If I Lay Here Chapter 1

The  smell of chlorine was heavy and acrid in the air. It clung to the moist  humidity of the indoor swimming pool but Noah didn’t pay it any attention. He  was used to it, used to the way the sounds of people and the coach’s whistle  bounced around the high ceilings. Not because he was a swimmer, he wasn’t even  sure he could dog paddle, but because he may as well have been the swim team’s  mascot. He was there for every after school practice, sitting alone at the back  of the bleachers working on homework.

He knew the whistle as well as any member of the  team and he didn’t actually have to listen to Coach Price’s booming voice to  know that practice was over. It was the same every day, their small little  school had a good swim team because of Coach Price and their dedication to  practice even off season. It didn’t matter how many practices he sat through,  he always stopped what he was doing to watch the team slip out of the water and  walk around in their tight little Speedos.

“Hey!”

Noah’s head  snapped from the pool to the foot of the stands and the slender girl in her own  tight swimsuit.

“Out in five,  will shower quick, promise!”

He nodded and  pushed too long black hair back from his eyes. Georgia had been his friend  since the first grade and was currently about the only friend he had. He  watched as she hurried toward the girl’s locker room, laughing with a cluster  of other girls. He may have failed miserably at the entire popularity thing but  she was doing just fine.

The books  easily snapped shut on his half heartedly finished homework and he shoved  everything into his battered backpack. It was the same one he’d had for years  and the strap was working on tearing through. It wasn’t that his mother didn’t  give him money every summer to buy new supplies, he just rather pocket the cash  than buy a stupid backpack for his last year in school. He stole one more look  at the men’s team before he dropped his eyes and hurried to the first row of  metal seats.

“You’re a good  young man, Noah.”

“Huh?” It was  an intelligent answer but he glanced up to where Coach Price hovered near by.

“Driving  Georgia everyday, not many friends would do that.”

He shrugged.  “She lives near me…isn’t a bother. Let’s me get my homework done.”

“Well, still  good of you. Did you hear from your college yet?”

“No, sir.” He  had. He’d been declined by his first, second and was now waiting for a  rejection from them too. Georgia  had gotten an athletics scholarship and was already going on about going off to  school. “I was thinking about taking a year off.”

“Don’t, you  won’t want to go back.” The middle aged man smiled good naturedly. “You’re too  bright not to go to college.”

“Thank you,  sir.” It was a nice sentiment but his best bet was a local community college if  that. His grades weren’t horrible but they weren’t stellar either. That was  strike one against him but stacked against a slew of other kids with mid level  grades who had community activities, a history of volunteering, a list of clubs  and school activities compared to his nothing, the odds weren’t good for him.  Noah wasn’t a joiner.

Georgia saved  him from further painful conversation by rushing from the locker room in cotton  yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Her dark hair was loose now from the swim cap and  it fell in corkscrew curls around her face. Not for the first time Noah was  struck by her beauty. Her family was an odd mix of Russian, Irish, African and  Mexican and it gave her mocha skin, curly dark hair and vivid green eyes. She  was stunning and if he had the slightest interest in women he’d have been all  over her.

“I’m ready.”  She smiled with a gym bag and a back pack over her shoulder. “See you next  Monday, Coach.”

“You know it,  Georgia.” He smiled as he moved on to help shoo other teenagers from the pool.  It was Friday night and the kids weren’t the only ones eager to get home. The  parking lot was mostly empty but for the students and teachers that had  lingered for various reasons, practices, detention, meetings and the like but  even they were slowly fading away.

Noah’s Chevy  Cavalier was at the back of the lot and now sat alone. It wasn’t new, not by  any means, but it as paid for and his. Even if the gray paint was dulled from  age and wear, it was a good car and he was glad to have it. His dad didn’t  believe in letting a new driver have a new car but he’d bought the older car  the day Noah had gotten his license.

“Good  practice?” He asked as Georgia tossed her bag in the back.

“Yeah, not bad.  You’d know if you paid attention to any of the girls.”

“Hot guys in Speedos,  why would I look at you?” He grinned.

“Hey Noah, I…”

“What?” She’d  never had a problem telling him things, ever, and having her stuttering about  something now unnerved him.

“Riley Arickaree?”  She slipped her seat belt on.

“Yes, he was  looking very nice today.”

“Yeah,  well, you know he doesn’t really date?”

“Yeah?” Riley  Arickaree had been the one boy they’d both had a crush on since they’d been old  enough to understand. He had only grown more handsome as he’d gotten older but  he was totally focused on excelling on the swim team and going to college. Georgia  had actually joined the swim team in an effort to get closer to him. Riley had  been friendly, but as distant with her as everyone else. That didn’t stop them  from nursing their own quiet crushes.

“He kind of  sort of asked me to prom.”

“What?”

“I didn’t  answer him, I told him I need to think about it over the weekend.”

“That’s not  funny.”

“I wasn’t  joking. I’ll tell him no.”

He shrugged and  tried to pretend he didn’t care.

“He said he  only asked me because his mom is saying he should go and he wanted to ask  someone that understood about practices and not drinking and partying and stuff  and figured I’d be a good choice. It wasn’t romantic and personal. I’ll tell  him no and we’ll go together like we’d planned.”

“Don’t.  Look, I get it. He’s straight, I’m cool with  that. I’m not thirteen anymore thinking that maybe he’s just in denial. I get  it, it’s fine, I don’t mind. If I can’t have him it may as well be you. You two  would be pretty together.”

“You’re mad.”

“I’m not.”

“You are, you  always grip the steering wheel too hard when you’re pissed.”

“I’m…disappointed  but I’ll get over it.”

“Who will you  go with?”

“I wasn’t that  excited about going.”

She frowned.  “I’ll tell him no.”

“Georgia,  seriously, tell him yes. He’s hot, we’ve only been drooling over him for years.  We always agreed, if he was straight you could have him and if he wasn’t I  would. It’s fine.”

“You mean  that?”

“Yeah.” He  glanced over and saw her eyes light up. “Yeah, I do. It’ll break my heart but  you’ll have to grope him for me.”

“You’re the  best friend ever, Noah.”

“Whatever, just  shut up about it. I don’t want to think about you, my Riley and prom dresses  hitting the floor.”

“That means you  won’t go shopping with me?”

He sighed. “Of  course I will.” Noah brushed his hair behind an ear.

Georgia turned  the radio on. “I was really worried you’d be upset. I mean, I think he’s uber  hot, but you’ve been like madly in love with him since you were fourteen. I  felt a little like I was cheating with him.”

“Wait,” he called  out as radio stations scanned by. “Go back, my mom’s all spazzed about that new  flu bug out west.”

It took a  little scanning back but she quickly found the station. A woman’s voice droned  across the airwaves. “Again, we have installed a mandatory quarantine of Gila,  Pinal and Graham counties but there is no current threat beyond those counties.  This is simply a precaution. There’s no need for panic or worry, just caution.  There is no threat to larger metropolitan areas like Phoenix. I have nothing to  report on infection rates or even if anyone has died from this virus. This is  nothing to become concerned with but it is easily transmitted so we’re taking  what appears to be extreme actions just to err on the side of caution. A few  days of inconvenience is better than making half the state come down with the  sniffles.”

Noah reached  out and turned it off. “Mom is just freaking out. I told her it’ll be like SARS  or the bird flu where everyone is all panicky and it turns out to be nothing.”

“This will set  her off. She’ll make you spray the house down with Lysol for sure this time.”

“That isn’t  funny, that was your fault for bringing the chicken pox over.”

“I was six and  how was I to know?”

“Still, she’s  freaking, you know?”

Georgia  shrugged. “She’s always been germophobic and shit, it is odd that they’d  quarantine three counties.”

“Well it can’t  be that serious if no one is reported dead from it.  I mean they’ve been babbling about it for like  a week and no one’s dead? How bad can it be? I think you should wear white, it  would be so pretty on you.”

“White? For  prom? Are you insane? I’m a klutz, I’ll ruin it.”

“If you’re  lucky you won’t have to wear it for long.”

“Noah!”

 

Noah had  showered and shaved but that was about it for his ambition for his Saturday. He’d  brushed out his hair and frowned at the black that was fading away and letting  his lighter natural color start to peek out. The black was supposed to be  permanent but it always seemed to fade away. Not that it mattered, no one had  cared and he was considering dying sections pink next time he could wrangle  Georgia into helping. That would at least get his father to frown, boys weren’t  supposed to wear pink.

His phone rang  but it was on the side of the sofa so it had nearly gone to voicemail before he  stretched over and snagged it. When the phone said it was his mom calling. He  almost just ignored the call. He flipped the phone open and sagged back into  the sofa.

“Hey, Mom.”

“Noah, are you  home?”

“Yeah.” He  scratched his leg and wondered if he should put on real clothes instead of his  lay about the house style.

“Good, listen  to me, sweetie, you know where I keep the extra checks?”

“Sure.”

“Good, I need  you to go and get it and sign my name to one of them.”

“Mom?”

“Hush, don’t  play innocent. I’ve known you’ve been signing my name to papers the school’s  sent home for years. Just do it. The water delivery guy is on his way, pay  him.”

“What’s going  on?” They had a dispenser in the kitchen but the delivery guy wasn’t set to  come by again for another couple of weeks.

“Just pay him,  Noah, okay? And then take the bottles to the basement where they’ll be out of  the way.”

That was code  for move them someplace where your father wouldn’t find them and he sighed.  “Okay. How many did you order?”

“Fifteen.”

“Fifteen? Jesus,  Mom!”

“Just do this  Noah!”

“It’ll take us  months to go through that much.”

“Maybe, just  pay the man.”

He shook his  head. “Okay.”

“I’ve one more  thing you need to do for me, okay?”

“What?”

“In the same  drawer is the back up ATM card. You know the pin?”

“Of course  not.” He lied.

“Noah.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Good, after  the water guy is gone, go out and go to the ATM, take out three hundred in  cash.”

“Mom?”

“Noah!” Her  voice grew shrill. “Just do this!”

That made him  frown. “Okay.” His mother was often upset but he’d never heard the edge of fear  in her voice.

“Then I want  you to swing by the warehouse club and get some things.”

“What do you  need?”

“I…Noah you’re  an adult now or almost. They’re going to shut Arizona down, they’re doing it  now.”

“Yeah, I heard,  those counties.”

“No, Noah, no,  the entire state. We got the heads up here at the hospital about a half hour  ago. This bug is spreading fast and they’re going to announce the symptoms so  we’re going to get slammed here with people that are panicked. I’m not going to  get home until late. I need you to go to the store and get supplies. Just in  case.”

“In case of  what?”

“Just, in  case.”

That wasn’t  comforting. “Okay, but like what?”

“Toilet paper  and paper towels and….and things that won’t spoil. Canned goods, bags of rice  and beans, things like that. Canned fruit, crackers, canned meat.”

“Ugh.”

“Noah I’m  serious here. Can you do this?”

“Does Dad  know?”

“Your father  doesn’t worry like I do. Can you do this?”

“Sure, how much  should I spend?”

“I don’t care,  I’m trusting you to shop wisely, Noah. If things get worse it might be weeks  before they get better.”

That was a  guilt trip. “Yeah.”

“Look for those  flashlights you shake and that don’t need batteries and…and…first aid supplies  and…”

“I get it, Mom.  Prepare for zombie attack.”

“Good boy. Batteries  get some batteries too.”

“Yeah, wouldn’t  want the remote control not to work.”

“Noah, I’m not  joking here!”

The fear in her  voice sent a chill down his spine but he reminded himself how excitable his  mother could be. “I get it, just, if Dad’s pissed I don’t want to be the one he  yells at.”

“You let me  deal with your father. I’ll call you on my next break and Noah?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t tell  anyone okay? Just get what we need and get home.”

“Whatever,  Mom.”

“I love you  sweetie.”

“Love you too Mom.”  He hung up as the line went dead and flopped down on the sofa. He was going to  have to get dressed now but there was no point in him going to the store alone.  The number was programmed into his phone and he pushed the button without  looking.

“Hello?”

“Heya.”

“Wow, I’m  shocked you’re awake before noon.” Georgia teased.

“Barely. Look  Mom’s freaking out and stocking up. I have to go to the store. Do you want to  come with?”

“Zombie  attack?”

“Yeah, you know  how she is. We’re still eating Spam from her Y2K stock up.”

“Your dad is  going to flip.”

He shrugged.  “Not my problem, so you want to go?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll call  after the water guy leaves.”

“Water guy? God  don’t tell me she ordered extra?”

“Fifteen five-gallon  bottles that I have to haul to the basement. You know if I was a girl she  wouldn’t ask me to.”

“If you were a  girl? You mean you’re not?”

“Oh, blow me.”

Georgia laughed  happily. “Careful or I’ll tell Riley you’re all heartbroken over him.”

“I’ll call  before I come over.”

“Will do.”

Noah lounged  around for almost an hour waiting for the water delivery guy but the man  finally arrived. He had already filled out the check with his mother’s fake  signature so all he had to do was hold the door open and let the man haul in  the heavy bottles and fill out the check. It took him longer to haul the  bottles down into the basement than it did for the man to deliver them. By the  time he had them tucked away in a seldom used corner, Noah was in no mood to go  to the store.

One thought on “If I Lay Here Chapter 1

  1. Al

    I clicked on a story at random and look how great everything is looking! Keep at it. I know you’re feeling weird from your blog posts, but I’m rooting for you! =D

    Here’s to finding each of us our normal, whatever it may be.

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