By SuperFolder Jar Jar Pleats
From the Journals of one CJ Whogley
I walk upstairs to my room, slamming the door and plopping down on my bed in one swift motion. This past week has been on another level of hurt. All the lies, all the deceptions, and from Alan of all people. Alan. Someone I considered one of my absolute closest friends. And just as our group begins to expand, and we start to actually make a difference, Alan pulls the rug out from under us all. Words cannot describe just how %*$$ed I am about how all of this went down.
He lied to us. Manipulated us. Analysed our strengths and our weaknesses, and for what? To take us down if we ever went “rogue.” The nerve of that — the idea alone was enough to make me want to punch Alan out even now! As if I, as if any of us would ever betray him. How blind do you have to be to not know your friends from your enemies??
Oh, and here’s the kicker. He had a file on me. Your friendly neighborhood pal CJ Whogley. And what did he say would break me? What would take me out of the game should I ever get out of line, like I’m some kind of animal on a leash, following his every beck and call?
Being alone. Cut me off from him, and I would break down. As if.
I stand up defiantly. No. He’s wrong. It’s not true and I’ll prove it to him. I’ll prove him wrong here and now. I rustle through the loose scraps of paper in my pockets searching for it. Nothing. I turn around and check my numerous backpack pockets. Still nothing. Finally, I check back in my shirt pocket, and find it at last. Oriobin. Ori-Robin. Foldbin?
I shake my head. Doesn’t matter now. Not anymore. I walk to my wastebasket in the corner of my room and grab my scissors. I’ll show him, I’ll prove I don’t need him.
Then why is it taking me this long to cut this thing to pieces?
I struggle with the scissors, but to no avail. My fat fingers are too big for these stupid scissors. I must have had them since I was six or so. I remember using it to cut the paper to the right size in order to make a few Ori-Robins prototypes. O-Robin?
I throw them to the side and they bounce off the carpet and under the bed. Fine then, I’ll just rip it by hand. I grab the puppet in both of my hands, tensing the paper at the folds that make up Robin’s green collar. I remember Alan showing me how to get the details on the coloring just right way back when. That seems like so long ago…
I sigh and rest my hands at my sides. I can’t do it. There’s too much there, too much of me wants to hold on to the past. I throw the wad of paper onto my desk and kick my backpack to the other side of the room, its contents spilling out over the floor.
I walk over to it, grumbling as I put the random papers away, throwing away old homework assignments and announcement papers. The anger was getting to me.
Among all that was the letter Alan gave to me before I left. I picked it up and inspected it. It appeared to be handwritten, from what I could tell, and was sealed in wax with the Wade family crest. Seriously? The dude had a family crest? I threw it to the side, and it fluttered softly out of sight.
I needed someone else to talk to, to get my mind off of all this. I looked up at my computer. Yes, that’s it! I ran over and signed into Fortnite, inviting the Young Justcrease members. I didn’t actually want to play really, I just needed a place to vent. But they would understand, right?
I sat back for about ten minutes. No response.
I jumped onto Discord. Yeah, they were online. They just…weren’t speaking to me. I called Maria privately in Discord. After a while, she finally responded.
She sounded nervous. “Uh, hey man,” she mumbled quietly. “Is everything okay?”
“What’s the matter with you guys?” I said with a frown. “I wanted to talk to you.”
“Um, CJ,” she said, staring at the ground. “Do you think it’s a good idea for you to be online right now? I mean, I heard about what happened and-“
“So what? I’m over it. I’m over him, and I wanted to play some games with my real friends.”
Johnathan Yen joined the call. “Uh hey man, I’m surprised to see you online right now. I heard about what happened. Rough stuff. You good?”
“I already told Maria I’m just fine. Can we join up now?”
Yen and Maria gave each other a glance in-call. “Uh, look man…,” Johnathan started.
“Y’know what, fine. Do what you want. I never felt like I was really friends with you guys anyway.”
“CJ, you know that’s not what he meant.” Maria sighed.
“I said forget it!” I yelled, slamming my computer shut. I instantly regretted it. I slowly breathed twice and opened the computer so I could log back in, to find that I had received an email. It was from an unknown user. I raised an eyebrow, opening it.
You’ve been betrayed. Used. You let your guard down and paid the price, and you still feel sorry for being angry?
You think Alan Wade feels the same way about what he did? Nah. He enjoyed it. You know he did. After all, it’s what he does. All he does is hurt.
I finished reading, my jaw clenched. Alan…he didn’t care. Why would he? All he’s ever done is cause me pain. I stood up and sat on the end of my bed, wiping tears from my face I didn’t even know were there. I looked down at my corner desk, Robin sitting where I had left him. I clenched my fists.
I tore the colorful paperwad to ribbons.
First day of a new semester walking around Murakami High, and already I’m bored of this place. The students, the staff, the classes, the whole stinkin’ experience.
It’s not like I really need to be here anyway. I’m already set, what with football scholarships and all. Hard to imagine, but my coach is already talking about conversations he’s had with people after games. People asking about me, about how serious I am about the sport. At this rate, I can get a free ride through some prestigious private high school and get into a good college on a sports scholarship without question.
So why should I be worried about Physics or Trigonometry? I mean, the fact that I’m at that level and I’m only about halfway through my high school career should prove I’m more than capable of graduating with the knowledge I need. I’m clearly good enough to get by and then some, so why do I even bother?
If you can’t tell by now, I have a bit of an attitude problem. At least, my teachers tell me I do. I’m hardly one to agree with what they tell me about myself, but if multiple people are coming to the same conclusion, there has to be some truth to it, I guess. The evidence would seem to point to that being the case.
All I know for certain is that I’ve been to detention more times than I can count, and each person that has done it has given the same excuse: “You need a serious attitude adjustment.” I disagree, but that’s not the point, I guess.
Another day comes and goes, and so far I was doing well today. Not so much as an aggravated or annoyed look from one of my teachers. But the day itself was beginning to weigh me down. You’ve had a day like that before, I’m sure. One where nothing really was going wrong, but the day itself was just tiring you out, and you needed someplace to go to get away from it. And for me, that safe place has always been Selena.
Selena has always been my safe space, someone I could come to and just vent, and she would listen and understand. When I spoke, she listened, and it was clear to me that she cared about how I felt. Even when it came to other topics, like coding or whatever new movie was out, she was always willing to hear. It was almost like she cared because I did. It was really nice.
We had tried dating before, been on a few dates, and for the longest time it was going well. To this day, I’m still not sure why we ended up separating. We had always been on good terms, though, and whatever had happened had seemingly passed by now. Maybe now was the time to try again? I would never know if I didn’t try.
I walked into the cafeteria for lunch, scanning the crowds for her face. I looked over and saw Andrew Valenski, a coding nerd from Technology class. I quickly turned away and scanned the other side of the room. I didn’t hate the kid, mind you. Matter of fact, if I started really talking to him we’d probably get along really well. But associating with him, in a public place like the lunchroom? I would never hear the end of it. Climbing the steep hill of Student Popularity was a treacherous path, and doing something like that was the equivalent of tripping and rolling into the mud. No thanks.
I spotted her, her long blonde hair swaying as she turned her head. She was smiling. Matter of fact, she might have been giggling. Wonder what she was up to?
In a moment, I found out. A kid I had never seen before was sitting in my seat, chatting it up with her. My seat. I glared at him from across the room, his back towards me. Nobody seemed to care about this, but anybody could have just as easily told him someone else normally sits there. What did he think he was doing?
I take that moment to create a game plan, one that simple jocks would find way too complicated and advanced to suss out for themselves. Most would barge in head-on and deck some poor lad in the face, but not me. No sir, I tend to go for a more multi-stepped approach, like an elaborate game of Mouse Trap. It was foolproof, and there would be no clear cause. I would be in the clear. I grabbed my carry-mug from my bag, still piping hot from the coffee that hadn’t quite disappeared by lunchtime, and untied one shoe at the same time. I release my bookbag so that it is leaning on just my left shoulder and hold the mug in my right hand, so that I can hold my lunch tray in my right.
I stand back up, just a little smug about what was about to go down. I could see the chain reaction that was about to unfold perfectly in my head, and started towards the lunch line.
By CJ Whogley
As I walked into the lunch room, I began to look back on my day, and I couldn’t help but smile a bit. The day was actually going really well, all things considered. No one knew me from my time with the finger puppet. For all intents and purposes, I was a new man. A day away from everything else back at Kane had actually done me a lot of good. At first I had been upset about the move to Murakami High, but after what happened during that field trip…let’s just say I was glad to get a change of scenery.
And boy had the scenery changed for the better.
I sat across from a girl, something that was typically a difficult task in its own right, and I was honestly surprised with myself. I was being casual, talking, flirting and the like. Hold on. Was I flirting? I don’t think I had even realised I was doing it at the time. I was just talking, or at least it had seemed that way. I suppose after leaving Ori-Robin behind, I was just more comfortable in my own skin. I wasn’t hiding behind a piece of paper. It was nice.
Even better, she seemed to be enjoying the company. We had a rambling conversation, jumping all over the place, talking about movies, comics, comic-movies, schoolwork, teachers. We were really getting along, suffice to say.
‘Were’ being the operative term here.
Another kid started to walk past me, lugging his backpack, tray, and a coffee mug in his hands (who brings coffee to school?). No sooner than I had noticed him did he trip over his shoelaces, throwing his tray into my face. I wiped the tomato soup and mashed potatoes from my eyes in time for him to apologise and duck down to tie his shoe. I instinctively grabbed the sleeve of his shirt, only for his backpack to fall off his shoulder, wheel around and smack me in the face with the full force of his three textbooks. I felt every one of them as I landed hard on the floor.
At this point multiple people were turning around to stare at me, the boy insistently apologising throughout this whole interaction. He laid his coffee mug on the lunch table to offer a hand to help me up. I batted it away, choosing to grab for the end of the table instead, only for that same coffee mug to tilt with the weight and spill on my lap as I sat back up. I could feel a searing heat where there definitely was not supposed to be any, and I yelped as I bolted up to stand, wincing in pain.
It was at this point that pretty much everyone else in the lunchroom began to laugh hysterically. When I looked up, this punk kid was sitting where I had been, trying to talk to the girl I was speaking with while she leaned over to look at me worriedly.
I didn’t know why or how, but this kid had deliberately set all this up. I just knew it. How else would seemingly everything he had on him be used against me, and end with him at the table where I used to be? He turned to look at me as I stood up, and gave a slight chuckle before turning back to the girl.
I grabbed him by his shirt, wheeling him around. “What’s so funny, huh?”
Suddenly he seemed much more worried about me than he had a moment before. “Look, man, I-uh-”
“No tell me, I want to know,” I said, tightening my grip. “I wanna know what’s apparently so funny. Why don’t you let me in on it?”
I looked at his now empty tray. “Ohhh, I see what it is. You haven’t got anything to eat. Well, my apologies,” I said, balling my other hand into a fist. “Maybe I can arrange something!”
The girl appeared from behind the other boy. “CJ, please, I’m sure he didn’t mean it,” she said, looking at the boy. “Did you, DayVon?”
I sneered at him, his eyes widening. “DayVon, is it? Well DayVon, I-”
“That will be quite enough!” a voice said from across the room. I wheeled around to see a woman walking towards us, a teacher or staff member of some sort. “Each of you, to my office, right now! We will discuss this later.” The bell rang as she turned to the rest of the room. “The rest of you, back to class! Right now!”
I released the boy, who gave me a slight push as I turned around. I wheeled back around again, ready to throw the punch I hadn’t before, when the tall lady grabbed my arm.
“That. Will Be. Quite Enough,” she said, her eyes narrowed.
I relaxed, turning back around to walk. Great, I thought. So much for a fresh start.
“Okay, walk me through exactly how it went down,” Ms. Leeker, the vice principal, asked me. “Exactly.”
I sighed. I don’t know how I get roped into this kind of stuff. It’s rarely my fault. I just try to be nice to people and all it ever does is get me in hot water. I don’t try to be rude or nasty. Really, I don’t. As a matter of fact, that’s the only reason I know these two guys that started fighting in the first place. I was just being friendly. There’s never any harm in that, right?
I started retelling the story, exactly how it went down. “I was talking to this kid, CJ, he was clearly new, and we started to have a conversation. I thought I might be able to loosen him up a bit, since he didn’t seem to know anybody. Anyways, we were talking back and forth, and DayVon tripped on his untied shoe, and his tray fell on CJ. CJ grabbed Day’s arm, his backpack fell and hit CJ in the face, and he fell over. Day offered-”
“You keep saying Day,” Ms. Leeker interrupted. “Do you know DayVon Williams very well?”
“We, um…I mean, that is to say we used to-”
“Ah, I see,” the tall, old woman said, glaring down through her pointed glasses. “Carry on.”
I shifted in the large, padded chair, like the ones you would see in a usual principal’s office. It was spongy, and just uncomfortable enough to keep you from sitting in one spot for more than a minute or two. “Day, uh, DayVon offered CJ his hand, and CJ smacked it away. He tried to pull himself up instead, only for DayVon’s coffee to fall over and spill on CJ’s…,”
I motioned to the general area. The woman rolled her eyes in response. “How juvenile,” she muttered.
“And then CJ reacted by trying to throw punches,” I continued. I was trying to be as truthful as possible here. I didn’t want her to think I was-
“And that’s all there was to it?” Ms. Leeker replied. “There isn’t anything else? Nothing you did to start this whole thing?”
“No ma’am,” I replied.
“You understand that I don’t believe that for a second, right?”
I paused. This was exactly what I was afraid of. “I’m…I don’t know what you mean.”
She sighed. “Bring the other boys back inside from the hallway.”
I nodded, walking outside her office. The two boys, DayVon and CJ, were glaring at each other, both at opposite ends of the hallways itself, two feet between them. DayVon sat with one heel over his other knee, while CJ was leaned back, arms folded, eyes narrow.
“Guys, you gotta stop this,” I told them. “Now I don’t know why you two are upset with one another, but you’re likely gonna drag me down with you.” I paused a moment. “I hope you’re happy with yourselves.” A pause again, longer this time.
“C’mon,” I said, beckoning them over. “She wants to see all three of us now.” They stood up, albeit slowly, and began to make their way towards the door.
It was quiet as we walked back in. Ms. Leeker didn’t speak, and neither did we. She paused a moment before she spoke, and when she did, there was no arguing with her. That much was clear.
“All three of you will be spending this evening in detention,” she said, barely looking up from her paperwork. “I’ve already made the arrangements with your parents.”
CJ nervously straightened up, and began to speak. “Um, ma’am, with all due respect, she – that is to say, Selena – she had nothing to do with this. She did nothing to me, and neither of us did anything to her. She doesn’t deserve to be punished.”
I turned to look at CJ. I had never met him before, but back at lunch he had looked a little down in the dumps, and I felt like he needed someone to talk to. I hadn’t recognized him, and it had turned out that he was relatively new to Murakami. But he had seemed pretty shy, and I hadn’t expected him to make any comment during this whole ordeal.
“I understand where you’re coming from,” Ms. Leeker said, still looking down at her papers. She sounded as if she had prepared for this. “However, I am not entirely convinced I’ve been given the whole story.”
“What do you mean?” DayVon asked, puzzled.
“What I mean is that I don’t believe Selena didn’t incite any of this,” she said, sounding slightly annoyed now. “DayVon, is it true that the two of you were once involved in a relationship of some capacity?”
“That has nothing to do with this,” I said quickly.
“Oh, but I think it does,” she said adamantly. Here she looked up at us. “That was why you started this whole incident, isn’t it DayVon?”
I turned to DayVon, more than a little surprised. Surely she wasn’t referring to…but that hadn’t had anything to do with… but DayVon was staring at the floor, not meeting my gaze.
“I thought as much,” Ms. Leeker frowned. “Whether you believe you were involved or not, the fact remains that you were very involved. Very involved indeed. And as for you,” She turned to CJ. “Quite frankly, CJ, I had expected more from you. A new student, seeking out a new start at a new school. Suffice to say, I’m disappointed,” she said, glaring up at him from her work. “Clearly your paper escapades at Kane were more of an issue than I had thought.”
CJ, up until then, had been staring at the wall to his right, not really listening. However, this mention of his other school seemed to unnerve him. He turned his head to face her, suddenly standing up and slamming a hand on her desk, the other pointed at the old woman angrily.
“You don’t know anything about me!” he snapped. Day and I jumped at this. If I hadn’t expected him to stand up for me, I certainly hadn’t expected an outburst like that, and given Day’s reaction, neither did he. “And my life is none of your concern!”
“And one more outburst like that!” she replied, standing up herself. “And we’ll consider suspension! How does that sound?” CJ immediately paused at this thought, then frowned and grabbed his backpack, marching outside and shutting the door behind him.
There was a long pause.
“So…” DayVon said, breaking the awkward silence between us. “Some weather, huh?”
She gave him a look that amounted to ‘Don’t push your luck,’ and waved her hand dismissively, and we took this as our sign to leave. As we walked out into the outside hallway, Day casually put his hands in his pockets and whistled slightly, as if nothing had happened. “Well, that was something, wasn’t it?” he said finally.
I shot him a look. I was about to tell him off, but I decided against it. “We’ll talk about this later,” I said, shaking my head. I turned around and made my way to my next class. I was already late as it is.
Day didn’t follow me.
By Andrew Valenski
I couldn’t help but stifle a yawn as I stumbled out of my classroom after the final bell and made my way to the library for yet another detention. Several backpacks and duffle bags filled with helmets and sports bottles smacked against me as I fought the current of students rampaging for the door. Once I finally got there, I couldn’t help but yawn again before I had turned the handle.
This usually didn’t happen very often, me getting detention. I mean, yeah, I’ve been known to try and catch a few Z’s inbetween class, but I always made up for it by the time tests or quizzes came around. I was by no means a bad student, I just… needed the break every once in a while.
Apparently, ‘once in a while’ ended up being three times too many.
I suppose I couldn’t blame Mrs. Jennings, or her class. I, for one, loved Geometry. I always had. But one night I stayed up later than I should have, the next day I fell asleep, so I got behind in work, which made me late to get some sleep the next night, and so on and so forth. It seemed like I had been playing catch-up in a lot of my classes for a while now. Always trying to get back to a normal pace, only to have more work thrown onto the pile.
I’m starting to grow tired of this place.
I put my hands in my pockets, waiting for the next bell to ring and signify that after-school activities had officially started. A slight nibble on my thumb jolted me out of the daydream I was in. I grabbed the little thing and lifted him out of my pocket. Gerald sniffed my jacket and looked up at me, almost as a greeting.
Gerald was a hamster support animal I owned, and he was no more than a few months old. I had been legally allowed to get him shortly before this entire sleep debacle had started, and somewhere along the line he got his wires crossed and confused being comforting with snacking on my fingers whenever I tried to nod off. Still, he was nice to have around, though keeping him healthy was a chore in and of itself.
“Alright, alright,” I said impatiently, stroking his head. “I’m awake, alright? I’m up.” I placed him back in my jacket pocket, still petting him with my one hand while I walked inside. I hadn’t heard the bell, but it was probably because I had also been daydreaming in the middle of the hall. I looked up just in time to see another reason I had probably missed the bell; there were already people here.
Well, one person, at least. A girl was off in the corner, facedown in her desk with her arms folded around her. I shut the door and looked around for a bit. No one else was here so far, so it seemed like we would be the only two here. I looked around cautiously before I sat down in the corner with her.
We awkwardly sat around for a minute before I finally decided to speak up.
“So….what’re you in for?”
She looked up, startled at first, but responded with an eye roll. The signals were clear – she didn’t want to talk. I decided to ignore those signals.
“Me, I got my dern self in a shootout,” I said, putting on a fake Southern drawl. “It won’t pretty, mind. Very violent stuff. I told thems they wouldn’t take me alive…”
She looked up. “And yet here you are, proving more annoying by the second.”
I paused, but only for a moment. “She speaks after all,” I said, pretending to sound unphased. “In all seriousness, I got caught sleeping in class again. Bad habit.”
She let out a slight snort in response, barely looking up.
I smiled. So far so good. “And yet you didn’t answer my question, little missy,” I continued, letting the drawl seep back into my voice. “Who are ye, and what’re you in fer?”
She paused before she casually responded, “Name’s Vanessa. And it was another dress code violation.”
Strange reason, I thought. She looked fine to me. She had an odd, almost hoodie/jacket hybrid on, but nothing too egre-
She must’ve seen my confusion, because she dropped the jacket and stood up to show what she meant.
Best way I could describe her clothes was as if she had been dropped off at a Hot Topic to do her school shopping. Lots of black, skulls, short shorts, and a shirt that pretty much didn’t have any sleeves. But what shocked me the most was that I hadn’t noticed her hair until now. It was a deep violet color, really bright, and she wore it in a ponytail back behind her head. It must have been hidden with the hood of her jacket.
She sat back down and put the coat back on, but she smiled a little, so I figured I must have looked shocked in some way. “Very, uh…adult,” I said, “Still, I wouldn’t think just one time would be grounds for-”
“My entire closet looks like this.”
I paused again. “…oh,” I said, looking down at the desk. “That’s, uh, I suppose that makes a, eh, a bit more sense,” I said, choosing my words carefully. It was no secret that dress codes for girls were always a little stricter than for guys, that’s practically common knowledge. Still, it was always a bit of a touchy subject for discussion.
She sat back down, her smile fading. “My Dad was always more willing to let me but that was before…”
She paused, putting the jacket hood back over her head.
She paused, before pulling the drawstrings on her hoodie closed. “Let’s just say a lot’s happened since then.”
Before I could ask anything else, the door opened, and my head jolted up instinctively. I must have startled Gerald because he began to pace back and forth inside the pocket of my hoodie. I looked up to see who was at the door.
Looks like we weren’t the only ones in detention this afternoon after all.
By CJ Whogley
After the last bell rang, Ms. Leeker pointed us to the library for detention, and we went without a word. I was still shocked at what I had said earlier that day. I couldn’t believe that I had snapped at her like that. That wasn’t me. That had never been me. Why did I do that?
My phone silently buzzed in my pocket as I walked. This time it was an anonymous text. It appeared to have been sent from a random email address, so it was impossible to block from my phone.
Seems Alan is getting along just fine without you. He just took down another Rogue with next to no effort, and word on the street is he’s not alone. No, he has a new little birdy helping him. Just goes to show how little you actually mattered to him. How unimportant you were. He’s landed on his feet pretty well after the D.C. incident. Can you say the same?
I cursed under my breath – all of this crap, it always tied back to Alan. This whole situation wouldn’t have turned out this way if I hadn’t gotten so frazzled about what he’d done. Trust isn’t an easy thing to come by, and it is so easy to lose. And Alan had certainly lost mine. I’m not sure if I can ever trust him again after what’s happened. Seems he doesn’t much need me around, anyway.
As we walked in, I saw a larger kid with frizzled red hair and freckles stare up at me. “Well well, come one and all, my name’s Andrew and I want to welcome each and every one of y-” I walked past him, unphased by whatever he was going on about. I took my seat at a table away from him and stared down at my detention slip. “Threat to violence; Outburst towards Staff”
My thoughts drifted back towards Alan. Honestly, I’m glad I don’t have to see him anymore. Going from one class to another, each of us trying to avoid the other. Neither one knowing what to say…
“What are you over there doing?” a voice said from beside me. I looked over my shoulder at DayVon, peeking over at my table.
“None of your business,” I said instinctively.
“No. seriously,” he said, pointing down at my detention slip. I followed his finger, and noticed I had been folding the detention slip while I was lost in thought. It was honestly just a jumbled mess of creases and pleats, at least that’s all it looked like to me. But DayVon seemed oddly fascinated by it. He snatched it from me and began to inspect it.
“Hey,” I said, “That’s mine!”
He handed it back to me. “How did you do that? That’s pretty cool.”
“Oh, it’s not really much of anything…”
“You’re kidding, right?” he said, pointing to it. “That looks exactly like a Cyberman from Doctor Who!”
I looked back at it. “I mean, maybe a little…?”
“Wait, really?” I turned around, and saw that now the freckled, red-haired kid had approached my seat as well. “Oh, cool, it does! Ooh, can you make a Doctor Who?”
“I-I don’t think I’ve ever tried…” This kind of took me by surprise. Why was anyone taking interest in this wad of crumpled paper? It was just paper, after all.
“Wait, I’ve got an idea,” said DayVon, wrestling his bag to find another piece of paper. “I remember hearing about some guy at another school a short ways away who apparently carries around a Batman–”
“I’m not making a Batman.” I seethed.
“Oh,” he said, turning towards the red-haired kid. “Uh, okay, but that’s not what I was going to say…” He pulled a comic book out of his backpack, Flashpoint issue #1, and pointed to the character at the top: Cyborg. “Can you make one of those?” he asked. “I imagine it would be similar to the Cyberman.”
“…oh,” I said, staring at the comic. “You mean Cyborg?”
“Yeah!” he said, his eyes lighting up. “Cyborg is so cool. The Justice League movie did him kinda dirty though.”
“Now on that, we can agree,” I said, turning back around. “You know, I may have something for this actually…” I opened my backpack and pulled out a piece of flattened tinfoil that was used to cover a sandwich. I slowly tried to mirror what I had done on the detention slip, changing small things here or there to make it look more like the DC Comics character. I hated to admit it, but it was kinda nice going back to DC Comics and origami. It made life feel…simpler.
By now, the red-haired kid was gone, trying to talk to some girl in fishnets and a black hoodie over in the corner. DayVon, meanwhile, had sat down next to me, studying the folds. After a while, he finally spoke. “Hey, eh, by the way…” he said slowly. “I probably should apologise for the way I acted back at lunch. It’s just that, Selena’s always been, I don’t know, someone I could trust. We tried to get something started between us, but it never really worked out. It almost felt like…like I was losing her, y’know?”
“You know,” I said after a moment. “If you want my advice, I would tell you you shouldn’t let yourself hold onto the past, at least to the point where it causes you this much worry. Believe me, I know. Being stuck and wallowing in that regret and that sadness will only ever make you feel worse.” DayVon looked down at the table, but he didn’t say anything.
“And, done!” I said, staring down at the finished product. The ceiling lights in the library made the Cyborg puppet, Cyborgami I suppose, glisten like a freshly waxed car. “There you go, DayVee ole chap.”
He glanced at it, and smiled a moment, before looking up to face me. “Alright, we are not making that nickname a thing.”
“Oh, now we’re definitely making it a thing!”
I looked over my shoulder as Selena opened the door to the library and found a quiet table alone. She wasn’t meeting my gaze, or anybody else’s really. “Psst,” I said, nudging him. “There she is. Maybe you should try talking to her?”
He gave me an eye for a moment, then looked over to her. She looked really upset. He looked back at me, skeptical. He got up, but he didn’t make his way to her immediately. I decided to follow and see what he was up to.
I walked into detention for the first time and found a table away from everyone. There were people staring at me, I was positive of it. I wouldn’t return their looks. I would just sit here with my head in my arms and just shut out everyone. I don’t belong here, I didn’t do anything wrong. Why did Ms. Leeker think this was all my fault? If I’m being honest, sometimes it felt like I was a child or an alien, too naive to see when something is wrong, or when I’m being suckered. It was all starting to make me so angry.
And then I heard a voice. “You know, you’re not going to get any work done with your head in your arms like that.”
I looked up to see Day, crouching down with his head in his hands staring at me. My eyes narrowed.
He clearly saw this, because he backed away and said, “Now hold on a minute-”
I stood up and slapped him clean across the face.
Day stumbled back in shock, but he composed himself enough to let out a muffled, “I suppose I deserved that,” before getting back to his feet. I shoved him. This time he didn’t fall over like a tower of cards, but he did stumble and back up a step or two. “And that, I guess.” I swung to try and hit him a second time.
“Now that,” he said, ducking out of the way, “would’ve been uncalled for.”
“You’re such an idiot, Day! You dragged me into this mess! This is your fault!”
He stood up straight, almost defensive. “You act like we were thrown in prison! It’s just an evening detention, it’s hardly the end of the world.”
CJ stood up, ready to intervene. “Hey DayVon, maybe now’s not the best time to-”
“You stay out of this, unless you want a kick in that coffee stain of yours. That sounds like fun to you?” CJ quieted down and eventually sat down, grumbling a bit about making the situation worse.
Day sat down again and looked at me. It was then that I realised that I had basically just started a fight in detention, and I began to hide my face in my arms again. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t started to cry. “All I ever did was be nice to you! And you drag me down because you’ve got a crush!”
Day reached over and touched my hand. “Selena, you know anything I’ve done, I’ve never done to try and hurt you. The idea of hurting you, whether intentionally or not, has never and will never cross my mind. I care for you…” I looked up and wiped my eyes. He had paused, as if he didn’t know how to get the right words out. “I care for you a great deal, and I want- I need you to understand that none of what happened today was your fault.
“If I’m being perfectly honest, I probably care for you too much. That’s what got the three of us in here. Not you, not even CJ, but me. I was selfish, I was jealous, and I couldn’t bear to think about what would happen if we were to just…just stop being us. And you’re right, you don’t deserve to be here with me, heck you deserve to be as far away from me as possible at all times. None of what happened here today was your fault. You deserve a better friend, and I-”
He paused again, but this time it was because I was kissing him, not because he was tripping over his words. It wasn’t a long, obnoxious one, but it was one just the same.
When it ended, I opened my eyes to see that his eyes were wide as golf balls with surprise.
“So,” I said awkwardly, brushing my hair back behind my hair. “Friends, huh?”
I was watching the whole conversation above from afar, and making small talk with Vanessa off to the side. I wasn’t about to get involved – that kind of romantic drama just isn’t for me. Besides, chances are I was the last person either of them wanted around, so I stayed out of it. I stay in my lane, and they stay in theirs. So when the three of them started making their way towards me, I instinctively figured this wasn’t going to play out in my favor. In my experience, it rarely does. I called them out on it before they even got to the other side of the room.
“Alright, what’s the gag? I know you two didn’t just decide to show up for no reason, so what’s the game plan here? Swirly? Wedgie? Ooh, you could go old school and stuff me into a nearby locker! That sounds like fun, doesn-OW!”
I grabbed Gerald the hamster out of my hoodie pocket and laid him on the table. He looked up at me, almost smiling. “What is your issue, dude? Y’know, I bet you’re gonna get just as much of a laugh out of this as they are, aren’t you?”
Before I could grab the hamster back, though, Vanessa had unleashed a hellish scream the likes of which never heard before or since. The three of us spun to look at her, shocked and ears bleeding. But all she did was grab Gerald up and have what I can only really best describe as a ‘Cutesy Panic Attack.’
“Oh my goodness isn’t he just the sweetest little thing you’ve ever seen!” she said, patting his tiny little head. “Oh, he’s so cute,” she squealed. While this initially freaked me the heck out, I quickly realised Gerald was in no real danger of being crushed out of love, and so I redirected my attention back to the other two.
“We’re not here to come after you,” CJ said. “Not that I know of at least. Actually, why are we here? I’m still not familiar with very many people around here, do you know him?”
“No, that’s not it at all,” DayVon said. He sat down adjacent from me so he could talk without staring down at me like a hawk about to munch down on a mouse. I still didn’t buy it.
“Listen,” he said, sensing my leeriness. “I’ve been a real jerk for a long while now, and for whatever reason it hadn’t occurred to me until one of my little stunts backfired on me earlier this afternoon.” He glanced at CJ before continuing. “I just wanted to apologise.”
“Well, I-” I started.
“You’re new, huh?” a voice said from beside me. We turned to look at Vanessa, who was cradling Gerald between her arms like someone would a baby.
“Um,” he said in response. He and DayVon shared a glance. DayVon shrugged, and CJ took this as a go-ahead to continue. “Eh, yeah. My Dad moved back to the area for work. It’s just far enough away that we had to move to another part of the state.”
“Uh, CJ, actually. How did you hear that?”
She nodded before continuing. “That’s right. My stepmother keeps a count of all the students in each class back at the house in a large binder. Likes to run a tight ship. Too tight, if you ask me, but it’s whatever.”
I turned to face her. “Wait, so that mean your mother is-”
“Ms. Leeker, yeah. And she’s my stepmother. I couldn’t bear actually being related to that woman. It’s bad enough that I have to live with her.”
“Oh, wow,” CJ said, wincing. “But you’ve got your Dad around, right?”
Vanessa frowned, handing Gerald back to me. She tapped the table halfheartedly, like she didn’t know if she wanted to answer.
I was about to blurt out something to change the subject quickly, but she spoke up just as I opened my mouth. “He’s not around any more. My stepmother filed for a divorce, and ended up getting custody rights in all the legal mess. I can’t see my own father,” she said, stifling a sniffle. “Not that he would want to see me anymore anyway.”
There was a pause, one that I for one wasn’t very comfortable with. I hate awkward silences, that’s part of the reason that my sense of humor is a bit of a mess. I say dumb stuff just to keep the silence away. Makes it easier.
Vanessa leaned back in her chair, and sniffed again halfheartedly. “And what about you, Seege?”
“CJ,” he said, frowning.
“Whatever. What’s your story, CJ? Everyone’s got one, and I’ll bet yours is a doozy.”
“Actually, now that you mention it,” DayVon said, turning to face him. By this point Selena had wandered over to the crowd that had gathered as well, listening in. “Ms. Leeker said something about you and your past earlier today. Said she was disappointed you wouldn’t be turning over a new leaf or whatever.”
“Ooh, I knew it,” Vanessa said, grinning. “Spill it, Chippy,”
“I,” he sighed. “Day, you remember mentioning that one kid from another school that carries a Batman finger puppet?”
“The school he went to is Kane. I know because I went there with him. I was Or-Robin to the Batfold.”
There was a pause. “What happened?” I finally asked.
“For a time, we created a group for ourselves. Several of us working together to stop a group of our former villains during a field trip to DC-”
“DC, huh? Cute,” I muttered.
“Anyway,” he continued, “we ended up succeeding… kind of… not really… something came out along the way. Alan had tracked and monitored them, analysed what would make them – his own team – fall apart should they rally.”
“He was really hammering home the Batman persona, wasn’t he?”
“It wasn’t just them. He catalogued me, too. Said that if I were separated from my friends, specifically from him…I’d break down too.”
“That’s…” Selena said. “That’s horrible. What would possess anyone to think that would be okay? I mean, that’s like invasion of privacy for a start, but that-”
“That’s just wrong on, like, a fundamental level,” I continued.
“The worst part of it is,” he said, sitting down. “He wasn’t wrong. I did exactly what he said I would do. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been betrayed, and I – I’ve pushed away my other friends in doing that. I’m letting my anger get to me, my temper is shorter than it’s ever been, I lash out at people for little things. It just hurts, man.”
DayVon frowned. “Did he have any reason to actually do all of this? Was he worried one of you guys would tear the team apart? Keep you from winning?”
CJ paused. “I mean, they certainly didn’t get along when we all first got together…”
“Well, if he did look you all up, he undoubtedly knew you guys would likely clash,” he said, crossing his arms. “My guess is he knew that if you guys clashed too badly, you might not work together. Heck, maybe one of you would actively work against them. And that certainly wouldn’t be good.”
“A hero teaming up with the villains never works out well, in my experience,” I said. He gave me an odd glance, and I shrugged. “What? I read comics too, on occasion.”
“I mean, I suppose that makes sense,” CJ said. “Still, I wish Ms. Leeker hadn’t brought it up like that. Clearly she knew it was going to set me off again.” He sighed. I just wish there was some way we could get out of this and tell her off.”
Vanessa, who had stayed relatively quiet until now, chose to speak up. “I’ve been thinking about that for a bit, actually,” she said. “And I think I’ve got an idea.”
I made my way down the hallway to the office. It was my best guess as to where Ms. Leeker would be at that moment. Sure enough, as I round the corner I see through the glass windows that make up the walls of the faculty office, and our eyes lock.
Ms. Leeker looked up from across the hallway, scanning my face. A moment later she was up and making her way through the office towards the door. She was about to tell me off and drag me back to the library for the rest of my detention, no doubt. Which was fair enough, but to be perfectly honest, I had lost interest in hanging out around here any longer.
My phone buzzed in my pocket again. Another text, probably. I ignored it. No time to focus on the past. Only here, only now.
She walked up to me, clipboard in hand, hair knotted in a bun and her eyes peering down from her sharp, triangular glasses.
“Going somewhere, Mr. Whogley?”
“Yeah actually,” I said with a slight smirk. “I was making my way back home.”
“You most certainly are not!” she sputtered, slightly surprised. “Really, CJ, I’ve said it once before, but I really expected better out of you at Murakami. This seems to hardly be a fresh start for you. I wouldn’t be surprised if you brought that ridiculous paper sidekick of yours along too!”
I turned to my right, to look down another hallway “Well, it would appear you’re going to have bigger problems than just me in a moment,” I said.
Andrew, DayVon and Selena appeared on either side of me from the hallway. Let’s hope this works, I thought to myself. We’ve only got one shot at this, after all.
“Well, it would appear you’ve made some new friends,” she said, amused. “But you’ve only proven my point, Mr. Whogley. These are hardly the most respectable crowd at this school. Then again, you sleep in the bed you make, I suppose…”
“You talk to us like we’re already too far gone,” Selena said. “We’re kids, not criminals!”
“Ah, Selena,” she said. “I’ll admit, you’re not usually one to fall into trouble, but after I found out you two were together at one point in time…” she glanced to DayVon. “I knew it was only a matter of time before you did something rash.”
“We’ve been over this, lady,” DayVon said, rolling his eyes. “Selena did nothing wrong, it was CJ and I that had the problem. She was not involved!”
“And all I ever did was fall asleep a few times!” Andrew protested.
“Excuses! All you kids ever give is excuses! Exceptions to the rule!” Ms. Leeker yelled. “None of you are exceptions to the rule! You’re not special! You don’t get to be treated like you’re special. Those that break the rules are punished for it. And there are. No. Exceptions.”
“Let’s agree to disagree,” I said. “Vanessa, do it now!”
Ms. Leeker frowned. “Oh?” She wheeled around to see Vanessaa, who had sneaked around the other hallway into the office by another way, and had her hand over the alarm trigger. The alarm to trigger the after-school-bell. She grinned as she opened the cover on the button, and slammed it down with her other hand.
The bell rang.
For a moment, there was silence. Then, a light rumble echoed through the halls, followed by a wave of children from after-school activities that day, clearly just as antsy to leave for the weekend as we were. “Hold a moment, stop!” Ms. Leeker said. “There’s been a mistake. You’re not allowed to leave yet!”
But it was too late. The flood of students reached us in a matter of seconds, and the others washed away in the crowd, blending in as they filed out of the doors.
“And Ms. Leeker?” I said, grabbing my stuff from around a corner. “Don’t ever use my past against me again.”
She attempted to sputter out a half-response that I chose to ignore as the last of the students left the school.
As I walked down the hill towards the sidewalk, I scanned the crowd for my newfound friends. DayVon waved and I reconvened with the group a moment later.
“That was sweet!” he said, as we clapped hands. “Did you see the look on her face!”
“I know, right?” Andrew said. “That was the first time I’ve ever really done something like that. She was so shocked she couldn’t say a single word!” They fist-bumped and laughed.
“I feel bad for Vanessa, though,” I said. “You have to go back home to Ms. Leeker, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but she’ll get over it pretty quickly,” she said with a shrug. “I mean, what is she gonna do? Send me to my room? That’s where I’m at most of the time, anyway.”
“You know,” Selena said slowly. “We make a pretty good team.”
“I’ll say,” Andrew laughed. “We should do this more often, get into some more trouble, try and keep Ms. Leeker in check when we can. Keep her from going too far, you know what I mean?”
“So, do we wanna hang out sometime? I said nervously. This was the first time I’d really gotten along with anybody else since I left Kane. I was still a little out of practice. “I mean, other than the next detention we’re going to get for sabotaging the after-school activities for the day.”
“That’s what I was thinking about,” Selena said. “You mentioned what you used to do at Kane with that super team, and I was thinking….what if we had a team of our own?”
“What, like the Teen Titans?” I said laughing.
“Absolutely!” Andrew said laughing. “We would need puppets though, right? DayVon’s already got a Cyborgami, you’re Robin…can you make others? Like, the other members?”
I paused a moment. I couldn’t believe I was getting dragged back into my life at Kane all over again. But…something about it felt different. Less, serious, less pressure. It sounded…fun.
“I might be able to whip something up,” I said smiling.
And with that we made our way home.
The Continued Journals of One CJ Whogley
That was two days ago. Ms. Leeker called my Dad, of course, but he got such a kick out of the whole retelling of the situation that he pretty much just laughed in her ear until she hung up. He told me it sounded like the trouble he got himself into when he was in middle and high school, and never said another word about it.
I just got another random text from that mysterious email. I don’t even bother reading it. Just like before, my time with Alan and Kane was behind me. It was time to look in front of me, no more looking behind.
Still, curiosity got the better of me as to who exactly was sending this to me in the first place. I grabbed my phone and scanned the settings, finding the live call feature on my messaging app. I pressed it, and it dialed a video meeting with my anonymous associate.
When he picked up a second or two later, he immediately started talking. “Look, boss, yeah I get it, but he’s not been responding at all this entire time, and I don’t know if it’s even doing any-” He paused, realising who was on the other end of the screen. “Wait a sec, how did you…”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said sternly. “Here’s what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna quit this crap-talking and go bother somebody else. Because if you don’t I’m gonna find out who this face of yours actually belongs to, and ask you again nicely.”
“Oh, well that doesn’t sound too-”
“In person,” I said, staring him down.
“I’ll say it one more time. Stay away from me,” I said, hanging up before he could respond.
I sat down at my computer desk and sighed. I leaned forward and a light glinted from under my bed and hit me in the eye. I winced as I held my arm up to shield my eyes, and moved to investigate what was causing it. It was this tinfoil styling on the sides of a handwritten letter, still unopened. Alan’s letter.
I paused to stare at it, flipping the glossy material over in my hands. Whatever this was, it was something he had really wanted me to have and to see when I left. Against my better judgment, I broke the wax seal and pulled out the letter.
Words cannot describe how angry you must be with me. Heck, I’m not sure if I would have been able to handle what you’ve gone through.
Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, I will state outright that I have no excuse for what I’ve done to you. It wasn’t deliberate, it wasn’t malicious. It just sort of…happened. I was afraid that this team-up would not be able to work. That it would fail.
That I would fail.
But I suppose I’m pretty familiar with failure, no matter how hard I try.
I hope that one day we can find it in the both of us to speak again. Because I won’t lie to you – I’ll miss you.
But don’t consider this the end. Enclosed I have a bit of a surprise for you that I think you may like. Consider this your graduation, of sorts. Hardly the occasion I would have liked, but nevertheless, I feel like it was time. You’re far better at this than you give yourself credit for. Maybe even better than me.
Don’t stop fighting. Don’t stop helping others and seeing the good in those that need it. And most of all, don’t dwell on the past you have here. Always look forward. Make something better for yourself. If you do that, then I’m confident you can be a better person than I ever was.
I laid the letter onto the table silently. I…if I’m being truthful, I’m not certain if I’ll ever be able to forgive Alan in full. But if he still sees some good in who I am, in who I can be…then so do I.
I opened the letter and found the present Alan had been talking about. An origami Nightwing. I placed it on my finger and admired the level of detail that had gone into it, the craftsmanship of it. Alan had spent time on this. This rivaled Bafold, and maybe even exceeded it. Alan had clearly wanted this to be his best piece yet.
I smiled as I turned on my computer and opened Discord. The Young Justcrease were online, just as I had hoped they would be. I joined the call.
“Heyy!” Maria said happily. “How’s everything going?”
“Hey, man, have you been doing okay? Jonathan asked. “I know we didn’t leave off on the best of terms last time.”
I smiled. “No, that’s okay, I was the jerk there. I wanted to say sorry for that, by the way. I was in a bit of a rough spot. Matter of fact, that reminds me. I made a few new friends over at Murakami!”
“Oh, really?” Maria said. “Do we get to meet them?”
“I don’t see why not,” I said, inviting the others to the call. “Now fair warning, we…may have made up another origami superhero team.”
Jonathan laughed. “What is that, like three for you now?”
I chuckled. “Something like that.”
As everybody joined in, I smiled and said, “Do you guys have your puppets on you?”
“Are you kidding?” DayVon said, “I haven’t let mine out of my sight!” They held up their puppets, DayVon with Cyborgami, Andrew with a Beast Boy, Selena with a Starfire, and finally, Vanessa shyly held up her Raven puppet. Each was made of shiny colored tinfoil, glistening in the light.
Jonathan laughed. “So what do you guys call yourselves?”
“Well, isn’t it obvious?” Andrew said, “We’re the Tin Titans!”
A: So you failed?
B: Listen boss, I don’t know how he called me from the anonymous number-
A: Let’s start with why you were texting and emailing him in the middle of the day.
B: Well, what did you want me to do? Pass him love notes in class?
A: Would have been better than what you ended up doing.
B: You know what? I don’t need this. Clearly CJ won’t be willing to help us take down Alan. So what do we do?
A: Well, you’re not going to do anything. You’re off this assignment.
B: Suits me fine. Wasn’t getting paid enough in the first place.
A: We didn’t pay you at all.
B: My point exactly. So what are you going to do?
A: Well, the Court will just have to go after Alan ourselves. Good day.
The story continues in Batfold: The Court of Origami Owls