“Hello?” I call out into the empty house
Walking in, I notice the lack of shoes in the front hall. That means they’re out.
I run a hand through my hair. Of course they’re gone.
I walk through the house towards the kitchen. As long as I live here I can at least eat the food. Although I’m sure Jill and Mark would be happy if I didn’t, if anything so they don’t have to spend any more money.
I glance down at the kitchen table and notice a note on it.
Well, it’s some form of communication.
Lazily, I pick up the note, bringing it up to my face. The handwriting is scrawled out messily as if they were in a rush.
Ethan, we’re going out for a while, don’t cause trouble
“Nice of them to think of me” I mutter sarcastically. I throw the note back down on the table, letting it flutter in the air for a moment before sliding across the table, coming to a stop.
I remember the days where I was fifteen when I lived with people who I would actually consider parental figures. Jill would make food and we would all eat together.
Looking around the empty kitchen, I realize just how much that’s changed.
Not finding the energy to stomp around angrily like I do most times when they leave, I drag my feet across the hardwood floor of the hallway and onto the rough carpet in the living room.
Throwing myself on the couch, I throw an arm over my eyes and let out all the air in my lungs in a deep sigh.
We used to watch movies together. It would be full of laughter and tears. They made me watch Titanic one time. I laugh a little as I recall them saying it was a life experience everyone needs to have.
I can almost feel the tears I cried that night over Jack. I now understand why so many people are adamant about watching it. I was an emotional mess that night but I agree that it’s something everyone needs to experience.
With my arm still over my eyes, I use my other hand to pat down my jeans to find which pocket I put my phone in. In my right pocket, I take out my phone and hold it a moment before removing my arm, adjusting to the light, and sitting up.
I pull up Bennys contact, pausing a moment, hovering above the call button before pressing the green button to call him.
It rings a few times before the clicking sound comes through the phone and before I can get a word out, Bennys rushed voice comes through quickly “Ethan! Hey! Look, it’s a bit of a bad time right now” there’s shuffling and I can hear muffled talking like he’s put the phone to his chest. “I’m in the middle of a shoot right now but I can call you when it’s done if you want?”
I know that not only do these modeling shoots make him incredibly tired and put him in a not so great mood, but also it will most likely take a few hours. I shake my head at the same time as declining his offer “it’s alright, I’ll catch you later?”
There’s more shuffling on his end “yeah, yeah! Of course, talk later Ethan”
The line goes dead and I look at the phone blankly before pulling up Connors contact. The phone rings and I put the phone between my ear and my shoulder and hold my hands up to pick at the skin around my nails.
He picks up on the third ring sounding breathless through the phone, as though he was running around before picking up. “Hello?” his voice comes through a little high
“Hey Connor..it’s Ethan” I say and he seems to move around on the other end
“Hey Ethan, what's up?” he asks as another voice talks in the background, the voice too quiet to hear.
“Oh,” I pause “you seem busy. I can call another time”
“No, it’s okay. Did you need something?”
“Well, Jill and Mark are out and I don’t really have anything to do so I thought I would call and see if you wanted to hang out?”
He scoffs through the phone “I swear, those people..” he lets loose a breath “yeah, of course. I have Levi with me if it's alright for him to come I can bring us over”
I smile through the phone “of course he can come”
With Mark and Jill constantly away, there’s lots of time where I’m alone. But I don’t like being alone, I’ve been alone enough in my life and I try and avoid it as much as I can.
I get up off the couch and make my way upstairs, every creak on the floor sounding louder in the empty house.
In my room, my eyes automatically drift to the painting I got just a while ago. I had hung it up on the bulletin board above my desk.
It sits above other art I’ve done and random memorabilia that I’ve collected over my time here.
There’s this overwhelming feeling that I need to find who did it. It was clearly made for me, there’s just this wanting to know why. But if there’s no signature or note, it’s clear they don’t want to be found.
It won’t deter me, that's for sure. If they didn’t want to pique my curiosity, then they shouldn’t have done it. The question is, where to start?
I walk over and take it from the pins I used to hang it. Again, I turn it over to look on the back, each time there is no signature or clue.
I shake my head, what the hell am I doing? I quickly tack it back up and walk towards my bed. “A name won't just fucking appear if you turn it over again” I mutter to myself as I lay down on my bed. I throw an arm over my eyes as I lay flat on my back.
I feel restless with this damn picture, it’s almost taunting me with the fact that I have no clue who gave it to me or what it’s for.
I’m still in awe of it. Every time I’m in here my eyes will always drift towards it. The painting is miraculous, it captured every detail of the picture as if I were watching it happen.
Then I remember just what was happening and I curse myself for being so goddamn weak. I didn’t fight back against the guys that shoved me, if anything, I egged them on. I goaded them. I curse under my breath. I knew I was being slightly reckless after being taken to the orphanage.
I knew it when I ran away, when I would walk into a storm at night after an argument, when I would sit on the edge of eagles point, a cliff off of the highway through the forest. I knew it was all reckless, but I thought after being adopted that stopped, that the loss of my parents no longer affected me.
But looking at myself on that bulletin board, I can see it. I’m still reckless, maybe no one noticed, but when I see that picture, I know that I’m still fighting to feel something. Maybe that’s why I’m okay with the taste of danger, because it gives me something that wakes me up.
It’s why I don’t like being alone. When I’m alone, it’s not even me and my thoughts, it’s just me. My thoughts are blank and my body is numb. So I try to make it so that I’m moving with the world, not letting the world move without me.
It's why I'm loud, it's why I'm sarcastic, it's why I'm impulsive. So that I wouldn’t be lost, forgotten. it’s why I’m reckless.
“God fucking dammit” I curse as rain starts falling. I hold onto my bag and do my best to keep it from getting wet.
“I think this was a bad idea,” Connor says “maybe we should have stayed inside”
“Just hurry. We’re almost there anyway” I grumble
My hair is starting to stick to my face from the rain and shivers rake through my body. I clench my teeth to keep them from chattering.
“Where are we even going?” Levi asks as he rubs his hands up and down his arms.
I sigh “the school”
Connors steps come to a halt and he grabs Levi’s arm to keep him from moving forward, holding him by his side. My eyes flicker down to the way Connor keeps his grasp on Levi but they flick back up to Connors when he clears his throat. “We’re going to the school?”
I know I didn’t fill them in on the plan, but I had a feeling they wouldn’t approve and would either try and stop me, or leave straight out the door.
“Well,” I look up at the darkening sky for a moment before meeting Connors gaze “I need to do something”
Before Connor can say anything, Levi looks up at me and raises an eyebrow “the school is closed. Were you planning on breaking in?”
I blink, not sure what to say to appease them. I shift the backpack on my shoulder and mess with the straps. “Well, yes”
Both their eyes widen and they don’t say anything for a moment. Deciding to take control of the moment, I turn around and take a few steps forward before looking back at them and asking “are you going to come or not?”
I’m far enough away that when they started murmuring to each other I couldn’t hear what they were saying. The conversation seemed to be getting closer to an argument so I turned away and began walking. If they didn’t want to come, they didn’t have to.
I was a few paces away when I heard the sound of rushed footsteps coming up behind me. I turned a bit to look over my shoulder at Levi and Connor who were just behind me. “Made up your mind?” I asked
Connor nodded a bit more hesitantly than Levi but nodded either way. “We decided that it would be best to stay with you just in case something happened”
Levi nodded again as he spoke “we’re in this life together, no one left behind”
I chuckled quietly “we’re not the three musketeers”
Levi Shrugged in response as we walked onto Middlebury street- the street the school is on.
The school is run down. It doesn’t look modern or pristine like the school in other towns, I think Lakewood is simply looked over. I mean, Colorado is fairly large. I suppose it means we all just got stuck in the one school lacking the care it needs. This school is one breath away from falling apart.
We walk up to the doors and as expected, when I give the doors a pull the lock keeps them shut.
“Well, it was fifty-fifty” I shrug as I continue around the side of the school, Connor and Levi following behind me. There are many times teachers either forget to lock the door or simply don’t care.
We come to a window and I do my best to pull it up. I’m not surprised when it doesn’t come the whole of the way up, maybe a few inches.
“Well unless one on us becomes several feet smaller and flat as paper this won’t work,” Connor says flatly. I know he doesn’t approve of my actions but I’m not keeping him here.
I feel a little guilty, I basically dragged them into this because they want to keep me safe. Maybe if I wasn’t so reckless this wouldn’t be happening.
I’m not even quite sure why I’m doing this. Is it because the school is always too busy to ever find out about the painting? Is it because it’s too risky? Or am I really reckless?
I ignore Connor's comment and reach for my bag. As I unzip the zipper of the bag I reach in to grasp the handle of the hammer, I took it out of the bag, making Levi's eyes go wide. “Is that a hammer?”
“Yeah?” I don’t look back at them as I zip my bag back up and move to bring the hammer up to the window.
Before I can make another move, a hand grasps my arm, preventing any movement I had.
“Ethan” Levis voice is sharp, making me pause “I don’t know what’s happening right now, but this is bad”
“It’s not like I’m going to break the window, Levi. I just want to pry it open”
He lets go of my arm and steps back “the question is why, Ethan”
I sigh and turn back to face them who are both looking at me expectantly. “I just want to find out about the picture” they both look at me with confusion and I close my eyes, lifting my chin up towards the sky slightly “the one from my locker”
I can see when they register my words and their looks of concern make me cringe
“Ethan, I know you’re curious, but this isn’t the way to go about it. This is breaking and entering, a crime” Connor talks to me like I’m either seconds away from lashing out or running away.
“I won’t get caught″ I reply stubbornly and turn back to the window, putting the end on the hammer under the part of the window already open and begin to pry. It opens a bit more and I pull harder, hoping it will lift just a bit more.
“Is this some sort of cry for attention?”
My grip on the hammer slips and I stumble backward. I look at Levi with wide eyes “What the fuck?”
He runs a hand through his hair “this is dangerous and risky. I don't think you're grasping the whole situation here, and I know Jill and Mark haven’t been the best company, but this isn’t something you have to do to cope”
My head reels back “cope? Fucking cope? This isn't some sort of fucking cry for help, Levi. I just want to know. I need to know who the hell was there, who was it that after so long, saw me”
I move back to the window and use my hands to push it up. It moves a little more, just enough for someone to get through. I use my hands to hold onto the ledge and I’m about to push myself up when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I don't turn my head but I see Connor in my peripheral vision, his grip tightens just a little before loosening “listen, I’m here for you until the end, but do you really want to do this?”
“Yes” I reply without hesitation. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing but I don’t let myself think about it for too long. I see Connor nod his head. I take that as confirmation and I hoist myself through the window and into what seems to be the chemistry classroom.
Levi follows after me, stumbling a little as he lowers himself onto the ground. I watch as Connor comes in after, looking around the class before his eyes settle on mine.
“Okay,” I begin “I think we should start in the art room. Let's see if there’s anything that looks familiar or similar to the picture I got”
They both nod and we walk out of the classroom into the hall. The school feels so different right now, there are no crowds or yelling, there is no shoving or fighting. It’s quiet, and the whole thing feels off.
We pass the senior's English room, the library, the sophomore history room, and we walk down the hall and make a right into the next hall.
The halls are dim as the sun begins to set. I don’t want to risk turning on the lights in the unlikely case someone is here. Whether it’s a teacher or some random kid, I don’t want to get noticed.
I pull open the door to the art room and walk in. The tables sit next to easels. Some have canvases on them with current projects, some art supplies are still out, spread around the room.
Paint litters the floor due to people not caring enough to be careful or clean up and the trash is basically overflowing.
I grimace at the state of the room but I don’t let it deter me. “Let’s check the work already done, on the drying rack, on the easels, teachers desk, wherever”
We all split up and begin looking around. I look at each canvas but none of them really remind me of my picture, none even come close to the pure talent that I saw.
There’s one of a dog, no doubt the dog of whoever made it. I skip past that one easily. There’s one of a tree with bright green leaves and a blue background behind it. This one isn’t the most terrible tree I’ve seen but it lacks a lot. I roll my eyes at the canvas which has a hole it, likely from an idiot who wanted to assert their dominance by punching it, showing how tough they are.
I groan in my head at how the search is going. None of these are it.
“Are sure they’re even in this class? There’s an art room upstairs too” Levi points out
I bite my lip in contemplation. The art class upstairs is mainly for freshmen and people just beginning art. A basics class. Would they have faked their talent? Just so they could paint pictures for people?
Connor sighs “I’ll go check it out”
I look at him skeptically “really?” from what I could tell, he didn’t want to do this.
“We’re already here, aren’t we? Better to get it over with then stay any longer than needed and risk getting caught” he waves his hand around indifferently
He walks out of the room and Levi and I both look at the doors for a moment before turning back to our tasks.
I’m shuffling through a pile of drawings as Levi asks “should we have left him?”
I pick up a stack of teacher papers and look through them for any sort of clue. I feel a little like Sherlock Holmes. “I doubt anything will happen. We’ll meet him there in a few minutes anyway”
I look at the seating chart a little longer, wondering if I could narrow down the class with this. I fold it and put it in my bag.
“I don’t think anything is in here” Levi says as he stands up from his crouched position in front of the drying racks.
I nod hesitantly, still not sure if we looked everywhere. “Well then I guess we can go meet Connor”
We walk over to the doors but we both pause when footsteps start coming from the opposite direction from the other art room.
I move from the door and stand flat against the wall, Levi copies my movements and I move my hand down to turn the lock.
“Maybe it’s Connor?” Levi asks softly as to not alert the person in the hall if it’s not Connor.
I curse under my breath as the person begins talking as I hear another pair of footsteps walking this way. “Wishful thinking”
Levi’s eyes go wide “well if it’s not Connor, then we need to tell him. If he’s caught then he could get in serious trouble”
I pause “that all depends on who it is” I don’t give Levi time to question what I mean as I turn the doorknob, ignoring Levis panicked eyes, and I look into the hall.
The two figures are walking opposite to the stairwell meaning that they’re not going Connors direction. I squint my eyes in the dark halls and make out just barely who they are. The girl has brown hair with straight across bangs, she’s in a black dress and holds her heels in one hand and she holds the guy's hand in the other.
I move back inside and curse once again “fucking Jake” I mutter
“It’s Jake? The guy from the football team?” Levi asks and I nod
“Yeah, he’s with some girl, most likely to hook up”
I run a hand down my hand. Why did they have to pick this place of all places?
“Okay. options one and two” I put one finger up “we go out the window from here if it opens,” Levi shakes his head as predicted and I hold up a second finger “we go find Connor and leave out the front doors”
“Front doors? Isn’t that risky?” Levi asks
I shrug “maybe. But it’s less risky than dropping out of the second-floor window”
Levi nods sheepishly, likely having forgotten that we would have to leave out the window on the second floor if not the front doors.
I open the door and look both ways making sure that Jake and his girl friend are gone. We begin to move but I stop suddenly, making Levi bump into me which makes me stumble a little. “What?” Levi whispers
“We should take off our shoes”
Levi looks at me blankly and I begin to take off my shoes as I explain “to reduce noise, it’ll soften our footsteps”
He then takes off his shoes and holds them in his hands, nodding at me that he’s ready.
We walk down the hall as quietly as possible. It’s worse that it’s Jake that’s here, I know he wouldn’t waste a chance to get us in trouble, especially since he’s on the football team so he has a higher chance of not getting in trouble due to being a star player and needing to play or some shit.
We both pause and my nerves jump when footsteps start coming our way. Levi and I both look at each other at the same time with wide eyes and I pull him under the stairwell and we both crouch under the stairs, our breaths harsh as we look out into the dark hall.
It’s now that I realize my mistake. The stairwell is most likely one of the most used spots for sex. Other than the classrooms or bleachers, this is it.
It’s too cold to go outside and unless they decide to fuck right against the wall, it’s fifty fifty for us.
My heart seems to beat louder and louder each step closer they get to us.
“It’ll work out” I hear the girl say
“Are you sure?” Jake asks her
She scoffs “yeah I’m sure, it’s all working out and soon we’ll both have what we want. They’ll dump her like trash and come to me, and you can make your move. Easy. until then..” It seems both Levi and I are holding our breaths as they walk near us. The girl runs a hand down his arm with a lustful look and he returns it. They suddenly attack each other’s lips and my nose scrunches. This is the last thing I want to see.
it’s only when we can't hear them anymore do we release our breaths.
“Holy shit” Levi breathes
I nod in agreement “come on” I wave him over as I move from under the stairs and quickly make my way up them with Levi not far behind.
We basically run up the stairs as we make it to the second floor. We’re quick to make it down the hall and to the art room where Connor is just coming out of. “Oh hey, I didn’t find anyt-” I lunge for him and cover his mouth with my hand.
“Don't talk, Jake is here with some girl and are going to have sex, we need to leave now” I rush out and quickly pull my hand away, worried he’ll lick me or something to get me to move my hand.
He nods and we all begin to walk back to the stairs. We pause to listen, making sure no one is coming up and we all carefully walk down the stairs. “Why are you not wearing shoes?” Connor whispers
“To reduce noise” Levi whispers back
We make it to the bottom and make our way down the hall
We all startle at the sound of a new voice “What the fuck?” Jake yells at us
“Fucking shit” I curse quietly “don’t look behind you, he can't see us in the dark” I whisper to them
Of course they chose to have sex in the hall. Of fucking course.
“Get the fuck out!” the girl yells at us and it takes no more encouragement for all of us to sprint down the hall towards the doors.
I panic as I hear footsteps coming our way which seem to belong to Jake. “Fuck, shit, fuck” I whisper as I run down the hall.
Jake is bigger and stronger. I don’t know if that makes him faster or slower than me but the second I make it outside, I don't stop running, the cold air makes my deep breaths burn in my throat.
The rain has left the air moist and everything around it wet. I splash through puddles and the slight mist makes it hard to see.
Connor and Levi are both running behind me and I can only hope Jake doesn’t chase us all the way back to my house.
I keep my head down at street lights so he can't see me and Levi and Connor do the same. I’m jealous that Connor has his shoes on, the hard ground of the street makes my feet ache.
We run a little while longer before I don’t hear anyone behind us anymore. I peek behind my shoulder and I come to a stop, relieved that Jake seems to be gone.
I breathe heavily along with Connor and Levi as they both stop with me.
“Oh my god” Connor whispers “that, that was so incredibly crazy”
Levi nods in response “did we even get anything from this crazy break in?”
Connor shakes his head and they both look at me. I’m about to say no but I remember the seating chart that I took from the art room. I don’t know if it’ll be helpful, but it’s something. “Maybe”
Connor swipes a hand through the air “no more of this illegal shit. I can only deal with this once in my life” he gives me a pointed look and I nod. If today taught me a lesson, it would be to not break into schools. Especially if you still want to keep Jake and his girls out of your mind.