Generation five – Prologue
Another ordinary day at the Appaloosa Plains Public middle school.
It was a hot day, meaning the teachers had opened the windows widely before classes had begun. The warm, seductive summer breeze flew in from the outside, making every single child in the room yearn for their free afternoon. Even the teacher, a middle-aged man with the voice of a grumpy old bear, was more interested in the shapes of the clouds than the contents of today’s lesson.
Little Chase was no exception to the summer’s charm. He’d spent the last ten minutes just staring at the grass outside, imagining himself lying there with a nice, cold drink. His mind was not the least bit focused on his teacher’s voice.
‘Dude!’ a hushed, but still clearly hearable voice suddenly sounded to his left. His friends were sitting in a circle around Chase, as usual. The whisper had come from a blonde-haired boy called Jamie, who was pointing at the other end of the classroom with a big grin on his face.
‘Look at your right. Inside piggy’s backpack. Is that a mirror?’
Chase frowned and diverted his attention from the window, and unto the pudgy boy that was sitting at the far end of the table rows. He was, as pretty much the only one, trying to pay attention to what the teacher was saying. In front of him lay a piece of paper to make notes, and his backpack was thrown next to his chair. Poking right out of the thing was a wooden, pink-coloured shape. Chase could only see the back of the thing, but it did look very much like a mirror.
Chase snorted. What was that kid thinking? Pink mirrors were for girls. He was already being picked on for being fat: why’d he want to embarrass himself even further?
He grinned at Jamie and stealthily kicked the other boys against their legs, nodding in the direction of the pudgy boy.
‘Guys. Look. Bobby is trying to turn himself into a girl.’
More chuckles and laughter. Jamie pointed at the mirror and flipped his blonde bangs behind his ears, in a very dramatic way, like they’d seen the girls on television do. His act was met with even more laughter.
‘Silence there, in the back! We’re finishing this subject before today ends. Chase! What did I just say about High-pressure and Low-pressure areas?’
Chase opened and closed his mouth again, unable to answer. Luckily from him, that was the exact moment that the school bell decided to ring. Teacher’s protests were lost in the noise of ten chairs scraping on the floor at the same time, and ten pairs of footsteps running towards the door as fast as they could. Chase and his gang, being at the far end of the room, were the first ones out and were already halfway the hallway by the time that the other classroom’s doors opened.
‘Ah, why does Tyson always keep us there until the very last second?’ Luke, the skinniest of the lot, complained loudly. ‘Everyone could see that he wanted to leave, too. Why can’t he just give us a break sometime?’
‘Teachers are devils, you know that,’ Chase smiled at him. ‘They don’t care about the weather, as long as they can torture us like that all day.’
‘Let’s just go find a field somewhere,’ Jamie said. ‘I haven’t kicked against a ball in hours. I’m going fudging mad.’
‘Fine with me,’ Chase nodded, smiling because they were all looking at him for approval. ‘Anyone’s got a ball with them?’
‘Nah, I left it at home.’
Chase opened his mouth to answer, but got distracted when the boy from earlier came slouching out of the classroom. His backpack was swung over his shoulder, but as soon as he saw Chase and his group, he bowed his head and aimed his eyes straight at the ground. His docile attitude annoyed Chase. They were complete opposites, and the boy was at an age where he had no respect for anything that was weaker than him, physically or mentally.
‘Hey, Bobby!’ He yelled, his voice bouncing across the entire hallway. The pudgy boy jumped and looked at him with big, deer-like eyes.
‘What’cha carrying around a mirror for? Those are for girls.’
‘He just wants to look pretty,’ Jamie teased, hooking onto the bait right away. ‘He thinks we’ll forget how fat he is if he smudges on a little makeup.’
‘He won’t look pretty with that stuff on,’ Luke sneered. ‘He’ll look fudgin’ gay!’
The word “gay” unleashed another fit of laughter from the boys. Bobby’s face turned bright red and he quickly looked at the ground again, trying to pass by the boys. Chase, seeking entertainment, stepped inside his path and cut him off. His friends followed right away, effectively cornering the boy.
‘You didn’t answer my question.’ Chase said, in a neutral tone.
‘Yeah, answer it,’ Jamie laughed. ‘You still have it in there, right?’
‘Come on, open the bag.’
A short nod from Chase, and the boy to his left stepped towards Bobby and grabbed the backpack. A swift pull, and it was off of his back. Jamie placed it on the ground before Bobby could protest and zipped it open, grabbing what they’d thought was a mirror.
‘What the fudge, man?’
Instead of his own face, Chase was gazing at the image of two people. Chase squinted his eyes to look at them better. It were a man and a woman, both resembling the boy in front of them a little.
‘Dude, are these your parents?’
‘You’re carrying your parents with you in your bag?!’ Luke yelled. ‘Do you need your mommy and daddy so much that you can’t even go to school without them?’
He laughed, a laugh that was soon taken over by most of the group. Bobby turned even more red than he already was. The next moment he lashed out, pushing his bullies out of the way violently. His heavy footsteps could be heard even when he was already outside.
‘Geez,’ Chase sighed. The group laughed again, and then fell silent, all eyes aimed on him.
‘Fine, guys. This is what we’ll do. I’ll go home to get my ball, and then we’ll meet back at our usual field. Got it?’
‘Got it,’ Jamie smiled. ‘Drinks afterwards are on me if you can make it back within five minutes, Chase.’
It took the boy little over fifteen seconds to race over to the bicycle stalls. He pulled out his ride, careful not to scratch the paint, and quickly jumped on top of it. The wind gently played with his hair as he raced pass the school gates, into the street. His house was only a few blocks away from school, but he would still have to cycle pretty fast to be able to make it within five minutes. But Chase didn’t mind. He liked racing, making his legs work until his breath became coarse and ragged, only to keep that up for as long as possible until he couldn’t go on anymore. It was a trait he shared with no one else in his class, even though some of his friends liked to pretend to be athletic.
Within two minutes, he’d reached his house. The soccer ball was probably lying inside, seeing how the dogs liked to bury their teeth in it. Chase had already lost four balls, five pairs of shoes and one backpack to their playful mouths.
Just as the boy had gotten off his bike, a movement further down the street caught his attention. There was someone else on a bike, slowly cycling away from him. Chase squinted his eyes and recognised the child as Bobby. What was he doing here? His house wasn’t anywhere near this place. There wasn’t anything interesting in this corner of town, either.
Suddenly curious, Chase jumped on top of his bike again and followed the boy. His classmate was cycling so incredibly slowly that it annoyed Chase to no end. But he clearly had a destination in mind, judging by the way he confidently turned left and rights on intersections. Chase cycled a short distance behind him.
Finally, after much longer than five minutes, Bobby finally stopped at a very familiar-looking hill. It was the same hill that Chase and his gang had gone ghost-hunting on at night, not that they’d found any ghosts. It was the old graveyard, largely abandoned now that the Appaloosa Church had changed buildings.
What was Bobby doing at a graveyard?
Bobby parked his bike at the foot of the hill and took off on the ill-maintained path, and suddenly Chase got a very uneasy feeling in his stomach. He didn’t want to follow the boy anymore. Graveyards worked on his nerves more than anything else, although he couldn’t explain why. He felt a strong urge to just get back on his bike, turn around and go straight back home. But even though his head was screaming go back, something in the way that Bobby was walking uphill kept him from leaving. He slowly walked into the graveyard as well, trying his best to steer clear of the tombstones as he tailed his classmate.
‘No, no, don’t stop there…’ Chase whispered a few moments later, as he saw Bobby stand still next to two grey, slightly aged tombstones. The uneasy feeling in his stomach increased tenfold, together with a strange sense of guilt. He watched in silence as Bobby kneeled down. There were tears in his eyes.
And suddenly Chase understood what the photo had been for.
‘Oh, fudging hell,’ he mumbled, a shocked expression on his face. He slowly backed away from the boy, even though Bobby seemed to have no idea that he was there. His insides were crawling with the memories of this morning; of the things that they’d all said to him. The terrible thing that he’d done.
‘Fudging hell,’ Chase said again. ‘Why didn’t you just tell us?’
Finally, Chase couldn’t bear to look at the scene in front of him anymore. He turned around on the back of his feet and bolted out of the hilly graveyard. His bike was still in the same spot as a few moments ago. He’d already stretched out his hand to jump on top of it, when the guilt once again kicked in. It had made him unable to move a few minutes ago, and now it stopped him from leaving.
Slowly, Chase turned back to the scene at the top of the hill. Bobby was still oblivious of the fact that his classmate was there. With his head slumped he sat there, his shoulders shaking. Chase realized he must have sat there like that many times, all by himself. For two years he’d been in his class, and he’d never told anyone. He’d been going through that all on his own. And Chase, a boy who had never been truly alone in his entire life, was deeply moved.
In a single movement, he grabbed the phone in his pocket, pressed the speed-dial button and held the device against his ear, waiting for the familiar voice of Jamie to sound on the other side of the line. The phone beeped a whole three times before finally being picked up.
‘Dude, it’s about time! What’s taking you so long? We’ve been waiting for hours!’
‘Oh, shut up,’ Chase said. ‘And listen to me. I want you to take the others with you to the flower shop. Make all of them buy a flower, I don’t care what kind it is. I’ll pay you back later.’
‘Why the fudge would we-‘
‘Just do it!’ Chase snapped, sounding a lot more threatening than any of his friends had ever heard him sound. ‘You will do this, got it? And when you’re done, you will take them to the old graveyard. And hurry up!’
‘Fine, fine!’ Jamie responded through the phone, in a shocked tone. ‘Don’t sneer at us like that, man! We’re on our way. But you better have a really good explanation when we get there.’
‘I will. Just hurry up.’
Chase had been pacing back and forth on the same three meters of pavement for what seemed like hours. His patience had just about run out. If his friends arrived here too late, Bobby would already be gone. And then the whole thing wouldn’t work.
‘Fudging slackers,’ he mumbled under his breath. He was about to give up and walk back uphill by himself, when a group of kids on bikes finally appeared around the corner. Jamie was leading them along, and to Chase’s relief, he could see flowers in the back of Luke’s bike.
‘You’re late,’ Chase sneered, when they’d finally parked their vehicles and walked uphill to him.
‘What the fudge, man? You’re the one suddenly telling us to go buy some stupid flowers. What do you even want them for, anyway?’
‘You’ll find out now,’ Chase said, and pointed to the flowers. ‘Everyone take one and follow me.’
‘Into the graveyard? Why the fudge would we do that?’
‘Because we have something to apologise for,’ Chase answered. He then waited, staring each of his friends down until they’d all done as he said and grabbed a flower. They were obviously not pleased with it, but they did as he told them, like they always did.
Chase started walking, leading his friends uphill and into the graveyard. There was no one else there, no one but Bobby, and their footsteps sounded eerily on the pavement. Chase ignored the surrounding gravestones as best he could, looking straight at Bobby and Bobby only.
‘Dude, is that piggy?’ Jamie whispered to the others, pointing at the boy ahead of them.
‘Shut up,’ Chase said, suddenly angry with his friend. ‘Don’t call him that.’
Jamie obeyed, squinting his eyes against the summer sun, which had just started to set in the sky. He continued to whisper with the others, but suddenly fell silent when he realized what the boy was doing. He looked from Bobby to Chase and back, his eyes asking for an explanation. Chase could see the wheels turning in his head. And then it clicked, just as it had clicked with Chase a couple of minutes ago.
‘Did you know about this?’ Chase muttered softly. Jamie shook his head.
‘Of course not – did you really think I would have done that if I knew? Fudge, Chase. Fudge. We need to apologise, we need to-‘
He cut himself off again, stopping halfway his sentence a he looked down at the flower in his hand.
‘Glad you’re all caught up,’ Chase said, smiling in spite of his serious mood. ‘Make sure the others know what we’re doing too before you walk up there, okay?’
He twisted his upper body backwards, whispering to the others as Chase clutched his own flower tightly. With small, but decisive steps, he crossed the last bit of distance between him and the boy on the ground. Bobby had always been a slow kid, not noticing people around him until they were inches away from his back. Although, in this situation, Chase couldn’t blame him for it. He walked right up to the boy, waited a few seconds and then softly called his name.
The boy jumped. Literally. He launched right up from the ground, twisting his body towards him while still in the air, making it look like he was doing some weird kind of pirouette. Chase felt the corners of his mouth moving upward. He quickly corrected himself, keeping his face from smiling.
‘C-C-Chase? W-what are you-? How did you know where I was?’
Bobby’s complexion had turned from pinkish to pale grey in a matter of seconds. His hands were shaking, and Chase instantly knew that the boy in front of him really didn’t want them there. From the looks of it, this had been one of his safe havens, one of the few places where he could pour out his heart without having to be afraid of bullies. And Chase knew that, to Bobby, that was exactly what he and his pack of friends were. Bullies.
‘I followed you,’ Chase explained. ‘From my house. I saw you going this way.’
He gulped, his eyes rapidly switching between Chase and the rest of the boys, almost as if he was trying to figure out which was more dangerous. But before he could say anything else, Chase cut him off.
‘We’re not here to pick on you, Bobby.’
Bobby shot him a confused look. Slowly, Chase lifted the flower in his hand and waited a few seconds before passing the boy. He walked straight over to the tombstones behind him. There were two names engraved in the stone, both of which had Bobby’s last name.
‘These are your parents, aren’t they?’
He didn’t wait for an answer. Carefully, Chase placed the yellow flower in the single vase that was standing on the soil in between the tombstones. It swayed in the wind a little bit. Chase closed his eyes and bowed his head, paying his respects. Then, he caressed the other boys to come closer. By now they’d all realized what was going on, and what they’d done. With large, guilty-looking eyes they gazed at Bobby, before quickly looking away and placing their flower next to Chase’s.
‘Sorry,’ they mumbled, bowing their heads.
‘We’re sorry for your loss.’
Next to him, Chase saw Bobby relax. He still seemed deeply confused, but the tension had disappeared from his body and he looked at the now flowery gravesite with suspiciously glistening eyes. No one made a comment about it.
‘We didn’t know, man,’ Luke said, as the final boy to pay his respects. ‘I swear. If I’d known, I never would have…’
‘It’s all right,’ Bobby muttered. He quickly wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. ‘I don’t… I don’t mind.’
‘Of course you mind,’ Chase said. ‘We saw how upset you were. We saw the photo, and we should have known that it was more than just a picture for you to take it to school. We shouldn’t have messed with you today and we’re sorry. We really are. Can you forgive us, Bobby?’
He looked his classmate straight into the eyes, pleading with him. Chase wanted to be forgiven. He really did. It was more than just making up for the harsh things that they’d said to him- this ran much deeper. Instinctively, he knew that he had to do this.
It proved to be too much for Bobby. With a pained face, he turned away from Chase and the boys behind him and walked away, towards the tree on top of the hill. He couldn’t handle this. Chase realized that, and silently muttered to the boys behind him:
‘Go back to the soccer field, guys. Get Jamie’s ball. I’ll meet you there.’
They nodded, not daring to say anything back. With tiny, unsure strides, they scuffled out of the graveyard and unto their bikes. Jamie looked back at his friend one last time, before taking his place at the head of the group and cycling off. Soon, the sounds of their tires had faded away into the background and they were no longer visible.
Chase slowly walked up next to Bobby. The boy had sat down with his back against the tree, and Chase soon followed his example. Bobby didn’t react. He seemed to be troubled, looking for the right words to say and failing at it. Chase stayed silent, giving him all the time that he needed.
‘It happened just before our first year here,’ the boy finally mumbled. ‘Mum and dad had a bakery in Sunset Valley, a forty-minute drive from here. It was our family’s pride and joy. They had this big, old-fashioned oven, like the ones you see in those pizza shops. You know, where they have to make the fire by themselves and then place the pizzas and bread in by hand. Dad always said that those ovens made for the tastiest bread.’
He paused, peaking at Chase from under his eyelids. The boy silently looked back.
‘They said that there was a gas leak. When they went to work that morning and dad turned on the oven, the flames underneath set the leaked gas on fire.’
Chase suddenly remembered a newspaper article that his adoptive father had been reading years ago. He still knew because of the shock he’d gotten from the picture that they’d placed on the front page. It showed a bakery, completely engulfed in flames. There had been an explosion, instantly killing the people inside of the building. The fire department came too slow, causing the entire bakery to burn to the ground, as well. He had no idea that the same boy that was mentioned in the article had joined his class the next month. And neither did anyone else, for as far as he knew.
‘According to the doctor, they didn’t suffer,’ Bobby whispered. ‘Because they died instantly. But how can he know? Maybe they were in a lot of pain in that instant. Maybe they’re still in pain now, because they died like that. You can’t see that from an autopsy. I know I’m not supposed to think about it and move on, and forget about it, but… it’s hard. I still don’t know how to do it. How are you supposed to get over something like that? How can people tell you to move on, when they don’t even know what you’re feeling every day?’
His voice had gradually started cracking, and Chase could see tears starting to well up in Bobby’s eyes. Quickly, Chase looked away from the boy. He felt strange. His chest hurt, but not for himself. It hurt for Bobby, for his story. For the fact that he’d been in his class for two whole years and Chase had never known any of this. And despite everything, he had never seen Bobby cry. But now the tears were falling in big drips from his eyes, running down his cheeks.
‘I don’t think you should get over it,’ Chase said softly. His hands were tightly wrapped around his knee. Bobby sniffed, his green eyes looking at him confusedly.
‘You shouldn’t be trying to get over something like this. That would mean you’d forget about what happened, and stop thinking about it. But that’s wrong. Your parents are way too important to stop thinking about them, or forget what they were like. They’re your parents. I’m sure that they would be sad if they knew you’d forgotten about them. You should think about them every day, especially if they’re not here for you anymore.’
He smiled slightly at Bobby.
‘I think that they would be very proud of you, if they could see you now. Just think about it. You’re all on your own, and yet you’ve held on for two years already. That’s incredible, it really is. I wouldn’t be able to do that, you know? I’m not that strong. But you… you’re stronger than I’ll ever be, Bobby.’
Chase wasn’t just saying that. Those words had come straight from his heart. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what hardships the boy next to him had been going through, and, without fully realizing it himself, he had a deep respect towards him for it.
And Bobby noticed. As he looked straight into Chase’s green eyes, his pained expression lessened. A tiny smile appeared on his face, that quickly faded away again.
‘You’re not just saying that?’
‘I mean it,’ Chase responded, smiling soothingly. ‘I think your parents must have been amazing people to raise someone like you. Did you love them?’
‘I did,’ Bobby whispered, new tears welling up in his eyes. ‘I… I still do.’
‘Won’t you tell me about them?’
Bobby snivelled and nodded, wiping his face again with the sleeve of his shirt. Chase’s presence didn’t make him nervous anymore. Instead, it seemed to give him the courage that he needed. With much pausing and stuttering, he began to tell Chase about his family. About everything he remembered. From the way his mother rocked him to sleep as a toddler to the cars on the highway that his father would always try to pass by when driving. He was incredibly detailed, and while the tears wouldn’t stop falling as he spoke, his voice gradually turned stronger until it was full of warmth.
Chase listened to him silently. To all of it. He could see the sun starting to set behind the hills in the distance, but he didn’t mind. The boy needed someone to talk to. To work out his feelings. And if he’d picked Chase for that, then he would listen all night long if he had to.
And eventually, that was exactly what he did.
Another ordinary day at the Appaloosa Plains Public middle school, just like the last one. Chase Adams lazily turned his head to look at Jamie, who was grinning and pointing at the teacher.
‘My dad says he saw him drinking in the bar last night. Look at how he’s acting. He’s totally got a hangover!’
‘I heard that, Jamie!’ Tyson’s voice yelled across the classroom. ‘One more comment like that and I’ll have you be put in detention!’
Jamie quickly shut up and looked at the ground to escape Tyson’s anger. A small smile played across Chase’s lips. Out of everyone in his group, Jamie always ended up getting yelled at the most. Then again, that was business as usual at school. Everything was as it always was.
Though… not everything. Something was different. It was small… but there was one thing that had definitely changed for the better.
Thank you, Rain, for the sweet gift of the baby crib. I’m not sure how to thank you on the main site, but I figure you’ll find out like this eventually, anyway. I really love it. ^^
May I introduce to you all? The Generation Five Heir – Chase Adams!
He’s quite an interesting genetics match. Chase has got his father Tybalt’s hair colour, but his eyes belong to his grandfather Ethan. His face is a mix of both his parents, something that’ll become clearer as he grows older. ^^
Chase is… different from my previous heirs. Natalia was a shy, naïve girl, Micah a rascal with a heart of gold, and Raven a badass with a tiny soul that needed to learn to love. This is my first male heir, and I’m a bit nervous. I hope you’ll like the story that I’ve made up for him. ^^