“Riverdale. Yeah, that’s what they call it. Riverdale Junior High School.” He thought to himself as he slapped the granite sign that stood proud before the old two story building.
He wasn’t above talking to himself, but he preferred people to be afraid of him for his temper and unforgiveness. It probably wouldn’t do at all for these morons to think he was crazy.
He walked through the open front doors just as the bell was ringing. This place was a ridiculous trip in time. The front facade of the building was High School 1940s. The interior screamed 1960s with cinder block wall and dilapidated lockers that he was sure his father had used.
The second bell rang as he trudged slowly up the stair case on the opposite side of the floor that he should have used. Fashionably Late – someone had said. It seemed to add to the mask of fear everyone around him wore.
The grey and gold paint was peeling back to the pale yellow and chartreuse of the 1960s. His shoes squeaked purposely on the waxed floors. He passed by Peggy Wilmot and slapped the books from her hand. He chuckled as she struggled in her too tight skirt to pick the papers from the floor, grumbling, staring at him through her brunette bangs. He continued his walk.
Hands now in his jacket pockets. Oh, he knew it was too hot for a leather jacket. His black jeans just didn’t have enough pockets for all of his ‘tools.’ His MP3 player, his phone, and countless other trinkets, most stolen from the lesser minds around him.
He twisted his neck against the tightness of the ringer tee beneath his Gibson guitar jacket. The shirt was one of his favorites. It was white with green lettering that spoke his mind, “Yes, I’m ignoring you and so are the voices in my head.”
He shook his dirty blond, shoulder-length hair to settle it in case the wind had blown it out of place. He didn’t care that much, he just didn’t want any of it standing straight up.
He was almost to the room he was to attend, pushing forward as if with a sense of passion about where he was going, but did not really care if he arrived.
The jingle of his keys alerted anyone to his presence that might have missed his squeaking shoes. Long choker chains for dog collars attached his keys and his wallet to his jeans. He loved to intimidate everyone in a class room with his crash as he sat in the plastic chairs. It always interrupted, no matter the discussion.
They called him the school bully. Even the teachers were afraid of him. Few lonely souls had the guts to stand up to him. Then most of those ended up being more terrified than the people who stay away from him. Except for her.
He was headed to the class where she was sitting now. Or at least he hoped she was there this morning. Apryl Gaasche. The most beautiful blonde he had ever laid his eyes on. She wasn’t scared of him. He liked her tomboy spirit too even though he noticed that she liked the pretty tops and flouncy skirts too. She was just right.
He couldn’t let her know that. She considered him a skank and usually it was better for him anyway. If she knew, then she might want to date, and that crap just wasn’t for him. It would mess with his ‘alone time.’
He twisted the knob on Miss Bradley’s door and shoved it hard. It slammed against a cabinet behind it. He smiled when half the class, including Miss Bradley, jumped out of their wits.
“Good morning Kenny.” Miss Bradley said, trying to sound cheerful; her voice shaky just the same.
“Mornin'” he mumbled in his cracking voice and headed for the seat behind Apryl.
It was occupied, but that would change soon.
The shy Kimberly Rice jumped from the chair, her books in her arms as a defensive gesture. He nodded to her, thanks for not making him use more energy than necessary.
He plopped down, his key chain making the harsh crash in the seat as always, while Kim found another chair.
“What do you want Kenny?” She said in whisper, forcing, so it sounded like a growl.
“What do you care?” He loved the smell of her hair. She melted his heart.
She turned to face him, her long blonde hair tickling his hands as it ended up covering his desk. He drew a deep breath while gazing into those grey-blue eyes. He remembered always thinking, her eyes were so much prettier than his. He hoped their child would have her eyes. Of course, that though too, made him smile.
“Leave my hair alone this time, Kenny, or I’ll kick your butt. It took me all night to get your gum out of it.”
He wanted to tell her that he wished he could have helped and that he was truly sorry for sneezing. Instead, to keep up appearances, he just chuffed enough air from his nostrils to blow her bangs from her face. It felt like a kiss, but he glared and grunted, “Whutever.”
Annoyed, she sighed and turned back around, slapping him in the face with her hair. He shivered and smiled to himself, looking at her pink tank top T-shirt dress, face lowered, looking up through his eyebrows.
What could he do to annoy her this time? Ah!
He took the iPod from his inside pocket, and because of who he was, he wanted to show off his love of Death Metal. He had an old pair of Walkman head phones instead of earbuds. He cranked his latest download of Killswitch to 10, and leaned back on his chair’s back two legs.
He could feel her eyes roll back in her head.
Her main point of conflict with in herself was she just didn’t trust anyone. If it weren’t for this stupid seating arrangement she would be sitting on the back wall so that he couldn’t get behind her.
Kenny knew it, though, and kept Miss Bradley from moving them around. Even though he broke the arrangement by making Kim move all the time.
He watched the freckles on her bare shoulder, the blonde flocking of hair that made her skin shine in the sun. He had to touch her. He just loved it when she wore one of these spaghetti-strapped sun-dresses. However, to keep the feel of the moment true for those watching, instead of a caress he shoved her shoulder. He wanted the caress, but any contact was cool right now.
He knew that the head phones would have the tendency to make him shout what he was going to say.
“Hey Ape! Did you hear that Tina Baskin started wearing a real bra this summer? When are you gonna start wearing one?”
He knew this would irritate her. She was mature as far as attitude, her body, however, had not cooperated. And he was watching keenly.
“Don’t know butthead. Can I borrow yours? No, wait I’m sorry. Yours would be too big.”
She had said it even louder than his comment. He heard every word and so did the rest of the class. Some ducked as he slammed the headphones onto the desk.
“What did you say?”
She spun around, her hair slapping him in the face.
She touched had him again. How could he stay mad at her? Then she got right in his face, that cute little slightly upturned nose touching his bangs, eye to eye. Kissing-close. He wanted to. Badly.
“You heard me white boy.” It was said loud enough that her voice rattled in his nose. It felt exquisite!
“I’ll let you slide this time. Don’t you ever talk to me like that again. I’d hate to mess up that pretty face of yours.” He tried to say it like he was in one of those old gangster movies. Though, he did mean the “pretty” part.
She whispered. God, it felt like she was kissing him. “Don’t let me slide too far. You might not be able to bug me any more.”
“Don’t worry about that. You ain’t goin’ no where.” He chuckled.
“Really?” Her face changed. Devious? Nah, couldn’t be. “What if I were to tell you that we were moving away, Kennedy?” Her head cocked back slightly, squinting over her cheekbones, her narrow chin in the air.
His world came crashing down. This can’t be happening. She’s leaving me? For where? She can’t leave me in this damn town!
He knew she saw. She had a smile creeping across her face. She knew he was scared of her leaving. He had to do something before everyone else saw too.
“Cool, then I could just bug Kim. She won’t be as much fun. She’d just take it.” He sat back in his seat, scraping his key chains on the seat.
“I lied moron. I’m not going anywhere. You’ll have to put up with me being the only one in the world that doesn’t put up with you for a lot longer than this year.” She taunted him with a wide wink.
He was sure everyone in class had seen the wink, but he still felt a wash of relief on his brow, “Crap, then get outta my face.”
The wink. Did she really like him too? She was smiling still. She turned back in her chair to face the front of the classroom. She did it in one of those girly, flirty ways. Like slow motion, only – deliberate, like she knew she had just won something and was gloating. She didn’t win anything. She just didn’t get the crap beat out of her.
Did she like him?
This little conversation was revealing more than either of them were anticipating.
Once first period was over, Apryl was rid of her pest, sitting with Kim in the class room used for the study hall.
No matter how interesting he was becoming, Kennedy was still a pest. She was never sure where and when he might turn up.
Apryl was a loner. Her whole outlook on life was more about the short stories she wrote, rather than the reality that tended to bite back. She wasn’t one of these romance swooning teens with nothing better to do than write stupid poetry about unrequited love. She had people to take care of. This school thing was in her way and wasting too much of her time that she could be taking care of her father.
She like taking care of people. She had thought about being a teacher or a nurse when she finally had time for a job.
She tried to take care of Kim. That wasn’t an easy job. Kim was a loner too, though, not of her own choosing. She was from the only poor community in Riverdale. Serenity Park. It wasn’t that serene. It was a run down, almost shanty, of a trailer court. Two of the mobile homes were in such disrepair down that part of them had fallen in during the spring rains. Not Kim’s though. Her house was pretty neat for as old of a trailer as it was.
She and Kimberly were good friends. They had spent a lot of time at Kim’s house. There were several reasons they didn’t stay at Apryl’s. Kimberly’s mother was hardly ever at home but she was fun. She was one of the girls, when she wasn’t working one of her two jobs.
The brown haired girl’s greenish hazel eyes accented her freckled nose. Her oval face and fairly ordinary features were a good contrast to Apryl and her inverted tear drop face, and near perfect, light blonde hair. Kim was quite a bit younger at twelve. She was smart enough to have been advanced two grades a few years ago.
Apryl felt a bit jealous that she was a year and a half older, and Kim was more developed than her. It didn’t bug her that much though. She liked Kim too much for anything that silly to come between them.
They were as close as possible without being true friends. Apryl didn’t want a friend. They always got in the way.
They sat in study hall now and were supposed to be studying for next period’s math test. Apryl was writing in her notebook. Her ‘Book’, the one she was going to publish some day. Kim was flipping through the pages of the latest ‘Elle’ magazine.
“Hey, Apryl? What do you think of Brent?”
“The nerd?” Apryl threw up a flag of surprise, “You serious?”
“Yeah.” Kim fidgeted in her chair. “I actually think he’s kinda cute. I think those stories about him are mean.”
“I didn’t think you were looking.”
“I’m not really, but he seems so lonely sometimes.”
Apryl had noticed, and she had been avoiding a reaction to the stereotyped nerd’s crush on her. Brent was one of those boys that didn’t care if everyone in the world ignored him. She glanced over at him. He was deep in study, and it wasn’t in a school book. No, he was pouring over some kind of college text book. He and Kim might make the perfect couple, because they would always want their own private time, and neither would be in the way.
For some reason Brent’s crush on Apryl was well known. When he was into an amorous mode he would send her flowers – expensive flowers – and boxes of candy, which she usually shared with Kim anyway. He didn’t follow her around like some of the other boys. Somehow everybody knew about his crush. Including Kim.
Now she could avoid him by pushing him off on her friend. This made the prospect of toying with Kennedy even more fun.
Kim’s crush on Brent wasn’t so surprising. Because of her personality, Apryl knew that she always went for the underdog. And as far as this school’s rumor mill, Brent was the top underdog. No one was below him. However, other than his nerd slash loner persona and just a touch over the state guidelines for Body Mass Index, no one really knew why they made fun of him.
“Why don’t you try to talk to him sometime?”
“I couldn’t do that, Apryl!” She whispered desperately, looking over at the dark haired boy in the thin rimmed oval glasses, a few rows over. He was, of course, oblivious to the conversation about him.
“Why not, Kim?”
Kim’s face signaled a quick change of subject. She quickly averted her eyes from the boy she was staring at, when she realized he was looking back at her. “So, how is that new story of yours coming along.”
“Oh, this isn’t over, girlfriend.” Apryl smiled.
Kim’s puppy-dog eyes begged for a release from her embarrassment. Apryl obliged.
“Oh, it’s about a guy who’s long lost daughter comes back into his life after twenty-some years of being separated only to end up dragging him into a CIA-run investigation of a guy who’s running a system of kidnapping then training the kids to do more kidnappings.” She had to stop to catch her breath, but it seemed to do what Kim had in mind.
“Cool. You’ll let me read it won’t you?”
“Sure.” Apryl smiled coyly, “It might be a while. It’s going to be a long one.”
Kim was silent, scribbles on her notebook were all that were heard now.
Apryl sat in the class, now dreaming of somewhere else.
The lunch room had that stale, moldy smell, and dirt embedded in the wax in the corners. Food still stuck to the ceiling from the numerous food fights, that no one could control. He hated this crowd. They were always so annoying.
He ignored the sheep that continued to butt in front of him in the line. He wasn’t hungry anyway. But another set of unused lunch tickets would be a reason for his parents to be angry with him.
He smiled to himself, over-hearing a conversation by Kim and Apryl and some one else whose voice he didn’t recognize. They were talking about the huge rumor that he was a millionaire from the internet. It was hard enough to hide the fact that he did make a lot of money working on the internet. At thirteen, hiding your true age wasn’t hard. He had an online banking account and even a credit card. But a millionaire, no. Almost a hundred thousand maybe, but he still had a lot of equipment to buy. That point was also becoming harder to hide from his parents.
Everyone was afraid of the “Brent cooties” still. Even for junior high school. Cooties? Seriously? The stories from Second Grade still haunted him. It seems no one ever lets you off the hook for wetting your pants while giving a show and tell presentation.
He just wagged his head and stepped forward until he had to put away his book and start to grab a tray. the line looped through the door into the kitchen area then back out another door after filling the tray. The line was still slow coming out of the door because of the salad bar just outside the doors.
He felt a shove from behind. A hard shove. He didn’t let the push move him from the line. A second shove and a foot strategically placed to trip him in to the line coming out of the buffet. He fell into, none other than Apryl and Kim. His book landed in Apryl’s tray scattering it’s contents all over her sun-dress. God, he loved it when she wore that dress. Then before he could over take the momentum and regain his footing he fell into Kim’s tray, pushing it out of her hands and it hit her in the face. All before he sprawled out all over the floor.
A roar of laughter erupted from the students and faculty.
He looked over his shoulder to see the origin of his fall, which for some reason looked to the entire school as if Brent had tripped on his own. Kennedy Dart-Lawdé. Grinning for ear to ear waving his hands to draw attention to Brent on the ground, and in doing so it seemed he was directing the laughter like a symphony.
Kim was stunned and Apryl was cussing Brent. His heart felt as if it was in his throat. With every micro-second that he lay on the floor with the laughter and chants growing even louder. He boiled over.
Enough is enough.
Brent pushed himself from the floor with his fingertips. Back to his feet, he took but two steps to the supposedly ominous Kennedy, and kicked the taller, older boy in the face.
Kenny’s long hair whipped back from his face, exposing the deep purple bruises around his eyes from some previous engagement.
Brent was taken aback by the damage already done to the bully. He was stunned. Just enough time for Kenny to recover and pound Brent on the top of his head hard enough to knock him to his knees and shatter his glasses on the floor.
Brent was only on his knees long enough for the bully to take up a loose Tae-kwon-do stance. Brent fell back on his shoulders and pushed off, driving both feet squarely into Kenny’s chest, pushing him into the cinder-block wall.
He heard Apryl behind them telling them to stop and that the teachers were coming, but he didn’t care. He was going to put Kenny in his place this time.
Kenny wasn’t finished yet either.
Teachers were running. As was the principal. Brent was concentrating on the fight. He was going to get pounded worse than this when his parents got home tonight, anyway. Might as well make it a good one.
The sparring match was going to be a draw now, neither player was allowing any punches to be landed. Not that they were weak thrusts. Each one intended to break bones and were well placed, but also expertly deflected.
The male teachers grabbed the boys from behind as Apryl tried one more time to get between them. Both boys turned on the teachers, the holds easily broken, and quickly the teachers were on the floor in pain. Just as quickly as the fight was thwarted, the boys turned back on each other.
Brent saw them. Apryl had brought Kim in the circle this time. They took a more direct approach. They distracted the boys just long enough to get between them, grab them by the face and plant a juicy kiss on each pair of lips.
Brent watched as Kim’s face turned beat red and she turned away with only a longing glance into his eyes. The blonde hair had moved away too. Brent stared at the equally dumbfounded Kenny.
Kenny’s face was just a red as Kim’s had been. He stood there wide-eyed and his hands at his side as Mr. Wilmington took both arms. Brent felt the familiar rush of red on his own face, and his arms too were gathered into a harsh bundle by someone larger than he. Soon the red quickly died back to his too-white skin color.
The girls were being herded to the principal’s office too.
Brent heard the whispers behind him. No, they weren’t laughing anymore, were they?