It was a Tuesday when Brooke saw Chloe, reading silently in the corner of the cafeteria. She was reading The Grapes of Wrath, a book too thick for Brooke to even imagine opening. She seemed interested in it though, for her face was showing changing expressions as if she was trying to imagine the story taking place right in front of her. She stopped when she noticed Brooke's unreadable stare, looking back at him curiously. She started biting her nail, closing and grabbing her book in one swift motion. Brooke’s eyes didn't move. They stayed on her, watching her.
She walked past him hurriedly, sneaking a glance at his face. She found it odd that he was still looking at the empty corner she was sitting in moments before, as if he was not caught up with reality quite yet. He had a face, however, that Chloe didn’t want to look away from. Framing it was straight, shoulder length black hair that she imagined would have been very poofy if it wasn't for his gray fedora. His eyes were clear as if he held no worries at all, and his eyebrows were the thinnest she had ever seen on a boy. His lips were bruised and cut, parts of it swollen. Other than that, she thought he had pleasant features. Chloe, realizing she was staring, went out the cafeteria and into the hall. Finding a new corner where she sat, her face blank, and continued to read.
Brooke wanted to just let her be, but there was something about her… something. He followed the contently mysterious girl. Her silky black hair covered her face like a curtain hiding her emotions. She was wearing a long white dress with many odd red symbols, shaped like bird's beaks. Although Brooke was far from caring about clothes, he did have to admit that the dress was ugly. It just made her look all the more beautiful. Eventually, after Brooke’s staring contest with her hair was over, he realized that she wasn't turning pages anymore. She sat kneeling, with her hands pleasantly on either side of her book.
"You're Brooke, right?" She asked, feeling his presence. She lifted her head to see his confused face.
"How do you know?” He asked, slightly uncomfortable.
"I know almost everyone's name here, although I barely use them." Brooke sighed in relief, thinking.
"I only know one person‘s name.” He stated aloud.
“And what is that person‘s name?” She asked him, trying to hide her amused expression..
“Brooke Patrick Takre!” He declared in a weak attempt to make her laugh. She did, but what she said next surprised him.
“You don’t know anyone’s name because you talk, you don’t listen.” Brooke smiled as she smiled back. He took a seat next to her, his breath still stinking like his recently smoked cigarette, the last cigarette he had ever smoked. She didn’t seem to notice the stench, or maybe she just didn’t mind.
“Let me start with you! I think I can remember one name that isn‘t mine.” Brooke said, hoping she would talk to him a little longer.
“I’m Chloe, Chloe O’Connor.” She said, shaking his hand and leaving the hall.
Since the day that Brooke met Chloe, he did remember his schoolmates name. Although he hardly attended school, Brooke and Chloe were friends… best friends really. They are both sophomores now. Feeling as though they were far more mature than they were during freshman year. Chloe still socialized little, only looking up from her books to talk to Brooke. He had been weird lately though, not like the sarcastic kid he was last year. He looked around the room like any sudden movement would make the place explode. He tried to tell his mother, but she said these changes and feelings were normal, but she didn’t see… she didn’t see the flames in his eyes, the way his chocolate hair was now charcoaled black. She didn’t even notice a difference in Brooke’s behavior. She was so busy trying to figure out which of her dozen boyfriends were which, and trying to remember that Brooke was her son, and not one of the many affairs she was having. The alcohol wasn’t helping her, and Brooke wanted her to stop. He needed her to stop. He had already lost his brother and sister, he couldn’t lose his mother too… but he knew he already had. She was like his father now. Violent and loud… drunk… VERY drunk.
Brooke could still remember the day that his father walked out on them. Brooke and Jenny hid in the closet while their father was fighting with their mother. He hit her, and that’s when George pushed him. George was only twelve, so his shove was not very strong, but that’s all it took. The intoxicated man fell against the wall, away from his wife. He looked at George with hatred, murmuring something about how a son is never supposed to turn on his father. With his last statement, he left the family for good. To where, none of the Takre’s cared, as long as he wasn’t to come back.
George was tall and smart, the top of his grade. By age eighteen, six years after his father left, he graduated high school with his girlfriend Laura. They applied for the same colleges, but Laura got into the best college in the nation, and George didn’t. Laura left anyway, promising to come back and visit, that her leaving didn’t mean they were over. One week after she left, none of the Takre’s ever heard from her again. George was depressed, so he ended up drinking for the first time, turning to his father‘s remedy. He got drunk, not used to the feeling, and drove. He crashed, killing himself and the family of a husband, wife, and three kids all under the age of seven. Brooke was only eleven.
Jennifer… beautiful blue-eyed Jenny. Her long red hair tucked behind her glasses as she soon googled George’s girlfriend. An online obituary popped up, stating that Laura Parsons didn’t disappear as George had thought. She died by a mysterious illness… a virus that could spread to any person who came in contact with her. It did spread, but not to Brooke… not his mom… but to Jennifer. Beautiful blue-eyed Jenny. Her name was shortly added to the obituary. Brooke never did get to see her before she died. Doctors were worried that she would contaminate him, but she already had… He just didn’t die from it. Not like she did. Even as she was choking on her last breathes, they wouldn’t let him or his mom in, so the only memories Brooke and his mother have of Jenny are of her being happy with her beautiful blue eyes.
Unfortunately, when twelve year old Brooke needed his mother most, that was when she began her alcoholism, and that was when Brooke began smoking, getting into trouble wherever he could.
Now Brooke was sixteen, and enjoying the fact that it was there were only two weeks left before winter break, although he took weeks off from school whenever he felt like it. Winter break was nothing special. Never had he had very many presents under the tree, nor did he get any anymore. His mother couldn’t afford it, but Brooke didn’t mind. She wouldn’t even know what to get him. Brooke was more excited about winter break because winter was warm, and consistently sunny every year. The perfect weather to burn his pale skin by going to the beach for hours on end, and not having to risk getting caught by a police officer for ditching school.
Brooke checked the clock in his bedroom. 3:17. Perfect. He could roam with all the other school attending teens, without raising suspicion. He twisted one of his blind’s panels, staring outside from his living room. He gazed into the sky. It was sunny, Brooke’s preferred weather. He let go of the blinds, wincing as they made a loud crashing noise. Brooke opened the hall’s closet, grabbing a black leather jacket that used to belong to George. He admired it as the noise died out, another crashing noise stealing Brooke’s attention. He quickly slipped his arms through the jackets sleeves, turning to see his mother stumble through the door. She knocked into the coffee table, tripping and landing on the floor. Brooke looked at the half-full bottle of beer in her hands, rolling out of her hands gently as his mother’s hand touched the floor. Brooke bit his lip hard, drawing a thin amount of blood. He reached the bottle, staring at it. A tear rolled down his cheek as he smelled the liquid, sighing. He brought the bottle to his lips, lifting it higher. With one last breath, he tipped the bottle, pouring the beer onto the floor, next to his mother’s passed out body. He put the bottle in his room, adding another to his collection.
He knew it wasn’t normal for people to collect empty bottles, but since his mother almost never made it home with the bottle cap still intact, he settled. As he returned to the living room, he noticed his mother was no longer on the floor. She was rested on the couch, still as out of it as before.
Next to her sat a man, his fingers brushing through her hair. He looked up at Brooke, motioning for Brooke to come to him. Brooke approached the man cautiously, recognizing the man. It was Jay. His mom had been drinking partners with him for a while. Brooke stood next to the arm of the couch, hesitant to go any farther. Jay got up, pulling something out of his pocket.
It was a cigarette lighter.
“Cigarettes?” Brooke asked, trying to figure out what Jay wanted with him. Jay just smirked, shaking his head no. He grabbed Brooke’s wrist, pulling him closer, holding the lighter in his other hand. Brooke couldn’t move, he didn’t even try. Jay made a small flame, Brooke staring at the light. Jay brought it down closer to Brooke’s arm. Brooke couldn’t register what was happening. He knew that the air around his arm had gotten a lot warmer, but in a way, it felt good. When the flame actually touched Brooke’s arm, he felt pain. It was like a shock ran from his arm up and down to his heart, making it beat much faster. He didn’t pull his arm away. He couldn’t. Jay brought the lighter away from the teen, admiring the mark he had made. He went to make another one, when Brooke noticed something. His burn was no longer there. It was like, his skin absorbed the mark… Brooke watched this time, squinting at the pain, but refusing to close his eyes.
There it was, another burn, and like the time before, after a few seconds it disappeared. The third time Jay was going to lower the flame, Brooke grabbed the lighter out of Jay’s hand, pressing the flame to Jay’s forearm. Jay’s eyes turned sober… murderously sober.
“You brat!” He grunted, slapping Brooke’s arm away from him. It didn’t take Brooke long to react this time. He ran into his room, shutting the door and slamming his body against it. The door was kicked, jerking Brooke forward. Looking around the room, Brooke tried to find anything that he could use to lock his door. The closest object was his dresser.
The dresser contained a few pieces of clothing, but most of the drawers were filled with bottles. He attempted to scoot the dresser in front of the door, but he was nowhere near strong enough. He took out all the drawers trying again, relieved that Jay seemed to give up. Out of one of the drawers, he grabbed a tall bottle, once filled with high priced wine. The door was rapidly kicked open, Jay swiftly entering, patting the top of his fist. Brooke didn’t waste anytime. He threw the bottle at the Jay’s head before the man could throw a punch. Jay slumped to the floor with a pained moan. Brooke checked him for injuries. The glass had broke at impact, but there were no wounds on the his head, just a small bruise that might‘ve even been there before. Next to Jay, sat the bronze lighter. It was too tempting. He picked it up, sliding it into his pocket before dragging Jay to the couch, letting him lie passed out next to his mother. He rushed out of the house, slamming the door shut. He instantly fell against it, hands protectively on either side of the door. A couple around the age of thirty looked at him suspiciously, but continued to walk when his breathing became less heavily haled.
He took the lighter out of his pocket, flicking it on and off. And back on.