Beep, beep, beep. The alarm started again. Five more minutes, I begged. It was too damn early. “Isaac!” Ma screamed from the door. “Time to get up, Senior!” She laughed.
I rolled off the bed and onto the floor. I didn’t want to get out of bed; I wanted to sleep in till noon. “It’s too damn early.” I moaned.
Ma laughed at me, “That’s what you get for going to bed at 3am every night for three months. Now, get up and get ready for school.”
“Fine.” I stood and grabbed some of my clothes from the floor before storming to the bathroom.
The summer had been interesting to say the least. I finished my manuscript of Delta Nine and the Escape and emailed it off to Coke. I have been waiting five whole weeks for a reply, and nothing. The only thing I looked forward to today was seeing him.
I headed out at the butt crack of dawn and climbed the empty bus. School for the first half was long and tedious. Interesting enough was that my schedule was almost completely the same from the previous year. My math and science classes were switched, but my English class was still after lunch with Mr. Moss. In the first few classes, I ticked off the time on the clock and slowly waited to see the one man I wanted to see.
Lunch finally came and I couldn’t be more excited. I just needed to get through the forty minute lunch and I would be solid.
Casey and the rest of my gang sat at the same table. I smiled as Rose strolled by and I grabbed her for a kiss. “Hey you, I haven’t seen you all day.”
“I know. It’s weird, huh?”
“Definitely.” I kissed her again.
Rose and I hadn’t spent a single day apart since the summer started. In all fairness none of my friends and I haven’t spent much time apart since prom. The few of us were constantly getting into mischief and mayhem around Neverglade over the summer. Casey was on his last week of probation since he pranked a series of houses. I helped in the majority of those pranks, but never got caught.
Rose and I headed to the table where we normally sat. Casey stood and stopped us,“So, did you hear?”I just looked at him with confusion. “Tell me you heard!”
“Oh god, Rose, please tell me you told him?”
She bit her lip and shook her head. “Will someone explain to me what’s up?” I asked. Plenty of people around me heard me and quickly busied themselves. “What the hell is going on Case?”
“Promise you won’t go crazy?” He asked, taking a few steps away. I didn’t say a thing. I was so confused I just wanted a straight answer. When I didn’t say anything, Casey continued, “There’s been a slight problem with France.”
France? Why would I care – Oh My God, Riddle! “W-what do you mean, problem?”
“Riddle and Story were in an accident.” Rose whispered.
My knees buckled and I sank to the floor. Riddle. My heart dropped and my head spun as I thought of all the things that could have happened to my Riddler. “Is. . . Is she. . . okay?” I asked through sobs.
“She’s okay.” Casey said. “From what I gather, it’s Story. She’s in a coma.”
Wait, what? Story’s in a coma? What the hell happened? How did Story get into a coma? And where the hell are these tears coming from? I couldn’t be crying because of Story, could I? I hated her. . . didn’t I? No. Deep down I knew I loved her like a sister, a pain-in-the-ass sister, but a sister.
“So, where are they?” I asked.
“They’re still in France. I’m sorry bud.”
“How’d you find out?” I asked him.
“My mom. She’s subbing for Mr. Moss until he gets back. I really am sorry, bud. I know how much you’ve been wanting to talk to him about your novel.”
I nodded. Damn. I really wanted to get this thing out and now I would be waiting. I couldn’t do this without Cocaine. He had contacts and he knew how to get published. I ran to the library at the school and jumped onto the computers. I needed to email him. I needed to make sure Riddle was okay.
It took almost two weeks before I got a reply.
* * * *
It took nearly three months before the Moss family returned. I remember walking into school and seeing Riddle walking the halls. My chest warmed up at the sight of her. I didn’t really realize how much I missed her until this moment. “Riddle!” I called out and chased her down the hall.
She turned to face me before turning around and walking away.
“Riddle, wait!” I yelled, and grabbed her shoulder to turn her around. “Please, I just wanted to see how you were holding up? How’s Story?”
“Like you care?”
“I do care,” I said, and was surprised that it was true. “Please, I’m concerned. I just want to know how she is.”
“She’s awake and at home. She doesn’t remember anything. She can’t talk much and her motor skills are lacking. She’s a shell of her former self.”
“I’m sorry.” I said, wiping a tear from Riddle’s eye. “I really am sorry, Riddler.”
“Thanks, I have to get to class.” She turned and stalked away. I felt the pain come back and knew that no matter what had happened, nothing had changed in Riddle’s eyes. It wouldn’t change for the rest of the year either.
Coke had taken an early retirement after Story woke up. I managed to visit once at the Mosses, but was quickly turned away by him. He promised we’d talk though, and we eventually did.
Coke met me every Tuesday after school at the cafe where we talked about my manuscript. He would critique my work and make me fix what needed fixing. “Its a strong piece of work, Isaac. You just need to work on some stuff.”
“Like, where’s the love interest, or the damsel in distress? Every hero needs one, especially spies. Give him something to fight for, and ‘to save the world’ isn’t enough. He needs something worth fighting for, and love is a great solution.”
I went home with that contemplation. Love? I didn’t know the first thing about writing love. I searched my bookcase on any romantic novels. How was I supposed to give Delta Nine a love interest?
I was so confused. I sat down next to my ma and baby brother, Charlie. “What’s up, Isaac?” She asked.
“Coke thinks I need a love interest for Delta Nine. I have no clue how to write a love scene.” Ma looked as if she was going to pass out. “You, okay?”
“I’m fine. Why does Coke want you to write a love interest in?” Her cheeks flushed with color and I felt safe to tell her what he told me. “Well, that makes sense.”
“I don’t even know where to begin?”
“A name would be a start.”
“And what should I name her?”
“Sarah,” she joked.
“Ma, I am not going to name her after you. That’s just ewe. That’s like writing a love scene of my parents, and I so don’t want to go there! Ewe!” I gave an exaggerated shiver while ma laughed at me.
Before I could come up with a solution to my problem with Delta Nine, my phone rang. Jen. “Hey, sis. What’s up?”
“I need a babysitter!” She screamed over the screaming of her toddler. My sister and Joe ended up having a baby about fifteen months ago, I didn’t even know she was pregnant – ma did.
“Why do you need a babysitter?”
“Dani is driving me INSANE!” I laughed. “It’s not funny, Isaac! Joe’s on a double shift, the house is in total disarray, Dani won’t stop screaming, and I am on my last fucking nerve! Please.”
“Okay, I’ll be right over.”
“Thank you.” She sighed in relief. “I promise, I won’t be gone long. I just want to go to the spa, and maybe the bookstore.”
“No problem, sis.”
“NO, CASEY!” She said just before hanging up. Last time Casey and I were there babysitting we lost my niece for two hours. Jen blamed Casey, when it was me who left the door open.
“Babysitting, Dani?” Ma asked after I put my phone in my pocket. “Don’t keep the door open.”
“I won’t.” I grumbled. Ma knew the real culprit to Dani’s missing act.
Dani was the coolest kid I have ever held. She doesn’t do much even at eighteen months. She poops, drools, and plays. She barely talks and calls me Eye-Eye. Jen thinks it’s funny and reminds her of dad. The more time goes on, the more ma and my sister open up about the man.
While my sister was away, I played with my niece and gave her extra kisses. I loved her more than I ever thought possible. Looking at Dani always makes me think of Riddle. I know I am barely 17 but I want a family. Rose and I talk about family a lot, but we both still agree that we’re no more than friends. Though, she has offered to be “friends with benefits,” and strongly declined.
Looking at Dani makes me wonder if I will ever fall in love with a woman and have one (or several) of my own. What would it be like to have a whole family, one where there’s a loving mother and a father? Two parents, thats what I want my children to have. Dani’s lucky to have both her parents, even if her mama needs a break from time to time.
A knock at the door brought me from my thoughts. I put little Dani down and answered the door. Outside stood. . . “Holy crap!” We both said at the same time. “Katie?”
“No fucking way! Kaliq?”
“It’s Isaac now.”
“Right, sorry.” She whispered. “And it’s Leslie. I told those SIA crap-bags to go screw themselves after I went to college. So how have you been kid?”
“Good, kinda, sorta. It’s a mess. What are you doing here?”
“Jahi said I could crash a bit. She’s not expecting me till next week, but I said fuck it, I needed a change of scenery. How’s your mom?”
Fine, just had a baby.”
Her eyes went wide, “No fucking way! And you’re. . .” She wanted to say dad, but I saw in her eyes the anger and bitterness. She couldn’t even say dad.
“No word. Ma remarried this guy, Scott Conner. Cool guy.” Okay that was a lie. Scott was not a cool guy. I still hated his guts and the two of us butt heads on a daily basis.
Leslie and I stood there in a very uncomfortable silence. I invited her inside. The two of us talked while Dani played. I learned that she was a drifter, moving from town to town. She told me she stayed with family in Riverview for the last two years. Her Aunt Alice was fighting cancer, and so she helped her and the family out till she passed. “I went to Hollywood after, to look for my uncle Jake. The asshole told me to get lost. I told him that I was Travis’ daughter, and he still told me to get the fuck out. I ended up having to flee their when he got the cops involved, saying I was stalking him.”
“Who’s Travis?” I asked.
“Fuck me, they didn’t say anything, did they? Stupid fucks. My dad, your grandpa.”
Before I could ask more, the door open and I heard a scream before seeing my sister and Leslie went for that crazy girly hug. The two hugged and started to talk, again. I decided to leave, I’d come back for answers now that I knew one person who was willing to give me answers.
* * * *
Graduation was now two weeks away. Ma was going apeshit that I was in the running for valedictorian. Only one person stood in my way, Riddle. God, how I hated her having one more A than me. Of course it was her fault that I had those.
Now, I had just two weeks to do the best to my ability. My friends helped me study at school and home. The three of us were always sitting at my table in the kitchen. Ma made sure there were plenty of snacks available to us. She kept the house quiet by taking Charlie out to Jen’s for a play-date.
“Okay, we’ve gone over science, math, and history, now we just need -”
“English.” I finished Rose’s sentence with a groan. It wasn’t like I didn’t know English. Hell, it was my favorite subject. The only problem was, I just didn’t care to study for it.
“Finals are in three days, Isaac.”
“We’ve studied everything, but English. And I know you don’t care, but I need to study it! I hate Mrs. Styx class.” She looked at Casey, “Sorry.”
“No problem. She’s a pain in my ass, too.”
“That’s because you can’t go sneak off during break to do something stupid anymore,” River pointed out. “And why the hell you tried to sneak past her with three cherry bombs is beyond my comprehension.”
“That was pretty stupid, Case.” I pointed out.
“I needed to get the into the teachers bathroom somehow. Not my fault she happen to be there as I was walking into the mens room.” He pouted, “I miss Mr. Moss. He always turned a blind eye when I pulled pranks.”
“No he didn’t!” Rose and I shouted. “He’s the reason you were stuck in detention the majority of the time.” I continued.
“Oh right, maybe it was Mr. Conner.”
“That’d sound like my brother.” Scott said, picking up a snack from our table. “You guys still studying?” We nodded. “Great. Isaac, if your mom comes back home, tell her I went to visit my mom.”
I nodded, but kept quiet. Earlier that afternoon we had gotten in a major fight about him wanting to move his mom into the house. I love “Aunt” Rose (we both agreed that “Aunt” was a better term for her), but I really didn’t want to have to shack up with a two year old! In the end both ma and Scott decided to wait and see how Rose feels about it before doing anything drastic. I just hope that Rose says no.
Scotty left us alone and the five of us found ourselves quizzing each other on our notes from English class.
* * * *
Finals went fast enough, and soon it was graduation. Ma fussed over me all day while I put on my cap and gown. “I can’t believe my little boy is a man,” she cried.
“Ma, you have Charlie.”
She nodded and sobbed.
“Ma, it’s okay. It’s not like I’m moving out. It’s just high school graduation.”
“I know. I just am so proud of you, Kaliq. Your dad would have been proud.”
“I know.” I swallowed hard as the lump in my throat grew. “Maybe he’ll find my book when it gets published.”
“I’m sure he will.” She mumbled, and I think she didn’t mean to say that out loud. “He loves to read books, especially spy thrillers.”
We headed out of the house quickly after I got dress and headed towards city hall. Inside We sat around and gathered. I sat with my fellow classmates, and watched as Casey was reprimanded again by the principal before taking his seat next to me. “What was that about?”
“The bitch confiscated my last cherry bomb.”
I laughed alongside Rose. Only Casey would bring a cherry bomb to graduation. The moment arrived when they called out the Class Valedictorian. “Mr. Isaac Britt,” the principal calmly stated in his speech and introduced me. He told them about my accomplishments in school. Prom King, Head Editor of the school paper, President of the yearbook, and he mentioned my manuscript that was gearing for a fall release. The parents and my fellow classmates applauded my work as I headed up to the platform to give my speech.
“Greetings. My fellow classmates – we did it. We made it through the hell that is Never-ever-glade High, and are now graduating. For some it’s a relief to make it this far – Casey.” I allowed my classmates to laugh. “For others this is just the beginning – Rose.” More laughter. “For me, it’s neither. High school wasn’t the greatest place on earth, but it wasn’t bad either. I have loved, been heartbroken, and have gained the greatest friends that will last me a lifetime. I have done everything I have ever wanted to achieve in school. Many of my friends will tell you I did much more than that. I have surpassed my dreams and am living the life I have always wanted for myself.
“A good man once said, ‘Be true to who you are inside, and not who you think others want you to be.’ I want you to go out there, and be who you truly are. High school, there’s too much pressure to be someone you’re not. Now, it’s the time for you, for all of us, to go out there and truly be who we are. No more lies, no more deceit, no more secrets. Live your life the way you want to live. You only get one shot, this is it. Go out and be you, for you. Thank you.”
The place erupted in applause and I took my seat between Rose and Casey. I looked back and saw Coke standing in the back row, he nodded and winked. He got the reference. I found that quote in one of his books and knew I had to use it. My whole life was made up of lies, and I hated it. Maybe, just maybe my speech would help someone crawl out their shell a bit and live a life that I could only dream about. Maybe someday, that person could be me.
Before getting our diploma’s Mr. Moss walked up and gave a small speech of his own before handing out awards, “Its amazing to see talented young, bright students to move forth. I have had the privilege to work with many of these students here. In the last few years I have had fond memories, and some not so fond memories of those that sit before me. Of course we can never forget the first time Mr. Styx flooded the school, or when Mr. Britt and Ms. Riddle Moss did even more mayhem by setting off the school sprinkler system.”
“Or how bout the time when Mr. Corrado made the winning touchdown at our first ever state championship game?” A great cheer ensued and the football team all stood up and took a bow, which got a big laugh. “Let us not forget the times that have been shared and set aside the heartache we all know and watched happen. Let us remember the good and only the good. Now, for the Best in Show.
“We’ll start with Class clown,” Coke opened an envelope and chuckled, “How did I know? Casey Styx.” The school cheered and he mocked the football team’s bow, which got a few laughs. “Casey, just promise me no more mayhem?”
“Can’t promise you that Mr. M – Mayhem is my middle name.” More laughter. “But I will be going away for college, you’ll get a break from me in a few weeks.”
Mr. Moss gave the awards for “Most Likely to Become President” (the Class President, I didn’t know him), “Most likely to succeed” (I won), “Most likely to get arrested” (Casey won again). “Biggest Flirt” (Willow), and “Most Influential Person” went to Riddle.
Graduation ended after we all went ceremoniously to get our diplomas. Ma wanted pictures of all my friends and I afterwards so we stayed out in the courtyard while all the parents took pictures of all of us.
I saw Riddle walk out, followed by Story who was being pushed by Ben in her wheelchair. I excused my friends and walked up to Story, who I hadn’t seen in a year. “Hey,” I waved.
“What do you want Potter-breath?” Story asked.
“I just came to see how my favorite Elinthas is,” I answered with an award winning smile. “How are you?”
“Okay. Have you met my . . . Who are you again?” She asked Riddle and I looked confused.
“Just a friend, Story.” Riddle said without emotion, but I could see her eyes water.
“Oh right. I wish my sister had been here.” She whispered to me. “I miss her so much.”
I nodded, understanding that this was part of Story’s injuries. I knelt down and whispered to her, “I miss her too, Story. She was an amazing woman.”
Story smiled and nodded.
After, Riddle took me aside, “Thanks for that.”
“What happened? Why does she think you’re dead?”
“It’s what she remembers. We tried telling her, but she freaks out and calls us all liars. Ben’s moving her when he gets a station after boot camp. He’s hoping Fort Sims, they have a good medical center there that can help her. Mom and dad are letting them get married so he can get her the help she needs.”
“I’m going to go to school. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I want to do something to help my sister. Her brain basically rewrote her memories after the accident. She’s not all there. When she talks to me, she really isn’t talking to me, but more like the Ghost of Riddle. That’s what dad calls her imaginary friend at least.” Riddle shrugged and I felt a little flush of color burning my cheeks. I once referred to Riddle like that.
“I’m sorry, Riddle. Is there anything -”
She shook her head, “Everything is fine. I don’t need your sympathies or your help. I’ll eventually move on from Story’s story, and I’ll make something of myself. It’s all I have going. Anyways, I gotta go. Keep up the writing, okay.”
“I will. I’ll see you around.” And like that Riddle left my life.