#26 14th Oct 2016 at 5:48 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:47 PM.
After her initial rendezvous with the Maestro, Evelyn Jane was beckoned back to Shaun Piper’s penthouse again and again nearly every day. She obliged him, of course.
Her explanation to anyone that asked about her increased time with the elder gentleman was that he was giving her advanced ‘violin lessons’. Shaun Piper would be the type to appreciate true talent, and he had never had a protégé before. Though it was clear to Evelyn Jane that Shaun coveted more than her talent when he had kissed her.
Evelyn Jane was currently basking in the summer’s afternoon sunlight next to Shaun Piper after a particularly invigorating violin lesson. He had given her praise where she deserved it but critiqued her quite thoroughly. She had been critiqued right out of her clothing and into his bed.
His wife was away again. Evelyn Jane had little care of where the woman was as long as she wasn’t there.
She rolled to her side and faced Shaun while sliding her hand over his. She couldn’t help but to stare at him with a twisted sort of fascination. She actually liked his company and if things went her way she wouldn’t mind continuing lessons with him. The boys her age were pathetically immature and boring.
He glanced down at her with a quick smile before sitting up and entering the en suite bathroom.
She rolled further across the bed, and into the spot he had been laying before, kicking up her leg to rest on her opposite knee and splaying her fingers out before her eyes to admire her recent manicure. The Battle of the Bands was only three days away and it was time to see if her plan had worked.
“What are you doing this weekend?” she tested the waters.
“You’ll have to be more specific,” he answered.
“Saturday Night. I’m playing violin in the regional Battle of the Bands and want to know if you could come watch me play?”
She heard the click of his medicine cabinet and she pulled herself up to hear his answer with baited breath.
“I’m actually judging the Battle of the Bands,” he answered. Maybe less amused than she anticipated him to be at this ‘coincidence.’
“That’s kind of funny,” she popped a counterfeit giggle, “Why would they have the Symphony conductor judge that kind of competition?”
“Musical diversity I guess,” she heard Shaun mumble, “Don’t expect any favoritism, you will either win or lose based on your skill and sound.”
Her feigned expression of innocence faded into a pout, “You don’t want me to win?”
“You’ll win if you deserve it,” he said, “You can’t expect me to judge your band’s music on how well you are in bed.”
That’s exactly what she expected. Honestly, she didn’t know if she could pull it off winning without his favor. Pulling out Classical music at this sort of venue wasn't something that had ever happened before. People didn't like challenges to the status quo.
She bit her lip and frowned, she hoped it wouldn't have come to this. She heard the sink water running now, Shaun was washing his face.
“It would be a shame if your wife found out about what we’ve been doing,” she changed the subject. Her tone was casual yet her words had a definite threat laced within them.
She heard the faucet turn off and a small, deep, chuckle. For some reason, it made her skin prickle. That wasn’t a reaction she expected.
“If my wife should find out, she would hardly be surprised,” he said and then appeared in the threshold between bedroom and bathroom, “You two actually have a lot in common.”
She certainly didn’t know how to reply to that.
So he kept talking, “My wife manipulated me into proposing to her. She convinced me that I couldn’t have her, so I tried harder to make her mine. In the end, I fell right into her scheme,” he threw the hand towel draped around his neck into the sink and pointed at Evelyn Jane, eyes narrowed. “So do you think I’m really that stupid to fall for the same type twice? I can see a politician’s daughter from a mile away, Miss Orbinson.”
Her eyebrows arched in genuine surprise. She had never exactly told him who she really was. She had always just been ‘Miss Evie’ and let him assume otherwise.
“So you don’t…care…if she finds out about this?” she asked suspiciously.
“I’d welcome it. She’s a degenerate gambler and I have a prenup. She’d be out on the street if she divorced me.”
This wasn’t going Evelyn Jane’s way at all. It had turned south rather quickly.
“I guess this little affair of ours is over then if you can’t be of use to me,” she said curtly and made a move to stand and find her clothes. In a sudden, unexpected movement, she was knocked backward into the mattress. Her head whirled from the sudden fall as she focused on the face above her and tensed at the animalistic look in his eyes.
“You can be of use to me, though. I’ve taken a real liking toward you,” he smiled wickedly and ran his fingers along her cheek in a gesture of affection.
“I’ll tell my father,” she hissed, throwing her hand up to push his leering face away.
“Tell your father what exactly? That you’ve been screwing a man older than him and who happens to married no less?” he growled and grabbed her wrist and slammed it into the mattress where he held it there tightly.
“I’ll tell him that you took advantage of me!” she retorted with an angry squeak that was rapidly turning to panic as she struggled to throw his weight off of her.
He actually laughed, threw his head back and laughed as if she were the most amusingly pathetic thing he’d ever witnessed,“You won’t do that.”
She stilled and gave him a hard look, demanding an explanation.
“Did your father ever tell you about your Aunt Margaret?”
That was certainly a change of topic and hardly answered the question of why she wouldn’t hesitate to tell her father that Shaun Piper was a disgusting old pervert.
She knew of Aunt Margaret, her father’s estranged sister. “She disgraced the family. That’s all they ever said of her. They removed all pictures of her from family albums. It's like she never existed.”
“The Orbinsons care a great deal about their image. They’d do anything to protect that political legacy of theirs. Including shunning any family member they felt tarnished their reputation.”
She didn’t like where the conversation was headed.
“Maggie slept around, seduced men of power. She was in the tabloids, and ended up spending millions of her inheritance being a high roller. Some sorry jerk actually felt bad for her and let her into his life and that same sorry bastard was dumb enough to marry her even.”
Evelyn Jane felt her stomach lurch despite not being ill.
“If you tell anyone about us, I’ll make sure it becomes public knowledge. No doubt your family’s reputation will be damaged, your father’s career would take a hit, and you, my dear, would become just. like. her”
He pointed across the room at a picture on a shelf that was of him in his younger years smiling next to pretty brunette who only looked vaguely familiar because she shared the Mayor’s same calculating blue eyes.
Shaun released her wrist and stood, seeming to trust that Evelyn Jane understood her circumstances and his conditions.
He picked out fresh attire from his closet and dressed. All the while, Evelyn Jane had slowly pulled herself upright while furiously trying to think of anything she could do to get back at him, to ruin him, to get out of this predicament she had stupidly allowed herself to fall into. She clutched her wrist to her chest, realizing it still hurt from all the pressure Shaun had put on it.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, same time,” he said in a dismissive tone while adjusting the cuffs of his jacket, not bothering to face her again. An awful and rare feeling of helplessness washed over Evelyn Jane. She could think of nothing she could do that wouldn’t expose her and ruin her family’s reputation. It looked to be like Shaun was a much better and experienced chess player than she ever was. This was checkmate. She begrudgingly picked up her clothes and dressed in silence before brushing past him to escape as quickly as possible. However, they both knew there was little chance of Evelyn Jane escaping her violin lessons now that Shaun Piper had her under his thumb.
#27 19th Oct 2016 at 6:20 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:56 PM.
"So it looks like they are all playing in the competition,” Alanna finished telling the latest bit of most unwelcome news from where she sat on the practice room's floor. It was a shame Franz was involved too, he seemed like a very sweet and truthful person. Alanna bet he didn't even know Evelyn Jane was trying to rig the Battle of the Bands in her favor.
Alarie made a face of disgust for good measure, just to show how much she appreciated this piece of information. She still couldn’t believe Evelyn Jane was competing in the Battle of the Bands. It just wasn’t her style.
Alarie knew then, that Evelyn Jane certainly tricked Leona into dropping from the competition, although where and when exactly was still up for debate. Evelyn Jane was a bonafide manipulator, and knowing her character, Leona probably didn’t even have an actual spot to sing and would show up to the Mayor's Ball just to be mortified and turned away. Alarie had to warn her friend and make her see–to have her rejoin the band because now all the cards were stacked against them.
Orion's band had all the raw talent and Evelyn Jane's band had all the edge due to her sneaky saboteur ways.
Illyana was uncharacteristically quiet. Alarie thought for sure Illyana would make some grumbles of discontent at the news. However, Illyana was just sitting there on the speaker plugged into the microphone and looked deep in thought.
Alarie turned her attention toward her sister. She still thought Alanna was too sweet and lacked the rock-chic style their band required. She felt that winning was out of the question with Alanna as their singer. Alanna was pretty good and all, but couldn't hold a candle to Leona's range.
“Since you are singing for our band, is this a conflict of interest for you and all your lover boys?” Alarie teased and looked down to where her younger sister sat on the floor.
Alanna got huffy as expected and crossed her arms, “Cypress was hardly interested, Franz is just a new friend, and if Reggie can’t be bothered to contact me then I guess that’s his problem. They certainly are not ‘lover boys.’ Grow up.”
Alarie backed off since she apparently hit a nerve, but was glad the mayor's son had seemed to give up chasing Alanna. Alarie considered Reginald Orbinson a pretentious tool and it was probably best if he stayed away from her sister. She couldn’t judge Franz Schoulsburg, as she could only remember him saying his name for attendance at school. It was a shame Cypress Wellington wasn’t more interested. Then again, she could understand the lack of interest; Alanna was kind of a nerd.
“We’ll just have to be better than all of them,” Illyana finally said seriously, seeming to come out of a very long stretch of contemplation.
They had practiced all morning and Alarie noticed how much better Illyana sounded while playing. “Speaking of being better, how did you manage to have this crisp new sound?”
Illyana blinked rapidly a few times and gritted her teeth as if she was admitting something she’d rather not, “Nick came over last night and helped me with my amp settings.”
“Nick? As in Nicholas Hart, the boy you swore you’d hate forever?”
“Yeah. That Nick,” she seemed a tiny bit embarrassed but to cover it, scratched her nose nonchalantly, “and I don’t hate him anymore.”
So Illyana could forgive? If Illyana could forgive then there was still a chance for them to win.
It was imperative Alarie go to Leona at once and convince her to come back to sing for them.
“Hey, they said you were practicing up here but I hear no music,” they all heard a deep baritone from the doorway and all stood at once, noticing an intruder peeking inside the room.
“Antoine!” both Alarie and Alanna exclaimed at seeing it was their elder brother.
He was a College freshman at the Academie LeTour University and he must have had gotten some free time to finally come and visit. They hadn’t seen him since last Christmas.
Alarie pulled him into a hug and Alanna joined them. They chattered about missing each other and made Antoine promise to tell any funny college stories. He agreed if he thought of any. They asked him about what robotic projects he was working on and made him promise to come see them that weekend at the Battle of the Bands. When they were done chattering and laughing, he straightened up to search the room, "Where’s Leona?”
Alarie snapped a glare at Illyana, non-verbally shushing her before she could say anything bad about Leona in front of Antoine.
Antoine wouldn’t have known about the falling out. The last he knew, Alarie, Illyana, and Leona were the best of friends. Alarie ushered him out of the practice room and into the hallway.
“Leona and Illyana aren’t talking anymore,” Alarie pulled Antoine to the side and explained quietly.
“What? Why?” his face fell.
“It’s just one of Illyana’s dumb grudges,” she crossed her arms and shook her head. Alarie knew her brother really liked Leona. The only chance he would ever get to see her was if she happened to be hanging out with the Thackery sisters. Alarie had just the news to brighten his day, though.
“I actually need to go see her today. You wanna come with?”
“Of course!…but….her father,” he said with concern creasing his face.
“I’ll take care of it–” Alarie promised and Antoine’s face lit up.
“LUNCH TIME!” they heard their father’s booming voice rush up the stairwell.
“–after we eat.”
Everyone sat down to a grilled cheese sandwich that Mr. Thackery had made for lunch. It was his day off from the IDKPD where he was a detective.
Illyana was always a welcome guest in the Thackery house and it was a rare day when she wasn’t hanging around. Illyana lived with her mother, who always seemed to be working. Her older brother was currently away at college, like Antoine, and seldom visited home. Her father had passed away shortly after she was born. So Illyana's home was very isolated and lonely most days, especially in the summer when there was no school. Alarie knew that when Illyana was a little girl, she spent most of her time at Nick Hart's place and bonded with his grandmother–always seeking a family she didn't have herself.
Pity for Illyana struck Alarie as she watched Illyana and her father crack jokes back and forth. She felt thankful she had a full, functional family and didn’t mind one bit sharing her family if Illyana could get some happiness and stability in her life.
When everyone was done eating and the plates were cleared, Antoine eagerly grabbed Alarie by the arm and nearly pulled her out the front door, calling back to the other bemused teen girls, “We’ll be back later!”
#28 21st Oct 2016 at 2:25 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 10:05 PM.
Hanging by a String
Hanging by a String
Reggie refused to continue practicing on the keyboard no matter how much his sister nagged. It was the same principle either way. He made a flourishing crescendo and played hard into his solo. He looked over at Franz, who had momentarily stopped to allow Reggie’s solo. Franz was stoic as per usual and though it was normal, Reggie couldn’t help but to feel pissed off - a lingering feeling he'd been feeling ever since witnessing Franz and Alanna chatting it up all buddy-buddy style.
“Why aren’t you practicing?” he pointed a grumpy stare at his sister, who was listening to them practice while she lounged in the sitting room’s sofa.
“Because I know my part perfectly,” she said with an air of superiority and waved her hand for dramatic effect, causing the bangles she was wearing to clink together. “You two don’t yet. So keep practicing.”
Reggie lifted his lip in an annoyed snarl and his sister just smiled, “I’m going to go get something to drink. Want anything?”
Franz shook his head and Reggie said, “No thanks.”
Evelyn Jane gave a pout but stood and left the room to find a refreshment.
“So, how long have you been hanging out with Alanna?” Reggie asked in an even tone, trying to hide his annoyance, just as he completed his solo.
Franz started to pluck the bass with a slight frown, perhaps a bit puzzled at why Reggie was asking such a question.
“I saw you two at the bakery the other day,” Reggie explained.
“Were you spying on us?” Franz seemed a little put-off, his voice low and gravelly. His pizzicato trailed off waiting for an explanation.
“She wasn’t at her usual coffee shop and when I happened to see her leave the library, I wanted to see where she was headed,” Reggie explained. “She walked right into your family’s bakery and it looked like you two were getting along well enough.”
“So you stalked her?” Franz narrowed his eyes.
“Nothing that dramatic,” Reggie assured, “I just thought I should warn you that she’s a tease, so don’t have your heart set on her.”
“She’s not a tease,” Franz objected, “She’s really nice and actually listens to what I say.”
Reggie seemed to grow more irate as Franz defended her, “So you do like her?”
Franz’s jaw clenched and he looked away, “I barely know her.”
That wasn’t an answer. Reggie studied his friend, suddenly suspicious, “Did you go on a date with her?”
Franz’s brow raised in slight surprise as if wondering how Reggie could think that Franz would make a good date to anyone. Dates usually required conversation.
Reggie took Franz’s typical silence as admission. The thought of Franz and Alanna together pissed him off beyond words, especially remembering the scene of them smiling at each other in the bakery, which only fueled the jealousy inside him. How easily could she move interest from him, the Mayor's son, to Franz? Franz, who no one ever even noticed.
Without warning, he took an angry swing at the blond boy.
Evelyn Jane had come back in the room just in time to see the attempted assault, she cried out in surprise and rushed toward them, “Reggie, what is wrong with you?”
Franz was quick to shoulder the blow, being taller than Reggie. He suddenly looked furious. Scary even. This was the reason they were friends. Reggie was not the most athletic student, and was often picked on when he was a kid. That all stopped when Franz came around. Franz Schoulsburg was a very intimidating, silent individual and sent the bullies running. One time in the third grade, a particularly nasty kid made the mistake of bullying Reggie when Franz was having a really bad day and ended up with a concussion. It had cost Franz so much suspension that he failed a grade and was held back a year. Franz had protected the Mayor’s son and risked his education all in the understanding of friendship and now that Reggie had openly attacked him, it couldn’t end well.
“No!” Evelyn Jane gasped in shock as Franz’s fist popped Reggie in the nose, sending him staggering backward with a wash of blood across his face.
Reggie held his nose in disbelief and Franz backed away without a word, then turned and left them.
“Franz! Franz wait!” Evelyn Jane ran after him, following him out the front door. She nearly sprinted in her heels to catch up to him and close the gap he had made by taking his naturally long strides. He didn’t stop so she reached out and grabbed his shoulder. He quickly flipped around and grabbed her opposite wrist covered in bangle bracelets.
“You can find another bass player. I only was doing this as a favor to him,” he growled in low, dangerous tone.
Evelyn Jane winced at his hold, and her next words came out in a whimper, “Don’t quit. I can make him apologize.”
He eased his grip, shifting her bangles apart and found a very dark bruise on the underside of her wrist. His frown was fixed on it for a few seconds, seeming to wonder how she managed it. Now knowing the real reason as to why she wasn't practicing. He looked to her reaction but she only took her hand back and held her shoulder, not meeting his eyes.
She bit her lip, “Please reconsider?”
She looked like she was about to fall apart, and for some reason pity struck him. He knew she wasn't the kind of girl that deserved it but she was practically begging, and that was not something Evelyn Jane Orbinson did lightly. He should have just walked away.
“Tell me why he’s suddenly obsessed with Alanna Thackery and I’ll reconsider.”
Her green eyes narrowed, seeming to work out the events that had transpired when she was out of the room and her lips became very thin.
“All I know is that Reggie doesn’t take rejection well.”
Franz thought about her cryptic answer for a moment and then nodded in understanding, brushing past her and going back into the house. Reggie looked up from where he sat with some tissue trying to dab blood away. He tensed, seeming a bit afraid that Franz would punch him again and stood, moving at least three feet from the tall boy.
“Look, Alanna and I are just casual acquaintances. You want to know what we were talking about? Books. That’s all we’ve ever talked about. So you can take your stupid idea that we’re involved or that she likes me or whatever is causing you to act like a prick and get over it.”
It was a rare thing indeed to witness Franz speak so many sentences at once. Especially with that much emotion. So it must have been important for him to get it out.
Reggie considered the words as rationality came back to him. He crumpled up his tissue and sighed while closing his eyes, “I apologize. What I did was uncalled for.”
Franz gave a solemn nod, and gestured toward Reggie’s nose, “It’s not broken is it?”
Reggie gingerly felt the bridge of his nose, “I don’t think so. It hurts but the bleeding stopped. I think you just ruptured some blood vessels.”
“Good,” Franz said and turned toward Evelyn Jane, “Have him cleaned up, and I will see you at the Battle of The Bands on Saturday.”
Evelyn Jane wordlessly mouthed ‘Thank you’ and then turned to tend to her brother.
#29 23rd Oct 2016 at 4:02 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 10:20 PM.
If Leona had to have three guesses of who would be knocking on her door during the middle of the week, she would have guessed either the landlord, a door-to-door cult member trying to recruit followers, or possibly even her grandmother since the elderly woman lived next door.
Alarie Thackery wouldn’t have even been in the top 10 of her guesses. Yet there she stood on the doorstep of the townhouse.
“I thought you weren’t talking to me,” Leona said with a bewildered frown when she opened the door.
Alarie seemed a little ashamed now that Leona had come right out and said it. Leona hadn’t spoken to either of her former band mates in at least two weeks. Not since Illyana got snippy and hung up on her when she tried to apologize. It was turning out to be a very lonely summer. The only thing to look forward to now was the catalyst that had started the entire feud: The Mayor’s Ball.
Alarie touched her forehead regretfully, “I’m sorry, Illyana can be…”
“Unforgiving?” Leona frowned and crossed her arms.
Alarie shrugged, “She finally forgave Nick Hart.”
“Great, so I have about five years before she’ll speak to me again,” Leona grumbled in bitter sarcasm. “What did you come here for, Alarie?”
“Is your Dad home?” Alarie peeked over Leona’s shoulder with a hint of worry.
“No, he’s out. Why?” Leona asked sharply.
“I brought you a little surprise,” Alarie’s worry turned to a sly smile and she stepped out of the way to reveal her tall, dark, and extremely handsome elder brother standing down the walkway.
“Antoine!?” Leona gaped, but a little composure was regained as her gape transformed into a wide smile. She and Antoine had a definite attraction in recent years but barely got to see each other since he had left for university. That, and her father disapproved of his attentions toward her. She was three years his junior, but honestly, that didn’t bother either of them. She felt momentarily embarrassed her face was going through a bout of teenage acne on the day she should see him again. But he wouldn't have cared anyhow.
“Hey there, songbird” he smiled as he said the nickname he’d given to her.
She could have melted on her doorstep but instead ran full throttle at him until he caught her in a big hug where he lifted her off her feet and twirled her. Once she was back on the ground, they kissed.
“You have no idea how much I have missed you!” Leona said, feeling joy erupt through her chest as he set his forehead against hers, creating a small and intimate space to look into each others’ eyes.
“It’s kind of hard to see you when your father hates me,” he answered. Her father was a reasonable man unless it concerned Antoine Thackery. He’d been that way ever since he had walked into his daughter’s room when she was 15 and found her making out with a high school senior.
“Well he’s out at the gym now, so you are safe,” she kissed him again.
“Eugh, okay come on let’s go,” Alarie coughed in a disgusted manner and started heading towards the sidewalk.
“Where are we going?” Leona asked, half apprehensive.
“Your favorite place,” Antoine put his arm around her shoulders as they followed his sister.
Leona belted out the last few notes to her favorite song in a private room at the Karaoke Club in downtown Scandalica City. As of late, she had only been practicing the song she had planned to sing at the Mayor’s Ball and it was nice to sing some songs for leisure for a change.
Alarie and Antoine watched her while sitting on the room’s sofas.
“Whose next?” Leona asked with a jubilant smile. She couldn’t hog all the songs to herself. Alarie didn’t seem to want to sing but Antoine actually had a good voice; she raised her brows and held the microphone out to him, meaning for him to take it. He grinned and stood, picking it up from her hand and started searching the karaoke machine for a song to sing.
It was so wonderful to see him, to be near him. She thought for sure he would forget her and start dating other girls in college. Her father told her as much, to try and persuade her to stop holding a flame for Antoine.
He came back though, to see her. This proved he still felt for her. Her heart did a giddy flip flop and she glanced at Alarie, wishing she would go somewhere and leave Antoine and Leona alone just for a bit.
She leaned against the wall to watch Antoine start singing lyrics to a popular song on the radio.
“Leona?” she heard Alarie say her name and she turned her head slightly.
“How did you get invited to sing at the Mayor’s Ball?”
“Well…I ran into the mayor’s daughter at Sand’s and…”
“She offered you a spot,” Alarie’s expression darkened as she finished Leona’s sentence for her.
“How...how did you know?” Leona asked, clearly puzzled as she had never said anything about the mayor’s daughter being involved.
“We found out that Evelyn Jane Orbinson is playing with her own band at the competition. She must have wanted you to drop out so she had a better chance to win.”
Leona blinked a few times at that bluntness, just to process the conspiracy theory. When she finally understood what Alarie was saying, she knew It couldn’t be true! She had the invitation and everything!
“She may be playing, but I have an invitation to the Mayor’s Ball. I still have a spot to sing.”
“Do you really know that for sure?” Alarie snapped.
“Why would I not?” Leona asked in offense.
Alarie groaned and faced Leona, bracing herself against the wall with one hand on her hip, “How naive are you? Evelyn Jane can’t be trusted. You don’t know her like we do. She pulls this kind of shit all the time at school. She’s the core essence of manipulation.”
Leona frowned, “How do I know you aren’t trying to manipulate me into coming back and singing for you and wasting my chance?"
Alarie glowered, “How can you say that? I'm your friend and came to you out of concern. The Battle of the Bands will have talent scouts. If we win, we get to open a concert with our own set. How is the Mayor’s Ball more important?”
“Ladies…?” they heard Antoine’s deep voice cut through the argument–apparently he was done singing and they had missed every word.
“Talk some sense into her!” Alarie clenched her fists and promptly left the room in a huff of frustration. Leona looked to Antoine with a puzzled frown. Was he only brought along to persuade her to give up on her dream?
But she refused to have those thoughts cloud her happiness because now that Alarie had vacated the room, Antoine opened his arms and Leona gladly went to him. He embraced her and held her close, “I thought we’d never be alone again.”
She lifted herself onto her toes to kiss him, and their lips met passionately, his mouth nearly crashing into hers. She desired more, but he tilted his head back, denying her.
“You should hear my sister out,” he sighed.
Leona pushed him away with wide, betrayed eyes, “Antoine, it’s a rare chance. I thought you of all people would be on my side!”
“I am on your side, but I am just saying there has to be some reason to what she is saying. Could it be possible that a member of one of the most powerful political families in the region has manipulated you into dropping out of the Battle of the Bands to better their own chances of winning?
Leona shook her head, “I just don’t believe it.”
“What, that you are good enough to be a threat?” he asked.
She looked away, and said sadly, “That you wouldn’t trust that I know what I am doing.”
“Songbird…” Antoine’s look softened and he reached out but she slapped his hand away, suddenly miffed at him.
In a voice full of resolve and with a leveled stare she declared, “I’m going to sing at the Mayor’s Ball and not even you can convince me otherwise.”
#30 25th Oct 2016 at 12:17 AM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Feb 2020 at 2:11 AM.
Breakfast was usually a quiet affair in Nick’s home. Mostly, it consisted of he and his two younger brothers being too tired to get into lengthy discussions. His father would drink coffee and read the newspaper and his mother used the morning for contemplation.
So it was rather jolting for Nick to be addressed in the middle of eating pancakes.
“Nick, have you filled out any scholarship applications this summer?”
Nick looked from his plate to his father, fork midway to his mouth in a horrified silence.
“You can never start too early you know, son,” his father added.
Nick hadn’t filled out anything. It was summer for crying out loud! He didn’t want to worry about academic stuff and he hadn’t even started his senior year in high school yet!
“I’ll think about it,” Nick answered, his voice low and croaky from just waking up not even a half hour before. He knew his reply would placate his father for the time being. He had no intention to 'think about it' though, not until school started.
“Also I put in a good word with Jimmy Phoenix and he said he'd consider taking you as an intern next summer after you graduate,” his father continued, much to Nick’s annoyance.
“That’s wonderful, dear!” his mother came out of her contemplation to say, “Nicholas, you should thank your father, that was most considerate of him to do.”
“Uh, I don’t remember asking to be an intern at a law office,” Nick grumbled.
Both his parents frowned at him.
“You can’t just play around all of next summer like you have been this one. You need to get some activities for your resumé and playing racket in a band doesn't count either! I started when I was Shane’s age!” his father pointed at Nick’s next youngest brother sitting at the table. Shane was only 15. He looked startled at being brought into this conversation and started eating his pancakes faster.
“For the millionth time, Dad, I am not you,” Nick groaned.
Apparently, there had been one too many arguments started this way because his mother and two brothers started to clear their plates and vacate the dining table in preparation for the shouting match to ensue.
“You know, any other guys your age would jump at the chance to intern for Jimmy’s office. You’re being very ungrateful. Why can’t you take your future seriously?!” His father snarled.
“I do! It's just you don’t take my plans my future seriously!” Nick raised his voice and stood. Shane ninja-whisked Nick’s empty plate out from under him and continued on cleaning up breakfast. Nick was done eating anyway. He didn't have an appetite anymore.
His father’s eyes narrowed, completely enraged. He knew Nick's plans and didn’t approve one bit.
Nick had always been a creative kid with a big imagination. His parents thought his drawings were just a fun little hobby, but when he told them he wanted to go to art school, they had flipped their shit. Nick wanted to be a painter.
“If you’re going to take that tone with me you can forget about playing at your band thing tonight,” his father threatened.
Nick’s frown lifted to panic, “No, you can’t! I’ve been practicing all summer!”
“Instead, you should join us at the Mayor’s Ball. I can introduce you to Jimmy, and plus there will be a lot of other influential people there it wouldn’t hurt to know.”
That sounded like the worst night ever. Nick would rather slowly peel band-aids of his body than go to something as boring as the Mayor’s Ball. His father rubbed elbows with politicians and lawyers on a daily basis, being a court judge and was expected to be there. He was even friends with the Mayor.
“I can’t miss Battle of the Bands!” Nick started to panic.
His father rubbed his chin in thought and then gave him a beguiling smile, “I'll tell you what. You can go if you drop your ridiculous notion of going to art school.”
Nick’s anger boiled up but he caught it his throat. That was hardly a fair negotiation. So, this is what his father chose to do with his power? Obliterate the hope of a future Nick wanted for himself? If he refused, he’d be letting his band down. Nick may have been many things but he wasn’t a flake. So what was he to do? Go to Sim State, join a fraternity, and go into political science like the future his Dad would have picked out; he would rather have his son be successful than happy. His dad failed to realize success didn't always lead to happiness.
Nick turned around and gritted his teeth, still very angry at his father’s tactics. He crossed his arms, “Fine. I won't go to art school.”
His father gave a slight nod, acknowledging he had won, and promptly left the room. Nick caught Shane putting dishes into the washer in the kitchen. He needed a way to de-stress from the morning’s conversation.
“Hey bro, let’s go to the Recreation Center this afternoon. Kick some balls around,” he leaned against the counter and suggested. He didn’t usually spend quality time with Shane. Shane was into science fairs, computers, and generally being isolated in his room. He had time, he wasn't supposed to be at the theater for the competition until at least five o' clock.
Shane finished loading the breakfast plates and shrugged, “I don’t really want to. I don’t like you always kicking the soccer balls at my head.”
“Maybe if you learned how to tend a goal, you could catch it before it hits you!”
“Noooo!” Shane whined in protest and made a move to leave.
“Play you for it?”
His brother stopped. Shane couldn’t resist a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. They’d played it to decide things ever since they were boys. After three hits to the palm, Nick came out with scissors that clearly beat his brother’s flat-handed choice of paper. Nick gave a whoop of victory and then slapped Shane on the back, “Grab your gym clothes.”
“Okay just…keep your eye on the ball,” Nick instructed as he held the soccer ball under his foot to steady it. He played on the school’s soccer team. Hopefully, he’d be made captain for the upcoming year. He didn’t plan to get rusty, so once every week he came downtown to practice on the indoor soccer nets.
“Don’t aim for my head!” Shane yelled accusingly.
“Yeah, yeah,“ Nick waved his brother’s worries away and backed up. He then ran forward and then kicked the ball. Shane let out a high-pitched scream and jumped out of the way. If only all the other goalies he played against were as dedicated as his brother in avoiding the ball. His team would be unbeatable!
Shane regained some composure and threw the ball back to Nick.
“Nick?” Shane asked as Nick lined up the soccer ball for another shot.
“Are you really going to give up on art school?”
“I kind of have to. Otherwise, Dad will ground me or something and make me miss Battle of the Bands,” he said, growing angry at the thought of that morning and kicked the ball extra hard at Shane.
Shane yelped and barely missed being hit in the chest.
“You shouldn’t let him bully you,” he threw the ball back, accidentally hitting Nick in the arm with it.
Nick rubbed his arm and glared, “Easy for you to say, Dad approves of anything you do.” He picked up the soccer ball and tossed it the air a few times, “Though someday he’s gonna start nagging you to get a girlfriend. Man, that’s gonna be hilarious.”
“You don’t think I can’t get one!?” Shane bellowed in indignation.
“You have to actually speak to girls,” Nick mocked and kicked the ball again. Shane actually caught it, seeming fired up with adrenaline from being offended. Nick was slightly impressed.
“You should be one to talk. You’ve never had any girlfriends!” Shane threw the ball back again, aiming for Nick’s head. Nick dodged it easily and with a laugh of amusement. True, he’d never had any girlfriends, but he’d had plenty of dates.
He’d have another one soon.
After kicking more than enough goals to win him a championship, Nick finally felt a bit calmer and less stressed. He hit the showers and in turn let the warm water hit his sweaty face. He closed his eyes and started thinking again.
He’d still get to play the competition that night but at the cost of giving up on his dream for the future. Funny how he was more stressed over the conversation with his dad and had no nerves about playing in front of one of the largest crowds of his life in a few hours.
Maybe he could still pursue art in his free time. Yeah right, like he’d have any free time during college while studying law and politics, or interning for big shot lawyers. He released a deep sigh and scrubbed his face.
His thoughts turned to Illyana.
He had surprised even himself for coming up with a 'date' as Illyana's punishment if she were to lose. But really, how bad could it be?
It just sort of popped into his head. Before the other night, he’d never considered Illyana as someone he could take out. She was always his best friend growing up; an opinionated, somewhat obnoxious little girl with a short fuse and even after puberty she was still the same in his mind.
Then, after she had pulled him into that long hug, he suddenly started becoming aware of her in much different ways than before. How her complexion was always flawlessly sun-kissed, how pretty and expressive her eyes were, how full and utterly kissable her lips seemed, and how she fit perfectly against him in that moment.
It was a hell of a revelation, and he’d be stupid to pass up such an opportunity to get on her absolute good side again.
He smiled and turned off the water, shaking his head and ridding his hair of excess water before grabbing a towel and drying off.
As Nick and his brother started to walk back to the downtown bus stop, they felt little droplets of water starting to fall onto their faces and arms.
“Summer rain is the best,“ Shane declared, lifting his hand to catch a few droplets. Nick looked at his brother in all his innocent awkwardness. Maybe if Shane was lucky, a girl would talk to him first and save him the anxiety. Someday.
Girlfriend or not, Nick knew Shane was still the preferred son in their family. Nick didn’t know if it was because Shane had red hair like their father or what–it was still a shitty thing do for a parent to pick favorites and he refused to let the fact cause ill-feelings between them. It wasn't Shane's fault, it was his father's.
#31 1st Nov 2016 at 4:53 AM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Feb 2020 at 2:43 AM.
The Wait is Over
The Wait is Over
There was an eerie sort of silence settled upon the stage at the Fame Theater. The only semblance of sound was the humming of the bright neon lights that were rotating around and illuminating the space where they’d be occupying in an hour or two.
“This is it, man,” Nick surveyed the whole theater while standing next to Orion.
Orion crossed his arms and felt a knot of anxiety hit his chest. It was a big venue. He took a deep breath to calm himself. It wasn’t just that he had been having an internal struggle about Cypress lately, but for all his talent he still got jittery in front of crowds.
Though hardly anyone was there at the early hour.
“Are you playing tonight?” a voice from the side asked and the boys turned to see a man, presumably someone in charge of something as evident by the clipboard in his hand.
“Yeah we’re Incarcerated Heart,” Nick adjusted the strap on his guitar case across his shoulder and smiled.
“Sweet, well just go on back to the Green Room. It looks like you guys go on at eight-thirty tonight so feel free to check your settings. Catering will arrive at seven-thirty and the theater doesn’t open to the public until seven.”
Orion and Nick walked down the long hallway and entered the Green Room where there were a few other members of other competing bands hanging around. The Green Room had exits to the stage, vending machines, and plenty of cushy seating. There was cork board with a pinned list of upcoming shows and the Battle of the Bands schedule. Nick glanced over it and saw there were 10 bands playing total.
“Where is Cypress?” Orion asked, checking the clock.
“He called me before I left and told me he had to run some errands and should be here around six-thirty,” Nick answered, “I’m going to go configure the amp settings since we have time to kill.”
Nick exited the Green Room onto the stage and could see across the theater to where they had first entered. He smirked as he crouched next to the amp, just imagining the cheering crowd and the upcoming electric energy the night promised. He unpacked his guitar and plugged it into the amp, strummed a bit and then twisted the knobs until he got the sound he was looking for. He had a sense of Déjà vu and grinned to himself, wondering if Illyana would need help with configuring her amp settings. He knew she was his competition but he couldn't wait to see her again.
When he was satisfied he returned to the Green Room to find Orion had been accosted by some girls from school. He smoothly stepped in to join the conversation, putting his best smile on for the brunette in the pink skirt.
“Hey there, are you two in a band?”
“Not really,” giggled the one in pigtails he may have had algebra with, “We helped carry in my brother’s equipment and saw Orion.”
Orion gulped, feeling his anxiety flare up, “So you’ll be watching tonight?”
“Duh,” she replied with a playful roll of her eyes. “I know I’m supposed to be rooting for my brother’s band but I like you guys much better, so good luck!”
“You know, they say kisses are the best way to wish good luck,” Nick raised his brows and puckered his lips at them. They giggled even harder before they ultimately were called away by the coordinator because they were not in any bands and shouldn’t be lingering backstage.
“You’re sick,” Orion shoved Nick lightly in the shoulder, and he fell into one of the cushy chairs with the side of his face cupped in his hand.
Orion sat in the chair next to him and crossed his arms, seeming worried.
“What’s wrong dude?”
“I’m just nervous.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll win.”
“It’s not that. I’ve had issues playing live before, you know that.”
Nick sighed and gave a nod, remembering the last gig they played at a local restaurant and pool hall. Orion had choked while in the middle of a song, ran offstage and Cypress had to chase him down in the bathroom to calm him. Which left Nick entertaining the crowd to the sounds of improvised guitar solos. They only got paid half of what they were promised.
Orion’s leg was tapping the floor in increasing time, jittery like a kid who had too much coffee. Nick kicked his leg out and pinned Orion’s down, giving him a level stare, “Stop and take another deep breath and you’ll get through it, I promise.”
Orion nodded and inhaled.
Idle chatter had grown as more bands arrived in the Green Room but a voice rose above the chatter and Nick clearly made out one he recognized as it said his name. Though when his eyes landed on the voice he was familiar with, their image was something he wasn't.
“Nick!” Illyana repeated and waved from the Green Room entrance.
She was hardcore rocking a style to match her music. Her hair was let down with streaks of red to match her guitar, her jeans were torn to get that edgy punk rock look, and her lips were shimmering in a ruby red lipstick - smiling wide at him. She came to win and look good doing it.
It may have taken a moment for Nick’s brain to start again, to form a cohesive sentence after taking the new appearance in, “Hey.”
Her drummer stayed back to chat with the coordinator, as Illyana made her way to where Nick and Orion were sitting.
Nick gave a low whistle as she approached, “Damn, Ill, you look amazing. I hope you wear that on our date.”
She narrowed her eyes at him as her cheeks adopted a shade of red but didn’t dignify him with an answer, instead, she asked, “Where is your drummer?”
“He’ll be along. What about your new 'secret weapon' of a singer? Where are they?” Nick shot back, not forgetting Illyana’s proclamation at the comics store a few weeks ago that her new singer was they key to beating his band.
lllyana called a name out over the other talking musicians and an extremely beautiful girl emerged, walking toward them and stood next to Illyana.
“This is Alarie’s sister, Alanna, our new singer.”
It took Nick and Orion a moment to realize they had actually seen her before at the Starboard Lounge. Nick’s jaw dropped, “You were Cypress’s date!”
Orion sort of grimaced at the memory but still seemed amazed at Alanna’s transformation. She was a true chameleon, and they wouldn’t have recognized her otherwise.
She was wearing hip-hugging jeans with black high heel boots and a blue halter top that revealed a pierced navel. Her hair, instead of being in a braid, was pulled into a side ponytail and teased.
Little did they know all of the effort and pains her sister had to deal with to get Alanna into such a get-up.
“Yeah, but that didn’t really work out,” Alanna replied.
“What do you mean?” Orion leaned forward with sudden interest and a raised brow. He’d always wondered how Cypress’s date went but Cypress never mentioned it and he was too afraid to ask.
“We didn’t really have any chemistry,” Alanna met Orion’s gaze, “He’s a nice guy and you’re lucky to have him as a friend.”
Orion knew that! Why did she sound so adamant as she said it?
She didn't explain herself, just smiled warmly and wished them luck before Illyana ushered her back toward her sister in an attempt to regroup.
“We don’t need luck, we’re going to win!” Nick cockily called out after them, causing Illyana to turn around and roll her eyes with the utmost exaggeration.
“Can you call Cypress and see if he’s on his way?” Orion asked.
“I’m sure he is on his way, it's only a quarter after,” Nick shrugged.
“Can you please just do it?” Orion snapped. Nick looked a bit struck at his friend’s impatient demeanor but then figured it was Orion’s nerves driving him to act that way. So he shrugged and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed.
It went straight to voice mail. Nick hung up and a touch of worry reached his eyes as he looked to Orion, “Dude, he didn’t answer.”
#32 4th Nov 2016 at 12:12 AM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Feb 2020 at 3:16 AM.
Franz had barely talked to Reggie since their physical altercation. Franz of course, hardly talked in the first place, but the atmosphere around them gave Reggie distinct vibes that Franz was still somewhat pissed off at him. Reggie was still kind of pissed off at Franz too, on behalf of the pain lingering in his nose - but he knew he had been a dick to presume Franz was the guy Alanna had moved on to. Nobody noticed Franz in that way.
They moved their equipment into the theater in silence. Reggie was to play on an electronic keyboard provided at the venue since he couldn’t bring his own baby grand, but the theater did not have a spare double bass so that was all on Franz to bring.
Evelyn Jane was lingering outside, claiming to be in shortly and Reggie couldn’t figure out the reason to why. She seemed reluctant to enter the theater altogether and it was very out of character for her, she who strode headlong into everything she was determined to take as hers.
Once they set up Franz’s bass backstage, and Evelyn Jane was still nowhere to be found, did the two boys return to the lobby area to see if she come in yet.
“Hi guys!” they both heard Alanna’s enthusiastic greeting from behind them.
Franz and Reggie whirled around to see her, though a very different version than they were used to. Instead of the modestly dressed young lady with a braid stood a drop-dead gorgeous young woman who looked like she could have been a pop diva.
Reggie might have stuttered but not said anything of consequence. Franz’s jaw fell open, but more at the fact she was there, “You came.”
“I told you I would!” Alanna smiled.
Though she was there rather early. Neither of the boys actually thought it was odd, their minds were too preoccupied with the present and how she was standing in front of them.
“Reggie, long time no see - I figured you’ve just been too busy practicing for the competition to call,” Alanna pointed her gaze at the mayor’s son and said. She seemed a bit disappointed in him and maybe it was just the case of he had waited too long to reach out after their cultured excursion.
Before Reggie could respond, Franz stepped forward suddenly, seeming to remember something, “Would you mind coming over to my house for dinner this week?”
“Oh,” Alanna seemed caught off-guard but ended up nodding and agreeing to dinner. Reggie felt himself bristle behind them, reminded of when he first tried to ask her out to dinner and yet was rejected. He glared at the back of Franz’s head, thinking him a dirty liar. He did like Alanna.
Alanna excused herself to the ladies room then and as soon as she was out of earshot, Reggie started voicing his anger.
“You told me nothing was going on between you two!”
“There isn’t. My mom saw her at the bakery and told me to invite her over,” Franz answered, seeming most bewildered at Reggie’s flare of anger. He thought they already established that there was no dating, feelings, or anything romantic of the sort between him and Alanna. Why was Reggie so quick to forget all that?
Evelyn Jane chose that moment to finally enter the building and stopped in front of her band mates, setting her violin case at her feet.
“Why are you fighting this time?” she sounded exasperated like she was dealing with children throwing tantrums.
Reggie ignored his sister’s inquiry and balled his fists, “Dinner sounds like something. Just admit you that you like her!”
“How many times do I have to tell you that It’s not like that!” Franz’s voice boomed across the entrance area, drawing the attention of anyone in the vicinity.
“Oh Plumbobs, her again?” Evelyn Jane’s brow plummeted into a frown, and she shoved her violin case into her brother’s arms, “Put that in the back for me, Reggie.”
She took a quick, almost paranoid glance around the lobby area and mumbled that she was going to the ladies room.
When she entered the washroom, she nearly jumped out of her skin. She didn’t usually scare so easily but figured no one else would have been in the bathroom before the show. Most of the bands consisted of guys.
There was a girl washing her hands at the sink and when she looked up, Evelyn could see Alanna’s reflection in the mirror.
She crossed her arms and frowned, “So you’re Alanna Thackery?" she gave Alanna a long look of appraisal before concluding there was nothing impressive about her, just like she remembered.
“Yes, and you’re Evelyn Jane Orbinson,” Alanna replied, glancing in the mirror to see the Mayor’s daughter just behind her.
Evelyn Jane’s brow arched and when she spoke her voice was filled with acid, “I advise you fix my band before I start a nasty rumor about you next year at school.”
“What do you mean?” Alanna looked taken aback and turned around to face her.
“Reggie and Franz are ready to tear each other apart over you, and it's causing discord,” Evelyn Jane rolled her eyes then narrowed them, “Why are you here so early and why are you dressed like that? It’s not your usual aesthetic.”
Alanna smiled and said pleasantly, “That’s none of your business.”
Evelyn Jane gave a look of disbelief, as if she couldn't imagine a girl like Alanna to start getting cheeky with her. She wiped her expression away and stood in Alanna’s way, preventing her from leaving without answers, “Wait, are you in one of the bands?”
“Yes, the same band you tried to sabotage by having Leona Hillenburg drop out,” Alanna suddenly lost the usual innocence her face otherwise portrayed and she stepped closer with a glare of accusation.
“So did you do this to my brother and Franz on purpose?” Evelyn Jane asked, seeming annoyed and yet impressed.
Alanna laughed demurely, “Honestly, I had no idea they were playing in a band with you. I guess I'm just a likable person and I don’t have to threaten or manipulate people into liking me as you do.”
“How dare you!” Evelyn Jane stepped forward threateningly.
“You can’t be mad about the truth!” Alanna growled, as she balled her fists and it was such a startling tone that it caused Evelyn Jane to take pause. Alanna seemed to pluck some invisible lint off her halter and added, “Besides, if you do anything to me now, you may as well kiss the competition goodbye. Reggie and Franz aren’t going to play for you once they know what you’ve done.”
“I guess I underestimated you, but the truth is cheap,” Evelyn Jane eased back but maintained vicious eye contact, “So name your price.”
“Are you bribing me?”
“What will it take for you to convince my brother and his friend that you had no real feelings toward them so they start to play nice together again?”
Alanna bit her lip to think and then met Evelyn Jane’s calculating emerald eyes, “Tell me if Leona really has a spot to sing at that Ball or not.”
Reggie and Franz were still at the entrance, apparently now shouting at each other. Anyone who knew of Franz was staring in shock at the rare sight of his anger manifesting itself into words. At least neither had thrown any blows yet despite Reggie's coiled fists. It didn’t matter what Franz would say, but it wouldn’t convince Reggie that he didn’t harbor feelings toward Alanna.
“This is my fault and I’m sorry,” Alanna’s voice cut through their argument.
Both boys turned in bewilderment to see her at the top of the stairs that led into the theater.
“What do you mean?” Reggie demanded to know.
“I…I am actually a singer for one of the bands playing tonight. I thought maybe I could turn you against each other and cause your band to break up.”
Reggie’s brow rose with astonishment before lowering once more; he wouldn't have expected such dishonest behavior from her but he had found out that there was a lot of things he didn't know about his old chemistry partner and he resigned himself to the fact he was surrounded by liars. Franz didn’t look angry at her admission but his face held a sort of puzzlement as he stared at her.
Alanna took advantage of the silence to continue explaining, “Anyway, now that you know, you shouldn’t fight with each other. It’s what I wanted, don’t let me tear your friendship apart,” she looked absolutely miserable as she said these words and never met either of their gazes.
Evelyn Jane appeared behind her and smiled in utmost smugness, “I got the truth out of her in the bathroom. I told her that I would tell you both if she didn’t come clean first. At least she has somewhat of a conscience left.”
Alanna turned and briskly, in embarrassment, and headed toward the Green Room without contesting the Mayor’s daughter.
They stood around in silence.
“Reggie, I thought I told you to put my instrument backstage,” Evelyn Jane finally chided, seeing her violin case laying at his feet. He picked it up and obeyed, following the path Alanna had taken a few minutes before.
“Franz, don’t dawdle,” Evelyn Jane turned toward the tall blond and advised. He gave a slight nod but seemed to hang back, still processing the news that Alanna had feigned interest in books the whole time to make him feel something other than indifference for her. She didn’t get to him as deeply as she did Reggie but it still hurt - to think he could have had another friend.
This is why he didn't get attached to people, and he had to learn this lesson yet again.
Evelyn Jane smiled in triumph and turned the corner to the hallway which led to the Green Room.
She stopped in her tracks and an involuntary shriek slipped past her lips as she saw the very person she had been trying to avoid since she had arrived, casually leaning against the wall in front of the entrance to the room. To anyone else, he wouldn’t have drawn any concern, after all he was a judge.
She stood there, seeming paralyzed with fear. This was not something she expected. Yes, she knew Shaun Piper would be in the vicinity but here they were, alone. The one situation she had feared and wanted to avoid.
“Hello Evie,” he greeted her with a smooth tenor she once would have thought attractive. Now she was utterly repulsed.
‘"What are you doing here?”
“I’m one of the judges, remember?” He straightened himself up and walked toward her with the appropriate amount of swagger for all the power he held over her.
He kept advancing until he was right next to her, and still her legs wouldn’t run. He leaned forward and only then did Evelyn Jane find the courage to move. She tried to evade him but he put his arm up to halt her escape and his other against the wall, effectively boxing her in.
“What do you want?” she tried to put as much bite and authority in her voice she could, to show him she wasn’t intimidated. Yet her back was pressed against the wall and she didn’t have the strength to move him if he didn’t want to be moved.
“To wish you good luck,” he smiled cruelly and closed the space between them.
#33 5th Nov 2016 at 10:02 PM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Feb 2020 at 3:25 AM.
Lament of the Songbird
Lament of the Songbird
Leona checked her reflection in the downstairs mirror. This was as ready as she would ever be. She had practiced diligently, her voice was primed, and in a few minutes the taxi would pick her up to take her to the Mayor’s Ball.
Her heels were a bit uncomfortable, so hopefully, she wouldn’t be standing all night. She grimaced and adjusted her stance.
“The taxi is here,” her father announced. She turned around and found herself being pulled into a big bear hug, “I am so proud of you sweetheart.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Leona gave him her brightest smile. She grabbed the invitation and put it in her clutch, waving one last goodbye before heading out.
The Mayor’s Ball was downtown at Le Theater, an old neoclassical structure that could be rented out for private events. As Leona stood on the sidewalk, just outside of it, she marveled at it’s majestic and classic exterior beauty. Men in tuxedos and women in gowns were entering the building arm in arm. Her awe transformed to a bittersweet smile and she sighed; she didn’t have a date to the ball. Though, the thought of Antoine in a suit made her swoon a bit.
She climbed the stairs to the entrance, into the foyer and was stopped from entering the ballroom by a woman in a red blouse.
“Hello, welcome to the Mayor’s Ball,” the woman smiled cheerfully and shook Leona’s hand, “I’m Millicent Conway, the Mayor’s assistant so let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks! Is there a specific place I need to report to if I am singing tonight?”
“Yeah, there’s an entrance to the backstage down the hallway, what’s your time slot?” Millicent said, looking over her clipboard.
“I actually don’t know, the invitation didn’t specify. Do you have that information?”
“Your invitation didn’t tell your time?” Millicent’s brows knotted in suspicion, “What is your name? I’ll check my list.”
“Leona Hillenburg,” she answered and a flutter of unease hit her right in the gut.
Millicent’s eyes roamed over her sheet, then she flipped the page and kept looking. It was making Leona exceedingly anxious watching as the Mayor’s assistant was still searching but unable to find her name on the list.
“It’s not here, dear.”
“I got an invitation, though, signed by the Mayor himself!” Leona unclasped her clutch and held out the envelope with the invitation still inside. Millicent took it and looked through it curiously.
“Strange, I didn’t think he personally had sent any out for this event. Please wait a moment,” the woman turned to a suited associate that Leona hadn’t even noticed, and they spoke in low tones until the associate departed.
Leona tapped her heel impatiently, wishing she could sit down already. She heard melodies drifting out of the ballroom. Someone else was singing.
Suddenly, a well-dressed man appeared in the ballroom entrance from the ballroom’s side. His dark hair was slicked to the side and his eyes roved over both of them with a look of impatient puzzlement, “What did you call me out here for Ms. Conway?”
“This young lady says she received an invitation to sing tonight but her name isn’t on my list. The invitation looks to have your signature,” the assistant explained and handed him the envelope. Oh Plumbobs, the Mayor was standing right in front of her!
“I assure you I didn’t…” he said as he took out the paper and scanned it, his voice fading as he arched an eyebrow. He seemed to re-read it and then looked at Leona suspiciously, “Where did you get this?”
“In the mail…” Leona’s gut was twisting in all sorts of directions. He studied the paper and then flipped the envelope over to see the return address. He sighed and she heard the name ‘Evie’ spoken in an exasperated mumble.
“I apologize young lady but it looks like you have been promised a spot that isn’t available,” the Mayor folded the invitation up and placed it back into its envelope and handed it to her.
She numbly accepted it. Everyone had been right, and she was just too full of hope to see it.
“Again, I am terribly sorry. You are welcome to stay, dance, and enjoy the catering upstairs,” he bowed his head slightly then looked toward his assistant, “Was that all Ms. Conway?”
“Yes sir,” she replied and he took leave.
Leona peeked into the ballroom and saw a room of splendor. But what was the point of staying if she couldn’t sing? Who would she dance with? All the men here were at least her father’s age.
She gave a last look over her shoulder at the stage she should have been occupying, before exiting the way she came.
Leona nearly tripped down the stairs as she left the Ball, so entirely disheartened that her opportunity was never the real deal. She wouldn’t get to sing, and she had damaged her friendships by ambitiously going after this gig and they had even tried to warn her.
She dejectedly sat on one of the street benches nearby and buried her face in her hands.
Tears ended up coming even though she tried sniffing them back. It was just so disappointing.
“Don’t cry Songbird,” a soothing baritone penetrated her self-pitying thoughts and she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She gasped and revealed her tear-streaked face. She couldn’t believe it!
“Ant–Antoine?” she stuttered, shocked to see him there. He wasn’t dressed up like she had imagined him earlier. He looked like he was going to a rock concert.
“Let’s go,” he just said with a gentle smile, not bothering to explain himself and took her by the hand. He guided her to a stand where she wobbled a bit in her high heels. She didn’t know where he was taking her but at that moment she didn’t care because he was enough to distract her from the disastrous evening.
#34 8th Nov 2016 at 2:54 AM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Feb 2020 at 3:35 AM.
Three Strings Trio
Three Strings Trio
“You’ve wished me enough luck, can I go now?” Evelyn Jane shuddered at Shaun Piper’s touch and tried distancing herself from his next advance by pushing his face back.
He grabbed her wrist, thankfully not the one he had bruised earlier that week. She'd have no hope to play if he damaged it again. His grip was hard and his expression was even harder, “Careful with that tone young lady. You don’t want me dropping any hints…”
He stopped speaking. Movement had caught the corners of their eyes from the end of the hallway and Evelyn Jane turned her gaze to where Shaun was glancing. Franz was standing there, an indifferent expression on his face like usual, but he was looking straight at them.
“Go,” Evelyn Jane pleaded in a quiet voice. Shaun nodded with a dissatisfied grunt and let go of her wrist, walking hastily down the corridor away from her. He didn’t acknowledge Franz in the least as he passed. Not many did.
Franz finally moved forward, approaching Evelyn Jane where she stood. She wasn’t sure what to even say. How much had Franz seen?
“He do that to you?” Franz asked and nodded toward her bruised wrist. It was fading but the shadow was still noticeable up close.
“It’s nothing,” she replied and pressed herself against the wall, avoiding eye contact with the tall blond.
Franz crossed his arms, “It’s not my business but…”
She glanced at him, his expression was indifferent as ever.
“You’re not the type of person I expected to tolerate that sort of treatment.”
He continued into the Green Room, leaving her alone in the hallway and she mulled over his words. She shouldn’t tolerate the vile attentions of Shaun Piper but what choice did she have? It wasn’t so easy to stop him. To end their affair would guarantee her name splattered over every tabloid in Kashmire, and even worse, possible exile from her own family.
When she entered the Green Room, she found her brother enthusiastically chattering over a full grand piano. She eyed Franz and he gave her a mildly exasperated look in return.
“Can’t we just move this onto the stage?” Reggie asked, throwing his arm out to gesture at the entire instrument. Evelyn Jane looked doubtfully at the backstage entrance, which seemed too narrow to push the grand piano through.
She instead, emerged on to the stage and called Reggie to her. She thumbed behind her toward the smaller electric keyboard already placed at the center, “This is what you have to play. I told you weeks ago.”
Reggie’s hopeful smile melted into disappointment. His last attempt to avoid playing on an electric keyboard had failed. He trudged back into the Green Room with some mumbles of discontent.
Evelyn Jane took a good look around the theater from the stage side. She wasn’t a nervous performer, having done dozens upon dozens of violin recitals in her life. Her audiences were smaller and more private however. Also Shaun Piper would be watching as a judge and that thought made her stomach twist uncomfortably.
To her right, she saw another band’s set had already been placed. An electric bass, green electric guitar, and drums. All the typical instruments of a rock band. How dull. She casually approached them and bent down over the guitar amp, reached out and turned the knobs into positions they weren’t before. If Shaun Piper was going to screw her over, then the least she could do was still make sure her band would sound the best.
When she returned to the Green Room, she joined Franz and Reggie.
“We’re the first to play,” Reggie told her. She knew that fact, though, she had seen their band listed on the schedule pinned to the board near the entrance. She took a look around to see their competition.
Illyana Sanchez, pedestrian and tacky as ever, was grouped with her own band near a cluster of cushy seats. They were gabbing with some boys who had their backs facing Evelyn Jane, but she figured them be Nick Hart and Orion Loche since Nick was highly identifiable by his shaggy golden brown hair. Orion by his usual black and white ensemble.
Equally identifiable was Cypress Wellington, but she couldn’t see any hint of that mop of jet black hair. That was strange. She knew Cypress was a drummer in Orion’s band yet he wasn’t there. She mentally shrugged to herself because if their drummer didn't show up that was actually better for her. She might be able to win still.
The coordinator called for their band ten minutes before the competition started. He told them to wait to be announced and then take the stage.
Evelyn Jane could hear chatter from the crowd in the theater, it had grown significantly as more and more people arrived. They’d have the privilege to hear something new.
After being announced, she, her brother, and Franz took the stage and began to play.
There was a missing factor, though. For all the times she had played in public, stage presence was important. She was expected to stand still and straight at recitals. Audiences for this kind of concert required something more engaging.
The audience was watching quietly, probably befuddled at the classical music playing before them at a rock show. No one expected that. Evelyn Jane went into her solo, which was quick and required fast finger-work to accomplish and that’s when people started reacting. The longer her solo went on the more cheers she heard until it ended and the entire theater erupted in applause and cheering. Not one of them had ever seen something like it before. She leveled a triumphant stare across the theater straight at Shaun Piper.
He stared back, obviously impressed, but a shadow of a frown was evident too as she saw one of the other judges turn to him and say something.
Franz’s solo drew more cheers, the deep sounds of the bass line provided more rhythm than piano or violin.
She could hear bitterness in every note played from Reggie, like his fingers were being forced to hit the keys. She gave him a vexed look but he wasn’t paying attention. He had taken Alanna’s ‘confession’ harder than she thought. Had he really liked that unimpressive girl so much that he would let her affect him like this? His solo suffered while he had other thoughts on his mind.
When they were done, all three took a bow and were cheered as they left the stage. Good, the audience was capable of appreciating a different genre.
Catering had been brought in and she went to get a plate of food. She could see the other bands’ members eyeing the stringed trio with disbelief. Evelyn Jane smiled to herself as she picked up a roll and put it on her plate.
“I’m leaving the band,” she heard a deep, gravelly voice from behind her. She turned around, slightly startled at seeing that Franz had sneaked up behind her. Well, he probably hadn’t on purpose, he was just so quiet usually that she wouldn’t have known.
She couldn’t read his expression. How could he leave them just like that? She set her plate down and turned to him, “Why?”
Reggie came and stood next to her, having heard Franz’s declaration too. Her brother still looked a tad bit melancholy and had no words in response to Franz’s decision, mostly because his mouth was full with food from the catering table but his expression was that of disdain. Apparently he still felt sore about the whole fight over Alanna.
“I was only in it as a favor to him,” Franz said, nodding toward her brother, “Now we are done playing in the competition. You don’t need me anymore.”
He turned his long body around, in a movement to leave. He wasn’t even going to stay and see if they won? What then? She supposed she could always just hire a double bassist.
“You’re a talented player, Franz. I’m sorry to see you go,” Evelyn Jane said, accepting his resignation but not very happy about it. She realized she rather sounded like her father in that moment. However, unlike her father's indifferent yet appropriate words in that kind of situation, she truly was sorry to see him go. Franz was a sort of constant presence in their lives, though it was subtle and it was difficult to notice he was there until he was gone.
He stopped and a hint of a grin spread across his lips, “Did you know that is the first compliment you’ve ever paid me?”
It was a rhetorical question because he continued on and exited the Green room without another word.
Evelyn Jane racked her brain and couldn’t find any memory of saying ‘good job’ or otherwise in encouraging Franz during the months of practice, even beyond that when they were younger and he was just Reggie’s menacing shadow. To be honest, she had always disliked how low and unimportant he was on the social ladder at school and only tolerated him for Reggie’s sake. But she realized he was right, that it was the first actual compliment she’d ever given to him.
He was the sort of person who would tolerate that kind of treatment, and he had tolerated it for too long. She could understand now why it was so easy for him to leave them.
#35 9th Nov 2016 at 11:30 PM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Feb 2020 at 3:45 AM.
Cypress cursed. He didn’t know what time it was! He only knew it was way past the time he was supposed to have been at Battle of the Bands. It had already started! Even Nick with all his tardiness wouldn’t have been late for something as big as this. He prayed his band wasn’t playing an early set.
He had trouble finding good parking and as soon as his vehicle was stationary he jumped out and ran through the entrance. Lots of people were already there, many milling about the theater lobby still.
Cypress ran faster.
He was stopped and questioned by an event coordinator before he was allowed to enter the Theater’s back room where the musicians waited. After telling his name and band he played for, he was permitted to enter the Green Room.
He frantically scanned the room and found his band mates.
Orion looked like a nervous wreck and Nick looked to be trying to soothe him until Cypress approached. Both boys stared at him in surprise. Cypress gave an apologetic look and made a movement, more muscle memory than anything, to brush his hair away from his face.
But he didn’t have hair in his face anymore.
“You got a haircut!” Nick stated the obvious. Cypress was now sporting short, slightly gelled hair with some prominent sideburns that his longer hair had always hidden.
“Sorry I’m late. My errands ran longer than I thought they would and there was a traffic jam into Memosa Bay,” Cypress explained.
“But why did you get a haircut!? You were supposed to be our wild-haired, ruggedly handsome drummer!” Nick protested, seeming to ignore Cypress’s explanation and stay focused on the hair cut.
“It was too hot keeping it that long,” Cypress replied, then looked to Orion, “Besides, it felt like it was time for a change.”
Orion seemed to gulp nervously, wondering if Cypress meant something else by it, but also the fact he was going to be playing in front of a big audience still unsettled him, “We go on in five minutes; we tried to call you multiple times.”
Cypress winced and pulled his phone out of his pocket, “My phone battery died. I’m really sorry.”
“Well you’re here now, that’s all that matters,” Orion managed to smile and Cypress returned it. Nick still was griping about his cousin’s haircut but Cypress ignored the remarks.
They lingered in the room between the stage and the Green Room, awaiting an introduction. Orion had started bugging out, wringing his hands, covering his face in anxious anticipation.
"Just imagine the crowd is naked, I hear that helps," Nick suggested.
Orion just groaned in a sickly manner. Apparently, that thought wouldn't be of any help.
“Hey, hey,” Cypress grabbed his arm, trying to get Orion to pull his hands away from his face, “We’ve got this. You’re going to be fine. Don’t make me chase you down in the bathroom like last time.”
The latter part he was only joking, trying to lighten the atmosphere for Orion and get him to think about something else. Orion had always been dodgy in front of crowds. The first time was when they were forced to be in a classroom play in grade school in front of all the parents and Orion broke down crying in the middle of his lines.
Nicholas, with all his charm and confidence, had somehow convinced Orion to start a band and play in public. It had slowly gotten better, but they hadn’t played on a stage like this before, and not with as many people watching that were out there now.
Orion reluctantly met Cypress’s gaze and took a steady breath, “Okay.”
And then they heard their band announced.
Orion felt dread as the bright neon lights fell onto him. All the eyes in the theater were looking at him. He couldn’t mess this up. He took his bass in hand mechanically and forced a smile.
Cypress took a seat at the trap set and counted off, slapping his drumsticks together before bashing them into the cymbals and starting laying the foundation for the song’s beat.
Nick started playing his guitar, remembering the changes Orion had made to the song last practice, and moved his fingers across the neck of the instrument to hit the right notes. The notes…
He looked down at his guitar in abject horror.
The sound wasn’t right at all.
Orion had already started singing and Nick kept playing, trying to swallow his panic. He couldn’t let Orion know he was panicking or else Orion would probably dive off the stage and not in an attempt to crowd surf.
The guitar sound was jarring. It was like…like is amp wasn’t set correctly. He had configured it though! The bridge finally came to give Orion a break from singing lyrics and he leaned over, mouthing ‘What's wrong?’
Nick crouched next to the amp and gestured at it. Orion’s green eyes widened into impossibly large orbs, panic setting in fast. Nick could reconfigure but would need to play the guitar to check if it was right.
“Go to your solo!” Nick shouted to Cypress in a quick thought. Cypress probably didn’t hear him because of the loud drums but nodded, knowing the gist. He was going to take the lead.
Orion fell to his knees next to Nick and this drew a collective gasp from the audience, for they had no idea what was going on up there on stage. Cypress continued to move from drum to drum in quick succession, perfectly executing the drum solo Orion had written.
Orion had been playing music since he could speak. He eyed the knobs to Nick’s amp and deftly turned all the knobs he saw were incorrect. He knew what the amp configurations should be because he was the one who originally set them up when he taught Nick how to play.
He gave a shaky thumbs up to Nick and stood, grabbed his electric bass and followed up behind Cypress’s solo to some insane cheering from the audience. They loved that drum solo.
Nick began playing where he thought they were in the song, and the sound came out perfectly though he had to improvise a little to catch up. He knew the night would be electric but didn’t think his pulse could go any faster after that hiccup. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t confident that he would win.
The song ended and the audience cheered. It was uplifting but Nick was still confused on how the amp had been so wack.
“I think I’m gonna puke,” Orion held his gut as they left the stage and as soon as they were in the Green Room he took off to the bathrooms. Cypress gave a look of initial disgust but sighed and went after him.
“I was dying of second-hand embarrassment the way that sounded. Looks like I won’t have to go on a date with you after all,” Illyana teased as Nick passed.
Nick glared at her, suddenly coming to a very clear yet unpleasant conclusion. Illyana had always been super competitive and she must have had sabotaged his amp in the hopes it would make her band win. She knew there was no chance otherwise. It was suspicious not to mention coincidental that the last time he saw her before the Battle of the Bands, he had taught her about how amps could make or break the sound of a guitar and here it was his amp settings were jacked up. Just like hers had been before he helped her with them.
“Like I’d even want to go on a date with you now anyway,” Nick retorted in a hard, serious voice. Illyana’s expression turned to surprise, as if she didn’t know where his anger came from. “That was a shitty thing for you to do.”
“Nick, what are you talking about?” her eyes were suddenly round with concern.
“Like you don’t know! I thought we were friends!” He’d never been so angry at her in his life. Not even when she broke his new Action-Man action figure when they were seven because she threw it across the room to make it ‘fly’. It was so dumb. It was much more than possibly losing that made him so angry with her; he'd given up his plans for art school for this chance.
“Aren't we?” she replied, now holding frustrated confusion in her tone of voice. They had been hanging out earlier in the Green Room, chatting and laughing. It sure seemed like they were friends again. Heck, he was the one who asked if they could be friends again and even the one that insisted she not be mad at him when she lost.
“No, because 'we aren’t friends, after all',” he repeated the words she once said to him at the Laundromat and turned his back on her.
#36 11th Nov 2016 at 10:45 PM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Feb 2020 at 3:59 AM.
The Raven Crowns
The Raven Crowns
“If we hurry you can probably still go on stage and sing,” Antoine said with hope as he opened the door for Leona and went charging into the Fame Theater. She grabbed his arm and tried to keep up his pace while in her high heels.
“Wait, wait, wait,” she said full of apprehension and she pulled him to a stop in the theater's lobby. “What if Illyana doesn’t want me to?”
“I’ve known her for a long time. Illyana is champion grudge-holder, and stubborn as the Hells, but I know she wants to win above all and deep down she knows that you are they key to being victorious. I think that Orbinson girl knew it too and that's why she tried getting you to drop out.”
Leona didn’t look so sure. Antoine pulled her close and set his forehead against hers, “You can still show them all that you are the best singer in the region and you don’t need a Mayor’s Ball to do it.”
“Thank you,” she whispered and stole a quick kiss, feeling a renewed determination. Her voice had been begging all night to be let out in a song.
“I’ll be watching out here,” he let her go with a grin and showed her the way to the Green Room but didn’t follow her in. Instead, he headed back toward the theater seating.
When she entered, she found herself face-to-face with the band that she had bailed on.
The Thackery sisters seemed pleased to see her as evident by their smiles. Alarie had confidence in her ability and the whole reason Leona was even there now was because of Alanna. Alanna had called her brother and told him about what Evelyn Jane had admitted. Leona had no inclination what Alanna had sacrificed for that truth.
Illyana crossed her arms and didn’t seem as pleased to see her, but didn’t look surprised either. They must have told her that Leona was on her way and it looked like they were still in the middle of trying to convince the guitar player of letting Leona sing.
“I won’t sing if you don’t want me to…” Leona began, hoping it wasn't true but knew to expect some static from Illyana. It wasn't going to be so easy.
“We already have a singer,” Illyana bit curtly and gestured toward Alanna with a tilt of her head.
“I can sit this out, I don’t mind,” Alanna insisted.
“We’re performing a new song that you don’t even know,” Illyana obstinately stated, still seeming to try and find a reason not to allow it.
Alarie gave Illyana a light shove in the shoulder, “Come on, we know the old song just fine. We can still play that. We practiced it more than the new one anyway.”
Illyana narrowed her eyes, not taking them off Leona for either rationalization from the sisters, “Why should you be able to to sing after what you did?”
There was so much vitriol in Illyana’s voice; it wasn’t like her to be this hostile. Leona had known Illyana for a long time too and she would bet that something else was on Illyana’s mind that made her extra grumpy but there wasn't time to suss out how much of her anger was real toward Leona and how much was pent up and caused by a different factor.
“I told you I was sorry!” Leona frowned. She felt like Illyana was being unreasonably angry. Leona had tried to make it right already but it was Illyana who refused to cooperate.
“Would you still be sorry if you actually were singing at that snobby ball right now?”
“Yes,” Leona replied sharply, “I was being selfish but I didn’t take the gig to hurt you, I did it because it was a chance to achieve my goals. Surely you can understand that much?”
Illyana gave a nod, “I can understand it, but it doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do. You were my friend and I was depending on you."
Leona's frown dissipated, realizing just how much she had hurt Illyana. She reduced the defensiveness in her tone and asked quietly, “I’m back now. Can’t I make up for it?”
Illyana sighed then nodded affirmatively, “Yes. We’ll play the song we were originally going to play but we haven’t practiced it for a few weeks so you better bring your A-game.”
Leona stopped herself from giving a squeal of joy but Alarie still lifted her hand out to Leona and they high-fived.
“Good luck, I really mean it!” Alanna smiled and gave Leona a quick, supportive embrace. Leona had never been that close to Alanna but the youngest Thackery sister had always been very cordial and kind to her. She thanked Alanna and then watched her depart from the Green Room, presumably to watch them play from the theater side with Antoine. They quickly got to work discussing the changes needed to make it so they could perform their original song, the one from before Leona ditched, and that Leona and Illyana had written together. Leona was bristling with excitement, she was finally going to get to sing!
When their band was announced, Illyana lead the way to the stage. They walked headfirst into bombastic cheering. They were one of the later bands to play so the crowd was already primed and enthusiastic for more music to be played.
Illyana adjusted the strap of her guitar over her shoulder and still held a stern anger in her eyes. She was upset that Nick had basically broken their friendship off and made it sound like it was her fault. She had tried to engage him–to ask what his deal was, but he had retreated to a corner of the Green Room to wait for his band mates to come back and ignored her entirely. She could have slapped him for the stubborn way he was behaving. The least he could do was explain to her why he was so suddenly livid with her. She had given him that courtesy at Sweet Marie's.
Illyana came out of her pensiveness and realized she had been playing guitar for a few minutes already. The competition was supposed to be her priority and leave it to dumb Nicholas to distract her from it. She saw that Leona was belting out lyrics and Alarie was going to town on the trap set - they had let loose and were having a blast while Illyana was standing there looking tense and hassled.
Leona’s soul seemed to be aflame with music as she strutted across the stage, pointing at the audience before ultimately closing her eyes to bring out the high range notes from deep within her.
The crowd ate up every bit of her stage presence.
Illyana could see this is what Leona was born to do. While she could admit to herself she had been harsh with Leona, she knew her reasons were valid. Her friends were precious to her and she would do anything for them as long as they treated her with the same respect. Losing Nick’s friendship was hard, and re-losing it was just as hard. She couldn’t lose Leona like that, so maybe after this was over she would let Leona know that they were still friends. Illyana closed her eyes and purged Nick from her thoughts, breaking free from her worries and joining her band mates in the galvanizing movement of their music.
The crowd went wild as Leona dropped to her knees and reached out grabbing the air and singing like something invisible was going to steal her voice if she didn’t end the song in a long, sharp, note.
Illyana smirked, she doubted anyone at the Mayor’s Ball would have appreciated that kind of showmanship. Leona wasn't meant to sing for stuffy elitist elders, her voice should be a known and appreciated sound among everyone in Kashmire.
After watching some of the later bands play, Franz had exited the building, emerging into the city night speckled with building lights and what stars that could be seen against the dark sky. He had left though, as soon as the band Alanna was singing for was announced to perform. He didn't have the heart to watch that. Luckily, the competition's coordinator had agreed to let him leave his instrument at the theater until he could pick it up because he surely wasn’t counting on Evelyn Jane to bring it back to Isla Del Kashmire after what he had done.
The rain from earlier that afternoon gave the area a damp smell, not entirely pleasant but not the worst of smells. He wasn’t sure what to do now that he had cut ties with the band. He’d still play bass next year in the orchestra, but probably not much more than that. Music wasn’t his passion; it was just something he had been good at–a skill he had learned that was of a leisurely use.
If his memory was correct, there was little book shop nearby. He didn’t often come to Memosa Bay because it was too long of a ride by bus in his opinion. He could get to the library in half that time. He tapped out a search for bookstores in the area on his phone before finding one three blocks away. It was in the opposite direction of the bus stop but it was still open. He needed a new book, a literary distraction to keep his mind off the day’s events. He stuffed his phone back into his pocket and continued down the sidewalk in the direction of the book shop.
"You’re not staying to see who won?”
He slowed his stroll and looked to his right to see the biggest distraction of all.
Alanna was sitting by herself on a piece of the building’s foundation.
He gave her a long, wary look and then finally noted, “You’re not singing.”
“No,” she agreed.
“I don’t understand.”
Wasn't that the whole reason she had feigned interest in him and Reggie?
She sighed and brought her knees up to her chest, seeming to retreat into the farthest reaches of the shadows, “I’m sorry, Franz, you must think I’m a horrible person.”
He knotted his brows and found himself moving closer to her, wanting to try and understand. Who was she, really?
“Is it true?” he asked, "that you were only interested in trying to make Reggie and I mad at each other?"
He remembered clearly how miserable and unconvincing Alanna had sounded admitting it and to Franz, Evelyn Jane’s word was not to be trusted on principle. He wanted the truth.
“No,” Alanna replied quietly, “I only said it because Evelyn Jane wanted me to make you and Reggie stop fighting over me and play well together again."
Franz lifted his knee so his foot was on the foundation, and in an easy move, he raised himself so was standing next to where she sat huddled in the corner. He looked down at her form; she still looked miserable. She had always been so warm and welcoming, it was jarring to see her this way.
“I don’t like you like that,” Franz said bluntly.
Alanna looked up at him. He was towering over her, his arm muscles were pronounced but not bulky and his hands were curled into fists, and the shadows were covering most of his face so she could only make out the faintest hint of blue in his eyes. She could see how everyone thought Franz was intimidating, though, he probably didn’t mean to, “I barely even know you.”
“Oh,” was all she said and she turned her head, thinking the same could be said for her, “That’s fine. No one really does.”
“Reggie certainly liked you,” Franz noted. Reggie obviously, despite his denial, still liked Alanna in some capacity to get so bent out of shape at the thought of Franz and her hanging out.
“No, I mean no one really knows me," Alanna explained bitterly, "I don’t have any close friends. I guess I just always felt more comfortable holding people at arm’s length and it’s my own fault. You were probably the first person I’ve ever met who can carry on a good conversation about books. Everyone else just thinks it’s a boring topic.”
Franz could relate to that sentiment on every level. Reggie had always been his ‘friend’, but not because of genuine mutual interest. He knew Reggie thought himself superior in every way, so he’d hardly call Reggie a ‘close’ friend at all, just the closest thing to a friend. Most of his life, no one ever really took notice of him. Alanna had. He knelt and put an arm over his knee to lean toward her, “Alanna…”
She met his eyes. Her expression was a mixture of sadness and surprise because it was the first time she’d ever recalled him say her name.
“There’s a book shop three blocks away. Do you want to join me?”
Her face transformed into that warm smile he was used to seeing on her.
“I’d love to,” she replied and he took her hand to pull her upright. “Does your dinner invitation still stand?”
He nodded solemnly, just thinking of the crazy scenarios she'd be put in from meeting his family.
While neither of them said a word as they walked side-by-side down the street, they were both grinning because maybe now they’d finally have a friend worth getting close to.
#37 13th Nov 2016 at 5:31 PM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Feb 2020 at 4:12 AM.
The last band of the night had finished playing. They could hear the shouts and applause of the audience drift backstage and into the Green Room where multiple musicians waited in anticipation. Only one band would win.
Would the winner be the calculating daughter of the Mayor? She had tried so hard to make victory go in her favor. Although, she would need to find a new double bassist if she were to continue forward with her endeavor to bring classical into the rock n' roll world. That wasn’t her only problem; she still had a blackmail issue involving a certain judge.
Would the winner be the spit-fire guitar player with a chip on her shoulder? She had learned to play only to win back a friend she didn’t have anymore. Could this be the one time the world wouldn’t be against her? She had her band back, but could she keep it?
Would the winner be the talented yet anxiety-ridden young man pacing in the corner of the room? He used to have confidence they would win because his band was talented but the unwelcome technical issue during their performance had possibly hurt their chances and now no one was a sure bet. He not only had a bad taste in his mouth now, but also a complicated relationship with his best friend which needed to resolve.
Or would the winners be any of the other young hopefuls wishing to break into the professional music scene?
“Leona,” Illyana said to get the singer’s attention. Leona turned a suspicious eye, not knowing what to expect from Illyana now.
“You did a...a great job,” Illyana managed to smile and give a compliment despite the remaining anger and hurt that Leona’s actions had caused her. It wasn’t worth losing another friend. Leona looked perplexed for a moment as if praise was the last thing in the world she would have received from Illyana.
“Thank you,” Leona did end up returning the smile but it soon transformed into a glower because of what she saw behind Illyana.
“You!” Leona downright growled while marching past Illyana and approached Evelyn Jane Orbinson. It was no coincidence that this was the first time Leona had spotted the Mayor's daughter. Evelyn Jane had seen Leona sing and was dumbfounded at how Leona could make such a quick turn from the Mayor’s Ball to the Battle of Bands, but made sure not to be seen by her the rest of the night. Evelyn Jane’s eyes went wide like a small child whose hand was caught in the cookie jar at the sight of Leona.
“Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to show up for an event to be told you weren’t on the list?!”
“For what it’s worth I did try!” Evelyn put her hands up, trying to distance herself from Leona and all the looks aimed at them because of Leona’s shouting.
“It’s worth nothing! Everyone told me you were a snake and I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but it looks like they were all right about you! You’re despicable! You don’t have enough courage to win on your own merits and instead, have to connive and cheat to bring others down!”
“Save your breath,” Leona cut her off in a snarl and turned her back on the floundering girl, restraining the urge to punch her right in her lying little mouth.
Then they heard the announcement that the judges had come to a decision and the room quieted.
“And the winner of the Battle of the Bands is….”
No one even dared breathe.
“The Raven Crowns!”
Illyana froze with shock and it wasn’t until Alarie was nudging her from behind to go on stage, was she able to move, though still in disbelief that they had won!
THEY HAD WON!
Leona, Alarie, and Illyana emerged onto the stage in front of the cheering crowd.
In their excitement, all three of them began to jump up and down. Leona was even doing it in her high heels and the exhilaration of winning must have blocked out all her thoughts of how uncomfortable they were.
“Congratulations, ladies,” the female judge smiled and then proceeded to list off the spoils of their winnings–opening for a real concert, a recording session with Green Diamond Records, a meeting with an industry music agent, and of course the prize of 10,000 simoleons!
It was surreal, and the three girls were over the moon in delight. They had worked hard and had been through many trials and tribulations to get to this point. They. Had. Won.
On the opposite side of the theater, a well-dressed young woman holding a violin case was hastily vacating the building with a glare that could kill any that got in her way. Her way, which was how the competition was supposed to go but didn’t. She was humiliated. She was full of loathing.
“Evie, slow down!” her brother advised.
“No, you hurry up!” she shouted behind her and didn’t change her pace.
She unlocked her convertible and put her violin in the back seat. Starting the ignition, she started backing out of her parking space and Reggie nearly had to run after the car and jump over the door into the passenger seat.
They drove in silence for awhile before Reggie asked, “Why are you always so callous?”
Never in their years had her brother been so forthright to question his sister’s nature. He remembered her to be a very loving girl when they were children but sometime along the way she had become downright ruthless.
“Oh little brother, you have a lot to learn if you are going to be going into politics for this family,” was all she said, and in a tone full of genuine sympathy before she shifted the gear and hit the gas, speeding down the highway skyline back toward Isla Del Kashmire.
Back at the Fame Theater, things were wrapping up. Musicians were packing their instruments and the crowd was clearing out.
The winning band was lingering in the theater lobby, talking to admirers and accepting congratulations.
Nick Hart had his guitar case packed but he didn’t have the heart to go home–to hear his father tell him that playing in a band was a frivolous waste of time. Nick had been so sure of winning that he thought giving up art school would be worth it and now he had nothing. Not even Illyana.
He had heard Leona Hillenburg’s outburst in the Green Groom and something she said had struck him. The part about the Mayor’s daughter having to cheat to bring others down in order to win. He knew his amp had been sabotaged but now he was less sure it was Illyana’s doing. Could it have really been Evelyn Jane?
Either way he had lost Illyana’s friendship, probably for good now, knowing her penchant for holding grudges.
He bid goodbye to Cypress and Orion, and caught sight of her in the entrance. She was talking to some boys, smiling and laughing with them. If he apologized, would she forgive him?
He made his way toward her but stopped right behind her, because he had come to a realization. He didn’t deserve her friendship, not after those horrible things he’d said to her. He, who she had called conceited, immature, and arrogant. Maybe he wasn’t ever going to change, and if that was the case, she was probably better off without him.
With a heavy heart, he adjusted his strap and kept walking toward the exit and she didn’t even notice him pass to remind him that he’d lost their bet.
Outside, Leona and Antoine shared a quiet moment alone where he planted kisses all around her face. Every unspoken admiration and adoration was bursting through his lips onto her skin. It was enough to make a girl weak in the knees. She could safely say that after tonight, she knew she loved Antoine Thackery with her whole heart.
“I need to go home,” she gave Antoine a playful push, interrupting his onslaught of pecks and took off her high heels, which put her a few inches shorter than before. Her feet sang in relief as they felt the cool grass. "My Dad will start to worry if I stay out too late."
“Your Dad is going to kill me. He’ll say I kidnapped you, that I seduced you,” Antoine said, only half-joking and reluctant to stop showing his affections.
“I’ll call myself a cab so you don’t have to deal with him,” Leona didn’t contest it. She would have to tell her father about how she sang at the Battle of the Bands instead of the Mayor’s Ball that night, but she would leave out the parts that involved Antoine.
“It’s probably for the best,” he leaned over and kissed her on the tip of her nose, “I don’t know when we’ll see each other again though, Songbird. I go back to campus Monday.”
A wave of melancholy hit her in the chest and she threw her arms around him and gave him a long embrace, “I love you, thank you for everything.”
He only squeezed her tighter and didn’t say another word.
Orion was still sitting in the Green Room. Nick had already left, and the room was mostly empty now.
“Hey,” Cypress approached and Orion stood, wiping his hands over his jeans. His palms were still kind of sweaty from their performance and his anxiety was still heightened for some reason.
“Hey,” Orion replied. He felt disappointment too. He had thought they would win, and he felt like they would have if those amp settings had been correct and maybe if his stupid nerves would have calmed down.
“Are you going to be okay?”
Orion met his friend’s gaze and wanted to pull Cypress into a hug just to feel a familiar comfort but knew Cypress would probably get weird about it. He had hugged Cypress on many occasions before and it never bugged either of them. He ended up looking away, “I’ll be fine.”
“Listen, I never really got a chance to explain something to you after we listened to music together.”
“Explain what?” Orion arched a brow, bracing for more bad news. He didn’t know if he could keep it together if that was the case. His heart felt like it was going to escape his chest at the rate it was pounding against his rib cage.
“I think…I know you feel something more for me, but I don’t have that kind of attraction toward anyone.”
A tightness began to squeeze Orion’s heart like a vice and he looked at the ground. Was this it then? Cypress was going to stop being friends with him because he felt too much?
“But I love you, dude, and I love being your best friend, so…” Cypress made a move to brush his hair but then realized it wasn’t that long anymore. He clenched his fist and lowered his hand meeting Orion’s surprised stare. "So I’m here for you and I always will be but I can’t be anything more to you than just your best friend. Do you understand?”
A great relief washed over him, and it was almost too much emotion he felt at hearing that Cypress loved him, even if it was purely platonic. He took a deep breath and realized it all made sense. Cypress had never expressed desires to date or any kind of attraction toward anyone. No wonder Orion was so confused when Cypress showed up at the Starboard Lounge with a date. That kind of intimacy wasn’t something he was interested in. Orion was okay with that, as long as Cypress would still be his friend.
Orion gave a slow nod, “I understand, but…”
Cypress raised his brows to encourage Orion to get his thought out as he turned to leave.
“Can I still hug you?”
“Sure man, if it makes you feel better,” Cypress grinned. Orion had always been a very affectionate friend who thrived on physical contact. Cypress continued forth, only to be reeled backward because Orion had ensnared him in a tight hug and buried his face into his shoulder. Cypress made a small laugh because he didn’t think Orion meant to hug him right then.
“Thanks,” Orion exhaled, finally feeling his anxiety simmering down. Alanna was right, he was very lucky to have a friend like Cypress.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading and I hoped you enjoyed this story! I'd love to hear your thoughts or at least know who your favorite character was as you read this. I am planning a new story that includes these characters but it will probably be next year before anything is posted. Have a lovely day!
Nick fullfills the term of losing the bet
Alanna has dinner with Schoulsburgs
READ THE SEQUEL
#39 13th Nov 2016 at 6:02 PM
#40 13th Nov 2016 at 7:47 PM
Thanks: 2 in 1 Posts
It's a very interesting story.
#41 14th Nov 2016 at 8:06 AM
You're amazing, and I love your work. Would love to see you revisit these characters again.
"Passion makes no accommodation for self-preservation."
#42 29th Dec 2016 at 10:27 PM
Sorry to bump this but I made a poll for anyone who has read this to weigh-in on their favorite character in this story. I would love to know that data as I work on the sequel (and I should have thought of this way sooner)
Thank you! Have a happy new year
Thank you! Have a happy new year
Top Secret Researcher
#43 14th Aug 2018 at 11:21 AM Last edited by lordtyger9 : 14th Aug 2018 at 12:01 PM.
@Charmful I really enjoyed your story, I read it straight through even though I should have been going to bed instead of reading. Also I liked the bits about Science Fiction and your characters in the story. I am a huge Science Fiction Fan, even bigger than I am a Sims Fan.
for info on changing the Mac Open File Limit check out my post here http://www.insimenator.org/index.ph...html#msg1628939
Curiosity killed the cat,
but satisfaction brought it back.
for info on changing the Mac Open File Limit check out my post here http://www.insimenator.org/index.ph...html#msg1628939
Curiosity killed the cat,
but satisfaction brought it back.
#44 29th Oct 2018 at 7:20 AM
I'm about half way through (A New Connection) and loving it! I had to stop and say, ASIMOV! Foundation! The 3 Laws! I Robot!
I hope you have something redeemable planned for Evelyn Jane. I can't say I liked her after reading Nest but I didn't despise her. She's pretty bad at this point.
Really good writing, lots of suspense, engaging characters, lovely shots!
I hope you have something redeemable planned for Evelyn Jane. I can't say I liked her after reading Nest but I didn't despise her. She's pretty bad at this point.
Really good writing, lots of suspense, engaging characters, lovely shots!
#45 31st Oct 2018 at 1:51 AM
Originally Posted by Charmful
#46 31st Oct 2018 at 4:05 AM
Originally Posted by Charmful
The Raven Crowns
#47 31st Oct 2018 at 4:18 AM
Originally Posted by Charmful