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[Cheerless #3] CheerStained: One Week In Westbridge

By JessicaX

Romance / Humor

Get Freak To Where You Once Belonged

Cheerless #3. Libby, Sabrina, et al. are © Archie Comics / Hartbreak / Paramount / Whatever.Adymm, the members of In Absinthia, and this work of fiction are © myself.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well, here we are with yet another verse to this song: Cheerless Part III. LOOOONG though it's getting already, there's yet more of this story inside of me just waiting to be told, and I'm going to tell it to the best of my ability. I'm sure you'll be thanking me for this profusely, and I'm sure you had already figured it out (being the bright young things you are), but yes, Libby's going back to Westbridge, and yes, more hilarity and awkwardness will intermingle in the coming chapters. Fasten your safety harnesses, because you're in for a bumpy ride!]

"Libby?"

The loudest sound you can ever hear is your own blood, pumping behind your ears when your adrenaline is at its peak, when nausea and dizziness are assaulting the rest of your system. Why? It blocks out all other sensory input, and if you let it happen long enough, it's all you can think about - that gallon plus of fluid in constant motion, that never stops churning, careening through thousands of miles of veins and arteries...

"Libby, come on!"

I opened my eyes, and everything was shaking, because my whole body was shaking; my hands wouldn't stop. Desperately, I tried to take deeper breaths, but they just made me want to cry... and I couldn't do that now. No, I could cry later if I still wanted to, but now was the time to be strong, to take this daunting task and tell it-

"Dammit, Libbs-"

"Shut the hell up!" I screamed through the door. "Keep your pants on, I'll be out in a minute."

Just one glance in the mirror before I left my sanctuary; did I smear my make-up? No... good. My hair was hideous, but that was the idea, right? Yes, my hair had to be as revolting and off-putting as it could be, just like all the leather, because that was "cool". It was what they wanted.

One more shaky breath...

"Finally!" Adymm said, a sigh of relief passing through his sparkling blue lips as I stepped out into the light. A warm, strong hand snaked around me, squeezing my shoulder. "You okay?"

"Fine," I hissed, closing the bathroom door. "Just... just another panic attack, I guess."

"But you've done this before," he whispered as we headed around the corner. "You're always great."

"Yeah, but this is... different."

He nodded. "I guess it kinda is, but you'll still be great. Let's knock 'em dead."

And then there was no more time to think.

"Are you ready to rock, Westbridge?!"

The packed coffee house erupted; I didn't think this small a venue could be so full. "We're In Absinthia," I went on, grasping the microphone as I brushed a strand of (temporarily) purple hair out of my face, "and we hope you enjoy."

Without waiting for my knees to buckle, Milnot launched into the opening drum riff of "Call Waiting". I used my temporary respite between then and the start of the first verse to draw in as much oxygen as I could; I wasn't ready to do this, not here. But I knew I must, and onward through the set I went.

Two songs down. Three. The crowd was digging it; people weren't so wrapped up in our sound that they didn't get up for coffee refills, but they all cheered and clapped, and a couple guys in the back whistled every time I leaned forward (I knew I should've worn the turtleneck instead of the tank top). Hey, if it sells...

Finally, we had played through the eight song set we were billed to do, and to be honest, the sensation it brought me was most definitely "relief". "Thanks for the laughs, Westbridge - see you soon!"

As we headed for the coffee bar and the next band on the night's roster set up, Adymm rubbed my shoulders. "See, what were you worried about? You kicked some major ass!"

I rolled my eyes, trying not to smile. "Yeah, yeah... stop trying to butter me up for bedroom favours."

"That was our best gig yet," T.Q. sighed as he leaned against the counter. "They ate it up!"

"Lucky thing they didn't notice how you butchered 'Fascination Street'," Greg muttered tiredly, proceeding to take out a pack of Camels. "Or were you playing a different song, perhaps?"

"Oh, lay off, you old sack o' sh-"

"Um, sorry," a familiar voice said behind me, "but there's no smoking in here."

My head began turning in that eternal instant, and as I moved, I noticed and memorised everything around me: Greg's cigarette halfway to his lips, Adymm's pierced eyebrows raising quizzically, Milnot pushing dreadlocks out of his line of vision...

Okay, as I take forever to turn around (and to further reinforce that this felt like a really, REALLY long time), I think here's a good place to break the gravitas and introduce myself. Good afternoon! As you may have picked up on by now, my name is Libby - Libby Chessler. Here's some more things you may or may not know about me: I'm a freshman in college attending Columbia University, I work in a hole-in-the-wall spaghetti hut in the Chelsea neighbourhood of New York City, and I perform the lead vocals for a goth-rock band called In Absinthia. The last one is a relatively new development in my life; I haven't even sat in for a dozen gigs with them, and yet they already seem to have accepted me as a permanent fixture in the ensemble. Too bad it all still feels like an anchovy-induced hallucination to me.

By the way, I'm going out with that pierced guy, Adymm. That's also a pretty recent thing; we've been friends for just over a year, but at some point during this whole ordeal we ended up kissing, and from there nature took its course. We're not quite used to the coupley thing yet, but we're getting there.

Unfortuantely (for me), none of that's as exciting as what's going to happen next... because a LOT is going to happen. Maybe not right away, but soon, trust me - and some of it is outrageous enough to make Manson's toes curl, and I mean Marilyn, Shirley OR Charlie. Never say I don't try to warn you people - it's not MY fault you're gluttons for punishment! If you want safe, happy endings, try "The Boxcar Children" or something.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled head movement.

"Pardon?" Greg asked in that deadpan tone of his.

Finally, I was facing the counter, but before my eyes could focus and communicate what was happening to my brain, the voice continued, "If you could just take it outside, I'd really appreciate it. I know, I sound like a wet blanket, but thing is, my boss is my aunt, and she's kinda paying for my education, so if I let something like that slip by she'll be all over me like ugly on an ape, if ya know what I'm saying." Then her sparkling blue eyes focused on me, and one delicate hand brushed a few wisps of blonde hair behind her ear. "Sorry... what can I get you?"

My voice stuck. I couldn't see straight. It's probably totally messed up that I reacted this way, but if you only knew...

"Helooo?" Her hand waved in front of my face, one eyebrow raising slightly. "Earth to... whatever planet you guys are from?"

"Planet New York," Adymm laughed, reaching out to grab the waving hand and shake it. "Adymm Koriander. Your aunt must be named 'Hilda', right?"

"Yeah," she said with a grimace, glancing down at her "Hilda's Coffee House" apron. "But I'll deny it publicly."

All the guys cracked up; all I could manage was a weak smile. Why didn't anybody tell ME we'd been hired by Aunt Hilda? There was an extremely short list of Aunt Hildas in Westbridge...

"Just call me T.Q.," he interjected, hastily grooming his shaggy hair to make himself seem less like a bum.

"T.Q.," she replied thoughtfully. "Is it contagious?"

"I'm Milnot, nice to meet ya - and don't pay no attention to that bonehead, he's nothin' but a two-bit hood with a bass."

"Greg Davies," our synth player introduced himself as he stuffed the Camel back in its pack, ever the concise Brit. "Pleasure."

"Likewise," she said with a nod. "Y'know, you guys were really good - I wish I had today off so I could just enjoy the experience, but the lattes don't pour themselves!" Her attention wandered back over to me. "Hey, are you okay? You look kinda pale."

A well-placed swallow finally unstuck my voice, but at the same time, much to my horror, Adymm grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "Yeah, this is the haunting siren that pushes us to 110 - they call her Cheerless Chessler."

"Or you do, leastways," Greg muttered.

"Y'know, that's funny," our cashier mused. "I used to know a girl named Libby Chessler... haven't seen her in like, forever, though. Hey, you guys aren't related or anything, are you?"

Silence. Everyone crowded around that coffee counter stopped dead, including her; after a few seconds, she leaned forward, eyes squinting to see past all the make-up.

"Oh my God," she breathed. "Libby?"

I couldn't take it anymore. Before anything else could happen, before the cruel world and my amazingly bad luck could ruin my chances one more time, I lunged over the counter and threw my arms around her, squeezing her so tight I'm sure it bruised.

"Damn... I missed you, Sabrina!"

-END Chapter One

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