Keep the Beat

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Chapter 25

“Marie, are you okay?” I asked curiously, looking up from my position and watching a nervous Marie pace back and forth in front of the voting ballots. I was lying on the grass, my head resting on Shane’s legs while Shannon’s head rested on my own.

Marie’s eyes widened and she began to shake her head frantically.

“What’s wrong?” Shane pushed, seemingly worried.

“She’s nervous about the show.” Jessica interrupted, eyeing Marie.

“Why would you be nervous?” I furrowed my eyebrows, “You’re an amazing singer!”

Marie groaned and dropped to the ground, head in her hands. “I know… I don’t know! It’s just, talking to Jessica I realized that everyone is going to be there. Everyone!”

I turned to Jessica with an accusing glare, “What have you been filling her head with?”

“Nothing!” Jessica defended, raising a hand of surrender. “I just pointed out that I was a bit anxious because my family will be there, and nearly everyone from my school.”

“You’re never anxious, Jessica.” Shannon rolled her eyes, scoffing.

“Exactly!” Marie exclaimed, “So if she’s anxious, what hope do I have! My family are coming to hear me sing, my friends are coming to hear me sing, half of the school will be there hoping that I fall or something.”

“You’re getting hysterical Marie.” I murmured, “We’re all a little nervous, but we know that we can do this. We wouldn’t be here if we couldn’t do this.”

“I don’t know if I can.” She whispered.

“Of course you cant.” Keara who had been eavesdropping, interrupted, laughing. “No offense Marie, but you aren’t made for this kind of thing. The glasses, the ginger curls, the pale skin. You’re average and plain.”

Marie frowned at her, saying nothing.

“Your friends will probably laugh-“

“Shut up Keara.” I snapped, stepping in front of Marie as if shielding her. “Stop making other people feel like shit, just because your life is sucks.”

“My life is perfect Riley-” I interrupted her snarl again. I was fed up of other people’s bullshit. I was fed up of feeling sorry for myself. I was fed up of not being me.

“It’s funny when you say your life is perfect. Because your perfect is being surrounded by money and clothes, and bitterness! But you’re not happy despite all of that bullshit. You don’t have any real friends. Your parents only love you for the amount of publicity you give them. You thrive on other people’s displeasure, and one day Keara. You’re going to be alone, and bitter living with a bunch of cats and crying over romance novels.”

Keara narrowed her eyes at me, “How dare you!”

“No. How dare you. How dare you disrespect others just because you have no respect for yourself. How dare you make others life hell because your life sucks! How dare you look down on anyone else but yourself!”

“May it’s okay…” Marie whispered, causing me to shake my head.

“No, it’s not. She is the kind of person that creates such a fucked-up society. It’s sickening.” I glared at Keara, and after a second frowned at Chase who was carefully slipping a phone into her jacket pocket. I watched as Caleb appeared out of nowhere, slapping him on his back.

“It’s not my fault you don’t care about anything May! That’s the only reason you hate me, it’s because your reputation is terrible and shameful. You are an embarrassment to your parents.”

I smiled and shrugged my shoulders, “I am. I know I am… But if they can’t take me for who I am- for who the person they basically raised me to be, that’s their problem. Then they only have a couple of years to worry about me until I’m out of their life for good. And I’m okay with that.”

“That’s what I mean! Maybe if you cared then we could have been friends.”

“I do care, Keara. I’ve always cared, everyone cares! But that doesn’t mean that I should let their judgements rule my life.”

“I was like you Keara.” Jessica pointed out, “I was a big ass bitch who treated everyone else like shit. I cared too much about how people thought of me. But I grew up, you should too.”

“You’re nothing like me!”

“True, even Jessica isn’t as aggravating as you are.” I drawled.

“You’re pathetic. Your looks pathetic. Your attitude is pathetic, you grades are pathetic-” My bitter laugh interrupted her, and I shook my head in amusement. Her pitiful remarks reminded me of a song I had written over the year.

“Not a care in the world.
That’s what they say to us all.
But we know that it’s far from the truth.” I sang, moving forward to her throwing my hands up in the air.
“We don’t care about the looks, or the rubbish in the books.
but we care about what’s underneath.”

Caleb being the epic drummer he is, began to make rhythm using nothing but the clapping of his hands and the patting of the ballad table. His rhythm formed a pat, pat, clap, pat, clap, pat, pat rhythm, that more people began to join in on.

“Can you run from it all?
Escape society’s call,
and be who you wanna be?
Can you hold your head up high,
ignore those piercing eyes,
and smile in the mirror at what you see?”
I sang even louder, backing away from Keara with a killer smile. I pushed one of the ballot boxes that contained the votes for the final performance- the one I had tried out for- off the table and jumped up on it, drawing more attention.

“We are who we wanna be.
Don’t care about what the others see!
Who cares about he or she?
When we’re running through the world free?” I bellowed out the chorus, turning around on the table with exaggerated steps and swinging arms.

“Look at them all talk,
about us in the dark,
expecting us to put up some sort of fight?” My voice sobered, shrugging my shoulders to the lyrics.
Why fight when you know they’ve cheated through the show?
embrace their opinions and make sure they know!”

“That you can run from it all.
Escape society’s call.
And be who you wanna be.
You can hold your head up high,
ignore those piercing eyes!
and smile in the mirror at what you see!” I kicked my performance off again, adding the rebellious attitude and facial expressions needed.

“We are who we wanna be.
Don’t care about what the others see!
Who cares about he or she?
When we’re running through the world free?”

I sat down on the table, pointing towards the watching crowd who had gathered and who were going along with the rhythm that Caleb had set up.

Can you feel the relief?
The feeling of victory when you realize you’ve got it all!
With your pride and belief,
you can be that person you see.
Now go ahead and show it off.” Silence followed that statement before I jumped up onto the table again, and sang the chorus, this time not alone.

“We are who we wanna be.
Don’t care about what the others see!
Who cares about he or she?
When we’re running through the world free?”
We sang together, clapping our hands high over our heads and belting out the lyrics. I leaped off the table, almost falling over in the process, and let out an exaggerated bow.

My friends were laughing, others were cheering and everyone was applauding. Keara however was pale and angry.

“You just tossed the voting box, Riley!” She snapped, not commenting on my song.

“Voting box, schmoting box.” I waved her away and ran into the arms of Shane, who was grinning proudly at me.

“Good job.” He whispered.

I smiled and nodded, “I feel like I’m getting my mojo back.”

“You just needed the right song.”

“I just needed to control the beat.” I shrugged, and gestured for a grinning Caleb to come over so I could hug him to death. Once I was finishing choking a humble yet embarrassed Caleb, I skipped over to Marie who was smiling at me.

“That was awesome May.” She shook her head in disbelief, “You’re such a performer-“

“Everyone’s a performer in their own way Marie. I’m loud and obnoxious and for some reason people dig it. Other people are loud and obnoxious and sometimes people hate it.” I smiled sincerely at her, “You are gentle, soothing and unbelievably talented and I could honestly watch and listen to you sing all day.”

She pulled me into a hug, making me feel Caleb’s pain from earlier. “Marie. No- breath.” I choked out, patting her arm repeatedly.

“Sorry.” She smiled sheepishly, she glanced over my shoulder and her smile widened, “Chase is looking at you. If I were you, I wouldn’t let that guy get away. There’s obviously more too the story, he likes you too much.”

“Yeah,” I sigh, “it’s hard not to like me I suppose.”

She chuckled shaking her head at me and walking off to one of her friends. I grinned to myself and slipped an arm through Shannon’s. “What do you want to do? I’m bored.”

“You could tell me why the ballot box is broken on the ground.” Chris’s sharp voice shot through the air, causing me to cringe.

“God, Chris. I’ve no idea, how inconsiderate of people.” I tutted, glancing around me.

“It was May!” Keara snapped. Everyone paused to roll their eyes at her comment.

“Thanks Keara, I guessed that.” Chris muttered, raising an eyebrow at me. I pursed my lips, thinking of an excuse.

“Well you see Chris. I did push the box off the table. Partially for emphasize on my song, partially by accident, mostly because I wanted to stand on a table and it would have been rude to push any other box off…”

He still wasn’t impressed.

“But most of all! I had an epiphany!” I shouted, eyes wide.

The crowd crossed the arms, waiting for me to continue with smirks on their faces. “I don’t understand why we’re throwing us…” I hesitated and counted in my mind, “Us five girls up against each other! Girls are supposed to empower each other, to make each other stronger!”

“Your point May.”

“Why should we close the performance with just one girl. Why not close it with five girls, and send the audience home with a bit of girl power spirit!” I exclaimed, clapping my hands at my own idea.

“But you guys have tried out and have your songs picked out and everything-“

“Well Chris said there was still a load of time to be filled in the concert. We can perform our single songs then, but perform together at the end.”

“I like it.” Melissa agreed, “We could also share our view on the women’s rights during it. With everything going on lately, it would be good to show that we actually care about the world as well as music.”

“No, it will just throw people against us.” Keara snapped, “I’m not going to be part of it! It’ll lose me fans!”

“Why would you want fans who are anti women rights?” Shannon drawled, rolling her eyes in amusement.

“I’m in.” Marie piped.

“You guys are idiots!” Keara snarled, stomping her foot.

“Being idiotic is my specialty.” I mused, “What do you say Jess?”

“I’m for it as long as we get to pick a good song.” She replied.

“Wait!” Chris held up a hand, silencing us. “So you are all forming a group.”

“Yes.” We chorused, ignoring Keara’s complaints.

“And yall couldn’t have told me that before I spent hours making up that ballot box?” He complained, throwing his arms up in exasperating. “Like seriously, these things took hours!”

Keara’s eyes widened with anger as she stormed forward, waving her finger. “No. No, no, no. I didn’t agree to this! I want the closing performance! I don’t want a band.”

“Come on Keara, you still get your own time to perform. This will make us end the concert with a bang!” I attempted to convince, stopping once her glare turned on me.

“You think I would sing with you, again?”

“I think you’d be privileged to, yes.”

She let out an impatient growl. “I refuse.”

“Okay then. Everyone has to revote on the end performance, it is now Keara versus the girl band. Who need a name, possibly by the end of the week.”

“We should call ourselves fantastic four.” Melissa joked, volunteering her name suggestion.

“Fourtastic.” Marie grinned, shaking her red curls out of her eyes.

“No, it’s gonna be good-hair-day. ’Cus we all have really good hair.” I piped up.

“How about nobody cares?” Jessica drawled, rolling her eyes.

“That’s a good one.” Shannon gasped at Jessica causing Jessica to raise her perfectly styled brows.

“Shannon I was being sarcastic, jeez-“

“I like it though.” Melissa agreed.

“Good-Hair-Day!” I yelled, stomping my foot. I hated when my opinions weren’t heard.

“How about pretty women.” Caleb winked, “Because your all pretty, and you-“

“We get it Caleb. Thanks for shortening it down for us though.” I deadpanned at the boy who was pouting at me. Chase chuckled, patting him on the back sympathetically. Jessica’s phone rang, she rolled her eyes at us one more time before walking off to answer it, leaving us to fight over the name choice.

“Okay, but how about this…” I began, pausing dramatically. “Five seconds of May.”

“No.” The table of people chorused, and I sighed in frustration. Our group were back in the dining area with the rest of the campers. It was time for Chris to reveal the votes for the concert, and he was discussing something with one of the instructors as we waited.

“Can I sit here?” I looked up to see Chase standing beside Caleb, his eyes fixed on me.

I shrugged, attempting to hide the knot in my stomach. “It’s a free country.”

A smirk formed on his face as he sat down beside me, across from Caleb who sat by Shannon. All eyes were on us, some alarmed, others smiling.

I turned to him, lowering my tone. “So, are you going to tell me what all that was about?”

“All what-“

“You had her phone Chase. Keara isn’t the type of person to give her phone to her boyfriend so he could play candy crush on.”

He bit his lip, leaning closer to me. “It’s a really long story May, I can’t explain here.”

“Well then if I go missing you’ll know to blame Keara. She’s glaring at me, and if looks could kill I’d be ten feet under!”

“She can’t do anything to you now.”

“Well maybe if you told me what was going on, I could make sure of that!” I growled in frustration, I knew something was happening and I needed to know.

Before he could reply, Chris got to his feet and began announcing the results of the votes. Shane, Chase and Caleb’s band had won by only three votes, Cassie had been awarded the main event manager for the night, and the girl group formed by Jessica, Shannon, Melissa, Marie and I had one the overall vote over Keara.

I sighed under my breath, preparing myself for the storm that was about to form. Many of the other campers were leaving the dining area, laughing and chatting. Keara jumped from her bench and approached us.

“Round two it is then.” I mused aloud.

“Ding, ding, ding.” Shane added, getting comfortable in his seat.

“That was fixed and you know it.” Was the first thing Keara hissed, as she approached.

“Unlike your face.” Was my childish reply.

“Why the hell are you sitting here?” Her focus quickly snapped to Chase, ignoring my comment. I couldn’t blame her.

“I decided to sit with my actual friends,” He shrugged, “Your voice was getting to exhausting.”

“My voice- friends!” She laughed bitterly, “You don’t want to do this Chase.”

“You sure about that?” He crossed his arms and shot her a smug look. I frowned, looking from one to another, clueless.

“I thought you said you cared about her. Doesn’t look like it.” Keara smiled sickeningly at me, taking her phone from her pocket and beginning to scan through it. Her smile dropped, and she shot a narrowed glare at Chase. “You deleted the video.”

“What video! What the hell is going on!” I interrupted.

“You think that’s the only copy I had?” She cried, spitting as she did so. Some of it landed on me, causing to grimace and flick it back at her. Say it don’t spray it.

“We’re not stupid Keara.” It was Cassie’s turn, “Phone, laptop, email, one drive, dropbox and your ex boyfriend’s laptop?”

Keara’s face fell, disgust rippling through her.

“What’s going on.” I repeated in a deathly voice.

“One more.” Keara whispered, “What about the hard copy CD at home?” A grin came back onto her face as Chase and Caleb glanced frantically at Cassie who looked like a deer caught in headlights.

“What’s going on!” I yelled, before they could argue again. Josh glanced at Chase, nodding his head slightly. Chase looked at me, eyes filled with anger, pain and regret.

“Keara has a video of you, sneaking into her room to make the smoke bomb.” He murmured, “She was threatening to give it to the police.”

My heart dropped, letting it all sink in. It made sense, threats were always her game. A small smile made its way to my face when I realized that this was the reason why Chase was with her, he was with her for me.

“And I’m going to!” She snapped through my thoughts, “Unless you all do as I say!”

“We’ll do it.” I heard Shane speak up, while the rest agreed instantly. It was heartwarming that they would jump into Keara’s clutches without hesitation just for me.

“She’s lying.” I drawling, taking in her wide eyes, pursed lips and heavy breathing. “She doesn’t have a hard copy.”

“This CD has you breaking an entry, Riley. You will be in jail unless you listen to me-“

My laughter interrupted her. Everyone stopped to stare at me in alarm, Shane shooting me weird look while Shannon knitted her eyebrows together in confusion.

“That’s all you have?” I gasped, out of breath. “Oh Keara, honey, come on. Give me a little more credit.”

“Riley!”

“You don’t have that video. I’ve known you long enough now to know when you’re lying. And even if you did have it, you wouldn’t share it.” I smiled, amused.

“And why’s that?”

“Because you’re scared of me. Because you know that course cases take a few months, which gives me plenty of time to tear you down brick by brick.” I whispered.

“You wouldn’t be able to take me on, Riley. Not with this!”

“Oh really? Keara, sweetheart. How long have you known me? How long have I known you? You think that I didn’t suspect that you had something like this? You think I wasn’t prepared?” I chuckled again, ignoring the bewildered stares of my friends. It was time for me to be like my parents for once.

“There’s five steps to taking you down Keara. Five severe steps that I have listed years ago, yet never even thought about using them until right now. They go like this; Parents, clique, school, fans and pride.”

“You talking nonsense.”

“The fifth of May. Do you remember that date Keara?”

She didn’t reply.

“That’s the day you fucked your Jeremy Colton, the school’s geek, the son of Nigel Colton- your fathers company rival. That was two days before you branded him the school geek if I remember correctly…”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about-“

“How would your parents feel if their so called innocent daughter’s sex tape was anonymously sent to their emails?”

She froze, “What are you on about?”

“Jeremy wasn’t happy that you turned him into the school’s freak. He also wasn’t happy that you started dating Marc only a day after sleeping with him, so he decided to give his only weapon against you to the person who hated him more that than you.”

I waited for her to reply but she didn’t, so I continued.

“Of course, I was disgusted.” I added, “Punched him in the stomach and all for it. I made him delete his copy and told him he was a perverted freak for doing this. I didn’t delete the video from my drive though, I archived it. Just in case.”

Her eyes were wide, lip trembling.

“That should take care of the parents. Now onto the clique… How would your little followers feel if they found out that it was you who reported them to the principle for doing cocaine in the bathrooms- all for extra credit on your biology because you were failing.”

Melissa gasped, remembering the incident that took place in the school year beforehand.

“You’re spring break paper about the American civil war was never your paper, you took it off Kyle Young, threatening her to write a new one and letting you keep her original because if she didn’t you’d make sure her boyfriend never looked at her again.”

“How do you know-“

“And the last two steps will crumble once all of the proof of the shit you pulled is released and spread over the internet.” I smiled, and did a mock bow. “Now, are we finished here?”

“You don’t have proof!” She yelled, she was as white as a ghost as she stared at me in horror.

“But I do. Because you’re not the only manipulative bitch around here Keara. Now are we finished here!” My voice rose by the end of my statement causing Keara to flinch backwards.

“We’re finished.” She whispered.

She exiled the dining area quietly, and no one spoke. Everyone stared at me with a mixture between horror and awe. I shifted uncomfortably under their gaze and looked down, away from their eyes.

“Don’t fuck with me, that’s all.” I shrugged, trying to ease the tension.

I glanced back up at Chase who was grinning at me, his eyes glistening with pride and humor. He held his hand out for me to take, “Let’s go for a walk.” He announced. I didn’t need to hesitate, I took his hand, leaving my disbelieved friends as fast as possible and pulled the one person who didn’t seemed shocked by my outburst.

The one person who knew that even though I tried to be carefree and kind, I still had a glint of cruelty hiding in the background.

The one person who didn’t seem shaken by that fact.

Chase squeezed my hand as he followed me towards the woods, a smile etched across his face.


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