I remember being little, I remember being excited for anything that was happening. I remember the smell in the fall air during October, I remember the Christmas lights strung along every house on my block against the rain covered window every December.
I remember birthday parties and barbecues with family members I was told to respect. I remember a lot of good that once actually filled me with life. A bright warmth I could feel in my chest that radiated so bright that nothing cold could stay; like I was unstoppable, like nothing could go wrong.
I miss being a kid.
There was no need for you to worry, you had your friends, you had your parents, you had everything within reach. You had no worries and you felt overwhelmed with joy and safety.
I took a long breath as I sat in the dark of my room, letting the memories of when I was young to fade away until all I could see was my floor; the overwhelming feeling of no being alone grew and grew as I sat still on my bed.
She was there like every night, in her corner, twitching and writhing, staring at me like she usually did. I was too tired to care, I was exhausted from Danny, Ben, Adam, Rory…
I couldn't sleep with everything running on a loop in my mind and it's not like I wasn't tired, I was completely spent. But, my mind was working overtime with overthinking and reminding me of everything I didn't want to remember. Even if I tried to lay down, shut my eyes and try to calm my heart rate, it was impossible. I quickly came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be getting any sleep.
I didn't have a hopeful outlook after the two weeks I had. A lot had happened and I was happy to be able to at least have a night where I didn't completely check out.
A pizza dinner with the closest thing I had to family, it was much needed, but, it didn't get rid of the pain completely. As if I tripped on a wire set boobytrap, I felt the flood of emotion take me out like a freight train.
"Shit…" I muttered to myself.
I left my room, grabbed my phone and headed down to the backyard, it was where I felt the closest to peace, but still far enough to long for it. I sat down in my usual spot, blessed with a pack of cigarettes and a lighter that was left at the patio table.
My phone began to ring as I took my first drag of a cigarette, I looked to see who it was, and with the smallest hint of a smile, I answered.
"Why are you awake?" I asked quietly.
"I'm selling weed…" April whispered with a small laugh from the other line.
"That's ambitious of you, very early for an entrepreneur." I smiled, "Seriously, one of us should be able to sleep."
"What about you? Why are you still awake?" She countered.
"Well…" I had a few answers, but April started again before I could give one.
"Right…" Laughing softly. "Sorry, I'm an idiot… I'm sorry you can't sleep." April sighed. "I can't sleep because," Taking a breath before letting it out slowly.
I waited, checking my phone to make sure I hadn't lost the call.
"I feel so bad, Thomas." April sighed.
I furrowed my eyebrows, confusion grew as I wondered why she felt bad. Sympathy? In all honesty, that was one of the things I didn't want right now.
"I fucked up, I could have helped you or made this hurt less for you, or maybe saved you from all of this, but I didn't, and that's, fuck, that's so fucking stupid of me." April groaned. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, I'm sorry I let it get this far, I'm sorry you're hurt; I could have helped you, I would have helped you, the thing is that I-"
"I couldn't figure out what to do, you're my friends, and I hate being put under pressure like this or any kind of pressure; this one time in elementary school I threw up during a recital-" She continued.
"Ape!" I laughed.
"All over this boy I had a crush on, and it got all in his hair, then he started crying-" I could hear the strain to get this story out in her voice.
"April!" I laughed harder.
"Then I started crying-" She huffed.
"April!" I had to try and control my laughter. "Ape, it's… It's not fine, but, I don't hate you, I don't hold anything against you. I know about keeping secrets."
Boy, do I. Guilty, I was guilty of spilling the one secret that got my best friend's ass kicked.
"It's fine… Let's just not talk about it? I'm tired of talking about it, I just.." I sighed, defeated.
"What are you doing?" April asked with a brightness in her voice, to change the topic immediately.
That was cute.
"Smoking in the backyard. I figured I would watch the sunrise since I can't sleep. What about you?"
"I'm gonna do the same!" April laughed. "Still gonna go to school today?"
"I would rather not," Exhaling a cloud of smoke into the dark of the sky. "But, I really don't have a choice."
"You can do it," I could see April's smile. "I believe in you, you can get through anything, you've been through the worst already."
"I wouldn't bet any money on that-"
"I would." April laughed. "Oh, wow, it's cold!"
"Yeah, it's a California October, Ape." I laughed as she hissed. "It's always freezing,"
"October is never this cold in California. Stop laughing, I can hear you laughing!" April demanded. "Are Nate and Zoe picking you up?"
"I think so, I mean, I hope so." I huffed a laugh. "Why?"
"I was going to ask if you needed a ride, I mean, I wouldn't mind coming to get you." April's offered politely.
"You know what, sure. Yeah, that would be pretty cool if you came and got me. It would help Nathan out, I'll just message him." I smiled. "What time is it?"
I looked to my phone to find that it was ten minutes till six in the morning.
"Is it really almost six?" I asked rhetorically, surprised.
"Yeah, might as well get ready now." April giggled. "I'll see you in a few?"
"I'll see you in a few." I repeated with a smile.
I wasn't falling apart, but I didn't feel any better. Still, I was able to stand on my own two feet. I was nervous and it felt like it would never go away. I was worried about the rest of the week. Wondering exactly how it would play out. Would I see Rory?
Of course I will.
How will I react? What about Ben? I still wanted to hurt him, I wanted so desperately to hurt him for so many reasons. The most recent being the fact that…
Don't, don't say it, don't think it. I closed my eyes, my wrists were burning. Wait a minute…
I went back upstairs to my room and turned on my lamp. I looked around my desk to try and find my paperwork from the last time I saw Dr. Wilder; I shuddered at the memory of him, my doctor was more than likely insane. But, he was the only guy I could go to for my wrists and my sutures.
I kicked myself for letting my follow up appointment get away from me so easily. I need to find some sort of control, some kind of balance or else I'll completely lose myself.
It took a few minutes but I was able to find the appointment sheet they had given me.
"Tomorrow?" I raised my eyebrows in surprise. "Shit." I sighed.
I was going to have to find a way to Dr. Wilder's office. I would have to ditch class, but with the doctor's note, I doubt I would see any trouble.
I was wasting time and had to get ready. So, I sent a message to Nathan, telling him about April coming by to pick me up for school and then jumped in the shower. I focused on each tasks at hand. Like, turning the shower on, watching the steam form, grabbing the shampoo, rinsing, grabbing the towel, moving back to my room, grabbing clothes, etcetera.
It helped to keep my mind from wandering but, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep this up all day.
I was ready and waiting for April. I was eager and nervous, scared and confident. The mixture of emotions made my head spin a bit, but I knew I would have to face the inevitable, Eventually,I had to go to school.
The familiar volkswagen bug pulled up in front of my house, the window rolled down and the low radio was playing one of my favorite songs.
"Get in, loser. We're going to school!" April shouted. A giggle and smile on her face. "I've always wanted to say that." Looking around, proud, wondering who else caught her effort in her joke.
"Dork…" I sighed with a smile as I got into the passenger seat. "You're early."
"That's because we're getting donuts." April put the car into drive and slipped her sunglasses onl.
"Oh, good!" Laughing while the the turquoise bug took us down the hill.
Thank God for April. Not that I didn't have an amazing support team, but April didn't owe me anything. She didn't have to call to apologize, she didn't have to come and pick me up. We were friends, sure, but she was just as supportive as Nathan and Zoe; and I've known them for six, going on seven years now.
"So, what's up?" April asked nonchalantly as she continued to drive.
"Nothing, really. Just realized I have my appointment for these tomorrow." Holding up my wrist with the incriminating sutures on it. "I don't have a ride, I need to figure that out."
"Did you need a ride?" She asked.
"It's okay, I can figure something out."
"So, you need a ride." April smirked. "I don't mind ditching." She shrugged,
"It's super last minutes, I can't ask you to do this." I felt guilty for putting this responsibility on April.
"It's cool, Rory had told me something about-" April's mouth snapped shut. "... Shit." She muttered.
"What?" I asked in a breath.
April was quiet, contemplation on her face, it was the only expression she held for a minute. Before she finally broke.
"... I talked to Rory," April looked over for a second to see the look on my face. "She had wanted me to remind you about tomorrow."
It was difficult to breath, my hand tightening around the handle of April's passenger door. I did the whole routine; holding my breath and counting to five, looking out the window and focusing on what was outside. It was still there, no matter how hard I tried, the void kept growing despite how I felt or what I tried to do.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I'm really sorry." April bit down on her lip, tapping her hands along her steering wheel. "Please, say something."
Say something. I tried to pull myself out from the hole I kept trying to crawl into.
"It's fine, you're okay." I huffed. "... Why does she still give a shit? I mean… She doesn't, she never did."
"I wouldn't say that-"
"She fucked Ben!" I snapped.
April pumped the brakes slightly at her startle. Her hands wrapping around the steering wheel tighter.
"I'm sorry," I let my head fall against the passenger window. I let out a groan as I tried to recover from my outburst. "This isn't the easiest thing to deal with."
"I don't doubt that," April gave a look of encouragement, after I snapped at her, she still smiled. "Sure, it's going to be difficult, but it's not impossible."
"Sure…" I sighed.
"I still believe in you." April smiled.
I don't deserve friends. I really didn't, after everything I've done, after all the stupid I was able to pull off in the last three months, they still stuck by me.
"We've arrived!" April cheered, bringing me back from my thoughts.
April didn't question anything, she didn't bother with the comment any more. We just walked into the donut shop and went about putting together our dozen.
I went to speak, but April beat me to it, and in an extravagant way. She was speaking in Japanese. I honestly wasn't so sure, but she was speaking to the cashier like she knew them for years, and in a whole other language.
"Uh…" Was all I managed to get out.
"What would you like?" She asked as her lips formed a knowing smile. "Anything specific?"
I was dumbfounded. "Let me… Get… Uh…" Staring at April, impressed and surprised. "A chocolate bar and a chocolate milk please…" Blinking owlishly.
She turned around and added my order to the dozen, which I assumed. I was astonished, I had no idea that she knew Japanese.
"Not many people know I speak Japanese, honestly, not many people know I'm half Japanese." April shrugged. "From my mom's side. I'm twenty-five percent German and also a little bit of Spanish."
"You've got any more surprises?" I smiled, watching April tilt her head in thought.
"Maybe." Giving a wink then turned to pay for the dozen.
I grabbed the donuts and got back into the car to head to school. We were pretty early, so we stepped out and waited for Nathan and Zoe to show.
"Hey," April called. "You okay?"
I was completely checked out. Just staring into the slightly overcast clouds as they moved above us.
"Full disclosure," I sighed. "Nope." My lips popped at the end of the word.
"Is there anything I can do?" April turned herself to me.
"You're doing it," I laughed softly. "I've had more fun in the last thirty minutes than I've had in a whole week."
April leaned herself against me and all I could do was smile. I felt well enough to breath a bit easier in the parking lot, I tensed when I realized that school itself was going to be a completely different story.
"What?" April asked worriedly.
"It's just going to be a long day." I let out a shaky breath.
"Well, it's a good thing you've got us." April's arms wrapped around mine, her head looking up at me, her chin resting as much as it could on my shoulder. "You're going to be fine."
Nathan's truck zoomed into the parking lot, screeching to a halt in the spot in front of us. His face wasn't swollen, but he was sporting a black eye the size of a baseball.
"Is Nate mad?" April asked nervously, lifting her head from my arm.
"He's not happy." I answered in a breath.
"I need you to promise me something." Nathan asked the two of us as he slammed his door shut. "I need you to not stop me from beating the shit out of Bane today."
Adam Bane, the person responsible for Nathan's shiner was.
"If I can't do it, you can't either." Reaching to the top of April's car and opening the donut box to offer Nathan one, which he took immediately.
"You guys can't fight, neither of you guys can gamble college… We're this close!" April Showed an example of how close we were using her index finger and thumb. "We graduate this year, come on, he's a scumbag, sure, but is he worth being expelled for?"
Nathan and I both looked to one another, then back to April who huffed, and was visibly disappointed.
"Don't…" She sighed. "Don't answer that; it was rhetorical." Crashing her head against my arm before turning around to grab her bag from the backseat.
"Ape's got a point. "Zoe made herself known as she slid into the conversation smoothly. "Both of you, don't be idiots." Fixing her sunglasses. "Now, come on, let's get this day over with.
"Hey, man, he put me in the hospital." I offered to try and help Nathan out, but I only made my own situation worse.
I wonder at what point that night Rory and Ben fucked each other. I swallowed down the knot in my throat, I blinked to try and regain focus. It was as if my mind had a mind of its own, it didn't even sound like me. There was negativity brewing in there, and it needed me to know all the details it created.
"Hey," April called for me, but I didn't listen.
"Come on, man." Nathan sighed. "Let's get to class."
"No…" I managed to gasp quietly. "I can't go up there, I can't see either of them." I took a deep breath. "I'm not ready…"
"You've got us, Tommy." Zoe added. "We're not going to let you do this alone."
"Yeah," April breathed. "We've got your back…"
I closed my eyes and imagined a point in my life where I was truly happy; some time ago. Now was not the time, I was so far from happy.
I reluctantly gave a nod to show that I was ready to move. Opening my eyes to three of my friends waiting for me.
"Alright, let's go." I sighed.
"Fuck all these people!" Nathan announced aloud with arms spread wide once we reached the top of the stairs, just outside the auditorium.
"Fuck you, Brooks!" Someone yelled from across the way. Turned out, it was Chase Malloy.
"Fuck you, Chase! My dad's probably fucked yours!" Nathan added without skipping a beat, flipping Chase off as he continued to walk away. "See, Tommy? All you need is to not give a shit! The more you give to these people, the stronger they'll get. If it looks like you don't care, they won't bother trying to fuck with you."
"But, I do care." My voice shook slightly. April place a hand on my arm. "I care a lot, Nate."
I popped Nathan's positivity bubble instantly. I looked around at the surrounding students as my eyes began to well. Fiddling with my fingers and looking sporadically around at the people who were staring at me, or just talking; paranoia reared its ugly face.
"We've got you." Nathan confirmed with a pat to my shoulder.
"Come on, let's get us to class." Zoe pulled me by my hand towards the art building.
"I'll see you in woodshop!" Nathan barked as he walked across the quad to his first class.
Art was easy, woodshop was easy. School was bearable, I kept close to my friends and got through pretty much without any issues. Though, I was moving under the threat of a panic attack, and at any moment I could run into one of them.
Holy shit, I could feel my chest constricting.
My heart, I fucking hate it, I hate the way it's reacting, I hate how it's changed, I hate how at the thought of her name alone it began to fall apart. Who the fuck am I? Who the hell is she! I was perfectly fine before I even spoke to her. Had I known what I know now back in the nurse's office on the first day of school, I would have just left, I would have just gone home.
If I knew what I knew now back during spring. … It would be a totally different story.
I was in Mrs. Roe's class, awaiting the moment where I would be put to the test. April behind me, Nathan and Zoe to my left, and the two empty seats in front of them.
I waited for the two of them to arrive, anticipating them coming through to door and taking their seats next to each other. Anger was becoming a poor word to describe what I was feeling.
The door opened and I was unable to brace myself. Ben walked in, not looking at anyone, keeping his eyes forward and took his seat in front of Nathan. Nathan kept his eyes on Ben, leaning forward and burning a hole through the back of his head which made Ben shift uncomfortably.
Zoe reached forward and pulled Nathan back by his shoulder, my eyes still on Ben. I imagined at least seven different ways to hurt Ben within the few seconds I had before Mrs. Roe started with the lesson.
"You've got this." April whispered from behind me. Her voice was something I could focus on to keep me from leaping out of my desk and beating Ben to a pulp.
I have my friends. They are here to support me.
Unlike that piece of shit.
I focused all my attention, against my own will, on Mrs. Roe's lesson, which reminded me of all the work I still had to do. College was going to be rearing its ugly head soon and it was suggested that I write about my mother's passing.
Stop, take a breath, hold, count to five. Until I get my anxiety under control, I don't think that's going to happen.
That would be a miracle if I could manage that. Even though there was a laundry list of projects I needed to finish, it helped me focus. I took one look at Ben, seeing the seat in front of him was still empty; her seat.
Maybe I was lucky, maybe it was some form of pity God was giving me. 'You only have to suffer with one of them today, Thomas.' he would probably say.
Aw, gee, thanks! And while we're at it, thanks for the other shit you've put me through.
Lord, help me…
Regardless of my temper and my inability to keep myself controlled, no harm came to Ben Echo, and I was able to keep my eyes forward for the remainder or the class. I don't think I retained any of the lesson, but the bell rang and I couldn't wait to get out of there.
I was able to stand, April pressed her hand on my back to keep me moving. I would meet up with Nate and Zoe in the hall, we all needed to get out of there.
"Tom-" I heard Ben call me, I was about to turn before I heard Nathan's voice.
"No, you don't get to talk to him." He growled quietly. "You don't get to try and explain shit, Ben. You are no friend, there's a very special word for what you are and I'm sure you know what that is."
"Just keep walking," April whispered.
I wanted to see what was going on, I looked over my shoulder to find Nathan with his hands gripped into fists, and Ben just staring up at Nathan as he loomed over him.
Nathan pointed to Ben. "Coward." He spoke through his teeth.
"Come on, Nate." Zoe gently gripped his arm. "We don't waste time on trash."
The two of them took one last look at Ben before turning away, I kept my eyes on Ben. Though it was a gesture that made me swell with pride, that my friends were behind me and would do this for me. I still felt completely dismantled.
I took a deep breath, and released it slowly in the parking lot. We were once friends, all of us, best friends; I kept trying to figure out what happened.. I took my bag off from over my shoulder and tossed it in the back seat of April's car.
"Hey, you did great in there, man!" Nathan cheered, clapping along as he and Zoe caught up to April and I.
"I wanted to hurt him." I was staring at the pavement with wide eyes and white knuckles.
"I know, Tommy, but, it's good you didn't." April's soft voice spoke as she moved next to me. "Does it at least seem a little easier?"
"Not really." I sighed. "But, I still have one more person to run into and I'm nowhere near confident in seeing her…"
"Well, I'll have a few things to say to her, so you don't have to worry about that." Zoe put her sunglasses on. "What are we doing? I'm hungry. Wanna get some Weinerside-"
That place is dead to me now.
"Shit." Zoe muttered under her breath. "I mean, we can pick it up and head out somewhere else."
"No," I looked to my friends. "No, I just wanna go home."
They remained quiet, neither of them tried to poke around or try to convince me that going to the one place I once enjoyed would be a good idea. I would walk into Weinerside and promptly have a panic attack.
"Want us to come over?" Nathan asked.
"Maybe later?" I ran a hand through my hair. "I'm sorry, guys, I just-"
"Don't worry about it, just call us if you want to hang out or not, alright?" Zoe smiled, wrapping her arms around me in a hug.
"We're all just a phone call away," Nathan encouraged with a pat on my shoulder. "You got thim?" He asked April.
"Yeah," she answered Nathan and smiled towards me. "Come on, let's get you home."
We waved goodbye and got into April's car without a word and the two of us were quiet as the radio played lowly on the drive home.
This is fine. I felt comfortable in April's car, a moment of peace.
"I think having us over is a good idea, Thomas." April spoke up once we were parked outside my house. "It'll help you keep your mind off of things."
"Yeah, I know. It's just that right now, I don't want to worry about the mask I have to wear, I just want to… I just want to feel it all and lay in bed; as depressing as that sounds."
"No, it's okay." April smiled. "Sometimes it's good to feel sad, sometimes you need to." April reached for my hand, giving a gentle squeeze. "Just don't be sad forever."
I gentle held April's hand, closing my eyes before letting out a breath. "I'll call you when I can."
"I'll be waiting," April smiled.
I waved bye then closed the door, locking it behind me. I got to my room dropped everything, and flopped onto my bed. The cool and crisp bedding sending chills across my body, sparking and loosening my muscles. I was exhausted. The lack of sleep hit me at once as I closed my eyes, my breathing slowing and my mind finally calming to wear I could sleep.
Too bright for shadows. I better hurry up.
I was tired, I was tired for many reasons besides lack of sleep. I was tired of feeling hurt, I was tired of the giant hole in my chest and the pain that came with it. I needed to do something but, it all seemed like an uphill battle. Constantly fighting to not fall into the abyss.
Danny, and his inability of communicating or the tension that came with it, the fact that I can't let go of him leaving me with Vince and the effects it had on me and my mother. It had been three steps forward, five steps back since he picked me up from the hospital, I wondered if I would have been better off in their psych ward.
Regardless, Danny didn't seem to be in the best position to help me with had to call vince for help, that alone was a slap in the face. He was working twenty-four seven, and I made him gamble his shot at his dream job because of my own stupidity.
Ben betrayed me. I kept going over the situation in my head, I kept trying to figure out if I had any right to be mad and every time I did, I always came to the same conclusion; I sure as fuck had every right to be mad.
He did the one thing you don't do to anyone you consider a friend. I guess I was alone in thinking that he was still my best friend but, all he did was contribute to my anxiety, to my depression.
Rory… I wanted so bad to be mad at her. I would sometimes, I was able to feel true anger towards her after I thought about what happened over and over. But, like clockwork, it would go from anger to longing.
I missed her, I missed holding her, I missed looking into her eyes and watching her smile grow. For the life of me, I could not figure out why I couldn't bring myself to hate Rory fully. After all the using, the lying, the pain. I still cared about her, I still loved her.
My mother… Still, even in this moment, I couldn't think about her. I was afraid of her, I was afraid of losing the memories I had that seemed to be fleeting already. I wasn't ready when she left, I was upset, I was depressed, I was angry, I was destroyed.
I need you. I thought.
I was able to pry my eyes open with my head pressed against my pillow. I was on my side, facing the window, with my back to my door as I heard it creak open.
I rolled over to see that my door was opening, I assumed it was Danny and braced myself for the fake intrigue I was going to have ton conjure.
I was frozen, I had completely forgotten how to breath when I saw who actually walked into my room.
"Hi," Rory whispered. "This… Is definitely not how I wanted to talk," She swallowed thickly.
"Wh-What are you doing here?" I breathed. "How?" There was no time for that. I sat up on my bed. "What are you doing here?" I went back to my original question.
"I was hoping to talk to you," Her hand sliding down the side of my door. "I need to talk to you." Rory stepped in fully. "Can we talk?"
"I don't think I have anything to say to you…" I stood up nervously.
I miss you, I love you, please, can we go back to the way things were? I screamed in my head.
"I'm having a lot of trouble with you being here right now." I continued with my voice wavering and my defense crumbling.
"I need to talk, I need to tell you…" She took a breath. "I need to tell you that I know I messed up, Tommy. Please, please just listen to me." She reached for me when I turned away, and I let her touch me.
Her hand slid down my forearm and sparks ignited in my head, I could smell her perfume and the way her hair cascaded down her shoulder showed the soft, snow-white skin along her neck and down to her bare collarbone that her thin button up shirt crudely covered. She brought my hand to her exposed waist and I wasted no time sliding it up her back relishing in the softness of her skin under my fingertips.
"C'mere…" She whispered, and I followed her command.
I nuzzled my nose into the crook of her neck and knew I was a goner, I was hers for the taking. She wrapped her arms around me just as I heard her sniffled.
"I'm sorry," She pulled away, cupping my face with her hands. "I love you, I'm so sorry…"
Her lips were brought to mine and I was no longer in my room, I was up high, I was on skyline; and the view was breathtaking. It was like nothing bad had happened, we right where we left off.
You know, after she fucked Ben. My body's reaction was to recoil, but my heart continued to pine and ache for Rory.
"No." I huffed and pulled away as soon as I could.
"I know, I know, honey." Rory cooed. "I.. I made a mistake with him-"
"Please, just, stop!" I begged. "I've heard enough about you two, I really can't handle anymore."
"He was a mistake, you know how many times I mess up. I'm sorry I hurt you this bad, I just, I wasn't thinking…"
"You weren't thinking?" I asked with a laugh, she nodded. "Okay, which time?"
Her mouth snapped shut. "I deserve that…" Rory quieted, her fingers taking the hem of my shirt, rolling and tugging gently before she spoke again. "I read your letter… And I read it again, and again, and again, and I want to forget that all of that happened and I want us to start again."
I moved past Rory and went into my bathroom. I was going to need a cold shower once I managed to get her out.
I don't want her to leave.
"Look, Thomas. This is strange for me…" Rory laughed. "Okay, I don't… I've never done something like this-"
"What, apologize?" I snapped.
"You have every right to be mad at me…" Rory followed me. "But, I need you to do your best in believing me when I tell you that I'm sorry, and that I made a mistake…" She had her head down as she looked up to me through her eyelashes; biting the corner of her bottom lip.
"It should have been you," She whispered. "It would have been special…"
"I regret it, I regret it, all I wanted was you, Tommy… I still do." Her voice was soft, her hand grabbed mine and placed it onto her breast, above her heart. "You feel that?"
"Yeah," I whispered, I thought breathing was going to be an issue, but it was quite the opposite. My hand lifted from her chest and cupped the side of her cheek. "How do I know you won't hurt me again? I can't handle another drunken party outburst, or anymore secrecy, or anymore lies… You.. I don't know if I can trust you."
"I love you." Rory smiled, her arms wrapping around my neck.
I was drunk off her scent, intoxicated and lost in her eyes. I was now, more so than ever, completely lost in Rory Cohen.
"... Say it again." I demanded.
"I," Inching closer and closer until her lips pressed against mine, then she bit down teasingly on my bottom lip before giving it a gentle tug. "Love you."
II felt my heart burst, then place itself back together, I lifted her up and her legs wrapped around my waist instantly. Our lips only parted once, and that was to get both our shirts off. The steam from the hot water had filled the bathroom and I could barely see Rory, but I could feel her under my fingertips and I could hear her whimper against my ear.
"I love you…" She whispered.
Skin to skin, lips to lips, my heart was going to explode.
"It should have been you…" She cooed into another kiss.
Her hand slid down my chest and past my waist languidly.
Is this really happening? I asked myself.
"Rory…" I called out, the steam in the bathroom created a fog around us. I could see a silhouette and her crimson hair, but not much of her facial features. "Rory," I called again.
"Yes, baby?" She had her hands in my hair.
"How'd you get into the house?" I felt a shift, like being pulled out from water. "The door is locked."
I heard her giggle. "That's because you're dreaming, honey."
I opened my eyes and felt my heart racing just as it was in the dream I just had. I woke with my face to the window and my back to the door. The breeze came through my opened window with a chill.
It was darker than it was in my dream, the sun dipping into the ocean as the moon started to rise.
That's not the only thing that's rising. Oh, great.
Awkwardly, I walked to my bathroom to start that cold shower dream me had mentioned. The dream was so vivid, I guess it carried out into reality; everything carried out into reality. I had to get my blood rushing back to my brain.
When it was all said and done, I was dressed and sitting on the couch in the living room. It was dark and I feared I would see her soon.
I started to watch TV, random shows here and there. Reality television, ironically to escape my own reality when I heard a sound I hadn't heard in while; Wolf's howl. I turned the TV down completely to make sure it was Wolf and not Dude Survival In the Wild West edition.
I stood up and went to the front door, as soon as I pulled it open I was startled to see April, who was just as startled to see me open the door.
"Oh!" April giggled. "Jeez, you scared me!"
"I'm sorry," I laughed. "What are you doing here?" I took a sharp breath at her reaction. "Not that it's not nice to see you! But, I mean, I just wasn't expecting you."
"I thought I could convince you to hang out, surprise you, and give you your bag." April's smile was soft as she handed over my school bag. "You left it in my car."
"Oh, shit." I laughed.
What was the worst that could happen?
"Alright… Well, you might as well come on in since you've done be such a great service.." I moved out of the way and April walked on in. "I was going to try and eat something, or cook whatever I could find in the fridge." I gestured towards the kitchen.
"You can cook?" April asked, she winced as she stepped into the kitchen. "It doesn't look like much cooking goes on in here."
"It used to," I explained as I walked in behind April. "My older brother, Danny, he would cook all the time," I leaned against the counter, April on the other end looking around. "Grilled mostly; anyway, it stopped. I can't remember the last home made meal I had that wasn't a sandwich or eggs and bacon."
"Oh, you poor thing." April laughed. "Can't cook?" She asked with a rise of her eyebrow
I didn't bother trying to vindicate an answer, I simply shook my head 'no' and hung it low in shame.
"Well," April slipped her jacket off and hung it over one of the chairs at the island counter. "It's a good thing I showed up then." Making her way to the fridge, opening it with a content sigh. "Let's see what we've got…"
"There may not be much," I shrugged as I walked over. "We haven't gone grocery shopping in awhile."
"I can see that, but, luckily for you, I have a knack for finding nothing out of something." April pulled out a few random things, sniffing the chicken we had and shaking a jar of tomato sauce. "We are in business." Her triumphant sounding tone brought a smile to my face.
I lifted my hands up, then gestured them towards April. "By all means, this is your kitchen now."
April bit her lip as she smiled, moving along to the counter. I laughed and helped out with what I could do. I collected all the pans she would need, I grabbed any spices we had, I listened carefully as she told me what she was doing; so that 'I wouldn't starve'.
"Where'd you learn to cook?" I asked as I boiled the pasta she found somewhere in the cupboard.
I had no idea this was in there, I don't think Danny knew either.
"My dad, he would be away on Business trips and my mom would be at work all the time, so when either of them were home, they made sure I knew what I was doing." April dropped spices and seasonings in pinches as she stirred the tomato sauce with a curious look. "I liked it, to me it was fun, so when I had a handle on it, I looked up different things I could cook and tried my hand at it. When my parents were home, which was rare," She laughed, taking the spoon and sipping cautiously at the red sauce, licking her lips with a small smile before turning to me. "I cook mostly for my brother," Her eyelashes fluttering, our eyes meeting for a moment. "and now you." She smiled, carefully holding the spoon out for me.
I leaned in and sipped at the tomato sauce. My eyes popped and I too licked my lips. It packed a kick and it was dancing all over my taste buds. I'm pretty sure I felt my eyes dilate.
"Wow, Ape, that's amazing." I complimented. "How did you do that?"
"You weren't paying attention?" April furrowed her eyebrows when I shook my head no. "Jeez, what can you do?" She jokes.
"Not much," I laughed, slipping my hands into my pockets.
"That's a lie," April pointed with the designated sauce spoon. "Alright, check on the chicken and if it's ready, we can eat."
The chicken cooked very well against both of our worried assumptions. April gave me credit as far as watching the timer went.
With plates in hand, we moved to the back patio and sat down to eat. I was nervous about eating in front of April, which only reminded me of Rory.
The first time I ate in front of Rory, I refused to. On Skyline, even after the moment had become perfect, I was too nervous. I nibbled around my chili dog from Weinerside and kept coughing every time my stomach made rumbled.
"Eat." April laughed. "Come on, I want to see what you think."
"Ape, it already smells amazing." I smiled, but the look on her face was priceless. A smile threatening to break across her face, eyebrows lifted, eyes wide, she was jumping in her seat. "Alright," I laughed and took my first bite.
It should be illegal how well this girl can cook. This was a highlight in the midst of all the bad, I completely forgot about my nerves and kept on eating.
I looked like a man with nothing to lose at a buffet.
"So, you like it?" April giggled.
"Mmhmm!" I managed to get out between chews.
"Jesus," April laughed. "You need to chew, Thomas!"
It was like I had never eaten before, I scarfed it down, practically inhaled it and looked shamefully back at April.
"I'm sorry." I wiped my mouth with a paper towel. "It was really good."
"Was being the key word here," Taking a sip from her glass of water.
The night when on and we enjoyed the rest of our dinner, it was a change that I wasn't expecting and I wasn't against it. But, with my day dream still so firmly implanted in my head, I felt ashamed that I wasn't giving April my full attention.
Though my mind was elsewhere, I still managed to keep up with balancing both thinking about Rory and entertaining April.
We were back in the living room, watching Dude Survival and we were hamming it up. The show was ridiculous Watching Southern California natives trying to survive in environments that were not meant for them felt like we were Romans watching gladiators, except our gladiators were not fast, strong, and barely entertaining. Regardless, we were enjoying it greatly.
"Once you get past the 'dudes' and the 'whoas' It's almost a real TV show." I added to our already mind numbing viewing.
"I don't know, I can't get into this, Thomas." April laughed. "Everytime Skylar says Whoooaaa, my soul continues to chip away."
"Oh, God, you're right." I laughed. "Who am I kidding." I turned the TV to Toonvision.
I thought of my brother, and how I honestly hoped he succeeds in this gauntlet for his dream job, despite what we've been through, I wanted things to work out for him.
I felt April slowly slide closer to me, until we were shoulder to shoulder, her eyes lazily shut and mine becoming heavier. Her head slowly falling down to my shoulder.
She's really beautiful. The light brown in her hair appeared to be darker in the low lit living room, there was a rosy color to her cheeks; and she smelled like the fabric softener my mom used to use.
"Hey," April called before I could panic. "Do you mind if I take a fifteen minute power nap?"
I smiled at how she comfortable she was, getting cozy on my couch, leaning against me as we sunk into the cushions; April Gates was adorable, that was for sure.
I opened my mouth to answer, but felt the last twenty-four hours hit me. The lack of sleep from last night, the strange, restless nap I had earlier. April was in the same boat, she hadn't slept much either. The weight of it all finally broke crashed down on the both of us.
"Yeah, I think, I think I'll join you…" I drifted off, the last thing I remember was turning my head, and feeling April nuzzle closer to my side.
I wondered what this was, if I should look into it. I didn't have the brain capacity to deal with it. I did like April, I don't know if it was that kind of like. She was a friend, such an amazing friend who despite all of my idiotic antics, still tries to help me put myself back together; she didn't owe me a thing, and she was here beside me.
I woke up to find the TV was turned off and it was much darker in the living room than before, and I had trouble trying to make sense of that. I had a sleeping April on me as we laid crudely on the couch. The smile I had growing on my face faded at the sight of her in the corner of the living room.
"Liar." The eerie voice echoed towards me, It was Rory's voice, and it was coming from to foyer, opposite her..
I can see how she held herself, arms wrapped around her stomach, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"You liar." She repeated clearly.
. . .
The sound of hissing slowly grew as Rory walked backways into the dark of the kitchen, the hissing seemed to crawl up my spine behind me, so I turned to find the source and instead of finding April sleeping, I found myself face to face with the sharp, moistened, decaying face of the shadow.
" s, e!" It cackled.
"Shit!" I screamed, gasping for breath, gasping for air.
"What, what?!" April looked around frantically, then turning to me after surveying the living room. ".. Thomas?" She called out. "Are you okay, holy crap, you're sweating." Taking a deep breath. "Wait, here, don't move."
April was on her feet, speeding around the living room and turning on as many lamps as she could find before jumping into the kitchen.
"What the hell…" I breathed. "What was that." I asked myself through the desert that was my throat.
April returned with a glass of water in no time, sitting down next to me, her feet tucked under herself, handing me the glass which I took with gusto.
"Little sips, and deep breaths." She ordered, and I obliged. She waited patiently for me.
I looked like I had completely lost my wits, as if I was crazed. Looking from the foyer, to the corner of the living room, and then to April, who was right where she had been.
"Are you alright?" April asked after a moment, when I was able to speak.
"Yeah," I breathed.
"What happened?" She pressed, sitting on her side of the couch. "Nightmare?" She frowned when I gave a nod. "Did you want to talk about it?"
I thought about it, April wouldn't judge me, she hasn't so far, but maybe I should keep certain details out.
"I've been having these nightmares for a while, it's usually the same but this time it wasn't." I sighed. "I dunno," I stopped. Immediately becoming self-conscious. "April, you're going to think I'm crazy."
"I already think you're crazy," She smiled. "Come on, tell me, no judgement here." Raising her hand as she promised.
As nerve wracking as it was, I needed to get this out off my chest. It was becoming too much to bear and I needed to really start making strides to communicating more.
I started with a deep breath in and let it out slowly before finally speaking.
"I see my mom…" I looked to gauge April's reaction. "I mean, I think I see my mom, I can't really tell, but a part of me is so sure it's her, it terrifies me because when I see her, she's nowhere near how I remembered her."
"She's always in the darkest corner of the room when I'm home or far off into the treeline where I can barely make out the shape of her whenever I'm out around the hilltop." My voice began to shake. "I see her, and I feel her eyes on me; she writhes and twitches, this has been going on for a month now. In my dreams, she attacks me." I swallowed thickly, trying to find what I had left to keep talking. "Rory was in this one, that was a first, she was right there." I pointed my shaking hand towards to foyer. I stared at the foyer as if I stared hard enough she would appear.
"These dreams, they've become so vivid… It's hard for me to tell what's real and what's not-" I had to stop talking, my lip wouldn't stop quivering, my eyes became blurry from the tears that formed in them. "I think I'm going crazy." I sobbed, giving a laugh at the whole situation.
Against the overwhelming feeling of April up and leaving, the feeling that I felt so sure about, she instead leaned forward and wrapped her petite arms around me; to which I replied with my own wrapping around her, we held each other tightly as I continued to let out all the pressure that had built in my head.
April held me while I continued to cry, then pulled away slightly and kept a soft smile on her face.
"I get it," April tilted her head. "Well, I mean, I don't, but I understand why? It's hard for me to explain, but, Thomas, maybe you should try seeing someone?"
"That's what Mrs. Roe suggested." I laughed, wiping at my cheek. "I don't know if I want to do that, it seems so… official? Permanently crazy."
"Not crazy, so not crazy. Thomas, therapists exist to help you through the things you can't get through yourself."
I tried to argue the opposite but April wouldn't let me.
"Hey," She smiled. "It's going to be fine. We have to take leaps here and there in order to keep moving forward, if we fall, we fall. We just get back up and try another way."
Her smile was comforting, and her words were confident. I cut my losses, and decided to choose my battles. This argument was not one I would win. We sat on the couch in silence, April then leaned into me, resting her head on my shoulders.
"I do need to get home, it's midnight and my mom is probably freaking out." April's face was illuminated by the glow of her phone. "Oh, shit, yeah, about twelve missed calls worth of freaking out." She laughed.
April gathered her things and we walked out to her car. The midnight breeze brought a chill and the rustling of the palm trees helped my calm.
"What time is your appointment tomorrow?" With a tilt of her hip, she waited for my response.
"Seven-thirty." I answered. "That's a sassy pose."
"Don't be fooled," April smiled. "I'm full of anxiety like everyone else." She reached up onto her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around my neck. My arms wrapped around her waist to support her, holding her against me while she whispered. "Everything's going to be fine."
I smiled as I let her down gently. "Let me know you made it home safe-"
"No!" April giggled. "I mean, yeah, duh. Go get some sleep." Gently taking my hand to give it a squeeze.
I stayed outside until her car disappeared down the hill. The confidence that radiated off of April was contagious and I basked in it, as much as I could. Because of her, I felt determined to feel better, to be better, and to not keep everything from pushing me down.
Tomorrow was a new day, and I was determined to make it mine.
I didn't get much sleep, but I still felt energized. Today was going to be the start of something completely new, something I needed.
I'm getting my sutures taken out, and that's a big deal for me. The constant reminders are closer to being faded scars. I was happy to think about the symbolism. My wounds would finally be healing completely, and I hoped that it would be the same on the inside as it would be on the outside.
I heard the squeaking horn from outside and finished up my glass of orange juice. Picking up my walk towards April's car.
"Hey," She smiled as we embraced each other once I entered. "How'd you sleep?" April asked, pulling away to start our drive.
"It was alright," I answered sheepishly. "I'm sorry about last night."
April's eyebrows furrowed. "For what?"
"For me," I laughed darkly. "I have a lot going on and I kind of just dumped most of it on you last night. You saw me freak out completely and I know you're trying to help me and-"
"Hey," April interrupted me.
"W-What?" I asked curiously.
"Shut up." She smiled. "You are my friend," Her voice showing some of that confidence she portrayed. "I'm here for you and whatever you need."
I couldn't have thanked the universe enough for April. It was seamless and perfect. We rambled on and on about school on the way to Dr. Wilder's office.
"Oh!" April squeaked. "Shoreside Scream character auditions are today!" She smiled. "You know what that means?" Wagging her eyebrows, when I didn't answer and stared at her like a deer in headlights, she rolled her eyes and huffed. "It means," She continued. "You should audition to work it this year. It's the last day of entries, so you have to make a decision soon."
"Oh, wow. No pressure, right?" I asked sarcastically. "I don't know, Rory is supposed to be working it, she's putting it together, you know that. I don't think being around her is such a good idea."
"What if I told you that she wouldn't be working." April paused.
"What? She's always worked, I mean, she told me about you two being the Widow Sisters, why wouldn't she go back?" I was caught off guard.
It seemed like she would do this with ulterior motives, maybe trying to make me out to be the bad guy, or the charity case again.
It would make her segway back into popularity easier to have me for the sympathy vote.
"Thomas, why?" April asked. "Why does it matter? I'll tell you, it doesn't. This has been something you've wanted to do, yes?"
"Yeah…" I leaned against the passenger door.
"Why let someone dictate what you can and can't do?" April asked.
"Because she still has my heart in her cold grasp." I sighed.
"Well…" April sighed, raising her eyebrows.
"I didn't mean to say that outloud." I sunk into my seat.
"That was dark," April breathed. "Listen, at least give it a try. Nelson Lee Park is a big park, there's two zones." April appeared hesitant for a moment as we turned into the office parking lot. "She might not even be working this year, so there's that."
"I don't like that." I laughed.
"Why?" April asked.
"Because why wouldn't she work Scream, this is something she's done for three years, and suddenly she doesn't want to do it?" I rolled my eyes. "It just doesn't make sense, considering our fallout and our history, why would she not work?"
"I think you might be looking too far into things-"
"Fuck," I grumbled. "I don't know, Ape."
"It's something to think about." She encouraged. "I'll be here when you get out."
We exchanged smiles, and I went out to see my old friend Dr. Wilder. I wondered what this experience would be like. If it was anything like the last time I was here, then I should be in for a show.
And I was…
I was more afraid for my life right now than I was before I got in, I was trying to fight through the pain as Dr. Wilder continued to snip at my sutures while singing Come On Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners. I wasn't sure if he was completely giving me his full attention as he kept closing his eyes to belt out the chorus.
"I think we're done-" Dr, Wilder yelled.
"Yeah, I think so too!" I agreed the same instant he had spoke.
Dr. Wilder wrapped my arms up as he started to hum the song now.
"Looks like you're going to be okay, Mr. Wake!" Dr. Wilder cheered. "They should heal all by themselves now, just keep using that antibacterial soap for another week and you should be fine and ready to play ball!"
I grimaced, managing to form some sort of smile, but kept looking towards the door for an escape route.
"Give me a minute to get everything you'll need, I'll be back in a jiffy!" Dr. Wilder shot himself out into the hall while sat on his rolling stool, and I couldn't believe that he was actually a doctor.
I would forever hate being in here, between this and the hospital, I would gladly welcome death.
I would welcome Death for lesser. I adjusted myself on the bench, the paper underneath my weight crackling.
Like, the grim reaper?
No, Death, the horseman. I thought.
That was me, like Zoe was Famine, and Nathan was Pestilence; and Ben was War. It still rang true, even after the fallout. Ben would be War, and I would gladly bring Death onto him.
Dr. Wilder returned, I was given my instructions for treating my wounds, and laughed at how I wished they gave me the instructions for the hole in my chest.
I'm laughing, that's a good sign… right?
Immediately, once I got outside, I spotted April's car, I slowed my walk when deja vu hit and I was back to the first time I was here.
Rory was waiting for me…
She wrapped her arms around me, that's when I told her how bad I hated doctors offices and hospitals. She held me together, calmingly me and her smile brought a blush to my cheeks.
I miss her…
"Thomas!" April yelled. "Are you home?" She asked rhetorically.
"Yeah, sorry." I laughed, hopping into the passenger seat. "What's this?" I pointed to the brown bag.
"Alright, so, please, don't get mad. I didn't feel like waiting the whole time you were there and I was getting a little hungry. I remembered how much you loved Weinerside, but, do to recent events, that place is a no fly zone. Except for me! So, I went ahead and grabbed you the five chili dogs with cheese and onion." April gagged. "God, that's disgusting."
I grabbed the brown bag to find the familiar W on the other side. "What?" I laughed. "How'd you know my order?"
"I sent a message to Nathan and asked, then when he didn't answer, I called Zoe, she answered." April shrugged.
"Were you waiting for me to eat?" I asked ashamed.
"It's no big deal!" April laughed. "Come on, let's eat!"
"Holy crap, Ape, thank you!" I smiled brighter. "This is what I needed." Holding out my chili cheese hot dog. "Wait, what do you have against cheese and onion?"
"Onion!" April laughed. "It's the grossest thing!" She continued. "Your breath better not stink up my car."
I took a huge bite of my first hot dog. "And what if it does?" I challenged playfully."
April looked away, feigning a gag. "Then you're riding on the roof!" She laughed.
We both laughed all the way to school, and school was easier since we didn't have much to get through. There was no worry about my attendance since Dr. Wilder sent me away with a doctor's note. I got through to lunch quickly, and was flying high.
Metaphorically, I looked down to see how high I was exactly, and saw Mrs. Roe's class; then began my rapid descent back down. I took a long and shaky breath before I walked into the classroom and was immediately greeted by Mrs. Roe.
"Hey, so, I made some alterations to the seating arrangement. You will be sitting here."
I looked to where she pointed and noticed I was in the desk closes to the door. Away from the opposite side of the classroom. I looked to Mrs. Roe curiously.
"And we'll have Nathan here, and Zoe here," Mrs. Roe gestured to the seat behind me, and the one next to what would be Nathan's. "And Mrs. Gates will be sitting next to you."
My friends moved around me to take their seats as assigned to them. I still stood, cautiously moving to my new desk.
"Did I do something?" I asked with my first thought after Mrs. Roe finished speak being 'Of course I did something wrong.'
"No, Thomas. You're fine. Just wanted to give you some breathing room, per say." Mrs. Roe smiled softly. "I hope you don't mind me doing this."
"No, it's okay." I started.
Rory walked right past me just before the bell rang. I watched her walk to her seat, I literally watched her whole body move. The sway of her hips, the calm in her expression, the snow-white skin and her crimson hair that showed darker against her complexion as it was tied in a ponytail.
'It should have been you…' I blinked owlishly, understanding why Mrs. Roe sat me here as I remembered the dream from yesterday.
"Yeah, it's fine." I agreed with my voice a pitch higher than I had wanted it to be. My feet started to bounce off the floor immediately.
"I'm right behind you, man," Nathan whispered encouragingly. "... Literally and figuratively, right behind you."
I rolled my eyes, but it brought me out of my panicked state. Until Ben walked in; instead of anxiousness and worry, I was filled with hatred and anger. I watched him, my eyes locked on until he took his seat behind Rory. My fists tightening to the point where I could feel the light strain in both of my wrists.
"Hey, stop." April tried. "Thomas, you're wrists." She whispered.
I could see them talking to each other, I could see Rory smiling at him.
Did you think it would stop? I asked myself, the pain in my chest gave me my answer.
"She's smiling at him," I mumbled.
"Fuck her, and fuck Ben." Zoe hissed.
Well, They've fucked each other. I groaned, taking deeper breaths to keep myself in control.
"You're okay," April continued as she looked pained, visibly hurting as she looked at me.
"War, of course, he's a piece of shit mongler. Makes more sense now than when we were in Middle School." Nathan's voice was a low growl behind me.
Wait a minute.
"Good afternoon, I want to talk to you all about Shoreside Scream!" Mrs. Roe's tone lifted everyone's spirits into a roar.
I looked across the way, and through flailing arms and high fives, hoots and cheers, I could see Rory sink a bit more in her seat.
I don't like seeing her hurt…
"Pipe down!" Mrs. Roe laughed. "You all know it'll be here in a week, production has already begun at Nelson Lee Park, in the heart of our beach city!" Another round of cheers. "This weekend, for those that want to help out and volunteer, please do so, and also, I've changed it for those last minute folk," She paused to glare at most of the class. "So, tomorrow is the last day for admissions to work this season of Scream. So, if you're interested, please raise your hand-"
My arm shot up, my fingers pointed to the ceiling. The room grew quiet, no longer rambunctious or cheerful. I couldn't tell what they were going for with this silence, but I didn't let it push me away.
"Alright, Mr. Wake. Come on up and grab an admission paper." Mrs. Roe sat behind her desk.
I stood up carefully, afraid that I would slip. I looked to Mrs. Roe, knowing to focus on her, just her, get to her desk, take the paper, and head back to my desk. It was like I was walking a mile stretch amongst a firing squad, waiting for them to pull their trigger.
Rory was looking at me, I could see her in my peripherals, I had to focus since my breathing started to become sporadic. She kept her eyes on me until I got to Mrs. Roe's desk, I couldn't tell what her expression was, but she looked away once I turned my sights to her, against my initial plan.
My heart hurts.
"This is your first year, there's a lot of submissions and only a few can be picked. A lot of Seniors want to work their last year of high school. Do you think you can convince me to pick your character?" Mrs. Roe asked.
I looked back to Mrs. Roe, and took a sharp breath. "Or die trying." I smirked, and against Mrs. Roe's odd expression, I took the paper and got back into my seat.
Mrs. Roe went on with the lecture, and I looked over the admission paper.
"Holy shit, that was pretty fucking tight." Nathan whispered from behind me.
"You did it! You got up and stood in front of her, see, you can do it!" April cheered.
"I would have kneed her in the face, but that's just me." Zoe shrugged.
The rest of us slowly turned to Zoe who stared back at us, she furrowed her eyebrows and waved us away.
I was able to stand next to Rory. It hurt, it felt like I was being pulled apart, but I did it. Now, to look over this admission paper, and figure out how I was going to do what I needed to be done.
"So, what are you gonna be?" Nathan asked eagerly.
"Something." I smiled.
"Nate, let him keep a secret." April laughed.
Yeah, Nate. I took a deep breath to keep myself from being crushed by a wave of guilt; at least Nathan's eye was starting looking better.
I cleared my throat as I continued to draw around April's sketchbook, coming up with different ideas, makeup and how I wanted him to look.
We were on the patio in my backyard with the sun up high, mixing its warmth with the cool ocean breeze. I stared at April's sketchbook and groaned.
I am not an artist.
"Well, can you see what he's doing and I can't." Nathan whined.
"Oh, my God, Nathan. We'll see it next weekend. You should be worried about getting your costume together." Zoe lowered her sunglasses, taking the chopsticks in her hands and picking up a piece of broccoli.
We had stopped by a new place to go for food, since Weinerside would be out of commission until further notice, at least mentally. Zoe and April forced me to decide, to celebrate my sutures healing.
"Yeah," Nathan sighed.
"Are you not going back to Blackwater?" April stopped chewing to ask, taking the sketchbook from me and smiling at my drawings, giving me a side glance as she flipped through to a blank page.
"Nope, I'm crossing over!" Nathan smiled. "Figured I'd end where I started."
"He's going be a clown?," Zoe laughed. "Lame."
"Wasteland is where everyone is going to be, not at some stupid old western town." Nathan stared knowingly at Zoe.
Zoe rolled her eyes harder than Nathan rolled his. "Then why is it that we have more of the park to ourselves?"
"Because charity." Nathan answered.
"Dick." Zoe narrowed her eyes but still laughed. "So," She turned her attention to me." You're going to be a stupid clown too, right?"
"It doesn't look that way." April smirked as she looked over my poorly drawn drawing as reference before going back to her interpretation. "Also, I'm going to Wasteland this year too." April laughed as Nathan was already halfway to meeting her for a high five.
"What do you mean it doesn't look that way?" Zoe asked, just as interested as Nathan was. "Are you coming to the west?!"
I shrugged, but April nodded 'Yes'
"That's what I'm talking about!" Zoe cheered. "Welcome to Blackwater, bitch!"
"Whoa, whoa," I laughed. "Hang on, I still don't know if I've got in yet."
"Dude, you know Mrs. Roe is going to let you walk on as a roamer. No maze for you, man." Nathan laughed with a mouthful of noodles.
"You're disgusting." Zoe winced.
"Thank you!" Nathan cheered.
"I think I can pick up what you're putting down here." April spoke up from her sketchbook. "Like this, right?"
I turned, and in a matter of minutes April had taken what I drew and turned it into what I was looking for exactly.
I was amazed by her talent that I just stared at the concept art of the entity I was trying to create. She had done a marvelous job and I was completely shocked that she had brought my idea to life.
"April, that's amazing." I managed to say, making her blush. "That's perfect."
"Thanks," April mumbled.
"Let me see!" Nathan reached for the sketchbook.
"No!" April and I shouted.
"What the fuck, man?" Nathan pouted.
"You'll see next weekend, Nate." Laughing as I tore the page out from the sketchbook and handed it to Zoe. "Can you help me with the make up?"
"Oh, what the fuck!" Nathan barked offended.
Zoe's eyes widened and a small smile grew on her lips. "I most certainly can." She smiled brighter. "That's pretty fucking awesome."
"Hey, what the hell? I can't see it?" Nathan whined again. "That's not fair, Tom."
"You'll see it," I slipped the drawing back behind my admissions paper. "On opening night."
Everyone laughed as Nathan stuffed more food into his mouth. "Fuck you guys,"
"Oh, come on, cry baby, we've gotta get going anyway, you've got that thing with your dad." Zoe stood and grabbed her bag. "I'll come over this weekend and we can try out a few things, until then, suck it!" Zoe said goodbye, and waited for Nathan.
"Yeah," Nathan sighed as he stood up. "My dad is taking me to dinner with this guy he's been dating, I've gotta go and look presentable." Nathan gestured to himself.
"Did you ever find out how Adam knew about your dad?" April asked, looking up to Nathan as he past me.
I did, I did, I did, I did. I felt myself sink into the patio chair.
"No," Nathan sighed, wrapping an arm around April in goodbye. "But, when I do, I'm going to break their cheekbones."
Me. I sighed, smiling as best I could when I waved bye to my friends.
I needed to figure out what I was going to do about all this guilt I had. I wanted to beat the hell out of Adam, I also wanted to beat the hell out of Ben. I needed to talk to Rory, but I couldn't be near her for too long before I began to slip into the void.
What did I do? I groaned internally, holding my stomach as it began to ache.
"Hey," April's voice came out delicately. "You okay? Was it the food?" She asked, taking in my current state.
"No, just, a lot." I bit down on my lip. "Were you going to stay?"
"Yeah," April laughed. "This character is awesome, Thomas, if you can pull this off, I'm sure you'll get the Scream Idol."
"Oh, it's like, monster of the year, essentially." April smiled. "Which I'm sure a rookie like you can win with this." She held up the concept art for the character I was going to submit to Mrs. Roe and I couldn't have been happier. "I just need to work on my costume."
"Need help with that?" April shut her sketchbook. "The Groove is a nice thrift shop in downtown Shoreside, I get most of my clothes there, and I know first hand that that's where most people get their clothes; vintage being in and all. We can totally come up on what you need there." April's smile brought me a second wind. "Wanna go right now?"
"Is that okay?" I asked nervously.
"Thomas, why would I ask if it wasn't?" April laughed. She plopped her stuff on the chair, took my hand and helped me up. "Come on, I still need a few things for my costume."
Without delay, I locked up the house and we both hopped into April's car.
"Isn't Halloween fun?" April's smile grew a bit brighter as we drove down the hill and towards Downtown.
"Do you know what you're going to need?" April looked back to me as we walked into The Groove.
"I think so." I looked around the thrift shop and was impressed.
For a retail store to sell pre-owned clothes, this place seemed a bit too legit. It was wall to wall clothes and organized appropriately. I didn't know where to begin. I knew what I wanted, i just needed to start.
"You know what i think?" April asked, with an entertained smile and her arms crossed over her chest.
"What?" I looked over a couple shirts, not finding anything close to what I imagined.
"Here." April walked off with a purpose, I was on her tail trying to keep up. "These coats," She pointed to a rack to my left. "Find something in black, also, something flexible. You're going to be running around and scaring people, so be sure you pick something you'll be able to run, jump, and sweat in."
"Okay, I think I'm picking up what you're putting down." I looked through the rack, and picked a few that looked my size, but felt the closest to breathable. "Old west, right?"
"Right, mixed in with the start of the industrial revolution." April answered as she continued to look up and down the aisles. "Think steampunk."
I grabbed a few things I liked and a couple of shirts I thought would go with it. A black shirt with a ribcage covering the front and whatever else I could find in black.
April had her few items she needed, but also came up to me sporting a green track suit that was too big for her along with a caddy hat.
"What are you doing?" I smiled.
"What?" April looked at me like I had offended her. "This was only seven dollars for the pants and the jacket, I'd be crazy not to buy it!" Scoffing as she shuffled over. "What'd you get?"
"Black jeans, a couple blazers and this skeleton shirt." I showed April the pieces of my costume I found.
"Let me see…" April looked over everything. "Use this blazer, do you have a black hoodie?" She asked with a raise of her eyebrow.
I was trying not to laugh, April was trying to help me, but all she needed was a gold chain and boom box and she would be something that fell into a vat of the nineteen-eighties.
"Yep." I answered sharply.
"Use it, specially if it's just a plain black hoodie; and we're going to be using this shirt, and this blazer. Let's leave the pants, I think the skinny ones you have on now should be okay-Why are you laughing?" She giggled at my expression.
"What? Nothing, I just wanted to ask, what was it like being in Run DMC?" I blurted.
April laughed luckily, I didn't think she would take offense to what I said but it was still very relieving to know I could joke around with her in such a way.
"Maybe I'm from Queens, ya eva thought of that?" April laid on a New York accent real thick.
I was laughing, and it felt good to do that. I was feeling less anger and anxiety, and I was starting to remember what fun was.
"Oh, you need this!" She laughed, grabbing what had to have been the ugliest hat from behind her, placing it on my head. "Perfection." She winked.
"Did they wash this?" Sniffing around as the strange smell that wafted by my face.
"I mean, i doubt it." April bursted into laughter.
"Oh, God!" I screamed, ripping the hat from off my head as fast as I could. I looked to see a red faced April who was covering her mouth and looked to be dancing. "You think this is funny?"
"Yeah!" She answered immediately in a squeak.
"Oh, okay." I plopped the hat on top of her head and watched her wiggle, flail, and dance to get it off. "Oh, wow, you're right, this is funny!"
"I hate you!" April laughed as she finally grabbed the hat from above her head. "Alright, alright! Let's get our stuff and head out before you get us both kicked out of here."
"Me? You started it!" I pointed.
I haven't laughed like this in forever…
"It's so rude to point!" April grabbed my finger, looking up at me as she tried to intimidate me.
"... I am so much taller than you." I smiled.
"Yes, you are!" April laughed. Shoving me playfully as we got in line to pay.
"Hey, what are you doing?" I asked confused.
"All of this, please and thank you!" April smiled politely. She turned to me as I kept tapping her on her shoulder. "You," She beamed. "You are going to blow everyone out of the water at Scream-"
"You don't know that-"
"I do!" April grabbed the bag with all of our clothes and lead the way outside.
The busy street, the open businesses. People jogging past us or riding in the street on their bikes. The city was alive for this holiday with Halloween decorations along every shop, and orange and black streamers connecting streetlight to streetlight.
Fall was evident in the skies and in the chilling breeze, April fixed her, the pixie short hair was longer on top and blew gently around with the breeze.
She's really pretty.
"One thing though," April asked.
"Sure." I smiled, slipping into her car.
"Why Death?" April turned to me once she got in.
I looked out the window as we began to drive, pondering my response. April wouldn't judge me, I knew that, but it was still very nerve racking, to speak about why I'm doing what I'm doing.
I felt safe enough to try, so I took a breath and gave it my all, despite the pressure in my chest.
"When we were in middle school, Nate, Zoe, Ben and myself came up with these alter egos. We thought it was cool," I laughed. "We were just little kids that liked horror movies so much and everything involved with it that the idea of being the horsemen of the apocalypse was the definition of cool. So, Nate was Pestilence, because he was always sick, Zoe was Famine, because she was so thin and finished everyone's food."
I let out a breath through my nose. I started to struggle with the story, I was going to have to speak about a Ben that I once knew, someone who was now a stranger.
"Ben was War, it's why he's captain of the debate team, it's why we got out of most of the trouble we found. He had a way with words that could convince anyone to do anything," I paused, gripping the seat belt that crossed my chest.
"And I was Death… Because I couldn't keep anything alive," I laughed darkly. "A plant I was told to take care of, or an egg I had as a surrogate baby. I drowned the plant and I dropped the baby. I didn't expect things to happen the way they have…" I voice cracked, and April's hand took my instantly.
"You can stop, you don't have to keep going." April insisted.
"No, this is good…" I continued. "This is good, because this is why I'm going to be Death, because I am Death. I've seen it's face, I've felt it, and it's taken everything from me. Not just my mother, but it's taken my own life. I don't feel like I used to, I can't think like I used to, I don't love like I used to, I can't breath like I used to, and I'm sick of it changing my life." I took a breath, shaking a bit, April's hand gave mine a gentle squeeze.
"I'm tired," Sniffling. "I'm tired of it controlling me, it's holding me down and all I want is to be better, to be who I was before all of this, before all of it, before Ben, before Rory… Before my mom died."
April remained quiet, she slowed to a stop and parked outside my house. I hadn't noticed just how quick the drive was, or maybe I was talking forever, regardless, I was home.
She didn't speak a word, she just held my hand as her eyes began to glisten with tears that formed. They started to streak down her cheeks and she quickly wiped away at them.
"I want to be in control, but I'm afraid, so I need to gain control of my fear, and I'm going to start by becoming what I'm afraid of." I wiped at my own cheek as I felt the wet armth fall down to the side of my jaw. "I'm sorry," I breathed a wet laugh.
"No, it's okay." April giggled. "You're fine, and I think you're going to be a great asset to Scream this year, with a character like that, which hasn't been done before, I think you'll be able to do yourself justice."
April leaned over, wrapping her arms around me and I felt the pressure relieve itself, my chest loosening and I was able to breathe. I took in a deep breath, to fill my lungs, to stretched them and found that April smelled really good.
I couldn't explain it, I didn't know what perfume it could be, I had nothing to compare it to besides the overwhelming feeling of being home.
"I wish I would have met her, but I know for a fact that your mother is proud of you, despite everything that has happened. She is proud of you; she raised a good kid." April's smile brought new life.
"I hope so," My voice wet from the tears.
I had to get better, I felt like I owed it to my mother, my mother; not that ghost that lingers in the corners of the house. I was going to fight whatever came at me with everything I had, I was sick and tired of feeling weak and being hurt. I wanted to stand on my own two feet, I wanted to feel better.
It was going to take more than an alter ego and some words, but I was confident now, more confident than I have been since the summer.
Sometimes, that confidence falters and I almost fall back into the void. But, I was going to do everything I could to crawl out of that dark abyss and keep going.
April hadn't moved, and neither had I. We were a lot closer than we were a minute ago, a lot closer than we've ever been.
"I don't think there's a name for the color blue your eyes are." I laughed nervously.
"Oh," April blushed, then moved back to her seat. "Thank you…" She whispered,turning her head a bit to hide her blush.
"Oof." I breathed. "Oh, man." My hand shot up to grab my head.
The headache was back and pounding away as I realized I had taken the time away from it for granted. The ache wasn't what worried me, it was the burning in my wrists. I thought things would have been better, I would have started to feel better..
No, no, no… This shouldn't be happening, I thought it would leave with the sutures.
"Thomas?" April called, her cheeks losing color as I continued to groan.
"I'm okay…" I managed to get out.
"Are you sure? Did you want me to help you to the house?" April offered.
"No!" I barked. "Sorry, no, I'm okay. I'll see you at school tomorrow." I rushed out of the car without another word.
"Thomas?" April called as I closed the door.
Get to the house. Got to the house. Now get in. I fumbled with my keys, I looked behind me and saw that April hadn't left yet. Open the fucking door! I found the right key.
I walked in and slammed the door and kept taking lungfuls of air. All the confidence I had quickly diminished into nothing. I was so convinced that with the sutures out, the support I was given, all of it would make me better, it would make the hurt less; but, no, I couldn't have been more wrong.
I walked straight to the backyard, ignoring the darkness of the house around me and the shadow that peered down at me from the top of the staircase.
I went back to where we were earlier, the sun was practically down with a low golden glow across the ocean's horizon. I grabbed my smokes and immediately lit one. My hands were shaking, I gripped them together to try and get them to stop, but I kept shivering. I wasn't cold, I was afraid. I didn't want to be, I didn't want to let the fear win, but it was.
"What do I do?" I sighed out the smoke. "What do I do?" I repeated over and over until I trailed off.
My eyes were focused on the patio floor, the different stone pattern occupying my mind for a moment until I noticed April's sketchbook.
"Shit." I sighed.
I reached for the black canvas covered sketchbook, with different colors of paint dried up along the back, front, and spine.
It was luring and I tried to resist it. April was such a magnificent artist, the need to look at her art became overbearing. My fingertips went over the rough cover when a few separate pieces fell out from the notebook.
I reached down to grab them, when one opened to a picture of her brother as Iron Man. I smiled, I remembered being there the day April first showed me this sketchbook.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I grabbed the rest of the pages that had fallen out and opened the book. They were beautiful scenery drawings from school, to the Boardwalk. In the sketchbook itself were doodles and comics I found cute and were quite hilarious.
I ventured further into the sketchbook, I found drawings that I immediately assumed were not supposed to be seen. Drawings of who I could only think to be April's parents fighting, yelling, and crying. The words scribbled on the page in the comment bubbles were ones I've heard personally. Broken and heart breaking images of her little brother alone in his room, not like the one of him as his favorite superhero.
Then I found a drawing of myself and Rory, it worried me, the words accompanying the drawing more so than the drawing itself. It was just Rory and I sitting next to each other, but below it were the words.
If you only knew…
I closed the book as soon as I felt eyes on me. It was a chill up my spine that shot the hairs on the back of my neck straight up.
I stood up to take a look around only to find that there was no one, I closed the notebook and went straight up to my room. I turned on the lights and put the notebook on my desk.
Exhaustion hit and I laid down onto my bed, I was now more tired than I was terrified. I stared at the ceiling and began to wonder if I should be upset or if I should be guilty. Regardless, it wasn't long before I slipped into a deep sleep. With the worry following me and bringing me a nightmare.
Nathan and I were in the school parking lot the next morning, we were waiting on Zoe and April. Zoe decided to drive herself to school today since she had to go and pick up a few more things for her costume afterwards. April would be arriving shortly and I had her sketchbook in hand.
"April leave that over?" Nathan asked.
"What?" I looked to him suddenly. "Yeah, she forgot it in the backyard."
"Oh," Nathan lit a cigarette. "Did you look through it-"
"No!" I snapped.
"That's a yes…" Nathan huffed a laugh.
"Look, I did, but I saw some things that no one but April were probably supposed to see."
"Were there boobies?" Nathan asked immediately.
"No, there weren't boobies!" I sighed. " I checked," I took a cigarette from my own pack and lit it. "Look," I turned to the page of the drawing with Rory and I."
"Whoa," Nathan exhaled in a cloud of smoke. "That is a little weird. I mean, sort of, look, there's me and Zoe." His eyes looked to mine. "And that's Mrs. Roe. There's no reason to freak out about it."
"If you only knew?" I read the title below the drawing.
"Okay, well, you may have a point." Nathan ashed his cigarette. "Oh, look, it's April."
I snapped the sketchbook shut and forced the best smile I could put on. "Hey!"
"Hey!" April smiled at first, but then began to fall as she pulled into the parking spot next to us. "Is that my sketchbook?" Her eyes darting to the book in my hand and then to me with my nervous expression. "I thought I dropped it, did I leave it in your backyard?"
"Yeah," I laughed. "Yeah, it was in the chair you were sitting in."
"Oh, shit." April got out of the car and made her way around to me and Nathan. "You didn't look through it, did you?" She asked with a smile.
"No," Nathan laughed.
"I did." I said slowly, I couldn't lie.
April's fingers gripped the sketchbook tightly, and I let go of it like it had set fire to itself. April blinked owlishly, I just stared at her like a wide eyed cat. Her mouth moved a bit, not forming any words, her eyebrows furrowed.
"Hey, look, Zoe!" Nathan boomed. "I'm going to go make sure she hasn't killed anyone this morning." Then Nathan exited the situation.
"I'm sorry, I-" I was interrupted.
"This," April started, her chest rising and lowering with her shallow breaths. "This is private, Thomas. I thought I had lost it, I thought someone else had grabbed it."
"It's good you just left it at my place, right?" I tried to make the situation lighter, when all I did was added more weight.
"No, no, regardless. There are drawings in here that I never wanted to show anyone… It doesn't matter if it was some stranger, or you, I needed these to remain private." April's eyes started to tear up.
"I'm so sorry, Ape. I didn't know and I didn't know until I got half way through-"
She stopped me mid sentence with nothing but a look, a pained expression with sadness in her eyes as she simply stared up at me. I felt my heart twist and fall, I felt my breathing escalate.
All I could hear was the passing of cars and the jumbled words of passing students before April's voice threw me against Nathan's truck.
"If you only knew?" She asked with her eyes fixed on me, waiting for an answer. Her fingers tapping on the back of the sketchbook she now held closely to her chest.
I didn't want to speak, this had affected her a lot worse than I could have assumed. I took a breath, knowing that part of learning to fight, was owning up to my own mistakes.
"Yes," I sighed. "I saw that one… I don't know what you mean by it, but... It's okay-"
The tapping on the book stopped and April turned on her toes, heading back into her car.
"April, where are you going?" I asked, trying to get around her car to talk to her.
"I've gotta go for a bit." Her voice cracked before she closed the car door on me.
I stood at a loss for words as April drove out of the school parking lot. Soon, I heard footsteps behind me, I turned to find Nate and Zoe.
"What the hell happened?" Zoe asked, gesturing towards the light blue volkswagen bug as it turned the corner away from School.
"I think I fucked up." I breathed.
School was horrible on account that I embarrassed, hurt, pissed off, or just about made April feel all three of those emotions. I was sitting at the flagpole, I hadn't seen Rory or Ben, but with the crack in my support team, my own fuck up, I don't think it would end well if I ran into either one of them.
"Hey, come on," Nathan gave my knee a pat. "We've got Mrs. Roe's and we're done for the week."
Nathan's words got me to stand, tossing my trash away and walking behind Zoe and Nathan.
"Stop mopping." Zoe huffed.
"I can't…" I answered.
"I know." Zoe sighed, taking a step back to wrap an arm around my waist. "Almost done, Tommy."
We walked into the literature building and it no longer felt like I was walking to Mrs. Roe's class, but instead, a guillotine for my crimes.
"Hey, Thomas." April popped up from out of nowhere.
"Hey!" I sighed a breath of relief. "Oh, my God, I am so sorry."
"We can talk about that in a minute." She turned to Nate and Zoe. "You guys mind giving us a bit of alone time?"
"Are you two going to be cool?" Nathan asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes," April answered softly, smiling politely.
Nathan and Zoe walked down further towards Mrs. Roe's as I waited for my punishment. Nathan pointed to his eyes and then pointed his fingers to April and I before being pulled by Zoe.
"I'm really sorry, April." I was pleading, begging for her forgiveness. I needed April to forgive me.
"It's okay, I had a lot of time to think about it, and I should have handled this morning better. I was just caught off guard. I don't just open up to people so easily, I kind of brush people off. You, Nathan, Zoe, you guys are in the very small group of people in this school that I can stand; you more so. I appreciate you opening up to me about Death and everything, Thomas."
"It doesn't mean I should go snooping around your art when you don't want anyone to see it." I laughed quietly. "That was stupid of me."
"Yes," April giggled. "But, I need to be able to let people in, and to be able to show what's in here," Pointing to her heart. "Without freaking out… So, I apologize for my grade A panic attack, but, maybe next time, just ask?." April smiled, and I felt a bit more at ease.
"That I can do." I pointed, letting out a rushed breath in relief. "I apologize for being a jackass." I smiled.
"You're forgiven." April bit her lip and laughed softly.
Just like that, we were able to talk it out. The whole problem flushed out in front of us and we just simply talked it over; it was so damn simple, as we walked to Mrs. Roe's class, I was looking up to see if I could see the anvil hovering over my head.
"Stop it," April laughed. "You're going to run into someone-"
As if it were from her lips to the universe, Adam bane bounced me backward. My hands were balled up and my eyes were on him.
"Watch where you're going, faggot-"
"Fuck you, Adam!"
"Thomas!" April pipped. "Adam, get outta here."
"New girlfriend?" Adam's weasel like laugh echoed in my ears. "Man, you move fast."
"What are you even doing here, you don't have Mrs. Roe's class anymore." April was doing her best to move me away from Adam while glaring at him.
"Oh, 'just wanted to come by and say hi," Adam's grin looked more menacing than usual. "Loved catching up with you fucks. But, I should get going to glass."
You should be in a fucking box. I thought.
"Hey," Nathan's voice boomed as he made his way towards us. "My fist has something to say to you face."
"Fisting, Brooks?" Adam smirked. "Like father, like son, huh?"
"Yeah," Nathan looked to be ready to swing at any moment. "He mentioned he got elbow deep in your dad."
Before anything, before Adam could grab Nathan, before I could grab Adam, Mrs. Roe appeared from out of nowhere to end the situation before it became a blood bath.
"Nathan, Thomas, and April, get in my classroom, now!" She was yelling, and this was the first time either of us had heard that.
Zoe was waiting at the doorway to check on Nathan, April hooked her arm around mine to drag me into the classroom as we all obliged Mrs. Roe.
"Adam, you have five seconds to get out of the literature building before I call Principal Ope.
I heard the threat, I didn't actually see Adam leave. I sat down in my desk and tried to cool off. Both Nathan and I were fuming. I looked around, just to feel more pain, I spotted Rory.
She's looking at me. I felt my heart sink as neither of us broke eye contact until the door was slammed shut.
She looked at me...
"No more hysterics, no more nonsense. I have been very patient with most of you and it seems as if you all are taking advantage of it. I will be handing out detention slips like they were flyers like they were gum." Mrs. Roe took a breath, relaxing, then calming completely. "Alright, here we go, without any further interruption; Mr. Wake and Mr. Brooks?" She turned to Nathan and I and waited for our answer.
"No, Ma'am." Nate and I both spoke quietly with our heads down.
We behaved for the most part, Nathan was a bit more frustrated than I was and I could understand that, except the only reason Adam was a thorn in Nate's side was because of me. That balled up fist of Nathan's should have been aimed at me, not at Adam.
Aside from Rory and April, everyone else seemed to be giving Mrs. Roe their attention.
Rory would look at me from across the room, I caught this in my peripherals, so I looked over to her. She looked tired, no makeup but still beautiful, and she kept her eyes on me even though I was staring back now.
She pursed her lips, then formed a small smile. The sight made my heart flutter enough to where I became worried about the health of my heart, but the weightless feeling washed that concern away. Butterflies in my stomach, like she had looked at me for the first time.
"Are you okay?" April's voice was quiet, delicate, unsuspecting..
I was occupied with watching Rory watch me. It was like I was an exhibit, or she was trying to read my expression. After a moment, she looked down to her notebook and began to scribble away.
"Thomas?" April's was just barely past a whisper, loud enough to get my attention. "'You okay?"
"Yeah, sorry.." I breathed, turning my head towards the door.
"Don't lie," April continued, casually looking over to Mrs. Roe as she continued her lesson.
"I'll be okay." I huffed.
I gave April a smile and hoped it would be enough to convince her, it wasn't a fight or an argument, it was simple and easy after that. She relented and we continued to watch Mrs. Roe with her lesson. She eventually let up on Nate and I, but Rory kept her eyes off of me the rest of the class.
I know she was looking at me, I saw her. I'm not crazy.
I stood up to my feet when the bell rang and took out my admissions sheet for Shoreside Scream.
"Dude, you're for sure in." Nathan gave me a pat on my shoulder. "We'll meet you by the car." Nathan turned to the door, waving with a small smile to Mrs. Roe.
"Work or I'll kill you." Zoe gave me her passionate words of wisdom while slipping her sunglasses on before walking out behind Nathan.
I looked around to find Rory, which I found her talking to Mrs. Roe. She had her folder against her chest, and her arms wrapped around it. No makeup, just a natural blush to her cheeks, she looked beautiful.
Rory smiled before turning towards me, rather, towards the door and left without looking back.
She was looking at me, she was looking at me earlier.
"Alright, I'll see you outside-" April had gathered her stuff and was ready to leave.
"Ape," I called out. "Can you come with me?" I didn't want to beg, but suddenly I felt completely insecure about everything. "Please?" My voice quiet from embarrassment.
"Yeah," April smiled. "Yeah, no problem."
Together, the two of us walked up to Mrs. Roe's desk, and it was as if she was waiting for me.
"Thomas, April," She greeted. "Are you here to enter at your own risk, into the spooky show better known as Shoreside Scream?" Mrs. Roe did the best maniacal laugh I think she could muster.
I should have known from the rubber bats and the jack-o-lantern stickers on the wall that Mrs. Roe enjoyed Halloween. It was perfect, because so did we.
"Yes," I said simply. "I did what I could with the time given, I hope you enjoy it." I didn't know what else to say. I handed over the papers and watched as Mrs. Roe dissected my character.
"Oh," Was all she said. She continued, eyes going over April's sketch and my description. "Can you pull this off?" She asked.
"Yep." I smiled confidently.
Mrs. Roe took one more look over my sheet before placing it on her desk. We both stared at each other and the wait was creating a nervousness that made my toes tap against the classroom floor.
April gently placed her hand on my back and I turned to see her smile.
There goes the fear… At least for the moment.
"Alright," Mrs. Roe smiled. "You're in, you'll have to wow me opening night, but, I like it enough to give you the okay-"
"Are you serious?!" I almost jumped. "Mrs. Roe?!"
"Yes," She laughed. "Here, this is the schedule, the orientation for next week, where to park, and where to come in on opening night; now, you're going to be thrown into the deep end, are you sure you can swim?"
"Pssh…" I laughed. "Watch me."
"Alright," Mrs. Roe gave a small smile. "Welcome to Scream."
I almost leaped in the air, I would have yipped if my hands weren't covering my mouth. I felt an overwhelming sensation of joy brighten everything around me for just a moment and I relished in the fact. I didn't know exactly how bad I wanted to work Scream until now.
"April's been working Scream since she was a Freshman, I'm sure she'll have no trouble showing you the ropes." Mrs. Roe folded her hands onto her desk.
"You got it," April smiled. "Alright, come on, rookie, let's go before you blow up and get Thomas chunks on the ceiling.
I was enthused for the first time in what felt like forever, I was finally able to breach the surface and breath in the waves of depression.
"Are you happy?" April smiled.
"I'm beyond alive at the moment, yeah, I guess you could say I'm happy." I was bouncing on my toes as we walked down the hall.
"We've gotta get your character up and running, when can you meet up to work on it?" April asked, leaning against the locker next to mine.
Tonight? Tomorrow?" I looked over at April, smile and all. "April, I actually feel excited about something."
We moved got to my locker, dropped off what I needed to, and head down the hall to meet with Nathan and Zoe in the parking lot. I was up so high, I didn't care about the plummet down, I was excited for the first time.
I was so up in arms about Shoreside Scream, about being able to bring my monster to life that I hadn't noticed the commotion around us, l looked around to see everyone in the hall heading towards the eastern entrance of the building.
"Where's everyone going?" I asked, it was an odd display of students behaving like salmon.
"I don't know," April sounding just as confused as I was.
We stopped when the hallway started to bottle neck with people crowding around the wall to the stairway. On the platform, before the final steps to the second floor, I could see it as clear as day and it stopped me in my tracks.
"What the fuck!" April barked.
There were pictures of Rory, not just regular pictures, private pictures. Printouts from parties where Rory was wearing things I've only seen her wear when we were alone. I followed April as we moved through the crowd that filled the staircase until we got to the prints.
They're stuck on there. I groaned.
There was a postert the pictures surrounded, I tried my best to take as many as I could down despite the boos from the crowd behind me. But the real kicker was what was on the poster. In big bold letters:
The air was sucked out me, I looked up and down the list and tried to imagine who, or why anyone would make something like this?
Pictures of her with… others and a tally next to names which I can only gather meant how many times someone had…
"Holy shit, Derek Burke hooked up with Rory nine times?!" Someone said from behind me.
"Patrick Cortez!" Another joined in.
"Nick Wilson!" Voices began to erupt around me.
…. And it kept going…
Ten times, hand job included.
Three times, with a blow job and a facial.
Only twice, but made her come back for the second.
"... Only once but made her…" My mouth snapped shut, I was gasping for air.
I felt the heat behind my ears as my mind forced the images into my head and I almost threw up from the pain in my chest.
"Thomas," April called.
I looked up in time to see the crowd part and Rory walk up the staircase.
I saw the hurt in her eyes as they widened at the sight of the poster. From upstairs, to down, everyone's eyes were on Rory. I froze and watched her slowly walk towards the poster as everyone in attendance fell silent. I watched her lips mutter all the names on the list, all the words that came with them.
She took a step back, tears streaming down her face, her eyes wide and looking towards the crowd who stayed quiet.
I wanted to reach out, take her hand, and just leave, away from Shoreside, away from these savages.
"This is funny…" She cried out sarcastically, huffing a laugh.
"Roar," April called out, taking her hand to lead her back down the stairs. "Let's get out of here…"
"This is funny!" Rory raised her voice, angrily pulling her arm away from April with force. "This is so fucking funny. Because I've fucked everyone on this list, because you all believe that, right?!"
She was tail spinning, and I needed to help her.
"Do you... " Rory's face held a pained expression from her efforts to keep from breaking down completely.
Rory began to crumble, and watching this happen from the outside in made the hole in my chest even bigger.
"Fuck all of you!" Rory sobbed before shoving her way through the crowd on the staircase and leaving out through the doors.
The first time hearing her voice in a week, and I couldn't help but long to hear her speak again; even in these circumstances.
Before the guilt could wash over me, I turned to the poster and looked closely at it closely. The guilt quickly left and I was immediately filled with immense anger. I grabbed at the poster to tear it off when one sentence caught my eye, one more name that threw me over the line.
Echo's sloppy seconds.
"Fuck." I spoke through my teeth.
"What?" April was at my side as students got back into booing behind us.
"I know this handwriting…." I was seeing red, I was going to be a bull in a china shop if the people behind me got any louder.
April moved to my side, "What do you mean?"
"I've seen this handwriting, it's crude and barely legible. I've graded a paper like this before, in Mrs. Roe's class." I tore the poster off the wall, scratching at the bits until the majority was balled up in my hands. "Like someone was trying to make sure people could read it, but they simply have poor penmanship." I looked at April. "It's Adam Bane's handwriting."
This was a moment where some would say I had an out of body experience. I felt my legs moving, but everything else seemed to move slowly around me.
I heard the muffle voice of April trying to call me back, trying to stop me. But, all I heard were the muffled echoes of those around me, the students of Shoreside watching me as I made my way to the person that was responsible for the pain inflicted on someone I loved.
I spotted them outside the cafeteria, his goons were laughing, Adam was grinning like a hyena, like he had accomplished so much in the last five minutes. My feet kept moving, I was starting to feel different, I didn't feel like Thomas Wake. The terrifying realization that I had no clue who I was didn't even stop my movement.
I'm not who I used to be. I was hit with everything, and it all chipped me away until I was completely gone.
"Here comes Wake, probably to bitch about-"
A thousand things, a thousand faces, a thousand voices, a thousand reasons, a thousand times I felt my heart break, a thousand times I felt anger ball my hands into fists, a thousand times I wanted to die.
For Nathan, who I can never forgive myself for. For myself, who up until now couldn't find the right amount of courage to take a stand, and for Rory… Who's hurt will haunt me along with the rest of the ghosts.
I'm not going to be whoever this Thomas is anymore.
The fire in my wrists burnt my hand shut, tightly wound into a fist. I couldn't see anyone else besides Adam, he had been the source of my friends pain, my own pain; and I was sick and tired of it.
Faggot! Pussy! Freak!
From the first day of school, to what just took place five minutes ago.
HE DESERVES THIS.
I ran my fist into Adam's face, throwing the weight behind my shoulder as hard as I could.
The satisfying snap of fist to bone that came out like breaking a branch was accompanied with the slight pain in my index and middle finger in my right hand. I only felt it for a moment, I only had a moment to capitalize on Adam's fumbling.
He deserves this.
I kept bringing my fist down onto Adam's face, as if if I stopped the whole world would explode, and the last bits of it that I adored would cease to exist.
I didn't stop, even after Adam fell to the ground.I drove my knee into his side when he tried to catch my fists.
I swatted away at anyone who got too close or tired to grab me, I was watching myself act like a complete animal, fighting through the pain in my knuckles as my fist continued to become covered in a cherry red liquid, staining my skin.
"Thomas! What the fuck!"
That was Nathan. I knew he would try and stop me, I broke a promise, like I let his secret out. I shoved him away as he tried to pull me off Adam.
Then April tried as she cried out for me to stop.
None of them could stop me, and I didn't slow down, despite the wet sounds of my fists against Adam's face, or his groans of pain and feeble attempts to move out from under me.
The next pair of arms that came into my line of sight grabbed my wrist, I turned, with my fists ready to strike.
"Thomas, please, stop it!"
She flinched away from me, she showed me fear through her eyes as she looked at the scene I created.
Everyone was silent, no one seemed to have a joke, no one seemed to want to call me anynames. Instead, in their eyes, I saw it.
"Thomas Wake!" I spun around to see Principal Ope who grabbed me by the scruff of my collar, dragged me away as faculty came out, Mrs. Roe standing by a curled up Adam, and my friends looking disappointed at me. Rory, who couldn't stand to look at me, walked away.
'But, Thomas! You could risk college!"
He deserved it.