__________♫ Everybody's acting like they're all alright ♫
________♫ I can barely get myself to sleep at night, I'm sick of it ♫
♫ Yeah, I'm sick of it ♫__________________
The song's beat synchronized with each punch. Swing after swing impacted with the heavy punching bag as Aiden took a sharp breath between each strike. The sound of leather against leather echoed across the empty community gym, reverbing across the bare brick walls loud enough that Aiden could hear it over his loosely fitted headphones.
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 maintaining any 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 the pay for eight hours even if he finished early, provided the work was completed properly.
That left him time to hit the gym and sneak in a work-out before the coming day. Sure, he probably could have used this time to catch an hour or two of sleep, but Aiden never felt like sleeping after working, and there was always coffee to keep him going throughout the day. If that failed, then he'd simply buy a Monster or two at the convenience store by the school. He could sleep when he was dead; right now, he was sixteen and at the top of his game.
Starting quarterback for the Mather Memorial Varsity football team, one of the most popular kids in school and he wasn't in a juvenile detention center. For a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, Aiden's life was looking pretty good. The only thing he wasn't looking forward to was seeing Rosalyn Osbourne.
Between the thoughts of Rosalyn and the chorus of his song kicking in, Aiden began to speed up. There was just something about her smug, smart, snark that Aiden couldn't get her out of his head. Maybe it was the way they bickered, maybe it was the fire like personality that perfectly complimented her long locks, or maybe it was the reluctant dance at last year's spring formal that had led to their first genuine shared smile.
Aiden gave his head a violent shake before unleashing a wild punch. The sharp 'crack' of his wrist told him it had been sloppy. Pins and needles began to swarm his right arm prompting Aiden to cradle his arm against his body. Nothing was broken or sprained, but the shock was enough for him to call it a night.Er, morning.
Pulling his headphones off, Aiden paused the music before looking at the missed notifications lining the top of the screen. A small smile crossed his face as he scrolled through them. A new voicemail from Nessie accompanied by several missed calls also from his sister and of course, her bombardment of texts. Aiden appreciated the concern, it certainly beat the hell out of being on the receiving end of a belt buckle or a closed fist.
Quickly changing, Aiden splashed some water on his face before departing the gym and heading for home. He wasn't one of the fortunate souls from Mather Memorial who had received a car for his sweet sixteen, but he also wasn't hoofing it across the city. One of Aiden's first purchases upon gaining employment was a bicycle. It beat the hell out of Crestwood's somewhat limited public transit and was certainly faster than walking everywhere.
Pedalling rapidly, Aiden soon crossed over the Valley Bridge as he left the Northside and the Tracks behind. 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 hopping off as he coasted beside a fire escape. As he scrambled up the cold, damp steel, Aiden heard his bike come to 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. From behind Vanessa, Aiden saw the head of his sister's fiancé as Calvin peeked his head around the doorframe. Rubbing his tired eyes, Aiden watched Calvin's eyes suddenly widen as the older man realized what was going on before disappearing again. “Start talking, Roth!”
Vanessa stated, her arms crossed and her foot tapping impatiently while 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 her volume lowering, but Aiden didn't forsee Vaness calming down anytime soon. “What do you even need a job for anyways?”“I need to pull my weight around here.”
Aiden replied quickly. “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 belated birthday, Squirt.”“You already took me out to dinner a week ago. You really didn’t need to do anything else, 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 maybe you and a, uh, friendp could go.”
Vanessa said in a sing-song tone as she elbowed Aiden playfully before he brushed her off, his cheeks slowly turning a bright red. "I don't have any, 'uh friends,'"
Aiden protested before cracking a smile “But thank you Nessie, I really do 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 while beginning to pull his sweater off, scanning the room for a clean change of clothes. “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 replied before ripping his pants off while Vanessa covered her eyes and ran out of the room.