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16+ Language Mature Content

Dark Corners, Bright Spaces: 2.2 (Peter)

by Carlito


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and mature content.

Hi, thanks for reading! This is a first draft and I am looking mostly for big picture comments! I really want your thoughts about the characters, pacing, story arcs, structure, etc. I’m also working on achieving deep POV and would love your thoughts on both Luna and Peter’s voice (depending on who is narrating), where I can show more instead of tell, and where I may be able to achieve a deeper POV.

Please be honest!! I’m not easily offended!

Thanks so much

(tl;dr so far: Luna has her own computer repair business and works at the computer help desk at her school. Peter came to her for help with his computer, and so far they don't really care for each other. Peter got a threatening email and he is currently vaping in the bathroom to take the edge off.)

____________________________________

“Hey!” A deep voice said followed by a knock on my stall door. “I smell that. I know what you’re doing, come out right now.”

I stuffed my vape back in my pocket and grabbed my bag, conceding defeat.

Sometimes I wondered what the teacher would do if I just refused to come out of the stall. Would they stay all day begging with me? They couldn’t forcibly open the door. What if I was naked or something?

But I don’t fight it, it’s easier to come out of the stall and face the music.

Mr. Saltzman is waiting for me, arms crossed, deep (probably permanent by now) wrinkles between his tightly furrowed eyebrows.

“What were you doing in there?” He demanded.

“What do you think I was doing in there?”

The folds between his eyebrows somehow become even more pronounced. “Turn out your pockets.”

I don’t bother. He wants proof I was vaping. I don’t care.

“Well done, you’ve solved it. Maybe they’ll give you a raise.” I flashed the vape in front of his face.

He tried to grab my arm, but I shook him off.

“Office. Now.” He said through his teeth.

“With pleasure,” I mumbled.

For someone in four AP classes and no grade lower than an A-, I was pretty well-acquainted with the principal’s office.

Mr. Saltzman followed behind me close enough I could smell his old coffee breath, like I was going to try to make a break for it or something with my vape and he wouldn’t get the glory of catching me.

Ms. Collins, the head principal, must have been busy or something because once Mr. Saltzman deposited me in front of the office receptionist and went to go find more miscreants, I was invited back to see one of the associate principals, Mr. McNally.

Mr. McNally and I went way back. He used to be friends with my dad, so he tried to be my friend and get me off with lesser punishments whenever I came to see him.

His desk was almost too clean, like he just sits here and stares at the wall until he gets a big glory moment of sitting across from someone at his desk and laying down the school law. He leaned far back in his chair, hands resting behind his head, as I took my seat across from him.

“Peter, Peter, you know I don’t like seeing you in my office like this.”

I stared at him. When else did I come in here? Was I supposed to engage my associate principal in nice friendly chats about my feelings during the day?

“Let’s see the damage,” He said.

I supposed that meant the vape pen in my pocket. I considered playing dumb, he honestly might let me get off free because he gets along well with my dad and probably didn’t want to do the paperwork involved with actually punishing me.

“Mr. Saltzman said that you were smoking in the bathroom?”

I put the vape on the desk between us and didn’t say a word. There was always a chance he wouldn’t care that much, give me yet another warning, and send me on my way. I think we both knew no one at my house would answer the phone to discuss my punishment anyway.

“Peter I’ve known your dad a long time.”

I knew that.

“What would he say about this?”

I wouldn’t know. He’d actually have to come around the house for once and spend time with his kids.

“I think we both know he wouldn’t want his son smoking in the bathroom while he should be in class.”

“I had a free period.”

“And what are free periods for?”

Smoking because your girlfriend’s naked pictures could get released tonight unless I could figure out a plan to stop it.

I reached out to grab my vape and put it back in my pocket but Mr. McNally beat me to it and took it from me.

“Peter you know I can’t let you have this back. This is the second time this month. What’s going on? Talk to me.”

This was the classic part when the teacher or administrator tried to make you feel better by “connecting” with you. I would have rather just been handed my punishment so I could go about my day.

“There’s nothing to say. I got caught,” I shrugged. “What’s the punishment, boss?”

He stared at me, probably debating whether to add on more because of my attitude while also not wanting to piss off my dad too much for messing up my chances at an Ivy.

“Peter, I gave you a warning for this very offense just last month.”

“I remember.”

“And if I remember correctly, you’re trying to go to an elite university next year.”

That’s what he’d been told at least. “Sure.”

“I could suspend you for this, you know.”

Suspend me then.

“But I know you’re a good kid and I don’t want to disrupt your chances of going to the school you want to go to. If this happens again, I’ll have no choice to suspend you though, you understand that right?”

“Sure.”

“Thirty hours of community service to be completed before the end of the term, and I’ll need to notify one of your parents.”

“Great.”

“Who’s home right now Peter?”

He knew just as well as I did where my dad was. My mom technically worked from home as a “lifestyle blogger” but spent most of her day getting injections and fillers and massages and facials and acupuncture and anything else that she thought would keep her from looking her real age.

I just shrugged.

Without waiting for my response, he looked my name up in the online system and dialed my mom on speaker phone.

Voicemail. No surprise there.

“Good afternoon, Ms. York, this is Mr. McNally calling from the school. Your son got himself in a bit of trouble today and I would appreciate your call back so we can discuss his given consequence.”

She wasn’t going to call back. There was a decent chance I’d finish all of my community service hours without my parents ever actually finding out that I had the hours in the first place.

He dialed my dad next and a female voice answered the phone. I rolled my eyes, pretending to be surprised.

“Hello who am I speaking to?” Mr. McNally asked.

“This is Julia Khan, Mr. York’s assistant. How may I help you?”

Assistant. Sure.

“Could you have Mr. York call me at his earliest convenience. We need to discuss a matter involving his son at school.”

“Sure thing. I’ll let him know right away.”

If he called back by the end of the day, someone should pay me $100. By the end of the week $75. Plus, what was he going to do to parent me from Virginia when I was here in Indiana?

I shifted in my chair. “Can I go now?” The bell for lunch would ring any minute.

His hand hovered the phone, like he was going to try my mom again or something. There was no one else on my call log to try and reach. Neither of my parents would be calling him back.

“Yes, I suppose you can.” He put his hand back in his lap, resigning defeat.

I stood and threw my backpack over my shoulder.

“Thirty hours by the end of the term.”

“Right.”

“And Peter?” He said once I was to the door.

I turned and gave him a fleeting look.

“No more of this okay?” He held up my vape. “I know things aren’t easy at home, but you’re better than this.”

I walked out of his office without even dignifying that with a response. What did he know about my home and my family?

#

The house was empty when I got home from school. No surprises there. I even forgot to text Kendall back to arrange her coming over to hang out, which I’d probably have to answer for later.

I threw my bag down in the entry way, no one would notice until much later, and it was doubtful anyone would care.

No note from my mom on the fridge. Sometimes she clued me in to where she was and when I might expect her home. I didn’t get that privilege today. My little brother, Thomas, was off at a friend’s house as per normal.

The cleaner that comes to our house twice a week to take care of all of the things my mom didn’t have time to do between her facials and treatments and lifestyle blogging must have come today because there were fresh lines in the carpet and the countertops shone.

Silence weighed heavy in this house. Every creak of the floor, whoosh of the air vent, or rustling of food being dug out of the fridge, echoed throughout the rest of the house.

I turned the TV on just for some noise. I hated the silence and what the silence represented.

Kendall would be over in a heartbeat if I invited her. She welcomed any opportunity to be in an empty house with me. But the email loomed over me. I still hadn’t figured out if it was something to take seriously or figure it just a prank, and I was running out of time. Maybe I should have gone back to the help desk and asked the Luna girl about it. Or maybe one of the pimple-faced kids that sat behind Luna would know what to do.

Funny enough, this kind of thing was right up my dad’s alley. He moved to Virginia three years ago to take over a computer security consulting firm. It was his job to find and eliminate cyber-security threats, so if this were something nefarious, he would know and he would know how to fix it.

But I avoided him if I could help it. I didn’t ask him for help on principal, and I didn’t feel the need to start now. Either I’d be stupid for not knowing the difference between a prank and a real threat, or I’d be stupid for clicking on the first suspicious email and getting myself involved in the first place.

And the thing was, I shouldn’t have to be the one to reach out to him and tell him what was going on in my life. He could make the effort and call. He didn’t. Why should I?

Without my vape I had no real way to relax. I considered searching my mom’s medicine cabinet for one of the many sleeping pills I knew she had just to help myself fall into a deep sleep for the next twelve hours or so, but that was one of the few things she probably would notice.

Instead I watched the sitcom re-run I’d already seen and tried not to listen to my empty house.


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I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
— Pablo Neruda