Lost

Zacky Vengeance has just learned that he is father to fifteen-year-old twins Lysander and Dakota. As if this isn’t already complicated enough, they’ve just lost their mother, Dakota is missing and Lysander is none too pleased about having to leave his home – and his sister – behind in favour of moving to California. After the initial shock wears off, Zacky is determined to prove that he can be the father these kids need. But dealing with a boy who feels that he’s lost his entire world was never going to be easy. || Lysander Maverick never cared much for getting to know his father – that was always Dakota’s dream. But now Dakota is gone, taken by her mobster-wannabe ex-boyfriend, and Zacky just might be the key to having her returned safely. This thought is the only thing that Lysander has to hold on to as he’s uprooted from his home in Wisconsin, and he’s not letting it go. He needs Zacky to be the miracle he’s been asking for – the alternative is too unbearable to think about.

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4. Chapter Four

Lysander’s new room was bigger than he had expected.

 

When he had lived in Columbus, he’d had a single bed that had taken up a quarter of his bedroom. Here in California, he had a king sized bed that took up little more than that. He had more furniture than he knew what to do with and an expensive looking rug that he was almost too afraid to walk on. The walls were painted a pale blue, the window decked with a pair of heavy velvet curtains in sapphire. They had remained parted since Lysander had moved into the room and discovered that it faced west – the view of the sunset over the beach was too good to ever pass up. Two days in a row he had already watched it, and he was quite looking forward to the third.

 

Unfortunately, it was a Monday – and even in California that meant school.

 

Zacky had walked him to Huntington Beach High that morning only because he hadn’t known the way and didn’t trust his sense of direction enough to get there based on some roughly drawn out directions. It was surprisingly close to the house, so Lysander had assured the man that he would be fine to find his own way home. All he needed to do now was wait for the school day to end.

 

It was odd to go to a school where he didn’t know a single person. Thanks to Dakota, he had never had to do it. She’d always been somewhere close by, even if it wasn’t in the same room. But now he was alone in the sea of students, left to find his own way in a world where everybody else already had their place. He had never missed Columbus High School so much. He had never needed his friends so badly. He had never cared for the fact that he had been around the same kids for his entire schooling life, but he cared now. And he wanted that security back.

 

The only time that he’d ever started at a new school had been the transitions between elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. Having so many others start fresh with him had been a blessing. But it was mid-March now and he was the only new kid around, which meant he was getting more than just a couple of stares. It bothered him, but he wasn’t about to show it – he kept his head high as he made his way between classes; he used the map that he’d been given rather than ask for directions; he did things his own way, just as he always had. A change of setting wasn’t going to change who he was.

 

Even if it meant being late to a lot of his classes.

 

He was the last one to arrive in his new English class. Most of the kids had their heads bent low and were furiously writing by then, though a few looked up in surprise as he entered the room. The teacher was quick to beckon him over, gesturing for him to be quiet in the process. He kept his mouth shut as he approached the woman; she looked to be in her early forties, and the sleek grey suit that she wore made her look overly professional. She held out a sheet of lined paper for him to take.

 

“Free writing,” she explained as he did. “For the next ten minutes, I want you to put pen to paper and just write. If you can’t think of anything, write about your day. If you get stuck, keep repeating the last word until you think of something more. Go.”

 

Lysander made his way further into the room and took the first empty seat that he found. He contemplated what he was going to write as he extracted a pen from his bag: something creative, something fun – but nothing immediately came to mind. A glance around the room showed every other student writing, but this only made him feel worse about the fact that his page was still blank. Write about his day, the teacher had said. But his day so far hadn’t been all that interesting at all.

 

His weekend, on the other hand…

 

I just met my father for the first time, he wrote. I never actually thought it would happen. Especially not like this. But now it has, and I’m not sure what to think. So far he seems nice, and he’s willing to help with Dakota – and that’s the only thing that matters, so I guess I can’t complain. He’s nothing like I thought he would be. I came here half expecting a stuck-up alcoholic but instead I got somebody responsible and…friendly. I guess it’s true when they say never judge a book by its cover.

 

He felt like a teenage girl writing in her diary. His friends would have laughed at him for it. Dakota would have been proud.

 

I miss my sister, he went on, for lack of anything else to write. It’s going on three weeks now and there still hasn’t been any news. How hard could it be to have a cop follow Alfonso for a week and just watch him? It would solve all of our damn problems. As it is I doubt they’ve even checked his house over once. They’re all convinced that they know my own sister better than I do. Idiots.

 

Right as he finished the last word, the teacher called that time was up. The vast majority of the class dropped their pens at once, letting out sighs of relief or complaining that their hands were beginning to cramp up. The teacher did little more than roll her eyes as she moved from desk to desk, collecting the sheets of paper from her students. Lysander looked down at his own with a stab of panic. He hadn’t realised that anybody would be reading it; he had to skim over it quickly to make sure that there was nothing in there he definitely didn’t want her to know. But in the end, there was nothing too bad – he let the wavy-haired blonde take the paper from him.

 

“All right,” she spoke as she dropped the pile onto her desk, “into your groups. Everybody should be finished the book by now, no excuses. I want every group to have a list of themes they think were in the text.”

 

The students moved as one, gathering into groups of three or four all around the room. Lysander remained right where he was, unsure of what he was supposed to do. He had no idea what book his fellow tenth graders had recently been reading and therefore didn’t know how much he would be able to contribute to any conversation.

 

“You can sit with us.”

 

Lysander turned. The boy who had spoken gave him a reassuring smile. Close by, a girl was making herself comfortable. Beside her was the apparent third member of their group – another boy, who sat as far from the first as he could without appearing not to be a part of their trio at all. After a moment of hesitation, Lysander nodded and turned his chair around.

 

“Jack Avery,” the boy introduced himself, offering a hand that Lysander promptly shook. “This is Eliza Beth Jenkins and George Moore.”

 

“Lysander Maverick.”

 

George mumbled something unintelligible and turned his back on the group, gazing across the room to where his real friends apparently sat. Eliza Beth rolled her eyes at this. Lysander knew this because the moment he had turned around he had been unable to remove his gaze from her. She had the most beautiful hazel eyes he had ever seen in his life, surrounded by as much eye-liner as they could be while still looking tasteful – they sparkled as she smiled at him, showing a mouth full of perfect white teeth.

 

“So have you read Macbeth?” she asked, ignoring George’s apparent lack of interest in the task at hand. “Maybe you’ve had to do this before and you can give us a head start?”

 

She had a beautiful voice as well, one that Lysander imagined many people would have killed for. Add to the equation her long, dark hair and he couldn’t find a single thing about her that he didn’t immediately like.

 

“Sorry,” he apologised when he finally found his voice. “We never studied Macbeth at my old school. We did The Taming of the Shrew.”

 

“That’s okay,” she assured him. “We have our Shakespearean expert here, anyway.”

 

She nodded at Jack, who was already furiously scribbling down themes into his notebook. A glance around the classroom showed that he was the only one who looked sure of himself – most of the students were looking at each other with dumbfounded expressions. Of them, Lysander guessed that maybe ninety per cent had finished reading the play. And of that ninety per cent, only a quarter of them seemed have understood it. He was glad that he had his excuse of being a new student. Shakespeare didn’t usually make any sense to him, either.

 

“So, what brings you to Huntington Beach High?”

 

“I just moved to the area,” Lysander replied. “All the way from Columbus, Wisconsin.”

 

“Wisconsin,” Eliza Beth repeated. “Wow. I’ll bet that’s a big change for you. It’s much warmer in California.”

 

“It is.” As an afterthought he added, “It’s going to be different seeing Christmas without any snow.”

 

It was also going to be different seeing Christmas without his mother, for the first time ever. But he was determined to have Dakota back by then. There would be at least a small degree of normalcy to the holiday season for him.

 

When the teacher – Ms Lowe – called out that time was up, Jack was the only person to volunteer any answers. The smile that she gave him told Lysander that this was nothing unusual. Any other student had to be called upon, and even then they gave their answers as more of a question than anything else. Lysander was silent throughout the entire exchange, taking the time instead to memorise the faces of his new classmates – and chance a glance at Eliza Beth every few minutes.

 

He was disappointed to see her return to her friends when the lesson came to an end, leaving the room with little more than a wave in his direction. George hadn’t said a word the entire time he’d been forced to sit with them, nor did he say a farewell as he and his buddies exited the class. Jack did the opposite of the other two – as soon as he had finished packing his things away, he approached Lysander.

 

“I can offer you company if you need it,” he said with a smile. “I’m not the most entertaining person in the world, but I can hold up a decent conversation.”

 

Lysander didn’t even need to consider the offer. He’d spent recess alone, wandering the grounds aimlessly as he tried to ignore the stares that people cast his way. He didn’t much feel like doing it again, this time for almost an hour. He finished zipping his own bag shut and nodded, accepting the offer gratefully. Jack came across as a nice enough guy; there was no reason that the two of them couldn’t be friends.

 

“Got anywhere specific you like to sit?”

 

“No,” Lysander said as they left the room together. “It’s my first day, so I’m still getting to know the place. What about you? Where do you usually sit?”

 

“I find a different spot every day, because I…sort of have a problem with bullies. They like to seek me out and make my life a living hell.”

 

Lysander raised an eyebrow in surprise.

 

“You?” he asked for clarification. “You have a problem with bullies? Why…?”

 

“You’ll find out soon enough, I’m sure.”

 

They made their way out onto the courtyard. Lysander watched as Jack looked around at his fellow students, observing and checking faces as he went, as if he were searching for somebody. A small smile graced his lips after a few moments, and he gestured Lysander just a little further on until they came to a deserted place in the shade of a tree. It was here that they sat.

 

It gave them a decent view of the rest of the courtyard – they would see anybody coming their way with plenty of time to spare, and Lysander assumed that this was something that Jack looked for when he was searching for his place to sit. He had to wonder again at why the boy would have an issue with bullies. He was nice. He had proven this in English by inviting Lysander to join his group, and then again by offering his company for the lunch hour. Likewise, there was nothing unusual about the way that he looked or dressed – he was California tanned and had the sort of platinum blonde hair that Lysander only wished he could pull off; he wore jeans and a tight-fitting V-neck t-shirt, neither of which were likely to draw the attention of a passing bully. If anything, his shirt would call attention from the girls – the fabric did little to hide how well-built he was.

 

“So you came here from Wisconsin?” he asked. “That’s a long way. Why the move?”

 

“It’s a long story,” Lysander replied, “but the short version… I recently lost my mother, so I had to move in with my father. And he lives in Huntington Beach.”

 

“Wow, I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have asked, huh?”

 

“It’s fine. I’ve had some time to digest it.”

 

He’d had his time to cry over his mother, and he refused to do it anymore. Not while there were more important things to be worrying about, and most definitely not on his first day at a new school, in front of somebody who might become a permanent friend.

 

“How do you like California so far?” Jack asked instead. “Is it as great as people make it out to be?”

 

“I haven’t even been here for three days…”

 

“It’s always first impressions that matter the most though, right?” Jack winked. “So based on your first impressions, how do you like the Golden State?”

 

He gave it a moment of thought. Truth be told, he hadn’t been thrilled to be in California at first – he’d hated the thought of being so far away from his home in Columbus, leaving not only his friends but also his sister, and he hadn’t really been willing to give the place a chance. But now – between the wonderful people he was meeting and the gorgeous sunsets that he got to watch every afternoon – it was really starting to grow on him.

 

“It’s good,” he admitted at last. “I never really gave it much thought before coming here, but… Yeah, I guess it lives up to its name. You lived here long?”

 

“My whole life. I was even born in the local hospital.”

 

He didn’t sound smug about it – he was simply stating it as fact.

 

“It’s a great area,” he went on. “I think you’ll come to really love it.”

 

Lysander didn’t doubt it. Even as he’d watched his first Californian sunset on Saturday, he had been making plans to run back to Wisconsin the moment that he turned sixteen. But now, not even forty-eight hours later, he was having second thoughts about that. California truly was a beautiful place. And if Dakota had her way when she finally came back, they would never be leaving the Golden State. Her whole life she had aimed to meet their father – there was no doubt in Lysander’s mind that nobody would be able to talk her into leaving him when they finally met, and that meant remaining in California. He would miss his old friends, but he would have his family.

 

The two boys made their way to their next class together when the bell rang, and Lysander was glad to know that he would have somebody to talk to throughout Geometry. He wouldn’t have to sit silently in the middle of the room pretending to do his work while everybody else chatted away with their friends – he would fit in, and hopefully the stares would lessen because of it.

 

Eliza Beth was in his Geometry class too, he found. She sat several seats in front of him with a girl who could almost have been her sister had their skin tones not been several shades apart. They shared an iPod between them. Lysander could faintly hear the music that they were listening to from where he was – something heavy, with a quick but steady beat. It was the sort of sound he was used to hearing coming from Dakota’s room. His hand slipped absently into his pocket, just to make sure that her beloved music player was still there.

 

It was.

 

“You understand Geometry at all?” Jack asked, the annoyance in his tone as clear as anything. “Give me Shakespeare over this any day. I don’t know why they bother trying to teach it to us.”

 

“Supposed to be useful later in life, isn’t it?”

 

“Or so they say. I’ve never seen my mom use it.”

 

Lysander had never seen his mother use it either, and he doubted that Zacky ever used it while he was out on the road, but he didn’t mention this to his new friend. He simply shrugged as if to say, “What can you do?” Jack gave a heavy sigh of defeat and threw his pen down.

 

“It’s really not that hard,” Lysander assured him. “I don’t see how you could find Shakespeare easier. This stuff is black and white – there’s only one answer. It just takes a little time to figure it out.”

 

“Exactly. When it comes to literature, everything’s up to interpretation – so you’re never technically wrong. But with this you’re either wrong or right, and I tend to be wrong most of the time.”

 

“I’ll help you out,” Lysander offered. “And then maybe you can teach me how to understand Shakespeare.”

 

“You’ve got yourself a deal, Columbus.” He pointed to the first question. “Now. How do we work this one out?”

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