Jaden Briggs →
"I wonder what it would be like to dance with Kris Hamilton. Alone but not alone. In the company of the universe. Stars dancing around us, singing, glowing..."
"Snap. out. of it." Kari handed me the bow to my violin. "Ms. C is gonna crucify you if you keep daydreaming in her class."
"Even better than dancing... kissing. Oh, to kiss Kris Hamilton. I bet his lips are like rose petals. The kind you can't stop touching because it feels like silk between your fingers."
"Jaden, I'm serious. Take the poetry elsewhere."
The bell rang, blaring through the room and the halls. The orchestra students packed up their instruments and put them in their respective places.
"Thank god we have lunch. I haven't eaten like all day," Kari groaned as we exited the room. We walked down the hallway and we were close to the cafeteria when we bumped into our other friend, Mae Struss. Kari eyed Mae's cheerleading uniform and raised her eyebrows noncommittally. "Wow. It's official, huh?"
"Yep! I'm finally a cheerleader. Voila!" Mae outstretched her arms, following us into the cafeteria.
"Does it come with instant fame and fortune? Aka popularity? Because someone has to introduce Jaden to Kris H."
Mae looked at me and I averted my eyes. "Just introduce yourself, J."
"He's practically untouchable. I'd have to be much higher on the social ladder just to look at him without being questioned. Much less talk to him. Besides, Corbyn's gonna take my gesture the wrong way and make my life miserable. He's done it to others."
Corbyn Starr. Where do I begin? Well, the most important thing to know about him is that he's Kris Hamilton's boyfriend. Yep! They're unmistakably the most popular couple in the entire school. It's a funny story actually. Last year—freshman year—Kris was new but everyone stopped in their tracks because of his looks, personality, football victories, intelligence, wealth, you name it. They worshipped him and he even came out as bisexual.
So not only did girls chase after him, but boys were on the prowl as well.
Corbyn won, to put it simply. They've been together ever since. Everyone saw it coming. I mean, Corbyn was totally the King Bee of the school, and the star of the drama program.
"But at least Kris will know your name," Mae pointed out, always finding the positive side of a situation.
"Careful, your optimism is showing and it's quite blinding," Kari grumbled. Yeah, she was the grumpy one. I can count how many times she's ever smiled on just one hand.
"He'll know my name, sure. Then forget it five seconds later. No thank you. It's not worth the next two to three years of sadistic torture and aching misery."
"Then you'll just have to make a statement. That's what I did and now I'm on the cheer team. You get what you want when you do something unforgettable. That's the key."
"Are you gonna sit with us, Miss Unforgettable?" Kari asked her. "Or does Queen Bee await your presence at her table?"
Ah, the Queen Bee. The one whose name shall not be mentioned. Kidding—her name was Brooklyn Winters. She was best friends with Corbyn, and runner up for the prize that was Kris H. Whatever. She was even deadlier because... well, let's be honest. She was a girl. And girls hold grudges. Kari and I had even made a bet with Mae that she was pretending to be Corbyn's friend just to get close to Kris, and that any day, she'd snap.
We were looking forward to it.
Anyway, as anyone can infer, she was captain of the cheer team. And just to fit the stereotype, yes, she was your typical blue eyed blonde bombshell.
"Not today," Mae answered Kari. She fished around in her embellished backpack and tugged out a flyer, slapping it onto the table. Running her finger over the words on it, she presented the announcement to us. "A play. And not just any play—the first school play where the two leads are male love interests."
"So a gay play," Kari understood.
"It's not just a gay play, Kari. This is the answer to Jaden's prayers regarding his longtime devotion and desire to Kris Hamilton."
"Why am I not taking you seriously right now, Mae?" I pursed my lips and squinted at her.
"You don't understand. The play was Kris's idea, so he was rewarded the first lead. So now all they need is his male love interest, and auditions will start being held on Monday."
My eyebrows furrowed. "I haven't seen any of these flyers around school. And if I did, I'd be fantasizing of being his love interest in that play." I snatched the flyer from her hand and thoroughly read it.
"I managed to get my hands on one of them. Corbyn and the drama crew haven't put them up around school yet. But you're still not following, J. You should audition to be the love interest."
I lowered the flyer to stare at my friend before bursting out into laughter. "You're full of jokes today, aren't you, Mae? It kinda sounded like you said I should audition―"
"Yes, I did say that."
"He's never getting the part," Kari stated with a nonchalant shrug. "Just putting it mildly,"
Gee, thanks, best friend.
"She's kinda right," I agreed. "Corbyn's his boyfriend and the star of the drama program. He's got this in the bag; in fact, I'm pretty sure it was his idea instead of Kris's. He knew they'd give Kris the lead and he knew he'd nail the audition."
"Yeah, but you're way better at acting!"
"I was a tree in the fourth grade play; I didn't even have lines!"
"Okay, well... tree, love interest—what's the difference? You have that–that je ne sais quoi that Kris will fall in love with. I've had a few chances to speak to him and Corbyn, and I picked up on the fact that... Corb's shallow and Kris knows he deserves better. I swear, they'll never last."
I held up a finger and blinked rapidly. "I'm sorry, you spoke to the love of my life? And when was this? When did your climb up the social ladder grant you direct contact with Kris Hamilton?"
"Since today. Hence why I stole the flyer and decided to show it to you. This is your chance to meet him and speak to him without Corbyn jumping to weird conclusions."
I sighed, resting my chin in hand. "You're saying that everyone's going to be auditioning with Kris?"
"Well, you don't have to, but the directors would much prefer to see your on-stage chemistry. Oh, come on, J. What do you got to lose?"
Oh, nothing. Just my dignity and self-esteem.
After school was dismissed for the day, I walked alone to the buses, carrying my violin case. Mae had cheerleading practice and Kari decided to stay behind to practice her own instrument.
I walked down the sidewalk to get to my dreaded form of transportation when I heard laughter coming from one end of the parking lot. I looked to my right to see Corbyn, Kris, and a small circle of friends hanging out by Kris's Bentley. Of course, the couple were pressed against each other, making out as their friends chatted away. It was painful to watch on my end. I was incredibly jealous of Corbyn, despite his superficiality.
"Get out of my way, loser," some girl squeaked as she shoved past me.
I realized that I had stopped and stared at the couple across the parking lot, so I quickly picked up my feet again and made my way to the buses.
I wonder what it would be like to meet Kris Hamilton. His glistening eyes staring into mine and nobody else to witness the magnificence. God, how could he not know that I exist?
How do I make him remember my face?
The time seemed to fly by and before I knew it, I was home. I usually sat in the front of the bus because I used to get tripped by the rebels who sit near the back.
I stepped off at my stop and walked down to my humble house at the end of the cul de sac. The door was open so I entered and shut the door, locking it. Classical music was playing as usual, filling the air with melodies, and I could smell my father frying something in the kitchen.
I smiled, breathing in the aroma and enjoying the symphony of the music. "I'm home, Dad!" I announced, swinging the violin case from my back and placing it against the sofa gently. I walked into the kitchen and my father grinned at me.
"Just frying some chicken for my three little angels."
I playfully rolled my eyes. "I'm not little anymore, Dad."
"You're still my angel." He wrapped an arm around me and gave me a dutch rub. I squirmed in his arms and laughed.
"Dad! You're burning the chicken."
He let me go, practically wheezing in laughter before he turned his attention to the stove and switched it off. Sighing, he placed a hand on his hip and shook his head. "I'm not good at this cooking thing. Your mother was so much better at it."
My laughter faded as I stared at the chicken he was frying. I was overcome by a familiar sadness. Dad didn't like talking about my mom anymore. It's been hard on him, having to be a single parent of me and my two sisters. We all missed her, but...
Well, for lack of better words, she made her bed. She chose the drugs over us.
"Speaking of Mom... could I go visit her today?" I hesitated to ask. "Please?"
He picked out the chicken, placing all of them on a plate in an attempt to save the pieces that weren't burned. "Now, Jaden--"
"Please, Dad? It's been three weeks since I saw her last. And I just learned a new song on the violin... I've been dying to play it for her."
"She doesn't appreciate your talent. Not like she used to."
"She's my number one fan," I reminded.
Dad put the pan down on the stove and looked at me. "I want her to be a part of this family again, believe me. But she refuses to go to rehab, she missed your last two recitals, she didn't show up to Emery's thirteenth birthday party earlier this year... and poor Raina—her own baby girl—is still looking for someone to call Mom. I completely understand your devotion to her, but son, she's made her choice."
"I know this angers you, Dad. I'm angry, too. I didn't enjoy the experience of watching her leave despite my pleas, but... she's still my mom. She's still human, which means she can be helped. That violin in the living room belonged to her dad, which he gave me to keep before passing away. Music—my music—can heal her. It's something we share that not even drugs can take away from us. So I need to see her, please."
He reached over and smoothed my wavy hair, tucking some strands behind my ear. "If this will put a smile on your face... I'll gonna drop you off but you only get one hour."
I slowly smiled. "I'll go change. Thanks, Dad." I tackled him in a hug. "In the meantime, just order pizza," I suggested before rushing up the stairs to my room.