Book 1 FRESHMAN YEAR
DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Chapter 4 MEETING LILY
The California sun was setting low along the horizon. The library was eerily quiet. All of the other students who were here earlier have finished their respective businesses and have already left for the weekend. The librarian was notoriously creepy. And I am sitting here all alone - waiting for a guy - feeling like a total fool, reading an article about the evolution of mankind and how it changed his sexual preferences. Actually, it would have been an interesting read - if only I wasn't too angry with Bruce.
The clock ticked. Where is he? He should've been here, like, twenty minutes ago. I took a deep breath and concentrated on my reading. Oh, well. Maybe someone totally sucked at practice and made the team do laps.
Face it, Danny. He's bailed on you. And you know that he'd rather do laps than be with you.
The clock teased. He's bailed on you, Danny. The voice inside my head kept nagging.
Shut up! Maybe something happened and he needed to be late. He'll be here soon. I retorted.
Whatever you say.
The clock pestered. Don't be a fool, Danny. Do you think that that guy - that Football jock - would want to be seen hanging out with a guy like YOU? Inside the Library? Get some sense, Danny! He's bailed on you. Get your tight butt off of that chair and let's get the hell out of here.
I tried calling his phone. Nothing.
Just a little more time. Please. He'll be here. He told me so. He'll be here.
He told you so? He TOLD you so? Since when have you ever actually believed in the words that he says?
Shut up, okay! You're just my conscience! When I say 'we wait', we wait! And there's nothing you can do to change that.
Okaaaaaaay. You've had your 'little more time', Danny. Now, are we leaving or not? Look at the time! It's getting late and your mom will get worried. Stand up already.
I glanced at the clock again.
Without my consent, my feet took me out of the library and into the cold December night.
I was furious. How could he? Does he have to be such a dickhead everytime? What the fuck! It's his project, too. If I ever see hair or hide of that ungrateful jock, I'll give him something he'll never forget. Maybe after that he'll do better than bail on me. Fuck him!
My phone was ringing as I was getting ready for bed. I stood up and took it out of my bag.
"Hello." I said with a sigh.
"Yeah." I wonder what happened. He only calls me when something really important happens.
"What's up? Is something wrong?" I asked anxiously.
"I should be the one asking that." he stated matter-of-factly.
I took a deep breath and smiled. The boy knows me too much - much more than I know myself. Well...not all, really. I thought.
"Bruce is being a dick." I stressed.
"Aaaaaaaand why is that?"
"WHY? You really have to ask me that? Keith, the guy doesn't text back! He doesn't answer his phone. He never showed up in class since Monday. And there's just this inconsequential and insignificant little thing called project which I have barely started and is sooooo far from finished!" I exclaimed heatedly. "I don't know what to do anymore!"
"You know, you sound just like you're his crazy jealous girlfriend or something." he laughed.
"HA-HA! Very funny, Keith. Come on, this is serious, man!"
"Okay. Okay. I'm sorry. Hmmm...I wonder what's wrong with him. His team mates told me that during practice last Friday afternoon, he received a phone call and hurriedly went home. They think it had something to do with an emergency or something. They haven't heard from him since."
I thought about this. Hmmm...What if something really happened? Should I be feeling bad for him? Should I just forget the long minutes that I have lingered in the library for his arrival? Should I be sympathetic if and when I see him?
Hmmm...IF something really did happen, then I hope he has a valid explanation for his misbehavior. He was the one who asked for my phone number, so he should have been more responsible. What's so fucking important that he can't even call or send a single text message?
"Danny?" I forgot that Keith was on the other line.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little stressed out, I think."
He sighed. "Well...Danny, there's something that I need to tell you."
"What is it, Keith?"
He laughed, "Forget it. Have a good night. See you at school tomorrow." And then he hung up.
What was he going to say? I laid down and thought of my best friend until everything went dark and I was sleeping.
The school registrar was reluctant upon giving me Bruce's home address. She says that the information is too confidential and it's her job to keep it that way. What the fuck! She acts as if she's in a freaking CIA movie or something. I ain't no serial killer!
But when I told her that my purpose was something personal and very important - which is really true - she finally gave in.
It says that Bruce and his mom lives in an apartment building somewhere in Woodbridge. "That's just a couple of miles from here." So, I got on a bus and headed out.
"Number 401. Here it is." I announced to myself.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
I waited. The place was neat, for an apartment. But it seemed like there was nobody home. I couldn't see any light coming from the doorway. And there seems to be no noise, whatsoever, coming from inside. Creepy. I suddenly felt like I was in a freaky, Sci-Fi, horror movie or something.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
A door finally opened. But it was not the one that I was knocking on. It was from its neighboring room - Room 402.
"Who are you looking for, boy?" an old man, probably in his sixties, asked.
"Oh. I'm looking for Bruce, sir. Bruce Adams?"
"Oh, young Bruce." He chimed. "He's probably in the hospital right now." he said.
"The Hospital?" I gasped. What's he doing in the hospital? He couldn't be sick, could he?
"Yes. His mother has been diagnosed last week. Poor woman."
Oh my God. I've been whining all week about Bruce for not showing up when his mother is sick and hospitalized.
"Why? What happened to her, sir?"
"Well, son...young Bruce tells me that she has Leukemia." he sighed, "Such a sad, sad fate for someone so caring and so sweet. You know, there was one time when -"
"Uhmm...Ahem...Excuse me, sir." I cut in before he starts an account about a certain this and about a certain that.
"Do you know what hospital she's in?" I asked.
"Oh, she would be in Sunrise Healthcare Center - by Walnut Avenue. You know the place?"
"Yes, I do. Thank you, sir." I answered. "Have a good night."
And then I left for another bus ride across town.
Nope. The attendant from the nurse's station told me that Lilybeth Adams would be in Room 613.
I moved onto the next door.
I wonder what I should say. I haven't told Bruce anything about this surprise visit. Duh! It's a surprise, Danny, of course he shouldn't know! But what if he beats the shit out of me? He wouldn't dare do that, would he? His mom will be in the room.
I hope Bruce won't get mad for this.
"Room 613. This is it. It's now or never, Danny." I mumbled.
An old woman, who was just passing by, looked at me like I was fucking crazy.
"Mind your own business, lady!" [What! Don't blame me! It's my fucking period!]
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
"Come in." a sweet voice from the other side of the door rang out. "You know, Brucey, you don't have to knock every single time you -" she stopped as soon as she saw me.
"Uhmm..." Hmmm...Brucey? HEHEHE...
"Who are you?" she demanded. And I suddenly had to ask myself, 'Do I really look like a freakin' serial killer?'
"Uhmm...Uh...Hi, ma'am. My name is Daniel. Bruce...uh...Bruce and I are classmates..." I stammered.
"Oh. Daniel. Hmmm...Daniel?" she said as if remembering something, "You wouldn't, by any chance, be Daniel Mockins, would you?" she asked timidly.
Huh? That was weird. How did she know my complete name? She even got my last name right. Did Bruce...? Hmmm...Never mind.
"Yes, ma'am. That would be me." I replied.
"Ooooh...So YOU'RE Daniel!" she then smiled at me and nodded repeatedly. "Finally." she mumbled, she thought I couldn't hear her. What was that all about? I suddenly felt self-conscious. "Well...Bruce isn't around yet. He said he had to go someplace else. Says it's really important."
She paused and stared at me. "You can wait for him. He said he won't be long." she smiled again. Now I know where Bruce got his smile. "Please, make yourself comfortable."
So, I sat down and placed my backpack beside me. I studied Bruce's mom. She looked like she was in her mid to late thirties - much like my mom, really - maybe younger. And despite her condition, she was simply stunning! Curly, blonde hair frames her doll-like features and highlights her pale complexion. Her eyes, like Bruce's, were of a deep ice blue. Come to think of it, she looks like the female version of Bruce - only thinner. HEHEHE...
"So, Daniel, you and Bruce are classmates, right?"
I just said that, didn't I?
"Yes, ma'am." I politely replied.
"Oh God, how rude of me! I'm Lilybeth Adams, by the way." she chuckled, "But please call me Lily."
"Oh. I sort of figured that part already. You know - your name." I smiled at her.
"So...what brings you here, Daniel?" she asked after a few unneccessary shufflings with my belongings.
"Oh, you see, Bruce and I were paired up to make a Research Paper for English. We should have been working on it, but he hasn't contacted me nor showed up in school since Monday."
"Oh..." she said sadly, "I see. But, how did you know where to find us?"
"Uhmm...I went to the school registrar...and...I asked for your home address." I said sheepishly, "I hoped you wouldn't mind."
"It's okay. There was no harm done. And...?"
"And so, I went to your apartment. But when I got there, no one was home. Luckily, your neighbor, the old man from 402 -"
"Mr. Simmons?" she inquired.
"Well...Yeah, Mr. Simmons." I continued, I didn't care who Mr. Simmons was, "He told me that you were diagnosed...and he said that you would be here...and so...here I am!"
"Hmmm...That's quite tiring, don't you think? I'm sorry for the trouble, Daniel."
"Oh, it's okay. At least I can see Bruce now and talk about our project."
"Well...thank you so much, Daniel."
"Oh, it's nothing, Mrs. Adams."
So, I stayed for a few more hours. Lily was great to chat with. I feel comfortable talking to her. We talked about anything that comes up to mind - we even had a conversation on Sports!
Seven o'clock passed. Bruce still wasn't around. I wonder where he'd gone.
"I would like to ask a question, Mrs. Adams."
"Please, Daniel, call me Lily." she cut in, "What is it?"
"Okay...but first, let me tell you that it doesn't make me feel right...I mean, me calling you Lily." I smiled nervously, "I just feel like I should call you Mrs. Adams, Mrs. Adams, if you wouldn't mind."
"Oh, very well." she resigned, "If you insist. It just makes me feel really old, you know? When someone calls me that." she laughed.
"Well, you're not, Mrs. Adams."
"That's so sweet of you. So...what was your question?"
"Okay..." I paused - trying to figure out how to ask her. "Well...you see...Bruce and I..." I coughed, "We don't really sort of...uhmm...we're not what you would call...buddies. We don't really linger on the same frequencies." I gauged for her reaction.
"So far, I haven't heard any questions, Daniel." she said.
"Uhmm...has he...has he always been...a bully?" I stuttered.
"Oh...so that's what this is all about." she said dejectedly.
"Uhmm...I'm sorry, Mrs. Adams. Please, just never mind that question. Just pretend that I never said that. That was out of -"
"No, no Daniel. It's okay." she sighed, "It's okay."
She took another deep breath.
"Well...honestly, Danny, I have been expecting this conversation for a while now." Really? "But I never expected to have it with one of Bruce's classmates. I always pictured that I would be talking to a school official or something..." She paused. "You see, Daniel, Bruce has had a tough childhood. We just moved here from Texas last year and, you may not believe this but, back there, HE was the one being bullied." she sat up in bed and looked out the dark window. "He may not speak of it, but I know. His 'friends'," she quoted, "Well...they talked to me and confided about what the school jerks do and say to my son. I would often hear him at night - crying. But everytime he wakes up, he would always smile at me. He would always make it his day's goal to make me happy. And he never failed at that - up until now." she turned to look at me, "He still manages to make me smile, Daniel. Bully or not - he still does."
My feelings were really conflicted by now. Bruce - my bully - was once also a subject to bullying? Who the fuck could've guessed!
"I can understand why he bullies other people, and I'm really sorry if he does. And I know that it's wrong but...but, I think that that's just his own way of protecting himself - you know, like his defense mechanism, if I must say."
We sat there in silence. Only the droning sound of Glee's cast singing some prehistoric Christmas song about a donkey carrying a pregnant woman to a city called Bethlehem could be heard. Or was it the donkey that was preggy and then was carried by a bitch named Bethlehem? Hmmm...doesn't matter.
"Does he bully you, Daniel?" Mrs. Adams asked me out of the blue.
"Tell me, Daniel."
I took a deep breath and said, "Yes. He did. He still does, actually. Ever since the first time we've met. I think he really hates me, Mrs. Adams. I just don't know why."
Lily got out of her bed and went over to the couch where I was seated. She took my hand.
"I'm so sorry, Daniel." she said, "I'm so sorry. I don't know about Bruce, but as far as I can see...there's nothing to hate about you. And let me tell you this, Daniel. You may not see it but, Bruce...my Bruce...he's a very good boy. He's a very good son."
I just nodded. I understood now. And I know why he feels like that. He was bullied. He was like me, too. And I NEED to understand that. Well, at least, for now.
But I can't just let Bruce be Bruce. I need to do something about it. I know that it'd be risky, and totally depressing for Mrs. Adam's part, but I need to do it.
"Mrs. Adams?" I tentatively asked.
"Yes, Daniel?" she chirped.
"I need to ask you a favor. It's really, really a bad idea and you would totally hate it, but I think that this could break through Bruce. We need to do this for him."
She contemplated on my offer, "What do you have in mind?"
"I need you to give me everything - and I mean every thing - you got on Bruce."
"Oh, you're planning a surprise for him?" she asked excitedly.
Oh, Jesus! "Uhmm...I'm thinking of something...more in line with...'Blackmail'."
"Oh." she said, "Oh."
Mrs. Adams was hesitant at first. She thinks it's a bit too personal. Too destructive. But I assured her that I would only use it for...well, for blackmail. I wouldn't really expose it to everyone. Promise!
Really great, right? Conniving with the mother to discipline the son.
But this is needed. It has to be done.
After a few minutes of sales talk, she gave in. But she let me promise that I wouldn't share it to any other else.
And I gave her my word.
Eight o'clock passed and there was still no Bruce to be seen.
"Daniel?" Mrs. Adams asked. She was now back in her bed - lying down and reading a Michael Scott book. She told me she was into fictional novels.
"Hmmm?" I looked up.
"Why don't you head home now. Your parents are probably worried about you." she said.
Hmmm...She's right. I haven't asked my mother's permission in the first place. She's probably waiting by the porch by now.
"Yeah. I guess I do have to leave." I got up and grabbed my backpack.
"Thank you for the visit, Daniel." she said thoughtfully, then added, "And I'm sorry about you and Bruce."
"It's okay, Mrs. Adams. I understand his situation now."
"Still. I'm sorry."
I went over to her bed and hugged her. I don't know why but I had the sudden urge to comfort her.
"It's okay, Mrs. Adams." I said over her shoulder, "Things'll be better. They should be."
"Thank you." she then kissed my cheek. "And, Danny?" I faced her at arm's length. "I'll hold you to your word, okay?"
"I promise, Mrs. Adams." I said, "I wouldn't want to hurt anyone intentionally. That's not me."
She smiled and patted my cheek. "Thank you."
"I'll see you soon, okay?" I said by the doorway.
"I'll be looking forward for that day." she smiled and I closed the door.
It was cold and dark as I walked along the sidewalk towards the nearest bus stop, when I heard someone yell.
"Give it to me, or I will beat the shit out of you, you fucking bastard!" It was a guy.
"Please, sir, this is all I've got. This is for my son!"
"You don't understand what I'm saying, do you? Do you!"
GRUNT. "Please, sir!" GRUNT. "Please..." the other guy pleaded. "This is for my son!" GRUNT.
I still couldn't see where they were.
"I!" PUNCH. "Don't give!" KICK. "A damn!" PUNCH. "About your fucking!" KICK. "Child!"
"HEY!" another guy shouted - he sounded younger.
I could tell that the other guy had stopped his torture. Then he called back.
"Who's there? Show yourself and don't be a fucking coward like this -"
But he never finished his speech. I heard the other guy run and I heard punches and kicks being landed. It was not long before I could hear the guy who beat the poor beggar grunt and scream for mercy.
"Now, it's you who's pleading for mercy!" he chuckled, "Give back the money or I'll fucking beat your pathetic body till all your bones break!" the guy commanded menacingly. I listened to the guy and thought that he sounded kind of familiar. But, they were far away from me. Maybe it's just my imagination. Oh, well.
"Yes, sir. Here you go, sir." I heard dimes rattle in a can.
"NOT TO ME, YOU IDIOT!" the guy growled.
"Oh, okay sir, here you go." I then heard him hand over the money that he took.
"NOW LEAVE!" the guy said, "And if I ever see you here again, I wouldn't hesitate to finish what I have started, and trust me, you wouldn't like that." he finished threateningly.
Gulp! He was scary. But he was a hero. A real hero. It's just sad that it was very dark. The guy's voice sounded really hot.
"Mom, I'm home!" I announced as soon as I got in.
"I'm in the kitchen, honey." she called. So, I went into the kitchen and stopped by the sink. "Where have you been?" she was smiling. That was odd. Why is she grinning at me? She should've been scolding me right now for going out without her permission.
"Mom, are you okay? You look like the freakin' Cheshire Cat right now. It's really creepy."
"What! Really, where have you been?" the grin was still pasted all over her face.
"I've been out to see a friend."
"He's been out to see his boyfriend...Out to see his boyfriend...Out to see his BOYFRIEND..."
"JESUS! You scared me!" my sister suddenly went into the kitchen and danced her way around me, singing stupidly. My mom was laughing.
"MOM!" I whined, "What boyfriend? I have no boyfriend!" I said defensively.
"La la la la boyfriend...La la la la boyfriend..." my sister continued.
"Mom, will you stop her, please!" I pleaded, but she just continued laughing. "Mom, this isn't funny! Stop her before the neighbors hear."
"You're so cute when you're blushing, do you know that?" she remarked while chuckling.
"What's this all about?" I asked, enraged.
"Don't yell at me!" she retorted.
"I am NOT yelling!" I yelled.
"Yes. You. ARE!" she sang.
What the hell is wrong with them? BOYFRIEND? I scoffed.
"Really, Mom, what happened?" I asked seriously as I was chewing on a celery. We were eating dinner.
"Well...Someone came over here and asked for you this afternoon." she informed.
Really? I haven't had visitors for a very long time. Well...except Keith.
"So?" I asked impassively.
"So, who was it? Why are you acting all weird...and what's with this boyfriend stuff?"
"He says his name was Bruuuuuce..." my sister teased.
Bruce? He came over to find me?
WHAT A FUCKING COINCIDENCE!
I left home hoping that I could talk to him and we ended our nights talking to each other's moms. I smiled at the irony.
"Mom, Dan's smiling! He's smiling!" she teased some more.
"Ahem...So, what happened? What did he say?" I asked, despite my sister's antics.
"Well...I let him in and we talked about stuff. You know, about school, girlfriends, the usual. He stayed till seven, by the way. Where were you? I think he was really cute. And such a charmer. And he also said that he needs to talk to you BADLY."
"Yep! That's what he said - BADLY." My sister butts in.
"He wants to talk to you about something PERSONAL, he says." my mom's Cheshire Cat smile was back.
"Ughh! Mom! Stop smiling, will you?" I covered my face with both of my hands. I was blushing, and I knew it. "I'm going to bed."
As I went up, I can still hear Stephanie's "Danny Has A Boyfriend" song. I just smiled.
I can't believe it! Bruce - a real charmer? I can hardly imagine.
And what more - Bruce - my boyfriend? My mom must be crazy. We can't even stand being in each other's presence - we're not even friends, for Christ's sake! How can we even be boyfriends? Absurd, right?
Bruce? My Boyfriend?
"I don't think so..." I scoffed and chuckled at the thought, "I don't think so."
*End of Chapter 4*