“Holy mother of crap!” Desiree exclaims after I tell her what happened.
“Yeah, you’re telling me. Conrad still hasn’t answered his phone either. I’m getting anxious,” I say.
We’re sitting in my room after I had called her to come over because this felt like an emergency, and I needed to talk to her about all of this.
“I hate to say this Syd, but I think Conrad is right. It had to have been Dane. You said he was acting weird and asking what we were up to on Monday, and he was even in the area to pick up your sister. He had the perfect opportunity to snoop.”
“But what would have made him just decide to wander over to your house and peek in the window?”
“I don’t know…maybe because he’s been secretly stalking you for years?”
“I doubt that.”
“You never know Syd. If I were you, I’d stop defending Dane when it comes to Conrad, since Conrad seems quite certain that it was him. Violet hasn’t even shown her face for a while, and how would she have even known the guys were at my house in the first place? Dane did it.”
“I know it had to have been him. I guess I was just holding out hope.”
“I know you want to believe that he wouldn’t stoop so low, but you said yourself once that Dane was different now. Maybe he’s always been this way, and you never saw it because you had no reason to notice.”
“Should I tell my sister? She’s supposed to go to the dance with him tomorrow.”
“No, don’t tell her yet. I’d wait until after the dance because it’ll just cause too much drama to tell her beforehand. Once the dance is over, then tell her.”
“You’re probably right. Wouldn’t want Hailey to flip out on Dane at the dance. I’d like to keep this whole situation under wraps for now.”
The next morning, I try to call Conrad again. I’m relieved when he answers.
“Hi,” I say, my voice barely a whisper.
“Hi,” he replies.
We’re quiet for a few seconds. Conrad must be waiting for me to speak first, so I do.
“I’m sorry, Conrad. I shouldn’t have defended him. I know deep down that you’re right about him.”
“I’m sorry too,” he says softly, “I shouldn’t have gotten so angry with you. I’m just a little stressed out. I’ve got some things going on, and then you told me that someone took a video of us. I guess I just lost it a little bit.”
“What’s going on that you’re stressed out?”
“Eh, we don’t need to get into it right now. What I want to know is, how’d your mom take the news? I’m guessing it’s not as bad as we thought it’d be if I haven’t gotten an irate phone call from the Superintendent yet?”
“She was pretty mad at first, and she was ready to call the school board until I explained everything to her. She’s willing to accept us, but she wants me to tell my dad soon, then she wants you to meet them, outside of school business. Speaking of which, you never told me there was a parent-teacher meeting a few weeks ago?”
I hear Conrad chuckle then.
“It was on one of the school newsletters. Anyway, I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want you to stress about it.”
“A heads up would have been nice. That’s how my mom recognized you in the video.”
“Sorry, Syd. So, I have to face your dad soon then? That should be interesting, but I have to say, it’d be nice not to have to hide from your folks anymore.”
“That’s what my mom said.”
“However, that still doesn’t change the fact that someone has the video, and we don’t know what they plan on doing with it. It’s probably a good thing that I’m leaving this summer because it sounds like I won’t have a job to come back to anyway.”
“You don’t know what will happen.”
“I’m fairly certain that it will, Sydney. First, your parents and next will be the school board. It’s only a matter of time before everyone else knows about us as well.”
“Unless we get to whoever did it before they release it,” I suggest.
“You mean unless you can talk Dane out of releasing it? No need to tiptoe around his name Sydney. We both know who’s responsible.”
“Okay, so maybe I can talk to Dane, beg him not to release it?”
“But what will he want in return?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s what scares me, Sydney. What does he want in return? Because I’ll tell you, academically that kid does not need help. If anything, his grades rival yours, so he doesn’t need me. Plain and simple, he wants you. Therefore, I don’t want you anywhere near him.”
“But I don’t want him, so it doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to him, whether you want him or not.”
“Well, we need to figure something out.”
I get ready at Desiree’s to avoid being around when Dane picks up my sister. Conrad and I still are at a loss as to what we can do. I still think I should just try and talk to Dane about this. I thought he liked my sister, so there must be another reason why he’s doing this, and I’d like to find out why that is. I keep this to myself. I decide it might be best for now not to involve Desiree, she’d just tell me it’s a bad idea, but this might be the only way to get some answers finally.
Desiree and I head to the dance at seven-thirty. The band won’t arrive until eight. When we get there, we’re surprised by how many people are at the school already. Usually, the dances don’t pick up until at least eight-thirty. Desiree grabs a classmate of ours named Kelly.
“Why is everyone here so early?” Desiree asks her.
“Un-Classic Heroes is playing, they’re awesome, and this is like a free concert,” Kelly tells us, “and of course now that everyone knows that Mr. Riley is in the band, they couldn’t wait to see him play.”
Desiree nods her understanding. Then we wander over to the stage.
“This is craziness,” she says, “your boyfriend is the popular one, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, yeah. This will be interesting to see Un-Classic Heroes play in our school gymnasium.”
“And we get to be the ones who are with them later,” Desiree says with a grin.
Soon, the curtains to the stage open, and the lights go down. The room erupts in cheers as lighting illuminates the stage from behind the band, and a guitar riff begins as the lights over their heads start flashing. Harrison grabs the microphone, and starts singing a soulful rock song. I instantly notice how hot Conrad looks in his tight black jeans and snug black t-shirt. The cheering gets louder, and Desiree and I are practically shoved out of the way as most of the female student body try to get to the front of the crowd for a better look.
“Yeesh! Pushy much?” Desiree complains, but I can see from the look on her face that she loves it.
I watch all the girls fawn over Harrison, Conrad, and Jake, and it makes me think about how it will be when they go on tour. It’ll be night after night, so many girls, desperate for a piece of them in some way or another. I mustn’t worry because Conrad isn’t interested. I have to repeat this mantra over and over in my head. Soon, the crowd breaks up a little, and people start dancing as the band plays a cover of an eighties love song.
As the night goes on, Desiree and I spend most of it dancing together and watching the guys play. I love watching Conrad play; he’s so in his element. His long legs, spread slightly to give him better balance as he plays, his hair hanging over his eyes and the way he brushes it out of the way every once in a while, his long fingers dancing elegantly across the strings of his guitar. His face is relaxed, and his full mouth is turned up in a natural smile. I manage to catch his eye a few times, and he’d smile at me, a secret smile that is just for me.
Eventually, I spot my sister and Dane. My sister is happily watching the band, dancing along, and Dane is standing near her looking a bit sullen. This is my opportunity to talk to him. Desiree tells me she needs to go to the bathroom, and I walk over to Dane.
“Hey Dane,” I say, trying to sound light and casual, “having a good time?”
He smiles down at me.
“That’s good. Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure. What’s up, Sydney?”
“Um…” I try and think of where to start, “you didn’t happen to stop by Desiree’s on Monday, did you?”
He raises an eyebrow at me.
“No. I took your sister out, remember?”
“Yeah, I know but… someone gave my mom a video of Conrad and me hanging out at Desiree’s house on Monday night, taken through her living room window?”
“And what does that have to do with me? What, you think I did it?” he frowns, and takes a step back, looking angry and offended.
“Well, you’re one of the few people that know about us, and…”
“And what Sydney? You think I’m some fucking peeper?”
“No but what?” he half shouts.
Damn it. This is going nowhere fast.
“What’s going on?” My sister asks I hadn’t noticed that she had turned around and was watching Dane and me.
“Your sister here thinks I took some creepy, peeping tom video of her and Conrad,” he tells her, glaring at me.
Hailey looks to me.
“Someone took a video of you?” she asks me, and I nod.
She looks at Dane then.
“Was it you?” she asks him, raising her eyebrows.
“Are you kidding me? No, I didn’t fucking do it,” he snarls.
“Then why are you getting so defensive?” she then asks, keeping her tone and face neutral.
“Because I’m being accused of something I didn’t do,” he says, his cheeks turning pink.
“There are only two people I can think of who would do it, and you’re the more likely candidate,” I cut in.
Dane inhales loudly and puffs out his chest. My sister stands right next to me, facing him, and then Desiree appears behind him. She seems to sense the tension and comes to stand on my other side.
“What’s going on?” she asks us.
“We’re asking Dane if he’s responsible for the video,” I tell her.
She nods and looks at Dane again.
“Well?” Desiree asks, propping her hands on her hips.
Dane scans the three of us in front of him and throws his hands up in the air.
“So what if I did?” he spits, and us three girls gasp in surprise.
“Oh my god, Dane! What the hell?” Hailey screeches at him.
At that precise moment, the crowd starts cheering louder, and I look to the stage to see what’s going on. Conrad steps in front of the microphone. What’s he doing?
“I wrote this song for the girl of my dreams,” he says before he starts playing.
I recognize the melody as Conrad begins to sing the song he wrote for me. There’s an audible sigh across the room, and I can’t help but forget what’s happening around me, and my eyes are glued to him. I can’t believe it. It’s even more beautiful hearing it live.
“That’s fucking it!” Dane’s voice breaks my spell.
I turn to look at him, and he’s got his phone in his hand, and he’s texting.
“Say goodbye to lover boy,” he says with a humorless grin.
“What does that mean?” I ask, just as the music cuts off, and everyone starts complaining at the disruption.
Then the video starts to play on the big screen above the stage that had been playing a slideshow of random school pictures. It’s cut to only the part of Conrad and me kissing on the couch, and its on replay.
“Oh shit!” Desiree gasps.
I’m frozen in place, I can’t move, and my eyes can’t tear away from the wreck. The room goes dead silent and then is replaced by whispering and commotion. I can feel their eyes start turning my way. I manage to tear my eyes off the screen and look towards Conrad. He and the guys look confused since they can’t see the screen. He catches on quickly what everyone is staring at and hops off the stage. He looks up at the screen and understands. His eyes dart towards me, and everyone starts looking at him too.
“I know I said I wouldn’t do anything, and I really tried to look past this Sydney, but I just can’t help the way I feel about you, and this thing between you and him is completely wrong. But you and me, it’s so right,” Dane states.
“You are fucking crazy,” Hailey yells at him.
“Delusional, as in you need professional help you whack job,” Desiree adds.
I know I should say something, yell at him, but I can’t get a single word out. My voice is tangled up in my throat. Everyone in the room has stopped what they are doing and has formed a circle around us, eager to see how this unravels. I stare at Dane, completely shell-shocked. Then he does something completely unexpected. He steps towards me and grabs me around the waist before kissing me. I try to push him away, but barely have time to lift an arm before Dane is wrenched away from me. He lands on his back, and I see Conrad standing over him, Dane’s collar in his fist. I finally come to my senses and realize I have to stop him.
“Stop! Conrad! Don’t do it!” I scream.
“Why not?” he shouts back.
I rush to his side and grab his arm.
“Because he’s still a minor. We’re already in big trouble. Let’s not add an assault charge too?” I plead in his ear.
Conrad growls and releases Dane.
The overhead lights come on then, and everyone groans as their eyes adjust to the abrupt light.
“Mr. Riley, will you please come with me?” the voice of the principal, Mrs. Gallagher, sounds from behind us.
Conrad stands up straight and turns to face the woman. She looks angry. Conrad takes a deep breath and nods at her. He starts to follow her, but stops for a moment to look at me.
“Well baby, now that it’s out there, I might as well do this,” he says, before wrapping his arms around me and kissing me hard.