Chapter Three: Let the Poison Take
"Here, take a seat and listen to the rest of our set," Rezin said. He pulled a bright pink fold-up chair out of a closet and opened it up for me. I mumbled a thank you and planted myself in the chair, curling my legs underneath me. "I don't know what kind of music you're in to, but I hope you won't cringe through what we play." He flashed me a smile and handed me an unopened package of earplugs.
I stared at them. "You can't be so bad that I'd need earplugs to block it out."
He laughed and shook his head. "No, they're to protect your eardrums. We're playing in a small, enclosed space and we don't like to turn our amps down, so the earplugs help block out some of the sound."
"Oh." I blushed and looked away, feeling foolish.
"Meredith tells me that this is a whole new experience for you." He paused, and looked at me curiously. "You were at the Pleasant Hill show over the weekend, but I didn't know you went with Meredith. I was shocked when I saw you coming down the stairs earlier."
"Well, I wasn't expecting to see you guys again either," I said, and shrugged. I hoped I was coming across as cool and collected. The last thing I needed was to add to the amount of people who thought I was an awkward, blundering idiot.
Rezin gestured his fingerless gloved-clad hands around the air. "Life loves to throw people surprises, you know."
I smiled a genuine smile. "I know what you mean."
Iggy stirred from behind his drums and said, "Dude, come on. You do realize that some people have to work today, right?" He twirled a drumstick in his hand, annoyed. I frowned and looked at my lap, as if I had been scolded.
"Ouch, that was harsh. You wound me, elder." Rezin feigned hurt and clutched his stomach, hunching over as if Iggy had punched him in the gut, and fell unceremoniously to the floor. Sergey and Waylen rolled their eyes, Iggy scowled, Meredith sighed, and I…giggled. I had my hand over my mouth and my teeth were clamping down hard on my bottom lip, but my efforts couldn't contain the giggle that passed through my mouth. Who knew I found over-dramatics hilarious?
Everyone was looking at me, and I pulled my hoody up to hide my face. My shoulders were shaking with silent laughter, and I wondered if I looked as ridiculous as I felt. "I'm sorry," I said, breathless.
"Hey, you stole my act, Rez," Waylen accused. "We all know that I'm supposed to be the funny one in the band." I peeked out from my hoody to get a look at his face. Waylen stood with his guitar slung behind his back, his arms crossed, and his lips pouting.
"Yeah, right," Sergey scoffed. "Since when did theatrical, childish dramatics translate into comedy?"
Waylen narrowed his eyes. "Don't be mean. I'm hilarious and you know it."
"Hmm, well I guess stupidity is pretty funny."
"You take that ba—"
"Enough!" Rezin interrupted. He pushed himself up off the floor and strode over to stand between Sergey and Waylen. "You're going to make Raylin think we were all raised by wolves."
"You were raised by wolves," Meredith commented dryly. Rezin shot her a look, but she ignored it and scrutinized her cuticles instead.
Five minutes and two chocolate bars later (candy apparently had the power to calm Waylen down) the guys were back in their prospective places.
Rezin stood behind the microphone, hands firmly wrapped around the pole that was suspending it in the air. His lips were right up against the mic, almost like a gentle caress. Sergey and Waylen flanked him; Sergey with his bass and Waylen with his electric. Iggy sat behind his drums with his eyes closed, a drumstick enclosed in each hand. Sergey started strumming his bass, low and steady, setting the beat while the others tapped their feet in synchronization.
Anticipation was in the air, hovering over all of us. As Sergey began to increase his rhythm, Iggy started in with his drums, adding power, and was closely followed by Waylen who infused his own unique chords to the overall sound. The sound was all around me, pulsing through me like a second heartbeat.
Rezin took a deep, cleansing breath and then his voice leaked out, strong, soft, and passionate. In the same way his lips seemed to caress the microphone, his singing seemed to send a soft caress over the hard music he sang over. I was once again enraptured by this music, by the sound that flooded my senses.
As the tempo drastically picked up, Rezin pulled the mic out from where it rested. His body arced over the mic, one of his hands holding it securely to his lips while the other one rested against his stomach, and his throat let loose a deep growl.
I wasn't really into music. I didn't own a single CD and I didn't have a CD player. All I owned was a cheaply made radio, but all the songs I heard on the stations I browsed through drew blanks as far as who the artist was. Radio stations didn't say who played the songs they put on the air, and Dad was always complaining about it. I had never cared. The only names I was familiar with were artists like The Back Street Boys and Hanson, and that was music I had listened to when I was in elementary school.
I'd observed that music served a big part in how teenagers in my high school dressed and influenced what cliques they made. I had never been a part of that. I wore clothes only because I wanted to, not because I cared what anyone else thought of them. I wasn't out to make a statement; I was only trying to blend in.
I didn't like to judge people who did want to be noticed. People only have one life and who was I to tell them how to live theirs? Everyone deserves to live how they want to, to write their own destinies. Music simply hadn't been a part of mine.
I looked over at Meredith, to see if she was as impacted by the music as I was. Her eyes were closed and her face was relaxed. She looked almost happy, as if she wasn't capable of being conniving and evil, and for a moment, I really wanted to believe that this was the real Meredith.
She opened her eyes and watched Rezin and the others. Her eyes were soft, void of her usual aloofness, and there was a look that passed through them that I couldn't identify. But then she looked at me and her eyes hardened instantly, making me think that maybe I had been hallucinating only moments before.
I turned away from her and sunk down low in my chair, not quite feeling as liberated from the music anymore.
Hours later I was back at home, reclining on my bed as I stared at the ceiling. There was a knock at my door and Dad popped his head in. "You can come in," I said. He nudged open the door, his hands grasping a tray that held a plate of spaghetti and a glass of strawberry milk, and gingerly made his way over to me. My stomach growled at the smell of food and my mouth watered slightly. Dad made the best spaghetti and he knew it was my favorite. He must have been trying to make up with me if he was offering me both spaghetti and strawberry milk.
After Meredith had dropped me off, I refused to say even one word to Dad. I was angry that he kept pushing my friendship with Meredith, even when I told him not to. I sat up to make room for the tray on my bed. Once Dad placed it in front of me I grabbed the milk and started spooning it into my mouth.
"Honey, may I talk to you for a minute?" he asked, sitting down at the foot of my bed. I gave him a half shrug and focused back on my milk. Artificial strawberry syrup was the best thing ever created. Dad sighed and reached out to tuck some of my hair behind my ear.
I didn't really feel like talking to him at the moment. Parents are supposed to protect their children, not feed them to hungry animals. I was starting to have some serious doubts about his parenting skills. I stubbornly ignored him and started in on my spaghetti.
"I know you're not happy with me right now, Raylin. I was only trying to do what I thought was best for you, please believe that. And as much as I appreciate you picking up my slack on the housework, I don't want that to be all that you spend your time on. You're young and it's good to have friends." Dad looked at me with his sad, sincere eyes, his expression pained.
I repressed a sigh and tuned him out. Dad was giving his I-want-you-to-be-happy speech. I was getting tired of hearing it every other week and I wished I could just be the daughter he wanted so it would make him stop. I know he loved me, but he was incapable of understanding the depths of my feelings. Mom was much better at these kinds of things.
Yeah, and now she's dead, I thought, and gripped my plate tighter.
"Look, Dad, I get it, okay?" I said. I sat my plate back on the tray and looked at him. "I get that you want me to be a social butterfly that has lots of friends and live in a happy, naïve bubble. But Dad, I'm not some Barbie doll you can just cast in any role you want. I've been waiting for you to understand that, but I don' think you ever will."
Dad frowned. "Raylin, tell me you don't really think that. I just want you to be happy, and honey, I know you're not happy. As a father there's only so much I can do for you, but you have to let me help you." He reached his hand out towards me again, but I moved away from his touch.
I could feel a raw, angry darkness rise up within me. "Help? I don't need your help! I don't need anyone's help. I WANT TO BE ALONE. Can't you get it? If I wanted friends, then I'd have them. I have Casey, I don't need anyone else."
Dad looked like he'd been slapped. I'd never yelled at him during one of his speeches; I was talking out of our usual script. I didn't know if he would tolerate me talking to him like this, but I didn't care.
"Please, get out of my room," I said. My hands were balled into fists and I wanted to scream. "I can't take another one of your lectures right now, okay? You're trying so desperately to fill in for Mom, but you can't. So please stop pretending that you know what I want, okay? You don't know anything about what I've gone through."
I ignored the hurt in his eyes and glared at him. I could sense his anger under his collected demeanor, but instead of yelling at me he simply stood up and left my room. I could feel the moisture gathering around my eyes and fought against it. I curled up into my bed and screamed into my pillow, refusing to cry.
Third period English was the bane of my existence. I had a teacher who thought I needed to know how to diagram a sentence and identify gerunds and conjunctions. Teachers have been trying to teach me the same stuff over and over again since middle school, but it never really came to me. It probably would have helped if I took notes and studied instead of sitting through each class feeling more bored than I thought possible. It was only luck that I had never failed any of my English classes.
I was sitting at my desk, doodling on the edges of my school planner, as Mrs. Gregory explained some project that we were going to be assigned. The girl who sat beside me was hiding her cell phone behind her book, texting someone as she pretended to take notes. It was amazing how easily teachers could be deceived. Well, either that or they really didn't care.
So anyway, I wasn't really paying attention when Mrs. G started rambling off instructions, and when she asked, "Is there anyone who hasn't found a buddy yet?" I jerked my head up at her in complete horror. What kind of project did she assign where I have to depend on someone else to compensate for half of my grade? If there was one thing I was completely anal about, it was getting good grades, even if English was my least favorite subject.
I had no idea what the assignment was, so the only thing I could do was woefully hold up my hand and hope that there was someone left to buddy up with that had been paying more attention than me.
"Well, there are five of you left, so Ms. Forbes, you pair up with Mr. Sachar, and the rest of you work in a group of three. Now, any questions?"
Yeah, how about, who in the Hell is Mr. Sachar? I hadn't taken the liberty of learning my fellow classmate's last names. I mean, I didn't exactly care. But I didn't want to look completely idiotic, so I started looking around at all the faces rather discreetly in hopes of finding my partner.
"Get together with your partner and begin planning your assignment. You have until the end of class." Mrs. Gregory waved her hand in dismissal and went back to her desk and buried her nose behind her laptop.
I stayed seated and watched as the rest of the students got up and paired off, searching for the only other lone person besides myself. Unfortunately, I wasn't seeing anyone.
"You looking for me?" a guy said, standing behind me. I looked back at him and almost groaned. I was partnered with Destry? Not that there was really anything wrong with him. He had quite the reputation, or at least the gossip girls that dominated the bathrooms seemed to think so. Destry was on the track team, the yearbook committee, and he was also editor of our school newspaper, The Trojan Times. I was surprised that nobody had paired up with him immediately.
I stared at him incredulously. "You're last name is Sachar?"
He raised his eyebrows. "That's what my parents tell me."
I sighed, resigned to the whole situation. "Look, would you mind telling me what our assignment is? I, uh, wasn't really listening."
Destry surveyed me with his eyes. "Tell me you're joking."
I bit my lip and fiddled my fingers together, not knowing what to say. He ran a hand through his wavy sand-colored hair and slid into the vacant seat next to mine, sliding his books deftly under his chair.
"Well, basically, I'm going to write an essay about you and your going to write an essay about me," he explained.
I stared at him dumbly. "What?"
"It's one of those social building exercises. We're supposed to pick people we aren't really familiar with and get to know them. We're supposed to kind of document our experiences through the next few months and at the end write a narrative essay about our partners." Destry was leaning back in his seat, looking kind of amused. Okay, so that explains why he wasn't coupled with one of his friends.
"Wait, did you say months?" I blanched slightly.
He smirked. "Yeah, I did. This is our senior project."
I frowned and put my hand over my eyes. I hoped I came across a bit of good karma soon because all of this bad karma was getting on my nerves. The last thing I wanted was to have my life unveiled to some popular jock. I'd had enough to do with guys like him and I was had determined never to associate myself with them. Now my powerful conviction was trampled on, soiled, and thrown out the window, all because I didn't pay attention in English class.
My. Life. Sucked.
"So, can I have your phone number?" Destry asked, casually flipping his cell phone out of his jean pocket.
"Excuse me?" I turned towards him and glared.
"Oh, please, get over yourself. That wasn't a come on. I only asked because we are supposed to get to know each other and I'll need it in case I ever need to contact you outside school." He shook his head mockingly, and then held his cell phone out to me. "Now, would you mind putting your number in?"
I smoothed out my face into an emotionless mask and grabbed his cell. I punched in my home number and handed it back to him. "Don't call me unless you absolutely have to, please."
"Trust me, I wouldn't dream of it." He pocketed his cell again and flipped open his school planner. "What days do you have activity period?"
I hesitated before answering. "Tuesdays and Thursdays."
He sighed. "Shit, well that won't work. Okay, what period do you have lunch?"
I was starting to get uncomfortable with all this interrogating. "Why do you need to know?"
He shot me a look that questioned my intelligence. I bit my lip and looked away, my cheeks heating up. "We'll need to spend time together if we're going to do this project right. I'd really rather not give up my lunch period for that, but it may be our only option."
I hung my head low, in submission. I pushed at my cuticles absentmindedly. "I have fourth period lunch, straight after this class," I mumbled.
"Good, so do I. Starting tomorrow, we'll be sitting together at lunch at least every other day. I have to give my friends the heads up today so they'll know what's going on. We'll go over the other details tomorrow." Destry turned away from me and started writing stuff in his planner. I was obviously dismissed from the conversation. I wasn't really looking forward to having Destry discover how socially retarded I was.
Feeling particularly miserable, I slumped down in my seat and rested my forehead against the cold surface of my desk until the bell rang. Casey was going to flip.
Look, it's really an update! *hides behind the computer*
Yeah, I suck at updating, I know. I'm not really fond of the beginning of this chapter and I can't even remember how many times I rewrote it. If you find any typos that I've missed, please let me know! I would be really grateful.
I know I didn't give a response to everyone, but thank you so much for reviewing! It meant a lot to me. I kind of forgot all who I wrote back to, so I'll just write them here:
IrishCarBomb: Thank you so much! Yes, it does seem like there should be a chapter before that, and I sort of had on written, but I ditched it. I might go back and add it in later on. Way later on.
atollo: Thanks! I'm happy to see that people haven't given up on me and my story. I'm glad it's entertaining. =]
procrastinatenow: I have already thanked you for this, but I'll do it again. I'm so glad you pointed out mistake with Ivy's age and when I wrote "Cassie" when I meant "Casey". Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I still can't believe I posted it without noticing that. I seriously wonder about my mind sometimes. And it might be a month later, but I finally updated again!
S.L. Michaels: Hey! Glad to see you're still reading this. And yes, it is different, but I hope you like it just as much. Thank you for reviewing, it put a smile on my face. XD
Amarantis: Thanks so much for the review! You really thought the ending was powerful? Wow. Thanks. =] I hope you enjoyed the update!
I'm not setting a time frame for the next chapter, but hopefully it won't be too long. Thanks to all who reviewed, added this to their favorites, and put this on story alert. You're all wonderful!