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Senior Year

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  1. Title: Senior Year
  2. Published: 11-03-10, Updated: 11-17-10
  3. Chapters: 4, Words: 9,128
  4. Chapter 1: September: Back to School
  5.  
  6. Lucy awoke with a start from the alarm on her clock blaring. She lazily outstretched a hand and smashed the button, yawning as she sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. Her long white locks draped over her eyes and she was forced to brush them aside. With a quiet heave, she pushed herself out of bed and staggered over to her vanity, bringing her eyes up to see her tired expression. The face of a young seventeen year old girl, nearing eighteen, stared back at her with silky locks of white caressing the fur on her face. She sighed and stretched, heading over to her dresser and yanking open the oak drawer, bringing out a light blue sweater and a black pair of slacks. She carefully laid them down on the soft covers of her bed, next approaching her closet and opening it, bending down to grab a large pair of black shoes. She slipped out of her pajamas and exposed her pale bosoms to the light, subsequently slipping on a pair of silk undergarments. When all the clasps on the rear of her bra had been done, she sat down on the bed and put on her pants, next entering her shirt. She slipped her shoes on with little trouble and approached her vanity, taking a seat on the small oak stool. She gazed at her reflection and frowned.
  7.  
  8. "First day of senior year, eh Lucy?" She spoke to her reflection. It mimicked her large frown and she sighed, bending over to open the small oak drawer. Inside was a picture of a handsome Korat and a thin pink ribbon. She lovingly grabbed the picture with her fingers and stared at Michael's face before she carefully placed it back in the drawer. With astonishing precision, she tied the bow gracefully around her neck, allowing the ends to gently flutter in the small breeze from her open window. She sprayed a little perfume on herself and took a deep whiff of the sweet scent. When she was satisfied, she rose from her vanity and exited her room, getting ready to prepare herself breakfast.
  9.  
  10. She was forced to wake up every day at 5:15 AM. The senior schedule required them to be in first period by 7:15 AM. It generally took her an hour to cook up food and half an hour to drive to school, using the extra time to prepare for the day. She leaned over and opened the fridge, bringing out a small gray carton of eggs and uncooked bacon. She carried them over to the stove and quietly opened the cabinets, taking care not to wake the other members of the home. She set to work cooking herself scrambled eggs and bacon, next returning to the fridge for the bottle of Tabasco sauce. She placed it on the small oak table in the kitchen and uncovered the coffee machine to prepare herself a cup of the hot liquid. After an hour of constantly tending the food, it was ready for her consumption.
  11.  
  12. She sat down at the small table and poured the hot sauce over the eggs, taking a sip from her mug of coffee shortly after. As she poked at the yellow material, she couldn't help but run her minds over the events of summer vacation. Michael had left Roseville for most of the time to be with Sandy, leaving her alone considering Paulo spent most of his days with Jasmine and even went with her to a trip to Mexico, and Daisy constantly hung over Abbey. Once again she found herself alone with no one to turn to, although the solitary time had left her a long period of self-assessment. She had come to terms with Michael's undying devoutness to Sandy and had tried her best to keep a friendly relationship with him, although she could not deny she did not love him any longer. The flame nearly was quelled, but it still existed. Her main goal was to keep her friendly relationship alive with Michael, and that was all that mattered. She wasn't trying to take him away from Sandy or undermine their relationship.
  13.  
  14. Lucy sighed and cleared away her dishes, sending a watchful glance over to the clock on the wall. It read out a bold 6:32 and so Lucy returned to her bedroom and scooped up her backpack, next checking her pocket for her car keys. A satisfactory jingle eased her tense mind and she exited her home, spying her father's old vehicle eagerly awaiting her. It was a '72 Dodge Charger, painted white and blue. She removed her backpack and slid it across the driver's seat, propping it up against the worn leather of the passenger's seat. She next entered the car, shutting the door behind her. She slid the key into the ignition and turned it, the movement accompanied by the motor turning over. She flicked on the stereo and the soft sounds of music filled the vehicle as it pulled out of the driveway and hit the asphalt of the quiet suburban road.
  15.  
  16. She tapped her thumbs absentmindedly against the steering wheel as the music played, humming quietly. A quick turn of the wheel sent her down a new path as she spotted a familiar home in the distance. It was a two flat with bright yellow siding. She changed gears and slowed down, parking the large metal vehicle outside of the home and pounding the horn. A few moments later the front door opened and a blond feline emerged, carrying a flashy purse in one hand and a binder in the other. Daisy waved farewell to her mother and circled around Lucy's car, opening the door and shoving Lucy's backpack between the seats into the rear of the vehicle. She took hers off and sat it on the floor, putting one high-heel encapsulated foot in and then the rest of her body. She sat down in the seat and smoothed the front of her shirt as Lucy shifted gears and peeled away from their position on the road.
  17.  
  18. "Hey, Lucy!" Daisy said cheerfully as Lucy continued to maneuver the vehicle. "All excited for senior year?"
  19.  
  20. "Yeah I guess."
  21.  
  22. Daisy grinned widely as Lucy pulled a left turn, getting stuck behind a large purple van at a red light. She sighed and sat back in the driver's chair as Daisy leaned forward and fiddled with the radio stations.
  23.  
  24. "When did Michael get back?" Lucy asked absentmindedly.
  25.  
  26. "Oh, a few days ago. Couldn't have been more late! He was so unprepared!" Daisy added with a quiet chuckle. Lucy frowned and rolled her eyes. Daisy kept on smiling – something she always did that made Lucy upset – while the light changed colors and the car sped forward.
  27.  
  28. "So, did Paulo have fun in Mexico with Jasmine?" Lucy inquired, having not seen most of her friends outside of Daisy for a few months. Daisy nodded vigorously and opened her purse, exposing a large postcard.
  29.  
  30. "Yeah, Jasmine's 17th gift was quite a deserved one, don't you think?"
  31.  
  32. "A trip to Mexico seems rather expensive."
  33.  
  34. "Oh yeah, but the things we do for those we love."
  35.  
  36. Lucy bit her lip and kept her focus on the road, trying hard to not let these words penetrate her defenses. Almost immediately the large figure of Roseville High loomed ominously in the distance with a throng of students around her doors, awaiting their impending release. Lucy pulled into the nearby parking lot and both felines exited, striding towards the building's front doors. They waded through the crowd of students and reached the steps. Daisy noticed the figures of Paulo and Abbey in the distance and eagerly ran over to greet them, forcing Lucy to drag herself after her. She was a tad late to the conversation.
  37.  
  38. "…and then I banged her. It was magnificent." Paulo finished, puffing out his chest triumphantly. Abbey closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose while Daisy leaned on his shoulder, breathing in the sweet smell of his cologne. Upon noticing Lucy, Paulo grinned widely and bowed.
  39.  
  40. "Hey babe, long time no see." He said, extending his hand to her. She glared up at him and he retracted it, causing an amused smile to flash across her face.
  41.  
  42. "So Paulo, how was Mexico?" Lucy asked, crossing her arms.
  43.  
  44. "Man, babe, it was hot as hell," He paused as a mischievous grin crossed his face, "But not as hot as what Jazzie and I did."
  45.  
  46. "Oho, so that's who you were talking about when I came over!"
  47.  
  48. "Oh yeah, she is wild in bed, man. Even for a virgin."
  49.  
  50. Abbey looked like he was going to strangle Paulo and Daisy was ever oblivious to the situation. Lucy sighed and smiled, happy to be back with the normal group. As the four conversed, a voice called out to Paulo and caught him off guard. Within seconds, the large brown figure of David pinned him to the ground, using his newfound musculature to overpower Paulo's weaker frame.
  51.  
  52. "David, get off me!" He shouted, pushing his friend away. David rose from the ground and helped Paulo up, and they subsequently brofisted.
  53.  
  54. "Wow David, you sure do look buff." Daisy said, amazed by David's musculature. He grinned widely.
  55.  
  56. "Yep! I want to get on the football team so I weight lifted all summer."
  57.  
  58. David made a few grunting noises and flexed his muscles, keeping his irrational smile for the majority of the gun show. He kept making tiny 'pew-pew' noises as he flexed, causing Paulo to roll his eyes. Daisy couldn't contain her joy and began to hop up and down with glee.
  59.  
  60. "Gee, it's so great to be back together after all that time apart. All we're missing now is Mikie."
  61.  
  62. A tense silence immediately encapsulated the group, all sending nervous glances Lucy's way – that is, excluding David who was still playing with his arm muscles. Daisy chuckled nervously and tried her best to break the tension that hung over the group of friends.
  63.  
  64. "So… uh, who's ready for senior year?" She said in a chipper tone. Abbey smiled and patted her shoulder.
  65.  
  66. "I am quite ready for the tumultuous academic journey that lies ahead! It will be a riveting experience, the final grade before the large step into adulthood!"
  67.  
  68. He struck a diplomatic pose and Daisy nearly melted. Paulo crossed his arms and smirked.
  69.  
  70. "You really are a fruit."
  71.  
  72. Abbey glared at him and frowned, and David began to prod his other arm with his left finger. Lucy chuckled to herself and closed her eyes while Paulo and Abbey began to bicker.
  73.  
  74. "Well, at least I don't treat women as nations to be conquered!"
  75.  
  76. "Newsflash, Sir Fruit-a-Lot, I've been with Jazzie since our sophomore year now and hadn't banged her until Mexico!
  77.  
  78. The sounds of their argument were drowned out as the schoolbell ran and the group filed into the building, Abbey and Paulo still bickering all the while. Lucy had memorized her locker number by now and sprinted through the hallways to find it, entering the combination and opening the thick door. The smell of fresh paint hit her hard and she gagged. She placed a few unneeded trinkets inside of it and shut the door, recalling her homeroom number of '316'. Once again, almost as if it was destined, all of her friends shared the same homeroom with her. She outstretched her hand and turned the golden knob, allowing the heavy pine door to open up. She stepped into the room and surveyed it. A large elderly canine sat at the teacher's desk and the walls were littered with geographical and political maps. There was a bookcase at the rear of the room and a large globe sat on top of it. The floor was the same multicolored and worn linoleum as the rest of the school and the walls were a pale white with stone trim. She uneasily walked into the room and the canine glared up from his planner at her, watching her walk through the desks.
  79.  
  80. Daisy and Paulo had already arrived, so Lucy took a seat next to Daisy. She dropped her backpack next to her and crossed her hands on the desk as the door opened again and David strode in, taking his expected seat next to Paulo. The rest of the students quietly filed in and soon after the bell rang, signaling the start of the school day. Lucy anxiously looked around, but Michael was nowhere to be found. She began to worry as the elderly canine stood up. He wore a white polo shirt with a front pocket and a few pens tucked inside of it. His slacks were a dark black and were held up by a belt of a darker color. He also wore thin spectacles and had a glint of wisdom evident in his amber eyes. He walked to the front of the classroom and grinned.
  81.  
  82. "Good morning, class. I am Mr. Reu and this is—" He was interrupted as the classroom's door opened and an exhausted gray Korat stepped in, breathing heavily.
  83.  
  84. "Sorry I'm late, sir."
  85. Chapter 2: September: Quaint Lunch
  86.  
  87. Naturally, all of the students within homeroom turned to gawk at the Korat that stood in the doorway, breathless. He leaned up against the frame and took shuddering breaths, using his right hand to wipe his brow. Lucy blushed slightly upon seeing him, for it was the first time she had laid eyes on him in a few months. He wore freshly-ironed khaki slacks and brown dress shoes, with a light blue polo shirt. Around his neck was a red cashmere scarf, with golden initials embroidered on the edge. Mr. Reu turned to face Michael and frowned, crossing his furred arms.
  88.  
  89. "Good morning, young man. May I ask why you are so late, Mr…?"
  90.  
  91. "Michael, sir."
  92.  
  93. "Alright, Michael. Why did you come in late today?"
  94.  
  95. The Korat averted his gaze and blushed lightly. "I… couldn't find the homeroom."
  96.  
  97. Mr. Reu crossed his arms and smiled. "Understandable on the first day of school, please take a seat." Michael nodded graciously and began to walk into the room, but the teacher grasped his shoulder and wagged a finger in front of his face. "But don't make a habit of it." He let go of the feline and Michael sauntered between the desks, taking a seat next to Lucy as it was the only one left. He dropped his bag at his side and sighed, not daring to glance at Lucy. The teacher clasped his hands together and grinned even wider.
  98.  
  99. "Now that everyone is present – I will take attendance shortly – let's get some rules down in my classroom." He paused as everyone turned their attention to him. "This is a World Religions classroom, and as such I expect you to be tolerant of other people's ideals and values. Secondly, I expect you to refrain from speaking rudely in my classroom," He shot a knowing look at Paulo, which caused him to sink back in his char, "and treat everyone respectfully. Lastly, and I put this rule in place for safety measures, there will be no touching of any kind. Affectionate or otherwise." A few groans from around the room made the teacher chuckle. "Now now, I'm not asking you to suppress your libido and wear chastity belts, I'm asking you to behave socially proper in my classroom." He finished and cleared his throat. "Any questions?"
  100.  
  101. Lucy's eyes searched the classroom, but not a single hand rose. The teacher motioned to return to his chair, but a voice called out to him.
  102.  
  103. "Hey, teach."
  104.  
  105. Everyone in the class turned their gaze in the direction of the sound to spy Paulo with his feet kicked up on his desk and gum in his mouth.
  106.  
  107. "Why you gotta be so uptight? Can't touch affectionately?"
  108.  
  109. The light glinted off Mr. Reu's glasses and shielded his eyeballs from sight. He grinned and bared his teeth as he approached Paulo. With a swift move, he swept Paulo's feet of the desk and leaned over, pressing his snout against Paulo's. The move had caught the Somali off guard and he swallowed his gum in shock with a large gulping sound.
  110.  
  111. "In my classroom, you will do as I say and you will do it promptly. Need I remind you, sir, that this is a tyrannical state and I am the tyrant. My laws are not up for debate."
  112.  
  113. Paulo nodded and sunk back in his chair as Mr. Reu straightened up and grinned widely. "I did not spend a tour in Vietnam just to put up with snot-nosed brats that have no sense of authority."
  114.  
  115. A few chuckles from around the classroom caused Paulo to blush heavily as Mr. Reu walked back to the front of the room and sat down at his desk, subsequently opening his planner and devoting the fullness of his attention to its white pages. Lucy looked over at Paulo, who was still quivering slightly and giggled.
  116.  
  117. "Same old Paulo, eh?"
  118.  
  119. The voice caught Lucy off guard but she recognized it immediately. She turned to face Michael to find his emerald eyes staring down at her and frowned slightly, trying to keep herself from blushing.
  120.  
  121. "Same old jerk, yeah."
  122.  
  123. Michael smiled warmly. "So how've you been, Lucy? I missed you while I was in Rickter."
  124.  
  125. "I find that hard to believe since you had Sandy on you every waking moment."
  126.  
  127. "Haha," He chuckled, "Same old Lucy, too. It's good to be back."
  128.  
  129. "I'm glad you're back too." Lucy whispered.
  130.  
  131. "What was that?"
  132.  
  133. "Nothing."
  134.  
  135. Their conversation was interrupted as the bell rang and the students rose from their desks and filed out of the classroom, preparing themselves to meet their teachers. Near lunch time, Lucy knew she only shared two classes with friends: U.S. History with Michael and Chemistry with Daisy. She moved through Roseville High's hallways with ease as she approached the symbolic lunchroom, the home of debates and discussions with her friends since their arrival at the institute. She pushed through the large double doors and stepped into the faded cafeteria. The floors, of course, were the same low-budget linoleum that plastered the school like ivy on the side of a building. The walls were fully white and unremarkable and the air smelled of foul meat. As Lucy proceeded to enter line, an orange-furred hand held her back and she turned to face Paulo, who smirked at her.
  136.  
  137. "C'mon babe, seniors don't eat in the cafeterias. We're going to Subway."
  138.  
  139. Lucy had forgotten upperclassmen were permitted to leave the campus for lunch. "Oh yeah."
  140.  
  141. She followed Paulo into the hallway and met up with the rest of the group, including David who held a large form in his hands. It apparently was to sign up for the football team and he was busily filling it out. They passed security and scanned their I.D.'s, and stepped out of the stuffy confines of Roseville High into the afternoon light. Daisy's heels clacked against the concrete as her friends walked down the sidewalk to the nearby strip mall.
  142.  
  143. "It's good to be able to eat something other than Meaty Surprise." Daisy said with a chipper grin.
  144.  
  145. "Yeah," Michael added, "Good to eat something that doesn't try to run from your fork."
  146.  
  147. The group laughed casually and Daisy sighed. They continued to talk until they soon found themselves outside of the strip's Subway and entered, the smell of vegetables mixed with meat filling their nostrils. They all sat down at a nearby table and Paulo flipped his chair around, using the back as a rest for his arms.
  148.  
  149. "So, who's paying?" Paulo asked, pointing to his pockets to show he had no money. Abbey's eye twitched and he frowned.
  150.  
  151. "We can't all cover for you all the time, Paulo."
  152.  
  153. "Oh give it a rest, fruitcake. I hate it when you try and lecture me."
  154.  
  155. Lucy sighed in frustration and opened her purse, exposing a wallet filled with money. "I'll cover it, you boneheads."
  156.  
  157. Paulo's jaw nearly smashed into the table. "Where'd you get all that money, dollface?"
  158.  
  159. Lucy smirked at his inquiry. "Well, while you were all off in your little circle-jerks, I got a part-time job and put a little cash in my pocket."
  160.  
  161. "Wow, Lucy. How responsible. I am impressed." Abbey said, smiling.
  162.  
  163. Lucy quietly thanked him and thumbed through her cash when a large gray paw paused her money counting. Michael smiled at her and waved his wallet in the air. "Please, allow me to pay for it." Lucy nodded and slid her money away while Michael rose up and walked to the counter, making his friends fall in line behind him. Lucy couldn't help but smile to herself as her friends ordered, her thoughts infatuated with Michael even still.
  164.  
  165. "Miss?" The worker spoke to her, snapping her out of her thoughts. "What can I get you?"
  166.  
  167. Lucy looked up at the bright colored feline. "I'll have a six inch tuna on herbs and cheeses with cheese and black olives."
  168.  
  169. She watched her sandwich go on its little journey and reach the culmination, walking back to the table shortly after. Michael paid the large cost incurred by their food and carried it over to their table, placing it down before them and handing his friends their sandwiches. The silence was broken only by the rustling of wrappers as they exposed their sandwiches to the air. Daisy took a large bite of her turkey sandwich and smiled.
  170.  
  171. "So, Mikie, how was Rickter?"
  172.  
  173. Paulo nearly gagged on his sandwich and Abbey stopped chewing, both of them shooting uneasy looks at Lucy, who had averted her gaze and remained silent. Michael frowned and swallowed his sandwich bite, subsequently sighing.
  174.  
  175. "Well, it was fun. We went to the beach and to the movies, things like that."
  176.  
  177. "Oh come on, Mikie, don't shy out on the details!"
  178.  
  179. "Yeah, Michael," Lucy added, not looking up from her food. "Please, tell us all the juicy details."
  180.  
  181. A tense silence hung over the group and Michael looked like he was ready to die. "Very well. As soon as I got there, Sandy was always around me and I didn't mind, considering I rarely see her now. She allowed me to sleep in the same bed with her, too, and—"
  182.  
  183. "Did you bang her?" Paulo interjected, his tail swishing coolly.
  184.  
  185. "…No, I did not. As I was—"
  186.  
  187. "Man, are you gay or som—"
  188.  
  189. "Shut up, Paulo. I'm listening to this riveting tale." Lucy cut in. "Please continue, Mike. You're quite the raconteur."
  190.  
  191. The silence was once again evident as Michael resumed his tale. "I took her to the beach and we watched a sunset together. It was an all-around fun time and nothing is particularly more remarkable than anything else."
  192.  
  193. Daisy sighed, being the romantic that she is. "Watched a sunset together? My, how romantic! Oh, Abbey, promise me you'll take me to the beach sometime…"
  194.  
  195. "Yes, how… romantic." Lucy added, her frame quivering slightly. She rose from the table and kept her head lowered, refusing to look at any of her friends. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be returning to the school building." As she grabbed her purse, David clasped his hand around her arm and stared up at her with his mouth full of sandwich.
  196.  
  197. "Are you gonna eat that?" He asked, pointing to Lucy's half-eaten sandwich. Lucy smiled faintly.
  198.  
  199. "Of course not, David. You can have it."
  200.  
  201. "Thanks!"
  202.  
  203. Lucy huffed and pushed her way from the diner, leaving the group silent behind. Daisy quickly swatted Michael on the arm and he flinched, causing Paulo to snicker.
  204.  
  205. "What'd I do?"
  206.  
  207. "You chased Lucy off, that's what you did!"
  208.  
  209. "But you're the one tha—" He paused and pushed himself away from the table in anger, tossing his napkin to the floor. "Oh forget it. The moment I come back this shit starts up again and I'm tired of it. I was better off in Rickter anyway, that way I wouldn't get harassed every god-damned minute." He stormed out of the diner and left the rest of the dumbstruck and alone. David reached over and grabbed Michael's sandwich, taking a long whiff of it.
  210.  
  211. "Do you think he's gonna eat this?"
  212.  
  213. Paulo suddenly burst out laughing and sighed, wiping a tear from his cheek. "Man, it's good to be back home. I missed our two resident lovebirds and their explosive companionship."
  214.  
  215. Abbey grabbed hold of Paulo's collar and frowned at him. "This is anything but amusing! Only someone like you can ever find the emotional turmoil of friends to be amusing."
  216.  
  217. Paulo scoffed as Abbey released his hold on him and crossed his arm. "Jeez, calm down. I was only kidding. I don't like seeing Lucy hurt either, but Mike can go finger himself."
  218.  
  219. "And that is precisely why no one likes you."
  220.  
  221. Paulo chuckled lightly and tapped Abbey on the nose. "I dunno, most of the girls in the school would say differently." With a small smirk, he grabbed his coat and exited the sandwich shop, leaving Abbey seething and Daisy dumbstruck. Abbey stormed out after Paulo and began to shout obscenities at him, leaving Daisy alone with David. She frowned and hurried after her boyfriend, leaving the dog alone with all of his friend's unfinished sandwiches. David smiled widely and pulled them all close to him, stuffing as many bites in his mouth as he could.
  222.  
  223. "More for me, suckers!"
  224. Chapter 3: September: Pain and Loss
  225.  
  226. Lucy stormed past security when she had swiped her I.D. and rushed down the empty halls, lunch hour still in progress. Tears rolled over her cheeks and stained the white fur while she barreled down the corridors. In her fit of rage, she had not seen the door to a room numbered 316 swing open and a dark figure emerge, and in a flurry of papers she hit the person with a loud smack, sending both of them sprawling to the ground. Lucy rubbed her head and groaned in pain to look up and see Mr. Reu flat on his bottom and festering in a pit of annoyance. He stood up and brushed his pants off, subsequently extending a hand to help Lucy off of the floor. She looked away and Mr. Reu frowned, next crossing his arms.
  227.  
  228. "Lucy, you know you can't be charging down the halls like you own them. Then things like this happen."
  229.  
  230. "I'm sorry, sir. I'll help you pick up your papers."
  231.  
  232. She bent down and began to scoop up the white pages, prompting him to do the same. The clean-up took only a few minutes and when all bits were securely fashioned within Mr. Reu's heavy and dark binder, Lucy sighed and straightened her back.
  233.  
  234. "Well, if that's all, I will be leaving."
  235.  
  236. As she turned to leave, her fears were realized when Mr. Reu called out her name.
  237.  
  238. "Wait, Lucy. Come in here."
  239.  
  240. She groaned, anticipating what he wanted to discuss with her. She reluctantly dragged herself into the classroom and took a seat at the desk, crossing her arms in an annoyed fashion. Mr. Reu stood before her and gazed down at her, slightly frowning.
  241.  
  242. "What's wrong, Lucy? You obviously seem upset."
  243.  
  244. "It's really none of your concern, thanks. I can deal with it by myself."
  245.  
  246. He sighed and took a seat next to her, catching her by surprise. He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes for a few moments.
  247.  
  248. "Look, Lucy, I'm here to help. I know it sounds cliché and the like, but you can tell me anything."
  249.  
  250. "I'd prefer not to."
  251.  
  252. He stopped rubbing his eyes and looked over at her, with a small glint of knowing in the depths behind his retinas.
  253.  
  254. "I know what it's like to lose someone, too."
  255.  
  256. Lucy's face flashed with several impromptu expressions as she tried to comprehend just how he had read her so easily.
  257.  
  258. "W-What?"
  259.  
  260. "I can see it in your eyes. You've suffered a great loss… I saw the same flash in my parents' eyes when I returned home." He took a deep breath and sighed. "It was 1968. I was a young boy of 18 when I was drafted, and my fraternal twin also received the same notice. We were commissioned as tunnel rats for the Vietnam War, and we took part in the Tet Offensive. All was going well, until we were ambushed by the Vietcong. Twenty men in our squad died and I took a bullet to the right lung. My brother was killed immediately. I returned home to my parents with a measly medal and the pink slip that announced my brother's death. That same look I saw in your eyes just now was the same as theirs when I told them their beloved son had been shot to death by a squad of chink pricks. "
  261.  
  262. Lucy lowered her head and frowned. "I… I'm sorry, I didn't…"
  263.  
  264. "Don't be sorry. It won't bring him back. But now, I wonder, why exactly do you have the same look? Do you have siblings? I apologize in advance if I am picking at a soft spot."
  265.  
  266. There was an extended silence as tears welled in Lucy's eyes. She sniffled loudly and shook her head.
  267.  
  268. "It… it started in the middle of my junior year. One of my closest pets, Lily, died of a heart attack. I was… devastated to say the least. Yashy and Chirpy, my other two pets, provided a large amount of consoling for me. They made me feel a lot better than I believed I could have felt, they helped me cope." Lucy paused and wiped away a few of her tears, not breaking her line of sight with the desk's worn top. "…and then Yashy died."
  269.  
  270. "You don't have to keep going, Lucy."
  271.  
  272. "No… No… I-I want to let it all out…" She took a shuddering breath. "It was near the end of that same year, no more than a few months after Lily's passing…"
  273.  
  274. "C'mon Yashy, Chirpy! Let's go!" Lucy shouted playfully.
  275.  
  276. "Keep yer pants on!" Yashy shouted back as the two small avians appeared.
  277.  
  278. Lucy chuckled to herself and repositioned the picnic basket on her arm. She opened the front door for the two pets and followed behind them, next opening the car door for them. When they were both promptly situated in the passenger seat, Lucy clasped their seatbelt and circled the vehicle, placing the picnic basket in the backseat. Soon enough she found herself in the driver's chair and with a swift gear change the Ford backed out of the driveway and hit the pavement. The car peeled away and Lucy fiddled with the radio until she found a tune that appealed to her.
  279.  
  280. "Now ma, don't get ahead of yourself. You've had your license for less than a year!" Yashy warned as Lucy tapped her hands on the steering wheel and veered the car down another street.
  281.  
  282. "Oh, don't be such a worrywart. It'll be fine."
  283.  
  284. Lucy was always chipper around her pets, one of the incredibly rare times she would show such exuberant emotions. The car turned down another street and soon the vehicle found itself and its occupants in Roseville's nearby forest preserve, running down a deserted street that was quickly becoming dark. Lucy frowned heavily and stared up at the sky, which was changing to a dark shade of gray. She cursed under her breath and shot a quick look down at her pets before returning her eyes to the road.
  285.  
  286. "They said it wasn't supposed to rain today, stupid weathermen."
  287.  
  288. "Well, ma, they are weathermen and are usually wrong."
  289.  
  290. Lucy nodded in agreement and pulled the car to the side of the road near the entrance to a clearing set up with picnic tables, a grill, and a refuse container. The three beings exited the vehicle and Lucy toted the basket on her arm as they approached the table. No more than three seconds after Lucy had set the basket down did the rain begin. It had caught them completely off guard and within moments they were soaked. The rain was pouring down with such force that it was nigh impossible to get a clear view of anything more than 5 inches in front of you. Lucy dashed back towards the car with her clothes sopping wet and with her pets in tow. Chirpy climbed into the driver's side back seat and Lucy took her position at the wheel while Yashi climbed back into the passenger seat. The leather chair squeaked about as Lucy leaned forward to turn the key in the ignition.
  291.  
  292. "Sorry guys, looks like it rained on our parade. Literally."
  293.  
  294. "There's always tomorrow."
  295.  
  296. Lucy smiled at Yashy and the car slowly inched forward, taking care not to slip on the heavy rainstorm. Lucy guided the vehicle back down the road and tapped her fingers on the wheel. She bent over to fiddle with the radio station, but the rain was not merciful. Due to the slickness of the roads, the car swerved over onto the wrong side of the thoroughfare into the path of an oncoming van. Lucy screamed and twisted the steering wheel, and within a few moments there was a sickening crash as the van plowed into the passenger's side of the vehicle and the car rolled over onto its roof.
  297.  
  298. "…And Yashy had died immediately…" Lucy finished, sobbing into her hands. "It was all my fault… I'll never forgive myself. If I just hadn't bent over to touch the radio…"
  299.  
  300. A kind hand on her shoulder stopped the flow of her tears and she looked up to see the understanding face of Mr. Reu.
  301.  
  302. "It's not your fault, Lucy. Don't ever blame yourself. I blamed myself for my brother's death and in the end I ended up losing those that I loved most because of how irritable and unforgiving I was. Don't go down the same path I did." Lucy sniffled quietly as Mr. Reu sat down and sighed. "Feel better now?"
  303.  
  304. "…Kinda."
  305.  
  306. "But, don't you drive to school? Wouldn't you be afraid of driving after that… incident?"
  307.  
  308. Lucy remained quiet for a few minutes. "He helped me through it."
  309.  
  310. Mr. Reu scratched his chin and a quizzical look crossed his face. "Who is that?"
  311.  
  312. "Michael."
  313.  
  314. The way she simply said his name alerted Mr. Reu to her troubles, but he wouldn't dare press her on the point until she was ready to talk to him herself. He sat back and closed his eyes, looking pensive. Lucy watched him intently for a few moments before assuming he wanted her to continue speaking.
  315.  
  316. "From the moment Yashy passed… he was there for me. He consoled me, made me feel better, and allowed me to confide in him when… they took Chirpy. He went so far as to teach me how to drive again, to touch a car without freaking out."
  317.  
  318. "He sounds like he's special to you."
  319.  
  320. "Not at all, he has someone and I... I'm happy for him."
  321.  
  322. "You certainly don't sound that way."
  323.  
  324. "Like you would know."
  325.  
  326. Mr. Reu paused his assault as he had figured he'd hit a soft spot. It'd take a lot to break open the chains around that portion of Lucy, but he figured it'd be better for her if she broke them herself. He rose from his desk and extended a hand to Lucy, helping her out of her seat. She sniffled and rubbed her eyes, trying to eradicate any evidence of her crying. Mr. Reu placed his hands on her shoulders and looked down at her, smiling gently.
  327.  
  328. "Look, Lucy, don't ever beat yourself up about things. Bad things may happen, sure, but more often than not it's not something you can control. Chin up and walk through it, and you'll come out stronger than before. Would Yashy and Lily have wanted you to beat yourself up?"
  329.  
  330. "…No…"
  331.  
  332. "If you can't do it for yourself, Lucy, do it for them."
  333.  
  334. "I-I will, sir!"
  335.  
  336. He walked her over to the door and smiled a warm smile. A smile quickly flashed over her face and just that was satisfactory to Mr. Reu. She exited his classroom and waved back to him just as the lunch bell rang. He leaned up against the frame to his classroom's door and watched her hurry of down the hall, just smiling to himself.
  337.  
  338. Lucy's day went on as normal, but the words Mr. Reu had spoken to her sunk deep down inside of her and she spent most of her time thinking about them during her classes, much to the dismay of her teachers. When the final bell from school rang, Lucy met Daisy outside the building and drove the blonde cat home, waving casually back at her. She guided the Dodge Charger down the street until she hit the turn into the Roseville forest preserves. A slight mist rolled through the trees as the car inched down the deserted road before coming upon the heavy iron gates of the cemetery. She exited the car and pulled open the wrought iron gate, stepping amongst the gravestones looking for her friends. The mist was apparent in the graveyard, too, complicating Lucy's search. But success was personified in the form of two marble headstones, each bearing the names of those two pets Lucy had lost. She fell to her knees and sniffled, lovingly running a hand over each of the headstones.
  339.  
  340. "I've done some bad things, haven't I…?"
  341.  
  342. She could no longer contain her tears and fell forward onto the headstones, bawling and crying. She buried her face in her arms and continued to sob on the gravestones, not hearing footsteps sound off behind her. However, her ears did perk at the sound of a warm voice.
  343.  
  344. "I figured I'd find you here… Lucy."
  345.  
  346. She wheeled around to stare up at Michael, who had averted his gaze and had his hands tucked in his pockets. Lucy wiped her eyes and frowned.
  347.  
  348. "What do you want? Don't you have to call your precious Sandy?"
  349.  
  350. Michael sighed and shook his head. "I was out of line today, Lucy. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought her up, I know how much she hurts you… I don't want to lose you as a friend again…"
  351.  
  352. His apology had caught Lucy off guard and he extended his hand to her, raising her off of the ground. The two stared down at the headstones for a moment before Lucy burst into tears and clasped onto Michael's jacket, sobbing quietly into the brown leather.
  353.  
  354. "I miss them, Michael. I miss them a lot."
  355.  
  356. Michael quietly shushed her and wrapped his arms around her, trying to console her and make her feel better. He allowed her to sob into his jacket and let the majority of her pain out before whispering into her ear.
  357.  
  358. "Don't worry, Lucy. We're all here for you, we won't let anything happen again."
  359. Chapter 4: September: Water Boy
  360.  
  361. "So, Davie!" David's mother called as she casually strolled into the kitchen, catching her son munching on a bowl of Coco Puffs. "Good luck today, sweetums."
  362.  
  363. David shoveled another spoonful of cereal into his mouth and grinned. "Fanks, Mawm."
  364.  
  365. "Now, now David. Don't talk with your mouth full."
  366.  
  367. "Sowy, Mawm."
  368.  
  369. David swallowed his cereal with another gulp and continued to spoon it into his mouth, eager for the day's events that lie in wait. Today was the day for football tryouts and David wanted to be first in line on the field so he could wow Coach Johnson and get a spot on the team. It was early in the morning and David was clad only in boxers, sitting at his kitchen's large oak table while his mother set to work cooking for his father and sister. David picked up the porcelain bowl and lapped at its sides with his canine tongue, licking the last bits of cereal off of the sides. He slammed it back down onto the table and darted upstairs to his room, getting dressed in a flurry of hurried motions. Within five minutes, David was back downstairs and saluted his mother.
  370.  
  371. "Parental unit, I am ready to make the journey to the academic institution!"
  372.  
  373. "Davie, you don't have to leave for another twenty minutes. And, you don't have pants on."
  374.  
  375. David looked down to stare at his crotch, the only thing covering his lumbering canine sheath a thin pair of boxer shorts with hearts on them.
  376.  
  377. "Curses!" He shouted before barreling up the stairs and sliding into a pair of jeans. As his mother had told him before, he had at least twenty minutes before they were required to leave, so David hurried into the living room and reached over to a black cordless phone before dialing the number to Paulo's house. He hummed quietly as the phone rang before a satisfactory click and a worn groan from his friend beckoned to him.
  378.  
  379. "H-hello…?" Paulo's voice came muddled and distorted through the ancient telephone.
  380.  
  381. "Paulo!" David screamed into the phone. A small thump and clatter was succeeded by silence. Paulo had fallen over from his friend's outburst and was trying to climb back up.
  382.  
  383. "What the fuck, David? What do you want?"
  384.  
  385. David's tail was swishing wildly.
  386.  
  387. "Today's football tryouts! Aren't you excited?"
  388.  
  389. "I'm lookin' forward to seein' the cheerleaders, really. Those shirts are damn tight."
  390.  
  391. David immediately saluted no one in particular.
  392.  
  393. "The Roseville Honeybees, the best cheerleader group out there! Standing side-by-side with the Roseville Hornets to ensure complete and utter destruction of our foes!"
  394.  
  395. Paulo yawned and smacked his lips.
  396.  
  397. "Yeah, yeah. Buncha jocks. We get it."
  398.  
  399. David prepared to answer, but his mother's shrill voice reminded him it was time to drive to school. David bid farewell to Paulo and darted towards the door with his mother, following her outside the home to greet her light brown station wagon. He flopped into the passenger's seat as his mother tiredly climbed into the car and yawned, placing her hand over her mouth.
  400.  
  401. "You ready, Davie?" She asked as she turned the key in the ignition.
  402.  
  403. "Roger, Houston." David said in a robotic manner. "T-Minus ten seconds."
  404.  
  405. Before David was able to begin his countdown, the car backed out of the driveway and he huffed in anger, upset that his mother did not wait for Command's clearance to dispatch the shuttle. The small station wagon sputtered down the street as its exhaust coughed like a long-term smoker, sending plumes of thick and dark black smoke into the sky. David watched the clouds overhead change to a light shade of pink as the sun began to rise and smiled at the wonderfully gorgeous vista before him. Today was going to be a good day. The notion of trying out for the football team was one of the tiny things that brought David such huge amounts of joy, even if his friends did think him nothing but comedic relief. He liked to think he was more important than that.
  406.  
  407. But, David's mind was clouded when his thoughts ran over to that of the head cheerleader, none other than the phantasmal woman he simply referred to as "Flower Girl". David had kept after her all of these years and she eventually transferred to Roseville High and retained her old position as head cheerleader. Sure, the other girls were cute in their short skirts and tight shirts, but David only had his mind set on winning over the Flower Girl with his athletic displays of ability. He was determined to win the football season and share the glory with this woman who had tantalized him for so long.
  408.  
  409. David's daydreams were interrupted as his mother prodded him in the shoulder to remind him that they had arrived at school. He kissed his mother on the cheek and exited her vehicle into the throng of students that crowded around the school's entrance, allowing his eyes to search the crowd. He immediately noticed Paulo rubbing his cheek and on the ground with a seething Lucy standing above him, but a move from the left caught his eye. The phantasmal woman herself brushed past him and uttered her first few words to him.
  410.  
  411. "Sorry!" She apologized as David nearly fell from her push.
  412.  
  413. The bell rang but David was far too infatuated to realize it. The courtyard in front of the school slowly emptied and David swung around on a nearby light pole, hearts materializing before his eyes.
  414.  
  415. "Fear not, my majestic mistress! Someday my arms will hold you close and we will share our very first kiss beneath the moonlight upon the corpses of my vanquished foes!" He shouted at the heavens, shaking his fist towards the sky.
  416.  
  417. "David! Get in the god damned building!" Paulo shouted from the school's entrance, snapping David out of his trance. The canine rushed over to his friend and the two entered the cold hallways of Roseville High for a rather eventful day. Of course, the first class they were required to go to was, in fact, homeroom, and you could smell the tension in the air as you walked in. Lucy sat slouched in her chair and was unwilling to meet Mr. Reu's gaze as she had been for the past week since school had started. Michael was sitting next to her and, in turn, refused to look at her as the two were still miffed about their Subway drama. Daisy was busily filling out a sheet for application into the cheerleading squad.
  418.  
  419. David sauntered over to his chair behind Paulo and plopped down, causing the desk to make a metallic dent-like sound as his tush slapped into the plastic. Mr. Reu paused checking his gradebook and glanced lazily up at his class before letting out a loud sigh. The aged canine rose to his feet and strolled to the front of the classroom.
  420.  
  421. "Class, can anyone tell me what the importance of today is?"
  422.  
  423. A few hands shot up, but Mr. Reu decided to call upon Daisy.
  424.  
  425. "Today is—" She began, but David immediately shouted to cut her off.
  426.  
  427. "FOOTBALL."
  428.  
  429. The class immediately burst out laughing and Mr. Reu smiled widely, nodding in David's direction.
  430.  
  431. "Yes, that is correct. Today is the day another generation of Roseville Hornets are chosen to defeat our enemies, the Maraschino Marauders."
  432.  
  433. "Infidels!" David shouted, smashing his fist into the desk. Mr. Reu laughed heartily.
  434.  
  435. "Yes, yes. I have brought this to your attention today, as during tryouts the bleachers will be open to students to watch their friends tryout. I wholeheartedly suggest you go and support your friends in their efforts to become the next generation of fighting Hornets."
  436.  
  437. "Correct me if I'm wrong, sir," Daisy interjected, flipping through her daily planner. "But isn't there a pep rally today, too?"
  438.  
  439. "Yes!" Mr. Reu said, smiling. "You are absolutely correct Ms. Watkins."
  440.  
  441. "Oh, God damn it." Michael whispered under his breath, placing his head down on his desk. Mr. Reu straightened his tie and walked back to the front of the class before turning to face his students once again.
  442.  
  443. "I expect each and every single one of you to be present at that pep rally to show your school spirit." He paused a moment before he sauntered over to Michael and lifted the Korat's face by the chin. "Or you will suffer extreme consequences."
  444.  
  445. The school bell rang and David's peers were more than eager to leave the presence of their aged teacher. David grinned widely as he watched them pass, being the last one to make for the exit. However, a hand from his teacher stopped him and he turned to face the wizened puss of Mr. Reu. The large canine smiled at David and led him out into the hallway towards a large armoire that contained several golden trophies and an empty pedestal with a velvet cushion on top of it.
  446.  
  447. "So, David." Mr. Reu began, placing his hands behind his back. "I heard you are trying out for the football team."
  448.  
  449. "…Shiny…" David replied, encapsulated by the trophies.
  450.  
  451. "Haha, oh David." Mr. Reu chuckled. "These are trophies the school has won in every single athletic performance. However, you will notice that there is a pedestal with no trophy to warm the pillow beneath it."
  452.  
  453. David immediately slammed his face into the glass and startled Mr. Reu, rubbing his slobbering nose all over it.
  454.  
  455. "Who is the cause of this travesty? This missing trophy? I will apprehend them!"
  456.  
  457. "Jesus, calm down David. This empty spot is for the trophy that the Maraschino Marauders have taken from under our noses since 1955. The regional cup."
  458.  
  459. "Regional cup…" David repeated, his eyes sparkling at the thought of obtaining such a treasure.
  460.  
  461. "Yes! And, if you successfully make it onto the football team, I am sure we will win! Fame and women will be yours."
  462.  
  463. David immediately snapped back to glare at his teacher.
  464.  
  465. "Women, you say?"
  466.  
  467. "Indeed."
  468.  
  469. David scratched his chin and thought about his Flower Girl, the love of his life and the teasing treasure that lie just beyond his reach. He immediately slammed his fist into his hand and saluted Mr. Reu.
  470.  
  471. "I will crush the Marauders into dust beneath my feet, sir!"
  472.  
  473. Mr. Reu grinned widely and chuckled. "Good man! Now go on to your next class."
  474.  
  475. David rocketed off down the hallway and sat through three equally boring class periods before the culmination of his dreams was at his fingertips. David was the first in line at the poorly laid-out sign-in table located on the wet grass of the football field. He eagerly awaited Coach Johnson with his tail swishing at a high speed, but instead of the pudgy feline he was met with Abbey who took a spot in line behind him. Paulo walked onto the field with Lucy and Michael in tow, but stopped dead in his tracks as he saw Abbey standing behind David in line. The feline immediately burst into laughter and nearly fell to the ground, grasping at his sides. Abbey frowned heavily and stormed over to Paulo, grabbing him by the collar.
  476.  
  477. "What's so funny, Paulo?" He snarled.
  478.  
  479. "Hahaha, oh man. A fruit like you on the football team? We'd lose for sure."
  480.  
  481. Abbey shoved Paulo back onto the grass and stomped back into line behind David, leaving Paulo chuckling on the ground with grass-stained pants. Michael sighed and examined the sky for a few moments.
  482.  
  483. "Where's Daisy?"
  484.  
  485. Paulo rose from the ground and brushed the seat of his pants off before turning to face the Korat.
  486.  
  487. "She's at cheerleader tryouts, duh." He paused for a moment and sighed, allowing his thoughts to drift off. "My little Jazzie is there with her, getting ready to get on the team. Imagine how hot she'll look in that uniform, Mike."
  488.  
  489. "Yeah, hot."
  490.  
  491. Lucy averted her gaze and frowned before heading off for the bleachers. Paulo and Michael looked at each other and then shrugged before following the white cat's example. They situated themselves above the sign-in table and David waved up to them. Almost immediately, the portly figure of Coach Johnson lumbered out onto the field and he took a seat at the table, fiddling with the pens on it for a few moments before looking up to stare at David. He nearly wetted himself in excitement.
  492.  
  493. "Name?"
  494.  
  495. "David, sir!"
  496.  
  497. "Do you have your applica—" He was cut off as David slammed the paper onto the church table and cracked it's surface, send splinters flying in all directions like shrapnel. A collective gasp from the line behind him permeated the silence before Johnson rose from the ground underneath the table. With a trembling hand, he grabbed David's application and immediately slipped back under the table.
  498.  
  499. "G-go to the locker-r room and get into a uniform…" He stuttered.
  500.  
  501. "Yes sir!" David shouted. Abbey took his space in line and went to hand his application to the already recovered Coach Johnson but he was already met with his answer.
  502.  
  503. "Water boy."
  504.  
  505. Abbey did a double take. "I'm sorry?"
  506.  
  507. "I said you're the water boy."
  508.  
  509. Abbey balled up his fists and fumed at the coach.
  510.  
  511. "Sir, you didn't even giv—"
  512.  
  513. "You're the water boy. Get on a shirt and get the bottles. Next!"
  514.  
  515. Abbey stormed off into the locker room, the sound of Paulo's laughter still ringing deep in his ears.
  516.  
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