Classes soon started and I found myself very busy, very quickly. Most my classes were shared with either Vi or Zari, or both in one case, but I did have one class without them and in that case I sat in the back and stayed very quiet.
I did wind up being out on my own quite a bit more than I expected but that was mostly being at the library to write papers and do research, since we didn’t have a computer at home. Plus work at night–which took it out of me. Thankfully working at the graveyard was quiet and so I was able to do a lot of my homework there without any trouble. One day my boss caught me and I figured I’d be fired, but she just laughed and told me it was fine–that it was exactly what she did at my age.
“I don’t get it,” Zari said one night when he came to pick me up. “You’re terrified of like, all these things–but working in a graveyard, by yourself sometimes, doesn’t spook you?”
I flopped into the passenger seat of the old, beat-up car the three of us had gone in together on. “Why should it?” I asked with a shrug.
Zari shook his head. “You are so weird sometimes…”
Weird or not, he often came to me for help with some of the homework. So did Vi–just as I went to both of them for some things. Together the three of us were able to do very well in all our homework and we all finished the first semester off with all As, except for the B Zari got in one of his mathematics.
We stayed for most the winter holiday at our apartment since this was where our beds were at, but we spent a week at home around Christmas and slept on cots in our old bedrooms. Best of all was a huge gift that everyone in the family went in on: a big box, with three laptops inside. We were all super excited and bounced around all day, setting up our new computers and thanking everyone.
The second semester went a lot nicer since I didn’t have to run off to the library to type up all my papers, and I was able to work on it at the graveyard, too.
At the end of our freshmen year Mom and Dad agreed that since we had been so responsible that they’d pay for another year of the apartment. Even through the summer since Vi was taking a few classes, and all three of us kept our part-time jobs. Mom and Dad visited quite a bit and we visited them whenever we could, but it was sad not seeing more of them and also not being able to see much of the rest of the family.
Still, time rolled on and our sophomore year began. I was once again swamped in classes and work, especially as I got a promotion. Despite extra work, my brother and sister found more time to go out and do stuff. Saturday nights when I came home from work, I often found a party going or else both of them gone to a party. They invited me occasionally but I always turned them down.
I knew they were both worried about the fact I hadn’t made any friends in the past year but I had tried talking to a few people. Nothing ever clicked, though I soon found out I was being referred to as ‘the quiet weird one’. That’s when I finally noticed the other students were avoiding me.
“I heard two chicks talking,” Zari said one evening. “It’s mostly ‘cuz you work in a graveyard and, like, never do anything and get such good grades.” He gave me a look and I smiled back at him.
“So what, I should start failing tests?” I asked.
Zari laughed and smacked me. “No. I woulda punched them but, you know, they were girls.”
“So… instead of hitting them, you hit on them?” I inquired and he began laughing even more.
“Nah. Anyone who thinks you’re a ‘creepazoid’, as they put it, isn’t worthy of my esteemed attention.” He stuck his nose in the air and looked all snooty. “They are beneath me.”
I shook my head and began snickering. “So instead of flirting with them you just took them to bed. I get it now.”
“Wh–hey!” He yanked me off the couch, quickly pinning me to the floor while I cried uncle, though we were both still laughing.
It wasn’t until after the winter break that I made my first friend. At the end of January, Vi brought one of her friends home. He was in all her business classes, and was technically in his second semester as a sophomore even though he was two years older than us. Apparently he had taken a couple years off and was just now coming back.
At first I avoided him, like I did with all the friends they brought back, but one evening there was a knock at my door. I opened it, knowing it had to be him since the other two never knocked. He looked rather sheepish when I opened the door.
“Sorry to bother you, but Viola says you’re terrific with computers. Mine’s acting up and I was wondering if you could help? If not, that’s fine!”
I slowly nodded and went out into the living room with him, sitting on the floor and clicking away at his keyboard to figure out the problem. It didn’t take me long to discover what the problem was and thankfully it was easily fixed.
“Thanks, man!” he exclaimed, grinning as I handed him his laptop back. “You’re Sebastian. Right?”
I nodded again. “Yeah…”
“I’m Halbert.” He offered his hand and I nervously took it. I wasn’t sure if he sensed how I felt, but instead of shaking it roughly he just gave a slight squeeze before letting go. “Everyone just calls me Hal, though.”
I turned away, ready to head back into my room but I couldn’t resist mumbling, “Just don’t start singing ‘Daisy, Daisy’.”
To my surprise, I heard a snicker. “Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more. Goodbye!” he exclaimed and I turned back to face him. “Oh jeez, I love that movie. Maybe cause of my name.”
“I like it too,” I mumbled, shifting a bit and ignoring the pleased look on Vi’s face.
“Oh, I’m such a fan of sci-fi movies and TV shows,” Hal said and then he stopped, looking at me and waiting for a reply.
I smiled. “So do I. Wh-what’s your favorite movie?”
And so for the next hour we talked about our favorite sci-fi movies and shows, what we liked about them, what we disliked about them, giving our opinions about what this or that meant, and before I knew it Viola was interrupting us since it was dinnertime. Hal stayed for dinner and we wound up watching ‘Star Wars IV’. I knew perfectly well both Vi and Zari were giving me looks but I just continued to ignore them, talking rather cheerfully with Hal and finding myself looking forward to the next time he visited.
As spring continued and summer came, I had become pretty good friends with Hal. My first ‘real’ friend other than my family, and when my junior year started I realized that it had been ages since I last thought I was ‘pathetic’. I was enjoying school more, and I wished I had emerged from my shell a lot sooner. Maybe I would have been happier throughout my teen years if I had had a friend…
No point in brooding about it now, I told myself one evening. Besides, I had been happyish during my high school years just in a different–quieter–way. I still was pretty quiet. Hal did most the talking when we hung out and never complained that I wasn’t talkative enough or that I was too shy.
By the end of the first semester of that year, I was closer to Hal than Vi was. In fact, she had a boyfriend by now and was very active in the sorority she joined. Zari was hardly ever at the apartment either since he was working hard on the plays his theater group put on. Plus he, too, had a steady partner and it was only a mild surprise when he told us just before winter break that he was going to be moving in with her.
“I figure it’s as good a step as any,” Zari said with a shrug when he told us. “I think I might even love her. I really want to see how this works out so… yeah. Sorry…”
“No, it’s fine,” I said. “I’m glad you have someone you like so much except–what about bills? Mom and Dad may be paying for the rent but we have to pay utilities…”
“We can scrape by,” Vi promised. “I’ll just get another job.” She had long ago quit her spa job since she was so busy with the sorority and soon she had a job as a waitress.
It was rather sad to see Zari packing up his stuff and leaving. This would be the first time in twenty years that we’d be living apart. He and I had always shared a room… That night it was so weird being alone in the room. Okay, so I had been alone in the room before–he sometimes stayed the night with his girlfriends. But I knew that the next night I’d be alone, and the night after that, and the night after that.
I felt a bit empty. We weren’t identical and we had our different lives, but Zari was almost like a twin to me. We’d be living apart eventually, I knew that to be the truth but it just hit so quickly that I felt sick. I sat up in bed, staring at the empty bed on the other side of the room. I shouldn’t be this upset over my brother moving out. I was twenty for Watcher’s sake! I wasn’t a little kid. I needed to grow up. Stop being such a…
Pathetic. For the first time in ages I felt I was pathetic again. I curled up on my bed and rubbed my forehead. Who had I been fooling? Just because I had a friend now didn’t mean anything. I was just as weak and pathetic as always.