Chapter 2: The Party

Oh yeah, encase you're wondering, my name is John. Your guess toward why they picked that name for me is as good as mine. I tried to look up the name once and I guess it originated from the Bible. I do not see my parents as religious, but I think they might believe in God, at least to some extent. As for me, I am not all that sure what I believe in. It is a huge world though and I mean there has to be someone out there, doesn't there? I am not sure. I am not all that sure about much so I usually just prefer not thinking about things that I am not sure about. Yet despite that fact, my mind wanders to those kinds of thoughts the most.

It's the last day of September, before school starts and the break ends. My family doesn't go to parties often, actually most families don't even throw parties often, but I guess today is meant to be a special case, because the host Nikolas Dyer is a friend of my dad's from work.

I watch dad from the distance as he goes through stacks of CDs that he has not touched in ages. Finally, seeming a little agitated from having looked up and down the stack and not found the album he wanted, he calls my mom over.

"Jaylin, have you seen my Tease Morality album?"

Tease Morality is a local Rock band from the '80s. Despite being sort of a one hit wonder, they remained popular amongst our town, at least until any musicians were frowned upon. Now days no one is really sure what happened to the band. Do not get me wrong, before I said that most people, my dad included were against creativity, but my dad still loves the music industry. He would not be happy if my brother or I became a musician, but as long as someone he does not know or does not care about is still writing his music, then he is happy.

"I'll check my CD case." Jaylin, my mom replies.

Mom is holding my little sister, Melancholy's hand as she walks with her toward my mom's room. Melancholy's just a young, shy, nine year old girl with a life that is destined to be as tragic as her name suggests. Well, I mean Melancholy has had a pretty good life so far. Her family loves her and wants the best. I want the best for her too. But I guess it is just a feeling in my gut that her innocent lifestyle is not going to last forever. Eventually she may want something more than allowed, meaning she may find that her talent lies somewhere in a feild that hardly anyone supports like with Max and Art. My parents must have known that too. That's why they named her the way they did. It is not much, just a word, or a name spoken to a society that has just about gone deaf to the cries of people affected by it.

As my mom and Melancholy head toward my mom's room, they pass me. My mom stares at me. She seems surprised and for a moment I cannot place it.

"John, we're about to leave soon. You got to get changed." She says in her usual friendly voice, trying her best to hide some anxiety. Mom hates leaving the house late. She likes to take her time during long car rides.

I look down at my clothes and I see what she means. My blue jeans looked fine. This party was not meant to be anything too formal, but somehow I had gotten pasta sauce on my favorite white T-shirt.

"Sorry, I'll change right now." I say, rushing ahead of my mom and toward my room.

Max comes out of his room just as I pass by. He carries out an empty box of Ritz crackers and places it by the front door for someone to take out to the recycle later. I listen as he pleads with my dad to let him stay home, but of course dad will not hear it.

"Max, I've already told you no."

"Why? I won't even know anyone!"

"Come on, we don't go to parties like this often. This isn't meant to be a punishment. I just think you'll like this."

Max sighs. "I don't know ... I don't like people much."

Max heads back to his room, likely to get changed himself. My dad goes back to looking for his album. I will not say it out loud, but I kind of feel sorry for Max. He should not have to go to the party if he does not want to. But even I am kind of excited for the party. I have not been to many; actually come to think of it this may be my first party. The only other parties that I have seen are in books and movies. On Max's way back to his room he shoots me a cold look that sends shivers down my spine.

"What are you looking at?" He asks coldly.

"Nothing." I reply timidly as I head the rest of the way to my room. I try to cover up my fear and act casually, because Max has hurt me before, but I think I just make my feelings more obvious.

When I get in my room, I strip off my shirt and put on a new, clean, black one. I leave the old shirt on the ground and study myself in the mirror. I look good, but something is missing. I reach into my closet and grab something else. It is a brown, leather jacket. I slip it on, but leave it unzipped. There we go. Normally I'm sort of self-conscious, but something, maybe in the way I look or because nobody at the party will know me, I feel good and if I feel good I feel like I look good. Nothing can bring me down today, not even Max.

'Here comes John walking into the party. Behold the sexiest man alive!' I think with a laugh. If only that last part were true.

I suppose if I were to be honest with myself, I am not bad looking, but I do not quite consider myself good looking either. I am sort of just average.

I walk out of my room just as my mom and Melancholy come out of their room too. Melancholy is wearing a blue party dress. I cannot help laughing as she breaks free from my mom's hold and starts spinning around the room with a wide smile on her face. It seems so ironic just how happy someone named Melancholy is. Of course everyone, but her knows that it will never last.

"I found the CD." Mom says.

"Great!" My dad exclaims, standing up and leaving his CD collection. "Max, are you ready to leave yet?"

"One second!" The voice calls from my brother's bedroom.

"Come on Mel, let's get our shoes on." My mom says to my sister.

"Okay mom." My sister says softly with a smile. "I've never been to a real party before. I'm really excited."

"Me too." Mom says.

"I just hope Max hurries up." Mel replies.

"Max, hurry up!" Dad calls as he puts on his shoes. I also find my shoes near the door and slip them on.

"I'm coming." Max says bitterly, coming out from the room. He is dressed in all black with his hoodie up, like he usually has it. He does not look pleased.

Dad smiles. "Good, we're all here. I'm going to get the car started." Mel and I both follow dad out of the house.

Our family arrives at the party about an hour later. One by one my family gets out of the car. My mom gets out first and reaches into her purse to find the make-up mirror. As soon as my brother and sister are out I lean over briefly to look at myself in the rear-view mirror. I spend a moment adjusting my hair. No matter what I do it never quite looks right. Finally I give up and join my family who is standing by the door, waiting to be let in.

"Well no one's here." Max says. "I'm going back to the car."

Dad grabs him by the shirt collar, practically pulling Max's hoodie down. "Not so fast. We just got here."

At last a middle aged man, Nikolas, opens the door. "Cole, it's good to see you!" He says shaking my father's hand.

"Nice to see you too Nick!"

"Come on in guys." Nikolas says holding the door open and letting us in. "Nice to see you too Jaylin. Mel, is that you? I almost didn't recognize you! You're so much older now! Max my man, it's been a while! John, have you gotten taller?"

I have always liked Nikolas. He is the type of person that is hard not to like. Most adults just ignore kids like Mel or I, but not Nick. You can tell that he tries hard to make each one of us feel special. As Nick shuts the door he does not hesitate to let my dad know what he thinks.

"I know I say this all the time, but Cole, Jaylin, you've really got a wonderful family!" Nick says. "The others are downstairs. I'll join you momentarily with drinks and appetizers."

Our family heads downstairs. For a second I really wonder what we will see. I do not expect there to be a ton of people, but I am really hoping that there will be at least one other person my age. Thankfully I am in luck. I do not see a lot of guys my age, but there are a few girls, probably members of Nick's family or children of his friends.

I approach one girl that is playing Darts. She has really good aim. I notice her hit the bulls-eye with nearly every shot.

"You're really good." I say shyly.

"Thanks." She replies, not really paying me much attention.

"Can I play too?"

"Sure."

She hands me some darts and I throw, but my aim is way off. Rather than even coming close to the board, my arm slips and the dart ends up sticking into the wall.

I cringe. "Whoops, I guess I need more practice." She ignores me and continues to throw her darts. I go to retrieve my dart. Thankfully the wall already looks pretty beaten up so hopefully they will not notice. Once again, she hits nearly center every time. How is she that good? I am about to throw the rest of my darts when Nick comes down with the appetizers. A big bowl of regular potato chips and a cooler of soda is placed on a plastic foldable table.

"Are you going to get some snacks?" I ask, trying to seem friendly even though neither of us really knows each other.

"No thanks." She says casually.

"What's your name?" I ask.

"I'm Jade." She says, not taking her eye away from the game. After a moment of silence she speaks up again. "Weren't you going to get an appetizer?"

I shrug. "Yeah, I guess so ..."

I leave the dart game. Things with Jade are not really working out. I am used to it though. You would not usually know it by looking at me now, but there was a time when I was ignored by pretty much everyone. The only close friend I had was a boy by the name of Allan who ended up moving away in third grade. From fourth to sixth grade, I was completely alone, and then I met George and Aura, who are still two of my best friends now.

I reach for can of Pepsi and just sit by myself on the couch sipping from it. Max is crashed on the couch across from me, but we do not talk. To be honest, I know Max is my brother and you should not hate family, but I really do hate him. He is mean to me and everyone else. I am so sick of his smug attitude like the whole world owes him for doing nothing.

I notice a blond boy also sitting by himself. He is young, maybe even just a bit younger than Mel. He has a big box of toys out and is playing with the Pokémon ones. I cannot help smiling, because he reminds me of myself when I was that age. I find myself walking over to him, taking one of the toys from the box, and using my hands to make it walk over into his game. The kid looks up at me for a second like I am crazy.

"Um ... can I play?" I finally ask shyly.

"Sure." The kid says, seeming surprised. I wonder if anyone had ever asked him to play before.

Even though the kid agreed to let me play, he continues his game as if I never entered. To my understanding, the one pokémon toy has been fighting with the other one in his hand and it just about to knock it out in the most gruesome way imaginable. It is funny, some kids are so young, but they can be so violent in their imaginary games too. I wait a moment, unsure of what to do. When his one Pokémon toy is defeated I decide that this is my time to play.

"Oh good, you defeated him." I pretend to make my Pokémon say.

The kid pushes my hand aside. "Don't do that! Pokémon don't talk!"

I sigh and pull my hand back. I am not going to argue with a little kid, although I am not sure if I should leave either or even if I want to go back to see the girl playing darts. So much for this party, I thought it would be so much fun, but now I am not so sure.

A blond haired girl walks by and crouches down beside the boy. In one hand she is holding a piece of chocolate cake. Funny, I did not see Nick put cake out.

"Here, Uncle Nick told me to bring you this cake." The girl said.

"Cake?" The boy questions, his eyes lighting up. He drops the toys in his hands and tries to reach over the girl for the plate. "Gimme!"

"Wait, you have to say please." The girl says.

"Please." The boy says, seeming annoyed.

"Where did you get the cake?" I ask, sitting up to meet the girl's level. "I wouldn't mind a piece myself."

The girl seems surprised, almost as if she did not know I was there. "Oh, it's upstairs! My uncle hasn't put it out yet, but if you'd like I'll take you to the kitchen to see him."

I smile and then look back at the boy. He is back to playing with the toys. He will not even notice if I am gone. "Sure, that would be great." I say.

As the girl stands up I cannot help noticing her hands. There are spots of dry paint caught in between her nails. I take a second to wonder what this means, what could she be doing to get paint there and then I realize it! She is one of them; one of the few artists left! She is in support of the arts! This has to be it; there is no other clear answer!

~ phatnom130 5 (March 2013)