Welcome all to the extra long wrap-up to Empowered, Act 1! It’s pretty nuts, but this act alone is longer than the entirety of Wood You Be Mine? Oddly enough, that story was more draining than this one (in a good way). Maybe because it was my first complete story? Not sure, but either way, I had a blast writing it, and I’m having even more fun writing this one. There’s been a steady stream of returning visitors to the site, and that makes the whole thing feel worth it. I’m happy to be reaching people with my writing, and I can only hope I’m living up to everyone’s expectation.
Alright, enough sappy shit. I present to you all now the epic finale to Empowered, Act 1!
The next few days went by with little consequence, as most school days tend to do, and Carl went through the motions, trying to skate by doing as little as possible, as most school students tend to do.
Today, however, was a different day. Today was lab day.
“You nervous? I’d be nervous if I were you. You nervous?” Octane asked repeatedly as the pair walked out of English.
“Nah, man. Just another day,” Carl stated, doing his best to sound aloof.
“You seem pretty dressed up for just another day,” Octane said with a laugh. “Those khakis?”
“Yeah, so what? I always wear these.”
“Tag’s still on ‘em, bro.”
“Are you…” Carl then looked behind himself and could clearly see the thin white piece of cardboard reading ‘GAP – 30/30’ dangling from the back pocket.
Octane let out a laugh, “Ya-ya-ya-ya-ya think ya got enough cologne on? Is she smell blind or something?”
“Eight spritzes was too much?”
“Nah, man. I’m sure she likes that bathed-in-Axe scent.”
“Fuck. Is it too late to wash it off?”
“Dude, dude, dude,” Octane said, stopping and putting his hands up in front of Carl in an attempt to calm him down. “Just be cool, and you’ll be aight.”
“ ‘Be cool, and you’ll be aight,’ ” Carl hollowly repeated. “Thanks, man. Solid advice.”
“Okay, okay, okay, fine. Don’t be a pussy. That better?”
“You know what? It’s easy for you to say. You already have a girlfriend.”
“And I got shot down by, like, nine other girls before I started dating her.”
“Yeah, man. And what do I care? A girl shots ya down, ya move on with your life and on to the next one.”
“Yeah, guess so,” Carl exhaled, not quite believing his own words. The two then got to their dividing point. “See ya in Enviro, alright?”
“See ya, man,” Octane replied as the two split off in to opposite directions.
Carl stared at the clock in his Government class that Friday afternoon, watching the time slowly melt away until the bell rung, signaling the end of the period. After it inevitably did, Carl trudged to class, unable to tell if he was excited or terrified – probably a little of both.
Pushing open the door to A142, Carl’s ears were immediately assaulted with the sounds of Canadian folk-pop that Doc Drain loved to play between his lessons. The teacher’s eyes were closed as he carelessly swayed his head back and forth to the beats of that fresh Ontario sound. A sight no one wanted to see, Carl then turned his head and caught a glimpse of Spore, who in turn noticed him.
A few days prior, she had begun sitting with a new friend of hers from the yearbook staff at the other end of the classroom. But as she and Carl caught each other’s attention, her bright brown eyes gleamed at him, and she then smiled wide and gently waved her hand from side to side.
Terrified. Definitely more terrified, he thought as he shot her an awkward smile and gave a quick, jittery wave in return before plunking down in his usual seat behind El.
The music continued to play as the students piled in to the classroom: “Who will save the river valley? Who will save the…”
Much to everyone’s relief, Doc Drain then clicked off the CD player and, with a yawn, stated, “Okay, okay, everyone listen. As this is our first laboratory assignment, we are going to start things off at a slower pace.”
“He can move slower than this?” Octane whined with his head down on his desk.
“To my left,” he said, while slowly crossing his chest with his right arm to point to a stack of papers, “are your materials for our first lab exercise. We will be studying population density. Are there any questions so far? No? Fantastic. So you all have your partners. Please each of you grab a packet and retire to one of the lab tables. You have this entire period to work on it, and we will go over it in the next period.”
Carl walked up to the table, giving a slight sprint so he could get two packets at once, one for him and one for Spore, who he saw was bringing her materials to a table in the back left corner of the classroom.
Today, Spore was dressed in a pink and green floral sundress. Yesterday, it was a purple tank top with a thin gray cardigan and dark, tight jeans. The day before that had been another sundress, this one white with faint yellow stripes.
Carl acted like he didn’t notice such things as he walked towards her, packets in hand.
“Thanks!” she said as Carl handed her the worksheets. “You like nice today by the way. Big plans?”
“Nah,” he replied with a dismissive wave, “I dress like this all the time.”
She smiled and looked down, blushing.
“What’s up?” he asked, cockeyed.
She looked back up at him, her face pink with amusement. “The sticker’s still on the side.”
“Are you…” he murmured to himself as he once again turned to look at his own backside, only to find that a long, thin plastic strip running down the seam of his pants.
“Crap,” he muttered while ripping it off.
She laughed and said, “It’s okay. They make you look handsome if that makes you feel any better.”
Carl used all his strength to repress a smile.
“But I bet you hear that all the time.”
“Just from my mom,” he replied as he scratched the back of his head, half-joking, half-serious.
Laughing, she remarked, “Sounds like a sweet lady. But anyway, we should probably get started on this before Mr. Win—”
“Who will save the river valley?” began echoing throughout the room, cutting Spore off midsentence. Doc Drain once again began to sway his head back and forth with a placid smile on his face.
It was hard for the students to determine which was worse: The painful monotony of eight pages worth of fill-in-the-blank questions or having Canadian political satire music on loop for an entire period.
Doing all they could to block out the music, the students in class worked through the packet. Conferring with their partners, they used formulas and concepts that they had learned over the course of that week to best answer the questions. As the first period dwindled to a close, the bell rung, marking the five-minute break the students had between classes.
Neither Carl nor Spore felt the urge to get up during the break and instead the two made idle conversation with one another. She asked about his family, and he did the same. Here and there, he was able to pepper in a charming comment to bring a smile to her face. Something about Spore brought out a witty, enchanting side to him that even he didn’t know existed.
In what felt like no time, the bell rung once again, and the class spent the remainder of the day listening to Doc Drain drearily read off the answers.
All forty-two of them.
“…and the answer to #42 is…anyone? Anyone? It is ‘jellyfish.’ Once again, the answer to #42 is,” he paused for what seemed like no reason at all then finished, “ ‘jellyfish.’ Now, are there any questions?”
“Why, God, why?” Octane cried in his hands. For someone who’s used to moving at unbelievable speeds, this class was particularly painful for him.
“No? Then I see no harm in letting you out a few minutes earl—”
Octane was gone before Drain could finish his sentence.
The classroom then filled with the noises of bags unzipping and zipping back up, papers being shuffled, and books being carelessly tossed around. At their lab station, Carl stuffed his materials in to his backpack, and Spore carefully placed everything in to hers.
“So, you know we have that test next week, right?” Spore asked rhetorically while fitting her arms in to the straps of her bag.
“Yeah,” Carl answered with a shake of his head. “Who gives a test in the first two weeks of class? Frickin’ ridiculous.”
“Ugh, I know! I can’t believe it. I’ll probably have to study all weekend,” she replied, the tone in her voice slightly indicative.
“Yeah, I hear that,” Carl responded with a mellow bob of his head.
“Ugh, and I’m so unmotivated, too, ya know?”
“Yeah, same,” he replied, blissfully ignorant.
El, who was one table over, managed to catch bits and pieces of the conversation. He nudged Octane, who had come back after realizing he had left all his things behind, and whispered something in to his ear.
In a brief moment when Spore looked away, Octane zipped to the right of Carl and relayed El’s message.
Zipping back an eighth of a second before she looked back up, Spore smiled a sweet, albeit forced, smile and wished Carl to have a happy weekend.
“So, see you Monday, right?” she asked.
“Oh, I mean, yeah, but if you wanna, and you can…you can say no if you don’t wanna,” Carl spouted out nervously while scratching behind his right ear.
Squinting her eyes quizzically, she responded with a simple, “Um…what?”
Carl realized he, almost literally, had said nothing.
“I mean, like,” he began, and then looked down and cleared his throat, “if you want to, maybe we can study…together? I, uh, haha, I probably could use all the help I can get, ya know?”
“Sure! Sure, that’d be great,” she agreed, not trying to hide her elation. “Here, I’ll give you my number. Can I have your phone real quick?”
“Yeah, go for it,” he said, anxiously handing it over.
*click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click*
“Here you go,” she said, handing the phone back. “Text me tomorrow and we’ll figure something out.”
“Yeah, cool. Definitely.”
“Well,” she said with a smile, one she didn’t have to force, “see you this weekend hopefully.”
“Without a doubt. Talk to you.”
And with that, Spore turned and walked out, slightly beaming. As she did, Carl took note of how gracefully she moved.
“And what do we have here, Mr. Freeman?” El said from behind as he and Octane walked towards Carl.
Turning around, Carl’s response to him was “El, man. I really don’t need you to do this crap for me.”
“Oh, please,” El said, rolling his eyes. “You were floundering like a…Ock, what flounders?”
“You were floundering like a flounder!”
“I don’t think…” Carl started before El cut him off.
“And did you get her number or not, hm?”
“Maybe…” Carl muttered.
“ ‘Thank you, Mr. Gray,’ ” El responded, wanting Carl to respond in kind.
Carl sighed, “Thank you, Mr. Gray.”
“You are very welcome. When you bone her, I want full details.”
“Full details,” Octane said in agreement.
“We’re just studying; nothing’s gonna happen,” Carl said while examining his phone. He attempted to keep a cool composure but a tiny smirk betrayed him. And Octane, with a blinding swipe of his hand, snatched the phone from his grip.
“Aw, aw, aw, aw, aw,” he mocked as he turned the phone to El. “Look at this.”
“Awwww,” El said, joining in, “she put her name in as ‘Spore’ followed by a smiley face!”
“Doesn’t mean anything,” Carl said as he grabbed his phone back, slightly embarrassed.
“Dude!” That’s like the uh-uh-uh-uh,” Octane countered as he began snapping his fingers trying to find the right words, “the ‘I wanna fuck’ emoticon! You’re in there like swimwear.”
“I respectfully disagree, Octane,” El replied. “The winky face, now that’s the ‘I wanna fuck’ emoticon.”
“See, there are shades of gray, Gray,” Octane returned. “Let’s say the winky face is the ‘I’ll fuck you now’ emoticon, but the smiley face is the ‘I’ll fuck you, but you’ll have to work for it’ emoticon. Carl what-what-what do you think?”
The two hadn’t notice Carl walking away thirty seconds prior.
“Huh. Yeah, that figures,” Octane stated.
“He wouldn’t have known the answer anyway,” El retorted.
The next morning, El was at Carl’s house, spending the day playing video games. Fighting games were one of the few things Carl could do better at than El, which annoyed him to no end.
“FINISH HIM!” the voice on the TV commanded.
“God-fucking-damnit!” El growled as he crushed the dark purple controller between his hands as if it were dried kindling.
“You better have brought another, man,” Carl replied, shaking his head.
“Always do,” El responded as he pulled out a new controller from his backpack and plugged it in. “So you text her yet?”
“What the hell are you waiting for?”
“Tryin’ to play it cool.”
“You haven’t played it cool a day in your life. Don’t start now.”
“Fuck you. I know what I’m doing.”
“Yeah, and I bet all those girls you haven’t fucked would agree with you.”
“Real nice, dickhead.”
“Okay, fine, sorry, but I am trying to help you out. Just trust me on this, okay?”
“Alright,” Carl sighed. Removing the phone from his pocket, he carefully began typing and asked, “How’s this: “ ‘Yo, it’s Carl. How’s tomorrow night work for you?’ ”
“Short and to the point; I like it.”
“I’m about to hit send,” he said with his thumb hovering above the button.
“I swear to God, I’ll break your hand and send it for you.”
“Fine, Christ,” he said, hitting the button. The second he did, his stomach immediately felt as if there were two tons of bricks in it.
Five minutes passed without a reciprocating text. This didn’t stop Carl from checking his phone.
“You would’ve felt it vibrate, man,” El replied, not taking his eyes off the TV. “Just focus on the game.”
Another five minutes passed. Still nothing.
“Maybe it didn’t send,” Carl sputtered in a worry as he once again checked his messages. “You know how sometimes I’ll text you, and you’ll be all like, ‘Shit, I never got that text.’ ”
“I will seriously bitch slap you if you don’t stop.”
Carl agreed to wait at least ten minutes before checking again.
Then he checked after two.
“That’s it. I’m going to break—” El began before being cut off by a *bzzzzz* sound.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit!” Carl yelled. “It’s her.”
“What’s it say?”
“I don’t wanna look. You check,” he said, tossing El his phone.
“You’re unbelievable,” El muttered. “Alright, it says, ‘Cool. Is my place okay? My parents probably won’t like me going to some random boy’s house l-o-l. Eight work? 1414 Sparrow Court.’ ”
Carl let out a sigh of relief as his heart slowed down its furious stampeding.
“Now you can’t text her for two hours.”
“What?” Carl asked, baffled. “Why?”
“You don’t want to seem too eager, man. Fuck, I’d say not to text her back until like 9 tomorrow to seem that much cooler.”
“What? You just send fifteen minutes ago not to play it cool!”
“Yeah, because it didn’t matter when you initiated contact. But you don’t wanna respond right away like you were sitting around waiting for her to text you back.”
“You’re a fucking idiot.”
“I don’t make the rules, Carlson. All I ask is that you learn from my experience. You’re trying to bang two rocks together to start a fire, and I’m hanging you a Zippo.”
El then held his hand out, pretending to be holding a lighter.
“Carl, take the Zippo.”
“You can’t be…”
“Carlson,” El said in a feigned authoritative toned.
Relenting, Carl took the imaginary lighter from El’s hand to shut him up.
Waiting for what felt like the longest two hours of his life, El finally gave him permission to text Spore back, and as soon as he did, Carl began the manically tapping away a message on his phone.
He then erased it.
He then composed another message.
That message was also promptly erased.
“What the hell is wrong with you, you psycho? Just say ‘Ok.’ ”
“ ‘Ok’ or just ‘K’? Maybe ‘Sounds good’?”
“Maybe grow a sack.”
Ignoring El, Carl, with about a dozen clicks sent ‘Sounds great : )’ to the girl. As soon as he did, he looked mortified thinking of what he had just sent.
Snatching the phone, El asked, “Sweet holy mother of Jesus, did you really just send her a smiley?”
“I panicked,” Carl replied, taking it back.
“That was quick,” El remarked. “What’s it say?”
“ ‘L-o-l, see you then’.”
Shaking his head, El replied, “Dodged a bullet, man. A smiley? Jesus Christ, dude.”
The two boys hung out by Carl’s house the rest of the day, and before he left, El wished him luck tomorrow and once again requested to hear all about Carl ‘tapping that ass.’ Shortly after, Carl went to bed, having a dreamless sleep, and woke up at 10 AM the next day.
He couldn’t explain it, but the ten hours preceding their study session seemed to move at both super speed and in slow motion. When he had a pang of excitement, the clock wouldn’t move; when he thought about calling it off, the big hand jumped ahead fifteen minutes. Finally, at 7:30 PM, Carl left his house and started the drive over.
The GPS told him that her house was a mere fifteen minutes away, but Carl wanted to get there early as he was going stir crazy sitting around and waiting. Borrowing his mom’s 2004 maroon Mercury Sable, Carl nervously drove towards her house, toying with the idea of cancelling as he did.
‘I got a dentist appointment, sorry.’ No, shit, that’s stupid. Who has a dentist appointment at 8 PM on a Sunday?
‘Sorry, my brother’s dead. Yeah, ma always told him not to eat paint chips.’ That one might actually…
Just then, the number ‘1414’ popped in to the corner of his eye, and he slammed on the brakes, nearly overshooting her house. Backing the car in snuggly next to the curb, he grabbed his backpack, got out of the car, and treaded slowly to her door, his legs feeling as if they were full of lead.
Walking towards her front door and along the walkway, he noticed a row of flowers whose light purples bulbs were in a partial bloom. Curious, he bent down to look at the paper tag still attached to one of them, which read ‘hyacinth.’
“Huh,” he said to himself, as he rose back up. Breathing in deeply, he finished walking the last few feet to the door and rang the bell.
Within seconds, Spore was there, dressed in a pair of light jeans and a green t-shirt adorned with a shamrock.
“Hey!” she said with a smile. “Did you find the place alright?”
“Yeah, no problem,” he responded, walking in to her home.
“Great! Would you like anything to drink?”
“Ah, no thanks. I’m good,” he replied as he cocked his head in all different angles to take in the view of her home. “Where you want to study?”
She shrugged. “My room, I guess. The living room’s kind of a mess right now.”
“Your parents okay with that?” Carl asked with a cockeyed gaze.
“Well, they actually decided to go to the movies a few minutes ago, so it doesn’t really matter.”
“Oh, word,” Carl replied breathlessly. “Yeah, sounds good then.”
“Cool! Upstairs, first door on the right. I’m going to get some water. You sure you don’t want anything?”
“N—no thanks,” he replied, now nervous at the thought of being alone in her room.
“Okay, cool! I’ll be up in a second. You can make yourself comfortable.”
Slowly walking up the stairs and in to the first room on the right, he let the strap of his backpack slowly slide down his arm and in to his hand. Placing it on the ground in front of him, he took in the sights of the room: Four light pink walls with a gray ceiling, framed pictures of dried flowers adorning the area, and a pet goldfish swimming aimlessly back and forth in a bowl on her desk.
Taking a seat on her soft, queen-size bed, he took note of the ornate wooden headboard with what appeared to be leaves carved in to it.
She’s definitely got a theme going here, he thought. He then heard footsteps approaching the door and immediately arose as she came in to the room.
“No, it’s okay. Sit,” she said as she sipped on her water. Setting it down, she brought her desk chair and a binder over, placed the chair in front of Carl, and gently lowered herself in.
“So, uh, where do you wanna start?” Carl asked.
“From the beginning seems to make the most sense, doesn’t it? He said the test is only going to be on the first chapter anyway.”
“Ha, yeah, true.”
“Cool,” she replied. “These should help; I printed out a few study guides Mr. Winters posted online.”
Handing Carl the papers from out of her notebook, he replied with a smile, “I’m surprised that dude knows how to post stuff online. I honestly didn’t even think he knew what the Internet was.”
Laughing, she went, “Oh, you’re so mean to him! He’s a nice man.”
“Please. You’re just into him ‘cause of his sick dance moves.”
“Ha! You got me,” she giggled. Turning around to pick up her textbook that she left on the floor, she cracked open the cover and said, “Okay: Chapter 1.”
Over the course of the next hour, the two went back and forth quizzing each other on questions, referring to the corresponding answer key to see if they were correct or not. Carl was surprised at how many he had gotten right, especially considering how hard it was for him to completely focus as he kept stealing quick glances of Spore the moments he was supposed to be looking in the textbook.
When they finally finished all the questions, Carl remarked, “I actually did pretty decent. You must be my lucky charm.”
“Seems like it,” she said while cocking her head and giving a partial smile. She then added, “So?”
“So…what?” Carl asked in return.
She laughed, momentarily looked down at her feet, and then looked back up at him. “Are you going to kiss me now or what?”
Carl’s heart started pounding so hard he could barely hear.
Spore smiled and leaned in; Carl closed his eyes and did the same. Their mouths then pressed up against each other; her lips were moist and tasted of strawberries.
He pulled back for a second and smiled. “Hell of a way to finish chapter 1.”
They both then leaned back in, and outside, the hyacinths began to bloom.
END OF ACT 1
And with a bang (not literally, sorry, El), Act 1 comes to a finish! Carl’s first kiss; my little boy is growing up. There are still two acts left, and I can’t wait for you all to see what I have in store for Carl, Spore, El, Octane, that douchebag Wing, and the rest of the cast of Empowered! Comments have now been enabled on this blog, so you can let me know below what you think, or you can go on Facebook or Twitter to share your thoughts! Be a pal and share/retweet with your friends! The more the merrier.
I’ll be taking next week off in preparation for Act 2, so you jabronies have two full weeks to catch up before it starts. See you then and happy reading!