Yes, I changed the name. It's better this way because I was so excited to post the first chapter that I didn't come up with a name or summary for this story until the very last second. That's something I should never do because it almost never works and the title could end up not having anything to do with the story at all. This title works better, trust me. I'll keep the summary because I've decided to use song lyrics to sort of describe the message of each chapter.
Also, this is most definitely a Beca and Jesse story, but I didn't put it in the Romance category because they're obviously not there yet and I do think the Friendship is a major factor in this story. But it'll have a bit of everything. As for the suspense.. we'll see how well I can do that. Wish me luck.
"It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month,
or even your year...
I'll be there for you."
– The Rembrandts
If you ever asked Jesse how he came to have his semi-dysfunctional – yet still completely respectable – group of friends… all you'd get in response is incoherent mumbling with the sole purpose of disconcerting you so you'd either forget the question, or decide not to care anymore. It is not a tale worth repeating.
Furthermore, it is not that interesting to begin with –
Okay, it starts like this.
He met Donald and Bumper at the tender age of seven. His family had just moved to Kong Street, otherwise known as the suburban neighborhood with large parks and big homes. He grew up there, and it´s where his parents still live presently.
The day after moving in, Mom and Dad encouraged him to go out and play: Get to know the nice neighbor kids, Jesse. I´m sure you´ll make tons of friends. They obviously didn't know what was in store for him, because it was on that fateful day, that he met Andrew Allen and Donald Ambudkar. Now, at first, young Jesse had no absolute interest in introducing his friendly self, because… well, no kid in their right mind would have gone near them. Instead, he had stared rather fearfully at the sight still painfully clear as day in his mind thirteen years later.
You know how a fawn tries to walk on its stick legs less than three seconds after being born? It´s cute, but they also look tremendously awkward doing it; however, it is the circle of life so all you can do is sit back and look on as you try to choke down tears… or laughter for those who are particularly insensitive.
Well, take all of the beauty in that situation, throw it out the window, add in more fat to make that baby deer just short of obese, replace "cute" with "horrendously ugly" or "unbearable to look at", and voila! You get an eight year old Bumper parading around his front yard in leather heels and a cake face consisting of obscenely bright colors, prattling on about how his mother uses it to look "sophisticated", while eight year old Donald, always cool, even at that age, gnaws on a granola bar atop his bicycle (sans training wheels, because it´s Donald) and all but ignores the show on display next to him as if used to such antics.
"You," the kid still known as Andrew back then had pointed at him from across the street with a chubby finger. "What are you looking at?"
Small, sweet and innocent Jesse could only stare back, dropping the juice pouch he'd been sipping in horror as Andrew started to saunter towards him, high heels and all, with an intimidating finger still pointed. "I´m gonna get you!" He had continued in a nasally voice, wobbling from side to side with each step. And that´s when Jesse Swanson decided that the guy was funny, and nothing short of entertaining, so he had smiled his bright, dimpled grin and laughed.
Donald, sans glasses, obviously approved of this because then he´d waved Jesse over to play Pokémon cards, and they´d already reached the second round by the time Andrew caught up, face red and puffing out breaths like he´d just run a marathon.
They like to remind him of that particular memory; and so does his mother with the pictures she'd taken after calming down her screeching, hands to her mouth, eyes bulging out, at finding her little boy looking very much like her (except a much more disturbing, even traumatizing version). Andrew and Donald were always a year older, always a year ahead in school, but they stuck with him, and Jesse had two official best friends throughout the end of elementary, and all of middle and high school.
He meets the others in fairly normal circumstances. He gets partnered up with Jonathan Manson during sophomore year in AP Biology. They don´t really expect to have much in common, the jock obsessed with shaping his abs and cycling, and the movie buff known for his singing voice from the school talent shows. But they´re both smart, though one shows it more than the other, and they make one hell of a dissecting team.
They don´t start hanging out outside of class until one day Andrew runs over Jonathan´s beloved bicycle in the school parking lot with his newly acquired license, and Jesse has to smooth things over because unfortunately, one: he was in the car, and two: he´s the middle-ground between the junior and sophomore who look like they want to kill each other. So Jesse tries to calm Jonathan down by showing him the part of the bicycle that hadn´t been completely destroyed. He jokes about turning it into a one wheeler; a unicycle. To his surprise, Jonathan´s eyes light up, and he agrees. The next day, his biology partner rides the newly recovered wheel to school; rides it around the neighborhood; rides it everywhere. That´s when people start to call him "Unicycle", as it was rumored that he didn´t let go of it, even in his sleep; courtesy of Andrew.
He did get his revenge, though. Later in Andrew and Donald´s junior year, when their now group of four took a road trip to Donald´s family´s cabin in front of some lake, Unicycle had seen the opportunity of scaring Andrew while he was doing some squats near the water, warming up for a swim. Donald and Jesse had only pressed their lips together tightly to hold back laughter as they watched an almost four thousand pound car sneak up behind Andrew, and with a loud honk, send him flying into the shallow, muddy area of the lake. At the sound of their laughter, Andrew had come stomping out of the water, and sent a strong kick to the car´s bumper in his anger, breaking his foot in the process.
Their road trip had been ruined, but it´s how Andrew got rid of his hated name, acquiring the nickname of "Bumper" and surprisingly sticking to it. Good thing too, because the ones he wanted people to call him would have never worked. Who calls someone "Crush" or "Shades", anyway?
Well, "Bumper" isn´t exactly a step up…
Getting back on topic, the four of them had shared a lot. They went from approving each other´s prom date (yes, they were similar to a girl friendship band thing), to applying to the same college: Barden University.
And that´s what led them here, really. Bumper and Donald had the "Treble Makers" recognized as a-capella kings by sophomore year. Even seniors wanted to join where they found out there was such a thing as a-capella groupies. Jesse and Unicycle, the soon to be college freshmen had no problem with the already decided fate awaiting them; Jesse loved anything to do with giving people a show and Unicycle had already proved he could sing since it was the only way Bumper had "allowed him permission into the group".
Except, their freshmen year hadn´t started off so great because there´d been a mix-up and it turns out, Jesse and Unicycle won't be rooming together. Instead, they get paired up with complete strangers. So for the first few weeks, Unicycle complains about his roommate who insists on wearing a hat indoors and Jesse worries about his seemingly socially inept one obsessed with magic and Star Wars, which he can understand, but magic? He´s ecstatic when he finds out Benji can sing, and then it only takes a little convincing for Unicycle to drag Aaron to auditions to see if he has the same luck, and that´s how they recruit two of their Trebles. Bumper´s annoyed by Aaron´s off-key guitar and Benji´s dorkiness, but Jesse fights for them and it pays off.
The rest of the Trebles were chosen carefully, through match pitch and under Bumper´s watchful, twitching eye. Brandon´s cocky, Austin´s lazy, and Kolio needs to tone down his dancing, but they make it work. Next year though, Jesse will have to worry about replacing the senior Trebles, including Donald and Bumper, who have already graduated but are using this summer for one last trip before going off and trying to survive the official world of adulthood. He´s close to follow, only one year left at university, but this time it won´t be as easy for him and his friends to find what they´re each looking for in the same place.
He knows this. He didn´t expect them to stick together forever. They´re not starring in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (Only Donald knows he's watched that movie, so shush.) But it's definitely going to be weird for him. All he knows is… the future Trebles have big shoes to fill.
1 day later. (Two months, three weeks, and two days to go.)
"Tell me again why your granddad dude never bothers to come here anymore?"
Bumper grunts as he tries to pull out the footrest from his chair. "Maybe because everything´s a fucking hundred years old," he huffs. A shout is heard immediately after when the recliner suddenly snaps forward and the headrest falls back with it.
"Dude," Brandon says between snickers. "Come on, I´m serious. This place is amazing."
Jesse wholeheartedly agrees as his eyes trace the small, intricate designs in the stained glass belonging to the ceiling. It took them almost an hour to find the lounge, where the TV is located, but as far as they can tell, it was completely worth it. The color scheme is a warm brown, much like the rest of the house, made for relaxation and comfort. The room itself is like paradise and it isn't just because there's a pool table, a fireplace, and a stereo. It's because the flat screen just about takes up the whole wall and there's even a DVD player. Turns out Jesse didn't have to bring his after all. (Always come prepared, right?) Bumper's family has never had any qualms about big spending; he doesn't know why he hadn't already expected all this. Either way, it's the best surprise ever.
"One of these days we'll invite girls up here," Brandon continues with an excited smirk. Bumper sits up at this and the ecstatic widening of his eyes says it all.
Donald, over at the pool table teaching Benji the basics, chuckles and glances at their side of the room. "I thought this was meant to be a bonding trip."
"Girls make me nervous," Benji mumbles quietly next to him and Donald reaches over to pat the magician on the shoulder.
The seventy-five percent brunette, twenty-five percent blonde scoffs, "I can't last one whole summer without girls."
"Yeah," Bumper puts his hands behind his head as he leans back into the plush chair cushion. "And it wouldn't be fair to deny the babes any of this. I have to get my daily dose after all. They help relieve the tension, if you know what I mean," he waggles his eyebrows dramatically and gestures to his body.
Jesse and Donald glance at each other with identical looks of disturbance and, with pointing fingers, direct Bumper's line of sight to the cylindrical container next to him on the small, wooden table. Bumper rolls his eyes and huffs as he reaches into his pocket, pulls out a dollar, and deposits it into his very own "Douchebag" jar. (Donald and Jesse insist he take it with him wherever he goes.)
"How would they get here, anyway?" Unicycle asks with a confused expression on his face, using the cue cube to roughen up the tip of his pool stick. "We're in the middle of nowhere. It took an almost four hour trip just to get here!"
"About that," Aaron cuts in, wrinkling his forehead, "What happens when we need groceries and stuff? How far away is the nearest supermarket?"
"I explained this already," Bumper gives a frustrated groan. "Madine will bring us everything we need, including groceries."
"What kind of a name is Madine?"
"A really old one."
"So is this what we're gonna do all day?" Jesse asks, looking around the room at the men comfortably stretched out throughout various corners. "There's a pool outside. And the whole backyard faces the woods, so that can be an option too; play some hide-and-seek and maybe even a game of tag," Jesse finishes in part sarcasm.
He receives a muffled grunt from Brandon, whose head is about to sink into the large pillow conveniently placed by the fireplace, never to be seen again. "Of course you're not tired. You didn't drive like," he mutters, "five hours straight."
"I drove," Jesse justifies himself. "For like half an hour." It had been a rough set of minutes.
"How about," Donald starts, ever the pacifier, "We rest up for today, and tomorrow we go looking for more productive things to do. Besides, Austin's already asleep and you know how cranky he gets when he's woken up." He gestures toward the brown-haired boy spread out on the floor, barely visible under the pile of blankets.
"He's not coming back to earth any time soon." Benji jogs over to poke his friend repeatedly in the supposed location of his stomach, worried about his dead-like state. "The sixteen pancakes he had at breakfast must have knocked him out cold."
Jesse heaves a loud sigh as he plops back down onto the large sofa, staring at the mantle above the fireplace with a frown. It's really not his fault for being so energetic, but he rarely gets tired. Bumper used to tell him he had Red Bull running through his veins… It's a possibility.
"Well," Jesse suddenly jumps up, "Call me when it's time for lunch. I'm gonna go watch a movie."
"Don't you want to play pool?" Benji asks.
"Nah," the Bambi-eyed boy shrugs back. "I suck at it anyway."
"You do," Donald chuckles quietly, shooting him an amused smirk.
"Yeah, well, I'm never making bets with you again!" Jesse mock glares at him. "When you guys play beer pong though, let me know."
It takes about a half-hour to get to the main hall again; he'd forgotten how long they'd spent searching for their small man cave. He's planning on getting to know the house inside out before leaving; getting lost here would be a nightmare. His curiosity peaks with every door he passes though, and it's right before he reaches the kitchen that he decides to randomly turn the knob of the second-to-last door he sees through a small corridor.
That's where he finds the gigantesque piano Bumper had told him about.
Now, this is Jesse, lover of all things musical, so it's no surprise when his brown eyes light up like a kid who's just discovered a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. The room is spacious, with white, marble floors and high-ceiled windows – covered by heavy-weight, interlined curtains. It's the equivalent of a miniature ballroom with the white baby grand piano placed right in the middle, fit for a movie scene. And he knows movies.
His steps across the marble floor echo throughout the room, breaking all silence and he tries not to cringe at the feeling of disturbing something that seems so peaceful and untouched. When reaching the instrument, he runs a worshipping hand along the surface, and Jesse smiles as he props open the lid, causing a loud and resonant sound to cut through the quiet once again. The keys beneath are a nice shade of ivory; a bit faded but it's clear they've been well taken care of. It seems that Madine has some serious dedication to this house and everything in it.
He has a piano back at home, black and just right in size. It's placed right in front of the slide doors leading to his backyard; right where the light hits his hands as he plays. His parents had bought it as a birthday present for his fifteenth. It's most assuredly his biggest treasure (apart from his movie collection, of course), so he can't imagine how a piano like this one could possibly be left alone here, unused, just sitting in a room in a house only monthly visited by a maid.
Speaking of which, the cleaning products she uses must be expensive as hell because there's not one speck of dust on the instrument. Or the room. Or the rest of the house. And the furniture isn't even covered by sheets or anything. How does that even work?
Jesse jumps from his musings as he glances up and unexpectedly catches sight of his own reflection staring back in surprise. There's a mirror hanging on the wall right across from him. It looks like an antique, with its clichéd silver frame and long, oval shape. It's then that he notices that there's a couch right behind him with a small table centered in front and the centerpiece placed in the middle looking recently polished.
Yeah. Expensive products. Must be Mr. Clean.
So that's it. A baby grand piano, a delicate looking mirror, and a small sit-and-rest. Nothing else in the room. He feels slightly odd in it, though. It's like he's disturbing a personal space of some sort.
He snorts loudly. Too many movies.
The house can definitely play with the mind. Go somewhere that's been uninhabited for over twenty, thirty years and it suddenly feels like the air has more right to be there than you do.
Jesse slides onto the bench and cracks his knuckles before starting to play Frederic Chopin's Scherzo No. 2 Op. 31. It's a piece that had taken him a while to master, especially because almost every key is used at some point, but he had it down before his teen years. The melodic notes flow nicely, though he probably should have picked something a little quieter. Jesse's fingers fly over the keys and his dimples peek out as he lets the satisfaction at playing a piece he knows completely by heart pour through him. His fingers hold onto the last note and when the room is basked in silence again, all he can do is stare down at the keys and grin.
"Great job!" a voice chirps to his far left.
"Thanks!" he turns to say to –
The bench falls backwards with a deafening bang as he throws his body weight from the piano in shock. His mind tries to process it all the three seconds he stays unmoving on the floor, before his brain catches up and something just talked to him and he scrambles up from his turtle-on-back position to zoom across the room to the double door, closing the solid wood behind him loudly.
To any outsider, it'd be impossible to deny that watching a grown man trip every three steps up the stairs is a thousand times better than cable. Jesse would find it funny. But he's the one tripping and haha, no, it's not funny at all.
Reaching the third floor, he doesn't think twice about running into his room and closing the door behind him. He's panting and trying to take deep breaths as he looks around frantically before falling back onto the bed.
What – what the hell?
He sits up with a frown once his heart rate slows down after a few minutes. He just had… an embarrassingly major freak out… and it might have been over nothing.
Jesse's always had an overactive imagination. His mom used to tell him it was because of the movies he watched daily. He should have listened. So… huh. He guesses there might be some negative effects to watching so much fiction. And he did watch the Sixth Sense before going to bed last night, after all. He doesn't know why, really. First night in a new house, with a sort of creepy settlement… maybe because Benji and Unicycle had been so freaked out by the prospect of ghosts and he'd gotten the urge when he´d seen the Thriller Category stacked on top of his movie pile…
Look, he does not believe in ghosts, okay? He believes in fiction, and special effects, and overactive imaginations. He's not even particularly sensitive; he can't sense when a room has "good energy" or "bad energy" or what not. Just… no.
Well then. That's great. The humiliation… that no one was around to see, he thinks as he perks up. He adjusts his position on the bed to get comfortable and disconnects his laptop from the charger to settle it next to him. Just as he grabs a DVD, this time decidedly not a scary one, his mind unwillingly flashes back to the voice he could've sworn he'd heard clear as day by the wall lacking any kind of entrance whatsoever. Jesse shakes his head and gives a forced laugh that sounds just a bit hysterical.
He's watched too many movies.
Disclaimer: I do not own Donald's last name, New Girl's Douchebag Jar, or any of the Pitch Perfect characters... yet.
If you've read, please review to tell me what you think!
p.s. Why do I always forget about Kolio? I will find a way for him to come out in later chapters.