Chapter 0:

Calm Before the Storm

Mischance: Love's Misery and Misfortune

Sirens blared and wailed throughout the street. Broken glass littered the road in a minefield of death. The roads were completely blocked off by the lifeless remains of two wrecked vehicles.

“What happened here?”

“Is she okay?”

“Why did this happen?”

“Mommy, why aren’t they moving?”

Murmurs, screams, and horrifying pleas drowned each other out as a crowd of bystanders formed, looking on in horror. Children were clutching to their parents. Mothers and fathers held their heads low, saddened by the sight of the accident in front of them.

A few hours earlier…

“Mark, why do you have that suit with you?” Matthew asked as his son came down the stairs with a black suit, a violin case, and a folder.

“My performance is tonight, Dad. Did you forget again?” Mark asked concerningly as he stared down his father disappointingly.

“That’s tonight? I thought it was next week,” his father replied honestly.

“No, that’s Alexa’s academic competition,” Mark answered briefly, double checking his hands to reassure himself that he grabbed everything.

“Oh, right. Sorry, it’s hard keeping up with you guys sometimes,” Matthew admitted.

Alexa, Mark’s 11-year-old sister, walked over to the kitchen where her oldest brother and father were having their conversation.

“Hey daddy,” Alexa cut in as she gave her father a tight hug. Her sharp eyes found themselves locked on her brother’s instrument case with laser precision.

“Hey princess,” Matthew said with a caring voice, reciprocating the show of affection to his daughter.

“I can’t wait to see Mark perform again! It’s been a while,” Alexa claimed with a childish excitement.

“A while? More like, two years,” Mark bit back under his breath.

Matthew looked down at his wristwatch to see that there were only a couple hours left until the show and performances would start. As he did, Damian, his 17-year-old son, walked into the kitchen.

“We’ll be there tonight. All of us,” Matthew promised, placing a hand on his eldest son’s shoulder.

Damian, realizing what was just said, let out a small and discontented sigh.

“Yay! I can make some yummy cookies when we get back!” Alexa exclaimed as she walked over to the fridge where Damian was scrounging for a snack.

“I don’t understand why I have to go,” Damian started disgruntledly.

Alexa puffed up her cheeks and gave Damian a quick gut check, poking at his side harshly.

“Ack- Quit it! I’m sore!” Damian scowled.

“Why don’t you wanna see big brother perform?” Alexa pouted. “We always watch you when you hit balls with a stick,” she snapped back.

“I’m sore and tired. I don’t want to go anywhere right now,” Damian said as he messed with Alexa’s hair in a rough, yet playful way.

June, their mother, also made her way into the kitchen, witnessing Damian vandalizing her daughter’s hair.

“Damian! Don’t mess up your sister’s hair like that,” June commanded as she took her own hands and roughed up Damian’s scruffy dirty-blond hair.

June craned her head over to where Mark and her husband were standing. When she looked at Mark, she noticed that he was checking phone.

“Is everything alright, Mark?” she asked caringly.

“Oh, yeah everything’s fine. Chloe will be here any minute now,” Mark replied as he put his phone into his pocket.

“Wait, Chloe’s going?” Damian perked slightly, turning his attention away from his sister. “Maybe it won’t be a boring performance after all.”

Alexa quickly jabbed Damian in his side again, garnering an even more expressive response of pain and discomfort than before.

“What?” Damian exploded, angrily staring through his sister’s soul. “If Chloe wasn’t going, I’d sleep through the whole thing,” Damian retorted.

“Well, I’m sorry that you find them boring,” Mark started sarcastically. “I put so much work into my performances. I thought it’d be nice to have my family support me,” he continued as anger seeped through his voice.

“And we will. Right, Damian?” his mother volunteered, glaring at Damian.

Knowing that he couldn’t escape the situation without agreeing with his mother, Damian complied.

“Right,” Damian muttered in defeat.

“Yay! We’re all going!” Alexa let out excitedly. “Chloe’s always smiling and telling me how much she loves to hear you play.”

“Wait, really? She talks to you…about me?” Mark asked as he diverted all of his attention to Alexa.

Just then, there was a soft knock on the door. June walked over slowly towards the front door and opened it up, revealing Mark and Damian’s childhood friend, Chloe Garcia.

*     *     *

“Chloe! You look so pretty!” June remarked as she stared up and down Chloe’s attire in admiration.

With a beautiful sapphire dress and a pleasant silver purse draped over, Chloe seemed to stun even nature itself. The sweet spring wind blew by, lightly catching Chloe’s straight brunette hair with it. The wind also caught her dress slightly, giving her an angelic presence.

“Thank you, June! You look pretty as always,” Chloe greeted sweetly with a genuine smile. “Is everyone going? Or is everyone busy again?” she continued.

“Everyone’s going tonight, even if they don’t want to,” June said with a playful tone.

“Dami?” Chloe guessed with a questioning tone.

June let out a sigh as she rubbed at the back of her neck softly.

“Yeah. You know how Damian is,” June replied quietly.

“I bet if I asked him, he would change his mind in a heartbeat,” Chloe teased as she shook her head, earning a small laugh from June.

“Anyways, thank you for taking Mark ahead of time. It means a lot to us, especially Mark,” June thanked softly.

“You don’t have to thank me. I love spending time with your family,” Chloe admitted with a sense of joy and happiness.

Mark, after triple checking everything in his hands, made his way to the door. After kissing his mother on the cheek, he stepped through the door to greet Chloe.

Mark froze, stunned by the appearance of his childhood friend. In the presence of Chloe’s radiant glow, Mark let out a small and nervous smile.

“W-Wow Chloe. You look amazing! Blue and gray have never looked better!” Mark managed as he approached her, embracing her in a big hug.

“Mark! It’s good to see you, but why isn’t your suit on?” Chloe asked, returning his hug with a sweet smile.

“It’s because he’s an idiot,” Damian insulted teasingly as he made his way past his mom in the doorway.

“I’m not an idiot. I plan on changing later,” Mark defended.

Dismissing Mark’s statement, Damian walked towards Chloe and gave her a strong and passionate hug.

“You look lovely, Chloe. Even more than usual,” Damian commented as he stared down into her eyes.

Chloe’s face lit up happily with Damian’s compliment.

“Thanks for the compliments,” Chloe started thankfully. “I just wish you wouldn’t call Mark an idiot,” she continued with a smaller voice.

Damian turned back towards his brother, who was standing patiently at the door.

“You know I didn’t mean it,” Damian replied quietly with a small semblance of honesty behind his voice.

“I know,” Mark said, brushing his brother’s statement away into the wind.

“We should get going, Mark. You’ve gotta be there early,” Chloe reminded as she gestured towards her car with her head.

“R-Right,” Mark responded as he quickly walked towards the car.

Mark carefully laid out his suit in the backseat and placed his folder and instrument case on the floor behind the passenger seat. After he finished placing his things in the back, Mark took his seat in the passenger seat.

Chloe followed behind Mark and headed for the car. As she opened up her door, Alexa made her way to the doorway and waved happily at her. Chloe smiled gently, waving back at Alexa before getting into the car.

“Are you ready, string man?” Chloe teased as she drove off safely.

Once Chloe’s car was out of sight, Damian, Alexa, and their mother all entered back into the house. A slight silence fell upon the Reyes family, until Alexa approached Damian with a burning question.

“Sooo…when are you going to tell her you love her?” Alexa prodded, annoyingly tugging at Damian’s shirt. “It’s been months since you said you would tell her.”

“Look, I’ll tell her when I tell her. I-It’s complicated,” Damian answered. “There isn’t a magical formula I can use,” he continued impatiently.

“I don’t think you have it in you,” Alexa teased playfully as she poked softly at Damian’s chest.

“It’s not that simple,” Damian started to explain. “Never mind. You’re too young to understand this stuff,” he finished dismissively.

“Most girls wait for others to ask them out. If you keep her waiting too long, someone else will ask her out,” Alexa pointed out. “Then, you’ll be stuck in the sidelines, watching her with someone else,” she continued, giving Damian a much-needed reality check.

“Someone else?” Damian asked as he looked down towards his sister.

“Maybe the one you called an idiot a couple minutes ago,” Alexa said hypothetically.

“Do you think she likes Mark?” Damian asked Alexa as his mother stepped back into the kitchen where the two of them were having this talk.

“What about Mark?” June asked as she crossed her arms and tapped her foot against the floor like a drum, beating fast and impatiently.

Damian quickly searched for an escape from the conversation, but his sister was already a step ahead of him.

“A-Actually, I was trying to show Damian the positives of going with us tonight,” Alexa cut in, saving her older brother.

“Really?” June asked skeptically as she stared into her daughter’s eyes.

“Mhm! He can tell Chloe how he feels before the show starts. Then, maybe they can finally start dating,” Alexa suggested in a slightly shaky voice.

June turned towards Damian and let out a heavy sigh.

“Using your brother’s performance to ask someone out. Isn’t that a bit underhanded?” she asked, looking back at both of them.

“B-But Chloe loves Mark’s performances. Think about it. If Damian goes dressed up with Chloe, then it’s a date!” Alexa added, saving the situation.

June looked unamusingly at both Alexa and Damian. She knew that it was a desperate attempt to cover up what they were actually talking about but decided to go along with their story.

“You two should get ready then. We wouldn’t want to be late now, would we?” June asked.

“No, we wouldn’t,” Alexa answered back quickly as she ran past her mother and headed upstairs towards her room.

“I think you should follow your sister’s footsteps and get ready, Dami,” June started as she stepped towards her son, giving him a motherly embrace.

“O-Okay mom,” Damian responded softly, returning her hug lovingly.

When they finished their embrace, they each went their separate ways to get ready for the show. As Damian walked past his mother, his father walked by. Noticing Damian lost in thought, Matthew pulled him aside.

“Damian, is everything alright?” Matthew questioned.

Damian looked around anxiously. Being used to doing most things by himself, he found it hard to ask for advice.

“Damian, you know you can talk to me, right?” his father assured as he massaged Damian’s shoulder gently.

“It’s Chloe,” Damian started honestly as he tried to hide the shakiness in his voice. “I thought it would be easy to tell her how I really feel.”

“So, what’s stopping you?” his father asked curiously.

Damian froze for a brief moment. His mind blanked as he came to his conclusion. It was hard for him to admit, and his pride fell into slight disarray as he spoke.

“I’m…scared. Scared of messing everything up.”

Matthew stood there silently for a minute to gather his fatherly wisdom. The gears in his brain churned intensely as he cycled through different pieces of advice. Once he gathered his thoughts together, he began to speak.

“Listen Damian, the worst thing that could happen is that Chloe doesn’t talk to you again,” Matthew asserted.

“And how is that supposed to make me feel better?” Damian asked as he glared through his father’s skull.

“Just listen for a second, Damian. You’re too headstrong,” his father lectured sternly.

Damian’s glare diminished steadily, returning to a look of submission and obedience.

“Chloe’s been close to you and Mark for years now. You three will always be there for each other, no matter what. If she isn’t interested in you romantically, you’ll just have to move past it,” Matthew stated.

“But, what if I mess up? Or, what if I’m not strong enough to actually tell her?” Damian asked honestly.

“I don’t think you should worry about your strength, Damian,” his father instructed as he gripped at Damian’s shoulder tightly.

“What do you mean?” Damian asked.

“You’re strong, Damian. You always conquer and overcome every obstacle in your way,” Matthew encouraged earnestly. “So stop second-guessing yourself.”

Internalizing his father’s words, Damian nodded his head in understanding. He was no longer shaken nor frozen. Damian was finally under control.

“Thanks dad,” he replied back as he reached to his father for a hug.

“Anything for you, son,” Matthew replied back caringly. “We should get ready, before your mother kills us,” he joked.

“Yeah,” Damian laughed quietly.

Once their exchange ended, they headed to their respective rooms to get ready for the show.

Time passed, and the Reyes family were dressed to go watch Mark perform. Damian and his father were wearing black suits and ties, matching with each other and with Mark. Alexa settled on a nice silver dress, and her mother had on a lovely black dress with a silver necklace.

After enjoying a meal together, the four of them headed out towards the car.

“Mom, do you think I can sit in the front?” Damian asked. “I don’t want Alexa’s glitter to get on my suit.”

Alexa opened her mouth to refute her brother but realized that his concern was valid.

June nodded her head, accepting his request. Then, the four of them left.