.just full of bad ideas.

chapter three. (message in a bottle)

. . .

"Lester, you freeeeaaaak!" I sing-songed chirpily, unwittingly influenced by the birds that were currently paint-balling the world around us, taunting my fellow pesky Sapiens with their Caaaw, Caaaaw.

I threw bread at them in encouragement.

And Lester stole some. He tried launching the multi-grain up at the pigeons circling us so he could knock 'em down—the crumbs flew straight up and landed in his gorgeous hair, and he would sit there frowning for approximately four seconds before trying again.

"You were always the dim one, weren't you?" I had asked him, grinning. And his teachers called him bright. What a joke!

But he kept at it. He'd said that they were overwhelmingly annoying, "Just like you, Mack! No wonder you care an ounce about their well-being."

Izzy punched him for me. I smiled wider, saying that only I was allowed to get away with being insulting because I was her favorite.

She punched me, too. My proverbial high horse threw me, wounded as I was, and left me to face Lester and his vindicated sniffs. Yes, he sniffs. Repeatedly. Three times, actually. First, he'll sniff facing forward, and then he'll twist his head in my direction and do it again, and then once more, with his neck turned away from me. As if to say, "Ha. Ha. Ha!"

I waited for Izzy to punch him, but she never did, so I'd made sure she wasn't looking before doing it myself.

Lester had been too amused by my shifty eyes and whistling to rat me out.

It was lunch time, and the three of us found comfort under the great big oak near the quad, sitting against its ancient trunk and letting our shoes hit each other's in rhythm. The cafeteria always smelled like rotting toes. Dear reader, we preferred bird poop to that, but only because none of us had ever gotten pooped on.

"Whaaaaaat?" Lester caroled in reply to my bird song (I'd taken to repeating, "Freaaaaak! Freeaaaaaak! Freaaaak!" until he responded) moving his shoulder so that it moved mine as well. We were all squeezed together so we could fit on one side of the oak—the only shady region in this ninety four-degree weather.

"It's your turn to buy the gloooooves," I crooned, watching as one of his bright purple Nikes bumped one of my own green ones. The image reminded me vaguely of Barney, and I couldn't fight down my cackle. My best friends didn't even flinch at that.

"We're out already?" Lester asked, so surprised that he forgot to extend a vowel. His left shoe paused momentarily.

"We are O-U-T, OUT!" I shouted in affirmation. I made a fist with my sticky hand (Izzy bought me a Popsicle) like those baseball officials—the ones whom Lester had a penchant for yelling at when we watched TV. And I think I did a pretty darn good job of imitating them this time. Last time, I'd flung my arms to the side in the universal symbol for Safe, and I'd nearly drowned in Lester's overwhelmingly incredulous incredulity. I really hated it when people made me feel dumb, dear reader.

"Well done," he nodded, raising his eyebrows.

I beamed at him proudly.

Then he stared at me, lunged for my neck, stuck it in his lap, and proceeded to ruin the hair I'd spent a whole freaking three and a half minutes on that morning—and that was not even counting all those instances in which I took the time to push my fringe back. That would bump it up to, what, four minutes?! How inconsiderate.

"Thank you," I said, gasping for breath as he tormented me, "I thought so, too." I tried to reach up and tickle him, but then I remembered that of the three of us, Lester was the only one who didn't beg for mercy when someone so much as poked him. His eyes glinted evilly as he reached for my sides, and I shrieked for Izzy to Please Come Save Me?!

She rolled her eyes.

Lester hooted hilariously. "She doesn't love you."

"She doesn't love your face!"

Izzy then sighed, exasperated. She hated to be left out, and she probably didn't want to join in on our conversation—if you could call it that—because it was stupid and immature. She couldn't take part in a stupid, immature conversation unless she helped start it. Oops.

"Izzaaaay," I grinned, breaking free from Lester with superhuman strength and nudging her right shoulder with my left. I stared at her orange Air Jordans sadly. They were cleaner than mine. My mom did say that my shoes were practically black, but that was pushing it.

Only a little.

"Lester said he liiiiiikes you."

I looked at her from the corner of my eye and I could see she was trying hard not to smile—the comment instilled no jitteriness in her, and she didn't feel awkward even though the two had broken up last year; I knew because orange met green without interruption.

Lester, seeing what I was trying to do, joined in, covering his face with his hands so his response was muffled: "I told you not to say anything!" And he glared hatefully at me through the cracks between his fingers before wiping at his eyes fiercely. He turned away in embarrassment and disgust, a natural performer he was.

I bit my tongue to keep from laughing, staring keenly at my shoes because he looked too funny—nose scrunched, arms crossed, eyes burning, six-foot-tall frame hunched over. Lester was the reason we bought those basketball shoes in the first place. He went to the park every Friday to play with his friends. And Izzy wanted us all to match . . . hence the Nike Fridays in which we wore our Nikes—every Friday.

"Well, you were being mean. You deserved it," I spat after a moment, crossing my arms as well.

"Yeah? Well, when Izzy and I get married, you're not invited." Ouch. I'd totally come anyway. OBJECTION, your honor! Lesterhe, he . . . smells! I can't let Izzy waste their income on air fresheners! Please, don't let her do th—

"We'll never get married," she told Lester without malice, saving me from wasting my breath, "now shut up. You're still buying the gloves—we only ran out because you kept making balloons and slapping toys out of them." She was laughing though, so Lester and I gave each other mental high-fives.

"And Hamburger Helpers!" I added, pointing my finger in the air and frowning. "You know, you lost my black Sharpie after you drew all of those faces on the gloves," I said, staring at him accusatorily. "You owe me another one."

I mean, really. How was I supposed to draw moustaches on my mom when I didn't even have a Sharpie?! Jigglypuff would be disappointed. It was enough to make me want to cry.

Or flick his ear.

"Man," Lester said simply, and pouted. "I hate the world!"

And apparently, the world hated him, too, because when he stood up to stretch, a pigeon, or crow, or Amazonian parakeet, or whatever the heck it was, paint-balled him viciously, flying away with its Caaaw, Caaaw.

His mouth dropped, prompting mine and Izzy's to fall to the ground as well. Izzy and I looked at each other, and then at the bird, then at Lester's white-blonde hair which was dripping something awful, then at his eyes, which were glinting.

We glanced at each other once more, and then took off running, screaming, laughing, and pushing each other as Lester charged for us like a bull, (pooped-on) head first, back bent, arms jutting out behind him. He looked something like a dork. He always did.

. . .

My alarm went off at 8:30 that Saturday morning. I commanded it, in my most authoritative voice to: "Shut UP, jeez!" I was going to say please, not jeez, but I felt like being rude.

I waited for the humble obedience haughtily, but it never came, so I shut it off, grabbed my towel, and walked backwards to the bathroom.

"You win this time," I whispered threateningly as I stared at the cheeky clock, "but next time you won't be so lucky!" I whacked my towel in that direction ferociously. Well, I tried, but the whack turned out to be kind of genial and limp.

"Quit talking to it like that—it's rather discourteous," a disapproving voice said, and I bumped into someone clumsily. I still hadn't mastered the backward-walk. I had mastered the art of voice-recognition, however, but only because the wistfully amused and wanna-be-stern voice belonged to my brother.

"Mikey!" I screamed excitedly, spinning around and jumping up to pat his cheeks.

Dear reader, my brother! I could feel the surprise and delight warming my own cheeks as I continued to pinch at his. I kept missing, sleepy-eyed as I was.

Mikey only rolled his eyes and removed my hands from his face. Not even an ounce of affection from the dark-haired man before me? Fine.

I wasn't much for mushiness anyway.

"How many times have I told you not to call me that?" Mikey grunted the rather generic question. He sounded a bit like Josiah when he talked all grunt-y. Ew?

"No grunting in this household," I told him, and he raised a brow. "Oh, right. Three trillion, four hundred thousand, fifty-seven and counting!" I answered, even though his query was hypothetical, and even though I knew that my not answering it wasn't the reason the dark slope of tiny hairs above his right eye shot up. Ordering him not to grunt was kind of odd. But it wasn't like I was about to explain myself—because he was my brother and I lived to irritate him.

I laughed quietly and evilly to myself just to see his eye twitch for a second.

Mikey stopped twitching suddenly and shook his head at me. I hummed as he pushed my tired body to the bathroom we used to share, and I realized how much I had missed him. "Yeah, yeah. Just take your shower or you'll be late," he told me, tweaking my nose.

I knew he cared! I turned away from my brother, grinning. And I winced as my bare feet touched the cold, tiled floors and his hands left my back.

I waved my fingers at him in thanks—it would have taken me another ten minutes to get to the bathroom if he wasn't there, and he smirked in acknowledgment. But before I closed the door in his face, I poked my head out to ask, "Why are you here?"

I know the question I posed might seem just short of uncouth, but reader, I've already told you that I felt like being rude. No, not really. I was only curious. My brother was pretty good about saving gas money, and only made the three-hour drive from his college when something important came up.

"Eh," he shrugged. "Felt like it."

Well, that was reason enough for me if it was for him. And by the smile in his almost violet eyes, I figured that it was.

. . .

"I still don't see why we have to do this," Lester complained, tossing his pokey stick in the air carelessly, oblivious to mine and Izzy's simultaneous flinches. "I mean, look at this place! It's spotless as is, is it not?"

"It is," I agreed. "So we get service learning hours for leaving imprints in the sand."

As Lester and I mulled over whether or not we'd need a signature or something to make our hours official, and why we hadn't extorted this opportunity in prior years, Izzy grew increasingly erubescent.

She finally whistled for our attention in all her flushed glory. "Would you guys quit talking like that? We're here to make this world a better place," she started to rant, ignoring Lester who'd mumbled sarcastically under his breath: "Well, that's not cliché," and most conveniently turning a blind eye to the way I'd stepped on his foot in her defense.

She frowned. "So stop thinking about yourselves and think about our suffering earth; think about our posterity!" she paused. "Or at least pretend you care and do it for me?"

I nodded guiltily. Lester wiped invisible tears from his eyes, and began to clap, raising his hands as if to bring an imaginary audience to join him for a standing ovation.

Izzy glared at him, a bit hurt, and I glared too, because he was continuing to be insensitive to something that was really important to her and it was no longer funny. Girls. So sensitive. So sue us.

His face morphed into the most sheepish of smiles and his eyes lost their mocking glint. "I'm sorry, Izzy," he relented in remorse, kissing her cheek fondly. "I'm a little on edge. The parents were at each other's throats last night."

It may have sounded like an excuse he'd picked up from somewhere, but Izzy and I knew better. And that was all the explanation we needed because the simple sentence conveyed our best friend's frustration, bitterness, confusion, fear—a maelstrom of emotions that the carefree Lester had yet to familiarize himself with. I hope he never did have to get used to those kinds of feelings, reader. They were not fun.

So we both wrapped our arms around him and he waggled his eyebrows, saying something about how lucky he was to have two pretty ladies throwing themselves at him.

We smacked him, and he smiled gratefully.

"Well?" Izzy said, palms outstretched. "Let's get cleaning!"

I wiggled myself out of Lester's grip like she had, and slipped on my gloves, knowing I'd just take them off when my hands started sweating.

And off we went . . . like lambs before their shearers.

Or like bored kids who kept trying to trip each other.

. . .

"Mine!" Lester cackled, pumping his basketball legs harder.

"No, it's mine! Back off, you wretched cretin!" I had three years of cross-country and off-season track under my belt.

"I saw it first!" Izzy thought she could win by being cute.

Since I had actually seen the yellow whatever-it-was first, contrary to what Izzy had screamed, I reached it just before Lester, and eons before Izzy.

I picked up the mysterious piece of trash which I had spotted from afar-off without sparing it a glance, not paying any mind to the way it felt rather warm in my hand. I felt only excitement. The beach was so clean that when we saw something out of place, it was always a contest. The winner was the person who reached it first and put it in his or her respective black trash bag. And, dear reader, that was me! Well, I didn't put it in the bag yet, because I was still savoring the moment, proudly showing them what they had missed out on.

Lester stared at the thing I'd raised victoriously in my right palm. Then he started laughing. Hysterically. He fell over, landing on the cool sand with a thud. It was not yet 2 o'clock, but the air was already chilly, and Lester was already acting drunk. Well, I'd never actually seen him inebriated, reader, but I'm pretty sure it would look something like that. And I'm pretty sure I'd be raising my eyebrows at him uncertainly, much like I was doing in that instant.

I slid my eyes over to Izzy. She was—well, her mouth kept opening and closing as she pointed dumbly. "Mack," she whispered finally. "Put that down!"

"Oh my GAH!" I screamed in terror as I looked at the object, dropping it disgustedly. "Ew! Ew! OH MY GAH!"

It was a bottle.

Filled with a baffling liquid. Yellow in color. Which, though the weather was too cool to allow for this mystery, had warmed my hands. Which had just been relieved of those plastic gloves.

"You—you—pee!" Lester shrieked, elated, starting to stand as he wiped real tears from his eyes.

I was so revolted, and so angry he hadn't stop laughing. "Shut up!" I cried, shuddering. I pursed my lips, grabbed the bottle for a second time, and launched it at him.

He dodged.

It hit someone behind him, and Lester's bottom hit the sand in his surprise and mirth once again as I squeezed my eyes shut.

I was speechless, and I didn't dare open my eyes. I heard only Lester's barking laughter, Izzy's slightly apprehensive giggling, and someone spluttering.

I felt myself being pulled down, and I wondered vaguely if I was melting away in my pitiful humiliation.

It was only Lester, rolling on top of me, kissing my cheek, my chin, my nose. My face burned up even more. "Mack," he laughed softly. "You. Are. So. Cute. You. Make. My. Day. Marry. Me," he said, between pecks, and his shoulders shook uncontrollably as I felt him bury his face in my flaming neck.

I was about to open my eyes to see how red my face was, but then when I realized that this was impossible, seeing as I didn't have a mirror on me, I kept them shut as he played with my hair.

"Get a room," a low voice ground out dangerously, and my eyes flew open to meet Bing's own flashing ones.

Oh, you have got to be kidding me.

"Did I or did I not just see you throw a bottle of pee at Josiah's forehead, Miss Policzer?" Noland piped up from beside his seething friend, eyeing me in thinly-veiled amusement. "A bottle of pee!" he shouted joyously. "Brilliant!"

Izzy snickered and Lester rolled off of me, before hauling my cowering form into his lap protectively. He sensed my dread and embarrassment and he tried to comfort me the only way he knew how—through unending and personal touches. I nearly choked on my spit as he started rubbing circles on my stomach. I swear I would never get used to him.

I smiled timidly at Noland. "Uh," I cleared my throat. "Yeah."

"Yeah," he agreed, grinning goofily. "Oh, I wish I had a camera. Look at his face, Mack!"

I turned my head back to Josiah reluctantly. His hazel eyes were hard and his aristocratic jaw was set and his shapely mouth was pressed together as he stared at me and at Lester's arm. Lester's arm? I looked down at the lightly-tanned forearm wrapped around my waist, noticing some writing there in pink ink. Maybe those were his girlfriend's digits? Nah. He didn't have a girlfriend. At least I didn't think so . . .

"Uh," I said, looking at Bing as I swallowed. His eyebrow rose coolly. "Sorry?" I offered feebly. "I was trying to hit Lester here, but you know, he dodged, fiend that he is, and—"

Bing said, "Yeah, okay," before turning around and walking away as I stared after him, gaping at his rudeness.

Noland grinned at me with a shrug. "Eh, don't worry your little heart out. He's just mad he had to help with the barbecue set-up. I guess we should get started with that now, so . . . nice bumping into you Mack and Co. That was awesome. A bottle of pee!" he said to himself again as he walked away. "Bottle of pee!"

My best friends and I watched his retreating back, laughing, but then he turned around suddenly, and we assumed straight faces. "You can come if you want, Mack and Co," he offered kindly. "It starts at three, so . . ." he trailed off, lifting a shoulder.

I smiled at him, scratching my neck. "Uh, we'll think about it. Thanks, Noland."

It was funny how I talked so politely to him. I hated encountering school friends outside of class. It was awkward, dear reader, ever so awkward.

Noland just winked and turned to leave again. "If you come, bring the pee, will you? Pier 21!" he called over his shoulder, laughing. "I wanna show his sister."

Noland didn't seem to find it nearly as uncomfortable as I did. Then again, he hadn't chucked urine at a guy who was just warming up to the idea of friendship.

I simply groaned to myself. "Whatever," I muttered, even though he was too far to hear me anyway. I absorbed myself in thoughts concerning pee and Bing before I remembered I wasn't alone.

I looked at Izzy and Lester from underneath my lashes and they glared: "Who were those guys?"

I coughed awkwardly. "Remember the science guy I told you about?"

"He's Bill Nye?!" they questioned in chorus. Bill Nye The Science Guy, get it? Since Bing was the guy from science class—yeah, whatever.

I told them that the unison-speak was creepy, so they stopped with their synchronized questions.

"Yeah," I said simply. "Scary, huh?"

Izzy looked at me huffily. "Why didn't you tell us he was hot?"

"Yeah, why?" Lester repeated dryly, rolling his deep green eyes at Izzy.

But Izzy was still looking at me uncertainly (read: like I was crazy), and it made me feel . . . like I was crazy! "I told you he looked like Paul Walker," I said defensively.

Izzy snorted delicately. "That doesn't do him justice, girl. That guy is smokin'. Did you not see his—"

"Um, Izzy?" I spoke up tentatively. "You sound gross."

Her blue eyes laughed at me. "Shutting up now," she said with a contagious grin, and Lester looked at me, relieved.

"So kids," he began, mouth twitching, eyes glinting. "We're going, right?"

. . .

end chapter three

a.n. so what is up with ficpress taking away all the cute hearts from my scene breaks?! the injustice, dear potential reviewer, the injustice!

uhhm. i really, really, really, really hope you don't want to burn me alive and/or throw me in a pool of black mambas. because i'm really, really, really, terribly—oh, here's that word again; brace yourselves—sorry. i swear i won't disappear again. nah, scratch that. i probably will. hopefully with less frequency. it's summer now. :D I do have a grip of subject matter outlines and notes and summer reading to do, but that's boring stuff, so i hope i'll see more of you guys in these couples months. don't kill me. D:

hopefully this chapter didn't disappoint. i'll look over it again when i have the patience to. HEHE.

uh, yes, i did race my friends and brothers to pick up a bottle of pee at the beach and raise it in the air like a champion. no, you may not laugh at me. o-o

and you guys are pretty much the children of Awesomeness:

thanks EVERRRRRRRRRR SOOOOOO much to: a bitter kiss., Venus Smurf1(lots of Lester for you BWAHA), xxmoonstarxx, d666lisa, LethargicLove, wake of beauty, KnittingKneedle, andeternalfreedom.

OMGYOUHAVENOIDEAHOWMUCHILOVEYOU. (this is where i'd put a thousand cute little hearts if ficpress wouldn't kidnap them and trap them in cold empty attics full of orange snails.)

HAHA: d666lisa and LethargicLove caught the Relient K reference. GOOD JOB KIDDOS. here are your autographed bottles of pee!

and i swear i didn't put mikey in there so you have to keep track of more characters. he actually is important. "no way!" you cry. WAY, i say! and hannah's coming back. so yeah.

and i know there wasn't much josiah here again. but he's . . . uh, he likes to run away from me? i'd love to hear your speculations concerning his reaction. just don't jump too far in your conclusions. i'm having so much fun with this. bwahaha.

lester is pretty amazing to write. you'll hear more about his life later, i guess. loooll. he's one of my favorites.

and i hope this chapter wasn't too jumpy. if it reminded you of a kangaroo, please tell me. no seriously. i'll fix it someday. or maybe i'm just nervous about not having posted an installment to this story in so long. either way, do tell me.

if you're not boycotting my jerk-face absences, then review!11!1 it really does mean a lot to me that you care enough to tell me what you think. :D

oh, this is really long isn't it? KAYBYE.