-The Epic of Arizona, Part Two
Spencer froze in his tracks, two steps from the door—two steps from his freedom for a few hours. He knew better than to ignore the voice of his mother’s latest boyfriend so he turned around. The last time he had pretended not to have heard him, Spencer ended up spending the cold night handcuffed on the back porch.
His mother’s boyfriend was a big, hairy, and beefy man. If Spencer was guessing, the man stood around six foot five and weighed at least two times, if not three times, as much as Spencer himself did. His eyes were small and beady with barely any color surrounding the pupils. The top of his head was balding—it was the only hairless part of his body—but around his ears, the hair was salt and pepper color.
“Where do you think you are going?”
“To my job, sir.”
Spencer had forgotten to call him ‘sir’ once and, in result, had his backside lit on fire in places; he made sure never to forget again.
“Someone hired something like you?” he asked, his baritone voice booming with mocking laughter.
Spencer refused to flinch. He did not want the man to see any weakness on his behalf. It was enough that he had to deal with his classmates, but he recently had to deal with his mother’s boyfriend.
“And why would anyone do that?”
Spencer swallowed. He knew the answer his mother’s boyfriend wanted.
“Because no one else wanted the job, sir.”
That was not entirely true. It had been a stroke of luck that Spencer had gotten the job. It had just so happened that the previous storyteller had been offered her dream job the day before Spencer’s grandfather had been hospitalized. When Spencer had entertained the children with his first story, the head pediatrics nurse had been walking with the head general nurse to make their rounds, and they had heard his story. The two gave him the job on the spot.
“That’s the only damn way you’d get a job, boy.”
Spencer stayed silent. He waited the excruciating five seconds before his mother’s boyfriend waved him off with his hand.
“Be back before ten, boy, or you’ll be sleeping outside again.”
Spencer did not waste any more time as he quickly spun on his heel and walked out of the trailer. He shut the door cautiously behind him, as he did not want to give his mother’s boyfriend any more ammunition against him, before hastily making his way to the cracked sidewalk. He followed the sidewalk to the bus stop, hoping his run-in had not made him miss the last bus.
It had not, and a few minutes later the bus came to a stop. He quickly boarded it and sat in the first empty seat he could find. He stared out of the window as the bus drove to the next stop. There was one person waiting at it. It was a boy who looked to be around Spencer’s age. He wore dark washed jeans and a thick black jacket with the hood concealing his face from Spencer’s view. The boy boarded the bus and sat down beside of Spencer, not taking the time to ask for permission to do so.
“There’s plenty of other empty seats, you know,” Spencer told the boy, hoping to convince the boy to sit somewhere else.
“Why would I want to sit in an empty seat when I could just as easily sit with a friend?”
Spencer knew the voice, and he could almost not believe he was hearing it again. He tried to rationalize who else it could be, but the moment the boy lowered his hood, Spencer could no longer deny who it was: Arthur Dillon.
Spencer stared at him in shock. Artie smirked and raised his eyebrows cockily.
“What are you doing here?” Spencer finally asked.
“Riding a bus.”
Spencer shook his head.
“No, I meant, what are—?”
Artie laughed and cut Spencer off. “I knew what you meant, Spencer.” Artie emphasized the ‘r’ on Spencer’s name. “I chose to use this thing called sarcasm because I am a man with the y-chromosome. That very same chromosome makes it difficult for me to express my true feelings.”
In spite of his shock, Spencer smiled.
“I came to beg your forgiveness,” Artie answered truthfully. “I offered you my friendship and you so graciously returned the favor, and then I stupidly blew it the first chance I got. You’re a great guy, Spencer Rawlins, and I do not deserve to be speaking to you and you returning my speech so civilly. I apologize for my mistake, for my idiocy, and for my foul mouth. I beg for your forgiveness like I would beg for food if I was a starving man. I do not deserve it, Spencer Rawlins, but you are more of a man than I will ever even hope to be. I do hope you could find it in yourself to forgive me and give me one more chance to do right by you.”
Spencer held up his hand to silence Artie.
“I never knew your speech could be that eloquent, Arthur Dillon.”
Artie grinned as a blush formed on his cheeks. He did not say anything in response, though, as he waited for Spencer to continue.
“You needn’t to have gone through that. I’ve already forgiven you. I’m the one who reacted idiotically. You don’t have to tell me anything that is not my business.”
Artie shook his head, disagreeing with Spencer.
“As my friend, Spencer, my business is your business. I baited you and all but twisted your arm around your back to get you to react the way I wanted you to. You had every right in the world to act as you did, but you were not the one acting idiotically. That was me.”
Artie stopped talking for a couple of seconds and brought his light green, almost blue, eyes to meet Spencer’s sapphire ones.
“Does this mean I’m forgiven?”
“Then does this mean I have my friend back?”
Spencer’s jaw dropped in astonishment.
“Don’t act like this surprises you, Spencer.”
“But it does, Artie.”
“And why’s that?”
Spencer snapped his mouth shut and dropped his eyes from Artie’s.
“Because no one wants to be friends with me. I’m a disease. I just end up hurting people in the end.”
Artie brought his hand up and placed his index finger under Spencer’s chin, lifting Spencer’s face to meet his.
“Anyone who doesn’t want to be friends with you is an idiot. They do not know what they’re missing. I’ve spent the last few weeks getting up the courage to beg for your forgiveness, Spencer. I couldn’t imagine losing you as a friend forever. I had to convince you to forgive me and to be friends with me again or I would have lost my sanity. Those people that have told you you’re a disease or that you end up hurting everyone you know—they don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t listen to them, OK?”
Spencer could not keep a smile from appearing on his face. He nodded.
Artie smiled a smile to match Spencer’s.
“I think I owe you an answer.”
“That day you stormed out of my room, you asked me a question that I never answered.”
Spencer shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, Artie. It’s none of my business.”
“Yeah, it is. Other than the fact you’re my friend and I owe you the answer based on that alone, you deal with those people every day of your life. You deserve that answer.”
Spencer stayed quiet, every nerve in his body tense as he awaited Artie’s words.
“I know Dexter Preston and Riley Hadley through a mutual acquaintance: Max Willows.”
Spencer lowered his eyebrows. Max Willows. That name rang a bell in Spencer’s mind. He knew that name from somewhere. Then it hit him and his chest constricted. Nix had a little brother, and Spencer was almost certain his name was Max.
Spencer had thought of nothing but Nix for the last few weeks. Ever since that day in the lobby, Spencer could not get Nix out of his mind. Nix had kept his word to Spencer, though; almost every time Dexter and Riley decided to beat Spencer up, Nix walked away. Nix had kept his word a little too well, though. He no longer leaned back in his chair or glanced over his shoulder at Riley with a smile full of life in Mrs. Phillips’ class. He no longer distracted Riley or Dexter from noticing Spencer or stood up to Porter and his gang in defense of Spencer. Nix barely even spoke to Spencer during chemistry—the one class they were forced to interact in. It was as if Spencer did not exist to Nix anymore.
Artie studied Spencer as the younger boy processed the information. Spencer cocked his head to the right in thought.
“Go ahead,” Artie urged him. “I swear I’ll answer any question you ask, as long as I know the answer.”
“Seriously, Spencer, ask.”
The bus had come to a stop in front of the hospital by then, however, and did not allow Spencer the time to ask him the question. Artie stood up to let Spencer out. Spencer stood up and sidestepped around him. Artie grabbed his hand at the last second.
“Hey, listen, my friends and I are hanging out at my house this evening. I would really like you to come,” Artie said, “and if you decide you don’t like my friends, then I’ll drive you home immediately and never ask you to meet them again.”
“I’d like that.”
Artie smiled a wide smile.
“What time do you get off work?”
“Six thirty, maybe.”
“I’ll be in a tan colored car; you won’t be able to miss me.”
Spencer smiled at Artie. “Well, hopefully you’re right.”
“I’ll see you then.”
Spencer smiled the entire way off the bus and into the hospital. He made his way to the main office, where his sign-in sheet was located.
The security guard, Mitch Allen, was at his desk. He greeted Spencer warmly. Spencer liked the man. His eyes were wise in their mellow brown color and his dark hair was almost always concealed by a baseball cap.
“Nancy was transferred yesterday,” Mitch informed Spencer.
Nancy Almonte was Spencer’s boss. She was the swing shift’s supervisor, and the close friend of the two nurses that had recommended Spencer for his job. He had liked her fairly well but had always known she would eventually leave.
“They’ve not replaced her yet, so you’ll answer to the head nurse,” Mitch continued. “You should know her; she recommended you the job.”
Spencer nodded as if he really did know the name of the nurse.
“Oh, and here she is now,” Mitch said, nodding behind Spencer.
Spencer glanced over his shoulder and felt his stomach lurch. He was looking into emerald colored eyes—the very same color of eyes he had only seen on two people: Nix and the woman in Nix’s picture.
“You must be Spencer,” she said warmly.
Spencer nodded his head numbly.
“I’m Monica Willows,” she continued. “You’ve got quite a talent, young man.”
“Th-thank you, ma’am,” Spencer sputtered out.
She smiled at Spencer, and Spencer immediately knew where Nix got his signature smile from.
“I don’t want you to ever be afraid to tell me anything,” she told him. “I don’t care how trivial you think it is, honey; if it’s a problem, then please do not hesitate to tell me.”
“One other thing, if you do not mind, Spencer, please do not call me ma’am. I’m not old enough to be addressed in such a way.”
She laughed after she finished talking, and Spencer found himself joining her.
“Just remember, Spencer, do not hesitate to tell me if something is bothering you,” she reiterated, “regardless if it is work-related or if it is personal.”
Spencer nodded his head. He had a feeling Monica saw more than most people did and that she saw more than Spencer wanted her to. He was a little unnerved, but he tried to keep the smile on his face.
“There are some kids waiting on you in there,” she said, nodding toward the cafeteria. “I would hate to keep them in suspense any longer.”
Spencer bade her bye and made his way to the cafeteria. A throng of young children surrounded him immediately, and he did his best to give each one his undivided attention for at least a few seconds. With a wide smile on his face, Spencer finally settled them down before he took a seat in his chair. Every pair of young eyes focused on him, Spencer took a deep breath and began to speak.
“A few weeks ago, I bestowed upon you the beginning of the Epic of Arizona, and then I paused the Epic to give the Halloween season justice and then I gave the Thanksgiving season its story as well. Over the past few weeks, you each have heard countless tales of the ghostly past and of the pilgrims’ lives. Last week, one young lady,” Spencer nodded to a small girl around the age of nine, “requested I continue the Epic, and I was taught to never deny a lady satisfaction; therefore, today, I continue the Epic of Arizona.
“For many, many years, a war was fought between two rival civilizations—the Salixs and the Pyronias. The family of royalty of the Salix was the Angha. The king was a fearless warrior and the best the entire world have ever known. He fell to an entire army of Pyronias in the dead of the night as he tried to save his young son, Arizona. Arizona would be raised by his mother and trained by his father’s tutors until Arizona himself surpassed them. A fortnight before his departure, he was roaming the streets of the magnificent city when he ran into a commoner by the name of Penn. I have previously mentioned the quarrel that took place between Matthias and Arizona on the behalf of Penn, so therefore I will not retell that piece of this epical story. As Arizona stared into sapphire diamonds, he saw his life reflecting in them and nothing was the same. Immediately, Arizona took Penn by the hand and brought Penn to the castle, ordering the servants to treat Penn as they would Arizona. For seven days, Penn was treated as royalty. On the eighth day, Arizona departed for a meeting only the true prince of the Salixs could attend. He left Penn unattended, for Arizona had no fear of his equals.
Arizona’s comates lived inside the castle walls, as that is how the seven became close friends. Deuce and Leroy had been away on a hunt for a week and arrived back at the castle on the day of Arizona’s departure. Unbeknownst to them, they had missed Arizona by a couple of hours. They continued to his quarters nonetheless and came across Penn. Unlike Arizona, both Deuce and Leroy had previously known of Penn. A run-in with Thirteen resulted in Penn’s disadvantage where Leroy and Deuce were involved. Leroy and Deuce chased Penn out of the castle and into the countryside where the war between the Salixs and the Pyronias was taking place. It was there that Penn happened across Arcturus, and that, my ladies and gentlemen, is where I leave you for today.”
As usual, exclamations of “More!” immediately came from every child. Spencer smiled, taking in the feeling of being needed, and looked around at all of them. He caught something out of the corner of his eyes and focused his attention on it. For the first time in weeks, he met Nix’s eyes.
He was initially taken aback, shocked by the intensity he had forgotten that lay beneath the surface of the emerald orbs. Nix mimicked his surprise, but the emotions radiating off him changed to regret and longing.
Spencer did not understand.
He looked away from Nix and noted the dark haired boy was not alone. Dexter flanked his right while Kendall flanked his left. Spencer briefly wondered where Reese and especially Parker were. Dexter regarded Spencer momentarily before saying something to the other two, while Kendall smiled up at Nix. Nix broke eye contact with Spencer when Kendall elbowed him in the side. She said something to him which he rolled his eyes at.
Spencer turned back to the group of children.
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