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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Luke Hanson's Mind & Punishment: A Teen in Despair - 4. Chapter 4 - You Have Nothing to Apologise For

Monday 6:57pm - Luke


"Come on, we're going to be late," Taz said impatiently as I styled my hair in the mirror. 

"I think I put too much on. Do you think I put too much on?"

"Luke, your hair looks fine; it always looks fine to me."

I stepped back from the mirror in my bathroom and gazed at myself for a moment. "I don't think I can go; I feel sick."

Taz looked at me in the mirror from behind and put his hands on my shoulders. He pressed his thumbs into my blades and sighed. "Get out of that zone; you'll be fine. It's just Lee and me."

"Yeah, and this new girl who I've never met. What if I make a fool of myself?"

"Luke, where's this come from? You were all for it yesterday?"

"Shit, Taz, I think I'm going into one."

"Okay, out the bathroom, come on, let's go get some air."

I heard footsteps coming up the stairs, and in walks my Dad. "Everything okay up here? I heard raised voices."

"He's fine, Len. He's just slipped into a bit of panic."

"Luke?" Dad said, the three of us in the bathroom, looking at me, making me feel even worse.

"I'm fine, Dad," I panted, turning around and walking past the two of them, heading straight downstairs.

This fucking feeling. This fucking feeling that comes and wrecks anything nice I want to do. Every time I look forward to something, that feeling just creeps in and says no, I'm going to ruin this for you. Anyone suffering or has suffered from anxiety will understand what this whole process is. Those that don't, let me just say, you're fortunate. The best way I can describe it is by saying this: if you were ever put in a situation where your life is in danger, and you feel nervous? Well, that is just a constant ebb, sometimes for hours. Ever been on a plane, the plane drops suddenly due to turbulence, and you feel a slight panic in your body as you wonder if everything is alright. Imagine that just coming on when you're doing your fucking hair in the mirror. Sorry for swearing; it's just so horrible.

~

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

~

Taz had managed to calm me down in the garden by playing a little swing ball with me. He'd phoned Lee and explained the situation, and Lee, knowing I have this 'thing', was naturally cool about it and said not to worry about what time we got there. That was my friends, always cool about my thing. I'm glad I have them.

"Feeling better?" Taz asked as he let the ball attached to a bit of string fall to the floor. He dropped his bat on the floor and came to stand next to me before pulling me in for a hug.

"Wow, I didn't know you cared," I said, my face buried in his neck.

"Ahh, shuddup, of course, I care silly."

"I'm kidding. I know you do, and thanks. I know I'm a stupid idiot."

"No, you're just Luke, with issues. We all have fucking issues, man. Anyway, you are ready to go. Has the monster gone?"

"Yeah, uh, yeah, let's go. I'm sorry I made us late."

Taz grabbed both of my shoulders and looked into my eyes. "You have nothing to be sorry for, right?"

Just as his hands dropped away, my Dad came out into the garden, his hands deep in his pockets as he eyed me caringly. "You good, Son?"

"Yeah, Dad, I'ts passing."

"Good stuff. Listen, I'm erm, uh... well, I'm going out soon."

"Oh, okay, where you off to?"

"Well, I said... uh, well, I said I would meet Elaine for a drink."

I creased my eyes and tilted my head. "Elaine? Is this the person you've been talking to online? The bossy one?"

"Uh yeah, that's right. And hey, what do you mean bossy? You've never met her," Dad said, his tone mildly defensive.

I smiled. "Dad, I can hear her at night when you talk to her. I'm guessing you don't know how to turn the volume down on your laptop."

Dad snarled playfully. "You know I don't!"

"Have fun, Dad, I said, pulling Taz towards the back door. "We're off now."

~

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~

The drive to Lee's place was just a few miles east, and traffic was lighter now that everyone was home from work. As we sat at the traffic lights about halfway there, I looked at Taz, who was deep in his phone texting someone.

"Thanks for earlier."

"Huh? Taz replied dreamily, pulling his view slowly away from his phone screen to me. "Yeah, it's cool," he said, not really aware of what I'd just said. I shook my head and grinned, getting my eyes back on the road.

We pulled away and carried on our journey towards Lee's house. "I wonder if Donna is nervous about seeing us," I said.

"Nah, I'm sure Lee has given her the pep talk about how we're not serial killers or psychologists."

"Psychologists?" I repeated, confused.

"As in, we're not going to analyse her every word or monitor her body language. Oh, hey, by the way. I've been speaking to Leo, and the Fairground is back in town, did you know?"

Did I know? I thought. Yes, I knew. I knew because the day I smelled that guy, I went on our community webpage and checked to see if, indeed, the fair was back in town.

"Is it?" I said innocently.

"Yeah, Leo's asked if I want to go. I was thinking maybe all of us could go one evening. You know, Lee, Donna and us, etcetera?"

A feeling of dread came over me again, but at the same time, mild excitement. But I knew if I went, I'd just be searching around the whole place and not having a good time. So maybe I didn't deserve to be happy, a strange thought slipped in as I went to answer.

"Oh, well, you guys can go. I'm not really into fairs."

"Urrrrr, now, I'm not going without my bestie."

"I'll think about it," I said, wanting to move on from fairs.

Taz didn't say anything, just grinned, knowing I would say yes in the end as I always did when I said I would think about something. Saying I'd think about something was my escape route with subjects I couldn't deal with at that moment. Truth is, I didn't like crowds, I didn't like strangers, and I was crap in large social gatherings, typically being a mix of the two. But four people I could probably handle, so I'd probably go. But then there is the cute guy to think about, find, and reunite with. Arrrghhh!!

I banged my hands on the steering wheel, suddenly causing Taz to jump.

"You okay?" he asked, startled.

"Yeah, sorry, my bad. Just thinking about, erm, work."

~

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

~

We pulled into Lee's large driveway, and I switched off the engine taking a deep breath.

"It's Lee's house!" Taz said, seeming to pick up on my nervous state.

"And Donna."

Taz opened the door and laughed. "Come on; it's gonna be fine."

"Well, that's easy for you to fucking..."

"Guys, you made it! Came Lee's voice appearing next to my car with a girl. "Hey guys, this is Donna; she will be serving us tonight," Lee added before bursting out laughing. Donna seemed to laugh too. Hmm, at least she had a sense of humour. Good start.

I leaned in and gave her a peck on the cheek, saying hello before she moved on to Taz, who did the same.

"Nice to meet you, Donna," I said, feeling my body tremble. 

"Guys, come inside, Mum and Dad are out, and they have done us a small buffet of food."

"Wow," Taz said, running towards the front door. Of course, we followed, and I gestured for Donna and Lee to go before me, being the gentleman I am. But as usual, there was a ploy that if I was behind them, it was less likely Donna would ask me anything as I internally started to crumble with anxiety.

"Anyone want a drink?" Lee asked, heading out to the kitchen area.

My mind started rushing like a river. God, please don't leave us alone with her. What the bloody hell do I say if she starts talking? I had to say something, this was quickly getting awkward, and Taz was not helping. Instead, he started racking up the balls on the pool table. Shit, say something, say something, anything!

Donna came over to me, forcing out a statement from my mouth. "Hey, so erm, your hair smells nice," I blurted out, going red in the face. 

Donna laughed and looked at me strangely. "Erm, thanks."

Instead of recovering from what was a ridiculous thing to say, my hole just got bigger as nervousness had now set in completely. "Pantene?" I asked. 

OH MY GOD, LUKE! I screamed inside.

"She smiled innocently. "It is actually. You in the hair business?"

"Uh, oh no, I erm... I work in a hardware shop. Lee's Dad owns it.

She folded her lips down and nodded. "Oh right."

"Anyway, I'm sorry, I get nervous around new people. I didn't intend to start our get-together with the scent of your hair. So what do you do? Still at school?"

"Oh no, I dropped out. I work at an airline desk."

"The place you put your bag on that scale thing and get your passport checked?

"That's it, yeah. I'm the one who asks if you have packed your own bag," she added, laughing out loud. I immediately thought her laugh didn't match the funniness of the statement. Perhaps she was nervous too?

Lee returned to his large games room, which connected to the lounge and kitchen and placed down a tray containing bottles of beer, wine and Vodka. I picked up a beer and twisted off the cap.

"Taz? beer?" Lee called as Taz removed the triangle from the balls he had set up.

"Sure, thanks, Buddy."

"So, what's everyone been talking about?" Lee asked. Donna looked at me a giggled.

"Well, we were discussing hair and hair products."

I looked away, embarrassed, my face filling with heat again. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lee, looking baffled. "It's Pantene," I said, not knowing why I didn't just shut up. Donna let out a hissy laugh and slapped my shoulder playfully.

"We need to stop talking about my hair, guys!" She stated, in between her cackles.

"So Lee tells me you guys met on the internet, huh?" Taz asked, leaning on the pool table and taking a beer from the tray.

"Yeah, I saw his photo and decided to read his profile. Then we just sort of started talking, right Lee?"

"Well, he's said so many nice things about you, Donna. I hope they're all true," Taz teased.

"I'm flattered to be such the centre of attention," She replied.

So Donna seems a nice girl. I've noticed that her voice is quite posh as she always puts all the letters on her words as she speaks. I study her as the three of them talk. I stay quiet, just nodding and smiling to show I am engaged in the group chat. But really, I'm doing my best to calm down inside after getting so worked up on the way here. My adrenaline is now just floating around my bloodstream, with no outlet. If I were at the gym, I would have worked through this by running or lifting weights. But here, I'm trapped. I just have to stand here and appear normal. Because should I really display how I feel right now, I would probably be classed as a nutcase. Perhaps playing pool would help. You know, get the body moving and the mind distracted?

"Pool anyone," I blurted out, breaking up a mid-flow three-way chat. The three of them looked at me, and Lee could see on my face I was having difficulties . 

"Sure, Luke, go grab a cue; you can break. Taz and Donna look like they can cope without us for a minute while we get this game underway? Taz looked at Lee and immediately got that all those words were for me. Donna didn't need to know my issues just yet; we'd only met twenty minutes ago, after all.

~

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~

"Great night, guys and thanks for coming over," Lee said as we finished clearing away the buffet, plates and glasses. I was nibbling on some of the last bits of food put into tubs while Lee loaded the dishwasher. 

"Hey Lee, Donna, you up for the fair then? I need commitment, guys!" Taz demanded playfully. I shuddered. "Leo can get cheap tickets, I think like half price for the rides. I need to find out more," Taz concluded, looking at us.

"Of course, how long is it in town for?" Donna asked, "I've never been to a fair?"

"Oh, this one is great, it comes every year in the summer, and there is loads of cool stuff to do. Gipsies own it, but the rides are well maintained, and they seem to have their licence renewed yearly, so..." Taz shrugged.

Donna looked at Lee excitedly. "Count me in. Lee?"

"Yeah, okay, let's do it. Luke you in?" Lee shifted his attention to me. I pretended to be too interested in the last bits of food as I faced away. "Luke... Luke, hey, anyone home?"

"Huh? What, did you say something," I said casually, knowing my acting was shit.

"Fair, us, going, yeah?"

I chuckled. "Oh, the fair, uh."

"He said he would think about it anyway," Taz stepped in, pretty much answering for me.

"Yeah, I'll think about it; you know, got a bit on at the moment."

Lee's head creased up, and he gave me a startled look. "A bit on? Luke, you're either at the store with my Dad, at the gym, or with Taz. What else have you got on?" Lee didn't wait for an answer. "Anyway, you're going. You're outnumbered, and Donna has never been, so it's settled."

Taz laughed along with Donna. I just smiled, wanting the subject of the bloody fair to end.

"Right, we better be off. See you guys soon. Taz, move it, or you're walking home," I demanded, heading towards Lee's front door.

"Hey, don't leave me to walk home in the dark; you never know what creatures of the night I'll run into."

"I guarantee it will be one of your exes. You've had so many of them," Lee piped in. Taz just pulled a face and grabbed hold of the back of my t-shirt.

"You see that? I'm being labelled as a slut. Luke, stand up for me; this is harassment."

"Just get in the car," I said, pushing him out of the front door onto the driveway. "See you lovebirds later, and uh, sorry we were late again."

Lee just winked at me and said nothing.

~

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~

On the drive home, Taz and I mostly sat in silence, as Taz was buried deep in Instagram and Facebook. I pulled up to a set of traffic lights and angled myself towards Taz, holding out my fist. He glanced up at me before immediately bumping it.

"What was that for?" He asked as I faced the road again, pulling away.

"Thanks for today, you know, for sorting me out and getting me to Lee's."

"Hey man, I got you."

"I'm sorry, I must be a complicated friend at the moment."

Taz placed his phone down and looked up at me. "You have nothing to apologise for," He said, a mildly offended look on his face.

"I just... I just wish I was normal."

"Luke, you are normal. You just have this thing that you need to work through. And me... and your Dad, oh and Lee, of course, will be there with you."

"Yeah, I know. Jesus, I'm tired. Are you tired," I asked, yawning. Taz immediately yawned too and nodded. "Hey, they look like they're gonna make a nice couple, don't ya think?" 

"Hmm, I kinda get the feeling Donna is further ahead in that relationship than Lee, but I guess it could work between them. I chatted a lot with Donna; she's nice. But I just know what Lee is like. He's so buried with school at the moment I worry he'll not give her the attention I think she's expecting."

"Nice to see him with someone normal for a change though, right? He's had a couple of right wrong'ens, don't you agree?"

Taz laughed and shook his head. "Yeah, remember Mandy, the self-proclaimed witch?"

I burst out laughing. "Don't!"

I pulled into Taz's road and stopped outside his house, placing the brake on. "Thanks, Man. Hey, have a good day tomorrow at the store. Come by after if you like, I'm not up to much."

I winked at Taz, and we bumped fists. He got out and closed my door, briefly turning back to give me a wave as I pulled away. I waved back and headed home, feeling okay for a change.

'It won't last, a little voice in my head said.

And it didn't.

Copyright © 2022 James Matthews; All Rights Reserved.
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Trying a different style and a couple of new things in this book and my only benchmark on how that is going is you, my loyal readers. So I have a small favour. Please do click a like if you're enjoying the story and please do recommend the book. If you have a thought or comment I'd be made up to hear what you think. All feedback is relished and of course I do love hearing your ideas, opinions and banter. Many thanks, folks! Now, let go forth on to the next chapter :) 

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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I feel so sorry for Luke having to deal with his anxiety issues. Thank goodness he has the support of his dad and his 2 best friends.

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"Your hair smells nice"? Pantene? Not exactly what one expects to hear when meeting somebody for the first time but Donna took it in stride makes me wonder if Lee said something to Donna about Luke without revealing too much.Lee and Taz must know the possibility of something happening with Luke in an social situation I hope they are prepared to properly handle it when it does.

Although we don't know yet it sounds like  Edith is going to be less then a nice person to Luke if she does that I hope if that happens Len sets her straight

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