How I Paid for College
Summary: All Demyx wanted was to go to Juilliard. But when his father refuses to pay the tuition, Demyx finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of minimum wage, fraud, and thievery. On top of that, he has to come to terms with the fact that he may be in love with his best friend, Zexion. This is going to be one interesting summer.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to SquareEnix. Inspiration from Marc Acito, who wrote the book by the same title.
Dedication: For all of us in college. For all of us on our way to college. For all of us that dread going to college. And for Dualism. Always for Dualism, because she rocks. Out loud and on ice. And she converted me to Zemyxism.
Started: November 18, 2006
Finished: November 21, 2006
Part One: Tempest
I always knew I would be an actor. Ever since I was the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz school play in first grade. I belted out "If I Only Had a Brain" with every ounce of me, and was rewarded with thunderous applause. That's when I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I so stole Dorothy's limelight. But then, Olette didn't mind so much. She looked cute in the blue and white checkered dress and ruby slippers, and that's all that really mattered to her.
After that, I put my heart and soul into acting. I was in every school play, often playing the lead male role.
In middle school I started having all of my performances taped. I was going to build up a great reputation and portfolio so that I could get into the school of my dreams. Juilliard.
Of course, money wasn't a problem. My father was CEO of Clear Water, Inc., a company that worked at purifying water supplies for large cities. And yeah, we were pretty loaded. So I didn't have to worry about how I was going to finance my dream. But I was going to work hard at earning it.
I lived with my dad, since my parents were divorced. I rarely saw anything of mom. She traveled a lot, always sending me weird gifts from all over the world. Back in middle school she sent me an Indian sitar, and I fell in love with the instrument, mastering it easily. Whenever she came to visit I always played something new for her because it made her happy. She was very supportive of my acting, and I always sent a copy of taped performances when she wasn't around to watch live. And when she was here, she always sat front and center and brought me huge bouquets of flowers.
My dad wasn't as supportive. I mean, he came to almost every opening night and smiled when the directors and other cast members said I was great, but he never seemed to get excited about it. It always made me miserable. Acting was my passion, and I wanted to share it with him. But he was too engrossed in his company. And every once in a while he took it upon himself to explain things about the business to me. I found these lectures rather dull, but tolerated them, thinking that maybe if I showed more enthusiasm, he'd also be more eagerness to hear about my "theatre stuff".
But usually I tried not to let it get to me. I had my mom to support me, as well as my friends. Riku and Sora always came, usually dragging Roxas along. Kairi and Naminé came, usually for Olette, but they always said I was great. And of course, my best friend Zexion was there. At every performance, without fail. Besides my mom, Zexion is my number one fan. I know he'll never admit it, what with his subdued nature and all. But I appreciate him being there, and if I ever get nervous – it happens to all great actors – I just find him in the audience and project to him and it never makes him embarrassed at all. We'd been friends since freshman year, and now that we were seniors we were practically inseparable. Okay, Zexion will never admit to that, either. He's got this allergy to anything that suggests he has a heart. Once, I asked him if he cried when Babmi's mother died, and he looked at me as though I'd asked if he sang the Birthday song while he peed.
But when he didn't have something up his ass, Zexion was a lot of fun. Like the time he volunteered to help paint the set for The Miracle Worker, a play about Helen Keller. We spent an entire afternoon painting the backdrop for the garden and it was great. (I played Helen Keller's father for that production, which was kind of boring. In fact, it was a rather dull play and the only interesting thing was seeing Roxas get kicked out by security.)
"Are you going to volunteer to help out for The Tempest?" I asked after I got the part of Ariel.
He shrugged. I took it as a yes.
Whenever I get a part in a play, I always dive headfirst into it. Ariel was no exception. From day one I could be found randomly reciting, singing, and spouting lines. It should have driven my friends crazy, but they were used to it. I even cajoled Zexion into reading Prospero one day while we were stuck in traffic.
"You're coming to opening night, right?" I asked for about the five hundredth time.
"My mom said she might come," I rambled on. "She's in Paraguay right now, apparently."
Zexion listened attentively and smiled and nodded at all the right times. I really couldn't ask for a better best friend.
Of course, I could do without his "other half". Don't get me wrong, I like Larxene. She's feisty, sharp, and possesses that fresh beauty athletic girls have. But I can't help feeling she's wrong for Zexion. She's just a little too pushy. A little too much spice and not enough sugar. I've never talked to Zexion about it, of course. For someone who shows only enough emotion to reassure us that he's alive and perhaps human, Zexion seems to be happy around her. So I keep my mouth shut.
So here I am, my senior year of high school. I have talent and a bright future, the best mom in the world, and great friends. Julliard it close enough to touch, especially in my dreams.
Of course, when things are this good, Fate usually steps in, gold sequined high heels and all, and proceeds to throw you a few obstacles for the sake of his amusement. Yes. Fate is a drag queen. After all, how else can I explain the mess that was the best summer of my life? One that just happened to find me tangled in thievery, fraud, and vandalism? Oh, and let's not forget my adventures in questioning my sexuality. Although, as Roxas so wisely put it, "You're in theatre, Dem. What made you think you were straight?"
As Riku likes to put it, if it weren't for him, I'd still be a turtle. Okay, so I was still shy. But since he singled me out in the hall that day – as though I were the new kid instead of him! – and became my best friend, I've felt just a little more confident and less afraid of trivial things. So if it hadn't been for Riku, I would have never worked up the courage to ask Kairi Makino, my longtime crush, to be my girlfriend. Which, in retrospect, wasn't a trivial thing at all. It had to be the most important event of my seventeen year old life.
I'd known Kairi since grade school, and I'd always thought she was cute, with those eyes of forget-me-not violet blue and a heart shaped face framed by auburn red hair. She had an airy, irregular laugh that I loved, and she was great at making things. We became fast friends, and she was always there to listen when I had a problem, and always knew how to cheer me up without even trying.
I pretty much told her just that. How cute she was - that I loved her laugh and thought she was very creative and fun and a great friend – before I asked her out. I was nervous. My heart was pounding in my ears, and I was well aware of the faint traces of deep raspberry pink that graced my cheeks, but at least my words were clear and I had the courage to look her in the eye.
"I'm sorry, Sora..."
She brought a hand up to her hair and idly played with a strand, violet blue eyes sinking in worry. "I think you're a great guy... honest and loyal... the best friend I could ever ask for. And you're not unattractive at all. But... I don't like you that way. Can we still be friends?"
I could tell she was trying hard not to hurt my feelings, and my heart went out to her again. I nodded, relieved in a weird way. Maybe it was because I knew we'd still be friends no matter what. And if that's all Kairi needed, then maybe I should be okay with it, too.
She smiled and hugged me; saying, as an afterthought, "You know... you've changed since Riku. For the better, I mean. You used to be so quiet. But now you're showing everyone the real you. I'm glad. Everyone deserves to see that, Sora. Hey, keep it up, and someone will see whatever it is Riku saw in you – that potential – and want it..."
With that, she tugged her backpack strap a little further up and headed for her next class.
I thought about what she had said all through history, and I was still mulling it over come lunchtime.
"So?" Riku prompted as we pulled out of the lunchline, each bearing a slice of pizza and a bottle of juice.
I shrugged. "She said she doesn't like me that way."
"Oh..." his face fell, but then he smiled and pulled something out of his backpack, holding it out. Gummibears. I took them with a smile, but part of my mind had clicked with what Kairi had said earlier. Not exactly, of course, but it made sense. I mean, for Riku, the one who'd seen something in me worth pulling me out of my shell for, to remember that Gummibears were my comfort treat.
Demyx was practicing a monologue when we got to the table, Pence and Olette looking on. All three of them were in Drama club and would be performing in The Tempest. Demyx had landed the part of Ariel. He'd been offered the role of Prospero, but said he'd rather be the fairy, saying that as an actor, he needed variety. Olette would be Miranda, and Pence was going to be Caliban.
"Has anyone seen Roxas?" I asked once Demyx had finished.
Pence and Olette exchanged looks, and I groaned. "What did he do?"
"He set his textbook on fire in chemistry and accidentally spilled acid on the teacher," Olette replied.
"Professor Vexen?" I practically squeaked. That guy was creepy. Oh, Roxas, you idiot.
"Yeah... the acid ate away at his clothes and everything," Pence added.
My brother was a notorious troublemaker and all-around prankster. He was the cause of my first gray hair and my first trip to the slammer (the chocobo incident). He's also blind.
He lost his sight around the age of four, and no one's been able to explain why. But it's hereditary, apparently. My mom's brother lost his sight at the age of seven, and their grandfather lost it when he was five. So when my mom found out she'd be giving birth to twins, she knew there was a pretty good chance one of us would be affected. We call it the Iriyama Curse.
But people who know Roxas often forget he's blind. For one, he's a genius. Even though we're twins and I'm older by a minute, he'll graduate before I do because he was skipped ahead a grade. (He's a senior this year and I'm a junior.) And of course, Roxas lacks the shy and quiet handicapped demeanor. If I'm a turtle, Roxas is a fox. He's quick witted and sneaky as hell. And most of the time he gets away with it. Like the time we got arrested for the whole chocobo thing. It went something like this:
"Sora, I want to go to the petting zoo."
"I thought you were afraid of the petting zoo."
"I want to pet a chocobo. Pence says they're nice and don't bite."
So we went to the petting zoo, and I watched as Roxas pet the chocobos, the biggest smile on his face.
"Do you think they hate being trapped in here?"
"Let's set them free!"
"Roxas... we can't do that."
But before I had even finished this sentence, Roxas had thrown me over the back of one like a sack of potatoes and leaped on, deftly opening the gate with his cane and calling for the chocobos to follow. We galloped out of there like we were taking a battlefield.
And of course, when the police arrested us, Roxas went and blamed it all on me. And they believed him! Because a blind kid certainly couldn't have done that, no.
My mom knew the truth, of course. But I still go tin trouble for not keeping a shorter leash on my twin. Doubtless another talk like that was waiting for me at home when mom found out what Roxas did today.
"He's in the principal's office now, Olette continued. "I heard him tell the principal that he thought the acid was water and he'd been trying to put out the fire."
"That's actually a pretty reasonable argument," Naminé said, appearing with Kairi at her side. Riku looked from me to Kairi, and seeing no conflict, greeted her as usual.
"Roxas is very smart," Naminé continued.
"You mean cunning," Kairi corrected, and they both laughed.
There's something you have to understand. Just because I'm blind, that doesn't mean I'm incapable of doing anything myself. And just because I'm blind, doesn't mean I can't see. In fact, while the Iriyama Curse chose me instead of my twin brother, I like to think I'm the most observant person in our circle of friends. Sora also says that I'm the bluntest. But hey, I don't have to be afraid of people's reactions to what I say. I can't see them, after all.
Don't think that means I'm happy about my situation, either. I can angst if I want. Like the time Sora and Riku had the brass to drag me to The Miracle Worker, one of Demyx's plays. Usually I like going. Even if I can't see, Sora sits next to me and describes everything in detail. But this play was about Helen Keller. You know, the girl who grew up deaf, mute, and blind? I guess it got to me, because in the middle of the play I started making a fuss, shouting "You suck!!" at random points, interrupting the scenes. Eventually they kicked me out, and Sora apologized once he figured it out.
But sometimes my handicap comes in useful. Like that time with the chocobos. And then there was today.
"Roxas, Professor Vexen tells me you deliberately set your textbook on fire today, and then splashed acid on him."
I did a very good job of keeping from laughing. I wasn't able to see what it looked like when the acid started eating up his clothes, but Larxene, my lab partner, had given me a pretty good description.
"How could I deliberately set my book on fire, Principal Xemnas?" I asked. "My textbook was a Braille copy, and I know it cost the school a lot of money to order it for me. I wouldn't be so ungrateful as to deliberately set it on fire. And as for the acid, I thought it was water. Professor Vexen just happened to be in the line of fire... if you'll forgive the pun."
There was silence, and I took advantage of it by moving my eyes around the office, knowing this inspired sympathy.
"I see how the situation could have been misinterpreted, Roxas. I'm sorry."
Score one for me.
"However, I would like you to dictate a letter of apology for Professor Vexen."
I heard rustling and the clicking of a pen. For the next ten minutes I dictated a very polite letter of apology to Professor Vexen. Principal Xemnas said he would deliver it personally and make sure I got another copy of the chemistry textbook.
"You can go to lunch now, Roxas."
"Oh, and stop in here Wednesday morning before class."
"Don't think that just because you're blind, and because I let you off the hook today you're free to go on doing whatever you want. I'm assigning someone to look after you during school hours."
Score one for him.
"We have a new student. He was enrolled this morning and will be starting school on Wednesday. His guardian says that he's had problems with responsibility in the past. So he'll be responsible for you, and maybe you'll both get something out of it."
And that was the end of that.
My mom was all for it, of course. In fact, I had the suspicion that she was the one who put Principal Xemnas up to it. So no matter of pleading would get me out of it. And believe me, I tried.
Sora shut himself up in his room when we got back from school, no doubt wanting some time alone to brood. I heard from Riku that he'd finally worked up the nerve to ask Kairi out, and she'd turned him down gently. Of course, Riku didn't know it, but he didn't do a very good job of sounding disappointed. Because he wasn't.
Of course, Naminé has to go and rub it in my face that even though I could see what was going on between my brother and his best friend long before either of them caught on to it, when it came to my own love life I was just as blind as I actually was. Sure, it sounds really lame, but it's true.
Ending Notes: Praise, flames, constructive criticism, questions, and general remarks encouraged! Thank you.
Because people are stupid, and I hate them. You see... I have discovered that the key to happiness is to be entirely unreachable at all times. – Rat, Pearls Before Swine by Stephen Pastis
Don't listen to Rat. The key to happiness is chocolate. That in mind, I am fully reachable. See that button down there that says "Review"? Yeah. If you click it, and write something to me (preferably about this chapter) it will reach me. And I will be happy. Then I will go buy chocolate. And be even happier.
- The Writer