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    -:• Once •:-


    Posts : 139
    Location : Bayport :D

    -:• Once •:-

    Post  DolphinSinger on Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:00 pm


    It’s another one of those boring, rainy days in Bayport.
    The kind where you want to just stay inside, forget about homework, maybe make a few paper air planes and babyishly pretend they’re real…or throw them at your older brother.
    “Joe…please…” comes Franks boring voice from the desk where he’s pouring over his homework like a good little school boy.
    I roll my eyes and aim another at the back of his head.
    “Missed.” He mumbles, chewing the end of his pencil, as my aircraft smashes into the wall above his desk, bending it’s nose.
    “Yeah, and not for the first time.” I sigh, climbing down from the top bunk, and throwing myself into the navy blue bean bag chair.
    My Name is Joe Hardy. I’m 13 years old and I hate school with every fiber of my being. My family and I moved to Bayport, New York last summer and since then, my life has been utterly miserable. I constantly get picked-on at school and I haven’t made a single friend since the move.
    My brother Frank is a year older than me, loves school (for the most part) likes Bayport and is adored by every teacher he comes in contact with.
    “Did you say something…?” Frank asks distractedly.
    “I didn’t say anything..”
    Frank repositions his reading glasses and continues working.
    I rub my tongue over my braces, bored out of my mind.
    I wish something completely unexpected and awesome would happen…
    Frank taps his pencil on the desk.
    I doubt it.

    “Dad? Are we almost there…?”
    “Nance, you asked me this two minutes ago.”
    “I know…” I sigh, pressing my face up against the damp car window. “I’m just so bored.”
    My Dad smiles and positions the rear-view mirror so he can see me. “We’ll be there before you know it, sweetheart.”
    I smile wearily and return to gazing longingly out of the rain-streaked backseat window.
    We’re on our way to Bayport, NY. My Dad has some business there…which means we’ll be staying awhile.
    I’m kind of nervous about going to a new school…but Dad says he thinks I’ll love it and make lots of new friends in the 8th grade. I know he’s just saying that because he’s my Dad.
    The soft autumn rain runs down my window peacefully as cars wiz along the gray highway. All in a desperate hurry to get nowhere in particular.
    I yawn and lean back, my eyes slowly closing.
    I’m soon out like a light.


    Dad rummages through his pocket for the correct key to our condominium.
    I shift my weight from my right foot to my left and Dad takes out a small silver key and unlocks the door.
    “After you.” He says with a dramatic sweep of his hand.
    I giggle and proceed inside.
    Dad flicks on the lights to revile a spacious living room with empty beige walls, beige carpets and generic beige furniture.
    “What do you think?” Dad asks, rolling our suitcases inside.
    “It’s very…beige.”
    My Dad chuckles and opens a door that branches off of the living room. “You’re room is this way.”
    I follow close behind, as Dad leads me into a room much like the living room. Beige walls with a beige bed and a white dresser. A large window at the far end of the room looks out towards the distant ocean.
    “I’m going to get unpacked.” Dad says after a moment. “Here’s your suitcase”
    “Okay, thanks Daddy.”
    I pull my large sky blue suitcase over to the dresser and begin unpacking all my stuff.
    I set my framed picture of Togo on top of the dresser and smile as bittersweet feelings fill my heart. I miss River Heights already.
    I sigh and fall back onto the beige bed and stare up at the ceiling.
    This is going to be a long trip….

    “Joe, you’re gonna be late…again” Frank’s annoying older brother voice echoes through my head.
    I prop myself up on my elbow. “Late for what?”
    Frank sighs.
    “I can’t go to school today, Frank…I…don’t feel well.” I fib, trying my best to look pathetic.
    Frank rolls his eyes. “Joe, you conveniently get sick more often than anyone I’ve ever known.” He quickly feels my forehead. “You’re good. Now come on, or we’ll be late.”
    I groan and drag myself down the bunk ladder. Let the torture begin…
    After taking a ridiculously long time getting ready, I trudge downstairs where Mom is waiting with my backpack.
    She raises an eyebrow. “You’re going to be late if you don’t hurry along.” Now you know where Frank gets his punctuality from.
    My Dad is seated at the kitchen table beside Frank, who is finishing a powdered doughnut.
    “Good morning, Joe.”
    “Morning Dad.”
    I hesitate for a moment.
    “…Mom? I reeeeeeaaalllly don’t think I should go to school today…” I say slowly. “I don’t feel that well.”
    My Mom glances from me to Frank, who gives her the “He’s lying” look and she turns back to me. “Joe…please be good.” she says wearily.
    I sigh defeated and throw myself into a chair beside Mom.
    I quickly eat breakfast, grab my things and head outside…or rather, Frank drags me outside and onto the bus as soon as it arrives.
    I reeeeaaalllly HATE riding the bus…probably even more than I hate school itself.
    “Fraaaaaank!” an annoying voice calls over the noise of kids talking. I glance to my left where Delores, the girl Frank has been avoiding all week, is patting the empty seat beside her.
    Frank swallows hard and I roll my eyes, heading towards the back of the bus.
    I find an empty seat by the window and sit down.
    At the next stop, my two worst nightmares board the bus and conveniently take the seat directly behind me.
    “Well, if it isn’t little Joe ‘metal-mouth’ Hardy” Brandon snickers as the bus starts moving again.
    Have I mentioned I’m the only kid in my class that wears braces? Yeah. Makes school even MORE fun.
    Brandon Simmons and Cole Foster are probably the two most evil 10th graders on the planet…or at least at Bayport High.
    “Hey Joe, want a piece of gum?” Brandon asks.
    “Dude,” Cole retorts. “Metal mouth can’t have gum, had to get his jaw wired shut, remember?”
    I feel my face go red.
    “Ohh, riiiiiiight.” Brandon laughs. “Because he wouldn’t shut up!”
    I glance towards the front of the bus were Frank is still trying to figure out how to talk to Delores and her friend.
    “Right!” Cole snickers. “That’s why he’s always such a quiet dork.”
    I take a deep breath and whirl around “Would you guys just shut up for once in your pitiful lives?”
    A split second later the back of my head hits the window so hard I see stars.
    Brandon shoves his face into mine. “Who did you just call pitiful, Metal-Mouth?” he hisses into my left ear.
    I feel his large, sweaty hand close around my throat in a vice grip as he smashes my face against the window and holds me there.
    I squirm in my seat desperately.
    “What’s the matter, dork?” I hear Cole sneer from behind him. “Can’t take the pressure?”
    “Everyone, back in their seats NOW!” The driver shout’s hoarsely.
    Brandon’s grip loosens and I gasp for air, slumping down in my seat painfully.
    “This isn’t over, Metal-Mouth.” Brandon whispers hoarsely, sitting back down.



    “I’m almost ready!” I quickly slide my strawberry blonde hair into a loose side ponytail.
    I snatch my blue paisley print backpack from my bed and dash into the living room where Dad is waiting, briefcase-in-hand by the door.
    “Daddy, do I look okay?” I ask sliding my white vintage style jacket on over my light green striped polo shirt.
    I’d also selected my dark blue jeans and light green boots to match. I take first impressions very seriously.
    “You look beautiful, sweetheart.” My Dad kisses my forehead and gently nudges me out the door. “We don’t want you to be late on you’re first day.”
    I shake my head. “Punctuality is everything, right Daddy?”
    “Right, Nancy.”
    Daddy wanted to drive me to school since it’s my first day and all. He’s sweet like that.
    “…You have my cell phone number, so if you need anything at all or if anything goes amiss, call me right away.”
    “Okay, Dad.”
    “and remember,” Dad pulls into the school parking lot. “don’t eat any candy at lunch that will stick to your braces, your orthodontist will have a fit and so will I.”
    “Yes, Dad.”
    “And make sure you don’t run inside, you might fall and-”
    I smile. “I’ll be fine Daddy.” I kiss his cheek. “See you after school.”
    “Have fun, sweetheart.”
    I hop out at the door. “I will.”
    I wave to my father once more as he pulls away, then I head inside.
    The hallways are packed with high-schoolers and the noise of everyone talking at once is deafening.
    I squeeze my way through the hall, searching for the correct classroom.
    Not paying attention, I check my watch as I continue walking.
    Suddenly I bump into something-or someone. Papers fly everywhere.
    “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I say quickly stooping down and grabbing a handful of papers from the dirty-ish floor.
    “No, it was my fault, really.” I look up to see a boy who looks to be around my age, with messy blonde hair, bright blue eyes and braces.
    He scoops up the rest of the papers and I hand him the ones I had been holding.
    He looks at me for a moment. “You new here?”
    I nod. “Yeah, it’s my first day. My Dad and I are staying in Bayport for a few months.” I push a stand of hair out of my face. “I’m Nancy.”
    “It’s, uh…Nice to meet you.” The boy stutters then he smiles a little. “I’m Joe.” He shoves the papers back into his backpack.
    “What grade are you in?” He asks.
    “8th…if I can find the classroom that is…”
    “I guess we’re in the same grade then.” Joe tells me. “I can show you where our classroom is.”
    I follow Joe down the crowded hallways until he stops at a doorway and hold’s it open for me.
    I smile. “Thank you.”

    “Are you sure you’re okay?” Frank asks me for the third time as we walk briskly down the school hallway.
    “I’m fine.” I cringe and touch the back of my head gingerly. “…I hate those guys.”
    “Ditto.” Frank sighs. “I’ll see you at lunch, okay?”
    “Yeah..” I rub my temple and continue down the hallway, my head beginning to throb with a headache.
    I pull my homework assignment out of my backpack and read it over as I walk.
    My parents high hopes for an improved report card are about to be bashed.
    I distractedly make the corner and crash into someone, hard. My homework flies every which way.
    “Oh my gosh,” a girl’s voice exclaims. “I’m so sorry!”
    “No, it was my fault, really.” I say quickly.
    Blushing slightly I begin scooping up the fallen worksheets.
    And my family wonders why I hate school. I always seem to humiliate myself one way or another. I knew I should have stayed home today.
    The girl straightens up and hands me the rest of my homework. She smiles revealing a mouthful of bright white teeth dotted with light blue braces to match her sparkling blue eyes…
    I clear my throat nervously, and realizing that I’d been staring, ask her a lame, over spoken question. “You new here?”
    I mentally whack myself. Why did I just say that? I frighteningly feel like Frank for a second but recover in time to hear the girl reply.
    “Yeah, it’s my first day. My Dad and I are staying in Bayport for a few months.” She pushes a strand of reddish-blonde hair away from her face. “I’m Nancy.”
    “It’s, uh… nice to meet you” I stammer and smile nervously as I shove my homework assignments back into my pack, racking my brain for something else to say. “What grade are you in?” …Either, I’ve been hanging around Frank too much or my brain cells got a bit scrambled from the beating I took on the bus. ’What grade are you in?’ is a question I would expect my great Aunt Matilda to ask me when she comes for her annual holiday visit, not something I would ask a girl, especially since she‘s the first person in the whole school who’s even bothered to acknowledge my existence!
    “8th” She tells me, then with a little laugh she says.“ if I can find the classroom that is…”
    “I guess we’re in the same grade then.” No kidding, Joe. “I can show you where our classroom is.”
    I soon find myself winding my way through the halls with Nancy at my heels until we reach a dreadfully familiar white door.
    I step inside and hold the door open for Nancy.
    “Thank you.” She says, smiling.
    “Uh, no problem.” I say quickly.
    I head over to my desk and sit down, trying to relax but failing miserably.


    I press a cold bottle of fruit juice against the back of my head, where, I’m sure, a nasty bruise is starting to form.
    Frank mutters off some inaudible math equation under his breath, as he scribbles something into a notebook beside his tray of food. He never takes a break. Not even at lunch.
    The noisy roar of an overfull cafeteria rings through my sore head.
    “Joe?” Frank asks after a moment. “Why haven’t you eaten anything?”
    I sigh and push my tray to the side. “Not that hungry, I guess.” The very thought of having to ride the bus home is starting to make me nauseous.
    Frank raises one eyebrow. “Okay…”
    “It’s nothing, Frank…” I mumble, resting my head on my right fist.
    “Would it be okay if I sit here?” A new voice asks, startling me ever so slightly.
    “Nancy,” I quickly pull the bottle away from my head and set it on the table. “Uh, Hi.”
    Nancy smiles, “Hi, Joe.” She sets her tray down, and Frank looks up from his notebook, his nerd glasses falling to the tip of his nose.
    “Sure, sit wherever.” He tells her, then gives me a questioning sidelong glance.
    “Thanks.” Nancy seats herself across from me and glances around. “It’s so crowded in here!”
    “Yeah.” Frank agrees. “And noisy, hard to study.”
    I roll my eyes. “Most people don’t study in a cafeteria, Frank.”
    A moment after introducing Frank to Nancy, he returns to flipping through his notebook, and Nancy resumes mixing dressing into her salad.
    I shake my foot nervously.
    “So,” Nancy turns to me. “What are you into, Joe?”
    “Umm..” I didn’t really expect her to ask me that. “I like anything involving mysteries. Especially mystery books.”
    Nancy’s face brightens like a light. “Oh, I adore mysteries!”
    “Yes! I mean, in my opinion, solving supposedly ‘unsolvable’ or dangerous crimes is pretty awesome.”
    “Totally!” I smile, starting to feel a little more comfortable talking to her. “I want to become a secret agent when I’m older.”
    “That would be awesome!” Nancy swirls her straw around in her bottle of water. “Do you read Sherlock Holmes?”
    I nod. “Read the Hound of Baskervilles twice.”
    Nancy smiles approvingly, then rummages through her backpack, takes out a small book and sets it down in front of me.
    “World’s Greatest Thefts, Mysteries and UFO sightings.” I read the title aloud. “Sounds awesome.”
    “It’s one of my favorites. You can borrow it if you’d like.”
    I glance up. “You sure?”
    “Course.” she waves her hand dismissively. “I’ve read it so many times I’ve had nightmares about aliens turning my dog into an asteroid.”
    I laugh. “Wow, hopefully it gives me the same effect.”


    “I wish it would stop raining.” I sigh, taking the plate from my Dad’s hand and rubbing it dry with a beige dishrag.
    “Mmm.” My Dad murmurs in agreement.

    It had turned out to be another rainy September day in Bayport. It had started pouring buckets by the time I’d gotten off of the bus at the condo, and it hasn’t stopped since.
    “How was work today, Daddy?”
    My Dad sighs and hands me the last plate. “It… was a long day.”
    He dries his hands and seats himself at the kitchen table. “Nance, we need to talk.”
    I give him a questioning look and head over to the table.
    “Is something wrong?”
    “No,” Dad rubs the back of his neck and sighs. “It’s just…“ He pauses. “See, I’m going to be working pretty late from here on out, and I know you won’t like the idea but, I hate the thought of you here by yourself…so…”
    “Dad, I don’t need a babysitter!” I groan. “I’m13 years old. I can manage.”
    “Nancy, I understand what you’re trying to say, but…” His voice trails off. “I’m going to have so many things on my mind, I don’t want to worry about you too.”
    “Please, Dad.” I fold my hands together. “I’ll be fine, I promise.”
    “Are you sure?” Dad runs his fingers through his short brown hair. “I just don’t like the idea of you being here by yourself until I get back, which won’t be until after nine…maybe even ten
    “I’m totally sure.” I smile. “You don’t have to worry about a thing.”
    My Dad smiles and gives my hand a squeeze. “I love you Nancy.”
    I smile back. “I love you too, Daddy.”
    Dad stands up and walks over to the refrigerator.
    “Hey, Dad?” I begin after a moment. “Would it be okay if I hang out with Joe at his house after school tomorrow? He invited me over for the afternoon.”
    “He’s this boy I met today at school.”
    “Uh-huh.” Dad fills a glass with water.
    “He’s really nice, and he’s into mysteries just like me.”
    “Is that so?” Dad sips his water and sits back down. “I suppose that’d fine.”
    “Mrs. Hardy would be able to give me a ride back here if I don‘t take my bike.” I tell him.
    “Sounds fine.” He smiles. “I told you you’d make new friends at school.”
    I smile. “True.”
    Dad yawns and glances at the clock above the stove. “It’s late. We should both be getting to bed.”
    “Awww.” I whine. “It’s only 9:00.”
    “I know, but I’ve got a long day ahead of me tomorrow.” Dad says, ruffling my hair.

    By the time I brush my teeth and get ready for bed it’s 10:00, and I am utterly exhausted.
    I jump into the springy bed and turn out the light.
    A tiny streak of light shines through the window, casting eerie shadows across the carpet.
    I sigh and stare up at the ceiling, sleep unwilling to come.
    “This just doesn’t feel like my room” I think, a twinge of homesickness stinging my heart.
    I sigh and squeeze my eyelids shut, determined to get to sleep.


    The next morning flies by.
    Dad is in a rush to get to work, I’m in a rush to get to school.
    I still feel tired from sleeping awkwardly last night, but I try hard to pay attention in class.
    I have lunch with Joe and his brother Frank again and then more classes.
    By the time I climb on the bus I’m once again exhausted.
    A half an hour later, we reach the condo.
    I thank the bus driver politely, and hop off.
    Fishing through my pocket, I take out the key Dad had made for me, and let myself inside.
    It’s strangely quiet…eerily quiet actually. So quiet, you could hear a mouse breathe.
    I gasp, as a sudden hum fills the air.
    Shutting the door and locking it quickly, I lean back against it…then realize it’s only the refrigerator turning itself on.
    I roll my eyes at how skittish I am.
    Sliding my backpack off, I toss it onto the couch and leave the apartment again.
    I head over to the small garage, unlock it and drag my blue vintage cruiser bike out.
    I pull a small square of paper from my sweater pocket and read over the directions Joe had scribbled down for me at lunch.
    Since the Hardy’s only live a few blocks away, Dad told me I could take my bike.
    I squint at the messy hand writing, wondering if it says ‘left’ or ‘right.’
    After finally deciding it looks more like a ’left’, I hop on my bike and begin peddling down the sidewalk at a reasonable pace, occasionally driving through a puddle for the fun of it.
    As much as I miss River Heights, I must confess, Bayport is adorable.
    Being close to the ocean, most of the houses have a beach cottage theme, with weathered or whitewashed woodwork and wrap-around porches, with hanging baskets of flowers and decorative nautical weathervanes on the rooftops.
    A scattering of sunglass and surf shops bring color to the center of town.
    Ten minutes later, I turn down Handi Ave, a quiet street lined with ancient oak trees and beautiful homes.
    The fifth house down is a medium sized, light gray house with burgundy shudders and a white wraparound porch.
    This must be the Hardy’s I think to myself, turning into the driveway, it matches Joe’s description to a T.
    I park my bike beside the garage, trot up the white porch steps and ring the door bell.
    A moment later, a woman who looks to be in her 30’s with short pixie cut, brown hair and sharp green eyes framed with narrow, red rimmed glasses appears in the doorway.
    She smiles. “You must be Nancy.”
    “Yes, I am.”
    “Come on in!”
    I step into the light yellow entryway, and am immediately greeted by the overwhelmingly delicious sent of fresh baked bread.
    “Oh my gosh,” The woman turns to me. “Is that your bike?”
    “Um…yes.” I reply timidly.
    “It’s adorable!” she straightens her glasses. “I’m obsessed with vintage things.”
    “Really? So am I.” I smile.
    “Then we’ll get along extremely well.” She chuckles, closing the door behind me. “I’m Trudy by the way, Frank and Joe’s aunt.”
    “It’s nice to meet you, Trudy.” I say, hoping it’s okay to call her by her first name.
    She leads me down the hall and into a medium sized kitchen, that looks as if it were a picture from a home decorating magazine.
    The room is a creamy egg nog color, with rosey floral curtains, cottage windows and sky lights.
    “Hi Nancy.” Frank, who is seated at the kitchen table, looks up from the mess of papers in front of him.
    “Hey, Frank.”
    A woman with long dark brown hair pulled into a bun, wearing a light green apron, glances towards me and smiles. “You must be Nancy, hello, have a seat, make yourself at home.” She says quickly with a smile, yanking a small book from one of the cabinets. “I just made snicker doodles,” she continues. “They’re on the table if you’d like one, and Joe should be downstairs any minute, I told him he had to finish his homework before he forgot about it.”
    “Oh, okay.” I take a seat at the rectangular kitchen table across from Frank. “Snicker doodles are my all time favorite.” I announce, snatching a warm cookie from the top of the heaping mound, piled high on a light pink glass dish.
    “Oh good, have as many as you’d like.” Mrs. Hardy replies, taking a tray of incredible looking bread from the oven.
    “I’m surprised you were able to read Joe’s directions.” Frank says, pushing the stack of papers to one side and tapping his pencil on the table. “He has the worlds messiest handwriting.”
    I laugh. “I wouldn’t go that far, but it wasn’t easy.”
    Trudy sits down at the end of the table, magazine in hand.
    “What are you working on?” I ask Frank, taking a bit of the still-warm heavenly scented cookie.
    “An essay on the early writings of Charles Dickens.” He sighs, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger.
    “Oh…” I search for something to say. “Sounds…fun.”
    He laughs a little. “Yeah it’s awesome.”
    “Hey, Nancy!” Joe enters the kitchen and flops down into a chair across from his aunt.
    “Hi Joe!”
    “Did you finish your homework?” Mrs. Hardy asks sternly.
    “Yes, Mom.” Joe sighs, taking a handful of cookies from the plate and tossing them onto a napkin.
    “I’m so glad the rain stopped.” I comment. “I have really been aching to use my bike here.”
    “Have you been to the beach yet?” Joe asks.
    I shake my head. “Not yet. Dad’s been too busy to take me.”
    “Would you kids mind going into the living room so I can get this table ready for the shoot?” Mrs. Hardy asks, placing the loaves of bread on a long, silver tray.
    “Sure.” Frank gathers up the stack of papers and Joe steals another handful of cookies from the plate bfore heading into the living room.
    “Your Mom does photo shoots?” I ask, following them.
    “Yeah. For a home and garden magazine.” Joe replies, seating himself on the soft green sofa. “She takes pictures of food mostly.”
    “Oh, that’s cool.” I say.
    “Oh, that’s cool.” comes a scratchy mocking voice.
    “That’s just Playback.” Joe tells me casually.
    Frank gets up and walks across the room to a large perch-type-thing, and returns with a large red parrot.
    “Hellooooo!” It screams.
    I giggle and touch the birds head cautiously.
    “Hey Nance?” Joe asks. “Do you play video games?”


    I stare up at the ceiling, fighting back the sickening thoughts of school that are beginning to drift through my mind.
    Today was awesome.
    Nancy is unlike anyone I’ve ever met before. She doesn’t seem to mind that I turn into a complete klutz around her, as I stutter through conversations and feel like a complete idiot.
    She’s the only person who’s ever been able to beat me at a video game! I still can’t get over it….
    “Frank? Are you ever going to turn the lamp off?” I groan and pull my covers over my head.
    I roll my eyes. “Nothing.”
    Even though it’s past 10:00 at night, Frank insisted that he has to finish his report. I want my own room.
    “I’ll be done in a few minutes, Joe.” He says, tapping his pencil on his desk. “Do you remember the name of the prison that ‘Little Dorrit’ is set in?” …Frank asks the strangest questions.
    “How would I know?” I tell him. “I never read it.”
    “It was something-‘sea’ at the end.” He opens a book and begins thumbing through it.
    “Hey Frank?” I ask after awhile.
    “What did you think of today?” I prop myself up on my elbow an peer down at the desk where Frank is working.
    Frank lowers the book from his face. “What did I think of today?” he pauses and gives me a smirk. “I think.. someone has a crush on Nancy!”
    “Do not!” I shout, my face going red.
    I toss one of my spare paper planes at Frank. “I don’t!”
    Frank snaps the lamp off and crawls into the lower bunk. “Whatever you say Joe…”

    The weeks fly by.
    School drags on, painfully…and I mean literally. Brandon and Cole manage to ruin almost everyday of my life and I have bruises to prove it.
    The only thing that makes school worth the suffering, is being able to see Nancy everyday.
    We hang out after school pretty much everyday too, until her Dad gets back from work.
    I have managed, so far, to keep the bullying at school a secret from Nancy. I don’t want her to know me as ‘the dork who gets beaten up on the school bus.’
    I really do like Nancy…but I could never tell her that.
    It hasn’t really sunk into my brain yet, that, in a few short weeks… Nancy will be gone.

    “Hurry up!” Nancy calls, from about 10 yards ahead of me.
    I brush the leaves, blowing whimsically through the air, out of my face and peddle faster.
    Nancy takes a sharp turn down Beach View Boulevard and glances over her shoulder as the October wind whips through her strawberry blonde hair.
    I dodge a woman walking a baker’s dozen dogs and try to keep up with Nancy.
    It’s the second Saturday in October and probably the windiest weekend of all time.
    We weave our way through sidewalk construction and then turn onto the almost empty board walk.
    I pick up speed and catch up to Nancy. “Race you to the sand.”
    Nancy laughs, and peddles faster. So do I.
    By the time we reach the first opening to the beach we’re going too fast to stop. Our bikes crash into the sand, tip over and dump us onto the beach, in an out-of-breath heap.
    I gasp for air and brush the sand off of me. “That….was awesome!”
    Nancy nods and bursts out laughing. “It was!”
    She pulls off her sneakers and socks and stands up.
    “You’re going in the water?” I shake the sand out of my hair. “It’s freezing!”
    “I don’t care!” Nancy laughs running into the roaring tide.
    I follow her until I reach the frigid water, where I stop and wait at a safe distance.
    Nancy wades in up to her knees for a few seconds and then runs back into shore.
    “Gosh, that’s freezing!”
    “Told you.”
    Nancy laughs. “True.”
    We walk further down the vacant beach. It seems we’re the only ones crazy enough to be out here on this cold, windy day.
    “I love the ocean.” Nancy says after a few moments. “It’s so…big.”
    “It’s great kite flying weather.” Nancy points out.
    “You’re right.” I nod.
    I search desperately for something to say…something that would make sense anyway, but before I have a chance to, a huge wave crashes onto shore, soaking us both up to our ankles.
    We both let out involuntary screams and make a mad dash to our bikes, laughing hysterically all the way.
    Nancy yanks her shoes on and we drag our bikes back onto the boardwalk.
    “I’m starving” Nancy declares, hopping back on her light blue bike. “Want to go back to my place and have lunch?”
    “Uh, yeah, sure, I mean, totally.” I stammer.
    “M’kay, then.” Nancy smiles and begins peddling back down the boardwalk.
    I follow close behind, as we ride around Bayport’s windy coast.
    I’d never been to Nancy’s condominium. She’d always told me it was ‘boring and beige’ and that she preferred to be over my house.
    After awhile, we reach the center of town.
    We halt at a busy intersection, and just happen to be stopped directly in front of the bookstore…just as a sickeningly familiar figure emerges from inside.
    I quickly glance in the other direction, hoping with all my heart that he hadn’t seen me.
    “Joe?” Nancy asks. “You okay?”
    Before I can reply a pair of grubby, worn sneakers steps into my downward gaze.
    “Oh, how adorable!” the tall, red haired bully drawls. “Metal Mouth and Brace Face!”
    I feel my heart sink into my stomach.
    Why me?! Why today?!
    Standing up to Brandon Simmons is pretty much punishable by death. If you’ve ever been to Bayport High, you’ve heard the horror stories from past victims. So normally, I let myself be tortured or wait for Frank to politely ask them to quit it, but today I’m with Nancy. I’m not going to embarrass myself in front of her.
    “Brandon, get a life.” I look straight into his frighteningly dark eyes.
    Nancy shoots me a worried sidelong glance.
    Brandon clamps a damp, thick hand over my face. “No one talks to me like that, Metal Mouth.” He digs his fingernails into my forehead. “Especially not you-”
    Catching him off guard, and mustering up every ounce of courage, I yank his hand off my face and shove him away.
    He staggers backward before regaining his balance, his face turning infuriatingly red.
    My eyes widen, with both fear of becoming mincemeat, and shock, at what I had just dared to do.
    Brandon opens his mouth to say something but another voice cuts in.
    “Come on Brandon!” I glance in the opposite direction where Brandon’s father, an equally tall redhead is standing by, shopping bag in hand. “We don’t have all day!”
    Brandon closes his mouth and casts me a terrifying glare.
    As he turns and begins walking away, he pauses to stare me in the face.
    “You’re gonna pay for this.”
    I take a deep breath and return to watching the traffic which now pauses for us to cross.
    Pushing my bike across the street, I begin to wonder what nightmare I’ve gotten myself into this time.
    “What was that all about?” Nancy’s concerned voice pulls me out of my thoughts.
    I glance from her worried face to my handlebars. “It, was, um…nothing really.”
    “Do you even know him?”
    “In a way…” I say slowly. “Do we turn left here?” I make a lame attempt to change the subject and surprisingly it works.
    “Yeah, left and onto Shore End St.”
    There is a deafeningly awkward silence until we finally reach the condominium.
    Nancy parks her bike by the small garage and I do the same.
    She then leads me up a small flight of stairs and finally to the front door of the apartment.
    As Nancy fishes through her jean pockets a worried expression crosses her face.
    “No way…” I hear her mumble to herself. She sifts through her pocket contents, which consist of loose change, paper clips and a neon green eraser.
    “Something wrong?”
    “Yeah, actually.” Nancy sighs, exasperated. She leans back against the door. “I seem to have misplaced the, um…key.”
    “No problem, though.” Nancy’s face brightens.
    “What do you mean, ‘no problem?’” I ask, puzzled.
    She quickly slides a bobby pin out of her hair and shoves it into the keyhole. “I mean, I’m gonna pick this lock.” She smiles.
    “You know how to do that?”
    “Course, don’t you?”
    “Umm…” I raise one eyebrow, not really knowing how to answer. “No.”
    “It’s easier than it looks.” Nancy grabs my arm and pulls me over to the door. “All you have to do is-” She hands me the pin. “-Take this, and insert it this way, with both ends going into the keyhole, then slowly turn it until you feel the tumblers line up. This is an older lock so it’ll be a piece of cake.”
    “…Okay.” I slide it into to lock and after jiggling the tumblers, turn it.
    The door pops open.
    “Nice job!” Nancy smiles, walking into the living room.
    “Thanks.” Without thinking I slide the pin out of the lock and shove it into my hoodie pocket. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought.”
    “It never is.” She replies. “That was good for your first time. If you’re going to be a secret agent, you need to learn this stuff.” She grins and tosses her jacket onto the nearest sofa.
    Nancy was right. This Condo is very beige.
    I follow Nancy into the kitchen and sit down at the table. “How did you learn to do that?”
    “Do what?”
    “Pick a lock.”
    “Oh.” Nancy waves her hand dismissively. “I can’t remember, I’ve known how to do it for ages. I probably read it.” She opens the refrigerator and takes out two sandwich sized squares neatly wrapped in wax paper. “It looks like my Dad made a few turkey sandwiches with cranberry mayo and lettuce this morning. Is that good with you?”
    I nod. “Sounds good.”
    “Dad usually leaves me a ton of pre-made food, so I don’t have to make anything.” She continues. “He’s so afraid I’ll burn the apartment down trying to cook something.”
    “How late does your Dad work?”
    “He gets home around 9 or 9:30.” Nancy sighs. “We’ve hardly seen each other.”
    She sets a light blue paper plate with a sandwich, carrots, celery and star fruit down in front of me.
    “I know what you mean.” I frown. “I don’t see my Dad that much either.”
    “What does your Dad do for work?” She asks, sitting down across from me.
    “He’s a police detective.” I tell her, cautiously nibbling a slice of star fruit that tastes suspiciously like an apple.
    “That’s awesome!” Nancy exclaims.
    I smile. “I know right? It’s pretty cool. He wants to retire soon though. He keeps saying he has ‘other plans’”
    “Oh really? Did he tell you what they are?”
    I shake my head. “No. He never really talks about it.”
    “What do you think it is?”
    I shrug. “Who knows.”

    Last edited by Once on Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:24 am; edited 2 times in total

    Posts : 139
    Location : Bayport :D

    Once - Part two

    Post  DolphinSinger on Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:18 pm

    I can’t believe it’s already the end of October.
    The weeks have flown by way too fast.
    School is just a boring blur floating distantly in my head.
    Hannah called yesterday evening to see how Dad and I are doing. It was nice to hear her voice, but also…a sad reminder that in two weeks we’re leaving Bayport.
    I try not to think of it…it just makes me feel depressed.
    River Heights is just so…far away. Far away from Bayport… far away from Joe.
    Joe is the closest friend I’ve ever had and now…
    …I’ll have to leave.

    “Joe, are you sure this is a good idea?” I ask, carefully placing one foot on the board.
    “I’m positive, Nance. You’re going to love skateboarding, trust me.”
    If you’d asked me yesterday what I’d be doing on Halloween eve, I never would have guessed that I’d be learning to skateboard on Handi Ave.
    “Ready?” Joe asks, jumping on his own neon green, flame-streaked skateboard.
    “Um, no!” I laugh nervously. “Shouldn’t I be wearing a helmet or something?”
    Joe shrugs. “Nah, no need.”
    “Okay…” I cautiously place both feet on the spare board Joe had lent me.
    “And now push off…”
    Slowly, I nudge the skateboard forward until I pick up a noticeable amount of speed. AKA a crawl.
    “Good,” Joe, skates to my left. “Don’t be afraid to let it pick up some more speed.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Mm-hm.” Joe nods. “Faster is funner.”
    I laugh. “Not always.”
    I let the board go a little bit faster as I gain more balance.
    “How long have you been doing this?” I ask Joe after a minute.
    “I learned when I was ten.” He tells me. “That was back when we lived in Maine. A friend of Frank’s taught me the basics.”
    “I didn’t know you lived in Maine.” I comment, glancing to my left.
    “Yeah, we lived there for quite awhile until we moved here last year.”
    “Why did you guys move?”
    Joe shrugs. “I don’t know. Has something to do with my Dad’s work…“ He trails off. “My parents never really talk about it.”
    We skate in silence for a few moments.
    The sun is beginning to lower into the purple sky, casting long shadows across the sidewalk ahead.
    I take a deep breath of the sweet autumn air, scented of damp leaves, pumpkins and fresh apples.
    As we pass a small grove of shady oaks, the sunlight streams down on us like an untamed waterfall, sifting through the trees, soaking the ground with warmth and highlighting Joe’s blonde hair with red-ish gold streaks.
    “Did you have a lot of friends in Maine?” I ask.
    “…Not really.” Joe pauses. “I mean, I knew a few kids, but…I’ve always been kind of shy around other people I don’t know very well.” He pauses again. “…Which is why I was surprised that we became friends…I guess It’s because, I… feel like, I can just be myself around you.”
    I smile.
    “Sorry,” Joe blushes. “That sounded totally dorky.”
    “No,” I glance at him. “It was sweet.”
    Suddenly my wheel hits something. Hard.
    I gasp as my skateboard rocks to the left.
    I fall backwards into Joe who, in turn, falls to the sidewalk.
    We land in a disoriented heap.
    “Nancy, are you okay?” Joe asks, struggling to sit up.
    I push myself off of him, hoping we’re both still in one piece.
    “I think…so.”
    We exchange a glance, then burst into laughter.
    Joe helps me to my feet. “Maybe helmets would be a good idea, after all.”


    I sigh and glance up at the ticking, stainless steel framed wall clock hanging over the outdated television.
    10:00 PM.
    “Why isn’t he back yet?” I ask the empty room.
    Upon returning from the Hardy’s home, I had eaten dinner, a quickly micro waved bowl of pasta and a glass of milk, then resorted to reading my new book “Everything is Evidence” in the living room.
    My Dad usually gets home from work by 9:30 the latest... I’m starting to get worried about him.
    I take a deep breath, push the clouds of concern to the back of my mind and try to stay focused on my reading.
    “…Fingers are coated with perspiration and oil.” I read aloud. “When fingers touch any relatively smooth surface, the friction releases the oil from between the ridges and a print is left.”
    I yawn and lay back, flipping to page 28 to read about how to use fingerprints in criminal justice.

    I open one eye ever so slowly.
    “…Dad, you’re home.” I sit up quickly to give him a hug. “I was so worried. What kept you?”
    My Dad sighs deeply, and I then notice the dark circles the size of California hanging below his eyes.
    “Paperwork.” He replies bluntly.
    “Yeah.” He stands up and stretches. “I used to think homework was horrible when I was your age. I had no idea how bad the real stuff can be.”
    I smile weakly. “Have you eaten anything?”
    “Not since lunch.”
    “There’s pasta in the fridge.” I tell him, yawning. “You made way too much yesterday.”
    “Thanks, Nancy.” Dad walks into the kitchen and I follow a moment later after managing to pull myself off the warm, cozy couch.
    I seat myself at the kitchen table while Dad grabs something to eat.
    “You didn’t have to wait up for me, sweetheart.” He says, popping a bowl of pasta into the microwave. “You have to be up early for school.”
    “I know.” I shrug. “It just feels like I’ve hardly seen you these past couple of weeks.”
    Dad glances over his shoulder at me for a moment, His eyebrows knit together, perhaps pondering what I’d just said.
    “I know.” He says at last, with a sigh. “This case is difficult.” He pours a tall glass of iced water and takes his food out of the microwave.
    A few moments pass without a word spoken between us.
    I gaze out the window and into the dark streets, occasionally lit by a decorative street lamp, cars passing every now and then.
    “I know these past few weeks have been difficult for you.” I turn my attention back to my Dad’s weary face. “It hasn’t exactly been easy for me either…” He takes a long drink of water before speaking again. “But in a week and a half, we’ll be heading home.”
    ‘Heading home….’ The words ring in my ears like an eerie siren.
    Why don’t I feel joyous at the sound of those words? Shouldn’t I be happy, and…excited to be going back to River Heights? Instead I feel a strange heaviness settling in my heart. I just can’t seem to place my finger on what exactly is making me feel like this…
    Maybe it’s because I’ve grown to love this place. This condo with the empty beige walls and this beautiful little beachside town.
    Maybe I’ve just been away from River Heights too long. Maybe I’m forgetting what it’s like…how much I actually do miss it.
    Or maybe I feel this way because, memories of the past few, beautiful weeks keep echoing through every dark or spare corner of my brain… spoken words ringing violently through my thoughts as if someone where there whispering them in my ears.
    Images, clear as freshly developed photographs, flashing in front of my eyes. School buses, falling homework, cafeterias, beaches, skate boards, blonde hair, blue eyes, matching braces…
    I catch my breath, glancing back up at my father who looks back questioningly.
    “I…” Pausing, I blink a few times and swallow hard. “I really need to get to bed, Dad. My head is starting to ache.” I stand up and push my chair back into place.
    Giving my Dad a kiss on the cheek, I leave the kitchen hastily, head into my room and close the door quietly behind me.
    I stand in the center of the room for a few seconds that last an eternity, bitter reality finally sinking in.
    Taking a small breath, my gaze lifts from the floor, meeting the large window with the view reaching out to the ocean, now enshrouded in impenetrable darkness.
    Even though I can’t see the vast ocean which undoubtedly lies before me, I can sense it’s very presence right here in my bedroom. The deep, cool, waves crashing over me, flooding my heart with pangs of sorrow.
    “I love the ocean…” The ghost of my own voice echoes. “It’s so… big.”
    “…Mmm.” A familiar voice agrees, fading in and out of my thoughts.
    A foggy memory swims through my head. Waves crashing and soaking faded blue sneakers and my bare feet, laughing and screaming and dashing through warm sand.
    I slowly sink down onto the crisp, beige sheets of my bed.
    Feeling the hot tears fill my eyes, I burry my face in my pillow before they have a chance to fall.


    The first five days of November were intense.
    I hadn’t forgotten about Brandon’s creepy little threat and, unfortunately, neither did he.
    Weird as it is though, for the rest of October, He and Cole made no effort whatsoever to “get revenge.”
    In fact, I’m starting to get a little concerned about their loss of interest in tormenting me…
    Anyway, whatever they’re plotting against me, hopefully they wait until Nancy leaves.
    …I still can’t believe she’s actually leaving.

    You know those few seconds of sheer terror when you jump from something high, like maybe a cliff and you only have few seconds before you hit the ground? That’s the exact way to describe waiting for the bell to ring at the end of your last class of the day.
    The usually considered obnoxious wailing becomes the sweetest kind of music flooding into your eardrums.
    I grab my things and toss them into my backpack at lightning speed as the teacher screams some inaudible speech about history reports over the deafening roar of unruly junior highschoolers.
    I make a mad dash for the door, then-
    “Joseph? Could I have a word with you for a moment, please?” My heart sinks down to my boots as Ms. Anderson’s plastic sweetness oozes into my ears.
    I was so close.
    Sighing, I slowly turn around and put on my sweetest, most innocent face. “Yes, Ma’am?”
    She waves me over and I reluctantly shuffle to her desk.
    “Joseph,” She says again. “I need to talk to you.”
    “…Okay.” I shrug.
    She peers over her cats eye glasses, her dark eyes burning holes into my face. “I need to see better work from you. Your grades need to go up. I don’t think you’re trying hard enough.”
    “What are you trying to get at?” I ask, nervously tapping the toe of my sneaker on the linoleum floor.
    “What I am ‘getting at’ is the fact that you need to be working harder on these assignments or your parents will be hearing about this.” She tosses me another cold glance.
    I fight the urge to roll my eyes and smile brightly instead. “Okay.”
    There is a brief pause. “Uh, can I go now?”
    “Very well.”
    I dash out of the classroom and into the hallways which are beginning to thin out.
    The the frozen November sun casts icy light beams through the grime laden windows, leaving a white glow to creep across the hallway.
    Normally, Frank would be waiting for me somewhere in the hall, but today he’s home with a cold. Which is probably just as well, because, if he were here right now, I’d be getting bombarded with questions about why Ms. Anderson had ‘wanted a word’ with me.
    I glance at the clock and realize that I am getting dangerously close to missing my bus.
    Adjusting my backpack, I head down the winding halls, trying to shake off the unpleasant conversation with my teacher.
    Nancy and I had agreed to meet up at the beach after school, and homework is the very last thing I want to be thinking about right now.
    Reaching the entrance, I grasp the doorknob, then-
    “John?” A voice calls from behind me.
    I ignore, and continue to open the door.
    “John!” The voice calls again. “Wait up!” I sigh and glance over my shoulder to see a tall, slender girl with Almond brown hair and glasses, rushing toward me.
    “Didn’t you hear me calling you?” She asks, narrowing her hazel eyes.
    “My name is Joe, Delores.” I tell her. “Not John.”
    “Oh.” Her face goes frighteningly blank. “Well, you are Frank’s little brother right?”
    I cringe slightly at the word ‘little.’
    “…Yeah.” I say finally.
    “I heard that Frank isn’t…well?” She looks ridiculously worried.
    I nod. “Yeah he wasn’t feeling too great this morning so he stayed home today.” Lucky him. I feel like adding but don’t.
    “Will he…” Her voice trails of and her eyes widen. “Will he be okay?”
    I swallow a laugh. I had forgotten how much Delores likes Frank…it’s rather sickening.
    “We don’t know yet.” I tell her solemnly. “hopefully he’ll pull through this.”
    I mentally burst out laughing, remembering, that after Mom found out Frank had a slight fever, she banned him from school and he resorted to playing video games and laying around reading for most of the morning. To say that I’m jealous would be a massive understatement.
    “Oh.” Delores gets a far off look in her eyes, then realizing I was still standing in front of her, gives me a tight smile and hands me a light pink envelope with Frank’s name scrawled across the front in curly, cursive writing. “Would you give this to him, for me, John?”
    “It’s Joe.” I correct. “Yeah, I’ll give it to him.”
    “Oh, thank you.”
    “No prob,” I head outside, then over my shoulder I add: “Hopefully he’ll be well enough to read it.”
    I trot down the cement stairway, the chill wind taking my breath away.
    My good sense of humor suddenly vanishes as my eyes meet the parking lot.
    My bus is gone.
    “Dang!” I whisper under my breath. “This is just great.”
    My family doesn’t exactly live close to the school and I still have to get home before I meet Nance at the beach…I’m going to be totally late now.
    With all these school assignments piling up, and Nancy leaving in a week, this may even be the last time we…
    I sigh and sink down onto the cement steps, a depressed feeling waving over me.
    Half of my mind is occupied with hating school and the other half wishing I could rewind the past few weeks and relive them.
    I glance down at the note for Frank in my hand, sealed with a sparkly flower sticker.
    A sudden, crazy idea hits me.
    I hesitate for a moment, then reaching into my backpack, I pull out my English notebook.
    I skim rapidly through random doodles of action figures and English notations until I reach a blank page towards the back.
    I take a deep breath, grip my pencil tighter and begin to write:

    I have no idea how to tell you this
    and I could never say it to your face,
    but I really want you to know that I really…”

    I groan, realizing that I sound like a complete idiot.
    I jam my pencil back into my backpack and stand up.
    How totally insane of me to try to tell Nancy that I… How much I… never mind.
    Just as I am about to shove the paper into my backpack, I feel a familiarly large, damp hand close over my mouth.
    I jerk forward, realizing what’s about to happen.
    Brandon’s hot breath fills my ear as he whispers, “Told you this wasn’t over… Metal Mouth.”

    I pull the collar of my sweater up around my chin and shiver, as the sound of the peaceful yet, angry crashing waves fill my ears.
    One glance at the ocean, and all the frightening, bittersweet memories that had swept over me only a few days ago, come flooding back into my head.
    I shake them away, just wanting to forget about everything and let myself be happy until the very end.
    Glancing down at my watch I realize Joe is already a half an hour late…unusual for him, but not utterly shocking, figuring, something may have come up at his house.
    Lifting myself from the small bench at the entrance to Bayport’s public beach, I decide to venture down to the tide, which is beginning to go out.
    My tennis shoes sink deep into the sand, leaving a long trail of footprints behind me, already beginning to be swept by the wind into ghostly, unidentifiable shapes.
    As I reach the waters edge, I hear the small, familiar ringing of something…
    I’ve often wondered what that ringing is, but I can never seem to figure it out.
    The far off, forlorn ringing continues, as a thin layer of fog meets over the water’s foaming surface.
    A split second later I nearly jump out of my skin as I feel a cool hand clamp down on my shoulder.
    Whirling around, I find a tall, pale skinned boy with shaggy, greasy looking brown hair that hangs into his dark eyes and wearing a black hooded jacket dotted with a skull pattern. He looks around 15 or 16 years old.
    I back up two steps.
    “You Nancy?” He asks bluntly.
    I feel my eyes narrow in suspicion. “That depends on who’s asking.” I say coolly.
    A unsettling smirk plays at the corners of his mouth.
    He shoves a small piece of unevenly folded notepaper into my hand. “Joe asked me to give you this.”
    I glance up at the boy with all the more suspicion. Joe had never mentioned knowing this…person. If Joe wanted to give me something, why wouldn’t he bring it to me himself?
    Cautiously, keeping the mysterious teenager in my peripheral vision, I open the note.

    I have no idea how to tell you this
    and I could never say it to your face,
    but I really want you to know that I really…”

    I feel my eyebrows raise.
    This was, indeed, Joe’s unmistakably messy handwriting, but why does it just end in mid sentence? Why didn’t he sign it? How did this creepy kid get a hold of it?
    “Joe didn’t have time to finish writing it.” The boy says, probably reading the bewilderment smeared across my face. “Last time I saw him today, he was hanging out with a cute girl at school. He wanted me to tell you that…he won’t be able to hang out with you today.” He pauses and looks at me. “He had a date…with Delores.”
    I suddenly feel a sharp pang of…mixed emotions hit my heart like a bullet.
    I vaguely recall seeing the tall, slender, fair-haired girl who was about a year or so older than I am, at school….in fact, the last time I’d seen her was today. As I was boarding my bus, I noticed her talking to someone at the entrance of the school…a rather familiar, blonde, someone.
    I swallow hard, a million different thoughts and feelings clouding my mind all at once.
    Then common sense kicks in.
    “Who are you?” I ask, my voice sounding surprisingly small.
    The teen smiles a strange little smile. “Just a friend.”
    With that he turns on his heels and stalks off into the increasing fog.
    I blink a few times, not really knowing what to think.
    This is totally out of Joe’s character, and I’m positive Joe doesn’t know…whoever that was.
    I glance down at the note in my hand. It is Joe’s handwriting.

    “I have no idea how to tell you this
    and I could never say it to your face…”

    Was Joe trying to tell me that…that he would rather hang out with… Delores than with… me? Maybe he just didn’t want to hurt my feelings?
    The wind whips my hair around my face, pulling it out of the loose braid I’d tied it into this morning.
    I bite my lip and tuck the note into my pocket.
    I decide to wait around for a little longer to see if Joe will show up, though…he never does.
    Downcast, I trudge back to the condominium.
    Once inside, I lock the door and collapse into the couch, unfamiliar feelings
    whirling through my head.
    “…I was surprised that we became friends…“ Joe’s voice echoes through my head.“ I guess It’s because, I… feel like, I can just be myself around you.”
    I sigh and rest my face in my hands, as a lone teardrop rolls slowly down my cheek.

    “Long time, no see, Metal Mouth.” Cole’s familiar, bratty voice snickers from nearby, as Brandon, with his sweaty hand still clamped over my mouth, drags me behind the school.
    I squirm violently, trying to slip from his grasp, making him hold on even tighter.
    “I told you you’d pay for that little stunt, Dork.” Brandon snarls, shoving me up against the brick building.
    At this point, there’s only three things I can do:
    (A) Fight back…which will not end well. Brandon is probably about a foot and a half taller than me and at least 75 pounds heavier. He could make me into a human pancake if he really wanted to. Or simply beat me to a puree.
    (B) Keep quiet and let Brandon do his thing and hope I live through it. (Or at least come through with all my limbs still in tact.)
    (C) Grovel at his feet and beg for mercy…which, most victims know, Brandon is practically made of mercilessness.

    I quickly decide that I would rather die than stoop throwing myself at Brandon’s mercy… and becoming puree is out of the question.
    As boarder-line-stupid as it is, I choose A.
    I snap out of my thoughts just in time to see Brandon’s clenched fist flying towards my face like a runaway fright train.
    I throw myself to the right just in time to hear the hard, unhealthy thud of Brandon’s angry fist meeting the brick wall.
    Brandon shouts a few choice words and I struggle to get off of the ground.
    This is my only chance to make a run for it; while Brandon’s distracted.
    I struggle to get to my feet but remember, too late, that Brandon isn’t alone.
    Cole shoves me backward, my head smashing against the hard surface.
    My vision blurs for a split second, but I recover just in time to feel Brandon’s fist meet my left eye.
    I stagger backward, pain surging through my face, not noticing a small piece of paper flutter from my hand and onto the ground.
    “Had enough, Metal Mouth?” Brandon hisses, grabbing me by a handful of hair and lifting me an inch or so off the ground.
    He may not be the most physically fit kid in high school, but I wouldn’t doubt him being the strongest.
    I cry out in pain and after a few seconds he drops me.
    Figures. The ONE day Frank misses school this has to happen.
    Suddenly I notice Cole lifting a small piece of paper from the ground. My heart sinks into my boots as I realize what it is.
    I quickly stand up and try to snatch it from his hand. “Cole, give it back!”
    The rotten high schooler holds the letter just out of reach with a malicious grin spreading across his face.
    I groan, both from the pain in my face and humiliation of this whole experience.
    Cole unfolds the note.
    I try desperately to get it out of his hand but Brandon holds me back.
    “Awww,” Cole drawls sickeningly. “Metal Mouth wrote Brace Face a love letter!” He bats his eyelashes mockingly.
    I feel my blood begin to boil.
    I try to wriggle free from Brandon’s grip. “I hate you guys!” I shout. “Give it back!”
    Brandon takes me by the throat and turns me around to face him.
    I swallow hard and a little smile creeps onto my attacker’s face.
    “You scared?”
    I shake my head defiantly.
    “I’m gonna give Brace Face that letter.” He whispers.
    I feel my eyes go huge.
    “You scared now?” He flashes me an evil grin.
    “No!” I shout. “You can’t-” Brandon slides his hand back over my mouth.
    He glares at me, his eyes seeming darker than ever before.
    “Apologize to me.” He whispers. “Beg my forgiveness and do my homework for a week or Nancy gets the letter.” Brandon smirks. “I’ll tell her that you were couldn’t meet her at the beach because you were hanging out with Delores.”
    I can practically feel every ounce of blood draining from my face and leaving me pale as a ghost.
    “How…how did you know that I was meeting her at the beach?”
    “I know everything.” Brandon sneers.
    My heart beats faster.
    I take a shallow breath and swallow my pride. “I…”
    Brandon stares at me.
    Cole dangles the letter mockingly in front of my face.
    “I’m…sorry.” I say, defeat covering me like a blanket. “I beg your forgiveness.”
    Brandon smiles. “You’re not forgiven.”
    I shrug. “Give me back the…piece of paper.”
    Cole and Brandon exchange an amused glance
    Brandon whispers something to him then, pulling on his skull ridden hood, Cole dashes off…letter in hand.
    “No!” I shout. “You said you’d-”
    “I lied.”
    I glare at him.
    A sudden nearby screech of brakes from the main road cuts through the air.
    Brandon turns, startled, taking his hands off me all together.
    He glances around uneasily and by the time he looks back, I’m long gone.


    I weakly climb the steps of Shore End Condominiums, feeling as if I’d just been run over by a bus.
    As soon as I’d escaped from Brandon’s death trap, the first thing I’d done was try to find Nancy, but by the time I’d reached the Bayport Public Beach it was completely vacant.
    I then walked all the way to the condo, figuring Nancy had gone home after waiting around for me for hours. She probably thinks I’m a total jerk right now… and on top of that, who knows what Cole told her when he gave her that stupid note I wrote.
    I take in a long, shaky breath as I reach the familiar, cream colored door to Nancy’s apartment.
    Leaning on the door, I slowly lift my hand and knock softly.
    “Who is it?” Nancy’s muffled voice calls from somewhere inside.
    I hesitate for a split second. “Nance, it’s me.”
    “Joe?!” The door flies open, sending me half falling half stumbling inside.
    Nancy stares at me for a moment, he eyes wide with horror. “What on earth happened to you?”
    “I…um, well,” I notice Nancy’s gaze focus on my left eye, which is probably black by now. “I…sort of got, uh, into a fight.”
    “That’s obvious.” Nancy takes me by the arm and pulls me into the living room.
    As I sink into the plush, beige couch I realize how utterly exhausted I am.
    Nancy disappears into the kitchen, briefly, returning a moment later with a damp cloth and an Ice pack.
    She sits down beside me and shakes her head. “My goodness, Joe.” She murmurs, gently placing the damp cloth over my eye. “How did this happen?”
    I bite my lip. “I told you, I got into a fight.”
    I sit up a little, pressing the cloth to my face with the heel of my hand.
    Nancy looks at me for a moment.
    “I don’t believe you.”
    “That’s completely out of your character, Joe.” Her light blue eyes seem to pierce through mine, as if reading my thoughts. “I know you better than that.”
    I swallow hard and stare down at my feet.
    “It was Brandon, wasn’t it?”
    I turn to face her. “…Yeah.” How did she know?
    I pause for a moment. “They’ve probably been plotting to kill me ever since that day in front of the bookstore.”
    “They?” Nancy looks at me questioningly.
    I nod. “Brandon and his equally evil friend Cole.”
    “Why didn’t you tell me?”
    “Because I…” Sighing, I slump my shoulders. “I didn’t want you to know.”
    “What do you mean?” Nancy asks quietly, looking down.
    “I didn’t want you to know me as the dork who always gets picked on at school.” I squeeze my eyes shut, making my black eye hurt more than it should.
    Nancy is silent for a moment, then she looks up, her eyes locking on mine.
    “I would never think of you that way.”
    I give her a weak side smile. “I’m sorry Nancy.”
    She places her hand on mine. “It’s okay.” She pauses for a moment. “Joe?”
    “Did you see Delores today?”
    I raise one eyebrow confused. “Uh, yeah, actually. Why?”
    Nancy sighs.
    “What’s wrong?”
    “Joe,” Nancy begins, sounding a little disappointed. “I can understand you wanting to hang out with her, since you like her and everything, but, why didn’t you just tell me in person?”
    My eyes go round like a deer seen the headlights and I immediately choke on my own tongue. “What?!”
    “Isn’t that why you couldn’t make it to the beach?” Nancy asks again. “Didn’t you have a date with Delores or something?”
    My jaw hangs open in bewilderment, probably making me look like an idiot.
    Me and…Delores? Just the thought makes me gag.
    “Are you kidding me!?” I nearly shout, completely going into freak out mode. “No, I was NOT on a date with Delores! I saw her at school.” I say quickly. “She wanted me to give Frank something for her. She hardly ever even notices I exist. Where the heck did you hear about this?”
    “Some supposed “friend” of your’s told me.” Nancy replies, taking something out of her pocket. “I didn’t believe it until I saw this.”
    My heart sinks as Nancy hands me the note. “I knew right away it was your handwriting.”
    I stare down at the crumpled piece of notepaper.
    “Cole gave you this.” I say after a moment.
    “Why didn’t you finish it?” Nancy looks at me, puzzled. “What were you trying to tell me?”
    I blink a few times, wishing this was just a bad dream.
    How can I ever explain?
    “Nancy…” My voice cracks slightly, trailing off. “…I started writing this today, because I…wanted you to know that I-”
    Suddenly the phone rings, making us both jump a little.
    Nancy gets up and walks into the kitchen to answer it and I quickly shove the note into my backpack, swallowing my unsaid sentence.
    Nancy appears a moment later. “That was your Mom.” She says. “She was wondering if you’re ever going to get home.”
    I sigh and stand up. “I totally forgot.”
    “Do you want me to walk back with you?”
    “That’s okay.” I tell her. “My Mom’s not gonna be too happy when she see’s me.” I touch my left lower eyelid gingerly.
    “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?” Nancy gives me that sweet smile of hers as I leave.
    Trudging down the frosty gray sidewalk, the wind whipping my bedraggled mop of hair into a tangled mess, an unidentifiable heaviness settles in my chest.
    I know only one word to describe it.

    “It’s so good to be out of the house.” Joe comments, taking in a deep breath of the fresh night air.
    It’s the night before the 13th …my last night in Bayport.
    Braving the chilly evening air, Joe and I have been sitting out on the front porch steps for the past half hour to watch the sunset.
    Because of his “fight” and a bad report from his teacher, Joe had been grounded for a few days, doomed to a room filled with homework assignments.
    We’d seen each other only at school and today Mrs. Hardy had finally allowed me over.
    “Indeed.” I comment, leaning my head back against the porch railing. “It’s lovely out here.”
    We both sit in silence for a few moments, half listening to the lone mockingbird which had stationed itself on the nearby oak, and half drowning in a head-full of thoughts.
    Both of us know what day it is, and are trying desperately to ignore it, though, it seems to be the only thing on our minds.
    “You know,” I say at last. “These past months have been pretty awesome.”
    “Yeah.” Joe agrees, glancing in my direction and sounding a little depressed. “…They have been amazing.”
    I smile halfheartedly, returning my gaze to the slowly swirling clouds above us.
    A rather sudden, strange thought swims in to my head. I hadn’t really thought of it before, and, even if I had, I hadn’t taken it seriously.

    When would I even see Joe again, after I leave?

    A year from now? Two years from now? More than that?
    Would our relationship just… fade away? Will he forget me?
    Is this our last time together?

    I shiver at the thought.
    “Are you cold?” Joe asks.
    “No.” I say quickly, a smallness creeping into my voice. “I’m fine.”
    The frozen sun lowers into a distant hill, turning all the nearby cumulus clouds pastel shades of pink, purple orange and crimson.
    A moment later, the telltale creek of the front door reaches my ears.
    “Joe?” Trudy’s familiar hyper voice rings out. “It’s getting late.”
    Joe sighs. “Kay.”
    Joe and I head over to the garage where we’d left our bikes.
    “You don’t have to ride back to the condo with me if you’re too tired.” I tell him, pushing back my kickstand.
    “I never get tired.” Joe smiles.
    I smile back and we wheel ourselves out onto the quiet sidewalk and begin racing through the town of Bayport like there’s no tomorrow…which, in a way…
    …There isn’t.


    “Nancy, are you okay?” Dad asks worriedly, watching me pick at my veggie egg white omelette he’d hastily prepared while packing up his brief case.
    I sigh so hard I end up blowing a stray strand of strawberry blonde hair out of my face. “I’m fine, Daddy.” I give him the weakest, lopsided smile I can muster making him look all the more anxious.
    “I know how much you miss River Heights, sweetheart,” He says quickly, locking his brief case, forgetting a stray sheet of paper on the counter and then reopening it to place it inside. “But just think,” He continues after letting out an involuntary sigh of frustration. “We’ll be back in River Heights by midnight.”
    “It’s not that,” I tell him, realizing my Dad isn’t understanding me at this moment. “It’s just that I-”
    “Shoot,” My Dad cuts in, digging deep into the pockets of his khakis. “I left the keys in the car…” He distractedly strolls out of the kitchen.
    I sigh again and force myself to swallow a few mouthfuls of breakfast.
    Afterwards, I wash my plate and place it back in the cabinet with the others.
    I walk slowly from the tidied kitchen to the living room where our suitcases are waiting anxiously at the door, then, into my bedroom. My former bedroom, that is.
    All my colorful accessories have been packed away snuggly into my sky blue suitcase, leaving the room looking strange. Plainly beige, exactly as it had been the day we arrived.
    I hadn’t liked it then, but I do now. I guess it sort of grew on me.
    Mr. Woogle Woggle sits on my pillow beside my packed handbag, staring across the room at nothing in particular.
    I follow his gaze to the large Ocean view window at the far end of the room.
    The distant rolling tide seems somehow unreachable.
    Grabbing my belongings, I quickly leave the bedroom and find my Dad going over a list by the coffee table.
    “Need any help?” I ask.
    “Uh….I think I’m all set sweetheart.” He glances up from the paper and smiles.
    “…Would it be okay if I took one last ride down to the beach?”


    “Joe?” Frank, whispers from the lower bunk. “You awake?”
    I roll over and sigh. “No.”
    “You were awfully quiet tonight.”
    “Frank, it’s late.” I groan. “Of course I’m quiet.”
    I can practically see Frank rolling his eyes below me.
    “No, I mean, like, earlier.”
    “Yeah?” I say, recalling being a little less talkative after I’d gotten back from the bike ride with Nancy. I didn’t think anyone had noticed, but then Frank is the most observant person I know. “What about it?”
    Frank hesitates. “I don’t know…” His voice trails off. “You just seemed sort of depressed, that’s all.”
    I don’t reply.
    The clock ticks quietly from Frank’s desk.
    In the summer the crickets are usually making a racket at this hour, drowning out the sound of the commemorative Batman clock Frank had gotten for his 10th birthday.
    I close my eyes, shoving my head deeper into my pillow.
    “I saw your note to Nancy.” Frank says after a moment.
    My eyes go wide. “What?!”
    “Joe, would you keep it down?”
    “You-you read that?!” I sit up straight.
    “Chill, it’s no big deal.” Frank says casually.
    “You looked through my stuff?!”
    “No, actually.” Frank retorts. “Your stuff was everywhere, as usual, and I just happened to see it on the floor.”
    Why did I ever write that stupid letter? It’s gotten me into so much trouble already.
    “Why didn’t you give it to her?”
    “Because I sound like an idiot.” I fall back into my pillow.
    “It wasn’t…that bad.” Frank lies.
    “It was terrible.” I groan.
    “I knew you liked her.”
    I stare up at the ceiling for a moment. “It doesn’t matter.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “She’s leaving tomorrow, Frank.” I remind him. “She lives eons away. Who knows when I’ll even see her again. She’ll meet other people and she’ll eventually forget about me.”
    There is a long pause, then Frank finally speaks up.
    “Are you sure about that?”
    I open my mouth to say something but find that I have no words left to speak.


    Bayport on a Saturday morning is sort of like watching a carnival start up. Lights flick on rapidly, paused music bursts to life again and people slowly emerge from their abodes to see what the heck is going on.
    I usually sleep till ten or eleven, but today I was wide awake at six and peddling to Nancy’s condo by 9:00.
    For weeks I have dreaded this day. I’ve tried my best to push the gloomy 13th from my mind and pretend it doesn’t exist, but have failed miserably.
    Turning onto Shore End ST, I immediately spot Mr. Drew’s Sandy colored Mercedes parked alongside the sidewalk in front of the condominium, with trunk open and Mr. Drew loading suitcases inside.
    He looks up, noticing me, and gives me a quick wave.
    I slow down as I reach the car.
    “Morning, Mr. Drew.” I say politely.
    “Hello, Joe.”
    “Nancy around?”
    “No, actually.” He lifts another suitcase and shoves it into the trunk. “She went to the beach.”
    “Oh. Okay.” There is an awkward pause then I finally say. “See ya, Mr. Drew.”
    “Goodbye, Joe.”
    I race down to the beach, hoping Nancy hasn’t already left to go back to the condo, and I end up missing her altogether.
    I crash my bike into the nearest “restricted” dune and make my way onto the sand where I almost immediately notice a familiar figure by the water’s edge.
    Over the roaring waves, Nancy doesn’t hear me as I sneak up behind her and tap her gently on the shoulder.
    She whirls around, her windblown hair, whipping across my face.
    “Joe!” A smile spreads across her face. “How did you know I was here?”
    I grin. “I never told you I’m psychic?”
    Nancy laughs. “No, you never mentioned it.”
    “Your Dad told me you came down here.”
    Nancy’s smile fades and she looks away. “Yeah.” She pauses. “I…I wanted to see the ocean one last time, I guess…”
    I take a shaky breath. “Yeah.”
    A foamy wave crashes into shore, creeping up to the soles of our sneakers.
    “I’m really going to miss it here…” Nancy says quietly, looking out over the horizon.
    A moment later she turns and looks right into my eyes. “I’m really going to miss…you.”
    That heavy feeling settles in my heart again and I swallow the lump forming in my throat. “I…I’ll miss you too Nancy. More than you’ll ever know.”
    A long silent moment passes. The sounds of the breaking waves and seagulls fade from my head leaving only the noise of my own beating heart.
    I barely even feel Nancy’s hand slide into mine as she pulls me into a hug.
    Memories of the past months flood into my mind.
    So many times I should have spoken but kept silent, so many things I could have shared but didn’t.
    I guess I just never thought this day would actually come.
    “Joe?” Nancy asks, her voice wavering.
    I try to answer but realize my voice is gone.
    “Don’t forget me okay?”
    “…I couldn’t forget you.” I say finally, my voice cracking. “Not even if I tried to.”
    I pause for a moment. “Nance, I hope you know how much I…” My voice fades in my throat. “How much I‘m… going to miss you.”
    Nancy rests her head on my shoulder for a moment. “Joe, I…want you to know that…” She pulls away slowly, her hand still in mine, and looks into my eyes. “…You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
    My heart sinks slightly. “Ditto.”
    Nancy swallows hard and dries her damp eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. “I have to leave.” She bites her lip and looks at me one more time. “I’ll…I’ll see you soon, okay?”
    I whisper a silent “Okay.”
    Nancy’s hand slowly separates from mine.
    A moment later…she’s gone.
    I stare down at the set of footprints beside me as a new wave laps them away.
    I let out the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding.
    “…You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.” Nancy’s voice replays in my head.
    I shove my hands into the pockets of my hoodie.
    My finger brazes something small and familiar.
    I stare down at the object in my hand: Nancy’s sky blue bobby pin.
    That same, heavy feeling returns to my heart as a small, hot tear escapes the corner of my eye.

    Alla Fine


    Hello Readers!
    Thank you SO much for reading my First ML story!
    I hope you enjoyed and feel free to comment and tell me what you think of it!
    Love you all and God Bless!
    -Kate :)

    Posts : 191
    Location : in a cold hot air balloon.

    Re: -:• Once •:-

    Post  Beanbag on Thu Jan 13, 2011 1:35 am

    loveloveloveloveLOVE <3 <3 <3

    *wipes tears from eyes*


    Posts : 199

    Re: -:• Once •:-

    Post  GrammarShark on Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:03 am

    I... I... Sad THAT WAS BEAUTIFUL! What a Face Great work, it was really awesome to read your story.


    Posts : 1

    Re: -:• Once •:-

    Post  meatloafbandit on Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:15 am

    That was... AMAZING! Glad I read this instead of the edited (tear) version eventually to be posted on HER. :)

    Posts : 15
    Location : River Heights! ;)

    Re: -:• Once •:-

    Post  TheBookNut on Fri Jul 15, 2011 12:30 am

    One word describes this ML perfectly: BEAUTIFUL!! I looooooved it, Katie Girl! I wish MLs were more like this. I love reading your stories, girl! *hugzzzzzz* WONDERFUL!!

    Sammy Girl

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    Re: -:• Once •:-

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