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Lost Boys

the old barn hangout, like always

By Margot LambalPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 14 min read
Second Place in SFS 1: Old Barn Challenge
Lost Boys
Photo by Markus Petritz on Unsplash

Henry barely remembered to mumble a thanks as the psychiatrist handed him a prescription and ushered him from the office.

Michael was in the waiting room, bowed over his phone. He looked up as Henry entered and jumped to his feet when he saw that it was him. Henry didn't say anything, but crossed the room and let Michael bundle him into a hug.

“Depression,” He said into Michael’s coat collar.

“The others just got out of school ten minutes ago,” Michael said and rubbed his back soothingly. “We should go meet up with them.”

“I'm tired.”

“Come on, you'll feel better with some food in you,” Michael insisted. He pulled away and intertwined their hands. They exited the building and Henry shivered in the October air. He regretted not bringing a jacket, but like most things those days it had slipped his mind.

“I have a prescription,” Henry said. “Prozac.”

“Okay, I'll take you by the pharmacy after we go to dinner,” Michael replied. “Campbell’s been worried all day. We don't have to stay out all night, okay? Please?”

Henry wanted to go home more than anything, and food definitely didn't sound appealing. But he remembered what Dr. Sails had told him- getting better was in his own hands.

“You're paying,” He said finally.

“If it means you'll eat, I would pay for the moon.”


Three weeks later, Henry was in calculus and he wasn't sleeping.

The prescription Dr. Sails had given him had helped a lot more than he expected. He was able to concentrate better, and at the very least get himself out of bed and into the shower. The perpetual rain cloud that was his emotions was less rainy. Of course, he still had bad days, but they were rarer now. Rarer meaning not every single day. Those days were hard, but his friends had made a great effort to be there for him since his official diagnosis.

He was so thankful for them.

He concentrated hard on taking notes about the teacher’s lecture. He was having to work especially hard to pick up where his grades had faltered, so he forced himself to work harder. Their resident genius had offered help whenever he needed it, which was helping too. Reid often explained things better than their teacher, using vocabulary that Henry could better interpret.

The bell signaling the end of school finally rang and Henry quickly shoved his belongings in his bag.

“Hey,” Reid said behind him. “Did you get all the notes today?”

“I think so,” Henry replied as he zipped his bag and stood up.

Reid looked relieved, “That's good. Michael’s waiting for us out front. You up for hanging out? It's been a long week.”

“I'm fine,” Henry assured him. It had actually been a good day today, as evidenced by his lengthy calculus notes. “Where are we going?”

“We haven't really decided, but I think Adam and Sam are set on the barn.”

Henry nodded and shouldered his bag. He and Reid said goodbye to their teacher and walked quickly towards the south exit of the school.

Michael, being a former student, knew where to park so that they could get out in minimal traffic, but it was an annoyingly long walk for Henry and Reid whose class was almost at the direct opposite side of the school grounds.

They were barely out of the building when someone shouted at them from across the courtyard.

“Reid! Henry!” Campbell came flying at them with more energy than Henry had in a month, Sam hot on his heels. They barely managed to skid to a halt to stop themselves from colliding head on with the two older boys.

“Hey!” Reid smiled. “Michael’s parked on the south side.”

Campbell nodded and matched his pace with Henry’s while Sam walked with Reid. Campbell, despite being shorter, threw his arm over Henry’s shoulders casually.

They got a few odd looks as they headed towards where Michael was waiting for them, but by that time the boys’ reputation for being quiet, cold, and close friends with Aydan (who had infamously become their school’s That Guy after an “incident” last semester) preceded them so no one said anything outright.

As soon as they were a safe distance from any possible adult intervention, Reid dug a cigarette and lighter out of a hidden pocket in his jacket. After a few tries, he lit the stick and inhaled like a dehydrated man when offered water.

“Bad day?” Sam asked.

“Bad week,” Reid said dryly as he exhaled. Sam nodded sympathetically and nudged his shoulder.

They reached Michael’s truck as Aydan and Adam were climbing in together, meaning there were two remaining seats in the cab. In any other situation, they would do anything for each other, but a seat in the warm cab on a cold day meant every man for himself. Sam, Campbell, and Reid all eyed each other before breaking into a sprint towards the truck, leaving Henry in the dust. He watched in amusement as Campbell wrenched at Sam’s jacket to pull himself ahead. Sam and Campbell vaulted into the truck. Reid swore loudly in defeat.

Henry was still trailing at a casual pace when they realized that he wasn't at the truck beside them. Sure, he dreaded the ride out in the chill, but he knew there wasn't enough energy in the world to make him sprint, so he resigned himself to the truck bed.

Campbell’s eyes flickered in concern as Henry forced himself to jog the remaining distance. He hopped out of the car and motioned for Henry to get in.

“Here,” He said. “I'll take the back seat.”

“No!” Henry protested. “I'm okay, I'll sit in the back with Reid.”

But Campbell was already in the process of hauling himself over the side of the truck. He landed in the bed with a loud thump that made seating arrangements final.

“I'll sit with Campbell,” Sam decided and hopped out too. Henry rolled his eyes- all the fuss over the two seats had been for nothing.

He clambered into the seat next to Aydan and shoved his bag down under his feet as Reid hopped in the passenger’s seat.

“Hey,” He greeted Michael.

“Hey,” Michael responded, looking over his shoulder at him. “Good day?”

Henry nodded and Michael looked pleased for a moment before he turned to Reid beside him and spied his cigarette.

“Put it out,” He said sternly. Reid frowned but obediently tossed the cigarette onto the pavement.

“Where do you want to get food?” Reid asked to no one in particular.

“Somewhere cheap so we can split the check,” Aydan suggested. Michael nodded in agreement while Adam paled slightly.

“I don't… have any money,” He said shyly. Aydan rolled his eyes, but there was no annoyance in the action.

“I'll cover you,” He sighed. Adam grinned appreciatively, if a little ashamedly, and let Aydan pat his hair.

“Now we’ve got to go somewhere really cheap so I can pay for this asshole,” Aydan joked.

Henry turned away to look out the window. As the school became more and more distant, he felt increasingly tired. Just because his medicine gave him a kick of energy didn't always grantee that it would last all day. It had been a long day on top of an especially long week, so Henry didn't consider it a lost battle when he dozed off with his forehead pressed against the cool glass.

When he awoke, the first thing he could see was the looming silhouette of the long abandoned barn. The overgrown grass clawed at its sides and spread to the treeline in the distance.

Second was Campbell scrolling on his phone in the truck bed out the window beside him. Waiting for him, no doubt. Henry’s heart warmed.

“Ah, awake! Ready to go?” Campbell clambered up from his perch as soon as Henry opened the door.

“Yeah,” Henry replied. “Thanks for waiting.”

Campbell gave him a nod and a smile, warm and knowing, and then they were off toward the barn.

The barn loft was a large space, once occupied by massive stores of hay, now occupied by a group of boys smiling about on blankets. The main source of light, at least until nightfall, was a large window which welcomed an excellent view of the sun as she bade her farewell behind the trees in the distance.

There were multiple takeout cartons of food, but none were for one person alone. Instead, one boy would take a few bites then trade with someone down the line. It was how they'd always eaten, despite now being able to afford seven portions unlike three years ago when four had seemed like a feast. Reid sucked a mouthful of noodles off of his cheap throwaway chopsticks before Sam grabbed the noodle container and pushed the container of pork into his hands.

“Won't be a good sunset tonight,” Aydan commented through a mouthful of rice he'd picked out of Sam’s carton. They'd seen enough sunsets together to predict the spectacle. They all frowned up at the sheet of gray blanketing the sky and knew that what Aydan said was probably true.

“I dunno,” Sam said. “It's surprised us before.”

Michael reached into the plastic bag at his side and passed Henry the unopened two portions of food and two packets of throwaway chopsticks. Henry eyed the huge container in his hands warily as Campbell split his chopsticks and dug in. His medicine had helped his appetite, sure, but not as much as he had hoped it would. Maybe he would be able to pick at it and pass it around so the others wouldn't notice how little he ate. This plan was dashed when he looked up and saw Michael watching him like a hawk.

“Eat,” He commanded. Henry nodded and split his chopsticks in half. Michael could be pretty damn authoritative when he wanted to be.

He took slow bites, forcing himself to focus on how not sawdust-y the food tasted in his mouth, as if he could bring his appetite back by sheer force of will. He traded portions with the others several times, aware that Michael still watching him.

It turned out that Sam was right about the sunset. As their food supply slowly dwindled, the gray blanket of clouds transformed. The sky became a bruised purple, with orange edges that seemed at first to be a disappointment, but then the blanket of gray became a brilliant lilac, and they sky not touched by clouds was a fiery gold trim. As simple as it was, Henry was floored by it as always. He could see a million sunsets, but the best ones would always be able to take his breath away. They all shouted praise at the sky like overexcited competition judges, as if whoever was in charge of painting the sky each evening could hear them. It was childish, but so were they.

Henry looked at the sky as it faded from vibrant to the deep colors of nighttime and sighed wearily. They were all children, he thought, they could smoke and drink, get older like Michael, have their innocence tested time and time again, but somehow under the sunset they were all eternally young for ten minutes. He wanted to stay here, in these secret childish moments forever, but next year he would be an adult…

“What’re you thinking about?” Campbell asked.

“Why do we have to grow up?” Henry said. His intensity caused the others to look over at him, concern in their eyes. “Why can't we just be fucking kids again and watch the sunset forever? No drugs, no hurting, no goddamn depression, just us and the sunset.”

The entire aura around the boys turned from playful to somber silence. They all turned their eyes away from the window, and when Henry met Reid’s, then Sam’s, then Michael’s eyes, he saw his own pent up stress and emotions reflected in them like looking into a mirror. His words had hit home with every single one of them.

“I'm terrified of growing up,” Adam blurted out suddenly. “I don't know what I'm doing with my life and I don't know where I'm going but all I know is that I'm scared .”

Henry was surprised. Adam rarely shared his feelings, even happy ones.

Sam confessed next.

“I spent my whole childhood waiting to be grown up,” He said. “Now here I am, graduating next year, and I just want to be a kid again.”

He took a shaky breath and looked up at the sky shining in from the window. There were too many clouds to see any stars, but Henry swore that he saw him searching for something up there.

“I keep thinking,”  Sam’s voice broke a little. Henry’s chest ached. “My dad was the best man I ever knew and he’s dead. The man I live with is the biggest piece of shit ever, but he gets to live? Is that what the world is? Do I have to become a monster to keep living? I’m so scared of becoming that.”

This was too much. Too real. Were they all scared? And no one ever said anything until now?

Some part of him wanted to comfort Sam, but something about the heaviness of the air around him held him back. Now was not a time for comfort, now was a time for raw confession. Michael looked like he was having the same internal battle, but when Henry caught his eye, they both stayed silent.

This wasn’t a therapy session, it was a coming clean session.

Reid looked down at his boots hanging over the side of the car with a frown.

“My whole life has been study, study, study! ” He admitted. “Get good grades and go to college, that all that ever mattered. But now… I don't want to. I don't want to be a robot. I don't want to wake up at the same time in the morning and go to a job that I hate just because I'll make money. I don't want to come home and look at the mirror and see dead, sad eyes before going to sleep at the same time at night. Every day, I see my father tired and irritated. All he cares about is money and routine, and it killed his spirit. I don't want to be a shell .”

Aydan’s fingers grazed over his left arm, considering. Then, with a small huff, he shrugged his jacket off. For a moment, Henry was confused but then he looked to where Aydan’s fingers had been and gasped. An ugly mosaic of scars, scabs, and fresh burns covered his bare arm. Henry’s mouth fell open in horror.

They'd known that Aydan had an interest in fire, but they never knew that he could… that he would...

“Aydan!” Michael gasped.

“No,” Adam hissed. He looked like he was going to be sick. “Aydan, no.”

Aydan pulled his jacket back on and the scars disappeared from view but not Henry’s memory.

“I'm tired,” Aydan admitted. “Tired and numb. My parents are gone, my aunt can't wait to get rid of me, I can't afford college and I'm not smart enough anyway. I have nothing. I keep trying to look toward the future, but I don't see a fucking light at the end. It's black. It's always black.”

Henry felt a wave of sickness wash over him like a tide. They were all aware of Aydan’s past and reputation- his parents died when he was young, he was left to the care of an uncaring aunt, and he spent his days basking in a rather frightening reputation that was either really exaggerated or really not (he never told). But Aydan had never spoken about his problems beyond brief summaries before, had never told him what he'd done to his own skin when they weren't there for him. Henry was horrified.

“Campbell?” Henry prompted gently, nudging his shoulder. Clearly, Campbell had something on the tip of his tongue that he was holding back.

“The b-bridge,” Campbell blurted out shakily. They all sat up a little straighter, and Sam looked as if he'd been electrified. “It wasn’t the last time I’ve thought about… trying. It was the last time I tried, but I still think about it so much. I’m tired of feeling worthless, of being worthless. I don’t know what I’m doing with myself or even what I’m good for.”

Michael went last. He looked deeply unhappy, and Henry knew that the others’ words had hit him hard.

“We’re all going to die someday,” He said finally. “And I want our lives to be worth remembering. I want to make something worth living for together. I'm tired of us sitting around and pretending we’re okay with what's happening to us. Can't we fight back? Can't we live for ourselves?”

Something stirred deep within Henry. A warmth in his chest, in his soul, that not even the progressively colder air around could stamp out. It was clear that Michael’s words had resonated with the others as well; they eyed each other, trying to figure out if they felt it too.

Young Adult

About the Creator

Margot Lambal

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