Shattered Soul is a YA Contemporary novel that is recommended for ages fourteen and up. Enjoy!
That was my motto.
I’m not sure where it came from or where I first heard it. Hell, I could have read it off a bathroom stall somewhere for all I know. My point is this, it doesn’t matter where it came from; it stuck with me, becoming my answer, my solution, to everything.
Until she came into my life, which was when things began to change for me.
I remember the first moment I laid eyes on her. First period, Algebra II with Mrs. Gilbert. I’d been sitting in class, doodling on a crumbled piece of notebook paper with a borrowed pen, biding my time until I could reach the water fountain in the hall. The date was April nineteenth, and I’d wake-n-baked that morning, testing out the potency of my new bag before celebrating on four-twenty, the unofficial holiday of every stoner.
The classroom door had opened and I hadn’t bothered to look up to see why. I’d been too consumed in making the swirls of smoke rising from the burning joint I had been drawing look realistic to care.
“Oh, yes, I almost forgot.” Mrs. Gilbert had fretted. “Class, we have a new student. This is Ali Carson; she comes to us from Charleston, South Carolina. Please make her feel welcome.”
I picked that moment to glance up from my all-important smoke swirls to check this new girl out and was dumbfounded.
She was the closest thing to an angel I had ever seen. I remember blinking a few times to see if she’d disappear, and actually questioning myself on whether or not my new bag had been laced with something which was just starting to take effect. But, she hadn’t disappeared, and my bag hadn’t been laced with anything.
She was real.
I stared at her for what seemed like an incredibly long time, allowing my eyes to slowly drink her in.
“Hi,” she uttered with an awkward wave to no one in particular.
Mrs. Gilbert had motioned for her to sit at the only available desk, which was in the second row from the window, two seats from the last desk, and kitty corner from mine. I watched her as she walked, unable to remove my eyes from her angelic face. Right before she had sat down, her eyes had flickered to mine as if she could feel them on her, and she’d smiled faintly.
I had smiled in return, but a second too late, she’d already sat and given her full attention to Mrs. Gilbert at the front of the room.
Now, two and a half weeks later, Ali Carson still consumes my mind like a thick cloud of smoke consumes the fresh air in a clam-baked car. I struggle daily to find the courage to talk to her, to do anything besides stare.
“She’s too good for you, man,” Trip, my best buddy since fourth grade, muttered as we walked towards the smoking trees for another cigarette before school.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I mumbled sarcastically, wondering why I’d even said anything at all about her to him.
He put a hand on my shoulder and stood in front of me. “I’m serious, man. As harsh as it might sound, you know it’s true. I’m just savin’ you from wastin’ your time.” He paused, digging in his over-sized pockets for his pack of Newports and a lighter. “I mean, it’s only been a couple of weeks and already the jocks have started to sink their claws into her. A few more weeks and she won’t even look at dudes like us.”
A mental image of myself flashed through my mind, shaggy brown hair, muddy brown eyes, baggy shorts with ripped knees, and a faded black hoodie. In comparison to her, I resembled scum.
We’d made it beneath the two large trees beside the parking lot that weren’t technically on school grounds, the ones all the smokers flocked to before and after school for a cigarette.
“Can I bum one of those off you?” I asked, my hands shoved in my pockets.
Trip tossed me the pack. “Sure thing.”
I pulled one out and the aroma of menthol coming off them filled my nose, smelling delicious. It had been hours since my last cigarette and I was nickin’ bad.
“Thanks, man.” I said, tossing the pack back to him.
Once the smoothness of the cigarette touched my lips I felt calmer. I cocked my head to the side, preparing to light it, and noticed a four-door silver Honda civic parking a few spaces away from me.
Ali Carson’s car.
I froze, the bright orange flame dancing an inch away from the tip of my cigarette, and stared as she stepped out.
The first thing I saw was white Sketchers and smooth, tanned legs. I lit my cigarette, inhaling the cool sensation of a menthol in the morning as my eyes traveled upwards past her khaki shorts and green sweater, in search of her face. I exhaled when I found it.
The cloud of curling smoke from my lips blurred my vision for a split second; once it cleared, I noticed her blue eyes were on me. I watched her lips twist into a perfect little smile, and this time, I made sure I smiled back. She clutched her books to her chest and began walking towards the school, her slight smile still in place. I exhaled and my smile grew.
She’d noticed me and smiled, that had to count for something.
“Well, well, don’t listen to me, man. What do I know?” Trip said, a goofy grin on his face. “Maybe you’re not S.O.L. after all.”
I laughed. “Whatever, man.”
But, deep down a strange sense of excitement uncoiled within me and I couldn’t shake her image from my mind.
When I sauntered into first period, just before the tardy bell rang, Ali was sitting at her desk, talking with Kinsley Henderson, the captain of the cheerleading squad.
My excitement deflated as I continued to my seat. Maybe Trip had been right, the jocks were starting to sink their claws into her, and maybe she was too good for me.
I stood by my seat, slapped my notebook across the desk and patted my pockets for the pencil I’d found on the floor yesterday.
“Need a pencil?” A soft voice asked me from a few desks away.
I looked up, it was her. “Yeah, please.”
“Here,” she smiled, handing me one. “I always keep a few extras, you never know when you might need another.”
I chuckled as I took it from her. “Yeah, for some loser like me who can’t manage to keep hold of one. Thanks.”
“You’re not a loser,” she insisted, her eyes lingering on mine for a moment before shifting towards Mrs. Gilbert at the front of the room.
I sat back in my seat and bounced the pencil on its eraser end a few times, amazed I’d talked to her without choking on my words.
Throughout the remainder of class, my eyes kept finding their way back to her. I gazed at her while struggling to come up with witty things to say once I returned her pencil. I studied her long blonde hair pinned neatly away from her face, her hand propping her head up thoughtfully as her eyes remained forward, the rise and fall of her shoulders as she breathed.
When the bell finally rang, I was still in a daze. I gathered my things as quickly as possible, hoping to be able to use the pencil as an excuse to speak to her one last time before she left for her next class; we didn’t share any others.
I stood and walked to her desk, pencil in hand, but Kinsley got to her before I could. I stopped a few steps away and began nervously slapping her pencil across the palm of my hand, waiting.
“So, have you thought about trying out yet?” Kinsley pried, obviously trying to recruit her.
“Umm, I don’t think it’s for me.” Ali muttered and relief washed over me in waves, because if she became a cheerleader, then I really didn’t stand a chance. But, she’d said no.
“Oh. Ok, well if you change your mind let me know,” Kinsley said with a snotty smile on her face as she walked away.
I noticed Ali roll her eyes and frown after her. I took that moment as my opportunity to return the pencil.
“Don’t let her get under your skin.” I muttered, taking the few remaining steps forward. “Here’s your pencil back.”
“Keep it, you might need it next period. And, she doesn’t get under my skin, much,” she grinned.
I chuckled. “Thanks. My name’s Seth by the way, Seth Bradson.” I introduced myself, hoping she cared to know my name.
“I know,” she said in a playful tone, shifting her books in her arms. Then, she walked away, eyeing me.
I laid in bed that night, in the dump I call home, replaying her playful ‘I know’ in my mind as I hit my bowl in the sanctuary of my room.
Headlights flashed across my walls, my brother was home. The front door opening and slamming shut confirmed it.
“Calvin, honey, you’re home,” my mother slurred, stirring from her drunken sleep on the couch.
“Yea, ma. Here, let me help you to your bed,” my brother’s strained voice answered her.
Seconds later, I heard his heavy footsteps in the hall and my bedroom door burst open. Calvin stood in the doorway, anger flaring in his eyes as he glared at me.
“Next time she’s passed out on the couch like that, I expect you to help her to her room. Got it?”
One thing about Calvin I tried to always remember: never hesitate when answering a question from him.
“Yeah, got it,” I mumbled quickly, hoping he’d close my door and be gone.
“Give me that,” he demanded, marching to my bed, his hand extended and waiting for me to place my bowl within.
I handed it over to him reluctantly. Flickers of anger lashed away at my insides while I watched him fish through his pockets for a lighter.
“Got something in the living room for you if you want it,” he grinned.
“No thanks.” I knew what he was offering, crystal meth, his drug of choice.
Calvin is a drug dealer, and one of the dumbest kinds, the kind who can’t keep their own nose out of their sale pile. Obviously, he’d just come back from re-upping or else he wouldn’t have offered.
“Suit yourself,” he said, blowing his smoke in my face before walking out of my room with my bowl still in his hand.
Minutes ticked away. I sat in my room, stoned, twiddling my thumbs and listening to them laugh, snort, and sniffle. Telling myself repeatedly that I didn’t want what he’d offered, that I’d be all right without it, and that I didn’t need it, especially if I was planning on talking to Ali anytime tomorrow. I hoped that specific thought would have been enough to push my fiendish want down, but it wasn’t.
I needed my bowl.
I needed it so I could cloud my mind up and block all those thoughts out. But, it was out there with them.
Deciding I couldn’t take it anymore, I stood and stumbled my way down the hall towards the smoke filled living room at the end. I prayed silently as I walked to whomever might be listening at that moment for such things there wouldn’t be one already chopped out and sitting on our glass coffee table. Because if there was, and Calvin asked me again, I knew I wouldn’t be able to turn it down then. But, as long as I didn’t see it, I figured I’d be fine.
“What’s up, little man?” Brent, one of my brother’s friends, asked. He snorted and wiped his nose with the back of his hand.
My hands twitched at my sides as I glanced at all their paraphernalia spread across the table. I tore my eyes away from it, telling myself again I didn’t want it, I didn’t need it like a mantra repeating in my head.
I swallowed hard before answering. “Nothing, man, came to get my bowl back.”
“What’s with you?” Calvin asked, his eyes skimming over me in a skeptical way. “You sick or something?”
I feared Calvin would wonder why I’d turned down his offer, it probably was the first time in my life I’d ever turned anything down from him.
“Yeah, I’m queasy.” A lie, but better than the truth. I was opting out because of a girl, I’d never live that one down.
“Awe, leave him alone, Calvin. He even looks kinda sick,” Jade said, a girl who used to be pretty, until my brother got her hooked. Now Jade was nothing more than another one of my brother’s dope fiend girlfriends he kept on a short leash.
I stuck my hand out. “My bowl, please.” I sounded more irritated than I would have liked and hoped I didn’t get my ass beat for it.
Jade walked over to where my brother sat and took it from his hand. “Here, let me pack it for you,” she offered, pulling out a cellophane chucked full of weed from her pocket.
I didn’t protest. I just hoped to hell she would hurry so I could get away from my brother’s venomous glare.
She packed it and walked over to hand it to me. “This is for later,” she said, placing another nug in my hand. “And these will make you feel better, guaranteed.” She smiled and dropped two Klonopins into my palm.
I closed my fist around them. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” she uttered a little too sweetly, while she stood so close to me I could see my reflection in the dilated pupils of her eyes.
“Jade, come here for a second,” my brother demanded, opening a tiny zip-lock baggie filled with glittering white crystals. A devilish grin smeared across his face when he saw her eyes light up. “You want another one?” he asked, his voice sounding hypnotic.
I recognized his tone and knew what would come next, he would ask her to do something in return for the line he was offering. She would say yes, of course. Jade was at the point where she’d do just about anything for more and Calvin knew it.
I turned and started back down the hall towards my room, sickened because I remembered what Jade had been like before she’d snorted her first line of what would probably be her death. She’d been cool then, a laid back stoner who popped pills and drank occasionally.
But, that was before Calvin offered her something which shattered her fragile soul.
Jade was hooked now, and hooked good. When other people looked at her, they probably didn’t think she was even worth saving.
I closed the door behind me and sprawled across my bed again. I flicked my lighter and put the bowl to my lips, drowning my lungs in smoke, hoping to cloud my urge for that baggie of white crystals quickly or knock myself out.
The low thumping of bass flowed from the living room and into my bedroom. I knew what he’d asked her to do, dance. And by the end of the night, she’d probably have done every dirty deed imaginable with both of them, and all for more.
I hit my bowl again, hoping the bass remained as loud as it was to drown out the other noises soon to follow.
I fell asleep that night with an assed bowl in my hand and a cellophane filled with a nug of weed and two Klonopins inside my pocket, thinking of Ali Carson.