Slapped in the Face
The day had been flowing rather smoothly. Yakusoku got a sense that the guidance counselor still wanted to have some words with him, but he avoided any direct contact with the woman. He was serious when he said the conversation was over; that he wasn’t going to talk about it. If this new-old look wasn’t a show of good than she could go get ganked by a monkey or a car because he doesn’t care. But then came the snag in his plan. The P.A. system.
P.A.: Promise Land, please report to the guidance office. Promise Land to guidance. Thank you.
So much for playing the avoidance game. Yakusoku shoved his backpack into his locker to avoid lugging it around- at least, he can avoid some things- and he headed off to guidance. He could have easily ignored it, but they would have come for him. The demons always do. The counselor smiled at him when he walked into the office. It didn’t seem that she was expecting his sudden visual turn around. He wanted to wipe that smug look off her face by telling her that she surely wasn’t the reason for his turn around, his parents were. She was just the bitch that brought it up, the mediator if you could call it that.
“This is a switch,” Commented Mrs. Price. “You look very handsome.”
Ignoring the compliment, he went on to say more tersely than needed. “I love my parents, and I don’t wanna upset them. If they had just spoken to me directly they would have seen just that.” He wanted to add that she should never have been involved but he left that part out.
“Wow. That’s very... mature of you.” She smiled. “Most adolescence isn’t so quick to shape up, but it seems I’ve had you pegged all wrong.”
“No kidding.” And damn did he ever snarl it out. He really hates talking to shrinks.
They just bug him, he doesn’t know why? Hell, he doesn’t even really need a reason, now does he? They think they know everything when really they’re just hoping to get someone with the diagnosis they desire to delve into. It’s sick and weird.
Mrs. Price seemed to quiet for a moment then with hands folded in her lap, she said calmly. “Mr. Land, I didn’t bring you here for a session, but instead I wanted to ask something of you.”
Okay. Attention peaked. “What?”
“We’ve started a program, a teens hotline. I wanted to ask if you’d be interested in speaking with callers?”
“Me?” He felt himself fidgeting in the seat. “Why me?”
“Because I believe that your experiences in life would be of great help to someone someday.” Mrs. Price’s tone was buttery and kind. She really wanted him to say yes. “You yourself have a great love for your family, and you’re adopted. You don’t struggle with this fact at all, and I think such a positive outlook would be good for callers.”
Yakusoku thought it over, and odd as it seemed he wasn’t willing to do it until he thought that hearing other people’s problems might actually make him feel a little better about his own. “As long as it doesn’t cut into my classes, I think that would be doable.”
Cut into his classes. Wasn’t he cutting class not a day ago? He honestly felt like he was full of shit, looking back on who he was and who he’d become. He felt it. But he schooled the uncomfortable feeling back and stood up when Mrs. Price did, shaking the woman’s hand as if that sealed the deal between them.
“We meet after school Mondays and Fridays.”
“So, as soon as today?” His tone had changed from the hard prick the woman made him become and he instead sounded kind and sweet, like apple jelly.
“Yes. It’s been going since the start of November, so far we’ve been successful with it.”
He nodded, not really sure what to say. “I’ll be there.”
Mrs. Price grinned widely, not triumphantly but widely, happily. “Thank you, very much. You don’t have to stay on if it’s not for you, I just believe that you should try it.”
“Okay.” He said heading out of the office. “Like I said, I’ll be there.”
“Alright, thanks again.”
“Yeah.” He left the office in a hurry.
Quickly ducking into class hoping the teacher wasn’t going to say anything; she had to have heard the P.A. call him to guidance, the last thing he wanted was to go back and get a pass just to prove that he was actually there. But she didn’t so much but glance at him and continue on with the lesson.
His gut began to knot up the closer he got to the end of the day, however. He was having doubts about his ability to talk people from the ledge. Seriously, what would he say to them? Buck up. Adoption rules and fuck the ones who put you there? That it’s the people who pulled you out that you should throw all your love and care into. Made sense to him, but how would a broken soul take it?
He’d soon find out as the final bell rang and kids whizzed out of the school like it were going to be hit by a bomb- minus a few geniuses, and athletes who loved being there. Yakusoku felt suddenly very out-of-body as he walked into room 608 in the study hall to where he found long tables set up with phones on them, typical looking set-up. The thing he hadn’t expected however was to see Maina.
Cocking his head, he weighed his options of going over to the girl and openly engaging her, or he could ignore her like ‘the ick’. The latter seemed to be the better option and yet he found himself going over to where she’s seated and taking a place right beside her. She can go fuck herself if she thinks that he’ll be intimidated by her or any of the sheep. To his surprise, she didn’t outright flinch when he sat down. Instead, she smiled politely and nodded. He responded by nodding back and dropping his backpack to the floor like it weighed a ton. Or maybe it was the problem that weighed him down. He shouldn’t have sat here.
“Not to get your hopes up or anything,” Maina started. Her voice had changed since two years, it deepened a bit. She sounds very mature, if not, snobbish. “Happy birthday.”
“It’s not til tomorrow.” He refused to say ‘thank you’ and instead chose to correct her.
“I know. But I won’t see you tomorrow.”
“Whatever.” Not the most clever comeback but it’s better than ‘thanks’.
Two teachers came in, one Mrs. Price herself; probably thought Yakusoku wouldn’t show, and they told the students that this was serious and to do the best they could and not to use the phone for personal calls. It didn’t seem as though anyone there was the sort of playing ‘fuck around with the phone’, but you’ve gotta enforce rules or something like that.
Yakusoku didn’t have to wait long before the black phone in front of him rang to the ceiling. Picking it up, he said in a strange tone. “Hello?”
He felt so ridiculous. Why did he agree to do this? He can’t possibly be of any help to anyone. He’d sooner tell them to go crawl into a hole then help them out of one. After all, he did.
Caller: Hi. My name is Sally.
Sally. Obviously a fake name. No one is named Sally anymore.
Caller: Umm, my brother and I are constantly at odds and... I don’t know, I’m starting to get a sort of weird vibe from him- like maybe he’s gonna try to make our not-so-playful jabs physical.”
Yakusoku listened to that with a heavy head. What kind of shit head would hurt their own sibling? “Who’s older? You or your broth-..”
She cut him off before he could finish. “He is. Two years.”
“Language.” The male teacher who walked in with Mrs. Price said from across the room.
“Sorry.” He lowered his gaze to the table. “Listen, you’ve gotta call your brother on the non-sense, especially if he’s the one starting it. Tell him you don’t wanna be at odds with him. Hell, if he’s egotistical stroke it a little to calm him down and then have a chat.” Chat? Is that what therapist say?
Caller: Okay. And if that doesn’t work?
“Parents are always a good start. But, listen, he can’t honestly have a reason to hate you. Do you like him? Does he know?”
Caller: I do. He’s actually the one who started it, I think it may have had something to do with growing up or maybe his friends said something about me and he’s just going with the crowd.
“Yeah, I return my earlier comment about him.” He said kindly to poor fake-name Sally. “Sally, you’ve gotta be the mature one, since he clearly isn’t. Ask him to go with you somewhere, hang out and bring some other guys along. Bowling’s good, you two could play teams against someone.”
Sally seemed to find that funny. Her laugh was sweet.
Caller: I haven’t been bowling since I was six, I could barely hold the ball.
Yakusoku snickered at the comment. It seemed to further comfort Sally.
Caller: You know what, I will ask him bowling. We can do it over the weekend. Hope it works.
“Me too. Good luck.”
Caller: Thanks. It was nice talking to you.
“Aaaw, thanks.” He teased her. She sounded really sweet. Her brother must just be a dick.
Other calls came in like that. Some with parent problems, others with self-image problems. A few people even called about each other, at least, Yakusoku had suspected that. He’d noticed that all the while he was speaking to people Maina seemed to be stealing glances at him. What the hell was she so surprised about, he’s always been a good guy. They are the ones who are fucked up. Not him. He would have never left them for such a flimsy stupid reason. And by the time the day ended and the last call was taken he was out the door, down the hall, and through the two sets of double doors with a smile on his face. It’s so weird, but, it felt good helping people. Maybe shrinks aren’t so bad after all.
He’s actually getting used to hearing his name said correctly rather than fixing it in his head as if the speaker had gotten it right. “Hey.” He replied evenly though he was wondering why exactly the brunet was still hanging around when school ended an hour and twenty minutes ago.
They walk a good distance in silence, audible silence for the Asian male since his companion is listening to violin music once again. It was when they hit Naughty Pine that, finally, Ludwig came out with it and asked.
“Are we friends?”
Yakusoku gave him a rueful glance.
“Its just that you invited me to your birthday party tomorrow, so I was just wondering.”
“Well, I can honestly say I wouldn’t invite an enemy.”
Ludwig shrugged. “Unless it were one of those parties.”
Laughing, Yakusoku nodded. “Of course. But it isn’t soooo, you’re good.”
Smiling, the brunet replied. “Great. I haven’t had a real friend in ages, it’ll be good.”
Again, the rueful glance. Smiling, Yakusoku shook his head and commented. “Must be nice to live uninhibited by self-humiliation.”
“It is actually. Liberating.” He nods. “How did it go with the rest of the rat-pack?”
“Fine. They were really cool about it- Clark’s actually glad I stopped. He thinks it’ll put the squeeze on Gev to do the same. Must think we look bad on college applications as best friends.”
Ludwig laughed thoughtfully. When they silenced he pressed play on his IPod then stuffed his removed earbud back into his ear; he’s listening to the melodic sounds of the violin while looking around the neighborhood as if to memorize it.
“I love the cold,” Yakusoku said offhandedly.
Ludwig smiled having only seen the male’s lips move and didn’t so much hear what it was that he’d said.
“Do you? You don’t seem bothered by it.” Yakusoku turned his head to speak to the male, deadpanning when he noticed the earbud was returned.
Ludwig snickered shaking his head. “Sorry. I thought the conversation was over.” He took out the earpiece, wiped it on his coat then stuffed it into Yakusoku’s ear, switching the right ear into his left one so the cord doesn’t tug.
Yakusoku shrugged. He didn’t care if Ludwig heard him either way, he was just making conversation where there was none. He’s used to being around talkers, so Ludwig’s silence was disarming. “I was just asking about the cold, you dick. I can see why you don’t have many friends,” He went on to add. “If you keep tuning them out with music.”
“I wasn’t, and I wish headphones were the reason. Easy cop-out and thing to lose.”
“So, what, it’s because you’re a dick?”
“I don’t think so.” He said slowly as if Yakusoku might just be said dick himself. “I’m just... I don’t know, the outcast’s outcast.”
“Yikes.” Patting the other male heftily on the back, he teased him a little. “Yeah well, when you bomb the school remember that I was nice to you.”
“I guess, although, I would factor in the fact that you gave me a nasty black eye for no reason other than you’re an asshole, so...” But he grinned to show he was just messing around as well. “I’m not smart enough to make bombs anyway, not brave enough to shoot someone... I’m just a creep.”
“Oh. Sorry about hitting you, I was pissed and you were there.”
Ludwig shrugged. “Recovering black eyes is a major chick magnet. It was actually good that you hit me.”
They walk in silence again, taking in the scenery and sounds of winter: a dog leaving some yellow snow against a tree, cars passing by in a slow hurry as they head to the elementary school to pick up their kids, stragglers from their own school, boys in a snowball fight. Salty snow sloshing under car tires while it crunched underfoot.
Yakusoku had to wonder what was thought of them, if anyone had looked, to see two boys walking side by side with a single earbud a person. The thought was not comforting, and he removed it handing it back to its owner.
“Do you like classical music or something?” He asked.
Ludwig draped the cord around his neck. “Or something. My mom wanted me to play an instrument when I was growing up,” He shrugged indifferently. “I chose the violin.” He raised his hands up like he was holding on, right arm moving forward and back like he was playing. “I played that damned thing for hours on end when I was seven... but when I hit twelve, I don’t know. Football and baseball seemed more interesting because all the other kids were doing it. I thought that’s for me. Too bad I suck at sports.” He seemed humored by that knowledge.
“I’m great at ’em. I was on lots of teams, but its time consuming. Just like instruments, I guess.”
“Do you play anymore?”
“No. I stopped at twelve like I said, but seeing as how I don’t exactly have an assload of friends to occupy my free time I thought I’d return my taste for it and pick it up again.” He elbowed his new friend. “Unless you’d like to occupy my free time?”
“No thanks.” Replied the Asian male a bit too quickly.
He wasn’t trying to be mean, but yeah, he could see why Ludwig had no friends. He’s a bit off- maybe not off like Maria was off. But his loneliness was stagnant. Like you could touch it, and maybe Yakusoku didn’t want that clinging to him. Maybe he could break Ludwig from his shell? But fuck, wasn’t that his hero complex and Maria acting up again?
“I kind of envy you, I don’t have an ear or talent for playing but it’d be cool all the same to learn.”
“Hey, I’m out of touch with playing anything amazing but I could easily teach you the basics.” He cocked his head. “What d’ya say?”
“You wouldn’t get ticked off if I fuck up your toy?”
“Not really, it’s old anyway. If I get my talents back Ma said she’d buy me a new one.”
“Great. You can teach me Sunday.”
“Hn. No pressure on me.”
“None whatsoever.” He looked to the right. “Here’s my house; wanna come in? My mom will eat you up, musical name and you play. She’ll trade me in for you easily.”
Snickering, Ludwig nods thoughtfully. “Good to know, then when I play bad body double I know it’ll go over without a hitch.”
“Go fuck off,” Yakusoku looked up at the sky as a falling snowflake caught his eye.
“Stupéfiant...” Ludwig whispered watching the male, seeing the serene look on his face.
When his dual colored gaze came back down, the serene expression dwindled into a rather dour look and he cocked a dark brow. “What?”
Ludwig seemed to be shaking something off right then, and he replied quickly. “Nothing. You just looked familiar to me just then.”
“Please don’t say that I’ve had enough trouble with reminding people of someone they know or used to know.” He practically spat it. “Just focus on the now, or I’ll refresh that recovering black eye of yours.”
“Duly noted.” He raised a hand in defense. “I’m guessing the invite inside has been canceled?”
“Your damn right it has,” He turned on his heels and headed for the front door. “I’ll see you tomorrow, though.” He said over his shoulder before swinging the door closed.
Ludwig looked at the house for a moment before stuffing his phones back in and going to his own house.