Crossroads In Suburbia (Chapter 10)

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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18

“Sorry about yesterday,” Marcus begins as we sit together in the library the next day. My math book is open on the table and he’s barely paying any attention to his history textbook before him. My hand rests nervously on his knee underneath the table, but he feels universes away. 

“What’s going on?” I ask, as his eyes flicker around the library at almost every noise.

“Nothing.” He fidgets with his fingers and adjusts his jacket slightly for the fifth time, so that the hoodie continues hanging perfectly underneath his leather jacket. “This is just…this is a lot at once, you know?”

I stiffen and the equations on my math book dance surreally like ancient, illegible words.

“So, you’re just going to avoid me entirely in front of others?” I ask, and I can’t stop the edge creeping into my voice – not of anger, or irritation – almost a desperation. Almost a plea. 

“No, Isaac. No – please. I’m not ashamed, or anything. But we need to talk, okay? Sometime when we have some more privacy,” he finishes off hurriedly as a big crowd of students come into the library to study.

Marcus sits up straight and I drop my hand. He flips a page in his textbook and begins highlighting, not meeting my gaze or saything another word.

“Okay,” I whisper back, and I understand more acutely than ever that there can be a dozen and one ways to lose someone. There are too many ways for someone to simply leave. 

And my heart drops and stomach turns cold at the thought of any of them.

I don’t say a word at the dinner table, clutching my cold plate like a lifeline. I trace meaningless lines in the mashed potatoes and my parents’ loud conversation fly over my head, landing violently on each end of the room; a volley of harsh words that I barely avoid. My eyes begin to sink closed, though my body is tense, a taut wire, waiting for the bombshells to drop.

“What’s wrong, Isaac?” My mom asks tentatively what feels like hours later.

I swallow a mouthful of soggy, cold mashed potato and shake my head.

“There’s just a lot of homework,” I mutter back quietly. I poke again at the food and avoid my dad’s piercing gaze from my left.

I glance discreetly at my phone underneath my leg. There are no notifications on the screen. My wallpaper of the city skyline stares back, almost mockingly. 

“Stop looking at your phone when you’re with us,” my dad demands, and I don’t have the energy to respond. I toss my phone to the couch and turn back to my food. Maybe tomorrow morning. 

My mom gives me a concerned gaze, but says nothing else.

“What are we going to do with him?” my dad asks loudly, as if I had left the room.

In my peripheral vision, my mom shakes her head disparagingly. I get up from my seat towards the kitchen sink, scraping the bits of leftovers on my plate into the compost. With a clang, I let the dirty dish slide into the sink, the rushing sound of the tap water rolling over it.

The rushing sound of water, rolling over everything.

I sling my bag over my shoulder as I head quickly out of school, putting on my earphones and turning the music loud enough to block out any other noise around me. The hallway is brimming with students leaving their classrooms; I dodge around them as quickly as possible towards the exit.

I’m just near the doors before I crash into someone and I stumble to a halt, tilting my head upwards. Chip stares down at me, eyes narrowing, adjusting his jacket and beckoning to his friends.

I swallow nervously and grip my backpack tighter, taking out my earphones and facing the three of them.

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going little dude?”

My gaze darts towards the exit, ready to make a run for it between them.

“Not so fast.” One of the other boys grabs my backpack by the strap and pulls me back. “Apologise to him.”

“It was an accident,” I respond curtly.

The third boy shoves me backwards and I barely keeps my balance, skidding slightly on the floor.

“We’ve got a smart ass here.”

“I’ve got to go,” I snap.

“No you don’t,” Chip grins coldly. “Hey Marcus, get over here.”

My heart nearly stops in my chest as I peek around his shoulder. Marcus is standing in the corner, eyes wide and face pale, watching the entire scene unfolding. He says nothing, not meeting my stare. 
“Don’t touch us again, alright?” Chip takes a step forward and I instinctively backs off.

I turn to Marcus, breath catching, waiting, but Marcus falls silent, his eyes still terrified and darting around like a trapped animal.

“You heard him?” the second boy yanks at my bag again but the blood begins to roar in my ears as I remain turned towards Marcus, waiting for a reaction that doesn’t come.

“Yeah I heard you. Loud and clear,” I respond coldly, jerking my body back and pushing through the boys, running out of the building and into the schoolyard.

Marcus’ wide, blank gaze remains firmly etched in my vision.