Old Things Die (But Not Us) -- Chapter six: Tanzanite

Fiction By Madalyn Clare // 3/4/2019

From that late August day, I wish I could say that things went uphill in our friendship.
Not exactly.
See, now I had a girlfriend, and we both were dedicated to spending a lot of time with both of our families. She would come over to our house, I would go over to hers. We would do homework together and then watch a movie, or sit and talk for hours. I brought her to dinner, we got dessert, we saw a play. All in all, I was a busy guy.
I think about it now- how much I wasn’t thinking then. I was blinded by this amazing situation that I never understood it poisoned someone else. Nowadays I wonder desperately what Josh was up to in those months leading up to winter break.
My family (this is including Josh) had a long-standing tradition of buying a tree on December thirteenth (the exact middle of the Advent calendar), decorating it on December twentieth, and baking Christmas desserts on the twenty-fourth. Josh loved coming over for all of this and it was often his final say that bought us a tree.
After Thanksgiving, Josh and I slowly but surely lost contact. It wasn’t for any reason, really; at least, I thought. You know, I’m thinking about it now and I want to just… I don’t know. There are so many things that could have been changed.
Anyway, because of this contact loss, we didn’t see Josh at the tree farm. He didn’t show up at the decorating. Miles was worried he wouldn’t come over for baking. Dad had his worried face on throughout the days, and he often asked me questions. To be honest I didn’t know where he was. We didn’t talk much at school, other than the obligatory exchanges between friends like us. He wasn’t up to much and when I invited him to things, he ended up saying he couldn’t come; sorry, hope you have a good time. I did wonder in the back of my head what he was up to, but even if I was being a jerk and ignoring him, I knew that look he gave me: it wasn’t that he couldn’t, it was that he didn’t want to. I think my reaction to this was, well, if he doesn’t want to, it’s on him. I get it. There were many times I didn’t feel like going somewhere and I ended up missing out.
Snow came after just a month of rain. Temperatures dropped across Bentley’s Cape like flies and the creeks, deltas, and lakes all froze overnight. It was skating season, finally. Devika had told me that she was taking figure skating lessons, as she was inspired by Olympic skaters when she was twelve. I was especially excited for ice for this reason.
School let out, and not a moment too soon. I was hungry, cold, and ready for not being in a classroom. A wave of thanks were thrown at the teacher as we hurried out the door. I slung my messenger bag over my shoulder, not waiting to stuff my binder and textbook in. I just evacuated the room holding them in both hands.
Devika’s last class was Physics, which was on the other side of the campus. She was let out half an hour later, too, so I had time to kill. Walking across the icy quad I drank up the freezing air. The sky was crisp, light blue with no stormy clouds in sight. The leadership team had strung all the black, starved, dead trees with bright lights and popcorn. Across the swept, shoveled pathways, the art club had written well-wishings to all the students going into break. I read a few, stepping over them like the cracks in the sidewalk and the chalk art were lava. Walking over the art was like dancing.
On my way towards the labs, I stopped at the door to the school nurse’s office. I paused as I read the name. Chastity Renaud.
I knew that name well. I remembered my first year in Powhatan High, how I entered every club I wanted swimmingly, and that I did well in all the fields they required. I discussed our topics to the fullest degree, I debated and often won, and I planned many outlets for our interests to be pursued.
Josh had none of that. The only things he had coming into high school were a love of animals, taking pictures he wouldn’t bear showing to anyone else, and me. While I was getting situated Josh was often left waiting for me by the parking lots, where the kids with less commendable hobbies hung out. It took me sitting next to the window, prepared should I hear screaming, or Dad coming early to pick him up then wait for me.
But when Josh met Chastity Renaud, it was like a world opened up for him.
He always loved animals and learning about them, and the way the school nurse talked to him about all the curiosities he had about health and medicine introduced Josh to the calling of a veterinarian. Since that day he had been volunteering at the nurse’s office, organizing her supplies and keeping track of students’ information.
Something in me decided to take the time today to go see them. I opened the door – wincing slightly because the handle was so cold it stung – and was welcomed into a small practitioner’s office.
There wasn’t much to the room; there was a desk and a chair for a patient, a gurney, and a bathroom in the back. Of course there was more, but I’m no doctor and I’ll allow you to fill in the details.
Chastity sat at the desk. She always wore sky blue scrubs with cartoony sheep on them. Her dark brown hair was pulled up in a ponytail. She wore no jewelry or even makeup when she was on duty, save her tanzanite engagement ring. It seemed her only extravagance was that ring, as one would see if they saw her quietly writing in her simple daily planner.
I liked her. She was simple and realistic, but also very generous and kind. She looked up at me as I sat down opposite of her, and she smiled.
“I haven’t seen you in a while,” Chastity said. “Are you feeling all right?”
I grinned as I nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just wanted to say hi.”
Chastity hummed and cocked her head, her expression translating her gratitude. “That’s really sweet of you, Levi. I don’t get that a lot.” She leaned in and twirled her pen into the spine of her planner. “What are you up to?”
“Oh, after my girlfriend’s class is out, we’re going down to the lake to ice skate.” But that wasn’t what I came in for. Clearing my throat, because this was one of the most awkward things I’ve had to ask, I posed, “I wanted to invite Josh to come with us. Is he here?”
Chastity, after I asked this, didn’t seem as comfortable. She visibly tensed her knuckles, even though she tried to hide it. She gave me an apologetic look. “To be honest, he’s been coming in less. I haven’t seen him in weeks.” Her brow furrowed. “Do you not know where he is?”
My eyes flickered in a spasmatic blink, then I shook my head. “No,” I said quietly. “We’ve, um, lost quite a bit of contact. I haven’t seen him in a while.”
As I said it I felt more like a jerk than ever. Chastity knew Josh well; the worst thing someone who cared for him to do was lose him.
She nodded slowly and rested her cheek on her fist. “Does anybody know where he is?”
I thought she did. Josh wouldn’t skip his volunteer position for anything without telling Chastity. After a moment I shook my head. “I thought he’d be with you.”
Chastity leaned back in her chair, causing it to squeak. “He’s not.” She shook her head. “You have no way of communicating with him, right?”
My heart started pounding harder when I realized the weight of the situation. “I have to check something,” I muttered, but I was already getting up to leave. I was out the door in seconds.
The wind chill had gotten worse since I entered that clinic and it nipped harshly at me through my coat. I walked briskly through the courtyard, no longer dancing through the chalk art.
Something surged back into me when my brain wrapped around our conversation. Something I hadn’t completely felt to the same degree in months.
I needed to protect Josh. I needed to make sure he was okay.
I ran across the rest of the quad towards the principal’s office. Not stopping once to be courteous or even safe (I tripped massively in the doorway, almost warranting another trip to the nurse’s office), I threw myself into the office and slammed the door shut.
Principal Telles started at my desperate entrance and he took a few seconds to compose himself. He wasn’t a bad looking or badly kept person, but not a good looking or well-kept person. If you saw him, you wouldn’t remember what he looked like when you left. I think he had brown eyes.
“I need a favor,” I said, though now I noticed how out of breath I was. My voice was rougher than usual.
The principal sat dumbfounded for a few moments, then blinked, then nodded. “Well, the duty of a principal is to the students,” he answered, though much more to himself. “What can I do for you?”
“Could you show me role call of third period humanities for the last week or two?”
I didn’t mention that Josh and I didn’t take classes together anymore, now that I was in AP completely. I didn’t see him in class, so up to this point, I kind of thought he was ignoring me. But if he didn’t even show up to his volunteer job, then something was up. It had been weeks.
Mr. Telles cocked his head at me, then his brow furrowed. “I don’t know if I’m at the liberty to give that to you.”
“I said I needed a favor!” I yelled.
My dad would have been surprised and impressed at me. I don’t yell very much.
The principal again started. He was a pretty mediocre, not so personalized guy. He started easily. “I did,” he said in defense, “but this breaches privacy-”
“I just need to find one name,” I interrupted. “Just one. He wouldn’t mind.”
It took a lot of convincing, but Mr. Telles finally gave me the role call sheets of third period humanities for the last three weeks. I snatched them away, tore them open, and flew through names.
Joshua Kang,
Joshua Kang,
Joshua Kang.
A red ‘A’ marked his name. Another. Another.
Three weeks, five days each. Absent.
“Miss Polhamus ended up taking his name off of the sheet this week,” remarked Principal Telles as he noticed for whom I was searching. “All the teachers decided to drop him after not being able to contact his father. He hasn't shown up to any of his classes.”
I hardly heard. I registered that later. Right now, I was listening to the panicking in my head.
Had it come to this? Had I abandoned him this long? What did he do? What did his father do? Was he okay?
I was shaking as I handed the principal the role call back. I didn’t know what to feel, what to do.
I just knew I had to do something.

Comments

Madalyn, I've been enjoying

Madalyn, I've been enjoying your story so far; now I'm worried and I can't wait to read the next part!

Grace J. | Wed, 03/27/2019

“You are doing something great with your life—when you are doing all the small things with His great love.” - Ann Voskamp

Hi, Grace! Thanks for

Hi, Grace! Thanks for commenting! The next part is up now ;)

Madalyn Clare | Thu, 03/28/2019

Introverts unite!
Separately!
From the comfort of your own homes!

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