Laney brushed her red hair behind her ears. It's been four years since Grojband almost saved the world, and like the rest of Grojband she's changed a great deal. Her flaming hair had grown out a bit until it was just past her shoulders. Tired of having to style it, she then went and got a messy choppy cut. She graduated from the sloppy style of her youth now that her figure filled out more and instead wears more "rock girl" attire. Currently she was sporting striped leggings that were shredded, some canvas black half gloves, a nylon skirt and a crop top with a skull on it. She had her usual dark eye makeup but she replaced her barrette with a rather ornate spider web bow.
"Hey Lanes, want to go practice with the band after school?" Corey leaned against the locker beside her and she finished putting her things away. He looked the same as usual, his blue hair long and held back under his Grojband beanie. He wore brown cargo shorts, uneven socks and converse. Today he sported a loose black hoodie, his hands tucked neatly inside. Despite how she wanted to control her emotions, seeing him made her heart speed up. She grew a bit angry at herself and slammed her locker closed.
"Sorry, Core. Not today. I have someplace to be." She turned on her heel to leave, but he caught her hand. Once again her heart betrayed her.
"What?! What's more important than jamming with Grojband?" Even though Corey always had a tight grip on his emotions, she'd been his best friend long enough to know when he's annoyed. She rolled her eyes and pulled her hand out of his grip.
"I have a date, alright? I'll practice with you guys tomorrow or something."
"Huh?" Corey stopped, his eyes widening as he watched her turn her back to leave, her back pack casually slung over her shoulder. From the back it showed her figure really well, her hips swaying in a sassy manner. "With who? You never mentioned any guys!"
"I'm 17 already. Of course there are guys." Laney sighed as she heard Corey's footsteps following her.
"But who can't you tell your best friend about?" When she continued to walk he put his hand on her shoulder to stop her. "Lane, come on!"
"It's Justin, okay?" Laney spun on his and pried his hand off her shoulder, bending it backwards.
"Ow! Ow! Uncle!" Corey frowned and rubbed at his hand. "Justin?! Like... Nick's friend, Justin? He's like three years older than us!"
"So what? Nick introduced us. Apparently Justin has been into me for a while. I see no reason why I shouldn't try things out." Laney looked at Corey's panicked expression and sighed. "Core... it'll be fine. Even if things work out with Justin and me, I won't leave the band. You don't have to make that face." She gave him a smile.
She glanced at her phone. "That time already? I have to go get ready. See you tomorrow, okay? I'm serious about practice." Before he could complain any more she walked swiftly out the door. Corey stared at her retreating form before slamming a fist into the locker.
Corey slumped on the couch, halfheartedly picking at the cords on his guitar. It played a rather melancholy tune that tapered off when he let out a great sigh and dropped his hand lazily to his side.
"What's up, Corey?" Kon said between a huge bite of chips. Over the years he changed the least, his frame still large and burly. "You seem a bit out of it."
Kin smiled and held up a really intimidating piece of electronic. He had grown taller as well, but was still very thin. His tuxedo shirt had long since been worn out, and now his favorite shirt was a picture of a pie made of the code for pi. "No need to ask him. I can use my new invention to read his mind."
Corey narrowed his eyes at the thing, grabbed it from Kin's hand, and tossed it on the ground. It broke. "Sorry, Kin. Don't need you in the Riffmaster's head."
Kin barely even blinked at it, not really concerned with the damage. He probably realized that it wasn't the best idea either. Or didn't really want in Corey's head to begin with. However this moody destructive behavior was really unlike Corey, who was usually full of energy and optimism, so he sat down beside him on the couch. Kon, who usually would shrug it off and continue eating, also seemed rather concerned and put down his bag of chips.
"Hey, man. You can talk to us." Corey looked up at them and sighed again before setting his guitar aside.
"It's Laney. She went on a date."
"Laney Penn?" Kon choked on the last of the potato chip in his mouth and started to cough.
"So that's why she's not at practice!" Kin facepalmed and looked at Corey worriedly from between his fingers. Corey seemed even more bitter now that he spoke the words "Laney" and "date" and crossed his arms in annoyance. "Corey... listen you know it was bound to happen. It's not like you made any effort to tell her how you feel. And, let's face it, she has turned into a rather pretty girl."
"She's super pretty, and in a popular band! The guys always seem to talk about her." Kon piped in with the guise of helping, instead Corey seemed to deflate more. Kin gently elbowed him and Kon got the hint. He shrugged and went back to eating his chips, but still kept an ear in the conversation.
"I know she's pretty!" Corey grunted angrily, grabbing his guitar and laying out an angry riff. "Stupid Justin..."
"Wait, she's dating JUSTIN?" Kin sat straight up and groaned. "What a sell-out."
Before the conversation could continue, someone pulled the garage door up.
"Hey guys, is it too late to get some practice in?" Laney grinned as she shut the door behind her. Corey blushed and hid behind his guitar. She looked nothing like she usually did. She was wearing a lacy dress that ruffled at the bottom, made of a soft natural green that brought out her eyes. Her hair was lightly wavy and glossy, curling around her face. She pinned her bangs back with a white faux rose. Another set of roses were decorating the ankles of her strappy white heels. Her toenails were adorably painted red with a little skull on each. Around her neck was a silvery necklace with a pick strung on it, the middle punched with a heart.
She looked lovely. The dress hugged her petite frame in all the right ways. The boys stared at her speechless. Laney looked down at her dress and looked a bit embarrassed. "Sorry, I had Justin drop me off here straight from the movie."
"Why are you here?" Corey said, a bit bitterly. "I thought you were on a date."
"Someone I know looked rather irritated at me that I couldn't make practice today, so I rushed over here afterwords." Laney crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at him. They looked so large when they weren't surrounded by a thick layer of black shadow. Instead they had a gentle dose of eyeliner and a tasteful amount of light brown shadow.
"Oh. Okay. Let's practice then." Corey stood up and stiffly made his way to the stage, avoiding eye contact with her. She made an annoyed grunt and moved on to the stage as well, picking up her bass. They tuned their instruments in silence, Kin and Kon nervously looking between them.
"So..." Corey broke the silence, still pretending to tune his guitar, though he had already tuned it. "How was your date?"
"It was nice. We watched that new romance movie that came out." Laney made a few experimental strums and nodded.
"Romance? You don't like romance!" Corey gave her a horrified look. She gave him a cold glare.
"I do like romance movies. And dresses. And makeup. And cute fluffy stuffed animals." She crossed her arms. "I know it's been hard for you guys to accept, but I am a girl."
"I know you're a girl, Lanes, but you never said anything about liking girly stuff!"
"You never asked!"
Silence eclipsed them as they glared at each other.
"What's been eating you?" Laney's grip tightened around the grip of her guitar. "You've been irritable since earlier on. Got something you want to say to me?"
Corey noticeably paled and shook his head. "No. Sorry. Can we just get to practice?"
Laney sighed and nodded. Kin and Kon scrambled to take their places on the stage, the aura tense and heavy. They exchanged concerned looks.
"One. Two. One. Two. Three. Four!" Corey called out before they all started to play.
Over the next few days, Corey's mood didn't improve any. In fact, it got worse. He became irritable and snapped at everything. He seemed more like a teenage Trina than good-natured Corey. Laney, who had always been close to him since they were kids, couldn't stand to be around his crabbiness. After yet another fight at school today, she ran into Justin.
He was handsome. As Nick Mallory's younger cousin, he was popular too. His brown hair was carefully trimmed and spiked up. He wore a varsity jacket and a cute dimpled grin. Compared to Corey he was even taller and broader. Usually he'd never be her type, but since her type was Corey it was a pretty limited pool.
"Oh... hey." She flashed him a shy smile and brushed some of her hair behind her hair.
"What's got you all fired up?" He ruffled a hand through her hair and she giggled and smacked his hand away.
"I got in a fight with Corey again." Laney brushed her hair about to get it straight. "He's been so grumpy these past few days. I don't know what's gotten into him."
"Maybe he's mad you're in a relationship before him."
"Corey's not competitive like that."
"You sure?" Justin looked deflated at her confidence. Such faith in his character. "Anyways, enough about Corey. Wanna go grab a bite to eat?"
"Yeah, okay..." She gave him a little smile before he led her to his car. She looked him over as he walked. She might be able to like him. He was no Corey. He didn't make her swoon from one little nose boop, but he was attractive. Maybe, with time, she could finally get over Corey Riffin.
She needed, more than anything, to get over him. It had been years of one sided love. If Corey had any feelings for her at all, surely he would have said something by now. Did something. ANYTHING. But instead they remained best buddies. In fact, she was pretty sure he still thought of her as one of the guys. For the sake of her romantic future, she needed to move on.
Laney climbed into Justin's car with only a few regrets.
Corey watched Laney and Justin drive away before punching the wall. "Ow..." He shook his hand out and absently hoped he didn't injure his fret hand. Grouchily, he made his way back to his ride. Unlike Trina's pristine little pink soccer mom car, Corey's car was a bit more rugged. It was a patchwork of black, red and white parts with a Grojband logo spray painted on the side. His parents offered to get him a more expensive rig, but he thought this sort of thing suited him.
Kin and Kon sat on the hood, waiting for him to appear. When they saw his face, they both frowned as well.
"Still hung up on Laney?" Kon offered, still pretty insensitive. Corey gave him a death look and climbed into the driver's seat.
"This has got to stop, dude. You aren't yourself." Kin climbed into shotgun so Kon could stretch out on the backseat, his large frame needing more space.
"I'm fine." Corey growled, putting the key in the ignition.
"Yeah, right. You haven't smiled in days. Usually by now you've come up with a crazy plan for a new gig."
"I don't feel like playing a gig." Corey snapped before throwing the car in reverse.
"Man, I've petted Tazmanian Devil's friendlier than you!" Kon piped in. Corey and Kin both gave him an odd look, wondering where he pet one of those, but didn't comment.
"Look guys, I just don't feel it."
"Corey, you're going to either tell Laney how you feel or move on." Kin's voice was full of concern. "This isn't healthy."
"Whatever." Corey sped off towards Kin and Kon's house, eager to drop them off. Without Laney, practicing was useless.
An hour later he was laying on the couch in the garage, depressed, his guitar left untouched by his side. An aura of complete anger and rejection hung over him like a curtain. He just rolled over and glared at the plush fabric of the couch.
The more he thought about Laney and Justin, the more irate he became. He grabbed his guitar, ready to smash it and call off this band thing for good, before Trina threw open the door leading to the house.
"Hello, Loser!" She said rather cheerfully.
"Ugh. Trina." He gave her an unamused look before releasing his guitar and rolling over again, his back to her. "What do you want? Shouldn't you be at college?"
"I was, but I got called back on urgent business. I'm here to play break-up cupid." She sat on the chair near the couch like it was a throne. Queencess Trina returned...
"Break-up Cupid? Whatever, leave me alone." He tossed a pillow in her general direction, but she caught it.
"See, thing is, I can't let your dorky friend date Justin. That's like, mixing your stupid dorky band crew with my clique. Which is, totally a no go. They came to a double date with Nick and me, and they were like... totally tonguing in the corner. Talk about gross."
"They were... making out?" Corey's hand tightened on the couch in a death grip. In his head he was imagining it to be Justin's neck.
"Ew, gross. I see why Mom and Dad called me. They wouldn't leave me alone about you being all sad and junk. Told me to come talk to you. I thought your life being ruined would be really awesome and stuff, but it's uber annoying. You're getting your sad juice all over the house. The whole place feels gross." Trina rolled her eyes and kicked at the couch. "Get up, you baby. We have to figure out how you are going to win your gay lover back."
"Laney's a girl!" Corey groaned, swatting at her leg.
"Whatever, it's fine to be gay, Corey. It's cool now." Trina had softened up since she got her braces off. Since music no longer hurt her teeth and the metal in her mouth didn't pain her anymore, she was a lot less irritable. The fact that her teenage hormones calmed down a bit helped too. She was slightly less insufferable. Slightly. The downside is it meant that she went diary mode less, but she also moved away to college. With the lack of diary entries for lyrics, Corey had to learn how to write them on his own. At first, Kin used a recording device to take down his monologues and Laney wrote them into lyrics. Then Kin started giving the recording to Corey. Corey figured out he did have some decent lyric material after all, and took some classes after school on poetry and lyric writing. Now he was more capable, but still needed help from his band.
"What do you want me to do?" Corey snapped, finally looking at her in the eye.
"Uh, confess, doofus. How is she supposed to know you like her if you don't tell her? God, you are dense."
"No... but... I don't want to ruin the band..."
"What does it matter at this point?" She gestured around her to the empty garage. "With Laney off with Justin and you being all mopey and gross there's no practice going on. You guys are on the road to breaking up as it is. Just take the plunge and tell her!"
"Well... you do have a point..." Corey sat up and ran a hand through his hair. "What do you propose?"
"Well, I know where Justin goes to hang out after school. I bet they are there. I'll distract him to give you a chance with Laney alone, then you can ask him to spring formal."
"Whatever. Then at the dance you can say how you feel."
"Uh.. I guess so..." Corey started to feel nervous just thinking about it.
"Get straightened up. Go put on body spray or something to get that sad juice smell off you. We're leaving in 5."
She haughtily stormed out of the garage, and Corey wondered in passing if it was a good idea to let Trina help him.
"There they are!" Trina exclaimed, nudging Corey in the ribs, really hard.
"Ow!" He rubbed at his side and looked at their targets. Laney looked pretty. She was sipping on a rootbeer float, her long lashes cashing shadows on her cheeks. She would occasionally look up to her partner and laugh, her face brightening up. Corey could feel that now familiar pang of jealousy in his chest.
"Justiiiiiiinnn!" Trina called out before he was ready, striding towards them. Corey cursed and followed her. Laney looked up and saw Trina, then looked confused between the siblings. It was a cold day in hell when they would willingly be together.
"Oh? Hey Trina..." His eyes met with Corey's and he frowned. "Hey, Corey."
"Justin, you gotta come quick. Nick needs your help with something!" Trina tugged at his arm.
"Can't this wait? I'm on a date." He nodded his head at Laney who colored a bit and continued to sip at her float.
"No, it can't wait! This is Nick, Justin. Don't be selfish!" She continued tugging at his arm, and Justin sighed.
"Alright. Do you mind, Laney?" He flashed her a glance. She shook her head.
"No, you go. It's fine."
He looked a little disappointed before fishing in his pocket and laying down some bills. "This should cover it. I'll text you, okay?"
"Okay." She gave him a little shy smile that made Corey's heart hurt.
Before he could say more, Trina dragged him off. Corey looked to Laney, who seemed to be about ready to get up and leave. He stepped forward to stop her.
"Mind if I join you?"
She blinked in shock before shaking her head. "No, go ahead."
He sat across from her. His mind was racing. How does someone ask a girl to formal? Just blurt it out? Lead up to it? What's the right timing? What should he do?
"Core? You okay? You look nervous or something."
He decided to go for it. "Lanes, I have s-something to ask you..."
"What is it?"
"Uh... um... would you... um..." He looked from the table and his eyes connected with hers. They were so pretty. The beautiful green irises were searching his face for answers, his stuttering obviously not meaning much to her. Just like that, he got so nervous he lost the words. He had to think of something quick, or else this whole encounter would crash and burn. "Uh, you got any ideas for the tabs on our new song?"
Laney's face fell, but she nodded. "Yeah sure, gimme a napkin and I'll write some down." She fished in her pack for a pen, but was stopped by a rugged voice. A voice that made Corey's skin crawl with anger.
"Oh, Justin. I thought you left." She glanced up. Trina trailed behind, annoyed.
"Justin, come on!" But Justin wouldn't be budged.
"I did, but I realized I forgot to ask you something."
"Oh, yeah?" She seemed a bit disinterested as she rummaged for a writing utensil.
"Would you go to spring formal with me?" Laney froze. She looked at Corey quickly, but then looked away.
"Really?" Justin seemed excited.
"Really." She nodded at him.
"Awesome. I'll pick you up at 7 on Friday, okay?"
"Yeah." Before their conversation could continue, Trina dragged Justin off again. Corey wasn't taking the news well on the other side of the table, however, and was clutching the tabled with a white grip. "You okay, Core?"
"No." Corey got up before he hit something. Again. And used the lamest excuse in the book. "I just remembered I left the stove on."
"COREY!" Hell hath no fury like an irritated Trina, and she burst into the garage, completely pissed. "WHAT. WAS. THAT?!"
"What?" He said miserably, munching on a bite of icecream.
"You basically let Justin ask him to the dance! No wonder why he snatched him away! You are an idiot!" She put her hand on her forehead like she was going to faint.
"Her! And so what?" Corey glared over his shoulder. "I'll just stay home and eat icecream and watch horror movies."
"Oh god, this is just pathetic now. Since you can't seem to use your words, we are going to have to resort to something you DO know. Music."
He nearly dropped his spoon. "Music?"
"Yes. Music." Trina replied, as if it were a simple concept. When Corey continued to give her a clueless stare, she sighed. "You need to take the stage at the dance and sing a love song for her!"
"I can't write lyrics without the rest of the band. Bad idea." He shrugged and went back to his choco banana crumble.
"Ugh. Yes you can. You are just too... stiff."
"Stiff?" Corey laughed in disbelief. "I'm stiff?"
"Well, maybe that's not the right word. Like... you don't show what you are thinking and stuff. You don't let yourself feel your feels. Corey, you need to write down what Laney means to you."
"I don't know how."
"Well figure it out! YOU ARE LOSING YOUR CHANCE." Trina snatched the icecream from his hand and shoved the guitar in it. "I am not going to live with this pathetic blob version of my brother for the rest of my life. FIGURE. IT. OUT!"
Corey stared at his guitar, and imagined Laney. How she was so enchanting when her small fingers expertly plucked at the bass. Her cute little voice singing with his. The way she always was a voice of reason for his crazy plans, but always helped him anyways. How her nose adorably crinkled when she laughed. How she woke up with crazy curly hair in a lovable poof. The way her eyes twinkled when she heard one of his random monologues. And how her eyes crossed a little when he booped her nose.
And he got a sense of resolve. Laney was the love of his life. He knew it since they accidentally kissed back on Second New Year's. That zing of electricity they felt... he has felt it with no one else. She was meant for him. And he just had to prove it.
"All right, I'll do it."
"Finally. I was getting tired of this whole 'sorry-for-yourself' thing."
Corey had less than a week to come up with the perfect song to impress Laney. he wrote in class. He wrote during lunch. He wrote when he got off school. And then he scrapped everything and started again. He was too nervous to sing some of his lyrics. What if he raised the dead again?
After finishing his lyrics for the 3rd time, he laid on the stage irritably tapping his pen against the wood.
"You doing okay, Corey?" Kin stood over him. Corey didn't move.
"Am I stiff?" He asked.
"Stiff? Corey you are like the most unstiff guy I have ever met." Kon piped in.
"Not like that. Do I have too tight a leash on my emotions?"
"Well..." Kin grimaced. "Considering you've spent the last four years hiding your feelings for Laney successfully, I'd have to say yes. You've even faked tears during concerts."
"But is that a bad thing?"
"Corey, let me give you some Kon advice." Kon picked up Corey easily and placed him on his feet. "Sometimes you just feel what you feel, bro. And you gotta go with it. Let it all out!"
"Well, maybe not as intensely as Kon does, but he summarized pretty well." Kin shrugged. "It wouldn't hurt to let go for once. It might be a freeing experience."
"God. I hate to say these words, but Trina was right." Corey rubbed a hand down his face and stared at his empty sheet of paper. "Okay. Uh. Any tips on how to 'let go'?"
"Uh..." Kin and Kon looked at eachother.
"God, you are such a doofus." Trina leaned against the door jam and gave him an irate look. "It's just like writing in a diary. You take your pen, think about what you want to write about, and write down everything you are feeling. Don't overcomplicate it and try to get it to rhyme and stuff. Just write down whatever until you are tired. And then, like, later, go back and take out the good stuff. You can use it to rhyme or whatever and make a song. Duh."
"That's..." Kin looked disturbed, but nodded. "Pretty good advice actually."
"Hm." Corey looked at the pen in his hand, then back at the paper. "Okay. I can do this."
He closed his eyes and thought of Laney. Warmth spread through his chest as he imagined her smiling and blushing like she sometimes does only for him. He started to write just what she did to him. And then he thought of Justin, and how irritated he got everytime he showed up, and wrote that down too.
Corey sensed Kin and Kon looking over his shoulder and stopped. He glared at them. "Do you mind?" For some reason, the twins reading his personal feelings really bothered him. It made him feel a little guilty about reading Trina's diary in the first place.
"Oh! Uh. We'll go home. Come on, Kon!" Kin started pushing his brother out the garage.
"But I wanted to read what he was writing!" Kon whined, but soon they were gone. And at some point, Trina left too. Corey was alone to just write. And he did. He wrote everything he loved about Laney'.
And by the end, he really was exhausted. He dosed off for a bit. When he woke up, he read over what he wrote. And smiled. He really could turn this into lyrics.
Never in a million years did he think Trina would be his saving angel when it came to Laney, but he hoped that this didn't mean he was eternally in debt to her. He shrugged off that thought and saved the concerns of lifelong servitude for later. All he had to do was change these materials into lyrics and he'd be ready for spring formal.
He was so deeply engrossed in the polishing of his song, that he didn't even hear Kin come in. "Corey."
Corey kept writing, periodically chewing on the eraser of his pencil.
"COREY." Kin tried again. This time Corey jumped as if startled and looked up to Kin.
"Whoa, yeah man, what's up?"
"You've been so intent on finishing up this song... you know formal is in like two days, right?"
"Two days? Crap. I think I can finish by then." Despite his words, he chewed on his eraser a little bit more nervously.
"No... that's not what I'm getting at." He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "You're missing a few key parts. First off, we need tickets to get in to formal. Second, we need to talk to the coordinators to get some stage time. Without those, having the song will be useless."
Corey dropped his pencil with a clatter. "Oh, crap. You're right." He immediately got up and started pacing. "Why didn't I think about that? There's so much to do. I'll never get it all done!" He plopped down in a heap of angst. "Might as well give up now."
"Well it's a good thing you have friends to watch out for you." Kin sighed with a small smile. "I talked to the stage manager and we have a slot."
Kon poked his head in and yelled at the top of his lungs. "I GOT THE TICKETSSSS!"
And, shockingly, Trina revealed herself to be propped against the door jam. "And you dweebs forgot the most important part, which is my specialty." She flipped her pink hair. "I will make you the most attractive guy at the dance. Because Nick Mallory won't be there, of course."
"Oh no." Corey grimaced at that, but it faded to a smile. "Thanks everyone, seriously."
"It's only because you were so pathetic we couldn't help but intervene. You were making me kind of feel sad things and it was gross and stuff." Trina rolled her eyes.
"Careful, Trina. I might think you actually like me or something."
"Ew, no. After you get your boyfriend I'm leaving and setting Justin up with Mina." But if you looked close enough, you could see the corner of Trina's mouth quirk up in a smile.
The night of the dance came quickly. Before anyone realized it, Corey had finally finished the lyrics, assigned cords to it, and Trina had somehow transformed him into a pretty handsome guy. He was wearing a nicely fitted black suit with a black bowtie. Somehow Trina had talked him into actually leaving his beanie behind, and instead he settled for having a Grojband logo lapel pin. No matter how he dressed, Grojband would always be a part of him. His hair was styled carefully with gel to spike up, which suited him perfectly.
In fact, Trina had finished the preparations with plenty of time, which left Corey time to be nervous. He began to pace nervously in the garage, fidgeting with the acoustic guitar he chose for the occasion.
"What if I mess up? What if I ruin everything and things between Laney and I will never be the same and then the band will break up and school will be awkward and then we wont be able to -"
"OH. MY. GOD. I CANT DEAL WHEN YOU ARE BEING ALL NERVOUS AND JUNK." Trina threw a book at Corey, knocking him over. "JUST. CHILL."
"But..." Corey sprawled across the floor. "What if I lose her..."
"Better to try and get all rejected and stuff than regret not doing it your whole sad existence." Trina sighed. "Listen, you aren't happy with the way things are now, right? Then you don't have anything to lose."
It was the first time in a long time that Corey had heard her being so sincere, and somehow it actually calmed him down. "Yeah.. yeah you're right. I can do this. I have to do this."
"Cool. I'll give you a ride." Trina swirled her pink keys. Corey grimaced at the thought of showing up in the pink soccer mom car.
"Uh, no thanks. I'll just... drive."
"WHAT? AFTER ALL I DID FOR YOU I'M GOING." Trina's hair stood up menacingly.
"Okay, okay." He sighed and walked as if he was heading to the gallows.
Laney let out a sigh as she sipped at the punch.
"What's up, Laney? Why do you look so down?" Justin sidled up beside her and gave her a worried look.
"Oh, it's nothing." She gave him a nervous laugh. But it faded away as she thought of why she was actually upset. She missed her best friend. She missed the band. Hanging out with Justin was nice, but she really didn't see him as a boyfriend. She was still hung up on Corey, and was it really fair to treat Justin as a rebound? She sighed again. "Okay, it's something."
"Talk to me." Justin leaned against the snack table.
"It's just..." She set her glass down. "Justin... I don't think I can date you anymore."
"Whoa." He sighed. "Yeah, I thought this was coming."
"You did?" She blinked.
"Yeah, you're in love with Corey Riffin, right? I just didn't think you'd wait until Spring Formal to come clean." He grimaced. "Ouch."
"You knew? Why didn't you say anything?"
"Because, I think you're cool, Laney." Justin shrugged. "I genuinely like hanging out with you. I mean, if you had at some point decided that you were over Corey and really wanted to try with me, that would be pretty awesome."
"Sorry, Justin. I feel terrible about this. You are a nice guy. You don't deserve to be a rebound."
"It's okay, Laney. Just promise you'll go grab a soda with me now and again."
"While we are on the subject, did you hear Corey will apparently be playing a song for formal today?" Justin said
"WHAT? I wasn't told Grojband was playing! They can't play without me!" She gritted her teeth in annoyance.
"Grojband isn't playing. Corey is. I'm friends with the dance planners. They said he put in a special request for a solo song."
"But... Corey has never gone solo before?" She looked thoughtful, before she heard Kin's voice over the speakers and it got her full attention.
Corey fidgeted behind the curtains as Kin and Kon walked on stage for his intro. He could do this, right? It was still worth it, right? Was it worth possibly wrecking everything?
Doubts started to circulate in his brain as he heard Kin's voice ring out over the speakers.
"Introducing our very own Corey Riffin, singing an original song wrote from the heart." Kin and Kon graciously backed off the stage as the curtains parted.
All the doubts left his mind as he saw her, by the snack table, looking gorgeous. She had her red hair pinned up into a loose bun, some stray tendrils framing her delicate face. Her eyes were accentuated with smokey shadow and her lips painted a tantalizing red that matched her hair. A lacy black dress hugged her form with red trim and accents. She had delicate guillotine earrings and a ruby necklace that resembled blood droplets. She was beautiful. And he wanted her to know he thought so.
His eyes locked with hers as his hands began to play the tabs for his song.
"I never knew how much you could affect me
Until I almost lost you
You and I were meant to be
So when you left I felt so blue
I don't know when you morphed from my best friend
To someone I wanted to spend my life with
But I can't let this be the end
You and me, Laney, don't have to be a myth
Laney Penn, My Laney Penn
Without you, I'll never feel again
You drive me crazy
My beautiful Laney
I love my Laney.
The way you wrinkle your nose when you laugh
Sends my heart into overdrive
You will always be my better half
You make me glad to be alive
I wish I could have told you sooner
But I was afraid of change
I would miss your sense of humor
I couldn't handle it if we became estranged
BUT NOW I KNOW
Laney Penn, My Laney Penn
Without you, I'll never feel again
You drive me crazy
My beautiful Laney
I love my Laney.
Laney Penn, My Laney Penn
Without you, I'll never feel again
You drive me crazy
My beautiful Laney
I love my Laney.
You drive me crazy
oh so crazy
I love you
He had gotten so lost in the lyrics he didn't realize that the whole crowd had started to slow dance to his song. But Laney, who was the object of the song, as stood there in shock the entire time, never breaking eye contact with the stage. Suddenly feeling bashful, Corey rubbed at his spiky hair, messing it up. But it was too late to back down now. He adjusted the mic before driving the nail into his coffin.
"Laney... I've been in love with you for a long time. I'm sorry it's taken me this long to tell you."
He took bow as his classmates clapped enthusiastically. Not only was the song killer, but it took a lot of courage to confess that way and they all understood that. And applauded his effort.
Kon took Corey's guitar from him so he could get off the stage. With a deep breath he descended the stairs and carried himself to the woman of his dreams.
"Laney..." He went back to rubbing at his hair nervously, feeling naked without his beanie.
"Corey... did you mean that?" Her green eyes searched his face imporingly.
"Yeah. I did." A sigh escaped. "Listen Lanes, I've been terrible at expressing myself to you. Ever since we kissed at Second New Years, I knew that you were the girl for me. I've just been scared that if I told you, you wouldn't be my best friend anymore and the band would suffer. I couldn't bring myself to ruin what we had until I saw you with Justin, and I realized that I would never forgive myself if I lost you. I don't expect much. You can take your time to think about this. I know it's sudden. When you sort out your feelings, let me know, okay? I'll wait patiently for you."
"I don't have to think. I already have an answer."
Panic set in. She was going to reject him on the spot. "No, no, please think about it. I can wait."
"Corey..." She grabbed his hand and took a step closer to him. "I've been in love with you for as long as I've known you. Of course I don't have to think."
"Really?" He pondered this. "I really thought this would be harder... what about Justin?"
"I actually broke up with him just before your song. Great timing, by the way."
The DJ got back to his station and started playing another slow song to match the mood of the room. Corey held out his hand to Laney and blushed. "Did... did you want to dance?"
"Definitely." She took his hand and they slid onto the dance floor. "So that song..."
"Oh..." Corey coughed and blushed. "Uh... what about it."
"Where'd you get the lyrics?"
"I wrote them."
"Whaaaat? Really?" Laney gave him a disbelieving look.
"Yeah. You'd never believe it was true, but Trina actually gave me super good advice about writing songs. I don't need help anymore."
"Why would Trina help you? I thought she's always hated you and stuff."
"Turns out my parents called her. And she super hated you with Justin."
"Ohhhh that makes sense..." She laughed a bit. They dropped into silence as they swayed back and forth. Suddenly, he was entrapped by her eyes again. He wasn't sure that he'd ever get used to how beautiful she is. Without even realizing it, he had started leaning towards her. Corey blinked, his eyes had wandered to her lips and he didn't even know. Shyly he turned his eyes to the ceiling. Laney, however, wasn't going to put it off any longer. She grabbed Corey by the collar of his jacket and pulled him towards her, her lips meeting his in a sweet kiss.
Time stopped for the two of them. Stars shot behind Corey's vision and his heart sped up with a chemistry unlike any he had felt before. He felt no need to resist as he melted into her, enjoying the kiss. Following his instincts, he deepened the kiss and dipped her tongue into his mouth. A moan escaped her throat as she plastered herself to his form.
"AHEM." Someone cleared their throat and they broke apart. It was the dance chaperon. "Sorry kids, you know the rules. You'll have to leave for the night." Corey and Laney looked to each other, blushed, and linked hands.
"That's fair." Corey said sheepishly. He tugged at her hand. "Wanna blow this Popsicle stand?"
"I mean, formal dances aren't really my scene." Laney shrugged as Corey lead her outside. Trina leaned on her car, texting on her phone when she saw them walk up.
"Oh, hey. That was quick."
"You didn't have to wait for me Trina." Corey looked surprised to still see her.
"Well I figured if it went badly then you might need a ride home before you embarrassed yourself further. Unfortunately you are still my brother and stuff so you can make me look bad by association." Trina tried to act disinterested, but Corey could tell that she was actually worried about the whole thing. Her eyes followed their arms down to their linked hands. "But it looks like you got your gay lover back, so I wasted my time."
"I'm a girl." Laney said through gritted teeth. "That joke got old the moment I started to actually wear dresses."
"I mean, some gay men can rock a dress though." Trina said with an eye roll. "Whatever. Get in. I'll give you a ride back home. You can get man-hands there back to her house later on your own. My time is precious you know."
Corey made a grimace, clearly not happy with the way Trina was talking to Laney but also thankful that she was being slightly less awful than normal and didn't want to push his luck. So he released Laney's hand to walk around the car to open the door for her. As Laney passed Trina, she caught her arm and discreetly but venomously whispered in her ear.
"All jokes aside, Laney, if you hurt my brother I will find you."
Laney blinked with shock, unsure if she heard right. "I didn't think you cared about Corey."
"He's still my little brother. And I didn't like how sad this whole Justin thing made him, okay? It was weird and made me uncomfortable. I'm the only one who is allowed to make him feel all weepy and junk. So treat him good and make him his stupid optimistic happy-go-lucky self and I won't have to kick your ass with my designer boots, capiche?"
Pleased to see a side of Trina she didn't know existed, and also kind of relieved that Corey had such a fierce protector all along, Laney gave her an amused smirk. "Yeah, loud and clear."
"Hey, guys? What's going on?" Corey peeked his head around the vehicle. "You coming or not?"
Trina abruptly let go of Laney's arm. "Yeah, yeah. Can it nerd, I'm coming."
Laney murmured a thanks as Corey held the door for her. She slid in and was shocked to see Corey slide in next to her, forgoing the passenger seat.
"What? You aren't riding shotgun?" Trina gave Corey a confused look in the rearview mirror.
"I can't leave my new girlfriend to sit all alone back here. You'll have to deal." Corey leaned back and wound an arm around Laney's shoulder. She turned bright red, matching her hair.
"Barf." Trina said, putting the car in reverse. The ride back to the Riffin place was uneventful. They passed the time in mostly silence, Corey tracing over the lines on Laney's palm happily. Trina, determined to ignore the lovey dovey atmosphere, had turned on loud pop music that would usually force Corey and Laney to cover their ears and complain. But the two of them were so engrossed in the simple gesture of hand holding that they failed to even notice.
Once Trina pulled into the driveway she flung open the back door and stood impatiently aside.
"Get out. You two are disgusting. I need to Lysol the whole car now."
"Yeah, yeah." Corey chuckled, helping Laney from the car. As he passed his sister, he surprised her with a big hug.
"Ew, ew, ew, ew. What are you doing?!" Trina complained, but didn't move to disengage.
"Thanks, sis. You really came through for me." Corey gave her a wry grin. "I always thought we'd be at odds for the rest of our lives, but you've shown we how wrong I've been. Even though we fight a lot, you've always been a big sister to me. Thank you."
"Gross. Leave. Before I puke. This whole night is just disgusting." But Corey wasn't fooled. He saw the corners of her lips quirk up in what appeared to be a gentle smile and he let her go before following Laney into the garage.
He sunk onto the couch with a contented sigh.
"Did I just see you hugging Trina?" Laney giggled a bit before sitting next to him.
"Yeah, I guess you did." Corey released a throaty chuckle, his eyes closed and a smile on his lips. "These past few days have been a rollercoaster, Lanes. When I was at my lowest, Trina showed up. It's funny how sometimes you can be so sure of something and someone can just prove you wrong. I thought I couldn't write lyrics. I thought you were lost to me. I thought that Trina hated my guts. When the whole world feels over, sometimes you just need someone to shake it up. And that's what Trina did for me. She came in and kicked me around a bit and told me I was being an idiot and set me straight. Sometimes life can hit you like a train and you can live days like a thrill ride. You can either get sick and puke it all up and hate the experience, or you can be exhilarated and take that adrenaline high to feel happy again."
"You're monologueing again. Those would be excellent lyrics, Core." Laney teased.
"Yeah, you're right. And I can write it myself now."
"So what now?" Laney asked, her head resting against his shoulders.
"Now..." Corey's heart sped up, her sweet scent intoxicating him. He shifted positions so he faced her a bit more and ran his fingers gently along her jawline to angle her face upwards. He wanted to see her. All of her. Her pretty green eyes. Her freckles. Her long spidery eyelashes. "Now I'm going to continue what I started at the dance and give the girl of my dreams a kiss she will never forget."
Corey dipped his head to connect his lips with her once more. He felt that jolt of electricity jump between them as his heart continued to beat ever faster. And even as his body reacted keenly to her, knowing that she was his, he still felt a strange sense of peace. This was how it was meant to be. It was perfect, and all it took was a large bit of honesty.
He remembered back to when Trina called him stiff with his emotions and he knew that she was right. That moment, as he pushed Laney back on to the couch he made a silent vow to himself to be completely transparent with her. The large rift that had formed between them had been created by his inability to express his true feelings with her. And this perfect night was made possible because he finally had. Even if the whole rest of the world was completely oblivious to what made Corey Riffin tick, he was going to share everything with her. She was, and always had been, his soulmate. And he planned to stay with her for as long as he breathed.
As he brought his lips to hers once more, he felt that now almost familiar but still exciting jolt of attraction spring about between them. He worked her lips with his own, breaking away to trail kisses down her neck.
"Laney..." he whispered, his breath fanning across her skin.
"Yeah?" She gasped, her own breath hitching at the sensation.
"I love you."
She pulled back slightly so she could lock eyes with him. "I love you too, Corey." A shy but devious smile broke out over her slightly swollen lips. "But do me a favor and shut up for once so you can kiss me."
"Your wish is my command..." he muttered before once more locking his mouth to hers.