Mr. Radioman from a student's phone: Good morning Deldin Bay, great news for today. Weather is forecasted to be one of the best of the entire month! Enjoy temperatures reaching high 70s and clear skies. But remember to watch out for construction sites, dust will be heavy-

The teacher walked in and the class settled down into their assigned seats.

Chapter 17

Part 1

Like a Dart

I never thought it would ever happen again, but it did. Pandora and I, we're both paying attention in class. And even if my eyelids felt a little heavy and my only life support was the Vodurai in my pocket, I still managed to learn everything that was given to me. What made me snicker inside was that I knew the teacher of every class was either waiting for us to screw up or just trying to find something to yell at us about. Seriously teacher 5th was at my throat; I accidentally dropped my pencil while he was lecturing about the mistakes of Deldin's neighboring city which led to the debt of- ahem, anyways the pencil literally made the slightest tap in the world, somehow the teacher was instantly irritated but the kid in the front row didn't even flinch. Like what?

Teacher sixth was noticeably uncomfortable, she kept stopping in between her math lesson, it was hard not to notice her confused stare she would do to Pandora and I and I found myself getting a little annoyed. I constantly averted my gaze and pretended to focus on my notes. When it came the time to work in groups, I could tell Pandora had the same teacher problem. We sighed it out and made a little game to test our skills, well actually just to test Pandora's. She's perfect once I explain it to her. She's actually a quick learner and gets it after a few pointers. As for me, heh, this delinquent has magic when he actually focuses. I can thank my senses for that. And Pandora can thank me for questions 1-20.

It was the final minutes of our last class, teacher seventh allowed us to work on an assignment since there was extra time. As the class split up, Pandora and I took the back corner and pushed our desks together. I was casually resting my head on a propped up arm, listening to Pandora read the chapter aloud in the already chatty room. I listened to her hesitant breath when she didn't understand what she read and I listened to the mistaken words she tried to pronounce.

Today was different, but I didn't hate it.

I opened my tired eyes, hm I have an idea. "Are you busy after school?" I almost frown when I see her continue to read after a quick dull glance, she didn't even answer. So I guess I have to be more convincing, "I'll let you treat me to some Brewter's-" She cut me off by reading louder, her words stressed and she was clearly trying not to be irritated. "-joking, just joking." After that she didn't really say anything else about the subject so I just let it stale.

The bell rings and she waits for me so we can walk out together. I didn't have much on me so we went to her locker instead and I waited. My back was relaxing against the locker next to hers and I closed my eyes to steady my dry eyes again. That's when I heard some really, really irritating voices with words that ticked off my temper in an instant. Two other students apparently only saw Pandora 'alone' by her locker and spat out, "oh look it's the monster-"

"-hi." I instantly stand up straight and the two guys see me, already stepping back. My glare worked like a charm because they just shook their head and stalked off. I turned to look over at Pandora. She was a little stiff at first but finished packing and shut her locker, all ready to go.

I... should probably say something, uh, "it's nice out today..." We start to walk out the building.

She's a bit on the quiet side, "yeah?"

"Yeah."

On the outside, I'm just laying off the tension with some small talk but really, I'm prepping for the first step For Monster. I haven't forgot, ya know. The usual route everyone would take is a left from the front school street, since most of the neighborhoods were that way. But I managed to convince Pandora to go for a walk- you know where this is going, right? Well it really was a good day today, the sun was able to find its way around the clouds while we were at school because it wasn't cold out. I felt the light resting on my back and it's warmth over my head. In the sunlight, it was a nice shade of blue- er, the sky. Yup. Anyways we continued to walk and turn corners, we didn't say much because I knew Pandora wanted to settle down what just happened so I let her enjoy the silence of the sky. We then came onto a stone path with grass sides. Tall trees began to fill our vision and the sound of dogs and kids echoed this way and that. In the corner of our eyes, an opening came into sight that caught both of our attentions. The sun was bright. That opening lessened the trees as we neared it and we were able to see a few tall fences of woven metal and silvery stacks of seats just next to it. There was a wooden sign with a few scratches as faded graffiti markings. Deldinian Oaks. We continued to walk our steady pace, a couple of young kids playing a game of ball in the distance.

I found it hard to think about the past and it hurt to say his name, "my dad had a habit of kicking me out of the apartment when I was in elementary school. I'd come home to him throwing whatever he could get his hands on," I briefly comforted my shoulder with a graze. "I didn't understand why he did what he did, I didn't understand his end of the suffering. So while I found my jaws too numb to smile, my mind was always left wandering just as I had no where to go." I sighed out all the heavy feelings that clenched in my chest. "It was a really hot day one summer and I took the effort to find some place in the shade. That's when something bumped into my shoe and I looked over to see these three kids waving me down." I remember them perfectly, but it was so long ago that it just feels like a dream. One was this quiet girl that always averted anyone's eyes. The kid in the middle was a bit tall and was pretty mature for his age, he even had a pair of glasses resting on his nose. The last kid was this goofy blond guy that always had something to laugh about, but the only thing that kept him from everyone else, was that he was in a wheelchair. "I never really was on a team but they invited me to play a game with them. There were four of us then. A pitcher, a batter, a person in the field and me. The batter was in a wheelchair, his legs never moved but his arms were tough. With that he was able to swing further than any batter I have ever seen at school." I almost smiled, "they were surprised when they saw me stand by home base, asking me what I was doing. I told them I'll run for the batter. The dirt wasn't good for his wheels so no matter how much the wheelchair kid wanted to speed past those bases, he couldn't." I remember everyone's faces that day, especially the batter's, he was so hyped that he couldn't wipe off that grin. It was a real, real smile. "And when I heard the bat making contact with the baseball, I ran as fast I could. The pitcher ran to second base, waiting for the girl in the outfield to throw but by then I was already passing him with no sweat." I looked over to Pandora with a slight warm smile, "I was so fast that the wheels kid came up with a nickname for me."

I remember his words, but Pandora beat me to it, "like a dart." And I nod.

After baseball in the summer, I started getting interested in various sports. It kept me from having to see the darkness of the apartment and also turned the anger I developed towards my dad into energy to keep playing. If I could teach Pandora what I know and she learns well just like in the books, this brilliant plan will be a piece of cake. I stop walking, "hey Panda wanna try swinging?"

She looks at the baseball field, "I never really tried-"

"I'll show you."

"Alright, lead the way."

xxx

"Everything is pretty straight forward," I hand her a metal bat from the field's storage. "Depending on what kind of ball I throw determines how to handle the swing. Swinging strong is important but it's useless if it falls into someone's hands." I help her get into stance, "keep your knees a little bent while putting more pressure on your back foot, then bring that pressure toward your leading foot to push for some power when swinging." I ask her to swing for me and I could tell she's struggling, I explain, "it'll be difficult adjusting to different pitches while you're off balance like that. Widen your position a little but not too much or you'll limit the power you boost into a swing." I ask her to swing again. Nope, something's still off. I place my hands on her shoulders and slightly tilt her backwards. Then I see her death grip on the bat, her knuckles solid white. "Take a deep breath," I loosen up her bat clutch and try to ignore the fact that I can smell her shampoo. I also guide her next swing and perfect her follow through. Backing off, I let her go and ask to swing one more time. Smooth, I nod in approval. Next is to, "drop the bat."

She's confused. "What?"

"Drop the bat," I repeat while walking to the pitcher's mound, "and keep your eyes on the ball."

I take a deep breath and begin to throw a sinker but stop before I even let go of the ball. I wince badly, reminding myself about the scratch on my arm. Pandora starts to sprint towards me, yelling, but I wave her off. This might be a problem. With my opposite hand clamped over, I can feel it beating to the rhythm of my increasing heart rate. It's like it's burning.

Pandora ended up ignoring my warning to back off, I found her next to me. "Hey...-" she was interrupted by her phone ringing. By the looks of it, it must've been an important call. Her stare flicking back and forth from me to her phone. She answered, "hello? ... Wait what? That's it! ... Don't worry okay, I'll be there." She then turned to me with a look I already know, and I nod. As she backs off, she hides her distress from the call and smiles. "Thanks for today, idiot."

"No problem, stupid."

"We're not finish here, alright? I'll be swinging a home run tomorrow," and she runs off.

Before I knew it, I was all by myself again in the wind. I left the gear where it stood and limply made my way to the bleachers. There I, of course, shook out a Vodurai and enjoyed the bitter taste as the pain in my arm slowly faded away. My weak arm is going to make this situation a huge headache, if I can't throw by tomorrow then we'll be delayed another day. I sigh, closing my eyes, "and just when I had everything figured out…" Well life isn't anything close to simple so, hell's grief I'll just have to roll with the punches. Today isn't over yet, I could practice my old skills and hopefully be able to get used to the pain. Yeah, that sounds-

"IT IS YOU!" I hear a woman's sharp yell right above me, jumping scaring my wandering thoughts and making my eyes open with one of the world's most stunned reactions. What the- it's her? A lady in her early twenties, long brown hair and matching eyes, stands over and stares me down with a mean glare. I sit up and she asks in a deadly killer tone, her words stressed and authoritative, "remember me, kid?"

Yup, it's definitely her. That one baker who owns that one dead shop in that one dead side of town. I'm a little confused on why she's wearing a grocery uniform but whatever. I lift a greeting hand and slight smile, and… "...hi-"

"You're coming with me!" Snatches my hand and drags me off the baseball field.

End

"Huh?" A lady walks out of the kitchen and into the shop, "so you're here to work?"