" Come on Danny, go ask her," Jay urged me.
We were helping with volunteer work in the school auditorium along with Elissa, Ren, Brian, and some tenth-graders. It was around 7:30 in the morning, and I was pretty much the only one awake enough to lift the heavier boxes. I was more awake because I never really get tired unless I'm sick.
Anyways, Jay is my best friend. I've known him since first grade. He likes jazz and he plays the saxophone. But, if you know anything about him, you know that he's obsessed with anything Japanese. Ninjas, samurais, Japanese anime, Japanese comics, and dragons. Whatever you think of, he knows everything about it.
Brian is the school bully. He's probably one of the biggest jerks I know. You might be wondering what a bully would be volunteering for. Well, it was yesterday in history class.
Mr. Gardenell was talking about how giving an hour of your time is very important and stuff.
He said, " All of you, right now, think of a company that you could give an hour of your time, and what you'd do for them."
That's when Brian leaned over to one of his groupies and whispered, quite loudly, " I'll give an hour of my time at McDonald's eatin' burgers."
Mr. Gardenell gave him the eyebrow. You know, the one that your dad sometimes gives you when he's disappointed in you. Thenhe stepped over to him in the awkward silence, and completely unamused, " Tomorrow morning at 7:00, there will be some boxes I need moved in the auditorium to backstage. Be there." Then he stepped back and faced the entire class, " he'll need some help with that. Does anyone else volunteer?"
At first everyone just looked around at each other. Then a hand shot up into the air. I couldn't see who it belonged to across the room, but I would recognize that hand anywhere. It was Elissa's. I knew that because she was wearing the bracelet I gave her 3 years ago. She took it thinking it was just a " friendly thing." I actually gave it to tell her that I liked her, you know, the boyfriend-girlfriend way. I still haven't told heryet.
Anyways, after I realized that I might have had a chance there, I raised my hand too. I think Jay raised his hand just because I was raisingmy hand.
Oh, wait. I never said who Elissa was. Well, Elissa is a girl in my grade that I've had a crush on since she moved here in third grade. She is shortish, has long, straight, blonde hair, and beautiful blue eyes.
Ren, the girl I mentioned earlier,is Elissa's best friend. I've never seen them apart, well, unless they're sick or something.
So, I set down this mildly heavy box and replied to Jay," I can't just go up to her and ask her out, it would be like all random and stuff..." and then my voice kind of trailed off. I didn't really know what I was saying.
" Seriously? If you don't ask her out, I will for you."
" No, I have to wait for the right moment you know."
" Whatever," he said after a little bit of thinking," you can be alone for the rest of your life." He had an odd grin on his face.
" Okay..." I said suspicious of him.
* * *
It was at lunch when I figured out what he was plotting.
I was sitting at a table, by myself, waiting for Jay to get through the lunch line. Then, without warning, someone said behind me," So what is it that you wanted to tell me?"
It was so sudden I almost jumped. I spun around.
It was Elissa. Surprisingly, Ren wasn't with her.
" I don't know what you're talking about," I said.
Elissa looked at me like I was stupid or something," The note that was taped to my locker said to meet you at lunch, and that you had something to tell me."
I then realized what Jay was smirking about earlier. But I was thinking about how this could be one of my only chances I'll get to ask her out.
" Uh, yeah, the note..." I was stumbling over my words, and Elissa sat down next to me.
" Yes?" she asked me.
" Well, I wanted to ask you if you... uh...wanted to... go camping."
Wow, that even surprised me. That was not the direction I thought I was headed.
She said with an eyebrow raised,"Camping?"
I was thinking hard, I had an idea. Going camping could actually strengthen our relationship together.
"Yeah, camping. We could go tonight, over Thanksgiving break. It would be fun, wouldn't it?" I started gaining a grasp on what I was talking about.
"Camping," she repeated herself,"Yeah, I'll go camping with you. Are Ren and Jay coming?"
"Sure, we can make it a group thing."
Just then, Ren and Jay sat down at our table. Jay was smiling.
I let out a long sigh, a little longer than I planned, oddly.
There was an awkward pause, the only noise was the sound of chewing.
Jay broke the silence,"So, what were you talking about before we got here?"
We explained all about the trip, and then I asked him if he wanted to go with.
"Yeah, that would be awesome," he answered,"so where should we meet?"
"Let's all bring our stuff and meet in the mall parking lot. We could load up my van, and I could drive us," I said.
"Wow, you really got this figured out haven't you?" Elissa said, smiling.
"Well I-" I started, but Jay cut me off.
"So where should we camp?"
Ren almost jumped in reply,"I know! My older brother- well step-brother inherited a cabin that's only a bit north of the town. He said that I could use it whenever I want. I've never even seen it though."
"Great! That would be-" I started to say, but there was a sudden interruption behind me. I was knocked onto the floor by a sudden punch to my left ribcage.
"Ow... what the heck..." I looked up and saw Brian standing over me pulling his fist back.
"That's for narking on me," he said angrily.
I was confused, "What are you talking about?"
"I saw you talking to the princepal. You told him about me jacking the soda machine right outside the school so it gives me money."
"I was asking him where we were supposed to meet this morning for the volunteer thing."
"Whatever," he finished and stormed off.
I must have looked depressed or something because Elissa said, "It's okay Daniel. He only tries to hurt you or get you in trouble."
"Thanks," I told her.
There was another awkward pause.
When we finished eating we cleared our trays and split up to go to our lockers.
My locker is at the end of the 11th grade hallway. The very last locker. I'm not even next to anyone,because the person that would have been in that locker moved at the beginning of the year. I think the teachers are trying to imply something there.
I opened my locker to its normal contents: a couple of notebooks, folders, textbooks, pens, and pencils. On the back of my locker door was some pictures taped on, like pictures of me, my friends, and my family. I grabbed my sketchbook and headed off to art class.
I walked into the art room, and there was only a few people in there. I was kind of early.
Mr. Hansilin was at his desk, beating up a chunk of clay. He was in one of his moods again.
"What will we be doing today?" I asked carefully.
"Free draw today," he said coldly.
Free draw days in art were my favorite days. We each had sketchbooks and notebooks in which you could draw whatever you want to with them. Each time you fill one completely with drawings, he flips through it. If it's completely filled, he gives you an extra credit point. If it isn't he makes you finish it. I've already finished two this year and I'm a few pages into my third one.
I sat down in my seat, in the back next to the windows, and started drawing.
I love drawing. I just love love how you can put down your thoughts and emotions in pictures on paper.
I started off just drawing little creatures and stuff. Then, I thought of what to draw. It's kind of cheesy but I drew a heart with an arrow going through it. The picture that all lovestruck teens seem to end up drawing.
* * *
When that class was over I headed off to history, my last class. I sat down in my desk in Mr. Gardenell's room, and I started to think.
What could I do on the camping trip that would help my chances of asking her out? I thought to myself. What does Elissa like? How could I impress her?
My thoughts were stopped bymy name being said.
"Daniel?" Mr. Gardenell must have picked me to answer a question.
I tried to say something but all that came out was, "ugh...mfgh..."
"What?" he scolded.
"What was the question again?" I asked shyly.
"I know I can count on you to completely zone out of my teaching can't I?"
My face turned red as I slouched down in my chair.
"Can anyone else answer?" he looked around the class, "Yes, Elissa?"
"The Thirteen Colonies," she answered.
He continued on teaching, keeping a close eye on me
Later, when school finally ended, I started walking home. My house was only a few blocks away from school, so it doesn't take too long to get home. I liked walking home by myself, it gives me time to think.
When I rounded the last corner, I saw my house come into view. It was a fairly small house and I didn't really have a big family to share it with. It was just my dad, Penny, and myself.
I walked in to a messy room.
"Penny!" I called.
I heard her shriek from the living room.
"Don't kill me! Don't kill me!" she squeled as she ran away from the front door.
"Why would I kill-" I paused and quickly figured it out, "You were in my room, weren't you?"
I stepped over the clothes and toys on the ground, making it towards my room.
Oh great, I thought, what'd she break now?
I walked into my room, nothing unusual... well, yet at least. My room was the same as it had been for a long time, messy. Clothes all over the ground, crumpled up paper everywhere, and my bed all messed up.
I threw my backpack on my bed, and sat down at my desk. I looked down at an open sketchbook of mine, on the page was one of my drawings of a dragon. It was one that I was proud of, really detailed and colored precisely.
That was when I figured out what Penny did.
I looked a bit closer and I noticed tear marks of the page before. Actually multiple pages before were torn out.
Sighing, I figured I would just get her later. I had to pack for the trip.
When I had finished packing, I looked over my work. I had a suitcase for my clothes,a bag of food, and a different bag for other stuff I'm going to bring.
I checked my wristwatch, it was almost 5:00. We had decided earlier to meet at the mall at around 5:30.
Then I heard the front door shut and my dad's voice say, "I'm home!"
My dad doesn't really care where his kids are as long as they're safe and not doing anything bad. He trusts Penny, home alone, for about a half hour every day... and she's eight!
As I left my room I noticed there was less junk on the floor as there was before.
I walked through the hallway and into the kitchen to find my dad with his head in the refridgerator.
"Hey Dad," I said.
He startled at the sudden voice and bumped his head on the refridgerator door.
"Ow..." he muttered rubbing his head.
"Sorry, I just wanted to tell you something."
He stood up from his crouched position and asked, "Yes?"
"Well, me and a few friends decided to go on a camping trip this weekend. I just wanted to know if it was okay if I went."
He sighed and looked into my eyes. His eyes were a dark shade of blue and kind of mesmerizing.
I knew he was disappointed at this. It was Thanksgiving tomorrow and we haven't spent it as a family for the past two years, going on three.
Last year I spent Thanksgiving at Jay's playing video games until three in the morning.
Two years ago, I broke my arm trying out skateboarding, and I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital.
"Alright," he said after some thinking, "only if you make sure to be here over Christmas."
"Thanks," I stepped out of the kitchen awkwardly to put my bags in my van.
After I got my liscense, my dad got me a crappy old dark blue van for my sixteenth birthday. He got it used for an extremely low price. At least I got a car.
* * *
I pulled into the parking lot at Jumbo Mall with a sub sandwich that I just got. I planned on eating it later.
I got out of my van and leaned up against it. Observing the parking lot, I only saw five other cars and none of them were Jay's, Ren's, or Elissa's.
I stood there for about fifteen minutes continuously looking at my wristwatch and fidgeting with my sweatshirt zipper.
Then I realized something, it was payday. I quickly ran across the parking lot, into the mall, and towards the food court.
As I jogged past the foodcourt, I noticed one man sitting alone at a table. He was the only other person in the food court, and he looked as if he was watching me while I walked through. He wore a trench coat, a fedora, and aviator glasses so I couldn't see his face. I thought it was a bit odd that he was wearing all that stuff when it was fifty-eight degrees outside and seventy-two in the mall.
As the Hot Dog shop came into view, I could see Jenna. Jenna is just a fellow worker. She's in tenth grade, and I think she's emo.
She had her head slumped up on top of the counter. I walked up to her and asked, "Is Benny here?" Benny was the owner of the shop.
"He's in the back in a meeting," she said gloomily. As she finished that sentence the back door opened and Benny came out. He looked at me funny, "What're you doing here?"
"I'm here to get my paycheck," I said, kind of doubting myself.
"Oh," he stepped back a bit, fiddled with some papers, and pulled out an envelope. He walked over to me and handed me it.
"Thanks," I mumbled.
I left the mall noticing the unknown man still staring at me.
I came into the parking lot once again to find Jay and Ren waiting.
Instead of Jay's normal long brown hair, it was a dark red color.
"Dude, what's with your hair?" I called to him, walking to them.
"I got it dyed after school, like it?"
"Yeah, it's cool."
"Do either of you know where Elissa is?" Ren cut in, "It's getting late, and she's not normally late."
Jay and I shrugged.
We stood there in silence for another five more minutes, then Elissa's pink car pulled up in the parking lot.
"Sorry guys," she said, getting out of the car, "my parents got in a huge argument over whether I am old enough to go on a camping trip for a four day weekend without any adults. I'm sixteen, I should be able to make my own decisions!"
"Adults just don't... get it," I said trying to comfort her.
"Yeah, thanks," she said.
"Well, we're all here now, let's pack up the car and go," Jay said.
We loaded up the van with our stuff and there was just enough room for the four of us.
Ren and Elissa sat in the back seats while Jay and I sat in the front, and I was driving.
"So, Ren," I started, "where exactly is this cabin?"
"Oh yeah," she reached into her pocket and pulled out a GPS, "I have a point marked on here." She handed it to me.
I pressed the power button, and it turned on and said, in a robot girl voice, "Two hours and two minutes until destination arrival."
I started out of the parking lot, and we were off.
While we were driving the sun was to our left, just setting.
About a half an hour of driving, I checked on everyone. Jay was humming lightly and looking out the window. Both the girls were asleep.
After another hour I noticed we were out of gas.
"What?" Jay asked.
"Out of gas," as I said that, I looked out the window to see a sign that said, "Gas Station Next Exit."
Jay looked too and said, a bit loudly,"How lucky are we?"
That woke up Ren and Elissa.
"Are we there yet...?" mumbled Elissa.
"Nah, we still have quite a ways to go," I answered, "we're just gonna stop for gas."
I parked next to a pump, turned around to look at everyone and said, "Okay, this is our only time we're stopping, so if you need to do something, do it while we're here. Jay, do you think you could fiil it up the tank while I go get it paid for?"
They all looked at me, wide-eyed, like I'd just become extremely responsible or something.
"Well, sure, I guess I could," Jay said, still looking at me funny.
We all got out of the car awkwardly, Ren and Elissa took a bit of a stretch break, Jay filled up the gas, and I went in the gas station.
I walked into a small, almost deserted convenience store. The cashier and two customers were the only other people in there. The cashier was hiding her face behind a magazine, obviously not paying attention to her job.
After paying for the gas I had found myself thirsty. I walked over to the refridgerated compartments and pulled out a water bottle. As I picked it up I heard the door open to my left. I glanced over to see who it was, and I almost jumped.
It was the guy in the trench coat that I saw in the mall. Nobody else in the gas station seemed to have noticed him enter. He just slowly made his way over towards a rack of sunflower seeds.
Though to my surprise, I walked over to the cashier as naturally as possible. I handed her my water bottle for her to scan, glancing over my shoulder every few seconds.
"That'll be one dollar," she said.
I handed her a dollar bill and responded, "Thanks," after I started walking away with my water bottle.
As I was walking out, I looked one last time to see the man doing the same to me.
I walked out to see the moon out, it was full.
"Hey Daniel, mind if I drive the rest of the way?" Jay called across the parking lot to me.
When I was within a few yards from him I tossed him the car keys and said, "Knock yourself out."
The majority of the rest of the way was uneventful, except for when we were about fifteen minutes away.
I was sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window. Jay was driving on a dirt path with trees along the sides. Trees were almost everywhere, whipping past us at the speed we were driving.
Then I saw, in an instant, a pair of red glowing eyes appear in the woods, then disappear just as quickly. At the sight, I almost jumped out of my seat, breaking the silence.
Elissa saw me and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing... I just... thought I saw something," that seemed convincing enough for everyone to think that I'm not insane.
Or, not for Jay, "You sure? You jumped like you saw a ghost or something," he said without taking his eyes off the path.
"You still believe in ghosts?" Ren's voice came from the back jokingly.
"Yeah, and while I'm at it, I better make my list for Santa Claus," Jay replied sarcastically.
"Guys, stop it," Elissa said, half laughing, "Jay, are we there yet?"
Jay looked down at the GPS positioned in the cup holder and responded, "Yep, we're finally here."