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    #34
    The ship that crashes in San Diego in TLW is called 'Venture', an homage to the ship that brought King Kong to New York in the classic 1933 film.
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    The Distance Between {Part 1}
    By Aragorn

    "The Distance Between"

    Written by:

    Jeff Long

    Thanks goes to Amber (Jonathan) for the new title.

    ***************************************

    I have a story to tell you. One of romance, action, drama, comedy, and above all, love, and how no matter how much of it you have, it just means that you got more of it to loose. This story is also about school life, but mainly, about how all good things must eventually come to an end.

    I remember the events that took place in my second year of Junior High very vividly. I was in Grade Eight then, and I remember them as if it happened only recently. I tell you this story, in hopes that you become aware of what you have, while you have it, and to cherish each moment of it while it lasts.

    ***

    St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1999

    The usually-yellow school bus slowed to a stop as it pulled up in front of a two-floored school. All around the parked bus, various other vehicles of all makes and years slowed to let other students out, and then sped up again as they drove away. The bus itself was covered in a mixture of dirt and mud, staining the yellow appearance. The other vehicles that drove by after having dropped their younger occupants off at the school, splashed more mud onto the bus which didn’t help with its growing ugliness.

    The front doors of the bus squeaked open, unleashing the anxious hoard of students wanting to stand up and stretch their legs. However, those students quickly found out just how cold of a day it really was, and really should have had enough common sense to realize that it was the normal temperature for a February day on Newfoundland.

    Pure white snow lightly blanketed the ground around them, but not enough of it to stop the top of the longer, now-dead, grass from poking out the top. There were even some small patches where the snow had melted during a short heat streak the week before. Of course that was before the sub-zero temperatures had returned.

    As students stepped off the bus and onto the wet, muddy, and slushy ground, those without warm jackets quickly began shivering. Their breaths could be seen in the cold air as the carbon dioxide left their mouths like smoke from a chimney.

    Among that group of shivering students making their way inside the warm school as quickly as possible, were Roberta Hammond, thirteen-years-old and in Grade Seven, and Ryan Miller, fourteen-years-old and in Grade Eight. Roberta and Ryan lived in the same small town called Portugal Cove, which was about a twenty minute drive outside of the city named St. John’s. The small town was best known for its close proximity to the only Ferry Boat that traveled over to the small land mass known as Bell Island and back twice a day.

    The two teenagers were both good friends and had been for most of their lives. They had lived just down the street from each other their entire lives and attended the same schools while they grew up. Although despite their closeness, they hardly ever hung out together when not in school. Outside of school, they were just as far apart as they were close friends in school. They weren’t really similar in any way, and didn’t have the same interests at all, so they’re after-school lives never crossed paths too often.

    They walked with the rest of the students through the thick metal entrance doors, hurriedly getting out of the cold nipping air and into something a bit warmer. Once inside the main porch, they scraped their shoes against the floor to wipe all excess mud and snow off. The floor was already covered in mud and melting snow from the dozens of previous students that had already been through. Ryan sniffled his nose and wipe some dripping mucus away as they continued on through the second set of doors and into their busy school, MacDonald Drive Junior High.

    Once inside the school, the group broke apart and everyone went their own separate ways, melting themselves into the already-huge crowd of student bodies that populated the narrow halls. Roberta and Ryan were two of the people that separated from each other as Ryan went straight for his locker and Roberta started her morning ritual of meeting her boyfriend at his locker, before continuing on to her own.

    As Ryan reached his locker, he took out a Kleenex and wiped some more of that yucky running snot from his nose before he started to turn his lock, creating the combination he needed to make, in order to open his locker. Just as he entered in the correct combination - something that usually took multiple tries but this time he got on his first shot - his best friend, Jeffrey (Although he much preferred to be called Jeff by anyone that wasn’t his parents) Long, walked up to his own locker, which was located right next to Ryan’s.

    After their morning greetings to each other Ryan asked, “What do we have first?” He unslung his bookbag and began to empty out its contents into his locker.

    “Hang on a sec,” Jeff replied as he removed his black sunglasses from his eyes and placed them in the inside pocket of his blue jean jacket. He then took several minutes and three attempts to succeed in getting his combination right and opening his locker. On the inside of his door he had his weekly schedule taped up. “What day is it?” he asked Ryan as he started to look over the schedule.

    “Tuesday,” Ryan replied as he removed his jacket and hung it up in his own locker.

    “No! I mean, what Day!”

    “Oh. Day Four.”

    “Ok, let’s see...” Jeff hung up his own jacket as he looked at his schedule. “We have Math first.” He didn’t even bother trying to hide the disappointment in his voice.

    “Shit.” Ryan kicked his locker a bit harder then he meant to, leaving behind a very small, but noticeable dent in the bottom. Both he and Jeff hated Math more then any other school subject. It had always been their worse subject, and it didn’t help that they had to go to Summer School the previous Summer in order to pass Grade Seven Math.

    They pulled out their Math text books and placed them inside their bookbags. Rather Ryan placed his inside his bookbag and Jeff threw his in. “Valentines Day is tomorrow,” Ryan stated as they closed and locked their lockers. “Have anyone special in mind?”

    “No,” Jeff lied quickly as they turned and walked away, pushing their way through the crowded hallway. He secretly harbored a huge crush on Roberta, but had never told a single soul. He hardly ever hung out with her because she was a grade below him and the only times he had managed to hang out with her was due to her and Ryan sometimes hanging out once in awhile.

    Jeff knew he couldn’t date Roberta though, even if by some miracle he gathered up enough guts to ask her out. Roberta was already dating a guy named Shane, who was in the same grade she was. They had been dating ever since the beginning of the school year, which was when they first met and he was able to spend far more time with her then Jeff could. Jeff’s mother was extremely strict about him dating, and often said that she didn’t want to see him dating until he was older and more mature - a place in the future that would never arrive as far as she was concerned, Jeff often thought to himself.

    Jeff and Ryan reached one of the many staircases and began to walk up them when they were greeted by one of their friends, Justin Lundrigan, who had been walking down the stairs and was passing by them. All three stopped in the middle of the staircase to congregate.

    “You guys going to the Pond at lunch?” Justin questioned them as he straightened his glasses. Justin and his group of friends usually went across the street at Lunch to a pond with a walking trail around it. There was also a wooden structure there, known as a Gazebo, which had a short wall about half the size of an average person. Inside it was a circular bench attached to the wall. On top of the wall were four struts, holding up a flat roof. The roof consisted of a bunch of thick boards going across, with enough space between them to fit a pair of fingers through. It was the perfect little hangout for them.

    However there was one downfall to all of it. On the other side of the pond, there was a wide grassy field. Or rather, grassy in the summer. At the moment it was covered in a blanket of snow. On the other side of that field was a second Junior High school known as Mary Queen of Peace. Although the word Peace was associated in the title of the school, the students that attended that school didn’t seem to know the meaning of it. They were very protective of the Pond and often referred to it as their pond. As you could probably guess, that didn’t exactly bode well for students from MacDonald Drive.

    “I probably am,” Ryan answered. He almost always went over with Justin and his friends every day, despite Jeff usually never going.

    “I’m not,” Jeff declined.

    “Why not?” Justin asked. “You never come with us.”

    “Yeah,” Ryan added on. “All you do here anyway is walk around the halls when you’re done eating.” Ryan used to eat lunch with Jeff, but found the constant hall-walking boring after awhile, which was why he ended up going over to the Pond with Justin just about every day.

    “So? I just don’t want to go.” Jeff found his parents extremely strict and so when they told him that they didn’t like him leaving the school grounds during his lunch hour, he knew better then to disobey them. However he never told any of his friends that because he was scared of being embarrassed and that they would tease him. The last thing he wanted, was for his friends to start calling him a Momma’s-Boy.

    “Suit yourself,” Justin shrugged. If it didn’t affect him too much, he never really cared what other people did. He didn’t find any good reason to worry himself with other people’s actions. “See you guys later.” Justin turned and continued on down the stairs as Ryan and Jeff continued up.

    ***

    Ryan and Jeff walked through the doorway into the badly carpeted Math room. Mr. Park, their tall bushy-haired teacher sat behind his desk, marking papers and sipping on a cup of coffee. There were a few other scattered students around the room, but not nearly enough to fill all the desks. Of course the morning bell hadn’t rung yet, so the majority of students were still wandering the halls and hanging out.

    The duo greeted their teacher as they walked past his desk and approached their seats. Mr. Park glanced up to see who greeted him and returned with a “Good Morning,” before looking back down and continuing with his marking.

    Ryan sat in a hard plastic seat first and Jeff proceeded to plump down in the adjacent seat. They unzipped their bookbags and unloaded their Math text books and supplies onto their desks. Jeff turned to talk to his friend, but the morning bell rang, signifying the start of class.

    Mr. Park quickly finished with his marking as the remainder of the class walked into the room and prepared for their daily lesson, or daily torture as a few of them saw it as.

    ***

    Eighty long minutes later, the dreadful Math class ended and the students made their way to their lockers to get their books for the next class, which was Options. At the beginning of the School Year, all students had to choose between three courses – Industrial Arts, Computers, or Home Economics, for that time slot. Ryan, Jeff, and a few others in their class had chosen Industrial Arts. So while most of the class split apart, a small group headed directly to the I.A. room.

    As they approached the wooden door, it opened and the tiny Grade Seven class that was in there before them started leaving. Among these people were Roberta and her boyfriend Shane, who had his arm around Roberta’s side, holding her snuggly against him. Also with them, were Roberta’s two best friends, Megan who had thick glasses and curly blonde hair, and Jolene who dressed in dark colors and usually wore black lipstick. To top it all off she had pitch black hair. Ryan and Jeff often referred to Jolene as a vampire because of the dark colors she always wore and her outcast personality.

    “Hi,” Roberta greeted Ryan as she passed by him.

    “Hey Roberta, sup?” Ryan returned the greeting. As they walked inside the room, Jeff took a quick glance back at Roberta as her and her friends walked down the hall and disappeared around the corner.

    Even though he knew he could never have her, there wasn’t anything wrong with looking and daydreaming either.

    ***

    When lunch started later that day, Ryan and Jeff met up with Justin and their friend, known only by his nickname of Weasel, in the halls near the exit doors.

    Weasel was a tall lanky friend of Justin's that came from Sadie Arabia when he was a small kid, however because he had been living in Canada most of his life, he spoke fluent English. No one ever called him by his real name though, as it was far too hard for most people to pronounce, but if one was to describe him as an animal based off his looks, it would be a weasel; nickname courtesy of Jeff himself.

    “Jeff’s going to hang with us until we leave,” Ryan explained to Justin and Weasel.

    “That’s cool,” Justin said back. “We’ve got to wait around for a bit for the others anyway.”

    “What others?” Ryan was confused as it was normally just him, Ryan, and Weasel.

    “Them,” Justin pointed. Jeff and Ryan turned to look down an adjacent hall.

    Roberta, Shane, Megan, and Jolene approached the group. Jeff immediately turned back to Justin. “I changed my mind. I’m going.” Screw his parents. After all, what were the odds that they’d see him anyway? It was a big city and they had no business in that part of it. The more time he had with Roberta, the better, as far as he was concerned.

    The group exited the school and walked across the wide soccer field, avoiding the ball that was being kicked by the kids playing lunchtime soccer. They reached a sidewalk and waited at the busy street for the traffic to die down.

    Megan, impatient as ever, went over and pushed a button on the light pole. After a couple seconds, the green lights above the traffic turned to red and a cross walk sign lit up, indicating for the kids to cross.

    They did so and when they got to the other side, they walked down to the walking trail and walked around the slightly-frozen pond until they reached the Gazebo.

    They sat on the bench lining the inside of the structure and took their food out to start eating. The day had warmed up a bit since the morning as the sun rose higher in the sky and the little amount of snow that was there, had starting to melt. The blinding sun, with not a single cloud in the sky to block it, also shinned straight in the kids’ eyes, making each of them wish they brought sunglasses with them, except for Jeff who always had his inside his jacket at all times.

    After they were done eating, Justin, Ryan, Jeff, Weasel, and Jolene - trying to prove like usual that girls can do whatever guys do - climbed up onto the roof of the Gazebo and took turns running and jumping off, landing in a soft patch of snow on the ground below.

    As Jeff stood, waiting patiently for his turn to jump, he took a look down through the spaces between the boards of wood that they stood on, and saw Megan, Roberta, and Shane sitting on the bench and he watched them looking out over the side of the low wall as they watched the others all jump off the roof. Shane had his arm around Roberta’s shoulders and she was cuddling up comfortably next to him. Jeff spotted this and scowled as evil thoughts involving Shane and painful death entered his mind.

    Megan stood up, throwing her garbage in a nearby trashcan, and walked over to Jolene, who had just jumped off the Gazebo. They talked to each other for a minute and then turned back to the others. “We’re going to the Dollar Store before Lunch ends,” Jolene informed them.

    “Ok, meet you guys back at school,” Roberta said as they walked away.

    Up on top of the Gazebo, Jeff looked down through the spaces between the boards again, and spotted Roberta and Shane pleasantly kissing. He felt his heart sink and a pang of jealousy shoot through his body. Many thoughts began to clutter his mind. Thoughts of Roberta, thoughts of him and Roberta, thoughts of him being with Roberta. He had no control over them and quickly got lost in them, even though he knew none of them could ever come true.

    “Hurry up, jump!” Justin shouted from behind him. “We’re waiting!” However, Jeff couldn’t hear. He was zoned out and too lost in his own thoughts along with the scene playing below him. “Ah to hell with this,” Justin sighed. He ran and pushed Jeff off the edge.

    ***

    “I’m really sorry!” Justin apologized, sitting next to Jeff in the Nurse’s Office of their school. Jeff had an ice pack held firmly against his arm. Jeff just glared back at him, ignoring the freezing cold of the ice. “What?” Justin asked, noting Jeff’s death gaze. “I am! Who could have guessed you were gonna miss the snow and hit the only part where there was rocks?”

    After Jeff had landed on the sharp rocks below and sprained his arm, they had all returned to the school and felt it was best to bring him to the Nurse’s office. After they told the Nurse what had happened, she scolded them for being ‘immature’ and ranted on about how they should have known better then to be ‘horsing around’ on top of that structure.

    The others that had been at the Gazebo when the incident happened all sat around in the room to make sure Jeff was Ok. However the bell rang, interrupting any further conversation.

    “See you after class,” Ryan said as they all stood up and started to leave alone in the Nurse’s office.

    “Take care, man,” Shane said as he started to leave with his arm around Roberta. Jeff just glared at them as they filed out. The way he saw it all, it was Shane’s fault the entire thing happened anyway. After all, if he hadn’t been kissing Roberta, Jeff wouldn’t have fazed out to begin with.

    Before the couple fully exited the room, Roberta turned her head back around and smiled at Jeff. “Hope you feel better soon,” she said softly and then she too was gone, leaving Jeff in the room all alone.
    Jeff just sat there, completely alone as a big smile quickly formed on his face and he realized that he was finally on Roberta’s radar! That was the very first time she had ever talked to him! Who knew that such a wonderful and exciting thing could have come from such a disaster?

    Jeff felt like getting up and dancing, but managed to contain himself when the Nurse walked back in the room with a white bundled bandage to wrap around his arm, and a sling it hold it all in place.

    ***

    After school ended that day, Jeff walked down a long continuous sidewalk, heading towards the bus stop a few blocks away from the school and down a hill. Since both of Jeff’s parents had busy demanding jobs, Jeff had to take the City bus to school and home again every day. Luckily he didn’t have to take it alone, as Justin also took the same bus, although he lived in a completely different part of the city then Jeff. When Jeff finally arrived at the bus stop, he discovered that Justin was already there, waiting for the bus. He asked Justin if they missed the first bus, as they normally due thanks to such a long walk, and then they had to wait an extra half hour, but once in awhile, such as that very day for example, that just catch it.

    “How’s your arm?” Justin asked with genuine concern in his voice after answering Jeff’s question.

    “The Nurse said that it was only lightly sprained,” Jeff answered. “I only need this bandage on for a couple days.”

    “Look, I’m really, really, sorry. I didn’t mean for…”

    Jeff cut his friend off, still excited over having Roberta acknowledge him. After all, it wouldn’t have even happened if Justin hadn’t pushed him off the edge, so if anything, he should be thanking his friend. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t care.”

    Before Justin could voice his shock at Jeff not caring, the City bus pulled up and a half dozen people walked off. Once the stairs were clear, Justin and Jeff walked on, showed their monthly pictured bus passes to the driver, and found a couple seats near the back just as the bus started moving again.

    ***

    Fifteen minutes later, Jeff walked through the main door of his PMQ - a house normally joined with three other houses on a military base - and removed his shoes in the front porch. Jeff’s father had been in the military ever since he was an old teenager and due to that, Jeff was raised on various military bases. It wasn’t uncommon for a military family to move a lot - actually it was rare for one to stay in any single location for more then three years. They had so far been in Newfoundland for a startling total of six years, and before that they had been in Germany for eight years. So far the Long family had been very lucky indeed with the length of their ‘Postings’ as the moves are referred to in the military.

    “I’m home!” Jeff called out as he entered the main hall. There was no answer from his parents or brother, but Raptor, Jeff’s small black mixed-breed dog, came running instantly and jumped at Jeff. When Jeff leaned down to pet Raptor, the dog licked his face as if he had never seen his master in years. Jeff laughed at his pet’s playful greeting. “Ok boy, down,” he chuckled.

    When Raptor allowed Jeff to continue into the house, he walked into the kitchen with Raptor following close behind him, the dog gleefully wagging his tail back and fourth. Jeff may have wondered why his house was so empty, but already knew that his sister was gone away to university in Corner Brook, a city on the far end of Newfoundland, while his brother was in classes at his own university there in St. John’s, and both his parents were still at work.

    Jeff turned the corner and cracked a small smile when he saw the closed door of his bedroom. Stuck there by silly putty, was a small pamphlet for Army Cadets. Jeff shook his head to himself as he opened the door and entered the room, leaving the pamphlet up for the time being. Jeff’s two siblings, much like himself, had never shown any interest in joining the military, much to their father’s dismay. Being in the military was kind of a family tradition that would seem to end with the current generation. The way Jeff’s father saw it however, was that while it may be too late for his other two children, Kevin and Jennifer, Jeff was still young enough that if he tried hard enough, he just might be able to convince him to join the military. Jeff however, was dead-set against it, but still found his father’s futile attempts quite humorous.

    Jeff’s family was one that was able to joke about everything, no matter how serious. There had been one day when he was younger, that Jeff’s father went on an anger rampage and yelled at everyone over everything. Later that day, Jeff and his brother bought a Grumpy Bear Care Bears doll and stuck it to the ceiling above their father’s side of their parent’s bed, and the otherwise-angry situation immediately turned to one of laughs and jokes.

    Raptor let his tongue hang out as Jeff plopped down on his bed and petted the dog, while turning on his TV.

    ***

    The following day was February 14th - the dreaded Valentines Day. The interior of MacDonald Drive Junior High was decorated with paper hearts and cupids taped all over the walls and doors, with red and pink colored ribbons lining the ceilings. But those things were only secondary for the students, when compared with the Valentines Day Game.

    It was a yearly custom at that school that on Valentines Day, when classes weren’t going on - basically before school, during lunch, and during the morning and afternoon recesses - that in the morning, girls had a paper heart safety-pinned on their shirts and they weren’t allowed to talk to the guys; not one single word. If they did, the guy they talked to got to keep their heart. It was the exact same in the afternoon, only half-way through lunch, it reversed with the guys then not allowed to talk to the girls. At the end of the day, there’d be two winners for whoever got the most hearts. There’d be a male winner and a female winner and they’d both get a prize. For some, it was a day of fun. For others, there was no other day filled with more annoyance.

    Within minutes of entering the school that morning, Jeff and Justin, two of the people who would fall under the ‘annoyance’ category, located a couple of girls from their grade that they knew. “Hi,” the two males greeted. “How are you? Hey! Hi! What’s up? How are you today?” They kept repeating over and over, in hopes of annoying them enough into giving them their hearts.

    The girls smiled, trying not to laugh as they walked away. Jeff and Justin thought the girls were laughing at them cause they thought they were funny, but they were really laughing at the two guys because they thought they were immature nerds.

    “There’s Ryan!” Jeff pointed out. They stayed in their current spot in the packed hall as Ryan reached them and then they all started walking together as a group.

    “How’s your arm?” Ryan asked Jeff as he eyed the bandage and sling.

    “It’s doing a lot better,” Jeff replied. “With any luck, I’ll be able to take the bandage off in a couple days.”

    As they walked down the hall, they spotted Roberta and Shane walking in the opposite direction, arms locked together. As they passed by each other, Roberta turned to them, smiling, and started to giggle. “I gave my heart to Shane already!” And then they continued walking further down the hall in their own direction and towards their own destination.

    Jeff mocked, in a high-pitched voice, “I already gave my heart to Shane.”

    Justin formed a smile, catching onto the hidden meaning in Jeff’s mocking, and decided to give his friend a hard time. “Ohhh! I know who you like!” he purposely said loud enough for anyone nearby to hear.

    Jeff’s face turned as red as a cherry as he started to flush. He had to quickly cover his tracks. He could never let his friends know about his feelings for Roberta or he’d never hear the end of it. “No!” he denied. “It’s just that...” he paused as he thought about an excuse. Finally he blurted out the first thing that came to his mind. “She’s so annoying! God…”

    Ryan also began to smile, being able to tell what his best friend’s true feeling were and decided to join Justin in torturing Jeff. “I’m going to tell her that you like her!”

    Jeff’s eyes darted to Ryan right away, the pupils large with fear. “No! Don’t! Please!” Justin and Ryan simply laughed at Jeff’s inner torture as the three of them continued down the hall. Neither of them actually planned on telling Roberta; they weren’t that mean, but they did love playfully torturing Jeff, and with the news that they had just found out, it was going to be one interesting day for them.

    Jeff decided to get his friends off that topic for the time being. “Hey Justin, I have a chocolate pudding thing in my lunch today if you want it.”

    Justin instantly stopped laughing and turned deadly serious. “I want it.” Ever since Justin had been a baby, he had a medical condition that basically cause him to be extremely hyper - to the point where many people who were not aware of his condition would think that he was drunk - if he had any amount of chocolate. Due to his almost life-long chocolate depravity, the few times that Justin did have the substance, he found it was the best thing in the world and quickly became addicted to it. Jeff knew better then to hold out on his friend, and normally gave at least half, if not all, of any chocolate substance he had.

    Of course mentioning it was all part of Jeff’s plan to get Justin off-topic of him and Roberta, and while that worked like a charm, the school had to deal with a hyperactive Justin Lundrigan for the rest of the morning.
    ***

    By the beginning of lunch, Justin had mostly calmed down and returned to normal, which was a good thing as the Valentines Day Game switched, preventing the guys from talking to the girls, which was something that Justin would not have been able to successfully do had he still been hyped up on chocolate.

    While Justin had been able to stop himself in time from talking to any of the girls, Ryan had not been so successful. Jeff and Weasel, along with the calmer Justin and the now-heartless Ryan, sat together in the jammed-packed and very loud Cafeteria. They were in the middle of eating their various lunches and chatting about trivial things, when Ryan suddenly turned and held up his fingers to make a cross sign. “It’s the vampire!” he shouted, followed by him hissing loudly at the newcomer.

    “Shut up, Ryan!” Jolene yelled as her, Megan, and Roberta walked over. Megan straightened her glasses and looked down at Ryan, who was still hissing and still making the cross symbol with his fingers in front of Jolene. She shook her head, embarrassed to be seen anywhere near this guy.

    “Where’s Shane?” Jeff asked Ryan knowing full-well that he couldn’t directly ask Roberta.

    Since Ryan had already lost his heart, and was able to freely talk to the girls, he knew what Jeff wanted him to do. Ryan sighed as he turned to face Roberta. “Where’s Shane?” he repeated.

    Roberta looked past Ryan and stared at Jeff, replying directly to him. “He’s at his locker with a couple friends. He’s gonna meet us in here.”

    Jolene passed right by Ryan, who had returned his fingers to the cross symbol, and stood in front of Weasel, leaning down across from him on the table, staring right into his bowl of steaming liquid, and then up into his eyes. “Hey, that looks good,” she said to him in a soft and gentle voice. “What is it?”

    “Home-made Soup,” Weasel happily answered. However his smile soon turned to a frown when he realized what he had done. “Shit.” He unpinned his heart from his shirt and handed it over to the beaming Jolene.

    Roberta decided to follow Jolene’s example and leaned down in front of Justin. “Hey Justin.” Justin just shook his head, knowing better then to say anything back. “Fine then,” Roberta scoffed. Picking her next target, she turned to Jeff, “Hey Jeff.” Exactly as Justin had done, Jeff just shook his head as well.

    Roberta reached inside her bookbag, which was slung over her shoulder, and rummaged through it until she pulled out a really long Toblerone bar. When she lowered it down in front of Jeff, his eyes went wide. Justin’s eyes went even wider when Ryan nudged him and brought his attention to the object.

    “If you give me you’re heart, you can have this,” Roberta bribed Jeff.

    “Fuck this.” Jeff ripped his heart off his shirt and gave it to Roberta as he snatched the bar from her and ripped it open, starting to eat it immediately, taking a large chomp.

    “Thank-you!” The girls turned, satisfied, and left to go find their own seats.

    Jeff looked up and saw the others looking at him, total amazement on their faces, but not being able to understand why. “What?” he asked them, mouth full of half-eaten chocolate. Then he noticed the crazed look in Justin’s eyes and realized that he was staring at him for a complete different reason then the others. “Oh fuck off, this one’s all mine.”

    ***

    After their first slew of boring afternoon classes ended, the students were treated to their afternoon recess. Towards the end of their 15-minute-break, Jeff and Ryan walked through the halls together, heading for their next class. Jeff felt someone tap on his shoulder and when he turned around, a kid that he didn’t recognize literally barked in his face, started laughing, and then ran away and disappeared into the sea of bodies just as mysteriously as he had appeared.

    “What the hell was that?” Jeff asked, a huge look of confusion on his face. They shrugged it off as they continued walking, but soon enough they both felt a tap on their shoulders again and when they whipped around, a whole group of kids were there, barking like dogs. Jeff counted about five of them, but there might have been more as he only took a split second to size them all up. Two of them were bigger then both Jeff and Ryan were, so that squashed any thoughts that Jeff had on fighting back.

    Jeff and Ryan decided to ignore them, and continued walking some more, but ended up being unsuccessful in their plan, as they were tapped on for a third time.

    “Look, why don’t you leave us alone?” Jeff asked frustratingly as they turned around. The group however, ignored them and continued on to cause havoc throughout the halls. They shoved random people into lockers and tripped others up. They tapped a few other people and barked at them as well, just like what they had done to Jeff and Ryan.

    “What a bunch of asses,” Ryan mumbled.

    They soon smiled though, when they saw Mr. Park walk towards the group of hooligans from another hall and heard him say, “Young men, come with me to the office. Now!”

    Ryan and Jeff snickered, glad that there was at least some form of justice in their school. The bell rang and they rushed the rest of the way to their next class, their thoughts moving on to other things and away from their interesting encounter.

    ***

    When the final class of the day ended and the hundreds of children were rushing to exit the school and head home, Jeff was at his locker, preparing himself to go home as well. He had his bandaged arm out from his sling to make it easier for him to dig through his messy locker.

    As he stuffed a couple text books into his already-bulging bookbag, Jeff glanced down the row of lockers and saw Roberta further down near the end of the hall, at her own locker, and saw a short kid from her grade, someone that Jeff didn’t know personally, but knew of from other people - Robert Peirce. He was only a short kid that gave Jeff the impression that he would no doubt turn out to be a midget when he got older. The future midget, however, for the time being was a huge hit among the girls in the school and had a history with more of them, then Jeff has had friends in his entire lifetime. At that exact moment actually, Robert was working up his charm and hitting on Roberta, however Jeff was too far away to hear what was being said - He could only see Roberta burst out laughing at something the little man-whore said.

    Jeff hated Robert with a fiery passion and his cold hatful eyes echoed that. Robert was the average way-too-short-for-his-age smoker that everyone and their dog thought was cool. Well, everyone except Jeff and most of his friends.

    Shane suddenly rounded the corner and approached Roberta from the other end of the hall, and Jeff smiled to himself when he noticed that Robert saw him as well and made a pretty quick exit after saying his goodbyes to Roberta. Jeff had never before been so glad to see Shane and Roberta together.

    Shane reached Roberta and smiled as he walked to the other side of her and turned to face her. That’s when Jeff saw that Shane held behind his back a white teddy bear with a red heart on its chest. Jeff’s previous moment of joy quickly turned to drumbeats of jealousy as he watched Shane give the bear to Roberta and saw Roberta’s face light up with excitement. She hugged Shane like there was no tomorrow, which was followed by one of the most puke-inducing kisses Jeff had ever been witness to.

    Jeff slammed his locker shut with such force that the next lockers on either side rumbled. Stupid Valentines Day, he mumbled in his mind as he stormed off to catch his bus, knowing full-well that he would definitely miss the first one and would have to wait for the next. But waiting at the bus stop alone - or with Justin, depending on if he caught the first bus or not - would be better then having to see Roberta and Shane together any more that day.

    ***

    When Jeff finally arrived home and walked into the porch of his house, Raptor happily ran full-speed through the house and jumped at Jeff, trying to lick his face. Jeff order his dog to stay down, but petted him a few times in a welcoming gesture.

    The inconsisted sounds of a sewing machine traveled through the house, and Jeff’s wonder at who was home, as he had found the door unlocked, was answered. Wanda Long, Jeff’s hard-working loving mother, rarely had any relaxing days off work. She was a secretary at a church that the Long family attended on Sundays, and had all of her days busy with all kinds of secretary duties. Jeff had visited her at work a couple times in the past, as it wasn’t too far from his school and some days it would be faster for him to get a ride home with her then to wait for the bus, but he never concerned himself with what it was his mother did exactly. Secretary duties was the only explanation he ever had, or cared about.

    When she did get a day off though, she filled that day mostly with either one of two things she loved doing in her spare time, if not both of them; she loved reading a good thick novel and above all else, she loved sewing. It wasn’t rare for her to sew a blanket or quilt of some kind, for a family member or relative, and sometimes she’d even work on making clothes.

    A couple minutes after Jeff entered the house and started to make his way to his room, he heard his mother’s voice travel down the stairs and reach him. Following her request for him to come see her, he dropped his bookbag to the floor, turned around, and walked up the stairs to where the small sewing room was located.

    Wanda finished off her current section of sewing and then turned around in the swivel chair and removed her glasses. “How was school?” she asked.

    Jeff shrugged. “It was alright.” He never liked going into much detail about his social life with his parents, as he knew that most of what he would get would be lectures, so he decided to keep his answers as short and unrevealing as possible.

    “Anything interesting happen?” Whenever Wanda was home before Jeff, she always asked him the exact same questions, time after time, and Jeff always replied the exact same every time.

    “Not really,” Jeff replied as if reading memorized lines.

    “And the arm? Is that feeling any better?”

    Jeff nodded, having completely forgot until that moment, that he hadn’t even put his arm back in the sling after he left school that day. “A lot, yeah.”

    “Well make sure you keep it in the sling,” Wanda advised as she turned back to her project.

    “I will.” Jeff turned and walked out of the room and continued on down the stairs and to his room, passing by the pamphlet that was still on his door from the day before. After checking his TV and finding nothing interesting on, Jeff went and retrieved one of the cordless phones in the house, and called up Ryan to talk away his growing boredom.

    To be Continued...

    5/2/2006 2:07:49 AM

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