story: second chances . wordcount: ~1400. rating: pg.
RAYN TRIES TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. (idk, it's a Rayn pocky chain—pretend there's a good summary)
notes: Both a pocky chain and a 1k-er for the BTS challenge. I got carried away with 14 parts, clearly. Spans from childhood to end of high school.
"I'm gonna stay where you sleep all day, where they hung the jerk that invented work, in the Big Rock Candy Mountains."
Rayn loves this song and he loves watching his father, listening to his father's voice and the strum of his guitar.
He claps when it's over.
"You like that?" Dad asks, grinning. He always pretends to be surprised. "What do you think, kid—hobo paradise sound pretty good to you?"
Rayn nods vigorously. Dad laughs. "All right, then. We'll be hobos, you and me."
Mom watches from the doorway. "I hope you'll aim higher than that," she says.
He's awake when he hears her come in, but he keeps his eyes closed as his mother sits down on the edge of the bed and reaches over to stroke his hair. He hears her sigh, tiny and quiet. Tired. She must think he's asleep.
Earlier, he could hear her gathering up Dad's empties, then calling Dad's name—softly at first, then louder and angrier.
Now the house is quiet. Rayn hears his mother draw in a breath like she's going to say something, but then she doesn't. She just squeezes his shoulder, then moves to check on his sister.
Tina's crying when they stop at the Flying J; she understands now that they're not going back. Mom calms her down a little with pancakes, but Tina still sniffles as she clings to Rayn's arm.
While Mom's in the bathroom, Tina pulls a tiny stuffed bunny off a shelf and hugs it, won't let it go. Rayn has no money in his pockets and he watched his mother almost empty her purse to pay for the gas. But he wants his sister to have it.
When the coast is clear, he grips her hand and leads her out the door.
They've been there almost two weeks, and Rayn's still not sure if he likes it at Grandma and Grandpa's. He wouldn't say anything, cause at least Tina seems happy again. She should be—Grandma actually likes her.
Grandma glares at him when he takes an apple from the kitchen without asking. She watches him when she thinks he isn't looking. When she says, "And be on your best behavior," her eyes are on him, not Tina.
"It's not you, honey," his mother says, but he wonders. He wonders if there isn't something wrong with him. Something she can't see.
"Hooligans!" the man yells, and Rayn thinks, people actually say that?. "No skateboarding—no skateboarding here! Can't you idiots read?"
Jordan and Lamar holler something back at him, but it's lost, inaudible, as they turn their board and barrel down the ramp to the parking lot. Rayn tries to follow, but his wheel catches something and he falls, knees to the concrete.
He scrambles back on his board—just as the man's yelling that he's "gonna call the cops"—and takes off after the other boys. As the wind rushes past his ears, Rayn thinks he gets it. The thrill.
His mother's hands are white around the steering wheel as they sit, idling in the school parking lot.
"But Mom," Rayn says, "you have to fight, or everyone's gonna mess with you. That's just how it is."
"I don't care how you think 'it' is. That's not how we do things. You're here to get an education, not to get in fist fights." She closes her eyes and shakes her head tightly. "We gotta start going to church again."
When he makes a scoffing sound, she whirls on him so fast he almost thinks she's going to hit him.
A lot of things are better at his new school. People seem to care more, occasionally pay attention. He's gone from homework he could do in his sleep to assignments requiring actual thought.
This is worse, though: getting jumped, blind-sided, while walking across the basketball court by four kids in expensive-looking hoodies, who knock him down and steal his backpack, dumping its contents out across the blacktop. And then run away, laughing like it's just so funny.
Rubbing his skinned elbow, Rayn gathers up his books and pencils.
Sometimes, it's just too hard to turn the other cheek.
"So the plan," Darcy says, "is we'll go to the movie then my mom'll take us to Mel's, where we can stay out as late as our parents will let us."
"And that's your birthday party?" Mike asks.
"That's it! Classy, right? I mean, I'm gonna be thirteen."
"What movie are you guys seeing?" Rayn asks.
"Toy Story 2. Cause Levee's still 12. And Mike loves Disney movies."
"Lies," Mike says. He turns to Rayn. "You're coming, right?"
"Um..." Rayn glances at Darcy. "I'm invited?"
"Well, duh," she says. "You're our friend."
He even likes that she rolls her eyes.
"Are you studying?" his mother asks. She's drying her hands on her apron as she peers around the door frame.
He looks up, then lifts up the cover of his math book so she can see it. "Yeah, Mom."
"Well, study harder." She comes around to his desk to touch a finger to his forehead. "Your brain is your ticket out of here."
He hitches a shoulder. "It's not so bad here, you know."
"Oh, Rayn." She squeezes his arm. "You'll understand when you're older—parents just want their children to have what they couldn't."
She's always saying that.
The school calls it a "retreat," but it happens in the gym. Rayn walks in and is directed to a group of kids he doesn't recognize, way in the back.
He glances at a girl with bleached-white hair and a plastic pen between her teeth.
"Is this random?" he asks. "How they split us up?"
"No way." She bites down on her pen. " Look around. We're the At-Risk Youth out here."
Rayn considers this for a second. "I was suspended in middle school," he says.
"I was suspended last year." She grins around the pen. "Wanna sit with me?"
Outside the cafeteria, Lucy passes him half the stack of CLASS CANCELED signs and they rush to paper all the classroom doors before the bell. She 'borrows' tools from the art room and they carve into the plastic tops of the picnic tables while they talk about AP English. After school, she pulls him into the girl's room to share a cigarette.
Rayn isn't sure if it's her he likes, or just not having to be so good.
In Jack's garage, she tries to take off his pants.
He's not sure if he 'comes to his senses' or 'chickens out.'
"Are these scores good?" his mother asks, squinting at the paper. "I can barely read this. Do I need glasses?"
"It's small print," Rayn says. He laughs. "And yeah, they're good. The college counselor says I shouldn't have to retake it."
"Does she know you need to get a scholarship?"
"Yes, Mother. She knows."
"Don't 'Yes, Mother' me. I'm just making sure." She sets down the paper and holds out an arm to him. "Hey, c'mere"—she pulls him into a half-hug—"We'll take out loans if we have to. I'm just proud of you."
"I know," he says.
He hasn't been able to relax since he handed Mike the essay, going back and forth on whether he even should have written it. Whether he should have chosen some topic other than his dad.
Rayn just manages to hold it together when Mike hands it back to him. "Um...so you read it?"
"I...marked a couple of typo things," Mike says. "That's all though."
"So..." Rayn studies a spot on the ground. "What did you think?"
"I mean—I don't know anything really. But I think you're going to college."
When Rayn looks up, Mike smiles. It's okay.
"Rayn!" Tina bounds through the back door, waving an envelope at him. "Is this the one you're waiting for?"
Rayn stops loading the dishwasher. "Is that from Hollard?"
Mom rounds the corner; she's got a sixth sense for these things. "What's this?"
"It's a big envelope," Rayn says, as she sidles up beside him.
"Good news, then? Will this be three for three?"
"Don't jinx it!"
He does, heart pounding, as he pulls out he letter. He holds his breath as he reads, then it comes out in a whoosh when he says it out loud: "Full scholarship."
I've been consistently writing like 3-4 of these a day...which explains why it took me til Thursday to finish it. And I didn't really plan it out, so I hope it turned out at least a little coherent??
Er, also that second to last one is a scene from this piece!
And some a bit of new information popped up too, yeah? RaTs folks have told me they feel like they know Rayn less well than some of my other MCs so I feel like I should remedy that a bit. Also lol, speaking of which, I should do a whole piece about CRAZY LUCY WEEK (actually I think it's like two weeks) because that's a story in itself. Even if Rayn never wants to talk about it again after that. Like, other characters will say "hey, what about that girl you were going out with for like a week...?" and he'll be like "what? that never happened" *pretends to be oblivious*
OKAY, I'M DONE RAMBLING NOW.