Aj watched the clock for the rest of her classes. She already knew the material they were covering, due to her previous schools curricular being ahead of this one. When the final bell rang Aj sat patiently in her chair to avoid the unnecessary contact with her fellow peers as they pushed their way through the door. Slowly she made her way to the main office where Will was leaning against the wall listening to Hayley as she excitedly talked to him. Will noticed her first a pushed himself off the wall to greet her “I was thinking you may have got lost.”
“No, I just hate being touched by other people I never understood it, shaking stranger's hands, bumping into people just to get somewhere a couple of seconds faster, and the whole nudging the person when you say something funny. Seriously who thought of these social norms?” Aj began to rant.
“Well at least we know why you’re single” Hayley joked. They walked into the office to find two girls talking to each other one brunette with her hair pulled up in a ponytail and ginger with wavy hair. Aj watched for a second of the two girls interacting something seemed off about their conversation the brunette seemed really tense and the ginger seemed almost amused.
“Excuse me” Will interrupted their conversation.
“What?” rudely answered the brunette who seemed annoyed alone by his presence.
“My friend here is new and she needs a class transfer sheet” Will answered politely as if the girl wasn’t even rude to him.
“I'll get it, though most of the classes are pretty full right now” the ginger spoke as she began reaching for something from behind the desk. Aj watched her closely she seemed different but not in a bad way, Aj began being memorized by her. She handed Aj the piece of paper Aj scanned over it and noticed that she would need her father’s signature in order to transfer which shouldn’t be a problem.
“Is that it?” rudely spoke the brunette again.
“Only because of your poor hospitality” glared Hayley.
“I don’t waste my time on trash” rebuked the brunette. Hayley lunged forward as if to hit her but Will grabbed her arm stopping her as if he placed a wall in front of her.
“Speaking of trash could you get your brother? Principal Hamilton mentioned she had a bag of shredded paper she needed to be taken out back,” spoke the ginger nonchalantly.
The brunette faced began to turn red and she pushed passed Will and Hayley to hurry out the office. Aj looked towards the ginger girl confused about what just happened. Aj was surprised to see the girl already staring at her grinning, their eyes locked onto each other.
“Thank you” Will spoke softly interrupting their gaze. The ginger smiled warmly to him saying nothing and walked to a back room. They walked in silence back to Wills truck where Aj managed to muster the courage about what happened back in the office
“Both the girls are part of student council. The brunette’s name is Samantha she’s dating one of the football players we had fought earlier, the same one in fact who made the whole school aware of your records” Hayley spoke harshly. Aj could feel the anger fil her body and then she remembered the ginger.
“And the ginger?” she asked cautiously as if she was afraid of the answer.
“Charlie, she’s also on the student council but she’s different, she doesn’t listen to the crap the others say she has her own mind,” continued Hayley.
“I’m surprised they let her stay they don’t seem the bunch that appreciates someone different,” Aj asked.
“She’s untouchable, her parents are well respected her mother is like a Stepford wife and her father is an investor there isn’t a lot of businesses here that he doesn’t have his hand in. Including the school and the police department, your father works for” Will finished explaining.
“Well, at least I can tell my father there’s at least one person at the school who doesn’t hate us” stated Aj. “What about that comment about the girl's brother?” asked Aj.
Hayley laughed “Oh yeah! Well, Samantha had an older brother who was a star football player well he and some other players decided they would get drunk and break into some old guy’s house. Well, what they didn’t plan is the old guy to have a gun, shot her brother right in the knee cap. Embarrassed the entire family spread through the whole town like fire not mention the only thing he was good at was football so he was unable to go to college, the school ended up giving him a janitor job after he graduated.” Hayley told the story amused.
“Putting the girl in her place, was her coming to our rescue” mumbled Aj. This brought a sense of relief to Aj, she knew it would be a matter of time before she would be expelled from this school and was worried how Hayley and Will would fare without her despite their short time together. Aj looked out the window and noticed they started to drive by a bunch of old worn down buildings. “Where are we going” Aj curiously asked.
“Our place,” Non-chalantly answered Hayley. Aj didn’t ask anymore into it she assumed that they were trying to surprise her and didn’t really care where as long as they were there. Maybe it’s crazy I trust them this much thought Aj. They pulled into what appeared to be a parking lot but now covered in dirt and grass with only occasional chunks of what looked to be the last of the pavement. They all got out of the truck where Hayley ran to the front of the building
“Welcome to our secret place!” Hayley shouted.
Aj whistled “Man, if I knew you guys had your own mansion I would have dressed nicer” joked Aj.
“Well you know we didn’t want to make you feel bad about yourself” wittily replied Will.
“What is this place anyway?” asked Aj.
“It used to be a glass factory back in the day when everyone wanted handmade chandeliers. My dad would tell me stories about how his father’s great grandfather worked at one when he was just 13 years old here” Will stammered. Aj could hear the pain behind his words, it was the same pain she always heard whenever Will spoke about his father.
“Well are we just going to just stand out hear you guys?”Hayley asked breaking the silence as she opened the door.
The first thing Aj saw was a large red generator she followed the cords with her eyes and noticed it lead to what appeared an attempt at a living room. There was a used couch with no legs, a cheap-looking table that had no stain, and one leg that was uneven from the rest. There was a TV and a DVD player on the table that hooked up to the generator, beside the TV was a pile of DVD’s stacked on top of each other. As Aj squinted to try to see more of her surroundings in the dark warehouse Will began cranking the generator. When the generator turned on Aj noticed that they hanged pixie lights around the areas they had furniture. With the lights on Aj could now make up a second area behind the makeshift living room, a bedroom. There was a rug that didn’t fit in the surroundings but in some uppity house of one of the snobs they dealt with at school. On top of the rug was a mattress with blue flannel sheets that weren’t made, and all around the bed were melted candles. “Home sweet home?” asked Aj. “Exactly, most of the stuff is ‘outdated’ furniture my parents threw out. I would call Will and have him pick it up my parents saw it as a charity donation to him” explained Hayley. “It’s a work in progress but despite its looks, there’s nowhere safer for us” continued Will. Aj did feel safer, but not in a conventional way. Almost as if she could be who she truly was and no one was around to judge her, it was a utopia for them.
Only weeks went by but Aj had felt as if she had spent her whole life with Hayley and Will. Every night her father would ask a million questions about Will and Hayley as if he was trying to investigate them.”Why don’t you just invite them over on your day off and you can see that they’re good people,” Encouraged Aj. Wills family has a bad history with the department here, I don’t want to invite him over and make enemies if he isn’t worth it,” attempted to explain her father. “He’s worth it. When have I brought anyone into our circle?” she asked. Her father sat there in silence looking stern as if every thought he had was racing to him all at once. “Fine. I work tomorrow but why don’t you two meet me at that dinner near his house for my lunch.” Aj smiled “Thank you, it’s a date.”
Aj texted Will the next day before she left to let him know she was on her way. He didn’t respond but it wasn’t unusual for him on the weekends due to him leaving his phone in the house to work on the farm. When she arrived at the dinner she could see her father was already there joking with the dinner staff. “Well there you are what took you so long,” he joked “I’m five minutes early” she responded. “According to my stomach you’re five minutes late and you know what they say ‘always trust an officer’s gut’” he grinned. Ten minutes went by and Will still had not shown up; Aj began to fidget nervously knowing it was not going to look good for him with her father. “His he usually late to things” her father asked. “No he usually punctual. It is kind of annoying. Maybe he got lost in his farm work” she tried to cover for him. A few more minutes passed by and a call came for her father over the radio. “Sherriff, we have a domestic disturbance call on the Merrell Farm and you’re our closest unit” spoke a southern woman over the radio.”10-4 on route now” her father responded. “Let me come with you” Aj yelled at her father. “No this isn’t the time for a ride-along, stay here.” “You’re the one saying I need to see if he’s worth it. This I my chance to see who he is in his own home. Plus ill jut follow you anyway,” she explained. “Get in the car now” he groaned.
He turned on his siren and began racing to Wills's house. “You stay in the car if you get out at any point well be homeless you got it?” he insisted. “Yes.” She barely replied. Aj could feel her adrenaline pumping through her heart that everything he was saying was just a mumble. Hayley told stories about Will coming to her house to stay the night due to his mom “going psycho” on him but that was it never much more than that. Now she was headed straight to the pit about to witness it for herself, she wasn’t even sure what to expect. As they pulled up in front of the old farmhouse Aj could hear a woman screaming. “Remember stay in the car.” Aj’s father reminded her. Aj looked through the opened living room window and saw Will standing still completely red in the face. Suddenly a chair is thrown towards him by a woman he catches it then immediately throws it towards the window. Aj lets out a surprised noise as she hears the window break. She sees her father run inside and positions himself between Will and the women she assumes is his mother. She watches as her father tries to escort Will out while talking to the woman. She is steadily screaming at Will as if she can’t even see Aj’s father in between them. Once Will reaches the door Aj sees the women lunge over and scratch Wills face hard enough to make him bleed. Will wings around a if he was going to punch her. Aj runs out of the car without thinking but before she even gets to Will her dad has already restrained his mom on the ground. Will had stopped any kind of motion and was watching them struggle. “GET HIM IN THE CAR” screamed her father as he was placing his mother in handcuffs. Aj started pulling Wills arm toward the car but he wasn’t budging. AJ moved in front of Will and began shoving him in the chest “MOVE NOW” she yelled at him. He finally shook out of his trance and made eye contact with Aj. His expression was filled with such fear that Aj couldn’t understand. He slowly made his way to the back of the squad car.
When helped arrived Aj’s father had her escorted back to her car by herself. “He’ll have to be taken in for questioning before we can release him, so just go home and wait for us,” her father explained. Aj didn’t want to wait but knew she was in over her head to even try to argue. As she waited in her empty quiet house she decided to text Hayley about what happened. “I'm glad your dad was there. I wish I could tell you more but this is Will’s story. You’ll need to ask him” Hayley texted back. It wasn’t the answer she was looking for but it did answer some things. Hayley was calm even after her boyfriend was taken to the sheriff’s department after being attacked by his mother. This is what her father was worried about. This wasn’t the worst that’s happened between him and his mother this was their daily interaction. A pain shot through her chest and tears started in her eye. How could a parent treat their child with so much hatred she thought to herself. She began imagining her father treating her like that. It seemed impossible nothing that happened made sense to her.
Just as she felt like she was drowning in her own thoughts they walked in. Aj ran to the door unconsciously. “He’ll be staying with us tonight I’ll let you two talk for a but it’s important that you both go to sleep” her father spoke. “How about we talk outside? I’ve been locked in a room for the last couple of hours I need air” Will encouraged. “Sure” replied Aj. They went outside and sat on the steps of the porch. They both avoided eye contact and were looking toward the stars. They sat in silence for awhile both too scared to break it “This happens a lot doesn’t it?” Aj spoke breaking the silence. “Yes, it does” coldly answered Will. “But why?” asked Aj. “Because it’s always been this way since my father died.” He answered. “How did he die?” boldly asked Aj. The air became thick and quiet. “After his tour he came back with PTSD. He assaulted multiple people due to flashbacks and hallucinations. I think one day he had a moment of clarity and realized everything he had done since he came back. So he shot himself. I was at school when it happened my mother came in from working on the farm and found him dead.” He explained. “It doesn’t mean she can just beat you like that” Aj snarled. Will just looked confused at Aj as if he was never explained that she had no excuse to touch him. “A lot happened today and I don’t think it can all be understood in a night. I think your dad is right about going to sleep” Will insisted. “Yeah you’re both right” she sighed. “Nothing is a secret now. Anything, just ask me okay?” he smiled. “Is Hayley good in bed?” Aj joked. “You couldn’t even imagine” he grinned.