The light of the moon hit the water tower perfectly to make it seem like a puffy white cloud. Cold breezes often filled the air sounding just like whispers behind closed doors. At the top of this tall place I sat, dangling my feet over the edge. This was the thrill ride I longed and waited for my entire life. One step could bring the rush I enjoy every time I can but I knew, somehow, this wasn’t real.
From atop the water tower, I would have been able to see till the end of the world but this time, it was different. I couldn’t see in front of my face or all around me; I was engulfed in blackness. Then, a soft noise started to echo in my head and I decided to ignore it but it was very persistent. It soon turned into a murmur that quickly became vocal chords to one person.
Jump, sweetie, jump.
No, I couldn’t, I wasn’t ready.
You’ve been waiting for this.
I don’t want to jump and I never would because, a far off voice in my head was saying this was wrong, all wrong. Just then, my flip-flop fell off my foot and with a swoosh went down into the darkness. I listened for a plop to tell me it landed but it never came.
Don’t you want it back?
Then the answer is simple, jump. I will protect you.
I weighed the pros and cons and came up with more pros in favor of falling into the abyss. Whatever you say mom, whatever you say, I will do. So, without any further hesitation, I took the flying leap off the side.
Right after I fell, I heard a deep throated chuckle that made my head swim with childhood memories. But, I believed my mother will protect me from the horror of the evil laugh. She said she would and as the saying goes, mother is always right.
I woke up with a start from the horrendous nightmare. My pillow and sheets were moist with sweat and my breath came in shallow gulps like running in a marathon. I laid back and tried to forget the dream but in a few minutes, I knew that wasn’t possible. My mother’s voice kept ringing through my head and my father’s chuckle left my skin covered in goose bumps.
I peered at my clock and saw it was 7:15, if I didn’t hurry soon, I would be late for school. I quickly threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt; this was my usual dress up look for school and most other places. It wasn’t just because I am sometimes lazy; I don’t want to call any attention to myself. I have enough already from my background and my pile of referrals and that was all I needed.
The bathroom was my next stop; I brushed my teeth and hair examining what I looked like in the mirror. My hair was the color of sand on a California beach and a mess so that instantly went into a ponytail. My eyes were the color grass and had flecks of gold in them so they seemed different everyday, mixing and matching to make a new creation. From the nights and days out with my friends my skin had turned a soft bronze color and my nose had a few freckles.
“Raena, are you coming to eat or should I just throw it all away?” yelled my Aunt Heather. I smiled to myself that was Aunt Heather for you.
“Coming,” I yelled back. My feet raced down the spiral staircase and into the kitchen. “What’s for breakfast?” I asked already spying it.
“Pancakes,” she answered, then in a lower voice asked, “is there something wrong?” My hands must still be shaking because the look on her face was quizzical and I felt sorry she had to worry about me. She had her own problems to cope with and I had mine; you could see this in her worn brown eyes and creases in her forehead. Her husband had died of cancer six years back but she had managed to take care of her two children, Karney and Avvy, then in two more years, me. I could have been in foster care if Aunt Heather had not decided to take me in. If I had to choose the strongest person I knew, it would be Aunt Heather.
“Can I hang with my friends tonight,” this always helped me deal with my problems. Problems from my past that still give me nightmares like the one I had last night. Before she could answer, I added, “by the trestles?”
“Of course, whatever helps,” she said, right before the two kids came in.
“Hey, you guys look a little tired,” I said. They were rubbing their brown eyes and their pale blonde hair was disheveled. They looked like a mix between their parents. When I first came here, they were wary of me but once they got to know me, it was like I was their big sister.
I went over to hug them and get their breakfast for them when I heard the familiar rutter of a very old car engine. A moment later, the door bust open and there stood Slate, looking kingly in his stance.
“I’m here to take Raen to the deathtrap known as school,” he bellowed making everyone know of his presence. He was at least sixteen, two years older than me and normally dropped our crew, Junkies, off at school. At first glance, most would turn and head the other way but underneath all that muscle was a protective teddy bear that took care of the crew and me like a big brother. He was the oldest of us and could easily take anyone down. If I didn’t know him, I would probably be walking away too. He stared at me with his deep blue eyes that said get in the car now. I shook my head no.
“Well, in that case,” he said and without further notice, put me over his shoulders like a sack of flour. I yelped and started beating on his back and pretending to pull out his black mop of hair. This made me forget all about my dream for now. Of course, this was more fun than just walking out to the car, that’s the reason I said no.
As we went out the door, Aunt Heather shook her head in spite of herself and yelled, “Be good today.” I held a thumbs up that I understood and at least, would try.
Slate threw my backpack into the back of his pick-up truck then hefted me in the backseat, “You’re getting heavier so lay off the fries.”
“Hey, its called maturing and maybe you should lay off the meat,” I countered back, that at least got him to shut up.
When I was in the pick-up, there were already two people inside, Naomi and Lyell, both some of my closet friends.
Naomi peered behind her seat and asked, “Want a sucker?”
“Uh, no. You do realize that your teeth are probably going to rot, right?” I said with actual concern. Naomi always seemed to have candy with her. We tried to give her the nick-name of Candy but she quickly declined and said that it was a name for girls on the street trying to sell their bodies, so we all called her Naomi, her real name.
“‘Sucks’ to be you,” she said trying to be funny. As far as I knew, her brown eyes were always mischievous and her brown bob hair-cut completed the look along with red lipstick. She was one year older than me but didn’t look it. I wonder why her and Slate are so off and on with each other, one week they would love each other then the next week they would hate each other. They were both really confusing but this week, I could see that they were together by her look towards Slate.
“Oh, aren’t you so punny,” I said mocking a laugh which made her laugh then the whole car start giggling. Naomi had that effect on people.
“So I guess you are trying to be good with the dentist too?” questioned Lyell, who we all call Lye. He isn’t a liar, not at all, but if he wanted to, he could lie himself out of a sticky situation. Lye was my age and had all the girls running after him. Sometimes, girls at my school would befriend me to get to know him. It was probably because he was the epitome of a mini-Slate except for his eyes. They were the color of gray clouds that would rain any second. He was my only friend at the school and we would do everything together which usually spread rumors of us being a couple, which is not true.
“At least I pay attention in class,” I said teasing him just as we came to an abrupt halt to pick up our smallest member of the Junkies.
“Hey Corky, how are you doing?” I asked bright and cheerful.
“I feel like sun is shining down especially on me and the angels are singing praises of worship,” he replied which made the whole car burst into laughter. This is why he has his nick-name; his real name is Corcoran and it just didn’t fit him at all. He is always good for a laugh and he never ceases to surprise us. His hazel eyes are smiling everyday and his reddish brown hair is always unkempt. He gets dropped off at the same place Lye and I do but is a year younger.
“Looks like all the Junkies are here so to the school!” Slate screeched, revving up the truck.
“Hey, are we going to the trestles today and do some dolphin jumping or something more classic like a cannonball?” asked Corky.
“Yes we are but we are doing the running man,” replied Naomi.
“Oh darn,” said Corky, “I forgot my running shoes.”
“Guess you’re not a Junkie then,” I said casually.
Corky faked a surprise face and a look of stunned slash hurt expression. Of course, he would still go to the trestle that was out hang out spot to get high. The natural kind of high called adrenaline that is, not the other artificial stuff. Other people gave us the name of Junkies and we were called it so often that we started calling ourselves that. We don’t do really scary things; all we do is jump off the trestles and run around screaming. Which, on most occasions, annoys somebody walking by our craziness. They say we are good for nothing kids who won’t do anything in life which gets on our nerves. Our group, we don’t do anything bad, we do stuff to forget, make memories, or to have fun. As a poem, a favorite of mine, says, “We real cool. We left school. We lurk late…” We don’t leave school too often but I think this poem represents us pretty well.
“Okay, here we are, Cali Middle School,” Naomi tried to say cheerfully but it was no use, we didn’t like school. Corky, Lye, and I all groaned but got out of the car and retrieved our backpacks. We waved Slate and Naomi goodbye and headed to our first period class.
For me, my first period class was gym and the only class without Lye to hang out with. The reason was because it was an all girl’s class which meant gum smacking and short shorts and all the drama you could ever want. Fun.
“All right, partner up we are going to do some crunches!” bellowed Coach Stevens. She was a burly woman that when she said ‘some’ she meant a couple hundred. But, that was all right, I was fit enough. Most girls think Stevens has her panties in a bunch and I thought so too but I was completely wrong. I once saw her pick up a lost puppy that had a broken leg, the next day she was walking the same dog but it had a splint. I never thought about her the same way again.
I scanned the crowd to try to find a girl that had a skin color found in nature and non-bleached hair. My eyes caught on a girl that still seemed pretty fake but would probably change in a week or so.
“Wanna be my partner?” I asked her nicely but her eyes flicked back and forth trying to find someone more popular and a Barbie-look-alike. Yep, she was a new kid, probably a week or so new.
“Sure,” she said disgruntled but then she peeked at my face and her eyes lit up. It was like she had seen me before and wanted to start a whole conversation.
“Ok, on the ground and do fifty crunches then twenty push-ups,” Coach Stevens said and blew her whistle to let everyone know she meant business.
I instantly went to do crunches and the girl held down my feet. We talked, well she talked, about how she wanted to go to a tanning bed and get her hair dyed blonde. Typical, I thought. The only thing I remember was her name; Savanna.
“So, you’re, like, one of those Junkie kids, right?” she asked like I said, were we sort of famous.
I nodded my head. Her next question made me want to sock her in the face.
“So, you, like, do drugs?” this girl was idiotic.
“No,” I said infuriated, “we get high naturally not fake like most of the people in here.”
“Oh,ok. That’s good,” she was quiet for a while which I was glad for.
“So,” she dragged on for a little, “you, like, hang out with Lye right?”
I gave her an incredulous look that made her look away. I laughed, she was scared of me.
“ ‘Course I do, we’re buddies.”
“So you’re not, like, a thing?”
I decided to be funny with this, “Oh, we’re just, you know, human beings.”
“I didn’t mean that, I meant as, like, boyfriend and girlfriend,” she giggled.
This girl has made me reach my boiling point. No way in the world would Lye like such an imbecile. She sounds like a robot saying ‘like’ so much and people call me useless. I bet they haven’t even met this girl. Just like that, before I could process anything, I started yelling her out.
“You are kidding me right? Lye would never in his right mind go out with you. I might as well punch you in your pinched face for all I care,” I was practically screaming. First, she calls me a tweaker who uses those awful drugs. Then, she asks about Lye which is sickening.
“Raena,” says Stevens, “the principal’s office, now.” My face was probably as red as the California sunset. She said this but she looked sad for me to go and I was too.
Us Junkies, we sometimes get into fights. Not bad ones that get us super hurt but the kind that people make us do it. Which are usually idiots who get on our nerves, I’ve been in my fair share.
The principal’s office was familiar to me by now. There were bookcases, comfy chairs, and a desk where the principal sat and he did not look happy.
“Raena, you have got to control your anger,” I looked down at my shoes, they were Converse, worn and old by being outside so much. We have had this talk many times before.
“I know your mom died and your father left you for your aunt but that doesn’t mean you can act this way,” he continued. I can’t believe he brought that up. My dream came back with a sick feeling in my stomach. My eyes started to water.
“I’m going to have to give you a referral,” he said sadly. I nodded solemnly and peered up at him. He looked like he was about to cry.
“You have so much potential, Raena,” he softly said. I wanted to comfort him but I thought that was uncalled for. I didn’t have any potential though. All I got were As and Bs in classes and tried to learn, nothing special.
“May I be excused?” I asked and he nodded. I made a beeline for the girl’s bathroom and stayed in there for the entire day crying. My Aunt Heather is going to flip once she knew I yelled at a girl and skipped the rest of the day. I wanted to leave so bad and head towards the ocean. But, I stayed in there till the bell rang and ran out to the trestles to be who I truly am; a Junkie.