Yeah, I realize the title has nothing to do with the story - yet. I can't think of a good one right now because I generally can't come up with titles until my entire story is done, and this story most definitely is not done, so...anyways, enjoy, review, whatever floats your boat. Lol.
Chiclets - Chapter One, Moving
John stared listlessly out the passenger seat window, trees and cars blurring past his half-lidded eyes. He had lost count of the wrong turns his mother had made in the past three hours.
"Mom," he mumbled into his fist. "Are you sure you know where – "
"Honey, I'm trying to drive – oh good heavens! Not again…"
"…you're going? Not lost again, I hope," John finished to his reflection in the glass. "At this rate, we'll never get there before this day ends."
"Honey, are you talking to yourself again?" his mother said, attention fixed on the road map in her lap. "It's not healthy for you to be that way."
"I'm surprised you noticed, Mom," John said, saying the words so softly that even he couldn't hear himself. The sounds were lost, drowned out by the noisy purr of the engine. "It's the only thing you ever notice about me, that and everything else I do wrong. Translation?" he told the faint, flip-image of John. "Whatever she doesn't like."
John turned back to face the front, giving the button on the glove compartment a savage little jab. The door popped open to reveal coupons, receipts, napkins, a few plastic straws, an old, unlabelled key, and a handful of loose change. He stared at the ensemble before reaching for a shiny dime that was reflecting light into his eye.
Turning the small coin over in his fingers, John ran his thumb over its ridged circumference. Queen Elizabeth the Second's face stared impassively to the right. Her steadfast gaze embossed in metal was unsettling, so he flipped the coin, tails up.
Instead of the standard issue of the Bluenose Schooner, this dime was one of the 2001 issues with the three women on it. John brought the coin closer to his eyes so he could read the tiny "Year of Volunteers" written on the banner on the dime.
He lifted himself off his seat far enough to slip the small coin into the back pocket of his pants. At that moment, his mother stomped on the brake, the car coming to a halt mere inches from the grey minivan in front of them. The momentum threw John forward, and he gagged as the seatbelt locked and held, pressing against his neck.
His mother muttered a few words he had never heard her say before, and John glanced at her, startled, and gently massaging his sore neck. "Are you okay?" he asked.
She frowned at him. "That's why you sit properly, honey, okay? Why don't you read a book or something? We'll be there soon."
"Yeah, right," John muttered quietly.
"I beg your pardon? Did you say something, John?"
John cringed and resumed staring out the side window. "No, ma'am." He absently took note the fields along the side of the now-smaller road, fields and orchids lush with leaves. A sudden pang hit him, and John sat up. It was hitting home now, the fact that they really were moving. Sighing, he rested his forehead against the cool pane of glass and closed his eyes, suddenly weary. The last thing John noted before he fell asleep was the sound of his mother's cell phone's ringtone: the Pink Panther.
"John! John, wake up!"
John moaned and tried to block out the voice that was calling his name, pulling him up through layers of fog and sleep.
"Johnathan Mylen Colson! Get up, now!"
Something hit him on the left shoulder, and John jerked up, breathing hard. His mother never called him by his full name unless she was mad or upset. "Y-yeah? Sorry, Mom," he mumbled, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Dimly, he noticed that it was dark outside the parked car.
"Here, take these," his mother said, thrusting something at him. "I made an appointment, and they're waiting here, right now! Take the keys. Our apartment is 147, third floor. Do me a favour and carry the boxes up to our apartment, because – oh my goodness, I am SO late – "
John licked his lips and squinted down at his watch. "You have an appointment now, at one in the morning?" he croaked incredulously.
"Yes!" his mother snapped, tossing the keys into his lap. "Ill be back later. Now I have to go!" She got out of the car and quickly closed the door, hurrying across a nearly empty parking lot towards a car on the other side, smoothing her skirt as she did so.
John watched as his mother got into the car with someone else, frowning as he fingered the keys in his lap. "So," he rasped, and wet his lips again. "We get here, Mom up and leaves on some appointment, and leaves me to carry everything up to our room, on the third floor?" he asked aloud to the empty car, his voice rising almost hysterically. "Wow, thanks, Mom!" He got out of the car and slammed the door shut, the sound reverberating in the parking lot. He trudged around to the back to pop open the trunk.
Garbage bags and boxes greeted his eyes. John scowled, angry with his mother, for ditching him. Shoving the keys into his pocket, he grabbed a garbage bag in each hand and dragged them towards the front entrance of the apartment building.
Mostly concealed by the blanket of darkness, the building towered several stories high. A few of the windows were bright with light; the lobby wasn't.
John let the garbage bags fall carelessly to the ground and brought out the keys, stabbing the first one into the lock on the door. He turned the key. The door wouldn't open.
Mom could've at least told me which keys opened the door, John thought huffily. He went through every single one of the keys, even the car key and the key to their old house. He removed the house key from the ring and put it in his back pocket, hearing it clink against the dime.
Scowling in frustration, John went through the keys again. He was ready to rip the doors off their hinges by the third round.
Three keys into the fourth round, John gave the key a vehement twist.
Something clicked, and John stared numbly at the door before he exultantly pulled the door open. Holding the door open with one foot, he had to wrestle the key out of the stubborn lock. John took another look at the key, committing its image to memory. It wasn't terribly hard; the key to the main doors was the only rusty one out of the whole lot, with a small chip out of the top, right beside the corner.
Hefting the garbage bags, John took his first step into his new home. There was no fanfare, no welcome. The light above the elevator doors directly ahead of him was the only thing to greet him, and John sighed, lugging the bags to the elevators.
He brought a hand up to push the faded button with an "Up" arrow on it, then used the same hand to rake fingers through his short hair. John scowled at the elevators when neither of them opened, and turned the scowl into a death glare as he practically punched the button.
No result, save for a sore index finger.
So he was taking up residence in an apartment building where the elevators didn't work. John groaned and looked up, turning his head to see if he could locate a set of stairs. Sure enough, there they were…at the far ends of the hallway.
John wanted to throw himself down on the ground and kick and scream like a four-year-old who didn't get the toy he wanted. He wanted to ditch the bags and the apartment and drive away. He wanted to call his mother so he could scream in her ear. He wanted to sit down and cry. He wanted to sleep.
What he did was pick up the bags and head down the hall to his left.
It was quiet, and eerily dark. John bit his lower lip and decided to cut back on scary novels in the future. The only light came from the single window far in front of him, under the stairs, and even then, the light was that of old, flickering street lamps situated outside and emitting a harsh orange glow. John glanced over his shoulder down the other length of hallway and wished he'd turned right instead, because it wasn't as dark in that direction. But he'd almost reached the stairs and he didn't want to walk any further than he had to.
"It's just dark, John Colson, don't be such a wimp," John whispered to himself. "It's not like there are bogeymen lurking in the corners or anything." His voice sounded strange and too loud in the stillness of the hall, so he pressed his lips together and kept walking. His arms hurt, and his hands were losing their grip on the bags.
"Daaaaaang…" he muttered when the tie on the heavier bag tore. Since on one was around, he decided o succumb slightly to the temptation of throwing his little tantrum. So he kicked the bag. Hard.
John regretted his action almost immediately when the thin black plastic ripped under the impact, depositing previously-clean underwear onto the dingy carpet of the hallway. He groaned and hurriedly knelt to scoop it up, immensely grateful that there was no one there to witness the embarrassing moment. Be thankful for the little things… He sighed.
And now he had a predicament. The torn bag required two hands to carry, which meant John now had to abandon one bag and carry the other. Most preferably not ditching the bag which now exposed its load of…undergarments.
John glanced around the dark hallway just to make sure that there was really nobody there before he shoved the lighter bag to the side, against the wall between two doors. Then, hoisting the torn bag in both hands, he began to shuffle-walk the few remaining metres to the foot of the stairs.
The light was not soothing. It was too old and harsh, unlike moonlight. Too artificial, not alive. John stopped, mildly alarmed at the turn his thoughts were taking. Quickly, because no one else was present, he turned back, scanning the dark hallway, just in case there was some sort of monster or homicidal psychopath lurking in the shadows.
Nothing. John hauled the garbage bag up the steep, narrow stairs. His legs were burning when he reached the next floor, and he remembered he had another flight of stairs to go. John kept climbing.
The third floor was no brighter than the first. John moved slowly down the hallway, squinting at the doors, trying to make out the numbers.
Apartment number 147 was at the very far end of the hallway. John wanted to scream.
He was relieved to find that the key for the apartment was labelled with masking tape. He stabbed the key into the lock, and remembering the front doors, wrenched it. He ended up with an aching wrist when the key slid easily in the lock, like a hot knife in butter.
"Dang," he said, and thought about movies where the people kept swearing every other minute. He opened the door.
John fumbled for several minutes, fingers creeping over the wall, feeling for the light switch. His pinky finger brushed by it, and his hand backtracked and flipped it on. The sudden light was blinding after having spent so much time in dark hallways.
Realizing that the light was spilling out into the hall behind him, John pulled the bag into the apartment and closed the door. Then he took a look at his new home.
The apartment was by no means empty. His mother had made numerous trips up here already in the past few weeks, arranging furniture and things like shelves and kitchenware. It was the first time John had seen it, though, and he slowly walked through it.
There were two small bedrooms, one bathroom, one kitchen area, and a small den or study in addition to the one main living room. John stepped into the kitchenette and opened the refrigerator door.
Empty, save for two cans of diet, caffeine-free cola. John glared at the pop and slammed the door shut. He turned on his heel and did a systematic search of the cupboards, looking for any food solid and edible.
John suddenly remembered the other garbage bag he'd left two levels down. He quickly flung open the last cupboard door, above the microwave oven, and found a glass cookie jar containing an individually-wrapped Reese's peanut butter cup.
John didn't even like peanut butter, but his stomach was making frantic, "Feed me!" noises, so he retrieved the candy bar and tore off the orange wrapper. Then he realized there was no garbage can, so he stuffed the wrapper in his pocket and crammed the peanut butter cup into his mouth, overlooking manners and decency in the face of urgency.
The chocolate melted in his mouth as he slipped out of the apartment, leaving the door unlocked. Then he walked as quickly as he could without running, back to the stairs he had used to get to the third floor. The candy was too sweet for his liking, but he swallowed anyways, not as if he had any other choice.
The main floor was still quiet and dark. John was relieved to see the bag still there, leaning against the wall where he had left it. Hefting it, he gave the stairs a dispirited look before he started climbing again.
On the second trip from the car, John took the set of stairs at the end of the other hallway, because it was closer to his apartment that way. Even so, after two more trips, his arms felt like they might fall off. The peanut butter cup had done nothing to sate his appetite, either.
After John had deposited a box of books on the living room floor, he flopped down on the couch to rest his feet. He glanced at the wired-up VCR for the time, but the green numbers were flashing, an indication that the clock hadn't been set yet. He sighed and looked down at his watch instead.
It was two-thirty a.m. John sighed, removing his glasses, and rubbed his eyes wearily, anger rising in his chest. It took a fair amount of effort to force the emotion down again, partly because he was so tired.
Standing, he stretched his back and wondered if he would end up blowing up at his mother eventually. Truth be told, John really couldn't justify his ill temper. He was sure his mother had a good reason for the middle-of-the-night meeting, but he still felt abandoned in a way.
He shook his head and slipped his glasses back on, turning to look at the large window behind the television set. It was dark outside, and the light inside the apartment created a mirror effect, so John could see his reflection in the glass. He gave himself a crooked smile.
"I'm probably going crazy," he said to the empty room and himself. "Talking to myself and to my reflection. What next? Imaginary friends?" He studied himself in the makeshift mirror, lips flattening into a mirthless smile. "Glasses," he said aloud, slowly. "Brown hair. Pale blue eyes – but I've always thought they were more grey? Freckles. And everyone says I'm too pale. I look like – like a nerd. I guess I am one."
Exhaling, he turned away and left the apartment, back to the car for another trip.
At the risk of sounding like I'm begging, please review, and let's all hope my next chapter turns out within the next few weeks! (Not that it should take me that long to write anything, but...shrug)