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Whitly's Short Story: In Control

9/28/12 1:58pm
tl;dr

If you don't like reading blogs from your friendly captain in a Tanooki suit by this point, this isn't gonna change your mind any time soon. For everyone else, STORY TIME!

Hey g1s! Whitly here! So I was having my usual “What do I blog about next?” moment that takes place after I post each of my blogs, when I had this weird idea for a short story. Now, I don’t normally write short stories; in fact, the last one I wrote was for my Satire course two years ago. So it wasn’t easy, and I had to shelve it twice while I was thinking about where to take it (one of them being when I wrote my previous blog). But, while somewhat rough, it’s done, so - like anything else worth sharing - I’m showing it now for your viewing pleasure.

Anyway, without further ado, just sit back, relax and enjoy!

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – Full OST (Yeah, I know it’s got nothing to do with this story, but still…it’s very beautiful.)

*******

*IN CONTROL*

*******

Focus.

Footsteps.

Concentration is the key to beating it.

A figure descends along the hallway.

I am strong.

His blue cap with a gold star can be seen from a distance, fine-tuned and polished as usual.

I am brave.

The metal baton clenched firmly in his right hand, he makes his way past the prisoners.

I am proud.

He whistles a tune of sorts; it’s unclear which one exactly.

I can do this!

His boots, clean and polished, can be heard clanking across the floor.

It’s just me and the world now.

The dangling of keys from his left pocket are visible now, even a man with weak eyes could see them.

All that training, therapy, anger management, restraint, it’s impossible to break me.

He stops in front of the cell. He places the key in the lock. A clicking sound is heard. The door opens.

I won’t let my anger get the best of me anymore.

“Son, you’re being released. Consider it a late present for your 17th birthday.”

*Sigh* Here goes nothing!

It’d been 7 months since he’d wound up in juvenile hall for his last offense. He was angry then. He felt like that moron got what was coming to him. It was his own fault for whipping that snowball at him. He should’ve known better. Sadly, the judge thought differently. Of course, the judge was right after all.

As usual. He’s always been right about me.

“I hope you realize how privileged you are, son,” the warden said to him. “We usually don’t reform delinquents after their sixth offense. Someone out there must really think you can handle it, that you can actually change.”

He looked at the warden, a cold stare noticeable from his worn-out face. All he could muster was a nod.

“If it were me,” the warden continued, “you wouldn’t be let out on parole. We all know what happened last time.”

Another nod. What was he supposed to say? That the warden was wrong? No, he’s right about me. I’m better than that.

“Here.” The warden handed him an envelope. Inside it was a Swiss-Army watch. “Consider it a birthday gift. Wasn’t considering returning it to you, but whatever.”

“Yes sir,” he replied, calmness maintained in his voice all the while. “Thank you.”

The warden grunted, his moustache twitching briefly as he did so. “Don’t thank me, son. Thank society.”

*******

“Okay girls, this is it!”

“Tomorrow’s the day he finally comes out of that dump on parole, right?”

“Yep! And we’ll make it so that he never lives it down. You can guarantee that!”

The three of them giggled at their little endeavour. They’d never liked him, no one in school did. And yet, he was returning the following day. They had to fix that, no matter the cost.

“It’ll be risky, but trust me when I say that it’ll be worth it too.”

“What if he finds out, Susannah?” asked Melanie.

“Yeah, what if he catches on to our plan?” quipped Jane, clutching her shoulder in memory of when he’d whipped her with his bag.

Susannah grinned. “He won’t. He’s not that bright, remember girls?”

“Are you sure he hasn’t learned a thing or two from past experience?” inquired Jane.

Susannah gave them both a gleeful look. “Relax, will you? As far as we’re concerned, he won’t pick up on anything if we play our cards right.”

The three of them giggled again, their faces giddy with glee. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!

“Who’s gonna volunteer this time?” asked Melanie.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t want a repeat of the last incident,” added Jane, still clutching her shoulder.

“Don’t worry,” assured Susannah. “I’ll do it this time. At least that way he won’t get suspicious.”

*******

He still couldn’t believe it, that he was walking through those doors to class again. It’d been close to a year since he’d been here, and Lord knew he shouldn’t have returned. No one trusted him; he’d done nothing to deserve it. Each time someone came to talk to him, he’d always bark him or her down. Every teacher he spoke to, the same thing. He’d earned the reputation of anti-social, and he’d done very little in the past to change that around. He simply didn’t care.

His violent track record, of course, didn’t help either. Each time someone scared him, that person had wound up with a bloodied nose. Each time a teacher gave him a failing grade, which was often, he’d whip the report in his or her face. Every bully who’d bullied him wound up with a concussion, every girl who’d embarrassed him ended up in the hospital. He’d been given detentions, suspended and even expelled because of it, and here he was, entering through those doors again. And all because he was a minor, all because someone thought he deserved another chance.

It’s different this time, he thought to himself. This time I’m in control.

He glanced at his watch: 9:15 AM. It was working, as it should. The watch had taken a beating over the years, there were scratches and cracks all-over its glass cover, but it was the only thing that’d never failed him…even in his more “dangerous” moments. As he entered through the revolving doors and made his way to his locker, he noticed everyone giving him the cold shoulder. It was nerve-wracking.

They’re baiting you. Don’t fall for it.

He ended up at his assigned locker and stared at it. A note was taped right at the top of it. MEET ME AFTER SCHOOL IN THE GYM it said, in big, black, upper-case letters. He raised an eyebrow, scratched his forehead and shrugged. He then ripped off the note, folded it, tucked it in his pants pocket and opened the locker to get his books.

*******

From a distance, the three girls watched him tuck the note away and pumped their fists in glee.

“He fell for it!” exclaimed Melanie, all the while careful to keep her voice down.

“Don’t celebrate too soon,” informed Susannah, “I still have to meet him after school.”

“We’ve got everything riding on this,” said Jane, eyeing Susannah while massaging her shoulder, “so you’d better not screw this up!”

Susannah grinned. “Relax! What could possibly go wrong?”

*******

The bell rang. He pushed open the gym doors and looked around into the unlit room. No one was there. Was this just another trick, just like last time? He could feel his hands begin to tighten up.

In control, he thought, as he inhaled and loosened up. I’m in control, this won’t get the best of me.

“H-hello?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper. “Is someone there?”

A blinding light descended upon the room. Standing in the centre, a pretty girl with a red ponytail and a cheerleader uniform was standing with her arms at her sides.

“We need to talk,” she said, a sternness emanating from her voice as she did so.

He shut his eyes, breathed deeply and began moving forward. Once he got to where she was, she signaled for him to sit down next to her.

“I don’t know how to say this,” she began. “You see…the thing is…I…I-um…”

He noticed her hands fidgeting. Clearly, there was something she was hiding. No, you’re being paranoid. You’re in control, remember? “You…what, exactly?”

“I…I’ve kinda…had this, um…y’know…crush on you for a while now…sort of.”

He could feel his fingers beginning to twitch. Is this some kind of bad joke? No, just play it cool! You don’t know that yet. “Really?”

The girl nodded her head. “Yeah…um, so I was just wondering…would you, um…y’know…go out with me, and stuff?”

In control, in control, in control. “Uh, sure. When did you have in mind?”

The girl scratched her forehead with her right hand. “Well…”

*******

“He totally bought it, girls!”

Susannah moved the phone to her right shoulder and leaned her head over, so as to free her hands and continue painting her toes. She and her friends weren’t strangers to pranks, but dating the victim was an entirely new thing altogether. She wanted it to look convincing, even if that meant dressing for the part.

“Are you sure it’s okay for you to pay for the meal?” asked Jane over the other end.

“Actually,” corrected Susannah, “we’re splitting. He’s not a street bug, after all!”

“Still,” piped in Melanie, “it’s not like it’s fast food and whatnot-”

“It’s a diner! At the very least, assuming my paycheck comes in on time, it shouldn’t be more than 15 both ways. I think I can handle that, no?”

“I still think it’s ridiculous that we’re being so nice to the brat. Why are you even going to that place to begin with? You don’t owe him anything!”

Susannah blew on her big toe and sighed. “Look, we only have one shot at pulling this off. We’ve already agreed that there’s too much at stake to just let the freak wander around like he’s a free man. Now do you want this to work or not?”

“Of course!”

“Duh, obviously!”

Susannah forced a small grin as she held her scrunchy in-between her teeth. “Well then, you just gotta bite the bullet and trust me on this. Got it?”

*******

Lights were dimming in the distance. Car noises could be heard as they zoomed by the house. This was it. This was the moment he’d been planning for. As he walked up to the house and rang the doorbell, he could feel a pit in his stomach. Relax, I’m in control. Within seconds, the door opened to reveal Susannah in jeans and a tank-top. She was wearing a fancy pair of sandals to reveal her painted toenails, and her hair was tied back in a ponytail.

“You look n-nice,” he stammered. Gulp!

Susannah giggled, surveying the casual outfit he’d thrown on. “Thanks, so do you.”

“It took a while. I wasn’t sure what to wear.”

“Doesn’t matter, you’d look good in rags.”

He blushed. She giggled again. “You ready?”

*******

“…And that’s how I was able to pass my 8th grade biology test. Lemme tell you, it took a good long year before my parents found out that I’d cheated on all the answers. And by then, well, it was too late for them to do anything about it!”

Susannah tilted her head back and laughed. He tried laughing too, but only forced out a quiet smirk.

“So tell me,” she said, leaning forward to meet his eyes, “have you ever cheated on a test before?”

“Um.” He blushed, all the while wondering if dishonesty made for good table conversation, “once.”

“Really? Do tell!”

“Okay. It was on my eye exam in juvy, the mandatory one that they make you take for…some reason I still don’t understand.”

Susannah took a sip of her root beer float. “They make you take eye exams in juvy?”

“Yeah,” he responded, his voice just slightly above a whisper. “They say it has something to do with correcting your spirit. ‘You can’t see what you did wrong if you can’t see at all!’ is what they called it.”

Susannah snorted. “That’s pretty funny, actually.”

“I think it’s stupid,” he continued. “20/20 eyesight has nothing to do with learning from your mistakes. All you really need is discipline and a desire to not repeat your wrongdoings.”

“Quite the goody-two-shoes, aren’t we now?” Susannah took another sip of her float and burped softly. “Excuse me.”

“It’s okay,” he responded, waving her apology gently with his hand. “The guys in the hall would’ve loved to hear it. It’d have made life in that hellhole a little more interesting. And I’m not really a goodie-two-shoes, I just want to do things right this time.”

“I see. Sounds like you’ve had it rough in there, no?”

“Oh yeah, I got belted and strapped every day. I even have the scars to prove it. You could argue that time in the hall made me into a man too, if you get my drift.”

Susannah stopped sipping her float and stared at him, a look of horror on her face.

“That was a joke.”

“Ohhhhhh! You almost had me there for a minute, y’know?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she burped again, this time unapologetically. “I could use a little excitement every now and then.”

*******

“It worked like a charm, ladies! He didn’t suspect a thing!”

Susannah was busy explaining her night to the others over the phone, all-the-while laughing along with them. She didn’t know what was better: her talent for pretending to be interested in him, or that he’d actually fallen for it.

“And he actually told you that juvy made him into a man?” asked Jane, an obvious snark present in her voice.

“Oh yeah, that sucker told me everything about juvy: the meals, the sleeping arrangements, even the number of days he’d tallied on his cell wall. It was real easy sitting there and pretending to be interested, the poor guy just pouring his heart out to me like some 5 year-old kid. I just had to nod my head and ask a few questions every now and then, is all.”

“Don’t get too comfortable with him, girl,” warned Melanie, “he still can’t find out what we’re doing to him.”

Susannah laughed again, hard enough that she swallowed wrong and started coughing. “Me? Comfortable with him? Don’t be ridiculous, what makes you think I’d get too comfortable with him? He’s got a friggin’ track record, remember?”

“Just sayin’, what with you being with him all the time and stuff.”

“So, what’s your next move?”

Susannah twirled her hair and shut her eyes as she tried to remember. “I think he wanted me to see him again tomorrow after school. I can’t recall if it was at the football field, or in the drama room, or…uh, something like that.”

“Be sure to get it right, girl. Punctuality is key here.”

“Believe me,” informed Susannah, rolling her eyes at the notion of seeing him again, “I know.”

*******

An empty stadium, the stands covered in dust and slowly rusting, some bent and out of alignment from all the years of being used by various people. As he sat there, tapping his foot against the bleachers, he couldn’t help wondering if she was really serious about this; after all, she seemed to be having a good time last night, so why wouldn’t she? Or was she just using him like everyone else had? As he contemplated whether or not she was sincere, he could feel his watch digging into his trembling hand.

Relax, I’m in control. She’s just…a little late. Yeah, that’s right! People are late all the time, it’s not such a big deal!

Finally, she arrived, all dressed in her cheerleader outfit. As she ran toward him, he noticed her tuck her cell-phone away in her back pocket.

“Sorry I’m late!” she said, panting from lack of breath.

He shrugged. “Happens to the best of us sometimes.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Shoot.”

“Why the football field, of all places?”

“Privacy, I suppose.”

Susannah raised an eyebrow. “Privacy? This is a pretty big place for privacy.”

He gave her a look. “How many people would visit a football field after school hours?”

“Good point! Let’s talk.”

*******

A gentle breeze could be felt in the air. Susannah stared at the ground and kept twirling her hair as he spoke, all the while trying to keep a partial interest so as to not make him think she didn’t care. It wasn’t easy, especially since she knew this whole thing was supposed to be fake. It didn’t help that it seemed too easy that he’d buy this relationship, almost as if he might’ve known this whole time and was just playing along to try and fool her. Could he really know?

“I had a terrible childhood.”

Her head perked up suddenly interested in what he had to say. “Oh?”

“Yeah,” he responded, his face red from embarrassment. “I don’t normally like talking about it, though.”

“It’s okay, you don’t have to if you-”

“-No, I’ve been putting this off for a while now. I can’t pretend like it never happened.”

Susannah leaned forward, intrigued. “Like what happened?”

He stared down at the bleachers for a moment, then back at her again. “The abuse.”

“Abuse?”

“My father belting me whenever I stood out of line, often blaming me for mom’s death. Like it was all my fault, even though no one could’ve predicted that she’d die from childbirth. It was almost as if nothing I said mattered to him, I was still the cause of every problem he had: his business failing, his alcoholism getting the best of him. He’d often return home drunk after a bad day, followed by him yelling at me for something stupid like a B on a test instead of an A. And every time I fought back? Off went the belt, followed by several straps to the back. I even have the scars to prove it.”

“Sounds like he was a terrible father.”

“That’s just it, I don’t know. No one would believe me when I told them, calling me a liar because he seemed so nice. It often got me punished further, which my dad never liked.”

“That sounds like a terrible father to me.”

“I guess…”

“So what happened?”

“One day, when I was 12 years old, I’d finally had enough. Life at school wasn’t much better either, so I ended up getting into a fight with a kid and broke his nose with my schoolbag. I got suspended for that and came home to find my old man angrier than usual. He grabbed a piece of hot coal from the furnace with some tongs and threatened to press it to my back. We struggled for God knows how long, until I gained the upper hand and forced the damn thing down his throat. He ended up dying, and I was put in a foster home.”

“I-I didn’t know.”

He kicked the air and sighed. “Yeah. But life in the foster home wasn’t much better. I kept getting into fights with the other kids that turned violent, often sending them into comas and stuff like that. I kept winding up with cleaning duty as punishment. But all that did was frustrate me, so, one day, I grabbed a bottle of rubbing alcohol from the infirmary while everyone else was sleeping, doused the entire room with it and lit it on fire with a match. No one was badly hurt, but that was my first offence.

See this watch?” he held up his left arm to Susannah. “It was my mother’s. It’s all I have left of her. It’s banged up and cracked from all the fights that I used to get in, but it works just fine.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be-”

He then leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, which startled her.

“-You’re the first one who’s cared.”

*******

“He…he kissed me!”

“Ew!”

“Double ew!”

“Triple ew!” barked Susannah. “In case you’ve forgotten, I was the one he kissed!”

“So what now? In case you’ve forgotten, him falling in love with you was part of the plan.”

Susannah wriggled her toes and twirled her hair with her free hand as she tried to think it over.

“Well…” she began. “I could try kissing him back?”

The sound of laughter could be heard immediately on the other end of the phone.

“Girl,” said Melanie through her giggles, “kissing him back would ruin everything.”

“Yeah,” added Jane, “the point was to humiliate him, not date him.”

Susannah blushed. “But that’s what he thinks I’m doing right now, you guys! I can’t just back out right now, can I?”

“Whoah! Did you just hear what I heard, Jane?”

“Loud and clear, Mel: our little girl’s fallin’ for a freakshow!”

“I’M NOT FALLING FOR HIM, YOU JERKS!” yelled Susannah, as she furiously ended the call and shut her cell phone. At least, I don’t THINK I am…

*******

Tree blossoms, ruffled leaves, a warm gust of air felt throughout, the nearby pond full of rushing water; these were the coming signs of the Summer season. They were also proving to the coming signs of complication, as the next week proved to be far more complicated for Susannah than she’d hoped. It turns out that Jane and Melanie weren’t far off: he was charming, honest and much more interesting than she initially thought. But was this really romance that - no, it couldn’t be! He was a juvenile delinquent, a basket case, a steam kettle with a loose lid that could fall off at any time, a-

“You still there?”

Susannah jolted her head upward and stared at him. “What?” she asked, partly dazed.

He raised an eyebrow and sighed, unsure if she was yanking his chain or being serious.

“You were gonna tell me about your first boyfriend and what a jerk he was?”

Susannah stared at him for a moment, lost in thought. Then she remembered what it was that she was talking about. He may be quiet and shy, but he’s very sharp!

“Right! This is kinda embarrassing, but here goes…”

*******

He’d never felt this way about anyone before. Love was always confusing for him. It didn’t help that he’d never received true affection from his parents, what with the circumstances and all. But this was different, somehow…he felt more confident around her, like nothing else mattered anymore. He’d even stopped feeling a need to remind himself that he was in control all the time, and his quiet demeanour was slowly being replaced with something more confident and expressive. Is this love that I’m feeling?

“When I was in 8th Grade, I met this guy. He was tall, cute and burly, y’know, the kinda guy all girls fell in love with. It seemed like it was too good to be true, me and him, the two of us together. I thought it’d last forever, y’know? It was like…like…like-”

“-Like something you’d never felt before?”

“Exactly, like something I’d never felt before! It was mysterious and scary, but I didn’t wanna let go. And each time we met, there it was again!”

“I know how you feel,” he mumbled.

“What was that?”

“Nothing, continue.”

Susannah raised an eyebrow, rubbed her eyes with her hand and continued. A gust of wind passed through her hair, but she seemed unaffected by it.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.”

He looked at her with a confused face. “And why not?”

Susannah sighed and rolled her eyes. “Because he was possessive, incredibly territorial. Hot guys and jealousy blind you when you’re young, and each glance at someone else, even if nothing was implied by it, was looked at by him as a sign of intrusion. Men can be such hawks sometimes.”

“So can women,” he muttered again.

“It’s not good to mumble a lot,” she pointed out to him, “makes you look insecure.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be, I think it’s kinda cute myself. Anyway, it got to a point where I couldn’t stand his insecurity any longer. So I dumped him. I thought he’d be heart-broken about it, but he took it quite well…or so I thought.”

“Or so you thought?”

“Yeah.”

Another gust of wind.

“It turns out that he was just saying that because he didn’t think I was being serious. Like, it was some kinda joke, or something. So he started stalking me, regardless of where I was. Home, school, with friends, it was all the same to him. Finally, I’d had enough. I rallied up a few guys on the football team - after pulling some strings, no less - and got them to knock some sense into him. I never bothered asking what they did to get him to leave me alone, but it worked.”

“I can take a guess. *Shudder*”

“I wouldn’t put it past them if they did that, even though he could easily hold his own.” Susannah sighed. “Besides, that’s all in the past. I vowed not to date guys ever again, until…”

“Until what?”

“Until…I-uh…met you, I guess.”

He looked down and blushed, only to then realize that he was holding her hand. She then realized it too, jerked it away suddenly in surprise and blushed herself.

“Oh! Um…yeah…” they both said simultaneously, only to look away with slight embarrassment.

Another gust of wind, this time a massive one. The tree they were under began shaking violently, until a branch snapped to reveal…

“WASPS!” shouted Susannah. “EEEK!”

Hundreds of buzzing wings could be heard heading toward them. He quickly surveyed the area for a possible escape, then spotted the nearby pond.

“This way!” he shouted. “Quickly!”

The two of them frantically ran toward the pond, then jumped in and stayed low. He peered over the water to see if the hornets were gone, then signaled for her to surface once the coast was clear. The two of them then got out of the water, frantic and soaking wet from head to toe. Susannah was going to complain, but she was so out of breath that no words came out of her mouth. Instead, the two of them looked at each other and started laughing, both relieved to have gotten out of that little incident intact. Then, before either one knew what was coming, they kissed.

*******

“I-I can’t do this anymore!”

Susannah cleaned the remaining water out of her ear with her pinky and sat down on her bed. It was bad enough that she’d almost gotten stung to death by a swarm of angry wasps, but that wasn’t the worst of it anyway.

“Why not? He bought your sap story after all, didn’t he?” came Melanie’s voice over the other end.

“Yeah,” added Jane, “you seemed so confident when we first planned this out.”

Susannah felt an urge to head over to both their houses and strangle them, but she kept cool. They’re my friends, take it easy.

“Because I almost got stung today by a bunch of wasps,” she explained, a slight hint of frustration in her voice. “On top of that, I ended up taking an unexpected swim, so there goes my squad uniform for the week. Oh, and I did I forget to mention that the pond I dove into reeked of cat piss and dog feces? Do you have any idea how long it took to wash that smell out of my hair? Why else do you think it took so long for me to pick up the phone?”

“Cat piss?”

“Dog feces? What kind of-”

“-NEVER MIND THAT, WILL YOU?!” barked Susannah, unable to contain herself any longer.

“Geez, girlfriend. No need to get mad!”

“Yeah, someone needs to take a serious chill pill. Like, badly!”

Susannah sighed and leaned back on her bed, still covered from head-to-toe in a bath towel.

“Sorry you guys, it’s just…I don’t think it’s fair to do this to him, y’know?”

Laughter could be heard simultaneously from both parties on the other end.

“I can’t have heard that right,” said Jane, still trying to calm down from laughing so hard, “are you saying we shouldn’t go through with this?”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m trying to say!”

“Uh-oh!” said Melanie, a slight smirk apparent in her voice. “Jane, it’s worse than we thought.”

“What? What’s worse than you thought?”

“Girl, you’re in love with him.”

Susannah gasped and blushed, covering her mouth with her free hand. “I am not!” She barked, her voice partly muffled.

“Don’t try and hide it, sister. I’ve heard the way you’ve talked about him these last few days. I’ve also seen the way you look when you talk about him in public. Face it, you’re in love.”

Susannah tried pretending that she hadn’t heard that. I can’t fall in love with him, that’d ruin everything!

“You’re not responding, Sue. That means you know we’re right.”

“I…I, uh…”

“See what I mean? Now you can’t even argue contrary. You’re falling in love with him.”

“But Jane, that means that-”

“-Exactly. Listen Sue, I know you find Mr. 6th Offence cute and whatnot, but you gotta draw the line before it gets to be really bad. Everything still has to go according to plan, no setbacks allowed.”

“Yeah, got it?”

“*Sigh* Yeah, I got it.”

Susannah hung up the phone, got up from her bed and began removing her towel. Doesn’t mean that it’ll be easy, though.

*******

The blossoms on the trees had finally started blossoming, the smell that signified Summer’s arrival was emanating through the air. This was also the time that the school’s football team was getting ready for the championship game, a big event that everyone was invited to. For him, personally, it was also the time that his probation would be dropped, as he’d been showing signs of control and sustainability for almost a month now. All he needed was to show that he could handle being at a football game, and he’d be a free man.

But that wasn’t important right now. What really mattered was the note he’d been handed during lunch break: MEET ME IN THE PARK NEAR THE SCHOOL. I HAVE TO ASK YOU SOMETHING. He didn’t know what it meant, what she could ask from him that couldn’t have been said in person. But he didn’t bother questioning it, figuring that - all things considered - it was obviously something very important. As he made his way to the park, he noticed Susannah examining a chip in her index fingernail and mumbling something about fixing it later.

“I’m here!” he exclaimed, as he plopped down next to her.

No response.

“Um, Sue?”

Still no response. He then leaned in a kissed her on the cheek, which immediately snapped her to life.

“Oh!” she yelped, startled and embarrassed. “Sorry, must’ve drifted off again.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What’d you want to talk to me about?”

Susannah looked and blushed.

“Well,” she said, a hint of nervousness in her voice, “it’s almost time for the final game of the school year, and-um…I…was just wondering if…”

“If…what?”

“Well, y’know, you could…maybe…um…sing the national anthem during the pre-game festivities? You don’t have to if you-”

He placed his index finger over her mouth and stopped her silent.

“It would be my honour!” he assured her. “Is that all?”

Susannah blushed again lowered her head. “Yeah, that’s all.”

“I see. I gotta go, sorry I can’t stay longer.”

“No, it’s okay.”

He then got up to leave, but not before he felt a gentle tug on his left arm. He turned to see Susannah holding him tight, a look of uncertainty on her face.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“It’s just-” she began, before realizing what she was about to say. “Never mind.”

He then shrugged, got up and started to leave.

“I LOVE YOU!” he called out to her.

She waved back in return. The last thing he noticed from the distance, although it might’ve been his imagination playing tricks on him considering how far away he was by this point, was Susannah burying her face in her hands and crying.

*******

“He took the bait?”

“…”

“Well?”

“…Yes.”

“Why so glum, girl? We’re doing everyone a favour, don’t you remember?”

“Right…”

“Good. Everything’s in place.”

“Right. See you two at the game tomorrow!”

Susannah closed her cell phone and dove into her pillow. God help me! She then started crying.

*******

The big day had arrived. The entire stadium was filled with students, parents and outsiders alike. In the middle of the field, the cheerleaders were busy with their pre-game routine. It was gonna be tough topping that, but he had to try. Still, it made him nervous and antsy for the first time since he’d started dating her.

Relax! Don’t let it get to you; you’re still in control. Remember that, you’re still in control.

The cheerleader routine was over, followed by the ceremonial pre-speech. He’d never liked these speeches, but he was too busy focusing on what he had to do.

Focus.

The speaker was rambling on, something about dignity and fair play.

Concentration is the key to beating it.

Now it was something to do with school pride-

I am strong.

-School dignity-

I am brave.

-Maintaining the honour of past traditions-

I am proud.

-Upholding the truths associated with fair play-

I can do this!

-And making sure they’re respected and honoured.

It’s just me and the world now.

He then gave a three-finger salute and left the stadium.

I’m up next. Let’s do this!

“And now…” he could hear from inside the stadium.

Get ready…

“…To sing the national anthem…”

Get set…

“…Our former star champion, John Edward Elstein!”

Go-what?!

There had to be some kind of mistake, it was clearly a joke of some kind. But sure enough, there he was: a big, burly jock, long, blond hair tied in a ponytail in the back. And he was making his way to the podium.

Is this some kinda joke?

Before he knew what he was doing, he’d burst out into the stadium and run to go grab the microphone away from Elstein.

*******

No, don’t do it! I’m begging you, please!

Susannah couldn’t believe the horror that was unfolding in front of her eyes. Her friends were enjoying themselves, but she had hard time facing that she’d set him up for this: the two of them were busy struggling for the microphone, the official representative clearly winning and demanding that he let go. After a minute struggling, he was shoved to the ground.

“What is the meaning of this?!”

Susannah watched in horror as the principle of the school stormed onto the field. She was bulky and a little on the heavy side, but boy could she run fast!

“Explain yourselves THIS INSTANT!” she barked at them.

The rep dusted himself off and scowled. “He attacked me!”

“You don’t understand,” he tried to explain, “I was the one who was supposed to sing the anthem!”

The principle looked at him sheepishly. “Says who? The star rep always sings the anthem. It’s been that way each year, why would this one be any different?”

*******

He couldn’t believe what’d just happened. It was his gig, not that buff guy’s! Unless…

Did she trick me?

“Well?”

He struggled to get his words right.

“Su-Susannah Larkey told me,” he sputtered. “Sh-she told me that…that…”

“That ‘what’?” asked the principle, still cross.

He shut his eyes and tried to force it out.

“She told me that I was gonna sing the anthem!” he blurted out. “I even have a note to prove it!”

Everyone focused their attention in a shocked Susannah’s direction.

“Is this true?” asked the principle.

*******

What do I do now? If I tell the truth, everyone will laugh at me! But if I don’t…

Wasn’t this what she’d been planning all-along? Isn’t this how it was supposed to end? She couldn’t blow that all off now…could she?

Stupid me! Why’d I have to fall in-love with him? I gotta fix this somehow!

As she closed her eyes to shield out the reaction on his face, she cleared her throat and shook her head slowly. “No.”

*******

Everyone turned to where he was lying down, his mouth opened in disbelief. She didn’t! He then turned to see two of the cheerleaders quietly high-fiving one-another and giggling.

“Sue?” he asked, still shocked. “What do you mean ‘no’? I spoke to you-”

“-When?” she responded, unable to fully look at him. “I don’t even know you.”

“But-but-but I-”

“-I’m sorry, but I don’t.”

He wanted to say something, but his words were quickly drowned out by the sound of mockery and laughter from the crowd. They think it’s funny? But it’s not, she…in control, I’m in control, I’m in control…

He could feel himself begin to shake, followed by the twiddling of his fingers. All the while, the crowd kept laughing.

In control, in control…

He felt his dropped mouth slowly begin to clench. Still laughter.

C’mon, in control…

The laughter continued. He could feel his eyebrows begin to slant inward.

In control…IN CONTROL…

He felt his hands seize up, he wanted to punch - no, rip - no, tear her apart. Still, the laughter continued.

IN CONTROL, IN CONTROL…

His hands finally became tense enough that he heard something shatter. It was his watch, it’d finally cracked open. He then ripped it off and prepared to whip it at her.

Screw control, your ass is mine!

*******

She was so busy trying to avoid seeing his face that she didn’t realize someone had screamed for her to duck. Fortunately, Melanie had lunged in front of her in time. As she heard something hard hit her friend’s face, followed by a gasp from the crowd as it knocked her out-cold, she realized the worst was yet to come.

Dammit!

Within seconds, she could feel a pair of hands wringing her neck tightly. She instinctively tried to squirm free, but deep down she knew that she deserved it. After a minute or two of struggling, she could feel her world fading and going black. Before she knew it, she’d passed out from lack of air.

*******

Screw it.

Footsteps.

I’ve failed everything.

A figure descends along the hallway.

I’m not to blame, though.

His blue cap with a gold star can be seen from a distance, fine-tuned and polished as usual.

She screwed me over, that jerk.

The metal baton clenched firmly in his right hand, he makes his way past the prisoners.

I don’t care, though.

He whistles a tune of sorts; it’s unclear which one exactly.

It’s her own damn fault.

His boots, clean and polished, can be heard clanking across the floor.

She deserved it.

The dangling of keys from his left pocket are visible now, even a man with weak eyes could see them.

All that love, all those “feelings”, all that false-honesty, none of it was ever true to begin with.

He stops in front of the cell. He places the key in the lock. A clicking sound is heard. The door opens.

I’d much rather rot than see her again.

“Son, you got a visitor. Come with me.”

*Sigh* Here goes nothing!

“Consider it a friendly gesture from me to you. We usually don’t allow visitors after your 7th offence.”

He got up from his cot and followed the warden to the phone room. As he sat down on the chair, he noticed that Susannah was sitting on the other end. Her neck was in a brace, and her bangs were covering her eyes. Clearly, she was too embarrassed to look at him. Regardless, she signaled for him to pick up the receiver to talk to her.

“What do you want?” he asked her, the incident still fresh in his mind

She held up his broken watch in her free hand.

“Keep it! I don’t want it anymore, not after what happened.”

She put down the broken watch and wiped her nose.

“I know I can’t apologize to you,” she said, still unable to look at him. “It wouldn’t do you any good, not after what I did to you.”

“Obviously.”

“I’m not friends with those girls anymore, the ones I conspired with. We broke up right after the hearing.”

“Good for you. I’m sure you’ll be very happy being alone.”

He got up to go back to his cell, but not before she signaled to him that she had one last thing to say.

“If it makes you feel any better, I was really starting to like you.”

He sighed and rolled his eyes. “Perhaps you should’ve thought of that before you ruined my life.”

She slipped the broken watch into her pocket, then wiped her nose again.

“I don’t wanna see you again,” he said, his voice as calm as humanely possible. “Goodbye.”

He then hung up the receiver, got out of his chair and walked with the warden back to his cell.

*******

THE END.

*******

Anyway, please let me know what you think of the story in the comments below. Until next time, this is Whitly saying, “Read, comment and goodnight!”

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“Captain Raccoon to the Rescue!” *Flies off*

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