Note: NaNoWriMo is where writers work on a 50,000 word novel during the month of November without editing their work, including checking for spelling or punctuation. Therefore, my story The Swan & the Crow for NaNoWriMo is nowhere close to perfect. Please keep this in mind when reading this chapter and the rest of the chapters that will be following it. But I am open to hearing opinions on what I have written so far and am open to any feedback given. To read Chapter 1, click here.
Current word count: 6,944.
As the last bell for math class rang, I hurried out the doors of Rockwell High School. I needed to get home, fast. I need to get ready for the party going on at Jason’s house. As one of the most popular kids at this stupid school, I am normally invited to all of these stupid parties.
Normally, I do not go to them. Not because I think I am too cool for them or anything, but because I just do not feel like going. But with today being a Friday night and the weekend closely looming ahead, I feel as if I need to do something with my life. I need to get out, be around friends I care about. And get away from school. Get away from all the people who expect too much from me. My parents. Friends. People at this school who do not even know me. Everybody.
I do not know how this happened. How I went from being just a normal kid in middle school to becoming one of the most popular kids in high school. I did not do anything different or ask for any type of special treatment. I just existed and that was enough. I woke up one day, walked through the halls of Rockwell High School and everyone knew my name.
No, I think I do know how it happened. I saved someone. One of the students here. I saved them from death. From jumping off the ledge. From making a bad choice. From choosing death over life. From ending their life when it had just begun.
The person I saved was my best friend Michele. He was going through a rough time through the summer before we started high school. He had been in a serious relationship with a girl named Emily who cheated on him with another guy who when he found out felt guilty for hurting Michele in this way. This guy did not know Emily was with someone because she lied, told him that she did not have a boyfriend because her boyfriend had broken her heart so she needed something new. Said she just wanted to sleep with him, nothing else. So he complied, because why not?
He had no idea the damage he caused Michele. Ever since the cheating, Michele faced depression. He started becoming moody, less open to converse with friends. One thing lead to another and he tried committing suicide. Not just once, but multiple times. He was lucky though, because he always got caught before he could fully commit. But then one day, he tried killing himself at Rockwell High School. In front of our peers. In front of me. He was going to jump off the roof of the school. But I got there, just in time. I was able to convince him how life is worth living, that while things in life are difficult, he has friends and people who deeply care about him and are willing to help him.
I saved his life. In front of everyone. Friends. Family. Classmates. Teachers. Everyone.
It became a story on the front page of Rockwell High School News. A story I could never shake off me. Everyone started calling me the hero of Rockwell and wanted to be my friend. I never asked for any of this. I just wanted to help out my best friend and make sure he was okay. That is all I ever want is for my friends to be okay.
It was something I did not for myself, but my friend. Michele deserved to live, to not be distraught and heartbroken by Emily, the girl he thought he loved. In the end, everything turned out okay for him.
But it brought with it a permanent reminder of what had happened to him. No matter what happened in his life next, Michele would be remembered as the guy at Rockwell High School who tried to end his life. And I, Max, would be remembered as the friend and hero who came to his rescue, saving him from making a terrible choice.
But that is all over now, even though everyone here wants to act otherwise. I have moved on, and Michele has too. The only problem now is everyone else has not. Everyone still calls me a hero, tells me I will be doing great things with my life. And I am sick and tired of it. All of it. Dealing with people I do not know coming up to me, telling me about myself as if I do not already know who I am. Michele and I are not this one incident. We are human, just like everyone else. The sooner my peers and everyone around me realize that, the better.
As I headed out of the double doors to Rockwell High School, another student approached me with wide eyes.
“Hello,” he stammered in a quiet voice. “Are you Max? The guy who—you know—saved that guy who was going to jump?”
With a sigh, I looked into this student’s wide eyes which were growing bigger by the second as he looked up to my tall frame. I am used to this, people normally having to look up at me to talk to me. I am very tall for a high school freshman. Most of the freshman here are still shortly built, but I retained my growth spurt whenever we were all in middle school so I stand out here like a sore thumb. While being one of the tallest guys here does have some perks, it is also more of an inconvenience for me because most people here know who I am. They just do not realize how tall I am until they come into contact with me in person. And then the shock kicks in and they do not know what to say.
Because I am the guy who saved his best friend. To everyone around here, that is what all I will ever be. A damn hero. A label I never asked for and that I feel like I do not deserve.
After talking to this admirer, I walk away and go home.
I live in a normal home, a house with a white picket fence and a nicely trimmed front yard. It is usually nice being at home because besides my closet friends, my parents and siblings are the only ones who continue to treat me like a normal human being. I know mostly it is because they know Michele personally so they understand what he was going through and that all I did was try to help a friend in need. Which I honestly appreciate because I get enough of being called a hero at school and everywhere else I go that having normalcy at home is really nice.
Because while there are a lot of moments I do not mind being labeled a hero, it does get tiring after a while. It has been a year since the incident and you would think everyone here would have already moved on from what happened. Maybe it is because everyone here knows Michele (though not as well as me) and we all feel close together that the incident has impacted people more than expected. Our community is very small in size so I am not at all shocked that people here have banded together in support of getting Michele the help he needs. Everyone knows everyone (well, almost everyone. We occasionally have some new people here who even I do not know who come up to me and show their support for Michele and tell me what a wonderful job I did.) And there are people in this community I have not met at all. Mind you, I have seen them at school, but I just have not been involved in their lives and they have left me alone too, which is pretty nice. It feels nice to know that there are some people here who know about what I have done but that know to leave me be.
As I walk through our front door, I am warmly welcomed by our tabby cat Kim. Kim snuggles close to me as I close the front door, jumping and purring at me in welcome. She then nudges the toe of my shoe and angles her head to the side.
“Hello there Kim,” I say as I take my backpack off my shoulders and hang it up on our door rack. “Have you been fed yet? I assume not, considering you are coming over to me while I just walked through the door.”
I head into our kitchen, which is perpendicular to our living room space. We just recently got new renovations so everything in our house looks brand spanking new in comparison to how our house looked before. Everything in the kitchen included, looking shiny like a brand new car. I checked Kim’s food bowl, which we keep close to the fridge so that we can be reminded to give her more food. When I see that it is empty, I go to our food pantry, grab the cat food and pour it in.
As I hear the clink of cat food against the bowl, Kim perks her ears up and runs over excitedly. After taking a few nibbles out of her bowl, she rubs herself against me and purrs in appreciation. I bend down to pet her and mumble how excited I am to see her.
Then after giving her one more quick pet on the head, I leave the kitchen, round the corner to our staircase, and head upstairs to my bedroom. After the day I had at school today, I decide I might as well take a shower before going to the party. Besides, I have plenty of time until then. The party is not until seven so I will not be taking too long. And it always feels nice to take a shower anyway so no worries.
As I grab two towels from the hallway closet, one for my hair the other for my body, I head into the clean bathroom, shedding my school clothes off as I go. I jump into the shower, making sure I have all of the accessories needed to get clean.
After my shower, I towel off and head back into my bedroom, going directly to my clothes closet. I open the closet and grab the first pair of shirts and pants I can find and change. After I am changed, I go to the bathroom mirror to look at my reflection so I can make sure my hair is neat. I use my large hands to run my finger through my thin brown hair and check my face in the mirror to look for any chinks in my armor.
I see my brown hair, messy and disorderly from the shower wet and wild. My blue eyes foggy from having water exposed to their pours, trying to rub some of the water out to make my vision more clear and focus. I scrub my hair with my bare hands, trying to make it more neat and tidy for tonight’s party. I know I should probably dry my hair, but I honestly prefer having my hair air dry on its own. It allows me the time I need to do other things and it looks less messy for me.
I shake my head, hoping to get some of my hair out of my eyes, take one last quick look at my reflection in the mirror, and then leave the house, taking my keys with me as I go.
Jason’s house is just five houses down the street from my own. I got invited to this party by Matt, one of my closest high school friends since the incident with Michele. Like everyone else, he was impressed with my heroic deed. However, he was friendly and did not push me too much about all of the details. Instead, he wanted to get to know me as a person, asking me to hang out and do things together and become friends.
Matt knows Jason because they are in the same social circle. They had also been friends with each other since middle school so that helped. It helps that they are both dating girls in the same group as well. Jason has been dating the same girl since middle school, a blonde girl with a strong rebellious streak. Or so I have been told. While I have yet to meet her, she sounds like fun. But I have heard what a power couple her and Jason are. Then again, I have heard from a lot of people about Jason. How much of a nerd he is, the type of guy I had always wanted to be friends with but that my newfound celebrity status as high school hero has caused a chance of a less likely encounter.
Oh well. I will get to meet him today though. After all, I will be barging into his party. Time to deal with all of the looks I am sure I will be getting once I am in his house.
As I walk down the street, I can hear the loud music thumping several blocks away.
Wow, the music is really loud, I thought. I wonder how long it is going to take before the cops get called to stop the fun? Oh well, not really my problem, is it?
As I walk into the throng of the party, I search for Matt, the one friend I have that I definitely know is going to be here. I hear the electric beauty of the music as I pass the gaggle of guys and girls dancing as they consume the alcohol they are too young to be drinking.
It is not until I get away from the ruckus that I see him, hanging out with who must be Jason, clinging to a young blonde girl in his arms. And another young girl of similar age with dark skin who looked at Matt with loving eyes though he did not seem to even notice. When Matt notices me, he waves me over and points me out to the group.
“Hey guys!” Matt exclaims, a red plastic cup in his hands. “This is Max. I am sure not many of you know him personally, but he is one of the closest friends I have here.”
“And Max, these are some of the people I hang out with,” Matt continues, extending his arms to encompass the group around him. “Jason is the dorky guy with the glasses here, Allison is his girlfriend.”
“And this young lady,” Matt says with a wink as he points to the lady looking at him with such loving eyes. “Is Becca. Allison and Becca are part of a trio of chaos at our school. Their third member Steph is currently partying it up with the others. She loves partying so much that she just goes at it whenever she comes to one of these things. But she is polite about it. She usually greets the host first before she starts doing her own thing, which is really nice about her. But come join us here Max before you start thinking you are too good for all of us normal people.”
I shrug my shoulders at him and say hello to everyone he mentioned as I approach the group, being careful not to be too antisocial.
“Do not listen to him Max,” Becca said. “We are a friendly bunch. You are welcome with us anytime. And we are not exactly normal so to speak either. We are a bunch of dorks who are just looking for a good time. Partying is one of the many things we do together to have fun. It allows us to kick back and take our minds off our troubles for an hour or two.”
“Speaking of partying,” Allison says as she untangles herself from Jason’s arms. “Should we not be joining Steph? She has already started having a good time without us. I think the least we could do is go dance with her. We did promise we would not take too long and that we would catch up with her. And since there are now three guys in our group, maybe Max and Steph can dance together when we get to her. I know she normally prefers to dance alone and never with a guy, but she really needs to stop being so antisocial around other guys. I sometimes feel as if she never wants anything to do with the male population so I think it would be nice if she hung out with someone who does not belong here too.”
A look of mischief glimmered in Becca’s eyes as Allison spoke, showing a hint of trouble at the possibility of making one of her good friends dance with me, a complete stranger. While I so badly wanted to laugh at this whole exchange, I became intrigued the more I heard about Steph. She was someone at Rockwell High School that I had never heard about or even seen. Yes, I have heard a little bit about some of her friends, but I did not know anything about her.
I wonder what that is like, I thought. Not having a lot of people know about you. Not having to worry that people will see you and know who you are and call you a hero for one thing you did, just to save a friend. Being completely invisible, without any care in the world, leaving all your troubles behind and being able to focus on your own identity for a change.
Steph was definitely someone I was interested in meeting. But I had no idea how much meeting her would change my life.
When I went with Jason, Allison, Matt and Becca to join in the dancing with a throng of people, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I could definitely hear all of the people yelling and screaming, a look of pleasure plastered neatly on their shiny, sweaty faces. Some in the gaggle of young adults like myself had a cup of booze in their hands, half empty, maybe even full. Could not tell from the group who was already hammered from the night and who was still managing to remain sober despite having a few drinks to wind their night down.
I kept myself distant at first as I watched everyone in my party go into the crowd and dance. But then as I looked at the sea of faces that swam before me, I noticed a girl who was having a rather good time. I do not know what exactly about her caught my attention. I do not know if it was seeing the pure joy of exhilaration in her eyes as she danced in swift movements or that she called out to my adventurous personality. But she stood out to me like a beacon of light in a dark room. I was immediately drawn to her presence and wanted to dance just for the possibility of maybe being near her essence.
Right when these thoughts crossed my mind completely, she turned to look in my direction almost as if she had read my thoughts. She stopped in her dance as she looked at me. The expression on her face I could not read, but I felt as if by looking at me, she was beckoning me to join her.
I felt my heart hammer in my chest rapidly and stopped cold in my tracks.
Who is this girl? I thought as I turned to look at her only to discover she was no longer there. And how does she move so quickly? She is really good, I must admit. She really does seem to enjoy dancing.
But who is she? Who is she?
As this last thought entered my conscious mind, I felt a hand pulling me into the throng of dancing people. I turned to look to see who was bringing me into the crowd to find myself looking into her eyes once again.
“Want to dance?” I heard her beautiful voice say as I stared at the people around me in shock.
I felt as if I had been hypnotized. I do not know how I got here and why. I did not understand why this girl, this one girl, brought so many feelings to the forefront of my conscious thought. She drew me to her like a moth to a flame and her eyes entranced me into wanting to dance with her.
“S-sure,” I stammered, caught off guard that I was even able to speak while in her presence.
I looked into her eyes, trying to smile and be charming in the hope that she might want to not only dance but talk as well. She was a figure amidst those around me that caught my attention and knew how to drew me in.
And I do not know why exactly she captivated me. I do not know if it was the way she moved when she danced, like a free spirit looking to have a good time, or if it was the look in her bright eyes, shining like the golden sun.
But in that moment, she captivated me like no other girl ever had. My eyes were drawn to her, only her and nobody else.
I had never felt this drawn to a person before. Especially a girl. Yes, I know girls am familiar with them and their charms. But I have never been close to one before to want to be more than friends with one. That is how enthralled with this one I was. Her spirit spoke to me, called to me in a way none of the other girls at Rockwell High School had ever done.
In that moment, I wanted to make a good impression on her. I wanted to charm her, to enthrall her, to be with her. I wanted to soak up that warm welcoming smile, that glow that shined all around her. I wanted to be with her, whether it was in her presence or near her enough to where I could talk to her in casual conversation.
I not only wanted to be like her best friend, but much much more. And I did not understand any of it. What was happening and why. I did not understand this at all. But whatever it was, whatever this was, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed every moment of it. And I did not want it to stop. I wanted this moment to last the rest of my lifetime, to be frozen in time in a picture frame. To be remembered for what it was: a good night, the best night of my life.
So for the first time in my life, I danced with a woman that enthralled me. And without knowing it and meaning for it to happen, I met Steph, the girl who I unexpectedly fell in love with.