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“You and Ethan are coming tonight aren’t you? And you’d better say yes!” Sierra said rudely to her friend. Her “friend,” as in not me. No, Sierra didn’t really like me, and didn’t want me to come. Unfortunately for both her and me, I had to come because Mom insisted that I make friends. She still believed that I didn’t have the ability to make proper relationships on my own, so she liked to force them on me. Perhaps I just didn’t want these people as friends, but no, that has never occurred to her and probably never will. Sierra was actually talking to her best friend Cassandra, and had invited Cassandra and her brother Ethan along for our scavenger hunt this night.
God only knows why we were going on a scavenger hunt through the woods on Halloween night. Scavenger hunts are lame. This sucked. Halloween is supposed to have blood and guts. And what a surprise, this stupid scavenger hunt was organized by the same people who host the camp my parents send me to every summer.
Cassandra twirled her hair around her index finger and began to answer Sierra, “Yeah, I’m so excited. But my parents are still worried, and I can’t seem to say the right thing to make them stop.”
“Come on, Cassie! Your parents know that it will be safe. There are going to be volunteers there watching out for us. It’s not like you’re gonna get murdered or anything!” said Sierra, scowling at me as she noticed that I was listening. And I was kind enough to return her favor, and I gave back the nastiest look I could muster.
“Well, try telling my mom that, since she isn’t thrilled about us walking through the woods in the dark,” said Cassandra, trying to follow Sierra’s glance. “What are you looking at?”
“Pierce. He’s been watching you for the past five minutes. I swear he’s stalking you Cassie! You really should report him, he is so creepy!”
Creepy. I wouldn’t quite describe it that way. I mean she was pretty, and I guess I liked her, but it’s not like they would think I was creepy if I played football. It’s only because they didn’t like me that they thought I was creepy. And according to Caleb, who is also going to the thing tonight, she is out of my reach. With her being a perfect little cheerleader with strait A’s, and me being in the chess club, we didn’t fit together according to the cruel realities of high school society.
“I don’t think he’s stalking . . . fine . . . if he ever comes to my house, or bothers me outside of school, I’ll let someone know, but until then, he’s still not out of bounds,” Cassandra said more quietly so that I could barely make out the words.
And that’s why I liked her. She gave me more credit than people like Sierra did. I didn’t know why they were friends. Sierra was a b****. But Cassandra, she had something more . . . like a certain depth and understanding that the rest of the world lacks, and that even I didn’t always understand. And I liked her for her patience with me, her faith that I could be more than what everyone else believed. Her standards for me weren’t that high, but for what credit she gave me, what small inkling of kindness that she secretly shared with me, I cherished her forever. And because of this morsel of hope in me, I think she knew that I would never intentionally harm her.
It was 4:00 when we all met at the park that evening. All we had was the food that we kept in a brown bag, since we would be gone during dinner, a basket to collect our scavenger hunt treasure, and a backpack containing whatever various items we wanted to have during the hunt. I arrived there with Caleb, my closest thing to a friend, and yet how I detested it when he gave me that look that he would rather be somewhere else. He has other friends, I didn’t. But I could still do without him.
Mrs. Miller, the head instructor, began organizing us into smaller groups. I zoned in and out of what she was saying, I suppose since none of it really meant much to me. That is, until she announced me and my group. “ . . . And the next group has Sierra, Tanya, Ethan, Cassandra, Janice, Caleb, Jeremy, Otto and Pierce. Then, the next group is . . .”
That’s all I heard, because that’s all I bothered to hear. Yes, I believe she did mention Pierce in there somewhere. Looked like I was goin’ with them. And what’s more, it seemed to be a perfect group for everyone. Sierra and Cassandra, who were Best Friends Forever, were together, so they were celebrating. Same with Tanya and Janice, so they were celebrating. And Caleb had Jeremy, and Ethan had Otto, so they were all celebrating. And that left me alone on my own, in the everlasting joy of my privacy and lonesomeness. I too celebrated.
We entered the woods with our parent volunteer; ours was Tanya’s mom. She treated us like little kids, and seemed really disorganized and at the same time very strict. As a result of that, I walked a good ways behind the rest of the group, especially after Caleb started teasing me about Cassandra. I tried to keep a good distance between me and everyone else.
Then, after a while, as I heard everyone talking around me, I began to watch Cassandra. Not in the creepy way that Sierra describes, no, just a respectful way as I tried to gain courage to talk to her. And finally I spoke out, “Hey Cassie, I really like your hair today, it looks pretty.” I smiled and waved nervously.
She looked back at me and just stared for a second, before stumbling over a rock that she didn’t notice as she was walking. Then she said, “Oh . . . um . . . how sweet of you to notice . . . thank you.”
It may have been awkward, but she did have a note of sincerity that many people lack when talking to me, as if they were talking down to me – but to her, I was an equal. She smiled at me, and then turned back to talking to Sierra. Sierra barely waited a second before beginning to pulverize my passion, my heart and soul. “Oh God, Cassie, he’s a freak!” exclaimed Sierra, not even bothering to look back and see if I had heard. “Has he actually taken to calling you ‘Cassie’? But that’s what I call you. You’ll need to make him stop. He is definitely a stalker!”
“Just because he calls me Cassie doesn’t make him a stalker. A lot of people call me that; he probably just overheard someone else saying it and decided to say it, too. It’s not terrible, you know. And honestly, he just said that my hair was pretty; that’s not creepy.” Cassandra looked at Sierra, defiantly.
Thank you, my gracious Queen. Thank you for respect and understanding. Thank you for your kindness, and for being the one person in the world who does not judge.
I fell back in the group again, but this time I brought Caleb and Jeremy with me, and I told them once and for all that Cassandra did like me.
“Ya know,” said Caleb, “Just ‘cause she doesn’t hate you, doesn’t mean that she likes you.”
“You’re just jealous, I’ll show you that she likes me. I’ll even ask her out later tonight!” Ha. Cassandra did too like me. Even if we weren’t meant to be together forever, she still couldn’t say no to a date with me.
“Oh dude, you’re a dumb a**! You don’t actually think she likes you, do you?”
“Freak. You’re in for a rude awakening.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I walked on my own again. I don’t need them.
More walking. Walking, walking, walking, for 30 minutes. I hate to walk. But worse, I hate to run, which they all decided to do next. ‘They all’ as in, Cassandra, Sierra, Caleb, and Jeremy. So I ran, too. We ran through the woods, dodging branches and trees, and swiftly escaping out of view of Tanya’s mom. We were finally free. Gasping for air and tripping over rocks and tree roots, but free from the ever watching eyes. And finally we stopped running after getting far enough away that we could stop.
“That was sweet!” said Caleb.
“Yeah, that was wicked awesome!” agreed Sierra.
Then Cassandra looked back at me. I was again lagging a bit behind everyone else. “Hey Pierce, why don’t you come up here and walk with us, you seem so far away back there.”
“Sure, I’ll come up there.” See, Caleb, she wants my company. She was walking up there just pining for me. I smirked over at Caleb.
And as I arrived next to Cassandra, Sierra gave both of us a disapproving and disgusted look, then said, “Hey Jeremy, I’m gonna walk with you for a bit if that’s all right.”
Well Sierra, you go ahead and do that, see if I care, because I’m walking up here with Cassandra. And the two of us momentarily spoke to each other on the topic of Halloween. That is, until Sierra managed to interrupt us again.
“Holy Crap, it’s cold out here!” she said. Indeed, it was getting colder as the shadows slowly devoured us into the night. And the wind picked up a little bit and rustled the leaves around.
“Getting a bit spooky, isn’t it?” said Jeremy, tapping Sierra on the shoulder abruptly, which made her jump. “Are you getting scared?” he asked.
“No!” said Sierra, pushing him away, “I don’t get scared!” she stated with incredible arrogance in her voice. “Little kids get scared, but I’m not a little kid. I do believe I’ve moved past the stage of getting afraid of things.”
“Come on Sierra, you know you get scared. Everyone is afraid of something!” insisted Cassandra.
“Yeah, what am I afraid of, you can’t name anything, can you?” Sierra retorted back. “It’s cold out here, but it’s not spooky.”
Cassandra didn’t answer. But I agree that Sierra must be afraid of something.
After that, we were silent again for a few minutes. Then I broke the silence with “Hey Cassie, can I talk to you alone for a sec?” And I deliberately referred to her as Cassie; it is a pretty name after all.
“Umm . . . yeah, I guess so,” and she moved off to the side of the trail with me.
I momentarily stumbled on my words. For some reason, it seemed even harder to talk to her than usual, perhaps because of the other people there, who although were not right next to us, I knew they were somewhere back there. “Umm . . .” I began, “W…Would you like to go on a date with me . . . ya know . . . just sometime. We don’t need to plan it now, but I was just wondering, you know, for later on . . .”
She just looked at me, almost fascinated that I had said such a thing. And I just waited for her response, standing there and smiling awkwardly because I wasn’t rightly sure what to do next. She didn’t answer for over a minute, so I lifted my hand to stroke her hair- she had liked it when I had complimented it, hadn’t she. But as I reached, she stepped backwards and seemed to return to reality and began to answer my question. “Well, Pierce . . . I think you’re really nice, but I just don’t know you that well . . . and I think I would prefer getting to know you better before actually going anywhere with you. Is that all right? I’m really sorry, Pierce, I’m . . . I’m just not ready for this.” And she left it at that before quickly walking away to where Sierra was waiting for her.
And I stood there. I knew that Caleb and Jeremy had watched it all happen and now were snickering, but I could only faintly hear them in the back of my brain as I zoned completely out of what was going on. And I waited there, staring into the woods until I knew that they had all begun to walk again, and then I slowly walked behind them.
I could hear Sierra and Cassandra talking about me, as always. But this time, it seemed that Cassandra wasn’t defending me as much as normally. She almost seemed as though she didn’t like me at all. Sierra would say something mean about me, and Cassandra would just let it go, not bothering to stand up for me. Each word of cruelty dripped from Sierra’s lips like a deadly poison, with no word or even sign of defense from Cassandra. Did they not even see me there, listening and enduring every moment of it as Sierra’s poison was forced down my throat?
I had to gain Cassandra back; strategically fight for what was mine and was stolen. She liked the compliments, and maybe that would be the best way to go again. She was wearing a pretty bracelet that day, I thought that I heard her say earlier that she got it in France . . . I could say something about that.
I jogged to catch up with the two girls, then I said, “Hey, Cassie, I like your bracelet, is it real silver?” before she even looked over at me, I reached for her wrist. She then noticed me reaching, and quickly moved her arm. “No, its okay,” I said, reassuring her. “I just want to look at it.”
She had acted as though she did not want me to touch her arm, and I respected that. But with one quick snap of everything that was within me, I reached out and grabbed her wrist and clenched it within my fist. It wasn’t that I actually even liked her bracelet that much, it was just that I was hopelessly trying to grasp onto her and any possible relationship that we might have. At this point I would have even settled for just being a friend. But now she looked at me as if I were filthy, and she was looking down on me. And now I was just trying to grasp onto life as the grim reaper stood over me. But as I stood there, my hand on her arm, I almost felt a sense of accomplishment; of trying and succeeding. And slowly, my fingernails burrowed deeper into her skin. Although I knew I had lost her, at that moment, I still felt that I had won. Just within those moments, she was mine and I was hers, and I looked into her eyes, and she looked right back into mine with her complete and utter attention. And there was a moment in there when all time seemed indifferent to the universe and to any and all material things; and for a moment of frozen yet everlasting time, life seemed unreal.
A moment later, she began to scream. And Sierra yelled out for anyone who could help. Then Caleb and Jeremy came over to pry my hands off of her. From there on out, for the next few minutes, I was lost in oblivion as people rushed around me and pushed me aside. Tanya’s mom rushed through the woods to help. Apparently she had been closer than we thought. But it didn’t matter now, none of it did.
The next thing I remember was Tanya’s mom saying, “Now, Pierce, this is just a warning for you, but you will actually get in trouble if you ever try something like this again. Maybe you didn’t realize, but that was bad!”
You’d think I would stop there. That Cassandra’s speech would have made me understand, but no, it just made me want her even more.
I walked a ways behind them again; our whole group was reunited again. They all looked back at me occasionally. They were scared. Ha. Let them cower away from me. See how they like it when they are the ones on the bottom and I have the power!
Then I saw Otto trying to flirt with Cassandra. How could he? And how could she? Standing there, giggling, like everything in the world was just dandy. The pain was still in me from when she looked at me like I was scum, but now the pain cut me like a sharpened blade, and I ran toward Otto and Cassandra. No, I didn’t just run at them, as I ran I yelled, and everything within me completely broke down. I pulled them apart and just stopped to stare at Cassandra, before pushing her away while attacking him. I hit him. I hit him with everything within me, and I didn’t stop. No, it was just too good to leave the situation as it was. I pulled him to the ground and kicked him while he lay sprawled across the underbrush. It was addicting how good this sweet revenge felt inside of me. Like a blazing fire, burning beneath my skin, the power flowed through to my fingertips. I had never had anything against Otto, but now the feelings of hate I had for everything and everyone just came flooding out of me, just in the same way that the blood came flooding from Otto’s face.
Within moments, I was dragged away from Otto, who laid there bloodied and crying out in pain.
It was bad, and I knew then and there that it was bad, and that that kind of bad you don’t easily come back from. Again I became lost in my far off universe of oblivion, and I don’t recall much from there on out, as the truth slowly hit me. Not until much, much later did I remember anything.
We were at the police station and it was much later. There were so many people all standing around and just staring at me, so that it was overwhelming for me to take in. The people from my group were there giving statements about what they saw. I closed my eyes, but the words still rang in my ears like breaking glass. I thought that maybe I would have to do community service, and the police officers would be watching me for a while, but that’s not what hurt the most inside of me.
I heard Cassandra and Sierra talking a little ways away from me, “See, Cassandra,” Sierra was saying, “I told you he was a stalker. Isn’t it scary? Otto is in the hospital right now!”
“I know,” she whispered, almost choking on her tears, “I know, Sierra, it’s terrible.” I heard her sob.
And what hurt the worst inside of me was the fact that Cassandra hated me, and so did everyone else, including me. All my life I wanted to be left alone, but now that I was alone, with absolutely no chance of having a friend for a very long time, I hated myself.
Otto’s scratches and bruises will eventually come to heal, maybe leaving some scars, but he’ll look good again after a while. But my scratches and bruises...only time will tell if they will ever leave me for good.