Aylin Gallagher is having mixed feeling about moving fourteen hours away to Clear Lake, Texas. On one hand, she has to leave behind the only home she has every known and her best friend since before preschool. But, on the other hand, she doesn't have many friends, in fact, most kids pick on her. They have ever since the fourth grade, so badly that she wonders if her imagination created a boy by the name of Josh Hascall to have one happy memory of the year. He was a new student that year and move
You Do Exist
(Working title, just needed to call it something. Feel free to leave suggestions)
Joshua Hascall. Ten results on Facebook. Four middle age men, three without a picture, and three younger guys. I clicked on one, he was from Maryland. I clicked on another, the Joshua I knew had been a red head and this one had black hair. It could be the same one but he didn’t have any public information and it most likely wasn’t. I pulled up the one that had been the most promising. He was redheaded and he looked about my age. His information was public and it told me he had already graduated college and was from Florida, so maybe he wasn’t my age after all.
“Aylin, honestly, didn’t you two exchange phone numbers or something?” my best friend Kali asked me. We had been friends since before we went to preschool. There were only three years of school we hadn’t been in the same class: kindergarten, fourth grade, and sixth grade.
“No. We were ten. I was barely allowed to use the phone at ten. I didn’t think to ask him what his new number was going to be, or maybe I did and he didn’t know. I don’t remember, it was six years ago.” I reminded her. I couldn’t admit it to her or myself that I didn’t even know if he existed. I remember him but I could have easily made him up. Sure, there was a signature in my fourth grade that said Joshua but that could have easily been the other Joshua in our grade. He wasn’t in our class that year, but Joshua Hascall wasn’t even pictured in our yearbook.
“You remember him pretty well for six years ago.” She noted.
“You know how you can list who your teachers were every year and who you played with and even who your best friend was that year? Well, for fourth grade, he is the only happy memory I still have. He was my first crush and my only friend in class that year.”
“I know that all of your friends from that grade kind of turned on you later.”
“I still talk to Agnes occasionally but I don’t think she likes me, which is fine because I don’t really like her. Beckah won’t even look at me, not entirely sure why. I don’t even know what happened to Nena. Then Tarah just wouldn’t talk to me one day, and still won’t.”
“Yeah, Tarah won’t tell me either. I tried before I stopped talking to her.”
“I got teased a lot that year.”
“I remember. It was one of the few years we weren’t in the same class. I remember every day after school you would be crying when I found you.”
“Fine, teary eyed. Maybe it was you cried after we got to one of our houses. I don’t remember, it was six years ago.” She repeated my comment back to me.
“Agnes was pretty mean.” I replied.
“Still is.” Kali responded. She half changed the subject, “I can’t believe that this is how we are spending your last day here.”
“Kali, it’s two a.m. What are we supposed to be doing?”
“I don’t know, having a party?”
“With who? I don’t have any friends besides you.”
She listed a few people off in our class who were her friends and who were nice to me, but we never really hung out or anything. “I don’t think any of them are actually going to miss me, so I would prefer for it to be just you and me. Besides I have to leave in four hours, it’s a bit late to have a party.”
“Are you going to drive me home in the morning?” she asked.
“You drove here didn’t you?”
“Yes, but I am going to be tired at six a.m. when I will have literally been up for twenty-four straight hours… and will have to be up for at least another nine. I have school tomorrow unlike someone.”
“Then go to sleep.”
“I can’t go to bed knowing that this will be the last day I spend with you until this summer.”
Eventually she decided that she would just drive to school from my house at six a.m. and nap in the cafeteria until school starts. She texted her insomniac friend and told her to wake her up before class. The friend agreed; Kali didn’t worry about not sleeping after that and she reminded me that I could always sleep in the car.
Everything big we owned, liked couches and beds, were hauled yesterday so Kali and I were just sitting on the floor on sleeping bags. Anything that couldn’t fit in our SUV and my dad’s car was sold, trashed, or put in the moving van. The back seats and trunk of the SUV and car were so full of boxes and loose objects that I pray to god we don’t get tailgated, or they are going to hit us when my mom or dad stops. I don’t even know if there is room for me to recline the passenger seat tomorrow to sleep. We shall find out.
“You aren’t moving to chase after this guy, are you?”
“Yes, I am going to move fourteen hours away, by car, to Clear Lake, Texas, near Houston, to try to find someone that I know lives in Texas. I don’t even know where in Texas. No, my dad got a promotion and was transferred. There wasn’t too much I could do about it.”
She left me alone about moving and Josh, and our conversation ended. Before she could come up with another comment or question, I asked her about how things with her boyfriend, Jaron, were. By then, it was already four in the morning, so it became the last thing we talked about.
6 a.m. came and my parents’ clocks went off, which would have normally woken me up if I had gone to bed the night before. Kali and I got off the floor, rolled up the sleeping bags, and set them by the door to be easily moved to the car.
“Is there any food?” Kali asked. I walked her to the kitchen and just stared at her. “What?” She responded.
“There’s no refrigerator. All the cabinets are open and empty. Of course there’s food.” I replied sarcastically.
“I guess I’ll run through Mickey D’s before going to school…” She said to herself.
My mom came into the kitchen and told us that it was time to go and that my dad was already waiting for us outside. Kali and I slowly walked outside. She gave me a big hug before getting in her little red car and driving away. I jumped into the black SUV and got myself situated for the long ride ahead.
We stalked Kali to the McDonald’s and through the drive through. After that, she turned right to go back towards the school and we turned left to get on the highway. I let out a loud yawn and tilted the seat as far back as it would go before it hit the mounds of boxes, which wasn’t very far at all. It wasn’t long before I was asleep.
I woke up about six and half/seven hours later when we pulled into a gas station to fill up the gas tanks. I curled back into the seat when my mom informed me that we we’re just going to drive down the street to get something to eat. I raised the seat back to sit up. The gas at this particular station took forever to fill. I had woken up a good ten minutes ago and we had only gone from three gallons to eight gallons.
“Mom, where are we so I can remember never to stop here for gas ever again?”
“Arkansas.” She replied.
We stayed at the gas station for another fifteen minutes before finally giving up. We got on the road and immediately turned off the road into the Wendy’s parking lot. The only reason we were actually going inside to eat was because my mom wanted me to drive some so that she didn’t have to and she didn’t want me to eat and drive at the same time; apparently, it’s distracting to the driver, like that even makes sense.
I order my usual spicy chicken sandwich, medium fries, a chocolate frosty, and a coke. The coke disappeared fairly fast due to the fact that I needed a drink every five seconds. My parents groaned and said how absolutely disgusting it was when I stuck my fry into my frosty and began to eat them like that. For the millionth time, I had to explain to them that that is what frosties are for and that it is completely delicious. They still didn’t understand and I stopped responding to their scoffs.
We got back to the cars with refills in hand. Mom and I got situated and I backed out of the parking space. Soon I was driving on the highway, forced to go ten miles over the speed limit by the crazy drivers of Arkansas. My mom fiddled with the GPS, trying to figure out how to turn her back on, so I had to wing it for about ten minutes and hope I didn’t miss a turn or anything. Soon she figured it out and the British lady came back and told me that my next turn was right in point three miles.
After turning, my hand went for the radio knob; I had to get off of this country nonsense. “What are you doing?” Mom asked me.
“Changing the radio.” I answered.
“No, it’s fine.”
I repeated something she had always said to me when I tried to change the radio station from the passenger seat. “Driver has control of the radio.”
She huffed and relinquished the right for me to change the station. I went through eighteen country stations before I found anything else and it was some new pop crap. I didn’t know which was worse, pop or country. Eventually, I came across a nice alternative rock station playing Breaking Benjamin. Perfect. My mom shook her head slightly, picked up her book, and didn’t say a word to me, even when I started singing along.
Because of the slow gas pumps in Arkansas, we had to stop three hours later in Marshall, Texas to get more gas. I felt like I must have had a piece of paper stuck to my back saying, “Staring is appreciated” because everyone at this gas station kept staring at me. I looked down at my lime green Converse, wondering if there was something wrong with my shoes. Have they never seen Converse this bright and obnoxious before? I was wearing just a plain white tank top and denim shorts. I don’t see how it could have been anything like that.
A boy a couple years older came up to me when he came out of the station. “Do you mind if I ask you what you did to your arm?”
Oh, that was it. I’m so used to it that I forget. I looked at the white line that went down the entire length of my arm from shoulder to elbow. “No not at all. I was in a car crash; the car rolled. The window broke and my arm grazed across it and got cut on it.”
“Sorry to hear that.” He said and put his hand up as to say goodbye while he walked away and back to his car.
I rubbed that arm uncomfortably. Kids at my old school would pick on you for anything and everything. This was no exception. There was very little I could do to hide it. My school wore uniforms once I entered middle school: white polo shirts, green plaid skirts, and a green jacket once winter came. Plus, who wants to wear three-quarter length sleeves in the middle of summer. There was a possibility of wearing them before, but now that I’m going to be living in Texas; there’s no way I will ever wear them in summer, maybe fall.
The rest of the trip was very simple and short compared to the rest. Mom drove the rest of the way, reminded me that driver gets to pick the radio station, and turned it to some old classic rock station, while I stared out the window, not paying attention.
Once we got to Houston, we had to listen very carefully to the British lady telling us when to turn because we no longer on highway where you didn’t turn often. Houston was interesting but after so many long hours I was just ready to be at this new house I have never seen. I didn’t have to wait long before we pulled into the drive way behind my father, next to the trailer of our stuff.
It was a large white brick house with columns by the front door and navy shutters on the windows. It had been added on to a couple times. The original house had been just a two story rectangle. Now on the right side there was another room made of stone and on the right there was a two car garage. A curvy path, decorated with small bushes lead from the driveway to the house. I could see an old swing set and slide in the backyard, next to the big oak tree with an expertly made tree house that was painted white to match the house. It was much bigger than our old one story ranch but I suppose this was home now.
We walked into the completely empty house. The wood floors were shiny, the walls were white and bare, the spiral staircase spiraled, as they tend to do, and there was absolutely nothing in it that reminded me of home. I didn’t want to stay here. I wanted to go back home. This was just house, not my home. Home was back where I grew up, where all of my memories were, where my best friend and I had hung out for years, where everything was familiar.
I walked through every room in that house and they all looked exactly the same, the same white paint and hardwood floor. It was maddening by the time I was upstairs I was running trying to find something different, to no success. I walked back down stairs as calmly as possibly, and stared right at a door I had missed. I walked into that room addition that had been different on the outside of the house with hope of it continuing that pattern on the inside. It granted my wishes in an ugly fashion. There was terrible shade of pink on the walls and some of the nastiest carpet I have ever seen; it didn’t even have to be purple to be considered horrifying. Still, it was different.
My mom walked into the room as I was running my hand across the blue cushioned window seat in the picture window. Whoever decorated this house must have been colorblind. “Can I have this room?” I asked quietly.
“It’s so much smaller than the room upstairs. You don’t even like pink.”
“Are you honestly going to try to convince me that we aren’t going to paint this entire house?”
“Point taken. Whatever you want, honey.”
I said ecstatically, “Thank you mama!”
I curled up on the window seat after she left. I looked outside but it had gotten too dark to see anything that was out there and I promptly fell asleep there.
It was Wednesday. I wasn’t going to my new school until Friday. I was supposed to help get everything situated; there were walls to paint and furniture to move. My dad allowed me to paint as long as I promised not to paint anywhere near the ceiling or the floor. He was going to do that. We started in my room because of how I wanted it painted. I wanted plaid walls. The base was lime green, then blue and orange. My mom wanted to be an artist when she was little; she still dabbled in painting and drawing and said that this wouldn’t be hard at all. Basically, I painted the green and was told to go paint another room when it was time to put the blue on and the same when it was time to put the orange on.
We got all of the painting done that day, somehow. The living room was the color of a bluebird, the kitchen was canary yellow, the dining room was brick red, the study was left boring white, my parents’ room was a mint green, the family room beige, the upstairs bathroom was salmon and the downstairs lavender (how my mom talked my dad into that one I shall never know), and the guest bedroom was a grayish blue color the paint swap called “coast.”
We called it a day and went out to eat to get away from the paint fumes for a while. We stopped at a promising Chinese buffet. It was around six o’clock and was fairly empty. We got seated at a booth, ordered our drinks, and sent up for plates. By the time I sat back down with my plate of sweet and sour chicken and rice, there was a long line at the cashier. We had beaten the rush by a mere five minutes.
Dinner was tasty, lengthy, and silent. None of us were seated for very long and we weren’t at the same time, usually, and if we were then we were stuffing our faces. I think I had tried everything in the restaurant before we left.
We drove the two cars - neither car would hold all three of us at the moment due to the great amount of boxes in them - back to the house. I grabbed my sleeping bag out of the car this time. Tonight I decided I would sleep in the study since it was the only room that we didn’t paint in; I figured it would be easier to fall asleep if I was breathing clean air. The only problem was that the floor was extremely cold and my child sized sleeping bag wasn’t doing its job properly for a teenage sized girl.
The next morning my mom came in and nudged me with her foot. Today we did have help coming to move some of the bigger pieces of furniture, but I was in charge of organizing anything and everything. For example, they moved my furniture in first and I had to A) tell them where I wanted the big pieces, B) move anything I could lift to where I wanted it, and C) put everything small like books or knick-knacks where I wanted them. Therefore, I spent a good portion of that morning organizing my room.
My queen bed with neon green sheets and orange comforter was placed squarely across from the picture window. My light wooden dresser was at the foot of my bed, but it didn’t hinder my view through the window. My big bookshelf was placed along the interior wall and the small one next to the window; my orange butterfly chair shoved between the two. On the other side of the window seat was my TV. The wall adjacent to the one with the window was home to my desk and my lime green rolling chair. The window seat was given new baby blue cushions that we had purchased with the paint.
After all of that, I went through my boxes of books, CD’s, DVD’s, Wii and GameCube games, and even VHS tapes. Most belonged on the big bookshelf, but my favorite books - books by John Green, Sharon Creech, Mary Hoffman, Eoin Colfer, J.K. Rowling, Lauren Brooke, Lemony Snicket, Cornelia Funke, and many others - went onto the little white one. They were mainly series of books like Harry Potter but there were quite a few that were not like Ruby Holler. I started there. I organized them like a library would by author’s last name and then by the title of the book, putting the first of a series starting on left followed by subsequent books.
The big book shelf’s top shelf was full of CD’s, since I usually only used them to put onto my iPod and then left them, but I liked actually having the physical CD. It was full of alternative rock bands: Ludo, Without a Face, Sparks the Rescue, Stamps, 30 Seconds to Mars, FM Static, The Graduate, plus the occasional other artists and bands like Charlie McDonnell and Landon Pigg. Not many people knew the bands I listened to and I always got funny looks when asked what my favorite band was. I did not have enough CD’s for an entire row so I started in on the VHS’s. They consisted mostly of old movies I watched as a child; almost every animated Disney movie ever made, even a couple no one has heard of like The Black Cauldron, and other classics like The Wizard of Oz. Those two combined took up a shelf and half. Next the DVD’s, this shelf was full of anything and everything; many were movies that were based off the books in my white book case, a lot of horror movies, tons of classic movies that I got as DVD’s, new movies that did not actually suck, and a couple musicals.
I had kept all of my old Game Cube games when I bought my Wii because I knew you could play them on the Wii, but I never did, just like I never replay my Wii games once I beat them. I started with the Game Cube games since they were older. I smiled when I came across my Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time game that they had remade for the Game Cube. It was such a good game and I remember playing it for a very long time. Another good one was Super Smash Bros: Melee. Kali and I spent many summer afternoons when it was too hot to go outside playing this game. After all of those, I had the Wii games which consisted of any Mario games, Guitar Hero, Just Dance, and Harvest Moon. The remaining shelves were home to my remaining books which, like everything else, were organized library style.
I had gotten rid of most of knick-knacks when we moved, but the ones I did keep were spread out among the tops of the bookshelves, dresser, desk, and entertainment center. It was just little things like stuff animals that had been given to me by various people and goofy little trinkets like the replica Parthenon made out of notecards that was part of a project in the sixth grade.
After I finished all of that in my room, I had to go repeat it in the living room. The only thing that was in the living room was books, but only because those are going in the study. I had the VHS tapes, the DVD’s, the games (I swear my parents are children at heart), the CD’s, plus I had their records and cassette. Instead of one big bookshelf, I had a bunch of different places where I had to put things. The movies went in the entertainment center, DVD’s and VHS tapes on different sides, the records, and cassette tapes in different compartments under the combination record and cassette tape player. Finally the CD’s went under the same table only under where the CD player rested.
I flopped down on the sky blue couch and rested a moment before tackling all of the family photos that my mom wanted to put above the fire place. I waited all of five minutes and began separating the pictures by the size of the frame, making sure to put the big ones in the back so they would not cover up the smaller ones. There were a couple potted plants that my mom wanted in there that I had to situate.
The next thing I was told to do was go organize the study. I was about halfway through when we took a break for lunch. I got back and finished the books, before moving on to the stack on board games that had to go in the closet in the family room, then the towels and rags needed to set in the bathroom closets. Finally, I was told to unpack the box of computer discs and sort out which ones of them were mine and which were not and put them in appropriate places. It was fairly simple since the only computer software I owned was The Rosetta Stone and an old copy of The Sims that I did not play anymore. I picked them off the top, and put the rest in the upper left hand drawer of the desk. I set mine in a drawer of my desk.
We ordered pizza and ate in our new dining room. Then, I took a shower, got ready for bed, and went to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be my first day at this new school, and the first time I have worn anything but a uniform to one in five years. I was not looking forward to going, but it was sort of exciting to be able to wear whatever I want to school.