At the Libretta café, students are in and out of the bookshop café during the lunch period. Chad is at their usual table with a huge chemistry book as he is trying to grasp the concept of chemical equilibrium. However, he can’t quite get the point of it all at the moment.
“Ugh. I don’t get this at all,” Chad muses, as he leans forward over the book on the table.
“Well I know if anyone understands Chem, it’s you, C.K.,” Ray Torres says, appearing at the table. He takes a seat on the opposite side, “so I know it must be something else here you can’t understand.”
“Oh hey, Ray,” Chad replies as he sits up, “I guess sometimes things can seem so simple but turn out to be a lot more complicated. Besides, it’s hardly ever one-plus-one for me these days.”
“I get the feeling we aren’t exactly talking about chemistry,” Ray says with a curious grin.
“Maybe it’s what kind of chemistry we’re talking about,” Chad replies before an awkward pause.
Ray looks over at him as he ponders the comment. However, just as he’s about to say something on it, his girlfriend, school reporter Rita Allen, shows up at their table. Ray stands up to greet her with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Chad shifts uncomfortably in his seat.
“Rita, you remember my friend Chad, don’t you?” Ray asks her.
“Oh, how could I forget?” Rita Allen smirks before she pulls the flash drive necklace from in her blouse.
Chad sees it and swallows quietly to himself. Had she seen what was on Rick’s flash drive yet?
“So Ray,” Rita Allen continues, as she slinks her hand around Ray’s arm, “I hope you didn’t forget about our little lunch date for today.”
“I actually stopped here to order our lunch. I’ll go see if it’s ready,” Ray replies and excuses himself.
After he heads over to the café counter, Rita Allen swirls around to face Chad with a teasing grin. Chad looks up at her before he stands up and begins to pack up his things to leave. “Don’t even start.”
Rita Allen folds her arms. “But it’s like you said before, there was no ‘Ray and me’ before. But there is now, and soon there will be no more ‘Ray and Chad’.”
Chad turns around with furrowed eyebrows, “That’s what this is really about, isn’t it? This whole thing with Ray. You’re just dating him as a ploy to come between the two of us. You know, I think he ought to find how you’re using him like this.”
Rita Allen leans her head to one side. “Just like Ray and the rest of the school ought to find out what your true connection to Rick Hayes is. Everything that lies right here on this flash drive around my neck.”
“Oh please,” Chad shakes his head, “I know you have no idea what’s even on that flash drive. I do know it has a password. You’re just desperate to have something that you think you can scare me with.”
“Oh I would be scared if I were you,” Rita Allen tells him. “I am a reporter with enough resources to crack the password and enough power to ruin you if I were to show everyone what was on it.”
Chad is about to reply when Ray comes back from the counter with a lunch meal order for two.
Ray smiles at them. “So, you two are getting to know each other better, I see.”
Rita Allen grins and says, “Oh I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of the kind of person Chad is. Ready?”
With that, Ray tells Chad he will see him later at Bio class, and he and Rita Allen exit the café together … holding hands. Chad sits back down with a big sigh.
Just after Ray and Rita Allen exit, Vitani comes in after her D&T class and heads over to the table. Vitani slips off her handbag and slides into the seat. “I’d heard the rumors about Ray Torres and the school reporter, but I figured it wasn’t true since I was so sure there was something going on between you two for a while now.”
Chad shrugs. “For a while I actually thought there was something there too, but I guess I was wrong.”
Vitani frowns and asks, “How long have Ray and Rita Allen even known each other?”
Chad tells her, “They’ve only been dating for about two weeks now; since the Halloween party. And let’s just say she’s always had this way of showing up whenever Ray and I are together. You know Ray was trying to tell me he was in love with someone too just before the party and it seems now that person is none other than Rita Allen.”
Vitani shakes her head and rubs his hand, “I’m so sorry about how things worked out. Just like I’m sorry for getting over here so late for lunch, but I guess I just got caught up hanging out with Evan and stuff.”
Chad muses, “Josh is still having a hard time with the whole Evan thing, isn’t he?”
Vitani reaches for her cell phone from her handbag as she says, “You have no idea – just like I have no idea why Josh hasn’t gotten over here for lunch yet.”
Just then, Josh and his basketball friends come into the café laughing with each other. To everyone’s surprise, a boy from the baseball team storms in wielding a baseball bat. The crowd parts as the boy charges forward swinging at Josh. Josh turns and ducks in time, but the boy goes for a reverse swing. Josh raises his hand to block the blow, on which the bat snaps in half. The boys cheer. Chad and Vitani realize Josh must’ve use his metallic powers under his jersey sleeves. Josh, meanwhile, grabs the shocked boy and throws him down on the floor before sending him sliding across the floor and out through the front doors. Josh follows to see the boy scampering away. Josh dusts off his hands and heads back inside. The basketball jocks cheer.
Josh throws his hands up in the air in acknowledgement, “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
In the hallways at the lockers, Josh is busy putting away his business management books when he sees Chad and Vitani coming over to him. He looks up with a proud grin on his face before he realizes that both of them are staring at him incredulously. Josh rolls his eyes and shrugs. “What?”
Vitani leans forward, “Do I have to ask? I want to know what the hell just happened back there!”
Chad adds in disbelief, “You technically just used your powers in front of everyone, Josh.”
Josh sits back, “Oh please you guys. I was wearing my jersey, and either way, that guy had a cheap bat.”
Vitani frowns, “So why did that guy attack you with a baseball bat anyway?”
Josh smirks and replies, “He just wants to prove his baseball team can do something more than lose.”
Chad quips, “Okay. But he’s taking it a little too personal, isn’t he?”
“It is personal.” Josh props against his locker casually. “He didn’t only lose his touch at baseball. He just lost something he’s too proud to admit. But I’m proud to say I got what he lost out on. I got this.”
Josh motions his head towards the end of the hallway. Chad and Vitani look over to see the other students begin to step aside. Then they see a pair of leather high-heeled boots come strutting down the hallway. They watch as her long black hair bounces off her shoulders with every step. A hot girl is walking towards them as the other students watch in amazement. She comes over to Chad, Vitani and Josh, where she puts her arms around Josh’s neck before kissing him passionately. Chad and Vitani exchange looks. Vitani raises her eyebrows in amusement. Josh and the girl smile at each other before facing them.
“This is my girlfriend, Stella Monetti,” Josh introduces with a proud grin. “She’s a new librarian intern.”
He then introduces her to Chad and his best friend, Vitani. Vitani puts out her hand to greet her but Stella simply looks at her outstretched hand before turning to Josh and kissing him on his neck. Vitani pulls back her hand awkwardly.
“Well it was nice to meet you too, Stella,” Vitani quips.
“It would be so nice if I could get a tour around this place,” Stella coos in Josh’s ear.
“I’d be proud to do the honors,” Josh smiles, “But I must warn you that I may be the only attraction.”
Josh and Stella then turn and walk off together, apparently caught up in each other.
Chad turns and says, “Maybe now that Josh has got his own thing going with Stella, your relationship with Evan won’t be a problem.”
Vitani ponders to herself and muses, “Maybe.”
= = =
When Bio class ends, Chad grabs his things from his desk, after he finishes chatting with their Bio teacher, so that he can catch up with Ray, who said he was going to wait outside. He slips on and his backpack and heads out of the classroom, only to see Ray and Rita Allen talking to each while holding hands.
Chad walks over to the two of them. Ray turns with a smile while Rita Allen rolls her eyes to herself.
“Hey, guess what, C.K.?” Ray asks him. “Apparently I’ve been selected to give this pep speech at some sports conference tomorrow night. It’s in honor of some sort of veteran football coach or something. I guess this could even mean big things for my career, so it would mean a lot to me if I could have both my best friend and my girlfriend there.”
Chad smiles and tells him, “Sure. You know I’ll be there to see you conquer that speech.”
“Great,” Ray nods and pats his shoulder before fastening his backpack straps. “Well I’ve got to be getting to my math class now. So what about you, Rita? What are your plans for next period?”
“Oh, um,” Rita Allen muses with a grin as takes out a brown envelope, “I just need to talk to a student about some photos I have before I head off to my class. Then we can meet up by the bleachers afterschool and get started on your speech for tomorrow.”
“Kay. See you guys later,” Ray quickly kisses her on the cheek before turning around and walking off.
As he leaves, the other students head to their classes and the hallways are soon empty. In a matter of moments, Chad and Rita Allen are left standing by the lockers.
“Actually, you and I don’t have anything to talk about, Rita Allen,” Chad states with folded arms.
“You just don’t wanna talk about the compromising photos I have my hands on, and I’m sure you don’t want to face what will happen if I publish them in the school newspaper,” Rita Allen says snidely.
Chad shakes his head, “I just don’t want to have someone here plotting how they’re gonna ruin my life!”
Rita Allen folds her arms and replies, “Fine. I’ll back off as soon as you back off of hanging all over my boyfriend. And how about you start by making yourself scarce at Ray’s little speech tomorrow?”
Chad looks at her incredulously, “Are you serious? Are you that insecure about what I mean to Ray?”
Rita Allen replies, “How insecure are you about how these photos could affect your future?”
With that, the school reporter turns and walks off down the hall. Chad gets frustrated and flicks his wrist to let a gust of wind blow the envelope out of Rita Allen’s hand. He jumps up to catch it in the air before he looks inside of the fold.
Chad shakes his head and holds it upside down, “How surprising is it that this envelope is empty?”
Rita Allen simply retorts, “That’s because I’m going to get the photos now. And you need to go think about what you’re gonna do once I show Ray and the rest of school all the secrets you’ve been hiding.”
She turns the corner and walks away. Chad looks at the envelope and sighs worriedly.
= = =
The next day, Vitani and her friend, Evan Ross, show up at the library so that she can introduce him to her book club. They walk through the aisles over to the session table where the other book club members are already present. However, they are both surprised to see Josh there.
Vitani raises her eyebrows, “Let me guess, Josh, this has to do with a certain new library intern.”
Josh turns to her in his chair and casually shrugs, “In all fairness, I did support you both just now.”
Vitani frowns and says, “What are you even talking about, Josh?”
Josh rolls his eyes, “Hey, if you weren’t off running around with Evan here, you’d know what I mean.”
Vitani and Evan exchange looks before Vitani shrugs. She looks around, only to see that none other than Amber and Christy Milano are also seated at the table. Vitani frowns and exclaims, “And hey wait a minute! What are Amber and Christy even doing here?”
The Milano sisters hear and say, “We’re here to like show everyone that we can save fashion from you.”
Vitani quips, “I didn’t think you two could even read anything other than the instructions on your makeup. Although I’m sure none of the instructions said ‘APPLY TOO MUCH’, but that sure didn’t stop you two, did it?”
The Milano sisters scoff before they suddenly begin to clap. The other book club members begin to applaud as well, puzzling Vitani and Evan. They turn to see the librarian and Stella walking over to the session table for the meeting.
“Here’s Stella Monetti!” the librarian announces, “Our new head of the book club as voted by you!”
“Is this supposed to be some kind of joke?” Vitani asks with a frown, “I mean that definitely would explain why Amber and Christy are even in this room. But how can a decision like that be made when I wasn’t even here.”
“Exactly,” Stella chuckles, “I was told you were busy with your friend Evan Ross over there.”
Vitani looks over at Josh in disbelief before she steps forward, “No, how is this whole thing even remotely fair when Stella here doesn’t know anything about how things in this book club go?”
Stella laughs and flicks her hair back, “I’m pursuing a degree in library science. I can make it work.”
Amber and Christy opt to pipe in, “Yeah. That’s definitely more than some café waitress ever could.”
Vitani huffs in disbelief as she looks around the room at everyone at the table, “So you all agree?”
The librarian puts her hands akimbo, “Look, I’m sorry, Vitani, but we need what’s best for the club.”
Vitani shakes her head and says, “And I’m sorry that my two years of making this book club what it is could be overshadowed by one day of kissing up. I guess it’s my time to kiss this club goodbye.”
With that, she turns and storms out of the library with Evan following right behind her. Josh gets up to follow, but Stella quickly moves forward to grab him by the arm. She pulls him back towards the table and smiles seductively.
“C’mon Josh. Vitani didn’t care how you felt about her hanging out with Evan Ross, so it’s only right she realize what hanging with him is going to cost her,” Stella coos in his ear. “Isn’t that right?”
Josh pauses as he looks at the library doors but doesn’t move. Stella, meanwhile, grins to herself.
= = =
Later, after his next class, Chad swings by the Libretta to see Vitani and Evan sitting over at their table talking about something. Just as Chad takes a seat, Evan offers to get Vitani something to drink and excuses himself from the table.
Vitani looks up and says, “Hey Chad, it looks like something’s bothering you. I could bet either side of the coin I flip that it’s the whole Ray and Rita Allen thing, isn’t it?”
Chad nods with a shrug. “Makes me wish there was a third side to the coin, you know? But I also get the feeling your coin has landed on something that’s bothering you too. Is everything okay?”
Vitani tells him, “Well, I just got kicked out of my own book club by Josh’s girlfriend… with his support.”
Chad frowns, “What? I didn’t think one of his girlfriends-of-the-week compared to him having your back.”
Vitani sits back with a confused look, “I guess he does have my back. But he probably thinks I’ve turned mine towards him since Evan came to town. I don’t know what exactly is going on, just like I don’t know what to do about any of this.”
“You should come with me to this party tonight and forget about whatever it is,” comes a voice.
They look up to see a handsome blond, blue-eyed boy wearing a WP basketball jersey standing by their table. Vitani looks around before she stands up.
Vitani says, “Brett? What are you doing here? I told you shouldn’t just show up here like this yet.”
Brett folds his arms and replies, “Guess I just got tired of sneaking around to be with my girlfriend.”
Chad looks up confused, “What? I thought you and Evan were together?”
Brett frowns and asks, “Who the heck is Evan?”
Vitani sighs and explains, “Evan is just a friend of mine. Okay guys look, I kinda said I was hanging out with Evan to cover the fact that I was going out with Brett. I mean with the way Josh overreacted about the whole Evan thing, I could only imagine how he’d react if he knew I was dating the captain of his rival basketball team at WP.”
Chad muses, “Maybe. But you know he only reacted that way because he really cares about you.”
Vitani turns, “I know that. Josh is my best friend and while I appreciate his protectiveness, I didn’t want it to just ruin my dating life. So I figured if I just let him get used to the idea of Evan first then maybe I could tell him about Brett later.”
Evan is standing behind them and snaps, “So that’s all I was to you Vitani? An excuse to sneak around behind your best friend’s back? I guess I should leave and let you get back to spending quality time with your boyfriend over here.”
Vitani frowns and shakes her head, “No Evan wait! Let me explain!”
However, Evan storms off out of the café and Vitani stops at the door. She sighs deeply before she goes back over to the table. Chad looks over at Brett, who is looking at Vitani expectantly.
Vitani puts up her hands in admission, “I know, I know! I should’ve just told Josh the truth!”
Brett puts a hand on her shoulder and says, “You were doing what you thought was best for the situation. Plus, I know if Josh had known about us that we would’ve only had more problems.”
Vitani sighs in frustration, “I have enough problems as it is now with the book club and now with Evan.”
Brett puts his arm around her waist. “Then maybe you should consider taking me up on my offer to go to that party here at your school tonight and try to relax. You can even bring your friend here.”
Vitani and Brett then look over at Chad.
However, Chad shakes his head and replies, “Um sorry, but I think I have a little problem of my own that I need to solve tonight.”
= = =
At the sports conference that night, Ray is busy giving his speech on the benefits of football. He’s standing at a podium in front of the veteran coach and other guests of honor. Just behind the seats for the other members of the football team who were invited, Chad is sitting, dressed in a tuxedo. He gets a warm feeling when Ray makes a reference to an ‘angel’ who saved him from the storm and brought him back into the light that is football. Ray looks at him over the crowd and gives him a wink before continuing. Chad blushes to himself.
However, the mood changes when a man taps him on the shoulder and says that someone wants to see him. Chad looks behind him to see Rita Allen in an elegant black evening dress, standing in the back near the refreshments table. After the man goes to his seat, Chad sighs and he gets up and goes over to her.
Rita Allen looks around before she says harshly, “I thought I warned you not to come tonight. Aren’t you worried that I’m going to print the photos in tomorrow’s school newspaper?”
Chad looks over at her and simply replies, “The only thing I’m worried about is that you’ll be the one to hurt Ray in the end. I mean, what you just said only proves how far your vindictiveness can go.”
Rita Allen scoffs and retorts, “Don’t try to play on my guilt, Chad. You’re the one that should be feeling guilty for being associated with a sociopath like Rick Hayes!”
Chad raises an eyebrow, “You know, with all the hurt Rick made innocent people go through, you’d think you’d want to end that. But here you are, trying to do everything in your power to victimize someone else.”
Rita Allen snaps, “What I’m doing is protecting Ray from becoming the next victim!”
Chad shakes his head and tells her, “Oh I know you’d use any excuse to orchestrate having Ray to yourself. But since you’re just so interested in letting the truth be known, what if I tell Ray how you’ve been engineering this whole thing to hurt me. What will he think of you then when you post these photos you claim to have?”
Rita Allen pauses before folding her arms, “And what will the whole school think about you?”
Chad and Rita Allen glare at each other, before noticing Ray had finished his speech and was now heading towards them with a smile on his face. They both go back to smiling as though they hadn’t been just arguing.
Ray holds out his hands, “So? What did you guys think?”
“You were great!” both Chad and Rita Allen happen to say in unison.
However, Rita Allen steps forward and plants a loving kiss on his cheek. She then hugs him tightly and twirls him around so that she is facing Chad with her head over Ray’s shoulder. Chad meanwhile sighs to himself. After they break the hug, Ray turns to Chad before hugging him as well.
“Hey, thanks for coming C.K.,” Ray tells him.
“I’ll always be here for you,” Chad replies over his shoulder, as he looks at Rita Allen glaring at him.
They break the hug and turn to face Rita Allen when her cell phone starts to buzz in her handbag. She reaches for it and takes a look at it before frowning.
Ray asks, “Is everything okay there?”
Rita Allen replies, “There’s a bunch of complaint letters from all of the school clubs coming in at my office so I have to go see what’s going on. I’m so sorry. But later I’ll be sure to show you just how amazing I think you were tonight.”
Ray and Rita Allen kiss again before she turns and leaves the conference. Chad rolls his eyes to himself.
Ray turns back to him and says, “So an amazing night always deserves a toast, right C.K.?”
He turns towards the table and reaches for the sparkling cider and pours it into two champagne glasses before handing one to Chad. Chad smiles and waits for him to put down the bottle and get his glass in hand.
Chad asks, “Um, how about we also toast to ‘the moment where everything goes as it should’?”
Ray smiles and nods, “And let’s hope that it gets even better for us both from here on in.”
Chad and Ray then raise their glasses and clanking them together, Chad sips on his and ponders.
= = =
Over at another conference room across campus, Vitani and her boyfriend Brett arrive at the doors, only for them to be opened by none other than a smiling Stella Monetti. Vitani groans to herself and turns to leave, but Brett stops her.
Brett whispers, “C’mon Vitani, you shouldn’t let Stella ruin everything for you.”
Vitani sighs and nods, “You’re right. Let’s go on it. What’s the worst that could happen?”
The couple step up to the door where Stella collects their pass and welcomes Brett in first with a hug and kiss on the cheek. When she reaches out to Vitani, Vitani gives her look to let her know she wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries. Stella snickers and steps aside to let her in. Vitani goes next to Brett as they look around and see the students are standing in groups.
Brett turns and asks, “Hey, what kind of party is this supposed to be?”
Stella replies, “This is what I’d like to call the ‘Vanity Fair’. What you see right now is just a cover we needed so the dean would allow us to use the auditorium. But as soon as he leaves campus tonight for a meeting, that’s when the real fun will start. It’ll be any minute now.”
With that, Stella starts off into the crowd of students who seemed to be waiting anxiously in their own groups. Brett asks to go catch up with his basketball friends for a few minutes. When she sees his basketball team, Vitani soon realizes that each group of students was a particular school club from each of their schools – from the art and theatre clubs to the tennis, basketball and baseball teams.
Vitani spots a girl from her book club. She walks over to her and quips, “So this is what the book club really needed, huh? That special someone to throw unauthorized parties at school?”
The girl shrugs and states, “Well, we all really only voted for her because she promised us all free invites to this party with the popular kids. The librarian went along with it to get her hands on an intern doing a fancy degree. I guess we’d all do anything to make ourselves look good, right?”
The girl walks away, back to her friends, leaving Vitani with a frown. Vitani then realizes that Stella had bargained her way to become head of the book club – but why? Vitani turns to find Brett when she bumps into Josh. She notices Stella’s lipstick marks on his cheek.
Josh begins, “I think we should talk about what happened yesterday. So let me say that I hope you know there wasn’t much I could do. Nowadays you’re nowhere to be found and you’re not answering your cell phone because I guess you need quality time with Evan or whatever, so -”
Vitani cuts in and admits, “Um, I wasn’t really hanging out with Evan the whole time, Josh.”
Josh frowns in confusion, “What? What do you mean?”
About that time, Brett shows up behind them and states, “She means she’s been with her boyfriend.”
Josh turns around, “Hey Brett! Guess what? This conversation doesn’t involve you!”
Vitani steps forward, “Actually it does. He’s … my boyfriend.”
Josh pauses and laughs before he realizes they are both serious. Josh looks at her incredulously.
“Vitani, you can’t be serious!” Josh exclaims. “Brett’s nothing but a big sleaze ball who uses –”
“You’re just possessive of her because she was never interested in you!” Brett snaps.
“What I am is protective of her,” Josh corrects him with a sneer. “And she knows all too well why!”
“I do. Look this is all just a big misunderstanding,” Vitani tries to explain.
“Well, let him misunderstand this!” Brett sneers before he raises his hand to throw a punch.
Josh ducks out of the way before he charges forward and pushes Brett down on the ground. The two begin a fist fight and Vitani screams for them to stop. However, it grabs the attention of the school clubs at the Vanity Fair. Stella then steps to the forefront of the crowd watching the fight.
Stella chants loudly, “C’mon guys! We already know that SyndAcad is better than WP anyway.”
This seems to instantly offend the WP clubs present, who begin to yell. The SyndAcad clubs yell in return, and soon they charge towards each other. Vitani’s eyes bulge open in shock as she must duck out of the way. She tries to follow Stella outside. However, Amber and Christy spot her.
“Everyone, Vitani’s dating a basketball player from WP!” they shout, “She’s nothing but a traitor!”
The baseball players from both SyndAcad and WP look. They see getting their hands on her as the perfect way to mess with the basketball teams for going against school pride. They charge towards her and Vitani ducks under a table covered in white table cloths. She crawls forward under the tables before she blows a stream of ice across the floor towards the door. Some students trip along the icy path.
Vitani then pops out from under the table and hops over the fallen students to make her escape through the door. The baseball teams follow her outside soon after. Josh and Brett look up before they look at each other and race to the door of the conference room.
“Where did she go? I have to save her from those baseball guys!” Brett proclaims.
“This wouldn’t have happened if she didn’t get involve with you,” Josh retorts, “I’m gonna save her!”
They split up in opposite directions to try to find Vitani before the other guy and the baseball teams do.
= = =
Meanwhile, Chad and Ray are walking across campus after the sports conference, since Ray volunteered to walk him to his dorm. While on their way, Ray briefly looks over at Chad to see him staring at him fondly. Ray turns away blushing to himself.
Chad stops and says, “I know you’re always smiling Ray, but you just look really happy tonight.”
Ray turns and shrugs, “Well I mean, what’s not to smile about? Tonight was almost perfect.”
Chad raises an eyebrow and asks, “Can you think of something that would have made it just perfect?”
Ray looks back at Chad to see him looking at him expectantly. Ray takes a deep breath when Chad steps just a little closer to him until they hear someone coming. They look over to see Stella Monetti strutting over to them.
“It’s all happening at the Vanity Fair tonight,” Stella says, as she makes sure to plant a kiss on Ray’s cheek.
Ray just stands still as she hands him a flyer for the Vanity Fair. Chad looks at her strangely. Stella turns to him before looking at him with recognition and walks away. Chad wonders what that was all about before turning back to Ray.
Chad asks, “Hey Ray, is everything okay?”
Ray looks up and turns to him, “Are you really okay with the way things are between us, C.K.?”
Chad is a bit surprised by the question, “Um … I just don’t know how they could change right now.”
Ray shakes his head and shrugs casually, “Well if you don’t want to go for what you truly feel then why should someone else?”
He then turns to walk away, but Chad moves forward and grabs his arm.
Chad says, “If there’s something to be said here, why don’t we go talk somewhere or something?”
Ray quips, “And what did you do when you had the chance to talk before?”
With that, Ray walks off trying to wipe the lipstick mark off his cheek. Chad stands in confusion.
Chad wonders what Ray had meant by that last comment. He thinks back to the first time he was going to tell Ray how he felt back at the Halloween party before he got interrupted. Ray had stopped him and begged him to be honest there and then and he still backed out. Is that what Ray meant? Was he trying to say … he had lost his chance?
Before he could think any more on that, Josh comes running over to him while panting heavily.
Josh asks him, “Hey squirt, have you seen Vitani go by here?”
Chad shakes his head, “No. Is something wrong?”
Josh nods and says, “I need to borrow your cell phone. Stella borrowed mine before the Vanity Fair.”
Chad reaches into his pocket for it and hands it over. Josh dials Vitani’s cell phone number and calls her. After a brief conversion, Josh nods and hangs up. Chad takes it back from him and asks what’s going on. It’s then that some members of the baseball teams show up menacingly with bats in hand.
Chad looks around confused and asks, “W-What’s going on here?”
A baseball player replies, “We’re about to teach you two a lesson for being friends with a traitor.”
Two baseball players come swinging bats, but Josh grabs one bat from them and uses it to jab the other behind him before using it to swipe at the other’s legs to trip them up. The others, who target Chad, raise their bats menacingly before Chad simply swishes his hands upwards. A gust of wind blows the bats up to bonk them in the head. They stumble back dazed.
Chad asks him, “Are you gonna explain to me what’s happening now?”
Josh replies, “I’ll explain it on the way. C’mon!”
Chad and Josh run off to the library, where Vitani said she was in the phone call.
= = =
Meanwhile, Vitani is looking around for Stella, whom she saw flee into the library, which was already closed for the night. She sees a shadow dash by the other end of a shelf aisle and stealthily moves to the other end. As Vitani turns the corner, a book shelf suddenly leans towards her. She braces herself for the impact.
However, Chad and Josh show up. Chad swings his hands aside to make a sheet of wind blow the books off in the opposite direction. Josh shows up and turns his arms to steel, using his super strength to stop the shelf from toppling over. Vitani opens her eyes and sighs in relief.
Vitani tells them, “Thank God you guys showed up. I think I’ve figured out that an oscinade is behind the school club faceoff going on back at the Vanity Fair. And they’re hiding in this library.”
“There you are Josh,” comes Stella’s voice.
The three turn to see her at the end of the aisle before Josh runs over to her and they hug.
Stella says, “I was so worried about you. Let’s go back to your condo and wait this whole thing out.”
Vitani states, “You’re not going anywhere until we banish you to where you came from, Stella.”
Josh turns around, “Vitani, what are you talking about? Stella’s my girlfriend! She’s not an –”
Vitani tells him, “Oh she’s an oscinade alright. The oscinade of vanity, to be exact, who uses her little kisses to consume everyone with vanity. That’s why she greeted all of the school clubs at the door to the Vanity Fair personally with a hug and a kiss. That’s also how she bargained with the book club to get me kicked out. A position she needed so she could ask the dean to use the conference room tonight.”
Chad interjects, “So you mean the school clubs are out there fighting to one-up each other?”
Vitani nods and says, “Josh, don’t let her get the one up on us too. You need to see her for what she is.”
“Oh I see you what you are right now, Vitani. You’re just jealous now that you can’t take him for granted anymore. Now that he has me,” Stella retorts before turning to Josh, “I’m the one who really cares about you Josh. I’m not an oscinade or whatever she’s calling me. Let’s both walk out of here with the pride we have left.”
Josh pauses in thought, looking between Stella and Vitani with Stella tugging on his arm. He starts to move with her until Vitani races forward to stop her. Stella stands in her way.
Stella angrily shoves her back from them, “He’s mine, you bitch! Just get over it!”
Vitani scoffs and slaps Stella right in her in the face, “No Stella. It’s all over for you! Got that?”
Stella rubs her stinging cheek in shock. Before Josh can do anything, Vitani pulls him aside.
Vitani uses a cloth to wipe Stella’s lipstick marks from off his face, “Look at me, Josh. Don’t let your pride cloud your eyes from the truth staring you right in the face.”
After she wipes the lipstick off, Josh shakes his head and returns to normal. He turns to Stella.
Josh says, “I can’t believe it, Stella. I just didn’t think someone so hot could still be so evil.”
Stella soon smiles evilly, “I don’t mean to sound vain, but I also have the power to destroy you three!”
Chad, Vitani and Josh tense up. Stella looks up at the skylight window on the roof and raises her hands upwards, calling forth the spirit of vanity, which she claims to have created through the energy of the sparring school clubs at the Vanity Fair. A purplish light shoots down towards the auranades.
Josh turns his hands to steel and uplifts them to try to reflect the beam. He struggles to push it back as it seems to be strengthened by the fights of the school clubs happening on campus in the name of vanity. He tells himself that it’s not that he can do it, but that he must do it. With that, he heaves a push and the beam shoots over towards Stella.
However, instead of blasting Stella away, she seems to able to absorb it. She soon morphs into a huge floating hag creature, which hovers lightly off the floor with a nasty screech that is able to knock them back into the wall. Chad, Vitani and Josh gather themselves before looking up in shock.
Josh even frowns in disgust, “Ew! That thing used to be my girlfriend. That is so not hot!”
Vitani looks on and pipes in, “That’s because vanity isn’t really a pretty thing.”
She leans forward and blows an icy mist out towards the Stella hag. However, it quickly maneuvers out of the way of the mist and swoops forward towards them. Chad outstretches his hand for a gust of wind to swipe it back, forcing it back into the cloud of icy mist, which freezes the hag solid.
And with that, Chad, Vitani and Josh exchange looks before they repeat the banishment verse:
“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 aisle, where blasts of energy from the opening vortex blow some books off the shelves. The auranades watch as a portal opens up and begins to draw Stella into it. She screams out in a nasty hiss as her body distorts.
“Bragging never gets you anywhere good,” Vitani says as she folds her arms.
It is then that Stella’s hag figure stretches and distorts as she is finally drawn inside the whirling portal, leaving the echo of her voice in the library before it seals shut and fades away. Chad, Vitani and Josh sigh in relief.
“Now there’s a breakup I wouldn’t want to brag about anytime soon,” Josh quips.
“Let’s just hope the Vanity Fair’s breaking up now that Stella’s gone,” Vitani adds.
The three walk out of the library to see what is happening when someone suddenly grabs Vitani. They turn to see that it’s none other than Brett, who hugs her tightly. Josh looks on.
Brett says, “Omigod Vitani. The school clubs just stopped fighting trying to figure out why they started this whole thing in the first place. I’m just glad that the baseball teams never tried to hurt you tonight.”
Josh turns to him and comments, “That’s right Brett. I would never let anyone hurt her.”
With that, Josh simply walks off. Vitani sighs deeply as she hugs Brett. Chad ponders to himself.
The next day at the Libretta, Vitani serves Chad and Josh with their orders before sitting at the table.
Chad sips on his latte and says, “Well, I finally got my Chem problem solved.”
Vitani chuckles and adds, “Just like my book club problem got solved. They think Stella’s gone off to intern somewhere else and with one shallow girl gone, the Milano sisters dropped out as well. But the club held another meeting this morning to admit they all only voted for her out of a twisted sense of vanity. The librarian even said she was nothing more than a pretty face.”
Josh remarks, “Stella was a lot more than a pretty face – you know, before we saw her under the spirit of vanity back in the library. She played on mine and everyone else’s vanity to get what she wanted.”
Chad sighs and muses, “Ah, the consequences of dating an oscinade are never pretty.”
Vitani then says, “Well the consequences of the Vanity Fair is that the dean is making all members of the school clubs work out their differences by cleaning up that conference room together this week. So now SyndAcad and WP are coming together finally – to fight against messy auditoriums.”
Josh shakes his head, “I won’t talk about how much fun it will be working out our differences with those baseball dweebs. Just like I won’t talk about the consequences of you going with someone like Brett because I know how you feel about it. I just hope you know it’s all because I care.”
Vitani leans her head on his shoulder, “I know you do, Josh. It’s something I won’t take for granted.”
Just then, Ray enters the café looking around. Chad wonders now if he had taken his chance with Ray for granted before. He realizes what Ray had said was vanity talking, thanks to Stella, but he wondered how close any of it is to the truth. Chad excuses himself from the table and heads over to him.
Chad says, “Hey Ray, you looking for something?”
Ray tells him, “Hey C.K., I was looking for you, actually. Um, about what I said last night. I’m not sure what happened, but I don’t think I was really feeling myself when I said those things after that girl left.”
Chad nods and then asks, “Okay. So Ray … how is it you really feel then?”
Ray looks up to answer him when Rita Allen walks in. She walks right over to them and kisses Ray on the lips right in front of Chad, surprising them both. Chad can only watch in silence as they kiss.
“Hey Ray,” Rita Allen grins as she laces her arms around Ray’s neck, “I’m here to keep my promise.”
She then goes into her handbag and pulls out a folded up newspaper. Chad starts to panic about what she was about to show Ray, which the school reporter is sure to notice. However, it’s just an article about the Vanity Fair fiasco. Chad sighs in relief until he sees a telltale grin on her face.
“Looks like the truth about people always come out one way or another,” Rita Allen quips.
She looks over at Chad before she and Ray soon leave together. Chad watches and sighs deeply.
Copyright © 2013 Chad Blackman
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