Jeff stumbled over to his desk, pushing papers back and forth in search of the telephone. Finally, the glossy black object became visible, and he snatched it out from beneath his pile of notes.
"Hi Jeffrey, it's Mom."
"Mom, hey. What's up?"
"Oh nothing really. I just got the message that you called."
"You just got my message?"
"I called on Wednesday," he growled into the phone, not understanding why it had taken his mother three whole days to call back.
"I know honey. I'm afraid Michelle didn't give me the message until I got home from work this afternoon."
"Ugh. We really need to strap a notepad to that girl's arm."
"I know. I'm sorry about that. Maybe next time we're not home, you should leave me a message at work, too, just to be sure that I'll get it."
"Uh huh. No kidding" Jeff mumbled. He didn't consider himself the most responsible person on the planet, but that was nothing compared to his sister. The worst part was that he couldn't do anything about it- like she'd listen to him now that he was five million miles away from home.
"So, how are you Jeffrey? We haven't really had the chance to talk much since you moved away- and now the semester's almost over. Are your classes going okay? How have your exams been?"
"Actually Mom, that was kind of what I wanted to talk to you about," the brunette athlete said, flopping down into his desk chair.
From the sound of his voice, Jeff's mother guessed that the next thing he said wasn't going to be something she wanted to hear. "What is it, sweetie?"
"Well, I…" he sighed, head leaning on his hand.
"Please don't tell me that you flunked out," Carol begged into the receiver, preparing herself for the worst.
"No, no it's nothing like that Mom. Believe me, my grades going into the finals are just fine. But, see, I was wondering… Do you think there's a possibility that I might be able to change schools after this semester? You know, go somewhere… else?"
Well, that definitely wasn't what she'd expected to hear. "Pardon me?"
"I mean, if my grades are good enough at the end of the term, do you think there's a chance that another college would take me if I tried to transfer?"
"Are you saying you want to switch schools?"
"Sort of" Jeff said meekly, intimidated by his mother's wary tone. "Pretty much. I mean, yes."
"What's wrong with Sunnydale? It looked like a great place for you. It's in California, so the winters are nothing like what we get up here. And, the small class sizes were supposed to be a much more ideal learning environment than what any of the other bigger colleges offered. Not to mention the cheap tuition."
"Yeah, I know Mom. And I agree with you. The classes are small, and the weather is nice. You should see the dorm rooms, too. They're friggin' huge. I don't have any complaints about the school itself."
"Then what's the problem?"
"Well…" how could he explain this to his mother? How could he explain all the weird things he'd witnessed and heard of over the past three months?
"Are your professors not treating you fairly?"
"No, nothing like that," he sighed. "Look, you remember that supposed Laryngitis outbreak we had here about a week ago?"
"Oh, yes. That was bizarre. I suppose it's not as bad as something like the flu, but your father and I were concerned. You didn't catch it, did you?"
"Yeah I did actually, but that's not even the point, mom. That whole thing was child's play compared to some of the other shit that's-"
"Jeffrey Richard Wilson, mind your language when you're speaking to your mother."
"Sorry. But, look Mom, I'm serious. There has been some really weird stuff going on. During the first week here, five kids went missing. Then, this other girl I met in one of my classes- Cathy –she just dropped off the face of the planet. And a month ago, I was at one of the pubs here in town, and a bunch of guys started acting like cavemen. And not in a funny practical joke way- I'm talking serious body hair."
"Well, I'm sure they were just practising for a school play or something."
"That's not even the most of it," Jeff jumped back in, wishing that his mother would just listen to him. "On Halloween, some guys from one of the frat houses on campus had a party, but some seriously freaky sh-… stuff went down. My friend Jenny was playing this blindfold horror game. Only, the bowl that was supposed to be full of grapes was eyeballs. Real human eyeballs. I'm pretty sure a couple of kids died there, too."
"Well, you know honey, as sad as it is, sometimes accidents happen. Teenagers get drinking, and they don't realise what their limits are."
"No, Mom, you're not listening to me!" Jeff almost yelled into the phone, beginning to get exasperated by the verbal loops he was swimming through. "I don't mean they got alcohol poisoning. I'm talking about broken necks, stabbings. And during that whole Laryngitis thing, a few people were brutally murdered."
"Things are so bad around here, there are army guys walking around a night. I saw one of themlurking around in the bushes at night one time. That can't be a good sign, mom. When you're going to a school that has to be monitored by the freakin' U.S. military," said Jeff, hoping that he'd finally tapped through his mother's stubbornness. "I really, really don't want to be here anymore."
"I understand that, honey. I just don't know how good your chances are of changing colleges in the middle of the year."
"Fine. I'll drop out if I have to. I'll finish my exams, and when I come home, if I don't get into another school, I'll stay home. I'll apply to another school next year."
"Now, let's backup here," Carol said, wishing that her son would calm down. "I didn't say that you couldn't try to get into another school. Look, how does this sound: I'll talk things over with your father, and you talk to someone at Sunnydale- see if they can tell you anything about what your options are."
That was what he wanted to hear. A big part of him knew it was just his mom's way of shutting him up, but at least she'd at least acknowledged the possibility of him getting to change schools. "All right. Deal. So this means that if I can apply to another school, you'll let me?"
"If you can, then yes. I would rather be paying for you to go to a school that you want to attend, rather than one you're being forced to attend."
"Right," he sighed. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet. We don't even know if this whole arrangement is possible. Check it out, and let me know, okay?"
"All right, well, I should probably be going now. Dinner isn't going to cook itself, and Michelle is getting that hungry look on her face."
"You should make her starve- that'd teach her to forget to pass on messages," Jeff muttered, not a hint of humour in his voice.
"That plan works in theory. But, if I don't feed her, then she'll try to cook on her own- and I think we all remember what happened the last time she tried that."
"Oh right" he shuddered. "Well, get to it then. I definitely don't want to walk into a house that smells like rotten everything at Christmas."
"Exactly my point," Carol chuckled. "I'll talk to you later then Jeffrey. Take care."
"Thanks. I'll try. You too."
"I love you."
"Bye Mom," he said, replacing the phone on its cradle, watching as the simple machine was once more swallowed up by the heap of chaos that was his desk.
"So how'd it go?" said a voice from the doorway.
Jeff spun to meet it, and found himself staring at one of his friends. "Oh, hey Derek. What?"
"That was your mom, right? How'd it go?"
"Not so well," he sighed, watching as Derek strode into the room and took a seat on his bed. He was one of the lucky guys who'd managed to convince his parents that things in Sunnydale weren't normal. Dangerously not normal. "I mean, my mom said that she'd talk it over with my dad, but who knows."
"No kidding. I don't think I'd be able to survive another semester here."
"And if only you meant that figuratively," Derek laughed wryly, chomping into a fresh apple.
"If only my mom would believe me," Jeffrey sighed.
"Yeah, you might have to resort to bribing a few school officials."
"Hey man, whatever it takes. I've gotta get out of here."
"So, how'd it go?" Carol's husband's voice inquired from the kitchen doorway.
Turning to look at him, the forty-something mother was wearing a concerned look. "It looks like we might need to pull Jeffrey out of school," she said simply.
"What? Why?" Frank practically snapped, a deep frown wrinkling his features. "He better not have flunked out. He knows this family can't afford to finance his education if he's just going to piss it away."
"No, it's not that," Carol said, biting her bottom lip.
"Then what's the problem?"
"I think…" she paused, taking a deep breath. "I think Jeff might be on drugs."