Chapter 7:

Brighter Side


Entering the last week of August, the school year begins to feel natural for the students and teachers at Wellspring High.

At the end of first period, Rayner and Blake walked out of class together.

"Ugh," Blake whined. "Why did I decide to take Precalculus?"

"Oh, you don't like it?" Rayner asked.

"Not really. I barely managed to get passed earlier math courses."

"Is there something you don't understand? If you want, I can help you during Study Hall."

"You mean it? Yes, now we'll become study buddies!"

Rayner laughed nervously and said, "I guess so, huh?" She’s as friendly as ever... But to be honest, being around her has been a nice change of pace these past few weeks.

As they made it into their next class, they said that they'd talk to each other after class and went to their own seats. Two seats to Rayner’s left was Ken’s assigned seat. About a minute after Rayner sat down, Ken arrived and greeted him.

"Whats up, Rayner?" Ken said.

"Hey, Ken," replied Rayner.

Ken sat down in his seat while continuing the conversation. "Boy, I had an interesting homeroom today."

"Really? How come?"

"Well, remember how Ari and I were talking about the guys that like to mess with me?"


"Okay, so they still do that. Nothing changed there. But I learned that they're doing it to impress Paula, little miss popular."

"Paula? You mean Paula Vinetree?"

"Yep, that's her. Last period, some guy went over to my desk this morning and knocked my notebook off of my desk. I noticed Paula laughing to herself and making fun of me in front of her friends.

"Well that's a bit rude. What did you do after that?"

"Nothing. I just ignored them and minded my own business. After they get a good laugh or two, they usually leave me alone."

"Doesn't it get annoying, though?"

Ken looked at Rayner with a serious look and said, "Yes. Yes, it does. Their shenanigans add to my daily stress. Oh boy, would I love to knock someone's teeth out one day. But, I digress."

"I feel bad for you, Ken. I'm lucky I never had to deal with bullying like that."

"Eh, it's okay. Besides, I-"

Ken got interrupted as the student that was assigned to the seat in between Ken and Rayner’s arrived and sat down. He was a shorter boy with black hair and a timid demeanor.

Ken leaned back in his chair to see Rayner and said, "We'll talk later, okay?"

Rayner nodded in response.

After class, Rayner began walking to his 3rd period with Ken and Ari since they shared Art class together. Blake decided to walk with them until they got to the building for her next class.

On the way there, Rayner went to ask Ken about their chat from earlier.

"Oh yeah, Ken," said Rayner.

"Hm? What's up, my dude?"

"About the topic we were on earlier..."

Ken got nervous for some reason and said, "Oh, forget about that for now."

"But I thought you wanted to talk about it later."

"Yeah. Later. A little more later. Later than later, actually." Ken went up to Rayner closely and whispered, "To be honest, I'd rather talk about this stuff with you in private."


Ari and Blake were completely lost and looked at each other, confused.

"Okay guys," said Ari. "You lost us. What are you guys going on about?"

"It's nothing!" Ken replied, still nervous.

"Yeah, nice try. You wouldn't be freaking out if it was nothing."

"I'm not freaking out. I'm calm, dude."

"Well," said Blake, staring at Rayner. "Do you want to explain?"

"It's not my business to say," stated Rayner. He aimed his head down to the ground to avoid Blake's gaze. He knew that she was probably giving him a weird stare, so he decided to avoid seeing the look on her face.

After a moment, Blake let go of the subject and said, "Mm... Okay, I won't bother you about it anymore."

Ari had also given up on it and said, "Alright then, you boys can keep it to yourselves." She then turned to Blake and said, "I bet they were talking about what girls they like."

Blake then looked back at Rayner and said, "Ooh, I wonder what his type is." She looked directly into Rayner’s eyes with a playful look.

Rayner fell silent as his face reddened. 

"Yikes," went Ari. "You're gonna give the poor guy a heartattack by teasing him like that."

"Aw, he knows I'm just messing with him," Blake said, endearingly. "Besides, he's too shy of a boy to talk about girls like that. Am I right, Rayner?"

"Um..." went Rayner, nervously. "I uh... I don't um..." His eyes were darting back and forth while wondering how to respond back.

"I rest my case." Blake went over to Rayner and raised her hand over his shoulder to pat him a few times. She then changed her tone to sound serious. "You better not start dating a girl, Rayner. She'll take you away from me and I don't want that to happen. We've haven't even been friends for a whole month yet. I want to hangout with you a lot more."

"Um... Okay, Blake." Rayner thought that she was acting weird but didn't want to tell her that.

They then arrived near Blake’s Economics class. Blake waved to the gang and said, "Alright guys, I'll see you all later."

As Blake walked over to her class, she spotted Rebecca and went over to her.

"Hiya, Rebecca," Blake said, cheerfully.

"Oh, it's Newbie. What nonsense will you spout today?" Newbie seemed to be what Rebecca called Blake.

"Lets walk into class together. We're seat buddies this period."

"Ah, I see you're going on about that 'buddy' thing again. Hmph, do what you want. I won't be able to avoid you in class anyway. Just don't expect me to respond to you after we walk inside."

"You said quite a mouthful today, Rebecca."

"Oh, shush!" Rebecca adjusted her glasses and began walking ahead if Blake.

Rayner and the other two witnessed that interaction and commented on it.

"Well it's good to know that I'm not the only person she teases," Rayner said.

"That girl is something else," stated Ari.

"She sounds like a cliché anime character at times," Ken added. "She’s always going on about friendship and whatnot. She's out here trying to be friends with everybody."

"That's normal, though," argued Ari. "Not everyone is like you, Ken. Some people want more than one friend."

"What do you mean? I have at least five friends, thank you very much."

"Oh, sorry," Ari said, sarcastically. "Did you include my little siblings in that friend count?"

"Maybe. Hey, how about instead of focusing this on me, we talk about you, Ari? How many friends do you have?"

"Are you serious? I don't count the number of friends I have, Ken. There would be too many to count. Sure, I mainly hangout with you outside of school, but I have other friends too."

"Ugh, fine. Let's just let this go, we're right by our classroom."

The three of them carried on through 3rd period the same as ever. Ken and Ari would speak throughout class while Rayner only spoke when one of the other two spoke to him directly.

Later that day, at the end of 6th period, Rayner walked out of his class with Will right in front of him. Will also had Study Hall next period, so they wound up walking  the same way.

Eventually, Will turned around and said, "Kingsman, it's unsettling with you following me around like this."

"Oh, sorry," said Rayner. "I didn't intend to scare you."

"Tch. I ain't scared of you. And don't go thinking that I ever was."

"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean it like that. My phrasing was off. I meant to say that I didn't want to make you feel uncomfortable."

Will looked back at him for a moment. He then sighed and said, "Look, forget I said anything. Besides, you're just quiet. You probably weren't skulking me like I originally thought."

"Of course not, um..." Rayner suddenly paused and looked back at Will with a nervous expression.

"Hm? You look like you have something to say."

"Oh, I just realized that I've never said your name back to you before. Since you call me Kingsman, should I call you Danver?"

"No thanks. I prefer to be called Will. I hear enough of my last name being called out during basketball practice."

"Oh, okay. I'll start calling you Will from now on."

"Alright. Then I guess I'll start calling you Rayner."

"Sounds good."

"Alright, we chatted long enough. I'm gonna go around this building to get to class. You can keep going straight, Rayner."

"Right. I guess I'll see you later then, Will."

"Yeah, maybe we'll even talk again in the future."

"Oh, I don't know about that. Our reputations are too different. You're the popular student that draws everyone in while I'm the monster that everyone avoids."

"Huh, I never thought about it like that. Its like we're walking on parallel lines, huh?" Will then walked around the side of the building to get to class.

I never thought that we'd interact like that, Rayner thought to himself. That went surprisingly well.

Suddenly, Rayner felt a tap on his arm as someone passed by him. He noticed that it was Rebecca.

"Hurry up, Monster," ordered Rebecca. "If you daydream too long, you'll be late for class."

"Oh... right," replied Rayner. "Thank you..." I didn't even realize that I was standing still. I'm actually grateful for Rebecca’s remark just now. Despite how rude she sounded...

As Rayner made it into class, he saw Blake wave at him and call him over to sit down next to her. He noticed that she had her math notebook out. He figured it was because earlier that day he told Blake that he would help her with her studies.

He walked over to Blake and said, "Hey," as he took a seat.

"Hi, Rayner," Blake replied, happily. 

"I see that you're ready to study now." He turned his head to her notebook on her desk.

"Oh, this? Um, right... To be honest I brought my notebook out in case you forgot about what you said earlier."

"What? About helping you with Precalculus? I wouldn't forget about that. I said that I'd help you, didn't I?"

"Right, sorry. I just um..." Blake paused awkwardly before speaking up again. "You must think I'm silly now." She then let out a nervous laugh.

Rayner noticed Blake’s change in demeanor happen so many times now. He decided it was finally time to bring it up to her.

"Hey um, Blake," he said. 

"What's wrong, Rayner?" Blake asked.

"Can I ask you about something real quick?"

"Sure. What about?"

"Um... I'm not sure how to say this, but I noticed that there are times during conversations when you suddenly act differently. Almost like certain things you hear or say suddenly turn you into another person."

"I don't follow..." Blake subtly twitched as Rayner pointed things out about her that she hoped would never slip out.

"I'm sorry. Is it wrong of me to assume this about you? I hope I'm not making you uncomfortable."

"No, not at all. You're fine, Rayner. I assure you, it doesn't bother me at all. It honestly makes me happy that you're so honest with me. I've never met anyone else like you in that regard." Blake's expression dimmed again. She realized now what aspect about her that Rayner pointed out and said, "Oh! I understand what you were saying now... Yeah, when I talk like that, I don't sound like my usual cheerful self. Sorry about that."

"No, it's okay," Rayner stated. "Believe me, I know it's hard to try and act happy all the time. To be honest, I'm surprised at how cheerful you can be at times."

Blake shrugged her shoulders and said, "It's not so hard to act cheerful. You just have to maintain a positive outlook and make sure not to take things personally."

"Positive outlook, huh? I need to work on that..."

"Aww, don't worry, Rayner. We can work on that together." Blake smiled back at Rayner, playfully.

"Er, okay..." Rayner blushed and looked away. He then nervously said, "Okay, let's just get to studying now."

"Okay," agreed Blake, happily.

The two of them began working on math problems together. Every few problems, Blake would get stuck and Rayner would remind her how to solve it and which formulas she needed to use. They then got to a problem that stumped Blake.

"I have no idea how to start this one," Blake said. "What should I do, Rayner?"

"Oh, you have to use the new formula we learned last week."

"Oh, um, I think I was home sick the day we were supposed to learn that one. I never got the chance to write it down in my notes yet."

"Want to borrow my notebook real quick?"

"Yes please." As she examined Rayner’s notebook, Blake was astounded by how thorough his notes were. "Whoa, you wrote down so much. You even wrote down the things that Mr. Leaves said out loud but didn't write for us."

"Oh, well yeah. I figured that some of what he says will be important later so I jot it down after I hear what he says."

"Wow, so you can copy his notes and his comments at the same time."

"Well, actually I focus on listening to him first and memorize everything that he says and everything he writes down. Then after he finishes, I write down everything all at once."

"Really? But after he finishes talking, he erases his notes to make space for the next lesson. How do you remember everything?"

"Oh, I actually remember things quite easily. If I wanted to, I could wait until I get home to write down my notes."

"What? Wow, you must have phonographic memory or something."

"Is that weird?" Rayner asked, nervously.

"No, not at all. It's amazing, actually. You're awesome, Rayner."

"Oh no, not me. I'm nothing much."

"Hey, don't sell yourself short. I've never met anyone with that kind of memory. You're pretty unique at the very least."

"If you say so. I'm still not convinced though."

"You're always so down on yourself. Do you really not know the good parts about yourself?"

"There are good parts about me?"

"Yes, dummy! Your just too pessimistic to realize that."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

Blake sighed and went, "Ugh, it's fine. Let's forget about this for now. Are there any classes that you struggle with, Rayner?"

"Oh, me?" Rayner thought about it for a moment and then answered. "Not really. Nothing comes to mind."

"Hmph." Blake jokingly pouted. "Okay then, Mr. Smarty-pants." She then let out a chuckle and said, "It's surprising that someone as smart as you had to repeat a year."

"Like I said, it was for behavioral reasons. Not for academic reasons."

"I know. But you still haven't discussed anything to me about that stuff."

"I know... it's just difficult to talk about that time. I'm sorry."

"Oh, I wasn't trying to guilt trip you. I should be the one to apologize. Please don't beat yourself up over it."

Rayner frowned and said, "People say that to me often..."

Blake was confused and went, " Huh? What do you mean?"

"Just now, you told me not to beat myself up over this. So many people tell me that in regards to my family's incident too. They tell me not to beat myself up over it but I just can't bring myself to take their advice."

Blake could tell that Rayner was losing self-esteem all of a sudden and felt bad for him. She then pulled out her phone and lightly slammed it on her desk to get Rayner’s attention. 

"What was that?" Rayner asked. He looked over at Blake's desk and saw her phone out.

"Hey, Rayner," Blake said, suddenly. "Let's exchange phone numbers."

"Numbers..." It took a moment for Rayner to realize what she asked him. As he finally did, his eyes widened and he asked, "Wait, you want my phone number?"

"Yeah, if I have any other questions about school work, I'll text you and see if you can help."

Rayner then gave out a sigh and said, "Oh, I see. You want my number for schoolwork. That makes sense."

Blake giggled and then said, "No, that's not the actual reason, you silly boy. We're friends, Rayner." Blake looker at Rayner with a genuine smile on her face. "I want to have your number so that I can text or call you whenever I want." Blake then gave her phone to Rayner. 

Rayner blushed and said, "Oh, okay then. Here's my number." As he grabbed Blake's phone, he added his number into her contacts. 

As he passed it back to Blake, she took it and said, "Thanks." She then dialed his number right away. 

Rayner felt his phone vibrate and pulled it out of his pocket. "Oh, is this your number?"

Rayner flashed his phone towards Blake and she replied with, "Yep, that's me. You better save it real quick."

"Right, I will."

The school day then ended and the pair walked home together as usual. During their walk, Blake noticed that Rayner seemed to be slightly more upbeat than usual. 

Blake nudged Rayner’s side playfully and said, "Well, someone seems uncharacteristically happy right now."

"Who, me?" Rayner asked. "How so?"

"You've been walking at a steady pace and you're back isn't slouched right now. That means that you're not upset right now."

"Is that true? I never noticed that I slouch when I get upset."

"Uh-huh. That and the fact that I can see your half smirk right now. Are you happy because we exchanged numbers or something?"

"Yeah... you got me. Is that weird of me?"

"Maybe so, but I don't mind either way."

"Its just that I was thinking that this is the first time I added a friend's phone number into my contacts. I couldn't help but feel a little gleeful with that in mind."

"Wow," said Blake, astounded. "You're so sad that it's actually kinda cute."

Rayner winced from the mental pain and said, "Yeah, you're not wrong. That's a pretty lonely way to think."

"I don't mean anything bad about it, though. After all, since I'm your main friend that means I get to hog you to myself most of the time. Especially now that I have your number."

"Right... Just make sure not to call me when I'm at work."

"I know. I'll just send you texts on your work days."

"Man, it's like you've turned socializing with me into a scientific formula."

"More like a quadratic equation if you ask me. I'm solving for x and x equals your time with me, Rayner."

Rayner and Blake then shared a good laugh with one another, to Blake's surprise. 

"I don't think I've ever heard you laugh like that," she claimed.

"Yeah," agreed Rayner. "I can't remember the last time I laughed like this. It's just that when I'm with you, I feel like I can actually let myself be happy. I tend to forget about my troubles whenever you're around."

"That's good," Blake said, smiling back at Rayner. "Hopefully someday you'll forget about your troubles permanently."

Rayner's face made a half smile. "You know, sooner or later that day might come."

Rayner felt confident for the rest of the day. As he got home, he received his first text message from Blake which was nothing but a simple greeting. Although the text was small, it made a big impact on Rayner's outlook on life. An impact that would greatly help Rayner in a trial he would soon face.