A Blank Page - Chapter 2


A Blank Page
Chapter 2
By Flummox


Jameson quietly closed his youngest child’s door. He hated seeing him like this. So depressed all the time. When Raymond had been younger he had always been a bubbly, happy child. It had been rare to see him without a smile on his face. What had changed? Was he a failure as a father? Had he simply not given him enough attention or love?

When Ray slept through dinner that night, he and his wife decided to let him sleep. They could discuss his report card later, more privately when his siblings weren’t around. The two of them had taken a look at it together already, and had decided this was for the best. Evalyn and Sebastian had inquired about his whereabouts at dinner, and they were told the truth, he was too tired to eat. Evalyn excepted this without question but Sebastian looked… bothered. The four of them had discussed their grades, what could be improved on, what their strengths and weaknesses were, and other related topics for a couple of hours. Then they had finished with some dessert, and a brief discussion about what they wanted to do in life.

Sebastian had a pretty good idea of where he wanted to go in life. He hoped to win a sports scholarship to a college or university, from there he wanted to try and go pro while studying mechanics and engineering. His grades were good with straight As and Bs with the exception of History where he had a C. Bottom line was that he had the grades he needed to do what he wanted. Even if he didn’t get a scholarship.

Evalyn wasn’t quite as organized. She attended class every day, was a model student with straight As in all of her subjects but mathematics. In this alone she had a B, and it infuriated her. She would spend hours pouring over practice problems every week, nailing the formulas and algorithms into her head, but when it came down to exams she would often choke. Staring blankly at the test, she would be lucky if she even finished it, let alone ace it. For these reasons, it drove her insane that her little brother Raymond could sleep through his math classes, miss entire homework assignments, and STILL pass his math classes almost effortlessly. Sure, he usually only achieved a C or a B in math, but everyone in the family knew that if Ray applied himself, even just a little, he could easily get an A.

As for life goals, Evalyn changed her mind on a weekly basis. One day she would want to be a physicist. The next a lawyer. Maybe the week after that a doctor. She really had no clue, but with her grades and drive, her parents really weren’t worried. They had no doubt that she would figure it out eventually.

“Wha’cha thinking about?” asked his wife quietly as she wrapped her arms around him.

It occurred to him that he had been standing in the hallway for the last 5 minutes staring at an old family photo.

“Just how lucky we are.” He replied with a smile, gently taking her hand in his.

He turned to face his wife. At 42 she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever lain eyes on. Catalina Danahy stood at 5’8, wore her bright red hair at shoulder length, and had the deepest green eyes. He could spend hours staring into those emeralds. In fact, he had spent hours staring into them on certain occasions. Such as the night they were married, and the nights when each of their children had been born.

“We have incredible children.” He said, drawing her into his embrace.

“Oh of course.” She replied matter-of-factly, resting her head on his chest, “There has never been a doubt in my mind.”

“Oh really?” he said, raising his voice teasingly, “Even Raymond?”

There was a moments silence in which the two of them just stood there. Wrapped in each other’s embrace.

“Raymond… just needs to figure himself out.” She began carefully, “He’s not like you and Seb.”

That prompted a heavy sigh from Jameson.

“I know. He’s a good kid, I just…”, Jameson looked at his youngest son in the family portrait on the wall, trying to gather his thoughts, “Sometimes I just don’t know what to say to him. He always seems to be lost in his own world.”

That elicited a giggle from his wife.

“If I recall correctly, Mr. Danahy,” Catalina began, looking up into her husband’s eyes, “we first met because YOU were too busy staring off into space to watch where you were going.” She said teasingly. “You nearly trampled right over me!”

Jameson couldn’t help but smile at the memory from their time in college, “Well of course! I had just seen the most beautiful sight of my life!”

Catalina smiled at the flattery.

“Yes, I believe her name was Jill Montgomry.” Jameson finished.

Catalina’s jaw dropped in mock outrage, and she gently punched her husbands arm.

He laughed and pulled her back to him, pressing his lips to hers.

As the couple went about getting ready for bed, Catalina turned to him again.

“Seriously though Jameson. What are we going to do about Raymond?”

Sighing again, Jameson just shook his head. He didn’t have an answer, but tomorrow was Saturday. They could try and figure it out then. Together.
 

~o~O~o~

 

Maya ran across the barren plateau as massive tentacles burst from the ground all around her. She spun around, pulling out her trusty SMG as she did, and let loose a volley of mysterious purple glowing bullets. As they connected with her target, the massive squid-like monster’s main body, she saw out of the corner of her eye the short Mexican man, Salvador, pull out a second gun with a crazy laugh. The purple bullets served their purpose and caused the boss to begin giving off a sickly glow.

Finish it!

As Salvador let loose explosive blast after explosive blast with his dual pistols, a massive streak flew through the air and connected with the skyscraper sized abomination. Maya knew the streak originated from the edge of the small plateau where another ally, the alien looking Zero, stood with his sniper rifle in hand. On her left the teenage genius Gaige was summoning forth her deathtrap, a massive robot guardian she had built from scraps. A moment later the robot was assaulting the monster as well.

Switching to a different SMG, Maya too, began emptying all her ammo into the monster. A moment later, with a large crash, ‘Terramorphous the Invincible’ was finally vanquished. As it’s body collapsed to the ground, tiny glowing specs began to burst forth from it’s corpse like a geyser. The specs were loot. Items, and each item had a different color. They were mostly white, with some being green, a few being blue, a small number being purple, and somewhere, there was guaranteed to be a single golden item.
 

~o~O~o~

 
“Niiiiiiiice fight.” Came a voice through the headset.

Raymond slumped back against his bed. That had been intense.

“Yeah, no kidding!” said another.

“Anyone see the legendary?!” asked a very eager third voice.

“Yeah it’s over here.” Replied Raymond, spotting the golden loot and steering his character, the siren Maya, towards it.

“What did we get Rayny?!” asked the third voice excitedly.

“Oooooh nice! We got a ‘Hide of Terramorphous’!” Raymond replied happily.

All three of his teammates expressed their pleasure.

“Let’s go back to Sanctuary and we’ll dupe it!” The first voice suggested. No one disagreed.

A short time later the party was back in the game’s main town, and each had a copy of the special item.

Raymond looked at the clock. It was 9:00 am. His family would be getting up anytime now, and there was no doubt in his mind his parents would want to discuss his report card.

“It was fun guys, but I gotta go. Have a great day or night or whatever.”

“Bye Rayny!” the three voices said almost simultaneously.

“Bye Cake, bye Bunny, bye Noob.” he replied before signing out and shutting down his Xbox.

He sighed heavily. He wished he could play with them more often. C4keIs4L!e, KiLLerBuNNy, and n00bSauce, more commonly referred to as Cake, Bunny, and Noob, were the screennames of three of his online friends. They had been playing video games together online for years. Unfortunately, as they lived in different time zones, they could not always find time to play with their often-conflicting schedules. To them, he wasn’t Raymond the chubby, nerdy kid. No, He was their friend RaynyDayz, who together with they had toppled evil empires, slain evil villains, and saved many different worlds many times over. None of them knew much about each other, but they didn’t need to. They enjoyed each other’s company and got along. That was all they needed.

He did know a few things about them outside of the video game world however. For example, he knew that Cake was a college student somewhere in Europe, Noob was a young businessman on the east coast of Canada, and Bunny was a teenager in Seattle on the west coast of Washington in the United States.

Raymond was the youngest in the group, but none of them looked down on him despite that. Oh, there was some good natured teasing of course, but at the end of the day he was an equal member of the group. In the beginning, they had actually thought he was a girl because, to be frank, he had sounded like one. Being 11 at the time he had yet to have hit puberty, and the sound of his voice was all they had had to go by. It’s not that it was uncommon for young boys to be online like he was, in fact it was the opposite, they were often derogatorily referred to as “squeakers”, and many older gamers preferred to avoid talking to them as they tended to be immature and obnoxious. Raymond, however, had always been very mild mannered and quiet with a friendly disposition. This combined with his high voice had led his friends to make the logical assumption that he was one of the rare teenage girl gamers. When he finally realized he was being referred to as a “she”, he quickly corrected them, not that it really bothered him to begin with, and they moved on.

Of them all, he got along best with Bunny. This was for a variety of reasons. Both geographically, and in age, they were closer then the rest. Bunny lived in Seattle, on the coast of Washington state, Raymond lived in Lakewood BC, a small town to the west of Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Bunny was 16, and a junior in high school, Raymond was 13 and in the 8th grade. Being so close together geographically, they were actually also in the same time zone, allowing them to play together much more often.

After falling asleep so early the previous night, Ray had woken up earlier then usual, at 6:33 AM to be precise, and had just started trying to beat that damn boss again. He had barely made two attempts when he received a text message from Bunny, asking if he was awake and if he wanted to play some Borderlands 2, their favorite game to play together. Frustrated with the current game, it had not been a hard decision to make, and they were joined by Cake and N00b a short time after.

But now the time for fun was over. He had been pushing his hunger away for hours already, not wanting to wake anyone up by looking for breakfast and potentially invite a conversation he would rather not have. He could here people stirring now though, and knew that one way or another it was going to happen. Might as well get it over with.

So, with a heavy sigh, he opened his door and headed for the kitchen.

“Hi honey!” Came his Mother’s voice as he walked past the TV room. “I missed you last night!” she said as she stood to come give him a hug and a kiss on his forehead.

Catalina Danahy often worked late and usually didn’t get home until around 7 as she commuted to one of the neighboring towns for work. She was a lawyer and the primary bread winner for the family, a fact that might have embarrassed many other men, but not his father. No, on the contrary, Jameson was quite proud of his wife, and would give up his own career before doing anything that might damage his wife’s. As an architect, Jameson designed buildings for a living, and because of this, was able to often work from home. He had an office with all the tools and supplies he might need right in the house. The children all knew not to disturb him while he was working unless it was an emergency. This setup also allowed him to be at home while the kids were getting ready for school, see them out the door, and welcome them home. If he needed to go into the office for any reason he could do so while they were at school.

“Yeah, sorry about that Mom, I was really tired last night and crashed as soon as I got home.” He explained, returning her hug.

Catalina raised an eyebrow as it was rare for Ray not to be the last one up, much to his parent’s annoyance. She didn’t believe for a moment that he had told her the whole truth, but she wasn’t going to push the issue now.

“Soooooo, any plans for today?” She inquired, avoiding the obvious subject of Ray’s report card to his great relief.

“Oh, uh, not really.” He said, adjusting his glasses, “might just go for a walk.” If she wasn’t gonna bring up his report card he sure as hell wasn’t either.

“A walk?!” his mother said dramatically, “Have you looked outside?”

She pointed to the window over her shoulder, where the rain was clearly pouring down. Hard.

Raymond laughed, “C’mon Mom, you know I love the rain.”

His love for the rain had actually been the inspiration for his gaming screenname. ‘RainyDays’ had already been taken when he set up his account so he had spelled ‘Rainy’ the same way his own name was spelled, and gotten ‘Rayny’. From there he had just changed the ‘s’ at the end to a ‘z’, there was no real reason for that, he just kinda felt like it. The sad thing was that as RaynyDayz he had more friends then he had ever had as Raymond.

She just smiled and rolled her eyes, “Okay, fine, but you had better dress appropriately young man.” She relented.

Now it was his turn to smile and roll his eyes. “I always do Mom, but first I’m gonna get some breakfast.”

“Of course, wouldn’t want you to waste away now.” She teased sarcastically.

Ray forced a chuckle despite the hurt he felt from the comment, he knew his Mom didn’t mean to hurt his feelings, but she did nonetheless. Not that he’d ever tell her. He headed for the kitchen.

Dodged that bullet.

“Oh, and Ray?” his Mom called, as he walked away. She waited until he turned to look at her. “At some point today, either before or after your walk, up to you, me, you, and your father DO need to have a talk.”

Or not.
 

~o~O~o~

 
A short time later, Raymond sat at the coffee table in the living room with his parents opposite. He had elected to have ‘the talk’ before his walk as he knew afterwards he would want to be alone. His siblings had been told they were not to be disturbed, Evalyn was fine with that, saying she had better things to do anyways. Sebastian had been unhappy, he wanted to be there to support his brother, but his parents were adamant that they speak with him alone.

“Son, you know we love you. No matter what.” His father began hesitantly, “But these grades,” he tapped the report card lying on the table between them. “Are unacceptable. The only thing you seem to be taking seriously is your art class, and don’t get me wrong, art is fine. As a hobby. But it won’t get you into college or university, and it won’t get you a career.”

Raymond looked at his feet. He could already feel the tears coming. He thought he was cried out after last night, but clearly, he was mistaken.

“Ray?” his mother probed gently, “C’mon, look at us.”

He slowly raised his head, swallowing back his tears.

“We need to fix this, before it gets any further out of hand.” His mother said gently, “We know you can do so much better. You just need to apply yourself.”

Ray could only give a jerky nod.

“We need to start preparing for post-secondary education.” His father explained, “In this day and age you’ll never get a good job without college or university, and just getting a into college will be a hefty challenge at this rate.”

A tremble ran through Ray’s lower lip. All he could think about was how much of a disappointment he was. He looked back to the floor.

“Jameson!” Scolded his mother, “Ray, look at me.” She said, using her gentle, motherly voice once more.

When he didn’t she gently took his chin in her hand and drew his head up until she was looking into his teary eyes.

“Your father is getting ahead of himself. It is important that we improve, but you’re only in grade 8. There’s still lots of time to get to where you need to be, and you’ll have me, your father, Sebastian and Evalyn to help you along the way.”

Ray sniffled, wiped at his eyes, and adjusted his glasses, still desperately trying to keep the tears from falling. “But Seb and Eva never needed any help.” He said, his voice trembling.

“Of course they did.” Reassured his mother, “Everyone needs help at some point or another.”

“Absolutely squirt.” Chipped in his father, “Your different from Sebastian and Eva, but tha-

“Thanks Dad.” Ray interrupted, rising to his feet. The tears started rolling down his cheeks. Damnit. “Thanks for reminding me, once again, just how different I am from my perfect older brother, and my perfect older sister. It’s not enough that I have to constantly see it every day at school, but now at home too.”

“Wait, Ray, that’s not-

Ray was already leaving the room. He ran for the door quickly stuffing his feet in his shoes, and pulling on his jacket.

“Ray, please wait!” called his mother chasing after him.

Hearing the commotion, Sebastian stuck his head out of his room at the top of the stairs. He quickly jumped up as he saw his little brother slam the door.

“What happened?!” he asked as he rushed to the door, and began to pull on his shoes and coat.

“Just your Father being an idiot again.” She said giving him a dirty look.

Jameson could only shrug and raise his hands plaintively.

Sebastian didn’t wait to hear what he said, he ran out the door looking for Ray, but the street was empty.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Slamming the door behind him, Raymond wiped at his eyes, trying to keep the tears from blurring them. Adjusting his glasses, he took off down the road as fast as his chubby form could take him. Knowing that they could easily catch him, he turned and ran between two houses, he just needed to break line of sight and get to the forest. After that they wouldn’t be able to find him until he was ready to go home. He just needed… space. Time to himself to figure some stuff out.

The rain drops beat off his head, he would soon be soaked. He didn’t care. He heard his brother call out his name. He had to go faster, if anyone could catch him his brother could. It was only another block to the treeline though. He would head for the lake. That was his usual go-to spot when he needed to be alone. It was beautiful there. Peaceful. The raindrops striking the water’s surface always captured something deep within him.

He passed beneath the first tree branches.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Raymond sat, desperately trying to catch his breath. He had run all the way to the lake. A walk that would normally take him half an hour had been done in half the time. He was exhausted. Mentally and physically.

The rhythmic pitter patter of the rain was slowly having it’s usual calming effect on him however. He was slowly regulating his breathing. Getting it under control.

He sat on a wide flat rock just off the lake shore. It had been there as long as he could remember. One summer, when Ray was younger, Sebastian had helped him collect large rocks from the woods and shoreline. Together they had made a series of stepping stones to reach the boulder on which he now sat. It had always been a special place for him.

Not for the fist time, he sat there and thought dark thoughts. He had considered killing himself before, but the very idea of death terrified him.

“Fat, stupid, AND a coward.” The voice of Derek Pilsing drifted through his mind.

He rolled up his pant legs and laid back on the rock. He dipped his feet in the water, having already pulled his shoes and socks off on the shore.

“I really am a waste of space.” Ray whispered to no one in particular. Damnit. Now the tears were flowing again.

He closed his eyes and focused all his senses on the sensation of the rain beating against his face. He took a deep breath, enjoying the feeling of the rain falling into his open mouth.

How could he go on like this? He was only in grade 8. He still had 4 more years of school. 4 more years of miserable school, and then a lifetime past that, trapped in this miserable body.

He laid there for what seemed to be an hour. He was pulled back to reality by the distant rumble of thunder. The mental image of a bolt of lightning striking the surface of the water and killing him scared him into quickly pulling his feet from the water. As quickly as he could, he hopped back across the stepping stone bridge to the shore. He landed on the shore and dried his feet on some moss, before pulling his shoes and socks back on.

Suddenly, without warning, the rain began to let up. He sat on the shore for a few more minutes, as the rain drops became fewer and fewer.

Soon the clouds weakened enough that a few rays of light shone threw.

A rainbow shone in the air high above the lake. It was spectacular. Something as huge and powerful as a storm could change so quickly.

Even something as small as a raindrop could make ripples that changed the surface of a much larger body of water.

Change. Just like that, the thought surged through him. He became short of breath. It had been so simple. Why hadn’t he thought of it before? If he was so miserable trapped in this body, then he would just have to change it. It might be hard, and it wouldn’t happen over night. But just like a character slowly rising in level in a video game, or a drop of paint slowly transforming a piece of plain canvas into something beautiful, Ray could change.

“RAAAAAY”

Smiling, genuinely smiling for the fist time in a long time, Raymond turned to look in the direction the noise had come from, and started walking towards his brother’s voice.
 

~o~O~o~

 
That night, when Ray and Sebastian got home, completely soaked, Ray apologized to his parents, he promised them that he would try harder not to disappoint them.

Jameson and Catalina were completely befuddled. They would later ask Sebastian what he had said to get Ray to say that, to which he had no answer.

The next day Sebastian was laying on his bed in his room, watching whatever sport shows came on, when a quiet knock came on the door. After a short pause, he called out, “C’mon in squirt.”

“How’d ya know it was me?” asked his little brother.

Sebastian smiled, “if it was mom or dad they would have knocked and then just entered. Evalyn would have probably just shouted through the door.”

“Oh.” was all Ray could say, after thinking about it for a moment, he giggled, realizing that Sebastian was exactly right.

“What do you need Ray?” Sebastian asked, waving for his little brother to close the door and take a seat.

“I, uh, I need your help with something.” Ray began.

Seeing a drive in his brother’s eyes that he wasn’t used to, Sebastian sat up and turned off the TV.

After a deep breath, Ray continued. “I want to change. I don’t want to be," he paused, gesturing to his body, "this anymore. Do you think you could help me?”

Sebastian nodded slowly. He had not been expecting that, but he was happy to hear it.

“I would love to. We’ll start after school tomorrow. But it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Are you ready to work hard? Maybe harder then you ever have before?”

For a moment, Ray looked unsure, but then that drive returned to his eyes. He nodded.

“Alright then. Don’t be up late playing games tonight. You’ll need to be well rested.”
 

~o~O~o~

 
True to his word, Ray went to bed earlier then he usually would that night. It had been quite the weekend, but tomorrow was the start of another school week. Hopefully a bit better then the last. Tomorrow, he hoped, would also be the beginning of a new Ray.

He wanted to change. In order to keep on living, he had to.
 



 
Hello all you wonderful people!

Flummox here.

I have to say, when I posted chapter 1, I was just hoping for a bit of feedback, and for no one to tell me I was horrible.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I was not expecting the overwhelming amount of positive feedback. I’d like to say words cannot express how it made me feel, but in my opinion that would be a cliché and a lie. I believe there is very little words cannot express.

I’ll just say, your responses got my heart racing, and made my brain go numb. They were all I could think about for the last three days. They inspired me to continue, and they even inspired a new fear. I can now say, as corny as this may sound, I am very afraid to disappoint any of you. All I can do, however, is keep doing my best, striving to improve, and hoping that’s enough.

To everyone who gave me advice, I will truly do my best to take what you’ve said to heart. I hope my work reflects that, and that this chapter had less errors then the first.

To everyone who expressed their concern for Raymond, or discomfort at some of the scenes, I promise thing’s will get better.

Finally, to everyone who told me to keep going, don’t you worry. At the very least, there will be 8 more chapters after this one. I know because they are already written.

On the topic of those 8 chapters, I think I’ll try and post two chapters a week, at least until I’m all caught up. After that I don’t know. If I can produce two a week, I will, and if I continue writing at the rate I have been thus far, that seems highly likely. Currently I’m thinking I’ll post the chapters every Tuesday, and every Saturday, so keep an eye out!

A note about the next chapter, it’s going to pick up the pace, but just a little. Like I said last time, this is going to be a rather slowly paced story.

So once again, thank you so so much for taking the time to read my story. Comments and advice is what’s going to keep me going, so if you have any you’d like to share, I would love to hear it. Or, if you’re shy like me and don’t want to post a public comment, or even just want to give me some encouragement, then please feel free to message me privately.

I hope all of your days go as wonderfully as you all made me feel.

Flummox



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