Ryan discovers Brendon's fantastic musical talent and asks him to audition as his band's singer.
As the chords progressed, he took a breath and started to sing. “Hello there, angel from my nightmare,” his flawless voice sang softly. My breath caught in my throat when he sang those first few words. I pretended they were for me. Before I knew it, my feet were bringing me towards him. Once he reached the second verse, I was tempted to join him, but I let him finish his song. I retook control of my feet and sat down in a chair towards the side of the room, keeping out of sight. He hit each note perfectly while his long fingers glided over the faux ivory keys. When the music ceased, he sat back and leaned over to unzip his backpack. I must have caught his eye because he looked over and I froze.
“Oh, hey,” he greeted. He bit his lower lip as his cheeks gained a bit of color. “How long have you been sitting there?” he asked, cringing.
“Long enough for me to wonder why you never told me you could sing,” I chuckled as I stood up.
He shrugged. “I guess I never really thought about it.”
“Well, I’d still have to talk to Spencer, but what would you think about auditioning to be our singer?” I offered.
“What? No. I couldn’t. You’re the singer,” he rambled, turning to face me.
I walked towards him and leaned coolly against the piano. “Oh, come on. There’s no comparison.”
He pondered it for a moment before saying, “If Spencer’s okay with it, I’ll try it.”
“Awesome. That’s one of my favorite songs, by the way,” I said, blushing slightly.
“Oh yeah?” he asked.
“Do you mind playing it again?” I asked, dragging a chair next to him and sitting down with the acoustic guitar I had gotten before being distracted. “I wanna try something.”
“Yeah, sure,” he said, scooting the bench forward. Its legs screeched against the tile, but that wasn’t the only thing giving me goosebumps.
I counted us in and he began to play once more, only this time my quiet strumming accompanied him. When the second singer was introduced in the second verse, I harmonized on top of Brendon’s voice and for the rest of the song. When I joined him, he looked over at me and smiled a half-smile. The left side of his mouth curled up and reached his eyes. God, I wanted him.
When the song ended, I said, “Yeah, you’re definitely coming audition for sure.”
I had talked to Spencer about Brendon and I convinced him to give him a shot. Spencer agreed and we decided to practice this Saturday. I couldn’t wait to sing with him again.
I went almost the entire week without getting beaten up. Almost. Friday, right after lunch, Trent came up behind me and pulled me down to the floor by my backpack. I hit my head on the ground, hard, and I saw stars as I felt a rush of nausea twist inside my stomach. I fought it and got up to my feet, but was soon punched in the stomach and knocked to my knees. I gagged as I held myself up on all fours. I could hear someone yell for a teacher while others gathered ‘round, not bothering to help. That is until I heard a boy yell, “Hey! Leave him alone!” Brendon. My breath left me and this time not from the fist in my gut.
“So, Ross, you really do have a boyfriend,” Trent snickered, dragging me to my feet.
“Shut up, no I don’t,” I told him, breathlessly. I wished I was lying. Brendon took a few steps toward me, but Bobby, part of Trent’s gang, stepped in front of him.
“Where do you think you’re going, freshman?” Bobby asked, grabbing hold of Brendon’s shirt in his large meaty fist.
“Leave him out of this,” I said bravely, glancing over at Brendon.
“Yeah, leave me out of this,” Brendon said defiantly, drawing back a fist and hitting Bobby square between the eyes. There was a gasp from the spectators and a wail from the victim as Brendon rushed toward me. Trent had let go of me and I fell to the ground. Trent and Bobby ran away and Trent yelled over his shoulder, “You better watch your back, Ross. And your freshman boyfriend.”
The crowd scattered, but not in the wake of an incoming teacher, but because the bell rang and the show was obviously over. I guess teachers actually don’t care.
Brendon helped me to my feet as I felt another wave of nausea wash over me. I sprinted to the bathroom dizzily and buried my head in the toilet. When my stomach had emptied, I sat back and leaned my back against the wall of the bathroom stall. Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I stood up and opened the door. I found Brendon gazing back at me, his expression full of concern.
“Thanks, but you really shouldn’t have done that,” I told him, washing my hands and splashing water on my face. I clenched my fingers around the cold edges of the sink, concentrating on not throwing up again.
“I wasn’t just gonna let him beat you up…” Brendon whispered from behind me. Lifting my head, I looked at his reflection in the mirror. Glancing at mine wasn’t such a good idea. I looked like hell.
“I can handle this,” I told him.
“Yeah, it looked like you had everything under control,” Brendon remarked snidely.
“What do you know?” I asked him, malice cutting through my voice as I turned to face him. “You don’t know my life, so stop. This isn’t your battle.”
“Sorry, I just—”
“Save it,” I told him, pushing past him. When I exited the bathroom, I ran. I ran down the hall and out the doors into the warm Vegas sunshine. Unlocking my borrowed bike from the rack, I jerked it away and sped off down the sidewalk. Tears ran down my cheeks as I pedaled faster and faster.
What the hell was Brendon thinking? He had no right to just step in. This is my fight. He doesn’t need to get involved. I don’t want him hurt, and I know he’ll get hurt if he intervenes. How could he be so stupid? I couldn’t live with myself knowing that he’s getting hurt because of me. This isn’t his problem and now he knows why I get beat up and now he’s going to ask me if the rumors are true. What do I tell him then? Yeah, it’s kind of true and I love you. Do you want to go out sometime? Yes, that sounds like a plan, doesn’t it? I really like Brendon and now… I don’t know what’s going to happen. How am I even supposed to…? I don’t even know.
When I reached my street, I didn’t turn to go home; instead I kept going straight to the bridge. Spencer and I spent countless summer afternoons playing army underneath it when the water and dried up. I hopped off the bike and, climbing on top of the ledge, I stood up and closed my eyes. I imagined flinging myself off of it below. It wasn’t that high, but if you landed just right...
The first thing I thought about was Brendon. His cute little half-smile and his angsty grin when he punched Bobby that afternoon. I remembered him sitting at the piano, singing. The day we first met. His blushing complexion and sweet awkward grin when Spencer first introduced us. How he looked at me when he watched us rehearse. I can’t just throw that away. He could completely hate me (which I, personally, think is unlikely) or I could have a chance with him.
Sighing in defeat, I realized I couldn’t do it. I guess I was never going to jump, but the thought of it was scarily comforting. I sat down carefully and pulled my knees into my chest. Wrapping my arms around my legs, I looked at the fading lines crisscrossing over my forearms. My eyes began to burn as tears blurred my vision. They spilled over and ran down my cheeks. I ran my fingers over the rough scars, feeling the unique ridges, reminding me of what had caused me to do such things. There was something about the feeling of old scars. It was so mesmerizing. I gently traced over them, absentmindedly. It calmed me down.
When the tears stopped flowing, I went numb. I felt the fog set in and nothing mattered anymore. It was a weird feeling. Thinking about everything and yet nothing at all. Not caring about anything; whether you lived or died. You feel like you’re not even in your body anymore. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. You can sit there for hours in silence, not really thinking of anything. You seem completely at peace, yet you’re fighting a losing battle within yourself and no one’s there to hear you scream so why bother anyway?
Getting off the ledge, I grabbed the bike and went home. Without a second thought, I walked calmly to the bathroom and locked the door, not that anyone was there to invade. Out of habit I found my blades and ran one down my arm. I felt the sharp pain ran through my arm and throughout my body, jerking me out of my non-emotional state and I felt oddly alert. I dragged the steel across a few more times watching the blood escape from beneath my thin, pale skin. When I cleaned up the mess and bandaged my arm, I remembered. I had broken my three week streak. I don’t care.
I didn’t bother eating or doing homework. I went to bed at four in the afternoon and didn’t think twice. I was starting to get a migraine from when Trent yanked me to the floor, so I took some ibuprofen. Pouring them out into my palm, I imagined myself chugging the whole bottle. Taking a deep breath, I resisted and only took two. Pulling off my jeans and grabbing a shirt, I climbed into bed and begged for peace.
“Hey, where were you yesterday?” Spencer asked, as he helped me set up the amps in his garage. Brendon was coming over to audition this afternoon, remember?
“I went home early,” I told him, desperately not wanting to get into this with him.
“I don’t want to talk about it, Spencer,” I said in exasperation. I turned away from him, but he grabbed my arm. “Ow! God damn it, Spence!”
His expression fell instantaneously. “I thought you stopped,” he whispered, glancing quickly at my arm, then into my eyes.
“I wouldn’t say three weeks is exactly calling it quits,” I said, pulling my arm away. I busied myself with the multiple cables that seemed to get tangled every time I turned my back.
“How bad?” he asked, hinting that he wanted to see. It’s uncomfortable showing him, but I know he cares. I tentatively lifted the sleeve of my hoodie to reveal the red, black, and brown scabs that had already formed. I looked away, not able to bear the sight. I’m disgusting.
“I’m sorry, Ryan,” Spencer muttered, drawing his eyes from the bloody mess.
“Sorry for what?” Brendon asked, seeming chipper today. I rushed to pull down my sleeve, cringing as some of the threads caught on the rugged scabs, and turned to face Brendon.
“Nothing,” I said quickly, hurrying to plug in my guitar. “Now, do you know any Blink or My Chem songs?”
“Sure,” he shrugged. “Whichever ones you want, I probably know.”
“We’ll start off pretty easy with a Blink song and then try a My Chem song. If you’re still in it, I’ll give you the lyrics of one of my songs,” I ran down the procedure.
“Sounds good,” he said, stepping up to the microphone with confidence. Just the way he held himself. His posture loose and shoulders relaxed. Like he belonged. Like he knew that his place was onstage in front of screaming fans singing his heart out.
I knew from that moment that he was our new singer.