Chapter 6: A Road Trip to Hollyoaks
So, by the age of 18, he graduated from Ivy League, worked nights as a social worker, and saved every cent to purchase a mansion-like school, which can fit a crowd of orphans. He ran this school for 94 years until Headmaster Prometheus has been recently diagnosed with AIDS.
According to the doctors, the Headmaster has at least a couple of months to live. But it's not his condition that scared him, it was the sake of his students' reputation.
With him gone, what will happen to these kids? Headmaster knew society won't accept them. Some have a place to stay, while others are being reminded that they are better off buried under soil than devour a slice of the American Dream.
Sighing some more, Headmaster Prometheus scribbled on his paperwork when a small knock came from the door.
"Yes, who is it?" he called.
"It's Johnny and Nessa," Johnny spoke up.
"Oh." The Headmaster Prometheus puts his medical results in his desk drawer, then locks it with a small golden key. "Come in you two."
The Phoenix siblings enter the office with inquisitive looks on their faces. Johnny wears a dark blue flannel, a Black Sabbath t-shirt, shredded jeans, and brown Birkenstocks. His younger sister has her pink hair tied up in a ponytail.
She sports a black lacy choker, a dark floral skater dress, shorts, striped socks, and black combat boots. Untying her bold red flannel around her waist, Nessa slips her arms into the long sleeves and scratches her nose.
Since today is Friday, the school allowed the children to wear their casual outfits.
"Hello, Headmaster!" she beamed. "Dove said that you need to talk to us."
Headmaster Prometheus bobbed his head slowly. His wrinkles deteriorate as the sun bounced on his ghastly white skin. Clear windows gave the kids access to the vast lawn, where seniors were busy killing birds with loaded shotguns.
Bullets tore through the murky atmosphere like grenades. Audible gunshots and vibrant wings somehow traversed under the window.
Johnny head over to the glass, but the school principal shakes his head.
"Leave it open, Johnny," he tells the boy. "The room has been getting stagnant these days."
"Throw!" someone cries. A bird soars across the sky until it is put down by a piece of shrapnel.
Stunned by the gruesome scene, Headmaster Prometheus calmly gets up, then shut the window. After that, he casually directs his blue eyes to the children, sits back down in his chair, and tells them what is going on.
"Have you two heard anything from your friend, Brooke?" he asked the siblings.
A bewildered Nessa shakes her head.
"Nope," she replied. "She hasn't called me."
"I did," Johnny disclosed. "I phoned Brooke because I wanted her to come home, but she told me to say hi to Nessa and the others."
Nessa and the Headmaster exchange an odd look at each other.
"Was she acting strange?" asked Nessa. "Was she in any kind of trouble?"
Johnny leans against the cream-colored walls and expresses a tired sigh. His eyes drift lazily to the ceiling as he said, "to tell you the truth, I have no idea. She sounded kind of upset."
Headmaster Prometheus pressed his bony elbows on the desk surface. The lukewarm breeze tousled his dark gray suit and slacks.
Ruffling his decaying white hair from his eyes, the school principal asks the siblings what classes do they have for the day.
Nessa scrunches her eyebrows, as she tries to remember. "I am heading to my Greek Myths class, while Johnny is learning how to dissect fairies at health class."
The school principal looks at Johnny, who simply shrugs his shoulders.
"Yeah," he sighs. "It's a looming disaster for aspiring Disney princesses, but in the end, we get to learn something from it. Why do you ask?"
Headmaster Prometheus grew quiet for a moment. Johnny and Nessa look at each other strangely before sitting on the maple brown chairs in front of the dean.
Is Headmaster doing okay? Johnny wonder.
He usually greeted students with a cheerful smile and listened to the problems they were having at school. But today, he looks like he is ready to throw up in a bin.
"I have been receiving troubling calls from Brooke's parents for the past two weeks," says the principal. "Sadly, she is having a bit of trouble recuperating over a lost friend."
"At first, they thought Brooke moving with her grandmother would be a good idea. But when they received disconcerting visions of their daughter, her parents wouldn't stop leaving me voice messages. For now, they have agreed to move to New York so they can check on Brooke."
The Phoenix siblings' eyes widen like lifeless puppets. Their hands tighten their clothes.
A terrified Nessa blurts, "Brooke is going to die? We can't let that happen, we have to do something!"
"Can we go to Hollyoaks?" Johnny cried out, quicker than expected. "I have money saved from working at a comic book store!"
Nodding, Nessa beamed, "I even saved a ton of money working as a waitress!"
A stunned Johnny gives his sister a long stare.
"Since when did you become a waitress?" he asks her.
Headmaster smirks, then say, "your parents are outside, ready to take you two to an airport right now."
Johnny leans back, intrigued. "Why are our parents here?"
"Well, they not only feel like you two use this as an experience for your training, but they also assume that Brooke could use some backup."
Nessa's eyes sparkled. "Are we going on a road trip!"
"Technically," said Headmaster Prometheus.
"So, does that mean we have the rest of the school off?"
She leaps out of her large chair, pumping her fists in the stale breeze.
"I love you, Mom and Dad!" Nessa shouts to the ceiling. "I am going to get packed!"
After Nessa left the office in a hurry, the aged administrator asks Johnny if his sister is doing alright.
Johnny angrily pinches the bridge of his nose.
"Nessa is fine." he moans. "She just has the IQ of a caffeine-addicted squirrel."
Headmaster Prometheus expresses a tired sigh. "I see," he nodded. "Meanwhile, I will make sure your teachers send you two a packet of homework and study guides."
He nods understandingly. "Okay, I will let Nessa know."
Johnny is about to get up from his chair when the principal stops him for a second.
"Mr. Phoenix." he began. "Before you go, I want to tell you something important."
"Oh?" Johnny tilts his head. "What is it?"
Headmaster opens his mouth to speak, but Johnny notices that the color of the old man's tongue is drained.
"Hey, what is wrong with your tongue?" asks a worried Johnny. "Why is it so white?"
Bright red burned his wrinkled face. "Sorry, I am not feeling very well."
Johnny nods. "Do you want me to drive you to the doctor's?"
"No, I am fine." Headmaster Prometheus kindly responds. "Go and pack your things, I am sure your parents are waiting for you."
Taking a deep breath, Johnny did another sigh and walks out of the office.
* * * *
Nessa zips open her purple backpack and suitcase, then packs everything she needs.
Clothes, money, notebook, her favorite pair of boots, deodorant, personal items, weapons, and mixed tapes all flew into her empty bags.
As soon as Johnny came into the room with his gear ready, he saw Nessa loading the tapes inside her backpack. Ferocious pink walls were filled with grunge posters, Pearl Jam cover albums, old horror movies, dark drawings, and polaroids of all the European countries she and her family had gone to.
Ancient homework, textbooks, empty nail polish bottles, and wrinkled clothes spread across the floor. Her white desk was covered in old notebooks while extensive collages of Eddie Vedder, Mike Starr, Jodie Foster, and Layne Staley on her vanity mirror.
After packing her belongings, Nessa begins to sit on the dark purple bed when a puzzled Johnny asks: "Are you packing your mixtapes in your bag?"
"Yep, a badass road trip deserves a playlist."
Johnny peers into her backpack to see a poster of Eddie Vedder sticking out of it.
"Hey, Nessa," he began. "What's with that large poster in your bag?"
His sister grins nonchalantly. "Think of it as a good luck charm."
"Wait, you think that poster is some good luck charm?" Johnny repeats. "You know Eddie is like, thirty, right?"
An irritable Nessa punches Johnny hard in the shoulder.
"Ouch! What the hell?" he massaged his sore left shoulder. "The only reason I asked is that it's going to get wrinkled at some point!"
"Don't disrespect my future husband!" Nessa scowled defiantly. "What would Brooke say about that?"
* * * *
The party was over the second Brooke walked into her grandmother's apartment. She was tired of listening to Vinny boast about his accomplishments to his friends. He bragged and ranted about the Mad Dogs relinquishing their territories that he didn't even notice Brooke leaving the bar.
Thanks to Brooke, Vinny had provided the Irish mafia his location and phone number but didn't give the girl all the credit.
It was fine, in Brooke's opinion. By giving Vinny and his family all the credit, Brooke turned them into fall guys so no one will concentrate their attention on her.
Now it will be a good time to kill Vincent, but Brooke is concerned that she will make an impulsive move. She also predicted that her parents are coming to check on her.
Though irritated, Brooke hungered for some company. Her conversation with Johnny was brief, yet comforting. Brooke yearned to find someone to talk to; however, her grandma has memory problems and Vinny gave her nothing but nightmares.
Inserting the cigarette to her lips, Brooke let out an exaggerated sigh. She sits on the toilet seat, gripping onto her soaked towel dress.
Steam caresses her acne-scarred body as warm water soaked her curls; the innocent smell of cherry blossoms makes an effort to comfort Brooke, but all she can do is curl into a ball and stare at her smudged reflection on the glass.
Smoke escapes from her mouth and into the open window, where frigid air slashes her face. Police sirens and faint gunshots; people and supernatural beasts move up and down in search of something worth meaning. But as she watched the events unfold, Brooke's grandma knocked on the door.
"Brooke, you better not be smoking!"
"No!" Brooke tosses it outside and shuts the window. "I am not smoking, grandma!"
"Are you sure?"
After throwing on some clothes, Brooke walks over to the door and opens it to see her sweet grandma blinking at her granddaughter. Her short hair is black with gray tints; she throws on a pink bathrobe, a silver-white nightgown, and soft pink bunny slippers.
"Now, where are my glasses?" she groaned aloud.
Brooke circles her eyes and points to the dark brown spectacles on top of her head. "It's on your head, grandma."
Embarrassed, the old woman procured her glasses off her head, then set them in front of their eyes.
"Oh, thank you." she beamed. Her grandma kisses Brooke on the forehead and strokes her curly Afro.
"I have already taken care of the groceries and the bills," said Brooke. "The landlord won't bother us for now."
Grandma frowns immensely, "When did you do that?"
"Five minutes ago," Brooke answered. "I told you about it before you made stew!"
Just then, the vociferous fire alarm startles the two women as they stagger towards the kitchen. Broiled chunks of cabbages and charred broth sat on the metal pot. Brooke waves the smoke clouds away from the alarm system with a dish towel, while grandma turns off the fire.
"Ugh!" Brooke moaned. "There goes dinner."
Grandma bows her head as she dumps the burnt stew into the trash can. "I am sorry, sweetheart. I should have never—"
"It's okay," Brooke grinned. "And besides, I am getting sick of eating veggie stew. Want to order some pizza instead?"
Her grandmother bobs her head excitedly.
Smirking, Brooke hobbles over to the landline phone, dials the number for Domino's, and ordered a large pie with vegetable toppings.
As soon as the pizza guy came by, Brooke pays him twenty bucks, carries the box with her hands, and closes the door using her left foot. Smoke clouds vanish. Her grandmother has defeated them with a citrus air freshener.
Meanwhile, Brooke sets the pizza box on the coffee table, collects two plates, and places them beside the cardboard box. She sits on the ugly green sofa, then turns on the TV and watches The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air until her grandmother sat next to Brooke.
"Hey, grandma." she beamed. "Want a slice?"
"Sure," her grandmother answers. "But first, let me ask you about your day. Is that okay?"