Day of the Loner


 The cafeteria clock generated way too much noise. We all knew what we had to do, what was coming up. Eyes darted nervously across the giant room to be received by a peer’s, equally nervous. There was a plan, of course, a wonderful one, something that the principal wouldn’t see coming. In about one minute, all hell was going to break loose.

 This had all been a joint effort; the three of us held meetings almost every day, headed by Daniel, who we essentially elected the leader of our group of students, consisting of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors alike. Our numbers were huge; almost the entire school Leeman never was popular among the students he thought adored him for the supposedly good grades he got out of us.

 The whole week building up to this one particular had been just as well laid out as what we were about to do. So far, almost every single policy Leeman created had been broken; from talking in class to signs of affection, which got rather disturbing at times, but effective nonetheless. The new principal was clueless as to why this rebellion was happening, and we had made a system so that our names were left out of conversation should a student be interrogated.

 It was, in a way, a form of war. Not the one fought with guns and explosives, but one fought with words and strong actions. We were fed up getting pushed around by the king; now was the time for the peasants to revolt and start over once again.

 At my table, one of the few rectangular-shaped ones left in the cafeteria, Claudia sat by my side, Daniel across from me. He took a quick glance at the clock and mouthed to me “thirty seconds. I nodded, showing that I had got the message. At this time, almost everyone had stopped talking.

 Charles was all the way down at a round table closest to the main entrance to the cafeteria. He had been given the permission to give the first action. We had originally thought about a food fight, but the British exchange student had come up with something even more extraordinary than that, going one level above that. Leeman would be furious, but inevitably the blame would shift onto him, and his empire would be crushed once more.

 Daniel’s head jerked up to see the clock again. “Ten seconds”. Claudia’s hand squeezed mine out of excitement and nervousness. It was comforting to know that, through all of the hell the three of us had been through, I had her by my side as I had always hoped she would be. After today, my life might even be so good as to call it perfect; Charles and I were getting on better terms, the Facebook scandal fading into the past. Daniel was my wingman once more, and Claudia was my girlfriend, and I loved her. In a different sense, I loved Daniel and Charles, too. I would have included Eva, but the German exchange student that had basically become Claudia’s guide had been deathly quiet ever since we began holding the meetings. I couldn’t even see her around the household anymore as though she was avoiding us.

 I found my eyes transfixed on the clock just like everyone else. The seconds hand seemed to be moving with the hour hand instead, trying to take as much time as it could. It didn’t take long before I began counting down the time.

 Five seconds. An air of silence was increasing over the cafeteria. A few scattered conversations were still to be heard, but most of them were awkwardly ending when they realized they only heard their own voices and no one else.

 Four seconds. Anybody that ever attended a meeting was silent, not moving save for their slow, quiet breathing. Charles was trying so hard to hide a smile that was playing on his lips.

 Three seconds. Another jerk to the clock from Daniel. Claudia’s hand was slightly shaking; rule-breaking generally wasn’t in her line of duty.

 Two seconds. Footsteps… footsteps were heard? Now the heads started turning, looking around to see if anybody had dared to move from their seat, but the source of the sound couldn’t be located.

 One second. These footsteps were coming closer. It was obvious that they were coming to us. Charles was confused, and paid no more attention to what he was doing. Daniel cursed as though he knew what was going on.

 The minute is over. Charles stands up just as the door behind him bursts open, knocking him down onto the floor. In the threshold stand Leeman, flanked by two of his loyal staff members. One of them was dragging a student behind them… and then I realized why Eva had been so silent. She was a leak.

 Everyone’s eyes were not on Leeman, who obviously had us cornered and was prepared to punish us, but instead on the German that had betrayed us. This perfect plan would have ruined Leeman’s career… but one of our own had told him everything.

 My mind started going haywire. How the hell did she get around to doing this? Why the hell did she do this? Damn you Leeman! He had us again… but he shouldn’t have. This wasn’t going to be a light punishment. Daniel’s face was bright red with anger, and Claudia looked shocked and disappointed. Looking back and forth from Leeman and Eva, I couldn’t decide on who I hated more at this moment.

 Finally, after an eternity of silence, Leeman spoke up. “I want to see Charles Dascher, Daniel, Claudia, and Lionel in my office. You know who you are, and you know what you’ve done. You dare not refuse. You either come now or you can sit down, ride the bus out of here, then I’ll never see your face again”. He was obviously infuriated. His voice had a strong sound of authority to it. He wasn’t lying to us this time; he spoke the truth.

 “Now!” he repeated, his voice raising to an incredible height, making a number of people jump at how loud and powerful it was. Daniel was as still as a statue. After a few seconds, he came forward first. Claudia and I tailed behind him. Charles shuffled in line, his eyes concentrating on the floor. As we passed by Eva, Daniel gave her a chilling stare that would have killed an army. Claudia muttered a curse word to her, something she rarely did. I didn’t even bother glancing in her direction; whatever she did made her undesirable to me, and everyone else. I preferred her as old news, another minion under Leeman’s cruel leadership.

 Leeman strode quickly to his office, his face a deep purple. Daniel was hot on his heels, and at first I wondered if he would just tackle him to the ground and strangle him right there. We took a sharp turn into the principal’s office, which had been completely redone; the walls were entirely white, devoid of pictures, paintings, or anything else. His desk was black with nothing but a computer and a cup holder taking space on it. Grey file cabinets were scattered about, some of them that seemed to have been thrown open furiously.

Leeman sat down in the only chair in the room, took a deep breath, then turned the chair so he could face us. His eyes searched into all four of ours as though still seeking for something he already didn’t learn from Eva. Finally, he opened his mouth to speak.

 “Now… this is certainly interesting. I recall telling you three” he said, gesturing at Daniel, Claudia and I, “to stop acting like delinquents. Yet… here we are.” He laughed while pulling a wine bottle from under his desk. He produced a small glass and began pouring the alcohol into it.

 “For some reason, I imagined we would be in this situation regardless. I shouldn’t have trusted you fools to straighten up. Did your parents ever teach you anything? How to be proper? Good manners? Oh, my favorite… be respectful to adults! I am your principal, like it or not. I have no quarrel with you all or the students. I am here to make a change that this school so desperately needs! You’re holding us all back, and I’m sick of it. It ends here”.

 He stood up and came over to face us. “Now, one of the only good students left in this school decided to come forward and give me the facts. I’ve got all the information I need to bring you four in here”. He picked up the glass and took a sip. “I know about the meetings you hold daily. Now, I know many students attend this meeting. Almost the entire school”.

 He went on. “My knowledge even expands onto certain individuals… certain leaders. My source revealed that there were, essentially, four ringleaders running the show. The rules that were broken, all of the policies I made… to help! They were broken because of the efforts of these four students. Now, these four students stand before me”.

 We remained steadfast in our quiet anger as he continued his speech. Daniel was shaking from his rage, and I was nearing a boiling point. Charles refused to look up while Claudia clutched my hand tightly, and a quick glance in her direction made me see that she was almost just as furious.

 “I bet you’re angry with me. I bet you wish I would burst into ashes in front of your eyes. And I am also willing to bet that you are asking yourselves, what did I call you in here for? It’s obvious at this point. You have rallied the school against me, and I cannot tolerate that. I will… I will NOT have you defy me, and I will NOT have you mess with my administration once more!” Leeman was practically screaming at this point, yet he remained controlled somehow.

 “If I hadn’t learned of what you had planned to do in the cafeteria, I would have been finished, do you realize that? This school would be in shambles, because you couldn’t live without my assistance, without my efforts at trying to better this school, the district! I should have expected to have a loyal member among you, spying for me”.

 Still hearing about how Eva had spied on us was hard to stomach. A flash of anger coursed through me, but Claudia squeezed my hand as though she knew I wanted to leap forward. It was a message; “just go with it. I’m angry too”.

 “I heard that someone got a special position too. Elected, actually. Votes were cast… I’m proud that you have the potential to be a leader, Daniel, if it is in the wrong aspect of what I would have-“

 “You shut up!” Daniel shouted, waving an accusing finger in the air, directed at Leeman. “You have no idea what you have brought this school to! Our lives are ruined because of your stupid policies that have no effect on our grades whatsoever! The board only wanted you in here because the only thing you ever do is kiss up to them!”

 “Interruptions will most certainly not be tolerated! Not now, or in any time after this!” Leeman had reached his breaking point. Even Daniel shrunk in this sudden outburst of anger. I wasn’t going to leave him out on his own, though.

 I spoke out against him. “Maybe he would have gotten a clue from the students rebelling against you… almost the whole school! That’s not anger, that’s complete rage… at you! You’re just so ignorant, thinking that you are helping, but really you just want to see how much our bodies can bend until we break!”

“I’m not bending your bodies, Mr. Stephens, you’ve done that yourself! Now unless you want to suffer an even harsher penalty, I suggest you keep yourself quiet!” Leeman was still keeping his grip on this confrontation… just like last time.

 He turned towards Daniel, and now it was his turn to point. “You led this opposition against me, you instigated this! Everything you have done has been to root me out of my position. You have no respect for me, or any of the staff. You don’t even care for grades, do you! There is only one order I want to give you, and I expect you to follow it!”

 “I’m not ever listening to your-“

 “I want to take your traitorous attitude, that big grin, that pretty-boy insolence, out of this office, out of this school, and out from this district! And if you don’t believe me, I have the paperwork! This is effective immediately, so I want you to carry on your merry way now. Bye! You’re dismissed!”

 Daniel shook his head in denial. “You think you can do this to me? Force me to walk away from the district, from my friends, because you can’t help but have to keep your stupid policies in order?”

 “Yes, because I do what I do! Which is get rid of unwilling students from our district that prides in learning, not revolts and acts of defiance against the staff!” Leeman had delivered his ultimatum, and jammed it down Daniel’s throat.  That was my friend getting bullied, my wingman… I won’t stand for that.

 “You are not going to send him out of here!” I took a deep breath, giving the only idea I had left in my arsenal. “Daniel was only a fall guy. Everything was organized by me, but I didn’t want anyone knowing for sure. I hate you Leeman” I spat the words in his face, “and I planned to peel you off of the wall once I splattered your remains on it”.

 Leeman leaned back, surprised, but he soon regained his footing and engaged his kill mode. “You’re lying. Bluffing. You can’t trick me!” Leeman shouted, almost like a baby that was losing a board game. “All of you… get out!” Leeman shouted, throwing the door open. “I never want to see you again, Daniel. Go!”

 Begrudgingly, we slowly processed out of the room. We were still trying to recover from our rage before we lost it and released it out in the open. Daniel stormed ahead of us, and he might have been crying. Claudia tagged by my side, looking back and forth from me and to Daniel. I nodded, allowing her to go and try to bring him back. I lagged behind and waited for Charles, but when I turned around I realized he had run in the opposite direction away from us.

 I tried to catch up to Daniel, praying that Claudia would get him to feel better. We couldn’t afford an episode after we were beaten, or it would just be nothing but pleasure to Leeman’s ears. However, once I saw  Eva and the two staff that had been with her coming around the corner just as Daniel neared it, I knew things were going to get ugly. 

The group disappeared behind the corner, blocking some of the sound, but I heard most of it.

 “You little-!”

 “It wasn’t my fault!”

“Back off!”

 “Hey! Hold it!”

 “You did this to me!”

 I ran to the scene to see Claudia holding Daniel back while the staff members tended to Eva. I looked over their shoulders to see that Daniel had just thrown a punch at her eye. The skin around it was dark red, and it looked so sickening I had to look away.

I felt furious though… at Eva, at Leeman… at Daniel. We snapped. We showed that we had been broken and let go an unnecessary rage. I came forward into the scene and let loose my own tirade.

 “You hit her? You hit her!” I shouted at Daniel, who looked at me briefly, then looked away ashamed. “You lost it, and you let her get to your head! You let everyone get into head!”

 Daniel tried to make a breathless reply. “She… she told-“

 “I don’t care what she did! You let yourself get lost in your rage!” You-“ I took a breath, at the same time wondering what gained from yelling at him. “You need to learn… to control yourself! I don’t think you get it sometimes-“

“Enough!” Claudia shouted. She looked at Daniel and I, looking angry and disappointed at our display. “We’re going. Come on” she said, walking out the front door. Today wasn’t the day to question why we were skipping school, and frankly I didn’t care. We needed to get away. Things were getting… crazy.

 Claudia tried to talk to Daniel, but he walked off on his own, jaywalking across the street, trying to get as far away from us and the school as possible. I called after him, but he pretended like I never did. I decided to chase to overtake him, but Claudia whispered “don’t”.

 It was a long walk back to Claudia’s house, which I should probably start calling my house eventually. There was a slightly awkward air around there, but not much to be noticed. I mean, Claudia and I were going out, and yet we were living together. I got some raised eyebrows upon saying that around school, but soon it turned into a mock-praise.

She refused to talk to me, but then again I didn’t try to make any conversation. After what had happened, I needed something happy to happen in my life. I aimed for perfection, but all it did was fall down and get soiled in the dirt that Leeman had created. Everything went wrong today… and now I felt myself doubting everything for some reason. My friends, myself… I didn’t get why I was questioning things now, but my mind failed to come up with an explanation.

One thing I dreaded; Eva and Claudia shared a room. Even living together would be a problem. Everyone in the household would have a hostile mood towards her. I secretly hoped she would just run away and swim back to Europe and back to her home in Germany. Otherwise, her life would slowly become more and more torturous after the incident in which she ratted us out… our effort was crushed because of her, and not Leeman.

 I felt like listening to some metal music. For some reason, it calmed me when I was feeling angry. Since Claudia had sent the general message that she didn’t want to talk, and even refused to look over at me, I took my iPod out of the pocket in my backpack. I was looking through my artists list when I quickly stopped; Avenged Sevenfold. That would do the trick.

 I put in my headphones and let the music drown out my thoughts. Claudia glanced over at me now, almost like she was annoyed with this action. I think we needed our own private space at this point anyways. Not breaking up if that’s what you thought, but just a minute or two to try and shed the anger off that came from the Leeman incident today.

 A slight breeze whistled through the neighborhood, sending leaves flying across the street. I looked up in the sky and noticed it was cloudy. Spring was almost here, and the rain was already coming ahead of time. It figures that it would shower on a day like this. The trees swayed in the wind, making the only noise. It was almost like a western town before a showdown; the streets completely empty and silent. That gave me an uncomfortable picture; Daniel’s body lying in the street with Leeman holding the gun that had gunned him down.

 If I hadn’t tried to meet Claudia’s eyes, I wouldn’t have noticed that we had just arrived at her house. She ran forward and flung the door open, not bothering to hold it open for me; before it slammed and smacked my face, I caught it with my hand and held it out as I entered her residence. The air conditioning cooled not only my temperature, but my anger, which had faded away anyways. Staying so pissed off at Leeman wouldn’t help it all and just turn me back into the Loner that I had spent all of my life to discard.

 As I ran up the stairs, Claudia taking the handicap ramp, I began wondering; had I just turned back into that confused, heated teenager once more, refusing to let out my good emotions when I had to, or quelling the bad ones when they were bursting through? No… don’t do this. Don’t try and spiral down to that pit again.

 I realized quickly I didn’t have my backpack- it was still in school along with all of the anger that Eva and Leeman had brought about. Did I have the audacity to step back into that territory once more? I was allowed, but I didn’t know if I should nonetheless. Leeman would have it out for me, and I wouldn’t want to see what would become of Eva.

 The bed that dominated the center of the room; my bed, I should say, looked so inviting. Just sleep and your troubles will go away. It sounded like a good proposition to me. Not bothering to change my day clothes, I threw the covers off, laid down, then adjusted them back on. I cursed as I forgot to turn off the lights. I got up, slammed the switch to the OFF position, then laid back. My eyes resisted my action to close them so I could just let this terrible day disappear into the darkness. I heard that Claudia had slammed the door to her room, and I wondered if she was attempting the same thing as me.

 Before I knew it, I was pulled into the shadows, unnervingly quickly, putting me at unease. As soon as I opened my eyes again I found myself again, I cursed. I wanted to sleep, not get lost into a dream! I started shouting at myself. Wake up, hey, wake up! Don’t let this happen! You don’t know what this imaginary world will have in store for you!

 I tried so hard to wake up. At one point, I may have been slapping my face and thrashing it about. It seemed as though I was locked into whatever my twisted mind had in store for me. Over the years, Leeman and Craig Johnson may have been my greatest enemies. But in this moment, I became nervous as I understood I was wrong; my greatest enemy was in my very own head.

 I took a deep breath. There was no going back, and only a forward that I couldn’t control. I couldn’t predict whatever could happen now. I muttered to myself, “get it over with”, as though my mind would be able to listen to me and get the message. As I took in the full reality of the situation I was in, I began to take in my surroundings.

 I was in a classroom, a regular one, just like any of the ones in the school. I quickly discovered that I was the only individual in the room, except for a man that was facing the board away from me. When he turned around, I recognized him instantly as Leeman. He walked over to me, a gun protruding from his pocket.

 “Now, I’m sorry it came to this, Mr. Stephens” he started off. He was so pathetic! This sounded like nothing but a scene from a James Bond movie. “Not many people care for you… at least, after I lightened that amount” he said, patting his gun. “It would have been easier if you had just listened, you know… such a promising life…”

 Everything was so funny, that even when he pulled out the gun I was at ease. However, when I heard the shot go off and a sharp pain enter me, that’s when I screamed. It felt so real, felt like to was happening to me… it was Leeman shooting down my life at school, I comprehended. It was a subliminal message. Maybe that was the point of this dream… the pain didn’t go away… end it… end this nightmare!

 In a split second, I was transported to a different scene. It was still in the school, but now I was in one of the hallways. Nobody was in it… but of course, there was still one person other than me. Daniel faced me, his eyes locked onto me, clearly angry. He was taking short, quick breaths as he tried to contain himself.

 “You just had to rebel against Leeman, huh?” he yelled at me. “I would’ve been fine with it, but you just had to drag me into it! My life is going to be trashed, my chances gone… since you were just such an idiot… you stupid Loner!”

 I was flung into darkness with that one word still resonating around me. “Loner! Loner! Loner! Loner! Loner!” I watched as all of the terrible moments in my life passed by; Daniel punching me, my suicide attempt, the kidnapping, Charles and his hacking attack against me… Claudia’s rejection in the hospital… I spent forever forgetting these moments, and now one bad day, one bad dream, brought them all back to me.

 I was in Charles’ house now. He was sitting at his computer, typing like a madman. He cursed, then spun around to look at me. “I told you to cut them loose. Cut them loose, I said! You never listened to me, and look where that’s gotten you! How’s been rebelling against Leeman with Daniel been going? Sounds to me like you’re finished!”

 I heard the word finished a few more times as more speeches I heard in my life were repeated. Craig Johnson insulting me at the Winter Dance, that dream in the hospital, yelling at Daniel… more than once… it all was coming back. The floodgates had been opened.

 Now I found myself… in Claudia’s house? I was resting in my bed… I took a sigh of relief. I must have gotten out of the dream… finally. I was done with those haunting images, those speeches that were given to me… and the fact that they sounded so true didn’t help. However, Claudia walked in… walked? She wouldn’t be able to… so this wasn’t over. I dreaded for what she had to say.

 However, I was surprised when… she took her top off. I tried to speak, ask her what the hell she was doing, move and do something, but I was stuck in my spot. She came over… and I heard her whisper in my ear, “You know I love you, right? But I don’t think we’re in love enough yet…” Before the scene continued, I let go the loudest sound I ever let out in my life. It might have been a shout, or a scream, but it came out.

 My head flew forward, my body following it, and I slammed onto the floor beside my bed. I scrambled to my feet, looking around. Claudia wasn’t here… had I made it back into the real world? Oh God… I stopped to catch my breath… and I fell back on the bed.

 What… what the hell had I just been through? I tried to review it. Leeman killed me… showing that he was ‘gunning down’ my life at the school. Then Daniel… blaming me for him getting expelled from the district. Charles… with his message once again that I should have stayed away… and then… whatever Claudia’s purpose was I didn’t know. Was I… could I have been thinking that dirty? Was I afraid of intimacy or something? I shook that part of the dream out of my head, preferring to forget it… it was terrifying in it’s own right… I loved Claudia… but that was extreme.

 I looked around once more as though I still believed I was going to get thrown back into that dream sequence. How could my mind have generated something like that? As I stared intently at the bed, I thought to myself, “Sleep is overrated”. I laid back and stared at the ceiling for who knows how long. Probably until the shouting started…

“You screwed him over. He has to leave the district to go to school, do you realize that?”

 “I didn’t want to, you don’t have the full story friend!”

 “Please, cut the crap. I can see what happened”.

 “Can you just listen to me?”

 “Is that what you said to Leeman?”

“You just don’t-“

 “You know what- get out of my room!”

 I cautiously stepped outside, opening my door to see the spectacle. Eva was standing outside of Claudia’s door as her clothes were being tossed out of it. She struggled to catch all of them, most of the articles falling to the ground. If only the parents were here… but Claudia’s folks were out at a dinner party.

Eva may not have given the full story, but she had definitely done something bad, but didn’t have the common sense to just walk away. She repeated herself like a broken record. “You really don’t know the full story. Come on!”

 Claudia’s shout rang out from her room. “Just stay away from me!” The door slammed, leaving and I out in the hallway. She looked over at me, swallowed, then went back to the task of gathering up her clothes. As much as I hated her and wanted to punch her as Daniel did… I had to hold back. Instead, it was a perfect time to go fishing for answers.

“So” I started off, staying in my position in the doorway of my room in case I felt like retreating at an point, “if what I say wasn’t the full story, you better give it to me right now or I will forget you ever existed and let the seniors at school deal with you as they see fit”. The seniors had a way of humiliating people that went against the general public, and there was no doubt in my mind that Eva had a target on her back.

 She took a deep breath and approached me. “Leeman came to me… with a deal. I didn’t like him… he seemed mean. But then he… he showed me this”. Claudia must have tossed a suitcase out earlier, since Eva produced one from behind her pile of clothes and brought it over to me. We looked at each other, our eyes meeting; then she opened it up.

 “Holy-“ I exclaimed. What fell out of the bag was not clothes or supplies such as you’d see in a suitcase… but hundreds upon hundreds of dollar bills.

 “He gave me this if all I did was tell him what was going on in the meetings”. I didn’t expect Leeman was that dirty in his dealings! Paying people to do spying was definitely not legal… not legal? As soon as those words popped into my head, I began formulating a plan. If we wanted Leeman out, this was the evidence we needed, and hopefully Eva’s word… if she would cooperate.

 I clapped my hands and snatched the suitcase away from her. She didn’t even protest as I did this movement. I zipped it up and threw in inside my room. Leeman wouldn’t see this coming, and it would definitely uppercut his position! Before I left to go into my room, Eva got closer to me.

 “You are so nice” she said, her voice obviously trying to seduce me. “Kiss me”.

 What!? “Hell no!” I rejected her, slamming the door in her face. I don’t want my lips on that disgusting German. She was still a double-crosser, forcing Daniel to take a hike, breaking my friendship with him again… and Claudia is much nicer. Today made me realize who Eva really is; a follower. She doesn’t do as she pleases, but just does as she is ordered, and thinks she is ordered. I hope the seniors had something really special planned for her.

I slept easy that day, a sleep completely devoid of scary nightmares or any type of dram that could have thrown me off of the train tracks. I was heading on a course towards Leeman, and his inevitable downfall. When the alarm went off, I jumped out of bed, threw my clothes on, retrieved the suitcase and ran out the door. The school wasn’t extremely far away, and I felt like I could run a thousand miles in my excitement and my rage.

 I didn’t see Daniel anywhere during my sprint to the school. I had a feeling he wouldn’t show his face around here anymore now that Leeman basically booted him out. However, I had a way that could restore things back to normal. All I needed was the money, and thankfully I had that, so now the beginning of the end started.

 Once I got on the school grounds, I shot a text at Daniel. “Hey man, I know you’re pissed, but I’ve got an amazing idea. On my way to start the end. Text me back”. Once I entered the school itself, I sent another text since Daniel hadn’t responded, and he was usually pretty quick on that. My phone had a function I could turn on so that if I tried to send a message to someone who’s phone was off, it would tell me that. It told me his phone was on.

 I had beat the bus rush by around five minutes, but most of the students came by car. I saw a lot of people looking at me, surprised, and oddly enough… happy. I heard some hello’s directed at me as I navigated the hallways. It was as though I was their knight in shining armor… and in a sense I pretty much was. The conqueror of Leeman’s empire.

 I turned into the principal’s office. Leeman was sitting in his chair, drinking wine… in the morning… and he leaned back in shock as I barged in. I wasted no time in shoving his computer out of the way and slamming the suitcase on his desk. His initial surprise soon wore off and now was replaced by an annoyed, questioning demeanor.

 “Excuse me, Mr. Stephens… but what exactly is this?” he asked, point at the suitcase that now dominated his desk and almost blocked his view over it.

 I smiled as I unzipped the pocket on the luggage carrier and revealed to Leeman what laid inside; all of those dollars that he himself paid to help win against us now was coming back for the good guys to use to win against HIM. Irony… gotta love it.

 His eyes widened as he saw it, and he bit his lip. He was terrible at trying to conceal the fact that it was really all of his. “Now… whose is this?” came his shaky inquiry?

 I looked out the door, at his name on it, and pictured it getting scratched off. Smiling, I turned back to deliver the crushing blow. “I think you just answered that for me… Mr. Leeman” I retorted in mock respect. I closed the suitcase, took it off of his desk, and walked out the door. Over my shoulder, I said “I’ll let you rethink banning Daniel from the district”.

 Content with how the day had started, I ran off to retrieve my backpack. As much as I hated getting back into the school groove, I had to play Leeman’s game for now while he pondered over what he could do. My classes began as of normally, ended just as they usually did… and soon enough I was back into the cafeteria. I located Charles near the back and went to go sit by him.

 “Hey mate” he offered quietly. I sat next to him, Charles barely noticing this action. He wasn’t even eating; just poking his food with a fork… and his food was a soup. It was clear he was still out of it from yesterday’s events in Leeman’s office.

 I tried to go ahead and break the ice. “Hey… Charles. Listen… I know yesterday was tough. It wasn’t good for any of us, believe me. But… I do have good news”. I let a pause come in. “I have leverage against Leeman. We can overthrow him!”

 Charles sighed, then looked down at the suitcase. He connected the dots and picked up the suitcase, slamming it on the table so loud everyone in the cafeteria turned towards him. “You know, last time you said we could beat him, we lost. Daniel is out of the district! You keep living in this world where you think Leeman will just be thrown out, but you’re there all by yourself, and you don’t get it!”

 “Charles, I wasn’t done-“

 But neither was he. He picked the suitcase up once more, slamming it repeatedly. “What? This leverage? What about the other leverage, this leverage, that leverage, every leverage we’ve had? It can’t do bloody crap! No matter what you have will work against him, and you just need to accept that! We’re stuck this way, and there’s nothing the great and powerful Lionel Stephens can do about it!”

 His rage done, Charles sat back down hard and began eating his soup furiously having thrown the fork on the floor. I just sat back down next to him, still believing I would be able to amend this awful situation with Charles, but it was futile.

 “Do me a favor” Charles muttered. He nodded at the suitcase. “Take your little bag and go”.

 I looked at him, and all he did was nod again in response. Reluctantly, I stood up and walked away. Not just from the table, but out of the cafeteria. That’s when it hit me; last night had started making much more sense.

 The dream showed Charles getting angry… exploding at me. Did that mean Daniel would be angry at me too? Did I dare investigate? I told Leeman off, so it wasn’t completely accurate… oh, what the heck. I had to let Daniel in on the plan. Since I seemed to have a leave-school-whenever immunity thing, I walked out the front door once more, backpack and suitcase with me.

 With all of this extra weight, it took a long time to reach Daniel’s house, but eventually I did. I hoped he would be eager that I had dirt on Leeman, and the dream would be proved to be obsolete, but I still advised myself to be cautious. I knocked on the door having seeing that something had smashed the doorbell. I pictured Daniel launching his fist into it after yesterday’s events.

 Thankfully, Daniel opened the door. He was obviously angry when he appeared, but open seeing me his features softened a bit. He held up his phone and gave off a little smile. “Ten texts. Somebody’s obsessed”.

 I nodded in response. “I really have something good to show you”.

 We trekked up to his room, It was in there I brought the suitcase back out in the open and, for the second time today, I opened it up. Daniel definitely didn’t see that coming; he actually gasped. His curiosity soon took over his surprise and he looked over at me, mouth open. “How… how the heck did you find all of this? Is this… Leeman’s?”

 I nodded excitedly. “Every dollar. He used it to pay Eva to spy on us”. I slammed my hand on the case. “I’m telling you, this is what we need! I’ve already let Leeman know that we’re on to him, and he almost cracked already”.

 Daniel gave off a devious smile, then rubbed his hands together. “You know what, Lionel? No offense, but I need you to leave. I’ve got to get something together… for a dear old friend of ours. I’ll tell you in the morning what’s going on, okay?”

 I was happy to see my friend preparing ahead. “Alright man. Don’t be a stranger”. I walked out of his house and over to Claudia’s… my house… I still haven’t gotten used to referring to it as such. I was surprised to see busses coming down the street already. A girl I know, Stephanie, walked off a bus nearby, and I approached her.

 “Hey Steph” as was her nickname, “what’s going on?”

She looked pretty puzzled. “An early dismissal. Leeman called it after lunch. Nobody knows what it was all about”.

 “Thanks. That’s all I needed to know”. I said good-bye to her and ran over to my house… ah, got it right that time! Leeman was running scared, probably calling a board meeting to get a retaliation prepared. Another good thought; Daniel wasn’t mad. The nightmare I had meant nothing and didn’t predict the future. I walked in the front door and off into the living room.

 Claudia was standing there… standing? She was doing well with her therapy, but I didn’t know it was actually that successful. She noticed that I entered and looked away as though I didn’t exist. I stood beside her and tried to talk to her.

 “You know… there was an early dismissal today”.

 She looked at me strangely. “Why?” Even her question was devoid of any emotion.

 “I may or may not have gotten some evidence that could get Leeman out of the school, and Daniel may be putting something together”.

 Claudia looked more interested now. “So… things might go back to normal?”

 I laughed a little bit. “Please… the day things are normal…”

 I accidently bumped into her as I tried leaving the room, and we both soon realized we were very close to each other. Before I knew it, she pulled me close to her and bought me into a long, amazing kiss. My hands held onto her waist, keeping her close to me. Things started getting more passionate, and that was when we both broke off.

 “We can’t be doing that… yet” she said.

 “No… keep things slow”. The dream seemed real now. Ish. But then again, she didn’t seem to care.

 “We don’t live in a very slow life” I commented. Once again, Claudia pulled me into another kiss.

 “Uh oh” I joked, kissing her back. “Uh oh… who’s slowing down?”

 “This week has been terrible” she replied. “I need something good to happen”.

“So we’re not going slow I guess?”

 “Oh, shut up”.

 As we stood kissing in the living room, I found myself not caring all too much about how fast we went. Just not too fast… like that nightmare. Oh, forget it… this is a good moment. Relish in it.

 And wait for the victory that we will obtain tomorrow.

The End

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