Chapter 42: Highway Patrol Stun Gun - Youth Lagoon
“What are you giving Elle for her birthday?” I continued knitting the hat I started a week prior.
“A Yale sweatshirt.” He rapidly typed on his desktop.
“She hasn’t gotten her letter yet. It should be in any day now. If she gets rejected, that gift would crush her.”
“I used a thumb drive to collect her computer’s keystrokes. I used those to figure out her application password. I checked her application account the day responses were posted. I know she has not looked because I recall her stating she wanted to have the physical letter for optimum impact. She was accepted; my gift is appropriate.”
“I wouldn’t tell her that you know. She hates spoilers.” I crossed my knitting needles and wrapped yarn around one of them.
“Noted. What are you getting her?”
“This hat. She loved the one I made Morgan. Lavender is her favorite color, so…yeah.” I pushed up my glasses. “Have you heard back from Brown?”
“I was accepted.” His tone was still casual. I struggled to pull his reaction to it from it.
“Have you told your mom yet?”
“Yes, she is over the moon about it. I told her not to tell Peirce. She did not understand why, but she agreed. I do not want him to have something he can brag about at his holiday party.”
“I get it. I, um, I’m really proud of you too.” I admitted reluctantly.
He stopped typing and looked at me. “You have been judging my behavior?” He slightly raised an eyebrow.
“No, I – I have no issues with what you do or think you should be doing something. I just – I think it’s cool that you’re finally pushing yourself. You’re killing it on the next level – it makes me happy. That’s all I meant.”
“I didn’t think you thought of things that concern me in that manner.”
I broke eye contact. “Well, yeah. I mean – I love you, Watson. I thought it was a given.” I timidly expressed my true feelings for the first time.
“As your best friend?”
“As the person that is unashamed to date me.” I forced myself to look at him.
“Oh.” He looked at me but said nothing else in response.
I removed my glasses, replaced them with my sun ones, and packed my bag in haste.
“Where’s the damn kid? It’s my night.” My voice creaked as I looked around the room.
I grabbed it by the arm and tossed its diaper bag over my shoulder.
“Sams—“ He called after me as I was walking out the door.
I ignored him and shut the door behind me. I preceded suite at a normal pace. I knew he would not come after me. I was thankful for his passivity in uncomfortable situations.
“It is night time. Why are you wearing sunglasses?” I passed Adam on the way out.
“It is best you don’t question my life decisions.” I whipped back emotionlessly. I strode out with conviction.
I shut my bedroom door and exhaled. I removed my sunglasses and put my items in their respective places. I sat at my desk chair and opened my cello’s case. I rosined the bow and ensured that it was in tune. I closed my eyes and played Elgar’s Cello Concerto from memory. I had a firm grip on my emotions once I was finished with the piece thirty minutes later. There was a knock on the door shortly there after.
“If it is Finn, you can go away. If it is someone else, you may enter.”
“Are you taking requests? I’d REALLY prefer something more upbeat. It calmed Shea down from a crying fit, but it’s kind of bumming me out.” Elle asked.
“Um, yeah. I can do that.” I readjusted my instrument. “Classical or contemporary?”
“If you can do something by Fleeting Moment. I would love you forever.”
“I can look up the sheet music and give it a shot.”
“Awesome!” She cheered. “So what’s going on with you and Finn? You never say his first name.” She switched tones and leaned against my doorway.
“He’s not being the fun type of asshole. I’ll leave it at that. –“
“Is she taking requests!?” Izzie yelled from her room.
“Yeah!” Elle replied over her shoulder. “We’re getting Fleeting Moment!”
“What do you mean by that?” She returned her attention to me.
“It really doesn’t matter. It’s stupid.”
“If you change your mind on that stance. I’m all ears. How is Magneto on the floor and not screaming her lungs out?” She stared at it.
“It’s tired.” The remote was in my satchel. I have no way of pressing it to make them cry. I put my cello on its stand.
“Well, I’ll leave you alone now. My offer always stands.” She waved goodbye and shut my door.
I twirled around in my chair and opened my laptop. As I was typing into the search engine, a video chat window popped up without warrant and Finn was on my screen.
I sighed and leaned back into my chair. “You don’t hack into my stuff. We’ve discussed that.” I crossed my arms.
“I needed to this time.”
I blankly stared instead of responding.
He looked down at his keyboard. “I was caught off guard. I –“
“It’s whatever. Let’s just be friends. This whole thing was beyond stupid. I don’t even know what love is. How could I be in it? Your response was the right one. Good on you, Dude.”
He pursed his lips together and looked up at me. “I love you too.”
“You have only said it once. I am not saying it twice.” He retorted in his usual manner.
“Is this a pity response? I swear, Watson, I-- ”
“Your actions are dictated by emotions. They are so powerful that you enable me to feel them too. This is a prime example. The pain you displayed when you walked out hurt me too.” He made consistent eye contact.
“Why didn’t you say that earlier?”
“Since when do we talk about things sober? I told you I was caught off guard.”
“What do we do now?”
“Wing it for the most part. I know we aren’t going to start saying it all the time now; that’s for damn sure. It will just be implied.”
“I’d like that.” I offered him a minuscule smile. “But you will be punched in the face if you hack into my computer again.”
“I would not expect anything less from you.” He smirked.
“Is there anything else you wanted?”
“Salvaging our twisted version of a functional relationship was all that was on the agenda.”
“Final words before I close out this video chat?”
“You are too cool for me to find shameful. Your reasoning for loving me is flawed.”
I looked down to shield the smile that was struggling to form. “Okay, Smart Ass, I’ll try to think of something better.”
“You can ignore the kid. I put in good parenting time earlier.”
“I would have anyway.” I returned my eyes to his, able to smile without shame.
“Sams.”He saluted me.
“Watson.” I dipped my head in acknowledgement.
He dismissed himself from my screen.
I was grinning like and idiot as I ran my fingers through my hair and tied it into a topknot. I was capable of playing several Fleeting Moment songs with gusto. I broke for a snack once I was done.
“We won, Fitz. We will have to tell mommy later. She will be proud of us.” Milo was sitting in the living room with his baby in his lap. His arms were on either side of him and the controller was in front.
I stood there and watched him readjust the baby in his arms, humming happily.
“I say this because I care: this is not normal.”
He flinched, making it clear he didn’t know I was watching. “It is something to do and it keeps him calm.”
“Right.” I side eyed him. “Does Iz know you are doing this?”
“No. Um, she has been rather busy. Elle has started calling me a stay at home dad.”
“So she is still doing the life thing?”
“More than. She has finished her video dedicated to Eliza. She had Nick help her edit her personal video. She uploaded it the other day. She has started to receive submissions. She is writing responses to them now.”
I crossed my arms. “Have you made one?”
“No, I get the feeling that she wants me to stay out of it.”
“Hm.” I paused. “What are you getting Elle for her birthday?”
“Framed Listonenia currency.”
“My father’s on it.”
I laughed. “She’ll love it. Speaking of which, the thing in your lap’s not a child. There for you’re no one’s dad.” I strode off in pursuit of the kitchen.
“The assignment is to pretend!” He argued.
“Can Finn do me a favor?” He joined me in the kitchen with the baby on his hip.
My head was in the fridge. “Depends. What do you want?”
“I need Finn to remove the time I dropped Fitz from his care log. He has not been dropped since then –“
I stopped searching for food to stare at him incredulously.
He looked down. “Fine. I tripped over a chair and Iz caught him midair. I am only asking for the first drop to be removed, not all of the mishandles.”
I went back to the fridge. “He’d be down for hacking into Fitz. It would take a few minutes tops. He has the equipment.”
“Is that how you are going to pass? Clearing its care log?”
I gathered a handful of grapes and closed the refrigerator door with my back. “That is classified.”
“You are basically saying yes.” He followed me out of the room.
“One of those responses prevents you from being an accessory in a court of law. Would you like to be an accessory?”
“Then shush it.”
“When should I talk to Finn?”
“I don’t know. The next time you see him? I’m not the dude’s keeper.” I tossed a grape into the air and caught it in my mouth.
“You basically are. Your schemes are his first priority. I need to know if you have him busy.”
“He’s not and what you said is gross.” I shoved him.
The baby started crying. “He’s taking off this mishandle too!” He yelled over it.
I returned to my room. I sat down in my chair and spiraled to my desk. I ate my snack as I scrolled through Izzie’s website. I watched a few videos and read the accompanying comments.
I turned on my webcam after unloading my cello.
“Hi, my name’s Sami E. “ I waved. “I grasp the format. We’re supposed to talk about our struggles and ourselves. I’ve never been able to do that. Music has served as my voice for such a long time. I’m going to play The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns.”
I considered it to be my favorite piece in part because of its spoken introduction: The Swan is an enchanted bird,
Or so the legends tell,
And certain he plays the part exceptionally well,
He proudly arches up his neck,
To show that he’s in charge.
As royal as the figurehead on any royal barge.
But if you ask him: If it’s true what fairytales portray,
He simply gives a knowing look,
And slowly glides away.
Those on the outside do not truly know the swan. Instead of trying to make them understand, he goes his own way and allows them to speculate as they please. Repeatedly playing the piece allowed me to survive middle school and the rough patch I endured sophomore year. It gave me the power to hold on until I reached a place where people were able to accept me. I no longer question my desire to live, but I still go back to The Swan every once in a while. It reminds me of what I once fought for and gives me the courage to tackle what is to come.
I looked up from my cello with tears in my eyes. “Most of you won’t understand what that I just said. And that’s okay – I mean, your own opinion of yourself is all that matters, right? I understand myself. I try to run from it at times, but the knowledge is always there. Yeah, let’s go with that.” I breathed a laugh. “I told you I’m not good at this.” My video ended there.
I watched it back and clicked submit.