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Stand By Me

By Ali Larsen All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Drama

Chapter 1

Alexandria West woke up, finding herself in an strange place. She couldn’t remember much about the night before. The last thing she remembered was setting up Nirvana. She co-owned the nightclub with her older brother, Kevin. He was thirteen years older than her, and they had closed early to set up for his birthday party. She had no idea where she was, or how she got there. There was a small glimmer of light shining through the window in front of her, enough that she could look around. She was in a small, bachelor apartment, lying on the occupants floor-perched mattress. She pulled the sheet off, relieved to see she was fully clothed. She faintly heard the sound of running water, and noticed there was a light on in the bathroom. She didn’t want to be there when the occupant came out. Her hand briefly searched the floor, while her eyes stayed glued to the bathroom. She scooped up the keys she found, and quietly crept to the door. She unlocked it, and quietly closed it as she left. She didn’t even bother checking for her shoes. She just wanted out of there. She quickly followed the red arrows on the walls that would guide her to the exit. It was pitch black outside, but off in the distance, she could tell the sun was starting to rise. She pushed open the apartment doors. The breeze was refreshing, as it blew through the red knots that made her hair. She quickly pulled her hair back, tucking it under the collar of her shirt. Her hair went past her waist, and it was annoying. She looked around the parking lot she was standing in. There were no street lights on, and she didn’t recognize anything. She sighed, and started walking across the lot. It was nearing the end of May, and the weather was starting to get nice. Which was surprising since the last few summers had been late. She heard a car door slam from behind her and quickly spun around. A familiar face climbed out of the sleek black 2005 Honda Civic.

“James?” She questioned with both excitement and relief in her voice. James was an old friend. She had met him back in December 2001 at a concert in New Jersey. They briefly dated, but it didn’t last. They decided they were better of as friends, and had been so for over a decade.

“Hey.” He greeted, sounding confused. She ran over to him and threw her arms around him. He laughed, putting one of his hands on her lower back. She only went up to his chest, since he was 5′11” and she was 5′2”. She moved back, looking up at him. He was pale skinned, but toned and he had dainty shoulders for a man. He was wearing a semi-tight fitting t-shirt. It looked black, but had some design she couldn’t make out on the front. One of his arms had a massive tattoo on it. It was something he got matching an old girlfriend. He had rings around his brown eyes, fairly noticeable because of his complexion. He smiled, making eye contact with her. She blushed slightly, and looked at the ground. She noticed under his plain black jeans, that he wasn’t wearing shoes. She looked back up at him. He ran one of his hands through his ear-length blonde hair, spiking it back up. She smiled.

“What are you doing here?” He asked, leaning against the car. She looked around the parking lot.

“Dude, I don’t even know where here is.” She joked, looking back at him. He laughed.

“You’re at the Southside Apartments. And, quite a bit away from home.” He informed her. She nodded slowly, slightly tilting her head.

“That sounds familiar.” She commented, intending the thought to be in her head. He again laughed.

“It should, considering I’ve lived here for almost five years.” He teased. She shook her head. She had lived in New York on and off the twenty six years of her life. She knew the city off by heart. But, in her defense, she also knew Illinois. It was sadly common for her to wake up unsure of where she was.

“Cut me some slack, James.” She smiled, sticking her tongue out. He shook his head, still smiling.

“Come on, I’ll give you a lift home.” He offered, moving off the car. She nodded, walking around to the passengers’ side. The car only had two doors, which made carpooling awkward. The interior of his car was a custom design. The entire dashboard was a slick black, almost metallic looking plastic, with a science fiction style dash board. The seats were all leather, with lights in the bottom of them that lit up just enough to see, but not enough to be a hazard. He had said he was modeling it after Kit, but it took on a different look. Still, it was a pretty interesting looking vehicle.

“What time is it?” She asked, clipping her seat belt. James shook his head, starting up the car. The clock turned on with the engine. In a bright blue digital font, it read 6:02 AM. She sighed.

“What are you even doing here?” He asked casually. She shrugged.

“I have no clue.” She replied, as he pulled out of the parking lot. He laughed, thinking she was kidding. The unchanged expression on her face told him she wasn’t.

“Oh, you’re serious. What’s the last thing you remember?” He asked. She was quietly shaking her head.

“I don’t remember what the last thing I remember is. How’s that for an answer?” She said laughing. He shook his head, chuckling, and continued driving. She lived on the other side of town, in a very rich neighborhood. Kevin owned the plot of land, and built the house with his own hands. Even though they only shared a mother, the two had always been close. He took care of her most of her life and she more viewed him as a father. He had been working full time for years, saving every cent he could. In April 2009, he bought the plot of land that would become their home. With help from the brothers on his fathers’ side, Miguel, Mike, and Drew, he started building. Kevin and Miguel were both contract construction workers. Miguel owned a property management company that Mike and Drew both worked for. By February of the next year, the house was finished. Lex moved in with her best friend Jason, his girlfriend Megan, and their friends Adam and Edward. Kevin had a room on the lower level, with a lock, but he was never home. He had a room in a loft uptown where Drew lived. It was closer to the nightclub, which demanded most of his attention. Lex kept quiet through the drive, still trying to remember the night before. Before long, James turned onto her street. Her house was the second on the right. It was one of eight mansions on a cul de sac.

“Hey, James...” She started. He briefly looked over at her.

“Yeah?” He asked, half raising his eyebrow.

“Thanks.” She commented, adjusting the way she was sitting. He nodded, smiling.

“It’s nothing.” He assured. She laughed, quickly interrupted as he hit a bump at the end of the driveway. She looked over at him with a discontent expression on her face as they slammed forward.

“James! Learn how to fucking drive!” She barked. He laughed, leaning back in his seat.

“You’re aware it’s not my driving, it’s your driveway, right?” He dismissed. She opened the door, and looked down at the drive-way. It was made up of an assortment of red, diamond rocks. Adam had been planning to pave it, but it had been over a year, and she had lost hope. She half laughed as she tip-toed across the rocks on to the grass. She looked from his car to the garage, but he turned the engine off. She directed her view to the mansion in front of her. There were eight bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large living space, and a full back yard with a pool. The front yard was almost neglected. Adam kept the grass trimmed all around the house, but no one spent time in the front yard. She brushed her toes through the blades of grass as James got out of the car behind her. Since the house was completed, there had been a high traffic of occupants. When Eddie moved in, his girlfriend Natalie moved in as well. But, then they broke up and she moved out. He moved his new girlfriend Eliza in, but she was insane, and they didn’t last either. For a while, James was living in the room across from hers, but, he felt too uncomfortable with the arrangement. Gerald, his brother, had also been living there. He moved into his own apartment after a couple months, and James moved with him. Kevin often rented the spare rooms out to his friends, which increased the occupancy. Lex laughed out loud thinking about it. She continued walking towards the entrance, just along the rocky path. She looked over at the sunflowers encircling the house. The bright yellow petals were strongly enhanced by the dark gray vinyl siding around the house. She noticed some of them had started to whither from lack of care. Her attention went back towards the driveway as James walked up the rocky path beside her. She looked down at his feet, noticing he had put on beige sandals. She shook her head, slightly laughing. She tripped as she got to the marble staircase in front of the door. James laughed loudly.

“Still tipsy I see?” He teased. She smirked.

“I lost my shoes.” She muttered in a sad tone. He shook his head, still laughing.

“Fair enough.” He commented, walking up beside her. They both stood staring at the entrance. The door was eight feet tall. It seemed excessive, but Kevin was 6′4”. He had the door made from a thick, almost bullet-proof, steel. It was painted a dark red, complimented by six foot windows on each side. The glass was stained and had scattered skulls, in gray, red, and white. She turned the handle, and pushed the door open. She threw her keys on the ledge to the left of the entrance. It was an indented shelf along the living room wall. It had a couple key pegs, and a mail slot. It once held nicknacks, but the first time the door had been slammed, everything broke. She didn’t put any breakables on the walls anymore. Underneath the shelving area was a small, unused, shoe rack. To the right of the entrance was a closet. Most of the shoes were just thrown in the bottom. In front of them, stretching down 8 feet, was an off blue colored throw rug. It was made of an easy-to-clean material, and long enough to properly clean passing shoes. James took his sandals off and dropped them lightly on the shoe rack. One of them tumbled down onto the floor. She laughed, and threw the sweater she had just taken off towards the coat rack. As it hit the floor, she remembered she no longer had a coat rack. Eddie had used it as a sword fighting with Jason one day, and it busted in half. She didn’t bother replacing it.

“When did the party end?” She asked, peering down the hallway. James laughed.

“Three hours ago. Me and some of the guys stayed to clean. I’m not sure who’s home.” He answered. She nodded. There was a light on in the kitchen, so she thought she’d investigate.

“Hey, I need to get a quick nap, I have a class at nine. Can I borrow your bed, you know, since I’m here?” He asked, trying to get her attention. She nodded, absentmindedly. She heard him laugh as he jogged up the stairs. She quietly walked down the very plain hallway, towards the kitchen and dining room. At the entrance, the kitchen was to the left, and the dining room was to the right. She peered in both directions. There was a fresh pot of coffee to the left, and Adam sitting in the dark to the right. She nodded, and walked into the kitchen, making herself a coffee. The kitchen was designed for the size of people it had to hold. Immediately to the left, along the wall, was the fridge. It had three compartments, two on the right, and one on the left. The top right had an ice maker on the door, but was basic inside. The one underneath had a massive crisper drawer, and a couple shelves. It also had a spot for eggs in the door, and two rotating panels for cheese. The left side of the fridge was nothing special. It only had shelves, and no compartments. The inside of the door was divided into two sections, each spanning half the size. They were deep enough to hold standard cartons of juice. Like the other appliances, the fridge was a navy blue aluminum. Next to the fridge, started the cupboards. The cupboards under the ceiling only stretched along that wall. They were for dishes, and nothing else. The cupboards that sat on the floor varied. The one immediately to the right of the fridge was made into a bread box. The inside had been tiled in a cheap blue, yellow, and green tiling, to prevent moisture. The outside of all the cupboards were lacquered red paint. Each handle was in a star shape, and colored yellow. Above the counter, was the microwave. It was the standard black, and had very little features. Underneath the upper cupboards, along the bottom, was the same tiling as the bread cupboard. Built into the cupboard, just after the microwave, was the dishwasher. It was a standard machine, but the face was built to match the cupboards. The rest of the counter was empty, until the corner of the room. The coffee pot and toaster sat askew in the corner. The cupboards under the ceiling ended at the corner. The floor perched cupboards continued along the next wall. A couple feet from the coffee pot, was the double sink. Underneath, was the garbage can, and most of their cleaning supplies. Above the sink was a large picture window with a navy blue frame. It contrasted the bright yellow walls, but complimented the navy blue ceiling. The window over looked the garage, and the path beside the house. After the sink, on the counter, was a dish rack. Adam always washed the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. He was obsessive compulsive like that. Next to the rack, was the stove. It was a navy blue steel, with built in elements and a slide out cleaning drawer. Above it, on the wall, was a high powered fan. There was a switch to turn it on just between the sink and the stove. It had a built in exhaust that went outside. Off to the side, was a small hose, attached to the sink internally. It was in case of a fire, but better than a fire extinguisher. The counter and floor perched cupboards continued another three feet. The entire counter top was done in a navy blue marble. After the cupboards ended, there was a walk-in pantry. It was used for dry storage, and cases of beer. The household threw a lot of parties. The pantry ended the far wall, and started the outside wall. Along the outside wall was a large aluminum freezer that was painted navy blue. It was used primarily for meats, and other frozen goods. Above the freezer was another large window, over looking the patio. A couple feet to the right, was the exit of the house. The exit was two large glass doors. They had both sliding capabilities, and pushing. Right in the middle of the kitchen, centered from everything, was the island. It was big enough to comfortably hold eight people. The surface was the same marble as the counters, and the base was the same as the cupboards. The middle was hollow, holding eight bar stools. They were all combinations of red, yellow, and navy blue, in no particular order. Originally, she had wanted a red and blue theme, but it wasn’t enough, so she added yellow. She put her coffee cup on top of the island, pulled out one of the stools, and hopped up. Adam walked up beside her. He stopped, briefly looking over, then went towards the coffee pot. He was wearing the same Harley Davidson shirt he had been wearing the night before. Instead of his torn jeans, he was wearing equally as torn pajama pants. They were green and blue plaid and hung off his well defined hips. He had bags under his brown eyes, and his short brown hair was a mess. It was obvious he had gone to bed, but couldn’t sleep. She looked over her shoulder at him.

“Were you waiting up for me?” She asked. He kept his back to her.

“No.” He muttered sounding frustrated. She raised her eyebrow. Her and Adam had an extensive history. They met back in 2002, her second year of high school. They started dating shortly after, and the problems started right away. There was quite the age gap between the two, since he was eight years older than her. She thought he was ashamed of her, but he didn’t want people judging her. Either way, neither of them could be faithful, and both lacked communication skills. They didn’t last very long. But, since the feelings were still there, they found themselves trying again. And again. They had been on and off since the first time they were together. More recently, he was involved with a girl named Jennifer. She seemed like a sweet person, until Lex caught her cheating on Adam. She tried to tell him, but he accused her of trying to sabotage his relationship because she couldn’t have him. She had taken it personally, and they hadn’t been on good terms since.

“Maybe. I just, I wanted to make sure you even made it home.” He corrected.

“Is that any of your business?” She asked. He kept his back to her, and shook his head.

“I guess it’s not.” He muttered. They were both quiet for a minute.

“Do you know what you’re doing to yourself?” He asked, turning to face her. She stared at him blankly.

“Since when do you give a shit what I do Adam?” She was started to get irritated.

“How many times are you going to wake up in a strangers bed, not knowing what happened before you start to see it’s a problem?” He asked, ignoring the question.

“You know what, I don’t have to deal with this.” She answered, storming out of the kitchen.

“Fuck.” She muttered, heading down the hallway. She hesitated at the stairs, looking over her shoulder. She sighed, and looked down to make sure she got the first step. She was always tripping up the staircase. Which, had made it into magazines. The architecture was normal, but the design was anything but. Kevin’s boyfriend, Jesse, was an artist. Originally, Kevin had designed a hanging staircase, but Lex was scared it was going to fall. Jesse managed to paint the illusion. Each step had an intricate design that looked like metal. The walls were painted with heavy shadows, and the railing was done in small crystals. The staircase ended up in a confined space, so Jesse painted a chandelier on the ceiling. Lex sipped her coffee as she continued up the staircase. Her bedroom was the first door on the right. She pushed the door open, and looked around. James was passed out on her bed. She smiled to herself, shaking her head. The entire left side of her room was a platform, built a foot off the ground. It was about six and a half feet wide, and went the entire length of her room. It was covered in a white shag fabric, with functioning drawers cut out. She closed the door, and walked up the stairs to the platform, hitting her rabbit laundry hamper on the way. In front of the stairs, was a light blue vanity than James had built for her birthday. It had two drawers on each side, and the handles were decorated with a dark blue glitter. The mirror was in the shape of a star, with a matching glitter trim. Beside the vanity was one of her night-tables. There were two, one on each side of the bed. They both had two drawers, and the handles were shaped like stars. They were both a glossed black. Between them, was her queen sized bed, which was a mattress and nothing else. Her comforter was reversible. One side was black, the other was white. She had two full-sized pillows that were black, and a body pillow that was white. Scattered on top of the bed were several throw pillows in different shapes and colors. Folded at the end of the bed was a bright orange sheet, used as a blanket in the summer time. At the other end of the platform, against the wall, was a small entertainment cabinet. It was long, and thin, the same glossed black as the night tables. The cabinet had four shelves. The two on the top held the DVD player, and her super Nintendo. The bottom shelves held her CD cases, that were full of movies, and her Nintendo games. On top of the cabinet sat her laptop. She had an Apple Macintosh that was purple and transparent. Above the cabinet, mounted on the wall, was a small flat screen TV. In front of the table was a black leather bean bag chair. Off the platform, along the same wall, was the closet. It was covered in a black shredded plastic, with glow in the dark paint splattered all over it. Inside, was an eight drawer dresser. It was the same glossed black as everything else. She had glued little mirror pieces all over the front of it. It had a large vanity as well. On top of the dresser, to the left, was a small black shelf. It held a five disc stereo on the top, and underneath was a box of cords. To the right of the dresser was another black shelf, taller than the first. It held most of her DVDs, originally alphabetical order. Eddie was always borrowing her things, and he returned everything, but never to it’s proper place. She put her coffee down on the night table, and climbed onto the bed. She intended only to rest her eyes, but it wasn’t long before she fell asleep.

Jason tossed and turned in his bed. He looked over his shoulder at the digital clock sitting on the night table. It was already 6:45 in the morning. He hadn’t slept from the night before, and didn’t think he could. He had been humiliated, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get over it. He sighed, sitting up. He grabbed the black torn muscle shirt and black cargo shorts off the end of his bed, and got dressed. He ran his hand through his hair. The short dark brown mess was easy to maintain. He slid on his slippers, and headed out of his room. There were no lights on upstairs. He headed downstairs, and into the kitchen. Adam was sitting at the island, staring at the coffee cup in front of him.

“What are you doing up? You need some shut eye.” Adam announced, looking up. Jason shrugged.

“I couldn’t sleep.” He replied groggily. Adam nodded.

“No doubt.” He commented. Jason made himself a coffee, and dropped down at the island.

“Something on your mind?” He asked. Adam shrugged.

“Lex left early last night, with someone. She just got home.” He stated. Jason was quiet for a minute.

“And?” He asked a minute later.

“And? What? It’s not upsetting to you? I mean, that girl is...” Adam trailed off. Jason laughed.

“Man, you’re going to have to tell her that you still have feelings for her.” He blurted. Adam raised his eyebrow. He hadn’t said anything to anyone, but he had started questioning his loyalties. When Lex told him about Jennifer, he assumed she was trying to hurt him and pushed her out of his head. At the time, he couldn’t believe she would lie to hurt him they way she did. But, recently, he was starting to think she had been telling the truth, and he was wrong to accuse her of anything else. Still, he didn’t know what to say to her, or how to approach the subject. It was driving him crazy.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He dismissed, looking back at his coffee cup. Jason nodded.

“I get what you’re going through. But, I mean, it’s one thing to deny your feelings to everyone else, how long are you going to deny them to yourself?” He asked, trying to sound sympathetic. Adam shook his head, but didn’t say anything.

“I’m not.” He argued a minute later. Jason nodded.

“Sometimes it’s hard to admit when you’re wrong about something.” He mumbled.

“It sounds like you’re talking from personal experience.” Adam noted. Jason shrugged.

“We’ve all got out problems.” He dismissed. Adam laughed, shaking his head.

“Yeah, well, I don’t think I’m ready to deal with mine.” He dismissed. Jason nodded again.

“I can’t judge there. I’m not either.” He agreed. Adam sighed.

“Well, I guess you have to deal with yours now, don’t you? I mean, everyone knows. People are going to talk.” He rambled. Jason shrugged.

“They don’t know everything.” He assured. They were both quiet.

“Look, if you want my advice, just talk to her.” Jason offered, breaking the silence. Adam sighed.

“I wouldn’t know where to start.” He argued. Jason half-laughed.

“None of us ever do.” He finished, heading out of the kitchen.

“Good morning.” James greeted, shaking his hair off like a dog. Little water droplets splashed all over the bed. Lex sat up, and looked over at the clock on the nightstand. It was 7:59. She put one of her hands on her forehead. James dropped down on the bed beside her. She looked over at him, confused. He couldn’t help but laugh.

“Morning.” She greeted sounding anything but enthusiastic.

“What’s up?” He asked, laying back down. She pulled her knees to her chest, leaning against the wall.

“I just had the weirdest dream.” She answered, looking over at him. He raised his eyebrow.

“About what?” She was quiet for a minute.

“Jason.” She muttered. James sat back up, looking interested.

“Oh yeah?” He questioned, half-laughing. She shook her head slowly.

“Yeah.” She dismissed. He waited for a second, slightly leaning towards her.

“What about Jason?” She raised her eyebrow.

“Why are you being so nosy?” She answered with a question. He shrugged, leaning back.

“I don’t know. It’s natural that you’d dream of him with everything that happened yesterday.” James replied, smiling coyly. He enjoyed knowing something when she didn’t. She raised her eyebrow.

“Speaking of that, what happened last night?” She asked jumping off the platform. She went into the closet, and started digging around the drawers for something to wear. She pulled out a black halter top, and black jeans. She pulled off her shirt, and tossed it towards the hamper. He shrugged, still smiling.

“You’re going to have to talk to Jason about that.” He tried dismissing. She slightly stumbled pulling on her jeans as she looked over her shoulder at him.

“What? Why?” She asked, looking shocked. James laughed.

“Interesting reaction. I thought he was your best friend, and you could talk to him about anything. You don’t even know what it is you have to talk to him about and you’re nervous?” He questioned. She was quiet again, slowly walking back to the bed. James nodded.

“So it was that kind of dream?” He asked softly. She nodded.

“Are you going to tell him?” Her eyes went wide as she shook her head.

“No!” She barked, jumping back onto the platform. James laughed.

“Can I tell him? Oh, please let me tell him!” He begged. Lex leaned over and slapped his shoulder.

“No. He doesn’t need to know.” She insisted. James shrugged.

“I think he does. It would cheer him up.” He suggested. She raised her eyebrow.

“Why does he need cheering up?” She questioned. James laughed, as he jumped off the platform.

“Like I said, you need to talk to Jason.” She rolled her eyes and grunted. James was a drama whore. He loved being nosy, and he loved gossip, especially when he was the one with it. She half-laughed, watching him dart out the door. She grabbed the now cold coffee sitting on the night table, and headed out of her room. As she headed down the staircase, she could smell food. There were only three people who bothered cooking meals. Eddie, her, and Megan. James headed outside, to his car, and she continued down the hallway. Megan was in the kitchen finishing breakfast, and Adam was sitting with Eddie in the dining room. There was a hospital style divider separating the kitchen, and dining room. It was hardly ever used. It attached on the ceiling, spanning the width of the room. It was a semi-transparent plastic that was navy blue, and shredded into inch wide pieces. There was a pull cord on either side that would open them up, like blinds. But, they remained open for the most part anyway. The walls in the dining room were painted navy blue, along with the ceiling. It was intended to be more relaxing than the kitchen. There was a small set of cupboards near the ceiling. They were only casualties, and they were painted to blend in with the walls. In the middle of the room, was the eight foot long table. It was in the shape of an oval. It was white, with painted splashes of red, blue and yellow. On each side of the table were couches, the same length as the table. They were both yellow, to contrast the walls, covered in a easy-to-clean plastic. Lex ignored the dining room, and walked over to Megan, who was standing in front of the sinks. Megan jumped as Lex tapped her on the shoulder.

“Fuck, I didn’t hear you.” She exclaimed, turning around. Lex laughed. Megan was the same age as Lex, although her attire would suggest otherwise. She was dressed in a floor-length housecoat that was fuzzy, pink, and had little pigs all over it. Even her slippers were shaped like pigs. The sleeves of the housecoat were pulled up, showing off the tan she had got during her week vacation in Mexico. She had her long brown blonde hair pulled into a bun. She usually wore it down, unless she was cooking or in class. There were a lot of people who said her and Lex looked alike. They had the same nose and basic facial shape. They also dressed similar, usually.

“Are you feeding a small country?” Lex laughed. She had cooked pancakes, sausages, eggs, bacon, hash browns, and potato wedges. She glanced over her shoulder at the dining room, then back at Lex. She stuck out her tongue, showing off a small ring. She just had it pierced.

“What’s for breakfast?” James asked, walking into the kitchen. Lex turned around abruptly, and raised her eyebrow. She thought he was leaving.

“Eddie eats like a horse.” Megan answered. Lex directed her attention back to Megan, laughing.

“Delayed response much?” She asked. Megan shrugged.

“In my defense, it’s too early to think.” Lex smiled, making herself a coffee.

“Where’s Jason?” She asked, motioning to the dining room.

“He’s been in the backyard since you got home.” Adam announced, walking up behind them. He ran his hand through his hair. She briefly made eye contact with him, before he looked away. She directed her attention to the tattoos covering both his arms. She tried to be discreet as she looked him up and down. He had taken off his shirt, and he was more muscular than she remembered. He was also more pale. She looked away, shaking her head. She hated that she still found him attractive, since he had developed such a rotten personality. He made himself a coffee, then headed onto the patio. Lex watched him motion something to Jason, who was mowing the lawn. He turned the mower off, and ran the back of his arm across his forehead. He nodded, then put mower in the shed. Normally, it was Adam who did the yard work. Jason only bothered when he was stressed.

“Where did you take off to last night?” Megan asked in a hushed voice. Lex shook her head.

“Not a clue. I woke up. I was in a random apartment. I bolted. You know, the usual.” She explained, nodding to herself. Megan laughed.

“You missed one hell of a party.” She muttered, shaking her head. Lex raised her eyebrow.

“What happened?” She asked softly. Megan looked over her shoulder.

“I’ll tell you later.” She whispered. Lex followed her glance. Jason was following Adam inside.

“Hey, I know you’re busy what with that fundraiser and all, but, do you think I could grab a ride to school? I have an exam today at 8:30 and I won’t make the bus.” She was studying a two year rhythm and dance course, but she was almost finished. Lex turned her view back, and nodded.

“Yes. Wait, no. Maybe. I don’t know. Ask James. My car is out of commission, remember?” She stumbled through answers, Megan laughed loudly, and nodded.

“Alright. I’m going to do that then.” She announced, turning off the elements. Lex looked around as Megan darted out of the room. James had just been standing there, but he was no where in sight. She laughed and grabbed her coffee. She headed into the dining room, sliding into the seat across from Eddie. He was sprawled out across the couch.

“Good morning, sexy.” He greeted, smiling. She laughed.

“Good morning, Eddie.” She dismissed, shaking her head. He slowly sat up.

“Do you want some of my sausage?” He winked. She shook her head.

“No, Eddie. I don’t.” She replied with the lack of enthusiasm she felt. He laughed.

“Come on, you know you want me.” He coaxed. She laughed, shaking her head. Even she had to admit, he was a very handsome man. He was 6′4”, tall and lanky, but well defined. He had dark skin, from his foreign heritage. And, quite a sexy accent as well. He was wearing red and white plaid pajama bottoms, and no shirt. He had a small line of hair down the center of his defined chest. His messy brown hair was starting to curl from the sweat. His deep brown eyes were glazed over from a long night of drinking, and the smile spread across his face was coy. She was very attracted to him, but she couldn’t see him as more than an egotistic jerk. She raised her eyebrow.

“No, I really don’t.” She replied, standing up. She walked back into the kitchen and sat on top of the island. Eddie followed, grabbing himself a plate, and heading into his room. The other bedroom on the main floor belonged to Eddie. Adam threw a couple things on a plate, and went back into the dining room. He kept himself on a strict diet because of his health, and his drinking problem. Jason closed the patio door behind him, slowly approaching the island. He was wearing a Slayer t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, and sweating profusely. He had on black baggy cargo shorts and no shoes. He dropped his back against the island, staring at the ground. He always had definition in his body, but more recently it was muscle. He had started going to the gym with his friend Andy, and the results were starting to show. His dark Hawaiian skin was glistening with sweat. The tattoos down his arms looked brand new due to the moisture. She stared at him for a minute. He had rings around his ale colored eyes and looked like he hadn’t slept in days. She pulled herself to the edge of the island, and leaned over his left shoulder.

“Is everything alright?” She asked quietly. He briefly turned to face her and she moved back.

“No.” He replied with a bitter tone. She sighed.

“What’s wrong?” She asked sympathetically. He raised his eyebrow, and stared at her confused.

“How can you even ask that? You should know. It happened less than six hours ago!” He commented, sounding unusually angry. She shook her head and shrugged.

“Yeah, seriously, I keep getting that, but I don’t remember anything about last night.” She answered, laughing. Jason rolled his eyes as her phone started vibrating. She pulled it out of her shirt, where she had apparently put it the night before.

“Hello.” She greeted, slightly confused.

“Good morning.” Gerald greeted.

“Oh, hey Gerry.” She answered. Jason raised his eyebrow.

“I don’t mean to bug you. But, do you know where James is? I know he stayed late to clean up, but, I thought he’d be back by now. I tried calling him but his cellphone is off.” He asked softly. Lex laughed, but mostly to herself. Gerry was really shy, and reserved, and she found it adorable.

“He’s somewhere around here. He’s got a class shortly I think, so you won’t see him for a couple hours.” She answered. There was a laugh on the other end of the phone.

“I forgot about that.” He replied.

“What are you up to?” She asked to make conversation.

“I’m just getting ready. Jesse called me a couple minutes ago. Apparently he needs help with the music, so I offered help to find someone. I’m slowly making my way to do that.” He explained, laughing. Lex nodded, aware Gerry couldn’t see her.

“Well, that’s where I’m headed too, so, I guess I’ll see you later!” She assured. He laughed again.

“Yeah, later.” He departed. She hung up the phone, and sat it down on the island behind her.

“What did he need?” Jason asked with a snappy tone. Lex raised her eyebrow. Adam quietly walked to the sink, dropping his now-empty plate on the counter. He made himself another coffee, and headed out of the kitchen. Lex watched Adam walk away, then looked back at Jason.

“His brother. What the fuck is wrong with you today?” She snapped. Jason had been easily irritable, and from there, aggressive. But in the last year, he had taken up smoking, and not cigarettes. His attitude faded, and he became nonchalant. Yet, he seemed really on edge. He stared down at the floor, and ignored the question. She looked at him, tilting her head. She knew that look.

“Are you, drunk?” She asked abruptly. He kept his eyes to the floor. Jason was supposed to have quit drinking after one too many bar fights over nothing. He had allowed himself a drink here or there, but not to overdue it. Instead, he decided to switch his vice to something that made him lethargic.

“A little.” He muttered, turning away. She stared at him, confused.

“What the hell happened last night?” She questioned, under her breath. She knew it had to be bad. He turned away from her, facing the hallway. She put her hand on the back on his neck, pulling his shirt down. He had a tribal vine tattoo across his back that came over his shoulders. For some reason, she always forgot it was there. She sat, studying the lines. Feeling her breath, he turned to face her. He was 5′7”, so normally she went to his chest. She had never really been eye level to him. She felt her heart skip a beat as his eyes met hers. She tried to move, but she felt paralyzed. They had been close many times, but somehow, this felt different. She didn’t feel like she was looking at her best friend. She felt like she was looking at someone else.

“Good morning!” James announced, interrupting the moment. Jason leaned back, and resumed staring at the ground, which made Lex laugh almost nervously. James made himself a coffee, and put a handful of potato wedges on a plate.

“Jason, you should really eat something. You had a long night.” James commented. He sighed, and kept his eyes to the floor. Lex wandered over to the counter, and picked a few wedges off James’s plate.

“Thanks.” She commented, shoving them into her mouth. James rolled his eyes.

“You’re welcome, I guess.” He replied laughing. Lex headed out of the kitchen.

“What did you say to Megan?” She asked, with pieces of potato falling out of her mouth. James rolled his eyes, putting his hand up so he didn’t have to look at her.

“What would I have said?” He answered, not understanding the question. He never said no when someone asked for a ride. She nodded, and headed out of the kitchen.

“Where are you going?” He called.

“I’m going to finish getting ready.”

Jason grabbed the plates as Megan put them down on the counter. One by one, he scraped the food into the garbage can, and slid them into the sud filled sink. Jason didn’t have the same OCD as Adam, but he welcomed the distraction from his mind. James made himself a coffee, and headed out onto the patio, stretching his arms as he did like he was hugging the sky. Jason laughed.

“Look, I want to talk to you about last night.” Megan started, leaning on the counter beside him.

“I don’t want to hear it.” He quickly cut her off. She sighed.

“I know you’re upset.” She continued. He dropped the plate he had been holding back into the sink, and looked over at her sharply. If looks could kill...

“Upset doesn’t even come close.“ He barked. He took a deep breath, and bit his tongue. He was trying very hard to stay calm, but he was so angry. He was having trouble controlling it.

“You’re being irrational!” She plead. He shook his head.

“I’m sorry? I’m being irrational? After what you did to me, that humiliation, speaking to you is what I consider irrational. I’d say I’m being pretty fucking level all things considered.” He snapped. She stared at the ground, shaking her head.

“You’re calling this level?” She questioned, laughing nervously. She had never seen Jason so angry.

“I can’t believe you would do that to me.” He continued.

“Jason.” She started. He held his hand up.

“Don’t. I said I didn’t want to hear it.“

“Look, I’m doing what makes me happy, and I’m sorry if you can’t accept that.” She barked.

“I’m sorry, being a slut makes you happy?” He asked, staring at her blankly. She looked offended.

“That was uncalled for.” She answered, biting her lip.

“So was that little episode last night. You know, with Andrew.” He was quick to reply.

“Look, I didn’t mean for that to happen, well, not that way. Like that. I guess I got, carried away... I should have told you sooner.” She plead. He shook his head.

“Gee, maybe.” He barked, with a sarcastic smile. She sighed.

“I’m sorry.” She repeated. He shook his head.

“Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time.” He insisted. She looked back at the floor.

“I can’t take it back, Jason.” She muttered. He shook his head and took a deep breath.

“I’m not going to be here when you change your mind this time.“ He assured, looking over at her.

“What makes you think I’m going to change my mind?” She asked, putting her hand on her hip. He stared at her blankly, then shook his head.

“Statistics?” He suggested. She shook her head.

“Well, I won’t. Not this time.”

Lex headed back down the hallway, towards the kitchen. She didn’t really have to get ready, she just wanted to call Jesse. He wasn’t answering his phone, which concerned her. As she walked by, Eddie came out of his room, grabbing her wrist. He swiftly pulled her into him, and pinned her against the wall with his body. She raised her eyebrow.

“Yes?” She questioned. He was quiet for a minute.

“Nicole’s coming down this week, right?” He questioned with a devious smile across his face. She shook her head. She had met Nicole while she was in California one summer. Once she moved back to New York, they kept in touch. Nicole had come to town a couple times, since some of her family was local. During her last visit, she had a brief romance with Eddie. He was dating Natalie at the time, and she had a boyfriend back in California. The two hadn’t seen each other since, but Nicole was moving to town with her now-fiancee Ruben.

“Yes Eddie.” She replied with a detached tone.

“Is she still as, smooth?” He smiled. Lex pushed him off of her, rolling her eyes. The relationship between her and Eddie had always been aggressive. She wanted him, but she tried to fight that feeling.

“Eddie, I want you to listen to me, very carefully. Stay away from her.” She instructed in a stern tone. After Natalie found out that he had slept with Nicole, she flipped. They broke up, and it was messy. The group was split for a while. She personally took Natalie’s side, but she was torn. She could tell right away that there was more than a physical connection. Eddie and Nicole had a chemistry. But, knowing Eddie, he would mess things up, and ruin his chances with her. More than that, if Nicole gave into her feelings only to be let down, she would end up closing off. She didn’t want him to let Nicole down, and she was afraid he would. She knew him well enough to know he couldn’t commit to anyone. He smiled again. There was something about his smile that always looked devious. Even when he wasn’t trying to come across as some hot shot, he always looked like he was.

“Is there any chance I can get close to you?” He whispered softly. She sighed.

“No, Eddie.” She barked. He unwrinkled his shirt, and nodded.

“Then, no, Lex.” He replied, heading back into his room. She laughed, and headed back into the kitchen. She looked around for James, but he was no where in sight. Again. Jason was sitting in the dining room, staring at his coffee cup.

“He’s outside, having a smoke.” He commented. He slowly twirled the spoon in his coffee. She nodded, walking into the dining room. She dropped down opposite of him, and just stared at him.

“What?” He asked casually.

“What do you mean ‘what’? What the hell is going on with you you fucking freak?” She questioned, putting her hands on the table. He shrugged.

“What on earth are you talking about?” He questioned dismissively. She rolled her eyes.

“I’ve never seen you look this rough.” She answered. He shrugged again.

“I’m fine.” He insisted. She laughed.

“Jason, I’ve been around long enough to know when something’s up.” She had met Jason back when they were kids. She had moved to Illinois in June 1998. Her family ended up moving a few doors down from his. He was the same age as Adam, but, he hung out with much younger people. Lex fit in with his circle of friends, so they started hanging out. It wasn’t long before they were inseparable. When her parents got divorced the following summer, she even moved in with Jason’s family. She was there three months until Kevin got them an apartment. Then, she moved to New York. They kept in touch, and it wasn’t long until he moved to New York himself.

“I’m not ready to get into it.” He confessed, putting his hands on the table beside the cup.

“Come on, you can tell me. You know you can tell me anything, kid.” She coaxed, putting her hands on his. He smiled, briefly looking up at her. Again, she felt her heart miss a beat. Megan coughed, tapping her foot impatiently in the doorway. Lex looked over at her and rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming. Hold your stampede.” She commented, standing up. Megan grabbed her bag off the floor and headed down the hallway.

“Jason, if you’re not doing anything, you’re welcome to tag along.” Lex invited, looking back at him. He looked down the hall at Megan, then faked a smile.

“I’ll be along soon enough. I’m helping Jesse move some stuff around. Since, you know, he’s weak. I’ve just got a couple things to finish up here.” He answered. She shook her head, heading down the hall. He followed close behind. James came inside as they got to the door.

“I was wondering when you were coming.” He joked.

“Oh is that why you came over last night? You should have said something.” She joked. His expression went blank and he shook his head. He turned around and headed back to the car, so she laughed.

“You were asking for it.” She insisted. He stuck his middle finger up in the air, getting into the drivers side of the car. Lex watched as Megan grabbed her ballet flats, and headed outside. She went to follow, but, Jason gently grabbed her hand before she got past the door.

“Yes?” She asked, half-laughing as she turned to look at him. He didn’t answer.

“Hurry your ass up!” Megan yelled from the backseat. Jason shook his head, and laughed.

“Never mind, I’ll catch up with you later.”

James sat parked outside Natalie’s house. They were almost at the college when Natalie called, asking for a ride. Natalie was the same age as her, and had graduated a long time ago. But she had decided just recently to go back to school for an art class. James figured he had time before his class to pick her up. Megan didn’t want to be late, but she wasn’t wearing shoes, so she was stuck tagging along. They had already been waiting more than five minutes. James honked the horn again.

“I don’t have this much time.” He joked. Lex shook her head. Natalie was always late. James started pulling away when Natalie came running out of the house. Her brown messenger bag was trailing on the ground behind her. She was 5′2”, and a little bigger than average. She had let herself go since the break-up with Eddie. She had short dirty-blonde hair, pulled back into a bun. She was wearing a navy blue eye shadow, clashing with her bright blue eyes, and matching eyeliner. She was wearing plain denim jeans, complimented by a sparking navy sarong around her waist. Her v-neck halter top matched the color of the sarong. She pulled the door open, and climbed over Lex and into the backseat beside Megan. Megan looked at Natalie, then the clock, then to James, and back to Natalie.

“Good morning.” Lex greeted, smiling at Natalie. Megan didn’t say anything, she just sat pouting with her arms crossed over her chest. She was officially late.

“It is a fantastic morning, isn’t it?” Natalie asked in response. Lex and James raised their eyebrows, and looked back at her. She had met Natalie when she first started high school. In fact, Natalie was the first friend she made in school. But, she was a completely different person back then. She had been thin, beautiful, the kind of girl everyone was jealous of. But she was sweet, and optimistic, and to her, the world was full of endless possibilities. Unfortunately, as high school went on, with the teasing and failed relationships, she had lost her optimism. Everyone blamed Eddie for her letting herself go though. Either way, it was odd to see her with such a bounce in her step.

“I didn’t say fantastic. What’s up with you?” Lex pried. Natalie shrugged, smiling secretively.

“I’m just having a terrific couple of days, I suppose.” Her response was shrouded in mystery.

“Can we go?” Megan whined, leaning forward. Lex laughed, and James started driving.

“I’m sorry.” Natalie apologized in Megan’s direction. She shrugged.

“It’s fine.” She muttered. Natalie laughed, and started digging through her bag. Lex looked over at James. He had been staring at her out of the corner of his eye the entire trip.

“Do you have something to say?” She asked, as he looked over. He looked into the rear view mirror.

“I love your shirt.” He commented, looking in Natalie’s direction. Lex rolled her eyes and tuned out the conversation. She was lost in her own thoughts anyway, still trying to figure out what that dream meant. She knew she cared for Jason, but it wasn’t as more than a friend. But the dream, paired with the nervousness she felt around him, was making her question herself. James pulled into the parking lot of the school only a few minutes later, snapping Lex back out of her thoughts. She sighed, shaking her head as she got out of the car. She tilted her head, noticing a familiar vehicle parked a few spots over. It was a black SUV with custom rims and a chain license plate. She slowly walked up to the drivers side and tapped on the window. They were all presidential tinted black. The door opened, and she stepped back. Out stepped Travis, an old boyfriend of hers. He was 6′3”, the definition of tall, dark, and handsome. He had tattoos covering most of his defined body. Which he was showing off in his tight black t-shirt. Normally he was wearing a hooded sweat shirt of sorts. It was a nice change. He had a baseball cap over his curls. Dark brown and shoulder length. And black and white Adidas running shoes. In his hand, he was holding a plastic grocery bag. He handed it to her.

“You left these at my place last night.” He commented, leaning against the car.

“Your place?” She questioned, eyes wide. He took off his sun glasses, and tucked them into his shirt. She briefly made eye contact with those deep brown eyes, but turned her attention to the bag. They met a few years ago when she was at an underground indie show with Jason. It turned out they were friends, but at the time, she didn’t know. After they were introduced, they hit it off. They dated on and off, but it was never anything serious. It was undeniable that there was a still lingering something. They hardly saw each other since he was usually with his kids.

“Yeah, you came home with me last night. And by the way, it’s rude to just run out on someone without telling them where you’re going.” He informed her, sticking his tongue out. She raised her eyebrow.

“I’m sorry?” She asked, more confused than she already was. He nodded.

“It’s fine. It was just disappointing, that’s all.” He added. She stared blankly at him.

“I didn’t recognize it.” She muttered. He nodded.

“The girls moved in with my sister. It’s a temporary place.” He corrected. She was quiet.

“Nothing happened. Don’t worry.” He whispered. She looked down at the ground.

“I don’t know what to say.” She stuttered. He smiled, nodding. He had one of the nicest smiles.

“You don’t have to say anything Lex. I’ll see you later.” He winked, jumping back into his truck. She watched him pull away, before turning around towards the school. Megan and Natalie were just staring at her, shocked. James was gone.

“You do realize you were already late, right? And now you’re going to be in trouble.” Lex asked Megan as she walked past. Megan grabbed her shoulder.

“Okay, what the hell was that about? Since when are you nailing Travis?” She asked. Lex laughed.

“I told you, I don’t remember anything about last night.”

Lex walked up the hallway towards the gym. She walked with Natalie to her class, but, since Lex wasn’t enrolled in anything, she had no reason to be in the school. She pushed open the doors to the gym expecting to see a pile of things that needed to be done. To her surprise, the gym was completely set up. Everything was ready for the fundraiser later in the evening. They were raising money for a community center Kevin had just decided to open. He had bought the building already, but he wanted to raise funds to finish it, and pay himself back for what he had already spent. The school allowed the use of their gymnasium after a generous donation. When Lex was enrolled in the college, she was on the student council. She helped organize every fundraiser, along with her friend Jesse. He was one of her neighbors, and a friend of Adams. He was a rebel to conformity, and he wasn’t quiet about it. He had his own way of thinking, and he was always looking to expand his knowledge. He wasn’t attractive in a conventional way, but he was cute. He had short strawberry blonde hair with hints of red. He was tall and skinny. He looked like a vegan, but he wasn’t. He was pale, because he was Irish, and freckled. But, he was really sweet. And he had a wicked sense of humor. To her, that was more attractive than looks. At some point, she would have dated him. There was an attraction, even still. But, she found out that he was dating Adam, and had been one of the people he cheated on her with. She didn’t tell him when she found out, nor did she hold it against Jesse. After all, he didn’t know they were even together. And, more than that, she didn’t want to mess up his relationship with Adam. But, she ended up doing just that when she introduced him to her friend Ares. It was love at first sight. Ares had all the same passions as Jesse. She shared his love of knowledge, and even his love of dogs. She was also a pale red head. Everything that could have clicked, did, and they had been together about six years. Lex looked around. There were rainbow streamers hanging everywhere, and a pile of matching balloons, yet to be blown up. Ares was putting up a banner above the stage. It was beautifully colored, and read “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”. The tables and chairs were already set up, with table cloths and center pieces. Even the stage had been set up.

“For crying out loud Jesse, how early did you get here?” She asked laughing. Jesse walked over to her, holding his arms out. He was wearing a thin, mixed gray sweater, with a checkered scarf undone around his neck. He had on dark denim jeans with the start of a tear on his right knee. He was wearing his usual Converse shoes. He had reading glasses over his blue eyes, though she wasn’t sure why. She hugged him, then stepped back.

“We came in yesterday.” Ares stated, walking up beside them. She was wearing her long red hair pulled to the back. She had two strands on either side hanging to frame her pale and freckled face. She had on a light green eyeshadow, drawing attention to her bright green eyes. She was the only person Lex had ever known with green eyes like her. Ares had on flared denim bell bottoms and a white, long-sleeved dress shirt with flared arms. She looked like a hippie from the mid 70′s, but that look was normal for her. Jesse turned to face her, kissing her on the cheek. Lex smiled. She took pride in their relationship. It also gave her hope that true love wasn’t just something Hollywood invented.

“We figured you wouldn’t mind. You have a chaotic life.” He explained.

“I suppose. This was supposed to be my gig though.” She reminded him. He nodded casually.

“Oh, I know.” He clarified. She rolled her eyes. She had always been a control freak, and Jesse always enjoyed messing with her. He always said to her, “don’t take life so seriously Lex, you don’t get out alive anyway.” She knew he was just trying to help. But it still got on her nerves sometimes.

“The place really looks great.” She complimented, dropping down at a nearby table. She started digging around in her bag, practically tipping it upside down.

“What are you looking for?” He questioned, leaning against the table. A minute later she pulled out a small clipboard and a cellphone. She looked at it and raised her eyebrow. Jesse laughed.

“What’s wrong?” He asked. She was quiet for a minute, putting the phone on the table.

“This isn’t my phone. This is Jason’s phone.” She explained. Jesse raised his eyebrow.

“How do you have Jason’s phone?” Ares questioned in her soft tone of voice. Lex just shrugged.

“I have no idea. I’m just finding it. Now. In my bag.” She answered, laughing. Jesse also laughed.

“So, who’s playing tonight?” She asked, flipping to the checklist on the clipboard.

“Frankie and The Bones, for sure. We had trouble contacting anyone else. I was looking into Sid’s Story, but Greg never got back to me. Gerald is coming in later to handle that. He said he has a couple friends he thinks he can convince to play.” Jesse trailed, looking around the gym. Sid’s Story was a local band. They were sort of a punk rock sound, but, they were an acquired taste. The band members were a little high strung. They only agreed to paid gigs.

“What about Adam’s band?” Ares asked, tapping Jesse on the shoulder. Lex shook her head.

“It would be a great idea, but, half the band is out of town.” She explained. Ares nodded.

“Well never mind that then.” She muttered. Lex laughed.

“It was a good suggestion.” Jesse thanked. Ares smiled and shrugged. Lex stuck out her tongue.

“Okay then. Food?” She asked after a minute of checking things off the list. Jesse nodded.

“We hired Chris’s Catering, by request from Kevin.” He explained. She looked up at him and raised her eyebrow. Chris was a friend of Kevin’s. He was the chef at Nirvana, and also had his own catering company. Kevin was trying to help him expand his business.

“So everything that can be done is?” Lex asked leaning back. Ares looked over at the pile of balloons.

“We haven’t blown those up yet.” She commented, giggling. Lex looked from the pile back to her.

“I don’t think so. I’ll leave that to the moron squad later.” She joked, Ares laughed, nodding.

“That’s probably the only thing they won’t mess up.” She commented. Lex laughed.

“They’ll find a way to, I’m sure.” She stood up, taking another look around the gym. Eddie, Adam and Jason had been referred to as the moron squad since they messed up the set up for a different fundraiser a couple months prior. Luckily, the night was still a success. But they couldn’t live down the nick name. Especially when none of them bothered to even try.

“Did you guys think of a name?” She asked randomly. Ares raised her eyebrow.

“We were supposed to come up with a name?” She asked softly. Lex shrugged.

“Or I was. Kevin said he wants as little to do with this as possible.” She answered. Ares laughed.

“Isn’t he the one who bought it?” She asked softly. Lex nodded.

“Of course. But Kevin is one of those people who buys things he doesn’t need. Usually because of something I suggest or hint towards. Like this. Then he just, shrugs off the whole thing and it ends up being my responsibility. So far, he’s paid for the place, and apparently suggested we use Chris. Hence my confusion. He’s done nothing else, and expects me to figure it out.” She rambled. Jesse laughed.

“Well, what do you want the name to be?” He asked as he pulled a chair over to the table. He motioned for Ares to sit down, then grabbed a second chair, and sat down beside her.

“I don’t even know what the purpose of this place is supposed to be.” Lex dismissed. Ares laughed.

“I think it’s a place for like minded people to get together and occupy time with laughter that would otherwise be filled with silences and boredom.” She suggested. Lex nodded.

“Like a comedy club, and just as much of a joke.” She added. Ares laughed again.

“Something like that, yes. But with organized activities.” She answered. Lex laughed.

“So we’re freedom fighters now?” She joked. Ares laughed.

“More like renegades.” She corrected. Jesse clapped his hands together.

“The Renegade Community Center, a place to fight boredom, and free laughter.” Lex and Ares exchanged a look. Lex shrugged, writing it down on the checklist.

“It sounds, free world. Anti-establishment.” She rattled. Ares nodded.

“That might draw in the younger crowd.” She suggested. Lex nodded.

“Alright. We’ll go with it.” Ares laughed, glancing over at the banner she had designed.

“I think I’m going to change the banner.” She joked, starting towards it. Lex laughed.

“And I’m going to harass Natalie.”

Lex tapped on the door of the art room. The teacher approached, opening it slowly. He smiled, stepping back, as he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Hello.” He greeted. She nodded.

“Good morning Jesse.” She replied. He was almost the same height as Kevin, maybe an inch shorter. He was muscular, though not overly. He had shoulder length brown hair, which was thin and layered. He had a slight tan from his darker heritage, and mesmerizing hazel eyes. He was wearing a black dress shirt, with a rust colored tie, and black dress pants. He was also wearing freshly polished dress shoes. Since he wasn’t making a career of being an artist, he decided to teach art. It was what he called a compromise to pay his bills, and keep doing what he loved. He also taught music theory, and a figure drawing meets fine art class. The school had discontinued the course the year before, and he was looking to bring it to the community center.

“Do you mind if I join the class for a little while?” She asked softly. He shook his head, and pointed towards the back of the classroom. Natalie was lost in her painting. Lex quietly approached, and sat in the empty seat beside her. She was wearing a white painters coat that went to the floor. Lex watched her paint for a couple minutes. She was painting a portrait of someone, but it was, very Picasso. The figure resembled Eddie, but, there were noticeable differences, almost like she was combining different people. After watching for a few minutes, Lex decided she wanted to paint. She walked to the front of the classroom, and sat on Jesse’s desk.

“I want to paint!” She bugged, quietly to not distract the class. He laughed.

“I think there’s spare canvases in the closet behind Natalie’s desk.” He informed her, barely looking up from his paperwork. They had dated back in 2009, when they met. At the time, she had been fighting a drug problem, and as an addict himself, he resurfaced hers. She sent him to a rehabilitation center. After the month he was in, they got into a fight about it. A fight so bad the police were called to his apartment. They were sent to counseling and decided they were better off apart. Still, there was a noticeable tension, and they avoided being alone together. He had been dating Kevin ever since they broke up, and neither ever told Kevin about the history. She put her hand on the paper in his hand, slowly pushing it down to the desk. He looked up at her, raising his eyebrow.

“Thank you.” She whispered, winking. She heard him laugh as she walked to the back of the classroom. Right behind Natalie’s desk was the art closet. She looked until she found a fairly small canvas, then she continued digging until she found Jesse’s personal oil paints. She walked back to the desk, and propped the canvas up. She watched Natalie paint, hoping for inspiration. For some reason, she couldn’t think of anyone but Jason. She smiled. About a year ago, her and Jason were drinking together. She got the inspiration to paint, but she had nothing to paint on. Jason offered himself as a canvas. She started painting him, but quickly got carried away with the idea. By the end, they were both covered in paint. She shook her head.

“Who’s he?” She asked quietly. Natalie looked up, startled. Lex laughed quietly.

“Sorry.” She muttered. Natalie smiled, and resumed painting. She had no intention of answering the question. Lex raised her eyebrow, then shook her head.

“Fine, keep your secrets.” Lex dismissed. She thought for a minute, and decided to paint a tree. She pulled the lids off the green, brown, and blue oil paints. She poured a small amount of each onto the easel in front of her. She pressed her index finger into the brown, and ran it repeatedly in askew lines up the canvas. She wiped her finger on Natalie’s coat, and switched to green. She made swirls around the canvas, leaving space between the two colors. She wiped her finger in a different spot on Natalie’s coat. She seemed unaffected. Lex started laughing as Natalie noticed the paint a few minutes later.

“What the?” Natalie asked out loud to herself. Lex shook her head.

“I wondered when you were going to notice.” She teased. Natalie shook her head. She went to say something, but was distracted as Jesse approached her desk.

“That looks terrific. Excellent line work.” Jesse commented, sitting on the back of Natalie’s chair. She blushed, and looked at the floor.

“Thank you.” She muttered. Lex continued laughing. Jesse walked over, and peered at her canvas.

“Don’t you get tired of always painting trees?” He asked, smiling. He was making a joke based on the fact that she always painted trees. Different styles, different colors. Abstract or minimalist. But, always trees. There was never a reason for it, either. She just liked to paint trees.

“Don’t you get tired of always being an ass hole?” She answered, smirking. He laughed.

“Oh, it’s like that.” He asked in an offended tone. She laughed.

“Yeah, it is. Do you have a problem with that?” She asked. Jesse laughed, and messed up her hair.

“Don’t start this war, kid, you won’t win.” He stated. He continued going around the classroom, evaluating each students work. Natalie started putting her paints away, and threw her painting coat on the table behind her desk. Jesse headed back to the front of the class. Kevin was waiting for him at the front. He was wearing a white muscle shirt showing off his very muscular body and beige cargo pants. His skin was dark from his Mexican heritage, and always working outside. He had short, dark brown hair, spiked up, with sunglasses rested through the spikes. His deep brown eyes had small pools of sweat under them. Him and Jesse exchanged a few words, and Kevin left, waving to Lex as he did.

“Alright class, as you know, we’re approaching the final week, which means exams. I will be assigning an essay about everything we’ve talked about this term, and there is going to be a written exam.” He started. There was a loud groan rolling across the room. He laughed.

“I know, but it’s the rules. I will, however, allow and encourage your written essay to be colorful, and expressive. I want you to enjoy writing this essay, so make it your own. I’ll see you all on Monday.” He finished. Lex followed Natalie to the front of the classroom.

“Lex, come here.” He called as she got in hearing range.

“What is it?” She asked, leaning against his desk.

“We heard you’re having some problems with music.” He commented. Lex nodded

“According to Jesse, yes, we’re having problems.” She agreed. Jesse nodded

“Well, I’d like to offer the band, but, I wanted to run it by you first.” He offered. Jesse was the lead guitarist in a band called Typhoons and Magma. Kevin’s younger brother Drew was the rhythm guitarist, and Chris played bass. Their friend Jake was the keyboardist and synthesizer, and his husband, Dorien was a back-up vocalist. Mike was the lead vocalist. They played a little bit of everything, which made them quite enjoyable to everyone.

“Well, that would be awesome.” She agreed, clapping. He nodded.

“I’ll give everyone a call, and you’ll see us later.” He replied, winking.

“I look forward to it.”

Lex leaned back in her chair, and put her feet on the table in front of her. She was watching the rehearsal for Frankie and The Bones. They were a local band with a semi-hard core sound. They were a big deal around town though, despite the sound. So big, that they usually only did paid performances. But, Gerald and Frankie were best friends, and he convinced Frankie to play. Lex only suggested he attempt to play the more, generic, of the bands music. She didn’t want everyone going deaf. There were a few other people in the gym milling around, and Natalie was sitting in front of the stage. She had a huge crush on Frankie. Actually, everyone seemed to. Lex didn’t see the appeal, but that might have been because he was dating her friend Alison. Admittedly, he was a great song writer. Actually a lot of his songs reminded her of Jason, and the music he had written over the years. He had been in a lot of bands, but never had creative freedom. So he kept his thoughts to himself, unless asked specifically for his input. Sometimes, when it was just the two of them, he’d pull out his acoustic guitar and sing. He had a beautiful voice, but, preferred screaming, like Frankie. She smiled to herself.

“Hey you.” Jason greeted from beside her. She looked over, staring at him blankly. She had no idea when he even got there. Or how he managed to pull a chair up without her hearing.

“Hey.” She greeted, looking over at him.

“Where were you just now?” He asked. She stared at him for a second, looking him up and down. He hadn’t bothered to change his clothes.

“You don’t want to know.” She answered, smiling.

“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t.” He insisted.

“You know, everyone says that. Then when you tell them, they always say they didn’t want to know. It’s not worth taking the chance.” She explained.

“Is there something you need to tell me?” She questioned, changing the subject.

“I fell off the wagon.” He confessed, looking at the ground. She laughed.

“Thank you, Captain obvious, now, tell me why.” He shook his head.

“It’s not that I don’t want to tell you, it’s just...” He trailed. She rolled her eyes, glancing over to the gym entrance. She noticed Eddie’s car pulling into the parking lot. He drove a bright white Delorean. It was flashy and borderline impractical. He thought it would be a hit with women. It was, too, which was what made it so sad. The doors of the gym overlooked the parking lot, and the street. Eddie climbed out of the drivers side. He had changed into a white dress shirt, hanging open over a white tank top. He had his torn, acid wash jeans barely clinging to his hips. She noticed Adam getting out of the passengers’ side. He had changed into a black and gray plaid shirt and dark blue jeans. They both stopped outside for a smoke. She didn’t know what they were smoking though.

“Do you want to go somewhere, more private?” She asked him softly. He was quiet for a minute, then nodded. She stood up, and headed down the hall. Jason followed closely. She continued towards the exit at the front of the school. She power walked down the dirt path, and through the parking lot. She stopped at James’s car, and dug the key’s out of her pocket. James had given her a spare key in case he ever locked himself out. She motioned to the car as she unlocked it. Jason laughed, shaking his head.

“You’re not going to get more private than this.” She joked. Jason climbed in and shut the door.

“This feels juvenile.” He insisted. She laughed, nodding. She adjusted herself to face him.

“But, children don’t drive cars.” She corrected. He laughed nervously. She smiled.

“So, what’s on your mind, Captain?” She asked. He sighed, resting his head against the seat. He slowly rolled it across, looking over at her.

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you.” He started. She nodded.

“Yeah, we established that part. Now I want to know what it is.” She reminded him.

“I don’t know how to say it, that’s the thing.” He continued ranting. She rolled her eyes.

“Well, you put one word, then another word, and then maybe a few more, and you have a sentence. That’s how you speak to people.” She teased. He smiled, looking at her. He always planned what he was going to say, but it never came out right.

“You know what, fuck it.” He blurted. He put one of his hands on the back of her head and passionately kissed her. She was hesitant to kiss back, but the hesitation didn’t last. As much as she denied it to herself, she knew why she was nervous around him. When they were younger, they had a relationship so secret, even they didn’t know. Realistically, it started as a series of very scattered one night stands, following their first time together back when they were kids. They had always found each other in moments of distress. Every time she broke up with a boyfriend, she was in his arms. And it was the same, reversed. They were best friends, after all. But it was more than that. When her and Adam broke up for good, it was back in 2007. They were at a party together and she found him in a back room with another girl. She stormed out, not giving him a chance to explain himself. She went to a bar, where she ran into Jason. It was the night she realized she was in love with him. The next three months, she tried everything not to confront her feelings, nearly drinking herself into a coma. At one point, she had to be driven to the hospital. After what the doctor told her, she went back to Illinois. She didn’t tell anyone she was leaving. She just left. And she never told anyone why she left. It was a secret and she intended to keep it that way. Jason slowly moved back, breathing heavily. His hand slowly ran through her hair.

“I’m sorry, I got, carried away. I guess.” He apologized with a slight stutter. She smiled, leaning forward. She put her hand on his cheek, and slowly kissed him. She let her other hand slowly run over his chest. He rested his nose against hers as their lips parted.

“Wow.” He muttered, eyes still closed. She smiled again.

“I don’t know what just happened.” She confessed, half laughing.

“Me either.” He confessed, smiling. He jumped back as he heard a tapping on the drivers’ side window. Lex put her hand on his leg, and turned around to see James standing outside the car.

“How can I help you, sir?” She asked as she rolled down the window. He shook his head with an unimpressed look on his face.

“How many times have I asked you not to have sex in my car?” He teased, starting to laugh. She opened the door, and got out of the car. She swiftly punched him in the shoulder.

“How many times have I asked you to fuck off?” She asked, smiling.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it...” Jason stuttered, getting out of the car. James turned around. Jason’s face was bright red, and he looked like he was going to explode.

“I was kidding Jason.” James insisted, laughing. He shook his head, and looked over at Lex.

“I’m so sorry.” He muttered, darting back towards the school. Lex sighed, shaking her head. James leaned against the car, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I gotta ask, what’s going on?” She shrugged.

“I don’t know.” She muttered in response. He laughed again.

“You’re totally into him.” He commented, pulling her to face him. She sighed.

“I, just, I don’t....” She started, soon trailing off. James noticed she was staring past him, and followed her stare. A jet black, 1967 Chevrolet Impala was pulling into the parking lot. She knew that car.

“Dun dun dun dun dun dun da!” Nicole announced, jumping out of the passengers’ side. Lex raised her eyebrow. Nicole wasn’t supposed to be in town until the following week. She came running over, and threw her arms around Lex. She was wearing a knee length black dress, with white stitching outlines. The layer underneath was a ripped mesh with safety pins scattered around it. She complimented it with six inch platform boots, that had buckles and safety pins up the sides. It made her a full six inches taller than Lex, since she was normally the same height. Her long black hair was curled, and worn in a loose bun on the top of her head. To the right was a small top hat with a purple bow. She had white face paint on that contrasted her tanned skin, accented by thick and exaggerated black eye make-up. Her lips were thinly painted red. She looked like something out of a magazine. She complimented Ruben, now approaching her. He was wearing a plain black suit with a black tie. The tie had studs in a line down the right, with a few scattered safety pins. He had on black Dock Martin combat boots. His short brown hair was gelled back to look like a vintage Greaser.

“What are you doing here?” Lex asked, returning the hug. Nicole pulled back, and put her hand on her hip. Then she shook her head from side to side, exaggerating the motion.

“Don’t you ever check your emails?” She questioned in her best french accent. Lex shook her head.

“I’ve been, really busy, sorry.” She apologized. Nicole flipped her hand to dismiss the comment.

“Well then, I guess it’s all a surprise, but, here I am.”

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