Chapter 8:

Opening Up


At the end of school one day, Rayner was walking out of class. As he did, he saw Blake talking to a group of other students. He saw that she was having a good time with them and decided to let her be. 

As he passed by Blake, she noticed him and called out to him.

"Hey, Rayner," Blake said.

"Oh, hey," Rayner replied. "Sorry for leaving without telling you. I figured that you were having fun with some of your other friends so I was just going to leave to alone."

"Yeah, that's actually why I called out to you..." Blake's expression then darkened as she then looked back at Rayner with disgust. 

"Huh? Blake, whats wrong?"

"So yeah, since you never told me about what happened with your family, I decided to ask around instead. And now I know the truth about you. You're a horrible person for what you did, Rayner. I can't believe that I tried to be friends with you. You know what? Let's just forget that we ever spoke to each other."

"You can't be serious? I thought we were getting along fine." Rayner started walking closer to Blake.

"Get away from me," she ordered. "You're disgusting, you monster!"

There it was. The awful title that Rayner's peers had branded him with throughout his high school career. 

Raymer then closed his eyes as depressing thoughts began to flood his thoughts. I knew this day would come. I don't know why I even got my hopes up.

As Rayner opened up his eyes, he was in his bed at home. He was now in a foul mood due to the bad dream he had just awoken from.

Another nightmare... This time it was about Blake. She's been home sick the past few days. I hope she gets better soon. Rayner then got up out of bed and prepared himself for school.

During third period that day, Ari started a conversation with Rayner.

"You doing alright, Rayner?" Ari asked.

"Yeah," responded Rayner. "Why do you ask?"

"Just curious. I figured that you might be a little down in the dumps without Blake being around."

"Oh, no, I'm fine. It's not like I need Blake around to function."

"Yeah, but she's always the main person I see you socializing with everyday. She's been absent before but this is the longest she's been out. Do you know how she's doing?"

"I don't, actually. I haven't texted or called her since she's been gone. I don't want to disturb her while she's sick."

"So you haven't heard anything from her these past few days?"

"Right. Should I send her a text or something?"

"That would be nice. Yeah, just ask her how she's feeling or tell her that you hope she gets better soon. Something like that."

"Man, I hate sending messages like that," commented Ken.

"How come?" Rayner questioned.

"I don't know. It just feels awkward, you know?"

"It is not," Ari stated, sternly. "There's nothing awkward about wishing someone a healthy recovery. It let's them know that you're thinking about them in case they feel lonely."

"Oh, I should probably message her then," Rayner thought aloud. "I'll wait until lunchtime in case she's sleeping right now."

"Oh hey," Ken said, suddenly. As he got Rayner’s attention, he continued. "Rayner, you always hangout with Blake during lunch, right?"

"Yeah, why?"

"And then whenever she's absent, you dissappear in some corner of the school by yourself."


"So I figured, why don't you come and hangout with me and Ari during lunch?"

"Oh, I don't want to impose. You guys should enjoy your time together. I don't want to be a third wheel."

"Don't be ridiculous," Ari said. "Sure, Ken's my best friend. But I like hanging out with other people too."

"Plus I need more friends to hangout with," added Ken.

"Oh, um..."

"We won't force you to," stated Ari. "But please consider it."

"Yeah, you can find us chilling outside by the gym. It'll be fun. I guarantee it." Ken looked back at Rayner with a big smile on his face.

Next period, as Rayner settled into his seat, he noticed Rebecca staring at him as if she had something to comment about.

Rebecca is looking in my direction again, Rayner thought. I wonder if she wants to say something or if she just happened to be looking this way. I guess to be safe I should say hi or something. 

Rayner mustered up the courage to greet Rebecca and said, "Hey... Rebecca." His words came out less confidently than he had hoped they would. 

Rebecca simply nodded and said, "Rayner."

"Oh, you're not going to call me 'Monster' like you usually do? That's new." Rayner meant to speak genuinely but was unsure if he came out as rude. 

Rebecca looked back at him with a displeased look on her face. Her mouth was open as she wanted to speak out. However, she decided not to say anything and then closed her mouth while turning away from Rayner.

No remarks. She's acting differently today. Oh well, I better leave her be. I don't want to say the wrong thing to her and see her blow a fuse all of a sudden. 

After class, Rayner found himself subconsciously walking around the corner of the building for a quiet isolated place to sit.

Er... I'm doing exactly what they said I'd do. I want to go and see Ken and Ari but I'm afraid that I'll ruin the mood if I'm there with them... 

Rayner then picked up his phone and went to Blake's name in his contacts. He then started typing in a message to her and voiced it in his head.

Good afternoon, Blake. How have you been lately? I'm worried about you. I hope you recover and come back to school soon. Its been a little lonely without... No, that's not good. Let me try again.

He then erased his message and started typing again. 

Hey Blake, you okay? You've been gone for a while and I was just wondering how you're doing. And... send.

Rayner took a deep breath and rested  the back of his head against a wall. As he stared up at the sky for a good minute, his phone beeped to indicate that he got a text message from Blake.

The message read, "Omigosh, Rayner! I'm so happy u texted me! I'm fine now, but my parents wanted me to stay home and relax one more day since its Friday. Sorry if you were worried. I'll be back Monday. I hope you're making friends while I'm gone XD"

Rayner read through it and thought, Maybe it is alright to send longer messages.

Rayner kept thinking about the last part of Blake's message. She was basically telling him to make some more friends.

Rayner felt a smile emerge and thought to himself. Just reading her message was enough to brighten up my mood. Maybe I should put in more effort in befriending others. Especially when Ken and Ari keep extending their hands towards me to join them during breaks. 

Rayner then got up and began making his way to the gymnasium. Before he got there, he noticed something weird. He saw Rebecca, walking around campus, being stalked by another student. Occasionally, Rebecca would subtly and nervously look past her shoulder to see if her pursuer was still behind her.

Rayner felt like Rebecca was in trouble and decided to walk over to her and see what was happening exactly.

In a slightly nervous tone, Rayner walked up and said, "Hey, what's going on here?"

As Rebecca saw Rayner approach, she instantly power walked in his direction. She didn't say anything but her face clearly showed signs of distress.

"Whoa, its Kingsman," said the other student. He was a slim-faced male student with dark brown hair and a smug expression. 

"Who are you?" Rayner asked. This boy was a student he wasn't familiar with. Either because he was a newer student that Rayner hadn't encountered or because Rayner never had any classes with him.

"Oh, you don't know me? Well then, lemme tell ya. The name's George Thornweed."

"Apologies for not knowing you."

"No problem, Kingsman. I don't expect you to know everyone. But everyone definitely knows about you. You're the terrifying monster that roams around the dark corners of school."

The longer George spoke, the closer Rebecca started inching towards Rayner’s side. As George continued to talk about rumors and boast about himself, Rebecca whispered over to Rayner.

"Can you get him off of me, Rayner?" Rebecca said, hushed.

"Is he bothering you?" Rayner asked.

"He's freaking me out. Ever since we left class, I noticed him following me around wherever I went."

Rayner could tell that Rebecca was genuinely scared by George's actions. Rayner then interrupted George and went, "Hey, why are you following Rebecca around everywhere?" His tone was now daunting and had a sense of authority. 

"Oh, that. Don't worry about it, Kingsman. It doesn't affect you at all." George was dodging the question. 

Rayner stared back at him with an intense stare.

George felt a cold sweat run down his face as Rayner glared at him. "Okay, I'll tell you." His voice was now shaking as he was intimidated by Rayner’s expression.

Rayner sharpened his look while he was in suspense.

"Ugh..." George muttered under his breath. "Why is the monster butting into this?"

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you," stated Rayner. He didn't say it in a scary way, but rather in a genuine tone. Regardless, it still sent a shiver down George's spine.

"It's because of a buddy of mine!" George nervously screamed out.

"Huh?" Rayner reacted, confused by that response.

"I was following Rebecca for a friend, I mean! I was just trying to tell her that my friend thought she was pretty and that he wanted to ask her out."

"Oh," went Rayner, simply. "A friend?"

"Yes! Acquaintance, actually."

"And he wanted you to ask Rebecca out for him?"

"More or less."

"Then why didn't you just confront her normally?" Rayner’s voice grew louder as he felt himself getting slightly upset.

"It's not that easy," George retaliated. "She’s the damn Ice Queen! I'm not gonna let her bite my head off for some wuss that can't confess to her himself."

Rayner seemed more frustrated now after hearing George's last statement. What bothered Rayner the most wasn't because he was disrespecting Rebecca, but how George talked about his friend. Rayner then started to walk towards him.

George stepped back instinctively and went, "Hey, what are you doing? Stay back. No need for violence, Kingsman."

Without touching him, Rayner stood before the nervous student and sternly said, "Leave Rebecca alone! And watch what you say about your friend. I don't care if you're close or not, but don't you dare talk ill about them to justify your own actions!"

George's face went pale as he then screamed and ran off. While fleeing, he screamed, "The monster is going to kill me!"

"I can't believe that coward was badmouthing his friend for being afraid of confrontation," commented Rayner. He then turned to Rebecca, who was still standing behind him. 

Rebecca had her hands clutched over her chest while her face still showed signs of nervousness.

"I don't think he'll bother you again. You can relax now." Rayner tried to hide his own nervousness and began to walk off towards the gym again.

After taking a few steps, Rayner heard Rebecca call out to him.

"Wait!" Rebecca pleaded. "Please!"

Rayner stopped in his tracks but hadn't turned to face Rebecca. He was scared to hear what she was going to say, but also confused because her tone of voice sounded different than usual. He noticed that Rebecca spoke in a scared and somewhat desperate tone.

"Don't leave yet!" Rebecca continued to cry out. She then brought her tone down. "Can we... talk for a minute?"

As Rayner’s back was turned, he couldn't believe that it was Rebecca’s voice behind him. The Ice Queen who was known for having a sharp tongue now sounded like a completely different person.

"Okay..." Rayner said awkwardly, as he slowly turned to face Rebecca.

As he finished turning around, he was surprised by what he saw. Rebecca stood before him teary-eyed and with flushed cheeks.

"That was really scary," Rebecca stated. She spoke in a much more lighthearted manner that caught Rayner off guard. She removed her glasses to wipe the tears off of her face.

"Rebecca?" Rayner was at a loss for words. All he could mutter was Rebecca’s name in confusion.

"Thank you, Rayner."

As she thanked him, Rayner no longer feared any remarks that Rebecca might throw his way. For the first time Rayner could remember, he felt confident around Rebecca. He quickly walked over to her side and asked, "Are you okay, Rebecca?"

"I am now," she stated. "Now that that affair is dealt with. You really are the nicest guy, Rayner. I knew that you might help me out after reading the atmosphere."

In his head, Rayner was wondering what was wrong with Rebecca. However, he didn't feel like asking outright. Instead, he decided to bring up her statement about him. 

"You think I'm nice?" Rayner questioned.

"I know that you're nice," stated Rebecca. "I've seen how you act around others and how apologetic your face looks when you happen to come across someone who's unjustly frightened of you."

"Oh, I wasn't aware people saw me during those moments..."

"Most people don't. I'm just weird and like to spy on people. I'm sorry if that creeps you out."

"I don't mind. There's no harm behind it. It's unusual considering your reputation though. I thought that you hated--or I mean... disliked everyone."

"It certainly seems that way, doesn't it?" Rebecca looked down solemnly. 

"Is that incorrect?"

"It is," Rebecca stated, shyly. "In truth, I want to be friends with a lot of people but I'm incredibly timid and can never be honest with people."

"What do you mean?"

"When I want to get to know someone better, instead of speaking with them normally, I try to shut them up and make them hate me. Long conversations scare me, so I try to end them as soon as possible. I notice that I tend to try and shut people down more if I'm fond of them. Like you and Blake for instance."

Rayner recollected the moments when Rebecca made remarks at Blake and himself. 

"Oh, I see," said Rayner. His eyes then widened as he then asked, "Wait, are you saying that you're fond of me and Blake?"

Rebecca nodded in confirmation. She then added, "Even though you're awkward, you're always so polite with people and apologize when you think you're in the wrong. Blake is always doing her best to stay upbeat and form earnest friendships with everyone. I admire you both and want to try and become more like you two."

Rayner didn't know whether to feel honored by the compliment or stunned that Rebecca saw him that way. He decided not to think too much about it and continued the conversation. "Is that why you're being honest with me now?"

"Probably..." Rebecca stated, indecisively. "Or maybe it's because you helped me out just now." Rebecca shifted her vision to look Rayner directly in the eyes. "Hey, Rayner... Do you think that we could be..." Rebecca stopped herself from finishing her sentence. She then broke eye contact, closed her eyes tightly, and shivered from anxiety.

Rayner saw Rebecca strongly grasp her hands together, nervously. He empathized for her and wondered how long she's been dealing with her fears. It had to be at least throughout all of high school, Rayner concluded.

"Just forget I said anything," Rebecca suggested. "I shouldn't try to act like someone I'm not..."

"Rebecca," Rayner started saying. As Rebecca looked up at him, she saw his heartwarming smile. It was an expression she's never seen Rayner make before. It was just what Rebecca needed to see to be put at ease.

Rebecca took a deep breath and said, "Yes, Rayner? What is it?"

"If you're fine with me, I'll be your friend." While he was smiling at her, he was hoping that he didn't sound or look awkward at that moment.

Rebecca’s eyes darted around while she began to adjust her glasses. She stood speechless while her hand then started to shake, causing her glasses to shake as well. She took another deep breath and slowly put her hand down away from her glasses. 

Rayner witnessed Rebecca's internal struggle and wondered how she would respond to his offer. Rayner took note of how whenever Rebecca got nervous, she would always hold onto her glasses with one hand. He then recollected all the times he could remember of when Rebecca would do it. She performed this habit of hers just about every time Rayner or Blake would speak with her.

"I don't mean to sound presumptuous," Rayner started saying, "but I'm guessing that's what you wanted to ask me. So I just want you to know that I'm willing to be your friend if you want to be mine."

"I would like that very much!" Rebecca suddenly came out with. 

Rayner slightly jumped at Rebecca's sudden outburst.

Rebecca gasped and said, "I--I didn't mean to shout. I'm sorry..."

"It's fine," Rayner assured. "It must have took a lot of mental effort just to say that."

"Yeah, it did," Rebecca agreed, resentfully. 

"But it's a step forward nonetheless." Rayner smiled at her.

Rebecca blushed happily in response. "Phew, I feel so relieved now." She let out a sigh of bliss.

Rayner relished this moment with Rebecca, as he realized that she was dealing with inner turmoil much like himself. Rayner finally found someone he could relate with, he thought. But he didn't want to stop at sympathizing with her. He hoped to help her with her troubles and work on his own at the same time. It was a wish he thought was too good to be granted for but was hopeful for it nonetheless.