Morning. The beginning of the day or the ending of a long night. I guess it depends on who you are and what your opinion may be on the subject. Mornings were never looked forward to by Everett Clausen Livingston V, Ev to all his family and friends. His full first name, a name handed down through the years in his family, was only used to irritate him or get his attention quickly. He never did like his name, but was thankful he wasn't named Leslie, Ashley, or any other effeminate name.
Slow to wake and slower to get out of bed to start the day, Ev would jump at the first knock on his door which was timed to fifteen minutes by his overly punctual mother. This was after he would shut off the annoying ringing of the alarm clock on his nightstand. If his door wasn't opened five minutes later, a harder and much louder rap on the door followed.
This was not one of those mornings. Groggy and still full of sleep, he stumbled to the door and opened it only a few minutes after the alarm sounded. He winced at the brightness of the hall light and turned his head for a moment to stop his sensitive eyes from screaming at him. Dumbass. He knew better than to look at bright lights first thing. He didn't know why he got up so quickly and mused that he would have to have a serious talk with himself about such a foolish endeavor, but, he was up.
He glanced back to his window and saw the morning rays peeking in through the blinds. Ev always prayed for gloomy mornings so that it wouldn't take so long for his eyes to adjust. Bright hallway light and sunshine through his window was not a good way for his day to start. He could hear his family bustling about: his parents in their room down at the end of the hall; his twin sister, Cory, was across the hall from his room; and his younger brother, Doug, next door..
Although they were twins, Cory and Ev looked nothing alike and didn't get along all that well. In fact, Ev wasn't particularly close to Doug, either, he being three years younger. All were in their own world getting ready for the day. Cory usually got up an hour earlier than everyone else so she could have the bathroom before her brothers. Ev and Doug could usually manage to keep out of each other's way long enough for both of them to get ready. Their parents had a bathroom in their bedroom.
The deep blue of Ev's room somewhat muted the brightness of the intruding sun. He had fought for and lost his desire for a black bedroom, parents 2, Ev 1, but they had compromised on the blue and everyone was happy. Sort of. Ev still wanted the black. It wasn't that he was into Goth or the dark side of life, he simply liked the color, just as his sister, green or his brother, red. Ev liked black. He tended to like sports teams whose main color was black. It was a never ending burr on his mother's butt when Ev would dress in a black shirt for a wedding. "If I didn't know better, I would think you were going to a funeral," she would say. (Didn't marriages lead to funerals?) Sometimes, he did it just to push her buttons. She couldn't even argue that he didn't look good in the color, because he did. It went well with his dark brown hair, darker eyes, and his skin tone.
Ev's walls were mostly bare except for a few posters, a bulletin board, and a print from M.C. Escher. His desk was by the window where his laptop and printer stayed and there was a small recliner in one corner where he liked to relax and read. His desk chair was for studying, his recliner for freeing his mind, be it getting lost in a book or listening to music.
Ev closed the door without actually shutting it and stumbled his way to his desk where he found his jeans draped over the chair from the night before. Having showered before turning in, as was his custom to cut down on his time to get ready in the morning, Ev dressed quickly in the dim light without any difficulty, his usual tee shirt and sneakers accompanying the aforementioned blue jeans. Without even seeing a mirror, he knew his short hair was a mess and would need to be either combed in place (a fruitless adventure most of the time) or wetted down and rewashed.
The bathroom was open and unoccupied when he shuffled across the carpeted hallway. A muted conversation was going on in his parents' room, but was too muffled to be understood. Ev stopped for a second to listen, but after not hearing anything of note, he went into the bathroom and shut the door.
'Boy, I look old,' Everett IV remarked to himself as he lathered his face for his morning shave. He always wondered when it would happen, when he would start thinking he was old or looked old. It sort of sneaked up on him, at least in his mind it did. He couldn't remember ever thinking that way before. Maybe it was the creased lines in his forehead or the fullness of his face. It didn't matter. He was tired and he looked tired even though he got his usual six and a half hours sleep. The puffiness and dark circles under his eyes didn't lie. Everett knew he needed more rest, but his business he helped found was flourishing and he had to keep the profit margins at a good level, didn't he? As a VP for a large construction company, his mind was in a constant whirl about pricing and profit, cutting corners and squeezing a hundred dollars here or there. But now, in the reflection of the mirror, an older man stared back at him when he remembered a younger face just a day ago.
His wife of twenty-one years, Mary, was standing next to him and brushing her hair in a business-like manner. "Did you tell him?" Mary asked as the last stubborn hair was put into place. Even at forty-one with three children, she was still a strikingly beautiful woman, a real head turner.
"Tell him what?" Everett asked as his thoughts came back to the task at hand.
"He knows about tonight. He doesn't need reminding." Everett rolled his eyes to himself. It seemed as if Mary was always on Ev about something.
"I think you need to tell him again, just to make sure." Mary eyed Everett and waited for his response.
Everett thought carefully for a moment, putting his thoughts together before formulating an answer. The last thing he wanted was an argument before going to work. Lord knew he would have plenty of arguments at work. He certainly didn't need another one. "Maybe we're being too hard on him. It's been almost a year."
"We agreed on a year, remember? We shouldn't go back on that. It wouldn't be right." She reached around him and put her brush into the drawer. "Besides," she continued, "it'll be good for him to get out. He's been moping over Amanda for over a month now."
"Well, they did date for almost two years," Everett replied as he made the first careful swipe with his blade down his right jaw line.
"He needs to move on," Mary said defiantly. She fussed with her blouse collar until she was satisfied with its look. Mary always wanted to project a totally professional image when clients met her in her law office. "Are you going to tell him?" she asked again.
"Yes," he sighed, "I'll tell him." He wanted to tell her to tell Ev herself, but he bit his tongue on that one.
"Good," she said cheerfully before kissing his freshly shaved skin. "See you downstairs."
"See you," he replied, but she was already gone. She always seemed to be in a hurry. Just like when she wanted Ev punished for a year. No compromise, no discussion. It was a year and that was that. "We agreed on a year, remember?" No, he didn't remember agreeing to that at all.
Everett sighed and continued shaving, being careful not to nick himself as he was prone to do when he got in a hurry. There was no hurry this morning. Time was plentiful. 'Time,' he thought to himself, 'where did it go?' It didn't seem like twenty-one years to him, more like ten or eleven. It went by even faster once the kids were born. A blur. A total and complete blur. His own father had warned him about it not too long after the twins were born. Everett hadn't believed him, but he was right. Dead on right like he usually was. The twins would be graduating high school in a few months and Doug wasn't too far behind them. What was it, three years difference? Something like that.
He splashed warm water on his face when he finished, looking into the mirror once more. He looked younger with the stubble gone, but he still wasn't happy with what he saw in his tired reflection. "Got to take it easier, old man," he grumbled aloud. Laughing to himself, he wiped his face dry and went back to the bedroom.
"She didn't tell me she was going in early," Ev complained when he learned that Cory had already left for school. He was busy pushing the cornflakes around his bowl between bites.
"She said she told you yesterday," his mom explained from behind The Wall Street Journal.
"I don't remember that." Ev racked his brain trying to remember his sister saying something about it, but it escaped him. Doug had gone with her as well. Sometimes, Ev thought she did things like that on purpose just to make him mad. Well, it was working.
He didn't really mind walking to school. It was cool, but not cold that morning and it was only a twenty minute walk, but he was sure she hadn't said anything about leaving early.
Mary put her paper down and frowned at Everett who was busy sipping his coffee and seemingly oblivious to the entire conversation being played out before him. "You can ride with me if you want, but I'll be leaving in a few minutes."
Ev pushed his bowl away and shook his head. "That's okay. I'll walk." Rides with his mom usually led to her prying into his life, welcomed or not. Questions about school, his girl friend (if he had one), or basketball among other things.
Mary frowned at this as well. "Suit yourself." She gathered up her newspaper and jacket. "Clean up the table before you leave."
A bit startled, Everett looked up from his plate. "What dear?"
Mary looked at her husband then nodded in Ev's direction.
"Oh …yeah…." Everett cleared his throat before putting his fork down. He looked at his son, who was absently moving his spoon in the small pool of milk that was still left in the bowl. "Ev?"
"Don't forget about tonight, you know, the dance."
"I haven't forgotten," Ev replied sullenly. "I still don't know why I have to go. My year is almost up."
"I know, but rules are rules."
"They could be bent a little," Ev said. "You can trust me. I won't screw up. I promise."
Everett wanted to forget about the whole thing, but he knew there would be hell to pay if he allowed this to go any further. In his heart, he knew Ev had been punished enough and he did trust him, but he couldn't back down now. "I'm sure you wouldn't screw up, but you're coming with us. Who knows, maybe you'll have a good time."
"I doubt that very much." Ev pushed back his chair and took his bowl and glass to the sink. He rinsed them off and put them in the dishwasher. With his back still turned away from his parents, he said softly, "Let's just drop it. I'm going, okay?"
"Okay," Everett said.
"Well," Mary said happily when it was settled, "I'd better get moving." She kissed her husband on the cheek. "Love you, dear."
"Love you, too."
She turned to Ev, who had begun to walk out of the kitchen. "Ev."
Ev stopped and turned back. "Yeah?"
"Don't mess around after school. We have to leave by five."
"Five?" he asked incredulously. "The dance doesn't start until six!" What on earth was he going to do for an hour before the dance, besides go crazy?
"Yes, five," she replied impatiently. "We have to help set up."
"Fine, fine," Ev said, throwing his hands in the air while walking away. "Why don't we leave at four just to make sure?" Without looking back, he bounded up the stairs two at a time.
Mary started to say something but thought better of it. Sighing, she picked up her briefcase and left the house.
A cool breeze greeted Ev as he made his way down the street. Walking to school helped Ev calm down although it took a while. He didn't understand his mother's motives and perhaps he never would. How could he not remember the dance that evening? It was constantly thrown up in his face by them or Cory over the past few weeks and he was simply tired of it. Yes, he was going and no, he didn't have a date. How could they not know that? And that little game she played making his dad remind him of it, he saw right through that one. Yes, he had screwed up badly the year before and he probably deserved the punishment meted out by them, although not being allowed to stay home alone for a year seemed a bit excessive to him. But, it was the constant reminding of his punishment that made him the most angry. We're going out tonight, so you'll have to go to your grandparents' because Cory has a date. You know the rules. Yes, he knew the rules alright. He knew them the first weekend after his fiasco and they never let him forget it.
He truthfully did not mind going except for the fact that he was dateless, thanks to Amanda breaking up with him a month or two before. I think we need to date other people, Ev. He wasn't ready to date other people, but she sure was. It didn't take long for him to see her hanging around with Greg Atsalis, heavyweight on the wrestling team. Ev didn't feel like dating anyone then. He still felt lost and a bit confused over the breakup even though things hadn't been going smoothly in the months leading up to it. He thought it would pass, hoped it would pass, but it didn't. His fault, her fault, it simply didn't matter at that time. It was no one's fault except that she wanted out and he could do nothing to change her mind. Tough loss, Ev. Better luck next time.
He kicked at a loose stone that blocked his path and watched it skip and bound ahead of him. As it disappeared into a sewer, Ev thought about the evening that lay ahead. One consolation was that some of his friends were going and he could hang out with them. Drawback was that all of them would be with their dates. He really hated being a fifth wheel. And he imagined Amanda and Greg would be there and that was something he wasn't looking forward to. Ev and Amanda had gone to almost every dance together since their sophomore year and he knew it was going to hurt seeing her with another guy. That was his main argument for not going. If he could have gone to his grandparents' house and skipped going to the dance, he would have, but they were out of town so he had to go. Cory and Doug would be there with their dates, too. He just couldn't win.
The school came into sight quicker than he thought it would and it surprised him. He glanced at his watch and saw he still had twenty minutes before the homeroom bell would sound, giving him plenty of time to go to his locker and get ready for the day.
His school, Patterson High School, had three levels and enrolled approximately eleven hundred students. Ev's locker was on the second level in the extreme east wing. Having only three minutes between classes, sometimes it was difficult for him to maneuver through the crowded hallways, get to his locker and make it to class in a timely manner, so carrying most of his books n a backpack became a normal thing for him. During his fourth period, which included lunch, he was able to get to his locker and get his books for his final three classes.
He was lucky this year, his senior year, that Amanda was in none of his classes although they both lamented that fact before the school year began. Now it was a blessing. Seeing her in the halls between was bad enough. His stomach would knot up whenever he saw her and he wondered if she felt the same pain whenever she saw him. Apparently not. He wondered that a lot. Then he felt stupid and angry with himself for it. When would it stop hurting?
Ev ate lunch by himself that day for no particular reason. He sometimes ate with Brian Goldman or Will Choate, friends since grade school, but it was never an everyday thing. In front of him was a meatloaf concoction with mashed potatoes and gravy, something that looked very unappetizing but tasted pretty good to Ev. By their sophomore year, everyone knew what was good or bad in the cafeteria according to their own taste. Few of Ev's friends understood his liking of the meatloaf, but that didn't bother him. He couldn't understand Brian's desire to eat two or three bowls of spinach every day. Some things just couldn't be explained.
The five minute warning buzzer sounded as Ev was putting his plate and tray in the window for cleaning. His next class, English, was just a few rooms away from the cafeteria, so he made his way through the congested hallway to his classroom with four minutes to spare. His seat was near the back, two rows away from the windows, so he edged his way down the narrow aisle until he was next to his desk.
Mrs. Blackmore was already seated at her desk to the left and in front of the chalkboard and watched as the students slowly filed into her classroom. She allowed low tones before her class began, but anything more than that earned a tap of her ruler on the desk which became her one and only warning, kind of like a rattlesnake before it strikes. Long essays on mundane topics became her fitting punishment for excessive talking and it didn't take long for students to catch on. Ev liked her because she was tough, but always fair. She was his English teacher the previous year and he made sure he got her again when it came time to sign up for senior classes. He always said she taught him more about English in one year than he learned all through his first ten years of school.
He set his backpack on the seat a bit louder than he intended. Ev winced from the noise and looked up quickly to see Mrs. Blackmore's reaction. There was none.
The girl to his left, next to the window, looked up from her book and frowned. Could you slam it just a little bit louder? Shaking her head in disgust and sighing, she went back to studying.
Ev heard the sigh and looked over his left shoulder to see the girl studying intently, her eyes narrowed and forehead furrowed. He groped through his mind for her name and came up empty, although he vaguely remembered helping her with a math problem once or twice. They had talked numerous times before as well. Why couldn't he remember her name? For as long as he could remember, Ev was horrible with names until he got to know a person. He went back to his backpack and withdrew his textbook and notepad. After zipping it shut, he dropped the bag to the floor and pushed it under the seat, then sat down.
Beth looked up again and sighed from the noise that had broken her concentration once more. Why does he have to be so loud today? She was short and petite with burgundy-like red hair and expressive light brown eyes. Her hair hung straight to her shoulders this day as it always did when she didn't care what it looked like. Beth pushed several strands away from her eyes and went back to her book. She wore little makeup, not that she really needed any, and she never wore a dress to school, always preferring jeans and a tee shirt or sweater. Considered above average in looks by most and "okay" by her male classmates, she seldom dated and didn't mind that fact. Most of the time. This was one of those times.
When school work was at its premium and college was on her mind, dating and boys took a back seat on the list of things that mattered to Beth. Being a couple with someone was fun for her, but she never took it seriously, never dreamed silly thoughts that "this was the one". Thoughts like that seemed stupid to her and she thought it to be quite amusing to see her classmates get so serious about their boyfriend or girlfriend. She had other more important things to worry about, namely what she was going to do with her life after high school.