#1 13th Mar 2017 at 1:41 AM Last edited by Charmful : 8th Feb 2020 at 8:04 AM. Reason: fixing special characters
Nest Of VipersTests. Classes. Homework. Parties. WooHoo. Money. Fame. Fights. Drugs. Murder? The College life is not so easy, especially when it seems around every corner lurks some kind of iniquitous character. The teens that once battled in bands are now young adults on paths to discover and become who they are meant to be, that is if they can at least pass all their midterms. What kind of costs, risks, stakes, and compromises must they make to achieve their ambitions in Kashmire?
Chapter 1: A Quick Study
"How did you do on your midterms?"
Franz Schoulsburg's eyes didn't move from the page of the book he was currently reading, yet he still responded, "I don't have midterms like you do. We do modules."
He was addressing his nosy twin sister who had come barging into the bakery that afternoon, giddy about something or other. He could tell by her inflection she really didn't care how he did but needed a way to engage him in dialogue. She was the most exhausting person on the planet.
Franz liked the atmosphere of his mother's bakery. It was quiet, had delicious treats, and most afternoons he could go for long stretches of reading his books between having to ring up customers. That is, unless Fauna waltzed in and ruined it.
"Well, what the fudge is a module?"
He had explained to her about every other semester what it was and didn't have the energy to do so again. It wasn't his fault that she had the recollection of a goldfish. He sighed, knowing what would get her to change topics, and get on with conversation, "How did you do?"
Her face lit up and she began babbling out a long-winded tale of how she forgot to study last weekend because she went to a place and did a thing, something happened and so on...
Franz tuned her out and picked back up where he had left off in his book. She loved to talk about herself so she'd be chattering for a while. As long as he threw in some 'yeahs' and 'hmms' every so often in response, she'd be satisfied that he was paying adequate attention.
The door jingled, signaling a customer had entered. He looked up to see who would be coming in on a Tuesday afternoon, the most dead of times for the business.
A well-dressed woman in heels walked through the entryway; she was holding a briefcase and looking around the bakery with appraisal. Fauna didn't seem to notice or care as she kept on blabbering about something related to her midterms. The new customer approached the upper bakery section where they stood.
"May I help you?" Franz put his book down and gave her his attention. This move left Fauna a bit miffed for being interrupted. She turned a displeased eye on the woman.
"I'm looking for the owner of this establishment," the woman answered.
That wasn't the usual request. He assumed she wanted a muffin or something.
"And you are?" He narrowed his eyes slightly. He decided he didn't like the way she was smiling at them; it seemed rather fake and forced.
"Shelby Barnett," she pulled a business card from the side of her briefcase and handed it to him, "Now where can I find the owner?"
"She's working," Franz pocketed the card while nodding toward the lower floor where through a set of windows they could see his mother in the kitchen, mixing cake batter. Ms. Barnett's smile grew wider and she seemed to expect Franz to make an introduction. After a moment, he led her down to the kitchen entrance. He knew his mother didn't like to be bothered when she was baking. Just like he didn't like being bothered while reading. Or at all.
"Mom. Someone here to see you," he shouldered the door open and tilted his head in the direction of the sales floor.
She gave him a reactionary look of annoyance for the interruption but it soon turned into curiosity. She gave a nod and wiped her hands, which were covered in flour, on her apron. He turned to the business woman, "She'll be out in a sec."
He resumed his position near the cash register, ready to take up his book and start reading again. Fauna had decided to sit down and eat a chocolate croissant. He gave her a subtle glare; she wasn't supposed to take baked goods and eat them in front of customers even though none were really there at the moment.
His mother had stepped outside the kitchen and shook hands with the woman. They sat down at one of the tables. Despite his desire to get on with reading, he couldn't help but to strain his hearing to try and listen to what they were talking about. His pocket vibrated, startling him slightly, and caused him to lose focus on eavesdropping. He didn't get calls that often but dug through his pocket and pulled out his phone to look at the caller ID. It was his best friend.
"Hey," he answered.
"Heya! Are you coming to the library today?" Alanna Thackery's jovial voice questioned through the receiver. He was momentarily confused by her query until she clarified, "You said you were going to help me study, remember?"
Franz cursed in his mind; he had forgotten that he had mentioned to Alanna that he could help her study for her midterm but he had told his mother he could also help out at the bakery the same afternoon.
"Yeah, I'll be there in about fifteen minutes," he said while eyeing his mother. She was preoccupied and wouldn't miss him for awhile. "See you then."
"Was that your girlfriend?" Fauna questioned while wiggling her eyebrows up and down rapidly. She looked stupid; she had a spot of chocolate on her face and he didn't bother to tell her since she was just trying to be annoying now. He had told her--what seemed a million times now--that he never liked Alanna more than a friend.
He ignored her insinuation and said, "Watch the register, I'll be back in a bit."
She gave another miffed look. It wasn't like she had plans for the afternoon anyway and she was done with midterms. She could use a little responsibility. He saw himself out, briefly hearing the term 'eyesore' as he passed his mother and Shelby Barnett.
After a short bus ride to Scandalica City, Franz arrived in front of the public library. He'd always liked the old building, and hiding away in it when he was younger--picking his way through the science fiction section. It was also the midpoint between Isla Del Kashmire, where he attended community college and Sim State University, where Alanna went to school.
He entered the library and made his way through the stacks to find Alanna at a table with a pile of school books. She was deeply concentrated on studying already. He pulled out the chair of the table across from her and the movement caused her to jump; her surprise immediately turned to a smile when she saw it was him.
She shot up at once and hugged him. He felt himself smile and returned the embrace with one arm. They hadn't been able to hang out since the summer, being at different campuses and schoolwork taking up most of their time. Or in Franz s case, working as well.
Alanna was an ambitious biology student and Franz found it increasingly harder to fit into her schedule. He didn't want to think himself desperate for company since he'd never been that way before, but it was evident when he jumped on the opportunity to help her study just so he could see her again.
"How are you?" she asked and pulled back to look him over with a warm smile.
He shrugged while taking a seat, "Done with my module."
Modules were what the hands-on community college classes comprised of. They'd work half a semester on a project and it was due when regular college midterms occurred. Franz's focus was in culinary arts. He knew someday he'd have to take over the bakery, or at least have to co-own it with Fauna, so decided the best use of his higher education was to advance his cooking skills. He could already make a mean plate of crepes.
He only nodded.
She seemed thrilled for him with her bright eyes and wide smile; he had missed that infinite optimism she seemed to exude.
"So what do you need help studying?"
He raised one eyebrow and she chuckled at his dubious expression which caused a librarian nearby to shush her.
"Well, in a sense. My midterm is on enzymes, specifically ones found in the body. I made flashcards and I need you to tell me if I identify the enzyme types correctly based on their names and models," she said in a quieter voice and dug through a backpack, handing him a stack of index cards. She may as well have been speaking a different language but he gave her a slight nod; his task seemed simple enough.
He held up a card, and she recited the term she had written on the back of it that he could only see. He nodded in affirmation. He did this for the next, and the next, and the next. She didn't get any of them wrong. She was going to ace her midterm.
Since they had become friends, Franz's outlook on the world had improved significantly. He was still miles more cynical than Alanna, but she had taught him there were reasons to smile, how to look for the best in people, and that he could enjoy life outside the confines of his books. She was a truly inspiring individual and he valued her friendship very much.
"Stereospecific," she said after a moment of studying the card he currently held up. He nodded yet again and placed the card behind the last.
He wished they could take a break and actually talk about something other than school, maybe exchange book recommendations or reviews--although he was sure if she had time for leisurely reading considering her rigorous study schedule. In the past few years since they had become close friends, she would usually text him about every new book she'd fallen in love with. He hadn't gotten any of those kinds of texts since the semester had started.
"Chemoselective," she answered yet another enzyme type correctly.
He flipped another card over for her to view. He might have been interested in the subject if he understood what it was. Enzymes weren't something he sought out knowledge of and Alanna was already three semesters in on the subject. She wanted to be a doctor, to help people.
He felt himself smile again, thinking that she was well on her way to achieving that goal.
His pocket buzzed for the second time that afternoon. He held up a finger to indicate a pause to the study and looked at his phone. He'd gotten a text from his sister.
Fauna: Mom wants you back @ the bakery
He frowned, it hadn't even been a half hour yet. He thought it would take longer for his mother to notice his absence.
"Oh, you dropped something," Alanna said leaning down, reaching outward until she grabbed a piece of paper from the floor. It was that woman's business card from earlier. Alanna looked at it curiously before handing it back to him. "What are you doing with the Cosgrove Collective?"
He studied the card, now reading what he hadn't bothered to before.
Shelby Barnett, Head of Development
The Cosgrove Collective.
The Cosgrove Collective.
He knotted his brows, "What is it?"
"It's a business firm. I know that Le Theater is owned by them but they also recently bought the Top of the World restaurant chain."
"How do you know?"
She gave a shrug, "Acquisitions and mergers are reported in the newspaper. I read it last week in the business section. Though it seems no one reads the paper anymo--"
Franz bolted upright suddenly, startling Alanna for the second time that day, "I'm sorry, I have to go. Now."
His mind was so preoccupied that he didn't even bid her farewell before he was making his way out of the library and back toward the bus stop. He had just realized that what he had heard spoken on his way out of the bakery wasn't 'eyesore.'
It was 'buy the store.'
5 users say thanks for this. (Who?)
#3 13th Mar 2017 at 1:08 PM
Thanks: 2 in 1 Posts
This story sounds good.
#4 13th Mar 2017 at 2:21 PM
@whoward69: Indeed, this better format for actually reading but now that I have a good amount on tumblr I can now regularly update here (I am thinking Sunday and Wednesdays).
@Lady Lily: Thank you for your comment. I do hope you will enjoy it.
@Lady Lily: Thank you for your comment. I do hope you will enjoy it.
#5 15th Mar 2017 at 7:21 AM Last edited by Charmful : 13th Aug 2021 at 10:05 PM. Reason: fixing special characters
Chapter 2: Tranquilicis
Orion Loche had been awake for nearly 24 hours. His midterm started in five. His roommate and best friend, Cypress Wellington had started to get worried--every so often knocking on Orion's bedroom door and offering to bring food. All Orion requested was silence so that he could continue to study in peace.
He d already poured over all the books and notes to his course and highlighted all relevant paragraphs, but then to his horror when he took a pause to review, his entire book was highlighted in yellow. He brought his knees up and opened a spiral notebook to transfer only the super important relevant information that would be on his midterm to differentiate it from the blocks of highlighted text in his books. It didn't help that the midterm test fanned the flames of his anxiety to a near crippling level. He knew if he slept now that he wouldn't have the will to wake up and then probably sleep through the test!
Cypress was reading quietly in the living room when he heard a loud bang on the front door. He jumped up to tell whoever had caused it to bugger off. He hated all the random campus rabble that came and went at all hours mascots, rival mascots, cheerleaders, the SSU gym coaches—they were entirely grating and unwanted.
But he found something worse was on his doorstep.
He couldn't exactly put his finger on why Cain Nova was the literal worst, there were too many reasons. At the moment, he could think of a few; Cain had a serpentine smile, and an ego to rival Nicholas Hart. Though, while Nick's confidence was somewhat endearing and clueless, Cain and no substance or filter whatsoever. There he stood with his hands on his waist, grinning all self-assured and assuming Cypress would welcome him in like they were old friends.
"Is Orion around?" Cain asked when Cypress reluctantly pulled the front door open.
"He's studying and doesn't want to be disturbed," Cypress frowned and said in a tone that clearly told Cain he was not wanted there. He hadn't seen Cain for weeks and thought the guy had gone for good. Obviously, he'd thought wrong.
"I have a present for him, trust me he'll love it," Cain smiled and didn't pay mind to how Cypress nearly blocked the entryway, and quickly elbowed through, slightly shoving him back to make room to squeeze by.
Cypress had about as much trust in Cain as he would have trust in a snake not to bite him.
It was obvious that Orion carried an...intense liking...toward Cain. They had met in class at Sim State University their sophomore year and found a common interest in music. Music was Orion's weakness. He was usually quite reserved around people, but music made him open up and talk to anyone who would listen. Cypress only barely put up with Cain because on most days, he made Orion happy.
He watched Cain climb the stairs to the second story where their rooms were, still wearing a suspicious frown.
Orion took a moment to yawn. When he looked at his notes, they blurred together slightly. He had been studying for hours but still felt like he was going to fail.
Suddenly the door to his room swung open and Cain Nova walked in with a smile that couldn't even calm Orion's nerves in this state. He was surprised to even see Cain—what had it been—three weeks now since he last had contact? Orion didn't like to ask questions since he didn't want to come off as clingy, besides he had more to worry about with an impending test.
When Cain realized his usual charms were having no effect he sidled up against the back of Orion's chair and leaned over his shoulder, "Studying hard I heard."
Orion set his notebook down and uncurled his legs, grimacing at how one had fallen asleep because he was sitting on it so long. He slumped over with his head in his hand to rub his eye, "I haven't slept in twenty-four hours, and I can t stop thinking about all the ways I could still fail this test."
Cain gave him a sympathetic pat on the back, "I know you get this way around big tests so I brought you something."
Orion lifted his head and gave Cain a small, grateful, smile, "You're too kind. What is it?"
"First get up and stretch your legs, you deserve that much," Cain indicated and backed away allowing Orion room to move. Orion stood and pulled his arm over his chest while simultaneously lifting himself on his tip-toes to stretch his calves though one still had the distinctive tingle of having fallen asleep.
Cain procured a small orange bottle out of his pocket and held it out. Orion took a look at it and his eyes became wide, "What's that?"
"Tranquilicis," Cain smiled and shook the bottle so they could hear the rattle of pills inside, "It's the best drug on the market to treat anxiety."
"Don't you need a prescription to get that?"
Cain shrugged, "Yeah but that's so addicts don't get a hold of them. They are fine if taken in moderation. Here—" he grabbed Orion's hand, popped open the lid and jounced two pills out of it and into his palm.
Orion looked at them with hesitation. He d never taken any kind of medication for his anxiety before. It didn't get this extreme but on rare occasions.
"Do you trust me?" Cain asked, stepping closer and taking Orion's other hand in his.
Unlike his best friend, Orion did trust Cain.
He tossed the pills into his mouth and threw his head back to swallow them dry. Hopefully, they would work. Cain pulled Orion closer and kissed him and even though Orion knew he still had to study he was grateful for the distraction. He had missed Cain more than he would admit.
Cain maneuvered them toward the bed and pushed Orion on his back before sitting on the edge, leaning over and continuing where he left off. Orion reached out and set the bottle of pills on his nightstand, feeling his nerves start to unwind into a very delightful and peaceful calm.
Then they heard noisy clatter and crashes from below.
Cypress had been as quiet as a mouse for Orion the past 24 hours. He didn't even microwave a flipping bowl of ramen on the account of the noise it could have made and distracted Orion's studying. Well, he figured that if Orion was going to start entertaining Cain now, then the time for peace and quiet was at and end. So he started up his own racket by beating the floor tom of his trap set and kept smashing the cymbals over and over.
#6 19th Mar 2017 at 7:19 AM Last edited by Charmful : 20th Aug 2018 at 6:17 AM. Reason: fixing special characters
Chapter 3: Starting Over
Thank the Great Plumbob, midterms were finally over! Some students might celebrate by throwing house parties or going downtown to drink and have fun but Reginald Orbinson had a different way to celebrate. He was going to go back to his apartment and play in a Rush Hour tournament that was supposed to last until dawn.
First though, he needed caffeine to help him stay awake. He d been at a three-hour midterm since six o' clock that evening. He had written so much on the essay portion that a dull ache had formed in his wrist. Holding a mouse for the next few hours wasn't going to help it. It'd be surprising if he didn't get carpal tunnel before he was 25.
"Hey Blue Eyes, the usual?" the barista asked.
He pressed his thumb into his wrist to try and soothe the ache. He nodded and got a bit flustered at hearing the nickname said in a flirtatious tone. He didn't engage with the barista usually, she had dark eyeliner and dyed hair, was too unpredictable for him to return any interest and besides, wasn't she supposed to flirt with the customers? Isn't that how she got more tips? He wondered on that as he eyed the glass jar full of single simoleons and concluded it to be true.
So he didn't think much of her words. He'd come into the SSU coffee shop enough times and ordered the same cup of cappuccino that she knew him, though she referred to him as 'Blue Eyes' since he never introduced himself. At least it was better than 'four eyes' which his childhood bullies had called him.
She handed him his cup of cappuccino and he paid without a word or a thank you. He found it best if he didn't speak at all.
It was frustrating how he could be eloquent and self-assured while debating or speaking up in class about a subject, yet when he found himself speaking to women, his words and mannerisms took a turn for the awkward.
He turned around, ignoring the wink that the barista had given him, despite not leaving a tip, to search for an open chair in the joint while simultaneously blowing steam off his cup. As his eyes scanned the room they abruptly halted on a figure sitting on one of the sofas.
His heart did a little flip-flop.
Now why did it do that? It had been years since he last spoke to Alanna Thackery. He knew her to be a manipulative tease and a liar. So why did he still feel drawn to her?
Why were his feet walking toward her?
Why was he sitting down next to her?!
He tried to calmly sip his cappuccino and not be so obviously interested in what her reaction would be to his presence. She had been reading a book and briefly glanced to him in a warm smile of greeting, the same one she had always worn. It's what made her so approachable, so very likable--one of the many things he had liked about her in high school.
At recognizing him, her smile retreated to something else--something almost...sad; she laid her book down between them, turning her body and attention toward him.
"Hey..." he responded and couldn't find words to follow up with.
They stared at each other for a few seconds. She was clearly bemused. He was the one who couldn't figure her out though. Was she expecting him to explain himself? He couldn't even explain to himself why he was sitting there.
"Um..." he burbled before taking another sip, trying to gather his words, "How have you been?"
He could have cringed at himself for how stupid he sounded. She had once been the easiest person for him to talk to. It all changed at the Battle of the Bands when he found out she had only pretended to like him. He shouldn't still be hung up on this girl who had lied to him, played with his heart and never had the decency to apologize.
"I'm doing fine," she answered after a long moment of studying him, "Though you haven't spoken to me since high school and I can't imagine you really care."
Why did she sound so bitter about it? He was the one who should have been bitter. He had been, actually. He felt he had been robbed of a happiness that only she could have given him.
How could he tell her what was on his mind and ask her the questions that had been plaguing him for years? It was fate that they were here at the same time on the same day. Something was surely supposed to happen.
He set his empty cup down and balanced the side of his face on the edge of his fist, unable to meet her bewildered stare, "You know, I really liked you in high school. I just never thought you would turn out to be such a liar."
Alanna crossed her arms and all warmth in her face was replaced with hard offense, "I don't have to sit here and be judged by you, Reggie. You can think of me whatever you want but I'm not the liar."
She stood abruptly, reaching for her book; he did also but blocked her from obtaining it, "What do you mean?"
"Maybe you should get all the facts before taking your sister's word for it," she said. She was growing more irritable now. She snatched her book up and marched out of the coffee shop. He'd never see Alanna so angry before.
He had to wonder what she meant by that. His sister, Evelyn Jane, was the one who had discovered the truth about Alanna. Then again, Evie could be quite the manipulator. He frowned as an awful feeling of regret suddenly spread through him. What if she manipulated me too? He adjusted the strap of his book bag and went after her.
"Alanna! Alanna wait!" he called out and jogged to make up the space she'd put between them. She was already down the sidewalk but slowed her pace.
"What?" she sighed and turned to face him with a hand on her hip. She sounded so exasperated, but he was determined to understand.
"I'm sorry, he found himself apologizing. He didn t handle that well at all, "Can we start over?"
"Why would you want to if you think I am such a liar?"
The issue was, he genuinely didn't want to think of her as a liar. He never in his life wanted to be proven more wrong than in that moment. He wanted Alanna Thackery back--the kind, smart, and beautiful girl he had known her to be.
"Tell me what's true then. I'll listen," he promised with a hint of a plea in the tone.
She flipped the book over in her hands, considering his request.
"Fine. Meet me tomorrow morning at my usual place. We can start over there," she finally agreed. She didn't bother elaborating on what her 'usual' place was, but he could figure it out. She knew he could too. "Goodnight."
She strode off into the darkness. He'd known she attended the same campus, but this was the first time he had actually seen her around. He tried not to think about her too much, but she was just so appealing he couldn't stop, even when he convinced himself he was out of her league--he being the Mayor's son.
The sad truth of it was, being the son of the mayor didn t bring him as many perks as he would have liked. He had applied to the Hoh Fruhm fraternity at Sim State only to be rejected. His father had attended before him, which Reggie thought would surely guarantee him a spot. Maybe if he'd had been allowed to join he wouldn't be so hopelessly and socially awkward either, maybe he would have grown out of it by now.
He checked his phone and found out that his chat with Alanna had been longer than he anticipated. His tournament would be starting in five minutes! With no time to spare he broke into a jog and headed back toward his apartment.
Upon entering, he threw his shoes off and his book bag to the floor. Then he was greeted with a loud 'squawk!'. He'd bought a bird, whom he had named Kissinger, to keep him company while he went to school. Usually Reggie would take Kissinger out and pet him when returning from class but there was no time if he needed to sign in and play the first match. Kissinger let out another squawk; offended by the break in routine.
A chat box popped up as soon as he was logged on and his status was set to online .
Violet_Fire: I thought u were gonna give up b4 it started
Reggie smirked at the taunt and keyed in a reply. Just in time too, the user names were being shuffled into brackets. If he won two games, and they did too, he'd come up against Violet_Fire in the third tier match.
MegaZoom: No way. You are going down! If you can even stay awake long enough.
Violet_Fire: we'll see
#7 22nd Mar 2017 at 7:21 AM Last edited by Charmful : 26th Mar 2018 at 6:54 AM. Reason: fixing special characters
HeartbrokenChapter 4: Heartbroken
Illyana Sanchez racked the pool balls, lifted the triangle and smiled at the perfect display before looking at the man to her left. He nodded his head, clearly impressed. She had been practicing.
She eyed the white cue ball before lining up her stick and giving it a firm push which propelled the white ball into the perfect triangle and split the rest of the balls outward across the table.
Billiards was a staple of their Friday night routine when her boyfriend wasn't playing a show.
Adam Hamilton was a bassist for a local band in Memosa Bay called the 'Venom Affection' and he met Illyana three years prior during a local music festival when she was playing guitar with her band, 'The Raven Crowns.' She initially was attracted him for his chiseled jaw and build of a track athlete but when they hung out, they had hit it off and eventually agreed to date exclusively. She had since eased back on playing shows with her band to focus on earning her degree but was known to sub in for his guitarist at times.
"Are you going to win this time?" he asked.
Her spirit for competition flared into her expressive eyes as she chalked the tip of her pool cue "Here's to hoping."
She had lost 30 consecutive games to him and hadn t given up yet.
This evening, they were gathered at the pool table in the Isla Del Kashmire Community College recreation room which was also the ground floor of the dormitory on the campus. Illyana attended school there and was working toward a journalism degree.
Adam had dropped out of Sim State nearly a year ago to focus on playing in his band; he d assured her it was only a temporary break.
She pushed the cue ball into a solid and it pocketed which made her do a fist-pump of delight.
She made her way to the opposite end of the table where the same had ended up rolling to and appraised the table and all the possibilities. There. The Blue solid. She lined up the white ball and made another shot. It pocketed as well.
"Look who's on a roll," Adam quipped and followed her.
Illyana just gave him a sarcastic smile and caressed his jaw with the end of her stick, leaving a smudge of chalk on his cheek, "Your winning streak ends today, Hamilton."
His smile dissipated rather quickly. She turned a concerned eye to him, not suspecting her taunt could actually hurt his feelings.
"So, I need to tell you something," his tone was serious. She retracted her pool stick, struck by the sudden change.
He set his own stick against the pool table and crossed his arms, looking like he d rather not say. Was someone sick? Did he need money again? It looked like the news was something grim from the way his eyes refused to suddenly meet hers.
"Last weekend. After the show, I...hooked up with a girl."
She didn't expect that. Her entire body seemed to freeze over to nothing but numbness and she dropped her pool stick. It hit the floor with a loud clatter and then there was only silence.
She had to process this.
He cheated on her?
He cheated on her and waited a week to tell her?
Why so long?
Why would he even cheat?
Wasn't she good enough?
Did he even love her?
How could he if he had hooked up with someone else when he was her boyfriend?
He had thrown three years of trust away in a single night all because--what? He couldn't keep it in his pants?
"WHY?" she stepped forward and the anger she had been able to control erupted into her face and voice, heated and full of loathing.
He looked a bit surprised at her ferocity but if he expected her to just accept this piece of news and move along like it didn t matter, or pretend it never happened then maybe he didn't know her after all.
"It was a stupid mistake. The band went out for drinks, and we got caught up with some girls and one--"
"I don't want to hear about it in detail and don't try to blame this on alcohol!" Illyana all but shouted.
"You asked why. So, I'm explaining," he said calmly, "Just because you can't accept it, doesn t make it a lie."
Illyana only glowered.
Adam sighed with exasperation, "Y'see, this is why I didn't want to tell you. I knew you would react badly."
"HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO REACT!?" Illyana burst. The was infuriated at his patronizing tone.
"Well I was hoping we could discuss this like adults," he crossed his arms, "but you're throwing a temper tantrum right now."
"I want you to leave," Illyana tried to restrain her voice and demanded in a low tone. She couldn't take the sight of him anymore. She couldn't think of it without wanting to punch him and she was not throwing a temper tantrum.
"So that's it? You're mad at me for being honest and then you ask me why and not let me explain?"
"GET OUT NOW!" Illyana pointed to the front door and screamed, feeling the anguished heat wash over her face. She was lucky that most of her classmates were out in the city or had gone home to visit families for the weekend so no one was running in and asking what the problem was.
Adam held up his hands in resignation; they had fought before but with time Illyana would usually cool down. He simply turned his back on her and promptly left like she had demanded. So why did she feel even worse now that he was gone?
Even though the small community campus was in the same town she had grown up in, Illyana had opted to board in the dorm. She ran to her room where she could be guaranteed solitude and desperately tried to contain the tears that were now trying to escape her. She tried to take deep breaths, at least she had learned through meditation that breathing would help calm the overwhelming sadness and anger that was now billowing inside her.
Her throat felt so tight and her third breath became shaky, then a wail managed to escape followed by a downpour of tears.
As much as she wanted to, she knew she couldn't be alone like this.
She was able to see enough through the wet blur to dial a number on her cell and blubber Adam's name. But his name was as far as she could say before breaking down into more sobs. Coherence was not an option any longer.
The voice on the other end of the line understood and told her it would be 20 minutes.
Illyana crumpled to the floor in the corner of her room, wiping at her eyes, and feeling utterly broken.
How could he have done this to her? She thought they had something together a fun, easy-going relationship full of music and adventure. She had often plugged in her guitar and jammed with him in his basement, she wrote him songs to play, and she'd been able to attend nearly all of his shows to support his band. Adam was the first guy she had ever fallen so hard and fast for.
Now she was infuriated by him and the thought of him allowing some nameless, faceless girl to have him after the one show Illyana couldn't attend because she had been studying for a midterm module that required her to write a 10-page essay and accompanying article. They had argued a little about her not being able to go, and she hoped to the great plumbob in the sky that he hadn't cheated on her because of that.
That awful little thought sent her into another few minutes of her curling her knees to her chest and hugging them there to muffle her weeping sounds.
10 minutes later she heard a knock on her dorm door.
"In here," she muttered softly, blubbery still with wet-streaked cheeks she tried to dry with the sleeve of her shirt before anyone could see her.
Alarie Thackery barged in, "That bastard, what did he do this time? I'm going to kill him--"
She looked around the room and spotted Illyana on the floor and her frown softened. Leona Hillenburg was behind her looking sympathetic and concerned. Leona was the one who she had reached out to, but Leona must have enlisted Alarie for additional emotional support. Illyana didn't mind, she needed all the comfort they could give.
Alarie dropped to her knees next to Illyana, "Want me to break his legs?"
Leona moved past them and stood against the wall while advising, "We're here to comfort, not maim."
Illyana just looked up at them with a hopeless expression. It always seemed like the world was against her.
It took a few minutes for her friends to coerce a valid sentence from Illyana on what had happened that rendered her a heaping ball of tears but they were both hugely sympathetic toward her and equally as distraught once they understood. This wasn't Illyana being overly dramatic like usual.
"Why does it hurt so much?" Illyana managed to ask.
"It's called heartbreak for a reason," Leona said sadly, pulling Illyana up into a tight hug. "We'll help you get through it, though."
Illyana could feel another pair of arms encase them as Alarie joined in on their embrace. Illyana was so appreciative of them at that moment--she hadn't seen much of her friends since the semester had started.
It didn't feel any better, though; it still felt like there was a black hole inside her where her heart used to be. It was fresh and it hurt, and no matter how much she loved her friends, they couldn't fill that void.
#8 22nd Mar 2017 at 6:22 PM
Thanks: 2 in 1 Posts
#9 23rd Mar 2017 at 9:27 AM
Adam was lucky because Ilyana's reaction was quite moderate. In her place I d use that pool stick to beat him up, if my bf casually said "Hey I just hooked up with a girl, no probs..."
#10 25th Mar 2017 at 9:19 PM Last edited by Charmful : 26th Mar 2018 at 7:11 AM. Reason: fixing special characters
Chapter 5: Power Play
Mocha Chip Coffee Shop.
It was Alanna Thackery's 'usual place' and it was the place where Reggie's infatuation with her had really taken off. Before that fateful summer day in his sixteenth year, Alanna was just an admirable girl who had once been his chemistry partner. After, his heart had accelerated in hope that they could be more. That is, until she had crushed it with her lie. The truth, she later admitted to was that she had only pretended to be interested in him and Franz in order to cause a rift between them to break their band up. In the end, it had worked. He hadn't spoken to Franz in years; they definitely were not friends anymore.
She was sitting at one of the chess tables in the sunken room of the coffee shop. There didn't seem to be anyone else around this early on a Saturday. The business rush always happened weekday mornings in the coffee joints dotted around Kashmire.
Reggie approached the chess table, pulled out the chair opposite of her to take a seat and said, "Good morning."
"Good morning, Reggie," she replied. Her tone was overall pleasant but she wasn't wearing her usual warm smile. She already had the pieces set up. He d always wanted to play a match with her. She was smart, and he knew she played well because she had been in the chess club. She met his curious eyes, "Ask me anything you want that can be answered with true or false. You may ask me a question for every move you make."
What kind of game was she playing at? Well, chess obviously, but this caveat he found an odd addition to the rules.
He gave a nod, indicating he understood her rule though he didn't understand why she would only answer questions as true or false. He started simple, pushing a black pawn forward one space, "Did you ever consider me your friend?"
"True," she moved one of her pawns two spaces outward.
He thought that a bad start, move-wise. Then again, the game had just begun. Maybe she knew a play he didn't. Even so, there was an opening to bring his queen out and start threatening her pawn.
"You lied to me."
"True," she replied with a regretful expression and brought the white knight on the king's side forward in an L-shape.
"About your interest in me," he frowned. He was now confused. That was what she indicated she hadn't lied about last night. He felt a little bit of enjoyment at capturing her pawn with his queen. Her knight was in the space by his queen and would be the next victim if she didn't move it.
"False," her voice was hard and determined--and like he predicted, she moved her knight back to its original position in the back rank.
Reggie studied the board, his mind split between what his next move should be and what question he should ask.
He touched the head of his knight but then changed his mind and decided that he was going to move his king's bishop out three spaces so it had a clear path to capture the knight she had tried to save the turn before. So what did she lie about? He racked his brain--was the lie itself a lie?
If so, why would she have done that? He remembered her mention his sister the night before, and smiled with a small sense of hope, "The lie you told me wasn't true."
He was figuring it out now.
"True," she confirmed his suspicion with a wry little smile. He met her eyes and didn't pay attention to what she played or where it landed. She was so beautiful, it was amazing that he hadn't stumbled over his words yet. He realized he was being distracted so he averted his stare and looked down at the board, studying it some more and trying to figure out how Evelyn Jane fit into the equation.
His sister could be ruthless when trying to get what she wanted and she must have had something to gain by making Alanna break his heart. It wasn't too impossible that Evelyn Jane had threatened her either.
He saw the pawn in front of the very same knight that had been evading him was moved a space out. His bishop could capture it but--he saw a fatal flaw in Alanna's move--his queen could move into the empty spot diagonal to her knight and put her king into checkmate. Without thinking, he made the move and then said, "Evelyn Jane was behind everything."
He was disappointed that his suspicion was true and even more that he was able to beat Alanna in five moves. How could she have been in chess club with such a dismal play? He was no master but he even knew how to play decently. He pushed that thought out of his head for a minute and asked, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"You're out of questions Reggie," Alanna replied, and besides that can't be answered with true or false."
Then he realized she had only played awful on purpose, to limit his questions. He'd foolishly fallen into her plan, winning the game but losing the number of questions he could have asked otherwise.
"If we are going to start over and be friends, I don't want to spend hours hashing out the past so let's move forward," she smiled and then tilted her head in concern, "You look a little sleepy, want a coffee? My treat."
Her offer caused him to have hope at least. He returned the smile.
With one move of his arm, he brushed the pieces off the board and into the tray underneath it. He couldn't help but to notice Alanna had changed somehow; she seemed a bit more guarded than he knew her to be. She was the type of person to be friendly with just about everyone she met.
Unbeknownst to Reggie, the reason for her seeming change in demeanor had just entered the coffee shop and spotted them.
Just as Alanna had taught Franz to see the good in people, Franz had taught Alanna to be more wary of them. He was especially wary of Reginald Orbsinson, knowing that the guy had been slightly obsessed with Alanna when he was a teenager.
"Alanna!" a deep voice called over the room.
They looked to see the muscular blond staring at them in a very perplexed manner. He approached, his eyes scanning about to try and figure out why they were in the same room together.
"Hi Franz, what are you doing here?" Alanna asked pleasantly surprised.
It wasn't hard for her best friend to figure she was at her favorite place on a Saturday morning. Also, on his way to the bakery, Franz saw her bike parked outside and knew she was in there. He wondered why she hadn't let him know she was in town for the weekend and was going to ask if she wanted to hang out later, but all his thoughts were thrown out and preoccupied with one burning question.
"What's he doing here?" Franz nodded toward Reggie.
"Mind your own business, that's what," Reggie retorted with a frown and then a beat later was pushed backward with a reckoning force and staring at Franz's knuckles. He'd been in this position before but thankfully Alanna had halted the inevitable blow by shouting at Franz to stop.
"What are you playing at, Reggie?" Franz nearly growled.
Reggie grinned, amused at how the world changed. When they used to be friends, Franz looked out for him, putting his fist into any bullies when they threatened Reggie yet now Franz was threatening him.
"I invited him to play chess. Let him go!" Alanna demanded. The little coffee shop had never heard so much commotion on a Saturday morning.
Franz did so but not without giving Reggie a cold, threatening stare. Alanna grabbed him by the arm and turned him around to face her. Franz crossed his arms and kept his frown. She seemed furious.
"Why would you do that? It was incredibly rude. You're better than this! Apologize to him now."
Franz clenched his jaw. He wasn't having a particularly good week and seeing Reggie hovering around his best friend was concerning. She was one of the few people in the world he genuinely cared about and didn't want her natural goodness to be taken advantage of by a guy like Reggie.
From Reggie's perspective, it was clear that Alanna and Franz had developed a friendship and a rather close one in the years since the Battle of the Bands. That would have to change if they were to start over.
"He doesn't need to apologize," Reggie spoke before Franz made up his mind whether or not to apologize, "I shouldn't have provoked him."
Franz hated how Reggie made it sound like he was some wild, untamed beast, and yet was articulate enough to come off sounding humble at the same time.
It was working, Alanna seemed surprised but then didn't press Franz any further to apologize.
"I have to go, but maybe you can treat me to that coffee another time?" he shrugged and Alanna nodded with an acquiescent smile.
Franz kept his frown aimed as Reggie passed them to leave. He still hadn't said a word.
Reggie had to attend a diplomatic dinner with his family later that night anyway and was on his way to his father's estate. It would be the first time this semester he would see them, including Evelyn Jane. His thoughts grew angry, remembering what Alanna had confirmed. Evelyn Jane was the one who ultimately robbed him of that happiness he could have had with Alanna Thackery.
#11 25th Mar 2017 at 10:29 PM
Thanks: 5 in 1 Posts
|From Reggie's perspective, it was clear that Alanna and Franz had developed a friendship and a rather close one in the years since the Battle of the Bands. That would have to change if they were to start over.|
Would it now?
Seen waaaaaaaay too many asshole "nice guys" like Reggie in my life. I hope Alanna knocks some sense into him. Preferably literally.
#12 29th Mar 2017 at 7:11 AM Last edited by Charmful : 24th Apr 2018 at 8:13 AM. Reason: fixing special characters
Chapter 6: Torporia
Oh Plumbobs. What. A. Night.
Nicholas Hart managed to drag his eyes open and remember that the weekend had only just started. He groaned and sat up, automatically reaching for a hair tie that was usually placed on his nightstand. He gathered up his shoulder-length hair and pulled it back to secure it into a bun. He had grown it out partially because he was too lazy to bother getting a haircut, and partially because the length annoyed his father's preferred, sensible, clean-cut style.
"Ugh, last night was a blur," he heard a female s voice in the room and looked over his shoulder to see a leggy and bronze-skinned blonde clad in very teal underthings. She touched her head to indicate that she was suffering from an acute hangover as she began to search the floor for her discarded clothes.
"Tell me about it," Nick groaned and proceeded to get of bed and then decided he was not awake enough to be walking around. He let his long body fall across the mattress with his legs and arms hanging off the edges.
"Why don't you stay a bit longer?" he asked and reached out to his companion as she was kneeling on the floor, possibly looking under the bed for her shirt. She sighed and gave him a smile while reaching out and taking his hand in hers, "I have places to be, it's already noon, you know."
The fact only made him groan louder. He'd wasted half the day but that was a consequence of staying awake until 2 in the morning entertaining his very lovely party guest.
Once they had both dressed, he walked her to the entrance of his fraternity house to bid her farewell.
Hoh Fruhm was the frat to be in at Sim State University. The waiting list to join was insane and basically, all members were legacy, meaning they'd had a family member in the frat before them.
Nick originally was loath to pledge, only doing so at his father's insistence. No surprise that his father also was a Hoh Fruhm member when he attended college, which put Nick on the fast track to the top of the list. But over the three years since Nick joined, he found out it really was a fun place to be--the parties, the girls, the status, the perks--it wasn't as bad as he'd imagined. It was better.
"Well, maybe I'll see you back here later? We're throwing another rager tonight to celebrate the end of midterms."
"Then what was last night celebrating?"
He shrugged with a laugh, "I don't know, the start of the weekend?"
"We'll see then," she grinned and then gave him a quick peck on the cheek, "Bye Nick."
"See ya, Tina," he replied and her expression dissolved into displeasure.
She crossed her arms, "My name is Tara."
He was quick to put on a charming smile for his mistake, "Tara, that's what I meant to say."
She didn't look convinced and left out the front door without another word.
He made his way to the kitchen in search of food as he'd slept past breakfast and his stomach with now grumbling in need for sustenance. Luckily, someone already made a plate of sandwiches. He grabbed one and promptly sat at the counter to devour it.
They really had thrown a party last night for no real reason except they could because it was Friday, and Nick had probably overdone it on the rum and coke but thinking back, he had a great time--met Tina--no Tara. He hoped she would come back. Or that Tina would. Tina must have been the blonde he woke up with from the weekend before.
"By the great plumbob, use a plate you slob," Nick was suddenly being chided by the fraternity's president, Marshall Cosgrove.
Marshall could be a blond nightmare sometimes. He came from a family with 'old' money and his father was a businessman who owned a collective of upscale venues in the region. Nick couldn't tell if the guy held real disdain toward him or was just being sarcastic most of the time. Nick decided it was only sarcasm and didn't make any move to get a plate for himself.
Marshall also grabbed a sandwich and sat next to him, though with a plate under it to non-verbally emphasize how non-slobby he was. He bit into his sandwich and gave Nick a studied look, "Did you just wake up?"
Nick nodded, mouth full of sandwich.
Marshall gave a wry laugh and raised his brows, "With that fake blonde right? Tina?"
"Tara," Nick corrected after swallowing his food.
Marshall waved his hand unconcerned, and finished off his sandwich, "Lucky for you, she had enough to drink."
Nick raised an eyebrow, not really understanding what Marshall meant; if it was a veiled insult or not that suggested Nick couldn't get a girl without the aid of inebriation. Nick could, he had enough charm and charisma to win many girls over during his tenure at the frat. He bet he could even give Prince Charming a run for his money. Marshall was probably just jealous. So he shrugged in reply.
"Listen, I need you to mix drinks tonight--we have a special keg for the ladies and trust me, it's going to be the wildest party yet. It's funderwear-themed," Marshall pointed toward the counter behind them, where an old-looking keg and various liquor bottles were set out. Where did he get a keg like that? Probably the internet.
Nick smiled, he did love the 'funderwear' parties they had thrown about once every semester. They invited the entire campus's Greek Society over and everyone stripped down to their skivvies and had a blast. The hook-up chances doubled at those parties too.
Marshall gave Nick a slap on the shoulder, put his plate in the sink, then mumbled "Use a plate next time," and left the kitchen.
Nick had been in charge of party drinks before and he'd learned enough from the house parties that he'd gotten to be a good bartender. He took note of the bottles of alcohol on the counter. The standard whiskey and rum, and other types of hard liquor that mixed well with other flavors. Ladies usually liked strong fruity flavors. He wondered what kind of fruit mixers they still had and was going to open some cabinets to look when something else caught his eye.
A blue pill bottle was laying next to the assortment of alcohol. It was open with a few pills spilled on the counter. He considered it curiously for a moment before stuffing the pills back in, capping it and reading the label.
He'd never heard of it before. Then again he wasn't a pharmacist. He pocketed the bottle and continued to search for drink mixers. Damn it, they were clean out. Leave it Marshall to give Nick a task that he couldn t complete.
He needed to find his bro, Rafael. Rafael Lavillos had pledged a year ahead and was a rarity in the house because he didn't have a wealthy family. Rafael was also in charge of getting groceries that week. It seemed like he was tasked with the most remedial household duties because he had no legacy to boast about.
He found Rafael in the trophy room polishing some awards that the fraternity had won throughout the years--the best float for homecoming, first in intramural basketball, and so on. Nick rolled his eyes, it looked like Marshall had put him on cleaning detail too.
"Yo bro," he waved entering the room.
"Hey Nick," Rafael replied.
"I need you to grab some drink mixers from the store. Fruity types like strawberry and whatever else they have. Get, like six of them," Nick instructed.
Rafael nodded, "I'll go shopping after I polish these trophies."
Nick took the rag Rafael was using to shine them and stuffed it in his back pocket, "I'll polish, man. If you get groceries now I'll have more time to mix drinks before everyone arrives later"
He heard a small rattle in his pocket and was reminded of the bottle of pills that were also there. He then remembered Rafael was a chem or biology student. He maybe knew what the pills were about?
Nick pulled the bottle out of his pocket and tossed it to Rafael, who caught it easily and looked at it. His brows rose in surprise, clearly recognizing what it was.
"I found this up by the drinks, what is it?"
"Torporia, it's an unregulated substance that sort of--I guess--blanks out the mind? We had a lab on it a few weeks ago. It increased lethargy in womrat test subjects so much that we could hold the ones usually too vicious to touch."
"So what are you saying? It makes them easy to handle?"
"Yeah and causes disorientation and slight memory loss too. The womrats navigated a maze and then after a dose of this, crawled around not seeming to remember where they had previously been."
Nick then connected the dots of Tara's seeming forgetfulness of the night and Marshall's odd comment about her having 'enough' drinks.
Nick felt anger bubble into his throat and simultaneously disgust in his gut. He turned around and slammed his knuckles into the edge of the pool table, which caused Rafael to look at him with concern.
Did Marshall really expect Nick to add these drugs to the keg so he could take easier advantage of the female party guests? What other excuse was there to have these laying about? It was sick. Guys like Marshall were the reason frats got bad raps, and Nick refused to have a hand in it.
#13 31st Mar 2017 at 3:34 PM
Guys like Marshal were my true fear in college... :/ And now because of HIS low self esteem, Nick feels bad too.
#14 2nd Apr 2017 at 7:52 AM Last edited by Charmful : 26th Mar 2018 at 7:35 AM. Reason: fixing special characters
Chapter 7: The Ambassador
Evelyn Jane Orbinson and her immediate family were standing at the front door to an enormous cliffside mansion in Memosa Bay. She had finished her midterms the day before and was not in the mood to play the part of the polite, perfect daughter. She wanted to have fun and being forced to spend the evening with the Ambassador of Takemizu was not even close to what she considered 'fun.'
She saw her father adjust the cuffs of his dinner jacket anxiously; her mother leaned forward and seemed to be reassuring him of something. He had been on edge lately. It was an election year and his opposition had higher poll numbers. He was the Mayor of Kashmire and had been for the last eight seasons.
She figured this diplomatic visit was an effort on his part to make connections and see if the Ambassador could do anything for the re-election campaign. The Ambassador of Takemizu had only just arrived in Kashmire within the last week and had invited the Orbinsons to dinner.
Evelyn Jane was tasked with holding a vase of lilies which was to be a gift for the Ambassador to thank him for his generous invitation. She didn't see why Reggie couldn't hold it. He was currently shuffling about with his hands in his pockets, and he hadn't shaved either so he didn't look as well put together as the rest of the family.
Victoria, her elder sister, didn't seem to want to hold the vase either. Victoria was usually effortlessly sweet and kind, like a regular princess from a fairy tale, but as of late she had been transforming into somewhat of a bridezilla. She was getting married next season.
"Why did I have to come to this stupid dinner?" Evelyn Jane mumbled under her breath and adjusted her hold on the vase. Her father rang the doorbell and a Butler greeted them.
"Maybe because you haven't brought a guy home for mother and father to meet in years and they re trying to give you a respectable option?" Victoria murmured and placed a comforting hand on her sister s shoulder.
"That's ridiculous, father is clearly here for political reasons," Evelyn Jane's frown deepened. Even if that were true, she needed no aid in getting a man. The first night in her scholarship house at Academie Le Tour, she ended up sleeping with the chapter president's fiancÃ©. It was to assert her dominance more than anything, and it worked because in the next house election she was unanimously voted in as president, a title she had kept even now as a senior.
"And how is encouraging you to be with a diplomat not political?" Victoria responded rhetorically.
Evelyn Jane held in a doubtful snort--she couldn't imagine her parents thinking she d be remotely interested in some boring, old Takemizian if that were really the reason she was forced to come along.
They entered the mansion and followed the Butler up a spiral staircase to the first floor. The home smelled amazingly fresh and sweet, and she realized why as she saw there were many indoor flowerbeds containing a variety of blooms and topiary bushes.
There was a man playing with a dog in the kitchen.
"Ambassador Bao, I present Mayor Orbinson and his family of Isla Del Kashmire," the Butler cleared his throat and bowed, gesturing toward them.
The man turned toward his guests and then issued a command to the dog in his native tongue. The Ambassador was not what Evelyn Jane had expected. He had a soft, handsome face, was much younger than she had originally assumed, and seemed less stiff and formal than an ambassador should be despite his dapper style.
He smiled in greeting and came toward them before returning the bow. His dog followed.
"Ambassador Bao, thank you so much for inviting my family and me to dine with you," her father stepped forward and said returning the gesture. "To show our appreciation, we have brought you a gift."
Her father motioned Evelyn Jane forward and she presented the vase. The Ambassador's face lit up seeing the lilies. He gladly accepted it, nodding in approval and handed it to his Butler. He must have instructed the man where to put the gift, but it was still said in Takemizese.
Evelyn Jane wondered if he spoke any Simlish. If not, this dinner would be silent and awkward.
"Tukzee," she mumbled. It was a basic phrase and meant 'you are welcome.'
The Ambassador faced her promptly with a grin, probably amused by her horrible accent, "You speak Takemizese?"
"Three words of it maybe," she admitted. She only knew a few words of the language since she had taken a class in high school. He seemed to speak her language substantially. Not surprising for being an ambassador.
Her answer caused him to laugh heartily, "Well I thank you for it, and for accepting my invitation. Please let us be introduced now."
Her father took action and presented her along with the rest of the family. The Ambassador introduced his dog, Sebastian it was clear that the man had a very close bond with his dog--evident by the way he gushed adoringly over the animal.
While the Butler prepared dinner, Ambassador Bao led the Orbinsons through the mansion on a tour, showing them all the beautiful and meticulously landscaped outside terraces.
"In Takemizu, it's bad luck to have a room devoid of beauty and life--which is why you see flowers just about everywhere here," the Ambassador explained, "Nature is the origin of life and beauty."
Evelyn Jane noticed that he was looking right at her when he said the last part. She averted her gaze to take in the scenery the current terrace provided--an overview of the Skyscrapers of Memosa Bay. It was a bit overkill, all this space only being used by one man and his dog. Then again he was an ambassador, he probably got whatever he wanted as part of Kashmire's goodwill.
After the tour, they sat down in a formal dining room to eat dinner. She noticed that the vase of lilies sat in the center of the table. Salad was the first course. The Ambassador and the Mayor accepted glasses of wine with their food and started talking about the election.
Their mother started in on wedding details with Victoria. Evelyn Jane inwardly gagged. It wasn't that she was unhappy her sister was getting married but wedding-talk was so boorish.
Reggie kept quiet and a touch broody as he poked at his salad. Evelyn Jane noticed her younger brother had been increasingly moody over the last few years. She figured he was having a harder time at college. Reggie had difficulty making friends; she didn't know if he even had any at the moment. But it wasn't her responsibility to make sure Reggie was being social. If he felt like moping for no reason, then let him at it.
"And what about you?" She heard the Ambassador ask. It took her a second to understand that his inquiry was addressed to her.
"Me?" she replied stupidly and reached for her glass of water.
"Yes, your father tells me you are an accomplished violinist. I'd love to hear you play," he took a sip of wine.
"How accomplished can she be if she"s still taking lessons from the Maestro?" Reggie blurted rudely.
Evelyn Jane almost spat her drink out. Everyone else at the table looked to the youngest member of the Orbinson family with curiosity. Instead of replying with something equally as rude, she leveled a glare at Reggie and said, "They're not lessons. The maestro wants to collaborate with me on a new concerto he is writing."
"That's wonderful!" their mother exclaimed.
"Very impressive," the mayor nodded in agreement. Though Evelyn doubted he had heard it, and was just going into an automatic response while he had deeper thoughts on his mind.
Reggie rolled his eyes, figuring his sister to be lying. Sure, she was collaborating all right, when 'collaborating' really meant 'having an affair.' She could tell the gist of what he thought, she'd known him long enough to tell, and narrowed her eyes. Reggie didn't know a damn thing. She wasn't entirely lying. Shaun Piper really did value her opinions on his music, and his music was phenomenal. She had once been one of his biggest admirers.
Reggie bit his tongue and continued to poke at his salad.
After the main course was finished, the ambassador and his guests retreated to the highest room in the mansion that overlooked Memosa Bay. The Butler handed everyone a dessert wine. Well, everyone except Reggie, who still wasn't old enough to drink legally.
As much as she tried to avoid it, Evelyn Jane was flagged down to participate in a discussion with her mother and Victoria about the upcoming wedding.
"You'll need to get a pink bridesmaids dress, Evie," Victoria instructed. Pink was not Evelyn Jane's color at all. She didn't even think she had any article of clothing in her wardrobe that was pink.
She couldn t hide her grimace.
"It's not your wedding," her mother chided, seeing the displeased facial expression, "When the time comes you can put Vikki in whatever color she hates though I'd hope that my daughters' weddings would be more about love than a means for fashion revenge."
Evelyn Jane downed her glass of wine and signaled to the Butler for another, before taking leave of them. Love was a joke. "Who says I'll even get married?"
She was to be Victoria's maid of honor. She was close with Victoria and always had been growing up. Though ever since Victoria got engaged she did feel a sort of rift with her sister. Her sister was someone she told all her secrets to. There was only one she kept sealed behind her lips because it was so shameful.
Shaun Piper was blackmailing her.
She would have wiped her hands clean of the symphony conductor years ago if he hadn t promised to ruin her reputation and family name with the fact that she had tried to seduce him, a judge, to gain favor in a local battle of the bands competition. It wasn t shameful just because he was over 30 years her senior and already married, but there was the fact, totally unbeknownst to her at the time, that he was her uncle by marriage. It was the sort of detail that could be missed when one had an estranged aunt. The whole situation was disgusting, and she knew she couldn't tell anyone. If she ended her affair with Shaun, though, he threatened all of Kashmire would find out about it in the tabloids.
With a fresh glass of wine in hand, she went to stand by herself in front of the sitting room s fireplace. The fire was crackling behind her, casting warmth on the back of her legs and she hooked the edge of her heel into part of it while leaning backward to rest against the low mantle. She watched Victoria move on to Reggie and her father to explain what they were to wear for the wedding and felt a twinge of pity for them.
"Are you excited?" the Ambassador approached and tilted his head toward her family, "For your sister's big day?"
Evelyn Jane shrugged one shoulder apathetically, "It's just another day."
The Ambassador gave her a puzzled look, "Is that your philosophy on life?"
"It's becoming that way," she replied and took a sip of her wine. The truth was, Evelyn Jane didn t feel much of anything anymore. There was no more thrill in her life. Her ambitions had seemed to slowly die with every visit to the maestro, and her tenacity and cleverness had no doubt dulled with nothing to sharpen them on. Why wasn't he tried of her yet? The only thing she wanted, she couldn't obtain without it destroying her. Freedom.
"Why do you want to know so much about me anyway?"
She didn't care if her question came off as rude. She was so very tired of being polite.
He didn't seem offended at all. "I have yet to make any friends of my contemporaries in Kashmire, I hear that getting to know someone is the clearest path to friendship."
"How old are you anyway?" She asked, arching a brow. She would have guessed he was in his thirties from the way he carried himself.
Only three years older than her.
"How were you able to become ambassador at such a young age?" She was impressed, but that didn't mean she was interested in being his friend.
"Now who is it that wants to know about who?" he grinned, and she smiled at the clever way he'd turned her original question on her. To her surprise, he reached forward and clinked his glass with hers though there was nothing to toast to, "I'd be happy to indulge you Miss Orbinson, if you would be so kind to agree to take me on a tour of Memosa Bay next weekend."
She was about to decline, just because next weekend was the start of Fall break and she needed it. She could be persuaded to negotiate a different time for taking the Ambassador sight-seeing. However her father must have been keenly listening and took that moment to step in, "Evie would be delighted to show you around the city, she doesn't go to school far from here either."
Evelyn Jane caught Victoria's eye from across the room and Victoria raised her glass with a knowing smirk. Damn it. Victoria had guessed correctly, this was a thinly veiled attempt by her parents to match her up. She held her breath in to keep from shouting out.
"Yes. I'd be delighted," she forced the words out through a very false smile. She then took a large gulp of her wine, once more rendering her glass empty. She promised herself then, she wasn't going to like this guy. It wasn t that he was unlikable, Evelyn Jane just avoided any type of serious romantic pursuits due to her unfortunate predicament and she loathed it when she was used as a pawn in her family's political games.
She marched back to the bar and grabbed the bottle of wine, refilling her glass since the Butler was busy elsewhere. She noticed that Reggie had been quiet since dinner, silently brooding and looking out the window. What in the Red Diamond of Aspirational Hell did he have to brood about anyway? He wasn't being blackmailed, he wasn't being sneakily coerced to go on a date for political advancement, and he was the one to inherit all of the Orbinson estate and most of the family assets. So what was his problem?
She might have chucked the empty wine bottle at him if not for Victoria approaching her and snatching the bottle out of her hand with a sharp whisper, "Evie, you've had enough."
Lab AssistantDELETED POST
#16 4th Apr 2017 at 6:30 AM
This story is absolutely PHENOMENAL. I enjoyed Battle of the Bands, and you really took it to the next level with this one. Such drama and intrigue! There are some really high stakes here... can't wait to see what happens next!
"Passion makes no accommodation for self-preservation."
#17 5th Apr 2017 at 6:53 AM
Chapter 8: Funderwear
Midterms were over, and that was cause enough to celebrate by parading around Hoh Fruhm in nothing but a pair of boxers with a bottle of beer in hand. That was, until one got onto the dining patio which not only contained the wet bar but three different kinds of kegs.
Nick was designated bar tender since it was his night to mix drinks. He was sporting a pair of red boxers with a fanciful black pattern. So dignified. There was a perk to being bartender though, he got to talk to more women that way. They had to talk to him if they wanted something mixed.
“What can I get for you, darling?” he smiled while grabbing one of the containers of fruit flavors that Rafael had picked up earlier and stocked the wet bar with.
A pretty brunette in adorable Mickey Mouse panties was in the middle of filling her cup from the old wine keg. She took a sip and returned the smile. The special ladies ‘only’ keg was full of banana vodka, Malibu rum, and a ton of lemonade. He never added the pills.
“Well I already have a cup but…can you make me a margarita?”
“Of course!” he said and grabbed the blender. A few other of their sorority guests gathered around to watch and wait for margaritas. He flashed a flirtatious smile toward her as he grabbed a bottle of tequila. He looked in the wet bar for triple-sec, moved around some bottles before finding it. He also found a few more blue pill bottles and frowned. Just how much of this shit did Marshall get a hold of? It probably wasn’t even legal if still being used on test animals.
He scooted a different bottle of alcohol over in front of it to hide it from view and pretend he hadn’t seen it.
Nick blended the margarita ingredients and poured them into a set of four glasses. The brunette took a glass and winked at him.
“Calhoun!” he heard Marshall call. The fraternity president had just finished drinking from the tap of the fruit keg while surrounded by cheering members of the Greek society. Nick felt a prick of annoyance at hearing that surname and Marshall knew how it made Nick feel, yet still called him by it from time to time. “You gonna have a turn?”
“Sure, but I thought I was mixing drinks?” Nick put his hand to his head to hide his obvious annoyance.
Marshall crossed his arms, “Well yeah you were, but you didn’t even mix the ladies keg correctly so I’ll be taking over.”
Nick looked to Marshall in bewilderment. How could have Marshall have known? Marshall put on a smug little smile that Nick hated. He reached into the wet bar, shifted the bottle Nick had just used to hide the pills and grabbed one of the bottles.
“You forgot an ingredient,” Marshall frowned and held the bottle out to Nick in his palm. Nick crossed his arms and matched the frown.
“Really?” Nick said in sarcastic disdain.
“You’re not seeing the bigger picture here,” Marshall uncorked the top of the keg and dropped two pills in, “This will make our parties so much better. You weren’t complaining about it last night.”
It took all of Nick’s willpower not to shove Marshall away. How did that little skeeze-ball end up as president of Hoh Fruhm anyway? Probably a generous donation from his alumnus father secured him the spot.
He watched as Marshall stepped around to address the female guests in the vicinity, telling them not to let their cups get empty and have some more of what was in the ‘special keg’.
Nick refused to be a part of illicitly drugging college women. He pushed his shoulder into the keg and used his strength to shove it forward until gravity took hold and pulled the thing crashing toward the floor.
A few of the ladies gave little screams of surprise as the keg cracked into wooden pieces and the liquid spilled across the dining patio. They quickly retreated from the mess so their feet wouldn’t get wet. Marshall looked struck with disbelief at what Nick had just done before the expression turned to pure loathing.
“What is wrong with you?!” he shouted and stepped forward in a pathetic attempt to intimidate Nick. Nick was much taller and packed a lot more muscle; Marshall could never physically intimidate Nick. The only power Marshall had was his name and family influence.
“What’s wrong with me? I don’t have to drug women to get them to sleep with me!” Nick retorted in the same volume with coiled fists.
The room got quiet at Nick’s outburst. Marshall held up his hands, to temper Nick, suddenly seeming a bit nervous at all the attention. He would have loved it at any other time.
Nick suddenly wondered how many of his bros knew about the Torporia? Did Rafael know Marshall was putting in in the drinks now? He glanced around the room and saw some party guests whispering to each other with troubled expressions. They weren’t drinking from their cups anymore.
Nick gave one last look of disgust toward Marshall before leaving the patio. His spirit for partying had died as soon as those pills had dissolved.
He felt someone grab his arm but he wasn’t in the mood. He turned to tell them off but his lips were set upon in a hungry kiss from one of the sorority sisters. He backed her against the wall to return the kiss before pulling away to see who she was.
Guilt overtook him, reminded what Marshall had said. Tara had been drugged last night. He pulled away and she reluctantly let him. She gave him a pout, and he returned an apologetic expression. How could he even explain to her what happened without her thinking him a total creep? Before he could find words, she made a frown of displeasure because he wouldn’t reconsider, and turned on him with an indignant huff while grabbing onto a more willing participant. It hurt his heart a bit to watch her disappear upstairs with him.
“Nick has got to go,” he heard Marshall’s voice float around the corner from the dining patio. Nick sidled up to the wall to hear what kind of trash-talking Marshall was doing behind his back.
“What he did was really uncool,” Nick heard another frat brother say in agreement.
“I’m sure he had a reason,” Nick recognized Rafael’s voice. Yeah! Rafael would have his back!
“No one asked for your opinion, pleb,” Marshall snapped, “You’re just here to clean.”
Nick glared into nothing and though he couldn’t see them he knew that Rafael, who was still on cleaning duty was being forced to squeegee up Nick’s mess while the legacies bad mouthed him. This also proved Rafael didn’t know Marshall was using the Torporia to his advantage.
But this was the last straw. He never wanted to be in the fraternity in the first place and he sure didn’t want to be now that it was so nonchalant about serving mind-wiping drinks to the female party guests.
Nick decided then that he was done with the Greek society and Nick hated that Marshall would get what he wanted but he would go.
#18 6th Apr 2017 at 6:41 AM
That's right, Nick! I knew you were a stand-up guy deep down... really deep down.
I forgot to say it before, but the third picture in Ch.5 is SO powerful. The creative angle, combined with Reggie's expression, combines to make an image that stands out even above the other fantastic pictures you've captured in this work. It's the sort of image that stays with you long after you've closed the browser and moved on with your day, one that evokes emotion on a near-primal level. Well done, my friend. Well done indeed.
I forgot to say it before, but the third picture in Ch.5 is SO powerful. The creative angle, combined with Reggie's expression, combines to make an image that stands out even above the other fantastic pictures you've captured in this work. It's the sort of image that stays with you long after you've closed the browser and moved on with your day, one that evokes emotion on a near-primal level. Well done, my friend. Well done indeed.
"Passion makes no accommodation for self-preservation."
#19 9th Apr 2017 at 7:09 AM Last edited by Charmful : 3rd Jun 2017 at 8:32 AM.
Chapter 9: Ambition
Leona Hillenburg wrote out the solution to an equation furiously, her wrist felt like it was going to break off. It didn’t help that her PEMDAS professor was worked up and circling her like a hawk. Neither of them particularly wanted to be there on a Sunday afternoon but Leona had to make up her midterm somehow.
She took a pause and made a small groan of frustration before erasing a mistake she caught in her numbers.
“You know, you could be a little more grateful,” Professor Carr chided, “I didn’t have to let you make this midterm up.”
“I know, thank you,” she mumbled sheepishly and kept writing, making sure to add a cough in for good measure.
She had told him she had been too ill to come take her midterm the Thursday before. She really had skipped it because it was the same time that the only audition for ‘SimNation Idol’ in Kashmire was being held.
Leona had always been ambitious when it came to making a name for herself concerning music. Her instrument was her voice and she was a damn fine singer. While she didn’t want to fail out of university, her priority was to take every chance she could to achieve her goal.
Professor Carr wandered around the desk. He erased some markings on the board that looked like some students had come into the lecture hall after hours to play a game of tic-tac-toe.
Leona did the math in her head for the last equation. It was an advanced string of operations. She flexed her brain, calculating the math and everything around her seemed to melt away as she focused. Why was she even taking mathematics? Did it do anything to advance her skills as a singer? No. It was because she had always been good at it and her parents encouraged her to get a degree ‘just in case.’ She hated to think that she could fail at her dreams of becoming a professional singer.
Then the answer to the equation came to her as she finished up the last formula.
“Done,” she chirped out with relief and set down the pencil.
Professor Carr whisked the booklet up and grabbed his coffee, “Leona, may I see you in my office before you leave?”
She didn’t see why she needed to go to his office. She was right there in the lecture hall and she was growing impatient. She had a meeting at noon she couldn’t miss. Nevertheless, she followed the professor to his office in the same building. It was a small space but had enough room to fit a couple of cozy chairs, a bookshelf, and a desk.
He dropped her test booklet on his desk, took a long drink from his coffee container, and then turned around to face her before setting it down. He had a distasteful look of smugness about him.
“Is there anything else you need?” she finally asked.
“Despite your lack of commitment to my class, it’s undeniable that you have a knack for numbers, you could really take off in this area—even run equations for the SSU robotics programming team.”
Leona didn’t want to have anything to do with the robotics program. Her old flame, Antoine Thackery, was brilliant with robotics and the math that went with it. He was one of the few people who really understood her but he was gone now. He had since graduated and was off halfway across the world giving talks and demonstrations on the advancements he’d made. Robotics had taken him away from her indefinitely and though she had always thought her friend Illyana was ridiculous for her overdramatic grudges, Leona couldn’t help but to have one for those damned robotics projects.
“Are you done lecturing me, sir?” she nearly snapped.
Professor Carr frowned, “I know you weren’t sick on Thursday.”
She couldn’t hide her surprised stare, yet still acted like she didn’t know what he was talking about and kept silent.
“Someone uploaded your SimNation Idol audition to social media,” he went on, “and I’d hate to see you waste your potential. Now, I could automatically fail you for missing your test for no valid reason but that doesn’t benefit anyone.”
She frowned, so he thought she was wasting her time trying to amount to something? What the hell did he know? She didn’t understand what he wanted from her and he could see it plain on her face.
“Join the robotics program, run their equations and I will give this the grade it deserves.”
Carr was the faculty advisor for the robotics program. Of course, he could stand to benefit greatly if she joined and her formulas proved to be an asset to the team. There were prestigious college-level robotics competitions and now that Antoine had left the college scene, victory was anyone’s game.
Leona filled her cheeks with air in frustration, still a frown of contempt pasted on her face. If she failed the midterm, then she’d go on probation. She had missed a lot of work due to chasing auditions her agent had told her about. She was barely scraping by.
“Fine, I’ll do it,” she let out her breath, sending a curl of hair blowing outward. “Where and when do they meet?”
“Saturday Nights, six o’ clock in the engineering facility” he replied.
Really? They have nothing better to do on a Saturday night than sit around and play with robots? She thought with annoyance but then supposed any college student had their own way of going out to socialize and have fun but robotics didn’t fit her idea of fun.
She gave a curt nod, obviously displeased about the deal, but it was her only option to stay off probation at the moment, “All right.”
“Have a good day. See you tomorrow,” Professor Carr said dismissively and Leona wasted no time in leaving the building and the professor behind.
Joe’s Boxcar Diner was an unassuming little establishment in King’s Station, a section of Scandalica City that contained mostly food-related businesses. It was lunch time and there was already a line of hungry patrons waiting to be seated. Leona wasn’t there for food, though; it was excitement, not hunger that rumbled in the pit of her stomach. She scanned the room and found her agent already had secured a small table.
Naomi Drake was as shrewd a negotiator as any talent agent. The woman had told Leona to meet her at this diner because she had some news, hopefully regarding an audition or a new gig. Naomi was in the middle of re-applying her lipstick in a hand mirror when Leona approached the table. Her dark eyes roamed upward and she smiled in greeting, “Hey there, how did the SimNation Idol audition go?”
“It was fine, they seemed really impressed anyway,” Leona replied then threw up her arms, reminded of the advice Naomi had given her when she told her that her midterm was the same day, “But my professor found out that I skipped my midterm to do it and now I have to join the robotics program or else he’ll fail me.”
Naomi laughed and put her lipstick back into the purse at her side, “That’s a drag. I got some good news for you, though. You better sit down, girl.”
Leona promptly took a seat and sat forward with interest, “So what’s up? What did you want to meet about?”
“I didn’t tell you sooner because I didn’t want to get your hopes up but I heard Edric King’s reps were looking for a fresh-faced back-up singer for his show in Pandora. I took the initiative and submitted your demo the other week and well, they called this morning and they want you!”
Leona’s smile momentarily faltered—she wouldn’t be center stage but—at least it was a start! Edric King was a big deal. He had two top 20 hits, was played on the radio, he sold albums and performed at concerts. In fact, she bet that a bunch of teenage girls had posters of him plastered on their walls at this very moment.
“That’s great! So is it just a one-time thing? Or will I have to tour with him?"
"It’s a trial basis. If they like you enough, I can negotiate a deal. Either way, this is a good boost to your career.”
Leona leaned back in her seat and put her arms up and nodded in agreement. Wow. Singing with Edric King. That really was an opportunity! The more she thought about it, the less she worried about how she was regulated to the background. If she impressed anyone else, it would open more doors for her. She didn’t even care to ask how much she could be paid. Naomi would make sure she got the money and take her own cut either way. The money didn’t matter to Leona as much as the chance to make progress in her singing career.
“So when is it? The concert in Pandora?” Leona asked.
Naomi swiped through her phone calendar, “It’s next Saturday night at the Sunset Amphitheater, he takes the stage at nine-thirty. I’d advise you make a trip out of it and try the casino down there. Also the six-hour drive there and back in a day is no fun.”
Leona nodded but then suddenly felt an awful nagging at the back of her mind. The robotics program met on Saturday nights. Plumbobs, what an inconvenient time for a stupid extra-curricular group to meet! She grew furious thinking about it. There was no way she was going to throw away this chance! If she made it–if this was the last nudge she needed before she took off–then it wouldn’t matter if she were in college or not.
"I’ll do it,” she said resolutely.
There were certain logistics to work out still, Leona realized as she was heading back to her apartment on the SSU campus. Transportation was something of an issue. The bus took twice as long and could get expensive for out-of-city destinations like Pandora, the desert town in southern-most Kashmire.
Leona didn’t even have her driver’s license, she grew up in the city where she walked nearly everywhere. llyana, had a jeep, though….
An idea struck Leona then and she called her two best friends to invite them over and break the amazing news.
Alarie Thackery sat on Leona’s bed and Illyana Sanchez was perched on the microphone speaker, both young women wondering what Leona was going to say. They wondered what was so important to have them come over and be left in suspense?
Leona closed the door behind her and turned around, looking as if though she was going to burst from happiness. “Edric King wants me as a back-up singer at his show next weekend!”
Alarie squealed and she and Leona were suddenly in a tizzy of excitement.
“Who?” Illyana asked. She didn’t listen to the pop station that often and was out of the loop, looking a bit dismayed.
“You must be living under a rock,” Alarie snorted, and leaned forward in amusement, “Everyone knows who Edric King is. He’s that hot pop singer guy with the hair.”
“Well congratulations then,” Illyana rolled her eyes, more at Alarie than Leona. She really was happy for Leona now that she understood who she was going to sing with. She probably had heard him on the radio at one point, and just didn’t know it was his song. Illyana’s cheer was still very subtle, though. Leona could tell Illyana was still bummed about the break-up. That was the other reason Leona wanted her there.
“So, I thought…maybe we could all go down there next week and have a girly weekend or something since it’s Fall break,” Leona said, testing the idea.
Alarie perked up, visibly concurring it was a great idea.
Illyana looked…hesitant until realization dawned on her, “Do you just want me along so I can drive you?”
“No..well yes, I would like you to drive but I would pay for gas and the hotel room” Leona admitted, “Also, I think it’ll be good for you. It’s warm and sunny down in Pandora. Plus you could get lucky and try your hand at the casino.”
“Or you could get lucky and snag yourself a rebound,” Alarie wasn’t one to mince words and went straight to the point as she leaned back onto Leona’s bed. Illyana could benefit from taking her mind off Adam and focus on someone else, if only for a few days. Pandora was not without a myriad of high rollers—young businessmen and professionals who came to gamble on the weekends from the big cities of Kashmire.
Illyana mulled it over, still looking hesitant, but finally nodded with a small smile, “Fine, I’ll drive you guys there. What kind of friend would I be if I left you high and dry?”
Alarie and Leona returned the smile and then looked at each other knowingly, next weekend was going to be unforgettable.
#21 12th Apr 2017 at 7:40 AM Last edited by Charmful : 13th Aug 2021 at 10:15 PM.
Home Cooked Meal
Chapter 10: Home Cooked Meal
Despite working at the bakery that his mother owned, she hadn’t come into work for the past few days, citing she needed time off for personal reasons. She had her bakers on the clock and they had replenished the edible stock, all the while Franz took money at the till. He didn’t know for a fact, but he had the feeling that his mother was avoiding him. Especially since he confronted her about what Shelby Barnett was there for last Tuesday Afternoon.
His mother was good at deflection and so Franz wasn’t left with a clear answer but he could connect the dots nonetheless. Alanna had told him that the woman was with a company that was into business mergers and acquisitions—the bakery was a business—so what else could she have wanted?
Franz finally had a chance to discuss in more detail the situation come Sunday night when he joined his mother for dinner. He didn’t live at home anymore, neither did his sister but since home wasn’t that far away they made it back once a week to eat together as a family.
It had always been just the three of them, as well as the family cats. Franz didn’t know who his father was, and his mother refused to talk about him. Franz had stopped wondering years ago and just accepted their family as it was.
Usually, on Sunday evenings Franz would return to his childhood home and be greeted with the smell of something delicious cooking. His mother was an excellent cook, and excellent baker who learned the trade and skill from his immigrant grandmother who had started the bakery business years before he was even born.
The bakery offered a sort of history to his family, something to be proud of and that was why he was suddenly so concerned about a company like the Cosgrove Collective talking to his mother.
“Mom?” He called as he entered the house. It was the same as it ever was, decorated in green, with outdated striped wallpaper that he was told his grandfather liked. He looked into the kitchen where his mother spent most of her time, but it was empty.
“In here,” he heard her answer and he peeked around the corner into the dining room to see her in one of the dining chairs—a bundle of envelopes and an adding calculator on the table top. Lemoncake, their old, yellow cat was snoozing on the table as well.
“I was wondering if I could talk to you about something…” Franz put his weight into leaning on his arm in the open door frame between the dining room and kitchen. Lemoncake’s ears twitched but he didn’t wake up from his catnap.
“I need to talk to you too,” his mother turned around to face him.
Yvette Schoulsburg had never looked so tired. Her skin had the fine wrinkles that came with aging, with running a business and raising twins on her own, and the dark bags under her eyes were significantly pronounced.
“Mom, are you okay?” Franz asked, slightly taken aback by how exhausted she looked. He noticed the pile of envelopes on the table were stacks of bills. That was odd, she had always been able to afford the business property taxes, the building was all but paid off since his grandmother’s passing, so why did his mother have piles of bills?
She gave him a hard look but it soon softened, “I’m selling the bakery.”
It was like someone had socked him in the gut. He didn’t understand why it was happening, why now? The question was plain on his face—usually, it was covered with indifference but his mother could tell that when it broke into such an expression, he truly cared.
“I can’t continue to work like this,” she sighed and turned to gather up the bills, shifting Lemoncake slightly to grab a stray envelope. Lemoncake yowled in protest.
“Do I need to take on more hours? Does Fauna? What can we do to help?” Franz questioned, “I can take over running it if you need to retire.”
“You still have two years left of school, don’t be silly.”
“I’ll quit. Just…don’t sell it. Please,” he was nearly begging. He could tell his mother pitied him by the look she gave him, her usual cold crystalline eyes suddenly started shimmering with tears. He’d never seen her cry in his life.
“I’m sick, Franz,” she finally said—quiet with a weary tone, “Selling the business will help pay for medical expenses. I’m sorry but it’s the only way to keep up the treatments.”
Her tone indicated it was more than a just a common cold.
“Sick?” He repeated, but his word required an explanation. She must have known it for awhile for her to be having so many medical bills. Had she hid it from them? “For how long?”
“It’s been a year. At first, I thought I could push through with sheer will but it’s getting worse so I started treatment last spring.”
“Will you get better?”
She didn’t confirm that statement, but in a movement uncharacteristic of her, she pulled her son into an embrace and held him there. He didn’t know how to feel. He wanted to have hope that she was going to get better but her silence wasn’t indicative of hope. She had always been a realist, and somewhat of a cynic which had projected into him and shaped his views on the world too.
His breathing hitched as he involuntarily squeezed her, imagining a future without her and how unpleasant that would be.
This was a time he could have used Alanna’s upbeat and eternally optimistic attitude. What would she say in a situation like this? She was studying biology, maybe she knew of something—a statistic or new experimental medicine that could raise their hopes for his mother’s recovery. He didn’t even know what his mother was sick with but knew asking her would put her off. She would tell him in her own time.
After a moment, his mother pulled away and cleared her eyes, “Can you make dinner tonight? I don’t have the energy. I’ll clean up this mess though.”
She gathered the various papers into a neat pile, and threw away empty envelopes, “Don’t tell your sister any of this, not yet. I need to break it to her rather gently. You know how emotional she can get.”
He nodded, and speaking of the nuisance, they heard the front door open and an obnoxious proclamation of, “I’m home!”
Franz turned around to acknowledge his noisy twin, she had stopped in the kitchen with her hands on her hips after giving him a look, “I can’t believe we’re wearing the same color shirt! UGH, it’s like we have twinstinct or something!”
Franz glanced down at his blue shirt. They did look pretty match-y, which they both tried to avoid ever since they were nine and started to recover from their mother's 'my-twins-must-match-in-everything' phase.
“Blue is one of the most popular colors in the world, it’s just a coincidence,” Franz explained with a frown.
She gave a little scoff at his logical conclusion and he passed her to find something in the fridge to cook for dinner. He found a set of pork chops wrapped in butcher paper and figured that was what his mother originally planned to cook. While he took out ingredients to prepare dinner and season the meat, he couldn’t help but to overhear his sister and mother talking. Well, mostly Fauna because she had a loud voice.
“So I invited a friend over for dinner, I hope you don’t mind. I figured it was okay since Franz sometimes has his girlfriend over.”
He felt prickled at her constant references to Alanna being his girlfriend. He knew she just did it to wind him up because he hardly ever expressed himself and she wanted a reaction. He decided to ignore her and not give her the satisfaction. Alanna had been too busy to come over for dinner for awhile now but she was well-received by his mother in any case and had learned to take Fauna’s word with a grain of salt since they began their friendship.
“That’s fine,” his mother confirmed and shooed Lemoncake out of the dining room. Dolce, another one of their cats, had jumped up on the breakfast bar and was curiously sniffing the air because it smelled like raw meat.
Franz flattened each cut of pork chop, hoping Fauna would find something better to do that try to get a rise out of him. Luckily, the doorbell rang and she went to answer it in a gleeful scamper. She returned to the kitchen with a man about the same build as Franz but not as tall. He had too much gel in his hair. Franz could tell at once that the guy was more than just a friend as far as Fauna was concerned, the way she led him in and kept her hands on him—a touch to the back, a pull at the upper arm.
Dolce was skitty around strangers and darted off the counter and into another room at the sight of him.
“Mom, this is Adam,” Fauna introduced her 'friend’ and he shook hands with their mother in greeting.
“It’s a pleasure,” his mother responded in a forced politeness. She seemed somewhat suspicious of the man, but his mother had always been that way around men, especially those Fauna was likely to bring around. He supposed this had to do with the mysterious father that was never in their lives. His mother could see through Fauna’s deceit too—Adam was definitely more of a romantic pursuit for her daughter.
Franz knew that his twin sister was well past a pursuit phase with Adam. Fauna could have chalked it up to twinstinct but he didn’t have to have first-hand experience to know–his observations of people over the years gave the distinct impression they had already hooked up.
“Thanks for having me over,” he said cordially.
“That grump-o-saurus over there is my twin brother, Franz,” Fauna threw in a quick introduction by giving an off-hand wave to Franz.
Franz only nodded slightly in acknowledgment.
Franz finished preparing dinner and loaded the pork chops onto a tray and into the oven. His mother left the room, to take her stack of bills away before Fauna had care to notice. Meanwhile, Fauna and her boy-toy were loitering in the kitchen and talking but Franz had tuned them out to think of ways he could somehow save the bakery from being sold off and as well as a solution to his mother’s financial struggles regarding her sickness.
A sharp hiss broke into his thoughts and he saw that Lemoncake had jumped onto the breakfast bar and was making his opinion of the new man in the house known.
“Whoa there kitty cat!” Adam seemed startled. Lemoncake was growling and arching his back.
“Lemoncake!” Fauna admonished and swiped him off the counter. He didn’t go quietly and meowled on his way out of the kitchen.
“The cat doesn’t think much of you,” Franz stated, crossing his arms and staring forward at the oven.
Fauna glared at him and they heard their mother call her name from the other room. Franz wondered if this was when their mother would break the news to Fauna. Fauna made a quick apology to Adam and said she’d be right back, leaving him in the kitchen with Franz.
Silence wasn’t something Franz ever felt uncomfortable with and thought that people, in general, had a weird attitude when it came to such a thing—trying to fill it in with mundane chatter when staying quiet was much more peaceful. Adam was no exception.
“Faun said you didn’t talk much,” Adam noted.
Franz only proved so by not replying.
“So what’s for dinner? It smells good,” he took a breath and made a show of appreciating the aroma of the food cooking in the oven.
“Pork chops,” Franz answered, not moving a muscle from the same position he was in—leaning against the island counters with his arms crossed.
Lemoncake pattered back into the kitchen and perched on the same spot he was before Fauna had chased him out. His golden eyes were alert and watching the dinner guest.
“So the ladies made you cook tonight, eh?”
Franz disliked the tone Adam took—insinuating that Franz was less capable or less masculine for cooking food—which in his opinion was a baseline skill for all adults of any gender. Usually, Franz wouldn’t have dignified him with a response but needed to make it clear to Adam that he wasn’t to be fucked with just because he was known to be quiet. In many cases, someone who was quiet was assumed to be unconfrontational, and Franz was not above getting his fists bloody if need be, “My whole family consists of talented cooks, myself included.”
With that said, he turned his head slowly and looked at Adam with an expressionless stare—the kind of stare that put most people on edge, “Do you have a problem with that?”
Adam gave a nervous laugh and held up his hands, “No bro, of course not.”
“I’m not your bro,” Franz had to subtly grind his teeth together. Fauna’s taste in men was so iniquitous.
Adam seemed to bite his tongue and realize that idly chatting was getting him nowhere. Good. Franz could inwardly sigh in relief that silence had returned. Adam shuffled from foot to foot in a bored, anxious manner before saying, “I’d better see if Faun needs anything.”
With that excuse, he left the kitchen.
Good riddance, Franz thought as he opened the oven to check on the state of the pork chops.
Within a half hour, they were all seated at the dining table and the silence had been dissolved by Adam and Fauna, who were chattering back and forth. If his mother had told Fauna about her sickness, Fauna didn’t seem affected.
His mother was quiet, which was common for the most part but she was usually quite inquisitive when it came to meeting the friends of her children. She didn’t seem to take breaths between questions the first time Franz had invited Alanna over for dinner. Then again, Alanna was the first friend Franz had made in years so it was a special occasion. Fauna was much more of an extrovert and made friends easily, but she never seemed to understand the importance of maintaining them so they would come and go like the seasons.
“So, where did you two meet?” their mother finally asked a question.
“I met him downtown a couple weeks ago, I forget the bar, which was it?”
“Garden of Eden,” Adam replied.
“Yeah, that was funny because your name is 'Adam' and all! It's the club is in Scandalica City, it's the one with all the trees and plants inside! You know the place Mom?”
The facial expression on their mother left something to be desired. An unsure smile. It was clear she didn’t know the place. Franz had never been there either. He didn’t get out much unless it was to the library.
“So do you go to Sim State too?” She asked to Adam instead.
“I did but am on a break,” Adam replied, and at seeing the narrowing of Mrs. Schoulsburg’s eyes he quickly deflected any demands to expound on the statement, “What about you Franz? Where do you go to school?”
“He goes to the community college here in town,” Fauna answered for him and grabbed a salt shaker. She had the annoying habit of answering questions for her brother ever since they were kids because he usually took a minute to think his answer through before saying it and she was too impatient to wait for him if she already knew the answer.
A subtle ripple of emotion crossed Adam’s face ever so briefly and only Franz seemed to notice but didn’t care to know what it was in reference too. He kept on eating his dinner, not bothering to add anything worthwhile to the conversation. He kept stealing glances at his mother to see if she was doing okay. He doubted she was sick enough to pass out into her plate but he didn’t know the extent of it and it was a kind of torture not knowing. He couldn’t very well blurt out his question in front of company, and especially if Fauna hadn’t been told about it yet.
The news of the bakery and his mother’s sickness weighed heavy on him, and he ended up retreating into his own thoughts the remainder of dinner, ignoring what was being said by the others.
After he and Fauna helped clear up dishes, Fauna bid them farewell and left with Adam.
Franz sat in the living room and watched TV with his mother, it was a baking competition show. She loved to point out the mistakes of the contestants and it actually caused Franz to smile, especially whenever she got worked up about the ingredients they used. Lemoncake made himself a new napping spot in Franz’s lap for the duration of the program. The old, yellow cat was a bit like Franz—anti-social but loyal to those he trusted. He absently stroked Lemoncake until the feline was purring loudly in his sleep. After the show ended, his mother told him she was turning in, and thanked him for making dinner.
“Do you have…I mean…what are you sick with?”
Like he had anticipated, she seemed a bit annoyed and gave a half-sigh and yawn at the same time before disappearing upstairs, "Vile Body Tissue.“
He had suspected as much from what she had alluded to earlier. A VBT was serious but survivable with the right treatments, which were notoriously expensive. It also depended on where it was in the body. But that was all he knew of the disease. He shifted his position causing Lemoncake to fall between his legs onto the sofa.
How could he even help at this point? He gave a few pets to Lemoncake as he thought, feeling the vibrations of the cat’s purring at his fingertips.
His mother needed the money the Collective was offering to buy the bakery, was there a way he could get the same amount to pay for her treatments? His only job was working at the bakery. He could take a second job, or find something else that would pay. It had to be a big increase though. He could see about using his scholarship money; he’d gotten quite a bit from the Culinary Arts Foundation that he had yet to use. The community college awarded him module bonuses every semester based on his grade. He had been saving that money for the future and it could be used as well–but it didn't seem it was enough.
He just felt so helpless in this situation.
He loved the bakery.
He loved his mother.
Now he was at risk of losing them both.
#22 16th Apr 2017 at 8:47 PM
Chapter 11: Rank Milk
Orion had completed his midterm. His grade wasn’t posted yet, and that fact made him nervous. It could be that it had only been two days and the professor hadn’t had time yet, or Orion’s test was the worst one the professor had ever seen and decided to trash it rather than mar the university website with such a low score. Orion knew it made sense that the former was more likely the explanation but a tiny, annoying, fretting voice inside him kept claiming the latter was possible.
Ever since Cain had brought him Tranquilicis, Orion had taken a pill whenever he felt anxiety coming on. It really did wonders for his nerves. He decided to take a pill instead of worrying about his grade and that tiny part of him that kept worrying so much. He pushed the pill bottle back into the drawer of his nightstand and was about to go downstairs before pausing in the hallway. He called, “Hey Cypress?”
Cypress had been held up in his room as of late with his door closed. He seemed a lot more grumpy too. Orion wanted nothing more than to cheer the guy up. Cypress enjoyed watching soccer and Orion knew there was a game coming on soon.
“Want to watch the soccer match? The Quincy Revolvers are playing Memosa Bay Bombardiers tonight.”
“I’m trying to get started on a paper, but maybe I’ll come down later.”
No wonder Cypress was in a bad mood. He hated doing college papers. Orion briefly thought of Inviting Cain over to watch the game since Cain also liked soccer but decided not to bother him. He didn’t want to come off as too needy and end up pushing Cain away. Cain would come around when he felt like it, that was a good as it was going to get for now.
Orion perched himself on the couch and used the remote to switch the television on and change it to the sports channel. He wasn't that big of a fan but could probably benefit from learning more about the sport and become more knowledgable so he'd know what his friends were talking about when they started conversations about it. The pre-game commentary was almost finished.
The Tranquilicis taking effect and was really nice not having to worry so much, that near-constant ball of anxiety stuck in his chest had unraveled significantly and the voice was less than a whisper in his mind. His stomach grumbled and he realized he should probably make himself some dinner while there were still commercials.
Orion hopped up, went into the kitchen and opened the fridge to scope out the food options. A rank odor suddenly filled his nostrils and he recoiled. It was clear the milk had expired. He stopped breathing momentarily and snatched the milk off the fridge shelf, pushing it into the trash.
That made it worse. The smell once contained in the cold air of the fridge was now spreading quickly around the rooms on the first floor. He gathered the trash bag up quickly, intending to toss it out front in the garbage by the street when he was stopped abruptly.
A large black and white figure with fake beady eyes was looking right at him and was right in his way. He hadn’t even heard them enter.
They pointed to his shirt, indicating he had something on it. He hoped he didn’t accidentally spill any of that rotten milk on himself. When he glanced down, he was relieved to find nothing amiss but was promptly flicked in the nose.
It stung, surprisingly, and he dropped the trash bag to cover the inevitable sneeze while shouting in protest. The Cow Mascot started howling with laughter at Orion’s gullibility. He’d never had that move pulled on him before.
The trash spilled on the floor, milk chunks splashed upward, and the smell got worse. Orion sneezed twice, loudly.
When he opened his eyes, Cypress was next to him. He must have heard the commotion and had come downstairs to investigate. Cypress was taking in the scene and concluding that the bothersome cow mascot was in their house again. Orion never saw such a glare of pure loathing.
The mascot had wandered into the living room and was watching the start of the soccer match. It seemed like everyone was into the sport except Orion. The cow mascot, or whoever was under that costume, was exceptionally rude and crude. Orion and Cypress’s house had been targeted a few times over their college years; the evil mascot was always doing annoying moves like belching in their faces or setting off their fire alarm, and Cypress’s loathing toward the thing only grew deeper and deeper with every visit.
“Hey!” Cypress barked with his fists clenched; his sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms.
The Cow Mascot turned to acknowledge Cypress but was met with a fist in the snout. The Mascot stumbled to the side.
The costume must have cushioned the blow but Cypress was relentless and brought up his knee into their gut. They made an ’oof’ sound and staggered backward trying to maintain balance.
Before they could make a motion to leave or even defend themselves, Cypress aimed another punch which nearly spun the head of the costume in a full circle.
Orion watched, in shock as his friend raged on the rival mascot. He’d never seen Cypress so angry before, he’d never seen Cypress fight anyone before. Sure the cow mascot was a pain, but was the cow mascot really bad enough to warrant such a reaction?
Cypress brought his barrage of assaults on the mascot to the finale by headbutting the thing hard enough that it fell backward and sent the modular coffee table parts sprawling across the living room. Orion gave a shout of surprise and stepped backward from the clatter. Before Cypress could pull the mascot up to do it all over again, they fled right out the front door.
“Don’t ever come back here or your dead!” Cypress bellowed out into the night, standing stiffly with his arms crossed. Hopefully, the threat caught the cow’s ears and proved to keep them away forevermore.
Orion started picking up the coffee table pieces and putting them back together. He looked up and saw Cypress surveying the damage from the living room entryway, “Are you okay?”
Cypress’s lingering frown lifted to surprise, and he wiped a piece of hair out of his eye, “Why are you asking me that? You’re the one that got your nose bonked.”
Orion set the coffee table parts back into place and thought. Cypress had always been the most chill guy he knew. This angry side of Cypress was so well hidden he hadn’t even known it existed. Unless it was only a side of his best friend that had developed in recent college years. Finally, he quietly mumbled, “It’s just…I’ve never seen you so angry before.”
“Well you already know I hate that flipping cow mascot, and what do you expect me to do when it comes in and starts picking on you? Stand for it?”
“I guess not,” Orion agreed and stood. He held his breath and gathered up the trash that has spilled back into the bag, “It sucks it had to come in when I was trying to get this funky milk out of the house.”
He looked to Cypress and saw he was wearing a sheepish smile, “Sorry my bad. I forgot to throw it out when it expired.” He held out his hand, “Let me take it out then.”
Orion gladly let him take the bag. Cypress grinned, “Then we can sit down and watch what’s left of the game.”
Orion returned the grin and nodded, that sounded like a good resolution to the eventful evening. Though he was still hungry, maybe a bowl of ramen would suffice? It was a pretty quick meal.
Cypress’s grin soon faltered as they heard a quick repetitive knocking from the front door. Could the mascot be back so soon after such a beat-down? Cypress would be happy to oblige if the mascot was looking for a re-match.
Cypress pulled open the front door ready to eviscerate the mascot but stopped short of hurling the garbage bag at the figure standing there as his anger melted into surprise and then confusion. He could detect Orion peek over his shoulder with the same sense of bewilderment.
His cousin was on the doorstep along with a duffel bag and two moving boxes.
Nick Hart immediately clasped his hands together in a desperate gesture of plea, “Can I stay with you guys? I just kind of moved out of my fraternity and have nowhere else to go.”
The game files and back up files for my current characters/hood are in a dire situation dealing with a dying/dead hard drive so I will continue to post the chapters I have (6 more) but this story might be in for a long hiatus afterward until I can figure out what to do to get my game/files running again. So to prolong time between now and running out of chapters I am only going to update on Sundays - this should give me at least a month to figure out what to do to get my files situated. If all else fails I will continue the story in text-only form and provide a link, but that's only if nothing can be done to retrieve them.
#23 16th Apr 2017 at 9:31 PM
The fifth pic is a treasure! The cow is like "Why you do this to me??"
#25 18th Apr 2017 at 6:21 AM
I'm so glad the cow got beat up! That annoying little plumb bob had it coming. Also, the picture of Franz + cat in the previous chapter is so freaking cute.
I hope your computer stops acting up! That's the worst.
I hope your computer stops acting up! That's the worst.
"Passion makes no accommodation for self-preservation."