8. American Idiot
Chapter 8: American Idiot
It began on Sunday Night. It's about 10:15 and our lights are supposed to be out but the lights out person hasn't been up to put us to bed yet.
"TJ, I'm just gonna facetime my mom, you don't mind do you?" Jel asks, taking off his Beat headphones.
He unlocks his iPad and checks his emails.
"Oh my god. TJ. Holy shit."
Jel jumps up. I also sit up.
"I need to go and get Zook!"
He bangs on the wall.
"Get yourself in here right now Zook! It's urgent!"
Zook comes tearing in.
"Check your emails." Jel says breathlessly.
Zook logs in on Jel's Ipad.
"Oh my god. No."
What the heck is going on?
"I can't open it."
Of course. It will be from Allborough. Henry and Brad come crashing in.
"You have to Zook."
"Wait what is it?" Henry asks, sitting on the bed next to Zook. This is the point where I feel myself hunch up and I start to fidget with one of my pens. I know Jel was the better tennis player but what if Jel gets in and Zook doesn't. I picture it in my head. It would ruin everything.
"It's from Allborough Academy." Jel says and something in Henry's face changes. He tenses up while his eyes widen. It's a look I saw too often flick across Elliot's face. Fear. None of us want to loose Jel and Zook but Brad has Lulu and I don't even know if I'm staying next year. If Henry lost them, he truly would be alone.
"I can't. If I open it and I haven't got in...This is all I've worked for. I can't go back to Newcastle. Not now."
"Please. Just open it. It's killing us."
He clicks on it. This is one of those moments there is a before and an after. As Zook's facial expression changes, the before becomes like a bubble blown with washing up liquid during those long hot summers as a kid.
"Jel. Oh my god. I've got in. I've got a second audition."
He brings a hand up to his face and instead of jumping for joy, he's look's like he's about to cry.
We wait for it to hit him. The bubble that was before this moment takes off.
"I got in!"
He jumps up as does Jel.
"No Zook. We got in."
I've never seen Zook anything but playful and up for fun. Seeing him like this, I actually feel very emotional.
"Come on Man. You know what you need." Jel says and then out of the blue, they hug in a very bromance like way.
Brad and I both congratulation him in turn but the only person who isn't happy for him is Henry. I think this is the one thing he didn't want. The bubble of before drifts out of the window and out into the night. We'll never see it again.
Jel told me afterwards that he was more relieved that Zook got it then he did because he'll so many other oppurtunities but cruelly as it sounds, Zook might not and Jel said he could never forgive himself if he stole one of his best friend's dreams. It takes 2 hours for it to spread around the whole year and Jel get's all the attention which he secretly loves. Ten days later, we've just finished making our music video for the cabaret and we are on our way to dinner. It's been ten days of lessons, assemblies, and up and down the stairs in Arkansas. So. Much. Border control. It's an endless monotony of activities and teachers talking about controlled assessments and long afternoons in the theatre, all to the sound of American Idiot which Jel plays at least seven or eight times a day.
"So, am I editing it?" Jel asks and we all nod.
"God, I can't believe I have to go into dinner like this." Henry says, tugging at his red braces.
"Henry, at least you don't have a girlfriend to worry about."
We do like a sight. Jel and Zook had the really good idea of white shirts, red braces and red chinos. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
"Oh yes, it's fish and chip Friday." Zook says as we walk in.
"Zook, it's fish and chips every Friday in case you haven't noticed."
"Ugly, I don't think he has,
"-considering he says it every Friday." I add in after Jel. We queue up and everyone keeps giving us that look. We get our food and we are fully aware the whole year are watching us and thinking how stupid we look.
"Okay, who feels like an idiot."
"Christ Henry, stop moaning. Do you want some water?"
"Wait, I'll come and get it with you."
"Oh cheers Brad."
That leaves just the three of us.
"Oh shit, I forgot ketchup. Do you guys want anything?"
"Tartare sauce please." Henry says and Jel disappears. I lean over to Henry.
"Yeah I'm fine."
He spears a chip.
"TJ. I'm fine okay?"
Okay. I was just trying to be nice.
"Here's the water." Jel says as Zook and him sit back down.
"Oh my god Henry. It's been two years today." Zook says excitedly, stealing one of Jel's chips. "Let me see your hand."
Henry lies his left palm flat on the table and there's a scar across it, just under an inch long. Jel suddenly bursts into a howl of laughter.
"I don't know what was more funny; Zook's face when he realised what he'd done or Henry's face when he realised it was Zook."
"Or your face Jel when we took Henry along the corridor to Birlas and ended up spending 7 hours in Aberdeen A&E.
Mr Birlas was the housemaster before Mr H.
"So wait Zook, you stabbed him?"
"Well that's one of putting it-"
"Henry, it was an accident, remember!"
"Hey, can we sit with you guys?"
We look out and I swear all the Alvie girls are standing over us. Lulu immediately squashes in next to Brad and we all move up to make space.
"Well like check you guys out." Nicola says, running a finger down one of Jel's braces. He barely acknowledges her.
"Were you filming your video?" Flick asks. We all nod.
"Zat is so cool. Ve haven't even thought about vhat ve're doing."
"No Elise we have-"
"We just can't, like, do it without arguing.
"Well, Jel, my favourite American, I have a favour I need to ask you." India says, leaning back in her chair. Jel drapes an arm around her shoulders.
They go up to get water and leave us all sitting slightly awkardly. Brad and Lulu are in the corner, feeding each other chips, kinda like the seagulls do on Filey beach. Next to them is Nicola, then two empty seats that did belong to Jel and India and on the other side of that is Abbie, who is eating her haddock quietly and not saying anything at all. Flick who is next to her is completely ignoring her and much more interested in discussing her love life with Elise but I think is hoping Abbie will bugger off so Akash can come and sit there. Then there's the three of us Arkansas boys, all quite squashed in and wishing Brad and Lulu would hold off on the PDA cause it's making us all feel a bit ill.The girls start talking about homework, their house mistress who they hate, music, films and just general shit.
"Sorry about that." Jel says, striding back to the table and leaning back in his chair. India sits down next to him and starts ravenously eating her chips.
"Nicola, India, you told Mrs Allpress that we weren't going to back for housemeeting didn't you?" Flick says. India-Jane and Nicola look at each other.
"We like, signed out in the book, like." Nicola says.
"Oh shit, she's gonna be really angry, again." Flick says, spearing a chip. "I hate that women. Oh my god, she makes me so angry."
"Now, ladies, ladies-" India says, imitating Mrs Allpress.
"No India, don't you dare! Please."
"Why do you hate her?"
The mention of Mrs Allpress has made them all seeth. I've never met her but I know she has just arrived and brought about a lot of change.
"We'll each give you a reason." India says. "I seriously dislike her because she's had the walls painted lilac. Fucking lilac. I feel like we're in some asylum or something. She's also put in all these stupid fire doors so when they are slammed shut, the whole corridor shakes."
"Also, like-" Nicola adds. "she doesn't let us like, go out for a run before breakfast, like, how am I supposed to keep fit. She also refers to us like, all as a 'big family, like. Enough said."
Lulu looks up and comes out of her little bubble with Brad.
"I know who this is. I don't like her cause she doesn't like Brad. And anyone who has a new boyfriend has to go and introduce themselves to her. God, that was excruciating."
"You think it was bad? My dad thought it was the funniest thing ever. He want's to it introduce it."
We look at each other.
"Oh god. Brad please try and persuade him not to." Henry says.
"Don't see that would bother you Henry." India says. "You're so-"
"Look India. I'm sorry I made a sexist comment two years. I know it was bad and I'm sorry. I don't want to be your enemy so can you please tell the other reasons you hate me so much?"
India runs a hand through her hair.
"Ok. I accept your apology. But I don't think I can ever really like you. You remind me of someone I hate."
"Just someone I used to know. We were enemies and you remind me a lot of her."
That's the stupidest reason ever.
"Like really, you're so much like her and it makes me hate you."
"Hey, can I sit here."
"Oh hey Augie. Yeah sure." I say and we start to make space but Brad and Lulu get up to go.
"We were just going. You can sit here if you want."
"Cheers Brad. Does anyone want some water?"
We all shake our heads. As Brad and Lulu leave in the opposite direction to Brad, Lulu and Augie share the briefest of eye contact but as they claim to 'not know each other', there's suddenly something not right.
"Augie, you remember Sasha right?" India says.
"Yeah of course I do."
"Of course you do. Good old Sash the rash. Doesn't Henry remind you of her?"
Augie takes a good long look.
"Oh my god. You're so right. I see it."
"Who is she?" Henry asks,
"You wouldn't know her." India replies very coldly. Flick turns to Lulu and Brad.
"So how is your band coming along, love birds?"
I'd forgotten Lulu and Brad have formed a band.
"It's a quartet." Brad corrects her. Oops. My mistake. "Lulu plays the cello, I play the piano or a little like box drum, Smith plays the double bass and Lexie plays the violon."
Smith is the best musician in the year and one of the best in school. The reason Smith has that nickname is because all lots of the Chinese students who come here like to choose themselves a British nickname so don't worry, he does have a real name.
"That's an interesting mix of people-" Henry says, being all cynical as usual.
"Smith is so funny and so musically talented. He's going to audition for the conservatoire in London and we think he'll definetely get it." Lulu says.
"I'd rather have him in Arkansas over Gwebe any day."
Augie stands up.
"Hey Augie if you're going that way, could you get me a napkin please?" India asks and Augie reluctantly agrees. We all watch him go.
"There is something really weird going on." India says, lowering her voice.
"What do you mean?"
"God you Arkansas boys, do you not notice anything? Brad is even in your house for crying out loud."
"Wait, India, explain everything."
"Okay, hang on, there's something you should know. Akash told me Rome is out for some sort of revenge-" Flick interrupts.
"Akash, hey, there's a spare seat here."
She gives Abbie the -move-out-the-way look so Abbie moves next to where Augie is sitting and maybe a bit too close to Zook for our liking.
"God, it's like bloody Waterloo station." Henry mutters and we all snigger.
"Okay India, so Lulu and Augie claim not to know each other and yet they message each other all the time, they occasionally skype-" Flick adds but trails off as Akash starts stroking her.
"Didn't she go out to meet him vonce?" Elise says, running a hand through her hair.
"What the heck is going on?" Akash asks.
"I thought like, that was Tris she went to meet, like?"
"No Nicola, I'm sure it was Augie. Tris was the one she skyped."
"You're all wrong."
"Seriously, what's going on?"
We all shoosh him and turn to look at Abbie.
"You all have no idea what's going on. She went to meet Rome."
We look at each other.
"Okay. Well there's definitely something else going on."
"Wait, you mean she's cheating on Brad?" I ask.
"There's like, no other explanation."
Flick beckons for us to lean in.
"Now Akash, don't ask what is going on. You're on our side, okay?"
"So this is the plan."
2 minutes later, Augie comes back and we all go back to whatever we were talking about. Eventually we all go to drama but we excuse ourselves from the girls for a moment.
We go up behind the theatre and sit on the wall on the very edge of campus.
"Jesus, Brad and Lulu were all over each other." Jel says, lighting a cigarette.
"I know right, it was crazy." Henry agrees, also lighting one. Jel passes his to Zook.
"I think Nicola really wants to get with you Jel." Zook says and Jel sighs heavily.
"She just won't give me a break. I mean she's hot and all but if I get with her, then things will get very complicated in Alvie."
"Why?" I ask as Henry passes me his cigarette and I take a long drag,
"Girls seem to have a rule that they don't get with each other's serious exes. And as well as the fact that in 2 years, I have got with Elise, India has become one of my best friends and Flick was my most serious girlfriend. if I go out with Nicola then it will get complicated. Very complicated.
"And I mean, if Brad and Lulu had an awful break up in a years time, none of us would get with her right?" Henry.
That's a good point.
"That's why you don't like Akash, isn't it?" Zook says, stubbing out his cigarette.
"Yeah, I just find it weird seeing him and Flick so in love when I remember when that was us and the fact she was my first kiss...it's freaky man. It's even worse now they've started sitting with us."
"What about Val? Didn't you guys-"
"Second serious girlfriend TJ. That was this time a year ago. God. What a trainwreck. Just don't go there TJ. Just don't go there."
I stub out my cigarette and light another.
"Ok Zook, let's see if we can name Jel's girlfriends. There was Flick for like 6 months, then there was that Dara girl-"
"Oh my god Henry, there was that G&T when we dared Jel to get with six people!"
Zook and Henry laugh loudly. Jel puts his head in his hands.
"Did you?" I ask Jel."Get with six different people?"
"Of course I did TJ! I'm the coolest kid in the year!" He says sarcastically and then laughs.
"I'll list them of for you guys." Jel says, lighting another cigarette. "In the first 2 weeks of year 9 I got with Flick, Val, Celine, Lutra and Elise. Then I got back with Flick for six months. Then after Flick and I broke up was three girls in the year above at a G&T at a end of year 9; Tessa, Rosie and Meera. Then there was Val. I won't go there. Then there was that infamous G&T when I got with Celine, Lutra, Elise, Dara who was in the year above, Kat and Hayley to prove to Val we are never getting back together. Then was Georgia in Alabama who has my virginity and finallty Megan and I were seeing each other last April. We broke up just before you arrived TJ."
Jesus fucking christ.
"And you wonder why people called you 'the school bicycle." Zook says, taking a cigeratte from Henry and blowing smoke rings.
"Now I look back, I realise that I really have ridden everyone."
All three of them laugh. I still can't believe that been around like that and get away with it.
"But Jel, did you love any of these people?"
"God know. I only found them hot in that moment. Shall we go in?"
"Yeah let's." we agree in sync and stub out our cigarettes.
20 minutes later, we're sitting in the kitchen, waiting to talk to Miss Nelson and pretending to drink some really crap tea Jel made.
"How's the tea?" Jel asks and Brad and I nod.
"It's interesting..." I say, taking a tiny sip.
"Yeah it's not bad."
It's basically a cup of hot water with some dodgy smelling milk.
"Is there any more sugar?" Henry asks.
Jel throws him a sachet. Zook comes crashing back in from the toilet or wherever he's been and takes a massive sip.
"Oh good god! That's disgusting Jel. What did you put in this?"
"Not bad eh?"
The door bangs open and Flick is standing there.
"Hey Arkansas. Mrs Nelson wants you."
We leave our mugs and hastily go through to the theatre where she is waiting in the doorway.
Ah Arkansas, in here please." Miss Nelson says, ushering us in.
"Now I'm just making sure you have the memory stick."
We look at each other.
"Yeah it's in Arkansas." Jel says with as much conviction as he can.
"Good good. Can you pass it onto the girls in Wildfell when you're done?"
"And Jel you're okay with being one of the Compère?"
"Great well off you go then and send in the Wildfell girls."
As soon we're out and back in the kitchen, we all turn to look at Jel.
"You have idea where the memory stick is, do you?" Brad asks accusingly.
"Woah, this is not my fault. I did not have it last-"
We look up and Augie is in the doorway.
"Did you follow us here?" Jel asks. Augie shrinks and shakes his head.
"We all saw you go in so I thought I would..."
Jel has his arms crossed across his chest and is leaning against the kitchen counter, staring Augie down. I stand up.
"Dude! Enough! Just let him be!"
Zook and Henry stop their chattering and Brad and Lulu who are just coming through the doorway pause. Jel just stares at me. Nobody stands up to Jel. The last person who did that was Brad and we all gave him the silent treatment for almost three months.
"Just lay it off. What has he ever done to you?"
"Augie, Lulu, could you give us a moment?"
They scuttle off.
"Tell me TJ, why do you care so much for him, after I've done, all we've done for you? Why are you choosing him over us?"
I bang down my mug.
"Have a heart why don't you? I'm not switching sides or choosing anyone over anyone. Standing in the doorway, always on the outside looking in, not belonging anywhere? do you know what that's like?"
Jel squares up to me.
"Don't lecture me Ben Middleton Jones, about not belonging anywhere."
The door opens and Rome struts in with Tris.
"Oh, tensions are high in here. Shame, I thought you were all best friends for life or whatever gay motto you freaks live by."
Jel turns to Rome, towering over him with his shoulders back, his hands on his hips and making unfocused, unblinking eye contact.
"This is none of your business Rome."
Rome is only 5 ft 6 and practiculary bouncing on his heels for a fight. He puts a finger on Jel's chest, well as far up as he can reach.
"Oh Jel, I think you'll find it is."
"Give me one reason Rome, why this is anything to do with you."
His gaze flickers across to Brad and then to Zook.
"I know things Jel; desires, dreams, deadly secrets-"
"What do you know?"
Rome doesn't say anything.
"What do you know Rome? Don't make me repeat myself. Tell me, are you out to get revenge? Is that what you're not telling me?"
Something flickers across Rome's face and he clenches his fists. I can see Jel's knuckles also going white as he stays in put in his dominant stance. There's a large crowd gathered around.
"Oh Jel. You have no idea. Tell me, did you know that Ivy James has gone? She left school because of you-"
"I don't know what you're playing at Rome, but if you hurt any-"
Jel grabs Rome and shoves him up against the wall by his collar and his feet can't touch the ground.
"any of my friends, then you better be digging two graves."
Out of the nowhere, the crowd parts and Jel is wrenched off Rome and thrown back onto the floor. Tris and Big Al look down at him on the floor and he scrambles up to maintain his dignity. Everyone in the crowd would back Jel in a fight anyday. Most of our year would love to see Rome beaten to a pulp one day.
"Oh Jel, but I'm not the one who's going to buried alive."
And with that he disappears out the door with Tris in tow. We all look at each other. Jel is still very angry with me, that's for sure and Zook and Henry are most definitely on Jel's side and Brad doesn't know who to choose.
"Come on Zook, we need to pack."
The three of them storm out, leaving Brad, Lulu and Augie and I. Then it becomes Augie and I.
"Ben, can you help me learn my lines?