"Congratulations, to all you students for making it to the schoolwide spelling bee. Y'all should already fee like little winners. Now, the winner of this spelling bee will go to the regional spelling bee, so ya'll do your very best."
I was barely paying attention to Ms. Alby's lively speech, too in the zone. I just knew that this was my year. I couldn't play sports, and was the first person to get picked on and the last person to get picked for anything else, but I could spell like nobody's business. I came close last year. This had to be my year. I would show my family, even though I wasn't like my brother, but I could be accomplished at something.
We were lining up in the hallway outside the auditorium, I looked around sizing up my competition. Few new faces since last year, the redhaired boy boy with braces, the short girl with coke-bottle glasses, she was pretty decent last year, she came in third place, I spelled her word and took second place. It was abysmal. A-B-Y-S-M-A-L. The first pace winner was a boy that no longer went to our school, so I had this in the bag.
I was extremely shy so I didn't socialize with anyone, nobody really gave me two looks anyway, other than when I got picked on, especially this year, because my body was changing rapidly. It was like I went through puberty in a full year's time I now had to wear a retainer at all times because I had gotten all my adult teeth early, within a year my feet went up at least three shoes sizes, and my feet were clearly not proportional to the rest of my body. This was my chanced to be remembered for something more than my deformity.
That's when she strolled in. I remember her from last year, fifth place number 12, misspelled mausoleum, M-A-U-S-O-L-E-U-M but still a decent speller, of course that wasn't exactly what I was paying attention to. Her big gorgeous brown eyes were mesmerizing M-E-S-M-E-R-I-Z-I-N-G. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I wondered if I should talk to her this year, nothing too complicated, a simple 'good luck'.
She walked by her black dress shoes lightly clicking on the floor, a pretty yellow dress flowing beautifully around her dainty figure, and crinkly brown hair done up in a loose bun. No words came out of my mouth, it just hung open.
Focus Kenyon! I thought to myself. It was game time. We filed on the auditorium stag. Now it was game, time. Slowly my competitor pool was shrinking, I didn't want to celebrate two soon, but I was getting closer and closer to my victory. I soon realizing that I was also getting closer and closer to the girl in the yellow dress. She was so beautiful. My heart thudded hard against my chest, as the group continued to shrink and we where pushed closer together.
Finally, she was right next to me. She was looking down at her hands, clicking her shoes on the leg of the chair she was sitting in. Obviously nervous about her turn. Say something Kenyon!
It was her turn. She got up and went to the podium. Her word was cul-de-sac and she spelled it without thinking twice.
Then, my number was called, a few times but I had been to distracted to realize. It took a moment for me to maneuver my gargantuan feet.
"Good luck." I heard her soft voice say, I turned around to thank her but tripped over my foot and took a hard tumble on the stage. The auditorium erupted in laughter. I picked myself back up and bashfully took the podium. My word was mesmerizing. I spelled. Y-E-L-L-O-W "No...wait..ur...I..mean!" The auditorium erupted again, and I turned bright R-E-D.
I was glad when the day was over, until on the way to the school yard for dismissal Michael the large bulky eight grader that personally saw to it that my middle school years were a complete and living hell, began following behind me.
"Hey Freak Phallan, nice job on the spelling bee this morning." He chuckled. "Y-E-L-L-O-W" he mocked.
With a shove, I was pushed hard into the floor. My cheek slapped down so hard on the tile that it drew tears. I didn't even want to get up, I just laid there.
"Are you okay?" I heard a familiar voice say. My heart began thumping so loud that it resounded through my body.
She reached her hand out to me, and as I put my hand in hers, I felt butterflies in my stomach and a jolt go through my body. I wasn't sure what it was, but if felt like the fourth of july,She helped me to my feet and flashed me a sweet infectious smile. I smiled back.
I searched for words. I had to say something. Say something Kenyon!
"Bye!" she said and then rushed toward the front door of the school.
I sighed, excepting that I had missed my chance. I wondered what I would say if I did talk to her. I began babbling to myself.
"Hi, I'm Kenyon, I don't normally do this, but I would just like to ask you if we could go out to the movies some time. Oh, you don't date guys with braces. Yes, my feet are disproportionate to my body, how smart of you for noticing. I just wanted to tell you, that you're beautiful, and I think I might have lost the spelling bee championship because of you, but that's okay, because I'm a love sick babbling idiot, with no friends."
When I walked out to the school yard, there was a big commotion over at the far end of the school. It was hard to hear anything over the kids hollering but there was one voice that I made out perfectly. It was the girl in the yellow dress.
"Leave him alone!"
"You want to go in the mud too little girl?"
I ran into the direction of the commotion, broke through the crowd and there she was in a puddle of mud, and Michael who was three times her size standing over her and her twin brother, under his arm trying desperately to fend him away from his sister.
"Hey!" I yelled in my wobbly pubescent voice, the crowd then parted on its own, and all eyes were on me.
He let out a diabolical chuckle. "So the little freak wants to play super hero." He dropped the girl's brother to the ground a walked toward me.
"Don't call me a freak!" I grit my teeth and clinched my fists trying to look as threatening as possible.
He stomped up to me, clutched my collar and held me to his face."What are you going to do about it freak?" his breath smelled of pickled onions. My stomach turned I felt like a zebra in the grip of a lion. I was terrified, but I tried not to show it.
Before I knew it, I pulled my fist back and connected with his face. There was a collective surprised gasp that waved over the crowd of students. I had surprised even myself. Before I even had the opportunity to wind up for another blow, or even think about turning and running, I was over his head.
"Put him down!" One of the teachers had seen the commotion. It was the short English teacher Mrs. Alby.
"Fine." He said. I then stole a swift blow on top of his head that for a moment threw him off balance. When he regained his balance he flung me into through the air, and I came down into a shallow puddle of grass and mud. I could have sworn I heard every bone in my body crack as I crashed into the ground. Another collaborative gasp waved through the air and was proceeded by a roar of laughter. I just lay there with my face in the mud a moment until I felt a hand over my shoulder, at first I thought it was the little girl, I turned over just to find Mrs. Alby and no one else. The crowd was walking away. The fight was clearly over, and clearly I was not the victor. I looked around for the little girl and her brother but could not see them anywhere on the playground.
"Kenyon sweetheart, are you okay dear?"Mrs. Alby helped me to my feet.
The urgency in her voice made it seem worse than it was. I was surprised myself that nothing was sprained or broken, just my pride.
"I'm fine!" I got up and started walking away, trying to act as if nothing happened.
"Are you sure, should I call your parents, an ambulance, or something?"
"I am fine!" I yelled. I took off running leaving Mrs. Alby to deal with her own confusion. I wanted to put that as far behind me as I could, so I ran all the way home which I had done usually anyway.
When I made it to my front door I opened it to find my grandmother, my brother and sister already home. My grandmother was usually only I town for holidays, and it was not a holiday. There was an eerie feeling that suddenly came over me.
"Oh dear Kenyon what in the world happen to you?"
My grandma was a tall 6 foot, woman with hair white hair with brown hues that was so shiny, that when the sun hit it was a faint copper, which complemented her beautiful tan skin. She was 76 and looked about 40 and had remained seemingly unchanged since my first memory of her.
"I got in a fight." I said and walked toward the kitchen, but grandma grabbed my arm.
"You better not even think about going into the kitchen until you get cleaned up."
"Yes grandma!" I huffed and stomped up the carpet stairs toward my room.
"And you are going to get down on your hands and knees and help me scrub this carpet again and clean up all this mud you are tracking in,young man!"
"Yes Grandma." I answered down from the top of the stairs.
I was on my way to my room, when I began to hear my dad's voice from the other room only, it didn't really sound like my dad. He was screaming out crazy things about someone kidnapping my mother.
"Just ignore your father." My grandmother called from downstairs, "He just isn't feeling well today."
I was going to let it go, and go to my room, but I had felt the unyielding urge check on him, just to see if he was okay.
When I had walked into my parents be room, my dad was laid out on the bed, his eyes were closed, but his arms were twitching. I began to approach slowly. His ashy matted tresses dangled over his Indian cheekbones, usually he looked handsome. I remembered I would always be happy when people would tell me that I resembled him, but now his chestnut skin was two tones paler, and his face was extremely sunken in like he had not eaten in days.
"Dad?...Dad? Where's mom?"
Before I knew it his hand were clasped around my neck squeezing tighter and tighter, I had been struggling to unlock his grip from my throat.
"Dad, it's me Kenyon!" I said as I was gasping desperately for air and trying to unlock my dad's fingers.
"You have her! I know you do! Give her back!" He screamed.
"Dad, what are you talking about?"
Just then Grandma, Randy and Sanda came in and immediately tried to pry his hands from my neck.
"Kurt, let go, he is your son." My grandma cried.
"He is not my son he has my Cara, I'll kill him."
"No you won't dear because he does not have your wife. He is your son now let go." Said Grandma trying to calm the situation.
I began to feel light headed. I was fading, until grandma was able to shot him in the arm with a sedative, and he passed out releasing my neck. I fell to the ground in clinching my neck. Grandma helped me to my feet.
"You'll be just fine Kenyon," Grandma assured, "now about that shower."
"You are kidding right?" I said. "What the hell is going on here? Why did Dad just try to kill me?"
"Kenyon, you take your shower, and I will tell you and your brother and your sister everything okay? Now, go get cleaned up and let your father rest."
The hot water in the shower had seemed to be therapy for my neck, when I went in my whole body ached, but the healing waters of the shower made me feel like a new man. I was refreshed, but there was still a confused state of shock that stayed over me, like a cloud of despair. An unnerving thought went through my head.
Was my father seriously trying to kill me?
I threw my robe around me and went directly to my room. My father was mumbling a little still feeling the effects of the sedative. I walked a little faster to my room remembering what had transpired earlier.
I felt safe there in with my blue painted walls and bunk bed that I shared with my older brother Randy. I dug in our wood chestier drawer for my transformers fleece sleep pants, a white cotton T-shirt, and my navy blue house shoes. I got dressed, and then I made my way down stairs guided by the scent of Grandma's cooking.
When I got into the kitchen, instead of Grandma, there was Randy standing over the stew pot on the stove a small spoon taking a taste.
Randy was only a year older than me but judging by his size and mass he easily could have been five years. Unlike me, he looked more like my mother. He had light bronze skin like my mom and Sanda our baby sister. Me and my brother both had black wavy hair, Randy usually cut his short, but I preferred to grow it out like my dad and my mom put it in either cornrows or plats.
I was still growing it out again because last summer we were force to go out to my aunt's house, and she made me cut it, insisting that I be more like my brother. I hated her, with an inhuman passion.
"Grandma is going to get you if she catches you in her pot!" I taunted.
"Randy, get out of my pot!" Grandma yelled from the other room.
"Such a tattletale." He laughed and then punched my shoulder, He then looked up at me apologetically. He must have remembered what happened to me in the room, "Sorry Ken, are you okay!"
"You know nothing can hurt me! I am He-Man!" I bent my elbows showing off my biceps or what I would interpret as them.
"Sure." He chuckled. "And I am Prince Charles."
"More like Queen Elizabeth." I quipped.
"Are you boys washed up for dinner?"
"Yes Ma'am!" Randy and I said together.
Grandma and Sanda both set the table, while Randy and I washed our hands. When we came back to the table it was full of what seemed like everything in the house, warm collard greens, fluffy buttery cornbread, honey glazed ham, fried chicken and so much more.
I always loved Grandma's cooking it was as good if not better than my mom's. Not that we did not love my mom's cooking, my mother was an excellent chef, but when Grandmas came on special occasions we all looked forward to her culinary brilliance. She could make the most common dishes taste other worldly delicious.
I couldn't wait to dive in, but Grandma popped my hand away from my fork. "Kenyon why don't you say grace."
I let out an aggravated sigh, the aromas made my stomach rumble, I was starved. I would hurry through my grandmother's stipulation so I could satisfy hunger.
"Um Dear God! Thank you for the meal! Thank you for my family! And Thank you for everything….Amen."
"Amen." Everyone else said in unison and then everyone dug in.
"So grandma, what is going on?" Randy quickly asked.
"After you finish eating."
"Grandma, come on," I cut in, "Where's mom?" I had a mouth full of greens, and they were falling out of my mouth.
"Kenyon, don't talk with your mouth full, honey."
I swallowed. "Grandma, Where's Mom?"
"Alright, you guys deserve to know, and I am going to tell you." She dropped her fork. "The Phalans are not like normal families." She searched each of our expressions and waited for a response. No one responded.
She continued. "We are a very special family that is why we never get sick, never break bones, or anything like that. Some of us even have the special ability to shift into wolf form."
Before she continued I busted into uncontrollable laughter."Right. Very funny grandma." Realizing that I was the only one laughing I stopped.
"Your teacher, called today, Kenyon. Now can you explain to me why you were able to be thrown into the air and not break a bone, or even have a scratch on you. And your father choked you pretty hard, and you couldn't tell that by looking at you."
I felt my neck. It didn't even hurt anymore, but that could have meant anything. I would believe that fast healer part, but the wolf part. I could not believe.
"We are spiritual warriors." She confessed. "Generally it is the males in our family posses the ability to shift into wolves, that means it is very likely that you and your brother Randy will be shifters and your because your father is very ill and I am sending you two to live with your Aunt Talya."
"I hate Aunt Talya." I muffed. Aunt Talya was mean, self-centered and controlling, when our parents sent her to stay with her one summer, we spent the entire summer, being maids and butlers. Making drinks, food, and cleaning her ugly cottage. When we told our parents, they told us that we would never have to go back.
"Kenyon, your Aunt knows a man that will help you control your abilities, he is a shifter just like you."
"I thought you said we couldn't get sick." Said Randy. "So, why is Dad sick?"
"Good question Randall." She smiled. "This is a different kind of illness. He went looking for your mother, and he couldn't find her, and well, it drove him crazy."
That doesn't make any sense. I thought. None of it did. Grandma promised that later on when we began our training that it would make more sense, and we just had to accept that, at least for now.
We left that night, Sanda stayed behind. Sanda was extremely tearful saying good bye, she always was. Even when our father was better, when he took his business trips for weekends, she would cry and beg our father to stay, and he almost did. We could tell he wanted to, because he loved us.
"I will write every day." She promised.
Randy and I, each took turns giving her our hugs and goodbyes, and then we both headed together toward our terminal, into the unknown. I was unsure what I was prepared for, but all I knew was that from that point nothing would ever be the same.