Piersdale High School, New Jersey 1994
The cafeteria was unusually cold today in Karen’s mind. It was almost the end of May and the noisy lunchroom still felt like Siberia on steroids. Karen was sitting at the end of a lunch table alone waiting for her friend, Jeanette Kean, to meet up with her. She hoped that conversation would be able to keep her mind off the chilliness.
Scanning the room to see if anyone else was displaying signs of being frosty, Karen came to partially conclude that it was all in her head. The other possible reason was that she wondered if getting a birthday gift for Terrell Dest was a good idea.
It wasn’t a good idea for a covert bodyguard to have romantic affections for the person she was supposed to protect.
Karen scratched the top of her head that was covered by long black hair that draped around her attractive ebony face. She ignored the obvious looks from the jerks scattered through the room that were looking for nothing more than a trophy babe. She was annoyed that it was taking Jeanette so long to get her damn food. She was afraid to let her mind wander back into the past.
She was glad that the powers that be didn’t place Terrell in her lunch period this year. She needed to have time for herself at some point in her life. She could remember when her parents told her what her purpose in life was to be: to protect the life of Terrell Dest at all costs.
They told her this when she was ten years old.
It was hard enough being part of a secret group that ninty eight percent of the human population had no idea ever existed. She could remember the day that her parents brought her to a certain meeting.This was where the children of this secret group of people called Linians were exposed to their so-called “purpose in life” .
Karen could remember that her ten-year old self could barely process the history of the Linkatsa Religion that the children were being taught that day. They were told that they were followers of the teachings of a man called Linkera. This Linkera was a man who existed at the beginning of time whose sole purpose was to fight this other “man” called Chaos. Chaos’ goal was to drive all mankind to insanity and, if he failed that goal, he would wipe out the human race completely.
Karen tried to shut her mind down from remembering the day she was forced to live for another person’s safety. She wondered how the world would respond if they learned about this secret history of human civilization. She knew that the Linians, since the beginning of time, have kept the story of Linkera and Chaos from the rest of the human race. Most of her friends weren’t Linians and it frustrated her that a whole other part of who she was had to remain in a forced shadow.
In what felt like ages, the lanky looking Jeanette Alexander sat down across from Karen with a lunch tray that had grilled cheese, fries, and a boxed apple juice on it. The cheesy odor meshed well with Karen’s personal pizza’s semi burnt ozone. Karen looked into Jeanette’s almond eyes and remembered the first time the two met.
It was at that very Linian indoctrination.
She could recall seeing Jeanette seated in between both of her parents, her little toothpick legs barely reaching the ground yet they swung back and forth with impatience as this tired looking but serene old man was introduced to the audience after that brief explanation of Linkera and Chaos.
They called him Mystic Calm.
He supposedly knew this Linkera personally. He told the children that he was alive for almost as long as the earth existed. Karen, at the time, believed in Santa Claus, so that piece of information was not a stretch for her kid comprehension. He went on about things like having respect for all living things and stopping Chaos at all costs. She thought that if the rest of humanity had ever learned about how the Linians put this much pressure on children, it would be labeled as child abuse.
The children also were told that they would have to protect a certain person at all costs. Supposedly this person would be able to take down Chaos at some point in the future. When Karen was told who this person was, she was surprised because she had been in every class with this guy since she was in Kindergarten.
His name was Terrell Dest.
After the meeting, Mystic Calm took Karen and her parents aside to an office behind the nondescript meeting area and told the three of them that Karen was to be Terrell’s primary bodyguard.
Karen snapped out of her remembrance by way of Jeanette tossing a mangled french fry at her forehead. Young Weathers laughed, but on the inside, she envied her silly friend for having a relative lack of responsibility.
As proud as she had become with the Linian culture, she learned eventually that fifth grade in public school turned out to be a joke compared to what she would learn to deal with…
Karen was trying to focus on whatever gossip Jeanette was blabbing on about. Something about Wilson Esco getting punched in his mouth by his girlfriend for cheating, but her mind was still fixated on her duties as Terrell Dest’s secret bodyguard.
She remembered learning from her parents that there were Linians that had positions in every single government around the world and that they could position members where they needed to go in order to fulfill their respective missions. They told her that certain members of the Piersdale School Administrative Board had positioned Karen since Kindergarten to have the same classes with Terrell. They figured that would be the best way for Karen to have some sort of understanding of her “responsibility”.
She made this whole bodyguard thing to be a game when she was younger. It was like a video game mission or something.
At least that’s what her imagination told her.
As she began her Linian lessons and started her physical training in the martial art of Linkatsu, she started to befriend the clueless young Dest. Fifth, sixth and seventh grade went smoothly for Karen. The two of them would do plays together and wrote cheesy adventure stories. She learned through her family that Terrell’s adopted parents were Linians as well. Karen felt a tinge of guilt about Terrell’s life being overly monitored, but what could she do about it?
It seemed that eighth grade would eventually change everything…
Karen focused her attention back on Jeanette’s useless chatter and quickly excused herself to go to the bathroom. The cafeteria still felt cold as she exited into the hallway. The dull beige of the walls gave Karen’s psyche the feeling of being a prisoner. Everything she did for Terrell when they were thirteen years old blew up in her face and she couldn’t explain to him why.
She made it to the filthy girls bathroom which had THAT dingy smell. It wasn’t strong but it had a persistent buzz that tickled her nose. It was like candy and mild vomit swirled together. She went to the sink to splash cold water on her face and her mind traveled back to middle school.
It was the day before she and Terrell were about to perform opening night in the school play called Tender Battles. It was written by one of their teachers who was a failed playwright. She remembered Terrell talking about that teacher, Ms Henderson, and how scary it was to put all that hard work into something and still not achieve what you want.
Karen argued that maybe Ms Henderson was meant to be a teacher and not a writer, but Terrell didn’t want to hear about what people were meant to do. It was at that point that he started to tell her about these weird dreams he was having. He told her that he had dreams about living these past lives that felt as real as the conversation they were having. She looked into his eyes as they darted around in his sockets looking for some explanation for knowing things like how it really was during the Industrial Revolution.
Karen tried to downplay her fears at the time because she was scared that he was remembering his past lives. The Linians told her that his essence was to be reincarnated over and over until the day that he was fated to face Chaos.
They also told her that he wasn’t supposed to remember these things as well.
She tried to comfort him and tell him that he wasn’t going crazy but he started crying and told her that he had always felt like he wasn’t who he was supposed to be. She started to cry and hugged him. They embraced for a long moment until he broke away and apologized for being lame. She tried to comfort him again with kind words but, by that point, he was beyond embarrassed and asked her to go home. She respected his wishes and left.
The next day, she didn’t see him at school all day. She started to get worried but her parents told her that he was just taking the day off. It wasn’t until an hour before showtime that Terrell showed up. But he didn’t speak to her the whole time. It wasn’t until after the show ended that he said anything to her. He told her that he need to be left alone to figure out things and she needed to respect his decision. She knew that his decision was final, so she did as she was told.
Of course, she still had to keep her eye on him.
It hurt her to have to watch over someone who she cared about, but was not able to get close to. She watched on as Terrell started to shut out his school friends one by one until he became a loner. This situation continued on from eighth grade onto ninth, tenth and the eleventh grade.
Karen looked into the bathroom mirror and couldn’t tell the difference between the splashed water and the tears on her face. She cleaned herself up and steeled herself for more of Jeanette’s yakkity yak.
She walked out the bathroom and bumped into none other than Terrell Dest.
Terrell was the last person of the face of the planet that Karen needed to see right now. She flashed him an awkward smile and he returned the gesture with respectful eyes to go along with it.
After a moment of silence and heavy glaring, Terrell said, “Hey Karen. How’s everything?”
She looked into his brown eyes and imagined how much pain he could have experienced through his many lifetimes and if that was what was making him go insane.
Reincarnation must be so much fun for the psyche.
Karen also knew an empty conversation starter when she saw it. But it would be beyond ignorant to just walk away, so she decided to play the social game. She smiled again and said, “The same old stuff. I mean the school paper is eating up most of my time; I have to hold everyone’s hand in there. Honors classes are kicking my ass at the same time. Thank God school’s almost done. How are you?”
“Me? I guess nothing really. My parents are getting on me about what I’m gonna do after I get out of school. I really don’t care, but I humor them. Love them to death, but the nagging gets a little tired.”
If there is one thing in the world that Karen Weathers couldn’t stand (besides keeping her Linian lifestyle a secret), it was people who just do nothing with themselves. The Linkatsa Religion gave her that sense of focus, especially her Linkatsu training. Long considered the most technical martial art ever created, developed by Linkera himself, she was the first person in Linian history to ever master it. The other Linians couldn’t grasp it, so they just trained in the other relatively simple disciplines.
It was said by Mystic Calm himself that Karen was officially the most physically powerful person on Earth. No other human being could stand a chance in hand to hand combat against her. Nonhumans, on the other hand…
If Terrell only knew that he had the best bodyguard in human history on his side, would he actually open up to her more? But she could never tell him that.
That really sucked.
Only for her, of course.
Terrell started to make the motions of moving away from her as he said, “I know it has to be hard for you that we’re not friends anymore. I’d like to be friends with you too, but with the way I feel about everything in my life, I really need to keep away from people until I figure myself out. I really hope you understand that.”
Karen could only nod her head.
He continued, “You have to know that I miss you. I do, but I don’t want you to see me like this. I’m trying to get over my mess. I know I will someday and I’m gonna make everything up to you.”
He grabbed her hand and gripped it with love.
“You’re my best friend.”
He let it go and walked away from her.
With the sound of his footsteps echoing away from her, Karen couldn’t stop crying. She realized at that moment that she wanted her best friend back but now was not that time.
As she wiped away her tears and composed herself, she started to head back to the cafeteria. She realized that this would not be the right time to give him his birthday gift.
But next year, when they’re seniors, he’s getting his gift.
And she’s absolutely getting her friend back.