Rotten Apples

Chapter 5 – The Four Leaf Clover

After eating inside of a Burger King fast food chain restaurant for the very first time of my life, my new friend Liam Prescott had taken the liberty to fill me in on many hidden and secret details regarding his old friendship with Jesse Bradford. He explained to me how they were not only friends and fellow sports team mates, but, best friends at that.

They had apparently known one another for 7 whole years. Their fathers knew one another since their families very first met on the field of one of their old junior soccer games when they were 8 years old. Not only did they become close, but, their parents did as well. I began to understand more about who Liam was as a person the more he told the sensitive story between Jesse and him. Liam was the son and grandson of two Ex-Marines. Liam’s father was a recently dispatched Sargent who served our country and was stationed in Iraq.

Apparently, this was the main reason, Jesse’s father took a liking to Liam and his own family. Jesse’s father was a wealthy man, but, took great pride in and had much respect for any and all Veterans of the United States. He honored Liam’s father and especially his grandfather who served and died in the World War.

As Liam and I walked to my house so that I could settle in for the day, I took notice of his high top boots, remembered his severely fierce fighting maneuvers and style when he defended me against Jesse, and it all began to piece itself together in my mind. Liam was a small version of the last two generations of males in his family. He was slowly, but, surely growing and transforming into one of them. He wore the similar style clothing, he had the same agile look and spirit one would expect from a Marine Trainee, he had that special energetic flame that burned inside of him of a beautiful and powerful young man who was passionate about serving his country and making his own kin proud. And, that was one of the most attractive qualities that I ever obtained from him, up to that point. He was ever so noble to my eyes and it forever changed my view of him. He dazzled me in foreign and admirable patriotic ways. He impressed me with the invisible medallion of justice that he so rightfully wore around his neck.

He began to fill me in more on how Jesse and him became close. Jesse, apparently, is attracted to people with status. He enjoys being with someone with power and selectively chooses who he feels will make himself look better and add to his ‘profile’; that’s all he ever cared about. That’s what HE fights for. Liam was an incredibly skilled and strong minded athlete who was respected by many at both our school and their old school. A vast majority students knew him and still do for the most part. So, Jesse took the liberty to choose him to be at his side. He chose him to be one of his driver’s of attention into his life. It was all beginning to finally make sense to me. It really did. They were, once, the four friends that the entire school body admired. It wasn’t just the three boys that I met on my first day of school who bullied me who were friends; it was once four.

However, according to my new friend, the older in age that Jesse got, the more he began to grow into something that Liam did not approve of. He began to quickly become more and more corrupted in his mind and in the ways that he treated people to levels that went beyond the borders of anything that Liam would ever do or tolerate. He became a bully. He began to hurt those who he felt could ever possibly mess with him or could lower his reputation in any way or would DARE to compete with him. He was unfair. Liam tolerated it for a short time, but, that was all going to come to an end just the year before I met him.

One day in 8th grade when he demanded Liam to help him beat up another kid with him, Sascha, & Micheal Smith. Liam defiantly turned on him. Instead of them all going against one kid, it was Liam going against Jesse in a massive fight on the baseball field of a nearby park in front of many kids from their old school after a field day. He beat Jesse, exactly, how he beat him in front of me when he saved me. He didn’t really hurt him physically, but, MANY kids saw the humiliation that Jesse experienced from loosing the fight as he just sat on the dusty floor, completely dirty, huffingg & puffing as he gave Liam the final death glare when the fight was over. According to Liam, it looked as if he wanted to KILL him. That entire scenario is what caused Jesse to ultimately HATE him with a burning passion ever since. But, at the same time, his friends feared him because they all knew the harsh reality. Despite their social status, they could never hope to ever even dream of winning a fight between them and Liam. He’s an untouchable threat to them in their eyes. He’s an ‘obstacle’ in Jesse’s POV. And, when Liam was done telling his story, I couldn’t help, but, fear that one day Jesse will finally take his revenge on him that he so deeply desired from the bottomless pit of his soul, since, the day that he had his very own best friend abandon & humiliate him in front of everyone. Liam is the itch that Jesse cannot scratch from the back of his own bare body; he’s the splinter in the back of his mind that bothers him whenever he looks at him. Liam is the bee that stings Jesse’s skin whenever they glare into each other’s eyes. He is the constant reminder that he is not invincible. And, I didn’t know how long it would be before the dormant volcano that once erupted between the four of them, would explode violently, once again.

After we arrived at my house, I looked up into Liam’s eyes and we grinned at each other. Since I was still not accustomed to having many friends my age, and lacked a few social cues, when Liam offered me a hand to shake, I just treated him like I would treat Shannon. I leaned in and gave him a slight hug. I pulled away and said “Well, thanks. Uh, Bah’”and waved a little wave to say goodbye. He sort of furrowed his brow like it was a little weird, but, I didn’t and couldn’t notice why he reacted that way. I didn’t realize what he was thinking and simply dismissed it. I didn’t know better. I was innocent.

I walked into my house and told my mother that I was out with a new friend, to which she was simply happy that I was meeting new kids my own age. Apparently, Shannon made a new little friend, as well. He was a slightly curly haired kid with a light brown mop on his head with a cheeky smile just like Shannon’s who was on a play date at my house with him when I walked in that day. Things were already moving forward for me and my little brother in similar ways and it felt really good to know that. We were both growing little by little in ways that we both didn’t expect or realize could happen. It was natural. It wasn’t forced. And, it was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one accustoming myself to the normal school life of everyday kids. Once again, my younger brother was a reminder to me that besides my parents, I wasn’t alone. I had friends in my own bloodline that my mind sometimes forgot about from dwelling on negativity. And, I was reminded of that when I saw them all there smiling at me as they sat around the dinner table waiting for me to eat with them with Shannon’s new friend sitting at the edge.

_______________

 

Two days after my encounter with Liam at Burger King, as I was sitting in my chair with my head propped up on my arms, my ears perked up at the presence of someone new that I had not seen in the school before. He walked in and I took notice of his physical appearance, immediately.

He had a dark brown mop of straight and shiny hair that was a little less than double the length of my own. He had this light mocha skin complexion that looked naturally sunkissed, without being an actual suntan. It was a natural deepened color that many women would kill to achieve on their own body without burning themselves or appearing red. But, it was something that you could only be born with. His eyes were an absolute bright emerald green which playfully played a mysterious game of hide and seek behind his swaying bangs of hair whenever he moved around. He wore slightly high dark blue shorts and a white button up dress shirt which had a few buttons undone on his chest to playfully reveal his skin tone and a gold necklace on top of his bare skin, in between his opened shirt buttons. It was a foreign look; it was a naturally ‘beautiful’ look.

Just like I did on my first day, the class went silent, he spoke to Ms. Silverman for a few moments as I saw them talking and nodding their heads in agreement with whatever the other one was saying. The difference was, while I was a basket and casket of nerves on my first day, he was smiling wider than anyone I could have ever possibly imagined as a kid on his first day of school could ever smile. He walked up to me and sat right next to the vacant desk to my right.

After a few moments I noticed he was looking at me. I turned my head and heard him speak with a grin. “Alloo.” He said to me giving a baby wave as he, then, got his things together on his desk to prepare himself for the day.

I responded to be polite. “Haa.” And waved at him, too. He didn’t ask me to repeat myself again. He simply grinned.

After a few moments, the teacher had him stand and introduce, himself, and as he did I couldn’t help the grin that snuck it’s way onto my very own lips. “Allo. I am Antonio. Well ehm’ actually I am Antonioo Donateeello Florrrrentini.” He really pronounced his name with accents on certain vowels more than the average person would in order to fully say it correctly and rolled his Rs. I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, but, I’d heard people like him speak in movies, before. It was a painful experience for me to try and figure it out until he finally said it. “But, you can call me Donny for short if itsss too long. Okay? It is verrry good to be, here, in Amerrica. I am from Iiiitaly. And, I come here with my family to go to school.” He said. I was at a full blown smile by that point. This kid….. this kid wasn’t from here. It was like a bolt of lightning struck my spine and it filled my entire body with a nervous excitement that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I don’t know why, but it was like the sun had shined ALL of its rays of light on me and filled the darkness of my life and whatever it was that was bothering me at the time.

A few minutes after he introduced himself more to the class, my teacher permitted him to sit in his seat once again. I don’t know exactly how it started. I don’t know how quickly it began. Call it fate. Call it destiny. But, the moment we looked at each other and began talking, that was it. We took off. My shyness didn’t exist with him. It was like we were both made from the same ‘substance’, somehow. It was like we both fully understood each other, how we felt, and how we thought about things. If human beings were all made and grew from the same tree, he and I were cut from the exact same soul branch. We were so similar in so many ways. He was the exact same height as me. He weighed roughly the same weight as me, give or take a few pounds. He had the sweetest and most genuine smile and giggle that I had ever seen on a boy our age before and it just made YOU smile, whether, you wanted to or not. He was such a breath of fresh air. He was so positive. He was so NICE to me. We talked and talked. We sat next to each other in EVERY 6 out of the 8 classes that I had with him, except my science class which forced him to sit in front of me.

Although the last two days I had those two girls sit with me, once more in addition to the first time that they ever did, on THIS day, I had Antonio sit with me as my OWN friend for lunch. I couldn’t explain it. But, it was such a natural and unforced connection that we shared. And, the best part of it all was that we were both not from here. I didn’t feel like I was the only one who was different, anymore. He talked with an extremely thick accent just like I did! But, we were from different places. He made me feel like I had someone who finally understood me. I couldn’t believe it!

“Ahhahaaa!” I heard him laugh with his immature sounding vocal chords at some hysterical prank that I told him about that my Nan pulled on my father back home. His laugh was soooo adorable. Awww.

“Wow.” I thought. He was just too sweet too believe was even real. He was like eating a rich chocolate brownie that was the absolute perfect flavor, texture, and level of sweetness. He just made you happy without even really trying.

I liked Liam more than any other boy that I had ever met before, but, Donny was the definition of cuteness, besides, my baby brother. “That issa so funny.” He said.

“Ah’ really like they way you talk. It’s soo cool. I ain’t never herrrd nobody talkin’ like that back in my old parts.” I said to him, smiling.

“Oh, yes. Sorry about this.” He said. “I am learning more and more english as I speak. I will fixx it better. Promise.” He said to me as he, then, took a bite of his hamburger. “I speak Italian mainly with my family at home, but, they now want me to practice english only with them to get it better.” He said.

I couldn’t believe what I was about to say for a change, instead of someone else saying it to me. “Ah’ don’t mind it at all. I mean Ah’ like it.” I said. I finally understood what Liam meant about him not caring about that way that I sounded back when I was so self conscious about my voice when we ate together. I understood it, finally. I understood why it wasn’t such a big deal and Antonio taught me that lesson. But I couldn’t understand that until I was on the OTHER side of the situation like I finally was, this time. I actually LIKED Donny’s way of talking. It made him unique. It was really nice sounding. It was cute. I liked him as a friend a lot.

In the corner of my eye, I saw a fully physically recovered Jesse Bradford eating with his friends as he stared at me putting a French fry into his mouth, then sipping his Coke, not once blinking or removing his gaze from my own eyes. But, looking at his Coke reminded me of MY diet coke that I was drinking when Liam told me the lies Jesse had been poisoning my mind with.

Jesse knew better, now, than to mess with me knowing I had some form of ‘protection’, at least for now. He couldn’t trick me, anymore as I stared at that Coke, remembering how Liam and others cared about me. He couldn’t rain on my parade. And, I thought that as I turned to see a grinning Donny look right at me as his chocolate bangs covered his green eyes from him, then, leaning foward to take another large bite of his hamburger.

However, Donny’s green eyes reminded me of something. I turned back to see Sascha sitting next to Jesse with Micheal Smith in front of him. Although, Sascha wasn’t looking at me or even his own friends for that matter. He was looking outside the window near their table not moving a single muscle.

I turned back to Donny and asked him if he’d like to ‘hang out’ after school with me, maybe; ‘hanging out’ being a term that Liam taught me. Not only did he agree, but, he asked me to show him around the town as it was all just as new to him as it was to me. And, it made me smile so wide, more than I ever had before in my entire life. I had Donny as my new best friend, whether, I realized it that day or not. I wasn’t alone, anymore. We could both explore this new world and town together, hand in hand.

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