I stared out the rain streaked window of the bus. It’d be fun walking home in that.
I hadn’t made any friends today. If only my stupid parents hadn’t moved here. Then I would be in middle school with my friends.
It was bad enough moving to a new town. On top of that, I was going from fifth to sixth grade and the middle school was so much bigger than my old elementary school. I’d gotten lost like three times.
The bus stopped at my neighborhood. I got off and ducked a little under the downpour.
I walked down my street with my head down. I felt the rain running down the sides of my face already. I’d probably be soaked by the time I got home.
I walked down my street. A boy was walking in front of me. I was pretty sure that he was in my English and Science classes. I never caught his name.
I got to my house and opened my backpack to get my keys. I dug around but didn’t find them. I’d sworn I’d taken them today. How did I forget my keys? My parents wouldn’t be home until seven!
I left my backpack by the door and walked around the house looking for an open window, but I had no such luck. My dirty blonde hair were were sticking to my face. There were tears starting to sparkle in my green eyes. I was stuck outside in the pouring rain.
My two options were avoiding talking to anyone in my neighborhood, but I would be stuck outside. Or I would go stay in a neighbor's house and be dry. I sighed. I didn’t want to go ask for help. Or talk to anyone here. That might’ve been why I had such a hard time making friends.
I texted my mother that I was locked out, then picked up my backpack and walked over to the house next to mine and rang the doorbell.
I heard footsteps patter towards the door, then a second later, it swung open, to reveal that boy who rode my bus. He had short, dark hair and freckles spattered across his nose. He wore pajama pants and a t-shirt. He looked at me with a confused expression on his face for a second, without saying anything.
Then, he finally said something. “Do you want to come in?” he asked.
I nodded and stepped inside. I shivered a little as he closed the door.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I got locked out of my house,” I replied. I heard water dripping off of me and onto the floor.
“Um okay. I’ll get you something dry to wear,” he said. He ran up the stairs and came back a minute later with some pajama pants, a loose t-shirt and a sweatshirt.
“Sorry. These are my clothes. They might not fit you very well,” he said.
“It’s alright. I don’t mind,” I said.
“I’ll bring you to the bathroom,” he said. He led me down a hallway. I went into the bathroom and quickly changed. I had to roll up the pants a few times, but I felt much better after taking off the wet clothes.
I stepped out, and the boy was waiting there.
“Do you want me to put your wet clothes in the dryer?” he asked.
“Yes. Please,” I said.
“So, what’s your name?” asked the boy.
“Echo,” I said.
“Echo. That’s a strange name,” he mused. “No offense. I mean, I like it.”
I laughed a little. “What about you?” I asked.
“Alec,” he said. “It’s a pretty boring name.”
“You don’t seem like a very boring person, Alec,” I said.
“Ha. Thanks, I guess,” said Alec.
Alec and I talked and did homework until I got a text on my phone from my mom telling me that she was home.
“I’ve got to go,” I said.
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, at school,” said Alec.
“Alright. Bye,” I said, walking out the door.
I smiled. I guess I’d made a friend.
In the morning, I walked to the bus stop. I enjoyed the morning air and everything being so peaceful and calm.
Alec was already at the stop. He waved to me. I waved back.
“Good morning!” he said.
“Good morning,” I replied.
“Did anything interesting happen to you?” he asked.
“Well, I think I might be getting a cold from being in the rain for twenty minutes,” I said. As if on command, I sneezed.
“Health,” said Alec.
“What?” I asked.
“Health. You know how people say ‘gesundheit’. Well in German, that just means health,” said Alec.
“Oh. Okay,” I said, smiling.
“Do you want to come over to my house again? We can help each other with the homework,” he said.
“Sure,” I said. “
Because of the rain, Alec and I became best friends. I made more friends and I did well at school. Everything was good until eighth grade.
“You can’t just sit around all the time!” shouted my mom, at my dad. I sat with my knees pulled up to my chest in my bed. I could hear my parents shouting through the door.
I pulled out my earbuds and played a random song on my phone. I turned the volume all the way up.
A Foster the People song played. I squeezed my knees harder. I held back a wave of tears.
‘Sometimes I wanna disappear!’ he sang.
I winced as I felt the house shake and heard something shatter on the wall.
“FINE THEN! I’LL JUST LEAVE!” shouted my dad. His voice cut through the music.
I stood up and ran downstairs and out the door. My bare feet ran across the damp earth. I fell to my knees in my yard.
Why did this happen?
I sat there for who knows how long with tears running down my face.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up and saw Alec. He’d started taking walks at night. He’d probably noticed me then. I pulled out my earbuds.
“What happened?” he asked, sitting next to me. I sniffed, not caring that I was crying in front of Alec.
“My parents are-” I choked out before letting out a sob.
Alec wrapped his arm around my shoulders and wiped the tears off my cheeks. We sat there for a little while.
“I should go inside,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Alec. We both stood and I walked back to the house. I sat on the couch.
That’s when my dad came downstairs walked out the door with a suitcase. He didn’t even glance back before slamming the door.
My parents did get a divorce. I lived with just my mom in the same house. My dad didn’t contact us at all.
When we got to high school, Alec and I had almost every class together.
There were new people and really scary seniors. I tried to stay out of their way.
I had fewer friends now. Only Alec and a quiet girl named Aria who everyone thought was goth, to be precise. All of my other ‘friends’ started being mean to me. The story was that I ‘ruined one of my friends life’ somehow. I wasn’t completely sure what exactly I did to become a life ruiner, but that one friend turned almost all of my other friends against me. I guess didn’t mind too much. Although, I found the occasional mean note and- in one case- dead bird in my locker, but at least I still had two good friends.
One day, after school, I was waiting for Alec in front of the school after our sports practices had ended. I played field hockey and Alec did cross country. We walked home together, now, because it took five minutes to get to the high school from our street if we cut through the woods.
“Hey! Nice legs girl!” some boy passing me shouted, then high fived his friend.
I growled a little. “Well your mom had nice legs when I saw her last night!” I shouted. My offender widened his eyes in surprise and walked away, quickly. There was no way I was letting some boy push me around.
After ten minutes of waiting, I started to wonder about where Alec was.
I jogged to the back of the school and wah I saw made me stop in my tracks.
Alec was on the ground with blood coming out of his nose. His eye was swollen and there was a boy standing over him.
“Hey!” I shouted. The boy looked up and saw me.
“Whatcha gonna do?” he asked, flashing me a shark grin.
I gritted my teeth. I had taken karate since I was seven. I was a third degree black belt.
My karate teacher told us that we should never use our karate unless it was completely necessary. I guessed that this situation warranted it.
I ran at the boy and crashed my fist into his nose before he could even blink. He clutched his face, exposing his ribs, so I punched them as hard as I could, then kicked him in the stomach, causing him to fall on the ground, wheezing. I kicked him in the ribs while he was down. Just in case.
Alec had hauled himself off the ground and was slowly moving forward.
I put an arm around his shoulder and he leaned some of his weight on me.
“You need to run,” I commanded.
So we ran back into the school, where the boy wouldn’t be able to hurt us without getting caught. Alec was whimpering in pain the whole way.
I led him into a bathroom and turned on the tap. I started to wet a paper towel.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I- I just accidentally knocked into that guy and then he freaked out,” said Alec. There were tears trickling out of his eyes. “Maybe he just had a bad day?”
I snorted. “Or he’s a sadist. As long as you didn’t start it, it’s fine,” I said. Leave it to Alec to try and see the good in even the worst of people. I on the other hand had basically given up all trust and hope in humanity.
“What hurts?” I asked, after cleaning all of the blood and stopping the nose bleed.
“My ribs. He kicked me a few times,” he said. “It hurts to breath.”
“Fine. Take off your shirt. I need to check if they’re broken or fractured,” I said. At that moment, I was so glad that I had payed attention in health last year when we’d learned first aid. Alec did as he was told. He winced as he pulled the shirt over his head.
I gently ran my hand along each of Alec’s ribs, seeing if anything major had happened. He had some bruises, but not anything too bad, considering the circumstances.
“You need to tell someone what happened,” I said.
“What? No! That’ll make that guy want to beat me up again!” said Alec. “Besides, I think he’s too scared of you to try anything else.!”
I sighed. “Fine. It’s your decision. I guess I can’t force you into anything.”
“This entire time, I thought that you were like a delicate flower. But you’re like an attack dog!” said Alec.
“A flower? You thought I was like a pretty flower?” I asked.
“Well, not really, but I didn’t think that you could beat up a guy twice your size,” he said.
“I’ve told you before, I actually am a third degree black belt. Did you think I was joking?” I said, smirking.
“You do realize how compromising this situation is right?” asked Alec, smiling.
I blushed a little. We were in a bathroom together and Alec had his shirt off.
Alec pulled his shirt back on and stood up. We got out of the bathroom before anyone could see us.
“You can walk home, right?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, but winced a little.
“Okay, but you need to come up with a lie about why your eye is so swollen up,” I said, as we left the school and walked towards the woods.
“What about I tripped and rolled down this hill,” he said. The woods were conveniently on a slope.
“Yeah. That works,” I said.
“And thanks for helping me back there,” he said, smiling.
“Hey, what are friends for?” I said.
That guy didn’t bother Alec again. I shot him menacing glares in the hallway whenever I passed him, for good measure.
In tenth grade, I decided to take Journalism, because I wanted to try new things. It turned out that I really enjoyed writing. Not just news stories but just stories in general. I wrote about things from a human and a cat switching bodies to romance stories. My personal favorite type of story was making horrible things happen to people and having the experience change them forever.
“What are you writing about now?” asked Alec. He was the only one who I shared my stories with.
“I’m writing a Fifty Shades of Grey fanfiction,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Sure,” said Alec, smiling. He stood up from his place and sat down next to me. His eyes scanned the words in on my computer screen. The story was really about a boy who was forced to become a child soldier. I couldn’t think of a bad enough punishment for the people who thought that getting twelve-year-olds to kill people for no good reason was an okay thing to do.
“Why don’t you ever share these with other people?” he asked. Looking up at me.
“Well, they’re not very good,” I said, blushing.
“Are you kidding? I bet you could make millions of dollars off of your stories!” he said.
“That’d be nice, but no,” I said.
“Why don’t you believe in yourself?” asked Alec.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in myself,” I said, “It’s that my stories are legitimately pretty terrible.”
“I think that’s BS,” said Alec.
“Well, I think you’re stupid,” I said, smiling.
“One day, Echo, you’re going to say, ‘Oh, Alec, you were right all along!’” he said in a high pitched voice.
“That’s not how I sound,” I said.
“That’s what you think,” said Alec, poking me. I rolled my eyes.
In junior year, by chance, my mom and both of Alec’s parents were all going away on business trips on the weekend.
We asked our parents if we could stay together while they were gone, (because we were good little angels) and they okayed it. My mom, being especially overprotective of me, after my dad left, felt better leaving me with a friend.
“Lets get our homework over with right now,” I said. “Then we can do whatever our hearts desire the rest of the weekend.”
“Agreed,” said Alec.
After three hours, we were finished bonding elements, writing weird stories in French and solving stupid calculus problems. Why did we even need to know calculus? It was practically useless!
“Well, we’re finished with homework. What do you want to do now?” I asked, standing.
Alec looked down at his feet for a second.
“This,” he said.
Before I had time to process what he said, I felt a pair of lips against mine.
“Huh?” I said as Alec pulled away, after a second. Smooth, Echo.
I felt a flurry of emotions rush through me. Joy, confusion, even fear.
“Heh. Sorry,” said Alec, rubbing the back of his neck. His cheeks turned pink. His dark eyes didn’t meet mine.
Did I like him. Had I always liked him? There was that flutter in my chest whenever I was around him. I felt like I could say anything to him. I probably could’ve literally stabbed him in the back and he’d forgive me. Did I… was that… what if I… oh gosh.
Without thinking, I stood on my toes and pulled Alec towards me. He made a ‘mumph’ noise as I pressed my lips to his.
Afterwards, we laughed.
“These things never last you know,” I said.
“They do, Echo, trust me. We can make it last. I like you too much.”
“Remember the first day we met?” I asked. “I’m glad it rained.”
“Me too,” he said, grinning. He pressed another kiss to my lips. I ran my hand through his hair and he gently placed his hands on my waist.
He pulled me closer to him and kissed me harder.
My mind was racing.
Never had I imagined that this would happen. I was kissing the wide eyed boy next door. My best friend. Alec.
When we finally broke apart, we sat on the ground. I heard rain pattering on the roof.
My hair was probably a mess, like Alec’s. My heart was racing.
“How do we know this will work?” I asked, quietly. Now all of the what if’s were running around in my head.
“It will,” he said, firmly.
“You don’t know that!” I said.
“No! I don’t! But I believe that it’ll work!” he said.
“Fine. What if I hurt you? Badly,” I asked.
Alec pursed his lips. “You wouldn’t.”
“You still don’t know that!” I said, my voice wavering. “Look what happened to my parents!”
“Echo, look me in the eye,” I looked up at him. “Would you hurt me?”
I stared at him. I wanted desperately for him to be wrong about me.
“No,” I said, softly, admitting defeat.
“I’ve got faith in you. I trust you,” said Alec.
“I don’t trust people. I don’t even like that many people,” I said. “But I trust you more than anyone. I think that I-”
“You what?” he asked.
I couldn’t bring myself to say those words. The words.
“It’s nothing,” I said, quietly.
“Do you want me to say it for you?” he asked.
“Please don’t,” I said. If he said it, then would be real. Not just a high school fling. It would mean something. The truth was, I was scared. I was scared that he would leave me. Like my ‘friends’, like my own father. But I wanted to trust him. Trust someone not to leave. Hold onto the last bit of me that had faith in humanity.
So, I said it. Alec said it back to me.
“Was that so terrible?” he asked, smiling.
“The worst,” I said, with a laugh.
“Still scared?” he asked.
I smiled. “No.”