DISCLAIMER: If references to any kind of mental illness/disorder triggers you in any way, I suggest you skip this one, babes. Also, this isn't meant to glamor/romanticize any kind of illness/disorder (that will become obvious), it's something loosely based on personal experiences and those of friends that I wrote a while back and edited recently to make appropriate to post on our good pal FictionPress. I hope you enjoy!

Giving birth is selfish.

I tell my mom that all the time, but when I do, she just rolls her eyes and asks me if I've taken my meds. Yes, mom, I've taken my meds. At some point. Like, a week after I got them. I've just been going with the flow since then.

I'm on medication for bipolar disorder. Not many seventeen year old boys can scribble that down on their life record, but I can. The doctors first called me crazy when I was thirteen, and it's been downhill ever since. I've swallowed every pill they've thrown my way, but after they told me I'd have to down seven every day, I just started flushing them down the toilet and telling my mom I'd taken them. I'm not going to be a robot who lives his life in a haze of pill-induced paralysis. Not me.

On the drive to my support group, which I'm forced to attend every week with a group of equally or even more crazed teenagers, I turn my head on the headrest and look at my mom. We're pretty similar in the looks department. She's tall for a lady; 5'10, which is an inch taller than me. She's got dark, curly hair and coffee brown skin, but not with milk or sugar. Black coffee. Maybe a couple Splendas.

I'm a lighter than that, by a lot. Like caramel, or coffee with six sugars and half a cup of milk, given that my mom decided to give her goods up to a white dude, and not even one of the good ones. I've got curly hair, but it's not as kinky as hers, and I kind of wish it was. It's a mix of rough and smooth; it doesn't really have an identity, and that annoys me a little. It's dark brown. Not black, dark brown. I've checked. I have brown eyes and a sort of square face, but at least it isn't round. I hate round faces. I like definition. I don't have much to brag about below my face, but I'm seventeen. I'm still growing. Maybe I'll touch somewhere above 140 pounds one day.

"When are you going to let me drive to one of these things?" I ask.

My mom sighs. "When you get your license, Levi."

"I took the test three times. I think they should give me a pity license."

She smiles, but she's got tiny little stress lines in her face that make it look fake. "That's not how the DMV works."

I cross my arms and press my feet against the floor. "It should be." We come up on the building, and my mom takes a turn into the parking lot and unlocks the door.

The support group meetings are held once a week at my high school. It's summer, so I'm more than super bummed about having to come to this pit of repression and rank reading during my vacation, but I guess anything goes to make the doctors happy.

"I'll be here when the meeting is over. Do you have your-"

"Yes, mom. In my bag." She's always wondering if I have my pills, just in case. I don't know why. I only need to take them once a day, not that I do.

"Good." She kicks our little Ford Focus into gear, then waves at me and blows me a kiss. "Love you Levi."

I give her a finger gun and a wink, and then she roars out of the lot. I don't have my pills in my bag. I never do, but she trusts me enough to not check my room. It makes me feel a little mucky on the inside, but I'm not putting those death drops down my throat. Never again.

I walk over the cracked black tar to the front entrance of the school, and I almost gag. Coming here during the summer is like buying a tank top during the winter. The two just don't mix. There are a bunch of cars parked near the front doors. A lot of the parents like to wait around and play Angry Birds behind their steering wheels until the meetings let out, which is really sad, if you ask me. I mean, I am medically sad and I don't think I'm that sad. I hopscotch my way through the clutter of minivans and sedans and cheap crossovers until I get to the front entrance. It's dark out and it's also eight PM, which means I'm late.

I shove the front doors open and walk through the halls just like I do when school's in session; quickly as hell, and like I've only got seconds to get into a classroom before a demon grabs my bag and drags me there. I get to the meeting room, 208, in thirty seconds flat, and I'm pretty proud of myself. I look in the little waffle window, and I see Andi sitting in the back, as usual. Good, I won't look like the biggest ass in the world if I come in and sit in the back.

I prop the door open, and Mr. Jacobs, the guy who runs the group, flashes his bright white smile at me.

"Levi! Glad you made it. We were just getting to sharing our week. Have a seat."

The whole room turns and faces me, and I salute.

"Continue, soldiers," I say, walking over and sitting next to Andi.

She's got on black heels, a white miniskirt, a black halter top, and a black trucker hat, and we do our trademarked, copyrighted, patented handshake as I lean back in my chair.

"Thank God," she breathes. "I thought you were going to skip."

She flips the waterfall of hair that pours from under her hat, and I can almost hear her long nails catch on some strands. Andi is my best friend in the world, or at least the part of it I've seen so far. Who knows, I could have a soul mate somewhere in Russia. She's about an inch taller than me, and she's Thai, which means she's from Thailand. She came over here for vacation three years ago, when she was fifteen, and got scouted by a model agent in New York City. She was on her way to being huge, but she passed out on the runway one night at a show because she was starving herself. As a part of getting her shit together, she has to come to these meetings, too. We've both got dark hair, but I've got more weight on me than she does. Everybody does, honestly.

"I couldn't skip even if-"

"No puns. We're getting fresh meat today."

"Fresh meat? Nobody new ever comes here."

She shrugs. "They are today."

There are only six other kids in this group, but I don't talk to them much. Daria, Alexis, Ronnie, Jacob, Alistair, and Cris. Cris bothers me because his name is spelled like his parents wanted to make fun of him, but he's suicidal, so I can't. Not that I'd want to, anyway. I'm not a bully. Who could I bully? A feather could probably hold its own with me.

The room is pretty big, but we all sit in two rows of chairs that are lined up directly behind each other. "Rows" isn't the right word, actually. The four other kids sit in front of Andi and I. Mr. Jacobs stands up in front, in front of the chalkboard. He's a tall guy who looks kind of looks like a movie star who got hooked on coke at eighteen and aged ten years between then and twenty-two. I don't know how old he is, really, but I'm sure he looks ten years older than it. Like, if he's thirty-five, he looks forty-five. He's not bad looking, though. Just... old-looking. But I can tell he's not actually old, so... old/young looking, I guess.

The room looks like a regular classroom; posters about learning and being unique on the walls, a couple globes and world maps, and a setup of four computer monitors by the far window on the left wall. It's a pretty nice room, but I'd rather be somewhere other than school, if I have to come to these meetings at all.

Mr. Jacobs rubs his leathery hands together, and smiles again. He claps. I clap. He looks at me and laughs.

"Good old Levi."

I smile back, and he looks at the whole group.

"Alright! Who wants to kick everything off and tell us about their week?"

Andi elbows me. "You go."

I scoff. "Yeah, right."

"Your weeks are always the most entertaining."

"I play video games all day in my living room."

"Okay, by entertaining, I meant normal."

Cris raises his hand. "I'll go first."

Mr. Jacobs claps again. "Awesome! Great, Cris! You come stand up here," he says, pointing at his feet and pulling Cris to his, "and I'll take your seat."

He sits down in Cris' chair, crosses one leg over the other, and Cris stands in front of us. He's kind of weird-looking, but so are most people, so I don't hold that against him. I can't tell if he's Latino or not.

"Um... today, I took my pills at noon, right after I woke up. Then, I made tacos with my dad, and we watched a NASCAR race we had saved from last Sunday."

He drones on through his week, and when he finishes, everybody claps. I clap once to show my support, but also to show that I'm super uninterested. Then, the door behind us makes a noise, and I yell.

"Intruder!"

Everyone except Andi flinches down to the ground, and I laugh so hard that a single tear comes out. Andi grips my shoulder and laughs with me. I don't know when Mr. Jacobs and everybody else gets up off the floor, but when I open my eyes, they're all turned around, sort of looking at me, sort of looking at whoever walked in. Mr. Jacobs brushes himself off and points a finger at me as he makes his way over to the door.

"We've talked about this, Levi."

We have. "I know, I know. No shouting things that could be construed as dangerous."

He snaps. "Yes. Now apply that to your memory."

I fake the motion of turning a key in my ear, then fake the motion of tossing it behind me.

"Applied."

Andi taps my shoulder with her fingertip, and I turn to her.

"Don't you want to see the fresh meat?"

I shrug. "I'll see him when he comes to sit down."

She rolls her eyes. "Just look."

I turn my head toward the back of the room, or the front, depending on how you look at it. I don't know why we don't flip the seating arrangement and use the chalkboard closest to the door, but I guess that's why I don't work in a school.

The boy is tall and blonde, and he has bright blue eyes.

"Your type," Andi whispers. "Thank me later."

I don't respond. Do I have a type? I don't have a type. What is she talking about? I've never dated a guy before, unless she's counting the one I invited over for a playdate in first grade so I could steal his crayons. And I didn't steal them, I just took them and didn't give them back.

"I don't have a type."

"I know," she whispers back. "I made one up for you."

"Oh. Thanks. I think."

Mr. Jacobs claps again, but I don't do it after him this time. Don't want to scare the new guy off.

"Alright, everyone! We have a new friend! Everyone, this is-"

"Anthem," he says. "Sorry. My therapist says I shouldn't let people talk for me."

"Oh, sure, of course! Sorry about that... Anthem, you said?"

"Yeah. Anthem."

I raise both eyebrows. Anthem, huh? I like that name.

"Cool name."

He looks at me, and smiles. Woah. Wasn't expecting that. His smile is nice. He's got nice teeth.

"Thanks."

Mr. Jacobs points at me, and Andi nudges me with her elbow, but Jacobs' voice wins the fight for my attention. I'm a more audio kind of guy. Or physical. Jacobs is standing closer to Anthem, so I pay more attention to him.

"Hey! Look at that! Fast friends. Why don't you take a seat next to Levi, Anthem? We were just in the middle of the 'Share Your Week' portion of the meeting."

Anthem nods. "Cool."

He walks with Jacobs over to me, and sits down. Jacobs keeps going and sits in Daria's seat when she gets up to start buzzing on about her week. I turn to Anthem. His fashion sense is pretty boring. A plain white t-shirt and blue jeans with the cuffs rolled up so they don't touch the tops of his white Reebok shoes. Are Reeboks back in style? Probably not. I can't judge though, because I pretty much dress the same way he does.

"Anthem?" I whisper.

He does a double take, then raises one eyebrow and leans over a little to me. "Yeah?"

"Why'd your parents name you that?"

He shrugs. "They're hippies."

"Oh. It's cool. I wish my parents named me Anthem."

He stifles a laugh, and Mr. Jacobs looks back at us for a quick second, and Anthem slowly straightens up. I hold back a laugh, just like he did.

"It's fine. He won't yell at you."

"I don't want him to think I'm an asshole," Anthem says.

"Oh. Okay."

I sit up straight and slide my eyes over to Andi. She's looking in her matte pink leather compact mirror, and she angles it toward me. She winks, then mouths a sentence to me.

"What'd he say?"

I wink back. "None of your business."

She gives me the finger, and I go back to looking straight ahead. I listen to everybody drone on about their week. Everybody has the same week, every week. This group has to have the most lifeless bunch of teens of any group of teens in the world, and I belong with them. I clap after every speech, only once. Andi doesn't get up, but I decide to. Why not? We've got a new guy, might as well assert my dominance as the public speaker of the group. Jacobs claps as I get to the front of the room.

"Awesome, Levi! Give us what you've got!"

I look out at the group, and focus on Anthem.

"This week, I decided that giving birth is selfish. I mean, just think about it. You and your boyfriend, your husband, or the guy you meet in a club and decide to screw without a condom in the handicap bathroom stall, you're both adults. You were born years ago. You've had to deal with this world for more than a decade already, possibly two or three decades. Or four, if you're a late bloomer. You know how crappy this place can be, but instead of just living your life in this pile of garbage to the best of your ability, you decide to bring someone else into it. Giving birth is the same thing as throwing a puppy in a dumpster. Imagine bringing someone into the world, only for them to develop a mental disease that makes them so unstable that they have to swallow a squad of pills every morning and turn into an emotionless robot just to barely get by. All without their permission. Kind of shitty, isn't it?"

Anthem is nodding. I smirk, and check on the rest of the class. They all look like I just punched them in the face. Andi is laughing so hard, no sound is coming out. I think she's crying a little.

"Also, Campaign mode on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is not something you should take lightly. I've been stuck in the office scene for, like, two days. That's all. Thanks."

I go back to my seat, and Jacobs claps, smaller and quieter than he did before.

"Well... thank you for that, Levi. Now, we'll have our Chat N' Chew. Everyone's welcome to break out any snacks they brought and go around to socialize with your friends. Anthem, this is one of the most important parts of the meetings. It allows you to really get to know your group mates."

He claps again, and all the kids in the front row hoist out their lunch boxes. Andi and I usually walk out to the snack machine in front of the gym at this point, but I turn to Anthem at the same time he turns to me.

"Do you want to come-"

"I liked your spee-"

We speak at the same time, and we both stop.

"You liked the speech?"

He nods. "Yeah. You were telling the truth. My parents are always giving me bullshit like 'life's a gift, accept it graciously'. It's easy for them. They don't have to take pills to feel normal."

"Yeah. I get it. Even though I don't take my pills."

He tilts his head to the side. "Really?"

"Nope. Stopped the week after I got them. They make me feeling like I'm drowning. Like, they make me feel worse than I do without the pills, so I just take the risk of going without them."

He nods. "That's badass."

"It is?"

"Yeah. Totally."

I twitch my lips so I don't smile, and look back at Andi. She flips her hair as she stands up and starts walking to the door. I jerk my thumb at her.

"Do you want to come to the snack machine with us?"

"Sure."

We both get up and walk over to Andi at the door, and she sticks out her hand.

"I'm Andi Aromdee. Nice to meet you."

He shakes her hand, then squints. "I recognize you."

She flips her hair. "Really?"

"Yeah, my mom works in fashion. You..." He puts his hands in his pockets. "Sorry."

She rolls her eyes and flips her hand dismissively. "I passed out on a runway. I didn't die. Come on."

We walk out into the hallway, and my sneakers squeak every time I step. I wish they'd relax. What kind of broken-in sneakers squeak on the floor? And I know it's dirty, there's no way they pay a janitor to come in here and clean every tile over the summer.

"Sorry about the squeaking."

Anthem laughs. "What?"

Wasn't expecting that. "It doesn't annoy you?"

"Not really, no."

I look over at Andi, and she gives me that look. That look. The one that says 'Told you, loser.' I don't know why, though. I like Anthem. He's going to be cool to hang around at the meetings, but why does she think something bigger about it? He's good-looking, but Andi and I have met good-looking people before. Why does she think Anthem's different?

We get to the snack machine, and Andi buys a bag of Doritos. I leap back and jerk my finger at them like they're poisonous.

"Fattening!"

She lifts her hand like she's going to slap me, and laughs. Anthem buys a bag of pretzels, and I get a Mountain Dew. I'm not really hungry. Anthem leans against the machine, and I sit on the windowsill across from him. Andi stands in the center of us, but not so we can't see each other, duh. She's trying to egg this on.

"So, Anthem. Where are you from?"

"New York. You guys?"

"I'm from Thailand," she says.

"Overbrook," I respond. Mine is boring, but it's the closest, so I win. Overbrook is where we live. Overbrook, Michigan. This is Overbrook High School. I win again, for knowing my geography.

He nods. "Thailand, huh?"

"The one and only. I like being here, though. Living on my own is pretty cool."

"You live by yourself?"

"Pretty much. I have three roommates, but they're not my parents."

He nods again. "What about you, Levi?"

"What about me?"

He laughs. "Do you live by yourself?"

"Nope. My mom pays the bills."

"Cool. Just mom?"

"Yup. My one and only."

He nods, and bites a pretzel. He offers the bag to me.

"Want one?"

"I don't want to put my hand in your bag."

He shrugs. "I don't mind."

I take one out and crunch into it. It's way too salty, and sipping the Mountain Dew doesn't help at all. Mountain Dew isn't Dew, it's, like, Mountain Gasoline, or Mountain Battery Acid.

After a few minutes, he rolls up the pretzel bag and throws it in the trash.

"Is there a bathroom anywhere around here?"

I point down the hallway at the locker rooms.

"They're in the locker rooms. The boys' one is all the way down at the far end, but you can use the girls'. Nobody's here."

He nods. "Thanks."

He walks past the girls' locker room and starts toward the boys', and I turn to Andi.

"Are Reeboks back in style? He has Reeboks on. Should I get Reeboks?"

She nods, and takes a teeny bite out of the Dorito in her fingers. "Yep."


The meeting ends, and we all walk out the front entrance into the parking lot. Anthem, Andi and I are the first ones out, and Anthem keeps walking out into the lot.

"Hey!" I shout. "Are you walking home?"

He stops and turns around. "I drive."

"Oh. Cool."

The rest of the group all walk out to their sad mothers and fathers waiting in their minivans and other assorted family transportation devices. They make gross humming noises as they pull away. The sounds minivans make remind me of what I think dying whales sound like. Andi nudges me with her elbow.

"Ask him for a ride."

"Yeah, right. I barely know him."

"So? Take a risk."

"I bet you he won't give me one."

She bumps her fist with mine. "You're on."

I take a deep breath and groan. She really wants me to embarrass myself. Awesome.

"Hey! Anthem!"

He's at his car now, and I can't see what kind it is, but I don't see any rust, at least from here. It's white.

"Yeah?"

"Want to give me a ride?"

"Uh... I don't know."

"You can say no!"

He doesn't answer for a few seconds, and I'm only a few seconds from winning this bet.

"Yeah. Come on!"

What? Woah!

Andi laughs and slaps the back of my head. "How many times do I have to win bets for you to realize that I know best?"

"Are you going to be okay alone?"

She rolls her eyes. "It's Overbrook, Lev. The last crime anybody committed was when?"

"2005."

"2007," she corrects.

"2005," I respond. "It was public nudity. The guy died a couple years ago."

"Same thing. Go, before he changes his mind. Riley's picking me up soon."

Riley's one of her roommates. She's from Mexico. I bump her with my hipbone, and jog over to Anthem's car. It has a Toyota badge on the back of it, and it's really sporty, like something someone would drive... I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking when I started that thought, but it's a nice car. He unlocks it, and I slide into the passenger seat. I shut the door behind me, and put my bag on the floor between my feet. I tell him my address, and he pulls out of the lot. When we get to the first red light, I squeeze my eyes shut.

"Andi dared me to ask you for a ride."

"What?"

"Yeah, she dared me. I said you wouldn't do it. Sorry."

He laughs so hard that he bends down and leans his head against the steering wheel for a second. I raise both eyebrows.

"What are you laughing at?" I look up, and the light's green. "The light's green."

He lifts his head up and presses the gas, but he's still got that little tiny laugh in his throat. What's he laughing at? Is there something in my teeth? He can't even see my teeth.

"You. You're hilarious."

I lean back and smile. "Oh. Yeah. Thanks."

"No problem."

My house is pretty close to the school. I could walk, and I do sometimes, but it's dark, and I'm small. Somebody could come up and ambush me. I've always been scared of being ambushed, because if I get abducted, I might actually need my pills, and I wouldn't have them. My fear is irrational though. Like Andi said, crime doesn't happen around here. He pulls up to my curb, and unlocks the door.

"Thanks for the ride." I feel like I should say something else, but people don't give me rides, so I'm not sure. I look at him.

"Should I say something else?"

He shrugs. "You could ask for my number."

I feel my heartbeat pick up a little bit. That's weird.

"Would you give it to me?"

"I don't know. You haven't asked yet."

"Can I have your number?"

He smiles, and I tilt my head to look at his teeth again. He has really great teeth. He pulls out his phone, and I pull out mine. He has an iPhone, and I make an impressed puffing sound, and pull out my Motorola Razr. It's over ten years old, but it still works, and it looks brand new. I got it from the guy at the Verizon store. I tutored his daughter in math last year, so he gave it to me for free. She was a senior, and she also wanted to go to prom with me. I told her I was sick. I wasn't, though. I just didn't want to go to prom with her.

"Woah," he says. "Vintage."

He takes it from me, and I take his from him, and I put my number under the name "Levi from Support Group". I have to be specific if he's going to remember who the heck I am. I pass the phone back to him, and he looks at it.

"Levi from Support Group, it was nice meeting you."

"That's a first," I say. He laughs again, and I get out of the car.

The distance from the curb to my front door is pretty small, so I cover it in five seconds flat. When I get to the door, I salute Anthem, and his sick car pulls away.

"It was nice meeting me. Hm." It feels good to say.

Oh, shit. I forgot to tell my mom she doesn't have to pick me up.


Hope you all enjoyed! Make sure to drop a review and let me know what you thought :) I'll be on an every other day schedule for this story, so the 2nd chapter will be up on New Year's Day. I was actually planning to start the story then, but I couldn't wait. Keep having a happy holiday!