Your biggest hurdle isn’t your opponent, it is yourself.Brandon Todd
Windenburg High School
While trying to visually blend into his locker when his secret crush Ashleigh had walked up behind him, where she was now talking to some friends, Declan felt someone tapping his arm, as he turned to see who it was he wished he hadn’t.
A girl. Even worse, a pretty one and one he had never seen before.
Instantly his body locked up, as did his jaw and all he could do was stare like a fool.
“Excuse me, are you Deacon by any chance? That teacher over there told me to talk to you about getting caught up on Math. I am a new transfer, my first day today.” the girl now told him with a sweet smile.
Declan just blankly stared at her, like a scared deer in the headlights, then he quickly looked in the indicated direction at the teacher, then back at her.
“Hello?!” she asked, her smile now replaced by a confused look.
“Nnnn … no.” Declan labored out.
“No what? No, you’re not Deacon?”
“Nnnnn … no.” he managed, then shook his head.
“Okay, do you know where I can find that mysterious Deacon then?”
“Uh … ahem …. urgh … uh …” Declan tried to say something, but looked more like a fish underwater.
“Oh my God. Are you like off your meds or on something you shouldn’t be? Or are you special needs? If you are, I am sorry, but that teacher didn’t mention that. Fine, you know what, just don’t worry about it. I guess I’ll figure it out somehow. I’ll ask someone else. This is already the worst first day at a new school ever, and that’s saying something. Just carry one with … whatever that was you were doing. Looked like you were snuggling your locker, but hey, I don’t judge.”
“No Deacon. No needs. Not Deacon. Deaclyn. I am. No, Deaclon, not. No meds! I … uh .. Dicken. Deac… No Deac.. Deck … Dec … Dec … uh… De.. De…De…De…DE!” Declan tried, but couldn’t get out a single coherent thing, leaving him frustrated and humiliated, which made the stutter even worse.
“Hee hee hee …. What? Wow, that took a turn for the worse fast! Are you all right? Are you playing or serious right now, I really cannot tell? Oh my God, you are serious! Your head isn’t going to explode or something like that right?” she giggled amused which added insult to injury for Declan.
“THERE! HERE!” Declan exclaimed, gesturing wildly, as he saw Rett entering the school hallway now, which triggered Rett to join them, chuckling.
“Hey dude. What’s with the twitching? Did you lick an outlet? Or do you literally have ants in your pants? And who is this ray of sunshine in this ugly old shed?” Everett grinned at the girl who was with his brother and apparently very confused by his behavior.
“Uh yeah … I’m new here and looking for a Deacon to help me get caught up with Math.” she told Rett with a few side-glances at a still oddly twitching Declan.
“The only Deacon I know at this school is a basketball genius but dumber than a box of rocks if it comes to Math. You sure you don’t mean Declan? This guy here? Declan, for fuck’s sake, snap out of it already, will ya?!” Everett pointed at his brother, who froze up for a moment, then calmed down, while staring wide-eyed at the girl.
“Possible. So much info all morning long and all at once was a bit much for my little head. Some Mr. McMichaels said to go find what sounded like Deacon and pointed at him, so he may have said Declan, but whoever he is, he’s got some serious wires crossed.” the girl told Rett, with a frown at Declan.
“Ha ha ha, nah he’s totally normal for the most part, just freaked out because you are a girl. He doesn’t get around those much these days and you can probably guess why. I’m Everett. That’s my brother – pretty sure his name is Declan, if not, my whole family has been screwing that up all my life. He’s definitely a Math genius all right and definitely the man you want. Isn’t that right, Dec-Man?”
“Okay.” Declan agree mechanically, while still staring at the new girl.
“Ah, cool. Hi Everett, and hi Declan, I am Rory, sorry about being a girl and for calling you Deacon, which sounds nothing like Declan so definitely my bad. But did you just seriously call him Dec-Man?”
“I seriously did. He’s a gamer. Get it, Pac-Man, Declan … Dec-Man. Not too much else you can do with his name.”
“Oh, gotcha, makes sense. Gaming, huh? I am a gamer. What do you play, Declan?”
“Uh, ahem… ummm ….” Declan couldn’t get a word out again, blushed deeply, quickly turned around and hurried down the hall, disappearing towards the bathrooms.
“Ha, his stomach isn’t the sturdiest. The chili dogs we had last night are probably angrily barking at him and he’ll be shittin’ his brains out for the rest of the day. Princess can’t handle anything spicier than a cough drop. I’ll go check on him. Here, give me your number and I’ll have him text ya later, for the tutoring.” Everett lied about their dinner to gloss over Declan’s offensive and otherwise inexplicable behavior.
“All right, sounds good. Good luck for him with his angry chili dogs.” Rory grinned.
A little later Rett burst into the bathrooms where two boys were talking.
“Decs, you in here?” Everett called into the room.
“Yeah.” came the scratchy throated reply from one of the stalls.
“Ah. Well, bye guys, see you later.” Everett turned towards the two boys.
“But …” one tried.
“BYE!” Everett puffed up and the boys hurried out, scared.
“Hey brother, you shittin’? If not, open that door. I don’t feel like talking to a crapper door, man.” Rett addressed Declan, who unlocked the stall door and exited.
“Is she laughing?”
“No, but confused as hell, so am I. What the fuck, man? All she wanted is Math. You can do that in your sleep. And you will. I got her number for you and your ass is going to make that call or text her. It’s my rep on the line, I told her you would and am not gonna let you make a liar outta me. Copy that?!”
“I … ahem … it’s just …”
“Just that she got a set of tits and you go on lock down. I know. Not the first time, but bruh, you need to get that in check pronto. How are you ever going to have a job if you cannot talk to women? How are you going to survive college? Or is your plan to join a monastery after graduation?”
“Don’t remind me!” Declan got out, then convulsed, ran back into the stall from which he had emerged, and Rett heard him dry-heave.
“Good lord, dude. What am I gonna do with you?”
“Can’t you handle Rory? You’re okay at Math.” Declan said after his stomach settled down and he cleaned himself off.
“Sure, just who’s Rory again and what did he do or say to you?”
“You kidding me?! He is a she! That girl from just now! Rory!”
“Oh, right. Sorry, you will handle that one yourself. I gotta deal with Chris after school. He’s got his boxers up his ass something fierce, because his soccer practice got cancelled earlier today and he ended up walking right in on me nibbling on his lil sister. He wasn’t too impressed. Still partially deaf in that one ear.”
“Ah, no worries, he’s got a forgiving nature. He’ll be over it by tomorrow if I play my cards right.”
“Wait, why Ashleigh?! I thought you were going after … uh … that bi-racial girl …”
“Gotta be more specific man. You mean the part Asian, the half-Latina or the coffee colored beauty? Spoiler alert, you’d be right either way. Whoever agrees to put out first, wins a ride on my happy stick. Reminds me, need to stop by the drugstore after school. Out of raincoats for my little Rett. And by little of course I mean epically huge.” Everett laughed at his own crudeness.
Somehow both boys made it through the rest of school for the day, both spent the afternoon at their grandparents’ place, Rett practicing music with Blaine, Declan playing video games, when someone came to the door.
“Honey, can you get that? My hands are dirty!” I yelled from the kitchen, where I was preparing dinner.
Declan got up off the couch and went to open.
“No way, small world! You are my new neighbor?! Give me a hundred breaks.” Rory said with clear surprise in her voice.
“Ah … ummm.”
“Yeah. So thanks for calling me about Math. Did you forget? Your brother did give you my number, right? And how’s that stomach of yours? Chili dogs calm down yet?”
“Who is it, honey?” I called over from the kitchen, when I got no reply, I went to check and was glad I did, as my wonderful grandson was frozen up like Walt Disney. Sigh.
“Oh hello there. Good evening.” I greeted, smiling, to distract from the stiff-as-a-board 17 year old next to me, while I was admittedly surprised to find a girl about Declan’s age at my doorstep.
“Hi. I am Rory Flynn, my parents asked me to make the rounds around the neighborhood to introduce us as the new neighbors. We just arrived last night. They would have come too, but got called off to work at the last minute. As usual.”
“Oh, doctors or law enforcement? My son, Declan’s dad, used to work in law enforcement.” I made small talk as I let the girl inside, as Declan was still completely malfunctioning. I swear, you could sell him off as a wax figure in that current state.
“Thanks. And neither. They’re both scientists. Some lab thing they are working on did something … it’s all hush hush.” Rory told me, with a raised eyebrow at Declan, still frozen in place.
“Well, Rory, very nice to meet you. I am Viktoria Cameron, I live here with my husband Blaine. This is my lovely grandson Declan, he and his brother Everett are just visiting, they live with their parents on the little isle. Rett and my husband are practicing the guitar right now, but I can get them right quick.”
“Oh, no, not needed. And we already met, Declan, Everett and I. Declan and I are in some of the same classes.”
“Oh, how nice. Do you want to show Rory around Windenburg some, Declan?”
“Uh .. ahm.. ahem …” he stuttered.
“No. I mean yes. Yes, I do.”
“Ah, so that’s the trick. Yell at him and he functions.” Rory laughed.
“That or a light slap in the back of the head. And by light I mean lay him out like a whack-a-mole. So, don’t you want to introduce me to your pretty girlfriend, Declan!?” Blaine appeared, followed by Everett, probably taking a break while checking on how long it would be till dinner.
“Uhm.. ahem .. Rory. Not girlfriend. Just .. girl …” Declan stuttered out, pointing like a toddler at Rory.
“Ah, yeah, well, Blaine. Grandpa.” Blaine chuckled, mimicking poor Declan, whilst pointing at himself.
“Rett, why don’t you and Declan show Rory around the neighborhood? You should be back in plenty of time for dinner.” I suggested, while covertly nudging Blaine.
“Sure. Come on Dec-Man. Rory, after you, Mylady.”
Everett didn’t let Declan decide on anything else, as he pulled him outside with himself and Rory. They walked down the streets, Everett and Rory made up the entire conversation.
“Ah, and this here is where we all hang out most of the time, as you may have noticed Windenburg isn’t exactly a hot spot for young people. Called Everett Heights.” Rett pointed proudly at the sign with a motion of his head.
“Everett Heights? As in Everett Cameron? Is the naming coincidental? Or was this named after you?”
“Other way around, I was named after it, cos I literally was conceived here.” Everett proclaimed amused.
“No way! Hopefully not on that playground over there.”
“Oh yes way. I wear that fact like a badge, I mean, come on, how much cooler is knowing you’re a product of a moment of unbridled passion, over the notion that the only reason you are around is because your dad drilled your mom in the marital bed till she was knocked up, right? It’s a big park, there is a swimming hole and places for tents and BBQs and crap in the back. I have faith in my parents that they made me somewhere back there, all romantic when the mood struck, not on a swing set. Although, I can’t really fully put it past them. If you haven’t figured that out yet, let me tell ya, the Camerons are not your average family.” Rett told her grinning.
“Yeah, I noticed. How about you, Declan? Is there a Declan Heights too?” Rory tried once more to involve him in the conversation, but failed, just like all the times before. Just like all the previous times, he said nothing, just awkwardly fidgeted while staring at his feet.
“Nah, he was planned and made in a bed like the proper boy he is. I was the oopsie kid, conceived right after my parents had decided one kid is plenty. Nope, there I suddenly was, just like a living, breathing F.U. to their planning. Another thing our family is notorious for, unplanned pregnancies at the worst possible time. Called the ‘Cameron Curse’. Yeah.” Everett answered for Declan. Again.
“Good to know. I’ll be sure to make a note for our fridge at home.” Rory said dryly.
“Hahaha, I like your sense of humor, dry and serious, just like my brother Declan here. Too bad he can’t get any words out right now, but if he did, you’d be shocked how smart and funny he really is. Maybe soon, once he gets to know you better, right Dec-Man? How about you Rory, any siblings?”
“Nope, just me.”
“Pity. The world could use a bunch more girls like you.”
Declan suddenly groaned, then puked next to them, after a moment of surprise Rett and Rory couldn’t help but laugh.
“I have to say, I fully agree with your brother there. Do those lame lines work on the local girls? Cos I find them kinda hurl-worthy just like he evidently does too. Seriously now though, is he all right?” Rory’s amusement gave way to a worried look at Declan.
“He’s fine. It’s how he maintains his girlish figure. Tougher than he looks, aren’t ya, Dec-Man? And yes, the lines do work, thank you for asking. So where are you originally from, Rory, where the women are so much more demanding than in our little hamlet here?”
“Bridgeport. Don’t know about demanding, but it’s a huge town, means school are much bigger and dating just works differently.”
They walked around more, Declan wondered the entire time why he was even there, breathing a sigh of relief when the boys finally dropped Rory off at her front door. But as she turned around and looked so sweet waving back at them, smiling at him, him, not Everett, who was busy with his phone, Declan felt a flash of regret that it was over. As difficult as this had been, it had also been kinda … nice. Although, had Rett not been with them, it would have been nothing but a disaster.
The Flynns had moved into the small home just across the lake from our home meaning the suspicion lies near that there was an immediate correlation between that fact and the sudden change in activities whenever the boys came over.
Not for Everett, much like before, he spent most of his time learning the ropes concerning everything to do with creating music from Blaine.
But Declan on the other hand no longer had to be surgically removed from our video game console, instead he would sit out on our patio reading my entire library up and down in all kinds of weather, unless I worried about his health and dragged him indoors, where he then would often end up glued to the window like a moth.
Did I mention that our patio faced the lake, more specifically a certain small house located across from it, one with brand-new tenants?
One night Declan suddenly came running, visibly in a panic, he passed me in the doorway right as I was exiting my office, yelling at me over his shoulder.
“I am not here!!!” then slammed the door shut behind himself, almost in my face.
Baffled and befuddled I stood there, before I could react, there was a knock on the door.
“Rory, hi!” I exclaimed as I opened, now putting two and two together as I let her inside.
“Good evening, Mrs. Cameron. Sorry to bother you, but is he here? Declan, I mean?”
“He is! Straight down the hall in the office.” ‘Payback is a bitch’ I thought, smirking to myself.
Rory knocked, then entered while I watched, imagining Declan cursing me in his mind, but after peeking into my office, she turned right back around to me.
“Empty, Mrs. Cameron. I think he ditched us. Out the window, it’s open.”
“Oh, you gotta be … ARGH!” I stepped closer and found the blinds moving in the breeze in front of an open window. Eye roll. That boy would be the death of me.
“You ladies looking for this? Looked exactly like one of them grandson things we have from what I could make out when he ran smack dab into me, so I thought I’d bring him with in case you want him. Climbing out of windows now. Seriously kid!” Blaine entered the hallway from the living room, pulling a very reluctant Declan with.
“Declan, really!” I groaned, shaking my head at him, when he already didn’t know what to do with himself anymore.
“I … I … ahem ..” he muttered, trying to get away from Blaine, which failed.
“AH AH AH ! Nuh uh! Dafuq kid? Mind your manners. What the heck is with that kid these days, babygirl!?” Blaine addressed our grandson first, then me. I just shrugged in reply.
“Declan, I just need some help with studying. I thought I got it all down, but the current Math stuff I left at my old school and what you are doing right now is totally different, I got myself totally confused now, and can’t even put two and two together anymore. Major panic. If I fail Math my parents will KILL me, I am seriously desperate or I wouldn’t bother you knowing how you react … I just don’t know anybody at that school yet and you are the only one I know who could help me.” Rory now pleaded.
“Ah … I … I … sorry … can’t.” with those words Declan ran out, the front door this time, all we could do was watch him sprint down the road, presumably home, I called after him, in vain, of course.
That boy was a goner, leaving Blaine and I to speechlessly stew in the uncomfortable moment with Rory. Oh, I was not happy with the kid and would have loved to spank his butt, regardless of his age! Just you wait, Declan, I thought to myself. Next time I would see him, he would get a few earfuls about this from me!
Behind me, I heard Blaine rumble and grumble.
“Are you kidding me?! What the heck was that?! I am going to fucking nail all the fucking windows shut in this shed and lock all doors! First we have a problem keeping that Riordan out, and now we can’t keep that Declan in!” Blaine roared.