Chapter One (The present, Saturday “Morning?”)
Lars woke up with an ache in his back, staring up at the afternoon sky above him. He did not know where he was, except for the fact that wherever it was, it had an unmistakable “nature” smell to it, dirt and leaves. This might also be caused by the bright sun shining directly into his eyes, as he tried to recount the way he had ended up in such a place.
Now that he was looking directly at it, he didn’t remember the sky being that shade of blue, usually, the sky was a light baby blue. Not that the sky was now navy blue or the color of Crayola markers, but it seemed deeper than usual, brighter.
It was then that he remembered how he might have fallen asleep in the woods, he had gotten blackout drunk at a house party.
“Shit,” he sighed.
Three Days ago, Wednesday Morning
The August morning had a crisp cool wind that blew throughout the street, that wasn’t too cold to require a jacket, but just cool enough to wake you up as it whipped past your face. Lars stood on the city street waiting for his morning bus to take him to his first day of Junior Year, as well as his first day at his new school. His reddish-brown hair occasionally whipping him in the face, his bomber jacket keeping the morning chill from bothering him. He had recently moved to a new town because of his mom’s job, in which she didn’t want to commute all the way to his old school just so he could be with his old friends, he understood her reasoning, but he still didn’t like it.
So he stood outside waiting for the giant yellow bus to pull up next to him. His head perked up at a sharp, “Morning.” As someone walked next to him. He turned to see someone walking up to him. He was dressed in a tweed jacket and loose light blue jeans, with a wallet chain swinging from his side. He was tall and lanky and had long wavy pink hair which was all swept to the side, giving a llama-like look.
“Good morning,” Lars said, before going back to staring at nothing.
“I’m Joseph,” the pink-haired person said, sticking out his hand, “Joey for short.”
“Lars,” he said, ignoring the hand.
“I’m guessing you’re new?” Joey pointed out.
“Yep,” Lars said, wishing he could run away from the conversation.
He was glad once Joey shut up and the bus came slowly down the road, groaning as it slowed to a stop at the two students. Joey entered the bus first and the two of them sat at the back of the bus.
“Hey,” Joey said, trying to get Lars’ attention, “I don’t want to be that guy, but I feel you should know, if you meet a dude named Randall, stay clear of him. He’s a bit of an asshole and is just generally creepy.”
“How so?” Lars asked, cocking an eyebrow, he wasn’t sure if he should just listen to some stranger.
“He’s my friend’s ex,” Joey explained, “It didn’t end very well.”
“Why’d they break up?”
“That is none of your business,” Joey said, “Just watch out for him.”
Lars nodded and turned to look out the window. The bus drove off, giving Lars plenty to look out as it strutted past the homes of his supposed schoolmates. Soon enough it pulled into the school’s main driveway.
Lars stood up and began shuffling off the bus with the rest of the highschoolers into a main courtyard. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, he stared at the doors leading inside and let out a breath. “Come on Lars, time to force yourself into a social mood.” He jumped as Joey slapped his hand down onto his shoulder.
“As a new student, I feel obligated to at least show you around the school so you’re not so much of a fish out of the water,” Joey explained, “Come on.” He gestured for Lars to follow. Not having anything better to do, Lars did so.
Joey lead him through a series of hallways showing him where all the teachers, cafeteria, bathrooms, the gym, pretty much everything he needed to know, just in case. Finally, he stopped in front of a door and smiled.
“This is Mr. Samuels room,” Joey explained, “He’s the English and history teacher. He’s fucking fantastic.” He opened the door and entered, Lars followed as Joey shouted, “I have brought fresh meat!”
The two people in the room stopped whatever conversation they were having and stared at the two students entering the room. One of them was a blond girl in a leather jacket, leather combat boots, and black leggings, wearing a choker and lots of black makeup, her hair put in a braid. The other looked like a lost college professor. He wore a tweed jacket similar to Joey’s and brown slacks, he had short-cropped hair and a trimmed beard, both brown with specks of grey in them. The girl was sitting in a desk at the back of the room, and the teacher, presumably Mr. Samuel leaned on his desk.
“Ah,” Mr. Samuel said, he gestured to the girl, “Charlotte and I were just discussing something when you walked in. But that can wait, I don’t think I have met you.” He looked at Lars with piercing green eyes. “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“Guilty as charged,” Lars smirked, “Just moved into town in July.” He moved into one of the dozens of empty seats and looked at his schedule.
He looked up at the sound of clacking combat boots as the girl walked up to him and sat on the desk he was sitting at. “Hello,” She said, “I’m Charlotte.” She lifted her hand to him, and he shook it. “I like your jacket,” She rubbed his shoulder and smiled.
“Thanks,” Lars said, glancing at her hand.
She glanced at his schedule, “It appears this is your first class, what a coincidence?”
“Indeed,” Mr. Samuels said, lifting up a thermos and taking a drink of whatever was inside, probably coffee. “So Lars, why’d you move?”
“Mom’s job,” Lars explained, he could swear he saw a slight twitch in the teacher’s eye. “Moved here because she found a new one.”
“What of your father?” he said, Lars now realizing his strange pseudo-British accent.
“That’s personal,” Lars said.
“Answer the question,” the teacher almost commanded, “I am your teacher, and you will do as I command you to.”
“Excuse me?” Lars asked.
Mr. Samuels shook his head, “My apologies.” He smiled, “The coffee hasn’t set in yet. Still a bit grumpy.” He sat back in his chair.
Lars looked up at Charlotte with a concerned look, she shrugged and leaned down to whisper, “He does that sometimes, especially in the mornings. Don’t worry, he’s cool.” She leaned back, “Yeah, he got the job last year after the last teacher had ‘sexual relations’ with a student.”
“I will not comment on that,” Mr. Samuels said, “I do not wish to spread rumors.”
“Relax,” Joey piped in, “She was 18. It was great, I was there the day it happened, we all raided his desk. I stole like 5 full-sized butterfingers from his safe.”
The bell rang, causing the three of them to jump a little.
Joey stretched, “Well I’m off, I’ve got Math Apps. Charlotte, try not to eat this one.” He left the room, before sticking his head back on and made the, “I’m watching you.” Gesture with his two fingers, in turn, Charlotte flipped him off.
Lars turned to her, “What did he mean by that?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Charlotte said, “He’s just being an ass, he’s always like that.”
The class continued as people began to shuffle to their seats and Mr. Samuels began to teach the class. Luckily for Lars, it was the first day of school, leading him to not be too lost as the teacher began to read off the syllabus and make jokes at the expense of students he already knew, such as Charlotte and a few others. He did assign a group assignment, and when the students began to split off into groups, Charlotte volunteered to help Lars with the work.
They moved their desks together and began working.
“So how do you like Bradson so far?” Charlotte asked.
“It’s alright so far,” Lars answered, “Pretty close to the city, very different from where I moved from.”
“Where’d you move from,” Charlotte asked.
“Lincoln,” Lars said, “Lot’s of farms and ranches, sprawling fields and little patches of trees.”
“Sounds neat,” Charlotte commented, “Very different from the sprawling suburbs you live now. White picket fences, nuclear families all around.” Her voice had a cynical tone to it.
“Do you have a ‘nuclear family’” Lars asked.
“Nah,” She answered, brushing the question aside, her voice perch up to a slightly happier tone“By the way, my friend Lawerence is having a party this Friday. It’s really casual, think of it as a ‘welcome back party.’”
“I’ll think about it,” Lars said, though he didn’t mean it. What he was really planning on doing was sit in his room and play video games until he passed out. He had no interest in going to parties, especially when the only person he would know there was some goth girl he had just met. But he wanted to be polite.
“Cool,” she said, “I hope to see you there.” She looked at the clock, “The bell’s about to ring, we’ve got different classes. I hope to see you Friday and continue our conversation.” As she said this, the bell rang and the class packed up their stuff, leaving Lars alone.
The rest of the day went by Lars’ eye as he faded in and out of zoning out as the teachers went past syllabus after syllabus, introduction after introduction. He felt as if he was half awake the entire day, like a partial trance as classes faded in and out of existence. He eventually awoke from his sleep when the final bell rang, letting him leave to the bus.
As he climbed into the backseat, Joey climbed into the one across from him and nodded towards him in agreement, giving him a sort of grin. “You coming to Lawrence’s party?”
“You know about that?” Lars asked.
“It wasn’t a secret,” Joey countered, “Charlotte mentioned it at lunch. So, are you coming?”
“Maybe,” Lars said, trying to avoid the conversation, “I’ll think about it.”
“Well,” Joey said, “We’ll probably have fun without you.” He then turned to look out the window.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t coming,” Lars defended himself.
“So you’re coming?” Joey said, paying more attention with seconds to spare.
“I didn’t say that either,” Lars backpedaled.
“What do you plan on doing Friday?” Joey asked.
He was planning on playing video games, but instead, Lars simply said “Nothing.”
“You lead a sad existence,” Joey commented.
“I do not,” Lars said, offended, “I was very happy existence.”
“Doing ‘nothing’ on a Friday night?” Joey asked, “When the hot blond goth invited you to a party as her plus one?”
“Yes!” Lars shouted.
“Okay listen,” Joey said, “Imagine this, you spend your Friday night doing nothing, then you spend the next Friday night doing nothing, and then the next, and the next, and the next. Soon enough you’ve spent all your Friday nights doing jackshit, you accomplished nothing in high school and you’ve married some boring-ass woman you met on E-Harmony, you’re depressed and while at your boring dinner with your boring wife, eating boring pasta, you’ve realized you’ve done nothing worthwhile and you want to put a bullet in your head. Do you want that?”
“No,” Lars responded.
“Good,” Joey said, “So you’re coming?”
“Fine,” Lars snapped.
“Great!” Joey exclaimed, “I’ll see you there.”
They sat in silence for the rest of the bus ride until the bus came to a final stop. As the two stepped off, they gave a goodbye and began to walk in opposite directions. As he walked home, Lars began to wonder what he had just gotten himself into.