They say that if you can find one sincere friendship in your entire life then you are one of the lucky ones. Rare and beautiful and found in strange places. College, work, friends-of-friends, a bar bathroom, etc,. It's a therapy in-and-of-itself... having a best friend. Someone to always have your back. Someone who--when you're physically and emotionally broken--will pick you up and put the pieces back together every time. Girls go out shopping or drink wine together and binge watch romance comedies together, and men will kick back with a few beers and a fishing pole. Or maybe not. These are stereotypes after all, misrepresenting people. Just like the oversimplified idea that men and women can't be friends. Why? Apparently, it's because you fall in love with them.
Well, I know for a fact that's not always the truth.
It just is for me.
Lucas plays basketball and is trying to make it into varsity and eventually go pro. Azaliah has moved to Bethalto, Illinois to live with her mother after a grueling three year custody battle. It is nearing the end of the school year and Lucas is preparing for varsity try-outs that will be in August.
Azaliah has been there almost a month and attends a party with Tyler Renford. Lucas attends party with his blonde popular girlfriend, Arianna. Tyler tries to trick Azaliah into having sex, but she rejects him and he leaves the room where he pretends they did anyway. Lucas comes across the scene and realizes what has happened and punches Tyler, and then proceeds to vomit all over him. He tries to comfort Azaliah and then she leaves.
Lucas's mother and Azaliah's mother plan a dinner at Azaliah's home. Lucas attends with his parents and the two teens find out their mother's are best friends.
Azaliah joins Lucas and Arianna to go to Christmas Ball. Arianna does not like Azaliah and makes several off-handed comments during the drive and beginning of the dance. She is popular and very possessive of Lucas.
Azaliah dances with Troy; Lucas feels a bit uncomfortable and jealous. Azaliah approaches Lucas and Ari dancing to tell Lucas about Troy but Arianna speaks before Lucas and loses it on Azaliah. She calls her names and then pulls her hair of which Azaliah turned and punched her in the face.
Lucas breaks up with Arianna and Azaliah and Lucas get kicked out of the dance. They get ice cream and hang out around town instead and have a good night.
Rules and Expectations
☯ This will be a 1x1. Obviously it's pretty vague. I am hoping that someone will help me create a story about this time-less idea and try to make it unique.
☯ We will be using realistic pictures. I am picky about pictures, I'm sorry ahead of time I just am. If it looks too stock or direct it will make me actually uncomfortable so... yeah..
☯ I am open to playing either role.
☯ Quality over quantity. Good grammar and punctuation. I don't post every day, expect one-three posts a week. It will vary.
☯ Be prepared to move the post forward, as well. Try to end your posts open for response or message me and we can collaborate. I'm sure we will be either way.
☯ I care more about progression of the plot and character development than I do over-descriptive nonsense.
☯ Mature topics will arise during the roleplay. For that reason I would prefer if you were over 21 years of age.
☯ I don't really have patience for ignorance or arrogance. I'm a laid-back and open-minded person and I will expect the same.
☯ Also just to let you know... I am VERY rusty. Beware.
I had known that this day would eventually come. I just had never thought that it would've come so soon. Not like this and… not in that way. She didn't have to suffer the way she did, but I couldn't prevent it. I just had to accept the reality that it was just out of my hands.
When I first had found out that my mother had cancer, I knew that it was going to be an uphill battle. A never ending fight for survival. It was a course that I wouldn't wish for anyone; as either the comforter or the victim. My mother was a victim since she was young. Having a hard life growing up, two failed marriages with two abusive husbands. And then she was shoved into this course of life, a slow and painful death.
I knew I had to be her sense of comfort, her source of strength. Not that my mother wasn't a strong woman, but I knew that she still needed reassurance from time to time. She needed that feeling of having someone to rely on. And I had made sure that I was the one to give her everything she needed to the very end.
The laughter through tears, that sadness behind her bright smile. I could remember it vividly in my mind. I always admired how well she kept herself up, with her chin held up high through all the rough nights. All the sick days… all the days that seemed to spiral down to the one day I had said my goodbyes to her, while I struggled to keep from breaking in front of her, to show her how much I loved her and how strong I was for her… and in mere seconds after that she was gone…
Today was the day that I dreaded. The day I never wanted to live through. The day that I couldn't admit that had arrived. I stared at her picture that hung from the easel. The golden edges on the frame reminded me of the richness of her courage. Her favorite flowers were delicately placed around the edges as a reminder of her kind nature. I couldn't help but stare motionless. I could hear the man who gave the talk for my mother, but his words wouldn't register in my mind. Nor the words of condolence that the people who knew my mother gave me.
Through empty apologies to heartfelt words of comfort, I could barely distinguish who was truly there for my mother and who was simply there to show face like the hypocrite they were. Though at this point it had not mattered much to me anymore. My mother was gone and that was all that mattered.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Azariah." I could hear Margie, one of my mother's oldest friends say. I could feel her arms wrap tightly around me, trying to give me back some sort of feeling of being alive. But my sense of life had been drained long before I had arrived at my mother's funeral.
"I know I wasn't much help, but if there's anything I can do, please let me know?" She said effortlessly. Yet I had to make sure to swallow all of my bitterness and hold myself back from telling her that it was far too late for that. To give me any help. To ask her why she wasn't there before my mother had---
"Thank you," I responded a bit coldly. Margie nodded with silence. She had gotten the idea of how angry I felt. How much I wanted her to leave my side. Though my eyes had suddenly caught sight of the one man who had started all of the madness after he had left my mother.
"What are you doing here?" I hissed at my father who came up to me with a bouquet of flowers. Was he trying to make things worse?
"I flew in to check up on you." He said with a slight smile. A smile that made my blood boil through my veins.
"I'm fine. Now that you feel better about yourself, you can go fuck off with your hoe." My eyes then directed to the woman who stood behind him quietly trying to hide. She basically was around my age, not that my father gave a damn.
"Azariah, that's not how you treat others. I know you're heartbroken and feel angry. But come on, we're all adults here. Can't you treat me and Daniella with a bit more respect?"
He demanded respect. That wasn't surprising to me. He had demanded a lot of things from my mother and eventually from me throughout our lives until he was gone as well. Sleeping with others behind my mother's back. Drinking away his life and eventually leaving my mother and me behind when he decided my mother was no longer the woman he wanted, nor looked like the woman he had married years back.
"I'm not dealing with either of you, leave." I warned him. Though his sigh had let me know that he wasn't going to make things easier for me. Because he was just that selfish.
At that moment I felt my anger wanting to burst out through my mouth. But instead I had held it back and turned my back to him. I was not about to cause a scene due to my father and his narcissistic tendencies. I was tired of everything, especially his bullshit.
My attention had soon been drawn to a familiar older woman, one of my mother's old best friends. The woman who had seemed to stand by my side even before my mother was at her last. Mrs. Rowe. I had given her a slight smile. Though my faint feeling of calmness had suddenly been interrupted by the familiar face of a boy, who was clearly now a man, stood next to her. The last person I wanted to see apart from my father. My smile instantly faded. My thoughts had now become clouded with bittersweet memories. "What are you doing here?"
“Listen, you don’t want to do that. I told you that. You’ll be making a huge mistake, Daniel. Don’t do it. Or you could screw both our jobs and I can’t let that happen.” I grumbled and leaned into the phone. Daniel, the marketing director of Synel—a nationwide and growing marketing company—was a stubborn one. He was brilliant and creative. But often with genius comes madness and he loved to push the envelope. I was the lead corporate lawyer for Synel and it was my ass on the line. Granted if Daniel didn’t listen it would also be his ass, and the one who would have to rescue us was our lead attorney for litigation, Randy. Daniel hated him but I could respect the old man. He’d been doing this work for over twenty years and before he held his own practice—and he acted like it. Tough, sharp and a bull dog in the court room, Randy was perfect for the role and I secretly admired the man.
I had already gotten my fill of court rooms back in Chicago, often defending either boring petty crimes or dangerous felons I had to protect. I hated the judicial system and yet I thrived in it. But I had quickly learned that I preferred to work behind closed doors—much more peace and a different kind of stress. Handling company policy and ensuring the company was following state and federal corporate law was a cake walk to me but many of my colleagues drowned in it. Then again, it was frustrating sometimes because any wrong move that I either advised or agreed with could result in stocks dropping and—once again—losing my job. Everyone knows being a lawyer isn’t easy, but no one realizes quite how quickly you can fall. “Yeah yeah yeah… Whatever. Fuck, Lucas, you’re impossible.” Although his words were pointed, I appreciated that Daniel was easily put down. He didn’t like it but he understood my role and understood the importance of it. I laughed into the phone.
“A’ta boy. Thanks, Dan.” I hung up just as quickly as I had accepted the call. Part of working in the field was you better be ready to be on-call 24/7. But I didn’t mind it because honestly it beat having to be present at home. I’d culminated this beautiful life in New York but it wasn’t always that way. I had started in Chicago for school and it was where I got my first job after graduation as a menial defense attorney. And long before that I held a simple part of a connected, intertwined small community called Bethalto in the great prairie land of Illinois. My journey was grueling and emotional, and although I thought that road was going to lead me to happiness, I found myself farther from happiness than I had ever been. And I missed my best friend.
I grabbed my brief case and walked myself down the dimmed hallway lights of our office on the 30th floor. It was far past closing time and most of the company employees were long gone. I glanced at my watch and sucked in air as I realized it was after nine and Leah would be calling me any minute to demand I come home. I leaned my head back so I could look ahead with half-closed eyes. My temples were tight and I furrowed my brows in an attempt to subdue the forming headache. When I reached my glossy charcoal sedan and slid inside I took a moment to rest my head on the steering wheel and squeeze it with both hands. My lids closed for a brief moment as I heaved slow breaths. I wasn’t ready to go home yet I wanted nothing more than to sink into some peace and quiet and sleep. I knew better than to think Leah was going to allow me to. The blonde bombshell was nothing short of a model. Her parents owned a large and profitable New York construction business and she had grown up in private schools attending fancy parties and learning to ballroom dance in middle school. She saw someone else in me and I knew that—I just had decided to ignore the foreshadowing I felt. It was like being a robot on auto-pilot, and I begged to find some normalcy but was unable to do so. I had thought about returning to my roots several times but for some reason I couldn’t find myself to do it. Guilt, sorrow, grief… maybe fear…
My phone began to buzz from the pocket of my briefcase and I hesitated before reaching for it. When I finally was able to catch the picture flashing on my phone I was not expecting to see the familiar warm face of my mother.
“Hey, Ma, how’s it going?” I quickly pushed the button to start the car, pressing on the breaks as I did so. Instantly my mother’s voice rang inside the car, the Bluetooth connecting swiftly. It caught her in the middle of a sentence and it took the breath right out of my chest. “—she—she died…” She was sniffling and speaking in almost a whisper. “What? Who died?” My heart pounded in my chest and my mind raced instantly. Various faces cascaded across my mind in bursts. Who? What? "You know who I'm talking about--Azariah's mother..." She didn't realize I hadn't heard her the first time but I didn't correct her. My heart was sinking too fast to respond at first so I paused. “I’m so sorry, Mom…” I didn’t know what to say. All I could see was the familiar, gentle face of the woman who was really a second mother to me. I felt a vague stinging behind my eyes and I didn’t realize I had stopped breathing. She was my mom’s best friend. “How is Azariah?” The question slipped out without a second-though. It was so quick—so instantaneous—it almost gave me whiplash. My heart ached. “She is… doing as good as she can… You know how she is… I think, Lucas… I think it’s time you stop running. Come home… Her service is this weekend.” “I—I’ll see what I can do…” I hadn’t even fully processed the news and I rested my head back.
“No, Lucas. You need to come.” Her words were sharp but laced with pain. I knew she was suffering, my mom, and I wanted to reach through the phone and embrace her. I also wanted to transport to Azariah. An image of her big smile, the rusty locks falling over her face and rolling over her shoulders. Days of us singing in the car. Memories of us playing games and singing so loudly we couldn’t hear our own teenage voices. I closed my eyes and nodded knowing my mom couldn’t see it. “Yes, Mom. I will be there.” [center [pic https://images-wixmp-ed30a86b8c4ca887773594c2.wixmp.com/f/67a2b863-73e8-44d8-9d14-5277094298c2/dbif28u-596a4267-d0d4-4042-9187-257cbad53d2f.png?token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJzdWIiOiJ1cm46YXBwOiIsImlzcyI6InVybjphcHA6Iiwib2JqIjpbW3sicGF0aCI6IlwvZlwvNjdhMmI4NjMtNzNlOC00NGQ4LTlkMTQtNTI3NzA5NDI5OGMyXC9kYmlmMjh1LTU5NmE0MjY3LWQwZDQtNDA0Mi05MTg3LTI1N2NiYWQ1M2QyZi5wbmcifV1dLCJhdWQiOlsidXJuOnNlcnZpY2U6ZmlsZS5kb3dubG9hZCJdfQ.skSRk8mX7u8DKRdxKN0JbTPF1PzWmwHGZqKXMQpT6Ik]]
Leah wasn’t elated about my decision. In fact, she didn’t want to come at all and I wasn’t about to argue—this was the best decision. With her white-collar family she lived a far different life than I and it was obvious in are fundamental differences that became clearer each day. Her perfectly manicured nails, her weekly massages and monthly hair appointments all combined to create the best example of the stereotypical luxurious lifestyle she was born into and hated to leave. Heading to southern Illinois was not her first choice for adventure and travel, especially so close to Missouri. She preferred Italy and France. We’re practically hillbillies in comparison to the lavish New York life Leah thrived in. I loved her anyway… although there is a small difference between in-love and love. Was I in love with Leah? That was the question I had been trying to escape. I had been considering counseling as she’d been pushing for it—although it went against every fiber of my body—but even sitting on the plane I had to force my racing thoughts to stop.
There was too much time to think on this trip. I knew that was going to happen but it still left me shaken. After a four hour drive south in a rental car I entered the outskirts of the city. The rusted, crumbling water tower loomed above the city. It was late and the last rays of sunlight cascade a heavenly glow to the dilapidated near-the-bible-belt town I came from. It had been three years since I had been there yet my hands drove mindlessly to my old home. After lots of hugs and tears my mother finally allowed us a quick cup of coffee before I found my way to the spare bedroom. I stared at myself in the mirror, grinding my teeth and glowering at my own reflection. I stood out like a sore-thumb on the outside, but on the inside I breathed a sigh of relief. It was good to be home.
I arrived at the service in a crisp, three-part black suit and tie. I nervously slid my hand over the tie which was clipped into place by a silver tie bar. My other arm cupped a bouquet of flowers but I hadn’t yet figured out how I was going to approach Azariah. I knew her better than anyone else—independent and defensive, she most likely hadn’t grieved her mother and was probably boiling over with anger to avoid her sadness. My mother walked with me, looped loosely around my left arm. I reached up to caress my newly trimmed beard and tried to hide the deep discomfort I felt. Will she even recognize me? Will I even be a comfort? I had toggled with whether to come or not, but my mother appeared to find it the most important that I accompany her. I hoped that her advice was right—she tended to be. All I wanted to do was find her and hug her—to make sure she was alright. But then again, I wanted to run. I even thought about it, until a few familiar faces recognized me. Eyes bounced from my mother to me with half opened lips. “Lucas Rowe! Or should I say Mr. Rowe?” Margie—Azariah’s mother’s friend and local gossippee—cooed. She smacked her lips together and batted her eyes up at me like she wanted me to eat her for breakfast and it was a bit disturbing. I cleared my throat before nodding slowly.
“Hello, yes, you can call me Lucas.” I reached out to take her hand and she looked like she was going to faint. I briefly smiled after dropping her hand and skirted around her; my mother was close in tow. She leaned towards my shoulder and up onto her toes to hiss in my ear about her vague distaste for the woman. I tried to listen and chuckle in response but I was tense. I felt like a teenage boy and I had to shake away the feeling. [i You’re a grown ass man, Lucas. You’re a lawyer. You don’t need to be scared. Grow up. You’re both adults. You are twenty-eight years old. Act like it. ]
I gave a self-assured not to myself. I was Lucas mother-fucking Rowe. I owned court rooms when I walked into them. Women fell over themselves when I walked by. I got out of this fucking dump. I succeeded. I started to walk a bit straighter, chin up and shoulders back—until I heard the familiar voice that made my heart flop into my stomach. I winced at her comment before making a few carefully placed steps to approach her. My mom looked like she was going to have a stroke.
“I’m—uh—I’m here to pay my respects to your mom,” I swiftly handed over the flowers I had carefully picked out for her. I hoped she noticed her mother’s favorite placed about the special bundle. “And—I’m here for you.”
I stared at him with disbelief. It had been years since I had seen Lucas. But his presence had brought me nothing more than uncertainty. Uncertainty for what? Well I wasn't sure. But I knew that it wasn't a good thing.
My eyes drifted down to the bouquet in his hands; purple and blue irises. They were my mother's favorite… and he had remembered. It was a beautiful gesture. Yet his words had stung, leaving a venomous taste behind in my mouth. I wasn't sure whether to cry or to scream. But the mixed feeling I had made me glare up at him. He was a fucking hypocrite, just like the others. He wasn't here for me. He was here because of his mother, to save face. To have an excuse to say that he was 'here' for me at my worst time. But what about the other times? The times that I was broken down to dust with exhaustion and depression? The endless nights taking care of my mother and my family's issues. The promise he broke to always be here for me through thick and thin; our best friend code. No. For all I knew, he was too busy looking for a better life. Fame and fortune. While I lived here. No, I was stuck here mending everything that had been broken. Fixing the pieces of me that he had broken off. He abandoned everyone here… And I was only his friend when ever the fuck he needed me. Well I was done. Officially done.
I couldn't hold back any longer. I could already feel the blood rushing to my face with anger. I could feel the tears that I held back blur my vision of him. By pure instinct I had swatted the bouquet out of his hands and heard as they fell to the floor. I knew at that moment I had made a scene.
Everyone was staring at me, at us. But I could no longer hold back my feelings, my anger. My resentment towards Lucas. "You're a fucking hypocrite." The words had seemed to slip off my tongue easily. I could feel the pain in my chest intensify. "Fuck you, and you're pathetic little act." I could hear my father say something, but my head didn't register his words. I felt my father's gentle hand upon my shoulder, but I brushed it off with anger and disgust.
I looked between the two men. Both equally dead to me. They were horrible. They didn't care. They only pretended. And now they were trying to be my heroes? They could both suck a---
"You both can go to hell!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. Hearing my own voice echo off the walls. I had finally snapped. With shame and embarrassment I had left the funeral home. And I had ran as fast as I could. As far away from that bitter place. I did not want to see them, I did not want to hear them. I wanted everyone to leave to never come back. I wanted to disappear forever…
Coming across the edge of the small lake from the park. My knees had finally given way and I had collapsed upon them. My eyes stared straight at my reflection in the water. This is what I had become. An empty vessel for others to use for their own desires. A little doll to make everyone happy while my own happiness was drowned at the bottom of the lake. Drowned…
I couldn't neglect the thought of suicide had crossed my mind. The numbness that had covered my soul made me wish I was at the bottom of this lake. I watched as my reflection had beckoned me to join my mother; even though it would have gone against my mother's wishes and beliefs. But she was no longer here to stop me… to tell me that I would be alright. That everything would be ok…
And yet I couldn't help but recall the last time I had felt this pain, this numbness. The shame of who I was… My eyes lifted up from the bed of waters towards the grey clouds of rain that suddenly appeared. I could feel the tickling sensation of the raindrops that fell upon my skin. It had felt like yesterday when I had first learned that loving someone was a slow and painful death. And it had all started with him…
"Azariah!" I heard an angelic voice call out to me. My eyes lifted from my sketchbook and focused on the golden brown haired boy who's smile had always facinated me. "Are you going to the party with us tonight?" He asked as he leaned in on the bleacher, as if to captivate both my attention and heart; which I had willingly given up easily.
"Party? I thought Ava said she wasn't going to throw one."
He gave me a curious look. But his look had then shifted into laughter. "She lied. You should totally come. I was looking forward to seeing you there." He winked at me and my heart fluttered. I smiled and had unconsciously nodded in agreement. My first mistake…
Later on in the night, I had clung tightly to my leather jacket in an effort to cover up my insecurities. I couldn't help but stare at the beautiful girls that roamed the party, dressed in sexy skirts and dresses, some with fashionable jeans. And yet here I was, standing in the middle of the room with broken jeans that still had the mud and grass stains, a plain faded black shirt of my favorite band that I knew I had used way too much. They wore nice shoes, high heels and I wore scuffed boots. They wore makeup and their hair were beautifully kept, my hair was still greasy and tied up in a messy ponytail in an attempt to hide that I hadn't washed my hair for two days. Their nails were long and shiny, mine looked dull and short for working on cars since I was a kid. I didn't belong here…
I wanted to fade into the crowd, yet Tyler had suddenly appeared behind me. His hands instantly wrapped around my shoulders. "You made it!" He said with a smile. My heart had instantly melted. He then handed me a cup with a mysterious liquidy concoction.
"Y-yeah, I did." I tried to reply though I felt as he was leading me through the crowds.
"I've been meaning to ask you something for the longest. Mind if we go somewhere private to talk?" He whispered into my ear. This was exactly what my mother had warned me about. Pretty boys like him that only wanted one thing and would do anything to get it. But it was too late. I was far too mesmorized by him that I had blindly agreed. Like a moth to a flame I had fallen into his trap and followed him to a room.
Moments later I stared at him while sitting on the bed. I could feel his lips pressed against my skin, on my neck. His hand in places that I knew he shouldn't have been touching and yet I had allowed.
"Tyler…" I pleaded softly in an attempt to tell him to stop. Yet he only chuckled softly as my pants shirt had finally joined my pants on the floor. "M-maybe we should talk about this first." I was scared and he knew. But he made it seem like it didn't really matter...
"It's ok to be scared, Azariah. It's your first time and I just want to make you feel special." Well he was doing a hell of a shit job at it. And yet I only wondered if it was just I expecting things like these to be like the scenes from romantic movies or the romance novels I've read.
Before I knew it he was on me. "Tyler, I really don't think I can go through with this."
He stared at me for a moment and chuckled. "Are you serious?" His voice had suddenly changed. "But didn't you say that you loved me?"
Well… yes I did. But that didn't mean I was ready for this. I really wasn't ready for anything like this. "I do…"
"Then why don't you want to show me? You really do love me, right?"
How could someone make you feel so guilty in a matter of seconds? I swallowed hard and nodded.
"Then tell me that you love me."
"I love you.." I said softly.
"Good… now show me." He said with a smile. The same smile he always captivated me with. But something was off… very off.
"I can't." I said with my lips quivering. And it was then that I felt his grip on me tighten. My first instinct was to wince and submit. But my mind told me better. "Please let me go, you're hurting me."
He sighed heavily and thankfully listened to me. He got off of me and I sat up on the bed while he got up. "Where are you going?" I asked without hesitation. Tyler only smirked and gave me a scowled look.
"I'm leaving." He said as he opened the door of the room and began to leave. Without a thought, I scrambled to my feet and rushed out of the room after him. Not paying mind to the fact that I was still only in my underwear and bra.
"Tyler, wait, please!" I begged but he didn't look back. "I'm sorry! I… I will do it!"
"Do what?" He said before turning to me. "I already did it." He said as he looked at me with a wink. I was confused… he had done what exactly? She hadn't had sex with him and yet… oh. Her eyes drifted over to the crowds of teens that stared at her. They murmured. They chuckled. They mocked her. He had lied to keep his pride… made them think that he had… Fuck.
I covered my body with my arms as best as I could. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I was at loss for words. Even if I had tried to explain, I knew that it was my word against his. I felt my world crumbling around me and I was once again scared. "I… I didn't do anything." I said aloud though I could hear the others around me laugh and snap pictures of me. I thought was done... until he showed up...
I was taken aback when she smacked away the flowers. My mother once again looked like she was going to have a stroke. She clutched her chest tightly, eyes agape at the scene before her. I’m not sure how I looked but it was probably not as shocked as my mother. I had tried to warn her—that Azariah seeing me was not going to be the comforting presence she thought it would bring her. Azariah and I did not part on great terms last time and we’d struggled to find our connection again. She was and would always be my best friend but I knew this wasn’t the greatest setting for our reunification. Then again, her mother was a second mother to me and I had to pay my respects. I heaved a sigh and winced at her cussing. I sent a piercing glare to her father who had stepped forward. I knew better than anyone else how much of a piece of shit he was and if I wasn’t a professional I’d knock him out right here in this room. I took a side step in his direction but stopped myself. I didn’t want to cause a scene; then again, Azariah already was. Considering what she’d been through and add her brute personality and this was all rather unsurprising albeit a little strange at her mother’s funeral. I shoved my hands into my pocket and let her speak her peace. My mother took a few steps in chase of the escaping red-head but I held her back with a firm hand.
“Mom, let her go. She needs some space,” I knew I’d be chasing her shortly. We clearly needed to talk, but first, Azariah needed time to calm herself. And I needed some time to build up the courage to talk to her. I knew she needed someone and I wanted that person to be me, but the me that could calm her when no one else could was the me from ten years ago. Would I be able to have the same effect? Either way I knew I had to find her.
It had already been a long day of classes and it was Friday. I couldn’t keep myself focused for the most of the day and open gym couldn’t have come sooner. I quickly changed in the locker room into my basketball shorts and t-shirt. Figured I’d shoot some hoops and practice—I was going to need to if I wanted to make it pro someday. Highschool was just around the corner, too, and I wanted so badly to make it to varsity. It was the end of 8th grade and I’d be a freshman in a few short months. Tryouts were in August and I was going to get there—someway, somehow.
[i Just a few more hoops!] I was smashing the three-pointers. I had been practicing my longer-range shots and my accuracy was improving after making a goal of it the past few weeks. Sweat fell from my temples and forehead, and I was drenched. Sweat pooled into every crevice and I heaved a breath before trying to shoot my last hoop. It was then that I saw in my peripheral vision a small, quite face in the bleachers. She was curled over a notebook or something and her auburn hair tumbled around her face like burning flames threatening to engulf her. She was mesmerizing, if only for a moment, before a familiar voice called my name. “Lucas! Hey! Let’s go!” The tan-kissed blonde that was my girlfriend called to me, her arm stretched out in a boisterous wave. She had a soft pink headband that pulled her straight locks out of her face and I could see her dimples from her smile from here.
“Coming!” I hurriedly changed back into my street clothes and met Arianna outside the lockers. She pulled her backpack over her shoulders and beamed at me. She was the most popular girl in school and she was my girlfriend. I grinned self-assuredly and wrapped an arm over her shoulder. “Fine! I hear we have a party to get to?” We were practically highschoolers, and even if our parents would rather not know it, we already knew how to party.
It was later in the evening that we arrived at the party. Some highschooler that Ari knew had given us a ride. How we’d get home we hadn’t figured that out yet, but we were teenagers and preparedness was not our forte.
A barrage of open palms met me as I strode through the door. As I passed by I gave each a firm slap, shake, and fist-bump (all-in-one) and an open path formed ahead of me. I walked down this path like how I imagined God walked on water. I had somehow become popular—I didn’t understand how but I wasn’t complaining. I held Ari close beside me, a tight hand gripping her side. A friend handed me a Budlight and I shook my head at him, “Michelob is where it’s at,” I chastised him jokingly.
Several beers later and I was definitely feeling the alcohol. I felt “cool” the way a teenager feels [i alive] when they break the rules. I silently worried in my drunken haze whether this was going to become a problem for me in the future. Trying to make it into varsity and succeed at school—which is why I figured I might as well try to enjoy the time while I had it.
I stumbled my way to the bathroom, figuring I may throw up but simultaneously swallowing it away. I was too [i cool] to throw up. And a little embarrassed. I also had to pee so bad I figured if I waited I’d piss myself within the next five minutes. I was opening random doors left-and-right down the dimmed hallway in an attempt to discover the bathroom. People were lined haphazardly around the house and down the hallway and I nodded and smiled, trying my hardest to not look as queasy as I felt. [i You will not throw up. You are Lucas Rowe. You will not throw up.]
It was then that a girl half naked stumbled into the hallway. At first my vision took a moment to find clarity but when I realized it was that quiet girl from earlier in the gym, I cocked my head in confusion. She didn’t seem like the type to get drunk and strip naked. I looked ahead to see the crowd gawking at her and laughing, and some hands extended to a golden haired boy who looked far too smug for the situation. I grumbled under my breath—his name was Tyler and I couldn’t stand him. He thought he was hot shit and he was the biggest loser I had ever met. Even drunk it didn’t take long for the dots to connect. She looked positively terrified and I instantly stepped toward her and shooed her back into the bedroom she had come from. As she backed away I flung my sweater in her direction to cover her and spun around on my heel. The buzz had left me now and all I felt was rage.
“Hey slime-ball, pretending to have sex with a girl is pathetic,” Tyler heard him and pivoted sharply. There was a collective gasp in the narrow hallway and the hum of chatter dulled to silence. “What did you say? What the fuck do you know, bud?” He glared through slit eyes and I nodded at him.
“You fucking heard me, [i bud.] You’re kind’a trash. It’s pretty clear—you’re a fucking idiot.” He lunged toward me then and in one swift motion I threw my arm around and clocked him in the temple. He fell into the wall and a picture hanging from the wall shattered onto the floor. Then, without a moment to stop myself, I hurled the entire content of my stomach onto his pitiful body curled at my feet. Everyone started to scream and run out of the hallway and I couldn’t help but to laugh. Well, so much for being cool.
I entered the room after knocking and getting the approval I needed to open the door. She sat on the bed pitifully and I hesitated before taking a few steps in. “Hey, are you okay? He’s a fucking jerk, don’t let it get to you…” I wasn’t good at the whole comforting thing, I didn’t have the life-experience needed. But I figured asking if she was okay was the next best thing followed by some sort of insult to Tyler. “I don’t know what happened and you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to but just know that he’s a jerk. And I threw up on him.” I laughed and patted her shoulder. “Do you need a ride? I can find you a ride home or do you live nearby? I’ll walk you home if you need it.”
My eyes had shifted back to notice the same guy I had seen earlier in the court where I had sat on the bleachers. The same guy I had been drawing in my book out of inspiration. The same guy I had only noticed at that time.
His defence had caught me off guard, yet I had accepted his help and his sweater. I had made sure to close the door behind me, my way of shutting out the world. At this point I knew my reputation had plummeted to the ground.
Even though I could hear the commotion outside. Yet my main focus was dressing myself as fast as I could so I could get out of this shithole.
After a couple of seconds, there was silence behind the door. And a knock had come forth from it. I had hesitated for a moment yet I had called out to the person to enter. I had made myself mentally ready to see Tyler's mockful face. But I was somewhat relieved to have seen someone else instead of Tyler. It was the same guy from earlier. Except… his face was-- well his mouth looked like he had thrown up. And the smell from the hallway only confirmed that.
"I'm fine." I replied a little too sadly for my taste. I cleared my throat and shook my head. "I don't care anymore." I now said more sternly in an attempt to hide away the guilt. Though I had found a bit of comfort in the fact that Tyler was full of puke, I still didn't believe in revenge. But Karma has a way of making me feel good.
His laughter was contagious and his smile was brighter than a neon sign. Yet I couldn't find enough motivation in me to smile back. In fact, I was pretty sure I had a bitch face or a depressed piece of shit look plastered on.
I knew he was trying to make me feel better. But the truth was that I just didn't have it in me anymore to make myself be polite and thank him with a 'nice' attitude as my mother would always tell me to do.
Even then I still reached up and placed my hand upon his to stop him from patting my shoulder. I wanted to thank him, even if by a little gesture. Though I had no idea of how to in the first place. My silence spoke louder than words as he offered me a safe trip home. But I wasn't in the mood for a pity party. Instead I could feel my emotions get the best of me and I had thrown myself into him, my arms had wrapped around the stranger and I hugged him tightly. I didn't want to cry and much less in front of a stranger. So this was my way of holding back my tears.
"Thank you…" I finally pushed myself to say. "But I will get home on my own." I pulled from the hug. My hand then pulled the sweater from the bed and held it out to him. Once he had taken it my eyes met with his finally. "You should get home superman. You smell like dog puke." I managed to joke with a smile. And then I left the room; ignoring the people who had continued to bother me. It was then that I had chosen to forget that this had ever happened.
And I did. A couple of days had passed and I had faked being sick. Though in reality I just didn't want to go back to the school. I wasn't ready to face the hell that I knew was going to form. My mother had decided that I wasn't fit for going to school. So I stayed home for a whole week.
And everything had seemed to be peaceful until I could smell food being made. I had quickly made my way into the kitchen and noticed her pulling something out from the oven. My mom's home-made lasagna. It was a lasagna that she always bragged about ever since an old italian lady had taught her how to make it. But my mom only ever made it for special occasions… So I knew that something was going to happen, I just didn't know what.
"What's the occasion?" I asked with a smile. I wondered if maybe she had been promoted at the hospital.
"We're having guests over for dinner. They should be here any minute."
"Guests?" I asked a bit confused. My mother wasn't a guest type of person. She might've invited a couple of closet friends, but I barely even knew her friends. Ever since the divorce and had lived with my father for a good three years, I barely knew about my mother and her life in her hometown. After the divorce from my father she had moved back here and I had been stuck with my father. After an agreement, and a couple of lawyers later, I was happily granted permission to stay with my mother for good and would see my father during the summer. And during the month that I had already been here I had yet to know anything about my mother's friendships.
"Yes. My best friend Mrs. Rowe and her family. So you should go and get dressed. Put on that nice dress I gave you. It would definitely make you look beautiful." She smiled at me. As if I was in need to impress anyone. But I knew she just wanted to present me with pride.
"I'm not wearing a dress, but I will make sure to look nice." I promised her as she frowned.
"Please?" She begged me with puppy eyes. Alright, she always seemed to get to me that way. I knew I was done for..
In fact, I knew I had been done for as soon as the time came moments later when I stared at myself in the mirror. It just wasn't my style… but I would make my mother happy for one night.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror. The light blue dress that looked more like the 50's style cut. The skirt reached just about two inches above the knee. Revealing the bloody and scarred knees that I had from falling off my bike and skateboard too many times today and the whole month. It was embarrassing. Not the scars,black and blues or bloody marks on my knees and legs. But the whole wearing a dress. At least she didn't say that I had to wear heels. So I had chosen to use my black high top converses with some knee high stockings. At least I was trying to hide the marks to look more femenine like…
But I wasn't kidding anyone, I still looked rough with my hair still a bit messy, even though I had combed it. No make up, because fuck that. In fact, the only femenine thing about me was the simple dress and blue butterfly hair pin my mother had given me and I had stuck in my hair.
I heard the door ring. And I quickly made my way down towards my mother. My eyes noticed a beautiful woman who instantly hugged my mother tightly. My mother was grinning. A radiant smile that I hadn't seen in years. Whoever this woman was, she was definitely someone I wanted my mom to be around as much as possible. She made my mother genuinely happy. My eyes then caught sight of a tall man. Handsome, stern and… he just looked like a model from a magazine. Must've been the woman's husband because after he had greeted my mother he had stood beside my mother's friend and had wrapped his arm around her waist.
Such a nice looking famil-- my eyes widened as soon as I noticed the guy who walked in. My mother pinched his cheeks and hugged him tightly. The same guy who had saved me at the party. The same dude who had thrown up on Tyler. The memory had made me internally laugh and before I knew it I was grinning like an idiot at the bottom of the stairs.
"Oh, this is my daughter, Azariah. You remember her right?" My mother spoke to her best friend as she looked over at me. Their eyes then locked on to me. My smile had instantly faded. I felt like a deer in the headlight; unsure if I should run or stay put.
"Hi." I managed to say as I waved a bit. But my eyes had then focused on the guy I had met at the party. Was this life just trying to tell me something? Yes,life was trying to tell me that I needed friends. Good friends. Like my mother seemed to have.
"Lucas, you probably have seen my daughter in your school. You two go to the same school. You're about the same age too, I think." My mother smiled at him.
"Yeah. I have seen him before." I said as I finally made my way towards them. "I… usually watch him play basketball." I smiled.
My mother looked at me and then at him. Her eyes then shifted to her friend. She whispered something into the woman's ear before the two began to giggle. And I was sure that I didn't want to know.
"Lucas, right?" I said before holding my hand out to him. "Nice to meet the real you, superman. How's your stomach?" I winked at him. I leaned in closer to him. "My mom still doesn't know about the party... It's best if they don't know."
My mother was brimming with excitement and my dad was trying to soothe her from bursting from her own skin. She was absolutely enthralled and she could not contain it. She had been a smiling ray of sunshine all day and although my mom did tend to be the positive one out of any group, the optimism had quadrupled that day and I knew why. She hadn’t stopped talking about it—in fact I was pretty surprised that we were just not going to meet. From the sounds of it, I was finally going to meet my mom’s best friend.
I’d heard about her and seen pictures of before of my mother and her together in highschool. They were inseparable but when her husband wanted to move for work she followed and hadn’t had a chance to come back often. She had a lot going on in her life, I guess, and now with the divorce she’d found her way back home. My mom had grilled into me that I was to be an absolute gentleman. She also mentioned that her friend had a daughter my age and of course that piqued my adolescent brain.
My mother cradled a plate with her homemade chocolate chip cookies and I extended my arm toward her. She dodged me quickly and put up a finger to stop me. “Nope, these are not for you, young man. These are for them,” she nodded self-assuredly at herself and walked out the door. She wore sundress and a jean jacket, with matching jewelry to boot. My dad was in khaki shorts and a blue polo. He was such a dad I had to laugh under my breath while we exited the house. My dad locked up and I went on ahead.
When we arrived at the house I wasn’t sure what to expect. My eyes panned over the home as we pulled up, taking it in slowly to find anything interesting. My eyes spotted a skateboard outside and a basketball hoop. My hands slid together and almost immediately I started to scheme. How could I get outside and play? This was the last place I wanted to be but I knew how important this was for my mom. My dad had even nudged me and if dad was going to deal with a night of girl talk then obviously this was important. I guess I was happy for my mom; how many times had she pulled out the old yearbook, or sometimes even the photoalbums? She couldn’t point and giggle enough, or [i ‘ooo’ and ‘awee’ ]enough.
I followed my mother who knocked first. My father stood close to her, arm tightly around her waist. When the door opened I had half a mind to lunge forward in case my mother dropped the cookies. The two woman joined each other in a tight embrace joined with giggling, screaming and the like. So old people do that, too, not just teenage girls, huh? I shook my head and my dad peered back at me with a bemused smile and chuckle. After the greeting had concluded, my dad stepped in and finally I passed the threshold. I wasn’t expecting the thumbs on my cheek and I frowned and pulled away with an awkward, traumatic expression rolled over my face.
“Oh yeah, we know each other,” I nodded and grinned. The fiery young girl smiled back at me, a reflection of my own. It could have been anyone so I wasn’t disappointed. She was new to school, too, and I felt a pang of pity for her. I hadn’t really gotten any shit for what happened, in fact a lot of people thought it was funny—and intentional—that I threw up on Tyler Renford. He fucking deserved it anyway, and I did knock his ass out first. I laughed at the memory and quickly tried to shake it away as fast as it had come.
Our parents all exchanged glances and our mother’s whisper to each other before Azariah’s mother took a deep breath and then guided my parents into the kitchen with promise of food and wine. Over her shoulder my mother stated, “why don’t ya get to know each other, we’ll be in the kitchen. We can have dinner soon!” I stood there longer and exchanged amused looks with Azariah, my eyes floating from her to our parents and back to her and I bursted out laughing once they were out of ear shot. My hands shoved into my dark denim pockets and I pivot back and forth on my heel. I wore a t-shirt with our highschool’s mascot on it. Figured if maybe I dressed the part I could maybe be the part—and I felt pretty fresh in this outfit, not gon’a lie.
“Oh yeah, name’s Lucas. Probably a good idea, I don’t think they want to know or need to know,” I laughed again and rocked back-and-forth again on my heel to my toe. My eyes caught on the clip in her hair pulling back the endless strands of red, the blue dress a complimenting contrast to her pale, freckled skin. “Let’s, uh, go outside.” I guided her back out the door hoping maybe I could throw some hoops and this whole dinner thing wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it would. As we walked out toward the pavement, my foot stepped on the skateboard and I pushed it forward and backward with one foot; I was slightly afraid to try it out, but I also didn’t want to look like a loser. My gaze rose up from the ground and I I met her gaze for only a moment before returned to the board under my foot. “So, uh, how you been? I know you been sick lately… you really been sick or you been hiding?” I pried. “Because if you’re hiding, there’s no point. No one’s going to mess with you, not with me around,” I gulped down the bile rising in my throat. I had a girlfriend but she was pretty cute and I was basically offering to protect her. Arianna would be so pissed if she knew.
“Seriously, though, screw them. That guy’s an actual douche bag, Azariah,” I paused for a second then looked up at her once more. “Can I call you something else, instead? Azariah’s kind of a mouthful. How’s Riah? Or Az?” I giggle under my breath at the latter, but if she chose it he’d learn to call her that, but [i Azariah?] No, that was a mouthful for sure. Although it was also one he’d never forget.
Get to know each other? Well I didn't mind if I got to know Lucas a bit better. He had seemed like a pretty cool guy. Maybe a little different from the guys back at my old school, but still pretty cool. I smiled kindly at his mother and directed my attention back to Lucas who then finally spoke.
He was amusing, to say the least. But I was enjoying the fact that he was sober now. Even though, when Lucas was drunk he didn't seem like a bad person, but I always had an issue with alcohol or anyone who drank. I had too many memories of my father who had mostly a heart of gold when sober and then turned into the devil himself when drunk.
"I never would've thought that a jock like you would be related to my mother's best friend." I joked. He seemed a bit distracted though, since he wouldn't stay still. Maybe he was already bored with me? Who knows? I knew I was boring to most people, especially the teens from her new school. Since I really didn't fit into their norm. Yet a part of me just didn't give a shit while the other part of me made me feel out of place. But who was kidding? I already knew I wasn't going to be able to fit in anywhere with my odd tendencies.
I couldn't help but feel odd with Lucas staring at me quietly. Was he trying to decipher me or was he simply realizing that I really was trying too hard to impress his parents? Whatever it was, it made me internally laugh.
I followed him to the front yard of my house. My eyes glanced down at my skateboard in which he had attempted to use. But clearly he didn't know what he was doing with it. I tilted my head to the side with curious eyes staring at him. Was he beckoning me to show him?
"I've been hiding." I muttered under my breath. I should've known that I would be caught sooner or later. Yet his words had been slightly comforting. Well at leaf until the last sentence which is when my darkish hazel eyes finally looked up at him. "I don't need a drunk superman to save me." I gave him a cocky smile that lasted merely a second before I burst into laughter. Though as soon as he said my name my laughter had stopped. Riah… az? Oh yeah, he was already being like the rest of the douchebags I'd met in her life. Already trying to change me.
I sighed softly and shrugged my shoulders with defeat. "You can call me anything that your wee lil' heart feels content with." I said before bending over and pulling him closer to my skateboard. "If you want to ride it, you have to get on it." I reached down and grasped his leg gently, running my hand down to his foot and adjusting it to where I knew he had to place it in order to gain some balance. "This is where it goes." My eyes then looked up at him. "Ir order to ride it you can't be afraid of getting hurt." And I knew this all too well already.
My eyes shifted back to his foot as I gently pulled the skateboard out from under it. "My name isn't a mouthful." I began before pushing myself off on the skateboard. I began to ride around him in a circle. "You're just not used to it. But if you want to call me anything, then call me Az. Because all you're ever going to remember about me is how much of an asshole I can be." I chuckled. My eyes shifted over to the street where I had then pushed myself off on to.
My logic had told me not to, but my immature nature was starting to kick in again. So I began to do my tricks. From a Gazelle flip to a backside 180 to an olly. I was just showing off everything I knew how to do on the board. There was only one problem though, I was still struggling to keep the skirt down. My main reason as to why I hated dresses. It wasn't like I didn't have boxers under… but still. That and my hair was also all over my face.
"This is all you have to do!" I called out to him as I kept riding around. "If you're afraid of falling or getting hurt, you'll never get anywhere. Oh and also have to remember to bend your knees."
My eyes shifted back to Lucas. With a small smile I finally rolled myself up to him and stopped in front of him. I instantly kicked down the edge of my board causing it to stand up straight and I caught it. "So" I started a bit breathless, "Want to try?" I held the board out to him. "Or would you rather just shoot some hoops? Though I can let you know right now that my skills are on the board, not the ball." I laughed at the thought. "So [i Luke], what do you say? Exchange pro tips? You show me basketball and I show you how to ride?"
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“Yeah… what do you know?” I had commented under my breath as we went outside. It was still setting in that our mother’s were close friends. The world was made smaller that day—smaller than Bethalto had already made the world seem. When we were outside, as I played with her skateboard, I nodded as I actively listened to her. I felt bad she’d been hiding and I didn’t know why I did. I mean, I was a nice kid but there was something about Azariah that I felt I needed to protect. She acted like she didn’t need it but the boy inside me felt differently.
“Superman?” It was a rhetorical question and I grinned toward the pavement before mashing my lips together in an over-confident gesture. I silently patted myself on the back—I was going to complain about a nickname like that. When she manually maneuvered my foot onto the board I flush rose on my cheeks. I wasn’t often touched my a girl, and I felt a pang of guilt too. Arianna would be so mad. The young blonde had been my girlfriend for a year now, and considering we were only fourteen years old, that meant something apparently. She had it in her head that we were going to get married and have babies one day and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the idea simply disgusted me. I didn’t want kids, I didn’t even want to think about having kids. I was a kid. And I had dreams.
“I play basketball… I’m not afraid of getting hurt, I just feel way off balance on this thing. I’m good on a bike or skiing but this.. out of my comfort zone,” I admitted, chastising myself in the process for being so forthright. Way to be cool, but she knows I can play basketball—she’s seen me. I felt confident in myself again and let her slide the board from under my feet. I watched her—mesmerized—as she flipped her board with ease. She looked so at peace on the board and I suddenly had the urge to learn so I can feel that same thing. “I’m not scared of you, [i Az.] Psh.” I chuckled and shook my head mockingly, almost beckoning her to retort. I had to admit, Azariah was kind of cool. She wasn’t like most girls, she kind of felt like a guy… but then again, those flames flapping in the air, twirling and dancing as she skateboarded around me in her sky-blue dress reminded me that she wasn’t. I had a strange urge to be her friend, too, and I subconsciously shoved her into the friend category. It was okay to have friends, right?
“You make it look easy, I don’t think so. I’ll stick to playing basketball.” The garage door opened then, and I spotted a basket in the center of the concrete slab. I saw Azariah’s mom disappear back into the house. Someone must have told her, or maybe she knew. Either way, I ran to it as fast as I could and spun around. I ran up to the hoop and made a swift bank shot off the board behind the net and caught the ball quickly in my hands as it fell. My eyes shot a playful derisive glare in her direction, almost as if to say [i ‘yeah, see, that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout’].
The rest of the evening was eventful and, dare I say, fun. I tried my hand a few times on the skateboard but that didn’t work out so well with me. I took a few falls which was a bit embarrassing but it was what it was. It did make me feel a bit better when Azariah struggled to make shots even with my best guidance. So, maybe we had different talents and there was nothing wrong with that. Dinner was fun listening to our mother’s chat about old times. Even my dad chipped in to make some off-handed comments about the old times. They all laughed until they had tears in their eyes, and Azariah and I just smiled at each other.
Azariah’s mother was a truly beautiful soul. One of the kinds that never should have to go through what she’d gone through. Azariah didn’t know it, but I called her mom at least once a month, sometimes every other week, to check up on her. I had made her promise not to tell Azariah, knowing it would upset her, and she had kept her promise—and she apparently took it to the grave with her. I stared down at the thin, emerald carpet that stretched the expanse of the gathering area. I peered to the other side of the room where Azariah’s mother’s face smiled through her pain. The photo was taken before she really took a turn for the worse. It hurt to understand how hard it must have been for her to stay optimistic. Azariah had no idea of the advice I had gotten from her mother even in the past few years. One of the last things she had told me was that Azariah and I needed to find each other again. She made me promise to try to unify with her—knowing how hard a task it would be. It was also part of the secret as to why I was there that day. Her dad started to speak up as the murmurs continued as well as the astounded looks the faces around the room exchanged. I heaved a sigh. They were staring at my mother and I, and her dad loomed close to me. He cleared his throat to try to speak and I clenched my teeth.
“Hello everyone—I’m sorry about this, Azariah is going through a lot right now and let’s just be supportive and continue to remember Adelaid.” He slid his hands together while he spoke and then motioned to the front where her picture was. His clean and crisp black suit and vest was a stark contrast to the personality I knew him to have. I know it’s like the pot calling the kettle black, but I knew that he definitely wasn’t someone Azariah wanted to see and I was surprised he attended. He had no real reason to—none at all. I decided I wouldn’t contribute to the whole making a scene thing, so instead I took a step forward toward him after everyone began to move and mingle once more. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do here, Jim, but you need to go. I know what you did to the both of them and if I didn’t respect Adelaid more than you’ll ever be able to comprehend, I would drag you outside myself.” He looked shocked that I had spoken and his lips parted to say something but my mother took a step forward at my side who had been within earshot.
“Get the fuck out, Jim,” my brows raised at my venomous profanity but I was proud. Jim began to stutter before taking a few steps back and grabbing his new wife’s arm. She was my age gawking at my mother and I. The poor girl had no true sense of what was going on and I felt a pang of guilt for her. I looked over at my mom and gritted my teeth before speaking. “Ma, I told you this was a bad idea. I should have creeped in the back and then left.”
“Truly, Lucas, I didn’t think she was going to freak like that,” she mulled over her words for a moment. “I do feel bad, but you and I both know that you need to talk. Does she even know how much you’ve been helping without her knowledge?” I shook my head at her question and she mimicked the action, clicking her tongue as she did. “I’m not sure what to do… I’ll cover here, but you should maybe go find her. I know you’ve been through a lot, but come on, Lucas Rowe, you guys were conjoined at the hip when you were teenagers. Remember that dance you guys went to. Was that your sophomore or freshman year?” I thought fondly on the memory. We had been friends only a year by Christmas time sophomore year. I had made it into varsity basketball and I was still dating Arianna. It was a very dramatic night but it brought us closer than ever.
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I had on my first fitted suit and my mom was gushing at the door. She couldn’t stop taking pictures of me and I brushed back my hair and tried to be comfortable. My hands shoved into my pockets, balled up in anxiousness. Arianna was coming over, her parents were going to bring her. Azaliah was coming, too. Ari and Az didn’t necessarily like each other, but they tolerated each other for me. Az had quickly become a good friend, like a sister to me, but Ari saw something different there. I was nervous about the night but cleared my throat. “You done yet, Ma?” I rolled my eyes as she heaved an over-exaggerated sigh.
“Fine, but you’ll understand one day and regret not remember the moment. I wish I had digital camera’s when I was a kid. No, we had to take pictures and go get them [i developed.] Do you even know what that means?” She began to ramble as she often did and I was just starting to tune her out when I heard a knock on the door. When I opened the door, Arianna was standing with her parents behind her. She looked uncomfortable and nervous but her parents were clearly excited. Especially her mother. [i Must be a mom thing,] I told myself.
She was beautiful in her soft pink and glittering dress. It was puffy on the sides, I wasn’t sure what that was called but I remember thinking how gorgeous she looked with her long, tanned legs peeking out. I gulped again and reached out my hand. “You look… Uhm… really pretty,” I hesitated and she smiled, stepping into the home in her ungodly tall heels. [i How do women walk in those things?] Her parents came in after her and all of our parents took turns cooing over us and snapping photos. All the awkward poses, in different locations—in front of the fireplace, on the steps, front to back with arms wrapped awkwardly around her middle.
I was starting to get clammy and impatient when another ring chimed throughout the house. I unclasped as fast as I could from Arianna and she glared briefly at me but I was too excited to notice. We had been talking about this night all year and I was excited to see her—I half expected her to show up in jeans and a t-shirt. But then again, I had heard her mulling over whether to wear a dress and something about her mom pushing her to so I was excited to see. Arianna tugged at my side and possessively clutched my arm. Well… hopefully tonight would be a good night.
I knew that it was going to be a bad idea. But Harry had told me that it was going to be a marvelous night. At least that's what he was trying to convince me into thinking. But I had known better after my last terrible experience with Tyler. Harry just simply reminded me of him, in a lesser dosage.
I had rejected him. I knew he was after me for what felt like ages,even though it had only been three months. And I honestly just wasn't interested. Maybe even traumatized by the last crush I had on a guy. I just wasn't ready for the things that would come in a serious relationship.
And even though I had mentally decided I was not going to attend the dance, Lucas had somehow convinced me to go with him and Arianna. I wasn't too fond of the idea, but I also had a hard time saying no to Lucas. And therefore, I was going to the dance; whether I wanted to or not. Yet that was the least of my horrors. I feared my mother more now that she had been told by Lucas' mother that we were going together. Which meant that now she really wanted me to dress up. Even though I told her it wasn't a big deal and I could've gone with my regular clothes, she insisted that I was going to wear what she was planning to buy me and bring home after work. My mother had also neglected to accept the fact that I was not going alone with him, I was not his date. I was simply the chaperone; a third wheel. Not that I minded. It was better for me that way.
"It's orange…" I said with disgust while staring at the dress that my mother held up to me proudly. She instantly made a face.
"It's supposed to be the color of the sunset." She explained while she helped me into it. I had already hated the way it looked on me. It was just not my color, and she knew how much I hated the color orange; hence the color of my hair which she had forbidden me to dye another color.
I stared at myself in the mirror, trying to figure out which was brightest; my hair, or my dress which seemed to bring out the freckles even more upon my skin. "Can't I just wear the black dress grandma gave me?"
"Oh God no, Azariah. You are going to a dance, not a funeral." She smiled at me. If she had only read my mind at that moment she would've known that going to this dance already felt like a funeral to me.
"Alright, fine. I will wear this stupid thing." I said with a smirk as I began to pull my hair up into a ponytail. But I then felt my mother slap my hand. "Ow! What now?"
"I told you I am dressing you up tonight. And that means your hair, your shoes and your make-up is also mine to dabble with." She chuckled. I already knew I was done for when she pulled out a brush. Combing away the knots in my hair, spraying it with whatever that oil was in the can and soon my hair smelled like Cherry Blossoms and almonds. Or at least that's what it said on the bottle.
"Is this all really necessary?" I asked my mother who finally let my soft curls run down my back wild and free, clipped back with a simple flower barrette. She then turned me around in the chair and smiled down upon me.
She lifted my chin gently and pressed her lips to my forehead. "I just want everyone to see what a beautiful young woman you're becoming."
Yes, well I was far from beautiful, but at least I knew I was kind of nice to look at. Kind of… "You just want to show me off." I joked with her. But she only smirked.
"If I wanted to show you off ,I would show you off to Lucas. He will admire how you look tonight."
Lucas? No. He didn't care what I looked like. He was interested in Arianna's looks. I was just his best friend-- his bro. Nothing else. "Sure, he will." I rolled my eyes as I felt my mother apply some light mascara and eyeliner that looked like cat eyes. "I don't need make-up." I mumbled but my mother hummed a little tune; her peaceful way of saying that she was ignoring me.
With blush and then some light lip gloss, I was then handed some leather greek flat shoes. I couldn't complain, at least it wasn't heels. "I feel like a fairy…" I looked up at my mother who then handed me a bottle of perfume. "Oh no…"
"Oh yes." She said with a laugh. And instantly I was drowned in the fruity and floral scent. Fuck. "There, now you look like a beautiful young lady."
"Far from a Lady. I feel like a clown. No, like a drag queen."
My mother smirked. "Then you're a beautiful drag queen. Now go to Lucas's house. He must be waiting for you."
I took a deep breath and nodded. Getting off of the chair I took one quick glance at myself in the mirror. For once I felt completely out of place in my own skin, not to mention odd. But hey, it was only for one night, right? Right?
Finally at Lucas's house, my mother had dropped me off since she had refused for me to touch my bike or ride my board. Something about making sure I got to his house looking perfectly intact. I had found myself ringing the doorbell while looking back at my mother who smiled from ear to ear before driving off.
Thankfully the door had finally opened and my eyes stared at Luc-- wow. I couldn't help but stare at Arianna. She looked gorgeous. And I had to admit that one look at her and I had already felt insecure about my own appearance. But I brushed off the thought as I looked over at Lucas who looked like an oversized Ken doll. I tried my hardest to keep my laughter contained, but the smile was sure to give it away.
"You look… Dashing." A laughter escaped my lips. My eyes then shifted to Arianna. "You look amazing, Ari." I tried hard not to sound a bit jealous. Though I quickly gave her a kind smile. "Are we ready to g--" I suddenly was blinded by a flurry of flashing lights and a shutter going off. My eyes shifted over to Lucas's mother.
"Oh, honey you look so beautiful! Lucas, let's take a picture of you two as well." She beckoned me to come inside, which I did out of respect even though I hated pictures. My eyes shifted to him and I leaned over towards him.
"I thought we agreed on no pictures." I whispered to him.
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I had stood awkwardly by Arianna’s side for a moment—torn as I was—before I finally took a few steps forward. Arianna’s clutch grew tighter as she took steps forward with me. I wasn’t necessarily expecting her to, but I couldn’t peel her away so instead I gave her an awkward smile before grinning at Azaliah at the door.
There was a tighter squeeze I almost flinched from before Arianna’s hands dropped from my arm. It was at my mother’s insistence of pictures and I subconsciously held my breath in discomfort. I wanted Az to be there that night but there was tension in the air that could be sliced if someone willed it. I took my place beside her and tried to smile bright for my mother who continued to coo again.
“I can’t wait to send these to Adelaid,” she chittered as she admired the pictures she had just taken. I could see her fully invested—flipping through the photos on the violet digital camera. My mother had been too stoked to buy the camera stating that we were entering into a new digital era that was daunting yet exciting. I’m sure it was mostly just because she could take endless photos and store the memory cards forever. I always wondered why she didn’t go into photography for a career of choice instead of the accountant she chose to be. I could feel intense eyes burrowing into the side of my head without even needing to see who the perpetrator was. Arianna had her arms crossed and I could hear the soft thumping of her toe to the mahogany stained wood floors. I made an awkward chuckle before attempting to pivot in order to be within her proximity again. [i Come on, I just want to have a good night…]
The ride was uneventful to the resort where the Christmas Ball was being held. Outside there were hordes of teenagers dressed to their best, the myriad of colors—some sparkling, some matte—while figures dressed in black suits surrounded them. My heart thumped in anticipation; this was the first [i real] dance I had ever been to and the adrenaline began to kick into full gear. I was restless in the backseat, Arianna smooshed between Az and I. I briefly wondered what they were thinking but was glad that, although Ari appeared to be a bit tense and irritated, neither of them had said anything to each other. Hopefully the night would stay that way.
We exited the car and joined the line as we made our way into the gathering room. High stoned ceilings with bright chandeliers rained down an ambient glow around us. It honestly felt like I was a celebrity walking into an award show instead of a 9th grade dance. There was a deep maroon carpet that spread across the three-tiered area and in the farthest corner from me was the lacquered wooden tiles of the dance floor. A few bodies had already boasted the courage to maneuver onto the floor and a foreboding dread snaked up my spine. Arianna looped her arms around my arm, and my other was shoved deep into my pocket and balled into a fist of anxiety. I thought I wouldn’t be nervous but I was—only a little. A teammate approached me then and our palms slapped together in greeting. His eyes quickly raked over Arianna with a darkness that made me a bit uncomfortable and then his eyes met Az and before I knew it I had reached my hand out to grab her arm. I heard Arianna scoff beside me as I tugged at Az and we began a strange dance as I tugged her toward me and Arianna’s grip tightened once more.
“Let’s go get some drinks, guys,” I tried to say to lighten the mood, hoping Troy would walk away. He followed instead and fell in step with Az. A prickle of jealous rose then but I gulped it away and let go of Az’s arm. She wasn’t mine to make decisions for so I heaved a sign and turned my attention to Ari who seemed all to prepared for my attention. She leaned over quietly to whisper to me and I winced in anticipation. “I know she’s your friend, babe, but I exist, too, you know?” I inwardly groaned and patted her hand as we walked. “Yes, I know, but please just get along, will ya. She’s my best friend, Ari, you know that.” She rolled her eyes as we approached the refreshments. [i Please, dear God, give me a good night of no drama.
My eyes instantly shifted to Ari as Lucas' mother spoke about sending the pictures to my mother. I could tell she was jealous beyond reason. Hell, I could tell that she already wished that I would somehow end up sick and just remain behind while she got to go to the dance with him and steal his attention. Honestly, she could have all his attention. It wasn't like I needed it or wanted any of it.
Even in the car ride I could feel the tension, the anger. The way she shifted between me and him. She was trying her best to keep us apart and I was just granting her exactly what she wanted. My eyes were glued outside the window, wishing I could just somehow get over the night with no issues. But something inside of me told me that tonight would possibly not go the way I would want it to. I prayed to God that he would at least keep my temper from bursting out and doing something I rightfully knew I would regret later...
At the dance my eyes had lurked around the place in awe. It was a beautiful sight yet I somehow felt like I didn't belong here. This was not my place, this was not really my kind of thing. Years of reading books or seeing movies about romantic-like scenery always made me think that I needed someone else to be with me. To take my hand and lead me to the dancefloor and sweep me off my feet; especially now in my attire. Yet I knew that was less than likely. I wasn't likeable, my body was. Which was why I always hid any form of my body behind baggy boy clothes. My way of feeling safe. But tonight was another story. And I could tell by the way others stared at me, some mockingly, others with interest and then there were those who stared at me with desire. Those were the eyes that bothered me the most…
I felt as Lucas grasped me and my eyes instantly shifted to him. It was then that I had really taken notice of the way he looked tonight. The way his hair shinned under the lights, the way his suit had clung perfectly around his body. The way his smile beamed brighter than any light in the room. I swallowed hard when I realized I was staring at him with admiration.
My eyes then collided with one of Lucas' teammates, Troy. The dark haired male kept his eyes on me. Just like Lucas, Troy was one of my school's most hot and popular guys. And it wasn't like Troy didn't know me. But he kept his eyes on me like if I was some sort of an alien. I felt as Lucas grabbed me like he was trying to protect me. Even though it felt kind of nice, I could hear Ari's subtle sound of discontentment. My eyes shifted to Lucas who tried to dance with me, knowing that I didn't know the first thing about dancing. My eyes darted to Ari who clearly glared at me. If that wasn't enough of a hint to make me feel like I shouldn't be here at all, I didn't know what else was.
"Drinks are fine." I said to Lucas with a shrug of my shoulders. I felt Troy's gaze towards me intensify, trying to catch my attention. My eyes met with his once again. A smile formed on his lips, his hand extending out to me. He pulled me closer and I unconsciously began to dance in rhythm with him. His hand rested on the little of my back, his other hand grasped my hand gently. His eyes remained locked on mine and I suddenly felt breathless.
"Azi." He spoke softly as he leaned closer to my face. I could feel my cheeks instantly flush. "You look really nice tonight. I hope you don't mind dancing with me for a little?"
I stared at him for a moment. Then I nodded. What was I thinking? "I wouldn't mind it at all." His smile swept me away once again.
"Good." He said as he continued to lead. One song, two, then three songs. And just as I thought I was able to control my feelings, I saw his lips part and he began to speak. "I never thought I'd get the chance to dance with you."
My heart had stopped for a moment. I felt like I was about to internally combust. I didn't like Troy like this. I had to remind myself that small detail over and over again. Yet part of me wanted to maybe give it a chance since he had so effortlessly swept me off my feet as I had initially wanted someone to do. Lucas had Ari and I had no one… At least for the rest of tonight I could make some magic happen, right?
"And why is that?" I asked with curiosity.
"Because I always thought you had eyes for someone else." He glanced over towards my best friend. Lucas. Me liking Lucas was impossible. He was my friend, my best friend. He was my brother… I couldn't like him like that ever… Besides.. he had Ari…
"Lucas? Oh no, he's like a brother to me." I said with a smile.
"Really? Could've fooled me." He smiled and I melted. "But I'm glad that it's not the case." He leaned in closer to my face, I could feel his forehead pressed against mine, pulling my body closer to his. I felt like the world around me had suddenly stopped. My eyes closed to take in the moment.
"Is this real?" I unintentionally said out loud. He chuckled. I was suddenly embarrassed. Had I really said that out loud? He bumped his forehead gently against mine.
"Of course this is real." He responded and my heart fluttered. He really was a gentleman. No wonder all the girls were also after him…
My eyes opened and looked at him as the song faded. I pulled away from him gently. "Thank you, for being so nice to me." I said before pressing my lips to his cheek. "It was wonderful."
"It's my pleasure." He took my hand once again and pressed his tender lips to it. I knew I was done for. He walked away and looked back at me with a bright grin on his face as if he just had the best time of his life. And I felt like I was going to die from happiness.
My eyes followed him behind the curtains, soon feeling Lucas's eyes on me. My eyes glanced over at my best friend. I quickly walked over and tried my best not to squeal. "I'm officially swooned." I said with the grin that didn't seem to leave my face. My eyes shifted to Ari who smirked. Nothing new there.
"Can't you just give us at least a few more minutes alone to enjoy this dance as a couple?" She snapped at me. My eyes rolled.
"Can't I share wonderful news with my best friend?" I snapped back. I suddenly watched as Ari pulled from Lucas and stood between me and him, as if claiming him as her property. But he wasn't an item to claim and her stance made my blood boil.
"Azariah, I have dealt with you long enough. I have withstood your presence since you've two become friends. But you have to know your place Azariah. He's [i my] boyfriend!"
Her boyfriend. Her words still echoed in my head. "I know that. But that doesn't mean I can't be friends with him!" I felt my hand ball into a fist. My eyes shifted to Lucas. Ari's face then blocked my view again. I was angry. She was possessive. And I knew I couldn't do anything. Like she said… it was not my place and I had to keep in control. "Fine!" I sighed trying to calm myself down. "Fine… I'll back off." I said in defeat. My eyes shifted behind her as I tried to move a bit closer to him. Ari made sure I wasn't anywhere near him at that point.
"Can I at least say one last thing to him?"
"Go ahead." She said with a smirk, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Can it be private?" I asked as I tried to pull Ari from between us. But the stubborn bitch made sure she was between us still. Fine. I would leave it this way. "Have fun, Lucas. I will see you back home when the grinch isn't around." I said with anger as I turned on my heel.
"What did you call me?" I heard Ari asked me with anger. Fuck. I hadn't meant to say that aloud.
"I…" I didn't even know how to fix what I said. I looked at her over my shoulder. "Nothing." I began to walk away.
"Yeah. That's what I thought. Go, leave. Go back to where you belong. Nobody cares because you're not supposed to be here. I don't even know why you came!"
I bit back my anger and tried my best to remain calm as I walked away quickly. But Ari was persistent. "No wonder nobody likes you. You're just like your mom. That's why your daddy didn't want her." I stopped in my tracks. My eyes shifted back to stare at Ari. I wanted to say something. But my eyes shifted to Lucas. I wasn't going to make a scene… He didn't deserve a scene… he deserved a calm night. A nice and peaceful dance. And as hard as it was for me to do, I swallowed my anger once again and began to make my way to the entrance.
"Oh, did I strike a nerve? Now you're angry because I'm telling the truth?" Ari continued mock as my pace quickened. "I'm talking to you, Azariah!" I felt as she suddenly pulled my hair back. Before I knew it, just as Ari had pulled my hair back, my body had turned, and my fist then crashed against her face. Her body plummeted to the floor, my first was pulsating with pain and everyone around me had gasped. Even though my heart was happy with victory that I had finally given her what she deserved. Her now bruised and bleeding face reminded me of the monster that I was. My eyes glanced around at the judgemental prying eyes. I suddenly felt small and worthless. Guilt washed over me quickly. Lucas ran to Ari, and I had backed away. I was a horrible person.
I turned and continued to leave. At the bottom of the steps of the entrance, after hearing as the doors closed behind me, I sat down to consider what I had done... I felt the tears prickle at my eyes. There was no use for them yet… they still fell from my face. I had ruined the perfect night like always… It wasn't the first time I had done something like this, had a fight or argument with someone. But I had never hit anyone, especially not Ari. I buried my face into my hands, not giving one damn about the makeup that surely smeared behind my hands. I just... I just need to breathe.
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I tried to keep engaged with Arianna and she was pretty demanding about it, too. She didn’t much give me choice in the matter but I wanted to have a good night. Truth be told it already looked like Az was having a good time… I sighed and peeled my eyes away from her and Troy, the pit of my stomach queasy and uncomfortable. My one hand rested gently on her side and I returned my gaze to meet hers. She was staring up at me skeptically and I sighed before biting out the question I knew I really would rather have not asked. “What’s going on?” I inquired and she scoffed at my question. “What is it about Azariah, Lucas?” I cocked my head puzzled and my brows furrowed.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about… It’s just that Troy’s cool and all but he’s kind of a douche bag with girls,” I tried to explain but she rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry, Ari, I’m here with [i you,] okay?” Her face washed over with satisfaction and she smiled up at me innocently then. It was this girl that I liked—the kind, adorable and understanding girl I fell for. She leaned into my chest and I kissed the top of her head. I spotted Az approaching us in my peripheral vision and my arm subconsciously dropped as I pivoted to greet her openly. I was excited for Az to get away from Troy and have some fun with us, so when Arianna spoke before me and bit at Azi I was taken aback.
At first, I listened to it unfold, my gaze shifting between the two frantically as my thoughts rolled around in my head. What was I supposed to do? Most guys would dream of this—two girls fighting for them—but I knew this was different, and there was something vile about what Ari was saying. I stepped forward, my hand gently touching her elbow when I had finally found the courage to step forward and intervene, but by now the two had already began to escalate and Ari shrugged me off and then waved an open hand behind her in what was definitely a motion to stop me. I didn’t like that Ari was making decisions for me but at the same time I didn’t know quite what red flags really were. I knew I disliked it very much and it caused a foreboding feeling to coil up my spine. I felt uncomfortable and had never truly witnessed two girls fighting ever before—I mean we were in 9th grade.
To be honest there was something kind of [i hot] in the way that Azi was handling the conflict; she had such an intense look on her face and she was being genuine, I could sense that. I wanted to step forward again and my lips parted once more but yet no words came out because I was caught off guard when Arianna snatched Azariah’s red tresses. I gasped in shock and the few students that had began to circle around the two exponentially increased. By the time Az had turned and swung at Ari there was a collective gasp from every single student in the room who had stopped to watch the scene. My eyes caught the bobbing heads of teachers trying to weed through the thick crowd but by the time they got there Ari was already on the ground and Azariah was exiting. The crowd widened like the Red Sea as she walked out of the event room.
I immediately dropped down to tend to Ari out of pure instinct. I could see the blood trickling down her nose and her chin and I did feel a pang of guilt. Tears were falling freely from her astonished and traumatized eyes. A student handed me a napkin and I placed it gently on her chin. She held tightly to me as I tried to hush her hysteria. “She’s a fucking bitch, Lucas,” Arianna shrieked and I let out a defeated burst of air. “You have to choose, Lucas, me or that freaking loser?” She extended a shaky hand to point toward the closed doors that Az had just exited from. A couple of teachers frantically ran to get ice and band aids and I helped Ari sit up while I fought to find my words.
“Listen, Arianna. I like you—but you’re actually kind of really mean… What you said was not right, and Azi is my friend. I don’t… I just…. You know who I’m going to choose,” I stumbled over my words and she recoiled from my touch then, her expression twisting. “What?” Her voice shrieked again and I quickly came to a stand. A teacher had returned and replaced me with ice in her hands and I backed away slowly. Arianna kept berating me but I spun on my heel and ignored her. When I reached outside I found Azi and sat down next to her.
“Hey, sorry about that… I should have stopped her. Ari… she isn’t a bad girl… I just think she, uh, she needs someone that’s not me,” I coughed awkwardly, a hand rubbing my neck and staring downward at the aged concrete. “I think it’s best Ari and I just go our separate ways, it’s not cool what she said to you and I told her as much. You didn’t deserve that,” I paused and a grin suddenly broke my depleted face, “but you nailed her good,” I chuckled. “Fuck, that makes me feel really bad, who’s worse, you or me?” I nudged her before a teacher exited and informed us that we weren’t allowed back in the dance and something about the principals office on Monday.
“Screw this place, let’s go do something else… Ice cream?” We both stood up and made our way toward the nearby ice-cream spot. We ended up having a good rest of the night, eating ice cream, walking around in the middle of the night and laughing until our stomach hurt. It felt good—relieving—to spend the evening with her with no care in the world. I had just started to think that maybe we could give it a try… Until a couple of weeks later, she started dating Troy.
[center [size30 [Homemade+apple Present Day]]]
I watched my mother begin to mingle with everyone, ensuring that the people at the funeral were content and sharing memories of Adelaid. My mother was one-of-a-kind—a people person—and even though I was nervous about finding Azariah, I knew that the memorial gathering was in good temporary hands. I mentally deduced that my mother should have been the one to do all of this; it obviously had become too much for Azariah.
I made my way out of the parlor and stepped onto the pavement raking my eyes over the parking lot and nearby areas. I needed to figure out where she went but it had been a long time since I had to predict Azariah’s actions. I closed my eyes and took a deep inhale through my nose; I could smell the rain coming. The foreboding, looming greyscale cover above rolled over the sky as it began to rumble. A memory came to mind then of the park across the way—a place that Azi and I had snuck away to on more than one occasion. It was a public park and there was a beach on the small lake. I made my way towards it, hoping that I’d find her on one of the park benches that surrounded the lake except for the sandy beach part. As the bottoms of my feet met the pavement I mentally preyed that the rain would hold off until I found her. My eyes perused the area and I couldn’t help but to smile even with the drama that had occurred that day. My thoughts spanned an array of memories but one stood out to me more than the rest. It was the day that it was my turn to get into a fight with Azi’s boyfriend, a strange little routine of ours that we had throughout highschool, for one reason or another. It was on a rainy day and my pulse picked up when I thought back on it. We were in 10th grade that year and we had just started to truly find ourselves; and my struggles had only just begun.
Just as I had thought of leaving for good, Lucas had come along and made me change my mind as usual. He was good at that. He also never really allowed me to feel the way I felt right now. He was always there for me through thick and thin and I was worried that this time it wasn't exactly for the best.
I was the cause of his break up, despite his explanation. His way of apologizing for the mess that he didn't create. I only wondered when he would stop apologizing for others.
But his smile was just as contagious as his laughter. I couldn't help but smile through my tears in return. After he had nudged me, I couldn't help but stare at him in awe for what seemed like forever. The way the moonlight lit up his still growing handsome face. The way his lips curved in what I considered to have been the most beautiful smile... Lucas… truly was my best friend. And yet something inside of me tugged at my heart, making my stomach ill.
I couldn't seem to find the courage to speak after that moment. Lucas had somehow captivated my thoughts and cursed me with silence unintentionally. We both stood up and made our way toward the nearby ice-cream spot. While Lucas had seemed to make my night ten times better than I would have ever imagined, something inside of me reminded me that this was just how we always were. There was nothing special about it… He and I were just hanging out like good ol' friend would do. Right? ...Right?
Yet I still knew that something was different. Something so subtle had changed, but I wasn't sure about what it was. Until a couple of weeks later, when Troy had asked me to date him.
It had now been the following summer. I had been dating Troy for a couple of months now. Something that Lucas had tried time and time again to warn me about him. But I paid no mind to him since Troy had blinded me with his charm. It was as if Troy knew me inside and out. An innocent love. He made me feel that it was alright to be myself. That it was alright to take everything at a slow pace and I was enjoying every second of it.
I wasn't a romantic girl. But that never meant that I didn't enjoy the small romantic gestures that he would display to me. From sending roses to my doorstep, to placing secret love letters and poems on my desk or locker, to giving me his jacket when it was cold. Ok, that wasn't exactly romantic, but it was a nice thing to do. The point was that Troy was attentive to me. He had given me the attention that I had craved for in small doses. Knowing very well that I walked on the edge at all times and could only handle so much. What Tyler hadn't understood… Troy had seemed to understand fully.
But there was only one thing that broke the whole perfect image I had of Troy. He had somehow become frenemies with my best friend, Lucas. And that alone made me feel uncomfortable. I knew very well how it felt like to be in Lucas' shoes. I had been there not long ago when he had been with Ari. And now I understood how difficult it must've been to him to try and get my relationship with Troy and friendship with Lucas to flow together without any consequences or war. It wasn't easy… But luckily Lucas had seemed to have a much better temper than I did.
"Lucas, you will be bunking with Troy, Kevin and Michael in the same cabin." Mrs. Johnson, our teacher, said with a bright smile. My eyes instantly looked over at Lucas who hadn’t seemed too happy about it, nor Troy for that matter.
“Azariah, you will be bunking with Ashley, Scarlett and Gabriella.”
My eyes shifted over to Ashley. She was Ari’s cousin, Scarlette and Gabriella were her best friends. And I knew very well that the smile on their faces wasn’t because they were happy to bunk with me. No, I knew they had dark intentions set up for me. But I didn’t want to display a sense of fear just in case.
“Seems like we’re going to be the best of buds again, Luc.” Troy said with a chuckle, his arm wrapping around Lucas’ shoulders while the three of them walked off to find their cabins. “Can’t wait to talk about the spooky stories.”
I smiled at Troy as he suddenly wrapped his arm around my shoulder as well and pulled me closer. “I bet you guys will have the time of your lives.” I joked, trying to lighten up the mood.
Troy nodded. “You bet we will. Right Luc?” His eyes shifted over to him.
I glanced over at Lucas and gave him a warming smile. Slipping from Troy’s grasp, I made my way between the two and bumped my shoulder gently against Lucas. “We could maybe hike together later. You know, just the two of us? Like old times?”
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css2?family=Homemade+Apple&display=swa ] [center [size30 [Homemade+apple 12 years ago--Summer before 10th grade]]]
It was now the summer before Sophomore year. Tryouts for basketball were coming up I had thrown myself into practice because I wanted so badly to get into varsity—something I felt would make me feel accomplished—the only thing I was truly passionate about. Not to mention it got my mind off of Azariah and Troy. Man, I hated that guy before and even more so now. He doted on Azariah to a gag-worthy degree and I found myself sickened just at the thought of it. What did she find so great about him? Oh yeah, the flowers and the love notes and all that gross stuff. Blech—
I kicked at the carpet of the cabins main lobby where a large group of us from school were huddled around our frumpy middle-aged teacher, Mrs. Johnson, who tried way too hard to sound positive and enthusiastic. It was pretty obvious to most of us, either just by the look of it or by word-of-mouth, that this wasn’t the most exciting trip of the year, although it could be behind closed doors. Everyone knew that the camp itself wasn’t the best or the worst thing ever: swimming, hiking, playing ‘team-building’ games—[i yes, so much fun.] I’d heard that a couple years ago some kids got caught sneaking down to the beach to drink and party and I wanted badly to participate this year but I toted the line with basketball looming over me. My eyes panned to Troy beside me and the bright-eyed red-head across from me waving at me and sending googly eyes to the golden-haired douche bag next to me. I scoffed again and looked away, unable to hide my disgust for the situation. I realized then that if an opportunity presented itself to get away from here and have a couple drinks without Troy and Azariah present to PDA me out of the room then I’d jump on it.
My downtrodden eyes quickly found Azariah’s again at the sound of her roommates called out. I saw the sinister looks on their faces and I glared at them from across the room. They glared back—of course they weren’t scared by me. They were still angry at me and even more so at Azariah. I closed my eyes and heaved a sigh, mentally noting that despite my own feelings about the Azariah-Troy thing, I’d have to keep a close eye on her. After all, I’d known from the moment I had met her that I was going to have to be her protector. But then an unfamiliar and unwelcome arm wrapped around my shoulders and I groaned—out loud this time. Of-fucking-course. I rolled my eyes but did my best to muster up the strength to smile.
I had heard far too many bad things about Troy, even before he had started dating Azariah. The night they met at the dance he gave me the creeps—he was a well-known piece-of-shit and it boggled my mind he’d been with Azariah so long. I briefly thought that maybe I needed to rethink the situation considering he had been so good to her, but then again there was something unsettling about his demeanor. I didn’t care that he was good to Azariah, what mattered to me was why. And that was the moment I made the decision that the challenge of camp as going to be to crack Troy; he was either going to convince me he was actually in love with Azariah or he was going to unmask the truth and show his real colors. I [i was] going to find out. And maybe even give him a fucking taste of his own medicine if he called me Luc again.
I leaned over to try to whisper to him and he noticed but before I could Azariah had unlooped from him and he skirted around him to find my other side. I could feel Troy’s irritated clutch of my shoulder and I looked up at him through half-slid lids with a smirk. I could see his jaw clenched and he looked away clearly annoyed. I turned my head to meet Azariah’s warm pools and nodded. “Let’s do it.” I was honestly surprised she asked and had half a mind to ask but I didn’t want to… No, I wanted to revel in this so I looked back over to Troy and nodded my head smugly. He rolled his eyes and scoffed but clearly, he tried to hide it from Azariah who looped back around and Troy reached out for a side hug. As she walked in the opposite direction I slid Troy’s hand off my shoulder and picked up my duffel bag headed toward the room. “Don’t call me Luke, we’re not friends,” and I turned ahead. I could hear him shuffling behind me to pick up his shit and I made damn sure to make long strides to get there first. My ass was getting dibs on the bed. I decided on the bottom bunk to the left of the room nearest the window. Lucas walked in after me rambling about some stupid crap I didn’t care about to Michael and Kevin. Thank God Michael and Kevin were good kids and Kev was a good friend of mine.
Mike was the tallest of all of us with real powerful and strong quads from Soccer and long skater-boy dark locks. He was a kid progeny with soccer and was definitely making it to varsity. I was pretty sure the varsity soccer team had already offered him a position and I wasn’t surprised. Sometimes he acted like he had a few screws missing but he was a real relaxed dude. Kevin was a really good basketball player, he was the same height as me with a blonde mop for hair. He was pretty good and he was the closest to me out of the group. I silently hoped that if Troy did anything Kevin would definitely be there to back me up, and hopefully Mike, too, for that matter. But Troy was pretty persuasive—and popular. It was kind of a free-for-all after everyone got settled. We only had to report back to the dining hall for dinner but we were able to roam about if we wanted to. Which is exactly what Azariah and I intended to do. I packed my black drawstring bag with our school’s logo on it, throwing in a few water bottles and my phone. Troy was still settling in and joking with the other two boys but I caught him watching me leave with a glaring side-eye and I ignored him. Fuck him. [I’m not gon’a steal your girlfriend, dickhead, that’s probably some shit you’d do. ]
I went out to the back where a concrete slab was centered by a fire pit still smoking from the night before. It was a hot day but evening was approaching and with it came the cool breeze. Illinois tends to have swinging temperatures, so I had shoved a sweater in my bag and was wearing a t-shirt and slate adidas sweatpants and sat on one of the chairs to wait for Azariah. When her familiar face exited the building I immediately stood up. “Let’s get the hell out of here before Troy tries to ca—” I caught myself and grumbled before pivoting. I had tried so hard to not talk bad about Troy because I knew what it was like when Azariah didn’t get along with Ari but it was so fucking hard. Then again, it wasn’t [i that] hard because I hadn’t seen much of her the past six months and I had been holding in that resentment for a while. I fully intended to have a good night with Azariah like old-times and I just hoped that I’d be able to hold it in until they broke up or… or… I didn’t even know what…
Even though Lucas had agreed to hiking with me, I knew that there was something bitterly going on between him and Troy. I also knew that there wasn't much I could do apart from trying to maintain the peace between the two and do my best in making time for the two of them. After all, they both were equally as important to me and I loved them both dearly… But then again, Lucas did come first to me in many ways since he was my best friend… And I knew him better and way before I met Troy…
My eyes shifted towards the two that seemed to argue with one another while I walked away. Lucas finally showed his dislike of Troy and Troy simply making a mockery out of Lucas. I knew this camping trip would either end wonderfully or as another big disaster written in my history book. It wasn't like I wasn't used to disasters given my temper. But that also didn't mean that I was fond of them… Contrary to what many gossiped about me in school, I hated drama and I hated the fact that it would follow me to my grave.
As I opened the door to my cabin I was greeted with a sudden grasp of hand and pinned against a wall by Scarlett and Gabriella. I struggled for my freedom, but the two girls weren't allowing it. My eyes then met with Ashley's strikingly blue eyes. She was beautiful, the three of them were. But their souls did not match their outer beauty. I sighed softly as Ashley gave me a sinister grin. I knew I was going to be in so much trouble after this…
"Azariah Idalia Moon," she began as she then showed me a cup full of what looked like sludge water, "What a mouthful of a name. Yet somehow my cousin can't seem to forget it."
"Well, I don't blame her. My name is unique in a way." I rolled my eyes only to feel Ashley suddenly grip me by my collar. I think I had struck a nerve.
"Listen here you little shit, I am not one to take lightly anyone who causes harm to my cousin. Especially a mutt like you. Therefore, I hope you listen to me very well," She pinched my nose and forced my mouth open. I instantly felt the warm slimy liquid poured into my mouth. It tasted horrible, something that I couldn't explain. I prayed that I didn't throw up right on the spot while I also struggled to breathe. "If you don't stop being friends with Lucas, things will end badly. Understand?"
A shitty threat that I wasn't having. I mustered up my strength and struggled even more. Though instead what I had caused was for more of that disgusting sludge to slide down my throat, to which then caused me to cough it up and over Ashley. She instantly growled and smeared everything all over my face and hair and for God's sake it did not only taste horrible it smelled terrible.
"You have until the end of the camping trip to get rid of Lucas." Ashley threatened. But I was too busy trying not to throw up to even care. I was finally granted freedom as the three girls then left the cabin. As I finally caught my breath, my eyes shifted over to my bed. It was a disaster, filled with what looked like more sludge and God only knew what else. I really just wasn't up for any of this, especially not because of some guy I decided to be friends with. Fuck. One thing was certain though… I needed to throw up…
Moments later, after I had cleaned myself up and my bed, I finally decided to find Lucas. Maybe spending less time with him on this trip would make my life easier, but that wasn't what I was going to do. I knew I could've easily made up an excuse to want to spend more time with Troy, but I also knew that Lucas knew me too well to know that I would be lying. I was like an open book to him at most times. Hence it was a bad idea for me to lie to him.
I tied my wet hair into a high ponytail in an attempt to hide away what had happened moments ago. Even though I knew Lucas wouldn't question my hygiene habits, I still didn't want to lie about the whole situation back at the cabin either. But I also didn't want him to know or worry… maybe even cause an unnecessary scene. So after it was up in a high ponytail I covered it up with the hood of my jacket and walked up to him.
I smiled at him as he approached me. But as he began to talk, his words had seemed to continue to leave small burn marks behind in my heart. Right, I also had to deal with his hate towards my boyfriend… I had almost forgotten. And yet I didn't blame him.
I reached out gently and caressed his face for a moment, giving him a reassuring smile. "It's ok, Lucas. You don't have to hide your feelings from me." Because in the end I would know exactly what he was feeling and I would rather have him let it out than keep it in like I had which eventually caused me to beat the shit out of Ari.
My thoughts were interrupted by the way he suddenly looked at me. I felt my heart stop for a moment, my hand dropped from his face instantly. I felt awkward even. Maybe a bit curious. But curious of what? I swallowed hard with the rest of my thoughts and buried them behind a chuckle. "I think we should get started on the hike before it's too late." I suggested while starting to walk alongside him. My eyes then noticed the look from those around us. It was evident that they thought the worst of us. But clearly they didn't know what we knew; Lucas and I would [i always] be friends, nothing more. Not that I didn't see Lucas as a guy, but I truly saw him more as my friend. He was just that friend that I would hang out with everyday. The friend that would make me laugh and turn my rainy days into rainbows and sunshine. The friend that I would love to have long talks with along the lakeside. The friend to sleep next to at night after we finished counting the stars. Lucas… Lucas was my everything at this point. My stronghold on life.
I had been so lost in my own thoughts that I hadn't even noticed the long awkward silence between us, or the fact that we had reached the depths of the woods towards the shore of the lake. My eyes glanced over at Lucas, my hand brushing against his gently unintentionally. I cleared my throat, "I heard that there will be a party tonight around here somewhere… We can take a look into it if you want, Party boy." I bumped my shoulder playfully with him with a smile. "Troy isn't going to come if that's what you're worried about… I made sure to have this little private moment we're having between us. Since it's been a while that I have been with you like this. I was already missing my time with my bro."
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css2?family=Homemade+Apple&display=swa ] [center [size30 [Homemade+apple 12 years ago--Summer before 10th grade]]]
I had bit my tongue but not soon enough. Azariah had heard my comment and she had gotten a pretty good idea of the message by my tone. I knew how hard it could be to balance friendships with relationships; I had learned my lesson with Arianna; however, it did not take away the discomfort I felt. I was wracking my brain to figure out what else to say to start a conversation and silently hoped we didn’t spend the whole evening talking about how amazing Troy was or I swore I would leave camp altogether, one way or another. My feet skidded in the dirt when I stopped, stirring up rocks and dirt into the air and dusting up my dark red joggers. Her hand was warm on my cheek and I had two urges; one, to pull away; and two, to lean in. I was caught between the two so intensely that I just froze instead and stared down at her. The sun was starting to fall in the sky and the burning orange radiating above cascaded a beautiful glow on the auburn-haired sprite. Her small, erratic sprinkle across her nose and cheek stood out and I eyed them, my eyes following down to her lips then back to her returning gaze. I was staring so intensely into her pools that I had to consciously detach from myself and pull away. “I think it’s best some things we keep to ourselves,” I admitted coolly while I teared away my gaze. I pivoted again on my heel and began to walk, dragging my foot along the way to kick the dirt. I felt some unusual tingling in the pit of my stomach and my chest felt heavy but I pushed away the feeling. “Yeah, let’s get moving before dinner. I’d rather not have Mrs. Johnson on our ass,” I chuckled.
We carried on quietly for a bit which normally would feel weird but felt right at this time. Something about the time, the way the last slivers of sunlight weaved through the trees and the fact that it was us—Azariah and I—together and alone for once. It had been a while since we’d had some alone time and I half expected to find Troy traipsing out of the forest. He had a habit of showing up uninvited when it came to Azariah and I’s interactions. God, he [i really] pissed me off. I had complained to my mom on a couple of occasions but I tried to be careful knowing full well that what I told her probably went directly in Azariah’s mom’s ear. She told me that most relationships in highschool don’t last and she had encouraged me to be honest with Azariah about some of the things I felt about Troy and about her. She also had urged me a few times to be with Azariah of which I’d always feign disgust but… was I really disgusted? I didn’t think so…
I felt her warmth brush up against the back of mine and my breath caught in my chest. “A party?” I clung to it, once again detaching from the situation and stepping away. Everything felt right with us yet everything felt wrong. She had a boyfriend and we were friends. I had no right to treat her badly or judge her when I did the same thing to her when I dated Ari. And I knew that the drama hadn’t stopped when we broke up. Ari didn’t tell me when Ari or her friends would harass her but I had seen a few times and I had been told about it. It really bothered me but I didn’t know what to do, I was just a young teenager. She hadn’t mentioned anything either so I was unsure whether she wanted me involved. I looked over at her with a peculiar look etched on my face with one brow cocked. “Troy isn’t going to come? Azi, that’s a fucking joke and you know it,” even if he had told her he wouldn’t there was no way the boy I knew was going to pass up a party, it just meant he’d maybe crash it halfway through. “But I guess we can give it a shot. If things get weird, I’m leaving,” I warned and she knew exactly what I meant.
I peered out over the beach and took a deep breath, feeling the air fill every nook and cranny in my lungs and then slowly exhaled it through pursed lips. “It’s pretty nice out here but I suppose we should get back before it gets any darker,” I stated but yet stood for moments longer. I liked the feeling of the cool breeze on the nape of my neck, the subtle sound of the waves washing up over the sandy beach, the loons out in the water and the crickets and wildlife all around creating a low chattering backdrop. [i Peaceful.] I finally heaved a sigh and turned to Azi then jokingly shoved her lightly. We played around a lot but this time something was off. Her hood fell down her face and I could see her tangled hair with some sort of goop laced and clumped all over. [i “Azi…”] I whispered. “Who did this to you?” My voice was much louder now—demanding and dominating. “What the fuck, Azi, what did they do to you?” I tried to touch her hair but it irritated me the more I looked, “I’m going to kill them.”
It wasn't that Troy had agreed to not coming. It was more of me not telling him about it and hoping that he wouldn't appear out of the blue. I wanted to spend some time alone with Lucas, even if it meant being cunning and not telling him the whole truth. I knew exactly how Troy was… And yet Lucas' words stung. Like a spear slicing thickly through my flesh. If there wasn't a moment in time that Lucas made me feel like shit before, now would be the first. But I wasn't going to say anything. No, it wasn't worth an argument. The damage was done.
One thing was sure, I no longer wanted to go to the party. I no longer wanted to be near Lucas. At least not for now… until my emotional bleeding was healed. It was clear to me that my friendship with Lucas was slowly drifting to a cliffside, and I only hoped that it wouldn't one day fall over and crash below. Because I didn't know what I would do without him in my life. Lucas… was my---
I felt as he shoved me gently. He was trying to get me to smile, but I wasn't having it. I didn't want him to touch me. But yet again I remained silent. It really wasn't worth the ar-- my hair stood on end as his tone of voice suddenly changed. He was no longer playing around, he was mad. Angry.
This was exactly what I didn't want to happen. I quickly grabbed my hood and pulled it back over my head. "It's nothing. No one did anything. I just messed around with some things before I came to see you, that's all." I moved away from Lucas. "And you are right, Troy will more than likely show up to the party. I kind of didn't tell him so I could maybe just stick around a bit longer with you, but knowing him he might be there anyways. I guess it's best if I don't show up. You can go to the party. I will head back." Without hesitation I turned on my heels and started my route back to the camp.
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