Jared was a skinny sixteen year old boy dressed in a black t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He had an orange rucksack and he was holding a blue textbook that didn't fit in with all of his other things. He slowly plodded out of his history classroom and down the crowded corridors towards the cold parking lot. He spotted his friend, Jake, sat on the short, red bricked wall at the foot of the steps at the entrance of the school. "Hey," Jared called. Jake looked up from his phone and smiled at him. "You okay?" Jake nodded shortly. "Are you sure?" Jared questioned, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, yeah I'm good," shrugged Jake. "'S just my mother's working late so I need to wait for my grandparents to get here."
"Do you want me to wait with you?"
"Nah, it's okay. Is your dad here yet?"
"I'm driving back with my brother today," sighed Jared. "And his girlfriend, apparently."
"Good luck with that," chuckled Jake. Jared nodded stiffly and crossed the parking lot to where his brother's red car was parked in the middle of the parking lot. Jared appeared to be the first to the car, so he leant against the bonnet and waited for his brother to arrive.
Jared was forced into the back of the small vehicle beside his brother's guitar. He hugged his textbook to his chest as his brother blasted the radio and drove to his girlfriend's house. The girl, a short, brunette stranger, was giggling childishly at something that caused Jeff to roll his eyes. Jared stared out of the window as they past unfamiliar streets until they got to the girl's house. "Wait here, JT," Jeff said. "I'll be back soon." Jared nodded shortly as Jeff and his girlfriend padded out of the vehicle.
Jared's mother was cooking in the kitchen when her sons wandered in through the front door. "Good day?" she called, Jeff stuck his head around the corner of the door.
"No," he replied stiffly. "My AP physics teacher is a madman." Jared snorted behind him as their mother rolled her eyes. "What?" Jeff questioned, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm sure they're not that bad," she said.
"He is, he really is," grumbled Jeff.
"How was your day, Jared?" their mother asked.
"Same old, same old," Jared shrugged dully. Jeff rolled his eyes.
- - - - -
Jared awoke before his alarm the following morning, so he just laid in his bed staring up at the ceiling. He could hear the sound of the shower down the hallway, so he presumed that his mother was up, but he didn't want to bother to check the time. He yawned and pulled his quilt up to his chin as he heard his mother knock the door of his sister's room. He rubbed his eyes as he slowly sat up, not wanting to leave the comfort of his warm bed.
Jared felt half-asleep when he left his house to head to school. He sat at the back of his father's car quietly and pretended to listen to his sister's rambling about her lost art project. "Can't you teacher let you do it for home work?" their father asked. Meg shook her head certainly and began to explain that they only gave her a certain amount of hours to finish the project and, although, it wasn't her fault it was missing, the teacher said it was unfair to let her have more time. Jared stared out of the window as they approached the middle school. "I'll see you later," their father said as Meg clambered out of the car. Jared waved at her, but she didn't appear to notice as she walked towards the school.
Jared bid his father farewell as he bounded out of the car and towards the building. He saw a group of freshman congregating outside one of the bathrooms and shook his head, remembering when he was too timid to use the school bathrooms without a friend. He gripped the straps of his rucksack as he wandered into his homeroom.
- - - - -
Jared's last class before lunch was drama, through most of which he was very hungry. He was sat on one of the four tables at the back of the room and was reading through the script that the teacher had passed out, although he found himself reading the same line over and over again as he was distracted by his stomach. Amanda, who was sat next to him, was muttering the lines under her breath as their drama teacher patrolled the room. Jared rubbed the back of his neck as he tried to focus on his lines. He felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, so he glanced down at it as the woman turned to Amanda. Jared chuckled at the photo his friend Felicia sent him of her dog. "Jared," snapped the teacher. "Give me that." Jared looked up at her and frowned. The woman had her hand in his face and raised an eyebrow. "Phone, now," she droned. Jared huffed but handed it over, before turning his attention back to his script.
Jared was unsurprisingly partnered with Amanda to do his scene. He had expected that as they were the only pair on their table, but he was not looking forward to it as Amanda was very enthusiastic. As Jake and his partner read their version of the scene, Jared re-read his lines, not looking forward to having to read in front of the class. "Well done, guys," the drama teacher said. "Amanda, Jared, are you ready?" Amanda nodded eagerly and stood up, while Jared shrugged and slowly stood, leaning against his chair. Amanda began to recite her paragraph as Jared studied his class; about half of the class consisted of girls Jared barely spoke to who were whispering to one another, while the others were a mixture of Jake and his partner, a girl who was sketching skulls onto a piece of paper and three boys who were sat on a table at the back of the room, obviously laughing at what Amanda was saying. Jared inhaled shakily before he began to recite his own lines. He spoke softly to Amanda, not looking at the crowd as she had, until he finished. The class clapped politely, as they had for every other group, and Jared sat down. He glanced at his watch and mentally counted the minutes until he could leave.
Once the bell sounded, Jared was told to wait in his seat. Rolling his eyes, he remained in place and smiled at Jake when he walked past him. Jared watched as Amanda strode to the front of the room to hand in all the scripts she had collected. "Your confidence is improving," the teacher told her. "It's nice to see."
"Thanks," Amanda said, beaming.
"You know, we're holding auditions for the next school play on Friday, you should come along."
"Thanks," Amanda said brightly. She smiled at Jared as she began stuffing her things back into her rucksack.
"Jared," the teacher called. Jared huffed and threw his rucksack over his shoulder and approached her desk. "Here," she said, handing him his phone, "you can have this back now. I don't want to see it out in my lesson again, alright?" Jared nodded shortly. "You know," she continued, as Jared turned to walk away, "your performance was very well done; you ought to consider auditioning for the play, too."
"Um... thanks," Jared mumbled, before he padded out of the classroom.
Jared found Jake in the canteen with a plate of lasagna on a blue tray. He was sat opposite their friend Matt, who had a ham and cheese baguette that he brought in from home. Jared waved at them before he plodded to the back of the lunch line. He held back a yawn as he glanced up at the clock pinned on the opposite wall. He stood silently before he ordered his lasagna. There was no cake yet when he arrived, so he ordered a strawberry yogurt for dessert and joined his friends at their table. "Hey, JT, what took you so long?" Matt asked, opening his packet of doritos.
"I told you," said Jake, "he got held back in drama."
"What did you do?" Matt asked.
"I got caught on my phone," shrugged Jared, cutting up his food.
"Damn," chuckled Matt.
"Yeah," sighed Jared.
"Did she chew you out for it?" Jake questioned.
"Not really," replied Jared. "She told me not to do it again and complimented my performance."
"Nice," snorted Matt.
"Yeah, she told me I should try out for that play they're doing." Matt and Jake chuckled.
"I agree," said Matt. "You'd look great in tights." Jared rolled his eyes.
"Felicia was almost going to go for Ariel last year," piped up Jake.
"Yeah, until she realised how dorky it was," laughed Matt. "I mean, this isn't middle school." Jared shrugged.
- - - - -
"How was school, boys?" Jared's mother called as he and Jeff strode into their kitchen once they had arrived home. Jared shrugged and dropped his rucksack to the floor as he took an apple out of the fruit bowl as Jeff rolled his eyes.
"Awful," he grumbled. "My AP history teacher lost my essay so now I have to rewrite it by Monday."
"I'm sure you'll manage it," murmured their mother. Jeff shrugged and took and apple himself.
"So am I, but I have a ridiculous amount of other homework to do as well," huffed Jeff. "So it's really not convenient."
"How was your day, Jared?" their mother asked him.
"Same old, same old," he shrugged.
"Come on now," sighed their mother, pursing her lips. "There must be something that happened today."
"Uh... they ran out of cake by the time I got there so I couldn't have any," said Jared.
"Why were you late for lunch?" their mother asked, frowning.
"I got held back in drama," sighed Jared. "Apparently my teacher thinks I should be in the next school play."
"Sounds like a good idea," said their mother.
"Really?" scoffed Jared.
"Yeah, you're not very involved in school clubs anymore, you should try it," she said.
"Yeah, you did plays in fifth grade and you were good," piped up Jeff. Jared smiled and nodded, before he padded to his room.
- - - - -
Jared was running late the following morning; he didn't know how as he had done everything as he normally had, but he was hurrying through the halls to his homeroom, only to feel someone slap his chest. Jared froze and raised an eyebrow at Amanda, who was beside him. "Hey?" he questioned nervously. "C-Can I help you?" Amanda removed her hand from his chest and smiled at him.
"I heard you were told you should audition for the play on Friday," Amanda said. "I wanted to say that you really should; you're really good."
"Oh, uh... thanks," Jared replied awkwardly. "You're good too."
"Thanks," beamed Amanda.
"Uh... how did you know I was told to audition?"
"I heard Matt Cohen telling Robbie yesterday," shrugged Amanda. Jared rolled his eyes and nodded.
"Well, thanks," Jared said.
"Y'know, if you do audition, Ruth and I can meet you outside the auditorium so we can sit together," said Amanda.
"Oh, thanks," Jared murmured.
"Well, y'know, I didn't expect many of your friends to be interested in that," shrugged Amanda.
"No, you're right," sighed Jared. "I-I have to go. I'll see you."
- - - - -
Jared plodded unenthusiastically out of biology on Friday afternoon. He had a slight headache due to dehydration and was ready to go to sleep. "Are you going to the cinema tomorrow?" Jake asked him as they approached the steps. Jared raised an eyebrow.
"Why would I?" Jared questioned.
"This R-rated horror is showing tomorrow and Matt wants to sneak in," shrugged Jake.
"Oh, well, text me the timing and I'll see if my parents let me go." Jake nodded and padded down the steps to where Felicia and Matt were standing.
"Hey, JT, we're going to watch football try-outs, wanna come?" Matt called. Jared sighed.
"Uh... sorry, I can't," he muttered. "I told my mother I'd try out for the play." Matt rolled his eyes.
"Really?" Felicia chuckled. Jared nodded.
"Why don't you come to the football pitch, but tell your mother you were at the auditions and say you didn't get a part?" questioned Matt.
"Cos my brother's on the football team and he'll probably notice me," sighed Jared. "Sorry guys, maybe another time."
"Alright," said Jake.
"See you around, twinkle toes," chuckled Matt. Jared rolled his eyes and turned the corner, towards the auditorium.
Amanda and Ruth, the ginger haired girl who drew skulls in her book in class, were waiting outside as they said they would be. Jared smiled and waved at them and Amanda beamed back. "You came!" she cried. "Hey!" Jared nodded and smirked at Ruth, who rolled her eyes. "You ready?" Amanda asked. Jared nodded and followed the pair into the auditorium.
There were about thirty students sat on the hard, red seats in the auditorium. Jared followed Amanda and Ruth to the row second to the front, behind where the drama teachers were sat. Jared tied his shoelaces as Ruth took out her notebook and Amanda peered around the hall. "There are more people than I expected," she said.
"I suppose," said Ruth, not looking up from her book.
"Have you done this before?" Jared questioned.
"No, but my cousin was the lead of her school's play when she was a junior, so she told me what to expect," shrugged Amanda.
Mr. Kripke, the head of the drama department, told the hall that there were two options to audition for; a main role or a supporting role. There were three songs that he had prepared that they could choose from and they would be accompanied by a broad senior on the piano. "I didn't know we had to sing," murmured Jared glumly.
"Neither did I," grumbled Ruth.
"I did," said Amanda brightly. "It'll be fine."
"I don't like singing in front of people," mumbled Jared.
"You'll be fine," Amanda told him. "Don't worry about it."
Jared was too busy in his own head to pay much attention to the first lot of auditionees. He watched intently as Amanda strode to the front of the stage and sung her piece, but Ruth didn't even look up from her notebook. Jared applauded with everyone else as Amanda sat down and returned to reciting lyrics to the song he barely knew in his head as the next girl strode to the front of the stage. "You were great," Jared heard Ruth whisper. Amanda flushed but beamed at her.
Jared didn't pay the first few boys any more attention either. The nervous freshman sung slightly off key but Jared politely clapped along with everyone else as a senior with mousey hair approached the stage. "That's Mark," Amanda whispered. "I know for a fact he and his friends are only here to avoid detention."
"How do you know that?" Jared questioned.
"Jeffrey gave me the idea," shrugged Ruth. Jared chuckled and rolled his eyes. He rubbed the back of his neck as Mark began to mumble-sing his way through the song and clapped politely as he strode off stage. He was immediately replaced by a broad brunet. "That's Jeffrey," Ruth told him. Jared nodded and watched as the boy licked his lips and began to sing. He wasn't bad, and his diction was much clearer than Mark's, but Jared's eyes were drawn to the symbols drawn in sharpie all over his hands.
"Do you know what he's drawn there?" he asked Ruth quietly.
"Not at all," she shrugged, turning her attention back to the skull and crossbones she was doodling. Jared nodded and turned to face Amanda, who was mouthing along with the words that Jeffrey sung. Jared clapped as Jeffrey finished and strode off the stage, only for his place to be taken by a short, thin boy Jared vaguely recognised from one of their assemblies.
"That's Rich," whispered Amanda. "He's been the lead in the last three school shows." Jared nodded knowingly and watched as Rich began to sing. He wasn't really interested in the boy's performance and returned to mouthing the lyrics to his own song of choice to himself. Amanda clapped enthusiastically with the rest of the hall when Rich finished, but Ruth only rolled her eyes. "What's up with you?" Amanda asked.
"Nothing," shrugged Ruth. "I just don't see what everyone sees in him."
"He's the best singer here."
"Only cos everyone else is average," said Ruth. "Being above average isn't brilliant."
"Alright, alright," murmured Amanda, as the next boy strode to the stage. He was tall, taller than Rich, and he had light brown hair. He was wearing a white t-shirt that he had rolled up the sleeves of and a pair of black jeans. He was wringing his hands together and he looked uncomfortable.
"Who's that?" Jared questioned.
"Ackles," shrugged Amanda.
"He's one of Jeffrey's friends," said Ruth. "Also probably only here to avoid detention." Jared nodded. He watched as Ackles began to sing. He had a rich, soft voice that caught his attention much more than Rich's had. Jared felt goosebumps prickling up his arms as he caught on to every word Ackles sang. He glanced over at Amanda and Ruth, both of whom were also fixated on the boy. "I think your buddy has been dethroned," chuckled Ruth as Ackles finished and the room applauded him. Amanda nodded.
"Yeah, he's good," she said. "I can't say I expected that." Jared nodded in agreement and shifted uncomfortably as the next boy strode to the front as he knew his turn was approaching.
Jared wrung his hands together when he was called to the front of the room. He glanced at the lyric sheet on the piano to ensure he knew the words before he stood in the middle of the stage. He nodded at Kripke and the senior began to play the piano. Jared inhaled and began to sing softly, his eyes on his feet. He began to look around the room as he reached the chorus and spotted Ackles towards the back, sat between Jeffrey and Mark. Mark was talking to the girl beside him, but Ackles' eyes were straight on him and he was smiling slightly. Jared turned his attention to Kripke, who seemed content, and to Amanda and Ruth, who were both staring at him, also smiling. Jared sung louder as he started the second verse, feeling more confident now, his eyes straight ahead, not fixed on anyone in particular. He remained that way until he finished his song. Kripke nodded at him, so Jared nodded to the piano player and shuffled away, glancing to Ackles momentarily to see the boy still smiling in his direction. "You were so good," Amanda said as he sat down.
"Yeah, you were great," said Ruth seriously.
"Thanks guys," Jared said, feeling his cheeks flush pink. Amanda smiled at him as Kripke announced that those auditioning for supporting roles were to start filing out now, beginning with Alona, who was in Jared's math class. Alona's song was much shorter than Jared's and her voice was sweeter and soft. It sounded like a lullaby, but Jared clapped heartily once she had finished. Ruth was up next, so she closed her notebook and dropped it onto her chair before she padded to the stage. Like Alona, she sang a shorter song, but Jared had to admit she was very good at it and she appeared to be much more confident than he was.
After the last person had sang, Kripke clapped his hands and strode to the centre of the stage. "Well done, everyone," he said. "You've made this decision very hard for us. A cast list will be posted outside the drama rooms next Friday morning. You can all go now." Jared scrambled to his feet and pulled his rucksack over his shoulder. He followed Ruth out of the door and realised that Amanda wasn't following them.
"Where's Amanda gone?" he asked, puzzled.
"She's probably gone to try to talk to one of the other drama nerds," shrugged Ruth. "Probably talking about broadway or something."
"Do you suppose that the football tryouts are still going on?"
"Okay, thanks anyway," sighed Jared. Ruth nodded and climbed over a bush, towards the back entrance of the school, while Jared plodded around the corner. He noticed Jeff's car was still in the parking lot and let out a sigh of relief. As the sound of footsteps approached, he tied his shoelaces on the top step and began to walk towards the football field.
"Oi, kid, where're you headed?" snapped someone behind him. Jared spun around to see Mark, Jeffrey and Ackles staring at him. Jared cocked his head and frowned at Mark. "The exit's over there," the older boy said dramatically, pointing to the parking lot."
"I know," said Jared stiffly.
"So where are you going?" Jeffrey asked.
"To the football pitch," shrugged Jared.
"Why?" inquired Mark. "Gonna mess up the equipment or something?"
"No, I need to meet my brother," Jared replied. He rolled his eyes at the older boys and continued towards the field.
Jeff and his girlfriend were sat on the bench closest to the field when Jared arrived. He could still feel Mark's eyes burning into the back of his head as he sat beside him. Jeff ruffled his hair and smiled. "How'd it go, JT?" he asked. Jared shrugged. Jeff peered over his shoulder and scowled, obviously noticing the three stood behind them. "Is Pelligrino giving you shit?" Jeff asked darkly. Jared shook his head. "Are you sure?" Jeff questioned. "Cos I've been looking for a reason to beat the shit out of him all year; cocky bastard."
"He's fine, he's just annoying," sighed Jared. "And rude."
"Yeah, he is," growled Jeff.
"Do you know them, much?" Jared asked.
"I know Pelligrino well enough," sighed Jeff. "He was in enough of my classes in sophomore year. He's an arrogant, stubborn prick who won't admit when he's wrong and likes to pick on anyone smaller than him, which is most people. I don't know the other two well, though, they're juniors. I know Ackles plays baseball with Pelligrino and is a damn side quieter than he is, but I don't know him personally. I doubt anyone who chooses to hang around with him can be anything but bad news, though." Jared nodded glumly. He didn't know why, but he was hoping that Jeff would have told him something positive about Ackles, the boy with the soft voice and sweet smile.
"Are you ready to go?" Jared asked.
"I want to see Matty try out first," Jeff sighed. Jared nodded. Matty was the freshman who Jeff tutored in physics. It was Jeff and his friend who had convinced Matty to work up the confidence to try out in the first place, so Jared understood why he wanted to see him play.
- - - - -
Jared awoke on Saturday morning to see he had three missed calls from Jake. Groaning, he sat up and called him back, before pressing his phone to his ear. "Hello?" he muttered.
"Hey, JT, how was the drama thing?" Jake asked brightly.
"Uh... alright, I guess," Jared shrugged. "No offence, but is there a reason you're calling me at the crack of dawn?" Jake sniggered.
"Yeah, I just thought I'd warn you that Matt gave your number to Amanda and her weird friend," he replied. Jared let out a sigh of relief.
"Alright, are we still off to the cinema later?" he asked.
"Yeah, see you then," replied Jake, before he hung up. Jared glanced at his clock and decided that he could get another hour's sleep before he needed to get ready to leave the house.