Chapter 1:

Chapter One: Nothing at All

Perfect World


*AUTHOR'S NOTE*
Hey everyone, Gerry here! Thank you for checking out Perfect World! Hope you enjoy. Questions, comments, discussions, and critiquing are welcome!

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CHAPTER ONE: NOTHING AT ALL

My eyes moved across the room, scanning every one of its small details for the umpteenth time. The sun was beginning to rise. After lying in my bed all night, the sheets and blanket were warm and comforting to me as I tried to become familiar with my new home. All of my belongings were neatly dusted and put away, soon to become unorganized and covered in a new layer of dust after a while.

The sound of the door opening caught my attention as Laura entered my room.

“Breakfast is almost ready, Krystal,” she said sweetly. “Come down whenever you’re ready.” Her smile was soft and gentle.

I returned a small smile of my own, then Laura turned around and walked out to go back to the kitchen. Sliding out of bed, I stood up and stretched. The clean carpet felt nice under my feet as I made my way out of my room and across the hallway into the bathroom. After using it, I checked myself out in the mirror. My face was completely blemish-free, except for the scar just above my right eyebrow. I’d had it for years, and couldn’t remember how I got it. I looked at the palm of my left hand, examining the long scar that spread from my index finger to my wrist. I didn’t remember how I got that scar, either.

I opened the medicine cabinet and removed my five different prescribed medications. I was told that if I didn’t take them, I’d go completely insane. They were the best treatment I had until the doctors could find out what was truly wrong with me and find a better treatment or, if possible, a cure, but I wasn’t very hopeful.

The shower I took washed away the pain of the sleepless night. However, it was a brief shower, just like every other happy moment in my life thus far.

As usual, my long blonde hair wasn’t very messy, so it was easy to brush. Walking slowly down the stairs to the living room, I ran my fingers along the wood grain railing, taking note of its smoothness. Before I reached the bottom of the stairs and entered the living room, I took a small sniff of air. The smell of the new house and the smell of our furniture hadn’t mixed quite perfectly yet, creating an oddly uneven scent that would take a few more weeks to blend.

When I entered the kitchen, Laura was serving up a big mound of pancakes onto a plate and setting it on the table for me. Jack had already seated himself and was reading the newspaper. He folded it up and put it aside when he saw me walk in.

“Well, if it isn’t our beautiful daughter on her first morning in our new house,” he announced. “How’d you sleep last night?”

“Good,” I replied quietly. Of course, that was a lie. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in about three years, but no one needed to know that.

I sat down in the chair that Laura had placed my plate in front of, drowned the heap of pancakes in syrup, and started digging in. I was always a big eater and could eat all I wanted, but not gain a pound. At least I had something to be thankful for.

Most people considered Jack and Laura to be my parents. However, I see them as merely guardians. They adopted me a few years ago, but I had never been able to connect with them completely. Every time I felt myself become closer to them, it was as if I was trying to form a bond with empty shells. Maybe it was just me.

Laura took a seat next to Jack and they started discussing their usual business plans. After all, our move was centered on their job. I was told that by moving from Michigan to that small town in Florida, the two of them would be able to become more efficient. Whatever was truly meant by that, I wasn’t sure.

When breakfast was over, I stood up and took my dishes to the sink. Morning sunlight was beaming into the kitchen, beckoning me to go out into it. The pool in our backyard seemed to be an appropriate place to go and relax outside. To get to it, I had to go through the big glass sliding door in the living room.

Right when I opened the sliding door and stepped out, warm air rushed around me. Jack had set up lounge chairs the previous day. I took a seat in one, then leaned back to look into the sky and watched the white fluffy clouds as they floated slowly across the blue. Even though there were plenty of houses around, our home had an isolated tranquility because of the high fences, shrubs, and palm trees everywhere. Florida was much different than Michigan.

About half an hour passed when I thought about getting a glass of lemonade. I walked back into the kitchen where Jack was still reading the paper and Laura was clipping coupons out of a magazine. As soon as I finished pouring the lemonade into a glass, the doorbell rang throughout the house. Jack got up quickly, looking excited.

“Our first visitors!” he said cheerfully. “I’ll go get it!”

He rushed to answer the door, Laura right behind him, leaving me alone in the kitchen. I was always hesitant to meet new people, especially over the past few years, so I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Not that I was shy, but avoiding people seemed to just happen automatically.

They came back with three people following them. Two of them were boys and one was a girl. One of the boys had dark hair and a gentle face, and he looked a little like the girl who followed behind him. The other boy was taller and had light brown hair that came down to his shoulders. They all looked to be about the same age as me.

“This is our daughter, Krystal,” Laura introduced.

The dark-haired boy came up to me and shook my hand.

“Hi,” he said, looking a little nervous. “Uh, my name’s Gary. This is my older sister, Abby,” he pointed at the dark-haired girl behind him, who smiled at me, “and this is my best friend —”

“James is the name!” Gary was interrupted by the taller boy, who thrust out his hand and firmly grabbed mine. “It’s a pleasure to meet such a wondrous girl as yourself!”

I watched as his eyes slid quickly up and down my body. For some reason, I didn’t really care.

“We saw the moving van yesterday,” said Abby, “so we thought we’d pay a visit and meet the new people.”

“I’m glad we did!” said James. “Meeting new people can be really cool.”

He looked around the kitchen before his eyes flicked over to me again. I looked at Gary, who instantly smiled. I couldn’t help but smile back.

“Well, I’m sure Krystal will make some great friends here,” said Jack.

“It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours yet, and she’s already met some nice teenagers her age to hang around with,” Laura added.

“We were thinking about going into town today,” said Gary to Jack and Laura. “If it’s okay with you, we can show Krystal around.”

“That sounds good,” Jack agreed. “Is that all right with you, Krystal?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Man, something smells good.” James turned his attention to the leftover pile of pancakes on the counter. “Hey, can I have some of these?”

“Help yourself,” Laura told him.

“Cool, thanks!”

James grabbed the top pancake and immediately stuffed it in his mouth. Abby looked a little disgusted, and Gary seemed somewhat embarrassed. I thought it was a little funny.

“Um, should we go now?” said Abby, trying to ignore James as he slurped down another pancake. I followed her and Gary to the door with James bringing up the rear.

“Have fun!” Laura called to me on the way out. I waved to her and Jack as I headed outside with Gary, James, and Abby.

“You’re gonna love this place!” James told me. “We hang out in town all the time!”

“Now that summer’s just started,” said Gary, “we’ll be going into town almost every day. You can come with us if you want.”

“It’s about a twenty minute walk into town from the neighborhood,” said Abby. “Before we get there, I’ll let you in on the geography of the area.”

“She doesn’t want to hear you drone on and on about stupid stuff!” James blurted out.

“Hey!” Abby barked. “It’s important to learn the geography of an area!” She turned back to me. “Let’s see, right now we’re in the neighborhood. If you take the road we’re on now, it’ll lead into the town. On the way there you can see the Gulf of Mexico from the road.”

“The view of the ocean is great at sunset,” Gary told me. “You’ll have to see it.”

“After you get into town,” Abby continued, “you can get to the city. There’s only one road that leads directly to the city from here, and it’s about a fifteen minute drive. I’d drive you over there, but I don’t have my own car yet.”

“It’s only a little over five minutes if you drive fast enough,” James whispered to me.

I giggled softly, and Abby shot James a dirty look.

“So, Krystal,” Gary looked a little nervous while he spoke, “w-where are you from?”

“Michigan,” I said quietly.

“Wow, that’s far!” said James. “Did you have any cactuses in your yard?”

“Michigan isn’t a desert,” Gary told him. “At least, I don’t think so.”

“No, it’s not,” said Abby, “and it’s ‘cacti', moron.”

“Well, sorry, miss know-it-all,” said James irritably.

“Hey, guys,” said Gary. “Knock it off.”

As the road came to the top of the last hill, Gary pointed out the view.

“You can see the town from here,” he said.

“And over on the right,” said Abby, “you can see the gulf now.”

I gazed down at the town we were heading into, then looked over and saw the ocean for the first time in my life. Since the sun was over land, there wasn’t any glare on the water, so it looked blue and sparkly. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen.

“It’s so pretty,” I said.

“Like I said,” said Gary, “you should see it at sunset.”

“I really would like to,” I replied softly.

Gary smiled at me again, and I felt my lips curve up into a smile automatically. Something about Gary could make me smile.

The rest of the way down, James talked mainly about sports and surfing, Abby talked about things such as the area’s weather patterns and good places for sightseeing, and Gary mainly was interested in what I liked to do and where I used to live. Of the three, Gary seemed to be the most easygoing. However, when it came to being carefree and happy-go-lucky, James took the cake.

Not much later, we made it into town. There was a moderate amount of traffic and the atmosphere was lively. Unlike in Michigan, an occasional palm tree was planted in the sidewalk, giving the town a tropical feel. I was in Florida, after all.

“Well, this is it,” said Abby. “I don’t come here as often as the boys, so I’ll let them be your guides.”

“Just follow us!” said James. “We’ll give ya the grand tour. This way!”

He strutted down the street, and the rest of us tagged along. A few blocks down, we stopped at a restaurant located on the corner of a somewhat busy intersection.

“Normally, we come here first,” James told me. “This is the Shady Palm Café, best diner in town! Or at least the best one we can afford.”

“We’ll bring you back here sometime if you want,” said Gary.

“Okay,” I replied. “Sounds great!”

We followed James a little ways through town until we came to an arcade.

“This is the arcade,” he said. “Like video games?”

I felt a small urge of excitement deep inside me.

“Yeah.”

“Awesome!” said James loudly. “I’m just liking you more and more!”

“James is the champion of one of the games here,” said Gary. “He has a high score that nobody else has even come close to.” He then leaned closer to my ear and whispered, “It’s kinda gone to his head, so be careful when discussing it with him.”

“Um, where are we going next?” Abby asked James, pulling him away from the arcade window he was peering through.

“Look at those poor fools try to beat my score,” he mumbled menacingly. As soon as he saw the look on Abby’s face, he quickly added, “Oh yeah, the tour! Let’s get going! We can show her the beach!”

James took off down the sidewalk again. I began to wonder if he could ever act seriously if need be. While following him to the next destination, I looked over at Gary again, who was walking next to me on my right.

“He’s a strange one, isn’t he?” Gary asked.

“Who?” I asked. “James?”

“Yeah, well,” Gary scratched his head, “don’t you think so?”

“Come on, just admit it,” said Abby, who was walking on the other side of me. “We all know he’s a totally moronic screwball. Isn’t that right, little bro?”

“I don’t know if that’s exactly what he is,” said Gary thoughtfully, “but there aren’t too many out there quite like him.”

“Hey, hurry up, ya’ll!” James was already way ahead of us. He stopped to turn around and beckoned for us to pick up the pace.

“Yes, master,” Abby replied.

“What’s taking you guys so long?” James asked us when we caught up to him.

“We’re moving at our own comfortable pace, thank you,” said Abby.

“I’m sure Krystal wants to take her time,” said Gary. “There’s a lot more to this town than specific places of interest. She might even come across something she wants to check out that we wouldn’t think much of.”

James looked a little aggravated at first, but thought it over and said, “Yeah, that’s cool. She’s the new person, after all.”

Right after he had said that, I noticed a small building across the street. There was a welcoming sensation to it. Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me.

“Hey,” I said quietly.

“Hmm?” Gary turned to me. “See something you want to check out?”

“What’s that place?” I asked, pointing at the small building across the street.

“Oh, that’s the antique store,” said Abby. “I’ve never been in it, but they probably have some neat stuff in there.”

“Like what?” said James. “Antiques are boring.”

“We’ll go over there for Krystal, okay?” said Gary.

“I thought we were going to the beach!” James sounded confused and irritated.

“We are,” said Gary. “After we do this.”

“Fine,” James groaned.

The four of us walked across the street to the front of the antique store. Inside, the place looked dark and empty, but for some reason, I still felt welcomed by it.

“Oh, they’re closed,” said Abby.

The lights were all turned off, making it hard to see inside. James made a small noise of satisfaction.

“Today’s Sunday,” said Gary. “They probably don’t open on Sunday. We can come back tomorrow. Sorry about that, Krystal.”

“It’s no big deal,” I said, smiling.

“Beach, anyone?” said James, wearing a big grin.

“Oh, hush,” Abby told him.

Walking to the beach took about thirty minutes, but I took the time to check out the town and enjoy the weather. The sun was out and it wasn’t too hot, making it a great day to get to know everything. I began to feel as if Jack and Laura had done something good by moving. Deep down, I knew that I was making a connection with the new town.

As the air began to have a fresh, salty smell, I knew that we were getting closer to the ocean. James was blabbering on and on, but I really wasn’t paying much attention to him. Some of my attention was focused on Abby, who kept making funny little side remarks on things that James would say. The rest of my attention was directed at Gary. Although he didn’t say much, I couldn’t help but notice him.

“We’re here!” James announced. Those were the first words from him I actually listened to since we left the antique store. “This is our major attraction in the area.”

My eyes were pulled over the sand and across the ocean. Without a doubt, it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. Even as we made our way up to the sand, I was amazed by how much better my new home was than what I had expected.

“Judging by Krystal’s stare,” said Gary, “coming back here is on our list of things to do!”

“So, what do you think?” Abby asked me.

Words failed me. “It’s ... cool.”

“Is that all you can say?” James laughed. “Oh well, you can tell that she’s not from around here. We’re gonna turn you into one of us, you just wait!”

“We’d prefer you turn into either Abby or me,” said Gary. Abby and I found that remark somewhat funny.

“Ha ha,” said James indignantly, “you’re a hoot, Gary.”

After they showed me the beach, Gary, James, and Abby showed me the rest of the town. There was a lot more to see than I had expected, including a movie theater, bowling alley, and a handful of restaurants. They even showed me the high school I’d be going to once summer ended.

“It’s a nice school,” I said.

“Well, it’s not the biggest school around,” said Abby. “It’s mostly for kids who live in the residential area around the town, but a handful come from the city.”

“It’s the only big city nearby,” Gary added. “We don’t go there often. There’s a huge mall we go to around the holidays to find gifts and stuff. Other than that and the hospital, there’s really no reason for us to go there.”

“Everything we ever need is right here!” said James loudly, stretching out his arms.

“It’s a beautiful town,” I told them. That was no lie. Everything seemed just right. Maybe even … perfect.

“Yeah, it’s nice around here,” said Gary. “It took a lot of hard work from the area’s officials to get it the way it is now. Crime rates aren’t bad, either.”

“Do you want to stay here after graduating?” I asked him.

“Probably,” he replied. “It’s a big world out there, though.”

“I might stay remotely in the area,” said Abby, “but I really don’t know what I want to do. I like it here, but like Gary said, it’s a big world to explore.”

“Heh, I’m outta here after graduation,” said James. “I was thinking about moving somewhere west of here. I’m gonna be an adventurer!”

“You said Arizona, right?” Gary asked. “Doesn’t it get hot there?”

“I don’t care!” James declared. “It gets hot here, too! We live in Florida! Did you think I wouldn’t buy a house without air conditioning?”

“I didn’t say that,” said Gary.

“He was just asking,” Abby muttered, “but if you do move out there, just be careful not to fall into any ‘cactuses’.”

“Anyway,” James continued, ignoring Abby’s comment (or not hearing it), “I would stay out there for a while, get to know the place some, then maybe come back here. I like it here, but I might go and see what’s out there, ya know? Like you said, Gary, it’s a big world out there!”

“Will you guys quit stealing my lines?” Gary looked cute when he got irritated like that.

“Well, what now?” Abby asked. “We just about showed her everything.”

“Uh, I don’t know,” said James. “What time is it?”

“About a quarter after one,” Abby replied, looking at her watch.

“Let’s go get something to eat,” said Gary. “We can take Krystal to the Shady Palm Café.”

“Yeah, that’s great!” said James excitedly. “I’ll even pay for her food.”

“That’s an awfully nice thing for you to do.” Abby was looking at James kind of suspiciously.

“What are you talking about?” he asked defensively. “I’m just being nice to our new friend here.”

Gary and Abby looked at each other, then at me, then back at each other.

“I wasn’t trying to imply much,” Abby told him. “I was just saying that it’s not something you do very often.”

“Oh.” James almost immediately dropped his defensive position. “I just felt like doing something nice for a change. Now let’s go, I’m hungry!”

He took off again, and as usual, I followed behind him along with Gary and Abby. The walk back to the Shady Palm Café wasn’t very long. When I stepped inside, I took a good look around. The smell of hamburgers and fries filled my nose, making my mouth water a little. The place wasn’t crowded, but it still had a good share of customers. There was a 1980s theme that somehow worked well with the interior style. We made our way over to the counter and I studied the menu.

“Hey there, kids.” A fairly chubby guy with glasses and a balding head greeted us from the other side of the register.

“Oh, hi Bernie,” said Gary. “This is our new friend, Krystal. She just moved here yesterday.”

“Well, welcome to our town!” said Bernie happily. He reached over and shook my hand.

“Thanks,” I replied. “I really like it here.”

“That’s good!” he said. “If they’re going to be your closest friends, this restaurant is going to be one of your more familiar places. Let’s see, since it’s your first time here, how about I make your meal on the house?”

“Really? Thank you!” I said cheerfully.

“That’s … cool,” said James flatly. He was obviously disappointed that he couldn’t perform his act of kindness of paying for my food.

“I wouldn’t go around telling anyone this,” said Bernie quietly, leaning over the counter. “Now, what can I get ya?”

I looked back up the menu, studied a little longer, and then came to my decision.

“I’ll have the number one,” I said. “The deluxe size.”

Bernie hesitated to punch the order into the register. Gary, James, and Abby exchanged glances.

“That’s a lot of food,” Gary told me. “Are you sure?”

I smiled and nodded at him.

“Well,” Bernie chuckled, “it looks like we’ve got a good eater here! If that’s what you want, no problem!” He punched in the order. “What about you three? The usual?”

“Yep,” they said in unison.

Bernie rang up the orders, collected their money, and a few moments later, handed us our trays.

“I’ve gotta go to the bathroom,” I said to them.

Abby pointed it out. “Over there in the back.”

“We can get your stuff for you,” said Gary.

After using the restroom, I went to the sink and washed my hands. As I was using the hand dryer, I was caught off guard by something that flashed in front of my eyes. Since it was so fast, I couldn’t make out what it was.

Ever since I was twelve, strange visions flickered in front of me every now and then. I remembered what all of the adults had told me; during my teenage years, weird things would be happening within my body. Therefore, I always assumed that the visions were just a part of puberty, caused by random hormones going crazy, and that most people had them. Thinking nothing of it, I walked out of the bathroom and sat down at the table with Gary, James, and Abby, and started eating.

“Cool place, huh?” James asked me.

“This place is never packed,” said Gary. “Then again, it’s never empty, either. There’s always someone else in here besides us.”

“You’re already almost done with that burger?” Abby asked James in disgusted awe.

James swallowed the mammoth-sized bite he was chewing on, took a drink to wash it down, and then attempted to stifle a burp. When he did, I thought his eyes were going to pop out.

“I was hungry,” he said innocently. He glanced over at me, and then had to double take. “Look at Krystal! She’s almost done with hers, too!”

I got caught with the three of them looking at me with my cheeks stuffed with my deluxe hamburger like a chipmunk as I attempted to somehow suck out some more soda with my straw. Abby, who was disgusted by James stuffing his face, giggled as she watched me.

“She eats faster than you, James!” Gary laughed.

After swallowing all of the contents in my mouth, I smiled and joined in with a little laughter myself. James, however, just looked completely blown away.

“How did you …? You didn’t even choke …. That’s the coolest thing ever ….”

When I was finished eating, the three of them seemed amused that I finished before them, even though they had started before me and I had the most food. I waited for them to finish, and then we headed back to the residential area. On our way, our next plans were discussed.

“What are we going to do now?” Abby asked.

“I think Krystal should go home now,” said Gary. “We don’t want her parents to think we abducted her.”

“Yeah,” said James, “that would suck. They probably wouldn’t let her hang out with us again.”

We walked all the way back to my house. I was feeling a little disappointed that our day together was soon to be over, but I knew that tomorrow was going to be a whole new day.

“See ya tomorrow?” Gary asked when we made it back.

“Sure, okay,” I replied, smiling.

“Yeah, we’ll come get you,” said James. “Make sure you’re ready!”

“I will,” I said.

James and Abby turned around first, then Gary and I looked and smiled at each other briefly before he followed them.

“Hi, sweetie!” Laura greeted as I came into the house. “Did you have a good time?”

“Yeah,” I said somewhat dreamily.

“You look happy,” said Jack. “How was it?”

“Good,” I said.

“Did you already have lunch?” Laura asked. “I can make you something.”

“No, I’m fine,” I replied languorously, heading up the stairs into my room. When I plopped down on my bed, my eyes once again scanned the room. Everything was just the way it was before I had left, but it felt different. It felt better. While looking around, I realized just how good I was feeling. Maybe it was because I had found such good friends. Perhaps it was the town, as it was just right for me. Either way, it seemed as if I had found my perfect world. Nothing was going to stand in my way of living in this new perfect world.

Nothing at all.

To kill time, I snapped open pens from a new box, splattering the black ink over computer paper, then used my battery-powered pencil sharpener to grind down every eraser in an entire pack of unsharpened pencils, smiling from the scent of shredded rubber. I played with the bits of erasers, spreading them across the fresh carpet for over three hours before Laura reminded me to take my medication. Upon returning to my room, I noticed somebody had smeared the words “NOTHING AT ALL” in black ink on a large sheet of construction paper I had forgotten I owned, and looking at the ink stains on my fingers, I remembered that it had been me.


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