“Man, you sure did look like a dumb ass back there,” Johnny said with a chuckle, walking with Joey to their next class.
“Shut up,” he said embarrassingly. “It'll get better the more I talk to her.”
“Thanks to me, she actually knows you exist.”
“I would have talked to her eventually....when the time was right.”
“There's no such thing as a right time. When it comes to life, everythin' happens when it happens, estimatin' whether certain times would be better than others is a waste of it. You can't spend your whole life wonderin’ what could have been, because if it didn't happen, it was never gonna happen in the first place. If it was, time machines would be real, and then we wouldn't have to worry about that kind of shit. That's how life goes. Whatever happens, happens. You accept that and it makes life a lot easier.”
“Okay, Confucius. We're headed to Theatre with the other two people I want you to meet. Try not to fill their heads with any more of that stoner talk.”
“Why do I have to be a stoner to say deep things?” Johnny asked, slightly frustrated.
“Because life isn't supposed to be that complicated.”
“Yeah, keep telling yourself that,” Johnny said as they arrived in the art hallway and entered the Theatre classroom.
“Yes, they're both here today,” Joey said aloud but mostly to himself. He spotted them among the cluster of teenagers that occupied the room. There were only a handful of people in the class by now but apparently the final two people that Joey wanted to show him, the rhythm guitarist and lead singer, were already here. “I'll introduce them to you after we get started. The bell's about to ring.”
Joey took his seat near the door and Johnny sat in front of him this time. As with the English class, the teacher had yet to enter and the students were left to socialize amongst themselves. Here, the variety of people who conversed was much larger. It was a class where everyone seemed to know everyone, despite their differences in appearance and probably differing backgrounds. A few were looking over at Johnny, curiously rather than disparagingly like the rest of the school. He actually felt a warm atmosphere in this place. However, based on the constant disappointments that Ladyland loved to provide, first impressions here didn't mean shit.
“Dude, what the hell?!” Exclaimed a student in the front row. He was of medium height, but muscular with peach fuzz growing over his Italian orange-tanned face. “Where's the teacher? Come on, I've got things to do.”
“Who's the loudmouth?” Johnny turned to ask Joey.
“You'll find out sooner or later,” Joey said with a smirk.
“He's not one of the band guys you want to join us, is he?”
“No, no. But you'll see in a bit.”
“Hey! Hey, new kid,” the guy shouted from his seat, turning back to address Johnny. “What's your name?”
“Johnny B,” Johnny answered simply.
“Well Johnny B, I'm Nelson. Let me tell you if you haven't already noticed, this school sucks big ones. And I don't just mean the people - What's up, Kevin,” Nelson briefly cut himself off as another student walked by to high-five him, then continued. “I mean the administrators too. They have absolutely no idea how to run this place. I feel sorry for you, I really do. But this class is probably the only place in the school where you'll feel comfortable. Damn it, where is the freaking teacher!?”
In a burst of rage, Nelson lifted himself out of the seat and shook the desk violently, roaring at the same time before sitting back and calming himself back to normal. Several students laughed at his antics but Johnny was relatively unphased. He looked back at Joey who was hiding a smirk behind his hand.
The bell rang and the last class attendee closed the door behind her. “All right, if that teacher can't get here on time, then I'm going to have to teach this class myself,” declared Nelson, getting up from his seat. He walked to the front of the small class and announced his presence in a comical elderly teacher's voice. “Hello class. My name is Mr. Nelson.”
“Dude, sit down,” Johnny said aloud.
“What was that, new kid?” Nelson asked, cuffing a hand over his ear and leaning forward.
“I said, sit down before you get your ass in trouble.”
As if on cue, the snickering students burst out in laughter at his comment. Johnny was confused.
“That's no way to talk to the teacher,” Nelson said with a smirk. “How're you gonna stop me? Smash my head in with that guitar? Well bring it on, punk. I dare you!”
Nelson drew in closer but the way he presented himself and spoke his words made it apparent that he wasn‘t serious. Meanwhile, the entire class, including Joey, were in hysterics. Johnny didn't like this. He hated being kept in the dark.
“Should I go ahead and tell him, class?” Nelson belted.
“Yeah,” said everyone after a short pause.
“I really am the teacher,” Nelson said with a smile.
Johnny squinted at him, unconvinced. It wasn't until he turned around to Joey and saw him nod that he realized what the big joke was. Everyone was still laughing but Johnny wasn't. He didn't like being tricked. He had to admit though, it was cleverly devised prank, even though he was a bit embarrassed.
“Don't fret, man,” the guy who now went by Mr. Nelson said. “It's just a little trick I like to play. I got the whole class with it on the first day and I've been aiming at new students ever since. It is an acting class after all. Welcome to Theatre 4, the funnest class you'll have all year. Get to know these people because they are most likely going to be some of your best friends. Class, this is Johnny B. Goode, newest student here at the Academy for the Socially Segregated. Don't worry about all of that in here. I broke down those barriers long ago. Now, I've got to get some business taken care for a bit so while I'm gone, try to make Johnny B feel welcome.”
Johnny turned back to Joey again as Mr. Nelson exited the classroom. “He seems cool. You could have told me what was going on though.”
“I could have, but I didn't. Can't change what’s already happened though, right?” Joey smirked as Johnny rolled his eyes in response. “Anyways, lets go talk to the last of the crew.”
The two left their seats and walked to the other side of classroom. Everyone in the class individually greeted Johnny as he walked by them and he was kind enough to say a few words and nod in acknowledgment. They really did want him there; he could see that they were genuine. Mr. Nelson had done a fine job at making this class a welcoming environment. Things seeming a little better, even though he knew he would only receive this type of hospitality in this class alone. Johnny and Joey walked to the back corner of the room where two guys were sitting.
“Oh God, here they come,” one of them said a handsome Middle Eastern guy with long curly hair down to his shoulders and loose clothing. “Brace yourself.”
“Shut up,” the other boy said, punching him in the arm. This one was white, nearly pale-skinned with thick pink lips, a wool jacket, and a toboggan over his head. There were headphones in his ears that were connected to an MP3 in his pocket, playing alternative rock music so loud, it could be heard from across the classroom. Strangely, the guy's voice was lighter than Johnny expected, for such a tough exterior. He sat directly behind the Middle Eastern guy. “What's up, Joey, Johnny B?”
“You know, I can hear that shit from all the way over there,” Joey said as he approached. “You know why most old people are deaf? Because they were in war with bombs and gunshots going off around them. You know why we're going to be deaf? Because of our loud ass music.”
“Well, I'm not even thinking that far ahead. I'm only 17, I still have my whole life to live.”
“Johnny, this is Shelly and Ramsey, the rhythm guitarist and singer that I told you about,” Joey introduced, gesturing toward them.
“Wait....Shelly?” Johnny said, thinking for a moment. “The same Shelly that got into a fight with Chase?”
“That would be me,” Shelly said with a raised eyebrow. Johnny began to notice something about this strange young man.
“That means you're-”
“-a girl? Yeah that's true too,” she said, and Johnny realized it. Shelly was, indeed, a female. The light voice and soft-looking face already led Johnny to believe she was possibly just an effeminate guy, but now it all made sense.
“Uh,” Johnny stuttered. “Sorry if I offended you.”
“You sure did. Who the hell do you think you are? Do you think you're better than me? Because I don't fit your vision of what a woman looks like?”
“I didn't say that, I was just”-
“Relax,” Shelly chuckled, waving him off. “I'm just fucking with you.”
“Well this is just a class full of tricksters, isn't it?” Johnny said full of sarcasm and annoyance.
“Guys, um,” Joey hesitated. “Johnny here wants to start a band and”-
“No way,” Shelly declared.
“Aw, come on, why not?”
“Because the last time you started a band, it was a disaster,” Ramsey said, folding his arms.
“I'm not starting the band, Johnny B is. This girl named Apricot and Chase have”-
“Chase is in it again?!” Shelly asked in shock. “Oh definitely not!”
“Okay, hold on,” Johnny intervened taking a seat beside them. “Tell me exactly what happened to the last band you guys formed, so I can find out exactly what caused it to fall apart.”
Shelly and Ramsey exchanged uncertain looks and turned back to him. Ramsey explained, “It was in our freshman year. I was the lead singer, Shelly was on lead guitar, Joey was bass, Chase was drums and this guy named Oliver was our DJ. We were doing this kind of Nu Metal sound, sort of incorporating some hip hop influences, you know like Korn or Linkin Park. Things started off all right for the most part, we were making progress. Then Oliver stopped being able to make it to practices because of some illness he was contracting and Chase started trying to make a pass at Shelly. Shelly rejected him but he kept advancing until she finally got fed up, punched him in the throat, and he ran out crying and screaming that he quit. Then we find out that Oliver slipped into a coma because of the illness and his parents moved him up to New York to be cared for. After that point, we only had a singer, guitarist, and bassist with no drummer or DJ and since most of our music was written to be heavy on both of those roles, we had to give it up.”
“You could have wrote some new music and found someone outside of school who played drums,” Johnny suggested.
“We tried. All of them were 18 or older and they didn't want to rock with a bunch of 14 year olds. Plus, we didn't feel like writing new music. Oliver did most of the writing as it was.”
“Well what makes you think that's gonna happen again?” Johnny asked, shrugging. “Because Joey is in the band again?”
“No, its not that,” Ramsey said with a hint of guilt. “We're cool with Joey and we're kind of on neutral terms with Chase, at least I am. But Joey's leadership is so off”-
“Joey's not runnin' the show, I am,” Johnny said arrogantly. “Not to sound like a hard-ass or anythin', but I know what I'm doin'.”
“Its not that we don't trust you, Johnny,” Shelly replied. “We just have way too much going on right now.”
“Like the Senior Project and what not.”
Joey spoke up. “Its this project that all seniors have to do to graduate. Its really stupid and pointless.”
“There was never anythin' like this back in Louisiana. What's it supposed to be on?”
“Something that relates to helping the community or some shit," Shelly said dismissively.
“I don't mind helpin' the community but I highly doubt gettin' a bunch of high school students who don't care about it in the first place to do a project on it will help. Shouldn't they be tryin' to do that on their own?”
“Yeah, they should but they're not. They want to put all of the responsibility on us, then blame us when shit goes wrong. We have to write an essay, make a product to relate to it, and create a portfolio of what we learned,” Ramsey informed him. “Oh and we also have to have 24 hours of community service to go with it.”
“Community service? What the fuck is this, a prison sentence? Are we bein' punished for gettin' this far in school?”
“Might as well be,” Shelly shrugged. “And that's one of the reasons why we can't join your band. We've got that to worry about.”
“Well, I'm gonna be totally honest with you. I'm probably not even gonna do the shit. The only thing I even plan on doin' after high school is startin' a band anyway. Nothin' else interests me. People always tell me to have somethin' to fall back on but why even have that when I can't see myself doin' anythin' else. I can't even feel happy pursuin somethin' career-wise unless its makin' music. Its what I was born to do, fuck everythin' else.”
“Wow,” Shelly said with raised eyebrows as if she could physically feel the passion seeping from him. “You're really dedicated to this thing, aren't you?”
“Its all I've got to live for really,” Johnny said, giving the truest answer he could.
“When are you guys planning on meeting up?”
“After school, in the auditorium,” Joey said hopefully. “We'll only be there until about 3 to hear what everybody's got going and maybe have a jam session of some kind.”
“So its like a quick introduction to see if everybody has potential, right?” Ramsey asked curiously.
“That's the basic idea, yeah.”
“Alright, I'll at least give you guys a chance,” Ramsey said, turning to Shelly. “What about you?”
“Hmm,” Shelly contemplated. “I guess it wouldn't hurt. It'll at least be a reminder of the good times we had back in the day. Who knows? You guys might actually not waste our time this go around.”
Johnny, Joey, Shelly and Ramsey entered the school auditorium directly following their 4th period class.
“Well this is it,” Joey said, displaying the area to Johnny, who surveyed it silently. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the place. It looked just the same as Brooks High's auditorium. Johnny ran to the stage and hopped up to it, looking out onto the invisible audience. He liked the feeling. The warmth of the stage lights was comfortable and inviting.
“I'm going to go cut on the lights from the booth,” Joey informed them, stepping away for a moment.
Johnny took off his drawstring backpack, threw it aside, and pulled his guitar case off of his back. He put it on the ground and unzipped it, pulling out the slick black Night Bird in all its brilliance. Joey flipped on the spotlight which shined down on Johnny and his guitar, providing a magnificent beauty to the instrument and its player.
“Nice guitar, man,” Shelly said, climbing onto the stage. “Play something for us.”
“I'd rather wait till the others get here,” Johnny said, plugging the guitar's cord into his amp and zipping through his scales.
“Holy crap, you're a left-handed player?” Ramsey asked in wonder.
“Yeah, I taught myself backwards.”
“Impressive,” Shelly nodded in approval. Then all hell broke loose.
“WHOA WHOA, NO!!” yelled a voice from the entrance to the auditorium. It was Chase, who was walking up to the stage frantically, his eyes darting back and forth between the group like an angry old man at a couple of stray dogs loose in his front yard. “This is not going to be happening if its going to happen like this.”
“What are you talkin' about?” Johnny asked nonchalantly, continuing through his scales.
“Nobody told me these two were still involved,” he said, referring to Shelly and Ramsey.
“That's exactly how I was expecting you to react, you dumb ass,” Shelly responded, shaking her head pathetically.
“Johnny, any chances of me being in your band have just died.” Chase pointed at the group as he turned to leave.
“Now, hold on, Chase,” Johnny called. “You haven't even heard any of us play yet.”
“Whats the point?” Chase exclaimed. “I'm not playing with these guys. Plus, I brought my sticks and you don't even have a drum set for me to play on.”
“Yeah, I don't have a guitar to show you anything right now,” Shelly mentioned. “How are we supposed to do this?”
“Here,” Johnny said, pulling off the Night Bird from around his shoulders and handing it to Shelly. “Play this. You mess up anythin' on it and I'll have your ass.”
“He's serious,” Joey called out, walking up to the stage from the booth.
“Chase, wait here,” Johnny said, walking backstage. “Don't leave.”
After a few minutes, Johnny emerged after making two trips, with four chairs which he placed upstage, then pulled a few notebooks out of his back pack, put two of them on one chair, one on another chair and left the other two chairs vacant.
“Play,” Johnny said finally, gesturing toward the makeshift set.
“You've got all you need to play right there.”
“You just set up a bunch of chairs and expect me to play? What do you take me for?”
“I take you for a good drummer, good enough to play on anythin'. Look, you've got your chair to sit in, the empty chair for a snare, two notebooks on one chair and one on another for your tom toms and the tops of the chairs are cymbals.”
“What about a pedal and a bass drum?”
“You gotta a foot, don't you? Just make the movements, we'll understand.”
“I can't do that, man,” Chase said, dismissing the idea. “It's unnatural.”
“Do the best you can.”
“It won't be good.”
“Well you can leave then, 'cause I only want good players in my band.”
“I AM good,” Chase said loudly, getting defensive. “DON'T insult my skills.”
“THEN STOP COMPLAININ' AND SHOW ME!!” Johnny shouted, his voice booming throughout the auditorium. “OR GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, BECAUSE YOU'RE WASTIN' MY TIME OTHERWISE!”
There was Silence. Everyone had their eyes glued Johnny and Chase, even Apricot, who had walked in during the scuffle. They looked intently at the two, who continued to hold eye contact for a few more moments before Chase finally sat down and pulled his sticks from his bag.
“I'll show you who can play,” he muttered frustratingly as he began to slam the sticks on the chair and tap his feet on the ground in a rhythmic motion. It was coordinated, but had an awkward sound to it because of the lack of a legitimate set. Nevertheless, Chase seemed to treat it like he'd played it before. He was losing himself and becoming immersed in the music in his head, which was exactly the sight that Johnny wanted to see. He folded his arms and smirked. He’d deliberately snapped at Chase to pull out his strengths. He knew he needed nothing short of the best in his band and to get that, he needed to bring the best out of them.
Chase finished off his solo with a thunderous finale, leaving small dents on the chairs and notebooks. “Suck it, bitch,” Chase shouted, overflowing with pride.
Johnny smiled just as proudly. He turned and began to walk backstage. “Hold that thought. Ramsey sing somethin', I need to be able to hear you from back here.”
“Okay,” Ramsey said, as the eyes fell on him. He was now a bit more nervous since it seemed like Johnny's expectations had risen. He wanted to make sure it was good enough on his first try. He put his hands in his pockets anxiously and began to bellow out.
Didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, Carry on
As if nothing really matters.”
There was silence as they all waited for Johnny's reaction. Ramsey felt a little of an awkward aftershock as he stood there. He looked over at Shelly who gave him a thumbs up.
“Okay,” Johnny said as he came back, hauling a large keyboard onto the stage under one arm. “Great song, Classic Rock, Queen and everything. I can dig that. I like the way you sung it too,” he laid the board down on the floor near the end of the stage, “but you sing it too much like a pop star. This is a rock band, you're gonna have to assimilate. Not too much though, I like the uniqueness of it. Just take out the innocence in your voice and replace it with pure energy.”
“Uh, can you give me an example?”
“Yeah, like this.” Johnny took a deep and bellowed out with force and pressure behind it.
Didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, Carry on
As if nothing really matters....like that with that kind of resistance in your voice."
Everyone's eyes were wide with surprise. "So, um, why am I in the band again?" Ramsey asked with a chuckle, obviously impressed.
"Because I don't want to be the singer. Singer takes the spotlight and I don't want to stand out....you know, other than bein' the black guy of the band. Anyways, I found this keyboard backstage, it should be all right for us to use, right?”
“Should be, yeah,” Joey answered with a shrug.
“Okay then, Shelly, I want you to play a simple riff, and Apricot, I want you to try to correspond with it on the keyboard. Chase, put a beat to it when you're ready. You guys got that?"
"Yeah," they said in unison, as Apricot climbed on stage, got on her knees, and turned on the keyboard. When she saw that everyone was ready, Shelly sat down on the floor and laid the Night Bird in her lap, as she was forced to actually hold it since the strap was specifically attached to the left-hand side that Johnny played on. She began to play a catchy rhythm with a medium tempo and after four bars, Apricot was able to harmonize with the keyboard set to an organ setting. Several bars into the selection, Chase entered playing a bass-heavy selection, relying on the “tom tom” portion of his makeshift drum set. The whole collection of sounds were amazingly in sync. Johnny, Ramsey, and Joey stood around each other nodding their heads in approval and to the beat of the music. Johnny was swelling with pride. This was his band, the one he'd been dreaming of forming since he'd started playing the guitar. They were all so talented and just what he needed. He was sure they were feeling the potential too. They'd definitely feel it when I get on the strings, he thought.
"Alright, that's enough," Johnny said, putting his hand up. The three stopped almost immediately. "Nice, nice...let me get my guitar back for a second."
Shelly stood up and handed the Night Bird back to Johnny. "It plays really nicely."
"Thanks. The trapezoid inlays sort of make it work but the Classic Neck humbuckin' pick-ups, the stopbar tailpiece, the transparent gold top hat tuning knobs which make it very easy to tune by the way, and particularly the cream 1960 Pickguard give it the exact edge that makes it as smooth as possible. Plus a 75 Watt Amp to top it off. It's the Terminator of guitars. Went through a lot of modifyin' to get this baby to sound near perfect."
"Are you about to play?" Chase asked enthusiastically.
"Yeah," Johnny said, adjusting the settings of the amp. He was preparing himself to enter an absent frame of mind and play whatever his heart would desire. Before he could make his first strum, however, he heard a voice echo from the other end of the auditorium.
"Chase!" Someone shouted from the entrance. Everyone turned in the direction of the sound. It was Maybelline, the girl Johnny had encountered at the wreck.
"Hold on, in a minute!" Chase shouted back.
"Now!" she yelled.
"HOLD THE HELL ON!"
"Man, fuck," Chase swore, aggressively getting out of the chair. "Hold on just a second, Johnny."
Johnny nodded. But he wasn't about to hold on. He was going to make sure he was heard by everyone, especially now that May was present to witness this. When it was once again quiet, Johnny shut his eyelids and slipped back into his zone. When he opened them again and looked up, no one was there. All he could see around him was darkness and he stood solo in a lone spotlight. Embracing the serenity of this moment of peace, he closed his eyes once more and let his fingers work their magic.
It was Johnny in his most natural state. His fingers danced across the neck, bending the frets, hammering and pulling off with unprecedented ease. He gritted his teeth where it grew more intense then let his mouth hang open at moments when the playing was more relaxed. Heat rose in his throat and in his chest, in his head and in his eyes; he was forced to close them from its intensity but his fingers never rested. It was so natural that his hands seemed to be moving on their own. This was what he lived for. This was his purpose on Earth. His body was numb. Was he crying? He wasn't sure. Why would he be crying? Hot fucking passion, that's why. At that very moment, he was spiritually making love with the Night Bird. It was moments like these that reminded Johnny of why he even bothered with life in the first place.
When Johnny opened his eyes again, he found himself on his knees, breathing heavily. He felt his face and found that he hadn't been crying, but tears had begun to swell in his eyes. He looked up. Everyone was staring at him in awe. Chase had been standing in one of the aisles watching and when the period of silence ended, he applauded.
"Holy shit!" he said, clapping his hands. He was then followed by the rest of the band, who cheered him on. Johnny smiled but part of him resented the sudden attention, as it was never what he desired out of people who would hear his music. He simply wanted them to enjoy it as much he enjoyed making it. He lifted his hand to stop them and the noise died down. Chase was still cheering when May came up from behind and pulled him out of the auditorium.
"That was amazing, dude," Joey said, walking up to him. "What were you even playing?"
"I have no idea," Johnny said, wiping his mouth. He rubbed his hands on his khakis and stood up. "Something I just felt at that moment. I didn't mean to go that hard though. I didn't even know what I was doin', part of the time."
"That's natural talent right there," Ramsey complimented with enthusiasm.
"Whats going on with Chase?" Johnny asked, standing up. He was still a little out of breath.
"I don't know. His sister made it seem kind of urgent but not enough to interrupt your solo," answered Joey. Johnny stared at him blankly. "What?"
"What the fuck did you just say?" Johnny asked forcefully.
"What? It WAS a solo you just did, right?"
"No, not that, before that."
"Chase's sister made it seem urgent"-
"That was Chase's sister, you said?"
"Yeah - OH!" Joey exclaimed in horror. "No, see - I thought I said something about that back there when I introduced him to you."
"No, you said nothing about that."
"Well, I hinted to it."
"I said, 'Johnny, this is Chase Walker' when I introduced him."
"No you didn't, you just said Chase."
"What’s the problem?" asked Shelly. "What’s wrong with May?"
"Johnny has a crush on her," Joey confessed.
"No the hell I don't, not anymore."
"Then why are you worrying about it then?"
"Because I hate it when people leave me in the dark about things," Johnny said coldly, staring at Joey. "When I say I need to trust you, that doesn't just mean not lyin‘, it also means fillin’ me in on things I need to know."
"Alright, it won't happen again, promise," Joey said sincerely. "But its not like its really that big of a deal."
"It is when I have to find out in stupid ways."
"Alright, I'm done, guys!" Chase yelled, running back to the stage.
"Good," Johnny said. He pulled his guitar off and layed it on the floor beside him. "I think we're done here."
"Already?" Apricot asked standing up.
"Yeah. We'll meet up again in two days, here in the auditorium. I'll spend tomorrow trying to get a drum set and some other equipment in here. In the meantime, make sure you bring what you need then so we can start going over what we're gonna do exactly. I'll be right back."
Johnny lept off the stage and began to run down the aisle to the exit.
"Where's he going?" Chase asked curiously as he accompanied them back on stage.
"Probably to talk to your sister."
"To do what now?"
Johnny walked into the hallway and looked around. He saw May leaning against one of the brick pillars that held up the art display cases above them. There was no telling how this was going to turn out.
Johnny walked over to her. "May." She didn't look at him. "May!" She turned her head, then pulled one of her headphones out of her ear.
"What?" she asked rudely.
"Don't 'what' me," Johnny said roughly. "What were you making such a big deal about just now?"
"None of your fucking business."
"Watch your mouth, young lady, its gonna get you hurt."
"Are you threatening me?" she asked, walking up to him with an attitude.
"...Yeah I am actually."
May reared back to punch him in the face but Johnny grabbed her fist and spun her around, locking her arm behind her back.
"I'm not the kind of guy you want to underestimate, May," he said, pushing her away from him. Part of him was confronting her simply to toy with her sour attitude, seeing as her blatant rejection led Johnny to develop a desire to intentionally irritate and upset her. "I'm not about to fight one of my bandmates' kin in this hallway."
"Oh, like you'd fight me anywhere else," she said, turning sideways to kick him in the stomach, to which Johnny countered by grabbing her leg and using it to yank her closer to him. As he did, he accidentally grazed his hand on her butt as he grabbed hold of her hips. She looked at him in shock and immediately slapped him in the face. Johnny backed away. "I could have you suspended for sexual harassment. Probably arrested."
"I didn't mean to do that," Johnny said, rubbing his face. "You won't do anythin' anyway. I know you want to hear more from me."
"What are you talking about?"
"You know the potential I have, that we have as a band. I know you want to hear more."
May chuckled and shook her head. "You have potential but it won't take you anywhere. Nobody is going to listen to that mess, its too old. People want a new constantly changing sound, not something that their parents are more likely to listen to. You’re head’s probably not in the right place to handle this kind of thing anyway. You'll fall short and nobody is going to be there to catch you."
Johnny smiled and chuckled. "Hey, that was pretty good. You ever thought about writin' lyrics?"
May sighed in annoyance. "See, you're immature, that's why you'll never get whatever you’re trying to do off the ground. You don't have the seriousness to back it up and that's why you'll probably never go farther than being a local has-been."
Johnny stared at her, his smile turning into a scowl as he grinded his teeth silently. May kept her eyes on him but his eye contact made her feel awkward and she look away. What was he doing? she thought. He was just standing there after she’d insulted everything that he was trying to accomplish. It wasn't the reaction she was expecting. She looked back at him and saw that he was giving her a dangerous look that she immediately regretted inducing.
"Let me explain somethin' to you, May. You are nothin' to me right now. I don't know you and you don't know me. I thought that when I talked to you, you'd open up and we could be friends but then I found out you were nothin' but a bitch like the rest of these people in this town."
"Don't compare me to these people. I am nothing like them."
"Yes, you are. You may not believe it but you're just as bad, if not worse. You judge people that you don't even know and act like there's nothin' wrong with it! Stop actin' like you're so fuckin' perfect and you'll realize why nobody likes you!"
"Don't tell me what to do!"
"Then don't act like you know me when you don't!"
"What’s with all the yelling out here?" Joey said walking into the hallway, followed by the rest of the band.
"Nothin', where's my guitar?" Johnny asked with authority, changing the subject as he walked past May dismissively.
"Right here," he said, holding the case out for him. Johnny grabbed it and slung it around his torso.
"Got it," he said, handing it to him. "Here's the amp too."
"Thanks, knave," Johnny said with a smile, taking his possessions. "Just kiddin'. So give me the low-down."
"Well I'm bringing in my drum set in a few days, so you don't have to worry about that," Chase informed him. "We were thinking about practicing tomorrow with that in mind. Would you be up for that?"
"What about if we want to do a weekend practice?" Johnny asked.
"We can chill at my place. I've got an open garage. We can practice the old school way."
"Sounds good. So practice tomorrow?"
"Let's do it," Joey said as he shook Johnny's hand and began to walk away. "See you guys tomorrow."
“See you,” Ramsey and Shelly said in unison heading down the hall toward the exit.
"Let's go, sis," Chase said walking in the opposite direction. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," May said, giving one final dirty look at Johnny before walking away, which Johnny returned wholeheartedly. She was now on the bad side of his list. She had the chance of redeeming herself but immediately let it all spin down the drain with a sour outlook toward what seemed to be everything around her. She held a great deal of the negativity that Johnny strived to avoid the most and whether she liked it or not, she embodied a lot of what Garfield High continually offered. Chase was a good musician and Johnny was not going to compromise this new potentially fantastic band because of his own petty rivalry, but it was apparent to him that Chase's involvement would mean more quarrels with his sister, which was something he was not looking forward to.
Johnny and Joey began to head down the empty hallway alone, conversing on their walk to the parking lot.
"So you have a ride home?" Johnny asked Joey.
"Yeah I drive, you?"
"I drive but I don't have a car. My uncle needs to pick me up."
"You remembered to call him about practice, right?"
"Yeah, but I texted him," Johnny nodded. "He didn't respond to it but I'm sure he got it."
The two of them walked for a few more minutes in silence. Eventually, Johnny turned around and saw that Apricot was walking in the same direction several feet behind them.
"Look who it is," Johnny whispered, nudging his head behind him. Joey looked over his shoulder and back at Johnny, smiling sarcastically. "Make a move. Now."
"You heard me."
Joey looked behind him once again to see that Apricot was eying him suspiciously. "Now's not the right time, Johnny."
"No such thing as a right time, Joey, I told you that."
"Who's joking around? Do it. Now." Johnny put his hand on Joey's chest stopping him in his path. He pushed his shoulder and turned him around to face her, then pushed him on the back in her direction.
"Uh, Hi," Joey asked awkwardly as he faced directly in front of her.
"Hey," Apricot said cautiously.
Johnny continued to walk down the hallway, chuckling as he wondered exactly how this would turn out. It was probably a bad idea on his part, seeing as he had been warned not to start relationships within bands, as they always led to trouble. Still, there was no telling if this would even lead to a meaningful relationship so early and even if it did, he felt that his new friend deserved happiness and a small boost of motivation, should his current source of it diminish over time.
Johnny exited the building from the back entrance and felt the smile on his face disappear fairly quickly. He saw five guys leaning against the brick wall, down the path that Johnny was about to take to the parking lot. In the middle of them stood Hal, the guy that Johnny had dealt a great deal of embarrassment to a few hours earlier in his English 4 class. Ah shit, Johnny thought. Something was about to go down.
Hal leaned forward and spotted him, nodding at his friends, who turned to see Johnny walking casually toward them. He looked away, avoiding eye contact. He didn't want any trouble. Even though he could be the one delivering the trouble, he didn't feel like dealing with a couple of posers again after a long first day. He had to get home. He had planning to do.
Johnny kept walking and watched as Hal's friends began to block off the passage.
"Looks like you just came down the wrong path, yeah Lenny?"
"That's not my name," Johnny said, continuing on his way.
"Oh yeah, sorry, Its Johnny, right? Johnny B. Goode. What's the B stand for, huh? Bitch?"
Hal and his friends laughed as Johnny stopped walking. Their laughter was soon stifled when they noticed that Johnny was smirking.
"No, it actually stands for 'Beatyourass.' All one word. Beatyourass. As in Johnny Beatyourass Goode."
Hal straightened his face and looked on menacingly. "Four against one, my man? I think you're outnumbered."
"Nah," Johnny said lifting off his guitar and backpack, laying them by a tree beside the path with his amp. He cracked his knuckles and jumped in place several times to get his blood going, flexing his neck muscles and flailing his arms energetically. "It'll be fair. Anybody who has to hide behind a pack of assholes instead of mannin' up deserves to get their ass handed to them."
"Big words. Time to back them up."
Johnny playfully ran his hands through his thick, bushy hair as the boys began to rush him. "Don't worry about that."
Room Full Of Mirrors by Jimi Hendrix