After the school bell rings for the end of class, the students are soon filling the hallway with their laughter and chatter. Chad meanwhile exits his Bio class with a pass for a class tour to the new jungle exhibit that opened just outside of town. Since Ray hadn’t been to class due to prep games for the third football game coming up this week, he figures he will head straight over to the Libretta café.
However, just as he turns the corner at the lockers, he bumps into someone, knocking her books from her hands. Chad reaches down to help her until he looks up to see it’s Ray’s girlfriend, the school reporter Rita Allen.
“Sorry I ran into you like that,” Chad quips, “I was just looking for Ray so I could tell him about how you’re plotting some scheme against me.”
Rita Allen glares at him before looking around to pick up the rest of her things. Chad then notices another photo envelope on the floor and reaches for it. However, she quickly snatches it up before he can get his hands on it. She smiles to herself as she flicks her long hair behind her shoulders and says, “Then I’m glad I ran into you to let you know that I’m ready to show the photos to everyone, so don’t you dare try anything to come between Ray and me.”
Chad folds his arms, “So how do I know you aren’t trying to keep me from telling Ray about what you’re up to just so you can pull off whatever this scheme of yours is first?”
Rita Allen muses, “You still don’t believe I’ve cracked the password to Rick’s flash drive, do you?”
Chad turns and retorts, “You really think you have me played?”
Rita Allen snickers and replies, “Oh really? Let me play something for you then, Chad.”
With that, the school reporter reaches into her handbag and takes out her cell phone. Chad watches in a bit of confusion as she clicks a few buttons. She then puts the cell phone next to Chad’s ear and presses the play button:
… I’ve got a plan. And Chad’s the main part of it …
Chad pauses in shock at the sound of Rick Hayes’s voice. An eerie chill travels down his spine. He looks up to see Rita Allen looking at him with some sort of satisfied grin as she puts her phone away. Chad shakes his head to snap out of it.
He then replies, “Well that could mean anything …”
Rita Allen says, “Thankfully, that means your little plans were put to a stop. So I’m gonna make sure it stays that way – and I’ll let you off with a deal.”
Chad frowns, “I already know you just want to keep your hands on Ray.”
Rita Allen adds, “And if you stay out of my relationship with Ray, then I won’t show everyone else what is on the flash drive.”
Chad pauses, still in a bit of surprise at the recording. Rita Allen meanwhile waits expectantly for an answer. However, just as he is about to answer, Ray Torres strolls over towards them. Chad and Rita Allen exchange awkward glances as he comes over.
Ray greets his girlfriend with a kiss on the cheek before he says, “Hey C.K., what’s up? The two of us are heading back over to the field to practice for the third game. Although I have to admit I’m a bit nervous about it since our captain, Cameron Levine, and some of the other guys have been acting weird. You know, ever since I was chosen to speak at the conference last week.”
Chad says, “Well Ray, I’ve been learning recently not to let other people make you live in regret.”
With that, Chad quickly turns and walks away. Ray and Rita Allen both ponder on the comment for their own reasons before they too walk off in the other direction.
= = =
Meanwhile, at a carnival zoo downtown, Josh is standing waiting around in a quieter part of the zoo near Leo the Lion Tamer’s exhibit, where at the moment no one else seems to be looking around. But in a few minutes, Vitani and Brett happen to walk by together on their date.
Vitani is surprised to see him there, “Hey Josh, what are you doing here?”
Brett adds, “C’mon Vitani. I bet he was here spying on us on our date.”
Josh retorts, “You two aren’t the only couple who can go to the carnival. I’m waiting on my date.”
Vitani muses, “Oh. I guess I just didn’t think you’d be dating so soon after, you know, what happened before with Stella and stuff.”
Josh shrugs and replies, “Well just so you know, Vitani, that’s a record that’s been broken plenty of times by your boyfriend Brett over there… once he gets what he really wants from them, that is.”
He passes Brett a telltale look. Vitani pauses, a bit bothered by the comment. Brett grumbles and cuts in, “Okay then, Josh, so where is this date of yours then, huh?”
Josh looks at his watch and quips, “That’s what I’d like to know.”
Just then, they hear a piercing scream from nearby. They follow the sound and run over to the cage of the leopard lair nearby. They peek through the cage bars to see a teenage girl lying unconscious on the floor of the lair.
“Omigod!” Josh exclaims from through the bars, “That’s Vanessa! My date!”
There is then a loud animalistic snarl from the trees in the lair. The three look up to see a menacing leopard poised on one of the branches looking at them before looking at Vanessa on the ground. Josh panics.
Brett tells them, “I’m gonna go get help!”
With that, he runs off. Josh waits until he is gone before he turns his hands to steel and starts to bend the cage bars apart to enter the lair. The leopard merely watches him intently. Josh maneuvers through the small bushes towards Vanessa. He reaches her and lifts her up to take her back out. A bracelet drops off of her wrist. However, the leopard decides to jump down for a sneak attack.
As Josh makes his way back to the bent cage bars to escape, Vitani ushers him to hurry. Just as he exits the cage, Vitani quickly leans through to blow her icy mist at the large feline. The leopard snarls in annoyance at the cold mist before leaping away. Josh lets Vitani hold Vanessa up as he goes back to bend the cage bars back into shape. He then runs back to his unconscious date.
Vitani and Josh notice she is drenched in sweat and try to get her to wake up just as Brett along with two paramedics and zoo personnel show up. Vitani steps back and hugs Brett while Josh watches as the paramedics check her out.
One of the zoo personnel asks them, “So what exactly happened here?”
Josh looks at him and replies, “I’d say things just got a little too wild and dangerous.”
Later at the Libretta, Chad hangs up a cordless phone after talking to the moving company who cleared out the dorms. He had now suspected that was how Rita Allen got her hands on the flash drive in first place, and how she really got ahold of that recording of Rick Hayes’ voice. He is sure she hadn’t cracked the password to the flash drive yet or she would have bargained harder on her deal with the real secrets it hid.
“Thanks for letting me use the phone,” Chad says to Vitani. “So how was your date at the zoo?”
“No problem,” Vitani replies, as she takes the phone to the counter. “As for the date, there was a little problem. For one, it was a lot wilder than I thought it would be when Brett and I ran into Josh there at the zoo.”
Chad gives her a look and muses, “Hehe. I hope it wasn’t too weird.”
Vitani clears an order off her list and says, “Oh I think the weird thing was finding Josh’s new girlfriend unconscious in the leopard lair.”
Chad looks up in alarm, “What? I hope she’s okay.”
Vitani tells him, “All I know is that Josh went with her for a checkup at the hospital before he took her back to the condo to talk. But he’s gonna explain everything when he comes by. In fact, here he is now.”
They look over to see Josh entering the bookshop café. Moving from the counter, they all go to sit at their usual table. Josh slips off his jacket and puts it on the back of the chair before he sits with them.
Josh explains, “Well guys, if you thought the day couldn’t get any weirder, you were totally wrong.”
Vitani asks, “What do you mean? What happened with Vanessa?”
“Oh she’s fine,” Josh shakes his head and says. “Although she wasn’t fine about finding another girl’s purse at the condo once we got back to my place.”
Vitani frowns and checks her handbag, “What? But mine is here with me.”
Josh says, “Yours isn’t pink with the word ‘Princess’ printed on it either. It was Stella’s. But I kinda had to tell Vanessa that it was yours to cover up before she tried to look inside.”
Vitani wonders, “Having a pink purse should’ve let us onto Stella. So what was inside her purse?”
Josh nods and says, “That’s the weird and even more worrying part. After I took Vanessa home, I checked and it was a note that said: ‘make your father proud and destroy the auranades’. So it seems my hot-as-a-she-devil ex-girlfriend came to SyndAcad with a mission from daddy dearest.”
Chad muses, “Well, Rick’s father, my old Chem teacher Professor Hayes, was also an oscinade just like he was. So chances are her father is an oscinade too.”
Vitani turns and says, “Hey Chad. I know it’s a bit personal to get into but have you ever gone through any of Rick’s things to find out more about him … after what happened on the bridge?”
Chad tells them, “No, it was a part of my life I wanted to pretend never happened. I thought dredging that up might make things worse at the time. But it happens I just made a call to the moving company who clears the dorms. I learned they have a policy of discarding collected items after six weeks and the only reclaims were made by a school reporter doing a report on past students.”
Josh shrugs, “Maybe we can ask the reporter for any information they have on Rick’s things.”
Chad quickly says, “We can’t! Um, you see that school reporter happens to be Ray’s girlfriend, Rita Allen, and she was investigating the suicide incidents at the time. If the three of us go to her in connection to any of that, especially me, it could lead her to the wrong conclusions.”
Vitani wonders, “You’re right. So what else can we conclude about the note?”
Josh adds, “Well I think here it was also signed by ‘Tri-’ something, but the rest is ripped off.”
Chad says, “Then maybe we can assume that there are at least three upper level oscinades out there somewhere who are assigning these other low level oscinades to destroy us.”
Vitani nods in agreement, “It makes sense to be three of them just like there are three of us.”
Josh reasons, “Well we can try to find out more when we encounter the next oscinade – which I get a feeling will be sooner than we think.”
About that time, Evan Ross enters the café, only to see them at the table together. Vitani gets up.
Evan strolls over and asks, “So, did you invite me here to make Brett jealous, or is it Josh now?”
Vitani frowns and says, “C’mon Evan. That’s crazy. Just like this whole situation between us is. I invited you over here hoping that we could go talk about what happened. I want things to go back to normal.”
Evan looks at her for a minute before sighing in agreement. Vitani excuses herself from the table and takes Evan to another table to talk. Chad watches as they walk away before looking back at the uneasy look on Josh’s face.
Josh shakes his head and states, “Um, I’m gonna go call Vanessa and ask her about a movie tomorrow.”
With that, he too gets up from the table, but heads to the counter. Chad is soon sitting at the table by himself as he wonders how much wilder things can get for them or even for himself now with the whole Ray and Rita Allen situation.
= = =
The next day at the jungle exhibit, the sound of tropical birds is echoing through the trees as Bio students are discussing what animals at the facility would occupy which trophic levels in ecological food chains. The Bio teacher, Mr. Bailey, and the tour guide are leading the discussion on which Chad is focusing, until he sees Rita Allen step into view with her notepad. She looks up at him and grins deviously. Chad turns away in frustration.
He turns the corner and bumps into someone else. He is surprised to see Ray is there as well.
Ray folds his arms and asks in playfully stern voice, “And how come you didn’t tell me about the trip?”
Chad tells him, “I thought you were gonna be totally busy prepping for the away game this week.”
Ray explains, “The coach told us at the last practice session to stay off our feet for the rest of week, but I also know I have to stay on top of my work no matter what.”
Chad nods and says, “I’m just glad you’re focused on what’s gonna mean something to you.”
Ray shrugs and replies, “Well I can’t think of anything that would get in the way of that.”
Chad takes a look behind him to see Rita Allen glaring at him from beyond a few students. He decides he has to pretend not to be uncomfortable with her to prevent Ray from asking too many questions until they’ve had a real chance to talk. Just then, Mr. Bailey and the tour guide announce that it is time for a lunch break. The students all rush to the open patio of the Jungle Fever night club at the exhibit. Chad and Ray manage to hold a table for themselves, but of course Rita Allen comes over and joins them.
Ray and Rita Allen hold hands for a brief moment before he offers to get all three of them something to eat from the counter. She then seats herself at the table.
Rita Allen says, “Look Chad. If we’re going to hold this little deal, you need to run along somewhere and let my boyfriend and me have some quality time together.”
Chad muses, “Wow. It sure is pleasant to be in the company of a vixen desperate for prey.”
Rita Allen raises an eyebrow, “But you’re hardly innocent yourself. I doubt I compare to how Rick Hayes preyed on those innocent lives back then. Something you knew about all too well.”
Chad says, “What I know is that you didn’t really come here to report on the trip to the exhibit. You just came to spy on Ray and me to stop me from telling him about you. But what will Ray think anyway when he sees you still have an empty notebook?”
Rita Allen claims, “Ugh. Don’t worry. I plan to fill it with all your dirty secrets pretty soon.”
With that, she grabs her things and leaves the table to go find the tour guide to ask some real questions to cover her story. Meanwhile, Ray comes back to the table with three lunch meals and takes a seat.
Ray asks, “So where’d she suddenly run off to?”
Chad merely shrugs, “Who knows what those reporters are really up to?”
Ray opens up his lunch meal and says, “I guess this gives the two of us time to talk then.”
Chad looks up, “About what?”
Ray replies, “Yesterday you said something about living in regret. So … I wanted to know if there was something you regret right now.”
Chad pauses in thought. He thinks of telling Ray all about Rita Allen plotting to somehow use what happened with Rick Hayes against him, but he also fears if she were to really find out what was on the flash drive, soon afterwards she wouldn’t have the slightest reservations about ruining his life anyway. She would not only expose his secret that he is gay, but that he was boyfriends with Rick Hayes at the time of his evil schemes so that everyone at school would hate him. He would probably lose Ray’s friendship too, or whatever it is between them.
He had to find out whether he would be risking of all that in vain or not. Chad takes a deep breath and simply says, “What I regret … is not telling you what I was going to say at the Halloween party.”
= = =
Meanwhile, Vitani heads to the editor-in-chief on the WP university newspaper office and knocks. Evan answers the door and invites her into his work office. He takes her coat and lets her have a seat.
Vitani look up and says, “I hope everything is okay between us after we talked yesterday.”
Evan says, “Yeah, between us. But I’ve been hearing some things here at WP about your boyfriend.”
Vitani nods and says, “Some friends have told me how Brett uses people to get what he wants.”
Evan says, “You should listen to those friends. We all know what he’ll want from a girl like you.”
Vitani leans her head to a side, “A girl like me?”
Evan nods and replies, “I mean you’re one of the prettiest and smartest girls at SyndAcad and while dating someone like you should be an honor, it’s just a notch in someone like Brett’s belt.”
Vitani explains, “Look, Brett and I have only been dating for a few weeks and he’s hasn’t ever shown that side to him, but even if he ever were to, he could never talk me into letting him take advantage of me.”
Evan looks unsure and says, “Things can get pretty wild in the moment.”
Vitani frowns before she chuckles, “Well I don’t think that moment will be anytime soon. But I’m very flattered that you’re looking out for me.”
Evan replies, “Hey, we made that promise when they were six years old back at that place.”
Vitani smiles before she leans over and kisses him on the cheek.
Brett knocks and opens the door to see them and asks, “So, need I be jealous?”
Evan turns and says, “You need to make sure you don’t hurt her or else.”
Brett claims, “Look, Vitani and I are just having fun. It’s all innocent. You ready babe?”
Vitani nods and grabs her things. She looks back at Evan fondly before she leaves with Brett. Evan goes to the door and watches as they walk off down the hallway. Some other WP basketball jocks pass by and chuckle to themselves that Brett is definitely gonna have some fun with that girl tonight. Evan pauses worriedly.
= = =
Back at the Jungle Fever club restaurant, Chad waits expectantly for Ray to say something. Ray looks up in recognition before he shrugs and muses, “Well I guess you had your reasons then.”
Chad continues, “But I never had any reasons not to trust you.”
Ray says, “I told you could trust me that night, C.K. I begged you to be honest with me …”
Chad cuts in and says, “Then let’s both be honest now. If you tell me what you had meant that night after the sports conference then I will tell you what I was going to say back at Halloween party. Okay?”
Rita Allen shows back up at the table, “Hey! So what are you boys over here talking about?”
Chad and Ray exchange awkward glances before Chad turns to her and smiles before he answers, “Oh um, Ray and I were just trying to figure out when honesty is the best policy for the situation. But I think the more we try to take the easy way out, the more complicated things will get. Don’t you agree Ray?”
Ray blushes nervously and muses, “Um yeah. I suppose you can only run from the truth for so long.”
He then looks down and keeps eating his lunch meal. Rita Allen looks over at Chad threateningly before she sits down beside Ray and opens her lunch to eat with him. Chad and Ray exchange glances while eating at the table. Rita Allen gets a weird feeling something more is going on between them.
= = =
At the movies downtown, Josh and Vanessa show up hand-in-hand. After passing the ticket booth, they look to buy some concession food before they go in. They turn and bump into none other than the Milano sisters, where their butter popcorn spills on Vanessa’s outfit. She excuses herself to go to the bathroom to clean it off. Amber and Christy smile to themselves. He notices they are unusually drenched in sweat.
Josh frowns and asks them, “What are you two doing here? And why are you so sweaty?”
Amber pants heavily moving to one of his shoulders and says, “We’re like feeling really hot today.”
Christy moves to the other shoulder and adds, “And we’re totally in the mood for some wild action.”
Josh looks at them weirdly before he says, “Please tell me you two are talking about a movie.”
Amber and Christy giggle coquettishly before saying, “Oh. We can put on a good show if you like.”
Josh yanks his arms from their grip before saying, “Okay. This weird little movie is now over and I’m going to watch a real one with my girlfriend. So if you’d excuse me.”
With that, Josh walks over to meet Vanessa just as she exits the washrooms. They both go into the theater room together. Amber and Christy scoff to themselves before they hear someone else entering the theater. They see it’s Vitani and Brett, and the twins exchange devious looks.
Vitani is meanwhile saying, “Now that Evan and I have worked things out, everything feels perfect.”
Brett smiles and says, “Just like you are to me.”
He kisses her and offers to get them something to eat. Vitani says she will go find a seat in the theater in case the theater is getting crowded. She unknowingly walks past the Milano sisters into the theater room. The cheerleader twins adjust strange bracelets on their wrists and head towards Brett.
Amber pulls him aside from the concession counter and says, “You’re Vitani’s boyfriend, right?”
Christy plays with his other sleeve, “Then we know that you must be like so miserable right now.”
The twins tell him, “We know that you prefer girls with like more experience …”
Vitani shows up and quips, “It’s experience like yours that give people itches in all sorts of places. And you two are like a pretty bad rash as it is.”
With the hopeless look from her, Vitani pulls Brett by the arm and leads him past the Milano sisters and they walk off into the theater room together. Unknowingly, Vitani and Brett go to sit only a few seats behind Josh and his girlfriend.
Brett soon turns to her, “I know things would be awesome if we were alone together.”
Vitani turns and says, “Hehe. But we are alone.”
Brett shakes his head and clarifies, “I mean alone alone.”
Vitani pauses before she says, “Brett, I like the way things are as it is. So if you don’t then –”
Brett says. “Hey. Look, I’ll show you how much I like you, Vitani. Just close your eyes.”
Vitani pauses before closing them. Brett slips a strange bracelet onto her arm. Vitani opens her eyes.
She begins sweating and says, “You know what? It’s time we really start to enjoy this movie together.”
They suddenly begin to make out passionately. Josh and Vanessa are frustrated by the noise behind them and ask them to stop. When they continue, Josh looks back to demand they be respectful, only to see Vitani and Brett sweaty and making out.
Josh exclaims, “Omigod! Vitani, what the hell are you doing?”
Brett replies, “Oh, don’t worry! We’re just getting started.”
He grabs a giggling Vitani’s hand and they run out of the theater. Josh is alarmed before he runs after trying to follow them. Vanessa ends up in the concession room confused. Amber and Christy saunter over to her.
The twins tell her, “It’s like fate. You’re gonna lose Josh to Vitani. She stole him from us too.”
With that, Amber and Christy walk away snickering to themselves. Josh comes back to Vanessa, but she can tell he is distracted by whatever just happened with Vitani. Josh tells himself he has to find Vitani before she does something she regrets.
= = =
The tour bus has returned to campus, so the Bio students have come off the bus and are now filling the hallways. Chad, Ray and Rita Allen are sort of walking down the hallway together awkwardly until Ray stops them at his locker.
Ray says, “So um … we’ll meet up sometime this week to write up the report, right C.K.?”
Chad looks up and says, “Yeah. I guess we can talk about stuff then …”
Ray nods quietly at him. Chad looks over at Ray’s girlfriend, who seems all too eager to get Ray away from him. Rita Allen looks between them before she takes a hold of Ray’s hand and looks up at him fondly, “So you wanna go somewhere a bit more alone now …”
However, Ray says, “Actually, I want to get some rest before the game tomorrow so I’ll see you later.”
He touches her on the shoulder instead of kissing her before he tells them goodbye and turns and walks away down the hall. Rita Allen is a bit thrown off by that and knows that something is up.
Rita Allen quickly turns to Chad and asks, “What did you tell Ray back at the jungle exhibit?”
Chad says, “You and I had a deal or whatever. I didn’t tell Ray anything.”
Rita Allen shakes her head, “Well something’s going on.”
Chad shrugs to her, “Maybe Ray just has some things to figure out on his own.”
Rita Allen ponders on that comment as Chad walks away. She walks off to find Ray.
= = =
Meanwhile, Chad turns the corner and soon notices a frantic Josh in the hallways. He goes over to him to find out what is up. Josh sees him and turns to him, gripping him by the shoulders.
Josh says, “Hey squirt, please tell me you’ve seen Vitani around here somewhere!”
Chad tells him, “No. I thought she was gonna spend the day with that Brett guy.”
Josh replies, “She and Brett were at the movies earlier today. And they were getting awful serious.”
Chad asks, “What do you mean?”
Josh tells him, “They were like making out all over the chairs, all sweaty and stuff. She wasn’t acting herself at all. Then she and Brett said they were only getting started before they ran out of the theater. I’m sure they are still together right now.”
Chad asks, “How are you sure of that?”
Josh replies, “Her friend Evan was worried about her and Brett too. He stopped by and said he found a reel of passes to some Jungle Fever club. I don’t know where that is, but now that I’m sure Vitani isn’t here, I guess I should head over to this club and check it out. Evan’s probably on his way there.”
Chad replies, “That club is up at the jungle exhibit we went to today. I know where it is.”
Josh nods, “Then let’s go find Vitani before she ends up doing something she’s going to regret.”
With that, Chad and Josh take off down the hallway with Josh dropping one of the Jungle fever club passes. Someone walks down to where they were standing and picks up the pass in his hands. Ray looks at it curiously before he says, “Maybe Chad and I can talk about things tonight.”
He heads off down the hallway as well. However, Rita Allen has been following him through the halls and decides she is going to find out what has been going on with Chad and Ray. She secretly follows Ray.
= = =
Later that night, Josh’s jeep pulls up at the Jungle Fever club hosted at the jungle exhibit. Chad and Josh step out before joining the line inside. It is full of sweaty people dancing all over each other. They present their passes and are made to wear strange bracelets before they enter the club.
Josh looks at it and muses, “Hey. These are just like the bracelets Vanessa was wearing at the zoo and the Milano sisters were wearing back at the movies. I guess they were at this club sometime recently.”
Chad adds, “And call it the jungle fever or whatever, but I’m suddenly feeling all hot and sweaty too.”
They notice that they are beginning to sweat profusely. Chad notices he feels kind of horny and his eyes fall on Josh. He thinks to himself that he had never noticed how hot Josh was before as a typical blond haired blue eyed jock. Just as he is about to talk, some cute girls come by and ask to borrow their bracelets, claiming that they lost theirs. Josh, who is also suddenly feeling in the mood, hands his and Chad’s bracelets over to score some points with the girls. However, after the girls leave, Chad and Josh feel normal again.
Chad says, “Um anyway, I guess we should split up and try to find Vitani. I’ll call you if I find anything.”
Josh nods, “Right. I’ll go this way and you can check over there.”
They split up and head to different sections of the club. Chad squeezes past about five sweaty girls who pull at his shirt and arms before he reaches a door. However, the door only takes him outside to the jungle trees at the exhibit lit by the full moon.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it,” comes a familiar voice.
Chad turns to see Ray, who is also very sweaty, but it makes him look kind of hot to Chad too.
He says, “Omigod. Ray … w-what are you doing here?”
Ray grabs him by the arm and says, “Follow me.”
A bit surprised by the whole thing, Chad lets Ray lead him by the arm outside and down to the river.
= = =
Meanwhile, Rita Allen is trying to get through the crowd to find Ray, but she’s being blocked by a bunch of sweaty fat kids dancing. She muses, “If Chad and Ray run into each other and Chad tells Ray what I’ve been up to it could mean trouble for me.”
= = =
Back outside, Chad and Ray reach the bank of the moonlit river through some tropical trees overgrown with pink wild orchids. Chad starts to feel like they are in a romantic setting. There is a stationed paddle boat which Ray steps onto. He holds out his hand for Chad to join him.
Chad steps onto the boat before he asks, “Ray, what is all this? What’s going on?”
Ray winks and says, “It’s just us now …”
With that, Ray looks Chad right in the eye before he starts to lean closer. Chad’s heart starts to beat faster in his chest when he realizes what is happening. Ray is going to kiss him. Does this mean he really has feelings for him too? What about his relationship with Rita Allen? Is he trying to show where his heart really lies after all? He decides to stop thinking about her for once and enjoy the moment.
He closes his eyes and soon feels Ray’s breath tickling his face making him even more nervous. Just as their faces are less than inches apart, Ray’s cell phone rings seemingly loud due to the quietness of the riverside. It startles them both and Ray loses his balance on the boat. He almost falls over the side into the water, but Chad grabs him around his body in time. Ray’s club bracelet, however, falls off into the water.
Ray looks down at Chad’s arms around him. Chad gets nervous and lets him go. Ray takes his cell phone out of his pocket to see a missed call from his girlfriend. He has a frustrated look on his face. Chad knows it’s a call from Rita Allen. What does this mean now?
Chad awkwardly asks, “Um Ray … are you okay?”
Ray gulps before he says, “I just wanted to make sure you were too. That’s why I came, but I better go.”
Chad turns, “But …”
However, Chad turns to see that Rita Allen is standing on the bank. Ray gets off and greets her.
She claims, “I was looking all over for you at the dorms and got worried. What are you doing out here?”
Ray tells her, “Chad and I just had to sort some stuff out, but I really need to be getting back now.”
With that, Ray turns and heads back up through the trees to the club to leave. Rita Allen turns to Chad on the boat and asks, “Okay Chad. What’s really going on here?”
Chad sighs in frustration and tells her, “Don’t worry; nothing’s changed with the situation.”
Rita Allen simply turns and runs after Ray. Chad sits down in the boat and sighs heavily. Did he read too much into what was happening just now? Did Ray only back away because Rita Allen had shown up and realized he didn’t want to hurt her? Or did he think trying to kiss him was a mistake? He knows if Rita Allen’s knack for showing up can help, he will never get the answers to any of those questions.
He stirs up a small breeze with his hands to set the boat going on a current down the river to think.
= = =
Soon, Chad notices a strange light through some trees nearby. He has the boat drift to the shore before he steps off and heads through the trees. He spots a large truck with its rear lights on. It has ‘Leo the Lion Tamer’ and a man’s face branded on the side. Some teenage boys step into the light. A large muscular man with a red and yellow open jacket and matching pants steps out of the truck. His faced matched the one on the truck.
He takes out a box and tells the boys that the bracelets will make everyone act on impulse and bring out the animal within them. The boys snicker that they will put the bracelets to good use. Chad realizes that it’s the bracelets that caused that reaction of his and Josh’s when they entered the club before the girls took them. It also means that it was the bracelets that caused Ray’s sudden impulse to kiss him.
The man looks up and sniffs as though he senses something. He looks right at Chad behind the tree.
“Stop that boy before he reveals our plan!” Leo the Lion Tamer yells to the boys.
The boys charge in Chad’s direction. Chad runs back down to the boat and swishes his hand to blow the boys back from catching up to him. They fall back dazed. Chad then makes a little breeze to sail away back up the river.
Leo sniffs the air and smiles, “So I’ve found my prey. He will lead me right to the other auranades.”
= = =
Josh is still looking through the club for Vitani when his phone beeps. He sees a frantic text from Chad saying that the club bracelets are behind everyone’s wild impulsive behavior. Josh realizes that explains Vanessa going into the leopard lair and Amber and Christy’s stranger-than-usual behavior at the movies. He has one room upstairs left to check.
He opens the door to see a shirtless Vitani and Brett making out on a bed. Vitani’s still in her bra.
Appalled that Brett was so blatantly taking advantage of her, Josh is quick to yank Vitani off of his rival basketball captain. Both of them look up in surprise.
Vitani turns angrily, “Josh, what the hell is this? I know what I’m doing!”
Josh snatches the bracelet off of her wrist, “You’re doing exactly want Brett wanted. He was using this stupid bracelet here to get you to have sex with him.”
Vitani looks at the bracelet in realization after she returns to normal. She puts her shirt back on, embarrassed by being taken advantage of.
Brett retorts, “Shut up Josh! You’re just jealous I got closer to her than you’ll ever get.”
Vitani steps forward and slaps him in the face. Josh then grabs him before Brett punches him in the face and then punches him out of the room. Vitani tries to stop Josh as he adds a few more blows that leave a black eye. Brett runs off as soon as he lets go. Josh huffs angrily.
Vitani turns him to her and hugs him, “Thanks for getting here before anything else happened.”
Elsewhere, Brett is stumbling off to get out of the club when he runs into Evan, who grabs him threateningly and asks, “Where’s Vitani?”
Brett retorts bitterly, “With her boyfriend Josh.”
Evan looks up and sees them hugging each other. He shoves Brett aside, who runs off to tend to his black eye. Evan nods quietly telling himself that Vitani is safe and walks away.
= = =
Meanwhile, Vitani and Josh head off outside into the trees to find Chad after his text about the bracelets.
Chad runs up to them frantically, “Guys, it’s some lion tamer and he’s after me and he can-“
“Ow!” Josh suddenly exclaims when he is bitten harshly in the hand by something.
The three step back to see it is a snake. It slithers away into the bushes.
Vitani exclaims, “Omigod. How can they just have a snake roaming wild here? Josh, are you okay?”
Chad says, “I think that was Leo. He can shape shift into wild animals. Whenever I use my powers against him, he turns into this hawk to fly right back at me. Look, there he is! Up there!”
They see a hawk flying in a circle above them before it swoops down towards them. They dodge it and the hawk morphs into a black panther. Chad, Vitani and Josh panic at the menacing beast. It snarls before it says, “I think it’s time for my midnight snack!”
Chad says, “I have an idea now. C’mon!”
They all head back towards the boat. The panther swiftly leaps through the bushes to the bank.
Chad pushes off from the shore while Vitani tries to tend to Josh’s bite in the boat.
The panther snarls, “You fools, everyone knows panthers can swim!”
Just as the panther approaches the water, Chad swipes the water back at it. Vitani then blows her freezing mist at it. The panther is stuck in the frozen splash. They are about to banish him but Josh interrupts.
“Looks like the three oscinades who sent you failed yet again,” Josh quips.
“They won’t stop until you three pay for what you did to them in the beginning!” the panther yells.
Just then, Leo turns into a snake and slithers out of the ice. They wait patiently for an attack. It suddenly jumps out at them as a large crocodile, but Josh turns his arms to steel and manages to grab it and hold its jaws open. Vitani then blows her icy mist into its mouth to freeze it inside out. Josh lets go.
The crocodile falls back into the water and struggles to move. Chad, Vitani and Josh look over at each before they finally repeat the banishment verse together:
“Evil spawned from darkness core,
Walk this land you shall no more,
Wickedness be rectified,
Let your face be now denied!”
A bright light emerges from the river, where blasts of energy cause swirling in the water from the opening vortex. The auranades watch as a portal opens up and begins to draw Leo the Lion Tamer inside. He screams with a roar as his body distorts.
“And so this wildness ends,” Vitani states.
It is then that Leo’s crocodile body stretches and distorts as it is finally drawn inside of the whirling portal, leaving the echo of its roar over the river before it seals shut and fades away. Chad, Vitani and Josh sigh in relief.
Josh notices his bite is feeling better already and decides to try on the bracelet to if it still causes the jungle fever effect. When it doesn’t, he says, “I’m not feeling any hotter than I usually am. Hehe.”
Chad muses, “But I guess we know why we must always control the beast within us.”
Two days later at the Libretta after the third game, Chad, Vitani and Josh are talking about how, thankfully, the effects of the jungle fever Leo the Lion Tamer was supplying via the club seemed to be cured once he was banished. But they were trying to figure out what he had meant by what they did to the oscinades in the beginning.
Chad muses, “Unless … he meant Rick. I think destroying me back then was supposed to get him promoted to upper level like his dad or something. Maybe he and his dad were a part of this trio of upper level oscinades and now the others are even more determined to destroy us in revenge.”
Josh muses, “Well, we weren’t just gonna sit back and let them win.”
Vitani nods, “But I guess that means they’re gonna put on an even greater fight now.”
Chad says, “Just like SyndAcad’s football team did at the away game today. Speaking of which, I’m gonna go get my order for two to congratulate Ray on scoring the winning touchdown again.”
He excuses himself from the table and heads to the counter. Josh pauses before he turns to Vitani.
He asks, “I have to ask … did you really consider sleeping with Brett in the first place?”
Vitani turns and admits, “All I can say is that the bracelet made me act against any conflicted feelings I had, like knowing I wasn’t ready for that part in our relationship, and knowing you didn’t approve of Brett.”
Josh says, “Great, so you running off with Brett is my fault.”
Vitani says, “I’m not saying that. I’m saying it’s just my fault for not trusting you enough about him, even though you were looking out for me when you probably knew more about the kind of person Brett really was than I did.”
Josh says, “I also have to let you make your own decisions, Vitani.”
Vanessa shows up at the table and asks, “Did you decide on her over our date last night?”
Josh stands up in realization, “Omigod! I totally forgot about that!”
Vanessa tells him, “Well I heard you were busy at that Jungle Fever club with Vitani too so you can also forget about dragging me into whatever this thing is between the two of you!”
She storms out of the café. At a table near the doors, Amber and Christy snicker happily to themselves.
Josh turns to Vitani and says, “I can’t believe she thinks there’s something more between you and me.”
Vitani giggles and says, “I know! How crazy is that idea?”
Josh winks and says, “It’s totally wild.”
Just then, the football team comes in cheering. Everyone is clapping, with Ray on the forefront of the group. Chad smiles as he watches him from the counter. Rita Allen runs up to Ray and kisses him in front of everyone. The other students cheer. Chad gets frustrated as he thinks that he will never get to be honest with Ray as long as Rita Allen is in the way. He storms outside with his order. Ray is smiling for everyone until he sees Chad suddenly leaving the café. Ray’s smile fades.
= = =
Behind the café, Chad steps out and runs into a good looking boy with a heavy backpack, spilling one of the drinks on the boy’s shirt. He appears to be of some Latin American descent. He accidentally drops something that turns out to be a medal with the name ‘Dustin’ on it before he picks it up.
Chad apologizes. “Oh hey, I’m sorry for running into you like that. I was just …”
Dustin says with a smirk, “I’m just sorry for whoever you saved the second latte for.”
Chad chuckles lightly, “Don’t worry, he has someone else he can share his lattes with now.”
Dustin muses, “Then he doesn’t know what he’s missing. This feels like it had a lot of love in it.”
Chad thinks about his situation and admits, “… Maybe it did.”
Dustin grins and says, “It’s really warm too.”
Chad shakes his head and honestly admits, “Then why does it all feel so cold right now?”
However, to Chad’s surprise, Dustin grabs his face and kisses him right on the lips.
Some military men peek into the alley and just see two kids kissing before walking away. Just after they leave, Dustin breaks the kiss and Chad is a bit dazed by it.
Chad looks up at him in confusion, “What was that about?”
Dustin smirks, “I don’t know. But it felt pretty warm to me.”
With that, Dustin turns and runs off. Chad looks around the other corner to see the military men driving off in a jeep. Chad recalls the boy had dropped some kind of medal. What was this all about?
Copyright © 2013 Chad Blackman
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