Wind shakes the strongest branches on the trees. Rain pounds on everything around me. The clouds go from white to gray suddenly for miles.
The hurricane approached me quickly and quietly. It was four years ago. And I’m still ashamed of this stupid fear of storms. This was all running through my mind as I get off the bus. I can’t drive and I still didn’t know if any of my friends were going to King’s College.
It was a rainy day. I was hoping that it was just water, because if there was thunder or lightning I would have a panic attack. Nobody except my closest friends knew. I had made them all swear on their life that they would tell no one else. I’ve had only one attack ever since that horrid experience. I blamed it on over-reacting nerves.
Of course, none of my friends believed me for a minute. But they remained loyal to their promise.
I stare my new school in the face. The dorms are across the street from where I stand. I decide to head there when I get a text from Lafayette.
FrenchFry: Is today your first day in college?
HamSandwich: Yeah. Why?
FrenchFry: I see you.
HamSandwich: ARE YOU STALKING ME? I SWEAR IF I CATCH YOU LOOKING IN MY WINDOW, I WILL KILL YOU!!!
FrenchFry: Mon ami, look up…
I look up and see Laf staring at me like I had just screamed that French people are stupid. “Oh… Hey Laf,” I say nervously.
“Mon ami, it’s good to see us immigrants are still in touch!” he responds cheerfully as I approach him. I’m confused by this until I realize he must be going to King’s College too.
“Cool! Anyone else I should know is coming here?”
“Oh, not too many people. Just Peggy, Angelica, Eliza, Maria, Hercules, John, Burr, Theodosia, Madison, and Jefferson.” Hearing all of my friends names was refreshing, but when he said Jefferson, I became nervous. Thomas was not exactly a friend of mine, nor will he ever be. He always seemed to be against me on every conflict, any word that came out of my mouth he immediately opposed.
“Oh, wow! I can’t wait to see everyone.” I say, pushing my pride aside for a moment. I didn’t have to wait long. As soon as I had put my schedule in my bag and room key in my pocket, I was attacked in a massive hug.
“Alex!” It was Peggy. She was super energetic as usual. “Hey, Peggy,” I say as I try to breath through her monstrous hug. Strength wasn’t exactly my main point. I had more brain power than most of my school, but Pegs was really strong.
We talk excitedly as we go to our dorms. I end up dropping my book bag and it’s contents went spilling all over the floor. I wave Laf and Peggy away, saying that I would text them later. They leave, talking to each other arguing about where French fries came from; Peggy said France, Laf said Belgium.
It took me almost thirty minutes to re-organize my bag. By then, most of the school had taken refuge from the rain in their dorms.
I check my phone for messages. Wow, I think as I see 7 messages from everyone. People text more than I talk. That says alot.
It turns out that Laurens started a group chat.
ClosestFriend: Hey guys! Anyone else going to King’s?
Angel: I’m oddly satisfied that all of us are here!
FireLady: I can’t wait to see everyone!
ClosestFriend: What about Ham?
HamSandwich: I’m here, too. Dropped my stuff. Heading to my dorm now.
I turn off my phone and head up the stairs to the dorms. I’m the first to arrive in my dorm. It only took two minutes to my roommate to arrive.
“Well, if it isn’t Aaron Burr,” I say. “Alexander… I see you’ve recovered…” he says awkwardly, obviously recalling how he shot me in high school.
“Oh, yes. Just some stitches. Warms my heart, though, to see that I share a room with you instead of someone that would actually kill me!” I say sarcastically, but quickly add, “I’m just kidding,” seeing a stern look appear on his face.
“Yeah, sorry about that. And just you wait; we still don’t know who our other roommate is.”
I look at him in confusion. “Another roommate? But there is only two of us. That’s how it’s always been with college, right?” Then the door bangs open. I look over from where I stand by the couch and see the other roommate Burr was talking about. And just my luck.
“Alexander,” said Jefferson as he saw me and sneered. Great. I’m stuck with someone who tried to kill me and someone who hates me for the next nine months.
I check my phone. Three messages from Laurens flash on my screen.
ClosestFriend: Who’s in your room?
ClosestFriend: I got Herc and Laf.
HamSandwich: Don’t laugh…
ClosestFriend: I have a bad feeling about that.
HamSandwich: Have everyone go to your room and we can talk.
I turn off my phone and head towards the door to leave “Where are you going,” asked Thomas coldly. “Out,” I say, just as cold heartedly. Then I step out into the hall.
HamSandwich: Just realized I don’t know what dorm you’re in…
ClosestFriend: LOL. Dorm 777. #Trigger_Number.
HamSandwich: Isn’t that in the next building?
ClosestFriend: Yeah. Your in Building 3, right?
ClosestFriend: Want me to come over instead? I know you don’t like the rain.
HamSandwich: No, I’ll be fine. It’s only, like, ten yards.
ClosestFriend: Okay… If you say so...
Of course. I had to go outside in the rain for those ten yards. It won’t be too bad. It’s not like there is any thunder.
I make it there okay. By the time I arrive at the building, I’m soaking wet. At least I brought my coat, I think. It was just my coat that got wet, though some water soaked through to my shirt, but not enough to make me go back.
“Well, well,” says Laurens as soon as he opens his door. “If it isn’t the man of the hour.”
“Laurens, you just made that really weird. Is everyone here?”
“Yup. Just arrived.” he said, opening the door wider so I could step inside.
It was obvious that everyone already knew what was coming. “Okay, you guys first,” I say in an attempt to get the focus off of me for a moment. I usually don’t mind the attention. I just wanted a moment to think about how to tell everyone I was stuck with Burr and Jefferson.
Angelica and Eliza were in a room together with someone I didn’t know. Peggy was with Maria, who said she couldn’t make it, and Theodosia. Laurens, Herc, and Laf were, of course, roomed together.
“What about you, Alex?” asked Angelica. “Well, let’s just say this will not be a good year,” I murmured angrily.
“What happened? Were you put with Burr or something?” asked Peggy. She meant it as a joke, though. Everybody laughed at it. Except me. And it only took them two minutes of uncontrollable laughter to notice.
“Je ne crois pas cela. You and Burr in a confined space?”
“Who else, Alex?”
“Jefferson.” I say. The room is quiet as if they expected me to say that I was kidding.
“Il n'y a aucun moyen que vous et lui soient dans une pièce ensemble. Il y a sûrement une erreur,” says Laf.
“English, Laf, English,” says Herc. “He said ‘There is no way you and him are actually in a room together. There must be a mistake.’” I say. Good thing I’m fluent in French.
We talk for a little while longer, Peggy and Laf were still arguing about french fries and everyone took sides while I stood by and translated for Laf. He doesn’t speak English very well. He’s still working on that.
Then we decide to go back to our dorms. “Later,” I say as I head out of the dorm.
I get back around 6 ‘o clock. Thomas was reading on the couch. “Where’s Aaron?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Left shortly after you. He never tells anyone anything. I don’t even know where he is, or what he's doing most of the time.”
“I asked him once. I said ‘If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?’ Almost got punched.”
Thomas goes back to his book. “So, who gets the room?” he says, not looking up. It’s true. There are two rooms. Burr had already unpacked and set up a very elaborate study area in one room. He was seeking an accelerated course of study and had to be top of his class.
“Well, we could order a new bed later and rearrange the furniture,” I suggest. “But what about tonight?”
“You can have the bed tonight,” he says. I wonder for a moment if he was really being nice-- no he isn’t. This man is someone who I have never agreed with, ran against me in politics, and will probably try to kill me if I made him too mad.
I grab my bags from where I had left them by the back wall and head into the room without another word. It’s a rather small room. Just a bed, night table, and small dresser. I can work with this.
Thomas came in later. “What’s up?” I ask. “Just wanted to see if you knew where my phone was.”
“Why would I know where your pho--” I’m cut off by the worst thing I can imagine at the moment.
Within that two second boom, memories come flooding back to my mind. Rain pounding relentlessly on my face. I keep getting knock under the water, so deep I can’t reach the bottom, by debris. I sputter as I gasp for air only to be pushed under repeatedly. My lungs slowly fill with water. I call out for help as loud as I can only for my words to be drowned out by the wind. People all around me are dead or drowning with me. My home is destroyed. And I know the world will never be the same.
“S-Storm, d-drowning,” I stutter. I’m vaguely aware that I’m sitting on the bed and Thomas is talking to me. “Alex! Are you okay? Talk to me!”
I can’t talk, though.
I’m having a panic attack.
When I have panic attacks, I usually pass out for a while. I can’t control my breathing without help. Thomas seems to have sensed this, because he does something unexpected. He hugs me.
We sit their hugging far a long time. He rubs my back sympathetically saying things like, “It will be okay.” It is oddly comforting. I continue to sob into his shoulder. I have no idea how long we sit there on the bed, me trying to slow my breathing and him trying to prevent me from passing out.
It takes me a while to calm down. And even then, my breathing is still rapid and my heart about to explode.
“Are you okay?” asks Thomas. I simply nod, still to scared to speak. “What happened?”
It takes a while to get me to talk. And after I finally confess my fear, he just sits there stunned. “Wow. I’m so sorry. That must have been terrible,” he says.
I didn’t even tell him half of it. That writing about the hurricane is what brought me to America. That total strangers raised money for me to get my education. That I can’t swim…
I make him promise not to tell anyone. He agrees. I check my phone for messages. Four new messages flash across my screen.
FrenchFry: Mon ami, can you come back to the dorm? I need to tell you something in person.
FrenchFry: Ham, are you okay? We heard the thunder.
HamSandwich: I’ll be right there. I need to tell you something too.
I turn off my phone, thank Thomas, and turn to leave. But then he grabs my arm and pulls me back on the bed. “Not a word about this to anyone. Got it?” he says. “Whatever,” I say, pulling away. “See you later.”
Thankfully, it has stopped raining. I am completely unaware of where I’m going and end up in front of Laf’s door before I know I even left my room.
I raise my hand to knock when the door flies open. Laurens is standing there. “Finally. Someone with sanity.” he says, rolling his eyes. “Even though you have no chill whatsoever." I step into the room and see Laf and Herc sitting on the couch. “You first,” I say.
Herc talks first. “Well, Laf and I were talking and found out we have a lot in common and we actually like each other. So, we’re dating!”
“That’s great!” I say, bring a look of relief on their faces. “Great! Alors, qu'avez-vous voulu nous dire?” says Laf.
“Oh. I had a panic attack. From the thunder.” They stare at me in disbelief. “Mon ami. Are you okay? You didn’t pass out.”
“Yeah. I’m fine,” deep breath. “Thomas helped me.” Now they really can’t believe it.
“Il n'y a aucun moyen pour lui de le faire. Il te déteste. Qu'a-t-il voulu?” said Laf.
“Nothing, that’s the weird part.”
“He must have wanted something,” said Herc.
“Peut-être qu'il est juste pour vous.”
“No, he is not being nice. This guy disagreed with everything I said, ran against me for high school class president, and--” He also just saved me from a panic attack. I must be blushing, because Laurens, who had been standing in the back of the room mumbled, “I ship it.”
“NO!!! I don’t like him! He isn’t even my friend!” They don’t believe me. “Whatever. I don’t ship it, I’m tired, I’m going to bed.”
But I do stay for a few more minutes. Laf offers to have me stay the night on the couch, which I agree too. “Thanks. I don’t think I can stand to be in a room with him right now..” He simply nods his understanding, too tired to talk.
Two minutes later, I flop down on the couch with a blanket that Laf had found for me. Something isn’t right, I think to myself. I’m not asleep, that’s what’s wrong. I had assumed that after the panic attack and the shock of Jefferson, of all people, helping me that I would fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
That obviously wasn’t the case tonight.
I lay there for hours thinking about today until eventually I fall asleep.
It seems like I had just fallen asleep when I awake with a start. I’m on the floor, face-down. I cry out in pain from the fall before I can stop myself.
Crap, I think. I had fallen off the couch and landed on my face. Laf comes flying out of his room, Herc still snoring gently in their shared bed.
“Est ce que ça va? Tu as un air terrible!”
“I’m fine. Just fell off the couch,” I mumble. The feeling of a warm, thick liquid on my upper lip pulls me short. My nose must be bleeding, I think to myself. I walk over to the kitchen sink and wipe my nose on a paper towel. “What time is it?” I ask Laf.
“Trop tôt. Maybe 4 a.m.”
“English, Laffy Taffy,” says Herc as he comes out of his room, the smile on his face is genuine.
He really does like Lafayette.
“You guys are lucky to be in a relationship,” I say. They stare at me and smile mischievously. “Mon ami, are you and Jefferson still not together?” says Laf teasingly.
“STOP IT!!! I do not like him! We will NEVER get together!”
Laurens comes out of his room, dressed for classes to start. “Sorry. Did I wake you?” I ask him.
“Nah. I had to get up anyway. It takes me awhile to get ready in the morning. Anybody want some coffee while I’m at the store?” Just about everyone says yes to his offer. Except me. “No time for coffee. Gotta go.” I say.
Why am I blushing?
Because it’s John. He understands me. My closest friend. I blame it on the fact that I was just embarrassed for him to see me with blood streaming down my face like that. But the question still burned in my mind: why him?
Class went by pretty quickly. Jefferson was in any just one of my classes (debate class, of all things). But John was in four of my six classes. I was in gym, one of the classes he’s in, when I spotted Peggy across the room. “Hey Pegs,” I say as I walk up to her. “Alex! You’ve met Maria, right?” I see her standing behind Peggy. Her hair is covering one eye and she looks so helpless.
And exactly like Peggy.
“You do realize that you two look almost exactly the same, right?” It was totally true. From the pouty lip to the wavy hair. Almost twins...
“But have you noticed how Jefferson and Laf look alike? And Herc and Madison? And Laurens and Philip? Well, Philip isn’t at this school, but he does look like John.” says Peggy, counting out our friends on her fingers.
Before I can reply, the teacher blew her whistle. “Two teams of two people. First, Alexander and Maria on one team; Margarita (“It’s Peggy!”) and Aaron on the other.”
As I play the game (ug, basketball), I see Laurens smiling at me from across the court. This is what causes the ball to hit me in the face, rendering me unconscious.
“Holy shit! Is he okay?”
“Back up, he needs to breath.”
“Is he dead?”
Through all the commotion, I manage to find John’s voice and cling to it as a life-line. When I finally open my eyes with a groan, I’m looking into those beautiful blue eyes of John’s. My head is resting on his lap and the rest of the class, including the teacher, is standing around me. John is talking to me, asking me to wake up, a single tear on his freckled cheek.
I hate how cute his freckles are.
“Alex! Please wake up!” He isn’t looking at me. His eyes are closed as if opening them will magically wake me up. I brush the tear off his face and am rewarded with a smile. Then he blushes. I blush too. Awkward. “Hey John.”
The teacher made all of the students go back to the game after it was confirmed that I was fine. I just wanted to sit out for a while. John offered to sit with me. “Of course,” I say with a smile.
I knew that John spoke French, but I didn’t know he knew so much.
“Alex, je sais que c'est un peu soudain, mais je t'aime. En plus d'un ami. Veux-tu sortir avec moi?”
I look at John to see he’s joking. The seriousness in his eyes only made him cuter. He was still crying with worry for me. I think about it for a minute, then say, “Oui.”
Now, imagine you’re having the worst day possible. Your dog ran away, someone close to your heart died, and you were the only survivor in a hurricane. Now imagine that it was all a joke and everyone throws a party to surprise you. Take the joy of those few hours at that party and imagine it as the most beautiful, ocean blue eyes you have ever seen. That’s how happy John looked.
He looked happy enough to kiss me, if we hadn’t been in public and people were already looking at us weird because they had no idea what we were talking about to make John Laurens this happy (he often got into fights over sexist and racist opinions).
The teacher called John to play next. He got up, gave me a loving look, and ran to play. Without the joy of him, though, I noticed that my eye hurt. No big deal, I think as I watch John struggle to not stare at me and focus on the game. Probably just a bruise.
After gym, John and I decide to go to the coffee shop together. “Are you sure you’re okay? Your eye looks really bad,” he says.
“What a coincidence. I was just going to say that you’re eyes are beautiful,” I say teasingly, nudging his side with my elbow. “No, I’m serious,” he says. “It looks swollen.”
In reality, my eye hurt like it was on fire, but I told him that I was fine. That is until I ran into a door and hit my eye again. Now tears were running freely out of my eyes from the pain. I had bounced off the door and now I was sitting on the floor curled up as small as I could make myself. John hovers over me. “Alex! Holy shit, are you okay?!”
Without warning, he picks me up and starts running back to his dorm. Halfway there, I stop the stream of tears from flowing. “Dude, your light as fuck.”
“Dude, your weak as fuck.” I say. “That’s true. You need to eat more.” He smiles. When we finally make it to his room, he brings me into his room and lays me on the bed. Then he walks to the other side of the room and starts making an ice pack and preparing some pain medicine for me. “You realize I could have walked, right?” I say. “But you could have hit your eye again. And besides, we’re together now. It’s my job to help you.”
I roll my good eye, causing pain to the other. I wince. But then John’s there, pressing the ice pack to my eye. “Is that better?” he asks. I nod and accept the pill he puts into my hand. I take it dry, sit up, and look at John. He’s back at his mini medical station cleaning up the pills he had knocked over trying to rush.
“John, how long have you loved me?” I ask. “Oh, a few months. Everyone’s right; people tend to get hotter after high school.”
“Well, you realize that now we have to get Jefferson and Madison together, right,” I say with a smug look on my face.
He just pulls out his phone and rapidly types on it with the evilest look on his face.
It only took two minutes for John, Peggy, Angelica, Eliza, Aaron, Theo, Maria, and I to get the text, agree, and move into action.
ClosestFriend: ********************************************* (is explaining the plan)
AndPeggy: I AM ALREADY HUNTING THEM DOWN!!!!
Burr.: I’ll do it, but only because I hate to see them as just friends when they obviously belong together.
FrenchFry: I TRACKED JEFFERSON’S PHONE!!! Peggy, he’s still in his last class. Room 487. GO GET HIM!!! ;-)
HamSandwich: I’ll go with and John to get Madison.
ClosestFriend: He just texted me and said to pick him up some food because he has to finish his art work for tomorrow.
FrenchFry: LET’S GO!!!
Both of us put our phones away at the same time. Then, we practically run towards the art building. “So, I’ll pretend to go mad from the pain of my eye, you two chase me, and then ********************** (asks about the rest of the plan); correct?” I say.
He just nods, panting from running. We get to the door outside the art room moments later. John picks me up again to give the scheme an added touch. Then he knocks on the door.
Madison answers after a moment, his hands covered in paint. “What do you need?” He takes one look at my eye and practically screams. “Oh my God! Hamilton, are you okay?! What happened?”
I just groan and pretend to struggle against John’s arms.
“He needs medical attention. Can you help? I don’t know if I can contain him--” With that, I jump out of his arms and run towards the meeting point that everyone had assigned. I don’t need to turn around to hear them chasing me. Perfect.
Part of the plan.
It feels like I was running for an hour when I get there. John was right, I think as I catch my breath and get into position. I need to eat more.
Madison rounds the corner first, closely followed by John. He sees me lying on the floor in agony and rushes over to get me; only to be pushed into the closet by John. He bangs on the door with both of the fists, but John only locks the door.
“Let me out! What the hell is wrong with you?!” Then Laf, Burr, and Herc round the corner. Maria, Peggy, Angelica, and Eliza appear at the other side of the hall, knowing that Jefferson would be harder to catch. “We got him!” says Herc, waving Jefferson’s walking stick.
Speak of the devil, Thomas comes running around the corner. Seeing the huge crowd, he takes a step back. But he must have seen me, because his face falls and he rushes forward to help, just as Madison had. Lafayette sneaks up behind him and pins his hands behind his back. Herc stuffs a sock in Jefferson’s mouth to prevent him from screaming. As I climb to my feet, John unlocks the door and says, “Watch out, Madison!”
Jefferson is pushed into the room with even less mercy than Madison. John leaves the door open just long enough for everyone to watch as he runs into Madison and their both brought to the ground. Then John slams the door shut.
James is back at the door in a flash. “What the fuck are you guys doing?! Let us out!!!”
“Not until you two are together,” says a voice that could only be Hamilton’s. There is more talking, but I’m not listening. I pace the small, confined space. Get yourself together, Jefferson. It’s not that bad. Nothing that I tell myself is calming enough.
Madison stops yelling and banging at the door and looks at me. “Dude, are you okay? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
I slid down the far wall and try to make my body stop trembling like a leaf.
“Thomas, are you claustrophobic?” I nod my head and start crying. “Why didn’t you tell me?!” he asks.
I don’t answer. There is no need to. James has already pulled me into a tight hug. This is better. Now my confinement feels like a friendly gesture instead of an act of torture. We sit in silence for a minute. He pulls off of me and asks, “Can you explain to me what they mean by ‘get together’?”
“I think they think we would be a cute couple.” I say.
And, sure enough, after a slight hesitation, James says, “I would have to agree with them.” I look up and see that he’s blushing. So he’s liked me, too. I lean in first. It’s a long kiss. One from someone that makes me feel special. Someone that is always there on those rare occasions when Hamilton causes me to be speechless in the middle of a debate.
“You’re hot, you know that?” I say as we pull apart. Laurens talks through the door. “Have you guys talked about your feelings?”
“Yes,” I say. “And when you let us out, we’ll kill all of you in a matter of minutes.” James stares at me, obviously ready to kill on command.
We hear some noise outside the door. Then the lock click and silence. I get up and try the door. It’s unlocked now. We step out of the closet and find an empty hallway. “They must have been smart enough to run,” says James. “But Hamilton needs medical attention. His eye could get infected.”
“It was probably just makeup or something. He’ll be fine by tomorrow.” I say.
“So, now what?” I ask as we get back to John’s room. “I was hoping you would know.” he says.
“Maybe Madison was right. My eye hurts a lot now.” It’s true. The physical exertion of running from Madison has caused pain to come in waves. It now felt as though my eye would pop out of my head out of pain.
I must have fallen, because the next thing I know is John is assuming the same position as we were in the gym. “Holy shit! Alex, are you okay? Of course you’re not. Why would I even ask? Oh, Alex, I’m sorry. Black eyes are the one thing I don’t know how to cure!” he says in what seems like one breath. I look up at him and smile. “It’s okay, John. I’m not dying.” But it felt like it. “Maybe we should get my eye checked, though.” He smiles and helps me stand. My knees buckle through the pain and he ends up carrying me.
Again (not that I’m complaining).
He takes me to his car and sets me in the passenger seat. I buckle in while he gets into the driver side.
After a few minutes, I realize that I don’t know where we’re going. So I ask. “Hey babe?” Severe blushing from both of us. “Where are we going?”
“To the hospital.”
Needles, constant deaths, questions I can’t answer…
I’m afraid of the hospital.
I haven’t told anyone about my fear. Not my mother before she died, not my friends, nobody.
But now it shows on my face. “Um… Alex are you okay?” By now, I’m curled up on my seat with my face in my hands. My breathing is rapid, and I can feel the panic threatening to choke me.
When I was 12, my mother and I were in a hospital. We had both become sick without warning. We were sick and she was holding me. She died, but I got better. I couldn’t seem to die. John pulls over into an abandoned parking lot and looks at me in concern. “Alex, I understand if you’re afraid of the hospital, but we have to get your eye checked. You’d be surprised at how easy the infection can spread.”
No I wouldn’t. Pneumonia took my mom, but left me to live alone. It took two days for a mild fever to overcome her strong body and mind, leaving her weak and tired constantly.
“John, Infection killed my mom. I was infected too. It was pneumonia. I didn’t die. Doctors asked questions that I couldn’t answer, pricked me with dozens of needles everyday, and… I don’t think I can go back.” Tears fall down my face as memories of my mother suffering for weeks flood my mind. I had suffered too, though.
I still do.
John really does understand. He gives me time to calm down. “It’s okay, Alex. They won’t do anything you don’t want them too. I’ll make sure of it. You probably just need anti-infection pills and eye drops.”
I take a few deep breaths. “Fine,” I say. “But if I don’t feel comfortable, I don’t speak English.”
He smiles and pulls out of the parking lot.
No no no no, I think. It isn’t the same hospital my mother died in, but it still has the same name.
“John, je ne parle pas anglais.” He doesn’t understand, but I give him a look that says I would tell him later.
This may be the only time I was glad nobody knew me yet, because it may be suspicious if someone knew I spoke English.
As John filled out the paperwork (because I was too nervous to fill it out), I look around. Even the decorations are too similar. The small potted plant on the check-in desk, the posters on different diseases and how to handle them, even the gift shop looks exactly the same.
“Accélère s'il te plaît,” I say. “Je veux partir le plus tôt possible.” He nods and lists out my allergies a little bit faster.
Only someone like John would know that I’m allergic to birds…
Just as he finishes the paperwork, a nurse walks up to us. “Hello. My name is Sally, and I need to talk to the patient--” she accepts the papers from John. “Mr. Alexander Hamilton.”
I stand up right before John does. “I’m sorry sir. I need to talk to Alex alone. I’ll only be a minute.”
“Either I’m coming, or you won’t get a lick of information out of him.” says John defiantly.
“I’m quite sure Mr. Hamilton can tell me what’s wrong.”
“Seulement si vous parlez français.” I say. She purses her lips and flushes a shade of light pink. “Fine. Follow me.”
She leads us into her office and sits on one side of the cluttered desk while John and I sit on the other side. “So for you to be in here, I need to know your name and relation to Alexander.”
John turns to me. “Dois-je lui dire que nous sortons?” I shrug. “Si tu veux.”
He turns back to Sally. “John Laurens. I’m his boyfriend.” She seems a little shocked to hear this. In fact, she’s very surprised. “Really? Is this true?” she says turning to me. “Oui.” At least she knows what that means.
“Okay…” She writes something down in her notepad. “So, I’ll ask the questions, Alex will answer them, and I trust that Mr. Laurens will translate honestly.” She looks at John like he had challenged him to a duel.
“First off, what brings you here?” Her Virginian accent shows in her words.
“He got a black eye from a basketball. Then he ran into a door. I was worried it might be infected.”
Sally clicks her pen shut and rests her forehead in her hands. “Did you give him any medicine?”
“Just a pain pill.”
She exhales slowly and picks up the business phone. “Dr. Kelly, we’ve got a code 263. Yes… Alexander Hamilton. Male. He brought… A friend. John Laurens. No, sir. He only speaks French. Mr. Laurens insists on translating for him. All right. Thank you.”
She hangs up and turns to her computer. John and I sit in silence for a moment. “Room 432 is available. Take the elevator to the fifth floor. It’ll be the third door on the left.”
John leaves the room without another word. “Merci,” I say following him out.
There is a mirror next to the elevator. Up until now, I had no idea how bad it is, but I immediately regret looking.
My eye is black, blue and purple. It’s swollen shut, too. As soon as I see it, I know it’s infected. I hear the elevator ding, signaling that it has arrived. But I can’t get in.
When I finally come to, John is nowhere to be seen. I panic, but I still refuse to talk to the doctors. “Où est John?” I ask the first doctor I see. I’m lying on a bed, paralyzed in fear.
The doctor is surprised to hear that I am, in fact, speaking French. The tells the older nurse that had just entered the room to “go get him.” She nods and rushes out of the room. The doctor asks if I speak any English. I simply say, “Quel?” like I don’t understand.
The nurse comes back with an unconscious John strapped to a wheeled bed. “John!” I call out as I try to sit up. I instead find myself strapped down. As I begin to struggle against the bindings, the doctor says, “Young man, please. We had to stop him from starting a fight.”
I hesitate for a moment. Then, thinking that my beloved could be hurt, I try again to wriggle my way out of the bindings. Everything around me is a blur as I continue my pathetic escape attempt long after my frail skin is broken, my blood coating my shirt. I’m vaguely aware of someone putting a needle to my arm.
I struggle as if my life depends on it, screaming colorful profanity in French. As if that would help me.
When the contents of the needle enter the vein in my arm, I slowly stop moving. I look at Sally as she passes the needle to the doctor I had spoken to earlier. “Chienne,” I mumble.
But during my struggle, I had seen John wake up. He is set free by someone obscured from my view.
He makes his way over to me as soon as he’s on his feet. “Alex, vous allez bien? Je le jure, je n'avais aucune idée de ce qui se passait. J'essayais juste de te garder avec moi, puis ils t'ont emmené, alors je les ai combattues et ils m'ont retenu et m'ont assommé,” he says in one breath. Tears are rolling down his face, and he’s holding my hand like a stress toy.
“John, je vais bien. Mais je ne pense pas que ce ne soit que des gouttes pour les yeux et des pilules.” I want to try again to escape the bindings, but whatever Sally put into my arm has made me weak and numb.
John notices the blood on my chest. “Alex, qu'est-ce que tu as fait?! Vous avez l'air d'avoir été abattu à nouveau!” He looks around for something and sees some bandaids on a nearby counter. He undos the restraints and tells me to take off my shirt.
He steps aside to get the bandages while I sit up-which hurts-and take off my shirt. I look around the room and see at least five doctors and nurses standing to the side, amazed at John’s ability to heal.
While John wraps a roll of bandages around me, a doctor asks, “Who are you? You’re amazing!”
“John Laurens. I took three years of medical class in high school.” He doesn’t look away from me. When he finishes he asks if there are any pain pills. “In the cabinet,” says a nurse.
After a while, John is satisfied. My shirt is too blood-soaked to put back on, so he gives me his jacket. It’s a little too big, but warm. “Je reviens tout de suite. Je vais nous apporter de la nourriture,” says John.
“Ne partez pas.” I don’t want to be alone, especially when I wouldn’t. I’d be left with the doctors.
“Je reviens tout de suite. Je promets.” He turns to the crowd of doctors. “Alex is to be left alone until I get back. He just needs to rest for now. And, no.” He sees a nurse reaching for a kit for stitches. “Not even stitches. I will handle everything in a minute.” With that, he turns on his heel and leaves. All of the hospital staff that had gathered in the room follows him out hesitantly.
Except for one.
“I speak French, Alex,” says Sally. “Of course you do.” She smiles at me. Sally reaches for the stitches kit. “I’m not getting stitches,” I say. “Relax. I’m just going to set it up for your boyfriend.” She lays out the needle and thread. Then she’s gone.
John comes in a minute later. He sees the kit laid out on the counter. “Did they give you stitches after I told them to leave you alone?!”
“No. Sally just set it up,” I say. “Oh. Well I’ll stitch you up and then you can eat. I don’t want any food coming up if your stomach doesn’t like the numbing pill.” He picks up a small container from the counter and hands me a pill from inside. Taking it dry, I remove John’s jacket and lay down.
“I’ll try to make this quick and painless. Just don’t move.”
After about twenty minutes of agonizing pain, John puts the last stitch in. “Aaaand… Done.” He ties off the last stitch. I’m gritting my teeth in pain, trying not to cry out. I was unconscious from blood loss when I last got stitches, so I was unaware of the time and excruciatingly painful the process was.
I’m about to ask John if I can go to sleep and escape the pain for a while when Sally comes back in.
“Fun, isn’t it?” she says, gesturing to the 47 stitches running along my chest. “Shut up,” I say. John looks at me, eyes wide. “She speaks French, John.”
He rolls his eyes. “I guess you have stitch, Sally?” She holds up her arm in response. At least 15 stitches run down her forearm, closing a nasty cut.
“What happened?” I ask.
“I work as a part-time knife juggler,” she jokes.
“Get out,” says John. We all laugh as he throws an empty pill container at her. She rushes to the door, slamming it behind her. John turns back to me, still smiling.
“Girls can be so annoying.”
“Can you pass the macaroni?” James and I are in my dorm. I made macaroni, a specialty of mine, while James set up a movie.
We watch Lady and the Tramp for a while; talking laughing, occasionally kissing…
When the spaghetti scene plays, James leans his head on my shoulder. I’m so lost in the moment, the words are out of my mouth before I can stop them. “I should have made spaghetti.” I look at him and see that he’s blushing.
“We don’t need it,” he says. He sits up, but before he can, I lean in for a kiss. His warm lips pressed to mine, the sound of romantic music from the movie in the background, his arms wrapped around my neck; it’s enough to make a guy want more.
When we finally pull apart, I rest my forehead on his. This is nice. No worries, carefree moments, Hamilton isn’t interrupting…
That’s when it hits me. “This isn’t right,” I say and stand up. James looks confused. “What’s wrong?”
“This! This is wrong!” Now he looks hurt. “Do you not love me?”
“Not that. I love you to the moon and back. But… Hamilton! Shouldn’t he be back by now?” I don’t understand why I’m so worried. Maybe because it wouldn’t take much to kill him. He’s so small…
“Shit. James, what if he did get infected?!” I should sit down and relax, but all that’s running through my mind is that Hamilton could be dead. Debate class would never be the same. James seems to take the thought of tiny Alexander (pale, eyes lifeless, dying on a cold hospital bed) easily.
“Thomas, calm down. I’m sure he’s fine.”
“But what if he’s not?!” I snap. “What if he’s dead?!” Pinpricks of tears in the corners of my eyes begin to form, threatening to stain my cheeks.
“Honey, sit down. Good; now deep breath. Breath. Let it out. Now calm down. I’m sure he’s fine. Hamilton is strong in these situations. He survived whatever killed his mom.”
He also survived that hurricane. I want to tell him, but it’s not my place to tell if he doesn’t want to be open with it.
Lafayette suddenly bursts in the room. “Oú art l'enfer is Alexander?!” He looked ready to slap someone.
“You don’t know?” I say. “Non! I texted him ten times! No answer!”
James stands up. “Both of you need to relax. He’s probably somewhere making out with Laurens.”
“Of course! Merci, mon ami. I need to go call him.” Lafayette practically flies out of the room.
I’m still not convinced. “Do you have Hamilton’s phone number?!” I had just looked at his phone screen. In his contact list was, sure enough, ‘A. Ham’.
“Yeah. You don’t?” I just roll my eyes and plop down on the couch. “Why should I?” But I answer my own question.
In case he needs help.
“Maintenant John ne répondra pas à son téléphone? Où est tout le monde?!” I had just walked back into my dorm. Herc is there. “Easy, my love. What happened? And in English please. You know I don’t speak French.” He puts down the French dictionary he was reading.
“Mon petit lion Alex has been missing for hours! I went to Thomas for help, James said he might be with John, but neither of them is answering their phones!”
Herc smiles. “You do remember that Alex doesn’t like you calling him that, right?”
“Je ne souviens! Je m'en fiche! Cela pourrait être perdu. Ou mort. Dans certains endroits, nous ne pouvons pas le trouver. Et qu'est-ce que vous remarquez, je lui donne des noms d'animaux de compagnie? C'est sérieux! Je les trouverai.” I start walking back to the door when Herc pulls me back.
“Dude, what the enfer did you just say?” I smile. He has been trying his hardest to learn French.
And the first word he learns is ‘enfer’.
“Just follow me,” I say. We quickly walk to my car, jump in, and are on the road within five minutes.
“Now will you explain where we’re going?” asks Herc. “To find Alex and John,” I say.
My phone goes off…
“My God, in God we trust; but we never really know when Laf shuts up,” I say. No one else was in the room when it happened. John had left a few minutes ago to get our homework from school and I was alone.
French_Fry: Bonjour, mon petit lion.
French_Fry: How was your first day?
French_Fry: Where are you?
French_Fry: Are you mad at me?
French_Fry: Why aren’t you answering me?!
French_Fry: Répondez-moi ou je vais vous trouver et demander une réponse!
French_Fry: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL LLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEXXXXXXXXXX!!!!!!!
French_Fry: John isn’t answering his phone, either…
French_Fry: PLEASE ANSWER!!! I AM GETTING WORRIED!!!
Ham_Sandwich: I’m fine. John took me to the hospital to get my eye checked.
French_Fry: OH MY GOSH ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!
Ham_Sandwich: Yeah. Ended up with stitches. Long story. We’ll be back later.
Ham_Sandwich: John just went back to school for our homework.
French_Fry: Okay. Don’t scare me like that again!
Ham_Sandwich: LOL. C u l8r.
French_Fry: Mon ami, you know I do not understand this text slang language…
Ham_Sandwich: Hehe! See you later.****
French_Fry: À plus tard.
“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 have a few more stories coming soon. Also, there is no guarantee that this story will ever really end. So check in every once in a while, you might find more.. :-)
Read on, my Fandoos (fan-do-s (lol I'm weird)).