Carbon

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Chapter 23

Heath rotated the controller as he made Rooney complete a pair of scissors before taking a shot from just outside the eighteen yard box. The soccer ball zoomed past the white goalpost. Heath hissed, “Of course, of course, Manchester United is sucking this game.”

I furrowed my brow and turned to him. I pressed a button, and Tim Howard kicked the ball high above the defenders and midfielders to the forwards in my attacking third. “Excuse me, I think their manager is sucking hardcore.”

Heath grimaced sharply and moaned, “FIFA just needs to get better standards for its video game.” He snatched the case from in front of the television in his basement and stared at the details in the back.

“There is no rule that Heath Frey must win every game played.”

He rolled his eyes and gently tossed the case back in front of the television. “Yeah, but it sounds like a good amendment.”

We got silent for a moment, our virtual players running around aimlessly, and then I scored. I twisted to face him and paused the game. “Dude, you are really sucking. What’s up?”

Heath didn’t face me and quickly retorted, “The ceiling, dude.” He put the game back into action.

I paused it again. “No, I’m serious.”

“For cereal?”

“Yeah.”

His green eyes twisted across his sclera and settled on me. The color in his face drained as he glanced up the stairs of the basement leading to the kitchen where his mom was no doubt cooking a snack or something ludicrously delicious despite looking like vomit. He licked his lips hesitantly before turning back to me. He whispered, “I think I might be a dad.”

I froze.

“Well, say something. I’ve been freaking out about it all week.”

I shook my head and murmured, “Holy shit.”

Heath tossed the controller and ran his fingers through his hair. “Look, I know. I know. I don’t even know what to do.”

“Your parents are going to flip… my parents are going to flip!”

“Yeah, I think I know that. Well, she’s in her second month, so we aren’t sure if it’s real or not. I stole a pregnancy test from my mom, and she tested positive.”

“With who?”

He raised a brow.

“Come on, tell me.”

He shrugged his broad shoulders and widened his eyes. “I don’t know what to do to even begin.”

“Are you sure it’s yours?”

He pursed his lips and gave me the finger.

“Sorry, just making sure.”

“She’s not a whore.”

“Don’t blame me when it comes out black.”

We both burst into laughter but then froze.

“What am I going to do?”

“Heath, it’ll be okay.”

“I mean, I can’t be a dad at sixteen. I don’t even have my own shit together.”

I patted his shoulder and mumbled, “Look, the kid will be fine. He’ll be pumped to have a father like you. You’re going to be great, I promise.”

His green eyes glazed over with fear. “You think so?”

His phone rang suddenly—the sound of Nine Inch Nails echoing in the room with the background music of the video game blaring, too.

“You need to change your ringtone.”

“Get off my dick. Hello?”

His eyes wandered across the room, and then his brow intentionally furrowed with concern. I nudged him with my elbow, and he suddenly swatted my arm away. “Are you okay?” He grimaced deeply as his eyes shook, evaluating every detail overheard through the speaker.

“Where are you? I’m coming.” He quickly hung up and expeditiously shot to his feet. His hand shoved the phone into the back of his jeans fervently.

“Whoa, whoa, where are you going?”

“To the church. Let’s go.”

We sprinted through the house to his garage and huddled inside his jeep. I shifted in the passenger seat as he immediately gunned the engine before the garage door was even all the way up, and he failed to close it. His mom came hurdling through the garage, yelling out something as Heath backed out of the driveway dangerously. The wheels screamed as he turned over and around the curb, narrowly missing his brick mailbox—I’m sure much to his mother’s chagrin.

“HEATH!!! HEATH!!!” she yelped fervently.

He gripped the wheel tautly, his veins bulging from the back of his hands fiercely. His eyes glistened with a venomous glean, and I pondered what could have happened that made him so furious.

That was one thing I never gave Heath credit for—he put up with everyone’s shit. His tolerance level probably exceeded that of a habit, and he probably outlasted most of them when confronted with ignorance. Whenever he was confronted with just anything, he managed to wiggle his way out of the problem through logic and humor.

His jaw became more angular as he clenched his teeth angrily. He bared his teeth like a wolf, and a feral growl escaped from the back of his throat. “Crap, crap, crap.”

“Heath, I’m sure everything’s fine.”

He swerved into the right lane and whipped the car into the parking lot of the local church nearly half the school attended. He vehemently parked in like three parking spots all at once and threw his door open before he even turned off the engine. He hopped out and slammed the door shut viciously, staring with narrowed eyes at the church. No other car was parked in the parking lot.

“Whoa, Heath! No one is here.”

“Just stay here, and call an ambulance.”

He ripped the double doors open and stomped down the lobby of the church and turned into a corridor. “Heath, wait up!” I followed him like a lost dog, concerned that my best friend was going to get into something he would ultimately regret. I had to make sure he didn’t kill somebody.The veins in his forehead became prominent as he slammed open every door in the corridor before cascading down some steps into the basement of the church.

A mahogany desk stood in the far corner of the room. Papers splayed out and scattered across the room like dustings of snow. A maroon carpet lay on top of the tiled floor, peeking just underneath the desk’s corner. A luxurious desk chair settled behind the desk like a loyal companion.

A small whimper could be heard behind the desk. And then I noticed a crumpled hand settled just at the corner of the desk. Heath followed my gaze as he recognized shock flooding over my face, and then he whimpered, “Oh shit, oh shit.” He fell to his knees and crawled to the hand on all fours, unable to maintain his composure suddenly. He hid behind the desk, and I could barely hear the voices.

“Oh God… look what he did to you.”

“Heath? Why’d you show up?”

“You called, remember?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

Heath’s voice broke as he screeched, “Call a fucking ambulance!!!”

He never mentioned being a dad again after the ambulance came and took the girl away. I never managed to see her face, and Heath never told me who it was. “She’s no one.”

I should have known it was Devin by the way he punched a hole in the wall when the ambulance drove away. By the way he silently cried without saying a word to me as he dropped me off at my house and drove to the hospital. By the way I could tell he would have been lost without her.


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