Chapter 1 - Part 1

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"Come on, Desi. The group my dad had lined up for Friday cancelled on him and no one else will play on such short notice. He's desperate for a new band."

"I don't think it has anything to do with short notice, Wyatt..." Desi offered his begging friend a sympathetic look, swiping his sweaty hair back as he laid down across the bleachers to let the cool metal temper the burning flesh of his shoulderblades. Their usual lunch spot at the old, unkempt soccer field offered shade under a pair of ancient Live Oaks: some much needed relief to the Louisiana summer heat, which was lingering well past its due date that year.

Along with the humidity, Wyatt had been stifling them with persistent hints about the situation all afternoon, receiving little attention from the rest of the group so fair. Probably because they were skeptical about the offer, just as Desi was.

Nic confirmed while pulling at the collar of his tee-shirt to make a bit of a breeze. "Everyone knows Dirty Darlene's is full of druggies and alcoholics."

Snickers swept the group and Wyatt stopped fiddling with the straw in his soda to glare. "It's just Darlene's. My dad named the place after my mom, asshole."

"I think what Nic meant is—" Desi interrupted to de-escalate the tension growing between his bandmates, putting his hand up in a truce. Hot weather made the blood boil quicker, especially between his two testosterone-ridden frat-bro friends. After they'd stopped throwing glares at each other, he continued, "what good is it to play a show there?"

Wyatt was ready with a list of reasons, counting them off on the fingers of his free hand. "Exposure? Experience? Groupies?"

"We're not even a real band, Wyatt," Nic countered, adjusting his cap lower over his eyes, bending the rim out of habit. "We'd at least need like, a name or a logo or something."

"He said he'll pay us five hundred."

Desi sighed with Wyatt's persistence. "Yeah, and I can make double that by showing up to the frat's house party that we'd be missing."

"It's only an hour. We can always go to the party after." Wyatt scoffed, back to aggressively pulling his straw in and out of his drink with frustration. The squeaking of the cheap plastics grinding together was almost as annoying as his pouting.

Ashley, who had remained silent so far in the debate, finally pulled herself away from her phone long enough to chime in. She raised an arched eyebrow over the rim of her mirrored sunglasses and said with a playful smirk on her lavender lips, "but, Baby. You always like to arrive 'fashionably late' anyway, don't you?"

Desi responded with a chuckle, but still shook his head. "I dunno. Seems like a hassle. It's the first week of classes."

He knew that wasn't much of an argument to sway any of them; college was little more than an expensive vacation their parents were paying for to get them out of their hair. Desi was paying for his own classes though, and he was significantly less inclined to blow them off so soon after the start of the year.

But Wyatt persisted with his begging and sulking, and after clearly getting exhausted with the debate, Nic finally caved. "I don't care anymore. If D is in, I'll do whatever. Got nothing better going on this weekend, I guess."

With the decision coming down to him, Desi groaned, checking his cracked phone for the time then rising from his spot with a lazy stretch. "Fine. Just, gimme the day to think it over. I gotta go."

He leaned over to brush a kiss passed Ashley's cheek, berries and spice smelling sweet and hot in her strawberry hair, then waved off the group's lazy goodbyes as he left their spot in the shade and ventured back out into the heat.

It wasn't that Desi was against the idea of playing a show with his friends. Actually, he kind of appreciated that Wyatt was recognizing an opportunity for them; Desi was usually the one taking initiative with their music. Of course, to be fair, they'd only really started the band that summer as an excuse to get high and waste time, a totally acceptable pastime for three college kids that didn't necessarily need to lead to actually playing venues.

Desi was always a bit of an overachiever, though.

Despite looking like a straight off the streets deadbeat, which he quite practically was, he prided himself for his hustle, whether it be his good grades, or his entrepreneurial skills and profit margins selling wanted substances on the side to classmates and at parties. When they started the band, Desi naturally took over the actual 'work' involved. He made some songs and wrote some lyrics and even learned how to mix them into decent recordings after a few weeks of research and pirating the necessary programs. Every now and then he would kicked Nic and Wyatt in their asses to get some practice in so they could at least sound somewhat decent, and eventually they were actually making something resembling music.

Desi wasn't about to say it out loud, at the off chance that he'd scare off his sometimes flakey bandmates, but they had something going for them. And that was the reason he was so hesitant about playing their first show at Darlene's.

Setting aside the fact that Wyatt's father's bar attracted the bottom feeders of their stereotypical southern community, none of which were anything close to valuable new listeners, they were also no where near ready for a debut like this. Wyatt's rhythm on drums was often sloppy and Nic was hit or miss on the bass, depending on how sober he was. Not to mention that they barely even had a name, let alone a logo they could get behind, as Nic had pointed out. Desi was obviously already playing with some ideas, but nothing that he'd passed by his bandmates yet.

Of course, he'd fumbled himself through stickier situations, and even though it was a small amount, a legit paycheck was tempting. It would certainly be nice if he could actually start paying his way through school with legitimately earned cash this year, but no proper Louisiana establishment was about to hire a fried-blond, stick-and-poke littered, 'ethnic' punk pothead like himself, and no legitimate bar would want to pick up their mediocre rock band without some live experience under their belts.

It was certainly a stupid idea, but if anyone could pull it off, it was probably Desi...

He pushed the thoughts aside as he entered the school and headed for his lecture hall, out of the sun and into the air conditioning, chalking his crazy consideration up to the heat melting his brain. At the very least they'd need to settle on a name and get some sort of image, something memorable, and unless an opportunity was going to fall into Desi's lap while sitting in the back row of his economics class, he didn't see Friday night happening.

In a too-convenient coincidence, like a direct response to Desi's dismissive reasoning, a familiar head of jet-black hair entered the room with the last of the students filing in, presenting the potential opportunity Desi needed.

He headed up an aisle to be seated, lifting his gaze when he felt Desi watching him. Once recognizing, the boy immediately casted his eyes to the side and moved to intentionally seat himself four rows away from Desi.

Rolling his eyes, Desi hid a grin behind the palm he rested his chin on, watching from his peripherals as the other boy settled in his spot and hunched himself over, immediately taking his pen to his notebook in feverous scribbles.

He hadn't changed one bit.

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