Autumn in Lawrence was absolutely unbelievable. I remember that even in high school, when most were completely indifferent to the bright, vibrant colors, I took them in and admired the leaves as they fell. Well, I had time, after that day, anyway. It had been a really bad day. One of those days that you wish you could just wipe from existence, or pretend they'd never happened. I'd been told that I was, and I quote, 'a bigger loser than the kids in the Science Club.' So, I had gone from the head cheerleader with a reputation in school that rivaled the queen's in England, to the one that people would laugh at, ridicule and throw full glasses of soda at. All for standing up for a kid that I felt, maybe, didn't deserve to be teased. High schoolers could be so fickle.
I saw him walking, down at the bottom of the hill. We always took the same route home, as he was my neighbor. Always had been--well, after his family's house burned. But we were both babies when it happened. So, ever since middle school, we'd taken the same route to get to school. But never together. Lord knows if we were seen together, it would kill my rep. He was Winchester the Weirdo, or Weirdchester, or any of the other names they came up with. Up until middle school, we'd been, at least somewhat close. Playing cops and robbers in his backyard and always going to one another's birthday parties. But of course, as everyone knows, things change when you change schools. I tried out for cheerleading, and made the squad, became the head, and we just…grew apart.
My friends always teased him. Sam had tried, really hard, constantly to fit in. Always wore stylish clothes, always tried to get into the cool clubs. But no one took him--aside from the basketball team, anyway. But that was only because he had undeniable talent when it came to basketball. The rest all laughed at him and came up with half-assed reasons why he couldn't and shouldn't be in their club. I didn't buy it. Sam was a nice guy. Really. Kind and friendly, and maybe just a bit lanky and awkward. And his brother and his dad were kinda odd, but oh well. I lived by the theory of 'to each their own,' and they hadn't really been to school to pick Sam up since that year, when we started ninth grade. That kinda struck me as odd, but it wasn't my place to ask questions.
Sometimes, I would see my so-called-friends teasing him, and it would really piss me off. Kinda brought me to the mind frame of 'what in the hell did he do to them, other than not live up to their standard of cool?' But I was so obsessed with fitting in, that I hadn't said anything. Until that day. They plotted a completely unnecessary prank on poor Sam, when he was walking into school. Something involving corn syrup and flour. That was all I needed to hear, though. As I saw him approaching, I put my foot down and told them to leave him alone, they called me a loser for defending him, and threatened my position among them if I didn't go along with it. I narrowed my eyes and shook my head. 'I've been going with your senseless, baseless pranks on Sam since seventh grade, mainly because I was scared you'd turn on me. Well, turn on me. Because this is really mean. And Sam has never done a thing to you.'
Well, they did turn on me. Told me that I was not allowed to hang around with them anymore, and if I did, I would suffer the same fate as Sam. So, I'd avoided them all day, and now I was walking home alone, rather than with my 'friends,' Tisha and Eleni. But I didn't care. I speed walked and caught up with Sam. "Hey Weir--I mean, Sam…" I called out to him as I got closer. I'd never called him by any of his cruel nicknames before, I just heard it so often that it was the first thing that leapt to mind to call him. "Can I talk to you?"
He whirled around when he heard my voice, and looked at me like he expected me to bare my fangs and eat him alive. Not that it was a completely unfair assessment. He saw that I had nothing in my hands, and no one with me, and nodded his head hesitantly. "Sure, Page…" he spoke in a voice so quiet, had I not been paying attention, I didn't think I would have heard him. "What can I do for you?"
I would have said that I wondered why he asked that, but I'd have been lying. Ever since sixth grade, the only way I'd talk to Sam was for help or answers to a test, since he was always so smart. He gave them to me, too, because I was the nicest out of my circle of friends to him. "No, it's what can I do for you, Sam. I know what my friends did to you this morning. I tried to stop them…" I said as I pointed to the hardened corn syrup that was making his hair form into a hardened mass. "But they wouldn't listen to me. I…feel like I owe you an apology for just standing idly by while they did these types of things to you all these years…"
Looking back on it now, I remember his voice cracking a little as he spoke. Puberty hit that poor boy hard. "It's okay, Page. I know you tried to stop them…I heard it. I don't blame you for backing down…" he spoke with shame in his voice. "But…you don't have to talk to me. I know they'll, like, throw stuff at you or whatever…" he started to turn around.
I put my hand on his arm and shook my head. "Sam, wait. I'm trying to tell you something, okay? They did boot me out of their group of friends. I…I'm not here to try to make you feel bad or anything. I just wanted to apologize to you, all right? No one deserves to be treated the way they treat you…" I told him with a shrug. He was always a nice guy. I didn't think it was fair that people kept treating him like the bottom of the barrel, just because his brother and his dad were different. "Anyway…I put it out there…I hope it helps you feel a little better," I said, then started to walk away. I didn't expect him to just, like, ask me to hang out with him or whatever. Not after all I'd sat aside and watched them do to him.
But as I got a little ways away, I heard the grass and leaves behind me crinkling a bit, and felt Sam's hand on my shoulder. I turned around and looked at him. "Wait. Page…thank you…" he said with a soft smile on his face. "Are you doing anything tonight? I mean…not that I actually think you'd want to, but…I have a bit of cash--maybe you'd want to go get some pizza?" he asked me in a shy tone, and I watched as a bit of red came to his face.
I grinned and nodded my head. "Sure. That sounds cool…" I said, slinging my backpack over my shoulder a little farther. Go figure. I thought I was gonna have to spend my entire afternoon in my room by myself. But as far as I was concerned, this was a far better way to spend it.