With and Without
Kevin kicked at the dirt of the street. His hat shifted as he reached beneath it to scratch at the back of his neck, and he fixed it as soon as he'd felt mildly satisfied with the discomfort. Peering up at the pale blue sky, the young teen licked at his dry lips and sighed.
"Man, suburbs are weird," he muttered under his breath. At least, his life had been weird ever since he'd moved there.
Kevin stopped mid walk, before turning to lean on the fence post. His thoughts drifted from the suburbs to the past content of them, and he leaned his head back. Eyes slipping shut, Kevin found himself trying to escape this disgusting feeling that overwhelmed him. But regardless of any attempt he'd made, his goal was not reached. And Kevin was left with this horrible emotion, or lack thereof, that gnawed at his very being.
"I hate it here."
"You dropped this."
"Goodness... Why, thank you, Kevin! I simply don't know what I would have done if I'd lost my sociology textbook; those are so expensive, and I just know father wouldn't have wanted to pay for another."
"Yeah... Sure, whatever."
It was a hot day out; the sun blazed and cooked the road of the Cul-de-sac. Most kids were indoors, seeking shade in the humid weather... Or, at the very least, lounging in a pool area and attempting to cool off in that manner. But not Kevin. Not at the moment, anyway. He stood by the wooden fence by himself, hat tilted backwards in a foolish way that didn't shield his eyes from the sun in any way. He needed to clear his mind.
There was a tightness in his stomach and a dryness in his throat (that wasn't caused by the heat), and he didn't like it one bit. For some reason, his heart clenched, and he sighed in an exasperated manner before kicking the fence and walking again. He'd felt weird ever since earlier that week. Glancing back at the world above him once more, Kevin recalled the events that had taken place.
It'd been a day like any other. That was how all days started out in their little Cul-de-sac; bland and average. The Eds, however, always spiced things up, of course. Ever since the incident with Eddy's older brother, they and the other kids had come to a friendly truce. Initially, Jonny acted weirdly jealous, before he too succumbed to the happiness their small community brought. Eddy, too, seemed somewhat distraught at the fact that he'd no longer be scamming others, but soon got over it when he was invited to all the parties the kids hosted (and Kevin allowed him access to jawbreakers from his garage). Granted, he and his other dorky friends managed to make things interesting, even if not in a chaotic manner.
But that day didn't hold the "interesting" that Kevin enjoyed. Or any of them, for that matter.
"Double Dweeb? What are you doing out here?"
"Oh... Hello, Kevin. You see... I was just waiting for my mother to pick me up. She said she'd be here, and then she may take me to the store, but... She must have gotten caught up in her work..."
"Dude, it's freezing out. Get on."
"G-get on your bike?"
"Yeah, man, that's what I said. Take it or leave it. You'll get sick if you stay outside, though."
"Very well... Thank you, Kevin."
It was all so terribly sudden; apparently only Ed and Eddy knew what Double D's parents had in mind. But the moment he saw the moving vans outside, Kevin knew something was up. He came to a slow stop on his bike outside Edd's house and scrutinized the vicinity, not finding Double D anywhere. Commotion arose quickly as the other kids began to gather.
"Hey, what's going on?" Nazz wondered as she stepped into the forming crowd.
The two present Eds remained void of explanation. Eddy kicked at the ground, a sullen expression dominating his face. Ed himself was a blubbering mess; he sobbed miserably, staring at the vans in pure unhappiness.
A frown graced Kevin's features and a sick feeling sank into his stomach. This couldn't have been good. Jonny, meanwhile, blinked and looked down at Plank.
"Huh? What do ya mean Double D's moving?" he questioned the board in believable shock, despite the fact that (even unspoken) this detail was more than clear.
"Rolf was not aware that sock-on-his-head-Ed-boy was leaving..." The blue haired farmer proclaimed, appearing to be more surprised than anything.
Silence reigned for a few moments, before Ed began to howl again.
Stricken with the heaviness of the situation, Jimmy burst into tears and joined Ed in his mourning. The waterworks were contagious, as Sarah's nose and eyes reddened, and she sniffled, wiping away at any tears before they could fall. She hid her face behind Nazz, whom gasped – hand at mouth – and bit her lip.
"Oh no, that's terrible!" She exclaimed. "Why didn't he tell anyone?"
When no answer came, she walked over to Eddy and held his hand. "Dude..." She said quietly, unsure of how she could remedy the situation with words alone.
Eddy didn't seem to acknowledge her presence. He only glowered harder at the ground, baring his teeth. This was when Rolf shakily sucked in a breath of air, looking like he too was going to cry. He pulled a horn from his pocket and blew into it, producing a barely audible pitch. He dove into an explanation before anyone could even question.
"This," he said, on the verge of tears himself, "is the horn of well faring. It- it is of very high regard in... In... In the old country..." Rolf, for all his general manliness, began to lose his composure.
Kevin stared at them as they fell apart. He looked back to the vans, and then to the house, before his eyes returned to the crowd of kids. Upon hearing Edd's front door open, he quickly turned just in time to see Double D carrying a glass box that appeared to consist of an ant farm. The dork was expressionless.
Kevin shut his mouth, only then having realized that it was hanging agape. Moments later, though, after watching Double D gingerly place the ants in his car, Kevin tried to speak- yet found himself unable.
"Double D don't go!" Ed sobbed, clawing at the air as tears ran down his face. He slumped to the ground, defeated.
Edd turned to him, eyebrows crinkling as he saw the state his friend was in. He began to walk over, before stopping. Apparently everyone else was speechless. When no other words came, Double D cleared his throat and spoke up.
"Residents of the Cul-de-sac, it has been quite the honor to spend the majority of my childhood with you..." He mumbled initially, though gradually grew louder. "You've brought me some of the best memories I could have hoped for. Th..." He coughed, voice cracking. "Thank you. For everything."
With that, his eyes wandered to Kevin, and for a fleeting moment, the redhead thought he saw something he could only identify as regret. For what, he was unsure, because not a minute later he was stepping into the car after his parents.
Nazz began to cry.
"Double D? What are you doing?"
"Guh... Salutations... Kevin... I'm attempting to bring this- this phone book... Inside... Father requested... It... So I..."
"Dude, you're out of breath. Is it seriously that heavy?"
"W-well, I suppose it is also rather... Hot out..."
"Wh-what's so funny about... This?"
"Nothing, man. Here, let me get it for you."
"O-oh! Why, thank you..."
"Hey, sure thing."
Kevin's eyes widened as his bike was yanked from his possession, and he suddenly found his voice again. "Hey!" he cried in automatic reaction.
Eddy paid him no heed, however, and began to pedal furiously after Edd's car. The vehicle was far ahead of him, though, and even as tears began to flow from his eyes, he was unable to catch up. He swerved for a moment, before the bike toppled over. It skid on it's side, Eddy with it, before he rolled separately and the bike crashed into a tree.
Eddy clutched his knee in pain, a large scrape having formed there, before he got up.
"FINE!" He shouted. "TAKE YOUR SON AWAY – WHATEVER! HE COULD HAVE HAD A FINE HIGH SCHOOL LIFE RIGHT HERE!"
He threw a rock into the distance, though Double D's car was long gone. Eddy's shoulders slumped, tears emerging from his eyes. He turned around to see that, by that time, the other kids had caught up to him. Kevin was, once again, expressionless. He just didn't know what to think.
"I'm sorry about your bike..." He sighed, and then the reluctant: "I'll- I'll pay for repairs somehow."
"Don't worry about it." Kevin found himself replying. "I'll just fix it myself."
The kids of the cul-de-sac began to disperse. Jimmy and Sarah held hands, the orange haired girl leading him back to the comfort of his home as he sniffled into his hand. Rolf, now slightly back together, slung an arm around Ed's shoulders and rambled about how he'd serve him something delicious in an attempt to make him feel better... At least, temporarily. Jonny followed along, arm clutching Plank protectively to him.
"Let's take a look at that cut." Nazz said, smiling sadly as she took Eddy by the hand and walked off in another direction.
Kevin stayed in place, staring at his broken bike.
"Thank you so much for helping me with understanding football, Kevin... I don't think I would've gotten it any other way!"
"Yeah, well, not like it'll do much now. The season is over."
"Oh – well, I doubt I would have made much a difference regardless..."
"So uh, hey. My mom made some lemonade. Want some?"
"Do you see anyone else?"
"Well... I would certainly love some! Thank you, Kevin."
Kevin stared at his ceiling, his arms and legs outstretched. Double D has moved away a week ago, and ever since, it was as though Kevin was almost strangely blank. He rarely left his house; and when he did, he sought complete solitude. He either wanted to ride his (fixed) bike at insane rates, or walk at a leisurely pace. Sometimes he'd play sports by himself, but each time he found himself pushing his limits to a ridiculous extreme. He'd go all out, trying to do anything to get his mind in a different state from what it was. But it never worked, and Kevin always found himself back in his bedroom, staring at the ceiling.
There was no pain or misery. There was only pure emptiness, and that was what perturbed Kevin the most. He cracked his back and rolled onto his side, contemplating getting something to eat. He didn't have an appetite, but he knew that it was a necessity to life. Instead, however, he sat up and stared out his window. Memories flashed before his eyes of that time he'd been grounded and Ed and Eddy had been playing merciless tricks on him. Simultaneously, they pranked Double D, and in the end Edd assisted him in giving the other two a good beating.
Kevin released a guttural growl that surprised himself, before he ripped his hat off his head and threw it at the wall.
"I swear, I'm going insane." he muttered angrily, before exhaling in an attempt to cool off.
Suddenly, Kevin stood up. He ran to his garage and raked a hand though his hair. Hopping onto his bike, Kevin rode out of his garage at a dangerously high speed. He passed by Nazz and Eddy sitting together on a park bench; even in his clouded lack of emotion and general spirit, he found it hard to not notice that those two had been spending more and more time together. And he found himself not minding at all. Beside that, everyone that had been together when Double D left had spent more and more time together, and they were all healing with each other. But Kevin was on his own. Without stopping, he turned sharply to avoid seeing Double D's house.
Air gushed down upon him, whipping at his face as Kevin clenched his teeth and pedaled harder. Down the street he rode, bitterness resonating in his system all the while.
"My apologies for interrupting you... But... Well, if you wouldn't mind. May- may we converse?"
"Uhh, sure thing. What's up?"
"Dude, out with it."
"I just wanted to know if you needed help with anything."
"...Nah, not right now. Why?"
"I mean – well, you see... It's just that... You're always helping me with things."
"So I- I should return the favor."
"It is only fair, after all! I wouldn't want to be a strain on your life."
"You help me when I have an issue, so I thought I could do the same for you. Perhaps homework, or bike tweaking..."
"Double D, I-"
"Oh! I can cook as well. If you ever need anyone to make you anything, I am certainly available!"
"Unless there is something else you need? Just name it! I-"
"Friendship is unconditional, man."
"Don't sweat it."
"V-very well then..."
"Not that I'd mind you cooking for me, sometime. I can make some mean hamburgers, but not much else is as choice."
"What's so funny, dork?"
"Oh, nothing! No, that'd be nice."
"Yeah, it sure would be."
Kevin came to a stop, panting in a cold sweat. He'd rode in a complete circle that was at least a mile in length, and the day was transitioning into night. The blue air washed over him and bathed him in twilight as fireflies gradually began to make themselves known. As though awakening from a trance, Kevin realized that he'd halted right in front of Double D's house. There was an eerie emptiness of the Cul-de-sac streets, and in the back of his mind, Kevin registered that everyone had gone inside. He was more focused, however, not on the absence of the others, but the presence of a wooden sign in what was Double D's yard. A for sale sign that, in his dreary state, he hadn't noticed prior.
It was then that Kevin felt his bike begin to tremble, and upon looking down, he discovered that it wasn't the bike itself, but rather, him. He was clenching so hard on the handles that his knuckles turned white, but Kevin couldn't see in his blurred vision. In the back of the young teen's mind, a wave crashed.
He stumbled off of his bike and bolted into his home, slamming the door behind him. For sale. There was little more definite and groundbreaking than that – for sale. Double D was not coming back. He was gone. There would be no more teasing him for his sheer intelligence and silently admiring it. There would be no more intently studying the gap in his teeth that was shown with every innocent smile. There would be no more advice on how to tweak his bike. There would be no more helping Eddward out. He was gone from Kevin's life, and Kevin felt that without Double D, only he himself remained.
There the young man stood, face pressed against the wall just outside his bedroom, shoulders quaking. Slowly, he slid down to the carpeted floor, crumpled and lost. Everyone was moving on. Everyone was getting over Edd's absence except him - and Kevin wept for the loss of a dear friend that could have been more.
Kevin slowly came to. His eyes were bloodshot, and dried tears lined his face. Sniffling, he sat up, realizing that he'd passed out in the hall. Understanding that his parents weren't home yet, he wondered what time it was – before, that is, it occurred to him that the reason as to why he'd woken up was because the phone was ringing. Muffled, but no doubt there was someone calling.
Coming to a stand, Kevin quickly collected himself back to the initial empty state he'd been in before he broke down, and hesitated to reach for the phone. Whomever it was, they were patient. Clammy fingers limply hanging onto the device, he held it up to his face, saying nothing. For a moment, there was silence.
"Um... Good evening...?" The timid voice mumbled on the other end.
Kevin's eyes widened. "Double D? Is that you?"
He could practically hear the relieved smile on Edd's face. "I brought the phone book."