College and Woodland

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Chapter 2

Fall Out Boy- A little less Sixteen Candles, a little more Touch Me

Josh

I get to the shop early but my dad is already here. I have worked for my dad at Wood’s Music Store since I was sixteen. At first just manning the front, selling CD’s and custom made guitars. Dad opened the store when he was my age. Making custom guitars, cellos and other stringed instruments. His brand never took off nationally but we have a big following with local musicians. He has made every guitar I have ever played. Now I spend must days teaching little kids how to play. I don’t have the patience or skill my father has with wood, but I can play anything with strings. I don’t have any lessons until the afternoon but I will be up to my ears in paperwork for the entire morning. Since my mother died three years ago I took over the books for the store. My dad never had a head for numbers, the store would have gone under in the first year if he didn’t have my mom here. I rarely see him out of the workshop now. His work is the only thing he pays much attention to anymore. I wonder if my brother will be in to help today. He is such a fuck up. I can never tell which Karl will show up. The hardworking apprentice to my father or the strung out junkie. Karl had a hard time after mom died, instead of dealing and going to counseling with me. Karl went off the deep end and started drinking and doing drugs. He moved out to a house in the sticks and only shows up when he wants something. I don’t want to deal with him today anyway. There are three orders I am waiting for dad to get done and another five to be filled after that. Our busiest time of year is the summer months when the Orchestra is on their off season. I don’t even realize it is noon already when I get a text from Charlie.

Charles: Just got a text from Stace. Checking out the house at 5. Will U B home by then?

Thank god I have a lesson that goes until six tonight. I will have to miss Ray, but I have a good excuse.

Me: I will b here till 630. Keep my door shut.

Charles: U R an ass sometimes.

I might be being an ass, but god knows I don’t intend on spending much time at home in the next year if I am going to be coming home to Raychel. I am sure it won't take long before she has some super jock fuck face boyfriend, or maybe one of those really right wing pre-law ass wipes. We have gone four years without renting a room to a female, why all of a sudden did Charlie have to branch out in the roommate department? Sure the guys who lived with us were usually slobs, and some couldn’t carry a conversation on their backs. But they have always paid the rent on time and not bitched too much about the parties we have after gigs. Speaking of which I am sure it will be a bucket of laughs introducing Ray to the triplets. Jess and Raina are going to eat her alive. Stace might be able to hold her own, she doesn’t seem like the type to take crap lying down, but Ray. She looks innocent, sheltered... I bet she hasn’t had to deal with the type of means girls that will literally knock you out if you cross them. Really that’s only Jessica, the chick I have been banging off and on now for a couple months. It’s nothing serious but I am more than positive Jess is going to make it clear Ray and Stace are not part of the crew. Once again I ask myself what the HELL is Charlie thinking?

Raychel

We get into Stace’s Bronco to go see Charlie and Josh’s house. They passed the background check with flying colors. Not so much as a speeding ticket between the two of them. Charlie also assured Stace over the phone they have never had the cops called to the house. I guess that meant they didn’t have loud parties. I am still wondering how this happened.

“Don’t you think this is all happening a little fast? I mean we needed to find a place to live fast, and this just fell into our laps. Seems too good to be true.”

“Ray I know you are not very trusting of men now, but these guys check out. I picked Max’s brain today after the Micro final and he has nothing but good things to say about them.”

“Well he didn’t act very trusting of Charlie when I first met him.” Acted like he was a threat more like it.

“He was just posturing, he is very protective of you.” This is true. I decide to give this a chance. Keeping myself prepared for the other shoe to drop.

It doesn’t take us long to get to the house. It sits on the intersection of College and Woodland. Mere blocks from both our school and the University. It’s a prime spot, that’s for sure. I could save some serious money commuting by bike or walking when the weather cooperates. I have passed the house thousands of times. I always wondered what it looked like on the inside. It’s obviously very old, like most the homes in this part of town. I wonder if they have remodeled the inside. Stace parallel parks in front of the house.

“On street parking might be a challenge.” Stace huffs. But I can tell she is just as impressed with the house as I am. We aren’t even out of the car when Charlie opens the wide wood front door.

“Ladies I see you didn’t have trouble finding us.” He is so chipper. I wonder if he is like this all the time. It has to be exhausting to be that happy.

“Hard to miss it Charlie. I was thinking it was further away. This is perfect”. Stace says while walking up to him. She seems really perky today too. When did that happen? Charlie begins our tour outside.

“There is parking out around back in the alleyway. Josh and I both have vehicles but we use the garage behind the house so there is enough room for two more cars.” We walk around to the back of the house. There is a small yard and I can see the garage behind a large hedge of lilac bushes just starting to bloom. We walk up the back steps that lead to a four season porch.

“We have the grill and some furniture out here in the porch but we don’t use it much during the winter, the windows leak and it gets too cold.” He walks quickly to a sliding glass door that leads inside. We must be in the dining room but the floor plan is open so there is just an archway from this room to the living room in front of us and a kitchen to the left. The built in china cabinet is filled with DVD’s instead of dishes and there is a large stereo system behind closed glass doors. I know I have lost Stace at this point. She beelines to the stereo.

“Wow this is an awesome system.” Charlie is just as enthusiastic as her about speakers and audio capabilities. While they fittle with the machine I take the liberty of showing myself the kitchen. It’s bigger than I expected with black and white checkered tile floors and tall dark cabinets. There are two closed doors, one leading to what is obviously the basement and the other leading to a butler’s pantry. I can see one of the guys has a small herb garden growing in a window bed. As I come out of the pantry I run into a large chest. When I look up I meet two brown familiar eyes, Josh.

“Are you still here? I thought you were coming by earlier today.” He says while taking a large step back from me. He is wearing a rolling stones shirt and holey jeans. Positively delicious, and not too happy to see me snooping in his pantry.

“Oh sorry,” I say breaking eye contact and instead concentrating on my feet, “Charlie said it would be better if we came after six.” I don’t know why we had to wait maybe he had class or something after all.

“He did, did he?” He shoots a quick glance to the dining room where I left his cousin. He mumbles something to himself and stomps into the archway on the other side of the kitchen from where I came in. Then I hear him going up stairs.

“Nice seeing you too.” I say, though I know he won’t hear me.

I turn back to where I left Charlie and Stace. “Uh Charlie, Josh knew we were coming right? He seems a little snarly.”

“Yea don’t mind him. He can be a little testy after dealing with kids all afternoon.” He shrugs as if this isn’t surprising to him at all. Kids? What does he do teach or something? I am going to ask but Charlie starts talking to me again.

“Did you get to check out the kitchen? I was able to clean up a little. We don’t have a dish washer that works, so we do the dishes by hand.” He walks past me and Stace takes my arm and follows him deeper in the room. ”There will be empty cupboard space once Hardy and Guy leave, for whatever you need to store in here.” He continues through the way Josh just left. “The stairs are here and through to the other side is the entryway/living room”. These rooms have oak wood floor that must be original to the house. They are worn but stained nicely, and covered with dark brown area rugs.

“Let’s go upstairs and I can show you the bedrooms.” The carpet on the stairs is worn and looks dirty. Stace whispers to me.

“You think they own a vacuum?

“I doubt it.” I whisper back. That will be one of the first things I do if we move in here. Some deep cleaning. The place is tidy enough but I can tell it’s been a while since a mop was taken to the floors or polish to the woodwork.

The hallway at the top of the stairs goes both left and right. Charlie takes a right first.

“So this way is my bedroom." He opens the door and shows us a light room with not much more than a bed and a desk in it. There are guitars hung orderly on the wall and books stacked on two shelves beside a window facing the front lawn and street. He closes the door quickly.

“I want to warn you before I show you the extra bedrooms. The guys that are living with us now, are slobs. We will have them completely cleaned up before you move in.” With that ominous warning he opens the door across from his. The bedroom is a good size but dwarfed by the large bed dominating the far side. There are clothes everywhere and it smells like a locker room. Charlie kicks some clothes aside and shows us the walk in closet. Okay not great but not bad either. This room has good light in the evening and plenty of space for either mine or Stace’s furniture.

We start walking back towards the stairway and he opens the first door on the left. “This is the bathroom. There is only one unfortunately.” Both Stace and I peek in the room. It’s very old fashioned with a claw foot tub that has a shower curtain draped around it and tiny white tiles on the floor. A medicine cabinet and vanity with a sink are near the door. The toilet is blocked by a half wall on the other side. There are no rugs on the floor and the shower curtain is clear, but badly stained from hard water. I could spend an entire day cleaning in here I bet. Stace gives me a look that says she is thinking the same thing. What else would we expect from four guys living in a house?

Charlie closes the door behind us and continues down the hall. “That.” He points to the next door. “Is Josh’s room.” I can hear faint music coming from inside. I wonder why he is not giving the tour with Charlie. Then Charlie stops at the last door in the hallway. He opens the door to what looks like a glorified closet with a window and a door on the other side. Both Stace and I frown at him.

“Now I know this room is kind of small but it has a sun room and its own balcony that can be used during the summer.” He crosses through the room, which looks to be about halfway packed in boxes lining one wall, to the narrow door on the other side. Once he opens the door I am sold. The sun room is just that. Wall to wall windows on all sides with a glass and screen door out to a balcony on top of the four season porch. The room obviously isn’t being used by the current resident because it is completely empty. The floors are a lighter wood and slightly warped from the cold winters. The old lead pane windows blur and distort the view of the backyard and neighbors houses. The light will be perfect in here to read in the mornings. Stace sees the smile on my face. She gives me a look that says ‘I know you like it, just admit it’.

“Okay, I’m in. Where do we sign?” I say resigned. Stace and Charlie give me matching Cheshire cat smiles.


We are leaving our new house and Stace is driving me to my first night at The Moon. I will basically work every night this week except for Sunday. Either here or at the box office. I still have two finals left next week, but I am not worried about them. I took a lighter semester this spring, only taking 16 credits instead of the 20 I took in the fall. Double majoring is a huge undertaking but I feel like I am doing alright. I have kept my grades well above average, except for the first couple weeks after my breakup, I have never even missed a class. I know I am not the usual college student but I have serious goals a failure is not an option for me. I want to be managing and acting in local theater next summer. Off to New York when I graduate. I will know everything that goes into putting on a show from directing, to acting, to set construction. I will be able to literally get any kind of job in any theater, maybe even some event centers too. I wonder who does the lights and sound for The Moon? I could probably help with that besides waiting tables. Grounded will not be playing again till next week so I won’t have to see Josh any time soon. I am going to be sharing a house with him soon though. Wonder how I will avoid him then? He seems to be unnaturally irritated by me, or maybe he is just like that to everyone.

Josh

I hear the girls leave through the front door and Charlie barges in my room without even a knock.

“I could have been jerkin it in here or something. Don’t you have any manners?” He ignores me and flops down on the recliner across from my bed.

“Did you like my surprise?”

“You mean having Ray literally run into me when I was grabbing food downstairs? Yea, really sly genius. I was surprised alright, but not happy.” I am a liar. I was happy to see Ray. When she ran into me downstairs I got a good whiff of her perfume or maybe her shampoo, and I did actually consider coming up here to rub one out. I had my door locked while they were upstairs.

“Well get happy because she picked the room with the balcony.” He is all smiles.

“What’s the deal man you are awful glad that these two chicks are moving in with us? You got a jones for Ray?”

“No! Nothing like that. She reminds me a little of Katie, I just want to help her out.” So that’s what this is. Katie was Charlie’s little sister. She died when we were teenagers, Leukemia.

“So you are playing white knight? You know there was nothing you could have done for Katie, right man?” I knew he still felt helpless about his little sister’s fate but she was too weak in the end to go through another round of chemo. Her little body wasting away tore at Charlie. “So this has nothing to do with getting in her pants?”

“No! Josh, I kind of have a thing in the works with Sammie. Also I don’t want to compete with you over a chick. That won’t end well for me.”

“What competition? I have no interest in innocent little girls like Ray. Besides Jess and I are, I dunno she’s a bitch, but she doesn’t mind that I am a total ass either so it’s working for now. Ray and Stace are off limits period.”

“Yeah you keep telling yourself that cuz. Before you go sticking your foot in your mouth anymore why don’t you google her. Raychel Baker, she is a good actress. Not nearly as innocent as you might expect.” He smirks at me again before he takes off. It takes all of ten minutes for me to cave. I pull open my laptop and type her name in the search engine. After narrowing down to her location and school I get a bunch of hits for the theater. Some with pictures.

The first I pull up is a review from her school newspaper. The article starts with a half page photo of Ray, in a negligee. What the hell is this?

There was controversy at St. Augusta’s Theater last Friday as the Drama department opened a one act play based on a modern retelling of the story of Mary Magdalene. It depicts Sophomore Raychel Baker (pictured above in costume) as a prostitute seeking redemption from Jesus...

To say I am stunned would be a drastic understatement. As I go through page after page of her acting career here and in her home town I see a very different side of Raychel. In person she might be shy and demure, but on stage she is a siren. Beautiful and captivating more than anyone I have ever seen. I even find a video of her in a musical, it must have been from a few years ago. She went to one of those all girl Catholic schools. Jesus she really is innocent and sheltered. I tap on the link to the video, as it starts to play I see Ray come on stage. She is dressed in worn ragged clothing and her face is covered in stage makeup making her look dirty and sickly. She begins singing and I recognize the song from Les Miserables. She played Fantine? Her voice is just as amazing as her face. I am floored. She is captivating on the dark stage with only a spotlight highlighting her. It’s like she sucks up all the air from my lungs. As the song gains momentum I see the woman behind the girls eyes. The feeling and depth of emotion she is pouring from her soul while on that stage is something not many people can convey. The woman I am seeing in this video is such a far cry from the girl who I met in the back room of The Moon last night. She is someone I could get close to, someone I could share my soul with as freely as she gives it while she’s on stage. I have to find out if this woman is the real Ray or if she is just that good at pretending. Maybe that is the real Ray and something happened between now and when that video was shot to make her lose the sparkle in her eyes and the inner strength that shines from her like a beacon. The girl I am coming to know doesn’t hold that light anymore. What snuffed it out I wonder? You can’t fake that kind of beauty. I guess I will have to explore this a little more, and I will have plenty of time it seems. As my little mystery girl is moving in, in the room right down the hall.

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