chapter five

22 2 0
                                    

I'm afraid to go to sleep sometimes because I know of the nightmares I'll have. Specifically, the nightmare I'm going to have. And so, I never nap. I know naps are one of life's better pleasures, but mine are often plagued with traumatic visions that I don't need repeated. Even if I've got nothing to do and was tired - I didn't have a phone or computer or anything to entertain myself with - sitting around all day was better than reliving the worst day of my life via dreamscape.

Ignoring the fatigue shrouding every movement, I took out a couple of assignments and sat at my desk. However, I couldn't focus on a single worksheet; my mind drifted instead to the enigma that was Pete Wentz, popular kid and asshole extraordinaire. A bitter taste filled my mouth, stinging more than the vomit that soured it minutes before, as I recollected his sudden shift in demeanor towards me.

He should get into acting, I mused bitterly, tapping the pencil eraser again my lip. Seriously, though - the way his eyebrows knit together in concern, the way his lips turned down into a serious frown, could've fooled anybody. That voice; gentle and reassuring. Even those well-toned arms, tensed with worry, would make anyone think he really cared...

My face flushed at the sudden influx of thoughts. It almost sounded like I had a thing for Pete. I wasn't even into guys - and besides, the first impression he made on me showed the type of person he was.

The thought brought me back to the countless uses of the f-slur Bob rained down upon me. I knew what it meant, and what he implied I was by using it. I felt anger simmer in my chest before it boiled back down, deciding the mental battle simply wasn't worth it.

I heard the steady rumble of a car pulling into the driveway. Keys jangling, unlocking the door. Footsteps. And then Dad appeared at the entrance of my room, a grin on his face. I turned towards him, cocking my head to one side.

"I've got a job now, Patrick!" he announced happily. I cracked a weak grin and flashed him a thumbs-up. "I'm now an assistant to the manager of that tech company I told you about." I did not recall this tech company, but I feigned excitement for him. "I'll be gone for the most of the day and some late nights, though, so you'll have to hold fort occasionally. Alright?"

I nodded, trying to push down the vibrating strings of nerves snaking throughout my body. I hated being alone in the day as it was; I didn't even want to think about being all by myself in the dark of night, without the comforting knowledge that my father was just down the hall.

"How was your first day of school? All good?" I nodded again, despite it being anything but. "Alright. I'll be down the hall, then. Help yourself to dinner." And then he left.

Of course I was glad my father finally got a job. And it was the kind he wanted too - he couldn't settle for some minimum wage retail job, at least not with his high qualifications (he preferred "serious" work). Plus it'd barely pay the bills. Things were looking up for him, and I had no right to be discouraging.

But it meant that I'd have to stay at Harper for a while - possibly even until graduation. I shuddered at the idea of becoming part of the Harper High student body. But what filled me with dread the most was the fact that I'd have to face Bob, Kenny, and Gabe again. I'd have to face Pete.

***

It's the next day. I hesitantly step past the school's threshold and, instead of looking at my feet, I observe the world of the school I must now become accustomed to.

Small groups of people flock the hallways, either at a standstill amongst the lockers or moving up and down the corridor. At surface level you can easily see the separations between the band kids, the theater kids, the cheerleaders, the football players, et cetera. If one group got too close to the other, there would be a brief battle of glares, before either moved farther apart as to avoid another run-in. I gulped nervously as I observed the primordial high school civilians in their natural habitat, knowing how even with the outcasts I'd be an anomaly.

Having had my fill of people-watching, I dove straight into the sea of bodies and steadily made my way to Ms. Smith's classroom. I tried to ignore the many others all pressed against me, no doubt disgusted at the lump of lard attempting to squeeze past. I felt like a massive boulder disrupting the flow of a raging river, its currents threatening to dislodge me at any moment.

Despite having pre-navigated the path I was to take, my clumsy self still managed to run into someone. I heard their oof as we briefly collided and I backed away slightly, my lips pulled into an (hopefully) apologetic frown as they whirled around, long dark curls bouncing in every direction.

"Watch where you're going, dude!" he exclaimed, though not particularly angry. I had to tilt my head back as to avoid getting hit with his 'fro, which was simultaneously messy and tamed. I tried to convey an apology through my face as best I could.

"Oh hey, I know you!" he said suddenly, his annoyed expression softening. "You're Patrick, right? New kid?" I nodded sheepishly. "I'm Joe. We're in the same first period."

I smiled briefly as we headed in the same direction in an awkward silence. He greeted his fellow classmates as we passed; clearly Joe's role in the social hierarchy was prominent, as he had many friends, or acquantinces at least, from all factions. Meanwhile, I remained self-conscious, the onlookers undoubtedly wondering what a fat loser like me was doing with a well-known guy like him.

We reached Ms. Smith's classroom, the door closed as her morning tutoring hours ensued. I peeked through the rectangular pane of glass, watching her inaudibly lecture a handful of students spread throughout the rows of desks, hunched over askew worksheets and pens.

"I don't get why they even bother," Joe commented, nodding towards the scene. "Normal classes with her are bad enough." I nodded in agreement, though I felt a tad bit guilty considering I'd only known her for a day. Still, she'd made a horrible first impression.

"You even talk, man?" he inquired, finally seeming to note my silence. I shook my head, slightly irked that my muteness kept being questioned. At other schools, it'd been accepted that I just wasn't the brightest conversationalist.

Then again, Harper was unlike any other school I'd been to before.

"Oh, okay. I'm still equally annoying to everyone, though." And then he laughed, which was a lovely and spectaculary rich sound, the cadence of it seeming to echo throughout the hall. I felt myself grinning, a rare feat - the happiness in Joe's laugh was truly contagious.

Just then, the first bell rang, signaling the end of tutoring. Ms. Smith opened her door and ushered the students out. As the last one left, we started to pile in, but as I was about to step foot into the room I felt myself being shoved harshly to the side, misaligning me with the entryway. Some passerby had pushed me.

I shot a glance back, my gaze immediately resting on Pete Wentz who was not too far off. I felt a small tug of rage twinge in my stomach as we briefly locked eyes. I turned away then, heading to my desk as a turmoil of emotions - mostly anger - whipped through me.

Bob had nothing to worry about. As far as I could tell, Pete was anything but soft.

THE CHANGES

no major changes here, except that i clarified the kind of job patrick's dad has and the justification for his wonky work hours. also made it clear that pete was not in pat's first period, a mistake i made in the OG which later birthed a continuity error i missed until, like, a good few chapters in.

onward to the next!

critical veins || peterick au [REVISED/REWRITTEN]Where stories live. Discover now