It was the opening of the school play and I was staring out upon an audience of two thousand people. I was happy to see that the teachers I had pulled away from the Manticore were back at school, and I saw Mr Fenton, our gym teacher within the audience. I had been checking up on them during the weeks they had returned to school, just to see how their souls were coping. Most of them were recovering well; our Principal on the other hand was still on sick leave. His poor soul had been rendered very near non existent. I had been channelling healing into him from afar, in the hopes that his own determination and the natural resiliency of his spirit would return. At present, he hadn't deteriorated any further, nor had he improved. I pushed away those depressing thoughts for another time. My solo was soon upon me, and I needed my wits and admittedly, a dose of courage.
We had very near sold out all week, except on Wednesday. Kevin played his part as bad guy with finesse, and I had to snicker at that thought. However, it was Sam that gave me the biggest shock. I hadn't realised that he was in the play at all. He was controlling the lights, and he came up to me before my big solo to shake my hand and give me a 'break-a-leg' hug. I sensed more in that hug than just 'good luck', and it left me slightly unsettled as I walked out on stage.
Lights shone in my face, and made it easier to look out towards the audience, because I couldn't see them from the glare. I thought back to how I used to be before life handed me a different path to walk down. Scared of my own shadow, never confident to look people in the eye, always thinking everyone at school was judging me. Yet here I was, standing in front of people, ready to sing. I put all of those old emotions into the opening lines to 'Oh happy day'.
With the opening of the verse, I felt it. The rapt attention of the audience centred on me. I felt their emotions fill me with so much energy, the longer I sang. I wove a web around my audience, and they sat there on the edges of their seats. When it was time for me to bring out the bold new me, I stood straighter, my body language became more confident, and the strength of my voice went from reedy to energetic. I filled my body with the emotions of the audience and sent it back out to them. The moment I did this, I felt dissociated from the audience's emotions. I still felt the elation and joy that they felt, but it was a distant thing, like a fond memory.
The choir got caught up in it and they sang with gusto, and amazing accuracy in harmonies and pitch. I sang 'when Jesus washed' and went above the octave that I had been practising. The crowd went wild and stood up, applauding. I went onto the finale, and the audience was screaming even as we left the stage for the next scene.
Those not on stage were running up and hugging, and congratulating, me backstage. That detachment switched off, and I felt the overwhelming emotions of happiness and excitement coming off the students around me. I began hugging them just as energetically as I was getting it. I felt a warm body behind me lift me off my feet and shake me up and down in a bear hug. When I was finally put down, I turned around to see the beaming face of Sam.
"I just thought I would say that was awesome," his wide smile was infectious. We all wanted to shout and holler, but it would have ruined the whole show if they heard us screaming at the top of our lungs through the hall. So we talked in stage whispers. "I think we should go out for some sort of celebration afterwards," Sam managed to say amongst all the excited chatter.
I was taken with the notion and, before I could change my mind, I smiled up at him, "Sounds like a plan." I was cued and I trailed after the rest of the choir; we had to get back onstage. I turned the corner and saw Kevin leaning up against the wall. His face stony, but his eyes held a hellish fire. My stomach plummeted to the ground. I stopped and let everyone else rush back on stage.
"So you're going on a date, huh?" he said with a sneer.
My spine stiffened. "It's not like that. We're just friends, and anyway what's it got to do with you?" I brushed past him and continued, "I've got to get back on stage." I sensed his hand grab for my arm. I twisted to the side before he could touch me, blurred, and was back near the podium where the choir stood before he realised I wasn't beside him.
The rest of the play went off without a hitch, and we were all rushed back onstage for our farewell bow. The excitement was still bubbling over back stage, and Sam came rushing up to me with a huge smile on his face. "The gang said they will meet us at the Shack."
I smiled back. The Shack was a burger bar that was a frequent gathering place for many students, and this was the first time I had actual friends that would be with me when I went there.
Sam and I were drilled about the play. I turned and scowled at him, and asked him why he had never told me about him participating in the play. The others looked at me in shock. They hadn't realised that Sam had never told me. William diplomatically shrugged his shoulders, and said, "You know about it now, James, so quit burning his ass and order something."
I gave one more glare at Sam, and heard my stomach rumble. Everyone looked at me, and I blushed as my stomach gave another loud gurgle. We all began laughing, and soon food orders were being made. The entire evening left me feeling happy and content.
The house was in darkness when I got home. Dad had taken Sara on an unexpected trip away from home. He hadn't wanted her to see Leon or Leila and, lucky for me, she hadn't seen the state the two were in when they came home this afternoon. I sat at the small table we had in the kitchen, thinking about my actions today. I still felt no remorse about what I had done to Leon and Leila, and I began to fear what I could be turning into. After all, wouldn't most people show some guilt for doing that to their own family? Yet, they needed to see that their actions had consequences. The people they hurt had emotions and feelings also, it was only fair play that they see how it felt to be on the receiving end.
It was while I was sitting there in the darkness that Leila walked into the kitchen. She turned on the light, looked at me in silence, walked to the fridge for orange juice, and then sat opposite me. Dark circles were under her eyes, yet something had changed behind those eyes. She seemed wiser and sadly, more cynical.
"I will not apologise about what I did to you, James; that is in my past and I can't change it. I had to learn that it is my actions in the here and now that could get me out of the nightmare you put me into." Her eyes looked fierce as she spoke. "I have learned that each action I take will have consequences. I would not have known this truth without you. For that, I thank you. However," she paused and stared at me before continuing, "I will keep your secret. But know this, you and I will never be friends, or close, and I will never, never forgive you." With that, she got up and walked towards the door.
"So be it." I stated.
"No, James, it's not so-be-it," she said, sharply turning around. Her eyes flashed with rage. "Don't think I'm not aware about you and Kevin." Her face turned ugly as she said Kevin's name, as if it was a curse. Her hands shook and she stared at her chipped nails with horror. She had clawed the floor earlier and had destroyed her manicure. She looked up at me, smoothed her hand over her hair and lifted her chin. "After all James, your actions have consequences too, but who judges you." She left the kitchen as quietly as she came in.
I sat there for a while before I stood up and walked onto the porch outside looking at the woods. The moon was at half mast and I contemplated how things had turned out. Leila was right in some ways, and it tied into the last issue I had to face; Kevin and all the messy emotions that defined our entire relationship to date.
I loved him; I knew this as sure as the sun would rise tomorrow. But I had come to the horrible and unflattering reality that sometimes loves just wasn't enough. I knew that I had to let him go and him, me. That was the crux of the matter. I didn't know if we had the strength to do that.
An image of Sam smiling made my heart do little flip flops; I was a fickle bastard sometimes I thought ruefully. I sighed. How would I end this uncertainty?
Kevin had the strongest pull on me; there was no two ways about it. He was my first love and he would hold a special part in my heart because of that. The smell of him or even his smile could send me into a haze of lust. His concern and caring always melted my heart, and the way he looked out for me all these years? That showed me, he had loyalty. How could you not fall in love with Kevin? Everyone in my family had, I wasn't the exception to the rule. Leila's face popped in my head and I quickly brushed it aside.
I thought of Sam, something was building between us, I could feel it. There had been more than one occasion where I had caught him staring at me and ducking his head blushing. He was quieter than Kevin, more reserved, but he was like a rock. Always there to lean on, support you and just be there when you needed a friend. That's how I saw Sam. But I didn't feel the same intensity with him that I did for Kevin.
Kevin was outgoing. A crowd pleaser and always centre of attention. Sam could get lost in a group because he was a deep thinker and not as quick on the uptake with some of the groups wittier moments.
Kevin was like a storm; unstoppable, and irresistible. Sam was like a lake, placid and serene on the surface, but deep hidden depths. It was those depths that intrigued me about Sam. It made me want to probe and prod just to see what I would scrape up from the bottom.
A cool wind blew through my jumper and I hurriedly walked back inside. Autumn in Sydney could turn wet and drizzly, as well as sunny within the same day, I was betting on the former. Sleep was calling to me, and I could no longer heed its call. Perhaps tomorrow would bring a fresher perspective on things?
I heard Leila accusing me as I closed my eyes...who would judge me?