Preppy the life amp deat.., p.23
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       Preppy: The Life & Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part One, p.23
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         Part #5 of King series by T. M. Frazier
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  another girl. One I was pretty sure had been on the sharp end of a Preppy/Bear fuck session a time or two.

  The reality of my own death was a searing pain ripping through my gut, followed by a sense of doom as I bled out onto the concrete.

  I didn’t fade away, I dropped out of consciousness with lightening speed. I barely had time to register the horror on my friends’ faces, who all seemed to be floating around above me like they were above the surface, while I was being dragged down to the dark depths below.

  I reached out, wanting to grab them, wanting to hold on to this life.

  But it was too fucking late.

  For most people death was the end.

  For me, it was only the beginning.

  CHAPTER FORTY

  DRE

  Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap…

  Mindlessly, I bounced my pen on top of my open text book in such quick succession the pages vibrated, lifting at the corners. I shuffled my feet, crossing and uncrossing my ankles, wishing away the constant feeling of restlessness that only seemed to intensify with each passing day.

  My desk was pushed up sideways against the only window in the classroom, although there was no view to speak of. Nothing but a brick wall. The small space between buildings was just large enough to allow in the rain that had just started to fall, beading up and sliding down the thick glass. The clouds overhead shifted, casting the already muted light of the room in a wash of gray. With the new lighting the image in the window shifted, and suddenly I was no longer staring at the brick wall but at the reflection of a girl.

  A girl whose hair had begun to shine again, although her ponytail could’ve used a smoothing, the humidity of the day sending every little hair not long enough to be tied in the elastic standing on their tiny curly ends. She wore glasses, simple dark-blue frames. Her complexion was pale, but not sallow. Her eyes tired, but not lost.

  I knew the girl was me, but beyond the clean clothes and classroom setting I saw another girl, just beyond her shoulders. One who was slumped against a wall with a needle in her arm and cum in her hair.

  A girl who was trapped both physically and mentally.

  I shook my head, willing away the image of someone I never wanted to see again. I closed my eyes tightly and when I opened them again, both girls were gone. The clouds cleared and soon my reflection was gone as well, and I was again staring at nothing but an empty brick wall.

  Without thinking, I raised my hand to scratch at an itch that didn’t really exist, with fingernails that weren’t long enough yet to actually do any real scratching. The scabs and pock marks were all gone, but in their place were the raised red scars just starting to take on their shapes, some of them were already turning their permanent shade of white, others lingering at bright red.

  The teacher was a man in his sixties. He stood with his back straight and his head down at the podium. His voice was monotone, with zero inflection, as he read off his lesson plan.

  I took a deep breath and tried paying attention but everything he was covering, about the founding of our country and the Declaration of Independence, I’d learned in the fifth grade. Leaning back in the chair I cross my arms over my chest and since my feet didn’t touch the floor I swung my legs back and forth, accidentally kicking the chair of the boy in front of me.

  “I’m…” I started, but then the kid turned around and the wind was knocked out of my chest when my eyes landed on the familiar, beautiful big smile and the tattoos covering his neck. I gasped, covering my mouth with my hand.

  Impossible.

  “Hey, watch it,” he said, his unfamiliar high-pitched voice bringing me back to reality, where he was just a dark-haired boy with olive skin who didn’t look anything at all like the man I mistook him for.

  “Sorry,” I whispered. The boy turned back around to face the teacher who’d turned off the lights so we could follow his slides on the overhead projector, which was blurry at best. The Sons of Liberty’s heads were all large and skewed, distorted pictures of a probably already distorted tale of American history.

  It wasn’t the first time his face appeared on someone else’s, just like it wasn’t the first time my stomach dropped with my disappointment when I realized it wasn’t him.

  It would never be him.

  Later on that day, I sat in the small cramped office space of Edna Elinberry, my counselor who my dad insisted I see three times a week. One of the many terms of my return home, and one I didn’t really mind all that much. Edna was quirky and kind of funny. Being a recovering addict herself, she could relate to me in a way not a lot of other mental heath professionals could.

  “I saw him again today,” I told her, staring at the books and other knick-knacks on the overstuffed bookcase in the corner. Lord of the Flies was on the top shelf dangling over the edge, one heavy footed passer-by could send it crashing to the floor.

  “Brandon?”

  “No,” I said, shaking my head. Brandon was someone who’d recently started working with my dad. He’d asked me out a few times and, even though he was good looking and seemed nice enough, I just wasn’t ready to complicate my life in a way it didn’t need to be complicated. “Not Brandon. HIM,” I said, still finding it hard to utter his name without feeling a sense of sickness wash over me.

  “That happens when we lose somebody we cared about,” Edna said, watering each of the thirty some odd plants in her little windowsill. She wore loose, light-faded jeans with a long, white, ribbed sweater. Her bright red hair was something from the eighties, permed in tight curls and cut longer in the back and short on the top. She had pink lipstick on her teeth at all times. “Especially, one who’d had such a huge impact on your life. It will fade with time.”

  “But…but what if I don’t want it to fade?” I asked, realizing by asking the question it meant that I wasn’t entirely sure that moving on was what I really wanted.

  Edna put down her watering can on the floor and side stepped one of the seven coffee tables in the cramped space, plopping down on the denim sofa and motioning for me to do the same on the one across from her. We both kicked off our shoes and sat Indian style across. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and I copied. When she opened her eyes she asked, “You cared for him a great deal, right?”

  I nodded. “I…he saved my life.” Immediately the words felt wrong. “I think I…no, I KNOW that I LOVED him,” I corrected. “And I just don’t see him when I sleep. I hear him, too. In my head, chatting away and making jokes and being ridiculous…” I trailed off, biting back tears.

  Edna smiled and reached across the coffee table to give me a reassuring pat on my knee. I watched her hand but didn’t jump away, her smile grew brighter. “Dre, when you love someone it’s very common to carry that person around with you until you’re ready to let go. You hear their voice, you think you see them on the street, you dream about them at night. It’s all very normal and a very healthy part of grief. It will fade with time. But only when you’re ready.”

  I bit my lip. “I don’t want him to leave,” I said, surprising myself when the tears welled up in my eyes. Edna side stepped the coffee table and sat down next to me, pulling me in and holding me tight against her ample breasts. Everything about her was comforting, and in a way she reminded me of a younger version of Mirna.

  “He saved your life. It’s natural that you feel something toward him, along with a sense of guilt because you lived and he didn’t.” Edna paused, gathering her thoughts before she continued. “You know, kid, it sounds to me like you still need that closure we’ve been talking about.”

  “Closure?” I squeaked. The idea of it sounded ridiculous. “I’m not sure about that. How can you close something that never really opened?” I felt myself starting to tear up and immediately felt embarrassed.

  Awe shucks, Doc.

  She nodded and handed me a tissue. “From what you’ve told me, you’ve never gotten a chance to really grieve, to close that chapter in your life and move on.”


  “But I don’t know how to get it.” Or if I even wanted it. I’ll never forget the day my dad and I went down to Sarasota together to help transport Mirna to a facility closer to our house. I was debating taking a solo ride down to Logan’s Beach when one of the nurse’s mentioned his name and wondering why he stopped visiting. The other explained to her why he couldn’t visit. He was dead.

  Right then and there I couldn’t breath. My heart stopped. A piece of me died right there along with him.

  Edna held me tighter and rocked me back and forth like Mirna used to. She pulled me back and looked down to my hands where I was now staring. She snapped her fingers and smiled brightly. “When you’re ready, and ONLY when you’re ready, I think you should seek out those who cared about him. His friends, family. Have a conversation. Talk about his life. I truly think it will help you find what you need.”

  “I’ll think about it,” I said, and I did. The only “interaction” I ever had with his friends was that one encounter from Bear.

  “At least read the letter,” Edna suggested. “Maybe that will help you decide.” She pulled out the envelope that had arrived a few months earlier with no return address, just a stamp from the Logan’s Beach Post Office. “It’s time,” she said, handing it to me.

  “Can you open it?” I asked. Edna shook her head.

  “No, that’s for you to do, but I’ll give you a minute alone,” Edna said, patting me on the shoulder and stepping out of the room.

  I tore open the envelope quickly, thinking that if I did it fast like a Band-Aid it wouldn’t hurt as much.

  I was wrong.

  Doc,

  There’s this place where light and dark meet in the sky when the sun’s setting where it’s not quite day and not quite night. A grayish mist among the black and yellow.

  I like to think of it as a place where right and wrong, black and white, life and death aren’t finite.

  I call that place ‘the in-between’ and to me that’s where you and I will always exist.

  Together.

  It’s where we can’t be hurt. Where our pasts don’t haunt our present. Where there’s no such thing as lies. Where pain isn’t even a thing.

  We couldn’t be together in this life. Maybe not even in the next. Who knows. My luck is pretty shit these days. But now when I think of you, which is still every fucking day, and when I can’t catch my breath wondering what could’ve been, I drag my ass outside, I sit in the yard, and I wait for it. That brief glimpse of the changing of the guard in the sky. And every day, even though the pain cuts just as deep as the day you left, even though I know the truth is that I’ll never see you again, I smile.

  Because you and I are there.

  And we’ll always have the in-between.

  LOVE,

  Samuel Clearwater

  Preppy, BAD-ASS MOFO

  PS – If you are receiving this I’m dead so I think it’s safe to tell you that you are by far my biggest regret. The light amongst all my dark.

  I’m so sorry.

  CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

  DRE

  SEVERAL MONTHS LATER…

  With Brandon sitting by my side on the plane to Florida, I was finally ready to go and seek the closure that my dad, counselor, and my sponsor were always so adamant about.

  As we flew over the still waters of the Caloosahatchee River, I tightened my grip on Brandon’s hand. He offered me a reassuring smile and gave me a thumbs up, covering my hand with his own. He probably thought it was the flight that had me freaking out. And although flying wasn’t my favorite activity in the world, it wasn’t the fear of plummeting to the ground below that had my windpipe tightening like a guitar string as the plane descended. No. It was the water tower. The one that stuck out on the flatland, towering above the earth like a redneck statue of liberty, reaching up toward the plane. Its huge black spray painted dick was in full frontal view as the landing gear clattered and screeched, locking into place.

  I wanted to both laugh and cry at the sight of it.

  Suddenly, it was all too real.

  I was going back. Back to where it all started. Back to where it all ended.

  Back to where it would only just begin.

  CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

  DRE

  I raised my trembling hand to the door and knocked. The sound of squealing children playing in the back yard echoing over the house.

  I was about to change my mind and turn around when a blond girl with the lightest-blue eyes I’d ever seen opened the door. “Can I help you?” she asked with a small but friendly smile.

  “Um…Hi, I’m Andrea Capulet, but I go by Dre,” I said, holding out my hand. She shook it tentatively. “I’m a friend or, I was a friend of Samuel’s. Preppy’s.” My chest tightened as his name crossed my lips. It had been years, and although I expected that feeling to die off, it never had. If anything, it had only gotten worse.

  The girl remained silent, looking me over several times like she was trying to place me. “I’m Ray,” she finally offered. “What can I do for you?”

  “Ray, Hi. I just wondered,” I trailed off, looking down to my feet.

  “Do I know you?”

  “She was going to be a BBB once,” Bear said, coming to stand behind her. “You ain’t here to drop off any kids with uncanny resemblance to people who may or may not be here, are you?” he asked, and I couldn’t quite tell if it was a joke. Shit, I was surprised he remembered me, but obviously he didn’t remember everything because last time I checked you couldn’t get pregnant through anal. My cheeks grew red at my own thoughts.

  I shook my head. “Hi, Bear,” I said with a small nervous wave. I pushed my glasses up my nose. Bear looked me over and as if he’d decided I wasn’t a threat, he’d turned around and went back inside the house.

  Ray seemed to agree. “Well come on in,” she said, stepping aside.

  Another large and equally beautiful man was sitting in the living room. He lifted his head and glanced at me briefly before Bear sat back down and they both leaned over the coffee table, speaking softly, instantly deep in what seemed like an important conversation.

  Ray waved in their direction. “Don’t mind King and Bear, they’ve been a little crazy this past week with all that’s gone down,” she told me, as she led me through a neat and newly updated living space that smelled of fresh paint and cleaning products, down a narrow hallway. My heels clacked against the shining hardwood. She stopped in front of a closed door.

  Preppy’s door.

  Or, what used to be Preppy’s door.

  My heart stilled.

  I was suddenly mad at everyone who insisted that I come here and get closure by talking to his friends. It was too much. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t breathe. My memories flooded with his face. His sent.

  HIM.

  “No, I mean, I don’t need to go in there…” I started backing away from the door.

  Ray sighed, “I know what you mean. It’s hard to see at first. The prognoses shifts around a bit from doctor to doctor, but he’s a fighter. We have hope and we have time.”

  “Huh?” I asked, confused as to what she was talking about when she pushed open the door and stepped aside. Tentatively, I entered the room, taking a deep sigh of relief when I noticed the room wasn’t at all like it used to be. Preppy’s things were no longer there. The relief was followed by deep disappointment and a sick feeling. A longing for what once was.

 
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