Charity spent much of the day following her conversation with Jamie trying to think up ways to broach the topic to Trevor of Trent’s blackmail. How much she should reveal, and now much she should withhold until she was sure she could trust him. If word got to Trent early that Charity was trying to get him in trouble, then there was little Charity could do for her best friend. She’d probably suffer for it too, because she had told Charity. It was honestly less risky just to try and befriend Trent. They already went to church together every sunday, so that road would be a lot easier to start down. She would have to wait until Sunday, though, but that was fine. She could wait until Sunday.
But now was a different story. She filed all of this away in her mind, to use later, and for now, focused on getting through her school day. As she was heading down the corridor, from one class to the next, she spotted a poster. Immediately reminded of her sister from the image of that bear, and knowing that her sister also played music, she took a picture of the poster and sent it to Panda, along with a text.
”Saw this and thought of you, sister””U hav my interest, sis. Thx~❤”
Putting her phone away, and looking back at the picture, Charity thought about it. A new band forming would make a nice, innocent fluff piece, and from the look of things, what with what the paper will be printing regarding the parties, and Hailey, and what she herself might be printing about Trent in the future, a nice piece will be sorely needed. Charity decided to attend the auditions, perhaps conduct an interview.
There weren’t many teenage musicians, especially those that didn’t know Nero’s reputation, that felt confidant joining a band with someone that was disabled. But for those who did pay attention, Nero was the son of probably one of the most famous, scarily talented guitarist in metal history. His father, who co-founded East of Eden
, with Evelyn Harding (now Green). The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, Junior simply had to work around his inability to see. Ever since he could pick up sticks, which was at a young age, Junior found an innate ability to make beats. Without that reverberating sound that echoed in his soul, he was nothing. Drumming was his life. His sole purpose.
He wasn’t always blind, but over time, he did lose sight, and was given a challenge when it came to pursuing his passion. Last year, he set the bar for the marching band, wowing the crowd at the semi finals during the playoffs. He was only a freshman and he was able to intimidate the hell out of the opposing team. For the finals, he was given the chance to make the routine, so that was pretty cool. And was ten times better than his previous performance. His motto was and will always be: do better. If the crowd cheered, the next time he would aim to get them to scream. If his performance was a ten, he had to make sure his next one was a twenty.
Here he was in the band room, with his earphones resting on his shoulder, sitting by the iconic blood red drum set, actually donated by his father. This entire room had industry level instruments thanks to continuous donations of the great bands that came from this school, like East of Eden
. Spinning one of his drumsticks in his left hand, he smiled at his company, which was that of Henry Green and Parker Ashford. Their audition was coming to a close. It was a no brainer that Parker would front their unnamed band. The moment she sang, his body was given chills; he even tested her to see if she overpowered the instruments, or complimented them. He had some of his marching bandmates helping with the auditions, though none of them wanted to actually join, using the same excuse that they were too busy or couldn’t afford to let their grades fall. They’re lost. They were mediocre at best, anyways.
Right now, Mercy was wagging her tail and prancing around Parker, running around her, in circles. His dog rarely got hyper, but when she did… it was full speed ahead. “Henry, you know where the talent is. I should’ve just went to you. Would’ve saved Miles the trouble of going around school with all those flyers.”
Sure, Nero went the old fashioned route and held auditions, but it was only because he doesn’t really look at Henry, Hailey, or Cyndi, as kids carrying their parents’ name. He just sees them as people he grew up with. It ain’t his fault he didn’t think ‘hey, I’m just going to go to Henry and see if he knows musicians that are bored and want to be in a band’. Whatever, he needed to get in contact with this Aries’ kid, because his Youtube channel was sick
. Meaning the soundtracks he heard off the channel, not the actual videos, were sick. Surely the video was cool too, if he could see it. “I’m just a dude who likes to watch YouTube while eating his Oreo O’s in the morning. I watch less YouTube now that someone else sleeps in my bed, but hey, I’m not complaining. Morning show is way better now than it was before.”
Henry shrugged and threw one of the Donettes he had into his mouth, munching on it. Normally, he’d throw a thumbs up in Nero’s direction, but that wasn’t exactly necessary when he couldn’t see anything. “Aries is cool, and all he’s ever wanted is to be a rockstar. He basically does… nothing but play music, so he’s a good choice. And Parker is the songbird of her generation, y’known.”
He was speaking with his mouthful, but his job was pretty much done. He’d gotten Parker a job, that was the important one, and when Nero had mentioned he was looking for instrumentalists, Henry had to plug the dude with the YouTube channel.“I appreciate it, man. I honestly hope we can rock this place to the ground. Just like your mom and my dad did. Goals. Yo, should I contact you or Parker when it comes to, well, practice and gigs?”
Nero wasn’t necessarily sure how to go about treating Parker because it seemed like Henry helped her a lot with many things. Usually, he’d ask for each of his bandmates’ digits, but he didn’t want to overstep his boundaries with Parker. “Just hit me up, it’s easier that way.”
Parker was like, his responsibility. He wasn’t sure that she could find her way to and from practices without him, but if Nero just texted him it’d be easy enough. He reached into the bag of donuts again, and found that he was on the last one. Bummer. He threw it into his mouth and munched on it, thinking briefly about how his mother would probably reprimand him for eating Hostess, “That is a poor person food, Henry Green.”
Oof. Alyssa sure could be a wicked bitch. “Besies, she doesn’t really have a phone anyway.”“Gotcha, gotcha. One last thing before I let you guys go. Say we become real cool within the next month, maybe performing at the talent show, maybe even prom though that’s way later, could we play at your party? My dad’s been tellin’ me it’s gonna be a rager this year. It’s your big 18!”
What? Nero had to seize this opportunity. He didn’t even know how much chemistry him and the band would be, but it was worth a shot! Him and Henry rarely hanged outside of school. “Huh? What party?”
Henry had to rack his brain, thinking. There was the boat party… but that was already done. And the New Year’s party, but that was also
already done, and had been a bit of a disaster. Oh, Nero meant the birthday party. “Uh, I guess? It’s more for Cyndi than me, always is. She’s the golden child. I’m… y’know, me? I need more donuts.”“Is Cyndi even coming back from Korea? Wouldn’t this year just be a big bang for you?”
Junior’s expression was perplexed. If he wasn’t mistaken, Min and Cyndi switched countries for the school year. “Unless she’s comin’ back solely for her birthday?” “No, from what I understand, she’s just coming back, and Mother is working with the exchange student program to get them to let Min-seo stay for her allotted time. By which I mean ‘giving them a bunch of money in donations.’ So, nah. It’s back to being about Cyndi. Dude, if it was just me, there wouldn’t even be a cake, let alone a party. Especially not a rager.”
Henry said, crumpling up the now empty food bag, and tossing it into a trashcan.“Yeah, but if it was just for Cyndi, she probably would just have family attend. Aren’t you the main reason her parties aren’t so small? At least in terms of the ‘friend’ department. I’m not hating on your sister, she just never seemed close with any people. Too focused on being the golden child, you know what I mean.”
Nero, for a moment, was forgetting he was holding auditions, enjoying his time with someone he basically considered a brother. “Well, I didn’t even know there was a party — so I haven’t invited nobody. ‘sides, I’m just that dude that everybody likes because he’s funny. And I am funny, no matter what the Hailstorm says. Aight, Park and I are takin’ off. Parker! Let’s rock n’ roll. And don’t get excited, no matter what, I’m not buying you a puppy.”
Henry was walking toward the door now; he needed donuts and his waifu more than he needed to stand there and bitch about a surprise birthday party.
The adults were talking. At least that’s what it seemed like to Parker; considering she barely listened to the adults when they spoke at school, why would she listen when outside of that institution, especially when there was a dog to occupy her thoughts and time with. While the others had been talking, presumably about something that so desperately needed Parker’s attendance, she was playing with a particularly peppy pup. If only she had a tennis ball or something, but she was enjoying spinning in a circle as the dog rotated and spun around happily around her. Sure she was getting dizzy, but she was getting dizzy with a puppy! “WHY NOT? I WANT ONE! JASMINE NEEDS A FRIEND TOO!”
Parker was brought out of her preoccupied mind after she had fallen onto her tush having spun one too many times. From her position on the floor was where she poutedly responded to Henry’s laying down of the law. “PLEASE?”
Henry sighed and bent down, scooping Parker up and slinging her over his shoulder like Santa’s toy bag. With his beloved daughter slung over his shoulder, Henry headed toward the door, and the last thing that Nero heard from them was Henry’s voice, “No puppies!”“See ya later!”
Junior shouted after them.
Fully satisfied with the past half hour, Nero grinned to himself. Did he have any more people coming, or was it time for him to pack up and go? “Hey, Junior, we’re going to get goin’. It’s almost 4 and, like, we love music, but we don’t want to be at school anymore.”
One of the band geeks said, placing the guitar down, taking initiative to speak for her and the other kid by the piano. “You’re good, thanks for the help guys. I’m sure we’re just about finished anyways. See ya!”
In time, he was alone. Instead of cleaning up, he’d wait just in case there were any stragglers. While he waited, he decided to kill the silence by throwing down some tasty beats, with the song that’s been stuck in his head all day. Hot for Teacher by Van Halen
. Because why not? He had downtime.
In his head, he painted a faint image of being on stage, how he can only imagine a stage looking like from those distant memories when he could see. The grand stage he remembered when he was a child, as he watched his dad ruthlessly shred. Please, remember, Nero isn’t simply ‘blind’. There are different types of blindness. His so happens to be Retinitis Pigmentosa. Though he cannot see anything, his eyes are still light sensitive and based on his intuition and growing up with actual sight, he is still capable to form some type of person or image in his head even if it may not be completely accurate. It is, however, usually very accurate, due to practice and him taking therapy where he talks to strangers, describes how they look like, and then they describe themselves. He sees where the similarities and differences are. How accurate he is. Lots and lots of therapy, solely because he wanted to function like everyone else and not be seen as his disability.
Based on the voice of Parker and how she acted, he could see how she looked like in his head and based on how Aries’ sounded on Youtube, he tried to create a figure for that too. Hopefully when he met the dude, he could imagine something clearer. Parker he got a better mental image of. Tiny. Very tiny. Based on the glint from her head from the blaring ceiling light, blonde. Round, big round eyes, a long, but button nose, an oval shaped head, and a wide, child-like smile. His one-of-a-kind leading singer.
Charity had been there for a while, watching events unfold and waiting for a chance to talk to Nero. She was also waiting for her sister. Panda liked to be fashionably late and it was a trait of her sister’s that vexed Charity. Panda said she liked to stand out by doing it, but one day, it would backfire, and she’d miss something. And she’d deserve it. Sure enough, Panda arrived almost as soon as Charity overheard Nero say that the audition were ‘almost finished’. Her sister was once again cutting it fine, and the irritation was showing on Charity’s face as she looked over to her sister and raised her eyebrows.
Panda chuckled and shrugged at her sister in the most unapologetic manner, before approaching Nero. The blind drummer wouldn’t see her dyed hair, or ‘scene kid’ attire, or goth-like makeup, but nevertheless, the aura of ‘deliberate freak’ exuded from Panda like a miasma. She was unmistakably a rawr XD girl. Even a blind man, literally in this case, could see it.”Hi, I’m Panda. I’m here to audition for the band. I saw the poster and this definitely looks like my kind of band. I can play bass. A little guitar, but mainly bass.”
Stopping his intense drumming, sweat trickling down his forehead, he looked towards the voice, staring at her face like any person would. Really, at times it was hard to tell that Nero was actually blind because of how much he trained himself to blend in with everyone else. Mercy sniffed Panda’s shoes, as the cute Labrador Retriever stood in between the dyed hair girl and her master. “Awesome! Being able to play more than one instrument is always a plus. I don’t want this band to be pigeon holed. There might be songs where we need a guitar rhythm and a guitar solo, or a low midrange and then you or whoever plays the same chord, but higher broadening the tonal spectrum. I like dynamic and if you got the skills, bring it to the table.”
Placing his drumsticks on the snare drum of the band room’s drum set, Nero stood up and strolled down the platform to formally introduce himself to Panda, “Nero, but you can call me Junior since when I think of my name I think of my dad.”
He offered his hand, but continued to talk, instructing her of what he wanted her to do next, “We’re going to keep your audition simple, compared to everyone else, since I got to meet with a friend after this. You go up there.”
He gestured at the platform with all the instruments. “And play me a song. If I like what I hear, I’ll give you a call probably by the end of tonight. But since I haven’t heard you play with other musicians, when we do have our first meet, I’ll be observing your synergy with the other bandmates. Ultimately, my final decision will be made when we’re all together. Anyone can learn to play an instrument, but it takes a real musician to be able to play with other musicians, no matter their music preference and background. Sound good?”
Nero had made an oversight and didn’t realize he had company this entire time. That of Charity Spencer. If he looked in her direction, he could probably see the light bounce off her hair, but he hadn’t this entire time. ”Can’t really audition for bass properly without a band anyway, but I’ll see what I can do for now.”
Panda replied, before heading to the platform, picking up the bass, and lifting the strap over her shoulder. With her own pick in her hand, she started playing a simple set of rock chords, but every so often playing them with a new technique. From flourishing notes, to harmonics, to slap bass, and more. It was no technical marvel of dexterity. She betrayed that she’d be an okay guitar player, but she was a damn good bass player, with a good sense of rhythm and groove without any flashiness.
Originally, at the start of auditions, all those that came to show off were nothing but flashy and lacked skills, but those that appeared at the end. Parker and Panda. They were talented. He had yet meet with Aries in person, but that would happen in due time. To say he wasn’t impressed would be a downright lie, because even though he couldn’t visually see her, he could feel her musical talent, her strong presence. Once again, he went to that distant dream of him on stage but this time with him, Parker, Aries, and Panda. An eccentric group, but memorable. He digged it. When Panda came to a close, he nodded to himself and gave her a thumbs up, “Yeah, you’re good. Y’know, the bass is such an understated instrument, but if done right, it can really make a piece. I think you got potential, Panda.”
Before she made her leave, to do whatever it is a ‘RAWR XD’ girl does, Nero waved at her, while kneeling over and petting his dog, “We’ll keep in touch.”
Now that the musician auditions were all done, Panda left, and things looked promising for her sister, Charity then cleared her throat and started walking forward. She had found it slightly odd that Nero had shown no sign of noticing her until now. “Hello. I’m sorry to interrupt, but my name’s Charity Spencer from the school newspaper, and it was also my sister who just auditioned. I apologize for her lateness on her behalf.”“Oh snap!”
Nero was actually startled. Standing up, slightly embarrassed, he scratched his head with an apologetic grin, “... have you been here this entire time?”
He wasn’t perfect. Sure, for a blind boy, he was more aware of his surroundings than most, but sometimes, sometimes he missed things. Especially when he was distracted by music. “I should be the one sorry, I should’ve said hi or something when you walked in. When did you walk in?”
He bridged the distance between them and looked at where he assumed her face was. Another tiny blonde, but her hair was longer. How could he miss that reflective shine? “Music gets me carried away. A lot going up in here.”
He tapped his noggin, before continuing, “So yeah, sorry, Charity...That’s interesting. Charity and Panda. Vastly different names. A virtue and an animal. Well, I shouldn’t be talking. I’m named after the last Roman emperor.” ”Well, unlike us, Panda isn’t her real name. She actually has a normal name, believe it or not. She chose to be called Panda. Anyway, I was just wondering if you would agree to an interview for the paper about this band. It wouldn’t need to be very long. The article would just be a nice little fluff piece. I just think it’d make a nice, small story. It doesn’t have to be today, either.”“Yeah, sure. I’d have to have one practice first before this can become a story. We’re not a band until we play together. You’re more than welcome to come to that too. I’d like to think the more time you spend with your subject matter, the better the story comes out. But I’m no journalist.”
Nero was pretty stoked that someone found his search for a band interesting. It wasn’t really a story yet, but hey maybe she would find one. They would definitely be a unique band. Most of them seemed to have distinct qualities and definitely gave off the vibe of misfits. “Should we exchange numbers?”
He took out his phone and eagerly waited. “By the way, I like your name. Reminds me of my dog’s. This is my girl. Her name's Mercy. She’s really a man's best friend.”
Aside from Miles, Mercy was the closest thing to him. The foolhardy dog was laying on her back on the floor, with her tongue out, staring at the stranger with nothing but a playful demeanor on.
Charity wasn’t sure whether to take that as a compliment for a split second, but looking down at Mercy, how could you not? ”Thank you. I try to live up to it,”
she replied, as she crouched down and began scratching the good dog’s belly, smiling at it. She looked up, and took her phone out, as she turned her attention back to Nero. She gave him her own number, as well as Panda’s number. Now, business was concluded.”So,”
she asked after she put her phone away, ”What made you want to start a band, exactly? Has it always been something you wanted to do?”“Kinda."
The drummer boy shrugged, as he listened to the light sounds of her touch against Mercy's belly. “Music is all I really know. Part of me wants to become a legend, just like my dad. I've dabbled in a variety of styles, from jazz to metal, to what I do here, at school, in the marching band. I can't tell if it's more of my father's dream, or my own, but while I'm still young might as well see, right?"
Junior took a seat on the platform, staring at the area where his dog’s face was, listening to her breathing.”That sounds a lot like Panda. Music’s been her life ever since she started calling herself Panda. Me? I like music but I’m more into the acoustic singer-songwriter style of pop. When I want to relax, I turn to the television. Or to reading. I’ve wanted to help people and educate or inform them for as long as I can remember. It’s partially why I’m in the newspaper team. I’d rather be a teacher or a missionary than a journalist, though.”
Glancing over to the direction of Charity’s voice, Nero carefully listened, raising an eyebrow as she talked. Her spirit was friendly and reminded him of someone, yet he couldn’t recall who. They had only just met and yet she trusted him enough to express her interests, or perhaps it was for the story? If she grew closer with him, the more her story would be relatable because she wasn’t writing about strangers. She would know him.
Junior didn’t know what was her intent, but it was refreshing. “Missionary? So, you believe in God?”
Religion was a topic that led down a slippery slope, but Junior was never one to stray away from controversy topics. Was it weird that he felt like he could talk to this girl for hours? About random topics? She intrigued him and provoked the deep thoughts that resided in him to come out. Soul searching and constantly thinking about the world, wanting to know more. Always more. Never satisfied. The more he knew, the better his music and just overall life would be. Junior supposed he wanted to inspire, while she wanted to teach, but those two things went hand in hand. You can’t be seen as a good teacher without having an innate ability to inspire. He was no teacher but he could at least save lives in his own way. Through his music. ”Yes, I am religious,”
Charity replied, smiling. ”Evangelical. I’d like to think I’d be a good person even without faith but I can’t pretend growing up with it hasn’t made me who I am. I know there’s a stigma surrounding devout christianity in this school, not helped by a select few individuals I know of...”
Before Charity could continue, Nero’s phone began ringing. “Oh, excuse me for a sec.”
Getting up, Junior went off out the hall (muscle memory knowing what direction to go in). When the drummer disappeared from the room, Mercy rolled over and went to Charity’s feet, keeping a keen eye in that general direction. Charity once again bent down and began petting her, with the occasional ”Who’s a good girl?”
cooed at her. After two minutes and forty six minutes, exactly, Nero came rushing in and apologetically addressed Charity, “Hey, I’m sorry I have to end things short, but my friend’s been waiting outside for ten minutes now.”
Without his fingers, as he stood by the arc of the door, Nero whistled. As a result, his dog came rushing to his side.
Before he left, he said one last thing to say: “We should… talk some time. I enjoyed this.”
After one last, welcoming and charming smile, Junior and his dog were gone. Charity thought about his parting words. She could confidently say she enjoyed talking with him too. Charity was a naturally open person, but rarely did she ever hear that panicked voice in her head telling her she might be oversharing, and to chill out. Not that it’s advice seemed very useful. Yes, they should talk some time. Not the interview, but a conversation.