Chapter 1 – On my nerves
Monday, November 7th, 2016
My brain has too much tabs open, and it’s exhausting.
For me, there’s nothing worse than feeling dependent on other’s helping me out. It’s not so much the fact I hate feeling dependent, because in all honesty, I am dependent on a lot of things I can’t control.
Let’s say I’m used to being dependent.
It’s the fact that when there’s any uncontrollable variable capable of messing with whoever I’m depending on, The rest of my day will depend on it too.
See, lot of dependence.
For instance, take today. My sister Pyper is ill, and she’s ill every so often. It’s one of those things I’m sort of used to.
But I depend on her putting out my outfit for the day on my bed while I’m in the shower. Mom already placed towels, underwear and whatnot on the rack in the bathroom the evening before. But today, I came out of the shower, to find my sister moving around my room as if she’s dying, coughing, whimpering, whining in discomfort.
‘You’re getting germs all over my clothes.’
‘I’m trying, Ne,’ She whispers sadly. ‘Can you just give me a sec?’
‘Uhm, no,’ I mutter in response, jumpy in my spot as my skin starts to tingle.
Don’t you for a second think I’m spoiled or bratty, demanding them to do these things for me. Let’s just say that experience shows this makes all of our mornings a whole lot easier.
‘I just have to get you a sweater. I heard there’s gonna be a thunderstorm and I don’t want you to catch a cold.’
‘I’ll catch a cold if I’ll stand here for another couple of seconds, without clothes to keep me warm.’ It sounds snappy, but she’s already throwing me off my regular path of habits and I don’t want to blame her – she’s sick – but I can’t help but feeling a bit restless already.
I bet this is going to be a bad day.
‘Grab the sweater from The Cavern Club that you love so much.’ She turns around, smiling unsurely. ‘It’ll fit with the shoes I picked.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘One hundred percent.’ She nods happily, ending up in another coughing fit. ‘I’m going back to bed. Just remember to ignore those shitheads. I’ll get back at them once my own lungs aren’t trying to drown me in their disgusting fluids.’
I can’t help but chuckle and nod back at her, moving to start dressing as soon as she left the room and closed the door.
I grab the sweater she told me to grab, hoisting the backpack I prepared in the evening onto my left shoulder, putting on the shoes that she picked right before I head over to the door. ‘Please, don’t let Pyper’s timing be a bad omen for today.’ I shortly look upwards to wish upon an invisible figure people worship, taking in a deep breath, tapping the light switch a couple of times, before flicking it off, all in the same upbeat tempo – we will, we will, rock you.
Let’s just be thankful I was able to execute it perfectly, casting a darkness over my room, before I open the door and head downstairs.
‘Morning, sweety.’ Mom greets me with a smile, waiting for me to enter the kitchen while skipping the first two tiles, sitting down in my regular spot at the table. ‘A good morning, I assume?’
‘Could be better, could be worse. Pyper is ill.’
‘I know, we’re heading over to the hospital today. They want to take x-rays to make sure she doesn’t need any further treatment.’
‘When are you going?’
‘Long after you’re out for school.’ She takes in a controlled breath, before she moves, first placing my plate, then my drink and lastly, my lunch. ‘And if anything is wrong, you can always call me. Dad is joining us in hospital, so he’ll be able to stay with Pyper whenever I have to go and get you.’
’You are dropping me off, right?’ I nearly panic at the thought of having to walk there, or worse, take the bus. I don’t think I’ll ever make it to school if I have to execute either of those forms of transportation.
‘Off course, honey.’ She nods, shortly biting her lip.
‘Then who’s watching Pyper?’
‘Honey, you know you shouldn’t fuzz over those things. We take care of her, while we make sure your day will start off the right way.’
I want to protest, but I also know that it would be ungrateful to whine that she’s not explaining things to me. She’ll be the one who has to clean up the mess if she throws me off guard, not me.
‘Just eat breakfast.’
I nod, cutting my bread in four pieces before I take my first bite, resolving in silence while mom does the dishes that have been left by her and dad, who had breakfast while I was in the shower.
‘Oh, honey?’ mom addresses me right before she turns around to look at me. ‘School send a letter to announce another field trip. If you’re home after school, read into the details and let me know if you think you can go, or need a replacing activity at home or in school.’
‘Will do.’ I nod, tapping my finger on the table in between every bite or sip of drink, three times, every time.
‘Do you want me to let you know about Pyper’s treatment right away, or once you’re home again?’
‘When I’m home.’ I tell her after the last bite of bread. ‘I’m a teeny-tiny bit restless and I think it might send me over the edge if something is wrong. Best to let that happen when I’m in the safety of our home.’
‘I can send you a text if it’s good.’
‘No.’ I shake my head fiercely. ‘If you’ll send a text when it’s good news, I’ll know it’s bad if I don’t get a text.’
‘Right.’ She chuckles. ‘How silly of me.’ She returns to looking serious towards me. ’I know these days aren’t your best days. Just remember what doctor Telham told you. “You don’t have…”–’
‘– power to change Pyper’s health.’ I finish her sentence, and with that, doctor Telham’s saying.
‘Are you wearing your wristband?’
‘No, it wasn’t really helping.’ I mutter ashamed. ‘I only started another tic with it. Slapping it trice every time I thought the wrong things.’
She pulls a face, disapproving on one hand, but accepting my decision to no longer wear a rubber band around my wrist, to snap it whenever I think the wrong way. It only resulted in more habits, in more tics, and in a very painful wrist.
And even more for the rest of my classmates to laugh about.
‘Are you finished with breakfast?’
‘Yeah, just have to wash my hands and we can go.’
It had been a bad omen. Pyper’s illness, her completely off timing was. I should have stayed home.
As if my life isn’t hard enough with all off my irky, tics and compulsory subsequent habits, there’s also the fellow students attending Haven Highschool.
They always know how to make my blood boil, how to throw me off completely.
On some days, they even know how to provoke a full on panic attack.
And today might be a day that fits the last category perfectly.
I swallow, standing in the door opening, staring at Luke and Jimmy, grinning evilly at me while I stare at the floor in front of the door, inside the classroom. Normally, there’s a desk shoved against the wall, and I skip the floor of a full desk length that is there for pure measurement. Off course, if there wouldn’t be a desk, I wouldn’t have to skip, but school refused to adjust any and all to suit my likings and settle my nerves. They told my mom, when she requested alterations, that life will get in my way more often and that avoiding all situations isn’t going to solve my problems.
They’re right, I know. Doctor Pelham agrees too that not everything should be altered to feed my angsts.
But today, they didalter the classroom, Jimmy and Luke, that is.
The teachers desk, which is at least twice the length of a regular desk, is the one that is shoved against the wall, right beside the door.
I swallow, a panicky feeling rising, while I contemplate on taking a few meters to jump, or to wait until the teacher is there to save the day.
They’ll either laugh since I’m not the most athletic person in the world and jumping will probably result in them calling me a prima ballerina again – for god knows how long – or they’ll call me a teacher’s pet, which is my current nickname anyway, since I got Luke in detention without even doing or saying anything.
Off all days, did they have to do this today? Today, on which everything has to be perfect, or Pyper’s tests will come back with the worst possible outcome.
No, bad thought.
I can’t control the outcome.
I subconsciously move my right hand towards my left wrist, to pull the rubber band, which is no longer there.
Luke and Jimmy both hit each other, pointing towards my wrist while laughing over it. ‘Look, the freak is freaking out again.’ Luke laughs loudly, soon joined by some other students who are our audience on this dreadful morning. I look down, feeling a bit embarrassed, wishing doctor Pelham would’ve never given me the rubber band to begin with. I should have known it wasn’t a good idea.
‘What’s wrong, Faulty Favre?’ Jimmy hollers at me, sort of trying to cheer me on to make the jump. ‘Show us your beautiful Grand Jeté.’
I can’t help but snap my head upwards to frown in his direction. ‘You do realize it’s kinda girly to know what a Grand Jeté is, right?’
‘Don’t be a little know it all.’ He snaps back in annoyance, his face flushing nonetheless. ‘Obviously, you know what I mean too.’
‘My sister is in ballet. Sadly, every so often I’m forced to watch recitals.’ I shrug carelessly. ‘Besides, I’m not the one pretending to be a big, strong, tough guy.’
‘No, you’re Faulty Favre.’ Luke stares at me in anger. ’You don’t have to pretend, you would never be able to pull of acting like a normalguy.’
‘Luke, last warning, already. And it’s only the first class on Monday.’ Mrs. Tilly shows up at my side, looking from Jimmy and Luke, to me – still in the doorway – towards the table. She takes a deep breath, patting my shoulder comfortingly. ’And put my desk back where it belongs, now.’
She walks past me, flicking her fingers to tell them to move it fast. Only then do I notice a guy our age is with her, walking inside the classroom casually, sparking a bit of jealousy because he’s able to walk in carefree.
‘Neo, whenever you’re ready…’ She gestures towards my still empty desk. And as soon as Jimmy and Luke escorted the desk back to its original place, with a lot of comments along the way, I skip over the space that is now the length of a regular desk. I’m carefully walking towards my desk, careful not to line my feet with the desks legs, taking in a deep breath before I start grabbing the right books from out of my backpack.
‘Class, we have a new student joining us today,’ Mrs. Tilly starts talking, causing me to look towards the new guy from the corner of my eyes. He’s curiously following my every movement, while Mrs. Tilly introduces him as Calo Delgado. ‘Calo, please take a seat next to Neo. It’s the only available desk.’
Did she have to point out the fact I’m the freak who doesn’t have anyone to sit with during class? I send her a cold look, sitting down in my seat after I placed my book, my notebook and my pencils in the right place. I open my notebook to take notes while Calo takes a seat next to me. I ignore the mess he instantly creates on his desk. As long as it does not cross the line of my desk, all accidents will be on him, and him solely.
Pyper’s health won’t be affected.
‘Hey, I’m Calo.’
‘Hey, I’m not deaf.’ I look at the hand he’s offering me, an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of my stomach, while I swallow.
‘I can tell.’ Calo chuckles, dropping his hand on his desk, a short frown flashing in his eyes. He recovers quickly, probably because he’s now shamelessly staring from my organized desk towards the mess on his own.
He moves the backpack to the side, dropping it on the floor, causing Mrs. Tilly to shortly look in our direction with a hint of disapproval in her eyes, before she heads on with whatever she’s explaining right now.
I’m not paying attention, because Calo is distracting me. I’ve never sat with anyone beside me ever since people noticed my irky habits on the first day of school, and I instantly became a target for bullies all over school.
Rumours travel fast and before the day had ended, everybody knew me by my most-used nickname; Faulty Favre.
‘Nice jump, spectacular entrée on an early Monday morning.’
I send him an annoyed look, trying to catch up with Mrs. Tilly’s explanation about the homework we had to make during the weekend.
‘You have a very neat handwriting, for a boy.’ He pulls the notebook towards him.
Is he like five? Can’t he for a second pay attention? Does he not know to keep his filthy fingers off other people’s stuff.
I pull the notebook back, placing it back in the right spot, sending him an angry glare, pointing towards Mrs. Tilly.
He smirks, staring at the notebook, before he moves to push it out of its spot as soon as I moved to grab my disinfecting lube to clean my hands after him touching my stuff.
I slap his hand away, pulling the notebook back to its place. This continues for about four times, him constantly pushing the notebook aside, me constantly pulling it back to its supposed place.
I slam my hands on the notebook as soon as Calo tried to move it again, catching the attention of everybody, including an annoyed Mrs. Tilly.
‘Care to tell us what is more important? Neo? Calo?’ She looks at us, while Calo smiles a sweet smile, shrugging.
‘I wanted to read along with Neo’s homework. Since, you know, I didn’t make it.’
‘Neo, let him read along.’
I want to protest his lie, because he obviously hasn’t shown any interest in my homework, other than telling me my handwriting is very “neat”, for a guy. But Mrs. Tilly already turned back towards the class to go on with the lesson.
‘You didn’t try to read my homework.’ I his at him, slapping his hand away as soon as he moved to touch my notebook again. ‘Stop touching it, or me.’
‘Why? I don’t have an infectious disease if that’s what you think.’ Calo chuckles.
‘Who says I’m not infected?’ I deadpan. ‘Stop. Touching. My. Stuff.’
‘Neo, Calo!’ Mrs. Tilly sounds tired and annoyed. ‘Last warning, for the both of you. Stop talking.’
I’m fuming in anger, staring at her in disbelief. ‘He’s distracting me, Mrs. Tilly.’
‘Calo, Neo, both pay attention.’ She ignores my protest, causing me to huff, sulking like a little kid, pouting with crossed arms.
Calo – again – chuckles, but turning around to listen to Mrs. Tilly nonetheless.
He manages to pay attention for about five minutes, but then he flicks a finger at my notebook, causing it to slightly move.
‘Stop touching it!’ I shout, slamming my hand back on my notebook.
The whole class is now staring at us, wondering what caused me to shout.
Calo is just curiously watching me place the notebook back in the right spot.
‘Neo, principals office, now.’
‘What!?’ I stare at her in disbelief. ‘Calo wouldn’t stop touching my stuff…’
‘Calo needs to read along with your homework to know where we are.’
‘He’s not reading along!’ I protest, refusing to get send to the principals office because of the guy next to me acting like a freaking toddler.
‘Principals office, now.’ She points towards the door in annoyance.
‘God! You’re intolerable, you know?’ I snap at Calo, my hands shaking a bit due to shock. I’ve never been send out of class before.
Is this yet another omen that this day will be a bad day?
Should I just throw in the towel before things get out of hand?
I’m full on shaking, fighting back tears that start to blur my vision. Gone is my perfect record. Not for attendance, I probably have the worst record in school for that, but for not being send out ever before.
He’s here for ten minutes, and he completely thrown my life upside down.
’Neo, now.’ Mrs’ Tilly impatiently taps her foot, still pointing towards the door, as I am doing my best to grab my stuff as quick as possible. First the book, in the right spot in my back, making sure it’ll not put it off balance by putting a smaller book behind a larger one. Then the notebook, the purple one in between a red and blue. ‘Neo, I don’t have all day.’
‘I’m doing my best! Okay!’ I cry out, biting my lip as soon as shock hits me that I shouted at a teacher. Oh god, great work, Neo. Not only did you get send out of class, but you shouted at a teacher too. What’s next? Detention?
Since the principal will punish my bad behaviour by giving me detention.
‘Oh, Calo, we forgot to mention, Neo is a bit a freak…’ Luke laughs, Jimmy and some others joining. Some try to hide it, some laughing right at me in my face.
‘Luke, principals office, now.’ Mrs. Tilly stares at him in anger. ‘We do not tolerate such name-calling and you know we don’t.’
‘Whatever.’ Luke grumbles, throwing his stuff in his bag as I stand up from my seat, pulling the backpack onto my right shoulder, but in the wrong tempo. I swallow, debating if I should redo this, or give up the day and run out so that I won’t break down in front of the class.
‘Hey, Neo, look!’ Luke calls towards me. ‘This is how fast you can leave a classroom if you’re normal!’
I really want to cry right now, while an unnerving feeling is settling inside me. This day had to be flawless. Pyper needed me to have a flawless day.
I sit back down, before I get up, pulling the back up with me, now in the right movement, swallowing as I start to have trouble to hide the upcoming tears. I feel Calo’s eyes burn while they curiously watch the whole debacle unwind in front of them. I walk slowly but steadily, watching each placement of my feet carefully, jumping the last half a meter until I’m in the hallway.
Thank god, Luke decided not to wait for me, and as soon as the door closes behind me, I slump down against the wall, crying, while retrieving my phone from my pocket with shaky hands, calling mom.
‘Mom? Can you pick me up?’