Breathe chapter 4

Breathe chapter 4

A Chapter by LunalitSol

“In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life...It goes on.” 

                                              ------ Robert Frost
Chapter 4: Four letter words and other nonsense-

   1. Amelia-
       
      She was hurt. She was conscious of that at least, beneath the layers of glistening serenity she peeled off like a personal turtle’s shell. Amelia sighed, and yawned quietly, flicking at a particularly annoying piece of hair. She’d have to go to bed really soon 

       “Hey love.” 

Amelia’s eyes found her mother‘s slender form angled in the doorway. 

“Hey mum.”

Sarah Opal smiled at her daughter, brushing back a lock of auburn hair fallen free from the strands gathered loosely at the nape of her neck. She glided into Amelia’s room. 

“What are you doing darling?”

  Amelia shrugged.

   “Just doing some research mum.”

   “What about?” her mum asked, seating herself on the edge of  Amelia’s light pink bed. 

     She smiled fondly at her daughter, reaching forward to caress her long fingers through Amelia’s own auburn strands.  A gentle look creased her face. 

     “Beached whales, Dolphins…That sort of thing.”

      Amelia’s mum sighed softly.

     “Look, love, mummy’s got to go to work a bit early tonight. There’s some big conflict with some reels we’ve already done, and I don’t know how long it’ll take to resolve the issue and get the paperwork done. Daddy may have to take you to school in the morning. Ok?”

       Amelia nodded sleepily. 

       “Of course mum.”

       “Did you talk to Liza earlier?”
 
       “Yup. She’s excited. There’s a dance tonight and Jess finally asked her.” Amelia yawned.

       “Ah.” 

        “Yeah. Then Kurt started harassing her and she had to go.” She yawned again and shuffled a few of her papers, eyes slipping closed briefly, then fluttering back open. 

         Cassandra eyed her daughter knowingly.

          “Looks to me like bedtime, darling. Best say goodnight.” 

           Amelia nodded, placing her papers reluctantly on her bedside table. 
 
           “Fine mum. Love you.”

            Her mom leant over and kissed her softly on the forehead.

            “And I love you, heart. Goodnight.”

             Amelia turned over as her mum retreated, turning off the light. She yawned again, attempting to blank her mind of venomous thoughts. It was all about inner peace, she reminded herself. She meditated the feelings away and finally fell asleep.

2.Eden-
        
              Eden shot a look at his dad, then ducked his head. He hadn’t seen his father in a week. Go figure when he finally saw his dad again it would be right after he got beat up. He traced numb fingers over the bag of frozen vegetables he had pressed to his face, tumescent lips contorting into a painful grimace. He’d told the nurse he’d fallen down the stairs and gotten her admittedly reluctant permission to go home. Two days later and it was just as bad as it had been initially, if not worse... Now his dad (whom he’d assumed would be working as he usually was) had walked in on him spitting out blood and wincing over his bruised ribs. 

 “Let me see,” Eden’s dad said at last, voice cold.

 Eden looked up. 

 “Nothing to see,” he muttered.

 His dad strode over, face blank, and placed a hand on his neck, turning his face to clinically examine the marks. Finally, he jerked his hand down, letting Eden’s head fall to the side. 

  “Neosporin’s in the cabinet and steak’s in the garage freezer. Skip school tomorrow if you want. I’m working all day. Speaking of which…I’m going to be late if I don’t head in now. I had to switch some shifts around.”

  Eden nodded, looking away.

   “I’ll take care of it. Bye dad.”

    His dad nodded and tossed him an uneasy look.  

    “See ya around kid,” he murmured after a pregnant pause. 

    His dad ran nervous fingers through his short dark hair and made as if to come toward Eden, then let the movement fall into an awkward shuffling, thinking twice. He gave a tense half wave then darted out the door, briefcase clutched tightly to his side. 

     3. Kiwi-

      “If 3x+18-6x squared=.34809999999999997, then x=.…uch, the dumbest equation on earth? I hate math!”

       Kiwi’s mom laughed.

      “That is an odd equation. I thought they give smaller numbers for the answers?”

       Kiwi sighed.

        “You’d think, wouldn’t you. I swear, mom, it’s Ms. Sellers. She hates us! This would be far easier if I had a calculator…”

         “Then do it later, sweetheart. Why don’t we go see if Lucas is up?”

          Kiwi nodded and stood, stretching. Luke was sleeping in her room, exhausted from the trial of the hospital. 

          Kiwi stepped into the room, closing her eyes briefly and inhaling a bit. She stepped forward, intangible paintbrush in hand. 

         Lucas’s eyes darted open and up.

       “Ki,” he uttered, voice strained under the timbres particular to waking from a long, much needed sleep.   

       She smiled and went over to him. 

       “You scared me.”

        Lucas frowned and propped himself up on his elbows.

        “With?”

         “This. You know coming over, with glass stuck in you and a broken arm. How did that happen? For real.”

        “I fell,” Lucas said, as simply as if he were stating the night was dark. 

         Kiwi’s gaze hardened. Anger reared it’s gorgeous face within her, and she allowed herself to be swept away in its fierce caress. 

        “Right,” she snorted, eyes rolling on automatic, her mouth tasting dry through the wet words. 

         He nodded.

         “Right,” he affirmed, a vague edge settling in his brown eyes. 

         She nodded once, briskly, pushing down her rising anger.

         Lucas’s eyes shifted to his bulky cast. He groaned softly. 

         “I really wish you hadn’t taken me to the ER. I could have set this at home.”

         Kiwi was baffled. But, more than that she was pissed. Wait, scratch that, enraged.

         “You wish I hadn’t taken you? Luke, are you out of your mind? There was glass in your chest! They said if they hadn’t caught it, it could have entered your lungs! Or-or your heart! You could have f*****g died! So, stop being a whiney b***h and thank me for saving your life, Lucas!”

        Luke stood in a single, swift movement and grabbed his backpack with his good hand, looping it onto his shoulder. 

        “I’m out of here,” he told her as he went to the door, fumbling a bit with the knob.

        “Lucas- wait! No you can’t do that! You’re too weak-”

        “I am not weak!”

        “That’s not what I meant! Luke,” she faltered, staring hopelessly at her best friend’s back. “Don’t do it. Don’t go back there. I know, ok. I know.”

         “Well then you know that I need to be there,” Lucas stated roughly, still fixedly facing the door.

          “Lucas, you can’t! She’ll kill you!”

          “No, she won’t. She loves me. She just has some problems, and I get in the way a lot. It’s not her fault!”

          “Yes it is!”

          “Bye Ki.” 

           Lucas walked out the door, and didn’t look back. 

4. Blake-

           Cold water shot up from the ground in a clear burst. Blake ran, dashing to the opposite side of the street. He huddled there watching as the earth erupted into showers of water. As the droplets hit the cement they turned into a thick, smarmy crimson. He watched in horror as the crimson gathered, then rose, taking on human-shape. Who was it? The face was indistinguishable, despite his scrutiny. It heaved towards him, sending up splatters of clear liquid with every (literally) earth-shattering step. 
         
           He darted into a warehouse behind him, breathing hard. A scream reverberated around him. He squeezed his eyes shut and continued to run, now blind. At length, he found himself at the top of a winding staircase, before a single door. He took a quavering step, feeling the earth tremble beneath him. The door creaked open and, bound and naked, he saw…himself. Then, with a great shiver, the world opened up beneath him and swallowed him whole.

5. Alyssa-

           “-So come on get higher, Loosen my lips, Faith and Desire, and the swing of your hips, just to pull me down hard and drown me in love. I miss the pull of your heart, I could taste the sparks on your tongue. I see angels and devils and God, when you come on, hold on, hold on, Hold on. Singin’ Sha lal la la, Sing Sha la la la la la. So come on Get Hi-”

          Alyssa’s headphones were ripped from her ears and she flinched back as her eyes caught those of the perpetrator. Maria.

         “Hi?”

         “Why is Travis calling you?”

           Alyssa’s eyes lit up. 

          “Travis called?”

          Maria’s scowl simmered with growing menace.

          “Allow me to repeat myself. WHY is Travis calling you?”

           Alyssa scratched her neck, looking away.

           “Yeah, about that….” 

             “Yes,” Maria repeated heavily. “About that.”

             “I can’t stop talking to him! He’s my best friend! I really tried, Maria. But I warned you about getting into a relationship with him. So it’s NOT my fault.”

             Maria scowled at her, eyes narrowing darkly. She shoved back a caramel lock of hair behind her ear and licked her lower lip the way she did when she was absolutely, venomously furious. Alyssa placed her hands obstinately on her hips and raised her eyebrows, challenge emanating from her every movement. 

              “You can tell me what to do all you want. Usually I’ll listen. But not this time. This time I am going to do what I want. Please don’t hold it against me. You know how important you are to me. But Travis means a lot to me too…Maria…”

               Maria huffed and flung out a neatly manicured hand, letting it slap Alyssa’s shoulder. Then she spun on her heel and stalked to her room, slamming her door shut behind her.               
  
               Alyssa remained staring at her sister’s door for a long moment, before slowly going to her own room and plugging her headphones back in. She thumbed her way back to Matt Nathansan’s “Come on Get Higher”, letting the rhythm absorb her. Her final thought before she lost herself to the soothing current of song was of a lone boy and a waiting desk. 

6.Colby-

              A tight knuckle rapped the cold surface of a table. Then again. Colby frowned and turned his head to the side, grumbling. 

             “Mr. Spencer,” Ms.Watts pronounced. Then, “Colby.”

               He rubbed his eyes and tucked his head further between his crossed arms. 

               “Colby Spencer!”

               “Wa-…I’m not sleeping,” he muttered.

               “Really, so that  snoring earlier and getting paint all over yourself was all part of an act?”

                His answer was the aforementioned snoring. 
      
                 Ms. Watts sighed and picked up a thick book, The Romantic History of Art, and, wincing, slammed it onto the onyx surface of the table. Colby jerked up, eyes wide as he caught sight of his snickering classmates. 

                  “Thank you for joining us Colby,” Ms. Watts smiled, patting him on the back. 

                   She made her way to the front of the room again, reminding the class as she went to continue working on their Figurative Self  portraits. Colby glanced down at what he’d done so far. A blue, crescent moon shaped face peered up at him. His features were squeezed obliquely into the slight space available. A light orange nose, looking like a misshapen cooked carrot, peeked high on his “face”, while thin purple lips pressed tightly together towards the end of the moon’s pointed curve. The wan blue smeared at places, dipping softly out of its outline. He’d only gotten through one and a half of the eyes. He grasped a pinkened red and traced the slim contours of the eye. Then he picked up a grey-blue and swiveled it onto the center of the thin ovals.

                  He groaned, sitting back and eyeing his progress critically. Beside him Jennifer Faye was using an eraser to smudge out her penciled diva. He frowned at her. That was her self portrait? Weird. Her short mouse-brown hair brushed her shoulders, and she darted a look at him, arm zooming out protectively to shield her creation. He rolled his eyes and glanced around the room. Mallory Garza winked suggestively at him and he returned the expression in kind. Maybe he should give her a chance? She’d been throwing hints all month. And the Halloween dance was coming up….Today was the…what? He gazed up at the whiteboard. October 18th. Dances were traditionally held on Fridays so….October 29th would be the date of the Halloween Dance. 11 days. He briefly wondered what that Kiwi girl would be doing- dances didn’t really seem like her scene. He was with this one girl, Megan, right now, but he doubted it would last. She was too….clueless for his tastes. Naive. He needed someone who knew exactly what they were doing, what they wanted. Someone who wouldn’t be peppy one second, then shy the next, and had no delusions as to exactly who they were and how talented they could be. Assertive was a good word to describe it. And Megan was the exact opposite of that word. Whatever. He’d do it whenever he next saw her probably.
            “Ahem, Colby, I asked if you were done already.”

                  Colby looked up at Ms. Watts. 

                  “Oh sorry. For the most part, yeah. But there’s still some touching up to do.”

                   She nodded kindly at him and danced to Jennifer’s side of the table. 

                   “Oh! Jennifer I love what you’ve done here-”

                    He drowned out the rest of her overeager praise, scanning the room for Mallory and catching her eye. She simpered at him and he did the same, thinking distastefully that maybe he shouldn’t give in to her intimations after all. He was in the mood for a challenge lately and Mallory was extremely easy. 

                   Colby slid his phone from his pocket. Three minutes left and one new text. After casting a furtive glance around the room and finding Ms. Watts giving some poor kid, Jordan something, tips on charcoal usage, he scrawled his way to his inbox. It was his dad. What the-…He took in the message, his concern growing to skyscraper proportions. “I’m on my way to pick you up. Go to the attendance office.” 

                    What was going on? He stood, grasping his backpack, and throwing it over his shoulder. He took hold of his project and wrapped it into a tight scroll, then started towards the door. 

                     “Colby! Class is not over!”

                     “Gotta go.”

                     “Colby-”

                     “Bye.”

                    “Mr. Spencer!”

                      Colby ignored his teacher, for the first time in years, and walked through the door, his mind only on the attendance office and the possibilities that awaited him. 

7. Frieda-

            There was still shattered glass in her hair. Blood. Frieda choked back a sob, blinking her matted lashes hard then wincing. There was a cut on her eyelid, sending a burning blast of pain into her virtually shattered brain cells. She caught a glimpse of crimson riddled golden-brown hair and swallowed bile. Sean…

             “Don’t move,” one of the paramedics carrying her gurney uttered, looking at her with that sickening pity. Normally she’d tell him off…but she was just so damn tired….
 
              
             Only one thought fought its way past the stupor in which she’d been absorbed: ‘My brothers…what happened to my brothers?’ She felt raw and weary, as if she were balanced precariously on the edge of a knife, teetering inevitably towards pain. She’d seen Sean. That had been his hair…everything was so disjointed. She wheezed a bit and someone shoved an oxygen mask on her.

                ‘Gee thanks, I’m sure that’ll help…Oh it is. Oh sweet f*****g Jesus. I love you guys. You’re my fave peeps in town. You can buy my bras from Sean half-off whenever you want….Oxygen. That s**t is good. It’s like marijuana, but natural. Wow that was stupid but…I don’t care…Oxygen….If oxygen was a person, I’d soooo be humping his leg right now….Yum….I was worried about someone at some point….Oh hey there’s a needle in my arm-’

                When Frieda came to, she was sore all over, and wrapped in crisp white sheets. ‘So…not my room, then. Or Sean’s. Or Parker’s for that matter. Hell, there’s no clean white sheets in….oh.’ That was when she caught sight of the machines measuring her, well, everything really. And an IV bag, which explained the jabbing pain on the inside of her elbow whenever she moved her arm. 

                   She sat up gingerly and the machines went positively haywire. Two nurses strode in, one going for the machines and the other heading towards her. She groaned loudly and lay back, glowering truculently at her assailers. Fan freakin tastic…..

                    “Hey, you’re all right, ok. Can you tell me your name? Do you remember your name?” 

                     Frieda scowled. ‘No s**t. I’m not a retard….’ 

                     “Frieda,” she managed through gritted teeth. “Addsin.” 

                      The nurse nodded, still smiling despite Frieda's tone. Frieda noticed the other nurse scratching a pen over a clipboard. Her scowl deepened. 

                      “Do you remember how old you are?” 

                      “I'm fourteen.”

                      “And when were you born?”

                      “Uh! What's with all the dumb questions? Can't you just tell me what’s going on? Where are my brothers?”  Frieda exclaimed, her frustration hitting its limit. 

                      “Please just answer the question,” the nurse stated calmly
                      
                       “Whatever it’s-”

                        Frieda’s brusque tone evaporated and her forehead wrinkled. When was her birthday….She knew she was fourteen….but she couldn’t recall when she’d become fourteen. She strained, trying desperately to recall information that she knew, logically, should be there, yet, somehow….didn’t exist. 

                         “Why can’t I remember?” she asked, irritably. 

                          “Do you know why you’re here?”

                           “Wha-No! No, alright! I don’t! What the hell is going on? I want some answers!”
 
                           “I’ll be right back,” the nurse smiled, as if she’d heard nothing.

                           Frieda growled and flopped back.

                           If they didn’t release her soon, she’d have some serious a*s-kicking to do. 

8. Parker-

                     Everything was dark. Disoriented. Parker tried to move, but it felt as if the air around him was solid, keeping him undeniably entrapped. He didn’t feel quite real, but he’d never been more aware of his own existence. The thrumming of his heart resounded in his ears. Every beat quaked conspicuously through him. Every raking breath was a bittersweet combination of agony and euphoria. Each blink turned his world.

                      He felt as if he was being anchored down into the depths of some deep, dark sea. Everything was muffled, a world of static. Parker felt nothing and everything all at once. It would have been almost dizzying, had he been able to be anything but the bewildering contradiction of aware and utterly not. 

                       So, Parker just lay back and continued to drift in his dark cocoon as the world passed him by.

9. Casey-

                      Everything was dark,and then there was a spotlight, a single beam trained on her still form. Stark white ceramic tile flushed with startling crimson, blooming out around her, a crowning imprint, like the markings of making a snow angel. 

                      Anguish shot through her in bursts. Her body contorted around an epicenter, her swollen abdomen bare with the exception of the shadows bathing her in foreboding. And then a wriggling form was tearing her, clawing its way out of her stomach. She screamed, desperate and bitter, as a monster emerged, bloody and grim. 
                             
                   “She’s not breathing.”
                          
                      Casey jerked awake, and leapt out of bed, careening into the bathroom and throwing herself in front of the toilet. Vomit erupted from her bulging mouth as she emptied the contents of her stomach into the pungent water below, then again, and again, until all that was left was stomach acid. She groaned, dry heaving a few more times, then pulling down the seat over her sickness and resting her pounding head against the cool porcelain edge, as she weakly tapped her finger down on the lever, flushing away the remnants of her fraying sanity. 

                       After a few moments, she began her mantra:

                       ‘There is life inside of me, there is life inside of me, there is life inside of me, there is life inside of me, there is life inside of me….’
                        
                      It wasn’t helping. She took a few more deep breaths, pushing back the remaining tide of nausea. 

                      “Casey! Casey, where are you? Ca-sey!” 

                       Nathan bounded into her room, door hitting the wall with a resounding thud. She could hear a whining Bradley trailing behind him. Casey sighed, pulling some winterfresh gum from a little tin on the counter and pulling herself into a standing position. 

                      She stepped into her room to find Nathan leafing through her drawer, while Bradley lounged on her bed, slightly curled on his side, watching their brother’s progress with big sleepy blue eyes. She cleared her throat and Nathan backed away from the drawer, grinning sheepishly from beneath his mop of unruly dirty-blonde hair. Casey spotted a book lying on her bed and laughed, striding towards it and seating herself, pulling the seven year old towards her. 

                      “Looking for this?” she asked, fishing a key from her bathrobe pocket and dangling it in front of him. 

                       “You changed your hiding spot?” he asked shamelessly. 

                    
                       Casey smiled fondly at her little brother. The kid had no scruples but he was completely adorable, and definitely a good distraction. Her nausea had almost completely subsided by now. 

                      “Didn’t you know that that’s an invasion of privacy?” she chided him, still smirking slightly. 

                      “Of course. You tell me that every time this happens,” he replied, snatching the key and then throwing it at the diary as Casey pulled him into her arms and began tickling him savagely. The little boy immediately fell into a fit of wild giggling, cerulean eyes sparkling at her. 

                         Bradley turned himself to lay against her side, yawning softly. At five years old, he was everyone’s baby. Brad had a mound of soft golden curls sitting aloft a round face, with wide blue eyes and a dimple in his cheek. The little boy was just that, little. He was underdeveloped for his age, short and thin, no matter how much food they stuffed him with. His complexion was soft and wan, like that of a sick angel. Casey’s hand looped itself into his curls, combing through them gently. 

                     “How about we go get something to eat?” Casey posed when the tickle-attack had ended and her brothers had settled themselves around her. She was vaguely amused to note the sudden craving for food that had exploded inside her. Pancakes sounded good….with chocolate chips. And banana….

                      “Uhhh, help me up, munchkins.”

                      The boys laughed rolling off the bed and each gripping a hand and tugging. Casey fixed her weight down for a moment, watching her brother’s strain, then abruptly lightened herself and helped them jerk her to her feet, releasing a short exclamation of astonishment. 

                        “You’re so strong! My superheroes!”

                          She smiled.

                           “You wanna go put on your capes and I’ll make us some pancakes?”

                           The two both nodded enthusiastically and then dashed out, Nathan pushing past Brad lightly. Casey grinned and strode from her room, making her way carefully down the stairs. The sudden burst of energy enthralled her. 
                      
                            The pancakes were perfect, and Casey basked in the afterglow feeling accomplished in the fact that not only was her stomach not revolting, but also that both of her younger brothers were still happily making their way through the fluffy breakfast, calm, getting along, and utterly reverent. It was like assurance from some sort of higher power that she could do this. She could be a mom, and not just any mom, a good one! Casey sat back, hands clasped on the slight swell of her stomach, and smiled as the pieces fell together. 

10.Eden-

        Eden dragged in a breath and unclasped his sweaty hands, raising one to swipe his forehead. ‘It was just a dream, it was just a dream,’ he reminded himself urgently. ‘Just a f*****g dream.’

        He let his heart calm, the ache of his chest dull, then stood, his tall, limber form unfolding gingerly into reality. In a flash, he was at his desk, one slim, shivering finger pressing the power button purposefully. He watched intently as the computer started up, whirring itself into action like an old loyal dog, shaking out its limbs affectionately as it rose from a deep sleep and prepared for play time. The log in screen inevitably appeared, beaming eagerly at him, just waiting for the word so it could slide away, leaving him with a jug of empty document waiting to be filled with his inky splash.

      He let his fingers settle on the keys for a moment, reveling in the sensation of home, before slowly letting one dip and finishing the password (thatday)  with a relieved flourish. Instantaneously the welcoming screen evaporated into a blue expanse of screen with a simple white swirl in the center. Loading. He tapped his fingers on the side of the keyboard impatiently. And then his home screen was there and he was pressing his favorite icon in the very center of the plane and a white slate appeared before him, just begging to be covered in perfectly proportioned type. 

      His fingers found their places once more and without thought he began. 

         Thud. Thud. Thud. 
          
         The thundering knock woke Ethan from his baseball-card induced reverie. He looked blankly at the clock. 

          7:30.

           Dad wasn’t supposed to be home from New York for another day. Mom was humming a tuneless sound wave from the kitchen as water splashed over dishes and down the drain. Clara was on the couch, giggling helplessly at some sponge bob episode, and Robbie was nestled to her right, already in his pj’s and fast asleep, thumb tucked safely into his mouth. No-one had moved at the sound from the door. The knocking sounded again, louder this time.

           Thud. Thud. Thud. 

          “Honey, Ethan, can you come in here and keep washing these dishes baby?”

          Ethan groaned and stood, shoving his new cards to the side and sticking his tongue out at his smug younger sister. 

           “Do I have to?”

            His mom came in from the kitchen, wiping her hands off on a dull pink rag. She swept back a stray piece of hair and gave him a warning look. The knob moved, clicking conspicuously. Mom sighed and gave him an exasperated expression, eyebrows raised and lips drawn tight together into a pinch, then called out, “I’ll be right there!”
            
              She turned back to him, pointing towards the kitchen and, by default, the waiting sink. The knob was still. 

              “Go. Now.”

               Ethan rolled his eyes but went, tossing an annoyed “whatever” over his shoulder. Behind him, he could hear his mom’s heels clicking as she went to the door. 
                Click, click.

                 He angrily turned the faucet dials, wanting the angry rush of water to overpower any of her sounds. 

                  The door opened. 

        “Eden!” 

         His head turned, and his fingers ceased their movement, pulling back slightly. He eyed the door with a vague sense of trepidation, waiting for a knock, a knob turn, then, realizing his stupidity, released a harsh, awkward sounding bubble of laughter. 
     
        “Come down here please!”

         Eden groaned quietly, turning to cast his longing gaze on his progress. 

          “Do I have to?” he asked, before realizing it to be exactly what he’d written not
two minutes before. He swallowed spasmodically, Adams apple bobbing.  

          “Now!”

     He was already up and reaching for the door at the utterance of the commanding syllable. He muttered a bitter “Yes father” before shoving the door shut behind him and sullenly meandering down the stairs towards the kitchen, the irony of the fact not lost on him. 

     His dad was standing, lean and annoyed, dark hair cut short and almond eyes snapping. He pushed his wire frames up the ridge of his long, glistening nose, fingers flexing over the handle of his briefcase. At Eden’s appearance, the briefcase fell with a soft thunk to the floor.  

        “I’m going to be late for the meeting,” the man said, lips thinning, pressing together into a firm line of irritation and stress.

        Eden shrugged, shifting his weight, and arms sliding to cross at his waist. 

        The man sighed and shifted as well, his discomfort obvious. 

         “There’s a U-haul parked down the street.” 

           Eden nodded his head. 

           Another pause swelled between them before being diligently popped by his father. 

          “I talked to the guy and he said he could use some help.”

            Eden scowled at this. 

            “Yeah. And?” he shot back.

             Eliot Thorsley’s brow wrinkled, eyes darkening beneath. 

             “And I want you to go over there and do what you can for the man.” he replied evenly, voice low and laced with annoyance. 

              “Why should I?” Eden muttered, arms raising to his chest and tightening. 

               “I told you to that’s why,” Eliot snapped.  
                      
                So that’s how this was going to go. Fine. 

                 They glowered at each other, both abruptly enraged. F**k. Why had he ever wanted anything from his dad, anyways? They’d never manage to repair the damage; everything was too far gone. The silence between them was solidified, a towering wall, utterly impenetrable. It was as if the years of silence, flitting looks, rising hatred, had come to a peak between them. Eden’s ears buzzed, his face burning with that surge of familiar yet unfamiliar rage. His father shook his head, then stalked towards the door, shoving past him. 

      Eden didn’t know what happened. He didn’t know if it was the years of estrangement, that steady, prevailing sense of injustice, or the knowledge that, despite the evidence (or perhaps because of it) his father blamed him….or maybe it was the fact that his birthday was just five days from now. Perhaps it was a culmination of all of these. He knew nothing. Hell, in that moment, he nearly was nothing. Eden ceased to exist, and all that remained was a driving fist. 

      With impact came power, like sweet golden nectar, spreading, precious and addictive, through his veins. An electric shock to the heart to wake him back up. Something broke between them; that fragile thread of family, of “this is my father”, “this is my son” was obliterated, leaving behind the putrid, smoking remains of something that very nearly never was. His father’s head snapped to the side, and immediately they were bound to an all out war. 

       Eden’s fist, now directly, distinctly his, clenched and unclenched twice, sweat rising to a balmy slick, then flung forward into his father’s stomach. His dad gasped, shocked, and keeled over, breathing hard. His fist flew towards it’s target again, already reddening, and smacked hard with a wet thwack into the older man’s open palm. His father shoved him back, eyes flashing. His knuckles crashed ruthlessly into Eden’s jaw. 

      Suddenly the world slowed its pace. His father staggered back, blinking. Eden could taste the sharp tang of his blood filling his mouth. He spit crimson. 

       “Eden.”

       He looked up. 

        “Don’t.”

       “Eden”

        He had punched as hard as he possibly could. It should have shattered the wall between them, but, somehow, the wall seemed bigger than ever before. Eden took a deep breath and forced himself to swallow the acrid mixture of bile and blood which had culminated in their fight’s aftermath. 

        “I’m gonna grab an icepack then I’ll go find that guy and help him unpack and whatever.”

         “Eden….”

       “Go work, dad. You’re late already.” Eden said tiredly. 

      His dad hesitated, watching him, then slowly picked up his briefcase and walked out. 

       The sound of the door closing had never been louder. 

11. Kiwi-

      The door opened and Kiwi glanced up from her chemistry work, something about balancing isotopes, only to quickly look back down. She swallowed convulsively and chewed on a fingernail, eyeing the clock. One minute left of Indiv. 

      Her chem teacher (that twenty-something hopeful) Ms.Arcot had devised, what she liked to call the Goodie method. Basically, whenever they did worksheets (which was typically at least four out of the five days of the school week) they had to work on them for around fifteen minutes, though it was supposed to be twenty, of the fifty minute class period. Then they did group work for the next thirty minutes. Whoever had managed to make the most of this got their choice of prize. She even had a flipping point system, where you could routinely neglect the usage of your trip to the prize box and end up with something “even better”. The goodie method depended on two scores, your Indiv. (individual) and Coll (collaborative). As far as Kiwi was concerned, it was a load of crock. 

      It would be the first Coll since her and Lucas’s fight, and she had no idea who else to partner with. 

      The timer’s ding shrilled into the air and immediately her classmates began rearranging their seats, moving from spot to spot, and jabbering loudly amongst themselves. She rolled her eyes. She needed a new partner so…

       “Hey. Jennifer.” 

       Jennifer Faye glanced up at her from her worksheet. It was utterly riddled with endless doodling. Kiwi offered the quieter girl a smile. 

      “Want to work with me from now on?”

      She cast a mildly confused look behind her, her thin brown hair wavering, then turned back, saying doubtfully:

        “I thought you work with Lucas.”

       Kiwi shrugged, eyes darting away from the other girl’s thin, moonish face. 

        “We’re not really speaking at the moment.”

        “So I’m basically a convenience.”

       Kiwi paused, turning her eyes back to the other girl, a frown curling her mouth, then with a sigh nodded.

        “Yeah. You are.”

       Jennifer hesitated, then nodded. 

         “Alright, but you do realize that you can work alone, right?”

        Kiwi laughed.

         “Of course, but I wouldn’t want to! I like my conversation, thank you very much!”

         Jennifer laughed as well. 

          “Hey, you’re into art right?” she asked after a minute, abruptly serious. She brushed a hand over a droopy feather in her hair. 

          “You kidding? I love art. It’s like my reason for living.”

         “Well then….would you look at some of my designs and tell me what you think?”

        “Designs?”

         Jennifer laughed nervously, and let her tongue slide over her braces, thin, pink lips flipping into a grin. She turned to her fiercely decorated bag, one of those shoulder ones, and extracted a huge folder. 

       “I…I want to be a fashion designer some day. I test all my fashions out myself at school, y’know, to see if there’s a reaction, but since people don’t really notice me anyways….”

        Kiwi bobbed her head in quasi-understanding before slipping the band from the small black knob and opening the portfolio. Jennifer quieted, grabbing Kiwi’s worksheet and diligently beginning to copy all of her answers onto it. 

      She removed the first several papers from the portfolio, leafing through them at first, then going back to actually study each drawing. 

       The first paper bore three figures with their arms around each other, two boys and one girl, in a front, side, and back portrayal. 

      The girl was in the middle, standing, hands placed on her hips. The dress she wore was short and triangular, looking oddly…metallic. There were bands of silver circling her upper arms and calves. Her shoes were platforms, elevator shoes, it seemed, a callback to the 70s and to a certain global phenomenon called Gaga, though without that quality of awesome daring, and assuming a more…clueless persona. Her hair was lank and looped, Princess-Leia style by her ears. There were huge, blaringly silver stars dangling from each ear. Stars, also of the same odd, rubbery material as the earrings, were strung around the middle of the tin-colored dress, one for every shade of the rainbow. 

      The boy on the left was wearing a silver shirt, bearing a striking resemblance to shaped aluminum foil. It was skin-tight at the chest, stomach, and upper arms, but disbanded at the sleeves, flowing out into a wide, very 1800s sort of cuffing. Each sleeve seemed to be in two pieces, the tight top and flowering bottom, connected by a black star, which was sewn to an end of either sleeve. His pants were basically titanium skinny jeans, with black stars connecting the skin-tight covering of thigh to the looser design over the calf. His shoes were like silver moccasins, with small starry tracings etched in glitter over the edges. 

      The boy on the right was by far the most dressed up. He wore a version of the other boy’s outfit though, it seemed, in a garish suit-like attempt. His shoes were knee-high boots with buckles made of stars, visible through the translucent material of his pants, solid and very much not-see-through only from upper thigh…up. Cowboy-style fringe hung from the sleeves, interlocking with various multi-colored--surprise, surprise…-- stars

     The top of the page read Silver Stars, but Kiwi thought privately that Planet of the silver starred Martians with zero fashion sense an infinitely better title. 

     “What do you think?”

      What did she think? How the hell should she answer that? Kiwi had long prided herself her ability to be brutally honest, but she needed this girl to keep liking her. S**t. 

     “They’re….really imaginative…”

     “Aren’t they?”

      Jennifer seemed thrilled. 

     “That one’s actually my favorite. I think it’s my best too. This,” she gestured to her own outfit, which seemed half feather, half apricot satin, “This was my favorite before I made that one. I really like stars…and feathers….as if that wasn’t obvious,” she released a short, self-deprecating laugh, her thin face flushing. Kiwi swallowed, forcing a smile. 

     “Yeah….”

      Jennifer beamed and handed her her paper. 

     Kiwi glanced at it; it was covered in her own handwriting, though she had only put down the first answer. She gawked at it, then suddenly turned to Jennifer, who blushed. 

      “One of my relatively few talents,” she admitted, looking embarrassed. “Don’t tell anyone ok?” 

     Kiwi nodded several times then said slowly, “Think you might wanna come over after school?”

      Jennifer stared at her, nail in her mouth and a strand of dark chestnut hair clinging to a portion of the side feather in her feather-glasses. 

      “I’d love to.”
 
12. Lucas-

      “I’d love to.” 

      Lucas ground his teeth. He’d already been replaced, then. 

     “Whatever,” he muttered to himself, ignoring the creeped out looks from the two kids across from him. 

      “You talking to yourself?” The guy asked. There was a smirk playing around his lips and his arms were crossed over an Abercrombie shirt. The girl suppressed a giggle and nudged him, shooting Lucas a look of amusement. He rolled his eyes and sunk further down in his seat. He wished vaguely that he hadn’t done anything to catch their attention. It was always better to stay invisible as far as he was concerned. 

      “So….are you like emo or something?” the guy asked. 

       “Chris!”

      “What?” he asked, laughing. “It’s just a question, Gabi.” 

      She laughed with him, pressing a hand onto his arm and whispering something in his ear. He shook his head vigorously, sniggering quietly. The girl grinned and turned her blue eyes back to Lucas. 

       “So are you?” she asked. 

       Lucas turned his head to the side, not bothering to answer. What the hell was he supposed to say to that?

      “Can I see your arms?” the girl asked, voice rising a bit in excitement. She extended an arm towards him and he jerked back, eyes narrowing. 

       “I’m not emo,” he replied, looking to the side and slowly moving back towards the table. 

      “Then why can’t we see your arms?” the girl asked, her head tilting to the side in a mock gesture of innocence. 

      Lucas rolled his eyes.

      “C’mon,” the guy laughed. “You got something to hide?” he reached forward and grabbed Lucas’s arm, yanking at his sleeve. Lucas pulled back, shoving away the hand desperately. 

       “Ms. Arcot,” he bellowed. 

        The other boy let go immediately, jumping back to his seat. The teacher raised an eyebrow at them, and the boy smiled at her charismatically. 

      “Sorry Ms. Arcot, ummm…Logan here was just being really suspicious about his arms and I wanted to make sure he was okay, y’know?”

       “It’s Lucas,” Lucas snapped. His eyes fell on Kiwi. She and Jennifer or whatever were both turned around. Kiwi scowled at him and called out, “Maybe you should send him to the nurse or something to get checked out Ms. Arcot. Just to be on the safe side.”

      “Yeah,” the girl next to Kiwi added, darting a glance at Ki. Several others joined in, laughing. The girl across from Lucas nodded as well, her eyes now disdainful. 

       “He’s definitely hiding something, Ms. Arcot.”

       Ms. Arcot frowned at Lucas. 

       “Ms. Arcot, I’m not hiding anything. Please, don’t listen to them.”

       Ms. Arcot shook her head reprovingly. 

       “Well I think, just in case it might be a good idea,” she told him, turning to grab a pass from her desk.

        “Here Lucas. The bell should be ringing soon so take your stuff with you as well. Did you finish your worksheet?” 

      Lucas swallowed and nodded, eyes glued to the floor, fisting the sheet of paper in his hand. He turned back, grabbing his binder and shouldering his backpack, all the while shooting a fierce glare at the two kids, Chris and Gabi or whatever their names were. They both laughed at him and the girl threw a patronizing smile his way. 

      “Bye, bye,” she called after him, “have fun!”

     Lucas looked one last time at Kiwi. She met his plaintive gaze for a moment, then turned abruptly back to her new friend, grinning and asking something about some art store. He nodded to himself and slumped out of the door, shutting it softly behind him, his thoughts racing. 

      He meandered forward, one hand extending absentmindedly to brush over the rough contours of the rows of puce lockers on his right, contemplating his options. He hated defying teachers, anyone really, as he knew for a fact the sort of consequences he could face. However, if anyone realized, it would be humiliating. Plus, there was the vague possibility of him being taken from his mom. He couldn’t let that happen. He had to take care of her. It wasn’t like he didn’t deserve what he got anyways. There was always a reason his mom hit him and he knew she couldn’t help it. He was just impossible to handle otherwise. If anything, it was good that things were the way they were. Necessary. He needed to be disciplined; he couldn’t do anything without it. He depended on his mom. Without her, he’d never have existed anyways. So, of course he couldn’t let anyone…Even if it meant disobeying his teachers, Lucas could not go to the nurse. 

      His mind made up, Lucas ambled towards the bathroom, hands deep in his pockets. He washed his face and then proceeded to pull out a green notebook from his backpack. He removed a pencil from his pocket and then groped around in his backpack until his hand found a small, thick book. He leafed through it, finding the section on various methods of welding and set to work on the advanced algorithms in his notebook. 

      Ten minutes later the bell ground out of the schools speaker system and he crammed his supplies back into his backpack, throwing it back over his shoulder, and dashing out, sprinting towards English class. 

       Lucas flopped into his seat, ignoring the dirty looks from the majority of the kids surrounding him. Cassie, the girl in front of him, turned around in her seat and smiled at him. 

      “Hey,” she said, eyes gentle. 

      “Hey,” he replied, glad for the fact that not everyone in this school was a d****e or a b***h. Cassie was one of the relatively few weird normals. As far as he knew, she had a pretty good life and her major…”oddities” were an  affinity for anime (which was definitely not that weird in the first place from what he’d seen), her absolute love of comics, and her extremely open mind. Nevertheless, she was an acquaintance at best, having collected her own group of fellow anime lovers as friends. Lucas didn’t have cable and stuff so even if he’d wanted to get into anime, it would have been an uphill battle at best. All of this made for extremely limited conversation between the two, but Lucas still counted himself lucky to know her. One could never have two many decent acquaintances, especially when fighting with one of their two friends, and the best of those at that. 

      A ball of paper suddenly slammed into his head then fell into his lap. Lucas and Cassie both frowned as Lucas picked it up and placed it on the table in front of him. 

      “Does it say anything?” Cassie wondered. Lucas shrugged and picked it up once more. He unraveled the crumpled sheet, smoothing it several times before actually looking at the thing itself.

      “There’s nothing there,” he stated, feeling oddly uncomfortable. 

      “Turn it over,” Cassie suggested, her hazel eyes squinting in thought. She pushed back a lock of brown hair. 

      Lucas turned it over, eyebrows furrowing. 

      “Still nothing,” he muttered, recrumpling the paper and stuffing it away from Cassie’s prying eyes. She shrugged. 

      “That’s weird… Oh, hey, Krista! Did you read that manga I gave you yet?”
  
       Lucas sighed and slumped in his desk, glancing at Mr. Miller. The English teacher was leaning over an empty desk at the front, checking off names on the attendance list, his balding head shining under the fluorescent light.  Lucas retrieved his green notebook as the teacher began to talk and his classmates quieted. He slipped the note into the back of the notebook, sparing one last look at the words sprawled across the page. 

        “Midnight. Sherwood Park.”

      Lucas peeked surreptitiously around himself, folding the paper into eighths and cramming it to the farthest side of his spiral. He darted one last parannoyed glance about the classroom and then set to work on the vocabulary exercise for the day.

13. Amelia-

      “We sitting with green eyes again today?” Shay brushed back a dark, perfect curl, hazel eyes glinting brightly. 

      Amelia glanced up from her chemistry work, shrugging vaguely. 

       “We can try,” she said offhandedly. “But I don’t know how he’ll react.”

      Shay laughed , leaning onto the large black lab table. 

      “That was so funny last week when he like blew up at us. Didn’t like the milk part so much but it was worth it.” A pause, then: “He’s really hot, isn’t he?”

     Amelia remained focused on her work, commenting vaguely, “Maybe…I dunno.”

      “Think I should go for it then?”

       “Go for what?”

       “Ask him out.”

      This caught Amelia’s attention.

      “Shay, don’t you have a boyfriend?”

      Shay rolled her eyes, snorting softly. 

      “You mean Sam? It’s strictly casual.”

      Haley slipped in between them, arching an eyebrow and pushing a strand of short blonde hair behind her ear. 

      “Since when? From what Sam told my brother he’s pretty into you. And he’s really pissed off that you’re still even flirting with other guys,” Haley remarked, shaking her head. 

       Shay sighed.

      “As said by Idina Menzel in the movie version of my favorite musical Rent, he needs to learn to take me the way that I am. I can’t restrain myself to just one guy, after just like a month of dating. I like to play the field.”

     Haley snickered. 

     “Don’t hate the player, hate the game, huh?”

     Amelia’s lips twitched in amusement, but she continued scratching out the answers  onto her worksheet. 

     “Exactly,” Shay replied, withdrawing a tube of cherry lipgloss and beginning to apply it carefully to her rotund lips. 

     Haley leaned over and placed a finger on Amelia’s paper.

     “That’s not the right answer ’Melia.”

     Amelia frowned up at her. Shay smacked her lips, and pruned in front of her hand mirror, tossing her curls behind her shoulder than pulling her entire mane to one side and studying her reflection. Haley grimaced and shot a look of mirth towards Amelia’s still crinkled face. 

     “What’s wrong with it?” Amelia asked after a moment. Haley looped around, going to Amelia’s other side and tossing an apologetic smile at the guy in the seat next to them, Jordan something or other. 

     “Decimal point,” Haley informed her after a few seconds’ study. Amelia groaned and scrubbed out her decimal point with the largest part of her worn down eraser. Haley pulled back and rested her head leisurely upon Shay’s shoulder. The other girl sighed, humming tunelessly and scribbling her ganstered out stick figures. A signature doodle for Shay, who thought a stick figure with shagging pants and bling the very height of hilarity. Shay frowned for a moment then began scribbling another figure, then another, conjuring a fight scene whilst Amelia finished off her work, grabbed each of their papers, and flounced up to the wire bin at the front of the room. 

      When she returned, Amelia poked Haley in the arm and gave her an expectant look. Haley smiled and said solemnly, “Amelia the thanks are implied by now. You must have the highest karma of anyone in this country, let alone the school. When you’re reincarnated I have no doubt it’ll be as something fabulous. Is the bell ringing soon?”

      Amelia chortled shortly, long amber locks swinging merrily down her back. 

     “There’s like two minutes left Haley. I’m sure even you can wait that long.”

      Haley grinned and threw an arm over Amelia’s shoulders. 

      “I don’t know that I can Amelia. I’m so very famished as it is.”

      “Ah, but remember young grasshopper. Patience is a virtue,” Amelia said, mock-somberly. 

       Haley giggled and ran her tongue over her braces in a quick gesture of relaxation. 

      “In that case, I’ll probably be reincarnated as something really nasty.”

      “Like a McDonalds cheeseburger smothered in fries!”

     Haley winced comically. 

      “Oh God, no. You’re mean today aren’t you?!”

     Amelia beamed at her.

      “Only partly.”

      A loud groan sounded behind them and they both turned their attention to Shay, who was looking more annoyed by the second. 

     “Yes?” Amelia asked Shay, voice innocent as per usual. 

      “You two should get a room,” Shay snarked them, maroon lips pursing at them. 

      “Hmmm…Interesting idea. What do you think Haley? Should we get a room?”

       “Oh Amelia, I don’t think you can afford to get a room with me,” Haley giggled. “Shay maybe, but certainly not me.”

       Shay rolled her eyes, but was unable to repress a hint of amusement at their antics. 

     “Whatever you say Haley. We both need to go get ready to leave though. ‘Melia?”

     Amelia nodded, turning back to her notebooks and beginning to pack everything into her satchel, while the other girls went to grab their own things. The bell shrilled through the intercom and she tossed her bag over her shoulder easily, waiting for the other girls to be ready to go. Finally they joined her and together they moved towards the door, with Amelia waving a casual goodbye to Mr. Holloway. 

     “You both eating lunch with me today?”

     Haley shook her head, platinum blonde hair swinging with the movement. 

     “I have to catch up on some scholarship things with the guidance counselor and then my brother wanted to talk to me about something.”

     “Okay.”

     Kayley and Olivia injected themselves into the group. 

     “What was the question?” Olivia asked, adjusting her headband in her light brown hair. Her arms were swinging, floral skirt riding up her thin legs. Kayley hooked arms with Olivia, then with Amelia. 

     “I was just wondering whether you guys are eating lunch with me today.”

     Kayley shook her head, scrunching up her large forehead and squinting her brown eyes thoughtfully. 

     “Can’t. Hanging out with Matt, Taylor, Blake, Abby, and Troy today. And Tyler and Noel are both pre-occupied with their girlfriends today so it’s prime time to hang out with them without my brothers involved…Oh, speaking of Troy, he told me to tell you Sam’s looking for you,” Kayley added, turning to Shay. 

     Shay groaned. 

     “Great. Well, I guess I’m busy today. I should really break up with him. He’s totally suffocating me.”

     “Then why don’t you?” Haley asked, rolling her eyes.

     “He’s ridiculously hot and a great kisser. Plus, I’ve already met his family and they really like me,” Shay sighed. 

     “Well I think those are ridiculous reasons,” Amelia informed her. 

     Olivia grinned.

     “They’re very Shay reasons.”

      “Whatever guys,” Shay muttered.

      They pulled up short as they reached the cafeteria. 

      “So is everyone leaving me then?” Amelia asked, leaning against the wall with an air of bemusement. 

       “Not me,” Olivia told her. “I’m all yours.”

      The other girls departed, delivering fleeting hugs and “see you in _th period”s before disappearing into the mass of meandering bodies. 

     “Are we sitting with that one guy again?” Olivia queried, rifling through her shoulder bag as they walked. 

     Amelia nodded absently, scanning the crowd in search of a path to the usual table. She spotted an opening and grabbed Olivia’s arm, tugging her in zig-zagging patterns through their surging peers. As they finally reached the table, Amelia stilled, taking in the sight before her. 

     Eden was not sitting in his usual spot, but half laying, half sitting. His arms were folded, his head resting on top of them, and the rest of his body was tilted to the side, legs curled over half of his set bench. His shock of dark hair lay sprawled over his arms, one hand curled over the edge of a notebook. 

     She slowly approached her seat across from him, Olivia coming softly from beside her, and she found herself abruptly grateful that the others had not accompanied them, though part of her thought she would have traded Haley for the unintentionally obnoxious at times girl now virtually trumping on her heels. But, ‘no,’ she reminded herself. ‘That’s the old Amelia talking. I’m different now. I am.’

     She placed her tray down carefully and motioned for Olivia to do the same beside her. She sat slowly, watching Eden for any signs of disturbance. He inhaled softly, then exhaled, and she held her breath for a moment, then slowly expelled the held air. He was fast asleep. 

      “Should we wake him up?” Olivia muttered, removing her lunch from her bag. 

      Amelia shook her head, taking a ginger bite of her sandwich, and chewing meditatively. 

      ‘He must be exhausted,’ she mused. ‘I don’t see him as the type to sleep at school unless he couldn’t help it.’

      Eden flinched a bit in his sleep and she resisted the urge to put her hand on his shoulder or something, instead taking a small swig of her strawberry milk. 

      Olivia bit into her turkey sandwich beside her, chewing noisily. There were pieces of Captain Crunch on the sandwich, Amelia noted, feeling oddly disconnected, as if she were not really sitting there, but instead looming above, watching the scene take place with inhuman detachment. She’d gotten that sensation several times since she’d begun to submerge herself in the metaphysical world. Haley had said a couple nights ago when she’d slept over, between their bouts of giggling dancing and chest-heaving confession periods that it was normal. Still, Amelia held her doubts. 

      Eden stirred a bit, moaning softly and muttering something, before turning his head over, dark hair flapping back a bit, hanging now to the side and exposing his face. In sleep, his eyelashes rested against the hollows of his high cheekbones. With no sneer to twist his lips they fell, thin, yet supple, slightly open. He seemed paler than usual, though there was a peculiar flush along his cheeks. He sniffled slightly, and a shiver snaked up his spine. He shuddered and groaned quietly. 

     Amelia frowned then she leaned forward, ignoring Olivia’s look of disconcertion, and placed her hand on his sweaty forehead. He was burning up. 

     She shifted her hand downwards, letting it stroke a lock of hair then fall to his shoulder. 

      “Um…Amelia?…What are you doing?” Olivia whispered, her rough voice higher than usual. 

     Amelia sighed. 

     “He’s sick, Olivia. Calm down.”

     She shook his shoulder lightly, worry rising in her. 

     “Hey, sleeping beauty, time to wake up.”

     Eden moaned, tossing his head slightly.

     “Eden, come on, you have to go to the nurse.”

      There was a pause, then another head shake. 

      “Come on, Eden,” Amelia murmured. “You have to get up.”

     He shifted, eyes opening a sliver to stare dazedly at her. 

     “Nurse’s,” she said pointedly. He shook his head once more, before groaning loudly and straightening a bit, both hands raising to grip the sides of his skull, looking agonized. Amelia swallowed her heart. 

     “I’ll help you there,” she told him gently. He continued to look at her blearily then slowly nodded once. Amelia turned to Olivia.

     “That’s okay with you Olivia, right?”

     Olivia smiled graciously. 

     “Of course. Actually, I think I’ll go find Shay or one of the others. You just make sure he’s okay.”

     Amelia grinned gratefully at her friend, surprised at this despite herself. 

     Olivia stood, stretched, and grabbed her things, slipping off to the side, and Amelia refocused on her sick friend. 

    She made her way to his side of the table and pulled him up, inwardly flinching at the heat of his skin against hers. She shook him softly to wake him from his fever induced haze and began leading him to the nurse’s office, all the while inwardly marveling at how very feverish he felt. He was burning up. Amelia led her friend to safety, her own problems forgotten for the moment, left behind in her anxiety kicked-up dust.

14. Judah-

     “Ba-ruch’ A-tah’ Adonai E-lo-hei’-nu Me’-lech ha-o-lam’ bo-re’ pe-ri’ ha-etz’. Amen.”

      “Do you really have to do that before you eat anything?” Clara asked, biting into her own apple and rolling her eyes at Judah.

      He nodded. 

      “I want to make sure I don’t forget any of my Hebrew,” he told her, frowning at the fruit in his hand. “You can’t be a Rabbi if you don’t know all of your Hebrew.”

     Clara nodded in understanding, rolling the apple between her dirty palms and leaning back against the tree behind her. He raised his eyes over his apple, watching her. She settled into place, extending one leg before her, and played with the cross around her neck. 

      Judah sighed. There was an oddly morose quality to the day, for some reason he hadn’t managed to comprehend. Even the clouds were tinged grey and the Sun seemed to shine almost reluctantly, splaying itself in only a few select areas and with a petulant heat reminiscent of a toddler crossing their arms as they took an unwanted bath. He ran a finger down the spine of his prayer book still watching as Clara closed  her eyes and bit into the apple once again. It felt like an ambiguous sort of weight hung between them now and Judah had no clue what he should do to evaporate it. Maybe they should actually discuss things; he got the feeling there were some things between them, mounting up, that were being left unsaid. But it was senior year and, to be frank, he’d had enough of serious and he’d had enough of talking. 

    In his home everything seemed edged in melancholia. Ben was getting worse; Hanna was taking everything onto her own shoulders; Mom was busy with working two jobs to pay the hospital bills; and Dad was still in Israel, praying at the Wailing wall and giving speeches about the war and their duty as Jews.

      Judah stood abruptly and leaned down to grab his backpack. Clara opened one eye and frowned at him. 

      “Where ya going?”

     Judah paused, considering his options, then:

      “I don’t really know, but you wanna take a walk?”

      Clara watched him for a moment, squinting out the glare of the sun, and then, finally, nodded her acquiescence She stood, tossing the apple into a nearby trashcan, then bent to gather her things, her long, multicolored braids falling over one shoulder as she did so. He waited, a tad impatiently, and then they were off, the silence strangely comfortable between them. 

      Abruptly Clara tripped, releasing a soft umph as she hit the concrete, and Judah stopped, staring at her. Then, automatically, his hand flashed out and he helped her up. She smiled and they kept going, fingers twined together absentmindedly. Part of Judah thought that if he could just have more of these moments there would be no issue for him becoming a rabbi. After all, it was moments like this when he really, undeniably saw God. He loved it. 

       Their fingers tightened together, and they kept on walking. 

15. Ariana-

      1. If Jan walks eight miles in one hour, Edgar walks five miles in thirty minutes, and Lucia walks two miles in fifteen minutes, who is the fastest? 
      
     Ariana sighed, twirling her pencil absentmindedly as she reread the problem, then went to mark down her answer thinking irritably that this work was juvenile at best. 

     “Pssst…Hey, Ariana,” somebody whispered loudly from behind her. 

      Ariana groaned and turned around to face Edmund Rileys, strawberry blonde ponytail whipping around to fall over her left shoulder. He gave her a friendly smile and waved. Ariana sighed, disgruntled, and hissed out an impatient “Yes?”

     Edmund laughed. 

      “I was just gonna ask if you had a pencil, don’t have to bite my head off. Geez.” 

      Ariana examined him for a moment, then:

     “Is that the truth?” 

     He smirked and held up a miniscule pencil with a broken tip, tossing her a mock-innocent smile. 

      She nodded once then leaned down and scooped her perfectly organized pencil pouch from her backpack. She selected one of the perfectly sharpened pencils, re-zipped the pouch, then carefully placed it in precisely the same spot it had been in before. She turned back to him and placed the pencil neatly on his desk, then turned back around, picking up her own pencil and returning her gaze to her paper once more. 

    A minute passed, before:

    “Pssst….Ariana…”

     She uttered another groan and slowly turned back to face him. 

     “Yes, Edmund?” 

     “You look nice today,” he told her, spinning her pencil in circles on his desk with an air of arrogant boredom. She gave him an odd look.

     “Thank you, Edmund.”

     She turned back around, ready to set back to work when once more a “Pssst Ariana” broke her concentration. 

    “Edmund,” she said through clenched teeth, still staring at her paper.

     “Aren’t cha gonna turn around?” he asked. 

     Ariana sighed, exasperated, and turned around. 

     “What is it Edmund?”

     He flashed her a charming smile.

     “You’re good with kids right?”

     She paused. 

     “Yes, I’m good with kids,” she said slowly.

     “You busy this weekend?”

      She frowned at him, but nodded slowly. 

      “You up for a babysitting job, then?” he asked, eyes gleaming. 

      “How long?” she asked carefully.

     He watched her for a minute then said, “The whole weekend.”

     She stared. 

     Finally, after several more minutes, he grew impatient, and asked, “So?”

     Ariana shook her head once as if to clear it, then replied, “I’m sorry, Edmund, but I have to watch my baby brother for my dad.”

     He shrugged. 

     “That won’t matter,” he said casually, leaning back in his chair and shifting a foot onto the back of hers. 

      “Oh?” she asked, cynically. 

      He nodded, smirking again. 

     “You can just bring him over. I’m sure my brother and sister would love a playmate.”

      She studied him for a long moment then said in a professional voice, “How old?” 

       “Two and three.”

        “Will anyone else be there?”

        At this he smiled, a slow, amused grin. 

      “I will.”

      This caught her off guard. 

      “You will?”

      “Yep.”

      Ariana frowned at him.

     “Okay, then why do you need me?” she asked sharply

     He shrugged again, still grinning like a Cheshire cat. 

     “I have plans of my own. My parents are doing a romantic getaway and left me in charge. They said I can hire someone to help if I wanted.”

     She nodded, taking this in. Understandable. 

     “What’s the pay?” she asked at length. 

      He pursed his lips, looking like she’d asked just the right question. 

      “Starts at seven bucks and hour. If you’re really good, or if you clean up and stuff, there’ll be more.”

      Ariana eyed him suspiciously. 

      “Fine. I’ll do it.”

      “Good,” he grinned.

       “But we’ll need to exchange numbers and I’ll expect a call affirming everything from your parents,” Ariana told him firmly. 

      Edmund smirked condescendingly a final time. 

      “That’s not a problem.”

16. Eden-

      Eden moaned softly as some measure of lucidity sank into his brain. Everything seemed shrouded, obscured in a disarming fog. 

     “105 degrees,” he heard, as if from a distance. 

     “Lay down…Good boy.” 

     He was eased onto a brown leather bed, curled sideways with his knees almost to his chest.

     It was so cold. 

     Eden shivered and coughed once, twice, then three times, throat aching. 

     “Is he going to be okay?” someone asked. 

     He tried to look to see who it was, but it was as if his head was being held down by some incredibly heavy weight. His neck was stiff, heavy. He moaned again, shuddering and pulling tighter into himself. He was so tired….

     “Excuse me. Is Eden Thorsley- Eden! S**t! What’s wrong with him? “

     His ears buzzed and his long hair clung damply to his cheeks and neck in irritating clumps. He yawned quietly, eyes fluttering open, then sinking closed. Abruptly, a cool cloth hit his forehead and he flinched back. 

     It hurt. The scratchy fabric was like a blow to the head. He tried to get away from it, but it pressed on, undaunted. 

    There was a roaring in his ears. The cloth was so heavy and it was too cold, painfully so. An icicle stabbing him from the inside out. The world faded out of focus and went dark. 

     When he regained consciousness it was to the sound of a familiar voice crooning to a radio and the feel of an engine beneath him. Eden gingerly eased himself further upright in the seat, his temples pounding. 

     “Beth?” he croaked. 

     She looked over the seat at him, one hand moving automatically to silence her droning speakers. 

     “Eden,” she sighed, sounding relieved. “You’re awake. How are you feeling?”

      He moaned softly in answer, pressing his throbbing head against the cool glass of the car window. 

      Beth nodded in understanding, uttering a sympathetic cluck. 

      “Don’t worry, we’ll be at your house in like a minute, two tops. I’m gonna take care of you. Probably spend the night, too.” 

      Eden closed his eyes. He felt like absolute s**t. 

      “We’re here.” 

      He nodded vaguely, swallowing against his throat’s tightening. His stomach was beginning to rebel. 

      He heard, as if from a distance, the sound of a car door opening and shutting, then felt the door next to him begin to open. Eden fumbled to remove his seat belt and Beth gripped his upper arm, helping him carefully out of the car. He stumbled as he hit the ground, swaying as a wave of dizziness crashed over him. His stomach churned and his knees wobbled a bit. Beth hooked her arm through his, her skin delectably cool to the touch, and he found himself leaning heavily on her, savoring the sensation. 

     Beth unlocked the door and supported him inside and up the stairs. Eden fell onto his bed with a sound of relief, burying himself in his cool, green comforter. Beth fell onto the bed beside him, flipping her shoes off and placing an unusually gentle hand on Eden’s exposed forehead. 

     “You’re still really hot,” she informed him. He didn’t reply, merely wiggling further under the covers in answer. She stared up at the ceiling, then said quietly, “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

      Eden shook his head vigorously, then winced. Beth peeled the cover back and held his gaze sternly, her hazel eyes stolid. He bit his lip and looked away, then back. Her expression softened by a few degrees, the change imperceptible to any who had not known her well, but, to Eden, the change was paramount. He felt tears rise to his eyes and the part of him that was still coherent cursed the inebriating effect of illness. He nodded, then opened his mouth, aching to tell her, to tell someone, but finding himself frozen in silence. Beth smiled sadly at him, a stoic expression it would seem, but for those now almost torrid hazel eyes, the marginally turned down lips, and that thin quiver of jaw muscle. She placed a hand on his, then rolled to the side and stood. 

     “First, I’m getting a cold compress and some medicine. Then, you sleep and then, when you’re feeling a bit better, you’re going to tell me.” 

     She gave him a fleeting smile, then turned on her heel and left, footfalls echoing through the remote expanse of wooden halls. 

     Eden tuned over, pressing his face into his pillow as a few tears slipped loose from his attempt at a stranglehold. Fear cast its shadow over him, ominous and entrancing. He closed his eyes tight, desperate to staunch the unwavering flood of images in his mind’s eye. 

     He could hardly think of what he’d found out to himself, let alone tell Beth…Stomach acid rose in his throat and he groped at his bedside, bringing a bucket to his lips and, diaphragm undulating furiously, vomited his blood-tinted reprieve. 

17. Beth-

      Beth flopped onto the couch downstairs, grabbing the remote from the coffee table, and listlessly turning on the TV. 

     Eden was fast asleep upstairs, had been for the past twenty or so minutes. She sighed discontentedly, streaming through the guide then irritably turning off the television. She was going to have to go home briefly and grabbing some stuff to spend the night in. Izzie had said that Mom and Dad were both working late, and no, she was not willing to walk over with some supplies, sorry.   
      
    Beth pressed two fingers to her throbbing temples. But she couldn’t go home, that was the problem wasn’t it? She couldn’t leave Eden completely alone when he was sick and she knew that something had happened. Eden almost always got sick only after something bad happened to stress him out. Obviously there were exceptions to this rule, but she’d have been able to tell if a basic flaw in immunity was the core issue here and, from her observations, that was not the case. Which left her only one real available option. Plan B. 

     Ten minutes later, a knock like thunder had her rushing to the door. She icily opened it to reveal Isabella, soaking wet, and glowering like a four year old. 
     “You called mom,” she hissed, enraged. 

     Beth shrugged, stepping aside for her sister. 

     “Had to do something,” she replied offhandedly. 

      Bella rolled her eyes and shoved back her damp hair from her eyes throwing down Beth’s bag petulantly. 

     “You suck Beth,” she muttered. 

     “You swallow,” Beth retorted automatically, grabbing her bag and rooting through it to find her pajamas. She pulled out a ratty old Metallica t-shirt and a pair of holey black sweats and immediately began to strip, whilst Bella peeled off her own jacket and shoes and socks, all of which were soaked through. She wrapped her crimson curls up in a messy bun and turned to Beth, who was pulling on the t-shirt unabashedly. 

     “I need one of your shirts or something. I’m freezing.”

      Beth nodded her assent and bent to retrieve said clothing, throwing it to Bella and going to pull on her pants absentmindedly. 

      Bella shot her a scornful glance. 

      “You expect me to wear this?” 

      There was a hint of outrage in her voice and her blue eyes glittered with annoyance. 

      Beth rolled her own eyes now, tugging her short brown hair into a ponytail. 

      “I’m sorry I’m a little short on Gucci right now, Iz.”

       Bella scowled, sneering at the worn material in her hands.

     “I know you have more in there. I threw in half your wardrobe.”

      Beth laughed.

     “Feel free to go through the rest but, sorry, you’re not going to be finding anything even approaching designer.”

      “You’ve got to have something decent,” Bella muttered, glaring. 

      “Eh,” Beth grunted.

      Bella sighed, carefully peeling off her v-neck. 

      “This is an atrocity, you know?” she mumbled. 

      “I’m going to look like trash.”

      Beth smirked. 

      “Yes. You are.”

      Bella actually laughed, starting on her jeans. Abruptly she looked up.

      “Look I know I’m hot, and I know you’re like half-lesbian or whatever, but incest is really not in and all, so could you look away?”

       Beth turned around, snickering.

       “I cannot believe you just said that…”

      “Neither can I,” Bella admitted. “Must be your bad influence.”

      Beth shook her head. She’d forgotten how good a mood arguing with Bella could put her in. Usually, if anything, it made her more angry than ever, but with all the seriousness lately, lighthearted banter, however venomous, was exactly what she found she needed.

      “So where’s the man of the hour?” Bella asked finally. 

       Beth turned to face her sister, now drowning in the huge T-shirt of  her basketball days and cargo pants that had apparently been the best piece of bottom-attire in all of Beth’s wardrobe. Beth chortled, amused. 

      “What’s so funny?” Bella hissed, wringing out her still-dripping curls. 

     “You look like a drowned rat,” Beth choked out, laughing almost hysterically now. 

      Bella scowled, her hands ceasing their motion. 

      “And you look like a b***h. And I mean that in more ways than one,” she fired back, sounding angrier now. 

      Beth watched her for a moment then moved to the couch, placing her elbows on her knees, chin resting forward on clasped hands. 

      “You should know, Iz, that I’m always on top. Of everything. So your implications don’t really work here. Unless of course, you were talking about yourself, in which case I’m glad you’re willing to be honest with yourself. They always say the first step is to admit you have a problem.”

      “You’re right, I do have a problem. You.”

       Beth frowned, inwardly relenting a bit at this. Not only had the fun rapidly drained from their exchange, but she’d really walked right into that one. 

      Instead of continuing their little game of Russian Roulette (after all, had she not just shot herself in the foot already?), Beth crossed her legs and sat back, surveying her sister coldly for several moments before saying, “The dryer’s in the garage, down that hallway on left, at the very end. Oh. And before you get back, stop at the second door on the right and get a mop. You made this mess. You’re cleaning it up.”

      Bella stuck her tongue out at Beth, muttering “yeah, whatever mom” under her breath, but complied anyways, swaggering away as best she could in the size XXL shirt dwarfing her slim figure. 

      Beth let her head fall back hard into the couch and released her breath in an irritated whoosh. 

      So much for a lighthearted respite. 

     “Beth!”

      She started at the high-pitched shriek. 

      “Bella?” she called back, sitting up straight.

     “BETH! COME HERE!”

      She rose quickly and darted towards the garage, inwardly panicking.

     “Bella?” she called out, opening the door, and flinching slightly as it banged shut behind her. 

     “Bella, where are you?” 

      A lock clicked behind her and Beth whirled, staring in disbelief. She reached out warily and placed her hand on the knob. She tried to turn it but it stayed in place, mocking her. She tried again, jostling the knob harder now, but all she got was that stupid clicking sound.

     Before she knew what she was doing she had hurled herself against the door, slamming her fists furiously against the splintering wood. 

     “Bella! What the f**k are you doing? Bella! Bella! Let me out! Let me out, you little freak! This isn’t funny! BELLA!”

       “Sorry Beth, must be jammed or something,” Bella’s voice yawned through the door. “I saw a Black Widow in there I think, so I freaked and ran out. There looked like a lot of spiders were in there…Oh wait. That’s right. Don’t you have a phobia of spiders?”

       “This is so not funny Bella.”

       “Really? I think it’s pretty hilarious,” Bella replied. Then: 

      “Apologize!”

        “What why?” Beth asked, trying desperately to control herself. God, she f*****g hated spiders….

       “Because you’re a b***h,” Bella sneered. 

       Beth groaned. 

      “So are you,” she shot back, feeling a twinge of rage and grasping onto it, basking herself in its comforting, red-hot glow. 

      “But I have the power in this situation.”

      “I’m not going to apologize to you,” Beth snarled.

       “Your funeral,” Bella sang savagely. 

     “Go f**k yourself Bella. I could call 911 on you, you know. And mom and dad.”

     “You wouldn’t.”

      “You wanna try me? I’m sure they’d be thrilled to pick you up from the police station!”

      A crawling sensation erupted on her leg and she flinched violently, trembling. 

      “Don’t think I won’t do it Iz! Now open the goddamn door!” 

      Silence and then slowly, ever so slowly, the lock clicked and the door opened. Beth crawled out, slamming the door behind her, and stood, brushing herself off and glaring daggers at her little sister.” 

      “You better go,” she said in a dangerous voice.

       Bella shook her head, eyeing her warily. 

      “I’m not dressed,” she said in a peculiarly small voice. 

       Beth narrowed her eyes even further. 

       “Well then,” she hissed. “You are going to go in there and dry your clothes. I am going to go upstairs with Eden, and I’m not coming back down. When your stuff is dry, you change, and then you leave. Got it?”

      Bella scowled at her feet, but nodded slightly. 

      “Good,” Beth said icily, heading for the stairs. “Now get to it.”

      Bella seemed to clench her teeth but headed for the garage door anyway. 

      “Oh, and Bella,” Beth called over her shoulder.

      “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”


© 2010 LunalitSol


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Added on October 9, 2010
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LunalitSol
LunalitSol

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Now a twenty-something mom, wife, employee, and student- still chasing that same dream. Still a writer from the inside out. more..

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Bang Bang

A Poem by LunalitSol