Last Hope

Chapter 1

Andrew Tucker slid out of his bed as he usually did, discarding the red and white-patterned duvet in a heap in the centre of the mattress. It was another day; another boring day.

 

Andrew didn’t have much of an affinity for school, for the many, minor relationships with various other people which he had, including the relationship with his parents- which wasn’t at all strained, though it wasn’t as close as it could have been- or for the dreary, daily activities which he’d partake in. He mainly felt the worst when he’d get out of bed. It was six in the morning every time that he’d slide out from under his covers, would pull some soft and flexible clothing onto his body and proceed to begin the day with a light, long run around the neighbourhood. It was probably just the fact that he was tired which was making him feel so drained and almost depressed. His dull, hazy, foggy mood would usually clear up when he’d first get the chance to see Katie.

 

Katie Flynn was Andrew’s girlfriend of a few months. They’d gotten together after having met in their Chemistry class, having been paired-up to do an experiment. Needless to say, the slightly clown-like mood which Andrew had been in that day which caused him to feel silly and to crack jokes frequently had been alluring to Katie as she’d ended up working with him on the following experiment… and the one after that… and the one after that. Eventually, Andrew had given her his phone number after having realised that, once her dark, brown hair was let down and once she wasn’t wearing those ridiculous-looking safety goggles which would occasionally steam-up and block the sight of her breath-taking, blue eyes, she was fairly cute. Why wouldn’t he take a shot at flirting with her?

 

Following Andrew’s first move, they’d spoken for a while over text, occasionally in school, once even when Katie had just so happened to have been walking in front of Andrew’s house. Their conversations didn’t lead to much, usually, though the occasional ‘x’ which would stand as a kiss would come from Katie and leave Andrew wondering how to reply. The ‘kisses’ usually came after he’d slipped her a compliment, so he didn’t think much of it, at least until she’d given him a real kiss on the cheek following their departure at the end of a school day. That had been what had sold it for Andrew, had given him the confidence to ask her out the following day, and that had been the reason why they were in a relationship months into the future, a relationship which seemed to be much more mature than the majority of the other relationships going on around them, the ones which the other fifteen and sixteen-year-olds in their school were a part of. The two of them would fully rely on each other when they needed to. Well, Andrew would rely on Katie a fair amount when he’d feel low.

 

Andrew hadn’t been diagnosed with depression, but he was fairly sure that he was suffering from it to some degree. He’d wake up some days feeling as if he’d been humiliated in front of the entire world, yet he’d also wake up on other days and he would be… fine. There wasn’t another word to describe it, really. He’d simply be fine, no other emotions standing out to him. When he didn’t feel fine, though, he’d talk to Katie and she would bring his mood up instantly. Once, she’d simply replied to him over text, an incredibly brief message, though it had been enough to make Andrew smile. The following conversation which had come from that text, from that first smile, had then beaten his depressive episode with a nail-embedded baseball bat.

 

Andrew pulled his work-out clothes on and grabbed his phone and wireless earphones before he gazed in the mirror for a moment on the way towards his bedroom door. He noted the strands of his black hair which were standing on-end due to him having just woken up, the lifeless glare of his green eyes, the few, scarce spots on his face which were beginning to disappear after he’d suffered with a fair amount of acne for two years, and the small amounts of hair which were protruding from his unshaven face. He looked like a fairly average sixteen-year-old, but Andrew didn’t like the way that he looked. That had been what had incentivised him to begin exercising every morning, wanting to distract people- mainly Katie- from what he believed to be an unattractive face with his well-cared-for body.

 

Andrew left his room, went on his run for fifteen minutes, and re-entered the bedroom while covered in sweat and panting a little. He’d completed the run faster than usual, so that was a good sign: he was getting fitter, at least.

 

Andrew threw his phone onto his bed along with the earphones which had been wirelessly connected to it moments before he’d entered the house, then strutted out of his bedroom, taking the immediate right and walking into the bathroom for a shower.

 

From there, the morning progressed as boring as usual. Andrew came out of the shower, climbed into his school uniform slowly, lightly wishing that a meteor would just strike his house and prevent him from having to deal with the day. Following that, he made himself some breakfast, something which his parents would have usually dealt with for him while he’d have been getting dressed, but they were still in bed.

 

Andrew’s parents, Brian and Christine Tucker, had the day away from work. Usually, they’d have gotten out of bed while Andrew would have been in the shower, but they were having some well-deserved relaxation time. After all, they’d been working incredibly hard recently, but despite that, Andrew’s mother had suggested that, on the Sunday which had just passed, the three of them alongside Katie could go somewhere for the day. Maybe they’d noticed that Andrew had seemed a little down, that being why they’d decided to sacrifice their only guaranteed day of the week which they would have away from work to allow Andrew and Katie to spend some extra time together. It was sweet of them, Andrew recognised that, though it had made him feel slightly guilty. He didn’t feel as if he deserved the special treatment. Of course, he was their son, so they had to take care of him, but did they really need to do that? He could have just spent time with Katie some other way, after all…

 

Sometimes Andrew wondered whether his parents were trying to connect with him a little more, trying their best to make him understand just how much they cared about him even though he wasn’t very willing to spend much time with them. Maybe it was the stress of the upcoming exams which he would have to deal with that was causing it, but Andrew wanted to spend all of his free time either on his own, with Katie or with other friends. It was as if hanging around his parents wasn’t really… fun. Though it was most of the time. His father would always seem to have a joke ready- usually ones which would leave the room in fits of laughter- and his mother’s occasional daftness and dopiness would always make her an easy target for light, unharmful teasing. It was like they were Andrew’s friends sometimes, not his parents, but he still didn’t feel much of an obligation to spend time with them. Maybe that was just because he was around them all of the time, as if that meant that they’d always have some type of connection. Maybe it was that they were always willing to spend time with him when they weren’t busy, so there wasn’t a rush to spend time with them. Whatever it was, it simply left Andrew to do as he pleased, detached from his parents as if the umbilical cord had somehow been cut twice.

 

As Andrew made himself some toast, he wondered what would be going on that day. There were about two months before he’d be sitting the final exams of British high school, so he probably wouldn’t be tackling many new topics. A lot of what would be going on that day, no doubt, would be finishing courses and beginning to revise some of the hardest or earliest things which had been done in each subject.

 

It didn’t take very long for Andrew’s toast to finish toasting and for him to spread some butter onto it, to sit down at the fair-sized table in the kitchen which acted as the dining table and to turn the TV on. It had been his father’s decision to have a TV in the kitchen. After all, it made cooking much less dull when the cook could lean back, sip a beer and watch whatever was on while waiting for something to cook in the background.

 

Eventually, eight o’clock rolled around, Andrew had finished his breakfast, and so he made his way back to his bedroom to chat to Katie over text and to make sure that he had everything in his bag which he would need that day.

 

Hey, what’re you doing? Andrew sent to Katie, flopping onto his bed and hearing the slightly worn, wooden slats which held his mattress up creak a little.

 

Nothing, Katie replied after a few moments. Just making some breakfast.

 

Want to meet before we go to school?

 

Sure. When and where?

 

The bridge that goes across the river at 8:45?

 

I’ll meet you there.

 

That spanned over ten minutes, Katie no doubt busy with her breakfast, leaving Andrew to fiddle with the zip of his rucksack which always remained pre-packed, all of his supplies within the container at all times, then to double-check that everything was, indeed, there.

 

When it was almost time for Andrew and Katie to meet, Andrew left the house, calling a “goodbye” to his parents, only hearing his father grunt in response, sounding half-asleep. From there, he made his way down the driveway and to the right, heading in the direction of the school.

 

Andrew lived in a fair-sized town. It was big enough that it had everything which a town would need: plenty of grocery and non-grocery shops littered around the area, a primary school and a high school which were on opposite ends of the town, a church which was almost dead-centre in the town, various parks including one big one which Andrew and Katie would often find themselves wandering through while on their way home from school, a large abundance of neighbourhoods which were dotted in every location within the town where they’d fit, tourist attractions, historical figures who’d been born there, historical locations, even an abandoned house which a few people in Andrew’s school claimed to have been haunted, one of them apparently having seen a ghost in a window while walking past, but Andrew didn’t believe that claim as he didn’t believe in anything like ghosts.

 

One of the places which Andrew and Katie loved to visit was the ancient-looking stone bridge which passed over the large river which ran through the majority of the town. The town had been built around the river, the bridge probably having been one of the first things to have been built, and it was in the middle of the large park which Andrew and Katie loved to wander around. The park was almost completely untouched, many bushes and trees overgrown, though the grass seemed to be kept at a short height for the most part, only when someone would remember to cut it, however, often leaving it to end up stretching at least two foot into the air, now having stretched to about a metre in height. It was beautiful and incredibly peaceful, that being why Andrew and Katie loved to spend time there. They often met on that bridge. Hell, it was even where they’d had their first kiss!

 

It didn’t take very long for Andrew to arrive at the kissing gate which acted as one of three entrances to the park, sliding through it, the bridge visible in the distance behind a maze of tall flowers, tall grass, unkempt bushes, giant oak trees which had been planted fairly far away from each other but still had some of their branches touching. It was just as peaceful as it always seemed to be. It seemed as if the sound of the road had disappeared the moment that Andrew had stepped into the area.

 

After wading through the slightly wet grass, trying to keep to the dirt path which was only visible as other people had flattened the grass around it, Andrew made it to the stone bridge, beginning to lean against the wall to the right of the direction which he’d come from, looking around for any sign of Katie. She lived close enough to his house that she’d be coming from the same direction. Maybe it would have made more sense to meet in his driveway…

 

It only took a minute for Katie to slide through the kissing gate, to spot Andrew and to begin to make her way towards him, arriving by his side after a few moments.

 

“Heya,” she let out, swooping close to him to give him a quick kiss as a greeting.

 

“Hey,” Andrew replied, slightly shocked by the sound of his voice. It was fairly deep, no deeper than the average pitch of a boy who was coming towards the end of puberty, but it sounded flat, too, even though he was with Katie. It was as if a lever in his brain was slowly being moved from the exact middle to one side; the side which made him feel low. “You okay?”

 

“Yeah, you?”

 

Andrew shrugged lightly, just as he always did when he felt low.

 

Katie noticed that and immediately snatched his left hand from his left pocket, smiling sweetly at him. “Want to talk about it?”

 

“Nothing to talk about, to be honest,” Andrew replied, knowing that there wasn’t any point in trying to convey his feelings to her. She’d make him feel better as she always did without having to possess an idea of how he was feeling. All which she needed to do was to spend at most two minutes with him for him to begin to feel much cheerier.

 

And that was exactly what ended up happening.

 

During their walk towards the other side of the park which led onto the pavement a few blocks away from the school, they chatted about anything which came to mind. The large majority of the conversation was tailored towards the day which was laying ahead of them, but they eventually strayed away from school-life. 

 

The remainder of their walk to the building was fairly quiet, the two of them having run out of things to discuss. They talked fairly frequently every day, over text, over the occasional phone or video call. Sometimes they’d venture out of their houses and meet somewhere in the town to do something, either as just the two of them or with some friends. The extensive amount of time which they spent interacting with each other meant that they always seemed to be dry of topics, stories, interesting pieces of information which was either about themselves, someone whom they knew, anything, really. Whenever anything new would arise, whether that would be an interesting question, piece of gossip, a story, anything, it ended up lasting them at most a few minutes before they’d end up having to figure out something new to talk about. Of course, the obvious solution was for the two of them to talk less often, but it made the two of them feel so warm and complete, as cheesy as that seemed to them whenever they’d acknowledge it, but it was true. Most of the time while they were apart, Andrew would always have the faint thought that the current situation would be better if he was spending the time with Katie. It didn’t matter what he’d be doing, he just knew that it would be more interesting with her there. It could be something as simple as waiting for a bus, brushing his teeth, showering- well, that would definitely be much more interesting for different reasons- but the point was there, meaning that he never wanted to sacrifice time which he could spend with her for time which he’d spend alone or with someone else. He simply wanted her to be present at all times, even if that did mean that they wouldn’t have many conversation-starters.

 

And so they simply walked, hand-in-hand, trying to enjoy the very slightly dreary weather.

 

Once they'd walked onto the schoolyard, they had to part, heading to their separate form classes, though they had English as their first lesson which they shared a class for, sat on opposite ends of the room, though even a faint sense of Katie's presence calmed Andrew.

 

Andrew walked through the slightly narrow hallways of the school after having parted from Katie, taking the two turns required to arrive at his form class, pushing the door open and seeing Eric- one of his and Katie's mutual friends- sitting at their table, tapping his fingers on the desk as if playing a piano. He'd been able to play the instrument for years and would practice whenever he could by imagining that he was playing. The consistent drumming of his fingers against the wood would crawl under Andrew's skin sometimes, but he'd learned to ignore it for the majority of the time.

 

"Hey," Andrew let out with a light sigh as he dropped into his seat between Eric and the wall to his right.

 

"'Sup," Eric replied, concentrating more on his imaginary piano playing than the conversation, though he mimed playing a few chords and stopped. "New piece," he said after glancing at Andrew, as if he needed to justify his tapping.

 

Andrew nodded lightly, began to lean on his hand and sighed. He expected it to be a long day.

 

The day went incredibly quickly, though, for whatever reason, every lesson breezing by, Andrew wondering what was making his mind feel as if time was passing at twice the normal speed. Their break-time and lunchtime came and went, then they'd finished their final lesson of the day before Andrew could even process how much time had passed.

 

Right after the school-day had finished, Andrew and Katie met at the gates and began to walk in the direction of their houses, using the pavement outlining the main street of the town instead of the park. They were both fairly tired, so they didn’t want to have to wade through overgrown grass and ensure that they’d be sticking to the dirt path.

 

“What’re you going to do when you get home?” Katie asked Andrew, nothing more interesting in her mind which she could say or ask to begin a more interesting conversation.

 

“Relax, probably,” Andrew replied, shrugging. “Will you be busy?”

 

“No.”

 

Andrew paused for a moment. “Want to come back to mine with me, then?” He asked, the idea having popped into his mind. Neither of them would be busy, so it would be a nice way to pass the time. Plus, they hadn’t had a lot of time to themselves for a while…

 

Katie nodded a little. “Okay,” she said. “If your parents don’t mind,” she added quickly, almost seeming a little worried at that thought as if that was a perpetual problem.

 

“They won’t,” Andrew assured, watching Katie’s face as they walked as if searching for any physical signs of worry which he could quickly grab and discard.

 

“You sure?” Katie pushed, her face contorting slightly, making her facial expression seem almost guilty. “We’re troubled them a lot recently with that day out, and all.”

 

Andrew smirked lightly. “I’m sure, don’t worry,” he replied. Katie clearly felt just as guilty as he did about the fact that his parents had sacrificed their only guaranteed day off to give some variety in the time which he and Katie spent together.

 

They continued to walk in silence after that, trudging through the town and towards Andrew’s house, arriving after a few minutes and entering.

 

“I’m back!” Andrew called out. “And Katie’s with me!”

 

Christine, Andrew’s mother, emerged into the hallway and gave the two of them a warm smile. “Hello,” she replied, moving towards Andrew quickly to give him a hug, then to Katie to do the same.

 

“Neither of us are doing anything, so we thought that we’d hang out-” Andrew began, though Katie cut across.

 

“If that’s okay, of course!” Katie let out, making her light worries known to Christine who tilted her head almost in an mocking way with an eyebrow raised and her left eye slightly narrowed.

 

“Of course it’s okay!” She stated, her smile growing slightly wider. “Will you be staying for food, or...?”

 

“No, no,” Katie replied, shaking her head lightly, maintaining eye-contact while she and Andrew slid their shoes off, resting them on the shoe stand by the door. “Thank you, though.”

 

Christine nodded lightly before she returned to the living room to continue whatever it was which she’d been doing while Katie slid her bag onto the floor by the door, making sure that it wasn’t in the way.

 

“Come on, then,” Andrew said, feeling a wave of energy flowing around his body which he could easily attribute to the fact that he and Katie would be in his bedroom for the first time in three weeks.

 

The two of them made their way up the stairs and into Andrew’s bedroom, Andrew entering first with Katie following closely behind.

 

Katie closed the door lightly, turned to face Andrew and then took a slow step towards him, pulling him into a tight hug which only lasted for a second at the very most before they began to kiss.

Last Hope