"It's not as if we didn't want to, we just"
Cooper's attempted explanation was quickly silenced by Sam's pale wagging finger. Even in his current state, he had carried on his mannerisms, and everyone in the band knew the wagging finger meant Sam was more than just a little displeased.
"You do realize I need the proper energy to get here, right?" Sam asked scathingly, walking past Cooper and toward the table where the Ouiji Board lay. He sighed and picked up the planchette, twirling it between his nimble fingers. "And really, coffee isn't exactly a common find these days."
"Sorry, dude." Alex explained, placing his guitar down on a nearby stand. He shivered slightly, as the garage had grown cold since they had started playing before the sun set. From the only window in the garage, Alex could see night had taken its hold on the town.
"We just got a little caught up," Gregg attempted to explain, but was immediately shushed by Sam's wagging finger again.
"It's no matter," said Sam, leaning up against the table. "I have news."
"What kind of news?" asked Bobby from behind the drum kit.
"The bad kind," replied Sam with a scowl. "People have been talking about you."
"As we suspected," Bobby grumbled as he fumbled with his wristbands. His tattoo had been itching lately; something it never had done before.
"Well, I don't think you expected such scathing words," Sam snickered. "I happened upon two girls talking in the hallway outside the chorus room today."
"Oh, God." Cooper sighed.
"Yeah," continued Sam, "and they've been speculating on the details of"
"Interesting," Gregg interrupted. He often liked to skip the morbid details. He coughed awkwardly as the others stared at him with a sort of annoyance adorning their visages.
"They think you did it," Sam concluded, smiling a rancid grin. "Those bitches," Bobby growled loudly from behind the kit. He began wringing his hands together; a coping mechanism for him.
Stephen, who, up until now, had been silent, suddenly rose to his feet, leaving his guitar case wide open on the stone floor. Speaking slightly louder than the others, he announced:
"Well, is that really a problem?"
There was a moment of stunned silence as the others pondered his meaning. Stephen sighed, closed his guitar case, and walked over to the drum kit. Placing his foot on the bass drum, he addressed the room.
"Think about it. Speculation is one thing; truth is another. They can believe all they want, but they have no proofno idea what even happened that night! We're the only ones who know. As long as we keep our traps shut, there's nothing to worry about. They can spread rumors all they want. All we need to do is hold out until senior year is over. Then we'll split up and never talk about it again."
There was a slight pause, followed by nods and murmurs of agreement. Sam scoffed loudly and rolled his eyes.
"I suppose you're right," he said. "But your speech doesn't change facts. Let's hope your optimism is well-believed."
And with that, Sam turned on his heel and began marching for the exit, but stopped as he reached the door. He gave a solemn sigh and turned back to his former bandmates.
"And one correction. There's one person who knows besides us."
The rest of the band froze in place, horrified at what Sam would say next. They all knew it was true, but acknowledging it was more than they had desired to occur in the conversation. The realization that there were more forces at work was disturbing, to say the least. Stephen shivered a bit as Sam licked his lips and uttered the inevitable:
And with that, Sam gulped, turned his back to his friends, and walked straight through the wall.
School that Monday was utterly nerve-wracking for Stephen. He had a particular goal in mind: avoid Victoria Lake at all costs. He was able to avoid any sign of her throughout the morning, slipping in and out of doors at will. His eyes showed the signs of severe insomnia: the black bags beneath them revealed how he hadn't slept all weekend. The memories of early July had haunted him all night. Nightmares were common nowadays.
But with lunch nearly half-over, Stephen began to panic. Sitting alone in a band area practice room, he began to wonder at how he could avoid Victoria during biology. She only sat a few seats away. As he went over some arpeggios on the low-end stock acoustic guitar the school had lying around, his brain began to realize he would have to skip biology. But he would need a damned good reason to be out of class.
As he swept across a D minor arpeggio, his finger miscalculated, and rather than landing where it was supposed to, it instead landed quite off target. A tritone sounded aloud, echoing in the empty closet-space room. Stephen's eyes sprang wide open. He gasped slightly, and, before he could even toss the guitar off his lap, the fluorescent light above him flickered twice.
He leapt up from his chair and dove for the light switch. Catching it in mid-air, his fingers slammed it down, and the room was suddenly enveloped in darkness. Stephen hit the ground hard, his knees bouncing off the hard carpeted floor. He suppressed a groan and crawled to safety. He pressed his curled form against the wall beneath the plate glass window that looked out into the band hallway. He held his breath as he waited for time to pass.
He could feel the atmosphere of the moment change. A creeping terror wound its way up his spine, sticking the hair on his neck on end. Stephen felt as if he was being watched by a thousand tiny eyes, but he didn't make a sound. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the feeling of dread serpentined back down his spine, and he relaxed.
With this moment of peace, he calmly reached up and turned the light back on. But with the light flooding through the room, the blood in his veins turned to ice. He shivered as his brain tried to process the feeling that had occurred moments earlier. Sure, he had played many a tritone before, and he had taken the necessary reaction each time, but the feeling of the thousand eyes staring into his being had never happened before. "Oh, God," he whispered to himself, breathing heavily. "We were warned about this."
With one hand, he grabbed the windowsill above him and pulled himself to his feet. His knees wobbled uncertainly as he pressed his face to the glass and looked out into the hallway. It was empty, aside from a few music stands stacked against one wall. He gave a sigh of relief. Nothing.
Relieved, he slumped back down, sliding his back down the wall until he was back in a seated position on the ugly red carpet. His mind began to slowly return to the problem of Victoria Lake. For a moment, he sat in utter silence, thinking. Then, as if spurred on by a sudden onset of bravery and stupidity, he stood defiantly and opened the door into the hallway.
He marched across the way, and into the single-person bathroom. There, he leaned over the sink and stared at himself in the mirror. Smirking, he flicked the light switch on and closed the heavy bathroom door. Now completely isolated, he looked into his own eyes in the mirror and took a deep breath. He exhaled staggeringly, grasping the sink edges with both hands, and then took in one more deep breath. In a flash, he sucked it up, and slammed his face downward into the porcelain sink. He heard a sickening crack as the pain set into his nose. He growled loudly and pulled himself back up to look in the mirror at his new injury. Blood began pouring out of his nose and down across his lips. He smiled a pained smile.
"Oh, I walked into a door, Nurse Kelley. I gotta go get this fixed. No bio today," he rehearsed into the mirror.
His voice came out nasal and pained, but it was more than enough to get him out of biology and away from Victoria for the day. He exhaled sharply, sending two droplets of blood into the mirror. They hung there for a moment, and Stephen coughed some blood out of his mouth and into his hand. As he looked back up, he began to feel a sort of anxiety. For the two droplets of blood, suspended on the polished glass, stared back at him, like two of the thousand eyes that had seen into his being moments prior. Stephen gave a yelp and fled from the bathroom, not even bothering to switch off the light.
"I want to be honest with you," Alex sighed, glancing over the top of his magazine at Clarissa, who simply rolled her eyes and pushed her pure black hair out of her dark eyes. He had been feeling guilty about rejecting her offer to join them at band practice, but he knew it was for the better.
"Really, I do." Alex continued, closing the magazine and rolling it into a tube. "It's justhard to explain."
Clarissa simply nodded, not taking her eyes off her own magazine page. Alex sighed once more and reopened the literature to a new article.
"You're sure you can't come to the show on Friday?" he asked, hoping she would change her mind.
"I have a meeting then," she grumbled, giving him a slight glance of pure hatred. But he knew she didn't hate him. She had joined him for their lunch reading session, after all. But there was no tongue-in-cheek flirting this time. She had been very quiet and withdrawn. Sure, she might be mad at him, but she still gave him the time of day.
"Can you hang out after the show?" he asked, desperate to get something after her.
Clarissa bit her bottom lip and placed her magazine on the table. She took in a breath and began fiddling with a lock of her hair. Her normally beautiful porcelain face was now distorted in a visage of struggle. She wanted to say something, clearly, but must have been withheld by her own emotions. She finally sighed aloud and slammed her left hand onto the table.
"Yeah," she said quietly, "I guess I could."
"Good!" Alex laughed gleefully. But then, a sudden change of heart took him, and he became quite worried. "Are we going to have sex then?"
Clarissa's eyes looked as if they were going to pop out of her head.
"What?!" she asked in a frantic whisper.
"I mean, let's be honest." Alex chuckled, "we've been flirting like crazy since school started. I mean, I know I want you, but"
"Alex," Clarissa interrupted, grabbing his hand. Her grip was much stronger than he would have expected, and her vice-like hand began to dig into his. A slight pain cramped Alex's hand. "You know I want to, but trust me. You shouldn't do anything with me."
"Why not?" Alex asked, half curious and half disappointed.
"Don't get me wrong, I really, really want you, but"
"But what?" Alex asked. "Have a boyfriend?"
"No, no." she whimpered. "It's a secret."
Alex nodded slowly to himself and grumbled under his breath. He withdrew his hand from Clarissa's and folded his arms in front of him. For a moment, he began a great debate in his head. Tell the truth, or be confident in his secret? Two lawyers squared off in his head, growling obscenities at each other. Finally, his worse nature took hold, and he grinned a diabolical smile. He unfolded his arms and took Clarissa's hand in his own.
"How about a secret for a secret?" Alex asked, smirking slyly. "I tell you why you couldn't join us at band practice, and you tell me why we can't have fun."
Clarissa's gaze dropped to her feet. Alex assumed she was having the same battle in her brain. Her lawyers began shouting, and for a moment, Alex began to think she would never respond. Several emotions flew across her face, but finally, she looked up, a weak smile adorning her gorgeous face.
"Fine," she giggled. "But you first."
"Okay," Alex snickered, then leaned back. His face became rather somber. "You know howSam"
"Yeah?" Clarissa responded, hanging on Alex's every word. She leaned forward, eager to hear his deepest, darkest secret.
"Wellit wasn't a bear." Alex sighed.
"Clarissa, we did something no human should ever do."