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Fablehaven Modern AU

Chapter Text

He sat alone at the piano.

It wasn’t anything new- he would always sit there, usually with a drink, after each performance. Sometimes the other people in his group gave him a quick “good job” or a friendly nod, but for the most part they respected his wishes to be left alone. Every night, he would perform, then sit at the piano until the bar closed. No one really knew why; maybe he didn’t even know himself. All he knew was it helped.

One such night, he sat there. He wore dark clothes, as usual: a black sweater on top of a white collared shirt, long, flowy black pants decorated with intricate designs in grey thread, finished off with shiny, polished platform boots. It might seem almost dreary- all the black clothing along with his black painted nails and slight eyeliner that he wore- but when he played everything came to life in a perfect symphony of style.
He had just finished performing, and was surprised to find a girl walking up to him. She was almost the complete opposite of him- she wore a white dress top that hung off her shoulders, high waisted light denim jeans with rips at the knees, and white shoes with a faint flower design.

“You did a great job,” she told him.

He looked up into her hazel eyes, staying silent.

“I’ve seen you perform a few times now.”

He nodded.

“You always sit here after.”

Silence.

“I just don’t understand why.”

He kept his eyes locked on hers, but made no effort to reply.

“You obviously love to play-“

“What makes you say that?” his deep voice startled her.

“Anyone could tell by the way you perform. It’s pure passion, then when the show’s over you just sit here. It doesn’t make any sense.”

He frowned. “You might be missing the point.”

“Care to explain?”

“Not really. I’ve already said far too many words.”

She laughed. “Far too many, huh? You haven’t even introduced yourself.”

“You’re the one who walked up to me,” he reminded her.

She sighed and extended her hand. “I’m Kendra.”

He reluctantly shook her hand. “Ronodin.”

“Well, Ronodin,” Kendra said, smiling, “whether I’m missing the point or not, you’re incredibly talented. And whether you think so or not, I think you do love to play.”

“Remind me again why you’re here?”

She pursed her lips. “Well I came over to tell you that you did a great job. Then you decided to ignore me and I happen to hate being ignored.”

“I can tell.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

The corners of Ronodin’s mouth turned up, the closest thing to a smile he’d managed in a while. “You’re an interesting person, Kendra.”

“Thanks?”

“That was meant to sort of end our conversation,” he said.

“Huh.”

“Not impressed with me anymore, are you?” He felt her gaze burning into the side of his head.

“Play something,” Kendra said.

“I don’t take requests.”

“It's not a request. Just play something.”

He sighed. “Jazz? Or something else?”

She paused. “Something that would help me get the point,” she said, remembering his comment from earlier.

“This song is honestly nothing at all… but uh, it helps me sleep at night,” he said and began to play.
She expected it to be just piano, as he was a pianist, so when he sang along she was surprised, but quickly found he was as talented a singer as he was a piano player. (For best effect go listen to the song Art is Dead by Bo Burnham- this is the song Ronodin is singing- I’ll put some of the lyrics but not all) His voice was raspy at parts, but the emotion it contained was completely genuine.

“Art is dead…. entertainers like to seem complicated, but we’re not complicated. I can explain it pretty easily- have you ever been to a birthday party for children? And one of the children won’t stop screaming ‘cause he’s just a little attention attractor, when he grows up to be a comic or actor, he’ll be rewarded for never maturing- never understanding or learning that every day can’t be about him; there’s other people you selfish asshole! I must be psychotic, I must be demented to think that I’m worthy of all this attention…” (this is where I skip the middle of the song so go check it out for the full experience) “I am an artist, please god forgive me. I am an artist, please don't revere me. I am an artist, please don't respect me. I am an artist, you're free to correct me. A self-centered artist, self-obsessed artist. I am an artist… but I'm just a kid, I'm just a kid… and maybe I'll grow out of it.” With the final chord, his passion that came whenever he played vanished as quick as it appeared.

“Did you write that?” Kendra asked quietly.

He nodded.

“You know you could probably have a bigger career than playing here every night.”

He shrugged.

“Do you really just not care?”

“Do you ever stop talking?” He shot back in an annoyed tone.

“Sometimes.”

“Make this one of those times, if you will.”

She scoffed. “Seriously?”

“I’ll make this painfully clear, Kendra. I don’t like people. You seem nice and all but I just- I don’t do social interaction, okay? There’s a reason I sit here every night until the bartender kicks me out, and it’s not so girls will come talk to me.” He wouldn’t meet her piercing gaze.

“You ever thought that maybe talking to someone every once in a while might be beneficial too?”
He looked up from the floor to the music stand on the piano, pain simmering behind his dark eyes. “It never even crossed my mind,” he said bitterly. “You should go. It’s getting late anyways. You’ve probably got places to be tomorrow.”

“Well, no actually, tomorrow’s a Saturday so I don’t have school.”

“You’re in school?” He asked skeptically.

“I teach school,” she corrected. “I work at Ellison Academy- I teach English.”

“Ellison…” Ronodin muttered, then he chuckled. “Just my luck.”

“What’s wrong with Ellison?”

He sighed. “Nothing, really. It’s just- you know the Dean?” Kendra nodded. “He’s my uncle.”

“Really?”

“No, I just made that up on the spot,” Ronodin rolled his eyes. “Yes, really.”

“Well that’s cool,” Kendra said. “I’ve really only spoken to him once- for my interview.”

Ronodin let out a slight sigh. “So I’m guessing you haven’t met my cousin?”

She shook her head. “Probably not.”

“Good. You don’t want to.”

“Oh?”

He opened his mouth to reply, then he stopped himself. “Nevermind. Why am I even telling you this? I just met you today… for heaven’s sake.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Well I do. Look, Kendra, it’s been nice. It has. I actually kind of hope I see you again, but that doesn’t mean… god, how is this so hard… you should go, is what i’m trying to say.”

“Really? That’s just it? ‘Alright first person to even notice me in who knows how long, it’s been nice but I’m done with this conversation so you can just leave.’ No goodbye? Maybe even a freaking high five?”

Ronodin smiled faintly. “A high five, hm? I guess I could arrange that.”

Kendra grinned, until he stood up and it was abundantly clear he was almost a foot and a half taller than her. He held his hand high in the air, an impossible height for her to even dream of reaching.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me. How was I supposed to know you’re a skyscraper?” She complained.

“You asked for a high five,” he responded.

“Fine.” She looked up at his hand, preparing to jump.
She leapt into the air, not really even coming close to his hand, but on the way down she landed wrong on her ankle and crumpled to the ground.

Ronodin cursed. “Oh god, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

She nodded weakly. “I… uh… I don’t think I can walk on this.” He extended his hand to her, and she gratefully took it. He pulled her off the ground, and she balanced on one foot before gingerly trying to put pressure on her left foot. She cried out in pain at the attempt.

“I’m not a doctor,” Ronodin said, “but that might be broken.”

Kendra laughed even though she was clearly holding back tears. “Oh, that’s so embarrassing.”

“I uh… I don’t have a car,” he admitted. “But you need to get to a doctor.”

“I’m sure I can call someone,” she assured him. “Maybe my brother will show up if I promise him money.”

“Sit here,” he sat her down on the piano bench. “I’ll figure it out.”

He quickly ran over to the bar and was in rushed conversation with one of the bartenders- a tall woman with long dark hair who wore bright red lipstick. She turned to her coworker then hurried over to where Kendra sat.

“I’m Vanessa,” she said. “Your friend here says you hurt your ankle?”

“Yeah,” Kendra said. “Long story but I just came down on it wrong. I won’t be able to drive, but I'm sure I can find someone to come pick me up-“

“Don’t bother,” Vanessa said. “I’ll drive you.”
“You really don’t have to do that.”

Vanessa sighed. “It’s not a big deal. It gets me off work anyways, so it’ll be fun. Is your friend coming too?”

Kendra looked at Ronodin. “Uh… if he wants too I guess.”

Ronodin hesitated. “It’s mainly my fault. I’ll come.”

Vanessa nodded. “Alright, who’s carrying her?”
___________
Kendra felt odd being carried by a man he had just met that day while having just being driven to the hospital by a girl she’d also just met, but everything about the situation was also quite funny.

“I’ll admit this is a first for me,” she said.

Ronodin stayed silent.

“Don’t ignore me again please.”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I’ll stay here as long as you need, ok? And I- I’ll pay for the bills and everything. I feel terrible. You’re great actually, and I’ve just been the usual jerk that I always am, and again, I don’t even know why I’m saying any of this.”

And for the first time since meeting Ronodin, Kendra found herself without anything to say.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

A boy with almost white- blonde hair and stunning blue eyes laughed with his friend. “What is your problem, Gavin? That’s not- don’t joke about her like that.”

“Oh, come on, Bracken, I see you laughing. It was funny. The girl jumps every time someone speaks loud at her- it’s funny,” the curly haired friend replied.

“She’s a bit shy,” Bracken agreed. “That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be dating her though.”

“Ah, come on man!” Gavin gave him a friendly shove. “We both know you can do way better than her.”

Bracken waved him off. “Oh, hush. You’re just jealous because you’re single.”

Gavin feigned offense. “I could be with someone if I wanted to be.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“Oh, whatever. Go be with Jenna tonight for all I care. You’re always with her,” Gavin complained.

Bracken smirked. “I am not. And besides, I had a better idea for tonight.”

“Oh?”

“I think it’s time we paid my good ‘ol cousin a friendly visit, don’t you think?” Bracken asked slyly.

Gavin grinned. “I think that’s a great idea.”
________________________

“KENDRA!” her friend yelled through the phone.

Kendra cringed. “Mara calm down, would you? I told you I’m fine now and you don’t have to worry about anything.”

“You broke your ankle and didn’t tell me, and then you didn’t tell me you needed help getting your car home! You know I would’ve come to help,” Mara responded.

Kendra sighed. “I know, I know, but you were working!”

“You know I’d walk out of work for you.”

“I know,” Kendra said. “And that’s exactly why I didn’t tell you until now.”

Mara huffed. “Fine. Do you need anything now?”

“No, don’t worry, everything’s fine.”

“Alright, well now I need the entire story. You brushed over a few parts- mainly the ones surrounding that guy. Dark and mysterious it seems?”

Kendra laughed. “I suppose you could say that.”

“Definitely your type,” Mara joked.

“Oh, come on, we both know that’s not true.”

“I know,” Mara said. “But tell me about him. He seems… interesting.”

Kendra rolled her eyes even though she knew her friend couldn’t see. “He is, but not in the way you mean. Well, sort of, but not really. I don’t know.”

“Just talk to me,” Mara commanded.

Kendra complied, and began telling the entire story from beginning to end. Mara occasionally interjected with comments or questions, and Kendra tried her best to ignore how obviously Mara didn’t like Ronodin at all.

“You’ll be careful, right?” Mara asked when Kendra had finished her tale.

“Yes, I’ll be careful! Trust me.”

“Okay… well, I’ve got to head out. Text me if you need anything.”

“I will.”

Mara hung up, and Kendra sighed. She played it off like it was nothing- just a funny inconvenience- but everything had begun to pile up. She had refused to let Ronodin pay for anything- she had insurance for a reason, but those bills still weren’t an ease to pay. How would she get to work? No way could she convince Seth to wake up early enough to drive her every day- and she’d definitely have to pay him either way. All this for a random guy she wasn’t even into? She ran her hands through her hair and held back tears. As she was about to give up on any hope of feeling better, her phone buzzed. She picked it up reluctantly and saw it was from Vanessa.

he performs at 6pm. pick you up at 5:15?

She took a deep breath and typed her reply. Sounds good. What time should Ronodin be there?

The three dots had never been so nerve wracking to Kendra before. She had always been able to talk to people easily, and she was fine talking to Vanessa; it was natural and fun, like talking to most people. But talking to Ronodin was different- she didn’t understand him and she wasn’t even sure how to. She was scared that she would do something wrong and push away someone she could tell just needed a person in their lives who would show that they cared- even a little.

5:30 at the latest

Kendra typed out alright but Vanessa sent another text saying are you sure he’s going to even show up?

He’ll be there. She responded.

I’ll take your word on that

Don’t worry V

see you at 5:15 came the reply.

She went to her messages with Ronodin and sent Vanessa said you should be there at 5:30 at the latest.

Surprisingly, she got a response almost immediately. ok

She clicked off her phone, deciding that trying to socialize wouldn't help her figure anything out. “Don’t worry about it,” she whispered to herself. “You’ll be fine. Nothing will go wrong tonight.”

__________________

Ronodin was worried he was going to be late. He had gone home about an hour after Vanessa left, and it had been hours since then but he couldn’t stop thinking about everything that had happened. He’d never had someone talk to him, and suddenly he had two people who actually wanted to be around him. He picked up his walking pace when he checked his watch to see the time was 5:25. He could make it; it was only another block or so, but he would still be cutting it pretty close.

When he arrived at 5:28 and didn’t see Vanessa or Kendra, he began to worry. Was it the wrong time? Did he miss it? If they weren’t here yet, how would he know where to go? He looked around frantically for either of them, but instead caught the gaze of a man setting up an aux. He had wavy light brown hair that was just long enough to swish a bit when he turned his head, and he wore a dull yellow t-shirt with a faded denim jacket, black ripped jeans and converse.

His hazel eyes lit up when he saw Ronodin, and he gave a friendly wave. “Hey, are you my pianist?” he yelled, and Ronodin wanted to run and hide as half the room looked over at him.

He coughed nervously. “Um, yeah, I think so.”

The band member grinned and looked like he was about to hug his new friend, but saw Ronodin’s expression and instead stuck out a hand for him to shake.

The shorter man laughed. “Sorry, I’m a bit much at times. I’m glad you’re here. I’m Warren. Warren Burgess.”

“I’m Ronodin,” he replied.

“Oooh, fancy name,” Warren said. “Alright, I’m hoping you’re as good as I was told, because this music isn’t too easy for someone to just come in and sightread.”

“I should be able to. I usually play jazz, so I know technical stuff pretty well.”

“You play jazz?”

Ronodin nodded.

Warren clapped his hands in excitement. “Yes! Yes! Yes, that’s so cool! Oh I love the style of jazz pianists; incredible! This is going to be great!”

Ronodin couldn’t help but smile at Warren’s enthusiasm. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. “Can I take a look at the music?”

“Oh, yeah yeah! Come on over. Elise is setting up some mic stuff so be careful of that.” Ronodin followed Warren over to the stage.

Elise, an average height brunette, gave a quick wave and a smile, then continued in her work.

“Here you go,” Warren took some papers off the top of the piano and handed them to Ronodin.

He took a brief glance through the papers and nodded. “Yeah I can play this with no trouble at all.”

“Either you’re really good or I’m just not as good a songwriter as I thought I was,” Warren said.

“Oh no the song is great! It’s very well done,” Ronodin quickly replied. “It’ll sound great, and it’s not super easy stuff. Just, you know, not jazz. Or Mozart.”

Warren let out a sigh of relief. “Good. I was starting to worry that I’d offended you with my mediocre music writing skills.”

Ronodin shook his head. “Not at all; it’s impressive.” He flipped through another song. “It’s all really good stuff. You write it all yourself?”

“I write the piano and guitar parts myself. Elise helps with vocals. But yeah, mainly me.”

“Impressive.”

“Thanks man! Alright one more question for you: can you sing? My piano player will usually do a bit of harmony with me- you can see here.” He pointed to a measure in the music. “You obviously don’t have to, but it’s really not super noticeable since you won’t have a voice mic; it’s mainly for the vibe.”

In a split second, Ronodin had to decide between what he would have done two days ago and between what he wanted to do now. Two days ago he never would’ve even agreed to do this. Why not?

“Yeah, uh, shouldn’t be too hard.”

“It’s a pretty easy harmony, yeah, and you seem to know your theory very well. You got a good voice?”

“Yeah, he does!” Came Kendra’s voice from behind them and Ronodin jumped.

Kendra, Vanessa, and Warren laughed.

“That true?” Warren asked Vanessa.

She shrugged. “I’d trust Kendra’s word on it.”

Warren turned to Ronodin. “Alright then, welcome pianist and backup vocalist.”

Kendra grinned. “He just got here and he’s already been promoted.” She extended a hand to Warren.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Kendra.”

“Warren,” he replied and shook her hand.

“Warren!” Called Elise from across the stage. “Let’s do a sound check real quick!”

“I’ll be right there!” He yelled back. “You- tall and handsome,” he said, pointing at Ronodin, “come with me.”

Ronodin’s eyes widened, and Vanessa burst out laughing. “Don’t worry about him,” she said. “He’s always like that.”

“Uh… alright,” Ronodin replied, and he hesitantly followed Warren over to the sound equipment.

Kendra gestured to Elise. “Who’s that?”

Vanessa replied, “Warren’s cousin. They’re basically siblings though- he grew up with his Aunt and Uncle.”

Kendra looked over and found it comical how scared Ronodin looked when he had such an intimidating height over everyone else. He caught her eye, and she quickly looked away. She wasn’t sure if he was relieved to have an excuse to get out and do something or if he really didn’t want to be here.

“You did a good thing,” Vanessa said.

“What?”

“Making him come,” she said. “It’s good for him. We talked a bit… well it seems like he hasn’t had it great. He probably didn’t think anyone wanted him here; now I think he realizes that we do.”

Kendra smiled and looked over again, seeing Ronodin and Warren both laughing over something one of them had said. “Yeah. I’m glad.”

“Let’s get a seat. They’ll be starting soon.”
________________

“Are you sure he’s playing tonight?” Gavin asked as he and Bracken walked in.

“Yes, I’m sure. I literally asked.”

“Then wouldn't he know we’re coming?”

Bracken sighed. “Why would he think were coming? We never come.”

“I don’t know! Are you sure we should even be here? Doesn’t he like, not want you around him?”

“Gavin, did I ask?”

Gavin stopped in his tracks. “Dude.”

“Just shut it, okay? I’m here to have a good time, stop ruining the vibe.”

Gavin rolled his eyes. “Alright whatever.”

“Come on, let’s grab a set somewhere he won’t notice us.” Bracken started toward where Kendra and Vanessa sat, but Gavin pulled him back.

“Not near them, not near them,” he whispered hurriedly.

“What?”

“I know that girl. We uh… we dated in high school,” Gavin said.

“Alright and?”

“And it would be awkward!”

“Why? Did you cheat on her?”

“No! I wouldn’t- I’m not you. I’ve never cheated on anyone.”

Bracken scoffed. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’ve never cheated on anyone… more than once.”

“Yeah because they always broke up with you after finding out,” Gavin shot back. “I haven’t talked to her since we broke up, and I would rather keep our ending how it was.”

Bracken sighed. “Whatever.”

They chose a table further away but still near the back, and sat in silence, both feeling offended and both being petty for no real reason.
__________________

Warren, Ronodin, and Elise took the stage. Warren gave a friendly wink toward Kendra and Vanessa, then he walked up to mic and said, “Thank you all for coming out tonight! I see some familiar faces, which is incredible and I really appreciate you guys. For anyone new here, we’re just a small group who writes and plays our own music here every once in a while. Uh, yeah, that’s honestly about it! We’ll start off with one of my personal favorites- kind of based off my lifestyle; live with life as you’ve got it and go wherever the road takes you. It’ll always lead you somewhere else.”

(authors note right here: I didn’t make up this song, it’s called “The Road” by Vocal Few; it has great vibes and I really like it so for better effect go listen to the song!)

The audience gave some friendly claps as Warren started to play his guitar and sang, “I was driving back west through the patches of fog, we had the brights turned on and we listened to songs. I didn’t know it then but I was right where I needed to be. You were back at home, you were working a job, and you were hanging out nights with your friends at the bar. You didn’t know it then but you were right where you needed to be.”

Kendra looked around. Here she was; at a bar with new friends she had basically just met, a broken ankle and bills to pay, but somehow things felt perfectly fine. Maybe this was right where she needed to be. She leaned back in her chair and listened as Ronodin joined in on vocals, the sound seeming to surround her.

They repeated the lyrics, then Elise joined in on the chorus. “When all you have is what's inside your pocket, and all your dreams seem stuck up on the shelf. Well you'd best prepare the way for change is comin', ‘cause the road will always take you somewhere else.”

Elise sang a verse, Warren joined in, and they sang the chorus again. Ronodin closed his eyes at some moments, improvising with the melody just a bit. Warren gave him a sideways glance, then he and Elise finished the song. “Oh the road will always take you somewhere!”

The room burst into applause, Kendra cheering the loudest. Ronodin met her eyes with the biggest smile on his face she had ever seen. Warren walked over and had excited conversation with him for a moment before returning to the mic.

“Thanks guys! I realize I forgot to mention our usual piano player is out today, so I wanna give a huge thank you to Ronodin here for filling in. I think he plays here most nights with a jazz band, which is great, so be sure to come check him out another night as well,” Warren said.

Ronodin’s face went slightly red.

“Let’s continue then shall we?”

They played a few more songs, and each one impressed Kendra in a different way than the last. Warren clearly knew what he was doing; and Ronodin too, for that matter. He had an insane knowledge of music theory to be able to take what was written in front of him and then change it to fit his style, while still maintaining the right sound. After the last song, the applause was so loud Kendra could barely hear what Vanessa yelled to her.

“This was probably their best performance ever!”

“Thank you all so much for coming out tonight,” Elise said through the microphone. “Have a good one!”

Kendra and Vanessa hurried up to the stage to congratulate them.

“That was amazing!” Kendra said.

Elise smiled gratefully and continued to clear the equipment, but Warren rushed Kendra with arms outstretched.

“THANK YOU!”

Kendra laughed. “You’re welcome?”

“He’s incredible,” Warren said. “It completely changed the dynamic of the songs but in the best way possible. How do you have ties to such an incredible musician? Is he famous?”

“Calm down, Warren,” Vanessa said, putting a friendly arm around his shoulder.

“Um,” Kendra replied, “I just met him after one of his performances here; literally the other day. I don’t know too much about him myself- but I’m glad I could introduce him to you.”

Warren looked over at the piano, but Ronodin wasn’t there. He looked around the whole room, but the tall, dark haired pianist was nowhere to be seen.

“Where’d he go?”

Kendra and Vanessa shrugged.

“I’ll go look for him,” Kendra said.

She looked in the hallway by the bathrooms- nothing. She even peaked through the window to the back room, but still didn’t know where he could be. Then she decided to check outside. Had he decided to leave? She made her way to the door, and above the white noise from people talking, she heard shouting outside. She hesitated.

“What are you doing here?” she recognized it as Ronodin’s voice.

“Just wanted to come say hello,” an unknown person replied.

“Get out of here!” Ronodin yelled.
“Ah, come on, we just wanted a little fun,” the same voice said.

“Have fun somewhere else. You’ll just cause trouble here. I can't-” he paused. “Just leave, okay?”

“Maybe we should-” a new voice started, but was interrupted. Kendra felt like she recognized the second voice, but couldn’t quite pinpoint from where.

“Hiding something?” Silence. “Someone?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ronodin said.

“We both saw you staring at her practically the whole time.”

Kendra’s breath caught. Were they talking about her? Who were these other people, and how did they know Ronodin?

“Bracken, get out of here,” Ronodin said calmly, but the anger was simmering behind his gentle tone.

“Let me buy you a drink first.” Thud.

“Ronodin, what the hell!” shouted the other voice.

Kendra rushed out the doors and had to do a double take at the scene. Ronodin had clearly punched this blonde man in the face (was his name Bracken?) and Bracken was leaning on the shoulder of her high school boyfriend while Ronodin looked helplessly at the situation, breathing heavily.

Kendra cursed under her breath. “Anyone care to explain what’s going on here?”

All eyes landed on her.

“Kendra,” Gavin said.

“Gavin.”

“This is, uh, not an ideal situation to see you again,” he apologized. “Your friend just hit my friend.”

“I see that,” Kendra replied. “Ronodin, why did you hit him?”

He looked at his hand like it wasn’t even his own.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “This is why I told you to leave! I can't be around you.”

Bracken spat out a string of curses.

“That’s enough!” Gavin and Kendra yelled in unison.
They looked at each other.

“I think you guys should leave,” Kendra said, and Gavin nodded.

Bracken pulled free of Gavin’s grip and turned back toward Ronodin. “You’re lucky I don’t have you arrested.”

Gavin pulled him back. “Come on, Bracken.”

They walked to a dark blue sports car and Gavin got in the driver's seat, leaving Bracken to give one last glare before he stepped into the car.

“What just happened?” Kendra whispered.

Ronodin took a step toward her, and she flinched.
“I’m not going to- I would never. I don’t- I don’t do that. I’m sorry. He’s the only person I can’t be around…”

Kendra stayed silent, then after a minute, responded, “What happened between you two? Who is he?”

Ronodin pursed his lips. “He’s my cousin.”

“Why-”

“It’s a long story.”

“Ronodin.”

“I’m embarrassed,” he admitted.

“It’s alright. Come on,” she said, “let’s go inside. Warren is waiting to shower you with compliments.”

A faint smile appeared on his face. “He’s a cool dude.”

“So are you.”

“Well…”

Kendra laughed. “I’ve never heard a punch that loud in my life.”

Ronodin’s face went red. “Thank you? I really don’t think the right response to that situation is to compliment my punching.”

“Maybe not, but it sounded cool.”

“It sounded cool.”

“Yes.”

“You’re an English teacher?”

Kendra laughed. “Yep.”

“Should I be worried?”

“Probably, but at least I’m not the one who punched a guy.”

“Fair enough.”

“Come on, music genius; let’s get you inside.”
She started walking but Ronodin reached out to stop her. She turned back.

“Thank you,” he said.

She gave him a thumbs up. “Any time.”

He joined her walking in, subconsciously finding the height difference humorous.

“Just don’t punch me, alright?” She added, and they both laughed.