What is it like when those closest to you are not there any longer?
Thursday, March 21, 2019; Morning
Thursday morning Kevin got ready to leave for school. He both looked forward to being back and dreaded it, too. He rode his bike to school as usual and locked it in one of the racks next to the seniors’ parking lot.
He heard someone shouting, “Hey, Kev! Hi!”
Kevin turned around and grinned when he saw Jeff running up to him. They hugged, not caring what any other kids might have thought about it. Jeff pulled back and held Kevin’s shoulders at arm’s length.
“Damn, it’s good to see you, Kev. Where the fuck have you been hiding out?”
“At home. Trying to straighten out my life, such as it is now.”
Jeff looked down, then back at Kevin. “I was at the funeral,” he said softly.
“I know. I saw you there. Sorry I wasn’t in any shape to….”
“Yeah. No need to say anything. So, now you’re back here at Edison to rejoin the rest of us prisoners?” Jeff grinned.
“Yup. Same classes, same teachers, same schedule. Behind in most everything!”
“It’s been what, almost two months, since…?”
“It’s been seven weeks. About time for me to get back.”
“We better head inside. You don’t want to be late for your first class on your first day back.”
They started walking toward the quad.
“Jeff, what’s your first class?”
“English 2 with Mr. Markham. You have Algebra 2/Pre-Calc, right?”
“Yes, with Ms. Arnold. Not my first choice as a fun class for first period. But today I want to be there early to talk to her.”
“I don’t know, Algebra 2/Pre-Calc first period can’t be as bad as World History. I think if I had World History first period I’d be in detention all the time for falling asleep in class.”
Kevin laughed. “I know what you mean. I have it second period. We both have Weston, right?”
“Yup.” Jeff yawned. “Just thinking about it makes me tired!”
This time they both laughed. “Okay, Algebra 2/Pre-Calc, here I come,” Kevin said. “See you at lunch?”
“Absolutely, see you then,” Jeff replied. “By the way, it’s Mexican today. That’s still about the best thing they serve in the cafeteria. And welcome back!”
“Thanks. Glad to be back!” Kevin walked to his first period classroom. As he approached the room, he saw Laura standing outside waiting for him. As soon as she saw him, she rushed and threw her arms around him, and they hugged.
“Kevin! So glad you’re back!”
“Thanks, Laura. I’m so glad to be back. I saw Jeff when I got here this morning.”
“He’s really been eager to see you. I’m glad you saw each other already.”
“He said he’ll sit with us at lunch today.”
“It’s weird,” Kevin said. “Last year Jeff and I had five classes together. This year, none. Not even one. And we’re taking a lot of the same classes.”
“Jeff and I have three classes together this year,” Laura said. “We only had one last year.” She shrugged her shoulders. “That’s the way it goes.
“Okay, why don’t you take a deep breath and walk in and get snared in Ms. Arnold’s web. I have to go to my locker. I’ll see you in a few.”
Kevin walked into the classroom and saw that Ms. Arnold was already at her desk. She looked up.
“Hello, Kevin. I picked up the two homework assignments you uploaded to School Loop. I suggest that you to keep up with the current homework assignments so you’ll be able to take the exams each Monday along with the rest of the class. Is that alright?”
“I think so. That makes a lot of sense.”
“Good. Now, I’ll give you extra time to catch up on the homework you missed; as you turn in each assignment, I’ll give you the exam that covers that material on Fridays during collaboration period. Do you think that’ll give you the ability to get caught up?”
Kevin almost wanted to hug Ms. Arnold. Almost, but definitely not. “I think that will let me get caught up,” he told her. “I can be ready to start tomorrow and take the first two exams that I missed. That will leave five others still to be caught up. I’ll try to do two a week, so in three weeks I’ll be right where I should be.”
“Kevin, if at any point you think you’ll need more time, just let me know. I talked to Mr. Langer, so I know you have to catch up with your other classes, too. As long as you’re current in this class, I’m willing to stretch the time for what you missed.”
“Thank you very much, Ms. Arnold. That’s very generous. I will try to keep up but if I need an extra week or so I’ll come and talk to you.”
Kevin looked around the classroom, then back at Ms. Arnold.
“Should I sit where I usually sat?” he asked.
“Yes. You do remember that I have the class arranged in alphabetic order, don’t you?” She smirked.
“Uh… as I remember the seating arrangement, there was no one sitting to my left. That’s because no one’s last name was closer to the end of the alphabet in this class than mine. That could have changed, of course. That’s why I asked.” He stifled a grin, but raised his eyebrows.
Ms. Arnold tried to look nonplussed but failed because she started to chuckle. Kevin had never, ever, heard her laugh; that made him start laughing, too.
“Go on. Go sit down. In your assigned seat, if you don’t mind. The rest of the class is starting to arrive.” Ms. Arnold looked at some papers on her desk, and Kevin grinned when he saw she had assumed her usual dour ‘classroom’ expression. He decided he’d keep his new perception of her to himself. He wouldn’t even tell Laura. Especially not Laura!
He took his seat and Laura entered the classroom and gave him a wave as she walked back to the last row. She sat down in the seat at Kevin’s right. There was no one between the two of them, no one alphabetically between Wilkes and Young.
Kevin and Laura both found math classes easy. Kevin wondered if they’d still be easy when he was taking AP Calculus.
Kevin’s second class on Tuesdays was World History with Mrs. Weston. She wasn’t known as personable, and as he expected, she didn’t say anything to him but got right into the material. Everyone talked about how the class was boring, and Kevin would say the same when he was with his classmates, but he found it interesting. He enjoyed history.
Kevin had English 2 with Mr. Sommers third period. This was one of his favorite classes and one of his favorite teachers. Mr. Sommers motioned to Kevin at the end of the class.
“If you need some help with the material, let me know. We had a few exams while you were out. I’ve sent them to you on School Loop.”
“Thanks. I’ll work on getting them done and posted,” Kevin responded.
In all three classes people had come up to him to say ‘Hi’ and ‘Glad you’re back’ and that pleased Kevin. Some of the girls and a few of the boys had hugged him. No one said ‘Sorry,’ and, as far as he was concerned, that was the best part. He made a mental note to talk about that with Dr. Ranse on Friday.
At lunch, the three best friends sat down at their usual table. Other friends and classmates kept coming by saying ‘Hi, good to see you’ to Kevin, often touching him or squeezing his shoulder or patting him on the back.
After they’d finished eating, Kevin asked Laura and Jeff, “Can the three of us wander a little before seventh period? I have some things to tell you. They’re private and personal.”
“Sure,” Jeff said. Laura nodded. They walked out of the cafeteria to the west end of Building 400 where there were grass and trees and a few benches. They sat on a bench.
“I wanted to tell you some things about how I’m living. I’d like you to keep it to yourselves, please. I don’t want gossip going around school about me.”
Laura and Jeff agreed to keep private what Kevin was about to tell them.
“I’m an emancipated minor now. That means I’m living on my own. It’s like being eighteen or twenty-one, except I can’t drive a car, I can’t vote, and I can’t buy booze or go to a bar. So, I still ride my bike when I need to get myself somewhere, or I get someone to give me a ride.
“Financially I’m okay. I have money from my family’s life insurance policies and savings and checking accounts and my folks’ investments. Everything is in a trust, and there’s a money manager who invests it. I get an allowance each week. I can ask for funds for large purchases or ask to have my allowance increased or decreased. The house is paid for, so there’s no mortgage.
“What this means is I’m living at home, alone. There’s a woman, Connie Rodriguez, who comes in three days a week. She does the cleaning and laundry and stuff like that, and cooks meals I can reheat for the week. She’s a great cook. Of course, I can cook things myself, and I do that sometimes because I like to cook. Since I can’t drive, Connie takes me places I need to go, like shopping downtown and the mall.”
Kevin described the problems he’d been struggling with, and what he was doing about them. “I’m seeing a therapist. She’s great. I’ve only had one session so far, it was yesterday after school. I came away from the session feeling a lot better. She started on the big job to put me back on track and already helped me realize what’s the most important thing in my life, and that’s my friends. Especially you two. I’ll see her again on Friday after school to talk about what happened to my family.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “That’s going to be tough, but I know she’s going to help me get through it.
“The worst thing is when I get home there’s no one there. It’s lonely. That’s one of the things I have to fix, and I don’t know how.”
Laura reached over and hugged Kevin. Jeff joined the hug, and said, “You can count on us, Kevin. Anything — and I mean, anything — you need, ask us. Laura and I have been talking a lot about this, and we want you to know that we are here to support you. There are a lot of other friends of yours who have been wondering when you’d be back. Well, you’re back, and we’re all still your friends, and all of us are here to be with you.”
“I can go home with you one afternoon, and we can do homework together until I have to go home,” Laura said. “Tuesdays would work best for me.”
“I can do the same thing,” Jeff added. “A different day. That way there are two days where you won’t be alone at home. How about Thursdays? We can start tonight. I’ll even let you feed me. Thursday night my Mom has her women’s club meeting, and my dad is working a shifted schedule and doesn’t get home until around nine. Since you have someone fixing good meals for you, you can feed me, too!” Jeff grinned.
Kevin tried to blink away his tears, but some escaped anyway.
“You guys are great friends. I don’t know what I’d do without you two.
“Jeff, about you coming over tonight. I’m meeting my counselor, it’s Mr. Langer, right after school. We’re going to figure out how to get me back on track on my classes, maybe having tutors for one or two. Especially for chemistry where I have all of the labs and exams that I need to make up. So how about we start next Thursday?”
“Okay. This will let me warn my folks — ask their permission, wink-wink-nudge-nudge — that I won’t be coming home until late on Thursdays.”
They heard the bell that announced that lunch period was over, and they got up and started walking to their last classes of the day.
“You have PE seventh period, right?” Jeff asked.
“Yes, unfortunately. First period would be better, but because I want to go out for the tennis team I have to take PE seventh period.”
“Why in the world would PE be better if you were taking it first period?” Laura asked.
“I wouldn’t have to shower at home, and I’d get fifteen minutes more sleep. Why shower before I’m going directly to PE and get all sweaty and have to shower again when first period is over? That’s why it’s better!”
Laura said, “I never thought about it that way. But you gotta realize that’s strictly a thing that guys can do. Girls have to get all primped and prepped and beautified before we come to school. So, I have PE sixth period, which was as late as I could get it. That way I can shower at the end of sixth period and be ready to do whatever as soon as the school day is over.”
Jeff and Kevin laughed.
“I can see why that’s true about girls,” Jeff said. “And, I just realized that it’s good to be a guy, both for that reason and because we can pee standing up which means we can do it almost anywhere!”
Jeff and Kevin bumped fists, and Laura stuck out her tongue at them. But it was all in fun, and Kevin realized how much he’d missed his best friends and how great it was to be with them again.
Kevin hurried to his seventh period PE class in time to meet with his coach for a few minutes before the class started. Coach Grant, the tennis coach, talked to him about exercises he could do at home, and scheduled time for him to use the weight training room, all to get him in shape to play tennis when it started in spring semester.
Once class started the team had some round-robin matches, and Kevin won two but lost three. That showed how out of shape he was and that he needed a lot more practice.
After PE was over, and he had showered and dressed, Kevin went to see his counselor, Robert Langer.
“Kevin, how are you doing now that you’re back in school?” Mr. Langer asked.
“Okay, but I’m a little behind in most of my classes, and I have exams and tests to take. Spanish 3 is a problem because there’s so much that is class participation, standing up and reading and translating English to Spanish out loud and vice versa. I’ve finished all of the homework; it’s on School Loop. I should be able to get caught up, but I’ll need to work out a schedule with Mr. Contreras to make up my exams, and maybe get some tutoring to make sure I’m current on vocabulary.
“What I’m really behind on and is going to be a big problem is my Chemistry class. It’s the experiments — and there wasn’t any way I could do those at home. I haven’t talked to Mr. McBride yet; I have it fourth period so I’ll see him tomorrow.”
“Kevin, I talked to Mr. McBride, and we have a tutor lined up for you starting tomorrow. You’ll meet him during collaboration period tomorrow morning. Remember, that’s from seven-thirty to eight-thirty so you’ll have to get up early on Wednesdays and Fridays. The good thing is your Chemistry class starts at eight-thirty-five, and you’ll be in the same room. The tutor’s name is Alex Burney. He’s a junior. He took AP Chemistry last year and got an A. He scored a 5 on the AP Chemistry SAT subject exam, so he knows the material.”
“Whoa! I was trying to decide whether to take AP or standard chemistry. I looked up the national AP Chemistry exam scores from last year, and only about ten percent who took the exam scored a 5. That’s when I decided that since I’m going to be a computer science major, the regular chemistry class was all I needed in high school. This Alex guy must be a chemistry wizard.”
“He may be that, but he also plays lacrosse. He has PE seventh period, same as you.”
“I don’t know him, but I might have seen him in the locker room.”
“You’ll see him tomorrow morning. He’ll meet you in the chemistry lab. And remember, that’s at seven-thirty.” Mr. Langer grinned, and Kevin chuckled.
“That’s great. Thank you. I’ll remember to be on time.”
“Okay, now let’s talk about your other classes.”
“Ms. Arnold scheduled time for me during collaboration period on Fridays to take the tests I missed in my Algebra 2/Pre-Calc class. I’m up-to-date in my Computer Science class. I did all of the homework assignments and took the exams. They were all on School Loop.
“So with the tutor you’ve set up for me for chemistry, that means three of my classes are all set. Oh, and PE’s good, too. I’m going out for the tennis team. So, that’s four classes. That leaves World History, English 2, and Spanish 3. Of the three, Spanish 3 is the big problem. That’s because so much of what we do is standing up and doing translations from English into Spanish out loud and vice-versa. I don’t know how to make up what I missed.”
“Let’s talk about those three classes and how to handle those and all the other classes that you need to catch up on including past work and exams you need to complete.
“For Spanish 3, I met with Mr. Contreras. He’s going to have one of his Spanish 4 students be your tutor, and you’ll cover the vocabulary and grammar you missed and take exams. He’s available during academy period.”
“Okay, that should work. I guess I’ll find out. When will I meet my Spanish tutor, and what about the translations I missed that we do verbally in class?”
“You’ll meet your tutor on Friday at the beginning of academy period. His name is Jason Valle. You two can work out a schedule. Mr. Contreras said that since you have an A in the class and since there are translations in the exams, the tutor will concentrate on vocabulary and grammar and giving you the exams. You won’t need to make up the verbal translations that you would have done in class. When you finish making up all of the homework and the exams you missed, and assuming you are current with where the class is at that point, you won’t need any additional tutoring.
“Now, let’s talk about your other two classes, and how you can fit all of the make up work into your regularly scheduled classwork.”
When they finished, Kevin was confident that he could catch up in all of his classes. He was glad that he’d spent over an hour with Mr. Langer. He felt that his counselor really wanted to help and that he could go to him for advice and assistance whenever he needed it.
Thursday, March 21, 2019; After School
As he rode his bike home, Kevin thought about his first day back at school. He realized how much better he felt. Even better than on Wednesday. He and his two best friends were still tight, maybe even tighter than before. His other friends were all supportive. Even most of his teachers and his counselor were supporting him. Already he didn’t feel as lonely.
When he got home, he opened the garage door and rolled in and parked his bike. He looked at the three cars. ‘What a waste!’ he thought.
He walked into the house and was overwhelmed by how empty it felt. No talk or laughter, no noise, no scents of food cooking, no one to say ‘Hi, Kevin’ — nothing. When he came home the house, his house, was still as lonely as before. He didn’t like how it made him feel, the way it affected his mood. Having Laura and Jeff come over on Tuesdays and Thursdays would be a big help. It was something he was definitely going to talk about with Dr. Ranse on Friday.
Kevin took a deep breath and walked upstairs to his room. There were five bedrooms; his folks; his sister Kathy; his twin brothers Rob and Ron shared one; then Kevin’s bedroom; and then was a bedroom for guests. Each of the five bedrooms had its own bathroom. The house had been designed by his uncle Graeme who was a well-known architect in Vancouver. Every member of his family had their wish list, so Kevin’s bathroom, like Rob and Ron’s, included a urinal. Kevin also had the extra-large walk-in closet he wanted.
Just thinking about his folks and siblings made him sad. He’d kept their bedroom doors closed and hadn’t looked in or gone in those rooms since they’d been killed. He wasn’t ready to do that yet. Another thing to talk about with Dr. Ranse.
He dropped his backpack on the floor and pulled out the textbooks he needed for tonight’s homework, then he pulled out his phone, turned off airplane mode, and checked to see if there were any messages. There were.
One was a text from Jeff confirming that he and Kevin would ride their bikes to Kevin’s house after school starting next Thursday. They’d do homework then play video games and eat dinner and watch TV or whatever. Jeff said that he could also stay overnight if that would be okay. Kevin sent a reply saying that sounded great, and staying overnight was more than okay.
Three messages were from relatives who lived on the East Coast — two from his uncles in Massachusetts and one from his aunt in Florida. There was also a call from his cousin Don in Vancouver, British Columbia. Because of the three-hour time difference, he’d return the calls from the east coast after he had a snack and finished his homework instead of interrupting them during their dinner time. Because Vancouver was in the same time zone as the Bay Area, he’d call his cousin after he had finished his own dinner.
There was a call from Alex Burney, the junior who was going to be his Chemistry tutor, reminding Kevin that he’d see him during collaboration period at seven-thirty AM tomorrow. He saved the message; he’d call Alex to thank him for the reminder.
There was also a call from Jason Valle, the Spanish 4 student who’d be his tutor for Spanish 3. He’d left a message that he’d meet Kevin at ten-fifteen just outside the entrance of the library. That was the beginning of academy period tomorrow. He said he would be wearing an orange jacket and would wait. Kevin made a note to call Jason and confirm their meeting.
The next day at school was going to be busy.
Kevin opened his backpack and pulled out what he’d brought home from school. Textbooks, spiral notebooks, notes about his homework assignments, and his laptop.
He decided he’d skip the Algebra 2/Pre-Calc homework since he would get together with Laura on Sunday to work on it.
World History was a reading assignment and a report, so he’d do that later.
English 2 was a short story to read and then write his response. It was A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner. He decided to do that first. It turned out to be a short but hard to follow story set in the South in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Kevin had to think about what Faulkner was trying to say to his readers, and he needed to read the story all the way through several times. Finally, he was ready to start writing his response which he revised and edited over several times until he was satisfied. His main points included what was meant by ‘A Rose’ in the title; that Emily discovered that her sweetheart was gay and that’s why she poisoned him; despite that, she still loved him and slept with his corpse for years until her hair was an iron-gray color when she died; finding her gray hairs on the pillows was how they discovered she had been a necrophiliac. Kevin thought his response was worthy of an A. He wondered if Mr. Sommers would agree.
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