The rest of the weekend into the next week I just couldn’t get Ryder off my mind. He’s just so different from me…he leaves me with so many questions. Does he really like being alone, or is that something he’s just gotten used to? Does he really hate being gay, or was that just a drunken joke he made? Is he really willing to let me in…if he does…can I handle it?
I felt Mike give me a heavy push as we finished up our gym set for the day “Get your head out of the fucking clouds Teddy.” He scolded, as I put the weights back onto the racks of the large gym “You were so off today. Your form was shit, your motivation was shit…you want to play this season, or just sit on the bench?”
“I want to play…”I began, but before I could continue, he grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a good squeeze.
“Then your ass better be here tomorrow ready to work.” He commanded. It wasn’t uncommon for Mike to get in my face at the gym. It’s not something I really liked…but it’s out of love, and most importantly it really does get a fire burning in me “Pathetic today” he spit, shaking his head and walking towards the door “Just pathetic.”
“I just have some stuff on my mind.” I shrugged, quickly catching up to him.
He rolled his eyes and turned to me “What could you possibly have on your mind?” he chastised, keeping an intense stare on me. I bit my tongue and looked away realizing I couldn’t give him the real answer “What’s his name?” Mike groaned, knowing exactly how to read me.
“It’s not a person, its…”
“Whatever” he interrupted, shaking his head once more “say whatever you want, but I can read you like a book. Just do whatever you need to to get him off your mind.”
I nodded knowing exactly where I needed to go and headed to my car “See you tomorrow Mike.”
“Get your shit together Haner” he waved away, jumping into his driver’s seat and speeding away. I followed suit, except when I passed my house I kept going and turned the short corner.
“Teddy!” A familiar voice called out as I approached the front door “Blake didn’t tell me you were also coming over today! I would’ve baked or something!”
“Hey Mrs. Ramsey” I greeted, throwing on the best smile I could while trying to decipher what she meant by also “He doesn’t know…I just needed to talk to him about some stuff.”
She nodded her head, fully understanding what I was saying “I don’t think I can ever express how much I love how close you Liz, Blake and Mike are. ” she smiled “Well you know where you’re going, Liz and Blake are in the basement.”
I nodded my head, and made my way through the familiar house. “Partying without me?” I teased, as I quickly went down the steps into the large room. It wasn’t uncommon for Liz and Blake to always be together. They’re not all that similar, yet they get one another. They claim they would never date…but it wouldn’t surprise me if they wound up together.
“Welp, this was fun while it lasted.” Liz teased, throwing her head back
“Remind me to get stronger locks” Blake encouraged with the roll of his eyes “Did you know we were hanging out or something?”
“Nope, I mean I guess I figured.” I shrugged “I just…I need to vent for a minute.”
“You couldn’t at least shower first?” Blake shook, taking a good look at me.
“It’ll just be a few minutes!” I swore taking a seat on the huge couch that spanned the walls “Then if you want to hang out more I’ll run home, shower and meet up with you guys.”
“Works for me” Liz nodded “I’ll text Mike and tell him…”
“No!” I blurted out “Just not until later.”
“Everything okay?” Blake cautiously asked turning towards me.
I carefully moved my mouth as I thought over my next few words “I…promise you guys won’t tell Mike.” They both nodded their heads, worried what the big secret would be “I’m starting to fall for Ryder Sullivan.” I forced out with a shake of my head.
“I told you!” Blake exclaimed, jumping from his side of the couch towards Liz.
“No!” Liz argued, as they both ignored me “You said Teddy has been falling! He said he’s starting to fall!”
“What’s the difference?” Blake irritatedly threw his hands up “You owe me 20 bucks!”
“There’s a big difference!” Liz argued “It means he hasn’t started to get feelings for him until like this week you fuckwad! You’ve been saying he liked him since the day he invited him to the party!”
“Teddy!” Blake called out, trying to pull me into it “When did…”
“No!” Liz interrupted “He’ll just take your side as usual!”
“I’m not taking sides!” I pouted, starting to get upset they weren’t taking me serious “I just want to know if I’m crazy or not!”
“Why would you be crazy?” Liz poked finally starting to take it seriously “It’s not like this is your first crush.”
“He’s just so different than anyone I’ve dated before.” I groaned, thinking about the goth boy with a green streak “He’s cynical, and grumpy…but I can’t get him out of my head.”
“Maybe you need different.” Blake shrugged, skooching closer to me “I mean your only 2 boyfriends didn’t make it past 2 weeks.” My pout grew heavier as his words hit me “You know what I’m trying to say.” He shook “You’re the type of person who needs to be challenged…and well Ryder…he’s a challenge.” Blake laughed
“He’s never going to like me back though” I argued, falling lower into the couch.
“You guys did leave off on bad terms.” Blake analyzed thinking back on the night at Shortways.
“He came over and apologized the next day.” I muttered, looking away.
Blake eyes grew wide as he looked towards Liz to see if he heard me right “Ryder did what?”
“He came over to apologize, and then he wound up hanging out for a while.” I mumbled “He even stayed for dinner.”
“You’re lying.” Blake laughed still staring at Liz in disbelief “Ryder Sullivan didn’t do that.”
“He did!” I insisted “I even tried to teach him lacrosse…that’s when I started falling for him. We both couldn’t stop smiling and laughing…it just…it’s something I’ve never felt before!”
“SEE! That’s after the party!” Liz cried out “So you owe me 20 buck!” she confidently nodded staring down Blake. As their eyes met she got a look that told her the bet could wait “Sorry…just let me get this straight” Liz began, giving me a skeptical look “You came over to tell us that you might have a crush on Ryder, and are worried he doesn’t have one back…meanwhile you spent all day tackling each other and laughing.”
“It wasn’t today, and we weren’t tackling each other…” I nervously defended “I mean…why do you have to twist it like that?” I let out, even more conflicted than before I came here.
“Love is deaf, blind and fucking stupid” Blake teased, looking towards Liz.
Liz nodded along with his words, but kept her eyes on me “So what the hell do you want us to tell you?”
“I don’t know, Blake you know him…What do you think?” I shrugged “It feels like I have a lot of time before he can even trust me.”
“For now, keep going to his shows, keep goofing around…just be there for him.” Blake explained, sitting up “Ryder…he’s had a rough shot at life…he’ll open up when he’s ready, and then you’ll know if he’ll like you back. But for now don’t push him, you’ll scare him away.”
“So then I have a shot?” I poked, as Blake quickly nodded, not seeing any doubt as to why Ryder and I couldn’t wind up together “I thought you two weren’t close?” I teased, interested to see his response.
“Close is a strong word.” Blake excused, trying to worm his way out of it “He’s just told me a lot about his life…just take it easy for now.”
Liz laughed to herself “Teddy?” she breathed out through laughter “Take it easy with someone? Never happening!”
“Liz…” I groaned throwing my head back.
“Ryders in for the ride of his life!” She smiled, trying to hold back more laughter
“Liz!” Blake called out, reminding her I wasn’t in the joking mood.
“Sorry…sorry…”She let out, trying to calm down “It’s just…come on Teddy, you always jump head first from project to project. If you want to date Ryder go for it, but just…” she skeptically shook her head, doing her best to put it nicely “I don’t know if it’ll end well.”
“Don’t know if you don’t try.” Blake encouraged, still fighting for us to be together.
“Exactly, and what do I have to lose?” I smiled, beginning to relax into the idea.
“Popularity…” Liz quickly let out as Black lunged across the couch and bumped “But you’ll always have us and Mike, so it’s fine!”
I threw my hands up and pretended not to hear her last few words “I’m going home and showering, I’ll swing by after.” I exhaled, heading up the stairs and back to my car. The rest of the night was nice. We even called Mike and had him swing over. There’s no reason why the 4 of us should get along, but why question it? It’s just worked so well for so long. I don’t know what I would do if it fell apart. Mike stood up for me when I came out, and Blake and Liz were there to soften the blows. Whenever a guy messes with Liz the 3 of us take care of it. We all go to Mike’s baseball games, and Me and Mike are always ready to jump if someone tries to make fun of Blake. I guess since we’ve grown up together, we’re just…family, and nothing could tear that apart.
The Next few days seemed to fly by. I finally got my head back into working out, and even pushed through some early goals. Standing at 5’7 and 135…I’m not big by any means! But I work to let whatever muscle I have show. I never want to be jacked the way Mike is, but I like being defined…it makes me feel good about myself! If I wasn’t at the gym I was either at lacrosse practice or hanging with everyone! Every now and again we would invite Ryder out with us, but he either ignored the text messages or came up with an excuse. Like Blake said, I won’t push. Going to his concert with my Dad and Blake will be enough of a shove!
“I haven’t been to a rock concert in a year!” My dad excitedly let out as we pulled into the barn shaped building.
“Dad” I shook, rolling into a parking spot “It’s not really a concert. It’s just like bands playing at a bar.”
“If they have the right bands…there’s not a different” he confidently nodded, jumping out of the passenger’s seat.
“Man it’s not fair.” Blake mumbled “You’re dads so freakin cool.”
“He made me drive so he could drink!” I argued, jumping out and catching up to them as we joined what seemed like a much bigger crowd than last week “I’m not sure…”
“That’s a cool Dad” Blake interrupted with the shake of his head “My dad said if he even smells gum on my breath I’m grounded!”
“Then maybe you shouldn’t have gotten caught smoking a few weeks ago.” I shrugged, as he leaned over and gave me a push.
My Dad looked from me to him and raised an eyebrow “I’m going to assume cigarettes and not drugs.”
“Yup” Blake quickly lied, but we all knew the truth. I mean if weed can even be counted as a drug that is. I’ve never tried it, but Blake said it’s really nice and calming, and I have no doubt my dad was smoking it before and even a little after I was born…I guess that’s the price you pay when you have young parents.
“You break the rules.” My Dad nodded with a fake frown “Teddy can learn from that.”
“Alright” I interrupted having to play the role of my mom for the night “Blake’s parents already aren’t happy with you giving him a bunch of hard rock music, let’s not push buttons.”
My Dad tilted his head and looked to Blake “Is that so?”
“Kinda” Blake let out with an embarrassed smile “You know they’re all religious and shit, at the end of the day they’re fine with it though.”
“Okay” he shrugged, as his eyes met the bar “If they ever want to talk about it they can always come over and we’ll work it out.”
“It’s cool” Blake dismissed, knowing what my Dad really wanted. “Coolest. Dad. Ever.” Blake exclaimed, watching him make his way through the crowd and to the wooden bar in the middle of the barn.
I let out a deep breath as I watched him flag down the bartender. He’s not a heavy drinker or anything, but boy does he love his beer “Just a little bit” I confessed with a smile.
“Alright” My dad let out looking at the growing crowd “There’s about 30 people here, should be close to 50 by the end of the night. Not bad for this old place. When does Ryder come on?”
“He’s the main act” Blake nodded, pointing towards one of the signs “Society is his band.”
“Main act?” My dad repeated, looking towards me “That’s pretty impressive.”
“He’s amazing” Blake shook “I was speechless last Friday! Trust me Harry, you’re going to love this!”
“Just how good?” My dad skeptically looked at him “Teddy said he still needed time.”
“Teddy just said that because Ryders a bit…fragile.” Blake shrugged “You put that kid in a studio tomorrow, and I guarantee he turns out a hit.”
“Alrighty then” My Dad smiled “Let’s see what he’s got.”
I could tell as the first few bands came on my Dad wasn’t all that impressed. Every now and again he would try to get into the music, but I could tell he was struggling. “They’re trying too hard” My Dad mouthed in between one of the sets. He was right too! There really was nothing organic about these bands…everything just felt…forced. They mimicked acts like Marilyn Manson or some newer bands with screaming in it in an attempt to shock everyone, something that split the growing crowd in 2. It was clearly they were there for one band, and they were letting it show. Every now and then someone would scream out the name Society…Ryder’s slowly building a name for himself…I just hope he’s ready.
As the second band ran off the lights went down, just like last week. Except this time…this time the crowd was 20 people stronger…and they were letting it show. Suddenly that slim figure people had been screaming for appeared on stage, green hair glowing under the dimmed lights. Unlike last week he didn’t even address the crowd. He ripped the mic out of it’s stand and threw the black frame to the ground as the booming noises of instruments filled the air. As I caught a glimpse of his eyes I could tell he was angry. I mean I thought I had seen a new kid last weekend, but this weekend…he was downright scary. He whipped himself around the stage with no concern for himself, singing, screaming, crying out to the crowd in front of him. I can’t even describe the emotions that filled that rusty old barn…or the way the people reached out to him.
Suddenly the song slowed into the loud guitar riff that they played when taking the stage “New Jersey” Ryder let out in a piercing scream “You have 2 fucking choices! Left or Right…I don’t give a shit which one, you just have to fucking move!” I nervously grabbed onto my dad as though I was a little kid, not sure what was coming next. It was like a scene out of an action movie as a group of around 20 people lined up across from a group of 20 other people with a big gap in the middle.
“He’s going for a wall of death” My dad shouted to me “Just stick to the wall when he says go and you’ll be fine!”
Ryder looked on, letting his anger show…he wasn’t here just to put on a show tonight…he was here to create chaos. He threw up a shaky hand then let out another piercing scream as the music roared and the two sides charged each other. They seemed to slow as they hit, but god, people running into each other like that…how the hell is that fun?!
I always thought crazy shows relied on having huge crowds…but the 50 people here tonight proved me wrong. They mercilessly shoved and ripped at one another as the music tore through them. Whatever weird anger Ryder was feeling…well it was making its way through the crowd, bringing out emotions of all kinds in the people there. Ryder’s music was a clash of new and old. There were songs he screamed in, songs he sang in and songs he did a mix of both. Personally I thought the songs he sang in carried a sweetness to them, one he might one day even get pop radio stations to play if he wrote light enough lyrics…but judging by the way he was up on stage, and how much the crowd seemed to enjoy his screaming…well I won’t hold my breath. I’ve never seen my Dad enjoy a song with screaming in it, but damn was he into Ryder’s set. At one point he even tried to join one of those mosh circles with Blake, but his age got the better of him.
“I don’t know if you can tell but I’m a little angry tonight…” Ryder breathlessly let out as they approached the last song of the set “this next one…” he exhaled “well it goes out to anyone fighting mental illness…” he nodded gaining the strength to talk, knowing he was in his safe place “There are just days it hits and hits and hits…some days it’s just an onslaught you don’t think you’ll make it through, but that’s why we have music…that’s why I do what I do.” He nodded, looking over the crowd “You’re never alone…every Friday night…you’ll have me here on this stage…and I’ll have you” There was a sense of love in his words, on that united the crowd “l would be honored if you guys could crowd surf or find a way up here and shake my hand.” He instructed, sitting at the edge of the stage “Let’s make it through this together.” He smiled, waiving for the band to start the final song.
I braced for a rough one, for one that would undoubtedly knock me on my ass. Yet what I got was full of heart…full of soul. There were a few times I thought Ryder would break down crying during it, but he managed to keep himself together as random members of the crowd fought to shake his hand. I saw Blake break through and give him a quick hug before fighting his way back to me. Blake and my Dad tried to force me towards it, but there’s no way I could fight that crowd, besides, for the first time in my life…I wouldn’t know what to say.
“We are Society!” Ryder shouted towards the crowd as he headed towards the stairs “Until next week…good night!”
I nodded towards my Dad and Blake as we all headed towards the big back door, eager to talk to Ryder. I gave the bouncer a smug grin as he let us easily pass by him. This time I found Ryder sitting on the small black couch, drained by the show he had just put on.
“Teddy why don’t you take this one?” Blake encouraged, with a pat on the back.
“but you know him so mu….”
“You got it Teddy” My Dad smiled, lightly ruffling my hair “No one better for this than you.”
I took a deep breath and slowly made my way over to Ryder “Well that was….wow” I let out, lightly taking a seat next to him. He glanced over as I sat down, but kept his face fixed on the floor in front of him. “You really left everything you had out there.”
“It’s like how you feel with lacrosse” he finally exhaled, looking over to me “I just…had to work out some stuff.”
I wanted to reach over to him, to rub his back…to let him know I was there for him, but in this state…I just don’t know how he’ll react “Are you okay?” I forced out, scared even that would upset him.
“I’m fine” he lied with the nod of his head.
I took a gulp and looked deep into his eyes “Look…” I began in a brave voice “I know…I know you’re not, but I won’t push you…just know you have more than this crowd once a week…if you need to talk, you know where my house is.”
He gratefully nodded, but I could tell we weren’t on that level yet “I’ll be okay” he instructed, forcing a small smile “all the venom is out.”
“I-I’ve never seen a crowd like that.” I confessed, trying to start a conversation “and that wall thing you did…where the hell did it come from?”
“It started in in the 80s in punk clubs…your dad probably knows better than me” he shrugged “One of my favorite singers does it, and tonight it just felt like something I needed to try…It just…I felt…” he began but cut himself off and grew silent, scared he would creep me out “Did your Dad like it?”
I waived my Dad over as Blake went off to talk to the same person as last week “Hey buddy” My dad smiled, crouching down to meet eye level with Ryder “I’ve seen a lot of shows in my life, but that was by far the most emotional thing I’ve ever seen.” He comforted, lightly rubbing Ryder’s arm as though he was his own son. For a second I was scared Ryder was going to lash out, but he seemed to be taking it well “I just…I’ve never seen a crowd connect with a singer like that. It was like we were feeling your pain…feeling everything you’ve been holding inside, and that…that’s one hell of a gift.”
A small blush formed on Ryder’s face as he shrugged his shoulders “They’re drunk…” he began, trying to use the same excuse as last week.
“Don’t sell yourself short” My Dad nodded “Look, my brother is coming on Sunday for a small family barbeque. I want you there. He works for a record label, and I think you have what it takes to at least get an E.P. out.”
“I don’t have the money for studio time.” Ryder confessed, too exhausted to be anything but honest.
“Don’t you worry about that.” My Dad encouraged “My Brother can get you the time, you just show him that voice of yours.
“Come” I comforted, as me and Ryder’s eyes connected one more time “It’ll just be my family…you’ll like it.”
“Okay” he softly let out nodding his head.
Tonight I’ve seen two sides of Ryder I had no idea existed. An angry destructive one he kept deep down inside. One that has the ability to motivate crowds into tearing one another apart…and a soft side. One that’s nothing but his soul, his essence. I just hope I don’t have to go through the angry one to get to the calm one.