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Author's note: Each of the characters represent something in me. A certain trait or characteristic that I've attained throughout my teenage years. All their problems I'm familiar with through personal experience or I've seen a close friend or family member go through it. I wanted this story to be about the hardships of being a teenager. But also to shed some light on the things that truly matter. And that in the end, everything DOES get better. It's not complete, but it'd be great to get some feedback. Thank you.
“I knew I’d find you down here.”
Noah Baker smiled as he watched his best friend scribble on the pages of a burgundy hardcover notebook. It was the same notebook she had carried around with her for years in the colorful satchel he had bought when they visited that art festival in ninth grade.
Eve Adams looked up at him; her chartreuse green eyes were vibrant and full of life. Yet, they seemed slightly desolate. This explained why she would be sitting under the town’s bridge. Ever since she was a small girl, she’d always sit here when she felt the need to isolate herself from the world – which was often. It was a place of silence and tranquility; two things Eve found she needed desperately in her life.
She tucked a strand of her ash brown hair behind her ear, and smiled at Noah, revealing the red lipstick on her lips.
“Yeah. I’m just thinking about Jordan, I guess.”
Noah sighed and walked to her, sitting on the grass. He looked into her eyes and grabbed her hand, rubbing his thumb against her temples as he always did when he wanted to comfort her.
“I miss him too, Ev.” She sighed and closed her notebook, looking away as if to avoid making eye contact with him. “But you can’t keep doing this to yourself. Isolating yourself from everyone… I don’t think it’s all that healthy, you know?” Noah said that jokingly, but he was being nothing but honest, and Eve knew that.
“I’m nothing if not a masochist.” She elbowed him, playfully and winked at him. That was so… Eve. Always trying to take a serious situation and make it a joke. Always trying to avoid the attention.
“Yeah. Okay. I know, Noah.” She scoffed. “You really don’t have to remind me that I shouldn’t spend my spare time sitting under a bridge contemplating life and its wonderful way to strike and take away everything that could ever matter to anyone in a split second.”
Noah pursed his lips. “I was just going to ask if you wanted to go get a bite to eat, you dumb girl.”
“Oh,” Eve’s cheeks flushed, but an involuntary smile lit up her face. Part of her thought that Noah was just offering to make her forget her problems for a while, but she wasn’t going to protest. “Sounds perfect.”
Noah stood up effortlessly, patting the back of his jeans with his hands to take off the dirt from the ground. He held out his hand for Eve to grab and helped her up. She grabbed her satchel and put the notebook inside.
“You look nice. Kind of like a girl though.” Eve gasped and gave him one of her usual shoulder punches. She wore a purple dress, boots and her brother’s leather jacket. Noah always found the whole dress and boots thing unorthodox, but it seemed to fit her. She could pull it off.
Noah laughed and pulled her to his side, rubbing his knuckles against her hair. Eve groaned and ran her fingers through it, making it messier.
They began to walk through the bridge, along the railing. The sun was bright and the heat felt wonderful. But there was a certain wind in the air, marking its territory, foreshadowing the start of another season.
Eve made a habit of walking with one foot in front of the order, and putting her arms out, as if testing her balance. “When are football tryouts?”
“Um, I don’t think I’m going to try out this year.” His tone of voice was almost miserable.
She looked down, hiding her smile. She didn’t like to admit it, but she hated the fact that Noah could have the opportunity to socialize with “jocks”. He’d talk about it sometimes – playing football. He’d always been fairly athletic since they were kids. Eve had always focused on a more artistic side. One thing they had in common though, is that they both loved to write. Noah never liked to admit that to anyone, except Eve. She was the only person he could really trust.
She couldn’t be selfish with Noah though, so she asked. “Why not?”
He shrugged. “Ethan Hill.”
“Oh, come on. Are you serious? He’s such a jerk.”
“He might be a jerk, but he’s still the school’s quarter back. He’s a lot better than I am.”
“So what? You guys used to be good friends.”
Eve moved her fingers on her thighs, remembering a piano piece she had been trying to teach herself at home; she went over the parts she had trouble with, frustrating herself when she couldn’t get them right.
“That was before he became a first class prick.” He scorned at the very idea of having an actual conversation with Ethan after everything he had witnessed.
Eve looked at Noah from the corner of her eyes, “True.”
“Dad, where the hell are my shoes?” Ethan Hill paced his room looking for his favorite sneakers. He checked his watch for the hundredth time and then his phone. Three missed calls from Will.
He groaned, walking over to the top of his stairs, ready to yell. “Dad, I need my shoes. Will wanted to play a game of one on one with him. I’m late already.”
“They’re downstairs, honey.”
His mother, Carol Hill, kissed him on the cheek, smiling at him. All she wore was a white bathrobe with a floral design on it.
Ethan wiped the kiss off, and looked away, starting to walk down the stairs. “Put some clothes on, Mom. I don’t want to be scarred for life.”
He walked into the living room, finding his brand new Nikes at the foot of the large leather couch. Ethan slipped on the shoes, keeping his eyes on the flat screen TV, watching a rerun of an old college football game.
Jack Hill, his father, sat on the couch a few feet away from him, sipping on a bottle of red Gatorade. He chuckled.
“What?” Ethan snapped at him, tying his shoes.
“Just wondering how many times Will called you,” he waited for a response, but Ethan remained silent. “So, how many?”
“Three this time.”
Jack laughed hysterically, “Well, at least it isn’t five. Don’t want to keep your girlfriend waiting.”
He rolled his eyes, and cracked his knuckles as he walked to the front door. “Let’s go, Dad.”
Jack Hill was the mayor of Wynnewood Lakes. He had been for two years now. It wasn’t exactly something that pleased Ethan very much, but he learned to live with it. He didn’t have much to complain about, the lifestyle he had was pretty great.
They drove out of the driveway, into the street. Ethan took full control of the radio, blasting loud hip-pop music on their way to the courts.
“I’m proud of you, son.”
Ethan looked at his father, judgmentally. “Uh, why?”
“I take pride in the fact that you’re a tough kid who’s the captain of the football team. You should be honored.”
Ethan stared at the window, wanting to block his father out even if for a second. Wynnewood Lakes was an okay place to live in, but it was nothing like the city. On past visits to Chicago and to New York City, he realized he liked the bustling city so much more. There was nothing for him here. Small town and small people; he was a big fish in a small pond.
They stopped at a red light in the town center and waited for the pedestrians to cross. He saw two people walking down the street, but didn’t pay attention to them. Ethan was too preoccupied thinking about how annoying Will would be once he got to the courts.
“That girl’s nothing but trouble.”
Jack pointed to the girl walking down the street in front of the car, with a boy by her side. Both were two people that Ethan recognized instantly. Eve Adams and Noah Baker.
Ethan stared at them as they walked down the road. Well, more at Eve than at Noah. Eve had changed so much over the years. He’d never actually had a conversation with her. But he knew who she was. Her brother was Jordan Baker. He was a senior last year at Wynnewood Lakes High School; best point guard on the basketball team. He had been offered so many full scholarships to a handful of universities. And just when his life was going to turn around for the better, some drunk ran him over and he died. Ethan heard the car was completely wrecked afterward. The whole thing must’ve sucked. They never even found the guy that did it.
It was tragic. But Eve didn’t really seem to show that she cared; she moved on with her life. Just like it should be.
Noah Baker and Ethan used to be good friends in middle school. Mostly just when it came to sports. But Ethan found himself battling for first place with him. Even when they were playing in the same team, Ethan had to be better. And as soon as everything became a competition, Noah dropped the friendship and they never really spoke again. That was seventh grade, five years ago.
“Did you know Kathryn Ryder’s father ran out on them again?”
Ethan turned to his father, his eyebrows furrowed as he cracked his neck. “He’ll be back again. That’s what he always does.”
Kathryn Ryder sat in her mother’s restaurant’s bar, sipping on a root beer. She watched as the people walked in, sat down, and drowned in their misery drinking hard liquor and beer.
“Aren’t you going to help out, Kathryn?” Elizabeth Pierce, her mother, spoke softly as she counted the money in the cash register. Her tone of voice was suggesting she should obey her orders.
Kathryn shrugged. “No. Not really.”
Elizabeth sighed. “Please?”
She drank what was left of her root beer in silence, wondering how long it would take for her father to come home again. He was usually gone for about a month or so, and then he came back to her stupid mother who waited for him with open arms. Michael Ryder was anything but loving to his family.
“You know mom, you could easily ask for custody of me and leave my dad. You guys aren’t even married.”
Elizabeth sighed, and looked at her daughter, dejected. “Your father loves you, Katie.”
She scoffed, “He has a funny way of showing it. He only sticks around because you’re dumb enough to take him back. I mean you had me out of wedlock in high school mom. You could’ve given up on him a long time ago.”
“That’s enough, Kathryn.”
“Whatever. You’re stupid.”
Kathryn slid off the bar chair, and pushed the glass door out, walking out into the sidewalk. Her phone vibrated in her jean pocket, she took it out and checked to see who it was.
Morgan Taylor. She answered.
“What’s up, Morgan?”
“Come over, Pussy Kat!” Pussy Kat was a dumb nickname Morgan came up with when they were kids. It was cuter then. Now it just seemed like one of Morgan’s perverted jokes.
“Um,” she hesitated. You could hear her typing into her phone rapidly. “Just kidding. Booty Call David Blake just texted me-- he wants to hook up! I’ll see you tomorrow!”
The line went dead.
Parties, drinking, and boys – sums up the Morgan Taylor lifestyle.
Kathryn ambled along the edge of the sidewalk, putting her hands in her pockets to shelter them from the icy wind. The dim street lamps had posters of the next town event glued on to them, The Sky Lantern Festival.
The town’s founder, Arthur Wynnewood had visited China on several occasions and observed the sky lantern festival that took place there. The Lantern festival took place in Taiwan, in the first month of the lunar calendar and the last day of the lunar calendar– New Year’s Day. So, Arthur Wynnewood decided to adopt that tradition and make it part of the town, except with a twist. The town was pretty much surrounded by lakes and water, not to mention it had a beach, so at nighttime, on the day of the festival, everyone would get on small boats with their paper lanterns, and make a wish. It was designed to free people of all the bad memories they held and give their dreams a second chance.
Kathryn walked over to the lamp pole, and stared at the poster. She scoffed, ripped the poster off, and threw it away in the garbage can next to her.
“What a load of bullshit.”
As Kathryn strolled along the solitary streets of Wynnewood Lakes, hands in her pockets, licking her chapped lips, she couldn’t help but wonder where her father was, whether she would ever have a family again, and what could posses her father to betray her. And although thinking about it felt utterly senseless to her, she allowed it to consume her thoughts.