So maybe I should have expected the weird looks that I got from the other guys and girls at the party. I mean, I’m just some stranger that walked into their private party out of a cornfield and waded my way through the fog to randomly say hi out of nowhere. I get it. But despite my shaky legs and sudden drop in body temperature… I didn’t want to let them see me being nervous.
Confidence. That’s the biggest part, right? So… yeah. I’m going to be confident.
The music was still playing in the background, but everyone that caught sight of me fell silent. Then, one boy kind of snarley’d up his upper lip and asked, “Ummm… do we know you, kid?”
“Oh.” I said, trying to keep my voice from trembling. “I don’t think so.”
Some other boy grinned, “Who invited the fetus?”
The main boy asked, “Yeah, what are you doing here, fetus?”
Ok… so this isn’t going too well so far. But I just smiled and said, “I came out here to party! Am I right? Heh… ” I looked around at the faces around me, but they didn’t seem to want to give me any support on the idea.
“Party? Hahaha, is this tiny twerp kidding us, or what?” The older boy said. “What are you, like TEN?”
I attempted to keep up a brave front, but I could feel my heart being broken in half while standing there in front of the others. There’s no stopping that emotional bee sting in the center of your heart when you get totally brushed off and dismissed for being a few years younger than the other people surrounding you. I’d imagine it’s the same treatment they’d give people for being a few years older than the people at the party. All I wanted to do was come out here and have some fun like everybody else. There’s no reason to insult me and make me feel bad for being born in the wrong year.
I saw a few smiles from the other guys and I started paying more attention to the deafening silence that my unwanted presence had brought to the party. Every insecurity that I had feared and tried to push aside, using ‘my brain playing games with me’ as an excuse, was coming to life. I’m not a BABY. I’m not a ‘fetus’. I just wanted to come out here and maybe have a good time just like everybody else. What’s wrong with being thirteen? These few boys didn’t even know me! They took one look at my face and my age and decided to insult me. Why? That’s so not fair.
I think one of the girls to the right of me must have seen the hurt in my expression, because she spoke up and said, “Lay off the kid, Jason. What’s wrong with you?”
Another girl agreed with her, and I was SO glad! Because… well… I hate to admit it, but I was already getting a lump in the back my throat. You don’t know what it’s like to have someone look at you and just instantly ‘dismiss’ you as though they’re so much better… just because I’m 13. It’s not like I’m a toddler.
But… I felt bad, because I could almost feel actual tears welling up in my eyes from the rejection. I would have been SO humiliated if I was forced to run away crying like some kind of a boy brat.
That’s when one of the other boys at the party spoke up and said, “Oh heyyyy… wait a minute… I know you. I know this kid!” I think I was just as surprised as everybody else to hear that. “Yeah! The little fucker says hello to me in the hallway all the time! Preston, right?”
I hope my gasp wasn’t heard by the others. I straightened up, lifted my head, shoulders back… this is it. Don’t screw this up! “Yeah! Preston Miles!” I said, feeling my heartbeat speeding up to a pace that made it a bit hard to breathe. Can they see my body trembling? Geez! I need to chill.
“Oh yeah! He talks to me too!” Said another boy from the background somewhere. “This is the home schooled kid! Remember? He got dropped off into classes not long ago. Six weeks maybe, give or take. Am I right?”
He remembers me! Oh wow! Yay! My book knowledge worked! “YEAH!!!” Oops… too enthusiastic! Pull it back a bit, Prez. “Yeah. Almost two months ago. Thought I’d try it out. No big deal.”
“You were home schooled?” Asked one of the prettiest girls at the whole party. Whoah… I had to put my hand over my heart and hold back an emergency swoon as I tried to answer her.
“Uh huh… ” I said, breathlessly.
“Well, what are you doing here, home schooled kid?” Jason seemed determined to discredit and get rid of me. Probably from some recently triggered alpha male need to be the center of attention at all times. But as I looked around at the rest of the students at the party, more and more people seemed to be totally cool with me showing up. They were totally on my side, and that gave me an adrenaline rush like you wouldn’t believe!
I wasn’t sure what to say to him, so I just said, “I wanna hang with you guys tonight.” I was scared, sure, but I smiled anyway. “That’s the whole point, right? To have some fun?”
Some other guy asked me, “How the fuck did you even get out here, little man?”
I simply said, “I ran.”
His eyes opened wide. “You WHAT? You fuckin’ ran here? Like… all the way from Valley Oaks?” I couldn’t tell if he was going to think that was pretty cool or really stupid. But after a brief pause and another sip from his red disposable cup, he turned to everyone else and said, “That’s pretty lit, you guys! Hehehe! He ran here all the way from school! Shit, I say we let him party!”
Ugh… there goes that damn emotional lump of boy tear mushiness welling up in my insides again. They want me to stay? They like me enough to want me to stay! The more I looked around, the more I heard signs of approval from the party around me. I nearly fainted from the feelings rushing through my body at that moment.
Maybe it’s no big deal to anybody else. Maybe they see this kind of acceptance as being normal and average. But to me? This was a whole new level of life to me! This was like… being granted access to the VIP section of the most exclusive club in town. I’ve never been more proud of myself. Omigod… I can’t believe this is really happening!
One of the girls smiled at me and said, “Did you really ‘run’ all the way here? That’s a long way.”
With a deep blush, I told her, “Well… most of the way. I had to stop once or twice to catch my breath, so… ”
“Once or twice? Wow… that’s still a lot of running.”
Trying to be cool, I said, “Well, maybe some parties are worth it.”
Another girl said, “Oh wow! Come on, you guys. He is utterly ADORABLE! I say Preston stays!” And other people agreed. They actually cheered for me, raising their cups and calling my name. Oh my sweetness, it WORKED! It really worked! Gah! What now??? Does this mean that I have new friends now? Was it really this easy?
Jason finally rolled his eyes and groaned, “Whatever. Just make sure he doesn’t rat us out next week when we go back to classes. And if his mommy and daddy show up to drag him back home… we don’t even know this pipsqueak!” I don’t think Jason was very ‘Team Preston’, but after getting some positive comments from some really cute girls… I was willing to take that as a small sip of hater-ade that I can easily deal with. I mean, can’t be friends with everybody, right? Just the SEXY people! Hehehe!
So that was it. I started partying with the other people there, and believe it or not, they actually talked to me. The more they talked, the more confident I got. And the more confident I got, the more they wanted to talk to me. I even made the girls LAUGH! A LOT! I wasn’t even trying to do it. It’s like they thought everything I said was cute and hilarious, and I could do no wrong in their eyes. Pretty soon, there were so many girls paying ME attention, that I think the other guys at the party started to get jealous. I’m sure of it.
“So what is being home schooled like? It must be a pretty sweet deal, right? Get to stay home all day, no bullshit teachers, no bullshit from other kids… ” One girl asked me. Wow, she was super beautiful too. I’m not really used to talking to pretty girls like this, but I’ll be damned if I let THEM know that!
“Ummm… yeah.” I said, but refusing to stop there. “Well, I mean… sometimes! Like, I never get to come out like this and have fun like I am tonight.”
“Awwww, omigod. Never?”
“It’s not a bad thing. Swearsies.” I grinned. “It’s like… I get to learn things at my own pace. I don’t have to hurry up and catch up to the rest of the class, and I don’t have to slow down and wait for the rest of the class to catch up to me. I can just be me instead of being treated like a lone member of a herd of cattle, you know?” Then, not to really brag, I said, “I’m actually a graduated Sophomore already if I had to go by my own test scores.”
She smiled. “Well, look at you, Poindexter! Way to be better than average!” She likes me. I can feel it in my heart. I could hardly sit still. She’s got to be at least 16 years old. Can I make out with her? Oh man, she’s so pretty! I spit out my gum. I didn’t want my breath to get stale.
“Well… all boys can’t be lumped into one category. I think it would be cool if we were all allowed the chance to be special. You know… when we’re ready to be. Instead of having to wait for the rest of the class all the time.
Just then, as my blush was reaching its full blossom, I heard some more rustling in the cornfield behind us. It was far enough away where I didn’t feel any need to worry about it or anything. I turned to look over my shoulder, and I think I saw some of the stalks swaying and shaking in a couple of different places at once. It almost looked like half the cornfield was coming alive. Were there COWS out there or something? Do cows walk through cornfields? I don’t know… I’m not a farmer. I guess cows can walk wherever they dang well please.
I stared closer at what was going on out there, and then I saw an older boy and what I assumed was his girlfriend step out from the field and the fog. He had two cases of beer, one in each hand, and everybody cheered once they saw his face. He had two handfuls of alcohol and a backpack that probably had more in it. He shouted, “This must be the place for all the COOL people! I know, because I feel right at home! Ooh yeah!” Everybody was so happy to see him… um… whoever he was. But that was a totally cool entrance! I should have thought of that! Like, I don’t know what it was tht made it so special… it was just cool. It worked. I’m going to have to remember that one.
Everybody was giving him high fives and hugs and stuff, and he pulled out all of these bottles and put them on the table next to us. The other kids flocked over to the table immediately, and this boy came over to bring the pretty girl that was talking to me a little bottle of ice cold fruity alcohol stuff that I had never seen before. Then again, I’ve never seen much of any alchy sodas before, so it’s not like I should expect to recognize ’em when I see ’em.
The girl said, “What took you so long, Brian? I was starting to think you weren’t gonna show up.”
“It’s the COPS, man! They’re all over the place. Like an annoying swarm of bees! Plus a lot of places are closing up early tonight. It’s hard enough trying to grab some devil liquid without all this ‘extra’ going on. Fake ID or not.” He said.
She’s like, “Omigod, we saw sirens and lights too when we were trying to get here. What is that about?”
“Fuck if I know. There are emergency broadcasts on almost every channel. It’s crazy! It’s like some horror movie shit is going on. Everybody’s all riled up over nothing.”
“They put the broadcasts on TV?” The girl asked. “I thought that was just a joke or something.”
“It probably is. It’s bullshit. I think we’d know if a zombie apocalypse just broke out all of a sudden!”
I said, “A zombie apocalypse? That’s what they said it was?”
“Not in those exact words, but they’re making all these claims that there’s a virus going around and warning people to stay inside… blah blah blah… it’s freaky, man.” It was at that moment that the boy stepped closer and took a really good look at me, like, “Whoah. Dude… you are like, really really tiny. Are you sure you’re even supposed to be out here.”
Defiant, I said, “I came out here to jam just like you did.”
He smiled and put his hands up. “Ok, ok, little guy! You won’t get any friction from me. You just caught me off guard.” Then he grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Let’s get you something sinful to drink, bro.”
Forcing my way past an uncomfortable pause, I asked, “Really? You mean, like… alcohol?”
He grinned and said, “It’s not a party until you get your lips wet!” Then he narrowed his eyes and said, “You’re not a COP, are ya?” I seriously shook my head with my eyes wide. “Hahaha! I’m just yanking your chain, bro! Come on! Let’s get you thoroughly initiated, ‘Pint Size’!”
I wasn’t quite sure whether or not I was ready to drown myself in that stuff tonight, but… I mean, if I’m going to get the whole party experience, I might as well go all the way. Right? This is the life experience that I’ve been looking for all along, right? So when Brian held out his hand, I took it and let him abruptly yank me up to my feet. He started pulling me towards the drink table, but… remembering my manners… I told the beauty that I was talking to, “Ummm… I think I’m going to drink alcohol now. Do you… um… want me to bring you something back, or… ?”
“Awwwwwwww, you’re so SWEET! I could just eat you up!” She said, making me squirm even more than I was initially. “You go get yourself taken care of, Preston Miles, and then come back over here so you can sit right next to me, ok? I don’t need anything. I don’t know if I’d trust myself around a cutie like you if I drank too much.” Was she was kidding? Ummmm, I think she was kiddin’ around, but it gave me a mega rush anyways. I don’t think my body can tell the difference.
I was barely able to give her a super awkward wink before I was pulled away from her. I need to get back to that spot soon! That was like… my way into something sexy! I’m sure of it!
Brian took me to the drink table and waved his hand out to show me everything that was at my disposal from this big alcoholic buffet. “Pick your poison, little dude! What do you want?”
Trying to look knowledgeable with this sort of thing, I stared at the bottles and said, “Whatever is cool. It’s all the same right?” Even though I was totally confused by what I was looking at.
“Not at all. You’ve got to know your flavors, bro.” Then he asked, “Oh wait… you’ve never had a drink before, have you? Aw shit, dude, I’m sorry… ”
Trying not to feel like too much of a novice, I said, “PSH! What? Of course I have! I usually just… I’m used to the expensive stuff. Like… ummm… like, I usually just get all wasted off of the yellow stuff over there.”
“Wasted?” Jason smirked.
“Totally thrown, dude!”
Brian gave me a weird look, and Jason was like, “That’s margarita mix, doofus. There’s NO alcohol in that.”
Ugh, why does he have to be such a jerk? “Oh… well yeah… it’s not good if it doesn’t have the liquor in it. I mean… am I right? Heh… ” They both gave me strange looks, and I said, “I’ll just take the… ummm… do you just have beer?”
Brian got a plastic red cup and filled it to the top. It was really foamy and stuff, but they looked like that were waiting for me to take a drink. Ok… so no matter WHAT it tastes like, I’m NOT gonna make a ewwwy face! Just have to force my face muscles to go limp. That’s it. Now… lift the cup up, and take a decent sip.
YUCK!!! FACE, Preston! Don’t make a face! I almost spit it out. My throat didn’t even want to swallow it at first. I squinted my eyes shut and commanded my tongue to get out of the way and let the liquid pass. Oh gosh… it’s like someone added a can of Sprite to a moldy bucket of urine! What would possess anybody to drink this stuff? I’d rather stay sober.
They were still looking at me, and with my mouth still recovering from this sickening pucker feeling, I wrinkled up my eyebrows and gave them a thumbs up. “Thatta boy!” Brian said, patting me on the back. I took another sip just to let them know I wasn’t just faking it, then I said thank you and walked back over to where the girls were. I’m pouring this out the second nobody’s looking. Or at least pretend to knock it over or something. Lesson learned.
I actually started to have fun once I sat down and started talking more to people. As tense as I was about fitting in, once I got some momentum going… I didn’t have any problems at all. The books said that socializing isn’t just about talking, but about listening. That way, you can relate with the stuff you talk about. And ask questions! I remembered to ask questions. This whole thing was so COOL! I was talking and saying things that I didn’t even realize I was saying. And the girls laughed! Making cute girls laugh is like… the most magical thing in the world. Every time I said something funny and they laughed, I’d get the most humiliating blush on my face. I couldn’t help it. They thought it was cute though, so… maybe I can use that kind of thing to my advantage.
The bad thing is… the other boys at the party started looking over at our table and wondering why all the girls at the party were giving ME their undivided attention. I don’t think they liked that very much.
Especially Jason. I think the girl I was talking to the most, Deanna, was his girlfriend or something. Or at least somebody that he wanted to talk to tonight. He kept looking over at the table, and practically snarling at me from a distance.
Finally, he starts walking over to us and I started cringing immediately. “Deanna, what are you doing? Why don’t you come over here and have a few drinks with the rest of us for a while?” He said.
“Why?” She asked.
“I thought you wanted to have a good time tonight, babe.”
“I am having a good time. I’m talking to Preston.” She said. No no no… leave me out of this!
My adrenaline was pumping so hard that I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. Then Jason turned up his nose at me and grumbled, “Are you really going to WASTE this whole night on this pipsqueak?”
“God, Jason! Don’t be mean!” Deanna said.
Another girl said, “Leave him alone. He’s not bugging anybody. Don’t be an asshole.”
Jason said, “He IS bugging somebody, he’s bugging ME, and he’s fucking up the whole vibe of this party!”
I don’t know if it was some kind of weird itch being triggered in my male pride, or if it was a reaction to the hurtful comments and treatment, but I suddenly sat up straight and said, “HEY!!!” It probably didn’t help that my voice squeaked when I said. Stupid puberty. I say ONE tough word to another boy, and it decides to squeak. Stupid.
Jason said, “He doesn’t even belong here!” Then he looks directly at me and says, “You’re out of place, kid!”
Deanna said, “Knock it off!”
“Are you kidding me? You’d really rather spend the whole night talking to a NINE YEAR OLD???”
I heard myself yell, “I’m THIRTEEN!” But I’m not sure where the confidence came from.
He sneered, “Where are your parents?”
“Where are YOUR parents???” I shouted, angrily! I’m sick of him being a weeny! He’s not even that much older than me. And not HALF as smart! Who is HE to treat me like a baby?
Deanna stuck up for me. Saying, “What’s your problem? Are you pissed because we can actually have an intelligent conversation with somebody instead of fighting off your lame attempts to get us drunk and give you a handjob in the cornfield?”
Wait… girls DO that? They touch your junk and do… you know… that ‘activity’ for you? Is it like… ? Wait so… oops, sorry. Lost my concentration there for a second.
“It would be better than hearing about this kid’s adventures with his teddy bear all night. I mean, c’mon, Deanna! LOOK at him! His BALLS haven’t even dropped yet!”
Now wanting to irritate Jason even more, I turned to Deanna with a dreamy look and a smile, and I said, “Don’t worry, baby girl. My balls dropped months ago… ” Which caused her to laugh out loud.
Other girls started laughing too, and a few of the boys too. Embarrassed, Jason got really really ANGRY! “Alright, dipshit! It’s time you went to go find a fucking sandbox to play in!” He roughly grabbed my by the arm with his big ol’ monster hands and yanked me up from the table.
“Owwwww!!!” I cried out, and Deanna got up and pushed him off of me.
“Don’t put your hands on him! What’s the matter with you???”
“FUCK that kid!” He yelled.
“FUCK YOU TOO!!!” I think… ummm… ok, so I think my adrenaline was a little out of control at that point. I gasped out loud, putting my hand over my mouth in shock after what I just screamed at him. Oh man, I swear I could see the blood boiling in his veins now. He pushed Deanna out of the way and looked like he was going to hurt me. I just… I REACTED, alright?
When he stepped to me, I super flinched, and I reached for my cup… which I had barely taken more than three sips out of… and I tossed the whole thing in his FACE! It was, like… a knee jerk reaction or something. I gasped a second time, this time putting both hands over my mouth as my eyes sprung wide open and I stood in front of this towering giant before me.
Oh shit. Oh… oh SHIT! He was soooo wet! From head to toe, hair to his sneakers. You would never think that little red cup held so much liquid. The whole party went silent for a second. Frozen. They all seemed just as shocked as I was. The utter rage that built up in Jason’s nearly took my breath away, and I tried to find the courage to say I was sorry and that I didn’t mean it.
That’s when he said, “You are SO dead!” He reached our with both hands to grab me by the shirt, even with other people telling him to leave me alone, and I knew that things were about to get dangerous.
I immediately hopped backwards, my butt landing on the table, and I put my feet on the seat in front of me to push off and sommersault backwards to get away from him! I rolled until I was on the other side of the table. Jason went right, and I went left. Then Jason went left, and I went right. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it!” I whimpered.
“I’m gonna choke the living SHIT out you, kid!!!” He screamed, still trying to get around that table so he get his murderous hands on me!
I zigged and I zagged, and then he stepped up on the seat and the table to jump over and get me! “Sorry, ladies!” I squeaked as I suddenly wiggled my way between them to crawl up under the table and evade getting my butt kicked. I came out on the other side, and got some distance away from him.
“What are you guys doing? GRAB HIM!!!” Jason shouted to a few of his friends. Great, now I had FOUR boys chasing me! They tried to grab me by the arms, by the shoulders, by the legs… but if it’s one thing that I know how to do… it’s RUN! By the time I finished changing direction, spinning in circles, and squirming between their legs… they were doing more damage to each other than they were to me. “Fucking… CATCH that little shit!”
“We’re TRYING!!!” Another boy shouted just before I caused him and his friends’ heads to collide hard enough to knock them both down. They both hollered out in pain and laid on the ground, holding their faces.
“Oh no! I’m sorry!” I said.
But Jason was already coming after me again. “Come here! Little fucker! ARRRGHHH!!!”
Running away, I shouted out to Deanna, “Look me up on Facebook!!!” And I hightailed it towards the farmhouse at top speed! Jason chased me all the way to the front porch, and I knew that he wasn’t going to stop until he hurt me bad. I was quickly running out of places to dash off to. I know that he was getting super tired… but so was I. I couldn’t run forever.
“I said I was SORRY! Ok? What’d I do???” I said.
“When I catch you, you’re going to FEEL it! Get over here!”
“NO! Lemmee alone! Bully! This is bullying! I’ve seen it on TV!”
“GET OVER HERE!!!”
He lunged forward and grabbed me by the hair! It really hurt in a major way, but before he could get a good grip on me and yank a patch right out at the roots, I stomped on his foot but GOOD!!! He screamed in pain and let me go. I gave him another kick in the shin too, just ’cause I was mad at him for pulling my hair! Then I found a tiny little space under the front porch that I could crawl into, so I ducked down and got on my hands and knees to scamper up under the steps. Jason tried to follow me in, but his big broad shoulders wouldn’t let him squeeze into the same space without getting stuck. His angry footsteps were kicking up dust as he moved back and forth, trying to get under that porch. A few times he dropped down and tried to reach in and snatch a piece of me again, but I was much too quick for him. He cursed at me a whole bunch, but he wasn’t going to trick ME into getting a beating! No way!
That’s when I found a tiny little basement window up against the old house. It was just big enough for me to wiggle through. Ummm… at least, I HOPE it is! So I crawled and crawled and I pushed on the window. No lock! Oh wow, I’m so glad there was no lock on that window! That was ‘convenient’, huh? Whatever. If it keeps me away from Jason’s snarling and hissing and cursing, then so be it.
It was a tight fit, but I managed to worm my way inside the house just as Jason was trying to see if any of his friends would be small enough to climb in after me. I doubt they were though. Good!
I had to drop down a bit to the floor, and hurt my elbow, but at least I was out of harms way. I held my arm and got up to my feet to close the window back and lock it. I put my hand over my heart as I tried to catch my breath. God, I had gotten so DIRTY running and rolling around in the stupid farm dirt! And I left my backpack out by the table! I ruined everything. No… actually Jason ruined everything! And it’s not fair! So not fair!
I’ve got to find a way to get out of here and just… I don’t know… get out of here without Jason and his goons seeing me. And I’d better do it before they figure out a way into this house. If that happens, they’ll come down into this basement and get me! I need an escape route! I need to find a window or a secret back door, or a… or like a…
My eyes looked across the basement, and I found myself losing my train of thought as I noticed something sitting at the bottom of the steps. I walked around a shelf or two, and a dusty old barbecue grill, to see if I could get a better look at it.
It was a big suitcase. Right there at the foot of the staircase as if it had just been tossed down there for no reason. The thing is… it was packed. It had come undone and there were clothes and shoes and a razor and a toothbrush…
That’s weird. I thought Old Man Simpson was going on vacation this weekend? Did he leave all his stuff here? Why the heck would he do that?
I heard a noise upstairs in the house somewhere.
“Hello?” I asked.
Great… more trouble.