Chapter 5

Chapter 5

A Chapter by Kerry Yang

The food court in the mall was usually chaotic, but it seemed even more so today.  Hunter could hear small children laughing and running around, a buzz of conversation, and the sound of piano meandering through it all.  There was only one mall in town and everyone saw everyone there whether you liked it or not.  Besides, it wasn’t like there were a lot of places to go for teenagers.  Hunter and Grant found themselves there often on the weekends if they weren’t out cruising Main street or running through the back allies.  What Hunter liked was that no matter what city he was thrust in, he could trust that the mall there would be exactly the same as every single other mall he’d been to.  Charon’s Fox Heights Center Mall was no different with their old mall security, the creepy speed walkers, and the vendors who would try to spray perfume, offer samples, and hustle you out of a little of money.

The pair sat across each other in the plastic, swivel chairs of the food court as the smell of salty pretzels wafted in the air.  It didn’t help Hunter concentrate as he stared at the red and black chess board in front of him.  He couldn’t really concentrate on much, let alone think about his next move.  He leaned over the table and slowly touched a rook, but let it go after some though.  He could see Grant smile behind his hand.  That was when Hunter usually knew he would eventually lose.  Grant loved to play chess and carried a portable chess board with him in his backpack at all times.  Hunter had played before in a foster home, but he was nowhere near as good as Grant.

Grant chuckled.  “Come, on, man.  Make your move.”

Hunter shook his head.  “It’s like you can read my mind.  You know what I’m going to do before I do it.  I’m pretty much dead, aren’t I?”

Grant smiled slyly.  “You’re definitely getting better since we’ve been playing.  Chess is all about strategy.  You gotta figure out who your opponent is before you start making moves.”

Hunter leaned back in the uncomfortable, metal chair.  “I don’t have time for that.”

“Hey, listen, I got something to tell you.  I got a job at the market to help out my mom, so I’ll be busy after school.”

Hunter nodded.  “That’s cool.”

Grant paused.  “I just wanted to tell you in case you’re wondering why I keep dodging invitations.  I’ve been watching my mom struggle these past few years and I thought that if we just had more money, we’d be okay, but I don’t know…I’m starting to see that’s not what’s important.”

“What’s important?”

“I don’t think you can even imagine.  There’s things you don’t know about and stuff that goes on that is crazy.”

Hunter shrugged. “Hey, I’m not Einstein, but I still get stuff.  What’s so crazy?”

Grant looked at him.  “There are times when you realize what exactly you need and what you don’t. Until then, everything else is just in the way.”

As he said that, Hunter spied a blonde-haired girl step out of a store with a few bags on her arms.  In that moment, time seemed to stop and all he could see was her.  It seemed like an eternity as he stared at her and took her in.  She looked back at him without emotion, just sharing in his gaze.  He could feel nothing but the constant beat of his heart and the pull towards her.  Just as suddenly, she tore her eyes away and started walking away.  She melded into the crowd, but kept her eyes lowered.  She nimbly threaded her way through the mass of humanity without touching any of them.  Hunter looked on still spellbound by the chance encounter.

Grant snapped his fingers.  “Hey, man.  Are you listening at all?”

Hunter blinked a few times.  “Sorry.  I’ll be right back.” 

He kept his eyes solely on her as he slipped past people to reach her.  He was so close to her, yet so far away.  Finally, he caught up to her and reached out a hand to touch her shoulder.  She twisted around and just looked up at him as people filed past them standing still. 

“Hey,” he said.

She peered up at him with eyes wide open and her lips slightly apart.  Hunter stared back at her as the crowd passed them by as they stood like statues.  In that moment, nothing existed but her and him.  Everything seemed to drown out and all he could concentrate on was her face.  She was so beautiful, but it wasn’t her physical beauty that drew him to her.  There were plenty of pretty girls, but there was an air about her.  Her penchant to appear aloof and nonchalant, yet be so awfully aware of others around her.  To Hunter, she seemed to live in her own world and abide by her own rules.  But above all that, she was genuinely kind.  It was easy to give sympathy but it was harder to give help at your own peril.  He knew that sometimes, the ones who cared the most were the ones who appeared the coldest because they didn’t want to be taken advantage of.  He could tell she was the type to push people away because he was one of those people. 

“I’ve been thinking about what you said.”

She didn’t bat an eye.  “What did I say?”

“That you didn’t need my apology or my help.”

“I don’t.”

Hunter looked down.  “I want you to know that I want to make it up not because I feel bad, but because I’ve been a somewhat of a crummy person and I need to break that cycle.  I need to do it for me.  To prove that I’m capable of being a good person.”

Caleigh’s eyes softened as did her stance.  “Ok, what did you want to do?”

Hunter smiled.  “You know, I’m not sure.”

Caleigh smirked as she walked away.  “Why don’t you come by later at 5 at my school? I’m painting sets for The Crucible.  You could start there.”

Hunter grinned.  “I can do that.”

“Oh hey, come through the back entrance close to the auditorium.  I’ll let you in.”


Even though it was close to night, West was still teeming with kids when Hunter arrived.  He could see the football team running drills on the field as girls sat in the stands.  He saw the blond haired quarterback from before and instantly hated him because he envied him his easy life.  He was popular and well-liked.  Hunter had only known about rejection and labels his whole life.  What he wouldn’t give just to be that guy for a day and have his problems.  Hunter hurried towards the auditorium door and waited.  Five minutes went by and he thought ‘maybe she isn’t coming.’  What if this was a joke?  No, Caleigh wasn’t that type of person.  Or was she?  He was starting to doubt he even talked to her earlier.  Maybe he had made a mistake.  Hunter looked around him and saw how out of place he was and he usually was out of place.  He started to walk towards his bike when the door swung open.

Caleigh stood in the doorway with her head cocked to the side.  “Where are you going?”

Hunter grinned sheepishly.  “I thought maybe you stood me up.”

Caleigh smiled.  “Not a chance.  There’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done.  Come on in.  Most of the crew have gone home.  Have you been to West before?”

Hunter followed her inside.  “No,” he lied.

They walked onto a stage in disarray as pieces laid everywhere.  Caleigh motioned to a tall girl and a gangly boy with glasses putting pieces together.  “These are my friends Becky and Nate.  I corralled Nate into helping us tonight.  He usually doesn’t do this grunt work.”

Becky put down her scissors and waved shyly.  “Nice to meet you Hunter.”

Hunter smiled.  “You already know my name?”

Becky turned a beet red.  “Um, yeah.  Caleigh said you would be helping us out.”

Nate stuck out his hand. “How do you know Caleigh?”

Hunter was taken back a bit but shook his hand.  “She helped me out with something.”

Nate stepped back.  “Yeah, she’s a pretty helpful person.  She helped our committee paint the decorations for the homecoming dance.  She’s pretty great.”

Hunter realized Nate has a crush on Caleigh.  “Did you guys go to prom together?”

Caleigh burst out laughing.  “Prom?  I would never go to prom.  Seriously, do I look like I would go to prom?”

Nate shuffled his feet.  “It’s pretty fun when you go with a bunch of people.”

“I like dancing,” Becky interjected and Nate’s face lit up.

Caleigh sighed.  “Back to work minions.  Hunter, follow me to the dungeon.”

They walked past the voluminous folds of the curtains backstage and into a larger back area where props from other plays lived like castaway toys that were no longer favored.  The front of a little wooden house with worn, red shutters on wheels sat next to the trunk of a gnarled tree that shot up into the air without any branches.  They walked past half of an old Volkswagen beetle car, a wooden horse, and the face of a silver castle with crumbling turrets.  Hunter felt oddly at ease with all the odds and ends in the place that didn’t quite match up with anything else.  They winded through the prickly cactus and the Roman vases until they arrived in a less crowded area.  Wooden pallets laid on paint-covered tarp as brushes and cans adjoined them.

Caleigh pointed to an overhang.  “I need you to grab the ladder on the side and bring those other pallets down.  I have a few that are painted and drying, and then we need to put them together.  Are you familiar with Arthur Miller?”

“Who?” Hunter asked.

“He wrote The Crucible.  You guys had to have read it in 10th grade English.”

Hunter shrugged.  “I must’ve missed that day.  I gotta admit, I missed a lot of days.  What’s the play about?”

“It was about the 50’s when the government feared home-grown communism and so, they would call people who were suspected of being linked to such activities and get them to confess about others who were involved too.  Miller hated it and got blacklisted because he wouldn’t name names.  He wrote The Crucible based on the Salem witch trials because he was frustrated with how the government worked.  Interesting guy.”

“I bet he was a hit with the chicks.”

Caleigh laughed.  “He married Marilyn Monroe, so I guess he wasn’t too bad.”

Hunter grinned.  “I’ve gotta look into writing plays.  If you were in that situation, what would you do?”

Caleigh thought about it.  “I don’t know.  I’d like to think that I would make the right choice, but that’s only because I’ve got 50 years of perspective to go on.  I believe there’s always a right and a wrong, but I’m no one to judge anyone’s decisions.  I do admire people like that though.”

“Because he stuck to his guns?”

“Yes, that, but also because he was able to critique a social situation through his art.  Art is able to cut across all social statuses and make you understand.”

“Yeah, but you have to be able to pay the ticket before you watch the show.  Sometimes, people are barely scraping by that they don’t even have time to realize the problems of the world.”

Caleigh looked up earnestly at him as if she were really seeing him for the first time.  “Is that how you see the world?”

Hunter wanted to look away, but he couldn’t.  He couldn’t lie when he was looking into her eyes.  “Do you ever get the feeling that you’re just different?  That you don’t fit in?”

            Caleigh lowered her eyes.  “Sometimes, I feel like this isn’t my world and my real world is waiting somewhere for me.  Does that sound stupid?”

            Hunter caught her chin with his hand and brought it up to face him.  “No, it doesn’t.  That sounds like you don’t know where you should be.”  He looked into her emerald eyes staring back at him and suddenly, he felt at ease.  He felt as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders and he could breathe for the first time.  He knew that if nothing else went right for him, if he could at least look into her eyes, he would be okay.  He had never looked at her so intensely so close up before.  She was breathtakingly beautiful.  The way her eyes shined in the light.  They way her soft, pink lips parted slightly.  And the way her wavy, blonde hair fell over her pale, freckled shoulder. 

            A voice boomed out from the stage then.  It was Nate.  “Hey, we need more nails!”

            Caleigh burst out in a smile.  “I’ll be right back.  Can you get the ladder?”

            Hunter nodded.  “Sure thing.”  When Caleigh came back, Hunter had most of the pallets down.  “I think he likes you,” he quipped.

            Caleigh shrugged.  “No, he’s just a friend I work with.”

            “You don’t really notice the way guys look at you, do you?”

            Caleigh knelt down and started to paint a pallet on the tarp a dark shade of blue.  “I do, but I don’t really think about it.  I really don’t like a lot of attention or being the center of attention.”

            “Is that why you’re backstage and not on stage?”

            Caleigh laughed.  “Is that why you’re absent from school a lot?”

            Hunter took one of pallets and leaned over it facing her.  “I don’t mind attention.  I just don’t like the bad kind of attention.”

            Caleigh continued painting while stealing short glances at him.  “Well, then why skip school?”

            “It’s not intentional.  I get in trouble whether I go to school or not.  And hell, my foster dad doesn’t really care, so it doesn’t matter to me how I get in trouble.”

            “So you’re a trouble maker?”

            Hunter grinned at the way she asked the question so nonchalantly.  “I try not to be.  Trouble has a way of always finding me.  Every new school I go to, someone always wants to start a fight and �"” 

            “And you fight back?” She interrupted.


            “What if you didn’t fight back?  Have you ever tried that?”

            “I don’t like being pushed around.  I have my limits.  Everyone has their limits.”

            Caleigh seemed to be intrigued rather than repulsed by his admissions.  “I see, but haven’t you heard that violence doesn’t solve anything?  What about Martin Luther King and Ghandi?  They changed the world without throwing a punch.”

            “But they fought with words.  They didn’t roll over and die.  I’m not good with words, but I’m pretty good with my fists.”

            “Would you ever reach your limit with a girl?”

            Hunter carried the ladder back to its spot.  “You’re asking if I would ever hurt you?”

            Caleigh didn’t look up at him and continued painting.  “I hope you would never hurt me.”

            Hunter knelt low to her and could sense her apprehension and yet feel the tension of unspoken words between them as they sat so close to each other.  “I promise you that.  You can have my word because it’s the only thing I’ve got.”

© 2017 Kerry Yang

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Added on December 12, 2017
Last Updated on December 12, 2017


Kerry Yang
Kerry Yang


Prologue Prologue

A Chapter by Kerry Yang

Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by Kerry Yang

Chapter 2 Chapter 2

A Chapter by Kerry Yang