According to Gabe, I should be enjoying these next three months because in June, my card is up. In June, he will start his murderous spree, and as number two on his list I shouldn’t last too long.
I used to think he was cool. He was friends with everyone, and like every other teenage cliché I just wanted to fit in.
His skin was a caramel color, a mix of Japanese and Mexican blood. With his black hair and average height, he was actually quite good looking. If it weren’t for his constant need for attention, he might make a nice date.
When I first met him, he went by Leo but in the span of our friendship he frequently changed his name. His real name was Gabriel but he only went by it when he wanted to feel god-like, which you’d have thought his ego would have called for more often. Leo was just some spiritual mumbo-jumbo about having the soul of a lion trapped inside of him.
And then there was always Tibias.
Tibias was Leo’s inner demon—inner annoying demon that is. I met him on a regular day in our 5th period American government class.
Sitting in front of me, Leo had his head down. I assumed he was pouting about his boyfriend Zach who had recently broken it off with him. I didn’t pay any mind; it was just Leo.
Staring at the page in front of me, I tried to make letters become words in my head.
That’s when Leo raised his head. From the back I saw him survey the room slowly. Turning around to face me, his slanted birch-colored eyes stared me down.
“Good morning sunshine, did you enjoy your nap?”
He remained silent but his eyes focused in on my face.
Great. He’s in one of those moods.
Taking the pencil from my hand he began writing something on the back of one of my stray papers. He looked back up and smiled crookedly before turning around and laying his head back down.
I went back to my assignment.
But again, my focus was interrupted. Whipping around in his seat Leo asked what had just happened. Not bothering to roll my eyes I told him and pointed at the paper.
I saw his eyes grow to a Disney character level of largeness as his mouth dropped to a subtle quiver. And here it comes, I thought. Here comes the show.
“… I’m getting stronger…” he spoke softly, “Kelsey, did I do, did I say anything else when I woke up?”
He started pulling at his lengthy bronze-tipped hair and looking wide eyed around the room.
“Oh no…. oh no, oh no, do you know what this means?”
“No, what does it mean Leo.”
“He’s getting stronger, Kelsey… that wasn’t me…. that was… Tibias,” he said whispering the name like a snake.
I pressed my fingertips to my temple and snapped, “Leo, you’re fine. You’re as strong as you let yourself be.”
And that was the end of it, for the time.
Leo had always been into witchcraft—not that he would ever openly call it that. He was just in tune with nature and connecting with his inner spirit.
He claimed he could do tracking spells.
“Four more years,” he teased.
Again, we were sitting in Mr. Smith’s class. Leo was talking about his grand master plan to kill all of his female friends four years after graduation. He’d been joking about it for years, how we better live it up and do all the things we wanted to do before he came after us.
“Good luck finding me,” I said loudly. “After graduation, I’m out of here.”
Looking up, I saw the corners of his mouth make a tight line and his prideful eyes glowered at me like a dog getting ready to bite.
My intention hadn’t been to challenge him, I was just done letting him say whatever he wanted without consequence.
“I’ve got my ways,” he said grabbing my textbook and flipping to an atlas of the United States. I guess I was done reading.
Taking some hair from a stray hairband I had placed down earlier he tied it to a pendant he wore around his neck. Then he started to swing it back and forth above the map.
“Close your eyes,” he said.
“Kelsey, I’m going to track you. You have to close your eyes.”
“Why do my eyes need to be closed? If you can’t do it with them open, how do we know you can really do it?”
“I just need you to trust me.”
Quickly, he reached over and covered my eyes with his free hand.
Sighing, I gave in and let him. I wasn’t going to play his game but I also didn’t feel like fighting him.
I heard the pointed edge of his crescent moon marble pendant scrape along the page before he dropped it.
“See,” he said lifting his overly lotioned palm from my eyes. “It landed on Washington, and that’s where we are.”
“Leo, you’re not going to track me. That stuff doesn’t work, and even if it did, I’m a child of God and I’m sorry, but I just don’t think He’s going to allow someone to use witchcraft to hunt down His child so they can kill them.”
I went back to my assignment.
After that, every interaction with the boy became a passive-aggressive game. There was the hard shoulder bump between classes. The domineering way he’d stand above me at lunch and press down on my shoulder as if he wanted to crush it. And the time he demanded I apologize for being a Christian because unbeknownst to me, all Christians hated gays.
There was a stabbing at our school in the May of our senior year. Not long after Leo’s hit list came out into the open. He had been good friends with the guy who did it, and several people were worried and murmurs circulated.
I remember my mom keeping me home from school because she had gotten this call from the principal.
“Hello, is this Mrs. Leavitt? There has been a hit list discovered at the high school and your daughter’s name was on it. In light of recent events, we’d advise that you keep her home today. Also, a police officer will be conducting interviews with those on the list, do they have your permission to drop by?”
The officer was a thin and muscular blonde; she was friendly and non-threatening. As she sat across from me on my tan wrinkled couch I didn’t know what to say. Yeah, I had always known about the list. It’s something he’d been joking about since 8th grade. He even gave us numbers. I started as #27, but when we had our spat earlier in the year he moved me up to second in line.
I told the officer that I wasn’t scared of him. And I meant it. He’s not going to hurt me, but I do think he’s going to hurt someone, someday. Because out of the lips, comes forth the heart.
After the interviews, the police summed up Leo’s plot as a strange high school hoax and things went back to normal. Leo went on being his passive aggressive dramatist and I went back to an elevated state of annoyance.
When graduation finally came, it passed by in a blur of black and white robes and close-toes shoes; after hopping from graduation party to graduation party I eventually found myself lying down on my living room couch. Fancy clothes off. Comfy ones on. And no shoes. I was happy.
With a small buzz, I saw my phone light up from the corner of my eye.
“Where r u?”
It was one of my friends.
“At home. Tired. What’s up?” I responded hoping they’d get the hint.
“We’re all at Leo’s. U should come over.”
“I don’t think Leo wants me there…,”I sent back.
“So, we want u here. He won’t care.”
The conversation went on, and when I was finally convinced that this was our last hoorah together, I found myself putting my big kid clothes back on and shuffling out to my car.
The sun was just starting to go down when I pulled into his gravel designated parking area. I could see the remnants of what I’m sure was delicious hot food and lots of left over sugar that would give me quite the stomach ache later. But everyone was pulled in close to a medium sized bonfire near the side of his house.
As I sat in an open seat, my friends welcomed me. And I heard Leo’s high octave voice greet me,
“Kelsey, you’re here,” he said drawing out each syllable as if to strangle it.
His words were about as friendly as the poisonous plants he kept in his room. But I decided that I didn’t care and it was his fault for inviting me.
Though, as I tried to enjoy our mindless conversation I could feel Leo’s distain like a spider on my neck.
Our conversation drifted to the movie Hairspray, at this time it was still relatively new. And Amanda Bynes was still relatively normal.
Leo broke out into the movies beginning song: Good Morning Baltimore. And stood up on his chair and did an imitation of Nikki Blonsky’s character singing on top of the city bus. Except he was wiggling all about and shaking his not existent chest rather violently.
“Can’t you all see Kelsey singing this and jiggling all about? She’d be perfect. Jiggle jiggle jiggle,” he said.
His subtly was lost in the cutting silence.
He had sunk down to a fat joke. I saw eyes from around the glow of the fire dart quick glares at him and then focus in on my demeanor. I suppose I wasn’t surprised.
Someone changed the subject, and after a few minutes of awkward conversation I decided I wouldn’t stay much longer.
As I walked to my car, I felt a cool relief wash over me. I would never have to see Leo again. Dropping into the driver seat I stared out at the diminishing fire. I wouldn’t miss him, I thought. And with that I started the engine, pulled out, and drove away.
I didn’t look back.