The popularity of Brian and Vik’s video scandal gets viral attention, and the mysterious mastermind remains unknown. The question still remains: Who created the video? Alex’s cousin Andres came to visit for a while, but Alex doesn’t warm up to it, especially after his cousin brings an unexpected visitor—Alex’s ex-girlfriend. Shocker. Alex, however, finds himself head over heels for Gina, who secretly feels the same way (although she acted in denial, and everyone thought she was a lesbian). Rose is stressed, but no one seems to know or care why—but her affair with Coach Radnor may build up to her unusual symptoms. Sena’s secret affair with Mr. Baldwin is developed, while Lily uses Rufus to get Matt out of her hair. Zachary has obvious feelings for Trae, but he doesn’t exactly know it; however, he assumes it. The Savages become annoyed by Nate’s churlish behavior, and the main cause of it? Joe Bender.
Around midnight, there were a few loud rumbles of thunder; rain poured down from the overcast skies and wet the streets across a presentable suburban home. Lightning flashed from the clouds. Inside of a bedroom, painted in a navy blue color, and filled with posters of Lady Gaga and football players, Zachary Foxx slept uncomfortably on his twin-sized mattress.
He tossed and turned, and moaned constantly. In a dream, Zachary pictured vague events. The moments in his nightmare were unclear, but he noticed the stormy weather, students running and screaming, physical altercations that were difficult to view, police lights, and a gun in a policeman’s hand. As Zachary heard the gunfire, he woke up out of his sleep, panting heavily.
He noticed the gunfire in his dream was the rumble of thunder. Zachary looked around his bedroom anxiously, and he could barely calm himself down. Sweat trickled down his face, and his fingers trembled: a symptom of his anxiety.
Zachary’s body was wrapped inside his gray comforter, and he stood up from his mattress to look at his alarm clock—3:05 am, only three more hours left before he’d wake up for a new week of school. He searched through his cellphone, and he received another text message from Trae, shown on his lock screen.
At 10:04 pm, that Sunday night, Trae texted, “Dude, are you sure you’re okay???”
Zachary knew how he felt for Trae; he had the urge to answer his text, but it was the middle of the night and he feared of going back to sleep. He quietly departed from his bedroom, while the thunder continued to rumble. Zachary was sensitive to midnight thunderstorms. They were the only thing that kept him up through the night. He walked inside of his bathroom and locked the door.
After waking up, Zachary’s hands continued to shake—he needed a quick remedy. Zachary looked at himself deeply in his bathroom mirror. He didn't feel like himself. He leaned on the bathroom sink, feeling certain side effects.
He opened up the bathroom counter, searching for certain prescription pills. He found a small, yellow prescription cup filled with antidepressants. He didn’t dare to look at the name imprinted on it. Instead, he popped the cap and placed two pills in his hand. In his left hand, he held a small plastic cup with ripples around its circumference. He placed the water inside, placed the pills in his mouth and washed them down with cold water.
Zachary knew there was something wrong with him—he had an anxiety disorder. Sometimes, his anxiety was too difficult to control. A majority of his anxiety came from his paranoid father, who was barely around to guide him. He was an officer, and he never arrived until the night.
Zachary, then again, looked at himself in the mirror, thinking of what person he has grown up to be. Those prescription pills were the only things he needed in order to feel normal.
“In the crowd alone and every second passing reminds me I'm not home,” Zachary sang in front of the mirror. “Bright lights and city sounds are ringing like a drone. Unknown, unknown…”
He wrapped his hands around the edges of the sink, and his eyes began to wander. Everything felt blurry—a Gaussian blur. He closed his eyes and noticed everything went back to normal. His heart pounded while he turned the bathroom light off, keeping the prescription bottle in his hands.
“Oh, glazed eyes, empty hearts. Buying happy from shopping carts. Nothing but time to kill, sipping life from bottles,” Zachary sang.
His arms pushed back and forth, slowly and warily, and his legs were numb, barely moving at a steady pace.
“Tight skin, bodyguards. Gucci down the boulevard. Cocaine, dollar bills, and… my happy little pill. Take me away, dry my eyes; bring color to my skies. My sweet little pill, tame my hunger. Light within, numb my skin.”
Zachary laid his head on his pillow, and faced the ceiling with dark shadows. Lightning flashed through the windows, and Zachary hid from the thunder.
“Like a rock I float. Sweat and conversations seep into my bones. Four walls are not enough. I'll take a dip into the unknown, unknown.”
“Oh, glazed eyes, empty hearts. Buying happy from shopping carts. Nothing but time to kill, sipping life from bottles. Tight skin, bodyguards. Gucci down the boulevard. Cocaine, dollar bills, and… my happy little pill. Take me away, dry my eyes; bring color to my skies. My sweet little pill, tame my hunger. Light within, numb my skin.”
Zachary refused to sleep—it was more than just anxiety, it was paranoia. He worried about things that were unnecessary. He feared the possible consequences of joining the Savages: was it the best choice for him? He thought. He feared that Trae would never know of his feelings.
He sighed and held himself in a comfortable position, blocking the sound of thunderstorms. From the side, he looked at his phone, thinking of whether he should respond to Trae’s early text message.
Like Zachary, Trae Ventura’s eyes were fixated upon his Lenovo computer screen—where he watched a news report update addressing Brian Gustin and Viktor Nichols’s popular video scandal. In the video, an anchorwoman reported the matters at hand.
“…New this week—a viral video, taken place at a high school named James A. Masters High School in Seattle, Washington, involved osculation, or kissing, between two football players in a locker room. Recently, the jocks’ names were given—Brian Gustin and Viktor Nichols. The video was taken weeks ago on a camera, which is assumed to be from an iPhone device, and it was later exposed school-wide at an assembly, during a sudden “pep rally” from a group of students…”
Trae watched as the anchorwoman began to make hints towards The Savages—he moved closer to his screen.
“…based on several reports, the video was also uploaded weeks later on YouTube, under the username TripleDz. As a result of the upload, it received unusual attention from Twitter users and celebrities. According to the principal of James A. Masters High School, Rose De Vil, the school has been under investigation for almost a month, and it is possible that a student…or more…may be responsible for the outcome of this video scandal… and…”
Trae’s index finger clicked the mouse to pause the video. On another tab from his Google Chrome browser, he searched for the YouTube video, and clicked the correct link. In front of him, the video began to play—he turned his back, ensuring that no one would be woken up from the sexual and passionate sounds from the two jocks.
He turned the volume down, and scrolled slowly to the username—TripleDz. Trae kept his eye on the username—there was something suspicious about the username. He repeated the name under his breath. Afterwards, he clicked the link to the user’s profile. The video, in sum, received over 3 million views, and it was the only uploaded video thus far.
There was something very awkward about the username. Who could have possibly created this? Why was it a big deal as it became? He was already angry with his parents, who continued to annoy him. He didn’t want to discuss it any further in those next few hours.
He closed his computer and sighed.
wasn’t pleased with her morning visitor’s presence—the woman had gorgeous blonde hair. For her age, she looked very beautiful, but her evil appearance and expressions were very intimidating.
The woman’s name was Jennifer Gordon—people often called her “Doc.” Everyone believed that she was the answer to all of their problems; to Rose—she was the catalyst.
Jennifer’s legs were crossed while sitting across from Rose De Vil, who began to tremble at the thought of receiving a reprimand from her boss. Jennifer wore glasses, allowing her to peruse files in her hands.
In order to end the awkward tension, Rose gave Jennifer hospitality: “Coffee?”
“Lactose intolerant,” Jennifer responded sternly. Her eyes yet remained on the files and reports, showing the school’s records and events that have taken place in James A. Masters High School.
Rose sighed and accepted Jennifer’s denial—there was even more silence than before. Jennifer’s intimidating gestures forced Rose to adjust her posture. She moved her bottom up from her chair, feeling the heat of her computer chair.
“You know, a few days ago, my wonderful husband and I went to this amazing production of Wicked, and it was one of the best moments of my life—that is, until, I got reports on James A. Masters High School, one of the most “dangerous” schools according to The Seattle Times,” Jennifer said.
Rose was stunned, “Ms. Gordon, now, this school has definitely surpassed those assumptions. I am 100% confident that this school has improved over the course of a year, I promise you that, ma’am.”
Despite Rose’s promising argument, Jennifer Gordon was not convinced. She gave a small smile as she responded in a calm manner. “Ms. De Vil, I appreciate your optimism and your cheer spirit, but what you’re telling me does not align to the reports I have gotten from the public school administrators, whom arrived here last week.”
Gordon slammed a Manila folder on Rose’s desk, making her flinch. Gordon opened the folder and read the reports printed from an Internet source. “Let’s see, blatant disrespect from students, blatant disrespect from students, blatant disrespect from students—”
As Gordon repeated the complaints, Rose looked at Gordon in fear.
“…blatant disrespect from students, insubordination, sexual harassment between a boy and a girl, sexual harassment between two boys, class cuts, sexual encounters in unusual school locations, etcetera, etcetera.”
Gordon closed the folder and her eyes looked up to Rose’s—she responded, “The school is a madhouse, Ms. De Vil, and it’s quite transparent that you are not committed to your principal duties.”
“Ma’am, the faculty members and I have shared many meetings to discuss necessary policies that students should abide by. It’s not that I’m not dedicated; we are doing all that we can.”
“There’s the big issue—“we”. When you’re the principal of a high school, you have the power to create any rule that is reasonable and reliable. Ms. De Vil, if you’re not going to take this job seriously, as superintendent, I’m afraid you’ll end up unemployed,” Jennifer said.
There was silence, and Rose slowly moved her chair at a close proximity to Jennifer’s position. Rose asked softly, “Is that a threat, Ms. Gordon?”
“Oh, it’s not a threat, dear; it’s a warning,” Gordon said. “You have the next few weeks to improve this school environment, or many others would love to take your job….and your coffee machine.”
Rose felt guilty—she knew that the video scandal was her main priority, but she wasn’t aware of what would come to her next. Worse enough, Coach Radnor was another person on her mind. She was stuck, and she feared the consequences.
On that same school day, in Mr. Baxter’s AP Literature class, Trae sat restlessly at his desk, and pondered about going back home. After a lack of sleep, he could only keep the thought of TripleDz on his mind. Who was it? Why did they expose Brian and Vik that way? What was the intention?
Next to him, Gina sat silently—constantly reminding herself of a passionate kiss she shared with Alex Herrera. At that moment, she was conflicted. Did she like Alex or did she like the kiss? Everything was opaque for her.
Mr. Baxter began to hover around the rooms as he announced, “I’m passing out your essays for Heart of Darkness—some were great, some needed improvement, and some… were disappointing.”
Mr. Baxter placed an essay with an A+, largely written in bolded blue marker. He placed it on Felix’s desk. Gina received an A on her written response. Trae, otherwise, faced opposite results. Mr. Baxter placed a paper on his desk. Written in red marker, a D was written. After the amount of effort Trae put into the essay, he expected different.
Trae was an overachiever at heart—from the look on his face, he was distraught with his grade.
Mr. Baxter continued his lecture on every student’s written response, “Now, I get it—this is a very complex novel to analyze. But this is AP Literature. This may be a novel required to comprehend on the written responses on the AP exam. I’m not judging on quantity or sophistication. I’m judging on accuracy and clarity.”
“Bullshit,” Trae scoffed as he looked at Gina. He was very angered with his grade.
After his statement, Mr. Baxter responded, “What was that, Mr. Ventura?”
Trae lifted his head while the entire classroom was silent, watching Trae’s every gesture. “I said bullshit. Everything about this class is bullshit, my grade for this assignment is bullshit, AP Literature is bullshit.”
“Sounds like a personal problem,” Felix entered the confrontation.
Mr. Baxter calmly replied to Trae’s rant: “Mr. Ventura, if you have concerns about your grade or anything about this class in general, you come to me after class. Until then, I suggest you watch your profanity or you’ll be sent to Principal De Vil.”
“That’s fine,” Trae said carelessly. “And I can report that you and Mrs. Ortiz were swapping spit in the teacher’s lounge last Monday.”
Mr. Baxter’s eyes widened and the AP students murmured, laughing and appeared in awe with Trae’s response. Gina, concerned, moved towards Trae.
“Trae, what are you doing?” Gina asked. Trae ignored her, with his eyes glaring straight at Mr. Baxter.
“I worked hard on this essay. I work harder than anyone in this classroom. I’ve turned in extra essays, came to your class for practice. You convinced me to join this class, and I’m not going to be humiliated by anyone in here because you gave me a D on a stupid assignment about a stupid book.”
“You got a D?” Felix asked sarcastically. “You should be used to that, dude.”
“Shut up, bitch.” Trae replied arrogantly. Felix rolled his eyes and chuckled with Kyler.
Mr. Baxter was fed up with Trae’s ranting. “Trae, please go to the principal’s office.”
“Why? Why do I have—” Trae was resilient. When Mr. Baxter raised his voice at Trae, repeating his demand, there was a lot of tension that filled the air.
Trae shoves his desk down, dropping all of his items down to the classroom floor. Everyone watched him in awe. Even Mr. Baxter was surprised by Trae’s volatile behavior.
Trae departed from the room and Gina attempted to chase after him.
Mr. Baxter, who seemed devoted his teaching duties, shouted, “Gina, please have a seat.”
Gina obeyed his demand, deciding to sit down although she felt the urge to escape the room. She rolled her eyes, crossed her legs and looked at Felix, who continued to laugh with Kyler.
There was something unusual about Trae’s attitude—Gina was well aware of what Trae could do at his worst, but she never witnessed anything as intense before.
Iesha, who sat behind Gina, pursed her lips together and shamelessly ate a bag of Hot Cheetos, watching the commotion like a movie.
Kyler looked at Mr. Baxter and asked, “You and Mrs. Ortiz?”
The students began to laugh, and Mr. Baxter immediately yelled, “Open up to your books, read the next set of pages, independently, NOW.”
The school bell rang, and Gina rushed out in the hallways, hoping that Trae would be in sight. Instead, Alex approached her after two days of awkward silence. Expecting a conversation about their kiss, Alex walked with a smile.
“Hey, you,” Alex smiled.
Gina gave a brief smile as they walked in the same direction, “Hey.”
“Are you all right?” Alex asked.
“Yeah, have you spoken to Trae today?” Gina turned her head to Alex, who was surprised at the immediate response.
Alex shrugged, “I haven’t seen him since Saturday, why?”
“He lashed out in AP Lit today—he got a bad grade and he just… flipped out on Mr. Baxter, pushed down a desk and left out. So, I’m a bit worried. He’s been acting pretty strange.”
“It’s probably his mom,” Alex responded.
Gina was confused, “His mom?”
“Yeah, his mom’s been hard on him after what happened in Oregon. She’s pretty much keeping him from going anywhere now, and you know how he gets when he’s frustrated.”
While Gina seemed even more concerned with Trae’s behavior, Alex continued to speak.
“Not to mention, this whole video scandal is irritating him—I think we know who’s responsible for what happened at the assembly.”
Gina stopped walking and gently pushed Alex to an empty spot in the hallway. “What?”
Alex looked from his left and his right, and turned himself back to Gina. “Here’s our theory—Trae, Carl and I believe that Joe is the culprit.”
“Not surprising,” Gina said as Alex continued to state his theory.
“—Think about it. Joe was absent from school almost the entire week. Not sure if Trae told you, but he kissed Joe in Oregon. Well, Joe kissed him, and Trae knew something was going on.”
“I repeat: not surprising,” Gina said. “Joe’s had his eyes on Trae ever since he joined, and not in a good way. I never trusted him. Besides, he’s only around Nate now.”
“Nate doesn’t understand that he’s being used.” Alex replied. Nate, meanwhile, could overhear their conversation from afar. While closing his locker, he stood in that same spot, continuing to eavesdrop.
“I don’t even think he knows he’s being used unless we intervene,” Gina said.
Alex shrugged, “Ha, you don’t know Nate that well. Trust me, Nate’s so stubborn, he’ll believe what he wants to believe. Point is, Joe’s a snake, and I believe he has a plot to frame The Savages.”
“Maybe we should warn Sydney, Zachary, Lily, and Rufus,” Gina and Alex continued to walk by, and Nate watched them in disgust.
Nate felt betrayed by Alex, whom he respected the most in the Savages. Nate stood in front of the hallway, thinking of whether to confront them or continue to isolate himself from the group. The only thing that he feared is losing his status. He was a veteran in the group, and he wouldn’t be pleased with being replaced. However, his friendship with Joe is pulling him away.
“When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place. When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place,”
Nate slowly followed Alex and Gina’s direction and began to sing, “Paid that money, fake that dummy, ache my tummy on the fence, all the time. Paid junk honey, face so sunny, ain’t that funny, all my friends always lie to me.
“I know they’re thinking… You’re too mean, I don’t like you, fuck you anyway. You make me wanna scream at the top of my lungs. It hurts but I won’t fight you. You suck anyway. You make me wanna die, right when I…”
“When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place. When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place. When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place. When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might end up being me…”
Nate leaned on a locker next to him; as the hallways were empty, he walked around.
“Being me can only mean, feeling scared to breathe. If you leave me then I’ll be afraid of everything. That makes me anxious, gives me patience, calms me down, lets me face this. Let me sleep,, and when I wake up….let me be.”
“When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place. When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place. When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place. When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might end up being me…”
The school bell rang, and Nate was late for his Chemistry class. He walked carelessly to the room across from him.
In the courtyard, Trae sat with Alex, Gina, Sydney, Carl, Joe, Lily, and Rufus, who isolated himself and kept focus on his cellphone. Trae had the members surround him as he showed the username he discovered on the viral video on YouTube.
“Triple-Deez?” Sydney awkwardly pronounced the username.
Carl attempted to make a reference, “Deez nu—”
“Don’t,” Trae lifted his hand up towards Carl’s face, shaking his head. Carl pushed himself back and tried not to laugh.
Gina questioned, “How do you know if this is the same person who exposed the video at the assembly? What if someone else got a hold of it?”
“Gina has a point,” Joe said. “Anyone could have uploaded it on YouTube and made it viral.”
“Well, considering the fact that the video already has 20 million views a week before its upload, and not to mention the user has only 50 subscribers and 1 video upload, tell me that’s not a suspicious move,” Trae said.
“Did you check the profile? Maybe you’ll get some hints there.” Alex said.
Trae became frustrated, “I did and there’s nothing to see. I’m not a freaking detective, damn it.”
Lily walked closer to Trae, “Geez, Trae, you’re a bit bitchy today.”
“I’m not freaking bitchy, stop calling me that,”
Lily raised her eyebrows and backed herself away, “I thought you’d take it as a compliment. My bad.”
Sydney looked at Trae and noticed his bad attitude. From the look on his face to the posture he showcased to everyone in the courtyard. His right leg stood on his left knee, and he shook his leg in frustration.
“Dude, I’m not sure if you’re on your MENstrual cycle, but are you good? You’re grumpier than usual,” Sydney asked.
Trae sighed, “I’m fine, Sydney.”
“No, you’re not,” Gina said.
Alex added on to the concerns, “Something’s definitely bothering you, Trae.”
Irritated, Trae rolled his eyes and took a deep breath, “You guys want to know what’s bothering me?”
“Yes,” most of the Savages replied. Joe remained on his phone, texting Nate.
Trae grabbed his binders and slammed them on the courtyard table. Sydney, Alex, and Carl flinched with fear when Trae stood up from his seat, seconds before a dramatic tirade.
“I….am horny. I….have been watching Sex and the City for two weeks straight expecting actual sex. I have been eating Doritos. Doritos are so good—but now I feel fat, and I am tired. I’ve written essay after essay, and still these stupid teachers want to fail me and ruin my chances of going to Harvard University? Carl has been playing Watermelondrea’s music for FIVE days straight, and it’s driving me crazy….”
Carl chuckled nervously and looked away with guilt, “Sorry,”
“…My mother keeps complaining about that stupid ass ride to stupid ass Portland, Oregon, where I had to throw my ONLY Pop-Tart to a bunch of stupid ass mobsters and a fat man with a burrito just to save our freaking lives! So now, I can’t go anywhere without her permission, and I’m freaking seventeen. I want to live. Let me live. Leave me alone. Let me LIVE!”
Trae screamed, causing major silence on the entire courtyard. A majority of the students watched Trae yell, and it was a shocking moment to witness. Trae snatched his binders from the table and left the courtyard. The members of the Savages were in awe. Sydney’s eyes were open wide, while Gina covered her mouth. Joe continued to tamper with his phone with a smirk on his face, and Carl and Alex watched him depart from the area.
Alex slowly walked to Sydney, softly asking, “Do you still have the number to that psych ward?”
While Zachary was away from school, he remained sheltered in his bedroom. His face, arms and skin were pale, and it was already 12 in the afternoon and he could barely eat anything. His loss of appetite, unusual visions, and depression felt like side effects.
Zachary’s mother, a tall, brown-haired woman, entered his room with a plate of food.
“Thanks, mom, but I’m not hungry,” Zachary replied. His mind was too focused on what he dreamed about. His anxiety levels were low, but he still felt slightly nervous.
Zachary’s mother refused to accept his statement. “Sweetie, you haven’t eaten anything since this morning. Besides, it’s your favorite—sunny side-up eggs, bacon and French toast.”
“As you can see, I’m not so sunny side-up this morning,” Zachary said with a melancholic tone.
Zachary’s mother sat at a close proximity to her son—concerned about his health, she rubbed her back while placing his food on his table.
“Zachary, I’m really worried about you—you’re staying home from school, coming home every day sad. Is there something going on?”
Zachary played with his fingers—which was a sign of frustration and anxiety, as well as a distraction from looking at anyone. He responded to his mother by nodding his head. Zachary’s mother gently touched his chin, pulling his face towards her.
“Look at me,” Zachary’s mother emphasized. “Are you sure?”
Zachary looked and sighed—he ignored the nightmares, the video scandals, and his anxiety.
“Have you ever liked someone so much, but you weren’t sure if they felt the same?”
Zachary’s mother chuckled softly, “Of course, sweetie. You know, once I met your dad in high school, I always wanted him to be my knight and shining armor. Of course, there were other guys: Billy, James, and also that… gorgeous John Stamos.”
“Wait,” Zachary raised an eyebrow. “You knew John Stamos?”
“Long story,” Zachary’s mother interrupted, and decided to change the subject. “Anyway, out of those four, I knew your father was the one for me. But you know your father’s so focused on being an officer, we barely spend time together like we used to.”
Zachary sighed and began to elaborate on his problem: “I really like this person, but I think that I’m falling too hard.”
“Then don’t. Let that person come to you—and if that doesn’t work, then maybe that person isn’t right for you. If you feel the way you do, and they aren’t aware, let them know.”
“I’m not open to doing that—this isn’t a fictional movie, mom,” Zachary replied.
His mother shrugged, “You’ll never know what may happen if you try. Now are you sure that’s all that’s bothering you?”
“…I’m fine, mom. I’m sure.” Zachary said with a fake, weak smile. Zachary’s mother kissed him on the cheek and departed from the room.
“Eat your food before it gets cold,” Zachary’s mother said before exiting the room. Zachary’s smile turned back into a frown.
He pulled his food near him and slowly began to eat, even though his appetite still vanished. The only thing Zachary cared about is his nightmare—he wanted to find each piece to the puzzle.
Two hours before school dismissed, Kalleb Banks closed his locker before walking to his seventh period class. One of the worse things he experienced was isolation—of course, people knew him as the guy with great technology skills, but that wouldn’t make him popular (not that he wanted to be).
Before he could exit his locker, Felix Winchester and the Moneybags, with the exception of Cass, approached Kalleb Banks for an open invitation.
“Hey, tech boy,” Felix exclaimed. Kalleb didn’t have a response. He looked up at the group of boys, standing in preppy attire. It was intimidating yet amusing to Kalleb.
“We’re here for a little talk,” Felix said, crossing his arms while smirking.
“Um, I have to get to class,” Kalleb rushed. He sensed that he’d be taken advantage of.
Felix cleared his throat, “Although I’m positive that no one knows you that well to consider your existence in this school, my friends and I have decided to give you an open invitation.”
“An open invitation for…?” Kalleb was bewildered. This was the first time any student asked him for a favor disregarding technological assistance.
“To our party tomorrow night,” Kyler, Felix’s right-hand man responded. “We’re talking about big mansions, indoor and outdoor pools, drinks, cute girls, big boobs and strip teasing. It’s gonna be EPIC.”
“Totally,” another member of the group stated, although his response received a lot of silence from the rest of the members.
Kalleb looked at the Moneybags and responded with a nonchalant tone, “So, if no one here—quote quote—considers my existence in this school, then what’s your reason for inviting me?”
“We’re good for giving to the needy and the greedy,” Felix replied. “Besides, if you come, maybe you’ll make a few friends.”
Kalleb rolled his eyes and turned back to his locker, “I have friends.”
“Your left hand and your penis doesn’t count, tech boy,” Felix said. Kyler and the Moneybags laughed quickly at his remark.
Kalleb turned around and chuckled, “What?”
“Dude, I’ve seen BrokeStraightBoys on your bookmark list and a ton of “hot naked guys” on your Google search history when I asked you to do my homework the other day.”
Kalleb looked around in shame and angrily responded, “Okay, what I do in my free time is none of your business. Furthermore, I don’t give two shits about your slutty party—I’d rather be a loner than a follower and a prick like you.”
“You’re rejecting an once-in-a-lifetime offer, Kalleb. That’s too bad.” Felix said in a sarcastic tone. The Moneybags left Kalleb alone, and he was relieved by their departure. He shook his head and made his way into his next class.
However, he did have second thoughts. He didn’t want to be a part of any group, but he did question whether he should attend.
Rose De Vil had to do her job—she had two choices: make the rules or make an exit, and she couldn’t think of experiencing life unemployed. She sat in her office, tapping her pencil while perusing students’ permanent records. Based on the limited time she may have to investigate, she had to set some restrictions until someone could confess.
With haste, she ripped a yellow sheet of lined paper from her notepad, writing with a black pen. She wrote a note, sentence by sentence, for a new rule and a new announcement for the students.
She flipped her hair back and cleared her throat before calling the receptionist, Mrs. Haynes, to announce her statement.
“Um, excuse me, Ms. Haynes? Ms. Haynes.” Rose stood up from her seat.
Ms. Haynes was a short, brown-skinned woman with curly hair. The receptionist was completely occupied with a phone call while using the school’s phone line.
Ms. Haynes gossiped, “Mmhm, and girl, did you see what she had on? Girlfriend thought she was rocking Beyoncé, when she was really rocking Solange,” she laughed hysterically.
“Girl, she had on some “Faux”-boutins with fishnets and a Prada bag, and the bitch smelled like my mama’s chitterlings—now, you know that’s just wrong. That’s wrong.”
While Mrs. Haynes continued to speak, Rose De Vil watched as she gossiped and continued to yell her name: “Mrs. Haynes!”
“And did you see Tatiana? Oh my god, girl—when is she gonna trim that moustache?”
“Mrs. Haynes!” Rose continued to yell, until Mrs. Haynes looked immediately towards her and silently said goodbye to her friend.
“Oh, girl, I gotta go, I gotta go,” Mrs. Haynes whispered on the phone. She began chewing annoyingly on her Winterfresh gum, and looked at Rose with an irritated attitude.
“Yes, Ms. De Vil,” Mrs. Haynes asked.
Rose sighed, “Mrs. Haynes, what did I tell you about using our school’s phone lines for your “girl” chat?”
Mrs. Haynes stuttered, attempting to make any excuse: “Girl, I’m so sorry. My cellphone was dead and I had a family emergency—so, I had to call for somebody.”
“Just do me a favor, call on your own time—you’re giving the school a bad image here.”
Mrs. Haynes rolled her eyes at Rose, who continued to speak: “Now, I need you to make this announcement for me over the intercom. It’s urgent.”
“If it’s so urgent, why can’t you do it?” Mrs. Haynes said defensively. She looked at Rose up and down; Rose responded sarcastically.
“Do I look like the receptionist to you, Mrs. Haynes?” Rose asked. “Now, please do what I say, thanks.”
Rose walked away from Mrs. Haynes, who scoffed at Rose’s remark.
“Bitch,” Ms. Haynes said under her breath.
“What was that, Mrs. Haynes?” Rose said from afar. Mrs. Haynes, assuming that she heard, covered up what she said.
“I said I have an itch, Ms. De Vil,” Ms. Haynes smiled nervously, and Rose didn’t respond back. Haynes rolled her eyes and picked up the phone, preparing to make Rose’s announcement.
Mrs. Haynes cleared her throat while reading the strip of paper—while shaking her head, she picked up the phone and pressed the intercom button.
“Pardon the interruption, students and staff—this is an announcement from Principal De Vil. Due to conflicts with certain events at this school, the administrators are all requiring all students to be investigated for suspicious behavior. If a student refuses to be investigated, they are at risk of suspension or expulsion. In addition, students are not allowed to use electronics and social media on school grounds, including free time. Our school is implementing a safety-zone policy, ensuring that social media does not interfere with our school environment. If you have any concerns, please report to Ms. De Vil. Have a great day, everyone.”
The students in every classroom were in awe—they were dissatisfied with every word Mrs. Haynes stated on the intercom. Trae stood in his seventh period class, Chemistry, with Gina and Carl, who looked at him. Trae rolled his eyes and slammed his binder aggressively.
Something had to be done.
As the students were dismissed from the building, Trae, Alex, Carl, and Gina felt resilient—Rose De Vil’s announcement seemed more than enough of a reason to take action. Trae refused to rant after promising Gina he’d calm down.
Carl, however, began to rant, “There’s no way I’m going to spend 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week without my phone. My whole life is in there.”
“Oh, so that’s where it is,” Alex responded sarcastically. Carl lifted his right arm, giving him the middle finger.
Gina responded, “All because of a stupid video of two guys? It’s been weeks ago, why are we still on this?”
“They’re trying to implement a safety-zone policy now,” Alex says.
Trae sucked his teeth, “Safety-zone my ass—this school hasn’t been safe ever since Watermelondrea burned her weave smoking weed in the bathroom.”
FLASHBACK: Watermelondrea Jones lounged in the girls’ lavatory with another female student. The duo attempted to smoke weed, but when Watermelondrea attempted to light up the substance with a lighter, it was difficult.
“Drea, what are you doing?” The student asked Watermelondrea.
Watermelondrea replied, “Girl, if you don’t shut up and let me light this shit! Damn.”
The student rolled her eyes, impatient and anxious of whether a staff member would enter any minute.
“Hurry, a teacher or the principal may come in!”
“And? Mary Jane is about to get lit today,” Watermelondrea cackled. When the flame came near the substance, Watermelondrea moved, and the flame spread to Watermelondrea’s blonde hair.
At first, she didn’t notice until her friend’s eyes widened with surprise. “Um, girl—”
“What?” Watermelondrea asked—she noticed something unusual. When she moved towards the mirror, she screamed uncontrollably.
She threw the substance at the sink and ran out of the bathroom as quick as possible.
“Aah, aah, my hair is on fire! Oh my god, help! Help! I paid $300 for this weave, help me!” Watermelondrea yelled. All students witnessed it, and Trae and Sydney watched her from afar.
“Instead of complaining about it, maybe we should do something about it. Actions definitely speak louder than words, guys.” Alex suggested.
Gina chuckled, “Alex, it’s all about the timing—we have to be reasonable here. I’m down for anything, especially when it comes to my freedom of expression, but we had our little tactics we pulled a few weeks ago, and look what happened. Not to mention, all of the teachers have been strict on us after that.”
“Because De Vil has the power to fire them all,” Carl said. “Mr. Baxter’s been a prick lately, Mrs. Stansfield is always yelling, and I may be crazy, but Mr. Baldwin’s always having boners in class.”
“You know, I thought I was the only one that noticed that,” Gina responded. Alex looked at Carl and Gina and felt uncomfortable.
“Rose De Vil just needs a piece of us,” Trae responded. “We tried indirectly, and now it’s time we went to her and let her know that her policies are shitty.”
“So is your plan,” a familiar voice said from behind. Felix Winchester made his statement clearly—aside from him was The Moneybags; Kyler and Mike Daugherty, one of Trae’s previous affiliates, stood side by side.
Trae turned himself around, while the others crossed their arms, looking at the Moneybags with dissatisfaction.
“Are you guys that stupid to believe that Principal De Vil will take any of your ridiculous rants in consideration?” Felix asked. “De Vil makes money sitting in a chair giving orders—so, what makes you think she’ll listen to you guys, of all people? You guys aren’t even worth her time. She’s not worth anyone’s time.”
Trae kept his eyes closed, trying not to retaliate. He looked at Carl, who immediately came to the group’s defense. He looked at Felix and replied, “Winchester, do you ever learn how to butt out of everyone’s business?”
“But it’s so fun, especially with you sorry Savages,” Felix said.
Carl rolled his eyes, and Trae looked down at his Timberland boots with both of his hands inside of his pockets.
“Oh, I’ll show you sorry,” Trae mumbled under his breath, continuing to control himself.
Felix knew he could break Trae down—that’s the reason he was there. The other reason was for an invitation, so, he decided to change the subject.
“Anyway, we came to give you guys an invitation to our party tomorrow night—it’s the least we could do. Consider it a favor.”
“I’d rather eat shit.” Trae boldly responded.
Gina, Alex, and Carl kept their arms crossed while looking at Felix for his reaction. He chuckled softly and stroked his chin back and forth.
Felix continued his sardonic remarks: “Hmm---that would be a sight to see, since you’re quite the shit talker: all bark, no bite.”
Trae calmly replied, “You must not have remembered where I’m from, bro—Philadelphia, try me if you want to.”
“You see, that’s what I figured you’d say,” Felix continued. “I’ve been to Philadelphia, and I’ve seen worse people than you, my friend.”
“Is that right? I’m surprised you haven’t been shot. Just spend one second down in my side of the city; you’d be in a body bag.” Trae said with strong emphasis.
“Here’s a reality check, Ventura. You’re in Seattle, now. So, you can be tough all you want, but in the end, I will always be better than you and you’ll always be intimidated by me.”
Trae raised an eyebrow, continuing his calm, collected tone, “The only thing that’s intimidating me is your hairline—it’s irritating me. For you to be rich, you should invest in a better barber. I have a recommendation if you’d like.”
Alex, Carl, and Gina laughed briefly, while the Moneybags stood in disbelief. Mike Daugherty laughed until Kyler took a glance at his gesture.
“How many kids does your mother swallow a day to afford your haircut?” Felix commented; he was brave enough to make the remark.
Trae’s smirk shifted—while the Moneybags murmured in the background. Alex, Carl and Gina immediately came to Trae’s defense.
“What did you just say?” Trae moved closer to Felix, seconds away from retaliation.
“Felix, what the hell?” Alex yelled.
Felix chuckled, “Oh, no, no—let’s not forget the “My mother didn’t have to be a prostitute to become rich” line you pulled a few weeks ago. It was impressive—but you know and I know who was raised better. Your wretched brain’s so used to the Similac formula that you can’t comprehend a simple novel better than I can. That’s why Mr. Baxter failed you—and that’s why I will always be better than you. If you can’t take honesty, then go back to Philadelphia.”
Trae remained silent, trying to keep calm. He looked at Gina, who nodded his head.
“He’s not worth it, Trae, let’s just go,” Gina pulled Trae to her and the quartet walked away from The Moneybags.
“Don’t listen to him, just keep cool, bro,” Alex commented.
Mike looked at Felix, who did not agree with his insults. Trae was only a few centimeters away from Felix, until he yelled another snide remark.
“Hey, Ventura, I have a question!” Felix yelled out in the hallways. "How does your mother feel for birthing a bastard child like you?"
Kyler, Mike, and other members stood right behind him, and everyone - except for Mike - chuckled softly.
At this point, Trae did not tolerate the disrespect. He felt the urge to damage him, and despite keeping his promise, he lifted his face up. Gina, Alex, and Carl looked at Trae with a concerned expression.
“Trae?” Gina asked.
“Trae, bro, no,” Carl nodded his head.
After Felix made that insult, Trae couldn't take it anymore. His heart was racing fast, and a lot of images ran through his head—from his rough childhood to now. He turned around immediately, running towards Felix, and brutally punching Felix in his face.
Felix fell to the floor in pain, while Alex, Carl, and Gina ran to stop Trae from continuing. This attempt, however, failed. Trae jumped down on Felix, constantly punching Felix’s body. The Moneybags and Alex, Carl, and Gina attempted to stop the attack.
“Yes, Trizzy, get that ass!” Iesha yelled out with a curled-up plastic bag of Hot Cheetos.
She stood with Sena and the other cheerleaders who viewed the altercation with shock. Nate and Joe witnessed the altercation from afar and Joe couldn’t help but laugh.
Felix was almost helpless—he couldn’t find a way to defend himself. He felt overpowered when Trae landed on his body.
“Trae, no, no, stop!” Gina and the others yelled, while all of the students continued to watch the commotion.
Mr. Baldwin, the history teacher, witnessed every moment, and he rapidly ran to the altercation, attempting to pull Trae away from Felix and firmly grasping Trae by his shoulders. Trae escaped from him, and Alex, Carl, and Gina pulled him away from Felix.
Felix’s face was bloody, from his lips, and his eyes were shut. Felix endured the pain, and he continued to smirk, while the Moneybags helped him up from the ground.
“Trae, stop, calm down!” Gina yelled.
“Who’s the bastard now?” Trae yelled at Felix. “Who’s the bastard now, rich boy? I told you don’t mess with me, and you still wanted to---”
Trae constantly punched lockers in the hallways. Every punch he gave, he grunted; after punching them, he kicked the lockers while everyone feared for his volatile behavior. Alex, Gina, and Carl pulled him away, continuing to calm him down.
"Trae, Trae, Trae," Gina repeated.
"Trae, calm down!" Alex yelled, grabbing him by his upper body.
“Bitch!” Trae yelled at Felix, who was still wiping the blood from his mouth.
Mr. Baldwin grabbed Trae by his arms, “Are you crazy? You’re going to the principal’s office right now!”
Trae became resilient, trying to pull himself away from Baldwin, but his hands clung to Trae’s masculine arms like a magnet.
“I just hope you know you got knocked the f—” Carl walked closer to Felix, until Gina interrupted his sentence.
“Carl!” Gina yelled.
“Out,” Carl finished. Alex and Gina paced back and forth in frustration after the altercation, and the students continued to depart from the school grounds.
Felix remained silent when Kyler and Mike escorted him to the nurse.
As Mr. Baldwin escorted an infuriated Trae into Principal De Vil’s office, Joe and Nate were eyewitnesses. Joe watched the entire conflict with pleasure—when he chortled, Nate turned to Joe with curiosity.
Joe turned around to Nate, replying, “Teenage Fight Club—best thing I’ve seen all day.”
“Looks like someone’s up for suspension,” Nate said in a satisfied tone—purposefully used to impress Joe, who turned himself towards Nate with a smirk.
“And that, my friend, helps my plan,” Joe says.
Nate was intrigued—he slowly moved closer to Joe’s space, desperate for a summarization of his scheme. “Spare me the details.”
“Well, what’s a group without its leader? A group without power.” Joe said. “Since we’re 99.9% sure Trae will be suspended, The Savages won’t be safe, and the best person to prove it—you.”
Nate was puzzled—he wanted to know the plan, but he never expected to be involved. “Me? What do you mean, me?”
“Hey, you’ve been claiming you’re ready to quit—now’s your chance,” Joe put his hand on Nate’s shoulder—a sign of his manipulative demeanor.
Nate was hesitant, “It’s not as easy as you think. I’ve been with this group since sophomore year.”
Joe scoffed, “Big freaking deal—I’d understand if you guys knew each other since pre-school, but we’re talking high school, junior year status. You said it yourself, you’ve felt mistreated, ignored, and no one cares to keep you in the loop. So, why suffer, when you’ve got a good friend right next to you?”
“I guess you’re right,” Nate still remained hesitant.
“When you’re around me, you’ll learn a lot of things,” Joe pulled Nate along with him, and the two talked out of the school building. Carl was one to notice Joe’s remarks, and he stood, watching the duo suspiciously.
The aftermath—Trae already knew the consequence, but he was completely careless. Trae sat stubbornly on the cushion across from Rose De Vil, who seemed prepared for his arrival. It was almost a quarter to 4:00, and Trae felt impatient while remaining in De Vil’s office for a long period of time.
“You know, Trae, last time you were here, I felt a bit offended when you refused to take my coffee offer,” Rose De Vil commented.
Trae’s irate expression remained—he was silent, refusing to say anything unless it was school related.
“You disappoint me, Trae,” Rose said. “You’re a smart guy with a bad temper and a poor way of handling conflicts.”
Trae’s arms were folded together, and his right leg rested on his left knee. His fists were sore from punching the locker and attacking Felix. He scoffed and rolled his eyes at Rose’s judgment.
“You don’t know anything about me,” Trae said defensively.
Rose grinned, “Of course I do. I take it you’re a bit pissy about what’s going on in this school—and maybe you’re trying to prove a point. Your grades are slowly falling, your attitude’s out of control—I’ve seen your rant this morning.”
“Of course you pinpoint everything I do—but when you see Felix making misogynistic remarks and picking on other students that aren’t on his economic level, or see the jocks bully the other students, it’s not a problem?”
“We’re not talking about Felix or the jocks—we’re talking about you,” Rose folded her hands together, scooting her desk chair closer to him. Trae felt taken aback by her gesture.
“We do not condone violence in this school, and based on our safety-zone policy—”
Trae rolled his eyes after Rose discussed that term—the safety-zone policy. He sighed and mocked Rose carelessly under his breath.
“—I’ll have to suspend you. You’ll be reinstated on Wednesday morning,” Rose addressed.
Trae shouted defensively, “What the hell? That’s so screwed up—Felix started it!”
“And you retaliated—you hit first, you get the consequence,” Rose quickly defended her decision.
Trae’s facial expression demonstrated a feeling of disgust and shock. He pulled his back to the chair, and began to shake his legs.
“You’re so pro-safety in this school, yet you can’t even figure out who’s really responsible for that video. One day, you’ll see how the students really feel about this mental asylum,” Trae ranted.
Rose continued to pinpoint Trae’s behavior: “You’re not making things any better, am I correct? What are you doing that is so important to this school? How does your behavior help with any issue this school has?”
Trae was silent at first, and he finally responded. “I act the way I do for a reason… I resist society’s morals because they’re corrupting people’s minds. Just like this school is depriving us of our God-given privileges.”
“And you think that acting that way will give you what you want? What do you think your little rebellion group will get out of this--freedom?”
Trae replied, “Freedom is more than just an incentive—it’s a necessity. When teenagers like us are deprived of that freedom, the only thing to do is react. That’s the difference between you and me.”
After Trae’s statement, Rose demanded, “Get out of my office.”
“Gladly,” Trae stood up, aggressively shoving the chair across from De Vil, and departed from her office. He slammed her door, leaving Rose in a dilemma. With Trae’s suspension, Rose was hours away from getting into trouble.
There was a lack of information regarding the scandal, a lot of rules, and a lot of conflicts. Rose knew she was in jeopardy, but there was also another problem—she’s been sick for two weeks.
In the Red Hot Cheer Peppers’ locker rooms, the girls began to leave after practice on the football field. Girls were spraying deodorant and other feminine products on their bodies, while Claudia Wu sat on the bench, picking with a strand of armpit hair.
Sena grabbed her pair of blue Levi jeans, slowly pulling them on while starting a discussion.
“I think it’s honestly screwed up that Trae got suspended—if anything, Felix deserved to be suspended as well.”
Some of the cheerleaders agreed, and Angelika, who stood next to her: “I give Trae props for doing what we all wanted to do to Felix. He’s such an asshole.”
“A money-flaunting asshole,” another cheerleader claimed.
“Are you guys even going to his party tomorrow night?” Sena asked.
“I don’t know—I’m thinking about it. He convinced me that he’d try to hook me up with Kyler,” Angelika said. “He’s so cute.”
“Seriously? He’s such a hoe, he’s worse than Matt,” Iesha looked at her. “As soon as we hooked up, he dumped me for Brianna. You’re better off—he dated the whole team.”
Brianna put on deodorant, while a towel was wrapped around her body; she turned to Iesha and replied, “The whole team—don’t be one of his victims.”
“Like me,” Alyssa innocently replied, keeping her cheerleading uniform on.
“Kyler doesn’t do play dates, Alice,” Brianna turned around, and Alyssa rolled her eyes and sat back on the locker room bench.
Angelika scoffed. She was too stubborn to take the girls’ advice, “I don’t care what you guys say—he’s rich, cute, and he’s from my hometown.”
Claudia overheard the conversation and her eyes drifted to the empty side of the locker room. She slowly pulled her armpit down and the insecurities she had surrounded her mind. She couldn’t tell anyone on the squad that she harbors feelings for Kyler Chase, especially since they’d tease her. Not to mention, Claudia and Kyler rarely interacted with each other—despite that brief moment they shared.
“Anyway, unless Felix has a bowl of Hot Cheetos at the party, I’m not going,” Iesha commented, referring back to Felix’s party.
Sena walked closer to Iesha, who put her tank top on, “Iesha, you’ve been eating those hot Cheetos a lot lately,”
“Girl, they are so good—besides I need a few carbs to look good for my dinner date tonight,” Iesha said.
Brianna crossed her arms, “Well, you know what happens when you eat them too much—you better watch out before you get chunky.”
“Oh, please—God made these curves on purpose, baby,” Iesha said confidently.
Brianna nodded her head, and replied with a humorous remark, “But you’re making them fat by mistake.”
The other cheerleaders laughed at Brianna’s comment; Iesha covered her body up and quickly turned herself away from the cheerleaders.
“Shut up,” Iesha shouted.
Trae led himself home that afternoon; the streets were empty, and a mixture of sun and clouds filled the sky. A 90 percent chance of rain—the forecast Trae viewed on his iPhone. Just great, Trae thought. He was suspended from school, got into a fight, ranted throughout the entire day—what else could possibly happen?
While Trae arrived home, he noticed that his mother and his stepfather’s car were parked outside of the garage.
“Shit,” Trae said under his breath. He unlocked his house door, entering the house expecting the worst.
There sat his mother, Stacey, with disappointed expression painted across her face. She was prepared for reprimanding Trae. She stood up and walked towards Trae, who closed the door and noticed her approach.
“Perhaps you can explain to me—I just want to understand—why you’re suspended from school, and why your teacher, Mr. Baxter called me while I’m at work concerning your grades and your behavior today?”
“I got into a fight today with someone,” Trae explained. His hands were still sore—and Stacey noticed them.
When it came to altercations, Trae’s mother wouldn’t mind the suspension for the altercation, but in cases of behavior, it was intolerable.
“What’s gotten into you, Trae? What is your problem?”
“Nothing is wrong with me, everyone has bad days,” Trae said. “It’s not a big deal.”
“YES, it is a big deal,” Stacey emphasized. “Especially if I’m working hard to get you to college, do you know what shit like this can do to your opportunities?”
Trae rolled his eyes, and then, Stacey began to realize the reason.
“You know, ever since you started being friends with that no-good Carl, and Sydney and all those other misfits, you haven’t been doing right. I haven’t received any good phone calls from your teachers, apparently, you’re failing two classes right now, and on top of that, I’m not over the fact that you ditched school with your friends to go to Portland, Oregon? What the hell is in Portland, Oregon?” Stacey addressed.
Trae groaned, “You’re being overdramatic, mom.”
“Oh, I’m being overdramatic?” Stacey yelled. “Boy, I oughta---”
Sean had walked downstairs after overhearing the two’s dispute, “What is going on?”
“Trae got suspended from school today for fighting, he’s failing classes and acting like a brat,” Stacey reiterated to Sean.
Sean shook his head and walked closer to Trae, “Man, come on—you’re too smart to be doing that.”
Trae sighed and looked in the opposite direction. However, as Sean continued to move closer, his tone changed, while he softly asked Trae, “Did you win the fight?”
Trae began to grin, confidently showing his sore, swollen fists to Sean, “Yeah, ha,”
Sean was pleased, giving Trae three pats on the back, “My man!”
“Sean!” Stacey yelled—she wasn’t satisfied with Sean’s reaction, expecting him to give Trae a lecture on his behavior. Sean pulled himself away, and apologized to Stacey. He walked into the kitchen.
“Okay, you know what, you’re grounded, and that means no phone, no computer, and no hanging out until you get your shit together in school,” Stacey said. Her strict punishment irritated Trae inside, but on the outside, his nonchalant reaction surprised her.
“Whatever,” Trae said.
He pulled out his iPhone and handed it to her without a care—he went upstairs slowly, and Stacey watched him, and she held his phone. Trae went inside of his room and slammed his door.
“And stop slamming your door!” Stacey yelled.
Sean walked back to Stacey after gnawing on a sub sandwich. “Stace, he’s just being a kid, he’s gonna grow out of it soon.”
“I don’t want to hear that bullshit—I didn’t raise him for 18 years to see him ruin his life,” Stacey crossed her arms and walked upstairs, and Sean followed her.
The next morning, The Savages, sans Trae, Joe, and Zachary, all sat at a table in the courtyard before the school doors opened. Since De Vil had no awareness of electronic use, most students were occupied with their phones.
Nate sat in a chair at the table, listening to the discussion of Trae’s suspension, as well as Rose De Vil’s safety-zone policy.
“Trae called me on his house phone last night,” Carl claimed. “His mom took his phone and his computer from him, so he’s not able to talk.”
“Seriously,” Lily was surprised. “Grounded for self-defense? Chicken shit.”
Carl continued, “Well, Mr. Baxter’s a snitch—so that made his punishment 2 times worse—apparently, his mom’s trying to keep Trae from hanging out with us, but we all know that won’t work.”
“What a badass,” Rufus complimented Trae.
“I forgot you were still here,” Alex randomly commented.
Rufus felt offended—his eyes drifted downwards, believing that is presence wasn’t necessary.
Felix Winchester arrived at the courtyard, meeting with Kyler and Mike and giving them handshakes. He wore Ray-Ban sunglasses, teal suit and Perry Ellis dress shoes. His appearance caught The Savages’ eyes and in a very bad way.
Gina fiddled with her fingers and her aggressive tone highlighted her frustration, “I still don’t understand why he’s still here.”
Carl looked at Gina, and immediately an idea came to her, “I think I have an idea,”
The members gathered together, and Nate stood in the same position—no movement.
“We’re going to do what Trae would want us to do. De Vil thinks that she can abuse her powers, but she won’t know what’s coming to her. One word—propaganda.”
While the Savages listened, Carl continued, “And I’m not talking about picket signs, petitions, and flyers, I’m talking about spreading the word, making a trend, going out with a bang.”
“What will we do?” Lily asked.
“We’ll chant until we’re satisfied,” Carl claimed. “Not just for Trae, but for our movement.”
“And she’ll definitely need a safety-zone policy,” Alex added. The members laughed.
Numerous thoughts surrounded Nate’s mind. He didn’t want to lose his title; but he didn’t want to be ignored either. Nate’s eyes twitched while he gazed at the members’ mouths, grins and laughter galore.
Nate reacted, slamming his hands on the table and standing up from his seat.
“Screw this, I quit.”
His statement created a tense mood. The members all began to stare.
“What?” Sydney was confused. “You quit?”
“What are you talking about, Nate?” Alex asked. He was confused with Nate’s outburst.
Nate began to mock the group, “Oh my god, I’m like… so fed up with this school and their stupid rules. Oh my god, we’re not popular. Oh my god, let’s go on strike—this school sucks. De Vil is so shitty, like oh my god.”
“Don’t you whiners think I hear enough of that 8 hours a day?” Nate ranted. “We’ve protested, we’ve done assemblies, and guess what, nothing’s happened, so get over it.”
“Bro, you need to take a chill p—” Alex attempted to intervene, until Nate interrupted his suggestion.
“Shut up,” Nate yelled. “Because you’re no use in this group—for weeks, all you’ve been doing is getting Mexican boners over Gina.”
Gina was taken aback, and Alex defended himself. Sydney, Carl, Lily, and Rufus were all confused.
“Okay, first of all, that’s racist,” Alex shouted. “Second of all, that’s completely false. Thirdly, don’t ever tell me to shut up again, you hear me?”
“Shut up,” Nate took a risk. Alex made an attempt to retaliate towards Nate, but Gina had the strength to hold him back.
“And as for you, Harajuku Brat Doll,” Nate began to confront Gina, who turned around preparing for his insults.
“…You wouldn’t have lasted this long in this group if it wasn’t for me. I’m the reason why you upgraded your fashion style. I still don’t understand how it takes one nerdy girl to transformed into an alcohol-consuming, hair-pulling, Jell-O pudding loving weirdo like you.”
“Bitch, I will---” Gina walked closer to Nate, but Alex returned the favor by holding her back, stopping her from reacting.
“Dude, what the hell is your prob—” Sydney stood up to confront Nate, but little did she know, Nate was prepared for her.
“And you,” Nate yelled. “I have been sick of you since last summer. All you ever do is put me down and treat me like I’m not worth anything to this group. I was the secretary—I’m partially the reason why The Savages came to life. You and Trae get all of the credit. Trae this, Sydney that, Trae this, Sydney that—but NO ONE ever gives Nate credit. It’s just a “fuck you, kiss my ass,” a slap in my damn face.”
Joe watched Nate’s confrontation from afar, laughing while he stood next to a group of band geeks. He made himself incognito, to make Nate stand out and keep himself out of the conflict.
Rufus interfered with the conversation—aware that he hasn’t felt like a key part of the Savages, he decided to speak out.
“Man, don’t you think you’re a little over the top?” Rufus asked.
“Shut up,” Nate yelled. “Who are you, anyway?”
Even though he was against Nate’s rant, Alex looked away, giggling. Rufus decided not to respond, and Nate turned his index finger towards Lily, asking her the same question.
“And who the hell are you?” Nate yelled.
Lily took a sip from her Starbucks Coffee cup, with her legs crossed and her eyes on her carnation pink-polished fingernails.
“I’m flawless, you wish you were me,”
“Shut up,” Nate repeated.
“You shut up,” Lily defended herself.
“This group will suffer without me—enjoy it while it lasts,” Nate says angrily. He left The Savages’ area, and walked inside of the school once the doors finally opened.
“Tragic,” Alex said sarcastically.
“I’m gonna give him a piece of my mind,” Sydney stood up, until Carl touched her.
“No, I got this—I know what this is all about,” Carl stood up, noticing Joe in a far area. Even though Joe tried to remain hidden, Carl could see his smirk, and he could notice his eyes wandering.
The first bell for school rang—loudly as usual. When Nate opened the combination to his locker, Carl boldly walked towards Nate, holding both of his backpack straps with a tight grip. Carl slammed Nate’s locker, and Nate turned around and questioned Carl’s presence.
“Are you really that gullible?” Carl had a hysterical grin on his face, out of disbelief.
Nate re-opened his locker and responded with a furious tone, “What are you talking about?”
“Are you that gullible to believe that Joe is your friend?”
“He’s been a better friend to me than you guys are,” Nate defended Joe. “He makes me feel like I belong, and he actually talks to me.”
Carl nodded his head, “Of course—that’s what snakes do. You don’t seem to realize that we have been here for you. You never come to us. You’ve been either away from our conversations, or just hanging out with the devil. You chose that route, and now you’re accusing us of underestimating you? Seriously, dude?”
Nate slammed his locker and ranted, “Carl, you’re just a follower—you listen to everything that Trae tells you to do. Trae is just a power-hungry, trouble-making, boy-loving drama queen, and you’re taking orders from him.”
“Okay, okay, first of all—no one bosses Carl Touché around. You’re the one that’s the puppet. I bet that son of a bitch is putting words in your mouth. You can believe who you want to believe, but if you really believe that choosing him over us was the best thing, you're making a really big mistake.”
Nate rolled his eyes after Carl’s statement—he left Carl alone and when he walked near Joe, he whispered, “How was that?”
“Well done,” Joe winked at him.
Carl was joined by Alex and Sydney, who watched the entire confrontation by the school’s door.
“Uh huh, life's like this,” Alex chanted. “Uh huh, uh huh, that's the way it is.”
The trio walked together in the hallways; same movements, same focus on Nate and Joe.
Sydney began to sing, “Chill out, what you yellin' for? Lay back, it's all been done before, and if you could only let it be, you will see. I like you the way you are when we're drivin' in your car, and you're talking to me one on one, but you've become...”
Carl joined in, keeping his eyes on Nate and Joe while they interacted near a red locker.
“Somebody else 'round everyone else, you're watching your back like you can't relax. You're tryin' to be cool, you look like a fool to me. Tell me.”
“Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?” Carl and Sydney sang.
“I see the way you’re…” Alex sang.
“…Acting like you're somebody else gets me frustrated,” Carl and Sydney sang,
“Life's like this, you…”
“You fall and you crawl and you break and you take what you get and you turn it into honesty. You promised me I'm never gonna find you fake it…”
“No, no, no…” Carl sang.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Sydney sang, while the trio was near Joe and Nate.
Joe turns his eyes to Alex, Carl, and Sydney, who looks back suspiciously. He gives an evil smirk that suddenly intimates that he's skillful in manipulation.
Sydney rolled her eyes and sang, “Chill out, what you yellin' for? Lay back, it's all been done before, and if you could only let it be. You will see...”
Carl sang, “Somebody else 'round everyone else, you're watching your back like you can't relax. You're tryin' to be cool, you look like a fool to me.”
“Tell me!” Carl and Sydney harmonized.
“Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?” Alex, Carl and Sydney sang altogether.
“I see the way you’re acting like you're somebody else gets me frustrated,” Carl and Sydney sang, “Life's like this, you… you fall and you crawl and you break and you take what you get and you turn it into honesty.
“You promised me I'm never gonna find you fake it…” Sydney sang, ending the song.
“No, no, no…” The trio sang.
Joe and Nate walked to their first period classes, going in different directions. Joe turned around and quickly turned back. The three stood in anger, realizing Joe’s responsible for Nate’s behavior.
Zachary’s body was weak that morning—he was lightheaded, suffering from insomnia, and his facial features were very pale. As soon as he arrived, Gina hastily sprinted towards him for a warm hug.
“Oh my god, Zachary, I was so worried about you,” Gina claimed. Zachary didn’t know how to react—he was barely around anyone after last week. He forced himself to arrive to school, but he was devoid of energy.
“Are you okay? You don’t look so good,” there was consolation in noticing Zachary’s concerning appearance.
Zachary was hesitant of telling the truth, “I’m fine, thanks, Gina. Have you seen Trae around?”
Gina was silent for a moment before revealing Trae’s punishment, “He’s suspended.”
“What? What are you talking about? What did he do?”
Gina explained, “He fought Felix yesterday, and De Vil suspended him because of this stupid ‘safety-zone’ policy she announced. Unfortunately, we can’t use our cellphones on school grounds, and social media is banned due to the video investigation.”
Zachary took a large sigh, “Great. I’ve called Trae ten times last night and he didn’t answer. I probably deserve it—I didn’t answer any of his texts for a while.”
“Don’t say that, Zachary,” Gina said with sympathy. “Trae’s grounded—so you may have to find a way to communicate with him. He said he was very worried about you.”
“Why are you guys so worried about me? I’m fine.” Zachary tried to smile, just to prove his normality.
“I don’t know, it’s just—you seem depressed,” Gina said.
“I’m fine, Gina,” Zachary chuckled.
“Pinky swear?” Gina lifted her pinky, and Zachary and Gina locked pinkies.
Zachary narrated: Truth is, I’m not okay. I don’t think I should have taken those antidepressants. It’s like they made the side effects worse. I’m an insomniac—I feel like total shit; I keep having nightmares that feel like visions, and visions that feel like nightmares. My mother and father are aware of my anxiety issues, but as a child they always refused to give me any medications.
FLASHBACK: Zachary was thirteen years old. He sat with his mother and father in the room. Everything felt different to him—shortness of breathing, his hands were shaking and he couldn’t move. His body felt trapped, and every symptom he felt devastated him.
His mother rubbed his back, “Zachary, sweetie, just try to be calm, please be calm,”
Zachary cried, while he began having difficulty breathing, “I can’t, I can’t, I-I-I can’t breathe,”
Rapidly hyperventilating, Zachary tried to move, but his father restrained him, trying to keep him calm and comfortable.
Zachary cried, and his mother looked at his father and sighed.
“Shh, we’re right here. It’s okay, everything is going to be all right,”
Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder—but because of family history, my mother and father believed that medication for disorders wouldn’t help. So, for years, I suffered… and suffered… and nothing’s helping. The truth is, I’m really scared, and no one knows—I refuse to let anyone see me that way, not even Trae, Zachary narrated.
During Mr. Baxter’s class, the teacher hovered around the room with his hands caressing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness novel. He began to read an excerpt from the novel, as part of the AP Literature class’s discussion.
“A slight clinking behind me made me turn my head. Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps. Black rags were wound round their loins, and the short ends behind waggled to and fro like tails.” Mr. Baxter read, perusing every word on the novel.
A majority of the students were disinterested—Gina kept an erratic focus on her phone and his reading. Other students, like Angelika was sleep. Vik and Brian were next to each other, and there was awkward tension. Iesha chewed loudly on a bag of Hot Cheetos, Joe wrote in a notebook, and Felix kept pure focus on Mr. Baxter.
“I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking. Another report from the cliff made me think suddenly of that ship of war I had seen firing into a continent. It was the same kind of ominous voice; but these men could by no stretch of imagination be called enemies. They were called criminals, and the outraged law, like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery from the sea.”
Mrs. Stansfield taught her Algebra II class, and Alex vividly drew a heart; on both ends of the heart, were Alex and Gina’s names. Meanwhile, Sydney noticed Nate behind him, and both of them looked at each other with discontent.
“Today, we’ll continue with the next chapter of our books—please turn to pages 104, logarithms and exponents, please—”
The students groaned, and Mrs. Stansfield yelled, “Hush!”
Mrs. Ortiz stood with a black dress and heels, discussing a quick warm-up assignment—and Lily, Zachary, and Rufus all sat in different areas, while Sena, Claudia, and Matt sat, preoccupied with their cellphones, disobeying the policy and easily hiding their phones.
“A mi me gusta hacer ejercico cada dia,” Mrs. Ortiz read. “¿Que significa?”
A random student raised her hand.
“I like to do exercise every day?” The student replied.
Carl sneaked outside of the classroom, hiding behind a locker. He assembled a texting group chat on his iPhone, adding Alex, Gina, Sydney, Lily, and Rufus’s numbers onto his message.
In capital letters, Carl texted, DO IT NOW!, and he quickly placed his phone into his right pocket.
Gina felt a vibration in her left pocket. While Mr. Baxter continued to read, she slowly and surely removed her phone from her pocket, perusing Carl’s text. She quickly placed the phone inside, and grabbed her binders. She slammed the binders as loud as she could and stood up.
She shouted, “FREE TRAE!”
The students had stared at Gina; they were in awe with her sudden outburst. Joe watched her, and Angelika snorted after waking out of her sleep. Iesha turned around, impressed with Gina’s scream.
Mr. Baxter calmly responded, “Ms. Woods, would you please mind sitting—”
“FREE TRAE!” Gina repeated.
She slammed her desk three times with her items. BANG. BANG. BANG.
“FREE…. TRAE!” Gina yelled.
Gradually, everyone began to follow her chant, with the exception of Joe, Felix, Brian, and Vik. Iesha stood up, while eating her Cheetos, and joined in—“FREE TRAE!”
“FREE TRAE!”, a majority of students in Mr. Baxter’s classroom chanted. Mr. Baxter tried to stop everyone, but the more he tried, the louder it became.
This continued on in Mrs. Stansfield’s classroom, where Alex and Sydney shouted “FREE TRAE” repeatedly, encouraging everyone in the classroom to do the same. More and more students shouted the chant, and Mrs. Stansfield’s yelling made things no better.
In Mrs. Ortiz’s class, students yelled “FREE TRAE!” and Mrs. Ortiz watched in fear.
All of the students in each of the classrooms marched outside and continued their chanting; the teachers tried to follow them, and all of the students, except for Joe, Felix, Brian, and Vik, who watched with amusement, marched near the main office.
Carl lead the protest, and Sydney, Alex, Gina, Lily, and Rufus followed. Zachary had witnessed the occasion, while continuing to question what was happening.
Mrs. Haynes, the receptionist, could overhear the chanting. When she peeked, she noticed the mob of rebellious students. She raised her eyebrows, “Oh, shit.”
She dramatically walked to Rose De Vil’s office in heels, “Um, Principal De Vil, you might want to see what’s going on outside—they’re coming for someone’s edges, and it ain’t gonna be me.”
Rose overheard the chants, quickly stood from her seat and walked towards the hallways. She watched the crowd of people in disappointment.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Rose yelled repeatedly. When the group of students slowly stopped, Rose De Vil yelled, “Shut up!”
Rose’s heels clicked to the tile floors as she re-entered the office. The crowd remained silent at first, and then they all continued to yell, “FREE TRAE!”
“I get broads in Atlanta,” the speakers blasted in Felix’s mansion. “Twistin’ dope, lean, and the Fanta. Credit cards all the scammers. Hitting off licks in the bando. Black X6, Phantom. White X6 look like a Panda…”
Felix’s mansion was an ostentatious sight to see. His house comprised of a double glossy marble staircase, with a statue standing in between. Neon lights flashed and a disco ball rotated above the ceiling.
There were girls in bikinis, shirtless boys with swimming trunks, and dancers around Felix’s entire home. Empty red solo cups were scattered on the ground. Sena Demir, Angelika Summers, and Iesha Bennett were the three students out of a few to arrive.
Other teenagers were engaged in conversations—laughing, or pulling antics, and Felix stood with his associates, wearing the same Ray-Bans.
“Why is Felix wearing the same Ray-Bans from this morning?” Sena was curious.
“Trae’s damage,” Angelika took a sip of her red solo cup with a straw, and Sena chuckled, considering Angelika’s prediction.
“So, why did you guys decide to come?” Angelika asked Sena and Iesha, who were dancing freely to Desiigner’s song, Panda.
Sena shrugged, “I’m just---keeping an eye on some people tonight.” Sena’s answer was vague, but she kept her response like that.
Brian Gustin danced along with a member from The Sexxx Symbols, Glenn Pierce, and Slick Vik sat on a couch, drinking from his cup and watching Brian enjoy himself.
Kalleb walked around independently. He was hesitant of attending, but he took Felix’s suggestion in consideration.
Suddenly, Sena received a text message from Mr. Baldwin. When Sena picked up her phone, she read, “How about a movie? Let me know if you can xoxo.”
Sena felt bad, hiding her affair with a 25-year old man. It wasn’t right, and she knew she’d face consequences. She was only 17 years old, and she was aware that Mr. Baldwin would face punishment if their affair was exposed.
Sena placed her phone back in her pocket and looked around at the party. Angelika and Iesha watched her curiously.
“Is something wrong, Sena?” Angelika asked.
“No, I just had to text someone,” Sena quickly answered—pushing the phone aside.
Iesha pursed her lips together—she knew what was really going on. “Having teacher problems, Sena?”
Sena’s nose flared up and Iesha chuckled nervously.
“What’s Iesha talking about?” Angelika asked.
“Nothing,” Sena quickly.
“Mr. Baldwin,” Iesha revealed his name, and Sena yelled at Iesha.
“I think I saw a bowl of Hot Cheetos in the kitchen,” Sena lied. Iesha squealed, jostling through a group of dancing teenagers.
Angelika looked at Sena, “Why would Mr. Baldwin be texting you?”
“Oh, he’s helping me with our project,” Sena lied. She felt guilty for not telling Angelika the truth.
“Oh,” Angelika nodded—believing Sena’s reasons.
Sena was relieved; she would have attacked Iesha right on the ground if Angelika had found out about her affair. She felt sweat trickling down her forehead, and the humidity in the house augmented.
It was 8:30 pm that night, and Trae was mentally, emotionally, and physically imprisoned. Being suspended from school was one thing, but having no access to The Savages, especially Zachary, infuriated him. The truth was that he couldn’t stop thinking about Zachary, and why he never returned his messages, why he’s been away from school, and why he’s been strange.
While watching The Breakfast Club, he contemplated escaping from his room. His lights were off, and his mother and stepfather were unusually sleeping at this time. He got dressed into black pants, with a belt wrapped around his waist, white and black Adidas, and a short sleeved black shirt. He placed a jean jacket on, and placed a pillow under his comforter.
Silently, he turned his television off, and carefully opened up his window. His room was near a patio, and it was easy for him to climb down without any injuries.
He escaped from his house and walked his way to Zachary’s house. He wanted to see him after a few days of no interactions.
Back at Felix’s party, Sydney, Lily, and Gina surprisingly decided to attend. The girls stayed together while hovering around the house. Neon lights flashed. Another song played, and girls began to gyrate for the boys’ pleasure.
“Felix may be an asshole, but he sure has a nice house,” Gina complimented him.
Lily rolled her eyes and scoffed, “This is any rich kid’s house. This is just his way of flaunting what he has—where is he anyway?”
“Hiding, probably,” Sydney crossed her arms.
“I’m probably going to head out early,” Gina looked at the clock on her iPhone, “I promised Alex we’d go to a movie tonight.”
Sydney and Lily turned to each other, stunned. Sydney raised her left eyebrow, and Lily slowly approached Gina, with a cup in her hand.
“Ooh, la la, Miss Thang’s got a boyfriend,” Lily teased.
Gina denied her assumption, “Alex is not my boyfriend, Lily. We’re just… we’re kinda dating.”
“It’s okay to admit it—you like him, and it’s obvious he likes you. You guys should make it official,” Sydney suggested.
“Says the one who lied to me and claimed that Alex was her boyfriend,”
“I thought it was funny,” Sydney shrugged, sipping the punch from her red solo cup. She immediately grimaced at the stringent taste.
“Ew, okay, this is definitely not fruit punch,” Sydney concluded.
“It’s rum,” a voice said from behind. The girls jumped, until they noticed the guy’s appearance. It was Kalleb, wearing a black hoodie and blue jeans.
“Someone spiked the punch bowl just before you guys arrived, so I’m not taking any chances with it,” Kalleb chuckled.
Gina, Lily, and Sydney were all unfamiliar with this presence, but Gina, a person of generosity and acceptance, responded.
“Neither will I,” Gina made a vow to herself. “I’ve been down that road,”
Kalleb gave a short smile, and Sydney continued to examine him—she wasn’t aware of who he was, but Lily gave a quick compliment.
“Um, I don’t know who you are, but can I say you’re like… really cute?” Lily walked closer, hoping to flirt.
Kalleb smiled and his cheeks turned red, inside, he felt good to be complimented. Since no one in school never noticed him, or made the effort to compliment him, not even his friends.
“Thanks,” Kalleb said. He introduced himself, “I’m Kalleb,”
“Nice to meet you, Kalleb,” Lily said in a flirtatious tone.
“Ditto,” Gina smiled.
Sydney continued to watch his gestures, and he heard his name once before. “You’re the tech guy, right?”
“Um, yeah, at least someone noticed,” Kalleb chuckled nervously. “I helped with the assembly a few weeks ago.”
“Hm,” Sydney judged. “Well, thanks for the memo.”
Sydney walked away from the girls and Kalleb, and Gina and Lily smiled at him, following her every move. Kalleb’s smile shifted—he felt welcome until Sydney’s judgmental tone made him feel out of the box.
Gina approached Sydney, “What was that all about?”
“What else was there to talk about? He just seems weird to me.”
“Hey, look who the devil brought in,” Gina mentioned Joe and Nate’s entrance.
The duo walked together inside of the party. In Sydney’s point of view, their entrance felt like a view in slow motion. When they walked inside, Sydney could sense there would be trouble. Sydney bit her tongue, but she was willing to target Joe right in that spot. She controlled herself, and she shrugged.
“You know, perhaps I need this rum punch tonight,” Sydney took a large swallow of the punch left in her cup.
Gina and Lily looked at her in disbelief.
Kalleb, once again, was isolated. At first, he didn’t seem to care, but he questioned himself. He didn’t know where to fit in and how to adapt to the social class. He sat by a group of occupied students—a couple kissing each other, and two others drinking and hysterically laughing.
Kalleb sighed—in his mind the entire party was just a fantasy. Everything stopped, and he stood up, walking around, watching everyone.
“I'm sorry if I seem uninterested, or I'm not listenin' or I'm indifferent.” He sang. “Truly, I ain't got no business here, but since my friends are here, I just came to kick it. But really, I would rather be at home all by myself not in this room with people who don't even care about my well-being. I don't dance, don't ask, I don't need a boyfriend, so you can go back, please enjoy your party, I'll be here…”
“Somewhere in the corner under clouds of marijuana with this boy who's hollering I can hardly hear. Over this music I don't listen to and I don't wanna get with you, so tell my friends that I'll be over here.”
“Oh oh oh here, oh oh oh here, oh oh oh. I ask myself what am I doing here? Oh oh oh here, oh oh oh here, and I can't wait till we can break up outta here.”
Kalleb walked near The Sexxx Symbols, who were dancing with Brian, and then he walked into the kitchen, where Iesha and another girl were arguing.
“Hours later congregating next to the refrigerator; some girl's talking ‘bout her haters. She ain't got none. How did it ever come to this? I shoulda never come to this , so holla at me I'll be in the car when you're done.”
“I'm standoffish, don't want what you're offering, and I'm done talking. Awfully sad it had to be that way,” Kalleb walked towards Felix’s living room, surrounded by intoxicated students.
“So tell my people when they're ready that I'm ready , and I'm standing by the TV with my beanie low. Yo I'll be over here”
“Oh oh oh here, oh oh oh here, oh oh oh. I ask myself what am I doing here? Oh oh oh here, oh oh oh here, and I can't wait till we can break up outta here.”
“Oh oh, oh oh ,oh oh. Oh oh, oh oh, oh oh…”
Kalleb sighed as he returned back to reality. It was clear—he wouldn’t fit in, and for two years, he has kept himself in his shell. He grabbed a bottle of water from the snack bar, and plopped down onto the couch, covering his sight with his beanie.
Viktor sat right next to Kalleb, and he barely noticed is presence, not just because he didn’t care, but his eyes were set on Brian’s ridiculous behavior. Brian enjoyed himself while dancing with Liam Newton and Glenn Pierce, the members of the Sexxx Symbols.
Brian moved closer to Liam, who didn’t hesitate to do the same. Vik didn’t want to make things obvious, but he was irritated by Brian. After a week of tension, Vik didn’t have any words to say to Brian. This time, however, he found a handful of words to say.
Vik stood up from the couch and approached Brian for confrontation.
“What the hell are you doing?” Vik gripped Brian from his arms. Vik’s grasp felt reminiscent to their sexual encounter.’
Brian pulled his arm from Vik, and in a woozy voice, he replied, “Minding my business—what’s your deal?”
“My deal is you’re embarrassing yourself and you look ridiculous,”
“Live a little, man,” Glenn encouraged, continuing to dance.
“Yeah, why are you so uptight?” Liam added.
“It’s kinda true,” Brian shrugged while dancing with a cup.
Vik stared at the both of them, and looked at Brian once again, and his clenched his fists.
“Do you know what you’re doing to your image, Brian?” Vik lectured. “Why can’t you have some decency?”
Brian stopped dancing, “Image. That’s all you care about, Vik. Image. Well, you know what? I don’t care about my image—as a matter of fact, I don’t care about you, not anymore. You’re still worried about image—well, guess what: the video’s out, there’s nothing we can do about it. So, maybe you can stay miserable, but I’m not going to fall down with you. Instead of watching my every move—I know you love my body, do yourself a favor and fuck off.”
Viktor shoved Brian, placing his hands on his shoulders. Brian felt the force, and he retaliated by pushing Vik by a glass coffee table. The glass shattered and cups of alcohol spilled down to the floor.
Everyone stopped dancing, watching the two’s commotion. Vik got back up, ready to react. He punched Brian, who hit him back. The two wrestled each other, while Liam and Glenn tried to intervene.
Meanwhile, Felix was in his bathroom. His face moved in circular motion, and his body thrusted back and forth. Until he heard the commotion from downstairs, he pulled Dirty Dan’s face away from his waist.
“Shit,” Felix pulled his pants up, buckling and zipping them, and Dirty Dan wiped his mouth when Felix departed from the bathroom.
Felix walked downstairs, witnessing the altercation. He yelled, “Hey, what the hell? My glass table! My mom is going to kill me!”
Brian and Vik were at opposite ends, and everyone watched in awe. The music immediately stopped.
“That’s all you got, bro?” Vik yelled. Brian, panting, was held back by Liam.
“All right, that’s it, everyone out!” Felix forced all of the students out of his house.
Zachary repeated the same actions over and over. In his bedroom, closed in, he picked up his phone minute after minute, hoping to get a phone call or text message from Trae. Even though Gina told him his phone was taken away, there were so many hypothetical thoughts in his head.
What if Trae hated him? Zachary had ignored him for a week before—what if Trae doesn’t want to talk to him anymore? What if Trae’s not okay either? What if Trae knows about his feelings for him? Was he too obvious?
Afterwards, Zachary began to have another vision. An overcast sky, with rain pouring down. A dark red puddle of blood stained the concrete, and meshed with raindrops. Police and ambulance sirens filled the air, and red and blue lights flashed the vague area.
On the ground, there was a body.
Zachary returned back to reality, and suddenly, there was an unusual feeling in his throat. Zachary slowly lifted himself from the mattress. His eye vision became blurred, and his body felt caged. He couldn’t breathe and his body started to shiver. Experiencing pain, Zachary came frightened by these symptoms, and there he stood, in the corner of his bedroom, hyperventilating.
The doorbell rang, and his mother was not aware of his attack. When Zachary’s mother opened the door, Trae stood on the top step, smiling, “Hi, is this Zachary’s home?”
“Yes? How can I help you, dear?” Zachary’s mother asked.
“I’m Trae, one of his friends from school,” Trae smiled. “I know it’s a bit late, but…”
“Oh, no, please, come in!” Zachary’s mother encouraged. Her tone was very calm and welcoming.
“Nice to meet you, dear, Zachary’s actually told me all about you—he told me you helped him against those bullies. That was so generous of you.”
Trae smiled, and Zachary’s mother called his name, “Zachary! Someone’s here for you!”
There was no response, and Trae looked around Zachary’s living room, discovering pictures of Zachary as a child sorted above his fireplace.
“You have a really beautiful home, Mrs. Foxx,”
“Oh, please, call me Kelly; it’s more catchy,” Kelly chuckled. Trae took her suggestion, while Kelly continued to speak.
“We manage—since Zachary’s dad is always on cop duty, I’m always here making sure everything is spic and span, and to make sure Zachary’s fine.”
“Is he okay?”
“He should be, but his anxiety disorder’s been a bit worse over the years. It’s just so hard to see someone experience that, you know?”
Trae’s eyes widened. Anxiety disorder? He thought. His grandmother suffered from anxiety, and thinking of her made him more sentimental.
“Zachary! Trae’s here, sweetheart!” Kelly shouted.
Trae wanted to privately interact with Zachary, “Is it okay if I go up to his room?”
“Of course, he’s probably playing his video games,” Kelly said, while organizing and dusting off her living room areas.
Zachary’s panic attack was more severe. He couldn’t talk, breathe, or move. His heart raced rapidly, and his fingers were shaking constantly. He continued to hyperventilate, and tears fell down from his eyes.
Trae slowly walked inside, expecting Zachary in a different position. He noticed Zachary’s suffering, and he gasped.
“Zach? Zach!” Trae ran to him as quickly as possible to help. Zachary covered himself near a corner, and Trae went down onto his knees in fear.
“Zachary, are you okay?”
Zachary couldn’t respond. Even when he tried to talk, it was difficult. His body was unable to move, and Trae comforted him, “Zachary, I’m here for you, bud. It’s okay,”
Zachary continued to cry and hyperventilate, and Trae placed his hands on both of Zachary’s shoulders, and Zachary couldn’t look up at him. Trae gently rubbed Zachary’s shivering shoulders as a way to calm him down.
“Just take deep breaths.” Trae’s voice cracked—he wanted to cry with him. He understood how it felt to have anxiety.
Zachary attempted to take deep breaths, and whenever Trae continued to touch him, Zachary’s caged feeling slowly began to vanish.
Trae lifted up Zachary’s face, pale and wet, “Look at me—don’t cry. You’re going to get through this, okay? I’m here for you.”
When Trae wiped the tears from Zachary’s eyes, and caressed his soft face. Seconds after, Zachary gazed into Trae’s eyes, and Trae looked back, and the romantic tension between the two diminished.
Trae softly commented, “I’m here for you,” while he slowly moved toward Zachary. Trae gently pressed his lips to Zachary’s, who experienced the unexpected. Never had he thought that Trae would kiss him, even though it was a pleasure to him.
Zachary’s eyes closed, as he began to kiss him back, softly touching Trae’s cheeks. After Trae stopped himself, Zachary felt almost normal again. Trae was the remedy, and Zachary didn’t want him to stop.
Trae and Zachary continued to stare, until Zachary pulled Trae back in FOR a passionate kiss.
It was five minutes to 10:00 that night, and Trae opened up the front door to his house. While the door slowly opened without any noise, he closed the door with ease. He turned around, and the lights turned on.
“Busted,” Stacey shouted. She wore a silk nightgown and sat on a love seat in the living room, waiting for Trae’s arrival.
Trae groaned and faced the ceiling.
“Nice try with the pillow underneath the blankets,” Stacey said sarcastically. “This is the 21st century, Trae. Just when I was considering stopping your punishment, and yet you go behind my back and disobey me. I’ve had enough.”
“I’m not a child anymore,” Trae said in a nonchalant tone.
Stacey shouted, “You’re 17, you’re still a child—and you live in my house under my rules. You still act like a child—doing things you want to do, disobeying your parents, throwing desks and yelling at teachers.”
“So?” Trae scoffed, attempting to walk upstairs to his bedroom.
Stacey followed him along, “Trae Ventura, don’t you walk up those stairs!”
Trae opened his bedroom door and Stacey walked from behind, continuing to lecture him.
“Do you really think I’m going to let you have the freedom to do what you want in this house? Something could have happened to you out there,”
“You wouldn’t care,” Trae said.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Trae yelled, “You know what it means, mom. Every day, you wish you didn’t have children—you said so yourself. You care more about money than you care about me. Every day, you spend your little 40 to 50 bucks playing your lottery, holding those same tickets wishing you’d win. You get your $200 bucks if you hit, and you don’t even care to use it wisely—you don’t even consider college tuition. Why would you care about me when all you care about is money? That’s why Sean is here—he’s an Army veteran with money…”
Stacey’s face changed once Trae began to disrespect her. Trae continued to rant.
“…And then you bitch and moan about work, how you’re so stressed and you’re so fed up with life. But do you ever consider how I feel sometimes? No, you don’t. So, what the hell do you care about me? My dad--”
Trae’s mother lifted her right hand, aiming it at Trae’s cheek, slapping him with a sharp force. Trae winced.
“I spent 17 years raising you ALL by my goddamn self,” Stacey yelled. “I spent 24 hours with you when you were sick—I bought your asthma nebulizer, put clothes on your back, but food in your stomachs, and I made sure your black ass had a roof over your head. You think I don’t care? You think your dad gives a shit about you? You wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for me. Your no-good, lying, manipulative father was the one who convinced me to get an abortion…”
Tears began to stream from Trae’s eyes—he was disheartened by that reveal.
“…But who was I to kill a child? I raised you, damn it. Yeah, I had boyfriends who could come around and play “mom” while I was out having a good time. You’re damn right. I needed some me time—from feeding you and dealing with your Asperger’s and your sister’s ADHD, and your grandmother’s dementia. We all need a break sometimes, don’t we?! But I am not going to stand here and take your disrespect. You’re a child—I don’t give a damn what you’ve accomplished in school, but don’t let your little circle friends gas you up and boost up your ego. Now, I’d suggest you think about what you just said to me, and if you ever disrespect me again, you’ll see worse than this.”
Stacey walked out of his bedroom and closed his door with a slam. Trae continued to cry. He paced back and forth, trying to find things to damage. He wanted to escape again, even think about Zachary, but he couldn’t.
He began to damage items in his room. He pushed and slammed a majority of items in his room. All of the anger built inside of him escaped, and Trae, at last, reached his boiling point.
He screamed, almost like a banshee, when he kneeled down onto his floor. Stacey could overhear his outburst, and she began to cry. She leaned on his door, wishing that Trae was different, or normal.
FLASHBACK: Trae, at five years old, stood in the playing center in the doctor’s office. Stacey was a single mother, raising two problematic children on her own, and she couldn’t face seeing her son with a mental disorder.
“Your son seems to have a creative mind, but he does tend to show lack of social and emotional development,” the doctor stated. “I’m very sorry, but your son has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.”
Stacey asked, curiously, “Is there any cure?”
“Unfortunately, it’s non-curable. However, there are some alternatives to control your son’s behavioral problems—regarding anger management and anxiety. So, if you’d like I could recommend medication..”
“No, no…” Stacey denied. “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in medicine for that condition. My daughter has ADHD, and nothing seems to help her.”
“You won’t know unless you try—it may help your son, especially when he’s an adolescent,”
“Thank you for the suggestion, but I have to go,” Stacey stood up, and Trae turned around from his play station.
“Let’s go, Trae,” Stacey said. Trae stood up and walked with her into the lobby, exiting the doctor’s office and getting into the car.
Stacey sat in the car, sobbing softly.
Trae ended his meltdown, but he felt no better. He felt more angrier, more resilient. He began to sing, “What's wrong with me? Why do I feel like this? I'm going crazy now…”
He constantly walked around his room, “No more gas in the rig. Can't even get it started. Nothing heard, nothing said. Can't even speak about it. Out my life, out my head. Don't wanna think about it. Feels like I'm going insane, yeah…”
Zachary remained in his room, an hour after his panic attack, he sang, “I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus. This is it, the apocalypse.”
“…I feel like a monster, whoa,” Trae sang.
Trae and Zachary sang, while in their respective areas, “Throw on your brake lights. We're in the city of wonder. Ain't gonna play nice, watch out, you might just go under. Better think twice. Your train of thought will be altered, so if you must falter be wise…”
“…Your mind’s in Disturbia. It's like the darkness is the light. Disturbia. Am I scaring you tonight? Disturbia. Ain't used to what you like. Disturbia. Disturbia,”
“Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum,” Trae sang, while Zachary accompanied him.
“Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm radioactive, radioactive,” Zach sang.
“Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum,”
“Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive,”
“All systems go, the sun hasn't died,” Zachary sang. “Deep in my bones, straight from inside.”
“Release me from this curse I'm in, trying to maintain, but I'm struggling. If you can't go, go, go, I think I'm gonna oh, oh, oh…” Trae sang.
Zachary banged his fists on the wall, singing with aggression, “I'm waking up, I feel it in my bones. Enough to make my system blow. Welcome to the new age, to the new age….”
“If you must falter be wise,” Trae ad-libbed.
“Your mind is in Disturbia. It's like the darkness is the light. Disturbia. Am I scaring you tonight? Disturbia. Ain't used to what you like (disturbia). Disturbia. Disturbia…”
“Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum,” Trae sang.
“Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm radioactive, radioactive,” Zach sang.
“Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum,”
“Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive,”
Trae lied flat on his bed, ad-libbing, as the song reached the end, “Bum ba dee-da dah. Bum ba dee-da dah, oh whoa,”
Trae was panting, trying to catch his breath, and Zachary sat back down on his bed.
Raindrops fell rapidly from the outcast skies, while Trae, wearing a black hoodie, jogged around his neighborhood. From the look on his eyes, he was preparing for something. He was determined, pumped up, and furious. This day was his reinstatement, and regardless of his return, he’d come back with a plan.
I am a man, Trae narrated. I am an angry man. I have my limits. I have my flaws. I have my reasons. I could care less about the law. I won’t be held down. I won’t be overshadowed. I won’t be betrayed. I won’t be mistreated. I won’t fail. I came to win. The Savages has always used its best tactic—psychological warfare. We’re judging values, motives, behaviors, and we’re standing up for what we want, and what we believe in. Like it or not, Rose De Vil will see the day that everything she’s built will come crashing down.
Trae jogged his way to the courtyard, and when everyone witnessed his return, most students smiled, others looked away. The Savages were altogether, and Trae approached them all, and Zachary gave a brief smile.
“It’s about time that we take back what’s ours. We’ve played Rose’s games for way too long. We’ve cried, we’ve bitched about it—but this time, it’s no games. It’s time for action,” Trae announced to the Savages.
“What are we going to do?” Gina asked.
Trae looked up, “We’re gonna do what we’re supposed to do: revolt.”
The Savages all looked at each other, nodding their heads in agreement. They were prepared—this time, enough was enough.
Plan A: We make a verbal, direct approach. A warning, Trae narrated.
The Savages, all 8 present members, walked fiercely into the main office area. Mrs. Haynes made an effort to stop the members from entering Rose De Vil’s office.
“Um, excuse ya’ll, but Principal De Vil is busy—ya’ll cannot just barge in like that,” Mrs. Haynes claimed.
Trae turned around to Mrs. Haynes, “Back off, lady,”
When the Savages passed her by, Mrs. Haynes was stunned. She kept control of her anger, “Ooh, he’s so lucky I didn’t bring out the Bankhead. So lucky. Help me, Jesus.”
While Rose De Vil was on the school’s phone, discussing the video investigation, The Savages pushed the door down, and Trae stood in the middle of the group, while Sydney and Carl stood side by side. Alex and Gina stood next to each other, and Lily, Zachary, and Rufus stood on the other side.
Rose looked up at the group without any intimidation. She continued her phone call until she was finished.
“Yes, yes, I know that this is taking a while, but getting evidence isn’t that hard—I’m not a detective, sir, I’m the principal. I have other missions to complete,” Rose complained to Brian Gustin’s father.
While the father yelled, Rose tried to calm him down, promising, “I promise you, sir, we’ll have…”
Sydney looked at Trae, who gave her a signal. She nodded her head, walked towards Rose De Vil’s telephone, and clicked the dropped the phone call, clicking the button without fear.
Rose De Vil’s eyes turned towards Sydney, and she gave an evil smirk after placing the phone down.
“What seems to be the problem today, Suicide Squad?” Rose asked sardonically.
Carl’s arms were crossed when he demanded, “Give us our rights back, De Vil.”
“Rights? I thought the government granted those. I’m not sure if I have any available here, sorry.” Rose continued her sarcasm, but Trae could see right through it.
“Cut the bullshit, De Vil—for weeks, we’ve dealt with your unnecessary rules and we’re not taking it anymore. You’ve done enough damage to this school,” Trae said.
“Good to see you, too, Trae,” De Vil said. “How was your suspension? I heard your mother was pretty harsh on you this week.”
“She was,” Trae egged her on. “You know what else is harsh? Your edges, they keep disappearing.”
Rose touched her hair, insecure of her appearance, and then Sydney and Lily began to rant.
“We want what’s ours—and we’re going to get it, whether you like it or not,” Sydney yelled.
“I’d love to see how,” Rose smiled.
“Let’s be honest, you’re a biased, inconsiderate, self-absorbed, and unfit principal,” Lily said. “You think of only yourself, and you don’t even care what the students think.”
“You’re damn right, I don’t,” De Vil argued. “I don’t get paid to listen, I get paid to give out orders. I don’t have to listen to 400 bitchy students about teenage drama, so what makes you think I’d listen to 8 of you?”
“But you will listen to us, De Vil,” Trae threatened. “You know why? Because your job is on the line—and trust me, I wouldn’t want to go back to stripping poles if I were you.”
Rose was shocked, Trae found her vulnerability, “H-how did you know about that?”
“I have sources,” Trae smiled.
“Bottom line, either you compromise or face your demise,” Gina stated. “Your choice.”
Rose was silent—The Savages were definitely onto her, but the superintendent was as well. She was too stubborn to make a deal, so she kept her composure and scoffed, “Get the hell out of my office.”
“You were warned,” Carl shrugged. Alex looked at Rose in disgust, still harboring animosity from his previous suspension.
Trae’s arms were crossed, while the 7 members departed from the office.
The awkward silence in the room made things very tense. Rose stared Trae down, hoping he’d leave.
“You know your Brady Bunch can get in a lot of trouble, right?” Rose De Vil said.
“We aren’t the Brady Bunch,” Trae said to Rose De Vil, “We’re the Savages. Google, Instagram, Kik, Tweet, MySpace, Facebook, and Snapchat us...beotch."
He left the room with confidence, and he slammed the door behind him. Rose kept rambling through files and permanent records, hoping for better evidence.
Plan B: Direct approach—physical.
The Savages all sat in an empty table in the cafeteria. Although most of the students were not aware of their plot, Joe and Nate watched from afar.
“What do you think they’re going to do?” Nate asked.
“Embarrass themselves,” Joe looked back at Nate. “Trust me, their little plan will backfire, and they will fail.”
At the table, Trae was the mastermind of the plan. He created his own blueprint of their direct approach. When he instructed all of the members, he talked softly, but aggressively to get his point across.
“Tomorrow, when we walk in, we’re not walking in like normal students, okay? We’re running in there, and we’re going to get back what’s ours, no matter how bad it gets. We’re a team, and we’re all in this together,” Trae lectured.
“Together,” The Savages repeated in unison.
“So, we’re all going to run in together—perhaps we’ll ask a few people to join us if they’re willing to take the risk. But, I’d suggest everyone get the best weapon you can—and no, I’m not talking a gun or a knife.”
“What if that’s all we have?” Rufus asked.
“Then you improvise. Find something in the school, a computer, desk, Mrs. Stansfield’s ass, I don’t care. Anything that applies force.”
“You’ve been learning too much Physics, bro,” Alex said.
“Anyway—here’s how we’re gonna do it,” Trae pointed to the blueprint on the lunch table. He pointed his finger to the sketch of the school building. He pointed to the front of the school.
“This is our mark,” Trae pointed. “We’ll meet up by the parking lot in all black, we’ll walk up to the front of the school, and we’ll wait until the doors are open. Lily, since you’re a bit of a loudmouth, you make the signal that will allow us to run inside. Gina, you’re in charge of making sure no teachers interfere. Alex and Rufus, get some spray paint, Sydney, Carl, and I will handle the damaging and I’ll take any consequence. If anything happens, like police invasions, we have to stick together. If anyone isn’t willing to participate, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
“I don’t want to do it,” Rufus became uncertain. “I don’t want to ruin my reputation here, and I don’t give into peer pressure.”
Alex rolled his eyes, “Of course.”
“No one’s pressuring you to do it, bro. Just sit and watch,” Carl said.
“Zachary,” Trae turned to him. “Are you sure you want to do this? You don’t have to.”
“No, I want to,” Zachary said confidently. “You were there for me, and I’m here for you. So, let’s kick some ass,”
Trae smiled at Zachary, and he smiled back.
“It won’t be long now,” Sydney smiled.
That following morning was the boiling point. The skies were cloudy, and rain dropped every four seconds. The streets were damp and the wind was forceful that day. Trae was the first member to prepare—he wore a black shirt with an anarchy symbol, and he placed a can of spray paint in his left pocket. Afterwards, he looked at himself in the mirror—he realized that after this deed, he wouldn’t be the same.
He wouldn’t be that teenager with optimism and sensitivity anymore—he was one of a kind. A rebel with a cause.
Sydney dressed herself in a black shirt and a black and white plaid skirt. Her skirt matched her socks and boots that she wore. She placed black lipstick on her lips and placed eyeshadow on. She wrapped her hair up and placed a black beanie above her head.
Gina’s style was similar of Sydney’s. She wore dark lipstick and her hair was wrapped into a ponytail. She wore a black leather jacket and black jeans. Gina realized her smart girl image would quickly fade away.
Lily strutted through her neighborhood in all-black, and there she discovered Carl walking in the same direction. She exchanged a nod of acknowledgement with him as they walked on different ends of the street.
Zachary followed behind Alex outdoors. When Trae walked with Sydney, he swung his baseball bat back and forth, moving it in circular motion. Sydney cracked her neck form side to side.
It was 7:30 am—doors opened at 7:45. The anticipation for this riot was overwhelming, and Rose De Vil walked into her office at an early time, preparing for another day.
The students in their designated groups remained in prolonged conversations. The group stood altogether. When Trae looked at Sydney, it created a chain reaction of gestures and glances.
From afar, Iesha, Sena, and Angelika could notice The Savages’ bizarre position, and they looked at each other with confusion. The Moneybags watched and Felix noticed them. The Jocks and the Sexxx Symbols all kept their focus on the Savages.
It was a tense moment, and Trae could tell it was almost time.
When the clock hit 7:45 and the doors opened, Trae made one final statement. Protest signs and weapons were in the Savages’ grasps.
"Whatever happens... we did this for a reason," Trae lectured. “For us, for our freedom.”
It was silent, increasing the tension.
“Ready?” Trae turned to Lily, who made the loud signal.
“ANARCHY!” Lily screamed.
As soon as they made the statement, Trae, Sydney, Carl, Alex, Zachary, Gina, and Lily ran to the front of the school. As if they were in slow motion, the moment became more intense by the second.
There were screams, chants, and wild approaches. The students who witnessed were aware, and a few students—Iesha, Sena, Angelika, Alyssa, and a few of the jocks and Sexxx Symbols all joined in.
Trae lifted his baseball bat and took the first hit as soon as he ran inside. BOOM.
TO BE CONTINUED