this is a bit overdue
Shadows & Echoes
yesterday when you were young,
everything you needed done was done for you.
now you do it on your own,
but you find you're all alone,
what can you do?
"Andre," Cat dragged out her friend's name while twirling a piece of hair around her index finger.
"Cat?" He imitated her, shooting her a curious look.
"Tori has been asking me questions again." The redhead frowned and avoided Andre's gaze but chose to keep her eyes focused on Tori and Jade's distant figures several seats over. Tori was waving her arms around her wildly with a large piece of paper on the table, while Jade did her typical scoff and eye roll combination. They were both stabbing at the salad between them while Tori spoke. It was nice to see them get along; really it was, but Cat's insides burned because she was here alone with the boys. She was the odd one out. Tori and Jade were always paired off now, talking in riddles and facial expressions Cat couldn't decipher.
It reminded her of the times when Cat was younger and she could have an entire conversation with Jade without uttering a single word. It made her feel special, having a secret language only the two of them would ever fully understand. She remembered the way their parents would scold them at their monthly dinner at the Valentine's house for talking at the table and how much Jade would scowl and say but we're not actually speaking so you can't really punish us. Then Cat would nod her head furiously and giggle hysterically at something Jade didn't have to say. Their parents would roll their eyes or sigh exasperatedly and after dinner the two girls would excuse themselves and run outside to see how many stars they could spot before they lost count. That was their thing.
But their thing hadn't existed for a while and Cat picked at her nails, turning her attention to Andre instead, as he spoke. His deep, dark eyes, boring holes into the side of her skull, sifting through her thoughts seamlessly. Andre had a knack for reading people- not their minds, but he knew his friends well enough to know what they were going to say and what their reactions to certain things would be. He contributed it to the fact that he watched too much Criminal Minds at primetime with his grandmother.
"What kind of questions?" His hand rubbed his chin thoughtfully, neglecting his slice of pizza. Across from them, Robbie scowled deeply and his eyes flashed a terrible murky colour but when Andre shot him a warning look, Robbie slouched in his seat as if he was willing himself to disappear. His eyes were fixated on his two friends, listening raptly while be pretended to be engrossed in consuming his burrito with a sullen face.
He was always the easiest to deflate.
"She was asking about Jade's mom." Cat whispered lowly, dropping her empty palms on the surface of the circular table.
"Annie?" Robbie couldn't help but ask. "I like Annie," he continued. He wanted to say more but the topic would lead to Jade, a touchy subject he had been trying his best to avoid.
"No, not Annie." Cat shook her head slowly. Andre's head snapped to look over at the last remaining female at their table while Robbie shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The only person who believed Robbie felt nothing but hate for Jade West was Jade herself. Everyone else could see past his three minutes of anger. Everyone but Jade that is.
She was never around him long enough to see the cracks in his clay mask or the way he fidgeted and shot her pensive looks whenever she stormed pass them. She never saw the way he bit his lip to stop himself from telling her he learned a new song on the guitar because she was the only one who would care enough to arch an eyebrow and ask him to hear it. She was the only one who liked to hear about his father's old army stories and would revel whenever he mentioned something particularly gory. She was the only one in his Chemistry class and whenever he found he couldn't understand something, he would spin around, mouth open and eyebrows drawn together to ask her for her notebook but instead she would see Burf grinning back at him while Jade scribbled something seats away. Because of course she would switch seats with Burf after It, also known as Rex's Untimely Death, happened.
"Oh," was all Andre could say. Not 'how does Tori know about her?' or 'did Jade tell Tori about her?' or 'why was Tori always sticking her head into explosive rooms looking for survivors she would never recognize?' Just 'oh' because he couldn't think of any words he could use to pinpoint exactly how he was feeling.
"Why would Tori be-"
"I don't know, Robbie!" Cat cut the curly haired teen off, fisting her hands into tiny balls. "All I know is that I can't talk to Jade anymore without feeling bad because of you. I always speak to Jade, even when she doesn't want me to. Now I have so many things to say and nobody to tell it to." Fat tears collected at the edge of her eyes.
"But she killed Rex!" Robbie persisted.
"Rex isn't a real person, Robbie." Andre heaved a sigh, "so there's no way she could've killed him."
"Beck," Robbie waved his approaching friend over, "Beck, you agreed with me when I said Jade killed Rex, right? You know why I'm upset right?"
"Yes, I do." Beck shrugged and Robbie shot Cat and Andre a satisfied look that made Andre suck his teeth and Cat recoil. "But she did you a favour. You're going to be eighteen soon. Eighteen year olds don't carry around dolls to speak for them." Beck popped a fry into his mouth nonchalantly as he squeezed between Robbie and Andre. "Now maybe you'll actually get a date." He added coolly.
"Beck," Andre warned, his dark eyes narrowed.
"I can't believe- why did you...how? I thought we were friends, Beck!" Robbie pounded his fist against the table and Cat jumped at the sound, squealing loudly. "You're just like her, aren't you?" Robbie raged. "You never cared about any of us. It was always about you, wasn't it? No wonder Jade broke up with you."
It was the last line that did him in.
Beck had jumped to his feet and pulled Robbie up by the collar, tugging him closer to Beck's face. Andre hurried to his feet and held his arms between them, always the mediator, always taking care of everyone before he checked himself for any bruises. Always the one to make the first move, always the one to do the right thing. He never hesitated.
"Say it again, Robbie," Beck taunted, his eyes blazing and his breath uneven. Smoke was coming out of his nose; his lungs were on fire. He was on fire. He brought his other hand around Robbie's bony neck and almost smiled when Robbie's hazel eyes bulged when he applied pressure. Robbie gagged, more from theatrics than from Beck but he squirmed under Beck's hard gaze. Now that was he backed into a corner without a single supporter at his side, his ego had popped like a bubble meeting a needle. And he fell downdowndown until he was just old awkward Robbie again. No anger, no resentment, no bitterness. Just a boy with curly hair and a lot of opinions nobody really valued.
"Beck please stop, this isn't like you. Robbie didn't mean it." Cat hiccupped. She was pleading with them both, her eyes begging them to stop. To laugh and exclaim that maybe this was another drive by acting exercise. To make fun of how gullible she always was. The last pillars that held them up were crumbling; crashing against each other and Cat knew they were all going to fall down soon. One after the other. They were nothing without their foundation.
"No, let's hear what he has to say. All he ever does is complain about Jade, complain about me, about Sinjin, about the sun because it blisters his nose when he forgets to wear sunblock, about the hand soap in Nozu's bathroom-"
"They water it down so it doesn't foam as much," Robbie cut in weakly.
"When will you ever stop friggin' complaining?" Beck snarled and the other students in the Asphalt Café all simultaneously turned to watch the golden group fall apart and rust from sudden exposure to all Cat's tears, dirty laundry and secret pasts that never end up remaining a secret. They would smile, if it wasn't so insensitive, because it was nice knowing the golden group wasn't as untouchable, as purified or as put together as they seemed.
"We don't all have perfect lives like you do," Robbie snapped.
"You don't know a thing about my life..." It was only when Andre had put a restraining hand on Beck's forearm did the owner of said forearm release Robbie's shirt collar. "And if this was a normal school, you would've gotten your ass kicked every day, so you're lucky all you got was a broken doll and not a broken nose, or foot or rib." He pushed pass Robbie, nudging his shoulder so the skinny boy tumbled to his knees and then Beck ran a hand through his hair.
The thing about Beck Oliver was that when he lost his temper, he lost all of his boundaries, everything that he spun around his body to hold himself together. When Beck lost his temper he fell apart and he lashed out. He didn't aim to hurt; he aimed to kill, to destroy. No pearly tooth, no boyish smirk and no perfectly moussed hair could undo the damage that Beck Oliver could deliver.
He was ugly, not physically, but his personality repulsed those who had braved the waters and gotten close enough to see the ugly. People said Jade had jagged edges but Beck's were sharpened to pierce, to draw blood, to slice deeper than one would initially anticipate. Every layer beneath him was uglier than the last and no pretty face could make up for the things that escaped his lips.
It was unfortunate that Jade West was the only person who had ever seen him this way. This raw, wounded, hurtful, damaged boy. It was unfortunate because she was the only person that could wrap his layers and cocoon Beck until he was cool and collected again. Until he was nothing more than a beautiful boy in plaid. And while Tori was given a glimpse of this Beck, the rest of their friends all watched him walk away with a distinct feeling that nothing would ever be the same. That no matter how many times they pooled their pieces and rearranged them to fit, something would never be right about them the way it was before. The way the perfect cake batter tasted after you accidentally added too much butter and then threw in more flour to compensate. It never tasted like perfection. It always tasted like regret.
When Andre was younger, his grandmother used to tell him that in their last few seconds, people always revealed themselves and took off their disguises. And these, he reasoned, were certainly their last days and nobody turned out to be quite like he expected.
Maybe his grandmother wasn't so crazy after all.
A little shorter than usual but some people were asking for more depth on Beck. Gosh, he's a mess isn't he? I know you guys are wondering if Beck and Jade will ever get together again and to answer, I'd say I'm not sure. It's too early to tell. But I know for certain they will reconcile. Everyone will. While their romance was sort of a trigger for Jade to go down her dark rabbit hole, it isn't what the story is about.
Friendship is important and I feel like people undermine it with romance all the time, when in reality nothing and no one can replace a good friend. This story also focuses on the crap teens may or may not go through these days. Romance is second to those things.
Andre is always the one who works behind the scenes to keep everyone together, isn't he? Tell me what you thought about Beck peeling back his layers and Robbie faking most of his anger. About Hurt!Cat and mediator Andre. Lucky for you I'm already working on the next chapter.