Empowered: Act 2 Finale

Empowered: Act 2 Finale



Here we are, everyone: The thrilling conclusion to see page Empowered: Act 2! I’ve had this ending scene of this act in my head since even before I wrote the story, and everything I’ve written thus far has been building towards it. It’s truly the turning point of the story, and I hope those of you who’ve been reading are both satisfied with the progression and eager to see where the story’s going to go from here. As always, I’m happy to bring you a new installment of this story, and I can’t wait to show you how the whole thing ends. But I won’t get ahead of myself. For right now, let’s focus on the apex of Carl Freeman’s downfall in the Act 2 Finale of buy inderal online paypal Empowered!


Gym class was the only class where Carl, in theory, was equal. Wanting to test students on their ‘natural’ athletic abilities, schools outfitted gym classes with nullifiers that suppress the gene that gives a person his or her power. Originally developed to better contain convicts in prison, the nullifiers leveled the playing field for physical education. Only those with physically manifested attributes, such as Wing, partially retained their abilities. In his case, his wings remained; however, he lost the ability to manipulate wind.

Until today, Carl had been on Wing’s team each time they played dodgeball, and he had little to no reason to not enjoy the sport.

Until today.

Getting hit in the face for the fourth time that period, he could hear Wing say to a friend, “Even with the Carl-makers, he still doesn’t stand a chance.”

“ ‘Carl-makers,’ that’s was always really funny, Wing, you fucking used tampon of a human being,” he muttered to himself as he rubbed his right cheek and took a seat with his teammates who’ve also been ejected from the game. Carl, whose mind was permeated with thoughts of his recent breakup, had been too distracted to play effectively, and Wing had taken full advantage of that fact.

After four more minutes of play, Mr. Woods blew his whistle, ending the second round. “Okay,” he said, “the score is 1-1. Next game decides it.”

“See you out there, Imp,” Wing called out from the other bench.

“Watch it, Kong,” Mr. Woods stated, having heard the antagonizing remarks. “I don’t want to have this conversation with you again.”

Superficially, Wing replied, “Of course, sir. My apologies,” then quickly following his words with devious smirk at Carl.

Carl shook his head as the lividity rose within him. With his current emotional state, it meant that Wing’s actions were more caustic to him than usual. Every time Wing antagonized him, the anger in Carl was stirred harder and harder. Usually, Carl’s goal was to just do his best to not make his team lose; today, his effort was to be focused on cracking Wing across the face with a dodgeball.

He missed the first shot he took at Wing. And he missed the subsequent five times he tried to hit the lithe young man, who was too quick for Carl to successfully land a blow. Fury replaced precision as Carl impetuously – and unsuccessfully – launched ball after ball at Wing.

And as each ball harmless flew past him, Wing would laugh harder and harder. And every time he let out that loud, deep, mocking laugh, Carl’s anger was stirred even more.

The agitation was clear on Carl’s face; he saw no need and no use in hiding it. He wanted to hurt Wing. Badly.

“Missed again, Imp,” Wing taunted as he deftly swerved out of the way of the red rubber ball that was about to connect with his head.

Stirring.

Carl immediately found another by his feet and sent it on the same course towards him.

“Don’t try too hard, Imp,” you’re just embarrassing yourself now. “Come on; I’ll make it easy for you,” he said. Then expanding the feathery protrusions on his back to their full length, he smiled as wide as his wingspan and gestured with his hands that he wanted Carl to throw the ball.

Though panting hard with exhaustion, Carl obliged Wing, but his throw was a weak and lifeless one. As the ball neared his enemy, a small flap of his wings was enough to send the red rubber projectile off course.

“That’s enough, Kong!” Mr. Woods yelled. “You know the rule about powers; you get a zero for the day!”

“Pity,” Wing remarked, feeling the failing grade for the day was more than worth the embarrassment now painted across Carl’s face. “It was an admirable try, Imp.”

Wing then turned his back to take his place on his team’s bench. As he did so, Carl, feeling a resurgence of strength, picked up another ball a few feet away and held it tight against his chest. Forfeiting any integrity, he wound up and released the ball, hitting Wing in the back of his head and interrupting his graceful stride.

Wing turned to face Carl, his face as red as the ball that had hit him. Sentiments had been quickly switched as Carl felt a wave of satisfaction and Wing a deeper loathing for Carl than ever before.

Mr. Woods blared on his whistle three times, ejecting Carl from the game as well.

“Freeman!” he screamed. “You’re out, too! Failing grade for the day, and you’re lucky I don’t fail you for the quarter for an act like that!”

Carl was silent. He didn’t know what had come over him, but he felt no regret for what he had done. Like Wing, the chance for humiliation greatly exceeded the desire for a passing grade in gym class.

“Nice shot, Freeman,” Wing sneered from the opposing bench, “but I suppose we all get lucky once.”

Carl said nothing and instead scowled at the young Chinese boy, accompanying it with a smirk of self-satisfaction.

When class ended, the boys took to the locker room to get dressed, but before Carl and Wing could go inside, Mr. Woods called them to stay behind.

“Kong! Freeman! You’re not going anywhere just yet,” he yelled. “Everyone else inside; this is none of your business.”

The other young boys, always eager to hear a fellow classmate get reprimanded by the teacher, groaned and slowly marched in to the locker room, hoping to at least hear the introduction to Carl and Wing’s verbal berating.

“I don’t know the problem you two have with each other, and frankly, I don’t fucking care,” the gym teacher growled, not concerned with sugarcoating his language. “If I see either of you pull anything like that in my class again, we’re going to have a serious problem. Do you understand me!”

Carl looked at Mr. Woods in shame; Wing stared at him in indifference. The teacher let his words linger on the ears for a moment before continuing. “Now shake hands like men and put this behind you. And I’ll repeat myself: I better not fucking see this kind of behavior again. Do I make myself clear?”

The boys simply nodded before turning to shake hands. Carl was trying – and failing – to keep a calm composure, but the anger in his eyes betrayed him as he looked at Wing. As they shook, Carl noticed how icy Wing’s grip was, starkly contrasting the furious heat in his own.

“Go,” Mr. Woods finished. “I don’t want to look at either one of you right now.”

The two remained silent before entering the locker room. The moment the door closed, Wing’s antagonism resumed.

“Must be nice, I’d assume, not being a freak for a change, even though it’s only for forty-five minutes every other day,” Wing whispered. Although better at hiding it, he was filled with as much indignation as Carl.

And Carl, whose anger never had a chance to fully subside, was being stirred once more.

“Really, it must be nice,” he said again before walking past Carl and towards his locker.

Stirring.

Carl reached for his own locker and began to turn the dial, hoping in vain that this was the last he’d have to deal with Wing for the day. Under his breath, mumbled the combination to his lock. “Zero three, three zero, one two.”

With a *clunk*, the lock came off, and the door opened up. He spent moments applying body spray and putting his normal clothes back on. Wasting no time, he slammed the locker shut and began walking towards the exit and out in to the hallway.

“See you later, Freakman,” Wing uttered coolly after exiting a few moments after Carl.

Stirring.

Turning around and getting in to Wing’s face, Carl growled, “Listen, you piece of shit, I ain’t afraid of you.” Even angrier than he was before, he the finished with “Back the fuck off before you regret it.”

A crowd of students began to gather as they heard the raised voices. El and Octane, both on their way to their gym period, were amongst them.

“Oh, Imp, you’re so much fun to be around…” Wing spouted with a fiendish sneer and narrowed eyes. “It’s a wonder why Spore ever dumped you, isn’t it?”

Stirred.

Wing, taken off guard, now laid on the ground with bloody nose while Carl’s right fist felt as if it had just been struck by a hammer.

Voices emanated throughout the hall:

“Oh, fuck!”

“Did you see that!”

“Carl knocked him on his ass!”

“Should’ve done it years ago.”

“You gonna take that, Kong?”

“Get up, Wing! Or are you too scared to get hit again by a ‘freak’!” Carl screamed at him. “Get up, you b—”

It was then that El grabbed him and exited out of the school before the situation could escalate any further. Luckily, no teachers had been present for the altercation.

“Get the fuck off me, man! What the hell are you doing!”

“Making sure you don’t get fucking expelled; that’s what I’m fucking doing, you dick! What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I knew what I was doing! I was giving that dickhead what he had coming for years!”

“Oh great, you hit him and you’re the one kicked out. You’re fucking lucky a teacher didn’t see that! Think for a change! Christ!”

The voices of the two were raised as Octane, who had followed along immediately, tried to diffuse the situation.

“Both of you, chill out,” he said calmly with his hands up and facing outward. “It’s over.”

“Yeah, and you just got it all figured out, don’t you? Perfect fucking Elcsum Gray needs to use his strength to save Carl and tell him what he did wrong,” Carl replied, ignoring Octane’s pleas for amity.

“Oh do not even start with this bullshit again, man! I’m tired of having your back and then you treating me like an asshole because of it! You’re lucky you even have friends after how big of a dick you’ve been this past year!”

“Fuck you.”

Octane interjected again, still trying in futility to end things before they escalated.

“Carl, he was just trying to help. And El, he’s told you this before; he doesn’t want you doing things for him. You’re both-both-both acting like children.”

Also paying no attention to Octane, El continued his rant. “Getting pissed at me for looking out for you, forgetting about me and Ock the second you get a girlfriend then calling when you only when you need something. Want me to go on?” The frustration in El’s words was seething with months of anger and resentment.

“Yeah, then if I’m such a piece of shit, don’t talk to me anymore,” Carl said as he begin to turn away from his friends and back to the school.

“Spore was right,” El uttered.

“Fuck,” Octane whispered to himself as he shook his head.

Carl stopped in his tracks and turned around. It was El who was now stirring his anger.

“What?” Carl replied, incensed and walking up within inches of El.

“Spore was right. You really are selfish,” El replied.

“Fuck you!” he yelled, pushing El back.

“What, are you going to fight me now? Get a grip,” El said, rolling his eyes.

“Fuck off, man!” Carl exclaimed.

“Guys!” Octane screamed.

“I’m tired of this ‘woe-is-me’ bullshit, Carl! Yes, your girlfriend dumped you, and yeah, you don’t have a power. It sucks, but fucking get over it already! Grow a goddamn pair and act like a man for once.”

Stirring.

“Go fuck yourself, El. You could never possibly understand what I have to go through. You have it so fuckin’ easy.”

“You know what?”

El then grabbed Carl, and within moments, he jumped them so they were far enough from school grounds and to an empty parking lot nearby. Octane followed in short order.

Immediately upon landing, El looked at Carl and, in a very matter-of-fact way, requested, “Hit me.”

“What?”

“You heard me, Carl. You’ve wanted to for a while now. Hit me,” he said again, this time giving him a small push on the shoulder.

Stirring.

“Don’t push me, man.”

“What’s that matter? It’s what you want, right? To kick my ass? That’ll make you feel better, won’t it? That’ll make you feel powerful, right? Come on, kick perfect fucking Elcsum Gray’s ass, or are you a pussy?”

Stirring.

Carl’s forgot the pain in his right hand as it balled in to fist on his side.

“Carl…” Octane pleaded. For once, he was at a loss for words.

“Too scared, Imp?”

Stirred.

Carl, for the second time in a matter of minutes, hit a man in the face. This time, it was the face of his best friend instead of his worst enemy. Like Wing, the blow knocked El to the ground, and as Carl saw his friend’s face now swollen and covered in blood, he looked at his hand in terrible awe over what he had just done.

He couldn’t believe himself.

El slowly lifted himself to the ground and brushed the dirt of his clothing. With his tongue, he gathered the blood that had filled his mouth and spat it on the ground. Turning to Carl, he asked him one simple question.

“How powerful do you feel now?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


END OF ACT 2


His girlfriend, best friend, and worst enemy, in such a short span of time, he was able to piss them all off. Carl’s angst has hit its peak, and Act 3 will be about his retribution. Carl’s fallen hard, but will he be able to rise? And will he learn what it means to be truly empowered? Find out when Empowered: Act 3 continues in two weeks! I’ll see you then.




Empowered: Act 2, Part 4

Empowered: Act 2, Part 4



Work’s got me busy today, so I don’t have a whole lot to say here other than let’s get this goddamn party started! The second-to-last part of Empowered Act 2 begins now:


“ ‘Can’t wait for tonight,’ ” Carl said to Octane while they sat at their lab table the following Friday morning.

“Wha-wha-what? What’s tonight? Are we doing something? I didn’t know if we were doing something. What are we doing?”

“No, that’s Spore’s status,” Carl corrected as he looked at the Facebook app on his iPhone. “ ‘Can’t wait for tonight.’ ”

“You should really block her, man. Reading her statuses ain’t-ain’t-ain’t healthy,” Octane replied.

“What do you think she’s doing?”

“No clue.”

“Think it has something to do with why she’s out today?”

“Not sure, man.”

“Do you think she’s hanging out with another guy?”

“She wouldn’t do that to you. It’s been, what, two weeks? Plus you’re technically still together.”

“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know.”

“Easier said than done, but just don’t think about it,” Octane said with a shrug. “It’s not gonna make it any better for you.”

Disregarding his advice, Carl then asked, “Has she said anything to you during the yearbook club?”

“I don’t really interact with-with-with her too much. She does the photo editing for the printed book; I do the video editing for the-the-the DVD. Plus, it’d just be kinda awkward to talk about it: ‘Hey, Spore. I like what you did with the Spanish Club page, also, how come you don’t want to fuck Carl as much lately?’ ”

“Yeah, fair enough.”

“Have you-you-you given any thought to what she said?”

“About what?”

“About your issues or whatever.”

“She’s ridiculous. Like, she was upset that we only did the crap I wanted to do apparently. So I told her last week we can do whatever she wants to, then she says that there are ‘deep problems’ that I’m not focusing on. She’s just bein’ a girl.”

An incredulous “Huh” was Octane’s only contribution.

“Whatever. El says it’ll all be fine so long as I play it cool.”

“Speaking of…” Octane said as he cocked his head towards El’s direction.

Diverting his attention away from Octane, Carl glanced over his right shoulder and saw El at his table with Glacier. He was leaning and smiling, and she was smiling back wide as him. Carl managed to overhear part of their conversation:

“You know, it’s funny,” El began, “girls all seem to want the bad boy who’s only good for her. And guy just wants the good girl who’s only bad for him.”

El’s overt flirtation made the fair-skinned redhead blush, and she shot him an intrigued glance.

“He really does know a lot about women, doesn’t he?” Carl asked, his voice bubbling slightly with jealousy.

“Dude’s got charm to spare; that’s for sure,” Octane replied, noticing Carl’s annoyed disposition.

“What’s wrong now?”

“Nothing,” Carl replied, cutting short his lingering stare at El’s table.

Unconvinced, Octane merely asked, “Seems happy, though, doesn’t he?”

Carl scoffed and shook his head in agreement, not picking up on the point his friend had tried to make.

“He tell you about this parents?” Octane asked.

“What about ‘em?”

“You should ask.”

“Yeah, maybe later,” Carl replied, disregarding what Octane had just said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Not being able to get her off his mind, Carl sent Spore a text that night at 9:30. ‘Whats tonite?’ the message read, referencing her Facebook post. Three hours passed without a response, and Carl sent another text to her, this one more acidic in tone: ‘Can’t respond? Real nice.’ This, too, went unanswered.

Without welcome or warning, Carl’s thoughts were plagued by the worst-case scenario: Spore cheating on him.

Is that what’s going on? Is she with someone else? Is why she’s having such an easy time of all this?

Has she moved on?

All he could think now was her in some other man’s arms. Someone bigger than him, smarter than him, more attractive than him. Someone that’s making her laugh, making her heart beat fast. Someone holding her, kissing her, getting in to bed with her, and sleeping with her.

Someone taking his power away from him.

These unfounded fears filled Carl with an irrational contempt for this imaginary home-wrecker that he had concocted.

Whatever, let her get with someone else, he thought as his eyes started to fill with tears. Like I give a shit.

He then planted his face in to his pillow and forced himself to go to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That next morning, Carl dug through the bottom drawer of his desk. Finally finding what he was looking for, he cracked open the cover to the notebook he just retrieved, put pen against paper, and began writing:


Carl closed the marble notebook that he had opened for the first time in almost six months and put it in his desk, making sure to cover it with a stack of papers so no one would see it. Unsure of what to do next, he pulled out his phone to call El.

“Yo, bud,” El answered on the other line.

“Yo, what are you up to?”

“Glacier’s about to come by. I rented some BS nature documentary and told her it’d be a good way to study.”

“Oh, I was gonna see if you wanted to come here.”

“I already have these plans. Sorry, man. Everything alright?”

“I…uh…I texted Spore last night.”

“Dude.”

“Twice.”

“DUDE!”

“I couldn’t help it! I can’t get her off my mind, man.”

“It’s alright. I guess you’re still pretty inexperienced, so it’s bound to happen,” El replied, unaware of the condescending weight of his words.

“Don’t be a dick.”

“Just saying, man. You ought to listen to me more; I know what I’m talking about.”

“You’re not always right, you know.”

“Except that she didn’t text you back, did she?”

“Whatever.”

“What’s your problem right now? Seriously?”

“Nothing. Have fun,” Carl replied. Without waiting for a response from El, he clicked his phone off and threw it angrily on his bed.

So damn selfish. Dude’s got enough and fucks enough. Doesn’t realize how good he has it either, I bet. Comes so goddamn easy for him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After spending the rest of the weekend in an angry, depressed solitude, Carl was dreading going through the motions of another week of high school. As the minutes slowly ticked away and lunchtime rolled around, Carl, though not having had much of an appetite since the break, knew he had to eat. Purchasing a cafeteria lunch of an overcooked cheeseburger, fries that were too soggy to enjoy, watered-down iced tea, and a stale chocolate chip cookie, he sat down at his usual table with his friends: Copycat, Shift, Brainstorm, Yawn, and Reach.

“Yo, big Carl. How you holding up?” asked Brainstorm.

“Aight,” he responded, looking down at his unappealing lunch.

“Stiff upper lip, buddy,” Shift said. “Plenty of fish in the sea.”

“Yeah, but something tells me his rod is defective,” joked Reach.

“Not cool, man,” retorted Yawn.

“It’s whatever,” Carl muttered, caring neither for the comment nor conversation in general.

Moving the topic away from Carl and towards teenage boy antics, Shift said with a smirk, “Hey, ‘Storm, those chips look good.”

“Yeah, they’re harvest chedd—”

But before he could finish, Shift phased half of his torso through Reach, seated to his right, and solidified his hand to take the snack off his tray.

“Oh, that’s real cute,” Brainstorm replied. “But I think I’ll help myself to your hotdog,” he then mimed a lasso and whipped Shift’s hotdog off his plate and right in to his hand, “and I feel that Yawn’s pickle would go great with it.” Doing the same motion, he swiped Yawn’s dill spear off his plate and placed in snuggle between the bun and meat.

“You guys are so immature,” Reach noted. Then, pretending to stretch, he elongated his arms, curved around both Carl and Shift in an attempt to take Yawn’s salad off his plate.

“Don’t think so buddy. Sweet dreams,” Yawn said with a wink.

“Crap,” was the only word Reach could get out before he went face down in his tray.

“Shouldn’t have made…” Copycat prime stated.

“…eye contact,” his duplicate finished, as one went right and the other went left to loot what Reach’s face wasn’t touching on his plate. The two halves of Copycat merged back together as he made his way back to his seat, holding the bounty that both parts had stolen.

“Well,” Brainstorm stated, “Looks like CC is today’s winner.”

“You, uh, want some of these chips, bud?” Copycat asked Carl, who he noticed was staring blankly at his food.

“Nah, man,” Carl remarked, having less of an appetite than before. “Not really hungry.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One month ago:

“And they play this stupid game where they steal each others’ lunches the whole time. It’s obnoxious.”

“Sorry, babe.”

“It’s just so stupid,” Carl replied, attempting to mask his jealousy.

“You can join in, too.”

“Yeah, well, except that…”

“I know, Carl. I know.”

“I’m just sayin’.”

“You just say it a lot, babe.”

“But at least I got you, right?”

Spore was silent and looked down.

“What’s wrong?” Carl asked.

“Nothing. But it wouldn’t matter whether or not we’re together,” she then let her words linger for a moment before continuing. “Just because you don’t have a power doesn’t mean you’re not special. You are, Carl. I keep trying to tell you that.”

“Yeah, and my mom’s been telling me that since I was born. And after you see everyone around you getting stronger and stronger every day, it starts losin’ its meaning.”

“Oh, cutie,” Spore replied, shaking her heard. “When will you learn?”

“I’m slow, remember?”

Spore let out a tiny laugh. She then looked at the blue-and-yellow rental box on Carl’s nightstand and saw The Transporter labeled across the side.

“I thought you were going to rent The Notebook?”

“Oh, is…is that what you said?” Carl remarked. “I’m almost positive you said The Transporter.”

“ ‘Pure popcorn pleasure for older teens and up,’ ” Spore said, picking up the box and reciting the review on the back. “Carl, there’s actually something I’ve wanted to talk to you about.”

“What’s up?”

“Um,” she began, looking at him in the eyes, the eyes of a boy she didn’t want to hurt. “Nothing. It was nothing.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Carl!” Brainstorm said, snapping his fingers in front of Carl’s face. “Snap out of it; you’re going to be late for Health.”

Carl hadn’t realized he had been lost in his thoughts for majority of the lunch period. Coming out of his daze, he thanked Brainstorm, grabbed his things, and went on with his day. When he wasn’t thinking about Spore, he was thinking of ways to try to not think of her. With her being all he could focus on, everything else around him was a blob of places and people and things. None of it seemed distinct, nor did any of it seem important. It was just there.

As Carl began his trudge to Environmental, he came upon a surprising sight: Spore stood outside the doorway, waiting for him.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” she returned.

“How’ve you been?”

“What was with that text last night?”

she asked with certain bite in her voice.

“Just curious what you were doin’.”

“Ugh, I went with my family to visit my grandparents up north. That’s what. What did you think I was doing?”

“I don’t know. With some other dude?”

“Is that what you think of me? That I’m going to go slut it up behind your back?”

“Guess so…” Carl muttered, looking away.

“I don’t think we should be together anymore, Carl. I’m sorry.”

“You’re so selfish…” he sneered as he shook his head. “Not me.”

“Me? I’m the selfish one! Are you serious!”

“You make me care for you, then you did this shit? Without really giving things a chance? No one’s ever gonna love you as much as I do.”

“Oh my God, you’re unbelievable. I asked you for one thing, Carl, one thing: A little time. But no, you couldn’t give me that. I told you that you always put yourself first, and what do you do to try to prove me wrong? You go out of your way to talk to me when I specifically asked for you not to. Did you really not see how you were doing the exact thing I said was the problem!

“I care for you, Carl. I really do,” she continued, “but I don’t think you ever really cared for me as much as you just cared for yourself. And I really think ‘us’ wasn’t as great as you seem to think it was. I hope…I know one day you’ll find what you’re looking for, but it just won’t be with me. I’m sorry.”

Spore turned and went in to the classroom. Carl stood there and attempted to let her words marinate in his mind.

And with that, things were officially over. Spore had ended it. Everything Carl had…all the love and joy and happiness and strength…it was all gone. In what felt like no time at all, things had gone from great to downright bad.

And little did Carl know, things were about to go from bad to worse.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


Compliments and criticisms are always welcome, so let me know on Facebook and Twitter what you thought! Next week is our Act 2 conclusion, and I hope to see you all then. Have a great weekend!





Empowered: Act 2, Part 3

Empowered: Act 2, Part 3



I’ll start right off and apologize for the interruption in posts. I won’t lie: I’m pretty disappointed in myself for missing last week’s, but my allergies were absolutely wrecking me, and I assumed everyone would rather wait a week than be treated to a subpar entry. I suppose I’m my own toughest critic, and I try to keep entries as regular as possible. So to try to compensate, this week’s is extra sized for your pleasure.

Before we start, a special thanks to dear friend Amy Chen and her suggestion of getting some Allegra to battle the allergies I was having. And now the return of Empowered, which is back and better than ever.


It was impossible for Carl to sleep that night, so after hours of desperate tossing and turning, he decided to leave the house just barely after the sun rose and go on a drive to clear his head and empty his thoughts. He had no idea where he was going; the only thing that he knew was that he had to go somewhere. Anywhere.

Following the road for about twenty-five minutes, Carl came upon a local park and decided it’d be as good a place as any to pull over. He got out and sat on top of his car, letting the cool, crisp morning air circulate in through his nose and out through his mouth. The act was therapeutic and helped him to relax slightly.

Try as he might, his thoughts were still plagued by Spore and the desire to talk to her. I wonder what she’s doing right now. Is she thinking of me? Maybe I should te…

A sudden noise of rubber against asphalt was able to divert his attention away from her and towards a pair of young boys playing a game of one-on-one on the basketball court about thirty yards away. As they played, the Hispanic teens, clearly twins, were using their powers to try to get the better of one another.

He recognized them as Fahrenheit and Celsius, ninth graders from his high school. While they played, Celsius would freeze his brother’s feet in place, and Fahrenheit would overheat them to melt the ice and regain mobility. They went back and forth like this: Body parts were frozen and singed in good fun as the boys played their game, using their hands to funnel their powers.

Carl looked at his own hands and then, for no logical reason, he outstretched his arms towards the grass, shut his eyes, furrowed his brow, and concentrated on channeling some sort of power.

Nothing.

“Never gets easier,” he mumbled as he looked again at his ineffective hands, unsure of what he had expected to happen.

He then glanced back towards the two boys, and after doing so, despair was replaced by a feeling of déjà vu. Initially confused, he had to comb his memories until he finally pinpointed what it was: The night of the dance, the night he met another pair of twins. A much different pair of twins. The guys with the weird names and ambiguous powers who talked about Carl’s name and Carl’s power – or lack thereof – and their words suddenly rang in his ears: ‘Maybe it’s not that it doesn’t mean anything; maybe it’s that it could mean anything.’

“The hell did that even mean?” he muttered to himself as he leaned back on the windshield of his car. It was strange; he hadn’t thought about them or that conversation since that night. Every time he thought back to that dance, the first and only thing he would think of was meeting Spore.

Now the brothers’ words had a sharp poignancy to them. Just as he thought he had found what ‘defined’ him, just as he began to feel special in some way…it all threatened to disappear forever.

He began to realize that there are few things worse than having a taste of something you’ve always wanted only to have it ripped away.

Carl sat on his car for a few minutes more as he watched this second pair of brothers attempt to outdo each other. When one froze, the other thawed. When one burned, the other cooled. Carl couldn’t help but note the harmony of it all. Fire and ice in perfect balance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hearing the door to the house open as Carl returned home, Insight came in to the hallway while still holding the plate she was drying. “Where were you, Carl? I was getting…”

She then caught eyes with her son and saw the sadness in him. He always exuded a sense of perpetual loneliness, but since he started dating Spore, this had been muted. But right now, it radiated off him like heat from an oven.

“Oh, hon, I’m so sorry,” Insight replied sympathetically as she herself became overwhelmed with that feeling of heartache. “But if you decide you want to talk about it…”

Carl stood in place for a few seconds and stared at the ground. Finally, he muttered a hollow “Thanks” and continued along his way, up the stairs, and towards his room. And with the towel she had been holding, Insight wiped her eyes and went back inside the kitchen, wishing Carl would just let her in for once.

As Carl neared his bedroom door, he heard a squeaky voice behind him before he could reach for the doorknob.

“Hey, Carl!”

“What’s good, little man?” Carl asked unenthusiastically as he barely turned his head to face his younger brother.

“Do you wanna go to the comic shop with me?”

“Yeah, not today, buddy. Sorry,” Carl replied as he turned back towards his door, went in, and slammed it shut.

“Okay,” Mesmer murmured to himself before walking downstairs and in to the kitchen.

Having overhead the discussion, Insight kindly told her son, “I can take you a little later, hon.”

“It’s okay, mom.”

“You sure, sweetie?”

“Yeah. Thanks, mom.”

Giving her son a weak smile, she added, “I’m glad you didn’t use your powers to force him to go.”

“I didn’t wanna have to force him,” Mesmer whispered as he opened the refrigerator door and took out a gallon of milk.

Insight looked on as her youngest poured himself a glass of 2% and sipped it half-heartedly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carl was able to exercise enough self-restraint to go all of Saturday without contacting Spore, despite every waking moment being filled with thoughts of her, and by Sunday morning, teenage melodrama had fully sunk its claws in to Carl and had no intentions of letting go.

What am I going to do? How am I ever gonna find someone like her again? I won’t. If I don’t have her, I’ll have no one. I’m losing her. I need to get her back before it’s too late. If I don’t have her, I’ll never have anyone again. No one like her. She’s perfect.

As he laid sprawled out on his bed, Carl jerked his head up and looked at the calendar pinned to his wall. “How the hell long is ‘a few days’ supposed to be?” he asked himself out loud.

He grasped his phone firmly in his right hand; every time it vibrated, his held his breath for a moment until he saw if it was her or not.

True to her word, Spore remained silent.

That weekend had marked the first time since becoming ‘official’ that they had gone the span of an entire day without speaking. Carl couldn’t help but wonder if she realized this like he did, and he couldn’t help but wonder if it bothered her as much as it bothered him.

While he was in the midst of drowning himself in in melancholy and misery, a sudden succession of booming knocks on his door brought him back to his senses.

*thunk* *thunk* *thunk*

“Carl, you in there?”

“What is it, ‘Ris!”

“Can I borrow your car?”

“Take mom’s!”

“She’s out! Let me borrow it; I need to go to the library.”

“I might go somewhere later; take the bus,” he answered back, blatantly lying, just not being in a generous mood.

“Are you serious! You might go somewhere? What the hell kind of shit is that!”

“Go away, ‘Ris!”

“Nice to know getting dumped turned you in to an even bigger ass than usual!”

“She didn’t dump me! We’re on a break!”

“Yeah, uh-huh,” she sneered back. Then taking a moment, she flashed a quick glimpse through her brother’s wooden bedroom door to see if she could spot the keys. The first and only thing she was able to focus on, however, was the pained expression in his face.

She hesitated for a moment, deciding to pick her words carefully as the faintest echo of her own former love blew in and out of her thoughts. With an entirely changed tone, she replied softly, “It’ll make you stronger, baby brother. And it gets easier. I promise.”

“Just go away,” he answered, his voice heavy with exhaustion.

Iris walked away as her brother asked while Carl continued wallowing in his room, his depression now even worse after bickering with his sister. Her words made it sound like things were already over.

They’re not. I’ll prove it, Carl thought, and in a moment of weakness, he brought his phone to his face and sent out a simple ‘Hey’ to his estranged girlfriend.

The minutes felt like hours until he received a response back. And when she finally did respond, it was a succinct ‘Hi.’

‘How r u?’ Carl typed back eagerly.

Her response: ‘I thought we agreed not to talk for a few days?’

Carl grimaced. I guess she’s not too bothered after all.

‘I know,’ he typed in to his phone, ‘but I just wanted to see how u are.’

‘I’m fine. U?’ she responded tersely.

‘Good,’ he said, his second barefaced lie of the day.

Spore felt it best to leave the conversation at that as Carl foolishly waited for a text back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On that bitter Monday morning in late January, Carl couldn’t remember a time where he felt like going to school less, and considering his high school career thus far, that was saying a lot. His legs, which inexplicably used to feel full of jelly at the thought of Spore, now felt of lead, as if his body were rejecting the act of walking through the school entrance and seeing her that day.

“What am I going to do in Enviro, man?” he whined to El as the two sat in homeroom.

“Listen, she said for you guys to keep your distance, so do just that. Yeah, I know it’s gonna suck, but show her you can be a man about it. Pretend like you don’t really care. Act like everything’s fine. She’ll be upset that you’re doing so well without her. By tomorrow, she’ll call off the break. Trust me. Make her think that you don’t need her, and she’ll want to prove otherwise.”

Carl didn’t respond with words, just a quiet grunt of acknowledgement.

“And thankfully we’re picking new lab partners today,” El continued. “Ock can be yours this semester, and he’s more than capable of keeping you preoccupied.”

“You’re not gonna be partners with me?” Carl asked, irked.

“I already told Glacier that I’d be hers. Plus…”

“Plus you wanna fuck her.”

“I wanna fuck her, that’s correct.”

“You’re a good friend.”

“I already promised her, like, a month ago, and it’s not like Ock isn’t your friend. You know that I’m always here any time you need me, except for 45 minutes every sixth day when we have lab.”

“Yeah…yeah, I know. Thanks.”

*riiiiiiiing*

“Any time, man. And it’ll be alright. Chin up, okay?”

“Yeah…chin up,” Carl repeated quietly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first day of the new semester was not unlike the first day of the year: Teachers discussed their syllabi and what was expected of the class, seats were assigned, and, in the case of gym class, students were able to choose which unit they’d prefer to be in.

“Alright, everyone, you know the drill,” Mr. Woods called out to the dozens of students seated in the bleachers. “Form a line and pick a sport; it’s all indoor activities for the next couple months, so you have volleyball, badminton, mat sports, and cooperative learning to choose from. As always, it’s first come, first serve, so get to it.”

The students all got in line, and Carl, who normally waited until after Wing picked his elective, paid no attention this time around; his mind, understandably enough, had been elsewhere all day.

Jotting his name down for ‘mat sports’ (Whatever the hell that means, he thought to himself, uncaringly), Carl dragged himself back on to the bleachers to stew in his depression.

Wing, ever observant, was sure to take note of what unit Carl signed up for. Wing had no compulsions to not be in Carl’s class. And Wing knew full well what ‘mat sports’ entailed as he wrote his name on the same sheet Carl had written his moments ago.

Walking up the bleachers and past Carl, Wing, with a smile akin to that of the Cheshire Cat, simply stated, “See you for dodgeball, Imp.”

Carl shut his eyes and angrily shook his head, partially blaming Spore for distracting him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the bell for the second-to-last period rang, Carl felt dread drape over him like a heavy wool blanket. Going to this class was the last thing in the world he wanted right now.

He walked in to A142, and he noticed that, as usual, Spore wasn’t there yet. He sat in his normal seat and just waited.

Although he tried forcing himself not to, every time he heard the door open, his head would immediately shoot to the left like a dog who saw a stray animal on his master’s lawn. And when the inevitable moment occurred where Spore walked in to class, she caught eyes with Carl for only a moment. Hastily looking away, she continued walking to the other side of the room to sit next to Decibel.

Carl’s mind once again wandered back to the happier times he longed for.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two months ago:

“Happy two months, sweetie.”

“Happy two months, cutie.”

They both then took a sip from their glasses; hers filled with iced green tea and his with Dr. Pepper.

“I got you something,” he said as he pulled a small white box out of his pocket and placed in gently in to her eager hands.

“Aw, you didn’t have to.”

“Really? Alright, I’ll take it back,” he joked as he reached for the box he had just given her.

“No! Mine now!” she exclaimed with a playful smile, bringing the box to her chest. Opening it up, her smile broadened ever more. He had gotten her a necklace with a golden shamrock pendant.

“I remember you saying something up liking plants, right?”

She smiled back at him, “It’s beautiful. Thank you, Carl.”

“It’s the best I could do on a bus boy’s salary, but I’m glad you like it.”

Looking at him with those big brown eyes and through her black-framed glasses, she replied, “I love it.”

“Here,” he said, gesturing that he wanted her to hand him back the necklace, “let me put it on you.”

She handed it back to him, and he carefully unclasped it as she leaned her head forward for him to fasten it around her neck. Before she could lean her head back, he gave her a soft, tender kiss on the lips.

“You can be sweet sometimes, you know that?” she said.

“Just don’t tell anybody. I got a rep to maintain.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m sure the guys at the comic book shop would be mortified to hear that you kissed a girl. Isn’t that against nerd law?”

“You just think you’re so funny, don’t you?”

She shrugged her shoulders and beamed, “Yep!”

“So you’re okay that we went here, right?” Carl asked, changing the subject of the conversation.

“Oh,” she said, “yeah, no, it’s…it’s fine. That other place was probably too expensive anyway.”

“Yeah, plus I looked online, and the menu was kinda crappy. What the hell is baba ghanoush anyway?”

She let out of a smirk and said reassuringly, “It’s fine. Friday’s is…” she paused for a moment and looked around the restaurant, seeing the pin-striped servers, tacky memorabilia gracing the walls, and overweight patrons ignoring their screaming children.

“…it’s kind of our place, I suppose.”

“Exactly,” he replied, not picking up on the mild disappointment in her voice that she tried to hide.

“Thank you again for the necklace, Carl. It’s beautiful. And you really didn’t have to.”

“Anything for you, sweetie.”

Spore smiled at him and took another sip of her tea.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When class eventually started, Doc Drain instructed the students to do as they had done months ago and pick a lab partner for the remainder of the year. “No pressure,” he added as he had done before.

As discussed, El partnered with Glacier Green, while Carl paired up with Octane, and Spore with Decibel. After a few minutes had passed, Doc Drain indicated for the students to take to their seats as the day’s lesson was about to begin.

With his left arm propped on his desk, Carl rested his head on his fist as Doc Drain’s words breezed past him, only managing to catch a stray one here and there as he was lost in his own thoughts, trying to mend his fractured relationship.

El’s gonna bitch me out about it, but I gotta talk to her after class. Just remind her of the good times. Stir up some feelings that she has to still have, and she’ll realize how much she missed me and how stupid this whole thing is.

“…natural selection…”

And yeah, fine, she’s upset that I never do anything that she wants to do. She feels neglected or something. Alright, so from now on, we do everything she wants to. Problem solved.

“…extinction…”

There. Figured out what I want and what I need to do. Took all of five minutes. If that doesn’t work then…

“…evolution. Mr. Freeman?”

“Huh?” Carl replied, snapping out of his daze.

“Am I boring you, Mr. Freeman?”

“No, sorry, I just…”

“Do pay attention. You won’t have Ms. Summers as your partner to rely on this semester.”

Doc Drain’s words were a knife in Carl’s heart. He closed his eyes, looked down, and forced himself to mutter a simple “Sorry, sir.”

Spore looked sympathetically at Carl. The last thing she ever wanted was to see him hurt.

Waiting until the teacher’s eyes were diverted from his direction, Carl discretely held his phone underneath his desk and typed out a message to Spore.

‘Can we talk after class?’

Carl could hear the faint *bzzz* *bzzz* from all the way across the classroom. He didn’t turn her way; instead, he focused with his peripheral vision to try and catch her reaction.

Her noticeable exasperation didn’t fill Carl with much joy, but as she turned to look at him, her reserved head nod gave him a pang of false hope.

Despite El’s objections, Carl waited for Spore in the hallway outside of A142. As she exited, she approached him with trepidation; she didn’t want to say anything to the boy to hurt him anymore than he already was.

“Hey,” she said.

“Just like old times, right? Talkin’ outside here.”

“Carl…” she started.

“I miss you. And I don’t like not talking to you.”

“I don’t like it, either. I really don’t, and I’m not just saying that. But I said we need to take a few days to figure things out.”

Carl was quiet for a moment then stated, “I have figured it out.”

To Carl’s surprise, this visibly irritated Spore, who responded, “Have you? In three days, you’ve figured everything out?”

“From now on, we can go to that one restaurant you wanted to go to, and then I’ll go out and rent you whatever movie you want. All that stuff. Whatever you want. I promise. Okay, sweetie?”

“You don’t get it, Carl. You’re looking at the surface problems and not the deeper ones.”

“I…”

“Please, I need time. We both need time. Give me some space, okay? Just like a week or two.”

Carl was silent.

She began to walk away, but stopped herself to add, “And please don’t text me. I won’t respond.”

She slowly turned her head back and continued on.

As Carl watched her wander from him, he noticed her neck was bare.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


Teen drama and high school go together like hamburgers and French fries, but as common as it is, that doesn’t make it suck any less, does it? We’ve all been there: Angst, depression, heartache. Fun times, right? Got a story of high school to share? Post it on my Facebook page or shoot me a tweet. Or even if you have a random compliment, complaint, suggestion, or criticism, I’m all ears. I’m especially interested in knowing if the extra week was worth the wait.

As always, thanks for reading. See you in a week (I promise this time).