During adolescence, life swears its hatred for you.
Consequently, you are sent on many emotional roller coasters.
Is there anything you can do about it?
During adolescence, life swears its hatred for you. Consequently, you are sent on many emotional roller coasters. Whether you are in the front, middle, or back is decided by fate. On the other hand, whether you are on the roller coaster at all is decided by you. It’s kind of hard to say where I was on the roller coaster just then, as the white shirt tied around my leg suppressed the blood that was gushing out of my calf.
I was not the only person on an emotional rollercoaster, however. As I watched Rachel and Lily cry into each other’s shoulders, and Anna being held by Alyson, I really started to wonder: what was the point of these roller coasters? Do they teach us anything, or do they exist merely to leave us in the wake of depression?
If I had looked into this scene three weeks ago, I would have thought that it was my mind playing tricks on me. For one, back then, Alister wouldn’t’ve been able to carry me in his arms like he was now. Back then, Anna would have rather died than be near Alyson. And finally, if we were ‘back then,’ red caution tape would not be surrounding the school. A SWAT team would not be rushing in and out of the school. Alister wouldn’t’ve had to use his shirt as a tourniquet to save my life.
The events that I’m about to explain to you may be the darkest that this town, or even Oklahoma, will ever experience. Tears will surely escape your eyes, and hopefully it teaches you a little more about life than you already know. Tragically, the lessons my friends and I, no, the whole city, learned from this catastrophe cannot be learnt through any other cause. Listen closely, for we received another chance; you may not.
FIVE HOURS EARLIER.
“Hey you.” I pretended not to wake up as Matt softly shook me with one hand. Finally, I decided to cooperate.
“Why’s your hand on my stomach?” I asked curiously.
“Whatever. You just wanted to molest me.”
“I wouldn’t have to wait until you were sleeping to do that.” Wow, I didn’t know whether to think he was being kinky, or a freak. Probably both.
“Okay Michael Jackson. Let me up.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“Ha ha. Are we giving Anna a ride?”
“No, Casper is.”
“You’re so mean to me.”
“It’s funny.” he smirked. I backhanded his stomach.
“Is that?” I asked.
“No, but what is funny is that I didn’t feel it.”
“Well, I’d knee you, but then I’d have to pay your hospital bills.”
“Hey, that was mean. I only kneed Alister because he was in the way. Besides, that happened a nearly a month ago; can’t y’all just drop it.”
“Nah, I live in the past, you should know that about me by now.”
“Well, if I know anything about you, it’s that you have a soft tummy.”
“Hey! No I don’t!” I lifted up my shirt.
“I think you’re in denial.”
“I think you’re full of shit.” I retorted, which got me a backhand to the stomach. Unlike Matt, my abs did not serve as body armor. So, factoring in Matt’s strength versus my… non-strength, you can understand why I fell to my knees. And no, there were no hidden reasons, perverts.
“Want some help up?”
“I WANT to crawl back into your bed and wallow around in self misery.”
“Aw, did it really hurt that bad?”
“No you… person. I’m just tired. Come on, let’s go before I die of boredom.” For the record, it did hurt. I wasn’t going to tell him that, though. What fun would there be if Matt didn’t think he could mess around with me?
As the girls, Lily and Rachel, came and got Anna, Matt, and me, I couldn’t feel happier. So let me explain the situation to you; it’s been a month since my friends and I got suspended on totally unfair grounds, right? Well, soon after that, we’d gotten the principal thrown in jail for “child abuse”, as the judge had labeled it. The only downside of the whole thing was that Matt’s mom had to pay Alister’s parents for the hospital bill.
Nevertheless, Alister had made a full recovery, and although that’s great news, he still wouldn’t even talk to us. Thankfully, people stopped harassing us because of the rib incident, although I didn’t blame them. Would YOU mess with a guy who had broken someone’s ribs? I wouldn’t. It’s still hard though, losing a best friend. The girls were taking it pretty hard as well, ‘cause they’d been Alister’s friend too; and let’s not forget Alyson. Each night from then on, I had laid awake, hoping that the next day everything would change. This day granted that… just not in the way I had ever hoped.
First period; Lily and I were bored out of our minds. No, seriously; you hear kids saying that all the time, but we were literally just staring off into space. Luckily, I fell asleep, so it went by quickly. I’ve always wondered how we students manage to keep a smile on our face throughout the day. I guess everyone has their reasons; friends, the joy of learning (cough), or maybe they’re just glad to be alive. Whichever it was, I think I fell in the ‘friends’ category.
The hours slowly crept by, and eventually it was lunchtime. If you have never attended a public school, then you won’t be able to fully relate to me when I say that the food was horrible. You know, sometimes I wonder if the FDA and the school had a plan to kill us off by the end of the year. Sometimes it’s better to just not eat; you may have hunger pains, but at least you won’t get a terrible stomachache.
Unfortunately, Matt and Anna were in the library, apparently looking at some book for their mom. Why she couldn’t go to the public library herself was beyond me, but she’s really cool, so I’ll stop talking about her. So there Rachel, Lily, and I were; just sitting at a booth, eating our ‘food’ when a loud sound pierced the room’s chatter.
Have you ever sat at the end of a plane, near the engine? If so, you’ve probably experienced the feeling where it feels like your ears are full of water. You know, when you have to shout to hear the person next to you. So, keeping that in mind, what do you think of when I tell you this: the cafeteria was in complete pandemonium.
“Code Red! Get inside a secured room NOW!” The secretary, Ms. Jenkins, yelled over the intercom. Now, I don’t claim to be a security specialist, but I’m pretty sure that announcement just caused more panic. But who am I to judge? What scared me the most was that I lost Rachel and Lily. Everyone in the cafeteria was running in complete shock, and I was just being pulled in. But then something that I could have never foreseen happened; I felt an extreme piercing pain in my left leg. It was so painful that I actually felt tears form in my eyes as I fell to the ground. I wish I would’ve known; if I had moved just a foot to the side, I could’ve avoided it.
This guy didn’t have anything against me; he just wanted other people to feel the pain he felt. But why? Who was he? I felt my life flash before my eyes; what about Matt? He’ll have never known how much I feel for him. Was love the right word? I didn’t really know at the time. There was only one way to stay alive, and as hard as it was, I knew I had to do it: I let myself fall to the ground before the shooter could see me wincing it pain, and I tried to stay perfectly still with my eyes closed. Yes, I was faking my death, just as I had faked being asleep that very morning.
The task is a lot harder when you have a bullet stuck in your calf; it really is. Blood was pouring out, and I felt like I was going to just collapse right there. Perhaps being unconscious would be better… no, I can’t think like that; I have to stay with it.
I then heard the cafeteria doors slam. I contemplated whether I should open my eyes or not, and curiosity got the better of me. Looking around, I couldn’t really see anyone within the vicinity… until — CRASH.
Someone had just dropped from the ceiling and on to the table. Looking up, I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t noticed the missing tile from the ceiling before; someone must have climbed up during the disarray! But what surprised me more was who had fallen out; Alister.
In case you’re getting in over your head, Alister and I weren’t friends. We weren’t even acquaintances any longer. It’s not like we hated each other, though. Think of it this way: Do you go to school with someone whom you have known your whole life, but never associate with them? That’s how we were.
I looked at him with my tear-stricken face. I was shocked at what he did next; he just laughed. No, really, he just stood there and laughed. I felt myself start to cry even more; why was he doing this? But then we heard another set of doors slam. I gasped. Whether it was from the pain in my leg, or the suspense, I’d never know.
To my surprise, and probably his too, Alister jumped off the table and landed beside me. What is up with him and Matt having shock absorbing legs? God. “Alister”….” I managed to sputter.
“Come on.” he said. I hadn’t known how much I had missed that Greek accent until then. He was moving a lot faster now; was he afraid too? In any case, he knelt down and gently put one of his arms under my back, and another under my thighs. I was so glad that he was courteous enough not to grab my bleeding calf. It was also a rather pleasant experience, in spite of the situation; Alister was a lot stronger than I thought. Or maybe it was just the adrenaline, but God did he run.
To our dismay, the cafeteria doors made a loud BANG as he shut them. “Who’s there!?” a frantic voice called out. That voice! It belonged to Lee! I suddenly felt a twang of guilt; my friends and I were the type of people that drove him to this. Although we did not say anything directly to him, we still talked about him. I wanted to cry just then, but that would’ve given us away. “Where are you!?” he yelled to no one in particular, although he was unbeknowingly talking to us.
Alister ran to a janitor’s closet and yanked it open, closed the door behind him as we got in. It was rather small, and kind of inconvenient. Alister had to hold me up by keeping one hand and a knee on my bottom, but I wasn’t gonna complain. He seemed to have forgotten his homophobia for the time being, but only a moron would hold on to their prejudices in a life or death situation. With the other arm, he held the storage closet door shut.
“Where are you!?” Lee repeated. I felt extremely scared, like I was a rat in a science experiment. Mental note: If I live, I will start a rats’ rights campaign. I started to panic. Don’t get me wrong; I was already panicking. I mean, an insane guy with a gun was looking for me. But there was just so much blood pouring onto Alister’s legs and the floor.
“I’m going to die.” I whispered frantically.
“Shh.” he said simply. “Text someone.”
“I don’t know! Anna or Matt, or Alyson!” he whispered. So I decided I’d text Matt, but unfortunately for me, he wasn’t responding. Then I felt my heart drop into my stomach; what had happened to Anna and Matt? Alister shared my emotions; the look on his face was melancholic.
“HALT.” I heard a man’s rough voice yell.
“DROP YOUR WEAPON!” another one yelled, his voice ringing through the hallway.
“Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem” (Remember when life 's path is steep keep your mind clear), Lee said. What was disturbing was that he sounded tranquil. Latin’s a calm sounding language in itself, but the action that followed wasn’t: he shot himself in the head.
I wasn’t able to witness it, for Alister and I were still in the closet (ha ha), but it was something you just knew. Alister let go of the door and quickly peeled off his shirt, to my pleasure. He didn’t waste any time by wrapping it around my leg as tight as he could tie it. It helped somewhat, because it put a lot of pressure on the bullet wound, and the blood stopped gushing everywhere, but I seriously needed a doctor.
Alister must’ve read my thoughts, because he pushed open the door at that instant. “HALT!” the same man, that said the same thing to Lee, yelled.
“He needs a doctor; he’s been shot.” Alister said calmly. It must’ve looked pretty awkward; a shirtless guy holding a guy with a bloodied leg. It probably also didn’t help that my arms were around his neck… why was I doing this?
I didn’t get much time to think about it, because we were lead outside where everyone else was. “You will need to leave in an ambulance shortly.” one of the SWAT members told me. I just nodded my head.
Looking around, my eyes stumbled upon something that had two negative aspects to it. First off, that ‘thing’ was Matt on a stretcher, shirtless, with an extremely bloody shoulder, much like my leg. So, one bad thing was that Matt had obviously been shot. The other was that him seeing Alister carry me shirtless couldn’t’ve helped our “relationship” or whatever we had. There was no doubt in my mind that Matt would’ve killed to be the one who’d saved me, yet Alister just stood there and smiled. What the hell was his deal, anyway?
Another shocking scene was Alyson hugging Anna, who was crying. There were parents everywhere, and a few of them were in tears, which gave me a sickening feeling; Matt and I must have not been the only victims. At that time, I couldn’t wait to get to a hospital and get some pain killers. Don’t get me wrong, Alister knows how to make a guy feel secure, but holy god, this pain was unimaginable. Tears were STILL in my eyes! Call me a baby if you want; have you ever been shot?
But the question that was ebbing away at my peace of mind as I was loaded onto a stretcher and into an ambulance was unbearable to not know the answer to; why had Lee done this?
“Hey kid,” Alister addressed me. Who did he think he was? “Stay safe; I still gotta pound on ya for putting me through this.” He smiled. This was too weird. I just nodded; what else could I do?
As I, along with Matt and some other students, were rushed to the hospital in separate vehicles, there was a thought that kept creeping across my mind: I really missed Matt. I regretted my lustful thoughts about Alister, and I just couldn’t wait to be held in Matt’s arms again. Alister may have saved my life, but there’s something about Matt that no one can replace. I don’t know if it’s the fact that he has a peculiar accent, or if it’s just because I… I love him. There, that’s how I felt. It was embarrassing that it took fearful thoughts of never seeing him again to make me realize it, but that’s life, and while things may not always be “smooth sailing”, they were gonna be alright.
Have you ever been in a hospital? Well, if you have, then you probably know what I’m going through at the moment. You know, fat nurses that act like you’re their son, or food that reminds you of school lunches. Yep, all of that happens here. The town was still in shock over everything, and I won’t lie; I was too.
Of course, my parents never came up here one time to see me. It kind of made me feel sad, but you know, I should’ve expected it. It didn’t really matter, either, ‘cause Alyson, Lily, Rachel, Alister, and Anna came up frequently to visit Matt and me. We were in one of those cool rooms with a large T.V. Another bonus was that Matt and I were in one of those rooms with other patients, so it didn’t really ever get boring.
Still, there was that one problem itching at my heart the whole time I was there. I know that I love Matt, so why can’t I just tell him? I mean, he was barely ten feet away from me, in obvious earshot. It would be so easy to just let the words out if it were anyone else, but not me. Never. It was like I’d move my lips to speak, but no words would come forth.
I guess it didn’t help that people kept coming in. I love that they care about us so, and obviously they couldn’t tell that I needed alone time, yet I felt the need to be… alone with him. Seriously, who proclaims their love for someone right in front of their friends? I surely wouldn’t.
So in all honestly, I never said it, and before I knew it, it was the night before we were to be released. Visiting hours were over, yet Anna still managed to get in. I assumed it was because she was Matt’s sister, but you never know; Anna is convincing, anyway.
I pretended that I was asleep, telling myself that it was just so I wouldn’t seem intrusive, but really, I knew I was eavesdropping. The only light in the room was coming from a dim lamp on a small table near our beds, and I feared I actually WOULD fall asleep. Contrary to popular belief, hospital beds are comfortable, but that’s beside the point, because just then, Anna started talking.
“I talked to Alister.” I heard her melodic voice say softly.
“About what?” Matt’s deep, soft voice reverberated around the room. I had never really fathomed how he and Anna should be so… close. But I also always assumed that I’d never understand, because I haven’t any siblings of my own.
“A lot of things… but there’s something you need to know.”
“What’s wrong?” he sounded bothered.
“Come on Anna, spit it out.”
“I’m in love with Alister.” Her voice almost cracked. I was surprised that I didn’t gasp on the spot as well.
“WHAT!?” Matt said loudly.
“Shh! You’ll wake up Ryker!”
“I may have a fucked up my shoulder, but I only need one arm to….”
“Be quiet, won’t you? Why do you have to act like a dick all the time?” she whispered furiously.
“I don’t! And I don’t appreciate you calling me that!”
“Well, welcome to my world; I don’t appreciate the thought of my brother cracking my crush’s skull!” They successfully began to bring their noise levels down, but I could still hear them, those tricky dogs. Wow, did I just say that? I’m so weird.
“You’re in love with a guy that has treated Ryker AND me like shit for the past month.”
“Alister learned a lesson from the school shooting; didn’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Matt, all of our lives could have ended that day. How do you think Alister would’ve felt if both of his childhood best friends had died, and the last words that he had had with them were, ‘Do not talk to me, you filthy bug!’?”
“IF he were human, he’d feel pretty bad.”
“I can’t believe you.” she said curtly, suddenly getting up. Matt grabbed her wrist softly with his uninjured arm.
“Anna… don’t go yet.”
“It’s just that…” I heard her swallow a few times. Was she crying? “…I’ve been trying so hard to let you know… I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Having you and Alister despise each other day in and day out is almost like how it was when Dad….”
“Hey, come on….” I saw Anna sit back down on Matt’s outstretched leg, since the generically small beds didn’t provide enough room for two. “Look sis, I’ll get over it. You know how guys are… we have to feel like we’re better than the next guy.”
“You boys are so dumb.” Her voice cracked just as before, however I was sure that if she were crying now, it was from joy.
“We always will be,” he said, softly.
“So hey… about you and Ryker, then?”
“I love him more than anything in this world, but how can I tell him that without scaring him off?” he asked rhetorically. I wanted to just jump up and scream my feelings out, but I decided that wouldn’t be a good idea.
“But Ryker isn’t….”
“He’s more… withdrawn, you know?”
He sighed. “Yeah, you’re right.”
It hurt to just lay there and not say anything, but I couldn’t just butt in.
“Why don’t you talk with him?” she asked Matt.
“That’ll go over well. ‘Hey Ryker, I’m in love with you. What’s your favorite kind of ice-cream?’”
“Not the best pick up line.” She stifled a giggle.
“I know. I may be gay, but I’m still a male… ergo horrible dating skills.”
“I’m sure you’re not that bad. Just give it time.”
“Yeah… time.” He sounded distant, as if he weren’t really listening to Anna at all.
“But hey, I should probably go. Alister’s waiting on me.”
“I’m gonna have a talk with that boy….”
“Yeah yeah, see you tomorrow.” I saw her bend down and hug him. Hmm, Matt’s other arm still worked perfectly… bad fantasies! Being a teenager sucks. Seriously, who needs all these hormones?
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