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“Oh my god” Alex mutters and I shoot a glare at him.

“Reece!” Alexis calls from across the courtyard

“Here comes the queen of the underworld” Benny snickers and Connor covers up his laugh with a harsh cough.

“Why did I have to have the same name as her?” Alex sighs

I shoot him a look “it’s not the same, and quit being jerks”

Alex takes a bite of his sandwich and mumbles around it “close enough”

“When the fuck did she come back? I thought she was on some long ass vacation or some shit” Ethan questions

Alexis’s black boots come into view as she settles next to me, snuggling in close. She glares at all the guys “I came back today. Just wanted to say hello to my boyfriend” she kisses my cheek as if to prove a point “Or is that a problem?”

Ethan mutters faintly “yes” and everyone’s shoulders shake in laughter as I sigh in exasperation “it’s nice to see you Alexis”

Levi looks at me and what I assume is him trying to be nice, he points to his own cheek and says “you got some.. Lipstick there”

He then turns back to his chips and I use the back of my hand to wipe off the dark red lipstick on my cheek.

Connor clears his throat “so how’ve you been Alexis?”

She looks down at her black painted nails and gently picks at them “My family and I went on a vacation to Romania, it was pretty nice but it lacked some things” she shrugs and looks back at everyone in distaste.

Benny pauses his bite and looks at Alexis with wide eyes “you went to Romania?” he asks and Alexis nods “like- the one with Transylvania? The one famous for -you know- vampires?”

Benny, Ethan, and Alex all burst out laughing. Even Connor and Levi hold tiny smiles

Sure Alexis is a little.. Dark, with her constant dark-colored clothes and makeup, but it’s not like she’s a literal vampire.

“Guys!” I call out and they all calm down as Alexis glares at them.

They may not exactly like her, but they tolerate her for me. That doesn’t mean they do exactly what I want, but they do what they do and I have to be grateful for that.

“Man, where’s Thea when you need her?” Ethan looks around and pouts when he doesn’t see her.

I wonder where she is too. Last time, Levi and Ethan found her sitting on the other side of the courtyard saying that she thought they forgot about her.

I don’t know how she could ever think that, has she met herself?

She’s gorgeous and fun. She has this beautiful aura that just makes everything seem better than it is. She’s a diamond in the dirt and hell, I’ve hardly spent any time with her. And seeing how I am right now, with my girlfriend leaning against my side, I’m not sure if I should be excited or scared.

“Who’s Thea?” Alexis asks

Connor snorts “not you” his eyes go wide and he quickly looks away with his hand covering his mouth. Connor is not really known to be snarky or mean, he’s actually really cool and easy to get along with. Apparently not with Alexis though.

“Oh my god, Connor! Who would’ve thought you could channel your inner Alex” Benny throws his arm around Connor who just looks embarrassed.

Alexis scoffs and stands up “whatever” she bends down to give me a kiss on the cheek “bye baby” and then she walks off to her group of friends.

Alex lets out a breath “and there she goes, back to her vampire cult friends”

Benny and Ethan once again burst out laughing while Levi looks at me and taps his cheek, the same one Alexis kissed. “You got some more lipstick there”

Trying to navigate through these halls when they’re full is a bitch.

As I try to follow the little blonde girl who seems to never leave my mind, I continuously have to push past people and work to not trip over someone’s feet. Although I’m pretty sure some guy just tripped over my foot and fell to the ground, I would have tried to help but the crowd just kept pushing me forward.

“Thea!” I call out again and I couldn’t be more grateful when the bell rings and people start making their way into classrooms and the crowd becomes easier to maneuver through.

She turns towards me and grins. Her smile completely lights up her face and it makes me marvel at her beauty.

I mentally scold myself and remind myself of Alexis. Alexis’s pretty too. She’s beautiful in a.. Dark and mysterious way.

I take a breath before walking over to her and shooting her a smile. “Hey Thea”

She waves as best as she can with her arms full.

I lightly chuckle and catch a notepad that falls from her grip “why don’t you use your backpack?”

I hand her back her sketchbook and she takes it, putting it under her arm. “I do use it”. She turns a little to show the full backpack on her back. “It's full”

“What do you have in there that’s taking up so much space?” I ask

She pauses for a moment and seemingly thinks over her answer. “I like to draw. So I have a few sketch pads and pens, the usual” she shrugs as best as she can with her arms so full.

I nod in understanding “well, I just was wondering if you wanted to come to my baseball game tomorrow?” I ask almost nervously. She mentioned she wasn’t a big fan when we first met, but there’s just something in me that wants to see her in the stands, cheering for me.

She giggles, most likely at my expression, and nods her head “sure. Sounds fun. When is it?”

“It’ll be around five, it’s a home game, so you’ll just come here. I can even pick you up” I offer

She smiles at me “I see no problem with that. How about I give you my number and I’ll text you my address”

I really shouldn't be as excited as I am to be getting this girl’s number, but as she tells it to me because she can’t put in her own phone due to lack of arm mobility, I feel the goofy smile on my face not fading one bit.

The bell rings, signaling that classes are starting and I start backing up “alright, I’ll see you around”

She nods “Yeah, thanks for inviting me. I’ll be your number one fan” she laughs

She then turns away and walks to her class. I spin towards my class and pump my fist in the air. “Yes!”

“Fuck!” Ethan knocks all the pieces off the board and stands up to go sit on the couch. “I hate that game”

Connor nods thoughtfully as he begins picking up the scattered pieces and money “alright, don’t play monopoly with Ethan if you want to get past more than ten minutes in the game. Got it”

I roll my eyes and clean the rest of the game, putting it away. “Ethan can’t play any game”

“Fuck both of you!” Ethan calls out from the couch

We all stand up and scatter around the room. Some resting on the couch with Ethan, some on the other chairs, or me, putting on my shoes getting ready to go home.

“Are you going to your mom's or dad's house?” Levi asks

“Moms. dads out of town for some new lawyer meeting” my jaw clenches at the thought. My parents have never really gotten along. I don’t exactly help, especially when they both want to keep custody but don’t want to be within a hundred-mile radius of each other.

Levi nods and walks me to the door “do you need a ride?” he asks

I shake my head as I put my hood over my head to try and block out the sun. if the weather keeps up like this, tomorrow’s baseball game should be great weather-wise.

Levi places a hand on my shoulder “let me know if you need anything okay?”

I nod again and turn to him fully so he knows I mean what I say “you let me know too okay?”

His head reels back just an inch and his eyes widen for a second but he relaxes and smiles at me “sure”

I look him over, trying to tell if he’s telling the truth but Levi has always been so well guarded it makes me want to pull my hair out. Sometimes I wish he would let us in to what’s really going on in his head.

“Alright then” I wave at him as I make my way down the street to my mom’s house.

The upcoming noise of life alerts me that I’m coming to the busier part of town. This is the part where more people are. There are shops and restaurants and it’s always full of life. It’s especially nice around Christmas when all the storekeepers put up Christmas decorations.

That’s most of the joy I get around Christmas with my family being so far from being a family. I’m either with my mom or dad, making my family feel empty at times.

I’m not the only one to deal with split parents. There are other kids I’ve seen who also have to deal with this. But it doesn’t make the situation feel any less lonely. It’s really difficult to not know what’s going to happen.

If my mom gets custody over me then I’m going to stay here and my dad will move away. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again and that terrifies me.

We used to be really close, we’ve grown out of playing catch or helping me with homework, but we understand each other. He’s been there when I needed him and I don’t know what’ll happen if I lose that.

However, going with my dad means moving to California. That’s moving hundreds of miles away from my friends, from my life, from my mom.

My mom has never been the supporter. She didn’t come to my baseball games or help with homework. But that’s because my dad always did that. My mom is my encourager. She used to help me get dressed for my games, or for my first date.

She listens to me when I talk to her about Alexis or my friends. I can’t leave her. I still have so much to say.

The clouds are coming in quicker and my wish for the fields to be dry tomorrow suddenly seems less likely.

I hurry my steps until I get to my front door. I knock a few times before my mom comes to the door. “Reece! You’re here, thank god”

She pulls me in and I laugh as she pulls me along in a hurry “what’s the rush mom?”

She pulls me into her office and starts rummaging through her drawers. My smile suddenly dies down when she takes out a packet of paper. “These need to be signed for our court case”

I hesitantly take it and look through it slowly “what is it?”

She hands me a pen and waves her hand around like it’s not a big deal “it basically says that you agree to the following terms when this is finally over”

I look up at her “but these terms are only if I stay with you- and visitation rights? Mom, he’s my dad ” I raise an eyebrow “these conditions are crazy”

She starts walking away to the kitchen and I follow after her, still holding the papers. “Reece, whose side are you on?”

My eyes widen “there is no side mom. You’re being crazy about this- I haven’t even had time to think about what to do or how to feel- I'm not ready for this”

I put the papers on the counter and hold my hands up to it.

“You have to be ready Reece. The court hearing is next month and we need to finalize our parts” she points at me “including you”

“You don’t understand mom! This isn’t only about you two! Have you thought about how this is affecting me?” frustrated and overwhelmed tears burn my eyes and my hands dig in my hair.

“Of course we think about you Reece! This whole thing is about you!”

I shake my head “No, this is all about you two! You’re both too stubborn to agree on anything so this is just a giant game of tug of war to see who will win!”

I can’t handle another back and forth with her so I swiftly turn away and run up to my room. When I finally reach my room, I close the door and lean against the back of it. I look at my slightly messy room. I look at my baseball posters. Trying to focus on anything but the frustration in my mind.

A while ago I took away my photos of my parents. I can’t be reminded of them right now so I hid them in my closet. I’m not sure when I’ll take them out again.

My bed is dark blue and I’m glad I made it. It feels a little less stereotypical when my bed is made.

I feel less like the popular jock with a hot girlfriend and more real. More true. No matter how ugly the truth is.

This whole thing is just incredibly overwhelming. I’m not sure where to start in my thoughts.

I move to sit on my bed and look around at my gear. I stand and pick up my favorite bat. I call her Jamie because I got her on my fourteenth birthday, around my James Bond phase.

I take her and my ball and quietly make my way downstairs. I don’t hear or see my mom so I can only assume that she’s gone out.

I walk out and make my way to the park the guys and I found a while back. I move towards the field and swing a few times, getting into the headspace.

I take all the emotions, the anger, the confusion, the anxiety, and put it all into the ball. I put every thought aside and throw the ball up.

It comes down and I swing with every emotion I have and the ball goes flying with a loud ‘crack’

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