Hello y'all. This is the second story I work on – the first one being Alex and Sebastian. I'll place the link for that one below.
Hope you guys enjoy!
A fellow reader made a playlist with most of the songs I've either used or will use in the A&S series. I've given him full control as to whether he wants a new channel for this story or just to continue on the original one. If y'all want to listen to the previous one while reading the chapters, the link for it is this:
Songs on YouTube:
Why Not Me - Southerndipity
Just Give Me A Reason - P!nk
Stay With Me - Sam Smith
I will keep you posted if another link is created.
Also, please don't forget to donate to nifty here, without which we wouldn't have this collection of great stories!
Every story is free on here, so please let's keep it that way and donate, guys.
After last week's party, I was looking forward to spending a little more time with my new Emanon team. Having waited patiently all day, the bell signaling the end of the day rang and I walked out of my ninth period health class.
As I made my way towards M pod, I ran into Sara. She was small, even for a sophomore - the kind of girl that's tiny her whole life.
"Hey, Darren," she said, meeting my gaze, and I saw that she was carrying an Algebra II textbook and a notebook in her hands.
"Sara! Hi," I walked closer to her and kissed her cheek. "How was your weekend?" I asked, making conversation as we made our way to practice.
"It was good," she gave me a small smile and squeezed the books she held closer to her chest. "Sam and I went to go watch a movie." I noticed her smile reached her eyes, just then. "We had fun. What `bout you?"
I thought about my uneventful weekend playing Fallout with Kyle. "It was good, too. Spent it playing video games with a friend of mine." I didn't have to tell her about all the time I spent thinking about Michael. Or even how I jerked one off the night after the party thinking of him. I didn't have to tell anyone that.
Nothing more was said between us as we made our way into the guitar classroom. There, Sara veered off to talk to Ileana and Diana and I walked over to where Tay was sitting reading a book. I nodded a hello to her and placed my backpack on the empty seat next to me while catching Michael's eye. I gave him a small nod and took a seat, fiddling with my camera and trying to avoid blushing.
After a few minutes, Mr. Holland tapped his pen on the music stand in front of him while looking over a sheet of paper. "Gather round, guys," he said as he placed the tip of his pen to his mouth. Setting my camera down, I joined the rest of the group as they huddled around him.
"This week's lesson is a little different," he started, meeting all of our gazes. "Some of our veterans know that we like practicing for the upcoming district competition by having competitions of our own throughout the year." At this, I saw Michael and Diana nod while Alyssa and Ileana smiled to each other.
"Now," he said, his voice, however mellow, was loud enough for all of us to hear. "For our new members," he looked over at Tay and I since Sara and Sam stood behind him, "We'll be going up against the five other high schools in our district later in the year for the Aurora Memorial Trophy. We took first place three years ago." He looked over at Diana and Michael and smiled. "Remember that guys?"
Diana and Michael nodded and smiled. "Back in our Sophomore year, yeah," Michael added aiming a small wink at Tay that made my stomach flutter.
"Right," Mr. Holland continued. "Last year we came in third, though. This year," he looked at us like he was sizing us up, which, as our director, he likely was. "This year I'm confident we can get first place again."
Mr. Holland twirled the pen he held in his hand and nodded. "Now, back to this week's lesson - it isn't a lesson, per se. Instead, we'll be having our first in-club competition." He paused, excited to announce this week's lesson that wasn't really a lesson. "This week's competition is going to be duets. Mentors, you are already partnered with your mentee. You will work together to perform the best duet of the song of your choice."
I looked over at Diana expectedly and she shot me two thumbs up. I couldn't help but smile at how enthusiastic she looked.
"And ..." Mr. Holland seemed to get even more excited now. "The winning team will be getting two $25 gift cards to the restaurant of your choice."
Many of us raised our eyebrows in surprise. "$25 each?" Sam asked, his eyes eager with anticipation.
Mr. Holland nodded. "$25 each, yes. We'll be having performances Friday after school and two secret judges will be helping me choose the winner." At this, he turned the music stand around for us to see. On it was a sheet of paper with each of our names partnered up and written horizontally. Placing his pen down, he began to tear the sheet up and crumpled up the pieces. Grabbing an empty plastic cup on the floor next to him, he dumped the little balls of paper in before looking around and addressing us again.
"Now, to pick the order. First up is...." Mr. Holland reached his hand into the plastic cup bearing our school's eagle emblem on the front and pulled out one of the balls of paper. Uncrumpling it, he read out the two names written on it. "Tay and Alyssa, congratulations. You guys will be going first followed by," he reached his hand back into the cup and pulled out another ball of paper, "Chris, Ileana and Sarah."
Diana and I met each other's gaze and wondered if we'd be assigned the next spot.
"Finally," Mr. Holland took out the second to last ball of paper left in the cup. "Diana and Darren will be the third group. Which means Michael and Sam will be wrapping up the duet competition on Friday." Ileana offered the paper she was writing the list down back to Mr. Holland who looked it over. "Alright," he said. "Don't forget that we'll be starting the competition Friday with Tay and Alyssa. Winners get two $25-dollar gift cards to the restaurant of your choice so try your best, guys!"
On the first day of performances, Mr. Holland walked in followed by a man and a woman. The girl walked in first. She had long, blonde hair tied neatly as a pony tail. She had a very beautiful face with small freckles lining the sides of her nose. The guy had short brown hair, seemed decently built, with a handsome face and eye-catching light-colored eyes.
Mr. Holland and his two visitors stood in front of the stage and we all took our seats in front of them. Mr. Holland waited for all of us to sit before he addressed us. "Good afternoon, guys. This is Mr. Garcia. He's a new Biology teacher this year." He moved to the side and allowed for Mr. Garcia to step up.
"Hello, guys," he said, small smile on his face as he gave a shy wave of his hand. "Thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to seeing you all perform the next two days."
Even as he talked, Tay leaned over and whispered something in my ear.
"What's with all the hot teachers all of a sudden?"
I couldn't help but chuckle as I slapped her arm and shushed her. She was right, though. Mr. Garcia was definitely hot for a teacher. Even the girl teacher was very attractive, too.
"And this," Mr. Holland motioned to the girl standing to his right, "Is Ms. Riever."
Ms. Riever gave us a warm smile as she took two steps forward, her blonde ponytail whipping back and forth as she walked. "Hi. I'm so excited to see what you all prepared. I wish you the best of luck."
Mr. Holland smiled as she finished and I got the distinct sense that there was something between the two of them. Before I could whisper my suspicions to Tay, Mr. Holland clapped his hands and spoke again. "Right! So let's cut to the chase, guys. First up, Alyssa and Tay!" Mr. Holland looked down at a paper he held in his hand. "They'll be performing Why Not Me by The Judds."
Tay and Alyssa stood up as one and I whispered good luck as they walked up front while Mr. Holland and the other two judges took their seats in front of the stage. While Alyssa positioned her guitar upon her lap, Tay fiddled with the mic stand in front of her. She arranged it so it wouldn't be in the way of her tambourine. After getting ready, I saw Alyssa softly count to three and Tay began to sing.
lookin' for love all around the world
Baby, don't you know this country girl's still free?
Why not me?"
My friend's voice echoed through the room as I listened to the lyrics of the song Tay and Alyssa had chosen. It was a simple enough song, the guitar and tambourine were a nice addition to the two girl's pristine voices.
Even as they sang, the lyrics to the song hit me, causing a cascade of longing and loneliness that made me turn to look over at Michael. He was sitting across the classroom from me with Diana to his left. As he whispered something to her, he caught my eyes and shot me a friendly smile.
finally come down to your old hometown.
Your Kentucky girl's been waiting patiently.
Why not me?"
He has a girlfriend, I told myself.
I know. But I can't help it, I replied.
I gave him a small smile and tore my eyes away from him.
"Why not me on
a rainy day?
Why not me to love your cares away?
Why not me?"
All day, Tay and Alyssa's song had been running through my mind. I downloaded the song after practice in an effort to listen so much I'd get sick of it. Try as I might, it only made me feel worse. Even at home, my mom had noticed my mind was preoccupied. I only nibbled on the Baracoa a la Mexicana she had made. Normally my favorite, the shredded beef with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro was not doing it for me. Hell, even the homemade corn tortillas, warm and soft, seem unappetizing to me.
Why not me
when the nights get cold?
Why not me when you're growin' old?
Why not me?
After excusing myself from the table, I went up to my room to practice the song Diana and I had chosen: Just Give me a Reason by an artist called P!nk.
I was satisfied by our song choice and Diana had even taken it upon herself to arrange the song for both of us. With my copy in hand, I began to sing the words that belonged to me.
Even as I sang, a pang of yearning throbbed in my chest. It was hard concentrating on my words when the ones Tay and Alyssa kept running around in my head.
I pulled my phone out and looked up their song again. Plugging my headphones in, I stuck the left one in my ear leaving my right in free. I took a small breath and sang to the song.
lookin' for love all around the world
Baby, don't you know this country girl's still free?
Baby, why not me?"
It was odd hearing my voice fill up my room as - not too long ago - it had been my brother who filled the house with his music. I envied him, really. Jay was extremely talented - even from a young age. From piano, to guitar, to even violin, he knew how to play a myriad of instruments, yet here I was, having trouble with one stupid song.
Okay. If I was being honest - it wasn't the song that I was having trouble with. It was Michael. No matter what I tried, no matter what I did, I couldn't get him out of my head. From the way he laughed to the crooked smile he gave, to the perfect way his jaw was sculpted - I couldn't rip him out of my mind.
Deciding to give my song a few more go's, I sang the lyrics until they turned into my own personal lullaby.
Tomorrow Diana and I would face off against Michael and Sam.
As excited as I was to listen to Michael sing again, I was just as nervous to be doing the same in front of him.
With that final thought, my tired eyes got the better of me and I fell asleep, clothes and all.
I had been nervous all day waiting for 4:15 to arrive. When it did, I was surprised to find my nerves calmed and not on edge. After being introduced by Mr. Holland, Diana and I took our seats atop of the stage. After waiting for the judges to be ready, Diana took a small breath and opened her mouth to sing.
You were a thief, you stole my heart.
And I, your willing victim.
I let you see the parts of me, that weren't all that pretty
And with every touch you fixed them."
Diana's voice was like a soft melody filling the choir room. I was actually in awe as to how much more of a difference the acoustics of the room had on her voice. Where before it was stunning, now, it was hypnotizing.
As she neared the ending of her solo, I took a few deep breaths to prep for mine. I looked around the room and was met with the faces of the other seven members of the club, Mr. Holland, and Mr. Garcia. None of them staring as intently at me as Michael was. Taking a final breath, it was my turn to open my mouth and sing.
"I'm sorry, I
Where all of this is coming from.
I thought that we were fine.
Your head is
running wild again.
My dear we still have everything.
And it's all in your mind."
As I sang, the sound of my voice reached my ears and, by the small smile spreading across Michael's face, I was confident I wasn't making a fool of myself.
Although Diana had chosen this song, I was happy (?) I found it easy to relate to. Everyone has had that one crush they can't get over. Even as I sang, I knew I was singing to someone particular - no matter how much I fought against it.
A wave of sadness enveloped me as I realized that it was, really, all in my mind. The feelings I felt for Michael, no matter how confusing they may be, didn't matter - there was no way he felt the same for me.
I met Michael's eyes as Diana and I reached the end of the song. Our voices merging together - harmony and melody uniting to create something far lovelier and with more longing than the sum of its parts.
"Just give me
a reason, just a little bit's enough.
Just a second we're not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again.
It's in the stars, it's been written in the scars on our hearts.
That we're not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again."
With that, Diana and I finished our song and were met with a polite round of applause. Mr. Holland stood and faced the audience. "A very good job by Diana and Darren. Another round of applause for them!" When the applause died down, he continued. "Last, but definitely not least, we have Michael and Sam."
At that, Diana and I walked offstage and back to our seats. Tay patted my left thigh and whispered congratulations as I sat back next to her. Diana took a seat to my right and crossed her legs as Michael and Sam took their seats up front.
Mr. Holland made his way upstage with them to rearrange the music and microphone stands. When he was done, he walked offstage again and addressed us. "Now, for our final team," he said, raising his right eyebrow. "After this, my colleagues, Mr. Garcia, Ms. Olivia and I will discuss the performances and pick the winning team. Without further adieu, break a leg, boys."
Like one, Michael and Sam nodded and looked at each other. Softly, almost unnoticeable unless you were staring intently at his lips, Michael whispered a count to four and began to sing.
true, I'm not good at a one-night stand.
But I still need love 'cause I'm just a man.
never seem to go to plan.
I don't want you to leave, will you hold my hand."
Damn. From the moment he opened his mouth to sing, I was hooked. His voice, soft and pleasant, together with the deep emotions behind the lyrics, created a feeling of yearning I'm sure most, if not all of us, registered.
I swallowed the small knot in my throat that had formed at his song. I cleared my throat and noticed that Diana, sitting next to me, had a small smile on her face as she looked at me. When I met her glance, her small smile grew before she quickly looked away. I felt my cheeks blush and turned away from her just as Sam was beginning to sing his part.
"Why am I so
This is not a good look - gain some self-control.
And deep down I know this never works.
But you can lay with me so it doesn't hurt."
Even Sam, the sophomore that he was, seemed to tap into something as he sang. His blonde locks getting in the way of his eyes as he moved his head to the beat of the song. His voice, like last time I heard it, was clear and high - a perfect fit for this song. Jeez. Whatever training Michael was giving him, it was working. He seemed so at ease singing up there with Michael that I began to feel a strange tang of jealousy.
Before I could make any more of it, the two joined each other at the final chorus of the song.
"Oh, won't you
stay with me?
'Cause you're all I need.
This ain't love, it's clear to see.
But, darling, stay with me.
Stay with me."
Their voices swelled as they approached the ending of their song. If I had thought they were good before, their joining at the ending of the song blended together and filled the choir room with the sound of what was, without a doubt, the sound of a heart breaking. Although Sam managed to carry his weight, I knew it was Michael's voice that permeated across the room and filled my ears with the sound of regret and unrequited feelings. It made me wonder what he had gone through to sing this way.
I couldn't tear my eyes away from him as he continued to show such vulnerability through his singing - something I hadn't heard anywhere outside of my brother's boyfriend's performances.
It was a second of intense quiet after they finished their song where we all snapped out of the trance we were in and clapped.
"Wow, that was - goosebumps." Mr. Holland stood up and shook his head in disbelief. "Good job guys. Now, Mr. Garcia, Ms. Riever, and I will discuss the teams and be back with a winner in a few minutes. For now, rest. You all did extremely well. I'm proud of y'all."
Mr. Holland opened the door to his office and allowed for the judges behind him to enter. After they made themselves comfortable, Mr. Holland looked at his notes in front of him and addressed his friend in front of him. "So what did you think, Seb?"
Sebastian, too, looked down at the list of students in front of him. Although some made a better impression than other, they were all so talented it was hard to decide who was the best. "I think they were all great - especially that last guy," Sebastian said, referring to the dark haired boy that had sang the Sam Smith song.
"Michael?" Mr. Holland nodded, "Yeah, he's pretty good isn't he, babe? "
Olivia leaned forward in her seat and rested her elbows on her crossed legs. "Yeah, he is," she said. "A very rich and haunting voice - I actually got chills, ha-ha."
Mr. Holland noticed Sebastian staring down at the pen he was twirling between his fingers. Head still down, he spoke. "The way he sang - it reminded me a little of ... "
"Yes," Mr. Holland nodded, realizing the dark cloud that was forming above his friend. "I know. How you holding up, Seb?"
It had been a few years since they had both heard of him but they could never forget the sound of his voice. Alex - Sebastian's old fling - had always had a way with songs. He was able to tap into a part of himself that produced a feeling much like Michael had today.
The fact that Alex had left Sebastian for another guy a few years back had left him in such a poor position. That, coupled with him being a single dad had made him go into a small depression. Mr. Holland understood how Michael's singing might have stirred up old feelings in his friend.
"I'm holding up okay," Sebastian smiled at him and Olivia. "It's a lot easier to forget about him when I'm knee deep grading papers. Thanks again for the reference, Josh. I wouldn't have gotten this job without you."
Mr. Holland smiled back at Sebastian. "Don't mention it, Seb."
"Hey," Sebastian said after another minute, "Let me ask you guys something."
Olivia blinked, unsure of what Sebastian's question might be. "Sure," she said. "What is it?"
"The blonde boy - the one that sang the P!nk song." Sebastian looked down at his notes. "Let me see - Darren. His last name - his last name wouldn't be Cook, would it?" He asked, a weird look on his face.
Mr. Holland didn't have to think long about the last name of his newer student - it was easy enough to remember. "Yes, it is, actually. How'd you know?"
Sebastian gave an almost registrable sigh. "I just - he looks a lot like someone I know, is all."
"Does he?" Mr. Holland asked, not sure who Sebastian was referring to. "He's one of our newest members," he shrugged. "I don't know him very well but he seems like a good kid."
Sebastian gave a somber nod before continuing. "Well, how about we pick a winner now, guys? I bet those kids are anxious as hell.
After what felt like an eternity of waiting, the door to Mr. Holland's office opened and out walked him and the other two teachers. Diana crossed her legs and faced the front of the choir room as the judges made their way to the front.
"After a lot of consideration, we have come to a decision," Mr. Holland said with a satisfied smile. He looked over at Mrs. Riever and she gave the kids an excited smile.
"We just want you to know that you were all great and we had a really tough time deciding who to pick," Ms. Riever played with the small white envelope in her hand.
My gaze traveled to the last judge, Mr. Garcia, and I noticed he had been looking over at me even before he addressed the rest of us. "And we are sure Mr. Holland here will help you become even better performers," he smiled.
With a blink, Mr. Garcia looked back at Mr. Holland and I was left wondering whether or not I had imagined Mr. Garcia looking at me.
"Now, for the moment you've all been waiting for. Ms. Riever, if you could."
Ms. Riever shot us an excited look before she tore open the envelope and pulled the small notecard inside. "And the winners of the two $25 gift cards to the restaurant of their choice are ... Michael and Sam!"
Not surprised Michael's team had won, I shot both him and Sam a smile as they made their way up to the judges. Mr. Holland shook both their hands and congratulated them.
Just before Mr. Holland dismissed the class, I could have sworn I felt Mr. Garcia's gaze land on me one more time.