Weeping Willow

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Chapter Five - Kalen Freakin Adams

The next morning after I was dressed I went down to the kitchen before breakfast, Mom wasn’t there. She’d left a note at $20 on the bench for me.

Willow,

I’ll be back tonight.

Mom xoxo

I picked up the note and the money and shoved them both into the pocket of my jeans. By the time I got to school it was still early so I went to the library and sat down at one of the computers. I’d barely signed into the IM when a message popped up in front of me.

G - You at school already S?

S - So what?

G - No issue. I am too.

S - Really?

G - Yeah I had to see a teacher about something.

S - Look at you, thinking about your education.

G - Yeah… So uh, since we’re both here early… maybe we could meet.

S - Face to face?

G - You’re in the library right? I’m in the IT block, I could meet you there in like two minutes. We could share a poptart.

My stomach rolled. I didn’t want to see G, because seeing him meant knowing who I was. The minute he knew who I was, he was going to run the other way. High school was stock market and I was the penny stocks. Worthless and unimportant.

S - I don’t think that’s a good idea.

G - Now or ever…

S - Now. G, I like this anonymity thing. I need it.

G - I understand.

S - Thank you.

G - S, we are friends right? I know this started off with you tutoring me… but I just… I think that we should… I like you.

S - Friends. :)

G - Shit, I got to go. Forgot I need to take care of something else before first period. Talk later okay?

S - For sure. Bye G.

G logged out and I stared at his messaged, my heart skipped a beat and my stomach fluttered. It had been so long since I’d felt the warmth a friendship could bring. Ever since Stefanie had left, I’d been without it. I’d learned to ignore the pangs the absence had brought about, but now it seemed I didn’t have too. I closed down the computer and signed out.

I made my way to music after the first period bell sounded. Mrs Cleaver smiled as I walked through the door and handed me an envelope.

“Don’t open until I say so.” She said, ushering me to the seating.

As the students piled in she handed out envelopes to everyone. Once we were all seated she smiled and walked to the front of the room.

“In your hands you hold an envelope with a name and a project in it. This project will be the only assignment for the remainder of the school year and you will be graded on it. The name in your envelope is the person you will be working with. As I mentioned the other day, we have the school talent show at the end of the semester. If you choose to showcase your project at the show, then you will receive extra credit. You may also enter the show with another act as well.”

I frowned and raised my hand. Mrs Cleaver stopped talking as she looked over at me.

“Yes Miss Hartford?” She asked with a knowing smile.

“You said we didn’t have to perform in the show.”

She nodded and clasped her hands together. “That is still correct. You may perform your project piece within the classroom after the talent show. However, you will miss out on the extra credit.”

I smiled sweetly at her before looking down at my envelope. Obviously she was banking on the lure of needing all the extra credit I could get my hands on. It wasn’t her fault she didn’t know that after last night, I was questioning the very thought of leaving after all. I just had to hope my partner didn’t have ideas of entering the show.

“If that is all the questions, then you may open your envelope and get started. No swapping partners. I’ve put you with who you’re with for a reason.”

She turned and walked back to her desk while everyone began to rip open their envelopes. Nervously I turned mine over and pulled back the seal. I looked around as others began to read their letters. I sucked in a deep breath and pulled the folded piece of paper out of the envelope.

It detailed how we needed to write, compose and play our own piece of music. It needed to be three and a half minutes long, and we could either book studio to lay backing tracks or hire underclassman to form bands. We’d be marked on complexity, talent and the performance itself. Once I was done ready about the assignment I pulled a small card from the envelope and stared at the name written in bold black on it with despair.

Kalen Freaking Adams.

“Willow.” Kalen’s voice cut through the air from above me right after I’d realised my worst fears. I looked up and he offered me a smile, but I just gave him a scowl in response. His face fell, but he sat down beside me anyway.

“I get that you’re probably not too stoked to be partnered with me.” He murmured.

“The last time you talked to me your girlfriend paint bombed my locker.” I drawled. “I’d hate to think what she is going to do when she finds out we’re partnered together.”

“Ex.” Kalen replied.

“Huh.” I murmured back, confused. I placed the envelope and papers down on the seating beside me and looked at Kalen. He gazed back at me and shrugged.

“Ex Girlfriend. Tiffany and I are past tense.”

I felt my mouth fall open, Tiffany and Kalen had been a couple for most of junior year, and all of senior up until now. Despite our differences, a break up after that length of time at our age had to be difficult.

“I’m sorry…. I didn’t know.”

Kalen shook his head and leaned against the tiered seat behind him. “I ended it.”

“Why?” I exclaimed.

“We’re two very different people. I’d been wanting to end things for a while, and I think deep down so did she. Social status might have kept us together a year too long.”

I felt my eyebrows raise in surprise and I hated that I was being so transparent. Kalen smiled and leaned against the seating.

“Surprised?” He murmured.

“Honestly?” I replied. “Yeah. I think that might be the most mature and aware thing you’ve said since forever.”

“I’m trying to do this new thing…” He shrugged. “Where I be myself.”

“I’m impressed.” The words fell from my mouth before I could stop them. I straightened my back and let out a cough to clear my throat. I needed to change the subject before he made a big deal about what I’d just said so I lifted the envelope up and waved it back and forth. “So yeah, Mrs Cleaver partnered us and Look, I really don’t want to do the talent show… Maybe if you wanted the extra credit she’d let you perform whatever we do at the show alone…”

“Relax Willow. I’m not going to make you do the show. I will forgo the extra credit.” He stopped and leaned across a little. “But I thought you were all about the extra credit… for like college and stuff.”

I swallowed hard and tried to fight off the rising emotion in the pit of my gut. As conflicted as I was with my situation, I wasn’t about to divulge my problems to Kalen Adams of all people. Instead I brushed off the whole thing like I didn’t really care.

“Last time we talked my locker was paint bombed.” I said, repeating my earlier statement. “I know you’re not together anymore… but Tiffany doesn’t exactly strike me as the forgiving and moving on type.”

“Who says anyone has to know it was us?” Kalen grinned. “We could perform from behind a screen, it could be a part of the act.”

I smiled. “Everyone in this class will know we’re a duo.”

“Yeah, but they won’t know if we performed until after the show. Willow, I won’t pressure you. But just know, I will do whatever I can to make you feel comfortable if you decide to go through with it.”

“Thanks.” I responded.

“We should probably get started on this assignment though.” He noted.

We spent the remainder of class deciding what kind of sound we wanted for our song and brainstorming what it would be about. The classroom was abuzz with creativity, and maybe the artistic atmosphere was rubbing off on me, but working with Kalen didn’t seem so bad anymore. When the bell sounded to signal the end of class we stopped and looked at one another. The room seemed to dull out around me, and for a moment I felt something. A connection. I felt my breathing begin to shallow and speed up. I felt something a ball in the pit of my gut and it scared me. I didn’t want to look at Kalen this way. Too much had happened, besides after he’d dated the schools most gorgeous (from a distance) girl I was hardly his type and crushing on the boy who’d ditched my friendship for the popular crowd… was just a recipe disaster.

I broke the eye contact and shrugged. “See you next time.”

“Oh sure.” Kalen noted, grabbing the pad of paper we’d been writing on. “You know you could always come over this weekend and we could work on this some more. I still live in the same house.”

I sighed, the idea of getting away from the house was tempting on its own, but there was only so much blue paint I could handle. “Thanks, but uh. We can work on it here.”

I picked up my things and left without gauging his response. This was awkward enough as it was. I needed to go and clear my head.

The rest of the day passed relatively quietly. I made my way home after school to find Mom still wasn’t back so I went up to my room and sat down at my laptop. On impulse I signed into IM first. What was happening to me?

A few days ago I was completely focused on school work, on all the extra credit I needed. Now I just wanted to fall into conversation with the first person who really seemed to get me since Stefanie.

G - Hey Stranger.

The now familiar ding notification filled me with surprising warmth. I clicked and began to type back.

S - Hey yourself.

G - So, as my tutor, I think you’ll be happy to know my english teacher has lifted all prom related sanctions off me. I just need to win over my math teacher and operation: Get G to the prom is complete.

S - I’ve barely done any tutoring. I think the school work is all you, you just needed to stop acting like an asshat.

G - Well, I retired my asshat and wrote a proper essay in class today, and it paid off. You were the one who basically pulled me up on my douche like behaviour W, so in my book you have tutored me on life.

S - In a couple of days?

G - What can I say, you’re a good influence.

S - Right.

G - So, how was school for you?

My fingers hovered above the keyboard for almost a full minute. I battled with myself over whether to be honest about everything that had happened in music. I didn’t want to out myself, but at the same time I needed advice… from a friend.

S - It was alright.

G - Sounds like a positive endorsement.

S - Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit G.

G - But it is still a form of wit W, and for that I am thankful. Come on, tell me about your day.

S - Fair point. Well, I was partnered with someone from my past in a class today. Someone I used to be friends with back in middle school. High school changed everything. I can deal with the assignment, and with him being my partner… but he also wants us to show something… together in front of the whole school.

G - Is he a nice guy?

S - When we were friends he was the nicest guy I had ever known.

G - But…

S - But he got popular and forgot about us…

G - Us?

Fuck. I really didn’t want to talk about Stefanie. I swallowed hard and began to type.

S - It doesn’t matter. I think he’s still a good guy. Maybe a little misguided.

G - So this something… what’s holding you back.

S - I’m invisible, and that’s the way I like it. I don’t want to be seen…. By anybody. He said we could use a screen, but I’m scared that we’d get found out, and it would affect us both adversely. I only have a short time left in high school…. But in the wrong hands that time could be turned into my own private hell.

G - Do you want to do it?

S - I think so.

G - Then damn what anyone else things W ; )

S - Did you just use my own advice on me?

G - Glad you caught that. Honestly though W, if it will make you happy… then do it.

S - Thanks G.

G - So on to some more lighthearted conversation. Will you be my date for prom?

S - Don’t you have a girlfriend?

G - Nope. What gave you that idea.

S - Our first conversation involved you needing to leave for a date.

G - Oh.. that. Well, it was a date… one that ended badly.

S - So no second date then?

G - Something like that. So how about it… Prom, you and me.

S - Like, Omg, like wow… did you just Promposal me? Let’s be real G, I could be a hideous sasquatch. You don’t want to go to prom with me.

G - Not possible, I’ve never seen a sasquatch at our school before.

S - Invisible, remember.

G - I don’t care what you look like S.

S - I’m not going to prom… But thank you all the same.

G - Offer stands S, I won’t be asking anyone else.

S - Well thanks, I guess. I don’t think I’ll be changing my mind though.

As soon as I hit send the sound of my father’s car sped up the driveway. I knew it was his because it roared like an angry lion. I frowned. Mom had said he was away on business for the week. My stomach rolled and I stared at my bedroom door for what seemed like forever. Eventually the message notification on the laptop recaptured my attention. I looked back at the screen.

G - Why don’t you want to go S?

G - S? Hello?

G - I get it okay, you don’t like prom.

S - Sorry. I got distracted. My dad was meant to be away for the week. But he’s home.

G - Oh. Should I let you go or?

S - No, it’s fine. Most of the time he doesn’t even realize I’m here anyway.

G - That’s sad.

S - I prefer it that way.

G - That’s worse.

S - Maybe. Oh and to answer your question, I promised a friend we’d go together and she’s gone. So I can’t.

G - Gone?

I wanted to spill my pain onto the keyboard, I wanted to open up to G about everything but something held me back. Before I could type anything my bedroom door flew open. My eyes shot to the tall dark figure in the doorway. My father. I struggled to remember the last time he’d stood at my door, I really had begun to wonder if he’d forgotten I was here. He regarded me with his harsh eyes, dark and narrow.

“Where is your mother.” He spat out.

“I don’t know.” I whispered back.

“Don’t lie to me Willow.” He growled. “Your bitch mother does that enough for everyone.”

I swallowed hard. He spoke to me like I was nothing, like I meant nothing. I looked down at the floor and shook my head. “I… I’m not lying.” I stuttered.

His fist came crashing down against the door, pushing it open wide until it hit the wall. I jumped, as the loud bang caught me off guard. Adrenaline began to pump through my veins and while I wanted to scream at him to leave me alone, fear caused me to freeze and close off.

“Fine. If you’re going to be like that.” He laughed as he pulled my laptop off the desk and slammed it shut.

“You can’t take that. It was Stefs.” I exclaimed without thinking. I stood up, and reached out for the computer, but he just shot me a nasty smirk and took a step back.

“Maybe when you learn not to lie.” he exclaimed, pausing for effect. “I’ll give it back.”

Without another word he turned and walked away. Nausea rose in my throat. My computer held the diary I wrote to stef in, and now it also held the first lifeline I’d had since. I closed the door and sat back down at my desk, staring at the spot where my computer had been only moments prior. It was sad that my life had come to this, like the masses I relied on technology to survive… but as much as I wanted to be different I couldn’t.

I needed my diary and I needed G. I had to get my laptop back.

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