The Rachel Project (original fiction)

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    Default The Rachel Project (original fiction)

    The Rachel Project
    The epic tale of love, lust, mystery, loyalties, and most of all, friendships
    Dark Magmar © 2004

    Day One

    I ain't afraid to let it out
    I'm not afraid to take that fall
    But I have found beyond all doubt
    We say more by saying nothing at all

    -Brandon Boyd, Incubus, “Pantomime”
    © 2004 Incubus / Epic Records / Sony International

    Whether or not the events that follow have anything to do with the paths of the souls that took them, would be decided by you, the reader. Life will always throw a puzzle to you, perplexing, confounding, and ever-frustrating. Whether it's a four-piece jigsaw puzzle, or a Rubik's cube, you will have to solve it, at one point or another. The puzzles thrown to the receivers are all different, and the outcomes of their solving always worth working for.

    I was thrown a Rubik's Cube, by whichever higher power bestowed it upon me. It would appear that this Cube has proven an indomitable wall...a Rubik's cube's solution involves that all sides (all signs) must be the same. This applies to my life because of all of the little impediments that block my way. It always seems as if there is one little square that is misaligned, on the wrong side of the cube...and you'd have to undo everything you've worked so hard to accomplish to fix the little wrong. Such big endeavors for such a small error...

    The subject of this puzzle is a girl. Beautiful, intelligent, and just about everything else you could deem as idealistic. Trying to figure her out will be the greatest undertaking this man will ever attempt.

    There is a light that shines through the fog surrounding her. But this light is very dim, very subtle, and it creates almost a barrier-like aura around her...her nature is very docile, and she expresses this through acts of goodwill, charity, and diplomacy...she is a mediator in every situation, the perfect balance of personality and intellect. She is widely liked, with little to no enemies. This girl, Rachel, is a flower in full bloom, a secret to the world, hidden in a shroud of peace. This mist is not easily disturbed.

    I awoke this morning at 5:51 AM, to the sound of my mother's voice, telling me I had to get ready for school, which began in less than two hours. I saw her shadow leave my room, and I sat up in my bed. I shook off the grogginess of sleep, and looked at my haggard face in the mirror. Who was I really? My name is Brendon, and I am sixteen. I'm a typical teenage boy, slightly tan, thin, medium height. My eyes reflect a truth too glaringly strong to resist...I was a sad soul. You couldn't see it if you were anyone other than me, a sad realization that would grow in me over the past weeks... this fear of self-awareness crushed my self-esteem, but something kept driving me through the days. I ruffled my medium length brown hair, shook a wisp from my line of sight, and looked a little deeper into the mirror.

    Was I really such a great enemy to myself, I pondered, as the clock clicked to six AM. A holler from downstairs broke my concentration, and I picked up whatever I was to wear that day off of the floor, and headed for the shower. I flicked on the light, and stood in front of the medicine cabinet mirror over the sink. I looked into my eyes again and the thoughts began swirling around in the depths of my mind. I shook it off with a swift splash of cold water, and became fully awake. I dried my wet face off with a small washcloth, turned to the shower stall, and prepared the water. Not too hot, not too cold, but warm enough to keep the shivers away. I undressed and stepped into the shower, re-entering a dreamlike state once again from my sorely missed sleeping hours... I often fantasized that I was Rachel's. I commonly had the notion that I could someday have her, whether it take a day or take a lifetime...

    Some notions are best followed, and some are best left behind. The notion that Rachel may someday be mine was one to be followed. The dream of having such an elegant, graceful, virtuous beauty as my own would keep me going throughout some of the longest days. It provided an adrenaline rush, one unrivaled by any brought upon by sports or other activity that involved great concentration. I squeezed a little Head and Shoulders into my hand, and rubbed it through my wet hair. Bubbles are fragile, yet the power they contain can do so much. The fact that cleanliness stems from something so boggles the mind. Such a great task done by something so fascinated me. It would appear that the effects created by this reciprocate and bring goodness to those involved, much like life itself...

    I washed the soap from my hair, and picked up a rogue facecloth. I lathered it with face wash and cleaned my complexion was clear and fair, yet I felt it best to not tempt fate and keep myself clean...6:08 AM. I rinsed off again, and picked up the bar of soap. I cleaned my body, rinsed again...and turned off the water. It was now 6:13 AM, and school would be starting within the next hour and a half. I dried myself off with my big, blue beach towel, and put on my clothes. I wore a white, long sleeved shirt underneath a medium blue t-shirt, and a pair of blue jeans that were baggy, but not excessively so. I dried my hair in the mirror. It wasn't that I didn't care how it looked; it was just that I didn't know what to do with it. I messed with it for a few minutes, and then gave up.

    6:30 came and went. It was a nice, cool morning in coastal North Carolina, the ocean breeze permeating every nook and cranny of my house. The gulls chirped in the background, their calls a beckoning of attention to passersby and other sea birds alike. I stood by the sliding glass doors in the kitchen, with a perfect view of an early April sunrise off the waters of the Atlantic. It became tradition for me to do this, ever since we moved out to this part of the country. It was something to behold, and if you had never seen it yourself, it surely would be something to put on your 'to-do' list. I someday had wished to watch the sunrise here, with Rachel, but it was wishful thinking, just a figment of whatever could be. Before I knew it, I had sat down at the table in the kitchen, gulped down a bit of my black coffee, and was chewing thoughtfully on my toasted Pop-Tart. It was a different kind of morning, the skies were very clear, and all the morning fog that hovered over the ocean was absent.

    It couldn't have been a sign, as nothing can be left to inference. I was taught to understand that fate was only what I made of it, or otherwise I wouldn't be able to make too much out of my life. It was now 6:45. I laced up my Adidas sneakers; they were a navy blue color with powdery blue stripes. I picked up my backpack and opened my front door. I bid farewell to my mom, and began my walk to school. The feeling of solitude on this walk was one that I enjoyed every morning, it brought some sort of beautiful, resounding peace to my mind...a silence I would experience only once per day. The sky was crystalline, only high clouds kept it from being totally blue. It was a beautiful that would change the quiet of my mind to the holy echoes that were the thoughts of Rachel.

    I felt as if something good may happen on this day, some luck-borne enigma brought on by good fortune... it would indeed be mine. I walked the sidewalks past Main Street, Clover Avenue, and Ford Lane, to the front doors of the new high school, Sherman Hemsley High. I walked those stairs at 7:22 AM, and entered the building, awaiting the events of the day ahead.

    The school was nearly empty, I had walked a little fast, I presumed. The halls echoed with the sound of stray footsteps, possibly mine, possibly belonging to another person...a serendipitous moment...the footsteps that I had heard were Rachel's. I froze in my tracks. My breath came to a halt in my chest, the cold of it keeping me locked and sending chills throughout my system.

    "Good Morning," she said, as she passed me. She gave a luminescent smile, resonating her early-bird cheerfulness. I managed a happy "Hello", and let the cold breath go. A sliver of hope came out of that moment, at 7:27 that morning. It's definite that what will happen will be based off of what I do, and if I am not practicing life with the utmost of care, I will 'drop the ball' and fail. Fate is truly what we make of it.

    I stood a little bit dumbfounded in the hall for a few minutes, and then the first bell rang. It never occurred to me until about 7:35 that I was standing amidst a sea of students, all rushing to their first period classes. It was a different feeling than the quiet that I had been immersed in ten minutes ago, but it was more comforting than the sadness of being alone. I wandered my way to my first period class, Biology… the coldness of the lab sent a shiver up my spine…and a second shiver upon sight of the hawk-faced teacher, Mr. Gilbert. This man…was mean. He’s the kind of man who kicks little puppy dogs if they get in his way, the kind of man you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. He smelled as if he didn’t bathe often, either. His greasy, brown hair was trimmed short, but was often disheveled. He was stocky, about four inches smaller than I was, and probably about twice my weight.

    “Brendon Roselli! I hope you’ve done your lab work. It doesn’t do itself, you know.” he squawked, as his nostrils flared and his lips flapped.

    Through a moderately heavy sigh, I replied, “Don’t worry, I’ve done it. No need to worry about my work ethic…”

    “Well, that’s good. Now go take a seat, class is about to start.” he said snidely, the grease in his hair shining in the bright yet cold lab light. I took my seat, third from the very back. A few of my friends were in this class, including my best friend, and lab partner, Alex Marsh. He was about 5’8”, skinny, moderately athletic. He was paler than I was, and his hair and eyes a shade darker brown than mine. He had these odd auburn colored streaks in his hair, which ran from the tips of his front spikes to the back of the top of his head. He wore it strangely, with the hair pushed forward into spikes on the front of his hair, and spikes on both the left and right sides. A peculiar style, I thought, as I looked at it everyday. It was a little shorter than mine, and he often asked why mine was so disheveled…

    Last night’s assignment was a lab report, from Thursday’s work. The block scheduling meant that we had four periods a day, the same classes every other day. It also ensured us over an hour’s exposure to the best and the worst of classes, and this Monday morning could not have a worse class to start with. I had done the assignment, after a wasted weekend of excruciating work…sophomore year Science classes were supposed to be relatively easy, but Mr. Gilbert prevented any and all chances of an easy coast. I never quite understood Biology, as it was one of my worst subjects. There was a slight chance I’d escape Mr. Gilbert’s with a decent grade…but the chances were against me – his “pop quizzes” were also known as “average killers”.

    Mr. Gilbert sneered at the class as he wandered around the room. He collected all the reports without much more than a grumble and a cough, and returned to his desk.

    “Class, take out your notebooks, it’s time for today’s wonderful lecture to start.” He glared a vicious look at the teens surrounding him. “Today’s topic of discussion involves DNA…DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid, which, when connected to phosphates and the nitrogen bases, adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine, form the DNA molecule. The double helix is a complicated structure…”

    I kept an alert face, but began drifting off to sleep. It was understandable, for more than half of the class began to lose their lucidity and fall off into the mist of dreams. A quick ‘thwack’ of a yardstick against the front lab table brought everyone back to their senses, and a red-faced Mr. Gilbert became a bit of an intimidating sight. His cheeks turned redder by the moment, as once he realized that no one was listening to him, he began to go into full-on panic mode. It was quite a sight to see, this raging, round, red ball of human. “Grr…that’s enough!” he yelled, and the silence that ensued was not because no one spoke, but because of the deafness caused by the screech. “A 1,000 word essay on DNA, due Wednesday, for the entire lot of you!” he exclaimed, in his fervor of anger.

    Alex grumbled under his breath, much like the surrounding students. I kept my silence, and shrugged off the new assignment – it wasn’t too hard to create an essay on a topic with so much information behind it. I stayed awake throughout the rest of the class, proceeded to take about five pages of notes…useless, I figured. I was a little unhappy at this surprise first thing in the morning, but second period would be able to redeem the bleak part of the morning without fail. My next class was World Literature 10, more commonly known as English Class… home to my favorite teacher, Ms. Kohatsu, and the light of the day, Rachel. The bell rang, and the class packed their things for their next class. I stood up, stretched, and said to Alex, “Well, that wasn’t so bad. It’s not as if he gave us another damn lab report.”

    “Are you kidding me, Brendon? We have a damn one thousand word paper to write, and I’m swamped with work from my other classes…plus I got a damn bar mitzvah to attend Tuesday night…sports practice tonight…what the hell am I to do?” Alex said, pounding his fist on the lab table. “Damn that Mr. Gilbert…damn him.”

    “Oh noes, Alex!” I pretended to be scared, and laughed. “It’s OK dude…you’ll find the time, you always do. Now come on, we’ll be late for English if we’re not quick…” We stood up, and left the Biology Lab. It was now a little after 9 AM, and we were on our way to English. The halls were rather full, as Monday morning always brought upon early fatigue…and then Rachel walked by…and into the room. It was my wake-up call, as we shared a smile, and I followed her into the room.

    Ms. Kohatsu was a small woman of Japanese descent. She was in her mid-30s, about 5’2’’, and very petite. She was considered, by many students, to be the best teacher in the entire school. She was a very maternal sort, very kind and compassionate to all around her. She was a published author, but was incredibly humble about her popularity…Which was exactly what made her so damn admirable. I, personally, looked up to her as a role model for how a person should be. She had a very calm, elegant demeanor, similar to that of a mother caring for her children.

    One wonders how Ms. Kohatsu could stay so happy. Her husband died while in service to the military seven years ago. It’s even more wonder-invoking that she could be so motherly yet have no children of her own. It often made me think of my mother. My father died shortly after I was born, so there was never really a predominant father figure in my life. I had a step-father, but he and my mother frequently conflict, and currently, they are separated. I wonder, for such a good woman, how she could have such ill fate? Even more disturbing, she’s currently three months pregnant with my step-father’s child. It’s not something I’m looking forward to…sixteen years of being the only child…

    But my seat in English snapped me out of my thoughts. Rachel, the brunette beauty, sat right next to me, yet we rarely spoke. It was a very sad thing to behold, with my love, unrequited, floating in between the space of the two desks. Today would be different. It would be the day I attempted the one thing that frightened me the most – conversation. The salt smell was heavy in the air, as Ms. Kohatsu’s room was right on the oceanfront side of the school. The sea breeze blew in through the window, making everyone pine for summer, pine for the days where we would have no worries, no schoolwork to care about…

    Ms. Kohatsu stood in front of the class and began to speak. “Class, today you’re going to learn about the works of the legendary playwright and author William Shakespeare. So I figure, what better a way to introduce you to this man’s works than with Romeo and Juliet?”

    The class seemed intrigued, as the most famous of Shakespeare’s plays was theirs for the reading. Ms. Kohatsu often allowed the class to act out the plays they read aloud in class, and this one would be no different. She handed out books to the class, and began giving roles to the students…

    “Rick, you can be Mercutio. John Summers, you can be Benvolio…” Ms. Kohatsu went on until three parts were left…the Prince Paris, Romeo, and Juliet. “Alex, wake up! You’re the prince’s kinsman, Paris.”

    “What?” Alex said in his surprise. “I’m some crazy nobleman, eh? I guess that’s pretty cool…do I get into any fights?”

    “Indeed, Alex. The nobleman Paris is an antagonistic character to the protagonist, Romeo. Indeed you get into fights, but I won’t spoil anything for you… The part of Juliet will go to…Rachel Hill. You’re a fine young lady, Miss Hill, so this part should be a breeze for someone like you.” The class turned to look at Rachel, who, through a little bit of flattery, managed to accept her role. “And lastly, for the lucky man who will play Romeo…it looks like that’d be you, Roselli.”

    Again, I was snapped into reality. The prospect of being a lead role…with the girl of my dreams…was fascinating. I stuttered an acceptance, and graciously blushed to myself. This was the chance of a lifetime, as awkwardly cliché as that may seem. Rachel appeared to have a slight blush in her cheeks, a slight moment of vulnerability from behind her misty shell. She noticed me looking at her, and quickly looked away, flushing a deeper shade of red. It’s times like these that really make you wonder what runs through a person’s minds in these kinds of moments. I realized secretly that I should not be so hasty to jump to conclusions, as there were still many trials ahead of me to get to Rachel’s heart.

    The class passed by as the first scene was acted out. A rather tense battle erupted between the Capulets and the Montagues, and was broken up by the prince of Verona…and so on and so forth. The 2nd period bell signaled the end to the class, and a few of us, including me, groaned. This meant we’d be forced into another draining drill session with Mrs. Winters, a stodgy old coot of a math teacher, widowed thrice, and with a serious cat obsession. Stereotypical of a crazy old hag, but nonetheless our math teacher. The woman was brilliant, but was so mean, so deluded…it was a miracle she was able to keep teaching. It was disturbing just to sit in the same room with her…if you caught her on a non-medicated day, it could easily mean serious trouble for any and all to cross her path. Even worse, my friend John Summers was her polar opposite. It’s ironic that the only two people in the school with seasonal last names were so virulently opposed to one another.

    Today would bring about conflict…rumors had spread that Mrs. Winters had almost become rabid in ferocity, setting the stage for what could be an epic battle between her and John. I sank my teeth into my lip as I entered her room, the smell of cat urine and moth balls permeating everything in it. There seemed to be a smoky haze that emanated from Mrs. Winters’ clothing, as she was a chain smoker, and frequently had to stop herself from smoking in class. Truly a pitiful and disgusting specimen of human, she was. The room was also in the worst part of the building, and was probably placed above the tech garage on purpose. The smell of ocean breeze was replaced by motor oil, the ocean view obscured by the tech building across the way. I hated it in Mrs. Winters’ room…much like all the others that I was forced into spending an hour and a half with.

    “Everyone sit down and shut your mouth…class is about to begin.” The class went silent. “I said shut up! That’s it, detention for anyone who dares speak when not asked to. John!” Mrs. Winters screeched, her yellow teeth dully reflecting years of mistreatment.

    “Yes, Mrs. Winters?” John asked, looking up from some deep focus on his desk. A small inscription on it read “Mrs. Winters is a pumpkin lady”, with a tiny jack-o-lantern picture next to it.

    “I told you not to speak! A two hour detention for you, Mr. Summers.” A grin from the hag, and she wrote John’s name on the board… “And if you say any more, Mr. Summers, I’ll increase your punishment to two weeks!”

    I took John by the wrist and held him back from standing up. His temper was being pushed by the old bat, but I wasn’t about to let him start something big. It was going to be Hell enough anyway sitting through the class, but having a John versus Mrs. Winters conflict would be even worse…I virtually slept through the entire class. When I woke up at the end, John had told me that he had been sentenced to six weeks detention, mainly for pushing all the buttons that he was very kindly instructed not to mess with. I bolted from the room, hoping to find fresh air, find a little bit of solace outside the hellhole of Winters’ room.

    It was shortly after noon, and it was lunch…I dragged myself to the ancient-looking cafeteria to go and sample some of the…finer…cuisine made by the lunch staff. The head lunch lady pleasured in serving us some of the strangest things in the cookbook – her classic ‘Magical Fudge Meatloaf Surprise’ was something to behold. Mrs. Rossier, head of cafeteria staff in the entire state of North Carolina, was a short and stocky woman with a bit of a mean streak. She was about 45, with two kids about my age. Her hair was always in a hairnet, and it was rumored that she never removed it from her head. Myths about the woman had stood ever since she came to our school.

    I caught up to John in the lunch line, where it looked like his usually iron stomach was about to be put to the test. He went right up to Mrs. Rossier and almost demanded to have some of her Magical Fudge Meatloaf Surprise. Her eyes began to well up in tears of happiness as she scooped out the first spoonfuls of the mixture in the history of its existence. No soul had been that brave as if to find out whether or not the creation was edible…but John had no fear.

    “You’re kidding me, John! You’ll get sick for sure…even animals wouldn’t go near that kind of abomination.” I said, getting a carton of milk from the freezer. I asked for the hamburger, moved down the line, and paid for my lunch. We walked to the normal table, where we sat with Alex, Alex’s girlfriend Jen, John’s girlfriend Lindsey, Mrs. Rossier’s son Mark, my friends from soccer, Bill and Ben, and their girlfriends, (name removed) and Cheryl.

    Lindsey Matthews was an excellent match for John. She stood about 5’6”, and was extremely fit and athletic. She played on the school’s tennis team, where she had been captain for two years. Her startlingly pretty green eyes melted the toughest of hearts, and her shoulder-length brown hair was very fine and straight. John was an extremely lucky man to have her…it aroused envy in the hearts and minds of many other students…but their relationship was a strong one, lasting all throughout freshman year and up to now. Why couldn’t I have a girl like her, I wondered, but I was happy that one of my best friends had such great fortune.

    Jen Ristau was a fantastically pretty young woman, with short dirty blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes. She was a member of the school’s track team, and was also the swiftest thing on two feet in the tri-city area. She was built to run, an agile, 5’4”, 106 lb phenom; a very talented athlete. Alex always joked that one day she’d run and decide not to stop…her nickname was the Energizer Bunny, as given to her by Mark after a long track practice. She was the only one ready for more, while everyone else was passing out in the 90° heat. I always looked up to her from an athlete’s point of view, and whenever we’d go to her house to relax or watch TV, we’d always be in plain view of her trophy cabinet.

    Mark Rossier was the son of Mrs. Rossier, a moderately overweight, underachiever that just barely managed to get by grade-wise. He was oft seen in the cafeteria, eating whatever delicacy his mom had cooked up that afternoon. Due to a knee injury from a cross-country accident two years before, Mark became an assistant coach to the track team, and was probably the best morale booster the team had ever seen.

    Cheryl Beauford was a sweet young woman, with straight brown hair that flowed slightly below her shoulders. Her eyes were a quiet grey color, and it reflected her introversion. She was 5’5”, and was skinny, but not painfully so. She was a talented writer, with a highly poetic mind. She lacked athletic ability, but didn’t seem to have any interest in organized sports. She often hid behind a glass-like shell, and the only time she opened herself up to the world was when she was with her boyfriend, Bill.

    Bill Moore was a tall, skinny boy with a fire in his eyes that seared even the strongest of adversaries’ souls. He was the leader of the debate team, and was also editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Weezy. He was well-liked by the student body, and was always first to know whenever something new arose. He’d had been friends with Mark since the second grade, and they had been through just about everything.

    Ben Boyd was a bit of an eccentric person, often wearing strange t-shirts (today’s featuring a picture of Mario riding Yoshi). He was a tall, well-built, young black man, who excelled at soccer. He often didn’t get along with Bill due to racial and cultural differences (the most recent of which over Kwanzaa and Christmas). I found it strange that, in this diverse world, the two soccer players would not be good friends. People shouldn’t let bigotry cloud their sight. It wasn’t fun to watch the two of them fight, and whenever it happened within school walls, Ben would always take the brunt of the blame…and that was because of the color of his skin. Despite the school’s legendary black namesake, the staff was mainly white and very set in their own, obstinate ways.

    (Name removed) was a tiny Asian girl, standing about 5’4” and weighing about 95 pounds. She was a petite and agile 16-year old, a volleyball player for the school’s new team. She, like most of my other friends, used to participate in track, but found her true calling in volleyball. She’d often talk about her early-morning beach trips where she’d practice volleyball with her boyfriend, Ben, who wasn’t too bad at the game. She was an Honors student too, and had an excellent shot at all sorts of colleges. I had met her when my mom took me on a trip out to Cape Hatteras the summer before, and she was in charge of a volleyball tournament. She used to live in Raleigh, which was much farther inland.

    So we were just sitting around the table, eating…John was preoccupied talking to Lindsey, who complained of a horrible headache…Mark was indulging in the cafeteria pizza, stuffing his face and getting sauce all around his lips. Bill was attempting to do his homework, but much to his dismay, Cheryl was incredibly talkative and continuously interrupting him. Ben and (name removed) were quite silent as they ate their meals, and Alex and Jen were talking about the baseball game that was on TV the night before. I was just staring into my food, thinking, about my silence during English, and what would come of the play.

    I blindly jumped into the baseball conversation, mind preoccupied, with no idea what was going on. Alex stared at me strangely, as if it looked like I had been slapped with a rusty fish. He made sure to mention that the “Canaries” were not a major league team, and that they sure as hell never won a “Birdhouse Cup”. Jen rolled her eyes at my indiscretions, and laughed a little. I came out of my trance when Bill informed me that lunch was over…

    I walked with John and Lindsey to gym, our final class of the day. The gym was a new addition to the school, built separate from the rest of the building, but very large and accommodating to any sort of indoor sport. It featured a swimming pool, a basketball court, weight room, tennis courts, and the newest addition, which would arrive the next winter, would be a hockey rink. We walked in, went our separate ways into the appropriate locker rooms, and changed for the class. Our gym teacher, Mr. Stone, was a gaunt black man with a short attention span. He strolled past a mob of freshly-changed teens and walked into the center of the basketball court.

    “Today, kids, we’re gonna be starting our pickle ball unit…” the class, perplexed, groaned. Only Lindsey smiled, as her tennis expertise would give her an extremely distinct advantage. “Do I hear groaning? Well, kids, pickle ball is more fun than you think. When I was a boy…” Mr. Stone appeared to zone out into space, reminiscing about the olden days. He shook his head and shrugged off the memory, and handed paddles to everyone.

    “Well now, everyone, here’s the teams; John Summers and Bear Fishman, Greg Avery and George Hatlis, Brendon Roselli and…” I clenched my teeth and held my breath… “…Lindsey Matthews.” I let my breath go. John gave me a look of jealousy, while Lindsey simply gave me a big grin and a high-five. The rest of the teams were paired off, and the teams were matched up for the first game of the day. Lindsey and I were paired up against John and Bear, and we took the court…

    Bear spoke little English, which made playing the first game tough. As I prepared to serve, he tried desperately to explain to us that he did not understand the game. John seemed to be ready to launch again, as he had done earlier in the school day at Mrs. Winters, but Lindsey, the diplomatic and graceful person she was, kindly taught Bear the game in a matter of minutes. John and I looked on in awe at her skill. She called us back onto the court, and we began the game.

    “Hey Brendon, focus on the game!” John yelled from across the court. “I know she’s hot, and wearing a short skirt, but that doesn’t mean you can be taking a lookyloo up her skirt every five seconds! Hey! Keep those eyes above the neckline, OK? The game’s pickle ball, not… ” Lindsey smacked the ball at John, attempting to get him to shut up. She sent an embarrassed glare in my direction, and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sheepish. I hadn’t been looking at her, let alone carrying any intentions of sexual nature…and I respected my friend enough not to do something like that. Bear laughed, mumbled something about sex, and continued to rally with Lindsey. A wild shot came to the back, and I lobbed it across the gym…

    The rallies continued until the gym bell rang, and we went off to the lockers. “Hey, John, what was with that out there?” I said, finally showing a little bit of unhappiness and resentment. He gave me a glance and laughed that I took offense at his joke…but at the risk of the friendship of myself and Lindsey? What John didn’t seem to realize was that Lindsey honestly believed him, and that she was quite upset at me for being a “pervert”. I felt awful, so I changed quickly and walked back into the gym.

    While we waited for the final bell of the day to ring, I walked up to Lindsey, head bowed. “Lindsey?” I got her attention. “You don’t need to say anything, Brendon. John already told me he was just joking…I should be apologizing because I was a little overdramatic. Forgive me?” Lindsey replied.

    “Of course, Lindsey, why would I have any reason not to?” The last bell rang, and the outpouring of students from the halls was fierce. The mad rush to the door commenced, and weaving through crowd after crowd of stagnant freshmen, I managed to catch up to Alex by the front doors of the school.

    “Hey, Alex, how was Power Tech?” I put on my hat and looked at my friend. “Oh god, you know, the usual. Mrs. Finch was boring as hell again, and that creepy kid Dave kept standing over my shoulder, asking what I was doing. That class never ceases to get weirder. That girl Lily kept whispering ‘do a barrel roll’ to us when we were attempting to fix a part…creepy. Can we not talk about this anymore? I feel like I’m gonna hurl.”

    “Heh, OK, I’ll stop. John made a real bad off-color joke about me to Lindsey during pickle ball. She took it a bit seriously…but you have to admit, you’d want to look at her like that, eh?” I said, nudging him a little bit. “Of course. If Jen wasn’t ten times prettier, that is. And I don’t think she’d appreciate me checking out other girls like that…especially not the girlfriend of one of my oldest friends.” Alex said, nudging me back.

    “Hey, Rachel’s over there, Brendon. Why don’t you go talk to her?” Alex smirked at me, almost coercing me to go over there and talk to her. My fear was building, while at the same time, I was dredging through the wells of courage, summoning everything I could. “Well, I guess I’ll go do just that…” I said, taking the first steps towards her. But as I approached, her mother’s car pulled up, and she entered the vehicle. As her mother drove by, I waved to her with a smile, and she waved back, flashing her pearly-whites. I stood there for a few minutes, questioning whether or not it was me she waved to, when Alex came up behind me and slapped me on the back of the head. “Come on. We gotta get to Wako Taco before all the good seats are taken by poseur freshmen.” He dragged me by my ear to Lindsey’s car, where we saw her and John inside talking. He rapped on the window, and Lindsey unlocked the back doors.

    As I got in, I asked Alex where Jen was, and he told me that she had a track meet, and wouldn’t be able to hang out with us (and made a little remark about avoiding getting fat off the tacos). Lindsey started the car, and we began going up the road and onto the main avenue. Wako Taco was a little ways from the school, and was the prime hangout spot for Sherman Hemsley High students. The prices were good, the staff was friendly, but the best part had to be the food, and the legendary Wako Classic. The Wako classic was a fusion of taco and burrito with awesomely spicy results.

    As we pulled up, Alex literally sprung from his seat and dashed to the front door, his cravings for the Wako Classic ever-growing. He burst through the doors, and ran to the front counter. Lindsey suppressed a giggle, and John just shook his head. I strolled casually up to the counter behind him, and waited in line. I could hear Alex growing excited from the promise of a Wako Classic, and appeared to be bobbing up and down in glee. I slapped him in the back of the head, to wake him back up, so to speak. Lindsey let her giggles out, and John continued to look on with an indifferent manner.

    “I’ll take a Wako Classic, please…” Alex said when he went up to the counter. “$4.50…” the clerk said as Alex retrieved the money from his wallet. He then gestured for Alex to go wait by the reception window, where the food was made. I ordered a normal taco, got my food, and sat down at the front window table with Alex and Lindsey. John was still in line for his food, and Lindsey said she had a horrible stomachache and therefore couldn’t bear to eat such greasy food. Alex looked at her like she was crazy, as Lindsey had been his Wako Classic buddy for over two years – the two of them ordering one every day.

    Alex polished off his taco, as did I. We were relaxed in the comfortable booth, when John came up, 15 minutes later. “What took so long, Johnny boy?” Alex said, taking a drink of his Pepsi. He answered that he had picked up a job application, because there were spots open for the after-school shift. John looked at Lindsey a bit strangely, as she looked a certain shade of green. She looked up at him and smiled, and informed him that she was fine. I was a little confused at this, yet let it slip my mind. John looked at her with a raised eyebrow, but passed her off as OK.

    It was now about 3:30, and we had to begin going home. I was loaded with homework, and wasn’t all too excited about getting it done. The impeding 1,000 word essay was a headache waiting to happen. It didn’t help that we started a new topic in math class, and I slept through the whole thing…but I guess I had it coming to me. And regardless of his fights with Mrs. Winters, John was the top student in the math class, and I could rely on him if I needed help. John helped a nauseous Lindsey to her car, and we got in and were off. We drove towards Alex’s house first; a small split level not too far from the school.

    Alex lived with his parents and younger brother, James. The house itself was old, and painted a dull shade of grey. The wood panels that made up the outside of the house were chipped and corroded from years of damage, and the cellar was prone to flood damage. He made the best of what he had, but the house was on the brink of falling in upon itself.

    We pulled up into the driveway, and Alex got out of the car. He didn’t like to let people know his family had fallen on hard times, I guess it embarrassed him a little bit. I never made a big deal of it, and he appreciated that about me. It was my lack of caring about his living conditions that made him my best friend. His father had lost his job at a local factory when layoffs came around to his part of the company…they only laid off one worker, and that was Mr. Marsh.

    As Lindsey rounded the curve up the hill to my house, she flushed another shade of green and slammed on the brakes. We pulled over, and Lindsey ran into the woods. I got out and held her hair as she vomited, and surrendered part of my t-shirt to clean her up a little bit. John was asleep in the passenger seat, and didn’t see any of this. Lindsey looked at me and told me not to tell him that she had gotten sick, and I wondered secretly to myself, “Why?”

    We made it to my house without any further bouts of sickness. My house was beachfront property, a two-story ocean beauty that my uncle had given to us when he died. I always felt bad when I had friends over because I wasn’t rich, and people always made the assumption of that due to my living quarters. Granted, I did have a nice house, but it shouldn’t sway anyone’s opinions of me… I asked Lindsey if she’d be OK for the ride home, but she looked a little pale. I woke up John and we helped Lindsey inside the house, where we set her up on the living room couch.

    I called her mother to inform her that Lindsey would be staying at my house until she felt well enough to go home, and Mrs. Matthews seemed to be grateful that we cared enough to help our friend. Lindsey got up a little before four and threw up in the bathroom, and then came back and lay down. My mom asked what happened to the bottom of my t-shirt, and I later explained (when John was out of the room) that Lindsey had gotten sick on the side of the road and needed a little cleaning up. John kicked back on the recliner and turned on the TV, flipping through the 4 PM talk shows…titles like “My mom is my cousin” and “Animal or Human?” were their subjects, and at each channel flip, they got crazier.

    I came in with a cool cloth to help cool down the feverish Lindsey, who had been asleep for several minutes. John looked at me suspiciously, as he felt his relationship threatened. I went over to him and assured him that it was an act of empathy, not love, and definitely not lust. I offered him something to eat, but he refused, dead-set on one-upping me for this act of kindness. His volatility bothered me, and even though I claimed I had nothing to hide, Lindsey’s secret still tugged at my mind. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on between them…but I didn’t want to know.

    John and I watched TV until around 5:30, when Lindsey sat up on the couch. Her face was full of color, and she wore a grin. She put her feet on the floor and stretched her arms towards the ceiling, and stood up. She gave the two of us a big smile, and went into my bathroom. I heard the water click on, and she came out a few minutes later.

    “I’m sorry, but I had to use one of your guest toothbrushes…I couldn’t help but want to get that filthy taste of vomit out of my mouth…” Lindsey said, blushing a little. “No worries, Lindsey, anything that helps you feel better works for us.” I said, and John nodded.

    “Are you ready to go home, John?” Lindsey said, picking up her car keys from the living room coffee table. “I suppose… I guess this would be goodbye for now, Brendon.” John said, taking his backpack.

    I saw the two of them off, and went back inside the house to mull over what had happened that afternoon. I raided the fridge and found a tossed salad and a chicken breast from the night before, so I took it out and heated it up. While it cooked, I went back into the living room, and turned the channel to the Six O’clock news. There was a war going on overseas, and the news anchor regrettably informed the nation that another seven of our men and women had died in combat. I never really cared for the concept of war…but if that’s what it took to quell our enemies, I believe it to be just… but some causes should not be fought for. As the contradiction I had created bounced around in my head, I heard the oven beep, and I retrieved my meal.

    I got the salad dressing from the refrigerator, and a fork and knife from the drawer under the counter. I squirted a little of the dressing onto my salad, and cut up some of the chicken. I chewed the dry piece thoughtfully, my mind spinning around back to Rachel. The afternoon had barred her access to my mind, but now, in this silence, I could think of nothing but her. Obsessive as it may seem, she enjoyed playing with every nook of my mind, withdrawing all of my thoughts, and all of them were of her. If only, I thought, as I took a sip of the cold soda. The ice in it was melting slowly, and with each passing minute, the soda became more and more dilute…until eventually it got so watered down, you could barely taste the familiar sugar twang…

    It was seven PM now, and I was to start my homework for tomorrow’s classes. My day started off with History, in which we were learning, once again, about the American Revolution. I had had my fill of this subject, as I was forced to learn about it not once, not twice, but three times over the course of my intermediate and high school education. I had already spent my time listening to preachings about George Washington and the King of England…and frankly, I no longer cared about any of the tiny little facts they were trying to drill upon us.

    In Spanish we were learning new forms of verbs…while I can’t say I understood them all too well, it was my favorite class due to the fact that Alex, Lindsey, Jen, and Ben were in it. Having my friends in a large concentration like that made class enormously easier to stand, and since we were the top students in the class, we were oft allowed to get away with acting up a little bit. Our Spanish teacher, Ms. Gonzales, was of average size, and about 30 years of age. She liked our little group that sat in the corner, and referenced us as “The Posse”. While the derogatory inference of being a gang was there, it was only used in a light way.

    My third period of the Tuesday would be my Art class, which was usually a very peaceful and docile segue in between Spanish and Lunch. We were working on self-portraits, and since Rachel was in my class, I always tried to slip some sort of compliment into our conversations. She always thought me nice for doing that, and I always felt some sort of good vibe from her when class ended. When lunch came around, I sat with Jen, Bill, and Alex. The conversations on these “B” days were often far more intellectual than the ones on “A” days, given the fact that the average intelligence level was far greater.

    And lastly on Tuesday, I would have my Band lessons, which were led by the greatest band director in the state, Mr. Greene. The band was very small, containing less than thirty members…and that’s because we were the school’s competitive jazz band. I played the guitar, with decent proficiency. We played mainly old-style jazz, with some newer music added to the mix. Songs from bands like the Dave Matthews Band were often seen in our music folders.

    I kicked back with my history book on the couch, thumbing through the well-weathered pages. There were sometimes little doodles over the faces of famous political and historical leaders, which often included little captions that matched the face drawn. In this short moment of absolute irrelevance, I noted that a picture of former President George W. Bush had a mustache resembling Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, with a caption of “All Heil Oil”…

    I finished the passage on the War, and put away the book. I breezed through the Spanish homework, and as there were no other major assignments from the other classes of my Tuesday…I turned on the television and watched a soccer game. The players all moved in total synchrony across the field…back and forth, in a near-hypnotic fashion. One of the Brazilian players scored a goal, and the noise of the crowd became deafening. The sportscaster yelled “GOAL” as if his life depended on it…and with such enthusiasm, that it brought a smile to my face. I got to my feet and celebrated with the Brazilians…until, of course, my mother came in the room and asked what the hell I was doing.

    It was about nine o’clock when I turned off the TV and headed up to my bedroom. It was a nice, clear, moonlit night over the sea, and the waves reflected the moonlight beautifully. It was a crystalline beauty just waiting to be beheld, and the low crash of the waves on the beach was the symphony to enhance the experience. I inhaled a deep breath of salty air, and closed my eyes. Whatever illusions caused by the dancing lights off the water were now blocked out, and my mind could focus clearly…on whatever crossed its path.

    This little bout of meditation was the most utterly calming thing a person can experience. I sat in a reclining office chair and looked out the window again. The quiet was lulling, and I desperately fought the urge to fall into slumber. My alarm clock read 10:05, which shocked me a little bit, as it had not felt as if seventy-five minutes had passed. I stood up, shook off my grogginess, and plodded to the bathroom. I picked up my toothbrush, brushed my teeth (using my own toothbrush, mind you), and cleaned myself up a bit. I changed into boxers and a Sherman Hemsley High t-shirt. I looked out the window one last time, walked to my bed, turned down the sheets, and crawled into bed. I lay looking up at the ceiling for a bit, until my weariness overcame me, and I fell asleep. As I lay dreaming, a lone gull flew onto my balcony, sat and watched me sleep, and flew off into the night.
    Last edited by Pie; 21st March 2007 at 08:24 PM. Reason: Removed instances of a certain name at the request of the person whose name was used


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