The End of the Sky

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Vending Machine Prices:

Lime Gatorade - $1.25

Sprite - $ .75

Coke - $ .75

Chocolate Milk - $1.00

Bottled Water - $1.50

Chapter 3: What Lies In Light

"This was supposed to be a bullshit class," Cade complained, after catching sight of the board full of notes that awaited them in the drama room.

Laughing, Sierra dropped down next to him, letting her bag slip to the floor. "Sucks for you." Now that she had gotten some sugar into her system- via Cade's lunch- she could feel her brain starting to properly function.

She glanced around thoughtfully, eyes lingering on the posters of previous musicals performed at the school. A cheap television coated with grime was perched on a rolling cart in the corner, several dust motes skittering around in the light that pooled from the parallel-facing windows.

On a bulletin board in the corner, askew posters advertised the upcoming Halloween dance. Sierra crinkled her nose, turning in her seat to face Cade. "Remember the last Halloween dance?"

He laughed, teeth flashing briefly. "That was priceless. What possessed you to go with James the Lame anyway?"

"Oh, he…" she trailed off, eyes caught by the sight of Tara and Cionna talking together on the opposite side of the room. They both crossed through the grid of light on the floor, their features appearing harsh under the onslaught. Cionna sent her a not-so-subtle glance before averting her eyes quickly.

"Earth to Sierra," Cade said, drawing out the syllables of her name. When her smile was slow to appear, he frowned. "What's up with you? You don't normally space out in the middle of a conversation."

She sighed, closing her eyes and pulling her hair back with a green band from her wrist. "Sorry. Anyway, James?" Giggling, she pried open an eyelid to study him. "How can you remember something like that? You were away in… I think it was Paris, right? Or maybe it was Hollywood. Hard to keep track with you," she teased.

He smirked. "Jealous?"

"Maybe."

Cade considered her, green eyes serious. "Would you want to go with me?" His eyes were locked on hers, and she broke the connection, snapping the band over her ponytail.

"Away with you where? To cut class for the janitor's closet? Sorry, been there, done that. It's like another world in there, with all the bacteria colonies and all."

Cade frowned, glancing away to look out the window.

Stung, Sierra allowed her eyes to wander in the opposite direction, finally settling on Tara and Cionna. They were sitting in the corner, Tara's back pressed up against the wall as Cionna hunched over on the ground, her head resting on her knee. They were talking animatedly, or, rather, Tara was, with Cionna nodding occasionally, her head bobbing on her knee. Watching them, Sierra felt a pang of agitation course through her. Was that what she had looked like, when she and Tara had talked? Sure, she was used to taking the passenger seat during conversations, but she never thought of herself as appearing as pathetic and helpless as Cionna did now.

She cringed and glanced away, chewing her lip. Tara had always had a knack for drama, both in plays and out of them.

"Conner," acknowledged a nearby voice. She felt, rather than saw, Cade tense slightly beside her.

"Simmons," Cade returned, his voice deceptively cool.

Strangely, her tongue didn't lodge in her mouth like usual. "Hey, Ethan," she said with a smile. She tried to ignore the face that Tara's eyes were still boring into her.

He grinned back, pulling a chair up and sitting backwards on it so he faced them. "Hey. Sarah, right?"

Cade laughed quietly, still not facing either of them. Before Sierra got a chance to correct Ethan, they were interrupted. "Everyone take a seat," a voice called. The lights flicked off and on.

Considering 'everyone' consisted of only five people, it didn't take long for the noise to die down. Their eyes focused on the middle-aged man walking to the center of the room. When he passed through the light grid, his features remained unchanged. "Quite a class," he commented. "It must have been a good idea to limit it to only juniors. Last year we had over twenty students, and it got rather noisy at times. If any of you are wondering, my name is Mr. Strone. S-t-r-o-n-e. Speaking of names, I'll need to take attendance…" He fished around in his bag before he withdrew a manila folder and a pen.

Almost immediately after he had affirmed that everyone was present, Tara's hand shot up in the air. He turned to her, amused. "I have a feeling your arm just broke the sound barrier."

Taking this as her cue to speak, Tara lowered her arm. "What is the play going to be this year?"

She sure doesn't waste any time, Sierra thought cattily. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes, though just barely.

Mr. Strone sat on the edge of a table, a small smile on his lips. "You really want to know, do you?" He paused, leafing through the folder to retrieve a sheaf of papers. "This year," he said, beginning to pass out the papers, "is going to be different than any of our other productions as of yet. Miss Kayna, the choir director, is going to be my co-director for the production. Meaning, yes, this year, we are going to be performing the musical."

His eyes swept over the five students, gauging their reactions. Tara's eyes had widened, a comical sea of green. "A-a musical?" she stuttered.

Mr. Strone nodded. "The auditions will also comprise of a singing piece, and Miss Kayna will help me judge who fits what role."

"What is the musical?"

"We're not entirely sure yet. So far, we've been thinking of trying to perform The Phantom of the Opera, but the set design would be extremely difficult, along with the costuming…"

Ethan had tipped back in his seat, the metal legs teetering on the paisley carpet. He had retrieved a Coke from his bag, and proceeded to pop the top.

"Mr. Simmons," Mr. Strone transitioned smoothly, his eyes narrowed in on Ethan. "Food and drink are not allowed in the drama rooms. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to put your soda away."

Ethan shrugged, dropping the can behind his chair. "Yeah, whatever."

"This is the guy you like…" Cade muttered under his breath as he reached past Sierra to grab the handout from Mr. Strone. Sierra flushed, feeling a surge of anger toward Cade. Why was he acting so weird? Just because she had cracked a joke at his invitation? Jeez. Was it really that big of a deal?

Sierra took a paper as well, placing it on her lap without looking at it. If she had known that all of her friends would be PMSing today, she wouldn't have come to school at all. She bit at the inside of her lip, trying to focus on what the teacher was saying.

"Since today is the first day of class, I copied the notes for you," he said with a nod toward the board of writing, then holding up the sheet of paper. One cuff of his blue shirt was uneven with the other, and the grey threads of his hair were highlighted every time he passed through the light. With his glasses, he seemed more the librarian type than a director. Sierra fidgeted in her seat, running out of meaningless details.

She was all too aware that her seat was pushed right up against Cade's, and she had scooted as far as possible to the other end of her chair. Cade, however, had not budged, but his set jaw was more than enough indication of his dissatisfaction with her presence.

Hooking her ankle around the leg of the chair, she moved it upward awkwardly, cringing at the scraping sound as the chair left the wood for the carpet. Feeling the teacher glancing at her, she made a final move forward, unhooking her leg and attempting causality. As her leg swung around, she felt it hit something and easily give way.

"Pick it up quickly, please," Mr. Strone said, his eyes directed at the carpet. Sierra looked down and felt blindly with her hand, before it came into contact with something sticky. A Coke can. She righted it quickly, pushing her chair back and glancing down to survey the damage. An ugly patch of the amber liquid was spreading over one of the paisley designs, choking it.

"I'm sorry, Ethan," she said, hating how her voice came out in a squeak. "I didn't see it…"

"It's cool." He pushed his chair forward to give her more access to the spill. Great, she thought, sarcastically.

"Sierra, you go get the carpet cleaner and towels," Mr. Throne ordered smoothly. "Take someone with you if you need help."

"I'll help," Cionna offered, her head now separated from her knee.

Sierra smiled her thanks before hurrying out into the hallway. The silence as they walked toward the janitor's closet was an awkward one, but Sierra felt thankful for the quiet.

The unlabeled door on the first floor was easy enough to find, and Sierra turned the knob, pulling the door open and waiting until after Cionna had entered before slipping inside.

"The light's dangling on a chain," Sierra murmured to Cionna, trying to grasp the elusive chain from the ceiling. After a few minutes of searching blindly, Sierra's hand snagged the chain. "Got it." She tugged, squinting her eyes in preparation for the onslaught of light. It didn't come. Impatiently, she tugged the chain again, harder than the first time. The pitch still lay thick upon the room. "It's not working…" she muttered, letting go of the chain.

A few seconds later, some light seeped into the room. Sierra glanced over at the door to see that Cionna had propped it open with her foot. "Good thinking," she commented. "I'll look for the towels, since they'll probably be the easiest to find…" She ducked behind the latter, scanning the shelves for any usable materials.

"Do you like him?"

Sierra pivoted, startled. "What?"

Cionna was staring at the floor. "Do you like Cade?"

Without thinking about it, a laugh bubbled to her throat. How could she possibly think…?

What happened next was a blur; Cionna pushed the door, resulting in the bucket filled with soapy water tipping over. Just then, she lost her footing, clawing at the air with her free hand to grip something, anything, to keep her from pitching forward into the shelves of cleaning supplies. Her hand made contact with something, though it didn't hold her weight. Instead, it made a small tearing sound, and she fell to the floor.

Sierra, not being able to process what had just happened, groped around in the dark to find the door. "Cionna?" she whispered. "Are you okay?" Just as she turned beyond the latter, however, she spotted something curious. In the center of the room, seeming to levitate in midair, were several streaks of light. Sierra maneuvered closer, squinting. They were too slender and slash-shaped to come from a light bulb of any kind. There were five of them, of varying lengths, she could make out, though they were grouped very close together. As she peered closer, they appeared to be growing, merging together and branching out, similar to blood in water.

Right when she was about to reach out and touch it, her foot caught on Cionna's ankle, and she fell forward with a shriek, her hands raised instinctively to protect her face from the cold cement floor of the janitor's closet.

Except she never hit the cement.

A.N. Sorry about the long wait. I don't really have an excuse, but… just pretend I do, okay?

To my wonderful, amazing, lovely reviewers:

writtenreality: I'm glad you like them- honestly. I thought people would think they were cheesy. I wasn't going to do one this chapter until I looked back at the reviews to write replies. Thanks!

ktspakiti: Yes, I will continue this story. Just with slow updates, like this one. As to the whole Sierra/Tara conflict… no, I didn't forget. ;) That's going to play a major role in the next part of the story, so I kind of had to leave it hanging. Thanks for reviewing!

NeverKnowsBest: Cionna reminds you of yourself? That's cool. ;) As to the quote, how did you think them up, anyway? Just curious. ('Cause they're really fun.)

SapphireIris: Dragons are next chapter! I promise. ;) And yes, I agree, I do need to update more. I'm very bad at that. And I am very happy you reviewed!

BlackFireyPhoenix86: Thanks you! Yeah, and I did ask that question too early… after only two chapters... Sorry about that. ;)