As of the publishing of this chapter, I have not triple-proofread its contents. This particular part took a lot of effort, because I also spent a lot of time thinking about how each character would interact with Eran. I'm glad to say his personality has officially been defined as well as his arc in the story.
The biggest question which needed answered (for my own sake) was "How do you make someone unique without centering everyone's attention on him?" The best way I could do so was the simple acknowledgement of HSM's plot. In other words, the less Eran steps into the spotlight, the more freedom I could use to build him up.
Here's to another chapter. Once again, I hope that it brings satisfaction to you.
Chapter Two: Composer's Producer
"There's not much to tell you guys besides the new friend I've made and the musical… Hopefully you'll get the chance to answer tomorrow night. Talk to you then, bye."
I tossed my phone behind me, bouncing on the carpet behind my two-cushioned leather couch. My body sank in the crack between, consequence of the furniture being handed down rather than purchased anew. The whir of air conditioners and the faint tick of an old clock was my company for tonight… Yet again.
It was only 9:24 PM… why didn't you pick up, Mom?
I was sure to maintain communications with my family at least once a week. My mother was responsible for making sure I called every now and then, but usually stuck to texts. Father couldn't get to the phone because of his farm work. We made sure everything could be exchanged, from emails to the landline they had. I've even went through the trouble to by postal stamps from a post office in Albuquerque.
Apparently, I needed to drive back home to hear from my parents. Two months without any feedback was absurd, right?
Staying up another hour would reach my limits for tonight; the consequences of lollygagging 'till sunrise weren't worth keeping awake. I've completed my homework: read through some American History and pulled my hair over Shakespeare's outrageous wordplay. My blessed nightly shower was calling my name, where I'd sing to the walls before freaking out over Miss Darbus's callbacks.
I wanted to do one more thing, Kelsi needed my contact information.
In my left pocket was her slip she gave me, folded in half for an easier fit. After rocking myself off the couch, I ambled around it to pick up my phone. Navigating it was easy, pressing the little buttons to enter my friend's number. Not one of my other contacts had the letter "K" for their first name. I was okay with that.
Now came the message, what was I supposed to text? Just sending my own information would be boring by itself. So… I did that before typing something else…
[Hey there. How was homework?]
"Great, how original," I wearily whispered. Maybe the steam in my shower will have suffocated me before Kelsi saw the message.
I didn't even make it to the bathroom before my phone screamed back at me.
[About as lame as Sharpay's audition… You made it home alright?]
I cupped a hand over my mouth to hide the laughter, quickly letting her know of my safe travels and thanking her for her help.
[… Also, have Troy and Gabriella scheduled stuff with you?]
After getting into pajamas, we texted until ten o'clock that night... and then we called each other until 11.
A deafening screech thundered through the hallways and reverberated around the cafeteria. The baggy feeling in my eyes disappeared like it's seen a ghost.
"Probably the callbacks." Kelsi remarked, plopping her lunch bag and a few pieces of paper. "Really happy Miss Darbus allowed Troy and Gabriella to sign up, but I don't think anyone saw it coming, especially Sharpay."
I took a seat next to her, resting a carton of milk next to a turkey sandwich and apple. School lunch didn't seem appealing to me, considering their options ranged from slimy chili fries to boiled spinach the day before. Perhaps I'll try the cafeteria if my pantry runs empty.
"Neither have I," my head shook as I idled with the apple like a tennis ball, "with how hard you had to- had to argue for my own position. Think they'll pull through?"
Kelsi looked up, adjusting her newsboy cap. The pencil she was scribbling with tapped her chin. "No clue. All I know is that Troy's captain of the Wildcats and Gabriella's new here, kinda like you."
"Oh." So, I wasn't the only one… My shoulders relaxed a bit, relieved that the new kid shtick wasn't solely for me. "What've you been struggling with last night?"
Among the list of things Kelsi texted me about was compositions. I recalled reading about her struggles to make her pieces more appealing (to which I told her not to try so hard). Everything seemed complete until this monstrosity popped into her life. Between rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and taking in all of Miss Darbus's lesson on Shakespeare interpretation, my mind wouldn't escape this void of "What's gotten my friend so worked up?"
"Breaking Free. Well, revisions, actually. This is what Arnold and Minnie will be singing for the main duet in Twinkle Towne." She lifted a sheet and showed it to me, lots of crosses and lines splattered against the page. It was hard to call her work messy, aside from some transitions. On the other hand, her melody looked a little sporadic, like a five-year old reaching for a cookie jar on the top shelf.
"Trying to… to… calm it down?" I queried.
She put the paper back down, pulling out her meal from her sack. "Sort of. I can only do so much on the piano, and duets need to be simplified. But I've got to have more."
"What do you mean, 'more?' Are you thinking yesterday had to d-"
"Instrumentation!" Her eyes became stars, gasping at her revelation. "A band, orchestration that fills the silence… Like a tambourine or strings and brass instruments."
"Didn't John Cage prove that silence is okay?"
"Why do you keep asking questions?"
Kelsi slammed her pencil down and buried her eyes in mine. I saw her frown, trying to maintain some kind of composure, a contest of sheer will. For me to look away spelt certain doom. She'd win a pointless argument, and I'd have nothing to laugh at her for.
Our battle felt long and legendary, a new tension swelling as we studied the resolve of one another. The corners of her lips curled upward, eyes squinting, body shuddering. My own chest hiccupped, unable to contain myself.
"Cheh-heh! Cage was right…"
Laughter erupted between the two of us and echoed across the ceiling of the cafeteria. I clutched my stomach and squeezed at its convulsions. My friend had it just as good, taking off her specs to wipe a tear. Gosh, her eyes are shiny, even without those glasses.
"Whoo! Wow… wow, hope that didn't scare anyone." Kelsi finally got a hold of herself, taking another bite out of her meal after putting her eyepiece pack on.
"Mentioning a band reminded me something, do you play any instruments?"
I chewed into my apple, palming a hand on my cheek as I chewed… "I can't get by professionally, but I do some drumming, piano, and electronic sound produ-production."
She flipped over her page, frantically noting some extra things. I couldn't read them from where I was, eager to not be so rude and leave my seat. Not a moment too soon, she slammed the paper right back over and triumphantly smirked in my direction.
"That settles it. You have the pleasure of helping me. Got it?"
"You're kidding me, right? Y-you're kidding me!" My jaw was on the floor in more shock than I over her incredulous decision. "I can-cannot create a song in under a week."
The voice of a tenor interrupted our debate, "You both are more than capable enough." None other than the Evans boy, who fashionably made his entrance to our little table.
"Ryan?" My head turned towards the choreographer in extra skepticism. "Wh-what're you doing here without Sharpay?"
The blondie wiped his forehead in exasperation and rolled his shoulders. It was curious to behold his wrinkly striped blue shirt, and the slight dullness in his eyes. Turns out he was a little more human than I initially judged him for. "Field day. She'll come around soon."
"And why didn't you arrive with her?" tested Kelsi. Her serious face was back on full display, from the lean of her brows to the neutral position of her lips.
"My ears were hurting, give me a break." He shrugged back.
I reflected his body language. "He's got a point, Kelsi."
The girl set down her pencil for a moment, shrinking as a couple more random people found themselves at our table. The cafeteria was beginning to fill up, students clamoring about their food, studies, and whatnot. At this rate, I was able to focus on one person at a time, the uneasy weight in my ribs beginning to drop. Kelsi wasn't going to talk, but I had to get a better understanding of where Ryan was coming from. I needed to steel myself.
"What was your point?"
"Twinkle Towne already has its vision, thanks to Kelsi." He messed with his milk carton and dropped a straw to take a sip. "Some songs just needed a little bit more, so that's why Sharpay had our pianist get some help from his partner studio."
"That sounds complicated."
"It really was… because we didn't have the original copy, he had to hear What I've Been Looking for many times to notate it himself. Thankfully, you've got the real deal right next to you!"
Kelsi and I exchanged glances, her eyes agreeing with Ryan's account. There was truth to be spoken, the depth of her pupils invigorated by the compliment she was given, the assurance that callbacks would not be a bust. Her blue sea of dedication and skies of future pro-
"Ahem… I'm right here." Ryan cleared his throat.
My attention flipped back like a center snapping a football, uneasy warmth filling my skull at the sight of his complacent grin. Thankfully I managed to stammer out a few apologies, reminding myself that too much eye contact isn't good for anyone's social welfare.
The cafeteria was beginning to be too much yet again.
"Let's make a deal, guys." Another sip of his milk, and the dancer slid his tray out of the way, leaving room for him to fold his hands over the table.
"A promise?" the weight became a dumbbell, but I couldn't deny the chance at another friendship. Promises are what made relationships strong. Not only do they show the decency of a fellow peer; every chance to fulfill them is an opportunity for something unique. I could imagine all the work a producer and choreographer could go through in a day. However, every reward came with a risk. What kind of game Ryan was playing wouldn't make itself clear.
Ryan nodded toward me, a light smile adorning his smooth appearance. "You can call it that but listen here. Work with Kelsi on all the music she needs. In return, I'll provide whatever you need to get your instrumentation done. It's a win-win for all of us!"
"Uh… Uhm…" I turned back to our woman of the table, who apparently wanted no part of our discussion, hat and hair dangling in front of her face. The focus put into her work was more immaculate than her performance yesterday. "Kelsi?"
"Do what you want... as long as it gets done the day before callbacks."
Despite the mumbling from within, she technically gave me the green light, I reached across the table and shook my new friend's hand. Everything was set in stone, and I fully believed in a more-than successful weekend.
Until there was Sharpay, making barrel races look like a pet show against her furious walking pace. She was trapped, still stirring in the anger of something not going right. Part of me thought she was releasing steam from her nostrils...
"How dare she sign up! I've already picked out the colors for my dressing room!" the queen whined.
"And she hasn't even asked our permission to join the drama club!" her brother piped in, eyes lighting up a bit.
A horrible realization smacked me like I stubbed my toe.
"Kelsi... Kelsi," I gently shook my friend's shoulder and pulled my friend out of her zone, "are you aware of Gabriella in the club?"
She raised an eyebrow and exhaled, "You're in it too."
She shrugged it off, giving me an indifferent glance. "Since Ms. Darbus told you what to do."
The dumbbell turned into a boulder and strapped into my ribcage like I was on the ride of my lifetime. There was no escaping whatever rollercoaster I've signed up for. Ever since students heard of Troy and Gabriella's "audition", they have become restless with the urge to pick up new hobbies.
I pulled away from the table, Sharpay's ranting and the stirring cafeteria giving me a stomachache. Just beyond the railing I grasped laid chaos. What was once a dormant place to eat evolved into an explosion of finger pointing, desserts and a cellist.
This is everything I've wanted at the worst time possible. All I needed was a week to slip through the shadows and do my own thing.
"This is not what I wanted, this is not what I've planned," Sharpay fumed quite the distance away from me, Ryan making undutiful efforts to calm her down, "and I just gotta say I do not understand. Something is really-"
"Something's not right!" The dancer was not playing smooth. I learned by now that psychology wouldn't be his major in college.
His sister shoved him back, "Really wrong! And we've got to get things back where they belong."
Where they belong... where they belong... where they belong... The words were more than enough to rip me apart from the inside out. A face matched Sharpay and Ryan's demeanor, one encumbered by insanity and power tripping drunkenness. The face of someone with more control than I.
No, please no.
I slapped a hand over my mouth, my insides stirring along with that heavy weight. Too much was happening all at once. I turned left and bolted away from the madness in front of me. Kelsi's troubled view of the eating area shifted to me but a second, yet I couldn't stop to talk.
The weight inside me didn't go away as my stomach rid of today's lunch. Angry acids burned my throat and nostrils with the demand of a complete washing. As the pain persisted and my paled body slumped on the tile floors, the drama queen's agenda became clear to me like the toilet waters before... my stuff. My set of problems were stacked upon one another like a pyramid, and they were easier to explain rather than solve.
As of my friend as priority, Kelsi was subjected to Sharpay's orders and demands, the composer's creativity shut out by the blonde's urgency to maintain the status quo. Kelsi's solution was Troy and Gabriella and their natural talents, and whatever I could offer musically. Altogether, I needed to help her succeed and break away from East High's hierarchy.
Miss Darbus ordered for me to have a song prepared for callbacks, and her standards were tight. Breaking Free was already in the hands of Kelsi and I, and judging by how satisfied she was with the Evans' audition, we needed to up our game. Miss Darbus would probably expect just as much from me. I was limited to my few resources, Kelsi's aid, and whatever freedoms Ryan allowed us with his studio.
Add this up with homework, friends, contacting my parents, the drama club, Sharpay's eerie personality, my infatuation over Kelsi, basketball terminology, more homework, sleep, food, and more drama and I just wanted to play mu-
I gulped down another wave of bile, replaced by a heavy sob... it's awful noise bounced around the bathroom stalls like the dispensable rubber balls I would get for a quarter.
'Breathe, Eran, Breathe. Someone will let you out.'
"Eran?" Just my luck, a masculine voice called my name, stepping inside the restroom. I saw a pair of sneakers flop their way towards my stall. They then turned around and slid across the floor. I was able to see his denim jeans.
"Heard from our playmaker you weren't looking too hot."
I let out something between a laugh and sigh, covering my mouth with a roll of teepee. "It was loud... noisy."
"Yeah," he chuckled before adjusting his legs. "Do you ever feel like something inside of you has to break loose, but you need everything to stop first?"
I could imagine the exasperated smile on Troy's face by the sound of his voice. There was only a stall door between the two of us. Needless to say, "A lot of us feel that way, don't we?"
"Yep. I'll tell you what-"
"Please! Don't say that!"
"Come on, Eran. We know you're not hard to work with."
I couldn't handle not seeing the baller's face, not having a clue with what he's getting at. The anger rose within me to pull myself out of the stall and towards the sinks. The waters were warm, the kind of warm where I would apply hand lotion just after drying myself. I wanted it hot.
Hot enough to melt me in the land of the living... heat that'll simmer what words spilled out of my mouth. "That's the problem, hot shot. I say - say yes to about everything around me, and I'm the one paying the price! Y-you should've seen me just a few moments ago."
"Alright, wise guy, put your hands on your face."
"W-what?" I guffawed at his request.
Troy seemed dead-set on getting his way into my skull. He was already on his feet, eyebrows clenched, and burning me with his intense glare over the mirror. If this was the look he gave his basketball teammates to inspire them, I would've become a player that instant. His hysterical remark towards me simmered those chances.
"Hands, face. Now."
I let the water run, slapping my cheeks with my wet palms. The old familiar burn of getting slapped sank into my face, lingering heat from the sink lathered afterwards. "Kay?"
"What're your hands doing there?"
The captain told me to release my hands and ambled behind me until he was at the most a yard away. Soon after I focused to turn off the water, two claps impacted my shoulders. I winced, feeling how tight they were from years of built tension.
"Tell me what I'm doing." his giant fingers squeezed once, pain and pleasure rolling into my system like a bowling ball o'er a plank of wood.
"H-Hurting?" I groaned.
"Supporting." His hands left me, and went to his backpack, something I haven't payed much attention to. "When the team and I are out on the court, the ball gets passed to most everyone at least once in a quarter. Otherwise, we aren't scoring, and no one's having fun."
I wasn't an idiot. Bolton was taking a lesson from his coach and passing it forward, but it was basketball, and nothing more.
"The playmaker needs a team, someone willing to help with fast breaks, complicated plays, someone to pass the all to. People to help keep our heads in the game. And we have the people."
My eyes met their reflection, dirty blond hair, sea blue eyes, and reddened cheeks from the angry slaps I gave them. A narrow face over a long crazily skinny torso. I stood about five feet and seven inches tall, yet felt so shallow as I leaned over the sink.
Red and gray flannel lazily hung over my black tee and skinny jeans. I could have make myself a modern scarecrow if I wanted to. Long as the frown stayed anchored on my face.
But East High didn't want a frown from me... Well, Troy and Ryan and Kelsi at the least.
"Oh." I quietly gasped, yet the whisper sang through the restroom as if it was anticipating a sunrise after a cloudy night. "I forgot."
"Did you really?" The Wildcats' star player and his matter-of-fact tone was out of my sight, the last of his words falling behind. "Go set the record straight with your playmaker."
No matter how much reading, graph examinations, and fake checks I put together, I couldn't formulate an apology to Kelsi. She deserved better than how much I ignored her proposition from yesterday. We were a team, one that would crush callbacks like it was night and day between ours and the Evans' performance.
Even with the assumption and encouragement from earlier, the door to the music room left an direful impression. I couldn't shift my weight away from the wall next to the handle, unable to choose whether to throw myself into action or procrastinate and send a text.
Gosh, why was I so hard on myself?
"You know the world can see us, in a way that's different than who we are."
'Was that... was that her?'
Yes, Kelsi was the only person in the music room, probably working on her piece. Yet even her light mumbling gave the air a lift from my shoulders. I could see her, looking at her work in progress, leaning forward and back like a pianist without hindrance against her diaphragm. Fingers poised upon every key that dropped like spells being casted. Anticipation looming over whatever horizon she painted.
And she did this over her last class periods?
The answer was a measly "yes," because I was heard. In the room. The music room.
The one I thought I couldn't will myself to step in.
I shook my head, focusing in on Kelsi's quiet and bubbly giggles, the area surrounding me coming into full view. Part of me wondered if I looked like a starstruck idiot to someone who saw me coming from miles away. My chances of a formal apology stopped short the moment I whisked myself inside.
"Y-You've separated the piano part."
"Mhm." The brunette leaned an elbow on the stand and turned to me with rosy cheeks, that bashful look from the day before casting déjà vu upon my brain. Playmaker, spell caster, regardless of intention. I've fallen, and it's only been so long.
"Do you wanna know how?"
"Are you s-sure?"
"In most everything... most of the time..."
My fist drew towards my t-shirt, grasping where my heart lied underneath the fabric and skin. Fleece bent against the will of my fingers, reminding me of how sensitive I was to touch, especially in moments with seemingly little tension.
"Before anything, I want you to know I'm sorry," I began, "lunch, running off, the silly questions, dragging Troy in, all of it. I probably wasted a lot of your time."
"No. You didn't." The tug on my fabric was snapped away as the composer grabbed my wrist. She pulled me around the small bench, guiding me to sit next to her as she ran her mouth. Resistance was futile; Grandpa would have my head.
"Troy came to you because he cares. Something probably happened for you to run off, and questions aren't silly."
I could feel the warmth radiating from her side, my fidgety body curbing against the urge relax and let my left knee tap her right. Despite whatever protests I had, there was no stopping the simple powers of encouragement, whereby the soothing nature of the blazing fire Kelsi was, or that faint scent of lavender. God bless the introverted.
The girl continued, shutting her eyes, brows dipping as her arm tightened like roots sprouting from a tree. "What isn't silly is intentionally holding people back from being at their best, and you'd have to be pretty selfish to do that. And I don't think you are. Okay?"
"Now that you're here..." Kelsi's grasp disappeared, her attention jerking toward the work in front of us, and I was glad it did. We exhaled together as she flipped her pages back to the beginning.
We went through Breaking Free many times, discussing its meaning in Twinkle Towne, the attitude a performer would have, and many dynamic elements necessary to build a suitable instrumentation. Both Troy and Gabriella stopped in separately to quickly discuss the song before running off to their respective clubs. All in all, it was a productive session, one that I needn't any worries over.
What tickled the back of my mind was the manner of the lyrics. Twinkle Towne was quite the musical, filled with romantic elements in many of its songs Kelsi designed. It was about overcoming barriers and reaching places seemingly impossible from the mundane perspective of our ordinary earthly lives. She composed something so heavily deep, it would take having the script for myself to understand what she was getting at. So far, it felt like a tragedy.
"So Eran," Kelsi chirped, shutting her binder and putting away her music, "I got a hold of a cellist. The two of you will be working together for the first half hour after school tomorrow."
I reached my hands towards the keys, each one warm to Kelsi's touch, and slowly pedaled through her song's chord progression. "What about you?" I chirped back.
"I got stuff to chat about with Miss Darbus at four and will work with Gabriella in the second half..."
My progression was finished, ending on a dominant chord rather than resolving it. "So, we won't be seeing each other for a while?"
She let out a little tee-hee as she traced a hand over her cap. Her shoulders slumped as she fumbled with the strap of her bag. "
Unless you would like to... you know... work some more at my place. We can have chai or tea, not have to worry about getting locked inside."
"Tha-that sounds pretty good." I couldn't bear answering her straightly. My heart began to protest, telling me to suck it up and go 'heck yeah!' But this was a friend who has and probably will sit with other people to explain and rehearse her pieces. There was no need to fall in love in less than two days. Now wasn't the time.
Even so, I could feel it building, like a wave the ocean just can't control.
"Okay... after practice, meet me at the steps. Chain your bike."
We picked up our things, closed the piano, and made our way out of the school. The two of us heard the paddling of basketballs through the hallways, but didn't dare to say another word to one another. I wasn't sure if Kelsi was caught up over her invitation or if we actually had nothing to say.
In hindsight, we simply put our conversation on pause.
Congrats! You've read through the second chapter of chaos! At this point, I don't know what exactly to tag my story as in terms of how the canon is affected. Everyone after looking at the summarization I gave should know part of what I'm going for... if any of you have ideas, please let me know somehow.
Best regards, fellow readers!
EDIT 1 - 5/28/2020: Fixed a few text errors, varied a few sentences. CoNsIdErInG how repetition is not a good friend.