So my first two months as a sophomore went by so fast. Nothing’s sunk in though. I’m not sure if that’s just the school or me.
So, how’s your new school treating you? I hear schools on the west coast were super strict about everything. Can you still wear your flower?
Anyways, I finally read through those books you said to read. I really liked the tournament in the fourth book. I want to go to a magic school too.
I want to fly…
Do you want to fly Basil? If you could fly, you could visit everyone during lunch. We have a space at our new lunch table just for you. Also, we changed lunch tables. We can’t exactly hog a circle lunch table anymore. We all moved to one by a window in the cafeteria.
Aubrey and Kel still fight, but now that Hero and Mari aren’t around to stop them, they’ve toned it down a bit, and they can even make up on their own! It’s a miracle, really.
We don’t have the same classes anymore, but we make up for them in our lunch sessions.
Kel’s been practicing basketball a lot more, and he keeps trying to rope the rest of us to play with him. There’s no way I can win. He’s taller than me by like, a foot and a half!
Aubrey has been getting into baseball, well, not really baseball. She just chucks things and hits it with her bat. At least Mari’s old bat is being put to use somehow.
Speaking of Mari, she’s been calling every day from her college. It’s really annoying. All she does is ask questions and questions like ‘how I’ve been’ and ‘have I been eating right’. She worries too much. I’m already fifteen.
Hero sent everyone a test batch of some new cookies he made! He tried to send you some too, but the shipping costs would’ve forced him to subsist on a diet of flour for an entire week. Mari stopped him before he mailed it, thankfully.
Hope your grandma gets well soon. I looked up the hospital she got admitted to, and they’re super famous for taking care of old people, so she’s guaranteed to recover.
When that happens, you’d be able to visit for the summer, or maybe as early as spring break! Let’s have some cookies then. Your grandma can make some for us!
It sucks that you aren’t around, but everyone is still getting along fine------
Shoot. My pen flailed in my hand and that made my ‘e’ looked like it was shooting a beam.
The bus shook back and forth to a stop. Why does the bus shake more when it stops than when it moves? If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have lost control.
On the bottom of the letter, I swirled my pen, signed my name in a fancy font, then put my pen into my hoodie pocket. The bus rustled and shook some more. Honestly, I shouldn’t even be trying to write right now.
I just needed to do something instead of waste away my time on the bus. My college prep classes today absolutely chewed me up. Their classes are so pointlessly hard and stupid, it’s like they made it for the sole purpose to annoy people.
Mom made me go. I had no say in it. I’d leave if I could, but I’m stuck going three times a week.
I sighed and glanced over my letter. Any mistakes? Hm… well, each line sounds good enough. I’ll send this to Basil.
Though the last line needed some touching-up. Looks like this is a job for white-out! Where’d I put that again?
I had my bag tightly secured between my legs. I left the top zipper open for easy access. Too much of a pain to close it and have to open it back up again, case in point. I fumbled around in my bag, looking for the all-familiar bumpy cap of the whiteout. My nails scratched against the familiar grooves and I picked out the small white container.
After unscrewing the cap, I held the white-out bottle in a death-grip. My other hand grabbed the brush-cap, and with the precision of a master surgeon, applied the white-out to the afflicted area. I placed the cap back on and left the whiteout on my lap. Then, with great care, I fanned the letter in the air. The white-out would dry faster this way..
I picked out an envelope from the side of my bag and slipped my letter inside. The corner was crumpled a bit from walking with it all day, though the 25 cent stamp of Spaceboy attached to the corner stayed clear of any creases.
The bright yellow stuff on the tip of the envelope tasted familiar, but I could never place it. As my trek through the memories of everything I’ve eaten bore nothing, I sealed the letter. Annoyingly enough, there were bumps and lumps in my fold. How in the world do people do this cleanly?
Bleh, no one would notice. I shuffled my hands into my front hoodie pocket and put it parallel to my stomach. I patted the air out of my pocket to make sure it wouldn’t crease the envelope.
In hindsight, I focused too much on the letter.
Suddenly, the bus jumped up and my hands pushed forward. Then, the worst thing that could ever possibly happen, happened. My hand knocked over the whiteout, and in slow-motion, I watched as its blanky fluids dribbled all over my hoodie and pants.
I didn’t twist the cap back on…
WHYYYYYYYYY. I screamed. Silently, of course.
I couldn’t make a scene here. Too many eyes, and someone from school could be here. I’ll have to scream at home.
How far away from home am I? The dirty bus windows filtered my view as I looked out.
A house with a red roof and yellow windows stood right outside.
I knew that house, a kid I used to know got the Guinness world record of fastest 1000- piece puzzle completed lived there. My stop would come up in a few seconds.
I zipped my bag and slung it over my shoulder. Thus began my walk of shame. Well, it was more like a power-walk. I slouched over so I could hide the white splotch all across my front side, but it didn’t do enough. Each head that turned my way felt like a spear that stabbed through me.
Finally, I got to the door and jumped off the bus. Now, to run. The faster I got home, the better. The consequences of going too slow would mean the complete loss of my clothes. There were about seven blocks between my bus stop and home.
Ready. Set. Go.
While I was running, I lost myself in the zone and ran as fast as a bullet train, is what I would’ve liked to say. But it was surprisingly difficult to maintain a tunnel vision on sprinting home. Stupid questions just kept popping into my brain as I ran.
Did the white-out seep into my letter? I pulled it out and pulled it close to my face. The letter was slightly soaked due to how wet the white-out was, but none of it actually landed on the letter, so at least the letter wasn’t ruined. I put it back in my hoodie pocket.
Did any of my books fall out? Each step bounced my backpack and shuffled everything in my bag, and I couldn’t help but worry that I would damage my textbooks. They were expensive.
Am I going to run into anybody I know? I tried to map out who would be around to see my desperate sprint home, but I barely knew anyone in the area, so I’m worrying over nothing.
I passed by house by house, street by street as I ran. I could feel my heart thumping like an engine. My legs started to give out and my breaths were growing heavier and heavier. Why is the bus stop so far away from my house!
Must… keep… going…
An epic battle waged on inside me. It was my will paired with the energy I could muster with each heartbeat versus the exhaustion coupled with the cruel clock of in a fight to the death. It almost sounded like a superhero show I used to watch.
But life isn’t a TV show, so the goodly forces of my heart eventually lost and exhaustion won out.
My back knocked against the grass on someone’s lawn as my lungs gasped for air.
If only I didn’t have to carry all my books. I totally could’ve made it if it wasn’t for all these heavy pointless textbooks.
Today was a bust. My clothes had been consigned to the fate of being ruined. This was my favorite hoodie as well! I’ve had it for years, and it’s going to take forever for any new hoodie to get that same old-hoodie patented comfort.
I tossed a strap of my backpack over my shoulder and dragged my feet the rest of the way back home. Back stained with grass marks, the front stained with splotches of white paint, look at me go.
I saw my house, and the flag on the mailbox was raised high!
Maybe there’d be something for me in the mailbox. A letter would help turn this day around. My fist knocked the side of the mailbox and it *clanged* open. Then the mail fumbled to the floor. Great job. Really hitting all the bases today.
Might as well sort through the mail while I’m picking it up.
Let’s see, junk, junk, junk, Dad, Mom, Mom, and a brightly colored envelope!
I tore it open immediately. This seems just the kind of letter Basil would send!
You have been chosen to receive a lifetime supply of LIFE JAM, as you must’ve already heard by our extensive ad campaign, it the non-processed, no-sugar, no-additive, jam!
I’m sure you’re very excited to obtain this wonderful delicacy that stocks every kitchen on the coast of America!
Please respond to claim your fabulous surprise of a lifetime supply of LIFE JAM.
LIFE JAM! It really works!
I’ve had life jam before. Once. That day… they gave me a free sample… when I took a bite… it tasted like a punch to the face. Then came the barrage to my guts.
This cannot be allowed to exist. Mom loves a good deal, and if she finds out that she can get a lifetime supply of anything, she’ll take it, horrible consequences or not. I tore the letter up and scattered it onto the street. If I had my way, I would’ve burnt the scraps.
The rest of the important letters were for Mom and from their bank. I’ll leave those on the kitchen table.
So, there was no letter for me.
My keys jingled as I pushed open the door. The distinct smell of my home wafted over me, but the lights were all off.
The stairs creaked as I went to my room and changed into a long-sleeved t-shirt and sweatpants I had lying on the floor. No one nagged me about keeping clean now, so I freely store my clothes on the floor now. Next is to check the extent of the damage.
One look at my hoodie, and I could already tell it was ruined. A splatter streaked across the dark-gray hoodie. It wasn’t even like a cool splatter; it was like a worm covered in white paint lazily walked over my hoodie and then exploded.
I need to save it. My other clothes didn’t fit me like my hoodie did. But how do I clean white-out?
When in doubt, add water. I went into the bathroom, flipped the light, and cranked the faucet. A *psshhh* sounded out as warm water filled up the bathtub. I let go of my hoodie. There was a *crinkle* as it hit the bottom of the tub.
Crinkle? OH GOD NO!
The letter is still in my hoodie!
My arms snapped forward and snatched the hoodie out of the bathtub.
Bases loaded, and I scored the clean-up home-run of screwups.
A quick check over my hoodie and only the bottom waist part remained soaked. The hoodie pocket stayed clear.
Oh, thank god. I rummaged through my hoodie and got the letter out. Can’t risk screwing up again.
Might as well clean out my hoodie pocket while I’m at it. Hm, it’s a lot more cluttered than I first realized. A pile formed in front of me. The pile contained random pieces of colored hard candies, a handful of pencils and pens, and lint that I really should’ve been cleaning out.
The bath filled up halfway. So after a quick shake to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I tossed my clothes in. They floated on top of the water, and it formed a cloth bubble, so I made sure it stayed down by pressing on the bubbles they formed.
I picked the letter off the sink and left the bathroom. The scent of the water put my head in a weird space.
I dropped off the letter on the counter for Mom, right next to the bills. She’ll bring it with her to work and mails it for me.
Basil would be thrilled to get a letter, so at least I’m making someone happy. Maybe the day will change from awful to just okay.
I can already picture him smile when he reads it.
Basil left at the end of the summer. His grandma’s condition became super serious, so she had to be moved into a hospital for intensive care. It was really tough on Basil. We tried to console him, but his grandma’s sickness really weighed on him.
Then, I met Basil’s parents for the first time, and well, it wasn’t the best first meeting. They said they wanted to move Basil’s grandma to a more funded, state-of-the-art hospital that had a reputation for treating old people. The catch was that it was on the other side of the country.
They gave Basil a choice. He could move with his grandma so he could stay with her, or he could either stay here in Faraway.
I wanted him to tell him to stay, but; I didn’t. Basil listens to me, and I don’t want to pressure him into forcing him into a decision. If it was Mari… Honestly, if I were in his position, I didn’t know what I’d choose.
The choice weighed on Basil for days, but Basil made his decision. He would go stay with his Grandma. We held a giant going-away party to see him off. As far as parties were concerned, not that great. Farewell parties never were.
Basil sobbed into my shirt. I almost cried too, but I sent him off with a smile. We promised to keep in touch through letters.
I know he still misses us, and he might be getting homesick or worried about how we’re doing back at home. Thankfully, any worries of his will be smushed when he gets my letter that everyone in Faraway is still getting along.
It’s just too bad that I had to lie about that.
I sat on my bed. It felt a lot emptier now that Mari had left for college. The alarm that always woke me up an hour before school started left with Mari, and even though I was getting more sleep, it just didn’t feel as wonderful as oversleeping did.
The corkboard that used to be filled with all sorts of papers and calendars was empty. I had nothing to put up there.
The same went for the rest of the room.
I mean, I tried to make the room seem not so empty. I put some of my stuffed animals in all sorts of places to give the room some life. It sounded sad, but it did beat back the horrible monster of emptiness.
Happy hid between the leaves of the potted plant, playing hide & seek with Brows and Bangs.
Bangs sat atop the computer, trying to get a bird's-eye view of where Happy could be.
Brows tried looking into the gaps of the room and stuck himself into a gap between two books. It was a really narrow squeeze, so when he finally figured out Happy wasn’t there, he couldn’t get out. No one’s been able to since.
Nose reigned like a king in the lampshade. He was super fond of his shiny new throne as he gazed upon the land of ‘Nosehair’(self-proclaimed).
Bun sat in a drawer below Nose’s throne and happily swam in a sea of shirts.
My stuffed animals were their own circle of friends. Each of them supporting and building upon each other.
How everyone used to be.
I plopped on my bed.
How did things even get like this? I’ve asked myself this question over and over again.
We were a system.
Everyone balanced each other out and when we were together, we meshed perfectly and could function without error.
But life got in the way. College came, people moved away, and suddenly, everything wasn’t perfect. The system fell apart. All that was left were a few empty cogs that spun aimlessly.
A pillow found its way into my arms, and I mashed it.
It all started when we went back to school. The school year started great. I went to school with Aubrey and Kel. Three of us instead of the riot that were the six of us that previous year. But, even though there were some obvious gaps in our friend group, I thought we could patch them up easy. We may have to change up the dynamics a bit, but our relationships could probably take it.
In the past, most of our fights start when Kel would say something to annoy Aubrey, and Aubrey jabbed back. It would’ve gone back and forth for a while until Hero or Mari made them make up.
But the both of them are now in college. That meant there was no one left to stop them. Aubrey and Kel kinda knew this, so their arguments stopped half-way.
Maybe that would’ve been the new normal, maybe the gaps in our relationships would mend together naturally.
I should’ve known better. Things wouldn’t just fix themselves.
Two months into the school year, like a bolt from the blue, the fight happened.
A fight started and what started as annoyed words slowly became a yell. Their voices slowly raised in pitch until they were shouting at each other non-stop.
And me? I didn’t pick a side; I didn’t try to calm the two of them down. I did nothing.
Like I was off in my own little ignorant world, I just sat there, plugging my ears away from the argument, and just… waited for it all to end.
But it didn’t, and now Aubrey and Kel wouldn’t even speak or look at each other.
Then, they got new friends.
Kel made friends with all the jocks and people who played sports.
Aubrey had new friends too, and from how the teachers were whispering, they were a bad crowd.
They replaced me.
There isn’t even a reason for them to stay friends with me. All I did was sit there, so of course they got sick of me.
Two weeks later, and all I’m doing now is mindlessly thinking of all the what-ifs, and maybes of what I could’ve done.
I held back the tears.
A meow echoed outside the door. Mewo’s here. So, maybe I’m not completely alone. Mari didn’t bring her to college. She worried Mewo wouldn’t be able to adapt to an unfamiliar environment, so at least I have company.
She prowled into the room and jumped up onto Mari’s bed and made herself comfortable on her blankets.
I picked her up by her fluffy stomach and brought her to my face.
“You miss Mari too, huh?”
I put Mewo on my stomach and daydreamed about a perfect solution that would solve everything and make everyone get along again.
I closed my eyes.
But if Mari was here… she’d swoop in and fix everything effortlessly. Hero too. Someway, somehow, we’d could all get along again.
We needed them. I needed them.
There were two months until December. Two months before she comes back.
I prayed our relationships didn’t break any further than this.
It’s rumored that the Faraway Fountain was built 20 years ago after the most brutal series of town hall meetings the town had ever seen. They say the meetings were about how to spruce the town up. Many ideas were proposed, from building a skate park, to creating a campground, but no idea could ever gain a majority vote. It became hours of name-calling and screaming, which wasn’t helped because it took place in the scorching summer weather. They didn’t even have air conditioners back then.
There were all sorts of tales about how those meetings went. From the fights that broke out, to the people breaking down mid-speech. There was even a rumor that one day, it devolved into a rap battle with all the cheering and jeers attached.
It’s not clear whether people actually wanted one, or maybe they were just sick and tired of arguing, but they eventually agreed on building the Faraway fountain.
Even though it was a giant fight, they were able to resolve it and come to a resolution, so why can’t I do the same?
Now, an eight-foot tall fountain graces everyone who visits the series of shops that line Faraway Plaza. A wonderful monument that can do things like squirt and drip water. And uh… not much else.
Why do people like fountains again?
At the very least, it’s a distraction. I couldn’t take how still and stale and suffocating the air was back home. Even though going out for the second time today sounded exhausting, I took the lesser of two evils and went out for some fresh air.
I went to the plaza and had a slice of pizza at Gino’s. Then I just roamed around the super-market, staring and poking at the both kinds of oranges, grapes, and apples. The candy shop would’ve been the most interesting place to look at, but the lady that works there is frightening. Turns out that window-shopping in a supermarket is really disappointing.
I hadn’t bothered to enter Hobbiez yet because the shop-keep’s hungry gaze locked onto any suckers that entered his store. I think he’s aiming for a super-limited-mint-condition figure that someone is auctioning, so his business sense had flared up and he’s been giving no mercy to anyone who entered his shop.
Last time I went into Hobbiez, the shopkeeper tried to push me to buy a pet rock.
No way. It’s just glorified rock-paper-scissors. Why would I ever spend $20 dollars on that?
A poor soul entered the shop, and I overheard a very enthusiastic sales pitch that would make late-night salesmen on the TV weep.
I tuned him out as I sat on the bench, humming the duet Mari and I practiced for our recital.
“Hey kid,” An unfamiliar voice called out to me. “You play the violin, right?”