Life’s too short you know
The sad part was, he could still remember everything about her. Everything there was to know, he knew. He should be the one to take her to party’s and protect her from the drunken guy’s that tried to hit on her as she walked past. The really sad part thought, truly deeply sad, was that he knew he had screwed up, but didn’t do crap about it. Just like usual. He watched her walk by day after day, and even now lived with her, and didn’t say crap. Pathetic. He was pathetic. Dylan was always telling him to try. “She’s liked you for years dude, go for it. It’d save me from worrying the guy she’s with would knock her up.” He had said. And the moment he said it Conrad had known it was true. Anabel was not some girl he could just throw away… it was like she just…belonged with him. They belonged together. The kiss they had had proved it. Magic. It was magic. But he had tried to shove it off. The feeling. At the party something just came over him, a sudden protectiveness of what he once thought was his. But of course she never had been his. But then the way she had looked at him, those green eyes, so like his own and yet so different, he got scared. Scared that something was happening that would change him forever. And that was something he had to think about. Now though, she seemed totally content. Dating Mr. Jock and all. She rarely even looked at him anymore. It was so distracting. “Hey kido,” he’d say smiling at her when she’d be in the kitchen getting her late night snack. Oreo’s.
“What?” she’d snap back. She’d look at him then, but only for a second and then turn back to what ever activity she was involved in. This happened very frequently. No more smiled, or nod’s, not even one little conversation. When he even knew it had to be killing her. She hated conflicts, almost as much as he hated resolutions. No mercy was his policy. But with her, he’d never even thought she could follow it. Now it just seemed wrong. He had to fix things fast, he knew. He couldn’t let it happen; he couldn’t let her fall in love with the wrong guy.
“Get in.” Anabel looked over at him with an expression of bewilderment and shock. She was wearing her hair back and a short dress with high heels. This was from sophomore job day. Apparently she was more into business. “What?” she asked looking away from him. There it was again. The whole not looking thing was really getting annoying. “Get in, I’ll take you home.” He said pushing the passenger door out. “I’m suppose to be meeting Adam here when he gets off.” She said looking back towards the school parking lot. “Well, when’s he get off?” this made her look at him a little nervous. “Um, well he said” she trailed off. He nodded. He knew that look. He use to be the one who gave that look. Now he was on the other end. “Please Anabel. I don’t want to leave you out here when it’s already getting late.” The sky was already turning shades. She had to have waited out here for hours. Suddenly Adam seemed to be a good practice dummy for kick boxing. Anabel looked back over her shoulder, but then seeming to come to an agreement with herself smiled and got in.
It wasn’t always like this. Once he had been a drug cartel for him and Joey, living on the streets. It had been bad. Those days were the bad days. Last winter, had been, and still was, the Unthinkable Day’s. Day’s with Joey. Conrad couldn’t quite remember what had happened to spark the rebellion. Maybe it had been his mom’s cancer, or the fact that he never had a father to point him the right way, or maybe it was just him being scared. When his mom went, where was he supposed to go? His grandparent’s he had never met? They were just some dusty old picture on the mantel. His dad was long gone and probably dead, but that didn’t matter, he didn’t even want to know after the scum had just up and left them. It seemed endless. The pain, confusion, and loss. What was he suppose to do? So he went to drugs. Big time drugs. It started off slow. Just some pot here and there, nothing else. And then it went to speed. Some guy had sold it in with the pot, they hadn’t even known until they were all hooked. Then it was coke, then heroine, then pills. It was all just one big blur. One party to the next, each giving him the escape route he had needed. No more confusion, no more pain. Just good, good sex and drugs. It was called ‘Living the good life’ to Joey. And sooner or later, Conrad started saying it too. It was like he was gone. Just not there. Like he was lost within himself and no one cared to get him out. So he did what he thought would help. More drugs. More sex. More rebellion. He was never one to turn his head when something was wrong, he was raised in church after all, and when he started hearing himself praying without even knowing it, he freaked. Where had God been when his mom was diagnosed? Where was God when his dad left? Where was God now? So he stayed angry. At everyone. Even Joey, for getting him into this mess. At God for not helping him get out of it. He thought he was totally lost until the beginning of his junior year, when they had been at Joey’s house with the rest of the crew and Dylan came storming in just as Conrad went to pop a pill. This had shocked him. He had prayed and prayed for someone to come get him, to pool him back, but never thought it would happen. Then all at once it was a blur. Everyone was high except him and Joey, so they all just bolted. Joey on the other hand just looked at him and Dylan and laughed. Just laughed. That’s when Dylan walked around him, pushing Joey down and grabbed his arm. “Your coming home Conrad.” He had said it so firm, but Conrad knew Dylan, sometimes better than Dylan knew himself. He saw the hurt and the loss. He saw the confusion. Just like him. But Dylan had grown strong. Stronger than Conrad. So he didn’t yell, as Conrad would have if the situation was reversed, and started walking towards the now shattered window. “Conrad!” Joey had yelled. He kept walking. “Conrad if you leave, you can never come back.” This had made him stop. He had been in this life for so long. Was he ready to leave? Suddenly there was a glow around Dylan that made him look ten times stronger. “You don’t belong here Conrad. You still have a home. You have a family that loves you very much. Who no matter what always has and always will.” This somehow, was the words he needed the most. The sentence that had the potential to change his life forever. And he was ready, more than ready really. He was determined. He looked at Dylan and nodded. Then to Joey, “Sorry, Joey…but I’ve decided that this life isn’t all that great. In fact I hate it. You and your crew are nothing to me. Nothing. You have to brother hood, or family in them, because if they were true brother’s they would have pooled you out a long time ago. And I’m sorry for you Joey. I really am.” Dylan smiled at him as Conrad jumped out the window and into the dead grass. They were half way to there small little house in the wood’s when suddenly a car beeped behind them and there was Joey coming right for them. He jumped out of the car leaving it on, that’s when it started raining. Hard. Joey jumped at Dylan and Dylan through the first punch. They began to wrestle around before Conrad could do anything the passenger he hadn’t noticed before humped out of the car and grabbed him by the neck. It was a classic move that he had taught Eli Hamilton that year. Back when they were on the same side. Conrad pushed his way out of the lock and punched Eli in the gut. Eli stumbled back, so Conrad went for his face. He heard sirens now. A tornado was coming. He looked around for Dylan who was now running into the tree’s holding his bloody arm. Joey was running away. Conrad ducked Eli’s left hook and decided to end it. If they stayed there they both would die. “Eli, don’t do this. Let’s just end it here okay? Go home where it’s safe.” Conrad knew for a fact that Eli lived not even a mile from here. If they stopped now he could make it. “My home is with my brothers.” He yelled over the sirens. Overhead a funnel cloud was forming. He could tell now Eli was crying. “You don’t need to die tonight Eli. Look around,” he waved his hands, “Where’s your brother? He left you Eli. He left.” Eli was only fifteen. Anabels age. He lived alone with his mom, who was also a drug addict. But the kid had heart. He was loyal and loving, and was once the smartest kid in his class. Then his parents divorced. But he had potential. Just not here. Eli began to sob harder now. Conrad looked desperately to the car. “Go. You still have time.” This caught his eye. He looked up for the first time at Conrad’s face and nodded. “Thank you.” He said and ran to the car. He was drenched, but he shut the doors and went home. Conrad watched protectively as the car went around the hill and into the small town. He knew he had gotten home now, where he belonged. Now he had to go. The wind was really picking up now, and he needed to find Dylan and Joey. He ran into the tree’s, praying to God thanks, and to lead him home now. All of the sudden he heard something odd. Bone. Crushing bone, and Joey.
“I’ll make sure to come back and permanently mess your pretty little face up.” He was talking to someone, it was…Anabel. He could clearly see her dark gold hair glow, and her limp body under his foot, she was whimpering something that he couldn’t make out. Suddenly he felt as if he was on fire. How dare he. How dare he hurt her, Anabel was OFF limits. He ran out before Joey got the chance to notice him. “What the heck are you dong?!” he yelled. He ran smack into him knocking him right onto the ground, Conrad grabbed him by the shirt and yelled “Don’t you ever, EVER, touch her!” Joey looked smug but also somewhat scared; Conrad dropped him and went to pick up Anabel. Her head was bleeding pretty badly and she looked almost delusional. “Hang in there Bells,” he whispered to her, he wonted to whisper more but then Joey was saying something. Conrad was so mad he lost track of the conversation and eventually heard Dylan. “Get out of here Joey,” he yelled. Joey just stood there, looking back nervously. If he was mad, he could just picture Dylan’s rage. He loved his little sister. She was his whole world, even if he never said it to her. She was. Joey left and now him and Dylan were racing to get Anabel home. The tornado was only a mile away now. It was only a matter of time now. Conrad tried not to think about the fact that you should never let someone with a concussion fall asleep. It wasn’t safe. But they had no choice they couldn’t stop. So instead he kept humming her favorite song as a kid, hoping she could hear it. Finally when they made it home, Dylan’s parents came running out, crying and grabbing Anabel. They ran to the basement, along with him and Dylan and covered Anabel as they watched and heard the other side of their big white house get torn apart. Conrad remembered only muffled sobs from Dylan’s mom and his mom’s best friend. Mrs. Cooper. It felt wrong sitting there watching them all comfort her, it was there family moment. But as soon as Conrad scooted away Mrs. Cooper grabbed his hand and smiled, pulling him closer the group. The next day at school, him and Dylan walked up to Joey and did what they had to do. Together. The next day, Anabel opened her beautiful big green eye’s, giving him another chance, and another miracle. Saying the first good words he’d heard his whole life. “Life’s to short, you know” and smiled up at him and her brother like she’d just seen heaven itself.
“Pizza” she laughed.
“Dodge ball? How can that be a good thing?”
Conrad looked over at her and smiled.
“When you’re the one winning.” She rolled her eyes but kept her mouth shut. This was the longest conversation he’d had with her before. The longest car ride he’s ever had before. After he’d picked her up they decided to go out for ice cream and then home. Somewhere between ice cream and home they’d lost there way, now driving more towards the point. “Okay what else?” he asked her putting on his bright’s as it became closer and closer to night.
“Night lights.” She said sounding sure of herself. He looked at her for a moment expecting her to be kidding.
“That’s one of your favorite things?”
“Yes. When I was younger Dylan told me no matter how dark it got, that one little light would save me one way or another. So I always carry a night light.” She pulled around in her bag and pulled one out for effect. It was light blue with the stars and the moon on it.
“I think I remember that,” Conrad said looking back at the road. “Dylan bought it for you when you turned five. He saved up all the ice cream money your parents gave him for a month. Drove him mad. I half expected him to give up and just make you a card or something, but oh no. He had to get you that night light.” Anabel smiled brighter. It amazed him how much older she seemed right then. Almost as old as him. “So where are we going anyway? It looks like were close to the point. Isabel’s there with Steve.” He looked at the point now clearly visible through the trees. “The point it is then.” He pulled over in the clearing and parked. The point was the place to go for a picnic in the woods or by the lake to go skinny dipping. Most of his dates he took here. It felt weird seeing now his best friends sister get out of the car and walk side by side to the lake and sit down under that huge spring moon. Almost normal in a weird way. Conrad studied her now. The way she held her hands just right by her hips, the way she pouted when she was thinking, the way her hips swayed… “Hey Anabel! Is that you?” Anabel’s best friend Isabel was running at them full force. She and Anabel leaped up and hugged like it’d been a million years since they saw each other instead of one day. That’s when he noticed how loving Anabel was. Always trying to please people, always showing she cared, always taking chances. He smiled. Now Steve was pacing slowly towards them, his shaggy hair flying every direction. Noticing this Anabel laughed. “Come on Steve, don’t be last, almost there,” her and Isabel kept yelling until he finally collapsed at there feet. He was Isabel’s new boyfriend but had been their friend for years. Conrad watched them pool him to his feet. He was a heavy linebacker. Conrad watched as he easily slipped his arm around Isabel, like it was nothing, and the way she leaned into him so carelessly. What if that was him and Anabel? The thought jolted him. Best friends sister. Best friends sister. “Conrad, you okay?” Anabel asked squinting her face up at him. The light hit her just right. And suddenly she had this glow about her, like an Angel. A beautiful Angel. ‘Azeal’ his self conscious thought. Suddenly if felt like heaven itself was singing. Conrad felt himself go, letting his imagination take wind.