Casey.

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March 24th, 2019




Gender: Male

Age: 26
Country: United States

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August 14, 2018


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03/05/2019 10:52 PM 

we're in! }} d r a b b l e.

W E ' R E  I N ! -- ;

We were all packed into the lobby of the venue, filling it to the brim and then some with noise, and voices in every pitch you could imagine. In one corner, a girl was practicing a rendition of Can You Feel the Love Tonight? to her parents, while they held each other and cried over her stunning vibrato, and encouraged her. Another guy was singing My Girl to his girlfriend with the most impressive range I’d ever heard in person. A large door led to a long hallway of conference rooms, and every half hour, ten of us would be pulled to sit inside and wait for one of the rooms to free up. Which meant every half hour, ten people would be released, either crying tears of joy, or tears of sorrow. Some were panicking while their family and friends gathered around to console them. I sat alone in the third row of chairs with my guitar in my lap, with no one to practice for, but it wasn’t like I hadn’t spent the last year or so going over the same song in preparation for this. I was stealing small naps every few minutes or so to make up for not having slept the night before.

A woman called out names with a soul-sucking tonelessness while people spilled from the door behind her. Isaiah Flynn, who I met earlier in the morning, came from the door with a huge smile on his face, holding up a silver ticket to a woman I assumed was his girlfriend. We were too far away for me to congratulate him, but we exchanged nods. I made a mental note to look for him later and went back to my guitar. Finally, after two more hours of sitting there, I heard my number.

”…and 2406! Step up please!”

I froze. I was really doing this. This was it -- make or break, do or die. Win, or go back to living in my car. I started second-guessing myself. There were people dressed to the nines, people dressed in costumes, and people dressed in clothes that hadn’t been washed in weeks, yet for some reason my old jeans and T-shirt felt inexcusable. I worried about having to possibly explain the split in my lip, and then probably getting eliminated for underage drinking. I had to be a role model after all. What if my finger slipped? I was out for sure.

”Last call, 2406!”

I scrambled to my feet in disbelief I was about to lose my chance over a daydream. Ten of us huddled up by the door, signed our name to a sheet of paper, and then waited a little longer in the hallway for the conference rooms to clear out, which was supposed to take another thirty minutes -- just enough time for the nerves to build. I watched people come in and out of doors all along the hallway. After some time observing, I deduced that in every group of ten, only five would be chosen. I watched more of them come out cheering and dancing; more coming out sobbing, covering their faces. How would I look when I came out there? Who would I run to? Where would I sulk if they shot me down on the first try? I found myself watching the ground so I didn’t have to look at all the people before me, running to the arms of support systems I didn’t have. I didn’t want to think about what I’d do. My heart was about to burst through my chest by the time they got to me, and a startling portion of me was tempted to throw it all away and jet right out the front door without ever having performed.

My brain fought my legs all the way to the door, into a small room with a makeshift stage in the middle. Six people sat at a panel-style table, jotting things down on their clipboards.. What most didn’t know was that you had to pass through quite a few auditions before you ever appeared on television. I was on the first of about six.

”Good morning,” a red-haired woman with a stoic expression greeted me from the left end.

”Hello.” I waved, feeling instantly scrutinized, even though all six of them appeared relatively indifferent to me. I was just one face in a crowd of thousands. I couldn’t imagine being tasked with narrowing all of us down, especially not after hearing and meeting so many talented people in the lobby. My stomach churned suddenly. Thousands. Narrowing it down. I felt like the odds were completely stacked against me. They were probably looking for the smallest excuses to eliminate me.

”Okay, what’s your name, and where are you from?”

”Casey Caverly, from Reno, Nevada.” I didn’t know why I thought to say Reno, since I didn’t live there anymore. ”Well, sort of…” I continued on, watching the ceiling. “I moved out here almost a year ago, just with the intention of living in LA, but auditioning was on my mind too.” I also didn’t know why I felt the need to explain my situation to a bunch of people who were just there to hear me sing, and send me on my way, but they seemed interested, so maybe I was doing something right.

”That’s quite a move. Did you have a back-up plan?” The woman pressed.

”Not at all,” I admitted, lowering my head, smiling only because I felt ridiculous. Out loud, it sounded completely absurd. “I don’t really have a place or anything, I live in my car. So I guess I just thought, if I blow it out here, I’ll just go back to Reno.”

”Wait, you live in your car?” A blonde woman chimed in for the first time. She seemed more inviting than the others. Even in the midst of apparent shock, she still sounded warm, and friendly.

”Yeah…” I felt my face heating up. I wanted them to know for some reason, yet I didn’t want the attention on me. I wanted to talk about it, but I didn’t want things to get too serious. Instinct, or something equally uncontrollable and annoying, propelled words from my mouth faster than I could catch them. It was my downfall -- my nervous tick. “I’ll give you a grand tour sometime, it’s pretty spectacular.”

That got people laughing at least, which ultimately -- finally -- urged them to switch subject to more mundane questions like my favorite bands, how long I’d been singing, how long I’d been playing music, when I knew I wanted to be a musician. Those were questions I’d prepared for. I’d rehearsed responses to them a thousand times, forward and backwards. In the heat of the moment, it sounded like mush to me, but they never kicked me out so I had no choice but to assume I was doing okay.

Finally, the red-haired woman straightened, getting to the point. “So, Casey, what are you going to play for us today?”

I could already feel the eye rolls before I answered. I wondered how many times the panel heard people say what I was about to say, and how many times they’d been disappointed, or downright offended by the result. I felt like I was digging my own grave as I answered, “Actually, it’s something I wrote myself.”

- - - -

How I was even coming close to containing myself was beyond me. I felt flustered, yet numb; I felt beside myself, yet eerily present. I didn’t say a word to anyone in the hallway on the way out, because I didn’t have capacity to form one. I felt like someone kicked me in the gut, in a way I never imagined would be at all satisfying, but there I was, reveling in it - reveling in everything.

It was like a tiny, hopeful string had sutured ou whole little group together, binding us to each other in an explosion of emotion not one of us could properly describe no matter what side we were on. But we all understood it. We were united through it without ever having to explain. I understood why so many people burst from the doors in hysterics, speaking in gibberish only those who were equally excited, or distressed, could comprehend. All around me, people were hugging, and crying, and laughing, and it was more beautiful to me than ever. I felt guilty for ever rolling my eyes at it -- for spiting it because I envied it. I wasn’t exactly among them, but I felt like I was.

”Yo, Casey!”

I glanced over my shoulder, to the first familiar face I’d seen since noticing Isaiah Flynn in the lobby. I met Jacob Brooks earlier in the morning too. The kid was younger than me with twice the vocal power, which I both respected him for, and hated him for. We played together with Isaiah for a little while outside before we were assigned seats. We all bonded over the fact that our numbers happened to be in exact order: 2405, 2406, and 2407. I’d been so wrapped up, I hadn’t really noticed we’d gone in around the same time. “Hey.” I waved.

”I’m in!” He beamed, flashing his ticket.

Isaiah, Jacob and I made a pact to stick together as long as possible. At least in the case of Round One, we were successful. I finally succumbed to some kind of childish giddiness, holding up my ticket with a smile I could no longer contain.

“We’re in.”

02/22/2019 02:47 PM 

what have you done? pt. 2 }} d r a b b l e.

PART ONE.

tw: drug overdose, suicide attempt

W H A T  H A V E  Y O U  D O N E ? -- ;

”Heyyy, he is awake!”

”Yayyy, he’s awake.” Casey gave a weak smile as Christian neared the bed, like he was forcing himself to celebrate with him, but what reason did he possibly have to do so? What was there to celebrate about being stuck in a hospital bed, still fighting for his life after both his exes found him dying alone in his apartment? He felt like an idiot, yet all of it was bitterly nostalgic. Being completely lost in what felt like another realm, with no concept of time other than the fact that it was still dark outside; delirium from copious amounts of medication that offered little relief; the stiff bed in an obscenely bright hospital room; the worried faces and crying he could only remember in small bits that made little sense upon true awakening; memories he wasn’t sure were even real. Most familiar was the interrogation from the nurse about why he’d done it -- if he’d been feeling depressed, if he partied too hard, For his convenience, she had a list of psychiatrists for him to get in touch with, but Casey had been there, done that, and he wasn’t about to do it again.

”Was Sarah here?” Casey strained just to speak above a whisper, his eyebrows furrowed. Another familiarity was the fiery feeling raging through his stomach and throat, making it hard for him to gather the strength to breathe, let alone talk. But he swore he recalled Sarah being in his apartment, so he had to ask. He had to know it wasn’t a dream.

”She was, but she left,” Christian answered, taking a seat beside Casey.

Casey smirked. ”Probably didn’t want me to know she helped me out.”

”It was actually Sarah who realized something was up with you,” Christian explained. “She lost Isaiah and Jake’s numbers, so she called me instead. Guess you were texting her some weird sh*t.”

”Nice...” Casey shut his eyes, though a hint of his smile remained on his face. He felt Christian’s hand brush his hair back as his head drifted off to the side a bit.

”Sooo are you feeling okay?”

”I’m miserable,” Casey blunted, still with his eyes closed. “This bed feels like cardboard and I’ve had to pee for like three hours.”

Christian laughed. “You know what I mean, dork.”

At that, Casey’s eyes fluttered open, smile fading as he stared at the window.

“If you really wanna know… I wish I tried a lot harder.”

02/21/2019 07:31 PM 

what have you done? }} d r a b b l e.

tw: drug overdose, suicide attempt

W H A T  H A V E  Y O U  D O N E ? -- ;

There was rustling at the door, and faint bickering Casey couldn’t quite understand. It brought him back in time, to his hotel room in Pahrump. Some nights, the neighbors on either side were loud enough to surround him room everywhere in the room, yet he could never understand it, and that always irritated him more. He didn’t move, just listened with a furrowed brow, staring at the door while the voices continued. What used to keep him up at night as a teenager with sensory overload was lulling him to sleep as an adult who’d spent the entire night hosting a one-man party, complete with a handful of painkillers and a bottle of Jack to wash them down with. At some point, he’d apparently issued invites. The knob on the door rattled. The bickering continued. At some point, he swore he muttered something, but he wasn’t sure what he was saying, or if anyone could hear him. He wasn’t entirely sure if the door was real, if the people behind it were there.

Another spark of awareness came before he ever realized he blacked out, his eyes snapping open, a sudden gasp of air stolen after what felt like an eternity, but it would be the last free one for some time. The door was wide open. Dark figures frenzied around him, yelling, and crying. A lot of crying. A lot of yelling. He had to be in the hotel. Right?

“Oh my God, Casey…”

”Casey, what did you do? Sh*t, man, what did you do?”

There were hands all over him, feeling his neck, his chest, tapping his cheek. He couldn’t feel anything, but he could see it through warped vision, the way dark extensions jutted out toward him. He shut his eyes, suddenly feeling a shift of weight throughout his whole body, putting an unexpected pressure on his chest. He could feel the contents of his stomach shifting, waving, curling in a way that was oddly nostalgic. He couldn’t even breathe, let alone answer the panicked questions the shadowy figures were bombarding him with. What had he done?. His head lulled again, then jerked when his body was hoisted up. Casey didn’t know where they were going, he just felt himself moving. More figures were huddled around him, two remaining dark, while the other two managed to ignite some form of familiarity. Christian was on the right side, walking alongside him on the phone with someone, but it sounded like he was speaking a different language. To the left was Sarah, crying. Even in his stupor, he wanted to reach out for her. She was shaking her head, her face wiped clean of the anger that usually tainted it -- the anger he usually faced when they had to see each other. What was she doing there?

Had he invited them both?

What had he done?

A bunch of hands started coming toward his face, strapping something over his mouth, despite the resistant turning of his head. Another came for his arm, as if to steady him. And the last -- Sarah’s -- brushed through his hair. He stared lackadaisically at her while she broke down into a sob.

”I’m so sorry. God, I’m so sorry.”

What had she done to be sorry for?

With all the mush in his head, he still found himself silently asking:

What had he done?

02/14/2019 04:46 PM 

unravel }} d r a b b l e.

U N R A V E L -- ;

This was beyond Casey Caverly’s typical -- even comedic -- stage fright. He’d been sitting there too long, stuck frozen in the dressing room, staring at the mirror, not at himself but seemingly through himself. At nothing in particular. Just staring, wondering how he was supposed to get from Point A: the dressing room, to Point B: the stage when he couldn’t find it in himself to move. How could he sing when he couldn’t even speak? How could he walk when he couldn’t breathe? Casey was booed first thing by a group of Sarah’s friends at their first show back on tour in San Diego. Undoubtedly, whoever they were bought tickets for the sole purpose of confronting him. Even though they were promptly escorted off the premise, the lingering possibility of it happening again made him weary of every show that followed, until eventually, the uncertainty began to suffocate him. His own head was the only place he could hide, though there was no solace to be found there; he’d been rendered a prisoner, both of his mind, and the tour itself. He was stuck..

”Casey!” Stephen barged into the dressing room, then paused, his eyes shooting open. Casey heard him, but didn’t move. The urgency in his voice made him wonder how long they’d been looking for him, and how many places they looked before Stephen realized he was still locked up in the dressing room. “What the hell?”

”You act like you just caught me jerking off or something,” Casey mused with a half-hearted smile, turning his head away. He didn’t want the attention on him. He didn’t want anyone to come back for him. Despite the lax comment, his hands were still nervously fidgeting in his lap, his heel tapping repeatedly against the floor.

”That might be more understandable than you just sitting here while everyone’s waiting for you,” Stephen remarked.

”Would it, though?”

”Alright…” Stephen came inside and shut the door, so it was just the two of them. The isolation made Casey’s chest tight. He glanced at the door, as if assessing his ability to make it through without Stephen stopping him. The odds were against him as Stephen parked himself right in front of it. “Look, I love you kid, but you’ve been a nightmare this whole tour. What’s going on with you? You’ve been storming around barking orders and snapping at people all day. You tore Isaiah a new one because he was a minute over on the soundcheck. Now it’s five minutes past show time, and you’re the one who’s nowhere to be found.”

Casey lowered his eyes. He could hear people scrambling around outside, and an impatient roaring from fans from the venue itself, yet he couldn’t bring himself to stand.

”Is this maybe too soon for you?” Stephen asked, causing Casey’s eyebrows to furrow.

”Too soon?”

”You and Sarah just split up a few months ago,” Stephen blunted. “Maybe you’re not ready for a tour yet, Case… and that’s okay, but I wish you told me a little sooner, because this is gonna look really bad.”

”I don’t wanna cancel the tour,” Casey blunted , turning his back to Stephen, staring at his hands. With his chest aching, it was hard for him to muster anything above a whisper, but that didn’t stop him from trying. “I was never gonna cancel the tour. I just didn’t think it would be like… this.”

”Like what?” Stephen prodded, folding his arms.

”Like this… like…. this is so intense, dude. Everything just feels so intense. I can’t breathe, I can’t think right. I haven’t slept in like three days… I just feel bad, I feel like sh*t.” Casey explained, raking the stray hairs off his face with a shaky hand. “People were literally waiting in front row to boo me off the stage. People have been harassing me on all my posts, and promising not to come to shows, and that makes it hard to wanna go out there. I get like this… sick feeling, not knowing what’s gonna happen when I walk out there, and she just gets to hang around like everything’s okay and awesome, and it’s bullsh*t. It’s absolute, one-hundred-percent bullsh*t. I shouldn’t have to be the one canceling anything…” Casey was reduced to momentary silence, having lost his breath completely during his rant. He let out a deep breath in the hopes of pushing some weight off his chest, but nothing was working. “I don’t mean to yell at everyone or be a nightmare or whatever, I’m just frustrated, I’m so f***ing frustrated.”

”Casey…” Stephen finally stepped forward, stooping down in front of Casey’s chair so Casey had no choice but to look at him. “You need to take a deep breath.”

”I just said I can’t!” Casey snapped. “I just said I can’t breathe, dude, that’s part of the problem.”

”Okay, do you see and hear yourself?” Stephen rose his voice, as if to overpower Casey’s. “Do you see what this is doing to you?”

Casey once prided himself on his adaptability. He was fine when forced to live in a hotel, fine when his classmates in Reno beat the hell out of him for no reason. Even during the nastiest period of his relationship with Sarah, he was still miraculously able to maintain his composure enough to get on stage. But right there, in front of Stephen,he felt himself unraveling. He sat there in silence, gnawing on his nails with his free arm crossed tightly over his stomach.

”Casey, do you want me to call it off?”

Casey was sickened by the words he was about to utter -- words he never, in a million years, thought he would say. “I want you to call it off...” he muttered, the crack in his voice causing his eye to twitch in annoyance. “I can’t go out there, I want you to call it off.”

01/31/2019 07:52 PM 

cry-baby }} d r a b b l e.

C R Y - B A B Y -- ;

It felt like a courtroom, only simplified; on one side, the accuser, and the judge. On the other, the accused -- myself -- intensely scrutinized by the opposite party. And the jury (his mother and my grandmother), looking mortified while my principle, Mrs. Hamil explained to them that I was accused of tackling Daniel Renner outside and punching him several times in the face. It all added up, and I couldn’t deny it. Renner had a bloody nose, and teary eyes; my knuckles were bruised up and covered in blood. I was trembling with residual fury while he sat there sniffling and nodding his head, but was too scared to say anything. There was no trace of the kid who’d been tormenting me ever since the year started. His mother put her arms around him, on the verge of tears herself. It disgusted me. I leered at him from my chair with my arms folded while Mrs. Hamil told my grandmother everything -- or at least everything she knew, which didn’t take into account what Renner had done to deserve it.

“Casey…” my grandmother spoke up. I pried my eyes away, looked at Mrs. Hamil, then my grandmother. “Is that true?” she asked me. I didn’t say anything. We all knew it was true, and at that point, no one was about to jump on my side. Who was going to trust the new punk with bloody knuckles, over a sniveling baby wrapped up in his mother’s arms?

“Casey,” Mrs. Hamil prodded me again. I looked away from them, shaking my head.

“I think it’s pretty obvious I did it, I don’t see why we’re all sitting here,” I muttered, staring at the window. If my grandmother wasn’t right there, maybe I would have considered jumping out and running away, but I’d already put her through enough. When she asked me why I did it, I couldn’t even look at her. “Because he pissed me off,” was all I could give her. I was expecting some kind of outcry from Renner, but he was hanging onto his innocent act, and it was making me sick. I folded my arms a little tighter, shrugging. “He pissed me off, so I decked him.” Once again, I couldn’t find it in me to tell everyone how little I regretted it -- how I would do it all over again, regardless of the consequence.

“Ms. Renner, he’ll probably need to see a nurse,” Mrs. Hamil said. “If you want, you’re free to go. Mrs. Hadley, would you and Casey please stay?”

I watched, partially jealous, and partially relieved as Ms. Renner escorted her crybaby son from the room. That wasn’t the kid who shoved me down the stairs my first day there, or threatened to tie me up to the fence after gym class. It wasn’t the kid who yanked on my hair, and splashed his drink on me in the cafeteria. He was putting on an act and everyone was eating it up, and as pathetic as I thought it was, I envied him. I found myself wondering why people pitied him so much, yet they always looked down on me. Why could he get away with so many things, but I couldn’t? It wasn’t a secret why I was in Reno. It wasn’t new information that my mother would have never even showed up for something as silly as a fight between students, let alone coddle me, and take me to a nurse Where was my leeway? My blind eye?

“Now, I’m sure you know already from my notes that this isn’t Casey’s first incident since the school year started?” Mrs. Hamil began once we were all alone.

My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach as my grandmother (rightfully) asked, “What notes?”

“I’ve sent several notes home,” Mrs. Hamil explained. I couldn’t look at either of them. I was pissed she even brought it up. I was pissed she was dragging this out instead of letting me go too. My knuckles hurt, couldn’t I go see the nurse? Couldn’t she make it easy and just suspend me?

”And you never gave them to me?” my grandmother asked me.

I shook my head. “No…”

“Why?”

I wanted to answer, but I couldn’t even breathe. Mrs. Hamil spoke for me. “Well… let me just say, he’s received multiple warnings for fighting, for ditching class, and for mouthing off to our staff. I’ve tried to be patient…” Bullsh*t, I thought. “But now it’s starting to get out of hand, and I can’t continue to issue warnings if he’s not going to listen. It’s not fair to other students to give him special treatment.”

”I understand,” my grandmother said.

”I never asked for your special treatment, if that’s what you’re calling it,” I blurted out, finally looking at them. My hatred for Mrs. Hamil right then outweighed my sensitivity for my grandmother, who was probably just as stressed as I was. “I never asked for special treatment, but I did ask you to do something about Renner’s bitch ass when he started f***ing with me, and you didn’t. You told me to stop engaging, and it turned into this, and now you’re all falling all over yourselves trying to comfort him when he started it. You’re all sorry for him right now, but a week ago, with me, you’re like Oh, get over it, Casey. Tough sh*t!

Both of them were staring at me with wide-eyes. I had the floor, but I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just kept going, letting my rage control me entirely. Once I unleashed my outburst, I couldn’t reel it back in. “I’m not sorry for what I did. I’m not sorry for ditching class, for mouthing off, for any of it. So if you’re gonna kick me out, just do it so I can go home.”

“Casey, please settle down --”

“No! I don’t wanna settle down!” I stood up. “I’m tired of being the one that has to settle down!” I knew it was bad. In the very back of my mind, there was a small voice begging me to knock it off, but I was stifling it with what had become uncontrollable yelling, in a tone I couldn’t even recognize. Something else had completely taken over. “I’m the one who’s hurt! I’m the one who’s f***ed up, and all he has to do is fake some tears, and everyone is all over him, and I’m the bad guy because I got sick of his bullsh*t! All of this is complete bullsh*t!”

Mrs. Hamil stared at me more sternly. “Casey, I think you really need to sit down.”

My response, once again, slipped off my tongue before I could catch it. “And I think you really need to f*** off,” I spat, yet contradicted myself by falling back into my chair. My knees gave out. My chest ached from desperate attempts to get a good breath in, and an enormous lump in my throat told me I was about to look every bit as pathetic as Renner, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it except duck my head down and shield my face with my hands. Even that didn’t disguise it in my voice, and if it did, at least one person knew I was crying -- me. I knew it, and I hated myself for it. I hated the way I shriveled when it all finally closed in on me. I was the cry-baby all along. “I wish all of you would just f*** off…”

01/21/2019 01:54 PM 

wayward }} d r a b b l e.

W A Y W A R D -- ;

Saddle West Hotel
Pahrump, Nevada

Casey peeked around the corner to get a look at the hallway. Ten minutes passed since he’d last spotted Thomas, or heard him running along the hall upstairs. That could have only meant he’d found a secure hiding spot -- one which Casey was confident he would be able to find, no problem, but the threat of Thomas finding him first still lingered, so he knew he had to keep moving. To the other residents passing by, Casey was just an annoying kid, doing a serpentine down the first-floor hallway. However, to Casey, he was the self-proclaimed villain in a race against time; in a battle of wit and skill. Anyone he happened to run into, or trip over in the process was just a casualty and villains weren’t supposed to care about that. Without a single apology, he jolted down the hall. At the end of the corridor was an exit that lead to an outdoor staircase. If Casey got out there, he could sneak back in on the second floor and catch Thomas before Thomas even realize he’d left the building. Unfortunately, he was thwarted before he even made it to the door.

“That one?”

“Yup, that’s the one! He ran into me three times out in the lobby, and he damn-near trampled my wife coming down the hall! There’s another one upstairs doing the same thing!” A brown-haired guy in an ugly polo was yelling, pointing at Casey who was frozen in his tracks. He contemplated running, but thought better of it considering he’d already been in trouble the week before for splashing water on people from the safety of his balcony while they were coming in, and then a week before that for purposely running out in front of peoples’ cars while they were trying to park. Judging by the look on Shirley from the front desk’s face, she was no longer amused by him. This was no longer a case of “kids being kids.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Shirley said, then parted ways with Polo Shirt. Before Casey could do or say anything, she snatched the water gun from his hand, causing him to flinch when she latched onto his shirt. “What is this?”

Casey didn’t say anything. In that moment, his demeanor had gone from cool, collected villain back to moody teenager with razor-sharp eyes -- his “true form.”

“I sure hope you weren’t running around trying to shoot people with this, Casey,” Shirley prodded.

“I wasn’t,” Casey said, trying to shrug her hand away, but Shirley’s grip only tightened.

“Okay, then what WERE you doing with it? And what were you doing running around tripping people?”

Casey rolled his eyes. “Look, hands off, we were just playing around. I didn’t even run into that guy, he’s full of sh*t…”

“Uh-huh… Well that guy’s not the only one giving me complaints, so forgive me if Ifind that hard to believe,” Shirley remarked, beginning to walk. “Walk.” Usually, when Casey would get into trouble, Shirley would just walk him back to his room. On the off-chance his mother was home, she would scold her for not watching him, while making the point that a fourteen year-old boy shouldn’t have had to be watched so closely anyway.

There was once a time where Casey pretty popular there, but that was before its residents got to know him, and became aware of the fact that his mother inadvertently allowed him to run rampant around the building while she was nowhere to be found. Shirley found herself watching him more often than Jennifer Caverly ever had. When they reached the top of the stairs, Thomas was in the midst of an encounter with the Goldfields next door, quite similar to the one Casey had just had with the polo guy. Casey didn’t say a word. As Shirley gathered Thomas too, and began ushering them back to Casey’s hotel room, he glanced at Todd Goldfield who just shook his head and then went back to complaining about them once their backs were to him.

Shirley asked several times where Jennifer was. For some reason, it took her actually seeing their apartment for herself to realize Casey hadn’t been lying when he said he didn’t know. In fact, he hadn’t seen her in two days, which wasn’t out of the ordinary. Last time she disappeared, she was gone an entire week, and before that she was gone so long Casey gave up counting the days all-together. Because she was so absent, she didn’t really know or care what the room looked like, and neither did her teenage boy who’d never cleaned a day in his life. Thomas wasn’t fazed by it, because it wasn’t his hotel room, and therefore not his problem. He walked in so casually it looked like he’d memorized all the junk piles. Casey was more hesitant, at least trying to step over things or kicking them out of his way when he became frustrated with that. He wanted it clean. He wanted to do something about it, but at that point, where was he supposed to start?

Casey expected a rampage when Shirley saw the state of their room, but in the end, she just seemed more sad than anything. “You should go home, your parents probably worried about you,” she said to Thomas, then focused on Casey. “You stay in here for the rest of the night, okay? We’ll try and track down your mom.”

“Ch’yeah, good luck,” Casey muttered under his breath, but didn’t look at her. Instead he started spitefully picking up some of the dirty clothes off the floor. Shirley left with their water guns, and a promise to return them at the end of the week. Casey wanted to make some crack about how she was more like a mother than Jennifer was, but he wanted her to leave more than anything.

“Do I have to go home?” Thomas asked. Shirley glared at him, which got him up off the couch. He looked back at Casey. “See you tomorrow, man.”

Casey acknowledged him with a small nod while dumping some plastic dishes into the trash can. “Yeah, sure.”

It was nearing midnight by the time Jennifer stumbled through the door, ranting about how Shirley embarrassed her out in the lobby. “I can’t believe she would tell me that!? Who is she to tell me that?” She flailed her arms. She continued on and on while stumbling over the piles remaining on the floor since Casey never got very far in cleaning up before giving in. She slammed her purse down on the counter, leaning against it. She pushed herself off the counter and staggered to the bathroom, spotting the light underneath the crack in the door, which seemed to spark her memory. “Casey!”

Casey, who’d heard the commotion outside the bathroom door, was in the midst of scrambling around trying to dispose of the cigarettes he’d stolen from Jennifer’s purse the last time she was home. His homework was scattered in a disarray across the floor. When Jennifer shoved the door open, it stopped short after hitting him in the shoulder, just in the nick of time. He’d shoved the cigarette -- only half-smoked -- into the sink and washed it down. “Hey, occupied!” he snapped.

“Yup, and now you’re done, get out here!” Jennifer fired back, snatching his arm and dragging him out into the room. She was still stumbling. She reeked of alcohol, but her rage was propelling her through her spiel, as if sobering her to some extent. “Well, first of all, I’m sure you know we gotta get this cleaned up since I have Shirley on my ass now. I can’t believe you let it get like this, I was gone for a few days! A few days and look at this, Jesus Christ. You wanna tell me what the hell happened in the hallway also?”

Jennifer was using every trick in the book to get her point across, but the only thing she was successfully doing was igniting a flame in Casey, who leered at her the entire time she was talking. “You wanna go back to grandma’s basement? Huh? Because that’s what’s gonna happen if we can’t make this work,” she rambled on, flailing her arm around.

“At least grandma’s not a total a**hole,” Casey remarked, gaze trailing from her, over the mess of their hotel room. If they got kicked out, he thought, it might not be so bad.

Jennifer paused, her eyes springing open, somehow wider than they already had been. “What did you just say?”

Casey just stared at her with is arms crossed.

“Casey Adam Caverly, what did you just say to your mother? What did you say to me? I will beat it outta you, you little brat --”

“Come hit me then, mom!” Casey snapped. “Come beat it outta me so someone can call the cops again, and you can clean this sh*t up by yourself tomorrow.”

Jennifer took a small step back, her mouth open, but Casey had her coming up short for words.

“Exactly.”

Casey and Jennifer ultimately parted ways, Jennifer falling asleep on the couch-bed while Casey forwent his air mattress on the floor beside it for the bathroom. He lined the bathtub with blankets so he could lay inside, staring at the ceiling, finally simmering down. When he shut his eyes, it at least started to alleviate the oncoming headache. He felt too young to be complaining of headaches all the time, but that was the third in a week, for the same reason. He thought of running away. He imagined himself taking off down the 160 and hitchhiking away several times, with several different outcomes, until he finally fell asleep.

In the morning, Casey awoke -- having not even realized he fell asleep -- to an abrasive buzzing from the vacuum cleaner he didn’t realize they had, as well as the crinkling of trash bags. His eyebrows knit together. If Jennifer had the vacuum going, then who was taking out the trash? Slowly, he found himself losing interest as sleep started to win him over again, but a disgustingly familiar tickle on his cheek caused him to shoot up and start swatting at his face. He ruffled his hair a bit, and from somewhere, flung a small bug that scampered underneath the cabinet as soon as it was free. Figuring he had no chance at going to sleep again after that, Casey huffed and hauled himself out of the tub, rubbing his eyes as he walked over to the door, pulling it open very slowly so he could sneak a peek before committing. “Good morning!” he heard through the initial crack. He backed away, and the vacuum shut off. A strange man with long gray hair and a biker’s bandanna for some reason felt he had permission to push the door open completely.

“Those are some interesting pajamas,” the man teased, referring to the fact that Casey had never changed from his T-shirt and ripped up jeans.

“Who are you?” Casey demanded flatly. He didn’t want anyone in their space, much less another strange guy that would either hurt or abandon them in the end.So he decided to try something. Before this guy could hurt him, he’d act up first. He’d be the one to sever the connection, and he’d do it before it could even start. “You smell like alcohol, so you probably met my mom at the bar, right?”

“Casey,” Jennifer scolded, eyeing him over her shoulder, but the guy only laughed.

“Well, when the kid’s right, he’s right,” he said, passing it off. “I’m just a friend, I came to help clean this place up.”

Casey had heard that line a thousand times before -- just a friend. Just friends didn’t mean anything to him. Just friends still wouldn’t hesitate to deck him in the face for nothing, or walk out after getting his hopes up. “We didn’t really need the help,” he blunted. The guy kept laughing at him, which was pissing him off.

“Trust me, kiddo, you certainly do.”

“We REALLY do,” Jennifer added, coming up from behind the guy. “You missed all the hard crap, now come on, be polite and introduce yourself so you can start helping.”

“Ooooh yeah, right,” the drunk stranger waved his hand, shaking his head. “Totally forgot, I’m Robbie. And I’m gonna go ‘head and guess you’re Casey.”

“Mhm…” Casey rolled his eyes.

“You know what, back when I was workin’ in Hollywood, I knew this kid who looked just like you. Thought he was gonna be a star too -- he had the face for it, but he went off, did a ton’a drugs and got ‘imself thrown in prison.”

“You sayin’ my kid’s gonna get himself thrown in prison?” Jennifer scoffed.

“No! I’m saying he could be a star!” Robbie laughed. “Maybe he was tryin’a tell you somethin’ with the water gun thing. He wants to play a hero.” At that, Casey actually found it in himself to smile, though Jennifer was quick to interject and ruin it. “Well, he can play the hero of the hotel room n’ pick up a broom then."

01/10/2019 02:45 PM 

all hands }} d r a b b l e.

A L L H A N D S -- ;

“I had no idea you were living in your car.”

I hadn’t expected Isaiah to know since I didn’t tell him, and didn’t initially plan to. In fact, I hadn’t even planned on telling the judging panel for TALENT! but for some reason, I ended up feeling the need to justify how raggedy I thought I looked. Even with a chance to shower and clean up at my co-worker’s place, my clothes were still out of date, and I was sporting ripped up jeans I’d been wearing since the beginning of high school. I had a pretty gnarly split lip I couldn’t cover up from being punched in the face by a friend. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded. I told him to do it because I was drunk enough to think it’d be funny, and he was drunk enough to agree. At least I totally had the pity factor going for me. I was thoroughly convinced it was the only reason I made it through to the next round.

“Ch’yeah… Designed by Subaru, it’s quite a feat. I’d make a great episode of MTV Cribs one day,” I mused, shrugging. Isaiah and I stood together in the parking lot after our audition waiting for Jacob, Isaiah getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness my extraordinary home in the flesh. He looked blown away -- and not because he was impressed -- but I was indifferent. I was used to it. The Outback had everything I really needed, minus a shower. I rigged some cool red curtains to the back windows so I could sleep without people messing with me. Everything had somewhat of a spot, aside from my keyboard and guitar, which were shoved anywhere I could fit them -- in the front seat if I wasn’t there, in the back if I was driving.

“I think you missed the boat on that one, buddy…” Isaiah looked into the front window, then turned his head away like he was afraid I’d scold him for peeking -- or like I’d be hiding a dead body, a fleeting thought that caused me to laugh a little.

“Don’t look too long, you might see something that makes you way more uncomfortable than the fact that I live in there,” I teased, sitting down on top of the hood and lighting a cigarette.

“Sorry…” Isaiah said, becoming way more serious than I was expecting -- way more serious than I wanted. What did he care about some dumb homeless kid anyway? I was his competition, right? “I just can’t believe you had the guts to come out here and live on the street to try this.”

I took a long drag from my cigarette, staring at the ground. Again, I matched his discomfort with indifference, although I could feel my chest getting tight My real reason for being there always lingered on my mind, but I could usually shove it to the back where it belonged. Suddenly, I could feel it creeping its way to the forefront. I remembered having to tell my grandmother while she sat in tears beside my hospital bed that I felt I had nothing to live for. I remembered having to tell therapists I didn’t have anything going for me, that I didn’t feel like I had any goals except making music, but I had no way to start. When Dr. Morris told me about TALENT!, I thought that if I failed, I was out nothing because I didn’t care about living anymore anyway. I shook my head, smiling more for my own sake than Isaiah’s. I wanted to keep pushing that memory back. I wanted to keep not thinking about it. If I thought about it any more, competition be damned, I knew I’d be tempted to drive my home straight off a pier somewhere.

“I really had nothing to lose.”

Before Isaiah answered, we both heard someone wailing the lyrics to Looks Like We Made It coming toward us. Despite his efforts, Jacob sounded nothing like Barry Manilow, and when he sang like that, he didn’t sound like Jacob Brooks either. He was holding a little gold card, which meant all three of us were in for another round. When he approached us, still singing, Isaiah and I -- as if acting on some kind of weird musician instinct -- began harmonizing with him, which caused us all to eventually break the song for a laugh.

“So this is the Outback,” Jacob pointed, grinning.

“Yup, my pride and joy,” I said, patting the hood.

“Look, you guys,” Isaiah chimed in. “I know we just met n’ all, but I think if we don’t make it, we should all stick together.”

“Yeah, we’ll keep in touch.” I took a final drag off my cigarette, then tossed it out, shrugging. I wasn’t really sure what his angle was.

“No, no, I mean -- not like that, but as musicians. Did you hear the way we all just jumped right on harmonizing together? Or when we were playing in the hallway?” Isaiah clarified. He was becoming more adamant, and more intense than I’d seen since I met him. “We should really keep doing this, together, if we don’t make it.”

For the first time since I’d met Isaiah, I saw passion flourish in his eyes, and it excited me. The idea made my whole chest start fluttering. “Yeah?” I asked.

“Yeah!” Isaiah turned his head to Jacob. “Yeah?”

Jacob broke our weird train with a laugh. “Hell, I’m in. All hands?” He stuck his hand out.

“All hands in,” Isaiah repeated, then looked at me, arching his eyebrows as he placed his hand on top of Jacob’s.

I didn’t have to think about it. My heart was still going wild, and even though I felt like an idiot, I couldn’t control the smile on my face. When I placed my hand on top of theirs, it felt like I’d already known them my entire life. When I looked up at them, it felt like what I was finally doing what I was supposed to be doing.

“All hands?” Isaiah prodded, smiling down at me.

I nodded, “All hands in.”

12/19/2018 08:16 PM 

cross my heart }} d r a b b l e.

C R O S S M Y H E A R T -- ;

“Look, I know this is probably the last place you wanna be right now…”

Casey glanced around. There they sat at the kitchen table they used to share, drinking coffee from cups they joined forces in buying after spending an hour picking them out together. He sat at his own table as a guest, as a stranger. How could a place he used to call home suddenly feel like another planet? Of course he would have rather been anywhere else. He wanted to say something along the lines of “no, I was actually thinking this was exactly what I needed today” but he banished the remark as soon as it came to him. His back-up jab was a lot more cautious. He looked up at her, his eyebrows arched. “I would like it on record you said that, not me.”

“Casey…” Sarah sighed, glaring at him. “This is hard enough, don’t make it worse.”

Casey’s expression softened once he got a good look at her. As much as he wanted to deflect his own discomfort with sarcasm and goofing around, he couldn’t keep it up when she looked so exasperated. He’d heard from a mutual friend she was trying to get clean, and from the looks of it, it wasn’t easy on her. Another concept which had become familiar, yet alien to him was watching Sarah in distress. Casey used to know how to handle that expression, that defeated sigh, the pain behind her eyes, but he didn’t know that code anymore. He wasn’t able to take her in his arms anymore. He wasn’t able to press his forehead against hers and shut out the rest of the world until Sarah was able to handle it again. All he could do was sit there, equally exasperated, distantly wishing he’d have ignored the call. His gaze fell to their coffee cups. A momentary burst of nostalgia had him thinking about their argument years ago about whether blue or red cups would better match the marble table they’d just bought. It was such a trivial argument, and they’d been absolutely naive in celebrating that it was the worst struggle they’d ever faced as newlyweds. “Look, what did you want to talk about?”

It took a few moments for things to simmer down enough for Sarah to explain. Casey tapped his heel on the ground, his patience wearing thin, but he had to keep himself in line since the ball was in her court. “It’s about Savannah,” she finally said.

Casey’s eyebrows furrowed. “What about her, is she okay?” He glanced at Savannah’s door. In the time he and Sarah spent apart, Savannah never left his mind, but he knew it was better to keep some distance since things were still fresh. Even now, the ice he stood upon was remarkably fragile. “Is she here?”

“She’s fine, she’s in her room,” Sarah assured. “It’s more just… you know, you’ve been here her whole life, and I think… even if we don’t get along, I don’t want her to miss out on that, or wonder why you never see her anymore. She’s already starting to ask questions about it.”

“What did you tell her?” Casey asked. It would be his little secret that he’d always intended to pursue partial custody of Savannah, though he was thankful he didn’t have to worry about that. He was thankful they could still function as a team when it came to her, at the very least.

“Well, I took care of the hard part, she knows we broke up,” Sarah mused, leaning her chin into the palm of her hand, her eyes drifting to the side. “She knows I’m going through some stuff, but obviously not what… She knows you’re not gonna live here anymore.”

Casey nodded, pursing his lips together. After a moment or so, he lifted his head. “Can I talk to her?”

“Go ahead.” Sarah nodded toward the door. “Hey, Casey?” She called his attention just as he was walking down the hall, prompting him to glance at her over his shoulder. “Thanks…”

Casey smiled a little, but shook his head. There was a lot to work out, but Casey still felt like he was the one who was supposed to be thankful. “Don’t worry about it.”

When he came through the door, Savannah was sitting at her desk, coloring while humming to herself. She didn’t seem to notice Casey was there until he was standing right beside her, looking over her shoulder. She didn’t look at him until he started to hum the same tune she was. “You came back!” she beamed. Savannah got a lot of her looks from her father, Andrew -- her extremely pale skin, her sandy brown hair, curling into little ringlets at the ends were unmistakably his, but there was one staggering difference -- one breathtaking detail she had most definitely inherited from Sarah. Savannah had enormous brown eyes, through which anyone could see into the depths of her soul, just like her mother. Through them, in spite of her exuberant smile, Casey could see her pain, her confusion. Suddenly, she caught herself and shied away. “Mom said she didn’t know if you were…” she muttered, turning back to her notebook.

“She did, huh?”

“Mhm…” Savannah kept her head turned away.

Casey exhaled a sigh through his nose. He could tell she was avoiding him -- the situation all-together even -- and he cursed himself for having passed that nasty habit down to her. “Why don’t we put that away and talk for a second, okay?” he suggested. Savannah put her pencil down, pursing her lips together. With two stubborn parents, it was no surprise she hesitated to face him, but after a few seconds, she spun her chair around. By then, Casey was knelt down in front of her, finally able to see what it was she was hiding from him. She stared at him in silence, her soul-baring eyes drowning in tears. “Sweetheart, there is nothing that could ever happen that would make me not want to come back and see you.”

Savannah was frantically wiping her face. She nodded her head, sniffling. “Okay…”

“Seriously. I know things are pretty weird right now, and they probably will be for a bit, but me and your mom -- we love you so much and we’d do anything for you,” Casey went on, reaching up to brush Savannah’s hair out of her face. “And even if I’m not always here, all you have to do is call me, and I will be. I’m never gonna just go away.”

Savannah wiped her face again, nodding along with Casey as he spoke. At his conclusion, she paused to mull it over. Casey didn’t speak, just waited for her to process it, to ask any questions she wanted to, but no questions came. Instead, she held her hand out to him with her pinky extended. “Pinky swear?”

The gesture, in the grand scheme of things, was a simple one. Between two adults, it didn’t hold much merit, but for Savannah who was still a child, it meant everything. It was the ultimate confirmation, the ultimate contract. Despite all the other ways Casey could prove himself, none would ever mean as much to a six year-old as the pinky swear. He couldn’t help but laugh, remembering his own childhood, and how much the swear used to mean to him, and how it was the ultimate sin to break it.

Casey locked their pinkies together, finally smiling. “Pinky swear.”

“Cross your heart and hope to die?” Savannah prodded, holding onto Casey’s pinky.

“Stick TWELVE needles in my eye,” Casey remarked with a grin, pointing at his eye. He finally got a giggle out of her with that. They laughed together as their pinkies broke apart and Casey brought her into his arms, kissing the top of her head. “I love you, kid.”

“Love you…” Savannah brought her arms around him.

“You gonna be good for mom when I’m not here?”

“Yeeees.” Savannah pulled away, nodding.

“And you’re gonna keep practicing piano so we can play together?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And you’re always gonna remember I love you and I’m not going anywhere, right? You believe me?”

At that, Savannah giggled the same way she had a few moments prior, pointing to her eye. “Stick THIRTEEN needles in my eye.”

11/21/2018 02:40 PM 

i do }} d r a b b l e.

I D O-- ;

People tell you a lot of different things when you tell them you’re getting married. By the time my own wedding came around, I’d heard some say it was the best day of their lives, and others say it was the worst; some described it as relaxing, while others had post-traumatic stress flashbacks over their memory of it. What all those people failed to realize was, there is no way to put your own wedding day into exact words, especially not words that would ease the mind of someone who’s never been there before. My own wedding was a mixture of everything I’d ever been told it would be. Magical, fun, sad, stressful, irritating -- you name it, but more than anything, I would just choose to call it fitting.

Sarah and I had never been a conventional pair. In life, we always traveled upon roads that had others raising their eyebrows, and we liked it that way. We enjoyed the perturbed stares, the questions, the speculation taking place behind our backs where people thought we wouldn’t notice. Therefore it was only appropriate for us to have a wedding that would disturb people, even if that wasn’t the original intention. For every family member praising us, there were a hundred strangers complaining that we were too young -- that we were throwing our careers away. I didn’t understand where they were coming from. I didn’t understand at all how my marital status had become a factor in whether or not I was successful as a musician, but I let it go. I didn’t care what other people thought. I knew what I wanted, and that was Sarah. In the end, onlookers who didn’t know me bothered me a lot less than the people who did, especially Sarah’s parents, whose only role in our wedding seemed to be to oppose every single decision we made.

Where we wanted a modest, outdoor wedding, her father had taken the liberty of renting out an unnecessarily massive venue. Sarah and I settled on red and black for wedding colors, but had to change them because her mother was already sold on gold and blue, and her decorations had already been purchased. Mama Emily even took care of picking out a dress she just knew Sarah would love, even though it was white, and Sarah had specifically stated she wanted red. At some point, they’d also bulked up our guest list, but not before scolding us for how selective we’d been initially. Kevin and Emily Hudson, bless them or damn them (I truly didn’t care), had become the most annoying people I’d ever met.

The night before the wedding, Kevin took me out for drinks while Emily dragged Sarah to some kind of bachelorette party I had absolutely no hand in. “Ya’know, Casey, I like ya’ kid… but I have to say this, and I’m gonna make it very clear…” Sarah’s parents were from South Carolina, and it showed most prominently in Kevin, who rocked a handlebar mustache and a white cowboy had which he’d set down on the bar. I always wondered what he must have done for a living, but I didn’t like him enough to ask. “If you ever hurt ‘er, I got a shotgun and a bullet with your name on it, you hearin’ me?”

I listened with my chin in my palm, twirling my empty shot glass around. He raised his eyebrows at me, prodding me for a response, but it took me a minute to conjure up anything nice. My jaw was aching from the tension of my restraint, and I wanted to roll my eyes, but instead I took a deep breath and looked away all together. “Loud and clear, pop,” I simply said, not feeling the need to justify myself to him. Anyone who knew me knew I was crazy about Sarah. Anyone who knew me knew I would sooner die than hurt her.

On our wedding day, I still wasn’t feeling any magic. Sarah and I had barely even seen each other since her parents got in, and while we’d been elated to make the announcement in the first place, I looked into the venue that morning feeling only dread as I watched Emily scrambling around to get the finishing touches on everything, followed closely by our unexpected flower girl Olivia -- Sarah’s little cousin, whom we’d established in one of our brief moments together was the least annoying member of her whole family. I looked to each side of the podium stationed front and center. To the left, Sarah’s family took up three rows of seats. To the right, my family -- tiny in comparison -- took up only one. Behind them was my band and Steve, and further back were a select few of our mutual friends. My heart fluttered. I felt sick to my stomach thinking about reciting vows in front of all those people I didn’t even invite. They didn’t deserve to be there watching us. After witnessing every one of them put Sarah in distress at some point that week, I decided not a single one of them -- save for Olivia -- deserved to be a part of our moment, though such a decision didn’t really matter when they were already sitting there, taking up our space, absorbing our energy. I wanted to go back to bed. I’d have sooner ditched my own wedding and taken Sarah down to the courthouse or something to save us from having to walk down that aisle.

“Gettin’ nervous yet?” Kevin came up from behind. When he pat me on the back, I flinched because I’d been preoccupied staring at the ugly decorations, silently mourning the visions Sarah and I had that never came to fruition. This wasn’t the wedding we wanted. This wasn’t a wedding we would have ever put together, yet it was ours, and it would be a stain on our history forever. Was I nervous? Immensely, but not about getting married. What had me nervous was doing it in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know, or like. “I’ve been that way,” I mused. Talking made me more aware of how nauseous I was, and as soon as that realization hit me, so did the dizziness and light-headedness that could only be associated with throwing up. I leaned on the door to keep my footing. My chest was throbbing. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought I was suffering a heart attack.

Kevin looked at me and laughed, and I wanted to punch him for it, but I wouldn’t have had the strength. “I can tell, you look like a ghost!” He pointed.

”Kevin, leave that boy alone,” Emily scolded him. I had no idea where she even came from, but for the first time since she’d flown in, I was grateful for her presence. “We’re almost ready to go.”

“Actually -- I’m sorry, can we like… hold on just a minute?” I asked. I had to get out of there. I didn’t care if we ran late, they could wait on us.

Emily stared at me. I couldn’t tell whether her concern was genuine or not, but I didn’t really care. I was already starting to back away from her. “Sure. Are you okay…?”

“I’m good,” I insisted. “I’ll be fine, I just need a sec. Um, do you know where the bathroom is?”

Kevin was snickering behind Emily. It was everything in me to keep from lunging at him, but I’d already used most of my strength pushing myself off the wall, and I was saving the rest to make it to the bathroom.

“Uh yeah, third door to your left. Hurry now!”

I didn’t answer, I just took off down the hall, to the third door, but in my daze I managed to confuse my right and left, and walk right into Sarah’s dressing room. She shot up from the vanity. There was a woman helping her who started trying to shoo me away. I knew the rule. I knew it, and I’d just broken it. “Aw man,” I covered my eyes and turned my head while the weird woman continued yelling at me to leave.

”No, no, no, no, no, it’s okay. It’s okay!” Sarah finally halted the commotion holding her hands out. “It’s okay, I hate that rule anyway. Can you give us a few minutes, please?” She asked the woman. “Tell everyone we’ll be out in a few.”

”But your makeup isn’t finished.”

”It looks great. Just give us a few, okay?”

”Okay…?”

The woman leered at me as she passed by. I probably wasn’t giving her a particularly kind expression either, but I wanted her out as much as Sarah did. The moment I got a look at Sarah, that lady didn’t even matter to me. No one outside mattered to me. I was completely captured, stunned into silence by the way the light came through the side window, illuminating the pearls embroidered into her dress. That had to be the magic everyone talked about, and I was mystified. The longer I stared, the more bewildered I became by how almost otherworldly she looked. In that moment, I remembered the reason I was there. I remembered why we put up with her parents’ weird demands, and complete overhaul of our original plan. I remembered why I got down on one knee a month before, in front of an entire audience. It didn’t matter to me how ugly our wedding was, I was just happy to be with her. In the end, I won; I had a whole lifetime and then some to make up for this one crappy week that we’d probably forget about anyway. We didn’t need this ceremony; it was only a small part in a monumental picture, or series of pictures, and it didn’t match up to all the other moments we’d shared together, or would share together. I felt a weight off my shoulders upon my decision to just let it go -- to think of it as just an obstacle along the way to our eternity.

“Can you close the door?" Sarah said, jerking me back to my senses. “Sure.” Once it was closed, she plopped back down in her chair and promptly burst into tears. In the entire time I’d known her, I’d only ever seen her cry a few times. I really didn’t want our wedding to be one of those times, unless it was happy tears, but that was far from the case. “Casey, I hate this…” she blurted out, covering her hands with her face. “I hate this wedding, I HATE this dress, I hate those people… This was supposed to be the best day of our lives, and it isn’t, I hate it.”

My knees felt weak. My stomach was still in knots, but I couldn’t worry about it while she sat there bordering on hysterics. In fact, I was glad I’d turned the wrong way, because her pushy makeup artist could have never consoled her the way I could, and didn’t even deserve the opportunity to try. Once again, the universe pulled us together at the perfect time. ”Hey…” I whispered, coming in to kneel down in front of her. God, I hated seeing her cry. I was trying to smile, but my own eyes were starting to tear up, which was something only Sarah Hudson -- soon to be Caverly -- could do to me. I reached up and took her hands, pressing our foreheads together in order to close out any outside influence that could obstruct her ability to hear me. “This day sucks. This whole week has pretty much sucked, I know, but you know what?” I decided to share my realization with her, in the hopes that it would ease her mind. “It doesn’t matter because this is only one week we have to spend doing this versus a whole life we can spend together. None of this changes how I feel about you or how excited I am. We always had to fight for what we wanted, right?”

Sarah took a moment to process what I said, then nodded, “I guess so...”

She always got stubborn when she became flustered. I could tell she wasn’t hearing me, so I trudged on, hoping something would stick. “Think about it. To get into music, we had to fight, right? To get together in the first place, we had to fight it out with Andrew. This isn’t any different. We have to fight through this crappy wedding to be together, so let’s put on our helmets and fight, okay?”

She nodded again. That time, I was sure she was actually listening.

Finally, I brought myself to smile, for no other reason than I wanted to see her smile too. I wanted her to be okay. “…And I know you really hate your dress, but I think you look absolutely stunning.” At that, we finally shared a laugh. She pulled her hands from mine and grabbed my face, and when she kissed me, it felt like we’d gone back in time to the first night we met. We got lost there, and despite everything I just got through telling Sarah, part of me wished we could have stayed there, but we had people waiting on us. “I love you,” I whispered. “We’re gonna get through this, okay?”

She was still smiling, nodding her head while wiping the tears off her face. “I love you too…” Sarah looked to the side and suddenly her eyes went wide. “Casey! You know how we can fight this, right?”

She grinned. This was where our lack of convention came into play. This was what I was waiting for -- what I was holding onto when everyone said it would be an enlightening day. “I’m listening.”

“Well you see, my aunt…” Sarah got out of the chair, leaving me to go to the other side of the room where there were a few gift bags piled up. She rummaged through them and pulled out two bottles of wine. “Must have known we might need some helmets.”

It was perfect. To an outsider, maybe it looked ridiculous for us to sabotage our own wedding, but the thing was, it wasn’t our wedding. It was her parents’ wedding we were sabotaging, and we’d just found our secret weapon. “I love it,” I said, and in a half an hour -- fifteen minutes past show time -- Sarah and I stumbled through the door, onto the gold aisle, littered with little white flowers we both hated. Everyone looked back at us when the door flew open. Emily was out of her seat, presumably on her way to come check on us. To the right, Jacob and Isaiah were the only ones in the venue laughing. “Oh, no way…” I heard Jacob saying through my own fit of laughter. “It’s okay! It’s okay!” I hollered. Steve was sinking in his seat, pretending not to know me, which made me and Sarah laugh even more. “It’s okay,” I felt the need to repeat, just in case the officiant up front hadn’t heard. “You can start.”

“Yeah, get the music going!” Sarah shouted, stumbling into me.

“Sarah,” Emily hissed. More people were starting to laugh, successfully outnumbering Emily and Kevin.

”Are you sure?” Our officiant looked at Kevin instead of us. Kevin was furious; everyone was furious, and their appalled expressions were all the confirmation my drunken self needed to know we’d won. “Doesn’t matter if he’s sure, we’re sure, and it’s our wedding!” I yelled out. It took Sarah and I five minutes to get down there, not because we were really too drunk to walk, but because we couldn’t stop laughing. We couldn’t stop celebrating. When we finally made it to the podium, we stared at each other like children who’d gotten away with a major plot to break their parents’ rules. Sarah was red in the face, and the tears forming in her eyes were undoubtedly joyful ones. She was every bit as exuberant as she had been the night I met her, and her lipstick took me back in time again. Bright red, just like her face had been -- just like her flowy dress had been. I subconsciously started to sway back and forth, remembering the way we held each other on the dance floor. The uncontrollable smiling was making my face hurt but I couldn’t stop. She grinned and leaned against my chest. “Hey, is my face red?” she whispered.

I pressed my lips against her temple. Somehow my smile grew wider at her question. I still don’t know how my face managed such an expression. “It’s beautiful,” I answered, wrapping my arms around her shoulders. Even amid the utter crappiness of our ruined wedding, I never wanted to leave that spot. I never wanted to let her go. We weren’t just standing at an altar, we were standing in the middle of a war zone, where we’d emerged the victors of what felt like an endless battle. I wanted to celebrate that forever. And just as quickly as I thought that, it occurred to me that what I actually wanted was to leave. What I truly wanted was to celebrate our victory where no one else could see us. I wanted to hold onto her without anyone there to pull us apart.

“Marriage is perhaps the greatest and most challenging adventure of human relationships. No ceremony can create your marriage --”

“Hey, can you just like… skip to the ‘I do’ part?” I interrupted. The guy looked at me like I was out of my mind. I felt out of my mind, and I loved every second of it. I could feel the burning stares of Sarah’s entire family in my back, but they didn’t realize they were fueling me.

“Um… well sure, I can… I can do that, uh,.” He was flustered, flipping through pages to get to that part of his speech. I made a note to apologize to him later, if I remembered. In fact, there was a long, long list of people I would have to apologize to, but it was more than worth it. “Do you, Sarah, take Casey to be your husband?"

Sarah and I parted only enough to look into each others eyes. We stared at each other for a moment, not saying anything, which eventually turned into an unexpected contest we both lost due to uncontrollable laughter. She grabbed my face once she composed herself. “I do!”

Our officiant looked concerned by the answer, but probably not half as concerned as the rest of Sarah’s family. “And do you, Casey, take Sarah to be your wife?”

I held onto Sarah’s arms, looking into her eyes. The sun casting through the window illuminated her again, and paired with my hazy vision, she looked like an angel. People told me so many things about getting married. They tried to prepare me for getting emotional and frustrated. They told me it would be the best day of my life. They told me it was enchanting and magical and warm. I’d come to find that a wedding was a mildly toxic mixture of all those things, but in mine and Sarah’s case specifically, I still chose to just call it fitting. Was it the wedding we always wanted? Far from, but it was ours. And just like we’d tackled every other obstacle, we tackled this one too. When I looked at Sarah, beaming from her perseverance, there wasn’t even an ounce of hesitation in me the moment I said “I do.”

11/19/2018 03:28 PM 

last resort }} d r a b b l e.

L A S T  R E S O R T-- ;

"So you really wanna take that piano on tour…?”

”Yes.”

”Like that?”

”Yes.”

”So, you are 100 % done working on it.”

”Correct.”

I could tell Steve thought I was crazy, but I stood my ground. Steve was more than just a manager to me. He was the father I never had. He was the first person I went to when sh*t hit the fan with Sarah and Christian, and the first person I would go to the next time I inevitably found myself in trouble. He even kind of looked like a sitcom dad with the gray hair and thick-rimmed glasses. And, in typical fatherly fashion -- or at least, how I envisioned having a father would have been -- he stared at me with his arms folded, one eyebrow raised, silently scolding me for an apparently stupid decision. It took me a month to get my piano back from Sarah, and another month to fix it so it would play again. Steve and I stood in the middle of my living room, which it took up almost the entirety of, arguing over whether or not I should leave the scars Sarah carved in it in tact. I had my case prepared. I had all the facts lined up and ready to go should he oppose me, and he did oppose me.

”Look Casey…” he sighed, pulling his glasses off his face and pinching the bridge of his nose. “I know you loved this piano, but don’t you think people might look down on you for bringing it out like that?”

”People are already looking down on me,” I blunted, mimicking his posture by folding my arms. I glanced at the piano, then at Steve.

”Well, do you really want to exacerbate that? I’m not real sure where your head is at on this, but to an outsider might think you’re poking fun at Sarah, and you might get some heat for it.” Steve was trying, but I had already considered everything he was telling me. I stared at him, waiting for him to go on, or try a different route. “You have the means to get a new, probably better piano now, so I don’t see why you have to keep this one.”

”Because this is my piano, dude.” I could tell he didn’t understand by the way he was shaking his head, but I didn’t budge.

”Then why not repair the outside like you repaired the inside?”

Nice try, Steve, but I’d already thought of that too. I had this. “Because this is a part of its history and mine, that’s why,” I finally said. I was holding it back because I knew that, if Steve couldn’t understand the rest of this argument, he really wouldn’t understand me wanting to keep the history of my piano in tact -- the history of myself in tact. In my own way, this was how I could accept my mistake. This was my way of showing I understood my faults, and if people took that as me mocking what I’d done, then that was their problem. I felt relieved, finally telling him, even if he was still looking at me like I’d sprouted a second head.

”If you’re trying to preserve the history, repairing the inside defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? If this were history, and that thing was human, it’d be dead.” Steve cracked a smile.

I glared at him, but I couldn’t help but smile too. “Okay, smart ass, but everyone has scars. I have a huge scar on the outside from appendix surgery, but my inside’s all good. I want to take it, and I already know what people will think of it. I just don’t care.”

”You know what this sounds like to me, kid?” Steve asked. I wasn’t fazed. I was far beyond ready to pass off whatever he had to say. “It looks like you’re punishing yourself.”

Uh oh.

I stared at him, wide-eyed. I felt my face heating up. I’d been so confident at first, but I didn’t have anything for that. I must have looked pretty stupid because Steve started smiling. “Let me explain. Have you ever seen pictures online, where a kid gets caught doing something they’re not supposed to, and their parent makes them hold up a sign confessing to their wrongdoing, so all their friends can see it? That’s exactly what this looks like.”

I suddenly lost the ability to look Steve in the eye. In what I, again, assumed was typical of most dads, he’d seen through me before I even saw through myself. I couldn’t dispute that. That was probably the one argument I had not prepared for. I scoffed. I rolled my eyes as if he were talking nonsense, but it made so much sense it made me sick. I found myself staring at the ceiling, wondering what the odds were that it might suddenly collapse and rescue me from this conversation, because I didn’t want to continue on with it. I didn’t want to continue on in general, but I knew that was absurd, and furthermore dramatic. I was being outrageous and I knew it, but why couldn’t he just let me have this? “I’m not a kid, Steve,” I muttered.

”Which is why you shouldn’t punish yourself with this,” Steve countered. He was growing wise to me. We’d probably known each other way too long. “Look, Casey, Sarah will probably never forgive you for what you did, but if you wanna continue on with your life, you gotta at least forgive yourself.”

Why did verbal confirmation that Sarah would never forgive me make my heart hurt so bad? Why was that what my mind immediately decided to focus on? Right, because I hadn’t moved on. I hadn’t forgiven myself. After a moment of excruciating silence, I shook my head. “I’m starting to think I don’t really know how to do that,” I admitted. When Steve was right, he was right, but I would never let him have the full victory. “Which is exactly why I want to take it.”

"Think of it as a last resort.”

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