Aggravation

The sunlight peeks through the lace white curtains as the morning arrives earlier than expected. It is almost fall and school has only been in session for a week. Alvin stares up at the ceiling of his bedroom as the bright light dances in front of his eyes. The dream he had last night was about a dark and damp room with no such source of light. He almost believed he would never see the sun again.

He silently rolls out of bed, touching his bare feet to the cold wooden floor. The room is smaller than he remembers it being when he first came to live in this house. Even though he has been living here for a while, barely any of his belongings occupy the shelves. He has very little to his name and no money to buy things even if he wanted them.

The door opens with a slight creak as he tries not to disturb his sleeping sister in the next room. The hallway is carpeted but not much warmer. The bathroom is even worse as the linoleum feels like ice. He quickly changes into his school uniform, a darkish gray blazer with orange fringes over a white dress shirt and matching slacks. A glance at the mirror reminds him how long his dark brown tangled hair has become. He has not bothered to cut it since he moved back into his bedroom at the start of summer.

He creeps down the hall to his sister's bedroom and stands at the doorway for a few moments. She does not need to be up for another hour and he would rather not have to deal with her this early in the morning. Instead he passes the room by on his way down the stairs. The table in the center of the kitchen is piled high with dishes as is the sink and counter.

His mother has been behind on chores ever since her husband died three years ago. He had never been good at coming home on time and had always appeared drunk. His wife was left to wait for him in boredom while finishing all of the housework. Now she works two jobs to make up for what he can no longer supply. Almost all of his life insurance went to paying off the other family in the car accident that took both drivers' lives.

Without bothering to eat any breakfast, Alvin slips out through the kitchen door. He leaves it swinging in the breeze behind him, not caring if it will eventually blow shut on its own. The street is devoid of life as no one will be commuting to school or work for at least another half an hour. Every once in a while, though, a random passing stranger will drive through the town with no intention of stopping.

The front gate of the school has not even been unlocked when he arrives, forcing him to scale the fence to gain entrance. He is not the only student on campus though as several of the sports clubs have been meeting since even before the start of the term. Still no one bothers to turn their head for his sake. He is generally an outcast, choosing not to interact with anyone due to lack of trust.

The classroom is barren of anything but specks of dust visible only in the streams of light from the windows. His seat is in the far back, a location he chose himself. No one, not even the teacher, has bothered to drive him from it. He is perfectly happy spending his time scowling at anyone that approaches; or at least as close to happy as he is capable of.

He does not move from his spot for the next forty-five minutes as the rest of the students slowly pile in. not one of them gives him so much as a greeting. He refuses to avert his gaze when they cross his path, leaving them all with an uncomfortable feeling of malice. He even narrows his eyes at particular people which he has deemed enemies after they attempted to elicit a response from him on different occasions. They have since learned not to bother though.

"Good morning, class," the teacher, Mr. Alexson, is the first to speak aloud on this cold fall morning. "I hope you have all become accustom to high school during this past week. Your orientation period is over. Today we will begin regular class." A circulation of groaning fills the room as the students express their displeasure at no longer being coddled.

Alvin rolls his eyes. He believes that all of them are far too lazy for their own good. As far as he is concerned, all people in the world, including himself, are selfish and ungrateful. They deserve no one's support and in Alvin's case not even his attention. He knows very well that this attitude has earned him a bad reputation in the single week he has been in this class, but as his way of life suggests, he couldn't care less.

The lesson is long and drawn out, causing Alvin to lose focus, attempting to rest his head and eyes instead. If he had not woken up so early, perhaps he could have stayed awake longer. No one bothers to wake him even for the lunch break or after the class has been dismissed entirely.

The classroom is already empty again by the time he opens his eyes. With a simple yawn he slings his bag over his shoulder on his way out the door. He does not care that he has just missed an entire day's lesson.

A few clubs are still meeting on the campus as he walks down the front path toward the gate but the majority of the students have disappeared. The journey back to his house is a quiet and uneventful one. Not a single shop owner on the street waves to him and not a single cyclist stops to say "hi". He is not even sure if they know who he is. He has not bothered to talk to anyone since his father's death and it is possible they do not recognize him at all.

The front door to the kitchen is still swaying in the wind when he arrives home. His sister, Renae, is sitting at the table in the center eating the contents of a bag of potato chips she has spilled onto a plate. She is still wearing her summer shorts and a long sweater of his that she uses for pajamas. "You didn't go to school?" he asks dully.

"I didn't wake up in time," she giggles. "You need to make sure I'm up before you go."

"Why is it my job," he sighs while opening the fridge. "You need to go to bed earlier."

"I was on the phone last night," she argues. "Trish and Penny wouldn't hang up first."

"And that's an excuse to skip school?" he scolds.

"What about you?' she counters, "I bet you slept through the whole lesson. Did you even talk to your classmates?"

"Why bother?" he waves his hand uninterestedly. She watches as he drinks straight from a carton of orange juice. "All they are is idiots and enemies that haven't attacked yet."

"Don't be like that," she groans. "Not everyone in the world is like you."

"Everyone is out for themselves," he snaps. "Not a single person cares about you for who you are."

"Stop it!" she raises her voice as well."

"You think your friends like you?" he taunts her. "You think they really want to listen to your opinion? They all just put up with you because it's expected. Just wait 'til you share a crush on the same guy, or need to borrow a lot of money."

"That's enough," she screams while covering her ears. "They aren't like you."

"Me?" he laughs. "What would I know? I don't have friends. I'm not supposed to talk to strangers!"

"I'm sorry!" she shouts. "I really am."

"No you're not," he brings his face close to hers. "You're glad. You happy it's not you. I can see the relief in your eyes every time Mom comes home. 'Thank god it's not me' is what you're thinking."

"You're wrong," she is practically sobbing. "I wish it were me. I wish I knew how you felt. I wish I could take the burden away."

The front door suddenly swings open, startling them both. Their mother stands in the door way with her arms full of groceries. "I'm home early," she smiles cheerfully. "Can you give me a hand?"

"Look who it is," Alvin scoffs, "just who I wanted to see."

"What's going on?" their mother looks confused. "Are you two fighting?"

"No," Renae quickly shakes her head.

"Come and help me then," her mother asks. Alvin walks out of the kitchen with his nose held high.

"Hey," Renae starts to chase him.

"Don't," her mother stops her. "It's ok, I don't mind. It's not his fault."

"But, Mom…" Renae whines.

"It's going to take some time," her mother sighs. "Let him be."

Alvin locks himself in his room, refusing to come out for the rest of the day; not even for dinner. It is the middle of the night before hunger finally drives him to sneak out. The moment he steps out of his room into the dark hallway, his foot touches something soft. Looking down he can see the outline of his sister sleeping on the floor in front of his door. "Good morning, brother," she rubs her eyes as she sits up.

"It's not morning, you idiot," he hisses angrily. "What are you doing here?"

"I was worried about you," she pouts.

"This is why you never wake up early," he scolds her. "You need to go to bed properly."

"I said I was worried about you," she repeats. "Can't you just pretend to be nice?"

"No," he drags her to her feet before shoving her toward her own room. Instead of going inside she follows him down the stairs to the kitchen.

"Mom will be mad at you for stealing food," she warns him as he starts to make a sandwich.

"I really couldn't care less what Mom thinks," he responds calmly.

"You say that but in reality you're still afraid of her, aren't you?" she whispers.

"If you know that then don't bring it up. Be nice to me."

"Sorry," she lowers her head. "I'll take the blame so go ahead and eat as much as you want."

"Oh," he drops the loaf of bread he is holding.

"What?" she quickly picks it up for him.

"Now I don't want it," he turns around to leave the kitchen.

"What?" she chases after him angrily. "I said it's fine. You better eat it."

"I don't want any favors from you," he folds his arms proudly.

"Why are you like this?" her voice cracks as she tries to keep from shouting. He can already see the tears in her eyes. "Why can't you forgive me?" she sobs.

"There are many things you deserve from me as a person and as a brother," he responds while patting her head. "You can demand respect, you can demand praise, you can even demand an apology, but you can never," he pauses for a moment as she swallows her tears, "and I mean never demand forgiveness from me."

She drops to the floor as he silently ascends the stairs again, covering her face with her hands. His words are all the more painful because he is right. There is no reason he should ever forgive her. Completely depressed, she lies down on the couch instead of returning to her room.

She is still sleeping soundly the next morning when Alvin comes downstairs. "What are you doing?" he kicks her dangling leg to wake her.

"Go away, I'm sleeping," she yawns.

"Not anymore you aren't. It's time for school, come on."

"I don't feel like it," she mumbles.

"You skipped one day already. It's only the second week. At this rate you'll be expelled before winter."

"Fine," she rolls onto the floor. "Help me up," she waves her arms above her head.

"Help yourself," he ignores her.

"You're so mean," she grabs hold of his blazer and drags herself up. "I'm hungry," she announces while bouncing into the kitchen.

"Then eat something," he sighs before following her.

"Mom hasn't made breakfast yet," she responds. "If we wait for a bit I'm sure she'll be up…"

"No thanks," he cuts her off. "I'm going on ahead."

"Wait," she chases him to the door. "Why can't we walk together for once?"

"Because I don't like you," he answers coldly. She clenches her fists as she stops running. She wants to shout at him but his words from the night before are still bothering her. "What's this?" he asks while continuing to walk. "Aren't you going to say I'm being mean again?" he taunts.

She shakes her head before skipping to catch up. "I won't let you get to me today, brother. We are walking to school together and that's final."

"Whatever," he quickens his pace so she has to run to keep up.

She is practically out of breath when they reach the school. "Are you ok?" he asks while trying not to laugh.

"Shut up," she punches him in the arm. "I know you don't care."

"You're right," he shrugs before leaving her behind. "Don't be late for class."

"I know," she shouts while grabbing onto the gate to keep her balance while catching her breath. The junior high she attends is on the other side from the high school. She has to walk all the way around the outside of the gate instead of crossing the campus or risk being spotted by a faculty member. Alvin does not bother to look back as he enters the main building.

"You're early as usual," Mr. Alexson barely looks up over his glasses to greet him. His long graying brown hair is stringy with sweat. From the ink smudges on his hands it appears as if he spent the night at the school catching up on his work which would not surprise Alvin.

In the short week he has had to get to know his teacher the only conclusion he has arrived at is that he is strange. He does not bother to learn the students' names and has never once bothered to scold anyone in class for breaking the rules. He in fact seems not to have much interest in leading the class at all. He seems far too involved in the mountain of paper that occupies his desk.

The fact that he has even bothered to speak to Alvin is an absolute surprise. "Is there something you needed, sir?" Alvin tries to respond appropriately.

"Not at the moment," Mr. Alexson shakes his head. "I'll be sure to ask you later though."

Alvin blinks at him stupidly. He had not desired to help his teacher in anyway despite his offer. If he is to be kept after class for any reason he will most definitely be annoyed. Before long, the rest of the class has filled the empty seats, driving Alvin's attention toward the pastime of despising them, instead of dreading assisting Mr. Alexson.

"Alright class," the teacher once again takes control of the group. "I will be introducing a transfer student to you today. She was supposed to begin last week but had some issues at home. As such please help her get along and feel accepted. You can come in, darling," he calls into the hall.

A slender looking girl with long strawberry blonde pigtails stalks into the room. She is sporting a blue and white blazer and matching skirt, obviously from her previous school. She looks slightly annoyed at being called "darling" by Mr. Alexson. "This is Annabel Loche," he announces. "Go on say 'hi' to her."

"Hey Annie," one of the boys at the front waves to her.

"Why hello," she beams back pleasantly.

"She seems nice," one of the girls whispers to a friend.

"What do you think?" the boy next to Alvin asks before he realizes who he is talking to. "Oh…" he turns away before Alvin can answer.

"There are three empty seats," Mr. Alexson informs her. "Take your pick."

Annabel looks up with a smile until she notices that all three desks are directly behind, in front and beside Alvin. "Um…" she looks at Mr. Alexson nervously.

"What is it, darling?" he asks without much interest.

"Please don't call me that," she mutters under her breath.

"What?" he cups his ear to hear better. "Speak up, sweet lips."

"Excuse me?" she jerks her head back.

"You heard me," he waves at the three open desks. "Take a seat already. Let these fine gentlemen enjoy the view of you walking to your desk."

"I'm sorry," she tilts her head, trying to see if she heard him correctly.

"Just sit down already!" Alvin kicks the empty desk next to him. "I won't bite."

"He won't," the teacher shakes his head while chuckling.

"Sorry," one of the girls whispers to Annabel as she sits down in the now crooked desk.

"Is there a reason why no one wants to sit here?" she asks the girl.

"Yeah, him," she scoffs. "He's a weirdo. Just try to ignore him."

"Why thanks, Lucy," Alvin glares at her.

"See what I mean?" she shivers.

"Yeah," Annabel nods. "The teacher's not much better."

"You gotta admit he's right though," Lucy whispers. "You are kinda hot."

"Thanks, I think," she blushes. "I just don't need to hear that from a man twice my age."

"He's not that old," Lucy answers. "He's just overworked." Annabel nods to her without really understanding. She sees no reason to pretend to like the creepy man in a white lab coat now preaching to the class about grades and assignments.

"Hey," Alvin kicks her desk again.

"Yes?" she smiles at him cautiously.

"Can I call you Bell?"

"No," she shakes her head.

"Bella then?"

"I guess so," she raises an eyebrow.

"Why are you talking," Lucy snaps angrily at him. "Leave her out of your weirdness."

"Does he have any friends?" Annabel asks.

"None that I've ever seen," Lucy admits. "He's a social outcast. Within a week we all agreed to leave him alone."

"Hence the empty seats," Annabel realizes.

"Except mine," the boy on the other side whispers. I didn't get a chance to move. I'm Greg by the way."

"Greg? Is that so?" Alvin asks smugly. "I can hear everything you say, Greg."

"So what?" Lucy scoffs.

"Nice to meet you, Greg," Annabel reaches across Alvin's desk to shakes his hand, ignoring the occupant. Lucy pats her on the back proudly, as if she just learned a crucial lesson on how to fit in with this class.

"Another one," Alvin shakes his head disappointedly. "Well, I'm not surprised."

"I'm sorry," Annabel mutters. "You just seem like a bad person."

"I can prove you wrong right there," he folds his arms.

"Trying to say you're not?" Lucy accuses him.

"No," he shakes his head. "In fact I agree one-hundred percent. I am not a good person. But you aren't either," he grins mischievously at her.

"How dare you?" she hisses angrily.

"You," he turns to Annabel. "You seem to be polite. Let's test this on you."

"Test what?" she asks nervously.

"Think about yourself completely. Think about whether or not you are a good person. Visualize exactly what you are and decide if you are worthy of being called good." She looks at him slightly terrified as if she has recalled something unnerving.

"Now," he grins happily. "Think of me as the exact opposite of you. Anything you have ever done I would do the reverse in your shoes. If you finished your vegetables I would throw them up. If you say 'hi' to people with a smile I would glare and avoid them…"

"That sounds very bad," she cuts him off.

"I'm not finished," he continues. "If you smile at someone fakely, I glare at them honestly. If you lie and say you love them, I admit that I despise them."

"Stop it," she covers her ears.

"What's wrong?" Lucy rubs her shoulder. "Don't listen to him. He's just a liar."

"I know," Annabel nods. "He's just trying to make me feel bad."

"I'm not doing anything," he disagrees. "I asked you if you were a good person. You know very well that you are not. If I am the exact opposite of you, then I am a much better person than you."

"I…" Annabel stares at him, unable to form any response.

"Shut up," Greg punches him in the shoulder. "Didn't your mother ever teach you not to make girls cry?"

"Excuse me?" another girl in front of grace turns around to face them. "You're disrupting the lesson."

"Aren't they?" Mr. Alexson states loudly. "I thought I was the only one who noticed." Alvin rolls his eyes. He is almost positive the teacher will remain passive as usual. "How rude," Mr. Alexson shakes his head disappointedly. "I had high hopes for you. You seemed so much more obedient than the rest of these disrespectful youngsters."

"Sir?" Lucy raises her hand.

"Be quiet student nineteen," he scolds without even turning his head.

"My name's not…"

"I don't care what your name is," he informs her. "I don't care what any of your names are. You are all in my class and the only name you need to know is mine."

"Can we just get on with the lesson?" Alvin groans.

"Perhaps," the teacher frowns while swiping the glasses off the student in front of Lucy and switching them with his own.

"Hey," she stands up.

"Sit down, student eighteen," he stomps his foot.

"My name is Rebecca," she shouts. "You can't treat us this way."

"Why?" he turns around finally, "because it's disrespectful? You all aren't any better."

"What did I do?" she demands. "I'm always busy studying."

"You are busy reading your fancy books but that is not studying. You need to give me your full attention when I am talking."

"It's all his fault," Lucy points at Alvin. "He started it."

"I'm well aware of that," Mr. Alexson turns back to him. "Do you have any suggestions, student nine?"

"No," he shakes his head.

"You don't know what you would do in my position?"

"That's what I just said."

"When a student acts out they are supposed to be punished."

"But that wouldn't suit you," Alvin finally answers. "You have no interest in things that don't benefit your work."

"A very good point," Me Alexson nods. "I'll just have to punish you with something useful. Why don't you help clean up after class?"

"What, alone?" Alvin sits up properly in his seat.

"Well the rest of them could help too," he rubs his chin.

"Why us?" Greg and Lucy shout at once.

"It should be the second most disruptive person," Rebecca speaks up.

"And who would that be?" he turns to face her again.

"Her, the transfer student," she points at Annabel.

"What?" Annabel looks around in surprise.

"Is that ok with you two?" the teacher asks.

"Please," Lucy bows her head to beg.

"I'll owe you one," Greg joins in as well. "We just don't want to have to clean with that guy."

"I don't want to either," she states bluntly.

"Ouch," Alvin pretends to be shocked.

"Oh, shut up," Greg punches him again.

"Then it's settled," Me Alexson returns to the front of the class. "Please remain after class to clean up."

"Thanks a lot," Annabel glares at Alvin.

"Sure thing, toots," he blows her a kiss. She cringes as Lucy tries to comfort her and apologize at the same time.

After the class has finally quieted down, Mr. Alexson is able to complete the lesson. Once it is over, the rest of the students quickly disappear before they can be dragged into Alvin's and Annabel's situation. "Get to work," the teacher orders them before vanishing as well.

Without a word, Alvin begins to straighten the papers on the front desk. "Come on," he frowns at Annabel. "Are you going to help?"

"I don't see why I should," she scoffs. "This is all your fault."

"You're going to help because you think you're a good person and that's what good people would do," he responds.

"I don't need you telling me what makes a person good. I am doing just fine making friends on my own and it's only been a day. How long have you been here; a week?"

"I choose not to get involved with those nobodies. I thought you might be different but as you obviously know now, you are not. You are just as messed up as the rest of them."

"You are such a jerk," loses her temper. "Did you ever think that you might be the problem? You could have easily tried to approach them as equals but you purposefully look down on them."

"They are equals and that is why I look down on them. They are doing it to me too. That's what being equal means; equally inferior."

"I feel sorry for you," she sighs. "You'll never know what it's like to have friends."

"And you think you do?" he scoffs. "Those two aren't your friends. They sold you out soon enough to get out of cleaning."

"That's not true," she shouts. "They just couldn't stand to be near you."

"If they had helped then all three of you would have a third of the time to waste with me but they couldn't be bothered to help their new friend. You're nothing but a scapegoat to them."

"They wouldn't…" she seems genuinely shocked.

"You're not very bright, are you?" he sighs. "Let's just get this over with."

"I hate you," she screeches through clenched teeth.

"Why? For opening your eyes?"

"Yes," she glares at him angrily. Her large round eyes make her seem all the more serious. "Can't you just let people pretend? All I wanted were some friends. If I had to ignore you to get them, is that my fault?"

"No, it's theirs. What kind of friends require me to exist. How long will it last if all you have in common is your hatred of me? That makes it seem like I'm more important than any individual member of the group." Her face sinks as she realizes how right he is. She starts to sweep the dust from the floor, ignoring any further attempts from him to communicate.

A good hour later, Mr. Alexson finally returns to the hallway. He peeks inside to be sure his students are still doing their job. Neither one is speaking but that is none of his concern. He did not gather them here for this. In fact he could care less about how clean the room is. He need only obtain some subjects for his latest experiment.

While rewiring the power outlets for personal use at the end of summer he happened to have accidentally electrocuted himself. In the process he was knocked unconscious for several hours during which time his body did not remain in one place. Somehow he had happened upon a room which resembled his classroom greatly but had contained no actual part of it.

He was somehow transported to a dimension in which the real world leaked into like an image of film in a camera. While there he conducted as much research as he could in order to replicate the phenomenon. Now with two unsuspecting subjects right in front of him, it is time to try again.

He takes a small dial out of his pocket and switches the frequency to match the remote device he has attached to the wiring of the room. With the push of a button he overloads the circuit, causing the outlets to explode and electricity to fly into the closest conductors; key metals he has left in specific spots around the room.

Annabel screams as Alvin covers her head to keep the flying debris from harming her as several objects in the room shatter with the force of the coursing electricity. He starts to jolt as a stray bolt shocks him through his outstretched arm. The electricity travels through his body and enters Annabel's as well. Before long, they have both been rendered unconscious.