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The sound of my own voice and the guitar I played blared through the speakers as the enthusiastic and drugged crowd cheered. Sly slammed the drums behind me to the melody of hatred and gore, to my left Dwayne attacked his guitar in a deep melody of death and confusion, and to my right Ash lacerated his base to the melody of goodbyes and sorrow. I sang the words of the truth of the world and of regret of all things we will ever do as I played my guitar accordingly. “Don’t let me go!” I cried as I moved my hands from my instrument and the crowd filled my ear drums. The lights moved directly onto me as I threw my hands into the air, “Goodnight!” I called and then curtains were quickly let down. The crowd cheered our name as they disappeared behind red cloth. The man in a black suit that looked like an older host or male prostitute came over to me. “You guys were a hit!” He said with a disgusting cigarette filled smiled towards me, “Released Reality is now definitely known for their awesome playing.” “Yea, thanks old man.” I said with a nod and he seemed to cringe. “Come on Rave, I’m only a few years older than you! Don’t be so harsh!” He joked and I noticed how many wrinkles surrounded his eyes. He either spent too much time in the sun or was much older. “Whatever.” I said but was shocked when I was ambushed by Ash who wrapped his arm around my neck and pulled me into him. “Don’t freak her out, dude.” He said with a devilish smile and then took me away. “Thanks, you saved my ass from being asked out by that old man again.” He gave me a playful smile, “Your hot ass is definitely worth saving.” “Keep it in your pants, Ash. Don’t try and rape her.” Sly joked as he walked over. I noticed that he had a ring in his lip that was usually not there. Now they were snake bites instead of just one blue metallic ring he had pierced himself when we were 16. I went over to him and touched the ring. “When’d you do this?” “Yesterday. I thought it’d give me a better chance with the chicks.” I laughed, “I’m sure it will,” I said as I hugged him. He let go of me after a few moments as Dwayne came over to us, “What was with that solo after the second song?” I asked and he smiled. “Dunno, just got caught up in the moment I guess.” “Good thing it worked with the song, otherwise you’d’ve made a f*ing fool outta yourself.” Ash mocked and I had to keep myself from laughing again as they turned on each other. “Wanna say that again, kid?” Dwayne hissed as he yanked on Ash’s shirt. “Hey, guys! Chill it!” Sly yelled as I moved out of the way. He went over and wrapped an arm around each of the guys, “Let go get some booze to celebrate!” He said and I laughed as Ash and Dwayne suddenly seemed the best of friends and cheered in agreement. They all quickly put up their instruments into their cases and I brought my guitar over to my case covered in stickers of famous bands that I had obsessed over for most of my life. I stuck my black and red guitar into the case, locked it, and picked it up. I used the strap to sling it across my back and then joined the three guys to leave. We walked out of the back and to Sly’s black ford F-150. I sat in the front passenger seat, Sly sat at the driver’s seat, and Dwayne got in the back with Ash. We drove to our favorite bar named ‘Breaker’ that one of our high school classmates now owned. When we came in Rob looked up and smiled. “How was the gig?” He asked as he stood in a waiter’s uniform with an apron over it that just looked reasonable for a bar tender. The place was packed, but we went over to our reserved table in the front of the bar. “Really good.” I replied and he seemed pleased. “Rave blew them away with her voice. She sounded like an angel of death!” Ash said with a laugh and Rob looked to me. “That’s a compliment.” I informed him and he seemed better with the whole concept since from most people that was an insult. “Could we get some beers?” Sly asked and Rob nodded before leaving us. He brought over four tall beers, but was surprised when I got up. “You’re not drinkin’ Rave?” I shook my head, “It’s Sunday. I’ve got work tomorrow and I can’t have a hangover.” “Just dump that damn job, Rave! We’ll be famous soon so you won’t need that other job!” Dwayne argued and I smiled. “When that day comes, I’ll quit,” I promised, “See you guys.” I added before leaving. I used the bus to get to the other side of town and to my apartment. When I got inside my eye was caught by my reflection in a mirror. Torn black leggings, black hair in chopped layers with red streaks, hand gloves that had crisscross leather straps that went up my elbows, black platform boots, a black corset dress with crisscross string in the front and had loose layers that started at my hips and ended before my knees, red contacts, and a black cross necklace created my gothic image. I took off all of my cloths, my red extensions, and my red contacts before getting into the shower. I then went to bed at around three in the morning. At 6 I woke back up and ate cereal after putting on my glasses. I then changed into my black pinstripe skirt, purple silk shirt, black heels, and a suit jacket that’s sleeves only went to my elbows. I grabbed my black bag, pulled up my hair into a bun, and left my house. I took my black Honda to drive to the high school in town and got out. I went into the front door and went up to the second floor to my classroom. When I came in I turned on my computer and then took out my papers. I placed a thin stack of papers on each desk of the room as the first bell rang, announcing that all students could go into their rooms. Most of the students came in as I logged into my computer but I was surprised when a girl that was now 17 came over to my desk. I turned my swivel chair to her and smiled, “What can I do for you, Rachel?” I asked with kindness. “I just wanted to thank you for the last minute guidance on my project on Friday night. It was a big help.” I broadened my smile, “It was my pleasure, Rachel.” I said before she left. She went over to a group that was forming around one of the most popular girls in the school’s desk. The second bell rang which meant to start class so I cleared my throat as the class became quiet, “Alright, today we will be taking our unit test. Take out a pencil and the tests are on your desks so you may start now.” I said and then for the next 4 hours I graded papers as the students took their tests. When the bell for lunch rang I stood, “Please bring all testing materials up to my desk before you leave.” I said and the students all came up to hand me their pile of papers. When they were all collected the students started leaving, but some stayed behind to eat their lunches in the classroom. “Ms. Patrice!” One of the girls called and I got out of my chair. I went over to the group of 7 girls with a smile. “What can I do for you?” I asked and the girl named Ellen watched me for a moment. “I still don’t see it!” She complained. “See what?” I asked and she smiled. “Linda said you looked a lot like this girl in this magazine and I told her you don’t. She said that if you came over here I would be able to see it, but I can’t.” “Who’s the person I look like?” I asked and Linda quickly stood. She placed a magazine in my hands and pointed to the right page. It was a photo of a band in gothic clothing on stage. She pointed to the girl in the front singing. “The lead singer of Released Reality looks kind of like you.” “No! Ms. Patrice is a very sophisticated adult! Not a band singer! She’s a teacher for crying out loud!” Ellen argued. I let out a laugh, “And I certainly do not have red streaked hair or red eyes. I’m just a normal teacher.” Linda smiled, “Yea, you’re right. But I think I’d be cool to have a rocker teacher.” I went over to my desk but looked to the door as it opened and one of the shorter boy’s in my class ran over to me. He was breathing hard. “Ms. Patrice! The nurse needs you immediately!” The boy said and I quickly stood. It was not a good thing if the nurse needed me. That meant either one of my students was ill or there had been a fight involving one of my pupils. I quickly left the classroom and went down to the nurse’s office that was near the northern staircase of the school. I knocked on the door and it was opened by the familiar Mrs. Kelly. I smiled towards her. “You needed me?” I asked and she sighed. “It seems two of the boys in your class got into a fight outside and one of them refuses to talk.” “Who was the fight between?” I asked as I walked in. She sat down in a swivel chair and looked to me. “Kevin Rig and Nick Peters,” She replied, “Nick says Kevin started the fight and that he was just trying to defend himself, but Kevin refuses to speak.” I sighed, “I’ll see if I can talk to him. Could you take Nick out of the room? Maybe he just feels uncomfortable talking in front of Nick.” I suggested and she nodded in agreement. “Nick Peters, please follow me,” She said and I watched as Nick left the room. Mrs. Kelly stopped at the door and looked back to me, “Good luck.” She added before shutting the door. I went to the only bed that had the curtains closed around it and pulled back on them to see Kevin staring at the ceiling. He was in his uniform like he had to be in order to attend the private school, but as usual he had on a few skull buttons and chains. He looked to me as I noticed the black makeup he usually wore was smeared slightly by when he had obviously been crying before. To my relief his piercings on his lip and ears were not ripped out as I had imagined, but he had a large band-aid over his right cheek and his face was starting to swell. “Hey, Kevin,” I said as I pulled Mrs. Kelly’s chair into the curtained area. I shut the curtains to assure Kevin that I was the only person here to listen in, “Mrs. Kelly said you refused to talk to her, is that true?” He sat up and turned so that he was facing me while sitting on the bed. He wrapped his arms around his legs like they would protect him from all harm, “She wouldn’t’ve understood me even if I had told her. None of you teachers seem to get it.” I sighed and pulled closer to Kevin as he seemed to tense, “Don’t worry, I won’t bite,” I assured him and then brushed my finger across the small cut on his collarbone, “Mrs. Kelly missed a cut,” I informed him and then quickly stood. I left the curtained area and went to Mrs. Kelly’s supply cabinet. I took out a band-aid and some Neosporin before going back to Kevin’s side. I put a little drop of the Neosporin on the cut before placing the band-aid over it. I then smiled towards him, “There,” I announced, “So Kevin, how do you think you did on the test in my class today?” I asked and he seemed confused. “What does that have to do with anything?” He asked in a growl towards me. I sighed again, “Well you obviously don’t want to talk about what happened between you and Nick today, so I decided to bring up another topic. I’m not big into prying into other’s business unless they want to talk about it,” I smiled slightly, “I used to hate it when my teachers would yell at me if I would not tell my side of a fight or something like that so I don’t want to do what they did. If you don’t want to talk, I’m sure you have a good reason not to.” “You are nothing like how you act in class, Ms. Patrice.” “I’m hoping that is a compliment.” He let out a small laugh, “It is,” He said and I felt much better, “Well the whole thing was stupid.” “You mean the test or the fight?” “The fight,” He replied and I nodded, “Nick was making fun of the way I dress and I decided to take down that mother f*er. I punched him in the gut and then he punched me in the face. One of the senior teachers saw us start wrestling on the ground and called for the security guard to pull us apart.” “What was Nick saying about you that got you so mad?” He sighed, “He was calling me a wannabe and started talking s*** about my piercings. He’s been makin’ fun of me for a while now and I just thought that if I didn’t do something about it this s*** would never stop so I hit ‘im.” I nodded, “I can understand why you would think that, but as an adult I have to tell you violence isn’t the answer.” “Well it was either smack the s*** outta ‘im or go be a fink and tattletale. But if I did that he and his football friends would kick my ass up and down the block after school.” I let out a slight laugh, “There was this guy who was in a situation kind of like yours when I was 16. He pierced his lip and people started making fun of him. He was very slim and weak, but he ended up breaking the nose of the lacrosse captain when he finally had enough of being made fun of. Now I certainly did not go to a private school like this, but he still got into a heap of trouble.” “You got in trouble too?” I nodded, “Cause I beat the crap outta two of the captain’s lackeys and broke my hand in the process,” I said as I held up my left hand and pointed to the long red line that went by my middle knuckles, “Apparently I had a very sharp left hook.” “But why would someone as clean cut as you get into that kind of trouble?” He asked and I started laughing, but couldn’t stop for almost two minutes. When I finally got myself under control I smiled towards him as I brushed tears off my face. “I certainly was not clean cut at your age. I had more piercings that you on just one ear,” I leaned back in my chair, “I had 12 piercings on my right ear alone.” “Damn, I would’ve never expected that,” He said with a laugh and I smiled towards him, but stood when there was a knock at the door of the room. I pulled the curtain back to see Mr. Travis come in with an older looking woman, “Aunt?” Kevin asked and his aunt stormed over to him. “I told you to stop fighting at school, Kevin!” She hissed, but looked to me when I put my hand on her nephew’s shoulder. “Mrs. Rig, I can assure you Kevin was not at fault here. I just finished talking to him and he was just defending himself. He did choose an action that was not the best idea, but he had good reason to do so.” I said and the woman’s face seemed to loosen. “You are Kevin’s teacher, correct?” She asked and I nodded, “But Kevin has never talked to someone about why he fought someone. Not even me or his uncle.” I smiled, “Well it seems your nephew and I have a lot in common so he was able to open up to me.” “Well either way, Kevin, we should get home.” She insisted and I nodded as I looked to Kevin. “See ya’ around, teach.” He said with a smile and I smiled back. He left with his aunt as Mr. Travis gave me an odd look. “Wow, Kevin has never talked to a teacher like that before. I tried to talk to him once and he ended up just cursing at me,” He said as he came closer to me, “How’d you gain his trust?” I smiled, “I just had to prove we had a lot in common,” I replied, “When I was his age I had a friend that got into a problem like his so we connected through that.” “You don’t seem like the type of person who would hang out with that kind of kid.” He commented and I laughed slightly. “That’s what Kevin said too, but I was a lot like him at that age,” I replied, “But why did his aunt come pick him up? Why not his mom or dad?” He sighed, “His parents died in a car accident at the beginning of his freshman year. His aunt and uncle are his guardians but he does not live with them. He lives in his parent’s apartment.” “Does he dress like that because he lost his parents?” He shook his head, “I was told from a teacher at his middle school that he has always dressed like that.” I looked down to my feet, “I had no idea,” I whispered with regret but the sighed, “I should get back to my class.” I said and then left the nurse’s room. For the rest of class I taught a new lesson in math and did not have any complications. When the final bell rang I worked on grading the tests the students had taken earlier today. As I got to the 21st test Mr. Travis knocked on my open door. I smiled towards him and he came in. “What are you doing in here by yourself?” He asked as he walked in. He was wearing a pair of black slacks, a medium blue button up dress shirt, and a black tie. He leaned down and rested his head on his hand as he rested his elbow on the other side of the desk I was sitting at. “Grading the unit tests my students took today,” I replied, “What are you doing?” His smile broadened, “I was going to the copying room when I saw you in here and thought I’d stop by.” “Oh?” He nodded, “And I was thinking on my way down here that I might stop by your room in order to see if you had any plans for tomorrow night. I thought I could take you to this new restaurant that just opened up this weekend.” I smiled, “Sure, I’d love to go.” “Great, here’s my cell number. You can call and give me your address later tonight.” He said as he handed me a small piece of paper. We both looked up as Mrs. Kelly knocked on my open door. “Hey, Raven.” She said with a smile and I smiled back. “Well I’ll see you later.” Mr. Travis said as he walked out. Mrs. Kelly quickly ran over to me with excitement. “What were you two love birds talking about while in a very dim lit room, with no one else around, and talking in quiet voices?” She asked with an evil grin. “Don’t make it more than it is, Laura.” I said with a frown. “Oh come on! A blind man could see how attracted you guys are to each other! You two flirt with each other like most people breath! So what happened? Give me all the gory details!” “There are no gory details! Geez, Laura! You make it sound like were students instead of teachers!” I complained but then sighed, “If you must know he just asked me out for tomorrow night. He was planning on trying a new restaurant and invited me.” She stared dancing around, “Omigosh! You are so going to get some!” She laughed and I felt myself fluster. “I am not! You pervert!” I hissed, “Stop talking like a little girl! You’re married for god’s sake!” “So? It doesn’t mean I’m not breathing, does it?” She said with another smile, “So what did you say?” “I said sure.” She squealed, “Omigosh! I never thought this day would come! Ah! This is so exciting!” “You sound like you are going on the date,” I mumbled but then stood as I looked to the clock, “I’ve gotta go.” “Awe, sourer puss!” She complained as I shoved all the tests into my bag and then turned off my computer. “Shouldn’t you be going? It’s already 6, won’t your husband be home soon?” She shook her head, “He’s on a trip till tomorrow,” She said with a smile, “What do you say we walk out together?” She asked and I nodded. I followed her to her room and after she locked the door we left, “So how was it with Kevin today? I heard from Mr. Travis that you got him to talk.” I nodded, “He was being bullied and pushed around by Nick and his friends.” “Geez, will kids ever get over bullying each other? It’s so pointless!” she complained but stopped at my car. “Say, do you know where Kevin lives? I heard he lives on his own.” I asked and she nodded. “He lives in the apartment complex two blocks down from yours. But why do you care?” I shrugged my shoulder, “I’m just curious,” I replied and then opened my car door, “See ya’ tomorrow Laura.” I said and then get in my car. I drove off and went to my apartment. I changed out of my work cloths and into a black tank top and a pair of torn up jeans. I cooked up some spaghetti and as I fed my black cat I started thinking about Kevin again. He was living alone in a large apartment with no one to watch over him or take care of him. Was he eating fast food every day? I suddenly found myself putting a large container of noodles and a medium sized container of spaghetti sauce into a bag and left my house with a coat. I walked two blocks down from my apartment and looked to the itinerary that was placed at the bottom of the complex. The Rig family was in G9, so I made my way up the stairs and to the door marked G9. I knocked on the door and was relieved when Kevin opened the door. “Ms. Patrice, what are you doing here?” He asked as I noticed he was no longer in his school uniform. He wore a simple white t-shirt and a pair of checkered pajama pants. “Mrs. Kelly told me where you lived and so I thought I’d bring you over some food,” I said as I held up the bag, “Its spaghetti and I made way too much for just me.” “Uh, okay. Come on in,” He said as he opened the door wider. I walked in to see a very clean apartment that looked like it should be on the front of an apartment realtor agency’s catalog, “Want something to drink?” He asked and I shook my head. “Nah, I’ll be going. I just wanted to make sure you were getting food and that you lived somewhere appropriate.” “Did Mrs. Kelly tell you I wasn’t getting food and was living in a cardboard box or something?” He asked as he sat down at a four person table and gestured for me to sit across from him. “No, but on my way home I was thinking how my friend that had almost the same thing happen that happened to you would live if he did not have someone taking care of him. He’d probably spend all his cash on smokes and junk food and end up eating fast food everyday while living in some crappy motel,” I replied, “I was just afraid you would be like that and I wanted to make sure I was wrong.” I replied as I slipped off my coat. “So why do you care about this all of a sudden?” I sighed, “I had no idea about your parents. It didn’t even occur to me that you might have had something so terrible happen to you, but today Mr. Travis told me.” “Travis doesn’t seem like someone who’d suit you. He’s all stuck up and teacher like.” I let out a small laugh, “But I’m a teacher.” He nodded, “But after talking with you today I realized you weren’t like the rest of the teachers.” I smiled, “I’m certainly not like most teachers.” “To tell you the truth, teach, I was pretty curious about your past after you told me about your friend. Before today, when I’d imagine what type of student you were I thought you’d be one of those nerdy but preppy girls. I was way off.” I let out another laugh, “I used to make fun of those types of girl and they would’ve rather to shoot me than talk to me.” “So what were you like in high school?” I sighed, “I was kinda like you.” “Really?” I nodded, “But nowhere near as smart. I graded your unit test earlier and you got 100 percent. I barely made it to college.” “You really are something, Ms. Patrice. I’m sure your husband thinks so too.” I snickered, “I’m not married, I’m single.” “Why? You could probably attract any guy.” I smiled, “Thanks for the compliment, but I don’t think I could ever get married. Even if I’m now a fairly civilized person, I still don’t think I could ever settle down like that. I can barely keep a boyfriend as it is,” I replied but then realized what I was doing, “I probably shouldn’t tell a student about my personal life.” He shook his head, “I’m not gonna tell anyone and I’m curious.” He replied but then looked to me as my phone rang. “Hello?” I asked as I put the phone to my ear. “Hey Rave!” “Oh, hey Ash. What’s up? I’m kinda busy right now.” “Sly just wanted me to tell you that we were offered another gig tomorrow night and he said it was your choice if we go or not. I mean you are the only one of us with a really important job.” I smiled, “Uh, tomorrow night? I had plans, but I guess I could cancel them.” “Awesome! We’ll be at your place at 9 to pick ya’ up!” He said and then hung up the phone. “Who’s Ash?” I looked to Kevin, “He’s one of my high school friends.” “So you’re meetin’ with ‘im tomorrow night?” I nodded, “He and I are gonna hang out with a group of friends from high school tomorrow.” “Is he a teacher too?” I let out a snort, “Defiantly not. He’s a guitarist.” “That’s a sweet job.” I nodded, “He thinks so,” I said and then stood, “Well I have more tests to grade so I’ll see you tomorrow.” “See ya’ tomorrow, teach.” He said and I quickly left his apartment. I walked back to mine and watched the news on our gig last night.
In the morning I got ready just as usual and went to school. Mrs. Kelly was in the parking lot smoking, but looked up to me with a smile before coming over.
“Morning,” I replied with a yawn, “Why are you so chipper?”
“My husband’s coming home today and is taking me to dinner! I can’t wait!” She said with a laugh of pleasure and then stomped out her cigarette.
“Is Mr. Travis here yet?”
“I saw him go inside a few minutes ago,” She said and then gave me a greedy look, “Gonna go get some before class?”
“No!” I retorted, “I just need to talk to him,” I said and then made my way inside. I went past my classroom and knocked on Mr. Travis’s open door. He smiled towards me.
“Hello, Ms. Patrice.” He said as I came in.
“Mr. Travis, I’m really sorry, but I’m gonna have to cancel our dinner date tonight. Something came up.”
“Oh? Is everything alright?”
I nodded, “Yea, but one of my friends is sick and I have to go take care of her. I’m really sorry!”
He stood and put his hand on my cheek, “Don’t worry about it, Ms. Patrice. If you have to cancel to take care of a friend I understand. How about we reschedule for Friday night?”
I nodded with a smile, “I’d like that.” I replied, but quickly moved from him as the first bell rang and some of Mr. Travis’s students came in. I waved to him before leaving the class and then walked down to mine. A few students were already there, but I was shocked to see Kevin. He always came right before the second bell and was never here at this time of day. I ignored his watch and went over to my computer. I turned it on and logged in before looking up as a very tall boy from my class came over to me.
“Good morning, Ms. Patrice.”
I smiled and stood in front of him, “Good morning, Oliver. What can I do for you?”
“Uh, I was sick yesterday and missed the test. Could I take it today at lunch?” He asked while blushing.
“That’s perfectly fine, Oliver. I’ll be sure to have the test ready for you to take, but you will probably need to come in tomorrow at lunch also to finish.”
“Alright, thank you.” He said and then left. I stayed standing because the second bell rang and the class fell silent. I taught English for two hours and then History for the second two hours before lunch started. When it did I had Oliver take his test into the teacher’s lounge to start but looked to Kevin as he came over to my desk. He gave me a warming smile I had not seen before yesterday.
“Hello, Kevin,” I said with a smile, “How is your cheek?”
“Better, the swelling went down.” He replied, but I was turned to a group of girls when one of them ran over to me.
Ellen smiled towards me, “Ms. Patrice! Your look alike is going to be playing tonight at a huge club in the city!” She exclaimed and I smiled towards her.
“You don’t say? Are you a follower of that band you showed me a picture of yesterday?”
She nodded, “I love Released Reality! I want to be just like their lead singer!”
“Since when are you into Released Reality?” Kevin hissed.
“Not everyone has to act all gothic to be a fan of Released Reality, Kevin. Geez,” Ellen said but then looked to me again, “You should go see them with us, Ms. Patrice! I think you’d like them!”
I let out a small laugh, “I’m not really into that type of music and isn’t their show going to be really late tonight? I’m not sure you should go.”
“But I can’t be a fan and not go!” Ellen complained, “But it won’t hurt my grades, so there’s nothing to worry about!” She said and I nodded.
“Alright, don’t stay out too late.” I said and she nodded. The bell rang a few moments later and I had to start class. I taught Shakespeare for the rest of the day and when all the students left so did I. I went home and graded more tests for almost 4 hours, but looked up when my cat started jumping on the couch behind me and purring while brushing against my face. I let out a laugh and picked her up, “You hungry, Lulu?” I asked and she purred again. I stood and got her a bowl of food before setting her on the counter next to it. The doorbell rang and I looked up to the clock. It was only a little after 8, so it wasn’t Ash, but who else would be coming by this late at night? I went to the door and opened it to see Kevin, “Kevin? What are you doing here?”
He smiled, “Well you treated me to dinner yesterday so I thought I’d repay you,” He said and then strolled right past me. I watched as he went into my kitchen and petted my cat like he was used to coming here.
“You didn’t need to do that.”
“Well I had fun hanging with you yesterday so I thought we could do it again,” He said and then pulled out a plastic container, “I made fettuccini-alfredo,” He added as I shut my door and came into the kitchen. I pulled out two plates and handed them to Kevin as he put noodles on each plate. I brought them over to the table and then got silver wear and napkins. I poured two glasses of water before sitting down across from Kevin, “What’s your cat’s name?”
“Really? Why’d you name her that?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “She’s technically not my cat. She’s my brother’s. He gave her to me a while back and he had already named her so I just kept it.”
“Why’d your brother not want her?”
“Well he did, but he’s been in a mental institution since I graduated high school. I’ve had her ever since then,” I replied, “But it was very sudden of you to come over, Kevin.”
“Why? Cause you’re going out with some old high school friends tonight?”
I nodded, “And I have to get ready soon.”
“Well don’t mind me; I’m just here to chill so you can go change if you need to.”
“You’re my student so I shouldn’t change while you’re in my house. It’s a little sketchy.”
“It’s fine, teach,” He said and I quietly ate the noodles as time passed. Lulu suddenly sprinted towards the door and the bell rang. I sighed and went to the door. When I opened it Ash smiled.
“Hey, Rave!” He said and then noticed me, “Why are you still in your job clothes? We gotta leave soon.”
I sighed, “Come on in.” I said and Ash did so. He set his guitar case down and picked up my cat.
“Hey, Lulu!” He said as the cat purred while he brushed her, but he suddenly froze when Kevin came over towards us, “Whoa, why is there a kid here?” He asked and then gave me a dirty grin, “Being a naughty school teacher and having a fling with a student?”
I slugged his arm, “Mind your own business, Ash,” I said and then sighed, “Ash, this is my student Kevin. Kevin this is my friend Ash.”
“Your high school friend?”
Ash looked at me again, “How much have you told the kid?”
I frowned, “He was with me when you called yesterday so I told him I was meeting with some high school friends.”
He smiled, “I guess you could call our pack that.”
Kevin suddenly came closer, “You’re a guitarist, right? You look really familiar.”
“I would think so! I am very popular!” Ash said with a laugh, “But not as popular as Rave!”
“Rave?” Kevin asked me.
I sighed, “It’s a nickname for my first name Raven,” I turned to Ash, “Kevin you should go. Ash, I’ll be back in a sec. I’ll change really quickly.” I said and then quickly ran to my room. I put on a purple dress that had black lace all over it. The dress was very short, had a matching pair of sleeves that weren’t connected to the dress itself and were loose after my elbows to give the outfit a very vintage medieval look to it, and went into a choker that went around my throat. I put on my cross necklace, red contacts, and put my hair down in order to put in my red hair extensions. I slipped on a pair of black flowery leggings that were all ripped up before putting on my platform boots. I then quickly came out to see Kevin was gone and Ash was waiting on the couch for me. I smiled as I came over to him, “Alright let’s go.” I said and we quickly left my apartment. We went downstairs to see Dwayne and Sly waiting in the truck with very annoyed looks.
“What took ya’ so long!” Dwayne complained.
I quickly threw my guitar case into the back, “Nothin’, let’s just go.” I said as I shut the door to the passenger seat. Sly drove us to the hottest club in town and we snuck in through the back while a crowd waited in the front for the place to open. When we got in we were told we had ten minutes to set up so we quickly got our stuff out and then met up in the middle of the stage that was concealed by a red curtain.
“I say we do what we did on Sunday except without the solo and open with ‘Death of a Dreamer’.” Sly said and I nodded.
“Alright, you guys ready?” Dwayne asked as we heard the crowd start to chant our name and I smiled.
“Let’s go kick some ass!” I called and we all cheered. We went to our places as I did a sound check. Then a person’s voice came out of the speakers and seemed to be very deep.
“Please welcome to the stage, Released Reality!” The announcer yelled and the curtain rose. I felt the heat of the stage lights as Dwayne started attacking his guitar to make a very deep, terrifying rhythm. Quickly Sly joined into the sound, and soon after Ash followed. For the beginning of the song I did not need my guitar so I pulled on my strap to make it so my guitar was behind me and grabbed the microphone. I started humming to the beat with my eyes closed and as Dwayne’s rhythm seemed to speed up I threw my eyes open. I stared down the crowd.
“Imagining what the world has to offer! Setting his sights on fame! Shooting for the Oscars and to have everyone chant his name! He was a well born dreamer! Imagining his name in lights! But now he’s broken and bleeding upon a deadly sight!” I flipped my guitar to the front and started playing a deep, dastardly beat, “Death of a dreamer! Death of setting sights on high! Death from truth and reality! Death for a lie!” I sang and played on and on for over two hours. When our last song was finally over I was nearly dead with tiredness, but gave ‘goodnight!’ to the crowd and then the curtain fell. I turned to Sly as he put his hand on my arm.
“Damn! You put it all out today! That was amazing!” He said as he gave me a noogie and I coughed, “You okay, Rave?”
I nodded, “My voice just hurts a bit,” I replied and then cleared my throat again, “I should be getting home. I have work in three hours.”
“I’ll drive you home.” Sly said and the four of us left. The three guys dropped me off at my house and I quickly went upstairs. I took a shower and went to sleep for two and a half hours before I had to wake up again. I took some medication for a sore throat before getting dressed in a black suit and pink shirt for school. I drove quickly to the school and went inside to see that the students were already in my class and I only had a few minutes till the second bell would ring. I went to my computer and turned it on with a yawn. I looked up as Ellen came over.
“You okay, Ms. Patrice? You don’t look so good.”
I smiled towards her, “I’m fine Ellen. I just stayed out a little too late with my old high school friends last night.”
She nodded, “I know what you mean! Linda and I were at the concert till 3!” She said but quickly went to her seat as the bell rang. I stood and smiled to the class. I started teaching chemistry but my voice kept going out from how much strain I had put on it yesterday. When lunch came my throat hurt so bad I could not even eat. I sat in class and graded papers and the students in the classroom talked. I looked up when Laura came in.
“Ms. Patrice, could I talk to you in my room for a moment?” She asked and I was afraid of what she needed. Had another fight broken out? I followed her down to the health room.
“What’s wrong, Mrs. Kelly? Did something happen?”
She sighed, “I should be asking you that, Raven. Two of your students came in to tell me they were worried about you. They said your voice kept going out in class and you looked really tired. Are you sick? Did you come down with something?”
I smiled towards her, “I’m fine Laura. I just had one heck of a night yesterday. I went drinking with some old friends and ended up hurting my voice and losing sleep.”
“You really shouldn’t do that kinda stuff, Raven. I mean your students were really worried about you. Maybe you should go home early. It would make them and me feel better.”
“But who will teach my class?”
She smiled, “It’s the perfect time for a health lesson, so I’ll take over. You should just go home and rest.” She said and I sighed.
“Alright.” I replied and she followed me down to my classroom. I packed up my stuff and then left her to tend to them. I went to my car and drove home. When I got there I quickly threw on some pajama pants and a tank top before crashing on the couch and sleeping with Lulu beside me. I slept for a good 7 hours, but woke up when there was a knock at the door. I stood and opened the door to see Kevin, “Kevin?” He made his way past me and to the kitchen. He put something on the stove as I shut the door, “What’s the meaning of barging into my house?” I asked with a cough.
“You’re sick, right?” He asked and I just watched him, “Well I’m here to help out. You shouldn’t be by yourself while sick.”
I sighed, “I’m not alone. I’ve got Lulu.”
He let out a small laugh, “I mean another human here. Just go lay back down and I’ll bring you some soup when it’s warmed back up,” He said and I was too tired to argue. I went over to the couch and snuggled into Lulu as I listened to Kevin moving around the kitchen. After a few minutes he appeared with a bowl of soup and set it in front of me, “This should help.”
“Thanks.” I whispered and then tried to eat some of the soup but it was hard to get down my sandpaper throat.
“When I left your house yesterday I went and saw Released Reality with a group of friends,” Kevin said as he sat on the coffee table in front of the couch, “I knew I recognized that Ash guy from yesterday, but I couldn’t pin point it. He’s the base guitarist for them, isn’t he?”
I looked to Kevin and then nodded, “Yea, that’s Ash.”
“And last night when I was leaving I was curious what kind of relationship you had with that guy so I hid in the bushes on the side of your apartment complex and saw you get in that car. You really do look different in that outfit you had on. You definitely don’t look like the happy school teacher you act as in school. But the guy sitting in the front was Sly, the drummer for Released Reality, and the guy that was sitting in the back is the main guitarist. It didn’t take me long to figure out who you were,” He looked intensely into my eyes, “You’re Rave Life, lead singer and second guitarist of Released Reality.”
I smiled towards him, “Nice work, Sherlock,” I said but then coughed, “You’re the first person to figure it out in a long time.”
“Why do you dress up like a preppy school teacher? You were made to be a gothic rock singer.” He said and I sighed. I set down the bowl of soup beside Kevin.
“In high school the three guys and I made our band, but after my brother was institutionalized I realized I had to take care of my dad. My mom died a while back and my dad has cancer, but I didn’t really have to worry because my brother took care of ‘im. Then in my senior year I realized I couldn’t support my old man by being in a rock band so I went to college. The band stopped playing for almost four years, but when I got a job in this town I decided I could probably be a teacher by day and a singer at night. It’s worked for almost three years now, but lately we have started becoming more and more popular. Soon I’m going to have to choose to either give up my band and stay as a teacher in order to support my dad or give up my job in hopes of becoming famous and hopefully make enough to support ‘im.”
He sighed, “Personally I think you should give up teaching. It’s not the real you what you do at school and it’s not what you love.”
I smiled towards him, “I wish it was that simple,” I whispered, “But it can’t be what’s best for me anymore, I have to do what’s best for my dad.”
“Who cares! Just become famous and then you’ll be able to support ‘im!”
I frowned towards him and sat up, “You’re still living in adolescences if you think like that, Kevin. If I had to make this decision when I was a kid I would’ve stayed with my band hands down, but it’s more than that now! My choice could decide if my dad lives or dies!” I sighed and then lay back down, “You need to leave, Kevin.” I ordered and he frowned as he left with a slam of the door as I let out a big sigh.
Two weeks later, it was now the last week of school. When I went into my class I could feel the excitement of how close these students were to being seniors. All time before class started was now consumed with the exchanging of year books in order to write little notes to each other. On Thursday I put out the last section of the final test before the students came in. When the second bell rang I smiled towards the group, “Now I know how excited you guys are since today is the last day, but give it your best on this test,” I said and then let them start the test. Today was only a half day because all they had left to do was finish the test and then they were free for summer vacation but we technically had to keep them at school so there was a special assembly for the rest of the day. As they took their tests I filled out my resignation forms, but looked up when I realized it was almost time to go. I looked to the class to see them all eagerly either looking at each other or looking to the clock, “Is anyone still taking their tests?” I asked and no one answered. I then went around and took each test from everyone before coming back up to the front of the room, “Well guys, it was great having you in my class this year and I hope you guys have a great summer break. I also hope you guys enjoy the assembly today.”
Laura raised her hand and I nodded towards her, “The seniors said for their junior assembly last year they had Cold Play come perform, is someone going to perform today?”
I nodded to her with a smile, “Yes, a band will be performing.”
I let out a small laugh, “It’s a surprise so I can’t tell you! Just come to the assembly after lunch and you’ll be surprised.” I said and she pouted but did not complain. The bell rang and they all quickly left the room. I made my way out of the room also but was stopped when I saw Mrs. Kelly, “Mrs. Kelly, has the band arrived yet?” I asked and she nodded with flushed cheeks.
“I can’t believe you get them to come here, Raven! I love that band, but where is their lead singer?”
I smiled, “She’s going to arrive late,” I replied, “But where are the guys at?”
“They’re in the health room in order to keep away from the students so they stay a surprise.”
“Alright, I’ll go talk to them.” I said and then went to the health room. I knocked on the door.
“Yea?” Dwayne asked.
“Guys, let me in!” I complained and the door was quickly opened. I rushed in and then locked the door behind me. I went over to the windows and pulled the curtains over them, “Thanks for doing this again, guys.” I said with a smile.
Sly smiled back, “It’s cool to finally see where you work,” He replied and then handed me a bag, “There’s your clothes.” I put on my (now famous) purple dress from the gig two weeks ago, my red contacts, red hair extensions, cross necklace, flower leggings that were torn up, and platform boots. This is the outfit I wore for our first album that had been made last week and now seemed to be my fan’s favorite dress. I turned to the guys, “So do I look like a teacher?” I asked but was confused when Ash walked behind me.
He slapped my butt, “No, cause it would be a crime for a teacher to have such a hot ass!”
“Jerk!” I hissed, but then looked to the door as there was a knock on it, “Yea?” I asked and heard someone clear their throat.
“Um, this is the nurse of the school, could I come in?” I heard Laura ask with a shaky voice and I let out a quiet laugh before opening the door and quickly pulling her into the room. She blushed as she looked to the three guys, “Uh, where is Ms. Patrice?” She asked and I looked to the guys before we all busted out laughing.
I finally collected myself, “Hm, I’m not sure! But she is some kind of pretty!” I said and the three guys couldn’t control their laughter. They were on the ground laughing at the joke.
“What’s so funny?” Laura asked as she blushed more. Sly finally got himself under control and then came over to her.
“She’s right there!” He said as he pointed to me and then busted out laughing. Laura turned to me and I slipped on my glassed and pulled my hair back to prove myself. She squealed and then hugged me.
“Omigosh! You’re Rave!”
I let out a laugh, “I know!”
“Omigosh! I can’t believe this! I’m friends with the lead singer of Released Reality!” She squealed and I laughed again.
“Calm down, Laura!” I laughed, “Is it time for us to go?”
She nodded, “The principal has already started the assembly and is ready for you guys! The drums are already set up and the microphones are in place.”
I turned to the guys, “Let’s go kick some ass!” I said and they cheered in agreement. Laura walked in front of us to the assembly and when she opened the door we walked in. I waved to bleachers of screaming juniors as the four of us walked towards the center of the room. I smiled kindly towards the principal and then shook his hand.
“It’s an honor to have you here!” He said with a smile and I nodded. He took the front microphone in his hand and turned towards the bleachers, “Let’s give a big welcome to Released Reality!” He called and I took the microphone. I pulled on my guitar strap so that my guitar went to my back and then took the microphone in my hand.
“Good afternoon, Neligh Academy! How’s everybody doin’?” I asked and then whole grouped screamed. I let out a laugh, “Good! Now let’s start this up!” I called and then looked to Dwayne. He started his melody of death, then Sly joined, and lastly Ash joined in. I pulled closer to the microphone and closed my eyes. I listened to the beat and when it got faster I opened my eyes and stared down the group, “Imagining what the world has to offer! Setting his sights on fame! Shooting for the Oscars and to have everyone chant his name! He was a well born dreamer! Imagining his name in lights! But now he’s broken and bleeding upon a deadly sight!” I flipped my guitar to the front and started playing my deep melody of agony, “Death of a dreamer! Death of setting sights on high! Death from truth and reality! Death for a lie!” I sang and kept on for three more songs. I then pulled away from my guitar as the last song was supposed to become saddening. I pulled the microphone closer again, “This was her reality; this was the truth. She was death brought to life with everything as proof.” I whispered and then moved away from the microphone. The three guys all stopped playing on my last word and we listened for a moment. The juniors cheered and stood with applause. The principal came over.
“Another hand for Released Reality!” He called and the crowd cheered louder, “The band has been kind enough to give us an hour to let you get their autographs so please make a line and do not crowd them!” I smiled as a large group formed around me begging for autographs. I signed my name as fast as I could for almost the entire hour, but when the hour was up I went over to the guys.
“They were like leaches to you.” Ash mumbled and I smiled.
“Jealous?” I asked and he frowned.
“Keep dreaming!” He hissed and I laughed, but turned when I felt someone watching me. I smiled towards Ellen and Linda.
“Hey there.”I said nicely.
“Could we take a picture with you, please?” They asked and I smiled before nodding. I took the camera and handed it to Ash.
“Make yourself useful?” I asked and he sighed before taking the camera. He held it up as I stood a good distance away as the two girls put their arms around me.
“1…2…3,” Ash said and then brought the camera over to the girls. I smiled towards them again.
“Are you girls by any chance Linda and Ellen?”
“Omigosh! How do you know our names?” Ellen squealed.
“Well Ms. Patrice told me that you two were some of my biggest fans and that I should do something for you,” I pulled two CD’s out of my pocket on the side of my guitar case on the floor by my foot and handed them to the girls, “This is our first CD. It’s not coming out for another month, but I thought my two biggest fans would want to have it in advance.” The girls squealed as they took the CD’s and then hugged me before running off. I turned as Dwayne put his hand on my shoulder.
“You know those two?”
I nodded, “They were my students this year and all they could talk about was Rave Life and Released Reality so I thought I’d do something nice for them,” I whispered, “I think I’m gonna miss those two girls the most.”
Dwayne hugged me from behind, “It’ll be alright, Rave.” He whispered and I put my hand on his arm.
“Yea,” I whispered but then looked to Kevin as he came over to us, “Hey Kevin, I’d like you to meet the crew,” I said as Dwayne let go of me, “This is Dwayne, Ash, and Sly.”
“It’s nice to meet you guys.” Kevin replied.
“Oh! You’re the kid from Rave’s place!” Ash said as he came over to us. He lightly slapped Kevin’s arm, “How’s it hangin’ dude?”
“Becoming a senior must be fun.” Sly added as he came over to us and I smiled towards Sly.
“Sly, this is the guy I was tellin’ you about that reminded me a lot of you.”
Sly let out a laugh, “Too bad you didn’t break that guy’s ribs, kid. That would’ve definitely stopped the bullying.”
“Did you really break the lacrosse captain’s nose?” Kevin asked and Dwayne laughed.
“He definitely did!”
“What’re you talking about Dwayne? You weren’t even there!” I argued and Dwayne smiled.
“But I saw the dude afterwards!”
I looked to the clock in the auditorium and quickly froze, “Ah, crap! I gotta go!” I said as I quickly picked up my guitar case. I went to my car and drove over to the mental hospital on the opposite side of town. When I went in I smiled towards the nurse at the front desk, “Hi, I’m here to see Evan Patrice. I’m his younger sister.” I said and the girl nodded. She then led me down a hall and stopped me in front of a door with a concerned look.
“Mr. Patrice has been having difficulties for the past few days, so please try not to anger him. He lashed out at a nurse last week.” She informed me and I nodded before knocking on the door.
“Evan, it’s Raven. I’m coming in,” I said before opening the door and then quickly closing it behind me. I smiled towards my older brother of black hair and brown eyes. He was sitting in the middle of the floor of his room staring at the wall behind me, “Evan, why are you sitting on the floor? Wouldn’t the bed be more comfortable?”
He looked up to me in a dazed look, “Oh, Raven. You were coming by today?” He asked and I nodded before sitting on the ground in front of him, “Why are your eyes red?”
I smiled, “They’re colored contacts, that’s all.”
He gave me a blank expression, “You haven’t been back in almost a month. I thought you forgot me.”
I let out a sigh, “I could never forget about my big brother. I’m sorry I haven’t come much lately, but I had to work.”
“Mom used to do that too. She would leave early and then come home really late.”
I nodded, “I remember.”
He suddenly frowned, “Don’t act like you know what you’re talking about Raven! You barely even met her!”
I was taken back, “No, I just mean I remember dad telling me about mom doing that.”
He suddenly stood with fury, “Don’t talk about him! He hasn’t come to see me at all! He stuck me in this hell filled place and never came back!”
I quickly stood, “Evan, calm down!” I pleaded, “Dad cares about you dearly, but he is too sick to come see you!”
He suddenly took a step back, “You’re going to do the same, aren’t you? You’re going to get my hopes up and then suddenly you’ll stop showing up all together! All of you are just going to leave me here to die! You’ll leave me too!” He hollered as he put his hands over his ears, “You’re just like them! You’ll never come back! You’ll leave me alone too!”
“Evan…” I started to protest but gasped when Evan scratched me across the face. I fell to the ground as he pushed down my arms by squeezing the top part near my shoulder. He pierced my skin with his nails as he cried above me.
“I won’t let you! I won’t let you leave too!” He hollered at the top of his lungs.
“Nurse!” I called as loud as I could and was shocked how quickly two male nurses came in with the nurse from before. The two men pulled Evan off of me as he fought back. I watched in horror as they strapped down his arms and legs as he screamed. Then the woman nurse shoved a needle into his arm and pushed in the liquid. Evan screamed as loud as he could before slumping to his side. The woman nurse let out a long breath before looking to me.
“That will calm him down so that he can’t hurt himself again,” She said but then quickly kneeled at my side as I sat up, “Ms. Patrice, you need to go to the hospital.” She informed me as she looked at my cuts across my cheek that burned. I sighed and then allowed her to help me up. I was taken away by an ambulance and brought to the regular hospital before receiving five stitches in my cheek. I was then given a lift by one of the nurses to the mental hospital so that I could get my car. By this time it was really late at night so I went straight home. I could not eat to save my life because of the horrifying feeling I had in my gut, so after she ate I cuddled up with Lulu and went to sleep. I woke up at around three with unbearable pain in my cheek. I took two pills that the doctor at the hospital had given me before going back to sleep and not waking back up till noon. I went to my kitchen and still felt like I couldn’t eat so I picked up the phone and dialed Sly’s number.
“Rave?” He asked and I let out a sigh.
“Hey Sly, I have some not so great news.”
“What is it?”
I took a deep breath, “I don’t think I can go on the tour for the next year. I’m really sorry, but maybe you can find a new singer so that the band can still go on tour.”
“Did something happen?”
I sighed again, “Nah, I just can’t. Sorry. I’ll talk to ya’ later.” I whispered before hanging up the phone and lying on my couch. I put a pillow under my head before taking out a book I had been reading and started back up again. I did not get up till almost seven when there was a knock at the door. I went over to the door but was afraid to open it. My face was now bruising and looked horrible, “Yea?” I asked the door.
“Teach, it’s Kevin. Can I come in?” He asked and I sighed.
“I’d really not like to talk right now, Kevin. Sorry.”
“Come on, Rave! Let us in!” Dwayne called and I was shocked.
He let out a laugh, “Yea, all of us are here! We were worried about your sudden drop out on the tour and so we called Kevin since he said he was close to you. He was worried too so we decided to come over!”
I let out a sigh, “Guys, I can’t.”
“You’re really worrying me, Rave. Please open the door.” Sly said and I bit my lip. I opened the door and all four guys froze as they saw me. I put my hand over the bandage that covered my cheek and part of my bruise.
“I know it looks like hell, so don’t stare,” I whispered, “Come on in. I’d rather not show the whole world my bruised face.” I added and the guy’s quickly came into the room. I shut the door and Sly put his hand over the bandage.
“Who did that to ya’ Rave?” He asked with anger, “I’ll kick their ass!”
I sighed and shook my head, “It was my fault,” I replied, “When I went to see Evan yesterday I was told not to upset him, but I ended doing just that and he attacked me.”
“Evan did this?”
I looked away, “I scared him by not coming a few weeks ago. He is very dependent that I come every last Friday of every month, but last month one of my students needed help on a project so I went to help the student instead of seeing Evan. He was afraid I would be like my mom.”
“But you shouldn’t drop out of the tour!” Ash complained.
I squeezed my arms against my chest, “He’s afraid I’ll stop coming to see him and if I go on this tour that is exactly what will happen. If I leave, Evan will lose all connection to our family and the outside world and he may go crazy,” I looked to Lulu as she brushed against my leg, “Evan’s really struggling with our family problems lately so I don’t want to give him more to worry about.”
“What family problems?” Kevin asked as I looked to Dwayne and Sly for support.
Dwayne sighed, “Rave’s mom got up n’ left their family when Rave was only three.”
Sly nodded, “And then her oldest brother ditched ‘em too, during our junior year of high school, right before Rave’s dad went into the hospital and then Evan went to the mental institution 6 months later.”
I nodded, “All Evan has left is me and Lulu. I can’t just get up and leave him like mom and bro did,” I sighed, “I really want to go with you guys, but I have to put Evan before the band. I’m sorry.”
Ash sighed, “We can understand why you’re doin’ it,” He replied and then came over to me, “Now we know how Evan’s doin’ but how are you? Being attacked by your brother must’ve been difficult on ya’.”
I smiled slightly, “I’m alright. I just wish I hadn’t had to see them sedate Evan.”
He hugged me, “You’re so goddamn brave!” He whispered but then looked to my face, “Did you have to get stitches?”
I nodded, “Five of ‘em,” My mind suddenly trailed off and I quickly moved from Ash’s grasp. I quickly went to the kitchen and picked up the paper I had written on earlier before coming back. I handed it to Ash and he looked to me with confusion, “There are four girls on that list and two guys. They all have worked with me before and have asked to become part of the band. I think you guys should look ‘em up for my replacement.”
“I don’t feel right going on tour without you, Rave,” Ash whispered as he looked to the floor, “I don’t want to play if you’re not singing and playing with me.”
I put my hand on his cheek, “You’re really good at the base, Ash. You should pursue your dream of being famous.”
He grabbed my hand from his cheek and held it between his hands, “I want to become famous with our band, Rave! I want you, Sly, Dwayne, and me to become famous playing together! Otherwise I don’t want anything to do with the base!”
I looked to Kevin, “As a fan, would you be okay with Ash not playing ever again?”
Kevin looked to me with intensity, “I wouldn’t like it, but if it was to convince you that this band needs you, I’d back ‘im up.”
I sighed, “Guys, you need to leave.”
“Why?” Sly asked me with concern.
“Cause I gotta go.”
I sighed, “I’m going to see my dad. I got a call a week ago saying he was put on life support and will not last long.”
“We’ll go with you.”
I shook my head, “No, I need to do this alone. I need to say my goodbyes and I can’t do that while you guys are there. I don’t want any of you to see me cry,” I picked up Lulu and kissed her before setting her down. I grabbed my coat and keys that were on the counter before going to the door. I turned back to the guys, “Unless you wanna be locked in, come on,” I whispered and they all slowly left the apartment. I quickly left them and went to my car. I drove to the hospital and went to the front desk, “I’m here to see William Patrice.” I said to the front nurse.
“Follow me,” She replied and then led me down the hall to the right of the front desk. We stopped at a room and I was let in, “I shall inform the doctor that you are here, Miss Patrice.” She said with a sad smile and then left the room. I went over to the side of my dad’s bed and sat down in a chair placed there. I held his hand in mine as I watched the machine he was hooked up to blink colors and make noises. I turned when the doctor came in but did not let go of my dad’s hand. The doctor came to my side and just watched me.
“I was surprised when you did not come when he was hooked up to this machine, Raven,” The familiar man said with a sad smile, “Are you just here to visit?” He was now so much more mature. We had grown up as next door neighbors and still felt very close to each other regardless of how little we had talked since he graduated a year before me.
I shook my head, “You told me that he does not have much time to live, right?”
He nodded, “He will most likely not last the rest of the month.”
I looked to my dad’s face, “Turn it off.”
“What?” The doctor asked with tension in his voice.
I turned to him, “Turn off the life support. He would not want this. He did not allow my grandmother on life support so I will respect his beliefs and decisions. Keeping him alive just so I could feel better and would not have to finally say goodbye is childish. Turn it off and let him pass away peacefully with me here to watch.”
“Are you sure about this Raven?” He asked and I nodded. He sighed and went to the other side of the bed, “Last chance to back out.” He informed me and I looked to my dad.
“I know.” I whispered and he flipped the switch. A deep groan came from the machine as I felt my father’s muscles loosen and then they became limp. I put my head down on the bed and started crying as the doctor came over to me. He touched my shoulder and I quickly stood. He embraced me as I cried and shook.
“It’s going to be okay, Raven. I’m here.” He whispered soothingly as I cried harder. I cried on his shoulder for a long span of time before lifting away and he sighed, “You should go. It will be hard to be near this right now.” He whispered and I nodded.
“But I can’t drive like this, Chris.” I whispered in a hiccup of tears.
“I’ll drive you,” He whispered and then hugged me again, “I’ll stay with you until you are feeling better.” He added and then took my hand in his. He led me to his black Toyota and then quickly drove me home.
I woke up in Chris’s arms and remembered last night. He offered to sleep on the couch but when I came in and told him I was too upset to sleep he came into my room and embraced me. He whispered sweet, gentle words about how my life would get better soon to try to get me to sleep and I guess he ended up sleeping too. I slowly lifted from his embrace but stopped when his eyes flew open, “Morning.” I whispered and he smiled.
“Feeling any better?”
I sighed, “Somewhat,” I replied, “Do you want some coffee?”
“Sure,” He replied and then followed me out of the bedroom. I went to the kitchen as he sat on my couch, “Good morning, Lulu,” He praised the cat as she purred. I brought him a cup of coffee while holding onto my own cup. He smiled to me as he accepted it, “We haven’t talked in a few months, Raven,” He informed me and I nodded as I sat on the other side of Lulu who sat next to him, “So can I ask about the face wound? Is it new?”
I looked to Lulu and brushed her, “It happened yesterday.”
“Who gave it to you? One of your students or one of your band mates?”
I shook my head, “Evan gave it to me when I made him mad.”
“What made him so mad that he attacked you? He hasn’t attacked you since he was put in the hospital.”
“He was upset because I had not seen him in a while and he was afraid I was going to turn out like my brother or mom and was going to leave him,” I whispered, “And I guess he’ll think the same thing about our dad too, now that he has left us also.”
“But he didn’t choose to leave like your mom and brother.”
I sighed, “Evan won’t understand. Lately he has gotten so bad he actually forgot who his doctor was.”
“Seems as if god will not give you a break.”
I nodded, “I must’ve really pissed ‘im off,” I said with a slight smile, “but I still have my friends.”
He nodded, “You will always have me and Lulu.”
I broadened the smile, “I know and I can never thank you enough for staying at my side.”
“I never want to leave your side, Raven.” He whispered but I looked up when there was a knock at the door. I stood and went to the door to see Kevin.
“Kevin? What are you doing here?” I asked and he smiled.
“I thought I’d come see how you were. Besides, the other guys are worried and they want a full report on how you’re holding up since they can’t come see you while they have to be at work.”
I sighed, “I’m fine, Kevin. You should go home.”
“Come on teach, let me in.” He said with a childish smile and I sighed as I opened the door wider. He quickly came in and knelt down to pet Lulu as she came over to him, “Hey Lulu!” He called as he picked up the cat, but then froze as he saw Chris, “Who’re you? I’ve never seen you before.”
I came over to Kevin and lightly hit his shoulder, “That’s not the way to greet someone, Kevin. Geez.”
“Oh? Is this one of your students or is it a fan, Raven?” Chris said as he stood. He came over to Kevin and shook his hand, “I’m Christopher Hayes. I was Raven’s neighbor, childhood friend, and the doctor that was watching over her father.”
“I’m Kevin Rig, one of Rave’s students and a fan.”
Chris smiled towards me, “You must be very kind to your students if they come to check on you all the time.”
I sighed, “He’s more of the band’s lackey that comes to do stuff the guys can’t. He was asked to come over by Ash.”
“Ah, yes,” Chris replied, “Ash was one of the boys that’s in your band now and went to our school. Wasn’t he a year younger than you and the others in the band?”
I nodded, “That’s him.”
Chris smiled, “Is he still madly in love with you like he was in high school? Wasn’t he the one who always followed you to and from school and called you constantly?”
I let out a laugh, “Yea, but he’s mellowed out a bit.”
“You always seem to attract the hearts of every man you encounter, but it is probably much worse now that you are wearing society’s definition of ‘normal clothes’.”
I sighed, “It wasn’t all that bad, but once the band started making the first album it got worse.”
He nodded, “Yes, but I can understand why. When you gave me the CD of you guys practicing I was in awe,” He put his hand on my shoulder, “But don’t think for one moment that I didn’t notice who that song ‘Up and Gone’ was talking about.”
“Who’s it written about?” Kevin asked as he looked to me.
“It is about what Raven went through when her brother got up and left her, right?” Chris asked me.
I nodded, “You know me too well,” I whispered but then turned to Kevin, “Did Ash say if he had contacted those singers I had told him about?”
He shook his head, “And I don’t think he will ever call them.”
“What do you mean?”
He sighed, “None of the guys will call them, teach, and I wouldn’t if I was them either.”
I frowned, “So you want Released Reality to just stop making music? Is that what you’re saying?”
“You’re band is breaking up?” Chris asked as he put his hand on my shoulder again, “Why would you stop your band? That is all you want to do in life, isn’t it?”
I sighed, “The band isn’t breaking up, I’m just leaving.”
“Why?” Chris asked as I looked away.
“The band is going on a year world tour soon and teach can’t go cause she doesn’t want to leave her brother,” Kevin replied, “But the rest of the band doesn’t wanna play music if she’s not singing.”
Chris sighed, “Evan would not want to stand between you and your dream, Raven. When we used to be best friends all he would talk about was how your band would someday become famous and you would get the life he always wanted for you.”
I pulled away from Chris, “But that was then, and this is now. Eli was still here and so was dad. Now both are gone and never coming back and have caused him to become a completely different person. He needs me here with him, no matter how much I want to go. He raised me and gave up private school in order to stay with me so I owe him this much.”
“I’m sure if you explained the situation to him he would understand. No matter how messed up he is, he’s still your brother and still wants the best for you.”
“So attacking me is what he thinks is best for me?” I asked in a hiss, “He’s nothing like he used to be! He doesn’t even remember who you are!”
“It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t remember me, Raven, it matters if he still cares about you.” Chris whispered and I had to look away because I wished it were that simple. I wish I could go with my band and not anger Evan, but that could never happen.
Four days later I went to visit Evan before my dad’s funeral was going to happen. When I got there Evan was sleeping but his eyes opened as the door was unlocked. He looked to me and gave me a kind smile that hurt, “You’re here, Raven!” He said with warmth, but suddenly froze, “Who hurt you? Is it one of those guys in your band? I’ll kill whoever did that to you!” I put my hand over the four small lines on my cheek and smiled towards him.
“Oh, no. I was scratched by my friend’s cat. He didn’t mean to hurt me and it’s not that bad,” I whispered as I came to his side. I sat in the chair next to his bed, “So how are you feeling?”
He sighed, “Well the doctor here has decided that I have a split personality because I can’t remember the past week,” His face suddenly whitened, “Did you by chance come last week? Cause one of the nurses said I was very violent towards anyone who came near me, but I cannot remember.”
I smiled and shook my head, “No, but I was informed that you were not having a good week.”
He let out a sigh of relief, “Good, of all people, I would not want to hurt my precious sister.”
I felt a strain on my heart, “Well I need to get going. I have a meeting and just wanted to stop by before I went.”
He nodded, “Have a good meeting, Raven,” He took my hand in his and pulled me to his face. He kissed my forehead and then hugged me, “I love you.” He whispered and then let go. I smiled before leaving the room quickly. I ran to my car and cried for about 30 minutes. I then made my way to my father’s funeral at the church he used to go to. When I walked in I saw a lot of familiar family and friend’s faces. Many people came up and greeted me before telling me they were sorry for my loss. I thanked each of them before excusing myself. When I finally got to the front of the church I saw my father in his open casket. The pale face I had come to know stung me and the guilt that Evan was not at my side ached in the back of my mind. I looked up when a hand was set on my shoulder and nearly froze. My heart tried to jump out of my mouth as I gulped it back down before turning fully to the man. His black hair and brown eyes seared my soul and heart at the same time in a nauseating pain.
“Never thought I’d see you again,” I hissed as I crossed my arms over my chest and held myself tightly, “What do you want? Money? Cause the old man can’t give it to you anymore and Evan and I don’t have any.”
“Is that any way to treat your older brother?” He asked as his hand squeezed my shoulder and my body flinched, “I know you have missed me terribly so don’t try to deny it.”
I quickly shoved his hand from me as I tried to stop my speeding heart, “I certainly did not miss you, Eli,” I hissed, “Why would I miss someone who wanted to leave me? That would be as foolish as missing mom being here for this, which could not happen. She chose to leave us, and so did you. There’s no difference,” I looked to my father’s face, “And you left him right as he started becoming sick. I don’t miss you, I hate you. You caused the rest of us so much pain. I had to watch you hurt dad and Evan but having you back with us would be worse.”
I bit my lip, “Life is harsh.”
He nodded, “So how is my little brother? I have not seen him here. I should say hello to him too.”
I whipped around and grabbed Eli’s blazer in my hand, “Don’t go anywhere near Evan, you ass hole,” I hissed under my breath so no one would look to see me almost strangling my brother, “If you go anywhere near him I will never forgive you!”
He smiled towards me, “Do you care about him that much, Raven? He’s uneducated and naïve.”
I pushed him away, “Shut up. You have no idea about us and you have no right to say anything.”
“I may not know a lot about Evan, but I have a pretty good idea about you, Raven,” He smiled in an evil way, “You killed dad, didn’t you? You let him die.”
I looked away from him as I heard my name. I smiled towards Chris as he came over and kissed my cheek, “How ya’ doin’?” He asked but then stared at my brother, “Oh, Elijah. I did not recognize you. How long has it been? Five years?”
Eli frowned towards Chris and stared at Chris’s arm that went around my hips, “Not long enough, obviously,” He hissed, “So you’re still hung up on my sister?”
Chris frowned, “What if I am? How does that have anything to do with a deserter like you?”
“You have no idea what you’re talkin’ ‘bout doc.”
Chris’s arm tightened around me, “While you’ve been gone I have stayed with your two siblings so I certainly do know what I’m talkin’ about. The question is if you do.”
Eli made a move towards Chris, “Stay outta this, Chris.”
I took a few steps away from the two men, who froze when I did, to pick up my neighbor’s child as she ran to me, “Raven!” She hollered as I picked her up. I kissed the girl’s cheek as she hugged me. I looked to the single father as he gave me a shy, sad smile.
“How are you holding up, Raven?” He asked as he took my hand in his and I sighed.
“Lily was determined to come see you when I found out, but I thought you might need some time without an annoying little child attached to you so I forced her not to go over to your apartment.”
I squeezed the little girl to me, “How could I ever be annoyed with Lily?”
“Raven, where’s Evan? I want to see him too!”
I sighed, “I didn’t think it was a good idea if he came.”
“I’m sure he would be very upset if he was told, but my sister said he has been having troubles with anger lately and lashed out at you,” He touched my cheek, “I can’t believe he did that. For the five years we’ve known you and Evan he has never become this bad.”
“Excuse me, why does your sister know Evan?” Eli asked.
“She works at the hospital he is stationed at,” Frank replied, “But how did you know Raven’s father?”
Eli smiled, “I am his eldest son.”
Frank looked to me, “You never mentioned you had an older brother, Raven. I thought it had just been you, your father, and Evan since you were young.”
I nodded, “Frank, let me introduce you to Christopher Hayes. He is Evan’s best friend, our childhood neighbor, and was my father’s doctor. Chris, this is Frank Howard. He and his daughter Lily live in the apartment next to me.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Chris said as he shook Frank’s hand.
“Same.” Frank replied but then took Lily from me, “Well we should go.” He whispered and then took Lily away with him. I looked to the priest as he announced we would now be going to burry my dad. I followed the priest as the crowd followed me to the large hole made in the earth. I watched as my father was buried but all I could think about was Evan. A few minutes into the service Chris put his hand on my shoulder and I looked to him.
“You can cry, you know.”
I sighed, “I don’t need to.”
“Then why do you look so sad?”
I squeezed his hand that was on my shoulder, “Did I make a mistake not bringing Evan with me?”
He sighed, “I can’t say if it is right or not. He is not the man he used to be so I’m not sure.”
I looked away from him, “He told me he hated our father so I thought it would be best if he did not come, but now that I’m here without him I feel like I was wrong.”
“Will you tell him?”
I shook my head, “He shouldn’t know.”
“Will you tell him about your feelings towards your band?”
“No, he has enough to worry about. I don’t want to add.”
He hugged me from behind, “Well I’m here for you in his place. I know if he was himself right now he would be here at your side watching and protecting you.”
I leaned back on him, “I know,” I whispered, “Thanks.” We were quiet for the rest of the funeral and did not move even after the crowd had left. All that was left was Chris, Eli, and me. I looked to my purse as it vibrated and took out my phone, “Hello?”
“Hey Rave! So do ya’ want us to pick you up or will you meet us there?” Sly asked and I snapped back into reality.
“Um, when does the concert start?”
“In an hour.”
“Then I’ll meet ya’ guys there. I’m still at school so I won’t get home in time to catch a ride with you.”
“Okay, see ya’ there.” Sly said and I hung up. I pulled from Chris and he let go.
“I gotta get goin’.”
“Do you have a concert tonight?”
I nodded, “It’s my last. I’m announcing that I am leaving the band at the concert tonight.”
“But you still have time before the band leaves. Why stop right now?”
I sighed, “Its better I don’t attach myself even further with the band and the fans,” I whispered but then kissed his cheek, “I’ll see ya’ around Chris.” I added before walking to my car. I went home and quickly changed into my purple dress, my red contacts, red hair extensions, cross necklace, flower leggings that were torn up, and platform boots. I quickly drove to the gig and was allowed in by security into the back. I went to the stage and saw the guys sitting and talking, but they stopped when I walked up. I smiled slightly towards them and then went over to their huddle with my guitar on my back, “Ready to kick some ass?” I asked with a strained voice.
“Let’s do it.” Dwayne replied and I nodded. I got positioned before the announcer opened the curtains and told the crowd that we were here. When the crowd cheered I felt myself crumbling inside. This was the last time I would ever be Rave Life, the lead singer of Released Reality. This was the last time I would hear the crowd cheer, the last time I would sing, and the last time I would play my guitar. I smiled towards the crowd as they quieted down.
“Thank you all for comin’ out tonight!” I called and they cheered. When they calmed down I let out a breath, “For this being my last concert as the lead singer of Released Reality we want to give you the best concert we ever have!” I called and before anyone could comply with my announcement I looked to Dwayne who looked away from me with sadness and quickly started playing. Once it was my turn I sang and played with all my heart to the crowd. They seemed to react to my voice even more than usual and I felt as though I would break down if I stopped singing. When the last song was over I waited for the curtains to close before I dropped down to the ground and burst into tears. Ash quickly came to me and embraced me. I could not stop myself from hugging him back and crying harder. I did not look up until I felt a very terrifying man nearby and sure enough my brother walked over to me.
“You have improved a lot since we were children at singing. I was almost captivated by your voice,” He stared at Ash, “Evan wants to talk to you. I told him everything and he wants to talk to you now.”
I quickly pulled from Ash and ran over to Eli. I grabbed his shirt and pulled up, “I told you not to go anywhere near Evan!” I hissed, “Do you hate me so much that you have to ruin everything even if it does not concern you?”
He smiled, “If you quit this band you will marry Chris, right? Or will you choose one of these hooligans to tie you down? Either way you will marry and I cannot have that happen.”
I shoved him away, “Never come in my sight again, Eli! Or I swear I will kill you!”
He let out a laugh, “Haven’t you already killed enough people by existing? First you kill Evan so that he is a mental basket case and now you’ve killed dad. Are you gonna add me to the list?”
I looked to a security guard, “Security! Remove this man!” I hissed and the large man quickly came over. Eli threw his hands over his head to show he was surrendering.
“Don’t bother, I’m leaving,” He said and then took a few steps away before turning back to me, “See ya’ around sis.” He added before leaving the area. I quickly went to my car before the guys could ask me anything and drove over to the hospital. When I came in the nurse gave me a concerned look.
“Miss Patrice, you should not see your brother right now. He had to be sedated a few moments ago because he tried to attack his doctor and a nurse.”
I sighed, “Alright, well can I please speak with the doctor?”
She nodded, “Of course. I will go get him. Please have a seat and I will bring him to you shortly.” She left and came back a few moments later with the dark haired, dark skinned doctor.
“How may I help you, Miss Patrice?”
“I want to transfer Evan.”
“Is there any reason?”
I nodded, “I will be moving and as his caretaker I need to move him closer to where I am going.”
“Alright, well I will get the forms ready and call you when they are done. When will you be moving?”
“As soon as possible.” I whispered before getting up and leaving. I went to my apartment and quickly fell asleep after throwing my cloths, contacts, and hair extensions in the trash.
I woke up and immediately made my way to the high school I used to work at. The principal greeted me kindly and then led me into his office, “I was surprised to hear from you, Miss Patrice.”
I sighed, “Well, sir, I was wondering if you could possibly help me receive a teaching job near Dallas. I want to move closer to my brother that is very ill.”
“I’m sure I can.” He said and then picked up a phone. By lunch he had already gotten me a job in Coppell, Texas at the high school. When I left the school I already had the job waiting for me at the end of the summer. I went back home in order to call a moving company and fed Lulu. A week later I put the last box outside of my door and looked back into the empty apartment. I sighed before picking up the crate that held Lulu and turned to the movers. They picked up the last box I had just set down as I brought Lulu to my car. I drove to the animal shelter and dropped her off before heading to the airport. I looked to my phone as it rang and quickly threw it in the next trash can I passed before going to my flight.
I smiled as Olivia watched the TV in the top left corner of the teacher’s lounge. Her face flushed and her eyes brightened as music filled my ears. The familiar lovely lullaby I had created now was sung by a woman with red hair and green eyes. Olivia turned to me with a smile, “Isn’t that drummer hot!” She squealed as the camera panned over to Sly.
I let out a laugh, “You’re obsessed aren’t ya’ Olivia?” I asked and she smiled with a blush.
“You can’t tell me he isn’t cute!”
I nodded, “You have a point there, but we’re teachers Olivia. How would it look if a drummer of the hottest band in America was dating an English teacher?”
She pouted, “Like you’ve got room to talk!” She complained and I smiled back to her. She squeezed my hands in hers, “I can’t wait for tonight! I can’t believe Austin scored us these tickets!”
“Well he is the co-coach for the cowboys, so he can get a lot of things most can’t.”
She gave me an evil smile, “Not to mention he’s obsessed with you and spends loads of money in order to get you tickets for your favorite band!”
I let out another laugh, “I’m lucky, I guess.”
That night I met Austin and Olivia at the concert arena where Released Reality was performing. Austin kissed my cheek before we went inside and found our great seats. The entire concert I felt my heart ache but heal all at once. I looked to Austin when he grabbed my arm as I started to get up when the concert was over, “I have a surprise for you two,” He said as he took my hand in his. We followed Austin back stage but I suddenly realized what was going on. Yet, it was too late to turn back. The group of four turned to us with smiles as I wrapped myself around Austin’s arm, “I thought a VIP chat with the band would please you.” He said with a smile towards me.
Olivia squealed, “Omigosh, Ray! You need to marry the guy already!” she joked before turning to the group, “I’m Olivia!”
Ash shook her hand first, “it’s nice to meet ya’.”
“Nicky, this is the girl I was telling you about. This is Ray.” Austin said as he looked to the red haired, green eyed girl.
She smiled towards me, “I’ve heard a lot about you from my friend here! I also know you’re a true die-hard fan!”
I let out a laugh as I slowly let go of Austin, “You could call it that,” I said but looked to Ash as he stared at me, “I’m Ray Patrice. It’s nice to meet all of you.”
“Patrice? That’s your last name?”
I nodded but Austin let out a laugh, “And she could give you a run for your money, Nicky. She’s got a voice as good as yours!”
I looked to him, “Geez, Austin. Don’t embarrass me!”
He smiled, “But I’ve heard you sing the national anthem at your school football games and you’re great!”
I blushed, “I really am not as good as he says I am.”
“But Austin sent me a tape of your singing and you are good. Your singing reminds me a lot of another girl with Patrice as her last name. Are you by chance related to Raven Patrice?”
I shook my head, “I don’t think so.”
“Really? Because you look a lot like Raven when she had her hair cut short in elementary school,” Sly replied, “Have we ever met? You look really familiar.”
I smiled, “I would certainly remember if I had met you, Sly.” I replied and he sighed.
Dwayne put his hand on Sly’s shoulder, “Her face really brings back the good ol’ days, don’t it?”
Sly nodded towards him, “It’s been almost five years too.”
Nicky sighed, “Geez, all you guys seem to talk about is the past with Rave Life!”
“Well she led us to you, so don’t slam ‘er!” Ash hissed but looked to the right as a brown haired, blue eyed boy walked up. He put his hand on Ash’s shoulder and smiled.
“What’cha doin, Ash?” He asked but then froze as he saw me, “Teach?” The guy asked and I squeezed my purse in my hand. Now I recognized him. It was Kevin Rig. Wow, he sure has grown to a handsome man.
“Excuse me?” I asked with a smile, “Are you one of my students? I’ve never seen you around campus.”
I nodded, “I work at Texas University as a history teacher. Are you one of my students?”
“No, I mistook you for my teacher in high school. Sorry.”
I smiled even though I wanted to cry, “It’s quite alright,” I replied but then looked to Austin. I put my arms around his, “It’s getting late and I need to get up early tomorrow. We should go.”
“Wait!” Nicky said as I started to turn away, “Do you think we could meet up for lunch tomorrow?”
“Um, sure. I’d love to.” I whispered and then smiled to her again before leaving. When Austin dropped me off at my house I went inside and dropped in front of my brother’s picture hanging on the wall as I walked in, “Oh, Evan! What can I do! I left them and now they are back! What should I do? They make my heart hurt, but I love the pain!” I cried and just watched my brother’s picture stare back at me with no emotion.
I went to the hotel Nicky had asked me to go to and went to the suite she had given the number of. Suite 206 came quickly and I knocked on the door. Ash opened the door and smiled towards me, “Oh, Ray. You’re already here.” He said before letting me in. I smiled to Nicky as she hugged me tightly.
“So are you vegetarian? I forgot to ask!”
I shook my head, “No, I am a carnivore.”
She smiled and then led me to the two person table in the middle of a large, open room, “Sit,” She insisted before pouring a glass of wine for me and then sitting down across from me. She suddenly looked up and frowned, “Leave us be, Ash! Geez!” She hissed and I heard Ash leave the suit. She smiled back towards me with knowing eyes, “so why do you not want the guys to know you are their previous singer? The famous Raven Patrice who packed up and disappeared within a week of leaving the band.”
I leaned back in my chair, “I always knew you were smart, Nicky, but I’m surprised you figured me out so quickly.”
She smiled, “Your voice gave you away. On that tape Austin sent me it was like I was back on stage behind you, watching you set the world on fire with your voice.”
I sighed, “So you have not told the guys?”
She nodded, “I assumed you had a good reason to not tell them so I was not going to step in.”
I sighed, “The truth is I really don’t have a reason other than I am ashamed of what I have done.”
“Do you mean leaving the band? ‘Cause I know the guys would take you back in a heartbeat.”
I looked away from her, “No, it’s because my mentally challenged brother killed himself when he found out he was what made me give up my dreams and move away from my friends.”
“That’s terrible!” She gasped and I looked to her.
“But I think you are great for the guys.”
She sighed, “Are you kidding me? They can’t get through one song without one of them suddenly stopping or starting up a conversation about the good ol’ days with you. And Kevin has joined the group in order to search the world for you. They miss you so much that they didn’t sleep for a month when you left.”
“But if I tell them, what will happen? I will take away your job and dreams while tearing away from the friends I’ve made here?”
She smiled, “You don’t have’ta worry ‘bout me. I’ll be really happy if you come back to the band and I think Austin would be happy for you if you left in order to pursue your dreams.”
I looked away from her, “I’m sorry, but I can’t go back to being Rave Life or Raven. I’m now just Ray Patrice and I am now not hurting anyone. If I go back things will go back to the way they used to be. I can’t take steps back and go back to what I used to have. I need to move on from Released Reality,” I looked to Nicky, “But I’m glad they found you Nicky. You will be able to help them slowly heal the wounds I left in their hearts,” I felt as though I would soon cry so I quickly stood, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to leave.” I whispered before quickly running out of the room, but froze when I ran into the band in the hallway.
“Oh, Ray.” Sly said with surprise.
“Sorry, please excuse me.” I whispered before running past them. I went directly home and cried as I hugged a pillow.
The next afternoon, Olivia was working in the office so I had my room to myself until one of my male students that always seemed to have a reason to see me every day came in. I turned my chair towards him and smiled, “What can I do for you Mr. Howards? Is there something wrong?” He shook his head as he walked over to my desk and leaned against the wall behind it.
“No, I was just outside with a group of friends and one of them asked me if I could see if you would be interested in doing something.”
“Oh? What is the ‘something’?”
“He wants to know if you will sing the national anthem at the football game next Friday night.”
I sighed, “I’m sorry, Mr. Howards, but I cannot.”
“But my older brother that graduated three years ago said you always sang the national anthem. He showed me a video he had taken of your singing because he thought it was so good.”
I smiled, “Well I’m glad he enjoyed it, but to tell you the truth I stopped singing two years ago, right after your brother’s class graduated.”
“Oh, well I just thought I’d ask,” He said with a smile, “Say, are you done now? I can walk you out.”
I nodded, “Thanks, but I can walk by myself.”
He let out a small laugh, “No, no! I’m not implying you can’t, I just wanted to spend a little more time with you.” He said with a smile bigger than the ones before. I stood and then followed behind the boy out of the school.
“My car’s this way.” I said and he nodded. I started leading him towards my car but stopped when I heard something.
“Miss Patrice!” A male voice yelled and I turned, expecting one of my college students. I felt sick as I saw the matured Kevin Rig running over to me with a smile, “Thank god I finally found ya’! Who knew this campus was so big!”
“Kevin,” I whispered but then noticed Mr. Howards watching me with concern so I cleared my throat, “You do not go to this school Mr. Rig, so you should not be on campus.”
Kevin stared at the boy next to me, “This one of your college students, teach?”
“Yea, I’m in her noon class,” Mr. Howards replied, “But how do you know Miss Patrice?”
Kevin smiled, “I was one of her students when she used to work at a high school.”
I froze. So he knew who I was. Did all the guys know now? Would they come after me? “Mr. Howards, I’m sorry but I must be going. I have plans for dinner and I should not run late.”
He sighed, “Will you reconsider my offer? You have such a great voice and you have sung at the football games before.”
I sighed, “I’m sorry, Mr. Howards, but I do not sing anymore. I gave it up two years ago and plan to keep it that way. I hope you find someone else who can do it, but I’ll see you in class next week.”
He nodded and then left. I looked to Kevin and tightened my grip on my books in my arms, “So have you told Sly, Ash, and Dwayne? Do they know?”
He shook his head, “I don’t think they do.”
I sighed, “Well it’s better if we keep it that way. Also you should not come near me anymore.”
“But I finally found you! After five years I’ve found you and now you just want me to leave?”
I looked away from him, “I’m not your teacher, your friend, your singer, or your parent Kevin. You don’t need to be with me, so please just leave me be.” I walked away but looked back as Kevin grabbed my arm. I stared at him with shock.
“I let you go once, Rave, but I’m not letting you go again!”
I shoved his hand away, “I am just your former teacher! What do you have to gain from finding me again?”
“Rave,” He started.
“No, Kevin. Go back to the band. You guys are leaving today right? That’s what all the girls in my classes have been talking about so I assumed that’s what’s happening. Now just go and let me get back to my life.” I started to get into my car and turned it on as Kevin leaned in from the open window.
“But this isn’t your real life, Rave! Your real life is on stage singing with the band!”
I turned away from him and quickly backed out. I drove to my home and quickly changed into a skimpy black dress with a little amount of makeup added and a pair of pumps. I left again with my small black clutch and quickly went back to my car. I drove to the basketball arena I was supposed to go to tonight and parked. I went inside and a young woman smiled, “May I help you?”
I nodded, “Yes, I am part of a group that bought a room…” I started to explain but stopped when a hand touched my arm. I smiled as I turned but was terrified by the sight I saw. My brother smiled back towards me.
“She’s with me,” He said and then took my hand in his before taking me away. He brought me to a room that was not the one I was supposed to be in and I frowned, “I never expected to see you, little sis, looking so sophisticated and pure. It’s a good look for ya’.”
I crossed my arms across my chest, “I am supposed to meet my date at this game, Eli. I would’ve canceled if I had known you would be here.”
He sighed, “Come on, Raven, have a drink with me.”
“I go by Ray now.”
“Ray?” He asked and then watched me before looking away with a small laugh and a smile, “You sure have changed since you ran away with brother.”
“What? Are you here to get Evan?”
He shook his head, “As if I care where that boy goes, I’m actually here to talk to that band you used to be part of. I was going to ask them if they knew where you had gone.”
“The band’s here?”
He nodded, “They have the room next door.”
“Don’t you dare go anywhere near them, Eli! They have nothing to do with you or me anymore!”
“Oh? So you have stopped contact with them too?”
“The day I left our home was the last time I talked to you, the band, or my friends.”
He smiled, “You would give that much to get away from me?”
I hissed, “I’d die in order to escape you.”
He sighed and came over to me, “So where is our brother? I’m surprised he is alright with you going on a date in such a slutty dress.”
“My dating life has nothing to do with you or Evan! Now if you will excuse me, my date is waiting.” I said and then quickly started towards the door but let out a small yelp when Eli pinned me on the ground. He kissed me and I tried to fight back but he was more than three times my size. When he kissed me again I quickly bit his lip while kneeing him between the legs. He let out a groan as he fell over in pain and quickly got up. I went to the door and used a key that was beside the door to lock it from the outside. I sat on the floor with my back against the door as I cried hysterically in the quiet hallway. Suddenly the door was thrown open to the right of me and my head shot up to look at the people.
“Let me go! I’m gonna kick that bastard’s ass!” Kevin yelled as I heard people hollering and pulling on him. Suddenly Kevin fell onto the ground as he looked to me. I froze as he stared, “Raven!” He gasped as he sprung to his feet and came over to me, “Why in the hell did that guy attack you! We heard the whole thing from next door!” He said as he kneeled in front of me.
I wiped tears off my cheeks, “It’s nothing.” I whispered but froze as the three guys stood in front of me. I looked to Nicky who stood behind where Kevin kneeled.
“They heard everything and I had to hold ‘em back in order to let you at least finish your argument.” She explained.
Sly took a step forward, “You moved out of the state, gave up Lulu, quit your jobs, and lost all contacts in one week. Why did you try to run away from us?”
I looked to the door as my brother rammed into it, “Eli stop it!” I whispered in a cry, “I won’t let you touch them!”
“Let me outta here!”
I looked to Sly who stared at the door, “I left to get away from you guys but mainly to get away from my brother. He was planning to have Evan and you guys killed so I ran.”
“So you ran to save us and Evan?” Dwayne asked.
I sighed, “Which was fruitless since you guys are here at the same time as him and Evan…” I put my hands on my head, “Evan died two years back. He committed suicide.”
“What!” Ash yelled and I looked to him.
“Evan felt that if he was not alive I could go back to the band and live my dreams. He knew how unhappy I was without my band and my music.”
“Then why didn’t ya’ come back?” Nicky asked me.
“My singing killed my brother and I have vowed to never sing again,” I whispered but looked up when I heard someone stop. I looked up to Austin as he stared at the group.
“Ray?” He asked and I quickly stood with terror.
“Austin, I…” I started to explain but stopped when his face turned grim.
“How could you lie to me for 5 years about who you really are!”
I squeezed my arms against me, “I’m sorry, but I cared too much about you to let you get caught up in what I’ve run away from. You don’t deserve to face what I will because you are a good man. I should’ve done the same thing when I met these guys but I was still a kid.”
“But is that why you gave up singing?”
I nodded slowly, “My stage name was Rave Life. I used to be the singer for this band.”
“But why did you have to leave town? We were going on tour and you wouldn’t see us again.” Ash asked as he came over to me.
I looked away, “I left town ‘cause I didn’t want to get married,” I whispered and everyone gave me an odd look, “If I stayed in town I would’ve had to marry Chris.”
“Who’s Chris?” Austin asked and I looked away.
“No one, he’s no one and this is nothing,” I went over to Nicky and took her hands in mine, “Do me a favor?”
She nodded, “Anything.”
I smiled, “Let my brother outta there in a few minutes. I’ll be sure to get far enough away that he can’t come near me again. Also, I’m still intrustin’ the guys to you, so don’t let me down.”
She hugged me, “I won’t.” She whispered and I quickly pulled away. I looked to Austin.
“I understand if you don’t want to see me anymore so don’t worry about. I’ll see ya’.” I whispered before quickly leaving the stadium. I drove to my brother’s grave and stood in front of it, “What can I do now? I’ve got to leave again. But this time I don’t have you at my side. How can I leave you here?” I asked the stone as I stood in front of it, “I’ve got nothing left,” I added but covered my eyes as I started crying, “Why did you leave me here? Why couldn’t you take me with you?” I sat on the ground and cried until I couldn’t anymore. I then made my way home in order to sleep. I did not get out of bed the entire Sunday after the concert and did not want to leave when I had to at 6. Regrettably I got up, changed into a blue suit, grabbed my bag, slipped on my jacket, and left my apartment. I drove to school but was surprised to see Olivia standing near my parking spot. I quickly parked and got out.
“You’re running later than usual today.”
I nodded, “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, it happens.” she replied but did not look at me directly.
“Is something wrong, Olivia?”
She finally looked to my eyes and seemed to weaken, “There’s someone in the dean’s office waiting for you.”
She nodded with pain, “He…he’s threatening to kill the dean…he said he would not leave without you and…” She suddenly ran to me and squeezed me to her. A loud bang went off and she seemed to slump. I felt warm liquid touching my stomach, “Run!” She whispered in a gasp of pain and I looked down. A hole appeared in her stomach as she collapsed. I grabbed her before she hit the ground but was pulled from her by someone. I fell to the pavement and looked up to see Eli smiling as he crouched over to me.
“You can’t get away.” He hissed as he ripped my shirt in half and his gun sounded. I jumped up with a scream as I realized I was in my bed, alone. My body was shaking and I quickly started to cry as I put my hands over my eyes.
When I got out of bed at 6 I did not go to work as planned, but I did get dressed. I put on a pair of jeans, a black tank top, and my Metalica sweatshirt before slipping on my dark purple converses and walking out the front door. I walked down the streets of the city from my town home to a small suburb nearby and knocked on the front door of a familiar home. When a small girl answered the door I smiled towards her and used sign language to tell her hello and asked if her dad was home. She nodded before running into the house and I came in. I shut the door behind myself but I was quickly attacked by a golden retriever puppy that was nearly two years old now, “Hey Sandy!” I said energetically as I kissed the dog’s nose, but my attention was diverted when I heard someone stop next to me. I looked up to the man only a few years older than me and smiled.
“Hey there, stranger,” He said with a smile and I stood, “What do I owe the visit?”
“Want to go for a walk?” I asked and he gave me a concerned look while nodding. I grabbed Sandy’s leash from the coat rack next to the door and then we left. The man took the dog’s leash from me and handed me the small girl in his arms who smiled and hugged my neck as we walked.
“The last time we went on a walk was when your brother’s 2nd death anniversary came by almost four months ago. It’s been a while so something must have happened that was pretty bad since you even skipped out on work.”
I nodded as I looked to Sandy as she trotted in front of us, “I’m sorry I haven’t come to see you lately, Ben.”
“It’s alright. You were busy,” He replied but then looked to me with a sideways glance, “What happened that has made you so upset that you are dressing like you used to?”
“My brother tried to rape me, the man who loves me will now never speak to me again, and my band mates and a past student have figured out who I am,” I replied as we finally got into the main city and had to stop at a crosswalk as the light remained red and told us not to cross, “In less than ten minutes everything I have created since I came here shattered.”
“Are you going to be okay?” He asked me as the red light went away and a green walking stick figure came to view so we started across the road.
“No,” I whispered as I looked down to Sandy again, “I’m not okay and I don’t know if I ever will be. Seeing my brother and making the man who loved me hate me was bad enough, but seeing the upset faces of the men I miss so much sent me into insanity. I have broken down.”
“Let’s go somewhere and sit down.” He whispered and I nodded. When we walked into a restaurant the woman at the front desk frowned as she saw Sandy come in with us.
“Excuse me, but there are no dogs allowed here. I will have to ask you…” She started to say but we both looked up as a familiar woman put her hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“That is a helping dog, Cindy. She is very behaved and will not cause a problem,” The older woman said before giving me a large smile and coming around the counter, “Well long time no see, Ray. How have you been?”
“Fine, and yourself Miss Edward?”
“Good, good. Would you guys like a seat?”
“Yes, please.” I replied and we followed behind her as she went over to a table. The wooden table was one of the newest ones she had gotten last month along with three newer chairs that must have come in last week since they were not here two weeks ago.
“I’ll give y’all a few minutes to decide what ta’ eat.” She announced before walking back over to the front desk. I set Rebecca in the chair next to mine as Ben patted Sandy’s back so that she sat where a fourth chair would be if it was put at his side.
“Do you think this might be leaked out to the public?” He asked as he watched me roll up Rebecca’s sleeves of her shirt.
“The band would never dream of doing that and Austin does not have enough information or understanding about the situation to do anything. But, my brother raises a red flag. He would tell anyone, but hopefully the fear of my planned fiancé finding me will stop him from breathing a word.”
Miss Edward came back to the table, “What would y’all like?”
“Three sodas will be all for today, Miss Edward, thanks.” Ben replied before she walked away. It took a few moments to get our drinks but once we did I warned Rebecca not to spill the drink.
“What do you think I should do, Ben?”
He sighed as he rested his face on his hand, “Are you asking me as your late brother’s friend, as you friend, or as a doctor?”
He seemed to contemplate the reply and then looked to me. His dark green eyes stared me down, “You have to decide what your personal dream for your life is before anything else. Ignore Eli, ignore the wishes of Evan, ignore your students, ignore you fans, ignore your band mates, ignore me, and think about what you really want. All of this shuffling back and forth between mind sets is not healthy. You need to decide what you want and then factor in everyone afterwards. Once you’ve decided that then you can figure out where to go from there.”
I looked down to the table, “That is easier said than done.”
“But this is not something you can put off any longer, Ray. You need to decide once and for all what you want to do.”
“You’re right,” I whispered and then we became silent, “I think I should go. I should be resting.”
He nodded, “Alright.” He turned to his daughter and told her it was time to leave so she got up. I paid for the drinks before we left the restaurant and started back towards Ben’s house, “We can walk ourselves home, Ray. You need to go the other direction.” He whispered so I stopped walking. As I watched Ben, Rebecca, and Sandy turn the corner of the street we had stopped on I felt suddenly alone and unsure. I turned around on my heels and headed for the hair salon near my home. When I walked in a small bell chimed as the two women who owned the place smiled towards me. “’Afternoon Ray! What can I do ya’ for today?” The eldest sister asked with a harsh accent.
“I just want a haircut.”
“Alright,” She said as she led me to a chair and I sat down, “Now how much are we talkin’ here? An inch?”
I looked to her through the mirror in front of the chair, “I want it all off,” I replied, “Only long enough to be spiked or straightened if needed.”
“So a boy’s cut?”
I nodded, “Exactly.”
“Whatever ya’ say.” She replied before starting the process. When I left the hair salon almost an hour later the fall winds reached the back of my neck for the first time since I came here. I went home and immediately went to sleep so I could get the rest I had promised Ben I would get.
I woke up at six per usual and got ready for classes. I put on a black suit and a light blue silk shirt before slipping on a pair of black pumps. I put on more makeup than usual before using hair spray to flatten my new hair. When I left the house with my bag, coat, and keys in hand I drove to school. When I got into my classroom classes were about to start so I quickly got set up for the day and felt uncertain about the plan I had set up.
I took a deep breath as my call started to ring and was relieved when the phone went to voicemail. I cleared my throat right before the beep, “Hey Chris, this is Raven Patrice…I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you for five years now, but I didn’t want to get you involved with my life again until I had everything fully settled. Well now that I’ve finally reached settlement I want to talk to you. A lot of things have happened since I disappeared so I was hoping you could come visit me or let me come visit you,” I took a deep breath, “I will be making my big début tomorrow at 7 at Texas University, where I work now, and I’d like for you to be there. So, anyway, I hope you’re doing well and I hope to hear from you soon.” I hung up the phone and then dialed another number. I took a deep breath as it rang and was surprised when the phone was answered.
“Nicky? It’s Raven. Can you talk right now?”
“Yea, we’re having a break right now from practice so I can talk. How are you doing?”
I sighed, “Better,” I replied, “But I actually called to ask if you and the rest of the band, along with Kevin, will meet me to talk.”
“Sure, when do you want us to meet you?”
“Meet me tomorrow night at 7 at the college campus for the football game.”
“Alright, then I’ll see you later.” I whispered before hanging up the phone. I looked down to the soccer field and watched two boys practicing. My mind was blank as I watched them and I did not regain focus until there was a knock at the door of the teacher’s lounge. When I turned to Olivia she smiled to me and came to my side to look down at the soccer players also.
“I heard you’re going to sing the national anthem at tomorrow night’s game,” She stated as the taller boy of the two went to the goal and started to catch the other boy’s shots, “Will Austin be coming to hear you sing?”
“He’s busy tomorrow.”
“Ah,” She whispered, “Well I’m leaving for the day so I’ll see you tomorrow night.” Olivia left shortly after and I left about ten minutes after her.
The next day of classes seemed to go by in a blur and I did not feel as though time went by at a regular rate until the two football teams started to warm up. When both teams were called off to go over their strategies for the game the older man who had set up the microphone in the middle of the field gestured for me to come to him. I stood and fixed my short black dress before going over to him with a smile. He adjusted the height of the microphone before looking to me, “Knock ‘em dead.” He whispered before turning on the microphone and walking off the field. The man in the booth to the side of the field made it so he could speak and everyone fell silent.
“Good evenin’ longhorns! Before we get this game started lets’ have all gents’ take off their caps and everyone put their hand over their heart so we can join in the national anthem led tonight by our very own World History teacher Raven Patrice!” He called and everyone in the stadium cheered but the area fell silent as I cleared my throat. I put my hand over my heart as I faced the American flag on the side of the stadium.
“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light! What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming! Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming! And the rocket’s red glar, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there! Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!” I sang as I refused to take my eyes off of the flag and as the crowd started cheering frantically I realized I was crying. I quickly forced myself to stop and wiped my cheeks with my hands before smiling up to the crowd and walking off of the field.
“Let’s get this game started!” The announcer called as I walked out of the stadium through the entrance that was now closed off to get to from the bleachers. I sat on the edge of the bike rack right outside of the exit and looked up to the sky. There were no stars to be found due to the light given off by the lights of the city.
“Good job out there,” A man whispered and I turned around to see Ben watching me in a pair of slacks and a dress shirt. He came over to me and wiped a tear off of my cheek that I had missed, “It must have been hard for you to sing again. You haven’t sang since Evan left and even when he was still here you would only sing when asked to by him.”
I looked to his face, “I forgot about this feeling given to me while I sing.”
“You shined beautifully tonight and did not falter. You should be proud of yourself,” He put his hands in his pant pockets and looked to the bike rack, “The way you sang tonight was different than the first time I heard you singing.”
“My brother taught me that song I sang that day.”
“Evan taught you that song?”
I shook my head as his glance came back to me, “My eldest brother taught me that song when I was a child.”
“By eldest brother you means Elijah, correct? The same man that has raped you many times.”
I nodded and looked up to the starless sky, “That’s the one. He used to be the perfect older brother until the day that all started. I was so young I did not even understand what it meant.”
“So when I saw your eyes searching the bleachers tonight, were you looking for him?”
When I looked to him I felt a sore spot in my heart, “No, I had invited some people I wanted to see me and wanted to see if they had actually come.”
“Raven!” Someone called and I looked over to see Nicky running over to me as Sly, Dwayne, Ash, and Kevin walked slowly behind her.
“I guess I should go,” Ben whispered before walking over to my side and kissing my cheek, “Good job today.” With those words he disappeared into the parking lot as I turned to Nicky. She hugged me quickly and then held me at arm’s length to get a full look at me.
“I love your dress!” She gushed, “But you were great tonight!”
“Thanks, I’m glad you could come at such late notice,” I replied with a smile, “But weren’t you guys supposed to leave town early yesterday morning?”
“The guys twisted our schedule around so we could stay for a whole other week.”
“That’s great,” I replied and then sighed as I looked away from her, “Nicky, how is Austin?”
She seemed saddened as I looked back to her, “He’s alright.”
“So he contacted you?” I asked and she nodded, “I’m glad to know he is alright.”
“He’s worried about you.”
I smiled, “That sounds like him,” I replied and looked to the guys behind her, “He reminds me a lot of the guys in that way.”
Nicky let out a laugh as she turned to the guys, “Omigosh! You’re so right! He’s a lot like the guys!”
“I’ll take that as a complement,” Sly said as he and the other guys came over to us. Sly looked down to me, “Your voice sounds as beautiful as ever. It was nice to hear it again.”
I looked to the ground, “Thanks, I was glad my voice was not horrible since this is the first time I have sung in 2 years.”
“Why did you stop singing, Rave? All we ever talked about in school was growing up and having you sing in a band with us,” Dwayne whispered as he put his hand on my cheek, “You love to sing. You always have.”
I put my hand over his, “But I loved Evan more.”
“Has Evan asked you to stop singing?” Dwayne asked and before I could answer Nicky grabbed his arm that touched me.
“She stopped because her singing led Evan to killing himself!” She stated as she looked to the band, “She is torn up when she sings because that is what she believes killed Evan!”
I leaned onto Nicky slightly so that she looked to me. I smiled to her with warmth, “It’s alright, Nicky. I have come to terms with losing Evan. I have learned to accept that it was not entirely my fault. I have the man who just left to thank along with you guys,” I glanced to Sly, Dwayne, Ash, and Kevin, “If all of you had given up on the band I don’t know what I would have done. Every time something would happen that would make me upset I would just turn on the TV and learn about your newest accomplishments,” I looked directly to Dwayne, “I have realized recently that when I used to talk about the past I did not mean exactly what I said. As long as you guys stayed together and succeeded I would be happy.”
“Raven.” Dwayne whispered as I looked to the ground and within a moment I was crying. When I looked up and everyone saw my tears I immediately ran into Dwayne’s arms. He held me tightly against him and I held back with equal strength, “Please, Raven! Don’t leave us again! We can’t live without you here!”
I put my face into his shirt and for a moment the horrors of the world disappeared, “I’ve missed you guys so much!” I cried as I was yanked away from Dwayne’s grasp and into Ash’s arms. He embraced me tightly as my head rested near his shoulder.
“Don’t leave us behind anymore, Rave! We want to be with you and help you! That is what best friends are for!”
I kissed his cheek lightly, “I won’t go anywhere without letting you guys know again.”
When my last class ended the next day I smiled towards Mr. Howards as he knocked on the doorframe of my lecturing room, “Good evening Mr. Howards, how can I help you?” I asked as I turned my chair towards him. His warm smile made me feel better.
“Well I was going past the dean’s office to come see if you needed any help this afternoon and he asked me to come in for a moment. Apparently one of his past roommates from college was here and was searching for you so he asked me to bring the guy down,” Mr. Howards turned towards the doors of my lecturing room and sighed, “You can come in now.” He called to the door and I watched as Chris slowly walked into the room. He was more handsome than ever and now seemed more reformed.
“Thanks for bringing me down here, Nick.” Chris said as he put his hand on Mr. Howards’ shoulder.
“Yes,” I agreed, “But I do not need any help this evening, Mr. Howards so would you please tell the dean that my guest made it safely to me?”
“Sure, see ya’ next week, Ms. Partice!” He called and then quickly left the room. I looked to Chris who just stared at me.
“So you got my call?” I asked and he nodded as he walked over to a globe on the front desk of the room.
He twirled the globe around, “Yes, but I did not get it until last night after the game because I had an emergency surgery yesterday that delayed me getting home.”
I looked to the computer I was by as it shut off. I stood and started putting my papers into my bag, “I wasn’t sure you would even come so it was of no surprise that you did not show up last night,” I closed my bag, “How long will you be staying in town?”
“I will stay here as long as you will let me,” He replied as he stopped the spinning globe, “I made sure to not move or change numbers so that when you could contact me again we would be able to meet. I have been waiting for you to contact me for 5 years so I do not plan to leave until I understand everything.”
I smiled slightly towards him, “There is a place I have never shown to anyone that I want you to see,” I whispered, “Will you come with me?”
“Lead and I will follow,” He replied and I nodded. I led him out to my car and then quickly drove out to the place I wanted to go. When we drove up to the cemetery it was already dark out but Chris still followed me as I walked in between tombstones and we stopped at the spot I had never brought anyone to. Chris stared at the stone and then looked to me, “It is too dark to read.”
“That’s alright. I have seen it so many times I have memorized what it says,” I took a deep breath, “Here lies Evan Glen Patrice; may he rest in peace. Born May 22nd, 1974—Died September 28th 2012.” I looked to Chris as he stared at the stone and shook slightly, “I’m sorry,” I whispered, “I went to visit him one day and found out he had hung himself that night in between nurse shifts and he was dead before someone found him.”
Chris stared at the rock, “I would have never imagined Evan would do something like this in a million years,” He whispered, “Leaving you alone was the one thing I thought he would never do.”
I looked to Chris, “He died the moment I took him from our home town,” I whispered, “I killed him way before his body died,” I looked up to the unforgiving sky, “I had a 50/50 chance in making him as happy as I possibly could with the path I chose for us and I chose the wrong one that led to his death.”
“You should’ve come back to my side after that, Raven. I could have helped you get over the loss.”
“I couldn’t face you after I had killed your best friend,” I replied, “How could I face the guy I have been in love with since I was a kid and tell him I had killed his best friend?” As the moment I had been waiting on came I took a step and stood on my toes. Our lips met as the final blow fell and I wrapped my arms around Chris’s neck. I pulled away from him and smiled slightly, “When my moment came I wanted you and Evan to be with me,” I whispered, “And I wanted you to know how much I love you. I am glad I was able to fulfill my wish.” My grip became weak as I shook and Chris tried to keep me standing with shock.
“Raven! What’s wrong!” He demanded as he shook my limping body, “Answer me!” He yelled as I looked to him again.
I smiled the best I could, “I’m glad I got to see you one last time.” I whispered as I could not keep my eyes open any longer. As they shut I heard Chris screaming for me to wake up before I lost consciousness.
I heard a car’s tires skid across wet pavement as rain hit the roof above me and a small humming sounded for some type of electrical circulation for an electronic. I had the urge to look out at the rain but quickly froze as a door opened. Large footsteps filled my ears as someone came over towards me. “Has she shown any signs of consciousness since I left to get dinner?” A deep voice asked.
Someone grunted in disgust, “You ask that every time you leave the room. If something had changed don’t you think we would have called you?” A lighter male voice replied in anguish.
“Did the doctors come by?”
“They came together earlier, but they went to get coffee a few moments ago.”
“I saw Dwayne in the waiting room. Nicky finally went to sleep and he was nodding off as I went by.”
“Where’s Ash? He left with you earlier.”
“He’ll be here in a sec. He ended up getting a call on the way back to the room so he went outside.”
“Did you bring me a soda?”
A paper bag was rustled before it was still once more, “Yea, but you’ve been awake for three days straight. Why don’t you go to the waiting room and sleep a bit. We’ll come get you if something happens.”
The sheets on top of me pulled slightly as someone leaned on the side of the bed, “I ain’t sleeping again. When I went to sleep last time we lost teach’s heart beat for a moment. If I sleep again who knows what’ll happen. I ain’t gonna shut my eyes ‘til she is awake and conscious.”
“Your body will give out soon, boy,” Someone sat down in a chair that made a noise as it was moved, “She wouldn’t want you to hurt your health by staying awake waiting for her.”
“Until she wakes up and tells me to sleep I ain’t sleeping.”
“You sure are a stubborn brat,” The deeper voice sighed, “What if she doesn’t wake up, boy, then what will you do? Will you die of poor health as she lies here like a vegetable in a coma?”
“Don’t even talk like that!” The lighter voice hollered as a chair fell back and hit the floor, “She will wake up!”
The door opened as someone sighed, “This is why Ash shouldn’t have left you two in the room alone together,” A medium voice hissed, “You always end up bickering.”
“Chris, where is the other doctor?” The deeper voice asked as the chair was picked up and someone sat back down in it.
“There was an emergency so he had to go.”
“How is she?”
The door shut, “Her breathing and heartbeat are finally stable after the scare we had,” Someone touched my arm and I felt a chill go down my spine. The hand moved to my own and clasped it, “She will wake up soon. I am sure of it.” I felt regret and worry flow from the hand and quickly grasped it with my own. The man gasped and quickly put his other hand on my face as I felt its coldness.
“You’re freezing.” I whispered as I opened my eyes to see a tall, green eyed, brown haired, man in a white doctor’s coat, “Why am I in the hospital?”
“You were shot by your brother while trying to protect me,” The man whispered as tears fell down his face. He embraced me as I lay in shock, “I was so scared you would never wake up!”
“Eli shot me?” I asked and the man looked to me with confusion, “Why would Eli shoot me?” I looked to the man, “Eli left home so why would he come back to shoot me?” I clenched the sheets of the bed in my hands, “He left us and he will never come back other than to separate Evan and me,” I looked to the man as tears filled my eyes,“I don’t care what happens! He will not separate me and Evan!”
“Raven, do you know who I am?”
I nodded with a smile, “My doctor of course.”
“What year is it?”
I stared at him for a moment, “It’s 2007.”
The man turned to the youngest man of the room, “Go get the others.” He whispered and the young man ran out of the room. We waited in silence until the young man came back with two men and a woman in their early 30’s, “Tell me, Raven, do you recognize any of these people?”
I nodded and they all became silent as they waited for me to speak. I pointed to the only familiar face, “That is one of my best friends’ older brother, Frank.”
“That’s not Frank, that’s Ash!” The younger boy hollered as I felt a sudden flash of anger radiate from him, “It is not 2007, it’s 2014! How could you forget your friends’ faces?”
I stared at the young man, “Are you, by any chance related to my student, Kevin Rig? You look a lot like him.”
“That’s because I am Kevin!”
I watched him, “No you aren’t. Kevin is only 16.”
“Kevin, calm down,” The doctor whispered as he watched my face, “She is disoriented from the attack. She lost her memory of the past 7 years so she cannot recognize us.”
I looked to the doctor, “Could I be left alone for a while?” I asked and everyone stared at me, “I want to listen to the rain.”
“Let’s leave her alone for a while,” The doctor said with a sigh and I watched them all leave the room. When they were gone I looked outside and sighed, “This is for the best,” I whispered before clearing my throat, “Don’t let me go! Don’t let me go-oo. Keep me here forever, so we’ll always be together. Till the end of ti-ime stay at my side with your hand in mine.” I stopped singing immediately as the door of the room started to open. The girl from before walked in and shut the door before coming and sitting on the right edge of my bed while watching me.
“Do you think this is the right way to approach this, Raven?” She asked in a whisper and I smiled towards her.
“What do you mean?”
She frowned, “Don’t play dumb, Raven. I can see right through your act. You know who all of us are so why are you lying?”
I looked to Nicky and sighed, “This is for the best.”
“But you finally have the man you want, your brother out of the way, and the band you’ve always dreamed of! Why are you going to give it away?” She grabbed my arm, “I had to wait for days while you were in a coma while watching these men cry for you so this round, I can’t follow with your plan! I owe them this much!”
I looked to the rain, “I was supposed to die, Nicky. I was ready for the end of this! I was finally going to not stand in anyone’s way of happiness but you guys brought me back!” I felt tears linger and quickly put my hands over my eyes to hide my shameful tears, “I told him I love him! He knows the one thing I never planned to tell him until I was on my death bed!” I was shocked when my head was turned and the rush of pain filled my face. Nicky shook out her hand with slight pain.
“He loves you, Raven, and you dying after returning your feelings isn’t fair! He wants to spend the rest of his life with you! He even waited for you for 5 years regardless of your disappearance! He deserves to be happy too!”
I looked to her before looking away, “There is someone I need to see before I can do anything.”
I looked to her, “I need my phone. I have to see them.”
I ripped back my cover and tried to stand but fell to the cold tile of the room while making a loud noise. Chris, Kevin, Sly, Dwaine, and Ash all ran into the room and rushed to me. The first to reach me was Chris, “Dear god! What happened?”
I felt tears falling down my face, “I have to call them!”
I turned over so I was on my back, “Please, just let me call them!” I cried, “I need them.”
Chris handed me his cell phone and I quickly dialed Ben’s house number, “Hello?”
I cried harder, “Ben?”
“Ray, what’s wrong? Are you crying?”
I laughed slightly, “I need to see you guys.”
“Where are you?”
I looked up to Chris, “What hospital is this?”
“Presbyterian hospital in town.”
“On my way.” He hung up and I slowly sat up. I handed Chris his phone and he helped me stand.
“You’ve been in a coma for almost a week so your legs aren’t used to walking yet.”
I slowly sat down and lay on the bed as Kevin came over to me, “Do you recognize us, teach?”
Nicky stood and stared me down, “She was lying earlier, Kevin. She knows who we are.”
“But…” Kevin started to ask until he stopped when a young girl ran into the room.
“Rebecca!” I said with joy as she crawled into the bed I was on and hugged my neck. I pulled her away slightly and signed hello. Sandy ran into the room while pulling Ben behind her, “Hey there girl!” I called to Sandy as she stood at the edge of the bed so I could pet her.
“Sir, dogs are not allowed in the hospital.” Chris said as he came over to Ben.
Ben did not turn to Chris, “She is a guide dog,” He mumbled before leaning in front of me and looking at my face, “Why are you in the hospital, Ray? Did Elijah come after you again?”
I shook my head while squeezing Ben’s hand that took mine, “It’s nothing. I will be alright.”
Ben finally turned to Chris, “What happened, doctor?”
Chris watched the man, “Unless you are related to Raven I cannot say.”
Ben frowned and became angry, “Her older brother left me as Ray’s legal family so I demand to know what has happened!” He hissed but turned to me when I squeezed his hand more.
“Calm down, Ben. This is Chris, the man Evan always talked about.”
Ben stared down Chris, “Evan said you are the man he wants Ray to marry,” Ben looked to the men and girl around us, “And this is the band? Released Reality?”
I nodded as I took Ben’s hand in mine while I held Rebecca with my other arm, “Yeah, but that boy is my previous student.” I said as I looked over to Kevin. Ben looked to Kevin.
“He is just as I imagined from the way you described him,” Ben smiled towards me, “Each of these people is as you described,” Ben brushed hair out of my face, “But what in the world happened?”
I looked down to Sandy who was wagging her tail as Chris spoke up, “Raven took me to visit Evan’s grave and Eli tried to shoot me but Raven got in the way.”
Ben frowned towards Chris, “When did this happen?”
“About a week ago.”
“Why wasn’t I contacted?” Ben yelled as he stood quickly and grabbed onto Chris’s shirt.
I quickly put Rebecca on the other end of my bed and stood to pull Ben away from Chris, but fell onto the floor with a grunt, “Ray!” Ben gasped as he tried to get to me, but before he could Dwayne, Sly, Ash, and Kevin were all at my side.
“What are you doing?” Ash demanded but froze when a loud, unusual sounding cry filled the room. I quickly sat up and took Rebecca into my arms I signed to her that I was alright, but weak. She cried as she signed back that she was afraid I was going to die like big brother.
Ben sighed as he watched Rebecca, “Ray you got to remember that the last time Rebecca was in a hospital was the night Evan died.”
I pulled the girl into my body as I broke down, “Her fear is my entire fault,” I whispered as I started shaking and crying, “Everyone’s fear in this room is my fault.”
Ben hugged me from the side, “These men love you, Ray,” He whispered as I felt him look to the guys, “They came after you even after they knew about Elijah.”
Sly cleared his throat, “Ben,” He started, “I don’t fully understand what has happened to Raven since we were separated, but you must understand that we are not leaving this town without her.”
Ben stood and I looked to him as he faced Chris, “Where is Elijah?”
“He was arrested for attempted murder.”
Ben took Rebecca from my arms and into his before grabbing Sandy’s leash, “We will be back tomorrow afternoon, Ray,” He watched me, “That should be enough time for you to fill everyone in about what has happened in the past five years,” He leaned down and kissed my forehead, “Tell them everything, Ray, because if they truly love you they will stay at your side.”