Tomorrow shouldn’t exist.

Any semblance of calmness I took from the previous night after Dustin and I talked went straight out the window and I was back deeply entrenched into my previous position. I had peeked outside the closet for the briefest of moments and during that time I kind of liked what I saw. But then during the night, I had horrible nightmares dealing with Dad’s story, but each time it was me and some other boy. I can’t even bring to voice some of the things that happened to me in my nightmares. They seemed to go on and on, unending. Thanks to the nightmares and knowing that Valentine’s Day is less than twenty-four hours away, I woke up in a rather foul mood. In the meantime, I have to deal with all the lovey-dovey crap from everyone. It’s sickening. It’s almost uncivilized, undignified, to act in such a manner.

I walked into the school and in the first five steps posters advertising that evil day assaulted my eyes with too much pink, red, white, and occasionally purple. I turned down the hallway and headed towards my locker and the only place I could look and not see any of those colors was the floor – even then I still saw some red or white reflected off the polished surface.

Muttering to myself, I made it to my locker and opened it – after tearing a Valentine’s Day poster off the door of it and throwing it on the floor. I swapped around my books before I shut my locker door. As soon as I did, Dexter came right up to me. “Hey man. How’d you sleep?”

“Meh.” I leaned back against the lockers knowing we had at least five minutes to just chill. “Sucks that my mom had to go out to some meeting in Las Vegas for the week. She left last night from the hospital. I was hoping to see her for more than the twenty minutes I did at dinner last night.” Dex nodded and wanly smiled at me. I think he knew that sometimes I missed my mom being around. Her hours were such that she hardly had time for her family and any time she did find, it usually got cut short. “Then I think she has to go out to Seattle for yet another conference right after that one.” I couldn’t stop the sigh that I let slip out. I knew Mom had to travel from time to time to keep up her medical knowledge on new and emerging techniques, medicine, and even diseases. Otherwise she’d be at a disadvantage when she would face them at the hospital or the office she practiced at mainly.

“Bummer,” Dexter said with sympathy. “How’s little bro doing?”

“He’s good – handling this a bit better than I am I think. Then again he has me to look up to.”

“Not much to consider.” A grin spread on Dex’s face.

“Jerk,” I said while punching his arm. But I laughed a bit.

Dexter went to say something, but Aimee Fowler wormed her way between us. She stared at me in a slightly unnerving manner. Her black hair flicked Dexter in the face, making him back up a step, trying to spit her hair from his mouth. She didn’t either notice or care. Her green eyes blinked a couple of times as she still stared at me. “Hey Chance. How was your night?”

“It was… okay.” The sophomore lady’s smile brightened a bit.

“What do you want Aimee?” Dexter said, not really hiding the annoyance in his voice. Before she could respond, someone else came up and placed a hand on her arm.

“I’m sorry, didn’t mean to have lost her like this,” the other sophomore said with a bit of a laugh. “C’mon Aimee… your time in the kiddie pool is over.”

“But Rick, I didn’t get to ask him…” As Rick pulled her away, her voice became lost in the din of the crowd.

“Who was that guy?” I asked as I still stared at the guy who had brown eyes, and watching his blond hair reflecting the fluorescent lights.

“The guy? Rick Dresden.” Dexter frowned a moment. “Huh. Is he going out with Aimee? I didn’t think he swung that way…”

“What?” I asked nervously.

He turned to me. “Didn’t you know? Rick’s gay – he came out near the beginning of the year.”

“R-Really?” I wasn’t aware of it and was surprised I didn’t overhear the gossip about it. Maybe there wasn’t any. But what really threw me off was Dexter’s non-reaction to Rick’s sexuality.

“Yeah. Don’t really know him but I did play t-ball with him back in the day. Wasn’t too bad back then if I remember right.” Dex paused as we both watched him and Aimee disappear around the corner. “Anyway,” he continued before I could ask him his opinion on Rick in more detail. “I know what we can do to distract you from family troubles. I might have persuaded Emily Winchester to go out with me this Saturday.” His eyebrows shot up. “And… she has a single friend that might want to go too.”

I told myself this morning before school that if things happened with a girl, then I’d do my absolute best to like what it was. But that didn’t mean I had to go on what I considered a pity date with Dexter. Just the thought that I was a charity case to him angered me once more. So I pushed off my locker with a small growl and just walked away, not answering the question or even when Dexter called out for me. For once I was a bit relieved to not have first period with him – he had to go the opposite way from me.

This is going to be a great day, I can tell.

 

 

Second period rolled around, and as soon as he walked into the room, my eyes were on Rick. I kind of forgot that I had this class with him, but then again I wasn’t actively seeking him either. He actually looked my way and offered up a nod before he continued to his seat. But as he sat down, another kid went up to him. The other boy whispered in Rick’s ear and Rick turned to him, a wide smile on his face. I caught some of the conversation. They were going to head over towards the unused bathroom during lunch so Rick could blow the kid. I didn’t hear if there was to be any reciprocation from the other boy, but it didn’t matter – Rick was about to have some sort of sex during school. I couldn’t help but be slightly appalled and even a bit amazed.

Other than that, second period was boring. I couldn’t stop thinking about Rick’s plans for lunch. Instead of a normal lunch he’d get an injection of protein – so I’ve heard – from another boy. Why would Rick want to do something like that? I wonder if that kid’s his boyfriend. And if so, they seemingly can’t wait to get home to get it on.

Lunch was a bit uneventful and during that time I did see Rick and that kid sneak off at the same time, but left from different exits of the cafeteria. I wonder what it would be like… sex. Would it be gross? Fun? I’d have to imagine it would be fun since everyone’s all up in arms about it. But the bigger question is… would it be okay to have sex with a boy? I mean, Rick’s a popular guy and yet he doesn’t seem to get hassled by the populous like I’ve heard about. So… would it really be okay?

I’m just not convinced.

During sixth period, I caught sight of Rick heading down the hall, but with a different boy in tow. I saw them pause near the doorway so I could see them and the two of them kissed before giggling and continuing along. Two different boys in the same day? Why would he do that? Doesn’t Rick want to, I don’t know… settle down or something? I get it that we’re teenagers and stuff, but still… it just doesn’t make sense to me. But the sight of them kissing did stir a bit of a reaction in me.

Again I didn’t focus on that class and almost missed hearing the bell ending the school day. Snapping out of my daze, I gathered my stuff slowly. Not in any big hurry, the classroom sat empty as I was the last one to leave it. I turned the corner, lost in thought still about how Rick could act like… such a slut. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned or something. Or maybe I’m–

I fell backwards to the floor, my books and laptop falling from my grip.

“Oh, I-I’m sorry about that!” The voice snapped my eyes up in a flash. From the floor, the figure with the super-bright blond hair and stoic gray eyes tentatively reached down to help me up, but then withdrew the hand and knelt down. He started to help me get my stuff in order. “I wasn’t p-paying attention to where I was going and…”

“No, it’s okay. I wasn’t thinking clearly and wasn’t watching where I was going,” I said, grabbing my laptop just before some lumbering ogre almost stepped on it. It only took a few seconds, but I had all my stuff together again. For a second as he handed me my books, our hands touched and I felt something. I couldn’t tell what it was but… I think I might have liked it. A lot. “Thanks, uh…”

“Oh, Elliot. E-Elliot Pearson.” I stared up a bit at his face and it seemed hard to figure him out, as if I stood before a wall with a face. But for just a moment, his eyes showed an emotion and it did very intensely. I saw pain so unfathomable it didn’t seem possible. But then it was gone, falling behind the mask.

“I’m Chance Adams. Nice to meet you, and sorry for almost running you down. But… I-I gotta jet. See you around?” Somehow, I saw his face harden even more and I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.

As I turned and walked away, I think I heard a quiet sigh. “Um… yeah. See you around Chance.” I listened to some unintelligible mutterings before they faded away.

“What was that all about?” Dex startled me and I almost lost all my books again. He came out of nowhere!

“Damn it, dude!” I shouted. “I almost dropped my shit again!”

“Who was that?” he asked, ignoring my shouting.

I readjusted my shoulder bag after I slipped my books inside it. “Oh, that’s Elliot. Don’t really know much about him or anything. Accidentally bumped into one another.” I turned around and saw him still at his locker for a second. He shot a glance my way, shut the locker door, headed the opposite way and vanished around the corner. There was something about that kid…

“Oh, yeah. I think I have a few classes with him. Quiet kid, that’s for sure.” I glanced at Dex and saw a slightly uncomfortable look. It faded when he turned to me. “Ready to get out of this hell hole?”

“Yeah. I think if I see another Valentine’s Day sign I’ll scream.”

Dexter laughed when I growled on the way out.

 

 

I tossed and turned during the night, only to wake up all grouchy and irritable again. Dustin knocked on my door and told me he was out of the bathroom and I thanked him. It did take considerable effort not to snap at him though. But I got my shower and met him downstairs at the table for a quick breakfast.

“Chance are you okay?” he asked me as he poured his cereal. I took the box from him and poured my own bowl. After he finished with the milk, I used it and then returned both items to their respective places. “I mean you look kinda… tired still.” I glanced at him and saw him sizing me up with a hint of concern mixed in. While I didn’t want him to be concerned, the thought was there.

“I didn’t sleep very good last night for some reason. That’s all.” I recalled a bit of one of the different dreams I had that kept me up. I did my best not to shudder again. “Did Dad already leave for the base?”

“Yeah, he said he’d be back around five tonight. Maybe even later than that. So… looks like you’re making dinner.” Dustin made a face at me before he laughed a bit.

“Guess so,” I said, not joining in on his humor – I’m a horrid cook since Mom and Dad tend, more often than not, to order out. “I’ll do my best not to poison us.” The rest of the meal lapsed into silence. We finished around the same time and I collected both bowls to rinse out. “Go finish getting ready. I want to leave in about ten minutes.” I don’t know why really, I thought. It was that day. The day that advertised and catered to all those couples out there, flaunting all those relationships into the faces of the single and lonely.

It was finally Valentine’s Day.

Dustin came down the stairs and handed me my stuff. “Here, I figured I’d save you some time.”

“Thanks Dusty, but you didn’t have to do that.” There are a few times where the kid gets under my skin, but most of the time he’s always being helpful to me. Makes me regret not being nicer towards him as of late.

“But I wanted to,” he said as he plopped down on the stairs and worked his feet into his sneakers. “I grabbed your bag and your laptop. You didn’t need anything else, right?”

“Nope, this is all I need, bro.” I put my shoes on and grabbed my coat. I set my stuff down by the door as I tossed my coat on. And before Dustin could get his on, I snatched him up in a hug. “I’m sorry if I act like an ass towards you at times. I don’t mean it. I’m just thinking about some things and sometimes it affects my mood.”

“It’s okay Chance,” Dustin said into my shoulder. He tightened the embrace a bit, nonverbally communicating how he felt about me. It helped to lighten my mood some. “I know from my friends’ siblings that high school sounds like it’s really tough, trying to do school stuff while trying to fit in.” I laughed a bit as I released him.

“It can be, that’s for sure. Enjoy the easier years while you can, bro. It only gets worse after that.” The two of us left the house and, once it was all locked up, headed towards the schools. I saw Dustin off to his school and, with a wave and a smile, he faded into the masses of younger kids. I continued on to the high school and sighed as I neared the ominous building. But as I grew closer, I saw the kid – Elliot – that I almost mowed down. He had a binder out, drawing something. A part of me wanted to know what it was, but the rest of me kept me walking straight past him. He didn’t look up when I waltzed past him and towards the main doors.

I saw Dex leaning against the lockers, waiting for me. “Guess how many?” he said with a grin.

“Seven for all I care,” I grumbled as I spun in my combination. It didn’t work. “Damn it.” I started over.

“I have three so far.” I could see his face without actually looking at it. He then seemed to stare at my locker door for a few moments. “Oh, you might have better luck with your combination if you were using it on your locker.”

“Aren’t I–” I stopped when I looked up and saw the number was about three up from mine. “What are you doing to me Pagano? Move.” I pushed him out of the way and stopped abruptly.

“Yeah… that’s why I blocked your locker from you. I just had to see the look on your face when you saw it. Up close and personal, you know?” I turned towards him. He grinned widely at me. My friend seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. “So, what do you think?”

I wasn’t enjoying this at all. “I think…. This has to be a joke, right?” I scoffed as I carefully extracted the rose from the slats on my locker door. It was a white rose, perfectly formed and free of thorns with the stem about six or so inches long. A couple of the upper leaves still remained even after I pulled the flower out. “Wh-Who would give me a rose?”

“Read the card – there should be one attached. Let’s see who gave it to you!” Dexter was way more excited about this than I was. I actually started to feel a little ill. I sighed as I glanced at the card, assuming this to be something my best friend might do at best to cheer me up or at worst to tease me.

Dearest Chance,

I cannot sit idly by a second longer and not want your beauty for my own. I stand but at a distance, wishing I could be closer. I know not how you feel about me, but for now I had to do this, to let you know that I find your straw-colored hair or your amazing hazel eyes so intoxicating that there are days it’s hard to be in the same school as you. And your penchant for kindness and your gentle spirit allows your inner beauty to always shine through. I am amazed that you have no one to call your own, but I can be that person for you. If only I could have that small chance.

I have purchased tickets to the spring dance for us, if you are willing to indulge me. I only have eyes for one person – you. Maybe we’ll run into each other again before the dance.

I flipped the card over, looking for the signature, but there was none. How am I supposed to know who wrote this?! There’s not even a single clue that I can see as to who it might be! I glanced at the note and immediately ruled out Dexter and a prank – unless he had someone else write this, there’s too much flowery writing for him. While he is a great guy, he isn’t about doing this level of romance. At least not from what I’ve seen.

“Who gave it to you?” Dex said as he snatched the card from my hand. I tried to snatch it back, but with him being at least five inches taller than me, he held it out of my reach. He handed it back when he finished reading it. “Really? A secret admirer? I’m a bit jealous of you C.”

“You… jealous of me?” I scoffed. “That’s a first.”

Dexter narrowed his eyes at me. “If that came from Fowler, I’m gonna drown that rose in a bucket of acid along with the card.” He rolled his eyes. “She’s gorgeous but such a bitch. Not worth it, man.”

“Whatever,” I said. Suddenly, the thought crossed my mind that this came from a… girl. I tried my best to be happy about it, but all in all, I started to feel fully nauseous. Dexter kept prattling on and on about whose attention I caught and kept pressing the double date thing with him and that girl he liked. The more I heard, the sicker I felt. Breakfast rumbled in my belly – not a good sign. “Hey, uh… I’ll see you later Dex, okay?” I tried to play it cool, not let on that I was a moment’s notice from spewing corn flakes all over him.

“Okay… gonna go see who the flowers from?” He lightly punched my arm and I did all I could to keep my stomach from misbehaving. “If I hear anything, I’ll let you know, okay?”

“O-Okay,” I said as he broke off from me. Once he was out of sight, I darted into the nearest bathroom and proceeded to upchuck. I got up and rinsed my mouth out a few times from the sink. Why am I feeling so sick at the thought the rose came from a girl? I should be running up and down the halls, doing cartwheels or something, right? I mean… shouldn’t I?

I emerged from the bathroom and saw my rose hanging out from my locker. There’s a thing in the school that says if one receives a flower, they’re to carry it with them for the day. I groaned as I pulled it back out. Luck was on my side and no one in first period questioned me about the flower.

“So, who’s the lucky lady?” It was Rick when I entered the classroom for second period and sat down, hoping I could get by without anyone seeing I had it. Rick came over and with a deft snap, broke most of the stem off my rose. He then somehow managed to pin it to my shirt using the bit of stem he left attached. “There you go. Now the ladies – except for the one who gave this to you – will keep you alone, eh?”

“Um, sure,” I said nervously as Rick held onto my upper arm.

“Hey, you work out?” He squeezed gently, testing out the firmness of my bicep.

“N-Not really. Dad gets on my case about it though. Wants to make sure me and my brother can defend ourselves if needed.”

“Smart man, I say. Hey… I know you probably got that flower from a girl and all, but I hope you don’t mind me saying that I find you rather cute.”

“Um… thanks.” I blushed heavily under Rick’s words. I noticed the feeling was different than thinking about a girl giving me the rose. While it was still slightly negative, I wasn’t completely put off by the attention.

“I was wondering if you’d be interested in some… fun later. Around lunchtime, perhaps?” He grinned widely and almost lewdly. I wasn’t against it but his idea of fun wasn’t completely in sync with mine.

I swallowed. “Um, no thanks. I-I got some work I need to do then for last period.”

Rick shrugged. “Okay, no sweat. Maybe another time then?” He walked off, not waiting for an answer and approached the boy that hit him up yesterday. I relaxed a little, but Rick eyed me a bit from across the room before he turned as the bell rang. His comments distracted me from even hearing the teacher. He thought I was cute? No one’s really ever said that about me before. Well, maybe Mom did and on occasion Dad did when I was younger. But now I had both Rick and some mysterious girl hitting on me.

The bell exacerbated my growing headache.

By the end of third period, I had seen Aimee a bit more than I usually do. I know her classes are practically on the other side of the school so… why had I seen her at least three times since school started today?

By lunch it was even worse. She found me and stood next to me in line. “I see you got my rose. How do you like it?” I turned to her and saw her batting her eyes at me. I nearly put my tray back on the pile. Nearly.

“You gave me the rose?” I asked almost incredulously.

“Of course I did, silly. Didn’t you see my name on the card?”

I gave her a weird look. “Um, I must’ve missed it. Do you remember what you wrote?”

For a second, and I wasn’t totally sure why, but she seemed trapped. It faded quickly. She toyed with the flower pinned to my shirt almost seductively – I think. “Did you like what I wrote? It took me ages to think of something to say. Then it came to me.” I paid for my food, pulling my body from her hand, and she paid really fast as well. “Come sit with me today?”

I shook my head. I needed to think. “I can’t today. I need to work on some homework. Maybe tomorrow.” Before she could protest I walked away from her. I really hoped it wasn’t from her, like Dex warned. She seemed way too artificial for me, even if I was into… into… I shook my head again and cleared my thoughts for a second. I plopped down by myself, since Dex was in the library doing something for a class, and started working on my program for computer class using my laptop while I scarfed. I plugged away, looking up occasionally. A few times I swear I saw a familiar halo of short, blond hair, but I thought I was seeing things. I paid it no mind and kept at it.

The bell rang and I went into my computer class. I sat down at my normal station and started typing in the code I had on my laptop – I couldn’t just transfer it which kind of irked me. But it didn’t take long for me to get it all typed in properly. I saved the code and just as I decided to compile and run it to do some debugging, the machine itself died on me. “Oh, great. I guess it’s really one of those days,” I grumbled to myself. Trying to turn it back on just in case there was a power surge that forced the machine off or something yielded no results. I raised my hand and got the teacher’s attention. “Mrs. Lee, my computer just decided to die on me.”

“Oh, well that’s unfortunate. Did you save your work to your student drive?”

“I just did before it decided to kick the bucket.”

She laughed. “Aren’t you lucky? Well, why don’t you move over… there for today? Hopefully we’ll get this machine all fixed up by tomorrow. If not, I’ll have to put you somewhere else until it’s replaced.”

“Okay, thanks Mrs. Lee.” I packed up my things and moved to the new computer and she went elsewhere to help another classmate. Once it was booted up, I logged into my student drive and accessed my program. It only took about ten minutes to iron out the bugs – at least the ones I could think of – so I saved it again to perform one last test. It went smoothly so I closed the compiler. Once I cleared to the desktop, I actually saw a Word document on the desktop named “Rose.” Curious, I opened the file and started to read, only to stop when I saw my name again.

This was what was on my rose this morning.

I carefully unfolded the note and held it up to the screen to verify. It was, word for word. Who would’ve used this computer? Normally, the computers in this room are only to be used for things related to the class like programming and web page design. But during free time near the end, if kids were finished with the classwork some students did use them for other purposes instead of having to hope for a free spot in the computer labs designed for homework or research use. So, that means that whoever was assigned to this spot… gave me my flower.

I needed to talk to Dexter.

Published December 1, 2012

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