[int. ////room - night]
It's dark in the room. The only light is of the moon shining through the curtains. In the middle of the room is a dark figure laying up on the bed. The only sound is of owls in the distance, the noise echoing and losing itself in the woods outside the window. A moment of silence- and heavy breathing is hard. Louder, and louder, but slowly steadying, quieter, and quieter. A whispered “yes,” rings through the room. “I'll leave and be done with this place.” the words are coming from the figure, now identifiable in the dark as a teenage boy. The room looks rather bare, a dormitory, perhaps. The boy is silent for a few minutes, deep in thought.
If never before in his life had he been truly confident in an idea, he was now. The day had been the last straw. It would be the last time he would feel stuck, in a cage, with nowhere to go, no one to speak to. There were, of course, a few he might call his friends, but never like him. Never like him. No one was quite like Ezra. The curtains billow in the wind and the minute ticks in the red numbers beside his head, 2:37. He had been awake for around 19 hours now and had the plan of the century. He would leave, simple as that. And he would do it for Ezra. To find him, to bring him home. A sniffle is heard. The muffled drop of tears on a pillow. The boy cries close to silently. “No, don't go. Wait, wait, don't- DON'T LEAVE ME!!" A memory, a wish.
Determined, that was what he felt. He was going to show everyone that he was more than just a loner, more than “that kid,” more than “the boy with the girl's name.” he would show them. He would show them all. After all, he was Lavender Cromwell, and he would find his friend, and he would rule the world. He would spend two more weeks in this hellhole. Only that much longer, because never again would he step onto the campus of this school. These two weeks would be his last here. He could walk to the bus station from here down on the main road, he would take the bus to the trains, take a train to New Jersey. And then he would find Ezra. It didn't matter how he found him. But he would find him.
[ end scene ]
[int. Lavender's dorm room - evening]
A fortnight later, with an intense feeling of deja-vu, the boy was packed. his train tickets were booked. he had with him several changes of clothes, his toiletries, a phone, a laptop, the Chargers for both, headphones, a pen, an empty notebook, his camera, and all of the saved money he had been stocking up for a new one. Four hundred thirty-seven dollars. In a large duffel the boy's things had gone, and the next morning lavender Cromwell would be but a myth at this school.
Hours were passing, and Lavender was preparing to leave with a lingering feeling that he had done this before. As if it weren't his first time... but all the same, the boy is checking, and rechecking his supplies. To the list were added water, snacks, and a baseball cap, as well as his miniature speaker. He soon remembered his music player and brought that too. It was 9:45 P.M.- he would leave in less than 4 hours.
Ten minutes had come and gone, nothing had changed. Going over last-minute ideas, last-minute wonders, and he was getting nowhere. A walk might help. He should visit the kitchens, maybe. Maybe he would. He put his slippers on and left the room. A few minutes down the hall, and he heard a voice call out to him. “Hey, Cromwell!” It was Dean Evans, the kid in his English class that had asked him for a pencil. They weren’t all that familiar, so why…? “You should come down to the commons, Madison is there.”
He was torn. This was his last day, were his final hours, even. James was his friend and was one of the only people who would talk to Lavender when he moved in. Not as good a friend as Ezra, of course, but no one was Ezra. Even then, Lavender had come to care for James, even if just a little. “Sure, I’ll go,” he finally replied.
“Great, we’ll see you in the commons!” Evans said with an exaggerated bow, mocking their English teacher, who practically lived in the seventeenth century. The bow was a common joke between their classmates, so Lavender laughed, the way one does when trying to make a point of being calm. However, he cut himself off too abruptly and Evans felt a bit foolish like he was being judged. Lavender didn’t notice, or if he did, he brushed it off.
[int. commons - night]
The commons were empty with the exception of the group that invited him. The room had a gas fireplace, several armchairs, a shelf with books and board games, and two long tables. James was sitting in one of the armchairs across from some kid Lavender suspected was named Sawyer.
“Cromwell!” Sawyer called out from across the room. It was awfully familiar for someone who only knew Lavender in passing. James said nothing. “Madison has been telling me all about your drive to California. Also, James, that was total nonsense.”
“No, it wasn’t! I swear, her sister was a princess!!”
“So what was her sister?”
“The Wicked Witch of the East!!!”
Ah, The Wizard of Oz… Lavender slightly regretted accepting Evans’s invitation.
“Wait,” said Evans, “you drove to California? When??”
“A year and a half ago.”
“You did it by yourself??” No, he hadn’t.
James interrupted, “Yeah. Makes me want to do it. You’ve watched the movie version, right, Lav? Her sister is a princess, right?”
“I’m not sure.”
“WHAT! You’re the resident movie nut at this school! How do you not know?? Or am I just going insane?”
“Well, it’s a film based on a mediocre children’s book that was then also turned into a musical… why should I know anything about it?”
Lavender settled down into the couch facing James, smiling in what he thought was an artful fashion, and choosing to say nothing.
“Did you even have a childhood??” James continued, “Next, you’re gonna start calling the Disney movie adaptations mediocre!”
“Of course not!” Lavender scoffed, “How could you say that? Disney adaptations are some of the best things to happen to this world! The colours, the scenery, the historical accuracy could have been researched a bit more, it's a little bit off, but the execution is amazing!”
“So you’re just gonna sit there and tell me that the Wizard of Oz is mediocre?”
“It’s a musical, it’s not all that good,” Lavender was seriously reconsidering his choice of friends.
“Oh, and the Disney adaptations aren't musicals, right, definitely,” James had a sarcastic look on his face as if to say, “Very funny, Lavender. I am very amused.”
Eventually, the topic veered off of Disney and musicals, and the discussion turned to small talk about different types of movies and cartoons.
Lavender was becoming paranoid. Time was passing quickly, but the boys still had no sign of stopping the conversation. He began checking the clock, first every ten minutes, then every five, until his eyes flitted back and forth between the boys and the clock non-stop.
“What’s up with you, Cromwell?” Evans had asked. They had noticed. His palms felt sweaty and he wiped them against his thighs.
“Oh, um, nothing! I was just planning to call my sister!” Lavender lied. He didn’t have a sister.
“At this hour? I didn’t even know you had a sister and I’m like your only friend,” James inquired. He didn’t have a sister. The clock ticked. Of course, the others were only asking Lavender these questions out of boredom, for lack of anything better to say.
“She’s just studying in California at the moment, she’s getting a degree in mathematics.” No, she’s not! She doesn’t even exist! In his head, Lavender was sure that this was it, it was finished, any second they would figure out that he was running away.
“That’s cool! Where is she studying?” think, think!
“Stanford! She’s staying with our uncle. That’s why I went for that drive a year ago,” okay, okay, it’s okay. His voice was slowly becoming steadier, the wavering was settling. The panic was subsiding. “I should probably leave, I did promise to call her after all.” The excuse was flawlessly delivered. He almost gave himself a pat on the back. Lavender made to stand but was held back.
“Hey, are you going to the school’s Film Festival after the holidays?” Sawyer called out. The film festival! It was an annual production organized by the student council where students could submit their live-action or animated short film projects. It was the only thing Lavender had ever been recognized for, and it wasn’t even to his face. Lavender enjoyed making films. Silent films, sometimes in black and white, no dialogue whatsoever. Not a single word was spoken in that film, and he was still the first freshman to have placed in the festival. Nobody else knew that though. Well, James knew. And Ezra, because he had, after all, been the one in the film. Not even James knew that.
James intervened, “You do know that Lavender won last year?”
“Wait, that was you? The one under that weird name?”
“You mean his alias?” James said, grinning. Lavender was feeling betrayed, although why exactly, he wasn’t sure, as he had never told James to keep his mouth shut.
“Uh, yeah, that was me.” Lavender waited for the onslaught of praise.
“That’s amazing! Everyone loved that film! I could have sworn I heard some of our classmates sobbing when it finished,” Sawyer said.
The latter comment left him flushed. The only people who had acknowledged his work to face before were his family, Ezra, and James. Still, he felt uncomfortable, as if the praise was said out of a sense of obligation. Now there was an awkward pause.
“Who was the guy in the film?” Evans asked. Lavender had almost forgotten he was there.
James perked up, “Yeah! Who was that?” [beat] Lavender felt like he was burning up.
“Oh, no one,” he managed to say, and it was obvious to James that Lavender was anxious, more so than James expected. James had asked the same question before and had been brushed off quickly, but this time the added audience made Lavender seem even more stressed.
“What kind of person goes on a drive like that at two-thirty in the morning with just nobody,” Sawyer asked obtusely, ”and there was so much going on it couldn’t have just been a five-minute drive to McDonald’s.”
James thought Sawyer was pushing it too far, Lavender was visibly distressed. Lavender was strange. James could never tell what he was thinking. Lavender was an enigma, a puzzle James couldn’t solve. Lavender was rather quiet, he rarely hung out with anyone, and yet, here he was. But why? What was special about today, that Lavender decided to join them?