A.N.: This chapter is a direct continuation of the previous one (click here to read), starting only hours after the last one ended. If you haven’t read the last one, it may help make sense of this one.
Cameron Beach House
Sitting on his bed in his room at his parents’ home, Everett pulled his ringing phone from the back pocket of his leather pants and arched his eyebrows in surprise when he saw the caller ID.
He snickered when he accepted the call and answered.
“Hey stranger, miss me already? So the phone line does work both ways, whaddaya know?” he didn’t even have to fake the surprise in his voice, nor the chuckle.
“Hey, sorry to bother you, but I am all out of options. I am in trouble Rett and I could use some help.” her voice sounded serious, putting a damper on his amusement.
“Sure, what’s up? What kind of trouble?” he asked equally serious now.
“Do you know anyone with a truck I could borrow tonight by any chance?”
“Truck? No. What do you want with a truck?” Everett asked surprised.
“Need to move my keyboard. Mariko and I had a huge fight and she kicked me out. It’s her place, I was only sub-leasing from her so I am officially homeless. I already called everyone I know, everyone seems to own little cars with no trunk space. The cab driver told me ‘hell no’, so I had to leave it with her. Hopefully she hasn’t taken an axe to it. She so super-mad at me, Rett. For absolutely nothing. I didn’t do anything, yet she wouldn’t listen to a word I said, just kicked me out.”
“Oh shit! I’d offer to talk to her but in my experience that never does any good. Angry women are not my specialty. Hey, my dad has an Explorer, that should work. Where are you now? At your parents’ place?”
“No way! Last place I’d go! They’d love nothing more than see me fail like this. I am in a motel room.”
She gave him the name of a cheap motel outside Newcrest.
“I’ll get the keys from my dad and will be right there to pick you up. 30 minutes or so, an hour tops if I miss the ferry. We’ll get the keyboard and I am sure we can store it at my grandparents’ home for a bit. Probably safer there than at that motel.”
“Thanks Rett. That would be great. Room number 413, when you enter the lot, it’s to the right and round back.”
About two hours later they had the keyboard in the back of Brendan Cameron’s SUV, which was now parked in the motel’s parking lot, after they had carried the luckily still intact instrument down the stairs of Maeve and Mariko’s apartment building together, the entire time Mariko was tossing anything she could lift at them while yelling insults. Now they were standing in Maeve’s motel room.
“So, now what? I mean, you can’t stay here forever … kind of a dump actually. Feels like you have a high risk of getting mugged just going to the bathroom in your own room. If you don’t die stuck to something in here like a bug on a fly trap.” Rett said while looking around her room, his eyes getting hung up at some dubious holes in the wall behind her.
“Yeah, sorry, the Ritz Carlton was all booked up. We do what we can afford and this is the highest of all feelings for my budget. All I know is that I can’t and won’t go begging to my parents. I’d rather sleep under a bridge. Most people I know either still live at home or with their boyfriends/girlfriends or already have a roomie. I could have probably bunked with my sister, but now that Julian moved in it’s a bit too cozy for my taste with three people in her bed. Maybe I can find a cheap room or studio apartment.”
“Julian moved in with her? Already? Only been a few months. What about Ashleigh?”
“Still lives there too. Julian obviously doesn’t need his own room, because … well, you know. Sorry Rett, probably shouldn’t have mentioned that.”
“That’s okay, but they sure are moving fast. Or maybe I was really as slow as Cordelia said. But then again, I hadn’t even graduated when she benched me, was still living on campus. That would have been one hell of a commute from her place.”
“Did you two ever actually officially break up?”
“Well, not in so many words, but walking in on another dude just having pulled out of your girlfriend kinda concludes any relationship with a big fat punch in the groin as far as I am concerned. No further narration needed there, at least not on my account.”
“Yeah, I bet that wasn’t the moment you have been waiting for all your life. Still hard to believe even for me. Although, one would think you’d be a little more forgiving seeing how you used to cheat on her left and right.”
“I haven’t done anything like that since the first time she and I were together and I was a dumbass teen then, barely 16. Not an excuse, but like I keep saying over and over, I’ve changed, just can’t undo my past, and it keeps coming back to bite me in the ass all the time now. For what it’s worth, I didn’t even flirt with any girls the second time around.”
“You mean the third time? Didn’t you two break up sometime between junior and senior year in high school for a few months?”
“Okay fine, you nitpicker! The first two times I was an asshole, but the last time she played me. For a change I was 100% innocent. Although, according to her, it was still all my fault, even though I cannot really tell you exactly how. All I know is we had this gigantic fight a week before I walked in on her with Julian where she basically told me I was trash.”
“I can translate that for you. Cordelia has a schedule for everything. Had that since Grade School. You know where other people have a five year plan or something, my sister has all her life planned out. Her being older than you already messed that up, but you looked the part and she was already genetically mapping what your 2 future children would look like. If you asked me, you two were never compatible in the first place. For as long as I’ve known you, you were all about your music, which was the only reason I even bothered with you at all. Cordelia always had plans to settle down after college. I always knew that could not end any other way than in a crash landing. Now, I will admit, my prim and proper perfect sister would have been the last person I’d’ve expected to go out and hoe it up right under your nose, but hey, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose, huh? Uh, again, sorry, that was crude.”
“Nah, it’s fine. I’m pretty much over that relationship. Initially I wasn’t doing very well with the break-up. Break-ups are always rough, but the way we went was a bit extreme even for someone like me, who probably deserves the extra kick in the nuts. But I agree with you, once you look at it more objectively, she and I were never gonna make it long-term. As my grandma likes to say, better a quick painful ending, than endless pain.”
“There is a lot of truth to that. And the reason I no longer live with my parents and never will again!”
“I gotta ask, what happened there? Your parents always seemed pretty okay to me. I never noticed you at odds with them.”
“Cos they didn’t want you to see anything other than perfection, especially not my sister. Cordelia is the golden child. She did everything my parents asked and she got everything she wanted in return. I was rebellious and got the shaft most of the time. When I turned 17 and college applications came around I told them I wanted to study music, but was informed one daughter with an arts major was plenty and that I was to study something solid, like business or accounting. A few major fights later I told them all to go fuck themselves, got the parental ‘if you walk out that door now …’ spiel, packed up my shit and left anyway. Problem was, I was still only 17 then, and had literally nowhere to go. Mariko needed a roommate to help with the rent, so we did this under the table because I couldn’t officially rent my own place until I was 18. “
“I honestly had no idea about ANY of that. Cordelia never once even mentioned that you had moved out!”
“Of course she wouldn’t, I never fit into her perfect little world, where everything is sunshine and happiness and always according to plan. I have always been snarky, sarcastic and too chaotic in her book and she HATED it so much. She’s not a bad sister, but I swear she was relieved after I left.”
They were interrupted by a knock on the door, both their heads turned to it, then faced each other.
“You expecting company?” Rett whispered.
“Are you serious? You think I invited everyone I know to come visit me here so I can flaunt my new home, this dump?! Of course not! Probably the serial killer from next door to complain we talked to loud or something.” Maeve whispered back.
“Want me to answer?” Rett offered.
“Maeve, it’s me!” they heard a female voice from the other side of the door.
“Cordelia?!” both Maeve and Rett whispered at the same time, staring at each other, grimacing.
“You gotta be kidding me! Now I wish it were the serial killer! What the heck does Cordelia want now?! Rett, I need you to disappear. I am in no mood to explain to her why you are here. Go hide in the bathroom, but leave the bathroom door open. Closed doors are a trigger for her and she’ll snoop for sure! This place is too filthy for her to risk sitting down, so hopefully she’ll leave quickly, but in the off chance she has to go pee, we’re both fucked. The minute she sees you here, heads will roll.” Maeve told Rett quietly.
“No need to worry about me. She’s the last person I need to run into now.” Rett said, went into the bathroom, leaving the door cracked. As soon as Rett was out of sight, Maeve opened the room door.
“Oh my God, are you okay?! We got you some snacks, drinks and magazines to tide you over! Oh you poor silly girl. Can’t believe this happened to you. Why did you not call me? I was trying to get a hold of you all day and when you kept ignoring my calls, I went to see you and guess what!? Mariko is really mad at you, Maeve! She even insulted me, just because we’re related. Don’t worry, I gave her a piece of my mind for just kicking you out on the street but I was so worried about you, until Ashleigh told me you had called her about a truck and she knew where you were. But seriously … here?!” Rett heard Cordelia’s voice, followed by the sounds of hugging, and he thought he heard a male voice mumbling something.
‘Probably Julian. Dreamy, he’s all I needed now!’ Rett thought.
“I’ll be okay. I may be homeless and destitute, but now I have junk food, soda and fashion magazines. I am saved.” Maeve’s voice was dripping sarcasm.
“If you need anything … you know you can always come to me. You know that.” Rett recognized the male voice as Chris, his best friend since childhood, not Julian.
“What the hell is he doing here?!” Rett mumbled to himself, just loud enough for himself to barely hear.
“Yeah, thanks guys, I am fine. Just really tired, so thanks for checking on me, thanks for the stuff, but I really wanna …” he heard Maeve say, evidently trying to compliment them back out the door.
“Hey, I am sure my parents won’t mind if you stay over at our place, in Ashleigh’s room.” Chris told her.
“Jeeze, smooth going, bro! Preying on the damsel in distress …classic.” Everett mumbled to himself.
“Maeve, what were you thinking? You know Rett is bad news! And why would your roommate think you and him … together? She told me he was her boyfriend and that she walked in on you and him making out on your bed! Eeewww! For your sake I hope she was tripping out on something, she seemed kinda nutty, but you need to keep away from Everett and should probably get tested for STDs. Who knows what he has been up to since I cut him loose?!” disgust sounded in Cordelia’s voice.
“One STD test for potential Everett cooties, got it. Hey, did you by chance get me any Lysol? Maybe I could just spray that all over my girly parts instead and call it a day.” Maeve rolled her eyes.
“Cordelia, come on, she wouldn’t have. Not with him. I know Maeve and he would never land with her. Right, you didn’t? Please say you didn’t! Not with him.” Chris said, completely ignoring her rant and Everett couldn’t help but wonder if Chris was into Maeve.
“Which of the two options makes you guys get off my back faster? That one is what I did with him.” Maeve responded unnerved.
“Maeve, knock it off, this is serious! Don’t you see we are genuinely worried about you? We are trying to do damage control here! You getting kicked out of your home because of Everett is a gigantic red flag for me. Especially since none of us knew you were even talking to him at all. You do not know Everett Cameron the way we do, he is a smooth talker but you see now where that leads, he had his fun and you got kicked to the curb! He’s probably sitting in some bar somewhere picking up the next girl without a care in the world while you’re out on the street. He seems nice, believe me, I would know, but is a total egoistic asshole and cannot be trusted! I figured you would have learned from my mistakes.” Cordelia told her little sister.
“Guys, I am not a toddler and I also don’t need an intervention or whatever you want to call this shit. Not like I went out looking for him, it was all coincidence. Rett and I just ran into each other at the Skyline one night and …” Maeve tried.
“Maeve, Cordelia’s right, he’s a major douche, be careful! That’s why I tried so hard to keep him away from my little sister Ashleigh. For the longest time she had the biggest crush on him, until she realized what he was really like. Rett’s fun to party with, but a total dick and absolutely unreliable otherwise. He’s screwed over every single one of his friends one way or another, now nobody wants him around anymore. He’s not gotten invited to any get-togethers since we all graduated high school, if that tells you anything. None of us tell him anything relevant, least of all anything about dating. And he’s even been too wrapped up in himself to even notice that.” Chris told her.
“What the FUCK?!” Everett mumbled in disbelief over listening to Chris, his best friend. Supposedly.
“Really Maeve, all Rett ever thinks about is himself and sex. He’s screwed every single one of his friends over, at least once, if not more and that’s not even counting me. I was supposedly someone he loved and you saw what he did to me. That’s what we all got from giving him chances. I’ll admit, I was blind to it all too for the longest time, never even realized what a loser and user he is until Julian and I accepted that there was a spark between us. And I am so glad I gave that relationship a chance. Julian is amazing. He’s the one for me, Rett never was anything other than a waste of my time.” Cordelia said.
“Ah yeah, guys, copy that. Rett equals yucky. Got it. This talk was incredibly enlightening, and not to be rude, but I seriously need sleep now. Please go. I had a seriously rough day and just cannot do the intervention tonight.” Maeve said decidedly, Rett heard the door open, hug sounds and goodbyes, realizing Maeve was pushing her sister and Chris outside.
When the room door closed, Rett returned, his face reflecting all he was feeling as he just sat down on the bed, looking defeated, shaking his head.
“That was pretty rough. Yikes. You okay?” Maeve asked.
“I am the furthest thing from okay right now. I thought they were my friends. I don’t even know what to think, let alone say right now. I was gonna leave for Del Sol Valley right after graduation, but have been dragging my feet because I couldn’t figure out how to say goodbye to all my friends. Turns out, I don’t have any. Even Chris. I thought he was my best friend. What was he doing here anyway?”
“Rett, Chris used to be my boyfriend, you know that, right? Guess he still likes to play the big protector, even now. Can’t wait till he finds a new chick he can coddle, so he’s off my back. I know he means well, but … yeah. This shit isn’t my flavor at all.”
“Boyfriend?! WHAT!? When?!” Rett stared at Maeve.
“I don’t know, we were together for a while, until I couldn’t take the conservative crap anymore. I swear, once I turned 18 he kept talking about ‘our future together’. I kept trying to stop that. I want to be a musician, not a homemaker mother of 5 who sells random shit she glues together online to make ends meet. He’s a cute guy, but he doesn’t understand that I need my independence, not the constant threat of wedding bells.”
“I had no idea you two were even together! He went to a different college, so we didn’t hang that much after high school, but we kept in touch. You’d think he’d mention a girlfriend, especially one we both know. I swear to you he never said a word and I never saw anything about you on his social media. I bet he just blocked me from all those posts. What the fuzzy fuck?!”
“Rett, the fact that I was his prom date for you guys’ Junior AND Senior prom in high school didn’t give it away that he may like me a little more than just as his best friend’s girlfriend’s invisible little sister? You were right there too. You saw me, well aware I was two classes below you both. Then after you both graduated I asked him to my Junior Prom and by my Senior Prom he and I already were a couple.”
“Yeah, sure I saw you but I kinda thought since he had no girlfriend and I was going with Cordelia he just asked you.”
“You thought I would have agreed to go on a pity-prom date just to go with an older guy? You really don’t know me at all!” she laughed briefly.
“I don’t think I know anybody at all anymore, including myself. Damn, it’s like my entire life was a lie … Fuck me! Why did none of them ever come to me if they thought I was that bad? Nobody except my brother and Rory ever said anything to me about my behavior and I thought they were just nerds. Shit!” Rett looked pitiful.
“If they had, would you have listened?”
“I don’t know. Holy shit. I really hope I was not as bad as they say. And why does nobody realize I’ve changed now? I have, I swear. I am nothing like that anymore. I flirt, sometimes, but that’s it.”
“Well, maybe it was too little too late, Rett. Don’t know what to tell you except quit beating yourself up, it won’t make a difference now. Move on, sounds like all your friends have – without you apparently. Learn from it and do better in the future. Hey, wanna eat the junk food they brought me till we puke? We could bond over holding each other’s hair back …”
“Nah, thanks, I feel like puking already without eating a thing. You know what’s really sad, Maeve? I know you hate my guts, but right now, you are actually the closest thing to a friend I have. That’s where I am at right now. WOW! Talk about a rude awakening. Man …”
“Yeah, life can suck sometimes. For what it’s worth, I don’t hate you, Rett. Just don’t like you all that much.”
“Oh good, I feel MUCH better now.”
“What did you expect? Me to fall to my knees and declare my never-ending love and admiration for you? Dude, I am being real with you and non-hatred is all I got now, cos in case you missed that memo too, I am looking at a gigantic pile of steaming shit called my own life at the moment. I am sorry you found out your friends all hate you or something, but at least you’re not homeless and penniless here. None of my so-called friends even came here, except my sister and my ex and all they did was lecture me and bring me candy and fashion magazines, as if that helps me one bit right now. You are the only one who actually helped me. So maybe we can say that I like you on a purely music-related basis. You’re a kick-ass musician, patient teacher and I do admire you for that. How’s that? You could be my music-bestie.”
“I’ll take it. Better than anything else I got left.”
They both winced at some loud, unidentifiable noises outside.
“What was that?” Everett asked, his posture stiffened.
“Not sure I want to know …” Maeve told him, frowning.
“Hey, don’t read into this, but this infernal noise just now, the creepy people we saw around the motel when we got back, those weird bullet-hole looking things all over your walls and the odd noises all the time … I am not sure this is the place for a young woman by herself. Do you and your keyboard wanna come home with me? Declan’s room’s sitting empty and I am sure he won’t mind you staying there till you find something longer-term. And just so you know my parents are always home, so it’s totally safe, despite the rave reviews you just heard about me.”
“First of all, Rett, I didn’t need anyone to tell me that you used to be a giant ass, I experienced that first hand. That being said, honestly, had you suggested that earlier, it would have been a definite no, but currently I don’t feel particularly proud or heroic after the day I already had and this place here is seriously the last thing I need to top that crappy day off. So, if you really mean it, I’d take you up on that offer. You want to call your parents real quick to ask if it’s okay?”
“Nah, my dad used to be a cop and I know he wouldn’t like you being here alone either. I think I’d get into more trouble for leaving you here than for bringing you home. And unlike the rest of the world, my parents trust me.”
“Okay, sounds great actually. Thanks again. Really, for everything. I know you didn’t have to come and help me out, but you did anyway, so that’s pretty big of you. And sorry you had to hear all that. When I let them in, I had no idea that was coming. Sounds like we both could use a batch of new friends.”
“Maybe it’s just my current mental state speaking, but I have a proposal for ya. And this is purely platonic and only because you seem to love music as much as I do. My plan has always been to head out to Del Sol Valley right after graduation and to make it as a musician on my own without riding my grandpa’s coattails. And after all this now, I am leaving as soon as I can say goodbye to all my family here. Come with me. It won’t be luxurious, I am gonna have to do it low budget, so I’ll be driving there, staying in cheap places or sleeping in my car, eating cheap food on the way, but I can teach you all I know and maybe we can try to help each other get ahead somehow. I don’t know. All I know is I need to get out of Windenburg and away from everything. Since you don’t seem to have anywhere better to be, why not join me?”
“Are you drunk, Rett? In only a couple of weeks of us kinda sorta getting along, you think we went from you not even remembering me at all and me having your picture taped to a dartboard straight to road-tripping across the country together?!”
“You’re right, stupid idea. Forget it.”
“Hey, I didn’t say no. If you really mean it, I’d love to go. You know I have been fighting the odds trying to become a musician in my own right and that’s just not gonna happen here. Plus, I need to get away from all the fakeness here too and safety in numbers, right? We can have each other’s back. All right Rett, I am game. Let’s do it. Del Sol Valley or bust, right?”