Chapter 5 – It’s a first
Sunday, November 13th, 2016
‘Pyper! Neo!’ Our grandmother, dad’s mother, greets us both by pulling us in a tight hug. ‘Oh, my little angels, look at how big you to are already!’ She chuckles, squeezing mine and Pyper’s cheek in the same time. ‘As if it was only yesterday that I changed either of your diapers…’ She dwells over the past. ‘Such teeny tiny babies you two were.’
‘Mom, let them be.’ Dad chuckles, hugging and kisses his own mother happily. ‘Neo was persistent in visiting so that he could watch Supernatural with dad.’
‘Oh, the two of you and your series.’ Nana waves me off, and I happily hop over the mat, kick of my shoes, drop my backpack and head inside the living room.
Grandpa stands up from the couch with a wide smile. ‘Neo! My boy!’ He spreads his arms and I attack him in a hug, nearly sending him off balance. He laughs, lifting me a bit in the air.
Since my parents aren’t that old, my grandparents aren’t that old either. Sure, grandpa has some trouble with his body since he’s sixty-years-old, but he’s still strong enough to lift a teenager like me a bit off the floor.
‘Hi grandpa.’ I chuckle as he lets go of me.
‘Come on!’ He claps his hands. ‘Go wash your hands, your face, and come tell me what happened to your face.’ He taps my cheek three times, making sure to not hit the bruise.
‘Right, on it.’ I smirk, hurrying towards the kitchen, feeling all energetic and excited to visit my grandparents. Call me childish, but their pampering always makes me feel welcome and loved. The casual attitude they have when it’s about my OCD always makes me feel normal. As if it’s just part of life and it’s nothing out of the ordinary to wash off your face and hands after your grandma pecks a kiss on my cheek and grandpa touches my hands.
I listen happily to grandpa greeting Pyper, to grandma chatting away with mom and I smile at dad as he walks into the kitchen to put the cake we brought in the fridge.
‘It always makes me happy to see you running around here.’ He chuckles, watching as I use the paper towels grandma always buys for me to dry my hands.
‘Thanks for the last minute visit. I know you and mom wanted to stay at home and relax for a bit.’
‘Hey, nothing more relaxing that having my parents keeping the two of you distracted.’ He winks, following me back inside the living room. I grab my backpack on the way over, sitting down next to grandpa, who is awaiting me telling what happened.
‘So, the cheek?’ He lifts an eyebrow as I retrieve a map from the backpack.
‘Neo fought in school.’ Pyper chimes in with a smirk.
‘Oh dear.’ Grandpa chuckles nonetheless. ‘Did you beat his ass.’
‘I did not,’ I mutter. ‘Pyper did, though. She’s suspended. But I got in a fight that caused her to react that way.’
‘Don’t tell me the kid is still alive.’
‘What’s it with this family wanting to murder the guy who hit me?’ I frown but can’t fight back a smirk anyway.
‘Hey, they should leave my grandson alone.’ Grandpa winks, taking the map from my hold, opening it. ‘Let me see what new pictures you took.’
‘We had a fieldtrip a while ago and I put the pictures in that I took for the assignment I did to replace the field trip.’ I flip over the pages until the new polaroid’s appear, proud of the result.
While my classmates went to a weird-ass museum to watch all sorts of weird art objects, I was told to go out into the city and take photographs of whatever art I found on my search.
It’s all street art and I made sure to include graffiti in it, but the sculptures around the city centre too. Then I found out there was an art exhibition in a small town a couple of kilometres away and I forced dad to take me there.
‘These are beautiful as always, Neo.’ Grandpa tells me while he seems to be in a trance while he looks at the four polaroid’s with graffiti on them. ‘You have a gift.’ He taps a photo and smiles. ‘I never look at these… drawings, as art. But through your eyes, in your pictures, I see the beauty in them.’
‘I always tell Neo he’s going to be a famous photographer.’ Pyper smirks, nudging me with her elbow. ‘See, grandpa thinks it’s a gift too.’
‘We all do.’ Grandma smiles, taking over the map as grandpa is finished. ‘Aunt Chantal was talking about asking you to take some new photo’s of them and the kids.’
‘She didn’t ask me, though.’ I shrug, not paying too much attention to it. Pyper and I haven’t seen aunt Chantal, uncle Robert or our three cousins in a very long time. Aunt Chantal and mom had a fight the last time we were there, and I don’t know the details, but I know enough, to know the fight had been about me.
‘Neo is too busy for that.’ Mom instantly turns down the idea. ‘As much as you love photography, you have other things to do too.’ She tells me firmly. Mom rarely forbids me to do really anything that makes me get out of the door. But I know, if she does, she won’t back down.
‘I would like for you to settle things with Chantal and Robert…’ Grandma gets up from the couch. ’I would like to see all of you together. We’re getting older and frankly, too old to have to stress and plan visitations…’ She, along with mom and dad, walk towards the kitchen, probably to have a conversation that isn’t meant for Pyper and me to hear.
‘Let’s watch Supernatural, okay?’ Grandpa holds up the remote. ‘Pyper, are you joining us?’
‘Yeah, Neo persuaded me into watching and now I’m hooked.’
‘Finally.’ Grandpa calls out dramatically. ‘She’s getting a decent taste in series.’
I chuckle, retrieving my laptop from the backpack to set it up and watch Supernatural with two of my favourite persons in the world. Couldn’t wish for a better Sunday.
Monday, November 14th, 2016
Sunday had been a great day for me. We ate dinner with grandma and grandpa and as always, grandma made us pancakes and we ate the cake as desert. We watched three episodes of Supernatural and then I watched Pyper and grandma work on a piece of sand-art they’ve been working on for a while now. It’s large, its detailed, it requires a lot of precision and patience. And they only work on it together, never alone.
Mom had been a bit moody after the conversation with grandma, but she loosened up as the day passed.
Monday morning had been the best. Pyper is required to be in school at eight, while classes start 20 minutes later. She put out an outfit for me and left early, leaving mom and me with the two of us to have breakfast and chat away about the possibilities of a new replacing assignment that I will hear about this week.
And as always, after spending a day with grandma and grandpa, I feel more relaxed than most days. My morning rituals and habits had gone well, and I manage to be in school perfectly in time without stressing or panicking over anything.
But as it became evident that Calo was still absent, and with Pyper being suspended, both Luke and Jimmy, along with most other students resolve in turning to me for their daily dose of laughter.
Laughing at me, that is.
And then it turned out, that they videotaped the whole torture on Thursday. The video has gone viral and everybody keeps acting as if they’re me, crying and panicking, before they laugh out loudly.
I’ve been more restless than ever, All the while the day had started of in such a good way.
I groan, as Demy and Fleur re-enact a part of the turmoil on Thursday before they laugh at me right in my face. I slump down in my chair a bit, my face burning in embarrassment.
I slowly look upwards as I notice two pair of feet in front of my table, looking up to find the two instigators of all the taunting stand in front of my desk. Where’s the teacher whenever you need them?
‘Hey, Faulty Favre.’ Luke leans on my desk, off course after shoving aside my stuff. ‘I have to go in for a conversation with Dickson and Rhodes.’
‘I told you we would retaliate worse if you’d spill out our names.’
‘No? So a little bird went to the principal?’
‘No, Pyper did. She had to explain why she beat you up.’ I wish I would have watched him a little longer on Friday. I wish I would filmed him crying like a baby. ‘You know, the whole ordeal in the bathroom, you, crying in the exact same way as I did on Thursday?’
‘So, your filthy sister snitched?’ He leans closer. ‘No matter who did, we will get back at you for it.’
‘Touch him once more, and you’ll curse the day I was born.’ Calo’s voice sounds cold, surprising all three of us. Since half the classes today have already passed, I guess none of us expected him to show up today. Luke shoots upright, turning quick to find Calo standing close behind them, staring at him with cold eyes. ‘And you’d wish you would’ve never been born yourself too.’
‘Yeah? And who do you bring along to do that?’ Luke spits out, still there’s fear in his eyes.
‘We’re not afraid of you, Delgado.’ Jimmy bravely steps forwards.
‘That’s because there’s not enough braincells up there to realise you should be.’ He shoves both of them aside, sliding down in his seat with a murderous look on his face.
‘Eh, thanks?’ I guess a thank you is in order, since he stood up for me, yet again. ‘I didn’t expect you to show up anymore.’
‘I saw the video,’ he grumbles, angrily leaning on his table, staring to the desk of the teacher. ‘They’re gonna pay for it.’
My face heated up, yet again. I wish Calo wouldn’t have seen me cry the way I do on that video.
‘Pyper is suspended because she took her sweet revenge on Friday.’ I tell him, trying to keep a steady voice. He’s obviously pissed, and since he didn’t calm down as soon as Luke and Jimmy scurried away, I guess he’s pissed at me too.
Obviously, I did something to hit a nerve, I just wish whichever of my uncountable irky habits it is that is pissing him off.
With shaky hands, I put my stuff back in the right place on the desk, wishing I wouldn’t instantly tear up because Calo is snappy. Wasn’t I the one doubting his intentions? Then why am I surprised he isn’t treating me nice today?
‘My sister. I have a sister.’
‘You have a sister, who goes to this school?’ He frowns, finally looking at me. His pupils are wide, The whites of his eyes somewhat redder than usual. He simply looks like shit.
He actually looks like me, not too long after having a panic-attack. ‘I have a sister, Pyper, who goes to this school, yes. Are you okay?’
‘I’m fine, else I wouldn’t be here.’ He’s still grumbling, he still comes across as hostile, but somehow, I feel there’s more to his attitude than meets the shitty appearance. ‘Why is your sister willing to get suspended whenever they touch you, but in the same time leaving you on your own during lunch, before and after school…’
‘Pyper has Lupus and isn’t always in school.’ I simply respond, since Pyper’s illness is way easier to explain than mine. ‘And you’re not fine. You’re far from fine. Why are you in school?’
‘I saw the video.’ He pushes his face up to look at me. ‘I thought you needed a friend.’
And in that very moment, listening to those hostile-spoken words, a weird feeling is starting in the pit of my stomach, soon sending chills all over my body. Goosebumps appear on my skin and suddenly I can’t hold back the tears that have been threatening to fall down every since I found out about the video. I stare at him while my vision blurs further, his eyes widening. The whole hostile attitude is gone in a matter of seconds, before he pulls me out of my seat, forcing me to leave the classroom, while guiding me in the process.
‘Follow my feet.’ He mutters, holding onto my arm, forcing me to look at his feet to know where exactly to walk without causing a panic-attack.
As soon as we reached the hallway, Mr. Giles shows up, wanting to protest us leaving, but closing his mouth as soon as he looks at me, tears now rolling down my cheeks. ‘Take him outside. The park across the street and to the pond.’ Mr. Giles tells Calo with a worried tone-of-voice. ‘I’ll inform his mother.’
‘No!’ I cry out. ‘Don’t call my mom,’ I whisper in defeat. ‘I’m not upset…’
‘You’re not?’ Calo forced me to look and to him.
‘Just come back in whenever you’re ready.’ Mr. Giles smiles shortly, before walking into the class himself.
First things first, how did Mr. Giles know about the park, or the pond? Mom used to take me there when I was little, and we would sit there for hours in a row, feeding the ducks, eating ice cream, and I would always feel happy and carefree. To this very day, the park and in particular the pond, is one of my few safe havens that I go to whenever I need to calm down.
‘You’re not upset? Why are you crying? I thought I said something that upset you.’ Calo is still holding onto my arm.
‘No.’ I shake my head, wiping away the tears angrily. ‘You…’ I swallow back the lump that is forming in my throat.
’You said… friend.’ I manage to press the word out, followed by a sob.
‘Yeah, does that upset you? Don’t you see me as a friend?’
‘I never had a friend,’ I cry out, feeling ashamed. ‘Nobody ever wants to be my friend.’
’Well, they’re stupid. You’re Favre. I want to be your friend.’ He smirks, though it doesn’t really meet his eyes. The daring and amused look that he sported last week isn’t there. His eyes seem scared.
‘Yeah?’ He sits down on the floor, patting the spot on the floor next to him before he pulls of his vest and puts it down for me to sit on. ‘Come, you need to calm down before we go back in.’
‘What’s wrong with you?’ I whisper with a hoarse voice while sitting down.
‘You think something is wrong with me for wanting to be your friend?’
‘No!’ I look at him with wide eyes. ‘Or yes, maybe, I don’t know,’ I stutter unsurely. ‘Its not what I meant.’
‘What did you mean?’
‘Stop avoiding it.’ I whine. ‘I know the look in your eyes, I find it in my mirror at least once a day.’
He huffs, staring to the ground.
‘Did you have a panic-attack?’
‘No.’ he shakes his head. ‘I cried. It’s why I wasn’t in school.’
‘And you came, for me?’
‘Yeah, you needed a friend, right?’
‘I did. But why did you cry?’
‘Oh…’ he shrugs. ‘My grandma died…’ he looks away and I guess he might have trouble fighting his own tears. I just wish he would feel safe enough to show his grieve to me, since I just cried right in front of him. ‘I was going crazy at home and when I saw the video, I just had to come to school.’
‘You were right in time.’ I nod. ‘I don’t know what would’ve happened if you wouldn’t have shown up.’
‘Well, Mr. Giles would interrupt, so I guess you’d be physically safe.’
‘But my physicality isn’t my weakness,’ I tell him seriously. ‘It’s what they say, it’s the laughing…’
‘Well, I’ll be sure to help you fight those brainless idiots. I need something to make school more interesting anyway.’ He chuckles forced. ‘If, off course, you’ll allow me to help you.’
I stare at him, my eyes flicking from spot to spot in his face, trying to find any trace of insincerity, a hint telling me this is all a joke, too good to be true. ‘I’ll allow it, though you do have to prove your intentions. I have trouble trusting people.’
‘I get that, if I really am your first friend. But, it’s a first, and I’m honoured.’