At seven in the morning Aris’ mother came in to wake her up for school. Aris rarely used an alarm clock, because she would sleep right through it the majority of the time. Although her parents were rarely around, they were always up in the morning to leave for work. Once Aris’ mother shook her awake, she moaned and made her way out of bed. She found clothes, got ready for school, and then headed downstairs to eat breakfast. Aris said goodbye to her parents on their way out the door as she began rummaging through the cabinets in search of food. She grabbed the Coco Puffs and poured herself a bowl. She ate in silence until she heard Billy knock and walk in the front door. She got up out of her seat, poured out the remainder of her milk in the sink, grabbed her backpack, and headed out the door with Billy.
As they walked to school the sun began to peer out over the trees. The light made the water droplets in Billy’s black shaggy hair, still left from his shower, sparkle. Billy shook his head and the water droplets splashed into Aris’ face.
“Hey!” She laughed and hit him in the arm. “Ever heard of a hair dryer?”
“They make my hair fluff out like Mrs. Franklin’s dog.” Billy usually kept his hair gelled in strands, and the thought of it sticking out in one big poof made him and Aris begin to laugh.
Aris and Billy walked up the steps of Roosevelt High School. They had about two more weeks of school left, and everyone was ready to leave. Aris and Billy were probably more ready than anyone because they hated school, not because of the work, or the teachers really, but the other students were the problem. Everyday was the same.
The two walked down the hall to Aris’ locker. On the way there a blonde prep, with shiny pink lips, walked down the hallway and slammed her shoulder into Billy’s. “Freak.”
Billy stopped and sighed, he had almost dropped his backpack. “One more year.”
Aris glared at the girl and shook her head. She hated how mean the other students could be. The two had always been labeled as weird. They dressed in dark clothes, Billy more so, and they loved anything and everything horror, which automatically made them freaks to the entire school. They both got picked on, but especially Billy; he was skinny, quiet, and lanky; perfect bait for all the jocks and preps. Though at times he did snap, usually it was at the wrong time when teachers happened to be looking in his direction. In the end he found it easier to just act like nothing happened. Aris was more outspoken and did not mind hitting someone if she had to. Usually, however, people just made fun of the two and they ignored it.
After getting through the long walk to Aris’ locker, their only other friend Simon walked up to meet them. Simon was very shy and barely talked; he was even smaller and skinnier than Billy which meant he got beat up often. If he kept his head up long enough for girls to notice, they would see that Simon was not a bad looking guy, in fact he was rather attractive, but his shaggy hair always covered his dark eyes. Unlike Aris and Billy, Simon dressed in jeans and light colored t-shirts most of the time. The two liked Simon and hung out with him sometimes, but he lived further away so they did not really spend much time with him outside of school.
“Hey Simon.” Aris smiled.
Simon smiled a little. “Hey.”
Billy turned to Simon. “Did you get the history homework done?”
“What’d you get for number four? I couldn’t find it anywhere.”
Simon shrugged. “I’d have to look.”
Aris shut her locker with her math book in hand as the bell rang. “Well I guess I’ll see you guys at lunch.”
“Have fun in math!” Billy winked at Aris.
Aris turned and walked to class. Billy always winked when Simon was around. They both knew he liked her, but was too shy to say anything. She thought it was sweet, but did not like him as more than a friend. She knew him, but not very well since he barely spoke a word. As Aris walked down the hallways she noticed all the different cliques; there were the preps, jocks, nerds, band geeks, and Goths. Pretty much any kind of group a person could imagine. Everyday Aris walked by them and realized she could not be happier outside of them all. Even though they were labeled as outcasts, they did not really fit in anywhere and that seemed a lot simpler than being a part of a bigger group. It seemed like everyday a new fight broke out between the cliques, but her small group of friends never had that problem.
Aris went into her classroom and sat down, not looking forward to the time ahead of her. Everyone had pretty much stopped caring about school since the year was almost over. Nearly every class was reviewing or trying to cram stuff in before finals. The hour and a half seemed to drag on, but that was nothing new for math.
After what seemed like forever, two classes had passed and the lunch bell rang. Aris put her stuff in her locker and went to meet Billy at his locker, which was near the lunch room. Like always he was waiting there, and they walked together fighting through the chaos that was lunch. Some days they skipped eating because the lunchroom was too much trouble to bother getting food. The school separated lunch into three separate periods, but that did not stop the endless amount of kids pushing and shoving their way to the lunch line. The cafeteria was too small for the amount of students in the school. Once anyone got through the lunch line, finding a seat proved just as difficult. Each clique claimed whole tables even if they had extra seats, and by the time a seat was found, only a few minutes remained to eat in the short half hour period. On these days Aris and Billy would go outside and talk until lunch ended.
But today the school served burritos for lunch, which very easily could have been the best meal they ever served. It was very rare that the lunchroom served any food that actually tasted real, let alone good. Aris and Billy pushed through the lunch crowd and got a place in line. Eventually they got their food and smiled at the burritos on their trays. When most people thought of burritos they thought of soft shells filled with meat and rice, but the school burritos were not like that at all. They had a hard, flakey golden crust, and the inside of the burritos contained only meat and beans. No one could explain why that particular item on the lunch menu tasted so good, but it did.
After receiving their food they scanned the cafeteria for a place to sit; even though they were juniors they still had trouble getting a seat at lunch. Every year the school got more crowded, and the kids did not seem to fit like they used to. Billy motioned with his head at a table in the corner of the lunch room. There were some students sitting on one end, but about six seats sat untouched which gave Aris and Billy enough room away from the other kids. They both devoured their food and talked until Simon came to join them with his tray in hand.
“Hey Simon.” Aris and Billy greeted their friend.
Simon saw his tray down on the table. “Gets crazier everyday doesn’t it?”
With their mouths full, Aris and Billy nodded in agreement. For the rest of the lunch period the three talked, they settled on debating which Nightmare on Elm Street film was best. Aris did not understand how anyone could think any film other than the original was paramount, but Billy swore Dream Warriors could not be bested. Simon mostly sat there and listened to the two argue over the better movie, and nodded at whatever Aris said. Once the bell rang, they all dumped their trays and parted through different lunch doors.
Aris and Billy walked to biology together, which was one of two classes they shared. They sat in the back of the class furthest away from the door. Their teacher Mr. Wright was a middle aged man who always had a pocket protector in the pocket of his white dress shirt. His lectures were as boring as his hair was gray and falling out. During these riveting classes Aris and Billy would usually entertain themselves by playing I-spy. The game worked well in that room because several different posters, experiments, and lab equipment sat around the room. Instead of a final test in the class the students had an experiment to turn in; a homemade Rube Goldberg machine. Aris made one that toasted a marshmallow, and Billy (who was in a very creative state) remade the famous shower scene from Psycho. A chain reaction of events eventually led to a doll getting stabbed in a shower. Billy put chocolate syrup in the doll and told the class they could put it on their waffles, which ultimately was the point of the machine. Most people thought it was weird, but a couple of the students appreciated the dark humor. Mr. Wright gave Billy a disturbed look, but gave him an A since it worked, and was creative.
To learn any more in that class would have been useless, so Mr. Wright put in an extremely boring movie about wild animals. Mr. Wright turned out the lights which made the entire classroom pitch black due to the lack of windows in all the science labs. Aris and Billy hated watching movies in science because they could not play I-spy and Billy could not draw, something he enjoyed doing a lot. Usually during a movie the majority of the class would either stare blankly at the screen or start to fall asleep.
Aris chose to stare blankly at the television screen. Two lions chased down a zebra and ripped it apart. Aris blinked and began to feel strange. She was getting dizzy and her breathing increased. It felt like the symptoms of a panic attack, but Aris could not understand why. Aris gripped the edge of her desk, shut her eyes, and took deep breaths.
Billy, who was nodding off, looked over and saw the silhouette of his best friend. Something was wrong and he could tell. “Aris, you okay?” He noticed how tight she gripped the desk. “Ar-”
He saw her slide out of the desk and hit the floor. Billy tried to get up in time to stop her from falling, but the desks were connected at one side, so he had to run around it to get to her. Some of the kids in the class heard her fall and got up to see what happened. The classroom was still dark, but the television gave off enough light for Billy to see that Aris had her eyes closed.
He looked up towards the front of the class. “Mr. Wright! Aris…hey…wake up.” He tried shaking her in between words but she did not stir.
Billy had gotten the entire class’s attention. Everyone, including Mr. Wright, rushed to the back of the classroom. One student ran over to the wall and turned on the lights. Mr. Wright cleared the way and bent down to feel Aris’ head. Aris squeezed her eyes and moaned a little. She touched her hand to her forehead and began to open her eyes. The bright lights invaded her sight. Once her eyes adjusted she noticed she was looking up at Mr. Wright, which she found strange. Then she realized that the entire class was standing over her. In her confusion she looked at Billy in hopes of an explanation, but all she got was the worried and scared look on his face.
Mr. Wright put a hand on Aris’ shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“I don’t know.” Aris whispered.
Mr. Wright looked at Billy. “Mr. North, why don’t you take Ms. Walker to the nurse’s office.”
Billy nodded. “Yeah,” He looked at Aris, “Can you stand?”
Aris nodded and grabbed Billy’s hand. He slowly hauled her to her feet and let her regain her balance. Aris seemed more confused than anything, and took a second to adjust. They walked out the door and headed down to the nurse’s office. Billy wanted to ask what happened, but Aris still seemed a little out of it, so he decided to wait until later. When they got there, the nurse was expecting them. Mr. Wright had called ahead and told the nurse what happened.
Mrs. Credshaw was the school nurse. She was in her forties and had brown hair with blonde highlights kept in a messy bun. She sat Aris down on the green, cracked couch, and began to look her over.
“Did you eat today?” She stuck a thermometer in Aris’ mouth.
“Yeah,” the thermometer beeped and Mrs. Credshaw took it out.
“Well you don’t have a fever. Do you feel sick anywhere?”
Aris shook her head. “No.”
“Okay, well lie down for a while and get some rest. I’ll call your parents.”
Aris and Billy looked at each other, knowing how her parents got when Aris was sick. They always tested different methods of cures on her. Aris spoke, “You won’t be able to reach them on their cells, they should be home soon, so it would be best to leave a message on the house phone.”
Mrs. Credshaw gave Aris a suspicious look for a moment, but complied and left to call Aris’ parents. After she left the room, Aris let out a relieved breath. As soon as school was over she could call her house phone with her cell and delete the message.
Billy refused to leave Aris’ side, so he sat at the end of the couch where Aris was laying. “So what happened in there?”
Aris turned slightly to face Billy. “I don’t know. One minute I’m fine, and the next I’m on the ground. I feel fine now though, Just freaking out a little.”
“I saw you gripping your desk right before you passed out.”
Aris looked at the nutrition poster on the wall. “Yeah, right before, I started to feel light headed.”
They stayed in the nurse’s office until the next period, which was their last class of the day. Billy did not want to leave Aris alone, but she assured him she was fine. He walked her to history and then headed to math. Aris felt fine for the rest of the day, but still wondered what exactly made her pass out. She was not surprised to see Billy standing near the doorway at the end of class. When they got outside Aris called the house phone on her cell and erased the message from Mrs. Credshaw on the digital voicemail. They walked home together and every couple of minutes Billy would ask Aris if she was alright. At first his concern made her happy, but after a while it got on her nerves.
“Billy! I’m fine…really.”
Billy sighed. “I know, I’m just worried. You’re my only friend.”
Aris smiled. “Thanks…you are too.”
They got to Billy’s house and stopped on the porch. Billy turned and looked at Aris. “Hey, you wanna stay over tonight, just to make sure everything is fine?”
Aris laughed and shook Billy’s shoulders. “I’m fine! And I can’t. It’s Wednesday.”
Billy nodded and they simultaneously spoke. “Parent-daughter bonding time.”
Wednesday was the one night each week Aris’ parents made time to spend with her. They had no distractions at all; work was completely put aside so they could catch up on each other’s lives. They tried to spend time with her throughout the week when they could, but Wednesday was the one day Aris could guarantee that her parents would not be thinking about work. They had done this ever since Aris was old enough to realize that her parents were often absent. They knew it was important to try and keep the family close together as best as they could, and Wednesday was the one day out of the week they could do this.
The two walked into the house and went up to Billy’s room. They played video games until five when Aris had to head back home to meet her parents. Billy made her promise to call if she felt sick or anything. Aris agreed and went home, where her parents were talking in the kitchen. Aris said hello and sat down at the kitchen island. She looked at her parents closely; lots of people said they looked alike, but she did not really see a resemblance. Her mom had blonde hair like her and her dad had green eyes, but beyond that she did not know what everyone else saw in them.
Her mom looked through the cabinets and began to talk to Aris. “How was school today?”
Aris shifted in her seat hoping the school did not also call their cell phones. “It was fine, no different than usual.” She waited for them to catch her in her lie, but they continued to look for something to make for dinner.
Aris’ dad began to look through the refrigerator. “So what does everyone feel like tonight? I’m thinking…pasta?”
Aris leaned closer to her dad and made a face. “Can we have meat?”
Aris’ parents looked at each other and then her dad saw some steaks in the freezer. “Yeah that sounds great.”
As much as she did not want to admit it, Aris liked Wednesday’s at the Walker house. A lot of kids would be embarrassed to have to spend time with their families, but this was the only night each week she knew she could see her family with no interruptions. Sometimes they would eat supper at a restaurant, or go out to a movie or something, but those occasions were rare.
During dinner Aris tore through her steak. She did not realize how hungry she was until she could smell the meat in front of her. The steak tasted amazing; it was juicy and medium rare. She usually put sauce on it, but tonight she just ate it as it was. After dinner the Walker family decided to watch a movie and later found themselves having a pleasant conversation together. Not long after Aris began to feel tired, she said goodnight to her parents, and started to get ready for bed. She stayed on her laptop for a bit, and then decided to go to sleep. She flipped off the lights, got under her warm, orange covers, and could not help a slight smile escape as she thought about how nice it felt to have a normal night with her family.