Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chapter Fifteen: Still Growing

Phoenix was already in bed by the time the police came by the house that night, and with no evidence of a disturbance the officer had no choice but to turn back around and dismiss the complaint.

The next morning all Phoenix had to do was make sure to tidy up the house before his mom got home and she would be none the wiser.

Paulie was sure to to remind Phoenix that he told him so when they ran into each other at school on Monday, "And I should've known that you knew what you were doing with that chick," he added, "Really, you're a genius, 'Nix."

"What are you talking about?" Phoenix wondered what his friend was going on about.

"I'm just saying that if I had realized that nerd girls were so easy, I might've tried to snag one myself," Paulie explained, "I mean, it makes total sense now that I think about it. They must be desperate really, since no guys would ever want--"

Phoenix had heard enough.

"I don't like Sadie because I think she'll put out," Phoenix spat, disgusted, "I like her because she's actually a decent human being, unlike you."

"What the hell? How can you say that after all I've done for you? If it wasn't for me, little miss brown-noser would still be ignoring your dumb ass," Paulie defended himself.

Phoenix snorted derisively, "You've never done anything for me. Everything you do is selfish and for your own good. You didn't invite Sadie to the party because you wanted to help me, you just did it because you knew it would get me to go along with your stupid idea. You're always doing shit like that and I'm sick of it!"

"Yeah, you can say you're only after her for noble purposes, but I know you never acted like such a pathetic loser before some girl started opening up her legs for you," Paulie taunted.

Phoenix wanted nothing more than to punch him right in his stupid face, but he knew that was exactly what Paulie was hoping for. He was trying to provoke Phoenix, daring him for an excuse to turn this into a fight; Phoenix wouldn't give him the pleasure. Instead, he balled his fists, clenched his teeth, and walked away.

Paulie started snubbing him after that, but Phoenix didn't care. The school year ended a short while later and Paulie graduated out of high school. It was just Phoenix and Sadie now, and that was just fine with him.

The two officially started going steady and spent the whole summer together. The months flew by, though, and soon it was time to return to school and start thinking about more important things.

*ahem* More important things.

"Ugh, this is pointless," Phoenix lamented as they finally got started on their homework.

"What do you mean?" asked Sadie.

"I just can't seem to care about any of this stuff when I have no idea if it's even going to be relevent to my life," he threw up his hands, exasperated, "It just seems like a bunch of useless busy work, otherwise."

"Hmm, I guess that makes sense," Sadie replied.

"What about you, Sadie? Do you have any idea what you're going to do once we graduate? How do you even figure something like that out?" Now that they were in their senior year, Phoenix was feeling more pressure than ever to find something he could do.

"Well, I always heard that you should follow your passion. I've been reading about ancient Egypt lately and it's really fascinating with the Pharoahs and the pyramids and everything, so I was thinking about maybe doing something with history. If I don't end up working at the shop with my dad, that is," Sadie's father ran a little used book store in the city. Phoenix had only met him once or twice, as he seemed to spend even more time at his job than Rachel.

Follow my passion? Phoenix thought as they turned to their work. He wondered what his passion could be. He did spend a lot of time with the telescope in the back yard, but he had already considered science and decided that it was too clinical a vocation for him.

He also enjoyed being in the debate club, which would probably transfer well into politics. Phoenix was certain he wouldn't be able to stand the corruption that he knew he would encounter working for the government, though.

The only other thing he could think of was photography, which he had dabbled in ever since he received a camera as a present on his sixth birthday. He thought he was getting pretty decent at it, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out a way to turn this skill into something that would be helpful in the way he wanted to be. So, once again, he was stumped.

Meanwhile, Rachel had been busy working on her own passion. Her recent foray into painting had paid off, earning her a promotion to become a sketch artist for the forensics department.

At the same time, she was learning how to slow down a little, and turned her martial arts skills toward teaching herself how to meditate.

But above all, she wanted to make sure that her work and training wouldn't come between her and her son again. She made it a priority to be home for dinner with Phoenix as often as she could now, even if all she had time to make was canned soup. She realized now that her presence and guidance were the most important things she could give him; Phoenix might be quickly growing into a young man, but he still needed his mom.


When I wrote that Phoenix and Sadie spent "summer" together, I of course meant "Sunday". xD I just like throwing things like that in to make it seem like more time has passed.

Also, I really loved how that one picture of them watching the stars on the beach came out, except:

"Yay! Let's watch the stars!"

"Um, Sadie, the stars are behind us..."

"'re just looking at a clump of weeds and an old crane."


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chapter Fourteen: Seeking Forgiveness

Rachel was waiting at the kitchen table when her son got home from school. Phoenix wasn't surprised, they had played through this scenario enough times by now, he practically knew the script by heart.

"The school called again. The principal said you released the frogs from the science class this time," Rachel explained, unnecessarily.

"So?" Pheonix replied, preparing to defend himself from the accusations that were about to come.

"Just sit down, Phoenix, I only want to talk," Rachel tried to smile reassuringly, but it came out strained and desperate.

Phoenix took his seat cautiously. The shouting hadn't started yet, but that didn't mean it wouldn't.

"They also said that if you keep up this behavior you'll be kicked out of the debate club," Rachel paused, "I didn't even know you had joined the debate club."

"Yeah, I did," Phoenix wondered if he was in trouble for that, too.

Rachel sighed wearily, "I'm so tired of fighting with you all the time. We never talk anymore and I don't even know what's going on with you. And I know," she added hastily before Phoenix could say anything, "I know it's partly my fault. I shouldn't have yelled at you about your hair or your clothes. I might not like them, but I need to let you have your own tastes. And you're right that I spend too much time with my work. My career is very important to me, but not as important as you are. I took it for granted that you knew that, and that was my mistake. I want to fix that, but I need you to talk to me. You're a good kid, Phoenix. I might not know much, but I do know that. So, what's going on? Why do you keep acting out at school? If you want my attention, you've got it now, so please, just tell me what I can do to help."

Phoenix sat slightly stunned as his mother finished her little speech. This was definitely not the lecture he had been expecting. For a moment he didn't know what to say, but then, before he could stop himself, words just started tumbling out of his mouth.

"I don't know, it's just... everything was so much easier when I was a kid. I went to school, did my homework and donated to charities and thought that, as long as I did everything right, things would be good, you know? But then I grew up and started paying attention to the world and I realized that everything's horrible. There are so many sims out there who are homeless or sick that charity can't hardly do anything to help. And those frogs at school, they were going to kill them, mom! I tried to talk them out of it, but no one cares. The kids at school all make fun of me when I try to talk about animal rights. They say I'm gay because I'm a vegetarian and my favorite color is pink. Paulie's my only friend, but sometimes I think that he starts half the rumors himself, behind my back. And Sadie won't even talk to me anymore," he told Rachel about what happened when Sadie had turned him down for the homecoming dance.

"So that's why you egged the Bostic's house?" Rachel couldn't help but chuckle.

"You're not mad?" Phoenix dared to ask.

"That was so long ago," Rachel waved it away, "Besides, it's sounds like you've already suffered the consequences of your actions, so no need to drag it out again. You do need to find a more constuctive way to deal with these things, though. Why don't you find a way you can help with some of the problems you see in the world? It would do a lot more good than just lashing out."

"I guess," Phoenix replied doubtfully, "but it just seems so overwhelming. And I don't even know what I could do."

Rachel nodded, "It'll be tough, but it's something you'll need to figure out on your own. It's part of growing up, finding your place in the world, what you're meant to do. In the meantime, maybe you can try making up with Sadie. You two were such good friends, I'm sure she misses you as much as you miss her."

"Yeah, maybe," Phoenix shrugged uncertainly.

"Well, I'd better get started on dinner," Rachel said, standing up, "So, you and me, are we okay?"

"Yeah, mom, we're okay," Phoenix grinned sheepishly.

Things started to  improve in the Keatts household after that. Phoenix didn't think he was ready to face Sadie yet, but he decided he could start trying to figure out what good he could do in the world. Raising his school grades seemed like it would be a reasonable start, as he had been slacking off lately with everything that had been on his mind.

His next step was to try searching for some ideas online, but that ended badly when he accidentally downloaded a malicious virus that fried his computer.

Luckily, being on good terms with his mom meant that she was willing to help him fix it.

"What on earth did you do to make it start smoking?" Rachel boggled.

Phoenix guessed that meant he probably shouldn't get involved with anything related to computer technology. At least that narrowed things down a bit.

Another perk of making up with Rachel was that she agreed to give him driving lessons. Phoenix had to admit that learning to drive in a cop car was pretty cool. He briefly considered the idea of following his mom into law enforcement and fighting crime, but quickly decided that he would never be happy working for The Man.

Maybe I could be a scientist? They discover all sorts of helpful things, he mused as he fiddled with the telescope one day while Paulie was visiting.

"Where is your mom, anyway," Paulie interrupted his thoughts, "It's weird coming over and not seeing her sitting at that desk."

"Huh? Oh, she's at some forensics conference for the weekend," he replied.

"Whoa, hold up. You mean she's out of town? For the whole weekend?" Paulie was getting that evil glint in his eye that Phoenix knew all too well.

"Yeah, so?" he asked, warily.

"So?!" Paulie bounced off the trampoline and strode over.

"'Nix, my man! This is perfect. We have got to throw a party, it'll be awesome!" he enthused.

"Yeah, right," Phoenix said sarcasically, "That'll work so well with your parents right across the street."

"Dude, they're not going to be home," Paulie explained, "There's some stupid vampire movie coming out and my dad promised he'd take my mom to the midnight premiere. Tonight. And they'll be going out to dinner before hand and everything. They will seriously be gone the entire night."

"I don't know," Phoenix worried, "It's kind of nice not having my mom mad and yelling at me all the time. I don't really want to blow it."

"It'll be fine, 'Nix, we won't get caught. When'd you turn into such a coward, anyway?" Paulie pressured, "Besides, what if I told you I could get that chick Sadie to show up?"

"Why would she come to a party I was throwing? She doesn't even talk to me," Phoenix resisted, although he couldn't help but wonder if it were possible.

"Trust me, we invite the entire junior and senior class, she'll come," his friend insisted.

"That means that Waylon would be invited, too," Phoenix pointed out.

Paulie laughed, "Waylon graduated last year, dude. Keep up with the times!"

Phoenix found that he couldn't think of any more excuses after that, although, truthfully, he didn't try terribly hard.

And that was how, just a handful of hours later, he found himself setting up pranks in the living room to amuse his classmates.

"Hurry, someone's coming!" Erika Ragland squealed as the front door opened to let in more arriving guests.

"Hey, Phoenix," came a familiar voice from behind.

Phoenix turned to see Sadie, greeting him with an awkward smile as if she wasn't certain that she was supposed to be there.

"Hey," he returned. Neither of them seemed to know what to say next, but were thankfully saved from the effort by the doorbell, "Oh! That must be the pizza."

She came, she actually came, Phoenix let it sink in as he set out the pizza in the kitchen. Paulie had actually done something good, he'd have to remember to thank him later. Now all he to do was not screw up his chance to make things right with her.

"Uh, here, are you hungry?" Phoenix offered, while internally kicking himself for acting so not-cool.

"Yeah, thanks," luckily, Sadie didn't seem to notice that he was acting so oddly.

Sadie took her food to the table and Phoenix joined her with a slice of his own.

"So, um, you're growing out your hair out again?" he asked, reaching for something to say.

"Yeah," brief silence, "You've changed yours, too."

"Yeah," more silence.

Phoenix found that get couldn't say the things he really wanted to her with all these people around, so after they were done eating he asked if they could talk somewhere private.

Some kids were messing around on the computer in Phoenix's room, so they ended up in Rachel's instead.

"Hey, is that authentic? I was just reading a book on Chinese pottery, if that's real it'd be almost 400 years old," Sadie commented.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, my mom got it in China when she met my dad," Phoenix replied, distractedly, "Look, Sadie, I just wanted to tell you that I'm really, really sorry about the way I acted back when we were freshmen. I was stupid and childish and I should have just been happy that my best friend found someone nice to go to the dance with."

"Actually, he wasn't very nice," Sadie put in when Phoenix paused for a breath.

"What? He didn't--" Phoenix panicked for a moment, wondering what mean thing Waylon might have done to her.

"No! Nothing like that," Sadie assured him, "At the dance he spent the whole time complaining about you and what you did. He started calling you nasty names and we got in a big fight over it."

"Wait, you defended me?" Phoenix was confused.

"Well, yeah. I mean, you're my best friend. Sure, what you did was pretty stupid, but the things Waylon was saying were way over the top."

"But then why have you not been talking to me all this time? I thought you hated me," he was still confused.

"I don't know. I guess I just wanted you to admit you were being stupid," Sadie shrugged, "You were being so stubborn and angry, I felt like I couldn't get anything through to you. So, I figured I'd wait until you were ready to talk about it like a rational human being. Took you long enough."

A thought popped into Phoenix's mind.

"So, if you guys were fighting the whole time, does that mean you never, you know, kissed him or anything?" he blushed and looked away as he asked this awkward question.

Sadie seemed amused by this change of subject, "No, I didn't kiss him."

"If it had been me there instead, would you have?" Phoenix glanced up and it was Sadie's turn to turn red and break eye-contact.

"Well, um, yeah. I guess I would've."

Phoenix was suddenly keenly aware of how closely the two of them were standing to each other. He could hear his heart beating loudly in his chest and was certain that Sadie must be able to hear it, too.

She looked up at him and opened her mouth as if she was about to say something, but then stopped.

Phoenix took a chance.

Leaning forward awkwardly, he'd meant to gently brush his lips against hers, but overestimated the distance and instead felt them pressing firmly together. He'd also meant for it to be quick, but before he could recover from his miscalculation he felt Sadie's arms start to wrap around him.

Mimicking her gesture, their arms tangled together for a moment before he found himself pulling her closer. She was amazingly soft in his arms and he felt like all he wanted to do was to get as close to her as he could. He took a step forward to attempt this and stumbled, losing his balance.

Sadie didn't let go as they fell, pulling him with her as she landed on the bed, and Phoenix quickly found her lips again. He could smell pizza on her breath, and a hint of artificial fruit-flavored lip balm, but underneath all that he could smell something that was distinctly Sadie. He was wondering why he had never noticed how good she smelled before when he thought he heard her make a little noise.

"Sadie?" he pulled back, hesitating.


"Are you, I mean, do you want--" but before he could figure out exactly what it was he was going to ask, he was interrupted by the bedroom door flying open.

"Well," Paulie had a look on his face that was equal parts shocked and impressed.

"Paulie, what the hell? Get out!" Phoenix didn't think he had even been more irritated with someone in his life.

"Hey, sorry, just thought you guys might want to know that our lame neighbors called the police and they're on their way."

"Shit," Phoenix jumped out of the bed. He could not get busted now, not after his mom had trusted him on his own. He just hoped he could break up the party in time.

"Guys! The police!" Phoenix tried to warn his guests.

"That's right, not even the police were able to solve the terrifying mystery. Muahaha!" Phoenix didn't even remember this girls name, but she was not getting the hint.

"No, I mean seriously! They're on their way, right now!" he tried again.

He was relieved when they finally got the message and started to disperse. Soon everyone was gone and he as alone with Sadie again.

"I guess I should probably get home, too," she said, although she didn't look too happy about the idea.

"Yeah, I guees so," Phoenix reluctantly agreed, "Maybe we can hang out again sometime soon, though?"

"Yeah, I'd like that," she smiled.

"I'm really glad you came to my party," Phoenix admitted.

"I'm glad you invited me," she gave him one last kiss on the cheek before running off to catch a taxi.