Chapter 5: An Unusual Phone Call
Johnny's hands grip his black sword. Metal sliced through flesh and bone as Nessa fires twelve rounds at the monster while glancing at the snake's reflection on the Jeep. Though the monster has already given its fight, it has one last trick up its sleeve.
Hoisting its green tail, the slippery creature struck Johnny across the floor. Shocked and enraged, Nessa abandons her empty guns and rushed to save Johnny. Listening to her brother's earlier advice, Nessa shuts her eyes and charge towards the monster running its tongue across Johnny's cold face.
The good news was that he is alive; however, the boy is being tortured by the basilisk. His sword slithered away from his grasp. Blood leaked from the boy's right cheek. His hair cloaked his closed eyes like a blanket.
Savoring the sight of the conscious boy, the monster was about to kill Johnny when Nessa grabbed the sword and sliced its head clean off. Cold blood splattered on the boy's face, as the beast collapsed on the ground like a plummeting oak tree.
Its grotesque head tumbled past Nessa's heels. Bright yellow eyes widen maniacally until the scaly lids slither over them. Black blood gushed from its head. Its pink tongue sticking out of its slimy lips.
"Johnny!" Nessa wailed. She sank near her brother and began checking his pulse. "Are you okay? Say something!"
Johnny opens his eyes for a second, then looks up at his frantic little sister. The cold snake blood ran down his cheeks like black tears.
Astonished, he wipes the dark blood with his finger, studies it closely, and finally glares at the thirteen-year-old girl pressing her hands on his chest.
"Nessa," he began carefully. "Did you have to cut its fucking head close to my face?"
Even though she didn't care for Johnny's whining, Nessa became ecstatic when her older brother spoke to her. She laughed and hugged the boy until the approaching sirens alarm them.
The siblings retrieve their fallen materials from the floor, rushed into the old Jeep, and drove away from the scene. Johnny wipes his bloody face with his shirt and expresses a tired moan.
He is glad the mission is over. Johnny can go home, take a shower, and listen to Screaming Trees on his Walkman. Nessa, on the other hand, yearns to see Dove again.
"Why isn't Dove texting me?" Nessa thought.
She takes the pager and sent twenty-two messages to Dove - only to receive a warm response from her, telling Nessa that she forgives her apology.
Thrilled, Nessa typed something romantic until her pager died.
"Oh God," she attempts to turn on her pager, but it didn't activate. "No please, no! Is there something wrong with the battery?"
Johnny adjusts the mirror above his head. He gazes at his irked baby sister. Her bold pink hair danced angrily in the wind, while her cracked lips press together in a thin line.
"Do you need some help with that?" he asked her.
A crabby Nessa moaned, then placed her feet on the dashboard. "No, I think the battery is dead."
Johnny was quiet for a moment. He drove from Los Angeles to their beloved boarding school in Sacramento. Steering through Elk Grove, Johnny asks Nessa an extraordinary question: "Do Dove's parents support your relationship?"
Nessa made a face. "Of course, I do. Why do you think that?"
"Because whenever Dove's parents show up, they would treat you like a disease." Johnny clenched his fists around the steering wheel.
"I know they're not okay with me dating their daughter," began Nessa. "But it doesn't bother me very much."
"Are you sure?"
Nessa did a mock gasp. "Gee, and to think I was the one who likes to poke fun of your tragic love life."
Steering under the green stoplight, Johnny becomes quiet again. He is disastrous at socializing; but even so, Johnny is trying to help Nessa understand that people despise those who don't fit societal norms, like the LGBT community.
Although the year is 1994, people still blame queers for the invention of AIDS. But despite their willfulness, gays and lesbians were portrayed on TV, but not in a positive light; the transgender community was hardly mentioned or played for laughs, and last but not least, the media sees bisexuals as "confused" and "promiscuous."
Johnny has every right to be terrified for his sister, but the truth is, Nessa is too naive to care that Dove's conservative parents are not fans of the Gay Rights Movement. He believed that the girl needs to be aware that Dove's parents may not treat her with warmth and comfort. However, Nessa scarcely takes his advice seriously.
So when the siblings returned to their school, Johnny decides to contact Brooke and ask her for some advice.
Initially, Johnny became hesitant. Brooke hasn't responded to his phone calls or messages for three weeks. There is no way she is going to pick up. But when his phone rang in his hand, Johnny answered it.
"Hi, it's Brooke." a benevolent female voice filled Johnny's ears with warmth.
"Hey," Johnny greeted. "How are you?"
"I am tired but fine," she replied. "I see you left a dozen messages for me to hear."
Johnny instantly blushed. "God, did I sound a whiny bitch?"
"A little bit," she confessed, laughing.
The former lovers laugh over the sound of pouring rain. Drizzle showered on the window pane. Lightning cracked like a bullwhip, scaring Johnny a little. Brooke's ears must have caught his gasp from the speakers because she asked Johnny if he is okay.
"Yeah," he chortled. "It's just the fucking rain. Has it even poured in Hollyoaks?"
Brooke giggled, "Hollyoaks is never sunny, Jay. Everyone knows that."
The former lovers laugh some more until Johnny's soft tone grew serious.
"So, Brooke," he started to say. "I need to ask you something."
Brooke's ragged tone declined. "Do you want me to give you some advice on how to talk to your sister?"
Flustered, Johnny leans against the walls then tousled his hair. Behind the bluish-gray barriers were kids sleeping, studying for a huge test, and staying up to watch movies in the break room.
Lavender soap soaked Johnny's skin; its delicate scent reminded him that he had already taken a shower before entering his bed before curfew. He changed into a vintage Metallica T-shirt and black pajama pants.
Quietly, he slouched awkwardly on his bed, then clutches the brown phone around his hand.
"Look, I am sorry for-" Johnny starts to continue his apology, but Brooke kindly interrupts him.
"Don't apologize," she insisted. "I am not too busy right now. I have already completed my overwhelming pile of homework and cooked a chicken pot pie with my grandmother."
"Have you heard about Charlie's murder?"
"Yes, I have. Why?"
Johnny loosens his ponytail, then replies, "I want you to be careful, you know? The Maroni family isn't exactly forgiving people."
A moan came from the bed, telling Johnny that Brooke is getting ready to go to sleep like he is. Yet, there were loud background noises are making it hard for Johnny to hear her.
"Are you having a party at your grandma's apartment?" he asks suddenly.
"No," said Brooke. "I am at a friend's place."
As Johnny listens to the music, he recognizes the lyrics of the song No Feelings by the infamous Sex Pistols.
"Your new friends have great taste in music."
"Johnny," Brooke sighs. "None of those guys are my friends. They're more like . . . excited thirteen-year-old boys who discovered porn magazines in their dad's dresser drawer."
"And besides, I will never forget you, Nessa, or anyone in that school. Speaking of your little sister, you shouldn't be bothering Nessa like that."
Johnny glances at the crescent moon through the foggy window, then started picking the fresh patch of pimples on his forehead.
"I know," he began. "But she's my sister, I can't—"
"Give Nessa some space," Brooke advises in a serene tone. "She is as stubborn as a cow, but I think deep down, Nessa is afraid of being unwanted."
An appalled Johnny lifts himself from his bed.
Why would Nessa feel undesirable? Johnny thought. She has two loving parents, an older brother, and friends who love her.
When Johnny informed her about his feelings towards Nessa's issues, the girl sighs, "That's because she grew up in a safe neighborhood, Johnny. If Nessa left California, do you think people will accept her with open arms?"
"Now, I have met Dove's parents at my cousin's wedding, and they made Carrie White's mother look like a shallow Disney villain."
"Oh, God." Johnny moaned. "Nessa is going to get fucked by those monsters. What will happen if they destroy her relationship with Dove?"
"I don't know," Brooke clears her throat. "But as I said before, give Nessa some space until she wants to speak to you about something."
Several hours of silence flew by, as Johnny asks his close friend when she is returning to California. Brooke promised she will be back soon, but her ex-boyfriend shakes his head in disbelief.
"Oh come on, that's what you said the last time I called you."
Johnny shakes his head in disbelief. "That's what you said the last time we called."
A disheartened sigh clambers through the speakers; Brooke struggles to reassure her friend, but Johnny was tired of listening to her excuses.
"Come home, please," he murmured. "I have no idea what you are going through, but everyone in school misses you."
Brooke was silent until Johnny hears the door shut in the background.
"I miss you guys, too," Brooke admits. "But I have to stay in Hollyoaks to take care of something."
"Like what?" Johnny whispers. "Does it have something to with your grandmother?"
"Sort of. She has some memory problems, but—"
A loud banging noise shreds Brooke's words when a slurred voice interfered with their conversation.
"Babydoll!" it whined. "What are you doing upstairs?"
Bold red depletes from Johnny's face. Who the hell is that guy?
"I am just calling my cousin." Brooke lied to the stranger. "Go back to the party."
"Brooke, who the hell was that?" Johnny frowns. "It almost sounds like Vinny."
That's when her voice becomes quiet. "I have to go right now."
"What?" Johnny frowned. "Why?"
Dubious questions begin to fill his head when a query rushed out of his mouth: "Did you have something to do with Charlie's death?"
Seconds after he asked that question, Johnny berates himself. It was a ridiculous inference; Brooke has many flaws, but she would never hurt anyone.
"Johnny, just say hi to Nessa and—"
"Were you involved in Charlie's death?" he asks softly. "Brooke, tell me you didn't kill that drug dealer."
"I didn't do anything to him," she whispers in a scared tone. "All I did was poison his milk with cyanide."
Johnny gets up and paces around the room.
His pale hands were ready to smash through the walls, but he is anxious he might wake up the entire school.
"So, what you're saying is that you poisoned Charlie with cyanide, then Vincent beats him up?"
Brooke's voice diminished to the volume of a mouse.
"He is a fucking monster, Johnny." she angrily hisses. "The last time Vinny beat up a person is a cop! He even forced me to watch him kill his wife and kids! And since the Maroni crime family has connections, the media paints these murders as home invasions."
Johnny massages his eyelids. "Look, I don't give a fuck about what you did to Charles," he says calmly. "He got what he deserved. You have got to come home, Brooke."
"No, I have to stay." she sighed. "I am sorry. Say hi to Nessa and the others for me."
After she hangs up the phone, Johnny worries about Brooke in his dreams, during sparring lessons, and over a bowl of Fruit Loops cereal.
The next morning, while the students are having their breakfast in the mess hall, the siblings sat on the couch watching TV in the break room.
On the screen were youths Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin being hassled by news reporters and an angry mob breathing down their necks. What surprised the siblings is that Baldwin and Echols were going to trial for murdering three eight-year-old boys due to their beliefs in Satanism.
Rolling her eyes, Nessa calmly devours her bowl of Fruit Loops while watching the news unfold. Milk dribbled on her bold yellow Bad Brains T-shirt, while her red skimpy shorts sagged on the dark brown sofa.
"Do you think they're going to get out of jail?"
Stirring his colorful milk with a metal spoon, a gloomy Johnny shakes his head.
"I doubt that." he sighed. "Those poor kids."
Dove enters the break room with a small smile on her face. She has curly brown hair, light brown skin, black eyes, and a dark purple birthmark behind her left ear. And unlike the siblings, Dove is wearing a dark beret, a white T-shirt, a plaid orange dress, white socks, and black Doc Martens.
"Hey, sweetie," Dove greets Nessa and kisses her on the cheek. "How was last night?"
"Tired, but fine." Nessa beamed. "What's up?"
"Headmaster wants to speak with you two."
Dove shrugged her shoulders. "No clue," she said. "It might have something to do with Brooke."