[ Senior Year's About to Get Interesting ]
He's immediately greeted by the fascinating ritual of kids splitting off to find their friends, their "groups." Brendon never fit into a group. So, from the outside looking in, he watches as all the cliques separate, sitting at the same sets of tables as usual, only mingling with those similar to them. He weaves through the tables to the one at the very back, the one that's occupied by only three others.
"'Sup, Bren," a voice mutters and Brendon takes a seat to it's left. The owner of the voice, Tyler, is nibbling timidly at a sandwich with some nasty looking meat, and Brendon almost wants to give the kid his own meal, before he remembers that Tyler has always preferred Redbull over Monster. Brendon needs that if he's going to not sleep in any classes following the lunch hour.
Tyler's brown eyes dart across the table as a gasp is heard. Brendon is met with the sight of Josh, whose bright, blue colored hair seems to jitter with sheer excitement. "What's good, Josh?" Brendon observes a huge grin break out on the boy's face as he looks up from his phone. He quickly pockets it. "We're getting a new student," he says through a mouthful of Taco Bell.
"Since when do we get new students who aren't freshies?" comes the snark reply of Debby, who sits right next to Josh. A lock of her ginger hair is wrapped around her finger, and Brendon is surprised that Josh hasn't noticed her heart eyes yet. Still, he never mentions it, pretend he's never caught onto it in the first place. Because he once was like Debby - in love with Joshua motherfucking Dun. Tyler can see this, and he nudges Brendon with his foot, sending him a side smile. His eyes seem to convey a sense of it's going to be alright, and more than anything now, Brendon wants anything to believe that. He sends Tyler a quick grin and returns to his food.
"So there was this one thing I saw..." and Debby launches them into a conversation about the party she was at last Saturday, and Josh chimes in with his usual smile and "that sounds fun," and Tyler follows with a sarcastic quip. And the conversation passes by in one ear and out the other. Brendon is evidently ready to leave the cafeteria when he realizes he has ten minutes to find a hiding place to get high with a guy from Calculus class. David? Damon?
Dallon. Yes, the cool guy with the extra joints.
He excuses himself before he can listen to Tyler and Debby ask where he is going, and before he can see the look of disappointment on Josh's face because his ex- his friend is getting high to distract from the claws of life threatening to tear him apart.
Josh stares after Brendon.
"Josh?" Debby stops asking when he doesn't respond, pulling out the rest of his meal so he doesn't have to explain anything.
The hour after lunch is PE, and for Debby, this means trying to avoid being beaten to a pulp by the girls in the locker room. It means desperately searching for a jersey that isn't vandalized with obscenities in red Sharpie. It's trying to remember why being skinny is fucking important.
"You maintain our image, pretty girl." These are the words she's known since she was twelve years old, begging and begging to have something more to eat but being denied it because she was a fat little girl. A bad little girl. Her meals were cut in half. Meat was no longer present. Chocolate was a luxury that was only allowed on Christmas. If she was caught with it any other day of the year...
She shakes the memories out of her mind, forcing them to fall back down the hill to her subconscious. She can forget about it for the next forty five minutes.
She hides her back pack in the bathroom stall, her only untouched jersey on, her ears listening for the sounds of other girls leaving. "Wonder where the hell Ryan went," she hears one sneer. Another one replies with something so typical that Debby almost vomits out of the blatant unoriginality of the statement. "Probably fucking some jock." She swears under her breath. Every day, she tries to convince herself with false hope that one day, it will stop.
That one day, it will be just another old joke that went around the school. But people still really think she's looking for another hookup session, another man to bring home, another boyfriend, another kiss, another anything. People still believe the stupid rumors that are now rooted to her.
She leaves the stall. She pads as quietly as she can out the door of the locker room, following the posse of girls at a distance of fifty or so feet. Her heart races, and she can't wait to just move, to distract from the thoughts in her head. She isn't opposed to anything physical now, whether it be running laps or doing situp drills or even just a last-minute-planned game of dodgeball. She needs to put something in motion while the rest of her reality is at a standstill.
She enters the gym. The smell of sneaker hits her like a truck, and she coughs as other unpleasant scents hit her as well. A girl in the posse turns around - Sarah, she thinks her name is. Debby's eyes plead with her. Don't say anything please. And Sarah doesn't. She just rolls her beady blue eyes and goes back to listening in on whatever gossip is being passed around the murder.
A murder of crows.
Caw! CAW! CAW!!!
Debby shakes this idea from her head the way she wishes to shake the pent up movement from her body.
It's just a presentation. It's just a presentation. It's just reading the speech. COME ON, YOU CAN DO THIS.
But he's all a mess of trembling limbs and a racing heartbeat. His hands shake, the paper feels slippery. The onslaught of a panic attack isn't something that he wants now, but as per usual, the panic is back and it's eating him alive. He can see the fluff of Tyler's brown hair at the back of the room, but it soon blends in with all the other heads just waiting for him to start his speech and fail.
He swallows, and pretends to look over his paper one more time to gather his thoughts before he begins.
"H-Hello. My name is Josh Dun, and..."
Someone is sleeping in the back of the room. Josh can hear them snoring. God, he pleads in his head, take this task away from me. Still, he swallows the lump in his throat to no avail and continues.
"...a-and this is we- this is why we need better--"
His voice cracks. But at least he's made it half way through his sentence. The eyes of twenty plus kids are impatient. The teacher is looking concerned. Josh has done this so many times. So many. He thought before starting that today would be different. And of course, he is wrong. Now he can't remember if it's already seventh hour, or if time is stuck in some unfair limbo where he's the victim of bad luck. He can't remember the names of anyone watching him, or the teacher's name, or why he even has to give a speech in the first place. Abandoning reason, he shoves the paper onto the teacher's desk and leaves the room before he can start crying in front of the other kids the way he's done so many times before.
You're seventeen years old, grow the fuck up.
His body is shaking when he reaches the bathroom, and he finishes his trip with a sprint to make it to a stall before he throws up all over the toilet bowl. Now the tears are really coming, and now the things he thought he couldn't remember punt into his skull. It starts to hurt.
It's seventh hour. You still have one more. You are supposed to be in Language Arts not getting sick! You ruined your speech!
His cheeks are wet and his sobbing is loud. He's gripping the toilet seat for dear life, though his hands tremble when takes them off to hastily wipe his eyes. The bell rings, startling him. His shaking won't stop.
It's ten minutes of heavy breathing trying to make himself feel calm again. Fifteen. Twenty. Now there's not even a point in showing up to his elective.
He flushes the toilet.
There's an interlude of silence. His breathing is back to normal. His body is still vibrating. This time, it's because he needs food to re-enter him. All of his lunch is down the drain now. He can hear someone through the walls of the school in the other bathroom. They sound like they're in a rush. It's likely a teacher guilt tripping them into hurrying up so that when they come back the shame of interrupting class will be more permanent.
He tries not to think on that.
Tyler walks home to the sound of Death Cab for Cutie playing through his earbuds. His hands tap a beat against his skinny jeans, which rub uncomfortably with the lower temperatures. It's a good replacement for the feeling of dread that he felt when he saw Josh's face go completely pale when he stepped up to the front of the class. After PE he'd told his friend, "You got this." And he believed it. He genuinely thought and wanted and hoped that today would be the day he was able to read a speech in front of the class.
He was so wrong. And when he left school, he couldn't find Josh.
So he walks home alone. Knowing Josh, one of two things happened: he was either crying in the bathroom following his freak out, or he was sick and crying. Pick the latter, and it's a trip to the nurses office and a free ticket home. But at least Josh isn't having to face the humiliation brought on by the sight of his class immediately after screwing up.
Normally Josh walks with him. He lives two streets ahead of Tyler's cul de sac, so it's not uncommon for him to just go to Tyler's house after school to do homework and then leave after a meal with Tyler's family. The feeling of quietness, an uncomfortable kind, settles over Tyler.
So he makes believe that there's someone walking with him. And the silence becomes more bearable.
He takes his earbuds out of his ears and pretends he's walking with the new kid. He wonder's what they'll be like. Will they be short? Tall? Blonde? Brunette? Will they be a boy? A girl? Someone in between? Will they fall in with one of the cliques? Will they be a part of the freaks like him, Josh, Brendon and Debby?
He can't help but feel a little selfish at actually wanting the new kid to feel outcasted enough to sit with them at lunch. A surge of guilt washes over Tyler, and he's back to thinking about how maybe he isn't good enough. Maybe the new kid will know when they see Tyler just how much of him screams "join us!" in big, threatening letters. His head is beginning to feel fuzzy with the thought.
He pulls a rubber band back from his left wrist and snaps it. The crack echoes down the street. Tyler knows that it will be another ten minutes of the wound itching and tingling uncomfortably and swelling up, but it's what he deserves, right?
A voice in his head, a more reassuring one, tells him no. Tyler wants to believe it's God.
His feet are cold and tired when he finally reaches his house. It's not a large house, but it's big enough. The trees on the front lawn are losing their leaves. The yard has a thin blanket of oranges and yellows. There's a light on in the kitchen, and he can hear his mom singing faintly. He smiles. There's always something to smile about, even when the whole world is hanging by one damn thread.
Maybe the new kid can sing.
Maybe the new kid can make the world feel less scary.
And while Tyler could never wish anything bad on anyone, he hopes this kid will be just a loser enough to be his friend. Cause even if his other three are enough, he can't help but want one more.