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The words “Ben, what’s the matter with you?” should be written on my tombstone. Not only is it a frequent statement directed towards me, but it is the question that has defined my entire senior year. It was the moment that changed everything, when I took off the rose-colored glasses and finally saw the world for what it was:
This story isn’t about me.
No. I’m a simple journalist with an ink pen heavy with justice. I have a responsibility to put out the truth and explain to you what’s really going on at Atlas Academy.
You probably already have an educated guess to who this could be about. Everything is about him at the end of the day. He’s what the whole school whispers about. He’s the elephant in the room. All day, you think about him in the back of your head, daydreaming about what he’s doing that very moment.
This is about the irresistible Mickey Holly.
I’ll wait for you to stop rolling your eyes. Ben, you say, can’t you pick a more original subject? Cindy Mallon already wrote a twelve-page essay on him last year. However, my article isn’t going to be about his success on the Atlas Academy Gazette or his game-winning slide to home during last Friday’s game.
This story is about what I know alone.
There is something very wrong with Mickey Holly.
I’m writing this in my dorm room under harsh lamplight. It hits my desk just like a spotlight. The shadows scaled the wall and curled around me. Typically, I avoid using the lamp, but my unfortunate roommate Jacks requested the bulb from the ceiling fan and before I could tell that psycho “no”, he snatched it and scurried into the closet. Faint tribal chants swell from the silence as a strange purple smoke seeped through the cracks.
It’s not weed. Oh, how I wish that crazy ******* just smoked week. At least then, there’d be an explanation for his behavior.
I abandoned my glasses to the side to rub my tired eyes. My bags have upgraded to luggage. I glance through my notes from today, the fact that Mickey Holly drank a diet drink (a drink he had once described as a waste of carbonation and aluminum) and he used his non-dominate left hand to take a test. No detail is too small. Not even the way he sneezed into his hand, instead of his elbow. He used to always use his elbow.
But I guess the bigger details matter too.
I guess I should explain the reason for all this.
Last year, during my junior year, the Head Editor promoted me to columnist at the Atlas Gazette. After copy editing through my sophomore year and a few trial run reviews of the school performances, I finally got to write real news. I single handily got the scoop on the science department smoking cigarettes in the student bathrooms. I caused a splash but managed a B in my biology class by the skin of my teeth.
Last year, Mickey Holly was (still is) the most lovable guy in the world. He had the prettiest girlfriend and a whole school of friends. Even if you didn’t know him, you considered him one of your best friends. He was the head of the class, a tennis champion, the best pitcher and a star quarterback. He assembled the best debate team in history while he managed to be an editor at the paper.
That’s how we met.
One little meeting changed my whole life. I used to be normal. Okay. My mom used to describe me as like any other chocolate bar just with a few extra nuts, but I was stable. I only elicited mild teasing from my friends. Then Mickey Holly happened. Mickey Holly uprooted any chance I had at a normal high school life and everything about me snapped: my sanity, my patience and my reality.
Nope. I don’t want to get into it.
After a cup of coffee and minutes of debate, I figured writing down everything is important. That’s how this journal will remain accurate.
Junior year, he found me. I was minding my own business in the journalism classroom, editing a few mistakes out of my column about whether the soda machine really was giving out free drinks with a special code (it’s not relevant, but it wasn’t. That was a rumor the custodian made up for a laugh). He walked into the room and suddenly it didn’t feel big enough anymore. He consumed it.
He took the seat right next to mine, extending his hand out to me. He flashed his pearly white smile and I had to wince. Mom always said never stare directly into the sun. He said, “My granddad has an old saying, if you’re not the smartest guy in the room, make sure he’s your friend. Hi, I’m Mickey Holly-“
(As if I didn’t know).
I took his hand anyways, raising my brow, “Did your granddad really say that?”
His grin changed shades from flowers and sunshine to something a little more wicked. A nobody like me amused him. “See, you’re very smart.” Mickey laid his head into his hand and just stared at me. People I knew averted their eyes. He didn’t fear the steady eye contact. He admitted, “I just wanted to say hi and I didn’t know how.”
I was sensible.
He was nonsensical.
He swooped in and drove his sharp talons inside my flesh and flew me away, far away. We were fast friends and sure, I fell for him a little. But hey, I figured everyone did. Falling for Mickey Holly was just a part of being friends with Mickey Holly. I was so oblivious. My sensibility kept me from seeing a dream come true.
We were in his room (*see the earlier example of why my roommate is crazy and he’s the reason I can’t bring people over) binge watching Netflix on his laptop. We were wasting time. Nothing to do on a Saturday night. I didn’t know then, but he held three invitations to different parties and still, he chose to watch some irrelevant show from the 80s with me.
For a while, he would glance at me like he wanted to say something. I didn’t ask, thinking he’d eventually figure it out on his own. Finally, he pointed to my side where he abandoned his phone. “Can you hand me my phone?”
“Oh, sure,” I nodded and grabbed it. When I turned back around, he had leaned forward, and our faces were penetratingly close. We were a breath away, but I still held mine and my heart beat created waves in the air.
I broke from his unwavering stare, more attracted to his lips. There was nothing I ever wanted more in that moment. I wanted it more than air, water, and more than to be the star reporter at the New York Times. I just wanted Mickey Holly’s lips to touch mine.
He kissed me once. Kissed me again, deeply with his fingers slipping through my hair. His kiss wrecked me in a way that ruined me from kissing anyone else ever again.
It wasn’t something that could be stopped. We stole every moment to kiss to touch. He’d brush my hand in the hallways, but when we were alone in his room, he would never let go. We were living in perfection. He’d move, I’d move. I would inhale, he’d exhale. My smile started and ended with him.
What can I say? He was irresistible.
Then, the end of the year came…
We had one last day to be in his room and I had trouble hiding my misery. Vacant, I was spending too much time worrying about the future instead of enjoying the moment. I was insecure about the distance, about not seeing him for three months. He’d be back in high society, meeting better, brighter people.
I hadn’t noticed the box he laid in my hand. He smiled. “I want you to have this.”
Suspicious, I shook the box and peered at him. We hadn’t mentioned gifts. He rolled his eyes, wrongly muttering, “you’re the most paranoid person.” He opened the box himself. He handed me a bracelet of all things. The bracelet was absurdly heavy. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the thick gold chain and the clusters of sapphire and ruby gems and a charm in the shape of a crown in the middle.
I could smell the hunk of cash this thing was worth.
“You’re crazy,” I told him, offering it back, “There’s no way-“
“No, no,” He laughed and closed the bracelet into my hand. His hands covered mine as he slowly leaned closer. Just his closeness could shut me up. He was smart. Knew me well too well. He explained, “It’s a special family heirloom and I know you’ll take care of it. This is my promise from me to you. Next year, our senior year will be our year. Me and you all the way.”
Panic spilled into my veins. I tried to stop him. He wasn’t thinking straight. He just hadn’t gone through the miles and miles of cons that came with this decision. I couldn’t let him do this because of me. “Mickey, I-“
“I’m breaking up with Lindsay.”
“No, you won’t,” I shook my head, shouting when I hadn’t meant to. “I’m not asking you to! I understand the situation and if you do this-“
He kissed me, a smile on his mouth. Every kiss smoothed my tension and I couldn’t help myself and kissed him back, slowly and soaking up every amount of warmth. He laid his forehead on mine, holding my arms as if I’d run away. “If you don’t want to. Okay. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, you know?”
“I know… and I never said I didn’t want all that too, but Mickey,” I sighed, furrowing my brows. “I won’t make you. I want you to seriously think about what you want to do.”
“I have. Since the moment I met you.” He chuckled, “Since I saw your glasses half way down your nose and you had the most serious look on your face. You looked so vastly important and I was lucky to be near you.” He took the bracelet again and fastened it to my wrist. Somehow the gold burned my skin. He declared, “I’m choosing you.”
And that was that. We waved goodbye. We wrote each other nearly every day until suddenly, the letters stopped. In the middle of the summer, I couldn’t reach him at all. No returned calls. No returned messages or emails. Every day I didn’t hear from him, the angrier I got to the point I didn’t want a rosy reunion, I wanted to first clock him in the face and then ask questions second.
After months of frustration building up, I busted into my bedroom like a missile ready to ruin a city. I gripped that stupid ugly bracelet and yanked it so hard, the pointiest decal poked a hole through my skin and I bled on the sapphires. Still, I yanked again. I pulled and pulled until I was a chump out of breath and went after the lock. Then, I finally noticed there wasn’t one. There was no clip, nothing that fastened the bracelet together. The bracelet formed around my wrist.
I stared at the impossibility, knowing Mickey put on me. I watched him unhook it and fix it around my wrist. I spent the next half of my summer trying to break free. But after hammers, screwdrivers, scissors, and power tools, I came to term with the fact the bracelet was just a part of my body now.
I still have it on. Right now, I’m looking at it and letting it fuel my anger. I can’t roll up my sleeves anymore. Even when it was still hot, I wore my school blazer or my sleeves down because I couldn’t bear to let a soul see it.
But I digress.
When school started up again, I was going to demand what happened. Shining in the hallway, I found him immediately. I opened my mouth to call to him when I saw his arms around Lindsay again. I understood the phrase “stabbed in the back” because that was what the betrayal felt like. Violent. Incredibly painful. I couldn’t stomach to even look at him the rest of the week.
When I finally managed to approach him, everything seemed normal. He looked like Mickey, acted like Mickey but…
“Mickey, what is going on with you?” I asked in hush tones under the stairs. I managed to nab him between classes. He stared at me like a bug he had never seen before. Too confused to squash me.
He cocked his head, “What are you talking about?”
“You stopped writing.” I clenched my fists, ready to throw the first punch and mess up that pretty face. “I haven’t heard from you in months and you’re still with Lindsay.”
“Uh, yeah,” he laughed oddly, shaking his head. His brows pinched together. “Of course I’m with her. She’s my girlfriend. Ben,” he said my name like he read it from a grocery list. “What’s the matter with you?”
Everything we had, he crumbled up in my face and tossed it in the nearest, smelliest trash can. I was ready to unleash everything I had, every insult I had stored away in my arsenal. I could hit him where it hurt, but when I looked into his eyes, I knew something was wrong immediately. Of all the times I stared into his eyes. I’d never seen them like this.
Profile: Mickey Holly?
•Tall, dark and handsome
•Perfectly styled hair. Perfectly styled uniform.
•The jaw line of a Greek God and the shoulders rolled back like royalty.
•Dark muddy eyes of a stranger.
I took a step back and let him go, laughing at me.
I waited. I’m a patient person, so I watched him day by day, slowly figuring out that this person, though he may be tall, beautiful and with a Crest White smile, he was different from Mickey Holly.
Actually, I don’t think he’s Mickey Holly at all. My theories include things like body snatchers, possession, alien abduction and cloning, or he’s a whiny, ridiculous coward that needs to be wiped from the face of the planet, but I think cloning is less of a stretch.
I am Ben Turney and I will find the truth, even if it kills me.