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Traces- Chapter One

Synopsis: It was supposed to be the ultimate experience- just John Abrams, his girlfriend, and his best friend, driving across the country, passing around a joint and reveling in their youth. However, from the start, things do not go as planned (if they were even planned) and mounting tensions leave John and his friends stranded in the Southwest without a place to stay. Circumstance introduces Tom, Gretchen, and Dylan, who have the potential to be friendly, but come off as purely out there. John tries to keep the two bands from mingling, for, the more they speak, the more it becomes apparent that these people are not at all who they claim to be.



 Author’s Note: I would ask that you take this account as seriously as I, yet my virtual inexperience as a storyteller may render our tale undesirably detached or lacking in emotional appeal. However, I assure you that these words are very real, and though names and exact location have been altered to preserve the privacy of all individuals involved, I, along with those of us that have from this torrent emerged physically unscathed, await your reaction.



            This story is not a documentation of the disease called addiction, but it is necessary to commence with an account of one in particular, for without one adolescent’s addiction, it is doubtful that any of the following events would have occurred. Mark Timmons did not achieve a tolerance for heroin overnight, nor was such an accomplishment ever his goal. In the course of one year, however, the drug had become the bane of his miserable existence, the perpetual intonation at the back of his skull, always demanding more from him: more time, more cash, more commitment. Heroin became his leading lady, and he was content to hide behind compulsion’s thick curtains for what he assumed would be the remainder of his life.

            Mark Timmons, the once-handsome captain of his school wrestling team, had sunk deep within himself; and, try as his friends might, there was little to be done of the matter. Suspensions from school followed, though the hollow eyes of this seventeen year-old drug addict cared little. All he desired was more, more, more.

            Few could get to the root of Mark’s problem.

            “You’ve no reason to act this way!” many a frustrated counselor or family friend had cried.

            For, to be honest, the Timmons family was incredibly well-to-do. Mr. Timmons was a judge, though a lawyer previously, and his wife the heiress of a small fortune. A stay-at-home mother, she had played a somewhat prominent role in his upbringing, though social functions had prevented her from taking too great an interest in Mark’s ideas. However, the combination of excessive belongings and lifelong friends had always seemed to occupy him, to divert him from malevolent designs.

            And it was to these lifelong friends that Mark was wont to turn, when he tired of the ceaseless attentions given him and his habits. Friends to just pass a goddamn joint with, and friends to just pass time listening to nonsensical music they thought art, and friends to make pretentious plans they knew they’d never fulfill...

            There was John Abrams, and his younger sister. Both had started out with red hair, but he’d dyed it long ago to a jet black. Yet he couldn’t alter the vibrant green eyes they shared, and Mark was ever grateful. The eyes of John and Ashley Abrams often called him out of a reverie, when he himself had not intended to wake.

            There was Jessie Towney, John’s steady whatever, a pretty raven-haired girl with a heart-shaped face. She spent her nights at the Abrams house, just down the street from Mark’s own, so weekly voyages through the city had been a tradition among the three friends for years.

            And of course, there was the second bane of Mark’s existence: Emily Kish, his sixteen year-old girlfriend. He had tried to shake her off time and again, but his attempts at deterring her only succeeded in her tightened grasp. By the beginning of his senior year in high school, she had taken to following him around and imitating his every act. 

 It was, in fact, due to Emily that Mark became bound and determined to leave behind sunny California and head East, disregarding his studies. Of course, he could not leave without John or Jessie, but convincing them was another story.

            Jessie had virtually no reason to stay in San Diego; her family background was an unending source of pain that she was reluctant to discuss. Yet if John stayed, Jessie would stay. No matter how vigorously they denied a lasting tie, Mark (and the rest of the world) knew that they would never be parted.

            John had the misfortune of being extremely bright and talented, and though high school was a supreme source of boredom, he wasn’t inclined to abandon the possibility of success.  He and his sister had been born into a starlet family, fathered by a politician and carried by a debutante. With every day structured, John and Ashley had been taught above all that they must not make waves, they must not make trouble for their family. And though John despised this way of living, his promise as a writer was undeniable, and he could not throw lightly aside the financial backing that his parents offered. He’d never say this, of course.

            “Ashley can’t come, and she can’t be by herself,” he insisted. “And my dad would find us and drag me back, kicking and screaming, and if Jessie’s dad didn’t die of a heart attack first...”

            Jessie shivered, and he threw an arm around her.

            Mark shot a look out the window of John’s bedroom, tapping his feet nervously. Whether it was need to shoot up or anxiety that Emily might show up, his friends couldn’t guess.

            “Look,” John continued gently, “it’s senior year. It’ll be extremely easy, and then we’ll have the summer to do whatever the hell we want. And you can go to college in the east. You can screw San Diego, and make something of yourself, it’s a win-win!”

            Jessie, from her spot on the floor next to John, tilted her head up so that Mark could take the cigarette from her mouth. She blew out smoke in miniscule rings, whereas he nearly swallowed the damn thing from inhaling so forcefully. He resumed tapping.

            “I’m not making it another year,” Mark said simply. “Not with all of them.”

            He inhaled again, his body giving way to a massive tremor. John winced at the sight of his skinny frame shaking, but simply shook his head.

            “This year’s going to be easy,” John repeated.

            For the first few weeks of September, his prediction proved true. John himself had already been accepted into the vast majority of schools to which he had applied and could therefore ignore most homework assignments in favor of continuing his creative work. Jessie and Mark didn’t bother keeping up with any of their classes and took to stealing hours away under the outdoor bleachers, smoking and plotting various schemes to convince John that leaving was his better option.

            Emily envied these meetings, for she had long been uninvited, and she grew increasingly edgy. Mark continued to ignore his self-proclaimed girlfriend until she cornered him in the hallway one sultry afternoon towards the end of the month.

            “What the hell is going on with this Jessie girl? I’m your girlfriend!” she snapped at him, while lookers-on snickered.

            “Are you?” he asked snidely, trying to brush her off. God, the girl had been alright for a throw or two during spring break, but now...

            “If you want to just throw away all this time we’ve spent together and all the meaningful”-

            “I do,” he said brusquely, never looking down at her.

            “Fine, then, I’m done!”

            Of course, this meant that the next day, she joined Mark, Jessie, and, surprisingly, John, underneath the rickety bleachers. Emily had only some experience with marijuana, but she eagerly accepted the joint that Jessie passed her. As minutes ticked by, she threw herself into the conversation with mounting enthusiasm.

            “Do you want to know where Mark and I met?” she demanded, leaning on Jessie and breathing into her face. “It was at John’s sixteenth birthday party, and a bunch of my friends crashed it. I didn’t even know who John Abrams was, and I never saw him the entire night, but I ran right into Mark within seconds of me arriving!”

            “And la-di-da, we had sex in a bush, and she’s never left me alone since,” Mark finished for her.

            “You had sex on my birthday?” John asked, raising an eyebrow.

            “I was drunk,” Mark replied unabashedly. Emily twined her hand with his and he sighed, allowing it to go on.

            “We both were,” she intoned brightly.

            “You glorify everything,” he told her.

            John looked about.  Their school’s football field was atop a sprawling green lawn, sloping down on either side. At the bottom rested their principal’s office, a stubby red square disconnected from the massive public school. Over two thousand students were enrolled, and all of them knew his name. Well, he reasoned, it was on the goddamn wall in gleaming silver letters, accentuating the sweeping metal window frames. In a political stunt just over four years ago, Mr. Abrams had paid for the high school to be built, claiming that San Diego needed a “proper” campus for John and his friends to attend. The move had won him thousands of voters and John virtual immunity from disciplinary action.

            “Ten more months,” he breathed. Jessie seemed to overhear and she smiled briefly before her expression changed to one of horror.

            “Hide this!” she hissed, shoving the joint into John’s sluggish arms. Mark jerked his head up and swore loudly, throwing together expletives as only he could. He turned quickly back to Emily, a look of unmistakable fear in his eyes.

            “Mark!” she exclaimed.

            Across the field, a woman clad in a blue pantsuit stood, staring directly at John. Her severely cut hair was clipped back, and her arms were folded. She began to stride toward the group, stiffly sticking one foot in front of the other in a kind of soldier’s march. As she neared, John was able to make out the flat line of her mouth.

            “This is...” Jessie whispered.

            “We’re dead,” Mark intoned, subconsciously inching closer to Emily. “Look, she’s never been in trouble before and”-

            Before he could finish his thought, their assistant principal reached them.

            “Mrs. Preston, I know this looks bad, but”-

            “Save it, John,” she snapped, holding out one hand. “Give me what’s in your pocket.”

            His heart pounding, John reached a sweaty hand into his pants pocket. Thinking quickly, he fished about until he found a single cigarette.

            “It’s not my fault, though, I just needed it,” he said smoothly, placing it into the palm of her hand. “It’s not my fault I’m addicted.”

            She squinted at him, then gripped his shoulder and pulled him up.

            “That’s violence!” Mark protested.

            “Turn your pockets inside out.” Mrs. Preston’s face was livid.