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I Care

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The four boys were lying down on the grass leisurely, resting quietly after their intense water fight that had started when Eddie decided to push Richie off the rock he was standing on, after another bad joke about his mom.

 

It had been their last day of school for the year, and they were more than ready to enjoy spending time outside in the delightful warmth of summer. They had just finished their first year of highschool, and to be honest they were so unbelievably relieved that Henry Bowers and his gang didn’t attend their school. They would still unluckily run into them every now and then, but the fact that most of them moved out of Derry and that their wicked, cruel and degenerate leader now worked with his father made their life so much better and they couldn’t be more thankful.

 

As soon as the last class had ended, all the kids rushed out of the prison-like building and the losers didn’t wait before throwing their books away (it had become a tradition at the end of every school year) before grabbing their bikes in a hurry to rush over to the barrens.

 

They were now lying peacefully under a large tree as the sun was setting down, although they could still feel the warm sunrays on their wet skin. The boys were observing the few clouds smudged on the orange-pink color of the sky, floating serenely above their heads.

 

“Hey, what do a penis and a Rubik’s Cube have in common?”

 

Of course it was Richie the one to mindlessly break the undisturbed silence, immediately crushing the steady and tranquil calmness of the moment. Eddie and Stan groaned in sheer exasperation at their friend’s annoying joke, who hey wasn’t even finished yet, both rolling to opposite sides in order to move away from Richie while Bill chuckled lightheartedly.

 

“I swear to God, you really can’t shut the fuck up for more than five minutes can you?” Eddie complained irritatedly as Richie and Bill exchanged amused glances.

 

“Neither can your mom in bed, Eds,” Richie answered with an annoying grin plastered on his face, to which his friend just grunted and then mumbled something about cutting out Richie’s tongue so he could finally stop talking.

 

“Anyways you haven’t heard the rest of my awesome joke guys,” he said before being rapidly interrupted by Stan.

 

“No we haven’t, and we certainly don’t wanna hear your dumb joke Richie.”

 

“The more you play with them, the harder they get,” he blurted out anyways. This time, even Bill shifted away from him, the three boys groaning in irritation while he just giggled at his own stupid joke.

 

“Richie that’s g-g-gross,” Bill let out as he sat up and glanced around, looking for his shirt while Stan stood up and stretched languidly.

 

“It’s not even funny, Rich. Just gross,” Eddie added as he wiggled his t-shirt in order to get the dirt off it before putting it back on.

 

Richie clamped his heart and moaned dramatically in fake hurt, his face displaying an exaggerated expression of sorrow. “I am wounded,” he cried out loudly, making everyone else roll their eyes as they got dressed.

 

He too, eventually got his clothes back on as they chatted casually about nothing in particular, peacefully walking back to their bikes, teasing each other and giggling cheerfully.

 

The four boys were riding back home, Richie challenging Bill at a race and ending up winner, his friend arguing that Richie had started earlier and that it wasn’t fair while the other two just laughed joyously behind them.

 

The group eventually had to take different ways to get home; Richie and Eddie having to take a turn while Bill and Stan continued to ride down the street. They happily waved at each other, smiling widely from such a wonderful afternoon, thinking about the many more to come.

 

“Good n-night guys,” Bill said kindly, watching his friends with pure and genuine affection. Catch you later’s and see you tomorrow’s were exchanged before Richie straightened up on his bike and yelled loudly: “Tell your moms I send them kisses!”

 

Stan rolled his eyes and started riding away from them while Bill just giggled and followed behind him. The two other boys watched their friends ride away for a few instants before looking at each other, smiling softly.

 

“Now it’s just you and me, Eddie Spaghetti,” Richie hummed and started pedaling nonchalantly as Eddie’s smile was replaced with an expression that screamed ‘I am sick of you Richard Tozier’. “Don’t call me that,” he grumbled before following his friend who just grinned dumbly like an idiot.

 

The two of them bickered endlessly, Richie speeding up only to laugh mockingly at Eddie who had trouble catching up every time, because let’s face it he was relatively less strong and dynamic than Richie, so he just cursed at him and threatened to push him off his bike, which only made the other laugh harder.

 

Eddie normally didn’t like when people made fun of him, even as a joke. But this, this was okay. Because it was Richie. Because snapping back angrily made Richie laugh, and he would never admit it but Eddie loved his laugh, and loved even more when he was the one making him laugh. Because Richie was his best friend.

 

They then arrived at Richie’s house. They stopped in front of it and Richie sighed gloomily, gazing mournfully at the front door. Eddie knew that his friend’s mother had been worse recently, and that Richie almost couldn’t stand staying at home.

 

He slowly moved closer to him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, squeezing it encouragingly to make his best friend know he was there for him anytime. “Hey, you can come to my place after dinner,” he spoke softly and quietly, hoping to sound reassuring. “Just climb up to the window and sneak in, I don’t mind.”

 

Richie turned his head and locked eyes with him. His dark, thick and messy hair was tousled, his heavy curls cascading down his forehead, almost completely covering it. His dark eyes were behind thick framed, black rimmed glasses. Richie used to break his glasses a lot. He always used adhesive tape to try and put them back together.

 

It was at this exact moment that it struck Eddie brusquely, as he had to lift his head up to look at his friend directly in the eyes; Richie was significantly taller than him. He had grown so much in the past few years while Eddie’s height barely changed at all. His friend was a head taller than him.

 

Richie was wearing a white t-shirt under a comically large, red shirt which was open and had large flowers on it. He was wearing black unintentionally ripped jeans and dirty white converse which he didn’t even bother to keep clean.

 

“Thanks,” he just whispered back, seeming quite relieved before his expression went back to the regular, annoying and foolish grin he always wore on his face. “Tell your mom that I’ll be there in an hour, spaghetti head!” Richie said loudly, moving towards his front yard while Eddie rolled his eyes.

 

He still couldn’t help but smile, glad that he made his best friend feel a little better. He watched him maybe for a few seconds too long before starting to pedal again, rapidly making his way back to his place.

 

***

 

“I’m home,” Richie shouted blankly, closing the door behind him before looking around and noticing that the couch was empty, that for once, his mother wasn’t passed out in front of the TV.

 

Not like she’d care anyways , he thought while absent-mindedly walking up the stairs. He walked down the corridor, and without realising it he stopped in front of his parents’ bedroom. Maybe, just maybe his mother didn’t get drunk today. Maybe she actually tried for him. Maybe she’d start caring.

 

Richie slowly opened the door and peeped inside the room, only to find her sprawled out on her bed, a bottle of whatever alcohol was left in their house on her nightstand. She seemed to have heard Richie as she opened her eyes and motioned for him to come near her.

 

Richie hesitated for a while, anxiously considering if it was worth it. He then decided to walk towards her, sitting tensely on the bed. She straightened up a little and moved closer to Richie, cupping his face with her cold hands. She stinked. Her eyes looked old, way older than how old she actually was, and it scared Richie a bit.

 

“My son,” she said quietly, examining the features of his face. Suddenly Richie felt a huge grief starting to grow inside his chest.

 

“You’ve grown up so much… Richie,” there was a pause, and it clearly expressed that his own mother momentarily forgot his name. You’re not supposed to forget your son’s name.

 

“How old are you now?” she asked with tired eyes. It was like someone had shot an arrow through his heart. His own mother didn’t even care enough to know how old he was. He could have said 12, or even 19, it wouldn’t have made any difference to her.

 

“I’m 15 mom,” he started weakly, before his voice got louder and he was almost yelling to her face. “I am 15 years old mom, you should know that!” He was so sick of this.

 

He rapidly pushed her hands away and stood up brusquely. “Do you even care?” he started shouting desperately at her, hopelessly trying to make her understand. She couldn’t. She looked briefly puzzled and her eyes momentarily closed before opening again.

 

“I come home late all the time, some nights I don’t even come back at all!” he screamed in a mixture of anger and pure frustration but also in urge to be listened to, to at least be acknowledged.

 

“I could get fucking killed out there, and you wouldn’t even give the slightest shit about me!” he yelled as loud as he could, yearning for her to at least try and listen to him. But she wasn't. Her gaze was on him, but she wasn't looking at him. Her lazy eyes blinked in confusion as she started to baffle incoherently.

 

Richie didn't want to fucking bear with this anymore. He took a last, furious look at his irresponsible mother and stormed out of the room, not bothering to shut the door behind him. He angrily stomped down the stairs and rushed out of his house, slamming the front door with all his strength.

 

His heart was racing with absolute madness. He was angry. So angry.

 

Richie hopped onto his bike and flew out of the yard, pedaling quickly as if using his energy would help to ease the frustration boiling inside of him.

 

Why did it have to be that way? He just wanted to be cared about. Was it so much to ask for? From his own mother?

 

Richie, good job with getting good grades in school! Richie, what happened to your face? Richie, why didn't you come home last night? Richie, are you feeling okay? Richie, I love you!

 

Richie couldn't think of a time when anyone has ever told him they loved him. Not even his parents.

 

It was dark outside, and the warm breeze of the summer night was brushing against his flushed skin.

 

He wasn't going anywhere in particular, mostly just pedaling angrily and cursing to himself as he rode down the streets of Derry, feeling more lonely than he ever did before.

 

Richie absolutely hated being alone. He was longing for someone to care about him. His mind was racing fiercely, his thoughts colliding and crushing and breaking into each other incessantly, as if multiple cars were going at a very high speed before crashing violently together, and Richie could almost hear it in his head.

 

Eddie.

 

Richie thought about his best friend and slowed down a little, mostly because he was getting tired of wandering around aimlessly.

 

He calmed himself down, starting to ride towards Eddie’s place. In times like this, he would always think about Eddie. He'd imagine Eddie laughing with him, his angelic voice resonating in his ears, pushing any unpleasant thought away.

 

As long as Eddie was with him, he didn't care about anything else. Eddie made him feel safe. He made him feel like he was cared about. He made him feel like he mattered.

 

Richie hided his bike behind the neighbor’s hedge before crawling to the side of Eddie’s house; he could see light coming from the living room and the last thing he wanted was to get caught by Mrs. Kaspbrak. He climbed on top of the old, large unused box that was probably to store old tools and other unwanted objects.

 

He noticed his friend’s window was open, and whispered his name.

 

“Eds! Eddie!”

 

He heard a ruffle and a few light footsteps before Eddie’s head popped out of the small window. Richie suddenly felt so much better, as if only the sight of Eddie had increased his happiness by at least 80%. He grinned widely and Eddie smiled a bit, gesturing for him to climb up.

 

“Come up here idiot, and don't make too much noise,” Eddie said as he disappeared back into his room. Richie just smiled and stood there for a few seconds, like an idiot, thanking God or whoever was up there for allowing him to have Eddie in his life.