the future is unclear (4/?)
Title: The Future Is Unclear
Summary: Lemonade Mouth: some stories are worth telling, despite their ambiguous and indefinable endings.
Warning/Spoiler: Non-linear storytelling.
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Wen/Olivia, Scott/Mo, Charlie/Victoria, Charlie/Mo, Scott/Stella, Ray/Stella, Charlie/Stella
Author’s Note: This chapter is dedicated to the lovely
The Future Is Unclear
4: fresh air
Mo eyes the new dress in awe of the layered violet fabric, frayed edges teased against the bright sunshine accents. The clothes attract her fingers, drawn to their details and patterns; she sighs when her hands automatically check the price tag, however, and drops the paper and the dress. She steps back and glances at all the clothes – the dresses, the shoes, the accessories, the shirts – before forcing herself to turn around and out of the store.
She wanders the mall, gaze darting from side to side, inhaling all the shops and their goods. Her feet take her to the local Barnes and Nobles, so Mo begins studying the shelves and the many colored books. Engrossed in the differences between the paperback and hardback versions of Paper Towns, she doesn’t notice when he walks up beside her; she jumps when he clears his throat to attract her attention.
“Oh!” she spins around and automatically grins when she sees him. “Scott!”
He’s grinning awkwardly – yet happily – and he rubs the back of his scalp, sending strands of hair flying messily. She can remember when it sent her heart whirling. “Hey Mo,” he greets her, voice deep and collected. “What’s up?”
Mo shrugs nonchalantly, stepping back from the shelf. “Just window shopping.” She turns to face him as they awkwardly block the path in the bookstore. “What about you?”
“I was just looking for a new guitar strap since Stella broke mine,” he answers, “when I saw you.” He starts walking towards the exit and she quickly falls in step beside him, a routine familiar and recognizable; she feels the flyaway yearning for the past swirl before her but she ignores it, pushes past it, trying her best to embrace the future. Scott, meanwhile, continues. “So how are you?”
“I’m fine,” she says, ignoring the rising blue that threatens to spill over. “My dad wants me to get an internship.”
“Isn’t it kinda late for that?” questions Scott. “It’s almost August.”
“Yeah,” she replies, “but I think he means a part-time one for the rest of the year.”
Scott frowns, and his concern lights some sort of fire. “Sophomore year isn’t easy; that’s a lot of work.”
“I’m already volunteering at the hospital, I think I can handle it,” responds Mo defensively.
“I didn’t think you couldn’t,” says Scott slowly, realizing he’s stepped over some sort of line. He treads carefully: “I’m just worried.”
Mo doesn’t respond; the two keep walking, past stores and sites and people, until the music store appears before them. Suddenly, she no longer wants to pretend and she just wants a clean break and she just wants to run. “I think I’m going to head over to the Starbucks,” says Mo, crinkling her eyebrows and running hands in her hair. “Good luck finding that strap.”
Scott blinks but nods slowly. “Oh. Um, I’ll see you later then?”
Mo starts walking away; she hears Scott almost say something, but she disregards it and only turns around a minute later – and he’s gone. Her heart sinks a little, but somehow she feels better, freer, so instead of buying coffee she heads back to the bookstore. But she never makes it there.
This time she pauses; warmth already tingles in her toes as she turns around and her small smile beams at him. “Hey, Charlie, what are you doing here?”
“Wen and I were just hanging out and he ran off at the sight of some video game and well, I saw you so…“ His voice is light but tensed and Mo frowns at the awkwardness that taints his words.
“Something wrong?” she asks, her worry tangible.
Charlie tenses and Mo notices a balled fist in his pocket. “Crappy night,” he answers blandly and without explanation. Mo raises an eyebrow at him but when Charlie starts looking everywhere but at her, she decides to drop it.
“I’m sorry. My night wasn’t any better,” she says instead softly. “My dad’s been on my case again recently and I just need to – “ she searches around her for the right words, for the right piece to finish the broken puzzle, “ – get away,” she finishes, glittering eyes meeting. Her stomach lurches, flittering ghosts in her gut, but she blinks and suppresses the feelings, looking away. No, no, no – I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve him. He’s with
Charlie smiles at her though, and thinking seems harder. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Just sitting in the house can feel – suffocating.”
Mo nods in agreement, smiling widely. “Exactly!” She remembers when she knew he’d understand her no matter what; she remembers when she knew he’d be there no matter what. Now, she’s standing before a line that she refuses to cross, before a guy she can’t obtain – shouldn’t obtain – and a harness that binds her backward to the familiar and the safe.
Charlie’s about to open his mouth to comment when an interruption cuts between them, grinning widely. “Mo! Fancy meeting you here,” says Wen brightly, although Mo can sense a hesitation in his shoulders. Inwardly, she frowns as suspicion rises; but she grins at Wen outwardly.
“Hey, yeah, I was just telling that to Charlie,” she says smoothly. Suddenly the unease is back, bubbling lightly under the surface, despite the calm winds that try to placate. “Um, yeah, but I got to go, sorry guys. I’ll see you later, maybe?”
“Oh right,” says Charlie, something like disappointment in his voice. “See you
Wen’s just shrugging. “’Kay. Bye.” He turns to Charlie nonchalantly and the two head off in the opposite direction without another goodbye.
Mo’s left standing alone; her eyes follow passing strangers, focused inward, but she only sees empty features and null space.
Something like confusion continues to boil.
After school, the hallways are silent.
She walks down the empty corridors, no students to distract and no teachers to reprimand. She walks slowly, taking time to absorb the sound of her shoes on tiles and her fingers on concrete bricks. She turns a corner, entering the main lobby, and that’s when she finds him.
He’s sitting on a bench, just staring at his feet, his fingers intertwined lazily. He doesn’t notice her when she interrupts his loneliness; he doesn’t notice her at all. And for some reason, it unnerves her. Half of her wants to just keep walking, past him and his distracted thoughts, out the door and home. But the other half of her wins out, and she slowly makes her way towards him. “Ray?” she questions softly, hoping her voice doesn’t startle him as it echoes against the quiet.
His head snaps up abruptly and at first he’s so surprised to see her that his face remains passive and sad. But then he contorts his lips into the familiar sneer. “What do you want?”
Stella sighs, regret already seeping in. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay; no need to be snappy,” she says flatly.
“Oh,” says Ray, and his voice softens momentarily, but he continues to grimace. “Yeah, well, I’m fine so just leave me alone.”
“Fine,” answers Stella, shrugging. She steps back to move towards the door; her hand is inches away from the handle when his voice reaches her again.
“Thanks.” It’s barely a whisper, but it’s soft and heart-felt and for a moment Stella wonders if she understands Ray at all. But then he continues: “I still hate your band though.”
Stella just rolls her eyes and shoots a, “likewise,” back at him before stalking out and leaving.
He walks past the school, a shortcut between the mall and home, expecting the usual nothingness that accompanies the lonely walk. But he’s surprised by a blonde bob of hair, floating across the courtyard, taping bright pink sheets to the walls. Frowning, Scott drags his feet in her direction, until the words on the notice grab his eyes and he feels his stomach drop.
“What the hell,
He feels anger boiling within him, a battle between his cooled-temper and his fierce loyalty. “You’re a liar. If Charlie doesn’t break up with you after this – “
“Charlie and I already broke up, even though it’s done of your business,”
“Me and Mo are still together,” he almost hisses, trying his best to subdue the scarlet fever that builds in his head. “And I definitely did not kiss either Jules or Olivia.”
“I can’t believe you,” says Scott, suddenly tired and less angry. “You were our friend – and even if you aren’t Charlie’s girlfriend anymore, it doesn’t mean you have to be so – bitter.”
“I’m not bitter,” says
Scott says nothing, just staring at her in disbelief. He watches her as she silently returns to her work, taping up flyers without guilt or remorse. Half his heart burns in sorrow as he laments her fall into the depths of animosity. The other side of him weeps for himself – he watches as his double, his in-law, succumbs to the power of human emotion and he worries that maybe one day he might join her.
The sun’s almost setting and her eyes are starting to grow heavy, but she doesn’t turn back. She swings open the door, wafts of tomato sauce and cheese greeting her, and isn’t surprised to find him sitting at a table, alone.
“Hey Scott,” greets Olivia warmly, shyly, although determination taints every syllable.
“Olivia! Hi,” he says, surprised, but welcoming. He motions to the seat across from his slice of pizza with a, “sit, join me.” Wordlessly, Olivia takes the free space, eyeing the trail of sauce on Scott’s chin. Her attention turns to the table when Scott starts studying her. “So what’s up?” he curiously asks, his mouth half-full.
Olivia hesitantly speaks, her voice stammering. “Um – well – uh, I just wanted to talk to you about – well, the band.”
Scott lowers the pizza from mouth to plate. “What about it?”
“We want you to join,” she answers quickly, letting the words flow without thought. “Mo told us about how you guys are back together – and well, after what you did for us the other night at Rizing Star – “
“It was nothing,” he replies unconsciously. “I had to.”
“No, you didn’t,” she says with a small smile. “It was nice.” Scott merely shrugs and Olivia awkwardly glances at him for a moment. “I know – I know Mo forgave you and that she trusts you – but I just – “
“What,” he interrupts, suddenly frowning. “You don’t?”
Olivia sighs. “I came here to ask you to join the band. I think we could be friends, Scott, but I’m Mo’s best friend first and foremost – she’ll always be first.” Olivia prides herself on the way she keeps her voice steady with a semblance of control, while her insides shake uneasily. “Just so you know.”
Scott nods thoughtfully. “I understand. But – you want me to join the band?” he repeats incredulously.
“Yes,” repeats Olivia, laughing a little. “Having another guitar player could be fun. Stella even agreed.”
Scott stares at her in shock, ignoring pizza and soda. Olivia’s amused at the way his eyes widen and stretch, the way his jaw drops ever so slightly, and the way he stammers out his answer. “Wow – um, well, I accept,” he laughs. “If there was ever any doubt.”
Olivia shrugs. “You might have decided you didn’t want to be in a band with
“Why would I ever think that?”
“Because,” says Olivia, her explanation tittering hesitantly in her throat, “it could be awkward.”
Scott just laughs. “Don’t worry about it, Olivia,” he says smoothly, happily. “This will work out perfectly.”
Olivia smiles, letting herself believe him; she ignores the nagging doubt that gnaws at her stomach. This will work, she repeats to herself. Everything else has.