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2,603 Is My Ego Showing?

About Aceinthehole

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  1. Reality Check

    -----------------------------------------------------------------Teddy----------------------------------------------------------------- It’s amazing how just one hug could captivate so many people. Staring, whispering, conspiring. What kind of world do we live in when one hug draws more attention than a punch? I mean, I get it, no one really expects me to give Ryder any type of attention, let alone a hug, and we are the only known gay kids in school, but still, you’d think we were what everyone came to see. I could see Ryder fidgeting uncomfortably as we walked back towards Liz and Blake. To think in two weeks, he’ll be playing in front of a few hundred people, but he can’t even handle about forty people staring at him from the bleachers. Liz flashed him a disappointed look as we finally reached them. She went to say something, but thought twice before opening her mouth. I could tell the whole situation wasn’t sitting right with her. As he took his seat she whispered something in his ear, causing him to shrug his shoulders. Finally, my eyes connected with her and I couldn’t help but flash her an annoyed look. “Relax,” she instructed, enjoying how much she was getting under my skin. “I thought you wanted us all to be friends.” “I do,” I grunted, starting to pout. Am I jealous over Ryder and Liz growing close? Maybe. It took me weeks before he could trust me the way he’s starting to trust her. Why? How did they connected so fast? And why is it bothering me so much? Ryder’s hand lightly grazed mine as he read the look on my face. “Teddy, are you actually getting…” “What?” I interrupted, playing it off like I was staring into space. Ryder’s hand slightly moved away as he watched me throw another mask on. “I’m fine.” I shook my head. “Just thinking about The Barn tonight.” Ryder made a face, trying hard to figure out what was bothering me. Before he could, a faceless voice in the crowd called my name. “Can you come here for a minute?” I shrugged and looked towards Ryder who let out a deep breath but gave me an approving nod. It turns out the kid calling me didn’t need much. Just a question about when the next lacrosse game was. However, from him I started bouncing around the crowd from person to person. From casual conversation, to talking about colleges. As much as I would love to say I was annoyed, I don’t think I’ll ever hate the popularity. Well, as long as it stays positive. “Nice of you to join us,” Blake mocked, as I finally rejoined them a full four innings later. “Sorry.” I shrugged. “You know how it can get, I haven’t actually been in the crowd at a school event since we got out. People just want to say hi.” “And they can’t come over here to do that?” Blake provoked, seeing what kind of reaction he could get. “I didn’t want them crowding us.” I shrugged, quickly thinking of an excuse. “I know Ryder doesn’t like that, I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable.” “Sure,” Blake dismissed as Ryder happily accepted my excuse as real. “He’s just mad because you had Liz’s attention,” I jokingly whispered to Ryder. Ryder nodded his head, fully agreeing with my analysis of the situation. “You’re so childish sometimes.” Blake rolled his eyes, not even wanting to know what I whispered. “What?” I defended, staring off at the game in front of us. “I just had to tell Ryder something about tonight.” “Like what?” Blake inquired. He stopped me from answering with a raised finger as I went to open my mouth. “From Ryder.” “It’s not really your business,” Ryder let out, looking over at him. “But he wanted to know if I was still feeling up to it.” “That’s such bullshit,” Blake snuffed out, looking towards Liz. “Believe what you want, but its’ the truth.” Ryder shrugged. “He was worried I’m too stressed out and anxious for tonight.” His gaze shifted over to me as he spoke. “But I’m fine. I actually need a day like today.” Blake gave Liz a skeptical look, but I could tell she was buying what Ryder was selling. “Teddy’s actually really considerate of how I’m feeling.” I lightly placed my hand over his as I started to feel guilty that I hadn’t actually asked him that. I should be thinking about his limits and if I’m pushing him too far. “You are,” Ryder assured me as if he could read the doubts in my head. “Aww, our little boy is growing up,” Liz mocked, giving Blake a friendly shove. He raised his eyebrows but I could tell he still wasn’t happy. “Are we cool?” I asked, looking over at him. I’m not sure what’s going on with him, but something’s not adding up today. “Yeah.” Blake nodded, thinking something over in his head. Liz opened her eyes wide as our stares connected. She pretended to stretch, and raised her phone high in the air, pointing out the date to me. “Oh!” I involuntarily let out. “Sorry man, I forgot that…” “It is what it is,” Blake interrupted. “I should be used to it by now.” “It’s cool if you’re not.” I attempted to comfort him as Ryder tried to piece together what we were talking about. “No one blames you for it.” “I still don’t get why I only get to see him once a month.” Blake mumbled, staring off at the field. “Plus, he was busy Saturday, so we only really got one day together.” I couldn’t help but sigh at his words. It’s hard for me not to catch his pain when he’s this upset. Liz nudged Blake in an attempt to get him to include Ryder on the hidden topic. “This past weekend was supposed to be my weekend with my dad, but we barely got to spend time together.” Blake explained in a quiet voice. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” Ryder nodded his head, as though he had already been told about the situation. “I remember you talking about that during the school year,” he supported. “If you ask me, no one can tell you when you can or can’t see family.” “I wish it was that simple,” Blake let out. “But if my mom hears I saw my dad when I’m not supposed to, he’ll lose whatever custody he has left.” “Then lie, beg, steal, do whatever you have to do to see your dad,” Ryder said, not fully understanding how complicated the situation was. “You’re lucky to still have him in your life. Your mom’s foolish if she doesn’t understand that.” I held my breath knowing how sensitive Blake can be about the topic, but had to hide my smile as Blake nodded his head. “I know,” he agreed. “But she just doesn’t understand. To her, he’ll always be the villain.” “Talk to her,” Ryder advised as doubt dripped into Blake’s face. “I know you don’t want to, but tell her that it doesn’t matter what she thinks. That’s your dad and you’re almost 18. You deserve a say in it. You’re old enough.” “And if she doesn’t listen?” he asked, still not daring to look our way. “Then at least you can say you did something about it,” Ryder confidently advised. “It’s a hell of a lot better than saying you just stood by and watched.” Blake nodded his head but declined to speak. I’m not sure what this side of Ryder is, but it’s something special. It’s a part of him that draws from his own pain and offers it to others so they can learn. It’s being a leader. It’s the man he’ll grow into, the one who will take music by storm and save countless teenagers from themselves. My hand fully wrapped around his, as if it was moving on its own. Liz peered back over to me and shot me a look I didn’t quite understand. “Teddy, can we talk for a second?” she asked, keeping her gaze. “Sure,” I skeptically accepted, standing up and slowly climbing down from the bleachers. I guess she wants to give Blake and Ryder time alone to talk about the situation. She led us back behind the metal seating and stopped where she figured we wouldn’t be seen. “What’s up?” I asked, leaning against the metal rails. Before I could figure out what she was doing, she pulled her arm back and caught me across the face with a heavy open palm. “That’s for being a douchebag to Ryder,” she hissed, as frustration showed on her face. “What did I do?” I gasped, trying to recollect my thoughts as another lighter slap caught me on the side of the head. “Liz!” I yelped, putting my hands up to my head. “What the hell are you doing?” “What did you do?” she repeated, surprised I would even ask such a thing. “You keep telling him you’re going to stand up for him, but have you done it yet?” I kept quiet, knowing to just let her ride out her anger. “No!” she shouted, going for another slap but catching herself. “Then you leave him alone for almost half the damn game!” “He wasn’t alone,” I corrected, worried another slap would be coming my way. “He was with you and Blake.” “He didn’t come to the game to be with me and Blake,” she reprimanded. “He came to be with you, but you’re too much of an ass to accept that! I’m so sick of you lately! You’re acting like an absolute jerk!” “What?” I was caught off guard by her anger. “What have I done?” “You keep making promises you can’t keep,” she explained, giving me a shove. “Where’s the old Teddy? The one that meant what he said. All this year you’ve been making all these promises but only keeping the ones that benefit yourself and that isn’t you!” I caught her arms as she went to shove me again, trying my hardest to deescalate the situation. “I don’t know if you’ve been spending too much time with Mike or the lacrosse team or what, but this needs to end. I can’t watch you do this to yourself.” “Liz, I’ll be okay,” I comforted, making sure not to grab onto her arms too tightly. “Will you?” she accused doubtfully, breaking free of my grasp. “You have the best boyfriend you’ve ever had, but you act like you’re embarrassed of him. Did you just hear what he said to Blake?” She stared intensely in my eyes. “Did you hear how sweet and caring he is? How good his advice was? But you’ll let that all fall away because you’d rather have hundreds of people you don’t know worshiping you.” “Okay, but…” “And don’t you dare say that’s what Ryder’s chasing,” she warned. “Like he said, he’s not looking for popularity, he’s looking to make a difference.” “I’ve always said that. I didn’t get where I am just to…” “But he means it,” she interrupted, starting to back up. “I’m so disappointed in you Teddy. Keep acting like you are, and you’ll lose a lot more than just Ryder.” I slowly followed behind her, trying my hardest to hide my emotions from showing on my face. I don’t know what pushed her over the edge. Maybe it was having Blake hit Kyle in front of everyone. Maybe it’s that I didn’t stand up for Ryder. Maybe it’s out of fear I’ll hurt her new friend. Or maybe Ryder asked her to say something. No matter what it was, she really is mad at me, and I’m starting to think I deserved every second of that. I tried to hide how I was feeling the rest of the game, but I could tell Ryder was onto me. He wanted to ask, but wasn’t sure how. I just hope he wasn’t blaming himself for anything that was happening. “Hey Teddy!” Mike called out as the game finished, and we all made our way towards the exit. “I’m thinking of having people over tonight, and…” “I can’t,” I interrupted with a shrug. “I’ve already got plans.” “Oh, come on,” he protested. “We never get to chill anymore. Can’t you make an exception?” “Sorry man,” I let out still walking away. “Maybe another day.” “Yeah.” Mike’s voice drifted off. “Another day.” “Sorry,” I whispered to Liz as her and Blake got closer to his car. “I’ll work on everything.” “You better,” she instructed, not even bothering to slow down or turn around. Ryder’s eyes fell on me as they began to pull away “Sorry,” he began, not sure what to say. “I didn’t mean to…” “It’s nothing you did,” I comforted him, knowing how bad it could be when Ryder starts to blame himself. “I deserved it. I need to start backing up my words. I guess I started losing myself for a bit is all.” I exhaled, not sure what else to say. “You want to do something special for me tonight, right?” he asked, trying his hardest to keep eye contact with me. I slowly nodded my head, noticing that he had to fight his anxiety just to keep his eyes on mine. “Then be the real Teddy tonight. Leave the you who was at the baseball game behind. No one from our school will be there. It’ll just be you and me.” I took a deep breath and nodded my head, understanding what he was saying. “Okay,” I agreed.” I’ll pick you up around six.” “Sounds good.” He forced a smiled as he opened his car door. “Don’t think about it all too much,” he comforted, trying his hardest to make me feel better. “We’ll figure it out.” I nodded my head once more, proud of how strong he was being today. The afternoon flew by fast. I spent most of it thinking about myself, and who I was becoming. About what I want, and who I want to become. I’ve never liked anyone the way I like Ryder, and I’m throwing that all away for what? Who benefits from my popularity? Me? Why? Because I get to talk to people who I don’t even know? It needs to change. Something needs to break and I refuse to let it be Ryder. I stopped in the mirror on the way out and took a long look at myself. I looked deep into my brown eyes and sighed. How bad have I been that Liz needed to pull me aside and nearly beat me up? “Dad,” I called out, quickly walking out of the bathroom and into the living room. “Have I been acting different lately?” My mom looked towards my dad, unsure if he should be the one to handle the question. “You’re growing up,” my Dad began. “And with that, people change. I can’t really say that I’ve seen you act much different than you did last year, but you’re more independent and um…” He continued, looking to my mom for help. “Come here.” My mom took over, reaching over for me. As I approached her, she grabbed my side and pulled me in. “Teddy, you’ve known who you are since you were three years old.” She smiled, fixing my hair with her spare hand. “You’ve always known you want to be a doctor. You’ve always known you want to play lacrosse. You’ve always known you want to help people. Hell, at eight years old you knew yourself well enough to come out as gay.” She smiled encouragingly. “If you’ve been acting different, it’s because you know what you want, and you’re trying to get it.” I unwillingly let out a sigh as her words connected with me. “You don’t like the way you’ve been acting lately?” she asked, picking up on my body language. “My words and my actions haven’t exactly lined up lately.” I exhaled, nervously biting on the inside of my lip. “That’s okay,” my mom comforted, gently rubbing my back. “Start practicing what you preach. If you’re saying it, it’s what you want and you should always go after what you want,” she explained, nodding her head. “Well within reason.” My dad tried to weigh in, but my mom shot him a death stare. They’ve always disagreed on the life lessons they want to teach me. It’s not like my mom wants me to be ruthless or anything, she’s just worried my dad is going to make me a big pushover. In the end, they just want me to chase my dreams and not let anything get in my way. “Always chase what you want in life, understood?” I nodded my head, as she gave the conversation to my dad. “Where are you headed tonight anyway?” He smiled. “Got a hot date?” I shrugged my shoulders as I felt a blush begin on my face. “No one crazy.” My dad made a face and looked towards my mom. “Oh yeah?” he asked. “What’s his name?” “It’s no one new.” I shook my head. “Just Ryder.” At first, I saw excitement grow on his face. Suddenly an unexpected nervousness came over him. “That’s great!” he encouraged. “Chasing after your own rockstar.” “What’s that face for?” I asked, worried about what was on his mind. “What face?” he asked, trying his best to hide it. “I’m happy for you. You know how much I like Ryder. It’s…it’s really awesome…” “Harry!” my mom groaned, cutting him off before he could continue to ramble. “We’ve talked about this, Teddy can read…” “I can’t just change my reaction to things,” my dad interrupted, not sure how to escape the trap he set for himself. “You spoke about this? Gee, thanks,” I mumbled, as my eyes fell down. “You’re an observant kid, we’ve been talking about it since you were five,” my mom defended. “What were we supposed to do? Let you figure out Santa wasn’t real because your father has a bad poker face?” “So, then what is it?” I exhaled, looking at my dad, nervous about what he might say. “Santa isn’t real?” he teased, hoping it would give him a way out of the conversation. I threw my head back and groaned at his little games. “Alright, alright, it’s nothing, really.” he lied, trying to cover his tracks. “Like I said, I really like Ryder.” “Well don’t lie to him,” my mom reprimanded. “He’s going to find out eventually.” I felt my heart beat faster as he nervously looked from her to me. “It’s just, Ryder’s going to be famous, I have no doubt in my mind. And that…it can be really hard to be a part of that.” He looked to his wife for a way out but she shook her head, forcing him to share what was on his mind. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt by his crazy schedule. Or by the lack of privacy. Or who he may become.” He hesitated for a second before thinking it over. “And even then, if you can make it past all that, he’s got a heavy past. Whoever he winds up with…he’s got a long road ahead of him.” I could tell he didn’t mean any of it in a bad way. He meant it out of concern for my future. I took a deep breath, knowing the last part of what he said. I know a lot of our future together will be spent trying to help him. I know his mental health will always be something we have to deal with; but I’ve never been worried about it. In a lot of ways, I kind of just accepted it. “What do you mean ‘who he may become?’” I asked, thinking about the only part of his statement that confused me. “I, it’s…” he stumbled, trying to phrase it the best way he could. “Once you get a taste of the spotlight, it’s hard to let it go.” “But Ryder’s not like that!” I tried to defend, not knowing what else to do. “He’s never been the main focus. He’s never had everyone like him.” My dad sighed. “It may be hard for him to let that go.” I grew quiet, thinking about how hard it’s been for me to even consider giving up my popularity for him; but pretty soon I’m going to expect him to do the same for me? I better pray he’s better at keeping his word than me. “I’m not trying to discourage you. I mean, it’s your first date. It’s not like you’re engaged to him. Just, keep your wits about you.” “I will.” I nodded as I forced a smile. “I trust him and I’m not scared to be there with him. He’s not in this for the fame,” I let out, remembering his words. “He’ll be just as happy one on one as he will be on a stage.” My dad smiled as he began to nod his head. “I really hope so, because if my future son in law is a…” “Harry!” my mom yelped, trying to shut him up. “What?” he defended in a laugh. “I like the kid, if they can make it work then I’m all for it.” “He knows that!” My mom sighed, not sure if they were helping or hurting. “I…Teddy, it’s getting late, isn’t it?” “Alright I’m going.” I giggled. Watching them figure out how to parent always amused me. They’ve always talk about having another child, but they’ve said they wanted to figure it out with me first. Yet if you ask me, they’ve got it figured out better than most people. Even if they mess up or say too much, they don’t really hide things from me. They keep me in the loop and let me feel like I have a choice, even if I don’t. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ I began to calm down the closer I got to Ryder’s house. Something about talking with my parents just seemed to hit me in the right way. Sure, my dad has his doubts, but they’re stuff I’ve already spoken to Ryder about. True, he’s never had popularity. True, it’s been hard for me to give up. But he’s not me and that’s exactly what I like about him. I don’t know what he’s going to do or say next; and for better or worse, I get the feeling I’ll always be chasing that next step. As I pulled up the dirt road and onto the gravel driveway, I saw a scrawny figure leave the rickety old home. For the first time since I’ve met him, he wasn’t wearing a band shirt and skinny jeans. Instead, he had on nice tight black pants, with a button up flannel shirt. He must not have nice shoes because he was still rocking the normal skater shoes he always wears. “No beanie?” I teased, as he opened the passenger’s side door. He ran his hand up to fix his hair and I could tell that was an actual debate he had with himself. “So predictable.” I teased, giving him a light elbow. “Sorry, I know it’s not as unique as vineyard vines and boat shoes,” he shot back. To my surprise, he leaned in and gave me a quick peck on the lips. “Someone’s already over this afternoon.” I giggled throwing the car into reverse and slowly pulling out. “Over is a strong word.” He shrugged. “I just have a lot of faith that that I’m getting the real Teddy tonight.” “Why’s that?” I asked, glancing his way. “I was texting Liz before and she told me what happened,” he provided as a smile spread across his face. “You mean when she attacked me?” I blushed, a bit embarrassed that she told Ryder about the small assault. “Aww are you hurt?” Ryder sarcastically let out. “Not funny.” I smiled. “She looks small but she can do some serious damage! Have you ever even been slapped before?” “No, because I’m not a douchebag.” He teased me with a grin. “Ouch!” I laughed. “That’s like the fourth time today you’ve called me a douchebag.” “If the boot fits.” He shrugged, as we pulled up to the quiet restaurant. “Oh please!” He exhaled as he caught my look. “I don’t actually think you’re a douchebag. Well, sometimes you can be,” he confessed. “But that’s only when you’re being fake.” “Fair enough.” I shrugged, ready to move past the topic. “Ryder!” A voice shouted as we entered the large barn. “I didn’t think you’d be back here anytime soon.” “Why not?” Ryder asked, trying his hardest to seem friendly. “I like the food. I’m just onto other music projects now is all.” “Jack Johnson,” the man introduced himself, shaking my hand. “Teddy Haner,” I let out, not sure who I was talking to. “You’re onto better music projects!” the man encouraged. “I always knew you would move on from us, I just didn’t expect it to be so soon.” “I um,” Ryder began, not sure what to say. “It’s okay. Just don’t forget where you used to play.” The man winked, before turning towards the hostess. “See them to a table. Dinner’s on the house.” “Oh, no,” Ryder began, clearly uncomfortable by the favor. “It’s cool.” The man nodded. “Besides, I owe you. Think of it as payment for all those nights you packed this place.” “Thank you.” Ryder nodded, still put off by the kind gesture. “You’re headed for big things Ryder.” The man encouraged him as he began to walk away. “It was a pleasure to have you play here.” “Wow!” I began to tease as we followed the hostess. “Stop.” Ryder grunted, knowing what was coming next. “I didn’t know I was out to dinner with a celebrity.” I mocked with a smile. “I mean, free dinner already! Man, what’s going to happen after you play Warped Tour?” “Stop!” he repeated, starting to grow serious. “Alright, alright.” I backed off. “It’s okay to accept favors Ry.” “Especially when you’ve earned them,” the hostess added as we finally reached our table. “You’ve pushed this place to capacity for nearly a year. Jack, the wait staff, me, we all owe you for that. People used to fight over the Friday night shift,” she explained, trying to help him ease into the idea of free dinner. “It hasn’t been the same since you left.” “Thank you, Kelly.” He nodded once more. To think, my dad’s worried about a kid who can’t even accept dinner for free without being awkward getting corrupted by fame. I think he’s more likely to reject it than fall headfirst into it. She gave him a flirty wink before heading back to her podium. “Ohhhh!” I provoked, looking over at him. “Looks like I’ve got some competition.” “Are you going to be like this all night?” He groaned, staring right into my eyes. “This is the real me.” I shrugged. “Unless you’d prefer the fake…” “No!” Ryder quickly spit out. “The real you is fine.” I felt my smile fade as our joking around grew a little too serious. “Before, when I didn’t…” “We don’t have to talk about it.” Ryder dismissed my attempted apology as his eyes drifted. “I want to, and I know that you do too.” I forced out a breath, knowing it’d be better to talk about the pink elephant in the room. “When I didn’t defend you, it’s not because I didn’t want to,” I began, unsure how to explain it. “I was trying to, but I froze and I don’t know why. I’ve never froze before. It was like I couldn’t even form words. I’m not trying to make an excuse or say it was okay. It just kind of happened,” I explained as he refused eye contact. “I know it probably made you feel like shit and it’s something that will keep you up tonight; but you have to trust me when I say, I really like you. “I do.” He spoke up, finally looking at me. “But I can’t be with someone who’s embarrassed of me. It’d…I just can’t do that to myself.” I nodded, unsure of what he was going to say next. “Don’t make me end this.” “I won’t.” I comforted him in confidence. I can’t lose Ryder. I’m done chasing the popular kids. Like Liz said, look where it’s gotten me. Heartbroken and forcing friends to do my dirty work. “Remember when we first met?” “Like in Kindergarten? Or when I yelled at you in the hallway a few weeks ago?” he asked, lightly tilting his head. “When you yelled at me.” I smiled. “You yelled at me a lot when we first met. Did you ever think we’d wind up here?” “No,” he laughed, looking around. “I never thought I’d be taking Teddy Haner out to dinner. I never thought I’d want to.” “Oh, come on,” I pestered. “All these years in school together and you never once stared a little longer than you should’ve. I know I stared at you once or twice.” A small blush formed on his face as he thought over my confession. “Only like once or twice. But I mean, we’re the only two openly gay kids at school, so I just thought you were the only option. Not that you’re a bad option,” he rambled, hoping not to offend me. “I just…I thought you were a lot more of a dick than you are.” “Gee thanks!” I giggled, understanding what he was trying to say. “No! I didn’t mean it like…” “I get it.” I interrupted him trying to save him the pain of having to clarify. “I don’t think I like current Teddy that much either.” “Then why act the way you do?” he asked, not able to relate at all to what I’ve done. I shrugged as I tried to put the words to my actions “It’s like, over these past few years, it’s taken more and more to keep myself at the top. I’ve always had to up the ante on everything I’ve done. This year it just took a lot of faking and pretending like I know exactly what I’m doing one hundred percent of the time. I had to seem perfect, because if I wasn’t, then who would be? It’s like they expected it from me, and I couldn’t let them down.” “Why not?” Ryder asked, keeping his eyes locked onto mine. “I don’t know,” I confessed. “I guess I’m just scared.” “Of?” “Being alone,” I admitted, showing him more vulnerability than I ever have before. “Who wants to lose all their friends? Plus, it would’ve cost me the school presidency and lacrosse captaincy.” I shook my head and looked at him. “I know it’s shallow, but it just felt, well, scary.” “I get it,” he accepted. “But you know Liz and Blake will never leave you, even if you’re no longer the head of the school.” “They’re popular too,” I let out. “It just felt like they’d be forced to choose between it and me, and I didn’t want to do that to them. Even if it meant I had to be an ass.” “And what about now?” he asked, trying his hardest to get a good understanding while he still could. “Things are different. I have you.” I smiled. “And now I know Liz and Blake would rather be unpopular with me, than have me be a jerk. I guess now I know I won’t be alone,” I realized, with a shrug of my shoulders. “Why haven’t we had this conversation before?” “I’ve been trying to have it.” He laughed quietly, relieved by the answers he got. “But I can never get you to be real with me.” “That’s not true,” I defended. “I’m real with you more than anyone else.” “Yeah but I want you to always be real with me. How about this?” he began. “You be real with me and I’ll try to do all the stuff you want me to do.” “Even coming to a party?” I tested, seeing how far he was willing to go. He took a deep breath and thought it over. “If you promise you’ll be real there.” He sighed. I could tell the idea scared him. I know that if he comes and I don’t stand up for him, that it is over for us. He’s putting his trust in me. That’s something I can’t take advantage of. “I will be.” I nodded, as a wide smile grew across my face. “If you’re not…” “It’s over,” I finished for him. “I know.” “You better,” he warned, but I could tell it was the last thing he wanted to do. “Wait!” He hesitated before continuing. “That day in the hallway, did you already have a crush on me?” “No.” I shook my head. “I mean, I thought you were cute. But I didn’t have a crush on you until my party.” “Why?” he asked, still not believing he deserved me. “I’ve seen your ex. He’s so much better looking than…” “No, he’s not!” I shut him down before he could finish the sentence. “You have to stop saying that. You’re hands down the best-looking guy I’ve ever dated. You’re cute, but hot, and that’s just the beginning.“ I exhaled, looking at him. “You’re interesting, and I don’t understand you. I can predict everyone but you. Sometimes I know what you’re going to do; but other times you catch me completely off guard. I…I don’t know if I’ll ever find someone that matches up with me the way you do. I hope I never have to.” “I…“ he began, not sure what to say. He thought for another second before letting out a deep breath. “Like I said, I don’t deserve you,” I let out, enjoying the look on his face. “You’re going to make a great lawyer,” he teased, trying his hardest to hide the blush on his face. “I don’t want to be a lawyer.” I shrugged. “Or a politician,” I added, knowing the top two things people assume I want to do with my life. “I want to be a doctor.” “What?” Ryder asked, caught off-guard once again. “Mmhmm.” I nodded. “I want to be a surgeon in the ICU. I want my life to mean something; for someone to look at me and tell me I helped save them.” “I would’ve never guessed that.” He shook his head. “That’s like, you can handle all the blood and gore?” “I don’t know.” I smiled back at him. “But if I can’t, I’ll find a way to make myself. I can’t see myself doing anything else.” He thought it over for a second, still surprised at his latest discovery. “What about you? If there was no music, what would you want to do?” Once more he shook his head, unable to think of anything to say. “I don’t think I’d be alive. If there was no music, what’d be the point of anything? Music is like…it’s like the way my brain makes sense of the thoughts within it. I don’t think I’d be able to cope with those thoughts without music,” he confessed. “A world without music is the worst hell I can ever imagine.” “So, what? You’ve had music pumped into your ears since you were born?” I asked, with a slight tilt of my head. “Yeah.” He nodded. “I’ve been around music since the day I was born. I could sing before I could talk properly. Words have always…” he trailed off in doubt, but when his eyes met mine, he found himself again. “They’re like a poem to me. I just feel the rhythms and syllables. It all just makes sense to me. Its hard to explain properly.” “I’ll never understand that.” I shook my head. “The way you talk about music, it’s like it’s a language to you.” “Just think of your favorite artist and imagine getting lost in their music. That moment when you can just feel the music. When you feel the chorus hit and you know that this is the greatest thing you’ve ever heard,” he explained as passion began to light in his eyes. “That’s what music feels like to me. It’s why I’ll always be obsessed with it. I’ll always chase it, no matter where it leads.” “It’s going to an amazing place,” I encouraged, but saw hesitation in him. “It is! I’ve never seen anyone talk with more conviction and passion than the way you do when you talk about music. And then on top of that, you have an E.P. deal and an upcoming tour. Whether you see it or not, you’re going somewhere special.” He nodded his head and took another breath “Can you teach me?” “Teach you what?” I asked, as his eyes fell away from mine. “How to talk to crowds and be a leader,” he forced out, clearly uncomfortable by the topic. “I need to learn how to motivate people. I was talking to your dad and he said I’ll become a role model. Then Liz was telling me I’m strong, but I don’t know,” he hesitated, letting his words flow out. “I don’t see it.” “You don’t have to.” I shrugged. “The strength isn’t for you, it’s for everyone around you. The first thing people will do is lean on you. Let them. Even when you don’t want to. Even when you want to scream at the top of your lungs, act like you’re okay,” I explained. “It’s all just an act.” “Okay, but it can’t all be an act. Some of it must be…” He began, pressing for more information. “Trust me, it’s all an act,” I interrupted. “Sure, I enjoy attention and talking to people, but that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous when I do it. I faked it until I got comfortable with it. Instead of giving speeches, you’ll have to sing to people. But the only thing you can do to get comfortable with it is to do it.” I took a breath and smiled at him. “And from what I can tell, you’re already there.” “But what about giving people advice?” he asked, clearly bothered by what his role as a musician would become. “You help people all the time, how do you know what to say?” “When you’re writing songs, how do you know what to write that will help others?” I returned, but he kept silent. “You just draw from what you know and try to mold it to their problem. I don’t know what it’s like to be up on stage singing, but I know what it’s like to be up there giving speeches. All I can do is tell you how I do it. Maybe it’s the worst advice ever, but it’s the advice I can give.” I shrugged. “You can only do so much Ryder. If you become a leader, then live in a way all those kids can follow. Be healthy, be happy, sing your heart out. Show them that they can do that too. Everything else will follow.” “But how do you know that?” he inquired, finally reconnecting his eyes with mine. “I don’t.” I laughed. “But it’s the best I’ve got. The way I see it, there’s so much shitty stuff out there that even if I screw up, as long as it’s in a good way, then I’m fine. Besides, from what I can tell with how you handled Blake, I think you know more than you realize.” He uneasily tapped his fingers against the table as his anxiety began to take over. “I wish there was something I could tell you that would get rid of all your worries.” I sighed. “But only you know the road you’re about to head down. If it helps, I’ll be by your side the whole time.” His hand softly reached across the table and grabbed mine. He kept his silence for a little bit longer, but I could tell it meant a lot to him. The rest of dinner lightened up once Ryder started talking again. It’s still amazing to me how everyone at school can’t see him the way I do. How can they not see this amazingly creative person underneath? A person who’s so full of life. All they see is their scapegoat. Someone they can laugh at and make fun of to make themselves feel better. They’ll regret it someday, he’s going to make it big and make every single one of them regret the way they treated him. During the ride back to his house, I couldn’t help but stare at him every chance I got. Sometimes he just seems so peaceful that it’s easy to forget the internal war that rages in his head. “Freakin’ potheads,” he muttered as we pulled up the thin dirt road. “What?” I asked, not sure if I heard him right. “Sniff the air.” He grunted, looking around to see if he could spot anyone. I took in a big breath and noticed the distinct smell of weed as it flowed through the air. “That sucks man,” I let out, not sure what this meant for him. “Alright, I better walk the grounds and chase anyone off before my grandma wakes up,” he muttered “So I guess…” “What?” I interrupted him. “You’re not walking around in the dark alone.” “I’ve done it a million times,” he insisted, climbing out of the car to escape further explanation. “Well this time you’re doing it with me,” I quickly decided, jumping out to join him. “So are there like spotlights you turn on or anything?” He let out a short laugh before turning and giving me a weird look. “This is a cemetery Teddy,” he explained, reaching into a nearby shed and pulling out a flashlight. “There’s nothing here but you and the dead.” “That’s not funny.” I shook, as my headlights turned off, engulfing us in darkness. “Aww are you scared?” he teased, flicking on the small flashlight. “No!” I lied, trying my hardest to stay calm. “Look at it this way, the living can hurt you a lot more than the dead can.” He shrugged, beginning to walk into the darkness. “Slow down!” I ran to catch up with him. “How is this so normal for you?” “I do it every night,” he explained, slowly waiving the flashlight from the left to the right. “And I’ve lived here since I was five. Like I said, what are the dead going to do that’s so bad?” “I don’t know,” I muttered. “Ghosts are pretty scary.” “Grow up!” He sighed, trying his hardest to spot where the odor was coming from. “I mean sure, you see some stuff move, but they won’t actually hurt you.” “That better be a joke Ryder Sullivan,” I reprimanded, clearly starting to grow scared. There was nothing surrounding us but darkness and gravestones as we walked through a small dirt path. “Take it how you want.” He smiled, finally looking over to me. Suddenly we heard movement zoom past us and towards the gate “That’s right!” Ryder yelled, flashing the light on their backs “You better fucking run! This isn’t your mother’s basement! Next time I’m calling the cops!” He angrily shook his head and kept walking, clearly distraught by people smoking in his cemetery. “Where are you going now?” I protested in a worried voice. “Relax.” He sighed again. “You’re with me, nothing’s going to hurt you. See?” He reached into his shirt and pulled out a small metal cross dangling on a chain. “You’re religious?” I asked, caught off guard by the necklace he wore. “I believe in what I have to,” he mumbled, quickly placing it back into his shirt. “Besides, I need to walk the rest of the grounds. You can leave if you want.” “Walk all the way back alone?” I let out, shocked that he would even let me think of that. “Are you crazy?” “Like I said, I do this every night. Alone. It’s perfectly safe,” he explained, giving me a look into his world “I’ve never ever felt unsafe here.” “How’d you even wind up living in a cemetery?” I forced out. I’ve been wondering the question ever since he gave me his address but could never find the courage to ask. He shrugged his shoulders once more and held back words before exhaling and turning towards me. “After my mom died, my dad couldn’t afford rent anymore. One of her friends owns this place and offered the house rent free in exchange for him doing the ground work. So, we moved in. Him, me, and my grandma.” He exhaled, preparing himself for the rest of the story. “Shortly after that he left and my mom’s friend didn’t have the heart to throw us out on the street.” I could feel the pain in his words as he spoke. “Ever since we’ve both done the ground work. I’ve been taking care of this place since I was six.” Suddenly we reached an open patch of grass. Ryder waved for me to take a seat with him, but I was too nervous. “It’s okay,” he comforted. “No one’s out here but you and me, you’re perfectly safe.” I thought about it for a second before joining him, and making sure to leave almost no space between us. “Are your parents, are they…” “Buried here?” he finished, knowing the question I was trying to ask. “Yeah,” he began. “My mom was originally buried in a catholic cemetery, but my grandma had her body moved here after they refused to let my dad be buried there. They’re buried together a few feet from my front door,” he let out, in a tone that showed the cruel irony wasn’t lost on him. How can someone live like this? With their parent’s graves just footsteps away from their home? How in the world can he ever get closure? It’s no wonder he’s such a mental mess! “Why wouldn’t they take his body?” I couldn’t help but ask as I got sucked into his story. He took another deep breath as he thought. “Sorry,” I quickly apologized. “I shouldn’t have…” “It’s fine,” he reassured. “I’ve been meaning to tell you about it all anyway.” I saw sadness like I’ve never known enter his eyes as he slowly gripped my hand. “When I was four, my mom was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer.” I couldn’t help but gasp as I realized where this was headed. “I only ever knew her as a skeleton. Every day she wasted away more and more. She put up a great fight but at the end of the day, it was too much for her.” He let out a sigh. “She died before I turned five. I don’t remember much of her, I remember her and my dad singing me to sleep. I remember her picking me up whenever I fell and what she looks like, but that’s it.” He shook his head as more and more pain filled him. “Shortly after that my dad started not doing so well. He couldn’t even be left alone with me. He was just too, too…” It seemed like Ryder knew the word he wanted to use, but just didn’t want to say it. “Depressed,” he finally let out. “He couldn’t get past her death. It was like his world had been ripped apart and there was nothing he could do about it. A few days after moving into this house my grandma found him hanging.” I couldn’t see his face but I could tell he was starting to cry. “He didn’t even left a note,” he forced out in a weak voice. “It’s like I didn’t even matter to him. Like he had nothing else of value here.” “Don’t say that!” I let out, as I pulled him closer. “Why?” Ryder asked, leaning his head against my shoulder. “It’s true. Everyone tells me he loved me and maybe he did. But if he loved me as much as people say, why did he leave? He didn’t even hug me goodbye.” He cried, finally letting it all out. “I don’t know.” I comforted him, holding him even tighter. “But you of all people know how hard depression can hit. You know what it can do to you and how it can make you feel. I don’t think he wanted to leave you. Actually, I guarantee he didn’t want to. But you know it’s not that simple.” “I know,” he agreed in a faint voice. “But I’m so, so, angry.” He shook his head. “And I don’t want to be mad at him. I want him to be proud of me. But I just can’t help it.” “It’s okay. You can be mad. You have every right to be. But at least forgive him.” I held him for a little bit longer just thinking over the revelation as he cried in my arms. “And for the record, I’m sure he’s very proud of you.” I could swear I could hear Ryder release a sigh of relief as he heard my words. “I, what if I ever hit that point?” “Don’t say that.” My arms started to tremble at the thought. “But we don’t know I won’t. My grandma says I’m just like him,” he insisted as though he’d been fixated on the idea. “My dad was so strong, he almost never let his mental illness show, and he gave in. What if…” “Stop!” I cried out, pulling him close once more. “Don’t say that.” I shook my head, feeling water begin to drip from my own eyes. “I can tell you why you won’t hit that point. Because you’ll always have me and my family, and Liz, and Blake, and your grandma. We’ll never let you go there.” I spoke, barely even knowing if what I was saying made sense. “You’ll have to kill me before I ever let you hurt yourself.” Ryder doubted me at first, but the second his eyes connected with mine, he knew I was serious. He nodded his head and fell quiet. “Just never leave me,” he finally spoke, burying his head back into my arms. “I won’t.” I shook my head, finally realizing I meant what I was saying. Nothing will ever be the same after tonight. I know too much now. He’s let me in closer than he’s let anyone else. And in a lot of ways I’ve done the same with him. I know he thinks he needs me, but he has no idea how much I need him. I’ll stand by him through it all and I’ll never give him the chance to hurt himself the way his father did.
  2. It's way too easy to get carried away with writing. Especially when you have a great editor to bounce ideas off of. (Shout out to @JayT)

    1. JayT


      We do work well together...y'all are in for a few treats and surprises....but for now :X

    2. SolarMaxx


      You guys make a winning team! 

  3. All for One

  4. All for One

    -------------------------------------------------------------Teddy--------------------------------------------------------------------- Can’t time just stand still for a little while? Can’t we just lay here together? Sure he’ll still be around tomorrow, and the day after that, but how long until his career takes off? His E.P. isn’t even out yet, but he’s already getting offers to play concerts. I know he said his spot isn’t certain, but if I know anything about my uncle, it’s that he’ll make sure Ryder is on tour soon. I guess I turned a blind eye to it all, pretended that he wouldn’t blow up this fast, pretended we would still have next year together, but I guess deep down I knew this was coming. I guess I knew I would have to adapt to who Ryder’s becoming. I mean, if that’s even what I want! He can’t even sit in the same room as my best friend without them fighting. I let out a deep breath as our eyes connected. He is what I want, but at what price? “What are you thinking about?” Ryder finally spoke, noticing how deep I had fallen into my own head. “Nothing.” I smiled softly. “Just stupid school B.S., you know how it goes.” “I can’t say I do,” he teased. “But I can say that you promised to be real with me.” His eyes flashed trouble and doubt as he sniffed out my fake words. He’s learning to read me; I have to be careful about how I speak to him, about what I think around him. “I just,” I began, but wasn’t sure what to say next. “Why do I have to be real with you, but you’re not truly real with me.” I forced out, throwing a doubt at him to mislead him from what was really on my mind. I could tell he knew that wasn’t all that I was thinking about, but shrugged his shoulders and took the bait anyway. “I’m never really fake with you.” “No, but you hold back,” I observed, making sure he knew I wasn’t trying to attack him. “I know it’s going to take you time to let me in, but I haven’t learned one thing about your past. You don’t even like when I spend time around your grandma.” “I never said that,” He defended, flashing me a cautious look from the side of his eyes. “You never had to.” I exhaled, trying to keep the conversation as calm as possible. “I get it, you’ve seen some shit, but can we ever really connect heart to heart if you never actually let me in.” His eyes drifted as he began to anxiously tap his hands. “Sorry,” I quickly forced out, remembering how delicate he can be. “I don’t want to force anything. I just hope that you trust me as much as I trust you.” “You, not force something?” he teased. “That’ll be the day.” A smile grew on his face, but I could tell it was for show. “You’re upset I’m getting a shot at warped?” I shook my head and kept a poker face. “You’re upset I didn’t tell you about getting the shot?” he guessed again. “I just figured I’d be the first person you tell when you got news like that.” I exhaled, taking advantage of the moment. “I thought you’d let me closer than everyone else.” His eyes drifted as my words connected with him. “I know, we really just met a few weeks ago, I was stupid to think that…” “I didn’t hold the news because I didn’t trust you,” he interrupted. “I knew if I told you something in confidence, it would stay that way, I was just teasing you before.” He exhaled, as his glare went to his feet. “Then why?” I shook my head. “You didn’t think I cared? You didn’t want to tell me? You don’t like me as much as I thought you…” “I was scared what you would think if I didn’t get it.” He exhaled, biting down hard on his lip. “I didn’t want to get your hopes up, just so you could watch me fail.” I could hear the sorrow break in his words as he threw it all out there. “But then I spoke to your dad, and now,” he shook his head once more and the sorrow seemed to fade, “I don’t care if I get warped or not. I’m going to make it, no matter what it takes. I’ll be on a fuckin stage come September.” Finally, he picked his head back up, but as our eyes connected I didn’t recognize the teen I was looking at. “This is mine for the taking and I’m going to grab on with both hands.” I took a deep breath as I saw the fire Ryder kept buried away in his heart. For the first time since meeting him, I saw Ryder believe in himself. I saw him have confidence in his abilities as a musician. More importantly, I saw the man he’s going to be, and well, the world better watch the hell out. “I’ll watch you fail a million times if it means I get to be there when you succeed,” I finally let out, as my heart began to beat faster. “I’m on this ride with you, until the end.” I nodded, reaching over and placing my hand on his. He moved his mouth from one side to another, thinking over everything that was being said. “You know what that could mean?” I took a deep breath and nodded my head once again. “It could mean I lose some friends. It could mean I lose some popularity. It could mean…” “You’re alone while I tour the world,” he finished, as he thought over the harsh reality of the situation. “Can you handle that?” I shrugged my shoulders and laid a kiss on his lips, to dissuade any more of the conversation. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” I couldn’t help but grow nervous as I saw him take in a big breath. Whatever he’s about to say, it has him shook up, and considering the last thing he just said to me, I don’t know if I want to hear this. “Can I,” he began with nervous laughter, trying his hardest to keep a serious face. “Can we…do you want to go on a date?” “What?” I asked, with a quick tilt of my head. Did he just ask what I think? “Do you want to go on a date with me?” he asked once more, as the trembling in his hand spread to his whole body. “Hold on,” I began with a small smile. “You weren’t afraid to just tell me I’ll be alone when you eventually tour, but you’re terrified to ask me on a date?” “Yeah,” he let out, as though it made perfect sense. “One is fantasizing, the other is reality.” “Well which one is which?” I teased, letting him squirm a little bit more. “Depends on the answer,” he nervously teased, showing that sharp wit of his. “Ryder, the only reason we’re not dating is because you asked if we could just be in this weird middle ground.” I laughed. “Of course we can go on a date.” “Can we go to The Barn?” he asked with a quick raise of his eyebrows. I let out a disappointed breath at the stark reminder of the guy I was falling for. “What?” he anxiously gulped. “What’s the matter with The Barn?” “It’s a frickin barn!” I giggled, with a quick shake of my head. “Then again, I can’t think of a better place to go on our first date.” He nodded his head, trying his hardest to hide the growing smile. “See, you’re going to,” “Just one condition.” I interrupted as it was my turn to feel nervous. “You have to come to Mike’s baseball game in two days.” “Fuck no,” he automatically let out without thinking. I made a face and shrugged my shoulders, knowing the silence would drive him crazier than any words I could say. “Fine,” he mumbled in a low voice. “But you have to stay next to me the whole time.” “Through six innings,” I teased, as a genuine smile crossed my face. “I swear to God, Teddy.” He giggled, wrapping his arm around me. “You play that game, and see what happens.” “I’m soooo scared,” I sarcastically let out as he leaned in for a kiss. As our kiss grew deeper, I felt a buzz begin in his pocket. He let out a disappointed sigh and threw his head back as he ripped his phone out of his pocket. “What’s up?” he began. “My uncle?” I mouthed, as he rolled his eyes at the unknown caller. “Worse,” he let out, not caring if it confused the person on the other end. “No, not you grandma.” He groaned. “Yes,” he interrupted an angry sounding voice on the other side of the phone. “I know what today is.” There seemed to be more yelling on the other side as I saw Ryder’s face grow angry. “Why should I care?” he growled, as the yelling grew louder. “Tell me why I should be there when he left us.” The other side of the phone grew quiet as Ryder’s words connected. Whatever he meant by that, it was cold, and seemingly heartless. “I’ll be there soon.” He sighed, as he had a sudden change of heart. “I have to go,” he shrugged as he hung up and threw his phone back into his pocket. “My grandma’s having a freakin senile moment.” His anger soared in his eyes as he stood up. “Alright.” I nodded, lightly grasping his hand. “Just calm down for a few seconds. It’s not going to help anything if you go there yelling.” “It’s not going to help anything if I go there at all,” he corrected, breaking away from me and slowly heading towards the door. I shot him a confused look and quickly got to my feet. “Why? Have you two been…” “It’s my dad’s birthday,” he interrupted as his eyes left mine. I moved my eyes around the room trying to figure out what to say next. I mean his dad is dead isn’t he? That’s what his grandma made it sound like. That’s what he’s made it sound like. “Yeah, I don’t fucking get it either.” He grunted, reading the confusion on my face. “But my grandma insists the dead walk with us. Like she’s some sort of freaking priestess.” “Okay.” I nodded, walking up to him and latching back onto his arm. “But you need to relax. Maybe try and understand where she’s coming from.” “I’ve tried for the past eleven years,” he let out, still not looking at me. “But it’s not that simple. It’s not like with my mom. It’s not like he was taken.” I gulped hard as Ryder’s layer began to peel away. Whatever story lies behind his parents isn’t going to be an easy one to hear. “You’re still mad at him?” I asked, not knowing what he’d even be mad about. Ryder shook his head, not sure what he was feeling. “It’s not that simple,” he let out. “Mad isn’t the word. But I don’t need her telling me everything’s going to be okay. I don’t need her empty words and anecdotes. I don’t need to hear her talk about the man he was and how I remind her of him.” He shook his head in disgust. “I don’t want to hear I’m following in his footsteps.” “What’s wrong with that?” I softly asked, hoping not to upset him further. “I’ve seen how that story ends.” He exhaled as his eye grew dark. “I love my dad, don’t get me wrong, it’s just…” He grew silent trying to think of his next few words and angrily shook his head. I swear under it all I saw a layer of fear growing in him, as though he was petrified of something in this situation. “One day you’ll understand.” He mumbled, pulling away once more, opening the back door then tapping the button to open the garage door. “Then you’ll tell me about them?” I examined in a quiet voice. He took a breath and nodded his head. “Yeah.” He stood there watching the garage door for a few more seconds before turning around and giving me a tight hug. “I’m sorry I have to leave like this, I…” “Go ahead,” I interrupted, briefly laying my head on his shoulder. “I get it. I’ll see you on Monday.” He pulled away and nodded his head before turning around and heading into the garage. I felt a cold chill creep up on me as I watched him leave. I’ve gotten to know Ryder pretty well over the past few weeks. There’s a reason for everything he does. A reason for every word he says, or doesn’t say. And for the first time since we met, I don’t know if I want to know those unsaid words. That night and the next day I didn’t hear much from Ryder. I got texts or Snapchat’s every now and then, but nothing substantial. Mostly just him in the studio adding what I imagine were the finishing touches to his E.P. I’d be lying if I said it’s easy when he disappears like that. Even if we could just text for an hour consistently, it would mean more than his sporadic messaging. Don’t get me wrong, I know he’s not ignoring me. It’s just difficult. Especially when I have Mike in my ear about the whole damned thing! I couldn’t help but feel nervous as I pulled into the school lot, and headed towards the baseball field. I don’t know what I’m more nervous about, the idea that Ryder might bail on me or how Mike is going to react if he does show. The nerves grew worse as I approached the gate and saw a slim teen in black anxiously waiting outside the field. At least I have my answer. “Hey.” He nervously forced a smile. “Thought you weren’t going to show for a bit there.” “Same here.” I laughed, as he quickly joined my side. “They already start with you?” “No.” He shook his head. “No one’s seen me yet.” I could see in his eyes that it’d been a rough two days. Between his mental health and work, he’d been run ragged, and me pressuring him to come today definitely hasn’t helped. I nervously began to rub my fingers together as guilt filled me. Am I helping Ryder or hurting him? Has pushing him helped him grow? Or am I just pushing him towards the edge? A couple of people said my name as I walked towards the bleachers and I did my best to play the part without leaving Ryder alone. I made sure to be polite, but never actually engage either of them in conversation. If someone wants to talk to me today, they’re going to have to come to me. “Yo Teddy!” I heard a familiar voice boom from the dugout but could feel his spirit fall as he saw who I was with. “Where’s Blake and Liz?” “I don’t know.” I shrugged, standing on the other side of the big metal fence. “I think they’re coming. But you know Blake is, and Liz still doesn’t have her license, so that’s a whole thing.” He snickered and rolled his eyes. “You think they’re dating yet?” “It’s only a matter of time.” I smiled. Mike and I have been pushing them together since we were kids. I mean we know they’ve kissed a few times and that they both like each other, but neither has ever made a move. If you ask me, they’re scared they’re going to ruin the friendship. “Blake would like a girl like Liz?” Ryder asked giving me a weird look. “I don’t think so, but after sixteen years of friendship, things get warped.” I explained to him. “It’s not so much that he’s hopeless for her as he can’t live without her.” “Can’t they just do that as good friends?” Ryder examined, still not understanding what I was saying. “It’s not that simple.” Mike dismissed. “Girls and guys can’t be friends like that, it’s just too messy.” “Aren’t you friends with Liz like that?” Ryder pointed out, trying his hardest not to sound like he was attacking Mike. “Not the way those two are.” Mike shrugged. “I’m pretty sure they hangout every day. We’re all close, but those two bring it to another level.” “You know they say the same shit about us, right?” I laughed, smacking the fence where his chest was. “Especially about dating.” Mike provoked, with a troubled smile. “You know what I meant.” I exhaled with a quick roll of my eyes. “I know what you dream of.” He taunted, enjoying the fact that I was giving him attention. “But unfortunately, I’m as straight as an arrow.” I saw pressure fall on Mike as his teammates noticed who was standing outside the dugout talking with us. He rolled his shoulders and tilted his head, pretending not to notice their stares. “So why are you here?” Mike asked, directing his attention to Ryder. His tone wasn’t rude, but I could tell it was headed that way. He shrugged his shoulders and turned towards me. “Ask this one,” he let out, redirecting the attention to prevent a fight. “Baseball’s boring,” I defended with a grin. “You expect me to watch a nine inning game with Blake and Liz? You know they’ll eventually just start a side conversation and then I’ll be awkwardly stranded by myself.” “Yeah, because no one would want to talk with you.” He sighed, seeing the flaw in my lie. “I just…” “It’s cool Teddy,” Mike interrupted, trying his hardest to be good about the whole situation. I know he hates how much I like Ryder, but right now, he’s being surprisingly cool about the whole thing. “Hey Michael.” I heard another familiar voice. “Ready for your game?” Mike’s eyes turned sour as he got his chance to let all his pent-up energy fly out. “What the fuck are you doing here?” “My school is playing on the other side. I had to come support the team.” The guy smiled my way. “Oh, hey Teddy,” he continued, stopping by me and leaning against the fence. “I didn’t notice you there.” I rolled my eyes, and turned my back, knowing Mike would handle the situation for me. “You’re one dumb motherfucker,” Mike lashed out. I saw the shadow of the figure jump as Mike’s hand hit the fence. Confusion peaked in Ryder’s eyes as he watched the showdown happen. “‘I didn’t notice you there?’” Mike taunted in a high-pitched voice. “You stupid faggot.” I turned and watched Mike discreetly grab the bottom of the figure’s shirt and pull him towards the fence. “Kyle!” I heard Blake call out as he approached from the other side and pushed the figure into the fence. “Long time no see!” He shouted in fake excitement. “Actually, I have something I want to talk to you about.” He smirked as Mike let go of the shirt. “No,” Kyle began in a shaky voice. “That’s alright. I-I should probably get going. I um, I mean I have to get to the visitor’s side and all. I just wanted to…” “Oh, I know what you wanted to do.” Blake smirked again as he grabbed Kyle’s shoulder and led him away. “Now, let me fill you in on what I want to do.” “Blake!” Liz protested, having watched the whole thing from the behind him. “Don’t…” “It’s cool.” Blake nodded, escorting Kyle towards the side of home plate where only home side could see them. “Oh hey!” I heard Blake’s voice energetically shout. “Is that Guy in the crowd waiting for you?” “Teddy!” Liz yelped. “You’re not going to let him do this are you?” “Do what?” Ryder asked, as I angrily bit down on my lip and nodded towards the direction Blake was walking in. Ryder turned around just in time to watch Blake push Kyle away from him and catch him with a fist right to the face. “Mess with one of us, mess with all of us,” Blake shouted loud enough for everyone on this side of the fence hear. Ryder turned around in shock, not understanding what the hell he had just watched. “Phew,” Blake let out with an energetic grin. “I’ve been waiting to do that since March.” “This one was supposed to be mine,” Mike protested as he and Blake pounded fists along the fence. Everyone from the crowd was fixated on Blake as Kyle stumbled back to his feet and quickly made his way to his side of the field. “Oh please, I’m sure there will be plenty more chances once Liz starts dating.” Blake shrugged, clearly proud of what he had just done. “What the hell just happened?” Ryder forced out, not even sure who to look at. “Their version of justice.” Liz exhaled, shaking her head in disagreement. “That’s um,” Liz paused, not sure if she should even say. I turned slightly and nodded my head. He’s going to find out eventually, it might as well be now. “Teddy’s ex,” she began once more. “They dated for like a month,” she said in an uncertain voice “Then we found out he was cheating on him with that guy over there.” Liz gestured towards the other side of the diamond, and shrugged her shoulders. “They do this with everyone.” “Not everyone,” I defended. “Just the people that fuck with us.” “Because that makes it right.” She groaned and rolled her eyes. “No one’s saying it does.” I exhaled, with a proud look towards Blake and Mike. “But it’s how we survive. Mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.” I repeated, echoing Blake’s words. “Don’t forget how we got where we are.” Liz tightly shut her mouth, annoyed by the reminder of the things we’ve all had to do to become four of the most liked people in school. I saw Ryder trying his hardest to conceal a look of disgust. “Good shit,” one of the baseball players shouted to Blake walking towards the fence. “What’d that fag do to deserve it?” “Got too close to the sun,” Blake grunted, as the adrenaline faded and left behind the anger he was holding. The player couldn’t help but smile at the cryptic message. “You fuckers are crazy. So, what you going to do about this retard?” He laughed, nodding towards Ryder. Another baseball player laughed, having overheard the conversation and waited patiently for the answer. I went to speak but no words came out. This is it. My chance to stand up for him. Yet, it’s like I can’t even speak. I looked from the players to Ryder, not sure what to say. “Come on guys,” Mike nodded, reading the look on my face. “We have more important shit to worry about than pissing off the school shooter.” “Come on Ryder.” Liz shook her head. “Let’s go sit.” Ryder kept his eyes locked on mine and without saying a word, followed Liz to the nearby bleachers. Blake let out a long sigh and forced his eyes on mine. “One word! You couldn’t’ve said one word?” “It’s not that simple,” I tried to defend. “That’s the whole baseball team in there.” “It was simple enough for Mike to figure it out.” Blake interrupted me, not giving me a chance to craft a good excuse. “At least now I know which side you’ll choose.” “I froze, alright?” I yelped, looking back at a venting Ryder. “I’m not perfect! Don’t I have room for one screw up here?” “No.” Blake shook his head. “That’s your boyfriend, or at least it’s headed that way. You don’t get to hesitate about him. But by all means, distance yourself because he’s not cool enough.” I could see the anger in Blake’s eyes growing as he spoke. “Your last cool boyfriend was a real fucking winner.” He growled, looking over towards an ailing Kyle sitting in the visitor’s side, resting his head on another guy’s shoulder. I took a deep breath, understanding the message and walked over to the pair on the bleachers behind us. “Ry,” I began in an apologetic tone. “Can we talk?” He looked towards Liz who shook her head no, but he stood up anyway. “You’re weak Ryder!” she called out as we walked towards a more private area. “Don’t forgive him so easily!” “Whose side are you on?” I heard Blake reprimand, anger still flowing. “The side that stops Teddy from becoming an asshole!” she shouted, a little louder than intended. “But what the hell would you know about that anyway!” “I’m a douchebag.” I exhaled, looking into his dark eyes. “I…that was my chance to defend you, to show everyone where I stood, but I couldn’t even speak.” I shook my head, realizing words were only taking me so far. A few seconds of silence passed by, and I couldn’t help but groan as Ryder stood there idly staring at me. “I’m not annoyed about that.” He finally spoke to me, breaking his silence. “You’re not?” I asked, surprised by the confession. “Well I am, but I expected it,” he began to explain. “But I always figured, underneath you were a good guy, so if it ever became more than words in front of you, you would put your foot down.” “Okay,” I let out, not sure where he was going with it. “Then you’re annoyed because…” “Because I didn’t see that good guy do anything about Mike and Blake hitting your ex,” he forced out as a snicker escaped my lips. “See?” Ryder shook his head. “I thought you were better than that. Or at least you were ignorant and naïve to all the bad shit around here.” “It’s not like Kyle’s innocent.” I defended. “He cheated on me Ryder.” “Poor Teddy,” Ryder unsympathetically let out. “Must suck having something not go your way for once. I wonder how that feels.” “Oh, come on.” I shook my head. “That’s not fair.” “How’s it not fair?” he asked, starting to get visibly frustrated with me. “Are you going to tell me you would do the same thing if someone hurt me? Are you going to feed me empty words? Or after you break this off am I going to have to watch my back for Blake?” “No, because no one’s going to break this off.” I started to take a stand. “And don’t you dare say you want to, because I know that’s not the truth.” “You have no idea what I’m thinking right now. You couldn’t be more…” “I know exactly what you’re thinking.” I interrupted him as the realization of the moment hit me. “You’re not mad I didn’t stand up for you, you’re not mad I had Blake do some dirty work for me. No, you’re smarter than that.” I shook my head, beginning to read his eyes like a book. “In fact, you’ve told me I got popular from other people’s dirty work, and hell maybe I have. But that’s a conversation for another day. Right now,” I swallowed hard growing nervous. “You’re worried because I was mad at my ex. You’re thinking that if I’m happy with you, why do I give two shits about him? You’re worried I still have my eyes on him. You still think you’re not good enough for me.” “Because I’m not!” he shouted a lot louder than he anticipated. “Look at you, we walk in and you have people saying your name. We walk toward the dugout and all the players nod to you yet they pretend I barely exist.” He slightly bit on his lip thinking it all over. “Then your ex comes by and it throws you into a fit, yet someone says something bad about me and you don’t say a damned thing.” “I was embarrassed,” I confessed in a low voice. “About me?” he interrupted as his voice started to break. “No! God no!” I stopped him before his mind had the chance to run with that thought. “About being cheated on. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t good enough for someone. And yeah, I get it, you have it ten times harder than me, but that still hurt. I still don’t know what I did to deserve it. And the shitty thing was that I didn’t even like him that much but it still eats away at me.” I exhaled, not knowing if what I was saying was helping or hurting. “I’m so much happier with you, but that indecision is still there.” I shook my head, not sure if he was connecting with my words or not. “Back there, I was vulnerable and I didn’t know what to do. So, I let Mike and Blake take over. I’m not blaming them for what happened, but, fuck, it just felt right.” “That’s why you like Mike so much.” Ryder exhaled, slowly connecting the dots. “When your armor breaks, he acts like armor.” “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.” I shook my head. “It’s been that way since kindergarten.” “You’re an ass Teddy Haner.” Ryder pulled me into a light hug. “And a douchebag. But I would never cheat on you.” “You have to stop telling yourself you’re not good enough for me,” I lectured, holding the hug as he tried to pull away. “Even if I start acting like it. You slap me across the face because I’m not good enough for you.” “Yeah, okay.” He sighed, not believing a word I was saying. “I’m still mad at you by the way.” He teased me and finally broke free. “I know.” I sighed. “I’ll make it up to you tonight at The Barn.” “You better.” He nodded, realizing that people had been staring at us the whole time. I couldn’t help but smile as he realized how much of the public eye we were in. “See, told you I’m not embarrassed of you.” He nodded, but I could tell the eyes made him nervous. There’s no doubt people are starting to whisper about our hug. Imagine that, something as small as a hug starting a hundred rumors. But that’s high school. More importantly, that’s what happens when the King of Popularity starts dating someone who’s not popular. But I don’t care anymore. I almost just lost him over small shit. I’m not going to let it happen again.
  5. Hey ACE! Just checking on you, and hoping that everything is good. 

    1. Aceinthehole


      I'm doing good, back at school to finish up my senior year so that's bittersweet. However I'm having a lot of fun, and am excited for what the year will bring. How's everything on your end? 

    2. SolarMaxx


      Things here are going fairly well. Having a few issues with the willful, stubborn teenager living in our house, but I'm confident it will all work out -- eventually. 


      Senior year! Guess that would be kind of bitter/sweet. Make the most of it bud. It will go by fast. :great:

  6. What Could Be

    The good news is that in the Rock scene, even a fast ascension into stardom can take a while. The two may have a good amount of time left to build their foundation, but who knows, these two seem to overthink everything that comes their way.
  7. What Could Be

    -----------------------------------------------------------------RYDER------------------------------------------------------------ Maybe it’s how much I like Teddy, maybe it’s the confidence I’m getting from this E.P., or maybe I’m just tired of being alone. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been this friendly. I mean sure, when Mike was here I wasn’t exactly ‘friendly’; but I helped Liz, I joked around with them, I even sang for them. That’s how you become friends with people isn’t it? This is what I want, isn’t it? I’m happy…aren’t I? I couldn’t help but nervously fix my hair as I looked up at Teddy’s father. “So, um, you finished listening to it already?” I began, trying my hardest to hide the anxious tremors. He doesn’t look happy, or excited. Did he hate it? I knew it wasn’t that good. I knew I should’ve changed around some of the songs. I knew that when it came down to it, my writing wouldn’t compare to real music. “I, uh, you…” “Stop thinking so much.” He warmly smiled, finally breaking the silence. “It’s like I can see parts of your brain working through your eyes.” “Yeah, I get that a lot.” I mumbled, never knowing if it was a good thing or not. “So, what did you think?” “Honestly, I’m not sure what to think.” He confessed, not helping to calm my wave of concern. “Oh.” I involuntarily let out. He did hate it. This E.P. was a mistake. Everything about it is wrong. I should’ve just stayed at the barn playing small sets. I never should’ve… “I didn’t mean it like that.” He comforted, picking up on the tone in my voice. “I just didn’t think it would…it was just…I…I didn’t expect a seventeen-year-old to write lyrics like that.” He exhaled, trying his hardest to piece together how the music made him feel. “It’s obvious you’re not the most popular kid in school. It’s not exactly easy for you to walk through those hallways.” He began as the smile faded from his face. “But I guess I assumed that’s where it started and ended. That bullying was what makes you so withdrawn and skittish. But after listening to those five songs, I’m not so sure about that anymore.” I shifted my mouth from side to side, not sure how to respond. “It all runs so much deeper than that, doesn’t it?” “Everything at school, it’s just the start of it.” I confessed, unsure why I was letting him in that much. It’s one thing to let Teddy in, but this isn’t even Teddy. Yet, I’m just as comfortable around his father, why? I could see the concern in Harry’s eyes but at the same time there was a layer of underlying pride there. “I can’t even imagine.” He shook his head. “That E.P. doesn’t make you smile. It doesn’t make you laugh. It makes you feel.” He explained with more life in his voice. “Do you know what it takes for music to make you feel? Do you know how many rock stars or legends wish they could have their music hit listeners as hard as yours does?” I nodded my head, but could still feel doubt creeping in. “Maybe I should make it a little less…” “No!” Harry interrupted me. “Don’t change a thing lyrically. This E.P. needs to be heard.” As my eyes began to fall he reached out and placed a supportive hand on my shoulder. “I know this is a lot to ask of you but you need to keep this type of music going. You need to write from you heart the way you did on this CD.” He exhaled, holding the small plastic case in his spare hand. “People need to see that there are others that feel the way they do. More importantly, they need to see a person feeling the way they do find success. I’ve seen so many musicians go through struggles with doubts, or mental illness, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone put words to the struggle so well. I don’t think anyone’s written the way you have. I don’t think the music world knows the storm that’s coming.” He must’ve seen the doubt grow in my eyes because his grip on my shoulder got firmer. “You’re going to change rock, you’re going to be a star, and your music is going to go on forever. But before any of that, before you’re playing sold out arena’s and topping the charts, you’re here, and you’re always welcome here. Our door is always open for you Ryder, I hope this will always feel like home.” I stood there for a second, just letting his words hit me. I can’t remember the last time someone encouraged me like that. Hell, maybe it was my own dad. “Thank you.” I shook my head, not knowing what else to say. “I…it’s been a long time since I’ve heard anyone say that. I…thank you.” I forced out, still speechless by what he had to say. “I don’t know what else to say.” I nervously laughed. “Don’t say anything.” He shrugged. “Just keep writing and playing music the way you do.” I saw a smile spread across his lips as he looked over to his son sitting on the couch. I wonder if Teddy’s told him we’re almost dating. I wonder what he would think. I wonder if he would still encourage me the same way, if he would still treat me like family. With one last encouraging nod, he patted me on the shoulder then gave me a light push to return to my new friends. I couldn’t help but wear a smile as Teddy’s eyes connected with mine. This time I could see the gears in his brain turning. I’m not sure what they were talking about, but it clearly was making him think. “Any chance you could…” “No Dad!” Teddy interrupted, not letting him finish the sentence. “We’ll see you later!” “Just one song.” He insisted, but Teddy was trying his hardest to shut it down. I couldn’t help but laugh as I put the guitar back around my neck and started playing the opening to Wild Side by Motley Crue. Teddy reluctantly groaned as he heard the familiar sound of music in the air. “Why are you encouraging him?” I shrugged my shoulders but kept the song coming. “He’s never going to leave us alone now.” “When you get better taste in music I’ll stop bonding with your dad.” I teased him over the roar of the guitar. “Motley Crue is overrated anyway.” Blake shouted trying to start up whatever trouble he could. “You’re really trying to get kicked out of this house, aren’t you Mr. Ramsey.” Harry joked, watching on from the stairs. “He’s got a small mind.” I shrugged, quickly stopping the guitar and pivoting to chorus of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. “He likes simple bands.” “This song isn’t simple!” Blake defended, in an almost aggravated tone. “I could play it with one hand if I really wanted to.” I teased, with a smile. I could see Liz’s eyes narrowing in on my hands as I effortlessly let the music ring out. Even if she didn’t like the music, she really was interested in what I was doing. It was like she had never seen live music before. “What kind of music do you like?” I asked, shifting my attention towards her. She shrugged, uncomfortable by the sudden spotlight. “Pop I guess.” She yelped over the guitar. For a second I thought about showing her the cover of Pill in Ibiza, but decided against it and started playing a more pop based rock song I knew. I could feel their eyes fall on me as they tried to pick out the words I was singing. I could tell the soft airy voice I was using threw them off. I mean I’ve sung lightly for them before, but never this soft and clear. New found confidence took over as I hit the main chorus and gave in to the moment. “Are you on the square? Are you on the level? Are you ready to swear right here, right now Before the devil That you're on the square That you're on the level That you're ready to stand right here, right now Right here, right now*” Harry couldn’t help but laugh and shake his head in pride as I finished up the chorus. “See, that’s all I wanted.” He nodded, climbing back up the stairs. “Was that song satanic?” Teddy yelped, looking from me to his dad “Why did you want that?” “Music is music.” He laughed, just happy to have gotten a song out of me. “Why were you singing it like that?” Liz wondered, looking from Teddy to me. “It’s how the song goes.” I shrugged. “It’s supposed to be melodic and clean to make it seem even creepier. I mean it also sounds kind of popish. But since I only have a guitar, I don’t know if that came across.” “So, what style can’t you sing?” Liz asked, still trying to get a grasp on my voice. For some reason talking with her isn’t like talking to other people from Hudson. She’s kind and doesn’t care what people think. Of course, that may just be a perk of popularity, but at least she uses her status for good. “How many times can you ask that question?” Teddy interrupted with a proud glow. Whatever indecision he was facing has seemed to slip his mind for now. I just hope it stays that way. “I’ll stop asking it when he answers the damn question!” She insisted, but I simply shrugged my shoulders and lightly strummed the guitar. “If he’s not going to answer that question, I guess we’ll just have to ask him the one that’s on everyone’s mind.” Blake exhaled, looking from her to me. Teddy awkwardly shifted in his seat, unsure of what Blake was about to ask. “What did you mean when you told Mike you won’t be in school next year?” I couldn’t help but smile as I heard the question. “Is that what’s been bugging you?” I asked, as my eyes connected with Teddy’s. “Yup,” he let out, but I could tell there was more to it than just that. “So, you’re just dropping out?” I shrugged my shoulders once more, not sure if I was even allowed to tell them about the future plans for the band. “How do you not know?” Teddy pressured, allowing some of the built-up tension to release. “I do know.” I muttered, as I placed the guitar down and took a seat right next to him. “I just don’t know if I can say.” “We won’t tell anyone.” Blake promised, nodding towards Liz. “You’re not who I’m worried about.” I confessed, keeping my eyes on Teddy’s. “You don’t trust me?” He let out, trying to hide whether he was hurt by what I had said or not. I slowly shook my head, trying my hardest not to hurt his feelings. “It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s just…” “You’ve got a big fuckin mouth.” Blake finished for me, not caring whether Teddy would be offended or not. “You like to brag. And if you say it to Mike and it gets around, it could really hurt my band.” I explained, secretly hoping that he could string together the right words to get me to speak. “I won’t tell a soul.” He swore, placing his hand over his heart. I bit my lip and shrugged once more, knowing he needed to do better than that. “I swear on my life?” He tried but once more was met with silence. “Yours?” He laughed, beginning to have fun with it, before finally leaning in to my ear and whispering, “On our relationship.” I saw Blake glance towards Liz and smile, as they both tried to figure out what he had whispered. At this point I really don’t care who knows I like Teddy. Who knows, maybe if I play my cards right they’ll pressure him more towards me rather than away. “Alright.” I exhaled, before they could tease us about what was whispered. Suddenly I felt my hand nervously begin to tap as I thought over all the plans Teddy’s uncle had gone over with the band. “Well,” I gulped, as my heart began to beat faster, “your uncle showed demos of the two songs I played for you yesterday to some big promoter and he said that if those songs are as good as their demos we can play Warped Tour when it comes to Jersey.” A huge smile of excitement filled Blake’s face as he put together what that could mean for me, while Teddy sat there thinking about it all. “Then,” I began, as my nerves got even worse, “if the crowd likes us and we sell enough of our CDs, we can join them on the East coast leg of the tour. And…” “And you’ll meet the bands there. And one of them will sign you as an opener!” Blake shouted, as he jumped up out of excitement. “Holy crap Ryder! You’re going on tour!” “No.” I raised a hand and shook my head. “I have the chance to play Warped Tour, hundreds of no names play it every summer, it doesn’t…” “Okay, but you’re not a no name.” Blake shook his head. “I mean, right now you are, but you won’t be. People in this area know you. Once the regulars from The Barn hear you’re playing Warped, word will spread. People will go just to support you.” “No, they…” “Tickets are only like twenty bucks.” Blake argued. “They spend more than that on food and beer at The Barn. They’ll happily pay that to see a real set from you.” Blake shook his head as his brain overloaded just like mine had when Martin pitched me the idea. “A Day to Remember made it on this track, Bring Me the Horizon made it on this track, Beartooth made it on this track, Rise Against made it on this track, Escape the Fate made it on this track. HELL! Avenged Sevenfold made it on this track!” “Stop.” I yelled, as my brain started to overthink it all. “Let’s just take this one step at a time right now Blake.” “So, that’s why you’re rushing the E.P.” Teddy examined, as he kept a cold look on his face. I took a deep breath, not even realizing how he might take the news that I won’t be in school with him. “Yeah.” I nodded. “You said you still had a lot of work to do on those songs last night. What happened?” He shook his head, trying to piece it all together. “I was just thinking that the E.P. you gave my dad was like a very basic version, but it’s not, is it?” “I stayed up all night fixing the songs.” I forced a smile, and stared in his eyes as if it was only the two of us in the room. “Then I went to the studio with the guys this morning and we rerecorded most of the songs. There were only five, so it didn’t even take long. I still have last minute changes I want to make to the sound of it, but yeah.” I swallowed hard as anxiety racked my body. “That wasn’t a basic version, it’s almost done.” Teddy’s face stayed cold as he thought over everything I had said. “I can’t wait for you to hear the cover of Pill in Ibiza.” I squeaked, not sure how to read Teddy’s reaction. “When’s Warped Tour?” His question was emotionless. “Two weeks.” I exhaled, as my hand began to shake more. “Where do I get a ticket?” He asked, turning and looking towards Blake. “I don’t even have a spot yet.” I exhaled, trying to get him to look back at me. “Nothing is certain, I mean the agent from Warped only heard demos, he could totally hate the real…” “He won’t.” Teddy forced out, turning back to me. “My uncle will make sure of it, I know how these things go.” He exhaled, recalling stories his uncle must have told him about other bands. I nodded my head, and lightly placed my hand over his. “I’m already looking into getting you guys passes, don’t…” “No, I don’t want a giveaway, I want to support you.” Teddy insisted, not caring that Blake and Liz were overhearing our conversation. “I want to buy tickets to your first real concert.” “Don’t be stupid.” I nervously laughed. “Just take the pass, besides,” I nervously blushed, holding back some words. “What?” Teddy asked, hoping I would just spit out what was on my mind. “Ryder.” He nervously spoke “What?” “I kind of told the band that you would sell CDs at our tent while we played.” I blushed with a nervous laugh. “We need someone working the tent the whole time, and I don’t know, I figured you have a good personality and…” A small smile took over his face as my words connected with him. “What’s that smile for?” I sighed leaning back. “Just, Blake do you want to work the…” “No!” Teddy interrupted. “I’ll do it! I’m just, you thought about me?” He asked as a blush formed on both our faces. I guess I did. I mean it may not have clicked that we won’t have senior year together, but I guess I had been thinking about bringing him along on the journey. I have been thinking about how hard it will be to be away on the tour, and how much I’ll miss him. “Yeah.” I let out with an embarrassed smile. “I mean how could I not.” I sheepishly forced out. A small smile formed on Blake’s face as he stood up and discreetly nodded to Liz. “We gotta get going. I’ve got house work to catch up on, and I’m Liz’s ride.” “Yup!” She supported him, jumping up as Teddy and I kept our eyes locked, nearly unphased by what was going on around us. “So, we’ll see you later.” “Yeah,” I responded absently, still not paying them any attention. Teddy’s eyes began to drift away, and I realized it wasn’t like him to just let people leave without walking them out. “Go ahead.” I sighed. “So, we’ll do this again soon…” Teddy began, standing up and walking towards the garage door. Blake followed, but Liz stayed back for a second, keeping her eyes locked towards mine. “I’ll be out in a second.” She gestured, as they approached the garage door. Blake and Teddy shared a confused look but left us anyway. I awkwardly scratched my head, not sure why she had decided to stay behind. I could tell she had something important to say, but didn’t know how to put it. “Thanks,” she finally spoke, breaking the awkward silence. “For?” I asked, feeling confused suddenly. “For letting me vent to you about Mike.” She explained. “No one really lets me do that. Teddy and Blake are kind of clueless. When I’m angry they usually just let me scream until I calm down, but you didn’t.” She slightly bit her lip, thinking over the altercation. “You understood my anger. You knew where I was coming from. You knew how to calm me down.” I shrugged my shoulders and smiled, not knowing how to respond. “I’m sorry for the way people treat you.” “Don’t be, you’re not the one making fun of me.” I forced out, now knowing what else to say. “No, but I also don’t stop it.” She exhaled, moving a little closer. “But you don’t hold that against me. Is it because of how you feel about Teddy?” I nervously laughed as another blush formed on my face. “I don’t have any feelings…” “It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.” She comforted. “He really likes you too. He’s not as tough, and cunning as he makes himself look.” I titled my head, not understanding where her sudden confession was coming from. “He comes across as smart, brave and confident. He fakes it every single chance he gets, but the real Teddy,” she shook her head, “he’s soft hearted, soft spoken, and loyal to the bitter end. He’s fragile.” She admitted. “Just please, don’t hurt him. Blake and I, we’ve put him together more times than anyone could imagine. He’s more like you than you think.” “I won’t.” I swore with a nod of my head. “But what if,” I swallowed hard as indecision filled my head. “What if we’re both too fragile? I need someone who’s strong, not…” A laugh escaped her lips as she walked by and ran her hand threw my hair “Don’t you see? You’re the strong one Ryder.” “No, I’m…” “You constantly put Mike and his friends in their place.” She interrupted once more. “Even if you fall apart at the end of every day. Even if they torture you for it, you never stop. That takes more strength than anyone in all of Hudson has. Everyone talks about how Teddy’s a leader. How he’s the one who will go out and unite people. But that’s because no one has been paying attention to you. You’ll bring people together in ways he could only dream of.” I shook my head, disagreeing with almost every word she said. “I have no idea how to be a leader, I’d just fuck it all up.” “That’s why you have Teddy.” She shrugged, finally reaching the door. “Let him show you how. Together,” she shook her head once more as her smile spread, “you two will be what this world needs. Goodbye Ryder.” “Bye.” I forced out, carefully thinking over everything she had told me. When Teddy walked back into the basement I found myself falling quiet and simply watching him. Who is the real Teddy? Have I met him? Do I know him as well as I thought I do? Or have I always known the fake person Liz was telling me about? “So,” he smiled, sitting nearly on top of me. “What was that about?” “Nothing.” I shrugged, wanting to keep the moment between Liz and me. “We were just talking about some small stuff.” “Ah,” he teased with a smile. “Sounds like a whole lot of nothing.” I leaned my head against his shoulder but kept my eyes focus on his face. “I’m sorry I doubted you. I’m sorry I go through phases where I think you don’t care about me. I’m sorry I can be such a mess some nights.” I exhaled as I began to open up for the first time in my life. “I really don’t want to screw this up. I’ve never had anyone care about me the way you do.” “You’re not screwing anything up.” He giggled, trying to figure out if something Liz had said sparked this side of me. “I knew what I was getting into the day I invited you over for that party. The real question is, do you know what you got yourself into?” “I don’t know if I do.” I confessed. I know he was being playful, but I can’t let this sit on my mind. It’ll destroy me if I do. He laughed at first, figuring I was teasing, but quickly kissed my forehead as he realized how serious I was being. “Why’s that?” “Because I can’t see the line between the real you and the fake you.” I exhaled. “I assumed I was going to get the real you at the game yesterday, but I got the fake you. Then today I thought I was going to get the fake you, but I’m getting the real you, I think.” “Your mind really does go in circles, huh?” He inquired, taking a long look into my eyes. “I told you, I learned my lesson yesterday. I’m going to try and keep the fake me as far away from you as possible.” “Promise?” I exhaled, as my head slip off his shoulder and onto his chest. “Promise.” He repeated my words before leaning his head against the top of mine. We just laid there in silence for a few minutes, heads on top of one another. Enjoying being with one another. Somewhere in it all, I could tell Teddy knew what was coming. I could tell he knew that pretty soon, these small moments won’t be possible. He knows where I’m headed, and I can tell he’s more nervous than scared. I just hope he sticks around with me through it all. If Liz is right, I’ll need him. *Ghost "Square Hammer"
  8. The Boy in Black

    *Disclaimer: This story will discuss the topic of mental illness, addiction and suicide. That is not to say this is a dark tragedy, however it is not for someone who is in a bad place, and may be triggered by such writing. Reader Discretion is advised.* ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- You know that end of school feeling? The one you can feel in your bones? The one that seems to jump up and down the longer and longer the sun stays in the sky? With a week until freedom, that’s the feeling going all over Hudson High, and you better believe that I’m the one leading the charge! My name is Teddy Haner and in addition to being the school president, I’m also the captain of the lacrosse team…so I guess in a way it’s my responsibility to make sure everyone’s ready! I’m not sure how I got those titles, but I’ve always just clicked with people. Some tell me I’m easy to talk to, while others say it’s because of my looks…I wish I could say it was because I’m a star athlete…but I’m not even good at lacrosse! In fact sometimes I wonder how I even make the team! Hell the only reason I’m the captain is because coach claims I’m a good leader! “Hey Teddy!” A faceless voice shouted out from the lunchroom rush “Party for Saturday is still on right?” “Why wouldn’t it be?” I laughed, not even knowing who I was responding to “Last Saturday of the school year…you guys know where to be!” I heard a few cheers cry out as I finally made it to my lunch table “Alright guys, we really need this year to be good…did you just here that?” I let out, trying to rally up my friends “That’s been happening since Easter!” I heard a long groan escape from the other side of the table as a darkly dressed blonde haired teen heard my words “Not again with this crap!” he exhaled “Every year you drive us up the fricken wall trying to prepare, and every year it goes great.” “Yeah, because we prepare so well!” I encouraged, staring him down. “No” A female voice interrupted from next to me “Because all you need for a good high school party is people, beer and music…and you already have all that covered.” “Actually Mike has the beer covered” I nodded at the big outline to my other side “Ain’t that right?” “Sure” he groaned barely awake “I can get us kegs or some shit.” “Come on!” I yelped, starting to snap in his face “I need you awake and on board here!” “Holy crap, in another second I’m going to punch you so hard that you’re in a coma during the party!” he yelped clearly exhausted “Blake, Liz…please, distract him or something!” “6 am baseball lifts finally catching up with you?” I giggled, starting to go on the offensive. “Yup” he slowly nodded “and so help me god Haner, if you even think about pushing my buttons today…” “Me?” I innocently laughed “I would never push anyone’s buttons!” “Yeah” Blake muttered with a quick roll of his eyes “Teddy doesn’t ever do anything wrong…he’s perfect remember?” “I am not perfect…” I shrugged, trying to fight off a smile “Well you might not think so…” Liz interrupted, supporting the oncoming attack “but everyone in this damn school does.” “No they don’t” I dismissed with a quick shake of my head. “Oh yeah?” Mike poked, starting to gain a second wind “Who here think’s Teddy Haner is perfect?” he boomed across the whole room. A few kids sarcastically cheered, while the lacrosse table jumped up and shouted, as other slowly yelled my name “I love you Teddy!” A random female screamed, as the cafeteria began to ring out in laughter “Love you too whoever you are!” I shouted back, enjoying the moment. Remember that one kid from your school who everyone loved? The one everyone could talk to, or joke around with? Well in a way that’s me! Not that I’m insanely popular or anything…I mean I’ve hung out with the same 3 people my whole life! I guess between school president and lacrosse…I’ve just been able to meet A LOT of people. “Mike and Teddy” a nearby teacher called out “It’s the last week of school, do you both really want detentions?” “Please give Teddy a detention!” Mike yelped, looking up at the teacher “Please! I don’t think his perfect record could take it!” “Sorry about him Mrs. W” I quickly apologized “He’s just tired.” “Just make sure he behaves” she warned with a smile “I swear I’m going to retire before your class becomes seniors…you’re all going to be terrible!” “Yeah Teddy!” Mike shouted “You’re going to be terrible!” “Why am I friends with any of you?” Blake muttered, having had enough of all the attention “I got a nerd, a jock and whatever the hell Liz is.” “Hey!” she shouted back “And what are you?” “He’s a loser” Mike teased with a smile “and your friends with us, because you wouldn’t be able to make any others!” “Oh yeah then why are you still friends with us?” I prodded, elbowing him in the side “Because I’ve invested too much time in this sad group to leave now” He proudly explained with a smile “I’m the clean-up hitter for the baseball team, I could be with them all the time if I really wanted.” “Except then they would realize what an insufferable douche you are!” I playfully teased. I hate to admit it, but we are a weird group…I mean we just have so little in common, and yet over the years our bond has grown too strong to ever fade. Blake listens to music all day, Liz watches movies or tv, I work on school events, and Mike plays baseball…yet we all get along so well…it doesn’t matter what combination, or who’s alone with who…we all just click. “I’m not a douche!” He defended, as we all turned and shot him skeptical looks “Would a douche do this?” he laughed, turning around and slamming books out of a scrawny figure’s hands “Oh what happened Ryder? Books too heavy for your faggot ass.” “This is exactly what a douche would do!” I laughed, getting out of my seat and helping the student to get his things back together “Oh cool.” I reached out, as I picked up a thick black book “Edgar Allen Poe, he’s like…” “Cut the shit Teddy” the scrawny teen wearing skinny jeans, a band shirt and thick black hair spit, snatching the book from my hands “I don’t need your sympathy.” “It’s not like that.” I tried to comfort, pulling another chair to the table “Come on…Ryder, right? Join us for lunch, you know Blake…” “No” he bit, forcing his head back down and quickly walking towards the door. “Good job Mike” I sneered, shooting him a dirty look. “Oh no! I messed with the one person in the whole school who doesn’t like you!” Mike teased, not actually caring “Who are you going to hang out with now?” “It’s not about being liked” I exhaled” Its about treating people right, and could you cut it with the F word? You know I hate it.” “Oh please” he dismissed “Just because your gay doesn’t mean you have to get all offended at every bad word I use.” “I think I have a right to get offended at that word.” I corrected, turning towards Blake “You guys are close, have him come to my party Saturday.” “One, we’re just friendly, not close, and two, there’s no way he comes” Blake groaned, not even bothering to look up “The only time he ever leaves his house is to play with his band and go to school.” Mike childishly giggled and shook his head “That kid’s just asking to get beat up…what a freaking loser.” “Mike” Liz exhaled, beginning to roll her eyes. “He is!” Mike continued, not even trying to stop his laughter “Keep the weird shit you do to yourself…you know I hear he lives in a graveyard?” “Don’t start rumors” I dismissed, beginning to shake my head “and he is keeping it to himself, you’re the one dragging him into conversations.” “Oh I’m Teddy, I stand up for people!” Mike mimicked, making me regret waking him up “and I didn’t just come up with that…Blake…” “Don’t talk to me” Blake mumbled, still not looking up “No come on man…” Mike continued anyway “He totally lives in a graveyard doesn’t he?” “I don’t know” Blake groaned finally looking up “What am I? His freakin keeper?” I shrugged my shoulders as our eyes connected “You might as well be…you’re the only person in this school I’ve ever seen talk to him.” “Because everyone around here is a judgmental prick.” Blake began, starting up one of his “fuck the system” speeches “Everyone only cares about themselves, or about their popularity…Ryder’s not like that…he just wants to be left alone with his music.” “Yeah well get him to come to the party!” I encouraged as the bell rang “And if he gives you a problem, just tell me!” “He’s not going to…” “Get it done!” I shouted, standing up and heading off into the crowd. I mean am I so crazy for wanting everyone in my school to feel included? I know I can come across as annoying sometimes…but I just don’t want to hear that someone from my school ever felt left out…I don’t want anyone here to feel bullied. I know, that’s a tall order to fill, but these students here…they’re not like other schools, most of us have been together since kindergarten, we all know each other in some way shape or form…Ryder Sullivan included. They’ll rise to the occasion, if they all get to know him…if he starts to joke around with the people at the party…then suddenly there’s one more happy face around Hudson high, instead of the normal angry face he loves to wear. “Teddy!” I heard Blake’s voice call out from down the hall as the last bell rang “He’s not cooperating.” “No! Blake! What the hell are you doing?!” I heard an angry voice respond, as I turned to see an unwilling Ryder being dragged over by Blake “Teddy can be obnoxious, and preppy, and he makes me throw up in my mouth at least once an hour…” Blake explained, finally reaching me “but trust me, he’s cool.” “Jesus Blake!” I yelped, as he forced Ryder in front of me “I said tell me if he says no! Not bring him to me!” “Yeah? Well I got creative” Blake shrugged beginning to walk away “Now you two play nice.” “What the hell Blake?” Ryder angrily exclaimed, staring a hole in his back as he turned away “I thought we were friends?!” “That’s why I’m doing this!” Blake responded, turning the corner. “So Mr. Sullivan…” I began, flashing him a friendly smile. “Forget it Teddy” Ryder dismissed, beginning to walk away “I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to be your friend…hell I didn’t even vote for you in the fall, and I’m not going to vote for you next fall!” “ouch” I laughed, quickly catching up to him “Why don’t you want to come Saturday? Everyone’s going to be there!” “Because everybody’s going to be there.” He repeated, finally reaching his locker “I don’t like big parties or crowds, I don’t like…” “But you play music in a band right?” I poked, trying to start a deeper conversation “You’ll have to get used to crowds eventually.” “Alright goodbye.” he growled, slamming his locker, and starting to walk away once more. “What?” I shook, having to catch up to him for the second time “I’m just saying…” “Yeah I get it” he cut off, not even bothering to listen “It’s really fun to laugh at the kid in the band, I fully…” “It’s not like that” I interrupted, lightly grabbing onto his arm “I wasn’t making fun of you, I was just trying to talk to you…how about this…you show up Saturday, and I won’t talk to you at all for the rest of your life.” “For the rest of my life?” he repeated, trying not to laugh at the ridiculous offer. I let go of him and softly nodded my head “Only if I have to warn you about a fire, or a rabid dog.” “Blake will be there?” he exhaled, finally budging slightly. “Oh yeah” I nodded, as he turned back around “Everyone will be there…and if you’re worried you’ll be made fun of, trust me, you won’t be…not at my party.” “What are they perfect, just like you?” he rolled his eyes, pushing against the door with his back, as we got the first glimpse of real sunlight all day. “Why does everyone say that?” I laughed, relieved I could finally get a conversation going “I’m not perfect” “No you’re not” he jabbed, looking back down “but you sure as hell think you are.” I made a face and tried to force his eyes back to mine “Why do you say that?” “Why’d you laugh when that dickhead Mike hit my books?” he shrugged, still not looking at me “You think you’re so above everyone else…that you’re not a bully, but you’re just like them…maybe even worse because of how ignorant you are to it.” I stood there as his words hit me…why did I laugh? Do I always laugh at stuff like that? Have I been a bully this whole time and not noticed it? “Wait Ryder!” I called out as he quickly slipped off into the parking lot. “I’ll talk to you again Saturday” he dismissed, not even turning around “Then never again!” “Then never again” I repeated in a sigh, as I headed back into the building. “So!” Blake assaulted, turning around the corner “How’d it go?” “Have you been waiting for me this whole time?” I grumbled, taking a good look at him. “Yup!” he giggled “No way I was sticking around to get yelled at by Ryder…he’s kind of scary.” “He’s not scary” I corrected with a shake of my head “He’s just…honest, and people don’t always like to be told the truth. “So what truth did he tell to you?” Blake poked with a devious smile. I rolled my eyes and pushed past him “Oh he totally roasted you!” “Did not” I dismissed, finally reaching my locker “At least I got him to come Saturday, no thanks to you!” Blake gave me a light shove from behind before he disappeared into the growing crowd. Thinking back on it…how many times did I laugh at someone in trouble? How many times did I make fun of someone without realizing it? This whole time I thought I was better than that, I thought I was above it…but I guess I wasn’t. The thought seemed to haunt me more and more and the week went by. “Come on” My dad encouraged with a smile as I packed my bag for the last day of school “Summer starts tomorrow! You should be jumping up for joy!” I swayed my head back and forth “I just have a lot on my mind I guess.” “Like what?” he poked, pulling over the ottoman and taking a seat. “I just…this whole time I thought I was preventing bullying, but there have been times when I’ve only fed it.” I shook, really putting thought into it “I’m just disappointed in myself I guess.” My father reached out and rested his hand on my shoulder “Theodore Zachary Haner, you are human, you’ve messed up before, and you’ll probably mess up again, that’s just the burden of existence.” Our eyes met and a soft smile began on his face “I can’t talk about the times you’ve been a bully, but I’ve seen you help more people than I’ve seen you hurt, and that’s a pretty good track record.” “Still not good enough.” I mumbled to myself. “Then change it.” My dad gently laughed “Next year is a whole new year! Hell this summer is a whole new summer! The first step to fixing a problem is seeing there’s one in the first place.” “What’s going on in here?” My mom smiled, walking into the living room “Having a family meeting without me?” “Our son just realized he’s human.” My dad laughed, looking over at his wife. “Ahh” she nodded “So the youthful immortality has finally worn off.” She teased “Well the good news is you’re a great human Teddy, and you’ve been blessed with your father’s good looks.” “Yes he has been” My dad proudly nodded “I cleaned up with all the women in my day, and this one will clean up with all the men.” “DAD!” I blurted out, as my face began to burn up in a blush. “What?” he laughed looking from my mom to me “I’m being supportive, you should be thanking me for your looks!” My mom rolled her eyes and shook her head “All the women huh?” “Wait no” he quickly panicked, realizing the trap he had set for himself “I was just…you told me I need to be more openly supportive of his sexuality…that’s all I was doing.” “Gee thanks dad” I grumbled, looking to the ground. “I ugh…this is really backfiring in all directions isn’t it?” he nervously laughed “Look, I love you, you’re a good kid, you’ll figure it out, and best of all you’re mature enough to let me and your mother go away for the weekend!” My mom let out a long groan and headed towards the stairs “That trip is going to get cancelled real quick if you don’t watch yourself Harrison.” “Being gay must be such a gift.” He teased, getting up and chasing my mom up the stairs. They’re corny, and cliché…but they’re my parents, and honestly I couldn’t ask for better support. They accept me for everything I do…no matter what. I nodded to myself and laughed, why am I pouting? Tomorrow’s the last day of school! Next years a new year, this summers a new summer…and tomorrows a new day…I’ll show Ryder I’m not a bully, and I’ll give him the time of his damn life!
  9. Imagine your perfect life. What’s it like? Are you rich? Are you popular? Do you have a million cars? Well 17 year old Teddy Haner doesn't have to imagine. Being student body president, and captain of his lacrosse team…he has everything! However when a new mysterious friend flips his world upside down, and starts to ascend to stardom, he finds that there’s a lot more to life than popularity.
  10. The Black Sheep

    Summers almost over, and with it comes the school year, but more importantly more time to write! So get ready for more chapters on a lot better schedule! I also have to give a huge shout out to JayT for getting this chapter edited so fast, if you haven't noticed, it's a long one! *Okay now to get serious for a bit. I think I wrote this in the head of another chapter, but I'll definitely write it in the story's description. This story will include conversations about/examples of mental illness, addiction, and suicide. At times it will go into the nitty and gritty of it, nothing graphic, but there will be conversations about it all. The last thing I want to see is someone getting upset, or triggered from one of these chapters, so please be careful approaching this story, and it's contents.* ---------------------------------------------------------Teddy------------------------------------------------------------------------- I took a long look at the scrawny kid in black as he reached around the table, trying his hardest to clean it the best he could. He’ll probably never see it, but he really is something special. His eyes kept finding their way to mine as he nervously tried to get used to my stare. Every now and then he would force his hand up to his hair, and push it out of his face. “Are you going to re-dye it?” I asked, noticing the green tips were quickly starting to fade as his hair outgrew the coloring. “What?” he shakily responded turning towards me. “Oh! No, I don’t think so.” He shrugged, clearly still anxious from our kiss. “Why not?” I smiled, carefully watching him to see if I should back off or not. He shrugged his shoulders and returned his hands to his hair. “I don’t like it as much as I thought I would.” “So are you going to try another color then?” I encouraged, hoping that he knew I didn’t care what color he put in his hair. “I wanted white, but my grandma said that looks too much like a skunk.” He teased, trying his hardest to wear a friendly smile. “Then I was going to go with red, and maybe even wear make up on stage, but there’s another band I like that already does that.” “Who?” I tilted my head, excited that for once he was opening up without holding too many of his words back. “You don’t know them.” He shyly muttered, turning back towards the sink to clean the spare forks and spoons. “Maybe I do!” I insisted. “My dad listens to plenty of music, I’m sure I’ll at least known the name.” A slow blush began to form on his face as he thought over his answer. “Promise you won’t laugh?” He forced out as I nodded my head, eager to know the answer “Twenty One Pilots.” “What?” I blurted out as I tried to conceal laughter. “Like the band that sings Stressed Out, Ride, and Heathens?” “They sing a lot more than just those three songs.” He embarrassingly defended. “I thought you said pop music was shit?” I teased, eager to see how he could like a band that was so mainstream. “They’re a guilty pleasure!” He forced out. “Besides, they’re more than just pop music. Their lyrics are meaningful, and their style changes dramatically across their songs. Okay, maybe they’re not reinventing the wheel, but if I could have such a diverse fan base liking such diverse styles the way they do, just, damn.” “So not everything is screaming and head banging with you after all?” I giggled as he turned back towards me, slowly finding comfort in his confession. “I never said it was.” He exhaled with a raise of his eyebrows. “You guys are the ones who jump to conclusions about what I do and do not listen to.” I felt a smirk come across my face as I imagined him listening to such an upbeat and poppy band. “So then can you rap their songs?” He rolled his eyes to my question and quickly went back to his small house work. I could tell he was dragging it out a lot more than he actually had to in an effort to work out his anxiety. “I get it, rapping is really hard. Way too hard for a metal vocalist anyway.” “Oh please!” He lashed out as I finally hit the right buttons on him. “I could rap in my sleep. Screaming is the hardest thing in music, it’s pure, raw emotion. Do it the wrong way and you cough up blood. What’s the worst thing that happens if you rap wrong, you bite your tongue?” “Biting your tongue can hurt!” I laughed as he angrily walked right into my trap. “Alright tough guy, put your money where your mouth is.” He took a deep breath before turning around and casually leaning against the sink. “Remember the moment You know exactly where you're goin' 'Cause the next moment before you know it Time is slowin' and it's rolling still And the windowsill looks really nice, right? You think twice about your life It probably happens at night, right?” I couldn’t help but stand there in awe as the words effortlessly flowed from his mouth. He wasn’t joking when he said he could rap. I mean it wasn’t perfect, but he found a rhythm and stuck with it. As he got comfortable I saw him begin to escape away into his own world and lose himself. “Fight it, take the pain, ignite it Tie a noose around your mind Loose enough to breath fine and tie it To a tree tell it, you belong to me, this ain't a noose This is a leash and I have news for you You must obey me.” He began to turn red as he pulled himself back into reality. Rapping wasn’t his strong suit, but damn, he’s even good at that! It’s almost like singing is a language to him. It’s like he’s mastered all the different ways to do it, as if he won’t be happy until he can do it all. “What song was that?” I shook my head, not recognizing the lyrics. “Holding Onto You.” He shrugged, not sure if I had enjoyed it or not. “It’s one of Twenty One Pilots older songs. I know I probably didn’t do that good but…” “Are you kidding?” I interrupted. “How did you learn all these different styles? How can you sing, scream, growl, rap…how can you do all that and still not know how good of a singer you are?” I shouted, shocked by how naïve he was. “I’m really not that great at…” “Stop!” I exclaimed. “Just own the moment!” I encouraged with a smile. “Did you hear yourself? You talk about how unique Marilyn Manson is, then how diverse Twenty One Pilots are, but you don’t realize that you have the power to combine all of that. You could take a Marilyn Manson styled song and turn it into a number one hit if you really wanted to! You could be a popstar!” I gasped, as I realized how easily he could cross the genres. “Stop!” He begged, overloaded by my words. He let his scrawny frame collapse into a nearby chair as he worked over everything in his brain. “I don’t want to be a popstar. I don’t want to turn out number one songs. I don’t care about popularity.” He reminded me. “I want to make music that I’m passionate about.” “But you could have it all, right in the palm of your hand.” I let out, not able to help myself from playing devil’s advocate. “You’re passing up superstardom.” “I’m not.” He shook his head. “I’m passing up your version of superstardom. I’m passing up your version of ‘having it all.’” He took a deep breath and stared deeply into my eyes. “To me, having it all is playing rock music to crowds no matter what the size. To me, having it all is keeping the genre I love alive. It’s hearing the blaring sound of guitar over the amps, and the beat of the drums in my chest. To me, it’s letting out the last primal screams left in this fucked up world. To me, it’s giving the lonely kid a message to find hope in. To me…” “It’s about repaying the genre that gave you a reason to keep going?” I asked, daring to finish his sentence for him. He gently shifted his mouth from side to side, and thought over his short rant. “It’s okay, I don’t think you’re crazy for…” “Whatever.” He shook his head as his distrust began to resurface. “I really don’t. Like I said this afternoon, make some room for me in the van.” I supported, knowing that I needed to jump on his insecurities now before he had a chance to make them worse in his head. “I don’t need you patronizing me.” He groaned, finding random busy work to keep him from turning around and looking at me. “I’m not.” I insisted, walking up to him and forcing him to turn around. “You have to stop thinking the worst about us. Just, put your faith in me.” His eyes fell quiet as they connected with mine “Tomorrow. We’re all hanging out. You, me, Mike, Liz and Blake. It’s not optional. We’re all going to hangout, and I’m going to prove that you can trust me.” He let out a dismissive laugh and rolled his eyes. “Can you stop trying to force…” “Nope!” I shouted, letting him go and backing up towards the hallway. “I’m not listening to you! You’re coming over tomorrow at one, end of story.” “No, I’m…” He began in a nervous breath. “I’ll see you then!” I interrupted once more as I turned around and headed towards the front door. “Teddy…” I heard him begin, but his words faded as I drew farther and farther away. I know I have to give him space sometimes, but right now I need him to see that he does fit in with people his age. I need him to know he is accepted before he begins to convince himself otherwise. His grandma gave me a grateful smile as I made my way out the door and to my car. I’m not sure if she fully understands what’s going on between us, but somewhere in her smile I could tell that she liked having me around. More importantly, if I’m ever going to fully get to know her grandson, it’s going to have to be with her help. Especially when it comes to his parents. The next day came a lot faster than I thought. Liz, and Blake promised to be there at one, maybe even a little bit before while Mike claimed that the night before would force him to be there closer to two. Maybe it’s better that way. I mean, it’s not like I told him Ryder’s going to be there anyway. So maybe if Ryder can get comfortable with Liz than it’ll kind of be like the four of us versus Mike. I mean that makes sense right? “Okay but really think about it Blake.” I heard my dad begin to lecture as the door to the basement opened. “Vinyl has better presentation and sound, I mean do you really prioritize convenience over that.” “Yes!” Blake yelped back in a laugh as he slowly made his way downstairs. Liz shook her head as she followed behind. “I’m not going to walk around carrying a damn record player!” “I’m not telling you to.” My dad argued back, clearly taking the conversation a lot more seriously than Blake. “But you can’t possibly think CDs are better.” “I’m not saying CDs!” Blake laughed. “I’m talking about Spotify!” “Oh yeah, just pay ten dollars a month to a company instead of giving bands their rightful…” “Bye Dad!” I shouted, as Blake reached the bottom of the stairs. “Just let me…” My dad tried to continue as he made it halfway down the stairs. “Nope.” I shut him down. “Besides Blake’s just trying to annoy you, he doesn’t actually have a strong opinion on it.” “I would never do that.” Blake smirked, turning back and looking at my dad. “He’s been trolling me?” My Dad shouted looking from him to me. “Oh, my god Dad!” I groaned. “Please stop trying to act young.” “He is young.” Liz corrected in a grumble as she let her weight land right next to me. “Thank you!” My dad smiled as he slowly began to walk back up the stairs. “At least someone in this house respects me!” I rolled my eyes and slowly stood up as my phone buzzed in my pocket, freezing my dad in his place. “Who’s here?” “No one.” I shook my head heading towards the garage door. “Just Mike.” I lied, but knew my dad was catching onto my shady behavior. Liz popped her head up, confused by the conversation that was beginning to take place. “Who else is invited?” She asked, looking from me to my dad. “My favorite of Teddy’s friends.” My dad proudly smiled. “Sorry Liz, this kid took your place a week or two ago.” She made a face as she slowly began to add together who it could be. “Ryder!” She exclaimed, as I pulled open the back door and waited for the figure to make his way in from the opening garage door. “Wait!” I heard her begin to argue. “Why is he your favorite? You just met him! I’ve been your favorite since I was a child!” I let out a deep breath as I heard my dad turn around on the steps and walk downstairs. “Hope you’re ready to talk to your number one fan.” I groaned as he got into earshot. “It’s cool.” He shrugged, immediately knowing who I was talking about. “I have something for him anyway.” “What?” I smiled, as he pushed past me and into the large basement. “Mr. Haner…” Ryder began as he reached into his jacket pocket. “Harry.” My dad corrected him standing near the stairs as the teen approached. “Harry.” Ryder corrected. “This is the first copy of the E.P. We um finished recording this version this morning, and it still has some work left.” He began to nervously explain as he crept into his own head “We don’t have a name, and I mean it doesn’t even have a name, it’s just um, if you could find the time and listen to it, and just…” “I understand.” My dad nodded, taking the square from Ryder’s hand and bringing him in for a short embrace. “I’ll let you know what I think later today.” Ryder gratefully smiled as my dad headed back up the stairs. “See!” Blake shouted at him. “He gave you a CD.” “Don’t feed him!” I dismissed, before my dad had a chance to even respond to Blake’s teasing. “What the hell is happening?” Liz shook her head as she turned from Ryder to me. “I know you said you two were hanging out, but coming to our group hang outs? E.Ps? Giving…” “Being Harry’s favorite?” Blake teased, finishing her sentence for her. “I mean we all know I’m his actual favorite anyway. He’s just been telling you that these past few years to make you feel better.” “Shut up!” Liz shouted, turning towards Ryder. “So what’s this about an E.P.?” She demanded, barely giving him anytime to settle in. “Nothing.” He mumbled as I led him towards the couch, and sat him between me and Blake. “Clearly it’s something!” She insisted, looking from him to me. “So, come on. Out with it!” “Geez Liz!” I interrupted her with a shake of my head. “If he doesn’t want to tell you, he doesn’t have to.” “What the hell is happening here?” She shook her head trying her hardest to put everything together. “Blake how are you not as curious as me?” He shrugged his shoulders and let out a big sigh, revealing that he wasn’t left in the dark about it the way she was. “Teddy!” She yelled, as though I had betrayed her trust. “Since when did we start keeping secrets in the group?” “I didn’t keep any secrets.” I shook my head looking towards Blake. “I haven’t really spoken about any of it since I went over Blake’s house a week ago!” “You didn’t need to.” Blake smiled, reminding us that there were two sides to this story. “Ryder!” I exhaled in surprise as I turned to the quiet outline sitting next to me. “What?” He defensively let out. “Did you honestly believe you were the only person I talk to?” “No, but I assumed you would tell me you were telling my best friend stuff.” I argued, as our eyes locked. “Why?” Ryder asked. “It’s none of your business if I’m telling him about my band.” “Oh.” I softly let out, as I realized how much I had assumed was taking place. “Wait.” Blake interrupted as he caught onto our hidden words. “What else could he have told me about?” “Nothing.” I insisted, grabbing a pillow and slapping it across Ryder to shut Blake up. “Oh!” Blake excitedly shouted. “They’re keeping something from us Liz!” “Don’t be a dick Blake.” Liz rolled her eyes, not even having to hear what it was. It’s not like we could really hide it. The two openly gay kids, hanging out with one another, and bickering about who was texting who about what. It’s pretty easy to figure out. Suddenly the upstairs door opened and heavy footsteps began to pound down the stairs “What’s up faggots?” The loud voice called out as he reached the halfway point. “Teddy, you missed such a good party last night, and for what? To…” He paused as he reached the floor and looked around at who was sitting on the couch. “What’s he doing here?” Mike sneered staring right at Ryder, as if this was some type of game. “Same thing you are.” I shrugged, trying my hardest to not show his question much attention. He rolled his eyes and made a face to Blake before taking a seat next to Liz. “So…” Liz began again. “What was that about an E.P.?” “It’s really nothing.” Ryder mumbled, clearly holding back more than he was a minute ago. “It’s not nothing.” I corrected staring him down as he kept his eyes towards his feet. “He’s just being humble.” Ryder rolled his eyes, scared to speak up for himself. “He can sing any vocal style you ask him to.” I blurted out, in an attempt to pull him out of his shell. “That’s not true.” He exhaled, with a slow shake of his head. I made a face towards Blake who gave me an encouraging nod. “He can sing, scream, rap…you name it, he can do it.” “Rap?” Mike snickered, prepared to start making fun of him. Before he could continue his sentence, Liz reached over and elbowed him in the side. “I’ve always wanted to learn to sing, who taught you?” “Family.” Ryder answered, before I had the chance to speak up. “But it’s something you need to understand before you can learn it.” “What do you mean?” She asked couriously as he slowly began to raise his head. “You need to feel the rhythm, to know what’s coming next, to let it flow through you.” He explained in a nervous voice. “If you understand it, your voice can flow into any style.” “Okay.” Mike giggled. “Just like you can rap.” “He can!” I defended him. “I’ve heard him, he’s actually really good.” “What rap do you listen to?” Blake offered, doing his best to overshadow Mike’s negative comments. “Tech N9ne? Or bands like Linkin Park?” “More from bands.” He shrugged. “But every now and then, I’ll check in on some rappers. I don’t know, it’s not something I listen to that much. Just one of those things I wanted to figure out.” “Figure out?” Liz repeated, actually taking interest in what he was saying. “Yeah.” Ryder let out, leaning towards me to grow more comfortable. “Like when I sing, I let it flow out of me. When I scream, I tap into what my soul has to say. But when I rap, I go into my brain. It’s about breaking down words and forcing them into your lyrics.” “So what, you’re a rapper now?” Mike laughed, looking to me as if I would support his mocking tone. “No.” Ryder shut him down. “But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn how to.” “It’s about working out all the parts of your game.” I supported. “Like Mike, you know how to pitch, but you’re not a pitcher. It’s just good to add diversity.” “Except one of our futures is actually headed somewhere.” Mike scoffed, still not taking anything Ryder was saying seriously. “Probably the one with the record deal.” Ryder unexpectedly shot back. “What did you say?” Mike hissed, as the words hit his ears. “You heard me.” Ryder shrugged, beginning to show his fangs. “What? You think playing baseball in a New Jersey high school is going to take you somewhere?” “Yeah, well, I’m being scouted by D-one schools, so I think I’ll…” “You and how many other people?” Ryder interrupted, going on the attack. I always knew he had this side to him, but it’s weird actually seeing it come out against one of his bullies. “You think your future is so set, but we all know this is your peak.” Ryder shook his head as Mike began to speak. “Oh shut up already, you’re not even the best on the team, and you’re talking like you’re the best in the state.” Blake looked at me and smirked. Somehow, this wasn’t shocking to him. It was almost normal. “You never know when to shut your damn mouth.” Mike angrily shook his head. “Senior year is going to be a rough one for you.” “Fuck you, I won’t even be in school anymore.” Ryder shook off, not giving in to anything Mike was saying. “One way or another my band will be on tour come September, maybe even sooner. You don’t mean shit to me anymore.” Mike began to grind his teeth as he came to the realization that if Ryder did leave high school he would have no way to get back at him. “You better pray that your little band finds that…” “Shut up!” I snapped, jumping up and putting myself between the two of them. “Does everything have to be all out war between you two? What? You both can’t find a way to get along for 5 minutes? Not even for me?” “Oh come on Teddy, it was never going to…” “Just stop Mike.” I cut him off, walking towards the sliding doors to get a grip on everything. I saw Ryder’s reflection begrudgingly staring at me through the glass and quickly yanked them open to tear away the picture. Before I knew it, I heard the familiar heavy footsteps before the glass doors pulled open then shut again “Come on, Teddy.” Mike continued, not even giving me a second to cool off. “What did you expect to happen? Did you really think you could put the two of us in a room and we wouldn’t fight?” “I expected you both to be bigger people for once!” I lectured, turning around and staring at him. “I expected you to stop pushing his buttons every chance you get! Who are you showing off to Mike? Me, Blake and Liz are all cool with him. None of us are impressed by your jokes. None of us even find them funny, you just look like a dick.” “But he…” “But he what Mike?” I shook my head. “Did he hurt your feelings? Are you going to cry?” I mocked shaking my head. “You started with him! What he said wasn’t cool, but at least it wasn’t out of nowhere.” “Go back inside Mike.” Ryder interrupted us, sliding open the doors. “What?” Mike asked shaking his head. “No, I can handle...” “You’re just making it worse, go, we’ll be right back in.” Ryder exhaled, stepping aside and waving Mike back in. “Who are you that you think you know Teddy better than me?” Mike began, but quickly started walking back inside as he realized he was just starting another fight. Ryder shrugged his shoulders and waited for his turn to be yelled at, but I fell quiet, not knowing what to say to him. Was what he said justified? Does he always fight back? “Sorry.” He finally forced out something. “But I don’t understand what you wanted to happen. Did you think Mike and I were just going to get along because you were there?” “No.” I sighed with a shaking head. “I thought you guys would just be civil to one another. That you would at least tolerate each other. I mean that’s one of my best friends, and you’re basically my boyfriend. You’re going to wind up in a room together sooner or later.” “So this was about you making sure all your pieces fit together nicely?” Ryder asked, not understanding what I was trying to take out of today. “No.” I grumbled. “It’s to show you that I want you around my friends, no matter who my friends are. It’s about showing you that you can come hangout with me whenever you want. It’s about me showing you that I like you enough to show you off to them, but if you two want this to be a grudge match, then you can both just go home.” Ryder’s eyes fell as he realized what I wanted for us. “Well don’t feel bad about it, now you’re just making me feel like a douche.” “You are a douche.” Ryder teased, giving me a light hug. “And you’re an asshole.” I smiled as he let me go so not to be overly suspicious. “Think you can go at least an hour without killing one another?” “Yeah.” Ryder nodded. “For you I can.” As we walked back into the basement I saw Ryder and Mike lock eyes, but quickly let it go. “So Liz,” Ryder began, going out of his way to start a conversation, “why do you want to learn to sing?” She shrugged her shoulders, and forced a friendly smile. “Just seems like a really cool way to blow off some stress.” “Then why’s Ryder always look like he’s about to explode into a giant mess of anxiety and nerves?” Blake teased, giving Ryder a friendly shove as he sat back down. “Because music isn’t a hobby for him, it’s an obsession.” I replied, already knowing his answer. Mike rolled his eyes at my words and turned towards Ryder. “This kid always thinks he can finish people’s sentences, am I right?” he let out, in a forced effort to bond with Ryder. “Yup!” Ryder nodded, but I could tell their conversation was awkward for the both of them. “But it has become an obsession. Even now…” He held off his words, but turned to me, reminding himself that he was safe. “My mind is overflowing with rhythms and lyrics.” “Then sing something.” Blake antagonized, as he began to burst into his normally energetic self. The more I get to know Ryder the more I realize the only thing separating he and Blake is how extraverted Blake is. Blake dresses the same, listens to the same music, hell almost talks the same. But the one big difference is that Blake loves to talk to people, maybe even more than I do! I mean sure, he has a different take on everything, but fuck if he doesn’t know almost as many people as I do. “It’s not that simple.” Ryder started shutting down. “I hear the rhythms first, then I match the words in my head to them.” He shyly admitted. “I know it doesn’t really make sense, but that’s how I work.” “Then why do you keep a notebook?” I provoked, trying to snuff out any bullshit he was trying to sell. “Because I just do.” He lied, trying his hardest to work his way out of singing. “You are such a liar!” I giggled, pushing him towards Blake. “You’re totally trying to B.S. your way out of singing!” “Ryder would never.” Blake teased, grabbing onto his shoulder and applying some pressure. I heard Mike involuntary snicker off in the distance, put off by all the attention we were giving the new kid. “So, Mike, how was last night’s party?” Liz offered, hoping to stay ahead of any confrontation that could start up. “It was wild.” Mike shook his head, finally able to talk about what’s been on his mind all day. “Teddy you should’ve been there man.” He half smiled, recalling last night’s festivities. “Everyone was asking about you, I mean it was supposed to be a hangout, but damn did it get out of control. You know Jenny Carmichael?” He asked, noticing that my attention was already starting to fall back to Ryder. “Yeah.” I nodded. “You’ve had a thing for her since like freshman year.” “Well we hooked up last night!” He proudly bragged, looking for any attention he could get at this point. “That’s great man.” I nodded, still noticing Ryder lightly tapping his thumbs against his outer thigh, while gently tapping his foot. Even now he’s working on something. It’s like he can hear the music without even having any instruments. Like it’s just there in his head. “So are you two headed anywhere?” Blake contributed, continuing to stroke Mike’s ego. “Maybe, I don’t know, she’s sort of a slut.” He let out, in his normal douchy tone. “Teddy what do you think I should do?” I shrugged my shoulders and looked back over to him. “If you like her, then go after her.” I answered, not knowing what else to say. “But calling her a slut isn’t exactly a good start.” “I said she’s sort of a slut.” Mike corrected. “And that’s all women. They’re all sort of sluts.” I heard a dismissive chuckle escape Ryder, as if to say ‘how much of a dick can this kid be?’ But he quickly straightened himself up and tried to act like it was a cough. “Excuse me?” Liz gasped, as Mike’s words finally connected with her. “I didn’t mean you.” Mike rolled his eyes. “I don’t even think of you as a girl.” “Oh shit!” Blake let out in a laugh, knowing that Ryder and Mike’s fight was going to be child’s play compared to what was about to happen. “So, you don’t see me as a woman?” Her stare grew intense. “Because if you do, then you must see me as a slut since all women are sluts.” “Don’t do that thing.” Mike groaned with another roll of his eyes. “What thing?” She growled, starting to grow angrier by the second. “That thing where you blow what I say out of proportion.” He shrugged. “You always do it when you get mad.” “Well then maybe you should stop pissing me off!” She yelped, showing that she wasn’t about to play around with him the way he thought she would. “Alright!” Ryder let out popping up. “Let’s take a time out.” He urged, trying to direct her to the backyard. “I don’t need a time out.” She argued, keeping her eyes on Mike’s. “I need Mike to get over himself.” “Okay, and we can talk about that outside.” He encouraged, slowly opening the sliding glass doors. “You can work out a rant and all, it’ll be great.” She begrudgingly stood up, and following him out the door, all while staring down Mike. “Girls!” Mike shook his head as Ryder shut the door behind her. “They are so emotional.” “Dude!” I reprimanded. “Why are you being such a douche today?” “Me?” Mike defensively let out. “I’m not doing anything. You’re barely even paying attention to what’s being said, but of course I’m the douche.” “You called Liz a slut, then called her emotional when she got mad.” Blake explained in an attempt to clarify where I was coming from. “That’s pretty douchey.” “You’re seriously taking his side here?” Mike threw his hands up, and glanced out the back door where Ryder was leaning against the nearby wall, letting Liz angrily shout in his face. “As if three against one wasn’t bad enough!” “Sides?” Blake repeated, almost surprised by how naïve mike was being. “There are no sides here, and no one’s against anyone.” “Yeah whatever.” Mike grumbled, standing up and heading towards the garage door. “Where are you going?” I sighed with a quick shake of my head. “Home.” He mumbled, not even daring to slow down. “I didn’t come all this way hung-over just to get attacked.” “No one’s attacking you.” I began, as he opened the heavy door. “Come on, Mike.” I pleaded with him as the door slammed behind him. “Leave it.” Blake shrugged as the roar of the garage door opening filled the room. “It’s for the best. It’s just one of those days with him.” “It’s been a long time since it wasn’t.” I complained, realizing how many times I’ve excused his shitty behavior. Blake went to say something, but stopped himself as Liz and Ryder wandered back into the basement. “Yo Teddy!” Ryder began in a deep voice. “I totally hooked up with this chick Kaitlyn last night, you totally should’ve been there.” He mimicked, much to the enjoyment of Liz. “Stop.” I protested, wishing he could’ve had a better impression of Mike, but instead it was just more of the same. “He’s really not that bad of a guy.” “Sure, he’s not.” Liz sarcastically supported, fed up with his recent behavior. “It was just a bad day.” I defended, not sure why I was even trying. “Well when his streak of bad days ends, you can come talk to me.” She dismissed. “Until that day, I’m over it.” I turned towards Ryder and let out a long sigh, knowing that her words were most likely provoked by an outside source. He stayed quiet, and suddenly I realized he wasn’t staring at me, but at the rack of guitars which laid against the back wall of the basement. I swear, I could bend over backwards for this kid, but at the end of the day his main priority will always be music. “You can play one if you want.” I exhaled, realizing it would bring a much needed change of topic. “Yeah?” He happily replied, much to the surprise of Blake, Liz, and myself. “Yeah!” I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s almost like he’s comfortable around the three of us. As if Liz has easily made the transition into the people he likes. Once more I found myself giggling as he grabbed a guitar and dragged over one of the small amps. “You sure your dad won’t mind?” He double checked, as he quickly pulled a small pick out of his pocket. “Please! He’d kill me if I tried to stop you.” I shrugged. After hearing that, he didn’t hesitate to flick it on and tune the guitar. “Blake, look what I’ve got.” Ryder smiled, flashing a pick with a familiar script “B” on it. “Whoa!” Blake jumped up to get a closer look at the small triangle in his hand. “What did you order it online?” “I got it at the concert you wouldn’t come to a few months ago.” Ryder teased with a light smile. “Caleb threw it into the crowd and I was lucky enough to grab it.” Liz and I shared a confused moment, until finally Blake rolled his eyes and turned to me. “Doesn’t that even look slightly familiar?” I shrugged, knowing I had seen it somewhere before. “You wore one of their t-shirts to Ryder’s show. A shirt you still haven’t given back to me.” “Sorry.” I embarrassingly laughed, recalling the black t-shirt that had a circular rainbow flag and script “B” in the middle. “Why was it pride based again?” “It was a fundraiser for the Pulse shooting.” Ryder quickly explained, before strumming some light notes. “Here, I’ll play a part of one of their songs.” He excitedly announced. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen him offer to play a song. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever really seen him this friendly. Before I knew it, a dark melodic song filled the air as he gently swayed his head back and forth. “Can't take another second of this pain I've tried to be the person all of you want me to be Maybe I'm okay with who I am I know I'm just a child but I'll try to be a man” I could see surprise fill Liz’s face as she got her first taste of Ryder’s sweet singing voice. The melody filled the air as though it was pure and kind, yet when you truly listened to what he was singing, you could hear the pain underneath. Either way she was swept away by his voice. Shocked that the thing he was made fun of most for was actually full of more talent than most of the people at Hudson. “But I'm not close to perfect I'm not close to sane I'm not the one to worship And I'm not the one to blame But you made up your mind And you put me on your stage Just take it all back I'm not the king of anything”* Her face grew even more shocked as the last few lines of his singing turned into a roaring growl. “Whoa!” She involuntarily let out. A few seconds of her staring at Ryder passed before she narrowed her eyes and slightly tilted her head. “Why do you scream?” “What?” He asked, playing some light notes to keep his anxious fingers working. “If you can sing so well, why do you scream?” She elaborated. “Like you don’t need to scream. So, why do it?” “I don’t know.” He lied with an embarrassed shrug of his shoulders. “Just kind of how the song goes.” “Yeah, but you scream in the songs you’ve written.” I analyzed, not allowing him any room to escape the question. “Guess I just like the style.” He excused, trying his hardest to side step the question. “But like, aren’t you worried about hurting your voice?” Liz observed, trying her hardest to keep eye contact with the frail teen. “I’d rather blow out my voice by thirty singing what I want than have a healthy voice my whole life.” He shrugged. “Besides, I know how to scream the right way. I’ve been doing it since I was four without any problems.” “You’ve sang like this since you were four?” I repeated, trying to recall what his grandma was talking about. “Uh, yeah.” He nodded, looking down at the guitar in his hands. I could tell by his reaction that he had gotten lost in the moment, and spoken more about his life than he actually wanted to. “I always have I guess.” I saw Liz look to Blake then over to me. “So, no one at school knows he’s this talented but you two?” “I’m not talented.” Ryder groaned from next to us, but it was too late. Once Liz makes up her mind about something, well there’s no changing it. “Yup!” I nodded, ignoring Ryder’s words. “No one will give him a chance, they’re too scared.” “But why?” Liz shook her head. “Isn’t that the golden question?” Blake smiled, gearing up for a rant. “Because at the end of the day, we’re all just sheep looking for a flock. And unfortunately for Jimmy Hendrix over there, one of the lead sheep at our school decided that rock music wasn’t cool and Ryder became a black sheep.” “Lead sheep?” Ryder repeated, trying to derail the conversation. “You get the point.” Blake nodded. “Some asshole jock said you weren’t cool in middle school. Then all his teammates supported it, and BAM! You’ve been the butt of everyone’s jokes ever since.” “But still.” Liz shook her head in denial. “I mean, don’t they realize what they’re making fun of. Have they even heard you sing? They’d be left…” “I don’t sing for popularity.” Ryder grunted, focusing more on the guitar than his words. “You’ve done it now.” I teased, proud of his answer. “I got this speech two times yesterday.” “Because you didn’t take it seriously.” Ryder bit, not recognizing the joking tone in my voice. “I don’t care what they think, or if I’m a black sheep. I just want to play music and be left alone.” A few seconds of silence passed before Ryder looked up, realizing his words were harsher than he intended. “I didn’t mean it like that.” He sighed. “I, you guys, I’m glad to be here, and not alone. I just meant that all those people at school, they can eat shit.” “So, you don’t want any revenge?” Liz poked, curious to see who Ryder really was. “After all they’ve done to you, not even a little bit?” “No.” he shook his head. “Once I leave that place, I’m not turning back. Like I said to you outside, the world will come full circle on those douchebags when they’re pumping gas for a living. Why should I weigh myself down trying to get revenge on them?” Liz made a confused face at his words and turned towards me. “This is Ryder Sullivan right?” She asked, still trying to piece together who Ryder really is. “I told you he wasn’t who everyone thought he was.” I shrugged, looking over at the blushing outline standing near me. “No, I told you that.” Blake corrected with a proud nod. “If it wasn’t for me, he would’ve never gone to your party.” “Well if Mike never hit those books out of his hands, I would’ve never invited him, so really we have to thank him.” I mocked, sticking out my tongue at Blake. “Over my dead body!” Ryder commented, still not fully looking up. Blake giggled to himself as he saw another opening to start some trouble. “You really hate him, huh?” Ryder kept quiet, not wanting to give in to the bait. “What is he? Top of your shit list? He has to be.” “What are you doing Blake?” I sighed, wishing he would stop poking the bear already. “Giving Ryder a chance to speak his mind without you forcing an opinion on him.” Blake smiled. “I mean, sure, Liz and I like Mike just as much as you do, but we know there’s not much good to him, whereas you…” “Come on, that’s not really fair…” I began, falling right into Blake’s trap. “Exactly.” Blake laughed. “You can’t even let me finish a sentence about him without interrupting, how are you ever going to hear Ryder’s opinion of him?” I bit down on my lip and thought over his words before letting out a deep sigh, and turning towards Ryder. “Go head, I’ll be quiet.” “You already know how I feel.” Ryder dismissed, refusing to give into the peer pressure growing in the room. “Come on.” Liz protested. “I vented to you about him, now it’s your turn to vent.” Ryder let out a long breath before turning and looking me in the eyes. “Why are you even friends with him?” He asked. “He was the main reason I hated you up until this year. He’s everything you’re not, and yet you worship the ground he walks on.” I went to speak, but bit my tongue remembering what I had agreed to. “He needs to be the number one in everything he does, and if anyone ever makes him feel challenged, even in the slightest, he finds someone to take it out on. It’s like hurting other people makes him feel better. Look at what he said to Liz. How can you sit there and defend him?” “I don’t always defend him.” I muttered, shifting my mouth from side to side. “You do it enough for everyone to notice.” Ryder exhaled, looking directly into my eyes. “The soft spot you have for him is going to ruin you.” “That got more real than I expected.” Blake analyzed, nodding towards Liz. “It’s no wonder they hate him so much.” Ryder shrugged his shoulders and began to strum the guitar again. “They just don’t like the truth.” “Wait.” I shook my head. “You say this stuff to their faces’?” “Gotta fight back somehow.” He mysteriously answered, but before I could ask anything else my dad walked downstairs and waved Ryder over. “It’s amazing how weird people can make someone seem.” Liz observed, as I carefully watched the conversation taking place at the base of the stairs. “I mean sure, I spoke to Ryder at that party, but damn, I didn’t expect him to be so cool.” “Yeah.” I muttered, trying my hardest to read my dad’s lips as their talk grew a little more emotional. “I told you guys.” Blake proudly exhaled. “He’s a cool guy, I don’t talk to anyone unless they are.” “Oh please, you and Teddy would talk to a corpse.” Liz dismissed, finally realizing where my attention laid. “You’ve got it bad for him, don’t you?” “No.” I lied, turning my head towards her, but keeping my eyes on the back of Ryder. “Oh yeah he does.” Blake smiled. “He wouldn’t’ve put Mike and Ryder in the same room unless he wanted to see if they could mesh. That’s what this is isn’t it? A test?” “No.” I repeated, finally looking away from Ryder and towards Blake. “This was to show Ryder that he could hang out…” “Spare me the bullshit, it may work on Ryder, but it doesn’t work on me.” Blake interrupted. “So what are you going to do now that your little test failed?” I grew quiet as Blake slowly added pressure. “I mean, two out of three of your friends approve, but you still don’t have approval from the person that matters to you the most.” A smirk began across Blake’s face as he wove together a trap for me. “What are you going to do Teddy? Give into your crush, or let your loyalty for Mike ruin it?” “Loyalty to Mike? Or popularity?” Liz weighed in. “I don’t think Teddy gives two shits about Mike, but those school votes, those are what he wants, isn’t it?” She poked, smirking towards Blake. “You guys are assholes.” I grunted, returning my glare to Ryder and my dad. “We just may be,” Blake shrugged, “but this is one of those rare times where we get to see into that pretty little head of yours. Where we see the true Teddy Haner. A time when we can see if you’ll actually put your money where your mouth is, or if you’re as fake as people claim you are.” “You honestly think that?” I spit, starting to get genuinely annoyed. “No.” Liz quickly answered. “I just like pushing your buttons.” “I might.” Blake honestly let out. “Don’t get it twisted, I love you to death, and always will, but remember the last time you were in this situation?” “Shut up.” I grunted, sinking further into my seat. Blake’s eyes drifted towards Liz as he nodded his head. “Silence speaks volumes.” I shifted my mouth, but couldn’t find any words to speak. What could I say? That he was wrong? That he was lying? That he was out to get me? This is Blake. He’s been the voice in my ear since day one. Most importantly, as much as he pushes my buttons, and starts trouble, he’s never once lied to me. Even now, he tells me exactly what he’s thinking. As mad as I am, damn, I never want him to stop. The conversation shifted as Ryder returned from talking to my Dad. I guess they were speaking about the E.P., yet it seemed like there was so much more going on. Like they had connected in some way. I can’t put my finger on it, but it felt like they were talking about so much more than music. As though there was a side to Ryder that only my dad knows. As I locked eyes with the teen in black, my mind couldn’t help but race through a variety of different ideas. What will I do? Am I honestly going to let Mike and everyone at school tell me who I can and cannot date? Am I going to let it all fall through because Mike was being an asshole? What the hell were my Dad and Ryder talking about, and why did it go to such a deep place? What does Blake actually think about this? And if I choose popularity, will he still look at me the same? *Beartooth "King of Anything"
  11. Even if you're not a fighting fan McGregor's story is one that can inspire you. He took on the best boxer in the world,and hung in with him. Don't be afraid to take on the biggest challenge and fail, that's how you grow.

    1. Daddydavek


      The Scot has spunk, but was worn down by the more experienced boxer...it took 10 rounds.

    2. Aceinthehole


      Crazy to me that he lasted that long. He looked great those early rounds, but boy did Floyd's body shots take a toll on Conor's energy. Floyd by all means is one of the best boxers ever, maybe even arguably the best, to see Conor take on that challenge headfirst with no fear was something special.

  12. Words Unspoken

    Haha guys, you've got the wrong story, this ones Ryder .
  13. Words Unspoken

    -------------------------------------------------------------RYDER--------------------------------------------------------------------- I felt one last deep breath escape from my lips as I realized I could actually take Teddy seriously. I don’t understand him. I don’t understand what he has to gain from hanging around me; I’ll only drag him down. I mean, how long until they turn on him? Even if he doesn’t stand up for me every chance he has, they’re still going to wonder why he keeps turning them down for me, and sooner or later they’ll turn. Everything he’s worked for…it’ll fall away, can I let him do this to himself? Do I deserve this? “Is that…” He began to ask, turning his attention towards a small picture frame on my night stand. “Don’t ask.” I groaned, snatching the picture frame from the small table, and out of his view. “But that’s totally you as a kid, right?” He continued, doing his best to learn more about my life. “Yeah,” I muttered, taking a glance at the photo myself. It was my first concert, and I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. I was perched on my dad’s shoulders wearing ear protection a little too big for my head. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a smile like that on you.” He teased, doing his best to lighten the dark mood in the room. “It was a different time.” I shrugged, placing the frame face down on the old nightstand. His attention immediately went from the picture to the paper balls surrounding his feet. “Teddy,” I groaned as he bent down to pick one up. “What?” He smiled, with a quick shrug of his shoulders. I rolled my eyes and sat up, trying to regain control of the situation “You know what.” I exhaled. “Just leave everything where it is.” “How about this?” He began with trouble beginning to flash in his eyes. “You play me one of your songs and I’ll leave things be.” “How about you go home.” I growled, beginning to push him away once more. He went to drop the crumbled-up paper but as our eyes connected I saw trouble resurge. Before I knew it, he was unfolding the small sheet of paper trying to read it. “Okay! Okay!” I yelped, trying my best to show him how annoyed I was. “That wasn’t so hard, now was it?” He giggled to himself as I stood up and grabbed a guitar off the rack. I ignored his words and quickly hooked up the amp. Nerves began to fill me as his eyes fell on mine. It’s weird; I usually don’t get stage fright. I mean, I can’t do public speaking or anything, but playing music in front of people has never been an issue. When I play music, it’s like I escape to a different world. For that short time, I’m no longer me; I’m something bigger, something better. “Um…” I began trying to refocus. “So this song is still being worked on. It’s probably the biggest on the E.P. I haven’t cracked it just yet, but I think I’m headed somewhere.” I nodded, rolling the pick through my fingers. As the sound of the guitar blared out of the small amp I found myself finally falling into that hidden world. I’m no expert guitar player by any means, but sometimes when I get lost in it all, I really begin to play. It’s like my fingers move on their own, as if they’re guided by something else. When I hit the first verse of the song, I quickly changed to the keyboard I kept against one of my walls, doing my best to still sing loud enough for Teddy to hear me. Even now, just showing off the song I can feel myself making small adjustments to how it’s written. I let my voice grow heavy, and gritty, doing my best to taint the sweet sound of the piano. As I moved into the chorus I switched right back to my guitar and tried my hardest to make the small room shake. If Teddy wants me to play him something, then I’ll make sure it’s something he remembers for the rest of the night. I let the riff fade out as I hit the end of the chorus, knowing I had played more than enough of the new song. “There.” I let out breath. “Wait!” he began with a curious tilt of his head. “That’s the same song from the studio, right?” I slowly nodded as he put the pieces together in his head. “How come you were singing it differently?” I shrugged my shoulders, but saw he wasn’t going to let it go. “I like it better this way.” I explained to him while gently strumming the guitar to keep my anxious mind distracted. “It’s going to have a ton of different instruments in it. I want it to be loud, and hard hitting. Especially with the cover and slow song getting added.” “Slow song?” Teddy repeated with interest. I could feel my face began to turn red as I realized I said too much. “You’re going to write a slow song?” “I’ve written a million slow songs.” I mumbled in an aggravated tone. “I didn’t mean it like that.” He quickly clarified. “I just, I don’t know, you don’t seem like a slow song kind of guy.” I rolled my eyes once more, and let my full focus switch to the guitar in my hands. “Oh, come on!” He argued. “Don’t take it like that. Just, how about you play it for me.” “No!” I shook my head, barely paying attention to him. “I played enough for you.” “Ryder…” He began in an effort to work his magic over me. “Fine.” I interrupted, not even giving him the chance to feed me some fluffed up garbage he thinks I want to hear. I quickly placed the guitar back on the rack and sat down at my keyboard, playing a slow dark intro. I started off with a sweet voice but slowly let it turn into a growl, but as the chorus came I went right back to singing. Once more I found myself escaping into my mind, as if I was watching myself perform. I could tell the song was putting Teddy on edge, but I couldn’t help but keep going. To keep pushing him as far as I could. To see if he knew who or what he was really getting himself involved in. As my finger hit the last key I turned to look at him. He was trying his hardest to hide it, but I could tell the song made him uncomfortable. “You didn’t like it?” I offered, biting down lightly on my lip. “It’s not that I didn’t like it.” He began, trying to put the words to his emotions. “It was just different.” “Different?” I repeated in a reflective tone. Did I show him too much too soon? Did I upset the balance already? Is he going to start pushing me away? “Yup, different.” He nodded, doubling down on his original statement. “It was creepy, and, I don’t know, it just made me freeze.” He retreated back into his mind for a second, carefully ironing out his words. “Can you have that different of styles on the same E.P.? I mean the first song is like you’re fighting for your life, but this song, it’s almost like a surrender.” “Surrender.” I repeated, grabbing a pen off the floor and writing the word on the lyric sheet in front of me. Teddy made a face like he was trying to figure out if this was a good thing or a bad thing. “But yeah…” I snapped back into reality. “We can have different styles. I mean, it’s not common, but it’s what I want my music to be.” I shrugged, swiveling around in my chair to face him. “As for the style, it’s not even close to unique, it’s actually really inspired Marilyn Manson.” "Marilyn Manson?” Teddy repeated, racking his brain to see if he could remember the name. “Didn’t he cause Columbine?” I felt the faint smile that was beginning to form on my face fall as I heard the question. “What did I say?” He tilted his head, confused by my sudden change. “He didn’t cause Columbine.” I groaned with a disapproving shake of my head. “Teachers, and parents being blind caused Columbine. No one wanted to admit they had seen the red flags, no one wanted to admit that maybe, just maybe, they could’ve done something to prevent it. More importantly no one wanted to admit that they might’ve created the two monsters we all see today. People can only take so many jokes, or pushes in the hallway. Sooner or later something has to break. So, they found a scapegoat.” I exhaled, pointing towards a pale figure with a shiny blue eye on a poster above the side of my bed. I flicked back on the keyboard, and changed the settings to make the sound a little more distorted. I couldn’t help but close my eyes and take a deep breath as I escaped back into my musical world. “We are the nobodies Wanna be somebodies When we're dead They'll know just who we are Some children died the other day We fed machines and then we prayed Puked up and down in morbid faith You should have seen the ratings that day” “Sorry.” I quickly let out, realizing I was starting to get carried away. “That’s the song he wrote about Columbine, and I figured you’ve never heard it, and well, it explains the whole situation better than I can.” “It’s fine.” He forced a smile. “Besides I like it when you sing.” He looked from me to the poster, then back to me. “So, you’re a big fan then?” “Not like crazy big or anything, I just like his flair.” I began, but hesitated, scared to let him in even more. “It’s okay.” Teddy smiled. “I’m not judging you.” “He just makes hated seem so, so, cool.” I explained. “His whole music life he’s had people putting him down. They blame him for school shootings, and suicides. They threw everything going wrong in the early 2000s on his shoulders, and yet, he never collapsed. He kept doing his thing. He’s never hesitated. If I can be even half of who he is…” I shook my head, not sure how to convey my feelings. “It’ll all be okay.” Teddy let my words soak the air before a small smile grew on his face. “Well it sounds like he doesn’t want you to be who he is.” He confidently spoke. “It sounds like he’d much rather you be who you are.” “I don’t like who I am.” I unwittingly let out. “Well I do.” Teddy supported without any hesitation. “You’re honest, and real. You speak from your heart. That’s more than I can say about 95% of the people I’ve ever met.” “And look where that’s gotten me.” “Seventeen and on the verge of being signed to a label.” Teddy continued, not giving me any time to doubt myself. “I don’t think you realize how close you are to your dreams. I mean this is it Ryder!” He exclaimed in an excited voice. “You want to be heard, this is your chance. You are so damn close.” “Ryder!” My grandma called out, opening the door. “You need to eat something before it gets too late.” I rolled my eyes, and shook my head. “Teddy there’s plenty for you as well.” “Grandma…” “You should eat.” Teddy encouraged, slowly getting to his feet. “No I don’t…” As the words escaped my lips I could feel my grandma’s eyes narrow in on me. “Fine.” I grunted, knowing it’s in my best interest to save me from the future trouble. “I’m sorry if we were disturbing you.” Teddy offered, as my grandma lead us threw the short narrow hallway and into the kitchen. “Trust me,” she began in a small laugh, “I’ve lived with Ryder since he was six years old. It takes a lot more than some guitar and piano to disturb me. I’m just glad he doesn’t play the drums as much anymore!” “So, he’s always been like this then?” Teddy prodded, watching my grandma heat up the leftovers from her lonely dinner that night. “He was born with a guitar in one hand, and a microphone in another.” She giggled. “His father started giving him vocal lessons when he was four, but you know what he said?” “Grandma, I can heat up the food.” I groaned wishing she would just leave us alone. “He said that…” “Grandma!” I growled, starting to anxiously tap my fingers against the old, scratched dinner table. “Ryder’s voice was so unique it needed to develop naturally.” She continued, not caring whether I wanted hear it or not. “Even at four years old, he loved your voice.” I angrily bit down on my lip, and kept my eyes on her. Nothing he loved matters now. Nothing either of them does. “Calm down Ry.” She exhaled, placing bowls of soup in front of me and Teddy. “I am calm.” I lied, trying my hardest to stay composed. She took a deep breath, discouraged by my tone. She knows better than to talk about my parents. She knows better than to act like they’re still around. Like their opinions still matter. “So, is that why you can sing all those different styles?” Teddy spoke up, trying to defuse the situation. “I guess so.” I shrugged, throwing my focus to my food. “Well that, and how hard he works.” My grandma bragged, as she leaned over and began to fix my hair. “He’s always playing, or writing or singing. I can’t remember the last time this house stayed music free for a full twenty-four hours.” “So, then you must really like music too?” He asked, trying to shift the conversation onto her. “I was never crazy about it.” She sighed, still running her hands through my hair. “Oh yeah?” Teddy innocent let out. “Then doesn’t having to hear it every day drive you insane?” My grandma let out a loud laugh and shook her head. “Nope.” She sighed through the laughter. “Most nights it helps me fall asleep. It reminds me I’m not alone. It reminds me I have the most gifted grandson in the world. It reminds me that Ryder has a very bright future ahead of him. And most importantly, it reminds me that my son lives on through him.” “Enough!” I yelped, as I finally hit my breaking point. “What is with you this week? You think just because his birthday is coming up, that means you can talk about him like he’s still here?” I shook my head and forced food into my mouth. “He’s gone.” I grunted “Leave it that way.” There was a minute or two of silence as my grandma took a seat at the side of the table, between me and Teddy. “Sorry.” I forced out, reminding myself that he wasn’t just mine. “It’s been a long day.” My grandma reached over and rested her hand on mine, acknowledging that it was okay. “This must be a lot more than you bargained for.” I sighed, looking up at Teddy. He shrugged his shoulders and softly smiled. “It’s fine. I’m just glad you’re talking.” I gently nodded my head and refocused on eating. “He’s right, I didn’t really expect to hear you talk for a day or two.” “Guess I just have stuff to say.” I shrugged, not paying much attention to their words. “You always have stuff to say, you just don’t always let it out.” Teddy analyzed, as he cautiously watched me. “Maybe you should start.” “Some words are better left unsaid.” I dismissed, trying my best to push us to a new topic. He shook his head and watched me closely. “Maybe they are, but you’ll never know unless you let them out.” Teddy’s smile grew a little bit wider as our eyes connected. “What’s the worst that could happen? People won’t like you for it?” “Things could always get worse.” I muttered, beginning to push around the soup more than eat it. “Hey!” Teddy exclaimed as if a light had just gone off in his head. “You never held back any words when you first started talking to me!” “And look where it’s got me.” I rolled my eyes, doing my best to stay as melancholy as possible. “Ryder!” My grandma reprimanded, standing up and placing her fragile hands on my shoulders. “Well if it’s any consolation, he always talks about you.” She teased as she quickly scurried out of the room. “Always?” Teddy repeated with trouble in his eyes. “She was exaggerating.” I shut down, before he could get carried away. “So, then you do talk about me?” He laughed, quickly taking advantage of the situation. “No! Teddy!” I grumbled, realizing I was too late to stop him. For the first time since we met I saw a small blush begin to fill his face. “Well, I talk about you to.” “You’re such a liar.” I waved off. Who’s he talking about me to? Mike? Yeah, okay. “I do!” He defended. “You can ask Liz or Blake.” “You talk about me to Blake!” I nervously yelped! What is he going to think about us being together! He’s going to hate me for it! He’s going to think I’m trying to steal his friend! Or that I’m some sort of sell out for going back on my word! “Not in a romantic way.” He laughed, reading the panic on my face. “Just that we hangout from time to time, maybe next time we all hangout you can join us.” “I don’t think so.” I sighed, bringing both our bowls to the sink. “Give me one reason why you wont.” Teddy insisted, jumping up and helping me finish the dishes. “Mike.” I quickly let out, pushing him back towards his seat. “Oh please!” Teddy waved off, still standing close trying his hardest to offer help. “I promise you that if me Liz and Blake are there, he won’t make fun of you.” “And then there will be world peace.” I mocked, finishing up and placing the bowls onto the drying rack. “Come on, for me?” He argued “You’re going to be a rockstar soon, and then we won’t have as much time together. What’s going to happen if…” “Alright fine!” I interrupted, knowing he wasn’t going to let it go. “But if he says one thing, I’m out of there.” “He won’t.” Teddy confidently nodded. “Because I’ll be there.” “Just like you were today.” I moaned, taking a jab at him. Teddy let out a breath and shook his head. “Ouch.” “Sorry, it just kind of…” “I did tell you to stop leaving things unsaid.” He interrupted me with a shake of his head. “But I promise, I’ll be better than that, I’ll be there for you.” I nervously nodded as I turned around and took one step closer. I don’t know what was pulling me towards him. Maybe it was the sincerity in his words, or that fact that he cared enough about me to come check on me tonight, but this time I leaned in and placed my lips on his. Just like the first time, I could feel sparks begin to fly. Everything I was feeling in that moment fell away and my only focus became him. As we pulled away, I saw him wearing that same confident smile from this afternoon. “How’s that for speaking my mind?” I teased, grabbing a sponge from the sink and starting to wash the table. “Pretty damn good.” He nodded. “Pretty damn good.”
  14. New chapter is coming out real soon!

    1. JayT


      I'll get it edited asap...may take me a day or two, but it will be soon.

    2. Aceinthehole


      No pressure! I appreciate it no matter when you get it back to me!

  15. This chapter, and the rest of the story is dedicated to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, who tragically took his life late last week. It sounds cliche, but growing up Chester inspired me to grow into who I'm becoming today. He wrote with hope, and emotion. Most importantly, his lyrics and music had a feeling of comfort among them. He undoubtedly was one of the first singers that came to mind when I was designing Ryder. Without him, I don't know if I'd be a writer, I don't know if I'd be into the music I'm into today, I don't know if I would've made it to today. Thank you Chester. Also Important story news! So I've decided the story will be split between Ryder and Teddy's perspectives (Mainly focusing on Teddy's). There are just so many details behind Ryder and who he is, I feel that these things can only be expressed through his eyes. It should make the story a lot more fun, and make it feel a lot more real! ---------------------------------------------------------------Ryder--------------------------------------------------------------- I pulled away when our kiss broke, in shock of what had just happened. Had he leaned in to kiss me, or did I lean in to kiss him? Did he actually want to kiss me? Did I force it on him? I quickly moved my hand under my leg to hide my nervous tremble. I felt my eyes open and shut a few times as I tried to piece together whether the moment was real, or just another dream. It felt real, but it can’t be. Why would Teddy Haner kiss me? I mean sure we were having a sappy conversation, but still, I’m me and he’s…him. A small smile cracked across his face as his normally wide eyes grew even wider. He saw me working the moment over in my brain, and was enjoying every second of it. He suavely ran his hand up through his clean cut hair. It was long, yet perfectly taken care of. The style reminded me of something you would see on a soccer players in the World Cup. “So,” he cheerfully let out in an overly happy tone. “Was that a good first kiss or what?” I felt him begin to scoot closer, but quickly backed up a bit. “It wasn’t my first kiss.” I nervously confessed in a low tone. “Ryder Sullivan, are you lying to me right now?” he eagerly provoked. I shook my head and wiped sweaty palms against my jeans. What’s the point in lying to him, he reads people like they’re books. His extremely happy eyes are so much more than welcoming, they’re a weapon. They can scan you in under a second and read everything you’re about to say or do. It’s like he’s a cat and everyone else in the world is a mouse. “I’m not.” I insisted. I jumped as he made another advance. “What are you doing?” he giggled, shooting me an interested look as though I was playing some sort of game. “I-I have to go.” I shook my head, feeling the far too familiar anxiety beginning to jump my bones. “I totally forgot my Grandma needs the car, and besides you have the party you should be going to, and…” “Okay then I’ll follow you, and give you a ride back here.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Like I said, I don’t want to go to that party. I’ll just drop you back at home later tonight, easy as 1, 2, 3.” “No!” I lashed out much louder than I intended. “I just have to work on the E.P. and then I have other work at the…it doesn’t matter. I just, I have to go home.” I nervously forced, trying my hardest to stay ahead of the oncoming attack. “Is everything okay?” Teddy nervously scanned me with his knowing eyes. He can use them all he wants, but that weapon of his will never be able to predict my mind. Nothing will. “I’m fine.” I lied and quickly headed towards the garage door. “You don’t look fine,” he observed still trying to get a good read on me. I shrugged my shoulders and kept moving. “What else is new?” I started tapping on the garage door button. I’ve gotten to know this house too well, I know how to get in, and out like it’s my own house. I know where most things are, and how to get them. I’m getting too comfortable here. This is starting to feel too normal. I have to let go before I get to close. Before it’s too late. “I don’t even get a kiss goodbye?” He jokingly teased me trying to cheer me up. He’s caught on that I’m starting to lose it. I can see he notices my trembling. I can feel him trying to unravel me. “I’m just kidding Ryder.” He followed me to my car. “Look, I’m sorry if it was too early to kiss you. I just felt like…” “It’s fine!” I repeated, pulling open the door and jumping into the driver seat. “I kissed you back, didn’t I?” “Yes, but you seem so…” “Then we’re okay. It’s all okay.” I took a deep breath and felt my heart begin to race faster in my chest. “I just, I’ll see you later okay?” “Okay,” he shrugged, taking a few steps back. I heard some words from him, but couldn’t make them out as my focus went to turning on my car radio. “Okay Ryder?” He repeated himself in a loud voice as though he expected an answer. “Yeah.” I quickly shook my head, trying to play it off as though I had heard him. He let out a deep breath, and bit down on his lip. “What did I just say?” “Why?” I groaned, trying my hardest to escape the moment. “I said to text me when you get home so I know you’re safe, okay?” He sighed in a worried tone. “Yeah, sure, whatever.” I shook my head and lightly let my foot off the brake. “I’m serious Ryder!” He shouted as I began to roll away. “If I don’t get that text, I’m driving over to check on you!” I rolled my eyes, but knew he was being serious. Instead of replying I turned the music up, and sped away as fast as the crappy 2003 Honda Accord would take me. I slowly felt my mind begin to escape me as the cemetery appeared on the horizon. The sweat from my palms began to coat the steering wheel as the last few miles passed. The sound of the dirt road under my tires seemed to explode from the ground as I pulled in and up to my house. I couldn’t help but shake as I jumped out of the car. Surrounded by death, just like every other day of my life. I wonder how much longer until I wind up in one of those holes. My body slowly made its way towards a familiar pair of stones. It was as though I couldn’t control myself, as if I was being moved by some other force. As I grew close enough to make out the names I snapped back into place, and began to pull myself away. “Visiting your parents?” My grandma called out from the porch, in an effort to help me regain control. Like I said, nothing could predict my mind, but if there is any person that comes close, it’s her. I lightly shook my head and began to ascend the small creaky staircase leading up to the house. “Not today.” “Okay.” She nodded in understanding. “What are you all worked up about today?” She smiled, grabbing a hold of my face and taking a long look into my shaking eyes. “I’m not ‘all worked up’.” I groaned, trying desperately to escape her grasp. “Your words say one thing, but your eyes say another.” She observed, taking a long look at me. “Eyes are…” “Windows to the soul.” I finished in a sigh. “I know. I hear it a million times a day.” “Well that’s because you live amongst the souls.” She explained, keeping her focus on me. “If you sit quiet enough, you can hear them calling out to you.” “Grandma!” I exhaled, as my anxiety from before began to return. “Listen to them Ryder.” She instructed in a wise voice. “They know so much more than any of us.” “If they did, they’d still be alive.” I pulled away, finally escaping her touch. “Ryder…” She softly let out, knowing the ‘they’ I was referring to. I shook my head before I could listen to any more of her optimistic nonsense and entered the house. She cares about me, I know she does. But she spews so much bullshit to try and make me feel better. She feeds me cliché after cliché, thinking that some empty sentence will make me feel better, but I know that in the end, nothing will make me feel better. As I entered my room I pulled the thin notebook out of my pocket and began to tear away everything I had written before leaving for Teddy’s game. I can’t be like her. I can’t write in clichés or hallmark cards. I need to be better than that. I need to write lyrics that can save someone. I need to be there for people. I need to. I looked down at the floor, crowded with small paper balls, and shook my head. I’m so useless. I can’t even write a simple song without fucking up. How much time have I wasted writing useless lyrics that will never be sung? Why do I do this to myself? Why do I even try? I felt my head fall to my arms as my doubts began to swarm my mind, and let out a blood curdling scream in an effort to block them out. “Ryder!” My grandma shouted from down the hall. “Did you take your medicine this morning?” I heard her begin to shout something else, but threw on headphones before I could make it out. I ripped a stray guitar from its stand and turned the amp up. The second my hand strummed against the strings my headphones began to vibrate on my head. I needed to numb the thoughts, at least for right now. The racing heart, the sweaty palms, the aching mind, the shortness of breath…it’ll all come in second to the roaring echo now blasting in my head. My hands began to work faster than my mind could process as I wrote riff after riff, stopping every now and again to throw down whatever lyrics I could manage. It was a chaotic process, but it’s my process. Every now and again involuntary screams would escape my lips. I knew my grandma could hear them, but she never minded as long as she thought I was safe. She knows how I am. She knows who I am. Finally, as I placed the guitar down and pulled the headphones off my head, I could feel the anxiety from earlier coming back for revenge. It rushed me all at once, overloading me in ways that seem worse every time, until finally it turns into what I can only describe as a flat line. A static that overtakes my mind. After a few minutes of silence, my grandma entered my room and checked the pill case that laid on my night stand. “You took your pills this morning.” She gasped in surprise. “Then what has you like this?” She asked, trying her hardest to fix my hair into place. “Were they making fun of you again?” She tried her hardest to keep eye contact. “Did they hit you?” She tried to get any answer she could. “I know you care about your friend, but maybe you should stay away from his games. Just until everything can calm down.” She sounded defeated. “You’re not going too, though are you?” She analyzed, knowing how to carry the one-sided conversation. “Why do you let them torture you like this?” Once again her questions met silence. “Oh Ryder!” She exhaled, directing her attention to the crumbled papers near her feet. “Why do you throw away your work like this?” She went to pick it up, but second guessed herself as my eyes stared down at her hands. “You’re writing is beautiful” She encouraged me and laid a gentle kiss on my forehead. “I’ll leave your dinner in the fridge if you get hungry later. For now, try and rest.” I felt her began to apply pressure to my chest and I gave in as my body began to fall back onto the bed. A million thoughts flooded my head, and yet I couldn’t make out a single one. There was too much in there that needed to be figured out. Why did Teddy kiss me? Why would he do that, but not stand up for me? He apologized, and said he would next time, but he’s said he would before today. Can I even trust him? No. It’s better not to. It’s better to keep to myself. It’s better to keep my head down. I’ll get too comfortable with him. I’ll get attached, and he’ll leave. He was lying when he said he cared about me. He was lying when he said we weren’t all that different. He was lying when he said he wants to join me in a van. This whole time he’s done nothing but lie. That kiss, it didn’t mean anything. It was fake, just like him. “Ryder!” I heard the peppy tone call out as my door creaked open. Did I fall asleep? Am I losing my mind? That sounds like… “You never texted.” The voice spoke again, as though it was coming from another dimension. “I must’ve sent 20 texts, and called you 10 times, what gives?” The voice demanded. It almost sounded concerned. ‘It can’t be Teddy!’ a part of me argued. ‘He doesn’t actually care.’ “Are you mad at me?” The voice asked, growing louder. “I’m sorry I kissed you, I just…” The voice froze as I turned towards the speaker with confused eyes. I’m not dreaming? I took a long blink before reopening my eyes and reached out to the figure near my bed. “What are you doing?” He giggled, not sure if I was playing around. He went to reach for my hand but hesitated, until I forced it a little further. I decided I must have been awake when I felt his hand grasp mine. “Oh, that’s right.” He muttered to himself, connecting the dots on the mood I was in. “Does this have to do with before?” He asked me and pulled a chair over with his spare hand. “No.” I lied, finally speaking. I heard him swallow hard. He tried to hide his surprise from my voice. “ Maybe I should be more specific. Is this because of our conversation before?” “No.” I repeated, forcing the words out of my body. “From our kiss?” “No.” “From the game?” “No.” “Then from what?” He groaned as his spare hand fell to his head. For the first time in my life I saw Teddy Haner begin to show weakness. “Why?” I asked, watching his hand fall back down to his side. “Because, it’s not right that they…” “No.” I shook my head. “Why do you look worried?” He took a second to pull together an answer and then smiled. “Because I am worried.” He lightly laughed. “I never want to see anyone I care about look this sad, and yet, here I am.” “Care about?” I repeated, more to myself than him. Confusion replaced worry on his face as my words hit him. “Did you hit your head on the drive home?” He teased me, trying to get a better look in my eyes. “Did you forget the whole conversation we had at my house?” “But you didn’t mean any of that.” I shrugged, turning on my back so I didn’t have to look at him. “Where the hell did you get that?” He began to grow serious, but I couldn’t find the words to answer his question. “Is that what you’ve been telling yourself?” He smiled again an d scooted the chair a little bit closer. “That’s not true.” He shook his head. “Why would I kiss you if I didn’t mean it?” Suddenly I felt laughter fill the dark room. Is he mocking me? Is this all just a joke to him? “What am I going to do with you?” He sighed through his laughter. “When I tell you I like you, you don’t believe me. When I kiss you, you convince yourself I was trying to play you. What are you going to do after our first date?” I kept quiet, trying my hardest to connect the dots on what he was saying. “I guess I just need to follow you everywhere.” He continued, trying his hardest to create as much light as possible. He leaned over me and planted a kiss on my lips. “Convince yourself whatever you want, but at the end of the day, I’ll be right here sitting next to you.” He gripped my hand tightly. “You’ll just leave like everyone else.” I finally managed as our eyes reconnected. “Maybe I will one day.” He tried his hardest not to feed me lies. “I have no idea what the future holds. But wouldn’t it suck if we never found out?” He graced me with another smile. “Like I said this afternoon, stop thinking about it all so much. Just let it happen.” “I can’t.” My brain began to shut down again. “Everything I touch falls apart.” “Really? Because I feel fine.” He shrugged. “Come with me. You have an E.P. to work on, and dates to go on. You don’t have time for self-pity.” “But what if I…” “But what if you give it a chance?” He cut me off. “What if it all works, and ends happily ever after.” “But what if…” “But what if you don’t spend the rest of your life asking, ‘what if?’” He finally connected with me. “I don’t know about you, but I’d rather fail trying than never find out at all.” “That’s because you’re perfect.” I groaned as he began to gently stroke my hand. “And you’ve got me wrapped around your finger.” He explained, with a soft smile. “So, if you can get ‘Mr. Perfect’ to fall so hard for you, then why can’t get everyone else to?” This time I fell quiet. Not because of my depression and anxiety, but because of my surprise. No one knows he came all this way to check on me. No one knows how much he’s trying to help me. Even if they did, no one would care. Yet here he is, in a small dark room in the middle of a local cemetery, holding my hand. “Tomorrow’s a new day Ryder.” Teddy insisted as his voice returned to its happy tone. “And I’ll be right here with you, every step of the way.“

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