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Embers: Chapter 12

Adolescence in Training Series

Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

ZANDER

The board full of signing sheets for the junior class was in disarray. Covered in signatures for sports and drama, art and music electives and other after school activities. I was having a slight crisis of indecision, wondering if it was a good idea to sign up for the track team this year. Zach and I would be starting work with Dad next week anyway. I wouldn't have the time or energy for school work, regular work and track too. I guess I could talk to Dad about it after school. Maybe he'd fire me and I could actually do something other than tune ups and tire rotations this time around. I didn't mind helping him out. Bonding over cars was a frequent past time for Dad and I. I just wanted something for myself for once. Something I didn't have to share with my brother. 

"We have a good team. I think you'd be a good fit," Leah's compliment came randomly as she stood beside me in front of the board full of messy signing sheets. She reached to sign up for the same sheet I'd been staring at for the last five minutes and it gave me all the reason I needed not to sign up for it after all. 

"Leah," I acknowledged her presence, but only because I wasn't a rude person. At least I tried not to be. Thea and I had the same problem. Mom had unfortunately passed that trait on to us and sometimes we just couldn't control it. Sure, Leah hadn't done much to deserve my cold shoulder, but I've learned the hard way it was best to keep girls like her at arms length. 

"Zander," Leah replied politely, and it made my skin crawl. Not out of disgust, but the painful memories that popped into my head as soon as she said my name. I shrugged it off, placing all those inconvenient feelings on the back burner and turned down the hall without so much as a short nod and headed towards the football field where Zach should be waiting for me. We had the same study period right after lunch and we thought we'd take our studying outside today. Not that we actually planned on studying. Or at least Zach and I didn't need to. We'd done most of it last night before bed. 

As I approached the bleachers, I saw Rhiannon and my brother sitting at the top and made my way towards them. Rhiannon was laying on her back, her backpack underneath her head, her eyes closed, while Zach was busy listening to music so loud, I could hear the EDM music emanating from his headphones. He looked up at me and I placed one finger over my lips, letting him know he shouldn't warn Rhiannon of my arrival, while I leaned over her close enough to smell the kind of perfume she decided to wear today, the scent drawing me in closer than I had planned. I merely wanted to scare her in a playful manner. I meant absolutely no harm whatsoever, but I lingered over her long enough for her perfume to remind me of how the grass smelled after a rain storm, fresh, rich, tempting even. Everything that embodied someone like Rhiannon, a girl as free-spirited and carefree as a bird flying over fields of dewy grass. 

"Something troubling you, Zee?" Rhiannon asked promptly, her eyes opening as she stared up and startled me. I cleared my throat as she studied my face and I shook my head. I had no idea how she knew something was bugging me, but I accepted Rhiannon and her weird persona the night she offered her home to us when my brother was in trouble. I just hoped she was enough to keep him out of it. 

"I was thinking about joining the track team. But with school and work, I'm not sure it's such a good idea," I answered, my brother pulling down his headphones to chime in.

"I think you should go for it. I'll pull in the double shifts at Dad's if you want," Zach offered. Although I appreciated his gesture, I still needed the money to save up for a new tattoo. Our parents were wealthy, but they made it pretty clear we weren't going to be handed money without working for it. 

"Nah, it's cool. I'll figure it out." 

"That's not what's bothering you," Rhiannon countered and with a lift of my eyebrow, I challenged her to come up with whatever answer she thought I should've given her. I watched her sit up while my brother hopped off the bleachers to say hi to Leah who'd called him down. I frowned deeply at the situation and attempted to get up to stop them but Rhiannon pulled me back down and shook her head.

"Let him learn the hard way. Leah's true colors will give him the perspective he's looking for," she stated cryptically. 

"You two don't get along?" 

"She was my best friend."

"Was? What happened?" 

"Love happened," Rhiannon responded in disdain as her gaze shifted from Leah to Felix, who was tackling his teammates in the football field before he caught a glimpse of my brother talking to Leah. As I processed what it was Rhiannon was hinting at, I looked down at my brother and cursed when Felix started charging towards them. This Leah situation was much more complicated than I thought. Not only was there bad blood between Leah and Felix, but Rhiannon was involved as well and this could turn real ugly soon. 

I reached my brother in time before Felix could swing and pulled him back, Rhiannon taking him away from the fight that was about to brew. 

"Thought I made myself clear last time. Leah's off limits," Felix argued, the anger in his eyes growing as Leah tried to push him away from me. 

"Felix, stop!" Leah shouted as he took his swing and missed as I pulled back, my hands balling into fists as I got ready to defend myself. Felix's teammates were rushing over in his defense, and I knew I couldn't take them all out, but I had no problem going down trying.

"I thought I made myself clear as well," the voice came from Josie, who had broken through the crowd to stand in front of me, her arms crossed, her gaze stern and serious as she stared at Felix.

"Josie, I don't need your help," I reminded her and she didn't bother to look at me as she continued.

"Zander and his brother are off limits. Got it?" Josie warned and Felix clenched his jaw as the rest of his teammates grabbed onto him and pulled him away before their coach could break this rowdy crowd up. Leah glanced over at us before she walked towards the opposite end of the field and I sighed heavily with frustration. 

"What the hell was that about?" I asked Josie as she turned to face me and her gaze slithered over my face. 

"That was me saving your ass from being slaughtered by football players. You're welcome," she claimed with pride and I rolled my eyes at her as my brother and Rhiannon joined us. 

"What'd she want to talk to you about?" Josie asked my brother, and he turned to look at me.

"She wanted me to convince my brother to join the track team. Thought he might help them win this year," Zach answered and I raised an eyebrow, wondering what the hell Leah was thinking. 

"That's all?" Josie continued and my brother nodded. 

"I didn't know you and Felix were back in business, Josie," Rhiannon commented, sending Josie a look of disapproval. 

"Business? What kind of business?" I inquired and she sighed as she turned away and closed her eyes. 

"She sells drugs to the upperclassmen. The rich kids who's parents could buy an entire country if they wanted to," Rhiannon answered for Josie and it caused her to receive a warning glare from Josie. 

"Gotta pay the bills somehow," Josie argued in her defense and I raised an eyebrow at her blaze attitude. 

"Can you guys give us a second?" I asked, and Rhiannon pulled my brother off to the side to give me and Josie some privacy and I crossed my arms as I stared down at her. 

"How did you get wrapped up in the drug business?" 

"Zander—"

"I want in," I cut her off and the look of surprise on her face was quickly clouded by worry as she witnessed the serious look on my face. I had no interest in taking drugs or handing them out. I merely wanted to understand why she was in this dangerous world to begin with. What better way than to have her showing me the ropes?

"Do you have any idea what you're asking me to do?" 

"I need some quick cash. You can help me get it. What's the problem?" I countered and she pursed her lips before she replied. 

"Ask your father. He can explain why it's a really bad idea for you to resume your family's legacy."    


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


"How was school today?" Dad asked after he blew a kiss at mom from across the dinner table and made us all shudder in unison. There was a pending conversation I needed to have with dad about what Josie mentioned on the football field, but he looked exhausted so I decided to leave it for the morning.  

"Camilla and I are working on a science project together. Can she spend the week here so we can finish it early?" Thea pleaded at both mom and dad and while they couldn't bare to say no to their precious baby girl. I wondered if they knew about all the trouble Camilla has been getting into lately in school. She'd been sent home at least three times this week and it's only been the first four days of the semester. At least that's what Thea has been telling us when we pick her up from school. 

"We'll talk to her parents about it first and see what they say," Dad answered first, while mom kept her lips pursed after taking a sip out of her glass of water, her gaze on her plate as she stabbed at her food. 

"I've already asked them. They say they don't mind. Come on, pretty please? I promise we wont get into trouble," Thea begged and I wondered what she had up her sleeves. Whatever it was, I hoped it wouldn't cause the drama between our parents to increase. Right now, it was calm, smooth sailing. It would only take a few words for everything to blow up and before you know it, we'd be back on a plane, far away from here again.

Mom tried her best to put on a smile, hopefully pushing her pride aside to allow Thea this opportunity to get closer to Camilla. She wasn't a bad kid. She was merely trying to survive under the pressure kids her age were throwing at each other now. With social media followings being a craze right now, kids would do the most ridiculous and hurtful things for attention, even bullying a little girl, who's best friend just up and left without warning, and who was left behind to take the blame. 

"I think it's a good idea. Maybe being friends with Thea will be good for Camilla," I intervened, hoping they'd take my words into consideration since I rarely got into Thea's business to begin with. Thea turned to look at me, gratitude in her gaze and in her short nod before she turned to our parents for the final verdict.

"Okay. She can spend the week here," Mom answered and was met with Thea's hug of appreciation, dad as well. I was next the one to receive one and I smiled, squeezing her, placing a kiss on the top of her head before she bounced off to make a phone call. 

"About this party Giselle is throwing—"

"Don't worry, we're not going," I interrupted Dad, while catching a glare from Zach and a surprised look from Mom. 

"We're not?" Zach countered and I shook my head. I was the designated driver for now, since Zach's condition had gotten more unpredictable as we got older and no one wanted him to fall asleep at the wheel. Giselle's parties are known to be wild from what I've been hearing around school and I wasn't in the mood to be surrounded by drunk teenagers. Mainly because I couldn't be one of them, but that was beside the point.  

"I think you two should go," Dad argued, causing all three of us to stare at him suspiciously. Dad smirked and wiped his hands with a napkin before he continued, "Giselle needs people looking out for her. I had them even when I was your age and I think she should too. Your mother and I trust you enough to know your limits," he finished, mom's gaze narrowing down on him like a hawk. Dad was definitely in trouble now.

"Right. We trust you boys. Go have fun. Just don't make us grandparents any time soon," Mom chimed in with a passive aggressive smile, which meant she wanted us to choose not to go, against dad's encouragement. 

"Guess it's settled then. We're going to Giselle's party," Zach concluded with his own cheesy smile, while I frowned at him. He knew I didn't want to go to this party, and now I had to keep an eye on both him and Giselle. 

This party was definitely going to blow.  

Sharlene Alba
Sharlene Alba

Full of raw and unfiltered fluid poems, short stories and prompts on love, sex, relationships and life. I also review haircare, skincare and other beauty products. Instagram: grungefirepoetry fleekonabudget Facebook: grungefirepoetry 

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