A/N: I finally updated! Usual disclaimers apply…I only own the O'Donnell siblings
Someone's Got to Believe
That evening, after Neil returned from play practice, Meeks was waiting by the stairs, looking anxious. Now if even Meeks was getting worked up, there had to be reason to worry.
"Erm…Neil, Vanessa? Can I ask for a bit of help with Trig?" he said uneasily, holding up our nefarious Trig book.
"Sure," Neil said before I could even open my mouth. The three of us hurried to the common room to study. None of the other Dead Poets were there.
As I sat down, Spaz blew his nose into my book. "Cut it out! Have you seen Anderson and the others?" I yelled.
"Dunno" Spaz said from behind his handkerchief. I turned to see Neil trying to explain Trig to Meeks.
"Do you think this will matter in like, five years?" I chimed in. The boys looked up from their books. "Yeah, maybe to you, Meeks. But for me, Trig is just parent-sponsored torture,"
Neil laughed. "You're a riot, Vanessa," he kidded.
"Ha. At least I'm not dying over my English assignment," I retorted.
"I only asked for help. I just wanted to change a stanza here and there," Neil explained.
"Neil, you don't have to write something as long as the Illiad," Meeks said.
"Who said I was?" Neil chuckled before Todd came in, holding a whole load of books.
"Phone for you, Vanessa. Your mom," he said weakly as he sat down at the table.
"Darn," I muttered under my breath. If there was one thing I didn't look forward to every week besides Trig, it was my mother's weekly interrogation. "Save a seat for me eh?" I said before trudging out of the room.
"Oh come on, doll, don't exaggerate," Charlie said the next day as we walked to English class.
"Yeah, like you had to listen to your mother for two hours just going on and on about how you were not taking Latin seriously. Of all subjects, Latin!" I said, placing my hands on my hips irately.
"Hey Neil, remember what made your parents put you in summer school?" Knox asked seemingly out of the blue.
Neil nodded. "Bad Science grades. My father told me that if I couldn't be expected to get an A in Biology, how much more with Chemistry?" he said.
"An 'A' in Science? Gosh, Neil, I'd kill for that," I said as we entered the classroom. The Captain was already there, waiting. After a short discussion on Tennyson, it was time for the next round of poetry readings.
"Miss O'Donnell," Mr. Keating said after Spaz had gone through a limerick punctuated with sniffles and much nose-blowing.
I sighed and cleared my throat. I was clearly in no mood to read, not after last night. Still, it wasn't like I could cry for mercy in front of the class, and I did have a poem to recite, even if it was unfinished.
"If a robin redbreast in a cage
Is said to put heaven in a rage,
Then why did the sun smile
When for the longest while
We've screamed, raged, and cried
For sweet freedom that was denied?"
"Sorry Captain, it's not finished," I said as I folded the paper at the end.
"I would like to hear the rest of it soon," Mr. Keating replied, smiling at me. I heaved a sigh of relief as I sat down in my chair. If the beginning was good enough for him, I felt encouraged to continue my writing.
Mr. Keating looked through what appeared to be his class list. "Last, but definitely not the least…Mr. Perry," he said. Neil went up rather calmly to the platform. As he took a look at the paper he held, his brow furrowed, as if he was bewildered.
"Captain, I've got the wrong poem," he said to Mr. Keating.
"Never mind, Mr. Perry. If it's a poem, it's a poem,"
Neil's dazed and horrified expression reminded me somewhat of Todd's when he was up there the day before. I could see him turning red slightly as he looked at his work again.
"Bluer than sapphire or the roaring sea
Are my lady's eyes when she meets me…"
I just knew that Neil was trying his best not to meet my gaze. He was looking in all directions except where I sat.
"About her, what is most fair
Is that she lives without a care
Of cruel daylight's edicts
And whispers' unfeeling verdicts…"
Some of the boys were starting to stir and whisper among themselves, snatching glances at me. I could feel my cheeks reddening all the while.
"The smallest moment is eternity
In your smile, dear friend and lady," Neil finally finished. As he walked slowly back to his seat, I dared myself to look him in his eyes, hoping to find out what he really meant.
Mr. Keating gave me and Neil a knowing look. "Poetry as you know, whether it is short, long, about nature…" he said, looking at Hopkins. "…or even love, it is an encapsulation of what makes life worth living," he began. Suddenly, the bell rang, and I sat up in my seat, eager for once to get away.
"That will be all for today, gentlemen, Miss O'Donnell," Mr. Keating finished. Cameron was the first to file out, and the rest of us followed.
"Seems as if you're mighty flattered, Miss O'Donnell," Pitts kidded me.
"Don't mention it, please," I groaned, glancing from him to Neil, who was walking ahead. In my confusion, I didn't notice another familiar face in a crowd of freshmen in the hallway.
"Vanessa!" my brother's high-pitched voice rang out. I turned around to see my brother John, with his blonde hair tousled and his uniform a bit dirty.
"You'd better clean up before going to class," I said to him, eyeing his uniform. I tapped my friends on the shoulder. "Hey guys, meet the reason why I'm here in Hell-ton," I called to them.
"Who he?" Charlie asked.
"My brother, John," I said.
"You two don't look alike," Knox commented.
"He takes after my father. I'm my mother's carbon-copy," I said. I noticed that John was staring at Neil.
"You're Neil Perry, right?" he asked.
"Yeah. You're John O'Donnell, I presume?" Neil said.
John nodded. "Are you going out with my sister?" he asked. I gave him a horrified look.
"Where did you get that idea?" I asked. Before John could reply though, someone called for all the students to get to class. I was starting to hate all the rushing we had to do in Welton.
The next day, our English class made a mad rush to get changed for another soccer game against another class (some juniors). When we jogged onto the field, I was surprised to see Mr. Keating also all ready for the game.
"I'm the referee," he grinned when I asked him. "Are you joining in, Miss O'Donnell?"
"Certainly, sir," I replied. "I used to play soccer with my brother back at home,"
At first, Charlie managed a goal, but it wasn't long before the leader of the other team tied the score.
At one point, I was running across the field when Todd kicked the ball to me. "Go get it in, Vanessa!' Knox called. Some of the biggest guys were between me and the goal. Time for some daring.
It was now or never. I gave the ball the best kick I could to make it soar over their heads and land in the goal, just below the crossbar.
"Woohoo!" I heard Todd cheer from beside me.
"That's my girl," Neil said, clapping me on the back.
I turned to face him and I laughed. "A girl's got to do what a guy cannot do,"
My goal tied the game. Suddenly, someone managed another goal. Our entire class erupted cheering around Mr. Keating.
"We won! We won!" I shrieked. We picked up Mr. Keating and carried him off from the soccer field as the sun shone golden in the trees. Neil was laughing, even Todd was grinning. The sweet smell of victory was in the air, mixing with that of freedom, and nothing ever smelled or felt better.
The next afternoon was free, being a Saturday. We had decided to hold a meeting later in the afternoon. That morning, I saw Knox before breakfast.
"Doing anything today besides the meeting?" he asked me.
"I'm going into town with Neil for a bit. Want to come? You could see Chris," I said. I had wanted to get a rise out of him, and mentioning Chris was a surefire way to do so.
"Vanessa, if I try to see her, she'll hate me. You don't know what Chet can do," he said, his once happy expression crumpling.
"Lesson One about Love, Mr. Overstreet, is being daring. If you love her, why don't you show it? Show her that she does mean something to you!" I exploded. I was so sick of him pining over Chris and being unwilling to do something about it. Sometimes his sighing could get irritating.
"Maybe someday," he muttered.
I sighed. "That's what they all say, Knox. That's what they all say in the best tragedies," I said. "If I were you, I'd try to see her. Call her maybe. Or even write. If I knew somebody felt that way about me, I'd like to see some sign of it,"
"Haven't you already?" Knox asked.
"Yeah, maybe," I said before heading out the door to join Neil.
"What was that about?" Neil asked me once we were biking away from the dorms and out the gate.
"Oh I was just getting a rise out of Knoxious," I replied. "What are you going to do anyway?"
"Post a letter, find a newspaper, and a pack of biscuits," Neil replied.
"Whatever for?" I asked.
"The letter is about another audition. The newspaper is for class. The biscuits are additional nutrition," Neil said. Something about that made me laugh.
We got everything we needed in the pharmacy. Across it though was a second-hand shop. In the window was a rough lamp in the shape of a man.
"Would you look at that," I said as I crossed the street and looked through the glass.
Neil peered at the piece quizzically. "It looks like it's trying to tell a story," he said.
"Maybe I could write about it," I joked wistfully. Though the lamp looked a bit worn and unfinished, it seemed as if there were words carved into it.
"Why not?" Neil said, entering the store. Before I could protest, he'd bought the lamp. The storekeeper seemed to be too happy to give it away.
"Where are you going to put it?" I asked Neil as he put the lamp in his bag.
"You'll see. Race you back to Welton!" he called, getting on his bike and pedaling off. I hopped on my bike and went after him, yawping at the top of my voice.
When I arrived at Welton, I thought I'd overtaken him. As I locked up my bike though, I saw him emerge from the dorm, still holding the lamp.
"That took long," he said teasingly. I stuck out my tongue at him.
"I'm not as long-legged as you are, Neil," I retorted. "So it's off to the Dead Poets' cavern?"
He nodded as we began walking into the woods. "I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately," Neil whispered after a while.
"I prefer soaring under the daylight. You sure we can find the cave even in the daylight?" I said, pushing some hair out of his face.
"I'm sure of it," Neil replied. He cautiously reached for my hand, and I let my fingers entwine with his as we ran through the woods.
It was the smell of tobacco that allowed us to find the cave so easily. The woods did look different in the afternoon, and in the blinding harshness of day, it was easy to get lost at times.
"Neil! Vanessa!' Meeks called to us when we ducked into the cavern.
"Friend, scholar, Welton men," Neil greeted as we took our usual spots.
"What is that?" Meeks asked, gesturing to the lamp.
"Duh, it's a lamp, Meeks," Pitts said.
"No, it's the god of the cave," Neil replied, removing the lampshade and installing the base on a rock shelf. Our laughter was interrupted by a rude blast from Charlie's saxophone.
"What do you say we start this meeting?" Charlie asked. He stood up, still holding the confounded instrument.
"Gentlemen, lady, "Poetruistic" by Charles Dalton," he announced. He proceeded to play what sounded like a jumble of notes. I winced as I tried not to cover my ears.
"Laughing crying tumbling mumbling. Gotta do more, gotta be more." he said.
"What is it with him and being 'more'?" I whispered to Todd. Todd merely smiled as we waited for the recital to finish. Charlie played more erratic notes, this time directing the full blast of them to Pitts' pipe.
"Chaos screaming, chaos dreaming. Gotta do more, gotta be more!" Charlie said more urgently. He then began playing a soothing, soulful tune on the saxophone, something that was definitely music.
When he was done, we all applauded. "Where did you learn to play that?" Pitts asked him.
"My parents made me take the clarinet for years," Charlie said.
"Yechh," I snickered, shooting him a grimace.
"Come on, I loved the clarinet," Cameron said.
"I hated it. The saxophone…the saxophone is more sonorous," Charlie grinned.
"Vocabulary," Meeks muttered. "I tried the flute when I was a kid,"
"My brother wanted me to join him for violin lessons," Todd said.
"I talked to John yesterday. He said you play the piano?" Neil asked me.
"I didn't like it. I prefer the guitar," I said.
"You? With a guitar?" Charlie sputtered.
"We can start a band," I joked.
"Yeah, and who is the vocalist? Todd?" Cameron piped up.
Just then, Knox slammed down his hand. "I can't take it anymore. If I don't have Chris, I'm gonna kill myself," he said, obviously desperate.
My eyes widened. "Knoxious, you've got to calm down," Charlie said.
"No Charlie, that's just my problem. I've been calm all my life," Knox replied. A wide, eager smile was starting to spread across his face. "I'm going to do something about it," he said, starting to climb out of the cave.
"Where are you going?" Neil asked him.
"I'm gonna call her," Knox laughed. We quickly scrambled for our coats and ran after him, barely keeping up as he crashed through the woods.
The nearest payphone was in the dorms. We gathered near it as Knox slowly picked up the receiver and began dialing a number. When someone answered it, he quickly slammed it down.
"She's gonna hate me. The Danburrys will hate me. My parents will kill me," Knox said, panic in his voice. He tried to steel himself. "All right, goddamn it. You're right," he added, looking from me to the rest. "Carpe Diem, even if it kills me,"
We watched with bated breath as he dialed. "Hello, Chris?" he asked.
"Hello, this is Knox Overstreet," he said after a while. He covered the mouthpiece. "She's glad I called," he mouthed, looking at us.
"Would I like to come to a party?" he asked louder, returning to the phone.
"Yes of course!" I whispered.
"Say yes, say yes," Charlie added to egg him on.
"Well sure. Okay, I'll be there, Chris. Friday night at the Danburrys. Okay, thank you. I'll see you. Bye," Knox said. He put down the phone and yelled.
"Can you believe it? She was gonna call me. She invited me to a party with her," he said once he'd caught his breath.
"At Chet Danburry's house?" Charlie asked before I elbowed him.
"Yeah," Knox replied, dazed.
"So you don't really mean she means you're going with her?"
Knox rolled his eyes. "Well of course not Charlie, but that's not the point. That's not the point at all," he said. "The point is that she was thinking about me. I've only met her once, and already she's thinking about me,"
He stood up straight and smiled as he passed through our group. "It's going to happen guys, I can feel it! She is going to be mine," he said as he flipped his scarf with all his savoir faire and went up the stairs.
"Carpe! Carpe!" we all called after him, laughing all the while.