Chapter 11. Bon Fire
It was homecoming. Mums were on sale. Every day the student's dressed according to what was planned. Hat day, pajama day, wacky day, all those fun days and I wasn't in the school spirit mood to participate.
There was a hall decorating contest. Each grade decorated their main halls with art, and designs. Freshmen's hall was a disaster. It had construction paper hanging loosely around. It happened every year. The freshmen were new so they really didn't know what to do when it came to decorating. The condition of their hall did give me something to laugh about.
Sophomore's hall won second place. The seniors won first place because of their experience. Their hall was filled with shimmering gold and black balloons, confetti, and pictures of the all the varsity football players streaming from one end to the other.
In the sophomore's hall, the decorations were dark wallpaper with silver and gold glittering stars. They were scattered and sprinkled all over the lockers and against the walls. Little cut outs of paper in the shape of eagles, dangled from strings on the ceiling. As I walked down the sophomore hall I was flattered at my hard work. It amazed me to know I helped get this hall in order.
My locker flew open with a metal clink. I dropped backpack beside my feet on the floor to unzip it. I started to put my notebook and three text books in my bag before slamming my locker shut. I reached for the strap, ready to hoist my heavy backpack up.
I know it would strain me but I...
Before I could lift it, a hand swooped down grabbing my backpack up, carrying it with one hand. Along the arms I could see pulsing veins.
When I saw the face. I didn't know if I had it in me to talk to him. I couldn't, I wouldn't. I told myself about this a million times. Even if he is doing a generous deed I can't go back on my word.
"What's up, Brice." He said. I tried to power walk. To get away from him, but he was able to keep up. He was holding his backpack strap over one shoulder while carrying mine in his other hand. I was trying to continue ignoring him but I had to have my bag for my next class. So I couldn't stray too far.
I slowed my walking just to keep up with my bag. To make sure he didn't take it to his next class. I had to make sure my bag followed me to my next class. Bram knew what he was doing.
He would turn to the side trying to look me in the eyes. He tried to read me, trying to see if he could tell what was wrong. I just kept walking empty handed. I know if he stared at me long enough something would give, and he would know exactly what is bothering me.
"How's your day?" he tried to speak.
I didn't answer.
"You don't have to answer that. If you care, my day is pretty good." He repositioned his backpack's one strap still waking beside me. How can he carry that much weight and still keep up with my speed? Football must be making him a gladiator.
"You're probably wondering why I grabbed your bag." He persisted the conversation. I did want to know. That was one of the first thoughts that came to my head.
Don't open your mouth Brice Crowns. He is trying to get you to talk.
"It's only because coach wanted me to be able to lift more. So this is a semi workout... you know, to help me get to where coach wants me to be." He wanted to smile. I saw it from the corner of my eye. He wanted me to smile too but I couldn't let it happen that easy. "I also saw this as a chance to make conversation with you."
Just keep walking to class Brice. Don't answer him, you are almost there.
"Okay..." he was getting the message that I still wasn't talking to him. "I was wondering if you got any of my letters? I thought I was putting them in the wrong locker at first because you haven't responded." I ignored him, still facing forward. "...but I guess not."
Bram was making an effort to talk to me. So much of an effort that he was talking to himself, right now.
Don't answer him Brice. You are doing so good.
"Anyway. I wanted to know why you stopped talking to me to begin with?" he stressed the words, anticipating an answer in the silence that I walked with.
No matter how long he waited for the answer. I didn't give up my honor. No conversation for Bram. That was my final decision. Nothing could change that.
After another silent minute, he sadly said. "Ok, you don't have to say why... I get it. I know whatever I did to deserve being ignored. It must be bad."
Right then I stopped in front my class. I made it! When he noticed I stopped, he glanced around to see who all was around. "I guess our trip ends here." He was now getting a connection from me. His auburn eyes locked on to something stirring behind my eyes. Whatever it was he saw, he didn't smile or frown. He just stared at it harder.
"Here's your backpack." He muttered, shoving a white folded square in one of my unzipped pouches. "Thanks for the exercise, Brice." he said turning away. "I'll catch you later." He mumbled defeated. He left walking to his own destination.
I think I just got another letter from him. I hate to admit it: Bram was so sexy carrying my bag like that. I tried to fight it but he was being so caring... no scratch that. I can't think that way. Not about him.
Looking in my backpack I went into the zipper where he dropped the letter inside. I carefully unfolded the square of paper.
Hey Brice Crowns,
I know you can hear me talking to you sometimes. I don't know what happen to our friendship but I really could use it right about now. I just write these letters to you as a way to vent. Hoping you will write me back one of these days. Kenton is still getting on my nerves. He's only getting worse! Coach is even sick of him. Anyway, I need your help with something. Something kind of big! I know I can come to you with this...
Melissa is sweet. She and I are still dating and things are great. She is a good girl friend, but the problem is: I don't know how to be romantic. So I wish you could help me out. I could really use your advice on this. I hope I don't look corny to her. I'm trying but I don't know if it's good enough. Let me know what you think.
P.S. WRITE ME BACK! I forgot what your hand writing looks like.
I put the note in my pencil bag.
I wanted to help Bram out. I wanted to help him be a romantic guy for Melissa. I have always been there for him. He needed my help but I can't make him a better boyfriend for someone else. Especially someone like Melissa. That would be wrong. That would hurt me so bad.
What do I look like making the guy I like a better boyfriend for some other girl? That would make their relationship last even longer. Putting me in the hardest, coldest place on the earth. If I made him a better boyfriend it would be because he was with me.
I had to give Bram credit though. He is making an effort to make nice with me. He is really striving to keep our friendship alive.
At that very thought a lump surged in my chest, my old feelings were trying to break loose. Trying to get me to have all those warm fuzzy emotions for him. The way I first felt for him. The deepest attractions were trying to come back.
My evening practices were miserable. If my eyes were not focused on the music and dancing, my eyes would glimpse at the football players practicing and wonder `who's Bram?'
It was arousing. I wondered if Bram or Kenton were still mad at each other?
Pyramids were stacked, flyers were thrown up high, x-jumps, herkies, splits, chants. Our practice was covering all the moves. It was very gruesome. I had to focus through all the clutter in my head to nail our new routine down.
No looking at boys Brice. Geez!
I was proud that Melissa couldn't practice, for vandalizing her uniform. (Although it was me) it was less stressing not seeing her for the last few practices.
On Thursday JV had a boring game. Nobody went to their sucky game. Everybody was anxious for the varsity pep rally. Which was being held at the bon fire late tonight after J.V.'s game.
What all would take place at the bon fire. Only God knows. It's a scene of teens acting radical in front of a big burning fire.
The orange flames in the oversized fire looked to be heading for the cloudless night sky. Everybody had to get a safe distance away from the intense wall of heat it was fuming off. Everything was arranged just right. Parents came, elementary kids, fire fighters with their big red trucks were even pulled into the open field. Football players, and most definitely the Varsity cheerleaders. It wouldn't be a show without us.
The fire sounded like a breathing torch. Over its popping and crackling sounds, I could hear everybody piling up in the darkness surrounding the outer areas.
Bang! Bang! CRASH!
In the further back under a tree. I walked close enough to see the football boys had their lettermen's on. They were taking turns smashing a car with a baseball bat. There was loud banging blows delivered to the dented car. Its windows were shattered and cracked in a spider web formation. The guys were using this to pump themselves up. To ready themselves for a homecoming win.
It was so loud hearing the metal doors of the car taking a beating from each of the guys in turn. All of them wooing and shouting loud as a new football guy took the bat into his hands to swing. BANG!
On the car, Amber had plastered pictures of Saleen in her uniform. Above her picture it was a message that said, `Wanted for stinking.' Below the feet of her picture the words said, `kill this skunk!' I thought it was genius. I knew handing the situation to Amber would put Saleen in hard troubles.
Amber didn't like anyone even thinking about Shane Riley in any way. I see that my manipulation tactics are still good.
Everybody laughed wildly while taking turns bashing the pictures of Saleen into the dented metal. They used the bat to batter her picture into a crumbled mess. The more bangs I heard, I laughed that much harder. I knew everyone was knocking Saleen's ugly skunk face in!
Bang! Bang! Bang!
I walked a little further down the field. Where Amber used the same picture of Saleen for a game to the younger elementary kids. She gave them a furry black and white striped tail, and blind folded them. She was spinning them around in circles, making them play `pin the tail on the skunk', or Saleen in that case.
It was the best game ever. I loved how the whole Varsity squad came together for those two projects on Saleen. Amber was really degrading Saleen. By the time the kids were finished playing and the football players were finished bashing her face in, nobody would respect her anywhere in Windlewood.
My plans exactly. Sometimes getting someone else to do your dirty work for you while you watch, can take a load of stress off your hands. I must say that I am proud of my work here.
When I made my way back to the bon fire, I was just in time. Amber was in the middle of rehearsing some of the cheers and stunts we would be doing tonight. She was explaining all the songs the band would be playing.
"Get your head into cheer mode!" she demanded pointing her finger down at us. "Realize that this isn't only for the name of Varsity, but for the name of our whole school. Adults, kids of all ages, dreamers, and weirdoes who have always wanted to be a cheerleader will be watching." She was a military drill sergeant right now. Yelling to us. "Let's give the Varsity Football team something to look at, let's give these spectators something to scream for, lets show JV a lesson in cheering. We will be cheering in the middle of a hyper crowd. With little room to move, so everybody better remember what we went over all week, and you better be on beat. Pay attention to my lead, you got that?"
We all nodded. She was being a bit scary tonight. I don't know if it was hearing her voice in the night, or was it the blazing fire making the fear heighten?
We all nodded our heads to her commands. And she straighten her posture, letting her long black pony tail flip as she turned her back to us. "Good!" she screamed loud enough for us to get into our readying positions. "Follow me, and try not to get burned by the fire, or trampled on by the fans." Her voice was competing with the smashing glass in the distance where the car was, the crowd of hundreds of people talking, and the orange licking fire. Somehow she was able to override the noises behind her.
As Amber began to announce our performance she was able to clear a way through the mingling packed crowd, using the mega phone. She was truly a captain to make the whole crowd make space of us to file in.
When we were all in position, the eyes of the fans have never been so close. They were right beside me, behind me, all around us. Closing in on our cheer space. The fire was burning the back of my uniform, and I was sweating already! I guess those days of practicing in the hot sun may help with this performance.
The fire had shot a field of heat through the night. Throwing a molten shade of orange on everybody who came near its dancing flames, where we stood waiting to perform. It was crazy. I've never had to cheer under these conditions before.
I closed my eyes. Thinking of Amber's pep speech before she cleared the crowd. I heard her voice telling us how everything would be, and what we needed to do. We were Varsity. We had to leave an impression on these people no matter how much space we had. We have to make it work to our advantage.
On the side of the crowd, the Varsity football team sat on a shiny red fire truck with their jersey's on. Their numbers were all flashing before the fire as they swung their legs from the top of the truck. They were facing us with a few yards of grass between.
The range of numbers I saw sitting on the fire truck made it hard to spot Bram or Kenton. After eyeing them closely I found them thanks to Kenton's shades reflecting from the fire.
"Readyyyy, OK!" Amber smacked her arms down by her sides, giving every one of us the signal.
Soon we were all ready. Then it started:
"Pump, pump, pump it up!
Pump, pump, pump it up!
Pump that eagle spirit up!"
The band was beating their drums. The sound was blending with our chant, creating a pulsating rhythm that everybody found hard not to dance to.
By the second round of `Pump it up.' The crowd had joined in, dancing wild like they were at a raving nightclub.
"Pump, pump, pump it up!
Pump, pump, pump it up!
Pump that eagle spirit up!"
The entire mass of bodies joined in. the football players joined in on the fun too. We had everybody psyched and pumped for the game.
Hey, that is what we are supposed to do, right? Get them all the support we could.
"Pump, pump, pump it up..."
While the crowd was still carrying on with the chant `Pump it up,' Amber gave us the okay, to take everyone to another level.
The next thing I knew we started a tumbling line. Flipping to the fire truck, where the football guys were seated, then we would tumble back to our original position to keep the chant going while the next cheerleader tumbled to the fire truck.
"Pump, pump, pump it up!"
Amber ran out on the dark grassy field while the crowd and the band bump the cheer. It brought more action and life to the night seeing the captain flipping nonstop to the football team. She ran full speed, doing a cartwheel, round off, back hand spring, then a half twist to end it. When she landed people were whistling, hooting, and going nuts while the chanting was still being chanted.
Then she did her combination of flips back to us.
"Pump, pump, pump it up!
Pump, pump, pump it up!
Pump that eagle spirit up!"
When Amber was back in her position now doing the chant. That was the sign so the next tumbler went out. Then she flipped back to the squad joining in on the party. Laura went out, doing a cartwheel, round off, one-hand back hand spring, landing in the splits. That was a hard thing to nail. She tumbled her way back to the squad, ready to take her position to keep the chant going while the next person went out.
Shelby, Levi, Eryn, were all flipping swiftly to the beat down the field to the fire truck. All in that order one by one.
"Pump, that eagle spirit up!"
By the time they got to that part of the chant, I knew I was next to go. I could feel my muscles tightening, and the beat from the drums shook my chest. I ran full speed diving head first into the grass, placing my hands down for support. In a whirl of the night sky, mixing with the crowd of wild cheering people, the cheer squad, and my hands burye in the blades of grass, I tumbled to the fire truck. When I made my stop, I wave at the football team sitting high on the ladder of the truck. (I was really waving at Bram and Kenton)
Doing a front hand spring, round off, back hand spring, and then finishing it off with a tuck. I was soon back in my position with the Varsity squad chanting.
When the chanting was finally over, and the last tumbler was done, the crowd was settling down from the major hype.
Amber then introduced each of the football players by name. Collecting a round of applause for each of them individually. When she was finished with introducing the players, and calling out numbers, the Varsity Cheerleaders were able to roam free among the lively crowd of supporters.
I was only interested in watching the brilliant blaze of fire. I thought it would be the best place to stare and think about my life. The fascination of flames heating everything in its way, I had never seen a fire so huge in person. It was such a beauty.
There by the orange engulfing swarm of heat, I stood. My stare casted into the gigantic blaze. Thinking about how my life had changed. Thinking about Bram, thinking about Kenton, thinking about how much I rally energy to root for them. I think my old attachments were coming back. My old feelings.
It was like being close to the bon fire, melted the ice-guard surrounding my heart. The doubt, the animosity that embedded inside the ice. All of those things were melting, and dripping away. I could feel my heart trying to beat, and have warmth again.
When I thought back to the tumbling I did earlier to the fire truck. I was astonished as I stared at the fire. It struck me!
Did I wave at Bram? Yes I did. Maybe he saw it, maybe he didn't. I mean, there were so many people sitting by him he probably could mistake it as a friendly wave to the team. He shouldn't take it seriously, because I don't know if I'm ready to talk to him yet.
All of a sudden my focus was broken. A mane of black healthy hair flowed gracefully behind him. Then he planted himself in a stance right beside me. In the burning air near the fire I could still smell a tangy citrus in his hair. his approach was so soundless. I didn't know he was staring in the fire as well.
He wore his lettermen with `Kronis' written in cursive on the back of his jacket. He was not himself. He was not bragging, he didn't have that cocky smirk, or any of that. He was quiet and reserved for some reason. It was so weird.
He just stood there. He had not spoken a word to me. I couldn't take it. I had to ask what his deal was. "Kenton. What are you doing over here?" I asked stepping closer to him, as he stared off. He didn't say anything.
"So you're going to ignore me now?" I said trying to get a smile, smirk or something. It was so weird. The vibe I got from him was not playful, or energized like he always is. It wasn't right.
"No." he mumbled breaking his stillness. Then a smile played on his pretty lips for a second. I guess he caught on to my joke. I remember when I was ignoring him and he asked me that same question.
Something was going through his head. I could tell, Kenton never looks down. What could be troubling this guy?
"Well what's going on with you? You seem... I don't know... different."
"I'm just...just tired. Tired of the football team's B.S." he hesitated putting his hands in the pockets of his lettermen.
"What happened?" I curiously asked. I felt so sorry for him.
"Come this way." He motioned his arm for me to come around to the other side of the fire. "I don't want anybody in my mouth." He ushered me, moving to a less lit area. There was not anything here. Only a few people talking quietly. It was cooler, standing off from the fire, and less noise from the other people.
When we were at a none hearing range from others, and in a private spot away from the bon fire, Kenton told me, "I feel like I can tell you," He started taking a deep breath before going forth. "because you told me this."
I nodded my head listening. But I didn't know what I told him.
"I don't remember. Told you what?" I piped.
He clasped his hands behind his head. "You said Saleen talks about my conceited attitude, my hair, and how `I think everybody likes me' when nobody actually does."
"Yeah, I remember now." In all truth, I lied about that.
"It's true. The coach is tired of my mouth. He said `he might kick me off the team'." He said painfully as the dim fire bounce off his seductive face.
"What!" I disagreed. "Kick you off the team? Are you kidding?"
"No I'm not kidding." He stated. "The whole team told me today, they were good without me. They really don't need me for the next games."
"That is crazy talk. What are they going to do without you? The star running back?" I was trying to give him his confidence back. I was trying to do my job as a cheerleader and lift up his broken spirit.
Kenton stared at the fire shrugging his shoulders. "I don't know and right now, I don't care." I could see him getting bothered by what was being said about him. How he believed they all liked him when they didn't.
He paced around a little sighing in frustration. "I felt like...like I could tell you because out of everybody in the school..." he choked. Before he could finish, his words were taken from him. "You are the only one who puts up with me. You really seem to see me for more than what people say." He was being so enduring. I was touched by the thought.
"People do like you Kent." I tried to encourage him.
"Nah, they don't. They don't like my cockiness, my attitude... now that I think about it, that's why people leave whenever I come around. That's the whole reason why people pretend like I'm not there when we are in class." He was sounding weaker. It was all coming to him and it was breaking him. "And for that stinking skunk to talk about my hair..."
I didn't like seeing him like this but I'm happy that I was the one he came to about his problems. I was honored for him to think of me as someone who really saw who he truly was. Last but not least, I was excited that Saleen had been caught talking about him, and my lies fell right into place.
"Well if they don't like you, your attitude, your hair, or your cockiness, then I say it's their problem. Don't change the Kenton I know for the Kenton they want you to be." My mind was working, to create inspiring things to feed his lonely soul. I was doing so good. "If you change, you wouldn't be yourself. You would be one of them. I know you don't want to stoop down to their sorry levels. So I say: stay who you are."
"That is true." He sighed heavy looking at his hands in the pockets of his lettermen. "I'm not changing for any of them. They are the ones with the problem, not me." his voice was deep and still hurting, but I could hear his confidence coming back.
"Right!" I egged him on. I saw his lips turn into a smile. "Now you are getting it...oh yeah, I think your hair is perfect. Just thought I should mention it."
Then his plump lips stretched his smile bigger until his white teeth showed. "Brice," he reached a hand from his pocket out to me. When I shook it, he did something so unexpected. He pulled me into an embrace. "Thanks for the talk. I really appreciate you being here for me." his voice was now in my ear giving me thanks.
What was this?
Kenton held me there for a moment. His body was firm, his hug was gentle. There was the scent of him lingering in my nostrils. The smell of his tangy shampoo. The feel of his chest against me. his arms, his seductive hazelnut skin, his gorgeous long hair, Everything about his embrace was making me quiver in his hold.
I don't know if he could feel how shaky I had become, but it was becoming more obvious by the minute. I know I did something right to get in this moment. Standing here with him in a hug felt great.
He knew out of everybody he could come to me. He knew he had a true friend in me. I wasn't going to judge him, I was going to understand him. I was going to embrace him for who he was.
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