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Chapter Eight

There was no wiping the smile from Lysander's face as he walked into school the next day.

Not even the sight of Jack's tormentors leering at him from across the hall could make him falter in his step as he made his way to class, more eager to get through the day than he had been in a long while. He had been fairly certain right from the start that Zacky would manage to have Dakota found one way or another, but now there wasn't a shadow of a doubt in his mind. And better than that, she could be back a whole lot sooner than he had initially expected. It was the greatest news he'd received in all his life.

He took his place next to Jack in their English classroom, returning the boy's greeting enthusiastically. If Jack was curious about the sudden lift in Lysander's mood, he was unable to mention it, for Ms Lowe was already strolling through the room handing out slips of blank paper for her free writing exercise. He and Jack took theirs without a word. Jack was writing almost before the paper hit the desk, but Lysander took a moment longer to think about what he was going to write. Of course, there was only one thing on his mind, so he stuck to it.

I'm going to see my sister again, he scribbled down. I always knew I would, but now I know it's going to be soon. She'll be safer here in California, and then we can finally start getting over everything that's happened. She can meet Zacky just like she always wanted to, and maybe then we can start being a proper family. Just like she always wanted.

He thought back to all the times she had voiced her daydreams to him, of all of them being together at last and living happily. Their mother would no longer be a part of that equation, but maybe there was still hope for the rest of them.

I don't know how I'll ever be able to thank Zacky, he went on. He's done more than I ever thought he would, and he seems genuinely interested in the outcome. I guess I really was wrong about him. Sometimes it still feels like he doesn't really want me around - like I'm an intruder in his life and things were better when he didn't know about me - but other times he makes it clear that he's happy I'm there, and he's sorry that it couldn't have happened sooner. I'm trying to remember that this is harder for him than it is for me in some ways. He's still learning how to be a father, but I've always known how to be a son.

When time was up, he handed his paper over willingly. There was a rush about the room as Ms Lowe ordered everybody to get into their groups and people stood to do so, and a moment later he and Jack were joined by Eliza Beth and the other boy that Lysander had met on his first day of class. George, he recalled. George, who Lysander now realised, kept his distance from Jack and spent his time wishing he was on the other side of the room.

"I didn't get the chance to tell you yesterday," Eliza Beth said, drawing his attention to her instead, "that I thought what you did was amazing. Standing up for Jack like that. It was about time somebody did."

"Thanks," he replied automatically.

"It was a stupid move if you ask me," George said before either of them could say anything more. "Now everybody's gonna know you're a fag too, and you're gonna get just as much crap as Avery does."

"I'm not gay," Lysander informed him easily, "and I'm not afraid of morons who think they can put people down just because they're a little different."

George looked like he had been about to say something back, but changed his mind and shut his mouth at the last moment. He looked down at his hands and pretended to be interested in his fingernails. He didn't look up again.

"So you're not gay?" Eliza Beth asked, as if she needed to clarify the point further. "That makes what you did even more impressive."

"I don't see why it should," Lysander said, even as he felt his chest swell with pride. "Jack's my friend. And even if he wasn't, nothing would give anybody the right to bully him like those guys were, and I'd still want to tell them so."

"That's where you differ from most guys," Jack said as he pulled out his copy of Macbeth. "There's a couple of guys around that I know agree with you, but they keep their mouths shut so they don't end up in the emergency room. The girls are a different story." He nodded at Eliza Beth. "E.B. here has stood up for me a few times herself."

"But it's fine for us." Eliza Beth shrugged. "Those guys may be idiots, but they'd never hit a girl. And they never take any of us seriously, anyway, because they know that none of us could hurt them."

"Still. I appreciate the help."

They smiled at each other like old friends, and it warmed Lysander's heart to know that Jack hadn't always been completely alone. He caught a slight eye-roll from George, but the boy was smart enough not to speak.

Ms Lowe was already busy writing questions up on her whiteboard for the class to answer, and Jack promptly got to scribbling things down in his notebook. Lysander took a quick look at the first couple of questions - If the main theme of Macbeth is ambition, whose ambition is the driving force of the play? What role do Macbeth's visions and hallucinations play in the development of his character? - and couldn't help but admire his friend all over again. Even if he'd read the play, he felt certain that he couldn't have answered any of the questions. He counted himself lucky that he had Jack to teach him.

"So, Lysander," Eliza Beth said. He turned to her expectantly, watching as she nibbled on the lid of her pen before she asked, "That name comes from Shakespeare, right? A Midsummer Night's Dream?"

"It does."

"Are your parents English teachers or something?"

He got this question a lot from people who recognised his name from the play, so he was accustomed to answering it quickly. But he knew he had to amend it slightly this time.

"No, my mother was a nurse."

Jack glanced up at the words - just a quick look to make sure that his friend was all right - and then went back to his writing.

"What about your father?" Eliza Beth asked.

He thought back to the previous afternoon, sitting with Zacky and Brian whilst the former prepared to tell the world that he had suddenly become a father. Lysander hadn't been ready then for the world to know who he was, and he still wasn't ready now - even if the world in this case only happened to be a couple of students in his English class.

"He's a musician or something," he replied casually, adding a shrug for good measure. "What about your parents? What do they do for a living?"

"Oh. My mom's the principal at the elementary school. My dad's not around."

There was a finality in her tone when she mentioned her father, one that he recognised as meaning they didn't get along. He made a mental note to never bring the man up in conversation again.

"You have really nice eyes, you know?" she went on. "They're like...oceans."

George glanced up and raised an eyebrow at her words. He didn't need to speak for Lysander to know what he was thinking - such a typical girl thing to say. Dakota would have blushed at the compliment. She always did. Lysander only smiled. He wanted to tell her that she had beautiful eyes as well, but he didn't want her to think that he was only returning a favour. It would have to wait for another time.

He was saved having to respond by Ms Lowe calling the class to attention.

“Ambition,” she said, then gestured to the question she had written on the board. “Whose ambition is the driving force of Macbeth?” She narrowed her eyes. “Kelly?”

Just like the rest of his class, Lysander turned to look towards the girl who had been called upon. Kelly herself was only two desks away from him – he had located her just in time to see her hastily shoving her cell phone back into the pocket of her shorts. She seemed surprise to find so many sets of eyes on her all of a sudden and blushed, knowing she had been caught in the act of not listening.

“I, ah...”

She trailed off and gave a barely noticeable shrug before lowering her head. Her two friends, sitting directly across from her, could hardly contain their giggles.

“Anybody?” Ms Lowe asked, casting her eyes around the room. Not a single person raised a hand or made to speak up, though she seemed unsurprised. As if she had known all along that it would come to this, she turned to Jack and prompted him with a knowing, “Mr Avery?”

“It’s Lady Macbeth’s,” Jack said without hesitation. “If it hadn’t been for her, Macbeth probably never would have killed King Duncan, and the plot wouldn’t have moved forward.”

He sounded so certain that Lysander knew he had to be right. And even if he wasn’t, he said it with enough conviction that only an expert on the subject would have questioned him over it. Again he counted himself lucky that he had Jack around to teach him these things. Maybe this year he would actually get a decent mark in English.

In the right pocket of his jeans, he felt his cell phone vibrate. Once. Twice. A text message, then. Although he knew it was highly unlikely, he had to wonder briefly about whether or not it could be good news about his sister. Was it possible that Zacky was contacting him to let him know Dakota had been found already? His heart skipped a beat at the thought. But a glance at the clock told him he would have to wait to find out. English wasn’t over yet.

And it seemed to drag on after that, as if time itself knew how eager Lysander was to be able to check his phone. He tapped his foot impatiently, unable to listen to Ms Lowe or Jack as they went on telling the class about the play for the remainder of the lesson. His eyes hardly left the clock for a second, though he knew that this didn’t help matters in the slightest. By the time Ms Lowe declared that they could leave, he had almost come to believe that the thing had stopped entirely.

The rest of the class moved as one, standing from their seats and packing their belongings in a flurry of activity. Lysander was one of the few to remain seated as he tugged his phone from his pocket and looked to the screen, working to open the message as quickly as he could. A breath hitched in his throat when he saw that it was from an unknown number. His fingers almost slipped in their hurry to access the contents.

Finally got a new phone, the message read. Call me tonight? Been a while. – K.

Lysander’s heart sank. K. Not Zacky, then. Not news about Dakota. A message instead from a friend back home, one that Lysander hadn’t seen or spoken to since the day after his mother died. He felt suddenly guilty for it.

“Everything okay, Columbus?”

He looked up. Lost in his own little world, he hadn’t noticed that half of the class – including Eliza Beth and George – had already made their way out of the room, and the other half were well on their way to joining them. He was the only one who had failed to pack his things, which earned him a few strange looks as people passed. Ignoring them, he shoved his phone back into his pocket and smiled reassuringly at Jack.

“Everything’s fine,” he said. “Just got distracted for a minute.”

Jack nodded, but the look on his face said he wasn’t sure whether or not he believed the words. Lysander hastily shoved his things into his schoolbag and slung it over his shoulder. He had Physics next, he knew. It wasn’t a class that he and Jack shared, so there would be plenty of time for feeling guilty there without having anybody notice.

After school, he decided, he would call his old friend. He would apologise for being so distant. He would make sure that everybody back home was doing all right. After all, he wasn’t the only one who had lost Dakota. And with that final thought left to haunt him, he headed off to his next class.

Kieran picked up on the second ring.


Lysander breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of the familiar voice. It had been so long since he’d heard one in person, but he hadn’t realised exactly how much he had missed it until the moment he had it back. He shut his eyes and let his head fall back against his pillows. This way he could almost pretend that he was back home in Columbus. That nothing had ever happened.

“It’s me,” he confirmed. “Man, it’s good to hear your voice...”

Not counting Dakota, Kieran had been Lysander’s first real friend. They had met when they were six, when Kieran’s family had moved to Columbus from Miami. They had started off more as adversaries, the last two standing on opposing teams in a game of dodgeball, but good sportsmanship had led them to become friends rather quickly. Hardly a day had gone by in years when they hadn’t seen each other. Now it had come to this.

“You too, man. How ya been?”

“Been all right,” Lysander replied. “Just trying to adjust to all the changes, really. How’re things up there?”

“Same as always,” Kieran told him. “Mason just got back together with Amanda. Again.” Lysander could almost see his friend rolling his eyes as he added, “I give them two weeks before she cheats on him again. Not even that.”

The thought of things carrying on like normal in his absence brought a smile to Lysander’s face. Mason and Amanda would continue their on-again, off-again relationship; Kieran would remain the undefeated champion of the track team; Phillip would continue trying to convince everybody that aliens were real. It gave him a sense of comfort, as if somewhere in the world there was a place where everything was as it should be.

But when Kieran cleared his throat, Lysander knew the conversation was about to take a turn.

“Any news on Koty?” his friend asked gently. “We’ve been on high alert up here, but nothing so far.”

“Zacky’s working on it. He’s got his band’s entire fan base looking for her.”

“Wow. So he’s not a dick, then?”

“Nope. Dakota was pretty much right about him.”

“So I guess that means you won’t be back anytime soon, huh?”

Lysander thought of Zacky, off at band practice that very moment, and how he had asked if they couldn’t spend some time getting to know one another. He had been uncertain of the request at first, but he had come to quite like the idea of them having a decent relationship. That, he knew, would require both time and effort – adding distance to the equation would only be a hindrance. Add to the point the fact that Zacky would never let him go back to Columbus alone as long as he believed there to be a threat, and Lysander knew that his friend was right.

“No,” he admitted. “I guess I won’t be. Sorry.”

“No big deal. I’ll just have to move to California.”

He heard Kieran cover the mouthpiece as a woman’s voice started speaking in the background. His mother, most likely. A quick glance at the time told Lysander that it had just gone six’ o’ clock. That meant it was just past eight in Wisconsin – late enough for Kieran’s mother to enforce ridiculous rule about telephone usage.

“I’m sure you know what that was all about,” Kieran said apologetically, confirming Lysander’s assumption. “I gotta go, man. But listen. Your mom made it into the local paper. It’s only a little article, but it’s nice. You want me to scan you a copy and email it through?”

“Yes,” Lysander said without hesitation. “Please.”

“All right, I’ll get right on it.” Even as Kieran spoke, Lysander could hear the computer starting up in the background. “Okay. Now I really gotta go, before she takes my damn phone away. But don’t be a stranger, huh? You know you can call me whenever.”

“Likewise. I’ll talk to you soon, K.”

“Later, Ly.”

He ended the call.

Lysander dropped his phone onto the bedside cabinet and sighed. He had been wary about calling his friend at first, uncertain about whether or not it would drag up a heap of memories that he would rather not face just yet, but he felt much better for it now. Calmer. More at peace.

He spent another few minutes just lying on his bed before he finally chose to get up and locate his computer. It was one of the few things that he had actually unpacked, simply so that he could do his homework the night before. He was thankful now that Zacky had already given him access to the house’s wireless Internet, because he didn’t know when exactly the man was going to be home – and Lysander was eager to check out the article that Kieran had mentioned.

It took a while for him to get his email up, but when he finally did he clicked through to the only one that was of interest to him. He smiled briefly at the little message that Kieran had included – God, my mom is so annoying! – before opening the attachment and waiting for it to download. Seconds later, he had what he was after.

The first thing that caught his eye was the picture.

He had seen it before several times, hanging in the living room of his old house. It was the portrait that his mother used for everything – online profiles, her I.D. for work, artist profiles for the few times her paintings had been displaced in the local elementary school’s gallery nights. It was simple – a head-and-shoulders shot where she wore a vibrant smile and her eyes seemed to sparkle – and it had always been his favourite photograph of her. He knew it was tucked away somewhere in his suitcases now, along with a similar one of Dakota, and he made a mental note to dig it out. It deserved to be on display.

“Is that your mother?”

He jumped, turning to face Gena. She stood in his open doorway, a dishtowel in one hand, her eyes fixed on the screen. He wondered briefly how long she had been standing there for. Almost subconsciously his hands moved to close the laptop, hiding the image from the blonde woman’s view. Her eyes snapped up to meet his own.

“I’m sorry,” she apologised. “I didn’t mean to intrude. I just came up to let you know that dinner’s ready.”

“Okay. I’ll be down in a second.”

He had hoped that his words would be enough to make her leave, but the woman stood her ground. He watched her cautiously as she moved the dishtowel from one hand to the other, twisting and turning it in a way that would have shredded it had it been paper. It made him uncomfortable. He didn’t have anything against the woman at all – she was generally nice to him and she must have been a decent person if his father had decided he wanted to marry her – but he got the impression that she didn’t like him very much. He wasn’t sure how to deal with it.

There was a moment longer in which she watched him.

“She was very pretty,” she said at long last, nodding towards the closed laptop. “I hope you don’t mind me saying so.”

“No,” he assured her. “You’re right. She was very pretty.”

Gena nodded. And with one last, sad smile, she headed back downstairs.


I read this here, I read this at Mibba. I'm just obsessed with this story! I love it!
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
Update! Soon! Please!
I can't help reading this twice. I love it! LOVE IT!!!
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
I read this on Mibba & I re-read it here! It's really great.
Nia_Flores Nia_Flores
Update soon or i will DIE