Chapter 1: The Dream
My icy metal of the doorknob met my shaking hand as I nudged the door open, hoping I wouldn’t regret it. Instantly, I was greeted by a warm breeze as it introduced me to what was waiting inside. My heart soared out of my chest as I recognized the colorful furniture scattered across the wooden floor and the numerous photographs that hung to the perfectly painted white walls. I smiled as I saw the crackling fire in the fireplace, warming up the small, yet cozy apartment I called home.
As I slowly studied my familiar surroundings, my eyes caught sight of a picture frame sitting on the small round table next to the couch. Smiling, I picked it up, a dusty residue coating my fingers as it came off the golden frame surrounding the picture. I met the emerald green eyes of a middle-aged man, excitement gleaming off of them like light radiating from a sun. His dark brown hair sat untidily on his head as his caramel skin shone under the photographic white lights. Looking to the right of the picture, I saw a woman smiling so big that it came off of her tan face. Her straight, jet black hair was cropped to her shoulders, glistening like the sun. My fingers ran lovingly down their faces, a single tear dripping onto the middle of the portrait where a five-year-old version of me sat, clutching his teddy bear and laughing, happy that my parents were there with me.
Flipping over the picture, I noticed four words scribbled across the cardboard on the back of the perfect family portrait. We love you, Alex, it read, filling my heart with the love and care I had missed for so long.
“Happy birthday to youuu!” My mind pried itself away from the mysterious picture and focused its attention to see my two-year-old self smiling and cutting a Thomas the Tank Engine cake, smearing my face with blue frosting as a man and woman laughed behind me, both bringing a napkin to my sugar-coated face.
My parents stood beside me, a single hand of each resting on my shoulder as they looked at me, showing off their brilliantly white teeth. Suddenly, I felt a soft tap on my right shoulder. As I turned around, however, pain shot through my head like a bullet, sending me to my knees as I tried to recover.
“What the hell?” I exclaimed, shooting up from my lying position. My body was covered in a navy blue blanket, and my shirt lay to my right on the mattress.
“It was just a dream,” I sighed, pushing myself to get over the throbbing headache I had woken from so that I could start the day. After trudging to the bathroom, I stood in front of the large mirror hanging above my sink to come face to face with a very tired looking Alejandro Rojas. My emerald green eyes had bags underneath them, and my usually tidy, jet black hair stood in all directions, messy and unkempt. “Today is going to be a long day.”
But who was I kidding? Every day was a long day for me.
“Hurry! We’re going to be late!”
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” I shouted as I rushed down the stairs, hurriedly putting on the navy blue tie of my Gilmore School of Technology uniform.
“Dios mío! Not like that, you’re not!” A figure said, stopping my descent and, honestly, getting me late even more.
“Tia! ¡Qué!” I groaned, trying to rush past my aunt as she straightened my messy tie and tried to smooth down the wrinkles on my dress pants. “I’m going to be late!”
She looked up at me with fire in her eyes, daring me to defy her actions again. Gulping, I stood still, patiently waiting as the last of the buttons on my tuxedo were buttoned. “There!” she smiled, patting my chest with a sense of accomplishment for her work. “All better!”
Sighing, I sprinted to the double doors, hoping to escape before she could find anything else wrong with me.
“Niño! Your keys!” I turned to the voice and held my hands out just as the silver and black item slid into them.
“I love you!” she shouted, urging me to say it back― just this once.
“Adios, Tia,” I murmured, shutting the doors closed behind me, then darting to the driver’s seat of the slick black BMW that further decorated the mansion of a house behind me.
“Took you long enough!” my little cousin squealed in the back seat, trying to pretend she wasn’t just blaring the horn for a full two minutes.
“And a good morning to you too, Camila,” I laughed. “I come bearing gifts.”
“Yay! Waffles! Thanks, Alex!” she exclaimed, her mouth already stuffed to the brim with waffle bits. “You always know what I want!”
“One of my many talents,” I winked, strapping my seat belt over my shoulder.
“What did you eat for breakfast?”
As if on cue, my stomach grumbled, the sound echoing through the labyrinth of leather seats. “It seems that I didn’t have time for any.” I heard the sweet laughter of my cousin as I held down the start button, roaring the car to life.
“Hey, Alex!” a high pitched voice shrieked as soon as my feet met the black asphalt of the parking lot. I sighed and laughed at myself for thinking I could maybe, just maybe, go unnoticed today. The owner of the voice sashayed over to me, her short cheerleading outfit sitting tightly on her pale body. “Alex? Didn’t you hear me?!” she continued to screech, thinking it would change my reaction.
“Hey... I’m sorry, do I know you?” I said, slinging my backpack over my right shoulder and running my left hand through my straight, gelled black hair.
“Um...of course you do! Everyone knows me!” she continued, crossing her arms across her chest and sending me daggers with her eyes.
“Well,” I started, quickening my pace to school, hoping I could get rid of her. “I definitely don’t know you, so you can add one person to your list.”
“Kim! Kimberly Aniston!”
“I’m sorry, are you still talking to me?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. “Sorry, Pim--”
“UGH!” her ear-splitting scream echoed through the school’s property, resulting in the judgmental eyes of many of my classmates. Sighing, I lowered my head and continued walking, hoping the stares would go away, and I could become invisible once again.
Shit. I’m so late. Sprinting through the vast halls of the academy, I tried to locate the class I was looking for. Damn! Where the hell is this stupid class? Finally, my eyes caught the sign with the number 207 attached to its wooden door. Sighing with relief, I slowly eased open the barrier, for it to only screech even louder; whoever oils these doors is really bad at their job.
“Ah! Mr.Rojas!” the teacher called, sitting at her desk with her glasses perched low on her nose, her eyes staring at me with oh, so much hate. “I’m glad you could finally join us.”
“It’s actually RoHas,” I corrected, rubbing the back of my neck as my classmates turned their attention away from the bright screen in front of them and to my very embarrassing feat. “The j is actually pronounced as an h, Coach Taylor.” Might as well make an entrance, now that my presence has been known.
“Sit down!” Her bark sent me flying to my seat with a yelp. Damn; Though she be small, she be fierce.
Sighing, clearly annoyed, she resumed the film that played on the screen. Cocaine really changed my life... I didn’t think about what it would do to my health, it started, already boring me to death.
Rolling my eyes, I lowered my head onto the desk, placing it on my elbows, which acted like very rigid pillows; eh, they would have to do. I yawned, my eyes fluttering closed, quickly sending me to sleep, hoping to make up for the lack of sleep I had last night.
Immediately, my vision was filled with a large park. It wasn’t filled with swings and slides. Instead, the ground was covered in sand, four plates sitting evenly spaced on the hot sand. Urging myself to move forward, my shoes sunk into the grain beneath my feet, bringing me closer and closer to the past.
“C’mon, Tia!” fifteen-year-old me shouted, gripping a thin, wooden bat. A blue helmet sat on my head as dirt coated my white pants.
“Tia?” I called out, but she didn’t even look at me. “TIA!” I yelled louder, but she just chuckled, standing in the middle of the field with a white ball in her hand.
“Alright, hotshot,” she yelled, swinging her arm back. “Let’s see what you can do!”
Huh. I guess they can’t see or hear me. I wonder... I paused right behind my aunt, hoping I wasn’t stupid to think about what I was thinking. Instinctively, my hand jutted forward, right through my aunt’s body, as if she wasn’t even there.
There was a crack, and the ball flew over our heads, soaring further and further away from us and disappearing into the clear blue sky. My younger version laughed and headed over to where my aunt stood with her arms crossed over her chest.
“Papa said he would come with me today, Tia. Where is he?” fifteen-year-old me asked, leaning on the bat as it dug deep into the sand beneath it. I saw my aunt tense up, her face turning from a state of ecstasy to a very stoic expression.
“He had some work to catch up on,” she answered, pulling the helmet off my head and smiling at the sweat that poured down the sides of my face. “How about basketball now?”
I smiled and said, “You know it.” And with that, my aunt wrapped a hand around my waist, taking me to play my all-time favorite sport. I wish I could tell him that Papa would never play baseball with me again. I wish I could tell him that Mama would never again make me a pre-game snack before a basketball game. I wish I could tell my fifteen-year-old self to not take my remarkable parents for granted.…