“Pass the ball, Seb! I’m open!”
The ball came flying towards me and I caught it, already used to the force of the ball when it comes along from a distance. “Good pass!” I called out before I looked out and saw Frederick out in the open. “Fred! The pass is on you!”
The boys tried to cover him up but failed as the ball swished past them and landed into the arms of Frederick. It was Fred’s turn to pass it along and he chose Toby since he was the closest one that was open. Frederick threw the ball and Troy caught it with ease, but there had been a minor fault they had done in the course of it. By the look on Frederick’s face-- he’d realized it.
I called them all over. “You know what I always say. Practices are meant to learn from your mistakes,” I gave him a knowing smile and he shared an ‘oops, I screwed up again, didn’t I?’ look with me, “but that pass was well-explained before, I believe. Don’t make the pass too obvious or it doesn’t take too long for anyone to intercept the ball. Got it? Your eyes lingered on him as soon as you caught the ball and stayed there till you threw it.
Look at all your options-- don’t take too long, but have a quick look nonetheless. Granted, passing it to Troy was the best option at that moment of time, but that was a lucky pass. Did you see Xavier behind him? What if it went a little over? In that case, Daniel would have been a better option. This time, we’re focusing more on the throws and passes; we’re not trying too hard to intercept. . .that was the reason Troy even caught the ball without any hesitance. Am I clear or do we need to repeat this one more time?”
“You’re clear,” everyone chorused.
“On the field, boys!”
“Got it, Captain!”
I’d gotten used to hearing that over time. At first, I told them that I preferred Sam, but they were some stubborn people. They never stopped calling me that-- especially in practice. Eventually, I gave up, deciding that they could call me whatever the heck they wanted. Even “Captain”. All it ever did was make me wanna quote Spongebob SquarePants everytime I heard it.
There was another hour or so of passes and then the daily sprints around the field. Ten rounds continuously. Sometimes we stretched it up a little bit. Coach Meyers usually timed us. That exercise was one of the most important ones since it helped us built both our stamina and our speed. Every day was a day where you had to aim to beat the score you had the previous day all in the goal to make yourself better.
After one sweaty practice session, Seb and I said our goodbyes and walked together home. It was our little thing. . . kind of. It was the time we got together properly. We’d walk for around thirty to forty-five minutes till we’d reach home and just talk about the things that were going on in our lives. We’d share things we didn’t want our parents to know. . . like whether we got a bad mark on a certain subject or whatever. . .
It wasn’t like our parents would get too mad or anything, it was just the look on their faces that made us feel like we could do better. So, instead, we kept it to ourselves and shared it with each other. Then, we’d work harder for the next exam and made sure we got those grades we wanted. Since both of us were exceptionally smart from the very start, it wasn’t much of a problem-- but we all had bad days.
The both of us had our minds set on scholarships from the beginning, too. We came from a normal family. We had enough money to provide a good home and all the necessities we needed but weren’t too rich. My family was a simple one. We were never into buying those luxurious cars, watches, or anything like that. If we needed something, we’d have it.
But that was the best part about my family. We were happy the way we were. We didn’t need those expensive items that were there for display. We needed each other’s support and love. That’s it.
We talked about the latest prank he pulled on Mr. Hale by putting a chewing gum under the mug of coffee he always drank from. We talked about how the janitor lady finally quit her job. A bunch of random things. He filled me up onto his life; I filled him up on mine.
Just the way it always went.
That was officially the last time that happened.
The next day after our usual practices, he came up to me-- jogging. “Yo, Sam. I don’t think I can make it home early today.”
“Oh, really?” I asked as his words spiked my interest. The interest was soon replaced by curiosity and I found myself asking, “Why so?” My tone wasn’t accusing, it was casual if anything. But I don’t think Seb found it that way.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Don’t you trust me? This honestly is the first time this happened.”
“Woah, woah, woah. . .hold up,” I held a palm out facing him in a stop motion as I gave him an incredulous look. “No need to go all crazy on me. I didn’t say anything. I just wanted to know what to tell mom and dad when we-- I reach home. And what is the problem if I want to know? Wouldn’t you ask the same question if I told you something like that?”
He took a deep breath in and closed his eyes. “Sorry, I’m just really anxious at the moment,” his eyes darted to something behind me and then focused on me. It was an action that took only a little longer than a second, but I found something fishy and turned around to see what was behind. Nothing. I turned back to face him. “What?” he asked in question to my turning around.
“Is there something behind?” I asked with my eyebrows furrowed.
“No?” he said it as if it were obvious. “Why, what’s wrong?”
I shook it off. “Nothing,” I smiled at him. “You were saying . . ?”
“Yeah. I, well-- I got caught for the first time while pulling a prank on the teacher--”
“Seb,” I strained my voice disapprovingly. “I like to have fun doing these silly pranks too, but there’s a limit on how much you can do. And as far as we’ve talked about, you’ve exceeded it a long time ago. You were bound to get caught at the rate you were going at.”
“I know, I know. But it’s not my fault the professor added in an extra security camera right under the desk behind me! It was so small that even the guy sitting behind me didn’t notice it!”
I chuckled, a smile making its way onto my face. “Only you, Seb. Only you,” I sighed. “Ok, then. I’m going home. Enjoy detention,” I added with a smirk on my face.
He just stuck his tongue out at me. “I sure will.”
It was a rather boring walk home. A forty-five-minute walk seemed like it lasted for over two hours. Yup, that boring. I had nothing to do but to ponder over my activities of the day like I usually did and talk to myself in my imaginary head as if I were talking to Seb. What could I do? It’d become a habit for me.
Dad wasn’t home yet and mom was cooking dinner when I came in through the door.
“I’m home,” I said to no one in particular, but considering there was only one person in the house apart from me, myself. It was probably and unconsciously heeded towards my mom.
“Hey, sweetie!” she came over to me and kissed my cheek. “Hungry?”
“Just a little, but I can wait till both Dad and Seb come home.”
“Okay, then. Wait a second, where’s Seb?”
“Um. . .” my head swirled in thoughts as I wondered whether I should lie for him or just say the truth. I mean. . . he didn’t specify anything. And I didn’t want to lie to mom if there was no reason not to. Hopefully, he wasn’t going to get an earful once he comes back. That way, we both can live a happy life. I didn’t want him getting angry at me now, did I? “He got a detention. Teacher caught him doing a stupid prank,” I told mom begrudgingly.
Mom sighed angrily. Oh no. “I don’t know what to do with this boy. He always has to walk on thin ice. Didn’t we warn you two not to pull any more pranks for the whole year when we last got a call from your principal saying that she had a doubt you two were behind a lot of pranks? The only reason you didn’t get it into your records was because you both never got caught.”
“Hey! Don’t bring this on me! I haven’t done a prank in a long time now--”
“Wait for him to come back,” she hissed. “I’m going to kill that boy. No video games for a whole two weeks.”
“Come on, mom. It’s just a detention once. I’m sure it’ll be a lesson for him to sit in that boring room for two hours. Let him off this time, please? For me?” I begged, pulling off the best look I could muster to try to convince her.
“Sam. . .” she put her head in her hands.
“It’s just once!” I tried to reason with her.
She narrowed her eyes at me before she finally melted down. “Okay. Make sure it never happens with him again?”
“I’ll make sure. One hundred percent,” I smiled at her and jumped on her to give her a tight hug. “You’re the best mom!”
“You both are always up to no good,” she laughed. “Go freshen up. You don’t smell that great either. Take a quick shower, actually. Do your homework if you have any and then we’ll both wait for those two to come in. You’re gonna help me in the kitchen?”
I gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Once I’m done taking a shower. . .for sure.”
“I agree. Can’t have you around with that stinky smell of yours, now can we?” she smiled.
“Mom!” I whined with my lips that were once formed into a smile now changing its course of action and turning into a pout. “Stop insulting me like that!”
She just held her hands up.
Sure enough, after taking a shower and directly helping mom since I had no homework left, they both came in one after the other. I bumped shoulders with Seb. “How was the detention?”
He groaned. “Never going into that classroom again.”
“Mom was pretty angry--”
“You told her?!” his voice was of shock and betrayal. “Sam!”
“Relax, I have it all under control. No more pranks for you, though.”
He groaned again. “Ugh.”
I just shrugged. “Yup. Life’s unfair, little boy.”
“I’m just a minute and a half younger than you,” he gave me a look.
“Well, sucks to be you. You’re still younger, aren’t you?” I bit back a smile and winked at him.
Dinner and sleep rolled by quickly. And soon, it was a bright new morning. After the usual school and football practice, Seb came to me again, looking apologetically at me. “I’m so sorry--”
“What did you do this time?”
“What makes you think I did something wrong?”
“Well, to start off with-- the fact that you said sorry as soon as you came to me?”
He scratched the back of his head. “Fair enough. But I didn’t really do anything wrong this time--”
“Then why are you sorry?”
“Geez, Sam. Let me complete,” he says. “I’ve taken up on tutoring someone almost every day after practice. I was assigned to by the principal in exchange for not letting that detention get into my records. You know with the scholarship goals and all. . ? Didn’t want to mess up my chances because of a stupid detention.”
“I don’t think a detention would cause that much trouble when it comes to scholarships and it’s only your first, so it shouldn’t be a big problem,” I told him.
“I don’t want to risk anything,” he rationalized and my eyebrows shot up.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Okay, then. I’m not going to hold you back,” I smiled at him. “Go for it.”
“Thanks, Sam. You’re the best,” he gave me hug. Unfortunately, Seb was taller than me despite me being older. Another sarcastic voice in my head yelled out, By a minute and a half. So I had to rest my head on his shoulder as we hugged.
As I turned around to walk away, I didn’t miss saying, “Aren’t I always the best?” I winked at him yet again and walked right out.
I was told that trust was an important factor when you were close to someone. And it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t trust Seb, because I did. A lot, in fact. But there were some moments like these where I could see right through his lies and not be able to trust him.
Maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong. I knew it was wrong. I’m supposed to trust him. He’s my brother. He’s my twin. But something was just not right. Something about the way his eyes darted behind me. The way he burst up yesterday for no reason. The way his hands fiddled with each other when he came to talk to me today. Something was going on.
And maybe I was over-reacting. It wasn’t such a big deal. He was just helping someone out by tutoring him.
Or was he. . ?
I woke up with a jolt and then I snorted. Those answers. . . I still never got completely. I’d only gotten a fraction of those answers I desperately wanted. Half of the truth. Half of the truth of my brother’s death. That’s what I got. And that was what was eating me up-- as if a predator were slowly tearing me up into a half, making sure I experience the pain in the whole occurrence and then emptying everything inside of me. That pretty much summed up how I’ve been feeling ever since the day I lost him.
Climbing out of the bed, I made my way to the bathroom and washed my face. I stared at my face in the mirror for two whole minutes until I finally looked away. I seemed to be sneering at myself. Look at who you’ve become. You can’t even sleep at night properly, it seemed to rub in.
I shook my head, getting rid of all those thoughts.
Instead of taking a run today, I decided to go to the spot that was previously my favorite one. Yes, it got replaced with the field. The field is my new favorite. But that doesn’t make me like my previous spot any less. I could have gone without sneaking out if it weren’t for the fact that the room was supposed to be abandoned. And I wasn’t supposed out this late at night if I wasn’t using the field to run.
Basically, in short, simple words: I’m not allowed in that place.
A part of me wanted to laugh at whoever positioned these cameras, and the other part wanted to thank him. I mean, what kind of a fool keeps the cameras at such a position at that a girl could easily escape out of her dorm, unnoticed?
Another part of my conscience seemed to rise and wake up as it bit back, Are you talking about yourself?
The feeling of ripping my head apart with my own two bare hands so that I could stop it all-- the nightmares, the unnecessary comments, the torture-- had come to my mind, but I realized I wouldn’t be doing myself a favor if I ended up dead that way. That made the idea, unfortunately, off limits. I wonder how it would be like to be back to normal.
As I made my way to my usual sitting area, I slid on my back and took a deep breath, continuing on my trail of thoughts. I wonder how it would be like to be back to normal. If I wasn’t supposed to be silent, I would have burst out laughing. But I couldn’t do that. . .not when it’s midnight and there’s pin-drop silence here.
It felt good to think about that. In fact, it felt like heaven.
That elysian word seemed so unreal to even think about.
That word existed only in fairy tales and imaginations when everyone is expecting a happy ending. It lasted only long enough to rob you of everything you ever had. It wasn’t the sweetest word around. Bittersweet. Yes, that’s the right word. But it’s more bitter and less sweet when the ugly truth is revealed.
This world has a really funny way of working. It’ll hire people for its own uses and then, next thing you know. . .they’re dead. It’ll crush people to death like you’d squish an ant under your shoes-- accidentally, that too.
Speaking about crushing people to death, let’s hope the new football team does that to someone else rather than have someone do it themselves. We would never know when the university would tell us to play. It could be anytime. Before I knew up to what extent the team sucked, I was forced to tick in a couple of terms and conditions before I joined.
I was going to have to agree to co-operate and get the team ready within only a week after the university gave us a head-start ( a real one there) as to when we would have a game.
Because of this reason, we had to ready at all times.
The only thing coming in our way was the fact that the team was far from anywhere ready. The last time they’d won was because of the lack of knowledge the previous team had about different formations we could pull.
We couldn’t rely on the lack of knowledge the other team had about strategy to win a game. We’re supposed to be good.
That’s how you win a game. Nothing else.
And I would co-operate--according to those terms and conditions-- if they were co-operating with me. Half of them would try to cheat and try skipping a couple of rounds to run for in hopes of not getting noticed. At first, I was really angry. They were harming so much by their foolish antics.
And then I slowly got bored of it as no one listened. It was pointless. This whole team was pointless and stupid and horrible. Okay. . .not the whole team, but you get what I mean.
I took out my phone to check the time. I didn’t have much time left. Only another ten minutes or so. I’d slept at around midnight and, therefore, woke up later than I usually do. It was obvious tiredness was taking a toll on me. An hour or two of sleep a day apparently isn’t enough for a human.
I hung around for as long as I could dare, closing my eyes and taking it all in, but when I knew it would be far too risky if I’d stayed a second too long, I made my move with one last lingering look at the place where I had been sitting.
The words echoed in my head as I cautiously took the route back to my dorm.
No one listened.
No one listened.
No one listened.
Even as I took my clothes out to go for a shower, those words still managed to hold a tight grip onto my conscience.
And then all it took was one sudden notion to get my mind spiraling out of control.
I rushed to my phone and quickly dialed my mom’s number.
The ringtone rang for a long time. She’d answered when I’d given up hope that she was ever going to pick up. I had the most excited look on and my smile was hopeful and giddy at the same time.
“Mom?” I asked as I shook in anticipation.
“Oh, honey. I get that you were missing me. I really do. But right now, I’m sleepy. And it’s so early. Oh god, why are the curtains open? They’re going to blind me!” There was a small pause. “You know what? I’m just going to shut them myself.”
I heard the shuffling and I knew she was probably sleep-walking at the moment. “The gods hate us. Such unheavenly light shining down at us at this time of the day. And I know I’m supposed to be up, but they could have just given me a few more minutes. Just a few. . . ouch!” The shriek at the made me jump as it was unexpected and my heart pounded against my chest wildly as though a hammer would hit a nail.
“Mom! Don’t scare me like that! Are you okay?!”
“I’m going to reshift the furniture in this house,” she grumbled. “It’s a nuisance. Did you know I stubbed my toe thrice in the week? And it’s only been four days into the week so far. So technically, I only went one day without hitting my toe. Or that doesn’t have to be true. I could hit it twice a day or thrice,” she gasped. “I didn’t do that, did I? Gosh, I’m so sleepy, I sound drunk. Sam? Why don’t you let the mother you love fall back to sleep? What enmity do you have against her?”
“Actually, I needed a favor. . .”
She sighed. “This early in the morning? See? For this kind of thing, you call your dad. I am there and available after ten when I am fresh and don’t sound like an idiot. So, I’m going to give this phone to your dad so I can sleep--” A huge break came in and it half-made me wonder if she slept before giving it to dad. “Uh. . .Charles is not here. He left a note saying that he went to get some. . . abs?”
I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. Ceci stirred in her sleep and I pinched myself to try to get myself to lower my voice. Now that was a real way of leaving a note. “Don’t be mad at him, mom. He’s just trying to fit into this generation. Except. . .he’s doing quite the opposite.”
“He could have just left it at the fact that he was going have a walk to keep himself fit. Why did I marry such a stupid person?” I could hear her face-palming.
“Because you love him?”
“Unfortunately, yes. . .And now that both you and your dad have managed to rid me of my sleep, I finally give you permission to continue asking for the favor you were going on about earlier. I’m all ears.” I was finally about to start when she interrupted yet again. “Although I can’t guarantee anything about the eyes. I am feeling really sleepy right now--”
“Mom!” I strained out to grab her attention and continue.
“Okay, fine, fine,” she stopped her blabbering reluctantly. “Go ahead.”
“Okay, first I have a question: when are you guys coming here to talk them about the. . .you know. . .‘therapy’?” I put in air-quotes awkwardly. Gosh, it was so awkward to talk about this.
“We were going to talk to you about this earlier on in the day, actually. We made a plan of either tomorrow or the day after. Is that alright with you?”
“It’s perfect. Okay, now for the real favor. . . Actually, it was important for you to know about this as soon as you could because confirmation is going to take time and--”
“Confirmation? You’ve got my attention. What is going on in that head of yours. . ?” I could literally sense her narrowing her eyes suspiciously at me and my insides clenched as I hoped that she would agree.
“How would you fancy bringing the boys along with you?”