It was weird, the next day at school without Sakari there at lunch. In a way it was almost refreshing, knowing I wouldn’t have to chat with her… Yeah I guess I kinda liked her… I know I said I loved her and everything, but honestly, I was just hoping she’d have sex with me before she ended up moving away. Yeah, yeah, call me what you will. Like I actually care.
Surprising me, a short looking girl with dark brown hair and green eyes was sitting in the place Sakari would have been had she still been here.
She had earphones in her ears, completely immersed in whatever she was staring at so intently on her iPod screen. I sat down, across from where she was sitting and silently started eating my lunch. I knew my fake quietness added to some sense of brooding that girls found adorable in me.
But, unexpectedly, she pulled the earphones out of her ears and looked at me. "Hi, I’m Natalie. Am I invading your table or something? I can move if you want. I didn’t have anywhere to sit, and this table was empty. Hey, you’re in my English class aren’t you? I think I remember seeing you this morning, second block. Maybe I’m wrong…" She stopped her rant suddenly, blushing. "Um, sorry… I talk a lot sometimes…"
I smiled, sort of. Maybe she’d be easy. "Eh, it’s cool. I don’t mind. And no you’re not invading, I just didn’t expect to see anyone sitting here. Well I mean, I did, but I didn’t expect to see you, I mean... ugh, I don’t know how to explain what I mean." Jumbling words was always a good way to make girls think you aren’t overly sure of yourself. I guess it makes them feel like they’re the one making you stumble and they like that.
She giggled, a high-pitched, almost annoying sound. "That happens to me all the time. So, I told you my name, but I don’t believe you told me yours."
I smiled slightly, having a sudden flashback of how long it took before Sakari and I were talking like this… Huh… maybe she’d be easier to get with. I realized she was waiting for me to reply. "Uh, Damien. I’m Damien." She flashed a smile at me, and suddenly I was thinking, "Sakari? Sakari who?"
The day was going by amazingly. Nate was hilarious, always finding some way to keep me upbeat throughout the whole day, and I fit in really well with his group of friends.
The other kids from science were spread out through a couple of my other classes and we all sat together at lunch. They had only an inside cafeteria, with circular tables placed randomly through it. It was a little crowded and noisy but I found that I liked it.
The tables comfortably seat six, but we’d squeezed three other chairs into it. There was Nellie, a sweet 12-year-old, who had skipped third grade and eighth grade, to end up in our grade. Beside her was her older brother, who was our age, Carl. Then there were Evelyn and Hannah. They were twins, completely identical, and loved finishing each other’s sentences. Then three of the kids from science, Jack, Brent and Abbie, who I felt oddly connected too, and then me and Nate, completing our very filled table.
Abbie was extremely friendly and we’d instantly clicked. It was like instant best friend.
We were all practically elbowing each other, trying to eat lunch. But everyone was talking and laughing and just having fun. And the rest of the day sped by and suddenly fourth block came around and I had art with Nate and Caleb. Nellie was in the art class too, the easels set up around the room were all taller than her and although I found that quite funny, I made sure to not laugh. That would’ve hurt her feelings. I let Nate and Caleb direct me to a seat and then we waited for the teacher.
We had to paint a fruit bowl. It was sitting on a desk in the middle of the room, plastic fruit in a plastic bowl. It would have been easy for Damien, I thought with a grimace. I bit my lip and banned the thoughts from my mind as I struggled to do the assignment.
"That was awful." I said, walking down the hallway with Nate. "I hate drawing."
He chuckled. "It wasn’t so bad… but my fruit bowl kinda looked like some sort of alien or something. We turned down the hallway and I crashed into someone. We didn’t fall down, but I stumbled backwards and looked up to see Jaz.
"Watch where you’re goi- Oh, hey." Her voice changed from aggressive to normal in the sentence.
"Hey." I said back, as she made her way around us and disappeared around the corner. "You know her?" Nate asked, looking almost shocked.
"Uh, I bumped into her in the bathroom this morning."
"And she didn’t threaten to rip your heart out?"
I laughed but his expression was still almost serious. "Wait, seriously?"
"Pretty much… Jaz hangs out with the…" He shrugged. "I guess you could say, ‘bad’ kids of the school. They kinda have a gang or something like that. There’s her and Trina and CJ and a couple of others and they’re not really good people."
"Oh… she seemed really nice." I said, reaching for my locker, taking out the books and stuff I’d need for homework tonight. "Hey, I’m gonna have trouble with that stupid Algebra homework… would you possibly be able to come over and help with it?" I suddenly remembered the appointment at four and quickly added, "After dinner maybe? I’ve got something I have to do before dinner…"
Math was definitely my weak spot. I was pretty good in most classes, and advanced in English, but throw some Math at me and I pretty much collapse. I’d never got anything above a B- in any Math class I’d ever been in, which for me, was awful.
He grinned. "I could do that. I’m pretty good in Math." We met Caleb outside, waiting for the buses to get there.
"How’d your first day go?" He asked, and I could see that as light as his question sounded, there was a deeper meaning to it. He was asking if I were okay, if the day went okay, without letting anyone around know that I could have had mental breakdowns during the day.
"It went good… this morning was a little hard, but the rest of the day was fine."
An hour later we were at home. Nate was going to come over after supper, after he asked his parents, and after I asked Beth and Lucas. Then I’d call his cell from the house phone, sometimes I really wished I had a cell phone. Caleb said that Beth would probably say yes.
"In fact, she’ll probably be ecstatic that you made a friend, and then knowing her, since her Nate’s your age, she’ll probably try to play matchmaker. If you’re not careful you’ll end up being engaged to him by the end of your studying." He’d said with a grin. "Don’t believe me? Just wait and see."
Sure enough, Beth was overly happy when I asked if Nate could come over. And she got more excited by the minute. "You know what?" She sort of said, sort of asked, after I’d called Nate, "We need to get you a cell phone. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. We’ll have to go to Bangor for that… or maybe I can do it online… I’ll just have to talk to Caleb and see if he can help me figure things out."
"You really don’t have to do that Aunt Beth." I said, shaking my head quickly. That would be just too much.
"I insist. All teenagers need a cell phone. Besides, then you can text Nate and any other boys you meet." She left, a big smile on her face and I dropped onto the couch. "Caleb!" I heard Beth shouting excitedly. "I NEED your help!"
She was definitely the best aunt that anyone in the world could ever ask for. I picked up a magazine from the coffee table and started flipping it through it, but my mind was on other things. Like, was it bad that I’d practically seen my dad shoot himself but I wasn’t overly grieving? Tears pricked at my eyes at the thought. It couldn’t be good that I wasn’t weepy and depressed… right? I mean, why wasn’t I curled up in a ball on my bed mopey and angry at the world?
Half an hour later we, meaning Beth and I, were on our way to my counseling session. I sat in the room, trying to find some way to not have to talk. I'd stumbled over a few words, and then she’d say a few things. Finally it ended and as I got up to leave, she stopped me. "I think you’ll be better off in a special grief counseling group. I really think it would help you. They go through grieving techniques. Things to do, stuff like that and you don’t ever really have to talk if you don’t want to. Not at first anyway, before you can really get better though you will need to talk about it. So, I’ll schedule you in for next week, Wednesday, at four thirty, that’s when the group meets."
"Okay, sounds good." I muttered as she scribbled it onto an appointment card and let me leave.
We drove home, me explaining to Beth what had happened, and all about the group counseling. We got home, dinner went by and I found myself eagerly waiting for Nate. I was sitting on the couch, staring at the TV screen without really seeing what was on it. Caleb was on the other end of the couch, his feet up on the coffee table, a bowl of popcorn in his lap and a cup of soda in his hand. Whatever was on the TV wasn’t very interesting though, because he looked as if he was about to fall asleep.
The doorbell rang and I jumped up. It had to be Nate. It was, and he came in smiling like always. Was he ever not smiling? We sat down at the table, with a bag of pretzels that Beth brought in, and I opened up the Math book.
Two hours later, the bag of pretzels was empty and I was actually understanding Math. "It’s official. You’re a miracle worker. There is no way I’d ever have understood this before you helped me." He just laughed and shut his book.
"Math’s easy, when you have the right person to explain it to you."
"Nate, are you going to stay for dinner?" Beth asked, coming into the room, unable to keep the happy look off her face.
"Could I? That’d be amazing, cuz mom and dad are going out for dinner tonight and leaving Flynn to cook for us, and you know that Flynn is the worst cook ever."
Beth chuckled. "Call Flynn and tell him to get over here before he burns down the house while trying to work the stove."
An hour later we were all, and by all I mean Uncle Lucas, Caleb, Flynn, Nate and me, sitting at the table, waiting for Aunt Beth to bring the food from the kitchen. I’d offered to help but she’d told me to just have fun with my friends.
She finally brought it out, a pan full of lasagna… lasagna… I stood up just as she was setting it down. "Um I- uh…" I couldn’t come up with an excuse and I turned and ran to my bedroom. I shut the door and fell against the wall, slowly sliding down it, until I was curled up on the floor, sobbing as quietly as I could. It was stupid that just a pan of food could trigger that awful memory. I heard Aunt Beth knock on the door, "Sweetie, can I come in?"
I didn’t say anything, just continued to cry, and the door creaked open. "Sakari?" I sat up a little and wiped at my face.
"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin dinner…" She walked over before I could finish my sentence and hugged me.
"You didn’t ruin it."
"It’s just that lasagna… that’s what we were supposed to have for dinner that night." I knew she knew what night I was talking about and she hugged me tighter.
"Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry."
"I feel really stupid… I just… It’s stupid…" She leaned back and looked at me, with tears in her eyes.
"Sakari, it’s not stupid. Don’t ever say that. You’re not stupid. You shouldn’t feel bad about this, it’s not your fault and we understand."
"But what about Nate and Flynn? They don’t know, and I didn’t want to have to tell anyone."
"We don't have to tell them. They don't have to know anything if you don't want them to."
"Thanks Aunt Beth." I whispered and she kissed the top of my head.
"No problem sweetie. I’ll bring you something to eat later if you’d like." She shut the door behind her gently. I closed my eyes and tried to calm down. About ten minutes later, I decided it wasn’t working. I looked around, my gaze landing on the makeup bag on top of my bureau. I quietly opened my door and grabbed a few towels from the bathroom.
I walked back into my room, stepping over the creaky spot in the floor. Once I shut the door, I sat down by the bureau and pulled out the razor blade. I pulled up my sleeve, staring down at the scabbing cuts already on my arm. I licked my lips and was about to press the blade into my skin when there was a knock on the door. I shoved the towels under the bed, tossed the razor blade back into bag and put it back on the bureau. "Uh, come on in." I said, practically diving onto my bed. I sat up as the door slowly started opening.
It was Nate. "Are you okay?" He asked, looking concerned.
"Yeah." I lied, nodding my head. "I’m fine." It was unconvincing though. I knew I probably had mascara streaking down my face and I dropped my head down, staring at my lap, fighting back more tears.
He walked over slowly and even more slowly sat down beside me. I felt his arm hovering near my shoulder for a few seconds before he gently set it down and pulled me into a hug. He rubbed my back, soothing me as I cried my eyes out against his chest.
I felt so stupid when my sobs finally subsided, but I didn’t say anything. I just sat there, my face against his shirt, as my breathing slowly went back to normal and his fingers ran through my hair. I didn’t want to move, ever, but I eventually pulled back, wiping my cheeks as I did so.
I probably looked horrible, my eyes were most likely red and puffy, my makeup was definitely ruined, but he just smiled a little and reached up his hand to wipe away some of the mess.
"I’m sorry." I muttered as he touched my cheek.
"Don’t be. Everyone needs to break down sometimes." He told me quietly. I couldn’t help but try to smile and lean forward to hug him. His arms wrapped around my back and we sat there for a while in silence.
I slowly sat back and then stood up, running a hand through my hair. I was trying to think of something to say when Caleb knocked on the open door. "Your mom called Flynn, she wants you guys home in about a half hour cuz it’s a school night." He said, and Nate nodded.
Caleb looked over at me, a questioning look on his face. "You guys up for playing a board game or something until then?" When we agreed, we started to leave the room. Nate walked out and Caleb stopped me as Nate continued down the hallway. "You okay Sakari?"
I nodded. "Sort of..." He hugged me, a sympathetic smile on his face, the kind that on other people I might've hated, but I knew he meant it in the best way. I smiled a tiny smile.
So, that’s what we spent the next half hour doing. We chose Sorry, one of my favorite board games, and spent the time we had left laughing over it. From the crying on Nate’s chest and now this game, I was starting to feel a lot better. Maybe I wouldn’t cut tonight…
Caleb won, and they left a little while after. I didn’t feel like eating, and after everything I was pretty tired. After saying goodnight, I headed to my bedroom.
I changed into pajamas and then rolled back into bed, pulling the blankets up to my chin. I reached my hand up, almost subconsciously twirling a strand of hair around my finger over and over.
It was something I’d done when I was younger, a habit that had stuck with me and whenever I was scared or nervous or sad, I’d start it up again. When I was really little I’d twirl it so much that it would get knotted around my finger. I can remember crying as my mom untangled it from my fingers once. With memories like those floating around in my head, I fell asleep sort of happy, a strange feeling after crying so much today.
Milena - Thanks so much.
Anna - Thank you.
Rachel - That's good haha. Hope you like the chapter. Nate's in it.
Ria - Thank you so much. I hope you like this one too.