Being a senior in high school is a giant pain in the ass. You have to worry about SATs, applying for colleges, writing college essays, trying to find a job for spending/gas money, completing the large amount of school work teachers put on your plate, etc. And what makes this worse is your brain tries to screw you over on a daily basis by making you procrastinate on your assignments, increasing your laziness substantially, and on top of that, giving you the absurd idea that doing these things are completely okay and won't affect you negatively in any way. These symptoms of poor judgment form a disease of the mind that affects seniors and is known to many as the dreaded senioritis. Now imagine a guy suffering from senioritis, whose parents are going through a nasty divorce, has a slightly insane best-friend, and who has been known to get into quite a bit of trouble, and you get me, Joseph Andrews.
"Can someone please tell me one thing they know about William Shakespeare?" Ms. Connors asked. Her full name was Diana Connors and she was young for a teacher, probably around twenty-five or so. She had soft dark-brown hair tied up in a ponytail, bright green eyes, a warm smile, and relatively light skin, free from any blemishes. She was dressed in dark-blue skinny jeans, a pair of red cowboy boots, and a flattering black jacket she wore over a light-pink blouse. "Don't be shy. Anyone?"
Tentatively, I raised my hand. "Yes, Joseph," she called, pointing at me.
"Nothing like Shakespeare's plays had ever been written before and they changed the world of literature forever. It's because of Shakespeare that we have some of the books and plays that we do today." I said, trying to sum up what I remember what little I remembered from the Shakespeare unit in freshman year English Class.
Ms. Connors smiled widely, looking as if Christmas had arrived early. "Great job, Joseph," she said cheerfully. "That's correct. Shakespeare made a lasting impression on later playwrights, poets, and writers born even hundreds of years after Shakespeare's death. In fact, his work heavily influenced the Romantic poets of the early-to-mid-nineteenth century…"
"Psst," I heard a voice whisper from behind me. I turned to see my best friend, Robert Harris (Bobby for short) looking back at me. Bobby was pretty tall, probably around 6'1, skinny, lean build from years of sports. He had straight brown hair, blue eyes, a wide nose, soft facial features, and a long, thin scar running across his right cheek from an unfortunate incident in Anatomy involving a crazed, violent student and a scalpel. Bobby had to get ten stitches.
"What?" I whispered back.
With a nervous glance at Ms. Connors, who was still rambling away about Shakespeare, he reached across the aisle and handed me a folded sheet of notebook paper. I turned toward the front and quietly, I unfolded it and read:
Party at Brian's place
When: 7:00 tonight
Are you going?
I folded the note back up and slipped it into my back pocket. After checking Ms. Connors wasn't watching, I turned around in my chair to face Bobby. "Yeah, I'll go," I whispered.
Bobby smiled. He opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by Ms. Connor's voice. "Joseph, Bobby, am I boring you two?" she asked.
Busted, I thought, as turned I towards her and shook my head. I opened my mouth to say something, but, thankfully, Bobby beat me to the punch. "Sorry Ms. Connors. I was asking Joe a question about the Pre-Cal homework," he lied smoothly.
"I'm sure that can wait until the end of class," she reprimanded. "Besides, this is English class, not Math class. Pay attention, guys. This is important, okay? You can work on math homework later." With that, she went back to her Shakespeare lesson.
After class, I waited for Bobby in the hall while he asked Ms. Connors if there was any makeup work.
"You get what you need?" I asked when I saw he walked out of the class empty-handed.
"Yeah," he answered. "Well, actually, I didn't need to pick up any work. She said something about there being no new assignments since that essay is due on Monday."
"Which I'm guessing you already finished," I grinned.
He laughed. "Oh, yeah, I finished it the weekend after it was assigned,"
I tried to remember him telling me about it. Normally we would compare essays when we completed them. You know, edit them, help each other rewrite sentences that didn't flow all that well. Kind of nerdy, I know, but it really helps to have someone else look at your work. We'd been doing that for years, and neither of us ever got below a ninety-five percent on an essay. So, with that in mind, I found it odd when I couldn't remember that happening. Then the answer hit me and it suddenly seemed obvious. "Was that during the two weeks we didn't talk?" I asked casually, trying not to let the memory ruin my good mood. It's a Friday. There's a party to go to. Relax, I reminded myself.
Bobby visibly stiffened at this. "Yeah, yeah it was," he said in a hollow voice. "I think we started hanging out again the Thursday after I typed out my final draft."
"Oh, right, that was after..." I trailed off.
"That guy hit you with his car," he finished.
"At least he wasn't going that fast," I shrugged, wincing at the phantom pain in my shoulder. "The doc said I was lucky that I only dislocated my shoulder."
"Right, so do you want me to look at the essay for you?" he asked, effectively changing the subject. "I will if you will."
I nodded. "Sure. I'll give you a copy tomorrow," I said.
"Sounds good to me. I'll give you mine then too," he said, smiling. I knew what he was thinking. He was glad things were finally going back to normal between us. I'd never admit to it if anyone asked, but so was I. Bobby and I had known each other since we were toddlers and had been best friends for as long as I could remember. Everything was always perfect between us, we never really fought. We were so alike in our laid-back personalities that it was so easy to get along. That is, until Bobby decided to pull that stupid prank on me. Normally, I'm okay with pranks, but he'd gone too far. That damn prank had almost ruined our friendship. In fact, I pretty much ignored the guy's existence for two weeks. I was so pissed at him, I couldn't even look at him.
One Month Ago…
My car pulled up in Bobby's dark driveway. He'd called me about fifteen minutes before about some weird guy lurking around the neighborhood, so I decided to come check it out for myself, just in case there was a problem.
I pulled out my phone and dialed Bobby's number. The call went straight to voicemail. I cursed and tried the home phone. He didn't pick up. "Damn it, Bobby!" I growled, before getting out of the car and storming up to Bobby's front door and ringing the doorbell. "Bobby, open up! It's me, Joe," I called out. No answer. Losing my temper, I pounded on the door. "Seriously, man, this isn't funny. Open the goddamn door!" Once again, there was no answer.
I tried the door, and to my surprise, it opened with ease. "Bobby!" I called as I flipped on the light. "Bobby, this isn't…oh my god!"
The front hall was a wreck. There were papers scattered all over the floor. The drawers from the antique chest against the wall were all pulled out, their contents spilling out, as if they'd been searched. Most people would probably be cautious enough to walk away from a robbery and call the cops, but at the time, my mind was focused on one thing and one thing only: I gotta find Bobby. Like a madman, I scrambled into the living room calling Bobby's name. I frantically searched for the light switch and flipped it on. What I saw will haunt my nightmares for the rest of my life. There was a body lying motionless in a large puddle of blood. I felt my insides freeze. The identity of the body was undeniable. Bobby…
"Hey, man. Are you okay?" Bobby asked, his voice pulling me from my thoughts.
"What?" I asked, dazed.
"I asked if you were okay," he replied. "You've been staring at the steering wheel for like three minutes."
"Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about it," I replied, smiling as I started the car and shifted the gear into reverse. "Hey, could you check my blind spot and tell m if I'm clear?"
"Yeah, sure," he replied, turning around in his seat. "Yeah, you're good."
"Cool," I said, backing out. "Thanks."
"Hold on," he said. "Stop."
"What is it?" I asked, pressing the break and turning around in my seat. "Oh, crap." Standing five feet behind the bumper was a very angry-looking Jackie Morrison, my ex-girlfriend. Her arms were crossed and she wore a scowl.
"You could always just run her down," Bobby offered. "Nope, too late, she's gone."
"No she's not," I said, as I heard the rear driver's side door open and close. "What do you want, Jackie?"
"Just drive, Joe," she ordered. "My house, please. Thank you."
With an exasperated sigh, I did exactly what she said, despite my instincts telling me to do the exact opposite.
When I pulled onto the free-way, Jackie's tight voice broke the silence. "Why did you break-up with me, Joe?" she asked.
I was about to answer, but Bobby beat me to it. "For one, you're a terrible person and unpleasant to be around. You're controlling, rude, insulting, shallow, spoilt, a cheating whore, and your voice is annoying!" he spat. "Keep talking. I could do this all day, sweetheart."
I let out a chuckle. "What Bobby said," I answered. "Where do I exit again?"
"Shallow Grave Road," she answered. "I said I was sorry, J. I don't see why you just can't let it go."
"Wow…you really are a piece of work, aren't you, Jackie?" I said tonelessly. "It's a good thing you're pretty, because you sure as hell aren't nice or smart."
"Joe…" she began.
"And just so you know, you're not worth letting it go," I sneered. "God, I really don't know what the hell I saw in you to begin with."
"I don't have to sit back here and be insulted," she huffed.
"Then by all means, open the door and get out," I retorted.
"But we're on a highway going sixty miles per hour."
"That's obviously the point, Jackie. Wow, you're stupid," Bobby scowled.
"Oh my God, was I even talking to you, Robert?" she shot back.
"Oh my God," Bobby said in a very accurate impression of Jackie's whiny tone. "Am I actually supposed to care, Jacqueline? Nobody gives a flying fuck who you were talking to, Jackie. Why don't you just go jump off a cliff or something?"
"Do I turn here, Jackie?" I asked, smirking at the furious expression on her face.
"Yeah, sure, whatever," she replied shortly.
"You know what I hate most about you, Jackie?" Bobby said. "I mean, sure, I don't like how much better you think you are than everyone else and, yeah, you're selfish and a bitch, but the worst part about it is you're not even up-front about it. You make everyone think you're Little Miss Perfect, and then you go off and stab them in the back the first chance you get. You're fake, Jackie."
"You know, Harris, maybe I'd be more hurt by your insults if they didn't come from a sad, pathetic, motherless loser like you," she sneered. "If you're so high and mighty, then why did you let her take that bullet, for you, huh?
My jaw dropped. Instinctively, my foot slammed on the brakes as I pulled the car onto the shoulder across from Revere Cemetery. There'd been fights between two people before in my car, and over time, I'd learned that pulling over and allowing the two people to fight it out was a better alternative to getting into a nasty wreck like I almost had the last time these two had fought. Even when Jackie and I were dating, these two passed the time by throwing nasty crotch-shots at each other. Honestly, the whole thing could get ridiculous at times.
You're probably wondering what Jackie meant when she talked about someone taking a bullet for Bobby. You see, one day, a couple of months after Bobby had turned thirteen, Mrs. Harris decided to drag him on what would've been a boring, harmless trip to the bank. Unfortunately, it didn't end that way. While they were waiting in line to see a teller, a rather large man walked into the store with a high powered rifle. I'll go into more detail later, but basically, Bobby was mouthing off, and the robber aimed a bullet at his head. Mrs. Harris, like any parent would, jumped in the bullet's path. She did so just in time to save Bobby from an instant death, but unfortunately, the bullet shattered her ribcage, sending small pieces of bone acting as projectiles straight into her lungs and heart. The robber panicked and ran. Eventually, he was caught, but the damage was already done; Mrs. Harris bled out on the floor before the ambulance could arrive. Bobby was devastated, but then again, I probably would've been too. To this day, he still has occasional nightmares about it.
Worriedly, I glanced over at Bobby, Jackie's insult still ringing in my ears He (understandably) looked as if he'd been slapped. The color had completely drained from his face. His fits were clenched so tightly, blood dripped from his palms. "Bobby, man, are you-?" He held up a bloody hand, effectively silencing me. The fire in his eyes betrayed his blank expression.
"No clever comebacks, Harris?" Jackie sounded smug. "I didn't think so." She let out a short, cruel laugh. "You're nothing but a worthless coward, Robert Harris. You know it, I know it, Joseph knows it…sorry to burst your bubble, but you're no better than I am."
The angry tears that formed in Bobby's eyes betrayed his expressionless mask. "You're wrong. There was nothing I could've done to prevent…what happened. I made peace with that a long time ago, Jackie," he said in a brittle voice. "Alright, Joe, we should get going, man. I don't want to be stuck in a car with this bitch any…Joe?"
I would've nodded, but of nowhere, I got this excruciating, sharp pain in my temples. I winced and let out a small cry, as I felt another presence enter my mind. "Hello, Joseph," a low, menacing voice whispered in my head, as my vision went black.
A/N: Thanks for reading, guys. If you guys like this one, leave a review. Hell, leave a review even if you hate it, that way I at least have something to go off of later on.