Sunday, 27 September 2009
12:04:02 AM (GMT)
Chelsea looked up at Michael with wide eyes, and opened his mouth slightly to say
something before closing it and looking down at his fidgeting hands. “I,” he
began and then choked off the words. The auburn-haired teen sighed and pulled his
knees to his chest. “My mom is really sick right now. She has cancer and sometimes
her health is so bad that she has to stay in the hospital weeks at a time. My dad
knows that she’s not going to make it, we all know it, and so he’s staying with
her in the hospital day and night. Because neither of them can be there, they’re
making my older brother watch me,” the boy said it slowly, without ever looking up
at the other teen. Michael listened intently, but he couldn’t really pick out the
reason why Chelsea wanted to stay away from his own house.
Chelsea made a small noise, like he was going to say more, but had run out of
air. The younger teen took in a shaky breath and seemed to try and make himself
shrink. “But,” he began so quietly that Michael had to strain to hear him over
the TV, “My brother’s not how he was when he left for college anymore. He’s an
addict to almost any drug I can think of, and when he’s high or stung-out, he
becomes unpredictable. It’s like he’s not even the same person.” Michael could
barely see it, but he noticed that Chelsea’s beautiful green eyes were watery with
tears. “I tried to hide from him whenever he was like that, but he always found me
and then he,” Chelsea paused, his voice strained with hesitation on the last few
words, “then he did things that I wouldn’t have thought any living person would
do.” Chelsea stopped and turned away from Michael before sniffling. The older teen
could tell by the sniffle and one strangled noise that the tears were now falling
down the other boy’s face.
Michael wrapped his arms around the other teen, feeling sorry for bringing up
such sad things. Chelsea tensed at the touch and held his knees tighter to his chest
before relaxing. Michael leaned his head against Chelsea’s back; He felt so badly
for his new friend, but as he thought more about the teen had told him, a feeling of
anger toward Chelsea’s brother began to bubble and he started to mentally debate
with himself on whether or not to ask exactly what the teen’s older brother had
done to him. Before the debate could get far enough to come to a decision, Michael
stopped himself from thinking about it and focused on trying to comfort the other
Chelsea seemed so distraught in that moment that Michael didn’t want to
leave until he was absolutely sure that the other teen was perfectly stable before he
even moved, but that was unrealistic, since the alarm on his cell phone started going
off, telling him he only had five minutes left until fourth block lunch ended. He
sighed and reluctantly pulled away from the teen before reaching into his pocket and
turning off the alarm. “Sorry, I’ve got to go before some teacher notices that I
didn’t stay on campus for lunch,” he whispered. Chelsea nodded and murmured some
inaudible words of understanding and farewell. Michael frowned and soothingly rubbed
his hand against the younger teen’s upper back, “I’ll be back soon,” he
whispered before turning and walking out of the room. He paused on the stair’s
landing to close the door and, unhappily, locked it.
Michael trekked down the stairs with speedy though solemn steps. He picked
up what little stuff he’d brought home from the bottom of the steps. He gave a
bright, fake smile to his parents and waved before hopping into his car and driving
back to school, which was too far from where he actually wanted to be. He sighed as
he pulled into his parking space, barely able to avoid hitting the car next to him;
it had parked over the lines that separated one parking space from the other, again.
School was only one more hour long, but as he sat through class, counting every
minute without much notice to what his teacher was rambling about, it felt like a
lifetime had passed before the four freeing chimes of fourth block’s conclusion. He
picked up his stuff and sped into the hall to push against the crowd of teens trying
to go every which way just to get to lockers or exits from the school. He hurried as
he shoved through groups of people and up into the technology hall and hesitated in
front of his locker.
As he turned the numbers to the combination of his locker’s padlock, he
wondered why he felt that he had to get back to his house, back to Chelsea, as soon
as possible. The more he tried to think about it, the more he found himself thinking
about what would happen when he got home, and then the more he thought about that,
the slower he began to go as he tried to delay himself from getting home and finding
one of the scenarios that currently resided only in his mind. He frowned as he pulled
out the textbooks he’d need for the homework that night and stuffed them into his
backpack before walking toward the main exit of the school.
Outside, it seemed a lot quieter, which should’ve allowed him to sort
through his thoughts; however it only made him jumpy at every sound. He got to his
car quickly and threw his backpack in the passenger seat before sliding into the
driver seat. He rested one hand on the steering wheel gently as he slid the key into
the ignition. He jumped suddenly and accidentally made the car’s horn honk as his
phone went off loudly. He grabbed the phone from his pocket before starting the car
engine. He glanced at the caller ID before snapping it open and holing it to his ear
as he carefully reversed into the afternoon clutter. “What,” he asked, a bit more
snappily than he’d meant to.
The person on the other end of the line, Mimi according to the caller ID,
was silent for a second; probably glaring at the phone for the snapped answer
they’d just received. He heard a sigh and then Mimi’s voice came across the line
“Yeesh Mikey, what’s gotten you into a mood,” she asked playfully, using his,
very unwanted, nickname as a underlying threat of being referred to by it until his
mood changed. “Anyway,” she continued without a reply, “Me and Tyler were
wondering if you were still coming to the game tonight,” she asked and yawned
slightly, as if she’d just woken up, and she probably had.
It took Michael a minute to figure out what she was talking about, but
then he remembered that, even though the school Tyler and Mimi went to was out for
fall break, there was a special “grudge game” against the town across the highway
happening that night. “Yeah, I can’t miss Ty’s first half-time of the season;
Someone in color guard is bound to take out a band member this year,” he joked,
referring to the common mishaps that happened every year since Tyler had joined the
marching band. Mimi chuckled a little before laughing really hard, and Michael could
hear Tyler complaining about the color guard and who was marching by which one’s
were likely to kill the marchers.
Mimi’s laughter slowly ebbed away as Michael turned at a red light
near his school, “Okay, I’ll see you then,” She said and Michael started to say
his goodbye to them, but was cut of before he said anything, “Oh, and bring the
runaway with you,” She added happily and tapped against the phone’s receiver.
Michael knitted his eyebrows together, trying to figure out who she meant, it took
him a few seconds, but when he did he dropped his phone and nearly drove into a
He straightened the car back onto the road then grabbed his phone from
between the seat and the glove box next to it. He looked at the phone incredulously,
like it was playing some kind of trick on him, before holding it back up to his ear,
“Mimi, you do realize he is a missing child, right? If someone sees him at the
game, they might find him,” he said and turned onto the road that would soon lead
to his house. He heard Mimi scoff as he passed the park.
“First off:” she said, “I heard your car swerve just then;
Don’t be so melodramatic that you crash into a tree,” she chided, and Michael
almost tried to correct her on what he’d almost hit, but she started up before he
could even think of what to say,
“Second off: No one at that game is going to be paying attention to a few kids
walking around, and if you’re that worried about it, have him where a hat.” She
tapped on the receiver again as he thought over her words; he had no clue how she had
gotten that annoying habit, but it was hard to think when she did that.
“Okay, I’ll see you soon,” he said, very annoyed by the tapping.
“Bye.” He hung up the phone without her response. He put the phone in the
passenger seat as he pulled into the driveway. He put the car into park and removed
the keys with a sigh as he looked out the window; it had started raining. He
unbuckled as he picked up the phone to check the time; it was nearly five o’clock,
and the game was at six, but it would take thirty minutes to get across the highway
with all the traffic there was going to be. He sighed and got out of his car with his
cell phone and backpack in hand.
He ambled into the house wondering how he was going to convince his
mother to let him go to the game; He knew she’d tell him it would be too dangerous
because of all the reckless drivers out. He threw his backpack by the stairs and
started to turn, but stopped when he noticed something on the stairs move. At a
second glance he could see his father sitting on a step about halfway up the
stairwell and hurriedly snuffing out a cigarette. “You’re not supposed to smoke
in the house,” He whispered and climbed the stairs to sit beside his father. His
father only made a gruff noise and rolled his eyes for a reply.
Michael smiled; He had just found a way to get around his mother’s
objections to the football game. “Hey, Dad,” He began, “The big football Grudge
Game between Tyler and Mimi’s school and the one across the highway is tonight.”
His dad gave him a look that seemed to say, “And why do I care?” Michael sighed,
“I know Mom’s not going to let me go, but I really want to see the game. So, can
you, please, talk Mom into it for me? I’ll be back by midnight, promise.” His
father nodded slightly and waved Michael off as he took out a new cigarette and lit
it. “Thanks,” Michael said and grabbed his things before going back up the steps
to his room.
He swiftly unlocked, opened, reclosed, and relocked his door before
turning to Chelsea. “Hey, Do you want to go to a football game tonight,” He asked
and put his stuff down by the closet. “You wouldn’t have to worry about being
noticed; it’s a big game and no one will be paying attention. You could wear a hat
if you want,” He paraphrased what Mimi had told him over the phone as he searched
the closet for clothes with the colors of his friends’ school.
Chelsea shrugged, “Sure,” he smiled and then frowned, “but, is
there anyway I can shower first? I feel smelly.” Michael looked at him as if he’d
just realized the other boy didn’t have access to the bathroom since it was
downstairs. “Oh,” Chelsea said and sat up from where he’d been laying on the
bed watching TV, “How am I getting out of the house? Your parents don’t know
I’m here, do they?”
Michael sat down in the computer chair, “They don’t know you’re
here. You could sneak out the way I sneak out; go out the window, onto the edge of
the roof, and climb down the big tree near my brother’s old room’s window,” he
explained. “As for a shower, I can’t exactly take you downstairs, but I can stop
by Mimi and Tyler’s and you can shower there. That would actually be good, because
we can all ride to the game together and save some gas.” Michael seemed like he’d
stopped talking to Chelsea and had began musing to himself. “We should leave now,
though,” he said suddenly and stood up. “Meet you by the big tree!”
Moments later, Michael was helping Chelsea down from the last limb of
the tree before they piled into the car for their trip. It was silent for the first
few minutes, until the quietness began to feel awkward, “So,” Michael began and
searched for something to say, “Tyler’s in the marching band, so we can get these
coupon things from him and get in for half-price,” he said with a smile. Chelsea
just nodded without offering anything else to the subject.
Michael turned down the road to Tyler and Mimi’s house, still annoyed
with the silence. “Hey, um,” he heard Chelsea begin and glanced at the
auburn-haired teen from the corner of his eye. Chelsea was looking out the window at
the passing scenery as he continued, “This may seem random, but, do you eat a lot
of strawberries or something?”
Michael furrowed his brows together trying to figure out when he had
last eaten a strawberry, and why Chelsea had asked such a weird question out of
nowhere. “I haven’t had strawberries in forever; I don’t really like them that
much,” he said as he pulled into his friends’ driveway, “That was pretty
random; why’d you ask,” he wondered aloud, curiously.
Chelsea shrugged as he unbuckled, “No reason really. You just always
smell like strawberries, so I wondered if you liked them,” he said and pushed open
the car door at the same time and Michael and got out of the car. Michael closed the
door and turned away from Chelsea so he could try to indiscriminately sniff his shirt
to try and find the supposed strawberry scent. He glanced over his shoulder at
Chelsea with a quirked eyebrow after finding no strawberry smell at all. “Never
mind,” Chelsea said, seeming a little embarrassed as he walked toward the front
door of the house. Michael caught up to the other teen quickly and rang the doorbell.
Tyler and Mimi’s step-mom answered the door and let them in; they said hello to her
before climbing the steps, turning down the hall, and going into Mimi’s room.
“We’re going to caravan with you and Tyler,” Michael explained and
then pointed to Chelsea, “Can he use your shower?” Mimi nodded and finished
lacing her shoes with new, navy blue laces. She was decorated in navy blue and dark
green, the school colors of the school across the highway. “So much for school
spirit, right, Mimi?” He leaned against the doorway to her bedroom and watched as
she tied the navy blue laces into a double-knotted bow.
“Who needs school spirit when our team never wins any games,” she
said to Michael and stood from the bed. “Hey, honey,” She said to Chelsea, “The
shower is through the room across the hall,” she said and smiled as Chelsea turned
around and walked into the other room. A few moments later and Tyler was walking out,
in full marching uniform. The bottoms, more like overalls underneath the jacket than
pants, were black, but the jacket itself was bright purple and shiny silver; these
were new uniforms for the marching band, and they reminded Michael, somewhat, of a
Tyler sighed at the looks his new uniform was receiving from Michael and
his sister. “We’ll leave as soon as you two are ready,” he said as he took off
his hat, a less shiny purple with a silver plume, and sat down on the seat to
“We’re ready as soon as Chelsea gets out of the shower,” Michael
said after realizing Mimi wasn’t going to say anything. Tyler opened his mouth,
probably to ask whom Chelsea was, but closed it as the auburn haired teen walked into
the room with dripping wet hair as he mumbled a quiet phrase of thanks toward Mimi.
Michael looked Chelsea over, along with the siblings, and noticed for the first time
that Chelsea was still in the same clothes he’d been wearing for three days. Tyler
noticed it too, apparently, because he stood up and then said “You can borrow some
of my clothes; we’re almost the same size.
Tyler led Chelsea from the room before returning with Chelsea in a white
shirt and new jeans and carrying a duffle bag of clean clothes. After a quick glance
at the clock Tyler began shooing them all out the door and toward the car; apparently
Tyler had to be there to warm-up sooner than he had realized. After the rare
spectacle of Tyler speeding, they were all out of the car, thankful for the feeling
of the ground, and splitting off to where they were suppose to be; Michael and
Chelsea reserving seats at the top of the stands, Mimi waiting in the concessions
line to buy nachos, and Tyler in the parking lot with the rest of the band.
Michael sat down on the very top row in the stand with Chelsea; most
people chose to sit as close to the field as possible for the football, but it was
better to sit higher for watching the band’s performance. Michael glanced at
Chelsea who was sitting rigid and worriedly. “What’s wrong,” Michael asked and
turned toward Chelsea concernedly.
“Nothing,” Chelsea said with a sigh a visibly forced himself to
relax. The younger teen casted a nervous glance at Michael before shrugging, “I
just don’t like heights,” he said with a smile and then looked down across the
field, “That, and I go to that school,” he whispered hesitantly as he watched the
color guard march out with their blue and green flags for pre-game.