Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 8

I made it a habit to check my text messages and voicemails at lunch, since we weren’t allowed phones inside of school. Normally, there wasn’t anything, but occasionally there was something from the label that I needed to respond to, so I kept the habit.

Still, even though I did it with the express purpose of being able to respond to things quickly, I was still surprised every time I found a message waiting for me. It was no different Tuesday when I saw a text from Mr. Eaves to call him back at his office. It was still early in the lunch period, but I debated whether I should or not, since he had a habit of leaving me on hold forever when I called, and I didn’t want to burn my entire lunch listening to smooth jazz or whatever it was they played while I waited.

Tuesdays were one of the days I sat with Sydney, and I didn’t want to worry her by missing most of lunch. She’d been a little clingy that morning, probably because the lunch with her family had been kind of a disaster. Even though her dad had been the one to invite me, he’d treated the entire event like an interrogation, and everyone at the table could feel the tension. I didn’t want to give her the idea that I was upset by it or anything.

Still, Mr. Eaves rarely texted me or had me call him unless it was important. I shrugged on my coat and went out through the side doors to the football field bleachers. They were usually pretty packed in the warm months, but no one was crazy enough to come out here to eat when everything was still covered in snow. Unfortunately, it was one of the few places I could make a call from while at school and not get in trouble.

I brushed off a pile of snow, creating a makeshift seat, and huddled in my coast against the biting wind. To my shock, Mr. Eaves was the one to answer, which literally had never happened before.

“Charlie, thanks for calling me back,” he started once we’d dispensed with the usual niceties. “I wanted to let you know the summons and the case against you has been withdrawn. I know you were worried about it.”

“I wouldn’t say worried, since I knew I didn’t do anything and it was bullshit, but I still want to know how this had happened. Everyone keeps telling me a DA will only bring a case he thinks he can win, and when the sheriff is willing to publicly say he doesn’t think the charges are legit, and the person who originally accused me admitted in front of a witness it was a mistake, I can’t imagine this was a case he ever thought he could win. I assume it was about the locker search thing, right?”

“Yes. It was about the locker search. I didn’t get to speak to him directly, but in the request for dismissal of the charges, he claims the case was brought by accident as part of a batch of cases. Just a bureaucratic blunder.”

“That still doesn’t explain how it ever reached him. I mean, how does he hear about drugs found in a school locker search when no one reported anything? I’m guessing he didn’t say how this ended up in his office, did he?”

“No. I don’t think a school would normally send the results of drug searches directly to the county DA, especially when they called the sheriff in, asking for him to file charges. Still, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. We don’t know everything that’s going on here, and the worst thing you can do is start making decisions based on a hunch. If you think someone at your school is trying to get you in trouble, then the best thing you can do is keep your head down and not give them any excuses. That makes it a lot easier for us to respond to anything that happens, like we did here. I have defended many people over the years that would have walked on the initial charges, but who fought or talked their way into additional charges I couldn’t get them out of.”

“That’s what the sheriff said to me after the meeting with the vice-principal,” I mumbled.

“Then maybe consider it to be good advice.”

“What about the DA? This has to be some kind of ethics violation, right? I mean, he can’t just go around accusing innocent people, right?”

“You’d be surprised,” Mr. Eaves said. “Yes, there are ethics rules, but proving malicious prosecution is a whole other ball game. For one, it requires showing intent, which we don’t have. We’ll keep a record and if this keeps happening, we could argue a pattern. Just remember, Campbell’s a sharp guy. If he is doing this on purpose, and I’m not saying he is, he’s not going to make the same mistake twice.”

“Damn, that’s just ... bullshit. He can just slap me with a criminal case and then be like, ‘Whoops, my bad?’”

“That’s just the way the law works.”

“All right. Thanks for letting me know,” I said, although I knew I sounded less than thankful.

“Sure. Just keep your nose clean and let me know if anything else happens, before you talk to the sheriff,” he said, putting extra emphasis on that last part.

With a sigh, I ended the call, dusted the snow off my coat, and headed back to the cafeteria. I appreciated the heads up, sure, but I couldn’t help feeling a little sour about it. This was going to annoy me for the rest of the day, and I still had a quiz in fifth period that I needed to focus on.

Band practice dragged on for hours that Wednesday. We were still banging away on The Little Things but kept getting distracted by Marco going on about updating our merchandise design. I didn’t disagree that we did need to look into it, but sometimes I just wished he could enjoy what we had instead of constantly searching for something better.

Talking about the merch did lead me to thinking about Hanna. It had been almost a month since she’d gone back to college and I felt a twinge of guilt about it, since it was mostly my fault. During the first semester, I only ever called her when I needed something or wanted to complain. She, on the other hand, would call to check in and see how I was doing.

Getting home, I’d already pulled out my cell phone to call her to fix my error when I saw Kat sprawled on the couch, textbooks and notes strewn around her. Practice had run long, but even with that, I never got home after her. Her damp hair clung to the back of her neck; she must have come straight from swim practice.

“What are you doing home so early?” I asked, stopping in my tracks.

“Because I live here,” she said, not even looking up.

I rolled my eyes, “You know what I mean. You’re never home this early after practice.”

“The pool’s being serviced tonight so coach cut practice short.”

“Oh, well I am gonna call Hanna. You wanna talk to her when I’m done?”

Her eyes lit up, “Definitely!”

“Give me like 15 minutes.”

As I walked by her on my way upstairs, my tormenting side got the better of me as I passed, and I reached out, giving her ponytail a light tug.

She whipped around, swatting at me as I danced out of her reach, laughing. I could feel her glare burning into my back as I jogged up the stairs, dodging the pencil she flung at my head.

“Now you have to come get this!” I called over my shoulder, grabbing the pencil and holding it up as I continued up the stairs.

She shouted some colorful insults, suggesting where I could shove that pencil, but I could hear the laughter in her voice. We play this game, teasing each other in harmless fun. We’re so comfortable together and this is how we show it.

Closing my bedroom door, I dialed Hanna’s number. I knew she was out of class and usually free on Wednesdays so I hoped she’d pick up.

Sure enough, she answered on the second ring.

“Hey, Charlie, what’s up?”

“Nothing much,” I said, flopping onto my bed and staring at the ceiling. “I just realized we hadn’t talked in a while and I miss you.”

“Aww, I’ve missed you too,” she said, her voice softening. “I’m glad you called. You, Mom, and Kat have all been so busy lately, no one has time to talk.”

“Well, Kat’s been busy; I’ve just been a bad friend.”

“Stop fishing for pity points. Besides, I do still hear a few things, like you making Varsity again.”

“Yeah, tryouts went well. The only downside is Harry and Paul made the team too.”

“Ignore them and focus on what you need to do. The more you think about those guys, the more they win.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just that every time I see his stupid face I want to punch it.”

“Just wait until he gives you an excuse, then you can do it without getting in too much trouble.”

“There’s literally nothing I can do without getting in trouble. I didn’t mention it to Kat or your mom ‘cause I didn’t want them to worry but did you know Mr. Packer tried to plant some weed in my locker during a locker search? Called the sheriff and everything.”

“Really?” she sounded worried. “Did you get in trouble?”

“No, but only because I happened to see him confiscate the same bag a few days before and was able to identify the sticker on the outside. On top of that, even after he admitted it wasn’t mine, although he claimed it was a mistake, he went around the sheriff and got Aaron’s dad to file charges against me. Mr. Eaves got them dismissed but still ... it’s such bullshit.”

“You need to be careful Charlie. If they’re doing stuff like that, they’re just looking for any reason to cause you trouble. I’ve met Aaron’s dad. He’s maybe the slimiest person I’ve ever met.”

“Both the sheriff and Mr. Eaves warned me to be careful too. I’m just trying to keep my head down and stay out of their way. It’s about all I can do.”

“Okay. Just ... be careful. I worry about you.”

“I know. Oh, we got the merch in.”

“Really? How’d they like it?”

“They loved the printing, although Marco is demanding we get some new artwork. He thinks our old stuff is getting stale even though we haven’t had it for a full year yet.”

“I know. To be fair, we went fairly cheap on getting that first round done, so it wasn’t as good as you really deserve. Professor Cross’s group is starting to look for their next project. Maybe I’ll bring this up to them. We’ve been talking a lot about branding lately so I think it’ll fit nicely. Speaking of which, we really need to go over your social media activity. We’ve been looking at a lot of branding done through social media and there are some areas you’re missing.”

“Kat’s mostly been handling that. I try to post when I can, but I’m just not very good at it.”

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