This is #21 of Endangered and is titled The Sixth Sense. It is part 9 of Volume 2 and was released June 14, 2014. Unlike most who begin to find peace at the mall, Tate only find more agony. Haunted by nightmares and visions of those he failed, he finds himself slipping into areas he never visited before, and with no one to help him, the outcome may not be friendly. Meanwhile, Michael struggles to reconnect with a distant Sarah, and while he thinks it's going good, James will make it his mission to keep Michael as distant as possible, out of fear he will hurt Sarah again.
The Sixth SenseEdit
Vicky takes a seat at one of the round tables located in the mall’s cafe, which despite it’s big size, was considerably sparse right now. Only a few people were there at the moment, with most just looking down and not making eye contact; considering it was almost eight, it looked like some of the newcomers didn’t care about Walsh’s speech to them, unlike Vicky. Whether she liked it or not, she was no Lara; she needed at least some rules in her life, and couldn’t be a rule free person.
Which is exactly why Lara is absent from the cafe and instead is sleeping back in their tent, and last she checked, Dre and McCoy didn’t bother coming either. So there Vicky sat alone in a lonely room, just playing with her hair to pass the time. Every so often she would look up to see if anyone else arrived, but for the most part, it was empty.
After a few more minutes Vicky draws out her phone from her jean pocket. It was a weird feeling sort of; she expected to see some new text, email, tweet, or facebook update, like she normally would. Instead, like she expected, there were no updates on her phone, which some would say was useless now; still, Vicky couldn’t just let go. Even pretending that there was some normality to the situation made her feel good.
So there Vicky just sits going on her phone, just scrolling through her apps and trying to find something to entertain her. “Expecting a text?” A voice soon calls out to Vicky, causing her to look up. In front of her was a young woman around her age with brown hair that matches her eyes, and a sweet smile on her face. She wore some designer jacket and still had a purse with her. Vicky remembers seeing her earlier.
“No, no.” Vicky says, a little awkwardly about talking with the stranger. The girl sees that Vicky doesn’t remember her.
“Sam Collins. I was the girl who showed you around earlier.”
“Oh, yeah.” Vicky recognizes her now, being the girl who showed them around the mall; she seemed nice. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s fine.” Sam chuckles. “Anyways, whats with the phone?” Not like she was weirded out by a cell phone but they were pretty useless now, in Sam’s mind anyways. Once the outbreak started her phone was the least of her concerns, and she simply ditched it in her house.
“Eh, makes me feel normal.”
“Fair enough.” She shrugs, before looking at the seat next to her, which was right across from Vicky. “May I?”
“Be my guest.” Vicky gives her permission, prompting Sam to lower her purse on the round table, then sitting down on the chair. Folding her legs like a true “fancy” girl, Sam flashes a smile at Vicky, grateful for getting the seat. “I thought this meeting thing was only for peeps like me, as in the newbies.”
“Then why you here, if you don’t mind me asking. Looks like you been here for a while, which is like four or five days I guess.”
“I have. I just like coming by and meeting new people, like yourself. Figured, maybe, I can be of assistance someone.”
“That’s nice of you. There a catch?”
“Of course not. I just wanna help out.” Sam says, to which Vicky nods, slightly respecting the decision to try and help out, when so many are just going on for themselves. Sometimes it was just nice to see a person trying to help out someone beyond herself. “So where you from?”
“The good old West Coast. Raised over in California, and moved here when I was in third grade, i think.”
“Dang, must suck leaving the ‘Golden State’ for the…. ‘Keystone State’.”
“Eh, sucked at first, ain’t gonna lie. Left all my friends, family, and the sunny beaches for a city here.”
“Why’d you even move here?”
“Dad was diagnosed with bone cancer, and it got pretty bad. There was a doctor here who thought who could help him.”
“Did he?” Sam asks, to which Vicky only shakes her head. “Oh, sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s been like thirteen or something years, so I’m over it.” Vicky shrugs. When it came to the past, Vicky was like a coin; on one side she dealt with it and just moved on, on the other she couldn’t let something go. Luckily, her Dad was on the moved on side. “So how ‘bout you, Sam?”
“Portland, born and raised.”
“Damn, I’m jealous. You got to live in the ‘Beaver state’.” Vicky sarcastically jokes, to which Sam snickers, while also rolling her eyes nicely. “Keep rolling your eyes, you might just find a brain back there.”
“Yo, yo.” Vicky thought Sam was angry at her. “Just joking, sorry. No need to get mad.”
“I wasn’t mad, I said it in a joking way.” Sam pipes up, causing Vicky to give her a ‘Oh’ stare. In Vicky’s defense, Sam did say it forcefully. “Guess I should work on that. Never was good at joking around.”
“It’s fine but damn you scared me.” Vicky chuckles. “I thought you were gonna grab your purse and beat the shit out of me.” Sam lightly chuckles, putting on a smile on her face. As Vicky lets her chuckle escape her, she notices a young man walk over. Hands in pocket, beanie on, and watching his surroundings. “Wasn’t expecting to see you here, Davis.”
McCoy takes a seat across from her, taking his hands out of his stuffed pockets while doing so. “Nothing better to do. Dre and Lara passed out.” While mumbling to Vicky he just notices the other pretty girl sitting next to her, Sam. “Well, hi there.”
“Hi.” Sam beams. “I’m Sam.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, McCoy.” Sam takes a survey of the lunch room, to see some more people coming in. “Well I better get going, probably should talk to some of the others.” Collecting her scattered items on the table, Sam soon collects herself and stands onto her feet. “Nice talking with you.” She says to Vicky, while simply giving McCoy a wave as goodbye.
“See you around, Sammy.” Vicky says to the departing Sam, leaving only her and McCoy. As Vicky watches Sam depart, McCoy observes the area they reside in. Being the observant type McCoy just wanted to see what type of people he was in there with.
“So who was that?”
“Girl who helps around here. She’s pretty nice.”
“Seems it.” He shrugs at it, having not really gotten the chance to speak with her. He did, however, notice her showing some people around earlier. Across from him, Vicky sits staring at him, as a question she felt like asking lingers through her head; and since it was silent between them, now would be the best time to ask.
“So...I’ve been wanting to ask you guys something.”
“What really happened to you guys out there?” Vicky’s sudden question goes straight into McCoy’s ear, and personally he wished it just came out the other. “I mean, if you don’t wanna say anything, it’s cool and all, but I know something happened.”
“And how’s that?”
“Believe it or not, I have some experience to bad experience, in fact I could consider myself queen.” She smirks at her own little mocking toward herself. McCoy, however, leans in and looks at her, not smirking, but taking her seriously.
“What happened?” Vicky hesitates to speak, and while her mouth opens, no words exit.
“Let’s just say I was in a dark time, and I didn’t know who to trust. My...friend taught me how to know if someone’s lying, what kind of person they are, and all that.”
“Lemme guess. Body language?”
“No,” Vicky points at his face, “their eyes.” She looks into McCoy’s eyes, and he looks into hers, and just for a moment, they looked into each other’s eyes. “He said you could tell what kind of man someone was just by looking at their eyes.”
“People work so hard on talking and their body language that they seem to forgot that eyes speak wonders.”
“And what do you see when you look into my eyes, Ms. Cummings?” Vicky looks once more into his brown eyes, and McCoy feels like she’s reading him.
“I see a good kid who's stressed, hard-drivin, a little too nice to others and…...lonely.” She speaks the last characteristic with sympathy, while McCoy bits his lip. Those have always been the words to describe him.
“Right on the spot.” He leans back, shielding himself from an eye connection with Vicky. Vicky only leans forward, leaning her elbows on the table.
“When I looked into Dre’s I saw sadness, pain, lonely like you, and trying to block others away. That’s not the Dre I knew, and you, even you’re not that shy anymore.”
“Well, I wasn’t that shy. Don’t forget that diss I made at Tyler back at campus.”
“Yeah, that was you, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, it was. First time we met, I think.” McCoy smiles at the memory. He still remembers that smile Vicky gave him, the one that made him feel so warm on the inside yet so still on the outside. “You smiled at me, there was no words said to each other , just that pretty little smile.” He chuckles. “Feels like so long ago.”
Vicky smiles at him, while McCoy just sits there for a moment, thinking. The way she was smiling at him now just made him warm again. “I bumped into Dre in the city, at some WaWa I think. I was stubborn, looking out for myself, but he, on the other hand, tried helping others. He was brave, and I just stood there feeling angry that he put us at risk for others. I was a coward.”
“You weren’t a--”
“Yes, I was. I’ve always been. Always.” He cuts her off, before calming. “We went to his parent’s house the next day and they were both dead, and he just sat there with their bodies, pouring out his feelings. I guess he didn’t have a good relationship with them. All that goodness was just drained out of him. That scene...I don’t know, it just changed me.”
“I always thought everyone was selfish, just trying to do stuff for themselves. It’s why I had a falling out with my parents, it’s why I always thought I suffered worse than others. But when he sat there, crying, I saw that he wasn’t selfish, he was honestly broken.” He sighs. “I don’t know why, but I saw how selfish I was. I had everything and I just threw it away, for what? Nothing. Dre didn’t get to say goodbye to them, they just left, and that’s probably how my parents felt; I left them with not even a goodbye. Honestly, that had to be the first time I thought about how devastated my parents were when they found my room empty. I thought about how they must be feeling, if they’re still alive right now, how they’re probably dying because they don’t if I’m alive.”
McCoy stops rambling and wipes his eyes, before looking up to Vicky, who sits teary-eyed on the other hand, still giving him a warm smile. “I saw that I needed to step up and not think about myself for once. All those times I tried helping people, before all this, was for me trying to show others that I wasn’t selfish, but in reality, I always was.” He stops dead at that moment, and not even caring what man dignity he’s losing, he lets a tear escape. “I just hope my parents knew I loved them.”
Vicky, having heard enough, just moves to the seat next to him, and gives him a hug. McCoy accepts it and just leans his head on her shoulder. “They knew McCoy.” She comforts him. “They knew.” Honestly Vicky felt bad, as she only was wondering what happened to them during the outbreak, instead haven got McCoy to ramble. Yet, she felt happy that he did; happy he got those feelings out.
So she simply gives him a kiss on the forehead, while still embracing him.
He sits slumped up against the chair like a piece of shit, not moving and just staring forward. Some could mistake him for a dead person with one glance, only to correct themselves with a second glance when they see his eyes very much alive, and very much full of agony. Truth was he didn’t even know why he was sitting there, after all he did see a promising bar down the hall, yet he just sits there. To be clearly honest not even Ethan himself knows, but he’s there, and that’s what counts.
After getting a tent for one and finding himself a nice little spot in the corner, Ethan had no idea what to do. He can’t just go outside and take his anger out on the infected outside, considering the area is pretty much clear, he can’t just go around and take it out on people, and pretty importantly, he didn’t even know who to talk with. Sure, those people he came up here seemed nice, but not really his type; at least, not anymore. This time did, however, give Ethan plenty of time to reflect on what’s going on around him; most importantly, all the flaws with this “safe-zone”. There was zero defensive people: No guards, no guns, no anything. Either this guy was way to trusty fool or he’s hiding something, this talk thing should give Ethan the evidence he needs to figure that out
“Mr. Cop.” Ethan heard a familiar voice of Reyes, who had just walked bye. He said it in a mocking tone, as he did in the car, so Ethan just rolls his eyes at the son of a bitch. First impressions were big to Ethan and Reyes’s first impression wasn’t the best.
“Mr. Young.” Ethan simply says, while only giving him a side glance. Reyes definitely looks better after getting some clean clothes and a shower, with that dried blood on his hands finally gone. Like Ethan, Reyes had gotten a tent by himself and picked some secluded spot. “If you’re looking for the dealers, I think I saw some by the movies.”
“Glad to see you still got that sense of humor of yours.” Reyes sits at the table with Ethan, who rolls his eyes. Sure he wasn’t invited to sit down but he simply shrugged. “So how’s the loner life, Brash?”
“I could be asking you the same thing.”
“Suppose you could.” Reyes takes a brief look over at Ethan and is quick to notice the anger and pain in him, it was all in his eyes. Reyes himself was always good at masking his emotions under a mask, a trait that Ethan seems to lack. Some always said it was good to pour out your emotions, but Reyes was taught differently, and he prefered to be the tough guy with robot emotions in public. “Can I give you some advice?”
“Advice from you?” Ethan scoffs it off. “That would make me wanna wash my ears. But sure, kid, go ahead.”
“Get better at hiding the beast. An old friend told me to ‘keep your feelings in and put on a smile’.”
“Then where’s your smile?”
“Don’t gotta be a smile that you need to put on.” Reyes corrects him. “But it’s best to try and hide that little beast in you.”
“And how would you know there’s a ‘beast’ in me, huh?”
“Like I said, old man, cover it better. It’s way to obvious.” Reyes says while leaning back on his seat. “I knew someone like you once, old timer. Good hombre.”
“And what happened to this...hombre?” Ethan asks, still not paying attention to his advice. Reyes keeps his straight face on as his heart sinks, just the many perks of being him.
“He got shot by his own brother. Wasn’t a good way to go out.” Reyes says it like it’s nothing. “Look, either hide it or move past it. Just some advice.” It was true, what he said. Sure, it took a day, but Reyes got passed Joel. He did it in self-defense, so he’s not worried about sentencing that man to death. It’s just yet another stack of blood on his hands that worried him, but he was good at hiding it.
While taking that advice in, Ethan glanced over across the room where he saw two young people; some black kid and white girl. However, to him, the girl looked a lot like Vicky, hell for a second, he thought it was. But there was no way she made it here, it was just Ethan’s mind tricks, so he turned away without a second thought.
Making his way down the halls, Walsh has a smile glued to his face, as he greets every person he sees. Like usual Walsh was dressed up clean and firm, acting like he was some big buisness man. His long hair was combed neatly, wore a nice blue button up shirt with tan slacks, and his teeth were nice and bright white. As he walked, with his greetings, he relished in the thanks and praise he received. Hell, some girl even called him a life saver for allowing people in.
As he made his way closer to the cafe, where the newbies were rounded up, Walsh couldn’t help but feel a feeling that was a mixture of excitement and nervousness; he could just imagine all the cheering he would get, the praise, the thanks….the idea of being their savior. It was those thoughts that he relished in, nothing else and nothing more.
Walking down the railing Walsh soon sees the cafe up ahead, although there aren’t as many people as he hoped. Still, there was enough. He quickly coughs, fixes his shirt (wanting to look as good as possible), then walks into the cafe; all eyes fell on him, minus a couple in the back who were hugging. “Good evening, everyone. Thank you for coming.” Walsh speaks to them. “Now I promise not to take to much of your time. I just wanted to explain more about the rules here.”
“I don’t have a lot of rules, but I just wanna explain them. So let’s get to the chase. Rule number one, no violence against each other. We already have those zombies out there trying to kill us, no need for us to do the same. Number two, don’t bother anyone and leave them to their business. If people wish, they can leave the mall anytime if they wish, for personal matters or just leaving in general. Number three, you need to help out at least a few times. This isn’t a ‘you need to work to prove your keep’ kind of thing, but there is work around the mall. We can need organizing, working at the stores, cleaning, and stuff like that.”
“Number four, no….immoral acts in public. Pains me to say this one, but I’ve seen people doing stuff like that on Septa buses, stores, and all that. That’s not acceptable here, alright?” Walsh heard a few muffled laughs, but paid no attention. “Next, no weapons. Any weapons found will be confiscated.”
As Walsh went on and on about his rules, his visions for the mall, and so on, James sat near the front alone. His eyes went in and off focus of Walsh as he looked around, tapping his foot along the way. Sarah agreed to meet him there yet she wasn’t even there yet, and it wasn’t like her to be late. So where the hell was she?
“So how are you?” Michael asks his daughter, who sits right next to him in the coffee shop. After reuniting with his baby girl after weeks of separation, especially during the apocalypse, he was overjoyed to have her in his sights. At first he just hugged her in that hallway, allowing tears to go down his face, until finally taking Sarah to this small little coffee shop in the mall. It had to have been twenty minutes and he still can’t believe Sarah was here with him.
In his mind, it was all going to be good. So there he sat with a coffee in his hand and his eyes fixated on his baby girl. “Sarah, baby, I know you aren’t thrilled to see me, but everything’s okay.” He smiles, reaching out his arm. “Please just talk to me.”
Next to him Sarah sits on the stool, with her hoodie on loose and a hot chocolate sitting in her hands; Michael knew she wasn’t a coffee person so he got her favorite, hot chocolate with cinnamon and whipped cream. Sarah often looked to her coco and her dad. Yeah it was cool to see he was okay and all but she didn’t exactly have this close relationship with him, not the way Michael saw it at least. She never really saw Michael as her dad, instead that position was moved to her uncle James, whom she even calls dad. She hasn’t even seen her dad since the incident at her house, where apparently, he just started beating up James. Didn’t exactly sound like Michael, sure, but James never lied to her. Never. “I’m alright, I guess. It’s been rough.”
“I can only imagine. It’s horrible.” Michael sighs, while still keeping his hand on her shoulder. “No one should have to go through this, especially you.” Michael gives her a smile. “Least you had good ol’ James to protect you, right?” Even saying his name made Michael worry about his looming confirmation with him, because knowing James, he won’t be happy to see Michael. But he had Sarah right now, in this moment, and he was gonna savor it.
“I truly am sorry for the stuff you probably had to witness.” Michael looks into her eyes, and sees some of the pain she must feel. If he himself, an adult, could be troubled by the events, he couldn’t even imagine what she was going through. “I hope you know I didn’t just abandon you, hell, I never stopped looking for you. I fought my way through the city, and once I saw you weren’t at home, I followed you all the way up here. I mean, it took a little longer than I hoped, but I’m here now.”
Sarah gives him a smile, but even he can see that the smile is forced, so he only slightly sighs. “I haven’t seen you in weeks now, I get it. Last time we saw each other was...that fight with James.”
“Which you started, by the way.” Sarah gives her blunt opinion, something she doesn’t usually share, but she found it necessary; from the way Michael was obsessing over here, it seemed right that Sarah give a reason why she’s angry at him.
“I didn’t start that fight.”
“You just came in and started attacking James.”
“Sarah, honey, I don’t know what James told you, but it’s not true.”
“Are you saying that James lied to me? James, the man who raised me.” She didn’t buy what Michael is saying, since James always was truthful toward her. Michael, of course, was the one saying the truth. He went there to talk peacefully when James exploded his anger on him and all Michael did was defend himself.
“I know I’m not your favorite person on your list, but Sarah, when did I honestly ever lie to you?” His question ponders into the air, as Sarah does a quick scan of thoughts, wondering when Michael has ever lied to her: He said he dropped drinking, and he did, he said he would try to become better, and she can see he’s trying. The more she ponders his question the more she sees how truthful Michael really is toward her.
“I didn’t come here to start trouble, so let’s change the subject. Anything interesting happen since the last time I saw ya, besides you know those infected.” He says the last part with a smile, trying to diffuse the awkwardness Sarah feels. Personally Michael can see why she’s awkward around him, but it still hurts him of course.
“I got into a new show recently. Arrow.”
“That’s the one with the...Green Arrow dude, right?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. It’s pretty good show, I mean, I don’t really consider it a ‘super-hero’ show. Heck, if there’s one thing that bothers me about the outbreak, is that I won’t see how the season ends.”
“Nice, nice. Heard it was pretty good but I wasn’t into that Smallville show, so I decided to just skip over it.” Michael takes a sip of his drink, then smiles at something. “I bet you were gushing over that Stephen Amell, huh?” Sarah blushes and smiles, which was sort of a first around Michael. “Any road, I got into a show too. Called ‘The Wire’. Sort of old HBO show, I would say, but amazing. Better than Game of Thrones and The Sopranos, I would say at least.”
“Something I could watch?”
“Not my call, but I say I wouldn’t mind. Sure there’s some stuff you probably shouldn’t see….but to he--heck with it, right? Darn ‘apocalypse’ anyways.” Michael flashes a smile and gives Sarah a light, family punch on the shoulder. “Lucky for me I finished it before the city went to...crap.”
“If only I could get it.”
“Sarah, honey, we’re in a giant ass mall. I’m sure there’s gotta be a DVD place around here somewhere. Tell you what, I’ll watch Arrow and you watch some Wire. Deal?” He extends his hand towards his daughter, who looks at his hand. For months she’s been giving him shit, even just now, but he’s always there for her. Plus he never lied to her and was always there to support her, even when she pushed him away. Maybe she should give the man a chance.
“Alright. Sounds like a deal.” She shakes his hand, and for once, she smiles with him.
Standing outside the tent he got earlier, James walks back and forth, arms folded and eyes scanning the area for his little girl. He lets her go out on her own and she ditches him, on their first night; she better have a good excuse or…...actually, James has no idea what he would do. She’s been through too much to be punished yet she needs some sort of consequences, maybe a lecture? He was always good at giving long, boring speeches; he was a lawyer after all, it was apart of his job.
Giving one more glance at the watch on his wrist, which reads nine, James begins to think about going out there to search for. Of course, once people see the beast that is the fatherly James searching for his daughter, they might just be banned. So instead he simply rubs his head and lets out a sigh, over panicking about his baby girl once again.
However, lucky for him, he soon saw a young girl approaching down the halls with orange hair and a gray jacket; it was definitely Sarah. Before James could say a word of a disapproval he saw someone next to Sarah, walking side-by-side with her. At first James was a little weary of his this older man with dark hair, until James got a closer look at him. This was just no man, no, it was someone worse; and this person made his weariness rise above the skylights. At first James thought his mind was playing tricks but as the man got closer, and James’s view on him got clearer, he knew this was no joke. Walking next to his father was damn Michael, and James couldn’t help but form a fist in the hands that are now at his side.
“Hey, Dad.” Sarah says with her smile while approaching, trying to act all fun and calm down his obvious shock of seeing Michael; she even gives him a hug. “How you doing?”
“You weren’t at the meeting.”
“I know, I know. I really am sorry but I bumped into--” Sarah tries to say but James steps in front of her, looking down his rival Michael, with the famous James Benjamin death stare.
“Michael.” He finishes her sentence. Michael puts on his best face and extends his hand in a formal way, expecting James to shake it.
“How ya doing, James?” He asks while leaving his hand out in the opening, but at first, James just stares him down, before giving him a handshake because Sarah was watching. “Firm grip you got there.”
“Glad to see you’re alive.”
“Yeah mate, me too.”
“So how’d you find Sarah? Did you just happen to stumble into her or did you know we were here?" It seemed more like James was interrogating then asking friendly questions. Michael, however, just kept his cool like always.
“I came to your house to find you were gone, but I found that note you left.” James remembers the note, which he happens to be regretting right now. “So I came up here and found her near the entrance.”
“Great. Always good to reunite with family, especially during times like this.” James says, keeping on a smile for Sarah, who now walks up next to him.
“We just went to some coffee shop and had a drink.” Sarah steps in, to which James just pats her shoulder, trying to look as cool as possible.
“Sarah, you look tired, go get some rest.” James encourages her to go inside, but Sarah sends a nervous glance between the two men, knowing they might get into trouble. “Relax I’ll be right in, I just wanna have a quick chat with Michael here.”
“It’s fine, Sarah. I’d love to talk with James here.” Michael says, to which Sarah just silently nods and heads inside the tent, leaving the two men alone. There they stand for a second, just giving their glances at each other, before James grabs Michael by the arm and yanks him around the corner.
Once around the corner James gives Michael a slight push up against the wall and stares into the eyes of his sister’s murderer, the eyes of the man who almost ruined Sarah’s life, and the man who won’t stay out of her life. “Why you here?” He asks, although he already knows what Michael’s response will be.
“I’m here for her, I think we both know that.”
“For her? She’s already having a bad enough time with those things out there, you think she needs her troubled dad in the picture too?” James questions with intensity, with his anger of Michael coming out. “The only reason you’re here is because you have to be, so don’t you lie to me, Michael.”
“I’m saying that you’re here because you feel guilty about her mother, and nothing more.” The mere mention of Zoey causes Michael to lose slight attention, and he can’t help but scratch his head and sighs annoyed.
“I get that you make me out as some ‘selfish, heartless bastard’, and no offense, but can’t you get it through that thick skull of yours that maybe I actually care about my daughter?”
“Yeah. You definitely showed her that when you dropped out of her life for eight damn years.”
“You had no idea what I was going through!” Michael instantly snaps back, while trying to keep his voiced hush in fear they would draw the attention of both bystanders and Sarah.
“I know exactly what you were going through, but at least I didn’t go around like a damn hippie.”
“I was a different man than, alright? I changed, and I’m not bullshitting you this time. I promise you that.” Michael looks into James’s eyes, while James just looks away. It’s been years and James still refuses to accept that Michael has changed, still seeing him as the immature teenager he once was.
It’s not that James detested Michael, only some dislike, but more than anything James felt sad for this dude. Michael had a good life and just fucked up so many times, and he fucked it up so much that he just managed to fuck up the lives of those around him. So this arguing he has with his brother-in-law is a mixture of sympathy, anger, and most importantly, a lack of forgiveness on James’s side. James was always one to hold grudges. “You are not going to take my baby out, talk to her, or even look at her without my permission. I wanna know when and where you meet her from here on out, because as of this moment, I decide when and when you can’t see her. I didn’t get her this far just for you to fuck up her life again.”
“That is the only way you are going to see her, and if you break those rules, I will make you back off.” James must of had a step up of confidence because this is not the James that Michael remembers; the one he knew was shyer and held most of his feelings inside.
“Alright, I agree to the terms.”
“Good, then it looks like we agree on something.” James says, now leaning up against the wall to relax. “Look, we both only want what’s best for Sarah, I get that. I know more than anyone that people need their fathers in their lives, but I’m just being cautious, alright? I’m not trying to come off an ass, but...I came close to losing her more than ever in the past few days, and I don’t wanna see her get hurt.” James turns toward Michael and for once makes a non-death stare eye contact with him. “She’s the only person I got left.”
“Well, I think that makes two of us.” A brief silence entices the air between the two ex brother-in-laws as they just lean against the wall, thinking about Sarah. They both wanted what’s best for her yet both were two completely different people with two different visions.
After a moment or two it was James who broke the silence as he stood up straight. “I’m gonna head back, you should get some rest.”
Michael just nods while James turns around to make his way back, but Michael had one more thing to add. “This outbreak….I don’t man, I really see it as a changing point. I haven’t even looked at or touched a girl for a week now, so there’s that. And...I feel like that hope chained inside of me was let out of it’s cage.”
James acknowledges his statement and lets the words sink in, before continuing his walk back to his tent, while Michael just stood there. Know he definitely knows that maybe, just maybe, he can prove to James that he’s a new man; he definitely feels like one, but a friend once told him that demons aren’t that easy to just get rid of.
For now, Michael just shrugs and heads to the tent he got with Tate, ready to just relax for once. It’s been a long, long day for him and a nice sleep could do him some justice.
It’s hard to believe what one death could do to someone, when one thinks about it. People turn from happy to suicidal, revengeful to happy, sad to mad, and in the case of Tate, a good man to a utterly ruined one. The old Tate would always have a smile planted on his young, ambitious face, but that’s not certain for this man. Tate currently sits inside his tent, with his legs and arms folded, as he stares into the tent walls. Next to him there’s a mirror that sits still waiting to show a reflection, but everytime Tate looks over at it he turns away even quicker, afraid to see his own reflection. His wild hair, bloodshot eyes, and paler skin from stress is a hard thing to look at, compared to his older self.
His eyes lower down to the substance that is wrapped inside the firm grip of his palms, and suddenly, his mouth thirsts for it. Just the sheer glance makes him wanna down it. He was never an alcoholic kind of man, although he did enjoy some beer and scotch once and a while, but never the kind to sulk around and drink out his problems. Too bad all he can say to that now is ‘fuck that’ and he is quick to down some of the cold, nice beer into his mouth; no refreshing “ah” even follows afterwards, just the sound of Tate gulping it down. Hard to believe that this is his sixth beer.
Before Tate can try to finish the bottle off, however, a quick hand snatches from his palms, to which Tate only scoffs. “What the hell you doing?” The voice of Michael asks, who only stares down at his friend.
“What does it look like, Sherlock?” Tate reaches for the bottle but Michael backs up out of his reach. “Don’t tell me that you of all people have a problem with drinking to forget.”
“Of all the damn ideas to try and help yourself, you really think this is the best option?”
“No fucking clue, but it’s the one that feels the best.” Tate struggles to stand, stumbling and tripping on his way up, but once standing straight on his weak legs, he immediately reaches for his precious bottle of beer. Michael, however, pours the rest of the bottle onto the floor at their feet, resulting in only a sneer from Tate. “Bastard”.
Michael watches as Tate collapses back onto the floor, wanting to sulk in peace, and this sight only causes Michael to turn away. He worked so hard to make sure Tate doesn’t go down this path, and once again, he failed yet another person. However, Tate wasn’t beyond saving. “You know, there are other ways to dealing with your pain.” Michael lowers himself onto the ground and at Tate’s level, but Tate didn’t look at him. Knowing how hard the pain is, Michael knew that badgering Tate wasn’t gonna help, and only Tate could try to help himself, but he still had to know that Michael is there for him. “Look, I’m not gonna force you into talking, but if you ever need too, I’m right here. You probably don’t wanna hear this, but I know what you’re going through.”
Seeing that Tate won’t respond, Michael stands to turn away, wanting to get some sleep. “No you don’t.” Tate calls back to the man, who stops.
“I said ‘no you don’t.” Tate finally turns to face the man, finally allowing Michael to see his bloodshot eyes. “Besides Zoey, how many people died because of you?”
“Tate, don’t do this.”
“No. Tell me.”
“What was that?”
“I said, only her. But I failed others in ways worse than death.”
“But you still have them, right?” His question is spoken with anger, anger that affects the air between the two men. Michael just gulps, seeing the anger in Tate.
“But you do.”
“Yes, I do.” Michael says, to which Tate only laughs out loud, even going as far as to giving himself a knee slap, while Michael silently watches. After getting the laughter out of his system Tate stands onto his feet once more, but this time, with more intimidating. In his defense, Michael did tell Tate to talk if he ever wanted too, but he just didn’t expect in an angry way.
“You know what’s funny to me, Mikey? That because you got your whore killed, you think you know the definition of pain, but you have no idea what pain is. You see this ‘sulking’, as you called it, isn’t just about Destinee. Yeah, she died, and I’m not in fucking denial.” Tate grabs Michael by the shoulder, pulling him closer toward his drunken breath. “Everyone I cared about has either died, or left me. Everyone. Except for her, and she was the last person left on this damn earth that I cared about. So I’m not drinking because she died, no, I’m drinking because I’m all alone with only the memories of the people I failed.”
With that said, Tate pushes Michael off him before collapsing back down onto his pillow, while Michael only watches him, a glimmer of sympathy sprinkling in his eyes. Michael was used to insults so he didn’t take those to heart, but what he did take to heart was Tate’s mention of how he lost everyone, not just Destinee. How much did Michael really know about Tate?
12 Years Ago, 2001
“For once I can touch what my heart used to dream of
long before I knew. Ooohhh…. Someone warm like you
would make my dream come true. Yeah yeah yeah….”
The young man listening to the music turns up his radio.
“For once in my life I won’t let sorrow hurt me. Not like it’s
hurt me before. For once I have something I know won’t
desert me. I’m not alone anymore.”
“Hey yo kid! Turn your music down before I beat you.” A voice echoes from outside the room, but unlike what the words would be misunderstood to be, the voice was caring and loving, with the beating only being a joke. The young, twelve year old Tate Levine immediately sits up from his bed and turns the volume down.
“Sorry mom!” He innocently shouted, before laying back down to listen to music. The tape that was in his radio was one of his personal favorites: For Once in My Life by Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder….the man was one of Tate’s hero; which was completely obvious since Tate has some posters of him around his room. Tate, being a great lover of music, always found Wonder’s story so fascinating. That, and the fact that a blind man can play music better than most non-blind people; he truly was gifted and Tate saw Stevie Wonder as one of his heroes, alongside Spider-Man of course.
However, as Tate just laid down on top of his bed and once again drifted off, it became apparent that there is something wrong with this young man. While he had no physical pain, his eyes paint out mental pain for this young boy, who only looks up blankly. It’s no secret that Tate was an odd kid with his thick accent, fanboyism to Stevie Wonder and his addiction to music. He was never hit, never beat, never lost his dignity, but everyday he got a new insult at him. He always repeated the phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ but that phrase was completely wrong, to him it was the words that hurt the most. Yeah it seemed stupid that words could give a person pain but this is orphaned young boy who clearly doesn’t belong in this country.
He didn’t know that a half-hour passed until the yell of his mother came up to inform him that dinner was ready. Finally turning off his radio Tate proceeded to exit his bedroom and into his one floored-apartment room. He wished he had a house, who doesn’t, but the apartment was not bad at all. Three bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a dining room, and a bathroom make up the nice apartment along with it’s white paint, pictures, furniture, and the great view they have.
“Whatcha make?” He asks his mother, who's in the kitchen, while he takes a seat at the table.
“Pizza.” His adoptive-mother, Mary Levine, smiles while tossing the pizza box from Tony’s onto the table. “Eat up. I got us a large this time.”
“Any soda?” He asks, to which Mary grabs the two liter Coke and puts it on the table, soon followed by two plastic cups. “Sweet.” Tate begins to pour himself a cup of coke, while Mary opens up the box and takes the luxury of taking the first slice. Like usual it was a sauce on top kind of pizza, because that’s what Tony’s does best.
The two then switch and Tate takes out two pieces of the delicious pizza that automatically makes his mouth water. It looks so good that he even is about to take a bite.
“Hey,” Mary taps his arm and proceeds to hold out her hand, “don’t get ahead of yourself.”
“Sorry.” He apologizes and holds her hand, to which the two then bow their heads and close their eyes. Mary proceeds to give her short, daily prayer that she gives before eating, until finally she finished with a ‘amen’ and the two began to chow on their pizza. Now normally Tate loved to talk with Mary and the two had conversations at the dinner table, but tonight, he just ate his pizza in silent. It was a dead giveaway to Mary that something was wrong with him, and she knew what it could be.
“Do I need to call someone’s parents?” She asks to which Tate gives her a confused look.
“I know you perfectly well to know when something’s up,” Mary puts her pizza down temporarily, “so I’ll ask again. Do I need to call someone’s parents?”
Tate looks down in slight defeat. Mary was always like Sherlock Holmes when she thought something was wrong with Tate, so he was pretty dumb when he thought staying silent wouldn’t get her suspicious. “No.” He finally says, taking a defeated bite out of his pizza.
“Any of them hit you?”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not.” Tate stresses, now resting his head onto his cheek and leans his elbow onto the table. “All they do is call me names and do some pranks, maybe throw stuff once and a while. I swear, no hitting.”
“And what do you do back?”
“I…..just walk away.”
“Good. No point in wasting your time on them, as Wayne would say.” Wayne was Tate’s adoptive father and the husband of Mary since they were twenty; the two were high school lovers. He was a great, great man and Tate had high respect for him; unfortunately, he was killed in a car crash last year by some drunk teenager. God bless his soul. Luckily his words of wisdom stayed behind. “Don’t let them bother you, baby. They’re just cowards behind words.”
“I’d hide behind them too. They hurt. I...I just don’t understand what they have against me.”
“Some people don’t need to have reasons, they just go for the first person they see.”
“Why me though?” Tate takes a drink from his soda. “Because I’m different, right? With this stupid accent.”
“Hey, that accent’s not stupid. And different? Yeah, you’re different from them, but not because of the accent or anything like that. It’s because you’re stronger than them.”
“How? I’m a pencil with legs.”
“The weak man hits back and the strong man has the strength to let them go.”
“I don’t hit them back but I ain’t no strong man. I...I dream about beating them up sometimes.”
“Is it that bad? Are you sure I don’t need to--”
“Yes, mom, I’m sure. It just gets...annoying, that’s all.”
“Alright well, if you think about it and don’t act on it, then you’re even stronger.” Mary flashes Tate a smile, although he still looks down. Naturally, giving advice and trying to help Tate through problems was never her thing, instead Wayne took that position. But now the responsibility fell on her shoulders and she felt so helpless, because unlike Wayne she never really knew what to say. Heck this whole conversation she’s been just repeating stuff he’s said in the past. “Look, I know it’s tough, trust me I really do. Went through the same thing back in high school.”
“What they call you?”
“Uh….adult words. Anyways, I made the mistake of fighting back and it accomplished nothing, and honestly, it just got worst. I promise that the more you do nothing the better it’ll get. Trust me.”
“Alright, I trust you.”
“Good. Now eat up, pizza’s getting cold.”
8 Years Ago, 2005
“Go.” A young, tall, chocolate haired man demands Tate, who sits on the other side of the table, in deep thought. Tate is about sixteen now and he sure looks it with his shaggy blond hair and a blond aftershave. He also wears a brown leather jacket and dark jeans with pride, and from a distance he looks like a cool kid, but that’s not true at all.
“I’m thinking.” Tate responds casually. “I wanna make the right move here.”
“Ain’t no way you’re getting your queen out of this one.” His friend, Jason Fitzpatrick mocked, to which Tate only gave him a ‘Oh, we’ll see’ look. The two were currently in a hardcore game of Chess, which honestly, Tate hated and was horrible at it; but, Fitzpatrick loved it so Tate beared with it. Mainly because Tate was Fitz’s only friend, and he was sort of…...different. He had some disease that he had to take pills for, and since this disease messes with his head, he was mocked a lot along with Tate. So, yeah, they’re bullied friends.
Tate concludes on moving his horse into the way of the bishop, to which Fitz only snickered and took out the horse with it. “Bad move.”
“I don’t know, man. Because I think you just gave me,” Tate says while moving his bishop all the way to the king, which because Fitz moved his bishop, was now open, “checkmate.”
“Wait, no, no, no.” Fitz mutters in shock, while looking around the board to make sure the move was legal. “How did you--”
“You been making me play this for years now, I got the hang of it.” Tate smiles at his defeated opponent like a victor.
“You cheated!” Fitz suddenly yells, not being able to accept that he lost. This was usual for Fitz, because to him, he always won. Tate just sighed, knowing that this would happen, but hopefully Fitz will just calm down and take his pills. “Cheater!”
“Bro, I didn’t cheat.” Tate reminds him, while Fitz just mutters phrases to himself, while digging into his bag. Fitz soon pops a pill in to calm himself down, and while most people would have ran away by now, Tate stays with him. “Fitz…”
“Sorry, sorry. I just--you know.”
“Yeah, it’s cool.” Tate brushes it off, to which Fitz smiled with appreciation. Tate Levine has been through all kinds of shit but he’s always there for others, and personally, that’s why Fitz considered him one of the best people he knew. However that brief outburst did cause an awkward silence, causing Tate to look over toward the stage.
The two were currently at a fair, and having done all the games, decided to just a play a ‘fun’ game of chess. But, there was one thing Tate still wanted to do and that was to sing. At these fairs there was always karaoke up for people to do and Tate always wanted to do it but never found the strength to do it, knowing that he’ll get made fun of if he does it. “You wanna sing?” Fitz asks, seeing how Tate was staring in that direction.
“C’mon man, I can see it in those eyes of yours. You know you want to.”
“Go blow away the crowd bro.”
“And have food thrown at me once I get off? Pfft, no thanks.”
“If you don’t go up, I will. And we both know how bad I am.” It was true. Fitz was the worst singer Tate ever heard in his life, and that was saying something. “I ain’t BS’ing you.”
“I ain’t going up.” Once Tate says that Fitz just shrugs and stands up, adjusting his shirt.
“Wish me luck.” Fitz turns toward the stage only for Tate to sigh and grab his arm. “What?”
“You darn bastard.” Tate’s insult causes Fitz to smile and he instead just plops back down, while Tate stands to his feet and reluctantly makes his way up there. This was gonna suck, big time. The woman on stage just about finishes singing her version of Santa Baby just as Tate arrives at the stairs. Being the good crowd they give the woman a slight applause as she exits the stage, leaving all the room in the world for Tate to perform. He sighs before mustering up the strength to walk on. On stage there was a guitar and a keyboard for people’s performance. Tate glances at the instruments, takes a look into the crowd where he sees tons and tons of eyes on him. He picks up the guitar and puts the strap around himself before tapping the microphone in front of him.
“Testing, testing….okay, good.” Tate gives a nervous cough and moves some hair out of his face. Looking into the eyes of the crowd he briefly sees Fitz, to which Tate gives hm a friendly glare before addressing the crowd. “Alright, well, my name’s Tate Levine and I’m going to perform….,” Tate blanks as since this was so last minute he has no idea what to perform, so he says the first thing that comes to his head, “Neither one of us by Gladys Knight. So….yeah, hope you enjoy.”
Tate starts the guitar and slowly begins the first verse:
“It’s sad to think, we’re not gonna make it
And it’s gotten to the point where we just can’t fake it
I guess neither one of us wants to be the first to say goodbye
I keep on wondering what I’m gonna do without ya”
As Tate sings on the stage, Fitz sits back and watches his friend with a smile. His voice was just so...mesmerizing and blended so well into the guitar, and Fitz could tell that everyone was bone-chilled for just how beautiful it was. Fitz knew he was good but not this good.
“Everytime I find the nerve to say I'm leavin'
Oh, memories, those old memories get in my way
That I'm deceiving
When it comes to saying good bye
That's a simple word that I just cannot say”
As Tate sings these lyrics, getting his groove in, he sadly has no idea about how much these lyrics will apply to him in the future.
Finding his way off the stage after getting an applause from the crowd, Tate can’t help but smile from the praise, but still his nervousness is so high that he has to keep his head down. It really did feel good singing up there with an audience, and personally, he feels like doing it again. Heck, he has tons of free-time, maybe he could make this a regular thing. However upon making it back to his table Tate found that Fitz was gone. Curious and worried, knowing Fitz’s disability can get him into trouble, quickly scans the area in panic, only to find Fitz behind a bathroom…..but he wasn’t alone. He saw a group of teenagers around their age surrounding him, and he knew all of them by one glance. The group of five people, four men and one girl, were led by Russell Taylor, the ‘head’ athlete at their high school. Russell was the man who bullied people because he saw himself as stronger than them, and he’s the one who's been bullying Tate since elementary; although Russell did have his morales, as he never hits someone unless provoked. With him where his buddies Ted, Gary and Robert, and his girlfriend Destinee Lombardi, the head cheerleader. While she wasn’t as mean as her friends she was still a bitch, no denying that. She wore her basic “preppie” clothing with her clothes from Burberry and Aquascutum.
“Leave me alone.” Fitz mutters to him, while making his hand into a fist and breathing in and out. “Please.”
“Oh, oh, I’m sorry, Patrick. Do you need to pop some of your pills now?” Russell makes fun of him, with Destinee in his arms while his group of friends snicker.
“Stop? Do you mean the short bus stop? It’s a few streets down.” Russell once again insults, and Fitz just feels the urge to attack him, but before anything could be done, Tate steps in between the two, putting on his classic charming smile.
“Ah, Mr. Taylor, how are you tonight?”
“Getting better. I’ve got retard and the dude who can barely speak english both here with me.”
“Can’t speak english? I find that funny from you, I mean, what did you get on that english final? A D? Oh yes, it was. Mommy must be so proud of you” Tate’s remark only causes Russell to give him the dirty eye, always hating it when people bring up his grades. Destinee, despite being Russell’s girlfriend, laughs at the comment. Russell gives Tate a glare.
“Come on guys, these cunts ain’t worth our time.” Russell mutters, turning his back and walking way with his friends. Tate snickers to himself but Fitz, on the other hand, gets a little too excited.
“Yeah, you and the tramp better run!” Fitz calls after, to which Tate’s smirk goes away just as quick as it came, while Russell stops dead ahead. Shit.
“What you call her?!” Russell violently turns back in their direction, while his friends stay back, minus Destinee who remains by his side. “I asked, what the fuck did you call her?!”
“A tramp!” Fitz shouts back, with his adrenaline high now. That was another problem with Fitz...he tended to act on impulsive and made really bad decisions. This was one of them.
“Fitz..” Tate tried telling him to shut it, but Fitz didn’t even hear him, instead walking toward Russell more.
“You’re g--girl’s a tramp. In case you didn’t hear about her and Johnny Vincent?”
“Who you calling a tramp?” Destinee asks, folding her arms and glaring at him through her rich girl eyes. “Just because I’m nice to that dweep doesn’t mean I’m cheating on my Russey.”
“I bet he would say otherwise.” Fitz mocks, but this time, Russell was fucking pissed. No way was he gonna let him and his girl look like fools by a fuckin’ special kid, and no way in hell in front of his friends. Letting go of Destinee’s hand Russell charges Fitz, who is only saved because Tate pulls him out of the fist’s direction.
“Calm down big boy, he’s just--” Tate tries to reason with him but Russell swings at him, so Tate does the only thing he thinks he can do. As Russell turns toward Fitz once more, Tate is quick to deliver a kick right into Russell’s groin, knocking the big Russell down onto his knees, where he holds his groin in pain. Just to make sure Russell don’t try anything else, Tate punches him in the nose with all his power, giving the jock a bloody nose.
“Son of a fuckin’ bitch!” Russell remarks, holding both his groin and nose, while standing onto his feet. Tate just backs away, both in fear and feeling accomplished for what he just did. Russell takes a angered-filled glance at the two nerds while Destinee tries to make sure he’s okay. “You fucking bitches are dead!” He screams, but instead of rushing them, he instead just turns the other away and leaves, saving his revenge for another day.
“I don’t care. Anything.” Tate mutters to the bartender while sitting at the dark wooden bar, with his head buried into his hands. After waking up early in the morning due to sleep problems Tate just wondered around the mall in his bubble of depression until luckily he found the place where he belonged: The Bar. He, like many others, were there drinking away the pain of their existence; he couldn’t think of anything better to do.
Once the bartender slides over a beer, Tate is quick to pop off the cap and drink the ever-soothing drink. He’s been drinking beer a lot the past half-a-day so the taste is starting to get bland but he still drinks like a king. A king with no power or followers, that is.
With the beer resting ever so gently in his hands, Tate looks around the bar. It was all men, some young and some old, all just sitting in silence and drinking. For a second it makes him think that maybe someone has it worse than him, but he ignores it and just keeps drinking.
However something felt unusual to Tate as he sat there, like he wasn’t alone...or that someone was watching him. Tate cranked his head around but saw no one in the bar staring at him, and in fact, no one was even near him. He shrugs it off and tries to go back to drinking but that feeling was not escaping his body no matter what he did. So once more he turned around to make sure no one was staring at him but this time he was met with a different result, because at the bar entrance was a middle-aged woman with blonde hair. He couldn’t make out her face due to her wearing a hood but he could feel her eyes on him.
Curious he stands to his feet and makes his way toward her, leaving his beer behind, but she catches wind and much to his surprise makes a run for it. As the woman runs down the hall Tate, on impulse, runs after her; she was looking right at him, so she wants something from him. “Hey!” Tate calls after her, but she keeps going, and the chasing was drawing him looks from people walking by.
After turning a corner into a deserted hallway Tate is surprised to see the woman gone, causing him to look around confused. She just...disappeared. Now under normal circumstances Tate would question it but he just thought that the beer was playing tricks on his head, it was probably nothing.
Tate is quick to turn around however upon doing so he is met with the woman, standing directly in front of him. With her hood down Tate can now clearly see her face. Blond hair, dark eyes, and a loving smile. “Sweetie.” She says to him.
It took Tate a moment to realize who exactly he was standing in front of. “M--mom?” All of the depression in his face is now in both the form of sadness and surprise, seeing his dead mother standing in front of him. She says nothing but that warm smile of hers is enough to make his insides melt, and slowly Tate reaches out his hand to touch her...and he can actually feel her. He lowers his hand onto her shoulder and instantly memories flow back and at first he just closes his eyes and smiles, until his senses come back. Once they do he slowly takes his hand off her and opens his eyes. “You can’t be here.”
She looks at him and only shakes her head. “I had to see you. I needed to warn you.”
“You need to stop this, sweet-heart. This…problem of yours.”
“I….can’t stop it. Everyone’s dead, mom, everyone.” Tate looks away from her eyes, her damn loving eyes. “You’re dead.”
“This problem isn’t about people dying, sweetie, don’t lie to me. It’s about you.” She places her hand on his cheek while staring at him in the eyes. “You blame yourself for failing everyone.”
“I did fail everyone. I failed you.”
“You did no such thing.” Mary tries to comfort him, but he backs away from her. She only looks down, saddened about seeing her son like this. “Not everything is your fault.”
“Really? George Washington High School says differently.”
“Mom, I failed everyone I have ever loved. If I want to have some damn drinks then I’m gonna have some damn drinks.” Tate rebukes her, to which Mary looks at him in the eyes.
“Do you love me?”
“Then stop this, or you’ll end up alone.” Mary begs him once more, but Tate only stares her down. For a moment he feels like nodding and just hugging his mom, but he gets a reality check.
“Maybe I deserve to be alone.” Tate simply says, causing Mary to just turn away from her son, ashamed. “Mom--”
“I once said you were strong, but now…...now I see just how wrong I really was.” Those were her last words because once Tate blinked she was gone, this time for good. Tate stands there for a moment, taking in what just happened, before collapsing against the wall and sitting down, with no plans of getting up anytime soon.
8 Years Ago, 2005
“Look at us man. We’re the pimps of this place.” Fitz jokes while sitting at the white-clothed covered table with his black tuxedo, along with Tate, who is just as polished up. Tate wears his tuxedo with style and has his hair combed up all nicely. Even Fitz, who normally looked weird looking, was looking stylish.”We’re gonna get all the girls.”
“Yeah right.” Tate snickers it off and just goes back to looking around. The two were currently at their school dance, however, neither of them had any dates but they still showed up for some reason. Probably because they had nothing better to do. “We’d be lucky if we even picked up Amanda.” Fitz laughed at the joke, since Amanda was clearly the weirdest girl in their grade.
“We can have dreams.”
“Don’t mean they’ll come true.” Tate reminds him, to which Fitz only shrugs and goes back to sipping his drink. Normally, Fitz isn’t allowed to drink soda, because it gives him lots of energy, but on certain occasion his mom allows him to drink some of it. “Alright so, if you could pick one girl to come here with, who would it be?”
“Hm...I think I would have to go with Destinee.”
“Destinee? You mean, Russell’s girlfriend Destinee?” Fitz nods. “You do know that you called her a tramp, right?”
“Eh, just got a little excited.” Fitz shrugs once more, causing Tate to only laugh under his breath. “How bout you?”
“I legit got no idea, to be honest here. But I guess I gotta go with….Julia Loreno.”
“The party chick?”
“Well if there’s one thing I can say is that she’d get so drunk that you could….y’know.”
“Yep, I know.” Tate smirks. Julia was the official ‘party girl’ of the grade, and personally, he wouldn’t be shocked if she would end up on some ‘teen pregnancy’ show, if they ever made one. “So what you wanna do?”
“I don’t know. Keep sitting here?” He asks although Tate didn’t really care what they did, so he just shrugged. However, it was in that moment that he received a tap on the shoulder and he cranked his head around to see Destinee standing there. Now she wasn’t his type of girl but even he wasn’t gonna die that she looked pretty good. A short dress, got her hair curled up and makeup.
“Hey, Tatey.” Destinee smiles at him, to which Tate only gives her a weird glance, giving a ‘what the heck’ kind of glance to Fitz as well. “How are you?”
“What do you want?”
“Straight to the point, huh.” Destinee smirks and leans ontop of him and right into his ear. “I like that.” She whispers seductively while brushing his hair. “Can I see you somewhere more….private?”
“Sure..” Tate was suspicious at first, but hey, if a girl wanted to see him privately it couldn’t be that bad. Standing to his feet he walks away with Destinee, while Fitz just looks on dumbfounded; Tate turns around toward him and gives him a ‘I don’t know what’s going on’ look. Looks like Tate just broke the bros before hoes rule.
Destinee guides Tate out the back door and into the parking lot of the school. “So what do you--” Tate tries to ask but before he knows what’s even going on, Destinee already pushed him into the wall and started kissing him. And when he says kissing he means kissing. She even lifted her leg for Tate, forcing him to grab it. Tate still had no idea what the hell was going on...but he wasn’t arguing.
After a few more moments of kissing, with Destinee even moaning, she suddenly stops and backs away, wiping her lips. Before Tate could even ask what was going on, a paintball shot onto his chest and he fell back onto the wall. “What the hell?” He looked over to see Russell and his group of friends, each with paintballs. Destinee only laughed and made her way back to Russell.
“Good job getting him out here.” Russell thanks her, kissing her on the lips.
“Took you guys long enough. I had to make out with him to keep him distracted.” Destinee scoffs, still wiping her lips. Tate only stares dumbfounded, but his look soon turns into a glare directed at the bitch Destinee.
“I told ya I’d get ya back, shitstain.” Russell laughs and fires more paintballs at Tate, with his friends joining in. Soon enough the good looking Tate who was all washed up and dressed is now dossed in paintballs. Russell even plays dirty and fires one at his groin. After each one of them ran out of their clips, Tate was now a rainbow as he slid down the wall in pain.
As Russell and his crew were reloading, the back door opened and Fitz came out, throwing a cup at Russell. He clearly missed and Russell laughed his fucking ass off. “Looks like short bus came to save the day.” Russell and his pals laugh before firing onto Fitz too, not giving fuck whether he’s disabled or not.
Fitz too was soon covered in paintballs and on the ground, against the doors. However unlike Tate, who just stayed silent and glared at them, Fitz was more direct with his pain. He screamed, not in pain but in a mixture of agony and anger, with even tears slipping down his paint covered face. To shut him up, Russell shot him once more with the paintball gun. “Y’all losers thought you could call my girl a tramp, kick me in the balls, humiliate me and get away with it?” Russell snorts. “You dumb mothafucka’s.”
For the next five damned minutes the scene played out the same. Russell and his friends fired at the two repeatedly, with Tate just taking it like a man while the disabled Fitz cried in the air. After that it was Destinee, who was standing there watching, who had the heart. “Russey, I think they had enough.”
“Look at them.” Destinee stresses, since not only the two victims but the area surrounding them were doused in paint. “They’ll be humiliated when they gotta walk home doused in that shit. Alright?” Russell looks at her like she’s joking but he soon sees that she’s completely serious, so he just sighs and lowers his gun, ordering his friends to do so too.
“Alright boys, I think they suffered enough.” Russell says to them, laughing. “I think they got the message.”
With that said, the bullies walked away from them, leaving Tate and Fitz all beat up and alone in the alleway. For minutes the two just laid there defeated, wearing their shame. Tate was still in shock of what just happened, and while he thought, Fitz stood up to his feet and walked over to him. Tate could see his bloodshot eyes and his tears. “Jason--” He tried to comfort him but Fitz just ran past him and off into the streets of Philadelphia. On normal circumstances Tate would chase him but he had his own problems at the moment.
“Oh my God….” Was Mary’s reaction as she watched her son entered her car, covered in paint and water from the rain that just began. She was worried when she got a alarming call from him asking to be picked up, but she had no idea what she would expect. Upon closing the door, Tate just sat there staring forward, not even looking at her in the eyes. “Baby..”
“Just drive!” Tate snaps at her, snaps at his teary eyed mother. She only sniffles at seeing her son like this, but follows his order and begins to drive away, while Tate just sits there. After pulling away from the school and getting onto the road, Mary looked back at him, worried as ever. “What?”
“What? What? You’re covered in paint!” She snaps, not in anger, but she was just that worried. “Baby, what happened?”
“Tell me what happened!”
“No! You think you can just enter my car in paint and now tell me what happened?!” As they approached the red light Tate tried to unlock the door, but she locked it on him right away. “Tell me.”
“You wanna know what happened?! Those fucking--”
“No, mom! Those fucking bullies jumped me and shot me with paint guns. There. You happy now?”
“No, I’m not happy! Oh my God….look at you!”
“Don’t you dare say that again! It’s definitely something!”
“No it’s not.”
“When my baby boy enters my car doused in paint on the night of the school dance then I consider it something! So don’t bullshit me, Tate, talk to me.” Mary looks at him, demanding an answer, but he just sits there for a minute before finally breaking down. He leans his head on the car door and weeps in pain.
“I….I wanna kill them, mom. I mean it this time. I wanna kill them.”
“They ruined my life. Ruined it! And don’t you dare give me a ‘what would Jesus do’ thing, alright? If He truly loved me then he would let them rot in hell, and give me the pleasure of causing it.” Tate cries, finally venting about his anger toward them. Mary, watching her son’s pain, can’t help but shed a tear herself. “Don’t you cry on me. Don’t you damn cry!”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Drop me off at their houses so I can make them pay.”
“I’m not gonna do that.”
“I will walk out of this car myself.”
“And I will chase you down and drag you back in here if I have too. I know it’s rough but I ain’t gonna let you go to jail, not on my watch.”
“You know it’s rough? And how do you know that?! Did this ever happen to you? No, it didn’t.”
“I been through--”
“Because I got banged up!” Mary finally screams at her son, causing him to go silent. “I had sex at sixteen and he taped it, okay?! He leaked it online and….I was labeled a slut for life.”
“No, you’re gonna listen. I want you to know that I’m not bullshitting you when I say I know it’s rough!” Tate nods silently. “Everyone saw it in only days. Classmates, family members, even...my teachers. No one looked at me the same again. I was even gonna take pills, you know that? Your mom was gonna off herself because she was weak. I only stopped because Wayne convinced me not too.” Mary wipes a tear from her eyes. “So when I tell you to be strong, I’m telling you not to be like me. Don’t give up. Don’t be weak like me.”
After that, their fighting ceased to happen and Tate just sat there. “Talk to me.” Mary said, but he didn’t.
“I don’t know what to say.”
“I do. How about ‘Sorry mom, I promise I won’t do anything stupid’.” She looks at him. “Say it.” Tate doesn’t respond, instead just sitting there in his sweat of paint. “Promise me.”
Instead of giving his own mother the promise she asked, one of the only things she asked of him, Tate instead quickly unlocked the door and ran off into the rainy night, ignoring his mother’s screams after him. As Tate ran down the rainy streets, ignoring the looks that strangers were giving him, he began to think what he was doing. He didn’t even know what went through him, he just felt like running.
Mary drove after him, constantly honking to try and get him to come back. However after turning down a street Mary’s car ran over a pothole that was almost invisible, and all of a sudden, her tire popped and her car began to swerve, eventually smashing through a bus stop and into a building, all of which the pained Tate saw.
“Mary Levine was a great woman, and anyone who says otherwise has clearly never met her. I did not know Mary long, I only met her a few months ago, but her way had an affect on me, and I think it’s safe to say she did on all of us.” The pastor speaks solemnly, holding the bible in his hands and looking down into her soon to be grave, where her coffin is being held up. “She was there for people, no matter who or why, and never turned her back on someone. One thing I always noticed about her is how she always tried to spread the Lord’s word, and to me, that is one of the most honorable things a person can do on this foul planet. It’s sad how a woman like Mary had to be born and die in this kind of world, but she left her affect on all of us.”
“That is not to say Mary did not have sin, because just like us, she was born in sin. But, from what I know, she never hid her sin and she looked at it right in the face. Mary was truly a courageous woman. Mary Levine was a great friend, a even better person, and one great human being. She will be missed….and God bless her soul.” The pastor finishes and after performing a small prayer, the others walk foward to lay down their roses. Tate at first just stood there, filled with tears and pain as he looked at his mother’s grave. The grave she was in because of him, but after a pat on the back from Fitz, who stood near him with his mother, Tate made his way forward. He approaches her coffin and lowers his red rose of death onto it slowly.
“Love you, Mom.” He mutters under his breath and once the pastor pats him on the back with his lukewarm smile, Tate walked off. Soon he was joined by Fitz.
“My mom said you can stay with us.” Fitz said while walking besides him. “I mean..”
“Thank you.” Tate simply say, not daring to look at him in the eyes. Instead he just surrounded himself in pain because it was his fault she died. His. If he didn’t run out of the damn car then she would still be here with her warm smile, hugs, and her love. Now he doesn’t even have any family members, the closest thing he’s got is Fitz.
“I know it’s rough for you and I just want you to know that I’m here for you. If you ever need anything, anything, I’m here.”
“You don’t gotta--”
“Yes, I do.” Fitz puts his arm around him, in a brotherly way. “We’re brothers man. We got each other’s backs.” It was in that moment that Tate looked at Fitz, and for the first time in days, smiles.
It was about a week later when Tate was finally ready to come back to George Washington High School, since the school was generous enough to let him have about a week off. Ever since entering all Tate has been getting is “I’m sorry for your loss” and “Are you okay?”. Personally Tate just wishes he would be left alone, and luckily, Fitz was home sick today so maybe he’ll be alone at lunch, which luckily, was next period.
Entering the cafeteria, Tate walks around with his head down, overhearing the numerous mutters about him. He just ignores them and picks the first empty table. Sitting down he just takes out his lunch and ignores all the eyes on him, instead just eating his crappy lunch.
After a minute he soon heard someone sits down and he looks up, expecting to see some girl feeling sorry for him, but instead sees Russell. But this time Russell was alone and he clearly wasn’t here to insult you, judging from his face. “Hey Tate.” He says softly with his voice cracking of sympathy. Tate just scoffs him.
“Get the hell out.” He simply puts it, not wanting Russell’s sympathy.
“I know we’re not friends, in fact, I’ve been a complete asshole to you. I really am sorry.”
“Just because my mom died doesn’t mean you gotta be all nice to me, alright?” Tate rudely says, and for once, Russell doesn’t argue with him. He deserves it, and Russell knows it perfectly well.
“It’s not just because of that, Tate It’s just….it was my fault.” Tate gives him a dirty eye. “If I didn’t attack you then you wouldn’t have left early and…..” Russell stops talking, deciding not to fill in the blanks. “I know what it’s like. I don’t know if you knew this but my mom died a few years back. She was shot in a bank robbery, and since that moment I’ve had this….anger in me, and the only way I could take it out was hurting people. So that’s why I was an asshole and I truly am sorry.”
“I don’t expect you to forgive me but I just had to get that out there. I’m sorry for hurting you and I’m sorry for her. And this may sound weird, especially from me, but if you ever need anything, I’m there for you.” Russell finishes and before Tate can insult him, Russell simply gets back up and walks off, leaving Tate alone just like he wanted.
Walking around the halls of the mall is Tate, who like anyone would be, is still dazed from the confrontation with the ghost of his mother. It’s been years and then she’s just there, only for her to leave him again. It felt like a piece of his soul came back only to bitch slap him and walk out.
Currently, Tate is making his way back to the bar, needing a drink after that. During this walk of shame back Tate did think about what she said, he really did…..but that’s when his senses reminded him that it wasn’t real and just his imagination. So, hell, if he wanted a drink he was gonna have a damn drink.
Turning down an aisle Tate takes a quick look at the store he didn’t notice before: A music store. For a moment he just stands there staring at the awesome little store, where normally, he would be running in there to just look around; but now, the shell of Tate Levine just looks at it.
Slowly, however, he makes his way over to the glass window and looks at all the abandoned items in there. Instruments and DVD’s alike just waiting to be played. He briefly looks in awe through the glass window, and soon enough, he sees someone joining him, watching their reflection walk up. The person just stands there next to Tate, looking in their. “It’s nice, ain’t it?” The person asks, but Tate stays silent. “You like music?”
“Yeah.” Tate bluntly says, looking at the person’s reflection in the mirror….only to find himself back up in shock. The person at the window, seeing Tate back away, turns to look at him face-to-face; It was Jason Fitzpatrick. Tate’s eyes widen in both fear and depression. “What’s the matter, Tatey? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Fitz says, while brushing some dust off his jacket.
“It’s a nice place, the mall I mean.” Fitz acknowledges. “I liked Neshaminy better, though.” Tate, watching Fitz shocked, soon finds the words to speak.
“You’re not real.”
“Neither are you.” Fitz shrugs. “All you do is lie to people. What is the true Tate like?” Tate looks away from his former friend, not having the courage to look at him in the eye.
“You are not a good man. Or a friend. Or a brother.” Fitz walks around Tate, trying to see his eyes. “You are nothing.” As Fitz tries to see his eyes, Tate quickly turns his back on him. “Do not turn your back on me! Not again.” Tate ignores his hallucination and instead just stands there like a giant brick wall of sadness.
“You’re gone.” Is all Tate says, before walking away from Fitz. Fitz, however, won’t just go away like Mary and instead trails him.
“Wherever I am, it’s time you joined me.” Without any warning Fitz kicks Tate in the back, knocking him into the wall. Quickly Tate turns around and watches as Fitz punches Tate in the face, before going toward the body. Fitz, being weak, was easily pushed aside by Tate, who punched him and threw him onto the bench nearby. Fitz, upon standing back onto his feet, laughs. “They say a coward dies a thousand deaths, but even that wouldn’t be enough for you.”
“I didn’t betray you!” Tate yells at him. “I never tried to hurt you!” Fitz quickly grabs Tate by the throat, and refuses to let go.
“I thought you would have gotten stronger by now, but you’re still weak.” Fitz scolds him before tossing him into the glass window of the music store, causing Tate to crash through the guitar and slam into a wall of music singles, which soon fall on him. The glass sinks deep into his skin and Tate lets out a painful scream……
...and then he regains his senses and finds himself on the bench, where he has no injuries.
8 Years Ago, 2005
“That….was….freakin’.....awesome!” Tate exclaims from the backseat of the car he’s currently in, a smile planted on his face. It’s currently June, three months since his mother’s death, and he actually looks happy now. Yeah, he still misses her but he’s no longer moping around; and better yet, he’s having fun with a group of people. “Way better than Episode 1 and 2, and that was a great way to finish the prequel trilogy.” Tate says excited, remarking the movie he just saw, Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.
In the front two seats were the people he came with, and they were the most shocking people it could be. It was Russell and Destinee, both laughing at his excitement. “Gotta love Star Wars, man.” All three of them are sitting in a car and aren’t insulting each other, in fact, they seem like good friends. How did they become good friends in only three months, especially since Tate hated Russell and Destinee? Well, that’s a story for another day.
“Eh, don’t really see the hype for it.” Destinee shrugs. “All it was were ‘shoot shoot, force shit, lightsaber and blah blah blah. Although that Skywalker dude was cute.”
“Anakin Skywalker.” Russell corrects her.
“Whateva. Same thing.” Destinee smirks at their annoyance when it came to her about Star Wars, so she just leans back on her seat and takes out her phone.
“Can you believe this girl?” Russell asks Tate, who only shakes his head in shame.
“I don’t believe it, bro. I would have dumped her already.”
“Dang, f you too.” Destinee calls back, forcing Tate to smile. “Anyways what we gonna eat? I’m starviiing.” She drags out the i in the word.
“I don’t know. Pizza?” Russell suggest.
“Sounds good to me, bae. How bout you, Tate?”
“Eh, just drop me off at home.”
“What? Dude no you’re coming.” Russell denies him.
“I gotta do a shit ton of homework, so I’ll just drop out. You guys go, have fun, I’ll be fine.”
“Alright man, whatever you say.” Russell sighs and turns left, going toward Tate’s residence, which is currently Fitz’s house.
Fitz walks around his house, although his walk was more like stumbling, and he even collapses back onto a chair at some point, be quickly regained his stance. However he then just proceeds to stand there while scratching his head, he seems mega-confused right now. “Ugh.” He groans to himself, and he takes a quick glance to his pill box that sits on the table. His empty pill box; he should probably get them refilled…...but he thinks he’ll be fine.
Walking past the window to his left Fitz takes a casual glance, always curious to what others were doing; however, right in front of his house he sees a car pull-up. Curious he takes a closer look and sees Tate exit from the backseat….and in the front seats were Russell and Destinee.
Without any warning a sudden urge of anger was sent into his body, seeing the sights of his friend having fun with his...his enemies. It was bad enough that Tate talked to them at school and sometimes sat with them at lunch...but to hang out with them instead of him? Fitz is his best friend and instead he hangs out with Fitz’s worst enemies; even worse, he just showed them where he lived.
Was….Tate working against him? No, no, that couldn’t be true, Fitz wouldn’t accept it. However, he could feel paranoia slowly tiptoeing in and he begins to think and think; the more Fitz thinks about the idea it begins to grow more clearer in his mindset. “No, no, no!” Fitz suddenly spazzes, and in his anger, he punches into the violet wall, causing a small dent. Fitz did everyone for Tate. Everything! There for him, took him in after his mother died, and even called him a brother….and then the past few months Tate just grows away from him. Was…..was it all a lie? A game? Was Tate even ever his friend or was Fitz just the victim of some cruel sick game?
It was in that minute that Tate walks in the front door, a smile still planted on his face from his times with his friends. “Hey bro.” Tate says while kicking off his shoes and collapsing onto the couch. However, unlike usual, Fitz doesn’t reply and instead just sits in his bubble of paranoia; being his closest friend, Tate notices something is up. “Something up?”
“I don’t know. Is there?” Fitz turns toward his “brother” and slowly walks toward him, which creeps Tate out.
“I don’t know...Look bro, you okay?”
“Am I okay? I don’t know, Tatey. Is that what they call you? Tatey.” Tate stands to his feet and looks at his friend, confused. Something was wrong and he had no idea.
“Dude, no offense, but what the hell are you talking about?”
“I have a question for you.” Tate motions him to ask. “Do you hate me? Huh, do you freaking hate me?”
“Of course not, man. We’re brothe--”
“Liar!” Fitz suddenly shouts, much to the surprise of Tate. “You dare come into my house, not yours, mine, and lie to me?!” Before Tate can even ask what the hell Fitz is talking about, Fitz was already back to going bat-shit on Tate. “I know you hate me, Tatey-boy. I know you went behind my back.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re hanging with them! Those….freaks! Russell and Destinee and--”
“This is about them? Dude, they’re just friends”
“Friends? Friends? Do you know what they did to me? What they did to us? And now you’re just sitting here sucking their dicks!” Tate takes a glance over to the table where he sees the empty pill box, and he puts the pieces together.
“Fitz, did you take your pills?”
“Pills. There we go again! ‘Fitz, did you take your pills’. ‘Take your pills’. Well, I might have to take those damn pills but I’m not retarded!”
“I haven’t taken those things in damn weeks and my mind is clearer than ever! You...you betrayed me!”
“I didn’t betray you man. You’re my brother!”
“Don’t you dare call my that word! I just can’t understand this. I was always there for you; I took you in, helped you, sat with you and did everything for you! But then you ditch me for my enemies!”
“Dude, it’s not like that. They just felt bad and tried helping me after...ya know.”
“I did too! But you rejected me, after everything we’ve been through. You sit with them at lunch, hang out with them...what’s next? You gonna move in with Russell?”
“I’m sorry, alright? You can sit with them at lunch, they offered you…”
“I will NOT sit with those…..those cunts! Everytime I go near them I feel the urge to shower.” Fitz, getting seriously stressed, rubs his hands through his hair aggressively. “I saw you kissing that slut Destinee back at the dance, after I told you that I had a crush on her. I didn’t believe that you didn’t do on your own will, no, because I trusted you. I even ran out there to help you after they shot at you! But now, as I see that you hang out with her, I’m beginning to think if you were ever my friend at all?”
“I’m still your friend! Look, you just need to--”
“Was this ‘friendship’ all just cruel joke? Was it?!” Tate doesn’t answer, instead letting his friend let out his false anger. “It was, huh.”
“In case you forgot, I was bullied with you! That night at the dance I was shot at too!”
“To lure me out! You’ve always been working against me...I see it now.” Fitz looks over at his former friend in complete disgust. “You made me trust you, and I even thought you were a brother to me. Now I see the whole cruel picture. You’re just some….some kid who thinks it’s fun to mess with kids like me!”
“Jason,” Tate calls him by his first name, which was rare, since Fitz hated his first name, “you need to take your pills.” Fitz just laughs.
“You’re not even denying it, that’s the funny part. I find out about you and all you wanna do is talk about my pills. Pfft.” Fitz grabs his empty pill box. “I don’t need to take these. No, I’m not the crazy one.” Fitz suddenly throws the empty box at Tate’s eye, causing Tate to briefly stumble. The box barely hurt, luckily. “You take them! You’re the crazy one!”
“I’m done with this shit.” Fitz mutters to himself. “I found about your game so I’m done with this. Go move in with your brother, Russell.” Tate doesn’t move. “Go! I said go! The door’s right there!”
“I’m not leaving, Fitz.” Tate simply says, staying in his position. “I’m not leaving.” Fitz simply glares at his enemy, with eyes of disgust, and without saying a word, he grabs his jacket and walks out. Without even listening to Tate trying to call for him, Fitz walks out of his house and down the streets of his neighborhood, wondering who else is against him.
A few hours later Tate sits seated on the living room couch, his smile’s position having been taken over by a look of agony. His foot taps nervously on the ground while his fingers flinch, while he himself keeps looking between the windows and doors.
This has been his routine ever since Fitz walked out the door. Honestly, Tate had no idea what else he was supposed to do. He thought about going to search for Fitz, but if he knew one thing it was that Fitz needed time alone.Who was he gonna call and get help from? There was Fitz’s mother, but she hasn’t even arrived home yet and it’s almost six; he still had to think about what he’s gonna tell her. What was he supposed to tell her?
He groans in nervousness to himself while sitting there, and for the next ten or so minutes that’s all he does. It was finally the daunting sound of the front door opening that snapped Tate out of his coma like stance. He quickly snaps his head around only to find Fitz’s mother, Lucy Fitzpatrick, walk in on her phone, along with numerous files in her hands. Being the very busy lawyer that she was, he knew that she might not even have time to notice that her only son is missing.
“Yeah. Okay but--” she tries reasoning with her boss, but like always, he cuts her down. “Alright, it’ll be in by the morning. Goodnight, sir.” Upon saying those words Ms. Fitzpatrick quickly hangs up the phone and collapses onto a chair in the dining room, laying her files down and burying her over-stressed face into her sweaty hands. She finally glances her eyes over to find Tate at the couch. “Hi Tate, didn’t see you there.”
“Oh. I’m..sorry.” He gulps nervous, trying to think of what to tell her.
“Why apologize? It’s nothing.”
“Okay, sorry. So…..everything okay?” He’s hoping she would say everything’s good so she won’t be even more stressed when he tells her the news; but then, if everything’s good, he would ruin her day by informing her.
Ms. Fitzpatrick just sighs and rubs her eyes. “No. You know the job, it’s stressful. My boss wants me to finish my argument's tonight, and the prosecutor I’m against, James something, is hard-ball.” Ms. Fitzpatrick could go on and on about how stressful work is but she remembers that Tate is only a teenager, so she decides to just stop now before she vents her whole life story. “So where’s Jason?” She changes the subject, causing Tate to think rapidly. What’s he gonna say?
“He went for…..a walk.” He lies, not bringing himself to tell her that he might be in danger. She accepts the answer and simply goes to collect some of her paperwork.
“Alight. I got tons of work to to do so I’m gonna be in the office all night. When Fitz gets back tell him to order a pizza for you guys, or something.” She speaks and makes her way out of the room, leaving Tate alone once more.
The next morning, Tate stands at the entrance to his locker, having his head leaning against the door, worried. After going to bed last night he heard Fitz come in, but Tate didn’t say anything; however, when Tate woke up this morning, Fitz was gone. He wasn’t at school either and Tate can’t help but feel scared, not only for Fitz but for himself. If Fitz truly thought that Tate betrayed him than he might try to hurt him.
“Yo, Tate.” Russell soon booms from behind him, giving him a friendly punch to the shoulder while doing so; however, unlike usual, Tate doesn’t do it back. “Yo, bro, you alright?”
“Yeah man. Great.” Russell believes the lies spoken from Tate’s mouth, and just shrugs, while he has his arm around Destinee, who was on her phone.
“Sweet. Anyways did you do the Spanish homework? I didn’t--” Before Russell can finish asking Tate for the homework, a loud sound similar to fireworks boom through the halls, except they weren’t fireworks. The sounds shot every second, and judging from the screams, it became pretty clear what these sounds were. A shooter was in the school.
Just like that panic assured throughout the crowds as people began screaming and trying to push their way to the exit, and that’s even what Tate plans to do. Turning toward his friends Tate sees Destinee freak out and scream, while the strong Russell simply holds her in his arms, trying to calm her. “We gotta go!” Russell commands, to which the two had no objections, and they began making their way down the hall, with Destinee wrapped in Russell’s arm like glue. With Tate right behind them, Russell began to navigate them through the crowd. However while running through the panicked crowd Tate glanced behind them and saw something that wanted to make him drop to his knees.
He only sees one or two dead bodies but that doesn’t stop the affect it has on Tate; he knew those people and just seeing them dead…..he didn’t know what to think. He recognized one of them as some smart person who was accepted into Harvard, and the other as a shy young man who was trying to make friends. It was horrible.
Suddenly Tate heard the gunshots come closer, and the message became clear that staying in the hallway is the equivalent of suicide. Russell, thinking quickly, turns toward the first classroom he sees and kicks open the door, allowing Destinee and Tate in while others just run down the halls. Seeing how no one is entering Russell slams the door shuts and locks it, leaving the three locked in the small classroom. “Oh my God…” Destinee begins to mutter repeatedly, while Tate and Russell just stay silent. “What the--who the fuck who is doing...that!?” She can’t bring herself to say the term shooting people. Tate and Russell just stay silent, with Russell looking into the hallways through the small window on the door, while Tate can’t make any words out of his fear filled body. “Who the fuck is--” Destinee tries to shout again, but finds herself cut by the stressed Russell.
“I don’t know!” He snaps for once allowing his cool to go down. “Alright, alright let’s just...hide.”
“What’s hiding going to do?” Tate pipes up while sitting on the table, prompting Russell and Destinee to look at him.
“What’s hiding going to do? Did you see the bodies out there or hear the guns he has? That maniac is going to find us--”
“And he will kill--”
“Shut up!” Russell snaps at him, instantly forcing Tate to shut his mouth. Taking a deep breath Russell looks between the equally panicked Destinee and Tate. “We’re gonna get out of here. Alright?”
Neither of the two respond with words and instead give him a reluctant nod. Russell, accepting the answer, scratches his head while thinking of what to do. The gunshots were only getting closer out there and they were in a windowless room, so they could only hide. He looks at the teacher’s desk and sees it as the best place to hide. “Behind there.”
Quickly the three get behind the desk, with Russell holding Destinee in his arms, while Tate simply sits against the wall. There the three sat for what felt like endless minutes and the only noise that dragged them out of silence were the sounds of gunshots, screams of their classmates...and the sounds of their bodies hitting the blood spattered floor.
It was then that the murderer was walking past the door whistling and the three listened to his footsteps that seemed to echo a thousand miles. However, the person stopped at the door, but still continued to whistle to the song I’m Singing in the Rain. The three can feel them freeze up and pray that the person would move on, but of course their prayer failed and the door opened, followed by the person walking in. The person, still whistling, scans the room with a rifle in his hands, and a pistol in his pocket. The three can’t see who it is, but feel like the person’s eyes are on them. Russell, taking a look at Tate while holding Destinee, soon sighs; this person is going to find them.
Letting go of Destinee, Russell quickly stands to his feet and throws his hands up, while the gunner is facing the opposite way. The gunman quickly turns, and the person wears a hat and sunglasses but it’s definitely a man. “Hey man, just take it easy.” Russell reasons. “You don’t gotta do this.”
Russell can hear the gunman laugh and grows confused, only for the gunman to take of the items that concealed his identity. The gunman was none other than Fitz, whose eyes were bloodshot and his hair ran wild; he truly looked insane. “Yes we do.” Fitz speaks, keeping the rifle pointed at Russell while closing the door behind him; the simple sound of Fitz’s voice causes Tate, who was holding Destinee close so she wouldn’t chase after Russell, freezes up.
“Fitz?” Russell asks, both scared and confused. “What are you--”
“This is ironic, huh Russey. Normally it’s the other way around.” Fitz cuts him off. “And I’m doing what I should of done a long time ago. Rid the world of you monsters.” Fitz walks closer to him and embraces the thoughts of killing Russell. “You’re gonna try and beg me to let you live, right?”
“Actually, I’m gonna do the opposite. You’re right, I’m a monster and I ruined your life. So kill me.” Russell encourages Fitz, who holds the gun at him when suddenly a thought enters his head.
“Where’s your friend?”
“Don’t play dumb with me! Where’s Tate?!” Tate gulps from his hiding spot, while Russell just stares Fitz down with no fear.
“I don’t know.” Russell says, but Fitz is done with lies.
“Fine don’t tell me. I’ll just go out there and find him and your bitch. I’ll slowly kill them and watch as their blood flows onto the carpet, and then, I’m gonna take a video of it and bury it with you.” Fitz holds the gun to Russell’s head. “Now I’ll spare their lives and all you gotta do is ask. I want you to look at me in the eyes and beg. Beg to me.” Russell stares him down. “Go on! Beg.”
Russell gulps and clears his throat. “Please let my friends live. Please.”
“That’s not enough.” Fitz mocks, all while Tate watches from behind the desk. “I don’t want you to just beg, Rus. I want you to beg me with everything you got!”
“Please, Fitz, let them live. Please!” Russell tries to beg but Fitz isn’t taking it; but before anything could be done, Tate steps out from cover
“Fitz!” Tate shouts to his friend, causing Fitz to turn toward him, while keeping the gun on Russell. “Fitz, put the gun down.”
“Tatey Levine. Glad to see you could make it.”
“What’s the point of this, Fitz?” Tate asks, stepping out into the open where he looks into his best friend’s eyes. “What is it?”
“What’s the point? You and your friend Russell here ruined me! I was the victim of….of a game!”
“No one was playing games with you!” Tate tries to convince him. “I was never after you.”
“Lies!” Fitz snaps. “I wanted to believe you, Tate. After I left the house yesterday I began to think, and for a moment, I thought that maybe I just overreacted. So, I went back to my house and looked in the window, where I saw my mom came in. She….she didn’t look worried about me. I saw you two talk and then I saw her walk into her room without a care in the world, like she didn’t care I was gone. That’s when I knew.”
“That she was in on it!”
“You think your own mother would do that to you?”
“I didn’t think my best friend would do it to me.” Fitz takes a look between Russell and Tate, his eyes spelling anger, yet, pain. “So that’s what this is about, brother.” He mocks with the word ‘brother’. “I’m here to put an end to your game. Then, once that’s done, I’ll go talk with my mother…”
“What about them!” Russell interrupts, pointing toward the hallway, where innocent bodies of students lay. “What did they do? Where they on it too?!”
“Everyone was in on it! They all had to pay! You look at me like I’m a monster but this is all on you and your game.” Fitz turns toward Tate.
“You crazy son of a bitch, there is no fucking game!” Russell yells back.
“Don’t lie to me! I’m the one in charge here!”
“Prove it!” Russell steps toward him. “You may have been able to shoot those people out there, but you can’t shoot me, can you? You would have it done it already if you wanted too. Wanna know why you won’t? Because you know I’m right and you’re some--”
Fitz fires his rifle multiple times into Russell’s chest, sending his dead body into the wall, stunning Tate, while Destinee just screams. Fitz looks over to her, as she runs over to Russell’s body. “Look who else is here.”
Tate looks at Russell’s bloody body which Destinee holds in her arms, and he can’t help but shed tears at the sight, while Fitz just laughs. He’s been wanting to do that for a long time, and the feeling upon doing so...it felt so good. Now time for his whore, than Tate.
Once Fitz points his rifle at Destinee it leaves him briefly open and Tate, filled with rage over Russell’s death, charges his friend. He manages to tackle him to the ground but Fitz smacks Tate with the butt of his rifle, knocking him over, and allowing Fitz to stand to his feet. “You bastard!” Fitz kicks him in the stomach, before pointing the rifle at him and firing.
Fitz fires again.
Click. It’s empty. Quickly tossing the rifle aside to get his pistol, Tate kicks his friend in the knee and jumps forward, pushing him into the wall. Fitz tries to swing back, but Fitz was a scrawny dude so he stood no chance against the angered Tate. Tate, in rage, punches him repeatedly across the face and in the stomach. “You crazy son of a bitch!” Tate grabs him by the collar and tosses his former friend onto the ground, where he lands with a loud thump. Grabbing Fitz’s pistol off the ground Tate aims it at him, ready to fire; but that’s when their eyes meet. The eyes of Tate and his former friend. In that moment of hesitation Fitz grabs a pen off the ground and jumps up, stabbing Tate in the shoulder and pushing him to the ground.
Fitz quickly gets on top of Tate and punches him; he was weak so it barely hurt but he kept doing it repeatedly, so overtime it began to sting. “I thought of you like a brother!” Fitz screams. “And--you--betrayed--me!” Fitz screams in between punches. “I loved you!” After a few more punches Fitz looks down at Tate, and only breathes slowly. “I freakin’ loved you.” Fitz says, but unlike the other times, he speaks in pain this time. Absolute pain.
Before anything else could be done, Fitz is smacked across the head with a chair by Destinee, who like Tate just a few seconds earlier, is filled with rage. She hits Fitz one more time, causing Fitz’s head to smack back into the wooden cabinet, knocking him out.
Looking over at Fitz, Destinee just feels the rage burning inside her, wanting to hit him more. But instead, she simply tosses the chair aside, instead seeing if Tate is okay; she doesn’t want to see any more people die.
Tate now sits outside, shirtless, on a stretcher, as paramedics from the ambulance look over his bruises. It wasn’t good but it wasn’t bad either, just a few bruises. However, while sitting there, Tate looks over toward the school’s front doors, where numerous reporters surround the school like rats looking for cheese. They run around trying to talk to the grieving parents or surviving students with a single fuck given.
It was in that moment that police walk out of the school, with Fitz in handfcuffs. The reporters and cameras instantly surrounded the police as they walk the school shooter to the car, and in that chaos, Fitz still sees Tate sitting on the stretcher. For only a single second they look at each other in the eyes and Tate can see the message Fitz’s eyes are saying to him.
Rot in hell.
“I gotta say, I expected more infected.” Anahi shrugs while walking down the road with Lisette and Daniel, while she herself plays with her pistol. “Like for real, we only bumped into one.”
“Would you rather have us bump into a horde of them?” Lisette suggest from in front of her, since it was Lisette leading the way to the mall. She was the oldest of the three and most calm and agile when it came to situations, so it only made sense for her to be taking the lead.
“No, but hey, we probably would have kicked the horde’s ass.”
“What are you…….actually, yeah, we probably would of.”
“That’s the spirit.” Anahi smirks, however she then turns toward Daniel, who is a little bit behind. Daniel Valentine, as he revealed his new name last night, randomly shaved last night, and now he looked like less of a douche, but of course he still was one. “And when I say we, I mean Lisette and me.”
“Fuck you too.” Daniel simply says, giving Anahi some pleasure. Yeah, she hates his guts, which was rare for Anahi to hate someone, so making fun of him is what makes the highlights of Lisette and her’s days.
“Hey, I’m just stating the obvious.”
“You know what, Cruz?”
“One day you might just say the wrong thing to me, and I might just shoot your ass.”
“Ouch, I’m so scared.”
“Hey,” Lisette cuts in, “knock it off.” Normally, Lisette was chill with Anahi teasing Daniel and seeing him flip, but the stakes were high right now. “We’re almost there.” After days of walking and fighting with those infected they will finally be able to rest….and get Daniel off their backs.
Anahi, seeing they are close, catches up to Lisette and walks beside her. “So, what do you think the place is like?”
“No duh. You know what I mean.”
“Well, hopefully not some boring, dull place. Yeah, I wanna be safe but I still have some thing’s to do in life, so here’s hoping it’s more than a refugee center. You?”
“Don’t really care, personally. Just getting those infected off my back sounds like heaven.”
“Yeah but don’t you have stuff to do with your life? You’re like, what, twentynine?” Anahi nods. “Still pretty young.”
“Eh, I don’t even know. I haven’t exactly done a lot with my life in the past few years.”
“Just….some problems, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So, Lisette, what do you have to do exactly?”
Lisette shrugs. “Nothing.”
“But you just said…” Before Anahi can finish questioning Lisette, the two girls came to a sudden stop and looked up ahead. Right up the hill was the Franklin Mills Mall that was standing tall and proud. “Oh my God.” Anahi smiles at the sight with Lisette, while Daniel only glanced at it. He had to be prepared for any enemies in there that might want to harm him.
“Stop it!” Tate screams while running down the hallway, seeing ghost after ghost. He saw some of the kids who died at the high school massacre at the cafeteria, he thought he saw Russell staring at him, and so much more. He can’t take it anymore; these damn visions have to stop.
Turning around he notices some of the ghost following him. “Stop following me!” Tate can feel the eyes of the other residents looking at him like he’s a lunatic. “Don’t look at me like that!” Tate lashes out on the. “I’m not crazy!”
As the number of eyes on him grow and the ghost getting closer, Tate grabs his aching head and rubs his eyes, before turning and running off. Running into the nearby exit door, Tate slams the door shut behind him and makes his way up the stairs. He keeps running up and doesn’t dare looking back. He runs up and up and up until finally he sees the entrance to the roof, which he quickly runs through.
Now onto the roof Tate looks around the calm, nice outside but his head is so achey that he can’t enjoy it. His head is spinning, his insides are hurting and all the pain he’s been feeling is finally catching up to him. It was his fault that his mom, Russell, ten kids at his school and Destinee died. It was his fault that the innocent Fitz turned into a killer. He was such a failure, and hell, he should probably just make up for all his mistakes by doing the right thing: jumping off this building His death would certainly appease all those he failed…..
Running toward the edge of the roof Tate peeks over and looks onto the ground, knowing the fall should certainly kill him. He could do this, it’s not like he had anything to live for anymore. In that moment it’s like he could hear the dead moaning for him to do it. Tate closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, before attempting to step onto the ledge.
However, with his bad luck, his foot slipped and he fell back onto the roof, landing directly onto his back; Tate only lets out a loud moan of pain. “Fuck.” He mutters to himself while laying in his area of pain. It looks like finally that Tate has given up.
“Get up, Tate.” A voice soon says and the ruined Tate looks to his right, where a figure comes into a view. From only one glance he thought he knew who it was.
“Destinee?” Tate sits up, doesn’t stand, but sits, while the ghost of Destinee joins him and gets down on her knees right across from him. Destinee looks better than ever with glowing skin, silky blonde hair that has a red rose in it, and wears a lovely blue dress. She looked beautiful.
“You’re not gonna die up here.” She informs him, and like the loving person she is, grabs her fiance by the shoulder. “You’re not going to.”
“Destinee.” Tate says awestrucked, looking once more back into the love of his life. “I’m sorry.”
“I let you die.” Tate speaks his words with pain, clear pain.
“You didn’t let me die, baby. You fought to save me. Because that’s what you do. You fight.”
“I couldn’t fight those infected. I couldn’t fight Fitz’s disease. I can’t fight, baby.” Tate denies her. “You saw the best in me but this is who I really am. Baby, I’m weak, and I’m a coward.” Destinee gives Tate a slap on his shoulder, causing him to slightly flinch.
“Don’t you dare say that. You are the bravest man I ever knew. For years Russell and I treated you like shit, but you kept going. After your mom died you kept going. After the school you kept going. And now, after me and the baby’s death, you are going to still keep going. You’ve always fought the darkness and don’t you dare give up now.”
“No but’s. Baby, this isn’t you, and you know it. You’re drinking and treating others like crap and you were about to just jump off this very building.” Tate can’t bear to look at her out of his own shame. “That man, Michael, is being so nice to you and you keep treating him like crap. Why?”
“He….he could have helped save you. He was there and he--”
“Don’t blame him, and certainly don’t blame yourself. My death was no one’s fault except for mine, and mine alone.” Tate finally looks up at her and stares into her eyes, when she pulls him closer to her. “Listen to me. You’re a fighter, Tate. You’ve always faced the darkness straight up and won, so do it do it again. You’ve fought poverty, death, and beatings, and you never gave in. Tate, you’re my hero.”
Now right near Destinee, Tate pulls her in for a embrace that he wishes could last forever. There they are, a man and his vision of his fiance just hugging on the rooftop, but to him it felt so real. Then, while still embracing her, he plants a loving kiss on her, and she accepts. The two doomed lovers shared a kiss that felt so real to him. Who knew the kiss that wasn’t real could feel the most real.
Once they exited their final kiss, although Tate was very hesitant to do so, Destinee grabbed Tate by the head and pulled him close. “So fight, Tate.” Destinee then stands onto her feet and extends her hand down to Tate. “Get up and fight back.”
Tate, now having a small smile on his face for once, accepts Destinee’s hand and pulls himself up, where he puts his arm around Destinee one last time and they look out into the distance, where despite the outbreak, looked beautiful by the sun. Tate smiles wider and closes his eyes, at peace once more, but once he opens them he finds that his wife is gone, for good this time.
But yet he smiles.
8 Years Ago, 2005
Walking down the dark street that is only lit by a dull street lamp, Tate is honestly just guessing on which way to go. He knows the address and knows some of the streets, but he’s just going on a hunch pretty much.
Tate currently wears jeans, a red tee-shirt with a black vest, and a beanie, and has a sports bag around his shoulder. It’s been about a week since the massacre, and after meetings with the school guidance counselor due to the amount of loss and just how terrifying it was, they let the kids out earlier, even dropping the finals for that year, However, Tate had nowhere to go. He couldn’t stay with Ms. Fitzpatrick, she just had to much on her plate right now, and all because of him. So here he is on the road, going to one place where he hopes he’s accepted.
After walking down a few more blocks Tate finally arrives at what he thinks is the place. Honestly he’s nervous but hopefully everything goes as planned. So slowly he lifts his hand and knocks on the door. It takes a moment but soon enough the door opens to the person he hopes is his host. Destinee. It’s clear she is still in grieving mode as her hair is wild, her mascara runs wildly down her face, and she wears crappy clothing. “I had nowhere else to go.” Is all Tate says, skipping the “hi” and “how are you” bullshit. Destinee, however, doesn’t question and just nods her head, while moving away from the door.
“Come in.” She allows him in and he does, to which she closes the door behind in. Once closed Destinee watches as Tate looks around her house amazed. It was a big house. “Is it nice?”
“Better than most the places I lived in.”
“Thanks. Anyways here’s the living room,” Destinee guides him to the living room, “and you can leave your stuff there.” Destinee points to the table, where Tate walks over to lay his bag down and take his shoes off. Once that’s done Destinee takes a seat on the couch, while Tate takes a seat across from her on the chair.
“Thanks.” Tate simply says.
“Yeah, sure. Anything for a friend, right?”
“Yep.” Tate says, before the room turns silent. They’re both in pain and grieving in their own ways.
“So what happened?” Destinee asks. “I thought you were staying with Ms. Fitzpatrick.”
“I am--I mean, was. She just had so much on her plate, and everytime she looked at me I saw...anger. It’s like she wanted to believe….Fitz that I was against him.” Tate sighs out the words, still feeling the regret of what happened to Fitz, who is rotting in a jail cell right now while his court case is being prepared. “I know my presence alone just bothered her, so I did her the favor and just left before she made me.”
“It did at the moment, but then came the actual me living on my own part. I didn’t know what to do, so I came here.”
“Why here? I mean, I don’t mind, just wondering.”
“Well, we almost died last week. Not only that but we almost died together. He pointed that gun at us, and I felt my life flash before my eyes. You did too, right?” Destinee nods. “We shared that experience of about to die with each other, but we survived together. We both made it out of that experience and…...I don’t know, to me, I think it means something.”
“I’m not sure.” Tate claps his hands together and leans forward on the chair. “So how you been holding up?”
“It’s been tough.”
“Must be. Didn’t know you had feelings.”
“Yeah, surprised me too.” Destinee lightly chuckles. “I keep getting calls from the damn guidance counselor, the news keeps wanting to get a question from ‘The Girl Who Saved the School’, my parents haven’t even spent a damn night with me, and I miss him.”
“Don’t be. Wasn’t your fault. If it’s anyone’s fault I guess it’s Russell’s and me.”
“Hey, don’t be like that. None of us knew what would happen.”
“Still doesn’t change a thing. I was such a bitch and look how it paid off.” Destinee pouts her head and buries it in her hands. Tate, however, wasn’t gonna sit back and watch her be like this, so he moves his seat to next to her.
“Don’t blame yourself. You’re not a bitch Destinee, you’re a good woman.” Tate tries to motivate her but it doesn’t help that much. However while she sulks she remembers something.
“How are you so nice?”
“That night at the dance I made you think I liked you, then I got you shot with paint.”
“You were also the one who stopped them from shooting anymore.” He reminds her.
“Like that. Most people would still hate me, but you, you’re trying to be my friend. Why?”
“I like to see the best in people.”
“Well you certainly dig far in.”
“It pays off.” Tate smiles at her, and she looks at him, puzzled.
“And that. You’re not even tied down from what happened. Hell, look at me, it’s been a week and I’m still eating pints of ice cream and crying my eyes out. But not you.”
“Lemme guess. You wanna know why?” Destinee nods. “Before she died, my mom told me how hard her life was. It sounded horrible but she kept going, and I’ve always wondered why. Only recently did I find out her secret.”
“And what’s the secret?”
“That no matter how bad the world gets, everyone always has family. It doesn’t even gotta be family. As long as there someone you can count on and lean on, then the world isn’t over.” Tate looks over to see Destinee looking at him, with a confused smile on her face. “What?”
“You, Tate Levine, are the weirdest person I ever met.” She slightly giggles. “But you’re also one of the greatest.”
“Thanks. Anyways, I almost forgot what I came here for. You have a spare room I can stay in for the night?”
“Of course.” Destinee stands to her feet, along with Tate who follows her footsteps. “Follow me.” However, as the two make their way out of the living room Destinee suddenly stops and looks at Tate. “And you can stay for as long as you want.”
“Really?” She nods. “You sure?”
“Yeah, it’s like I said, anything for a friend.”
“Alright then, thank you.” Tate smiles at her, and looks right into her eyes. It was there, in that house, that a beautiful friendship was formed, that in due time, would stretch far beyond that. That was the night that lovers truly met.