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xx The Voluntary [COMPLETE]
« Thread started on: Mar 27th, 2008, 4:32pm »

Thought I would post this here. I have it up on too, if anyone is interested in reading it straight through. My url is

This story is about those strange but all too frequent anomalies: voluntary controllers. More specifically, this is about one person - a teenager named Christopher - and his decision to sacrifice his freedom.

Chapter One
Background Noise

Beep. Beep. Beep. BeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepBEEPBEEP!!

My alarm clock broke into my dreams with a vengeance. Groaning I slammed my hand onto the snooze button. I lay there for a minute, letting the fog of sleep dissipate from my mind. Finally I gave myself up to consciousness and rolled out of bed.

Gray morning light cast an eerie haze around my room, making me stumble over strewn clothes and books as I half-heartedly shoved my stuff into a worn book bag and pulled on what I hoped was a clean shirt. Almost falling over my guitar case, I made it to the bathroom in more or less one piece.

I didn't turn the light on, choosing to brush my teeth in the gloomy gray that filtered through the blinds over the glaring florescent lights. As a result, my reflection in the mirror was hazy, almost surreal looking. My normally pale skin looked almost tan, and my blue eyes were almost indistinguishable from the whites. I shivered and looked down, brushing my light brown hair back. It was a strange, ethereal sort of image. It didn't suit me.

As I made my way downstairs I noted that the house was eerily silent. The floorboards creaked uneasily beneath my feet. No sound came from my mom’s room. I wondered if she had come home the previous night or not. I hadn’t waited up to find out.

I ate my cereal slowly, still not fully awake. I was in no hurry to get to school. The seething mass of students, gossiping and laughing and enjoying life made me nauseous. I didn’t look forward to another day of slipping by in the background.

The walk to school was about as dreary as my mood. The gray clouds hung low overhead, sucking the air out from under them like a vacuum. Big fat raindrops fell around me, and the wind sliced through my shirt. I actually felt a little relieved when I entered the blindingly bright warmth of the school. That is, until all of the noise surrounded me like a tidal wave.

Laughter, indignant shouts, the slamming of lockers. All of it amplified by the high ceilings and narrow corridors. Instantly I felt myself slouching down, struggling to avoid the gaze of my fellow students as I made my way hurriedly to my locker.

“Heya Chris!” Alicia, one of my few friends, came up beside me as I threw my book bag into my locker.

“Oh, hey.” I responded, glumly slamming the door.

“What’s wrong? Didn't sleep?” She said. I shrugged in response. It was still far too early to expend energy talking. Alicia rolled her eyes and reached up to tousle my hair playfully. I pulled away, irritated.

“Oh come on, grumpy.” She taunted. “You know, you need a pick-me-up. What are you doing after school today?”

“Nothing.” I said gruffly, wondering how someone could be so perky at seven in the morning.

“Well, I’m going to a meeting of The Sharing. Wanna come?”

“No.” I gave her a sideways look. “You know that isn’t my thing.”

“Yeah, I know I know.” She sighed melodramatically, as if my dislike for organized groups was an epidemic or something. “You could at least try though. I mean, I know you don’t like the whole community service thing, but it isn’t just that. We hang out. Have fun. You remember fun, don’t you?”

I had to crack a small smile at her sales pitch. How Alicia and I managed to be friends was beyond me. She was the exact opposite of me. Where I was withdrawn and uninvolved, Alicia had a slew of close friends and participated in dozens of activities. She was constantly trying to pull me into her circle – a place where I felt vastly uncomfortable.

“I don’t think so, Alicia.” I replied.

“Please?” She gave me a pouting look. “We aren’t even doing any service tonight. It’s just a normal meeting. We’re going to hang out, maybe play some pool. Eat.”

“Oh yeah, that sounds like my kind of place.” I said. Alicia looked disappointed, and I sighed heavily, running my hand through my hair.

“Karen and Tom can’t come, though.” She said, looking a little glum. “I don’t want to go alone. I still don’t know too many people there.”

I raised an eyebrow quizzically. It wasn’t often Alicia was without a companion. It would give us some time to hang out without her other friends buzzing around her like so many wasps. We rarely had that opportunity these days. We had been friends since we were in diapers, but the entrance of high school had very different effects on each of us. I had felt awkward and lost in the sea of students, while Alicia flourished.

“Alicia!” As if she had read my thoughts, a bleach blonde grabbed Alicia by the arm. “Hey hun, did you do your Spanish homework?”

“Um…” She looked up at me apologetically and turned to her friend. I stood there for a moment, feeling awkward as they talked. When it became clear that they weren’t going to finish their conversation on the imperative-tense-and-that-cute-boy-who-sits-behind-so-and-so I decided it was time to leave.

“Hey.” I tapped Alicia on the shoulder. “I’ll think about it, okay?”

“Great!” She said, beaming at me before she returned to her conversation. I hesitated a moment longer before heading off down the hall.

The Sharing was a relatively new organization in our neighborhood, which was probably why Alicia didn’t know too many people. A lot of faculty members were promoting it, and fliers had been up around the school for a few weeks now. From what I understood, it was just another community involvement group. Except this one went even further than the typical school-based program and aimed to include anyone and everyone. Girls, boys, kids, adults. Anyone was welcome. It was supposed to be a “safe place” where people could go and, no matter who they were, could find a place where they fit in.

Which of course, was probably a load of bull. It didn’t matter how safe and clique-proof you tried to make a place. The groups always separated themselves out, like oil and water.

Then again, Alicia had nothing but good things to say about The Sharing since she had joined. She said that it had done well in other cities, bringing together communities that had been in shambles. I gave myself a mental shrug as I slid into my homeroom seat. There was no harm in going for Alicia’s sake.

Who knew, maybe it would lead to something.
« Last Edit: May 26th, 2008, 8:32pm by Terenia » User IP Logged

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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #1 on: Mar 28th, 2008, 9:17pm »

Hmm, pretty good so far. I like the description and writing style. I'd like to see where this fic goes. Write more, please. smiley
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« Reply #2 on: Mar 29th, 2008, 02:58am »

Chapter Two
The Sharing

I decided that one afternoon of misery was worth it for Alicia’s sake. We met up after school and walked to the community center together. The weather had improved somewhat. At least it wasn’t raining anymore. The sun still hid behind ominous clouds, though.

“I’m really glad you decided to come with me,” Alicia was saying brightly.

“Well, it’s only this once.” I said, not committing. The last thing I wanted was for Alicia to begin expecting me at every meeting. “So, how come Karen and Tom can’t make it?”

“Oh, Karen is grounded. And Tom is doing something with his family.” She waved it off unimportantly.

“Ah” I said. An uncomfortable silence fell over us. It was a weird and out of place kind of silence. Alicia had seen me when I still wet my pants on occasion, and now I felt awkward around her? It was as if there was a wall between us which had never been there before.

“This is it.” Alicia said ten minutes later, breaking the silence. We were in front of a rather unremarkable building. It was a single story, dull red brick. There were few windows, and the scruffy grass in front hadn’t been cut in ages. Above the door there was a sign bearing the words “The Sharing” in bright print.

“This?” I raised my eyebrows. “You would think they’d have something a little more…I don’t know, nice?”

“Chris! They’re new, remember? They haven’t set up a permanent place yet. This is just rented property.” She flipped her ponytail and walked ahead. I hesitated before following her. My stomach was twisting weirdly in my stomach as I crossed the threshold.

It was like I was stepping into a whole new world. Like in one step I had gone from the dingy streets of my home town to a glorified hang out. The first thing I noticed was how bright it was. Despite the lack of windows, or maybe because of it, bright lights were everywhere.

The noise hit me next. It was a little like being back at school. A really cool version of school. School with ping pong tables and dart boards and an endless supply of chips and soda. Yeah, a cool version of school alright. But that fact didn’t make me feel more like I belonged there. If anything, I felt more out of place.

“Come on Chris.” Alicia led me to a table which was directly blocking our path. Behind it, groups of teens and adults of all ages were talking and laughing together. Adults and kids, talking together like they were the best of friends. Weird. Way weird.

“Well hello Alicia, welcome back.” The lady at the desk said, grinning broadly. “And who might this handsome young man be?”

I felt myself flushing and grunted “Christopher” under my breath. If I hadn’t felt awkward, I certainly did now.

“This is my friend from school, Chris.” Alicia said, clarifying my mumbles. “Its his first time tonight.”

“Excellent! Well, just write both of your names down on the attendance sheet and make yourselves a name tag. Then enjoy yourselves!” The lady smiled once more, before turning to talk to a balding man next to her. I picked up the pen, hesitating before writing down my name on the attendance sheet and a blank name tag.

A few moments later Alicia and I were standing against the wall near a pool table. Alicia looked anxious, and I knew that she was unhappy with my silence. I was busy trying to be as invisible as possible. It had worked, so far.

“Chris!” I looked up at the sound. Oh great. My old Assistant Principal was heading towards me, smiling like we were old friends.

“Vice Principal Chapman.” I shook his hand awkwardly, “How are you?”

“Quite wonderful actually. How are you enjoying the high school? Staying out of trouble, I hope?”

“Yes, sir.” I masked an inward scowl. I had spent my fair share of time in Chapman’s office when I was in middle school. Probably more time than I had spent in an actual classroom. Back in those days I had decided to express my father’s frequent absences and my mothers habit of going out all night with anger. I later realized that you got bothered much less if you just remained invisible.

“Well I’m glad to see you here, son. Enjoy yourself.” He strode away quickly, probably looking for another student to talk to.

“See, that was nice.” Alicia said. I rolled my eyes.

“Alicia, I spent so much time in his office in middle school that he practically started charging me rent. He’s probably just glad I’m not in jail or something.”

“Well, whatever. I thought it was nice. Come on, let’s air hockey or something. Please?”

There was an open table, so I agreed reluctantly. We played silently at first, but then..


“Oww!” I grabbed my fingers, which were red from the impact of the puck, “Do you mind?”

“Sorry!” Alicia looked mortified. My cry had drawn some onlookers.

“Yeah, yeah.” I muttered, “Just get ready to be massacred.”

I put the puck back into play and it banked off of the wall, heading towards Alicia’s goal. She deflected! I quickly blocked my goal and sent the shot back towards her.

“Yes! Goal!” I cried, grinning. Alicia gave me a sour look.

“Enjoy it, buddy. It’s the last one you’re going to get.” We had definitely drawn a crowd now, but I didn’t care. This was me and Alicia, acting as we always had. This was the most normal I had felt in ages.

“C’mon Alicia!” Some kid cried.

“Go new kid!” Another one responded. I ignored their voices. It was a tie game. Game point. We volleyed it back and forth for a little while until I found just the right angle, lined it up, hit! Alicia moved to block it, but she was too slow. The puck slid in the goal. I had won!

“Great game!” Some kid I didn’t know said, patting me on the back. I couldn’t help but grin back. Suddenly I realized how many people had been watching. It was a strange feeling. I wasn’t used to being the center of attention. Certainly not for something good. Alicia smiled and came around to my side of the table.

“Good game.” She said. I smiled back at her.

“Thanks, you almost had be there.”

“Nah, you beat me fair and square. See, I told you the whole group thing wasn’t that bad.”

“No…” I said, choosing my words carefully. “It really isn’t..”

“So you’ll come back?” She looked hopeful. I hesitated. So far, the meeting had been fun. I had gotten time to hang out with Alicia, and several others had actually spoken to me. Even some kids who in school never looked my way were nodding at me in a friendly manner. It was all a bit overwhelming, but in a good way.

“Yeah.” I decided. “I think I will.”
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #3 on: Mar 31st, 2008, 8:08pm »

A/N: Sorry about the delay guys, I was out of town for the weekend. Thanks for the reviews! Both here and at smiley Here's Chapter 3!

Chapter Three:

Rainy Days

“Mom! I’m home!” I shouted as I clattered through the front door. Silence. The house was dark. I slung my backpack onto the couch and made my way to the kitchen, flipping the lights on as I went.

“Mom?” I tried again, more tentatively. I looked around the spotless kitchen. Spotless, not because of a meticulous cleaner, but rather from lack of use. No sign of her. My eyes fell on the refrigerator, and I noticed a post-it stuck to its surface. Curiously, I moved closer to the small yellow square. Gone to meet dad for lunch. I glanced at the clock. It was after six o’clock. Some lunch, I thought.

Putting the empty house out of my mind I set about making myself dinner. I opened the fridge. There was half a gallon of stale milk, some lunch meat, and various condiments. With a sigh I grabbed some turkey and turned to find bread. None.

After a few minutes, I settled down in the living room with a handful of cold poultry in one hand and the remote in the other. I flipped through the channels, pausing when I reached a rerun of Pete and Pete. Only mildly interested in the show, I thought over my afternoon with Alicia.

The Sharing had been fun. I had actually had a good time. Strange for me to admit that. Strange to imagine myself enjoying being with a group of people. It had still been awkward at times, but the feeling of unease was not because I felt like an outsider. Rather, it was the unusual feeling of being wanted there. That wasn’t something I was used to.

Brrriiing!! The phone rang loudly, cutting through my thoughts. I paused, letting it ring once more before I picked it up.


“Um…hi, is this Chris?” It was a voice I didn’t recognize.

“Who is this?” I asked suspiciously.

“It’s Tom.” Tom? Alicia’s new friend, star of the basketball team Tom? What in the world could he want with me?

“Oh.” I said, trying to conceal the surprise in my voice, “Hey Tom. What’s up?”

“Not much,” He sounded nervous, hesitant. Weird. “I was just wondering…you’re friends with Alicia, right?”


“Yeah, well, I was wondering…you know, I’ve been going to The Sharing with her, but I couldn’t go tonight. We just started hanging out, but she’s really great.” Tom paused and the silence hung in the air. I suddenly realized what this was about.

“You want me to ask her out for you?” I asked incredulously. The captain of the basketball team was asking me for help? With Alicia?

“Well, I was hoping you could just put in a good word or something…she talks about you a lot, and I think she’d listen to you.”

I almost laughed out loud. This was ridiculous – it was insane! One of the most popular guys in school was asking me for help! Alicia must have already turned him down, if he was resorting to going through a friend. Especially if that friend was someone like me.

“Tom, I barely even know you.” I argued.

“Yeah, but…”

“Listen,” I interrupted with a sigh, wanting the conversation to be over. “If it means that much to you, how about we all just hang out at the next Sharing meeting? Then maybe I can talk to her about you afterwards.”

“Yeah, okay.” Tom agreed, “Yeah, that sounds good. Thanks man, I appreciate it. Later.”

“Bye…” I hung up the receiver, feeling oddly conspiratory. I didn’t know anything about Tom. I had heard people say that he was a good guy, but that didn’t mean anything. If he wanted to be with Alicia I would have to make sure he was a decent guy beforehand. The last thing I wanted was for her to get involved with some ill-intentioned creep.

I changed channels. The news. There was a report about some guy who murdered his girlfriend for thinking she was pregnant. Turned out she wasn’t. I wrinkled my nose in disgust. People these days. The next report, something about a kid who had been left in the trunk of a car, began. I turned the television off.

If I ever pitied myself, and my situation, I just had to turn on the news to feel better, that was for sure. Sure, my parents were rarely around, either working or partying late. But they didn’t beat me, or leave me locked in cars. There were a lot worse things than absence.

The sudden silence in the house felt oppressive. Outside the rain had begun again, pattering on the roof like so many angry fists. Alicia and Tom. The thought made my stomach queasy. I had had a thing for Alicia, years ago. Since then I had realized that it was a stupid crush. We were friends; we would never be anything but friends. The remnants of that silly affection were a sense of over protectiveness and the occasional daydream. Having Tom go after Alicia made me worry that I would be thrown into the backseat of her life. Irrational, I know. But when you only have one friend, you tend to hang onto her as tightly as possible.

I stood up, suddenly needing to go somewhere. To be somewhere else. I threw on my jacket, giving the silent house a look of irritation. Maybe the rain would snap me out of it.

It was cold outside. The persistent storms had dropped the temperature about ten degrees, and the wind didn’t help. It cut through my windbreaker like a knife. In a way, I welcomed the stinging. It made me feel more alive. Does that make sense? It reminded me that yes; I could feel cold and pain. I wasn’t just some obsolete shadow, moving through the background of life.

Without realizing where I was headed I found myself on Alicia’s front porch. She lived in a much nicer neighborhood than I. She had a very common suburban ranch-style home, contrasting with my families’ small duplex. The front lawn was neatly trimmed and a bike lay on its side in the driveway. Remnants of her little brother, no doubt.

“Chris?” Alicia looked worried when she answered my knock at the door.

“Uh, hey.” I responded, feeling suddenly awkward.

“What’s up? Is everything alright?”

“Alright?” I laughed, a loud barking sound. What was I doing? I sounded like a complete moron. “Of course I’m alright. Why wouldn’t I be alright?”

“Um…okay,” She hesitated, glancing at my dripping wet hair, “Do you want to come inside?”

“Huh? Oh, no. No. Thanks, though.” We stood in silence for a moment. I fiddled with my jacket zipper, feeling like the biggest dweeb in the world.

“Listen,” I said finally, “Um…do you know that Tom guy? The basketball dude?”

“Yeah, of course I know him.” She said, looking confused.

“Yeah, well. Um…he called me today. Asking about you.”

“What!?” She looked alarmed, “Why? What did he say?”

“Nothing…nothing really. It’s just, I got this vibe. I think he has a thing for you.” I blurted. What was I doing? I was acting like some gossiping schoolgirl.

“What? Really?” Alicia paused, a slightly far-off look in her eyes. Like maybe she was lost in the thoughts in her head. I felt a queasiness in the pit of my stomach. Did I still have a thing for Alicia? Was this bothering me that much?

“Well, what’d you tell him?” Alicia demanded. I shrugged in response.

“I dunno. I said I’d like to get to know him better. We’re gonna hang out at the next Sharing meeting I guess.”

“Really? That sounds like a great idea!” Alicia suddenly sounded much more excited. “You two would like each other, I think. Besides, then you’ll have someone to hang with when I go to the full member meeting.”

“Wait a minute, you’re a full member?” I cut in. Hadn’t she just joined like, a week ago?

“Yeah,” Suddenly she looked a little embarrassed, “You know me. I just like to jump into things, full force. I didn’t want to waste time with the whole get-to-know the group kind of thing. So the first day there I asked to be a full member. They let me. Cool, huh?”

“Sure,” I said uneasily. It made sense, in a way. Alicia had always wanted to be as involved as possible. Still, something made me feel ill at ease. “So why didn’t you have to go to a full member meeting today?”

“Oh, we had the night off. I think it’s because Mr. Visser is coming next week, so it’ll be a big one”

“Mr. Visser?” I had heard that name mentioned at the meeting before. Always in a hushed sort of way. Even when Alicia said it now, she seemed to hesitate beforehand. I felt goose bumps rising on my soaked skin.

“Yeah, he’s the big guy. Leader of The Sharing. Every branch of it. So it’ll be a pretty big deal when he’s here next week.”

“Ah.” I said, unable to think up a better response.

“Well this all worked out perfectly, then. I’m so happy!” Alicia grinned cheerfully, “I’ll see you in school tomorrow, okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay.” I said. Alicia flashed me another bright smile before closing the door.

I stood on the front stoop for a moment, letting the rain pour down on me. It had all been completely normal. Alicia’s excitement to hear about Tom, her enthusiasm about the two of us hanging out. Except deep down inside, in some irrational part of my mind, I felt a twang of something. A sort of uneasiness, like maybe I was getting in over my head without knowing it. What was wrong with me?

Suddenly it hit me.

Oh man, I thought grimly, I think I’m still in love with her.
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« Reply #4 on: Apr 1st, 2008, 6:01pm »

Chapter Four

Something Bigger Than Yourself

“So Chris, what else do you do for fun?” Steve asked. I shrugged, tossing the basketball up towards the hoop. It hit the rim and bounced away.

“I don’t even play ball for fun, normally.” I admitted, “In case you hadn’t noticed, I suck.”

“That’s just because you’re playing against Tom here,” Zach joked, putting a friendly arm around Tom, who looked a little sheepish.

I was at my second meeting of The Sharing. Steve had been assigned to me as a guide. I guess you get those after your second meeting. Tom’s guide was Zach. The four of us had decided to play a little two-on-two, and it wasn’t going too well.

“Hey guys!” Alicia called, pulling us away from the game. She motioned us over.

“What’s up?” Tom asked, trying to sound nonchalant as he gave her an awkward grin. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a little bit. For such a hot-shot, he sure was self conscious around Alicia.

“Its time for the members meeting.” She reminded Steve and Zach, tapping at an invisible watch on her wrist.

“Oh, shoot, that’s right!” Steve said, looking at me apologetically, “We’ll be back in a little bit. Important meeting tonight. Mr. Visser is going to be giving us a speech.”

I had heard them talk about Mr. Visser a couple of times before. He was the big guy – the head of The Sharing. I guess him coming by was kind of a big deal, because there was a certain sense of nervousness in Steve’s voice.

“Can’t I come too?” Tom asked, winking at Alicia. She gave him a coy smile in return.

“When you’re a full member, Tom, you can come to all the meetings you want. Chris, don’t let Tom get too bored.” They turned to leave, and I noticed Alicia grab Tom’s hand and give it a quick squeeze as she left.

“She’s great, isn’t she?” Tom asked me as the door to the gym closed. I shrugged, feeling a bit moody all of a sudden. I left him staring at the closed door and went to retrieve the basketball from the other side of the gym, where it had rolled after my failure of a shot.

“You know, maybe we could go spy on her or something.” Tom said as I returned. I gave him an incredulous look.

“You want to spy on a meeting just so you can watch Alicia sit there and listen to some guy talk?” This guy was crazy.

“Well…” He hesitated, “Yeah, I guess that does sound a little stupid, huh?”

“Yeah, a little.” I mumbled bluntly. I really didn’t feel like dealing with a lovesick basketball player.

“Oh, well.” Tom paused again, and seemed to be considering. Then his face broke out into a grin, “So, let’s see how you do against me one-on-one.”

“Yeah, right.” I snorted. “How about we just call it your game right now.”

In the end we decided to go inside and play some air hockey. The game wasn’t nearly as intense as the previous battle between Alicia and me, but it was still surprisingly enjoyable. I didn’t even notice the full meeting adjourn.

“Well you two seem to have hit it off.” A voice said from just behind me.

“Yah!” I jumped about two feet and Tom’s puck went into my goal.

“I win!” He cried victoriously. I shot him a dirty look and turned to see my offender. It was Alicia.

“Thanks for that.” I grumbled, giving her a dirty look. She grinned back at me apologetically, but her eyes were a little distant. Her skin seemed paler than normal, almost as if she had been the one frightened.

“Hey, you okay?” I asked, putting my hand on her arm. A funny tingle ran through me, and I had to fight to keep myself from pulling away. My face flushed a little, but Alicia didn’t seem to notice. She just gave me one of her bright smiles.

“Of course I’m okay. C’mon, its time to go.” She pulled away from me and headed over to Tom’s side of the table, where she whispered something in his ear. He grinned and nodded. Oh brother, I thought. Suddenly feeling like a third wheel, I turned and looked for someone else to talk to. To my relief Steve waved me over.

“So, still liking the club?” He asked casually, giving me a warm smile. Steve was one of those guys who probably was the prom king when he was in high school. He was in his early twenties, with longish blonde hair and shining blue eyes. Well-dressed, well-spoken, and well-intentioned. A model citizen. Even I couldn’t help but like him, even though his type normally made me feel a bit nauseous. Even now I couldn’t help but return his grin with my own feeble attempt.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Kinda weird. Tom isn’t the sort I normally hang out with.” I looked over my shoulder towards the basketball star. He and Alicia were next to one another, whispering conspiratorially. Even from where I stood I could feel the chemistry coming from them. Now that did make me nauseous.

“Yeah, well. That’s the point.” Steve said. “It’s all about realizing that you aren’t alone. Everyone here is your friend. You don’t have to worry about all of that usual high school bull.”

“Yeah…” I found myself agreeing. It was different here. Even Steve seemed to actually want to hang out with me. I mean sure, it was his job as my guide, but he didn’t act like he thought I was weird or different. “It is kind of nice. I never really liked hanging around with too many people, but it really isn’t that bad, I guess.”

“Exactly!” Steve beamed, like I had said something really profound. “People shouldn’t have to worry so much about fitting in! We are all here to help one another, and to achieve greater things together.”

“Greater things?” I asked. Oh boy, here it came. The bologna about saving the world, helping granny’s cross the road, and changing everything for the better.

“Sure.” Steve’s smile had a mysterious tinge to it, “There are things bigger than high school drama, you know. Bigger than finding a job. Better.”

“Like what?” I couldn’t help but feel intrigued, despite my skepticism.

“Well if I told you now, that would ruin the fun of initiation.”

“Initiation?” I felt a nervous twang in my stomach. I had heard of fraternities and other groups making people do outrageous things for initiation. Running around naked, going days without sleep, serving the members every whim. Steve must have noticed the panicked look on my face, because he laughed heartily and patted me on the back.

“Don’t look so scared, Chris! It’s no big deal. Initiation is just where we let you in on the really awesome stuff we do here. The big stuff.”

“Oh…right.” I gave him a small smile, feeling a bit embarrassed. Of course I was being stupid. If anyone here was out to get me, I would have noticed by now. But no, everyone had been quite friendly.

“Chris!” Alicia’s voice cut into my thoughts. “Come on, we’re going to be late!”

“Oh, right. Yeah, okay.” I stood up. “See ya later Steve.”

“Next week! You better be here. I’m not taking on Tom all by myself.” Steve winked.

“Right…” I turned to leave. Alicia and Tom were no longer uncomfortably close, to my relief. I did notice that they kept shooting one another secretive glances, though. Ignoring the fact that my stomach was doing flip-flops I began walking beside them.

“So did you two have fun?” Alicia asked lightly.

“Yeah.” Tom answered quickly, “I had a great time.”

“Oh good! You know, you technically only have four or five meetings before you have to decide whether or not you want to become a full member. It’ll be much more fun when you can join me in the meetings.”

“Yeah.” Tom responded, nodding viciously. I wondered if his head was going to roll off of his shoulders. “I can’t wait.”

“Steve and Zach are nice.” I added in, not wanting it to be left out of the conversation.

“Oh yeah, they’re great.” Alicia said. She stopped. We were at the corner of the street. “Well, I have to go this way. See you guys!”

She gave Tom another coy glance before heading off. I watched Tom for a minute. His eyes were glued to her retreating figure.

“Are all basketball players this lame around girls they like?” I asked mildly. He jumped a little, tearing his eyes from Alicia’s back.

“I’m not being lame!” He responded defensively, “Come on, like you haven’t ever liked someone?”

“Well yeah. I didn’t get all goo-goo eyed about it though.” I stuffed my hands into my jean pockets, trying to seem nonchalant.

“Yeah? Well you must not have liked her that much then.” Tom gave me a shove. It was a friendly shove, though.

“Shows what you know.” I retorted, shoving him back. I wondered briefly what he would say if he found out that we liked the same girl.

“Oh crap.” Tom said, stopping suddenly.


“I left my basketball back at the meeting. I gotta go get it, we only have one and my brother uses it too.” He turned and began to walk back, moving quickly. After a moments hesitation I hurried to catch up. It wasn’t as if I had anywhere better to be.

“How in the world could you forget something as large as a basketball? Isn’t it hard to miss?” I asked. He shot me a sour look and we didn’t talk the rest of the way.

The center was quiet when we arrived. Everyone seemed to have cleared out. Tom went straight towards the basketball court. I stayed in the main room, wandering through the tables and chairs. It was eerily quiet, after all the noise that had been here only twenty minutes before.

No, not entirely quiet. There was a sound coming from one of the closed doors. It led into the same room where Alicia had gone for the full members meeting. I approached it curiously. Yes, there were definitely people in there talking. Their voices were urgent, scared. I inched forward, my heart pounding. Snatches of conversation penetrated the door.

“….didn’t know…can’t…Visser…” There was a pause, as if the speaker was listening.

“Yes. Of course. I….go…week.”

Another pause. The speaker must be on the phone. I scooted closer, standing on my tiptoes to try and get a peek through the window which was high in the door.

“Thank you….never. Certainly…Hork-Bajir….the Pool….tomorrow.”
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #5 on: Apr 1st, 2008, 6:01pm »

I peered into the room. Steve was in there, but he wasn’t on the phone. He was talking to someone out of my range of vision. I wondered why I couldn’t hear the other person talking. Feeling strangely reckless I turned and grabbed a chair. Placing it in front of the door I stood on it, hoping for a better view. I tried again.

What I saw almost made me fall off my chair. I clapped my hand over my mouth to keep myself from making any noise.

There was a…creature…in the room! Definitely not human. It looked like a centaur, only bizarrely deformed, with a wicked looking tail. Whatever it was was glaring at Steve with two of his eyes. The other two were looking around the room. Yes, it had four eyes.

I swayed a little, leaning against the door for balance. I didn’t dare move. What I was seeing couldn’t be…it was impossible! I was afraid that if I looked away it would disappear. I was equally afraid that those watchful eyes would land on me. Unsure of what to do, I stared transfixed. My mind on nothing else but the strange creature.

“Chris! What are you doing!”

“Ah!” I spun around at the sound of Tom’s voice. The sudden movement send me toppling to the floor with an astoundingly loud crash. My head hit the chair and for a moment everything was an explosion of light.

As my vision cleared I noticed how silent it had become. Shaking with a combination of fear and shock I looked up. Tom was standing on the other end of the room, looking confused, his basketball under one arm.

And directly next to me was Steve, looking more furious than I have ever seen a person look.

I could only think of one thing to do. I got to my feet warily, giving Steve the biggest grin I could muster.

“Sorry man, forgot something. Well, time to go! See ya later!” With that I turned and ran as fast as my legs could carry me.
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #6 on: Apr 13th, 2008, 9:35pm »

Chapter Five
A Real Family

Miraculously, Steve didn’t follow me out of the building. I don’t even think he noticed Tom, who was calling loudly for me to slow down. I kept running, though, sucking in huge gulps of cold autumn air. Willing myself to make sense out of what I had just seen.

It was impossible…there was no way that I had seen what I thought I had seen. But then why had Steve looked so impossibly mad? He couldn’t have been more furious if he had caught me macking on his baby sister.

“Chris!” A hand grabbed my shoulder and I jumped about three feet, spinning around in the air like a cat to face my attacker.

“Woah man!” Tom said, looking concerned. “What’s with you?”

“I saw…I thought…Steve was…” I put my hands on my knees, panting for breath. I was well aware that I made no sense whatsoever. Slowly the large gasps of cold, wet air began to clear my head. I realized that I had to be mistaken. Whatever I had seen…it couldn’t be what I thought it was…my eyes had been playing tricks on me or something. But Steve’s reaction? He had probably just been surprised to see me, not angry. I looked up at Tom’s confused face.

In any case, I thought wryly, It’s not like he’ll believe you. You barely believe yourself.

“N-nothing.” I said finally, pushing myself upright. “It’s nothing. Steve just startled me, is all.”

“More like scared you to death. You ran from there like the hounds of hell were after you.”

“Yeah.” I gave him a smile which I hoped looked convincingly sheepish. “I guess I scare easy. Listen, I uh, gotta get home. I’ll see you later.”

Without giving Tom a chance to answer I cut across the street and began to jog home. The breeze felt good against my hot face. I was embarrassed. Embarrassed for getting so worked up over what had to have a completely reasonable explanation.

When I clattered through the front door I paused for a moment, the events of The Sharing temporarily forgotten. There was a strange smell to the house. Cautiously I sniffed and moved forward. There was a clanking noise coming from the kitchen. Strange. No one was ever home at this time of day.

“Hello?” I called, my voice just above a whisper. No answer. I doubt anyone could have even heard me. Nervously I peered around the doorway into the kitchen.

“Wha – mom?” I asked incredulously. My mother was standing in the brightly lit kitchen, hovering over the stove protectively. I realized that the funny smell was food cooking.

“Oh Chris, honey!” She turned to beam at me, “I didn’t hear you come in!”

“Um…hi…” I hesitated, completely baffled. Mom never cooked. Ever. The few times she was home for dinner we would order a pizza or Chinese take out. She would always claim that cooking was for old maids, and she was far too busy for such a thing.

“Sit down, sit down.” She said, waving me to the kitchen table. “Food is almost ready.”

“What…” I sat down on the hard, rarely used wooden chair. “What are you doing?”

“I’m cooking dinner, what does it look like I’m doing?” She brushed a strand of brown hair behind her ear and opened the oven. A small cloud of smoke puffed out.

“Since when do you cook?” I wondered if she wanted something from me. It seemed like the only logical reasoning. The only times my mom ever particularly paid attention to me was when she needed me to clean the house or run to the store for her. Normally she just asked real nicely, though. She didn’t go all Martha Stewart on me.

“Since I decided that my boy should come home to a nice, home cooked meal.” She responded matter-of-factly as she pulled some sort of chicken dish from the oven. It smelled faintly of rotten eggs. I forced a smile, though, as she dished out two plates.

“This is great.” I said, looking down at my chicken and broccoli and potatoes. Compared to my usual dinner, this was a feast. I took a tentative bite and choked down the chicken. Alright, so it was a feast that tasted like sandpaper. But it was the thought that counted, right?

“Well,” She grimaced as she tried a bite herself, “It isn’t perfect. But it’s a good first try, right?”

“Yeah. But why –” Mom cut me off before I could ask again.

“As you know I went to see your father recently.” She began. I recalled the note on the fridge the night after my first meeting of The Sharing. “Well, he’s really getting along well with his new wife and step-children and…well, we had a very long talk. I realized that I haven’t been there like a mother should be. I thought that maybe we could, you know, start over. I know it’s a bit late and all…but we could try, right?”

“Um…” I hesitated. My mom had made several pleas in the past to rebuild our relationship, or lack thereof. It had never worked before, though. Mostly because neither of us was interested enough in the other to break out of our normal routines and habits. My mother was comfortable staying out late every night, and working all day. I was comfortable holing myself up in my room where I could play video games or read or surf aimlessly on the internet. We had a balance to our relationship, and by trying to play mother my mom was throwing that off.

“Yeah, sure.” I said, taking a bite of steamed broccoli. I doubted that my mothers newfound passion in cooking would last long. Or her newfound interest in me, for that matter.

“Great!” She beamed at me. “Well tell me about your day. That’s what families do when they sit around the dinner table, isn’t it?”

“Yeah…” I shoveled another bite of chicken down my throat, fighting not to grimace. Of all the days my mom wanted to talk about it had to be this one? I swallowed heavily. “Well, I went to school. That was kind of boring. Then I went to The Sharing with Alicia and Tom…”

“What’s The Sharing?” She asked, looking genuinely interested. I was taken aback. She really was making an effort here. I felt the faintest tinge of something in my stomach. For some reason I began to think about all the times I had ate dinner at Alicia’s, laughing and joking with her parents and siblings.

“It’s a club.” I said, a bit more confidently, “Alicia is a full member and she invited me. It’s pretty cool –”

I launched into a discussion about The Sharing and what we did there. Then I began talking about Tom and Alicia and even Zach and Steve (although I left out the last moment I had seen Steve, looking so furious).

By the time I was finished the sky outside had grown dark, and what we hadn’t eaten was cold on our plates. I had talked for what seemed like hours, and my mother had never seemed to lose interest. It was amazing. Like she was a completely new person. The flutter of hope I had felt in my stomach took off again. Maybe we really could be like a real family. Just like Tom and Alicia and everyone else at school. A real family.

DiiiiiingDoooong. The hollow sounds of the doorbell shook me from my thoughts. My mom gave me one more encouraging smile before rising to answer. While she went to the door I picked at my cold chicken. A real family. Just me and my mom. Maybe I could take her to The Sharing. I had seen quite a few kids there with their folks. It wasn’t strange or “uncool” to be seen with your parents there.

Then all of the events of earlier that evening rushed back to my mind. Was I going to go back at all, after witnessing that…thing? What was The Sharing hiding from us? Maybe Alicia would know, since she was a full member. Maybe I could spy on them again at the next meeting. Maybe…

“Chris?” My moms called, pulling me from my worries.

“Yeah?” I called back, rising from the table. Who would be at the door for me? Alicia? I wondered hopefully. A moment later my hopes hit the floor like a rock.

“There’s someone named Steve here to see you!”
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #7 on: Apr 28th, 2008, 6:01pm »

AN: Sorry I haven't posted in a bit. I got distracted. smiley This is my favorite chapter of the bunch, methinks. It was fun to write!

Chapter Six

Steve’s Offer

I froze, half out of my chair as my stomach suddenly decided to begin some sort of complex gymnastic routine. Steve was here? My mind flashed to his furious face earlier that day and my stomach did another flip-flop. Suddenly I was beginning to regret eating my mom’s cooking.

“Chris!” My mother’s voice was sharper now. She must have thought that I was ignoring her. I opened my mouth to tell her that I was coming, but only a funny sort of croak came out. Taking a deep breath I told myself to calm down. I was being stupid. Steve probably just wanted to explain. It wasn’t as if he could punish me or anything. What was he going to do, kick me out of The Sharing? Somehow that didn’t encourage me too much, though. I was finally beginning to feel as if there was a place I could be myself. I didn’t want to be chucked out.

“Christopher! What are you waiting for?” My mom appeared in the doorframe, looking cross. Quickly I cleared my throat, giving her an apologetic smile.

“Sorry.” I said, trying to sound unconcerned, “I just wanted to, uh…have a few more bites of dinner.” Before she could think of a response to that I darted past her and into the hallway.

Steve stood just inside the doorway, scuffing his shoes on the doormat. His hair was wet; it must have started raining outside. When he saw me enter the room he gave me an apologetic smile. There was no trace of the fury that had been on his face earlier.

“Hey man, sorry for dropping by so late.” He started.

“It’s…it’s alright.” I said hesitantly. Steve looked perfectly friendly. He could have been stopping by to play video games. The contrast between Steve now and Steve a few hours ago was unnerving.

“Listen, I was hoping I could talk to you.” He continued, casually brushing his blonde hair back. “You know, in private.” He gave the kitchen a meaningful look. My mother was no longer visible, but I didn’t hear the clinking of dishes. I had no doubt that she was listening in.

“Um…yeah” I stammered, “Yeah, sure. Come on, we can go up to my room.”

“Great.” Steve gave me a broad smile, as if I had just made the best suggestion in the world. I shot a tentative look back toward the kitchen; half hoping my mother would burst out asking Steve a bunch of questions or offering him some leftover chicken. No help came, however, and I began to head up the stairs and into my bedroom.

“So, what’s up?” I asked, sitting down on my unmade bed. Steve closed my door behind him and locked it. I felt my stomach start up again. What was he going to do?

Steve picked his way carefully through the debris pile that was my room and sat at my desk chair. Then he turned and fixed me with a penetrating stare. The casual humor was gone from his face. The change was so abrupt that it made me uneasy. He looked dead serious.

“I want you to tell me what you saw tonight, Chris.” He said.

“What – what I saw?” I blanched. His voice was quieter than usual, and unnervingly steady. Not angry, but definitely firm. I wondered again what went on in the full member meetings of The Sharing. Were they part of some sort of secret society? A gang? Was Steve going to hurt me somehow? I found myself suddenly picturing the scene from The Godfather with the bloody horse head that ends up in the guy’s bed after he refuses a favor from the mafia. Telling myself that I was overreacting I forced myself to meet Steve’s gaze.

“Yes. Tell me what you saw. And why you were at the meeting after it was over.” Steve didn’t break my gaze. I shifted uncomfortably.

“Tom forgot his basketball so um…I went back to get it for him.” I started.

“Was Tom with you?” Steve questioned.

“No.” I lied. I didn’t want someone going after Tom next. Although if I somehow got out of this and he didn’t…then Alicia…I pushed the thought from my head sternly. “No. I went alone. Tom was…late…for something. So I told him I’d go get it for him. Anyways, I went back and I heard people talking. Or…” I hesitated again, uncertain, “I heard you talking.”

“You only heard one person talking?” Steve questioned carefully. I nodded.

“I figured you were on your cell phone. Then I uh…I decided to peek in and see what you were doing.” I squirmed, feeling embarrassed.

“Why?” Steve’s tone didn’t change, but I was sure that I could sense an edge of coldness to it.

“I…I don’t know…” Why had I decided to spy on Steve? It certainly seemed like a stupid idea now. Obviously I had seen something I shouldn’t have.

“Alright. Go on. What happened next?”

“I…I looked in and I saw you.” I stopped, not sure I wanted to put words to the creature I had seen with him. Surely he would laugh at me and tell me I was insane. Or worse, it would provoke him again.

“You looked in and saw me.” He repeated slowly. “Just me?”

“I…yeah…” I said hastily.

“Don’t lie to me, Chris.” There was definitely a cold edge to his voice now. I swallowed hard.

“I…yeah…yeah, okay. I saw someone…something else.” Suddenly the words tumbled out of me, as if they were racing to escape my mouth. “It was like a monster or something! It was big and blue and had four eyes and a tail. It didn’t have a mouth or anything, so I don’t know how it spoke, but I thought you were talking to it. And then I fell off of my chair and…well…you know the rest…” I broke off at the end, suddenly feeling very much like a little kid who is telling their parents about a nightmare.

Steve didn’t react at first. He sat in silence, which made me even more uncomfortable. After a long pause he took a deep breath.

“Do you remember what I told you earlier today, Chris?” He asked. “About how when you become a full member you become part of something bigger?” I nodded, wondering what that had to do with what I had seen.

“Well that…monster…that you saw is part of that. Most people don’t know about him until they become full members. That’s why we only let certain people become full members. We have to trust them. They have to be willing to make some sacrifices in exchange for some very big secrets.

“Sacrifices? Like not telling about that…thing?” I asked, still confused.

“You could say that. No full member has ever told a non-member about him.” Steve said, now looking thoughtful.

“So…what happens now that I found out?” I asked nervously.

“Well, the monster that you saw is only a very small part of something much much larger.” Steve said, his face serious once more. “Now, normally we wouldn’t do anything because well, lets face it. Who would believe that you saw a blue monster?”

He had a point. I was fairly sure that even Alicia wouldn’t take the time to listen to a tale about four eyed blue horse-like monsters. Although since she was a full member she probably already knew about it. I wondered what else she was keeping from me.

“So, what are you going to do?” I repeated nervously.

“Well, I talked it over with some other members. We all agree that you are the perfect candidate to be a full member. In fact, you’re one of the best candidates we’ve seen in a long time.”

“I am?” I asked, confused. What in the world could make me a good candidate? I wasn’t motivated like Alicia, or athletic like Tom. I didn’t even talk to too many people at the meetings.

“Yes.” Steve nodded earnestly. “So we decided to offer you full membership.” He paused, waiting to see my reaction. For a moment I wasn’t sure how to respond. I already knew that I had to make a decision about becoming a full member soon or I wouldn’t be allowed to come to anymore meetings. But I wasn’t prepared to make the decision right now.

“Um…I don’t know…” I stammered. “You said something about other secrets...I don’t know if I should...”

“It isn’t as if they are bad secrets.” Steve said, smiling broadly. “It’s good things. For example, you love Alicia, don’t you?”

“Wh-what!?” I jumped up, caught off guard. How could Steve know? I never talked about her like that with anyone.

“Relax.” He chuckled gently as I returned to my bed, well aware of the burning feeling in my cheeks. “I didn’t tell her. My point is, if you want Alicia we can make it happen. Haven’t you ever wished that someone could just…take over for you…when it comes to something like asking a girl out?”

“I…I guess…” I said, still trying to stop myself from blushing.

“What about taking a test? Don’t you wish someone could just put the information in your brain?” Steve continued.

“Well, yeah…but –”

“And all those times you’ve felt awkward or left out or stupid. Don’t you wish that someone could tell you how to act? What to say to make them stop making fun of you for good?” He leaned forward in his seat as he talked.

“That’s not possible.” I said blandly. “I don’t talk to people, I avoid them. And they avoid me.”

“Not at The Sharing. You’ve seen it. People treat you like a person there. People like you. They want to be your friend. Don’t you want that kind of treatment everywhere you go? We can make that happen. Once you’re a full member all of your problems with feeling awkward and fitting in will disappear.”

“How?” I asked, curious.

“Well, that’s one of the secrets.” Steve leaned back, his smile fading a bit. “I can’t show you until the initiation ceremony.”

“The what?”

“You’ll see. It really isn’t a big deal. Mostly a formality. But after it’s over, your whole world will change.” He stood up and began to pace my room, treading over my dirty laundry, “Everything will change. And not just with you. It’s bigger than that. You can help change the world.”

I laughed sharply. Changing the world was definitely not on my to-do list. “I’m not Alicia,” I said, “I don’t want to change the world. I just want to survive it.”
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #8 on: Apr 28th, 2008, 6:02pm »

“Yeah, but don’t you see? You’ll own your world. You’ll be the coolest kid around. You’ll have whatever you want, like that.” He snapped his fingers. I watched as he paced back and forth, clearly agitated. I was beginning to get the distinct feeling that maybe Steve was a little crazy. There was no such thing as a complete cure for awkwardness.

“Listen.” I began slowly, not sure how to let him down, “It sounds great and all, but my life is fine…really. I don’t think I need – ”

“Help?” Steve interrupted, completing my sentence. He laughed. It was not a nice laugh. “Don’t be stupid, Chris. Your life is a mess. You’re in love with a girl and instead of telling her you let some chump cut in.”

“Tom’s alright…” I started.

“You barely know him! You’ve played a couple games with him. And suddenly he’s alright? Do you think he would even look at you if you weren’t friends with Alicia? He’s using you. And as soon as he has her he’ll drop you.”

“That’s not true.” I said unconvincingly, trying to pretend that that exact thought hadn’t crossed my mind.

“Yes it is and you know it. Look at the world around you Chris. The girl you love got away. The most popular guy in school is using you. Your family is falling apart.”

“My mom’s trying to –”

“Trying to be a real mother?” Steve cut in. I was beginning to get sick of him finishing my sentences. How did he know all this about me anyhow? “Please. If she’s decided to start mothering when your sixteen I’d say it’s a bit late. You think your life is going fine? Think about it. Think back to what your life was like before you had The Sharing.”

“I had Alicia.” I said angrily.

“Yeah? And guess what, now your losing her. So what happens when she’s gone? What happens when she spends all her time with Tommy-boy and your only real friend is gone for good?”

“She would never do that to me. We’ve been friends since we were babies.”

“Of course she would. You know why? Because people are selfish. Even your precious Alicia. I guarantee that she’ll drop you in a heartbeat.”

“You don’t know anything.” My heart was in my throat, which felt like sandpaper. I stood up, looking straight up at Steve ferociously. Steve was a few inches taller than me, and in much better shape, but I was mad. If I had to, I would attack. He had no right to talk about Alicia like that.

“I know more than you think.” Steve responded quietly, his icy blue eyes boring into me. “You’ll see. When your world crashes down around your ears, you’ll see what I mean.” He turned to leave.

“Where are you going?” I asked gruffly, adrenaline still pumping through my body. I wanted to scream at him, to hit him, to do something to prove to him that he was wrong. That I didn’t need help. That Alicia would always be there for me. That Tom was a good guy despite my suspicions. But I didn't move. An unnerving tangle of doubt in the pit of my stomach kept me rooted to the spot.

“I’m leaving.” Steve said shortly. “The offer still stands. Think it over. Normally we would make you decide right away, given what you’ve seen.”

“So why aren’t you?” I asked, curiosity getting the best of me. He chuckled softly in response.

“Who are you going to tell, Chris?” he asked, giving me a look that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. “And who would believe you?”
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #9 on: May 1st, 2008, 09:08am »

im on chapter 3 right now, id like to read on but im in school :] its great so far, im really enjoying the characters. chris reminds me of tobias a little ;]
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #10 on: May 2nd, 2008, 08:49am »

i think im becoming a fan, love whats posted here so far :]
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #11 on: May 12th, 2008, 4:34pm »

Chapter Seven

The Boyfriend

After Steve left I locked myself in my bedroom. I no longer felt like “family time” with my mother. I was way too worked up for that. An all out war was being waged in my head, between Steve’s predictions and my protests. Slowly I felt the adrenaline dissipating, a tidal wave of exhaustion taking its place.

This day had been way too emotional…being happy and scared and confused and angry. I just wanted to sleep for a week. So when my mom knocked gently at my door I pretended not to hear. When she peeked in I feigned sleep. By the time she gave up and left to clean up dinner actual sleep had fallen over me.

The next day I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe everything had been some extremely bizarre dream. Or if Steve was just pulling some very strange practical joke. By the time I had left the house for school I was half convinced that it was all a big hoax. I had also decided that there was only one way to find out. If there was one person who would never lie to me, it was Alicia.

When I entered school that morning the harshness that normally overtook me seemed dulled somehow. It was as if I were sleepwalking. Sounds and movement all seemed far away as I made my way to my locker. My mind was still mulling over the previous days events as I twiddled my locker combination.

“Hey Chris!” Alicia came up behind like always, a wide smile on her face. I felt my spirits lifting slightly as my hand slipped on the combination. It was as if that one familiar act had discounted everything Steve had said. Here was Alicia, beaming with her usual early-morning pep. Nothing had changed. She hadn’t abandoned me for the chance to have a hot-shot boyfriend. As we walked towards homeroom Tom passed us, going the other direction. His eyes lingered on Alicia, but he gave me a friendly smile. I smiled back, feeling unnaturally light. Everything was going to be just fine. All I needed now was confirmation that it had all been a crazy dream.

“Hey Alicia.” I said as we walked, watching her for some sort of reaction. “Have you ever seen anything…strange at The Sharing?”

“Strange?” She repeated in an unconcerned voice, “What do you mean?”

“Like…something not normal. Like a monster or an alien or something?” It seemed even more ridiculous to say it out loud to Alicia than it had to Steve.

“Huh?” She looked at me quizzically, “What kind of question is that?”

“I dunno,” I continued, feeling encouraged by her confusion, “Maybe something to do with being a full member?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She said, shaking her head. “Is this like, something you dreamt or something?”

“Yeah…yeah, that must be it.” I grinned, all of my worries vanishing. This was my proof that Steve was just trying to trick me. How stupid was I to fall for something like that? The monster was probably just some big stuffed animal or cardboard cutout or something that I had imagined moving.

“Yeah. You’re right.” I gave her arm a friendly squeeze, preparing to go down a different hallway to my homeroom. “Well, see you in math!”

“Hey wait…Chris?” Alicia blurted, sounding strangely nervous.

“Yeah?” I asked, pausing.

“Um…I have something to-”


The warning bell cut her off abruptly, and she jumped as if she had been shocked. Muttering something about telling me in math class, she disappeared into the crowd of students. Utterly confused I began to walk towards my homeroom. What had Alicia wanted to tell me? Did it maybe have to do with what Steve had told me? Was it about the monster? Or worse…was she going to tell me that she and Tom were an official item? My stomach sank as that familiar flame of doubt began to burn once more.

I mulled over possible scenarios the rest of the morning. By the time math rolled around I was almost afraid to go. The scenarios in my head had gotten worse and worse, culminating with Alicia and Tom’s wedding, being ministered by the blue monster while Steve laughed at me. As I took my seat I noticed Alicia’s nervous face, and felt my heart start to pound.

“Good afternoon class.” Ms. Tucker began. A few of the more eager students responded cheerfully, but most of the class ignored her. Turning to the board she began to go over our homework from the previous night. I took out a sheet of notebook paper, wrote “What’s up?” on the top of it and passed it to Alicia. She hesitated for a moment before writing beneath my note.

I have something to tell you. I sighed. That wasn’t very helpful.

No duh. What? I passed the paper back to her. Whatever it was, I wanted to get the worst over with. Being left in the dark about things was beginning to drive me crazy. The seconds that passed before Alicia handed the note back to me seemed to take forever. When I finally took the paper from her only one short sentence was written.

Tom asked me out.

I stared at the page for a moment, making sure the words were really there. I felt myself slouching with defeat. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t expected it, in fact I had spent half the day bracing myself for this. But it still hadn’t seemed real until this moment. I mean, I had expected Alicia to at least talk about it with me before she went and got herself a boyfriend. It took me a few minutes before I could think of something to say.

So you two are official now? Congratulations. This time she wrote quickly, and I saw her cheeks go slightly pink as she passed the note back. When I read it I had to do a double take, then a triple take before responding.

I told him no.

What? Why?

I dunno. He’s nice and all, but I think I like someone else.

I was convinced that I would end up vomiting by the end of the class, with the emotional gymnastics my body was going through a the moment. My stomach ad dropped again at the mention of someone else. Tom was an alright guy and I still didn’t want him with Alicia. What would I think of this new prospect? Already I felt a blaze of hatred towards the culprit.

Who? Alicia paused when she read this. Her pen hovered over the paper hesitantly. I leaned in closer to her, so that I could see as she wrote.

“Christopher?” Ms. Tucker’s voice cut through my concentration, making me jump. I heard a few people snicker. The entire class was staring at Alicia and me. “Is there something more exciting than quadratic equations?” The teacher asked testily. I thought about giving her a smart-ass answer, like “everything”, but instead just shook my head and slouched down in my chair. Ms. Tucker gave us a final glare and turned back to the board.

The rest of the class Ms. Tucker kept a close eye on us, so I wasn’t able to push Alicia into a confession. When the bell finally rang she jumped up, as if eager to get out of the classroom before I could corner her. I was too quick for her, though. Grabbing her by the arm I kept her close to me as we emerged into the hallway.

“Well?” I asked, keeping my voice low. I didn’t want anyone to overhear. Alicia blushed and looked down, then glanced up and down the hall.

“Not here.” She muttered. I wasn’t going to let her up that easily, though. I was sick of being toyed with. Still holding her by the arm I directed her into an unused classroom and shut the door. When I was sure that no one could see us I turned back to Alicia.

“Well?” I said again. “Who is it? Who do you like more than Mr. Hot-Shot Basketball Star?”

“I…no one…” Alicia said, looking down. I pulled her closer to me, forcing her to look me in the eyes.

“Uh-uh. Don’t play with me, ‘Licia. I’m not stupid.”

“I…you might be upset…” She looked around nervously, as if searching for an escape route.

“I won’t be.” I lied. We were so close now that I noticed she smelled of vanilla and my heart gave an unwarranted thump. She looked up at me and I held her gaze, trying to give her a firm look.

“I…” She looked like she was about to say something, and color rushed to her face. Suddenly, in one quick motion, she leaned forward the remaining two inches and kissed me.

It was as if someone had turned my blood to fire. My grip on Alicia’s arms loosened and then tightened again as I drew her closer to me. The smell of vanilla was overwhelming. I felt light-headed. I had to be dreaming…there was no other explanation. This was nothing more than the most wonderful dream ever. I held her as tight as I could, not wanting this particular dream to end, ever.

When we finally parted both of us were breathing hard. Alicia looked shocked at what she had done, and her face was beat red.

“I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” She stammered, but I shook my head, trying to clear it.

“Alicia, I love you.” I said suddenly. I felt my own cheeks redden. I hadn’t meant to say it like that, so sudden and soon. The words had just tumbled out, as if they had a life of their own. I expected Alicia to laugh, or else to look even more embarrassed. So when she threw her arms around me, exclaiming “I love you too, Chris!” loudly I wasn’t sure how to react. Awkwardly I patted her back. She pulled away, her eyes shining with tears.

“I’ve liked you for the longest time, Chris.” She gushed, “But I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. I just couldn’t stand it anymore, though! I didn’t want you to think that I…that Tom and me…”

“No, it’s okay.” I said, alarmed. Alicia had liked me for a long time? Alicia liked me? Alicia wanted to date me? It couldn’t be true. Could it? It seemed impossible that such a straightforward person would have kept this from me for so long. I brushed my worries aside, though, one thought dominating my mind. Alicia liked me!

“So does this mean…” I asked tentatively.

“Yes! I mean…if you want to.” She added quickly.

“Yeah! I mean, yes. Yes, of course I do.” I felt a little awkward again. This was definitely a strange way to start a relationship.
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #12 on: May 12th, 2008, 4:35pm »

“Listen, the bells about to ring,” she said suddenly, snapping out of it her excitement and taking on a more business-like tone, “Can you come over for dinner tonight? I want to tell mom and dad the good news!”

“I think I’m supposed to have dinner with my mom.” I said, a little disappointed. Alicia’s parents were great cooks. Much better than my own mother. But I had promised her that I would spend quality “family time” with her and it was the least I could do, since she was making such an effort. “Can I come over after dinner?”

“Yeah, of course!” I grinned. Spending time with Alicia, as her boyfriend and not the friend she took pity on, was nothing short of a miracle. I probably looked stupid, standing there grinning at Alicia, but I didn’t care. I had never been happier in my life.

“So…I’ll see you tonight?” I asked.

“Yup, see you then!” She gave me another quick kiss and darted out of the classroom, leaving me feeling a bit stunned and still wondering if I was in the middle of the most spectacular dream ever.
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #13 on: May 19th, 2008, 08:05am »

i read it on and left a review :]
when, is your new fanfic gonna be readable, i wanna read it.
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #14 on: May 21st, 2008, 6:47pm »

Chapter Eight

It All Falls Down

For the remainder of the day it was as if I were a different person. Steve’s predictions had left me – blocked behind a wall of happiness. I kept my head high, walking with a determination and purpose that I didn’t know I had. The previously harsh and cold hallways seemed bright and cheery. I even found myself smiling frequently – for no reason at all! It was as if someone had come along and possessed my body with a creature whose sole purpose was to look on the bright side. Optimism, never before my friend, was flourishing within me.

When the final bell of the day rang I made my way to my locker in haste. I was eager to leave school and begin my afternoon. And what an afternoon it would be! Dinner with my mother (perhaps she had given up on cooking and ordered take out, which would make it all that much more enjoyable), followed by an evening with Alicia – my girlfriend. Tom’s face flitted briefly before me, but I brushed the guilty twinge away. Alicia had chosen me. Despite being offered the best looking most athletic guy in school, she chose me. I didn’t know why, and I hardly cared. I was living in a dream world.

Even the weather, which was currently breezy and overcast, failed to dampen my mood. All the rain in the world could have fallen on me then and I would have felt as warm and cheery as on a hot summer’s day. I took turns walking and jogging towards my house. The bus wasn’t an option today – there was a coiled energy within me that told me to run, to jump, and to cry out for joy. So I walked home, every so often pausing to ask myself, Is this real?

When I finally reached my house it was dark. Letting the door slam behind me I opened the shades to let in some light. It seemed ridiculous to let the house remain dark and gloomy while I was in my present state. I made my way to the kitchen, humming under my breath as I did so. There was a note on the refrigerator.

Out. Be back by dinner.

Love, Mom

I wondered briefly where she had gone, but that thought like so many others flitted away quickly. These were small trifles compared to the dominating joy in my mind. Grabbing an apple from the counter I bounded up the stairs and to my bedroom.

If the downstairs had been gloomy, my room was depression personified. The shades were tightly drawn, blocking out any feeble attempt at light. The floor was strewn with dirty laundry, old potato chip bags, crumpled notebook paper, and an assortment of items I couldn’t even begin to guess at. I thought of Alicia’s face, if she were to come to my room and see this disaster. Granted, she had been in my bedroom dozens of times before. But that was different. That was when we had just been friends. Now we were together, and that changed everything. I began to grab haphazardly at the dirty laundry, throwing it into an empty basket in the corner.

As I cleaned I thought about the past two days: yesterday, with all of its fear and uncertainty, and today with all of its surprises and delight. Steve’s words were still futilely throwing themselves against the wall of happiness I had built myself. My mind instead focused on Alicia. On her hair, her beautiful eyes, and the smell of vanilla…

Some time later I was still trying to scrape up some old gum which had welded itself to my desk. The sky outside had darkened from gray to a midnight blue. Inside, my lamps were blazing, throwing light into every possible corner. I had worked feverishly on the room, convinced that it had to be spotless for Alicia. Glancing around the room my eyes happened to fall upon the clock.


I jumped up in surprise. How had it gotten so late!? Mom should have been home hours ago – I had to get to Alicia’s! Abandoning my desk I hurried out of my room. I crashed down the steps recklessly, barreling into the kitchen half expecting to see my mother waiting with a hot meal.

The kitchen was as empty as it had been when I arrived that afternoon. The note my mother had left still displayed on the fridge. Feeling a twinge of panic I grabbed the phone off of its receiver and dialed my mother’s cell. While I waited for her to pick up at the other end I could feel the smallest cracks beginning to form in my ecstasy. Steve’s words began filtering through, like remembered dialogue from an old movie.

Brriiiiing. ‘If she’s decided to start mothering when you’re sixteen I’d say it’s a bit late.’

No it isn’t. I thought firmly, ignoring the sick twisting of my stomach. She’s just running late…

Brrriiiing. ‘Your family is falling apart.’

Brrrrri – “Hello?” My heart leapt at the sound of my mother’s voice.

“Hey – mom? Where are you?”

“Chris, is that you?” She sounded irritated, as if I had interrupted something important.

“Yeah. I thought…weren’t we supposed to have dinner tonight?”

“Chris, is that what you called me about?” She definitely sounded irritated now, “You know I don’t have time for your stupid demands. I have work to do. There’s pizza in the fridge, you can eat that. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Wait…what?” I asked, completely dumbfounded, “but you said – wait, tomorrow? You aren’t coming home tonight?”

“I’m busy tonight, Christopher. You’re a big boy. You’ll survive.” Click. I stared at the receiver, hardly believing the conversation that had just occurred. The wall between my own thoughts and Steve’s predictions was definitely battered now, and his likeable blue eyes were laughing coldly at me.

“Gotta talk to Alicia…” I mumbled, trying to push Steve from my mind. My mom was just busy…there had to be a good explanation. Alicia would have the answers. I pulled my sweatshirt on, pulling the hood over my head. Even though I knew that my mother would not be home that night I still scribbled a note to tell her that I was at Alicia’s, on the off chance that she made it home and was looking for me. With a final look around the spotless kitchen I headed out into the night.

The air was cool for the time of year, and the sky was still threatening to rain. The clouds made the night seem even darker and I picked up my speed, feeling ominously as if I were being watched. When I finally reached Alicia’s house it was with a sigh of relief. If anyone could make this night perfect again, she could.

Alicia’s dad came to the door a few moments after I had rang the bell. He smiled widely upon seeing me in the doorframe.

“Christopher! It’s been ages! We thought that you had gotten too good for us.” He moved aside, allowing me to step into the brightly lit house. Immediately I felt better. The smell of vanilla was strong, and the house was decorated in a very homely fashion. Alicia’s mother was visible in the family room, where she sat watching the television. She smiled and waved upon seeing me.

“Yeah, um, I’ve been busy.” I said, eager to see Alicia. “Is Alicia in her room?”

“She sure is.” Her father winked and I wondered briefly what that was supposed to mean. “Just keep the door open!”

“Sure thing sir.” I said, and bounded past him and up the stairs. The hallway was dimly lit – only a nightlight led me down the familiar path to Alicia’s room. I paused outside her closed door. My stomach fluttered slightly. For a moment I could have sworn that I heard voices from within…but no, when I listened harder there was only silence. I was being paranoid. I grabbed the door handle and let myself in.

“Hey Alicia, sorry I –” I stopped, frozen. My entire body was paralyzed as I stared from Alicia’s doorway. Alicia was on her bed, also seemingly frozen. Frozen in Tom’s tight embrace.

For a moment the three of us just stared at one another, disbelief etched across all faces. Finally, Tom pushed Alicia away from him, jumping to his feet. Alicia stayed where she was, shooting petrified looks from Tom to me. I just stood there, stock still as a positive tsunami of thoughts raced through my mind.

‘The girl you love got away. The most popular guy in school is using you.’

“What’s going on?” I asked shakily, refusing to believe what was in front of me.

“Listen man, I’m sorry.” Tom started, “I didn’t mean for you to see us like – ”

“Like what!?” I cried angrily, “Getting all up on my girlfriend!?”

“Chris…” Alicia started, but Tom cut in.

“Your girlfriend? What are you talking about? Alicia is my girlfriend.”

“What?” I asked, looking from Tom to Alicia, as if I expected one of them to bust up laughing and claim that this was all a sick joke. “No she isn’t…she asked me out today.”

“She asked me out last night, Chris.” Tom said, looking unsettled, “Right Alicia?”

“I…yes, of course I did!” Alicia cried, tears welling up in her eyes, “I’m sorry Chris, I was going to tell you, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings!”

“You didn’t want….” I still wasn’t comprehending. “But then why did you ask me out today?”

“Yeah, what’s he mean, ‘Licia?” Tom asked.

“Don’t call her that!” I cried hotly. Alicia was white as a sheet, and looked terrified.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about Tom. Honestly…I never asked him anything! He’s just jealous!”

“Wh-what? What are you talking about?” I asked. Why was Alicia lying? Tom’s look of sympathy was quickly changing to one of confused anger.

“Chris, please. This is why I didn’t want to tell you!” Alicia said quickly, “I knew you would take it the wrong way!”

“Alicia, you asked me out.” I said thickly, “You – we kissed. You invited me over tonight.”

“I think you’d better go Chris.” Tom said, after a glance at Alicia’s face which was now slick with tears.

“What? No! This is ridiculous!” I cried. From beneath my bewildered protests Steve’s voice was bubbling into my consciousness.

‘Do you think he would even look at you if you weren’t friends with Alicia? He’s using you. And as soon as he has her he’ll drop you.’

“I told you to leave, Chris.” Tom said, moving closer, “You’re upsetting her.”

“I…” I gave Alicia another pleading look, but she was refusing to so much as glance at me. “Alicia…I love you….”
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