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Concerto of Love! - Text copyright © Jase Hamilton Storm 2018

Editing and Cover Art by Emmy Ellis @ © 2018

All Rights Reserved

Concerto of Love! is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and events are from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.

The author respectfully recognizes the use of any and all trademarks.

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I would like to personally take this space to thank my beloved friends for their amazing support for my wanting to be a writer, all these years, and finally turning author. Emmy Ellis, you have been a true godsend to me. Your patience in doing many of my edits and my beautiful cover designs, I am forever in awe of you. To my wonderfully amazing parents, you are forever in my heart. You two have done nothing but make my dreams achievable. Thank you dearly, I am truly blessed.

Concerto of Love!



Jase Hamilton Storm

Jeremy’s Dissonant Norm

“JR? Hey, JR… Wait up!” JR is the nickname of Jeremy Rory, a popular senior in the Suitland High School of the Performing Arts in Maryland. Hearing the screeching female voice, Jeremy pauses and looks around him at the halls littered with before-the-bell students. He rakes his hair from his face and glances back, his gaze piercing into the crowd with his black mascara-trimmed lashes and green-flecked, aqua-blue eyes. He hungrily seeks out his friend, she of the familiar voice, while biting down on his tinted-black bottom lip. Jeremy’s Goth-like appearance contradicts the school’s colorful dress code of crimson and beige and sets him apart from a clear majority of the student body.

Jeremy’s big pale hands show his artist’s trait as a lead guitarist of an alternative rock band. The nails on his left side are all polished black, and well-manicured, except for the pinky which is notably longer than the rest. This is common among guitarists in the field, like his older brother, Zachary. His right hand is clear of polish and has no long pinky nail. A dangling earring hangs from his left earlobe, with two metallic black feathers draping low, one slightly bigger than the other. He sports a black nose ring and a tongue ring, while his matching ensemble is completed with a spiky, leather-strap choker.

For all of Jeremy’s radical dark eccentricities, which could flagrantly scream, ‘Get the hell back!’ Jeremy, surprisingly, is an above-average attractive young man, steeped in masculine sex appeal. The fairer sex wants him for his bad-boy image and ruggedly tight body, while the male majority regales him as the fixated idol of great musical talent…albeit that he’s living in Zachary’s shadow.

Twisting his body about, Jeremy squints to peer through the rush of oncoming students. He catches sight of a sliver of green poking through the droves of red and beige. That spark of green is the indicator he needs to focus upon. It’s exactly who he expected it to be. It’s his dearest and most supportive friend since early grade school, the spunky Miss Felicia Bitters. It’s strange how Jeremy’s slight height advantage didn’t aid him better in weeding her out amongst the crowd.

Pushing her way through the bodies is a feat for the average-size person, but Felicia, who is shorter than the average, accomplishes it triumphantly with wide-eyed zeal as she would handle anything set before her.

Much like Jeremy, she similarly crashes the color code with her own sense of brilliance. She’s sporting a short-layered, platinum-colored cropped hairstyle with a bright splash of super lime-green highlights diagonally streaking across her laser-cut bangs. The green in her hair matches perfectly to her favorite pair of eighties retro-inspired, lime-green glasses and lemon-lime, glittery-glossed, perky-plump lips.

“Hey, thanks for waiting for me, JR.” She anchors his body down with a hug, thanking him with a quick peck on the cheek.

Jeremy rolls his eyes, for he’s not into the gushy sentimentalities that Felicia loves to shower him with.

“Wow…you’re springy this morning, Ellie.” Jeremy uses the pet name he gave her years ago. His greeting comes across as inexpressive, and he regrets that.

“I am always springy as you should know. Oh–? And how are you, Ellie?” she questions to herself, with sarcasm, speaking for him, “Why– I am great, JR! Thanks so much for asking—not! —Mister Mc-Moody-Pants.” Her sarcasm shows playfully. “A little smile in the morning wouldn’t hurt you, Big Guy,” she expresses, a matter-of-factly.

With a baritone-graveled grunt, he says, “Hmmm. Doesn’t help much either.” His darkened mood punches through her perky sunshine bubble.

Felicia, as usual not allowing his words to dictate her sprightly spirits, changes the subject to a lighter note. “Anyhow. Did you hear the recent great news buzzing about?”

Jeremy shakes his head, not sure what she’s referring to. Felicia is always great about finding out things sooner than the public; presumably, it comes with the territory in her chosen field of interest at the school.

“It’s just been released. The Battle of the Bands is going to be local this year. It’s happening in a few weeks. Can you believe it?” Her voice channels a new level of enthusiasm.

Instead of eager excitement, Jeremy peers off into the distance with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Damn, much sooner than I expected it to be. I’m guessing Dax is over the moon at the thought of it. The perplexity of the situation is steeped in his thoughts.

Why didn’t Zach mention anything? Sure, he may be on tour and all, but still, a simple heads-up would have been nice, maybe? Or does he already have a notion that I am going to be prevented from entering, anyway? Jeremy’s mind rotates, back and forth with no resolve.

He loses track of Felicia trying to gain his attention. “Are your Clippers going to enter this year’s competition? You and I both know they’re ready for any type of showdown. Your brother would agree if he was back from his tour out west. It’s going to be located at the Apple Gate Theater downtown.” Felicia’s excitement is at a fever pitch.

Unlike Jeremy, Felicia is a junior and still tries to fit in with the mainstream workings of school life as a student journalist for the Suitland Gazette. Jeremy guesses his facial expression shows signs of a guy lost in deep thoughts. He sees Felicia’s pint-sized frame anxiously shifting weight from one leg to the other in a rhythmical motion as she awaits a necessary response. Seeing her pout makes him smirk with a huff.

From a distance, Jeremy’s six-foot-two height and medium athletic build make him tower over Felicia’s mere five-three. Minus the apparent dark obsession with appearance, Jeremy’s physical attributes stem more from a jock-type than the average musical-type.

Unbeknownst to the student body and teaching staff, Jeremy conceals a very detailed dragon tattoo under his crimson polo shirt. Only a tip of the dragon’s head can be seen emerging from the collar at the base of his neck.

Although being forced to wear the school’s bright colors, Jeremy performs a David Copperfield after the two-thirty dismissal bell. His darker fashion sense then overtakes, like Clark Kent transforming into Superman.

Jeremy’s band meets up in the Jam Room after school. They practice their music for several hours; both their old music and some of Jeremy’s new originals. The Jam Room is uniquely designed for them. As the school’s go-to band for all the various engagements such as dances, games, prep-rallies, and more, The Clippers have done it all for two and a half years running without a hitch. The band usually practices till dark, and then they’re able to catch the last afterschool shuttle activity buses for home, or they carpool.

Felicia is like a rogue rainbow, spurting out of control, a real contrast to Jeremy by far. As odd as their pairing may be, they uniquely fit each other like night and day. Felicia is unrequitedly fond of Jeremy and has been for many years, regardless of the girls who have come then split with him over the years, with Janet, his ex, is one of the worst. Firmly resolving the position of a lifelong anchor to him, Felicia finds solace. Jeremy and Felicia literally grew up as childhood next-door neighbors in their Penn Brooke community and clicked together like siblings.

Jeremy wasn’t always the broody guitarist; ironically, he was a bright, blue-eyed optimist who wanted so eagerly to explore the world in all its striking vividness. However, something drastic had happened and changed in him by the time he hit middle school’s sixth grade. After parting ways with his closest buddy in crime, Ryan, everything about him went to a dark place. A world void of color, emotions, and riddled with meaningless affairs.

Felicia is the only fraction of that colorful past that has managed to stay with him. She wonders if Jeremy’s older brother had something to do with his sudden transformation, to make JR more like him. Jeremy doesn’t really look at the world anymore with rose-colored glasses, and the only thing at peace in his life is his band, The Clippers. Their success is all that concerns him now.

“So? Are you, JR?” Felicia peeks out on a high note, “Are you entering?” Not giving Jeremy a solid chance to respond before she launches out again, “I would love to add it to the next editorial. Can’t you see it? ‘Suitland’s own, The Clippers, to challenge the world and conquer it by storm!’ can’t you?”

Felicia’s incredibly excited energy is almost nauseating to Jeremy particularly first thing on a drab school morning. He gives her a partial smile, like a big brother to a nagging sister, to make her shut up.

“I’m not sure,” he grumbles under his breath. “It all depends really.” Jeremy’s not sounding too optimistic about the whole thing, which is clearly egging at Felicia.

“W-Why not?” Felicia’s stammer voice reeks of curiosity. “You always wanted to do something like this, and hell, this could really be big for you guys.” She obviously finds it amazing, pitching something like this to Jeremy, of all people. Felicia starts up again. “You are a brilliant guitarist. Fuck! Excuse my language. But, seriously, JR, I know the world would be so freaked by your amazing talents if you’d only get out there and do something with it. And I’m talking beyond fucking Suitland, you know?”

He gives a subtle sigh. “Hmm, nice and all, but it takes a full band to win such a competition, Ellie, not a grouping of misfits and lazy singers. Or a Super Ego, prima-donna…” He pauses, catching his words. “Oh, never mind.” Jeremy folds his arms across his chest, gnawing on his lower lip, while not engaging her with eye contact. He duly understands in his mind, what his lack of direct attention will do, It’s going to be interpreted as a red flag in her imaginary caution book, Everything JR! She’ll instantly conclude something is obviously nagging at me and will want to investigate it assiduously methodical.

“JR, The Clippers are the king’s shit, and everyone knows it.” Twirling a locket of her hair with her finger, she goes on. “And I know for sure they’ll bring the fire.” She dramatically opens her arms wide toward the presumable heavens. “On the grand stage”—she closes her arms after nearly popping a student in the eye—“with your roaring fans, screaming out your praises and their adorations, who can stop you? You must go after it, put it on the line. Rico on the bass, James on percussion. C’mon, you know it’s a match made in Heaven. You can’t ask for a better freaking keyboardist than Dax Trent, Jr. The guy is a legend around here.”

“If only I could,” Jeremy mumbles, hoping Felicia doesn’t overhear.

Jeremy gazes at her, bewildered. When the hell did Ellie become such a groupie? Wow, kind of scary. His mind rumbles.

“I get it!” She tries to rationalize. “You have always been a perfectionist when it comes to your music, but seriously, you need to open up and let the spotlights shine where they need to be.”

Jeremy cuts her short with a hand on her shoulder. “Yeah, I hear ya, Ellie. Believe me, I really do.”

The Situation is Real

Felicia raises a brow; she must have heard the defeatist tone in his voice.

He continues, “Look, don’t get all bent out of shape, Ellie. I want nothing more than to see my band grow. What you are referring to is not my issue.”

“Well, then what is it, JR? Talk to me, let me in. I hate it when you shield up like this.”

“It’s just the shit I’m so tired of dealing with, Ellie. God knows I’m tired of it.”

Felicia’s facial expression shifts from perky-pleasant to a bitter serene instantly. Seeing her icy blues gazing up at him with frustration, he waits for her barrage. She hisses and says, “Oh! It’s starting up all over again, aye? The whole ‘Dax wants to leave for better things’ crap?”

The mere mention of the boy’s name sends shockwaves through Jeremy.

Without a word, the greenish-blue luster in Jeremy’s widened, rounded eyes appear diminished of their natural gleam. Unhappily muted by the unsettling silence from Jeremy, Felicia careens in the knowledge of knowing, Jeremy is answering her both loud and clear, with deafening clarity, all without uttering a single word, from his black-tinted lips. The truth is firmly residing in his silence.

She’s all too familiar with the arrogant charms of Mr. Dax Trent, of the senior class and an extremely talented keyboardist. She knows Dax hasn’t been happy being in Jeremy’s ensemble for some time now, but he always seems professional about it, or at least in the public eye.

It’s common knowledge that Dax only agreed to join Jeremy’s band because of Jeremy’s older brother, Zachary, who everyone calls Zach. Dax’s older sister, Patricia, also known as Patty, is currently dating Zach. Jeremy’s brother graduated two years ago and is now on tour with his posse, the Screaming Eagles. He’s been touring for the past three months in the midland states in little venues as the opening act for another group. He has every intention of returning in time for the Band Bash, which is sooner than Jeremy had realized.

Dax has made it clear that he wants desperately to be in Zach’s Screaming Eagles band. Felicia heard that all he’s waiting for is Zach’s keyboardist to leave for Ireland in the fall. Never intending to be in Jeremy’s group since day one, there are rumors that Dax despises it immensely. If it wasn’t for Zach’s promise to him, two years ago, he would never have joined The Clippers. Dax’s dislike for Jeremy is even more significant than it is for the band.

“Let’s say he doesn’t make rehearsals any easier,” Jeremy says. “And here it is, the Band Bash is within our sights, and now I have to worry whether I have a keyboardist or not? His drama rants have really escalated. Chopping at Rico and James all the time now. Saying shit like, they aren’t shit to him, and he’s holding the band together. He desperately tries to make himself the self-appointed leader. It doesn’t help with him being the only freestyle player in the school.”

“Why don’t you just drop the unappreciative butt wipe? I know you can find someone better suited.” Felicia’s voice flails with fever.

Jeremy gives a sharp eye to her, as if in disbelief.

“As fun as it may sound, it isn’t an option this late in the game. There is no keyboardist in the music program ready for live playing. Especially with a talent strong enough to sync with all the band’s needs, and on-the-spot change-ups on such short notice. Plus, getting someone new and ready for Band Bash? Forget it. The Apple Gate Band Bash is only weeks away.”

“Wow, major suckage!” Felicia says, realizing her friend’s ultimate dilemma.

Dax, nearing a corner, spots Jeremy and Felicia conversing. Being as spiteful as ever, Dax tosses an arrogant nose up to Jeremy as he passes by with worshipping young beauties clinging to him like an extra garment to his school uniform.

Shooting a cold, hardened stare at the pompous guy, Jeremy turns to Felicia. “You see, Ellie! He’s only about notoriety and fame. No f’ing substance whatsoever. Who is the stepping stone for him getting to his success?” Jeremy points to himself. “Me! Damn, his mouth is already salivating for where he wants to be.”

“Where is that, exactly? The AIDS ward at Baden General?” Felicia says sarcastically, rolling her eyes in disgust.

“No. My brother’s band. He already approached him—twice. Can you believe it? I even tried warning my brother to back off the guy.”

“What did he say? Your brother, Zach?” Her curiosity swells, but she’s fearful she isn’t going to like what he has to say. From Felicia’s viewpoint, Zach doesn’t always seem to hold Jeremy’s interests at heart, which is ironic, considering how much Jeremy is trying to imitate the Prince of Darkness.

“Not much. Just singling out the fact that Dax is one hell of a keyboardist, and I should be damn grateful for having him, and some other shit. Not letting me forget how good old Dax is Patricia’s brother, whom he promised to let join his band during his senior year.”

Felicia folds her arms with a pouty discontentedness as Jeremy chatters on. “Yeah, and get this, my own brother tells me how lucky I am to have the guy, and he felt it would help my pathetic excuse of a band with some life, or at least until Kevin, his keyboard guy, leaves the band.”

“Hold up. You mean Kevin is leaving your brothers band for good?”

“Exactly! He’s going to be parting ways with them before the big holidays. And my brother wants Dax to fill his place over there with him, screwing the rest of the gang in the process, and me. Seeing as Dax is a senior and more than eager to participate in touring with them, I don’t understand the mad rush to leave school, when graduation isn’t far off.”

“So, Macho Freako never had any intentions of being with you guys for the long run, eh?”

Jeremy shakes his head while peering down the hallway with a solemn stare. Felicia’s heart breaks for him, knowing how much he loves the music and his band. Rico and James have been with Jeremy since the sixth grade, when Jeremy first got hooked on the guitar’s mega riffs, following the steps of his big brother from years past. Rico was taking private lessons for the bass and is a no-nonsense kind of kid. James was learning percussion at his church. James is usually the jolly one of the bunch, always sporting a goofy smile and a wicked tattoo of drumsticks wrapped in flames on his left toned biceps.

Although Felicia finds James Elroy a cute buff guy, her heart is set on Jeremy. Of the three seniors in the band, James is the most masculine, with his puffed pecs, flexing biceps, dirty-blond shagged haircut and big brown eyes. Yet Jeremy’s crystal blues steal her soul.

Colder than Cold

Two corridors away from where Jeremy and Felicia are currently conversing before the morning bell, a new student is being escorted down the hall by the female office administrator, Mrs. Selby. Accompanying the student and Mrs. Selby is a broad-chested, robust man. Mrs. Selby studies the youth walking ahead of her, with his averaging body type and dark-brown curly hair. Nothing about him screams different, but he’s actually the opposite. He’s the type of kid who can easily blend into his surroundings and go unnoticed. Mrs. Selby addresses the professionally groomed, well-suited thirty-something man, who sports a pair of shades that darken even inside the building. He’s adorned with avibrant blingy accents, like the Rolex watch and eighteen-carat gold neck chain.

“Well, it’s surely a delight if we can find placement for William, Mr. Cole,” says Mrs. Selby.

“I am confident Billy’s going to do just fine here, Mrs. Sebly. The boy prefers to be called Billy, by the way.”

Mr. Cole’s lack of emotion in his tone makes Mrs. Sebly feel unsettled in her gut. She’s not sure if it’s from lack of interest or the over egotistical arrogance on his part.

“Oh?” Mrs. Sebly is quite frazzled, and it comes through in her tone. “I see. Making a future note, right now, Mr. Cole. It’s not often we allow a student to enter the mid-transitional period of the academic year. But, fortunately for you, Dr. Calidare is eager to meet young Mr. Zeigler here. He only makes exceptions for auditioned students here before the start of the academic year, yet he’s surprisingly eager to meet Billy. I just hope, if accepted, he’ll find the transition smooth, coming from an entirely different schooling system.”

Mr. Cole’s eyes, solely focused on the hallway before him, profoundly mimicking a horse with its blinders on, doesn’t break his plane of sight when addressing Mrs. Sebly. “The boy has never attended any generalized public system in Canada. He was home-schooled under the strictest guidelines for the past two years, via highly elite credentialed professors. To add to your future files, the boy is not my son. I am strictly here as a legal custodial guardian. I am the boy’s uncle and caretaker. He is under my watch until he turns eighteen, per his mother’s instructions. The boy’s father is not present in his life, nor shall he ever be. Dr. Giorgio Calidare was highly recommended by Billy’s former instructor, Julia Sinclair, which is the sole purpose of our being here. Is this understood, Mrs. Sebly? He is to continue his pedagogy towards professional concerts while gaining the credentials acceptable for Julliard, his mother’s final wish for the child.”

Mrs. Sebly, once again, is a little taken back by the coldness in the uncle’s use of words. “I will see if his current credits can be applied to his new curriculum. Hate for him to have to start over from scratch.”

“It doesn’t matter if he needs to start over or catch up. Billy just needs to be ready for Julliard, per my sister’s request. I am expecting nothing less.” Mr. Cole ends the conversation abruptly.

They’ve reached the entrance to the central music area, and Mrs. Sebly opens the door to allow Mr.Cole and his nephew to go in ahead of her.

They enter a vast, open-spaced room. There’s a matte-black grand piano in the center surrounded by tiered rows of chairs. The air smells of wood, wax, and books, like a library. Billy, desperate to avoid all contact with his uncle’s conversation with Mrs. Sebly, centers his focus squarely on the piano before him. The admin asks his uncle to be patient as she retrieves the teacher from the adjoining practice labs, in a separate private hallway within small practice modules on either side of the hall. Billy, still taken by the piano, slowly maneuvers toward it.

Flashes of memories come vividly clear into his mind as he edges closer: Seeing his mother, so young and beautiful along with a younger child at her side, who watches her intently play a movement from Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat minor. Her dreamlike smile swoons him, and the scent of her lily-flowered perfume overtakes his senses, engulfing the surrounding room. Everything else in the space is numbed out to cold silence. Only the gentle sway of melodious tones dazzle his ears.

Billy hasn’t seen his mother in over four years and hasn’t spoken openly since her untimely death.

Billy’s Uncle Flynn mumbles to himself while studying the boy staring at the piano. “The boy better get into Julliard, or else. I need that money in my pockets after going through all of this craziness. Curse my sister’s will. I’m stuck living off scraps while raising her bastard of a brat. Yet he gets the world on a silver platter at eighteen if he doesn’t make it. I don’t get diddly unless I fulfill one dumb-ass clause of the contract.” He grunts to himself under his breath.

Two people emerge from the practice room hallway, the experienced, short-haired administrator, and a mature gentleman with advancing graying hair on top and thick, black-framed glasses, causing him to appear almost frail in his elderly physique. Mr. Cole turns with a false smile to greet the music instructor.

“Mr. Cole, this is Dr. Calidare,” introduces Mrs. Sebly with a warming smile.

Mr. Cole nods in seeing the older male, standing next to the much younger Mrs. Sebly.

The gentlemen greet each other with a firm handshake. Dr. Calidare looks past Mr. Cole to see the shy young man near the piano, admiring the keys. A spark of interest lights up Dr. Calidare.

“Dear Lord… It is her! I see Lilian so clearly in the young man,” Dr. Calidare speaks reverently.

Mr. Cole’s eyes draw tight. “So you knew his mother well?”

Dr. Calidare, finding it hard to pull his gaze away from the child, says, “Oh, certainly. It was mostly in passing. She was a new scholarship student in Julliard during my quiet year at the institution. I could never forget the charm and passion she possessed. Unlike any pupil, I’ve seen in my forty plus years of teaching there.”

“Well, I can assure you, she put everything she had into that boy.” Mr. Cole sounds reluctant to be divulging this information, rather than warm and complimentary. “That woman missed some great opportunities raising…him. Especially the scumbag, ditching sperm donor of a father, abandoning Lilian only months into her pregnancy. I became the custodial child guardian, upon my sister’s death, and shalln be compensated for my services once all of her criteria are met. And the primary prerequisite is to see him enter Julliard, her Alma Mater. So, let’s get everything straight before we go too far in all of this. I am a businessman, and the bottom line is my only concern. My sister and I didn’t share the same ideas in life. If it were my choice, when the boy’s deadbeat father left her six months pregnant, the child would have been done away with. But she couldn’t bring herself to do so and threw away many good productive years for a fatherless child. Being put in this awkward situation, I am looking to make a sound investment in my time and resources, is this understood, Dr. Calidare? If you aren’t up to the task of making the child Julliard-worthy, I shall look for another option.”

Dr. Calidare can’t believe the cold nature of the man before him, and it seems as though Mrs. Selby is struggling, too. Mr. Cole’s behavior is a direct contrast to the sensitive-looking child standing by the piano.

Dr. Calidare steps forward with his chest broadened. “Look, Mr. Cole, I don’t intend to do anything but my best for any of my charges. So I don’t boast or make promises, nor guarantees—in the world there are no such guarantees, only an oath of being the best mentor and/or instructor to each and every one of my students across the board. But, before any of this can be taken into perspective, I must first evaluate the young man for his pedagogy. If he shows half the passion his mother so eloquently did, I shouldn’t have any problems. But this all relies squarely on him.” Dr. Calidare backs away from Mr.Cole and turns to face Billy. “So if you don’t mind, Mrs. Sebly, please escort Mr. Cole out of the room for a while, while I assess the child’s level of preparation. I will make my findings known afterward.”

Dr. Calidare heads over to see Billy while Mr. Cole is escorted out of the room by Mrs. Sebly.

Something’s New in the Air

“Don’t let Dax get you down, JR. He’s good but so not worth the stress, boo,” Felicia comforts her tall, Goth friend. With her caring arms wrapped around his, she snuggles tight as Jeremy sighs from such attention.

“It doesn’t matter. Something is bound to break loose, one way or the other,” Jeremy states, non-expressively.

Without any warning, Felicia is bumped by an eager female from behind.

“Um… Excuse me!” Felicia yelps and turns to see her bumper.

Felicia is surprised by the sudden presence of Jeremy’s ex, Janet Roxy. Jeremy looks surprised, too. She’s a long-legged, zero-waistline, brunette bombshell. Her makeup takes a life of its own, with the bright blues and a pop of glossy red lips.

She acknowledges Felicia with a snarky remark. “Oh. Didn’t know you were there.” She snaps her attention back to Jeremy. “Hey, Jerry Pooh, I was wondering about the hip-hop formal next week. I didn’t see you in the listing to attend with a date. Are you thinking of asking me, Jeremy hun, for old time’s sake and couldn’t find the time to do so, maybe? You know, with you working so hard”—she rubs her hand seductively along his belly and progresses lower—“and I mean really hard.” She cackles.

Felicia rolls her eyes with a great dislike for the girl.

Jeremy stops Janet from touching his crotch by slapping at her wrist. “Um, excuse me, Janet. What the hell? You blew me off—for Dax, remember? Why do you think I would ever ask a backstabbing bitch like you to go with me?”

“Yeah, double-time, Janet. Move it on. Make like a leaf and blow-away.” Felicia defends her BFF with what she hopes, with a fire in her eyes.

Why you little—” Janet is cut short by the calming baritone voice of Jeremy.

Yo! Chill it, Janet. I am not interested. You wanted the good life with Dax, remember? Then buzz along, will you?” Jeremy points in the path of Dax’s last direction. “Besides, I don’t have time for stupid dances.”

As if on cue, three girls walk past, blowing air kisses to Jeremy and saying hello with googly eyes. Jeremy nods and gives a simple wink, probably just to annoy Janet, and the three girls go straight to giddy, clutching their hearts. Felicia laughs sinisterly as Janet’s eyes look as though they’re about to burst out of their sockets.

Janet huffs and storms off, and Felicia tauntingly waves. “Bye-bye, yesterday!”

A grunt comes from Janet as she stampedes through the oncoming swarm of students. Felicia can’t help but see the mute dazed Jeremy, once more.

“Jeremy?” she asks gently and removes her glasses so he can see her eyes.

Looking into her soft brown eyes, Jeremy senses what she wants to say, without hear having to say it. It’s something they’ve always been blessed to share, knowing the other’s thoughts. “I’m okay, Ellie. You don’t need to worry about me, honest. I’m chill as rain.”

Felicia says nothing, although her puppy-dog, wide-eyed stare speaks volumes. He knows, deep down, Felicia’s feelings for him are amazingly high. Jeremy doesn’t have the heart to tell her the reason for him not having the same feelings. He gestures with a playful punch to her plush arm. “Look, little momma, we’re good. Are you having lunch with the boys and me or are you just going to hit me up afterward in the Jam Room?”

She seems to kick her wits into acceleration, scratches her chin, and it looks as though she’s trying to think and then suddenly remembers something. “Oh snap! Didn’t really think far enough ahead today. Ouch, I almost forgot there’s a meeting I have with Mr. Gomez, the head of the school Ledger.”

Jeremy nods, knowing who Mr. Gomez is.

Felicia continues, “Well, the meet is right before our lunch break. Some announcements are coming up about the rescheduling of the mandatory class assessment testings we have in a few weeks. I can probably meet up with you in the Jam Room when I’m finished with him?”

Jeremy flips his hair from his face. “Sure. No foul. I have some new riffs I want to work on anyways. Love to see ya, when I see ya, Ellie.” He pops his sparkly whites.

Felicia’s cheeks redden as she beams a loving goodbye smile. Jeremy smiles back, before slipping in his earbuds and continue onward down the hall. Meanwhile, he can’t help but wonder if she’s scoping out his ass as he walks away.

Felicia turns and walks away, not too long before she hears the tinkling of a softly played piano seeping into the air. Its tune is utterly fanciful to her ear, if not masterful. Realizing the sound is resonating from the music area, which puzzles her, for no one uses the music room before school, especially playing so skillfully, she thinks that it must be Dr. Calidare practicing a significant piece of work. She has to get a better look. She’s always thinking of the school gazette and seeing as no one has ever heard Dr. Calidare play in a public forum, this may be her best and possibly only chance to see him at work. Coming closer to the main entrance doors to the choir room, Felicia recognizes the selection of music as being a Franz Schubert piece. A Piano Sonata in A major, D. 959 Third Movement (Scherzo and Trio).

The closer she gets to the door, the more the music sounds as if it were in a grand concert hall. She has to sneak a peek while there’s no one standing guard at the door. She creeps inside so as not to make a smidge of sound. She peers into the massive room and centers her gaze on the middle where the piano sits, and her eyes pop open wide with sheer amazement.

It isn’t Dr. Calidare at all, but a boy. A slender-framed boy with big brown curls and his body arching back, and his eyes appear to be closed from what she can see, and yet there’s no sheet music on the piano before him.

“Oh, my G…” Felicia catches herself, for Dr. Calidare is standing over the child and heard her blurp.

With a simple stern nod and the lowering of his spectacles, she knows instantly it’s time for her to leave the room.

All the while, her presence doesn’t interfere with the unknown kid’s playing of the piano, and with no need for a verbal command, Felicia swiftly backs out of the room where she bumps into Administrator Mrs. Sebly, standing there beaming her attention directed at her.

Felicia imagines her eyes are all a glower, much like a frog, slammed in the middle of a major highway loaded with eighteen-wheelers.

“Oh. Hi, Mrs. Sebly. Nice day we have today, yeah?” She just knows guilt and fear color her expression.

Mrs. Sebly taps her foot like an old mother hen, while Felicia takes a gaggle of a gulp, wishing she had the power of invisibility. Closing her eyes then reopening them, she realizes her miraculous disappearance isn’t going to happen.

“You know you aren’t allowed in there when Dr. Calidare is assessing a student, Miss Bitters.”

“Yes, you’re so right, ma’am. But, honestly, the music was too compelling not to see Dr. C. actually play. I didn’t know it was a boy playing.”

Mrs. Sebly understands Felicia’s attraction to the music—they’ve discussed it before—and it is quite masterful. She looks as though she sympathizes with Felicia, maybe knowing all too well her journalistic nature to root out mysteries. Hence her column in the Gazette: The Mysteries around Suitland High Discovered.

“Don’t worry, I understand,” Mrs. Selby says. “But let Dr. C, as you call him, catch you snooping around this area too much, and I won’t be able to protect you.”

With a sigh of relief, Felicia gushes, “Thank you, Mrs. Sebly. Rest assured, I shall refrain from this exploration shortly.” Felicia’s cheeky grin returns. “But can I ask: who’s the boy in there?”

Before Mrs. Sebly can respond, a robust, stern baritone voice interrupts. “His name is Billy Zeigler, soon to be a concert pianist, and he has no need of student interactions obscuring his focus. Meaning, no girls, no games, no clubs. Just a piano and him.”

Felicia’s smile quickly vanishes. She glances over to Mrs. Sebly, who seems just as startled as she. With a nod, Felicia gets the notion to just walk away.

The man readjusts his jacket while making an attempt at an apology, which comes across as a statement. “I didn’t mean to be blunt, but I need to be clear. The boy’s only purpose for being here is strictly for readiness. Socializing is not necessary and is overrated. This discussion is over.”

A cold chill fills the air around Felicia, and Mrs. Selby sneers at the self-centered man before her.

Awake and Aware

Later in the day, James and Rico are in full engagement with each other at the cafeteria lunch table. Jeremy, seated opposite of the fellas, is a bit mute. He chimes a sliver of a grin every now and then to let them know he hears them bicker.

“Nah, James. You’re full of crap, dude. You know damn well Shiela McGomery is not going to take your farty ass to any hip-hop dance, bro.”

“Rico, you’re just jealous of the guns, man.” James raises and flexes the bulge of muscle in his biceps and gives it a kiss.

Rico glares at his friend and gayly chuckles. “There’s your date, right over there, musclehead. Seeing as you’ve already managed second base.”

James cuts a sharp eye at Rico. “Okay, smartass. Who are you taking?”

Rico bunkered down tight into his seat, as his eyes rolled glassily over, for what Jeremy may suspect is an internal secret, between the guys.

Man, I got a date! That’s all I am going to say!”Rico protested adamantly, with arms folded tight and flexed.

“Who?” James shockingly jumps to ask, as if in a dare. Pausing for a second then blurts, “Your sister Magan? Again?”

“F-you, James! That was a one-time thing, Dick-breath!” Rico’s voice turns defensive, both shaming and enraged, while James no-less crackles with dazzling delight. It’s common knowledge, James loves to rag on Rico whenever he can.

Rico turns his attention toward an unusually quiet Jeremy, who isn’t partaking into his all-time favorite lunchroom treat, cheesy square pizza. He appears to be gazing off into space, almost zombie-like, minus the drool.

“None of you dorks are worthy of any female’s attention, except maybe Batty Nancy!” says the only voice that can get under Jeremy’s skin—the one belonging to Dax Trent, lead keyboardist and a serious pain in the arse.

“Whatever, Dude! I know my bruh– James here– may be really hard up for some female attention at times, but seriously—? Isn’t that a little low cutting even for you, Dax?” Rico uncouples his arms, patting James on the back, sparking a smile on James’ face feeling his buddy has his back, until Rico follows it up that is, “Low for Nancy, I mean. The girl has enough issues with her retainer and face brace as it is. I don’t think she deserves the added drama of James here—in her life.”

“Oh shit!” Dax cracks up in loud laughter, along with Rico.

James’ scowl burning red, for Rico just dished him like that.

Jeremy looks over to James, detecting the rage within him, shakes his head at him, “Let it be, James. Not worth it, Man.” Jeremy said in a soft undertone.

“Oh, that’s right, I forgot our fearless leader is solo, yet again,” Dax says. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Rory? Yeah, your girl came crawling for my action a few weeks back, and I had to laugh, as if would be interested in anything that was once attached to your sorry limp ass? I ditch the bitch, after I smacked that ass, of course! A ‘Zachary Rory’ guitarist extraordinaire– you’ll never be, Dweeb wannabe.”

“Shut your goose-trap up, Dax. I don’t give a flying turd what you and Janet do or didn’t do. I am so over this all of this high school bullshit.” Jeremy’s words seem to strike James and Rico pretty alarmingly, considering they’ve no clue as to what went down in Jeremy’s and Janet’s melt-down breakup. Jeremy gathers his tray abruptly and excuses himself, to both Rico and James, while deliberately overlooking Dax altogether.

“I’ll see you guys after school. I am going to work out some riffs in the Jam Room. You guys just chill.” he says and departs the lunchroom.

Rico and James sense Dax’s dark motives, as his grimacing sneer prove his ill intent had won him some victory.

Rico, slowly rising from his seat, while peering at Dax with a hardened glare. “So not cool, bro. Whatever your deal with Jeremy is? Shouldn’t be like that, I’m out.”

James following Rico’s lead, grabbing his own stuff. “Yeah, man. You are the elder of us, bro. It’s hard to look up to a such a dick, man. Have fun with your party of one, Dude.”

Dax appears to hide his emotions well as he glares at the boys leaving, but something in his victory appears to be eating at him subconsciously.

Eye-Catching Silence

Felicia finishes up her meeting with her instructor, Mr. Gomez. While in an upbeat mood, she checks the time on her watch and realizes Jeremy would have undoubtedly left the lunchroom by now and had probably proceeded on to the Jam Room to practice before next Mod.

Gathering her belongings, Felicia heads out in her typical cheerful manner. While making her way through the halls, she manages to catch a glimpse of the same new kid, Billy, who’d enchanted her spirit with his playing of the piano earlier.

A little excited by the opportunity to actually see the boy’s face this time, she draws nearer to him and crouches behind a locker so as not to be seen spying. Billy sits slopped over in a chair outside the nurse’s office, patiently waiting, and seems to be depressed or lonely. She can only deduce Billy’s father is in a meeting with the nurse, which is peculiar in itself.

Why would you need to see a nurse before registering a new student?

Billy appears docile and gentle in her eyes. On the other hand, his father…not so much. At that moment, the man himself in his dark suit steps out into the hallway from Nurse Garenne’s office. As the slouched-over Billy pricks up to watch the grown-ups engaging in conversation, Felicia gets her first opportunity to see Billy’s young, innocent face. She’s oddly impressed by the boy’s gentle features—not ravishingly handsome, but nowhere near ugly. His peachy complexion seems to glow in the light from the windows of the hall, giving him a storybook appearance. If anything, he can easily be described as mysteriously cute.

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