“That’s it?” John had just come back from school with about five pounds of homework for each of us. “What do mean ‘that’s it’?! We’ll be working all night!”
“That’s normal for me,” I say. John takes on a look that goes from shocked to worried to angry. “How much do you normally sleep?!”
“About six hours.” I hesitate. John raises his eyebrow, not believing that I would sleep that much. “A week,” I mumble.
John sighs and puts his face in his hands. “Alex, please tell me you’re kidding. There is no way you can go days on end with one night’s worth of sleep!”
I guiltily look away. I can’t stand to see the disappointment in his ocean blue-green eyes anymore. “I’m sorry, honey. I just don’t understand how people can stand to spend hours a day doing nothing when there's so much to do! You never know when you’ll run out of time, and I want to make the most of my time. Because my mom died too soon--”
I’m cut off by the only thing I need most: a hug. I weep into his shoulder for a while, falling apart, letting the emotions come for the first time in ten years.
And it feels so much better.
“I can’t do it anymore. I can’t. I miss my mom so much, John.” My heart hurts as childhood memories rush over me like a wave in a hurricane that killed hundreds of my neighbors in Nevis.
John thinks about this for a while. Obviously, the only way for me to see my mother again is to see her on the other side. Then he gets an idea. “Ah ha!” He jump up off his spot on the bed we were sitting on. “What if we go to Nevis this summer? We can see the town, encourage the people, and visit your mom’s grave!”
“That’s actually a great idea!” We talk about what we can do in Nevis while doing our homework. Or, more specifically, John does my marine biology homework while I write his debate class essay.
Sooner than we expect, it’s 9:00 and we finished our homework. John instructs me to bed, gives me a pain pill and eye drops, and curls up on another bed in the room. “Bonne nuit mon amour,” I hear him say. I smile and say, “Bonne nuit.”
Eight months later…
Almost everyone at school knows now. But I don’t care. It actually gives me something to use in debate class. Like right now. Jefferson and I are in a heated argument as to whether the death of someone you love is worse than your own death.
And at some point it turned into a rap battle.
It’s my turn. “I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory. When’s it gonna get me? In my sleep, seven feet ahead of me? If I see it coming do I run or do I let it be? Is it like a beat without a melody? See I never thought I’d live past twenty--” I can almost feel Aaron blushing in embarrassment from across the room. “--Where I come from, some get half as many. As anybody why we living fast, and we laugh, reach for a flask. We have to make this moment last; that’s plenty.”
The room erupts into chaos. I usually impress people with my free-style rapping skillz. Jefferson, as usual, whispers to Madison for help. Only now his mini talks include kissing. “When you’re done making out with your boyfriend, I’ll know I won. Again,” I say with a satisfied smirk.
Jefferson sits down, defeated. He’s getting used to it. “And you know what?” He gives me a look, daring me to continue. “I’m paST PATIENTLY WAITING, I’M PASSIONATELY SMASHING EVERY EXPECTATION! EVERY ACT IS AN ACT OF CREATION! I’m laughing in the face of casualties and sorrow. For the first time, I’M THINKING PAST TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
The room practically explodes with all the triggers. Jefferson looks absolutely furious. He walks up to me. “Ok boys how about we just take a break and go walk it off,” Lee interrupts.
I take one look at Burr and he knows what to do. He reluctantly walks over to John and starts debating over loggerhead turtles or sea turtles. Lee walks over, distracted.
But now Jefferson has room to talk, too. “Oh, if the shoe fits wear it.” He did not just say that, I think. I hear Madison cough from across the room. Ideas. Are. Everywhere.
“MADISON, YOU MAD AS A HATTER! SON TAKE YOUR MEDICINE!” I yell. “DAMN, YOU IN WORSE SHAPE THAN JEFFERSON’S HAIR IS IN! SITTING THERE USELESS AS TWO SHITS!!! Hey! Turn around, bend over. I’ll show you wheRE MY SHOE FITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Usually, I would say I have no chill whatsoever (Laf quotes me saying, “Non frais absolument rein.”). But I have lost it. Everyone in the room explodes like Angelica had just roasted someone.
She is savage.
Lee comes back over. Uh oh, I think. “I’m sorry. Am I talking too loud? Sometimes I get over-excited, shoot off at the mouth…” I say as Lee demands an answer.
Thankfully, the bell rang.
I stare on as Lee scolds Hamilton. I thought I would be happy to see him get in trouble. But I’m not. Next to Lee, he looks so small…
I don’t know what to do. I feel like I should take the blame, but it’s Hamilton. On a regular basis, he’s dealt with teachers. Especially when Laurens was in a fight.
I go back to my seat by James. “I feel like I should do something,” I say. None of the teachers knew, and I had just found out yesterday about his childhood.
“Maybe you should,” says James.
Fluff Break (Jeffmads); by Alena
Jemmy and I were sitting outside the dorm buildings in the courtyard, admiring the (ground) clouds. He looks around and says to me, “There's nowhere else I’d rather be” and I say “Me too.” And we talk and take in the view. All we see is sky, for forever. He puts his hand on mine and his face goes a bit red as I feel mine heat up as well. We let the world pass by for forever. And it feels like we could stay like this for the rest of time.
“Do you have any idea how disruptive and inappropriate that was?” Professor Lee is looming over me. “I’m sorry. Jefferson just gets me so worked up.”
“That is no excuse! If you make anymore of these exceptional comments, I’ll have no choice but to call your mother to take you home for your suspension!”
A small squeak escapes my lips. Lee must have thought it was at the thought of suspension. “It you want to stay in school, stay out of trouble.”
I hang my head, tears flowing freely from my eyes. Lee’s face falls. “Are you okay?” In response, I let out a choked sob and sink to my knees, arms wrapped around myself.
John is at my side in a flash. “Alex! Mon amour, are you okay?” He pulls me into a tight hug. I just sit there, leaning on John’s shoulder, longing to be with my mother again.
Lee backs away. “Is something wrong at home?” he asks. John somehow senses that I want to stand. He sits back on his heels as I rise up, say “If I could be with my mother, I would”, and storm out of the room.
I don’t need to look back to know that John’s coming. In the time it takes for him to collect our backpacks, I’ve darted down the hall to my favorite hiding spot.
I rush through the door, slam it shut, and lean against it. This spot is nice. Nobody has ever thought to look here when I disappear for an hour or two on bad days.
I curl up in the corner of the old garden shed in the courtyard and cry like I’ve never cried before.
*Remember in Chapter 5 when I described how happy John was? Now imagine that it wasn’t a joke and everyone you know and love is dead.*
That’s how sad I am.
The faint smell of lawn mower oil and fertilizer combined with the sound of birds singing outside the door eventually coaxes me out of my depression moment. I notice how extremely tired I am.
It doesn’t surprise me. I was up until two o’clock in the morning writing an essay.
Between the lack of sleep, excretion of crying, and pain of the loss of my mother, I easily find sleep.
I wake to the sound of my name being called. “Alex! Where are you?” There's real pain behind the voice like someone’s worried.
I stand slowly on stiff legs and leave the shed. The moment I close the door, I’m attacked in a massive hug. “Alex!” It’s John. “Where were you?” I gesture vaguely to the shed behind me.
He has a single tear rolling down his freckled cheek. I caress his face, wiping it away. He gives me a sad smile. We lean in at the same time. We stand there for a while, kissing, not wanting to leave this moment. Of course we both know we have to get back to class.
But the time for that will come later.
Author Notes: I'm working on Part IV right now. I'll have it up as soon as I can. I live for comments!