Little Ghosts

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Stephen

Submitted: February 28, 2013

Reads: 55

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Submitted: February 28, 2013




Upon reflection of the meeting at Elizabeth's house, I began to question my own sanity due to my almost-kind-of acceptance to her proposal. In short, I flipped shit out. I had five theories prepared for why I had hopped on board to her little mystery adventure cruise, and none of them settled my stomach.
The first was that I hadn't really thought things through and simply said yes in way of giving her an answer.
The second was that like her, I too was crazy.
The third was that my subconscious mind didn't take her seriously and my agreement had sprung up purely to humour the poor thing.
The fourth was that I was being a typical teenage boy who wanted to get into the pretty girl's knickers.
The final theory was that I really did want to go.
Maybe they all made some sort of sense, but the fifth one struck a chord. It seemed so out of reach and pointless dwelling upon it, really, as there was no way it would ever happen- things like that didn't happen, particularly not to me. I was horrifically average, and certainly not fit for midnight adventures like the ones Elizabeth had in mind. In some ways it was as if she wanted to grab me by the scruff of the neck and pull me into her little dream world so she could have a friend who didn't tell her nasty prophecies or make her hit. 
Maybe I really did want to go. 
I spent the next couple of days falling in and out of love with the idea of running away and making something of myself. Elizabeth, she was an enigma, cryptic and ferociously unpredictable, and so it was difficult to place my thumb upon a certain decision- and everso, the throbbing ache that told me to go go go was there. I imagined it always would be there, if I were to let it linger.
I had formed this funny little friendship with Stephen in the month-and-sixteen-day period after the school shooting, or 'DOD' as Elizabeth had so named it. We hated each other, truthfully, but our parents went way back, and due to the absence of our real friends we had been sort of bullied into one another's company. Conversation wasn't actually as painful as I had imagined, although sensitive topics were always dangerous (I was yet to forget his tearful tendencies) and the music he listened to was quite frankly, shit. On top of that, he felt the excessive need to blare it out from his garage speakers all day and everyday, despite my constant complaints.
"BANGARANG, bass..
"Would you turn that off?"
Stephen was now jumping up and down rather aggressively, jutting his head back and forth in enthusiasm to the lyrics that sounded as if somebody had fallen asleep face first on a keyboard. He looked like he was having some sort of minor epileptic fit, minus the projectile vomiting.
"What?" he said, the largest grin on his face as the heavy heartbeat of the music continued.
"I'm trying to study," I said, maintaining my patience with him. It was like training a puppy not to dirty the carpet at times, "The noise is a bit.. well, noisy."
"You're such a bore, mate," he laughed, but turned it down a touch and sat at the foot of the bench where I was attempting to revise trigonometry, "Accept the break from school. Nobody else is doing any work."
"Exactly. What else am I going to spend the time doing? Eating? Playing on my Xbox? Sitting here with you, listening to your awful chart music?"
"Alright," he said a little defensively, his face hardening, "Nobody's asking you to be here."
"I know. Sorry. I'm just a bit fed up of this.. this."
"Life. Existence. Just sitting here, doing the same thing, day in, day out. It's utterly depressing and mind numbing," I mused.
"Woah," he said with a small laugh, and I frowned calmly, "It's not that bad. We finish our exams in July, that's worth looking forward to."
"If they even find us a college to sit them at. That's not the point."
"Then what is the point?" he jested. The way he goofily smiled at the things he didn't understand may have been endearing, once, when I still felt bad that he had cried at the shootout, but the habit was beginning to grate. He seemed to pick up on my petulant intolerance, however, as he notched the pumping beat of the music down to a faint buzz.
"I don't want to spend my life in school. Sitting exams. Getting results. Going to interviews. Having every single thing judged upon the grades I got when I was sixteen, seventeen. It sucks."
"But you're like, super smart. Annoyingly smart."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I snapped, realising that I had tangled myself within a slight existential crisis. Damn Elizabeth. She was such a child at times, and like my apparent intelligence, annoyingly right.
"I'm failing five of my eight subjects," Stephen said in a voice that was to begin with, lighthearted and assertive, but trailed off in a slightly pathetic tone, "You're fine, dude."
"Don't call me dude, Stephen."
"Sorry," he shrugged, "But you're fine. Like you said, we haven't even got a school to go to right now. And I know I gave you shit in the past, but you're actually pretty cool, for a nerd."
"Thanks, I think."
The 'shit in the past' that Stephen had given me was actually rather understated. He had made my life hell, to an extent, although of course I was an asshole about the situation and had pretended not to care- like I had better things to worry about, rather than my games console and whether Benjy got fed and walked. Despite the reputation that he had manifested, he wasn't actually that bad a guy when you stripped back his gang of thugs and the cigarettes he sucked the life out of before kicking at old ladies and their dogs. It wasn't really bullying, they picked on everybody, but being an insufferable know-it-all like myself, they had persisted with the deteoriation of my wellbeing a little further. Their comments about the way my arms were too long for my body and how I would always put my hand up first in Maths lessons weren't anything extraordinarily cruel or vulgar, but their nit-picking combined with the added stress of GCSEs had taken it out of me a little. They stopped soon after my mother had caught wind of the situation and his friends had fallen away, leaving him to sulk in the back of our car as we drove him to school in deathly silence.
"It's kind of strange, isn't it," I said slowly, my eyes creasing in thought, "That 24 people are just.. dead. They don't have to care about grades anymore. Why should I have to?"
"Uh, because you are alive?"
I shrugged. "I just want to live, I suppose. When I was younger I used to think that people died like batteries do, kind of flickering on and off until they're eventually completely drained and won't power anything, no matter how long you leave them to settle. They're just empty. For old people and ill people that's true, but the people who were killed, they didn't even getting a 'draining' period. They just went. Don't you think that's horrible?"
"I've never really thought about it," Stephen said with a nervous kind of laugh, "But yeah, it kind of sucks. A lot of them were pretty young."
"They were all young," I corrected him matter-of-factly, "The oldest was 34; that's still young. I don't want to just go like that.
"Bang," I ended softly, and Stephen got up and retrieved a couple of cans of beer from the mini fridge. I shook my head as he offered me one, and he shrugged again and cracked one open for himself (I noticed that he spent a lot of time shrugging and standing and smiling). 
"How can you even drink that stuff?" I commented in utter distaste as he glugged down at least a third of the can in one very long sip. Of course, I said it as if I would never buy drink as cheap as Strongbow, but the taste of alchohol in any form gave me the shudders. I had been drunk only once, on New Year's, when my Dad had forced a few Smirnoffs into my system and watched the chaos unravel. 
He shrugged again and downed another third (a little ran down the corner of his sallow mouth which caused me to turn my nose up in real distaste), "It tastes nice."
"You can't actually think that."
He laughed out loud, "You talk a good game about not caring, Oliver, but you won't even get drunk with me. Lame."
"Actually," I began bitterly, perturbed that he was still laughing through sips at my sour expression, "I think it tastes cheap and gross and therefore I'd never put that rubbish in my body. I don't want to get drunk. Happy?"
"You're so highly strung." I was quite impressed he knew the definition of 'highly strung', given his school records that had been discussed through whispers on the phone to my mother.
"I am not!" I said defensively, although it was hard to argue with him.
"Man, you're highly strung. Here's the deal; you have two expressions. One of them is looking slightly scared and the other is an outright scowl. You're highly strung."
"I now see why I proved to be a good target for bullies," I muttered, but he nudged my foot with a shoulder as if to half-heartedly apologise on account of his criticism. I didn't need his sympathy, or anybody's for that matter. It was me with the open opportunity to go galavanting whilst he hung around in his garage listening to crappy dubstep (even if that opportunity had been extended by a fifteen year old girl with schizophrenia who probably didn't know left from right).
I left Stephen's garage soon after he had finished his second beer, and began the brisk walk home with my headphones tightly packed into my ears. The paths were a little foreign for five or so minutes into the journey, but after turning the corner that housed The Daily Star (a newsagents that was beginning to look painfully ran down) I knew my way. It surprised me that, in mid-March, there were still piles of snow on the streets, although they looked a little sad- the grey ice was now bleeding down into the pavement just as winter was bleeding into spring. Hopefully the new season would bring change to more than just the environment.
Stephen was certainly happy, which I respected, but he was also ignorant. He wasn't going anywhere. He would probably grow up listening to the same songs on the same old stereo and start an apprenticeship in the garage like his father had. If he had any children, which given his sexual history had high potential, they'd do the same. Soon enough the same vicious cycle would form and his outsides may be happy, but nobody would remember him. Nobody remembers the boy who worked in mechanics and had sex more than once with more than one sexual partner.
I was the same, really, although unlike him, I had the embryonic chance to change my fate.
"Alright, love?" my mother greeted me as it peaked 4:30 and I had arrived home.
"Great, thanks," I said with a smile much like Stephen's, my confidence suddenly swelling.
If you've woken up by then, find me and we'll talk.
It appeared I had finally woken up.

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