Missing in Somerville
A.J. Raven © 2020
All Rights Reserved
“Jerry, wake up,” came my mother’s voice, the same voice I’d heard every morning for as long as I could remember.
“Eeeep, Mom!” I cried. I was in one of my smallest shorts and a vest. “This is so uncool!” I concealed myself in the covers.
“Well, it’s not as if I haven’t seen what you’ve got.” She smiled and winked at me. “Now get up, or you’ll be late for school.”
“High school, Mom!” I corrected her, rolling my eyes, ignoring the comment she made about having seen what I had got. “Not school.”
“Just get up, dear.” She smiled again.
She walked out of my room and down the stairs. Giving my body a good stretch and suppressing a yawn, I got up and went to the bathroom. I took a quick shower, pulled on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt lying on my bedroom floor, and looked at myself in the mirror. A five-foot-seven boy with black eyes, black hair, a not-so-deep cleft in the chin and wearing a pair of glasses looked back at me.
Not bad, Jerry Mathews. I had accepted the fact I wasn’t supermodel material a long time ago.
I picked up my backpack and went downstairs to the kitchen, where my parents were having breakfast.
“Ever heard of alarm clocks?” asked Dad, a huge, mostly serious man.
Knowing him, I knew he was trying to make a joke even though he was always awful at them.
“Good morning to you too, Dad,” I answered, sitting down at the table between my parents.
“It’s not his fault!” said Mom, obviously mistaking Dad’s weird, so-called joke for something else. “I like waking up my child in the morning,” she continued, pouring me a glass of milk with a smile as I helped myself to some toast. “He’s the only one I’ve got. I want to spend as much time as I can with him before he goes into the world on his own.”
Mom and her attachment issues.
Dad must’ve been rolling his eyes. I couldn’t tell because his face was behind the morning newspaper he was reading. The rest of the breakfast went on silently as usual; we were one of those families who preferred talking more as the day went by.
“Well, I’m off,” I said, getting up and grabbing my backpack from the floor. “See you both later.”
“Have a nice day, sweetie!” Mom called as I reached the front door, followed by a weird grunt from Dad—his way of telling me to stay safe.
He had always been bad at showing his emotions, though Mom did tell me he was quite romantic. That was yet to be proven true as far as I was concerned.
I went out of our house and started walking toward school, taking in the familiar surroundings. I lived in a typical suburban neighborhood. Every upscale house on either side of the road had well-manicured lawns. A few houses had small apple trees. I saw a couple adults in suits getting into their cars for work. A group of five kids laughing at something funny rode past me on their bicycles on their way to school.
“Good morning, Mrs. Dave.” I waved at our neighbor across the street. The old woman smiled and waved back as she tended to the flowers in her front yard.
Yup! Life does look the same when you’ve been living in the same neighborhood since you were born, and that, too, with the same people around you. Even if you don’t want to, you’re still going to end up knowing everybody living in the neighborhood as time passed and force yourself to have a smile when you see them.
“I knew that was you walking,” said a voice from behind me. I recognized the voice, so I slowed down a little to let her catch up.
“Seriously, Jerry, you walk too fast!” said Ash as she reached me.
I smiled; people had always told me I walked fast and, well, a bit weirdly. Weirdly in the sense I, according to them, walked as if I was about to jump in the air after every step. But as far as I was concerned, I walked fine enough, thank you very much. Mom did tell me years ago my weird gait might be because I used to walk on my toes as a child, as if I were wearing invisible heels around the house. That never made any sense to me.
“Your father isn’t driving you to school today?” I asked Ash, pushing my glasses up my nose.
“Nah, he had to leave early,” Ash answered.
Ash or Ashley Burro-way and I had been friends since kindergarten. She had beautiful brown hair, perfect dark skin, and piercing green eyes. I’d always told her she could be the hottest girl in our school if she tried. But she maintained a bossy air around her and dressed like a boy.
“Hey, did you do the chemistry assignment?” she asked, forcing her short brown hair into a knot behind her head. “I found it quite tough!” she added.
“I know what you mean,” I answered. “Who cares how atoms bond together. Why can’t we let three-dimensional objects be?”
Ash and I walked on for a few seconds when I heard a car behind us. “Ash, look out!” I yelled, pulling her away from the side of the road as the car zoomed past us. Its tire went through a puddle of muddy water. The drops missed us by inches.
“I bet you twenty dollars it was that jerk, Drew!” growled Ash, glaring at the speeding car as it grew smaller and smaller. “He’s been after me ever since I told the principal he and his cronies were smoking near the school bicycle stands.”
“Well, you know it might help a lot if you don’t feel the necessity to tell on everybody at school,” I said, as we both started to walk again.
“It’s not my fault the school has rules,” answered Ash. “And we as students are expected to follow the rules in order to…”
Blah, blah, blah. I tuned her out. It was something you had to learn if Ash was your friend. She was one of those people who held upholding the rules in high regard. It’s not as if I didn’t follow the rules; it’s that I knew about the line you shouldn’t cross unless you needed to make enemies at school.
“So, I think, even though the people I’ve reported feel the unnecessary need to get back at me, they should try to learn a… Jerry, are you even listening?”
“Yeah, Ash, I am,” I lied, not looking at her as I opened my locker. She had been talking nonstop all the way to school.
“Yeah, Ash, I am,” Ash mimicked me. She smiled. “Anyway, I have a class to get to. Meet you and the others at lunch.”
“Bye,” I said, taking out a few books from my locker along with copies of a few articles I had written.
Today I had a meeting with Alyson Richard, the editor of the school’s newspaper, and I was looking forward to it. I closed my locker and headed toward my first class, biology, with Mr. Ted Nicholas. He was the only teacher I considered cool. He was young, handsome, and knew how to dress well. More than half of his classes had girls in them. I’m sure you can guess why. Again, emphasis on handsome.
“Hey, Kate,” I said, sitting behind the blonde.
She bowed her head a little as she texted on her phone. Knowing how she normally was, that little bow meant a lot. We were on good terms with each other, but she was more of Ash’s friend than mine. She was one of those people who only did stuff as long as it looked good on them. She wasn’t a bad person, but if she was given a choice between getting a limited-edition designer bag for free or saving me from peril… Well, you do the math.
“Wassup, Jerry, my man?” asked Justin, a tall guy with brown hair, as he walked in.
Justin Munroe, another one of my friends whom I had met in fifth grade, was one of those average guys, not trying to be way too cool but neither a disaster either. Overall, a likable dude who sometimes acted like a child, proven by the fact he had only signed up for biology class because Lucy Broadway, his crush for the past few months, was also in it. I hadn’t decided if Justin’s behavior was borderline stalkerish, but I had made up my mind if I saw him enrolling in AP Biology, which I had heard about Lucy being interested in, to be close to her, I planned to put a stop to Justin’s behavior.
I watched as Justin sat down on the chair next to where Lucy always sat. “Where’s your other half?” asked Kate, still texting on her phone.
“Not so fast, Kate,” laughed Justin, looking at Lucy’s empty seat with a smile. “I haven’t even talked to her—”
“She’s not talking about Lucy,” I cut through, looking at him, an eyebrow raised. Before Justin could reply, Kate’s question got answered all by itself.
“My bad for not coming to class with you, dude!” said Nick as he walked in.
Nicholas Pérez, or simply Nick, had been Justin’s best friend since childhood and now strangely my friend too. You know those curly brown-haired people who think it’s their job to act weirdly in order to make other people laugh, even though they are terrible at it? Well, Nick’s one of those.
You might feel as if I’m stereotyping a lot, but take it from me, life feels a lot easier as well as more fun when you do. As long as you’re not rude about it.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Justin, receiving a high five from Nick.
“Hey, Jerry!” Nick high-fived me, and I rolled my eyes. Kate smiled without even looking at Nick when he tried it with her, and kept on texting.
Well, there you have it: Ash, Kate, Justin, and Nick, the four people I still consider to be my closest friends. People I would trust with my life. However, I didn’t feel that way before the incident happened. But don’t worry, I’m getting to that part.