This story was written as an entry for A Drop of Romeo's Star-Crossed June contest, which is round 13. The photo used for this story was entitled "Subway".
Star-Cross'd Awards is the bi-annual writing contest of ADoR. There will be one from January to June, then another from July to December.
For each round, there is a set of prompts. You may choose from any prompt. For each prompt, there is one winner. Honorable mention will be awarded when there are sufficient submissions.
The requirements are:
Must be the specified story type (either multi-chaptered or one-shot)
Reference to Romeo and Juliet (this does not have to be a MAJOR reference. For example, your narrator could walk past a poster advertising a nearby showing of R&J)
Must have been written after the contest begun
The purpose of Star-Cross'd is to give you enough time to start and finish something you can edit until you're satisfied. I know that when I try writing for a prompt, I tend to not have enough time to finish my response. One month goes by like that. Star-Cross'd gives you five to six months to complete your entry.
All authors who submit their work shall receive a review from me AS LONG AS YOU FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS! The winner of each round will receive a banner.
Even Kittens Have Claws and Teeth
Every day I spend my study ninth period study hall in the school office, typing up documents, making copies, running errands, and doing whatever other tasks Ms. Hutcher, the school secretary, has for me to do. For as long as I had been in the office, there had never been any disruptions that were more than a parent yelling at the principal because their child failed P.E. or whatever other class they failed. Sure, there were the few students who were nearly on a first name basis with the principal because they were there pretty much every day, but they never fought with him. They either sulked in their chair across from the counter or they watched me as I worked.
Dallas Homer the exception. It wasn't so much that he caused a disruption for the entire office, but more like he caused a disruption for me. There was just something about him that I couldn't completely understand. He was one of those people that seemed to have walls up all around him, yet he never let on that he was intentionally keeping you out. There was only so much that Dallas was going to give you permission to know and it was going to be on his own terms and in his own territory. All you had to gain was his trust apparently. And that was hard to do. Or, at least that was what I had been told.
On the day that he first entered the office, he sat down across from where I stood sorting through absence notes. I glanced up at him and saw him studying me, a small smile playing on his face. Quickly, I looked down and tried to focus on the papers in front of me, but I couldn't help but sneak another glance at him. When I did, our eyes met and his smile grew wider. I narrowed my eyes slightly before looking back down.
I forced myself to ignore him. After all, he was just another delinquent student. He was just another one of Mr. Carson's problem students that he would turn into a project and attempt to turn them around. It never happened. Normally, the kid would pretend that he or she was doing better so that they could smuggle their drugs in under the principal's nose and sell the drugs behind the shop room during lunch. Then, they would get caught and the cycle would start all over again.
"I don't think that Mr. Carson has anyone in his office," I said finally, not looking up. "I can go and look, though, if you want me to." Now, I dared a glance up. Dallas arched an eyebrow at me, the smile gone. "That's who you're here to see, right?"
"No," he said, the smile returning. "That's not at all who I came to see." I put down the handful of absence slips I was holding and looked at him more properly. He was most likely a junior or a senior. Average height. Dark haired, blue eyed. He was definitely the kind of person that Sydney Archen would gush over.
"I see," I said finally, looking away. I could feel my face growing red.
"I'm here to see Dr. Oates," he replied. I looked up sharply. "Yeah. I'm the crazy new kid."
"I didn't say that you were crazy," I informed him as Dr. Oates emerged from the supply room behind the counter.
"You didn't have to," he replied as he stood up, putting his hands into his jean pockets. "I know what people are saying." I watched him as he greeted Dr. Oates and they walked down the hallway. Right before they were about to go into Dr. Oates's office, Dallas turned around and winked at me. At that moment, I knew that my face was tomato red. I quickly ducked my head and finished up the absence notes.
Ms. Hutcher let me leave early since I had finished up all of the tasks she'd had for me. As I sat on the curb outside the school, waiting for my brother to come and pick me up since he had a doctor's appointment that morning, I pulled out my biology book and started on the reading for the next class. The door opened behind me, but I paid no attention to who exited it. It was most likely just someone sneaking out of calculus a few minutes early
I was wrong.
The shadow of a person fell over my book and I sighed, having a fairly good idea of who it was. I looked up into those blue eyes, trying to figure out what it was that he wanted. Dallas stood in front of me with his hands in his pockets, but he wasn't looking at me. He had his head tilted to the side, staring at my biology book.
"You any good at it?" he asked after a few moments of silence. I looked at him cautiously, trying to gauge what was going on.
"I guess you could say that," I said slowly. He nodded and didn't say anything else. Was he just making small talk or was he trying to ask me something? "Why?"
He shrugged and looked at me finally. "Just curious."
"Is there a reason for your curiosity?" I questioned, tilting my head to the side. A small smirk appeared on his face.
"Is it illegal to be curious?"
"Curiosity killed the cat."
"A wise man once said, 'Curiosity is not a sin. But we should exercise caution with our curiosity'," he informed me. I arched an eyebrow. "I am curious, which is not a sin, and you are exercising caution with all of your hesitant replies. I think we're good."
"Did you really just quote Albus Dumbledore?" I asked. His smirk changed to a smile. "You're really taking advice from a fictional character."
"Another wise man said—"
"Don't quote Hagrid. Please don't quote him," I said, laughing. Dallas swept his arms out in a wide gesture.
"What is wrong with quoting the fictional characters of J.K. Rowling's creation?" he asked. "There are some really good quotes in those books."
"And they are really helping you to avoid the subject!" I said with a shake of my head.
"Right," Dallas said, nodding. "Oatie said I should stop avoiding things." The smile on my face faded. He looked at me and took a step back. "Sorry. Sometimes I forget to be crazy." I forced a small smile onto my face.
"I don't think you forget," I told him. He studied me for a few more moments before starting to walk away.
"I was just asking because I failed biology last year and I have to take it again this year," he replied as he walked away. I stood up and stuffed my book into my bag, hurrying after him.
"I know," I blurted out once I caught up to him. He turned sharply and stared at me. My chest tightened as I looked at him. His eyes seemed darker than a few moments ago.
"How?" he asked in a low voice. I swallowed hard.
"I . . . I had to put your file away and . . .," I trailed off, unable to tell him that I was curious about rather or not he really was crazy like people said he was. He looked away, giving a curt nod.
"Right," he said and then closed his eyes, shaking his head. "And what is your conclusion? Am I stupid? Crazy? Crazy and stupid? Should I be locked up in a mental hospital and never to see the sun again?"
"For the record," I whispered, "there are windows in mental hospitals." He didn't laugh. He did that weird thing where you kind of laugh, but all that happens is you blow air out of your nose. "And, I also don't think you're crazy. Or stupid, for that matter. I saw your test scores, too, when I was snooping. You are definitely not stupid. You're far from it." He nodded and kicked at a rock on the ground. "What happened, Dallas?" He looked at me finally.
"That's a story for another time," he replied with a weary smile. I nodded, adjusting my strap on my shoulder.
"I have all the time in the world," I told him. He arched an eyebrow. "I'm not going to judge you. Not until I know who you are." That smile returned to his face.
"Until you know who I am? I'm supposed to just jump on board and tell you everything about me when I don't even know your full name? I'm supposed to spill my heart out to you whenever I don't know a single thing about you except that you work in the office during ninth period and you aren't terrible at biology? No, no, no," he said, shaking his head. "That simply will not do." I crossed my arms over my chest.
"Why should I tell you everything about myself whenever I don't know if you're crazy or not? You could kill me," I said, nodding with a serious look on my face, but a smile threatened to break through.
"I could most definitely kill you, but so could any person on this earth," he replied as he pulled a set of car keys out of his pocket. "But, you don't get any answers from me until I get some from you."
"Are you asking me on a date, Dallas Homer?"
"Possibly. Are you going to accept if I do?"
"Would you meet me at the park tomorrow at eight o'clock sharp?"
"Possibly," I replied, smiling. He smiled softly back as he backed away from me.
"Then I will possibly see you there, person I do not know."
"It's Bee. Bee Lydia Carroll," I called after him.
"Pleasure to meet you, Bee!" he called back as the final bell rang for the day. I stood there, grinning like an idiot, as the parking lot was flooded with rambunctious teenagers.
I turned and walked towards the curb. My brother had pulled up sometime during my conversation with Dallas and even before I got into the car, I could see that the look on his face was not happy.
"Why were you talking to Dallas Homer?" Dylan asked me after I shut the door. I looked at him, but he didn't move a muscle.
"He was just asking if I could help him with his biology," I replied as I fastened my seat belt. I could feel Dylan still watching me.
"You told him no, right?" he asked. I looked at him and opened my mouth to speak, but decided against it. "Bee, you know what they say about him."
"I'm aware of what they say about him, Dylan. Can we go? I'm starving." He looked at me for a moment longer before sighing and putting the car into drive before he pulled away from the curb.
The next day passed in a blur. I attended my classes, socialized with my friends, took tests, took notes, ate lunch, and then repeated the process until ninth period arrived. Ms. Hutcher charged me with cleaning out the fish tank and as I did, I kept glancing towards the door, expecting Dallas to walk through, but he didn't. Cory Winkle made his monthly visit, though. He came over to where I was and sat down in the chair that wasn't full of newspapers that Ms. Hutcher was going to recycle.
Cory and I have known each other since we were in kindergarten. He was the one who put gum in my hair and I had to have it all cut off because he decided not only to put it in my hair, but to stick it as far into my hair as he possibly could. I hated him for years, but in seventh grade we'd had one of those typical on again off again junior high relationships that we thought was so important and that was so special. It wasn't and we "broke up" on the last day of school. Now, we had an on again off again friendship. Only, he was the one who decided if we were friends or if we were mortal enemies. There was no in-between.
We must have been friends the day that he came into the office and sat down next to me.
"So this is what they have you doing? Shouldn't you be studying or something?" he asked finally. I shrugged as I wiped off one of the little castles in the tank.
"As long as I keep my grades up, my parents don't care what I do during my study halls," I told him. He nodded, slouching down in the chair. "What did you do this time?"
"It honestly was not my fault this time," he replied, picking at a loose thread on his jeans. I gave him a look. "I was just defending myself!"
"From who and what?" I asked, putting a hand on my hip. He shrugged.
"Jordan Cramsbey thought that he could push me around and try to steal Rachel from me," he replied, looking up at me. "I just taught him a lesson." I rolled my eyes.
"In other words you beat him up."
I shook my head and went back to the fish tank. "And where is Jordan now? Shouldn't he be in here, too, to give his side of the story?"
Cory smirked. "Yeah, he should if he could. He's in the nurses office." I gave him a look. "Kid found he wasn't as tough as he thought he was."
"Didn't you and Rachel break up, though?"
He shrugged. "Yeah, but what's your point?"
"My point is why are you getting into a fight with someone over a girl you aren't even with?" I asked, shaking my head. He looked away.
"It's a guy thing."
"So are you," he said, looking at me lazily. "I heard about you and the freak show." I shot him a look and he held up his hands in surrender. "I'm not judging you, Bee. I'm just saying that you should be careful. It'd be a shame to see you get hurt."
"Why does everyone keep saying that? We had one conversation for crying out loud," I muttered as I scrubbed the tank with a bit too much force. Cory watched me for a moment.
"If people keep saying the same thing, don't you think you should listen?" he asked finally. I stopped scrubbing and looked at him. He wasn't joking. His face looked the most composed that I'd ever seen it.
"I'll be careful," I assured him. He nodded, but didn't say anything else until Mr. Carson called him into his office.
A park holds a lot of memories for different people and for different reasons. The merry go round was the perfect representation of my life. Every day is the same. I wake up. I get dressed. I eat. I go to school. I go home. I do my homework. I eat. I read. I go to bed and then the next day, I repeat the process once more. Just like a merry go round goes around and around and around.
That was the place I picked to wait for Dallas at. The merry go round represented, at that moment, exactly what I was doing. Sitting still, waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
I realized, while I was waiting, that it probably would have been a good idea to get a phone number from Dallas so that I would have had a way to contact him in case I needed to cancel out plans. At the time, though, I hadn't been thinking about that. I had been thinking about how I might be able to actually prove that people judge other people too harshly sometimes. Maybe Dallas had a story that wasn't one that could easily be explained. Maybe there was more to whatever happened.
I closed my eyes and rested my forehead against one of the bars of the merry go round. If people weren't so judgmental, it would make life a lot easier. There wouldn't be people bullying other people because they didn't have the right clothes or the right hair. There wouldn't be people fighting over religion, race, or who could love who. Life is hard as it is. If people would take the time to try and understand why someone is who they are instead of making up stuff, then a lot of people would be less stressed.
My eyes opened when I heard footsteps, but it was just a couple moving towards the swings. With a sigh, I pulled out my phone and checked the time. Dallas was half an hour late. I put my phone away and wrapped my arms around my stomach. I would give him an hour. If he was an hour late, then I knew that he wasn't going to show up. Maybe he never wanted to meet up with me to begin with. Maybe I had just—
The merry go round started moving, pulling me from my thoughts. A strangled sound escaped my lips as I quickly clambered to my feet and looked around for the culprit. My eyes locked onto those blue eyes and I let out a sigh of relief. It wasn't a serial killer or a rapist. It was just Dallas. And he was laughing at me.
"It's not funny," I hissed. "You're thirty minutes late, I'm cold, I'm hungry, and I'm going to go home now." His laughter faded as he moved across the merry go round to where I was.
"Don't leave. I'm sorry that I'm late. I just got held up," he said, putting his hands on the bars closes to me to steady himself. I gave him a dirty look that he could probably just make out in the faint light of the pole lights.
"I don't get any more of an explanation than that?"
He didn't speak until the merry go round had stopped moving. "It's a stupid excuse." I arched an eyebrow and crossed my arms over my chest, but I didn't say a word. He was going to have to do better than that. "I have this . . . thing that I participate in during the week. Just a little stress reliever, it's no big deal."
"Cut to the point, Dallas. I want to go home," I told him. He sighed and put his hands into his pockets, casting his gaze up to the sky before looking back at me.
"I have this group of friends that I met at one of my group therapy things," he said finally, "and we drive to New York City and we . . . we play music in the subway station until we get sick of listening to ourselves." I stared at him before I turned away, frowning.
They played music? In a New York City subway station? That sounded innocent enough, but it wasn't something that I pegged Dallas as enjoying. I bit my lip and then turned back around. He was still studying me, giving me to time to answer him.
"What instrument do you play?" I asked. He blinked and then looked away.
"I actually don't play an instrument. I take the pictures for the band's social media pages," he mumbled. I arched an eyebrow. That seemed more fitting for him than playing music.
"Okay . . .," I said slowly. He sighed.
"You don't believe me."
"Oh, I believe you like photography. I just can't picture you being involved in something like that."
"And why's that?"
"It just . . . It doesn't fit your image."
"My image as a crazy person?" he asked. I opened my mouth and then closed it, thinking about the things that Cory and my brother had said. "I'm not crazy. I thought that had already been established."
"I need proof," I told him as I crossed my arms over my chest. He looked at me and then a smile spread across his face.
"I won't show you any pictures. You have to see the real thing," he informed me, hoping off the merry go round. I waited it stopped moving before I jumped off and followed him towards the parking lot.
"I don't have any way to see the real thing," I said. He glanced at me, but kept walking.
"And why is that?"
"I don't have my driver's license."
"You don't have your driver's license."
"That's what I said."
"Well, I can't drive you. I'm a threat to others when I drive, so I'm not allowed to have passengers and I'm pretty sure you don't want to get in a car with people you don't know, am I right or am I right?"
"Okay, then I guess," he said, stopping and looking at me, "that you are just going to have to convince a family member that I am not a crazy person and that I am a sensible, well put together human being." I arched an eyebrow. "It's just a little white lie."
"All lies are bad."
"Yeah, well, this one is a lie that will enable you to broaden your experiences," he informed me. I rolled my eyes and looked away, watching a stray dog root through one of the garbage cans. "If you're embarrassed about not having a license, you can get over it. I don't have a phone because my parents think that it's a privilege that I have not earned."
"Yet they let you drive to New York by yourself?" I asked, looking at him. That didn't make any sense.
"Maybe I'm the sane one in my family," he said, waggling his eyebrows at me as he turned back towards the parking lot.
I shook my head, smiling, as I watched him cross the parking lot and climb into his car. If he was the sane person in his family, then I was very afraid to see what his family gatherings were like.
He was also very gullible. He didn't even ask how I had gotten to the park, after dark, and on a school night when I didn't have a license and there wasn't public transportation. Maybe he wasn't that gullible, though. Maybe he just hadn't thought about that. Either way, I knew that I wouldn't want to get into a moving vehicle with him.
I jogged across the parking lot and rapped on his window just as he was about to pull out of his parking spot. He looked at me with a guarded expression before he rolled down his window.
"Can I help you?"
"You didn't give me a date or a time of this concert thing that you do," I told him, wrapping my arms around myself as a cool breeze blew through the parking lot. He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.
"Right. Um, we do it whenever we feel like it, but we have plans to meet on Saturday between seven and eight at the Central Park station."
"No, in the morning because we love to wake up at five o'clock in the morning to play music. Yes, of course at night," he said, shaking his head. I pursed my lips.
"Okay. See you there, I guess." He nodded and I stepped back, watching as his taillights disappeared down the street.
On Friday afternoon, I sat on the floor outside of the boy's locker room, waiting for the soccer team to emerge. School was out for the weekend and the only people who remained were the sports teams and a handful of clubs. I had my biology notes spread out in front of me, chewing on the end of my pen as I waited. I had told my brother that I was going to catch a ride home with a friend because I had some things that I wanted to do after school, but that wasn't entirely true.
I mean, I did have something that I wanted to do at school, but it wasn't anything that had to actually do with schoolwork. It was a favor, and I wasn't sure that I would get a ride home after I asked for the favor.
The door to the locker room opened and a handful of boys spilled out, but not the one that I was waiting for. I ducked my head whenever they glanced at me and pretended to be doing my homework until the disappeared down the hall.
"Are you waiting for my step-brother?" a snotty voice asked. I looked up to see Sydney standing there, dressed in her tennis outfit with her hands on his hips. "Of course you are, why else would you be out here?" I frowned at her. What was that supposed to mean? "Tell him that he's supposed to go to his father's tonight, okay? I don't have time to play messenger."
"And why should I tell him that?" I questioned. She pursed her lips.
"Because I told you?"
"You can always text him."
"For your information, Bee, he doesn't have his phone anymore since he got into that dumb fight," she snapped before turning around and stalking off down the hall towards the gym. I rolled my eyes and shut my biology binder. It was a wonder that she even remembered to tell Cory that in the first place.
The sounds in the locker room started to decrease as more and more people left, but it was several more minutes before Cory finally came out. I scrambled to my feet when I saw him and hoisted my backpack onto my shoulder. He was already walking down the hall with music blasting through his headphones so loud that I could hear and understand the lyrics.
I jogged down the hallway and fell into step beside of him, pulling one of his ear buds out of his ear. He jumped and turned to look at me before he shook his head and took out his earbuds, the music still pouring out of them.
"Don't you know that you should run up behind people like that?" he asked. I shrugged, pulling him to a stop.
"I have a favor to ask," I said. He arched an eyebrow.
"This is a first. Usually I'm the one pulling in favors, but you never call me for them. It must either be something embarrassing or something dangerous, but I like the sound of both of those, so tell me. What can I do for the magnificent Bee?" he asked, grinning. I gave him a pointed look and crossed my arms over my chest. "Sorry, was that too much?" I nodded. He adjusted his duffel bag on his strap and nodded. "Okay, so what do you want?"
"Don't laugh and don't get angry with me, okay?" He arched an eyebrow, but stayed silent. "I need a ride to the city."
"You're not planning to run away, are you?" he asked cautiously. I sighed.
"No, Cory, I'm not planning to run away. I have to meet a . . . I have to meet someone there and I don't want to drive to the city on my own and plus I'm not really allowed to drive there on my own, anyways," I told him, wrapping my arms around my stomach.
"I don't follow."
"I told Dallas—don't give me that look—that I would go with him to see this band that he photographs perform, but he's not allowed to drive people, and since I'm not allowed to drive to the city on my own, and I really don't want to go on my own anyways in case that he does turn out to be some psychotic person, and—"
"Bee, do you want to skip all of the rambling and tell me what you want from me?" Cory asked, a sly smile playing on his lips. I looked away and studied an old class picture that hung on the wall behind him.
"I want you to drive me to the city and act as a sort of body guard," I mumbled and then looked at him. He was grinning. "Oh, stop it. You were the one who told me to be careful around him."
"Yeah, but I'm grounded," he replied. I stared at him. Right. Of course he was. "That doesn't mean I don't know how to sneak out, though."
"No, no, I don't want you to get in trouble for me. It's not worth it. I'll just find a way to tell him I can't go."
"Bee, relax. I've snuck out before." I looked at him. The grin had disappeared and now he was actually being serious.
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I am. I'm not going to let you go to the city on your own and with someone who could be dangerous," he replied. "I mean, he could also be as innocent as kitten, but even kittens have claws and teeth." A soft laugh escaped my lips.
"You have a point."
I spent the entirety of Saturday feeling on edge. My parents were out of the house, off at some sip and paint at the park and my brother was lounging on the couch in front of the television. He eyed me every time I would go in and join him, only to stand up and leave ten minutes later.
I didn't know if going to see Dallas and the band that he photographed was a good idea or not. Even though Cory would be with me, I wasn't sure if it was wise to meet up with Dallas in a place where I didn't know anyone except for the person I had brought with me. You could never be sure what was going to happen.
Look at Romeo and Juliet. They had help in their plans, but human error caused their plans to be completely messed up and they both ended up dead. People are only human and they are bound to make mistakes. What if Cory got distracted by something and, for whatever reason, I ended up alone with Dallas and he turned out to be just like everyone said he was? That he had just been biding his time until he could make a clean get away?
I knew that was all crazy, though. Cory had been one of the people to warn me about Dallas and I knew that he wouldn't get distracted, regardless of how many opportunities presented themselves for distraction. That was part of the reason I was taking him along. Even though our friendship was mostly based on his terms, I knew that I would be able to count on him to watch my back.
I started getting ready about five o'clock since we were planning to leave a little after six in order to get there by a decent hour. When I had finished, I went downstairs and stopped a few steps from the bottom. Dylan stood at the bottom of them with his arms crossed over his chest.
"What?" I asked as I walked down the rest of the stairs and past him, into the kitchen.
"Why have you been acting so jumpy today?" he questioned as he followed me. I opened the fridge and took out the container of orange juice. I gave him a look before going to get a glass.
"I haven't been jumpy," I replied. He snorted and leaned against the door frame.
"You have too. Do you have a date or something?" I shook my head as I poured the orange juice into a cup. "Okay, did you fail a test or something?"
"What is it, then?" he asked. I turned and looked at him. What was it? What was it that I could tell him? If I told him the truth, he'd never let me go, but, if I didn't tell him anything, he wouldn't let me leave the house, either. The problem was I didn't know what to say to him. I had never been a good liar.
"I have plans with Cory," I said finally. He arched an eyebrow. "But, it's not a date. We're meeting up with a group of people in the city." I turned and put the orange juice back into the fridge.
"You're going into the city? Did you ask Mom and Dad because I know that they would never let you go without one of them," he replied. Of course he would remember our parents rule from when we got our license.
"I'm not driving, though," I told him, "and that was the rule. Neither of us are allowed to drive to the city without one of them in the vehicle with us. Cory's driving." He pursed his lips and then put his hands into his pockets.
"If you get busted, I'm not taking the fall for anything," he said finally. I nodded.
"Fair enough," I replied before I took a drink of the orange juice.
Cory pulled up in front of my house a little after six. I hurried out to the car to meet him after promising Dylan that I wouldn't make him take the fall for anything and before my parents got home from their outing. Inside the car, Cory had the air turned all the way on and music blasting from the speakers. I raised an eyebrow at him as he started to pull away from my house and he just looked at me, grinning.
"How did you get out of the house with your car sounding like this?" I asked him over the music. He shrugged.
"Easy. I left while they were in town," he replied. I rolled my eyes, smiling, and turned my attention towards the window.
I was nervous about this whole thing, but I was glad that I was doing it. Maybe after tonight I would have a better image of who Dallas was and what he had become. Maybe I could also help to prove that he wasn't a bad guy after all. I just needed to be able to fully convince myself of that before I went and tried to persuade other people.
Cory and I didn't speak much during the drive. Instead, he let the music fill the car. I didn't know if he had it turned up so loud because he liked it that way or because he wasn't happy that I was doing this and he didn't want to talk to me. Or, maybe he was just in one of his moods and wasn't feeling extremely friendly that night. I didn't know what it was and I tried not to think too much into it because I knew that thinking about it too much would just cause me to jump to a bunch of scenarios that weren't even close to being the truth.
Slowly, the houses began to become more populous and the traffic started to increase as we drew nearer and nearer to New York City. Cory turned the music down, claiming he had to focus in the traffic and then started muttering under his breath about what the best course of action would be regarding the parking.
We slowly made our way through the city and eventually found a spot in a parking garage. I climbed out of the car and waited for Cory as he made sure the car was secure before we made our way down towards the subway station. My stomach was a ball of nerves, but Cory seemed to be as relaxed as ever.
"Are you sure that I'm doing the right thing?" I asked him as we waited for the crosswalk light to change. He glanced at me and then back at the light.
"I think you are because if you didn't do this, you'd regret it," he replied. "And, besides, I think everyone needs to know if they guy really is sane and if everything that's been said about him is just a crock, or if the guy really is unstable and needs to be avoided.
"What did he even do?" I asked, watching the light, too. "I mean, I know that people keep saying that he's crazy and all, but what's their evidence? What do they say his crime actually was?" He shrugged.
"It has something to do with his family, that's all I know," he replied. The light changed and we followed the mass of people across the street. I linked my arm through Cory's so that we wouldn't get separated.
"Did he do something to hurt them?" I asked when we were safely across the road and heading towards the stairs of the subway. He looked at me and then pulled me off to the side of the street, pressing ourselves as close to the buildings as we could so that we were out of the way.
"Look, I know that something happened with his dad. I don't know what, exactly, but I heard it was pretty rough and that Dallas's dad is still in the hospital recovering from it," he said. "Everyone says that it was Dallas's fault, whatever it was. That's why I didn't want you to be hanging around him. I was trying to protect you." I looked up at him and then I looked towards the street.
"Should I do this?" I asked him again.
"If you really want to know what kind of person he is, then, yes, you should do this," he told him, pulling my attention back to him. "But, if you already suspect what the answer is and you're afraid of that being confirmed, then I don't think that you should do this because you already know all of the answers."
I looked over his shoulder, watching the people. I had met Dallas one on one two times and he had never tried to do anything to hurt me. But, there was also the fact that he said his parents thought he was a liability to others when he got behind the wheel of a car and that he wasn't responsible enough to have a cell phone. I frowned, thinking about the conversations that I had had with him and what he had said.
If he was a liability to others whenever he got behind the wheel of a car, then why would his parents allow him to drive in the first place? Why would anyone allow him to drive? Who would have let someone like that get his license? No one in their right mind, that was for sure. But, what if Dallas wasn't in his right mind? What if he had made up the whole band thing as a way to get me some place with him on my own? What if he really was a liability and I had just been ignoring the signs? After all, I barely even knew him.
"I don't think I should do this," I told Cory softly. He looked at me and nodded. "I'm sorry that I made you drive here even though you're grounded."
"Don't be sorry," he replied with a slight smile. "We can still do something while we're here. Get something to eat. Look around. After all, this is the city that never sleeps." I smiled softly back at him.
"Yeah, I guess that it is."
Cory and I spent the night walking through the streets of New York, stopping at random street vendors to try on goofy hats and necklaces before moving on. We ate in a small diner that didn't have a single empty seat. We walked through Central Park and sat on a bench at the edge of the lake and visited Rat Rock. We ended the night with ice cream from a small parlor near the parking garage.
Cory kept the radio off for the ride home, but neither of us said much. There wasn't much that we hadn't already covered that night. From school to memories to politics to how people in New York could get away with so little sleep. I, for one, was glad that the car ride was silent. It was nice to not be expected to say something, to do something, to find some way to entertain the two of us during the ride.
It was almost relaxing.
I couldn't help but wonder if I had made the right decision. Yes, I knew what Cory had said to me and I knew that he had been right, but a part of me would always wonder rather or not Dallas had been telling even a smidgen of the truth. Surely, at one point, Dallas had told me something that was credible. I had to believe that. If I didn't believe that, then I didn't know what I was going to do.
For some reason, I had thought that Dallas wasn't the person that people had always said that he was. For some reason, I had thought that I would have been able to help him with his biology. That I could have spent my weekends watching the band he photographed practice. I had thought that he wasn't the person that people said he was. For some reason, I had conjured up an image of Dallas that probably wasn't even true.
But, I still couldn't help but wonder why it was that he had never done anything to me before. If he really was a dangerous person, wouldn't he have done something that would have tipped me off before the New York trip?
Maybe. Maybe not. Serial killers seem to somehow find a way to stay undercover for a decent amount of time before they are caught.
"We're to your house," Cory said softly. I pulled myself from my thoughts and looked up at the house that I had called home for my entire life.
"Thank you," I said, looking at him now, "for everything. I don't know how tonight would have gone if you hadn't went with me, but I'm glad for how it did go." From the light of a street light, I could see a soft smile on his face.
"I'm glad I went, too. Even if I might end up in trouble," he replied with a shrug. I smiled and reached for the door handle.
"I'm glad that I'm worth getting into trouble for," I told him. He laughed softly as I got out of the car. I walked towards my house and waved at him when he pulled away from the curb.
Dylan met me at the door to inform me that our parents did not come home while I was out, but he shouldn't expect him to cover for me anymore. I just laughed and pushed past him to the stairs. He would cover for me just like I would cover for him. He just had to put on his macho act.
"Did you find out what you wanted to know?" he called as I started up the stairs. I paused and turned around.
"Kind of, kind of not," I replied. He frowned.
"What does that mean?" he asked. I shrugged, running my hand over the banister.
"I'm not sure. If you figure it out, make sure to tell me," I told him. He shook his head and went back into the living room. I lingered on the stairs for a moment longer before I went up to my room.
Dallas wasn't at school the week after we were supposed to meet in New York. Where he was, I didn't know and no one else seemed to know. All I heard that week, though, was that they were glad he was finally gone. When I asked Ms. Hutcher if he was ever going to come back, she told me that something had apparently happened over the weekend and that his mother had pulled him out of school for the time being. She didn't know any more than that. I just hoped that everything was okay with him and his family.
When Cory and I got to my house on Friday, my mom had left an envelope addressed to me on the counter. As Cory raided the fridge, I opened up the envelope and pulled out the letter that was inside of it.
Since you were a no show on Saturday, I guess this is the only way that I'm going to be able to tell you. I never lied to you. I never pretended to be the person that I wasn't. There really was a band that performed in the subway station on Saturday. There really was a boy there taking photographs. That boy really was me. I understand, though, why you didn't show up, though. I mean, I am the crazy new kid that no one knows.
I want to tell you that I did not put my father in the hospital. I had nothing to do with that even though they say I did. I came home from school one day to find my dad sitting in the kitchen with my mom. Only, my dad wasn't really sitting there. When I spoke to him, he didn't respond. My mom was staring at the wall, refusing to acknowledge me or the fact that her husband was slumped over the table, unconscious.
After I called the paramedics and tried to get my dad to wake up and respond, my mom finally snapped out of whatever trance she was in. When the paramedics arrived, she said that it—whatever it was—was all my fault. See, what happens in these situations is that even though you are telling the truth, the paramedics or the police or the doctors or whoever you are pleading your case to are going to believe the adult involved in the situation. Who wants to believe the kid over the mother or the father or the grandparents?
Instead of my mother being the one to get the help she needed, I was the one who had to go through all of the psychologists, through all of the meds, the treatments, the tests, the evaluations, everything. I did it, though. There wasn't any way that I was going to get out of it because, after all, I was just a kid.
Eventually, they deemed me healthy, which I had known all along, and I was returned to the care of my mother. The thing is, Bee, life is really unfair and not everyone gets dealt a good hand in the game. I guess I was one of the unlucky people. My mother occasionally relapses into the trance state that I found her in that day. It's up to me to take care of her and if that means that I have to be called the crazy kid at school, that's something I can deal with. Even after everything I went through, she's my mom and she's sick and she needs my help. Really, she needs more help than I am able to give her, but I'm doing the best that I can and that's all that anyone can ever do.
So, I guess what I'm trying to say to you, Bee, is that I'm not a bad person. A lot of bad things have happened to me, but I myself am not a bad person. I hope that someday you are able to realize that. Really, I think that you already are aware of that, but you just have to push aside what everyone else is telling you and come to your own decisions because that's your problem, Bee. I only knew you for a short amount of time, but that much was obvious. You need to stop letting other people form your opinions, okay? Form your own opinions. Make your own decisions. It's your life, Bee. You can't let people tell you how you are supposed to live your life.
I will not be returning to school. My father passed away over the weekend and my mother and I will be going to live with my dad's sister for the time being. I will put the address in here if you ever want to contact me, which, by the way, I hope that you do. Take a chance, Bee.
I will leave you with the words of a great Hogwarts headmaster by the name of Albus Percival Brian Dumbledore: "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."
I pulled out the other item in the envelope. The photograph was what he had told me it would be. There was a band of three males, one at a drum kid, the other holding a cello, and the third holding a saxophone at the subway station of 60 Street, Broadway, and Central Park. A bag for money sat in front of the drum kit and I knew that it was Dallas's camera bag.
"What?" Cory asked, holding a sandwich in his hand. I just shook my head. What could I say? Everything that we had thought had been a lie.
"It's nothing," I replied, carefully putting the photo and the letter back into the envelope. "Things aren't always what they seem, are they?" He looked at me for a moment before he spoke.
"No, I suppose that they aren't."