All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
From A Blaise Brother's Book
From a blaise brother’s book
A Week with Kevin
Now that I'm eighteen I'm fairly confident in saying that I'm no idiot; I can think, I know a few things. I know Awful Awfuls aren't awfully bad, they're awfully good and that everybody jaywalks. I know that teachers don't sleep at school and that pie are square, contrary to the popular belief that they are circular. Something else I know, and possibly the most important thing I know, is that just because your parents created you doesn't mean that they have to give a rat's ass. It doesn't mean that they have to give you a kiss goodnight and scream bloody murder if they catch you taking a swig from the cooler that'd been sitting behind the mayo; not because they were saving it for themselves but because they don't want you to even so much as get a whiff of rubbing alcohol. They don't have to make you supper or give you lunch money or anything like that.
And that doesn't bother me anymore like it used to; it doesn't hurt.
It used to make my chest cave in and my eyes sting and my joints ache at the thought.
But not anymore.
Because I won't let it and I've come to accept it, like how when I was in kindergarten I came to accept the fact that no matter how much you whine, it will not make Monday your day to go on the playground. The only thing that bothers me now is how well Charlie and Adair know it.
If they don't find out soon they'll end up like a bird that flew into a window; broken but alive and utterly hopeless.
"Rise and shine, sleepyhead! It's Monday and we have school. Ain't that dandy?" I say all of this in a ridiculously cheerful and alert voice. Not that I'm feeling particularly cheerful or alert; I'm angry and exhausted. I tell myself that the happiness I put into my tone was to torture Charlie but a nagging voice is telling me it's because I think that if I act awake I'll end up convincing my body that it's really not tired and running solely on caffeine. But whatever, back to Charlie.
Charlie doesn't do much more than moan and groan as I pull the shades and clomp around the room as noisily as I can. When I yank the warm blue flannel covers away he finally says something.
"No what?" I ask. Not waiting for an answer I go on. "You can't possibly mean "no school"? You must be terribly excited to get there and explain to your teachers why you weren't in class on Friday?" I drop the cheerful tone as I divulge the information I've kept to myself all weekend and adopt an angry one. He stares at me through bleary but wary eyes.
"I was at school on Friday." He drops his head forward and sounds less confident as he goes on. "We went home together. We took your car to come home, 'member?"
That just about makes me flip out.
"Do you think I'm freakin' stupid or something Charlie or are you the stupid one? We had gym on Friday and you didn't show up. You weren't anywhere at lunch. For chrissake kid, if you're gonna lie to me at least learn how to do it right-"
"Okay, a'right!" Charlie cuts across my words sharply. He's sitting bolt upright against the wall. He's tense. "I'm sorry, okay? Is that enough for you? Really, truly, wicked sorry." I can't tell if he's sorry because he cut or if he's just sorry he got me mad. The kid hates yelling and normally backs down anytime someone so much as puts a toe over the line between yelling and just talking loud. But let me be the one to tell you, do not count on the idea that Charlie won't yell back. I do sometimes and ironically enough those are the times he ends up screaming back twice as loud. When that kid is pissed you had just better watch out. I need to remind myself that all the time.
Let me help you get to know my middle brother a little bit better. The kid is weird, okay? I mean, he's not freaky bizarro or anything and I guess Adair is a lot stranger when you get right down to it but they're both odd in my book. That's fine by me of course, I'm just letting you know. Charlie's fourteen, loves to read and can talk up a storm, but plenty of people have never head him say a word. People tell me all the time that Charlie never so much as asks a question in class and when he presents things his voice and hands shake like he's having a seizure. And I can never believe it because me and him have gym together and he won't shut his mouth no matter how much I threaten his life and future children. He's got blue eyes that hint on gray and sort of curly hair that you can never really decide whether it's blonde or a weird coppery brown. His face beholds a plethora of freckles just like our sister Nory's did. He's pretty smart, I will admit, no matter how much me and our friends tease him otherwise. It's hard not to with the way he says things out of the clear blue sky. But he is smart. No matter how much he says he isn't and no matter how much he says he hates school and math and science he'll still be smart.
A heavy silence has crept into Charlie's room. It has crawled under the door from outside where it should be at this time of morning and up the stairs. It weighs down Charlie's limbs as he stretches and sticks to the pictures on the walls. Silence makes me sick and I have to break it.
"You gonna wake Adair up?"
I've hid a truce in there somewhere.
"Yup." He accepts the truce and slides out of bed. He himself is awake now. "I have a plan."
"Oh yeah, what kind of plan?" I ask curiously, looking over my shoulder as I walk out the door and almost directly to the stairs. He shoots me a sly sideways glance.
"Come with me and you will see."
It takes Charlie close to ten minutes to prepare. First he has to run down to the basement for a flashlight. Then he has to run back upstairs to the kitchen for a pot and a spoon. After that he rummages in the fridge for some Jell-o. I try several times to get him to tell him what he's going do and keep trying until I'm practically begging to know but he just starts humming loudly every time I open my mouth. So I don't find out what's going to do until the same moment Adair does.
"I see a leetle si-lo-huetto of a man!" Charlie bellows as he shoves the flashlight in Adair's face. It's not very bright because the batteries are dying but it's still too close for comfort this early in the morning. Adair emits something stuck between a yell and a whimper. "Scara-mouche, Scara-mouche, will you do the fan-dan-go!"
"Char-ah-ah-lie!" Adair whines. He claws at his mattress in an attempt to squish himself between the wall and his bed the way a puppy that can't walk drags itself to be squished under it's mother away from the light and sounds.
"You're kidding me," I say bemusedly. I'm standing in the doorway watching the scene from across a sea of army soldiers, plastic BB's, and underwear.
"Thunder bolt and lightening, very, very frightening me!" Charlie says this while banging the spoon on the pot and when he finishes talking he grabs the bowl of Jell-o. I think about telling him not to do it before it even happens but I can't. So instead I watch half-hysterical, half-irritated to death as he dumps it on Adair's face. Adair sticks out his tongue and licks the cherry gelatin off his lips and I can tell that he almost wants to laugh but then he remembers he's tired, twisted up in Scooby-Doo sheets and covered in sticky Jell-o and screams, "Kev-in, make him stop it!"
"Galileo, Galileo-" Charlie starts a tug of war with Adair for his pillow.
"Charlie cut it out-" I take a step closer to the two of them.
"Leave me alone!" Adair pulls back hard on his pillow. I'm sure it's going to split like they do in the movies.
"Galileo, Figaro, magnifico!" Charlie pulls back harder and the pillow flies out of his grip and into the wall. It knocks a picture off kilter.
"God, Charlie, you're gonna break something!" I shout as I march across the room. I grab his right arm but he yanks it right back and starts at tickling Adair.
"I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me." Adair is kicking out wildly at his captor, his feet are flying in circles like the Roadrunner's. I can't even get near enough to try and pull Charlie away. He kicks a sock clear off his foot.
"Let him go, now." By this point I'm speaking in what I believe to be an extremely threatening voice. Charlie continues to ignore me and starts jumping up and down on the bed. Skipping a few verses he cries, "Bis-mill-ah, No! We will not let you go!"
I'm entirely fed up now. The moment his feet touch the mattress I grab both ankles and pull his feet out from under him. He lands on the bed, flat on his back, and just narrowly misses whacking his head on the foot board. He takes immediate notice of this when his hair brushes against the wood as he's sitting up.
"Did you just see how close-"
"Close doesn't count." My reply only has the slightest edge of venom in it. I don't see him but I hear the BB's scatter as Adair scuttles across the floor and the door slam when he shuts the bathroom door behind him. He's not slamming it because he's mad, at least I don't think, he just has a door slamming problem. Charlie makes an irritated noise in the back of his throat and throws himself back flat on the bed.
"What's wrong?" I ask as I wander across the room to pick up the pillow he'd thrown. Adair's allergic to dust and no one would be sleeping tonight if that thing laid there all day.
"Nothing," he says dully and gets up. He bites his lip thoughtfully for a moment like he might tell me something but he doesn't. Within the next few moments he exits the room and I can hear him clomping back up the stairs to his bedroom.
"My shower was like ice...again," I say wearily to the kitchen at large, wiping the water out of my eyes that's dripping from my hair. Charlie and Adair sound off a few things about all the times the water's been cold for them and how they don't shower twice a day like I do but it's lost on me because I've just noticed that Adair isn't sitting at our el cheapo table from Job Lot with Charlie like he normally would be. Rather he's kneeling on the counter, evaluating the contents of our cupboards.
"What are you doing?" I ask exasperatedly and shuffle him to the side a bit so I can grab a cup. Looking at me with a slightly miffed expression he replies firmly, "looking for strawberries."
"You do realize we don't even put food in there, right?" Charlie asks. His eyebrows are raised and pinched together in amusement. He gave up trying to cook just one awhile ago.
"They could be in here," Adair argues. Rolling my eyes just the littlest bit I walk over to Adair and lift him off the counter then place him gently on the floor. I lean forward with my hands on my knees and say, "I've got two things to tell you, buddy. One, I can't remember the last time I saw strawberries in this house."
"We had strawberry Pop-tarts up until the other day," Charlie says through a mouthful of toast.
"Two, strawberries would be in the fridge. Not in the cupboards."
There's a long pause before Adair finally quips hopefully, "Are you sure?"
With a heavy sigh he signs an agreement to retreat. I rub his hair and then stand up straight.
Let me tell you about Adair now. He's crazy about drawing and movies (he got that from Charlie just like Charlie got music from me and I got music from my father), is competitive almost to a fault, is honest as our buddy Abe, and is so random that I truly wonder sometimes if he's all there. I love him to death but he really scares me sometimes. Because when I look at him I don't see what you see. You see a little kid who's as polite as a eight year old can be, talks back and gets downright violent sometimes when things don't go his way, cries when he's upset but won't admit he's crying even when he's bawling his eyes out. But when I look at Adair, when I look really hard at him, I see me. I don't necessarily mean in looks even though he's a spitting image of me when I was his age; his right eye a melting brown and the left a blueberry green. Chestnut hair because chestnut sounds better than brown. What I really mean is that he acts just like I do, or did at least. It doesn't happen very once in awhile he brings up our mother and instead of it sounded like hopeful fluff you could stuff in a pillow, it's vile, bitter stitches of words on the seams. he could care less about school now and teachers say that "he's a bright boy but doesn't apply himself" when what they really mean is: "He's a screw-up and always will be". Teachers never say what they mean. And that scares the hell out of me because even though it's difficult to analyze your own behavior I know that's how I started acting when I got around to knowing all the things about adults I know now. Then I get even more scared because that's what I want him to realize and that's what's making him turn up like me. I must be a horrible brother.
Adair steals a piece of untouched toast off of Charlie's plate. I wait for the minor explosion but it doesn't come. It's not even bubbling beneath the surface. Charlie is staring at the wall, completely inactive except for blinking every few seconds like he has colors in his eyes from getting a picture taken. Adair isn't put off at all by this behavior and I really shouldn't be either because this is actually considered normal for my middle brother. I told you that he's weird.
I wait a minute or so to see if he's going to pull himself out of space but when he doesn't I grab the foot he has propped up on my chair and crack his toes.
"Ow!" he reels his leg back quickly as if he's worried his foot might run away from the pain and tucks it up under him. Charlie rarely sits with both feet on the floor.
"That's what you get for putting your dirty feet all over my chair," I reprimand, taking my seat. There's no real reason for my sitting there. I'm not going to eat breakfast. I decided this when I peered past Adair's shoulder as he was scouring the cabinets and realized how bare they were. I don't know how our fridge is doing so as I ask Charlie what he was being so very thoughtful about I tip onto the back legs of my chair and open the fridge. A gallon of milk half full and most likely expired, a carton of some Chinese concoction, wedding soup, cheese, and bologna. Cribs would love this, no doubt.
"Nothing," Charlie mumbles in response to my question. I let the chair fall back onto all four legs with a thump. "I have a headache."
"You get those a lot, huh?" I ask, slightly concerned.
"I never get headaches," Adair informs us. Charlie grins at him.
"Lucky gooseneck; they suck like a Hoover. I woke up with this one. Ever had that happen, Kev? Like what could I possibly be doing in my sleep to give me a headache?" he laughs a little and I do the same in return.
"Nah, I've never really woken up with one but I know how you feel. But kid, really, do they really bother you a wicked lot? 'Cause that can't be good, all those headaches. Didn't you have one yesterday? How many have you had this week, I mean..." I trail off and look at him expectantly for answers. He stands up, shrugging his shoulders.
"I don't know, I mean...sure, I get them a lot. I don't know how much though..." he trails off the same as I did and looks at me expectantly. I'm making him nervous, I realize.
"Why didn't you eat?" Adair asks suddenly. He's half under the table, pulling on his black slip-on Vans. He treasures those shoes. He got them brand new at the beginning of the school year. Nine months ago.
"I ate," I lie, rubbing the back of my head. I pick up a black Bic pen off the table and start gnawing on it like it's dessert. It's already been chewed into oblivion by me over the past few weeks since I dug it out from the bottom of my bag. I'm afraid my stomach is going to betray me when I feel it roll threateningly but it makes no noise.
"No you didn't," he argues. Adair's a terrific arguer. "You opened the fridge but that's it. How come when I'm not hungry I have to eat but you can do whatever you want?"
The words almost fly from my mouth. "Because you're eight! You need to eat, I don't want you to become some malnourished poster kid for food stamps! Because I don't want someone to call home because you passed out in gym and no one answers because I'm down the street in class myself so you end up lying in the nurse's office unconscious because I haven't been able to get groceries in the past month!" I want to say it so badly that the words catch in my throat and stick there like leaches, refusing to let go until they've done what they've come for. But I don't. Instead I say: "Because you're never not hungry and I'm older. I just forgot, buddy."
"Well I just reminded you," he says dismissively. I'm sure the reason he's acting like this is because like he mentioned, I always make him eat something before school. That and the fact there's rarely a time when I don't feel hungry myself. Not wanting to further the conversation because it would surely lead to how much money we have, or lack of really, I tell him to get out to the car.
"Don't start, Adair. I don't like what I for see in the case you choose to argue," I say mildly. He makes a face at me but does like I told him to and grabs up his bag and heads outside. I walk into the living room to grab my own Adidas that are frayed along the seams. Charlie follows behind me.
"You coulda told me that you didn't think food was gonna last much longer, I wouldn't of eaten." He already has his shoes on and his bag is slung over his right shoulder.
"I'm gonna get to the store tomorrow." I pull on my shoes, slam my Red Sox hat onto my head, and start walking out of to the kitchen to get outside even though we have a door in the living room. I don't even need to stop to lock the door as I walk outside since it locks automatically. If Charlie was just a little bit shorter I probably could have escaped at least a minute of his pestering but his legs are nearly as long as mine and he has no trouble keeping up with me.
"Well then why does it matter whether you ate or not? Make some sense for once, Kevin." I stride across our cratered driveway towards my blue Saturn SL2. I give it a doleful look; it's a pitiful thing. It's once bright, cherry red gleam has been reduced to a sun-faded, almost pink color. I'd love to have a pick-up. A silver one. I wan't to live somewhere warm, like Florida or California, Texas maybe, and live out on a ranch. I'm allergic to horses but I bet if I wasn't I'd like them just fine. I want to live a life like the ones they sing-speak about on Cat Country, minus the sappy similies. It'd be great...
The car creaks and groans when Charlie and I open the doors with the realization it's going to have to struggle through yet another travel.
"You're supposed to be the smart one, Charlie, but I'm starting to seriously doubt that fact. Your grades suck right now and at least if I make sure you eat you can't give me the excuse that you just can't concentrate-"
"I can't concentrate," he says indignantly. I lean forward on the steering wheel and shove the key into the ignition. I turn it, the car sputters but doesn't start. Such a freakin' stubborn car I have. I hold my breath as I turn the key again. It's really a funny thing to do, I think. Why do people believe that depriving yourself of oxygen will do you any good? I mean, come on.
The car starts.
We're pulling out of the drive-way when Charlie says, "Anyways, what right do you have to tell me I've got poor grades when yours aren't looking so hot either." He smirks at the way he's been able to turn this on me. I grind my teeth in irritation.
"How the hell do you even know about my grades? You better just watch it kid, I have nothing against washing your mouth out with soap." He tuts in disbelieve.
"This is coming from the guy who just said hell a few words before." He slouches down in the passenger seat, puts his feet up on the dash, and slides his aviators over his nose.
"Let me worry about my own grades," I say heatedly. I hate this discussion even more than the money kind, I decide. Suddenly, compulsively I add, "I got straight A's my freshmen year." I don't know why I said it.
"You're a pathological liar, Kevin. You have an extremely keen sense of hyperbole. Anyone ever tell you that before?" He says this sarcastically because he tells me this at least once a week. I catch a piece of messy brown hair in the rear-view mirror and remember that Adair is there. I've nearly forgotten all about Adair. I want to reach my hand back over my seat and hold out my hand for a slap or a quick squeeze to let him now he hasn't been entirely forgotten but then Charlie mutters under his breath, "thinks he's the friggin' king of the world."
"Charlie just shut your face before I go and shut it for you," I spit cuttingly. He says nothing this time. I told you, it's the yelling that really gets him. It seems pretty convenient but it's not. Not really.
We sit in silence though nothing can ever really be silent I suppose. Just because everything and everyone around is quiet your head is still going. Snippets of songs swim around and play like broken records while things you've read are written in front of your eyes with magic marker. What you've said to people rings in your ears. I wonder how it would be if you could hear everyone else's thoughts. I think of how somebody really dumb might have a cure to cancer but no one would ever know he knows it because he'd be too stupid to tell. I wonder what my brothers are thinking about at that very moment but admonish myself the next. Thoughts are much to personal a thing to try and invade, I reason. But I can't stop. Because I want to know what they know.
"You're gonna miss the turn!" Adair's voice tears through my thinking. I stare in the mirror at him stupidly. "The turn to school!"
I realize just in time what he's talking about and I jerk the car around a sign that states proudly, "Neighborhood Watch". I pull up behind a bus and Adair hops out of the car. Before he shuts the door I give him one last command not to get into any trouble then I tell him I'll see him later.
"Yup, see ya," he replies. He shuts (slams) the door and I'm sure that's gonna do my car in so as I drive away I shout after him that he's gonna kill my car. A few kids turn and stare at me and I watch Adair wave happily at me for the last few moments he was visible. Then we were back on Post Road.
Just by chance I happen to grab a glance at the clock on the dash as I weave my way through traffic. 7:30, the clock says. I keep driving. Wait a second, I tell myself, 7:30...
I press my foot on the gas and we jerk forward noisily as we gather speed. I bite my next words off hard, like they're bits of Now and Later candy. "Charlie, you knew. You knew we were late."
"Yes, I did," he says calmly. He pushes back his sunglasses to make sure they cover his eyes entirely. I force my eyes back to the road as I shout, "Well, why the hell didn't you tell me!" He doesn't say anything.
I don't know how fast we're going and I don't care. I've got a little bit of a lead foot to begin with and I usually drive fast, well as fast as this hunk of junk lets me, and lets just say I may be breaking one of my own records this morning. Cops are the least of my worries because all I can think of is school and how if we're late it'll be the seventh time this month. Surely Mrs. Brown the secretary (better known as Brown the Brutal in the halls) will be curious when my mother doesn't pick up the phone yet again. More than curious, she'll be ravenous. I know for a fact that the only calls she enjoys making more than the ones to Governor Francis for lunch and calls home reporting detention are ones of the four lettered nature to places that only do good in serious situations. We are not a serious situation.
"We're late, we're late, for a very important date," Charlie sings joyously under his breath as I pull up by the volleyball court. I cuff him hard on the back of the head.
"Shut up," I hiss. He simply grins.
It's an eerie feeling that I get as Charlie and I walk across the parking lot. Being in that parking lot after 7:30 on a school day is like coming to school on a weekend, nobodies around stragglers and stoners.
"Think it'll still be unlocked?" Charlie queries as we come up to the door. I shake my head. Sure enough, when I pull on the handle it doesn't budge. Smirking to himself, Charlie presses the bell. The door clicks.
"Come in." Brutal's voice crackles over the intercom. From this point forward I will refer to Mrs. Brown simply as Brutal.
I open the door and shove a hand hard between Charlie's shoulder blades, sending him stumbling over the threshold. He's still smiling like a little kid on Christmas and it's making me want to punch him. He loves being late. In Charlie's opinion, every minute of class missed is well worthy of celebration.
"Now who would these boys be?" I hear Brutal speaking before I even see her. She's not nice to look at. She's short and squat and looks like a man. As we walk into the office she sucks in a huge, theatrical gasp. "The Blaise brothers? You don't say!"
She gives us a sort of maniacal look then starts typing crazily enough to match it. I shut my eyes and lean against the cool cement walls. I kind of like the clicky noise the keyboard makes.
"Mr. Blaise, are you aware this is the ninth time you've been late this month?" My eyes fly open and I'm ready to discourse this comment but Charlie beats me to it.
"No, no. We've haven't. We've only been late seven." Charlie's posture is the same as it was earlier this morning in his room except this time he's stuck to the cement like a piece of artwork. And he's more than tense, he's wooden.
"Only seven? Well then, that changes everything," Brutal says sarcastically. I don't want to hit Charlie anymore, I want to hit Brutal. I want to grab up that stupid twenty gallon Brad Verly pocketbook or whatever it's called and whack her across the face with it.
Beside me, Charlie's still wooden except he's shaking his head. Like a sign come loose rocking in the wind.
"Mrs. Brown," there's only the slightest hint of desperation. I doubt anyone but me or Brutal could detect it though. Me because I know Charlie as well as anything and Brutal because she feeds off desperation. "There's no way we've been late nine times. Nine times would mean detention and-"
Brutal claps her hands.
"Good boy, Charlie! You've finally learned something, nine tardies means detention. Well done!"
Charlie makes a funny noise but doesn't say anything else. He's only had detention once, once when he was in third grade, and he's been adamant about keeping it that way since then. He's always had the greatest amount of empathy for anyone who's had detention since then because he hates it so much himself. I don't know why he hates it. But I know he does. I want to say something to him along the lines of, "It's no big deal" because when I look over at him he just looks so empty, but Brutal has dislodged herself from her desk and managed to waddle over to us. She's holding to blue slips up under my nose. It's rather hard to talk with blue slips under your nose, or any colored slip for that matter. I snatch them out of her hand.
“Manners, Mr. Blaise," she says reprovingly. "You ought to set a better example for your brother."
Charlie immediately senses how angry this suggestion makes me and tries to nudge me along. Brutal stares at me, a challenge in her eyes.
"The example I set for my brothers is just fine, thank-you," I say coldly. She smiles cynically and lifts her phone delicately off the receiver. Oh no, she's saying. I haven't forgotten the phone call home.
"You boys can head on to class." Charlie and I don't move. We watch. Spread out in front of her is a binder with all of mine and Charlie's information, our phone number among it. Brutal hold up a manicured finger to her lip, rather than making her look more lady-like it only emphasizes her manliness, and warns Charlie and I not to speak. Brutykinns is on the phone.
"Nora, this is Linda Brown. I'm calling to let you know that Charlie and Kevin have received detention for this afternoon on account of being tardy an unacceptable amount of times. If you have any questions, don't be hesitant to call me. Have a nice day." She hangs up the phone then looks at me. "Mother are work again, Kevin? She works quite a lot, doesn't she?"
"Not today. She's sleeping. Allergies," I lie easily. I'm good at lying.
"Of course," Brutal simpers. "Now why don't you boys head on to class."
Our footsteps echoed loudly on the fake marble floors as we walked to our lockers. They try to dress schools up with fixes like this, hoping it will make you forget about the brown water sodden tiles above your head. I don't forget about it.
"Detention, Kev? God, I didn't even think of that. We weren't late nine times, no way." By his side, Charlie's thumb is weaving it's way through the other fingers. Down the line and back.
"Maybe next time you'll tell me when we're running late then." I say this vaguely because I suspect that even though my name had been included, Charlie'd been talking to himself more than anything.
"I didn't know you could get d-hall for being late." He's talking to me this time, I'm sure.
"Yeah, you can. That's exactly why I try to get us here on time." We're at our lockers now. I spin my combination deftly and yank the door open. I pull off my hat and toss it in haphazardly, it's a mess in there anyways. I share my locker with my buddy Phineas since in our four years here he's never bothered to find his own locker and the guy isn't exactly the most organized of sorts. Don't worry too much about him now, we'll get to him later.
I shut the door and Charlie repeats the action a few lockers down a couple moments later.
"See ya," I say. My bag is light as I swing it over my shoulder. If there's anything good about having a poor school is I have virtually no text books to lug around all day.
"Yep," Charlie replies. He's walking backwards towards the D-wing when he grins and adds, "Better hurry on to algebra or calculus or whatever it is you crazy seniors do. Mr. Hill is probably cryin' he misses you so much."
"Somebody open up!" I pound on the glass, wishing that I could have a normal math teacher. One who doesn't ask you to solve the equation for X and tell him how many apples Anita has left and when some brave soul named Josie answers he doesn't scream "How do you like them apples!" as she tries to run out the door but can't because aha, Mr. Hill's locked it. True story, freshmen year. Josie does not so much as walk in the A wing anymore.
"Please," I whine, though I'm sure no one can hear what I'm saying. They can see me well enough though. Nearly every kid has torn their eyes away from their warm-ups in favor of watching me struggle with my predicament. Smiles play on their lips as I rattle the handle. Mr. Hill looks up slowly yet suddenly. The students who had abandoned their work scramble for their pencils. Looking thoroughly agitated Mr. Hill pushes his chair back and walks with dragging, heavy steps towards the door. I wave my pass hopefully.
When Mr. Hill finally reaches the door he takes another eon to open it. He only opens it enough so he can lean his upper body out into the hall, leaving the rest of himself in the classroom. I have to force myself not to smile as I'm reminded of playing Don't Touch The Ground in elementary school.
"Why are you not sitting at your desk?" He ask slowly, allowing the venom of his words to sink into my skin. I don't take the whole venom bit too personally. Venom gets kind of loss on you after being simmered in it for four years, day after day, witnessing everyone around you suffering the same punishment.
"I was in the office." I hand him my pass. He holds it inches away from his face. I suspect he smells it. I expect him to lick it. He doesn't though. There's a look of angry disappointment as he thrusts the slip back at me.
"Don't be late for my class again or it'll mean in-house, buddy boy." I take a breath and make myself grin up at him rather than say something that would dig me in deeper than I already am. I hate when adults call me buddy boy. I'm not their buddy, I'm not even their pal. Mr. Hill opens the door enough so I can pass by. Although I don't think he really deserves it, I mumble my gratitude out of habit. I like to think of myself as a polite enough kid.
"Did the Nazi check homework yet?" I whisper to Jen, the girl who sits behind me, when I make it to my seat. She smiles briefly before shaking her head and pointing to her own unfinished homework. I let out a sigh of relief and am in the midst of pulling my own ditto out of my bag when Mr. Hill calls my name out expectantly, "Kevin?"
"Mr. Hill?" I call out in the same tight voice.
"Don't you have something to say to the class?"
"No." I feel frustration beginning to rise in me like heat. I hate when adults do that. Why is it can't they just ask you straight out what they want from you? Stupid is what it is.
"I think your classmates deserve an apology," a smug smile is spread thick across his face like peanut butter. "Some people would actually like to learn. Pull that chair over, that one you're sitting in, to the front of the room. Stand up on the chair and deliver your apology."
"What?" I ask incredulously, realizing why he's making me do this. If he couldn't give me in-house he'd try and humiliate me. He probably preferred this idea. In-house can be made to sound cool or can be excused as a sick day. This though, this would spread. Like wildfire, baby.
"Do it, Blaise." I'm still standing by my seat, unsure of what to do. Refusing to take his eyes of me he begins to reach down to his bottom left drawer. Everyone knows he keeps referrals there. Cursing every aspect of life I look down at my chair...which is attached to my desk. I look around, confused, the only actual chair in the room is the one underneath Mr. Hill's fat butt. Clumsily, I begin to drag my entire desk to the front of the room. It knocks other people's desk to the side and scrapes the floor and it's made enough noise for it's own CD track by the time I get it to the front of the room. The room erupts in snickers. I stare at the chair with clear distaste.
"Is it really necessary for me to stand on the chair?" I look at Mr. Hill. He simpers. I clamber onto the desk clumsily.
"Youse guys-" I'm cut off almost instantly.
"Address them as "my fellow classmates" and ar-tic-u-late, Blaise." I rub my face in an irritated sort of way and start to think. If he wants an apology, I'll give him an apology, I decide. After a few minutes thought, I begin my speech, knowing he won't file a referral because sending me to the office would only spare me the embarrassment.
"My fellow classmates, I'm full of deep, deep remorse for interrupting your learning experience," I speak loudly, every syllable doused in contempt. "I can only forgive myself if you will in turn forgive me. So I hope you'll all accept my apology because without it my math career may come to a screeching halt. And that, my friends, would certainly be a tragedy. I cannot imagine a day without seeing Mr. Hill's beautiful face, a day without the frustration of trying to figure out how a letter can be a number, a day without asking "please excuse my dear Aunt Sally". Without this I cannot move on. Without out this I cannot live. My apologies, once more."
I step down from my desk, my face is burning like it's been pressed to a stove. The class breaks out once again, chortling, hands clapped over their mouth for the fear of the referrals in Mr. Hill's bottom left drawer. It's definitely one of the most ridiculous things I've ever encountered in school and of course I'm the subject.
"Thank-you very much, you can sit." I can barely hear Mr. Hill for the buzzing in my ears. "Now if everyone who bothered to do their homework correctly would pass it up, it would be greatly appreciated."
I drag my desk back to the dirty space of floor where it belongs, sit, and lay my still flaming face on the cool surface. I wish wildly that the act will not leave this classroom.
"Man, I cannot wait to tell my advisory this."
My wish will not be granted.
The day creeps by with the speed of a sloth. I spend hours in classrooms where the windows have been opened so that the fresh, sweet spring air can fill the room. I can taste it on my tongue like Pixy Stix. The taste is never enough and I'm stuck wanting more. It's torture in the gentlest but effective way and causes me to spend my study planning my suicide. I'm sure the bell is the sweetest sound I've ever heard at the end of sixth period and I race through the halls to the locker room. I have gym seventh period and we're going outside to play baseball. I could've kissed Coach Kramer when he he said we were starting the unit if I threw that curve.
Baseball has been nearly nonexistent this past year. I can rarely stay an entire practice and the chance to play a game was a miracle from the good guy upstairs. It's killing me and I think Kramer knows it. I wouldn't say it if I didn't think it was true but I think that might have been a factor in his decision to play baseball this quarter.
I enter the gym at the same time everyone else is heading into the locker rooms. Charlie and a few other freshmen are heading my way. Charlie stops, looks me up and down, noticing I'm in my gym clothes. He shakes his head then says, "You're not my brother."
Ignoring him I climb up the bleachers, jumping from row to row until I'm finally up top. I sit down and start chewing on my thumb nail impatiently.
I'm in a daze when a voice works it's way through the cotton of my thoughts. "Think fast!" The words are the catalyst for a reaction inside me that my father had begun to ingrain into my skull at birth. I rise to my feet and snap my arms up in front of me defensively. I see the glove only moments before it thwups into my hands. Coach Kramer raises a hand in a half wave.
"You're getting slow, buddy boy." He's the only exception I have when it comes to adults calling me buddy boy. The only one.
"Yeah, well I wish I could help that." I'm kind of a mumbler to begin with but I say the words even quieter than I normally would. I tell myself it's a stupid thing to do because the words will sound meaningless to anyone but Kramer at the moment but I can't help it. There's a very short list of people who are allowed to know about my mother outside of me and my brothers. Coach, Phineas, and Caoilinn. They're the only ones who really know what goes on.
"How long has it been?" Coach says quietly. He's not talking about baseball.
"'Bout five months now." I duck my head and run a hand through my hair. I see Coach's Nike's take a few steps closer to the bleachers.
"This is getting to be too much, Kevin." His voice is low and I sense an underlying threat. My throat tightens. I'm not even sure if I'm going to be able to get the words I want to say out.
"No, it's not." I speak with words like rubber-bands.
"Kevin," he tries again. There's a sudden rush of squeaking as kids pour in to the gym from the locker rooms. I dare myself to look up at Coach and I do it. He sighs and shrugs and that's it. My throat loosens and I know I won't need to talk rubber-band words for the time being. I'm glad Coach Kramer knows how to keep his mouth shut more than anything at this moment. If I had my choice I wouldn't even give him a reason to have to keep him mouth shut but you just can't lie so well when you're twelve.
Like any kid would I was worried that I'd get in trouble for my mother leaving me and my brothers and sister home alone. So I didn't tell anyone. Instead I'd skip school the days she wasn't around to take care of baby Nory and Adair. On days she was home I'd take the bus to school, sometimes not having eaten since the afternoon before, then walk to the Pit after school when I was playing fall ball. Then I'd catch a ride home with someone after practice. Like I said, I hadn't been eating so well, usually I scavenged what I could from the pizza boxes and food containers she had ordered while I was at school when I got back home. If I'm hungry all the time now I was hungry day and night then and pizza crusts and burned meatballs just weren't cutting it. I was tired from Nory's crying. I passed out at practice one day. Coach told me, really quiet away from all the other kids, he'd seen my mother going into the Fire-fighter's bar at night and not being awake to see her come back out. That's all he said. Then he bought me two hot dogs and a Gatorade. I think he decided to keep it quiet because him and my father had been close friends. I think he hated to believe that my father, his friend, would leave his kids to this. If he told somebody it'd be like giving up his friend. It may not be a good reason but I'm grateful nonetheless. Somebody outside of my family and two best friends had been bound to find out. After that I just told myself that I needed to lie and deny everything else. If anyone asks you anything, I told my brothers, just lie. I still tell them. I hate myself for that.
"I saw you and Charlie on my detention list today," Coach Kramer says, yanking me back to being eighteen the same you yank a little kid out of traffic. It gives them a shock. I chew on my thumb nail again for a moment before nodding that it was true. He nods back then juts his chin up to acknowledge something behind me.
"Miss me?" Charlie's sitting on the platform above the bleachers, just behind me. He swings his legs. I hadn't even heard the sucker back there.
"No, why would I?" I say coolly. He slides under the bar in one fluid motion and throws his arms around my neck. I stagger down the steps so that there's no danger of us taking a nasty spill.
"You're gonna try and knock me down, huh?" I start to spin on the spot but after a few seconds I'm sure I'm more towards the center of the gym. Two cheering sections arise from the class. Freshmen and seniors.
"Don't let go, Charlie!"
"You can get rid of him easy, Kev!"
"How old are they, five?"
I won't let myself be beat in front of everyone else. Charlie can put up a good fight, but I'm stronger than him any day. I tell this to him, he laughs a strangled laugh and asks, "Even Wednesdays?" I verify and drop to my knees so the battle becomes a wrestling match. Now instead of my trying it get rid of Charlie, Charlie's trying to get rid of me.
"Alright boys, let him go, Kevin. We're never going to play some ball if you two don't give it up," Kramer says. I nearly let Charlie go when I hear "ball" but I remind myself about not getting beat in front of everyone else. Charlie struggles for a few more seconds but finally goes limp. I leap to my feet while Charlie scrambles for his and pound the air with my fist. The seniors shout joyfully at my victory while the freshmen whine in defeat and the others roll their eyes.
I throw my arm around Charlie's shoulder and give him a noogie.
"It's not like you really won," he mumbles, smoothing his hair back into place. Then he grins grudgingly.
"Okay, we're losing time here thanks to these two knuckleheads so I'm going to do the attendance sheet out on the field. So none of you go running off, hear me?" We hear him. No one would run off on Coach.
The moment I step out onto the field a feeling of happiness surges through my body like electricity. It makes my toes and my fingers tingle. I'm sure everyone else can feel it too because when I look around everyone is smiling and grinning at each other. Within minutes the teams from last week were reestablished and positions and batting orders are put in place. Excitement buzzes in my ears. It doesn't matter if you hate baseball, the energy at a game is infectious.
It turns out to be one of the best games of gym baseball I've ever played, hands down. Somehow people are playing by the rules but goofing around at the same time. Cheerful taunting of the other team is in full effect and the girls are standing in the dugouts rattling the fence while singing (We want a single, just a little single, s-i-s-i-n-s-i-n-g-l-e! Single, clap clap, Keanu!). Charlie ends up not only with the honor of being the favorite batter of the game but the least, too. He's their least favorite because the kid swings at near everything. His manner of thinking is that you never really know what you're going to be able to hit. I tell him that that sure is a stupid way of thinking but he says to me that stranger things have happened than catching a pitch off the tip of your bat. I can only agree.
Now for why he is their favorite batter, the kid can run. He flies. I always knew my brother was fast but somehow I never seemed to realize it as much as I do now. You'd think that this would inspire him to go out for a sport but it doesn't. I campaign to him as we walk back to school.
"You ought to run for school, you'd be wicked good! I seen some of those races for cross country, some of the kids can't even run the first mile without stopping for a breath!" I say in a near-shout enthusiastically despite the fact my throat is searing from screaming. I'm giddy as a girl who just brushed against her crush in the hall. Trying to talk Charlie into something I know he won't do anyways seems like the only this that makes sense to do at the moment.
"Nah, it's different then. It all loses it's charm when you go and make it into a sport instead of a game. It becomes a chore then," he says thoughtfully with a small smile at my new found spirit. This is the closest I ever get to hyper. I just don't get hyper.
"Lots of people don't even consider running a sport so there's no issue here!" I kick at a Coke bottle lying in the grass and miss by a mile. Charlie elbows me out of the way and sends it flying a few feet.
"Luck," I tell him. "What's the difference between running in gym and running after school? You had to run in gym."
"No," he disagrees. for a moment I don't know if he's talking about luck or running. Of course it was running. "I could've just stood way out in the outfield it I really had wanted to and not run at all. But that would be selfish because I could be helping when instead I was just being lazy. I don't want to do cross country."
"Then do track and help out that team,” I say zealously as I start to walk backwards.
"Track isn't a team sport." He's trying hard not to laugh. He's giving me easily argued answers so that I'll keep trying to persuading knowing very well nothing will persuade him. I know nothing was going to persuade him so I stop. Charlie swam on a swim team when he was really little and for awhile after our father left. There was a mother on the team who was the swim equivalent of a soccer mom; she'd go to every practice, bring packets of Kool-Aid to races, wrote ribbons, had pasta parties, and an innumerable amount of other things, driving kids to and from practice, Charlie being one of them. I must say that despite our circumstances we've had a fair few strokes of luck in people who weren't even mildly curious as for the reason why our mother never did anything for us herself. Anyways, Charlie quit that four years in because his coach started screaming at him for every infraction at practice and screamed at him when he dove too early in a race or wasn't in the bull pen on-time. It just wasn't fun for him anymore.
As we walk towards the school I realize something that doesn't seem right. We're walking towards school while everyone else is walking away. I'm totally blank for a moment but then remember with a sad swoop that we still have detention to deal with.
"I'm gonna have to ask Coach to let me go early," I inform Charlie as I push the door and shove my knee into to open it more quickly. I'm already feeling my near hyperactivity wear off.
"Why?" The halls are already empty and the bell just rang minutes ago. It sort of amazes how when we're trying to get from class to class we move so slow we can't manage to be on-time but when it goes to actually getting out of school it's a whole nother story. I don't answer Charlie until we get to the library. Not for any particular reason, I just didn't feel like taking right then.
"'Cause if I don't Adair will be locked out," I explain. Charlie's eyes seem to darken just the littlest bit and I'm taken-aback by it. I didn't think people's eyes actually did that. I guess I just never cared to notice.
"What is up with you and detention?" I ask, still thinking about peoples eyes changing shades. I knew your eyes got pale after crying but never dark in conversation...
"Me and detention aren't exactly best pals," he says sarcastically. "We had a falling out a few years back so I'm sorry I'm not quite as okay with the situation as you are."
"I'm not okay with the situation, I'm pissed you didn't even tell me how late we were!" I retort. Ignoring me, he stalks off to the far side of the room near a summer reading display. He pulls a chair out and props his legs up casually on the seat of the adjacent chair, believing it to be an efficient way. I stride over and knock his legs off the chair easily and sit down. He glares at me furiously.
"Fine, you're not gonna tell me. You think I care?" I say. He smirks. He knows I care very much.
"Now you're getting the idea." He looks away from me adamantly. I watch him pull out a book titled To Kill A Mockingbird and notice that there's not a single school book in his bag despite the fact it was stuffed to it's full capacity.
I slouch down in my seat, crossing my arms. I know I'm acting a little immature but you know what? As great as I know Charlie he still refuses to tell me things. If he's not going to tell me something he might as well tell me why not. Don't you think so? I do.
I try to do a little homework; history. Right now I'm taking world even though I should be American III. My freshman year there was a mix-up and I ended up in not one, but two math classes. That was the year I got my first dose of Mr. Hill. What a fun-filled year the was. Note sarcasm, please. Anyways, they left me in the two math classes and I just went to tenth grade history the next year along with everyone else but now I need to make up that lost year. Let me tell you something; if your classes ever get screwed up make sure you get them unscrewed up because you'll pay if you don't. I'm in a class full of ninth graders and even though the actual class is fine since Mrs. Cash treats me like I'm the best thing since diabetic socks, the curriculum still is stupid. I'm really good at the American stuff, especially war history, but I'm terrible at world. I could care less about the Phoenicians inventing purple dye. The worst part is that I had to pick it up as an advanced class because there was no room in standard and there was no way in hell I wasn't gonna go with traditional. Even worse than that: Charlie is in the same course (different class) and I think he has a higher grade than me. But he doesn't need to know that.
After twenty minutes of staring at my text book and wondering what would possess someone to draw ahem, guy parts, on the page I decide to call a quits. What's the point of staying if I wasn't doing anything? I guess you could say learning my lesson for getting to school late but you and I both know that there is no real need for me or my brother to be in detention. I know I'll have no trouble getting out because not counting Charlie, the three other kids in the room. Coach Kramer is nice like that; letting you sleep and leave early if you need to. That's nice.
I weave my way through a maze of desks and chairs to get to the front of the room. Coach is bent over a Sport's Illustrated. I cough.
"Hello, Kevin," he says pleasantly. All of a sudden I feel like I'm taking advantage of Coach by asking him to give me special treatment.
"Hey, uh, I was wonderin' if maybe I could head out? Adair will be locked out and won't know where I am..." I trail off when Coach starts to nod at me.
"That's fine. I'd let your brother go with you, too, but I'd really be pushing it."
I nod my thanks before turning to the door. I can feel Charlie's pleading eyes on my back and it makes me feel like I'm abandoning him and the feeling is so constricting that I nearly turn around so that I can beg Coach to let me bring Charlie along with me but I rationalize that detention won't kill Charlie, no matter how much he doesn't want to be there. I would stay if it wasn't for Adair. Charlie can't hold that against me.
It's a hard thing to explain but as I'm driving I'm filled with a stupid sense of pride. Taking care of my brothers has never really bothered me too much to be honest, it was more the fact I have to that kills me. Not that I really had to, I guess. I could run away the same as my parents did. But I could never do that because I know how it feels. I couldn't do that to my brothers. Surely they'd hate me for it; I'd hate myself for it. Just the same as I hate my parents for it. I don't hate many people, you should know, but with them it's more than hate; it's loathing. Thinking about them makes me sneer sickly and my mouth sweat. It makes my stomach feel like I'd thought there was one more step and my foot was still falling blindly through nothingness. The obviously hate us and I hate them. I don't care if my father is dead in a ditch right now or if my mother is drinking herself to that because it should go the other way around and it doesn't and it should. It always should.
As I come around the corner to my house I can see Adair's tousled hair. He's standing on the steps, jiggling the doorknob in a fruitless attempt to make it come unlocked. I pull into the driveway and Adair turns to see who it is, his expression downright miserable until he recognizes the car.
"Thought I abandoned you?" I ask. I get out of the car and am to the door in three long strides.
"No," he replies with a shake of his head. I give him a one armed hug and unlock the door with some difficulty. Not only is it hard to unlock a door while you're giving someone a one armed hug but it's also difficult to unlock a door when the lock needs just the right amount of pressure from the key to click. Finally, once Adair had wiggled out from under my arm, the door clicked.
"Why you late? Where's Charlie? You going to work tonight?" He fires questions at me as we step from the cement onto worn blue carpet. He drops his backpack on the floor carelessly.
"On the bench," I say mindlessly, knowing that leaving it on the floor only left us at risk to the inevitable; someone tripping. He picks up his bag and drops it on the bench as I requested with minimal mumbling.
"I'm late 'cause me and Charlie were late," I say heavily, rolling up one of my sleeves and then unrolling it. Adair titled his head in confusion.
"Me and Charlie were late to school so we got detention from Brown the Brutal. Coach let me leave early so you, buddy boy, wouldn't be locked out. Charlie had to stay though," I clarified.
"Why?" he asked.
"I thought you were over the 'why' stage." Not caring that I hadn't given him an answer he moves on to his next question.
"You gonna go to work tonight?" He hops on one foot a few times then hops over the kitchen step.
"What's wrong with your voice?" I just noticed that it sounded off. It was scratchy like when you have a faded radio station.
"I dunno," he said, spinning slowly in the middle of the floor, arms outstretched. "I played football today."
I ask him if that has anything to do with his voice. He shrugs and tells me he doesn't know, but he was yelling at recess. I grab his shoulder and stop his spinning. He was making me dizzy. I try to press a hand to his forehead but he flinches away, shoving a hand into my chest.
"Adair," I say roughly.
"I'm not sick," he grumbles as he steps backwards in another attempt to evade me. Feeling irritated I regain my grin on his shoulder and pull him forward.
"Hey!" he cries sharply. "Don't be pulling me around!"
"You're not warm," I say with a frown. I know that doesn't mean much though because you can be sick as a dog and not go a degree above ninety-eight. Adair gets sick plenty but only admits to it (or fakes it) when he's bored of school or doesn't want to go somewhere. I guess he doesn't mind school at the moment because he sticks his tongue out at me and says, "I told you so."
"I'll cut that tongue off," I jest, tapping his nose. "You tell me if you don't feel good though, right? You listening, Adair? (he nods) Okay. And oh yeah, I am going to work so I'm gonna make supper right now."
I pull a pot off the stove and fill it with water from the tap. I put it on the stove to boil. We'll be having macaroni, like we do most nights. I'm sure Charlie and Adair won't mind though because the three of us could eat macaroni for the rest of our lives and be content.
Once I set the timer I dragged my bag over to the kitchen table so I could start a phases of the moon chart for Science.
"You. homework. now," I say the words separately with a motion for each; a snap, a point, and a jerk of my thumb.
"can I do it later? I only got one thing-" he stops. I'm staring at him, my eyebrows raised. He sighs then plunks down in the chair beside me.
"How come I always got to do my homework?" he asks, pulling a tatty folder out of his bag. "You barely ever tell Charlie to do his homework."
"How come I always have to answer your questions?" He shrugs. I pull a phases of the moon chart out from the bottom of my bag. It's crumpled to the point of being soft to the touch. I look up at Adair. He's staring at his folder, his head in his hands.
"Why aren't you doing anything?" I ask, frazzled. "What've you got for work?"
"I've got to write a paragraph on play-play..." he pauses to think the word over. In the corner of the folder in writing, each letter's size varying greatly, is Adair Blaise 3rd Grade. Third grade. All skinny legs and arms, ribs sticking out a mile, a cupped chest accentuates this over-all skinniness. did I ever look that tiny, that innocent? Maybe, but Adair is different. That bitter tone that he tries out now and again. Too young to be bitter. "play-gaar-ism," he says finally. He looks at me hopefully for my reaction; he wants to know if he's right.
"Plagiarism?" I say carefully. He nods in agreement and confirms.
"Well, then why aren't you doing it?" He rolls his eyes as if this is the most stupid question I could ever ask.
he talks quickly and his words run together and I doubt I'd be able to understand him if it wasn't him in the first place. "My friend Kolby is really good at paragraphs and he said if I promised to pick him first in football tomorrow he'd let me copy his before we go inside in the morning."
"Adair, that's plagiarism!" I burst out laughing. I lean forward onto the table and laugh a quiet by overwhelming laugh and don't stop until my throat hurts from the lack of noise and tears have cleared a spot of grim from the table and blurred the ink on my ditto. Adair keeps asking "What, what?" the entire time but everytime I try to answer I start laughing all over again. Finally I tell him, "Just do the stupid paragraph."
I've only written down the full and new moon and stirred some macaroni when Charlie comes bursting through the door like the devil himself. I can feel the nerves trembling and snapping inside him when he tries to rush through the kitchen but gets his bag caught on the back of my chair. He tries a moment to unhook his bag but his hands seem to be shaking so badly that he only entangles it further. I'm just about to ask him what in the name of God is wrong when he abandons his bag and ricochets across the room and up the stairs, knocking my paper off the table and to the floor in the process.
"What was that?!" Adair exclaims, his brows furrowed together. There's the sound of draws slamming from upstairs. Adair flinches.
"No clue." I snatch my paper up off the floor and shove it into my bag without looking. I'm glad for an excuse to stop working.
I creep up the stairs, staying close to the wall since that's where it's the least creaky. The reason for my attempt in being quiet is that I want to be able to hear if Charlie's saying anything. He's not. Actually, there's no sound coming from his room at all; the drawer slamming stopped just when I got up. He probably ran out of drawers to slam.
When I've made it to the top of the stairs I peer into the dark room; Charlie hasn't turned on his lights. I stand up carefully, slowly and take a step closer. I let my eyes take a second to adjust to the dark. Charlie's standing by his window, just out of the yellow strip of light on his salmon carpet from the street. His hands are holding tight to the curtain (well, blanket thrown over a curtain rod) and I know that he's crying. Not bawling his eyes out or anything, just crying.
"What's a matter?" I ask quietly. Charlie loosens his hands from the curtain and tenses his shoulders. Whirling around to face me he hisses, "Leave me alone."
I don't say anything; I can't. Charlie's not the slickest of kids when it comes to keeping from getting hurt but I've never seen him as bashed up as he is right now. His lip is split and the right side of his face is mottled purple. It looks like somebody took Barney and whacked him across the face, I think. But I don't laugh because it doesn'