Title: Life Lessons in Old Navy
Genre: Romantic Dramedy
Summary: Security is the most important aspect in Marin's life. But when she gets to know introspective and understanding Brendan, she discovers that the boy who lost so much just might be the one who could give her the world and teach her to take a chance.
Complete/In Progress: In Progress
The whole world around me is sleeping at this time. But I am so familiar with those three digits; the luminous diving end of the two, the unending depth of the zeroes. I see them so often. Wide-eyed, blank faced, blanketed in insomnia. I can’t clear my mind. I can’t stop worrying about what I’ll dream about and what I’m going to do with my life. I wonder if staying awake the whole night will be better than what I might dream about.
Sometimes I’ll turn on the radio. They play the old songs at this time of night. I can’t help but smile when the Eagles start singing “Taking it Easy” and I can imagine my dad rocking on Sunday mornings to that song in the lay-z-boy next to the fireplace. Then I swallow bitter lumps of guilt and go on staring into the lime numbers.
Mom worries about it. I try to tell her to not worry, but you know how mothers are. She’s taken me to the doctor, gotten me a prescription. But it won’t help. I knew that long before it began.
Then I hear it. The soft muffled sound on the other side of the wall, like cotton balls rubbing together and soft gentle wind. I climbed out of bed easily and without any hesitation. A draft from the window caught me shivering, so I pulled a blanket along with me as I left the room. I traveled the few small steps, small steps I had taken so many times at this time of night, to the next door down the hall. I crept inside, noiselessly entering the room.
The familiar soft red carpet cushioned against me feet as the light from the crescent moon filtered in through the shut blinds. I saw the toy rocket ship dangling in mid air, twirling endlessly on the voyage that would seemingly never end. My eyes focused on the center of the room, where under thick sheets covered in clouds and planets and stars and things I used to dream about. The shook very little from the small hands that were clutching them. It was such a fine percussion. It was always the same, like the beating of a constant drum.
I walked slowly over, resting my hand on the back of Jack’s head. He had brown hair, like dad’s. Thick dark spikes jutted out caused by his restless sleep.
I sat down next to him. I knew each move of this solemn routine too well. Doing it once was too often. But at this reoccurrence...
He’s so young...too young for something like this.
He knew I was there. He spoke softly, “I don’t want to be an astronaut anymore.” His voice was tired unlike any ten-year-old’s. Too mature. Lost of playfulness. It made my heart ache.
After an extended silence in which I stared tiredly to the moonlight-stained floor, I asked, a little afraid of his answers in his small voice, “Why?”
His neck stiffened under my hand as his shoulders rose and fell. “Because...” His voice was influenced by his trembling now. “Because no matter how far I go...I won’t find heaven, will I? I won’t find dad.”
The moonlight stained seemed to turn icy in my gaze. This wasn’t fair. Not to him. I gulped back a lump of foreboding before replying, “You can’t give up on your dreams.”
The way his eyes peered over his shoulder at me, shiny and stained with memories. They asked me why. He seemed unable to say it himself.
I put an arm around him gently. “Everyone has a right to do what the love. Nothing should keep you from that right.” I felt a little ‘Praise the Lord’ in my words, but this was what I thought he needed to hear.
He didn’t say anything else. The next morning I found myself asleep against his bed, rings of Saturn in my eyes.
Art Life: Art Institute for teens.
“Mom. No.” I stared pallidly into her eyes, silently pleading that she would understand.
She nodded at me, as if I had not said anything. “Dr. Atherton said that a creative outlet may really help you along.” She smiled. It wasn’t a real one, I knew that by now. Lines cut into her skin. They weren’t from age, but from worry. Mom was always concerned about the well being of me and Jack. But frankly, she seemed more under pressure than us. She had to worry about keeping her job. She worried about Jack growing up unhappy, and she especially worried about me.
I opened my mouth to protest, but something inside of me strongly disagreed with that action.
I took one more quick glance at the bright goldenrod sheet I was holding in my hands. A bird flying over a rising sun was printed in the top right hand corner, with the words, “Your soul flying free at Art Life” beneath it in a fancy calligraphic font. I worried about taking an art class. I am not in any way artistically inclined, and my preconceived notions of artists said they were...interesting, to put it nicely. Perhaps that sounded harsh, but just look at Andy Warhol...
I gulped as I finally said, “Um, okay. I’ll go.”
She smiled at me amiably, masking her pain again. “Thank you.”
So this was the day I was enrolled in Art Life Art Institute by Pam Thatcher.
I only did it to make Mom happy. Not because Dr. Atherton thinks I need an artistic outlet or whatever. I’m fine, whatever the therapist says. I don’t need special coping methods. I don’t need creative outlets. I’m the only one who can make this better. Trying “methods” only makes it hurt worse, not make me feel better.
But I suppose I shouldn’t argue with someone who has a PhD, now should I?
Rain dribbled passively against my windshield as I drove down 3rd West boulevard. The drops gathered in groups and then cascaded down the slick glass in small rivers until they splashed into the hood of my car. The wipers whacked them back and fourth heedlessly, creating larger rivers on the far right and far left. The dull red back lights of the Audi in front of me created colorful designs in the rain. The sky was black with the moon still in decrescendo. I pulled up to the curb in front of the Right Off 3rd Café. Through the windows I could see a few drifters having their last cup of coffee before going home for the day.
I pulled on my jacket and slung my backpack over my shoulder before charging into the dribble. I ran up the stairs on the left of Right Off 3rd and tore open the door on the second floor, eager to be out of the cold rain.
Well, I was late again.
I was always the last one to the League meetings. Rain or not, I was always last. I even tried to leave earlier, and I was still last.
Marin, Adrian, Shelbie, Libby, and Ian all looked up from their hands of Phase Ten cards as I walked in. I threw my jacket on the floor as I stuttered, “Um, sorry I’m late...”
Marin looked at her watch in a disdainful matter. “Fifteen minutes this time. You’re getting better, golden boy.” She turned back to her cards. I spied two threes, a wild, and a run of five to seven in her hand. Phase three, I guessed. It was always easiest to tell from Marin’s cards; she had a distinct way of rearranging them. It was always order or bust for Marin.
Basically, we’re the League of Game Nights. You can’t imagine how long it took us to come up with that; it was a painstakingly difficult process. There was this whole controversy over whether we should be a League or a Club, or if it should be “Nights” or “Knights”. A vote decided that “Knights” was too cheesy. Because calling ourselves a League isn’t cheesy at all.
I took my usual seat in between Ian and Marin. I knew from many past experience that I would have to wait until next round to jump in, as were the rules of the League.
Our “meetings” were held in an old studio of some sort; none of us really knew what sort it had been. Paint stains on the old brown folding table suggested it was an art studio, but the wall of mirrors and bar suggested it was a dance studio. There weren’t any more hints than that, except for a box of colored socks labeled “Whitney’s” that sat near the door. But we couldn’t get any help from that either.
Adrian had discovered the studio because his brother worked in the café below. It had been abandoned for who knows how long. Maybe we were breaking and entering or something, but no one cared.
I watched the round go as Marin went down upon receiving an eight. She carefully laid her cards on the table and smiled. She seemed satisfied with herself as she discarded an extra six she had in her hand.
“What’s your excuse this time, golden boy?” she whispered as she once again rearranged the cards in her hand so they were in numerical order. I found that pointless since she only had three left.
I shrugged as Shelbie began her hand after Ian discarded. “Rain?” I tried with no real intent in answering her question. I don’t know why she asked. She made it clear that she didn’t care.
She simply sighed again. Her obvious dislike for me was always consistent.
I could almost hear her thinking, when will he start acting his age?
Shelbie, meanwhile, with the fire of competition that was always in her eyes flaming bright, had brilliantly calculated her hand and had gone out. The round ended. Adrian was dealing next.
“You starting on phase one, or what?” Ian asked as he pooled over the help card with the list of phases.
I looked around the table for some feedback. “I think you should start on two.” Libby suggested. “Since all of us are on three and four, just to give you a fairer chance.”
I nodded. “Okay.” I didn’t really have anything else to say. Libby was hard to talk to. I simply didn’t know her well enough to hold up a conversation.
We grabbed our cards that Adrian had shuffled and dealt. I looked into my hand. The sight of two wilds was enough to make me smile.
I side glanced at Marin. She evidently saw me and thought I was trying to take a peek at her cards.
I got the death glare from her. I rolled my eyes and looked into my hand again. A set of three, run of four...that was easy enough. I had played this game dozens of times before. I knew just what I needed. Besides my two wilds I had two nines and three sixes...so I needed at least a nine or a six. That was obvious.
Deception plays a good part in this game. You want the person before you to discard something you can use. But Marin was hard as stone. She was never in the mood to have her mind changed. Especially by me.
After Libby went, Marin drew a card, rearranged her hand, and then looked at me.
“Well?” She asked expectantly. “You haven’t started your reverse psychology on me yet. Are you sick?”
I rolled my eyes once again. “Just put down what ever you feel like.”
She laid a yellow five on the pile. She was looking at me intensely, wondering what my next move would be.
I took the five.
Why? Because she would think that was what I wanted. She wouldn’t give me fives if she thought I was after them. Meaning a greater chance to get a six or a nine.
We went around the circle again. This time Marin discarded a four. I took that one, too.
One more time around, and Marin put down a six.
I took it, and went down.
She dead panned, her eyes staring into my cards on the table. I smiled, folding my arms and leaning back in my chair and the game continued, as her dead pan turned into a glare, and then, a pout.
Well, I was sure happy with myself.
As we cleaned up the studio and readied ourselves to leave, Marin, as she walked by, shoving Phase Ten cards into the box, sneered, “That was some lame crap back there. Cheater.”
I shrugged as I pulled on my jacket. She was standing a few feet in front of me. She was quite short; a lot shorter than I was. But she still seemed, with her neck stretched out, trying to look taller. “There’s nothing in the rules that say I can’t take cards I don’t actually need.”
“It’s deceptive,” she hissed as she crossed her arms. She looked like steam was going to pour out her ears. Why she made it such a habit to hate me, I didn’t know.
I fished my car keys out of my pocket. “Well,” I sighed as I started walking past her. She shuffled her feet along to keep up with me. “Maybe you need to look a little closer.”
Well, that was apparently enough to render her speechless.
Which was a nice break for my ears.
But, somehow, bantering with Marin didn’t always seem that bad.
Art Life Art Institute for Teens.
I stared at those six words on the glass door in front of me. It was unusually hot and sunny, especially considering it had rained the night before. I threw away my last chance to walk away from art class and opened the door. There was a small hallway with several doors. Some with labels like Dr. Phillips, DDS, or Thorp Chiropractic Clinic, et cetera. At the end of the hall, I reached the door I was unfortunately looking for. It bore the sun and bird logo that had been on the application paper. I gulped back worry as I twisted the handle and went inside.
I scent of paint overwhelmed me as I walked into the classroom like room. About a dozen people were in there, all at canvases, looking hard at work. The hum of scribbling pencils filled the room as music that sounded like someone should be doing yoga to it played in the background. There were many clear glass windows, giving a good view of the street outside. Some shapes were on a table in the center of the room. Cabinets lined the wall and linoleum covered the floor. There were paint and clay splotches everywhere; on the tables, on the floor, on the cabinets.
None of the art students seem to have notice my entrance. They appeared to be of all ages; one looked as young as twelve, another was balding.
Suddenly, a woman approached me. She outstretched her hand, and grinned at me eagerly. “Welcome! I’m Pam Thatcher. You must be Brendan!”
As I was shaking her hand, one of the heads shot up from their canvas. I noticed it out of the corner of my eye.
“No.” I sighed to myself.
Across from the balding man, next to the twelve year old, was the gaping face of Marin.
A note from the authoress who wrote this last part too quickly:
Yay, I finally finished this chapter! Sorry it took me a while, I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it after last chapter, and then I was gone for a week....yes, excuses, excuses! I really should be reading my book, too. I have four hundred-some-odd pages left and summer is half-way over! Not to mention my AP homework....oh well, I know I’ll get to it eventually, even if it is the night before its due!
Anyway, I’m sorry if second half of this chapter seems rushed...I was really trying to finish... I need to give a shout out to my friends who are reading this. You guys are the best!
And sorry if this is boring right now! I have a really evil plot twist in the future that will make it more interesting! REALLY EVIL.
Please review! 8)