Chapter 3

School chugged by slowly as Serion tried to force himself to stay awake in his classes. By the time lunch came around, Serion could hardly hold his open. Maybe I'll just find a quiet corner in the lunchroom to rest my head, or slip off to the library for some peace and quiet.

The sound of all of the chatter in the cafeteria caused Serion's head to throb, the pain pulsating from just behind his eyes. There was no way that he could stay in the lunchroom with his head feeling this way. The library it is then… Serion moved along the walls of the cafeteria, making his way towards the hallway at the far-left corner that led to the library. There was a group of girls standing next to the entrance of the hallway, gossiping to themselves.

"Hey Serion!" One of the girl's called out.

Serion turned his head to see who it was. A lump appeared in his throat. The voice had come from Lauren.

"I haven't seen you in a while," Lauren gave him a sad smile as she nervously played with her hair, which was bound into a tight ponytail and laid across her right shoulder. "And you never returned any of my calls or texts. I've been worried about you."

Serion's cheeks burned as he looked down at his feet. "Hey, sorry about that. I just-" In truth, Serion didn't know what to say. He and Lauren had dated for a few months their Junior year. Serion had really grown to care for and like her, but it had gotten to the point where he had gotten too close. He didn't want to drag her into the mess that was his life, so he decided to break it off with her.

"Just what?" Lauren asked. "I never even got answers, just a text saying that it wasn't working out. You didn't even say what wasn't working out, and I had thought up until then that things were growing good. Now you have been avoiding me and all you can say is sorry?"

"Look, Lauren, you are a nice girl and…" Serion sighed and shook his head. "Well, you didn't deserve that, but things are complicated. I wouldn't even know where to begin if I was able to explain it." With that, Serion turned and hurried down the long winding hallway that led to the school's library. He had never told Lauren about his home life or how his mother was. That was information that he wanted to keep even from the people closest to him. Even when Lauren had wanted to visit his apartment he had always made excuses to never invite her over.

Serion could hear the faint calls as Lauren pleaded with him to stop, but he ignored them as he retreated down the hall. He would rather not make the encounter any more awkward and besides, he didn't even know what he would be able to tell her. Serion was so tired of making up lies and excuses about his life, but there was no way he would be able to explain to Lauren what was going on. Would she even believe him at this point, after he had avoided her for so long?

He pushed his way through the double wooden doors to the library, welcoming the cooler air conditioned air that always filled the room. Serion found an empty table and sat down, burying his face into his arms to block out all light. He hoped that a few moments of silence and darkness would help relieve the throbbing in his head. All Serion wanted to do was sleep, but he knew that he wouldn't be able to for a while yet. Right after school ended he had a shift at his job. He had also promised to help the farmer out again after his shift ended.

Serion didn't want to help the farmer, not in the hot summer weather that Florida provided this time of year. The temperatures were starting to reach 97 degrees every day. It was the kind of hot as well that made Serion's skin feel sticky and caused him to feel sick to his stomach. He couldn't turn down the request though, not when the farmer paid so well.

Serion's mouth opened wide in an involuntary yawn. The force of it caused the joints in his upper back to crack and pop. Serion could feel himself nodding off, the exhaustion catching up to him. No… Serion thought. I can't-

"Hey, shouldn't you be in class?"

Serion grumbled as he could feel someone shaking him awake. He raised his head to see the librarian standing over, her arms crossed and her lips pierced. She was an older woman with her thinning brown air tightly wound into a bun on top of her head. If her thick round glasses was any further down the bridge of her nose they would have fallen off.

"I, uh… huh?" Serion mumbled, raising his head and looking around, confused for a few moments before realizing what had happened. Oh, shit! I must have fallen asleep!

"You have been sleeping here for a couple hours now," the librarian huffed, pushing her glasses up.

"Why didn't you wake me sooner?" Serion asked, a little annoyed. He never meant to fall asleep, only to rest his eyes for a few moments.

"That isn't my job, now get to class." The librarian replied snidely before turning and making her way back to her desk.

Serion sighed and looked at his watch. "Shit, I missed two periods." He shook his head. He already had a parent-teacher conference, and this wasn't going to make things any easier. He was liable to get into trouble for skipping class.

I can't believe that I fell asleep… Serion rushed out of the library, fast walking to his next class. He hoped the teacher didn't ask too many questions. He had enough of making up excuses for one day. As he was making his way to his next class, he debated on just skipping for the rest of the day. Serion could easily sneak out of one of the side entrances and make his way to his car. He could maybe even nap in there until his shift started.

That would just cause more issues though. Serion was in enough trouble with Mrs. Rowan. He didn't need to backtrack his way out of even more issues. He might as well just face this mess that he got himself into.

Serion made his way to the door to his next class too soon. He braced himself as he gripped the metal handle and opened the door. As if on cue, Serion could see the entire class turn their heads to see who was at the door.

The teacher stopped his lesson and gave Serion a smile. He was a plump, short man with a balding head. The only hair he had left on his head was a small ginger goatee on his chin. "Ah, nice of you to join us, Mr. Blackbane. Please, take a seat." He jestered to the empty desk that Serion usually sat in.

"Sorry, Mr. Jones…" Serion muttered to the teacher before taking his seat.

The teacher gave him another smile and handed him a piece of paper before turning back to the lesson he was teaching, not mentioning another word about Serion coming in late.

Serion tried to focus on the lesson, looking down at the paper that the teacher handed him. It was an assignment with various Algebra questions written on it. Serion tried filling out the paper, but his mind was wondering all over the place. Would Mr. Jones want to speak with him after class? What if he also wanted to speak with his mother?

When the bell rung to dismiss the class, Mr. Jones approached Serion before he could grab his backpack and bolt out of the door. "So, Mr. Blackbane, would you like to explain why you were late to class? What is going on?"

"Oh, sorry about that," Serion muttered. "I, uh, well I accidentally fell asleep in the library on lunch."

"You okay?" Mr. Jones asked, sitting down in the desk directly in front of him, the chair creaking a little. "I know Mrs. Rowan was asking around the other day about you. She sounded worried, said you had been falling asleep in class a lot."

"Yeah, I'm fine." Serion tried to smile reassuringly. He was far from fine. He just wanted to scream, cry, tell someone – anyone – what was going on. He knew that he would never be able to do that though. What would happen to his mother, to him? Aside from not wanting anything to happen to his mom, he had also heard the stories of foster care. His mom once told him that that was where they sent all of the kids who were bad. Not that he could believe his mother's words anymore.

"Are you sure?" Mr. Jones asked, not sounding convinced. "Do you need someone to talk to? If you don't want to speak with one of your teachers, there are always guidance counselors"

"I am okay," Serion promised, hoping he sounded more convincing that he felt. "Thank you for your concern, Mr. Jones. I appreciate it, I really do."

"Just please think about reaching out to someone, okay?" Mr. Jones got up from the desk. "You are welcome to leave now."

"I'll think about it." Serion quickly grabbed his backpack before his teacher could change his mind. "Thanks again, sir."