“But that’s 27 days from now!” Tommy said, almost yelling at Katy through his phone. “I can’t do anything about it.” “But we can see each other one more time right now!” “My Dad is going to be here any minute to get me.” “So what!?” “Please Tommy. C’mon. You know he doesn’t even know about you.” “Shit, I just want to see you before you go.” “I have another call. That’s Hank. I’ll call you this weekend.” And she clicked over. Tommy sat down on his dorm room bed, miserable. He still needed to pack. Just about everyone else had already left for the Holiday break. The name ‘Hank’ jumped into his head. Who’s Hank? Who calls their Dad Hank? Now he was being a crazy teenager again and he knew it, but he had to know who Hank was. And he did have a way to check on the situation. The top floor of the dorm had a crawl space that ran the entire length and width of the building – even clear to the girls’ side of the dorm. Tommy and his roommate, Mike, figured it out because the room next door was farther away than the combined depth of the closets, so there had to be a space. They were able to hammer and pry off the back of one of the closets, opening their way to a little room about three feet by eight. At the time, the whole idea was to sneak in there and just knock on the back of the closet to try to freak out the kids in the next room. They had more fun with it when they found a way to climb into that crawl space and knock on the back of any closet on the floor. Tommy stood in the doorway of the closet and looked up through his clothes into the crawl space. He wouldn’t be able to see Katy, but maybe he could hear her. Mike’s stethoscope was hanging over his desk, where it always was – in case he could convince any girl he might actually go to med school some day. Tommy shoved it in his pocket then piled up their two chairs and a box so he could climb up into the ceiling. He moved fast. He knew where he was going. The light from the vents meant he could leave his flashlight and crawl with both hands. In a few minutes he was safely over Katy’s closet. He told himself he just wanted to know that Hank was in his imagination. He fished out the earphones and put them on, then reached down into the gap with the end of stethoscope. Immediately, he lost his balance, accidentally slamming his hand down against the wall to stop his fall. The noise rang back through his earphones almost making him cry out. “What the hell was that?” a man’s voice asked from below. “Is someone up there?” Katy yelled. Tommy froze. Tommy could only hear some mumbling and some movement. What was he doing? Katy was his first girlfriend and he was happy. What if he screwed this up? What if they caught him up there? Frightened. Suddenly panicked, he pushed himself back from Katy’s closet with more force than he wanted and fell onto his elbows with two loud knocks. “Who is up there?” the man yelled. He didn’t need a hearing aid to hear it. He held still again, trying to hear any movement below him, toward him, toward the closet. Then slowly, one knee and one carefully outstretched palm at a time he made his way back across the long crawl space. Less and less light came in through the vents as a cloud passed or the sun set. He hoped it was a cloud. He worked his way back to the center of the building where there was more space to maneuver. When he heard someone below him, he knew he was being chased by the mystery Hank. The dorms were just about empty. It had to be him. If he could get back to his room fast, he could jump down, walk into his closet, and change his dusty shirt before even stepping out. He moved faster, almost like a monkey, almost a crawling gallop. There was still enough light to count the rows ahead of him, three more left until he would be safely hidden. Another loud sound below him. He had to hurry, one more row of rooms and then just jump down and it would be over. He landed hard as was the first time he had jumped straight down without climbing on the furniture he used to get up. He looked up and stifled a scream, still scared he would be found out. He couldn’t see his clothes in the darkness and then he reached out and felt the solid wood of the back of his closet. He pushed around in all directions and felt nothing but the tightly sealed back end of the closets on either side of him. Why did Mike do this? Mike didn’t do it. Then he felt the full terror. He had chosen wrong and jumped down behind someone else’s closet. His goal of secrecy changed immediately and he started screaming and pounding on the walls. He tried to jump to the edge of the crawlspace, but it was too narrow and too far. There was nothing in with him that could help him get out. He listened for any signs of life left in the dorm. Nothing. He tried to pry the boards away with his fingernails. He started to smash his hands into the wood and he screamed and he jumped up and down and he continued to punch the walls and yell at the floor until he couldn’t scream anymore.
Tommy’s First Love
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