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The Future Is Unclear (3/?)

Title:  The Future Is Unclear
Summary: Lemonade Mouth: some stories are worth telling, despite their ambiguous and indefinable endings.
Warning/Spoiler: Non-linear storytelling.
Rating: T/PG-13
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Wen/Olivia, Scott/Mo, Charlie/Victoria, Charlie/Mo, Scott/Stella, Ray/Stella, Charlie/Stella

 

Author’s Note: This chapter ended up being chock-full of friendship and it wasn’t even supposed to be that way? Oh well, friendships are the heart of this band, movie, and story. So take it as it comes, I guess.

--

The Future Is Unclear

3: a puppet

            He studies the screen for a solid thirty seconds before tossing the phone aside and concentrating on the book in front of him. The phone vibrates continuously, muffled slightly by the castaway clothes, but his hearing is acute: he can still sense the repeated texts, apologizes, pleas.

            He continues to ignore them.

            His finger follows the lines across the page. His eyes see each word and letter; he recognizes the words. But his mind flies away, pondering colors and sounds and people. He doesn’t want the world to distract him, but it does; so he sighs, shuts his history textbook, and spins in his chair. He hears a shout from below but he squeezes his eyes shut. He inhales deeply, letting tranquility settle within him. There’s a moment where he glares at the door, debating his options. But in the end, his hand grabs his phone mechanically. He heads to the window, climbs out, and is gone; the night is his only ally.

--

            The bright sunlight blinds her, each ray of intensity burning through her shades. Stella frowns at the chirping birds and laughing children as she walks down the park sidewalk, one hand fisted in her sweatshirt pocket and the other fidgeting against her side. Green blurs into black, trees and roads melting together. She stuffs both hands into the front of her baggy sweatshirt when she sits down on the park bench, lifting her head backwards and staring at the sky.

            She just stares at the leafy branches and the gliding clouds, recalling a far away memory. A smile teases the corner of her lips at the thought of aliens and flowers and umbrellas, but her face falls when a cloud passes over the sun, blocking the light. Darkness reigns again, twisting in her chest, and flashes of cancercancercancer ring in her head. She wants to scream, to yell, to shout – but there are people around and her eyes are killing her.

            She’s about to rub her face with her palms when a throat clears and someone sits down beside her.

            “Hey,” he says, awkwardly and hesitantly, but not unfriendly or unkindly. “You okay?”

            Stella lets herself scoff. “I’m peachy,” she says sarcastically. “Just perfect.”

            “Stella,” says Scott firmly, his voice drawing her attention and canceling her will to be wry. “What’s wrong?”

            A silent dread flitters through her at that moment; the mixture of sadness and guilt and discomfort weighs down her tongue, her throat drying at the sight of his inquisitive eyes. “My mom has cancer.”

            The words are foreign on her lips: it’s the first time she’s said it out loud. Her gaze remains on the paved streets, on the passing cars. She can’t bear to look at his face, to gauge his reaction, to see his pity. Part of her wishes she’d told someone else first – Wen or Olivia or even Mo – but then she finally looks at Scott and he’s frowning thoughtfully.

            “That explains a lot,” he says simply. He tries to smile, but it’s forced and sad; the glitter of sympathy that rests beneath his eyes stabs her repeatedly. “Have you told the others?”

            “No.” Stella lets her eyes wander again, staring off into the indefinable distance, as Scott uncomfortably shifts positions on the bench.

            “Why not?” he asks; there is no accusation or confusion in his voice, just genuine curiosity.

            Stella bites her lip, clouds of emotions rising steadily, threatening to take over. “I don’t know,” she answers honestly. “I don’t even know why I told you.” Scott says nothing in response, and she sighs deeply, sinking into her seat and stretching her legs in front of her. Eyelashes flutter before her vision and she rests her fingers on her stomach. “This is stupid.”

            “Welcome to life,” he says, “home of the unfair, idiotic, and unchangeable.”

            “I want a refund,” jokes Stella lightly. Scott laughs and she has to look at him again. She understands why Mo gushes about him now; she understands why Mo insists he’s a wonderful guy. He is.

            Scott spots the corner of her lips turning upward and he raises an eyebrow. “What?”

            “Thank you,” she says with gratitude and fondness mixing. “I’m glad you’re our friend now, Scott Pickett.”

            “Me too, Stella Yamada. Me too.” He says it with a twinkle and grin, but she can hear an emotion tinting the voice, choking and stammering under pressure. She doesn’t question it though. Scott’s a great guy and he’s her friend, but they’re not that close. So she beams in his direction and he nods silently, and the two depart ways in two different directions.

            A connection remains behind on that bench that day, germinating and stretching and building.

--

            Victoria grandly hands him the article with pride and he can’t escape the smile that tugs at his lips. “You’re cute,” he says.

            She rolls her eyes. “Just read it.”

            Charlie glances at the words so artfully chosen by his girlfriend and studies their meaning and their significance. As they sink in, his smile falls into a frown, growing longer and deeper.

            “Vic – this is about us.”

            “Yes it is,” she says eagerly, happily, and his stomach falls some more. “You’re looking at the first official Mesa High School Lemonade Mouth correspondent.” She poses with a hand on her hip and a hand extended upwards, but his attention is focused on the article in front of him.

            “You told everyone about Liv’s parents. I told you that in confidence,” he says, trying to remain calm and composed. “And you talked about us – our love life.” His voice stammers a little, and he doesn’t know if he’s angry or upset or sad or confused or afraid or glad. “Vic – “

            She cuts him off with a finger to his lips. “Charlie, keeping it a secret wasn’t doing us any good and you know it.” He’s about to admit to himself that he does know when she continues. “And you know I had to have something juicy in it for people to actually read it! I didn’t mention why Mr. White went to jail or for how long or anything.”

            “Still,” he responds, trying to ignore that his heart tells him to run but his hormones are screaming at him to just give it up. She smiles at him widely, sensing his inclination to give in. “This isn’t cool.”

            “Uh huh, sure,” she says, taking a step forward towards him, closing the distance from feet to inches. Her nose grazes his, her lips caress his and then she kisses him. “Whatever you say.”

            His stomach flip-flops and his heart soars, but something’s nagging and pulling; it suffocates under her lips and fingers and grins. “I’m still mad at you,” he whispers into her hair when she wraps her arms around him.

            “Hmm, if you say so.”

--

            The sun is cooking his skin and sheets when he wakes up; it’s past noon, a glance at his alarm clock tells him, and he feels oddly elated. A smile is glued onto his lips and he resists the urge to whistle in happiness. He lets himself quickly jot down some lines – some lyrics – before gliding to the shower.

            His smile never falls.

            He’s dressed and ready to start the day when he hears a sharp rapping on his door.

            “Wen! Your friend is here!” Sydney’s echoes glides effortlessly throughout the house, as if the walls and ceilings were made perfectly to suit her vibrations.

            “Which one?” he shouts back as he quickly runs a comb through his hair.

            There’s a shuffling of feet in the hall, Sydney’s bright laugh, and footsteps on the stairs. “Me,” comes the answer from outside his door. “Let me in.”

            Wen frowns at the edge in the voice, but swings the door open, letting Charlie in without comment. The drummer runs a hand through his hair and takes a seat on the bed while Wen dunks a towel into his hamper. “What’s up?” asks Wen, concerned and curious, but also a little annoyed. Why can’t you be blonde and a girl and named Olivia?

            “Vic broke up with me,” says Charlie flatly, blandly, numbly. Wen stares – immediately a flood of guilt and sympathy and relief rushes through him.

            “Oh,” responds Wen. “I’m sorry.” Charlie’s fists are clenched and he looks angry so Wen sighs and sits in his desk chair. “Why?”

            “It’s stupid,” says Charlie, grinding his teeth, but Wen spots sadness in his eyes and frustration in his shoulders. “She said it was because of Mo.

            Wen tries not to let exasperation leave him – he suppresses the sigh of frustration and the lack of surprise. He dawns an expression of bafflement: “what? Mo?”

            Charlie just glares in response. “Don’t act all surprised,” he says bitterly. “I know you think I still love her.”

            “You do,” replies Wen bluntly. He’s happy and this sadness upsets him. “Vic did you a favor, breaking up with you. Not only does this allow you to actually get over Mo this time, it lessens the chance for you to end up with a rebound. Again.”

            Charlie grimaces. “Vic wasn’t a rebound.”

            “If you say so.”

            Wen lets the moment pass in silence as Charlie groans into his hands. Annoyance and frustration fade into worry and guilt; he berates himself for ever wishing to replace Charlie with Olivia. That’s when realization hits – he might have gotten a girlfriend, but Charlie’s lost his. Bros before hoes, friendship friendship friendship. The conscious mantra echoes in his mind, but it fades as he lets his chest relieve the burden building.

            “So your timing is kind of awful,” says Wen hesitantly a little while later.

            “Why?”

            “Um, well, I was actually going to tell you about something that happened to me last night,” says Wen quickly, forcing the words out before his brain caught up with his tongue. “Olivia and I kissed.”

            Charlie blinks, but a sincere grin slowly breaks out onto his face. It brightens his face and eyes; it’s contagious, Charlie’s smile, and Wen soon finds himself grinning giddily again. “Finally,” says Charlie with a laugh. “About time.”

            “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

            “Even I knew you two would get together eventually,” explains Charlie with an eye roll. He’s brighter and animated and maybe telling him was a good idea. “And I’m Mr. Oblivious.”

            Wen laughs at that. “That you are.” He stares at his feet for a second. “The timing’s funny, I guess.”

            “Sure.” Charlie’s smile is fading again, but it doesn’t deepen into a frown; rather it stays in between: a cross between disappointment and relief and happiness and frustration and confusion. Wen’s heart sympathizes with the complex reaction.

            “So, um, what’re your plans today?”

            Charlie snorts bitterly. “I was going to go to Vic’s interview with some big agent or something, but obviously that isn’t happening. You?”

            “I didn’t really have plans. I have a date with Olivia at seven though.”

            “Aw,” says Charlie teasingly, “how cute. Wenny and Olive, sitting in a tree…”

            “Oh don’t start,” groans Wen, standing up and heading over to the door. “C’mon, we’re getting pizza and then hitting the arcade.”

            “Are we?” says Charlie with a raised eyebrow and a slight smile.

            “Yes. Up.”

            Charlie laughs but joins him without protest; Wen lets himself just revel in the masculinity and the companionship, forgetting Olivia and Victoria and girls in general – it’s a man’s world now.

--

            Her finger traces the edge of the paper, a smile resting on her lips. Her heart’s fluttering happily and her eyes are bright; she’s happier – she’s glad she agreed to finally do it. The letter’s words stare back at her, each sentence a message of longing and compassion. Olivia misses it; she misses him.

                        Dear Olive,

I was so happy to hear from you again! I was afraid that your first letter was a fluke and that you’d suddenly decide not to write back to me. But anyway, I enjoyed reading the story about Charlie and Stella – it seems they really love antagonizing each other. Honestly, I’m surprised Scott and Mo are still together – but what do I know about love?

But I wanted to warn you, Olive honey. A couple of days ago I had a visitor – it was the widow of the store owner. Yes, that one I unfortunately killed. She just wanted to see me, for closure I guess, and I might have accidentally mentioned you. So if a tall, blonde woman suddenly takes an interest in you, let me know and don’t worry too much. She seems nice and sane enough; she has a daughter, I think, and she mentioned something about a son in a first marriage. But feel free to avoid her if you don’t feel comfortable talking to her; I think she misses her husband very much. But who could blame her?

I hope Lemonade Mouth is treating you well! Good luck on the new gigs and hopefully when I get out of here I don’t have to pay too much for an autograph from the lovely front(wo)man.    

                                                                        Love,

                                                                        Dad

She outlines the curve of the indentations with her hand while she grins to herself. The chance to meet someone who was affected by her father’s hurtful actions scares her, but the opportunity to defend him excites her. Juxtaposition weighs down the corners of her lips, but she grins anyway.

            Unfortunately, not everyone seems to like grinning blondes.

            “Well, if it isn’t Miss Olivia herself.”

            Startled, Olivia jumps on her bench, positioned in the corner, but frowns at the sight of Ray strutting towards her. He’s flanked on either side by his groupies – Patty smiles hesitantly at her while Jules chews her gum with flourish, ignoring everything about her existence. Olivia turns back to her letter, choosing to ignore them, but Ray won’t be deterred.

            “Oh, does Olive not have enough time for us underlings? Too famous for us?” he sneers bitterly, taking a step closer. Olivia sighs but draws the paper to her chest, curling her back into a shell.

            “Ray, just leave her alone,” says Patty quietly, but Jules glares at her.

            “Shut up, Patty. She deserves it.” Jules turns her nose at Olivia, grimacing in disgust. “She consorts with bitches who think they’re worth more than they are.”

            Olivia frowns again, piecing together her insults, and the anger begins to boil in her chest. “Shut up, Jules.”

            “She speaks!” declares Ray laughing. “One would think you were mute.”

            “Leave me alone, Ray,” says Olivia, about to shove her note into her pocket, but Ray snatches it out of her hand with quick reflexes. “Hey, give that back!”

            “I will,” agrees Ray, grinning widely, “but let me read it first, don’t you say?” Olivia begins to protest, to interject, but Ray cuts her off smoothly. “’Dear Olive,’” he reads loudly and the snickers from Jules have already started, “’I was so happy to hear from you again!’ Oh god, this is going to be super sappy, isn’t it?”

            Red. Everything’s red and she wants to cry and scream and punch him, but she doesn’t. She sits silently, blushing harder every minute, letting the hot blood flow through her. Ray’s continuing to read now, adding comments here and there and Olivia’s frozen, staring at the words in his hands.

            Just when Ray starts the second paragraph, she hears footsteps and she sinks deeper into herself, retreating. She rolls her eyes at Jules’ snickers and Patty’s stoic posture; but her eyes widen when Mo walks down the hallway, her heels clicking against the titles.

            “What’s going on here?” Her eyebrows are raised and her voice is high, but she’s frowning deeply and Olivia couldn’t be more grateful to be her best friend. “What is that?” Mo’s eyes narrow at the paper in Ray’s hands. “Give it to me,” she commands directly, harshly, but Ray just laughs at her.

            “Why would I, Benedict Arnold?”

            “Because,” says Mo, taking a step forward and letting her bag fall to the floor, “that’s my friend’s letter you have there. And stop calling me that.”

            “I’m so scared,” he jokes. “What are you going to do – spit lemonade all over me?”

            Mo just chuckles, amused, and walks over to Olivia, offering her a hand. Olivia accepts, lifting herself up, and tries not to cower behind the other girl. Mo grins back at Ray wryly. “Stella took care of that for me,” she replies simply. “I think you’ll understand that as Scott Pickett’s girlfriend, I’m privy to lots of information.” Her eyes glitter and flash and suddenly Ray’s not grinning anymore. “Things that could get people arrested, for example.”

            Ray gulps noticeably and Olivia’s eyes shoot to Mo, surprised at her ability to blackmail so effortlessly. Mo seems calm and composed, but Olivia notices tension in her shoulders, a shiver down her arm, a shake in her fingers. Olivia’s heart shatters and breaks and flies together all in one moment.

            “You wouldn’t,” says Ray threateningly, but his voice shakes. “You wouldn’t dare.”

            “I would,” she retorts, “if you continue to harass Olivia. Or Stella or Wen or Charlie.”

            “I see you left the other losers out of it.”

            Her response is short and simple, cool and unkind. “I’m not stupid.”

            Ray stares at the two of them in silence, as if studying a morphing insect, before stomping off. Jules follows him without hesitation, only shooting a muttered “bitch” behind her. But Patty lingers for a moment; she picks up the folded note that Ray has dropped and hands it to Olivia with a sad smile and nods at Mo. She leaves quickly, her heels clinking against the floor loudly and clumsily.

            Olivia stares at her hand, at the note, and she can feel Mo’s eyes on her. “Thank you,” whispers Olivia softly, “really.”

            Mo shrugs nonchalantly, lifting her bag’s straps over her shoulder. The tension in her shoulders has lessened to a slouch, but Olivia sees her unsteady fingers.  “Anytime.” The two head for the school’s exit, side by side. Mo never asks what the note says; Olivia never tells her how much it means to her. The two just walk off in companionable silence.

--

Comments

I will continue to read, I'm curious to see where you go from here!

July 2011

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