#1 1st Sep 2016 at 11:54 AM Last edited by Charmful : 16th Sep 2022 at 7:21 PM. Reason: Completed!
Battle of the Bands [Completed]
This is a slice of life romantic dramedy that focuses on a handful of teens involved in the end of summer ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition in the fictional region of ‘Kashmire’. The band that wins will get money, notoriety, and the chance to open a real concert and break into the industry. As the summer wears on, the teens are put through trials of well…being a teenager, that could tip their fortunes toward winning or losing the competition.
Character Info Page
Nicholas Hart, all swagger and no substance, had come marching into the Laundromat after spying Illyana perched on the row of dryers as she idly waited for a load of laundry to get done. She gave him a curious frown as he entered. She knew he didn't need to leave home to do his laundry.
“So, you signed up for the Battle of the Bands then?” he casually leaned on the wall and asked, revealing his reason for interrupting her quiet evening.
“Yeah I did. What’s it to you?” she grinned, anticipating his annoyance.
He gave a scoff, “You know my band is playing in that gig!”
How could she not? On the last day of school the idiot had been blathering on and on about how all the teenage girls in Kashmire would fall in love with him once his band won the competition. He was good at playing, she had to admit, but Nick's ego needed to be taken down a notch.
“So?” She didn’t see his problem with a little healthy competition.
“So, I thought we were friends. Why even bother trying to play?”
The dryer buzzed and she slid off the top of the dryer to retrieve her clothes, shaking her head at his ridiculousness. He was such a big baby sometimes. She knew just what to say to push his buttons.
“Are you afraid my band will beat yours?” She raised a brow and looked over her shoulder while pulling fresh and warm clothes from the dryer into her basket.
He gave a loud, derisive laugh, “Please, I just don’t want you to embarrass yourself. Have you ever heard your guitar playing? It sounds like tortured cats!”
Illyana’s expression turned cold and stony. She remembered now why she held little respect for him anymore. She shoved the last of her clothes into the basket and made her way to get out of the Laundromat as fast as she could. His words stung her more than she cared to admit.
“Maybe we aren’t friends after all.”
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#2 1st Sep 2016 at 6:03 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 8:36 AM.
The Nefarious Evelyn Jane
The Nefarious Evelyn Jane
“They won’t have a full grand piano at the Battle of the Bands, Reggie. So, you’ll have to get used to playing one of these,” Evelyn Jane sniffed, looking down her nose at the short electronic keyboard.
Her younger brother gave a look of apprehension, there weren’t as many keys as he was accustomed to. He doubted it would sound as smooth.
It was a nice summer day and the two Orbinson siblings had driven down the coast in Evelyn Jane's convertible to Kashmire Point, a small seaside tourist spot of the region. The boardwalk shops housed the Sand's Music Emporium, which is why Evelyn Jane wanted to come down in the first place. She wanted Reggie to be as prepared as he could be come time to play in the competition. He'd been spoiled with the one in their parlor since he was young, it was time to get serious.
She meandered back to the front and shifted through some vinyl records, casually looking for anything new as Reggie groaned and contemplated if he should buy an electronic keyboard to take home and practice on. Eventually Reggie joined her, seeming to have not yet made up his mind and did the same browsing through the CD stacks.
A familiar girl walked into the Sand’s Music Emporium then. The reason for recognition was a distant memory until Evelyn Jane realized who the girl was and remembered her name on the competition list as a singer for one of the other bands. Evelyn Jane knew this girl sang really well, even enough to be a threat to victory. The girl asked the cashier something about microphone batteries.
“Reggie!” Evelyn Jane whispered and he leaned in to hear, “I have an idea that might give us an edge in the competition.”
“Go for it,” he advised. He couldn’t stop her anyway if her mind was set on winning. She flashed a conniving smile and turned to greet the singer.
“Leona Hillenburg?” Evelyn Jane gushed in artificial admiration and the girl turned around quite startled, trying to identify who was calling her name.
“Yeah? Oh plumb bobs, you’re the Mayor’s daughter!” Leona recognized the girl about her age. They didn’t go to the same school but she’d seen Evelyn Jane on Television during Mayor Orbinson’s re-election campaign.
“Yes, and I remember seeing you sing at the Scandalica City Music Festival last summer. What a voice! I was wondering, the Mayor’s Ball is still looking for singers - would you be interested in singing for the event?”
Leona's smile dropped, suddenly conflicted, “The Mayor’s Ball? That’s the same day as the Battle of the Bands, and I’m already singing in that. Besides, I thought auditions were closed for the Mayor’s Ball?”
Evelyn waved her hands, unconcerned, “I could set you up with a guaranteed spot. Besides, many more prominent people will be attending the Mayor’s Ball. This is a once in a lifetime chance! Battle of the Bands happens every year.”
Leona’s expression shifted to excitement, “Really? You’d do this for me? You’re the absolute best!”
The Mayor's daughter smiled and refrained from saying something along the lines of 'I know' but held out her hand. Leona gave her an enthusiastic handshake full of gratitude and a farewell before running out of the store, presumably to go tell her family and friends of her good fortune. She didn’t even bother to finish checking on spare microphone batteries from the clerk.
Evelyn Jane heard piano music from the back showroom of the Emporium and went in to find Reggie trying out the keyboard.
“So did your plan work? Is she going to sing at Dad’s Event?” he asked, not bothering to stop playing and look at her for confirmation. Of course her plan had worked.
Her lips quirked into a shrewd smile and she crossed her arms, “One thing is for sure, she’s not singing at Battle of the Bands.”
#3 2nd Sep 2016 at 7:14 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:02 AM.
The Breaking of a Band
The Breaking of a Band
“Tortured cats!” Illyana Sanchez exclaimed to her band mates as they sat down for lunch at the Scandalica Delicatessen, “I can’t believe his nerve.”
Alarie Thackery, their drummer, just shook her head with amusement and Leona grimaced at the insult.
“Nick just needs a good kick in the shins,” Alarie chuckled. Illyana nodded in absolute agreement.
Leona hid her face behind her menu, pretending the listed foods were much more interesting than the conversation. She had planned to tell Illyana that she was dropping out of the competition but knew that news on top of Nicholas Hart’s summation of their group’s sound, wouldn’t help Illyana’s mood one iota. Nick had a point, though. Between Alarie’s haphazard beating on the drums and Illyana’s sub-par attempts at metal guitar, Leona thought their group’s sound wasn’t as top-notch as other bands. Practices hadn't been much in helping progressing the quality either.
“So what are you ordering?” Illyana asked, turning toward Leona.
“Fried Chicken,” Leona mumbled.
Illyana arched a brow, knowing immediately something was off with her friend. Thankfully, the waitress came to take their orders and Leona was saved from giving an explanation.
The conversation wandered to music and boys–mostly between Illyana and Alarie–with Leona throwing in absent-minded nods of agreement as they waited for food. Halfway through eating, Illyana was reminded of Leona’s change in disposition.
“Why are you so quiet today, is something wrong?”
Leona took in a breath, “You guys, I have to drop out of Battle of the Bands. I’m singing at the Mayor’s Ball that night.”
“You got a spot to sing the Mayor’s Ball?” Alarie smiled wide with surprise. Leona felt a tiny inkling of relief that she wasn't being yelled at immediately but knew better than to hope Illyana's temper wouldn't boil over.
Illyana, after a brief moment of seeming dumbstruck, jumped up from her seat and angrily said, “Why didn’t you tell us this before you agreed to sing in the competition?”
Leona bit her lip, “It just came up yesterday. I thought auditions had closed but I was just offered the gig. Please don’t be mad!”
Alarie was taking the news delightfully well but Illyana was clearly fuming, fists balled, and standing very stiffly.
“You’re giving us the shaft to sing at some dance for boring, snobby, adults?” she scowled, her voice rising and causing other patrons of the deli to take notice.
Leona stood up in defense, hand on her hip, “You know it’s my dream to be a professional singer. There will be influential people at the Mayor’s Ball, how can I pass this opportunity up?”
Illyana’s scowl only deepened, “You’re being selfish. You made a commitment to sing for OUR band.”
“It’s always been YOUR band, Illyana. You only started it to stick it to Nick anyway and he’s right–we do sound like tortured cats! We won’t win anything!”
A chilly silence covered the room and Illyana and Leona could only glare at each other in contempt.
#4 3rd Sep 2016 at 4:43 PM Last edited by Charmful : 14th Jan 2022 at 3:59 AM.
Nicholas Hart was late for band practice. Again.
Cypress and Orion waited for him in the extra upstairs room at Cypress's home that they used for jamming in. Orion had wanted to start without Nick but Cypress was firm that they would start when his tardy cousin finally showed his face. He wondered what excuse Nick would use this time.
“You know,” Orion said thoughtfully and leaned in a little closer than Cypress was accustomed to, breaking his thoughts, “You play the drums really good, man. Better than me even.”
Cypress and Orion looked at the drum set in front of them and Cypress gave a small, doubtful, laugh and wiped away some the jet black hair that always obscured his face, “Nah man, you’re the best musician in the whole region.” Orion had been the one to teach Cypress in the first place after noticing how much natural rhythm Cypress had, tapping his feet, tapping pencils, fingers, anything really.
“Here, try playing this set I wrote, it has a killer drum solo,” Orion slid to the floor and ruffled through his sheet music, handing Cypress a page to look at. Knowing Orion, he'd probably stayed up all night coming up with another new song. He was a bit anxious about playing, and wanted the perfect song.
After a moment of reviewing the paper, Cypress nodded and took a seat at his drums, picked up the drumsticks and seemed to start playing from memory even though the view he had of Orion’s composition was so brief.
He slammed the bass drum steadily with his foot on the pedal, crashed the cymbals and then went into a back and forth, doing a quick succession on the snare and toms. Orion’s smile was widening not only because Cypress was doing the solo the way he had imagined but because he also had tricked them into practicing before Nick got there.
Speaking of Nick, they heard someone's quick steps trampling up the stairs.
“Sorry I’m late, Mom made me take out the garbage before-” Nick started to breathlessly make an excuse for being late but stopped and gaped at his cousin’s playing.
When Cypress had finished the solo, Orion stood and cheered enthusiastically. There was no way they couldn’t win the Battle of the Bands with playing like that. Nick put his hand over his heart and said “Bro, that was completely awesome! Are you playing that in the battle?”
“I could,” Cypress murmured, transferring his drumsticks into one hand and standing up before throwing them to the sofa. He looked to Orion for guidance. Orion had the final say since he was the one writing the music.
Orion held up his hand, Cypress mirrored it, and Orion gave him a high-five, “Absolutely!”
Nick stood beside them and pouted, “Where’s my high-five?”
Cypress laughed and obliged Nick. Orion took his position at the electric double bass and chided, “Okay, come on, now we can start practicing for real.”
#5 4th Sep 2016 at 4:33 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:02 AM.
“So what’s the plan now that, you know, Leona bailed?” Alarie asked Illyana. Illyana had stayed over for dinner and the two girls were hanging around in Alarie’s bedroom before Illyana had to leave.
Illyana’s spirit for competition had waned, and she looked blankly back at her friend. She couldn’t help but to feel a bubble of rage boil in her throat at the thought of Leona’s betrayal.
Finally, she blurted, “Well, it looks like we need a new singer. You know anyone we can get last minute?”
Alarie shook her head, at a loss for an answer.
Then, the door opened and her younger sister, Alanna peeked her head in. Alanna was often mistaken for the older of the two. She was just so responsible, smart, got all the good grades and never, ever got into trouble. Unlike Alarie.
Alarie stood up immediately, “Hey, we were in the middle of an important discussion. You can’t just barge in here!”
Alanna looked mildly affronted and put her hands on her hips, “This is my room too!”
Before the sisters could start an argument, Illyana got an idea, “Alanna, you don’t happen to sing, do you?”
The question caused Alarie to fall back into the sofa with a ridiculing snort of laughter. Alanna? Sing for their band? She wouldn’t even show her stomach at the swimming pool much less a rock concert.
“Actually, I do. I sang a solo for the school choir,” Alanna admitted with a proud smile, but Alarie could tell there was a hint of a bragging in her sister’s tone. Typical.
Illyana’s rapt expression of glee turned into a pleading pout toward the older sister.
She couldn’t believe Illyana would be this desperate to accept Alanna’s help. Alanna was more of a choir girl than a rocker, she didn’t have the range Leona had. Most of all, she wouldn’t fit in with the sound, look, or vibe Illyana was always pushing for in the band. Alarie knew a lot about sticks - she was a drummer after all - she could beat out rhythms with them, throw them, and she knew there was one so far up her sister’s ass that it couldn’t be removed.
Alarie stood and paced, her face now contemplative and serious. Illyana’s dramatic, quivering lower lip of plea was getting even more ridiculous by the second. Not to mention how wide and round her eyes became. Alarie sighed and said curtly, “Fine. Alanna can sing for us.”
But as Illyana smiled with a new and inspired competitive spirit, her drummer turned around and made a face that told that complications were still sure yet to come with this choice.
#6 5th Sep 2016 at 6:18 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:01 AM.
The Busiest Man in Town
The Busiest Man in Town
The Orbinson estate had ample room for musical practice. Reggie was fond of the pure white baby grand in the living room despite knowing he had to play a small electronic keyboard at the Battle of the Bands. Franz Schoulsberg, a friend of Reggie’s, had brought his bass over and left it residing at their home to make it easier for practice. It was another smooth session, hardly any mistakes in the piece that they played with perfect harmony. There were three solos - one for violin, piano, and double bass. Evelyn Jane was on point as ever with her violin. Franz had said more than two words, which was an excellent day for anyone around him.
Evelyn knew that Battle of the Bands was expecting nothing but electronic-styled music but this was her chance to tear down barriers and show the world that classical had a place among popular music.
At six o'clock sharp, Evelyn Jane concluded practice and Reggie bid Franz farewell. Six o'clock was also when their father, the Mayor, would return home for the evening.
“Hi Daddy!” she made sure to meet him at the door, thankful he wasn’t working late. “I need to talk with you about the Mayor’s Ball-”
“Good evening Evie, Listen, I have to go take care of some business but we can talk later, okay?” He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and took his briefcase upstairs to his office.
Evelyn Jane wilted a bit, but was determined to get a word in to her father so that Leona Hillenburg could be put on the Mayor’s Ball entertainment list. It was the only way to keep her from singing in the competition.
A bit before dinner she knocked on her father’s office door.
“Come in,” she heard his tired voice.
“Daddy, about the Mayor’s Ball…”
“You know, your mother is looking forward to that event. She told me she bought a new dress for it.”
“Well Mom does love an excuse to buy a new dress,” Evelyn rolled her eyes and intended to steer the conversation back to the entertainment list but they both heard a call for dinner then.
It was pork chops this time.
Their mother asked them how practice was coming along. Reggie ridiculed the musical tastes of those that preferred electronic keyboards. Evelyn Jane waited for a good pause to bring up the Mayor’s Ball but as soon as the words left her lips her mother told her not to discuss business at the table. She looked abashed at her mother and began to protest but Noelle Orbinson gave her daughter a look that told her not to disturb the Mayor while he was eating. Evelyn Jane sawed vigorously with her knife at her pork chop and didn’t say another word about it.
Finally, the chance to get her father alone and not burdened by work, happened after dinner when he was pouring himself a drink in the parlor.
“Daddy, can I talk to you about putting a singer on the agenda for the Mayor’s Ball entertainment?” she stepped into the room and didn’t wait for him to say yes or no. “It doesn’t have to be a whole set, just maybe one song. Hopefully, we can fit her into the nine o'clock slot...”
"Whoa, whoa, whoa there,” her father put down his drink at the bar and stopped her stream of words, “The entertainment has already been planned, there’s no time available for anyone else to take the stage.”
“You’ll just have to let your friend know maybe next year. Sorry Evie,” he looked saddened to deny her but she knew it was a diplomatic look he gave to people on a daily basis when they didn’t get what they wanted from him. Her brow furrowed and she left to go to her bedroom and didn’t bid him a good night.
It wasn’t until she was in her pajamas and ready for bed that a new idea struck her on how to maneuver events the way she needed them to go. She snuck into her father’s office and took a few sheets of his official stationary, then went back to her desk to try and copy his handwriting, practicing a few times in her school notebooks until she could forge his flourishes.
She had to prevent Leona from singing at the Battle of the Bands any way possible.
#7 6th Sep 2016 at 10:51 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:13 AM.
Solidarity & Secrets
Solidarity & Secrets
The boys found themselves at Jerky’s Arcade and Comics store on Saturday. It was a quirky little shop with neon wallpaper that sold comics and video games. Nick went to buy a new video game. Orion and Cypress came along to see who between them would get the highest score on pinball this time around.
As Nick was having the cashier ring up a new copy of Spore, they heard the door to the store open, jingling the bell in welcome, and turned around to find none other than members of a rival band.
Illyana stopped and seemed to go rigid for a moment but then bore a glare right at Nick, seeming to ignore Cypress's wave of greeting.
Nick knew the reason for her glare. He felt a little bad for comparing her music to sounding like tortured cats the week before, but he quickly wiped away any guilt and squared his shoulders, ready for any of her tantrums.
She marched right up to him, as he expected. Illyana had always been a little firecracker, it was almost kind of cute.
She put a hand on her hip and continued to glare. What did she expect? An apology? No way.
Orion looked a little worried at Illyana's targeted ire but Cypress was acting casual as usual and moved over to check out some comics. Nick never told them how he insulted her after he found out she had signed up for Battle of The Bands, but they knew her anger at Nick was something as constant as the sun rising, so were not surprised at her confronting him.
He folded his arms across his chest and smirked, “So I heard your singer left you. When can I get you a sympathy card for your loss?”
He'd heard it from his mother, who had heard it from a friend, of a friend, of Illyana's mother. If it was true, it surely would damage her chances of beating him.
Her glare grew deeper and she threw her hands into fists, nearly threatening to punch his shoulder, “For your information, Nich-ol-ass, we have a new one and she’s going to be our secret weapon in beating you!”
Nick flinched a bit and put his arm to his shoulder just in case she did try to hit him. It wasn't unheard of.
Orion shuffled off to the side with Cypress to look over the comics and avoid being involved in the scene taking place.
Illyana quickly grabbed Alarie and put and arm around her friend, “Did you think we would crumble so easily? We’re made of solidarity. Losing a member won’t break us nor our band!”
Nick just narrowed his eyes, still with a hint of a smirk - not taking her completely seriously. She was so melodramatic sometimes. She threw him another glare before brushing past him and to the video game display.
He didn’t try to re-engage her but instead went to the back room where the arcade was. There were two pinball machines and two old school arcade games. Orion and Cypress had moved back there during the confrontation with Illyana. They had already started up a game of pinball and Orion was winning. As soon as Nick was back there and the girls were out of hearing range, they all broke out speaking at once, wondering who Illyana’s ‘secret’ weapon of a singer would be.
“I don’t know of anyone better than Leona Hillenburg,” Orion mused.
“What if she’s from outside the region?” Cypress wondered.
“Then she wouldn’t be eligible,” Nick reminded him and inserted two coins into the other pinball machine to play a solo game.
“Well, I think it’s still a long shot for her band without Leona. Plus, we have something better than a singer, we have Cypress!” Orion gestured toward Nick’s cousin.
Cypress humbly shrugged off Orion’s compliment like he always did and continued concentrating on pinball.
Nick rolled his eyes, oh yes, how could he forget his drumming prodigy of a cousin? Cypress didn’t even take the competition that seriously, just showed up when he was told to and played drums.
After Orion won the pinball highest score, Cypress moved onto the one of the arcade games for single player. Nick joined in on the other game next to him, and Orion watched with admiration as Cypress pressed out a rhythm on the buttons of the game and he didn’t even know it.
#8 7th Sep 2016 at 8:18 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:18 AM.
Leona was worried.
It had been a week since she had seceded from the band, but in that time she was given no additional information about her upcoming performance at the Mayor’s Ball. She had a few songs picked out but had not gotten any phone call nor any mail instructing her further of what to do.
“Why the glum face?” her father asked her as she sat in the townhouse's kitchen by herself.
“Well, I gave up on the band and it’s been a week and no one has contacted me about going to the Mayor’s ball!” Leona all but unloaded her troubles and then covered her face while panic exploded in her chest, “What if I don’t end up being able to sing at the event? Then I will have lost out on any opportunity to sing in front of people! I would have pissed Illyana off for no reason!”
Her father put a comforting arm around her shoulder, “Have you tried talking to Illyana?”
He knew his daughter’s stress was more than about singing. There had been an instant silence between her and her best friends for a straight week. She hadn’t responded, proving she had not talked to Illyana, so he persisted, “Maybe you should call Illyana and explain things now that she’s cooled off?”
She took in a steady breath to calm her nerves and nodded, “Okay.”
It took three rings before Illyana answered, “What do you want?”
Leona was surprised Illyana had checked caller ID before answering. That meant she was screening calls.
“H..Hi…I just wanted to say I didn’t handle the news about singing at the Mayor’s Ball well. Sorry I just dropped it on you like that…”
“It’s fine,” Illyana interrupted curtly. “We got someone else to sing.”
Leona’s brain took a second to process that news, “Wait, who? Are they good? Do they know our songs?”
Was she so easily replaceable? It seemed Illyana had wasted no time, and didn't even think about asking Leona to reconsider. The thought that Illyana wouldn't even try made Leona a bit sad.
“They’re my songs, because it’s ‘my’ band remember? You said so yourself,“ Illyana snapped a bit harshly, obviously still bitter over the whole situation, “Anyway, I have to go, Iago is home from school and we’re in the middle of playing cards. Bye.”
Iago was Illyana’s older brother. He seemed to be silently laughing as she rejoined them at the poker table, “Who are you mad at now?”
He knew his little sister to have an unparalleled temper.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she mumbled and re-took her seat.
Downtown, Leona held a phone in her hand that was ‘beeping’ because the line was cut off. That could have gone a lot better. Leave it to Illyana to hold a grudge, and now Leona was probably just as bad as Nick Hart in Illyana's eyes.
Leona hung up the phone and went to the mailbox for the second time that day. She had been obsessively checking it every morning the past week. To her surprise, there was an envelope in there - not a regular bill or coupon.
She took it out and it read ‘Miss Leona Hillenburg’ with fancy calligraphy and she felt her anxiety transform to joy.
At least something was going her way that day.
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#9 8th Sep 2016 at 11:32 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:30 AM.
A New Scheme
A New Scheme
Reggie could tell his sister was scheming again.
In fact, that was just Evelyn Jane’s natural personality. It was entirely obvious to him she was scheming because she had pulled her hair into pigtails and was wearing a rather low neckline that their father would have made some not-so-subtle coughs of disapproval at if he had seen her leave the house like that.
She had driven them to Mocha Chip Coffee Shop, a popular coffee chain throughout the region. It was not the usual place they went for their afternoon caffeine buzz.
“I take it we’re here for more than just coffee,” Reggie deducted in a dry tone.
“Shaun Piper frequents this place,” Evelyn Jane explained in a fierce whisper. To anyone, her response wouldn’t have made much sense but it was all Reggie needed to hear to understand his sister’s intentions. He made a disgusted face and looked away.
His heart made a little flip flop.
Perched on a cushy chair, next to a stack of books, sat Alanna Thackery. He hadn’t seen Alanna all summer despite them living in the same quiet island town of Isla Del Kashmire. Alanna was one of the most intelligent people he had ever had the pleasure of meeting and found out this fact as her chemistry partner their freshman year of high school.
Abandoning his sister to her scheming, he smiled and made his way down to Alanna to greet her.
“Hey Alanna,” Reggie approached, causing her head to jerk up from her book and look at him, as if she had been lost in an entirely different world.
Evelyn Jane watched the front door carefully until an older gentleman entered. He wore a slick, purple shirt, with matching glasses. He looked quite grumpy and she decided she would wait until he got his coffee to speak to him.
Shaun Piper was the standing maestro of the Scandalica Symphony. Extremely talented and substantially wealthy, he was a former professional piano musician and violin player and he was more than an idol to her. She grew up playing violin, attended the symphony programs, and had seen his work conducting. She had even played some of his original works. He also happened to be a judge for the Battle of the Bands. Evelyn Jane took out her lip gloss and applied it generously.
Seeing it was her former chemistry partner, Alanna smiled warmly, set her book on top of the pile next to her, and stood up to return the greeting, “Hello Reggie, it’s nice to see you!”
He couldn’t help but to match her smile and think the same.
“I don’t think I have ever seen you here before,” she indicated around the sunken room of the cafe, full of bookshelves for patrons' leisurely reading.
He shrugged, “My sister dragged me over. I think she has this half-baked idea to butter up one of the judges for Battle of the Bands who frequently comes here.”
He ended his words with a small laugh as if it were a ridiculous notion but no laughter reached Alanna’s eyes. She looked concerned.
He quickly changed subjects, “So do you come here often?”
He nearly choked on his words right after they left his mouth, realizing he sounded like any common moron trying to hit on a girl with lame pick up lines. It wasn’t his intention to hit on her at all. He didn't even think he knew how to do it.
“Maestro Piper, what a pleasure it is to see you here,” Evelyn’s voice cut smoothly, impatiently over the din. He had put in his order and the Barista was working on it. The elder man took pause before turning to face her, giving her a long look up and down with intrigued consideration.
“You have me at a disadvantage young lady,” he said with an arched brow.
“I'm Evie-” she said and smiled brilliantly.
“Sir? Your coffee…” the Barista made to interrupt but the maestro was too distracted by the young woman to notice.
Alanna’s smile returned and she leaned against the unoccupied chess table of the cafe den, running her hands along the carved wooden border. Reggie would have loved to play chess with her but was busy trying not to let the red into his cheeks.
“Often enough,” she answered while, it seemed, was too polite to laugh outright in Reggie’s face for his caddish words. Some kind of relief prickled through him when he detected a bit of flirtation in her tone.
“I’m a big fan of your work, especially the violin concertos you wrote. They are absolutely exhilarating to play,” Evelyn Jane's smile continued to illuminate her face, masking the usual calculated stares she had fixed into her eyes. One smile was all it took to convince unsuspecting victims that she was as innocent as an angel. The Maestro looked sincerely flattered but that was because Evelyn Jane, for once, was sincere in her words of flattery.
The hope that Alanna Thackery was actually flirting with him caused the color to ebb in Reggie's face and he took a more assured stance. He was Reginald Orbinson, son of the mayor, why was he so intimidated at the thought of asking her out? He liked her, and she liked him well enough. He crossed his arms and cocked his head, “Say, do you want to get dinner tomorrow night?”
Alanna stood a bit straighter, nearly gaping at him before a regretful expression crossed her face, “Sorry Reggie, I…can’t. I’m involved in an activity and my group is meeting tomorrow night to…go over things.”
He had never heard her speak in such a choppy and vague manner. It sounded like an excuse to not go out with him for dinner. But he didn’t want to press her; he could take a hint. He lost some of his confidence, visibly deflated.
Alanna’s eyes darted to something behind him and she gave him a small apologetic smile, “I have to go. It was good to see you, Reggie.”
Suddenly, he felt hands on his shoulders and heard his sister’s sing-song voice behind him, “Shaun Piper wants to hear me play violin!”
He couldn’t care less what Evelyn Jane had done to win over Shaun Piper's favor at that moment; all he could feel was a bitter disappointment as he watched Alanna walk away.
#10 9th Sep 2016 at 11:58 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 6:46 PM.
Alanna’s voice was signing but her mind was distracted. It was noticeable.
Her sister, Alarie, shouted over the crashing cymbals of her trap set, “I know you can sing louder, and don’t string the words together because it sounds like something completely different.”
Alanna squeaked out a quick apology and Alarie counted off again on her drumsticks. It was their first practice together and Alanna was trying her hand at the songs Leona once sang.
At the same point in the music, though, Alanna slurred the words again and then stopped singing entirely with a face full of defeat. Something was bothering her.
Illyana sighed and stopped strumming her guitar. She narrowed her eyes at Alanna, “What’s wrong?”
Alanna bit her lip, internally struggling whether or not she should pass along a concerning issue she had heard the day before. She put the microphone on its stand and turned to them.
“I think the competition is being rigged,” she finally said.
Alarie came around and took a seat on the front drum, folding her arms in concern, “What do you mean? How?”
“I think Evelyn Jane Orbinson is bribing the judges.”
“Is she even in the Battle of the Bands? I didn’t think she liked rock n' roll,” Illyana’s voice dripped with acid.
“It’s a closed list, so we wouldn’t know who signed up,” Alarie shrugged
“Nick knew that we entered,” Illyana pointed out.
“That’s because on the last day of school, you told me to drop a hint to Nick that we were competing,” Alarie reminded her. “And we knew Nick and his band were signed up because Nick went around bragging about how he was going to win it as soon as sign-ups were announced.”
“I bet Evelyn Jane used the ‘politician’s daughter’ card to look at the list,” Illyana spat with contempt. She was not a fan of Evelyn Jane ever since Evelyn Jane called Illyana ‘pedestrian’ for wearing jeans with holes in them back in junior high.
Alanna felt a shiver run down her spine. She nearly forgot Reggie and his sister were the children of the Mayor of Kashmire, but she remembered quite clearly Illyana’s rant explaining why they needed a new singer in the first place. Leona had dropped out because of a sudden opening for a singer at the Mayor’s Ball.
“Did Leona ever say how she was given a spot at the Mayor’s Ball?” Alanna asked slowly, a realization dawning on her.
“No, she just betrayed us without a second thought,” Illyana frowned.
“Do you think…maybe…that Evelyn Jane told Leona there was an opening? To get her to drop out of the competition?”
The other two girls paused with stricken looks on their faces before Alarie shot up with her fists balled and a few choice swear words about Evelyn Jane’s character. Illyana stiffened and then turned away with an astonished scowl before demanding, “We need to take a break from practice and figure this out."
She nearly stomped out of the practice room and into the sisters’ bedroom where there was seating.
The Thackery sisters followed, finding Illyana had pulled out one of their desk chairs and was sitting and looking annoyed. Alarie took a perch on top of the night stand and Alanna sat herself on the sofa with her hands folded across her lap.
“Alanna, how did you find out she was bribing judges?” Illyana asked after a moment of pondering and crossed her legs, leaning forward inquisitively.
Alanna’s cheeks colored at the thought of revealing her discussion with Reggie, but there was no way to avoid mentioning him.
“Reggie Orbinson casually mentioned something about it when I saw him yesterday at the coffee shop.”
“Does he know you are in our band now?”
“No, I didn’t tell him.”
Illyana’s pondering expression grew deeper.
Alanna couldn’t help but to notice her sister take on a wide, knowing smile at seeing her blush.
“So what else did you and that pretentious tool talk about?”
“Reggie is not a tool!” Alanna raised her voice fiercely to defend Reggie, and to the surprise of both girls. Her cheeks deepened in color and she took a breath and continued in an even tone, “and…he asked me to go to dinner with him.”
“No way! Did you accept?” Alarie’s eyes were wide with disbelief. To think, someone as haughty and snobbish as Reginald Orbinson would take interest in her little sister.
“If I had, I wouldn’t be here now.”
Alarie raised her brows and exchanged a knowing look with Illyana.
“No, oh no, I know what you are thinking and it’s not happening,” Alanna stood to interrupt their silent conniving.
“Come on, it wouldn’t hurt to get some information from him as long as he doesn’t know your involvement with Battle of the Bands. Obviously Evelyn Jane, that prissy snake in the grass, doesn’t know you have replaced Leona either. Just ask him if you could go to dinner tomorrow instead,” Illyana reasoned.
“I’d be using him though. It’s deceitful!” Alanna objected.
“SO? Take a look at who his sister is and he practically hangs out with her all the time like some kind of minion. He doesn’t have any of his own friends.”
“Franz Schoulsburg is his friend!”
“Okay, but he’s still having one-sided conversations in any case,” Illyana took a jab at the fact Franz hardly ever spoke. “So I bet he’s dying to get some stuff off his chest. Ask him out to dinner, I bet he’ll say ‘yes’ and then you can get him to tell you all the sordid things Evelyn Jane has planned for this competition.”
“Plus, I bet he’ll try to kiss you,” Alarie teased and Alanna just covered her face in mortification and flung out her arm to shoo her elder sister away.
“Pleeeeeaaaseee Alanna? You could help us root out corruption in the competition.” Illyana pouted pleadingly.
Alanna sighed. She was secretly very flattered that Reggie had wanted to go to dinner. She had always thought him a very proper, if not a little pompous, young man with good taste. He was a good conversationalist and was a great at chemistry. His jokes were of the intelligent caliber, and she appreciated he didn’t resort to crude humor like most of the boys at school their age.
“Fine, I’ll send him a message,” Alanna acquiesced and sat down at the computer to start composing an email. She had only sent him a hundred over the year when they were partnered for class, a seeming endless email thread about electron counts and formulas. This one would break that subject and begin a whole new one.
My sincerest apologies I could not attend dinner with you tonight. I would like to suggest going to dinner tomorrow evening around 6:00 pm, if your schedule allows. You can pick the place!
Look forward to hearing your answer,
#11 11th Sep 2016 at 12:42 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 6:53 PM.
“Must be laundry day,” Cypress noted with a chuckle, nodding at Orion’s attire. It didn’t escape anyone’s notice that Orion had a favorite shirt and seemed to wear it days on end. But not today. He was sporting a regular striped shirt with a collared one underneath.
The guys had been jamming at Orion’s house without Nick again. Nick always seemed to be getting in trouble and grounded in the evenings which severely limited his practice time with the rest of the band. Luckily there was enough raw talent between Orion and Cypress to carry on without their guitar player.
Cypress was a constant guest of the estate, being Orion’s best friend since they were in elementary school. Orion’s family consisted of a legacy of musicians and they practiced in the music room which held at least three guitars, the bass, and an extra drum kit that Cypress used because it was impractical to haul his trap set from house to house.
Orion just smiled with a roll of his eyes before closing them and deftly plucked out a line on one of the bass strings.
It was nearing sundown when they decided to stop and retreat to Orion’s room to hang out and listen to records. It was one of their favorite things to do.
“What did Nick do this time?” Orion wondered aloud after putting a Pink Floyd vinyl on the turntable and took a seat on one of the enormous speakers. He knew that Cypress, being Nick’s cousin, would probably have the details.
“Well you know, his grandma just died,” Cypress indulged in answering the query.
“Yeah…that was sad, I gave my condolences.”
Cypress’s mouth quirked upward slightly in amusement.
"Well Nick was supposed to give his Uncle a poem to read at the funeral..."
"...and Nick instead gave him the lyrics to a Marilyn Manson song."
"Aunt Harmony was really pissed off at that.”
Orion winced, imagining the confusion of the mourners. Then his wince turned to a bit of worry since the competition was less than two weeks away, “So any word when he can make it back to practice?”
“Probably Saturday, unless he does some other stupid thing that gets him in trouble,” Cypress answered. They had known Nick since they were kids and Nick couldn’t resist a prank or a challenge. He never thought things through either, and seemed surprised that his negative actions had negative consequences.
Cypress leaned forward and pulled one knee up to his chest and bobbed his head slightly to the song as it was ending, “Man, this song is so good.”
Another thing Orion admired about his friend was that Cypress was so very chill. He didn’t get stressed out or worried about life and just seemed to go with the flow, like fa piece of dandelion in the wind, and took in grace whatever was thrown at him.
“The next one is even better,” Orion turned the music volume up and hopped off his seat on the speaker. He held out his hand for Cypress to take to stand.
Cypress grabbed Orion by the forearm with a raised brow, and Orion pulled him up. They were about the same height. Orion seemed only a bit taller because of the way his hair stuck out.
“It’s still pretty good, but I liked the last one better” Cypress mused, referring to the song. He slowly released his grip on Orion’s arm but Orion caught his hand and held onto it; Orion didn’t know why, but it felt nice.
Cypress was looking at their hands in a perplexed manner, before looking to Orion for an explanation. He was used to Orion grabbing his hand to pull him this way and that to show him places and things but Orion never lingered like this before.
“I…”Orion’s voice was suddenly croaky, his throat tightening. He met Cypress’s gaze and he could swear his heart started beating harder than before, probably hard enough Cypress could feel it through their fingertips.
The hand in his went from relaxed to rigid and before Orion could explain himself, Cypress had yanked his hand back and held up the opposite, blocking Orion from any kind of advancement, “I better be getting home.”
Orion could feel his whole body slump with dejection. He hadn’t meant to weird Cypress out, but lately his feelings for Cypress seemed to be evolving. He had always been passionate about music, and for some reason seeing Cypress play drums as he did…it had awoken something in his heart. He just hoped he could suppress the feeling enough to not ruin the dynamic of his band, or even worse, lose him his best friend.
#12 11th Sep 2016 at 10:09 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 7:06 PM.
A Cultured Excursion
A Cultural Excursion
Reggie could not take his eyes off her.
She didn’t seem to notice how much he was staring, ever since they had met up at the Metro Museum of Modern Art for dinner. The Museum had a small restaurant on the top floor, and Reggie planned for them to eat and then look at some art together afterward.
He was pleasantly surprised that she had sincerely wanted to have dinner with him. Especially after her evasive rejection and exit from the coffee shop, he figured she didn’t want anything to do with him outside of school.
He didn’t specifically call their outing a ‘date’, but the way they were both dressed indicated it was something more or less of one. He had brushed his dark hair so that it wasn’t sticking out at any weird angles, wore a pair of nice khaki slacks and a blue button up shirt. She had done something different with her hair from it’s usual braid, and she was even wearing heels. He’d never seen her wear heels before.
Alanna continued to look through her menu. She hadn’t said much since they sat down. So he only stared, waiting for a chance to compliment her.
After the waiter came to take their orders, Alanna smiled politely at Reggie and he blurted, “You look beautiful tonight.”
Her smile faded and she took a sip of her water, before answering, “Thanks.”
He couldn’t help but to have that heat rise in his cheeks again, feeling like his compliment was all wrong. If her reaction was any indication, it was. She was beautiful, but she was so much more than a pretty face. She was intelligent, talented, kind. She was perfect.
In class, they would fire up conversations about science, philosophy, art, and other interesting topics. But now she was so quiet and contemplative. He hoped that he hadn’t upset her.
They ate dinner with minimal conversation. Mostly because it was rude to speak with a mouthful of food. The communication between them thinned to just looks, nods, and smiles regarding the quality of their meals. He tried to give her a bite of his prawns but she politely turned him down. She did let him steal a bite of her pork chop though, and gave a small laugh at him for it. At one point, her hand was so close to his that he considered lightly caressing it, but lost his nerve.
As soon as he paid the bill, he thought for sure she would just leave and call it a night, but she asked, “Do you know if they still have the exhibit on paint-spattering?”
“Yeah, its downstairs in the left wing,” he felt himself smile in relief that she wasn’t leaving just yet, “Want to check it out?”
They considered the various paint-spattered canvases on the wall in more silence. Reggie’s thoughts often wandered to Alanna and he couldn’t help but to stare at her again. What was she thinking?
“What do you think?” she asked, beating him to it.
He blinked a few times rapidly, “It’s...uh...chaotic.”
“But there can beauty in chaos,” she looked at him and smiled.
She didn't know how right she was as he returned it they continued to look at art.
As the evening slipped by, they seemed to become the only patrons left at the museum, not having seen anyone else for while in the wings. They were halfway between the art nouveau and metallic wall hanging exhibits when Reggie asked, “So, how was your group?”
“What?” Alanna asked, a bit startled as if she had been interrupted while in the middle of thinking of a solution for an intense chemistry equation, though all she was doing was staring at a sheet of steel design hanging on the wall.
“The group you had to meet with last night. What exactly is it for?”
“Oh,” she sighed, “It's for…music appreciation.”
He felt himself grin, he didn’t know she had an interest in music. He would have to play piano for her sometime. Maybe he could write a song for her, “What kind of music do you like?”
“I’m a fan of many genres. I think jazz is my favorite, though. There’s something really smooth and soothing about it.”
He felt a volt of electricity at her words, which sent his heart racing. Jazz was his favorite kind of music too! He had to stifle a laugh, thinking that they had so much chemistry together after being chemistry partners.
“Speaking of music,” Alanna said, seeming to brace herself, “Why was your sister trying to 'butter up’ one of the Battle of the Bands judges?”
“What?” he choked out an awkward laugh, being caught off guard.
She played with the hem of her shirt, breaking eye contact, “The other day, you said she was trying to that…with a judge who frequented the coffee shop.”
He remembered what he had said, but didn’t know why Alanna did, “Evelyn Jane will do anything to get what she wants.”
“What does she want?”
Reggie felt even more awkward talking about his sister’s ambitious nature on a date, well not an official date, rather a cultured excursion with a girl he was very much interested in.
“I like to win too,” he added, hoping his words would make her think him ambitious too. Girls liked that didn't they?
She gave a light laugh and leaned in closer to him, as if sharing life advice, “Well no one wants to lose now do they? Saying you like to win is like saying 'I breathe air’ or something else equally as obvious.”
Reggie all of a sudden, caught a glimpse of the girl he had been chemistry partners with as she shook her head in amusement. This was Alanna Thackery.
She turned and regarded him with a raised brow, waiting for him to finish his thought.
“I like you,” he gestured toward the whole of her, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. This was the moment of truth, “l like you a lot. You are the most amazing girl I have ever met.”
He could plainly tell she was surprised, as if she couldn’t believe him. Her eyes were round, her mouth slightly agape before she realized it and snapped it shut.
She sat down on a nearby museum bench, looking dumbfounded. He smirked, secretly loving this effect he had on her, and took a seat next to her to pretend to study the same wall hanging and give her time to absorb his admission. Then, he felt her breath on his ear; it sent goosebumps up his arms. She was cupping her mouth as to share a secret with him, “I like you a lot too.”
What happened next Reggie couldn’t begin to explain, maybe it was just instinct but all he knew was that Alanna felt for him the way he did for her and his heart was on fire.
He stood abruptly, pulled Alanna close and kissed her, and kept kissing her until they were backed into a corner of the museum and stayed that way until closing time.
#13 13th Sep 2016 at 2:50 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 7:19 PM.
Breakout: Part I
Breakout: Part I
It was only 9:30 on a midsummer’s Saturday night and Illyana was already in her pajamas. What a lame way to spend the evening but what else was she going to do? There was no band practice while Alanna was still out gathering intel on corruption in the competition and Alarie was out of town. Illyana and Leona used to hit up the fun house in downtown Scandalica City on the weekend. Those memories made her heart pang with bitterness. Leona was a traitor.
She had her notebook on her lap and was writing down lyrics to a new song she had written, at least that was productive. They had been practicing a song for the battle of the bands that she and Leona had written together but now she wasn’t sure if she wanted to use that anymore. It was such a great song by itself but felt kind of wrong to have someone else sing it.
The shrill ringing of a phone nearly made Illyana jump out of her skin. She stumbled out into the hallway and grabbed the cordless phone off its wall charger, darting back into her room. She didn't know why she was so quick to make the noise stop, it wasn't as if anyone was home to be bothered by it but her.
“Illllllyana,” she heard Nick Hart drawl her name out of the receiver.
“Nick?” she hissed, mildly bewildered; he hadn’t called her in years and still remembered her number?
“Yeah hey, so…I was wondering could you do me a solid and come pick me up?”
Her mind reeled in anger, from their encounter at the Laundromat a couple of weeks ago. How dare he ask her for any solids after he insulted the way she played guitar!
“Long story short—I’m grounded—” Illyana couldn’t help but to roll her eyes. Typical Nicholas. “But there’s a band playing at Sweet Marie’s tonight and I wanted to see their set.”
Her face fell into an indifferent, stoic expression, something of a habit she picked up dealing with Nick’s cavalier and overconfident attitude as he grew into puberty, “You’re kidding.”
“Why would I kid about that?”
Her tone turned sharp, “Because you could get Cypress, or Orion or any other person to pick you up. What are you calling me for?”
“They’re both acting weird and I don’t want to bug them. Besides you like music, you could come see the band too!”
“I don’t think so,” Illyana scoffed
“Come on, I’ll owe you a favor. Please?”
She hesitated; that wasn’t too bad of a deal to have a favor in her pocket. Her contemplation was too long for Nick because she heard his annoying chants of 'Please? Please? Please? Please? Please?' coming out of the ear piece. Plumbobs, he was so immature.
“Shut up. Fine. Meet me in front of your house and try not to get caught sneaking out.”
She pulled on a t-shirt and some capri pants, not bothering to take the extra time to put her hair up in their regular buns since she wouldn't be in public. It would not take long to get to his house, and then Sweet Marie’s was about a 30-minute drive north to Memosa Bay. She grabbed the keys to the Jeep and headed out.
As soon as she pulled up to the house, she could see a white blur — Nick, presumably — sprint across the flagstones of the front lawn to try to avoid the windows and outside lights that would have exposed him to his parents view.
As soon as he found himself on the other side of the stone wall and facing the street where Illyana had parked, he straightened up, brushed his hair from his face, and then gave the vehicle a dissatisfied look, “You’re driving this hunk of junk?”
“By the Great Green Diamond, get in and shut up,” she responded in the same indifferent tone she had used before. He cranked the door handle and the Jeep’s whole frame lurched as he put his weight in the front passenger seat. He raised his brows in an ‘I told you so’ expression which she ignored.
He only smirked and tried to buckle the seat belt before finding out that the latch was broken and let it go with an exaggerated sigh. She got it. He hated the Jeep.
She rolled her eyes and shifted gears.
“What did you do anyway?” She asked after they were on the highway, after ten minutes of her giving him the cold shoulder, “To get grounded?”
“I Tricked Uncle Adagio into reading Marilyn Manson lyrics instead of a poem at Grams' funeral.”
“Grams died?!” Illyana nearly swerved into the oncoming lane as she took in the news, shocked that she hadn’t heard. Nick was equally as shocked, his fingers on the dashboard in a death grip—life flashing before his eyes.
She remembered Kimmy Hart well, a sweet old lady who baked them cookies after they came home playing at the park or who provided them piano music for them to dance around to. She was always there, and the closest thing to a grandmother Illyana had since her own died when she was just a baby. The last time Illyana had seen Nick’s grandmother was at the grocery store, not even a few weeks ago, where Kimmy gave Illyana such a big hug and asked her how she was despite the fact she had stopped coming over for years. Tears welled into her eyes without her consent knowing that Kimmy was gone forever and she never got to say goodbye.
"Watch where you drive, Jeez," Nick’s teased with a roguish smile, but it dropped at seeing her devastated face, “I thought you would have heard by now, the way news spreads around Isla Del Kashmire.”
“I’ve been busy,” Illyana wiped at her eyes, but knew Nick had seen already. Then without warning, she started punching him in the arm aggressively, punctuating her words between hits and keeping her eyes on the road. “You! Never! Take! Anything! Seriously!”
“Wha—?” he tried batting her fist away before she could give him any more bruises.
“Marilyn Manson is not an appropriate reading for Grams’s funeral, you douche-canoe.”
“It was funny!”
She didn’t reply and only gave him the cold shoulder of silence for another ten minutes before breaking it.
“Are you even sad she’s gone?”
“Of course I am, the lady was a saint and I miss her like the Hells, but I can’t waste all my time being mad or sad about things. Unlike you.”
“What the frack is that supposed to mean?!” she snarled.
She hated how his mouth always took on that stupid, annoying smirk, even then. She had the urge to slap it off but straightened her shoulders and resigned herself to the fact he wasn’t going to answer and he only said it to bait her into a flare of anger to prove his point.
“I should turn around and take you home. You deserve to be grounded.”
“Come on, don’t be like that! Besides we’re basically here,” he pointed at the exit for Memosa Bay.
She begrudgingly agreed and soon enough, pulled up to Sweet Marie’s with a glare that told him to ‘get out’.
“You drove all the way here and you don’t even want to see the band?” he asked after exiting and leaned against the open window.
“What do they play?”
“Is that even a genre?” she knotted her brows doubtfully.
“It is now,” he turned his back to her and began walking toward the entrance. He smirked to himself as he heard her driver’s side door open and close. Curiosity had gotten the best of her.
#14 17th Sep 2016 at 5:56 PM Last edited by Charmful : 14th Jan 2022 at 6:37 AM.
Breakout: Part II
Breakout: Part II
The band wasn’t half bad. In fact, the guitarist was exceptionally good.
Nick cheered and clapped as the guitarist executed the move where she continued to play even with the guitar behind her back. He side-eyed Illyana to his right and saw her standing with no movement, staring forward and not knowing what in the world she was thinking. He used to be able to tell.
He noticed her hips began to sway back and forth with the beat, maybe the music was finally sinking into her. Maybe she even liked it despite the sound not being her preferred genre.
He turned to her and started shaking his shoulders, swinging his arms, and trying to encourage her into dancing along with him.
When she finally figured out what he was doing, she opened her mouth with surprise and made a dismissive gesture over the loud music. Though, something happened to her face in that moment that was highly amusing and kind of cute.
He belted out a laugh before leaning in toward her ear so she could hear him and said, “You’re blushing.”
As he pulled away he saw the red in her cheeks intensify before she covered them with her hands, “It’s…I’m not blushing!” she shouted over the music, “It’s just…hot in here!”
He reached out to one of her concealing hands and eased it away, taking it and leading her away from the front of the crowd, “Well then let’s get you out of this fray so you can cool off!”
To his surprise, she didn’t act like his touch was that of a leper. She maintained a hold on his hand through the crowd until they reached the back of the venue where they found a vacant sofa. Illyana sat down, still red in the cheeks and Nick leaned against the wall to give her space and to study her.
She was staring off again, like before, like she wasn’t really looking at anything in particular. She was probably still in shock from hearing about his grandmother's passing. He still held a sting of grief in heart from the loss, and probably always would but knew being sad about it wouldn't hep the situation. He had been close with Kimmy. Still though, he found this behavior of Illyana's so very atypical. She was usually loud, fiercely opinionated, combative, stubborn, and particularly hostile to those she perceived to have wronged her. Especially Nick. He had no idea what he had done to deserve her ire.
“Maybe we aren’t friends after all,” echoed in his mind after she stormed out of the Laundromat. The words had made him pause to consider because it had seemed like such a long time since they hung out one-on-one. He had assumed, until that day, they still were friends in some capacity based on their history.
He nudged her leg so she would make room for him on the sofa. She acquiesced and scooted over.
“Ill?” he asked.
“What?” she snapped, reacting harshly to the shortening of her name only he had ever called her by. He made her name sound like a sickness when he said it like that. She came out of her stare, dragging her lively brown eyes over to meet his with a frown.
“Why aren't we friends anymore?”
She squirmed a bit, thinking of how to say it, and crossed her legs. He thought he saw the color in her cheeks pick up some more hue.
“Probably because you and the guys started the band.”
He looked taken aback, “What do you mean? We still went to the arcade and hung out; we were still friends after the band started!”
Her gaze was steady “You stopped being you. After the band, you became this arrogant jerk that tried hitting on any girl that would talk to you. You constantly blew off our plans to instead hang out with Cypress. You just stopped caring about anyone but yourself anymore. Not even an hour ago you expected me to drop everything and give you a ride here, even though you were grounded, with no consideration to whether I had plans or not.”
As she spoke her voice raised in volume, pitch and speed as her frown got deeper and deeper.
“And then after months of radio silence, you tell me that I sound like tortured cats when I play my music. Do you know how crushing that is to hear? Do you even know why I started playing guitar? I thought maybe we would have something in common again, maybe you would let me join your band, but no. You’re still immature and conceited and that’s why I stopped trying to be your friend.”
Illyana turned her whole body away from him as if was he was the most disgusting creature on the planet.
And he felt like it.
What she described...it was familiar. It was who his father was. If there was one person in the world he didn't want to ever be like, it was his father. So this was how she saw him?
He always thought what they had as of late, was intense yet playful banter, but she really was revolted by who he had become. He bowed his head, at a loss for words and rubbed the back of his neck, feeling ashamed.
She uncrossed her arms
“I am a jerk.”
She side-eyed him.
Her frown softened.
“...can we be friends again?”
She folded her hands into her lap and contemplated his question. He’d never sounded so sincere before. He took her hesitation for a definite maybe. He could redeem himself. He stretched, pulling his hands behind his head with a smile, “After all, we sure have had some good times.”
She smiled wistfully, seeming to pick out a few choice memories in her mind, “Like the times we went camping in your backyard and you got so scared of the wind blowing tree branches that you had to go indoors.”
“Or the times we played shoot out and you kept losing because you were too short to reach the hoop, so I had to lift you so you had a fairer shot.”
She actually popped a giggle at remembering that. He felt his smile broaden.
They ended up spending the rest of the show at the back of the room, reminiscing about their old friendship and laughing at fond memories, over the sound of folk metal.
#15 19th Sep 2016 at 9:13 PM Last edited by Charmful : 14th Jan 2022 at 6:42 AM.
A New Connection
A New Connection
The sudden belligerent knocking coming from the other side of his bedroom door caused Franz to look up and glare. He knew she’d enter even if he didn’t say anything, which he usually didn’t.
His twin sister entered with a hand on her hip and gave him a judgmental look, “It’s a nice day outside, are you going to spend all summer inside? What are you even reading? Do you close yourself up in here and look at porn? Oh my Plumbob, are you looking at porn now?” she squealed and made a disgusted face.
He kept glaring at her before looking back down at his Stephen King novel. He had been at ‘band’ practice nearly every day at the Mayor’s estate due to Evelyn Jane’s insistence on perfection, and finally had some time to himself. He just wanted to read.
“Fra-anz, come on, go on a run with me or something. No wonder you are super pale. People will think you are a ghost if you keep so white and quiet. Let’s go!”
He was already exhausted at hearing her words spill out like some leak in a plumping pipe. He grabbed up the book he was currently reading and brushed past his sister wordlessly. If he couldn’t get peace and quiet in his own room, then he was going to find it elsewhere.
There was a coffee shop not too far away from where he lived; he detested the stuff but knew the place had a relaxing atmosphere and was friendly toward readers. He entered and made his way to a comfortable chair, opened his book and picked up where he had left off.
It wasn’t long before movement tugged at his peripheral vision; someone else who had been sitting in the room was staring at him. He glanced up to see a pretty girl next to a pile of her own books; her legs were crossed and she was staring curiously at him. He cleared his throat and pretended to concentrate harder on the words on the page.
“Reading anything good, Franz?”
The hair on his neck prickled, and he took a good look at the girl, realizing that she went to his school. Her name was Atlantis or Alligator, or some other name starting with 'A.' He didn’t keep track.
He gave a slow nod.
“Can I see?”
Usually he would have just ignored her, or pretended she hadn’t said anything but there was something kind of…nice….about someone taking an interest in what he was doing.
He stood, and walked over to her with the cover of the book displayed so she could see. As he did, she leaned back in her seat and played absently with her braid. Alanna, the name bubbled up from the depths of his brain filled with trivial knowledge. She may have been in a few classes with him, but he wouldn’t cared enough to take notice.
“Stephen King! I love that author! My favorite book of his was ‘The Shining.’ I read it when I was younger, and had to sneak it in because my parents wouldn’t have let me otherwise.”
Franz’s indifferent expression shifted ever so slightly into a grin.
She scooted over a bit and indicated for him to share the small sitting space with her. He sat down and opened his book back to the place he was before
“Have you read this one?” he asked. His voice came out soft and deep, a little gravelly from lack of regular use.
“No, not this one,” she shook her head and put her hand over the open page closest to her with a laugh, “No spoilers!”
He closed the book partially, so only he could see the words.
“I’ve been trying to get through the works of Brontë this summer, but I feel like I need a break for something different. Any suggestions?”
He cleared his throat, “What kind of stories do you like?”
“Well I’m actually curious about science fiction,” she mused, “I don’t think I’ve read enough to really appreciate it.”
An odd sensation flickered through Franz at her admission. He usually kept to himself and had little reason to converse but now a feeling emerged, too abstract and foreign to name. He wanted her to know about all the great science fiction books he had read, wanted for her to read them and be as moved and excited by them as he had upon first reading, wanted to share experiences of the books they had read. He wanted to talk to her.
“Asimov is a good start,” he found himself saying, standing and browsing the bookshelves of the coffee shop. He found one Asimov book and pulled it off the shelf. Another two books by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells he added to her pile.
She moved to the floor next to the pile and eagerly opened ‘The Time Machine’ to skim the pages.
“Thank you so much!” she beamed up at him. He grinned slightly and then looked for more novels on the shelves.
After adding a few more books, he sat on the floor across from her and pointed at each book, giving her the synopsis of each and was pleased with how her eyes became bright and even more interested in what he had to say. Was this what it was like to be noticed?
“Which will you want to read first?” he asked.
She looked around at the books displayed on the floor where he had left them, all with the eyes of a kid with so many candy choices and not knowing which to eat first.
She picked up the novel by H.G. Wells, “Probably this one, I like time travel stories.”
“Good choice,” his voice was solid now, being used the most in one afternoon than it had in months. He noticed that time had slowly slipped away; he had meant only to stay an hour at most but now the sun was setting. He stood abruptly, motioning behind him, “I need to get going home but let me know what you think of it.”
“I will. I’m here almost every day,” she started to get up as well, and he held out his hand to offer help for her to stand. She smiled in thanks, took it to stand steadily, and he let go.
“Good,” he said a little too quickly, looked as his feet, then back to her. She had started putting her pile of books back together. He turned to leave but she grabbed his hand and the hairs on his neck stood on end again. He held his breath.
“You forgot your book, here,” he heard her say and felt his novel replace her hand in his.
“Thanks,” he released his voice without looking back at her, feeling that he’d be tempted to stay even longer if he did.
#16 25th Sep 2016 at 4:32 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 8:27 PM.
The Red Room
The Red Room
It had been a long time since Evelyn Jane could recall a nervous flutter in her gut. She never considered herself intimidated once in her eighteen years, but she was standing at the door of the penthouse apartment of Maestro Shaun Piper. She wasn’t expecting any kind of special attention from the Maestro, but nevertheless had curled her hair, put on some red lipstick, and touched up with some dabs of flowery perfume for her visit.
She inhaled and knocked a few times before a voice through a nearby box speaker said, "Enter".
The door lock could be heard clicking to an open position and she turned the knob, not even knowing what she would see in the home of the noted symphony conductor. It was a gorgeous apartment, with the finest luxuries she could ever imagine. An 80-inch television, paintings by renowned modern artists, a terrace with an amazing view of the skyline.
“Welcome Miss Evie,” she heard the Maestro say from the right of her, she turned and saw him standing by a very expensive and rare Blackwood grand piano. Above it hung an ornate two-story chandelier. He was dressed clean and classy, with a dark burgundy vest over a crisp white collared shirt. He may have been older than her father, but he had aged like a fine red wine – the Maestro was an attractive man.
Evelyn Jane stepped further into the penthouse, letting the general splendor of it all wash over her. This is how she would live someday. “Thank you again for inviting me, your home is amazing,” she craned her neck back to see the details of the chandelier.
“I keep my violins in the music studio upstairs, would you like to see?” he offered. She gave a nod of awe, still not fully believing she was in his actual home.
It had taken her some significant weeks of having her contacts in the Mayor’s office find out the Maestro’s schedule in order for them to ‘bump’ into each other at the coffee shop. She wanted to impress him unequivocally, enough that he would have favor toward her at the Battle of The Bands. Just because his style was more on the classical side, didn’t mean he was unable to judge other types of music.
He led her to the second story and into a room painted in bright red. It was an office and music studio.
“This canvas was the last of the Noir series, one of only eight in existence,” he motioned toward a wall-to-floor pop art piece depicting a woman’s face.
Evelyn Jane gave him an appropriately impressed smile. Any other person who bragged as he did she would have admonished, but it seemed to work for him.
She knew his history; he liked to collect expensive things - art, music, cars. He also had been a notorious playboy in his youth. She took a seat on the small cushy chair in the corner of the music studio and continued to admire the room. He knelt and removed a violin from its display stand.
“This is the last Simavarious I violin. It’s over 100 years old and cost me a fortune to obtain.”
“Are you going to play it for me?” she asked in a coquettish tone.
He brushed his hand over the varnish and smiled, “Not this one, not today.”
She gave a small pout - that violin was supposed to sound flawless - it was a legend among any violinist that mattered in the world.
He picked up a second violin - shinier, newer - and began to play. She recognized the solo piece immediately and gave a sigh of delight before smiling and paying rapt attention. She was watching a master at work.
He continued to play, crescendoed into a fortissimo and she closed her eyes. This music made it feel like her soul was spinning around the room. If only she could win the Battle of the Bands with this kind of lyric-less, sweeping, music and show the entire region how it had more places to exist than in symphony halls and public radio.
“Your turn,” he said after he ended the solo. She stood and he handed the violin to her. She couldn’t help but to having shaking fingers as she received the instrument. He was letting her play his violin!
“Don’t disappoint me, Miss Evie,” he winked.
“I won’t,” she assured and steadied herself. She had just the tune to play, something she knew from hours of meticulous practice by memory. She began to play one of the violin concertos he had written. He seemed very impressed as she played through it. A sharp upward bow, three chords in successive second position fingering, then repeat.
“Stop,” he held up his hand abruptly. The string made a sharp sound as she lost hold of her bow and it slipped across clumsily. She was momentarily startled at his tone. Had he hated it? Did she do it incorrectly? She looked at him with concern, waiting to be critiqued.
“That was impressive. You memorized the enitre concerto?”
She gave a nod, “As I told you, Maestro-” she set the violin back to its stand and then straightened her shoulders and looked him in the eye, “-I’m a big fan.”
“So it seems,” he crossed his arms and gave her a long, considering look, and took a deep breath, “My, that is a pleasant perfume.”
He stepped nearer to her, took a few more breaths and shut his eyes, leaning in even closer until his face was nuzzled against her neck. She froze, a bit startled at his action.
He was a married man, she knew, but his reputation as a former playboy of Scandalica City was also known. She knew his weakness: a young, pretty girl that had an interest in him and his work…he wouldn’t be able to resist.
So she turned her head and met his lips. It wasn’t every day a person was able to kiss their idol.
#17 27th Sep 2016 at 11:51 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 8:47 PM.
Strings & Things
Strings & Things
It was a fact that customer traffic was slow in the summer. Not that Strings & Things was a hopping business in the first place, but it was the only one that fixed broken instruments in the area.
Cypress had taken on extra shifts at his summer job, to make more spending cash, but also to distract himself, and have a reason to decline hanging out with Orion more than necessary.
The deceit made him feel sick but it was much easier to stomach a known feeling than the twisted, odd one he felt the week before when Orion had held his hand. It was much easier to deal with it alone.
He was the only employee there that morning and had managed to forget to grab a coffee before work, so he wasn’t in a particularly good mood. It didn’t help that the summer heat had kicked up a notch and he was therefore prompted to pull his longish hair back into a small ponytail or otherwise have it sticking to his neck. He forgot to shave as well, as evident by a fine layer of scruff on his jaw.
A woman had come in asking for a recommendation on a guitar for her fiancée. Strings & Things also sold stringed instruments, from guitars to violins. It was a very niche market.
He led her up to the show stage where a handful of different models were on display. He was in the middle of showing her the Gibson Flying V when the bells of the front door tinkled and he heard his cousin’s obnoxious call of “GOOD MORNIIIIIIING SUNSHINE!”
He grimaced and wiped his hand over his face. He hadn’t spoken to Nick for awhile either. To be fair, Nick had been grounded. Clearly, the grounding was at an end.
“Excuse me, Ma’am,” Cypress mumbled and brushed past her to deal with Nick while pointing down the stairs, “If you would like, there are some more electric models beneath the show stage you can browse.”
Nick was waiting jovially in the middle of the room with a coffee in hand. Cypress released a thankful sigh and leaned against a wall, “You know me too well, cuz.”
“Not enough. I didn’t think you woke up before noon during summer vacation,” Nick smirked and handed Cypress the caffeine. Cypress took a swig and relished the bitter taste and felt a little more happy than before.
“So why are you out and about like some kind of Mister Rogers in the neighborhood?” Cypress asked as he moved to take his place behind the register and set his coffee down, “And what on earth possessed you to do something as altruistic as to bring me coffee? Who are you?”
Nick crossed his arms, and looked away, his grin falling to contemplation–it was only for a split second before he met Cypress’s look of wonder, “Dude, You make it sound like I’m the most conceited human in the world.”
Cypress shrugged and took another sip.
“Anyway, I didn’t just come here to bring you coffee. Orion says you have been avoiding him. What’s that about? You are like two peas in a pod, bros for life and whatnot.”
Cypress fumbled with his coffee container and nearly spilled it before placing it back down on the counter.
“He didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?” Nick’s brows knotted in concern.
Cypress swiped some of his lose hair from his eyes and frowned, “He held my hand…but...in an intimate way.”
It wasn't that Cypress was turned-off by the action, he just didn’t know what he felt about it. It wasn’t nameable, but he dreaded that his friendship was forever changed and didn’t know how to continue on.
“You need to call Orion and work this out because I didn’t bust my ass learning guitar for five years just to have the band break up over a little hand-holding. If you’re so worried about Orion catching feelings for you or whatever, just ask out some chick and that will put a stop to it. All the girls at school like you, it’s infuriating,” Nick crossed his arms and ranted, the jealousy in is tone was loud and clear.
Cypress sighed, he never paid romantic attention to anyone before. He had a comfortable, almost perfect friendship with Orion and that’s all he ever felt he needed in life.
But Nick’s idea had to have some merit. Cypress could ask any girl out and then Orion’s feelings, whatever they were, wouldn’t be able to continue. They could go back to how they were before, which was what he needed. He put his hands on his hips and nodded, “Fine.”
“Great, now all we need is a willing participant,” Nick mused.
The front door’s bell tinkled again, signaling a new customer. Both boys whirled around and saw a pretty girl with a braid, and she was vaguely familiar, like someone who they might have seen in the hallways at school if they had paid attention.
“Hi! I am running an errand for a friend who needs two guitar strings,” she approached and gave a salute of greeting before she fumbled with a piece of paper and read off of it, “For a…a..Fender Stratocaster?”
“This may seem a little random, but would you consider going out with Cypress Wellington? He needs a date,” Nick grinned and pointed behind him to where Cypress stood awkwardly.
She obviously knew who Cypress was, by the way her eyes went wide at the sight of him, then she blinked a couple of times, at a loss for words. She took a few steps up to the counter and studied him, causing him to give a nervous laugh and swipe another piece of hair back. Then her words came, “I guess I will if he really needs a date.”
#18 30th Sep 2016 at 8:19 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 8:55 PM.
Alanna had so many new books to read now thanks to Franz’s recommendations, and she couldn’t wait to get started! She fidgeted in her seat at the Blackwheel Bus Station, waiting for her sister to return from out of town.
Alarie had been away at Sim State University visiting her boyfriend, Rafael, for the weekend. She went on the pretense of ‘looking at a potential college option’ to appease their parents but Alanna knew her sister had probably just been sucking face with Rafael in his frat the whole time.
The two o'clock afternoon bus pulled into the station and Alanna spotted Alarie immediately, coming up the steps with her duffel bag in hand, wearing their favorite color as usual, and her hair in yet another style. Alanna set her books to the side and stood to greet her.
“Hey sis,” Alarie dropped her bag and gave her a genuine hug. Alarie must have had a good weekend. Hugs were rare.
“Welcome back, I trust Rafael is doing well?”
Alarie gave a wink, “I’m tired, and I don’t know about you but I could use an afternoon pick-me-up. Buy you a cappuccino?”
Alanna nodded in pleasant surprise and they went to the small coffee shop in the connecting building to the bus station. Alarie must have had a very good weekend.
“So what’d I miss this weekend?” Alarie asked, setting herself at a table and began to sip her cappuccino demurely.
“Well I got a whole new bunch of books to read–” Alanna began to answer enthusiastically but Alarie set her cup down and interrupted.
“Bzzzz, wrong answer. You are such a nerd! I am talking about your date with Reginald Orbinson. How did that go and did you get any dirt on his sister?”
Alanna hesitated, “Well it wasn’t a date, it was more of a cultural excursion and I didn’t get much...but I think Evelyn Jane is going to be playing at the Battle of the Bands from what Reggie said about her. He said she wants to ‘win’.”
Alarie pondered on that, “Well if that's true, what the heck is she going to play? She seems too high tone to jam on drums or guitar. Who would even want to be in a band with her?”
“Did Reginald try to kiss you?” Alarie asked and then grinned, knowing from her sister’s sudden blush it was true, “I told you he would try and it was a date because you don’t go on cultural whatevers if you expect there to be kissing.”
“Oh,” Alanna said frowning, wondering if that were really true, but was then reminded of something else, “I um…have another date.”
“No, Cypress Wellington.”
Alarie’s jaw dropped with disbelief, “Cypress Wellington doesn’t date.”
Alanna knew for a fact that Alarie had the biggest crush on Cypress Wellington in junior high. She would do stupid things like follow him to the arcade and pretend to be into comics so she could watch him from behind the latest issue of Green Lantern. Considering that was a few years ago and Alarie was now into Rafael, Alanna figured it was safe to tell her such a thing and not have another facet of sisterly jealously come between them.
“Well, I have a date with him. Tonight,” Alanna retorted, causing Alarie to start spilling out questions which resulted in Alanna leading her through the whole morning’s events that accumulated up to the current situation.
After everything was explained, Alarie didn't seem jealous, but glad for her younger sister at the fact she was lucky enough to be going on a date with Cypress. She wished Alarie would be in this good of a mood all the time.
They finished their coffee and were about to leave when Alarie wrangled Alanna into a headlock and gave her a noogie, “I can’t believe my little perfect princess of a sister is becoming such a heart breaker!”
Alanna retracted her wish. If Alarie's happiness resulted in joyful and unprovoked noogies, it was better maybe that she wasn't like this all the time.
Alanna sat on her bed and rubbed her head; Alarie’s knuckles were hard. Her sister was downright jovial and had started removing clothes from the dresser in preparation to help Alanna pick out an outfit for her date with Cypress. Apparently, it was a big deal to be going on a date with him.
Cypress had good looks, and Alanna couldn’t deny that she was slightly attracted to him even though she knew next to nothing about him. They hadn’t ever exchanged words until that morning. He always seemed just so…unreachable. He was two grades older than her and somewhat of a local rock star. She had to wonder what his plans were, because it all had happened so fast that she felt there was ulterior motives involved and she happened to have been picked randomly to participate. It was concerning, participating in something she didn't know the rules or the stakes. She realized, maybe she had only accepted the date because she was curious to figure out what they were.
Then there was concern about being called a ‘heart breaker’. While she adored Reggie, neither of them called what they had, a date, and although they did kiss…and kiss….and kiss, he hadn’t called or emailed her since Saturday night when she saw him last. She didn’t know where they stood, but she doubted that she was his girlfriend because of it.
“Okay try these outfits,” Alarie demanded, throwing some clothes on the bed and Alanna shook off her thoughts away to obey.
The first outfit Alanna despised, it showed her stomach which she thought was inappropriate for a first date.
“Why do you always try to hide that navel piercing?” Alarie pointed.
“I should have never have gotten it, and if it wasn’t for you and your dares I wouldn’t have. I need to change before Mom or Dad sees,” Alanna chided and ran back into her room to change. That navel piercing was the only impractically rebellious thing Alanna had ever done and wanted to hide evidence of it.
Alanna thought the second outfit was nice but upon extended appraisal, Alarie deemed it too casual for a date with a guy such as Cypress Wellington.
She checked herself out in the mirror, wearing the third outfit, a nice shirt and skirt. The skirt was shorter than she would have liked but couldn’t disagree with Alarie that it made her legs look fantastic.
“Alanna, this is the one!” Alarie exclaimed.
Alanna had to agree, but she doubted Cypress would even care yet even notice what she was wearing on their date.
#19 2nd Oct 2016 at 5:21 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 8:59 PM.
The Starboard Lounge: Part I
The Starboard Lounge: Part I
Cypress had a few hesitations as he pulled up to the Starboard Lounge. He was on a date, and with a girl he hardly even knew. She seemed like a nice girl, but the drive down to Kashmire Pointe’s boardwalk had been nearly silent. Each time she tried to start a conversation they would talk briefly before they realized they didn’t have anything in common and it fizzled out.
Secondly, this was all a ruse. Orion was in that lounge at this very moment and he had no idea that Nick and Cypress planned for him to see this date in action. Nick had told Cypress to kiss the girl as soon as Orion spotted them, but the idea squicked him out - kissing a practical stranger without even warning them of it seemed creepy, especially someone he had no actual desire to kiss.
“We’re here,” she reminded him as he hadn’t made a move to leave the car yet. They'd been parked a few moments.
“Uh…yeah, I know,” he answered, before scrambling out and going to her side to open the door for her.
It didn’t help he’d never been on a date in his life either.
"Was Cypress going to join us?” Orion asked, bending over the pool table and lining up the queue ball with a stripe. He had started a game of pool with Nick and didn’t seem eager to get too far into the game if his best friend was going to be coming along. The Starboard Lounge was premier night spot in Kashmire Point for dancing and dining on the weekends. It was also the only place that had a pool table that teens could get into on the boardwalk; the other place, Davy Jones' Pub, checked ID’s.
He took a shot and missed.
“Nah bro, he told me he was busy tonight,” Nick said and pocketed his first solid colored ball.
“Oh,” Orion frowned, contemplating what Cypress would be doing on a Monday night. The Starboard Lounge was kind of dead since the tourists had all gone home after the weekend. Traffic would pick up again, though, just like the tide of the ocean beyond the Lounge’s windows.
Cypress checked his phone’s clock and realized that he was late. Nick had told him to be there by 8:30 and it was already 9 in the evening. Cypress sat down in one of the foyer lounge chairs with a sigh. His date took a seat across from him and crossed her legs. He looked to her and saw she definitely had questions but maybe was too polite to ask. Instead she smiled.
“Alanna,” she corrected him, but not in a mean nor impatient manner that he would have expected a girl to act if he’d gotten her name wrong the first time he spoke it on a date.
He gave an embarrassed laugh before sinking his face into one of his hands, “Plumbobs, I’m terrible aren’t I?"
“Not at all!” she argued, and stood, crossing over to stand in front of him.
He peered between his fingers and slowly dropped his hands, revealing a look of doubt. “How can you say that? You don’t even know me.”
She bit her lip, “Well I can start to try. Tell me about your name.”
“It’s a type of tree right?”
He gave a slight nod.
“So, why are you named after a tree?”
He gave a little groan, “My great-grandmother started this tradition of naming children after plants. For the most part, sons are named after trees and daughters are named after flowers.”
“How very…interesting,” Alanna mused.
He checked his phone clock again, Nick was probably wondering where the heck they were. “We’d better go on up,” he sighed and stood, holding his arm out for her to take.
“Right,” she nodded and did so.
As they turned the corner to look across the dining area on the second floor, they could see clearly into the room on the other side that contained the pool table.
“Aren’t those your friends?” Alanna asked, pointing toward Nick and Orion.
Cypress stiffened and grimaced because at the other end of the room stood his best friend with a look of bewildered surprise.
Orion’s reaction made him lose all plans of kissing Alanna, not that he would have in the first place. He wasn’t sure how he expected Orion to react at seeing him on a date, but there was a definite hurt in those eyes and it drove a knife between Cypress’s ribs. He immediately regretted going along with Nick’s plan because it didn't seem like things could ever go back to the way they were before if Orion looked him like that.
#20 4th Oct 2016 at 2:44 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:04 PM.
The Starboard Lounge: Part II
The Starboard Lounge: Part II
Before he comprehended what exactly he was doing, Cypress’s feet were walking in the opposite direction of his friends.
“Is something wrong?” Alanna asked with a confused pout.
He ripped his arm out of hers and didn’t answer as he started descending the stairs in a hurried pace. She didn’t deserve this, none of them did. Cypress realized he was just being a shitty friend, too afraid of his emotions to actually talk about them. His feet picked up pace until he broke into a run.
Orion made a move forward but Nick stopped him, “Let him go.”
Did Cypress not see them there? He had stared straight at Orion. They had locked eyes, and now he was just gone.
Orion could only look on with concern as the strange girl went after his best friend.
The drummer emerged out of the back doors of the Starboard Lounge, heading toward the beach. But there was nowhere left to run as soon as he hit the shore and looked out across the dark water. Instead, he slumped down to the sand and took in a breath of the warm, salty, night air.
Why was he feeling like this? He hated it. He hated how Orion looked at him with that wounded confusion. He hated how it made him feel even more confused, but most of all he hated that he had caused it.
“Hey there,” he heard a kind, calm, voice a moment later and knew Alanna had followed him. She was crouching next to him.
“I’m sorry,” he said and hung his neck between his knees. He hoped she wouldn't be too mad at him for taking her out without feeling anything toward her.
She maneuvered to his right and sat next to him in the sand, “It’ll be okay. I don’t entirely know what’s going on with you and your friends but I’ll listen.”
Cypress sighed and looked at her, “Have you ever had a friend you could tell anything to? That you could trust with your life, know all their secrets, and couldn’t seem to live without them?”
She bit her lip, “No, I don’t have any close friends like that.”
He look a bit surprised at her admission and then sighed, “Orion Loche is that kind of friend to me.”
“So why are you out here and not up there with him?”
“I’m supposed to be on a date,” Cypress smiled bitterly.
“You and I both know this is not a date,” Alanna nudged him, proving she already knew his intentions or lack thereof, “I still don’t understand why don’t you go up and talk to him?”
“Orion…he…I think his feelings have changed on me,” there was a sort of mournful expression on Cypress’s face as he picked up some of the sand next to him.
“He doesn’t want to be your friend anymore?” she asked with a puzzled frown.
“No, I think he wants to be more than friends,” he let the sand go so it was a stream of little pieces, funneled like that of an hourglass, that made a pile next to him. He wiped his hands together to clean them, “And I fear that I’ll lose him if I don’t feel the same way.”
"Do you?" she asked, "Feel like you wanted to be more than friends?"
He stared at the ocean for a moment, then said quietly, "I don't feel that way toward anyone. I never have."
The waves rolled up against the shore, nearly getting their toes wet, while from above Orion and Nick looked upon the two teens from a window of the Starboard Lounge. They saw Cypress’s date sitting close, looking to comfort him as he moped.
“I never knew he liked anyone,” Orion said, seeming bewildered. “He never mentioned her.”
“Maybe that’s why he’s been so distant with you lately,” Nick shrugged. It was bullshit, but Nick was willing to say anything to keep his band together.
Orion saw them rise from their spot on the beach and then Cypress pulled her into a hug. It made a little pang of jealousy hit in his chest.
“Thanks for listening,” Cypress said, with a genuine smile. “It’s good to have an outside perspective.”
“To tell you the truth, I’m a bit envious you have such a close friendship and if Orion values it as much as you do, I am sure he will understand,” Alanna admitted.
“I’ll talk to him before practice tomorrow, but I guess I better take you home now. We can get something to eat at Joe's on the way back,” Cypress pointed back toward the street where he’d parked. Alanna nodded.
“Dude are we going to finish our game or not?’ Nick asked, waiting with his arms crossed leaning on the pool table.
Orion didn’t answer. He was preoccupied with certain thoughts. He had watched Cypress and his date until they had wandered off the beach and out of view. They must have been leaving and who knows what they were going off to now? He just was so stumped by Cypress’s sudden change in demeanor and the little pang of jealousy in his chest only seemed to grow.
#21 5th Oct 2016 at 4:59 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:15 PM.
Reggie was trying his best but found he had little patience for electronic keyboards. The notes sounded so artificial. He should have never let Evelyn Jane talk him into buying this sorry excuse for a piano that he now kept in the upstairs living room. It didn't even have real strings. If he wanted to compete for pop-synth douche-bag of the year he was well on his way.
Giving up, he switched over to play something in minor key, a pretty but sad type of sound. It sounded a hundred times better on the baby grand. He had been thinking of it for days now, in his head. It was mostly inspired by Alanna Thackery, and if he ever perfected it, he’d play it on a real piano for her.
“That’s something different,” Reggie heard his sister say from over his shoulder. He made a slight jump at her sudden appearance. She was dressed to the nines as usual. He couldn't remember a time in her teen years that she appeared casual or slovenly. She cared too much about her image, but didn't they all? With a last name like Orbinson you had to. The only exception was his hair which was currently sticking out at all angles because he hadn't gelled it that morning.
“It’s something new I thought of,” he replied and continued to play. She sat on the desk behind him to listen further. “It’s for Alanna.”
He didn’t have a chance to see Evelyn Jane’s eyes narrow as she said in a patronizing tone, “That’s cute and all Reggie but don’t let yourself get distracted from the competition.”
She stood to leave, paused, and added, “I don’t understand why you are so interested in her anyway, she seems rather dull.”
Reggie made an ugly sounding chord by smashing the keys before he stood to face his sister, anger clearly burning through his blue eyes.
“Just because you are too snobby to associate with most people, doesn’t make them dull. Alanna is wonderful.”
Evelyn Jane was momentarily taken aback by her bother’s attitude. He had such a docile personality but she must have really hit a nerve to make him snap like that.
“Tell me, if she is as wonderful as you claim then why haven’t you called her yet?”
He crossed his arms and grit his teeth, “I’ve been busy with practicing on this thing,” he gestured toward the electronic keyboard with disdain, “and I wanted to give her space. Not come off too eager, you know?”
“That’s not how women work Reggie. If you don’t contact them after you kiss them they will lose interest and move on.”
He hadn’t told his sister that he had kissed Alanna, but she could have figured it out from the way he had been smiling like a doofus all weekend.
“Oh yeah? Have you moved on from Shaun Piper? Because the phone has been awfully quiet!” Reggie retorted with a raised voice, causing Evelyn Jane to lose her composure entirely. He couldn’t have known the whole truth but was smart enough to guess what had transpired. Evelyn Jane had been particularly gleeful after returning from her outing at the Maestro’s. It was as if she had won a game of chess. Her current reaction proved it and her new constant absence every day after lunch was suspicious enough.
“Don’t say that so loudly, Mother or father could hear you,” she started forward in a sharp, annoyed whisper but Reggie had his back turned on her and was already on the move, heading down the stairs.
He grabbed up the cordless phone from the sitting room and dialed Alanna’s phone number. She had given it to him last year in Chemistry class when they were partners and he had looked at it enough, memorized it even, yet never found the right time to call her but now was the time. He’d ask her on a real date.
“Hello?” a voice answered on the other line.
“Hello Alanna, it’s Reggie-” he began but the voice cut him off abruptly.
“This is Alarie. Alanna isn’t here. She’s out on a date right now. Do you wanna leave a message?”
First of all, it was unsettling how much Alarie sounded like Alanna over the phone. Secondly, his heart seemed to crack open at hearing these words. He must have been silent for too long because Alarie made an impatient sound by clearing her throat.
“Uh, no message. Goodbye.”
He hung up the phone and sighed, a great ache forming in his chest where his heart had cracked. Had Alanna lied to him? She said she had liked him; they had kissed so passionately in that little corner of the museum, and now she was out on a date with someone else? His sister was right, no matter how much he hated to admit it.
Speaking of the Devil, she entered the living room then, clearly having eavesdropped but she gave him a look of sympathy. “Don’t let this get you down, she's never been in your league anyway.”
He wanted to protest, thinking of all the great memories he had of his Chemistry partner. She seemed so kind, so interesting, but at that moment he felt like Alanna Thackery was as artificial as the sounds made from his electronic keyboard, and didn’t have the heart to disagree with his sister.
#22 6th Oct 2016 at 3:05 AM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 9:39 PM.
Sweet DistractionSweet Distraction
It was looking to be an average summer weekday.
Franz woke up early in order to help his mother open the bakery. Ever since he was a boy, his senses had been utterly drowned with the smell of berries, the taste of sugar, the feel of kneaded dough, sight of white flour spots on cloth, and sounds of ingredients whisking. Luckily this Tuesday, he was only expected to man the cash register.
The morning brought a rush of customers, as usual, but now that the day had wandered into the afternoon, business had slowed considerably. His sister was taking inventory while his mother and her bakers prepared more fresh pies and cakes below in the shop’s kitchen. His grandmother had started the business before he was born. It had an old sort of charm with the Victorian-era wallpaper and paneling. It was a good place to sit and read a book while eating a scone.
Then came a most unusual occurrence.
Alanna Thackery walked into the shop with an armful of books and a large smile aimed directly at Franz. He uncrossed his arms and gave a small, curious wave. It had been exactly two days since they had met at the Mocha Chip Coffee Shop and his mind had seemed to replay that Sunday afternoon on loop when he wasn’t otherwise occupied.
“Hi Franz!” she greeted him, her eyes bright. She set her pile of books down on the shop counter and took a seat as if it was something she did everyday.
“What…what are you doing here?” he asked, scratching his head with bewilderment and not paying mind to messing up his already messy blonde hair.
“A little birdie told me you worked here,” she smiled, “I figured I would stop by and thank you because I loved all these books you recommended. Science Fiction really has so many themes and it's fascinating!”
He smiled slightly at that thought, half impressed she had read them all in two days. He could relate, though, because he had stayed up early into that very morning to finish reading his current novel. He put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall across from her, “So which book was your favorite?”
“Definitely the Princess of Mars, I had to go to the library to check out the rest of the series since the coffee shop only had the first. I am actually coming back from there, got the rest of the series to look forward too,” she indicated toward her pile of books.
Franz nodded in approval. He liked that series a lot as well.
They got into a discussion about the book series and before Franz knew it, he had been lured out from behind the register, and onto the stool next to Alanna where they talked more about the other science fiction books she had read. It filled him with a certain kind of joy that she had enjoyed them so much. They were so lost in their discussions about books that neither noticed a brooding, dark-haired boy staring at them through one of the shop windows.
Reggie Orbinson looked upon his friend, who was usually quite silent, seeming to chat endlessly and freely with the girl that had wounded his own heart and pride. It made his blood boil. He didn’t know whether he was angrier that she could as easily lead Franz along with her kind and innocent facade or that Franz seemed to enjoy it. One thing was for sure, he'd never seen Franz so happy before. He cracked his knuckles and decided not to make a public scene, leaving them and inwardly grumbling to himself.
Franz’s throat held a new sensation. It was dry. Was this what is was like to talk too much? He’d never been able to discuss at length his interests with another person.
Reggie was his friend, but Reggie and he had an understanding and it wasn’t based in mutual interest.
He decided he enjoyed Alanna's company; she was so engaging and he even was surprised that he wasn’t annoyed at her perpetual upbeat attitude. Franz had always been a cynic, but being around Alanna gave him an odd sense of…hope? Hope for what, he couldn’t tell just yet.
“If you aren’t busy Saturday night, I’m playing bass for a Battle of the Bands competition in Memosa Bay. Would you want to come watch?”
Alanna looked struck for a moment, her eyes wide. He thought maybe he was being too friendly, he had only really met her two days ago. That feeling of hope had driven him to ask, to cultivate a new friendship. He felt some of that hope dissipate at her stricken expression.
“What band are you playing with?”
“Um, I’m not really sure what Evelyn Jane named us…” Franz rubbed the back of head trying to recall if she ever mentioned a band name. He noticed several people had entered the store. He’d have to go back to the cash register soon.
“Evelyn Jane? You’re in a band with Evelyn Jane and Reggie?” she asked, clearly bewildered.
She bit her lip, and looked contemplative before breaking into a smile and saying, “I’ll definitely be there on Saturday!”
“It’s at the Fame Theater,” Franz added.
“I’ll look up details when I get home.”
With that, she grabbed her library books, thanked him again for the book recommendations and quickly left the shop like she suddenly had somewhere to be. Franz didn’t think much of it, and it was good she had stopped distracting him because there was a queue of three people waiting in front of the register with baked goods in hand.
He took his place and started ringing up the first customer. His actions seemed to go into auto-pilot then. Adding the totals, taking the money and counting change.
His thoughts wandered back to Alanna and their conversation about the books; he smiled to himself because maybe now he had more than one friend. Alanna said she would come see him play.
He was in the middle of counting the cash haul for the day and locking up the register when his mother accosted him. “Franz, who in the world was that girl that visited you today?”
He had to quickly remind himself that the kitchen had windows into the bakery sales area and his mother could have probably seen him slacking off and talking with Alanna for most of the afternoon.
“A new friend,” he shrugged.
“Oh I see,” she smiled and winked.
He groaned, “Not like that…”
“Either way, you must invite her for dinner. I want to meet her.”
“No excuses. I must meet the girl who can pull more than three sentences out of my son. Am I clear?"
He clenched his jaw and frowned. That didn’t sound like a good idea. He couldn’t expose Alanna to his family and risk losing what little friendship if any he had with her.
However, his mother was a fierce woman and single mother who had raised twins and ran a bakery at the same time. She didn’t get to where she was in the business world by taking ‘no’ for an answer.
#23 7th Oct 2016 at 7:19 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 10:03 PM.
There was always something just so calming about music. Orion was playing guitar, trying out Nick’s part of the music they were going to play for Battle of the Bands before practice. It was an original song he had written, the one with a unique drum solo that Cypress had practically mastered not even a minute after seeing the sheet music for.
It was unavoidable to think of Cypress; his drummer had been a constant thought on Orion’s mind ever since he saw the bizarre sight of his best friend out on a date. Not bizarre in the fact that Cypress could get a date; Orion was positive Cypress could have if he wanted – he was catch, and his admirers were not in short supply. It was just bizarre to Orion because Cypress had never given one inkling that he was interested in anyone enough to go out on a date.
Knocking sounds interrupted his flow of thought and rhythm. He set the guitar down and followed the sound until it lead him to the front door where he saw Cypress waiting to be let in. That was curious. Cypress was earlier than usual.
Orion opened the door and greeted him but it was apparent there was something very much changed between them by the thick awkward silence as Cypress played with his hair, seeming to look for something to say.
“You’re early,” Orion finally noted just to break it.
“Yeah, I figured I’d come so I could…” Cypress started, pushing his hair out of his eyes, “Tell you I’m sorry for blowing you off at the Starboard Lounge.”
Orion raised his brows, not expecting that admission. Not from the way Cypress had been acting all week.
“You see, I was on a date and…”
Orion clasped his hands together, raised them and interrupted, “I’m going to stop you there. Look, it’s clear you’ve been avoiding me and I’m sorry I made it weird between us, okay?”
Cypress visibly tensed.
“So…let’s just…go back to how we were before,” Orion said this, thinking about how incomplete he felt when Cypress kept making lame excuses to avoid hanging out.
Cypress actually seemed relieved and tucked a piece of hair behind his ear, “Yeah, I think that’d be great.”
It was a step in the right direction to repair whatever had happened between them. Cypress looked him in the eye and smiled. Orion’s gut twisted in frustration because he knew he felt something more for Cypress, even now, but to do anything about it–admit it or act on it–would be the end of their friendship. Was he to live in this kind of emotional torture until he went mad or could he convince himself not to feel?
Orion turned his back to hide his internal dilemma from Cypress.
That’s when Nick sauntered through the front door, for once, on time for practice and pointed at them accusingly, “You give me grief for always being late but you’re just standing around!”
Orion and Cypress turned to look at him. He was carrying his guitar case over his shoulder which was a little odd considering they were at Orion’s house for practice this time and Nick had his fair pick of guitars to play. Yet he brought his own.
They hooked up some amps to their instruments and practiced their song in the estate’s music room. Orion even sang this time. He had a pretty good voice and the lyrics were decent.
Orion also had made a few adjustments on guitar riffs after trying Nick’s part and so Nick changed his playing accordingly but not without some disgruntled mumbles. Orion was their leader, the most knowledgeable of the instruments, and the most talented at writing music so whatever Orion deemed necessary the rest of the band went with him on those decisions.
“I have to go a bit early,” Nick unstrapped his guitar when it became dusk and started packing it away, smiling mischievously, “Have things to do.”
“What do you mean?” Orion asked a bit alarmed, “The competition is this weekend, we need all the practice time we can get! Especially since you've missed so much!”
“Don’t sweat it, bro. We’ve got this,” Nick assured.
Cypress took a stand, “Don’t be going and getting in trouble again. We can’t afford to have you grounded for another week!”
Nick smirked, seemingly amused that his cousin was for once, taking this competition seriously.
“Like I said, don’t worry about it. See you guys later,” he stuffed his hands in his pockets and saw himself out, leaving Orion and Cypress behind. They looked at each other with expressions of wonder of what 'things' Nick had to do that were more important than practicing for the competition.
“I guess if worst comes to worst and Nick can’t play - we can carry it. I’ll just switch to his part and leave out the bass. The White Stripes did it,” Orion decided with a thoughtful frown after they had watched Nick leave.
Orion moved toward the kitchen and Cypress followed.
“Want anything to drink?”
“Nah, I’m good.” Cypress shook his head, and then asked “Hey, did you get any new albums?”
“Yeah the new Glass Animals album,” Orion smiled, pouring himself a cup of water. He drank it, his throat had gotten a little raspy from singing during practice.
“So…want to listen to it?”
Sharing new music was an old pastime of theirs. They’d usually throw a record on Orion’s player and appreciate the different genres ever since Orion dragged out his father’s old vinyl collection from the attic when they were kids. They’d often talk about how to incorporate styles into their own music.
Orion slowly stopped drinking and set his glass down. The last time they listened to music together it ended badly. Cypress’s presence was too distracting and as much as Orion would have loved to go back to the way they were before, it was seeming more and more like it wasn’t going to happen no matter how much they pretended it was the same.
He crossed his arms and responded in a tired voice, “Not tonight, I’m not feeling it.”
Cypress’s hopeful expression crashed into disappointment. He brushed some of his hair from his neck and said softly, “Oh, okay.”
“Maybe next time?” Orion shrugged one shoulder.
“Yeah, maybe,” Cypress sighed, “I'd better go then.”
When Orion heard the front door slam closed, his chest buckled and threw his hands over his eyes, trying to keep the despair from spilling out of him.
#24 9th Oct 2016 at 8:06 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 10:11 PM.
A Better Sound : Part I
A Better Sound: Part I
It was dark by the time Nick had made it to Illyana’s house. He rang the doorbell and waited.
Illyana appeared and stood there with her arms crossed, looking displeased that he was late. He just waved in greeting, not bothered by the fact. He was hardly on time for anything. She rolled her eyes and let him in.
“You are really something, you know that?” she said, but it wasn’t a compliment.
“You know, I just got done practicing and my hands really hurt–” he started to complain while stretching them out in a dramatic display, but she threw her hand on her hip and pointed at him.
“No excuses. You owe me a solid. We’re doing this.”
He gave her a pout but it wouldn’t convince her otherwise.
She had brought her Fender Stratocaster downstairs and had it plugged into an amp in the living room. He unpacked his green Les Paul Gibson and strapped it on, facing her.
She wanted to go at it with him one-on-one. He didn’t bother telling her that she was wasting her favor that he had promised her. He would out-play Illyana any day of their lives. She was too impatient to wait and be beat at the Battle of The Bands.
“Aren’t we going to be too noisy for your mom?” he asked, glancing above them, assuming Mrs. Sanchez was upstairs since he hadn't seen her anywhere in the small area that was the main floor.
“She’s working late again,” Illyana shook her head.
So, they were the only ones there.
Nick began to play some chords in order for Illyana to catch up. She played them well enough. So she wasn’t as newb-ish as he thought.
“So how do you want to do this?”
“You play something and I’ll match it. Then I’ll play something and you match it until one of us can’t.”
He smirked, “You’re going to lose.”
The fire behind her expressive eyes lit up at his challenge, “We’ll see.”
He began to play something from a popular band on the radio. Illyana watched, gaze fixed on his fingers in utmost concentration. After a snippet of his choice, she went off and played it, note for note.
But it sounded…just so awful.
She played the intro to a Metallica song and he copied it easily.
For his next choice, he played something a little more complex and to his surprise, she was able to replicate it. He noticed the way that she held her guitar was against her best interest and his ears couldn’t take much more of her deranged sound.
He set his guitar down and approached her, pointing at her wrists.
“Adjust yourself, you’re wrists are going to get fatigued if you hold your guitar in that position for so long.”
“Really?” she looked at her hands with a sad bewilderment, as if she didn’t know.
“Who taught you to play?”
“I…taught myself,” she lowered her guitar to its stand. Seeming a bit ashamed that she wasn’t as knowledgeable about practical guitar use. He was actually very impressed at her admission. She looked to him, “Who taught you?”
“Orion did,” he answered. It seemed so long ago, on the brink of junior high - he remembered a bunch of high school babes had been fawning over Orion while they saw him playing acoustic guitar in the park. From that moment on, he wanted to play guitar too, because it meant ladies would like him more too. He had started out on Orion's acoustic guitar and eventually switched over to electric after buying his very own when had saved up enough money. His parents refused to buy him something so frivolous. If they had it their way, he would have learned piano, a respectable instrument. Yeah, respectably boring.
He wondered, though, why Illyana's playing sounded so bad even when she was mimicking him? He shooed her away from her equipment and she took a seat on the back of the living room sofa to observe curiously. He crouched beside her amp and looked at the settings. They were jacked up. It looked like in her quest to teach herself guitar, she neglected proper amp settings.
“No wonder you sound like you are torturing cats,” he laughed.
“Hey!” she objected in offense, kicking him in the shoulder.
“Well your amp settings are distorting your sound,” he rubbed his shoulder and fiddled with them, moving the knobs to what he would normally see. She made a deep groan and leaned back dramatically, obviously frustrated with herself.
Then she slumped forward with her head in her hands, “I’m awful. I really am that awful. Why did I think I could beat you?”
That didn’t sound like her at all. Illyana never put herself down. A feeling of sympathy struck him then. He never realized how hard she had tried. He took a seat next to her and put a hand on her back in a small gesture of comfort.
It was so easy to fall back into a friendship with her. When she wasn’t actively hating him, she was so easy-going. Conversations weren’t an uphill battle. He, for the life of him, couldn’t understand how he had managed to lose her for years and not even realize it. He really had cared only about himself. But he was trying to be better.
“Hey, it’s okay. I fixed the settings. Just try it again. It’ll be a better sound now.”
#25 12th Oct 2016 at 11:04 PM Last edited by Charmful : 2nd Feb 2020 at 10:31 PM.
A Better Sound: Part II
A Better Sound: Part II
Illyana hesitated briefly before she picked her guitar up again and started strumming. The sound was infinitely better now that her amp settings were normalized–more treble and less bass. She beamed at Nick and played one of his song choices from before, at least what she remembered of it, and her confidence in herself seemed to grow. It sounded equally as good as he had played it. The improved sound caused her conviction to return in full and she began playing with vigor.
It had been such a long time since she had let her guard down so completely. Alarie and Leona never saw her insecurities. It must have been a sort of muscle memory around Nick, now that he was being a decent human being again. She felt less hassled while in his presence and even started to relax.
Nick nodded with approval at hearing her play, walked over and picked his own instrument to jam out beside her.
They weren’t even dueling anymore but rather making music together. Nick improvised notes to what she played and she ended up falling into her favorite metal song but it didn’t sound as heavy nor muddled. It was clear and melodic, enhanced by Nick’s accompaniment. It was quite an experience as neither of them had played together before.
Illyana noticed that Nick played guitar with his eyes closed when he was really feeling it. She took a moment to study him in his creative element and didn’t notice that her own playing had eventually subsided.
He opened his eyes at the sudden lack of music to find her staring and seemed a bit startled until he laughed and stopped playing as well; his laugh turned into a yawn. They had been jamming out for a longer time than she had thought. She looked at the clock on the TV and it was already nearly midnight!
He made a surprised grunt as she suddenly grabbed him into a hug.
“Thanks for this,” she said quietly, muffled into his shoulder.
“Hey, what are friends for?” he wrapped his arms around her and returned the embrace. She didn’t realize until that moment just how much she had missed Nicholas being her friend.
The hug lasted a long time, probably more than a regular hug should be but she hadn’t hugged him in so long. He had grown so much taller since the last time too; he nearly enveloped her. It was finally broken when he gave another yawn, disengaged, and backed away, “Look at me, practically falling asleep over here. I should probably head home.”
“You want some coffee first? We got a cappuccino machine and I could make us some?” She offered.
“That’d be cool, thanks,” he gave her a tired smile and followed her into the kitchen, taking a seat at the table while she put the ingredients in and let the grounds steam.
“We should hang out like this more,” he suggested as she handed him a cup and sat across from him at the dining table.
She would have agreed under regular circumstances but the fact remained that they were still competitors. “Maybe after the Battle of the Bands,” she suggested and took a sip of her cappuccino. She knew Nick had a lot of confidence and hope that his band would win but he wasn't that competitive. She was, and didn't want it to come between the freshly renewed and fragile friendship they had.
Nick looked buzzed enough for a second guitar duel after a few gulps of his cup, his words started coming out of his mouth quicker and in shorter sentences, his foot tapped the floor in frenzied beats.
“You’re actually a lot better at playing than I thought. Not better than me of course. If you lose the battle, though, you’ll be mad at me again. We can’t hang out if you are mad at me. Don’t be mad at me if you lose.”
“You think I’m going to lose?” she looked affronted. Was he trash talking her?
“No, I think I’m going to win. I just am. Orion and Cypress are the best players in the region. A result of that is you losing. Sorry to break it to you, Ill.”
He just had to start acting cocky again. Maybe caffeine was a bad idea. She would make him pay for it. She swallowed the last of her drink and stood to wash the cup, “If you are so sure you are going to win, why don’t we bet on it?”
He gave an amused scoff and finished his own cup, coming behind her to drop it in the sink along with hers, “Okay, what are the terms?”
She turned around and took a seat in the chair he had previously occupied, throwing her hand to her chin in consideration. He did the same while turning his back on her, seeming to think of his own ideas. She stared at his back and a positively hilarious idea struck her that could put him in his place, “If my band wins, you streak a lap around the school when it starts up again.”
He whirled around with his brows raised in shock, though his expression soon melted into that ever-present smirk, “You mean...you want to see me naked?”
“No!” she reeled back, feeling her cheeks getting hot again. He was by no means undesirable…aesthetically...to certain people...if they were into that sort of long hair, pale, freckled, bluish-green-eyed, jock type that Nick happened to be; she was thinking more along the lines of embarrassing him in front of all those girls he kept flirting with. She quickly gathered her wits, “I want every girl at school to know you’ve been talking a big game but have very little to show for it.”
His grin didn’t even falter at her insinuated jab; she knew he thought he had no chance of losing and his overconfidence would be his downfall. He nodded, “Fine. If your band actually, by some miracle, happens to win–I will streak on the first day of senior year.”
She gave a triumphant smile and stood to put the milk back in the fridge that she had used in her cappuccino. She had completely forgotten to ask what would happen if the scenario played out differently. She didn't have to wait long. Once the milk was in there, he closed the refrigerator door for her and leaned against it. “If I win, you let me take you out on a date.”
She nearly had to do a double-take, not expecting such a condition from him. All the color in the world flooded her face then and she put her hand on her hip defiantly, “What? That’s dumb. Are you being serious?”
His ever-present smirk was gone. He didn’t even need to answer because it was clear he wasn’t fooling around this time.
They stared at each other intensely for a few moments while she searched his face and body language looking for any indication that he was joking.
“That’s my term if you want this bet,” he finally answered, arms crossed, looking down at her seriously.
She frowned and stared at the tiles on the kitchen floor. What was he trying to pull? A date? How weird was that? How desperate. What was he to gain from it though? She hoped he didn’t expect her to kiss him or anything gross people did on dates. That is, if she lost. She had to win Battle of the Bands now.
She took in a deep breath and met his eyes, “Fine, we have ourselves a bet. Now shake on it," she said and held out her hand which he grabbed and gave a sturdy shake, sealing their bet and smirking like usual.