A/N: Uhhhhhhhhhh. Yup :)
INSPIRED BY THE METHOD OF PAYMENT IN WHICH WE KEEP FOR LAUNDRY HERE IN OUR APARTMENT.
Why that needed to be screamed at you, I'm not so sure. But...take that.
It was a theme that seemed throughout the years to be a common reoccurrence, a sight that most were familiar with by the time that they were all eleven and continuing to stay together as a close-knit group. They saw that more often than not, he would do without food. His parents had neither the money or the generosity to provide it for him as the years went on.
Sometimes, it was only once a week when he couldn't find enough spare money to pay for a simple cold slice of pizza, the occasional crumbly peanut-butter sandwich to hold preciously in his orange gloves.
However, as time went on, there was more of it to be seen. His face would seem unmoving beneath his bright orange parka, but they all knew better. They knew his jealously, the way that he stared hungrily at their packed lunches, at the twenty dollar bills that they pulled from their pockets.
His friends knew this all too well, his raven-haired and redheaded companions often sliding him a cookie or something of the sort to sate him throughout their day. But he wanted more; needed it.
This routine of wanting and fulfilling went on throughout most of their eleventh year together: Him pretending he didn't need what they gave him. Them hiding back their looks of pity as he hungrily devoured whatever they offered him. It was how they functioned; how they maintained their friendship. It was what they thought was the right thing to do for each other.
Until one day; his redheaded friend got a better look at just what was happening.
He'd walked home from school that day behind the bus, too angry at their fat so-called pal to be in such close proximity to him. As he stamped down the sidewalk, kicking away at the ice beneath his shoe, he heard a rattling from his side. He looked over to see that he was in front of his orange-clad friend's home; broken down and in shambles from years of a lack of care. He looked around for the source of the noise, his green yes falling on a silver garbage pain held at the side of his neighbor's home. He raised his brow as he watched it shake slightly before a blonde head came up from behind it, his arms buried in the pail as he seemed to look frantically for something.
His face fell as he watched the boy pull out a half-eaten piece of toast and shove it down his throat in starvation.
"Kenny?" he called out meekly.
The blonde looked up at him, his eyes seeming to widen as he backed away from the can. "Don't tell," he said, looking at the neighbor's house nervously. The green-eyed boy bit his lip, walking up towards him. "Kyle," Kenny said with a deep breath. "Don't. Tell."
"I won't," he'd shaken his head softly.
"I-I gotta go," Kenny stammered at him before turning a deep shade of red and hurrying off past him. Kyle watched after him as his door shut, clutching onto the shoulder-strap of his book bag tensely. He could feel his fingers turning white as he looked down at the food scraps strewn around the pail and felt a sickening twist in the pit of his stomach. He placed the lid back down on the can with a gentle tap, running his tongue over his teeth in thought before picking himself up and walking home.
That night he sat at his kitchen table with his family, looking at the two of his parents laughing with each other, the mountain of food atop his expensive china plate.
"Kyle, you haven't touched your food," his mother stopped in mid-conversation with his brother. "A growing boy needs to eat."
Kyle winced slightly and nodded slowly. "I know, Ma," he tapped his fork against his plate. "I'm just not feeling that well." She automatically placed the back of her hand against his forehead and pouted.
"Well you aren't warm but you look pale," she commented. "Why don't you eat some and go lie down?"
"I think I'll just skip to that part," he murmured, getting to his feet and nodding at his family as they looked at him in concern. "Night," he said briefly before briskly escaping the kitchen and making the way up to his room.
He shut and locked the door, leaning against it on his back and taking a deep breath before reopening his eyes to the soft glow of his bedside lamp. He walked over and sat atop his bed, swinging his feet over the edge and staring at the carpet sitting beneath his feet; his head racing.
Kenny's parents weren't that close. They didn't talk like civil people or treat Kenny and his brother the same way that he and his own were treated. They weren't beaten or starved or neglected. They were cared for when they were sick or hungry. They didn't have to dig through trash cans for necessities...
He closed his eyes, laying back down on his bed and taking some deep breaths before reopening them to his clean pearl ceiling and biting his lip in thought.
He felt so guilty, being who he was. He didn't have to scrounge like Kenny, he wasn't considered dirty or unkempt. All he had to do was be with his parents and all of a sudden, everything came to him so easily; the only work he had to do was keep his grades up and everything worked in his favor.
Feelings he was so used to were piling up much faster than usual. He wanted to help Kenny, he wanted to let him know that he was going to be there to help him if he needed it.
Kyle knew better though.
He'd been hiding the fact that he had become so desperate; his pride wouldn't allow him to tell his friends of what he had been reduced to. He wanted their help, but he couldn't ask for it as he should have. He was afraid of being caught; of being judged.
He didn't want to prove what most people thought of him to be right.
Kyle shifted slightly on his bed and heard a soft jingle in his pocket. His ears perked and he reached down, reaching into it and pulling out two small objects. He held them up in front of his face in the light, finding a dulled nickel and dime glinting softly. He turned it a bit in his fingers, his head cocked at it in wonder. It was so little; so insignificant to him. What was fifteen cents but another waste of space to most people when it meant so much more to Kenny?
His eyes widened a bit and he sat back up, staring at the coins and tossing them a bit in his palm. He listened to them clink together and looked around his room a bit before hopping up and placing the coins on his nightstand. He walked out of his room and down into the kitchen, past his family as they watched him in confusion as he ripped open their fridge and grabbed a large quarter-filled jar of pickles from the shelf.
"Kyle, what are you doing?" his father asked, blinking slowly at him.
"I read that pickles are good for um...," he blinked, "sore throats."
"Really?" his mother raised her brow.
"Y-yeah," he nodded. "Eat a bunch of pickles and that throat problem's good as gone," he smiled. "Old...ancient...Chinese...remedy," he stated slowly before clearing his throat. "And boy, does mine hurt," he lied, making his way past them and back up the stairs with the jar clutched tightly in his arms before they could utter another word.
He threw open the bathroom door and locked it behind him before dumping the pickle jar into the toilet and slamming the lid down. He flushed it, his fingers curling around the rim of the jar in his drive before turning to the bathtub and switching on the faucet. He grabbed his soap and poured a decent amount in the container before filling it with water, putting it on the floor of the tub when it became too heavy to support. He smiled as it overfilled with water and bubbles, washing down over the sides in a constant cascade. He licked his lips impatiently, waiting for the water to run clear before slamming the water off and dumping the heavy jar onto it's side, watching it all run out and down the drain.
He lifted it out and grabbed his towel, opening the bathroom door and drying it on the way to his bedroom. He locked himself in before throwing the glistening jar down on the bed beside the coins and grabbing a large permanent marker from his desk. He held the jar steady, carefully scripting 'Kenny's Jar' in two lines in bold font over the glass surface. He stepped back and smiled at it a bit before holding the jar up and dropping the fifteen cents, listening to the clatter with a determined face. He slid the jar under his bed and said a soft prayer for Kenny to find something to eat for the night.
He smiled a bit before standing and sliding under his bedspread, turning off his lamp and sighing deeply. He nuzzled his head into his pillow, a smile playing across his pale face as he drifted off; awaiting another day, another dollar.
Years passed between the boys and their friends, each of them staying with the others; growing with typical problems, cliche battles, and tearful nights spent together. Nine long years of time went on by, Kyle's watchful eye still trained on Kenny as he slipped him food day by day.
Kenny accepted it with some degree of apprehension anymore; hesitant at seeming so needy, at leaning on Kyle's support for so long. Kyle noticed it as well, continually reassuring him that it was nothing, that it was the least that he could do.
Kenny could do nothing in return. They'd sit together day to day and he'd fight with himself, angry at Kyle for being so kind to him. Angry at his parents for neglecting him and making Kyle be as he was. Mostly, he became angrier at himself as time went on; he hated being what he was. He hated that he couldn't just hide how desolate he was; he couldn't hide the bruises around his eyes like he did the rest of his body.
Things began to change as they entered their eighteenth years.
Kenny became resentful of what he had made Kyle become. He felt guilty, embarrassed, and furious at the same time; his emotions battling over what little sanity the boy held onto over the years. Until one day; he just stopped.
He couldn't take the pity anymore. He couldn't take eating leftovers from his friends' lunch trays, diving after every dropped quarter on the floor. He couldn't stand being judged as he hid behind his dirtied orange parka.
He wouldn't accept food anymore; he stopped taking all the handouts that people gave him. He felt that he had wasted enough dignity throughout the past nine years. Kyle practically threw food at him in his newfound refusing state and he just turned away from him, sulking and putting his hooded head down in his arms, refusing to move until the bell beckoned them to their next round of classes. He would hurry away before anyone got a chance to say anything to him, ignoring the starved churning of his stomach as he went throughout the rest of the day in silence.
Kyle and their other friends watched him in concern as he grew more distant and quiet. The way that his bruised cerulean eyes seemed to sink with each passing day. The way that despite the heavy down parka covering him, he still seemed to grow more and more slim with each passing week.
He hated those stares. He hated them because like everything else, he couldn't return it. He couldn't give them those stares of sorrow, he couldn't repay them for everything they'd done for him over the years.
It sickened him. It angered him. But above all else, it saddened him.
He started avoiding them, trying to stay as far away from them as possible. He thought it was working until he started finding sandwiches that were snuck into his bag; the tight, neat seran wrapping making it clearly obvious that Kyle was the culprit. He would take the sandwiches home, eating them atop his mattress, pretending that it was made by his mother; that things were okay in his household. He'd gnaw on the bread between his teeth, shutting his eyes to the sounds of his parents screams and the breaking bottles. He'd pretend that he was loved; that he was cared for.
He'd pretend Kyle wasn't the only one looking out for him.
Never once did the sandwiches get mentioned between the two of them, never did Kyle expect a thank you, no matter how much Kenny wished that he could.
He felt that the best way was to stay out of Kyle's way; to let him know that should he want to stop, it wouldn't kill Kenny on the inside. What he did was his own choice: Kenny was doing everything in his power to prevent it from happening sans telling him face-to-face.
But Kyle never stopped.
Day after day, food came to the blonde; smiles from across the room whenever their eyes would meet for the briefest of awkward moments before Kenny would look away in shame. And day after day, Kyle would expect nothing in return while Kenny felt as though he owed him the world for what he was doing.
He just had no way to go about giving it to him.
For weeks, months, time went on and their game continued until one day, one of their pieces was sent flying into the air.
Kyle disappeared along with their friend Stan. Kenny only knew from the lack of food in his bag before he looked at their desks to find them empty. He only vaguely heard their English teacher mentioning their names, something about an accident, barely seeing the tears falling from her cheeks and the soft sobs of their classmates.
He knew what'd happened, but he remained stoic. He'd taught himself to do so throughout the years.
A few days passed before Stan came back into the classroom, hobbling on crutches, his eyes sunken and stained with tears. The class held still for ten minutes of silence for Kyle, who wouldn't be coming back. Kenny was used to silence; he was used to not saying anything on the matter of how he and Kyle interacted. But this was different. This was a whole other kind of hurt.
Another day passed before they were all huddled together outside, watching the black box lowered into the ground. Kenny stood in front, Stan and Cartman at his sides as they watched him disappear from their sight forever. Cartman muttered to himself, Stan sobbed hysterically, clutching Wendy who was doing the same.
He stared, the wind gently blowing through his dirty-blonde hair. He shuddered from the cold in his hand-me-down suit, closing his eyes to the sound of the priest's last words for Kyle and shaking his head to himself. He couldn't bring himself to cry. Kyle wouldn't have wanted him to; yet another thing that he couldn't bring himself to do when he should have.
Kenny walked home from Kyle's funeral, passing through the mobs of sobbing people back to his home, littered with beer cans and the heavy aroma of smoke.
"Well don't you look fancy?" his father slurred out. "What's she look like?" he chuckled.
His mother smacked his arm hard, "Ya idiot, his friend's dead."
"Oh yeah," he stopped, his eyes glazed over in his drunken stupor. Kenny stared at them awhile longer before biting his cheek and heading into his room, shutting the door behind him and walking over to sit on his mattress. He did so, staring at his dusty window at the sun, unable to bring himself to accept his mother's words.
Dead. Kyle couldn't be dead.
Kenny had left too much unsaid, he'd become a leech upon Kyle's very existence. He was the one person in the world that Kyle had taken it upon himself to support.
There's no thanking the dead. He'd waited too long.
He sat on this. Thinking about it for days, feeling more alone than he though possible as he heard his parents continue as they had for years beforehand. But he couldn't think of Kyle's care anymore. He didn't have the material to pretend that everything was all right in his world.
It just wouldn't work.
Three days later, his father came in, throwing the phone at his head, claiming it was for him. Kenny blinked before picking it up, managing a simple 'hello', realizing how much his voice had changed since he'd silenced himself.
"Kenny? It's Sheila," the woman on the other line said softly. Kenny shut his eyes, hearing the familiarity and the tightening in his chest worsening. "It's...something of Kyle's," she choked out before clearing her throat. "I think...h-he wanted you to have it."
Kenny squeezed his eyes, letting out a simple 'okay' before hanging up the phone and letting his shoulders slump. Even now, Kyle was still giving to him.
And still, he could do nothing about it.
He picked himself off the bed hours later, walking in a daze past his passed-out parents and out the door. He let his feet take him to Kyle's house, unable to think for himself of where the home was as he walked. He took a deep breath as he approached the Broflovski home before ringing the doorbell.
It opened to a small, black-haired boy with red eyes. He saw Kenny and smiled weakly. "Hey," he nodded. Ken nodded back and the boy turned, "Ma!" he called out. "It's Kenny!"
A few tense moments passed before Kenny heard Kyle's mother coming down the steps, something jingling slightly with her footsteps. She walked over to him and displayed a large glass jar practically filled to the brim with coins. Kenny saw his name on it and his mouth dropped slightly, looking up at Sheila with wide eyes.
She smiled kindly at him, "Kyle always made sure I made two lunches," she said as Kenny shakily took hold of the jar. "I always knew the second one was for you." He continued holding the money, gulping as she continued, "He always wanted to make sure someone was looking out for you. I guess he is now, too," she broke a soft sob before patting his head and shooing Kyle's brother back in the house and quietly shutting the door. Kenny could hear both of them crying from inside the house together as he stared at the large sum of money clutched in his jar.
He felt his lip trembling as he turned, heading away from the household as quickly as he could, walking through the snow and fighting tears as he held the jar in his arms. He headed out of the sights of the houses, out of the sight of the town towards a small creek on the outskirts of the main pond outside of town. He sniffed lightly as he dropped to his knees beside the water, staring at his broken reflection with the money in his lap.
Kyle wouldn't leave him. Kyle was keeping his eye on him...He wouldn't let him suffer.
He couldn't take the thoughts anymore. So he cried.
For years, he'd held back everything; the shame and the anger, the pain and the regrets, the guilt and the hate. Everything came pouring out in a fountain of warm tears, falling from his cheeks to on top of his mound of coins. They glistened in the sunlight, Kenny clutching them all tightly. He opened his bloodshot eyes at the sky, tears still trailing down his face as he thought of everything he'd missed out on with Kyle. The closeness they could of had, the thanks that he could have given, the care that he could have returned.
But now it was too late.
He'd become his worst fear: a charity case. He was without shame or pride; he was dependent on others, or at least, one person in particular. But now that person was gone. Kenny could have said goodbye; he could have let him know that he was there for him like Kyle was for him.
He would never get that chance. His pride overtook his heart.
Kenny squeezed out his last few tears, his fingers wrapping around the rim of the jar tightly. He sniffled and looked up at the clouds again, watching the sun fitting around them calmly and beaming down on him and his gift from Kyle. He shook violently at the feeling of warmth that overtook him; unfitting for the brisk Colorado air before looking back down into the jar. He frowned, holding it atop his lap and grabbing out quarters one at a time.
He slowly sifted through the coins, grasping any silver change he came across and putting it on the ground beside him. He continued for minutes on end before finally coming out with thirty dollars in change. He stared at all the money, more than he had held since he was younger than that tender age of eleven when it all began to fall apart.
His lip curled up into a smile just slightly before he held the rest of the change in the jar before tipping it over the water's edge, watching the coins pouring into the water in a fall of metal droppings. The water splashed up onto him but he paid little mind as it finally ceased tumbling out, individual coins starting to move downstream with the gentle flow of the currant. He watched as they started spreading out, starting to coat the bottom of the mud in a shiny array of his friend's generosity.
He took the empty jar back up, scooping up the remaining thirty dollars at his side and throwing it in the container. He got to his feet and stared at the money flowing away, a single tear escaping him before he turned and walked away without a word.
The next morning, he gathered what he'd saved into a plastic J-Mart bag, taking it through the town towards the florist's shop. He picked out a set of eighteen roses, handing the man in charge his bag of quarters, nickels, and dimes. The man stared at him unbelieving for a moment before recognizing him for being the poor McCormick kid. The man just smiled and nodded at him and Kenny smiled back before turning and walking out of his store into the cold air.
He continued on down the walkway, coming up to the cemetery and taking a large breath. He stepped onto the lush, green grass of the area, making his way through the headstones before finally coming upon one of simplicity with a Star of David proclaimed at the top. He smiled meekly, kneeling down beside the grave and taking a deep breath.
He laid down the eighteen roses atop the grave, clasping his hands in prayer. "Make sure he gets food tonight," he murmured. "He always made sure I ate. It's his turn." He opened his eyes, feeling them burn and clearing his throat.
He ran his hand over the fresh dirt and bit his lip. "Thank you," he said finally, feeling a wave of relief washing off of his chest. "Thank you...you don't know how much I needed it," he said, more tears coming down his face. "I-I'll make it up to you...I promise," he finished in a whisper before sliding back onto his feet. He backed away, watching the decorated grave for a moment before turning and heading back down and out of the cemetery.
He felt a warm wind start up against him and smiled just slightly as his feet hit the sidewalk and he began walking back towards home. He closed his eyes, feeling a string of content over his heart. It wasn't what he wanted, but it was something at least.
He heard a clatter against the sidewalk underneath him and opened his eyes, finding a dime and a nickel together atop the cement. He looked around for an owner, finding no one but himself and the warm wind and stooped down to pick them up.
He tossed them in his hand a few times before smiling wider, picking up his feet again and taking off once more towards his home. He passed countless people as he crossed through town, no one knowing his name; no one greeting him in any way, shape, or form.
Just like before, he only had himself and Kyle watching him.
He pushed past them, the coins clutched in his hand for dear life as he finally made his way down into the outskirts of suburbia where his one-story home lied across the railroad tracks. He pushed into the dented front door, ignoring his parents in the living room and hurrying into his own. He shut the door behind him, locking it with his crude deadbolt and walking over to the corner of the room.
He lifted up a black crate under his textbooks, revealing a hidden large glass jar underneath. He smiled, dropping in the fifteen cents and listening to the clatter with a singing heart. He sat back on the ground and stared at it in determination, one more tear falling down his face as he stared at the crude markings atop the surface, his name scribbled out to read 'Kyle's Jar'.
Another day, another dollar; Another year, another rose.
A/N: I really liked the concept of this. My delivery however, not so much.
Tis the way I usually am I'm afraid T_T
Ah well, thanks for R&Ring :D
And hey look, my first non-morbid thing in...forever XDD