C R E S T W O O D C I T Y:
Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 06:03am | Crestwood Downtown
The hour was late.
Or was it early? Starting work at midnight messed with Aiden’s head in a way he was not used to yet. But he needed the money, and this was the only way his foreman at the railyard could compensate his busy, upcoming school year. Between football practices, homework and any maintaining the semblance of a social life, working the wee hours of the morning was the only way he could ensure a steady revenue. The bonus of those hours was, Aiden took home pay for eight hours even if he finished early, provided the work was completed properly.
Pedalling his bike, Aiden crossed over the Valley Bridge as he left the Northside and the Tracks behind, before beelining it for Vanessa’s apartment in the heart of the city’s downtown. Ducking into the alley that ran behind the building, Aiden raised his feet off the pedals before slinging his right leg over to the left side of the bike and hoping off as he coasted beside a fire escape. As he scrambled up the cold, damp steel, Aiden heard his bike come to a rest against the brick wall below before it collapsed to the ground.
Rounding the fire escape, Aiden climbed another four floors before shimming open an unlocked window and climbing inside.
“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?”
Suddenly Aiden felt his heart sink as he finished closing the window before turning around slowly to face his sister.
“It is six in the fuckin’ morning, you have been gone since midnight.” His sister’s face looked like it could explode at any second, the vein in her forehead bulging as her cheeks practically glowed a bright crimson.
"So, where the hell have you been?!?” She demanded as from behind Vanessa, Calvin peeked his head in the door. Rubbing his tired eyes, he suddenly realized what was going on before disappearing again.
“Start talking, Roth!” Vanessa stated, her arms crossed, foot tapping impatiently as a sheepish Aiden rubbed the back of his head.
“I-” He began, thinking the words through carefully. “I took a job at the railyard.” Aiden stated as Vanessa shook her head, rubbing her temples before exploding again.
“In the Tracks? Aiden, that’s Sons’ territory. You can’t be caught there.” She said calming down. “What do you even need a job for anyways?”
“I need to pull my weight around here.” Aiden replied solemnly. “I don’t expect to stay for free.” He continued as Vanessa stepped forward and hugged her younger brother. Releasing him, she tousled his hair before slugging him in the arm.
“I appreciate it, Squirt, but you need to focus on your studies and stay safe.” Vanessa reprimanded her brother softly, stepping back. “Now then, to more important matters,” Vanessa paused, pulling an envelope from behind her back. “Happy birthday, Squirt.”
“You really didn’t need to do anything, Nessie.” Aiden replied, reluctantly taking the envelope from his sister.
“Oh please!” Vanessa deflected. “Well, don’t just stand there. Open it!” Vanessa insisted as Aiden slowly dragged his finger under the flap of the envelope, antagonizing his sister with a smirk. Lifting the flap, Aiden reached inside as he pulled out two tickets to the upcoming Clamfest. A smile crossed his face as he looked at them, Clamfest was a night of live music held in Crestwood Hollow featuring some of the biggest up and coming bands from the East Coast. It was an opportunity for Aiden to see some of his favourite independent bands before they were snatched up by a label and their ticket prices soared with their success.
“Thought you could maybe take you-know-who.” Vanessa said in a sing-song tone as she elbowed Aiden playfully before he brushed her off, his cheeks slowly turning a bright red.
“Thanks Nessie, I really appreciate this.” Aiden said, before hollering over his sister’s head. “Same to you too, Calvin!” A thumbs-up in the doorway let Aiden know that Calvin had received the message.
Suddenly Aiden’s phone began to vibrate as he realized the time.
“Shit.” He muttered as he began to pull off his sweater. “School’s today.”
“Keep your clothes on until I’m out of the room at least.” Vanessa balked as she backed towards the doorway. “And take a shower, you stink.”
“Love you too!” Aiden hollered as he ripped his pants off while Vanessa covered her eyes and ran out of the room.
M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:
Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 08:10am | Bleachers
Aiden had missed the bus.
“Happy birthday to me.” He muttered looking around as he spotted the vehicle in the nearby distance. Watching as the yellow cesspool on wheels rolled away, a sigh of exasperation escaped his mouth before he turned around and ran back towards the apartment building.
Hopping Mrs. Gimble’s fence, Aiden ran across her terrace before racing around to the rear of the building. Pulling his bike off the ground where he had abandoned it prior, he jumped on it and took off towards the school, pedaling as fast as he could.
Cutting through alleyways and backyards, Aiden managed to only be sprayed by one sprinkler as he raced the autonomous machine towards Mather Memorial High School. Arriving at the school just ahead of the bus, Aiden jumped the bus lane as he hit the curb with all his momentum. Riding his bike around to the rear of the school, Aiden high-fived several of his teammates on his way past before he came to a stop beside some of the athletics field bleachers.
Tucking his bike under the aged wooden platforms, he reached into his jacket, pulling out a small carton of cigarettes before drawing one and lighting it in one motion. A slight twinge of guilt forming in his stomach as he put the smoke to his mouth.
He had told Vanessa he quit.
Three months ago.
But the truth be told, the addiction was getting stronger every day. Three months ago, he wouldn’t have needed one for this level of stress, now all he had to do was fumble the ball once and the cravings started. Taking a long drag, Aiden blew the smoke up into the air before a cough behind him caused the teen to turn on one heel.
“You know those will kill you?” Thomas Clark stated rhetorically as the Coach pulled out his own pack of cigarettes, tilting one towards Aiden for a light as the teen obliged. “I see that Vanessa didn’t convince you to quit after all?”
“Yes, she did.” Aiden responded, taking another drag before coughing slightly. “I quit three months ago.”
“Your sister isn’t stupid Ace, you’d do well not to lie to her.” Clark responded, though his tone was serious there was a glimmer of underlying humor. “Think you can fly my Ravens to victory this year?”
“No.” Aiden replied flatly. “You can though.” He added, a smile crossing the coach’s face.
“I’m going to need you and that arm of yours to do it, the boys trust you. You’re our good luck charm.” Clark stated as he dropped his cigarette butt, extinguishing it beneath his boot.
“I’m no one’s good luck charm.” Aiden retorted, taking the last drag off his own cigarette before too extinguishing it. Lifting his bag, the zipper slid open as a few books tumbled to the ground. Brushing his hair back, Aiden knelt to pick them up as the coach dusted one off that had fallen towards him.
“Don’t recall seeing Nietzsche on this year’s reading list.” Clark smiled as he handed the anthology back to Aiden.
“Heard that everyone’s got a dark side.” Aiden answered. “Just learning how to live with mine.” He continued as he tucked the book back into his bag.
“Well, when you figure out whether you’re a man or a superman, let me know.” The coach said with a smile. “Can’t have a superman on the team, they tend to frown on that.”
“I don’t think we have anything to worry about, Coach.” Aiden answered as the pair entered the school through the athletics wing. “Life dealt me enough of a shit hand, I can’t see it making me a Hype on top of all that.”
As the coach moved to enter his office, he paused at the door calling towards Aiden.
“Oh, one last thing, happy birthday, Ace.”
“Thanks.” Aiden replied as he rubbed the back of his head, turning to walk towards his locker. Normally the athletics wing would have been empty this early in the morning, but a familiar head of blonde hair was buried in the hands belonging to none other than the school’s own notorious Makayla Hall. Exchanging a knowing glance as the girl moved her head enough to roll one eye to look at Aiden. He knew that look well and nodded as he respected the girl’s desire to be left alone.
Reaching into his locker, Aiden slid his arms out of the oversized leather jacket, stuffing it in the locker before pulling on the navy-blue arm of his letterman jacket. Donning the school’s official colours of black and blue, Aiden ran a hand through his hair, closing the locker before making his way upstairs.
The main halls were lined with students of every grade scrambling to find their homeroom assignments. Moving through the throng of people, Aiden stopped to read his, making a mental note before being interrupted by a tap on the shoulder.
“Caw, caw motherfucka!” Dawson Rivers’ voice was unmistakable as Aiden turned around, high-fiving the taller teen as bumped shoulders. Behind Dawson was the rest of the football team as the group began to essentially take over the quadrant of the hallway they currently occupied.
“Who gonna make you black and blue!” Shane Parks piped up from the back of the group as the team went into a near frenzy.
“Ravens! Ravens! Ravens!” Each call of the team’s name was interjected with a corresponding double clap in rhythm with two stomps. It was the team’s pre-game chant, there was no one in Crestwood that wouldn’t recognize it. The stadium was electric during home games when it was performed.
“Ravens,” Principal Fitzgerald’s voice rang out clearly as it cut through the dull roar of the hallway. “If you could please move it along, that would be appreciated.”
“Sir.” Aiden said with a nod as the team complied. Moving to keep pace with Aiden, Dawson let out a low whistle as none other than Winter Carlyle passed the group.
“Damn.” He said approvingly. “Nice ass.” Any further commentary was cut short by a sharp elbow to the linebacker’s ribs, courtesy of Aiden.
“And that’s why you’re dateless.” Aiden taunted.
“Said the virgin quarterback.” Dawson retorted. “Hell, I ain’t even heard of a quarterback who can’t get laid till I met you, Roth.”
“It’s by choice.” Aiden said defensively. Though truth be told it wasn’t entirely by choice. Any time he got close to telling a girl, specifically, one girl, how he felt, Aiden always got flustered. After that came the headaches, and then the burning eyes. Ultimately, none of that truly mattered because the one girl he wanted, he knew he could never be good enough for.
“Yeah sure, whatever.” Dawson said brushing Aiden off. “Look we gotta talk about this year’s Scarecrow.”
“Do we really gotta?” Aiden asked sarcastically. “You know how I feel about that, man. We should just let the tradition die, someone’s gonna end up hurt, and I mean with what happened to Sebastian-”
“What? You think there’s some kinda serial killer running around the Hollow? Nah man, what happened to Scott was a freak accident, he was probably a fuckin’ Hype.” Dawson ranted. “The Scarecrow has been happening since this school was built, we can’t abandon it now.” He continued as the team moved through the hallway.
“Look at all the prime candidates, that fuckin’ kid is wearin’ a flower jacket.” Dawson obnoxiously pointed towards a student that Aiden didn’t recognize. “And there there’s that blonde guy there.”
“Nah, he’s Insta legit.” Shane piped in as Dawson shot him a cold look. “What about Makayla Hall?”
The Ravens let out a collective ‘Ooh’ as Dawson excitedly grabbed Aiden by the shoulders.
“What about Makayla Hall?” He asked, repeating Shane. Aiden’s nose crinkled in disgust as he waved a hand dismissively.
“Makayla Hall is off limits, and you know it. Even by the rules of the Scarecrow.” He snarled, pain beginning to ring in his head as the corners of his eyes suddenly began to feel hot.
“Well you’re no fun.” Dawson pouted as he released Aiden. “But don’t you worry, I’ll bring you around.” He said before disappearing into his home room.
Letting out a sigh of relief, Aiden continued down the hall towards his own home room.
Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 08:45am | Main Auditorium
Filing into the school’s main auditorium, Aiden found himself predictably sitting with the rest of the Ravens as they made comments on each student that passed by, obviously getting more vocal the ‘prettier’ the girl was. The assembly was pretty cut and dry, rinse and repeat from what Aiden had seen in the previous two years at Mather Memorial.
There was the opening slideshow highlighting the achievements of last year’s student body. Aiden almost visibly winced at the frequency Makayla Hall was featured. The formerly outgoing blonde had more rumors circulating about her than their deceased classmate.
As the slideshow came to a stop, Principal Fitzgerald took the stage, welcoming the students new and old to another year at Mather. As usual, he introduced any new teachers, though unusually, one new teacher was given an opportunity to speak.
Aiden had read his name in the paper when it was announced he would be doing a pioneering social course of some kind at Mather Memorial. The man seemed intense and when he mentioned coaching the basketball team, Aiden felt his stomach turn. He wasn’t a fan of change, change generally meant people leaving and Aiden had watched enough people leave. Lehrer would be fine in Aiden’s books so long as Coach Clark was left alone.
The rest of the assembly wasn’t anything Aiden cared about. He knew how it was going to go and so he stood to leave only to have his attention drawn back to the stage when the student council erupted onto the stage. The skit aside, all Aiden cared about was Brynn as he slumped back into his seat.
Dawson chuckled, rolling his eyes at Aiden as the quarterback suddenly showed interest the minute the girl appeared.
“Dude, you could have just about any girl in this school, but her!” Dawson ‘whispered’ to Aiden as the nearby Ravens chortled. “Everyone else loves a bad boy.”
“Screw off.” Aiden muttered dismissively, a ‘hush’ from the school’s literature teacher silencing any further comments from the linebacker.
The rest of the assembly felt like it crawled by as Aiden placed his cellphone on his knee, flicking it as he watched it spin around while his finger kept it from falling over. After being shushed by Mrs. Neilly, the Ravens were watched so closely, Aiden could have sworn Neilly would pounce if they so much as sneezed. Any chance Aiden had of skipping the remainder of the assembly was long gone thanks to Dawson.
Finally, Mrs. Macleod’s closing rap brought Aiden’s attention back to the present as he shuffled his way out of the auditorium. From across the room, he spotted Brynn along with the rest of the student council and remembering the tickets from Vanessa, Aiden began to make his way over to her only for the older girl to disappear midst the hurried horde of students.
Reluctantly returning to his home room, Aiden promised himself he’d catch Brynn at lunch.
Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 12:27pm | Main Quad
A plate of waffle fries smothered in gravy had been Aiden’s birthday gift to himself. The cafeteria lady more than happy to nearly double the serving size for him despite his protests.
Moving through the quad, he pretended to be looking for a place to sit as he tried to locate Brynn or at least some of her friends. It didn’t take long before he overheard the voice of Adrielle amidst the cries of disbelief as the notorious tale of the new teacher hitting a student with an eraser was retold again, only this time in stereo.
“And what’s that new class he’s teaching?” Another student stated as they piped in, the self-righteous tone grating against Aiden’s ears. “'Social Conscience’? Sounds like some depressive shit right there.”
“Are they gathering the loners for group therapy or something.”
“What exactly do you think ‘Social Conscience’ means.” Aiden interjected as he sat his plate down, before saddling the bench. “If anything, it’s going to be more of a philosophical class than psychological.”
“Like you’d know anything about that.” The student chuckled. “Look guys, Roth’s took one too many balls to the head again.”
“Y’know, if we were talking about football plays, we’d ask for your input. But you’re out of your depth here. So why don’t you just sit there and look pretty.” Adrielle stated as kindly and condescendingly as possible.
Forcing a smile, Aiden took a bite of his food as he looked around the table, avoiding eye contact with Brynn before shoving the fork in his mouth. Now was definitely not the time to ask her out.
Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:26pm | The ‘Loft’
If you had asked Aiden Roth before today, if Mather Memorial High School had a class room above the main foyer, he would have told you absolutely not.
He would also have been very wrong.
Despite having completed two years at Mather Memorial, Aiden had never been made aware of the stairs tucked into the corner by the janitorial closet, let alone the hallway and classrooms that they led too. Thanking Mr. Beauregard for begrudgingly pointing him in the right direction, Aiden hurried his way to class.
Upon entering the class, Aiden seemed to have his suspicions about ‘Social Conscience’ confirmed as Mr. Lehrer had scrawled a question upon the blackboard. Looking around the room as the other students answered, Aiden recognized most of their faces, save for those who were completely new to the school.
Taking a seat behind Emory Jones, Aiden watched as the older male scribbled down some notes. As Brynn spoke, Aiden turned his attention back to the discussion as she brought up the notion of natural selection. Listening to her points, Aiden decided to interject his next.
“Darwin believed man to simply be the smartest animal in its class.” He began as Jonas’ stern eyes turned to look at him. “In that same thought, uh, Aristotle believed us to be a rational animal.” He stated. “Morals and the ability to choose, make decisions and such, may give us the arrogance to believe we’re above other species. But at the end of the day we’re not.” Aiden said almost disgusted.
“No other species on Earth kills each other for such petty issues. We may build tools, but we ultimately use them to destroy one another. If that’s what separates us from the animals, I’d rather be considered one of them than a human.”