“If you don’t control your mind, someone else will.” ~John Allston
The next day, after Tanner and Alivia had broken up, I went to the doctor and managed to get rid of my crutches. I still wasn’t suppose to run, and with the season ending this week, I didn’t plan on it anyway.
I drove up to Grandma’s house after school so I could retrieve Asher and grab dinner. Mom wouldn’t be home for another few hours and Dad was off somewhere. He never really tells us where he goes, he just does what he wants, when he wants.
The familiar gravel driveway welcomed me to her small house that was actually in the opposite direction of our house. I didn’t mind, it was nice to get away from the packed neighborhoods. Because of farms in the area, housing developments were often clustered together near the school.
I put the car in park as Pearl and I stepped out into the open air. Leaf piles were scattered over the yard along with some acorns that fell from her gigantic oak tree in the middle of the yard. Asher was sitting in the center of a leaf circle, stacking up acorns with his little hands. Grandma was raking them around the little guy, who was really content just where he was.
“Look Asher, it’s your brother and lovely sister!” she called, bringing Asher’s attention to us.
“Hey!” Asher screamed. He scrambled up and looked around, confused by how he was going to get out of his leaf kingdom. He pushed them aside to make a path for him to escape, then went running to Pearl.
“It’s Asher,” Pearl said halfheartedly as he hugged her legs.
He giggled up at her, then ran over to me. I don’t know what Pearl’s problem, but lately she’s been in a lousy mood. I’m sure she didn’t want me to interfere with her business, so I didn’t bother asking. If she wanted me to know, she would tell me.
“Squirt!” I shouted, lifting him high in the air.
“Tin!” he yelled back as he latched onto me.
Grandma laid her rake against a tree and greeted us. She invited us inside and we crashed in there. It was an older house, with worn wood floors that reminded me of Alivia’s house. There was a counter that separated the living room from the kitchen and dining room. In the basement, there were our rooms while her’s was on the first floor.
Grandpa had died before I got a chance to know him. He was a veteran, and from what I heard, was just as friendly and simply awesome as Grandma was. She hadn’t remarried, but spent time with other friends since she retired.
“How was Alivia’s?” she asked me when I started on my homework and Asher found the link-n-logs in the family room.
“Friday night or yesterday?” I asked, not looking up so she couldn’t see my flushed cheeks.
“Oh you got invited over again?” she said, sounding excited.
“Grandma... We’re just friends,” I laughed.
“For now,” she stated. I looked up to see her leaning back in her chair with a cookie in her hand, smiling suspiciously.
“Right,” I said, glancing back down at my homework.
“You know, her family goes to the same church I do. They have a wonderful group there, I bet you’d like it,” she told me.
Sometimes we had conversations like that, where she would talk to me about church. It wasn’t often, but every once in a while she’d ask if I would like to go and I’d always say, “Maybe when I’m older.”
“I talked to Sawyer about the Bible yesterday. He said he’s study with me if I wanted,” I informed her. I glanced up to see her pleased expression.
“Sawyer is a good kid. Are you two friends?”
“Kinda,” I said. “I mean, I like him better than Jimmy and Marcus.”
I gave her a weird look and she laughed. Grandma was accepting of all of my friends I introduced to her. I would never had suspected that she didn’t like them.
“I’m sorry but they’re just so... They seem to use you, dear, and I don’t like watching that,” she explained, the grin fading from her face into concern.
I swallowed. Jimmy, Marcus, and I had been best friends for a few years, but looking back they didn’t seem to like me that much. They just included me because I was good with a camera and the popular girls hung around me when we met. Not a ton now, the only girls who really talk to me are Alivia and Shelly, if you include her.
The more I hung out with Sawyer, the more I saw that I was being mistreated by my other friends.
“So are you going to study with Sawyer?” she asked hopefully.
“I’m thinking about it.”
She rubbed my arm and smiled at me. Sure, my parents weren’t always there for me, but I knew Grandma would support me in anything, as long as it wasn’t utterly stupid. I was grateful for her, and happy Asher wasn’t stuck at daycare everyday.
I went back to homework as she fixed dinner. I had never felt more comfortable somewhere than here, and I hoped she knew that.
  
I was half-asleep in first period when the bell rang. I sprung up and walked to the door in a hurry, eager to make it to the next thing. One class closer to lunch.
“Tin Tin, you’re coming Saturday, right?”
I spun around to see Shelly at my heels. I don’t know why she was so anxious to invite me all of a sudden and it set me on edge. I stepped away, a little uncomfortable being so close to her. Nodding, she was satisfied, then called the same question to another loud-mouth across the hall.
“Hey,” a voice came from my right.
Turning, I saw Sawyer beginning to fall in step with me. He looked completely concerned and tilted his head in Shelly’s direction. We fell in the same rhythm with our steps hitting the old, cracked concrete floor at the same time. Sunlight filtered through the glass walls of the hallway, making the air a little uncomfortable.
“Why is she being all friendly with you?” he asked.
“She wants me to come to a party Saturday. No big deal.”
I shrugged to show that I really didn’t care. His eyebrows drew together and he looked like he was disgusted by something.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. I just heard her parties were a little... Excessive.”
“Excessive? What do you mean?”
He tried to play it off like it was nothing, but I kept pressing him.
“I mean, I heard there was a lot of drinking, making out, doing stupid stuff, and girls and boys taking it farther than normal...”
“I’m not going to do any of that!” I exclaimed as we turned the corner to the hallway with the Senior’s lockers.
“Yeah, heard that before,” he mumbled. “Are you taking Alivia?” He crouched in front of his locker to dial the combination.
“What? No. I wouldn’t take her to something and ruin her, are you kidding me?” I laughed. Alivia at a party? That’s just seems wrong. She doesn’t seem like the party type, which was what was good about her. I wanted her to stay that way. I felt like it would turn her off if I asked her to go.
“Just asking, I know you guys are good friends,” he said, slamming his locker. He wouldn’t look at me, and gave off the feeling that he was really upset about something. Not once when I was talking to him did a grin fly across his face, and he didn’t make one bad joke.
“Hey, what’s your problem? Why are you asking me all these questions?” I asked, following him through the crowd. He spun around and looked at me like I was an idiot, something I never got from him before. It unnerved me to see him looking at me like that. I thought we were friends and that he saw me as an equal. He was just treating me like every other Senior in school.
“Tin, don’t go to that party. They’re bad news, I’m telling you now so you won’t get hurt later, got it? And I was asking about Alivia because it’s this thing called caring. Just don’t go,” he said. His annoyed tone reduced to sounding exhausted. It put me at ease to see him try and be himself again. Once again, I noticed the circles under his eyes and his hair sticking in all directions.
Something wasn’t right with him, but I didn’t ask any further.
“Okay,” I answered. “Sorry if I made you mad.”
“You didn’t,” he sighed. “It’s been a long week for me.”
I nodded. I remembered how Sawyer picked me up on the side of the road and cared about my situation. He was a good friend for being sensitive about it, and I wondered if I should ask him if he was okay.
The bell rang before I had the chance, and I went to class a little concerned about his “long week”. He seemed fine when I was at his house the day before.
By the time fifth period had rolled around, Alivia was acting and talking as normal. I didn’t ask her about Sawyer, but I couldn’t help wondering if he knew something she didn’t and that’s why he was down. I asked him if he was alright at lunch. He said he was.
While I trusted Sawyer, I didn’t believe him. For the rest of our lunch period, he didn’t say a word.
  
The rest of the week was spent waiting for Saturday to arrive. Sawyer slowly came back to his usual self, but he still wasn’t there. Sometimes I’d catch him staring off into nothing, eyes glazed over like he was thinking deeply about something. Alivia acted fine, but gave her brother weird looks when he would have one of his moments. It was as if Sawyer took all the bad news and blows while Alivia had no clue what was going on.
I tried not to let it show how weird I found it at his sudden personality change. I treated him like I normally would, because I honestly didn’t know how to handle the situation any differently.
Alivia, on the other hand, actually seemed happier and relieved since the break up. Her hurt feeling seemed to have evaporated into thin air, and if she felt disappointed that the relationship didn’t work out, she didn’t show it.
My friends in my art class still let me sit with them, but didn’t acknowledge me in any way, shape, or form. They just left me to my own business. I should’ve gone and sat with Alivia, but it was hard for me to find courage to go up and talk to her. Plus, I didn’t want anyone to harass her or me.
When Saturday did arrive, I was torn between going and not going. Sawyer told me it was bad news, but I needed the money. Maybe I could make mends with Shelly and my other friends again.
Taking a deep breath, I stared out the window of my bedroom. Neither of my parents were home tonight, Asher was at Grandma’s, and Pearl was at a friend’s house. I told Grandma that I was also at friend’s house for the night, and she so graciously took Asher in for a few hours until my parents came home.
It was only a matter of convincing my subconscious into letting me go.
I fidgeted with the backpack strap on my shoulder. I didn’t know how long the party would last or when I would end up home, so I packed an extra set of clothes just in case. Would Alivia approve of me doing this?
However, I had known the people at the party a lot longer than I had known Alivia. Plus I would make a profit out of it. And did she have to find out that I had gone?
Taking a deep breath, I nodded at my reflection then left the house, regretting my decision even before I pulled out of the driveway.
  
I put my car in park and stared straight ahead for a moment. I could hear the music coming from the house and it rattled my bones. Despite me being caught up with this kind of crowd throughout more than half of my highschool career, this was my first party I had been to. I didn’t know what to expect, other than what Sawyer had told me.
Slipping my camera over my neck, I told myself that the only thing I would be doing here was taking pictures and leaving. That’s it. Maybe talking to some of the friends I didn’t know if I had or not, but no drinking or and definitely no making out. Just pictures.
I stepped out of the car, left my backpack on the front seat, and began to walk up the drive. The sun was setting and I suddenly wished I was in Alivia’s driveway instead. If she or Sawyer knew I was here, they would kill me.
The smell of a fire going out back and an immense amount of chlorine from the in-ground pool brought me back to the present. I stopped outside of the gate and let the wind try to push me back. Against my will, my legs moved forward.