(Preview)

(Login to your Spotify account before reading so the music links will work uninterrupted)

 

Losing Humanity 1

Finding Death

 

Written by RJ Seney

 

 

 

 

Published by ZyLor Books

 

Social Media:

Website - http://rjseney.com

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/rjseney

‘LIKE’ us on Facebook!

 

The ZyLor™ logo is a trademark of ZyLor Books.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Raymond J. Seney

Cover art copyright © 2016 by Raymond J. Seney All rights reserved.

 

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

 

ISBN: 978-0-9895473-4-5

 

 

LHF1.00


Other Books by RJ Seney

·       Be Forever: One Man’s Revelations After Entering The Light

·       Losing Humanity series:

            Spiritual Inversion (2nd in series)

            Lunar Apocalypse (3rd in series)

            Re-Evolution (4th in series)

 


Acknowledgements

A special “thank you” goes out to my wife Renee and my son Brendan for their assistance in editing this book. Brendan received the initial chapters when I first began to write. Being a communications major in college, he was brutally candid in his corrections and suggestions. It was exactly what was needed and I have benefited from it tremendously.

 

Introduction

 

Finding Death is the first novel in the epic four-volume series Losing Humanity.

The books in the series should be read in the sequence in which they were written. Each volume is not an island unto itself. There is much information and many experiences in each book that must be understood before the successive volume can be fully appreciated and comprehended.

When you think there is a lull in the story, there are actually many clues being given in various forms of what is to come. This writing form gives the journey a natural life-stabilizing rhythm similar to a human heartbeat. Sometimes it is done to let the reader catch their breath and at other times, it is used to give the reader some time to find the clues.

All four books convey reality within a fictitious setting. In many cases the reality is not one in which many people will be willing to accept. Regardless if it is accepted, that does not change truth and the reality of humanity.

If a part of the book feels a bit too real, well, it probably reflects real life that you may have seen, lived, or tried desperately to ignore. Instead of feeling taken aback by the situation or language used, try to gain understanding of why that character behaves as he or she does, and then follow their journey. You will be able to see and feel them grow as the journey progresses. The characters are true reflections of real people with real issues that we all must face.

RJ Seney’s writing style is that of a storyteller and a guide for the journey. His stories are written with a technique that reads quickly and is in a tone that could be heard in any public conversation.

One of his goals with the series is to give people a journey of epic proportion that they could read and follow for some time. Because of the profit-mindedness of publishers and the increasingly short attention span of the human race, most authors would not dare to write an adventure that is this complex and far-reaching. This series is truly a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a solid, well-thought-out journey.

Another aspect that makes the series a unique one-of-a-kind story is the use of music. Electronic book publishing has enabled music to be woven into the storyline throughout the Losing Humanity series. The use of music brings a unique dimension to the story that is not found in other novels. It is not mandatory to listen to the music to understand the storyline. However, the music selected supports the emotion within the story or is music that the character is listening to. Some music may be difficult to listen to, while other music is very pleasurable. Don’t let the genre of music dissuade you from reading. Some music is purposely dark to convey emotion and feeling. Some music lyrics will actually give you clues as to what will be forthcoming.

The music within the eBook will not play automatically. To listen to the music while continuing to read the book, click (or press) on the music link in blue. The music link will be in square brackets like this: [Music: “xxxxxxxxx”, by xxxxxxxx]. An internet connection to your device is required for the music links to play and you will need to establish an account on the Spotify Website. The account does not need to be a paid account. The free Spotify music service works perfectly fine. As of the writing of this book, RJ Seney and ZyLor Books have no affiliation with Spotify.

Once the music window comes up and begins to play the music, reselect your reader app window to return to the book. The music will continue to play in the background on most devices. Spotify has its own rules for playing music that the book will have no control over and you may need to stop the music from playing so Spotify does not begin to play another song.

 If there are no specific instructions next to the link for listening to the music, simply listen to the music and then continue reading. Some music links in the book will suggest that you continue reading while listening to the music and other music links will suggest listening to the music before continuing to read. There are a couple of music links that will have you read for a bit while the music plays and then suggest that you stop reading at another location in the book to finish listening to the music. If the music link is at the end of a chapter, it is suggested to listen to the music before starting the next chapter.

For those readers that like puzzles, the Losing Humanity series is loaded with them! Occasionally the lyrics in the music selections will give you clues as to what will be forthcoming. At other times, the lyrics will describe an emotion within the storyline. With that being said, the lyrics were not written for the book exclusively; therefore, portions of the lyrics will not be applicable or match exactly.

The Losing Humanity series is an immense adventure to be savored and remembered. Unlike a short novel, the series will immerse you into another world that will begin to feel as real as or more real than your own. You will eventually know the characters better than some of your relatives. That is the beauty of a long and wonderful journey.

[Music: Rain, by Michael Whalen] Click link and then listen while reading

Prepare to embark on a very long adventure that will certainly make you think… think about who we are… who you are. Are we really as we have been told we are for thousands of years? Or are we much more. What truly awaits us?

Open up your mind to a fascinating new world and enter willingly to immerse your imagination in wonderment and nourish your spirit with understanding.

[Finish listening to the music before continuing]

 


 

High school

“Hey punk! Yeah you, mamma’s boy. Stay the’ hell away from Megan,” said Ed Polanski, as he pushed Zackary Lester into a locker.

Ed was a popular football player on the high school varsity team and regularly had an entourage of followers. Today was no different; he was flanked by two of the linebackers on his team. Ed’s buddies laughed as they continued to walk to a locker three down from Zackary’s.

Zackary was 5’ 8”, in good shape, but not muscular, and with medium-brown hair and blue eyes. He was a straight-A student and a striker for the boys’ varsity soccer team. Football was the major sport at his high school. Spectators, other than parents, never attended the soccer games and nobody in the school even knew who the players were. In contrast, everyone knew the football players and they paraded around the halls like gods.

The books Zackary had been carrying on his hip dropped to the floor as he fell into the locker, sending papers into the hallway where busy students walked through them without notice. He had to quickly dodge in and out amongst the people to chase them down. As he bent down to pick up one of the papers, his backpack fell off his shoulder and into the leg of a student.

“Come on! What the hell!” yelled the girl as she stumbled forward while scrolling through the music selection on her IPod portable music player. She and her girlfriend were sharing a pair of earbuds that were connected to it.

“Sorry Gail, I didn’t mean to trip you,” said Zackary embarrassingly.

“What a loser!” said Gail’s friend as they continued down the hall.

“Ow!” screamed Zackary, quickly pulling his hand from the floor. A student had stepped on his finger and just kept walking as if nothing happened.

The period bell rang, prompting a rush of students to quickly file into their classrooms. Zackary scampered quickly on all fours to get his papers for the next class. As he stood up, trying to throw his backpack onto his shoulder, a student presented him with one of his papers, “Is this yours?” she asked nicely.

“Uh, yeah, I guess so. Thanks.”

“No problem. You better hurry or you’ll get written up. Somebody told me they’re pretty strict in this school,” said the girl, looking curiously around the hall.

“They aren’t all that bad. Well, at least if you get to know the teachers a little bit.”

“Can you tell me where psych is?”

“Yeah. You’re on the wrong floor. It’s room 103 on the first floor. It’s fastest to take those stairs and then take a right at the bottom. Actually, that teacher is brutal. You better hurry.”

“Thanks!” The girl turned and hurried away anxiously, her shoes making a scuffing noise each time they came down onto the floor.

Zackary turned toward the girl as if to say something, but she was already descending down the stairs. After a moment of reflecting about what had just happened, reality hit and Zackary realized that he was going to be late. That gave him a slight panic attack. He was always punctual and hated to arrive anywhere late. Hustling to his locker, he stopped short, “Oh man!” Somebody had put a ton of tape over his combination lock dial. “Aaaahh!” yelled Zackary as he tried desperately to peel the tape off. It wasn’t going to happen. He frustratingly kicked his locker and turned quickly to get to his next class, running smack into the janitor.

“Do you know how much time and effort goes into straightening and painting these lockers each summer?” said the janitor angrily. Zackary stepped back so he would not be so close to the man.

“Uh, no, I don’t. Somebody taped my lock so it wouldn’t open.”

“So… you thought kicking it in would open it? I don’t think so. Come with me. I’m tired of you kids treating this place like it’s some kind of a junk yard.”

“I didn’t mean to kick the locker. I was just so frustrated!”

“Bring your violin and play it for the principle. Now move!”

The principal’s office was on the first floor, located in the middle of the building, two doors down from the main entrance. Zackary reluctantly followed the janitor down the stairs and through the hallway. A teacher was heading in the opposite direction and was about to pass them, “Bonjour Zack. Tu te sens malade?” (“Good morning Zack. Are you sick?”) asked the teacher concernedly.

 “Euh, non… pas vraiment,” (“Uh, no… not really,” ) uttered Zackary.

The teacher looked at the janitor, who clearly was a bit upset, and then to the principle’s door that they were approaching, “Ah! Alors, j’espère te revoir plus tard en classe.” (“Oh! Well, I hope to see you in class later today.”)

 “Oui, Madame Tellstone.” (“Yes, Mrs. Tellstone.”)

The janitor and Zackary entered the principle’s reception room and confronted her secretary. “Sit over there for now,” said the janitor, pointing to a chair. Zackary promptly sat down and began to shuffle through his book bag, putting his books and papers into it.

“I need to speak with Ms. Smith. Is she in?” asked the janitor anxiously.

“Yes she is, but she’s on a conference call with the Superintendent. It could be a while,” said the secretary. She moved her computer mouse to bring up a scheduling program. “She’ll be taking lunch sometime afterwards and then she’ll be meeting with a parent. Ms. Smith might be able to talk to you for five minutes after her conference call, if that’s okay.”

“I need to go help Frank with some work in the boiler room. Can I leave this student here with you?” said the janitor, looking toward Zackary.

“Well, it all depends on why he’s here.” The secretary looked over at Zackary and her face immediately became concerned.

“I caught him kicking in a locker. I’m so tired of fixing those things! It has to stop.”

“I see. Yes, you can leave him here and I’ll discuss the issue with Ms. Smith.”

The janitor looked over at Zackary with eyes that were giving him a warning, “Alright, but I expect to be updated on what’s going to happen. These kids need to accept responsibility for what they do.”

“I’ll let you know the outcome. Is an email okay?”

“I guess so. I better get going; I was on my way to room 227 to check out why they don’t have any heat.”

“Ah, yes; Mr. Dresso wasn’t a happy camper yesterday. I’m surprise he hasn’t called us again to complain.”

“Thanks,” said the janitor. He turned, scowled at Zackary, and then left the room.

“So... why were you kicking in a locker, Zackary?” asked the secretary curiously.

“I wasn’t actually kicking it in… I just kicked it slightly out of frustration. Somebody taped the lock so it wouldn’t turn and I was already late because I got pushed into my locker and my books and papers flew all over the place. I don’t think I damaged the locker.”

“Oh, I see. Well, I’m not the one you need to convince. Are you going to talk to Ms. Smith about the bullying? If you don’t report it then it will never stop. We have policies regarding that.”

“It wasn’t really bullying. I’m okay.”

“You don’t have to be afraid to tell us. We need to know. You might be able to take it, but there may be others that can’t. It would be helping other students if you mentioned it to Ms. Smith.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Okay…”

After five long minutes of waiting, Zackary became bored and anxious, so he pulled out a book and began to read.

“What are you reading?” asked the secretary.

“It’s one of my Uncle’s books. It’s about-”

“I need to speak with Principle Smith!” said a women sternly, stomping into the room, “My daughter was never picked up for school and I had to leave work to go get her and bring her myself. What the-hell kind of a place are you running here! She could have been raped or killed!”

“I am so sorry to hear that your daughter was not picked up by the bus. We take that very seriously. Please… have a seat. Ms. Smith is on a conference call with the Superintendent at the moment, but I’m sure she will talk with you just as soon as she is free. You will need to check-in and sign this log sheet.” The women was handed a clipboard with a pen hanging from a string.

“I wish your bus drivers were as efficient in picking up kids.” The women’s cell phone rang and she frantically pulled it out of her purse to answer it. Within seconds she left the room while talking on her phone, leaving the sign-in sheet unsigned and on the counter. Zackary watched the women talking on her cell phone through the window next to the doorway. He looked over to the secretary, who shrugged her shoulders and then went back to work. A few minutes later the woman exited the building, never bothering to come back.

Ms. Smith opened her door and walked to her secretary,” Mrs. Myers, I will need to take lunch in about twenty minutes. Is there anything on my schedule that I can take care of that’s pressing? I need to run to the administration building after lunch to meet with a board member, so I won’t return for a while.”

The secretary stood up and leaned over to look through the window, looking for the women. “Well… a women came in all bent out of shape because her daughter wasn’t picked up.”

“Really? What was her name?”

The secretary took the sign-in sheet and looked down the list. “I don’t know. She never wrote her name down. Her phone rang and she took off.”

“Hmm… I guess it wasn’t too important to her. Is there anything else on my schedule?”

The secretary scrolled through the principle’s schedule, “Oh! You need to meet with Mrs. Connors after lunch. It’s… regarding her son. That’s going to conflict with your meeting with the board member.”

“I should have looked at my schedule first,” said Ms. Smith frustratingly, “Can you please call Mr. McBride and move the time a bit later?”

“Sure. In the mean-time…,” the secretary looked over to Zackary, “Mr. Rodgers brought Zackary in for kicking his locker.”

Ms. Smith looked over to Zackary with a look of disbelief, “Is that true, Zackary?” asked Ms. Smith.

“Well… kinda. I didn’t try to damage it.”

“Okay, let’s go into my office to talk about it. We need to make this quick.”

Zackary sheepishly followed Ms. Smith into the office. She sat at the end of a table and pointed for him to sit down in one of the chairs next to her.

“So, explain to me why you would kick a locker. That doesn’t fit your personality.”

“Somebody taped my lock so I couldn’t open it and I didn’t want to be late for class.”

“You were running late?”

“A little bit.”

“Why were you late? I’ve never received a report for you being tardy to any class.”

“I had to help some new girl find her classroom.”

“Such a gentleman! But that still doesn’t explain why you would get angry enough to kick a locker. We spend a lot of money repairing lockers so students will have a secure place for their personal belongings. Your dad even secured money for us to get new ones several years ago. You know that.”

“I’m sorry for kicking the locker. I won’t do it again. I’ll stay after school to clean any marks on it. Can you not tell my dad about it?”

“You need to answer my question fully before I can answer that. What got you so angry that you would kick the locker? That’s not like you.”

“I somehow slipped and my books and papers went all over the place. I guess I just got frustrated.”

“I see. Were the floors slippery? I could talk to the janitor about them.”

“NO! I mean, no. The floors are perfect. I guess I was just a bit clumsy today. We’ve been on the road a lot for our soccer games and I’m a bit tired, trying to fit my homework in at night or on the bus.”

“That was a tough loss the other day to Columbia. I heard that our goalie was injured,” said Ms. Smith.

“Yeah, we should have had ‘um. We just couldn’t finish.”

“Zackary, here is what we’re going to do... you will be suspended for one game. That will give you time to clean any marks on your locker after school.”

“Oh man!”

“Hold on young fella… I won’t tell your dad, but I will tell your mom. She’ll wonder why you’ll be missing a game.”

“Coach Sanders won’t be happy. I might have to do a couple of tree-lines when he finds out I can’t make the next game. It’s against the Academy.”

“I understand completely. Do you see how your actions have a ripple effect? Let this be an important lesson that you can take with you.”

The sound of yelling was heard coming from the secretary’s office. Ms. Smith looked toward the door concernedly, “I really need to move along now. Keep out of trouble, Zackary. You’re a wonderful student. Be careful who you associate with.”

“Yes, Ms. Smith.”

“Oh, tell your mom that I’ll be at the PTA meeting on Thursday, but I’ll need to leave the meeting early.”

“Okay.”

The principle got up and was about to open the door when Zackary uttered something quietly, “I think that’s Sue Trendal’s mom out there. I overheard Sue and some other girls talking about getting back at the school after Julia Washburn was caught smoking in the bathroom and was put on school suspension. They were really angry.”

Ms. Smith sighed heavily, dreading the confrontation of the screaming woman, “Did you hear what the girls were going to do about it?”

“They were saying a lot of things that they wanted to do. I didn’t really stick around to listen.”

“Thanks for telling me. I better get out there and calm her down.”

Ms. Smith opened the door for Zackary to exit through. The woman that had previously come into her secretary’s office was enraged and yelling at the secretary, “I was told that I would be the next person to see the principle! Don’t you people take things seriously around here!”

 

Confrontation

Zackary drove himself home from school in a new BMW. The car was a gift from his dad for his senior year of high school so his mom would not need to drive him to school. His dad did not want his son riding the school bus, feeling it would not look good for his political image.

Most kids Zackary’s age would love to have his car, but he had a love-hate relationship with having it. He liked the car, but despised his father for giving it to him. Therefore, he never cleaned it. The front and back seats were full of old McDonald’s bags, burger wrappers, and miscellaneous soda bottles. It enraged his father whenever he saw the car. That made Zackary feel good.  He also drove it hard and frequently drove up onto curbs purposely to mar the rims.

Upon entering the house, Zackary removed his shoes and quietly but quickly made his way up the stairs, leaping two steps at a time, trying not to be heard. His dog Champ, an energetic Golden Retriever, spotted Zackary slipping into the house and made a beeline toward him. At the top landing, Zackary turned quickly to enter the hallway when his book bag slung around and hit a picture on the wall, causing it to fall.

“Darn!” said Zackary under his breath. Champ had made his way to Zackary and was wagging his tail with a ratty old stuffed dog toy in his mouth.

“Not now Champ,” said Zackary in a firm quiet tone.

“Zack? …Zackary? Is that you? Did you fall? Zackary?”

“It’s me mom! Everything’s okay. A picture fell off the wall. I’ll put it back up,” said Zackary frustratingly.

Zackary’s mother, Jill Lester, was five-foot six, trim, and had long slightly wavy brunette hair and green eyes. Her hair showed natural highlights of red when the light from the window hit it just right. She dressed well in expensive clothing, but her hair was worn naturally and she did not wear ornate jewelry. Jill was now at the bottom of the stairs looking up to see what had happened.

As Zackary picked the picture up from the floor, part of the cracked glass fell out of the frame. “Uhh! My whole day sucked!”

Champ dropped the stuffed dog toy in front of Zackary and looked up at him excitedly with his tongue hanging out.

“What’s the matter Zackary? Are you okay?” asked his mother.

“Yes mom! I’m okay!” said Zackary a bit angrily.

“You watch your tone young man. I was just trying to be helpful.”

“I know mom. Sorry. I need to clean this up.”

Zackary pushed his dog over a bit to get him away from the glass. Champ thought he was playing and came back at Zackary all excited.

“No!” yelled Zackary. The dog’s ears went down and he slowly walked away.

“What happened today?” asked Jill. It was clear she was not ready to walk away.

“Nothing. Nothing at all,” said Zackary, hoping his mom would go away. He began to pick up the shards of glass and put them on the face of the picture.

“Julieta can clean that for you. Don’t touch the glass or you’ll get cut,” warned his mom.

“I can do this, mom. It’s just a few pieces of glass.”

“Okay, but be careful.” Jill hesitated for a few seconds, “What do you want Julieta to make us for dinner?”

“I don’t care,” answered Zackary, a bit annoyed that his mom was still there.

“She needs to know.”

“I don’t care!”

“Zackary! What is getting into you these days? You are so rude. Ever since your uncle passed away you have become very difficult. You need to settle down.”

“I am settled down. I just need to be left alone,” said Zackary as he turned and headed toward his room. Champ still had his ears down and sadly watched Zackary walk past him. The dog whined slightly and then laid down near Zackary’s door after it was closed.

Zackary’s room was spotless. Their maid, Julieta, cleaned it every day after Zackary went to school. She was an illegal immigrant and worked for very low wages. Julieta worked hard and was deathly afraid of Zackary’s dad. His dad had hired her, but Zackary sensed that there was something more that his dad hung over her head.

A picture of Zackary, standing with his Uncle in front of a tent, was on his nightstand next to his alarm clock that displayed 3:33pm. He paused to look at the picture, remembering the wilderness trips they had taken together, and then flopped himself down onto his bed, taking a deep breath. “Why did you leave me here all alone?” he said under his breath. A tear began to fall from the corner of his eye.

Zackary quickly wiped it away and sprung up from his bed abruptly to turn on his gaming system. Normally the television was setup to display his gaming system, but somebody must have watched the television during the day and left it on the TV setting. He was about to change the setting when he noticed coverage of the Iraqi war. The scene was of wounded soldiers coming home burned or with limbs missing. That disturbed Zackary and he felt sorry for them. The announcer said that the US forces were having a difficult time with IEDs being used by the insurgents.

“Iraqi cowards!” said Zackary angrily as he continued to watch.

When the broadcast was over he switched the television over to the gaming system and began to play a war game. He really got into the war games on his system and frequently played against other players through the internet. Today he was playing against a user called HoreHound, a well-known player that rarely lost. Zackary hoped that today would be the day he would beat him, and by the looks of the scores, it appeared that he might. Forty-five minutes later they were still at it.

<knock-knock-knock> “Zackary; dinner is ready,” said his mother outside his door. Zackary had his headset on and could not hear a thing.

“Zackary! Zackary? I know you’re in there!” Jill tried the door and it was locked. She took out a long round piece of plastic from her pocket, pushed it into the handle’s lock release hole and opened the door. Zackary still had no idea she was in his room, as his chair faced away from the door. She did not hesitate to go directly over to the power strip and turn it off.

Zackary flung his headset off and looked angrily at his mother, “Come on! I was just playing a game!”

“I know you were just playing a game. That’s why I shut it down.”

“I was about to beat one of the best players on the web! What the hell!”

“Stop right now! You do NOT talk to me that way. Do you understand me? What has gotten into you Zackary? You never talked to me like this before. You are losing respect. I taught you better than that.”

Zackary flung his gaming console onto the floor, “You don’t understand anything! And talk about respect… you just barged right into my room. What if I was naked!”

“If you were naked you would have answered when I called for you. Your dinner is ready and getting cold. I’m getting tired of wrapping it up for you to eat later. It is very disrespectful when somebody makes you a meal and you don’t even bother to show up to the table to eat it or thank them for providing it to you.”

“Julieta’s paid to make dinner. She doesn’t give a rat’s ass if we eat it or not, just so long as she gets paid.”

“That’s enough! Where are you learning to talk like that? I’m your mother and you will respect me. Do you understand!”

“What about me! Where’s my respect? You have no right to barge in and turn off my equipment. I’m an adult now.”

“You may be in an adult body, but you are acting like a spoiled child. And I have EVERY right to come into any room in MY house and turn off anything that I wish. And speaking of ‘your’ system, that was paid for by us, you will lose privileges to use it for two weeks. Now… get your little backside downstairs and eat your dinner before you lose the PRIVILIGE to use the car.”

It was clear that Zackary’s mom was digging in and any more argument from him would cause him to lose more privileges. He got up from his chair, pushed it angrily against the desk, and then stomped out of the room.

Jill had worked hard to control her emotions. While she was angry with Zackary, she also felt terribly sorry for him. She did not want it to show and it was a struggle for her to discipline him when she understood what he was going through. Nevertheless, she felt that he needed somebody strong to keep him in line during this troubling time. His father was no help because he was rarely home and never really paid much attention to Zackary. Zackary’s Uncle Gerry was his father figure ever since he was a baby and now he no longer had him in his life.

After Zackary was down the stairs, Jill went into her bedroom, closed the door, and threw herself onto the bed, crying into her pillow. When she was finally in control of her emotions Jill sat up and looked around the room. It was beautifully designed with very ornate and expensive furnishings. She thought to herself that she could give all of that up for happiness. That seemed like an impossibility for her. Jill was very dependent on her husband and never had to work to make money or support herself. That gave her a serious lack of confidence to change her life.

Realizing that Zackary would be questioning where she was, she dried the tears from her face, straightened herself up and went down the stairs to the dining room. Her meal was still there and Zackary was nearly done eating. He had just thrown a piece of meat to Champ, who was glued to him in a trance, waiting for another.

Zackary looked up at his mom and sensed that she was sad, “I’m sorry mom. I didn’t mean to talk to you that way. I feel really bad about it. Everything seems to be working against me lately. I don’t know what it is.”

Jill walked over to Zackary and bent down to give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, “I know. I’m sorry for losing my temper too. I love you Zackary. Don’t ever forget that. No matter what you do that I don’t like, I will always be there to love you.”

“I know mom. I love you too.” He returned her hug and then let her go so she could sit at the table. “Ms. Smith said that she was going to the PTA meeting. I think she said… Thursday?”

“Oh, that’s good. We need to ask her to use a large room for an event we’re putting together to benefit the band. When did you see her?”

Zackary knew he had to be careful what he said to avoid another confrontation. “I fell into my locker and the janitor thought that I kicked it, so he made me go see her.”

“Oh my! Did you tell her what really happened?”

“The janitor was really angry and I couldn’t prove that I didn’t do it, so I just said that I did. It was easier that way.”

“That isn’t right! You should always tell the truth Zackary. It does no good to lie, especially if you are in the right. I’ll have a talk to her about it.”

A pang began to build in Zackary’s chest and it was readily apparent that he was digging a bigger hole that would be harder to get out of. He decided to fess up and deal with the outcome, “No, don’t do that. I didn’t exactly tell you the truth. I didn’t want to lie; I just wanted it to stop. I did kick the locker, but not hard. Somebody had taped my locker combination so I couldn’t use it and I was about to be late for class. I was just so frustrated.”

Jill did not know how to react. He had lied to her, but then came through with the truth. “I see. So, how do you expect me to react to you lying to me?”

“I know. It wasn’t right. And I don’t like lying. It makes things so complicated. I’ll give up a week of car privileges. I won’t lie to you again, okay?”

Jill smiled. “Two weeks of car privileges and you have a deal.”

Zackary smiled back, “Okay. Two weeks. But you’ll have to drive me to school.”

“Uh, no! You can ride the bus,” said his mom with a grin.

“Mom! Come On! Everybody will think I’m a dork after going to school in a beamer.”

“I was just kidding. You know I like to drive you to school.”

“I thought we weren’t supposed to lie,” said Zackary, trying to catch her off guard.

“Yes, we’re not. I said you can ride the school bus. I didn’t say that you had to ride the school bus. She smiled again, knowing that she outwitted him.

“Sometimes you remind me of Uncle Gerry.”

Jill’s smile gradually gave way to a look of sadness as she remembered her brother, “Thank you. I really miss him.”

“Yeah, I do too,” said Zackary, a bit choked up. He tried desperately to not show any emotion because he wanted to be strong for his mother.

Both wanted to change the subject because each knew that they missed Gerry terribly. Jill decided to change the subject first. “How are you making out picking a college? It’s getting to be very late to apply.”

Zackary was a bit uncomfortable with the question and squirmed in his chair, “I looked at a lot of them on-line. There are a few I might want to visit. I don’t know, mom; something doesn’t feel right about me going into college. I just don’t have any motivation anymore. I thought I wanted to go to college, but now I’m not so sure. I’m not sure of anything anymore.”

“Oh, I see. Well, you could work for a year and then go. Some people need a year away from studies to figure out what they want to go to college for. I’m not so sure that your dad would agree, though. He has his sights set on sending you to Harvard. He brags about it to the other State legislators. If you don’t go to Harvard, he’ll look silly to his peers and you know how that will go over. And remember; he’s going to run for Congress. At least if you work for a year he can still say that you’ll be going to college a year after you get some work experience.”

“Man, you really know dad.”

Jill sighed, “Yeah... unfortunately I really do.”


First Love

The period bell rang and everyone jumped up from their desks, the chairs making a symphony of loud scuffing noises as they were cast aside. Zackary was one of the last to leave because he was still writing down the next assignment from the whiteboard.

“Hey Zack; they have pizza today. Hurry up so we can join the other soccer players near the corner window,” said Jimmy.

“Coming!” said Zackary as he closed his binder.

“The last one there sucks skunk farts!” said Jimmy as he bolted from the room. Zackary grasped his book, shoved it into his binder and was off in a flash. As he exited the door in a near sprint, he ran into a girl, knocking her to the floor. He nearly fell himself, but was able to stay upright. Only his book slid out from his binder and hit the floor.

“Oh man! I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” asked Zackary anxiously.

“Ah! My wrist hurts. I think it’s broken,” said the girl.

“I am so sorry! Here… let me help you up,” said Zackary as he tried to grab her arm. He was very concerned for the girl and felt quite badly. Once she was up he looked at her wrist gently, trying to see if it was broken, “I don’t think it’s broken, but you better see the nurse to be sure.”

“Okay, I guess that’s a good idea. Can you hand me my bag?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. Uhh… wait, I’ll carry it for you.”

“You don’t have to. Just put it on my shoulder.”

“No, really, I want to. I feel terrible. It’s the least I can do after knocking you down. I shouldn’t have run out into the hallway.” Zackary grabbed her bag and they began to walk away.

“Your book,” said the girl.

Zackary looked down at his binder and saw that the book was not there. “Just a second,” said Zackary as he ran back to pick up his book.

When he returned the girl was looking at him inquisitively, “Are you the guy that dropped your papers on the floor about a month ago?”

“Uh… yeah, I guess so. You must think I’m a klutz,” said Zackary, a bit more embarrassed.

“You never told me your name,” said the girl. She was holding onto her arm gingerly.

“Zack”

“Well, hi again, Zack.”

“Hi.” Zackary’s face was getting a bit red.

“Don’t you want to know my name?” asked the girl, feeling a bit slighted.

“Yeah, sure.”

“It’s Kristina Hughes.”

“Is that spelled with a C or K?”

“A K.”

“Oh.”

“What’s your last name?” asked the girl.

“Here we are. Do you want me to wait for you?” asked Zackary, dodging the question. He was feeling relieved that they had arrived before he had to tell her his last name. Zackary was afraid to mention his last name because he did not want the girl to form a connection with his dad. He got a lot of flak from the students for being his son. Furthermore, his mom was very active in the PTA and kept involved with Zackary’s activities. Some of the jocks made fun of that and called him a momma’s boy.

“I guess I’ll be okay now. I can carry my bag with my other hand,” said Kristina.

Zackary was looking squarely at Kristina and noticed how attractive she was. Kristina was very shapely, had long slightly curly dirty blond hair and brown eyes. She wore some makeup, but not a lot.

“No, wait, I’ll carry it for you. I still feel bad for knocking you over. I can wait out here for you. ”

“Alright. Thanks a lot Zack.”

Zackary sat against the hallway wall and waited. He felt miserable for knocking Kristina over, but at the same time, his heart was racing a bit from talking with her. His palms began to sweat and he was nervously tapping one foot on the floor. He kept looking at the time on his cell phone, knowing he was missing lunch and would need to go directly to his next class.

When Kristina exited the nurse’s door she had a brace and ice pack on her wrist. Zackary felt a pang in his chest, thinking her wrist was broken,” Oh man, what did I do to you?” asked Zackary nervously.

“It’s just a sprain.”

“Oh! Whew! I thought I hurt you bad.”

“Is it too late for lunch?” asked Kristina.

Zackary looked nervously at his phone, “Well, it’s not over, but there won’t be enough time to eat. Do you want a candy bar? I have a spare in my locker.”

“Oh, no thanks. I don’t want to eat your last snack. You haven’t eaten either.”

“Okay, then we’ll share it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, come on.” Zackary smiled at her, grabbed their bags, and then headed down the hallway.

“You’re new here. Where did you come from?” asked Zackary to make conversation.

“Philadelphia.”

“Oh. Do you like it here?”

“It’s okay.  I don’t really like change. I miss my friends.”

“Yeah, that must suck. Have you made any new friends yet?” asked Zackary.

“I know some people, but I wouldn’t call them friends. Girls are not the friendliest of people to new girls that come into town. It’s a competitive thing I guess.”

“Really? I never knew that.”

“I don’t know, really,” said Kristina, “Maybe it just seems that way. I don’t like to be too open with people I don’t know.”

“You seem fine with me.”

“Yeah,” said Kristina with a smile, “You’re really nice, well, unless you’re knocking me over.” She chuckled a bit, making Zackary blush.

“Okay, I deserved that. But I promise never to tackle you again.”

When they arrived at Zackary’s locker he put their bags down on the floor. A pack of cigarettes fell out of Kristina’s bag and onto the floor, making him look twice.

“Oh! Those aren’t mine. I took them from my mom so she wouldn’t have them to smoke. I’m trying to get her to quit,” said Kristina in a panic. She quickly bent down and put them back in her bag clumsily using one hand.

Zackary was a bit puzzled. Kristina appeared to be a bright girl and did not look like the smoker type. He believed her story and they ate his candy bar without mention of the cigarettes again.

For the next couple of weeks Zackary carried Kristina’s bag whenever he could fit it in with his own schedule. They became very friendly as the days passed. Eventually he felt confident enough to invite her over to his house to study after school when he knew his mother would not be home.  Jill was going to visit a friend of hers for several hours and then they would go shopping together. In preparation for the visit, Zackary had spent the prior night hiding anything that suggested that his father was a politician.

Kristina rode with Zackary to his house from the school. When they arrived, Zackary opened the front door to let his dog Champ outside to go pee. Champ was so excited to see Zackary and Kristina that he did not immediately run out into the yard. Instead, he kept nuzzling Zackary and Kristina to pet him. Kristina was only too happy to comply and talked to him in a cutesy voice. Eventually Zackary ordered him away, “Champ! Go pee!” His dog looked sad and slowly made his way out to the yard where he promptly went pee. Once he was done he bounded back to them, happy to get that over with. “Good boy!” said Zackary rubbing the dog’s head and ears. Kristina laughed and pet Champ affectionately.

“He can be a real pain sometimes,” said Zackary as he opened the door. “In” ordered Zackary. Champ obeyed and leaped into the house, running to get his favorite tug rope. He promptly came back, meeting them at the doorway with his tail wagging so fast that it made his hips sway back and forth. He then made a low friendly growling noise to get their attention so they would pull on his rope.

“Not now champ. I’ll play with you later,” said Zackary. Champ did not listen and pushed the rope into Kristina. She finally complied and tugged on it.

“You don’t know what you’re getting roped into,” said Zackary with a smile, “He won’t stop.”

Kristina laughed and kept tugging.

“I’m going to make us a snack before we get to work. Is Nutella and sliced bananas on bread okay with you?”

“You don’t have to make me anything. I’m fine.” She continued to swing the rope while Champ growled and shook his head to break her grip.

“It’s okay; I’m going to make one for myself anyway. Um… is that going to hurt your wrist?”

“Not really. I’m using my other arm. But that’s a good point. I don’t need two wrecked arms. Do you want some help?” Kristina finally let go of the rope and Champ shook it like he was trying to kill it.

“Sure, but you should wash your hands first. That rope is full of bacteria ridden dog slobber.”

“Ew yuk. Can I use your bathroom?”

“Yeah. It’s down that hallway, 2nd door on the right.”

“Thanks.”

 When Kristina returned she saw that Zackary had some food on the counter to make the sandwiches. He also had some pecans and a container of powdered instant tea. Kristina opened a loaf of bread and placed a slice on a paper towel.

“You’re lucky to have a dog. I always wanted one,” said Kristina.

“He’s a good dog. Sometimes a bit too friendly, but that can’t be a bad thing.”

Champ had finally dropped his rope and decided to go into the kitchen to see if he could beg for some food. He sat down right next to Zackary and stared up at him.

“He’s going to try to stare me down to get food,” said Zackary.

Kristina laughed, “Does it work?”

“Oh, only half of the time. This stuff is bad for him so he’ll lose today.”

After their snack he brought Kristina up to his room with their books and left the door open. Keeping the door open with a female guest was a rule his mom made and he always abided by it. Champ promptly followed them into the room and laid down in his favorite spot. Zackary sat at his computer desk and Kristina made herself comfortable sitting on his bed. They chatted for a bit about school and then cracked open the books. Both were completely not interested in their studies, but pretended to study, trying to impress each other. Finally, Kristina caved and looked around, spotting a guitar.

“Do you play that?” asked Kristina.

“Play what?” asked Zackary lifting his head to see what she was talking about. He was hoping that she meant his play station, as he would love to play a game with her. His hopes were dashed when he saw her pointing to the guitar.

“Yeah. Well, I used to before my uncle died. He taught me to play.”

“Oh. That is so sad. I’m sorry; I didn’t know. He must have been a very special person.”

“My Uncle Gerry was the best. He was my God Father.”

“What can you play?” asked Kristina inquisitively.

“This and that. Nothing special. I sometimes try to play some of the music you’ve heard from my IPod.”

“Can you play me something? I like the music that you’ve let me listen to at school.”

Zackary hesitated but did not want to be seen as not being agreeable. He had a difficult time adjusting to life once his Uncle had passed. His Uncle Gerry was more of a father to him than his own father was. To Zackary, losing his uncle was like losing a father and a best friend. He had become afraid to play the guitar since his uncle’s death because it made him feel close to his uncle and that feeling scared him.

“That’s okay if you really don’t want to,” said Kristina, sensing that Zackary was becoming uncomfortable with the situation. “I do have a lot of homework that I need to get done.”

The thought of pretending to do studying for the next hour seemed a bit dreadful, so Zackary looked over to the guitar and thought that maybe she might like him more if he played it. 

“No, I’m good. I might be a bit rusty, though.”

“I understand. If you hit a wrong note I won’t tell anyone. I can’t vouch for Champ, though.” She smiled at Zackary and that was all he needed. Whenever she smiled at him it made him happy.

“Alright then. Champ hasn’t learned to talk yet so I guess I’m safe.” Zackary opened up a desk drawer and took out his chromatic tuner. A minute later he appeared to be happy with the guitar and pulled out a stool to sit on. He took a deep breath and began to play and sing with the song.

 

 [Music: “Keep it Together” by Guster] Click to Listen. Finish before continuing.

 

When he finished the song he was smiling at Kristina. She was awestruck. “Wow... I mean…wow! You’re amazing! Are you in a band?”

“No. I play because I have to. I mean… I don’t have to. I just… do. It’s complicated. No it’s not. I just really like music I guess. I feel things when I play.”

“That’s okay; I get it. The music just comes through you like… like… well, it just does. Zackary, you’re an amazing person.”

“Thanks. I haven’t played in a while. Thank you for helping me to go back to it.”

“You just blew me away. I didn’t expect that. What else can you do?”

“I don’t know.” Zackary was getting a bit embarrassed and was turning red. Kristina smiled at him again and he melted.

“My uncle taught me a bunch of stuff, but I’m sure it would bore you to tears. Hey, do you want to go outside and play Frisbee with Champ? He’s amazing and can jump up and catch it in mid-air.”

“Sure! That sounds like a lot of fun.”

Kristina and Zackary had a wonderful time and laughed a lot as they played with the dog. It was the first time he really relaxed around a girl and he was growing very fond of her. She made him forget how much he missed his uncle and was beginning to fill that void. He had not expected that and it felt very comforting to him.

On the way to drive her home, Kristina had her hand on the center console. He slowly moved his hand over to touch hers and when she did not move it, he gently grabbed her hand. She lightly squeezed his hand in acceptance and she smiled at him. He smiled back and continued to drive with a smile on his face. They were both so very happy.

When they were close to her home she spoke up, “Can you pull over and let me out a few houses before mine?”

“Yeah, sure. Why?”

“My brother can be a bit of a pain. I want to tell my parents about you before he does.”

“Oh. Did they know that we were together to study?”

“Not exactly. I told them that I was going to study with a girlfriend. I don’t normally lie like that, but it was the only way I could get out. I hope you’re not angry.”

“No. That’s okay. I haven’t told my mom either. I guess we can now, right?”

“Yeah,” said Kristina with a smile.

Zackary pulled over about five houses away from Kristina’s home, pulled up on the emergency brake, and left the car idling.

“I had a wonderful time today said Kristina. Thanks for inviting me over.”

Zackary grabbed her hand again and she squeezed his affectionately, “Yeah, I had a great time too,” said Zackary nervously. He was a bit anxious, “Can I keep seeing you?”

“I was hoping you would ask me that. Yes, I would love to keep seeing you.” They were now looking straight into each other’s eyes. Slowly they moved closer to each other and he gave her a light kiss. She then retuned the kiss a bit more affectionately.

“I wish I didn’t have to go home right now,” said Kristina.

“Yeah. I wish you didn’t either. My mom is going to be wondering what I’m up to, though, so I really need to get back home.”

“I understand. My parents will be looking for me as well.”

“It’s all good. We’ll see each other tomorrow.”

“Yeah, we will,” said Kristina with a smile.

They said goodbye and Zackary drove off. Kristina watched him drive away, smiled gleefully, and then ran home.

When Zackary arrived back at home he immediately ran upstairs into his room. Instead of going to his PlayStation to play a game, he picked up his guitar and began to play it. His mom heard him and quietly walked up the stairs to listen. She smiled and then walked back down the stairs with tears in her eyes.

The next day Zackary was the happiest he had been in a very long time. He was up early and was out the door ahead of schedule. When he met-up with Kristina they both were excitingly happy and held hands in the hallway between classes.

Near the end of the day a boy ran up from behind them, “Hey, Kristina! Are you coming to the party at Ron’s house on Saturday?” Zackary did not know the boy well, but knew enough about him to be uncomfortable. His name was Ken Truss and he was known to be a partyer.

“No. Tell him thanks, though.”

“You sure? He’s gunna miss ya?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Oh,” Ken looked a bit disappointed. He looked over at Zackary and then over at Kristina. She had a poker face and showed no emotion, while Ken’s face began to show a bit of anger. “So… you decided to try royalty for a change?” questioned Ken, sarcastically.

Zackary took that as an insult and was now feeling defensive. He also had mixed feelings about whom Kristina had befriended when she first arrived at their school.

“She said no,” said Zackary firmly.

“Oh, excuse me, your highness. Or should I say, Prince Charming?” Ken chuckled and was now clearly being confrontational.

“Look, she doesn’t want to go, so just leave her alone and go back to your friends,” said Zackary, who had now released Kristina’s hand and dropped his bag onto the floor.

“Ken, don’t,” said Kristina in an attempt to defuse the situation, “I have other things to do this weekend. Zackary is my friend.”

“Ron’s going to be pissed that you’re with another guy,” said Ken.

“Who’s Ron?” asked Zackary, directing the question to Kristina.

“It’s her boyfriend,” said Ken, all too eager to answer.

“Is that true?” asked Zackary directly toward Kristina. He was a bit taken aback and confused.

“No! We’re just acquaintances, that’s all.”

Ken laughed, “Yeah right. That’s not what we heard… through the walls!”

“Ken, get the hell out of here now!” shouted Kristina.

“Okay slut. Have it your way. But I see an ass whoop’n in the future for your pansy-ass prince.”

Zackary did not know what to think, but hearing somebody call his girlfriend a slut enraged him, “You need to give her an apology,” said Zackary resolutely.

“Why? For telling the truth? Kiss my ass mama’s boy!”

“Kristina looked at Zackary and then at Ken. Zackary was 5 foot 8 inches tall and buff, while Ken was a bit over six foot tall and about two hundred pounds. She felt Zackary was no match and would probably get hurt. Feeling guilty and wanting everything to stop, she pleaded, “Ken just go and let us be… Please?”

By now the other students were beginning to encircle the three of them, wondering if there was going to be a fight.

“Hey Ken; kick his ass. I’ll back you,” said another boy that had made his way toward them.

“No need, Bill. I could take this mama’s boy with one hand tied behind my back.”

“Listen, I’m not looking for a fight,” said Zackary firmly, “Just apologize to Kristina and leave us alone.”

“Ooooh… apologize to Kristina and leave us alone,” said Ken mockingly, followed by laughing. Ken approached Zackary and looked right into his face, yelling, with spit spattering into his face, “Kiss my fucking ass, punk!”

“Mr. Vasko’s coming!” yelled a student. Zackary and Ken were locked in a stare with neither blinking...