Authors: Melissa T. Liban
Tags: #teen, #romance, #young adult, #alcholism, #coming of age, #friends
“Hey, you guys are my mom’s boyfriend’s kids’, right?”
It sounded so weird. I’d never heard it said from somebody else before. My dad actually had a girlfriend and while he was still technically married to my mother. This is how we came upon the name Home Wrecker. You sleep with a married man who has kids, you might be kind of a home wrecker, just in our own personal opinion, but then technically, our home was wrecked way before she even came along.
“Um, yeah, I guess that’s us,” I answered tentatively. An awkward silence once again filled the air. Then my sister had to go and open her stupid, big fat mouth.
“Ha, you’re the Home Wrecker’s kid, great!”
His face seemed to have frozen in shock. He didn’t say anything. He just turned and went back across the street. I looked at my sister with my mouth hanging open not believing that I was related to such a tactless person.
“What did you go and say that for?” I asked, wanting to know what was going through her mind.
“What?” That was her response.
“You called his mother a Home Wrecker!”
“I didn’t set out to offend him.”
“How could you not have!” I was highly irritated with her, but then again, she always irritated me. She just shrugged her shoulders. I went inside. After that incident, I didn’t see him again until the moment he walked into my English class. It’s a small frickin world, isn’t it?
Elias and I seemed to have been locked in a stare down. I was about to open my mouth to try to speak to him, but then the bell rang robbing me of my chance. I just wanted to talk to him, say I’m sorry or something. He then gave me what could have been the official stare of death, turned around, picked up his bag, and left. I sat there for a bit and just stared at the chalkboard up front. Mrs. Gomez prompted me, and I got up and left.
At lunch that day, I sat on the side lawn of the school with a couple of my friends. It was nice and brisk out; the tips of my ears just starting to get cold. It would have been smart of us to eat inside or at Taco Mel’s or something, but I just wanted to sit outside and think and let the cool air clear my brain because it was all junked up with stuff. I sat with my hands behind me on the ground and my legs straight out front, tapping the tips of my crusty old imitation Chucks together. I studied my shoes. The one corner of the fabric near the rubber toe tip—which was drawn all over with squiggly lines and patterns from my pen—was starting to get a hole in it.
“Are you there?” my friend Kate asked, obnoxiously waving her hand in front of my face.
“Yeah,” I said, looking up at her. Her round face was capped in black braids. She always had her hair in braids, and she was kind of chubby, but as she always said, “I wear chubby well.” I liked hanging out with her; she was my best friend actually, but sometimes, as friends do, she got on my nerves. She was an only child and just lived with her mom, and she was so spoiled. They weren’t well to do or anything; it was a spoil that included Kate being quite used to getting her way. So when we did stuff she didn’t necessarily want to do, we never heard the end of it. Next to Kate sat Roberto. At that moment, his face held a frown as he was reading a paperback with the cover folded back. As he read, he pulled on his dark hair. It always curled right under his ears in the front and flipped up like crazy in the back. He looked up from his book for a moment. I crossed my eyes at him and then looked around at our campus. It was quite nice; people often though it was a college. It was a big, old brick building with gothic features that used to be an all boys’ prep school. The school had this clock tower that people liked to ogle over and nice green lawns all around. I wasn’t the biggest fan of high school, but I always felt a sense of pride when I saw ours.
Kate was waving her hand in front of my face again—her dark, almond-shaped eyes looking for an answer—, shoving a sandwich on wheat bread into her mouth. It seemed she asked me a question, but it did not register in my brain.
“Hey,” I said, looking at her. “Do you know a kid named Elias Bickler?”
“Yup,” she said, talking with her mouth full. “He’s in my gym class, always riding around on a little BMX bike, never talked to him though.”
“How come, until today, I haven’t seen this kid before?”
“One, he’s not a kid. He’s the same age as you and three, our school is ginormous. You can’t possibly know and see everybody.” Kate was right on that one; our school was huge. As far as enrollment went, we were the fifth largest in the country.
“I guess that’s true.”
“He’s in my history class,” Roberto said, standing up.
“How come I’ve never heard of him? Or you guys never mentioned him, or I’ve never seen him riding around on his bike?”
Kate shrugged her shoulders.
“He’s really quiet,” Roberto said. “But I gotta go.” He waved bye.
“Are you in love?” Kate asked, poking me in the ribs.
“No, but all of a sudden he’s in my English class.”
“So?” Kate said, looking at her watch.
“He’s my dad’s girlfriend’s kid.”
“Oh,” Kate said, lifting her right eyebrow.
“I didn’t even know he went to this school.” I stretched my arms over my head while getting up off the ground.
“Yeah, it kinda is.”
Kate went to class, and I went on with the rest of my day. The rest of my day, oh, the rest of my day where I could not stop thinking about Elias Bickler. Even on the bus ride home my mind kept going back to him. One of the things I was kind of concerned with was if he read my comic. I mean it was nothing big or fancy or super popular, but lots of the kids at school read it (they actually had a club that kind of revolved around it). What if he did too? I’m saying this because one of the villains in my comic was named The Home Wrecker, and she might have resembled his mother a bit.
That would be bad if he read it, I thought, as I stood holding onto one of those poles on the bus. My body encased with high school students, trying to keep my balance as the bus kept coming to screeching halts; the bus driver trying to shove more high school kids on. I don’t think the city bus drivers enjoyed the time of the day when school got out since they had to deal with all the teenagers because I never had a pleasant ride on the way home.
As I swayed with the movements of the bus, I noticed an odd odor coming from one of the people jammed packed on top of me. I couldn’t get away; it infiltrated my nostrils—a smell similar to spoiled milk perhaps. It almost made me forget what I was thinking about. Oh wait, it was Elias. Besides being concerned over him reading my comic, I wondered what life over at his house was like. I mean, he lived with my dad, which seemed totally bizarre to me. Did my dad put Elias and his mom through the same kind of crap he put my family through, and was his mom like my dad? Did Elias have a double scoop of suckage on his side of the street? I had a sudden large dose of sympathy for him. What he probably had to put up with on a day-to-day basis was just downright wrong. The thought of it kind of made me sad knowing that my dad was across the street possibly having a very negative impact on Elias’ life.
I pulled the dingy cord when the bus got near my stop and of course, the bus had to come to a screeching halt, almost swinging me around the pole I was holding and into this old woman’s lap. I got off the bus, crossed the side street, and walked past the labor-on-the-spot place, where a bunch of guys always stood waiting for some kind of one-day job to show up for them, then across the alley and down the block to my building on the left-hand side of the street. I sat down on the cracking cement steps and turned my focus to the building that Elias lived in that was kitty-corner from ours. It looked like a building that probably should have been condemned, even though I wasn’t one to talk. My mom, sister, and I did not live in what you would call a palace.
Elias’ building was kind of like our building, where at one time it was probably a house, but their building had no siding on it, nothing, just the insulation covering the outside walls. I think it was the insulation at least; I couldn’t be for certain. Then, there was like this makeshift front porch thingy made of plywood and painted black with a front door that opened right onto the sidewalk, and their property was lined with this rusty old chain-link fence that always had garbage entangled in it. I sat there perhaps hoping I would see Elias come home, but I didn’t see him. I figured maybe he went in through the back or had extracurricular activities after school or something.
Gym was my first class of the day. I started my day out with torture. I seriously awoke every morning dreading the fact that I had to go to gym class. Athletics and I just didn’t mix. I was often quite late to gym, always secretly hoping all the games were already started, and I’d have to wait on the bench. On occasion that would happen, but not often enough for me. I also had a tendency to forget my gym uniform. I don’t know how that always happened, but somehow it did.
So, I stood there, in the middle of the gym floor, flaunting the horrible pastiness of my legs that shot out from under my green polyester shorts. We were playing what I dreaded most—volleyball. I always seemed to get hit in the face. I had the worst depth perception ever. It was chilly in the gym that day. I swear there was a breeze. I hugged my arms around my waist, twisting back and forth while standing in the back row on the volleyball court. There were three courts set up across the gym. Ours was closest to the entrance doors to the gym, near the hallway.
It was my turn to be rotated to the front. I normally whined about it to whoever was on my team, and they usually let me stay in the back, but the team I was on that day took gym class volleyball very seriously. I slowly walked to the front left position with my arms still around my waist. My team was the first to serve. I gulped as the ball started bouncing back and forth between the teams, threatening to get close to me.
Next to me was this rotund girl named Consuelo; she was squat down ready to attack with her ponytail flying wildly behind her. Next to her was this kid named Neil, who I felt was quite attractive, a real clean cut jock type, but the sad part was that he knew he was attractive. Then, there was a row of three behind me ready to score. I stood there cowering in the corner, just inside the imaginary out-of-bounds line. I looked forward at the bleachers with the row of short windows behind them. How I longed to be up there. I’m telling you, I really did dislike gym that much.
My teammates yelling at me snapped me back onto the floor. The ball was actually coming for me, almost directly at me! I punched at the air, and then somebody behind sprang into the air and whacked it over the net. That was a close one, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet. That volleyball really had it in for me. It came right back. The other team must have figured out that I was the weak link. With the ball soaring towards me, my palms started to sweat. It was so close, then BAM! I was lying on the gym floor. Consuelo dove right into me, sending me to the ground, yet scoring a point for the team.
I lay there for a second on my stomach. The gym floor smelled like dirt and rubber. Nobody ran to my aid. I slowly got up and trudged over to the bleachers. I was done for the day. I climbed up the bleachers to about the fourth row, sat down, and leaned back. The game went on without me. I was staring into space when I saw someone enter the gym. It was Elias Bickler. He walked around the edges of the floor and handed my teacher something. My gym teacher, who was about a hundred years old and wore shorts that were inappropriately too tight, nodded, and Elias shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and headed off.
He was almost at the door when I got up to follow him. I looked around, rubbed my elbow, and left. My teacher wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I just headed out of the gym. I saw Elias walking down the hall, slowly moving along with his head bowed towards the ground. I followed behind him as he went past all the brown lockers; one occasionally missing a door with a garbage can or something stuck in the space. His jeans dragged on the ground behind him. Due to the abuse, they were all torn and frayed at the bottom.
“Hey,” I called, just loud enough so he could hear, but so the security guards wouldn’t. He stopped and turned around on his heels.
“Yes,” he said. It was kind of a yes may I help you type of yes, like he was working at the front desk in an office or somewhere and didn’t want to be bothered.
I didn’t know what I was going to say. I scratched the back of my neck. “Um,” I said, seeming like a total idiot.
He raised his eyebrows as if saying
I bit my lower lip and looked at him.
“I have to go,” he said, turning and heading for the attendance office.
I watched him go in. It seemed he worked there, and he was giving my teacher a note of some kind. Instead of study hall or something, some people worked in the attendance or security office. I headed for the locker rooms to change, thinking about how I blew it, but he was in my next period, so maybe I’d get a chance there. I wasn’t sure what I wanted a chance for, but eventually I’d figure it out.
I sat in English class, my usual seat. We didn’t have assigned seats, but most people usually always sat in the same spot, creatures of habit we are. Right before the bell rang, Elias stepped through the classroom doorway. He shimmied down one of the aisles, stepping over backpacks and books, plopping himself into the same seat he sat in the day before. I leaned forward to talk to him, but he just kind of ignored me, seemed more interested in ripping off his nails with his teeth. Mrs. Gomez started her lecture. I leaned back and stared at Elias. Paired with the jeans he had on, he wore a green tee-shirt that had some sort of scouting logo or something on it. It was kind of tight, showing off the musculature of his arms. What do you call it when somebody is skinny, but yet has some muscle definition? Lean, is that it? Because that’s how Elias was built. He then kind of bent over his desk and pulled at a patch of hair at the top of his neck. During the period, it looked like he might have started falling asleep.