Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
Mikey had two days until his father returned home. He pedaled his bike down the long, winding driveway that led out of the woods from his property. The Harris land was almost 50 acres, most of it being woodland that obscured the house from view of the main road or surrounding properties.
He loved the quietness of the ride into town. Everything was more quiet when William was gone. It wasn’t that Mikey missed his father; it’d just been a little lonely since the divorce. The man spent more time in abandoned mud huts than in his own home.
A dew-soaked branch brushed at Mikey’s hair, making him shiver. Morning rides were the only thing that helped him prepare for class so that he could continue to get those straight A’s his father expected.
A cat darted onto the path in front of his tire, causing him to swerve sharply. The entirety of the driveway was lined by a gray picket fence, and he veered directly into it. The boards snapped but not before stopping his bike and throwing him forward over the handlebars. He landed in the brushy growth on the other side, a stick jabbing at his leg through his jeans.
After extricating himself from the weeds, he looked at the buckled front wheel of his bike then at the cat, which was calmly watching him from the other side of the road. “Asshole!” Mikey shouted. The cat skittered away, startled by the noise.
He carefully pulled the bike out of the remains of the fence, noting the taco-like bend in the wheel. “Fantastic. This is what I needed in my day.” He grabbed the bike by the triangle, leaning forward and throwing it at the broken section of fence.
He kicked at pebbles on the walk to school. He was fuming at the cat and the fence; the latter was one of his father’s prized landscaping features, regardless of the fact that it served no real purpose.
When he reached the parking lot of Kentlee High, he was 10 minutes late and huffing for breath. A few other stragglers were making their way into the imposing brick building.This included the stupid school mascot, Larry the Llama. Why the school needed a llama for a mascot, he’d never know, but it certainly didn’t fill him with school pride. However, watching the ugly, poorly-made purple ‘llama’ shuffle through the doors made him smile briefly for the first time since wrecking his bike.
Inside, he shoved his backpack into his locker and slammed it shut. Shortly, he heard a voice calling down the hallway and groaned.
”Hey, Easy E!” The voice came from a blocky senior named Cole Fanning. Erica ‘Easy E’ McGlory had a reputation which sometime seemed deserved, but today Mikey wasn’t in the mood for it. He turned to see Cole and his friend mocking her with predatory grins. Erica ducked her head as she hurried past them.
The taller of the two, Aaron Collins, sneered at Mikey as he approached. “Got a problem?”
“Yeah, stop fucking calling her that.”
“What, Easy? I know a slut when I see--”
Mikey bunched his hand into a fist and drove it into Aaron’s nose, feeling it give way. Cole immediately grabbed Mikey by the collar to slam him against one of the lockers.
“You little motherfucker!” Aaron’s voice was muffled by the hand covering his bleeding nose. He and Cole glared at Mikey, who felt like he was about to be lynched. He scanned the hallway for help but the teachers would be in their classrooms for another 15 minutes and his impending ass-beating wasn’t going to take that long. Erica, having been the only other person in sight, had vanished.
Further down the hall, the door to the girls’ bathroom opened and a student he’d never seen before walked out, looking at her phone. She glanced up briefly, then did a double-take when she saw what was going on.
Aaron and Cole followed his glance. “Mind your own business,” Cole snarled.
“What’s going on?” The girl took a step toward them, shoving her phone into the pocket of her jeans.
“He said mind your own fucking business!” Aaron wiped a fresh stream of blood from his upper lip, his eyes beginning to leak somewhat as he turned to face her. “We’re just talking.”
Mikey felt Cole’s grip loosen on him and pistoned his arms, shoving the other boy backward as hard as he could. Cole stumbled back, shouting in anger as his foot caught on Aaron’s, sending him to the floor.
Mercifully, Mikey saw Coach Riggs step into the hallway. His voice boomed. “Okay break it up! Fanning, Collins, Harris. Principal’s office. Now!”
Aaron, holding his nose again, helped Cole up and they scuttled off toward Mr. Ferro's office with Riggs in tow.
Mikey straightened his shirt and bent to pick up his books. The girl approached, shaking her head. “You good?”
“Yeah, thanks. You didn’t have to do that.” He got a better look at her as he straightened up. She was his height -- around 5’ 10” -- and had an irritated look on her face. Her black hair was pulled forward into twintails, and reached to her hips. Her pale blue eyes were fixed on him.
“I know I didn’t have to but they looked like they were about to wreck you.”
“Eh. They never really hurt anybody. Aaron’s just got problems.”
“I guessed that from the crying.” She gave him a small grin. “I’m Sophie.”
“Mikey. I, uh, probably need to go see the principal now.”
“Ahhh, right. Well good luck and try not to piss off any more people with problems.” She headed down the hall, giving him a small wave as she went.
Principal Ferro was practically foaming at the mouth when Mikey entered the office. Aaron had a wad of tissues up his nose while Cole stared at the wall blankly.
“This qualifies as assault, Harris!” The small, red-faced man slammed his hands onto the desk, making everyone jolt slightly.
“Do you know how important the athletics division is for this school? What would you do if these boys couldn’t play this weekend?”
“They were bullying another student,” Mikey said, trying to restrain his irritation.
His defense was steamrolled as Ferro began to pace behind his desk. “These boys are integral to our team’s effectiveness and you should know that they’re going up against one of the best schools in our district this weekend.”
“But Mr. Ferro--”
“You’re a very good student, Michael, but this is disappointing. Now, due to your father’s generous donation last autumn, I’m willing to let this one incident slide. But I will not tolerate another such confrontation!”
“Won’t happen again. Can I go to class now?”
“Yes, you’re late as it is.”
Inhaling sharply, Mikey forced a smile and walked out of the office. “Gee, Mr. Ferro, thanks for your insight. So helpful.”
As he was stepping outside at the end of the day, Erica McGlory caught up to him. The collection of silver bangles on her wrist jingled as she grabbed his arm.
“Hey, Mikey, you got a sec?” She smiled hopefully.
“Yeah,” he replied, stopping to lean against the rack that should have held his bike. “What’s up?”
“I really wanted to thank you for earlier. I heard you got yelled at by Ferro and I just wanted to say I really appreciate you doing that ‘cuz, you know, no one ever really does.”
He shrugged and started walking toward the parking lot, knowing she’d follow. “I was already having a crappy day and I really didn’t want to listen to it.”
Erica hurried alongside him, clinking slightly with each movement. He’d never realized before just how many bracelets and necklaces she wore.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“C’monnnnn, you can tell me. I never see you talking to anyone. I bet you could use some practice!”
“What if I had a crappy day because I found a dead body?”
Her hazel eyes went wide. “Oooh, mystery!”
“What if I’m the one who killed the person?”
“You’ll need somebody to help you dig a hole!”
Mikey chuckled. “I wrecked my bike on the way here today so I was kind of pissed.”
She gasped. “Are you okay? That’s so bad!”
Before he could reply, his phone started ringing. “Fuck. Hey, I’ll talk to you later okay? I gotta take this.” He got a decent distance from her and accepted the call. He'd be lying if he said he was unhappy about the interruption.
“Michael, where the hell are you?”
“At school, Dad. Where else would I be?”
“Your bicycle is in my fence.”
Mikey sighed. “Are you at home?”
“Yes, the expedition finished early.” William’s voice was growing impatient. “What happened to the fence?”
“Jumped out in front of me. I’m fine by the way.”
“We’ll discuss this when you get home.” The call disconnected.
Mikey started the walk home. The smell of barbecue wafted past Mikey’s nose as he walked past a strip of houses. Music could be heard from one of them, and it looked like a block party was going on. It looked like a good time, but he didn’t know any of the people and it would be a cold day in hell when his successful archaeologist father fired up the grill for a cookout. He wasn’t sure if he even knew how to cook. He had no idea why they had moved into a little town like this if they were going to live like recluses.
Situated in northern Missouri, Kentlee had a population just shy of a thousand. It boasted a rich hardwood export, and not much else. At 5:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, most people were already at home or the local bar, drinking off the day’s work. Teenagers could generally be found driving around after dark, trying to get drunk, laid, or into trouble.
By the time Mikey got home, his legs were aching. He had collected his decimated bike on the way back and stored it in the shed outside. He made his way up the front steps of the three-story brownstone home with its elegant oak front door. He pushed it open, and was greeted by the smell of lemon Pledge and musky antique furniture.
He crossed the smooth wood floor of the front room to ascend the staircase tucked against the right wall. Making a bee-line to his room on the second floor, he shut the door and threw his bag onto the bed. He figured he had ten minutes or so before the subject of the fence would be made an issue.
Soon enough he heard footsteps coming up the stairs, but they were too light to be William’s. There was a knock at the door.
The door cracked open and a petite, fair-haired woman poked her head in. “Hey hon, I thought I heard you come in. How was school?”
“Same as usual. Attempted to learn stuff.”
She smiled. “Are you hungry? I’m making dinner early. Burgers and fries.”
“You’re an angel, Vicki. Is the old man around?”
“He was tired, so he went to bed early.”
Mikey thanked her before she left, but was puzzled. His father never missed an opportunity to harangue him about something; Mikey thought his prized fence would have been top priority no matter how bad he felt.
Dinner was unusually upbeat with the man of the house absent. Vicki Andersson had been their live-in housekeeper and cook for two years, and had always seemed a little withdrawn. Now she chatted about her day with the live-in security guard, Gregory. Mikey had never heard Greg speak over dinner. It was strange to realize it, but the conversation was pleasant as opposed to the uncomfortable quiet William generally imposed.