After another summer spent within Oregon, I had to say that a lot had changed since I last walked into the school. Due to the scaffolding, I could only assume they were doing renovations, which honestly begged the question "Why didn't they do this when the school WOULDN'T be occupied by teenagers?" But I wasn't hoping for an answer to that. I discovered a long time ago that the people who ran my high school had the average intellect of a walnut. Hell, for some people in the administration, a walnut would be like their Nostradamus.
I was walking by the cafeteria when I heard a voice. "There he is ladies and gentlemen!" I recognized the voice immediately. It was coming from a five foot nothing heroin needle, shaped like a human being. "The man you've all been waiting for! The one, the only, Gayson Fartindale!" His name was Alex, and he was one of my best friends. We've known each other for all our lives, and not once has he come up with a nickname for me that didn't suck.
"Dude, that sucked." I told him, and for some reason it actually seemed to hurt his feelings.
"Fuck off man, you never take my creativity seriously."
"Alex, I'm a writer, I have no problem with creativity. You just don't have any."
"Oh of course," he threw his hands in the air and then began to mock me. At least I think that's what he was doing. "First day back from summer, and already I'm getting insulted by Mr. 'I'm too good for Alex's brilliant mind because I won an Edgar Award and that makes me better than everybody, la la la!'" He sang the last three words in an operatic form, the same form you here whenever anybody ever says "La la la". He was right though, that award was my pride and joy, and I did hold a slight view of superiority because of it.
Perhaps now would be a good time to make my introduction. My name is Jason J. M. Martindale. To answer your questions: 1. No, the J. M. does not stand for Jason Martindale, my parents were not that dull. 2. The J. M. actually doesn't stand for anything in particular. 3. My middle name is taken from J. M. Barrie, who was the author of Peter Pan, one of my family's favorite books/movies/source of entertainment for decades. 4. The J. M. in J. M. Barrie's name stands for James Matthew. And 5. Even though J. M. Barrie did in fact have a full name, my full name remains Jason J. M. Martindale, including the periods. I was born and raised in Astoria, Oregon, and am a senior in high school. My favorite color is red, I like to write stories, make lists, and feel like I'm better than other people.
Last year I got to feel like I was better than a lot of people when I won the Edgar Award for Best Novel, for a book I had finished writing a year before. It was called "And the leaves would blow", and it was a murder fiction that I had been playing around with for a long time, before I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be great if I could get get this book published?" So I sent the book to a few publishers until someone approved me and began selling the book, and people liked it. A lot. I felt like the S.E. Hinton of my time, except younger, male, and a better writer. After I won the award, I'll admit, I began to take my writing a bit more seriously.
"I didn't say that." I responded. "I'm just saying if you're going to call me anything at least make the name interesting." He crossed his arms, tilted his head, and frowned.
"All right, let's see you try it, make a nickname out of Alexander Donald Richardson." I thought about it for a while, thinking of any possible rhymes for any of those words. I came up with nothing, so I just smiled and said.
"Cradled Dirndl Oxen Horns"
"It's an anagram, I had to leave out three A's though, your name is too damn long."
"Whatever, let's get to class." By a stroke of luck we ended up in the same History class. Which was good, because apart from each other, Alex and I didn't socialize much with many others in our grade. The teacher walked in about five minutes after everyone else had arrived. His name was Mr. McJane and he smelled like cheese.
"Good morning class, I hope you had a good summer break. I will be your history teacher for the semester and blah blah blah, yak yak yak, I wish I could build a tiny canoe and then sail it to greet my martian friends." That's what I remember from the first half of history class. I already knew that I would not enjoy this. "Mr. Martindale!" My eyes snapped up to stare at the balding man before me. "I would appreciate it if you did not fall asleep in my class, summer is over after all."
"I understand sir, sorry, it won't happen again." As I was saying this I was about to fall asleep again, but then I heard a loud crack on my desk and I was instantly awake, only now noticing the three foot long stick that Mr. McJane took the liberty of smacking on my wooden desk. "Won't happen again."
Thee next half hour consisted of a long boring rundown of the course. I was not interested, so I tried writing my story again. I had only gotten to the word "the" (which, incidentally, was the only word so far) before I heard the door swing open. I turned around and saw Claire, somewhere in between completely normal, and gasping for air like she had just been chased by a cougar. I couldn't help but wonder why she was so late to the first class of the year.
"Sorry I'm late," she began. "My mom needed a ride to her job, and my Dad wasn't able to do it." I accepted that excuse. The teacher simply motioned her to sit down. As she moved to her seat, I felt Alex tapping my shoulder.
"Dude, who's the hottie?" I turned around to see his eyes fixated on Claire's cleavage. Had he been any closer, I'm sure he would've been drooling as well. I explained to him that Claire had just moved into the town, and she was now my next door neighbor. He seemed particularly interested in the last part. "Dude! You live next door to that? I am so jealous! You two get into any... you know..."
"Pfft, I wish. We're just acquaintances." I said that because I wasn't sure if we were truly friends yet. Since the day we first spoke last week, we've been talking a bit, but we haven't exactly been close.
"Well either way," Alex cutoff my train of thought. "If you ever start hitting that, you need to tell me every, single, detail. You hear me?"
"Loud and clear."
Class ended a few minutes later, and after a very boring Math, Chemistry, and a surprisingly dull Cooking, it was time for lunch. As I was walking over to my usual table with Alex and the rest of the guys, Claire stopped me mid-step.
"Hey there." I greeted her nervously, though not as nervous as I was when we first met.
"Happy afternoon dear knight. So is that the round table over there?" She points over to my group of friends, I nodded. "Great, let's go eat." Even as we approached the table and sat down, I could almost feel the intense stares being shot across the table at us. I was unsure what to do, until finally Claire exclaimed. "Now that's no way to treat a new friend, Jason. Introduce me!"
I took a deep breath and looked at my friends, who were still staring. "Guys, this is... my friend, Claire Wilson. She just moved here, so be nice and... stuff." None of the expressions on the faces of my table comrades changed any, until Steven, a junior who is in my senior math class, raised his hand.
"Can I touch her?" He asked quietly. Claire and I both laughed a bit, even though that was the mood that stayed throughout the rest of the day.
"This is going to be a fun friendship." I thought to myself.
____________ ________________ ___________
A couple of weeks had gone by since the first day of school, and talking to Claire had only gotten slightly easier. I stopped stuttering, and Alex was beginning to get cool with her, though still creepy. Everyone else still had trouble adapting to the fact that there was a girl talking to them, and that she wasn't running away in disgust.
It was around three a.m. and I was in my bed trying to sleep, when I heard a knock on the door downstairs. I'd hoped that somebody else would answer it, but evidently not as the knocks kept coming. Finally, I stood up, stretched rubbed my eyes, walked downstairs to the door, and opened it to find Claire covered in dirt, will cuts all over her arms.
"May I come in?" I showed her inside and to the bathroom, where she had a shower, washed her hair, and then I helped her disinfect the cuts.
"Do you mind if I ask what exactly happened?"
She shrugged. "I guess my bad luck just followed me here." She cringed as I rubbed alcohol on her arms.
"That only raises more questions Claire. Do you not want to talk about it?" She put one finger up to my lips and 'sshh'ed me.
"Jason, when's the last time you've ever tried to dive into your dreams head first?"
"I don't really know." It was a difficult question to answer, and I wasn't completely sure that I knew what she meant.
"See, I have always believed that if the dream was there, it was there to be achieved. And if it was there to be achieved, then obviously people should try harder to fulfill them. I don't like the lack of effort that I see in people today, all of their dreams wasted by petty, soporific lives. Do you know what I mean, Jason?"
"I think I do, but I still don't know what this has to do with the current state of your arms." She smiled, though not too widely.
"Not all dreams come so easily. Some take a lot of preparation. Somewhere in the midst of everything I got impatient and just tried to jump right into the glowing pool of sparkling water that was my sub-conscious." This spiked my interest. I hadn't thought of Claire as such a deeply thought out person.
"And what was the result of that?" I asked curiously. She brushed the wet strands of hair out of her face and looked me in the eyes. I may have gotten lost if it weren't for the fact that it was three a.m., and my eyes were beginning to hurt.
"The result was I got water burn. But that's okay, because now I have learned to restrain myself and focus on swimming to my goal."
"So this won't become a daily occurrence, then?"
"No it still might, ah that stings!" She pulled her arm back and began to apply the bandages. "You see, while some dreams are achieved, and some are not, some go in the complete wrong direction and turn into gruesome nightmares. And that's where I'm at right now." This unsettled me, but she continued. "Jason, don't worry about me, I know when I go too far. Although, I may need your help." Now if most people came to my house at three in the morning asking for favors, I would turn them away. But most people aren't Claire Wilson. I nodded in agreement. "Fantastic! I'll find you tomorrow at school and give you the details. Meet me at my locker, and wear black"