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I'm Just Ryan. And That's All I'll Ever Be (Chapter Two)
An hour and an entire large pizza later, I was upstairs unpacking my room. It’s amazing how much junk we brought with us…One box was filled to the brim with pictures and photo albums. I smiled, and tears gathered in my eyes as I looked through them all. God, I missed my friends…
The one I held in my hands at the moment was of me and my best girlfriends, Rachel and Becca. We had been at the high school, just taking crazy pictures of us while our boyfriends played Frisbee nearby. Such a happy memory…On the floor beside me were other special memories: homecoming, trips to the beach, Cedar Point adventures, the list could go on and on. Then there were the not-so-special memories: family pictures, family vacations, Christmas mornings. All of it was worthless now. They were all lies. We were never a family, not really. My parents just wore a mask to “protect” us, but really it just killed us more. I scavenged around the boxes and bags til I found a pair of scissors and proceeded to cut out all of my father’s heads. Not satisfied, I snuck downstairs to the office and stuffed them in the paper shredder.
Screw him. I don’t need him. I don’t need Nick. I don’t need anyone.
Mom didn’t come home til about ten o’ clock. I was still sorting stuff in my room, and Ben was contently hooking the Xbox up to the TV. When I heard the garage open, I went to greet her, but instantly wished I hadn’t. She apologized for being late, her excuse being an overly distressed client. As if. She smelled of fresh perfume and her lipstick was recently applied. Didn’t she understand that if she’d been at the office all day her makeup would’ve been faded by now, and her perfume gone? This could only mean one thing. She’d been with a guy. If she was gonna hide it, she really should become a better liar. Whatever. I don’t need her either.
“On a happier note, I registered you both for school today! It starts in three weeks, so that means school shopping. Aren’t you excited, Ry?” she quickly changed the subject.
“Sure,” I mumbled.
“Well, I’m exhausted. I’m going to bed. Don’t stay up too late, Ben, I mean it.” She skipped up the stairs a little too gleefully for a supposedly tired person, but I didn’t comment. I simply went to the kitchen, grabbed a Pepsi from the fridge, and returned to my work.
My plain beige walls were in desperate need of paint, but Mom hadn’t had time to buy any yet. My twin-sized bed sat in the corner, made up with fresh sheets and my favorite stuffed penguin. It was a gift from my friend, Tyler. He said it was to remember him by. I smiled at the thought. He was such a sweet kid.
Across from my bed was my dresser, stuffed to the brim with clothes and completely covered with various makeup products, lotions, perfumes, and jewelry. I would have to reorganize that. My desk rested in the other corner, holding my many books and writing supplies. It wasn’t nearly as full as before the move; I gave away or sold many belongings during the packing phase. And finally, inside my closet was a box of dressier items that needed to be hung on hangers, which unfortunately I didn’t have. Just something else for my to-do list.
I plopped down on my bed, hardly satisfied with this arrangement, but too tired to change anything. I reached into the box beside me, snatched a photo album, and looked through it for the second time today. I held my penguin close to me as I turned the pages.
This is so unfair. Why the hell did we have to come here? Doesn’t Mom realize I need my friends, that they are my lifeline? That senior year is the absolute worst time to transfer to a new school? Couldn’t she and Dad—I mean, Jackson—have toughed it out one more year? Was I really asking so much?
I stopped. The page before me had a picture of me and Nick at a basketball game. We appeared so happy…God, Jackson ruined everything! If he had kept his mouth shut, and pretended to be happy with Mom, we wouldn’t have moved, and Nick and I would still be together.
But that wasn’t true, was it? This was my own stupid fault. If only I had never met Nick, I wouldn’t have to deal with this pain. If only I hadn’t met my amazing friends, I wouldn’t feel the sting of loneliness. If only I had been a better student, my parents never would have had that fight. If only, if only, if only…
Tears burned my eyes. I had no one to blame but myself. I never should’ve been born, according to Jackson. The thought made anger boil throughout my body. That was one thing that I couldn’t control. It was his own fault, if he hadn’t been with my mother, we wouldn’t be in this situation, now would we?
Thoughts and questions continued to swirl in my head, the tears flowed endlessly, and I gripped my penguin tighter, until I finally passed out.
The three weeks went by fairly quick. Mom and I went shopping for new clothes, a backpack, and other necessary supplies. I was still required to pick up Ben from soccer practice when Mom was “working”. And I paid my disgruntled neighbor the agreed-upon price. He had left with barely a thank you, but I didn’t care. Ever since then, I’ve done my best to avoid him, and I parked my Bug on the other side of the street.
Until the first day of school.
My first class began at eight, and it was seven fifty-three when I burst in the school doors. I anxiously hurried down the halls, clutching a piece of paper in my hand that stated my locker number and combination. I silently begged it to tell me directions to my locker, but it didn’t give me any hints or clues. I passed a clock that read seven fifty-eight. I pushed harder through the zoo of teenagers all scurrying in different directions.
I pushed so hard in fact, that I ran into a wall. Or at least I thought it was a wall. But it was warm. Glancing up, I found myself staring into the most brilliant blue eyes I’ve ever seen. I immediately backed up a few steps, face bright red in embarrassment. Those amazing blue eyes belonged to a very tall, very fit young man. I had to admit, his eyes were even more impressive than Nick’s. He turned his gaze down to the floor, and when I followed it, I saw the books and papers strewn about the hall.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” I bent to pick up his stuff.
“It’s okay. You’re new here, right?” he flashed an impossibly cute grin.
“Is it that obvious?” I asked, returning his belongings.
“You’re running around the halls like a chicken with its head cut off.” Normally, I would’ve snapped something back, but when he laughed as he said it, I bit my tongue and smiled sheepishly.
“What’s your locker number?”
I showed him the paper.
“Wow, you are new. You’re going in the opposite direction.” He laughed again.
“Are you kidding me?” I groaned, just as the bell rang.
“No worries, I’ll show you.” And with that, he strode off the now empty hallway, my paper in hand, leaving me no choice but to follow him.
He was able to find the stupid locker in record time. Why couldn’t I do that? He stayed to make sure I could handle the combination, which took three tries, before it finally swung open.
“Thanks for your help.” I smiled gratefully.
“Anytime. I’m Seth, by the way.”
“See you around, Ryan.” With that, he went along his merry way, leaving me alone to face the rest of the school day. Well, the hardest part was over right? I found my locker, my combination worked, and I had already met someone—a very cute someone—that was nice enough to help me. Now all I had to do was find…umm…I searched my pockets for the piece of paper with my class schedule.
Oh, wait. Seth still had it!
I slammed my locker shut and tore down the hall, frantically trying to find him. After going down four halls, passing angry teachers who were annoyed with my loud running, and backtracking twice, I finally found him in the gym, playing basketball with a bunch of other guys. P.E. no doubt. But man, he was good. I stood watching in the doorway, noticing how quick on his feet he was, how he always kept his balance, how no matter how hard the other players tried to guard him, he always snuck around them and rocketed the ball into the net.
I was quite content to watch him play all day, but too soon the coach blew his whistle.
“Alright boys, go shower up. Remember, team tryouts are tomorrow after school at three fifteen.”
They started to clear the court, talking very loudly, boasting about their basketball skills, and I knew I couldn’t just stand here any longer; I had to reach Seth before he got to the shower.
“Seth!” I squeaked. Jeez, this was embarrassing. I began walking over to the guys. “Seth!”
He halted, and turned to look at me with his piercing blue gaze. His dark hair was plastered to his face with sweat, and his T-shirt clung to him tightly. He definitely was pleasing to the eye.
“Oh hey, Ryan, you lost again?” he teased as I came closer.
“No, but I’m running extremely late, thanks to you.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“You still have my class schedule!” I looked at my watch. Eight forty-three.
“Are you serious? God, I’m so sorry! Wait right here, I’ll go get it.” Seth jogged over to the locker room doors, and disappeared.
I leaned up against the bleachers awkwardly, willing Seth to hurry up. While I waited, I examined the gymnasium. The bleachers were wooden and smooth, but decorated with graffiti and obscene pictures. The walls were painted in the school colors—green and white—and the team mascot, an eagle. It smelled of sweat and cleaning solution. One of the light bulbs in the ceiling was flashing periodically, they should fix that…
My thoughts stopped as Seth reappeared, carrying my piece of paper. Thank God. I must’ve spoken to soon, because just then the bell rang. I had missed my entire first period. Shiz.
“Here you go! Again, sorry about that.” He apologized again, relinquishing my schedule.
“It’s fine, see you later!” I snatched the paper before he could distract me anymore with his frustratingly good looks and zipped out of the gym as fast as I could. Then I realized I still didn’t know where I was going. Consulting my schedule, I discovered my second class was physics. Of course. Only the worst subject possibly inventing to torture high school students.
The classroom however was relatively easy to find. It passed painlessly, with the establishment of seat assignments and the distribution of physics books. Third period was Spanish IV, during which I felt like a total outsider because all of the other students had been together since freshman year. Actually I felt that way in every class, but Spanish was the most difficult. I had a study hall fourth period, but I had nothing to study, so instead I had the pleasure of listening to everyone else gossip through whispers and passing notes whenever the teacher wasn’t paying attention. And finally fifth period was calculus. Awesome. Almost as bad as physics.
I walked into Mr. Peters’ room, fully expecting the same outsider feeling and loneliness. And there he sat. The desk in the far corner. His lanky body and dark hair was unmistakable. And when he looked at me…that was definitely him. I walked over to him, determined to say hi.
“Hey, Andrew.” I smiled cautiously.
He scowled at me. “Hi,” he muttered.
“Can I sit by you?”
“Actually, I’m saving this seat.” Andrew picked up his backpack and dropped it on the desk beside him.
“Oh. Okay. Sorry to bother you.” My face was surely flaming red, but I couldn’t help it. Was he really still pissed about me hitting his precious truck?
I stormed off to the other end of the room, slammed my bag down to the floor, and angrily sat down. I officially give up with that kid.
“Hey, is this seat taken?”
My face lit up in surprise when I turned to the source of the voice. It was Seth. His hair was long since dry, and he had changed clothes, but his eyes were just as dazzling as ever.
“Nope, have at it.” I finally regained my ability to speak.
As he was sitting next to me, the bell rang, and Mr. Peters called the class to order. Our books were passed out, the rules were announced, all the same old typical boring stuff that we’ve heard throughout the day. Finally, Mr. Peters ended his monologue and dismissed us from our torture chamber.
“So where do you go next?” Seth asked as he put his books away.
Referring to my schedule, I said, “Um, homeroom and then lunch.”
“Cool! Me too! You wanna sit with us?”
“Sure, I’d like that.” I felt a blush creeping onto my face.
“Awesome. We’ll be outside in the courtyard, by the hedges.” He grinned.
“See you there.” I hefted my backpack over my shoulder and continued out into the madness of teenagers zigzagging across the halls, shouting “hey” back ‘n forth and the opening and slamming of lockers. It was chaos. Luckily I found my room in time, and I tapped my foot the entire time, anxious to go to lunch. With Seth.
Eventually the stupid bell rang. I practically flew to my locker. I quickly exchanged my books, grabbed my lunch bag, and bolted for the rear of the school. Out the doors. And there he was. Sitting on one of the picnic tables, surrounded by other guys and a few girls. Looking like a freaking Greek god in the warm sunlight. My breath caught; I couldn’t breathe. But I had to get over there. He was waiting for me.
Just at that moment, he glanced up and we made eye contact. Oh God, his eyes…I forced myself to walk over, and tried my best not to look like an idiot.
“Ryan! You made it!” his blue eyes sparkled.
“Hey,” I managed.
“This is Cody, Jason, Steven, Matt, and Krysta.” He pointed to each person in turn; I nodded and said ‘hi’ to all of them. But he had left one girl out. Weird.
“And who’s this?” I smiled at the girl.
“Ryan, I’d like you to meet one very special lady. This is my girlfriend, Aimee.”