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Message Man

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Tyler is in neutral mood. He doesn't feel anything. He doesn't even have any strength to feel nervous. He's exhausted.

Ashley and Tyler stayed outside until 11 p.m. yesterday, but they were in move since early morning and Tyler's legs are refusing to obey and he hardly keeps his eyes open. He's going to give an amazing first impression in school today, but he doesn't even care about it. He's just looking forward to coming home later, even though school hasn't started yet, and hopes he hasn't caught cold yesterday.

He woke up very late, so he didn't even worry about his look and picked out some black hoodie out of his pile of black hoodies, black jeans and black shoes. He and Ashley will look together like death and lollipop.

He approaches Ashley's block, so they can walk to school together, as always, for 2 years. He woke up late, but he isn't late, as he literally got up from bed, put on clothes and ran out from house. He decides to text her for some reasons.

First one, he always does that, when he's waiting for her.

Second one, he texts her, because he doesn't want to impose and enter the house, or maybe he's too shy to ring the damn intercom, being afraid, that somebody from Ashley's family could answer. Ashley's family is Tyler's family, but he usually meets them and talks to them with her, so it would probably end up with an awkward small talk through intercom, or inviting to the house, which would lead to a reason number three.

Third one, if Tyler rang, he's a hundred percent sure he would have to come into the house and he and Ashley will never get to school on time.

Tyler: I'm here.

Assley: Ok, I need to pack my books.
Don't leave without me. :D

He realises it will take her some time, packing books, adjusting eyebrows for the tenth time every morning, lacing her shoes, walking down from the fourth floor. Be looks at metal swings for several minutes, before running in their direction.

He sits on one of them, but doesn't swing, just keep doing big circles and spinning around the chains. He remembers those times, when he used to spend his free time at these swings every single day as a kid. He even had his favourite one, the one he "owned". He used to try reaching higher and higher, then jump off onto a soft grass. Be used to sing songs with his friends very loud, but adults didn't complain back then. Most of adults living here were their parents anyway.

Sometimes, when he thinks about that, it makes him feel sad, because all of his childhood best friends are adults now, probably not remembering anything from this playground, even though some of them still live right here, and because none of them kept in touch and they act like strangers, pretending nothing was ever connecting them.

Tyler isn't a keeper. He's used to being avoided after a few months, of people becoming bored of him. It happens all the time he meets somebody, and even though he knows the history keeps repeating itself, he still is thankful for any person, that decides to like him.

Before Ashley, he had been all alone in his room, watching films, convincing himself it was normal for a teenager to feel depressed all the time and have nobody to talk to. He was a good student and his parents were proud of him, so he thought he didn't need anything else.

But a teenager life isn't just school. Sure, school secures your future, but who knows, when that future will happen? Most people think that life is only based around working, and you're born only to get a job soon. He and his parents only cared about the job he might get in probably six or more years, but what about now?

You won't be able to function properly in the future—well, how you don't even know if you'll survive till the future—if you can't function properly in present. School made Tyler forget about the whole world around him and it became unhealthy. His family praised him for his achievements, good grades and nice terms with teachers, but he wasn't even happy, that he did good, he hated himself. And didn't do good.

It feels bad to not have any friend, or just somebody, who could spend some time with you, when everybody around him was suffocating from a crowd of friends they had. He was overthinking, what he had been doing wrong all this time.

That's why Ashley herself is nothing, but a miracle. Even though he's still a bit sad and introverted, he finally has the person he can talk or stay silent with. He regrets, that he didn't speak to her earlier, if they became friends again that quickly. Better late than never.

Ashley is late again, that Tyler wants to start swinging, but he didn't run out of house half asleep to wait for her twenty minutes now.

Tyler: Hurry up, please.

Assley: Did you know Ms. Lennox
wore a skirt today for the first

Tyler: Interesting.

Assley: I'm serious, Brendon just calls
me at 6 in the morning to shout
into my ear, that this woman actually
doesn't hide her amputated leg under
her jeans.

Ms. Lennox is their biology teacher, who is known for wearing every day quite weird jeans, very tight on top and getting really loose on calves. Freshman students came up with a theory, that she has no leg—well, what else can freshman kids do—but still is the only reason boys actually want to go to school. She's not older, than 33 years old, not very tall, thin body and thin blonde hair. The best information for all students is that she's not married, nor in a relationship. This Brendon kid is obsessed with her.

She has to deal with all these nasty, biological comments, that meant to be funny, come out sexual. She was in high school not so long ago, so she probably understands today's youth and doesn't act offended. She laughs with them or warns sometimes, but everybody knows it isn't serious, she knows too.

Assley: Everybody is getting wild,
because she apparently looks
really, really good. I want to see
her and know, what everybody's
talking about and drooling over.

Tyler: I don't.

Tyler, leaning on a swing, can see the blue head appearing behind glass staircase doors, smiling to the phone in her hands.

Assley: You are coming with me anyways.

Tyler stands from his place and walks in her direction, still texting.

Tyler: Unfortunately.

They walk together, without any word and any glance, Ashley still grinning to her phone like a banana.

Assley: Some guy fastened to me and
touches my shoulder with his shoulder.
Send help.

Tyler: You walked away without me and
now allow a random person to touch
you on the street? Inappropriate.>/em>

Theh both seem like they are going to burst laughing and fall on their knees from it, but still pretend to keep straight face and challenge each other. They are even watching now, what they are writing. Ashley doesn't hesitate.

Assley: Speak to me with a human
voice, then we can talk.

Tyler rolls his eyes, but doesn't say anything. They walk in silence, but not completely. Ashley starts to laugh uncontrollably, her bag falling from her shoulder.

"Did somebody die in your family?" she says, barely breathing from her laugh.

"Yes, my happiness," he responds, trying to be serious this time, but it's too hard for him not to smile, when Ashley has such a contagious laugh.

"If you put a hood on, you would look like death personified."

"I just like black, okay?" That doesn't mean he has to wear black and only black every day. He has got light clothes too, but he just feels more comfortable in dark shades, especially today. He looks at Ashley. She doesn't have to wear many colours, because her hair does all the work, but it isn't enough. She wore red shirt, blue jeans and bright orange jacket. They really do look like death and lollipop together.

"But you like pink hair," she smirks and he feels, like even his ears are blushing. It's not time for this type of conversation.

"Stop, please."


"We will be late for school." He starts walking faster and leaves her behind, putting his sunglasses from his hair to his eyes.

Ashley groans so loudly it's kinda embarrassing. "You didn't answer!"

"I don't have to, you're not my mom."

"Excuse me, I am!" She reaches him, before taking a strip of his backpack in her two hands and laughs again to cheer him up. They arrive to school singing "I'm so excited" song under their breaths.

Large pavement in front of school is already filled with loud kids, talking excitedly about their holidays, greeting each other, or smoking by the gate. Everything feels so warm. Tyler can't see anybody without a smile on their face. Everybody has somebody to talk to and conversations don't seem to end. How are people so good at being social?

"Tadpole!" Tyler hears somebody shouting and he doesn't need to think, who it might be, because this voice can be recognised everywhere and nobody else is dumb enough to compare Ashley's yellow hair strand to a tadpole.

"What's up, Brendon?" She smiles even wider, hugging him lightly, before he turns to Tyler.

"Hello, my little brother, Tyler."

"Hi, Brendon." Tyler waves at him with a light smile. He knows Brendon quite well, but still can't be confident enough with somebody other than Ashley. He decides to stick with her and listen to their talk.

"Hello!" He can see other people appearing from behind Brendon's back. These are people from his little gang, which does everything together and is one of these most recognised groups in school hallways. They all turn to Ashley, or Tyler, and tap Brendon in a shoulder.

Ashley, even though she doesn't belong to their group completely and officially, hangs out with them quite often. Ashley's friends are also practically Tyler's friends and none of them has a problem with him, as he never says any rude comments, is quiet and pretty friendly.

"I haven't seen you all in two months, this was such a golden time, and now I have to see you again," Ashley says slowly and loudly, shouting down all greeting voices around.

"I bet you were suffering," Pete speaks up, drinking his water by the time. Everybody's glance passes at him. Since when has this guy drunk clear water? "What? They don't sell anything else yet. I still payed too much, I could go to a bathroom and drink the same from a faucet."

Tyler chuckles and starts to feel comfortable again around that big group of people. However, having nothing to say, he stares at his feet, before pulling his phone out of his pocket and playing with his lockscreen.

"So, I called you earlier," Brendon speaks up again in a surprisingly serious tone, lifting up his eyebrows. Everybody agrees with him and confirms, that, yes, indeed, he called her in the morning. In that case they all had to hear their conversation.

"Oh, yeah, I need to see this! Where is she?" Ashley almost jumps from her position. Is she really so interested in some woman's skirt? Well, Tyler isn't judging...

"Olay, calm down," says Patrick, seemingly the most calm from the whole group, "We don't want to scare her off, because the whole school is already wild, but I want to tell you, that Brendon was already inside this building before 6 a.m. to see this lady sorting out accountancy things."

Everybody around starts laughing, because they didn't expect anything else. Typical Brendon. They wouldn't be surprised if he followed her to her house after classes to be able to visit her during break.

"And we are walking down the hallways, school still empty, and we know, that she's going to go to biology classroom from an office. She finally appears and brendon gets a little bit shocked—"

"A little bit? He nearly spasmed here, I witnessed it," Pete says so loudly, that probably people inside hear him clearly. He doesn't care, everybody knows, what is Brendon like, so it's nothing new.

"Okay, very funny, Pete, very fucking funny." Brendon rolls his eyes, pretending to be annoyed, but being proud of himself, that he made a lot of buzz around himself again. "How would you react if she showed up in the empty hallway in front of you in this black tight skirt, once in a lifetime? Oh sorry, you wouldn't at all, because you're always late."

"Okay, shut up, we should go inside if we still want to see her. You might have already seen her, but some of us haven't, and we really want to," says one, orange-haired girl, wearing similar clothes to Ashley. "Come on."

A group of ten or more people walks messy into big school doors, laughing and cheering. Even Tyler can't help his burst of laughter at everything Brendon says. They all missed each other very much during a 2-month break, so they have very much to say.

School inside isn't different, than outside. The main hallway is fully packed. It seems, like there are two times more people, than last year. No matter, how crowded this place is, the group still sticks together.

"How many classes are we having together?" asks somebody from the back of a group, before Ashley turns around and says with a frown;

"I think I saw her! Out of the way!" It sounds more like a serious command, and for Tyler this all is just very funny. They act like some abnormal children with their impetuous need to see some teacher. She became a sensation within one hour, and he's wondering, if this school already reached this level of being problematic.

Almost every person standing in the centre of long hallway moves aside, making a clear space for a show, that's going to happen in a few seconds. Tyler feels like everybody's whispering, and he just stands, silent, leaning against the wall, more confused than ever.

"Y'all don't be so awkward, you can talk..." Brendon speaks up and everybody's gaze immediately turns into his direction. Brendon is the second main star in the show and nobody expected he would open his mouth right now.

Nobody dares to talk anyway. In a few seconds they can hear high heels tapping the ground with an echo. Ms. Lennox along with 4 other teachers leaves the gym and everyone, except for Tyler, is flabbergasted. Tyler is more taken-aback by this whole situation, than one and only love interest, the biology teacher.

She walks alongside the hallway, lighting up the whole room with her honest smile directed to a PE teacher. Her face is the same as usual, but everyone had to make a chaos out of one skirt. Yes, that wasn't a lie, she's wearing black, plain and simple knee-length skirt. Nothing special, but she looks different. She has always been wearing more sporty clothes, and nobody would have imagined her ever looking like that.

Everybody tries their hardest not to burst laughing right there, in front of her face, of course, not because of her look, but from the seriousness of the situation and each other's face expressions.

Teachers finally disappear in a different classroom and the whole hallway breathes out.

"What the fuck was that?" Ashley literally explodes and two seconds later wipes tears off her red face. "That was hilarious, I nearly peed," she cackles out of her breath, holding on to Tyler for dear life.

"She looks weird," Tyler says simply.

"Tyler, you're impossible. How can you stand here like this as if nothing really happened?" Frank asks with a disbelief. "Were you even with us a minute ago?"

"Of course I was, you should see your face," Tyler lets out a giggle, until he stops immediately, when he hears it resounds through the whole room.

"Brendon is probably hyperventilating," says one random kid from an audience in the back. Loud laughing can be heard again.

Brendon turns around into the direction of glass door, "I need to breathe!" and leaves the building alone afterwards. His emotions can't be read. He seems frustrated and cheerful at once. This guy cannot be understood completely. He doesn't even understand himself at all.

The crowd distracts itself and heads out to each classrooms. Everybody comes back to their own business, forgetting about the past events. Better for Tyler. His head hurts.

"We should go to class," he suggests Ashley.

"Yes, yes, let's go."

Tyler's nerves come back to him again, so he takes a hold of his backpack stripes as tight as he can and hangs his head low. Ashley bursts into class and he enters after her, following her like a big baby. The classroom is silent and Tyler regrets it for some time, because he feels like he's going to fall asleep right here, on his chair.

Not even Ashley constant talking helps. When she starts ranting in class about Nero The Emperor, he is literally praying for a strength to keep his eyes open. Everybody's attention in classroom is turned to Ashley and it would be embarrassing if he dozed off right now, when he's sitting next to her. He looks at the sky and sighs every 30 seconds. He isn't sure he'll survive today.

During the last period, Ashley has to argue with some kids to give back hers and Tyler's seats at the back corner of the room.

"Just leave it alone, Ashley," he interrupts the quarrel quietly.

"No, Tyler, we always sit at the back. I can deal with it."

A teacher, an older woman with dark and short red hair, standing at the front of the classroom, gives Ashley a stern look, but doesn't say anything. Teachers really like Ashley and probably would never shout at her.

Ashley glances at the woman back, smiling sweetly towards her, before turning back to two stubborn boys and starting again with a stern tone, almost yelling, "Listen, if you don't leave this place i—"

"Didn't you hear? Go away, hurry, hurry!" somebody shouts and four of them stop everything they were doing before to look at the direction of the rapid voice. The girly voice came out from short and pretty orange-haired girl, wearing a plain blue shirt with holes, black ripped jeans and heavy boots. She smiles softly at two boys occupying Tyler's and Ashley's place and then look at them with angry eyes again. She takes both their hands in hers, and helps them with standing up. They give up easily with a sigh and break free from her grip.

"Don't have to be thankful," she smiles at Tyler and Ashley this time and sits at the desk one row before them. "Hayley," she offers her hand to both of them.

"Hi Hayley," Ashley shakes her hand. "I am Ashley and this is Tyler. Thank you so much."

"Thank you, I'm Tyler," he gives her the most honest smile he can product. She just fought for their seats during the entire school year.

"Hey, I saw you with brendon, didn't I?" Ashley notices, pulling out notebooks from her bag. "Yes, that's you!"

Hayley lets out a tired laugh, looking around the classroom. "Yeah, I had been standing next to you all this morning."

"I figured it out, but this day started really chaotic and everybody's mind was... you know where."

"I don't want to interrupt," Tyler says, "but Ashley, I have to leave class ten minutes earlier to talk with coach."

Every student is already sitting in each seat and classroom falls silent, but that doesn't stop Hayley from sitting with her back facing away the front of the class.

"Oh, what do you play?" she asks kindly.

"Basketball." He starts fiddling with strings sticking out of his hoodie, tying them and making a rope, then untying and tying a bow. "I'm not really good, though."

Ashley glances at him wide-eyed. "Liar," she says a little too loudly, so the whole classroom and a few classrooms away can hear her.

"Frangipane, silence," English teacher warns her, writing an exercise on a blackboard, without turning around.

They spend another minutes in actual silence, doing grammar exercises and Ashley nearly explodes. She can't just stay silent for 5 minutes, because she feels something eating her out from inside. That's why, when Tyler leaves a classroom and goes to his coach, she keeps poking Hayley in the neck from behind with her pencil. It doesn't matter she's known her for 45 minutes.

Classes for today end, and two girls, waiting for Tyler to come back, learn more about each other. They happen to be pretty similar and plan hanging out again the next time they see each other.

Ashley can recognise Tyler leaving the gym at the end of hallway and pushing out people obstructing the way, while she suddenly remembers something.

"Oh, Hayley, I nearly forgot," she says quickly, a bit nervous, "This is really random, so sorry for that, but Tyler has a Youtube channel. I want to be this supportive friend, so if you could look at some of his videos some time, it would be great." She glances again to the right, where she can see Tyler approaching them and quiets her tone, "He's really good."

"Oh," Hayley, a bit surprised and confused, smiles widely, "Yes, yes, sure!"

"Yes? Great. I'll text you later."

"No problem."

"Everything good with basketball?" Ashley turns to Tyler, "Are you in the team again?" He nods. " Nice. We are going to go now, but we'll meet again tomorrow, right?"

"Sure!" Hayley smiles brightly and turns into her own direction.

Tyler and Ashley walk home in comfortable silence, watching world through their dark sunglasses. Weather is really cool today, not too hot and not too cold. Perfect. Tyler loves sweater weather. He can't believe he was dying from heat just yesterday.

"What were you talking about with Hayley when I came?" he finally breaks the silence.

"Nothing important, really." She taps his arm and then takes his sunglasses to remove her own and put his glasses on her ears.