A Heart of Ruby Red

A Heart of Ruby Red

Status: In Progress

Genre: Young Adult

Houses:

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Young Adult

Houses:

Summary

Rick, a young man with a severe case of social anxiety, lives a boring and miserable existence, until his world changes when he meets a strange girl.
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Summary

Rick, a young man with a severe case of social anxiety, lives a boring and miserable existence, until his world changes when he meets a strange girl.

Chapter1 (v.1) - An Average Day

Author Chapter Note

A long chapter, but I hope you enjoy it regardless.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 23, 2017

Reads: 50

Comments: 2

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 23, 2017

A A A

A A A

Any main protagonist in a sappy romance would tell you that the sun rising on the horizon is a beautiful spectacle: a majestic moment that should be cherished in your memory for as long as you live. The sunrise for me, however, had always simply been a reminder of yet another restless night with very little sleep. Today was no different- well, not entirely. I often wake up an hour and a half before my alarm goes off: this time it was only an hour. “Damn it,” I grunted. With a sigh, I pushed the blanket off and rolled out of bed.

 

Today is August 29: the dreaded first day of school, or as I've come to call it, Hell. Not because of my grades, mind you; my marks are often above average. No, what makes school a complete and utter nightmare for me is the social aspect. I've lost track of all the times I've humiliated myself in front of other people, be it group projects in class, answering a question, even something as simple as initiating conversation with a stranger. For as long as I've known, I've had problems communicating with others: I don't know what causes it, but every single time I'm forced to interact with my peers, my heart races, I start sweating, and I stammer, which often ends in me turning away in embarrassment. A very small part of me hoped that maybe, just maybe, this year would be different, but I wasn't about to set myself up for disappointment.

 

Still blinking the sleep from my eyes, I made my way down the hall to the bathroom, took a fast shower, threw on some shorts and a t-shirt and made my way downstairs to the kitchen for some breakfast. As I walked through the living room, I was unsurprised as I looked through the living room window at the empty driveway. Most of the time, I was alone at home: my father passed away before I was born, and my mother worked as a lawyer at a small law firm. Annoyed at finding myself alone yet again, I continued across the living room to the kitchen. Using nimble muscle memory, I swiftly prepared myself some cereal and took the bowl over to the living room, a spacious room attached to the kitchen. With my mother being gone most of the time, the room was largely under-decorated, save for a few photos on the fireplace mantle, and a couple paintings on the wall. With nothing better to do for the better part of an hour, I ate my cereal and played some Dark Souls until I inevitably had to drag myself to school.

 

Glancing at my watch, I noted the time: 7:15 AM. Even though there was still 45 minutes before I needed to be at school, I could already feel my anxiety running rampant. With a swift motion, I turned off the TV and pushed myself off the sofa. As I started up the wooden stairs to get prepared for school, a droning sound came from my cell phone. Drawing it from my pocket, I was surprised to find my best friend, Ben, calling me, and I hastily obliged. Immediately, I regretted it.

 

“Hey Ben,” I lazily answered.

 

“What's with the tone? Did you seriously just wake up when there's only half an hour until school starts?”

 

“Actually, for your information, Dad, I've been up since five o'clock. If anything, I've probably been awake longer than you have.” The first day hadn't even started, and Ben was already on my case.

 

“Well, I can't argue with that. You almost ready?”

 

“Yeah, I'm just on my way upstairs to get dressed. What's the deal, though? Have I ever been late to school before?”

 

“Well, no, but I just wanted to make sure your first day goes off without a hitch, you know?”

 

“I get it, I just... I'll be fine. Don't worry about me.”

 

“Alright man, see you at school then.” After a swift farewell, I hung up the phone.

 

Slightly annoyed, I continued up the stairs, plodded down the hall, and back into my room. I glanced longingly around the room: namely at the monitor on my large desk, and all the game consoles plugged into it. The games were calling to me. It was very tempting to shirk my responsibilities and just stay home, but somehow I knew that a certain someone wouldn't let me hear the end of it (and I'm not talking about my mother). Shrugging off my desires, I walked into the closet next to my bed and took out my school clothes: a white button-down shirt with jeans, the same outfit as everyone else at my school. My school was not a particularly prestigious one, but it oddly had its own dress code, much to the dismay of a few of my peers.

 

Once I was dressed, I headed back down the stairs and to the front door. Grunting in frustration as I fumbled around in the closet, I finally retrieved my black shoes and slipped them onto my feet, slung my bookbag onto my shoulder, turned the doorknob, and stepped outside. It was a rather pleasant morning, the sun out nice and early to warm the crisp, late-summer air. I peered nervously around the neighborhood to see if anyone else was heading to school, satisfied with the absence of other students. Once I inserted my earbuds, I began my walk to school.

 

The city in which I lived was nothing too special or exciting: sure, there were plenty of apartments and skyscrapers, but any tall building that wasn't a hotel, apartment, or condo, was almost certainly just a business highrise. In my area specifically, there was a mall about three blocks from my house, a McDonald's next to the mall, and a few other stores and strip malls nearby, but nothing too interesting or fun. A little further away was a bowling alley and swimming pool, and that was all for recreational activities. Granted, there were a few bars, but for a 17 year old, those were meaningless. About two blocks from my house was my school, and for today, that was my destination, unfortunately.

 

After my brisk stroll, I arrived at my school. It was a large, two storey building, almost completely white and plain on the outside (and on the inside as well, for the most part), save for the blue sign above the large, red front doors, and the rectangular flower planters bordering the walkway leading to the doors. Checking my watch, I had arrived 15 minutes early. Walking up the concrete steps, I began to mentally brace myself for the inevitable panic attacks I would soon endure. Hands shaking, I pushed the heavy, almost metal door open and entered the main foyer.

 

Inside the large foyer of the school, students were clustered together, chatting amongst themselves, laughing and discussing their summertime escapades. I scanned the room for Ben, but found no sign of him. Trying my hardest to ignore my anxiety, I turned right towards the office to find my class schedule, when I suddenly froze: a high-pitched, female voice had called my name from behind me. Terrified, I turned around, only to find my second best friend, Alexandra, accompanied by a worried-looking Benjamin.

 

“Rick!” She cried, grinning from ear to ear, peering at me with her large green eyes. “There you are! Ben and I saw you when you came in, didn't you see us?” Still in a state of shock, I attempted to assemble a response.

 

“Uh... u-um, no,” was all I could manage.

 

“What's the matter, Rick? You look like you've seen a ghost,” Alex said, oblivious to her obnoxious greeting.

 

“Ghost? More like a banshee,” I retorted with a smirk. “I'm guessing your parents never taught you about the difference between indoor voice and outdoor voice?”

 

Alex giggled, a smile stretching across her lightly freckled face, her small body quivering with the sudden motion. She was a short girl, about 5'2”, and always had a red bob-cut. I had first met Alex last year, in the second semester of grade 10. She had overheard Ben and I discussing the most recent Super Smash Bros. game, and immediately joined in on the conversation.

 

“Yeah, I used to main Zero Suit Samus in Brawl, but this time I've found myself playing as Lucina, her moveset is a lot better,” she had said. Just like that, she had naturally slid herself into me and Ben's little gang. It took me a while to get used to her, but after a couple of months, I found myself actually having regular fun with her. The three of us would spend our lunch breaks lounging in the corner of the library, playing various games on our handheld gaming consoles, and discussing the latest anime and manga.

 

Suddenly, I was snapped out of my reminiscence by Ben's voice. “Sorry to cut your thrilling and engaging conversation short, but don't you two think we should find out our schedules?” Ben said abruptly, slightly grinning at our awkward exchange.

 

“Yeah, I guess that would probably be a good idea,” I replied, running my hand through my brown hair.

 

The three of us continued into the office. I let Ben and Alex retrieve their schedules first, in an effort to delay the inevitable social interaction with the secretary behind the large faux oak desk. Colorful “welcome back” posters were taped all over the walls, but they offered me no solace: before I knew it, it was my turn to receive my paper.

 

“Good morning!” The overly-cheerful, aged woman exclaimed with a huge, stupid-looking grin. “May I have your last name?”

 

Already sweating, I struggled to meet her request.

 

“U-um... m-my last name is... Sutherland...” I mumbled to the very patient woman, my face growing more and more red.

 

“Sutherland, Sutherland...” she chanted to herself, furrowing her brow, running her fingers across the many files. As she searched for my document, I nervously shifted my weight and fidgeted my fingers, eyes looking anywhere but in the woman's face. “Ah, here we are! Richard, is it?”

 

“Y-yes, that's me,” I stuttered.

 

“Here you go!” With extreme enthusiasm, she handed me my schedule, as well as a metal combination lock. I stretched out my shaking hand and grasped the items, quickly thanking her.

 

Once reunited with my friends, we reviewed our schedules, finding out which classes we had together. In a matter of minutes, my worst fear had come true: I had but two classes out of five with at least one friend.

 

“I'm sure you'll be fine, Rick,” Alex tried to reassure me, “Who knows? Maybe you'll even meet some new friends!” Even though she was trying to smile on the outside, I could see through her facade and sense her concern. Ben, on the other hand, simply looked at me with a very concerned face. Ben and I parted ways from Alex, her classroom being in the opposite direction as me and Ben's. Finally alone, Ben turned to me as we walked.

 

“Hey, Rick...” he started, still keeping his worried expression.

 

“Yeah, I know...” I acknowledged, “Try not to worry about me, Alex is right. I have a bit of hope that maybe I'll meet some new people. I did end up friends with her last year, after all,” I said promisingly to him (and, truth be told, to myself).

 

“Well...” Ben paused, looking at the floor as we walked, “Yeah, you have a point. I'm sure you already know this, but don't do anything you're not comfortable with, alright?” He looked me in the eyes and smiled. Ben had always been like a brother to me, sometimes even like a father: this was one of those times. Feeling slightly better, I nodded at him.

 

“Alright dude, I'll see you fifth period. Good luck,” he said, turning into his class and waving.

 

I continued walking to my first period: science. As I continued walking down the hall to my classroom, my mind began racing with thoughts of what might or might not happen when I arrived: things like what if I'm late somehow, or what if the teacher doesn't like me, and of course, my largest fear, what if I end up sitting next to a cute girl? Blushing, sweating and shaking all at the same time, I ended up at my classroom- and walked straight past it. By the time I realized my mistake, I had already been walking too far: the time reading 8:01 AM. Upon this discovery, I stopped dead in my tracks. I was late. Already panicking, I turned around and sped back down the hall to my class. The good news was that the teacher was late. The bad news: nearly everyone in the classroom turned around to curiously gaze at me, presumably thinking I might have been the teacher. My heart racing, palms sweating, knees weak, and face completely red, I could do nothing but stand in horror and gaze around the classroom. After what seemed like an eternity, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Jumping, I turned around to investigate.

 

The hand belonged to a tall man with a graying black comb over, a scruffy goatee, and piercing auburn eyes, inquisitively looking me in the eye.

 

“Hey,” he said with a voice smooth as margarine, “are you having trouble finding your desk? What's your name?”

 

Somewhat more calm, I answered his question.

 

“I-I'm Richard...” I croaked.

 

“Richard... Sutherland, right?” Stepping past me, he pointed out an empty desk in the last row on the left side of the room, around the middle of the aisle. “You've got the window seat and everything, perfect for daydreaming,” he added with a chuckle, the rest of the class following suit. Smiling, yet still quite anxious, I swiftly made my way down the rows and to my seat, placing my bag under my desk.

 

The rest of the class went rather normally, with no other embarrassments to speak of. My classmates paid me little to no attention – thankfully – and the teacher seemed quite laid-back. He started class by introducing himself as Mr. Peters, and he proceeded to hand out assignments for us: questions like what we were doing after school, or which careers we were pursuing. We went over what we would learn in the course, and even started the first unit. As Mr. Peters droned on about blood and the circulatory system, I quickly glanced around the room to get an idea of who I would be working with this semester. Of course, everyone wore the same outfit due to our school's strict dress code, so most of the other kids in the classroom looked largely the same. I recognized a couple faces, but didn't have names for them. As the class drew on, I became less and less nervous, and eventually, an electronic tone from the intercom signalled the end of the class. As per usual, I waited for everyone else to file out of the classroom before stepping out myself.

 

Checking my schedule, I started towards my next class: social studies. This time I made it to class a minute or two early, taking careful measures not to look classmates directly in the eye as they hovered in small groups, chatting. Looking around the classroom, I found no sign of a seating plan, so I made a beeline for the desk in the back left corner of the room. Perhaps one of my greatest fears at school are seating arrangements: the idea alone of sitting in a central position surrounded by strangers makes my skin crawl. The teacher, a woman whose name I quickly forgot, introduced herself, and the class went almost exactly the same as the last one. An uneventful hour passed, and soon it was time for English, which also went without a hitch. Finally, it was time for lunch.

 

Sitting at a cafeteria table with Ben and Alex, we discussed our days so far. Unsurprisingly, theirs went essentially the same as mine: boring and uneventful. Reaching into my backpack, I pulled out a ham sandwich and began to eat. I felt two eyes boring into the top of my skull, and exactly on cue, I heard a voice across from me.

 

“What, that's all you have?” I looked across from me at Alex, who was staring at me with a smirk, her green eyes peering at me sweetly and innocently. “You didn't bring anything for me?”

 

“Forgot your lunch again?” I guessed confidently.

 

“Well, not so much forgot to bring it as forgot to make one in the first place,” she replied sheepishly.

 

Robotically, I pulled another sandwich out of my bag and handed it to her. Immediately, she stripped the transparent plastic armor from the sandwich, tearing into it, not unlike the way a lion tears into a gazelle.

 

“You know her too well, Rick,” Ben said, chuckling. “Hey, Alex, aren't you supposed to be basically an adult? Like, seventeen or something?”

 

“Emphasis on the “almost” part,” Alex replied with her mouth full. Pausing, she swallowed the clump of food. “What's your point?”

 

“I mean, you'd think that you'd be able able to take care of yourself at this age. Hell, even Rick is more grown up – er, no offense, Rick,” Ben said, catching himself.

 

“None taken,” I laughed. In fact, I was the furthest from offended: the scene unfolding before my eyes was entertaining, to say the least.

 

Squinting her eyes and pouting at Ben, Alex defended herself.

 

“I'm perfectly independent, more than capable than taking care of myself, for your information,” she fired back, wolfing down the rest of her meal with a slight belch.

 

“Is that why you just finished eating a sandwich that I made for you?” I teased, fanning the flames. “Did you even taste it, by the way?”

 

Alex rolled her eyes. “Whatever,” she sighed, admitting defeat.

 

The rest of the break was spent talking about our adventures in gaming: Ben finishing his playthrough of Dragon's Dogma, Alex finally beating Demon's Souls, and other trivial things. Before we knew it, the bell rang, beckoning the students for fourth period. We checked our schedules, and found that Alex and I had guitar class together. Relieved to finally have someone to spend a class with, we walked to class together, continuing our conversation.

 

“So, how did you beat the Flamelurker, anyhow?” I asked her. “I've been trying to beat it since I bought the game, and it's still hopeless. There's no excuse for it either, I've beaten every other Souls game except Demon's.”

 

Alex looked at the ground, half-smirking, her hair swaying slightly with each step. “Well...” she started, “Y'see, at first I was fighting him normally, but... somehow, he sorta ended up stuck behind a pile of bones in the arena, stuck in a looping running animation, so I was just able to spam R1 until he died,” she said, with almost a shameful disposition.

 

“Tsk, tsk,” I looked away, shaking my head. “For shame, exploiting glitches... that's not the Dark Souls way, you know,” I toyed with her.

 

“Well, at least I beat the game, unlike someone here,” she teased back.

 

“Well, if it's so easy, then why don't you come to my place and beat it for me?” I immediately regretted that response; as soon as I said it, Alex looked back up from the floor and at me, slyly grinning.

 

“You sure that's the only thing you want, no ulterior motives?”

 

I felt my face turn beet-red. “N-no, that's not what I-”

 

“Calm down, lover-boy, I'm just screwing with you,” she said with a giggle. “But seriously, we haven't hung out in awhile. We should do something soon.”

 

“Yeah, actually,” I said, “Maybe I should talk to Ben, the three of us could do something together.”

 

We continued to walk and talk until we reached the music room. Guitar class has always been my favorite class: playing guitar calms my nerves, and it's one of the few genuine skills I have beyond video games. Alex herself was more of a bassist, but she still liked to play guitar. Once we entered the room, we took a moment to get our bearings. The large, messy room was littered with all kinds of instruments; guitars, brass instruments in cases, drums, and a large piano in the corner of the room. In the center of the room were two rows of around 20 chairs. Alex and I made our way through the maze of music stands to the back wall, where our guitars hung from hooks on the wall. Once retrieved, we made our way back to the chairs and sat in the back row, very right end. As we waited for our teachers, we began tuning our guitars.

 

Pausing with my index finger and thumb still grasping the D-string's tuning head, I took a moment to look up at Alex. She was deeply listening to the strings as she delicately plucked at them with her tortoise-pattern guitar pick, carefully and precisely twisting the metal knobs along the head of her guitar. As I looked, I couldn't help but notice how cute she was; her bright red hair hanging down, just barely scraping the top of her guitar as she looked down; her deep green eyes gazing intently at the electronic tuning device. A delicate smile lingered on her lips as she focused, a peaceful aura emanating from her presence. Feeling happy, I broke my stare and continued to tune my instrument.

 

Before long, the teacher, Mr. Worth, arrived, and after a brief welcome back, we began the class, starting with a review of basic chords and scales. Of course, for me, it was nothing new, having studied guitar for my whole junior high career. Even though it was a little boring and old information, I still had fun playing music and spending time with Alex. All good things must come to an end, however, and soon enough it was time for the fifth, and last, period of the day, Culinary Arts. Fortunately for me, both Alex and Ben were in this class with me.

 

As Alex and I marched down the hallway towards the culinary room, Ben met us halfway.

 

“Hey guys,” he greeted, “How was guitar?”

 

“Same old,” Alex answered, “How was whatever you just did?” Alex said with a grin.

 

“I'm glad my schedule interests you,” Ben said, grinning back. “Math was fine too. Not that it's ever been a problem for me.”

 

“Go ahead and rub it in,” I said to him in a sarcastic tone.

 

“No need to be cynical,” Ben retorted with a sly smirk. “Anyways, you peeps ready to cook? I've got my apron on and everything,” he beamed.

 

“...I don't see an apron,” Alex said with an unimpressed expression on her face.

 

“Well, maybe not on the outside, but definitely on the inside.”

 

Alex and I rolled our eyes and sighed as the three of us stepped foot into the doorway of the culinary room. The room was large, with about half the room set up as a classroom with desks and tables for doing assignments, and the other half as a large kitchen, with about six ovens and counters for cooking. The three of us sat at an unoccupied table, and continued chatting.

 

“So Ben,” I started, “Alex and I were talking, and we were thinking that the three of us should hang out again soon.”

 

“Yeah, I think so,” Ben replied thoughtfully, “It's definitely been awhile. I think the last time we hung out was when we went to the mall back in June.”

 

“Kind of sucks that that's, like, the only thing to do around here,” Alex lamented with her chin resting in her palm. Ben and I made sounds of agreement, and proceeded to think of something to do.

 

“Hey, I have an idea!” Suddenly excited, Ben chimed in brightly. “Summer's almost over, and I haven't been swimming in years. How about we go to the pool?”

 

“I'm game,” Alex said cheerfully.

 

“Sure, I guess,” I agreed. I, as well, had not been swimming in a long time, mostly due to the fear of being half-naked, surrounded by dozens of strangers, also half-naked. However, perhaps being with my friends would alleviate some of my anxieties.

 

“Then it's settled,” Ben confirmed with confidence. “When should we go?”

 

“How about tomorrow? It's a Saturday, and I'm free,” Alex suggested.

 

“Kind of weird how the first day of school is a Friday,” Ben said, “but yeah, I'm good for tomorrow.”

 

Shortly after we settled our plans, the teacher arrived, and class began with the usual motions: we were introduced to the teacher, groups were formed, we were given our books and assignments, and we started working on our health and safety workbooks. Eventually, the bell rang, signalling the end of the day.

 

“So much for cooking,” Ben sighed. We gathered our bags, stood up from our chairs, and trekked across the room and out the door.

 

“Well, that wasn't so bad,” I said as we walked down the concrete steps in front of the school.

 

“So nothing happened this morning?” Ben asked me with curiosity. Immediately, I remembered the brief moment at the start of Science class, but I decided not to worry Ben by mentioning it.

 

“Nah, it was all good,” I said, masking my brief nervousness. I looked over at Alex, who looked doubtingly at me. I figured she wouldn't buy it, but it seemed like Ben didn't notice, to my surprise.

 

“Well, that's good,” he said. “Anyways, there's my bus. We still good for tomorrow?”

 

Alex and I nodded, and parted ways from Ben, who approached the door of his yellow schoolbus.

 

“Hey, Rick?” Alex asked. Her brow was furrowed, her hands on her hips.

 

“I know what you're gonna say, and it's nothing to worry about,” I started nonchalantly. “I was anxious about starting class and overshot my classroom, so I was a little late. It was a little embarrassing, but the teacher helped me. I was fine, I promise.”

 

She mumbled and looked away briefly, running her fingers through her hair with one hand. “I hope you're right. How come you didn't tell Ben?”

 

“I didn't want him to worry about me. He worries about me more than a friend should, and to be honest, you're kind of starting to sound like him,” I jabbed with a grin.

 

“I think he's infectious,” Alex joked with a giggle. “By the way, why don't we play something on PSN tonight?”

 

“Didn't we just make plans?”

 

“So? That's tomorrow, it's not like playing online involves leaving the house.”

 

“Fair enough. I guess I'll be online,” I concluded. We said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways.

 

As I started my journey back to my house, I inserted my earbuds. My friends had always told me that my musical tastes were odd, largely consisting of 70's era country, including – but not limited to – Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and the Statler Brothers, to name a few. I suppose it was my mother's taste that rubbed off on me: she had a large record collection that took up 2 huge bookshelves. She introduced me to her music at a very young age, before I can even remember. She told me that the first time she put on Led Zeppelin for me – when I was two years old – I danced across the room and ended up falling down the stairs, which she says “explains a lot.” She always meant it in joking, of course, but I never found it particularly funny.

 

As I looked around at my surroundings, I found myself walking down a park trail, a detour I took often, especially in the summertime. The park was not often busy, and I enjoyed taking in the beauty of nature, corny though it may be. As I looked around, I noticed that some of the trees were showing yellow leaves. I sighed internally, although in truth, the changing of seasons bothered me little: I was less worried about the cold of winter, and more worried about yet another year passing, and myself getting older. As I continued looking around, something caught my eye. On a small hill, about thirty feet away, was a figure sitting. Normally, I would look away, but something drew me to continue investigating the entity. It was a figure, presumably a girl, with very long, straight, bubblegum-pink hair. I saw her look up at me, and I quickly turned my head. Thinking little of it – albeit slightly nervous – I continued on my stroll. However, as I continued, I couldn't help but feel like I was being watched. I was constantly looking around and behind me, seeing if the girl was following me. After a few minutes of yielding no results, I eventually forgot about it. Finally arriving at my block, I looked both ways before crossing the road – and, out of the corner of my eye, caught a figure with bright pink hair approaching me from behind.


© Copyright 2017 The Flabbergaster. All rights reserved.

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