now, and hoped he was okay.
"What are you zoning out about?" Jenny asked, completely ignoring Ann now.
"I was just wondering whatever happened to Skyler."
Jenny's eyes hardened. "I thought we fucking agreed to never talk about that fucking fuck!"
"Oh right," Andy said quickly.
"He was a fucking fuck," Ann agreed but Jenny was already angry. She threw her empty coke bottle to the closet recycling can, being glass and all it made a pretty loud noise at it crashed against the other bottles.
The few other people that sat in the eating area with them looked up and stared. Jenny stood up, ignoring there gazes. "Pretty amazing, got it in in one shot. I get points for that." She didn't sit down, still too mad. "I'm going to the bathroom," she announced.
Ann scrambled up as well, because obviously Jenny couldn't go to the bathroom without her.
Andy got up to go wait by the car that was parked on the other side of the small building. There was a guy in a hooded sweatshirt standing over there as well. He was by himself and looked like he was waiting for someone. The hooded guy gave Andy a quick look, like he was annoyed that Andy was in his presence.
Andy glared right back at him. It was a free county. He could wait here if he wanted to. The hooded guy rolled his eyes and turned his gaze on the road again. Andy gave him a double take. Something in the way his manner was very familiar.
He took a couple steps closer to the boy, his heart beating fast at the possibility. He wasn't really thinking when he grabbed the boy's arm to turn him around. He was lucky the stranger didn't punch him in the face.
The stranger did not punch him in the face, which was good, but he glared back at him like he was about to.
"What do you want?" he asked, and at first Andy did think he must be somebody else. If this was Skyler, then he sure had changed a lot. His skin looked white as milk, like he hadn't seen the sun in a couple of years. Andy couldn't tell if the guy was wearing makeup or just had dark circles under his eyes. A closer inspection made him think both. His bottom lip was pierced too. Even his voice didn't sound like Skyler's. It was too deep and gravely.
But it was what he said, that made Andy sure it was Skyler. It was just so like him to not even say hello.
"It is you! It's fucking you. Where the hell have you been!? What are you doing here?"
The boy rolled his eyes again as Andy began to ramble. "I'm sort of busy right now, so could you just go and leave me alone."
Andy crossed his arms. "You're just going to stand there and pretend you don't remember me?"
Andy grinned at Skyler's subtle hint of admitting knowing who he was and Andy punched him in the arm.
Skyler winced and would have fallen over if Andy didn't go to righting him. "Sorry." Skyler seemed smaller than he remembered. Or maybe Andy was just bigger. "What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for my ride," He checked his phone, a nervous habit he always had.
"How long are you staying?"
"Until my ride gets here," Skyler said, annoyed now.
When it became clear that Skyler wasn't going to talk if he didn't have to, Andy decided to talk instead. "Man, I'm really glad to see you! Things sure have changed since you've been gone. I'm not a nobody anymore. People like me now! Well, sort of. I'm on the football team."
"I know," replied Skyler.
"You do? How do you know?"
"Read it in the local papers. You're a celebrity in a nobody town. Congratulations."
"Thanks," Andy grinned, ignoring the sarcasm. "So what have you been up to now? Are you going to school?"
Skyler's silence answered that question for him.
"So what do you do? Are you some drug dealing gay prostitute or something?" He had said it to make Skyler angry, to get any kind or reaction at all.
Skyler actually laughed. His head rolled back before landing his gaze on Andy. The grin on his face seemed almost painful, without any joy. Skyler stared at him for a moment before shaking his head and turning his gaze back to the road again. A white car rolled to a stop on the other side of the road. "Ride's here," and Skyler left.
Andy watched him go, feeling empty. A part of him had always thought he'd see Skyler again, though most of him had giving up on that hope. Even though it had only been for a short moment, it gave him the feeling that he would see more of Skyler. He didn't know why. It was just a feeling.
Jenny and Ann came out of the bathroom. He decided not to tell Jenny that he had encountered Skyler. He had to survive a drive home with her after all.
As Skyler climbed into the car, Slyce asked, "Who the hell was that?!" Slyce's white hair seemed to glow in the dark. He said he had dyed it white so that people would think he was an old woman from a distance, and not seem so suspicious to cops. Skyler supposed that was true. Slyce did look like an old woman from behind, but up close he just looked like a ghost.
"No one," Skyler replied curtly. Shit, he hadn't wanted Andy to see him. For all these years, Andy hadn't seemed to notice him before. He guessed it was because it was a rare occasion when Jenny wasn't around. Apparently Andy was more aware of his surroundings when Jenny's tits weren't there to distract him. "He was just some guy asking for a couple of dollars."
"You didn't give it to him, did you?!"
"Oh good. The last thing we need is for you to become some sort of charity. The boss would freak out. You know how he freaks about stupid things."
"Yea," But Skyler wasn't paying much attention to Slyce anymore.
There was a silence before Slyce started talking again. "So you know the bitch?"
Of course Skyler knew 'the bitch'. He heaved a sigh as he prepared to hear this same shit again.
"She's fucking crazy. She assumes if she don't know jack about a situation, then I must be fucking around! I swear to God, I'm going to fucking kill her. I can't take it anymore. It's all 'where have you been?' 'What are you doing?' If she just fucking concentrated on her job, maybe we won't all get our brains blown out!"
Skyler wasn't attempting to listen anymore.
Slyce smacked him when it became apparent that Skyler was ignoring him. "She wants you to come tonight."
"To drink and stuff. Jack will be there, too. She likes you, you know."
"She likes you a little too much," Slyce said, a little angry at the thought.
Skyler looked at him. "Are you seriously worried about shit like that?"
"I'm not worried about you pulling anything man. It's all her. She'll drug you with roofies and fucking rape ya!"
Skyler gave Slyce an incredulous look. "I can't go tonight anyway."
"Why the hell not?"
"Got a job."
"What? Again!?" Slyce took his gaze off the road to look at Skyler. "You're crazy man! You're going to get yourself killed."
There was a long silence before Slyce spoke again. "So what is it?"
"Mary Jane, Angie, and Mandy."
"How much of each?"
"I don't know. They haven't said yet."
"If the boss finds out you're doing this for outsiders you're a dead man."
"Technically, I'm helping him out. Hitting the competition is sure as hell not going to hurt Henry at all. But I can't tell him that it's me. The way I do things is too unique and they're going to thing it's Henry who's been stealing all the business. If every fucking guy in the area gets hit, it's going to look pretty fucking suspicious if we're the only one's that doesn't."
"Wait, do you steal from us?!"
"You better be fucking quiet if you don't want me to rip your throat out."
There was a silence before Slyce said, "The car's not wired man. This is my car. We don't even use it for business."
"You never know. It's a huge risk that you even know anything about me."
Slyce waved his hand. "You're not worried about me, are ya? I'm your best buddy!"
Skyler glared at him. The only reason why Slyce was still alive was because Skyler could tell that the older boy was too afraid of him to snitch. Slyce didn't really show his fear all the time but when Skyler made a threat, Slyce believed it. Slyce had seen Skyler carry out threats before. He accidentally found out the young kid's secret. He had been messing with Skyler's phone and seen the text messages. Now Skyler knew to delete messages as soon as he read them.
They parked at the side of the road that Slyce lived on. Slyce didn't want to park in the driveway because then 'the bitch' would see the car and demand the both of them to come inside.
Slyce took out a bag from the dash bored. The zipper on the bag had a lock that Slyce used one of the keys on his key chain on. In the bag were waded bills. He gave one to Skyler. "There's your pay for the week."
Skyler counted the money, before he took each bill, and held them up to the car light to see if they were real.
"Seriously? You're going to keep checking the bills every single time?"
"The boss probably gives you fake bills because he knows you don't check them."
Slyce frowned at him, before taking his share of the money and checking a bill. "It's real," he said with a sly grin.
"Of course the first couple are gonna be real."
Skyler and Slyce spent another ten minutes checking all the bills.
"Okay, now that we just wasting my time for nothing, I have to go face the bitch."
Skyler put his money on the inside pocket of his sweat shirt. "Good luck with that."
"Keep your good luck. You're going to need it to keep yourself from dying tonight."
"Oh shit..." Andy stared at his back in the mirror. The first few layers of skin were gone and just a nasty pink raw scrape screamed back at him in the glass. It was going to sting in the shower. He stood in the bathroom in just his pants, hesitating to turn on the water. He thought about skipping it but he knew Jenny would never forgive him if she ever found out he didn't bathe after this game.
There was a frantic knock at the door. "DID YOU WIN?!" Andy didn't even hear George come in.
"Can't you wait until I'm out of the bathroom?"
"No it's killing me! I almost died at the office! I can't believe the bastards made me work over time."
"I'm about to take a shower. Can't this wait?"
"No! If you're not wet yet, come out. You can take a shower after!" George had never married. He had never said why but sometimes George's slightly flamboyant mannerisms made Andy wonder.
"Okay, Okay," Andy opened the door.
"Did Jenny film the game?"
"I don't think so. George, it was only the first game of the year. It wasn't that important."
"You know, I bet she did. She probably did. She can do that with her little phone you know." George stopped his frantic chatter to look at Andy. "What's wrong with me, I forgot my hug!" He threw his arms around Andy but it didn't take him long to notice Andy's back. "What happened?"
"Disinfect, disinfect, disinfect!"
"It doesn't need any disinfect..." Unfortunately, they were standing right in front of the closet where George kept the first aid and Andy didn't have enough time to stop him before he already had it. He spun Andy around and sprayed. "AHHHOOW!" Andy cried, before hissing in pain.
"So did you win?"
Andy forgot about the pain for a moment before a grin crawled up his face. George could see it in the reflection of the full length mirror that hung on the closet door. He squealed with glee before giving Andy another hug.