Hey everyone. Well, this is it. This is the first chapter of the final story of the 'Am I...?' universe: 'Is It Possible...?' I'm here to mainly tell you that this chapter is a prologue to the setting where the story will tie place and it's mainly just to introduce the characters and create a bit of a backstory for the rest of the story, so not a lot will happen in this chapter. The real story will start in Chapter 2, which I will be posting next week, so look forward to it.
I'm also here to show the current standings in the voting process. There's still about three weeks until the final deadline of voting, so if you haven't voted yet and if there's a story you would like to see, please do vote. Now, here are the standings:
3. Cop(s), Dystopia, Magic, Sports
4. High School, Heaven and Hell, Hospital, Authoritarian, Riches to Rags
Not much has changed, but it can change if you cast your vote. Thank you all again for your wonderful support and I thank you for sticking with me through this whole journey. Now, without further ado, I give you Chapter 1 of 'Is It Possible...?'
Whoever the hell decided to have school start at 7:30 in the freaking morning, I want to ram my shoe up their ass. Humans are not designed to wake up at the ass crack of dawn, but apparently, some assholes like to wake up with the sun and chose to make everyone else suffer because of it.
Anyway, I'm ranting. So I might as well suck it up and get this day done so I'm one day closer to my weekend. "Tanner, keep your eyes open. I'd rather not get into an accident on our way to school."
I glance over to the passenger seat of my 2011 Toyota Rav 4 and see Allison (Allie, as she likes to be called), looking over at me. "Sorry," I say. "I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. I was up late studying for a test I have in my first class."
"Would you like me to pinch you to help you wake up?"
"Only if you want to be pinched back."
Allie giggles and goes back to looking out the front windshield. Hey, my name's Tanner White and I'm 18 years old and a senior in high school. The little demon spawn next to me is my younger sister (you've already been introduced to her) and she's a sophomore and 16 years old.
Allie and I may be brother and sister, but we really don't look like we are. Allie's about five foot seven with long, wavy blonde hair that she takes the utmost care of, light blue eyes, a slim, fit body from playing volleyball, an angelic face (she's used it more than one to ask Mom and Dad for stuff she wants. It worked when she was a kid, but Mom and Dad caught on quickly) and a few piercings in each ear.
I'm about six foot three with dark brown hair that I usually keep pretty short, a two hundred twenty-five pound body that's packed with muscle that I take good care of (six days a week at the gym does that), dark green eyes, and am the captain of my high school hockey team (we live in Beverly Hills, so it's a bit weird that we have a hockey team, but I'm not complaining).
Allie glances back into the back seat of my car and makes a groaning sound. "When the hell are you going to clean this thing out?" she asks. "It's filled to the brim with your hockey gear."
"No kidding. I'm stuffed back here."
I glance in the rearview mirror and see Ethan, my younger brother and Allie's twin. Ethan's the older of the two by five minutes and he looks a bit more like me, with his hair also being dark brown, but his eyes and face are more similar to Allie and his earlobes are pierced. Ethan's a bit on the thin side, but he makes up for it in height, being six foot five at 16. He's the musician of the family with a passion for the guitar, which is part of the reason why he's stuffed in the back seat of my car (his guitar is with him. He carries it everywhere he goes).
I roll my eyes and look back at the road. "I'll clean it out two days before I leave for college so I can let the smell of my sweaty gear soak into the seats for when you get it after I leave."
Allie turns back to me, her face dead serious. "If you don't clean it out by the end of the day tomorrow, I'll take the blades of one of your shakes and shave your head, mister."
I laugh to myself and hear Ethan snickering in the background. "Don't worry. I was planning on cleaning it out this weekend. Mom and Dad have been nagging me about it and I promised them I'd get it done."
Allie makes a satisfied face and faces forward again. "By the way, I have Guitar Club after school today, so I'm taking the bus home," Ethan says.
"That's good for me and Allie because we both get to miss our last class today," I say. "By the way, be home before 5:00. We're all going to pick Keith up from the airport."
"Oh yeah, I forgot he was coming home today," Ethan says. "Don't worry. My club ends at 3:30, so I'll be home before we go to pick him up."
Keith is the oldest of all of us, being five years older than me, and is currently serving in the Navy. After he graduated from USC, he decided he wanted to serve the country and enlisted in the Navy. Mom and Dad were a bit upset that their first son was off to join the Navy, but they and we support him through it all. He's coming home from basic training today and is staying with us for a little while before he's shipped out.
We finally roll up to school, Meadows High School, your average public high school, and I drive into the parking lot and find a spot quickly. "There're my friends," says Allie. "I'll see you after school today, Tanner,"
She climbs out of the front seat, gives me and Ethan a wave, and jogs over to her friends. "I need to talk to my teacher about a quiz I missed," Ethan says, grabbing his guitar and bag. "See you and Allie later this afternoon."
He waves at me and carries his bag and guitar toward the school. Seeing that school starts in about twenty minutes, I grab my bag from the back seat, shut off my car and step outside into the warm April air. Once I shut my door and lock it, I start to walk up to school, praying that it doesn't go by incredibly slowly.
I walk through one of the side doors and that school smell hits me. You know, the smell of waxed floors, metal lockers, and just a hint of fear? Yeah, that smell. My sneakers squeak over the floor as I walk down the hallway and a few of my classmates greet me. I guess you could say I'm popular, but I think popularity is stupid. Popularity is just when someone is just more well known than you. It means nothing.
After walking a little, I turn a corner and smile at a few of my friends. "Hey, guys," I call.
The two guys I'm looking at turn to me and return my smile. "Hey, Tanner," they both call.
I walk over to them and exchange two fist bumps. "You guys as tired as I am?" I ask.
"Yeah," says Ulrich Consort, a center and one of my teammates from the hockey team. He's about six foot one, a tad short for a center, but he's damn fast, and weighs in at about two hundred pounds. He has tan blonde hair and light brown eyes. "I was up late studying for a test I have this afternoon in AP Physics."
"I have two quizzes this morning in Government and Political Science," says A.J. Williams, the second of my friends and a goalie. A.J.'s about an inch shorter than me and weighs about two hundred and ten pounds. He has dark red hair, blue eyes, and really deep dimples on his face that a lot of girls really seem to like.
The three of us have been friends since we started peewee hockey together in elementary school and have stayed friends to this day. "I have a presentation in my English class a little after noon and a test in about fifteen minutes," I say. "But if there's one thing I hate more than anything, it's speaking in front of other people."
"I had that English presentation yesterday," says Ulrich. "It fucking sucked. I felt like I had gigantic pit stains under my arms from sweating so much. Thank God it was only ten minutes."
"Ten minutes to you is an eternity to me," I say. "I can't help but sway back and forth whenever I speak in front of the class. Plus, I have Greg in my class, so I have to deal with that shit."
"C'mon, man," says A.J. "Gregory isn't that bad. Sure, he's a bit quiet, but he's also pretty nice and insanely smart. I worked with him on a project in my Probability and Statistics class and we got a really good grade and he helped me learn some stuff I was having trouble with."
"I don't care," I say. "The guy's a pansy-ass fag. I hate even being in the same room as him. Just looking at him makes me cringe."
"You still have that stupid philosophy you follow, don't you?" asks Ulrich.
"First off, it's not stupid, and second, yes, I do. I've lived by it ever since I was a kid and I'll follow it until I die. The strongest people survive and the weak are left behind. You've seen Greg, haven't you? The kid's like, five foot five, and probably weighs like a hundred and fifteen pounds! He's shorter and probably weighs less than my sister!"
I really hope Allie doesn't hear that at some point. "Dude, maybe he can't help it," A.J. says. "He probably just doesn't have the genes you have."
"And you know what I see him doing in the courtyard every morning? Crying! Crying, for God's sake! What 18 year old kid cries?"
"He might have a reason to be crying, Tanner," Ulrich tells me. "But seriously, you should lighten up on the guy. I've talked with him a few times and it turns out, he's pretty insightful. Like, he really made me think about things I've never cared about before, like what's going on in the Middle East and stuff with our government. Maybe if you tried to talk to him, you'd understand him a little better."
"Whatever." I sigh to myself and look down at my watch. "I need to get some stuff done. I'll see you guys at lunch, okay?"
"Yeah, see you man," A.J. says.
I wave at the guys before I turn and make my way down the hall. I quickly make my way up to the second floor and find the door to my English class. My teacher, Mrs. Haunch, always leaves the door unlocked so she doesn't have to fumble with her keys when she gets here. But I take full advantage of that.
I get to the door and walk inside the classroom. It's a standard class, with about twenty-five desks, Mrs. Haunch's desk at the front of the class, large windows on the far side of the room and a wooden podium at the front of the class. And that very podium is what my eyes are set on at this moment.
Stepping over to the podium, I grab the top part and lift it off the stand. Yes, this podium has a false bottom for Mrs. Haunch to store some of her materials. But she hasn't used it in forever, so I'm taking advantage of that, and I already have. I find my setup is still in the podium, all ready for tomorrow.
My setup is a small air canister, about ten inches long and five inches thick, connected to a small tube leading to a small can of blue paint. This is a prank I found online that I was able to do myself. The air canister is controlled by a remote control that I have in my bag and when I press the button on the control, the air canister sends a blast of air through the tubing in the podium to the paint tube and the paint will shoot out of the podium and coat the person standing behind it in paint. It's perfectly harmless, but incredibly satisfying.
I set the top of the podium back down on the stand and make sure it was in the same position as before. As I check the podium, I see something out the window catch my eye. I walk over to the window and look down at the grassy courtyard that sits in the middle of the school. And right in the same spot he is every morning is Gregory Natick.
Gregory, or Greg as I call him just because I know it annoys him, is probably the definition of a weakling. At five foot five, he's the shortest guy in the senior class. He has dark black hair that he keeps at a medium length, thick-framed glasses that cover his eyes, and wears clothes that have got to be two sizes too big for him.
I've pretty much hated the kid ever since I first set eyes on him back in our freshman year. The way he stands, the way he walks, the way he sits, and all of it gets on my nerves because he always looks like you can knock him over with a feather. Don't get me wrong. I may be violent on the ice, but I'd never actually hurt someone.
And I don't. The only things I really do to that faggot are pull innocent pranks on him and call him names. Nothing much, just stuff like stuffing his locker full of garbage, calling him a fag and telling him to fuck off every time he's near me, and snapping the chain on his bike a few times. Like I said, I'm not cruel. I just want the faggot to know his place.
Greg's the epitome of weak. He gets out of all the gym classes because of 'injuries' and often just sits on the side of the gym with a notebook and a pencil in front of him, scratching away and writing God knows what. Knowing him, he's probably drawing pictures of dead cats or some fucked up shit like that.
But while he may get out of gym class and workouts and stuff like that, I've noticed he shows up to every hockey game. For the past four years, I've seen him at every single hockey game, even the away games we have. And he's always with his notebook, watching the game like a hawk. It's fucking creepy.
And right on cue, I see the waterworks. Man, this kid's like a leaking faucet. He's always underneath that big tree in the middle of the courtyard crying away. It makes me sick. I turn away from the window, bile in my throat, and walk over to the door of the class, carefully slipping out without anyone seeing me.
Thank God we're not getting security cameras until after I graduate, otherwise this thing wouldn't be possible. With a satisfied smirk on my face, I walk to my first class of the day.
Good thing today's test was multiple choice because I probably would've failed. But now, I think I got at least a B. And the presentation in English wasn't too bad. I know I swayed a little bit when I was standing in front of the class, but I think I was okay. I kept glancing at Greg the whole time and he was just looking into his notebook, writing away and not looking up. I felt like punching him a few times for it.
Anyway, it's been a long day and I really just want to get some food and head home. Allie convinces me to go to McDonalds for a quick snack, which for her is a burger, fries, and a milkshake (her metabolism is off the charts. I don't know where she puts it all). I just grab a small burger and a small soda, making a face at Allie as we get our food.
Once we vanquish Allie's hunger, we head home to our two story stone and wood house that we've grown up in all our lives. We pull into the driveway and we see a silver 2012 Ford Escape and a black 2011 Honda CRV sitting in the garage, so Mom and Dad are home. I park my car and shut off the engine before me and Allie climb out and walk up the front steps.
We walk into the house and head straight for the kitchen. We walk in and find Mom sitting at the counter with a magazine in front of her. "Hey, Mom," Allie and I both say.
She turns to us and smiles. "Hey, kids," she says. She rises out of her chair and walks over to us and gives us both a hug. Mom's in her mid-forties, but her face makes her look like she's in her mid-thirties. She has long blonde hair, she's a little on the plump side, but it's not terrible, and has light blue eyes. "Long day?"
"Incredibly," I say.
"Right now, I just want to sit," Allie breathes out.
"Well, I just made a fresh batch of iced tea," Mom tells us. "It's sitting in the fridge if you want it."
Allie goes straight for the fridge and pulls out the pitcher of iced tea and grabs two glasses from the cupboard. "Did you get the mail yet?" I ask Mom.
She smiles up at me. "I just brought it in a few minutes ago. I haven't looked through it yet, so it's all yours."
I step over to the mail pile and start rifling through the contents. I'm looking for just a single package from the University of Michigan, my dream school. They have one of the best hockey teams in the country and going there has been my goal since I was 11. I start tossing letter after letter aside, just trying to find one return label from them.
And right on the bottom of the pile sits a large package with the University of Michigan emblem on it. My heart stops for a second before I grab the package and rip open the packet. I reach inside and grab the first piece of paper I feel and pull it out and quickly read it over.
'Dear Mr. White. Congratulations. I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into The University of Michigan Class of 2017 with a full athletic scholarship and a spot on our Men's Ice Hockey team.'
I stare at the letter in complete awe, not even hearing myself breathe. I look over at Mom, who's staring at me. "I-I got in..." I quietly say. "I FUCKING GOT IN!!"
Mom screams in delight as I reach my arms around her and hoist her off the floor, spinning her around once before setting her down. "My turn!" Allie squeals next to me.
I switch from Mom to my little sister and pick her up and spin her around several times, her giggling the whole time. I set her back down on the floor, only to hear loud and hastened stomping coming down the hallway. "What the hell is going on?!"
Dad walks into the kitchen, a confused and worried look on his face. "I'm a Wolverine!" I scream at Dad. "I'm going to be on Michigan's hockey team!"
Within a second, Dad crosses the distance between us and grabs me in his strong arms and lifts me off the ground in a crushing hug. "My boy's a Wolverine!" he cheers. "My God, I knew I would see this day!"
With one more squeeze, Dad sets me back down on the floor with a giant grin splitting his face. I return his grin with one of my own. Dad's also in his mid-forties and has been my role model my whole life. He's the definition of masculinity, at six foot five and two hundred and eighty pounds of muscle. Dad's a former college wrestler with three state titles in the state of Michigan and is a graduate of the University of Michigan. That helped me to get in, but I know my hockey skills helped me more.
Dad gives me a few pats on my shoulders. "Okay!" he says. "This weekend, we're going out to dinner to celebrate Tanner becoming a Wolverine like his old man!"
"Can we go to The New Wave?" I ask, talking about my favorite restaurant.
"Whatever you want! You've earned it!"
I smile and give Dad another hug before going around the room and hugging everyone one more time. "By the way," says Mom. "Where's Ethan?"
"He's at his Guitar Club," says Allie. "He'll be back in about an hour and a half."
"As long as he's home before we leave for the airport," Mom continues. "I want us all there when we pick up your brother. Oh! I'm so excited to see him! I wonder how much he's changed since we last saw him?"
Keith gave us a rule when he first left for the Navy: no video chats. He wanted whatever was happening to him to be a surprise. He called whenever he got the chance to let us know he was doing okay, but it wasn't the same as seeing him, so we're all pretty excited to see the last of the White family.
All of a sudden, we hear the front door open and close. "I'm home!" Ethan calls through the house.
"In the kitchen!" Dad calls back.
Ethan's footsteps echo through the hallway and he walks into the kitchen, guitar case in his hand. "Hey," he says. "Guitar Club was cancelled today because Mr. Fenwick was out sick."
"So how'd you get home?" Allie asks.
"Got a ride from David." David is a friend of Ethan's. "He got his license a month ago and he offered me a ride home after we learned that club was cancelled today. So, what've I missed?"
"Your brother's going to the University of Michigan in the fall," Mom says with a smile.
Ethan turns to me and smiles. "And you were worried for nothing, bro."
He walks over to me and gives me a hard hug. It's weird having to look up at my brother that's two years younger than me, but I love him anyway. He pats my back twice before letting me go. "I need to get a bit of homework done," Ethan continues. "Tell me when we're leaving."
Ethan quickly gives everyone a hug, secures his bag and guitar case and heads for the stairs. "I need to get some stuff done too," Allie says, finishing pouring herself a glass of iced tea and one for myself as well. "I'll be listening to music, so bang really hard on my door if you need me."
She smiles, grabs her glass of iced tea, and heads for the stairs as well. "I'm going to go gloat on Facebook," I say.
"As you should," Dad says with a smile.
"No homework for me today, so I'll just be watching some TV. If you need anything, just call up to me."
I hug Mom and Dad one more time before grabbing my glass of iced tea and starting for upstairs, still grinning like an idiot.
"Ethan, did you really have to get a donut?" Allie asks. "We're getting dinner soon!"
"I missed lunch because I was making up that quiz I mentioned this morning," Ethan replies, a face full of donut. "Want a bite?"
Allie relents and rips off a piece of the glazed donut and tosses it into her mouth. We're all standing next to a Krispy Kreme shop inside of the Los Angeles International Airport terminal. Keith's plane is arriving in a few minutes and we're all buzzing with excitement in anticipation of seeing him.
We all stand patiently (with Ethan quietly chewing his donuts) as passengers walk into the terminal. After a minute, we see a familiar frame of a six foot four man with broad shoulders, a trim waist, a blonde buzz cut, handsome face, and dark green eyes walking into the terminal with a large blue duffel bag over his shoulder.
Keith smiles brightly when he sees all of us and quickly walks over to us, but we all run over to him. Me and my family collide into my older brother and it's amazing how we don't knock him over. Keith manages to wrap his long arms around all of us and we stand there in the middle of the airport, in one large group hug.
After a minute, we all let go of each other and Keith lets out a large sigh. "Ah. The first hug I've had in almost a year. You start to miss them after a while. The Navy isn't too keen on hugs."
"We've missed you, sweetie," says Mom.
"Did you gain weight?" Allie bluntly asks.
Keith chuckles. "Nine extra pounds, all of it muscle. I'm down to 6% body fat now, and I plan on keeping it that low."
"Nice work, son," Dad says. "Pretty soon, you'll be as big as your old man."
"Dad, you're a freaking giant already," Ethan says. "Professional athletes aren't as big as you."
"Damn straight," Dad replies with a grin. Dad's always been proud of his body, and for good reason. I think the last time he measured his body fat percentage he was at 3%. That's bodybuilder level fat percentage. "Do you have any other bags with you, son?"
"Just one," Keith replies. "It should be at baggage claim by now."
"Well, let's grab it and we can head home," Mom says. "I have your favorite ready for dinner tonight: homemade fettuccine alfredo with extra bacon and cheese."
Every stomach grumbles at the mention of Mom's fettuccine alfredo recipe. Mom's grandparents were Italian and Mom's grandmother made a recipe for fettuccine alfredo that could make you cry. It's been passed down in her family ever since and Mom's the current holder of the recipe.
Keith places a hand over his stomach and sighs deeply. "Mom, the thought of coming home to that fettuccini alfredo helped me get through so many days of training. Let's get my bag and get home before I start drooling."
"You and everyone else, Keith," I say, wiping the corner of my mouth with my thumb.
We all quickly head over to the baggage claim and find Keith's bag after a minute. Once we're all back in the car (it's a tight fit with all six of us), it's a quick ride back to the house and Mom gets to work with dinner while we all sit in the kitchen. "So what've I missed?" Keith asks, taking a long sip from his iced tea.
"Let's see," Dad says, rubbing his chin. "Other than a promotion, work's pretty much the same for me."
Dad's a certified public accountant, so he works mostly from home, but he has well over twenty clients that he tends to on a regular basis and often has to go on business trips. "It's the same for me," says Mom. "Brenda's still a bitch and I'm still buried up to my neck in pills."
Mom's the head pharmacist for UCLA Medical Center. The Brenda she's talking about is a nurse who works for the hospital who hates her job with a passion. "I'm working with my travel volleyball team now that the high school season's over," Allie says.
"Are you aiming for their heads like I taught you?" Keith asks.
Keith grins and rubs the top of Allie's head. "I have a few potential offers to join some bands in L.A., thanks to a few YouTube videos I posted" Ethan says. "But I'm not interested in joining."
"Why not?" Dad asks. "Don't you want to join a band?"
"I do, but their sound doesn't suit me. It's mainly death metal and music like that, and I hate death metal with a passion, and frankly? They all suck. I want something like hard rock, pop punk, pop rock, or punk rock, where it's loud and energetic, but it actually has a rhythm and I can understand the lyrics."
Ethan's always been specific about what he wants in life: get his high school diploma, get a bachelor's degree in something related to economics for the future, and try to find a band to join and make it big. It's a big dream of his that he's been chasing ever since he was 10 years old, but knowing my little brother I know he can do it.
Keith leans over and ruffles Ethan's hair. "It's a good thing we found out you were suited for the guitar when I was taking lessons in middle school."
Ethan rolls his eyes and gets his hair back to its blowback style. Keith originally wanted to try the guitar, but he was absolutely horrible at it. Ethan came into Keith's guitar lesson one day and took the guitar from Keith and played every basic chord perfectly. Keith saw that he wasn't good at the guitar and Ethan took over for Keith's lessons.
Keith gazes across the kitchen island at me. "What about you, baby bro?"
That's Keith's nickname for me, mainly because I was his first younger sibling. "I found out this afternoon that I'm going to be a Wolverine in the fall."
Keith's eyebrows rise up and he grins at me. "Nice, baby bro!" He circles around the counter and give me a firm hug. "I knew you'd get in."
I return Keith's hug and we separate after a few moments. "Thanks, Keith," I say. "But you were the one that got me into hockey when I was a kid."
"Yeah, I did. But I wasn't the one that led my high school hockey team to the state finals this year."
My face burns as I blush with shame at the memory. "We should've won that had I not missed my penalty shot..."
The Meadows High School hockey team did make it to the state finals under my leadership, the first time the team had made it to the finals in almost forty years. The game went down to a shootout and I missed my shot when the puck hit the crossbar. The other team made their next shot and won. I was devastated when they made that shot and I stayed in my bedroom for the next two days after, lying in my defeat.
Keith rubs the top of my head (in case you haven't noticed, he does that a lot to us). "Baby bro, you scored two goals in that game. Yeah, you lost at the end, but hey, you can't win them all. Michigan's going to have an awesome hockey player coming in the fall and what you're going to do there will make that missed shot seem like nothing."
The reassuring look on my brother's face makes me smile. "Thanks, Keith." I give him another hug and he rubs my head one more time. "Hey, Mom? Can we get started with dinner? I'm starving."
A loud grumble fills the kitchen and we all turn to Dad, who has his hand resting over his stomach. "I think we all are," he says, blushing a little.
"Well, my three youngest soldiers are going to help me make that fettuccini alfredo," Mom says, glancing at me, Allie, and Ethan. "Keith, you go ahead and take your stuff up to your room and take a shower. You smell like the inside of an airplane. Dinner should be about halfway done by the time you come back down."
"And Hank?" Mom continues, talking to Dad. "You set one foot in this kitchen, you lose a finger."
"Yes, Amanda..." Dad says with sarcastic exasperation in his voice.
Keith grabs his backpack and duffel bag and heads upstairs while Mom, the twins, and I head around the kitchen, manning our stations, as Mom likes to call it. Dad sits at the counter and watches the process. Dad's not allowed to cook anything in the kitchen other than coffee. You'd be amazed at how he can almost burn down our house by trying to make toast.
As I start to grate cheese, I hear Allie on my left with the already made pasta dough that Mom made yesterday and a package of flour. "Hey, Tanner," she says.
I look over at her, only to get a face full of flour. Allie giggles at me while I just stand there with my face caked in flour. "Oh, you're going to get it," I say, smiling evilly.
I quickly grab a bit of flour for myself and throw it at Allie, but she ducks at the last second and the flour flies over and lands in Ethan's hair. He turns to me in shock. "Tanner! It took me thirty minutes to get my hair like this this morning!"
He grabs some flour for himself and starts to throw it at me, but I grab Allie and hoist her up in front of my face. Her tanned face quickly turns white at the flour hitting her in the center of her nose. Ethan and I laugh hysterically at our sister coughing up flour. "Soldiers!"
We all turn and are met by a wall of flour coming at us. Within a second, our hair, faces, and shirts are covered in a thin layer of flour. Mom stands in front of us, holding the bag of flour with a smile on her face and I hear Dad laughing to himself across the island. "Now," Mom continues, "are you going to get back to work or am I going to have to stuff some flour in your underwear to get you to focus?"
Allie, Ethan, and I jump back to our stations and get back to work on dinner, not even taking a second to get the flour off of us. But the bright smiles on all of our flour-covered faces make it worth it. Ah...I love my family...
Friday, and I'm in my end of the school week daze, just wandering through the halls between my second and third class of the day. Just a few more hours until the weekend, is what I keep thinking. At least that English presentation is over with, but I'm still buzzing with excitement for class.
Greg's presenting today and that means my prank will finally be executed after weeks of careful planning. Thank God for all those crime shows on TV, because I completely covered my tracks. All the materials I bought for the prank were bought at different stores on different days and were all paid for with cash.
I was sure to use gloves when I was putting the prank together in the podium in Mrs. Haunch's room, so if they dust for fingerprints, they won't find it. And if they find my fingerprints somewhere on the podium, they won't be able to pin the prank on me. Dozens of students touch that podium every day, so if they do pin the prank on me, it won't last.
And seeing as there weren't any witnesses or security camera footage to identify me, I'm in the clear. I smile to myself at the thought of seeing Greg covered in blue paint. "Hey, watch out!"
All of a sudden, I feel something grab the back of my backpack and I'm yank back, falling to my butt on the tiled floor. I look over at the guy on the floor next to me and instantly glare. "What the hell was that for, fag?!" I yell.
Greg stares at me wide-eyed and seems to be at a loss for words. "S-Sorry," he finally says. "I-I thought you were going to fall down the stairs..."
Stairs? I look back in the direction I was walking and see the stairwell going down to the ground floor. I didn't even know they were there. If I kept walking, I probably would've tripped and fallen down the stairs. I could've really hurt myself and lost my scholarship to Michigan. But...Greg saved me?
We both slowly get back to our feet and stare at each other in silence. I notice that, for the first time, Greg isn't wearing clothes that are way too big on him. These clothes actually fit him, and really well. He's wearing a blue-green collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, which is tucked into a pair of dark blue jeans that are fastened by a black belt.
He actually looks like he did something with his hair today, as opposed to the bed head look he usually has that often covers his glasses. In all honesty, he doesn't look half bad. Greg breaks away from my gaze and looks to the floor. "U-Um...I'm sorry if you really knew where you were going..."
"No," I interrupt. Greg glances up at me. "I was daydreaming and I didn't know I was about to walk into the stairs. If you didn't grab me, I could've gotten hurt. So...thanks, I guess..."
For the first time, I can't even look at the little faggot. This feeling of being in debt to him grinds my stomach into knots and makes me feel like I'm going to be sick. "Y-You're welcome," Greg quietly says. "I...I need to get to English to get ready for my presentation. Um...I'll see you in there."
Greg turns and quickly walks down the hall, disappearing into the sea of students. After a few moments, I start to walk in the same direction as him. I get to Mrs. Haunch's room after a minute and I find the classroom about half full and see Greg sitting in his seat, one of his notebooks in front of him and see he's scribbling away.
Feeling the sense of inferiority from him, I walk over to my seat and plop into my chair. Once I have all my stuff I need for class today on my desk, Mrs. Haunch, a woman in her late forties with light brown hair, walks into the room. "Okay, everyone!" she calls out. "Settle down! We have the rest of the presentations to get through today and I for one don't want this to continue into next week!"
Amen to that. Mrs. Haunch walks over to her desk and takes a seat. "Okay, first up is Nicholas with his presentation on The Great Gatsby."
I lean back in my seat and wait patiently for Greg's turn at the podium, my hand resting over the remote in my pocket.
The minutes go by and the presentations go in one ear and out the other for me. It's not that they're boring (well, some of them are). It's just that I don't care about a lot of these books. I've read most of them already, so I don't feel the need to hear about them. But I manage to clap for my classmates when they're done.
Mrs. Haunch looks down at her desk and writes down a few notes. "Okay," she says. "We have only a few more presentations and then we're done. Next up is Gregory with his presentation on The Catcher and the Rye."
Finally. Greg rises from his seat and grabs his notebook and makes his way for the front of the class and walks around the podium. Man, he seems even smaller behind the podium. It makes my blood boil at seeing this weakling. My hand continues to rest on the remote in my pocket and I feel the button pressing through my jeans. Get ready, faggot. You're going to know your place...
Greg sets his notebook on the podium and take in a deep breath. All off a sudden, I see a complete 180 in Greg's personality. The meek, shy boy I saw just seconds ago is gone. The guy I'm looking at right now seems...confident, bold, and just...the opposite of a weakling. My finger slightly lifts off the remote control.
Greg looks out at the class. "The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger follows Holden Caulfield, a young man who has failed many of his college classes and often finds himself hating much of the world. Many have called Holden an icon for teenage rebellion, but to me? I think four words describe him perfectly: a whiny little bitch."
Wait, what?! Did that just come out of Greg's mouth? It looks like I'm not the only one in shock. Many of my classmates and even Mrs. Haunch have the same dumbfounded look as me. "Holden is a young man of maybe 19 or 20 years old," Greg continues. "However, he often acts like a pre-teen girl, complaining about every little thing he thinks is wrong in the world.
"Also, Holden is a complete hypocrite. He shows his hate for what he calls 'phony qualities,' but Holden often displays many of the qualities he hates, which in turn actually made me hate him even more as a character. He's basically a living contradiction, emphasis on the 'dic.'"
I press my hand to my mouth to keep myself from laughing, and I see a lot of other people doing the same. Greg continues with his presentation and he keeps getting more and more laughs out of everyone. Mrs. Haunch is even shaking in her chair she's keeping herself from laughing so hard.
As I continue to watch Greg, my hand rubs against the remote control in my pocket. Am I really going to go through with this? I mean, yeah, the guy's weakling and there's nothing more I hate than a weakling. But...he really saved me just an hour ago and this presentation is funny as hell.
I continue to debate in my head while Greg keeps talking. "Holden, to me, is also displaying the thoughts of a potential pedophile. I mean, c'mon. He wants to chase after what he says is thousands of children in a large field of rye. If that does spell pedophile right there, then Salinger must've thought pedophiles were pretty damn great."
My stomach racks with suppressed laughter and my hand presses against my thigh to keep myself upright. But as I press my hand to my thigh, I feel a small click against my hand, the button to the remote pressing down. My laughter suddenly stops and I look to the front of the class, looking to see if Greg is coated in blue paint.
But seconds pass, and nothing happens. The room continues to fill with laughter and Greg is paint free. Maybe the remote malfunctioned or maybe there was a problem with the air canister. But either way, I breathe a sigh of relief. I almost did something really horrible to an innocent guy. Who knows how I would've felt had the prank actually worked?
I fall back in my seat and continue to watch Greg, who seems to be pouring with confidence. The room is filled with a light-hearted mood, everyone laughing with Greg's presentation and all feelings of uneasiness lifting off of me. But that mood changes almost instantaneously as the podium explodes into hundreds of small splinters.
Time seems to slow down for me as I watch the podium explode, sending wood shrapnel and blue paint everywhere. The sound of the explosion causes me to lose my hearing for a second and I watch as I see Greg fly back toward the whiteboard. I hear students diving for the floor, but I'm frozen in my seat.
I manage to raise my arms in front of my face in time and I clench my eyes shut tightly. I feel pieces of wood hitting me, landing in my hair and on my desk. For several seconds, I stay completely still before I slowly reopen my eyes. The room is filled with what appears to be a thin cloud of smoke.
My neck cranes around the room and I see all of my classmates in states of shock, still sitting in their desks or cowering on the floor. Mrs. Haunch rises from behind her desk, a few pieces of wood and metal in her hair and her eyes wide with confusion. I look up and down my body and see I'm unhurt, just pieces of wood on me and a few splotches of paint. But...what about Greg?
I slowly look toward where the podium once stood and find it completely gone. And past that, I see Greg on the floor slumped over with his body covered in blue paint and wood, his destroyed notebook by his side and his broken glasses in his lap. But for some reason, I also see a few pools of red paint in the mix. But I didn't put any red paint in the...oh shit...
I look at Greg's arms and face and see several deep cuts that are oozing blood and his shirt is torn to shreds. I watch for Greg to try and at least stop some of the bleeding, but he isn't moving. Oh, dear God. I-Is he...? No, no I see his chest rising and falling. I need to help him. I need to stop the bleeding. But my legs aren't listening to me.
All of a sudden, the room to the door bursts open and I see the school security guard run in. He immediately finds Greg and rushes to his side, talking to the microphone on his shoulder and the word 'ambulance' catches my ear. He looks out at the class, his face dead serious. "Evacuate the room now! Get everyone out of the school!"
It takes us all a few seconds, but many of us shakily get to our feet and run for the door, me included in the mix. I glance over at Greg as I'm running out of the room and see his eyes are half-open and...focused entirely on me. Our eyes meet and I see a look of what appears to be...pure hatred in the amber irises. No...no he can't know it was me...
I get out to the hallway and immediately find the fire alarm. Running over to it, I grab the lever and pull it down. The blare of the claxon the flashing white lights of the fire alarm lights fill the hallway. Doors start opening and students and teachers start piling into the hallway, all of them confused.
Finding feeling in my legs again, I turn and rush for the stairs, quickly running down and getting outside. The sunlight hits me with its warmth, but I feel like I'm freezing to death. I feel bodies starting to surround me and voices start to fill my ears. "Did you hear that huge boom?"
"Was it an explosion?"
"Do you think anyone's hurt?"
"This is really scary..."
As more and more students come out of the school, I hear a voice. "Tanner!" I look over and see Allie rushing over to me, her face scared. "What the hell happened?! You're covered in wood and paint!"
I look down at my little sister and grab her and pull her into a tight hug. "Explosion..." I quietly say. "In my English classroom..."
"What?!" Allie pulls away from me and look up at me. "There was an explosion?! Are you okay?! Why did it happen?!"
Because I'm a horrible human being that wanted to humiliate an innocent guy and got him really hurt as a result, that's how. "I-I don't know," I say. "I was just sitting in class, and then...my teacher's podium exploded..."
"Guys!" Allie and I turn and see Ethan walking over toward us. "Did you hear that boom? I was on the ground floor and I felt my classroom shake!"
"There was an explosion in Tanner's English classroom," Allie says for me. "He said his teacher's podium exploded."
"I don't know," I lie. "It was there one second, then gone another..."
Ethan starts to ask another question when we hear the loudspeaker come to life. "Attention all students and faculty," says Principal Delany's voice says. "Please do remain calm. It appears that there was a small explosion in room 245. The cause of the explosion is not knows at this time, but rest assured there will be a thorough investigation into the cause of the explosion.
"I've gotten word that there was a student seriously injured as a result of the explosion. An ambulance is on its way to take him to the hospital. I haven't gotten word of any other injuries, but to those in the classroom at the time of the explosion, feel free to be examined by one of the ambulances on their way to the school.
"As a result of this terrible tragedy, school has been cancelled for the rest of the day and will be cancelled on Monday as well in order for the police to investigate the scene of the explosion. Students and teachers whose belongings were not in the classroom where the explosion occurred may retrieve their belongings. Those students and the teacher in the classroom of the explosion will get their belongings back as soon as possible.
"Please, call your parents and loved ones and tell them what happened. Thank you all for your cooperation."
Students start to head back into the school to get their stuff while I stay with Allie and Ethan. "I'm going to get me and Allie's bags," Ethan says. "Allie, call Mom, Dad, and Keith and tell them what happened. Tanner, maybe you should sit down. It looks like you're about to pass out."
Ethan takes me by the arm and leads me to a curb in the front of the school, Allie following next to us. He helps me down and I sit on the curb. "I'll be back in a few minutes," Ethan says.
He heads toward the school and Allie rubs my shoulder. "It's okay, Tanner," she says. "That was probably some scary shit."
"You have no idea..." I quietly say.
"I'm going to call home and tell them to pick us up. Keith can get your car and drive it home for you."
I nod and Allie pulls her cell phone from her pocket and walks off with it to her ear. As soon as she's out of sight, I look around to make sure no one's near me and I reach into my pocket and pull out the remote control. I quickly snap the thin remote in two and toss them down the storm drain next to my feet, getting rid of the evidence.
And with the rain that's coming in a few hours, I know that the remote will be washed away. But there's still one threat: the possibility that Greg knows I was the one who put the air canister and paint in the podium. My heart races and my stomach tightens at the thought of potentially being found out.
I could be expelled for what I did. I could even go to jail. Michigan could terminate my acceptance. The thoughts race through my mind at a blinding speed until a hand rests on my shoulder. "Tanner, you're shaking," Allie says, looking down at me.
She takes a seat next to me. "You're probably in shock. When the ambulances get here, let's take you to one of them and they can check you out. Dad and Keith are on their way from the house and Mom's leaving the hospital now."
I nod a bit and I feel a body sit on my left side. Ethan places his and Allie's bags in front of him and we all sit in silence, Allie's hand in my right hand, Ethan's in my left.
The next two hours for me go by incredibly slowly, but thankfully much of it's a blur. Allie helped me to one of the three ambulances in front of the school and the EMT told me I just had an elevated heart rate (no surprise there). Dad and Keith were at the school in no less than ten minutes after Allie called them. They were both relieved to see that none of us were hurt and told me Mom would meet us back at the house.
As my family helps me to calm down, I see the front doors of the school open and two EMT's walk out with someone on a gurney: Greg. I can't see much of his body because of the sheets the EMTs covered him with, but I can see his paint and blood coated face at the top. I force myself to look away from him, a sickening feeling in my stomach at seeing him.
The EMTs load Greg into one of the ambulances and I watch as the ambulance starts to drive toward the hospital. Before I know it, I'm back home with my family asking dozens of questions. But I dismiss all the questions and resign myself to my room, where I spend much of the next three days.
The news has a field day with the explosion. I keep hearing about how the police found pieces of the destroyed air canister around the room and how the explosion was caused by the tubing connected to the release valve being blocked and the pressure in the air canister building until it ruptured.
I also hear that Greg's injuries were serious, but they weren't life threatening which I'm so grateful for. If Greg had died because of me, I don't know what I would've done with myself. But I still feel horrible. The police are continuing their investigation to see who put the air canister in the podium, but they have no leads so far.
A small voice inside my head tells me to confess to what I did. Maybe the punishment won't be so bad. I mean I didn't intend to hurt Greg. I didn't even mean to press the remote control button. But what if the punishment is really bad instead? Like suspension or even expulsion? I caused the school to fall into a panic and I cancelled school for two days.
I can't risk my future. I can't lose my acceptance to Michigan. So I suck down my conscience and choose to keep this thing a big secret. Trust me. If I didn't have so much to lose, I'd come clean immediately. But I can't, and this feeling in the middle of my chest hurts like a son of a bitch.
Allie, Ethan, and I drive to school early Tuesday morning, the mood in the car a bit tense. We pull into the school parking lot and I pull into a parking spot and shut off the car. "I know it's been four days, but I kind of don't want to go into the school," says Ethan.
"Me too," Allie replies. "I keep getting this feeling that there might be another explosion when I walk inside."
"Well, the police did a search around the school and made sure that were wasn't another air canister or anything like that in the school," I say. "Also, they have special counselors for a while that will be available to talk to if you have any concerns."
Allie and Ethan nod a bit before we all step out of the car and start to walk toward the school. As I walk through the hallways, I hear hushed conversations about last Friday. "Can you believe someone here actually caused that explosion?"
"I heard on the news that the police think it was a prank gone wrong."
"Do they know who did it?"
I pick up my pace, trying to ignore all the voices that are surrounding me. But everywhere I go, I hear the voices of fellow students talking about what happened. Unable to take it anymore, I find the nearest exit and step outside where it's completely silent. I lean against the side of the school and rest my head against the cool stone.
As I'm taking in deep breaths, I hear a voice from in front of me. "Can't take it, can you?"
I open my eyes and feel my heart stop for a second. Greg is standing in front of me, barely five feet away. I take a quick look at him and find that both of his arms are wrapped in bandages and one of them is in a sling. I see his face is covered with a few bandages, but it's the expression his face that takes all of my attention: a hard glare.
I push off the wall and stand up straight. "Um...Greg," I say.
"It's Gregory," he interrupts. "Why won't you get that through that thick fucking head of yours?"
His tone causes me to look to my feet. "Um...how're you doing?"
"I know it was you."
I feel my heart stop again and cold sweat starts to roll down my back. "Uh...w-what do you mean?" I ask.
"Don't fucking play dumb with me, Tanner. I know you were the one that put the air canister in Mrs. Haunch's podium."
The stern look on his face tells me that I can't get out of this, as much as I want to. But I grit my teeth and look down at the ground. "O-Okay, I put the air canister in the podium. B-But I didn't mean for it to explode!"
"Then what did you mean for it to do?"
Greg's monotone voice is actually starting to scare me. "I-I just wanted to pull a prank," I shakily say. "The canister was supposed to...spray you with blue paint when I pushed a button on a remote control."
Greg stands in silence staring at me, no emotion showing on his face. "H-How did you know it was me?" I ask.
"I saw you every morning in Mrs. Haunch's room from the courtyard. I know Mrs. Haunch arrives at school a little before 7:30 every morning and doesn't leave until after 4:00 in the afternoon. The only time anyone could have set up that air canister was before Mrs. Haunch arrived, and I only saw you in her classroom in the mornings."
I feel my heart racing faster and faster with every passing second. "Greg, I..." I start to say.
"Gregory, you asshole."
"I-I didn't even mean to set off the air canister. Yeah, I had intended to when I first came into class, but when I was watching your presentation, I remembered that you had saved me from falling down the stairs earlier and...and I really liked your presentation, and I accidently pressed my hand against my thigh and the button on the remote accidently pressed down."
"Now that I think about it, I should've let you fall down those stairs. Then maybe the podium would've have exploded and I wouldn't have gotten a concussion, seventy stitches, a fractured ulna, and a broken rib."
My throat starts to clench up at hearing how much I hurt Greg. "I-I did all that?" I quietly ask.
"The doctors said I was lucky I didn't have any worse injuries. When the explosion threw me into the whiteboard, I was forced against the metal marker holder at the base of it. They said if I was thrown back with any more force, I might have fractured a vertebra."
Good fucking God. "I-If you feel like you should've let me fall down the stairs, then why did you save me?" I ask.
Greg gives a casual shrug. "I'm not really sure myself. I mean if you feel down the stairs, I could've maybe had a few days of peace where someone didn't call me a fag or shoved me into a locker or something like that. But I guess that stupid crush I had on you when I first saw you in freshman year reared its ugly little head."
My mouth drops open. "C-Crush...?"
"Yeah. When I first saw you walking down the hall in 9th grade. Even though you were probably 14, you looked like you were years older than that. I fell for you instantly. But when you started to treat me like something you stepped in, I pushed those stupid feelings aside and haven't felt anything for you ever since.
"But when I saw you walking toward the stairs and it looked like you weren't paying attention, my crush came back and I didn't want to see you or your handsome face or awesome body get hurt. So in a lapse of good judgment, I grabbed your backpack and pulled you back before I stuffed my crush back inside of me.
"And now, I can't see a single thing I like about you. All I see now is the biggest asshole I've ever met in my life who likes to make people he thinks are weak feel small and insignificant, people like me."
The look on Greg's face is getting darker and darker, leaving me unsure of what to do. "G-Greg, please, I..."
Without warning, I feel a bandaged fist slug me across the jaw, causing me to lose my footing and I fall back and land right on my butt. I look up at Greg, who's standing over with the same look of pure hatred I saw on his face when the explosion happened. "For the last fucking time," Greg growls. "It's Gregory. Get it, douchebag?"
The tone of his voice tells me not to press it, so I just nod. "W-What're you going to do now?" I shakily ask. "Aren't you...going to rat me out?"
I expect the immediate answer, but not the one I get. "No." I look up at him in shock. "I'm going to keep the fact that you put the air canister in Mrs. Haunch's desk a secret from everyone."
I'd normally let it go, but the stupid question leaves my mouth before I can stop it. "Why?"
Greg stands in silence for a few moments before taking in a deep breath. "As much as it would satisfy me to watch you burn down in flames because of this, I really don't have any proof that you were the one that set up the air canister. It would be my word against yours, and your words seem to have much more of an effect at this school.
"Plus, I'm not that cruel. I know you've been accepted at the University of Michigan and if I tell Principal Delany, he'll be forced to contact Michigan and tell them what you did. You'd lose your scholarship and would probably lose your acceptance as well. Like I said, I'm not that cruel.
"But you're going to have to live with the guilt that you almost killed someone for the rest of your life. You'll be up at nights thinking about it, you'll try to forget it, but it will always be scratching at the back of your mind, no matter how hard you try to forget it. And to me that's punishment enough.
"If you try to say so much as a fucking word to me the rest of the time we're at this school together, I won't hesitate to let everyone know what you did. Get it?" I nod a bit. "Good. Fuck you, Tanner White."
Greg, or Gregory (I honestly don't know what to call him anymore), turns and walks toward the school door and steps inside, leaving me on the concrete outside. I fall back and stare up at the sky, my heart racing at a pace I never knew it could get to before.
Time slowly goes by and the word of the explosion slowly fades from a conversation starter to just a small topic. The police and school are still continuing their investigation, but they've gotten almost nowhere with it. Everyone assumes that it will just go cold and, seeing as there hasn't been another explosion, everyone's pretty okay with that.
Things are much the same for me, just going through my classes and getting my work done. But while I may look and act the same on the outside, I'm a wreck inside. I keep worrying that one day the intercom will sound and Principal Delany will call me into his office, but that day doesn't ever come.
I've stayed true to my word and haven't spoken to Greg since that day. He healed pretty quickly, but I've noticed that he has a stern look on his face all the time. I haven't seen him in the courtyard crying once since the explosion. He just sits underneath that same tree with his notebooks, scribbling away.
Whenever I see him, I feel a small bit of pain in my chest. I'm not sure if it's me still feeling guilt over what happened, or...or even if I miss him just a bit. But there's no way I'll admit that. But I do find myself glancing at Greg whenever we're in class together, feeling that small twinge in my chest whenever I see him.
Before I know it, weeks go by and I'm on my school football field, throwing my graduation cap into the air, posing for pictures with my friends and family, and feeling relief that my high school life is over. I managed to graduate high school with honors and a 3.78 GPA and a few athletic awards, which I'm pretty damn proud of myself for.
As I'm walking to my family's car, I feel Mom glance over. "Hey, sweetie?" she says to me. "Who's that boy with the black hair over there?"
I look where she's looking and see Greg standing by himself, his red graduation cap and gown in his right hand, his cell phone in the either. "Um...that's Gregory Natick," I say. "He and I were in a few classes together through high school."
"Where are his parents?" asks Dad.
I glance around and see that I don't see a single person around Greg. "Maybe they're getting their car?" I guess.
"I've seen him standing there for a while now," says Ethan. "I think his parents would've gotten a car by now."
A lot of people have already left, so it really shouldn't take too long. "I'm sure they'll turn up in a minute or two," I say. "It looks like he's texting them."
"Do you want to invite him out to lunch with us?" Mom asks.
I glance over at Greg. "He and I never really talked, ran in different cliques I guess. Plus, if his parents are turning up in a few minutes, they'll probably want to spend time with him."
"That's probably true," Dad says. "Well, let's get to lunch. Our reservation is in about thirty minutes."
"Will there be dessert?" Allie asks, hopefully.
"Only if your brother wants it," Mom says.
Allie gazes up at me with her puppy dog look, the one that makes her eyes sparkle and that pierce right through your soul. But I've been immune to this look for years. "I don't know..." I say. "Depends what's in it for me."
"I won't give you your happy graduation kick in the shin," Allie says, her face perfectly serious.
"That's good enough for me," I say, smiling down at my younger sister.
My family and I continue to walk to our car. As we walk, I feel myself glance back at Greg, him in the exact same spot staring intently at his phone. I look back in front of me to make sure I don't trip, but when I glance back behind me again, Greg's gone. "Tanner, c'mon!" Keith calls. "You're going to get stuck in the way back of the car."
"Coming!" I call back.
I take one more look at the spot where Greg once stood and climb into the car with my family. That day was the last time I ever saw Greg.