“Why are they taking so freaking long?” I stood up and paced the room, waiting for the doctor.
“Have patience, Kai…,” my mom scolded gently.
“I know, I know. This place just sucks.”
“They’ve taken pretty good care of you, though,” she pointed out, packing my stuff into the bags the hospital had so generously provided.
“I know, but I hate hospitals,” I said running a hand through my hair in a vain attempt at trying to tame its unruliness.
“Me, too, hun.”
I plopped down in the recliner with a sigh, squirming in the seat, trying to scratch my trapped arm. “Why is this cast so itchy? It’s driving me insane.”
“Kai, please try to sit still and relax. You’re like the Energizer Bunny today. What’s the matter with you?” my mom bent down to kiss my forehead and ruffled my hair before sitting down herself in the other chair beside me.
“I dunno,” I shrugged, closing my eyes to rest against the head of the recliner. “Probably because I’ve been stuck inside, in a hospital bed for days. They wouldn’t even let me pee alone! Can you believe that?”
My mom chuckled and shook her head at me, “They needed to keep you for observation. They were making sure that your concussion went away and you were doing alright. It’s standard.”
I puffed out my cheeks and blew out the air in a whoosh, “Yeah I know, mom. I’m ready to get out of here is all.”
“Well now, I think we can make that happen, Kai. How are you both feeling today?” Dr. Cho said, walking in with a big annoying grin on his face.
“Fine,” I mumbled, managing a small vacant smile in his direction.
“We’re good, thank you,” my mom said with a laugh, leaning towards him, “We’re both just ready to get out of here, you know?”
“I know what you mean,” the doctor laughed and nodded, signing papers on his clipboard. “So, I just need you to sign these papers, Ms. Bishop. It states that you have received information on what medications to take. And here are the discharge instructions for Kai.”
“I need instructions now?” I said, as my mom signed on the dotted lines, “What am I, a battery operated toy?”
“Good one. You’re funny,” Dr. Cho chuckled, looking over at my mom, “Did you know your son was so funny?”
“Yes, he’s hilarious,” she said with a wide grin, rolling her eyes at me.
“Glad I’m entertaining, I guess.”
“Alright. You’re free to go. I’ll see you in about six weeks to get rid of that cast and check out how everything is doing. If you need to come in before then, though, or have any questions, feel free to call, okay?”
“Sounds good, doctor. Thank you,” my mom said, grabbing her coat and standing.
“Yeah, thanks,” I lifted a hand in goodbye and he nodded at me, smiling cordially as he left.
“You could have been a little nicer to the man. He was just doing his job,” my mom narrowed her eyes at me.
“Yeah I know. Sorry, mom. I’m just tired. I didn’t sleep well,” I yawned and stretched as I stood up and followed her out the door.
“Yeah those beds suck. I remember them from when I had you.”
“Why’d we have to move from Chicago to this dinky little town, mom?” I said, looking at my shoes as we walked.
“You know why. We needed the money from this new job to pay the bills and I got a promise of co-manager in a year’s time. Besides, I like being a waitress at the local bar and I don’t think Colorado is all that bad,” mom said, opening the car door.
“Yeah, I guess.” I got in the car, clumsily buckling my seatbelt. I tried to squelch the panic I felt rising.
“Are you alright, sweetie?” my mom asked. I shut my eyes to avoid seeing the concern in hers.
“Yeah,” I fibbed, trying not to let her know how freaked I was about being in a car again, but the truth was that I had a fluttering in my chest and my breathing was shallow. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck and I shivered.
“Oh sweetheart, just breathe. I’ll go slow.”
“I’m fine mom,” I lied, looking at her for emphasis, “Let’s go home, please.”
“You sure you’re alright?” She said with a frown.
“Yes, mom. I’m fine. Don’t worry.” So not fine.
“Well if you’re sure,” she prodded.
“I am.” I wasn’t.
She still didn’t look convinced, but she pulled away, true to her word about driving carefully. At leas ten cars passed us, honking.
“Mom,” I chuckled, trying to breath through the panic I felt fluttering in my chest, “You can go the speed limit. I won’t break, I promise.”
She smiled, and nodded, picking up speed. I tried to think about other things besides crashing. Like how I was going to do any drawing with my hand all jacked up. I had one more day of summer left until school started and I didn’t want to waste it.
“Can we go to a movie or something tonight?” I asked, not really wanting to be alone.
“Oh, I would love to kiddo, but I have the late shift tonight. Besides, the theater isn’t open on Sundays,” my mom ruffled my hair, but I pulled away.
“Right, I forgot,” I said, trying my best not to sound too disappointed.
“Yeah, sure. Whatever.”
She sighed, “I’m sorry, Hun. Randi called out and I couldn’t find anyone else. We’re short on staff as it is and have such a lot inventory to do on top of everything,” she hurried to explain.
“It’s fine mom, I’ll be okay. I’m sure I’ll find a way to occupy my time,” I insisted.
But it wasn’t fine.
I couldn’t tell her I was scared to be alone or that I was having recurring nightmares about the crash. That night was my last night of freedom before school and I spent most of the evening watching both old and new horror movies. Anything to keep me awake. Anything to keep the nightmares at bay for a while. I got creeped out a few times when I thought I caught sight of glowing eyes in the window or when the shadows seemed to morph into winged cats. I knew it was just my overactive imagination and remnants of my nightmares, but I couldn’t shake the disturbing feeling that I was being watched. When I finally drifted off to sleep, it was well past midnight. I was so exhausted, I actually don’t remember dreaming. It was a welcome, blissful relief.
The following morning I woke up to the alarm clock on my phone blaring in my ear. My mom hadn’t had the money lately to renew the service, but at least the alarm still worked. Honestly, I don’t remember setting the alarm. Which means my mom must have. Why she chose to set it for six thirty a.m. I couldn’t figure out. I snoozed until seven and then got up, ate breakfast and got ready for school.
“Kai? Are you awake sweetheart?” came my mom’s voice from the doorway, sounding about as tired as I felt.
“Yeah mom, I’m up,” I rolled my eyes and called back, spitting my toothpaste into the sink, muttering under my breath so she wouldn’t hear, “Geez mom.”
“Oh good. Can you grab this please?” she said as I walked to the front doorway, handing me a couple of grocery bags.
“What’s all this?” I shot her a questioning glance, putting the light bags onto the counter with a soft crinkling.
“Well,” she shrugged, grunting as she put the rest of the sacks on the table. “While you were in the hospital, I didn’t have time to go shopping between work and seeing you. I wanted to make sure you had food for tonight.”
“Tonight? You have to work again?” I raised my eyebrows, helping her put things away in our sparse cupboards and fridge.
“Yeah,” she pressed her lips together, her brows knitted, “I got the late shift again tonight. Damn that Randi! She’s pretty much worthless. She got let go because she kept showing up late, when she wasn’t calling in sick, that is. Guess who has to cover her shifts until they hire someone else?”
“The woman in charge?” I guessed, she nodded, “And that would mean you, right?”
“Yup. I’m livid,” she slammed the freezer and flopped down into a chair, resting her head in her hands.
My mom usually never got this upset or at least she’s never shown me if she was. Normally she could shrug off whatever was irking her.
“I told you we shouldn’t have moved, mom,” I joked, plopping down beside her to put my arm around her shoulder.
“Ugh. Please don’t start, hun. I’m not in the mood,” she groaned, massaging her temples and closing her eyes.
“I know mom. I’m sorry,” I offered, not sure what else to say that didn’t involve my weird sense of humor.
“Thanks. It’s only temporary, I hope. You ready for your first day of school?”
“Yeah. As ready as I’ll ever be, anyway,” I responded, heaving my book bag onto my shoulder with a grunt.
“Alrighty, I’ll drive you then. Let’s go, bud,” she said, dragging her feet all the way to the door, shoulders slumped.
“Whoa,” I cried out in surprise as I tripped over something.
“Aww how cute. Where’d you come from little fella?” My mom cooed as she started to pet a stray cat, with silky black fur. It purred as she scratched it behind the ears.
“Come on mom. I don’t want to be late,” I grumbled, narrowing my eyes at the offensive creature that made me lose my balance. It hissed at me. I stuck my tongue out at it.
“Oh, okay honey. You’re right. See you later cutie,” she patted the cat’s head as I stalked off to the car. Even as we drove away, I felt eyes on me once more. I was really starting to get creeped out.
On the way to school, I tried not to imagine what it was going to be like being the new kid in school. Especially in the middle of the school year. The cast was a nice touch. It should make me stand out among my peers like a sore thumb. I swallowed, my pathetic adam’s apple bobbing with the effort it took.
“Alright, my darling boy. I’ve already filled out the paperwork needed to register you. So, you should be set. Just go into the office first to get your schedule and everything, okay?”
“Kay,” I said shrugging one shoulder and gazing over at her, trying to appear nonchalant.
She raised her eyebrows, but finally said, “Well good luck. Love you.”
“Thanks mom.” I grabbed the door handle, wanting to simultaneously flee and stay hidden inside of the car. She cleared her throat and I turned around, “Love you too. Get some rest.”
“Thanks, hun. I’ll do my best. Do you want a ride after school?” the black circles under her eyes made my decision for me.
“Naw. I’ll catch the bus or something. No worries,” I reassured her, offering a small wave as I got out and headed into the building.
The office was just inside the building, which made it easy to locate. I kept getting stared at by random kids as they passed by. I watched the wall clock instead of acknowledging them. Being the new kid was sucking already, living up to my expectations. The receptionist had told me to wait, the principal wanted to see me before my first class.
“Mr. Williams will see you now,” the middle aged receptionist stated, her voice grating on my nerves as I headed to the principal’s door.
I knocked twice on the closed door, not wanting to talk to the big wig himself, but also not having any say in the matter. He had my schedule after all, and I didn’t know the town well enough to skip class yet. Although, it was tempting.
“Come in,” a gruff voice called out, coughing harshly.
“You wanted to see me? My name is Kai.”
“Kai? Oh yes, please have a seat,” he gestured to the worn brown leather chairs across from his desk.
I plopped down and waited, taking a look around at his decor, at least what I could see of it from my seat. Wooden bookshelves, dark blue paint, light brown shag carpet and sports paraphernalia up the wazoo. A masculine room indeed.
“So, from what I can see, young man, you have a clean record.” He cleared his throat before going on. “According to your transcripts, you had good grades and was rarely ever in trouble.”
I didn’t know what he wanted me to say, so I nodded, “Uh yes.”
“Okay. Well, here’s the student handbook, your schedule with your locker number on it and a map of the school. You shouldn’t have any issues getting around. If you run into trouble, I’m sure one of your classmates or a teacher will assist you,” he said handing me the papers and standing, his hand outstretched. “Welcome to Canton High.”
“Uh, thank you, sir,” I muttered, shaking his hand briefly and standing.
“My door is always open if you need anything at all. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a lock at the front desk.”
I nodded, unimpressed. Grown ups always said things like that, but never actually meant them. God forbid you actually needed something. The only adult I could count on was my mom, but even she wasn’t perfect. I got the lock and left, trying to locate my first class before the first bell rang. I was distracted, looking around at the numbers above the doors and I almost ran smack dab into the most beautiful guy I had ever seen outside of the movies. His perfectly groomed, dirty blond hair seemed to shimmer in the fluorescents and his deep blue eyes sucked me in as he blatantly stared at me, giving me a sense of deja vu.
I stared right back at him, my gray eyes taking in his short sleeve peach button down shirt and tan cargo pants, stopping at his black dress shoes. I brushed my dark brown, shaggy hair out of my eyes to get a better view. I was startled when the bell rang and I blinked. When I opened my eyes not even a second later, the gorgeous guy was gone, leaving me to stand in the empty hallway with my mouth slightly open, lost.