I hope you enjoy the next chapter from my story, Waiting on July. In the coming weeks I will be sharing the last part of my short story “Tuesday at Midnight” and a few other things I have been working on! As always, thank you so much for your support!
Need to read chapter three? Click here!
TW: Substance abuse. SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Madyson sent me a picture around 9 am of Max getting escorted out of the school in handcuffs with his backpack in the officer’s hands and then another one later around 2 pm of an almost polka dotted Audi belonging to Blake sitting in one of the last spots of the parking lot. I drove by Hendrick’s to see that his car was no longer covered in plastic wrap but hadn’t moved from its spot from the night before. I’m sure he knew it was me. I’m sure he realized once Max and Blake also had stuff happen to them that I had something to do with it. I half expected Hendrick to show up at my door this morning or at the very least give me a call but nothing.
The days of suspension were excruciatingly boring. I did my homework for most of the semester. I finished two books for English and pretty much studied the entire math book. At this rate, I should be allowed to just start on next semester’s work and just never go back to school. I triple checked all my work and reread all my essays. It was Monday, my last day of suspension, and Madyson texted me telling me she was playing hooky for the day. I showed up to her house around 11 am and we drove to a farm just outside the city. The leaves that covered the parking lot shined bright in the late morning sun. The smell of fresh air mixed with warm apple cider and fresh donuts surrounded us as we walked up to the farm stand.
“I feel like this is exactly how Halloween should feel.” She said with her hands in the front pocket of her hoodie.
“In what way?”
“In every way, the chill from the air, the way the chill in the air smells so crisp, the way the pumpkins look with the trees and apple orchards behind them.” She looked like a kid going to Disney World, as if New Hampshire was the most beautiful and exciting place she had ever been. She smiled as she closed her eyes to breathe in the fall air and I did as well. I don’t know if I was just used to it or if I had never noticed before but the air was so pleasant. You could smell the chill, it was sweet and musky mixed with the subtle hint of kettle corn and fried dough.
“I don’t think I have ever taken the time to actually smell the fall like this.”
“That doesn’t surprise me, you seem to really hate it here.” Madyson opened her eyes again and focused her attention back towards me.
“I think everyone hates where they grow up. Don’t they?”
“I don’t. I actually really loved where I grew up.”
“Okay, but that is because you grew up someplace cool.”
Madyson stopped walking and stared at me. “How is Orlando cooler than this?”
“Uhm…. Disney, Universal actual things to do. It’s also summer like most of the year as compared to the month and a half of summer we get here.”
“Maybe it just seems cooler because it’s new, it’s different. I like that there is more than just hot weather or hot and rainy weather. I love Orlando and I would move back so fast but there is a lot of cool stuff about living here too.”
“I’m not sure we have the same definitions of cool here.”
“Maybe not, but things are unique here. Things are old like they were when the city was first built. In Orlando it’s not like that, everything is new. If you bought a brand new house last year, it’s outdated this year. Everything is modern and new, there is no history and no past.”
“I think we may have to agree to disagree here.” I don’t think New Hampshire is an amazing place. I don’t feel like there is much to living here. Yes, everything was old but why was that appealing? Madyson looked a little annoyed for a few minutes after that but as we approached the wide field of pumpkins a smile slowly moved across her face.
“This is so cool. It’s a real pumpkin patch.” She said looking out at the field of pumpkins and dirt. “I have only ever picked pumpkins from church parking lots or like Walmart.”
“I guess we can add this to the cool things you think New Hampshire has then?” She smiled and nudged her shoulder into mine.
We spent that afternoon walking up and down the various rows of pumpkins. Every now and again passing a person. Some trying to get their toddler to pose with the pumpkins that were twice their size. Others taking pictures of their friends wearing flannel for a full fall aesthetic. Madyson and I held our pumpkins in our arms and made our way towards the registers.
Sitting at Madyson’s kitchen island we looked through books of pumpkin carving stencils trying to find the perfect one to fit our pumpkins. Madyson picked out a cat standing on a tombstone that looked to be simple and extremely difficult at the same time. I flipped through the pages as Madyson attached her stencil with tape. I found one that had a jagged smile and large eyes that looked more funny than scary.
“Madyson… You need to take out all the insides before you start carving.” She looked at her pumpkin and let out a soft laugh before pulling the stencil off and grabbing the carving knife. She pushed it through the flesh on the top near the stem. “What are you doing?”
“I’m taking the insides out?”
“You carve it from the top?” I said looking confused at her technique.
“Yes? How else would you carve it?” She said looking down at her pumpkin.
I pulled my pumpkin towards the end of the island and stood up resting the pumpkin so it was half off the counter as I held it upside down carving out the bottom.
“What in the actual fuck?” She said looking at me. “Who does that? Why do they?”
“This is the right way of carving a pumpkin.”
“No, it’s the Canaan way. I’m sticking with my way you sociopath.” Madyson and I smiled at each other as she continued carving hers the wrong way. She pulled the top off the pumpkin and looked in before grabbing a spoon and reaching her hands in.
“Oh my god!” She dropped the spoon and grabbed her hand.
“What? What’s wrong?” I put my knife down and started walking towards her.
“It’s so cold! Why is it so cold?”
“What? You screamed because it’s cold? The inside of pumpkins are always cold?!”
“No, I have never carved a cold pumpkin before. Do they like freeze them and throw them in a field to trick you?”
“What?” I looked at her and laughed. “No, I am sure when it is 20 degrees at night they get pretty cold on the inside.” I walked back towards my pumpkin. “Pumpkins are hot in Florida?”
Madyson nodded as she slowly picked up the spoon and uncomfortably scooped out the long orange strings and seeds. We were almost done scooping out the inside when we heard the garage door open and the side door to the house unlock. Madyson’s mom walked in holding a computer bag on one side and a purse on the other.
“Well it looks like someone is feeling better.” Madyson’s mom looked at her with a subtle smile on her face.
“Oh… yeah I was lying.” Madyson said looking back at her mom.
“I know sweetie.” She leaned in and kissed Madyson on the forehead. “Hello Canaan, it’s nice to see you again!”
“Hello Mrs. Montgomery, how was work.”
“It was good, and please call me Gloria.” She smiled and turned around grabbing a water bottle out of the fridge. “I see we are carving pumpkins. May I steal the seeds?” Madyson and I both nodded and Gloria reached over taking all the pulp and seeds that we put in a bowl towards the sink.
“So, Canaan, any girlfriends? Boyfriends? We don’t judge in this house.” Gloria stood over the sink rinsing the pulp out of the seeds with her fingers.
“No. Just me as it’s always been.” I said smiling.
“What about you Madyson? Are you seeing anybody at school you’re interested in?”
“Actually there is a boy in my science class, but I don’t know.”
“Who?” Gloria and I said almost in unison. My heart felt weird, it sunk to the bit of my stomach and I felt as though the wind had been taken out of me.
“His name is Henry…” My mind drew a blank. Was there even a Henry in our grade? In our school? There were over two thousand kids in the school and I only knew about one hundred of them from previous years and classes.
“Wait. Henry Rayes?” I said remembering the one and probably only Henry I ever went to school with.
“Canaan you know him?” Gloria asked.
“Yes actually I used to walk home with him from middle school.”
“Okay so I will ask you and not Madyson, what is he like?” Madyson smiled and shook her head.
“Well, he was kinda a friend by proximity? Like we just walked to and from school. But, he’s a nice guy. He’s the middle child with two sisters.”
“Okay, now Madyson your turn.”
“He is so hot.” Madyson threw her hands down on the counter. “He has these amazing hazel eyes and his smile is so blinding and inviting and he is so sweet, mom.”
“Alright well, good luck and Canaan, keep an eye on this.” Gloria turned back around and turned the sink back on.
After our pumpkins were carved Madyson and I sat on the front steps. I put my candle in the bottom piece and lit it before placing the rest of the pumpkin over it. I watched as Madyson put the candle in her pumpkin and then struggled to light it without burning her fingers.
“I bet you wish you carved it the normal way now, huh?” I said smiling at her.
“Shut up.” As she took her hand out the amber glow shined through the design on the pumpkins. We took a step back and looked at my face that was pretty basic and looked even more goofy than the stencil. Madyson’s cat on a tombstone looked identical to the stencil and was actually almost better. I stood in the driveway. The cold fall breeze found its way into the sleeves of my hoodie. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about Madyson. Her smile, her hair, everything was perfect. Her personality, all the fun we had since the day we met. How she tries to understand me and gets my sarcasm. I liked her but I couldn’t tell her now. Not since she just said she liked Henry. I wonder what she saw in him behind the physical aspects. Maybe it was all just physical. Maybe it was all things that I could never be compared to. But damn, did I like her.
The lights at the gas station down the street were a blinding white that stood out from the dark street. It was 11 pm, too late for this part of the city to be awake. You could see the houses with lights off except for the porch or just the subtle glow of the TV shining in their living rooms as I drove by. I parked to the side of the gas station. It’s funny how alive the white lights illuminating the parking lot made me feel. I could hear a car behind me pull up to the gas pump as I walked in and the heat from the store took all the chill out of the air. I grabbed my nacho cheese Doritos and made my way back to my car. At the gas pump, it was Hendrick, looking all around the front seats of his car. As I passed the pump I could smell the pure foul scent of old raw chicken.
“Under the driver’s seat.” I yelled as I got closer to my car.
“Canaan?” I turned around and gave Hendrick the finger as I slipped into the driver’s seat and shut the door. I could see him in the rearview looking under the driver’s seat and pulling out an old slab of chicken covering his nose and mouth as he moved it to the trash can. He looked back at me as I put my car in reverse after opening my bag of chips. He just stood there, he looked thinner. His eyes were bloodshot and it was like there was barely a shell of what my mind told me he looked like. I drove away as he stood at the pump looking, watching my car pull back onto the street. I knew what he was doing. Anyone in this city knew. It wasn’t shocking when someone became addicted to opioids anymore. It was just expected. They would tell us in health class 12% of the students in the high school would become addicted to opioids. Which isn’t a huge percentage to think about but when you consider there are over two thousand students in the school that would be almost half of everyone in my graduating class. The city percentage for everyone that would become addicted to opioids was even higher. Most of the city just seemed like it was one needle away from an overdose. Hendrick was already nothing more than just another statistic in the city.
My house was quiet as I laid myself down on my bed and stared up at the ceiling. The street light outside shined a yellow beam across the floor and wall. It was like a nightlight, the blinds weren’t dark enough to drown it out. I just laid on my back getting mad at how Hendrick looked at the gas station. It is just funny how the people you grow up with can one day seem like someone you never met before. Someone that watched you suffer because of drugs is now doing anything to get their hands on them. I remembered everything else from the night. Madyson saying she liked Henry and not me. My heart just seemed empty. It’s always so interesting how a day can start off so great and turn into absolute shit right before you’re about to go to bed and have to start a new day all over again.
It was weird coming back to school on a Tuesday. The hallways had a different vibe to them. I felt like I was branded from being suspended last week but at the same time I knew no one even knew who I was if they didn’t have a class with me. As I walked to my first block class Mr. Jackson was standing with his walkie talkie in the hallway moving himself in front of me like a wall.
“Mr. Adams, welcome back.” He said in his deep military voice.
“mhm.” I grunted back.
“I hope you learned your lesson.”
I rolled my eyes and stared up at him. “Doubtful, since I still didn’t do anything but if you could move so I could get my education that you seem to really enjoy fucking up for me lately. That would be amazing.” I could feel my face turning red with anger. I could see his fist clenching his walkie talkie like he was about to snap it as he moved aside.
“One day you’re going to piss off the wrong person Mr. Adams.” He yelled as I walked down the crowded hallway that now, definitely was paying attention to me.
“I already have.” I yelled back as I turned the corner and into the classroom. I never understood why teachers, and really just most adults, thought that their opinions or their thoughts were facts. When you tell someone they’re wrong, but you’re a kid they look at you as if you just tried to take away their freedom of speech. It was frustrating to think that he truly thought I A.) filled my water bottle with vodka for a freebie and B.) tricked 17 year olds that have definitely drank vodka before that it was just horrible tasting water? He was an idiot but in his mind I was just another lying teenager with a fucked up past that he can’t “break through” too. There was a subtle but constant drizzle outside all day. It was gray and gloomy. It was one of those days that you just wish you never got out of bed because it was so warm under the covers but so cold and wet outside.
During lunch I made my way over to my usual table tucked in the corner of the cafeteria. I saw Max and Blake leaning against the windows at their new designated table on the other side of the room. I sat alone, slowly spinning my milk carton on one of its pointed corners at the bottom out of boredom. I felt a shadow move around me and sit across from me at the table. I looked up from my milk to see Hendrick sitting across from me.
“I have nothing to say to you.” I said focusing back onto the milk.
“Well, then listen.” Hendrick’s face looked like it was melting away. His eyes were bloodshot and he had sores on his hands. “I’m sorry for what happened. I’ll tell Mr. Jackson.”
I raised an eyebrow and stayed silent. I knew that telling Mr. Jackson anything would get either of us in a better place.
“Look, Canaan I’m just going through a lot right now.”
“No, Hendrick!” I yelled and noticed people looking at me and lowered my voice. “No, you’re putting yourself through a lot.”
“I need help.”
“Yeah I can tell. What, heroin was too numbing so you decided to change to meth?”
“You just don’t get it.”
“Don’t I though?” I looked at Hendrick. His face was blank and almost emotionless.
“I can’t kick it, I’m scared.”
“You need rehab.”
“I can’t go to rehab. What would my parents say?”
“That’s not my battle.” I stood up and Hendrick followed me. I walked out of the cafeteria and headed towards the library.
“Please Canaan. You’re my best friend. I need you.” Hendrick’s words were soft and broken. His eyes began to swell and fill with tears but I felt nothing but anger.
“Yeah… Your best friend card expired when you brought up my mom and then blamed me for you getting drunk off your ass at school. Just leave me alone Hendrick.”
“Max is right… You’re a little bitch. I’m glad your mom died so she doesn’t have to see how pathetic you are.”
I stopped walking. I turned towards him. I could feel everything turn hot like I was standing in a fire. “What the fuck did you just say?” I started walking closer.
“She probably overdosed to get away from you and your pathetic ass dad.”
I remember balling my fist. I don’t remember hitting him. I don’t remember him hitting me back. The only thing I remember after that was the police officer pulling me off. I was covered in Hendrick’s blood or maybe my own. My knuckles throbbed and my eye felt swollen. I found myself second in line staring blankly at the bullshit motivational posters in the waiting area of Mr. Jackson’s office. I watched as Hendrick walked out with an ice pack against his face and a piece of tissue hanging out of his nose.
‘Mr. Adam’s” Mr. Jackson stood there calling me into his office with a move of his finger.
“Long time no see.” I said taking a seat on the other side of his desk.
“Cut the shit.” Mr. Jackson’s voice was firm. “I don’t know what the Hell happened or why your buddy Hendrick took all credit for the fight but I don’t like you or your attitude.”
I stared at him straight faced waiting for him to tell me I could leave.
“I know kids like you. I have been an educator for twenty-two years. You’re not the first punk kid living in the bad side of town to get under my skin.”
“It’s not that bad, it’s just over-policed.” I don’t know why I felt good talking back to Mr. Jackson. But, it felt really good as every word passed my lips.
“You know what is going to happen to you?” Mr. Jackson turned and stared out his window for a second before sitting down at his desk. “You’re going to graduate to try to prove something to someone and you’re going to work at your same bullshit part-time job living in your parents basement until you knock up some poor girl and live in the projects, living off the government until you OD on some drug you picked up one day.”
“Bold of you to think my dad has a basement.” I stood up from the chair. “Am I free to go because this just seems like harassment at this point?”
“Your mom was probably smart enough to leave. I bet your dad and you are the exact same.”
“You know what Mr. Jackson.” I walked over to his desk and leaned in. “First, my mom is dead and you would know that if you actually tried to pull up my file since I missed two weeks of school last year because of it. Second, I’d rather work at my dead end shit hole of a grocery store than be someone that puts down kids and claims to be an educator. Third, fuck you. You can give me any amount of suspension or detention you want but seriously and from the bottom of my deep and empty heart, fuck you.” I stormed out of the office and walked towards the bathroom. I sat in the stall and couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t care about Mr. Jackson but Hendrick wasn’t like this. I was scared for him but hurt by him. He was my best friend but watching him is like watching my mom all over again. The worst part of it all is my mom would’ve known how to handle this. She would’ve been here to figure out how to get Hendrick help and how to get Mr. Jackson off my back. I felt bad for fighting with Hendrick but I also felt bad thinking about what he said to me. I pulled myself together and walked out of the bathroom as the bell for fourth block rang. Ms. Wes looked at my black eye and fat lip as I walked in right as the late bell rang in the background. I took my seat next to Madyson as Ms. Wes began her lecture.
“What happened to you?” Madyson whispered, leaning into my desk.
“Ms. Montgomery, continue this when my time is up please.” Ms. Wes pulled our attention to the center of the circle and Madyson and I both straightened in our seats. After class Madyson and I slowly made our way towards the parking lot.
“So? Details please?” she said.
“Hendrick and I got in a fight… I think he’s on meth now.”
“Is that why you guys fought?”
I shook my head to say no.
“Well? Why then?” She pressed.
“He made a comment about my mom dying on purpose and I guess it just lit my fuse.” The cold air and the near freezing drizzle hit us instantly as we opened the door to the school.
“What a fucking asshole.” Madyson’s face was disgusted and annoyed. I could tell she cared and it was nice to see someone care. It made me remember what it was like when my mom would ask me how my day was and spend an hour with me before she had to get to work. It was nice to feel the warmth of someone else’s consideration again. Driving Madyson and myself to work I almost had nothing to say. I parked in the middle of the parking lot and we walked in separate directions to our bullshit part time jobs as the mist softly hit my skin.
Jump to Chapter Five.