A/N: Here I go again, failing at writing original fiction, though occasionally trying. I updated this chapter a bit. Without further ado, I hope to get some feedback on this silly story about life riddled with pop culture references!
Greater Than Jake
chapter one; bad karma
I made a lot of mistakes in high school, that was just a fact. Controversially, I think a book written about me would have been a best seller, but not as something to bring me good fortune, rather, something to help guide confused, maladjusted teenagers in the right direction. Something to give kids a good example of exactly what they shouldn't strive for.
I suppose it was simple, in hindsight, to be a relatively successful high school student. Don't skip class, don't be disrespectful, underage drinking should be frowned upon and definitely don't allow yourself to develop an alter-ego, who ultimately has no transferable skills in the, you know, real world, because high school hardly preps one for such a thing.
Of all the many regrets I made for my name in high school, two were particularity prominent. My first, would be attending my third day of school inebriated and getting caught with a water bottle full of my dad's forty-year old whiskey. That action triggered a domino effect that would haunt me for the rest of my high school career; at home, my father stopped respecting me, and at school, the teachers knew to look out for me. Young people tend to make bad decisions, and bad decisions can sometimes lead to ambiguous acts of senseless rebellion.
My second most abhorred regret would revolve around cheating on my girlfriend.
Most people wouldn't consider this such a deep-rooted issue because hey, how many teenage romances actually work out? All teenagers make mistakes. They date mindlessly and fuck just the same. They either forgive each other too easily, or offer no lenience at all.
Her name was Tetra, probably after the fish, and she was the former.
Although dreary, she was a nice girl with a pretty face and many talents. She laughed at my jokes, got along with my friends, liked the same music as I did, and she even helped me write my own. I often joked how her description matched that of the girl in Blink 182's "The Party Song," with green eyes and long blonde hair. Though it was debatable whether she wore underwear or not, she was most definitely the one.
After she finally left me, I was no longer the same, which was a negative thing for me, though a blessing to rest of the world. I was a bumbling, dishonest, cheating buffoon and society really didn't need any more of those.
Looking back on it as a twenty-one year old underachiever and 'professional sales associate' at Wal-Mart, I cringed. At sixteen, I saw myself growing older and becoming a success. Our band played at a few venues (thanks to Atticus' mom), and we always had a good turnout, mainly because we'd invite the entire school, but I was ignorant to that. Those shows we put on were more parties than anything, and they were great, albeit destructive. I thought we were celebrities; Atty and Cale were bad, but I was the worst. I thought we were going to be famous, make it big and become the next Sum 41. We did have some good music, and as a teenager, one tends to view themselves as invincible and unstoppable. When everything went to shit, I began to ask myself if I would have made the same decisions, knowing that the band wasn't going to make it, and that I was going to lose my girlfriend forever.
Tetra had left to attend school is L.A, pursuing her career in musical arts like the talented genius she was. I thought I'd never see her again; she probably hoped she'd never see me. Atticus, however, stayed in touch with her, even visited her in L.A a few times. They were best friends since childhood, after all; it was Atty who'd made the terrible mistake of introducing us in the first place. I both thanked and blamed him.
When Tetra came back to Timberfalls, I wasn't expecting it. Atticus was my best friend, yet didn't give me any warning when she came over for the first time. I would always resent him for that. I was sitting on the couch with no shirt on and wore a pair of red plaid pyjamas. I had a beer in my hand, hadn't showered in two days, and to add to the scene, I was watching cartoons. That's right, Saturday morning cartoons. I was hung over as hell from the previous night's exertion, and cared not that my posture made it look like I was sporting the 2014 model of the beer gut.
There was a knock at the door. I lazily looked behind me and stared at it, contemplating whether to answer it or not. I had heard that Tetra was back in town, but I never imagined Atticus would invite her over without telling me. But of course he would; she was his best friend, and Atticus, unlike me, was a mature minded person who naturally assumed that any tension between us would have evaporated during our hiatus.
Like my ex-girlfriend, Atty and I had met in high school. Even though we'd both grown since then, he was still and always would be just a little shorter than me, which really got under his skin, though that wasn't very hard to do. He had sandy blonde hair and dark blue eyes that were framed with his signature thick rimmed glasses; he refused to change them, no matter how many times people told him they were lame.
I ended up turning back to the television and putting my feet up on the coffee table. When there was another knock, I shouted for Atticus. He immediately came rushing down the stairs and bolted to the front door. When he opened it, I nearly choked on my beer at the familiar chime of her voice.
With dread, I turned around to see Atticus embracing the blonde girl. He hugged her tightly and lifted her up off the ground, and at that moment, I knew something had changed between them, whether they knew it yet or not.
"I missed you so much!" Tetra exclaimed, staring at Atticus with jubilant eyes as he set her down. I was sluggishly leaning against the back of the couch, gawking at her as if she were the grim reaper. On the contrary, she was more radiant than I'd ever seen her. She had grown taller, standing at about 5'9. Her smile was livelier, and her eyes were filled with a starry happiness that I'd never even seen on her. Tetra and I had long since blocked each other off all forms of social media, so I didn't know what to expect. The most noticeable distinction, however, was her free-flowing hair, unrestricted by the binds of a pony-tail.
When her gaze fell upon me, she hid her teeth behind a tight grin and raised her hand to wave at me.
Tetra always had a pretty, pixie-like face, but in high school she was somewhat mousy, pale and awkwardly tall for her age. This was not the insecure, melancholy musician who used to sing Dallas Green to me while I was a drunk and upset teenager. This girl was confident, animated and foremost, she was happy. I knew her inside and out, and I had never once seen her eyes brimming with such excitement; joyousness, that spoke of the life she'd had in L.A, one I wasn't a part of.
"Jacob," she said, and I wanted to vomit. My own mother had stopped calling me by my full name years ago; my name was Jake. Not Jacob, not Nero, just Jake. Even in the days where my prominent ego had been my last name, Tetra never called me anything but Jacob, and maybe the occasional Jakey. Oddly enough, after she finally broke up with me, I missed hearing it, which was probably why last night's alcohol was now pushing its way to the top of my stomach. Without so much as a head nod to my ex-girlfriend, I ran to the nearest bathroom to puke my guts out, then proceeded to take the hottest shower I could handle.
Tetra was back, and she was in my house. She was beautiful and successful and I was a dead shadow of the party boy who lived out his best years in high school.
I looked in the bathroom mirror after I put on the only shirt of mine I could find; yesterday's. I had to take a few deep breaths. Tetra was downstairs, and I looked like a train wreck. My brown hair, which girls used to describe as chocolate, looked a lot more like matted shit and I had bags under my dull blue eyes. I still felt sick and that beer gut I sometimes had while beached on the couch like a damn whale seemed to be over staying its welcome. With an exasperated sigh, I took a dirty pair of jeans out of laundry hamper and threw them on.
I was certain that Tetra didn't want to speak to me, but assuming it would be cowardly to slip out the front door and hope she'd disappear, I sucked it up and went to the kitchen with an inadvertent slouch to my shoulders. Tetra and Atticus were sitting on the bar stools at the kitchen island. When I entered, I felt like an elephant, and that wasn't just because I looked a bit fat.
Tetra leaned on the granite counter top with her hands clasped. I noticed she was wearing expensive jewellery. She was noticing the new tattoos I had on my arm.
"Hey, uh, sorry." I clumsily scratched the back of my head and sat beside Atty. "Had a bit too much to drink last night."
"You sure did," he muttered sarcastically, glowering at me through his glasses. Right. He was mad at me. I'd made an asshole out of myself at the bar again and told a pretty girl about the time he literally pissed himself in the ninth grade, all because I wiped a mushy banana on Cale's locker. That was presumably why he failed to inform me of Tetra's arrival. Even more to my chagrin, I noticed she had a sparkly pink duffel bag with her, joined by her guitar.
"Tetra's staying with us for a while, Jake," Atty said, and I wanted to groan, but alternatively exchanged a thorny glance with my ex.
"That's cool," I lied, flashing the only grin I could muster up. I could practically hear Tetra mentally scoff. I was a good liar; it took her nearly four years to figure out how to see through my shit. We sat in silence for a few minutes, before Atticus got up and started making something to eat. Tetra urgently took out her cellphone and began obsessively scrolling through it. When I went to grab my phone out of my pocket, I was somewhat horrified to discover I'd left it upstairs.
"Well, this is incredibly awkward, so I'm gunna go," I announced, unintentionally scraping the feet of my stool against the tile as I sat up. I chose not to look back at them, for I knew they were swapping the worst kind of look; the ignore him, he's just an idiot look.
I grabbed my phone and left the house with no real destination in mind. I didn't have room for such thoughts because my brain swirled painfully around the idea of my ex staying at my house. She was like a living reminder of how much of a failure I'd become. Yep, high school was it for me. I'd spoken to many people who would say how much they hated high school, and how much greater their lives became for them after it ended. I could see that Tetra was one of those people, now. I, on the other hand, loved high school, and since its ending, had reverted to a primitive, sloth-like being.
That may be a hyperbole, but I was unhappy with where I was. I was wearing the same clothes I wore yesterday, walking to the park, alone and hungover on a Saturday. When I caught sight of the goofy man behind the barbeque wearing a hot dog hat, I got irrationally excited.
I purchased the hotdog and wandered into the park, praying I could avoid any further social contact. I found a lone bench to sit and demolish the food I'd bought. Naturally, I managed to get ketchup on myself in the process. That was my luck. Or karma. I alternated between the two phrases, depending on my mood. At that point, I was feeling more like using the latter.
I wasn't sure what it was; maybe the ketchup, the stink of the garbage can beside me, frying in the summer heat, or the obese man waddling past me on the pavement, but a small spark ignited in me.
For the first time in over a year, I had a lyric.
It was a simple lying, but a lyric, nonetheless. I immediately took out my phone and typed it in, saving it to my notes. And now, suddenly, I felt a little less pessimistic.
So, I had one lyric down, but that didn't change that my ex was still in my house, and she wasn't going anywhere for a while. I decided to send our other roommate, Nikki, a mayday text, requesting backup.
When I got home, Atticus and Tetra were hiding upstairs. I didn't intend to look for them. Our house was pretty big; we rented it from Atty's parents, who were, to say the least, completely loaded. We had hardwood floors, granite countertops and a bar built-in to the kitchen. We had every video game system, tons of musical equipment and a flat screen T.V; luxuries a Wal-Mart employee shouldn't have been able to afford. Thankfully, that Wal-Mart employee's terrible karma hadn't affected his living arrangements yet.
I spent the day half passed out on the couch playing video games until my hangover finally dissipated and Nikki returned. I was getting ready to go out, when I heard the nauseating sound of Nikki and Tetra being introduced to each other. I was quick to drag my friend out of the house; there was no way Tetra was stealing her, too; not on that night.
Nikki was of Japanese descent, though she was raised in the United States. She was covered in piercings and had short, choppy purple hair. She was also my best (female) friend and known as a serial romantic. I'd seen her enter and end more relationships with both men and women than I'd seen on T.V.
"So, you're telling me," Nikki spoke into her drink, voice laced with disbelief. "That blonde girl was your girlfriend in high school?"
I shrugged. "Yep." We were sitting in a bar/lounge, opposing each other on two couches. The place was more expensive than my liking, costing roughly twenty bucks per pitcher, but it was close to home, so we wouldn't have to cab.
"Dude, why the hell would you cheat on that?"
"Because I was an asshole." I sighed, and made a point to finish the rest of my beer in one go. "You didn't know me in high school; I wasn't really the same guy I am now."
Nikki raised an eyebrow. "Oh, I've heard the stories. No offence Jake, but it doesn't sound like you're too much different."
"Trust me, I am." I poured another glass from the pitcher. "You know, I actually considered legally changing my last name last year?"
"Yeah, yeah," she chuckled. "You've told me a million times."
"Frickin' everybody called me Nero." I dramatically held my head low in shame, before bringing my attention back to my beer. "I was such a douche bag."
"You're still a douche bag," she snorted. "Now you're just an angtsy douche bag who ruined his chances with a girl who could probably be a runway model, and I mean that. She's tall as hell and shaped like a pencil… Not really my type."
"That's it!" I exclaimed. "That's what she should do. She should move to some far off land, become a supermodel, and then she'll be happy and I'll never see her again!" I laughed to myself and took another chug of beer. When I looked up, Nikki had her pierced brow raised.
"I think that's the most pathetic thing I've ever heard you say."
"What can I say?" I shrugged. "I can't think of anything else to use my misery for other than entertainment."
Nikki laughed. "I am so okay with laughing at your misfortune."
A few hours later, and Nikki was probably regretting those words.
It was getting to last call. We had just played pool with some meat heads, who evidentially, wanted to kick my ass by the time we were finished. I was a loud mouth when I drank and it always pissed me off when guys pestered Nikki. It pissed her off more when I tried to stand up for her, resulting in me getting beat up. Nikki wasn't some delicate flower; she was strong, and she always stood up for herself when she was truly bothered. For the most part, she would simply brush guys off and ignore them when they tried to hit on her.
I ended up getting punched in the face by a man who looked like Thor, and Nikki had to drag my drunk ass into a cab because I was evidentially unable to walk. She waited until we got home to explode on me for my behaviour.
"How many times do I have to tell you, Jake? I can stand up for myself. Those guys were just drunk, insignificant idiots." She crossed her arms firmly over her chest.
"No," I slurred and drunkenly pointed at her. "It's because you're my best friend, not some piece of meat, y'know?"
She couldn't stop herself from laughing as I collapsed on the couch. "We'll talk about it in the morning. Love you too, buddy." She patted me on the head as she passed and went upstairs. I was considering doing the same, when I heard another pair footsteps coming down the stairs, too light to belong to Atticus. When I sat up and faced her, the reasonable side of me, that told me to leave, lost against the drunken side, which beckoned me to stay. Tetra was wearing purple pyjamas with owls on them. She fiddled with her fingers, which was out of character for her, but I was completely hammered and didn't have time for bashfulness.
"Hey," I half shouted, throwing my hand in the air.
"What happened to you?" she queried, taking a wary step in front of the couch to observe my black eye.
"The mighty god of thunder, Thor, cast upon my face his righteous hammer of justice," I said, to which Tetra placed a hand on her hip and gave me the look. I laughed at my joke when she failed to. "Some asshole was being disrespectful to Nikki, so I told him off."
Tetra sat down on the love seat, which was adjacent to the couch I sprawled on.
"Well that was... Noble? Dumb, but noble," she chuckled with good nature, a failed attempt at holding a regular conversation with me. My drunk self wasn't having it.
"What're you down here, anyway?" I slurred. "Where's Atty?"
"He's in his room. I'm crashing in the spare, but I couldn't sleep. Thought I'd watch a movie or something."
"Ohhhhh." I sat up, and swaying back and forth, I ruined what may have been my only chance at starting fresh with the girl. "Why not go keep Atty warm? I bet he'd loooooove that."
This time, Tetra outwardly scoffed. "Well, I can see you've changed." she sneered.
Continuing my blundering act of stupidity, I stood up and gestured my arms out.
"Yeah, I know, I got fat, all right?"
"You didn't get fat, you idiot." She crossed her arms over her chest. "You haven't changed at all. You're still an asswad."
"Asswad? Really?" I rolled my eyes at her favourite insult. "Why are you even back, Tetra?"
"Because like it or not, Timberfalls is my home, and Atticus is my friend, too."
"Well, I just hope that you don't plan on staying for long because fuck that." As inebriated as I was, I knew what I was saying was stupid bullshit, but I let it continue. On top of that, I thought it would be a good idea to jump over the back of the couch to avoid tripping over the coffee table. I fell and shook the entire house with my dead weight, before I dragged myself up the stairs and passed out, fully clothed.
"Rise and shine, Jakey!" Nikki's enraged voice sounded, rattling my ears. I opened my eyes to the blazing light seeping through the window. Nikki had opened up my curtains, thus blinding me for several moments and I sat up, disoriented. When I was able to see her, her pissed expression caused the memories to creep back in.
"Oh, god." I clutched my head. "Fucking hell."
"Dude, what the hell is wrong with you?"
"I think it was the shots of tequila that did it, to be honest."
"Forget about the bar. Tetra is about to walk out the door and go crash at some motel. Atticus is at work, and I start in half an hour, so I'm outta here. Atty's gunna be pissed off if his friend leaves because you were too drunk to be civil with her. Go apologize or some shit, man. Fuck." Nikki threw her hands up in exasperation before she stormed from my room. She made a point. Atticus never did anything to me but be an awesome friend, and even though I wanted nothing more than for Tetra to leave, it would upset him if she did.
I rushed down the stairs as Nikki left. Tetra was next in line for the front door, but I ran in front of her and lightly grabbed her shoulders. She pulled away with offence.
"Move," she demanded, her bottom lip trembling.
"Look, I'm sorry about last night, okay? Just don't go." When she tried to push past me, I stopped her again. "I'll leave you alone, I promise. Just stay for Atticus. He wants you here."
"Why, so I can keep him warm?"
"I was drunk. I'm sorry."
Tetra took a step back from me. She dropped her bag, crossed her arms over her chest and attempted to read my eyes. I made a point not to break contact.
"Honestly, Jacob," she sighed. "It was stupid of me to think you'd be mature enough by now to handle this."
"Yeah, I know. I'm an idiot." I picked up her bag and moved it further into the living room, dropping it by the stairs. "I'll stay out of your hair, Tet." And with that, I walked up the stairs and returned to the cave I called my bedroom. From there, I spent several hours between browsing the internet and being embarrassed over my behaviour. Nikki was wrong; I had changed since high school. My teenage self didn't so much as falter upon making an ass of himself; I would often think about it for days to come.
I sighed, looking at my acoustic. It had collected dust. The poor thing looked as lonely as I did, standing in the corner by itself. For the first time in two months, I picked up the guitar, brushed the dust off it and sat on the edge of my bed. I began to strum random melodies.
I didn't write music any more. I last song I had written and actually completed was two years old. I played every once in a while, but unfortunately, a lot of the music I wrote as a kid was about my girlfriend so those songs were off-limits. I ended up playing one I'd written after graduation.
I sang about being an idiot, skipping class and disappointing those who loved me. I sang a song about drinking too much, wasting my teenage years and when I finished, I scoffed at myself, feeling pathetic. I put the guitar away, and peered at my door to see Tetra leaning against its frame. Her face held a mixture of concern and disappointment. I turned away. She had never heard that song before.
"You don't write any more, do you?" she asked delicately, walking over to my computer desk. She sat in the chair and spun it around to face me.
"Not really." I answered, scratching my head. "Inspiration is hard to come by."
"I'm sure you'll get into it again," she smiled oddly. "You wrote good music in high school. I didn't think you'd ever stop."
"Me neither." We were silent for a moment. "What about you? Do you still write?"
"All the time," she laughed. "I can never stop. The music I wrote in high school was mediocre. I found my inspiration after I left Timberfalls."
I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. "L.A must have been exciting."
"It was great..." she mused, staring off with a forlorn smile. "I met a lot of really interesting people," she continued. "You know, the unforgettable kind, but not the kind to stick around for too long."
I leaned forward and clasped my hands together, wondering why she was telling me this. She simply continued speaking.
"I played my music at bars and poetry clubs," she chuckled again. "I took a culinary course just for fun and learned how to make gourmet food."
I stood up and pointed at her. "You should do that."
She simpered as I walked over to my closet and put on a burgundy sweater. I sat back down on the bed and faced her. She spun around on my lime green desk chair idly, childishly, much like she used to.
"So, what about you?" she inquired, as though it strained her.
"Well," I spoke through a sigh. "I went to College for general arts, dropped out, and have worked at Wal-Mart ever since." I waited for her laughter. She bit her lip, so I gestured for her to continue. "Go ahead. Let it out."
She allowed herself to snicker wholeheartedly, and I facetiously rolled my eyes as we heard movement downstairs. Instantly, Tetra scampered from my room, leaving the space feeling empty. As I followed behind her, I felt strange about the conversation we'd had because it was so normal. We hadn't spoken that way to each other since before the first time I kissed her, in the stairwell during our early school dance.
Atticus and Nikki were both back. I had begged Nikki via text not to tell Atticus about my outburst the previous night, and she reluctantly agreed. We went about the rest of our night as we usually would. We played video games, ate food, and had a few beers before eventually going to bed. The only difference was, we had an addition. One that made more difference to me than I let off.
I laughed and cracked stupid jokes like I always did. At times, I pretended she wasn't even there, but she was on my mind the entire time. Watching her laugh and interact with everyone was like something pulled out of a dream, or maybe a nightmare.
At one point, we were watching T.V when the face of Abigail White appeared. Everyone shut up while the commercial played; it showed Abigail talking about her parent's real estate business. I had seen the commercial a million times; the twenty year old red-headed girl, who was known around the town for her family's fortune and her cheesy commercials representing it, would recite the same old line in a monotone voice with a fake smile smothered in red lipstick.
"You know why the White Real Estate business is so successful?" Nikki inquired, and we all looked to her. "Because they use that girl for all their ads instead of some fat balding dude like most real estate commercials."
"She's a dreadful actor," Atticus said.
"It's because she's hot." Tetra laughed, and I had to stop my head from snapping for her. Such a statement wasn't uncommon to hear, but from her mouth, it sounded like another language. Tetra was always the insecure one, the one who would glare at any female who may have posed a threat to her. For her to admit that another girl was attractive was completely out of character for her, but I didn't say anything on it. When the commercial ended, idle conversation continued.
It's because she's hot, I thought to myself, considering that was more like something Nikki or I would say.
I went to bed before everyone else did and plugged my headphones in to drown out the sound of their laughter. I stared up at the ceiling and allowed myself adequate time to think about Tetra, for the first time in two years. Sure, there were times where the girl would cross my mind within that time frame, but I never allowed her in for more than a moment or two, where I'd walk by a flower shop or a music store and I think to myself that Tetra would like those things. This time, I granted myself more room for thought.
I looked at her in my mind and didn't shudder or force her away. I chose not to think of her with dread, but with reverence. She had clearly done well over the past four years because she carried herself with good posture, with a bright smile and a joyous laugh. She no longer appeared drab or callous; she was bold. She was self-assured, and I hated myself for hating that. I should have been happy for her, but I couldn't be, because Tetra was closer to where I wanted to be than I ever was.
When I finally drifted off, I dreamt of a night we had together, where I laid in my bed at my parent's place and Tetra stayed the night. She wore pink pyjamas and had her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. She sat on the floor beside me, and with my guitar, sang me a sad song about love and promise. I smiled when she finished, then reached out and took her hand, holding it tightly.
I woke up in the middle of the night as though I had just been pulled from a coma, and that was when I knew, I was not over that girl; not even a little.
A/N: Okay, so I haven't attempted to write original fiction in years. I'm not even sure where the idea for this story came from, it sort of just conjured and wouldn't leave me alone. I figured there is no harm in uploading it, and hoping for some feedback. :P
It's a lot more difficult to get readers on here versus fanfiction, so if you are reading this and liked it, want me to continue or have some constructive criticism, please drop a review!
First person narrative really isn't my speciality; I find I write a lot better in third person, but my vision for this story just wouldn't allow that. Anyway, yeah, if you have any feedback, I would be very grateful :'D