"Why is there no light on me?" Serena asks.
"Sorry about that," I respond.
I adjust the light. Serena likes it to hit her `in a particular way'. I've been in the play as a stage hand. Serena looks up at me and I can tell she is just extremely annoyed by my presence. Maybe it is the fact that I've had a makeover. Maybe it's something else. I've been working on this play with her for a while now and it's not getting any better. In fact it's just getting worse at this point.
"Is the lighting to your liking?" the stage director Mrs. Lindsay states, "Can we keep on track this time and get through at least one scene?"
Mrs. Lindsay is annoyed. We all are. Rehearsal for the play was early in the morning and Serena came extra late. Not only was she late but she brought with her an attitude.
"Maybe I would be able to get through one scene if The Help wasn't fucking everything up," Serena states.
She looks at me as she says it. It's been a week now that I've found out that Serena was my birth sister. I see none of myself in her, but at the same time it's all kind of scary. I could have been her. I could have been just like her if I hadn't been raised the way I was raised. Seeing her now for the first time I'm really seeing a resemblance. What would she do if she knew that we shared the same father? Would she still treat me like shit.
"Start from the top."
Adonis steps into the light, "Tony: I- I didn't believe hard enough."
Adonis has a sparkle in his eye. He is just fucking fine standing there. He almost causes me to move the light off of Serena and incur her fucking wrath. I adjust myself and focus though. I watch how Serena barely tries to remember her lines.
"Loving is enough."
"Not here. They won't let us be."
"Then...then...shit...line!" Serena states.
She is looking over at Ivy who is sitting out in the crowd. Ivy isn't paying attention though and doing her role as another stage hand. The poor girl is in her cellphone taking a selfie with the dog filter on Snapchat. I can tell because she keeps randomly sticking out her tongue.
"LINE!" Serena barks again.
"The line is `Then we'll run away'," I state.
Everyone's a little surprised that I butt in the way that I butt in at that moment. It's not my job to memorize the lines and help the actors. That's Ivy's job. Ivy could care less though. Mrs. Lindsay gives me a thumbs up acknowledging the fact that I'm at least paying attention to what is going on in this play. It's hard not to know the lines. We've been doing this every morning before class for a week now.
Serena as Maria smiles, "Then we'll run away."
Adonis nods, "Yes we can..."
Serena just stands there. She just stands there looking stupid, "Um...LINE!"
"Yes!" I say out of nowhere, "The line is yes. That's all."
Serena is annoyed. I can tell. She isn't prepared. She doesn't even know her lines. I'd like to say this is the first time she's done this but it isn't. She's forgotten her lines every fucking day and to say it's annoying as hell is an understatement. I don't get how she got cast in this play in the first fucking place. She was fucking horrible.
"These lines are dumb. Why is this script so goddam boring?" Serena is going off, "Nothing about this fucking script is original!"
I assumed she would go here. Now it's the fault of the screenplay. It has nothing to do with her. She walks right off the stage at that moment.
Mrs. Lindsey is freaking out, "Where are you going?"
"Listen here, Ashley," she states, "I'm trying to be a star. How the hell am I going to be an actress one day if this play is so goddam boring? You guys need to fix this. YOU NEED TO spice it up. Hit me up when you simplify the fucking lines."
I don't know what's more disrespectful. The fact that Serena is calling the teacher by her first name or the fact that she tosses her long weave into the teacher's hair and smacks her with it. That's when she just storms out at that moment and I watch as Mrs. Lindsay runs after her to try to calm down her little diva antics.
I climb down off my ladder. This was an everyday thing. The way this was going, we'd never be able to perform this fucking show.
"You have the patience of a saint."
I turn and notice Adonis is right over me. We make small talk every now and then. I'm assuming this is just one more of those times.
"I have to deal with Serena in the morning. You are her friend. You have to deal with her a lot more," I explain shrugging, "Hate to say it, but she has a point."
"Wait...YOU are agreeing with Serena?"
Adonis looks at me hard when he says that.
"Is that so hard to believe we might have something in common?"
"Nah just you seem so...different...at least then she is," he explains shaking his head and shrugging, "What could you possibly agree with her about?"
"The play has been done before. Over and over. Nothing new. No twist. No creativity."
"How the hell do you put a twist on West Side Story?"
"Now if Maria was named Mario...it'd make shit a lot more interesting," I laugh.
At first, I regret saying it almost immediately. It sounded suspect as hell. I'm surprised when he doesn't react in a negative way though. It actually causes him to start laughing at me. Adonis has one of those beautiful laughs. The kind of laughs that makes you stop laughing and just stare at his pearly teeth and wonder if you are falling in love with him for no clear fucking reason.
"You make a good point."
"I'm just the lighting boy though so who cares what I have to say?"
"I dunno," he states, "You got some fans in the audience."
I turn and notice Dominique from my History class. She has two of her friends with her. They are staring at me like I'm something to eat. I'm not imagining it. They've been doing it every day since I've returned to school. I was not imagining the fact that Dominique was definitely crushing on me hard. It was seriously annoying.
"Not really my type," I state.
"Oh yeah, I wasn't calling you gay, man," he states, "Hope that didn't offend you."
"Calling me gay?"
"Yeah. The guy who I called your fan. He's in the back."
I realize that Adonis wasn't talking about Dominique and her giggling friends. He's talking about someone who is sitting in the very back of the auditorium. The person has their legs up on the seats ahead of them as though they were at home watching a movie or something like that. I look over and notice almost immediately who it is.
"I'll be right back," I tell Adonis.
I walk over to Thorn in the back of the auditorium. The guy acts like he's too cool, literally. He has his Ray-bans in one hand. He's eyes me as I walk over in this confident way. He is so sexy. He's so mysterious. It's kind of weird how he stares at me in this sexy way. It makes me uncomfortable but it turns me on all at the same time.
"You haven't been in school for a while," I state.
He was literally too cool for school. Thorn showed up every once in a while. I was shocked that he was still enrolled with how many days he missed. The school wasn't a priority for him. It was almost like he had his own thing going on.
"Nothing this school can teach me, man. I know it all already," he states cockily smiling, "I had to come back and check on my favorite doll though. Looks like things are going well with Adonis."
I look back over at Adonis. They've managed to talk Serena to come back and the two of them were going over their lines. He looks really focused right now.
"He likes you," Thorn states.
"There's nothing not to like," Thorn states looking me up and down, "I made sure of that."
"I mean he was friendly before the surgeries sort of. Nothing really changed. I may be imagining it but I kind of feel like if I was around Adonis before the surgery he would have talked to me more regardless anyway."
I don't want to say it's all a waste. Other people were treating me a lot differently but things are different with Adonis. He's sweet. It's almost like he's just a good person and me changing my looks isn't what is getting his attention but maybe the fact that I'm around him more. I know it sounds stupid. I know that I'm perfect now. Anyone would give me attention. Still...when I look at Adonis right now I just feel like Adonis was...more than that.
He was more than superficial.
"You don't have to fall for him," Thorn states out of nowhere.
I turn and catch Thorn staring at me. He's watching me watch Adonis.
"Isn't that the plan?"
"His father is running for president. The Benefactor wants you close to him."
"To spoil my mother's plans?" I ask.
I knew. Thorn needed to know that I knew. He looks at me and sighs, "To spoil your Aunt's plans. Your aunt is putting your mother up to this. You should want to help. You should want to see your Aunt fail. You should want to see your mother fail right along with her."
Thorn gets up and puts a hand on my shoulder. I knew what he was talking about. Thorn was talking about revenge. I should want revenge for all of the shit my mother's side of the family had done to me. I should want revenge for my mother abandoning me.
What better way to do that than ruining her marriage from the inside?
It's lunchtime before I know it. Thorn is gone way before then. I'm at the lunch table with Marisol and Richard. In the corner of my eyes and I can see Serena's table. They are laughing about something. They are joking about something. I could care less though. My eyes are staring at Adonis. He's so fucking sexy. He has this wide smile laughing at something Braden said.
Thorn was right.
I shouldn't be falling for him. It was just that...
"You OK man?" Richard asks me, "You look like you're out of it."
"I'm fine," I lie.
I turn back over to Adonis. It's almost as though he feels me staring at him because Adonis breaks as well. Our eyes meet at that moment. I am so nervous when it happens that I quickly look away as fast as I can so that I don't get caught staring.
Just at that moment, I was about to ask about Candice and Kordell. I was about to say anything to get the attention off of me staring at Adonis, but when I am about to say it the couple walks in. They walk in with matching outfits on and it's almost like they are shutting down the lunchroom. Kordell looks damn good with Candice on his arms.
"Did it just get really quiet in here?" I ask Marisol.
I notice Candice holding Kordell's hand with this sense of pride. You couldn't tell her anything. I never remembered seeing Candice so confident in my life and I'd known her literally all my life.
"The new King and Queen of the school, no doubt," Marisol tells me, "What do you think Serena is thinking right about now? Adonis doesn't give her the time of day..."
I look over at Serena. Sure enough, she was staring over at Candice. She doesn't take her eyes off of her. The mean mug follows Candice all the way across the lunchroom until Candice comes to sit next to me. And then her stare moves from Candice to me as though she can't tell us apart. We're the same to her in this moment and she's bothered. She's really bothered.
"Did you have to be so dramatic with your entrance Candice?" I ask.
The matching outfits, the late entrance and how she was all over Kordell just seemed a little extreme. I don't want to call Candice out in front of everyone else but we always had the relationship where we could be honest with one another.
"It's Candy now. Would you expect anything less than me?" she states with a laugh, "Why are we sitting at this table. We should be sitting at a table closer to the middle."
"We've always sat here," I respond.
"Well we aren't the same people anymore, are we?" Candice states.
Candice leads us to the other side of the lunchroom. Two tables over from Serena's table I notice her stare at the people sitting there. At first, I don't know what Candice is going to do but then I see her clear her throat.
"Did you guys want to join us?" the girl sitting at the table asks.
"No we kind of just wanted the table," Candice states, "Now."
I almost want to laugh at the idea of Candice bossing someone around. I even open my mouth to laugh but then I see the girls who are sitting at the table get up. I'm shocked by it. Maybe it's just the tone that Candice uses to talk to them that causes them to do it. Maybe they are just intimidated. Sure enough, they get up and let Candice take the table.
It means nothing to them. It's so fucking weird.
"Holy shit," Richard states.
Richard is laughing at what Candice just did. The others all seem to be pretty pleased as well. I'm just shocked. Candice has this smug expression on her face.
"It just happens. You look how we look and you tell people what to do," she states, "It just happens."
"The shepherd will always lead the sheep," Marisol adds.
"Amen sister..." Candice smiles, "Speaking of leading I think we need to discuss throwing our own party."
"You think we're ready for that?" Richard asks.
"Everyone's eyes on us right now," Candice states, "It'll be easy..."
Candice looks like she is going to get into the details of this idea but we are interrupted. I'm surprised when I lift my eyes and see Mrs. Lindsay standing there. What the hell was the theater director doing in the lunchroom.
"Hello," she states.
She seems excited about something. I'm a little confused.
"We're talking," Candice tells the teacher rather rudely.
"And we can stop talking to let Mrs. Lindsay speak," I cut Candice off.
Candice rolls her eyes and I do it right back. I understood her starting to feel herself but I had to make sure she didn't forget who she was. All the attitude she could save for someone who didn't know her inside and out like I did.
"I was just speaking to Adonis and he said you had this amazing idea to spice up the school play," Mrs. Lindsay states, "A gay twist!"
I look over at Mrs. Lindsay and see that the lady is literally jumping at the idea of it. I think I'm in the twilight zone or something like that.
"I was just suggesting something like that. Not to actually turn Maria into Mario. That would be ridiculous right?"
"No. I actually think that would be an amazing idea. This is a new age. It'll be a fresh new take on West Side Story. Having a new role of Mario would show people just how progressive this school is."
This school was far from progressive with all the bullying and close-minded thinking that went on.
"Who better to play Mario then Yogi?" Candice states.
All of a sudden I'm shy as hell. I'm beyond shy and nervous. What the fuck was Candice suggesting? Was she really assuming that I should play the lead role in a school play?
"That's ridiculous," I state, "I can't even act like that."
"You know the lines. That's already a million times better than Serena," Mrs. Lindsay states, "This is amazing. Say you'll do it. Say you'll do it."
I sit there shocked. She was saying this in front of the whole table. I didn't know what to say.
"He'll do it," some voice states.
I look up and see that it's Adonis. He's come to our table at that moment. He was the one who suggested this to Mrs. Lindsay in the first place. Seeing his fine ass standing over the table right at that moment just puts all my guard down.
"I'll do it," I state.
I only say it for him. Saying I have a crush on this boy at this point is an understatement to say the least.
"Sounds great...now we just have to break the news to Serena."
I look back over at Serena. I had no idea how she would take this but this seemed like a bad idea. I didn't want to be anywhere around when they told her.
This was going to be bad.
"Can I talk to you?" Adonis asks me out of nowhere.
"What's there to talk about?" Kordell interrupts.
I'm surprised when Kordell does it. Deep inside I know why but right now it just seems weird and out of place to everyone including Candice who is crossing her arms and watching with intrigue at why her boyfriend was coming off so hostile.
"Is there a problem?" Adonis asks Kordell, "I wasn't talking to you..."
"This is my crew. You talk to one of us, you talking to all of us," he states, "Your boy Braden still owes my friend a genuine apology for the pushing him in the pool."
"Kordell I'm OK," I state, "I don't need an apology. I'll be right back."
I cut Kordell off before he can say what he wants to say next by walking away with Adonis. We get some privacy by walking into the hallway. We find ourselves in the old music room in no time. It's empty in here save some bleachers. When I look over at Adonis I can tell he's bothered by what just happened in the lunchroom.
"Since when is Kordell such a dickhead?" he asks me, "Why the hell do you hang around with him?"
"You think my friends are dickheads but completely ignore yours?" I ask.
"It's not the same."
"Why because they've been dickheads longer?" I ask.
I'm a little irritated by Adonis at this moment. Regardless of how fine he was, I hated the idea of him defending those animals he called friends.
"Whoa...this has nothing to do with you and me right?" he asks, "I don't want beef with you..."
I cool out. Adonis had a point. He'd always been nice to me. He's always been a good person in my eyes.
"Of course not. Just competition brings out the worst in people."
"You know. With the attention, me and my friends have been getting."
He laughs at that moment. He laughs right in my face, "You're serious? Man. No offense, but you guys have only been around for a hot second. I wouldn't consider anyone competing with you guys in any type of way."
"Then why are you discussing Kordell?" I ask sticking up for my friend almost immediately, "You sound a little bothered, Adonis."
What happens when Kordell stops letting Adonis show him up on the basketball court? Then what happens to Lionsdale's sweetheart?
"I'm not. I promise you that."
This was getting way out of control and it was getting out of control fast. I had to bring it back.
"Wait...let's just stop here," I state, "What did you want to talk to me in privacy about?"
"You know what?" he starts, "Nevermind."
Weird. Real weird. He walks out of the bathroom at that moment slamming the door behind him. I sit there just feeling stupid at that moment.
I look in the mirror and start washing my hands.
I am about to leave the bathroom when the door opens and I'm surprised when Braden walks into the bathroom. He's not alone. Micah is with him. I'm a little confused when they walked in the room.
"Where you think you going faggot?" Braden asks me.
Hearinig him say the F word is just crazy.
"I don't want any trouble man," I state.
"Well I want some," Braden responds, "So rumor has it you got Serena kicked out of the school play. Is that right?"
He looks at me hard with this anger that I can't quite understand. He's pissed. I can see it all over his eyes.
"I don't have control over that," I state.
I try to walk away yet again. Yet again he pushes me. This time he pushes me harder than before. This time I saunter backwards and hit the wall. I almost slip trying to get my composure.
I look over at Micah, "Check your friend."
Micah just stands there. My cousin just fucking stands there.
"What do you think you're doing?" Micah asks at that moment.
"Fuck are you talking about? I'm trying to leave," I state.
"That's not what he's talking about," Braden responds, "You and your friends coming in here our school the way you guys are trying to do what? Take over our school? You think it's going to go down like that."
That's what this is about. I'm even more irritated after what Adonis said than ever. It is very clear to me that his friends felt threatened. Maybe he thought nothing was good enough to threaten his standing in this school but for some reason, I wasn't getting that from Micah and I damn sure wasn't getting that from Braden.
I look over at Micah," Micah. Tell him to back off...please."
Micah just looks at me. He has this deer in the headlights look on his face.
"I'm going to teach you whose school this is, faggot," Braden states.
Out of nowhere Braden hits me. He hits me so hard that I am pushed backward and I fall on the sink. I hear this loud cracking sound and am sure one of my teeth has cracked on the sink from Braden's push.
"Oh my god!" I state with blood rushing out of my mouth, "What the hell are you doing? Is this really happening? Is this really fucking happening?"
I was being assaulted. I was being fucking assaulted right now!
"You going to let this faggot treat your sister like that" Braden asks.
"Let's just leave," Micah states, "He gets the point."
"Leave?" Braden asks,"There is no leaving. What the fuck Micah? How pathetic can you be? Serena said you would be too much of a pussy to do this."
"I'm not a pussy!" Micah argues.
"Prove it. You going to let him and his friends treat US like that Micah?"
That's when it happens. Micah's face blushes a deep red.
And he hits me!
Micah punches me right in the face. He punches me so hard that I think I black out for a few seconds. When I wake up, I wake up to the both of them stomping me out on the floor. I just remember seeing Micah's foot smash into the side of my face. It's as though he's trying to break me. He's trying to break my nose I think. That's what he's aiming for. He's trying to turn me right back into his ugly little brother. can't believe this is happening.
I can't believe I was getting jumped...
At first, I'm crying because of Micah's betrayal. Then I'm begging them to stop because of the pain. And then I just crawl up into a fetal position on the ground and go completely numb.
Numb...in more ways than one.
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com