I remember the day that I had first met Jake.
Our neighbors were having one of their annual barbeques, in which they invited everyone in the same development, and their family and friends as well. We had been invited of course, and my mom, being the social butterfly wanted to go. I, however, didn’t want to go, and I was absolutely positive that my dad wasn’t looking forward to it either. But, my mom forced us to attend by informing us that this was the only way for people not to get suspicious.
And so, with no other option but to attend, I got up off my lazy butt and dragged myself to the house—unfortunately in a suit as well. We arrived as a family, all of us with fake smiles on our faces (although I bet my mom’s was semi-real), acting as if everything was normal between all of us, as if there wasn’t anything bad happening within the confines of our house.
My dad, although he tried his best to appear like he was enjoying the function, almost gave the whole ruse away with his angry strides towards the kitchen of the house, where everybody was milling about, either picking up some snacks from the huge assortment that was piled onto the counter, or grabbing a nice, cold beer (well, for the adults anyway; there was soda for the minors laid out) for people to drink as they socialized with each other. The only reason people didn’t notice just how pissed off he was had to do with the amount of alcohol they were consuming.
As for me, since I wasn’t a social type, taking after my dad, I made my way towards the staircase located right at the front of the house, wanting nothing more than some peace. Having people coming up to me and commenting on how much I’ve grown since the year before when they saw me at the same party wasn’t exactly what I viewed as fun.
The sound of laughter and chatting made its way over to my ears multiple times, but I did my best to just tune everything out, pulling out my cell phone and playing some of the crappy games on it. Considering that my phone was as outdated as possible, the only semi-decent game I could play was a cheap demo of Pac-Man, which always seemed to end the game whenever I was even remotely close to winning the game.
So naturally, the game didn’t manage to hold my attention that much longer. All it did was only increase my boredom. Sure, I could have actually tried to talk to people, but the only people around my age who were at this party were the really shallow people who would talk about nothing else but themselves, and how interesting their lives were.
And their definition of interesting involved whether or not their fantasy football team was doing well or not. Now, call me crazy, but I wasn’t really into football which for a guy is shocking, or so they say. But honestly, it wasn’t my definition of the ideal sport. My interests varied more towards baseball and tennis, sometimes even basketball, but never football.
Sure, it wasn’t like they talked about sports all the time, but when they weren’t, they talked about how amazing they were and how stupid others were; this only proved that they were shallow.
Frankly, shallow people weren’t exactly nice to be around. They just made me want to rip my hair out with my own two hands (not that it would be successful considering that I didn’t have the strength necessary to pull that off). It wasn’t just their attitude; it was the way they talked, the way that they treated others, their actions…all of that crap that made me hate them.
That’s exactly what I thought Jake was.
He had made his way over to me once he entered the household with a lost expression on his face. Dressed in clothes that reminded me of a country club, I immediately assumed he was one of them and did my best to come across as unfriendly as I could, which was really no different from how I normally was.
“Hey,” he had begun, “what’s up?”
I was curious as to why someone like him would even be talking to me, considering that the people in school saw me as an outcast, someone to avoid. But, I pushed that thought away, just shrugging at him before turning my attention back to Pac-man. The game didn’t manage to hold my attention for long though, and the fact that the “country-clubber” wouldn’t leave me alone wasn’t really helping.
“I’m pretty sure that you can talk,” he pointed out, running a hand through his brown hair, which had been—of course—arranged neatly on top of his head, “so this whole ‘silent treatment’ won’t really get me to leave you alone, if that’s what you’re aiming for.”
At his words, I shook my head, looking up at him as I spoke. “Look, I don’t really want you around, and I’m sure you’d much rather be golfing at your country club, so why don’t you leave me alone, or go hang out with those people over there,”—I gestured towards the “popular” people—“who seem more like your type of group.”
He raised an eyebrow at me. “And how exactly would you know what type of group is more like mine? We barely know each other.”
“Lucky guess,” I responded, crossing my arms as I glared at him. “Now, care to leave me alone? Or do I have to get a restraining order in order to get you off my back?”
“I don’t think your guess is that lucky,” he retorted. “Personally, I think that they’re infuriating. The things that they talk about aren’t exactly what I’d call riveting, you know? They’re really stupid and childish, in my opinion.”
“Wow, you’ve got an advanced vocabulary, you’re cool,” I said sarcastically, standing up from my seat on the staircase. Clearly, this guy wasn’t going to leave me alone, so I was going to have to vacate the area. That seemed like my only option. “If you excuse me, I’ll leave since you don’t seem to get it through your thick skull that I want you to leave me the fuck alone.”
Instead of being phased by my comment, it only encouraged him more. He held out his hand to me, offering me a smile as he said, “My name’s Jake,” and proceeded to ask me about mine.
Realizing that he wasn’t going to leave me alone unless I responded, I grumbled a quick, “Blake,” before taking my seat back on the steps and resuming my game. I was pretty close to beating my high score, so that required all of my attention.
“So Blake, you around here?” he asked, sounding like a complete and utter idiot.
“Yes dipshit,” I responded. “If I wasn’t from around here, why would I even be at this party?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. You could be a friend of the family or something…”
“Well I’m not,” I informed him harshly. “Are you done with the interrogation? I have better things to do than talk to people who annoy the crap out of me.”
“Where’s the need to be rude? I just wanted to talk to someone. I’m new around here and stuff so, you know, it wouldn’t hurt to make a friend or two,” he replied, sounding a little bit miffed by my comment.
I rolled my eyes. “Well clearly, I’m not the friendly type, so why don’t you go bother them over there?” Once again, I gestured towards my fellow peers. “They really like to socialize—much more than necessary actually—so I have a feeling that you’d get along great with them! Here, I’ll even introduce you if you want.”
“Uh, no thanks. I think I got it,” he said, sounding a bit dejected. “I guess there’s just something wrong with wanting friends in this neighborhood.” Believe it or not, his words made me feel guilty. Sure, he annoyed me, but he was just a new guy looking for some friends, and I had treated him like shit. I had acted like a total douche when I had no reason to.
Letting out a sigh, I replied, “Look, sorry for being rude. I guess you can hang out with me tonight…but not here.” I glanced around, making sure that my parents were distracted enough not to notice me leaving the house. “You got a car?”
He nodded. “Yeah, wh—”
“Give me the keys.” I held out my hand, patiently waiting for him to hand over the keys to his vehicle. If we were going to go to the place I had in mind, a car would make it a hell of a lot easier, and it sure would save some time.
Once he slipped them in my palm, I made my way out of the house, him following right behind me. Pressing the unlock button on the keys, I scanned through the many cars, waiting to see which one lit up so I’d know which car was his.
An old Volkswagen lit up, and I trekked over there, happy that I was finally getting away from the suffocating environment of the party. I had a feeling that my parents would find out and I’d have to pay the price, but at the moment, I honestly couldn’t care about it at all. I was too focused on the fact that I was finally getting to visit my favorite place after a week of hell.
“So, where are we going?” Jake asked, once we were both seated in his car.
A bitter smile spread across my face as I said, “My escape.”
Since that day, Jake and I had been great friends. The two of us had bonded a lot that night, realizing that we had a lot more in common than I had initially thought. Our tastes in music and movies were relatively the same, and he was a fan of baseball as well, although he did support the rival of my favorite team—something that often spurred many arguments between us regarding who was better.
Our friendship had expanded to a completely whole new level as time progressed. Due to his charismatic and extroverted nature, I was often pushed out of my comfort zone, which eventually landed the two of us as the most popular guys in school (not to mention, the most sought after guys as well).
The two of us had become closer as time passed by, and by the end of a year, I had finally gained enough courage to tell him the truth about my dad and everything that he had put my mom and I through. I had revealed the real reason I’d attended the party (to make it seem like things were fine in our household, even though they were anything but,) and kept him informed about how things were under the roof of my house, or what I liked to refer to as my own hell.
It was one day though, that changed everything.
I had been walking home, planning to hang out with Jake today so we could play the new baseball videogame that he’d bought. I was excited, my fingers itching to hold the controller to his PS3. But, it seemed like the universe had a different plan for me, because of what happened next.
My mom had sent me a text message requesting that I come home immediately. Thinking that it involved a predicament with my dad, I quickened my pace as I walked over there. Nerves wracked through my body, causing anxiety to plague my mind.
I was worried about what I’d see once I arrived home.
Shockingly though, nothing really bad seemed to have happened…well, aside from the fact that my mom was crying. But that was minor compared to some of the horrible things that I’ve seen in this house.
Running towards her, I wrapped my arms around her petite frame, hoping that whatever my dad did wasn’t too bad. “What did he do to you?” I asked her, in a soft whisper, my voice containing barely any courage at all as I spoke. “Please tell me it’s nothing bad.”
She shook her head, coughing as she opened her mouth to speak. “It’s…not…him,” she wheezed out.
I raised an eyebrow. “Mom? What are you talking about?” I was honestly confused. If it wasn’t him that made her cry, then who could it be? It wasn’t like there were many people in this world who could make her cry. It was mostly only him, with the exception of her parents, who had made her cry one last time this past summer when they died.
She brought her arms around me now, adjusting our position so my head was resting in the crook of her neck. “Oh, honey,” she whimpered, “he’s gone.”
I pulled away from her, still not understanding what she was trying to say. “Who, mom? Who’s gone?”
Letting out a shaky breath, she whispered one word; the one that would change my life forever.