Toby Williams: Chapter Five

by admin on March 2, 2011


Toby Williams

Chapter Five

Love in the practical sense of the word can easily be compared to torture. How can something so celebrated and yearned for be mentioned in the same context as an act that is so heinous and looked down upon? How can such an overwhelming emotion come close to the excruciating pain and suffering that torture inflicts on its victims? Easily, because they are one in the same. Just ask Toby Anthony Williams. Marshal High senior and love’s latest victim.
He never saw it coming and when it hit him, it hit him with a surprise left, a sucker punch that left him reeling from the blow. This was not supposed to happen, he thought as he laid on top of his bed, the sheets still made up from earlier when he had left his house for school. The afternoon sun was just setting, with its last rays straining to filter in through the double paned window that was in Toby’s small room, a room he had since the third grade. His shadow reflected on the wall across from his bed mirrored how he felt inside: dark and hollow. He did not know exactly what that meant; it was the only thing that came to mind and it seemed to suit his current mood.
Why now? It had been a smooth, peaceful six years since he felt anything for anybody, so why now? A better question, Why him? Had he been a good son to his parents? Weren’t his grades in the top ten percentile at Marshall? So, what was the deal, God? Of course, these questions went unanswered. It goes that way once love is involved in your life. There was no way to explain anything.
This time around, it was something entirely different. It is true; he had loved Keith that much was true, but it was the love that one reserved for a family member or in Keith’s case, the love of a brother. No, this love (he had already decided that it could be nothing else) was what made some of his peers at school behave strangely when members of the opposite sex came around, what made his parents still gaze at one another as if they were still in high school. This was a love of a physical and mental nature. The love for a girl; a girl he had never seen before today. Love for a girl named Jill Harbour.
The afternoon had started out with school ending at 2:45 p.m.; the same time it ends Monday through Friday. That was to be expected, and why wouldn’t it? It had been the same dismissal time for the three years prior to this one for Toby, so again it was to be expected. Before the bell had ringed for ‘schools out’, a few of his creative writing classmates had asked him if he would like to come along to Landmark Mall. Typically, theses outings were to get pizza and sodas while comparing pieces of fiction each had compiled on their own outside of the class’ curriculum. A modern day ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ is what they considered themselves, with the meetings taking place on the ground level of the mall that happened to be where the food court was located. This was a weekly event, so this too had been expected with Toby acting as the small think tank’s de facto leader, a position given to him for the prose he composed, outdoing the others in the group without hardly any effort. Without question, a direct attribute from his father.
You had your choice of food tastes available in Landmark Mall’s food court. To satisfy the Mexican or Latino in you, there was always Taco Bell with their dollar value menu that was a favorite among the mall’s many high school mall rats. The customary Orange Julius, a staple for any American food court. The ever-popular Chick-Filet, the calorie saturated Cinnabon, and Wok Express was readily available for the hungry consumer as well. Those would make any young adult drool just with the mentioning of the names of those establishments, but Toby’s group of up and coming play writes and authors only partook of one place, a place known for the best slices of pizza around, Sbarro.
Located in the far corner of the food court next to the Orange Julius, it was not the cheapest stand; a slice ran you anywhere between $2.50 (without a topping) to $3.25 (with a topping), but it was worth it, everyone knew that. Sure, there were other items available like baked ziti, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken parmigina, but pizza was where the eatery made its primary sales, especially on Wednesday afternoons once the three regional schools let out for the day.
All together five budding writers entered Sbarro’s assembly line style of a service line. First up was Todd Cunningham, a short muscled bound sixteen year old who when he wasn’t trying to win the next Pulitzer, could be found rolling around on the gymnasium’s floor as he was a core member of Marshall High’s wrestling team. His writings were an outpouring of his personality: direct, aggressive, powerful. What they lacked in imagery, they made up for in content matter; Todd not being one to stray away from risqué subjects or topics. In all actuality, he loved the shock value that his work bought out in people, particularly from his teachers and parents. A pugilist with a pen; every teacher’s nightmare.
Second in line was Melissa Gaude, the youngest of the group coming in at only fifteen years of age. Short, petite, and sporting a mane of shoulder length, sandy blond hair that she kept under a faux Confederate soldier’s cap, the four remaining members adopted her as the quintets official mascot, even giving her a nickname of Smurf; a name she originally hated but eventually came to accept as she knew it was their way of dealing with having a girl in their presence. She was the “sensitive” writer of the group, her pieces dealing with animals, nature and all those mushy feelings that most boys her age could not relate to immediately. She was originally hesitant about hanging out with a group of geeky boys, especially geeky boys who wanted to be writers, that was until she found out that Toby was one of those boys that she despised, and this made her transition to the geeky Smurf that much easier. It was no secret about how she felt about him; everyone knew it, and she always tried desperately to hide her feelings for Toby when she was around him, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing miserably.
Taking three slices of pepperoni as opposed to everyone else’s two, was the gastronomic genie of the bunch, Cliff Norris. Everything that Cliff wrote centered around one thing and one thing only: food. It did not help that he was pushing the borderline between fat and overweight, donning flaming red hair that he kept in a Beatle-esque fashion, complete with a severe case of acne, whiteheads and all. An ode to cheese or the serenity that could be found by watching a field of wheat sway back and forth right before a mid-Spring’s thunderstorm was the exquisite range of his passion for all things pertaining to the culinary arts.
Steven Young was the tallest member of the five of them, hovering at 6’2”, pale white with a mop of black hair that he kept jelled up to resemble the style of his favorite musician, Robert Smith of The Cure. Adopting gothic music and clothing to set him apart from all the country music and classic rocker students at Marshall, Steven primarily wrote about death and downright depressing song lyrics about death or dying. If you did not know him, he would come across as a bit scary. Once you took the time to know him, Steven was one of the most sensitive young men in all of Cottonmill, complimented with a sense of loyalty not usually found with boys of his age, seventeen. His choice of food that afternoon? A garden salad sans the dressing, keeping up with his newfound vegetarianism. Really, how many Goths ate meat and were healthy? Hence, the pale, white skin color that he always had, even in the hottest of months.
Toby opted for his usual that afternoon: one cheese and one pepperoni slice. He was the last in the line, the others already taking their seats at the multitude of chairs and tables that the mall provided for the food court diners. It took a minute for the four of them to find a table for all five of them; the court was at full capacity seeing that school was out for the day. Thankfully, a small group of senior women all dressed in athletic wear were just leaving, and the four of them quickly jumped at the opportunity just as a group of Marshall cheerleaders were making an advance towards the table as well. The cheerleaders walked away, trays in hand to seek seats elsewhere, but not before a few looks of ‘how dare you’ were shot at the four. To this, they had simply laughed.
Toby had observed this and found himself laughing out loud much to his surprise. Then she spoke the five words that made him stop in mid-laugh. Five words that were simple in origin and meaning and at the same time, five words that acted as a siren’s song, catching his attention and causing his mind to draw a blank. This was what was unexpected.
She was unexpected.
“Would you like anything else?”
For the life of him, he could not answer. It was not that he did not want to answer. He did. It was that he could not answer. His tongue and mouth not responding to the many electrical impulses his brain was sending to them. He tried again in vain, only duplicating the same silence he displayed a moment earlier. All he could do was stare into her eyes.
“Did you want to add a Coke or an Ocean Spray to this,” the cashier asked, staring back at him with a concerned look on her face. “Its none of my business, but are you okay? You look a little pale.”
Funny, he felt a little pale. He thought it would be in his best interest to give her some kind of response, only it was not the response he was originally planning on saying. It came out as –
“Toby”
“Excuse me?” she questioned.
“Toby. My name is Toby Williams.”
“Hello Toby Williams. Will there be anything else for Toby Williams this afternoon?” she says, leaning forward and almost saying it to him in the form of a whisper. Just loud enough for the two of them to hear and no one else.
Quickly regaining his composure, realizing how he must look to her as well as to his friends who were waiting for him less than ten yards away, he replies with a look of embarrassment, “Ah, no. No, there’s nothing else,” and then thinking, “Actually, I do believe that it is customary in this country that when someone gives you their name, especially a gentleman that a lady should respond accordingly by giving that person her name back in return as an act of courtesy and respect.”
Where the fuck did that come from, Toby thought as he instantly regretted this, this… well, he actually did not know what that was. He was already fumbling around for the six dollars and fifty cents in his right front jeans pocket in an attempt to leave the line quicker, when she spoke. In addition, for the second time in as many minutes, he found himself in awe with the sound of her voice.
“Jill,” and after a moments hesitation, “Jill Harbour.”
“Jill Harbour, pleased to meet you.”
“You probably could have guessed my first name,” and with that, she points down with her index finger of her left hand, pointing to the nametag with the huge letters J-I-L-L taped on it. “You definitely need to work on your awareness levels.” she finishes, displaying a mouth full of perfect teeth.
“Yes, yes I do.” and he takes his tray with his slices and walks over to his friends who have by this time already began digging into their own, Cliff working on his second while the others where still on their first. After sitting, the ribbing from his peers start, something he had expected because of the way their eyes had followed him from Sbarro’s checkout line; eyes cut sideways in curious observation.
“So, who is she?,” Melissa asks with just a small hint of jealousy coming out in her voice, a sound that only Toby noticed. “You had to have gotten at least her name after all the time you were taking back there.”
“Yeah,” Cliff adds in after finishing the last bite of his second slice. “We saw you drooling and it wasn’t over the pizza.”
“You keep eating that garbage at the rate that you do, and you’ll be the one drooling from the heart attack that you’re destined to have.” Steven chimed in, his garden salad just about finished.
“Hasn’t happened yet.” and with that, Cliff takes an extra large bite out of his third and last slice, contorting his face in mock ecstasy specifically geared towards Steven.
“What makes you think that she gave me her name? Maybe she was just doing her job by being friendly.” Toby says not looking up at them as he starts in on his own slices. This drew a chorus of ‘sure’ from Cliff, Steven and Melissa. After they calmed down, Toby looks over to Todd who to no one’s surprise, is busy scoping out the table of Marshall cheerleaders four to five tables from where they are seated.
“Hey, jockstrap. Wanna join the rest of us or do you think they write as well?” Toby asks, gesturing his head towards the group of girls wearing the familiar gold and blue colors of their school.
“What, you can look at the babes and I can’t? Get out of here, T.W.!” Todd says, not breaking his gaze from the now waving squad of girls. “Cute, aren’t they?” he continues, returning the waves with one of his own, flashing a wolf in sheep’s clothing smile their way.
“Scary, Todd. Scary,” Melissa jumped in. “Your bad habits seemed to have rubbed off on young Master Williams.”
With that, Todd turns back towards the group, facing Melissa. “Grasshopper has grown up. Now he will go on to teach others the way of the player!” placing his hands in a simulated prayer motion and trying hard to conjure up an Asian accent.
“Fuck you, sensei.” Toby in rare form. This breaks the group up because not only is it hilarious, it is also extremely rare that Toby cursed.
“Okay, okay. Lets finish up and get started,” Steven interrupting the flow of laughter coming from the other four members who by now, had tears in their eyes. “What’s the topic going to be? How about something real, like the lost of a loved one? Something you have to really focus on and put your mind to completely.”
Todd, Melissa and Cliff all rolled their eyes in unison at this suggestion, having heard of this before from Steven. Why was he always so dark in the mind, they all thought at the same time. Not Toby. He was always up for a writing challenge, and Steven’s request had gone unacknowledged for the entire time their little group existed. Today, Toby decided that his turn at choosing the groups writing assignment was in order.
“I think that Steven has a wonderful idea, and we as his peers should act on it,” This bought everyone into silence, including Steven himself who could only look at Toby with surprise. Toby goes on, placing a hand on Steven’s shoulder to show confirmation of his idea. “Let’s get into the spirit of it and give it the old Marshall try!” This last part is emphasized with a fist pump normally reserved for sports figures that he has seen on television. See: Tiger Woods.
That was all it took to have everyone at the table break up into laughter once more. After the good laugh, the food trays and trash that were on the table were replaced with the notebooks, paper, and pens that each had bought along with them; the backpacks of all five slung over the backs of each chair where all this had been stored. The group typically remained somewhat quiet at these times; each one honing their writing skills, trying to desperately to outdo one another. The time allotted was one hour to work on the piece, with Toby being the official timekeeper, a task he performed by keeping time with his trusty ’Ironman” digital watch. Once time was called, all pens would fall down onto the table, and its author would read each aloud. They had tried to read each other’s work but many feelings were not conveyed properly and the work sometimes suffered for it.
Toby normally jumped into these challenges head first, wanting to put forth as much imagery and detail that he could, but this subject had him writing abstract, not as focused as he usually was during these times. His attention had been diverted back over to Sbarro’s checkout line and back to its angel of a cashier, Jill Harbour. Tried as he might to concentrate solely on the essay, his eyes kept roaming, something Melissa caught on to and when his eyes caught hers, she looked away quickly leaving Toby feeling guilty for having her witness his curiosity of a strange girl and not her. Eventually, he thought, he would have to have a talk with Melissa about her feelings for him. A delicate talk.
The pieces were finished and the comparisons and critiques were given before the group packed up their gear and headed out of the mall toward the parking lot where Todd’s Ford Mustang convertible was parked in the southwest corner. They have piled in with Todd behind the black vehicles wheel, Melissa in the passenger side, Toby, Steven and Cliff rounding out the backseat. The ride home for Toby was agonizing. Everyone was enjoying having the top pulled back, taking in the September afternoons last hour of sunlight except for him. Regret was on his mind. Regret for not being man enough to continue his conversation with Jill, regret for being so tongue tied when she first spoke to him, and regret for having a stranger have so much of an affect on him. What the hell was this all about?
Todd pulls up to Toby’s house, stopping the car and snapping off a military salute that Toby returns after smoothly clearing the backseat with a one-handed leap. The other boys all snap off goodbyes and salutes following Todd’s lead, only Melissa says ‘call me’ with a look of sadness in her eyes. This Toby notices, and is grateful that Todd peels off from his house in a screeching tire departure ending the eye contact that Melissa and he shared, if only briefly. The fading music of The Cure was heard as the car leaves Toby’s street. Either ‘Just like Heaven’ or ‘In Between Days”, he couldn’t be sure. What he did know was that Steven had officially commandeered the Mustang’s CD player. It seemed like everything was going Steven’s way today; too bad, the same could not be said of Toby’s. Into the house he went.
He attempts to roll over on the bed and realizes that his body has an agenda of its own, and moving even an inch was not on it. What he can move are his eyes, staring out the window watching the sun disappear behind the oncoming evening’s clouds, a purple-orange glow stretching across a sea of indigo blue. The light show will be over in about twenty minutes and he allows himself to continue watching the poem-inspiring sunset, trying to make sense of the earlier encounter at Sbarro’s. What interrupts him from his thoughts is his mother’s yelling.
“Toby Anthony, dinner!”
“Be right down, mom!” he yells back through his closed door. He is hungry and maybe a solid meal with some dessert will help even his thoughts out. He could only hope. Getting off his bed, putting his cross trainers back on, he leaves his room and heads to the bathroom down the hall to wash his face and hands.
Somewhere in an unseen world only known about through word of mouth, a certain small winged archer takes aim at an unsuspecting young man. This he does with closed eyes. He never misses; his aim is impeccable.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Pixie 09.22.11 at 9:43 am

……….having a stranger have so much of an affect on him……:)

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