People strive for perfection- it’s just how it is - we live our days out trying to fulfill something that doesn’t exist. We change ourselves in hopes of some time accomplishing this thing of utter non-existence, throwing away our lives in the pursuit. We are driven by the hungers of humanity, craving love, but not truly understanding the meaning of it. Hunting for loyalty, yet stabbing others in the back. Repeating a lonesome cycle until the end of our days… that’s what life is it not, just a cycle, ever changing- never stopping.
I was raised to think of the world as a blank sheet of paper, taught to become the beautiful artist that would one day draw on it. The world isn’t made of paper, but no one looks beyond the curtain.
Ridgeport students are beautiful on paper and in real life. We have too much money not to be, but it’s all smoke. Paid off teachers when your kid doesn’t make the cut, French makeup when puberty hits you like a bitch. We know how to put up a facade like no other, But just to be clear, we’re not fake. Not where it matters. We’re not reality stars pumping out lies until they become the truth, falling down into an endless spiral of overcoming falsities. No, we’re genuine in our hearts, our lies white as snow in comparison to the rest of the world.
Ridgeport takes us in as skinny little brats, ninth graders not knowing the difference between living and life. They pump us out all shiny and new. “Perfect” little girls and boys ready to either take over the leagues, or bring corporate higher into the clouds. I guess it just depends on the person. I refuse to take part of the never ending corporate cycle.
My first day at Ridgeport was much more of a nightmare than a dream, but that was almost three years ago. Now just a faint memory tugging at the back of my mind. The feeling of wanting to crush all of my father’s and mys competitors, yet at the same time, run and take cover from the many enemies Kade Corporations had acquired over the years. But it didn’t seem to matter here at Rigeport, yes, when we left the grounds we were all enemies, but here, it didn’t matter if your father sued my father for millions of dollars last year. The distance set by the business world doesn’t exist at Ridgeport, everyone is your neighbor and your friend in a way. Its satisfying.
I’m a Senior now, and I know I still have a story to uncover here at Ridgeport, people say that it’s that last final year there that decides everything. Some reason, that year defines you like no other, and no matter what happens this year, I’m going to stay on my feet. I’ve worked to hard to have myself uprooted by some random little thing. I promise, never again.
I smile at all the familiar faces, people bumbling around with large suitcases dragging behind them, brown boxes stacked high in their arms. Everyone is familiar, enemies or not. Corporate grows up together, friends turned foes just another quota to fill.
“Adrian!” Sasha yells gleefully, a smile wider than life plastered on her face. She drops her bulky box on the cement ground in front of her and rushes me like a linebacker, enveloping me in her small frame. I laugh gleefully into her blond curls, my arms plastered to my sides by her muscled arms.
“Missed ya too,” I splutter out breathlessly, she finally releases me drawing her hazel eyes up and down my body.
“Yowza chica, you’re tanner than that sand you must’ve been lying on all summer.” She says in that Southern drawl she has, real slow and lazy like, but some how still southern belle like.
“Yeah, yeah I know,” I say rolling my eyes “I may have gotten a little lazy out in that sun.” I sheepishly look down at my toes, all painted navy blue and fitted in my favorite pair of Birks.
I can feel Sasha smiling somehow and I can’t help but smile at an idiot at my toes. It’s just the effect Sasha has on people; she smiles, you smile.
“Guess what,” Sasha says suddenly, now bouncing up and down on her toes.
“What?” I reply looking at the blonde curls cascading down her shoulders.
“Guess!” She whines, still bouncing on her tippy toes like an energizer bunny.
“Sashaa,” I groan out slouching into my heels, its real hot and I don’t like guessing things and she knows it.
“Fine!” she pouts “Be the boring little schmuck you are- and don’t guess.” Her eyes are real big like a puppys and I can barely look her in the eye without making oohing and awing sounds.
“You’re miserable.” I sing out in a horrible falsetto, caving into her puppy eye pout.
“Jason became boring,” I guess anyway.
“Layla got VP and dropped out.”
“I died and went to hell where they are making me guess answers to problems I don’t understand in the least,” I groan pounding the palm of my hand against my forehead.
“You wish.” Sasha smirks lazily, leaning back on her heels and crossing her arms over her chest.
“Oh my god Sasha just tell me!” I yell in exasperation, shaking myself down in frustration. It’s sort of a bad habit I have, annoys the world out of my father which is probably why I like to do it so much.
“Okay yeah, I’ve had my fun,” she says with an evil smile “Kai’s back!”
I can feel the playful smile fall from my face, like a discarded mask. Sasha isn’t expecting this reaction and I can tell, I’m supposed to be happy. But I’m not, I don’t know what I am. He’s come back, but I feel as lost as I did when he left.
Kai Laurins is a legend around here, equal parts kindness and humor. He was something different, defiant to his father's expectations. Thats what we had in common I guess. Both born to follow in our fathers footsteps, but wanting to write our own stories out, from start to finish. We were born leaders, not followers.
Even though our fathers were each other’s biggest competitors, we grew up together. I think they were surprised that we could think. I mean, it was great for them and all, especially since we didn’t fight them too much on business. But everyone knows they were expecting normal corporate children. The kind they could control until their dying days, horrible, but seemingly essential to them.
When Kai and I were younger we used to go out to central park when ever our fathers met for business- sad attempts of clearing the bad air between them, they never worked out, but I always looked forward to seeing Kai. We’d sit out near this old duck pond in the back of the park, shaded from the usual bustle of Manhattan and the pressure of the outside world, and we’d just talk for hours. Not about anything of any real importance, just whatever came to mind. As we got older, it was just a way to load off, get something off our chests. Maybe it was stupid thinking that we could hide from the world, but in those moments, we weren’t in the city. We were somewhere where everything just, made sense.
My favorite class has always been English, have loved reading since I could remember. From Mr.Darcy to Buttercup in the Princess Bride, words were my first friend. I was born just a short year after Kade Corporations started to get real big and mom and dad were determined to travel as much as possible with their newfound money. I never really had what people would call a real friend until I met Kai. Soon after that, my dad started business up with Sasha's’ dad in Dallas. They were completely different but they made me feel alive, something I had never really truly felt before. Until sophomore year, Kai had always been there for me, even at my worst. He was someone you could depend on, until he wasn’t.
I’m ducked in the back of the library in my favorite little nook flipping through textbooks and watching Jason flirt with a freshman. She laughs real obnoxious like every few minutes, but it’s pretty amusing to watch.
Jason’s a real clown, been that way for as long as I’ve known him. He keeps the atmosphere chill when we get high strung. It’s pretty demanding job to keep all of us from cracking, and Jason’s better at it than one would expect.
When Jason first came to Ridgeport sophomore year, we gave him the cold shoulder. He wasn’t one of us, it was as simple as that. His family was rich, sure, but they were late money. They had a hint of normacracy to their name, they were- for a short period of time -part of the mundane world. Ordinance is threatening in world of so called extraordinary. Kai loved that about Jason though, was even jealous of it. Jason had knowledge of the world that- as hard a Kai tried -he would really never have.
Corporate kids grow are put on a track heading straight for industry the day they're born. Kai may have been born into a corporate family and put on that same line, but addiction can come in just a taste, and for Kai, it did.
He wanted the little things, the notes in your lunchbox, the heart shaped pancakes in the morning. He wanted to love and be loved in the most simple ways. Kais’ life was devoid of even those big acts of kindness, love an undercurrent in the Laurins house.
Kais’ taste came from a nanny he once had, Charlotte. She was enigmatic and showed Kai the world without even realizing it. Her words drove him to become the person he is, but Charlotte was gone too quickly, her devotional love for Kai gone with her. She loved him like her own, and he- even with his little understanding of love -loved her too.
I’m jealous of what Kai grasped for even a short time, a love so different, so foreign to me.
Its late as I prop open the dorm door, Sasha sleeping sleeping quietly in her bunk. The room is nearly devoid of light except for the small rays that pool onto the floor from a night light near Sashas bunk. Ridgeport is rich, but they like to keep the dorm rooms simple, two bunks, two desks and the usual boarding school commodities. I’ve spent the last three years of my life in this room, same crappily made gold 57 on the door, same wood holding me up while I sleep. This is room is home, or maybe Sasha is, who even knows.
I let the pile of books in my arms tumble down onto my bed, textbook upon textbook and still, Sasha doesn’t stir. My stuff’s been shoved into the room, but cardboard boxes still lie unopened at the foot of my bunk, my oversized suitcase lying unopened half way underneath the bed. I’m not a real tidy person, never have been, Sasha tends to clean up my messes. Physically, emotionally and everything else in between. She’s a real neat freak. The kind of girl that keeps all her highlighters in rainbow order magneted to her desk, right next to that big planner she lugs everywhere with her. Life goes in columns for Sasha, she says its easier that way. Me, I’m more of a not so organized chaos person. I don’t have the time to clean up my messes when I’ve spent so much time making them, not my fault I’m only half lazy.
I slowly let myself down onto my unmade bed with my pile of textbooks, scooching my back to the wall. I’m tired, and even though it doesn’t sound like too comfortable a position, it’s kinda nice. The effort to make my bed isn’t worth it, so I just close my eyes and bring my knees in tight. Sleep comes easily.
Its a dream. I can tell it is because Kai’s right in front of me looking the exact same as I remember him, and thats just not possible. He has his dark brown hair is curly and unruly, his blue eyes shining. He’s talking to someone, their back turned to me, hidden by the shadows of an oak tree behind them. Who ever he’s talking to is tall, coming nearly to the nose of his 6’2” frame. He’s talking fiercely in hushed tones, but yet his voice is kind and caring. I can only make out words here and there “leave” and “world” the only two standing out amongst his harsh whispers.
“Kail no!” a feminine voice says angrily, I know this voice. Its my own. I remember it now, I know what’s going on, I know the words that will come next.
“You have to understand!” Kai says in a loud whisper “I can’t live like that, hell, I refuse to live like that!”
“Fine.” I say finally, I’ve raised my head up to meet Kais’ gaze and thin strands of light criss cross over my face. That one word seems to hit Kai like a bull dozer, his face contorting in pain as the words leave my mouth. What he doesn’t know is that, that one word, killed me when it hurt him.
I wake with a start, sweat glistening on my forehead. I’m still propped upright on my bunk, my knees curled up close to my chest. It had seemed so real, almost like an out of body experience or something. It’s one of those days you look back on and your heart just kinda sinks, it was the day Kai left.
Kai’s not like his family. He crave money or fawn over reputation, all he’s ever wanted was to help people, and Kai always gets his way. He hated the false glamour and the wasteful lifestyle. He didn’t wanna live that way for the rest of his life if he could change it. Corporate world could do there thing, but he wanted to do his own.
Kai’s not an artist, he’s an inventor. Looking to help the world, build to assist, not to paint over it. Even though he was determined to not live his life away like his father, no thought he would leave, least of all me.
“This is ridiculously gross,” I say stirring the tan bubbly things around in my cornflower blue cereal bowl. Ridgeport never gets any good food until about a week after school starts because they’re so worried about food spoiling if it gets to the grounds early. So for about a week every year, the entire campus eats steel cut oatmeal and canned soup. It makes your stomach hurt more than the skunk bean from bean-boozled.
“Oh come on, you don’t love the taste of dried dehydrated oats in the morning?” Sasha replies distastefully, frowning as her own concoction drips from her spoon.
“Ahhhh,” I moan dropping my head to the side of my bowl. I haven’t told Sasha about my dream, I don’t wanna talk about that day again. Kai was my everything for years, he kept me on my feet when all I wanted to do was collapse. I hate this world almost as much as he does, but I can’t run. I wouldn’t have been able to leave him if it came down to it. Even though I resent him for leaving me- even though I know its selfish to want both him and Sasha by my side -I’ve missed him.
“Adrian,” a voice says, I have my arms over my ears so it’s distorted like the waves of an ocean.
“Sasha I’m tired as can be, will you let me- just this once -whither in peace?” I reply in a low groan.
“Adrian,” The voice says again, its deep and rich, most definitely not Sasha. I look up from my arms slowly, my hair falling in thin strands over my eyes, but the stray hairs block nothing.
I’m staring into his eyes, as familiar to me as my own palm. Blue like the sky right before a storm, flecks of grey like clouds hovering in its depths. A million thoughts are griping at the back of my mind, but I can’t hear anything. All I can feel, hear, see- is him. It’s one of those once in a lifetime moments, a moment that you know is going to change you forever. It’s like you uncovered a puzzle piece deep inside you that just clicked into place, suddenly everything makes sense.
Senior year will change everything, but change can be good, and in this case, I know it’s for the better. I’ve spent the last year convincing myself that I just want things to go back to normal, but I don’t even know what normal is anymore. Kai means something to me, something I don’t have the words for; I realize this as I’m staring it the familiar shallows of his eyes. In that moment, the pain of missing him doesn’t exist, all thats matters, is that he came back. I let him go, and he returned. I know then, that whatever it is that I feel, must be real.