Story: A Life Like This (Chapter 8)

WHY ARE THE CHAPTERS GETTING SO LONG? Well, they're not terribly long. This one's just over 5 pages on word, though. ;A; WHAAA--
Anyways, we have some dialogue between Dare and Loyal here. I was kind of unsure of how to write out the part when Dare's playing his instrument...


Chapter 8
12th Grade

The four of us pulled up to a small restaurant with a big neon sign that read “Charlie’s Pub.” It was still light out, so the fact that the lights were neon didn’t really make much of a difference. The pub, which was nestled between two bigger—and obviously more successful—restaurants, sat in a long line of other restaurants that extended down the whole block.

“This it?” Michka asked. She jerked her head toward the building.

“Yup,” I replied and hopped out of the car with my bass guitar case in hand.
I pushed open the double-wooden doors and inhaled the sweet (or salty, rather) scent of freshly made burgers and fries.

Man… gotta love this place. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved it here. Everything about this restaurant made me feel warm: the lighting, the crimson cushion seats, the light brown walls… and oh yeah, the people. Most definitely the people.

The customers were laughing and carrying on as they ate, while the waiters greeted their customers with a genuine smile. Once in a while a bell rang from the kitchen window, followed by an enthusiastic “coke with chicken an’ fries” or “two burgers with the works” said by a grinning cook. The order would be picked up by a waiter who would sometimes crack a joke or two to the cook. Across the restaurant on the back wall stretched the bar, which my aunt usually took care of. She liked to chat it up with customers by telling stories and crazy tales that may or may not be true, but are entertaining nonetheless. It didn’t matter to me if the restaurants around us got more customers; I loved working here… And heck, that’s all that to matters to me.

The other three walked in from behind me.

“Well… It’s a bar.” Michka said nonchalantly.

“Yeah, a bar…” Zack noted, looking around. He looked back at me. “Are you even old enough to work at a bar?”

“It’s a bar/restaurant.” I shrugged. “Technically, I work on the restaurant half and wait tables and stuff.”

Loyal walked up next to me and glanced around the restaurant. “I kind of like it here,” she concluded, and grinned. I grinned back, but our moment was ruined when my aunt called me from behind the bar.

“Hey, kiddo! You’re late!” She waved her hand for me to come over. Her blue eyes, the same shade as mine, sparkled from across the room.

I picked up an apron (my work uniform) with my free hand, and attempted to tie the back while simultaneously walking to the bar and holding my instrument case.

I was unsuccessful. And… probably looked really stupid.

“Dare, let me get that…” said a quite, male voice. I glanced over and noticed Rick for the first time. He extended his arm and took my bass from my hand.
“Oh, thanks,” I replied and finished fastening the apron. “When’d you get here?”

“Only like 10 minutes ago…” he responded casually. His eyes took attention to the three band members behind me; immediately, his face brightened up and he smiled widely.

“Dare, are they… the band people…?”He looked expectantly at me with big brown eyes. I rolled my eyes at his excitement, but nodded anyways. His smile widened even more; the boy looked about ready to squeal.

I directed my attention away from Rick so I could talk to my aunt. “Hey Auntie, these guys want to perform here sometime.”

“Oh yeah?” She raised an eyebrow and smiled. Facing the three of them, she asked, “What are you, a band?”

“Yes indeed we are, ma’am!” Zack declared enthusiastically. “We’re Something Impossible. …But you can call me Zack.” He grinned charismatically, and shook hands with my aunt.

“Hi there, I’m Audris. Nice to meet y’all,” my aunt replied and shook hands with all the band members. When she got to Michka, she asked boldly, “Hey chicky, what’s with the eye patch?”

Audris Davis, you brave, brave woman.

“Uh?” Michka frowned. “Oh, you mean this? It’s nothing, just an accessory.” She lifted the eye patch to reveal a second crystal blue eye. What a relief… She had me freaking out over it since I first saw her. I mean, eye patches seem pretty shady, right?

My aunt laughed. “’s that right?” She shook her head, amused. “Anyway I’m sure Charlie’ll let you guys play. He’s been lookin’ for entertainment here anyhow. I’ll ask him later about what he’ll pay and all, so don’t worry ‘bout it.” Looking at me now, she asked “What about you? You in their band?”

“Uh, well I…. er...?” I looked to Zack for an answer.

He raised his eyebrows and spoke to my aunt. “We’ll have to hear him play first. How about now?” He directed the question to me.

“Oh yeah, sure,” I said quickly and reached for my bass from Rick

I flipped the latch on the side of the case and pulled out my white-and-red bass. I managed to nab a Squier standard jazz at the thrift store for about 100 bucks a couple years back. …That said, the type of bass never really mattered to me; none of that stuff about “good and “bad” basses made much sense to my ears. All I cared about was having an instrument to play on. It may not’ve been the best quality instrument, but when tuned up with a new set of strings it felt good enough for me.

I sat on the bar seat next to Rick, while the band members crowded around in a semi-circle. Although they didn’t mean to be intimidating, their stares beat down hard on me and embarrassment flooded into my body.

“S…so… What do you want me to play…?” I asked awkwardly.

Zack shrugged. “Anything’s fine.”

I heaved a nervous sigh, and brought my fingers to the strings.

I closed my eyes and the music poured out. Whatever nervousness I had two seconds ago washed out of me instantly. It felt good to play, to hear that deep tone ringing in the back of my head. My fingers danced on the fingerboard, sliding up the thick strings, crossing back and forth between the frets. Meanwhile my right fore and middle fingers plucked in time with my right hand. I forgot I was playing for a crowd (however small it was), and played for
myself. It’d been a while since I played like that; these days I usually played song covers in my free time.

When I finished playing, I looked back at the band members. …But no one said anything.


My thoughts franticly bounced around in my head. Did I—oh jeez, what if they thought I sucked?! I didn’t properly tune my instrument, now that I thought about it... They probably noticed and think I’m a loser or something! Jeez, Dare, you idiot you suck so baaaad…

I glanced around and opened my mouth to talk, when Michka interrupted me. “Dude, you’re awesome!” Her eyes sparkled, even the one under her eye patch.
My eyes widened. “Seriously…?”

“Yeah, man.” Zack gave me a pat on the shoulder. “That was sick!” Loyal, smiling sweetly, nodded in agreement. Feeling my cheeks getting warm, I looked in the opposite direction.

“So whaddaya think?” Zack continued eagerly. “Do you wanna join the band?”

I looked to my aunt for an answer. She smirked and crossed her arms as to say “Decide for yourself, you silly boy!” (Well, maybe not that exact phrasing.)
I sighed and replied, “Sure, sounds good to me.”

“Sweet!” Zack lifted his arms to the air and stretched. His vision turned over to the stage, which was pretty much a wreck. No one ever used it, so Charlie usually just stacked empty boxes and other junk on top of it. “So I guess now we just need to clean up the stage for rehearsals, and figure out where to get lighting and mics…”

“Um… I-I can help out with some of that stuff…”

Everyone’s attention went to Rick. He sat shoulders raised with his right hand in mid air as if he wanted to be called on in class.

“I own some stuff like microphones and stuff, a-and I’m on the theater tech club at school so maybe I could get permission to use some lights…” He smiled weakly, eyebrows furrowed nervously behind his blond bangs.

“Awesome! So here’s what I was thinking…” Zack walked over so he was next to Rick, and talked about his plans for the performance. Rick pulled out a paper and franticly wrote down notes. Michka stood on the opposite side of Rick and followed along, putting in her opinion when she found it necessary.

While the others talked to Rick about the tech stuff, I hopped up from my seat, put away my bass, and started cleaning the empty tables. Loyal followed me over.

“Hi, Dare,” she greeted.

I smiled and piped “Hi!” enthusiastically. Waaay too enthusiastically. I cleared my throat and tried again.

“I-I mean, ‘hey.’ Yeah.”

Real smooth, man. Not.

“You played really good, y’know,” Loyal noted and skipped over so we were shoulder to shoulder.

“Oh uh… Thanks, then.” I tried to focus my attention on cleaning the table, but I couldn’t; she was just too friggin’ cute. She stared at me with bright hazel eyes, and innocently moved in a little closer to observe my work.

“Is Rick your boyfriend?” She suddenly asked.

I nearly fell over. “What?!”

“Is Rick your boyfriend?” She asked in the same curious tone.

“No! No, he’s just a friend. No. We’re not… no.” I said, waving my hands to shoo away the thought.

This wasn’t the first time someone assumed Rick and I were… well, you know. In fact, this kind of thing happened all the frickin’ time. I seriously didn’t get it. I mean, I knew Rick was gay, and maybe my masculinity lacked obviousness… but I told people over and over that I was straight, and they still refused to believe me. I mean, what the heck is up with that?

“Oh!” Loyal looked surprised. “You’re not gay?”

“Yeah, I’m straight. Rick’s not, by the way. Straight, I mean,” I added to clarify.

She smiled playfully. “Aw, but you two would be a cute couple!”

I frowned. “It’s not like that. Seriously.”

“Sure, Dare. Suuuure.”

I grunted and went back to my work. The silence made me a little uncomfortable, so I tried to start a different conversation.

“S...o... Where do you live around here…?”

I mentally slapped myself. What on Earth… What kind of question was that?! That’s such a stalkerish question, she’s going to think I’m some sort of creep for asking—

“Uuuum… I don’t really live anywhere.” She cocked her head.


She shrugged. “Right now Michka’s letting me live with her, but I used to live out on the streets by myself.”

“WHAT?! Are you insane? That’s… that’s so frickin’ dangerous!” I stared at her wide-eyed. There’s no way in hell she could survive on the streets of Boston by herself.

“That’s right, you’re looking at a real live hobo!” She posed proudly with her hands on her hips. “Or an ex-hobo, I guess. When I ran away from the orphanage in high school, I didn’t really have anywhere to go until Michka let me move in with her.”

Wait… orphanage? “You’re an orphan?” I asked in a softer tone.

“Uh-huh.” She nodded casually. “I never met my parents, so I lived at an orphanage. It kinda stunk there, so I left.” She shrugged and sat herself on the table I was cleaning. She swung back and forth, like an fidgety child. “And then I met Michka in high school and she let me live with her.”

“Oh.” I sat next to her. Unsure of how to reply, I said, “I’ve, uh… never met my parents either.”

She smiled sympathetically. “It’s a small world, huh?” She looked at my aunt. “That lady is really nice, though. She’s you’re aunt, right?”

“Yeah, Auntie’s the greatest,” I said with a smirk. Loyal giggled at me, for some reason. “…What?”

“I like how you call her ‘Auntie’. It’s funny ‘cause you’re a boy. ‘Cause like, usually boys don’t talk like that.” She raised her shoulders, making her brown hair tumbled softly down her back. I cleared my throat and stared at my shoelaces.

“Hey, kids.” I raised my head and Michka was standing in front of the two of us. She swished her wavy red hair over her shoulder with her hand in one fell swoop before continuing. “We’ll have our first rehearsal tomorrow. Got it?” she said, straight to the point. She leaned forward and jabbed a long, red, painted nail toward me. “Be here right after school. We gotta get you used to how we play.”

“Uh-huh, sure. Okay. That’s fine,” I said quickly while nodding rapidly. Her attitude still made me a little anxious.

“Right.” She straightened back up. “Loyal, let’s get going.”

“Okie-doke!” She hopped off the table and followed Michka to Zack. “See you tomorrow, Dare.” She said before departing. I raised my hand as a goodbye.

The bell on the door jingled charmingly as the three of them departed.

What exactly have I just gotten myself into…


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