Agnes Lamb is your average sixteen-year-old: bored and desperate, majoring in procrastination and a hundred percent done with her current life.
Willing to do anything it takes to simply feel again, Agnes starts to explore the workings of her inner mind - but "anything it takes" is quite the gray area, and Agnes is blissfully unaware that in her struggle for self-improvement, she might very well be destroying everything else.
Constructive criticism and ratings are appreciated!
Just the Lamb
They are perfect little words twisted together to form a coherent idea, letters jumbled together in a melancholy assortment, thoughts breathed onto a page. Whole worlds, universes, galaxies full of lives and colors and truths and ideals that originated in someoneâ€™s brain. Itâ€™s inspiring, incredible, baffling â€“ humans are capable of so much and yet so many of us do so very little. I am included in that particular portion of society, Iâ€™ll admit, but at least I try to appreciate the beauty of the world and think for myself. I try very, very-
My thoughts are interrupted by a harsh jab in my ribs, originating from no other than my faithful companion Lee. His eyebrows are pulled together into that weird frown again, but this time itâ€™s not funny. Not in the least, because his brown eyes radiate both irritation and anger and itâ€™s like theyâ€™re minuscule meteors of fury and theyâ€™re looking right at me.
â€œHi,â€ I say, still weaving through the crowd. â€œWhatâ€™s up?â€
â€œWhat the hell, Agnes?â€
â€œWhat the hell, Lee?â€
Thereâ€™s a groan and an irritated flick of the head â€“ a habit Leeâ€™s taken from me, something he used to snap at me for. â€œThe thing you did this morning. What were you thinking? Are you a suicidal freak or something?â€
â€œFirst off,â€ I respond, slightly miffed, â€œyouâ€™re not a freak just because youâ€™re suicidal. Which brings me to my second point: I donâ€™t have a death wish. Thirdly, what I was thinkingâ€¦ well, you wouldnâ€™t understand.â€
â€œHas nothing to do with this,â€ I point out.
Lee stomps off without saying another word. I assume heâ€™s heading towards his locker or merely trying to get away from me as fast as humanly possible. In a way, he canâ€™t be blamed â€“ I mean, I know I would be frustrated if someone told me I wouldnâ€™t understand. Still, some small part of me is angry that Lee didnâ€™t question me more, angry that he didnâ€™t bother, angry that he didnâ€™t drag me off to some corner to yell at me. And at the same time, thereâ€™s this twisted relief, because now I donâ€™t have to explain the way I feel and think to him. Itâ€™s far too confusing for myself to comprehend, let alone a friend.
â€œSee you in Calculus!â€ I yell, cupping my hands over my mouth. â€œDonâ€™t forget the cheat sheets!â€
Thereâ€™s the smallest hesitation in Leeâ€™s step. A second later, he lackadaisically shouts back, â€œOnly if you remember to bring our wands!â€
I donâ€™t pause to watch him walk away. I donâ€™t blink; I donâ€™t sigh; I donâ€™t do anything out of the ordinary, and yet my mind canâ€™t help but register the unspoken â€œfuck youâ€ in our standard joke, the aggravated use of profanity that wasnâ€™t present before. It burns slightly, like a scrape that wonâ€™t heal and it itches like an insect bite and it aches like a pulled muscle. And above all, itâ€™s painfully familiar and yet surprisingly new to my pampered self.
The porcelain plates are talking tonight. They chÃnk and clink and clonk, culminating with a very dramatic clank that would undoubtedly draw envy from crystal chandeliers, had they had been present. Mom pays no attention to this as she stacks them and complains about the veggies left on Dadâ€™s plate. Inevitably, my eyes flit to the greenery. Theyâ€™re stacked neatly in one corner, a red-brown-yellow-and-green combination of pure perfection. Itâ€™s as if Dad is trying continuously to remind us he used to be an artist, that he could have been happy with his unstable job but instead chose to have a family; to have us. And thatâ€™s why he now works at some lousy office at lousy hours, making lousy money, while Mom drags in the big bucks with her real estate company. A bitter pill to swallow for the both of them, I think.
I tune out the noise of their squabbling as they argue over whether or not Dad should be allowed to have dessert. When their volume reaches a peak, I silently look around the too-yellow kitchen and pretend to be interested in the counters. Theyâ€™re from some type of wood I donâ€™t know. It was really expensive â€“ I remember Mom and Dad arguing over the over-the-top price â€“ but to me it looks cheap and ordinary; hideously normal.
Before it gets to the point where they pull me into the quarrel, I flee towards the bathroom. Itâ€™s safe there. Warm and welcoming and a wonderful room for being alone. The toilet seat is like a golden throne; if it required worshipping, Iâ€™m pretty sure I wouldnâ€™t mind doing so once or twice a day. Itâ€™s so comfortable I sometimes wonder if the maker invented some kind of invisible cushions, but thatâ€™s all very unlikely.
Just as I lower my aching buttocks onto the seat, I can feel something vibrating in the pocket of my jeans. Itâ€™s got to be my phone, the rotten thing. Only Lee calls me on it, and in return I only use it call Lee. Itâ€™s an unspoken agreement between us two anomalous loners. So unless today is Miracle Day or someone misdialed, Iâ€™m about to speak to my more-than-irritated best friend who looked ready to shear my hair off during Gym.
â€œAgnes Lamb,â€ I say, holding the mobile pressed to my ear.
â€œNo shÃt, Sherlock,â€ Leeâ€™s voice filters through the cell phone. â€œCan we talk or are you busy?â€
â€œIâ€™m hiding in the bathroom from my cannibalistic parents, so youâ€™ve got the green light.â€ I wriggle a little to adjust my position and stare out of the tiny bathroom window, trying to see where Lee is. Unsurprisingly, his telltale shadow moves behind the curtains on the upper level.
â€œCool. Iâ€™m hiding as well â€“ got bellowed at by my dad for being your friend, thinking youâ€™re awesome, yada yada yada, the usual. He has also decreed you are a complete and utter lunatic.â€
â€œBut I am.â€
â€œI know, thatâ€™s why weâ€™re friends. Crazies United, right?â€ Lee giggles on the other end of the line and I feel awful all of a sudden. This is what friendship is supposed to be: sticking up for each other, being the non-annoying sibling. Lee is the most perfectly imperfect human being in existence and I said you wouldnâ€™t understand merely because I didnâ€™t feel like explaining the mechanics of my mind â€“ as if he doesnâ€™t know me inside out, as if Iâ€™m some kind of stranger.
â€œLee,â€ I begin, â€œIâ€™m really sorry about today. I fucked up.â€
Heâ€™s quiet, slowly mulling over my apology. â€œWhat are you sorry for, exactly? The whole â€˜letâ€™s-sit-on-the-roadâ€™ deal or telling me off for asking what the hell you were thinking?â€
â€œBoth,â€ I state reluctantly, knowing that thatâ€™s what he wants me to say. â€œI justâ€¦ Iâ€™m just really tired, Lee.â€
â€œGood night.â€ His voice is too high, layered with a dust of hurt. I can feel the venom hidden behind those words, the indignity and bottled up rage. Before I can respond to the sentence, Leeâ€™s already hung up on me; the beeping that ensues seems to want to punish me for screwing up again.
I dial Leeâ€™s number, punching the buttons far more aggressively than is necessary. â€œI wasnâ€™t finished talking to you,â€ I say as soon as he picks up. My voice is distorted with irritation, reduced to a pathetic, mean croak. â€œI didnâ€™t mean sleep kind of tired, you ass. I meant that Iâ€™m just tired in general. Like, bored slash life kind of tired.â€
Itâ€™s silent for a bit. â€œOh,â€ Lee eventually responds. â€œYou mean, youâ€™re depressed?â€
â€œNo, Jesus, not that. Donâ€™t throw that word around. Just tired. Iâ€™m tired of school, Iâ€™m tired of this neighborhood, Iâ€™m tired of my Ugly Duckling patterned pillows. Everythingâ€™s just bland and boring and ugh.â€
I slither onto the blue tiles and stare up at the ceiling. Itâ€™s full of cobwebs. â€œI feel so dead. Whenever I see something horrible on the news or in the papers, I donâ€™t even cry anymore. I donâ€™t have that in me. Iâ€™m like an emotionless, boring fish who canâ€™t even figure out how to swim.â€
â€œIt canâ€™t be that bad,â€ Lee chuckles.
â€œI suck, donâ€™t I?â€ I whine.
â€œEveryone sucks, Aggie. I suck, you suck, we suck, they suck. Weâ€™re one big hole full of sucking losers who donâ€™t have a clue about what the hell theyâ€™re doing. Which reminds me, what were you trying to do this morning, if not dying?â€
â€œI was trying to understand Death. Feel Life. Both. I donâ€™t know.â€ I pause, fighting to get the words right. Theyâ€™re so tricky; balancing on the tip of my tongue, ready to dive off before they have obtained my permission. â€œItâ€™s likeâ€¦ whenever I stare out of the window in the morning, I wonder what itâ€™s all for: my education, my expensive clothing, the stupid expectations you just keep fulfilling for the sake of othersâ€¦ Itâ€™s all so pointless it hurts. And that hurt is the only thing I can feel. Itâ€™s driving me beyond normal crazy.â€
â€œI just need so much to feel a stupid little spark of emotion. Anger, sadness, happiness â€“ itâ€™s like they washed down the drain some time back and I didnâ€™t notice. And then on other days, thereâ€™s this tidal wave of feelings that washes over me and God, Lee, Iâ€™m drowning.â€ I start crying then, the gap in my heart growing bigger still. It is eating me alive, hungrily pulling me into its fanged beak like some black hole.
â€œHey,â€ Lee says. â€œHey, calm down. Iâ€™m coming over. Donâ€™t hang up, okay? Iâ€™ll be there in five.â€
I donâ€™t respond. Thatâ€™s all right, though, because he keeps talking and the sound of his voice is calming. We are both aware thereâ€™s no way my parents are going to let him in at night, but my bedroom window is big and Lee has perfected his climbing skills over the years. I happen to know my bedroom isnâ€™t the only one he has snuck into â€“ thereâ€™s Lisa Hammonton and Veronica Yorker, little turtledoves that flew briefly but didnâ€™t take. I was there when one of them broke Leeâ€™s golden heart and when he shattered the otherâ€™s by taking a teddy bear to the Winter Formal instead of her. Kind of my horrible idea.
Horrible, atrocious, nasty. Three synonyms that gnaw at my conscious and eagerly feed on the gaping fissure inside of me. They hobble through the dictionary of my mind, reminding me that words arenâ€™t your friends. You canâ€™t tame them, you canâ€™t make a deal with them, you canâ€™t lord over them: they own us and will not hesitate to play you until you have lost everything.
â€œYeah,â€ I answer hoarsely, â€œstill here.â€
â€œIâ€™m standing in front of your bedroom window and it looks pretty closed. Itâ€™s also sexily dark in there.â€
I wipe my eyes quickly and stand up, slowly shuffling towards the whitewashed door. The abrupt silence makes it clear that Leeâ€™s waiting for an answer, so I half-blubber, half-croak, â€œYeah, my bad. Iâ€™m in the bathroom. Iâ€™ll be there in a sec, okay? Donâ€™t leave.â€ I keep the phone pressed to my ear as I continue my tough journey, experiencing things like uneven carpets on the way. Everything makes me want to cry, which is ridiculous, but I just canâ€™t seem to stop. I guess Lee sort of understands, because he keeps saying everythingâ€™s okay. I also really hope Old Bertha doesnâ€™t catch sight of him.
â€œIâ€™m here,â€ I say as soon as Iâ€™ve shut the door of my room behind me. The mere knowledge that Iâ€™m in my own little palace instantly calms me down. It smells like cinnamon and books and tea and chocolate, with the sweetest hint of the mandarins I like to slowly peel and eat. Silver light filters through a small window, softly illuminating the hardwood floor. Itâ€™s not really all that dark out yet, but the first stars are visible to the naked eye.
â€œIâ€™m going to hang up,â€ Lee warns in advance. The creaking of the pipe he uses to climb is more than a little audible, and I cringe as the rustling of Momâ€™s vines join in. Leaning out of the window, I spot Lee. Heâ€™s not too far down, his dark face contorted with concentration. His teeth, blindingly white in contrast to his skin, are exposed. Itâ€™s not hard to tell that heâ€™s having a hard time not accidentally ripping the plants.
I extend my hand. â€œCome on,â€ I say. â€œGrab it, Kermit.â€
â€œNah,â€ Lee grunts, â€œIâ€™m good.â€
I laugh through my tears and wiggle my fingers. â€œLee.â€
He takes hold of the hand reluctantly and I pull. With our combined strength, Lee manages to flop through the window. â€œJesus H. Christ. That gets harder every day.â€
â€œThank you,â€ I tell him. â€œThank you.â€
Lee pulls me into a hug and just kind of tugs at my short hair and breathes too loud. â€œI didnâ€™t really do anything.â€
I canâ€™t explain that he did everything, and how much he means to me, and that I donâ€™t know what I would do if he wasnâ€™t my friend. So instead of launching into a monologue that might give him the wrong impression, I just hug him and kind of slap his back and breathe too loud, too. â€œIâ€™m pretty freaked out by this stuff,â€ I finally admit.
â€œThe unemotional fish thing?â€
Lee pulls back and gives me a serious look. â€œI understand you want to feel something, Aggie, but you canâ€™t just sit on the middle of the road and wait for a car. Itâ€™s stupid and itâ€™s dangerous. There are other possibilities out there â€“ music and writing and running and sometimes simply screaming into your Ugly Duckling patterned pillow will help.â€
â€œYes,â€ I say. â€œI understand.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want you to fucking die,â€ Lee tells me, and just like that, he too starts crying. I stare at him in shock, because Lee Fern doesnâ€™t cry. He didnâ€™t cry when 911 happened when we were kids and he didnâ€™t cry when I punched him and he didnâ€™t cry when Lisa said she hated him and he didnâ€™t cry when their previous cat Ollie died. And now there are all these tears, and I suddenly understand that Iâ€™m not the only one who has been feeling cooped up in this materialistic world. Iâ€™m not the only one with problems. Iâ€™m not the only one who is frustrated and scared. Lee is just as freaked out and lonely as I am right now and I donâ€™t know what to say or do.
â€œLee. Hey, Lee.â€
He only starts to cry harder at the sound of my voice. I wrap my arms around him and try to say itâ€™s all right, because God knows we all need that lie, but my tongue is not working. Eventually, a pitiable apology twists its way out of my throat. â€œIâ€™m sorry, Lee. Iâ€™m so sorry.â€
â€œYouâ€™re my only friend. Youâ€™re my only fucking friend.â€
â€œNo one is dying anytime soon.â€ The wind whistles loudly outside, sounding as if itâ€™s roaring with laughter at us. Iâ€™m fairly sure itâ€™s started to rain as well, but since my face is squashed against Leeâ€™s shirt I can't see. It smells like paper and smoke and sweat. Cat hairs, a gift undoubtedly left by Pebbles, tickle my cheeks.
Leeâ€™s quieting down, occasionally beating my back simply because he needs something to hit in his frustration. After a while, I pull away and we simply look at each other in the dark, not sure where the total craziness came from and what we should be doing about it. â€œWhat the hell was that?â€ I ask him after his rapid breathing slows.
â€œLifeâ€™s so messed up, Aggie. Itâ€™s so messed up. This sort of stuff was never supposed to happen. All this shÃt in the world and unhappiness and this look in peopleâ€™s eyes. God, I havenâ€™t seen you smile in days â€“ really smile, I mean â€“ and I didnâ€™t even notice. Everythingâ€™s so fucked up.â€ Lee rubs his face roughly and exhales. â€œThis wasnâ€™t supposed to happen. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
â€œItâ€™s okay. We can be melancholy together.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a cool word.â€ His voice is muffled by the sleeve heâ€™s holding against his mouth. â€œYou know a lot of them, donâ€™t you?â€
I flick on the light. Warmth floods through the room, bathing every inch in yellow liquid until it seems like weâ€™re in the middle of some bright planet, just the two of us on that forgotten world. â€œYeah. Halcyon.â€
It takes Lee a while to realize that I didnâ€™t sneeze, but that it was an actual response to his statement. His bottom lip pulls downward quizzically. â€œWhat does it mean?â€
â€œHappy. Heavenly. Untroubled.â€ I pluck a hair from my pants and drop it to the floor. â€œCarefree.â€
Lee leans his head against his knees. â€œTell me more.â€
â€œOnomatopoeia,â€ I say. â€œItâ€™s a word with a meaning that sounds like its name. We learned that in school, but I suppose itâ€™s easily forgotten.â€
Out of the blue, Lee looks up, takes my hand and squeezes it. â€œAgnes Lamb.â€
â€œThatâ€™s my name, sir.â€ I salute him mockingly.
â€œYouâ€™re an onomatopoeia.â€
That catches me by surprise, but my tongue moves before my brain does: â€œSo basically,â€ I begin sarcastically, â€œIâ€™m a young sheep? Gee, Lee, you know just what to say to make a lady blush.â€
â€œItâ€™s a talent of mine,â€ Lee acknowledges, all traces of his earlier sadness gone. â€œAnd speaking of talent, I need to climb out of that lovely window of yours again before my parents notice Iâ€™m missing. Donâ€™t do anything crazy without me, okay?â€
I want to tell him â€œas if I couldâ€ or reassure him with other petty words, but itâ€™s like theyâ€™re stuck in my throat again. Iâ€™m sure Lee knows Iâ€™ll be okay in the end, though. People usually are, and Iâ€™m really a usual person. Iâ€™m just Agnes Lamb.