crawl | 001
Maybe staying up late with Metallica softly blaring through his speakers was a bad idea. Then again, sneaking down to the kitchen at 2 in the morning was worse. Five creaky floorboards and more than twenty winces later, Jason had successfully managed to slip into the dark kitchen to whip up some food (and perhaps some coffee) to accompany his night as a lone ranger with the sole mission being to study for the biology test that would screw many people over tomorrow. With only one yelp of pain after stubbing his toe on the counter, he hobbled over to the fridge to grab his well-deserved midnight snack. Only after shifting through the fridge did he find that he had a massive problem.
There wasn’t anything to eat.
In the light of the fridge, Jason groaned and slammed the fridge door against his temple gently. The fact that celery and carrots were the only things in the fridge practically turned him away in disgust. He grumpily headed upstairs to the vending machine to ‘taste the rainbow’ with a packet of Skittles.
The trudge up the stairs with only the guidance of his iPhone’s flashlight was tough, especially when Jason wanted to keep silent so that there were no disturbances – a primary example being Gilbert Locke, the talkative twelve year old who followed the older teenagers around as though the ground they walked on was to be worshipped. A quick ding nearly made the brunet trip over one of the steps. Had he not clutched onto the railing, he would have gotten a bruised nose. Jason rarely got any texts so a notification itself brought a cloud of surprise over the boy.
“You’re picking me up from Chemistry tomorrow.
Don’t forget. I will kill you if you do, J.”
Jason pocketed his phone and the text from Caroline and pressed the needed buttons to get the packet of unicorn poo. After the much needed fist pump of success at not being caught, he sneaked back into his room and locked the door behind him, wincing at the sudden light from his table lamp. He kicked his shoes onto the shoe rack and dropped into his chair, sliding across the short distance from the rack to the desk. On the mahogany table laid an open biology textbook and a few scattered notes with neat handwriting and diagrams. For the seventh time that hour, Jason groaned, thinking of the amount of work he had left for him to complete. At the rate he was going, his major end-of-the-year project wouldn’t be finished by the deadline. God, he was so screwed.
“Another night of burning the midnight oil, huh?” he sighed, his deep voice echoing off the silent walls and hushed by the sound of guitars. Jason glanced at the bottle of pills that stood innocently before him under the yellow light of the lamp. Not far from him, Nathan stirred and shifted in his sleep, murmuring something about bullies and soccer. Jason froze for a short moment but figured that Nathan would continue his play of sleeping like a log. Maybe he should go home instead of staying here any longer but it wasn’t exactly going to be in his favor if he ever decided to return to the hellhole he called home.
Picking up the bottle, he turned it around so that he could read the label; maybe this was another thing to add to his list of bad ideas. He shook the bottle gently only to hear the soft jingling of the remains. He’d have to buy more at school if he wanted to survive exam week. With another sigh, the fifteen year old popped a red Skittle into his mouth. He cracked his fingers and neck with a sad grin before shaking out his joints. He was too young to die of stress. “Okay. So five to ten minutes of an oxygen deficiency would cause the brain to die and –”
| ∞ |
“Hey, hey, Jessica!”
Pushing through the massive crowd of students, Jason approached a panda-eyed Jessica. The girl, rooted to her spot, groaned and pressed herself against her locker with irritation. He swore he could hear her growl when he arrived in front of her. It wasn’t as though he wanted to do this – no one wanted to hang around nerdy Jessica Monroe anymore than he did. It was only because of her merchandise that people crowded her from time to time.
“What do you want, Myers? I’m busy and I have English with Mister Jared later. You and everyone in our grade knows he’s a jerk when it comes to punctuality.” Jessica hissed, flipping her auburn hair over her shoulder and glaring at the newcomer. This wasn’t the first time Jason had asked her for something she wasn’t willing to give. Sharing her secret with two other people was enough, adding Jason to her list of people to bury if anyone found out wasn’t something she necessarily liked.
Annoyed with her attitude, he sighed and shifted his weight one too many times. “I need another bottle.” Jason grimaced at the eyebrow that had shot so high that it practically hid behind her bangs. Her look of incredibility wasn’t unusual to him. He knew that all he had to do was plead, beg, look a little teary eyed, and strike a deal. “Look, I’m running out. That’s not enough to keep me sane throughout exam week.”
“Didn’t I just give you a fresh bottle two weeks ago?” came the exasperated reply. “Jason, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were –”
“I’m not!” he hissed, blood roaring in his ears. “I just need to survive the week so that I can study and pass the tests. You of all people know that. Come on, please? Name your price and I’ll pay it, Jess.”
Three beats of silence passed before the redhead spoke. The first warning bell had rung and neither wanted to be late for their classes. Business had to be done quickly or both of them would be killed and tossed into a dumpster by their teachers. “Fifty bucks for two bottles,” she glared, hopping up slightly to balance the weight of the stack of books in her arms. “Take it or leave it, Myers. This way, you won’t ever disturb me again.”
“Thank you so much, Jess.” Jason grinned and pulled the girl into a one sided hug. “I’ll bring the money tomorrow.”
Before he could leave, a hand grabbed onto his elbow with a gentle sort of ferocity that made him spin around to face Jessica once more. Her face was a picture of rare concern and compassion. It was a combination that Jason had never once seen before in his life, something so foreign that it sent shivers down his spine and began a pit of nausea in his stomach. “After exam week is over, I’m not going to give them to you anymore. This isn’t healthy – the side effects are way to serious. Whatever you do, just promise me you won’t buy more than you need. You hear me, Myers?”
With a million watt grin spread across his face, Jason pulled his arm away from her grip, acting as if he were an adult talking to a five year old. “I’ll be fine, Monroe. Don’t worry about me, hmm? Take care of yourself.” He merged into the crowd before Jessica could curse him for calling her by his surname. Quite frankly, the boy worried her – this was his second request he’d made when he wasn’t anywhere close to running out. There was no way to stop worrying about the boy with the hazel eyes and slightly hunched shoulders. Jessica could only hope that it wasn’t her fault if something happened to him; she didn’t think she could live with the guilt.
Walking away with a little sprint in his step, Jason’s heart pounded with excitement at the thought of being able to have a new supply. But he felt a little guilty at the look on Jessica’s face. The weight of his original bottle in his pocket felt like a small bag of pebbles set there to weigh him down if someone were to throw him into the nearby river. Biting down on his bottom lip with apprehension, he maneuvered his thumb to feel the smooth surface of the bottle. The expression of worry wasn’t something he knew how to interpret through daily life. Without his hobby of watching movies, he wouldn’t have known ‘worry’ to be an emotion that stemmed from love and care. He urged himself to turn around and stare at Jessica, who was brushing past the students in the hallway with the same expression plastered on her face but this time, with a tinge of irritation.
Her concern left a bad taste in his mouth. Jason shook his head roughly, slipping into the classroom and dropping into his seat with a disgruntled moan. Perhaps buying more bottles would really be unhealthy, just like what Jessica had said. It was risk he was willing to take. That look of worry, of care, on her face had permanently taken residence in the back of his brain. He wanted so desperately to see that look on his mother’s face. He wanted her to scrunch her eyebrows together and frown, eyes sparkling with suspicion and love – worry. He wanted her to worry. He hadn’t seen that expression cross her face since he started kindergarten.
“Good morning class,” Miss Smith boomed from the front of the class, already writing today’s lesson on the board. “Take out your notebooks and take down today’s topic – A Raisin in the Sun.”
Jason sighed and surreptitiously slid his bottle into a concealed compartment of his bag. Maybe today’s depressing atmosphere would disappear after buying a cup of coffee once school was out. As Miss Smith announced that lunch break wouldn’t be possible without finishing the task, Jason’s stomach churned. Side effects were becoming more and more frequent as time passed but it wasn’t as if he could do anything about it – it was what he needed to survive.
Just two more weeks, Jason – you can do this.
The pill, half orange and half white, lay tauntingly in his palm. To swallow or not to swallow, that is the question. His water bottle was placed innocently at the edge of the desk. Fingers shaking somewhat violently, Jason made a swift scan of the room before pretending to cough, putting the pill at the very back of his tongue, and downed his water as though dehydrated. The churning of his stomach didn’t stop but it happened so frequently that he didn’t bother with it. Instead, his hands had stopped trembling, something that made him smile – he wouldn’t have to hide them in the pockets of his hoodie.
“Shakespeare had many female leads that betrayed the stereotype of their era. Beatrice can be taken as an example from this very topic as she is a stubborn woman who refuses to take – pardon my French – shit from anybody. This reflects upon Beneatha from the story. She was like Beatrice in many ways.” Russell Jacobson, a transfer student from Spain, introduced from the back of the class. Jason hadn’t bothered to pay the slightest bit of attention to the beginning of the lesson. It was beginning to become a habit.
Miss Smith nodded and motioned at Russell to take his seat. “What else do we know about the book, A Raisin in the Sun? Was it just the defiant women?” her eyes roamed the classroom for a random victim until they landed on the very pair of brown eyes that had the heaviest eye bags she had ever seen. “Jason?”
Panicking internally, Jason calmly stood and cleared his throat. He hadn’t noticed when Russell had stopped speaking. “Beneatha was big on finding her identity and working towards her dream of becoming a doctor, not a nurse. As it was, the racial segregation and gender discrimination made her dream near impossible. Beneatha struggled through her family’s belief system too. Her grandmother believed in God when she herself did not, thus causing her to be taught a lesson. Her brother, Walter tried to waver her away from medical school. All her life, she grew up in a house filled with different beliefs as compared to her own. Either she stood up to them and fought for her rights to do what she wanted, or she could sit back and listen to the people who raised her since her birth.”
“Thank you, Jason.” Miss Smith smiled. “That was a brilliant description about the hardships Beneatha encountered. Moving on, shall we have –”
Jason never felt more thankful to feel the cool plastic chair against his back as he slid into his seat, clutching his trembling fingers together and wiping his sweat away with his sleeve. He knew Beneatha’s problems all too well.
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