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World of Darkness: The Academy - Last Down And A Lifetime To Go [Complete]

Tatiana di Jadzian

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Sean threw the last of his CDs and DVDs into the cardboard box with more force than was necessary, reflecting on how unfair life was. He taped up the box and stacked it on top of two others, then surveyed the rest of his mom’s poolhouse.

Ever since his parents had divorced when he was nine, Sean had spent a month each summer with his mother in Denver, even though she barely tolerated his presence. It was with more of a sense of noblesse oblige, than any true feelings for her biological son, that she accepted him each year. Even when he was here, the vast majority of his time was spent in the simply furnished poolhouse, rather than staying in the Hilltop manor. So, Sean was surprised at the sense of loss he was feeling for this place that was never his. With a heavy sigh, he picked up the last of his possessions, took one last look around the mostly empty room, and headed across the extensive yard for his Jeep.

How could Dad send me away? Just for Candi? I would’ve stayed outta the way. I understand that he wants to spend time with his girlfriend. Mom was cold, but Candi is hot, a little creepy, and doesn’t wear enough clothes around the house – I’m not sure if that is a bad thing or not – but hot and fun. And sending me to mom!? Vanessa and my sisters are practically strangers, strangers that don’t even like me. So now I have to go live at a fuckin’ boarding school! How did it come to this?

Click to reveal.. (Flashback)
The rain was a mist soaking everything, the wet field reflecting the glare of the flood-lights. There was no time left on the clock, we were down by four, and it was sixty and long. This was the last play of the last game, and I’d be damned if I was going to lose with my dad actually here to see me play. I shrugged my shoulders, dismissing the pain from a couple of hard hits.

“They’re going to expect a Hail Mary. Just get me the ball, Quince,” I told the QB. I spoke to the rest of the huddle. “Guard me going up the right, guys. We got this! Break!” I could feel it, the certainty; nothing was going to stop me now.

The ball was snapped, Sherman, the fullback, and I rushed up to help the linemen, to give time for our wide receivers to rush down the field, to promote the illusion of a Hail Mary play. I counted the beats in my head, dropped back, and then cut right, behind Quince. On cue, the linemen began spreading right. Quince handed me the pigskin before a tackle slipped through and brought him down hard. I took off down the right, Sherman guarding my left.

Sherman clobbered the outside linebacker and a perfect stagger-step left the cornerback sprawling at my feet. The rest of our linemen seemed to be tying up most of their defence, so being currently in the clear, I ran full-out, a little closer to the bounds than I liked.

A solid hit from my left nearly drove me out-of-bounds before I managed to dig my cleats into the soft turf. Where’d he come from? Fast fucker! I powered through a couple more yards with him clinging to me, trying to bring me down before Sherman got there. His save nearly took me out too, but I was free again, and it looked like there was only one safety left to stop me.

No more evasions this time, I headed straight for him. My eyes locked on his, and I smiled. He thought he had me, but he wasn’t taking the wet grass into account. He ducked down, as he headed towards me, trying for a solid body blow. I brought my shoulders down lower and took his legs out, and up and over he went. I’ll give him credit, even flat on his back, he still tried. An awkward grip on my ankle wasn’t enough to stop me, but it was enough to send me into a spastic dance across the goal-line before I lost my balance.

Victory! I jumped to my feet, raised the ball over my head, and roared in triumph, I turned to the crowd, looking to where Dad was sitting in the stands and… saw a pair of empty seats. He hadn’t even stayed to watch the end of the game. I was hurt and surprised by the fact that I was hurt and surprised that Dad had missed another game.

My team-mates and the cheerleaders began to gather around me with congratulations, encouraging me to go to the victory party, but I was in no mood. My girlfriend Stacy must have seen something in my eyes, because she managed to convince everyone that I would show up later. I got in my Jeep, and headed home, taking the curves of the mountainous roads to Whistler faster than I should have.

I found Dad in the den, spread out on the couch, Candi splayed out on top of him. Both were dishevelled and decent, if barely. The blaze in the fireplace threw flickering light and a great deal of heat on my face.

“Hey, kiddo, sorry about missing the end of your game,” Dad said, sitting up and buttoning his shirt. “Candi was getting cold and wet, so we came home to get warmed up. We thought you’d be out with your friends at the after party.” It wasn’t quite a question.

“I… wasn’t in the mood, some of those hits really took it outta me.” I could feel my jaw tighten. I could feel something else tighten as Candi fussed with her wide necked sweater, her large, too round breasts barely concealed, a faint smirk on her red lips. My God was she hot and… I shouldn’t have these thoughts, she sleeps with Dad. I shook my head to dispel the naughty images in my head. Candi’s smirk deepened.

“Sorry to hear that bud, but since you’re here, there is something we have to talk about.” He was using his salesman voice. I knew I wasn’t going to like this, and that I would end up accepting it anyways. Damn. “You see, Candi and I are thinking about starting a family, and we don’t think it would be fair to have you be around that. So we talked about it, and talked to Vanessa too, and we decided it would be best if you stayed with your mother, in Denver, for now on. But you’ll still be able to visit for the holidays.”

With rage pounding through me, I noticed just how false my dad’s wide, sincere smile was.

Sean propped the boxes against his car and on his knee as he opened the back door of the Jeep. He gave a grunt as he realized there was only space for one more box in the back. He squeezed it in, then, with careful repacking, managed to find place for the other two boxes in the passenger seat. Sean stepped back and looked at the battered Jeep of an indeterminate colour, packed tight with pretty much all his worldly possessions. He couldn’t decide if it was too little or too much.

With one last duty before he left for good, Sean entered the main house, not a little trepidation in his stride. Ignoring the tasteful glamour of the manor, he made his half-remembered way to his mother’s study. At the cool command to come in, he opened the mahogany door soundlessly.

He entered the stately room, and stopped in front of the impressive desk dominating it, standing straight, looking down on his mother, seated in a plush, leather chair. She disregarded his presence, continuing to peruse the document in front of her, taking a sip of her bourbon. She slowly drew on the cigarette in her elegant fingers, then raised her flawless face to his, pale, icy-blue eyes boring into his stormy ones. She exhaled through her nose, the blue-grey smoke entwining with the gossamer threads above her.

“So you’re done packing, Sean?” she said in her smooth contralto. “Good. I must say, I may have underestimated you. Somewhat. I never thought you would get into a private school so quickly, nor one so prestigious. That is a benefit for both of us. Now I have just two requirements. You are no longer welcome here. You will never come back to this estate, for any reason. Is that understood?”

Sean nodded in assent, thunderclouds rising in his grey-blue eyes.

His mother’s eyes narrowed. Her sultry voice turned glacial. “Is. That. Understood? Say it.”

“Yes Vanessa. I understand.” Sean’s voice was a match for his mother’s in hardness.

“Good. Now, for my other requirement. As I’m still technically your legal guardian, I’m expected to be involved in your life, however marginally. Therefore, occasionally, I will call ahead and make an appointment with you. You will keep that appointment, and make any grievances known to me that you care to. I will address them, and that will be end of it. Is that understood?”

“Yes Vanessa.” BITCH!

“Excellent,” she said with a faint smile that never reached her eyes. “If you have anything else to say, now would be time to do it.”

Fury thrummed through Sean’s veins. “Do I have anything to say!? What would be the point? You wouldn’t hear it, or just ignore it.” His voice shook with anger, and he leaned over, pressing his fists to the top of the desk. “You’ve made it quite obvious that I’m not wanted here. I don’t even understand why you let me—no, made me—come here each summer. You don’t like me, and my sisters don’t like me either. Why!?”

Vanessa raised an eyebrow, reproving of his manners. “That is quite sufficient Sean. Your father made some mistakes.” She turned away from him, and added so softly he didn’t hear it, “and I may have made one too.” She turned to face him again. “Unfortunately, you have to pay for them. Life isn’t fair Sean, and its better you learn that now, then later.” Her lips didn’t change, but her smile seemed more sinister somehow. “Take it like a man. That is all I have for you. You may go now. Good-bye.” As easily as that she dismissed him, from her study, from her life.

He was on the verge of running, he was leaving so fast. He strode briskly through the manor, almost ignoring his younger sister Savannah, save for a sharp nod of acknowledgement. When she spoke to him, he stopped in his tracks so abruptly he nearly fell.

“You were a mistake you know, Sean. Mother should have rectified that mistake when she had the chance.” Her clear soprano was bland; she could have been discussing the weather, or taking out the trash.

“Well, this mistake isn’t ready to be wrong yet, Savannah.” He couldn’t but notice her figure. At fourteen, Savannah was already more developed than most of the girls in his class. Then he thought back to when they all lived together. His mother and older sister had always shown him nothing but condescension, but he remembered chasing Savannah around in the snow, both of them laughing without a care as only children can. What happened to you Savannah? He told himself that he didn’t care, that this part of his family meant nothing to him, but he couldn’t let himself give up that easily.

“Look, I know we haven’t really been close the last few years. But if you are ever in trouble, if you ever need my help, if you just need someone to talk to, call me, and I’ll come, as soon as I can. I give you my word, Savannah.”

She looked up at him with huge, fathomless eyes. Then she burst out with silvery peals of laughter. That hurt him more than anything else so far. “Why would I ever need help from someone like you? How could you ever believe I would need your help?’ She turned her back on him, and walked away, still giggling with hurtful mirth.

Sean hands clenched into fists so tight, his nails dug into his palms hard enough to draw blood. Why do I even try? He turned on his heel and left the manor, hopefully for the last time.

He climbed into his battered Jeep, slammed the door close, and cranked up the volume on the stereo. As he pulled out of the driveway, the opening riff of The Offspring’s’ ‘Defy You’ reverberated through the Jeep.

It was only a little more than sixty miles from Denver to the Dalton Academy in Estes Park, but it felt a lot further, and not far enough.

It’s last down and I got a lifetime to go. And I’m not ready to lose yet.

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