WAKING UP was an experience for Jared. It had been years since he had felt an inkling of the comfort that is sleeping wrapped around someone he didn’t have to worry about stabbing him in the back. It had been months since he last let his guard down enough to be intimate with anyone other than himself.
And yet this girl, someone who had never even been properly informed of what they were, had somehow blown clear past all of his defenses before he even realized they were down. It gave him an uneasy feeling the fact that he responded to her so quickly. He had thought himself incapable of feeling anything for another person other than hate and mistrust after all he had been through.
Jared’s life wasn’t rough in the beginning. He grew up in a normal household, with normal parents, a normal older sister and a normal dog. Overall his early life was completely and utterly normal. And then came puberty.
His freshman year of high school brought the normal bouts of acne and anger indicative of a boy on the journey of becoming a man. Being the nerd that he originally was, he had read every article and book on the subject that he could get his grubby little hands on, including some not so hidden Playboys that his dad kept stashed in a cooler in the garage. Everything that he had been experiencing was so tragically normal that it was almost a relief when he started hearing the voices. At first he thought himself crazy, maybe mad like the hatter from Alice and Wonderland; until the voices began to sound familiar. He could make out his sister’s voice, shrill and lively even when muted. Then it was his parents. Soon he was hearing every thought contained in his high school and he realized what real crazy was.
It was a chilly day in November, the day before Thanksgiving break ironically, when one of his classmates, a boy who had been picked on and bullied for years and who Jared had been close acquaintances with moving in similar social circles, decided that he couldn’t handle the pressure anymore. Jared had known that the boy, Kevin, was unstable just by listening to his rather disturbing thoughts day in and day out. He could hear the boy plotting something big, something that would stop his never-ending pain. Jared had known all this and yet he had done nothing. He was still getting a handle on control and though the boy’s thoughts were filled with darkness, on the outside he appeared put together and in control. Jared feared that at best no one would believe him and at worst he’d put himself in harm’s way if Kevin decided to take out his anger on him. So Jared stayed quiet, never even telling his sister, who was in the year above him, his concerns.
Jared had been sitting out on the lacrosse field where he normally took his lunch so he could avoid any awkwardness in the school cafeteria. His sister had often offered him a seat with her friends, but he usually turned her down in favor of his solo spot. It wasn’t that he was anti-social, it’s just that he knew one day he would grow into his looks and be, if not attractive, then at least average. However, he didn’t want to sit for forty-five minutes and hear his sister’s harpy friends with their high-pitched inner voices squawking and gushing over it. He thought that people who said women mature faster than men were horribly misinformed and probably home-schooled.
It was for this very reason that Jared heard rather than saw the commotion that happened without any warning. One minute he was biting into an apple, geometry book balanced on one knee, and the next he found himself sprawled on his side with his ears ringing as his lungs fought to pull in air. All around he could see bits of rock and drywall lying beside him and for one minute he wondered if he was dreaming. Slowly he started to make out the sounds of screams over his groans as he pushed his body up into a seated position. The scene that unfolded before him was straight out of a war movie.