Topic: Tempest Sapphira  (Read 1138 times)

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Tempest Sapphira
« on: January 23, 2013, 07:22:08 am »
Written as an assignment for my Creative Writing class, given a prompt based off of 'How to Become an Explorer of the World.'



   The alarm clock on the desk called out.
   Get up, it said. Ryan wasn’t listening.
   I know you’re awake.
   Ryan rolled over in his bed and took his headphones. Half-asleep, he dialed out a small list of tunes on his music player to listen to before getting up. He then glanced at the clock- it read 8:15, and it was shouting expletives at him.
   He turned up the volume, then reclined. School wouldn’t start for about another hour anyway.
   The player groaned in frustration and shut off. It wouldn’t listen to the bother across the room any longer. Ryan sat up and cursed. He dressed himself, shut off the alarm, and plugged the music player in to charge. The player breathed a sigh of relief, but Ryan had already left the room.

   Mrs. Rhodes was already in the kitchen, making breakfast. Ryan’s younger siblings have already gone to school, save for Faye, who was playing sick.
   “Morning,” she sneered. She got to stay home today, a fact that filled her with near-limitless glee.
   But, Ryan walked right past her and picked up a plate. He heaved hash browns and dry cornflakes onto it and left the kitchen.
   “What is his problem?” asked Faye. Her mom shook her head and continued chopping up meat for the day’s dinner.

   The ignition in Ryan’s car put up quite a fight.
   I hope you realize that it is not advisable to drive with headphones in, it chided. What if you can’t hear things like cars honking their horns at you?
   As an MP3 player or not, you shouldn’t be using your phone in the car.

   “Come on, damned thing.”
   Ryan slapped the wheel in disgust until the engine gave up and turned over. The drive to school is short, and he had just enough time to make it to class as it started. But, he drove fast, and ended up arriving a few minutes early.

   Lyle was waiting for him.
   “You’re cutting it a little close, aren’t you?” He checked his watch- class started in about five minutes. “I about gave up on you.”
   “Ha hah,” is all Ryan said, pushing past him.
   “Whoa, hey, where are you going?” asked Lyle, trying to catch up to Ryan. His overstuffed backpack nearly swung into some passersby.
   “I’m going to class,” he replied, before disappearing into the seniors’ hallway.
   “Oh, um, okay!” said Lyle, waving. “I’ll catch you later, then!” The doors closed in front of him.

   The first hour of the day was always the most boring. Miss Maddie, as she preferred to be called, tried desperately to entertain her half-asleep students in a room that wasn’t hers. She scribbled notes on the impending English lecture on the side of the chemistry notes left over from yesterday. “Morphemes,” she wrote, and drew a long line underneath.
   Ryan looked around the classroom. Cliff Winchester was drawing in the margins of his notes, occasionally shooting suggestive looks at Sasha Frost, who sat across the row. She returned them by creating increasingly slutty seated positions. July adjusted her shirt. Ramon chewed lazily on a pencil. He sighed.
   Miss Maddie was off on a tangent about sentence structure in Latin when there was a knock on the door. She paused, and then looked at the clock. The door opened, and a girl walked into the room. Almost immediately, everyone turned to face her, Ryan included.
   She had pilot goggles on her forehead, and wore an open pilot’s vest. She was wearing a denim skirt and leather knee-highs decorated with lace. And her hair was an almost eye-assaulting shade of light blue.
   “Hello?” said Miss Maddie.
   “Hello,” the girl replied promptly. She quickly looked across all of the room. Everyone’s faces, everyone’s clothing, the posters on the wall and foam molecules on the ceiling- she looked everywhere. She and Ryan locked gazes very briefly, before she introduced herself to the teacher.
   “Tees,” the girl said, bowing her head. Miss Maddie’s eyes flicked down to her identification, which was turned away. Her brow furrowed for an instant.
   “Um, okay. Welcome to my English class…”
   The girl leaned forward.
   “Tees?”
   Tees gave a sonic nod and sat down in the first available chair.
   The general attention slowly diverted from the mystery girl and drifted back to things like sleep and drugs.
   Ryan was thinking about her, still. Weird, he said in his mind. That girl is weird.
   Almost as if on cue, Tees’ head snapped back to look at Ryan. He gave a small jump. She mouthed something to him, but Ryan didn’t know how to read lips. She gave an exasperated expression and walked over to his seat, sitting down in the adjacent desk.
   Miss Maddie didn’t notice. She was too engrossed in finishing her list of suffixes.
   “’Hey,’ I said.” She made no effort to hush her voice. Classmates looked up at Ryan. Sasha gave them a dirty look. Ryan could feel his face turning red.
   “Uh… hi,” He whispered.
   “So, you looked at me earlier, right?”
   “Who… wasn’t?” Ryan was making motions for Tees to quiet her voice.
   “I figured we could have just introduced ourselves, or something.” She shrugged, and got up to leave.
   “H-hey, wait.” Without thinking, he reached up after her.
   The dismissal bell rang, though, and she was the first out the door.
   Ryan gathered his belongings and left, while Miss Maddie carefully erased everything she wrote on the board. “Remember that there’s a test next week…”
   At lunch, Tees wasn’t anywhere to be found.
   “She sounds like a total hippie,” Lyle said.
   “I don’t think that she’s a hippie.” Ryan said, pouring a bag of chips down his throat. “There’s a table for those.”
   The outcast-y section of the cafeteria is usually awash in a sea of depressing black clothes, with the occasional bright neon product placement t-shirt. Tees would have been visible from a mile away.
   “Well, yeah, but you said she had blue hair.” Lyle coughed out a laugh.
   Ryan waved him off and looked around the crowd of uncivilized high school sheep. He couldn’t focus, though. He tossed the latter half of a slice of pizza into the bin and walked to his next class.
   
   Dr. Hyde was annoying. Just about everything he did in class earned the ire of his students, from how he told really unfunny jokes every few seconds to how he would dog his students for not being as good as his daughter.
   “She’s going to be a star one day, you see,” he would say.
   Ryan scoffed and picked up his trombone. He played a quick flutter of notes as Dr. Hyde walked around the auditorium. They were all out-of-tune and mistimed.
   “It’s surprising they even let you in this class.”
   There she was. Tees flipped back her hair. Her ID card jangled around.
   “I’m told you were looking for me?”
   “How did you know that? Did Lyle-“
   “I don’t know a Lyle,” she interrupted. “I just felt like it was pretty obvious.”
   Dr. Hyde walked over to the brass. “Rhodes. Who are you talking to?”
   Ryan tried to indicate to him the blue-haired girl in the room, but she had been displaced. She inspected the tubas quite thoroughly, striking up small talk with the boy holding it. Ryan tried to figure out what they were saying, but he couldn’t hear them.
   “You are here today, right, Mr. Rhodes?”
   “Oh, uh, yeah,” said Ryan, nodding. He lifted his trombone. “I’m just a little out of it today.” He tried to play a few notes, forcing them as incorrectly as he could. Dr. Hyde put his hands to his ears and yelled.
   “That’s quite enough, thank you!”
   Ryan beamed.
   “I’ll footnote your name on the roll sheet as ‘absence requested,’” said Dr. Hyde.
   And he was in agreement. The man skulked away.
   Ryan figured there would be no point in looking around, and he was right- Tees had left again. From down the open hallway, he heard her whistle the jangly tune Ryan had played on the trombone, down to the bad timing.
   
   As Ryan left the presentation hall, Sasha approached him. Her neckline seemed especially low.
   “Hi, Ryan!” she said. Her smile might have been wider than her face.
   “Sasha. Does Cliff know you’re here?”
   Her expression immediately darkened.
   “Of course he does,” she stammered out, “I told him that I needed to ask you something.”
   “And?”
   Sasha bit her lip. She made herself appear deep in thought, before shaking her head- and her torso- in frustration. “It’s nothing,” she finally said. “I was just wondering about that girl you were talking to.” She turned around and bounced away from him.
   
   Ryan decided to go and look for Tees. He had been picking up whispers around the hallways- only vague things about her here and there. Rumors and stories about this out-of-the-ordinary girl who showed up in Miss Maddie’s class in the middle of the semester have been circulating.
   I heard that she was actually an escapee from the mental hospital in Mt. Pleasant.
   She changes her hair color every week because she’s a fugitive.

   The 3:00 bell rang and Ryan leapt from out of the doors. He drove in an outward spiral from the school- he hadn’t heard anything about her at the school after they had talked during music class. Nobody could determine where she had gone- it was as if she had disappeared into thin air.
   It was as he passed by the train tracks that he heard something, far off in the distance, echoing. He stopped his car and drove off to the side and ran back  up to the tracks.
   He heard whistling: discordant, cacophonic.

   Lyle was outside the back door of the school. He lay in a bench, the one that he and Ryan would share when they would eat lunch on breezy spring days. The sun threatened to set- the winters cut down the day so drastically that sunset was usually at around 4:30. He checked his watch and sighed.
   Elizabeth, a girl Lyle has fourth period with, passed by him. She tried to make idle conversation with the boy, but he was preoccupied waiting for a friend who wouldn’t come.

   “Tees?”
   She sat by the railroad tracks, reading a book.
   “Hey!”
   She looked up. Ryan was running toward her.
   “Did you… follow me?” she asked.
   Ryan slowed his pace and began to pant. He never runs. “I… just… wanted to see you again,” he choked out.
   She offered him a bottle of water, which he took a small sip from.
   “What are you doing?” Tees said.
   “I could ask the same about you. And, who are you? Why were you at school today, and why are you out here now?”
   She looked at the railroad tracks.
   “Tees.”
   “Don’t call me that,” she said.
   Ryan gave her a confused expression.
   “My real name is Tempest,” she explained. “Tees is a name that I use for the transient.” She grabbed her backpack, and hoisted it up onto her shoulder. “I’m not actually a student at your school, or anywhere.”
   She reached into her bag and pulled out her ID. She flipped it around. It was blank on both sides.
   “I figured, after a while,” she said, “that the security at school wouldn’t stop me if I wore one of these. And, well, it worked.”
   Ryan thought about this. “But…”
   “And I’m on the railroad tracks now because I have places to be.”
   “What do you mean?”
   “More sights to see, more people to meet. More towns to visit, more little talks like this one we’re having now.” Tempest sighed.
   “But don’t you have a home anywhere?”
   “When you think about it, then one could call Earth their home, couldn’t they?”
   What, are you an alien, is what Ryan wanted to say, but he didn’t.
   “I’m just wandering around, Ryan.”
   And it was this that had him taken aback.
   “Have I… told you my name?” Ryan checked himself, but he hadn’t worn his ID in months. Tempest just shook her head.
   “I’ve gotten really good at knowing things about people,” Tempest said. “Everyone knows about Cliff Winchester and Sasha Frost, right? Well, how about Cliff and Tamara Knightley, or Cliff and Sierra West? I didn’t think so. But, I knew. And Sasha… she knows about Cliff, but she’s really just playing along. Did you see the look she gave you when I came over to talk during class?”
   Ryan couldn’t remember paying attention.
   “Your friend, Lyle? I saw him, he was sitting outside the school, on a bench. He kept checking his watch and staring at the people leaving the parking lot. I think he wanted to meet you after school for some reason.”
   “Dr. Hyde talks about his daughter to mask his insecurity about her future. It’s pretty obvious that he drinks heavily at night, haven’t you seen his face and eyes in the morning? He comes to school every day hung over. His daughter’s two years old, his wife left him, and he’s in his fifties. If the poor girl isn’t a musical genius, well.”
   “Miss Maddie tries her hardest to be a good teacher for her students, because the threat of being fired looms over her head every week. She’s a traveling teacher, in a school with a lessening student body because everyone’s moving out of Mount Pleasant. You should really examine her some time; she has prominent creases on her face and wiry, graying hair from the stress. She has only the bare minimum in education, foreign descent, she tries to mask her accent…”
   Ryan was finding it really hard to continue to listen. How could she know so much?
   “Which brings me to you,” Tempest continued.
   “For starters, take out those fucking headphones,” she snapped, snatching them from out of his ears. “It’s rude and implies that you don’t want to listen and understand who’s talking to you.
   The sudden shift in her demeanor caught Ryan off guard. She shook his earbuds from the cords in a tightly wrapped fist as she spoke.
   “I see lots of boys like you during my travels. Disconnected. Apathetic. So distant from reality. I don’t understand you. It’s not that you can’t see anything- it’s that you don’t want to. How often do you listen to music, Ryan? Every day? Twice a day? More?”
   Her trembling stopped.
   “But…”
   Ryan stepped forward.
   “But something else I don’t get is why you’re here,” she said.
   “I heard you whistling my song,” Ryan said. “I was trying to find you, and I heard it.”
   “Why would you want to find me?”
   Ryan drew in a breath as if to say something, but he only let out a sharp exhale.
   “Couldn’t you tell me?” is what he said after a long pause.
   Tempest laughed, and said “Well, it better not be that ‘love at first sight’ crap that you see in movies.”
   But Ryan had to wonder.

   “It’s over.”
   Sasha opened the door and stomped out of Cliff Winchester’s room.
   Her brief presence had totally ruined the atmosphere for him and Mariah Palmer.

   “Come on, let’s go,” called Elizabeth.
   The sun had set already. Lyle checked his watch: 5:00. He had waited outside for Ryan for almost two hours now, without reply to any of his various messages. Elizabeth sat in her car with her passenger window down, waiting for him to accept her invitation into her car and more into her life. But when Lyle had accepted a ride from her, he directed her to his house, paying no mind to any of her attempts at conversation. He gave a quiet “thank you” to Elizabeth and quietly closed her door.

   Tempest Sapphira and Ryan Rhodes sat on the side of a nondescript railroad crossing talking about various things in life, while Cliff Winchester amassed a small army of scorned women. Lyle Sunday sat on a couch, reading a book, occasionally glancing at his cell phone for a reply from his missing friend.  Sasha lay unconscious on her bedroom floor, amassing a pool of blood that would irreparably stain the carpet.
   “So… what are you going to do now?”
   “Isn’t it obvious? I’m leaving.”
   “But... why? You don’t have to. You could pick any one place to stay and live there. You wouldn’t have to keep traveling.”
   “This is all I know how to do now, Ryan. I can pick up so many of the finer points and details of a person from mere observation, but all my life I’ve never known what I would be for. What I would do, what I was about.”
   “So you became about finding your calling in life.”
   “I guess so.”
   “Searching for your life’s purpose… and finding out that it’s searching… sounds pretty shitty.”
   “Maybe to you, mind. But, I don’t think so. It produces so many opportunities and possibilities for me. More than one would encounter in a lifetime, I think.”
   Well, maybe more than I would encounter in a life like mine.
   “Iowa, so far, has been a really interesting place, I think. Almost as interesting as Georgia, or South Carolina.”
   “Whoa, how far have you been? Where did you come from?”
   “I’ll let you think about that.”

   And with that, she walked down the tracks, and disappeared into the obscure shadows of the forest.

   When he got to his car, the first thing that Ryan realized was that he left his phone in airplane mode- (he does this so the music player wouldn’t eat the battery in less than a day)- and his phone flooded with messages, pictures, e-mail, missed calls.
   Hey, Ryan. Where are you?
   I’m outside the school, on the bench.
   have u seen tht wrd girl ne where
   u did talk 2 her rgt?
   Ryan? It’s Sasha. We need to talk.
   Ryan. Are we still gonna hang out today?
   Are you there? This is a little important.
   ARE YOU REALLY HOOKING UP WITH THAT 1 CHICK ~xLizzyx~
   I’m probably going to leave now, or something, Ryan. Elizabeth is trying to get me into her car.
   WHERE ARE YOU? IM TRYING TO GIVE UR FRIEND A RIDE HOME BUT HE WONT LISTEN ~xLizzyx~
   Ryan, please, I really wanted to talk to you. Please?

   < winnercliff@gmail.com> sasha frost is a whore.
      (7 attachments)

   Ryan clicked open the attachments on Cliff’s e-mail. They were all pictures.

   Ryan went to visit Sasha in the ICU a few days after Tempest left. He looked at the weary expressions on the nurses, the flickering of the fluorescent lights, the way the clock in the waiting room seemed engineered to count slower.
   Click… click… click…
   He only had one earphone in, and it was turned way low. A nurse with a neon plastic clipboard materialized on the other side of a wafer-thin door, poking her head out from the threshold.
   “Ryan.”
   He stood up and dusted off his khakis.
   Ryan was led through the hospital, observing the small, contained other worlds inside the rooms. There was a man who had to have been at least one hundred years old, hooked up to an electrocardiogram that Ryan swore bounced between five widely varying values. But the man was smiling.
   A woman sitting outside a room cried into a bouquet of flowers that she had brought. A nurse stacked plates of food onto a cart and rearranged them into intricate patterns because it looked “tan bonita” that way.
   Then they stopped at a door in the wing of the hospital dedicated to suicidal teenagers. Ryan opened the door at the behest of the nurse, who quickly sidestepped into the shadows of elsewhere.
   Sasha’s usual dark skin was looking relatively pale, her breathing all but indeterminable. The ECG that she was on indicated that she was still alive, because otherwise, one wouldn’t be inclined to think she was. Ryan focused long and hard on the scars that run across her arms.
   “Hey,” she said weakly.
   Ryan jumped. “You’re awake?”
   “Well, you were never good at observation anyway.”
   “Hey, I’ve been working on that.”
   Sasha gave a really faint chuckle.
   “Where is the girl?”
   “…On her way to Des Moines,” answered Ryan.
   “You let her go?”
   “There was no other way. She certainly wouldn’t have listened to me if I asked her to stay.”
   “You asked her, didn’t you?”
   Ryan stayed silent.
   “No, no, that’s okay. This…” she stretched, and the monitor spiked briefly- “this is my fault. I’m sorry.”
   “Why are you sorry?”
   “I don’t know.” Sasha turned her head, trying to look away. “I just am.”
   “I should be sorry,” said Ryan. “I… really didn’t know that, uh…”
   “Really.”
   “Hey, I said I was working on the observation thing.”
   The silence weighed heavily on the two. Ryan felt he might snap in half due to it.
   “I’m really happy that you’re here.” A tear formed in her left eye, one that she batted away nearly immediately. “Even if that bastard Cliff…”
   “This isn’t a conversation about him, or any of that. We’re talking about you, here, and now.”
   Sasha sighed. “You don’t think that I’m a…”
   “A whore? I’m sorry, I’m pretty sure that I said we weren’t taking about Cliff.”
   She tried to eke out a laugh, but she reeled in pain.
   “Are you okay?” Ryan asked quickly.
   “I don’t know.”
   Ryan poked the sac of replacement blood hanging by Sasha’s bed. He rolled up his headphones around his phone and jammed it into his pocket.
   A nurse poked her head into the room.
   “Visiting hours will end in five minutes,” she said, and then she blipped from existence.
   “Hey, I’ll get to see you again sometime, won’t I?”
   “You better. We’ll start with English class,” she said, "and work our way up from there.”
   English class... Ryan would have to see Cliff Winchester tomorrow morning. The thought made him sick. He did this to Sasha, but somehow, Ryan also felt guilty, for not listening, or understanding, or even being there when he was needed. He was with Tempest Sapphira at the time.
   Tempest?
   …
   …What did she look like, again?

   Ryan held his forehead in his palm.
   “You should go, before you catch my crazy. I will be seeing you next week, right, Mr. Rhodes?”
   “It’s a date.”
   Again the nurse swooped into the room and ushered Ryan out the door. Before he knew it, he was back in the waiting room.

   Ryan pulled out his phone as he walked toward the parking lot.
   Hey, Lyle. Wanna catch a movie tonight?
   The reply came near immediately.
   July. Don’t listen to Cliff if he starts asking for pictures.
   wat y not?
   Trust me.

   Ryan shook his head and laughed.
   Faye, tell Mom that I might be a little late coming home tonight.
   Okay!


   Ryan Rhodes took a train to Des Moines, carefully watching the views out both windows. He would find the blue-haired girl, and give her his thanks.

Kumori

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Re: Tempest Sapphira
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2013, 11:16:10 am »
Can't believe this doesn't have any replies. I think this is a wonderful piece of writing and I have a horrible attention span, but this kept me reading through to the end. The characters were all so real and 3D instead of being lame and flat. Stories like these make me want to sit down and write something myself.
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