To say that I was falling in love with Alvin would be a lie. Not something that couldn’t happen, though. I was just proceeding cautiously.
To be perfectly honest, my eldest consumed my thoughts the most. It wouldn’t be long before he was completely finished with high school. A lot of mothers expressed joy or sadness at their children leaving. I felt both, but mostly, I felt fear. He wasn’t ready to be out in the world responsibly. It wasn’t about getting a job or paying bills with him.
Raymond had a mean streak and I couldn’t even keep my eyes on him long enough to keep him out of trouble. The wrong crowd would find him and I feared he would get himself killed, kill someone else, or end up behind bars. I couldn’t even pretend otherwise.
There’s one person in this entire world who has given me hope. Her name’s Laurie. First I thought it was too good to be true. I’d read her name in the paper. She won student council and was prom queen and everyone knew she’d get Most Likely to Succeed. I wondered what she could want with Ray.
I made sure to ask Basil and Pepper at different times to see if it all checked out, and it did. When I said my prayers at night, I begged that she would rub off on him, and that he would not rub off on her.
A few weeks ago…
Raymond met up with Laurie a lot. Their relationship was in full swing, and it’d thrown everyone for a loop. It was a classic good girl meets bad boy story, and everyone was waiting to see who would give. The balance of this relationship just didn’t make enough sense. Laurie made straight A’s. Raymond was ever at school.
When Laurie visited the Kays residence, it was always peaceful. Junie was delighted by her. She was even more excited to hear that Laurie knew a thing or two about cooking. Laurie knew a thing or two about everything, though.
Basil chatted with her about how his music was coming along. Pepper didn’t say much, but she didn’t feel uncomfortable around Laurie. Pepper didn’t mind being in the same room as Ray when Laurie was around because for some reason, he listened to her. Or at least kept out of trouble when she was around.
That time they met up was magical… in just the weirdest way.
“Hey, beautiful,” Raymond greeted her. They were at the local beach and they were pretty much alone. Raymond listened to her boring explanation of the importance of a thesis statement. She wasn’t taking the bait like he wanted her to. Didn’t she know he didn’t give two fucks about school? He was never there except when he wanted to flirt with her, hang with friends or piss teachers off.
“And the body of the paper is when you go into more detail abou-”
Raymond pulled Laurie into a tight kiss. Neither of their first kisses. Raymond had strung along lots of girls. Some of them wanted to be with him for his notoreity. Others wanted to change him. He didn’t care about any of those girls. He didn’t even care about Laurie. But she would be his biggest trophy. He knew if he could get a girl as respected as her, he could damn well get anyone.
He kissed her for a good five seconds before he felt a smack right on his face.
“WHAT THE FUCK?” he yelled out of shock.
Before he could continue, Laurie told him to shut up.
“If you leave or move away from me, I’ll ruin your life,” she whispered. Again, he thought What the Fuck.. but he just stared. Laurie wasn’t the same Laurie he’d known at school.
“I need to chat with you… I think I have an idea.”
When he didn’t move, Laurie continued. The look on his face would almost be comical if she wasn’t about to go into a serious proposition.
“Just listen… I know you, Raymond. I am very close to all the faculty and staff at the school. I’m well-liked and trusted. I have access to just about anything. On top of that, I have a job at City Hall and I’m just observant. I know who’s cheating on who, who had a miscarriage, who has an illegitimate child, who does drugs. I know it all. So, I know all about you.”
She took a deep sigh.
“You may already know this, but I plan to become something big. I want to go into politics. I’m good with people. I would be excellent for this place. With any job in politics comes lots of power,” she gave a small smile. “No politician is a stranger to corruption. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be good or help people out or make great changes. I’d just have to defeat my opponents in the process. In a few years, after I get more experience, I’ll be a shoe-in for the next election. I need someone who is sneakier than me and intimidating… I need someone to help me get to the top. If you want, you could come with me. You could do what you wanted and I could make sure through my connections that no one found out about it… Are you with me so far?”
“You are batshit crazy…” Raymond mumbled. “You want me to do your dirty deeds for you so that you can achieve your dreams? You may not even win any elections!”
“I will. You know I will. No one here can hold a candle to me. They’re looking for younger candidates to relate to people around our age. I will win easily. You just have to ask yourself if you want to end up in an orange jumpsuit behind bars or in a governor’s mansion with me? I know it’s a lot to ask. I know it’s weird. But if you want to… we can get this done. We can have power over this town and improve everything,” she said with a starry look in her eye. Politics was something she’d clearly thought deeply about.
Raymond sat there for a second. How many times did he deep down want to have a clean slate? Not really a clean slate… but he didn’t like being the one everyone assumed did everything. He definitely got caught easier because of that. If what Laurie said was true… he could take and do whatever he wanted all while dressed in a tux.
“What do you say?” Laurie asked.
The plan was going to take time. Laurie broke it all down to him when they met up. She was meticulous. She made she there were no people around, that there were no recordable devices and that they never discussed this information online or through text. It always had to be in person to “cover their tracks” they’d say. All he’d have to do, according to her, was be patient. That was a good rule to winning in general. She’d do all the schmoozing. If he stayed quiet and let her do the talking, that’d already be an improvement to his behavior. He’d also have to gradually stop sneaking out and doing crime. Or at least stop getting caught. Next would be smiling a bit, doing small favors for people, not being an asshole. Then he would start dressing nicer and get a decent job. After that, she knew they’d be fine.
The hardest part would be convincing Raymond’s family. They knew him best and feared for his future most. But Laurie genuinely liked them. Junie made her feel at home. Basil and Pepper were both sweethearts. Even she wondered how Raymond had turned out the way he did.
Vince was like Basil’s Laurie… minus the power part. He was going further in developing ideas for Basil.
It started with Vince and Basil performing in front of Pepper. She wasn’t a musical genius but she could give criticisms and ideas that were sometimes very useful. For now, she was the only person other than Vince that had heard him play, but Vince seemed to be hitting up nightclubs and bars to see if they had openings.
They got the same rejection every time. Despite Basil being the son of a pretty well-known guitarist, no one would hire him because they insisted he was too young or that his sound didn’t fit their scene. Hissound was unique for sure, but Basil knew that the town alcoholics just needed background music as their flirted at the bar. He felt like they were treating him unfairly.
Dealing with the owners of the nighttime hotspots was just the tip of the iceberg. Junie was trying her best to subtly push Basil away from his dream of music. She insisted that if he was able to get booked, he’d never be able to go out anyway. Not while he lived under her roof.
“You’re too young,” she’d say. Basil hated that the most, but he didn’t let it deter him.
One night while he was checking his email he got the best shock of his life thusfar. His song had gained a ton of views online, and because of that, he’d attracted the attention of Michael Simmies, a big time music producer. He was amazing at finding new talent and turning them into legends.
The last line of the email killed Basil, though.
To come audition in person, you must be at Bridgeport in one week. Email me if you’re ready to make your dreams come true.
He hovered the mouse over the delete button. He knew he couldn’t do it. It just couldn’t happen. He had school and Junie would forbid it. Just before he clicked he felt someone watching him. It was Pepper.
There was an awkward pause before she said, “Basil, you have to do this. We always come second to Raymond. If he can follow his dreams of being awful, you can follow yours of being great. Let’s go to Bridgeport. I’ve always wanted to go.”
So, in secret, the twins (and Vince) booked a flight to the big city. It was now or never.