‘Kian’s always hot, he’s like the hottest of the Three Hollywood Arts Stooges, dude’s got them sick abs and that nice hair and wow, he’s always so hot!’
To which Kian would reply with:
‘Of course I am, please remind Damien and Felix of this fact.’
Look, at first Kian had hated the whole circus theme that the band was going for in their performance costumes but now, seeing himself in front of the mirror all done up and snazzy, he was really getting behind it. Between the cool jacket that he had managed to piece together from thrifted materials and the fresh coat of polish on his guitar and the slight buzz rocking through his chest, Kian was definitely on some sort of rockstar high.
Or maybe that was the coke? Honestly, he couldn’t tell.
In the weeks leading up to Art Fest, Kian had spent plenty of time with Javi and Lucky rehearsing and getting to know each other and actually trying to figure out their bandsona. For the longest time, they were just three bros in a music room with a shitty little song and a whole lot of blind ambition. But now, they were really a band because now, they had a name.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, prepare for the hottest new pop-rock band of 2020: Jet Black Neon.
They had the style, the flair, the cool name, the hot band members, the killer tunes, the irresistible stage presence. Within no time, Kian was certain that they’d be gracing the front page of Rolling Stone with their tongues all hanging out like those dudes from AC/DC with all their little lady fans swooning over their sweaty towels. They’d be invited to all the cool parties as the hot, mysterious rock stars that people knew could party. They’d get the really good drugs for free…
Ah, that would be the life. All they had to do was get through Art Fest.
Kian had barely slept the night before, his fingers working his guitar over and over and over again until one of the strings finally snapped and cut a decent sized gash into his palm. Did he care? No, not in the slightest. Chicks dig cool scars and hell, Kian had already begun thinking up some long winded story on how he got it.
After getting ready and taking a hit of whatever the fuck he had left from the weekend before, Kian arrived at the building next to the stadium where Art Fest was being held. Guitar slung over his back, Kian rushed into the dressing room addressed to ‘Jet Blue Neon’ (who the fuck had gotten the name wrong? Jet Black Neon was cool, Jet Blue Neon sounded like some really lame Teletubby), door slamming into the wall as the boy burst in.
“JAVI MY BOY!” Kian chimed with a stupidly wide grin. “Good morning! How are you? Are you ready for today? I’m pumped, are you pumped? Dude, we’re gonna kill it out there. I'm so excited. Have you rehearsed? You should rehearse. Vocal warmups too, can’t get all prepubescent on me now, ya know? And where’s Lucky? Is he gonna be here soon? Fuck, I love that guy. He’s all sweet and nice ‘n shit, really evens out the band’s tone, ya know?”
“You can’t invited Dad,” Beth said, crossing her arms, and Tori pulled her hand back from her head, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow. “Well, I did, so looks like I can, actually,” Tori laughed. “Do you have an issue with it? He’s your dad, too, Liz.”
“Tori, I invited Mom. So you can't be all you, otherwise Mom will get all weird and I don't want to deal with that. Uninvite Dad.”
Tori scoffed, rolling her eyes again. “You —“
And then it registered what she said.
“Wait. Wait a second.” Tori dropped her arms, her eyes widening and her brows furrowing. “Oh my…you…,” she muttered slowly, and then she shook her head. “You did not do that, Elizabeth.” She narrowed her eyes at her, pursing her lips. “Beth. Beth, no. Oh my — you’ve got to be kidding me.” She breathed a deep sigh, putting her hand to her forehead and closing her eyes.
God, no. No, this couldn’t be happening.
“Let me get this straight,” she said, kneading her temple. She held up her other palm towards her sister, then opened her eyes. She closed her hand into a fist, glaring sternly at her sister, and she began to list all of the many effing unbelievable things about this…this whole situation. Her tone was condescending and thoroughly unamused, as was the gaze in her green eyes. “One, you didn’t expect that I’d invite Dad to my senior Arts Fest, which…okay, first off, Liz, what?” Seriously. Look, she knew that Beth wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of her father, but c’mon, really? “He’s your dad, too, Beth. Are you forgetting that? Jeez.”
Did she not expect her to invite him to…literally what? She had no idea what Beth’s line of thinking was. Yeah, obviously she invited Dad. Obviously he was going to come for who was obviously his favorite child (for good reason, might she add). Obviously. Where was the disconnect? Was something just not clicking? She didn’t get it.
Tori clicked her tongue. “Tsk, but past that…two, you invited Mom to my senior Arts Fest like you didn’t know that Dad was coming? Emphasis on my senior Arts Fest. And then three —“ Here, she had to heave a deep, dramatic sigh and roll her eyes, because seriously?! “You told me to be on my best behavior and uninvite Dad?” She fixed her gaze back on her sister, staring in stern, disbelieving silence before she dropped her hand, scoffing and then laughing, “Oh my God.”
The audacity. Seriously, the audacity. Beth needed to manage herself. She was forgetting who the older, more mature sister was and, thus, who was in charge. She didn’t get how that was easy to forget, but she knew Beth was convinced that she was mature enough to, like, handle herself or whatever, so obviously Beth was mildly delusional, and Tori supposed that in that case, it made sense why she forgot who was the boss around here so often.
She rolled her eyes, waving a hand dismissively. “You told me to just uninvite Dad, but, uh, I think you should be the one to uninvite Mom. I have seniority, you’re forgetting, and also, it’s going to be literal hell if she gets here and Dad is here.”
Tori had only ever been around both of them in public back when things were decent — back in eighth grade, when she’d still been in Maryland and everything had been a-okay besides…uh…at night. Even back then, the conversations had been full of narrowly-avoided arguments that Tori could feel the tension of, and…seriously, it just sucked ass. There was no other way to put it — it just sucked.
She couldn’t have that for her senior Arts Fest. It was her final Arts Fest. Ever. This would be it. This memory couldn’t be tainted by the presence of her mother.
“It's going to be so awkward," Tori groaned. "We won't be able to go anywhere with the two of them around, and you know once Dad sees us both he's going to want to hang out with us together. He hasn't seen you, since…school started, right? And especially after he sees…oh my God…Beth, this is going to be the actual worst. Congrats, you've ruined it."
"I haven’t seen Mom since school started, either, which just makes everything worse,” she huffed. “She’s going to pester me about…if I have a 'significant other' like she always does or something annoying like that because she's constantly on me about shit like that, and then I’ll have to…that’s…that’s just ugh. Seriously, Lizzie, did you not think this through? I didn’t want her around for a reason, and you went and invited her. Thanks for that. Oh my God…”
Not to toot her own horn, Tori was smart (and hot and clever and a total catch and…well, a whole list of other things that she wasn't going to boast right now) and even she couldn't figure out a way to get out of this without some kind of explosion. This was going to go disastrously.
Option one she thought originally was have them go their separate ways beforehand and meet their parents separately and enjoy their times separately, but then Mom would ask to see Tori because, again, they hadn't seen each other since the summer, and Dad would ask to see Beth because, again, they hadn't seen each other since the summer.
Option two…well, option two didn't exist because she really didn't have any other ideas.
So looks like it was time for an evasive action. Tori, Problem Solver Extraordinaire Mode: Activate.
She walked back over the seat at their booth, and she casually pulled it out. She dropped her purse to the side, adjusted the position of the chair again, and then she plopped down into it, smoothing her skirt.
And then she crossed her arms and huffed, her lips set in an indignant pout and her brows knit tightly with stubborn determination. “That’s it,” she said. “I’m sitting here for the rest of the Arts Fest, and you can just, like, go on without me. You can read my short story in my place and Mom and Dad will clap for you between nags, and I'll just sit here until they close down and have to pry me out of this chair by force.”
Was she throwing a temper tantrum?
Okay, yes, kind of, but before you said anything about her being a spoiled brat, don't act like you wouldn't if you were in her shoes, too.
Jeez. This whole situation should not have been happening.
Especially not on what was supposed to be pretty much her day.
The boy shrugged. “You know Twitter likes to blow things out of proportion.”
Ah of course it was Twitter.
“Make one comment and you’re a simp or an asshole or all of the above.” He let out a small chuckle. “It’s fucking stupid.”
Ha. He was right there. At least the kid had some awareness. Didn’t take much to cause drama or blow things out of proportion in HA, and it was fucking stupid.
At least if the chap was going to talk more than wanted, he wouldn’t be spouting pure idiocy.
“Thanks for the advice, but I’m not the one with the reputation for simping.”
Dalton had no idea what this guy’s reputation was, let alone his name but he was a little asshole wasn’t he. Certainly a brave little fucker. Maybe it was because he had some awareness about him but that comment wasn’t as annoying or irritating, it was somewhat amusing actually. Kinda like how it was amusing when Evie insisted in DMs that he was obsessed with her.
The boy reached across him and took back his bottle, taking a large swig of it before setting it down between them.
“I’ve had a shit day and my apartment is hot as balls. I’ll leave when I’m ready.” He said as he took another hit off his cigarette and glanced over at the other boy. “We gonna have a problem? Cause I was gonna let Jameson here distract me from all my problems, but if you’d like to take his place…just say the word.”
Of course they would be up on the roof for the same fucking reason. Shitty day, stuffy apartment. Well they did attend the same school and live in the same building and from what little he had said, they had some similarities in their views of both.
“You name your cigarettes?” He asked, a look of amusement on his face. Wasn’t there a guy who did something similar at the school already? Named his van or something. “Also Jameson? You got a crush on the actual Jameson or something?” He was talking about the dancer of course. If the guy was going to keep up the whole him being a simp for Evie thing, then Dalton would return the favour. He took another swig of the whiskey before responding to the rest of his words.
“If I’d like to take his place as your distraction? That’s not how you make a request or an invite.” He chuckled lightly as he spoke.
So roof boy wasn’t proving to be as shitty company as he initially expected. His subtle request, offer, whatever for a hook up was amusing though. He had been propositioned for hook ups enough times in enough ways for him to recognise the implication in the boy’s words.
A distraction huh? Well it wasn’t like he couldn’t use one himself, and while his usual partner for such occasions was Adriane, he didn’t want to deal with the whining of Chas or JJ tonight. Whatever. There was no point in overthinking things.
If he was going to stick around anyway, might as well make himself useful.
And here it was. The fucking arts fest, in all it’s glory, with the unwanted promise of his ‘family’ making an appearance because Slater couldn’t shut his damn trap. Being at arts fest, walking around the school grounds reminded him of the night he had found out that George and Miranda were coming in the first place. He’d ended up hooking up with the kid on the roof (still didn’t know what his name was, also didn’t care).
A distraction was a distraction, that was all you’d hear from him on the matter so don’t even try to probe for more information. In the weeks since, he’d moved out of that place and into his new apartment with Reid, which aside from his stupid griping about not getting enough beauty sleep, was tolerable.
His 18th birthday had passed, Lydia’s 17th had passed two days before. They’d spent hers at a suite in vegas that her dads paid for with a bag of popcorn he’d bought and topped off with a candle and no, there had been no hooking up or anything of the sort. The game was still ongoing even on the birthdays and neither of them wanted to be dubbed the loser.
For his, they’d spent a day out on the waves surfing, he taught her since she’d never gone surfing before, and she’d gotten him a cupcake with a candle. It was fun, he’d laughed and relaxed more than he had in a while. Not a bad birthday, decent couple of days. Even though the universe seemed to think otherwise these days, even he needed to have something to smile about every once in a while.
Oh yeah, and he’d spent the night of his birthday with the very attractive model next to him. Sex and a new pet goldfish that now sat on the desk in his room. That summed up their night. Nice and simple. That was the great thing about things between him and Adriane. It was always easy and uncomplicated.
“Ready for your performance?” Dalton asked as he waved off a student advertising his performance. He’d stopped by her place this morning to pick her up before driving to school and now they were walking the grounds together on their way to where her performance was going to take place. Him? He wasn’t doing anything for this year’s arts fest.
Yeah it was his senior year, last chance to perform, all the big wigs from the entertainment industry would show, blah, blah, blah. Wasn’t interested, didn’t care, and after learning that George and Miranda were coming, he had all the more reason to not want to do a performance of any sort. He wasn’t kidding when he said he didn’t need anyone knowing that they were related. Not performing would help keep things that way. Besides, if he performed, they’d probably just make comparisons between his performance and Slater’s, and of course Miranda would choose her son and his father would probably echo her sentiments to keep her happy. Fucking simp.
They had just reached the place where Adriane was set to perform or rather, walk the runway soon, and he was going to go and make himself comfortable in a corner somewhere when someone grabbed his shoulder.
If that was Slater or either one of their parents, he was going to –
“Dalton. I’ve been looking for you.” The plastics department advisor, Mr Marshall. They’d spoken a couple of weeks ago shortly after he had come back from his job in Hawaii but what did he want now?
“I noticed you’re not registered for any performance.”
“Yeah. I thought you said that was fine when we spoke about it the other time.”
At that the man frowned.
“I did not. I specifically told you to make sure you were signed up and had a performance ready to go in time for arts fest.”
He had? Well fuck. He’d tuned out of that conversation more than he thought. The man was going to force him to do a last minute performance or hit him with some penalty or something was he? Ah fucking hell.
“It’s disappointing to learn that you weren’t paying attention or didn’t remember my words.” Mr Marshall continued, crossing his arms. “Since you have failed to ready a performance for the arts fest as instructed, you’ll face the appropriate consequences once the event is over, unless by some stroke of luck you are able to get involved in an existing performance before the day finishes.”
This really wasn’t his year. He was just getting hit with one thing after another. Seriously. And this time he didn’t have any excuse because he hadn’t been paying attention during his conversation with the man. Fuck. He had no idea what the penalty was but in all his time dealing with Mr Marshall, the man he knew as his department advisor was anything but soft. Was he really going to have to go rushing to look for a performance right now?
Seriously, the day had only just begun and it already fucking sucked.
Casey was doing his best to try and keep his cool, but he was practically vibrating with excitement as Bella helped Avery take a seat beside him, and then she set about picking out a poem that she set on the music stand. He squinted at it, his lips trembling as he read over the lyrics.
“Here,” Bella sighed, “it is not finished and it needs to be edited but this is the best one I have.” She started humming, and he listened, starting to get some kind of rhythm down in his head. “Well, do you want to get started?”
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said, "I think... I think I got it." Casey responded and he looked down at his hands situated on the guitar as he started to pluck at some chords.
After a few minutes of practice plucking, followed by a few more minutes of him trying to add his vocals, he eventually got to something that he thought sounded decent. He tapped his foot along to the rhythm, nodding his head a little bit as he sang and played along, tweaking it here and there.
Eventually, he looked up from the guitar and smiled at Avery before smiling at Bella.
"Not bad, yeah? 'Course," he grinned as he let his hands relax. "We're gonna have to do a lotta practice to get all caught up and ready for the fair, ya know... so looks like you ain't getting rid of me quite yet, Bella." Hehe. Casey was a true genius -- he'd trick Bella into becoming his friend.
"If you like it, that is."
Turns out she had liked it, so...
Of course she would. Casey was a pro at what he did, and he could make anything sound good -- plus her poem had been really good. Sure, there'd been a little editing on her part because poems didn't translate straight to song lyrics right away, but he'd worked on it with Bella and Avery and now he could safely say that he was friends with both of them.
Avery was a cool little dude, and Bella was actually kind of sweet... even if she could be really feisty. But Casey was pretty sure he'd learned how to not get on her nerves quite as much as he had before, so... he was doing real, real great if he said so himself. Just saying.
But now... it was the day. The Day. Ya know, the Arts Festival day. Which meant that he was going to put all of that hard work to the test. He was ready to go out there and shine, and Casey just... he really, really, really couldn't wait.
There was nothing Casey Clairmont loved more than getting out on stage and hearing people screaming his name, and throwing stuff at him. By stuff, he mainly meant like... bras. There were a lotta bras. Sometimes there'd be flowers, or people's like cheap bead necklaces. Casey never really kept the stuff, but he appreciated the sentiment of his fans as they tossed their belongings at him while screaming his name.
Of course, this whole "Arts Festival" thing wasn't nearly on par with the concerts and the tours he was used to, which was kinda disappointing.
But hey, Casey was nothing if not the type of fella to find a positive even in the darkest of outcomes. So yeah, while he figured he wouldn't be getting bras stuck on his shoe while he danced across the stage, he'd still have fun. Plus, he'd get to prove to Bella that some poetry?
Better with music added.
And so here he was, bopping along, his shoulders bouncing up and down as he bobbed his head from side to side on his way towards the theater area thingy where he was set to perform.
Along his way, though, he saw Avery, and naturally he had to stop since this was kinda Avery's thing, too.
"Averyyyy," he called and came to a stop beside the freshman, and tossed an arm around his shoulders with a grin on his face. "How are ya, my man? Ready to go out there and just kinda," he dropped his arm from Avery's shoulder and leaned back, pretending to shred an air guitar, "ya know? On stage? While I guess ya won't be really doin' that, huh? Ya ready to hang backstage and watch me just," -- again, he mimicked shredding an air guitar -- "with Bellalala? Don't ahh... don't tell her I called her that, yeah? She'll kill me."
He let out a little laugh, even though he was dead serious.
Her arms pressed tightly around her abdomen, and she was trying to concentrate on her like... on her breathing or whatever. She was pretty sure that she'd read somewhere that that helped to calm nerves, although she was pretty sure that it just always made her nerves, like, ten times worse. But at least like, concentrating on breathing in and out gave her something to do, because she couldn't really focus on anything else.
She was like... she was ready, and yet she still had what felt like an eternity until the performance. Ash was kind of one of those people that would get ready like an hour early. Her sense of time? Not that greatest. But the last thing that she wanted was to be, like, late or rushing last minute to finish up.
Especially for something that was as important as the whole Arts Festival thing. Biggest grade of the year and representatives from Stardom and all that. No biggie.
She wasn't stressed at all.
(God she was going to be sick.)
There was a knock at her dressing room door, and Ash perked up. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked towards the door, eyebrows drawing together in confusion by who the hell was on the other side of the door. There was no way it was, like, her mom, and everyone else she knew was busy with their projects, so unless it was Lucky--
“Ash?” called the voice that was most definitely not Lucky. “You...in there?”
She hopped down from the dressing room table and crossed the room. Her eyebrows were still creased together in confusion as she opened up the door, but then the confused expression relaxed into a small smile when she saw that yeah, it was Trevor.
"What are you--" she cut herself off when she realized that, like, yeah, this would probably look suspicious as hell, so she glanced around to make sure no one was nearby, and then she took Trevor's hand and tugged him into her dressing room before she closed and locked the door.
She turned back to Trevor, her smile a little more confused as she stepped closer to him. Wordlessly, she leaned up and gave him a quick kiss on the lips before she lightly bit her lip. "What're you doing?" She asked. "Like, I thought you weren't ummm... like I thought you weren't coming to see the performance or like... whatever."
Because she was performing with Lucky, although she didn't mention this part aloud -- but Ash knew that that was why he wasn't going. Or, well, she'd assumed that he wasn't coming.
(Then again, it was safe to assume that Ash tended to think that most people weren't coming -- it was better that way, if you expected no one you cared about to show up. That way, if they didn't, you weren't disappointed, but if they did, you'd be super happy about it.)
"You look..." she hesitated, taking a step back to study his outfit, an awkward smile on her face. "Nice? I like the tie. It's cute." The rest of it looked like a grandpa on his way to church, but she didn't mention this part for obvious reasons.
But hey, Trevor's presence was working great as a distraction.
Javier had told Lucky not to worry. He also told Kian. Yeah, he'd been banned from the Arts Fest and yeah, it wasn't looking good for the band, but he'd figure things out. At least, that's what he liked to say when Lucky was melting down over something that usually wasn't Javi's entire fault. Kian was a lot more laid-back, so at least his worrying came from more of a concerned place than a sudden urge to punch things like a boy who shall not be named.
The boy was Lucky, by the way.
In case that wasn't clear.
But Javi knew better than to leave his boys hanging like that. Not after all the painstaking hours they'd spent building a real band from scratch. Hours were spent watching the other two boys lyricize, occasionally looking up words he knew he'd mispronounce and fumble on stage. At least he wasn't some kind of lead singer or anything. Just a guy and his bass guitar, with a killer voice to boot. Still, even Javi could admit that Lucky was a more natural lead on stage, both in presence and vocally. As wild as he could be, he was marginally more... put-together.
And if there was any way to prove he was just as committed to the band as the others, it was slipping into the festival with the full intent to do something. Lucky and Kian couldn't go up on that stage alone; they would suck ass without Javi. Things couldn't die there, not with everything at stake and everyone's eyes on him. Even Ricky was supposed to come, he'd heard, which he wasn't entirely sure how to take, but it was happening. It seemed some people hadn't gotten the memo he was banned.
Oh, well. Javi would have liked to have never been perceived by the smug bastard ever again, but at least with a performance he could prove just how much better he was than his childish loser fucking son.
After parking several blocks down the road thanks to the school's massive crowding, the curly-haired boy stepped out of his bright red car wearing an almost identical shade of red (P.S., for the faint of heart, don't ask how he ended up with his car in his possession again). Holding his bass haphazardly by the fingerboard, he trekked with a confident determination to the building housing upcoming acts adjacent to the performance area.
It surprisingly wasn't too hard to slip into building, considering he had an H.A. student ID and there were no wanted posters with his face on it pasted anywhere. The security staff were clearly overrun by the mass of entrants left and right, and Javi didn't blame them for failing to catch a teenager who quickly flashed an ID and slipped into the crowd of students flooding into the hallway. That was one benefit of being punctual for once; it was easier to blend in with everyone else who came at the right time.
Unsurprisingly, Javi was the first one in the room labeled "Jet Blue Neon" (What the hell? What dumbass thought anyone would name a band "Jet Blue Neon"?), setting his bass against the wall and scanning the room. Wow. It was some, like, real professional shit. Hopefully there wasn't an actual "Jet Blue Neon" comprised of their doppelgangers whose room he barged into.
On the table were a few plastic water bottles, which Javi helped himself to. He guzzled the drink in one drink, then crushed it with a veiny fist and tossed it in the garbage. He let out a heavy breath, recognizing the beginning stages of performance anxiety setting in. Fuck. I'm really here...
Had someone asked Javi over the summer where he thought he'd have been standing December 2020, he'd have said juvy or dropping out to work fast food. He was proud of the chance he'd been given, but it was hard to deny impostor syndrome when it stared you in the face every day waking up. Not to mention when your entire family literally tells you that you don't deserve it but, hey, Javi was never one to hold his parents' opinions to high standards. He supposed that was one nice thing about Ricky, king of all unpleasant assholes: the man praised him for pursuing a career in performing arts. Even Angel had expressed his doubts in Javi, albeit in a clumsily polite and roundabout way.
That's why he went and socked the kid in the face the other day. Just looking at his stupid, crooked face got the musician mad. And this time he had the audacity to be excited about Lin's dad showing for their stuff. It had been the first punch he'd thrown since Jace and Dorian, supercharged with anxiety, guilt, and seething resentment.
But all that stupid family shit didn't matter then. The main focus was surprising Lucky and Kian with his gorgeous, slightly bruised face. The past couple weeks had allowed him to heal almost completely, but there was still a faint of where Dorian had clocked him right on the cheek. Fucking dick. He hoped the crazy bitch had to wear another four layers of foundation to conceal the beating Javi gave him.
He sat up on the counter in the dressing room, his back to the mirror as he whistled a tune. He stared at the door long enough until he decided to pick up his electric bass and strum it. It didn't sound nearly as good as it did when plugged in because, well, that was the design, but it made good practice.
Finally, although in reality not much time had probably passed, the door to the dressing room swung open, unleashing a massive wave of energy throughout the room as Kian came crashing in. Javi jumped, immediately blushing in embarrassment upon his fragile masculinity being threatened by a quick scare.
“JAVI MY BOY! Good morning! How are you? Are you ready for today? I’m pumped, are you pumped?"
"Well, yeah, of fucking cour—"
"Dude, we’re gonna kill it out there. I'm so excited. Have you rehearsed? You should rehearse. Vocal warmups too, can’t get all prepubescent on me now, ya know?"
"Yeah, yeah," Javi quickly replied between Kian's words, fighting to catch up with the guy going a mile a minute. He looked his bandmate over, checking to see if he was on something, which he probably was. Even Javi hadn't come high or anything, so the thought of Kian having snorted something scared even him a little "This voice doesn't crack. It's hard as steel," he added in a baritone.
"And where’s Lucky? Is he gonna be here soon? Fuck, I love that guy. He’s all sweet and nice ‘n shit, really evens out the band’s tone, ya know?”
"Lucky's a prick, but okay," he answered, setting his bass to the side and hopping onto his feet. He drew in closer to Kian, narrowing his eyes and inspecting his face with little room for comfort. "You need to slow down. Are you high right now?" He invasively stretched the boy's eye open wider with his thumb and index finger, viewing his pupil.
He stepped back with crossed arms. "No one in their right mind thinks Lucky is fucking sweet. Didn't he punch you in the balls last week?" Shaking his head, he decided none of that mattered. They were going on soon, with little time to mull over trivialities. "I thought you'd at least be impressed I made it here, man. Wait 'til Ol' Fucky lays his eyes on me. He'll shit his pants knowing I'm about to go on stage." He'd also been shitting his pants all week over the state of their upcoming performance, but still.
"And wait 'til he lays his eyes on this." He turned around and pointed at his butt. "These pants make my ass look fuckin' godly. Right?"
Clearly, Adriane's roleplayer absolutely hated her by making a joke about something was so incredibly out of character for Adriane. Imagine her, with her perfectly manicured nails, with her outfits that cost most than most people's rent, walking into a pet store to get an... eww... pet.
Being at a pet store? Something Adriane would never do again. While she'd been there, some ill-behaved dog had jumped on her and when she had lightly kicked it off of her, its equal bitch of an owner had freaked out on her. Of course, Adriane had made sure the bitch ran away practically in tears because no one yelled at her and was able to get off just fine -- least of all some self-proclaimed "fur mom" that smelled like dog piss.
Anyway, so she'd gotten a fucking goldfish for Dalton as a birthday present. And yes, she'd held the bag between two fingers the whole time, so it was kind of a miracle she hadn't dropped and killed the fish on its way from the store to Dalton's new apartment. Speaking of which, eww. Disgusting. He was rooming with Mike.
At least Mike was easy enough to ignore. Just don't look down and you could forget that he was there.
So they'd hung for his birthday because Adriane was such an amazing friend and of course, they'd had sex.
Just kind of went with the territory of their friendship.
Anyway, it was the day of the big Arts Festival whatever. Adriane hadn't really had to do like... much of anything leading up to this. She was a model, and she was modeling. What else was there to say? Adriane had been doing this for as long as she could remember, and she knew that she would have job offers after graduation, so it wasn't like she was oh so worried about impressing whoever.
Sure, a lot of her fellow seniors might've been feeling sad about this being their last Arts Festival, but Adriane could care less. She didn't get all wrapped up in all of that sentimental nonsense.
Adriane, quite honestly, couldn't wait for senior year to be over.
And now, she was walking through the Arts Festival towards where her performance with Evie was going to be, accompanied by Dalton. Instead of driving separately, he'd come to pick her up that morning. Had she made him wait an extra, like, ten or fifteen minutes while she finished getting ready? Well, yeah, but she had to look good (even though she always looked good, but she really had to look better than just good).
“Ready for your performance?” Dalton asked.
Adriane let out a breathy sigh. "I suppose, although I am relying on Evie to make me look good. You know she makes her most of her outfits from nasty things from like thrift stores? Disgusting." Well, it was. Adriane didn't want to wear someone else's unwanted garments. Like ewww, who knew what those clothes had seen?
But she also didn't have anything else to do for the Arts Festival, so here she was.
They had arrived at the theater that Adriane's performance was going to be at, when a familiar teacher stopped Dalton and dragged him off. Adriane stared after them for a moment, one eyebrow slightly raised as Mr. Marshall started to lay into Dalton about whatever.
(Not whatever, because she was definitely eavesdropping -- not on purpose, but they hadn't really moved far enough away that she couldn't hear them.)
But Adriane tried to play it off like she wasn't by examining her fingernails.
“Of course,” Felix said, noddin’. He chuckled softly. “Follow me, if you don’t mind. It’s a bit crowded here for what I need to talk about.”
Gesturin’ for the other boy to follow him with a wave of the arm, Felix turned around and began to walk towards somewhere where…well, somewhere more private. Sensitive topics, ya know. Couldn’t discuss them where any ol’ Tom, Dick, or Sally could walk by or here — or even just some prudish old grandmother. That’d kill his reputation, and right after he’d just given it a boost with the man-eating octopus’ slayer? That would be such a waste of potential right there, and Felix never was one much to waste when he had the choice not to.
The bad thing was, this place was huge and crawlin’ with all kinds of random people, so it was certainly goin’ to prove difficult.
“Don’t worry.” He glanced back at Nate. “I’m not here to tell you about our ‘Lord and Savior’.” He held up his palms. “Fresh outta pamphlets, in fact, so you’ll have to see me another day if you want that kinda spiel,” he joked. “Not on today’s itinerary, I give you my word.”
His eyes moved to look around the place, checking the names above and beside rooms. That one was occupied by someone doin’ a dance routine of some sort, so they probably wouldn’t appreciate him crashing it to ask what he was going to ask. Let’s see…no, not that one either. Black light rooms were neat, but that’d be kind of awkward, don’t ya think?
Finally, he settled on a spot — genius idea, if ya asked him — and he looked at Nate once more as he walked around a group of huddled people cryin’. He glanced at the people once, commentin’, “Damn, either that performance was really good or it was the modern day Titanic,” before he looked back to Nate. “Alright, well, we’re goin’ to be just out the side doors, so if you will…” He pointed to one of the doors to the outside. “Just right through those,” he clarified.
He took a few quick steps forward, readjustin’ his pace as he made his way to the doors, and he gave them a tug, opening them for the other boy before following him out. “Just a bit more,” Felix said, glancin’ around. There weren’t any people nearby that he could see, but it was better safe than sorry, ya know, so he walked out about twenty feet and came to rest by a monument of some children playing soccer.
He crossed his arms and waited for Nate to come to stand in front of him, and then he grinned again. “Nate Woods,” he said, lowering his voice slightly. “I’ve heard your name a lot. You were the one who the Marino guy released the information about, weren’t you?” He needed no answer to that question, but he still cocked his head, pointin’ to Nate and raising an eyebrow. He waved his hand, chuckling. “You see, I heard about your past. I feel for you, I really do. The road to recovery can be difficult, and…well, to be frank, sometimes, I just don’t think it’s really worth it, do you? Especially with everything going on in your life, I'm sure you've considered getting back into it several times, haven't you.”
Here came the kicker.
“You used,” Felix stated, “for a reason. I’m here for if you ever choose to fall back into that, with things that can provide the best damn escape you’ll ever find." To show his true sympathy, he put a hand on his chest and gave a nod. "You understand what I mean, don't you?”
The more distance that Damien could put between himself and his mother, the better in his opinion. Sure, he loved his mother -- Damien was basically the textbook definition of momma's boy in case that hadn't been made obvious yet -- but she could be... a lot. Not necessarily overbearing, but she definitely enjoyed embarrassing him from time to time, even if she didn't usually realize that that's what she was doing.
God... he still remembered when she'd visited him in middle school and did that ol' nasty mom thing where they lick their thumb to wipe grime off of you. And then, and then, she'd had the audacity to started hugging him and kissing his head, which hadn't really helped Damien's whole... ya know... image at school.
(As if his image had ever been good -- how many schools had he transferred between due to bullying?)
But anyway, back to Nickie. You know, that hot chick that he'd been nice to at the lock-in in the off chance that she'd break up with her boyfriend and then Slater could slide right on in. Well, that's exactly what he had done -- he'd wasted absolutely no time in DMing her, inviting her to get ice cream and shit the moment he heard she was single.
Damien was an opportunist.
“Oh, I’m really liking it so far, but I’ve literally seen one thing so far.” She laughed. “It was your film, actually.”
Damien's film didn't exactly scream "hi I'm a sexy man, let's go fuck," which was obviously the image that he was trying so very hard to present.
He let out a little laugh. "Oh... oh that's... nice."
“By the way, like…amazing job, Slater. Seriously, that was better than some big name films I’ve seen. And you did that by yourself? Like…wow. Like, I’ll be surprised if you don’t, like, immediately get some kind of job offer from this or something. If you don’t, they’re seriously fucking blind. That was...amazing, seriously. Like, I don't even have words. You're...like, insanely talented, Slater.”
Ha, he did still have it. Nothing got the chicks quite like a man-eating octopus.
"Damn, Nickie," he said, and dramatically placed a hand over his chest. There was a little grin on his face. "That's... damn, I'm gonna cry. Sweetest compliment I've ever fucking received." He dropped his hand back to his side, his hands sliding partially into the pockets of his dress pants. "Thanks, the man-eating octopus was my idea. I was gonna suggest shark, but that's so overdone. And there's nothing scarier than a murderous tentacle monster."
“I’ve never seen a better animation, so like…it’s a great way to start the fest, in my opinion, l-o-l,” she said. “How’s it going for you? Was that, like, your mom back there?”
Shit, shit, shit.
Damien let out a small, uncomfortable chuckle and reached up to rub at the back of his neck. There was a smile on his face before he glanced back again at the diminishing figure of his mother and Kirby's sperm donor.
"I... yeah." He admitted with a sigh. "She was super stoked about me getting into this school. All she's been talking about for weeks is this fucking festival shit. I didn't think she was going to really like it because you know... man-eating octopus is kind of an acquired taste in movies, but she fucking loved it."
Yeah, he knew the only reason that she loved it was because her loving son had made it.
Maeve was definitely feeling bittersweet towards the Arts Festival, now she was feeling that sadness of her presentation being over after all that time repeating and all the obstacles she and Zeph endured while they prepared for it. Something that took them weeks to get ready was over in just a couple of minutes, but she knew that's how dance presentations worked, she couldn't be dancing all day although part of her really wanted to do it.
She wasn't aware how much she missed performing in front of a crowd, hearing the applause and cheers of everyone that came to see their performance was a reminder of why she loved dancing so much and why she wanted to do this for the rest of her life or at least as long as her body allowed her to do it. Something that caused her so much stress and doubt and made her question what she was supposed to be doing, but being on that stage cleared up all her thoughts and made her realize that maybe she could make it as a dancer.
Sure there was always going to be that doubt in her mind if she was good enough compared to her classmates, but she also needed to understand that it was okay and that she was still learning and that she was never going to be like them and that it was fine the way Maeve was. It wasn't a lie that she felt fulfilled and that revelation was making her feel in a reverie or maybe it was just the adrenaline of the performance that was making her believe that she was able to conquer the world and once that feeling was over, those fears would rise again, but right now she didn't want to think about it.
Maeve was wandering around the Arts Festival as her parents most likely were taking some time off of all the chaos that was the event, she couldn't be more happier to see her parents once again and that they were front row as they saw her dance, it was quite endearing that they were able come even if the chaos that was Hollywood Arts and the Arts Festival, was more than what her parents were used to at Ocean Springs.
It was almost incredible to see all the things the students came up with, from movies, art exhibitions, a clothing line, etc. It was almost as if the sky was the limit for everyone in Hollywood Arts, and it was quite interesting to see how in their projects it kind of show a little bit of their personalities, maybe one of them needed more of a thought to understand what they were than others but the intention and effort was there something that Maeve thought it was really admirable.
It wasn't until she encountered herself with certain sculpture, to be more precise the one of a cow, that she really accepted that art was extremely subjective, listen Maeve appreciated art, sure she wasn't the most knowledgeable in that area to be able to give a proper critique about technique she could give an opinion of the sentiment the piece gave her, but this time it was an unknown feeling, she wasn't sure if it was because how realistic the sculpture was which was the reason why she was standing there watching it or it was because of the oddness to have such a piece being presented.
Maeve was sure of something. The person who came up with this was really someone that wanted to make a statement, one that she couldn't comprehend the meaning behind and was starting to hurt her head the more she tried to understand what the sculpture meant to express.
Location: arts festival | Mood: confused
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Trevor was a little bit nervous — a minuscule amount of nervous. Not “breakdown nervous”, mind you. Nowhere near breakdown nervous. He was completely, wholly, entirely stable and was nowhere close to a breakdown.
But he did feel like he might pass out or something.
That was normal, by the way, before you said anything. It was normal to feel like you might collapse at any second.
(To those of you rooting for him to pass out: kindly feck off.)
With a pit of dread in his stomach, his heart palpitating wildly in his chest, and his head throbbing in his skull (thanks, aspirin, you were really doing some heavy lifting), Trevor leaned his forearm against the door to support himself as he waited. His mind reeled with paranoia, his hazel eyes darting about the door to keep himself from looking over his shoulder, and he bit the inside of his cheek as some kind of attempt to alleviate the overwhelming anxiety coursing through him.
His knees were weak. He could feel a cold, nervous sweat at his brow.
He needed to piss, and also to pass out.
Thankfully, Ash pulled out the door before he wound up doing either of those things.
Unthankfully, his arm was still on the door, and his heart dropped down through his body, his soul leaving him for a second and his eyes widening as he stumbled forward a step. “Ag —“ he started to yelp, but he cut himself short when he realized.
Chuckling, he opted towards playing it cool, moving one hand that he’d held out to catch himself to prop himself up in the doorway and running the other hand through his hair. He gave her his best smile, though it came out much shakier and toothier than he’d planned. “H-hi,” he stammered, and the he swallowed, shook his head, and tried again in an attempt to sound more casual: “H-hello.”
She was smiling, though, so it looked like his charm worked. “What are you—“ She cut herself off and glanced around — which made Trevor quickly look over his shoulders, too, thinking, Ohshiteohshitewe’vebeencaught.
Before he could really fully confirm whether or not they were busted and the jig was all up — er, that is, whether he could check if the hall was empty or not for the umpteenth time — Ash took his hand and tugged him into the dressing room, closing and locking the door.
She turned around to him, smiling confusedly and stepping towards him.
“BeforeyakillmeIcanexplain,” he said quickly, holding up his palms.
But she leaned up and gave him a quick kiss on the lips.
Trevor felt that urge to pass out again. Weak knees, light head, slightly swimming world.
(It was from his nerves, by the way, not from his girlfriend kissing him — he could handle that.)
“What’re you doing?” she asked.
“Like, I thought you weren’t ummm…like I thought you weren’t coming to see the performance or like…whatever.”
Trevor’s brows pulled together in confusion. “What?”
"You look…” She took a step back to study his outfit. "Nice? I like the tie. It's cute."
“I look like the bullying victim on a school-issued VCR tape is what you mean,” Trevor grumbled, running a hand through his hair. He chuckled slightly. “I was told to dress ‘nicely’, so this is what ya get.” He gestured to his outfit.
His mantra was, It can’t go bad if you’re wearing plaid.
It was mostly to make himself feel better about what he was wearing; he always felt like shite, regardless of what he was wearing.
“But you…” He looked her up and down, his smile becoming more of a grin. He tried not to stare for too long, but…shite, seriously. “Y-you’re…stunnin’, I mean.”
His knees were weak again.
He cleared his throat, pulling his eyes back to her face. “Er, and I…well, obviously I’m coming to your performance, darlin’. Why wouldn’t I?” He knew why he wouldn’t, and he wouldn’t name that fecking sonuvabitch. “I know how hard you’ve been working on it, and…well, I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.”
Not exactly true. He’d probably miss it if someone said that they’d vaporize the baby-faced prick afterwards on the condition that he didn’t see the performance, but that would be just about it.
(…did you know if someone was offering to do that, by the way? Trevor was asking for a friend.)
Another day, another dollar, or so the saying went. To Saint Taylor, the Winter Arts Fest was nothing too large, notable, or important, to be entirely honest. Certainly, it was his senior year, but he knew that it wasn’t going to be the end of his career, so he had no reason to think too much about this one particular art show, not matter how large of an event it was going to be. His only real goal this year was to sell the sculpture he’d done to a collector, which was the same goal as he’d had last year and the year before that. Last year, it’d proven to be simple, seeing as he’d blown fifty-some-odd glass sculptures, small enough to be sold to just about anyone with some spare hundreds lying around, but this year, whoever was to buy this would have to have enough room for a hefty, wide, tall fiberglass heifer.
Still, he had no worries. There wasn’t much in life that concerned Saint all too much.
His mother’d offered to come to his Arts Fest, but he knew her job was time-consuming, so he’d said that he didn’t mind if she stayed home this year. Even if it was his last year, it wasn’t going to be his last art show, they both knew, and she didn’t need to come to every event. He didn’t ask that she sacrifice that much of her time for him. Beyond that, he’d sent of the heifer pictures to her, and, though things were always better in person, that was close enough to seeing it up close.
Yes, Saint had managed to finish his cow on time, unsurprisingly. He’d never missed a deadline in the past, seeing as he (was probably one of the few who) dedicated himself fully to focusing on his work and completing it to the best of his ability in the time allotted, and it’d come out better than he could’ve hoped. A light grey with freckles all about her, the heifer was highly detailed, with creases of fat folds, grains on the hooves and the horns, and some veins on the udders. It was worth getting half of the sleep he should’ve each night, and he’d celebrated the completion with a long smoke session in his room before getting a full night’s rest.
The title of the piece was “Milkshake”.
Yes, he’d named it his ex’s suggestion. There was nothing more to say on that matter besides that it was a good idea and he hadn’t thought about her anymore past that.
In fact, he’d dressed and gotten ready today, and he’d only thought of her as he’d applied his cologne (the scent she always commented on), made his way to the car and turned it on to hear it still playing the station she’d set it on when she’d ridden with him last (no, he hadn’t changed it all month, but that was only because his bluetooth connection was a different setting on his car and he didn’t need to switch it), arrived at the Arts Fest (he’d simply wondered when her performance would be), and set up his exhibit (only for the reason that he was curious if she’d get the chance to stop by).
That was very little. He truly thought of her very little.
Now, he made his way around to the other artists’ works who so happened to be in the same area as his own, and he spotted a small redhead standing beside his cow. He thought nothing of it at first, but a few minutes later, she was still standing there, looking somewhat confused.
He figured that he might be able to offer some explanation.
“Hello…,” he greeted in his lazy, formal way as he came up behind her. He stood beside her, folding his arms and putting a hand on his chin. He glanced over at her. “Are you…simply admiring my piece?”
@He.went.2.Jared has set their status to: It's showtime
@He.went.2.Jared has set their outfit to: Outfit for project
@He.went.2.Jared has set their location to: Backstage
@He.went.2.Jared has mentioned: Maddie, Maggie, Saint, Evie, Nate, Simone
@He.went.2.Jared has interacted with: Gen(geminiy
) Mike (Ditto
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The past few weeks went by surprisingly fast. The drama from lock in seemed to have fizzled out as people became more occupied with their projects then whatever teen drama filled the air prior. Which is probably the most professional thing he experiences in this school. In every other regard this place is just regular high school on steroids for the emotional bits, but when it comes to showcases, and major projects like this arts Fest they really put all that aide and were able to get shit done. Admirable to say the lest.
More specifically Gen and Mike seemed to work out whatever odd altercation resulted in the mess they'd been in previously and he was genuinely happy for it. It was a rare feeling, but when work was involved, he preferred drama to be left at the door. Now did he notice that they seemed to not just reconcile but seem even closer? Of course. Did he mention it even once to anyone? Of course not. Mental notes that stayed just that. Why? It was none of his business, and the last thing he wanted was to bring up something that could throw things back out of whack and resume the awkwardness of before. While he could fake like he'd done so for his friends mental state and wanting to preserve the delicate balance she'd finally gotten back...it was mostly for himself. Why poke the bear especially if you have to spend hours on end in the cave with the bear after?
A nonsense that he'd never understand why his peers engaged in on the daily it seemed.
On a lighter note things with Maddie were still going very smoothly. It wasn't surprising all things considered, but you never know with these kinds of things. Between squeezing in time for her between both his projects time with Maddie actually felt like...a break. Something he almost found relaxing at points as just a way to wind down. Almost because of course there is only so much you can relax when your guard is still up. He could never be 100% relaxed unless on his own and unbothered by the world...a luxury not afforded to men like him.
He made a mental and physical checklist of the projects he needed to stop by. Luckily for him she was one of his models so spending time with her today would be easy enough. The buzz that stirred from them partnering up was almost as big as the fact he was working with Gen and Mike. More so Gen of course since she was the one with the reputable name. Great things were always to be expected from her, and so now great things would be expected of him.
He's never been the type to clam up under pressure so he didn't mind. In fact he thrived in it. Pressure was something he lived with every day of his life with parents like his, and this was no different then that. In fact it was easier because his reputation wasn't solely on the line. Speaking of Parents he'd invited them to the Festival and while they said they were coming he couldn't help but think about the reason why. His mother was obvious this was great for networking for her PR company. He wouldn't be surprised if she brought along some of her top agents to also scout out potential clients. But his father? Other then for appearance sake of being beside his wife there was no real need for him to come. He had zero interest in this sort of thing both Jared's project and Magnolia's.
Not even for a moment did it cross his mind that either parent would be there to actually support their children and their work. If anything if they viewed them they would be more judgmental then anybody this school could find to judge them and give them a grade for it. Especially Maggie's. He had no idea what her performance would be like and just hoped it wouldn't be an embarrassment. Considering they don't live together or spend any time with one another he had no idea what she was performing or even when. Not that it mattered as she was not on his list of must see today. Sure he was supposed to be looking out for her, but their parents were around here...somewhere. They could watch over their rebellious daughter for one day and relieve him of his baby sitting duties.
He had projects to help present and showcases like Saint's, Nate's, and Evie's to see...maybe Simone if he had time. He had no time for his troublesome sister.
He was snapped from his thoughts by the sound of Gen's demanding voice. One he's gotten used to the past two weeks, but that didn't mean he liked that fact. He didn't like being bossed around like he didn't know what he was doing. Sure his first year he accepted it due to actually having no idea what was going on but this year he knew somethings! Not as much as his peers, but enough. He let it slide due to assuming being under pressure this was just how she was, and it's not like she was especially rude about it. Also the whole not being interested in starting a scene or argument.
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he let her fix his collar to her satisfaction. He kept his head held high tugging at certain areas to make sure the fit fell just right. He could see his reflection in a nearby mirror, and damn did he look good. Vanity was not lost on him, not now, not ever. His gaze lingered a bit observing himself from head to toe at a couple different angles as she spoke up again about not getting it dirty to which he scoffed, "What do you take me for?" he rose a brow at her. He wasn't the type to let a spec of misplaced dirt get on him on a regular day, so especially a day like today he didn't need to be reminded like a child to keep clean. "Waste that sentiment on others if you must. I will be impeccable as usual." he reminded her before turning his attention back at his reflection to smooth out his eye brows.
When she started calling out asking about Mike he shrugged, "I did just a few moments ago. He's not far." He gestured in the direction that Mike soon emerged from. Speaking music to his ears about already being done with his hair and that he was ready to go. Jared had a schedule and a second presentation to get to so he needed this to be quick, efficient, and a hit all wrapped in one. "Perfect. I'm ready to go." He clasped his hands together and rubbed them together.
Well it wasn't as if Beth should've been surprised -- of course Tori would try to make this whole Arts Festival thing all about herself. Who cared if it was her senior year or whatever? That didn't mean it suddenly became all about Tori -- Beth and what she wanted still mattered.
She listened, her tongue pressed against her cheek to try and keep herself from snapping at her older sister and completely ruining the day... but the more that Tori droned on, the harder and harder that it got to keep it to herself. Plus like, her sister was a total hypocrite?
"Oh he's your dad, too."
Yeah, duh, but she was their mom, too.
And sure, Beth kind of wanted to think that her parents could totally hold it together for one day for their daughters -- but she knew that that wasn't a possibility in the least bit.
And now Beth and Tori were obviously going to fight.
"She's your mom, too," Beth snapped. "We haven't seen her since summer, either, and she wanted to come out. I don't care if this is your senior year or whatever, Tori. Not everything is all about you." She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, her lips pursing together as she glared down at her sister.
Beth knew that she probably needed to keep her voice down -- the last thing that this quiet section of the Arts Festival needed was two hysterical Sterlings -- but she simply couldn't. It was just the total ridiculousness of freaking Tori really thinking that everything was about her, that Beth's opinion was less or whatever because, what, because she was younger? Yeah, it was that that caused Beth's voice to rise in volume.
"You're seventeen, not seven. Maybe start acting like it and stop overreacting?" Ha, that would put her older sister in her place.
"And also the stupid anthology wasn't just yours, Victoria. Like, I put just as much work and effort into this as you did, so why can't I have mom here, too? Surprise, surprise, but other people actually matter, too. I know that's so hard for you to understand." Okay, okay, maybe she was getting a bit harsh.
But damn it, Beth hated being talked down to like she was lesser just because she was younger.
"Also Voracious makes the whole anthology sound like you wrote a cookbook. I hope you're happy."
He seemed more awkward than usual which was like... kind of odd, because he was usually pretty awkward as it was, but she summed it up to nerves -- everyone was nervous today, after all, so like, it made sense. Also he didn't have that usual really dopey smile that he had when he was high, so she was also pretty sure that he was sober, which always made him a little umm... like a little odder than usual.
It was cute, though. She wasn't like... used to super awkward boys, so it was kind of new. Different, but in like... a good way. Definitely.
“I look like the bullying victim on a school-issued VCR tape is what you mean,” Trevor grumbled. “I was told to dress ‘nicely’, so this is what ya get.”
She laughed at that. Well, at least he didn't actually think he looked good, although she had to say that it was at least an upgrade from his poor choice of outfit at the fair -- that green suit lived on in many jokes, although at least the jokes about it had sort of started to die down. Sort of.
“But you…” He added. “Y-you’re…stunnin’, I mean.”
A blush pressed against her cheeks, and she smiled up at him. "Thank you," she responded, and kind of left it at that because like... Ash wasn't a fan of compliments. Like it's not that she didn't appreciate compliments, it was just that like... they just kind of made her a little uncomfortable. Like she didn't know how to respond.
"Did your grandma, like, make you wear this, too?" She asked as she reached forward, fidgeting with his tie so it was straight (it probably already was, but she was nervous and she tended to fidget with things when she was nervous, and unfortunately, Trevor's tie was the victim this round). "You should umm... you should let me help you next time. I'm not like... the most stylish, but I did pick out mine and Lucky's outfits for today. Or, like... kind of -- like Lucky obviously had a say or whatever, and I sent Evie a lot of pictures to get her opinions, but..." Ash shrugged her shoulders.
Was she rambling? Ash kind of felt like she was rambling and like she needed to shut the hell up, and also like she was messing with his shirt too much and probably making him look worse, so she dropped her hands away and went to slide them into her back pockets... only to remember that this outfit didn't have any pockets, so she had to awkwardly cross her arms over her chest and oh god, oh god, oh god, she wasn't ready to go on.
She breathed in slowly, and then exhaled slowly through her nose.
That was supposed to, like, calm her nerves or whatever.
... Supposed to, as it freaking didn't.
Maybe if she just, like, tried really hard to focus on Trevor, she could just kind of like... she could kind of just... ignore the panic that was gnawing at her stomach and starting to make her incredibly sick.
“Er, and I…well, obviously I’m coming to your performance, darlin’. Why wouldn’t I?” He said. “I know how hard you’ve been working on it, and…well, I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.”
A soft smile broke out on her face. She could easily name why he wouldn't come, and that was simply because she was singing with Lucky, so like... the fact that he was coming kind of just made her think that maybe Trevor wasn't as stupidly jealous over Lucky as he had been.
See, they were literally just like... one step away from there being no more awkward, tense moments in the hallway or wherever else the two might (unfortunately) run into each other.
(Yeah, she knew that wasn't true at all and that there was no way they would ever get to that point, but nervous Ash tended to think of the impossible just to try and quell her nerves, too. It didn't work.)
"I... thanks," she said. "I'm pretty sure that, like, most of my friends aren't going to be able to see it, so it's umm..." her eyes looked up towards the ceiling as she tried to find the words she wanted to say. "It's... like... nice that someone that I like... that I care about is actually going to be there."
"But umm... but what are you ah, like, doing back here?" She asked, her eyebrows creasing together. "I mean like, you do know it would've looked super weird if anyone saw you, right?"
When Nate had said "make it fast," he'd fucking meant make it fast. Instead, Felix had beckoned for him to follow, and Nate had figured it'd be a few steps off to the side. Maybe step into a side room or some shit depending on whatever the fuck this guy wanted from him, but it wasn't.
They trekked through what felt like half of the goddamn building, with Felix making little comments and quips here and there -- all of which just earned an unamused side glance from Nate.
“Don’t worry.” Felix said, which just made him worry -- except that Nate also knew he couldn't handle this tiny fucker if he tried to jump him, so he wasn't really all that worried. “I’m not here to tell you about our ‘Lord and Savior’. Fresh outta pamphlets, in fact, so you’ll have to see me another day if you want that kinda spiel,” he joked. “Not on today’s itinerary, I give you my word.”
Was that supposed to be a joke?
It was a shitty joke if it was.
Another unamused side glance.
This dude needed to cut to the chase, because Nate was pretty sure that whatever he might need to ask Nate didn't need to be spoken about somewhere super fucking private. He was probably just going to ask Nate something dumb -- "hey, you know that homework in that one class? Help me with it? Oh damn, look at those guns, mind showing me your workout routine?" You know, something standard.
And finally, they arrived at a set of doors. Nate side-eyed Felix suspiciously as he pushed the door open, but he stepped through it (because again, he was pretty sure that he could take Felix) and back to the outside. What the fuck did they need to talk about that was so fucking secretive they needed to be outside?
Not even outside the main doors, but the side doors where only the fucking weirdos would be going in and out.
Nate stopped just outside the doors but Felix, being a fucking weirdo, said "just a bit more," and took a few more steps away from the doors. With a heavy, annoyed sigh that let it be known that Nate was barely still holding his cool together, he took another few steps away from the door and glared at Felix.
"Well?" He said expectantly -- the first thing he'd said since he'd started following Felix.
“Nate Woods,” he said, which was fucking weird that he was repeating Nate's name again. “I’ve heard your name a lot. You were the one who the Marino guy released the information about, weren’t you? You see, I heard about your past. I feel for you, I really do. The road to recovery can be difficult, and…well, to be frank, sometimes, I just don’t think it’s really worth it, do you? Especially with everything going on in your life, I'm sure you've considered getting back into it several times, haven't you.”
What the fuck was this guy getting on about?
The last thing Nate really wanted was to have his past tossed back into his face again. Yeah, yeah, he'd fucked up a lot of shit in his life -- it wasn't like he wanted to be consistently reminded of that, especially not by some overly prim and proper blonde kid that he'd never met.
"Haven't really," Nate lied.
Of course he'd thought about getting back into it.
And of course he'd popped a few pills here and there since Halloween, but nothing really too major.
“You used,” Felix stated, “for a reason. I’m here for if you ever choose to fall back into that, with things that can provide the best damn escape you’ll ever find." To show his true sympathy, he put a hand on his chest and gave a nod. "You understand what I mean, don't you?”
Was this really happening?
Was Nathan Woods really speaking with some fucking kid who was trying to get him to buy drugs from him? What the fuck was wrong with the world?
"You brought me out here to offer to sell me drugs?" Nate deadpanned, because this whole thing felt so very, very ludicrous. "Not planning on getting back into heavy using." He said, and he tightened his grip on the bouquet of peonies in his hand -- because the reason was mainly Evie, fair and simple.
He could do this -- be a decent guy for her.
He thought he heard something off to the side, and Nate's muscles tensed as he glanced over, but he saw nothing as he turned his gaze back onto Felix.
"I'll keep you in mind, though...? What was your name again?"
(Yes, Felix had said his name, but no, Nate hadn't been listening.)
“Damn, Nickie,” Slater said, dramatically placing a hand over his chest and grinning. “That’s…damn, I’m gonna cry. Sweetest compliment I’ve ever fucking received.”
Nickie laughed softly. “I’ve got some tissues? They’re lavender-scented?” she kidded, smiling slightly at him. “Free of charge as thanks for being my ice cream chauffeur, since you did, like…put up with me sniffling the whole way.”
Remembering that day — yeah, the day of that bullshit that she was trying so damn hard not to think about — left a sour taste in her mouth and a small lump in her throat, and she swallowed hard, inclining her head slightly as her eyes flicked away from the boy beside her.
It did mean a lot, him doing that, though. Kind of just…him being there? Like…it said a lot about him and how sweet he was that, ya know, he cared more about her than the other classmates she’d been around for three fucking years. She still felt kind of…like, awkward or something, she didn’t know. Like she was kind of wasting his time and efforts anytime he spoke to her, because he was literally, like…too nice. She felt kind of bad letting him do all this for her, you know, since, like…no one ever really did that for a virtual stranger, but…she really appreciated it regardless.
It was nice to think that she might actually have a friend now, besides her roommate and besides her cousin, so that was…that was nice. He’d checked in on her as soon as he’d heard that she and Hunter’d broken up, she guessed, which wasn’t something she expected. Then again, him being actually nice at the lock-in, too, was something totally unexpected, so maybe Slater was just…kind of different, you know. Not different as in weird per se, but different as in…different, at the very least.
Plus, he was a hot guy, so that, like, didn’t hurt. She felt like shit and was barely pulling through, but a pretty face made good company, especially with a broken heart.
He dropped his hand back to his side, and she glanced at his hands as they slid partially into the pockets of his dress pants. It was honestly kinda weird seeing him dressed formally — she never really pictured him wearing anything but casual clothes — but he did clean up nice, even with the…floral…shirt? "Thanks, the man-eating octopus was my idea. I was gonna suggest shark, but that's so overdone. And there's nothing scarier than a murderous tentacle monster."
“Genius,” she laughed softly. “It’s totally going to be the next big thing.”
It wasn’t really genius and there was no way it was going to be the next big thing.
At her question about his mom, the boy reached up, rubbed the back of his neck, glanced behind them. “I…yeah,” he sighed. "She was super stoked about me getting into this school. All she's been talking about for weeks is this fucking festival shit. I didn't think she was going to really like it because you know…man-eating octopus is kind of an acquired taste in movies, but she fucking loved it."
Nickie smiled, nodding along and laughing once he was finished. She felt a small, dull pang of jealousy flare in her chest. “That’s cute, though. Super sweet of her.”
Her parents cared about her…or said they did or whatever. When they called, they were always “supportive”. Said she was doing amazing, said they were proud of her or whatever. But they could never come to her school things, could never come and see her — didn’t even try to come and see her — and she couldn’t help but envy people with moms like Slater’s.
He turned the questions back to her soon. “How's it going for you? Did you perform yet?”
Nickie lifted a hand to hair, moving a bit to the front of her shoulders and cocking her head. “Uhm…it’s going good, I guess?” It came out as unsurely as she felt it inside of her.
I broke up with my boyfriend and have been shit since. Surprise, surprise, I’m still hung up on the boy I thought I loved. As good as “I don’t want to do fucking anything” can be, I guess.
But she didn’t say that aloud. She wasn’t going to bother him with those details. No one needed to know them. She shouldn’t be feeling that way over someone like fucking Hunter anyway, so they didn’t matter.
Arts Fest also wasn’t the time to vent about bullshit.
“Like I said, I, like, legit haven’t done anything since we got here this morning, l-o-l,” she sighed. “They styled me when I got here, which, like, dumb, right?” She cocked her head up at him, frowning slightly. “Because I don’t perform for, like, the next couple-hours-thirty-ish? They said they’d, like, fix me back up before I went onstage, but it’s like…? Why would you do that? They didn’t really appreciate me trying to protest it, though.” She laughed slightly, and then she rolled her eyes, holding out a palm and gesturing as she continued to speak. “All I have to say is that they’ve got a surprising amount of faith that I won’t, like, uh, I dunno…spill something on this pretty-much-white dress or, like, break down sobbing before I go onstage, but whatever.”
A genuine (though small) smile pressed onto her lips as she realized what she’d said, and she let out a soft chuckle. “Not that I anticipate I’ll break down sobbing, Slater, but still…I mean, don’t you think it’s at least a little stupid that they put that much effort into, like, thiiiis…” She held her hand up to her face and gestured in a circle, and then motioned to the rest of herself. “…and all of everything when I’ve got jack shit to do for the next solid bit? I get looking good and not wanting me to look like a fucking hobo or whatever, but full on styling me…? I feel like some kind of…dolled-up tryhard, but honestly it’s whatever.”
It was a fitting look, she guessed.
She rolled her eyes again, and then glanced back at Slater, giving him a once-over. “Whoever styled you, though…props to them.” She laughed softly. “I like your little, like…” She gestured to his chest area. “Flower…thing. It’s, uhm, interesting. Cute. Stylish, ya know. You look very professional.”
She looked away from him, continuing on with her answer to his question. “But I’ve mostly been just kind of…like, loitering around or whatever, so I’ve been good. Relaxing before, like, performing or whatever. Drinking lots of water, all of that shit.” She pointed to the water bottle hanging halfway out of the small purse slung across her. “I did, like, poke around this place, though, and omigod, it’s fucking huge, amiright?” She cocked her head at him, smiling slightly. “Like…I’ve…okay, so this is my third Arts Fest, so I’m not gonna act like this place is new to me or something, but I’ve performed in the same area all three years, so, like…I dunno, whatever. I haven’t really gotten a chance to look around, always kind of, uhm…hung around my friends before and after my performance, so…being kind of alone this year gave me, like, a chance to do something I haven’t gotten to do, l-o-l.”
She laughed slightly. “Yeah, but I’m fine,” she continued, before her words could linger too long. Sorry, I, like, talk too much when I’m, like, nervous. Bad habit.” She shook her head. “Anyway, uhm, how about you?” She tried to smile pleasantly, clasping her hands in front of her, though the smile was still much weaker than she’d hoped. “I mean, obviously I know your film was just shown, but like…how’re you? You’re new, so like…have you ever done something like this, or is it your first time, or…?”
There were some things that you just expected other people (especially your own damn sister) to do. They weren’t outlandish suggestions — they were normal, legitimately simple general common sense and common courtesy kind of things that you did. One: keep your things on your side of the bathroom. Stop putting your hairbrush on not your side. Tidy up a little bit. Two: do your own chores around the fucking apartment. Pick up your laundry. Dust your room. Do basic shit.
And three: don’t invite Mom to events where Dad is obviously going to be.
None of these were hard concepts to grasp. Literally, they were all so simple that Tori was pretty sure anyone else in the universe would get them — snap — like that. They were basic things that required only basic thinking and consideration for others.
But no, Elizabeth Chanel couldn’t even work those out and refused to do them even once Tori said them. Go figure.
See, this was the reason why Beth would always need Victoria around; she couldn’t even figure out this basic shit, much less anything else.
But of course, Beth still thought that she was in the right because of effing course she did, and now she was seriously — seriously?! — trying to fight with Tori in public about this thing that there should be no argument over.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Beth was a literal two-year-old.
“She’s your mom, too,” Beth snapped. “We haven’t seen her since summer, either, and she wanted to come out. I don’t care if this is your senior year or whatever, Tori. Not everything is about you.” She crossed her arms over her chest, huffing and pursing her lips as she glared down at Tori.
Tori scoffed, sitting up and laughing in disbelief. “Seriously, Beth? Not everything’s about me?” She tried to keep her voice down, but she couldn’t believe her sister right now. “Not everything’s about you. This is my senior year — maybe you don’t get it, but this is my last time being at the Arts Fest.” As a student, at least. “Elizabeth, uncross your arms and stop pouting about this,” she commanded, unfolding her own arms to point down, raising her eyebrows sternly. “Seriously, right now. Don’t pull that five-year-old shit. You’re fifteen, not five.”
"You're seventeen, not seven,” Beth retorted. “Maybe start acting like it and stop overreacting?"
Tori’s eyes widened. “What did you just say to me?” An anger sizzled in her green irises.
Where did she get all of this gall from? And where could Tori get it? Seriously, the audacity in this literal child was through the roof.
Remain calm, Victoria.
“Elizabeth, stop — stop yelling at me and calm your ass down,” she demanded. “You’re the one overreacting here. It’s my senior year, so at least I have some justification, but you’re just pitching a bitchfit for no reason.”
"And also the stupid anthology wasn't just yours, Victoria,” Beth said in a loud voice. “Like, I put just as much work and effort into this as you did, so why can't I have Mom here, too? Surprise, surprise, but other people actually matter, too. I know that's so hard for you to understand. Also Voracious makes the whole anthology sound like you wrote a cookbook. I hope you're happy."
Could Tori put her in timeout? Would that work?
She couldn’t believe the words coming from her sister’s mouth.
“Shut up.” Tori glared up at her sister, straightening her back in her chair and crossing her legs. “Seriously, Beth, do us both a favor and keep your lips effing zipped, okay?” She kept her voice low. She heaved a deep sigh. “I’m not going to fight you today, but stop trying to ruin everything.”
First Mom, now this overreaction from Elizabeth. What was next, she was going to try and crash Tori’s recitation?
(Strike that from the record. She didn’t want her to get any ideas.)
“I’m not about to fight you in public. Seriously, I’m better than that,” Tori said, picking up her bag, “and you are too, if you’d just stop acting like a little kid.” She stood, slinging her bag over her shoulder. “Also, don’t even start with me. Voracious is a pretty name, it was all basically my idea, and you didn’t put as much effort in but it’s —“ She speed out her hands at her side, looking towards the ceiling and puffing out her cheeks. She clenched her hands into fists, drawing in a deep breath and counting to five.
Cool, Tori. Cool.
“Seriously…,” she started, and she put her hands on her hips, looking down from the ceiling and back to her sister’s face. “Just stop, okay? We don’t have long until Da…” She trailed off, and then clicked her tongue. “Tsk, well, until I guess they arrive — thanks for that, enjoy the hell you’ve unleashed, but —“ She cut herself and breathed out a deep sigh again, pursing her lips and narrowing her eyes at her sister.
Listen, Tori didn’t have time to do this today. Any other day, maybe she’d want to continue this, but…listen, today was her day, alright? Even if Beth was all like ”it’s not about you”, it was still her day, okay?
And she kind of felt bad for bitching at her sister this soon.
She sighed deeply, rolling her eyes. “Ugh, come here,” she said, and she snatched her again to hug her tightly. She squeezed her for a second, and then mumbled, “I love you, even if you’re a little brat who acts like a two-year-old sometimes, Liz.” She smiled, cocking an eyebrow, and she pulled back, gripping her sister firmly by the shoulders. “I’m just, like…” Her brow fell, and she stared at her for a second before sighing and rolling her eyes again. “Ugh, can we just not fight?”
Speaking in a low voice, Tori looked back at her sister with a stern gaze. “You invited Mom and we both know that was stupid — even you know deep down — so let’s call this fight thing off before we end up having to get escorted out or some shit, because the last thing I want is to get in a catfight with my little sister in the effing lit section over something as stupid as this.” She pursed her lips again. “Can we just agree on that? The not fighting? Please? For me? For, like, literally eight or nine hours, and then you and I can yell back and forth when we get back home,” she kidded.
(Okay, maybe she wasn’t completely kidding there, but still.)
His eyes flicked away, and a nervous kind of laugh bubbled out of him at the thanks she offered. He just nodded, swallowing hard as a warmth crawled across his face. He shifted awkwardly, putting his hands in the pockets of his plaid pants. He was hyper-aware of how he was standing, breathing, of the position of his clothes on him, ohChristtheywereitchy, was it hot in here to you or was it just him, oh God this was a bad idea this was a bad idea this was a bad idea.
To pass out.
He was going to pass out, and there was no way Ash could drag his body out of this dressing room in time, no matter how light he was (which he wasn’t very — he was a six-foot-one, after all). She couldn’t shove him under the vanity, either, or just throw a blanket over him, because he wasn’t a height where he could be inconspicuous. They — whoever they were — were going to find him here, and either Ash was going to have to lie and say that he was here when she got here and was coming to kidnap him or some shite or she was going to have to be like ”oh he’s just my boyfriend who’s visiting” and regardless of the option that she chose, he was going to have to deal with some kind of fecking massive fallout from it and ohGodohfeckfeckfeckfeck.
“Did your grandmother, like, make you wear this, too?” she asked, and he looked back at her as she reached forward to mess with his tie.
“Oh Christ, don’t mention my grandmother,” he groaned, his eyebrows knitting together. “Tha woman’s been driving me insane about this. Every detail.” He scowled slightly at the thought of her, though his expression soon shifted back to a smile. “She…pretty much chose this, yeah. I said, ’I can dress casually an’ no one would blink an eye,’ since I’m a fecking writer, ya know, an’ no one’s going to be paying too much attention, but she said — I swear ta you — ahem.” He put a fist to his mouth, clearing his throat, and he heightened his voice in an impression of his grandmother, complete with an exaggeratedly stern look. “’Sean Trevor, you are not goin’ ta be goin’ dressed as a slob from tha streetcorner. I don’t care if everyone else is wearin’ the finest clothes tha convenience stores have to offer or if they’re wearin’ hand-me-downs that’ve been put through a lawnmower. You are going ta dress nicely.’” He shook his head, gritting his teeth. He dropped the high-pitched voice, bitterly saying, “This was her idea of nicely. I blame it all on her.”
(Trevor spoke even more with even less prompting or reason when 1) nervous and 2) sober. She was welcome for the overload of information there.)
“You should umm…you should let me help you next time,” Ash suggested.
“I’m not like…the most stylish, but I did pick out mine and Lucky’s outfits for today. Or, like…kind of — like Lucky obviously had a lot of say or whatever, and I sent Evie a lot of pictures to get her opinions, but…” She shrugged.
At that arsehole’s name, Trevor felt a sour, disgusted lump rise in his throat. He laughed slightly, then swallowed hard. “Yeah…I’d take it, really. Charlie, Amy, and Jo’ve tried in the past, but who knows? Maybe you’ll be the one to finally convince my grandmother that I don’t need her as my stylist.”
He breathed out a sigh, raising a hand to brush it through his mess of a head of hair again.
Towards his response that he was coming (“because why wouldn’t he?”), Ash smiled softly. “I…thanks," she said. "I'm pretty sure that, like, most of my friends aren't going to be able to see it, so it's umm…it’s…like…nice that someone that I like…that I care about is actually going to be there."
“Oh. Oh, well…you’re, ah, welcome,” he said, and then he cleared his throat awkwardly, smiling again. “It’s nothing.”
It seriously was nothing.
"But umm…but what are you ah, like, doing back here?" she asked, and her brows pressed together. "I mean like, you do know it would've looked super weird if anyone saw you, right?"
“Oh, I just…I, ah.” He cleared his throat again, looking around the room, and then he looked down at her once more. “You — you’re right, I just…”
He swallowed hard.
Oh Jesus Christ, he felt so awkward.
“I just wanted to come and see you. Ya know, an’ wish you luck,” he said. “Or, ah, ya know…tell ya to break a leg, as they say in show biz. I…uh, yeah. That’s…that was. Yeah, that’s what I came here for.”
(The way he was saying it — all nervously and awkwardly — made him sound suspicious, but it was the truth.)
Felix was a businessman, which sounded a bit cringey to say about himself at the tender age of sixteen, he was well aware, but it was the truth. As such, he seized any opportunity at a new a profitable venture, usually in the form of potential clients such as the one in front of him. Even so, it was better to use euphemistic words to describe what he did, in case anyone was eavesdroppin’, ya know. If he was bein’ shady, he didn’t particularly want people to know that he was bein’ shady. You knew how it was. He tended to tread lightly on using direct words, and that usually made things a bit more confusin’ but easier in the long run.
"You brought me out here to offer to sell me drugs?"
Yeah, guess that was the blunt way to put it.
Felix chuckled slightly. “Saying it that way makes me sound a bit like a ‘Just Say No’ video antagonist, but…well.” He put his hands in his pockets, sittin’ back on his heels. “I s’pose you could say it that way, yes. Just puttin’ my name out there, as they say.” He pulled a hand from his pocket and used it to gesture as he continued to speak. “I’ve been meanin’ to speak with you for the past hot minute, but I never quite caught you at a time when you seemed unoccupied enough, ya know. I figured that I should seize the moment when I had it — I apologize if I was interruptin’ something.”
“Not planning on getting back into heavy using,” Nate said.
“Oh, I jus’ meant, if you d —“
There was a noise to the side, and Felix glanced over, though he didn’t see anything. He chuckled, lookin’ back at the other boy and puttin’ his hand in his pocket again. “If you do…”
"I'll keep you in mind, though…?” Nate said.
“That’s all I ask,” Felix said, holdin’ up a palm and noddin’. “No pressure, man, no pressure.”
Though it was a bit disappointin’ that he didn’t jump on immediately, Felix was used to havin’ to use a slight bit of pressure.
“What was your name again?" asked the boy holdin’ the flowers.
“Hm?” The blue-eyed boy poised up his brows, and then he chuckled. “Ah, it’s Felix. Emmerson. Visuals department, same as you, though I’m an underclassman. Just thought it might be helpful, ya know, to make myself known to you, and in case you ever do decide to get back on the scene, if you ever need anything, I’m the one to call. I’m pretty easy to find, though I wouldn’t directly say that you’re lookin’ for the blonde dealer,” he chuckled. “Some people make that mistake, and things can get a bit hectic. ’s just Felix, or Emmerson, either one, or really any variation on that you’d like. I’m not too particular on what you call me, as long as, well, you are callin’ me.”
He grinned at Nate, giving him a nod again. “You’ll keep me in mind?”
The bickering kind of went on for a little bit longer. When she was younger, maybe Beth would've given in or--
Nah, that was a lie. Beth had always been a little hot-headed (and "a little" was a bit of an understatement). There never would've been a day that she would've given in or whatever -- it was part of the reason that she got sent to the principal's office fairly often and had spent a decent amount of time in timeout growing up. Beth just liked to voice her opinion -- even when it was clearly unwanted, or when it was clearly going to offend someone.
(Beth also had the habit of purposely picking opinions that she knew might cause some kind of discourse with someone else, but that was beside the point.)
However, the back and forth bickering did eventually come to an end -- as it clearly did with any good siblings. Like sure, they fought like mad... a lot (or at least it felt like a lot to Beth), but that didn't mean they'd stay angry at each other for too long, and it wasn't long before Tori's anger cracked.
It was always Tori that gave in, for the record. She was a giant softie.
“Ugh, come here,” Tori said, and then she pulled Beth tightly into another hug (and yes, Beth one hundred percent rolled her eyes as soon as her sister did so), “I love you, even if you’re a little brat who acts like a two-year-old sometimes, Liz.”
Kind of hypocritical seeing as how this clearly started because Tori was acting like a two-year-old, but whatever.
Beth was capable of being the bigger person, even if her older sister wasn't quite as capable. She'd bite the bullet and do it this time, though, because oh boohoo, this was Tori's senior year or whatever, so clearly her opinion and how everything went was oh so much more important than any of Beth's feelings.
No, she wasn't still mad at all. What gave you that idea?
After a moment, Tori released Beth from her grasp and instead, grabbed her shoulders. “I’m just, like… Ugh, can we just not fight?”
Beth resisted the urge to roll her eyes again, instead settling for just crossing her arms over her chest.
“You invited Mom and we both know that was stupid — even you know deep down — so let’s call this fight thing off before we end up having to get escorted out or some shit, because the last thing I want is to get in a catfight with my little sister in the effing lit section over something as stupid as this. Can we just agree on that? The not fighting? Please? For me? For, like, literally eight or nine hours, and then you and I can yell back and forth when we get back home.”
"Fine," Beth grumbled reluctantly. "I'll like, keep from fighting or whatever for today. But you were just as stupid to invite dad, especially with not telling me. Like, we could've done something or whatever so they would've come at different times and we could've avoided the fighting all together, but whatever."
Could Beth have also done the same?
But she wasn't about to admit that aloud.
"This isn't just my fault, Tori. Like, you're just as much to blame as I am."
Nate knew the type of guy that Felix was -- it was written right across his face, easy to read as day. He'd dealt with plenty of guys just like Felix throughout his life (which made him sound a lot older than he was, but hey, the dude had been through a lot at only eighteen), and he wasn't a particular fan of guys like Felix.
He was the type of fella that in cartoons would've had dollar signs for eyes. Fuck, he was probably the type of dude that'd charge out the ass and convince someone who clearly needed serious help for drug addiction that they needed more, more, more until they eventually overdosed.
(Was he speaking from personal experience with his old dealer? Maybe.)
“Ah, it’s Felix. Emmerson. Visuals department, same as you, though I’m an underclassman. Just thought it might be helpful, ya know, to make myself known to you, and in case you ever do decide to get back on the scene, if you ever need anything, I’m the one to call. I’m pretty easy to find, though I wouldn’t directly say that you’re lookin’ for the blonde dealer,” he chuckled. “Some people make that mistake, and things can get a bit hectic. ’s just Felix, or Emmerson, either one, or really any variation on that you’d like. I’m not too particular on what you call me, as long as, well, you are callin’ me.”
The Southern charm was a nice touch, but it kind of felt like a façade of sorts. He acted all charming and easygoing, all sweet and shit -- probably because no one would expect him to sell drugs. He was like the complete opposite of what most people thought of when they heard "drug dealer," and Nate wondered how many people had fallen for the false charm and given in to buying drugs from this Felix fella.
“You’ll keep me in mind?” Felix asked again.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll keep you in mind," he promised, although he didn't really have any intention of doing that. "I ah... I guess you'll be hearing from me. Maybe."
"See ya around, kid," Nate added as an afterthought, and then he turned and headed back towards the side doors that they'd come through. He'd half-expected the door to be locked, but he was gratefully surprised to find it hadn't locked upon closing and he stepped back into the Celestial Theater.
That had been... a weird encounter.
But he tried to shake it off and calm himself down -- not that he was stressed or whatever the fuck, or... okay, maybe he was just a bit stressed. Nate was actually fucking sober today. He hadn't popped any pills, he hadn't smoked any weed, and sober Nate tended to get a little more stressed. Things didn't roll off of him as easily as they did when he was high, and his temper could be a little hotter.
Nothing too bad, really.
So he headed back towards where Evie had directed him to meet her. He checked the time on his watch, and then he sped up his walk a bit. Felix's little diversion had cost him some precious time, although it wasn't as if he was going to be late. Nate had actually planned to arrive early today.
He just wouldn't arrive as early as he'd planned before.
As Evie came into view, the weird feelings he'd had attached to the conversation from before faded away. An easy smile spread across his face as he walked up.
"Evie, hey..." he started, but he trailed off when he noticed her on the phone, arguing away with someone. So he settled for just waiting near her, flowers in hand, until she was done.
It was almost strange to Slater that, for once, he wasn't trying to pull the moves on this chick. Maybe it was because he'd seen her all gross and ugly when he'd taken her to get ice cream (although she looked hot as fuck now), or maybe it was because he was just really into playing the long game this time around. Sure, his end goal hadn't changed in the least bit since he'd met her for the first time, which was just: fuck and fuck off.
It was just the timeline had changed.
But he was pretty sure that if he pulled out any tricks right now? She'd flip on him, and he'd be left high and dry and out like six bucks from buying ice cream with no end reward.
Keep your eyes on the prize, Slater.
“Uhm…it’s going good, I guess?” Nickie started as she answered his question. “Like I said, I, like, legit haven’t done anything since we got here this morning, l-o-l,” she sighed. “They styled me when I got here, which, like, dumb, right?”
Oh yeah, he'd forgotten she'd said that.
In one ear and out the other, as they said.
“Because I don’t perform for, like, the next couple-hours-thirty-ish? They said they’d, like, fix me back up before I went onstage, but it’s like…? Why would you do that? They didn’t really appreciate me trying to protest it, though.” She laughed slightly, and then she rolled her eyes, holding out a palm and gesturing as she continued to speak. “All I have to say is that they’ve got a surprising amount of faith that I won’t, like, uh, I dunno…spill something on this pretty-much-white dress or, like, break down sobbing before I go onstage, but whatever.”
Well Slater for once was sending thanks to whoever had forced her to look this good so long before her performance, because holy fucking hell did she look good.
“Not that I anticipate I’ll break down sobbing, Slater, but still…I mean, don’t you think it’s at least a little stupid that they put that much effort into, like, thiiiis…” She held her hand up to her face and gestured in a circle, and then motioned to the rest of herself, and hell yeah he followed her hands as an excuse to check her out. “…and all of everything when I’ve got jack shit to do for the next solid bit? I get looking good and not wanting me to look like a fucking hobo or whatever, but full on styling me…? I feel like some kind of…dolled-up tryhard, but honestly it’s whatever.”
"I dunno," Damien replied with a shrug of his shoulders. "Not complaining, though. You look hot as fuck -- seriously. Whoever styled you... they did a hell of a job." That was about as good of a compliment as you could expect from one Damien Slater, and there was a sly little grin on his face as he looked her up and down again. "Maybe the school's just serious about their biggest stars looking good as they can while they're wandering, ya know?"
Oh yeah, she looked way fucking hotter than she had on ice cream day.
Or even at the lock-in.
Yeah, he could definitely play the long game for this chick.
“Whoever styled you, though…props to them.” She laughed softly. “I like your little, like…flower…thing. It’s, uhm, interesting. Cute. Stylish, ya know. You look very professional.”
Damien looked down at his shirt, and he felt his ears heat up in embarrassment. Right. He looked like a fucking dumbass in this shirt, and the whole suit thing, and then the Converse sneakers because he'd promised his mom that he'd tried on his old dress shoes and they still fit, except this morning when he was getting ready to go, he realized that they didn't fucking fit him so now he looked... weird as fuck.
"Yeah..." he said with a sigh. "My mom picked it out."
And he left it at that because it was embarrassing to be seventeen (oh yeah, he'd had a birthday) and have your mom picking out your clothes and shit.
“But I’ve mostly been just kind of…like, loitering around or whatever, so I’ve been good. Relaxing before, like, performing or whatever. Drinking lots of water, all of that shit. I did, like, poke around this place, though, and omigod, it’s fucking huge, amiright?” She said. “Like…I’ve…okay, so this is my third Arts Fest, so I’m not gonna act like this place is new to me or something, but I’ve performed in the same area all three years, so, like…I dunno, whatever. I haven’t really gotten a chance to look around, always kind of, uhm…hung around my friends before and after my performance, so…being kind of alone this year gave me, like, a chance to do something I haven’t gotten to do, l-o-l.”
Oh perfect, so she had no friends? She was all alone? Now see, that was something that Damien Slater could build a basis off of and fucking take advantage of and shit.
“Yeah, but I’m fine. Sorry, I, like, talk too much when I’m, like, nervous. Bad habit. Anyway, uhm, how about you?” She continued “I mean, obviously I know your film was just shown, but like…how’re you? You’re new, so like…have you ever done something like this, or is it your first time, or…?”
"Ramble away," he said with a little dismissive wave of his hand. "I don't know why you're so worried, though. I bet you're gonna go out there and kill it. And hey, I'll try to come and watch it if I have time."
Which he would, because he didn't really have much going on today -- but even if he didn't, would she really be able to tell? He'd just be another face obscured by the dark lighting of the different auditoriums, so... he could always lie out his ass about being there. He was a fucking genius like that.
"This ahh... yeah, this is my first time." He admitted with an awkward chuckle, his hand again going back to rub awkwardly at the back of his neck. "Kind of intimidating -- working with all these actual like celebrities and shit and all I've done is make a couple like ten second movies on YouTube that got maybe a thousand views, but uhh... I guess I'd say I like it. I'm happy, anyway. Glad that I'm finally doing this shit for real."
Her fingers felt like they were shaking a bit, and she was like pretty sure that her palms were probably super sweaty, and she didn't know what to do, but she needed something to do with her hands. Plus like, she could feel her smile growing tenser and wavering a bit, and she was pretty sure she was either going to puke or cry or both and like, really no one needed that, because the last thing Ash wanted was to have to fix her makeup after that and.... god, god, god.
So she found herself kind of biting into her bottom lip, although she wasn't super aware of this, and then she started to fidget with Trevor's tie again which like, she knew it was fine. Obviously it was fine, even if it was a little off center or whatever, it was fine, but focusing on something like that at least helped to occupy half of her mind while the other half of her mind was listening to what he was saying.
A shaky smile grew on her face as he started talking about his grandma and his horrendous outfit.
“Oh Christ, don’t mention my grandmother,” Trevor groaned, and her eyes flicked up to look at his face for a moment before looking back at his tie. “Tha woman’s been driving me insane about this. Every detail. She…pretty much chose this, yeah. I said, ’I can dress casually an’ no one would blink an eye,’ since I’m a fecking writer, ya know, an’ no one’s going to be paying too much attention, but she said — I swear ta you — ahem.” He cleared his throat before he heightened his voice in his best old lady impression. “’Sean Trevor, you are not goin’ ta be goin’ dressed as a slob from tha streetcorner. I don’t care if everyone else is wearin’ the finest clothes tha convenience stores have to offer or if they’re wearin’ hand-me-downs that’ve been put through a lawnmower. You are going ta dress nicely.’” He shook his head, gritting his teeth. He dropped the high-pitched voice, bitterly saying, “This was her idea of nicely. I blame it all on her.”
Ash let out a soft giggle, a wistful smile on her face. "Well I think it's sweet. Like, that she cares so much about it. It's just like... yeah, it's just sweet." And maybe there was a hint of jealousy there seeing as how Ash's mother had basically been ignoring her calls ever since she told her that she was doing a duet instead of singing on her own. Like right now? It would've been really nice to not be alone in the dressing room.
Well, not alone now, but still.
"Even if her style, and like her choice of clothes is ummm..." she hesitated, her lips downturning into a frown as she paused in her tie fidgeting to smooth down said tie, and rested her hand on his chest. "Questionable. I mean like it's not really that bad, if you just had like... normal pants. And not," she tugged slightly at the over shirt which was so bright it was kind of burning her eyes, "whatever this is."
... Maybe that wouldn't actually make whatever he was wearing better.
“Yeah…I’d take it, really. Charlie, Amy, and Jo’ve tried in the past, but who knows? Maybe you’ll be the one to finally convince my grandmother that I don’t need her as my stylist.” He said in response to her offering to help him pick something out.
"Does that mean I get to, like, meet your grandmother? So I can like, convince her that I can help you?" She asked with a playful smile. "I mean, I don't really blame her for not trusting you. You'd probably show up in that, like, ugly pineapple t-shirt and sweatpants or something."
Listen, it was like, half a joke.
Surely Trevor knew that he had the style of a toddler asked to pick out his own clothes.
“I just wanted to come and see you. Ya know, an’ wish you luck,” he said. “Or, ah, ya know…tell ya to break a leg, as they say in show biz. I…uh, yeah. That’s…that was. Yeah, that’s what I came here for.”
At this, she blinked up at him from fidgeting with his outfit. She blinked again, a little surprised to hear that he'd actually come back here to do that (and, like, obviously risk people finding out about them or whatever, because there'd be no good way to explain him in her dressing room), and then she gave a soft smile.
"Well thank you," she said softly. "It means a lot -- like, seriously." And then her eyebrows knitted together, her lips down turning into a worried frown. "Are you okay? You seem like... I don't know, just like... nervous or something."
The day of the film's showing had arrived and Chas made it a point to adorn himself with his best watch, best tux, and best pair of Versace dress shoes. The aroma of fine cologne wafted around and off of his press-cleaned suit, which radiated the stunning aura of a red carpet attendee.
The well-dressed boy knew better than to stick his fingers in his heavily gelled and hair sprayed hair, but he could hardly resist the urge to fix singular stray hairs as they popped out of place every so often. He had to look perfect on his long-awaited day of glory, the time all of his inflated self-importance became more than an illusion as his talents were recognized. He cast a sideways glance at his co-director, Alex, thanking her in his head for acting as his final stepping stone toward success.
Everything was coming together. Including the plan he'd set into motion weeks prior. Straightening his collar and flashing a sparkling, white smile at the mirror, he mentally repeated words of praise and excitement for what was to come. He carefully scrutinized his grin, tapping a finger on his notoriously ceramic front tooth. It didn't appear to be an implant at all to the untrained eye—Chas' parents had paid far too much for that—but it still served as a grim reminder of the social casualties he'd overcome the first semester of his last year in high school.
And he hadn't forgotten all the miserable gnats who tried to stop him from climbing where he was today.
"Alex!" he called out across their reserved room, finally ripping his eyes away from his reflection, "Where's my coff—" He looked down, spotting a plastic cup of iced coffee beside his cell phone. "Oh." He took a small sip, then frowned. "The French maid makes it better," he lamented, still a little amazed Auguste had managed to pin down his taste in coffee so quickly. Either he was naturally a people pleaser or he was smart enough to avoid Chas' wrath. Or he was secretly an obsessed Chas Marino superfan, which he wouldn't have blamed him for.
He located the laptop he'd borrowed from the school in order to access the institution's private servers, click-clacking away as he entered passwords and sorted through files. The machine housed the film project they'd lovingly, painstakingly nurtured for the past month. He fiddled with the flash drive attached to the laptop, then tucked it away in his pocket and shut the device.
He looked over his shoulder at Alex, curling another stray hair with his index finger. He released an irritable grunt, cursing his hair for disobeying him on the day of the arts fest of all times. "Look at you all dressed up, Barbie," he teased, looking the slightly taller girl up and down with an expression of approval, "You sure fashion isn't really your true calling?"
He crossed his arms, leaning back on the mirror. "Are you nervous? You look it." Getting an idea, he stuck a hand into his man purse and fished out a tin of breath mints, then popped one into his mouth. He held out the container expectantly. "Here, take a breath mint. It's elderflower-flavored."