Chapter One: Life Drags On

by: Shiryu

Present Day


            "Come on, William, pass the ball over here!" Laughing, the group of boys rushed past, oblivious to the teen with tousled dark brown hair. Under the untidy mop, a pair of darkened eyes stared out, narrowing as the others laughed and played.


            Suddenly, the ball rolled toward him, and the laughter stopped. One of the boys broke off from the crowd - William.


            "Can you give us our ball back?" Not a mention of his name, and he barely acknowledged the other teenager with a withering glance. Passively, he toed the ball and sent it rolling back into William's grasp.


            "Thanks," he said, turning away. "For nothing," he muttered, once he was out of earshot. And without a second glance, he passed the ball to his teammate before roaring up the court again.


            Gloomily watching the game, Nicholas Alcala heard a grim sigh from behind him. "You know, Nick, it wouldn't kill you to talk to someone once in awhile."


            Scoffing slightly, Nick turned to face Liezl Hernandez, whose arms were crossed and eyes vaguely speaking of disappointment. His mouth quirked. "And if the person I talked to happened to be a murderer?"


            Liezl grinned slightly. "Then it'd kill you, but what are the chances of that happening?"


            "Knowing my luck, ten to one." Shaking her head, the girl fell into step with him as they walked away from the courts. "So, where's your other half?"


            "Lauren?" He rolled his eyes.


            "Who else? Unless you've been a double crosser..." She playfully swatted him.


            "I wasn't sure if you meant 'other half' as in best friend or current boyfriend. Lauren's talking to Michael about some group project, she'll be out here soon."


            "Okay." Silence. Liezl chanced a glance at him, eyes pointed downward, thinking, analyzing, almost never looking up unless someone addressed him directly.


            "No one's ignoring you on purpose, you know." Liezl knew it was futile, but couldn't help trying. "You have to admit, it's hard talking to someone who doesn't talk back."


            "Then what do you consider talking to yourself?" he quipped back.


            "Talking to yourself is thinking out loud, Nick." And then a cheerful Lauren leapt onto the bench to take a seat beside him. "You can talk to anything, really," she added thoughtfully, eyes sparkling. "You should worry if it starts talking back though."


            He raised an eyebrow. "And as for parrots?"


            She waved him off. "Parrots are something else."


            "Damn. And here I thought I was going nuts when the neighbor's pet bird started yapping nonstop at me."


            Liezl and Lauren both laughed.


            "And what's this I hear about you having a boyfriend, Lauren?" Nick winked at her exaggeratedly.


            She gasped and clutched his arm. "How did you know?!"


            "A little birdie told me," he snickered.


            "Hey, Nick!" Andrew ran up to them. "William wanted to say sorry for what he did-"


            "If he wants to say sorry, he can tell it to my face," Nick abruptly cut him off. Standing up, he turned and walked away. "No offense to you, Andrew, really, but I'd prefer if people were straight up with me from the start. Later, Liezl, Lauren." And with that, he took off, face like stone.


            Liezl let out a huff, not sure whether to reassure Andrew that he wasn't mad at him, or to be annoyed at Nick for taking off. Then again, he did have good reason.


            Andrew stood there a bit awkwardly, not sure what to say. Lauren quickly consoled him.


            "Don't worry, Andrew, Nick's just a little annoyed right now, but it's not at you! It'll be okay."


            "Thanks, Lauren." Shooting her a grateful glance, he waved to both the girls before dashing off back to the game.


            He needed to talk to William. After all, both he and Nick were his friends, and he'd at least try and straighten things out a bit before warfare was declared.


            Nick leaned against the tile of the boys' locker room, letting the cold tiles ease his mind a bit. The guys were his friends, but they really could be too much at times.


            It was kind of weird when he thought about it, how he ended up here. The only friends he'd ever really had were Liezl, Lauren, and Matthew. All pre-middle school. They had been happy. Excited. But change can tear everything apart.


            Perhaps he dwelled too much on things. Sure, people avoided, him, but that was either due to his being adopted, or his sudden emo streak that arrived rather anticlimactically.


            When they approached him, it was usually about sympathy. But he had no time for pity and such.


            He wanted - no, needed - to kill the murderer who had done the same to his parents and siblings.


            He had only confided this to his three friends, who, with varying degrees of uneasiness, had tried to steer him off the path. It had never worked.


            He had never told them about how they had massacred his family in an attempt to find him, and then, simply left him alive, and vanished without a trace.


            Weak, they had called him. He balled his fists.


            He'd show them weak. They would pay with the only price that was possible - their lives.