CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Things I Wish I Could Say to Tobs
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I need you…why…I'm sorry."
Tobias 'Tobs' Elrond was a seemingly average boy. Average messy brown hair and similarly colored brown eyes, straight teeth (or as straight as a teenagers could be who had not yet had braces), average intelligence. The only two things different about him was his weight ("Baby fat," my mother said, "When he's a teenager, it will all shed by the time he's an older, handosomer teen), and his faumos last name. But around here- everyone was famous. Not even his first name set him apart, but mind you, he hated the name Tobias. "It's a grown up, regal name." His dad would say often, "One day, you'll grow into it." But he didn't want wait, and so Tobs became the name he was known by. Still, at the age of 14, he was beginning to grow out of it, and he was considering going back to Tobias.
So therefore, everything about his was average.
Not at least, compared to the musically inclined Blair, aristic Trey, beautiful Scarlett, or bad-boy Des. But somehow, he wormed his way into their friend group. Des joked it was because they needed someone totally normal to remind them all how amazing they were, but it was said with half sarcasam. Des may act like he hated Tobs, and perhaps most of the time now he did, but at one time they had been close and good friends.
In reality, Tobs was the one who was always kept the peace, except when it came to Des, who he had a tentative aquantice with, even after four or so years. And of course being Blair's best and faithful friend over the years, better than Scarlett most of the time, certaintly aided his position in their unstoppable group.
And when they were fourteen, things became difficult. Blair was becoming more and more popular with her music, Trey was anit-social, Des' parents were unbearable to him, Scarlett's beauty pagents were never ending, and Tobs was caught up in all his parents expectations of him. Therefore, it seemed the golden days of age eight or nine were long gone and they saw each other rarely, sans when Blair saw Trey lumber down to lunch or dinner with the family.
After the band disbanded, things were tense for a month. Blair couldn't be around either boy, and Scarlett was just throwing herself into other extracirrucilars to make up for the gaping hole. They did record one CD, which sold okay, but never got a request for another or the chance to, even if they did. The band was gone, and so was Blair's hope of friendship between them. But she was determind to keep their group together, even if it meant going to utmost extremes.
It was stolen moments they could all gather together it seemed, almost a melonchaly hum of something they once all knew, just as the day was darkening.
"Kickball, today?" Desiderio called all of them (he'd fought battles with Tobs, but knew that the one with Blair would be a thousand times worse if he didn't invite her best friend, so he was at a truce with him), "At my place near the bay." He offered. Blair roused Trey from his depressing paintings and macabre music playing, and donned their jackets.
"Emergency jazz combo. Lots of money. Trey's bored- he's coming." Blair knew her mother didn't like the Lombardi's any longer, and was deteremind to never let Blair or Trey step foot near either of the parents again. Des was okay, but she didn't want her children to be tainted by his parents.
Mr. Lombardi wasn't bad, but it wasn't like he was good either. The mother was just quiet, to afraid to ever speak up to her horrible husband. Des hated his parents for that. He hated his father for acting and drking, but despised his mother even more for always quietly cowering in fear. Therefore, Blair had no doubt that he was an okay kid and would turn out to be a better man.
Curt Capri picked them up in his old car, which smelled of cigareets and weed, and told them to buckle up. Scarlett was already in the shot-gun, her hair messy in the way that Blair didn't want to think about.
"Whose all coming?" She asked, gagging at the smell. The fourteen year old made a messy turn. Blair always felt nervous when he drove. She knew that if he were to get picked up for speeding or sloppy driving, they'd all be dead meat, since he was driving without a liscence.
"You guys, the tall one, Frodo, Lemon- a couple others. Des invited everyone." Curt took a cig out of the glovebox with a lighter, using a finger to set it off, and offered a handful of others to the three kids. Blair shook her head with distane, and Scarlett hissed at him angrily, but Trey took one and lit up.
"Since when do you smoke?" Blair asked, shocked. Trey shrugged. Blair had a bad feeling it was his friends at the public school, and was eternally greatful that soon they'd be moving on to highschool together. She wouldn't let any shenanigans like that happen. She feared what he'd already done, in light of this new knowledge.
"He started in seventh grade. With me." Curt seemed proud of this, and Blair felt sick.
"Curt!" Scarlett half-screamed, "You know how much I hate it. Why would you bring such an innocent kid like Trey McBrough into your vices?" She asked. Curt laughed and Trey bristled.
"He brought me into it. It was both of our first. He got it from a freshman, and paid for mine." Curt seemed younger than his years, when usually it was the exact opposite. But in that moment, he was their age, just like he should be. Blair looked at her brother, feeling a disconnect worse than anyone else in the car.
"What else has he done?" Blair knew Scarlett asked softly, so not to have Trey hear. Trey was puffing away, oblivious to the converstion going on. Blair rest her head against a window, listening intently. Curt looked back at her, and shook her head.
"More than Des has." He said simply, and Blair cluched her jacket.
She stared at Trey with her body trembling, "It's like I don't' even know you!" She whispered. Trey glanced at her from the corner of his eye, and breathed out again.
"You don't." He said, "We're connected by blood, by relation title, but that's all."
Blair felt like slapping the cigarette away, but she knew that it wouldn't help matters. Mom and Dad would be very interested in hearing his habits though, now that—as he said, their relation was by coicidence only.
It took about an hour to reach the kickball station. She didn't even need the jacket. The May weather was kind; it was warm enough to mimic those dog days of summer. Blair bathed in the sun with a smile, knowing soon it would be gone. Des couldn't have picked a better day for the game.
Tobs ran over to her, hugging her, and she looked up at him. He was average height; for a guy. But to her, he seemed to tower a whole building above her. It was weird, seeing him grow up like that. She remembered when she'd been young enough to rest her eblow on his head as a armrest. Trey's head too.
When they were out of earshot, she pulled Tobs down to her level. "Trey smokes!" She hissed, expecting his eyes to widen with surprise. Instead he looked down with a frown.
"Yeah, I know." He said, and now Blair felt betrayed and blindsided by this whole thing.
"Am I the last to know?"
"I don't think your parents do." Tobs said uneasily, and he looked at her with sympathy and apology "I thought you did, though."
"I…I had no idea. Why?"
"Why is he doing that?" Tobs rubbed the back of his neck, "Can't say. He's…searching. Angry. Brooding. C'mon, it's fine."
"It is not fine!" Blair stompted her foot, "How dare you! He could get seriously hurt! This could become dangerous! How can you all be so…so…nonchalant about it?" She demanded harshly, waving her arms around. Her voice rose above the usual chatter, and small groups paused to look at her. Tobs rocked on his heels.
"Calm yourself, Queenie. I know you're going to tell your parents—that's for the best. It wasn't my place to tell, though. More I thought you had known but were purpously not telling them."
"No. Do you know me at all?" Blair shook her head, "I would have never let it get this far."
"What's going on?" Des happened to pass by, narrowing his eyes.
"Do you know, too?" Blair spun around and Des looked startled a bit.
"Know…what?" He frowned in thought.
"Trey. Smoking. Drinking." Blair spat out, and Des turned pale.
"What? Trey? No way!" He raised his hands in defence, "I had no clue!"
"Tobs did." Blair commented dryly, "I just found out when my brother lit up in the car."
"You didn't tell her, but you knew?" Des pushed aside Blair to meet eyes with Tobs, "You didn't tell anyone. This is serioius stuff, dude."
"I thought she knew. I thought she didn't want her parents or anyone to know!" Tobs didn't back up, but grit his teeth. His fists clenched and twitched.
"Some friend you are, obviously. You're too much of a coward to tell when a friend is in danger. This is real life!"
"Some friend I am?" Tobs roared, "Oh! Some friend you are, I think! You didn't even know! You dind't even notice!"
"Uh…I didn't notice either." Blair added softly, wincing. Tobs dismissed her, smiling softly.
"Your'e too innocent, Blair. Too nice. Even if you had the clues, you couldn't have convinced yourself of it." The words stung, but Tobs was right. There was clues. The way he washed his own clothing lately, the money that had been disappearing from his piggy bank, how his friends would lock themselves in the room and light candels enough to overpower anything else.
"And isn't it a little kettle black? Don't you do just as much, that's serious too." Tobs scrutinized Des, who trembled under his gaze a bit.
"Go ahead. Tell my parents. They wouldn't give a damn about it. But Trey Brough? He's…he's…too good. He was white, pure. He still has a chance. Kids like me are done for, I won't let him become like me."
His words warmed Blair's heart, but it melted when the boys looked about ready to bring out fists. "So now you're all high and mighty and sage, eh?" Tobs scoffed.
She wedged herself between the two.
"Seriously! We should be banding together to help him, we're on the same team!" She pushed the both back with all the strength she had. They looked at each other, and tunred away, stalking off in different directions. She followed neither, but looked across the field to where her brother was. Right now, he wasn't doing those bad things, but he was laughing and joking around. She captured the moment in her mind, there was always hope.
The teams were divided by random sticks, and much to the boys' anger, they were put on the same team. The Brough Twins were together, and they shared a smile of triumph. But it was all fake for Blair, because how could she ever look at Trey the same again? He realized it too, because it broke like glass on the ground when their eyes met.
The teams were somewhat evenly divided, maybe an extra here or there, but in all it seemed the skills were well divided. Blair of course, was not one particularly skilled, and gravitated toward the back of the line. It was great to see everyone working together, because usually the group was as rouge as feral cats. It would have taken a drill sergeant to get them to pay attention or act as a team, but today everything was going right.
Blair even kicked some far enough to get a couple bases. She believed that, during one time, Tobs purpously let the ball slip through his fingers, sending her a wry smile.
Trey was only slightly better. Des' kicks were powerful, but he could never aim, so usually it bounced out of bounds. Tobs was too calculating, and took at least five re-pitches at each turn. It was Scarlett, who had gained something from all her years of dance, that could kick those balls way to the edges of the trees.
Trouble bloomed all too soon. Tobs was up to kick, and Des was behind him in line. Blair was standing close to the first base, so she could catch all the pathetically kicked ones by the majority of girls, because those didn't hurt to catch.
"My god, Elrond. Just kick the damn thing!" She heard Des snap as Tobs threw it back to Frodo for another pitch. Tobs turned around and the two began bickering. Blair rolled her eyes, frustrated deeply in her friends. Frodo, more irrirtated than most, pitched without waiting for Tobs to turn back around.
Blair could see the quick calculation in Des' mind- that Tobs would undoutably throw it back, and he tried to snake his way to the front to kick it. "If you won't kick this one, I will!"
Tobs pushed him down with more anger and malice than Blair had ever witnessed of him, and hastily booted the ball. There was a groan as it soared above everyone's heads, and sideways into the water. It bobed there, but no one moved to get it.
"See what you made me do?" Tobs asked. Des was picking himself off the ground, a thin cut on his cheek where he'd fallen.
"You made me fucking bleed." He hissed.
"The ball…?" Someone asked hesitantly, looking to the water.
"I'll get it." Curt offered, rolling his eyes, and began to take off his shirt.
"No!" Des shook his head, "Let Tobs get it. He's the one who kicked it."
"You made me." Tobs seethed.
"Oh, did I? Did I move your leg? Push myself to the ground?" He questioned.
"Guys, I don't think we should get it." A boy named Misha Vanderbilt shifted nervously, "It's pretty nasty out there- look at those waves. And the undergound terrain isn't too great. Plus the water must be freezing and-," He began to list, and Des threw up his hands.
"Way to go, Tobias. Ruined something else!"
"What?" Tobs raised his eyes, and Des walked around him. The game had been paused, and the children moved slowly around the two.
"If it wasn't for you, we'd still have a band. It's your fault the band broke up. I blame you for all the disappointment I've had since then. If you had never said anything, if you hadn't be so stupid and so selfish and left- no one else would have!" Des' voice raised with each blow.
"Des! That's not fair!" Blair pushed forward.
"It is though! He caused you so much pain, how can you still be his friend? He abanonded us twice! He betrayed you on your birthday!" Des continued, "He dosen't care for anyone but himself. Keeps dangerous secrets." He gave a sideways glacne between Trey and Tobs, "And I'm not done."
"At the end of the year, that final we had where he was my partner? He flaked at the last moment, left me to do it. I failed. My father got so angry, he nearly hit me. Instead, he drank until he passed out and then when he woke he took half the things from my room and destroyed them."
There was no talking now, just stunned silence. "What was it? Oh yes, tennis." Des gave a harsh laugh, "You didn't realize it, did you? Or maybe it's not you. It's all those stupid classes you take, then quit later. You can't commit to anything!"
"Des…." Scarlett warned softly, but Des was half-crazed.
"Why can't you go and get the ball? Put those pathetic swimming meets to use, eh? Go and get it!" Tobs didn't move, just stood there shaking. Des got up in his face, "Or are you going to run away from something else. Are you going to let us all down again, just because you can't handle a little water?"
"That's not fair! He shouldn't have to go and get it." Blair felt enough was enough, "We'll do something else. We can play something without a ball—and know to bring an extra next time." She gave a shaky laugh, but no one else joined in.
Tobs shook his head. "No. He's right." His voice was hard and filled with venom, "I'm not a coward, so I'll do it." He pushed hard on Des' chest with each word, until Des was uneasy. Before anyone could stop him, he bolted to the shore.
"Tobs! Don't! Be reasonable!" Blair ran after him, and she was the catalyst. Everyone else followed. Tobs had already thrown his shoes off and dove into the water.
Des shouldered his way to the front. Blair breathed deeply, so afraid. The white waves crashed at her feet, and the ball was way to far out. How could he have thought he could do this? She would hit him until he turned black and blue when he got back, doing something so stupid!
The ball floated near a rocky mass out of the water. Tobs was above the waves, making good progress. It wasn't right though, he shouldn't be doing this.
He reached for the ball, and caught it in one hand. He climbed up on the closet rock side, and raised above his head in triumph. Everyone on the shores roared and cheered.
"I am kind of the waters!" He yelled over the wind, smiling.
"I knew he could do it." Des chuckled, nodding at him. Blair felt relieved. She looked at Des, and shook her head. They'd have to learn to not fight anymore- after she beat Tobs, she'd sit them both down. She coldn't have them fighting like this at all.
She saw out of the corner of her eye a wave splash the rocks. She turned back in time to see it get underneath Tobs, and for his face to morph. It looked like he was going to fall for a second, but he made an exeutive choice and leapt into the water.
The ball surfaced first, less than ten seconds after he jumped. It edged away from the rocks, as if pulled closer to the shore by an unknown force. All the children on the shore waited in a collective silence, breaths held unknowingly, for Tobs to reappear and swim back.
There was a mighty cheer when he resurfaced, but only Blair at first saw through it all from the very moment his face met the open air. She collapsed on the beach, let out a small scream, covered her face in her hands, and began to cry.