Though the cottage looked relatively small from the outside, once I got into its four walls, it seemed to be the biggest place ever. The house as a whole was tiny, only one story with no basement, other than a creepy old cellar at the side of the place that had been locked up for ages. Jason, the brother whose dad owned it, joked that the cellar held the body of his grandfather’s first wife under the floorboards, but it was a lie to keep the kids out of there, most likely. I couldn’t help but notice Sam step away and walk a little farther back when we all passed the small door leading down. When we finally did venture inside the abode, there was no furniture other than the two couches across from each other in the major living area, a small end table in the hallway, and the normal appliances that would appear in a kitchen. The lack of furniture gave everything a spacious quality, but the front hallway soon became cluttered as everyone kicked off their shoes and dropped down their bags, creating a sea of Converse, Nike, and other brand names. I felt so weird, just tossing down my backpack which contained my Chemistry textbook I would no longer be needing, and I wished that we had stopped at my house before we came. Actually, I pretty much wished I had never come at all. And only fifteen minutes had passed so far.
The cottage was owned by the brother and sister’s dad, but he granted permission to allow his children use it for the week, as long as they didn’t have any other guests. They had already broken the rules, letting the stragglers into the door, but that had been the brother’s goal all along. His parents only used the cottage every once and in a while now that they were older and had ‘outgrown’ the family tradition of cabin hopping on the weekends. They only did the rare trip, and only during the summer. If the place got trashed, the siblings would have weeks to clean it up before anyone noticed. And Jason knew it would be worth it, judging by the amount of liquor and drugs that had already accumulated, stashed out in front of everyone on the coffee table.
Jason was older than all of us; our ages ranging from grade eleven or twelve. Since he had failed a few courses and decided to take another year of high school, he was still in grade twelve at twenty. When I heard about his age, I felt myself cringe internally. It just didn’t seem right to be twenty fucking years old and still be in high school. He should be in college or at least out of school, taking a year off if he couldn’t afford the demands of post-secondary education. I had seen him around school before either. His name was Jason, he had reiterated about a million times by now, but most people called him Jay. He was a fairly big guy, broad shoulders hung atop a muscular frame. He looked big enough to be on the football team, but none of that kind of shit interested him. He had been at the back of some of my classes, just falling asleep with his nose in a book, never actually reading it. He had walked past me before a few times too, and I could always remember him reeking of alcohol. All of the memories of this boy I barely knew came back to me as I saw him come outside from the small brown cottage and throw his big burly arm around Sam.
“Finally!” he had uttered, locking Sam’s head in his arm. Sam gasped and writhed under his embrace, but played along with his rough housing, trying to come off like he clearly wasn’t being hurt.
I could smell the alcohol on him already, and started to realize why he had failed all of those classes. Even then, I couldn’t image just sticking around for a few more years in high school, of all the fucking places in the world. I hated high school with a fucking passion. And though I didn’t want to grow up some days, I still wanted to get out of there. And it would be happening soon. Spring break was marking that we were halfway through this semester. I only had to suffer for a few more grueling months. And then I was free, or so I thought.
I still had no fucking clue what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go. I had managed to get over some of my fear of aging, of that infernal gray area where people were too young to die but not old enough to live yet, ever since I had started a relationship with Gerard, but it wasn’t enough. Nothing was fucking enough. Gerard had taught me that just because he was middle-aged didn’t mean that he had to stop being happy. He had just as much youth as the people I saw inside the house, laughing, giggling, and falling all over each other. Gerard had also showed me that age was something to be proud of; that wrinkles told a story and elders were respected in some communities. Even with all of that teaching, he had failed to guide me in what the fuck would happen when I was older. Gerard had been teaching me about himself and his decisions, his art school career and unfulfilled dreams.
What about me? I didn’t know what I wanted to do. If I wanted to take a year off, or work, or go to college. I didn’t even know what I would go to college for. This was yet another aspect Gerard had not prepared me for, I thought bitterly.
As I glanced over at Jason, I realized that even though I had no clue where I was going, I knew I wasn’t going to be stuck in the same school the rest of my life. Once I was out that June, I was never going back. Not to high school reunions or anything. And definitely not to Sam or Travis.
The past was the past for a reason, Gerard would tell me when I got too upset about things I couldn’t control anymore. You only draw from the past when you need to. I thought about that statement as I looked around the small living room of the cottage. I saw the two floral couches situated across from one another, filled up by masses of girls with perfectly straight hair over skimpy outfits and too tight jeans, and guys with a beer in their hand and an arm around a girl. Even Sam had made his way over to one of the ladies, trying to talk to her, but only succeeding in jamming his hands into his pocket, hair falling over his eyes. I thought it was cute that Sam, this narcissistic bastard, couldn’t even work up the nerve to talk to the opposite sex. Travis wasn’t even making an attempt at a social life, hanging in the background like a fly, just observing everything like I was. He clutched his backpack in his hands tightly, eyes darting around to make sure no one came near him.
There was a girl, however, one of the only ones that didn’t seem to follow suit with the other’s attire of Capri pants and polo shirts, but she still measured in skank factor. She had dark rimmed eyes, and they were zeroed in on Travis. She wore dark clothing stuck to her plump body like a second skin, her shirt cut down the middle, revealing thick cleavage. Her hair was tied tightly to her head in a bun, a brightly colored red and black scarf draping down from it. She was bigger than most of the girls there, but not fat by any means. Since most of the female population that crowded the room considered ice to be a meal, being bigger than them was not a hard accomplishment. Living up to the slut factor of the room, she slinked her way like a black cat over to Travis, her tongue clucking in her mouth and over her lip ring as she began to chat him up, obviously sensing that he was the one who had the pot. Travis suddenly didn’t seem to mind, especially as she pointed to a patch on his bag and struck up a conversation about their new favorite band together.
The whole thing honestly disgusted me, but drawing back to Gerard’s statement about the past, I wondered if I would look back on this in a few years and learn from it. I had no idea what there was to learn, but I would have a lot of time to figure it out. There was an even number of people in the room, five guys to five girls, leaving me on the outskirts, standing in the doorway by myself. I would be alone most of the time there, and for once, I thanked God for the only lesson that Gerard had taught me that seemed to prove the only of importance on the outside world.
Being alone let me watch people and see the reflection of myself. And what I saw was a reverse image of myself - I never wanted to become them.
Everyone seemed to have already make themselves at home in the tiny living room, tossing back stories and trivial anecdotes while erupting with laughter, and pretty damn soon, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was still standing in the doorway where I had been as I watched the people who I called friends, but couldn’t be farther from the term. I was reminded of the conversation I had had with Gerard about doves and pigeons. He had told me that my friends were pigeons, but I was a dove. And God, I saw it so clearly there. Before, I didn’t understand it; I just thought he was being his philosophical self. And even as he called me his dove in the park that night, I thought it was yet another metaphor for the freedom he was trying to thrust upon me (and the freedom that I wouldn’t take). I always thought that I wasn’t a dove just yet, that I had to work towards it, but I was never doing a very good job. In that room though, I saw it. It became so clear that, it was as if I was stepping outside of my body and looking down on everyone and everything. I was the dove in this mess of rats of the sky.
Essentially, we were all the same species; teenagers. And to be honest, that was a fucking nasty species to be. I saw the by-product of it right in front of me. They were smoking, drinking, and being dicks. I had been like that before, and a part of me still was that species. I had come from the same family of birds as they had, but that didn’t mean that all species, just like all teenagers, had to get along. Or were created equal. My feathers were brown like theirs though, and I didn’t know how to prove myself as the white bird anymore. I was blending into the background, blending into everything that I hated, but couldn’t escape from.
I could feel bile rising in my throat as I watched them. I wanted to be with Gerard so badly. I didn’t give a damn about my so-called friends. We weren’t the same bird; we could not mix equally anymore. We could fly side by side for a while, but one of us would overpass the others. I had done my flying with them – I had already spent a good chunk of my day with these people and now, I just wanted to go home. I looked over at the wall clock and saw that it was already after school time. If I had been back home, I could have been at Gerard’s apartment by now. I shrugged my shoulders and breathed in a labored sigh as I started to walk away. I needed to get my mind off of Gerard. I needed to get my mind of off of everything. And I needed to get out of that fucking room.
I walked through the kitchen, finding my way into a back hall type area where a door for outside led. I tapped my jeans pocket and finally breathed a sigh of relief. I felt my cigarette pack. It felt like it had been so long since I smoked outside of Gerard’s place where I merely did it because he was. I hadn’t actually had a craving for so long, but I felt the nicotine rush wash over me. I smoked to forget things, while I drank to create memories. There was nothing I wanted to remember here; I could smoke away the weekend. I even felt a smile start to come to my face as I went outside, the sun hanging low in the cloudy sky and causing me to squint. The inside of the cottage had been dark, not preparing me for even the slightest bit of light that the sun gave off. I didn’t even quite get my full vision back until I stepped a few more paces outside.
I was at the side of the cottage, staring at the next house crammed right into place next to it before I turned and made my way to the backyard. The grass was green, lush, and long, because it hadn’t been cut since what we did have of spring had started, and I could feel it brush over my shoes in my socks and giving the ground a carpet-like feel. I looked around as I began to turn the corner, taking in how much more wildlife there was here as opposed to the city, where a tree an inch away from another tree was a phenomenon only witnessed in art. I breathed in a deep breath of the country air, and even noticed the different texture and smell. It was clean and pure, thinner than the smog filled shit that polluted anything that went into my lungs back home. I liked the air here, and I liked the scenery, despite the people who I had to share it with. I felt like I wasn’t going to be doing too much damage if I smoked, because the air quality was better, so I still hadn’t withdrawn any cigarettes yet. There was something else that suddenly caught my interest.
A noise, but not the erroneous laughter coming from inside the house. This was outside, and not coming from a human. Or animal. It was a small squeaking noise, at a constant rhythm. Images of dull mattresses came to my mind, and the image was taken a step further as I heard a slightly panted breath following. I felt my heart skip a beat, just wondering what the hell I was listening to. I stopped ogling the countryside in the small alleyway between the cottages and finally made my way into the full backyard to find the culprit of the noise. Instead of finding the logical item that had been making the shrill racket, I saw something I had not expected.
There was a girl, I was guessing about my age from her height, with light blonde hair falling all around her face as she jumped up and down continuously on a trampoline. I had to blink a few times, just to register the sight I was seeing. I didn’t think I had ever seen a trampoline as big as this one up close before. When I was young, I had always wanted one, but was only successful in having my parents by me a cheap knock-off smaller version, which springs broke as soon as I was more than forty pounds (and that happened in about a week). But this one – it was fucking huge. The ones you always see in the movies where the parents are lucky (and rich enough) to buy their child the infernal bouncy object. I didn’t know what it was about a trampoline that appealed to me so much, but I had always wanted one… when I was a kid. The idea of it now, though, seemed a little redundant. All you did was jump. Wouldn’t that get boring after a while? And now that I was a little older and understood the purpose and meaning of money, the whole thing seemed even more stupid, because the giant ones were fucking expensive.
None of these preconceived notions seemed to apply to the girl who bounced up and down, her back to me. She seemed to be having the time of her life.
I stood there and watched her for a while, completely amazed at how graceful she was making the act seem. Her arms flailed at her sides when she jumped or she folded them over her head, launching herself into the air further, bit by bit, finger by finger. Her long legs, clad in jeans, seemed to extend up as she jumped, looking like her bare tiny feet never left the black base of the object. Right in the middle of my observation, she jumped too hard and far, and turned around.
“I thought I heard someone!” she said, her voice only wavering slightly from her motions. Her voice surprised me, as well as her sudden appearance. I had been used to looking at the bouncing object of hair and clothing, not really associating that it was a person. But as she turned around and her face met mine, I couldn’t help but feel my cheeks flush.
“Sorry,” I apologized, looking down at the green grass and backing away a little. Though her demeanor was all friendly smiles, I still couldn’t help but feel like I was invading her privacy somehow. She had seemed to be in her own little world as she jumped and I felt like I had broken her away from that. I knew how heart wrenching switching realities could be, and I didn’t want to inflict any pain on her.
“Don’t be,” she insisted, still jumping. Her voice was higher than I expected it to be, not at an ear pitching deafness level, but just making her sound very feminine, something that I was not used to. Vivian’s voice had always been low and throaty, only reaching higher octaves when she was excited. My mother’s voice was too dull, flat and well – motherly, for me to make any kind of distinction, especially gender, in it. But this girl’s voice was nice and airy, even though she was still jumping furiously.
I stopped turning away, abiding to her request, but couldn’t really think of anything else to say. I shifted my weight from foot to foot, watching her toes point in and out as she jumped higher and higher.
“I’m Jasmine,” she stated, making me pay attention to her again, as if she couldn’t captivate a whole room with her jumping antics alone.
I looked up at her, having a hard time following her face as she bounced, but I saw another clear smile spread across her lips. From here, I could see how fucking white her teeth were.
“My name’s Frank,” I finally answered, seeing where she was going with her introductions.
“Hello, Frank,” she greeted, giggling or maybe just trying to catch her breath. Again, there was an awkward silence that only I made awkward with my doubt of what to do with myself.
“You should really come on the trampoline,” she stated, giving me the guidance I needed, but would not take. I didn’t feel the need to jump incessantly like she did. I was perfectly fine on the ground, but before I could say anything, more noise that wasn’t the shrill noise of trampoline coils or incessant giggles, was made behind me.
“Are you scamming on my sister?” a voice that I had quickly come to recognize as Jason behind perked up. I glanced over my shoulder to see Sam there too, hiding behind the massive shoulders of apparently, Jasmine’s older brother. I glanced quickly back at the girl on the trampoline, then back at Jason, failing to see how the delicate graceful bouncing ball was related to the stationary, redundant rock.
“Jason, fuck off,” Jasmine retorted, her feminine voice managing to sound sweet and harsh at the same time. She had stopped jumping on the trampoline and was maintaining her balance on the dark edge as the left over ripples echoed through the giant toy. Her tank top and jeans were wrinkled from her former escapade, and as she crossed her arms over her chest, shooting her brother a death glare, she accidentally pulled the white neck of the top down over her chest, exposing her entire left breast, thankfully still encased in the bra.
I immediately gasped, feeling shame run through my entire body in empathy for this poor girl. I fucking hated it when my underwear would sometimes show up over my pants, and that was supposedly ‘cool’ for guys. I couldn’t imagine being as exposed as she was, even if no flesh, per se, was bare. It had taken me long enough to be okay with my body around Gerard, and I knew he meant no harm. This girl was standing in front of harm, and she was accidentally exposing herself. I knew they would have a field day with this, but I couldn’t think of anything to stop it from going on.
I heard laughter start from behind me, in the form of annoying half giggle snorts that I recognized instantly as Sam. I looked behind me and shot him a glance, but he did nothing to stop himself from laughing, and even fucking pointed at the poor girl I already had empathy for after only just meeting her. Her brother had gone quickly from being annoyed to laughing his ass off right with Sam at his sister’s faux pas. I crushed my eyes closed, and felt my stomach do flip flops, not wanting to witness someone getting embarrassed, especially someone like Jasmine. I had only just met her, and already she seemed to be the nicest fucking person in the house. I couldn’t imagine how she would take the brutal beating. She was so small, tiny, and fucking fragile that I knew she would break. She was a girl, and she looked younger than me, so I knew this wouldn’t be good.
I cast my gaze towards her anyway, unable to help myself from watching destruction. People always look at car wrecks; I was only abiding by human nature.
Instead of seeing a poor girl crumble with red cheeks, running away in tears, I saw quite the opposite. Jasmine had been confused at first, her light brown brows furrowing in the center of her forehead at Sam’s laughing, but when he had pointed, guiding her, she glanced down and realized what had gone on. She gasped a little, then sucked in her breath, pushing the neck of the shirt up where it was supposed to be. Now covered, she had time to let her emotions come through, surprising everyone. Angered by the complete disrespect she had been given, she pursed her lips angrily and shot Sam a death glare that even I couldn’t have ever mustered.
“Grow up, assholes,” she spat at them, but it didn’t end there. Anyone could toss around those words; they were stock phrases and general terms that you used for situations like this. But it took someone with a lot of courage and a lot of quick thinking to come up with her next line. “That’s right, relish in the half boob that you got to see, because most likely, that’s all you’re going to ever get out of this week. At least from me.”
She arched her shoulders at bit at her last line, bouncing her head forward and challenging them. She even pretended to lower the thin strap of her tank top again, fingering the white string lightly before changing her movements entirely and shoving her extended middle finger out.
I let my mouth fall open in shock, not so much at her action (though that surprised me as well, especially coming from someone as nice as her), but the fact that she had done it to Sam. Sam. He always fought people who challenged him and gender made no difference to the short bastard. He may not physically fight them, but I knew he had no problem cursing girls out. A few of his exes had gotten in his way after the fact and he had let them have it, even making one of them cry, her dark eyeliner staining her shaking hands.
I turned around and waited for Sam’s response, my heart beating fast in my chest. I felt like I was going to watch another car wreck, even though I didn’t want to see this new girl hurt. But again, my expectations were changed into something completely different. Sam wrinkled his face even more than it already was, tapping Jason on the shoulder, mumbling something to him before they both turned around and disappeared. Sam had just walked away from it. I couldn’t fucking believe it.
I looked back at this new girl I had just met, and she was already back to the task she had first started with. She jumped up again and again, reaching her hands up towards the sky, almost as if she were trying to catch a piece of it for herself. I just watched in awe that she had stood up to Sam, and all he had done was laugh at her. Sam had done much worse to me in the past few hours and I could barely say a negative word to him. I forced all of that negativity on myself. I denied my orientation, and more importantly, I denied myself and let Sam win – something I told myself I wouldn’t let happen.
This girl did more than just say words to Sam; she challenged him and fucking won. Matters could have been helped by the fact that her brother was standing right next to him, and if he said anything too horrendous, Jay would have probably killed him (despite sibling hate, I’ve noticed, the children will still go down for the other when emergencies are around). Even still, this girl had done something I had never thought possible; tell Sam off.
I shifted my weight to the side as I watched, feeling the cigarette pack move within my pocket. I patted it, to make sure it was there, but somehow, I didn’t think I would be using them anymore.