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Stake My Claim

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One day, after Ray had been told about their existence, the man bought an old dresser from one of their neighbor’s down the street. The day Ray had dropped it off in front of the studio doors was emotional to say the least.

The three phantoms hadn’t been sure if Ray would allow them to continue living in the studio or if he would shoo them away despite the band and their close relationship with Julie. However, being the big-hearted, chill father he is, Ray enthusiastically explained to the guys that they needed to make the studio a little more homey if they were going to stay there and keeping their clothes in the same musky trash bags since 1995 wasn’t going to fly with him. He stressed about the risk of creepy crawlies and mold ruining their clothes when he explained why he presented them with the huge wooden dresser.

Julie’s heart swelled with pride for her father. She never doubted that he would welcome the guys with open arms, but she never expected this to happen. The guys didn’t know how to react. The idea of Ray buying something for them to make their lives a little more comfortable kind of freaked them out. In a good way, of course. The gesture screamed permanence and long term in a way that they had never dealt with before. Yeah, their home lives weren’t the best, but they weren’t downright terrible either. Their families just never did grand gestures like this, and it was something that none of them were used to. With a little pushing and nudging from Julie, the three ghosts stumbled out a mixture of gratitude and awe for the man.

Ray promised that the next free Saturday the family had would be spent buying new clothes and things for them. No amount of “you really don’t have to” or “please don’t go through all this trouble for us” could dissuade the man. When Ray Molina set his mind to something, he was going to do it. That’s where Julie and Carlos got it from after all.

Instead of rehearsing, Julie and the guys had spent that afternoon dragging the dresser into the studio and putting their clothes away in the drawers. Julie even brought down stickers and markers for the guys to decorate their own designated drawers. Seeing her friends get over their shock and being excited about personalizing something that was strictly theirs was probably the most wholesome thing Julie had ever seen.

Julie liked comfortable clothes. She always dressed for herself and never cared about following the latest trends. She liked to think she had the same style as her mother did when she was alive. One of her fondest memories was going to local thrift stores and boutiques with her mother and Flynn. The two girls would beg Rose to pick out cute clothes for them and followed the woman around the store as she shopped. That was where Julie’s love for worn out, vintage clothes came from. Of course, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone when Julie started stealing (long term borrowing, thank you very much) the guys’ clothes. Now that their clothes were all put away nice and clean in one place, it was just that much easier for her to sneak clothes out every once in a while.

Alex had an abundance of old hoodies and sweaters that always felt soft against her skin and reminded her of his hugs. Reggie had an excessively large collection of tank tops and flannels, that Julie may or may not have dipped into. Luke’s collection of graphic band T-shirts and cut-offs was the hardest and yet the easiest for Julie to swipe from.

Luke had a habit of wearing the same couple of shirts often despite having so many others, but he also preferred wearing shirts that were two sizes to big. It looked okay for him, but the material swallowed Julie. Then, Julie had an amazing idea. She took a green t-shirt that she had never seen him wear and styled it into a cute crop top instead. She was a little worried that he would be bothered by her cutting his shirt without asking until she walked into the studio after school one day and saw he was wearing the newly cut shirt. The crop top fit Julie perfectly and didn’t show off an excessive amount of her tan midriff, but, on Luke, it was a true and proper crop top. The green material came up to his belly button, making Julie inevitably erupt into a fit of giggles when she saw the boy wearing it.

The boys reactions to Julie wearing their clothes was always the funniest thing to her.

Alex would eye the sweater or hoodie she wore and make an offhand comment about where she got it from or how cute it was and how he wished he had something like that. Julie would of course carry on with false sincerity and brag about how she just found it lying around. They would stare at each other for a moment before falling into smiles and laughter.

Reggie was always a big ball of happiness and enthusiasm when she wore his clothes. He would ask about how she tied his long tank tops into a knot against her back. Then, the next day, she would see him experimenting with the tank top he wore and watch as he twisted back and forth to get a glimpse in the mirror. On days when she wore one of his flannels (he had so many colors, Julie didn't know why he always stuck with the red one) with leggings or over ripped overall shorts always amused her. He always nodded as if confirming that she could pull off his flannels better than he could.

Luke would raise an eyebrow at her when she walked into the studio wearing one of his band shirts or graphic tees. To Julie's surprise, he never commented on it. She had expected him to make an offhand comment like Alex or be a bubbling ball of puppy like Reggie. Instead, Luke would just appraise her for a moment and go back to whatever he was doing before she walked in. Although, she did notice that he would be slightly more affectionate with her than usual. It usually ranged from holding on a little too long when he hugged her to slinging an arm over her shoulders and squeezing her tightly against his side to tugging on the baggy end of the t-shirt to get her attention.

 Julie overheard a whispered conversation one day as she watered the plants in the studio. It was an unusually cold, bitter day in early November. She was wearing one of Luke's beanies over her Dutch braids, one of Alex's faded gray sweaters, and one of Reggie's orange flannels. It made her laugh when she had looked in the mirror that morning after realizing the only piece of clothing she was wearing that was actually hers were the blue jeans.

The guys had been huddled together on the couch and glancing at her every once in a while. She pretended not to notice in hopes of catching whatever they were saying.

 "Do you think she realizes that she wears our clothes more than her own?" Reggie whispered.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Alex's shoulders shake as a dry chuckle escaped his lips. "I swear, it's like she's asserting her authority or something."

Luke watched her adjust a plant's leaves before watering the soil. Julie pointedly ignored his stare as she continued to eavesdrop.

"No. I think it's more like she's staking her claim. Ya know, like how Elvis pees to mark his territory."

Julie had to turn so her back was to them. She slapped a hand over her mouth to keep her laughter under control. These boys were something else.