Better Than The Alternative? : Chapter 1

Jordan had been given a second chance to live after overcoming a very unique medical condition. While the procedure saves his life, the side effects that he faces are the last things a 14 year old boy would want. Convinced with what he knows lies ahead, is it better than the alternative?

Better Than The Alternative?
Chapter 1

By Rebecca Jane
Copyright© 2018 Rebecca Jane
All Rights Reserved.


Author's Note:I had never thought I would start posting a story until I finished with a current one I was writing/posting... As an author with an easily distracted muse, I am currently writing 4 stories congruently. Sorry I can't reign her in any more than that... So far shes focusing mainly on two of them at least... This one, while at times very serious, just seems to be a lot more fun to write for me at the moment. I'm still writing Guardians, promise, its just this one will probably be running neck and neck keeping the muses focus. I hope you enjoy the first chapter. ~Rebecca


 
 
Chapter 1

 

I was up early this morning, probably the only kid in my class who was actually excited for the first day of school. There were a few reasons I was excited, one of them more so than the other. For one thing it was my first day in high school, while only a lowly freshman, I’m still in high school. The second reason, and the main reason, is I thought I never was going to make it this far. No, I don’t mean academically, I meant I wouldn’t have lived to be here right now. I had been sick, and I mean bad sick, for the last 3 years. Bad enough that I was home schooled the last half of eighth grade when my parents and the school honestly believed that I was about to die. I showed them though, since I was bed ridden and bored out of my mind I hadn’t given up, so I continued my school work. That’s one thing everyone would agree on, I was a fighter, I’ve always been one. Even though I was always small for my age, even before I got sick, I didn’t know how to give up. It just wasn’t in my blood. So anyway, that brings me back to my story.

I was standing there in my room flexing in front of the mirror with a shit eating grin if there ever was one. Oh, sorry about the language, my parents sort of gave me some leeway when they thought I was dying… It’s a hard habit to break… At least that’s my excuse, and I’m gonna stick to it. So, I was admiring my reflection in the mirror, just standing there in my whitey tighties admiring the thirty pounds I had gained in the last four months. I wasn’t musclebound or anything like that, I had just barely passed one hundred pounds and for my height of five foot four I was down right scrawny. But the fact that I could stand on my own and not in the damn wheelchair anymore, I could deal being a scrawny runt. I did notice a few places where it appeared that I was starting to get some fat on me… It’s one of the side effects of the treatment that’s saved me… If I get a bit pudgy I can live with that, after all that’s a lot better than the alternative… That has been my mantra for the last few months as I started getting better. No matter what, the fact that I’m alive is better than where I was. Convinced that this day was going to be awesome, I finished getting dressed so I could go eat my breakfast with the ‘rents. Now I just need to convince them I’m not going to break so I can start standing on my own two feet again. I know they are worried about me, but I’ve faced down the grim reaper and lived to tell about it. That’s why I was still smiling like the Cheshire cat when I walked into the kitchen.

Mom was the first to notice me, and my grin when she said, “So it looks like somebody looks really happy today.”

Still smiling as I filled my cereal bowl, I told her, “You better believe it. Today is going to be great.”

Dad just lowered his tablet, just low enough so he could peer over it, hey who actually reads a paper anymore, and told me, “Son I know you’re excited, but I just don’t want you to get your expectations too high. You know…”

I interrupted him, “Dad I know what a bad day is…” I paused as I felt my mood start to darken, but I took a deep breath to push that thought out of my mind. I continued, “So no matter what happens, this is going to be a good day, I’m not going to let it be anything but…”

Mom had gotten up and started hovering, I think that’s just a thing that moms do, before she grabbed me in a hug from behind and told me, “I know sweetie, we just are worried about you. Are you sure you don’t want me to give you a ride this morning?”

Trying to break from the hug so I could keep shoveling cereal in my mouth I said, “Mooom I’m going to be okay… Besides I’m so much stronger that I was, I’ll be fine.”

She sighed, “Okay fine… But you know your stamina isn’t quite up to where it should be, it might never be back to where it was… I just don’t want you to overdo it. Remember I do know you quite well young man…”

I really did know my limitations, I didn’t really like them, but I knew… Sighing I kept on, “But mom if I don’t push myself how will I get stronger?”

Dad couldn’t help but chuckle softly behind his iPad, without even lowering it he said, “Just make sure you have your phone on you… If you need us call, if you push yourself too hard and you have any sort of relapse whatsoever… I’m going to take you to school every day and make sure I give you a big hug and kiss on the cheek… Every… Single… Day…” He then lowered the iPad enough I could see the smirk on his face with his one eyebrow raised.

Glaring at him, while I knew he was joking… Mostly… I also knew he wouldn’t hesitate to follow through with that threat… I just sighed, “Ugh… Fine… I’ll be careful…”

That seemed to appease them for a few moments, but after I rinsed my bowl out and started to get my backpack, Mom couldn’t help herself. “Honey… Now I want you to rethink P.E… You can still get a waiver… We don’t have to wait until…” She couldn’t quite say what she wanted to, but she didn’t have to. That elephant had been in the room ever since the surgery and my treatments started…

Trying not to sound like I was whining, because I totally knew I wasn’t, I told her, “Mom please… I know I won’t be able to stay in P.E. for maybe a semester or two… I have a chance to be normal… Even if its only a few months… Please can you drop this? Just for now?”

She came over and gave me a hug, and sighed, “Okay, for now… I know how much you need some sort of normalcy after… everything… Like everything else, just don’t push yourself too hard…”

She let out a long sigh and although she didn’t want to, she let me go. With a quick ‘See Ya’ to them, I was out the door to head towards to school. I’ve been walking the neighborhood for the last month or so, building up my strength and stamina, unfortunately I realized I should have been doing that with my backpack on… By the time I was a block away from school, I was sorely tempted to give one of them a call… There was no way I was going to let Dad embarrass me the remainder of my time public school though, so I took a five-minute break to catch my breath and continued on my way… I actually had prepared for this contingency, that’s why I left half an hour before school… It was only a bit over a mile walk, one I had been able to make in 15 minutes before… Not my fault I didn’t think to try it weighed down with my books and stuff before now… Due to my planning ahead though, I had ten minutes to spare when I walked into the building…

I stepped into the hallway and took a deep breath… My first thought was, yuck it smells like body funk and dust, couldn’t they have cleaned this place during the summer?!? Hey, that’s what crossed my mind, but its an old school. Hell, both of my parents went here, and they are like super old… Dad just turned forty, so he’s like way over the hill… Anyway, I found the bulletin board for the freshmen and found my name and homeroom. After walking towards where I thought my room was, I started noticing people giving me some strange stares. I almost said something, but then again, they were just probably surprised to see a kid make a recovery like I had so I did my best to ignore them. I hate to admit I did take a few wrong turns, so I barely made it to my homeroom before the buzzer sounded. There were several students still standing around, so I tried to find an empty desk when this huge Neanderthal looking guy looked down at me and started laughing.

“Hey little dude, do you know you’re at the high school? Shouldn’t you be in middle school, you know that building on the other side of the parking lot?”, the big guy said. His voice had changed but I immediate recognized Teddy, he had grown a lot since the last time I had played sports with him… You know from before… well you know…

Smirking I looked up at him, after all he was a head taller than me, and said, “Holy shit Tubby, what the hell have you been eating?!?” Look, I know that sounded rude, but ever since I’ve known him he had always been bigger than me. He had always been a bit on the heavy side, and that was just his nickname. It had never bothered him before, after all he used to joke about it too, so I didn’t expect his response.

Teddy bowed up just a bit and threatened, “Hey nobody calls me that anymore, do you understand. Just who the hell do you think you are runt?!”

While he looked pissed, I still didn’t feel threatened, after all he had been a friend and teammate… Well a few years ago at least, I still couldn’t stop my smile, but held my hands up and said, “Chill big guy, I honestly didn’t mean…”

Coach Bowen, one of my former little-league coaches, interrupted, “Hey what’s going on? Find your seat right now!”

Teddy just grimaced, “This ain’t over pipsqueak.” I just nodded, still not able to stop grinning like an idiot.

We all got in our seats and as Coach Bowen was calling out names, he was about half way through and he paused. He was staring at the paper on his desk, then he muttered, “This can’t be right…”

Rick, another one of the jocks, and also a former teammate of mine, asked, “What’s the matter Coach B.?”

Coach Bowen sighed, and said, “This name shouldn’t be on my list…”

Rick was confused, “Who’s name is it, coach?”

Coach just sighed and took off his glasses, so he could rub the bridge of his nose, then he said, “It’s Jordan’s name, you remember Jordan Taylor?” Yeah that’s me… Christopher Jordan Tayler, but I hate the name Christopher, so I go by Jordan…Or Jordie… Several of the jock types kind of bowed their heads, it looked like they were mourning someone… Holy shit, it was then I realized that they all must have thought I was dead… or something… I couldn’t help it, I started to laugh. That probably wasn’t the best response, I realized after the fact, but what could I do? It was hilarious…

Coach quickly semi-yelled at me, “Hey, what do you think is so funny?”

Trying to stifle my humor, I asked, “Umm Coach, why shouldn’t my name be on that list… I’m here…”

He looked at me in disbelief, hell most of the class spun around to stare at me. Coach then asked in disbelief, “Jordan?!?”

I nodded and said, “Present and accounted for coach…”

Tubby… I mean Teddy, exclaimed, “No fucking way!!! Jordie?!?”

Coach fussed, “Theodore!! Language!!” Coach then looked straight at me, and continued, “Son… We had all heard that you’d passed…”

I actually chuckled, again, “Umm Coach I think that’s just a rumor… I’m pretty sure it’s not true though… If it is, nobodies told me so…” The whole class started laughing, I caught Teddy looking at me and he just smiled and nodded, so I returned the nod.

Coach then said to me, “Well Jordan, I’m glad that rumor isn’t true… Let me be the first to welcome you back son… Before you leave to go to first period come up here, okay?”

I just nodded and said, “Sure thing coach.”

Since today was the first day, homeroom was a bit extended, so we could get all the necessary paperwork finished. Once I had everything filled in, I went up and talked to Coach for a bit. He was mostly wanting to let me know he had missed me, and that if I was up to it that I’d always have a spot on the team. I thanked him, and told him I needed to build up my strength, but I wanted to rejoin if I could… Several of my classmates welcomed me back, and Teddy and I compared our schedules. Turns out we have a few classes together, including the same lunch time, so we would catch up later. The Neanderthal did give me a hug and snatched me off of the ground and tossed me over his shoulder like I was a sack of potatoes. It was just a reminder of how stunted my growth was… Standing next to my friends, I did look like a sixth grader, I knew that… I refused to let that get to me though, so I just yelled out to him that steroids were bad, and he sat me back down and they all laughed at my expense. I only let it bother me for a few seconds, before I pushed those thoughts away yet again, and joined in the laughter. These used to be my friends, my teammates, and giving each other a hard time was second nature. I knew I’d probably never keep up with them in sports ever again with how small I was… I just kept silently repeating my mantra ‘It’s better than the alternative’ as I left to go to first period.

Today was an ‘A’ day as for as the block schedule went, that meant I had English, and Algebra and then lunch. Since most of us shared the same schedule, we had promised to continue our talk at lunch. They all wanted to know how I started getting better, so for the next two periods I tried to think of I way I could be vague… I really wasn’t ready for anyone to know exactly what they had done to do to ‘fix’ me… It was just too embarrassing. Thankfully with today being the first day back, classes were mostly just filling in paperwork and getting our books and stuff. That gave me plenty of time to think about what I could and what I will refuse to tell them. The revelations about the inaccuracy of my passing was essentially the same in English but word had already started to spread by the time I made it to Algebra.

I was thankful that the lunchroom here at the high school was a lot better than at middle school. We had several different lines available to us. There was a vegan line, pasta, salad, pizza, and then whatever was in rotation… Today it looked like shepherd’s pie, so hello pasta line. I quickly got my food and didn’t take long until I heard my name, well my nickname, yelled out from the jock table. Seeing the behemoth my friend Tubby had become. Ugh, I’m going to have to get used to calling him Teddy… There is no way he could resemble the same chunky kid I had known just three years ago.

As I sat down with the jocks, several of them looked at me like I was crazy to be sitting here. I recognized probably half of the guys sitting here from when I used to be a jock. The other guys probably moved here after I had been unable to keep playing. Thankfully Teddy and the guys I knew just sort of ignored the others. They all wanted to know what had happened, what had caused the turn around in my ‘condition’…

Teddy was the first to ask, “Dude, what happened? Last time I saw you, you were still stuck in a wheel chair…”

Looking at the guys who were wondering the same thing, I sighed, “They finally found out what was causing me to stay sick…” Sick… That word is like a huge understatement. I had always had a slightly nervous stomach as long as I could remember, but most of the time it really didn’t bother me too much. If I ate certain things, I’d get sick and it would come back up… No big deal, well at least until I was about ten and a half. Then it got much worse…

Rick said, “Yeah I remember that you couldn’t eat much… You started losing so much weight, the coaches ended up having to bench you…”

I told them, “It wasn’t that I couldn’t eat… It was just everything I tried to eat always came right back up… I had gotten so malnourished; my body had started attacking itself… That’s why I’m so damn short now…” I was trying to let them know why I still looked like a small kid, but there was some fear of letting them know what had caused the problem.

Teddy asked, “Well you’re looking pretty good now, well for a shrimp.” He laughed as he ruffled my hair. “So, what was it?”

I wanted to tell them the truth, I really did. There was just something that made me afraid to tell them exactly what had saved my life. I took a deep breath and said, “Well, you guys know how frail I had gotten? Well when they pulled me out of school last year I was down to 80lbs… The doctors kept working, but they had advised my parents to try to make me comfortable… I kept losing weight… Once I dropped below seventy pounds… I just knew it was going to be soon…”

I had to pause for a moment. Remembered the looks on my parents faces when they got the news tore me up on the inside. Things just got to me a lot worse now than it used to, about the only thing that got me choked up from before was Ole Yeller… Of course, that would have made a dead man cry…

Once I recovered, I continued, “Well the doctors kept working to find out what was wrong… They finally found out what it was… It turns out there was some mutant gene that was causing a bad reaction to cause problems with my hormones… My body was basically poisoning itself.”
One of the goons I didn’t know laughed, “So you’re a mutant? I thought X-men would be bigger.” Some of the other guys laughed. I didn’t find the humor in that at all, especially considering what they had to do to save me.

I laughed mirthlessly, “Yeah… Ha ha, that’s funny. Didja come up with that all by yourself?”

Teddy glared at them, then turned back to me and asked, “They fixed you though, right? I mean you’re here and you’re a lot better than the last time I saw you.”

I nodded, “Yeah they did what they could do for me… I might not grow much more, if any, from what the docs say. They ended up removing what was causing the problem… I’ve got to take med’s the rest of my life, but yeah considering what could have happened? Yeah I’m fixed…” I silently repeated the mantra ‘better than the alternative’ I hope it will be at least.

Thankfully conversations went back to normal things, mostly sports stuff since I was at the jock table. Even though I haven’t played in a few years, thanks to the internet I’ve kept up with my friends the best that I could. I used to get upset that they quit visiting me after I got pulled out of school… When I thought about it though, I couldn’t blame them… They didn’t want to watch me keep fading away. It didn’t take much longer for the bell to ring, signaling the end of lunch. Teddy, Rick and I dumped our trays, before heading to P.E. I did pretty good, I was able to eat half of my food at least. No, I didn’t get sick anymore, but not able to eat solid foods for so long, my stomach had shrunk to almost nothing. I have been spending the last few months trying to stretch it back out, but it’s been really slow going.

I had been looking forward to, and at the same time dreading, this class. I was ready to keep trying to get in shape, but I also knew it would be a huge reminder to what I had lost. Once we got into the locker rooms to change, it just reminded me how much smaller than I was than everyone else. I also didn’t realize that this wasn’t just a freshman P.E., we had upperclassmen here as well, and none of them new me. Actually, Teddy and Rick were the only ones that had a clue to who I had been before. Of course, the seniors, juniors, and a few sophomores had a blast making fun of the little kid in the locker room. Teddy and Rick tried to come to my defense, and even though they were jocks and big, they weren’t a match to the seniors, so thankfully I was able to get them to drop it for their sake. It was okay, I know I’m small… It’s better than… well, you know…

We were about half way through the class, and I was seriously rethinking my decision to not do the waiver. Dammit, I wanted some sort of normalcy in my life, at least for a little while…For as long as I could at least… I just sucked it up and kept going. All the calisthenics, and games we had played had just reminded me though just how weak I still was and how easily I tired now. I had run out of steam within the first hour, and not willing to give up, I just kept forcing myself to push forward. Then we started playing dodgeball…

I admit I used to love dodgeball, I was fast and agile, plus I wasn’t as far behind the strength curve back then either. While I couldn’t throw that hard now, I was still pretty fast and being small as I was, that made me a hard target to hit. Sadly, though I got cocky and starting talk smack to the seniors… I shouldn’t have, but I had slipped back into that old team mindset. We talked smack to motivate each other, the seniors just got angry. The more they missed me the angrier they got. Yeah, not a good idea, especially since my stamina was nonexistent towards the end of the match. I had tried to dodge, but I was so tired I hesitated just long enough, Lurch, I don’t know his name but that one was as good as any, slung a ball as hard as he could, and he hit me right in my right pec muscle… Well it should have been a pec muscle at least. The hit spun me around and the pain that shot through my chest brought me to my knees and took my breath away. I was kneeling on the ground with my arm wrapped around my chest to protect it…

Teddy was the first to me, “Jordie man, are you alright?” I just grunted unable to do anything but groan.

After a moment I barely was able to gasp out, “Fuck!!! That hurt a lot more than it should have…” I couldn’t say anymore because I started to bite my lip to keep myself from crying. I know that doesn’t make any sense, oh I’m hurt so bad I want to cry, so I’m going to hurt myself some more… No matter if it didn’t make sense, it worked. I was sitting down holding my chest when the coach got to me.

“Jordan, is something broken?”, he asked.

I shook my head no at him, he tried to pull my arm back, so he could see how badly injured I was. I just mumbled, “It was just a hard-hit coach… I’m okay… Can I go hit the shower? The hot water should make it feel better.” He didn’t look happy about it, but he let me cut the class short. Teddy tried to come back with me to make sure I was okay, but I convinced him I just needed to soak for a bit. I was rounding the bleachers in the gym, when I heard him confront the asshole… I just sighed and hoped he didn’t get in too much trouble. He’s a big boy, he could take care of himself… I hope…

I made it to the showers and stripped in one of the stalls. Once I was standing under the hot water, I finally let go and let the tears flow… I hated this… I couldn’t help myself though, I had broken my arm in soccer once and never cried… But now… Finally, I cried myself out and got dried off and dressed before the other guys came into the shower. While they were all getting their shower, I just sat there softly rubbing the soft flesh where I got hit. Soft flesh that should have been muscle… It was all I could do to keep from crying again. Thankfully nobody said anything else to me before the buzzer, not even Teddy. He just kept staring at me, with a worried look plainly written across his face. I didn’t turn around or say anything when the bell rang, I just fled away from the gym as quickly as my legs would carry me.

Thankfully, I had myself mostly composed when I got to my last class for the day. I was almost late though, it took me longer than it should have to get myself together enough to stop from hiding behind my locker door. As I made it into the class, a few seconds before the tardy buzzer, there were about eight tables in the science room, with four students to each table. When I glanced around, there was only one table with any vacancies and it only had one girl sitting there. I just shrugged my shoulders and sat down across from her. Several of the students started snickering as I sat down, I just looked over at them trying to figure out what their deal was. As I looked back towards the girl across from me, my first thought was she was kind of cute in a tomboyish kind of way. I think the term was that she looked ‘sporty’, while she had some makeup on she was dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt. She looked like she could have played sports, I’ll have to ask her. I couldn’t help but think she looked really familiar though, but then again, I had probably seen her around once I had gotten sick. Not too many students really wanted to come hang out with the dying kid… I must have seen her around the halls or something, that had to have been it.
I smiled at her, which caused her to roll her eyes and laugh at me. Her laugh was infectious, and I couldn’t help but laugh with her. I managed to ask, “What’s so funny?”

Before she could answer the teacher stood up, Mr. Reeves told us, “Alright, since this is science class we are going to have to set up lab partners… To keep you all from just hanging out with your little buddies look across the table, that person is your lab partner.”

Several kids groaned at that, most of the kids had sat next to a friend, but now had to partner with who was facing them. Since the girl and I were the only ones at the table, it was obvious she was going to be my lab partner. Something I really didn’t mind at all, after all I did say she was pretty cute.

Mrs. Reeves continued, “Alright, now that that is settled, while I finish a few things for the class, go ahead and introduce yourself to your lab partner. I hope you get along, because there isn’t going to be any swapping…” Most of the kids groaned again, but not me.

I smiled again and stuck my hand out, “Hi I’m Jordan.”

She laughed, “I know who you are. You’re looking really good considering…”

Confused I looked at her again, and still couldn’t place her. Then I realized that she probably knew who I was, after all I was the semi-famous dead kid come back from the grave. Still holding her hand, thankfully I had quit shaking it by now, I asked, “How do you know me? I don’t remember you.”

She giggled again, then looked at my hand still grasping hers. I blushed just a bit and quickly drew my hand back and tried to apologize. Which caused her to laugh again… I also realized I could easily fall in love with her laugh. She finally said, “You do know me… I’m Sam…”

That honestly didn’t help me much, so I asked, “I don’t know any girls named Sam… Is it short for Samantha?”

She smiled at me, but quickly looked down where her hands were grasped together on the table and said, “Yeah… At least it will be…”

I had only thought I was confused up until this point, “What do you mean it will be?”

She looked back up at me, and sadly the laughter had faded from her expression, “Jordie, it’s me… Samuel…”

Suddenly memories of playing with Sam, short for Samuel, in soccer, little league, and even flag football flashed through my mind… All I could say was, “Oh… Hi Sam…”

 
 
To be continued.
 

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