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2. Nothing Ever Changed

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A picture of today: October, year 20–. Today is a normal day for an average high school in a little town in a New York suburb. Who am I? Damien “Damn” Thompson, leader of the local “gang” of outcast troublemakers and problem starters. The nickname came from the beginning of my first name, and the fact that a lot of people were always saying, “Damn you” when I was around. I can’t say that I’m complaining; I do go around looking for trouble. The age of 18 only comes once in someone’s life, why waste it trying to act perfect? Eileen, Seth, Melissa and me aren’t perfect, never were, never will be. Why try?

People fear us; it’s just that simple. We’re not the model students the preppy kids are. The four of us grew up together and became what we are today together. What are we? The words used to describe us go on and on. My favorite out of them all is freaks, or Goths, shortened form of the term gothic. We weren’t Satanists, don’t get me wrong. For the most part we were Catholics, just lacking in our faith. Our term was Lax Caths to explain in shorthand what faith we followed.

Intimidation is a powerful tool, why waste it? By gang, I don’t mean we went and killed people for the hell of it. Sure, some people carried weapons, but never a gun; and what they carried they never used. So what did we do? We were a gang of friends who caused trouble to get back at society when it wronged us. Whether one of us or all of us got hit with the insult, we all stood up for revenge. Vengeance is bittersweet sometimes, and it was following that road that we lost one of our treasured members. Sure, when a group loses a member they all get pretty downcast, but it wasn’t just anybody.

It was Melissa. Her and I were like the crowning couple of the group, together we dreamed up the unimaginable. Seth and Eileen were always there, and we did nothing without them. Yet, she and I were beyond the normal, Seth and Eileen both would agree that we truly ran things. Our group wasn’t much, just a bunch of ragtag wandering teens. Ages varied a bit, no older than 19, no younger than 15. One or two had been left back a year, and we refused most freshman. Anyway, back to the members that matter. Eileen, Seth, Melissa and I were the core of the group itself, responsible for everything. We were young; we didn’t stop to consider the effect of our actions later on in our lives. Maybe we should have.

Eighteen years old, no time to worry, well, Melissa was still seventeen. We were counting the days with her when she’d qualify as one of the “Majors” of the group. We didn’t have many requirements. The Majors were the main four, once we reached age 18 that is. Why did we have an age requirement for only four people? Just to show that Melissa was the baby of the group. There was a particular icon that identified us as a group that people wore different ways. I can’t verbally describe it, but it was a sign that to us meant unity, honor, truth, respect and strength. We, the Majors, dreamed up everything.

So by October we had started our senior year together. Our “gang” had always existed since we were young; it just took a few years to mature, as we had. We were all similar but different. Everybody had their own little charm as well as that little glitch nobody can stand. Names were known by everyone and important decisions were discussed with the group. It was as if we ran our own society, made our own rules. We had a sort of government, laws, boundaries, and even income. We were like an independent nation. Was everything legal within our group? Of course not, but you didn’t hear it from me.

Now, to make mention of a few important characters amongst the bunch. There was Leo “Locke” Cross. His nickname came from the fact that he could pick any lock. Most of us had a very particular spelling to our names, hence why he liked the added “E”. He was a good guy to have around, a junior, he was with us for a year or so now. Oldest of four, time outside the house Locke treasured. He had a sister maybe two years younger than himself, a brother a few years below her, and a new baby sister. He was a tall, lanky kid like myself, but strong nevertheless. He would protect any of those kids with his life; he loved them to death. Course if you tried to get away with a quick joke about him caring about his siblings he’d probably hit you. It’s not that he had a short temper – he just had a lot of pride. I admit that I myself don’t think I could stare at a baby for five minutes straight without smiling. It’s just the fact that they’re so innocent and all, you know what I mean.

Anyway, next winner. Gus Wolfe, or should I say, Gustave. He’s some sort of French guy, like an exchange student. He fell in with us about as soon as he got here. Fit in perfectly, no doubt about that. Great guy, quiet a lot of the time. None of us know his life story, he’d never say. Call him Gustave and he’ll break your face, he’s very proud too, most of us are. So, Gus has been with the crew maybe two years now. Great to have around in a tough spot, he’s never afraid. Maybe he is, but he hides it well. He knows just about everything we could ask of him about well…illegal operations. Great guy.

Next we have Christine Brant, one year older than the rest of us. Her and Shawn Miller were left back so they were 19 while we were still 18. The great thing about the two of them was that they didn’t try and pull a fast one with the age issue; they sat back and watched, helping along the way. Great people, just like the rest. Both of them were geniuses, they could solve anything, together they were something fierce. Within our group were a few close couples; they had to be the closest. Both had a good sense of humor, an untouchable trust barrier and enough knowledge about each other to hold information ransom. They didn’t hide anything from us, they were proud to be who they were; they had overcome hard obstacles and stood upright.

By hard obstacles I don’t just mean anything. Their families were seriously screwed up, and there were times when the group had gone over to help make sure that one or the other got out alright. Usually Christine, being she was outnumbered at home. Shawn was an only child, and loved it to death. But poor Christine, she had to deal with an alcoholic father, two older brothers that always obeyed dear ol’ dad and a mother that was long dead. The story goes that her mother killed herself because she couldn’t stand it any longer and Christine was left with relatives. Her father won a custody battle and dragged her back. The mental condition she was in shocked us all. Melissa and her talked a lot; being Melissa had similar troubles. Shawn was a lot of help to her, but how could he understand? I myself had a young sister and an older brother, I was the middle kid, so I can’t really say I understand what Christine was going through.

Even though Shawn didn’t have siblings, he had many fights with his parents and would commonly take off. His father was a military type; Shawn didn’t give a damn for the army. Mr. Miller was always fighting with him, trying to get Shawn interested. It never happened, so sometimes we had to go pick him up too. It was part of the group; we were there for each other. If anything happened to one of us, vengeance was to be gotten. Such was our method, live and let live, unless they hurt one of your fellows.

It was a sort of policy that we maintained. Our group didn’t have true rules; we just made up some standards along the way. There were maybe 15 of us total, all friends. The names went on and on, but why confuse you with them all now? The main crew of important people consists of Seth, Eileen, Melissa, Locke, Gus, Shawn, Christine and myself. We were truly a gang of friends, nothing more, but the world didn’t know that. Why try and explain? For the most part, people were too busy to listen anyway. Time’s too precious to waste. So that’s the crew, well, that’s the main crew anyway, on with the story.

October I was saying? Things were as they always were, the usual day in and day out. School was a meeting ground for us; we attended classes that might prove useful. It was the beginning of October that year; the majority of the group was in classes, “learning” while we hung outside the building. Outside in October, we must’ve been crazy, but who wasn’t? Everybody’s a little crazy; they just hate to admit it. What about me you say? I don’t give a damn what you think, you and the rest of society can go to hell with your twisted morals.

So we were outside in the brisk autumn air stealing a smoke, gaining a bit of sanity. The teachers had long given up on trying to stop us; perhaps they were afraid to? That’s a good laugh. Looking around I saw a circle of familiar faces. Seth was sitting on the ground with Eileen beside him, staring off into space. Christine and Shawn were standing huddled together talking quietly. Locke and Gus stood close discussing God knows what. I leaned against the wall with Melissa, watching the cloud of smoke rise, our cloud. We were responsible for something, but nothing terribly important. Maybe someday…

Looking at Melissa I realized a mark that I had never seen before. Her father was a terrible man, a true to God bastard. He had lost his father when he was young, so he wasn’t quite sure how to be one. He didn’t know the first thing about having children and his wife was scared to death of him. Melissa wasn’t the only one; she had a younger sister who knew her father’s wrath. The man was intolerable. I had gone over there on several occasions to go get her, and time and time again she went back. I had to hand it to her, she had hope for a cruel man. Too bad all that hope was wasted; he was a lost cause.

School guidance counselors thought she was cutting herself. Never in her life did Melissa ever set a blade to herself willingly. He did it for her. They wouldn’t believe her if she told them, so she never did. Her arms were a mess and on one side of her face everything seemed darker and sadder. I hugged her close and said what I could, but it was never enough. She was such a complex person, always fighting for the positive in the worst people. I swear – Melissa would find some way to say that Hitler had a bit of good in him, that the Caesars of Rome weren’t too crazy and that the sinking of the Titanic had some good moral teachings. She was just that kind of person. It drove us crazy sometimes, but that’s how I ended up with her I suppose. Two crazy people trying to make sense of each other.

I swore time and again that I would take care of that father of hers once and for all before he killed somebody, but she wouldn’t let me. I told her I wouldn’t let her stop me. She said that if I dared to she would never speak to me again; not even as much as look at me. To go through my life without a person such as her beside me would be pointless. So we were in agreement, I wouldn’t hurt him and she wouldn’t hurt me.

So why didn’t I go and take care of it and blame someone else? Because I’m a better person than that, pride wouldn’t allow it. Besides, Melissa was well known for her ability to see through a lie, no matter how skilled the liar. She had proved this on several occasions. It was one of her many talents that caused many to respect her. What can I say? I knew better than to try and go behind Melissa’s back. Though loyal, the group made its own decisions without the “Majors”, if that’s what it came down to. We taught each other and preached to make sure everything was for the good of the group.

Standing outside we stared into a world that we survived in, yet within which nothing was quite ours. We belonged to the government; they controlled everything. Our lives were supposed to be in the hands of society and its corrupt teachings. That is where we broke free. Why try so hard to fit into a crooked system of beliefs anyway? It’s not worth the effort. So we didn’t try. Instead, we stayed on the outside, looking in as if through an invisible window. We were the outcasts to them, but to us, they were the outcasts, the freaks. Reverse logic? Think about it.

They feel pity for us, well, some of them, because we don’t fit in. We feel sorry for them because they’ll always fit in. They’ll always follow a blind leader, leading them to lives they are unprepared for. We, on the other hand, broke out of that system; ran free. We control our lives, our destinies, anything directly involving us. All of us had a harsh taste of reality. We were ready for it, had accepted it as part of life, and knew how to deal with it. When they, someday, are having nervous breakdowns, we’ll be able to look back and laugh.

Well, perhaps we wouldn’t laugh; we’re not cruel. Scratch that, yes we are. Those pricks made our lives more difficult, harder to tolerate. Why should we go easy on them? They never showed mercy or compassion toward us, why return a forgotten favor? We won’t, we wouldn’t.

Back to what we were doing, which wasn’t much. Melissa had been in another family brawl it seemed and Christine, well that was a story Shawn could explain to us later. He told us what he thought we should know, which was anything that might spark a thought of a possible solution. Like I said before, good people. We sat and laughed for a while outside the building, watching the cloud of smoke form and disappear into the air. A cool autumn breeze rushed through and sent that old October chill down our backs. A teacher passed by with half a glance. Recognizing us, he walked off shaking his head, muttering to himself. I knew what he was thinking. Why say anything; we weren’t going to listen. People are so predictable.

Maybe ten minutes later we marched back into the school. The halls were, for the most part, deserted. Anyone inhabiting them hurried a bit more than usual and took their route to class, usually opposite from us. Fear’s a powerful weapon, and we had it in spades. Did we really mean to seem that way? Not really, but the true question is, were we really like that. Well, some of us were at times, some of us never were. The personalities varied like the colors of the rainbow. Such was the diversity we knew.

We were simply friends who believed in watching out for each other; that’s what it boiled down to. But who knew that other than ourselves? Nobody – and it would stay that way. Everybody had different reactions; Melissa seemed to understand it so much better than myself. She said that it was in their eyes; that you could learn everything from staring into a person’s eyes, if you knew what to look for. I never took her seriously, until one day her theory was proven. Right before my very eyes.

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