Vanguard, Part 2

I ran another cold rag down the front of my face. It was sweet, sweet salvation away from the pain. My gums and lips rang against their respective nerves and I could feel every pulse. It was more annoying than anything at all, started to give me a headache. Despite whoever that biker poser had been on the subway, he hit in the bitter spot right in the jaw. Damn ways to have me remember him.

I looked down at my knuckles and saw a few cuts from where I hit the front of his teeth. I figured my technique on that uppercut to his nose was clean. As I mentioned before, adrenaline is a damnable thing that can fool anyone’s body into thinking that it’s okay.
Spitting into the sink that was running nearby I cleaned up the remaining edges of crusted blood. I walked about four blocks away from the subway station before I had returned home. It was mid-fall which made this time of year edging on the front of cold weather. The blood that had begun to flow outside of my lips had already coagulated.

The water dripped down from my chin. I laughed as I tasted the copper in my teeth. Life had been funny this way. Save someone, get a reward across the face and asked what’s wrong with you. What is wrong with me?

“Hey, buddy, whatcha doing in here?” A friend of mine walked in, his voice high-pitched because he hadn’t reached puberty yet. He lived in the same apartment complex my grandmother and I lived in. I smiled before he walked in. I turned to look and he stood there in the doorway, his ratted black shirt covered in paint stains with a pair of dark green cargo shorts. Despite him being a few years younger than me we were the same height. I was one short bastard.

I said, “Hey kido, how are you doing?” He looked over at me with his dark, ambitious eyes. They were filled with that same starry desire that everyone grows up with.

He smiled at me, “Pretty good. How was hanging out with Jake?”

Jake was the friend that I had been with across town. He used to live here with us. He moved away two months ago. Never stopped him or I from hanging out with each other. Either he would come down one weekend, or I visited him. I shrugged at Elliot, “Eh,” I replied, “it wasn’t too shabby. Sorta quiet. We ran around a lot, played games. Didn’t even seem like he had ever left.”

That was how we always fabricated each hang out. Like the other had separated the other. How could we? When you lose a best friend that you’ve known since you were three, you can’t let them go when they’re only a distance away. There’s so many ways to keep in contact, so many accessible devices to allow us to see each other. Why would we try to fade?

Elliot frowned as he peered at me. “Did you get into another fight, dummy?” I laughed as he continued to glare. Running a hand through my hair I shrugged. What could I say? I’m bad at this whole “pacifism” thing that everyone’s talking about.
I waved the question off, “Nah, don’t worry about me. I hit a pole on the way back from the sub. You know me, I’m such a klutz!”

Elliot didn’t buy it and continued to sneer. “Yeah right! Liar.” Shouting the insult, he dashed off behind the door. I rolled my eyes and tended to my lip. The bottom one began to swell up. A brilliant shade of purple, with a dash of red splashed along the outer ring of it. I should’ve signed up for Mr. Universe right there.

Turning the sink off I spit into the drain one last time and followed Elliot out the door lazily. Sliding along the floor on my socks, because I’m pretty pro like that, I dashed my way into the kitchen. I could smell the delicious and intoxicating aroma of my Grandmother’s famous pasta and fish crust recipe. Tonight I was going to dine in heaven.

“Hello lovebug, how are you this evening?” My Grandmother’s glowing sunshine rolled through even on the worst of days. Her hair had been graying for quite some time before I had been even a though, now her roots were soiled with the unavoidable event of aging through the pure white roots of her hair. Her eyes were an angelic shade of light green, with her skin wrinkled as any older person had been. Yet the way she held her smile and the glint in her eyes you’d believe her to be twenty years younger. I always thought of her that way.

I greeted her in return, “Good evening, Grandmama. Makin’ your famous noddles and crust again?” It was my favorite and I had been gone for a few days. I knew the routine by now.
Her smile widened with her face stretching out like putty, “Of course darling. And don’t tell me you weren’t expected it either.” Wagging a finger at me, she removed the apron from around her pink polka-dot dress. It was what she called her “weekend” dress. Hanging it over the front of the chair at the head of the table, she asked me, “You finished your homework before you went over to Jake’s, right little one?”

I grinned at her and rolled my eyes, “’Course I did. Never go back on a word we make, amiright?”

She smiled back at me and tended to her noodles. Elliot came bursting in from the living room. “I smell noodles!” His lungs filled with air as he took a seat immediately next to mine. I heard my Grandmother chuckle under her breath.

“You smell right kido,” I went past his chair and nudged the back of his dark black hair. “Did you clean up before you came over?”

Elliot exclaimed with pride, “Yeah I did!”

“Fantastic, fantastic.” I pulled the chair out that was sat right next to my Grandmother. I went over to the fridge and grabbed the milk and three glasses. Before I knew what had happened, Grandmother had filled the plates eagerly with healthy amounts of crust and noodles along with a helping of peas that I didn’t see. Oh well, something else to try and avoid tonight besides an obvious black eye from earlier.

“Dig in,” she announced. “Wouldn’t want those bellies to empty before this food grows cold!”

I smiled as Elliot already began to destroy what had been on his plate. I poured the milk and thought about all the meals we had had with Jake over. The ones we still had together, when he’s here. The happy little mix-matched family we all were.

Things were brightest before the night came to replace it.


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