Prologue: The Lost Lord and The Trio
The Lost Lord
Cloaked in darkness an exiled lord squatted in an abandoned castle, and sat on a tarnished ivory throne. There he perched as a ghostly parasite conjured a hellish nightmare to torture his mind. Two moons one full and one crescent sat high in star-washed sky. The sounds of beating hooves drummed the ground. Steam billowed from his steed’s chrome nostrils, as its metal joints screeched under the strenuous ride.
“War mode!”Ezra commanded.
A spiked armored bridal protruded from its mechanized skull as scale mail formed over its body. A few beats behind his apprentice, a young Armiger named Jakob, did the same. A cold stiff breeze chilled them to the bone.
“Chief!”Jakob called out.
Ezra remained quiet ever focused on the destination.
“Dammit boy! I know. Just suit up, and ride!”
They both had sensed the same ill upon the wind. It was the Dark and it whispered death. Jakob’s right hand gripped the reins as his left folded over his body. In a moment of focused thought a swirling mass of concentrated airy energy formed over his palm.
“Bond!” Jakob incanted as his left hand swiftly swept back down to the reins.
The condensed energy washed over his body lightweight scale armor. They galloped through a lush forest weaving through trees and brush with ease. Within moments, the forest parted into the clear sky. In the distance, there was a hill that overlooked their home. Ezra reached its precipice first and halted upon its green steeple. Then like his Armiger, he too manifested his armor from thought and word. However, his had no shine. It was shadowy and heavy plated. Upon his head was a helmet adorned with black Mohawk and four short spiked horns. Together they gazed upon their township engulfed in a hellish conflagration. The Dark had beaten them there, and its armies were plentiful. Anxious to aid Jakob rode ahead.
Meanwhile Lorelei, his beautiful lover, accompanied by Raga- a hulking golden brown wolf, watched from a distance. They both were H’ru shapeshifters she was a follower of the Owl god Striga Raga followed Kainus the wolf. She was a slender honey toned wonder donned in a long grey and golden hemmed grown, like most Owl worshipper, feathered beadings were braided into her long white and brown streaked hair. The chamber resided on the smaller side of castle’s twenty lavish rococo inspired rooms. The previous owner reveled in opulence, but Ezra in his great confliction tossed aside its comforts. Every room in the castle was stripped bare. Only the most meager of furniture remained. Raga had the beautiful pieces that survived Ezra’s rage: white silk curtains with golden borders, oil paintings depicting a noblewoman, and marble statues craved in her visage, boarded up and stored in a separate room.
“The dark ora is getting stronger. He’s been under too long,” said Raga.
“Far too long,” said Lorelei with deep concern as a dark cloak enveloped Ezra’s body. “Lord Wraith is…”
Lorelei interjected, “Don’t call him that! He’s not that…”
“Forgive me my Lady, but that’s what the Lord wishes…”
“It’s what that thing wishes. Not him!” Lorelei retorted.
“He’s becoming more and more like those things every day,” said Raga . “I would end him now, if I could.”
“I’m not going to lose him,” said Lorelei solemnly as she drifted across the bare white marble floor. “I have to bring him out now.”
“Be cautious, my Lady.”
Lorelei smiled, “Am I ever?”
Lorelei inched forward watching as wisps of dark energy flowed and fluttered away from his being. Though driven by great love it was pursued by a healthy amount fear- well deserved fear. As she neared, Ezra’s darkness began to react to her presence-as if it knew her purpose. The entity’s wispy tendrils whipped about lashing out warning her to stay away.
“Ezra, you don’t want to hurt me, I know,” Lorelei said softly as the dark tentacles slashed her exposed skin with paper-thin cuts, which quickly healed. Though she could sense its malice she was not afraid and continued forward.
“Luctus!” proclaimed Lorelei. “Daemon of Sorrow. I call out your name.”
The entity chuckled and spoke in Ezra’s voice, “That’s not my name. I have many, and I have none.”
Lorelei paused she knew its tricks, and steadied her resolved, “You answered.”
“How could I not? Your sorrow is so…invigorating.”
“I will not let you have him,” Lorelei stated then seethed. “ You hear me! Demon!”
Luctus moaned in ecstasy, “Oh, yes…I can give you your beloved. Yes, yes. Let’s give it a go.”
It knew her pain, her longing. It had tasted her sorrow, and it wanted more. The darkness parted from Ezra’s face revealing the visage of the man she loved.
Lorelei paused at the sight of her beloved’s emaciated copper toned face, “Damn you! I will not give you what you want.”
“Yes! Yes! Give me more!”
Raga called out, “Lorelei, steel yourself remember your purpose!”
“To bring him home, “Lorelei affirmed. “To bring him home!”
Lorelei called out to Ezra she knew she couldn’t break its hold alone.
“I know who you are! The man that you are!”
Luctus cackled, “He can’t hear you.”
Lorelei slowly stepped forward, “You hate me. And I know you would kill me if you could.”
“If I could? I am in control!”
Lorelei smirked as she continued her slow march forward, “Really, I don’t think you are.”
Luctus growled his dark tentacles flailed about whipping and lashing her.”
Lorelei brushed off the pain and continued forward, “You can’t kill me! He won’t let you! You can’t break him. You are not in control!”
“You know nothing!”
“You are a parasite!” retorted Lorelei as she slowly absorbed energy from the atmosphere. “A lowly lonesome creature!”
Luctus seethed, “You are nothing! I am the Bane of the World!”
Luctus anger was Lorelei’s plan. The more he raged his focused suffered. She waited for an opening a clear sign that Ezra was near the surface. She waited watching for what seemed like minutes were only seconds then it happened−Ezra’s pupils fluttered under their lids. Lorelei rushed forward the tips of her toes barely touching the floor before they cycled again.
“Ezra I love you! Reach for me. Reach for the light!”
Only she could bring him back from the brink. Like the elf Elyse, she too was also a conduit of energy known as Ora. She was able to absorb it from the atmosphere and repel the darkness to enter the recesses of his mind. Raga watched as she leaped upon the throne and straddled Ezra’s lap. She placed her palms on his cheeks and kissed him deeply. At the moment, the darkness calmed and Luctus faded away.
Ezra exhaled a guttural sigh as she placed her fingers upon his temples. She cleared her thoughts her pupils grew large and bold, and the sclera of her eye turned gold like that of an owl. As she channeled energy through her being and into her hands, the darkness engulfing Ezra’s crawled up his neck and funneled outward slowly swallowed her hands. She winced as the benign defense pricked and pinched her skin. Shrugging off the nuisance she began to meld their subconscious minds.
“Okay…Where are we today?” Lorelei breathed. “Let it be the Fire. Not the Death.”
After a few moments of drifting through murky obscurity, a white light grew from a speck in the darkness. That speck grew bold and flickered, and that flicker, in turn, grew into a roaring inferno.
“The Fire,” Lorelei muttered.
Through his thoughts and his memories, she could feel the heat as if she was really there. Donned in all white like a divine specter her subconscious self-stood in the middle of a cobblestone street. It was a vision replayed over and over in horrid detail. She knew every word that was spoken, and the exact moment of every ill-fated encounter. Wooden homes with roofs of split shakes and slate were engulfed in flames. The steeples of religious buildings crumbled raining brick and stone. Around her shadowy creatures, and corrupted man slaughtered both woman and child. She turned away as Jakob’s sorrowed filled eyes faded to black as he was decapitated by a dark talon hand. Screams bellowed out for salvation as the native N’ru fled in droves. Yumboe Pages donned in Dwarven scale mail aided those fleeing the city, while Armigers tried in vain to extinguish the fires. She knew what was next… The arrival of her love, Ezra First Chosen of Ekain, stoic in presence with eyes wrecked with pain. He rode into the center of his officers. Guardian Shari greeted him with the standard salute: left elbow bent with clench fist over the heart and a nod. Afterward, she began to update him on the situation.
“Chief,” Shari said, “They came without warning. And Jakob…We were dangerously unprepared.”
“Yes, I know,”Ezra lamented. “Tell me have you seen my Wards.
To Yumboes Wards are precious things. would beseech the King for protection and blessings; a Yumboe would then be chosen to protect their family line forever.
“No,”said Shari. “Our Pages and Armigers handled the evacuation…”
“Save as many as you can!”Ezra commanded as he galloped off.
He rode along the cobblestone streets his heart ached as homes burned around him. He could sense a great darkness feeding the flames, but there was no way he alone could stop the conflagration-the city was lost. Lorelei stood in front of the two-story Ekain family home that he had built as a gift and watched as it was swallowed by flames. The screams that surrounded her silenced as she turned to eye Ezra galloping; down the street. He approached with speed and purpose within seconds the steed was upon her. Ezra pulled its reins the animal reared crashing its hooves into the stone.
“You there, it isn’t safe you need to evacuate!”Ezra demanded.
This was the part she hated. Staring him in his brown pained filled eyes, and crushing all hope..
Lorelei sighed, and exhaled she could see the dark aura enveloping him, “You’re too late.”
Ezra stared at her vacantly as he dismounted. Gazing into the flames he dismissed her words and waved them off as nonsense.
“Madam this is not a safe area you need to leave,” Ezra said with calm strength.
As he approached the burning home Lorelei sidestepped cutting him off.
“They’re dead,”said Lorelei.
Ezra’s brow furled as he growled in anger, “Move, woman or I will move you!”
Ezra’s body tensed as he shook in frustration; “I don’t have time for your stupid” he blurted and shoved her out the way.
As she tumbled to the ground Ezra kicked opened the burning door and rushed in.
“This is the moment,” Lorelei thought as she pushed to her feet, and rushed in after him.
Torrid flames danced a hellish waltz around them as wooden beams of ash and ember fell from the ceiling. Ezra stood paralyzed in grief as the blaze cackled a horrid serenade.
“Ezra!”Lorelei screamed out to him.
Ezra turned his face twisted in sorrow and tears welled in his eyes. “Lorelei…? They’re dead…They’re all dead!” he lamented as he dropped to his knees.
Lorelei approached and placed her hand gently on his cheeks, “If you stay here my love, you’ll be lost as well.”
“Then leave me! Let me die here. I’m tired my love…I’m so tired.”
Lorelei knelt down the flames danced around them as she laid her forehead against his, “No you can’t die here. The Prince has been found. You hear me. There’s no honor in dying here! Remember who you are!”
The dark aura that surrounded him began to crack and lustrous shine of his shimmering armor pierced the dark shroud.
“That man is not me anymore. I’m already lost”wailed Ezra as the darkness crept about trying to seal away the shimmer.
Lorelei professed her love as the darkness peeled and flaked away, “As long as we are together, I will never let that happen!” she proclaimed as she bent over and kissed him.
Enveloped in darkness the vision faded to black…
Lorelei still straddled, and like her vision, the two were deep in an embrace. Slowly her eyes opened, and the dark shroud the engulfed his being had faded away.
Lorelei pulled back, “Ezra?” she whispered.
Ezra opened his eyes and the murk that routed them dissipated. Lorelei smiled as she peered into his set of bright silver flaked brown eyes.
“How I long to stay this way,” Ezra smiled. “Alas, my love you know I cannot.”
Lorelei sighed as she dismounted him.
Ezra stood to his feet, and Raga slowly approached the throne. He knew he would want an update.
“The boy’s location still cannot be confirmed,” said Raga.
Ezra unwavered by the news questioned, “The ship?”
“The dwarf has made considerable advancement,” said Raga. “The ship is about 60% repaired and the FTL core is stable.”
“It needs to be above 80% to be suitable for flight,” replied Ezra.
“Understood,” said Raga.
“Prep the Breed I want a horde ready,” said Ezra. “Once that ship launches The King will have no choice but to respond.”
As they headed out the throne room Ezra stole a glance and smiled. Lorelei didn’t notice and he was fine with that.
It was a few minutes before the morning bell. A black painted locker door slammed closed with a thud revealing its owner wiry dark skinned frame- his name was Georgia Shyne. At the same time, lurching through the crowd of teenage bodies were his friends, a willowy framed sparsely freckled red-haired boy named Royce Gooding; walking beside him was a cocoa tone half Puerto Rican an Dominican curly haired girl named Claudia Ramirez. From the outside looking in they were an odd lot, well outside the normal clique structure, but that was just fine with them. Claudia was rich, but rarely wore anything that would be considered designer by the mainstream fashion. She loved small boutiques, and underrated black designers like Tracy Reese, Azede Jean Pierre, and Carly Cushnie. Georgia and Royce towed that so fragile lower middle class line. Royce’s mother still had the camper they slept in for a better part of a year, and Georgia’s parents just bought their first home in black Northwest side of town. Royce carried several thick text books which bogged his body as he battled gravity to stay upright. As he staggered toward his locker, which was a door down from Georgia’s, his friend gave him a mean side eye.
Royce yawned as he sat his books on the floor, and propped his forehead against his locker, “Ugh!” he grunted.
Georgia turned towards him. A curious crinkle arched across his brow, “Dude, what’s up with the extra luggage?” he asked. “You look like shit.”
A throated grunt reverberated off the locker door. It took a Royce a few seconds, but he eventually mustered enough will answer. Claudia stood off to the side. She was still new to the group, so she remained quiet and observed.
“… Extra credit…,” Royce stammered as he lifted his head from the door.
Georgia leaned against his locker. “Dude, I thought we agreed not to burn ourselves out on extra credit?”
A group of student paused briefly, Claudia gave them a sharp glare and with a snide retort they flash detested expressions and continued on their way. Royce opened his locker. A small poster of his favorite anime character, Killua Zoldyck was taped to the lid.
“I told him if he needed help, I’m down,” said Claudia with a shrug, “but he didn’t call me.”
“Really?” queried Georgia. “She of all people offered to help you? And you said no? Nah, nah, that’s odd as hell!”
Claudia knew Royce had a crush on her but he hadn’t acted on it so she waved the comment off. In the meantime, she continued to ward off nosey passersby, with her usual sass and sharp wit.
“Georgia. Don’t!” Royce pleaded in exhaustion.
Georgia shook in frustration, “See that’s that bullshit right there. That’s what I’m talking about.”
Royce sighed as he bent over to pick up the books.
“Hold up…Hold up!” Georgia exclaimed. “Matter of fact you got me thinking. Who books are those anyway?”
Royce paused and glanced up at Georgia with a pale wide-eyed expression. At that moment, Georgia knew what was going on. His nose crinkled his brow furled as a heat churned in his chest.
“Jamie’s man, damn!”
“Oh, hell no!” Georgia seethed as he kicked the stack of books over. “Fuck them books!”
“Georgia!” Claudia implored.
Royce grumbled, “Damn GA I worked hard on that yo!”
“Damn that! And fuck you for being a little bitch!”
Royce exhaustion washed away as he stood erected, and his chest bowed. He hated being called out like that even though his friend’s words had truth. He and Georgia stood face to face.
“Oh, you mad now? Good, be mad all you want. Just as long as you know what we gotta do!”
Claudia knew what the standoff meant, and she wanted no part of it, “It’s too early for this. I’m not getting suspended with y’all this time!” she exclaimed. “I’m going to class!”
Engulfed in ego and pride Georgia and Royce ignored her. She urged them one more time to rethink their stance, but of course, they refused, so in frustration filled huff she carried on to their homeroom solo. The gifted homeroom was on the other side campus. The school district wasn’t equipped to handle unique students but they tried to adjust to fit their needs. They were re-gifted a large warehouse that once belonged to the school’s MJROTC program, which had recently received funding for a better building. Claudia like always was amongst the first to enter.
She placed her books on her center row desk and exhaled an irritated sigh, “Dammit guys. Why couldn’t y’all just let this go?”
Meanwhile, Georgia and Royce began their hunt for Jamie.
“Dude?” questioned Royce.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Georgia grumbled.
Royce shook his head in shame and sighed, “What was I supposed to do? You went home early… He caught me off guard.”
“Not do it! We both had the same training,” Georgia asserted. “Remember sparring practice? What did dad say? “
Royce thought back to that makeshift boxing ring in the garage, “No one is going to save us.”
Georgia’s eyes swept dark the corners, “We were weak then. No more remember. No more!”
Royce’s ears tuned for Jamie’s voice, “Yes, I remember.”
At the same time, Claudia caught a slender visage out her peripheral. A tall lean fellow with curly brown hair strolled into the classroom. It was their homeroom teacher Mr. Robert Lassiter he was the casual sort not too easy going, but easy to talk to. He paused in the doorway his glasses sat low on his face, as he sipped from his, ‘World best teacher’ coffee mug. He was well versed in all his students, names, quirks, classes, even home life, but of all his students the trio was one that beckoned most of his attention.
Robert took a sip from his mug and glanced at his watch, “Claudia early as usual.”
Claudia turned and hid her day’s frustration behind a pretentious smile. “Yup like always,” she said masking an exhaled sigh.
Robert knew them too well, and when it came to Claudia he saw through her. “You seem a little agitated?” he questioned. “Where’s the duo?”
“They’re around somewhere,” she replied. “You know how they are.”
“I know… When those two walk the halls it can be a little disconcerting. Are you sure everything is okay?”
Claudia thought about lying but he had pulled their butts from the fire too many times to counts, so there was no reason to prolong her reservations on snitching any further. “Royce did Jamie’s homework again. Of course, Georgia found out…”
Robert sighed, “Okay, how long ago was this?”
“About five or ten minutes.”
“Okay, you stay here. I’ll go wrangle them,” Robert said then grumbled under his breath. “I swear those boys are too smart to be so damn stupid!”
Claudia nodded and even though it irked her to stay she sat quietly at her desk. Robert placed his mug on his desk and dashed for the door. He quickly checked bathroom after bathroom knowing their methods. He couldn’t count the number of times he had found a known hard head unconscious on the floor. It was rare for them to make a commotion in the halls those moments he hated, because he had little influence over outcome. Someone had to save those boys from themselves, even though they hated being saved. At the same time, more students began to fill the hallways Georgia and Royce homed in on whereabouts Jamie.
“Look there’s Anton,” said Royce pointing toward a stocky white boy in a snug Aeropostale button-down.
“Where’s there’s an Anton there’s a Jamie,” retorted Georgia as they followed him weaving through the mass of students.
As they closed the distance between them their hearts pounded against their chest in perfect unison. It was a feeling they both recognized- fear, and they quickly aimed to control it.
Royce exhaled his body shook with anxiety, “GA…”
Georgia knew his friend he needed to divert his thoughts, before total panic set in.
“Breathe folk…Remember granddaddy’s ranch.”
“Yeah,” said Royce with a pause then a smile, “… remember my switch to southpaw.”
“I remember I countered that shit with a jab cross,” grumbled Georgia.
“Yeah, but I hit you flush though.”
“It was luck,” retorted Georgia.
“I still won,” Royce exclaimed.
“By split decision,” retorted Georgia. “And I think the judge was lil’ bias.”
“It was your dad!” Royce exclaimed.
“Whateva you owe me a rematch.”
Georgia distraction worked and they found themselves a few feet away from Jamie and his crew. Six sophomores evenly split between boys and girls surrounded Jamie’s light skinned polo drenched framed. They exuded the pompous confidence that often came with letterman jackets, Aeropostale , and Hollister guises. Jamie Roseland was the football team’s wide receiver, not the star athlete, but good enough for some admiration. One of Jamie’s cohorts spotted them in the crowd and gestured his attention. The throng suddenly parted, and the duo found themselves alone on tile laden island. Georgia exhaled his fear Royce pushed his too his gut. Jamie turned and scowled a confrontation wasn’t how he wanted to start his day.
“Yo, you got that for me already?” queried Jamie as he played to the crowd. “You guys work fast, I gotta say.”
Their dance wasn’t new, but it rarely played out in public.
“Yo, I ain’t got nothing for ya,” Royce retorted back.
Jamie coolly gestured toward his squad, and smirked, “It’s cool you got till 3rd period.”
Georgia scoffed, “Like my boy said… he ain’t got nothing for ya.”
Jamie’s smirked faded and his brow wrinkled in detest, “That’s twenty percent of my grade, man.”
Aton looked and turned at Jamie with wide eyed worry, “Dude, I was supposed to copy that off you man. I can’t fail that class.”
“Not my problem,” said Royce.
“It’s gonna be a problem!” Aton exclaimed as he stepped forward with chest bowed.
Jamie hand darted upward cutting off his advance just as Robert broke through the crowd.
“Alright everyone break it up! Go to your classes!”
Royce exhaled a relieved sigh as the murmuring crowd dissipated. Royce and Georgia turned around to a very stern faced Robert. Jamie took the opportunity to ease away in the opposite direction, while Aton charted a path between them and shoulder bumped Royce as he passed. Robert said nothing he just pointed towards the homeroom and walked the boys to class. It was long before the principal caught wind of the minor incident, and charted a course to the ones he knew were responsible. After a not-so short silent walk, they made it to homeroom. Robert and the duo stood outside of the class.
“So where’s the homework you did for Jamie Royce?” asked Robert.
Royce shrugged, “What homework?” he queried.
Robert sighed, “Really you two? Really? If I were to check your lockers right now what would I find?”
“You’ll find all sorts of stuff in my locker, but we still don’t know what you are talking about,” said Georgia.
Little did Robert know that during the commotion Claudia had scooped up the wayward papers, and destroyed the evidence.
“So that’s the way you’re going to play it?”
“Play what?” questioned Royce. “I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Me either,” said Georgia.
Robert sighed, and shook his head in frustration, “Okay, go to your seats.”
As they entered the dimly lighted room they turned and glared at Claudia. She shrugged as they took their seats. Robert took a roll call, and a few minutes later the end of homeroom bell rang signaling a brief class break. Like there rest of their classmates, they began a long track across the unpaved parking lot to the nearest campus break area. The trio was quiet as they that was until Royce broke the silence.
“Why did you do it?” queried Royce.
Claudia replied, “Because of him,” she said with pointed nod aimed at Principal Crabass who stood by the rest area exit like a stone gargoyle.
Georgia and Royce had a target on their backs and by association so did Claudia. She rarely wished ill will upon anyone but Principal Crabass or Crab-ass they called him was a special case. Nevertheless, she wanted him to die and not a peaceful death something violent and bloody. To know him was to understand why, and as black republican go he was one of the worse. His self-hate was so deep it visible to everyone but himself, and he wore intolerance upon his sleeves like a badge of honor. He even had a portrait of Sheriff David Clark hanging in his office.
“I get it,” said Georgia. “But you’ve been friends with us long enough. You know that’s not how we work.”
“I know,” said Claudia. “But when I see people I care about acting recklessly I’m not going sit by and just watch. Y’all should know by now that’s not who I am.”
Georgia smiled, “Dude she just said she cares about us. Awe how sweet,” he joked.
Claudia rolled her eyes, “Whateva…”
Royce swayed and bopped up and down, “You like us. You like us,” he joked.
“Like a fat kid loves cake,” retorted Claudia. “Haven’t y’all geniuses forgotten about the paper?”
Georgia and Royce’s eyes widened in unison, “Oh shit!”
“Oh shit is right,” said Claudia. “You lucky I covered y’all asses, and got rid of it.”
The duo exhaled a relieved sigh they rushed in and gave Claudia a huge playful hug.
“No… get off me,” Claudia said in playful jest. “What have I told y’all about nonconsensual touching?”
“Whateva, sue us.”
The day churned along and soon it was time for there was AP US History, which was taught by one Ms. Valerie Lawson. She was an elderly white woman in her mid-seventies, a child of the 60’s more radical counter culture movements. Her long dreaded hair was streaked with gray, and she favored long comfortable dresses with sandals. The class was filled with various students ranging in age from sophomores to seniors. Her teaching style often landed her in the crosshairs of the districts more conservative parents, and by default the principal. Truthfully, she hated the school curriculum and found it severely lacking but weaved it in between selections of history the textbooks leave out. The trio was separated Claudia sat between a group of lacrosse players which Royce hated. He sat in the middle aisle while Georgia’s desk was next to the window. Royce tried not to stare, in all honesty, he wasn’t sure how he felt; he just knew Claudia was special to him. One thing was for certain the sight of those smiling trust-funded lacrosse players irked his last nerve.
A stiff finger poked him on the shoulder jolting him out of his head.
“Mr. Gooding? Earth to Major Gooding?” Ms. Lawson asked. “Your thoughts?”
“On what?” Royce asked.
“Clyde Kennard?” replied Ms. Lawson. “Your reading assignment?”
Royce exhaled a sigh while simultaneously twiddling his finger which aiding his thought process, “I was a little shocked by the story,” he said. “They framed the man with stolen chicken feed, so he couldn’t continue his education. I mean where’s the justice in that?”
“Yes, it was an injustice, Mr. Gooding,” said Ms. Lawson as she turned and continue to pace up and aisle. “Amongst the many during the time; he was just one of few seemingly forgotten martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement such as Juliette Hampton Morgan, Vernon Dahmer, and Jimmie Lee Jackson.”
Ms. Lawson rounded the room rapid firing questions. It just so happened one of the lacrosse players had gotten an easy one wrong, and it made him chuckle. Ms. Lawson snapped around and caught the exhaled remnants of the outburst fluttering around him.
“Is there something funny about the plight of people of color during the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Gooding?” queried Mrs. Lawson.
Royce regained his composure and stiffened his posture, “Um, no ma’am.”
“Well then March 21, 1965?”
“Umm, what about it?”
“What do you mean? It is in your notes. Like everyone else,” Ms. Lawson stated. “What happened on that day?”
For a moment his mind went blank, and as he started to thumb through his notes. She halted him.
“Don’t touch that paper Mr. Gooding!” Ms. Lawson commanded. “Search that wondrous wayward brain of yours and give me an answer.”
Royce tapped his fingers rhythmically on his desk, as his mind scanned through dates and times hoping to give her the right one, so she would leave him alone for the day.
“Viola Liuzzo was shot when she was driving a black teenager to Selma.” Royce stated. “Is that right?”
“Correct, Mr. Gooding,” said Mrs. Lawson. “Over 300 people attended her funeral including Dr. Martin Luther King and Jimmy Hoffa.”
Royce exhaled a sigh of release as she continued on, and didn’t call on him again for the rest of the day.
Before Royce knew it the class was over. The bell rang signaling lunch. As Claudia went to the rest room to wash up Georgia and Royce had a heart to heart.
“Dude, I saw you in class, man. Why don’t you just tell her?” questioned Georgia.
“Dude you’ve seen how she lives. My whole house can fit in her living room. And those lacrosse players take trips to Spain and shit, yo.”
“Well, I’m not going to say she doesn’t care money. If I had her money I would,” said Georgia. “But she’s friends with us for a reason. Never once has she bragged about it or thrown her wealth in our face, man.”
Coming from Georgia that brief insight held major weight. When Claudia first arrived it too him about two weeks to trust her.
“True,” said Royce.
“I’m just saying she’s good people. Don’t wait too long to shoot your shot might miss your chance at a game-winner.”
Just then Claudia came out the rest room.
“What are you guys talking about?” she asked.
“Oh…pizza or salad,” Georgia deflected.
They entered the lunch room through a set of duel wooden doors, and embraced the chaos of the ruckus teen masses. Like most lunch room settings the cliché cliques had their tables, and the trio had theirs. They waded through separate lunch lines all the while eyeing their table. Georgia and Claudia chose pizza Royce opted for the salad bar. Their table resided near the westernmost windows, which peered out to the patio eating area. To the north of them were two glass double doors that led to the outside. Georgia and Royce opted for that table mainly out of strategy. Claudia understood something to that effect, but she didn’t ask why. She just went along with the flow. The double doors made for an easy getaway if needed. Georgia set with his back to the window from his position he could see the entire lunch room. Royce always sat across from him so he could gaze out the window and cover Georgia’s back. Claudia sat beside Georgia she liked studying Royce’s mannerism. As loud idle chatter resonated around them, they chatted about assignments and the weekend. Eventually, Georgia cycled around to Royce’s homework issue.
“Listen Royce about this Jamie thing….”
Royce interrupted him, “I know what you’re going to say, and I’m down.”
Georgia was momentarily stunned, “Really?”
Claudia head tilted in intrigue.
Royce fiddled with the lettuce in his bowl, “I gave it a lot of thought, and you’re right. Those first few months were hell, man,” he said. “I’m not going back.”
Georgia nodded and smirked, “About time you grit those teeth.”
Royce smiled he was one of the few who got Georgia’s anime reference, “Yeah, bro I snapped out of it.”
Georgia grabbed a salt and pepper shaker and one of Royce’s dressing packets, “Awesome!” he exclaimed as he pushed his tray aside. “Here’s the plan. Chances are he’ll probably hit up again this afternoon for more homework. Lazy bastards are creatures of habit.”
“Yeah, I’m thinking probably around 2 o’clock,” said Royce. “When you left early Monday that’s what time he got me.”
Claudia eyes widened, “Wait are y’all really planning what I think you’re planning?”
Royce chuckled, “… Yeah, this is when we do all your planning.”
Claudia sighed, “Y’all aren’t going to change are y’all.”
“Of course, but for right now this is how it has to be,” said Georgia.
Claudia exhaled, “Okay, I’m down. What do you need me to do?”
Royce head shook in shock, “What…? No, Claudia this really isn’t your thing. I mean what about…”
Claudia gave Royce a sharp glare there was something she told him in confidence that she didn’t want Georgia to know yet.
Royce caught the glare, and amended his reply,“ …Well if you want to we kinda need a look out.”
Georgia used a salt shaker to represent the lockers. “ So she’s down… Okay, Royce I need you to meet with him at the edge of lockers near the freshman wing,” he said “They’re usually in class during our rotation. Claudia I need you to stand at the edge of the wall and keep an eye out for Crab. I’ll hang back in the crowd and watch, cool?”
Royce nodded and leaned in pushing his salad to the side.
Georgia moved the dressing packet left of the lockers to represent the bathroom, “Ease him down towards the boy’s bathroom. I’ll pass by and go in first. To make sure ain’t nobody in there.”
“Cool, cool,” said Royce. “Sounds like a snatch and grab, huh?”
“Yup, I’ll wait by the door and listen. When you get close enough give me a signal, and I’ll open the door-”
Royce interjected, “I push him.”
Georgia continued on, “Yup, and I’ll snatch his ass in, and you lock the door.”
Royce chuckled, “Sounds like a plan.”
“How many times have y’all done this?” asked Claudia.
Georgia smiled, “Hey, what can say… It’s what I do.”
“I hoped he doesn’t take this ass whooping personally,” joked Royce.
“I hope he does, so he can get it again,” said Georgia.
With a firm strategy in place the day trotted along, and 2p.m came along before they knew it. The bell rang, signaling the end of another class. Georgia hung back in the crowd of students, his attention focused on his friend. Claudia took her position by the wall. Royce stood by the lockers at the end of the hall when out of the corner of his eye; he spotted Jamie swaggering toward him with several textbooks in tow.
“What a douche,” Georgia thought.
Sure enough Jamie approached him again with a similar proposition.
Overflowing with pretense he placed an arm around Royce’s shoulder, “Listen, about earlier man…You how it is right when you’re around friends. They expect you to act a certain way, man. That ain’t me, man.” he queried
“Eww,” Claudia thought.
“I know, you’re too damn lazy to do your own work,” Royce thought. “Yeah, I got you.”
“Listen Royce, how would you like to earn a few extra dollars. My boy LJ was wondering if you would do his science homework? ” asked Jamie. “I figured a brain like you should be able to breeze right through it.”
Royce graciously took Jamie’s books and started to play his role. He glanced over his shoulder at his friend; Georgia gave him a reassuring nod and the mission was underway.
“Sure, um, walk with me real quick,” said Royce. “I don’t want people to hear. You know, keeps us out of trouble.”
Jamie nodded his head as they walked, “I gotcha, I gotcha smart guy, but listen though,” he replied. “I was wondering… But it’s totally up to you, if you wouldn’t mind helping me out with my algebra homework from time to time? Shit’s like Greek, you kno’ what I’m say’n. Of course, I’ll toss in a lil’ something myself?”
Georgia trailed a few steps back as Royce continued to play his role. He kept Jamie occupied as Georgia stealthily breezed by and signaled ten seconds with his hand. Royce acknowledged with a nod and began to countdown in his head. Georgia darted into the restroom. He checked the stalls to make sure they were empty and took his post by the door.
“Damn they got this down to art form,” Claudia though as she continued to keep an eye out for teachers.
At the same time, Royce and Jamie approached the bathroom door. Their muddled voice resonated through the door.
Georgia proceeded to count down the remaining seconds in his head, “5 Mississippi, 4 Mississippi…”
Synchronized in thought Royce dropped the books he was carrying on the floor, “Oh damn my bad,” he said as papers and pens scattered about.
Georgia heard the brief commotion through the door and readied. In that moment of brief confusion, Royce scurried behind Jamie and pushed him with all his might. As he stumbled back Georgia swung the door open. With a quick step out, Georgia jumped up, and grabbed Jamie’s shirt collar and yanked him inside.
“What the…!” Jamie uttered as he tripped over his own legs and his body lumbered to the floor.
Royce jolted in a locked the door. As Jamie struggled to his feet Georgia rushed him with a fierce overhand right to the jaw. Jamie’s body buckled to the floor, his forehead banged against the tile.
“My boy isn’t doing your damn homework anymore. You feel me!” exclaimed Georgia.
Jamie’s head pounded his vision was hazed, “… What?” he mumbled.
As he crawled to his knees Royce rushed him, and gave him a vicious kick to his ribs. Air exploded from his lungs and he collapsed to the floor again. His body wrenched in pain. “You heard him I’m not doing your homework… And fuck LJ too!”
“Okay,” Jamie whimpered as drool and blood dripped from his chin.
“Who’s LJ?” Georgia asked.
Royce shrugged, “Some dude he knows.”
Georgia replied with a shrug, “Fuck LJ too,” he said as a knock reverberated through the bathroom door. Time to go. ”
They left Jamie there to suffer, and as they exited another boy tried to enter the bathroom. Georgia sidestepped to block him, and made up a quick excuse. “You don’t wanna go in there man, toilet water is everywhere.”
“Ew, really?” questioned the boy.
“Yup,” Royce cosigned. “Somebody dropped a big ol’ deuce!”
The boy frowned in disgust and went on his way. Claudia gave them the all clear and the rest of the day went smoothly, and the trio eventually went home and scratched off another well fought day.
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