Prelude (An Alec Winters Series, Book 1)

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Chapter 20

Alec Winters had been gone from New Orleans for over a year. However, fully occupied by the army’s training programs, he was unable to visit his family or Sabrina. He was unaware of the social problems and stigma that his friends and family suffered after his departure. He had hoped that his absence would allow things to settle down for everyone he’d left behind. When he called, neither Cassidy nor Sabrina worried him with their troubles. They only shared the positive things with him.

Sabrina Devereux, Chaz Lambert, and Danaé Chisholm would graduate at the end of the 1994-95 school year. Danaé had become a close friend and confidant on the night of Alec’s arrest. The three seniors had remained devoted to each other ever since.

While their senior year and impending graduation should’ve been a joyous occasion, it wasn’t. As Alec’s recognized supporters, school-life had been almost intolerable for Chaz, Sabrina, and Danaé. Even after all that time, they were considered traitors. It seemed no one was willing to let the past go. In the eyes of the biased community and school, anyone who stood with the Winters family was an outcast too. As a result, the three students spent a great deal of time together and became the closest of friends.

They bonded with each other over the common interest of Alec Winters, but it was more than that…there was a necessity to protect and look out for each other. If alone, Sabrina and Chaz were open to verbal attacks, and even assault, for putting their faith in Alec.

Without faculty support, once on campus, they were on their own and subject to bullying. Danaé was fortunate enough to escape such harassment, mainly because she was formidable. Due to such hostilities, the three students ate lunch together, waited for each other after class, and walked home together. Often, Danaé’s blonde head was seen huddled together with Sabrina’s dark head while Chaz stood close with his arms around both of them.

Sadly, Chaz was shoved, pushed, and tripped by other male students. Sabrina had to fend off slurs and gross comments. A particularly favorite insult came from members of the football team, “So Sabrina, I hear you like murderers. How about I murder you with this?” The remark, followed by obscene gestures as the spokesman made fists and pumped his hips towards her, was intended to hurt and shame.

It did.

Danaé came to her rescue on more than one occasion. Having plenty of experience with her own reprehensible father and some of his friends, she had a way with men that often left them speechless. She also seemed to know every sordid detail in the lives of everyone.

“Get yourself on home, Robby, before I call your mother. She still spanks your ass, right. With a switch? Or, does she use a belt or paddle now that you’re her big boy?”

Taunted and trailed by hoots and the hilarious laughter of his teammates, Robby did go home. After that, he avoided the threesome and refused to join in when others accosted them. It was only one example of Danaé’s loyalty. Overly well-versed in the community’s darkest secrets, Danaé’s comments threw cold water on anyone who had the nerve to affront her friends. Other students, who were familiar with her, went in the opposite direction to avoid the small group.

During the last month, before graduation, no one invited the trio to the private senior parties. That exclusion hurt Chaz and Sabrina most. Even though they weren’t part of the popular cliques, they were from good families, and had never before been left out of those social events.

Danaé observed the hurt and disappointment for both of them and rallied her friends. “Forget the private, hoity-toity parties. We won’t let these imbeciles keep us from our rightful celebrations. We graduate in only a few weeks. We’ll hold our heads high and attend all the public affairs intended for seniors. Are you with me?”

To support each other, Sabrina, Chaz, and Danaé arrived together at each event. They sipped spiked punch together, danced together, and left together. The public parties weren’t so bad; it was where all the other misfits celebrated as well. Feeling like outcasts themselves, none of the other seniors bothered or harassed Sabrina, Chaz, or Danaé.

“We fit right in,” Sabrina acknowledged.

“Yes, we do, Chaz agreed.

“If you stop to think about it, there are more of us here at the public functions than there are of them at the private parties,” Danaé commented.

“I don’t know why we’ve let the minority punish us so much,” Chaz said. “Those few have tried to ruin our lives.”

“They’ve almost succeeded,” Sabrina admitted. “I hate the way we’ve been treated.”

“Yes, but you have to consider that the majority of the student body doesn’t feel the same way. Look around again. Everyone is different. Each one is from a family of people with different ethnic, racial, religious, and political backgrounds. These smaller groups, when combined, make a large crowd. No one here is offended that we are at this function. All the attacks have been committed by club members, the athletic department, and other elite groups.”

“You’re absolutely right,” Chaz agreed.

It was an admirable attitude, but on the final evening of the last dance, the chaperones closely watched the three students. Because they had banded together over the Alec Winters incident, all the faculty members kept an eye on them. One in particular chaffed as she watched Sabrina, Chaz, and Danaé have a good time. She was aggravated that the other students didn’t mind that they were there.

“I can’t stand this,” Mrs. Anders announced as she glanced at her husband, a math teacher at the high school. “They have no right to be here.”

Before Mr. Anders could comment or object, his wife rushed over to the three seniors just as a song ended. Danaé coldly looked at the woman, and before the chaperone could express her objections to their presence, she said, “Why Mrs. Anders, I would think you have more to worry about than our being at the last senior dance of the year. If you paid more attention to your own affairs, and less interest in being a busybody, you might’ve noticed how close Mr. Anders stands beside Miss Jones, the new English teacher…Or, didn’t you know?”

Sabrina, Chaz, Danaé, and Mrs. Anders all turned to look at Mr. Anders just as his hand gently brushed the hand of Miss Jones and they exchanged a smile. That effectively sent Mrs. Anders back to her husband’s side, allowing the trio to enjoy the remainder of the event without further interruptions.

At the end of the year, Chaz and Sabrina were tied for the highest level of academic honors presented at graduation ceremonies. However, due to teacher, staff, and school board recommendations, they were denied their rightful honors as co-valedictorians.

“It’s for your own safety,” Principal Evans explained. “Many here are still upset that you supported the Winters boy. We don’t want a riot on our hands.”

“That’s not fair,” Chaz and Sabrina objected in unison.

“No, it isn’t fair or right, but it’s what has to happen to keep everyone safe and calm. We can’t have the two of you give a speech in front of a mob. That would only be asking for serious trouble.” Evans was adamant.

Even so, when receiving special recognition along with Danaé, for magna cum laude, ‘boos and jeers’ followed them across the stage as they were about to receive their diplomas. Someone threw a few rotten eggs that cracked on the platform, making a nasty, smelly mess. Sabrina and Chaz had turned white with embarrassment. They were horrified at the school’s reaction and tempted to turn back. Even though they had experienced strong opposition regularly at school, they had never considered that the student body’s hostility would be so severe at the final ceremony. They worried what their parents’ thought as they witnessed such intense aggression and anger toward their children.

Danaé, sensing her friends desire to leave before things got any worse, put her arms around Chaz and Sabrina to help them finish the walk to the podium. “Remember,” she reminded, “the majority is with us. Don’t let the few ruin this moment.” Glaring at the audience, with only a look that Danaé could manage, they ‘walked the plank’ together to where Principal Evans waited with their certificates.

“Now, aren’t you glad you didn’t have to stand in front of this crowd for ten or twenty minutes while you gave the valedictorian address?” the principal said as he covered the microphone. Then, with a shrug, he shook each of their hands and quietly offered his congratulations.

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