I remember the last time I saw my best friends. It was a sunny July evening and we had cycled to the park. Dirk was there, Kayleigh was there and so were Mackenzie and Nick. We had settled down on a picnic table on top of the small hill that looked over the park. I was sitting on top of the table and my friends had gathered around.
Now, I was never a leader in this group, per se, but I was getting a special treatment today for a reason. We drank coke like the good, boozeless teens that we were. We laughed and joked around for a long while until there was an awkward silence. I fidgeted a bit and looked around, my eyes finding Kayleigh’s before she spoke up.
“I can’t believe you’re going back to England.”
I gulped and parted my lips, opening my mouth to speak before she cut me.
“We’re gonna miss you, David.” She said with a weak smile, brushing a lock of her brown hair behind her ear. My other friends nodded.
“Are you sure we can’t say goodbye to you at the airport?”
“Nah, it wouldn’t be good. First because the flight’s at 5AM, secondly because, uh…”
I bit my lip and looked around at the gang.
These friends, man, these friends that I had. They were gold. The best friends a guy could have.
My parents and I had moved to the quaint middle-class suburbs of Chicago when I was twelve. I stood out, to say the least. With my curly red hair, my English accent and my face full of freckles, I was a living stereotype. Sure, people made fun of me, why wouldn’t have they? So I let that pass and made my own group of friends on the side, joining Dirk and Kayleigh’s gang when I was thirteen. Since then, we had been inseparable.
I stopped reminiscing for a second before I spoke to my friends again, running a hand through my hair.
“Well I don’t wanna say goodbye to you guys. This whole going back to England bullshit is just… I don’t even know.” I said with a sigh before I pushed up my glasses.
“It’s okay, Davey.” Dirk said with a weak grin “We’re gonna miss you.”
“We can still talk on Facebook, you know!” added Kayleigh.
Nick sighed, Mackenzie took a deep breath and pulled a packet out of her bag before she got up, handing it to me “This is from all of us.” She said with a grin.
I took the sizeable packet and blinked, looking around at my friends before I opened it. There was a transparent plastic box and inside of it was a set of headphones.
My mouth stayed open for a second before I grinned weakly and hugged Mackenzie. This whole year I had been walking around with a pair of shitty ear plugs that I changed every three weeks.
I busted them all the time by playing some Avenged Sevenfold at an unbearable volume 24/7.
Now my friends were giving me something I was longing for; a set of good-quality headphones that I’ll be able to use for a long time.
“We all pitched in to get you that.” Nick said.
“Yeah, so you better be fuckin’ grateful.” Added Dirk. I chuckled before he grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a noogie. I then felt my phone buzz in the left pocket of my jeans. I pulled it out and sighed.
“It’s mum, she says she wants me back home now.” I said with a sigh.
“Aww, can’t you stay a little longer? Please David?” begged Kayleigh as she took my bony arm. I shook my head and got up from the wooden picnic table.
I hugged Kay and Mac, then shook hands with Nick who wished me good luck.
Dirk didn’t speak for a second. He looked frustrated, actually. We stared at each other for a moment before he grabbed me and held me in his arms tightly, burying his face in my shoulder.
“I’m gonna miss you, man.”
“We’re all gonna miss him.”
“Shut the fuck up Nick.” Dirk said, tears in his voice.
I blinked at that and pet my friend on the back. I was gonna miss him too. I was going to miss all of them.
When we finished our goodbyes, I hopped on my bike and cycled home. Eight hours later I was gonna be at the airport, hopping on a plane and then across the Atlantic towards a new life in a medium-sized town near London. It was gonna be weird, but I’d have to get used to it. My reputation, my social life, all that incessant BS that teenagers need to go through in order to be accepted. I managed to spend most of my life without getting bullied too hard here in America (and God damn do I know how harsh it is for kids who actually get bullied) and I did not want that to start. I’ll get a minimal social life and I’ll be fine, that’s all I need. But I’d still have to start from point zero.
At 4:30 AM I walked through the customs at O’Hare International. I walked in along with Mum and Dad, my new headphones propped upon my head as I enjoyed listening to Avenged Sevenfold in full HD.
That, my friends, is what I call pure bliss.
Mum tapped me on the shoulder and told me to present my passport to the man behind the glass. I did as she told me, showing my British passport to the fat black man.
“Goin’ back home, are we?” he asked in a heavily-accented voice. I wanted to roll my eyes at him, but instead I put on a mock-offended expression.
“I find that rather offensive, Sir. Racist, even!” I told him in a serious tone “I am just as American as you are!” I exclaimed though my English accent shone through my words.
“David!” hissed my mother from behind me. I grinned and took back my passport. “Have a nice day.” I told the man with a chuckle. He didn’t seem amused, to say the least. When I walked though, I could hear my mother apologise for me.
We got through customs and went to the departure’s gate before we got on the plane.
Ten hours later, we were in London.
We arrived in England and settled down in our new home. My parents had set money aside to buy a house in a town just outside of London. It was a nice home on a mildly busy street not so far from what would be my future school.
A week before going back to school, Mum had bought my uniform online from Tesco’s website.
It was an ugly set of clothes, but I didn’t mind all too much. What I wore in America was pretty much a uniform… It was the same thing almost every day; jeans, one of my nerdy t-shirts, a checkered shirt over that, and my trusty Docs at my feet.
The day I actually had to go to school, I woke up early, deciding that I’d rather not be late like I was back in Chicago. The sun came in through the window to blind me. Said window had a view on the street so I would be awakened every morning by the glorious sound of commuters driving past and honking at each other.
I was up, cursing myself for going on a raid with Soo Yun, my Korean co-player, at 2 AM last night. I pushed my phone away from me before I stumbled over to the closet and pulled out my uniform. I turned around to get changed but couldn’t help but glance at my reflection. I was skinny and covered in freckles and I fucking hated it.
My entire body’s covered in freckles. Some will call it cute, others will say it’s artistic, but I absolutely hated it.
I see everybody with nice, spotless skin and here I am, covered in tiny shitstains.
‘But they say that freckles are angel kisses, David!’ used to say Amelia, one of my cousins.
Angel kisses. Really. Angels didn’t kiss me; they full on pushed me against a wall and made out with me until we were breathless.
After my minute of narcissism, Mum yelled at me to come downstairs. Damn that woman, always screeching after me.
I quickly put on my school uniform before I stumbled downstairs to find both my parents in the kitchen.
My parents were somewhat nice people; I got along well with my Dad, though with my Mum… It was another story.
Mum was a primary school teacher while Dad was a businessman. They were still married after twenty-two years and had an only child: me. Being the only child in a family can be extremely boring but, eh, I manage.
Let’s just say that I had the most normal family a teenager can have.
Everything was bright and proper and nobody suffers from any kind of trauma… Yep. I was incredibly boring, wasn’t I?
My parents greeted me as warmly as usual, Mum was dressed and excited to meet her new students, Dad was already in his suit, sipping on his black coffee. They were always like this and it was nice to see them being so normal. I knew that back in America, some of my friends had the weirdest parents ever.
“Good morning, David!” chirped my mother from behind the counter, pouring herself a glass of orange juice. She was always so upbeat, even first thing in the morning. I wonder how she managed to do it. It was annoying.
I just groaned a quick ‘good morning’ and slouched down on one of the stools, grabbing some toast and chugging down some juice and coffee as quickly as I could.
Mum leaned over to fiddle with my collar.
“Just look at you, all dressed up like that!”
“It reminds me when you were in primary school. Do you remember, Harry?" she asked my Dad with a grin "When we still lived in England… God, David, you were adorable.”
She just laughed, claiming that she was just joking as she pinched my cheek. I hated when she did that, but she thought it was cute, so I didn’t say a word. She rearranged my tie and stepped back, looking me up and down.
“So, are you ready for school?” she asked with a grin, leaning against the counter.
I nodded and shrugged “Well, hey, I gotta do what I gotta do. The best you can do is wish me luck.”
“You do remember where the school is, right?” she asked as I picked up my bag. I nodded.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” I told her, stepping away.
With that, I stepped outside, waving them off before I closed the door behind me. Finally, I’m out and ready. New school, new life, new everything. Now I have to start everything all over and I honestly hope everything will happen as smoothly as I expect it to.