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Fablehaven Modern AU

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The Next Day

“I can’t believe you broke your ankle at a bar!”
Kendra’s brother said from over the phone.

“Shut up, Seth. I just need you to come with one of your friends who can drive so I can get my car back to my apartment,” Kendra replied.

Seth groaned. “Ugh! Kendra, you know we’ve got a competition in a week.”

“It’ll take like twenty minutes if you’d just hurry up!”

“Fine! I’ll grab Newel and Doren and be right over.

“Thank you!” Kendra yelled as he hung up.

“You got someone coming?” Vanessa asked.

Kendra nodded. “My brother and his friends are hopefully on their way.”

“Hopefully?”

“Well, he said he’d come, but knowing him, there’s probably like a 25% chance he either forgets or just decides not to come and doesn’t tell me,” she replied.
Vanessa laughed. “What does your brother do?”

“BMX biking stuff,” Kendra replied. “Some skateboarding too- lots of competitions. He’s pretty good.”

Vanessa nodded, then gestured to Ronodin who stood awkwardly far away and was nervously fidgeting with his hands. “So how’d you get mixed up with him?”

Kendra laughed. “Well, I don’t even really know. I’ve only been here a few times, but every time I did come he was performing. I went over to tell him good job-“

“Which was your first mistake,” Vanessa said. “He doesn’t like talking. Or people.”

“I know that now. But he was kind of ignoring me, and I got frustrated so I kept pestering him. Long story short, I ended up breaking my ankle trying to give him a high five.”

Vanessa broke down laughing, and only after about a minute did she manage to respond, “That is the funniest thing I might’ve ever heard. You are some girl. At least now you know to leave that guy alone.”

Kendra looked over at Ronodin, who met her eyes for a moment before quickly looking away. “He’s… he’s not that bad.”

Vanessa raised and eyebrow in responds but chose not to say anything. Her phone buzzed to cut through the awkward silence, and she pulled it out of her pocket to check what message she got.

“You know anyone who can play piano?” she asked after a moment.

Kendra paused, wondering if Vanessa was kidding. “Uh… yeah.” She pointed at Ronodin.

Vanessa frowned. “Well yes. But he’s… well, you know. First of all, he doesn’t do well with people. Second of all, he’s a jazz pianist. And third of all, even if you asked I bet he wouldn’t want to help.”

“What do you need a pianist for?”

“Uh- my friend. He plays here once a week and he’s scheduled for tonight with his band but their pianist is sick. He asked if I knew anyone who could fill in.”

“Tell him he’s got one,” Kendra said confidently.

“Kendra-”

“Trust me.”

Vanessa raised her hands in defeat. “Go ahead and try to get Ronodin to voluntarily help someone out that isn’t himself.”

Kendra made a face and stalked over to Ronodin.

He looked up from his seat quickly. “Oh god, what did I do now?”

“Well you haven’t done anything yet,” she replied. “But you will.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Uh….”

“You busy tonight?”

“Woah woah woah-”

“Not like that, lover boy,” she snapped. “You’re helping out a friend of mine and being the pianist in his band tonight. His is sick.”

“I don’t really-”

“Well you’re going to!”

Ronodin paused. “Look, Kendra, the whole random people who don’t know me… performing music I’ve never seen before… it’s not exactly fun for me.”

Kendra sighed. “I know, I know. And actually, you’re an incredible piano player; I don’t know what you’re on about. You will be fine on the music part, and you don’t even really have to talk to the guy! Just say ‘hi hello I’m your pianist for the night give me the music and I’ll play it’”.

“But-“

Kendra interrupted him again. “Oh hush! I know you’re not doing anything but sitting around here feeling sorry for yourself.”

“Fine!” he snapped. “Fine, I’ll do it.”

Kendra grinned. “Perfect. See you tonight then?” She made to walk away.

“What time?” Ronodin asked, and she turned back.

“Uh… not sure. I’ll let you know.”

“How?”

“You got a phone?”

He hesitated. “Um well yeah but-“

“I’ll give you my number then, hm?” Kendra asked.

“I guess.” He reluctantly pulled out his phone.

She recited her number and he typed it in, then tapped a few more times to send her “hello”. Kendra looked at her phone and laughed, then typed back “hi :)”.

Ronodin smiled faintly, then jumped as 3 boys ran into the building loudly.

“That would be my brother and his friends,” Kendra said apologetically.

“Hey, Kendra!” the tallest yelled. “Hurry it up, we don’t have all day!”

The other two kids he was with were clearly identical twins, with wild hair and even wilder attitudes. However, they did quickly cool themselves down when they noticed Vanessa. One of them elbowed the other for staring at her for too long. Vanessa laughed. Ronodin tried to slip away, but Kendra grabbed his arm and pulled him towards her brother.

She gestured to the tallest, who had brown wavy hair and wore a wide grin on his face. “This is Seth; he’s my brother. And these are his friends.”

“Newel,” said one of them, pointing at himself.

“And Doren,” the other one finished.

“Kendra,” Seth teased, “You didn’t tell me there was a boy involved.”

Kendra laughed dismissively, but hints of red appeared in her cheeks. “Hush, okay, it’s not even like that at all.”
Ronodin coughed awkwardly from off to the side.

“Seth, Newel, Doren,” Kendra continued as if nothing had happened, “this is Vanessa,” she finished, gesturing to her new friend.

Vanessa waved, and Newel and Doren almost fainted at the attention.

“And this is Ronodin,” Kendra said.

Ronodin gave a quick wave as well, visibly uncomfortable with all the attention.

“Great,” Seth said. “You guys can have fun at your little playdate some other time; I’ve got to go- now come on and hurry up!”

Kendra smiled apologetically at Vanessa and Ronodin. “I’ll get back here later- somehow. Maybe I’ll take a cab; I don’t know.”

“I can come pick you up,” Vanessa offered.

“That would be great!” Kendra said. “I’ll text you my address.”

“Yep.”

“See you guys later!” Kendra called as her brother rushed her out of the room.

Newel and Doren lingered for a moment, then Vanessa shooed them away, saying, “You’re not going to get my number, boys. Go along now.” They scurried away, and she laughed.

The door shut behind them, and Vanessa looked at Ronodin awkwardly. “So you agreed to play tonight?”
He nodded.

“Back to the whole not talking thing again?”

He shrugged.

“Fine by me. I’m gonna head out; no need to be here before my shift tonight. I’ve got some other work to do anyways.”

“Other work?” Ronodin asked, and Vanessa turned back, shocked that he had spoken.

“Yeah… I do have another job than just working night shifts here; you know that, right?”

“How would I know that? We’ve never spoken.”

“Fair enough. I run a martial arts studio across town. Pretty flexible hours, so I work here too.”

“Oh,” Ronodin said. “That’s actually really cool.”

Vanessa smiled. “Yeah, I guess so. You do anything else?”

He looked uncomfortable for a moment, then replied, “Uh… nope. Just this. For now, I guess. I probably should- well, yeah, you get it.”

She nodded. “Yeah. Well… uh, you actually seem like a cool dude.”

He laughed faintly. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“I’m gonna head out now… you all good to get home?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m good. I- I live close, so yeah, it’s fine.”
She pulled out her keys, and waved goodbye. “See you later then?”

“See you later,” he echoed as she walked out.

He sat down at the piano in the not yet open bar, he pulled out his notebook, and he started to write. He thought of the girl who had decided to talk to him, who had smiled at him without even knowing him, who had broken her ankle just trying to get a high five, and who had still wanted to talk to him after all of that, and the girl who had pressured him into doing something he genuinely did want to do, and then who didn’t hesitate to give her number to him. It wasn’t something he was used to, but he hoped he might get used to it over time. He wrote down words as he thought, and then he began to play.