Author's Note: It's been a while! I miss writing for this fandom, but thanks to university I have had nothing on my mind except essays. I'm taking a break and writing a story because this idea is just too good to pass up. It's a year since I wrote 'Chad with a chance of Alcohol' and I suppose I missed writing for the fandom. I like this story and it's based on 'Atonement', a film I have loved for such a long time. It's quite a complicated story to tell, but when I got this idea I just couldn't let it go. Please read/review and enjoy! :)
It Happened One Night
They say a person's life can be changed in as little as a minute and with one decision you might think is insignificant. One night at the end of September in Condor Studios, the lives of all who dwelled there on the night LA experienced a rare blackout changed forever. Everyone knows what I'm talking about; the scandal involving the cast of both So Random and Mackenzie Falls. For a long time, we were all convinced that we knew what happened that night, but after the astonishing revelations of Zora Lancaster and Dakota Condor, we were left with a sour taste in our mouths after the fates of both Chad Dylan Cooper and Sonny Munroe. It's been four years since that disastrous night and I feel it's time to talk about what really happened that night.
"I still don't know why it happened," Tawni Hart explains, sitting in her expensive mansion located on the beach. She always swore that she wouldn't talk about what happened that night ever again, but after what happened to her co-star and rival, she's decided to speak. "I've spent years trying to understand why it happened and I just can't get my head around it. I always despised Chad, but I didn't hate him that much."
"I thought I knew what was wrong," Zora Lancaster tells us in the only interview she will ever give regarding the scandal. We all thought we knew what was wrong after her moving evidence, but when the truth came out this little girl was no longer a star in our hearts. "You have no idea how much I wish I had been stopped." Some say she's only saying this because of what's happened to the two people entangled in her web, but others say Miss Lancaster plans on spending her life atoning for what she did.
Let's start at the beginning, shall we? It was a hot day for the end of September, and both shows were beginning to rehearse for their holiday specials. Mr Condor is well known for his organisational skills and he insisted that no stars of his would be rehearsing an average special at the last minute. We couldn't get a hold of any of the Condors, but after what Dakota did, we can't blame the family for wanting to hide away. Anyway, it was a hot day and according to So Random stars Nico and Grady, it was already tense without the heat.
"We were in competition with each other for the best holiday special," Nico explains, we met him and Nico on the beach near Tawni's house, not asking why the stars of America's former favourite sketch show refuse to speak to each other. "And we started arguing with the guys from The Falls the moment we got in."
"They were being their usual stuck up selves," Grady adds, glaring and shaking his head thinking back on it. Already we can see a motive for the backlash towards Chad Dylan Cooper, but did anyone see what was to come?
It wasn't only the general cast that were at odds again, but everyone remembers the hostile attitudes of both Sonny Munroe and Chad Dylan Cooper on that day. Apparently when they saw each other for the first time that day, she shoved past him and he almost said something, but then looked to the floor.
"I didn't know what her problem was," Tawni tells us, trembling as she takes a sip out of her latte. Her response echoes that of every witness we asked. "They usually talked, well not so much talked as belittled each other, but it was their thing. I always told her that they were made for each other, but when I told her that day she was really upset and I never knew why."
"That was when I first got suspicious," Zora explains, looking away from us. We can't blame her; we wouldn't want to relive the experiences of being wrong, let alone being wrong and destroying people in the process. "She had a weird look in her eyes and she seemed jumpy."
The truth is contained in Sonny Munroe's personal journal, which was made public by Connie Munroe, who wanted the world to know the truth about everything that happened that night. It was that woman's bravery that finally revealed that Chad and Sonny weren't hiding a criminal secret, but one that many young men and women face at the age of eighteen. We were lucky enough to be given an extract explaining Sonny's 'jumpy' behaviour that day:
"I heard Chad tell someone that he loves me. I didn't mean to hear it; I was about to walk into his dressing room when I heard him say it. He said 'It's damaging my reputation Janie! I can't look at another girl or even think of one because she is ALWAYS on my mind. I look forward to our fights. I love it when she puts me down, because she's the only one who'll do it. That's how I know; that's how I know I love Sonny.' It was strange, but the moment he said it, I heard myself saying I love him too. It just came out, without me controlling it and that's how I know. Like him, it's everything unsaid that makes me know. Well, when Janie walked out, she motioned for me to go in. I thought I might throw up and I was shaking. This was it. This was everything I had ever wanted since I was fifteen years old. When I walked into that room he would tell me. He would tell me everything.
He didn't. When I walked into that room he went red and then gave me the same subtle nod and demeaning greeting. He knows I heard him, because Janie said my name. I think she meant to so that he could finally say it, but he didn't. Instead he made fun of my dress and he tried to have one of those arguments I was sure only masked what we really wanted. My heart wasn't in it. I thought when I was quieter he would realise what he had to do, but he hasn't said anything. I don't know what to think. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to feel. I should give up, but every time I look at him something tells me not to. I can't even talk to him. I can't even look at him."
We were able to get Sonny's mom on the phone and she confirmed that her daughter called her up on that day telling her that she could barely look at Chad and was so glad they would be filming all day. No one can blame Zora for her concern because no one knew the truth, but when did concern turn into an overactive/dangerous imagination?
"It happened in the girls' locker room," Zora remarks, her eyes filling up with tears. Looking at this teenager, it's hard to imagine that she caused so much devastation with just a few words. "That was when I saw what I thought was something dangerous. I was so sure he was going to hurt her. I was so sure she was hiding something from us. I didn't know the real reason she was so strange with him."
"What did you think you saw?" I ask her, knowing that it's the penultimate question and the one she doesn't want to answer. She's worried that I'll slander her further and she's worried she's going to look like an idiot, but one must wonder whether it was all a big misunderstanding.
"Sonny was taking a shower, probably to get her mind off things and I was walking about alone because I wasn't too good with the whole social interaction thing," she tells us. it's true, rumours have always surfaced regarding the secluded attitude Zora Lancaster had compared to her more outgoing and attention seeking co-stars. It used to be an endearing characteristic, but in light of the truth the rumours have gotten nasty. "And then I walked into the girls' locker room to get my music player and that's when I saw them. I saw Sonny standing there with her towel on the floor, just standing there even though everything was exposed, and Chad looking at her in a way I've never seen him look at anyone."
"They didn't see you?"
"No," she shakes her head, a tear rolling down her cheek. "I was going to scream. Dakota Condor was having a tour of the place once again and she and her tour guide were close by. I wanted to scream, but when I opened my mouth, Sonny stormed out and Chad was close behind her."
"Did they say anything?"
"He said 'sorry! I'm sorry Munroe!'" She replied, in the same tone I suspect Mr Cooper spoke in. Zora said he was tugging at his blonde locks. She also said that Munroe turned to face him with a look of 'pure disgust and confusion' and said; 'you are perverted! Why do you look at me like that and not say anything? Leave me alone! Just leave me alone!'
"That was when I knew there was a real problem," Zora sighs, probably thinking back to when her mind made the ultimate decision: she was going to prove that Chad Dylan Cooper was a pervert and her dear friend was the victim of his sick games.
"I didn't know any of that was going on," Tawni Hart shrugs her shoulders, looking uneasy. It isn't easy for her to talk about and I assume she probably wants to lay it to rest. She knows the truth implicates her and she doesn't want to be involved. "Sonny came into the Prop House almost crying, but she wouldn't tell us why. Zora didn't say anything either."
"We asked her what was up and we even performed a little sketch to try and make her feel better, but she wasn't having it," Grady explains on the beach, sighing.
"When I tried to hug her she pushed me away and told me that no one would make her feel better," Nico said. I've always suspected he carried a torch for his bubbly co-star and the way he looks remembering how she didn't want him at her time of need confirms my suspicions.
Sonny Munroe and Chad Dylan Cooper didn't see each other for the rest of the day and according to their co-stars they didn't say a word about what happened in the girls' locker room. Sonny Munroe once said that she should have said something, because 'it would have cleared up a hell of a lot'. Instead she rehearsed scenes and pretended there was nothing wrong. Apparently Chad Dylan Cooper took the same approach, which only made Zora more suspicious and as she played back the same scenes in her mind; their hostile attitudes, his lingering stare, her freezing and dropping her towel, him running after her looking ashamed and her calling him the 'P' word, it all seemed to make perfect sense. He was sick in the head she needed to take him down.
"I shouldn't have told Dakota, but she saw me all sad and she thought it was because she was here and I wasn't about to make her day," Zora laughs, but I know she doesn't think it's funny. She knows she shouldn't have invited her arch-enemy into the story she was creating in her mind. "But I thought Sonny was in trouble and I wanted to help her. I couldn't do it alone and she's the most powerful kid I know. I thought I had to tell her so I did and it turns out she was mad at him too."
Yes, Dakota couldn't be reached for comment to confirm this, but everyone reports how she was 'devastated' when Chad refused to take her out. She had a childhood crush on him – or his character more likely – and he wasn't living up to her high expectations. However, this childhood crush soon turned into an adult scandal.
"The blackout was so unfortunate that night," Marshall Pike admits, shaking his head. We could only get a short interview out of him for legal reasons and his loyal bond to the Condor family. "I keep saying to everyone that what happened that night was completely messed up because of the dark. Especially the whole Chad and Sonny thing, but I think everyone knows that now."
The final thing to cement Zora's suspicions came in the form of a very controversial scene in the Prop House; a scene that Sonny and Chad always defended, but the rest of Condor Studios did not. The lights had just gone out and the cast members were being urged to stay in the same room with candles and not to wander off. Zora Lancaster decided that she would help out Marshall by going to find Sonny. She thought her friend might be in the Prop House talking on her phone, where she usually was when there was a break.
"I would have gone with her, but I couldn't find my lipstick and of course I was freaking out over the sudden no lights thing considering it was dark outside," Tawni states, biting her lip. I can even see her eyes watering. "If I had gone with her I would have explained everything. She didn't understand what was happening and it must have looked really weird. I wish I had gone, it's one of the many things I regret."
"What did you see in the Prop House?" I ask Zora, because this will be the answer that sealed the fates of both Chad Dylan Cooper and Sonny Munroe.
"There was a tiny light coming from that room and I was suspicious because Sonny didn't know where the candles were," she said, and I can see her holding sobs back. "I knew he must've come to find her so I walked in real quick, but I thought I was too late."
"Too late for what?"
"I saw her against a wall and I thought I saw him – him – him attacking her!" Zora breaks down, covering her face and asking for a moment while she composes herself. She takes a deep breath and continues. "I was so sure that it was a look of desperation and disgust on her face. I thought he was muffling her so she wouldn't scream! I didn't think – I didn't know it could be something else! I was too young to understand it! They hated each other and back then I was sure people didn't do that unless they were in love."
No one concluded that it was anything more than an attack, aside from the two involved. Everyone knows how Sonny defended Chad's actions, but many thought she was too afraid to testify against him. Zora told officers that the two became aware of her presence when she uttered Sonny's name meekly, forcing Chad to remove himself and storm past her.
"They didn't say anything," Zora says, "And for me that made him guilty. He walked past me without even looking at me and Sonny bit her lip, covering her face with her hands before brushing past me. I knew it was the final straw. I had to stop him."
How was the young girl eager to save the day going to outsmart the 'sexual predator'? Zora states that she came up with thousands of stupid plans. She didn't tell her co-stars – or anyone – what she seen in the library and when she saw Sonny and Chad together in the room, she said she felt her blood boil. She was so sure that he was forcing her to say nothing.
"I didn't tell anyone, because I thought I had it under control," Zora tells me, another tear escaping from her eye. She said she didn't see anything that stated anything other than the fact that her friend had been attacked. She said Sonny could hardly stand to be near him and that he could hardly stand to look at her. They stood apart from each other, sneaking glances at the other and biting their lips nervously, pretending to talk to other people. They also looked at her several times, silently begging her not to say anything. However, Tawni Hart tells it differently.
"I suppose when we were all in that little room that I noticed Sonny and Chad might have been hiding something," she says, afraid to smile. It should be a happy memory for her; her friend finally realising what she had learned a long time ago. "They held hands for a minute, let go and then stroked hands once more. They didn't want to make it obvious, but he smiled at her reassuringly and she tried to smile back. I had no idea what happened in the Prop House."
The chance to outsmart Chad Dylan Cooper was a lucky one for the young Zora, but an unfortunate being in the wrong place at the wrong time for Chad and Sonny.
"I feel guilty every time I think about what we did," Nico sighs; trying not to make it obvious, but I can see how much it must tear him up. "Grady and I shouldn't have left the building, but we thought we were being hilarious and rebellious. We just wanted to have fun."
"We never wanted anyone to come looking for us," Grady insists, as if he's still trying to defend himself. People don't often look to them as the cause, but one must wonder whether Zora's chance opportunity would have came had they done what they were told. "But we should have known. Even now we're still saying sorry."
"Sonny and Chad should have looked for Grady and Nico together," Tawni says, as if she's trying to impart some sort of wisdom, but no one insisted on this at the time. "I probably shouldn't have asked her to come with me, but I wanted to ask her about Chad, so he went off with some people and I guess he got separated."
His being separated from his group would mean an alibi that would never be known.
Zora was supposed to be searching with Sonny and Tawni, but instead she wandered off alone and with both girls being so wrapped up in their thoughts they didn't even notice. Tawni maintains that Sonny refused to say anything about Chad and I must ask; if she had talked would things have been different? And if she had talked, would Zora have stayed and found out the truth? There are so many 'what ifs' that I must wonder whether it was destiny that this night happened.
"I know what I saw that night," Zora nods her head, opening her eyes wide. I imagine that if she shuts them, she might see everything that she should have said. "I was walking down the dark hallways with a flashlight in my hand and that's how I saw it. I heard a noise and then I flashed it over. I saw her, him and –"
Zora couldn't continue without bursting into tears, but we all know what happened to Dakota Condor last night. Every newspaper had it written like a tempestuous soap opera and I refuse to print it again; she should never have to relive what happened, regardless of what she said. Dakota Condor was supposed to be with her father that night, but they were also separated. She had been looking for him when she was attacked. She has always said that had it not been for Zora then she might have been killed. The attack was horrid, but Zora admits that her actions afterwards were the worst of the night.
"The guy had run off and Dakota was in total shock," she says and she sounds so monotone now. I suppose she's had to detach herself in order to tell the story. I suppose after years of knowing what she did and replaying it over and over again has made her calm. "She just kept saying 'I'm sorry! I'm sorry you saw that! I can't believe he did that! Why would – who – I'm sorry! Daddy! Where is he? I'm sorry Zora!'"
"I asked her if she saw him," Zora says, looking away from me now. This is when it happens. This is when twisted reality turns into disturbing fiction. "I kept asking her and she nodded her head, crying her eyes out. She said she saw him but she didn't know who he was and that's when I did it. I said; 'you didn't see him clearly, did you?' She told me that she did, but then I pushed her; 'No, I saw him Dakota. I know who it was. It was Chad, wasn't it?'"
It was that little question that led to a big mess. It was only those two girls in that hallway and Dakota, bitter about Chad's disappointment, and knowing what he did to Sonny Munroe, had a choice to make. She could tell the truth and shame a stranger, or she could lie and shame a sick pervert. Dakota's family insist that she wasn't in her right mind and Zora confirms this. She most recently confessed that she pressured the confused and upset girl to go along with her plan. So Dakota nodded her head.
"Chad should have found us," Grady says, something Sonny Munroe said in her journal every single day. Had Chad found Nico and Grady they could have came to his defence. However, it was Nico and Grady that found Zora and Dakota crying in the hallway. Zora's flashlight was the only sign of them and it was then that the So Random boys heard the awful truth about their arch-rival.
"I believed it right away because I hated the guy and Sonny had been acting weird," Tawni tells us and I can tell she feels guilty, even though she's been the calmest of everyone.
"It was hell when we heard what happened to Dakota," Marshall sighs over the phone. "I had to keep everyone calm, but they were all waiting for him like an angry mob. Everyone except Sonny; I suppose we should have known something was up when she couldn't even bring herself to talk."
"I should have told them everything at that point," Sonny told reporters the week after, her face crumpling into tears. She would spend the rest of her life regretting it; standing there waiting to hold him, waiting to ask him herself. She would never get that chance, not that night. Not for a long time. "I should have told them what happened between us! I told them he would never do that to Dakota but I should have told them about us! It's my fault!"
Chad was arrested the moment he returned from searching for the boys. To this day, it's unclear exactly what he had been doing when his boss' daughter was attacked. He says he doesn't even know; that he must have been somewhere in the building. He continued to say that he should have documented it and had he known what was going to happen he would have been more careful. How was he to know what he was involved in? He didn't stand a chance against Zora Lancaster and Dakota Condor.
"He kept on telling everyone that he didn't do it," Marshall remembers, being there when the boy was arrested, he's admitted to having nightmares about that night. "He kept screaming that he didn't do it and that his lawyers would clean this mess right up. He called to Sonny and amazingly she ran to him."
We got another extract from Sonny's journal about what happened when she walked over to Chad that night:
"I ran over to him and stroked his cheek, knowing that everything between us had been completely messed up. I tried to apologize and so did he, but he only looked at me hopelessly. He held onto my hand and I felt a tear roll down his cheek. I told him not to worry. I told him that everything would be okay. I told him to keep his head up. I told him I loved him again. He smiled and that was when they ducked his head in the car and drove him away."
Author's Note: Well, what did you guys think? I've recently replaced this chapter and tried to make certain things a little clearer because a few people couldn't quite understand what was happening. You are free to message me and I just want to point out that with 'Atonement' it was more about feelings and actions, not words. I thought I'd conveyed it well but please message me if you're confused :). Review please! It is still the festive season!