Chapter 3: The Days That We All Remember The Most, The Days That We're All Too Real
It had been a long two years, a very long and arduous two years at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, but to Joe and his group of friends, it had all been worth the price of admission.
They all made new friends.
Fights had been won and lost.
Tears had been shed, laughs had been had, walls had been punched. The school was a hotbed for teenage behaviour which is far from what adults would be like, but everyone knew they would grow out of it. For example, Nick had finally loosened up and began dating with the little hottie that was Serena Katz. Tyrone had began to work for himself and not use anyone else when it came down to the cutting floor. He'd told everyone that as soon as he had graduated, he'd be going to Lincoln, in order to try and get a degree and fix his dyslexia. Joe had kept his head down, that is. When it came down to it, he began to knuckle down and listen. He'd lost pretty much everything and he had nothing else to lose. Unlike others, who would throw themselves into a drunken and drug-addled stupor, he had a few people to keep himself afloat and functioning like a normal person.
And Joe had finally kept it down.
Grace Lamb, known to most as the hostile drummer 'Lambchops'.
In my own defence, as well as the noble Lady Lamb, it was not just her but her family too. They let me stay with them until I got back on my feet. In fact, they pretty much adopted me. I didn't want them too, but they just wouldn't allow me to live on my own.
Believe me, I am by no means a little wasteaway, but I wanted to live away. I wanted to be what I had to be. I had to be what my Mom and Dad would have wanted me to be.
It was a Monday, the second to last Monday before the class of '84 would be the last class of what had been deemed the Fame School. Budget cuts had been announced, and most of the teachers had found new places where they would teach. The only ones that were left were Miss Bell, Miss Sherman as well as Mister Sheinkopf and Myers. Everyone thought they'd just stayed because of the requirements but it was because they wanted to.
It might not have seemed it, but they cared about the students, even ones like Joe and Tyrone.
Joe was walking to school on his lonesome, Grace had finally given in and realised that she had a cold and couldn't go to the school for once. Joe had began to wear the clothes that he had bought with the inheritance money that he had waited months to receive. The savings that his mother and father had saved were by far too much, especially for someone like Joe, people just thought he'd waste it all away. No, he'd been lax on spending like a millionaire or billionaire, but he'd been saving and adding as much as he possibly could do when working as a server at the nearby cafe. He could by a car at this point, buy a house but he couldn't, Grace's parents just wouldn't allow him too. They treated him as if he were their own child, like they were his own family. The one thing he'd yearned for, the one thing he wanted for years.
The feeling of safety and security, the feeling of having a family.
He walked into the nearby shop, an express store so he could buy himself something to eat later in the day if he got a hankering. The cold chill of a refrigerator hit him as he pulled out two cans of Coke and a BLT sandwich. Throwing them on the counter and then having a quick chat with the owner of the store before throwing down five dollars and walking out, allowing the owner to keep the change. It was when Joe had finished readjusting everything in his bag as well as the food is when he saw the pair of star-crossed lovers that were Nick and Serena walking towards LaGuardia, but they had the most depressed grimace that Joe had ever seen. He quickly walked over to them, to try and cheer them up as much as he possibly could until they got to the school. Joe thought it was just a case of school almost being over in the next week. The two had extremely enjoyed their time at LaGuardia, and now it was all coming to it's end. All they had to do was get through one final performance to get their grade, the prom where everyone would be absolutely drunk off their asses and enjoying the night like it would be the last night in existence.
At least, that was Joe was going to do. If he managed to do so, he'd be more surprised if he needed an entirely new digestive system, let alone a new liver.
Prom had arrived.
Of course, it involved all of the awkwardness that a prom for teenagers would have had. Some of the attendees had no partners, and we're just dancing around with their friends. Some of them were just sitting at the sides, conversing with others who were just like them. Joe had tried to get them all involved, but sometimes people just couldn't be helped. They were killjoys, and Joe didn't particularly fancy wasting his time with the killjoys who would have spoilt his night if the prom night were just any other night. No, he would ignore them and focus on his friends. His friends that he would keep in contact with. The Dancers were the ones that had inhabited the dancefloor, running it like it was always their thing and to be fair to them, it was. Joe had been on the floor once or twice in the night.
That was until Schlomo had tapped him on the shoulder and told him to talk to him somewhere quiet. Joe walked through all the dancing, singing and acting stars and wannabes to follow the music maestro into the boys lavatories. He closed the door and looked at Schlomo, who seemed to be a little more haggled and tired than anyone else. Joe could have swore that he hadn't seen Schlomo drink a drop of alcohol in his life, although he didn't know what he did in his free time. His hair looked unkempt and his eyes seemed a little more bloodshot than normal, with the accompanying bags under his eyes amplifying the effect that something bad had happened and now Schlomo was about to pour it all on Joe.
"You okay, buddy?" Joe said, getting closer to the violinist. "Schlo? Man, you don't look too good. Need me to get you some water?"
That was when Schlomo began to cry, tears running down his eyes. It was bad, and Schlomo suddenly gripped onto his friend. "C-C-Carmen…. Joe, Carmen's…. Carmen's dead..."
It was like a kick to the gut, a punch to the face that would cause an instant knockout. It was like he had the wind beaten out of him. His friend, his crush, Schlomo's girlfriend, had died. She had meant to become the famous one, the one that had succeeded the most while everyone wished to emulate their success off. She'd gone, she was dead and that was it. Her life was over, and her death had hit them both. "I'm so sorry, Schlomo..." Joe could just about feel himself about to cry too.
The two boys cried together, in solidarity with the other. The two may not have conversed too much, but as soon as Schlomo got with Carmen, the two were a lot closer than they thought they were, with Joe and Carmen being extremely close friends. Joe's affection for her had died out, he knew when to quit and when she started dating Schlomo, then he knew he never stood a chance. The two were good for each other, and Joe had no right to break what they had apart. He left well enough alone, and staying as a friend was something he wanted more than to risk losing two friends just over some kind of lustful obsession. He knew better than that. At least he knew better now, and he didn't need to worry. He had Lambchops.
"I haven't told anyone yet." Schlomo said. "I haven't had the best time to do so."
As the DeeJay played the last song of the night, Joe looked at Schlomo. "I think… I think there is no better time like the present."
Schlomo looked like he was about to hesitate, but something in his eyes stopped and he soon looked a lot more sure about himself. His tears stopped falling and the young violinist wiped away the tears from his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I agree. Will you… come on the deck with me?"
Joe smiled. "Course, I will. She was my friend too, you won't be alone when you go up there."
The two boys hugged once more, before leaving the rest rooms and moving through the main room. Joe yelled across the room for the dancing to stop, and soon the DJ stopped the music. Schlomo stepped up first and took the microphone first, and soon Joe followed him. Joe smiled and nodded, giving Schlomo a small pat on the back. Schlomo gave a small smile, and spoke.
Twenty Years Later…
An Older Joe stood, looking over the city of New York from the small amount of country just away from the main city. He'd reached his goals, gotten married, had the cute little monsters that we're his children. He'd kept in contact with his friends, those that he could do anyway. Schlomo was the violin virtuoso that everyone knew he would be, performing with his own orchestra all around the globe. Nick had become an acclaimed stage actor with Serena as his agent and part-time teacher at the newly renovated LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts. He knew Tyrone and Iris eventually split apart, and as sad as it was, he knew sometimes the unavoidable had to happen.
The Devil always has his due.
Joe sighed. He had become famous, he was rich but it wasn't enough. Not enough in the sense that he wasn't rich or happy enough, but in the sense that he wanted what he used to have. That feeling of always having a friend nearby, the feeling of being young once more. He wanted to relive those memories of LaGuardia High School, the days where he would enter the drama rooms and take part in class alongside Nick, Serena and Carmen. The afternoons which he'd spend alongside Tyrone before taking the dance lessons alongside Miss Bell, who had gotten married to a guy who was perfect for her. Joe went to the wedding, and he had to say that he felt happy for the dance teacher. It was nice even reconnecting to his teachers, in their older age. Sheinkopf had softened and Myers remained as eccentric as ever. It was like they had never changed.
He turned around, taking the bouquet of red roses out from the seat of his Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. It was his first car, one of many but it was his workhorse. He smiled, closing the door before he approached the small little crucifix just by the edge of the cliff. Joe gave a small smile as he laid he flowers at the base of the stone crucifix. He was at the resting place of Carmen Diaz, it was her birthday. The evidence of her former friends was there, roses and tulips and violets, but red roses were her favourite. Two people knew that and there was already a bouquet of flowers there.
Schlomo had already been there.
Joe laid down the bouquet. "Twenty years, Carmen. I miss you, I always have and always will. You were my closest friend, and I think somewhere deep down, I never really stopped loving you. Yet, I think I was happy you found Schlomo. He would have been good for you. I don't know what to say but I think you'd be happy for me too. Grace and me, we got married, Carmen. We've got five kids, you'd have loved them, I think you would have anyway. Alejandro, Lydia and Isabella and Sebastian. Grace just had our youngest girl, we named her after you, Carmen. I told them about you, about their Auntie Carmen. It never gets any easier, coming here every year and laying my heart to bear, but, I really do miss you..."
Joe finally began to let the tears fall from his eyes once more. He reached from behind the collar of his leather jacket, undoing the small latch on the golden necklace that he wore around his neck and the bracelet on his left wrist. He looked on the little golden pendant and the small latched oval, which Joe opened to reveal a picture of himself and Carmen after their late night visit to the local burger joint after watching The Shining. He placed the necklace and bracelet on the gravestone. Joe was fully crying now, but he managed to speak whilst sniffling.
"But… I have to let you go now..." Joe sputtered. "I have to let you go. And I know it hurts, but I can't keep saying this every year. Carmen, I'm so sorry… I love you. Goodbye, Carmen."