The peace I want
First days suck. People say last days are worst but I totally disagree. My last days in school are always the best. But then what do I know?
I take a deep breath and walk inside my new college. My new life is going to be here. I’ll stay here, sleep here, eat here and study here. People are walking everywhere, in all directions I felt my head spinning from the loud noise and the overcrowding college. Boys were zooming everywhere, girls laughing and doing what girls always do. I hold my back bag straps tightly and ignore everyone, trying to find where would the Calculus lecture specifically be.
After wandering in too many corridors and bumping into many people I give up and decide to ask someone. I find two girls standing by the lockers laughing. One with long strawberry blond hair and blue eyes, the other with ginger hair and brown eyes.
I clear my throat and give it a try, “Excuse me.”
They stop laughing and look at me, “Huh?”
The ginger girl looks annoyed to be interrupted but the blond smiles warmly.
“Yes?” she says.
“Do you know where Calculus class is?” I ask nervously.
“Round this corner and you’ll find the class in the end of the corridor,” she points. “It’s so dark and strangely quiet there.”
“Idiots only attend this class,” mumbles The Ginger.
The Blond smiles apologetically, “No one likes Mr Vernon.”
“Thanks,” I mutter.
“Anything,” she replies.
I walk away so quickly and follow the way she pointed to and walk in the eerily calm hall. The lights are switched off and as I walk to the door of the class I wonder if this gives any hint of how the class is going to be. I sigh, knock twice and push the door open.
I didn’t expect the mayhem before me. All students are talking and laughing in their seats. None of them looking at the teacher at the front desk. I walk hastily, trying not to attract any attention. I hate people staring.
“Er...” I clear my throat. “Here is my ID, Mister.”
The teacher looks up, “I don’t need it.”
“You…you don’t check – ”
“I’m a sub,” he lazily cuts me off. “Go back to your seat and ignore my presence as your fellow classmates do.”
I slip my ID back in my pocket and walk to the back of the class. I slip into an empty seat and hang my bag on the back of the chair. One noisy hour is way better than a Calculus class. I take out my journal and take out my pen. Someone clears his throat and I look up.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” asks a boy with sunglasses.
I shake my head and look back at my journal.
“I’m Tyler,” he says after a few minutes.
I nod without looking at him.
“Aren’t you introducing yourself?” he asks.
“I’m Brandon,” I say. “Brandon Anderson.”
He nods and smiles, “Tyler Abernathy.”
I stay silent and nod.
“What’s your father name?” he asks.
I look up, getting irritated, “Henry.”
“I know an Anderson,” he says. “You might know him. Janson?”
“Janson Lucas?” I ask without any interest.
He nods brightly, “Yes, he’s a good friend of mine. How do you know him?”
“Well,” I say dryly. “Both of us are Andersons.”
“I mean is he a close relative?” he asks.
“He’s my cousin,” I say.
“Really?” he asks.
I nod, “Look. It’s nice to meet you, but I have to focus on this.”
I point at my journal. He eyes it and looks at me.
“You are not the social type right?” he asks.
“What type?” he asks.
“Uh…just a some other type,” I answer. “Not the boy who likes publicity, not the boy who smokes, gambles and love to be pierced with tattoos.”
“Dude,” he says. “You are complicated.”
“I’d rather call it peace of mind,” I shrug.
We don’t address each other for the rest of the hour and when the teacher dismisses us, I slip out of my desk so quickly before any of the other students can even notice that I have been there. I look at my schedule and find that I am free for the next two hours and then I have History. I walk to the cafeteria looking at my phone when I bump into someone.
“Keep your eyes up,” growls a guy with a cigarette in his mouth. He doesn’t look like the guys who you’d want to bother. He grabs me by the collar and gets closer, his breath so stank. I wrinkled my nose and coughed twice.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t see you.”
He laughs dryly, “You think apologizing is only what Big G gets?”
“Leave me the hell alone,” I say freeing myself. “I have no time for you.”
He slaps me on the face as I kick him on the groin. He groans and grip at my arm.
“Leave him alone!” snarls a boy.
Tyler struggles between the crowd and push Big G away.
“Stay off him,” demands Tyler.
“Or what?” jeers Big G.
“Or I’ll report you,” say Tyler.
“I’m loved,” says Big G. “All those people will be my witnesses; they adore Big G.”
“We don’t,” says a girl from the crowd. We all look towards her. “You stink, and so arrogant,” says the same blond girl who showed me the class.
Big G looks at her, “Really, America?”
“Yes,” she frowns. “It’s time you have a look on yourself, Gabe.”
He frowns, “You’re on his side?”
“Yes,” she says. “You have to learn your lesson someday. He did nothing to you. So just keep off him, Gabe.”
He presses his lips into a hard line and walk away, “Just for you, Mare. I have no idea why would you defend him, though.”
He walks away and when everyone realises that the fight is over, they walk away as well. Tyler has gone, but the girl walks toward me.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “Gabe is one of the popular guys here. He’s a nice guy. You’re just new to him, that’s all.”
I nod, “Thanks anyway.”
She smiles, “It’s nothing.”
She extends her hand, “I’m America.”
I shake her hand briefly and nod, “I’m Brandon.”
And I walk away.
I find an empty table and sit, I’m not hungry yet but I prefer to sit here a bit than be stuck in my new room. Especially, I don’t want to introduce myself to my roommate. I hope he’s not a nosy person or sticky. I have moved all to London just to stay away from the mess I have been stuck in and the sticky people in my life. My phone rings and I answer.
“Hi,” I say.
“Hi, Brandy,” my mom’s raspy voice answers. I felt my heart swell.
“Hi, mom,” I say. “How’s everything?”
“It’s…fine,” she answers. “How are you? Are you fine?”
“I am mom,” I say. “I started my lessons today.”
“Already?” she asks. “You only moved yesterday.”
“I’m late enough,” I say. “I don’t want to miss more than I already did.”
“You know you could’ve stayed here, Brandy,” she says. “You would have missed nothing.”
“You know I couldn’t, mom,” I say. “But I’m really fine right here. I hope you guys are doing well.”
She takes a shaky breath, “We are. But we miss you. Amelia misses you so much.”
I sigh, “Mom, I’d try to visit someday. But I can’t live there anymore. I just…I need to stay alone.”
“I know you won’t visit,” she says. “And you know it as well.”
She’s right. I’d never visit.
“Is dad happy?” I say.
She stays silent for a few seconds before she answers, “Uh…He is. But we want you back.”
“Dad won’t like me there,” I say.
“But Amelia and I want you,” she says desperately. “Ethan misses you as well.”
I sigh, “Mom. We talked about this. I am old enough to move. I’m nineteen, mom.”
“I know,” she says. “But…you are my favourite. And…I can’t get over this, you leaving us forever.”
“We’d meet somewhere any other day,” I sooth. “Just take care of Amelia, mom. And stay away of Suzanne and her daughter.”
“I will, Brandy,” she says. “Just take care of yourself for mommy.”
“I will,” I promise. “Send my hellos to Amelia and Ethan.”
“Sure,” she says. “I love you, brandy.”
“I love you too, mom.”
We hang up and I feel some guilt bubbling in my chest. I left them with dad and his wife. Suzanne, my stepmother, hates me. She blames me for things I have never done and she made dad hate me as well. She always blames me of things Oswald did and I always get kicked by dad where I have to stay with my only cousin – Janson. I appear at his porch at nights and he ushers me inside without asking any questions. Oswald and Grace, my step siblings always interfere in my life. Oswald has to share my room and I have to sleep on the floor. He gets his nose in all of my business and he sometimes ruins my schoolwork. Suzanne hates mom so much, she always tries to get her in trouble but mom is so wise to care. I always keep sure that Amelia sleeps in with mom and that Ethan gets his own room. My siblings don’t get bothered.
But none of this is what made me move away. It’s all because of what happened last week. Oswald and dad were away. Mom was at work and Amelia and Ethan were attending their classes. There was no one in house except of me and Grace. I was studying when she came to my room.
“Brandon,” she said.
“Can you open Amelia’s room?”
“Why?” I ask. “What do you want?”
“Just open it.”
I refuse and she leaves angrily. After dinner and everyone has been back. Oswald burst in my room angrily and punches me.
“You little bitch!” he growled.
“What do you want?” I shout.
“How dare you?” he yells. “You tried to touch my sister!”
I gap at him, “Your sister is my half-sister. I’m not a psycho, Oswald.”
Dad enters my room and slaps my face. Mom, Ethan, Amelia and Suzanne are standing at my door.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
Dad swears and says words that a parent shouldn’t tell.
“Grace!” he calls. “Come darling.”
Grace walks and stands in my door frame.
“Come, love,” says dad. “What did he do?”
“He – he told me that he loves me,” she sobs without tears but no one seemed to notice. “I told him how stupid he was but he grabbed my wrists and kissed me – me. I p-pushed him and I – and I locked myself in my room.”
I gasp and look at her, ”I did this?”
Dad and Oswald glare at me, she stands behind them and stick her tongue out. The other incidents were a blur where everyone shouted and yelled and then I submitted in this college, got acceptation, packed and left.
I sigh and lean back in my chair. At least I left dad’s house and left all the miss I have been living in. Finally, some freedom.
I look at my watch and decide to go to my room.
I sit at my bed and wait for Jim to finish his shower and get mine. I put my books on my desk table and check my laptop, just when my phone rings and Amelia’s name pop up with her picture. Any guy would kill to get her, my sister is so attractive with long sleek red hair and green eyes.
“Hi,” I say.
“Hiya, Brad!!” she exclaims. “How are you?”
“Great,” I say. “How are you?”
She stays silent, “I’m fine…but I really miss you.”
“I miss you too, Ames,” I say.
“I wish you are here,” she says. “But I know it’s better for you there.”
I smile, “Tell me how are you doing?”
“I’m good,” she says. “I had my results. I passed! Two months and I’ll start my last year in high school!”
“Congrats, Ames!” I exclaim. “I’m so proud of you.”
“We are making a small party,” she says. “I hope you are here.”
“I wish I was there too,” I say. “But…”
“I know,” she sighs. “Mom and dad got in a fight today. Suzanne said that she saw me steeling Grace’s graduation dress and dad shouted at me. Mom tried to defend me but dad was so angry, he slammed the door hardly and took Suzanna, Grace and Oswald to dinner leaving us alone. Well, we were happy we were left alone, but dad is still upset. He doesn’t talk to mom.”
“I’m sorry you are going through all of this, Ames,” I say.
“It’s OK,” she says. “We’re fine.”
“Take care, sis,” I say.
“Why do we speak about things that make us sad?” she says. “How about I visit you some other day?”
“It’s great,” I say brightly. “But you can’t come alone.”
“I’ll come with Janson, he says he’s visiting a friend who’s living there, can I?” she says quickly.
“Of course, Muffin,” I say. “I miss you so much.”
“Me too,” she says. “Got to go, Ethan is calling for me.”
“G’bye,” I say. “Take care, Ames.”
“I will,” she says. “You too.”
After some minutes, Jim gets out of shower with a towel hanging around his waist. I get my shampoo and towel and start a hot shower. When I’m finished and dressed I decide to call Ethan.
“Hello,” he says.
“Hi, Eth,” I say.
“Hiya, Brad,” he says. “How’s it going?”
“Great,” I say. “How are you guys doing?”
“We’re good,” he says. “Dad got in a fight with mom but it’s alright now.”
“Is he treating you and Amelia good?” I ask.
“Yeah, he’s fine,” says Ethan. “He got Amelia a phone as a gift for passing. Grace was crying all day for not getting one.”
“Dad loves you two,” I sigh. “At least I can be sure you two are fine.”
“We are fine,” confirms Ethan. “Don’t worry.”
“Ethan,” I say. “Just take good care of our sister alright?”
“Of course,” he says.
“I can’t bear it if she gets hurt,” I say.
“Nor do I,” agrees Ethan.
We talk for a few minutes and hang up. Jim hadn’t returned to the room since he dressed and left and I was grateful. Maybe he’s the kind of boy who doesn’t spend his time inside. And then again, who doesn’t apart of me?
Exactly. No one.
I check my watch and find that I have fifteen minutes before class starts. I wear black trousers and a white linen shirt. I run my fingers through my damp brown hair and check my reflection. Amelia always says that I am handsome and that if she wasn’t my sister I would have been her crush. Mom says Oswald is jealous that I am so attractive and Ethan tells them that all girls I pass stare and whisper. I smile when they complement me, but I never really care. I know I am good looking, I notice girls staring and pushing each other toward me but I never care. I have too many things packed in my head to care. I take my phone, keys and walk to the building. I meet Tyler at one of the corridors with two other boys.
“Hi, Brandon,” says Tyler.
“Hi,” I reply and walk away before I have to get stuck with them. This time I find History class easily. I knock twice and enter. Students were still shuffling around taking seats and placing their bags and the hall was half empty. I give my ID card to the teacher.
“Brandon,” she says, reading my card. “New here, huh?”
“Yes,” I say.
“I hope you’re not behind,” she says.
I flash her a smile, “No, History and I are hooked.”
She smiles and blushes, I know it’d work. It always works with all my female teachers, just flash them a smile and everything is done. I shake my head and walk to the back of the class, slipping in an empty seat. I take my notebook out and check the time: five minutes before she starts her lecture.
After five minutes, she starts her lecture, no one is sitting beside me so I take my ease at the space I got. After ten minutes through the lecture, the door opens and America gets in, breathless.
“You’re late, America,” says the teacher.
America pants, “I’m sorry, miss Heather. My friend is sick and I was with her.”
“Just take a seat quickly,” says miss Heather. America walks to the back of the hall and looks for an empty seat, when she reaches my row, she smiles and asks if she can sit.
I nod. She puts her bag down and take her notebook out. She puts her hand on her chest and try to slow down her breathing, she reaches for her bag and take out a bottle of water, take some sips and put it back in her bag. I realise that I have been watching her instead of paying attention to the lesson. I start taking notes after miss Heather and ignore America who was scribbling quickly. America leans down and her strawberry hair falls on my hand. I move it away carefully so she doesn’t notice and continue writing.
“And then Adolf Hitler has admitted suicide,” says miss heather.
I write the last piece of information when America moans lightly.
“What year did he die?” she whispers to me.
I look at my notebook and show her my notes, she copies it and smiles.
“America and Brandon,” says the teacher. “Stop talking.”
Everyone turn and look at us, I feel my cheeks heating.
“I’ve only asked him something,” says America innocently.
“You could’ve asked me,” says miss Heather.
“I didn’t want to interrupt you, miss,” says America sweetly.
Miss Heather shakes her head, “Lame excuse.”
But I know she didn’t know how to get herself out of America’s excuse. Everyone look at the board and we spend the rest of the hour writing quietly. Miss Heather dismisses us and I pack my bag quickly. America has packed her bag already and when she walks to the front of the class she steps on her shoelace and fall backward, I get her by the waist and stop her from falling. She blushes and apologise.
“It’s fine,” I say. “I always trip on my shoelace.”
She smiles embarrassingly and kneel down to tie her shoelaces. I walk to Miss Heather’s desk and get my ID card back.
She looks in her drawer and she hands me my card.
“You were distracted through the session,” she says disapprovingly.
“What?” I say. “I have been focusing very well.”
She shakes her head and I walk out of the class. She’s right. I have been distracted. Something was fogging my head but I can’t place my finger on it.
I feel hungry so I walk to the cafeteria. I take a tray and fill it with burger and juice. I find an empty table and sit down when my phone rings.
“Hello, Brand boy,” says my cousin.
“Hi, Baby Johnson,” I smile.
He puffs, “How is college?”
“Great,” I say. “Second Day of Freedom.”
He laughs lightly, “I’ll miss those days when you appear at my door late at night.”
“I won’t miss them though,” I say bitterly.
He laughs, “I’m glad you’re done with the trash you were living in. Anyways, Amelia called me and said that she wants to come with me.”
“Yeah,” I say. I’m glad he’s taking my permission, he knows I’ve drawn some boundaries around Mom, Amelia and Ethan. Especially Amelia. “Who’s the friend you are visiting?”
“We have some project,” he explains. “He’s Tyler. You two might have met.”
“We did,” I say. “We share Calculus and he mentioned that he’s a good friend of yours.”
“Yeah, he is,” says Janson. “Did you like him?”
“He’s fine,” I say. “A little bit nosy.”
“All people are nosy to you, Brand boy,” says Janson.
“I know,” I say. “I need my own space. I mean isn’t life better when everyone is minding their own business?”
He laughs, “It’ll be so boring. There won’t be hanging outs, no arguments not even parties.”
I see America a few tables away walking with a tray in her hands.
“Well, I’d like it much that way,” I say.
“Brandon,” says Janson. “Can you tell me how many friends you have? I’m sure they can be counted on your both hands.”
“They can be counted with one hand, actually,” I laugh. “I mean I don’t have friends. I only have you, my brother and my sister. That’s it.”
“You’re happy like this?” he asks.
“Super happy,” I say.
“You’re so complicated,” he sighs.
“I would call it peace of mind,” I say, remembering what Tyler as said as well.
America is one table away now. She looks up and sees me, checking that my table is empty, she smiles and walk to me.
“Hey,” she says. “I didn’t find any empty table. Can I sit?”
I nod. Of course.
She places her tray and pull the seat opposite to me.
“Dude,” says Janson. “Why don’t you make any friends at your new college.”
I snort, “I hope I’d at least hit it off with my roommate.”
He groans, “Your impossible.”
I laugh lightly, “I have to hang up now. When are you coming?”
“This weekend,” he says.
“Great,” I say. “I’d be glad if you check on mom and Amelia.”
“’Course,” he says.
“Take care of her, Jan,” I say. “My sister is all I have.”
“Sure,” he says. “Never worry.”
“What classes are you attending?” asks America, tugging her hair behind her ear.
I tell her my classes.
“We’re sharing two classes,” she smiles. “History and Bio.”
I smile and nod.
“You’re not a talker, right?” she asks.
I feel my face heating, “Not really.”
She smiles, “I’m not a big talker either but I feel very talkative compared to you. My friend is a very talkative girl.”
“The girl with ginger hair?” I ask.
“I think she hates me,” I say.
She shook her head, “She was just bothered to be interrupted but when she finished her gossip she said “‘Isn’t that guy so handsome?“’ she’s really nice.”
I smile, “Good, I’d rather not be on the bad side of a girl.”
She laughs softly, “Yeah. You better not.”
My phone rings and I answer a strange number.
“Brandon,” says Grace from the other side of the line.
“Uh…Grace?” I say uncertainly.
“Yes, it’s me,” she says.
“What do you want?” I ask.
“Is that how to answer your sister?” she says.
“Just skip it,” I snap. “What do you want? Is my mother OK?”
“She’s good – ”
“Amelia and Ethan?” I ask.
“They are fine but I – ”
“Then what do you want?” I demand.
“I want to apologise,” she says.
“For what?” I say.
“For last week,” she says.
“You don’t have to,” I say. “We’re never seeing each other again. So spare your breath.”
“Brandon,” she says softly. “I know we’re never meeting. I know you hate me, but…but I have to tell you something before we end our bonds.”
“What is it?” I ask.
“I…I…miss you,” she says taking a deep breath. “All I have done is out of jealousy, I always wish I have you caring for me.”