The FOH catwalks hidden in the false ceiling of the school auditorium were strictly off-limits to students. The only exception being currently enrolled stagecraft students and qualified members of the faculty. Tan Park was neither of those. In the simplest terms, he was a lazy ass looking for a place to nap, which is how he found them his second week of high school.
Not that many knew the catwalks were there or how to access them, so his hideout was relatively safe. He’d only been caught once.
At present, he was sprawled on his back with head pillowed on his left arm. Not the most comfortable, but he made due. One leg was bent, foot flat on the floor, with the opposite ankle balanced on his knee. He swept the dark bangs of his unkempt hair to the side, and the small silver studs through each earlobe glinted in the low light. For shows, Chord forced him to sit still to style his hair, public image, and all, despite no one ever cares about the bass player.
The drama students were visible on stage through one of the many slots for the stage lights in the false ceiling below. Tapping one of his black and red Vans along to the off-key rendition of Good Morning Baltimore, Tan dug the heel of his hand into his left eye as he yawned. Just beyond the reach of his fingertips was a half-eaten bag of saewookkang.
His phone’s violent vibration against the wooden catwalk cut through the din like the flash of a blade. Groaning, Tan fished for his phone somewhere above his head, hoping that he didn’t knock it off the catwalk. That would be hard to explain; raining phones. ‘HOME’ flashed on the lock screen while the classic Psycho theme rang ominously.
If the call went to voicemail, there would be hell to pay. Tan’s mother knew his schedule down to the second, even if she no longer had an active role in his life. Every moment of his life had been planned since the day he had been born until he threw his parents a curveball their narrow minds couldn’t overcome.
Tan’s mother didn’t believe in cellphones. His family still had a landline. The only reason Tan had been permitted a cell was that his mother wanted to keep close tabs on him during the months he spent on tour across North America with his band.
The entire scenario was ludicrous, seeing as Tan and his current living situation excluded both his parents at their own behest. Apparently, she didn’t trust their manager to keep three overly nerdy teenagers in line. The most troublesome member was Chord, and his father, their manager, kept him on a short leash. Not that it did any good.
“Your grandmother is visiting,” Tan’s mother said before he could even utter a hello. “You will be home by six. No later. We will have a nice dinner.”
For several long seconds, Tan stared up at the mess of pipes and support beams concealed in the ceiling while his mouth opened and closed silently. It took him far longer than he’d like to admit to wrap his head around the orders issued at him in abrupt English. Mostly because they were absurd.
“Eomma…” Tan cleared his throat and massaged his temple with his free hand. The narrow silver ring on his right pointer finger was warm against his cheek. “I have rehearsal at 5. You know that. I even wrote it on your calendar,” he explained as if she wasn’t already wholly aware. The schedule he programmed into their google calendar, complete with notifications, hadn’t changed in five months, long before the unfortunateness.
“No matter. You will be home. You will sit. You will eat. You will socialize. And you will wear a tie. Dinner is at 6.”
“Is halmeoni aware I don’t live there-” Tan pulled the phone away from his ear when the line clicked and went dead. She had hung-up on him. He shouldn’t have been surprised. He wasn’t. Not really.
His wallpaper shone in the dark; a picture Chord snapped of Tan and Kian in Toronto during their winter holiday tour. It had been cold. The fog of their breath was faintly visible as they grinned at nothing in particular. Tan hadn’t even noticed Chord take the picture.
They’d given their manager and crew the slip. Flushed with adrenaline, they’d’ explored the city like maniacs. Even met a few fans, posed for a few pictures, and signed a few napkins and arms. But after three hours of overly-excited exploration of the bustling city, Tan had collapsed on a bus bench and refused to move any further. It was cold. He was exhausted.
Kian had taken it upon himself to piggyback Tan around for the remainder of the day, which is when Chord had snuck the candid shot. It was still Tan’s favourite.
Letting the phone slide from his fingers, it landed beside him on the catwalk with a heavy thunk. He threw his right arm over his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose. He’d been thrown out of the house months ago, something he tended not to dwell on. It was for the best. He was comfortable living where he was.
Light footsteps echoed through the auditorium catwalks’ cavernous space until they came to a stop several feet from Tan. He opened his eyes to find a slightly dishevelled Chord standing over him, hands stuffed into the pockets of his hoodie and earbuds dangling around his neck.
“How’d the extra credit go?” Tan asked.
Chord shrugged. “You okay?”
“Mrs. Park special move, swift strike.” Tan stretched out his arm to reach for his snack, but the tips of his fingers barely brushed against the glossy red package. “Can you overcome the socially moral objections of human cloning by 5 pm?”
Chord gave Tan a wry smile and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “That bad, huh?”
Tan’s finger grazed the edge of the snack bag. “Uh… could you?”
Rolling his eyes and sighing, Chord nudged the bag closer to Tan with the toe of his sneakers until Tan’s fingers could grasp the edge and tug it closer. “How are you not fat?”
Tan crunched on the shrimp chip, which looked more like a French fry than a chip – unless you were British. Tan was not. His mother was Korean. His father was a European mutt bred Canadian, which gave Tan the increasingly popular mixed features that people called exotic. He hated that word. “Exceptional genes.”
On the catwalk, Tan’s phone vibrated and lit up with a text alert.
Kian: dude!!! they have the mini spring rools
Kian: im getting 20
Snickering, Tan typed back a response while Chord answered his own ringing phone and backed away, whispering in a rushed hush behind a cupped hand.
Tan: the rest of the student body is going to want some
Typical Kian. Their drummer was a walking stomach. Not the brightest, but undeniably sweet. Tan slid the phone back inside the pocket of his jeans, ready to chill and converse until the food arrived, but Chord had already hung up. He hopped over Tan, headed toward the hole in the catwalk that happened to be the closest to the school’s main entrance.
Tan finally sat up. The bag of saewookkang balanced on his chest slipped, and the chips scattered on the wooden catwalk. He recognized that particular tone of hushed conversation. Nothing good ever came from that tone.
“I’ll see you at practice,” Chord called over his shoulder, then slid down the ladder.
“You already missed first period,” Tan shouted after him. But the lead singer was already gone, and Tan didn’t want to listen to the impending lecture. “Ugh…” Tan flopped back down on the catwalk. “Better call halmeoni.”