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Teenage Dreams in a Teenage Circus

Guest Jen

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Story Title: Teenage Dreams in a Teenage Circus

Type of story: One shot

Main Characters: Ruby, Romeo, Indi, Dex, April, Liam

BTTB rating: G

Genre: Romance (/Musical)

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: None

Summary: Glee AU: Liam Murphy starts a show choir to impress Bianca. Ruby is in love with Romeo but he's dating Indi. Dex doesn't understand all the angst.

A/N: Written for Quick Fan Fiction Contes #31, although I had this idea floating around well before then.


teenage dreams in a teenage circus

It’s definitely not a way to justify his now defunct music career.

It wasn’t about him trying to teach something that he was actually passionate about for a change.

It’s not about the fact that these kids would much rather be out on the beach than stuck behind desks in classrooms.

It certainly wasn’t cemented by the way Bianca’s face lit up and said, “It’s a good idea.”


Of course Ruby’s name was the first on the sign-up sheet.

Ruby knows what the other kids say about her; the way they whisper behind her back about her dysfunctional family and her diabetes. She’s tired of the other kids, her supposed peers, avoiding her in the halls in favour is scrawling their feelings about her into the bathroom walls. So Ruby is looking for opportunities to shine; to get the attention she deserves, and for all the right reasons.

So when Mr Murphy announces to the class that he’s starting a show choir and auditions will be after school on Wednesday in the gym, Ruby sits up a little straighter in her chair.

And when Mr Murphy concludes with, “It’s not about being the best, it’s about being part of something special,” Ruby lets herself smile.


Romeo knows he’s got everything a guy could want; he’s a good surfer, got friends, popularity, a hot girlfriend. Sure, maybe his grades could be better but overall things are good.

But Romeo knows it won’t last, it can’t, because soon school will be over. Romeo is under no illusion that this will all stick around after he finishes, and now he’s thinking about what happens after: after school, graduation, Summer Bay?

And the scary part is that he hasn’t got any idea about what he wants to do. He sees his friends talking about application processes and prerequisites for university courses and jobs, and Romeo’s got none of that.

Ruby approaches him while he’s stacking books back into his locker, all bouncing curls and enthusiasm, and despite the fact that most people think she’s sort of annoying (it’s hard to avoid what is said about her), Romeo can see she’s kind of cute.

“Mr Murphy is starting a show choir,” she tells him, and he nods sort of noncommittally, not really understanding how this affects him. “Are you going to audition?”

“I don’t think so,” Romeo replies, ducking his head and trying to turn away. His friends have already ridden it off as the lamest thing ever, so it would be definite social suicide to have anything to with it, but then Ruby is saying,

“I’ve heard some universities look at this sort of thing; extra-curricular activities. It can’t hurt to keep your options open,” and Romeo is suddenly mildly interested.


Romeo is under some misguided impression that being part of Mr Murphy’s choir is going to better his chances at getting into university. Sure, he’s not the smartest guy out there, but even he should be able to see what Ruby is actually thinking. Indi sees the way she looks at him, the way her eyes widen and cheeks flush whenever he forgets he’s cool and actually talks to her in the halls. Ruby’s got a crush, and Indi doesn’t blame her, but if she thinks she can come in and steal him away; then she’s got another thing coming.

So Indi is being the supportive girlfriend and going along with it. She’s watching Romeo scrolling through his iPod playlists trying to figure out the best song to sing for his audition.

“You did that play with Annie, right?” Indi asks, trying to gauge is interest. She doesn’t miss the way Romeo stiffens slightly at the mention of his ex.

“Yeah, but that was Romeo and Juliet and I wore a dress. I didn’t have to sing,” Romeo replies, not looking up from his screen.

Indi hums a little to herself and comes over to where he’s sitting on the lounge, sliding a hand along Romeo’s shoulders and dropping her voice. “Well, maybe we’ll have to find a dark corner backstage and rehearse.”


It’s not a secret that Dex wants to get out of Summer Bay as fast as possible. He knows what the other kids call him, and manages not to care on a daily basis because he carries with him the knowledge that he is better than them all, and unlike them, he’s going to make something of his life.

He’s got plans, big plans, and he needs to do everything in his power to make sure he achieves them. So as soon as Mr Murphy announced his show choir, Dex was mentally making a list of possible audition songs, removing dairy from his diet and sipping warm water and honey before bed every night. Sure, maybe he’s being insufferable to live with leading up to the auditions, and Indi is deliberately eating all the ice cream out of the freezer in front of his face, and completely ignoring his suggestions for songs that would be appropriate for her range. Because despite how much Dex wants things, probably too much, Dex also wants them for Indi too.

The only problem is that the first step in Dex’s plan to leave Summer Bay includes having to sit through the other auditions. He’s brought April for moral support, so she sits beside him, and lets him make his snide comments about the other auditionees.

Ruby’s up first, very high energy and making a very obvious pass at Romeo when she sings, “Everybody stares at me/Boys,” but she’s good. Romeo stands on the stage with his hands in his pockets, shoulders slouching and looks like he wants to be everywhere except up on that stage. He sings something of the soft rock genre that Dex remembers hearing when his dad has control of the radio. And much to Dex’s surprise, he can sing. He’s obviously not trained or anything, but he sells the nonchalant jock down to a tee. Indi struts around the stage, growling her way through the Miley Cyrus song she’s picked out, despite Dex’s pleading to at least sing something from a musical. And Dex knows she only chose the song so she would have an excuse to wear cut-off shorts that are definitely not appropriate for school.

But then it’s Dex’s turn and as he gets up on the stage and sings, ”I’ll be right where I belong,” he knows he’s done enough to cement his place in the group.


“Okay, guys! Guys! Just ... stop,” Mr Murphy calls over the voices.

The first rehearsal is a disaster and definitely not what Ruby signed up for. Mr Murphy selects the worst songs, that don’t show off Ruby’s range nearly enough, and his ideas for choreography don’t extend past swaying from side to side and the occasional jazz hand. But most importantly Mr Murphy keeps telling her to “tone it down” because her voice is overpowering the others.

“We sound like a cat having its temperature taken,” Dex states.

“It’ll get there,” Mr Murphy says.

Ruby folds her arms across her chest, looking imploringly at their teacher. “Mr Murphy, this wouldn’t be a problem if you would just let me sing the verses. I’m sure no one else would mind.” Ruby glances around for support.

Dex is standing off to the side, hand on his hip, whispering something to April (who it seems Dex brought, and Ruby doesn’t even know if she can actually sing), while Romeo just looks confused as Indi pulls out her phone begins tapping at the screen. Ruby is clearing getting no help from them.

“No, look Ruby, we’ve been through this,” Mr Murphy replies. “This is a choir. That means all of you singing together.” Ruby rolls her eyes. “They’ll be more opportunities for solos, just not until we find everyone’s voices in this group.”

“No offence, Mr Murphy, but there is no way a group of five people can be called a choir,” Dex supplies.

“Yeah, we’re like a barbershop quartet, with an extra person,” Romeo adds.

“It’s called a quintet,” Ruby points out.

“Don’t even think about suggesting we wear those pinstripe suits, because they are not flattering on anyone,” Dex adds.

“Hey, no one said this would involve costumes!” Romeo says panicked, looking over at Indi frantically.

“Guys!” Mr Murphy runs his hands through his ragged hair. He heaves a sigh. “We’ll just ... We’ll call it a day. I’ll look over the arrangement tonight.”

So even if Mr Murphy can’t see it, Ruby is clearly the one holding this group together.


“Why did I ever think this would be a good idea?”

When Bianca agreed to go to lunch with him, Liam doesn’t think this is what she envisioned happening. Liam’s been recounting the disastrous progress of his choir, which still consists of only five kids, for the better part of fifteen minutes.

“Ruby is good, and she knows it. Romeo lacks the confidence to do anything more than mouth along, and Indi spends more time glaring at everybody else than actually singing.”

“Are you finished?” Bianca asks from across the table. Liam spears at a piece of lettuce before dropping his fork and then slumping back in his chair.

Bianca leans forward, clasping her hands and resting them carefully on the table. “Look, you need to give it time. You have five students who want to be there, so focus on that. Teenagers are all looking for the same thing; they want to do what they think is cool, but more than that, they want to feel like they belong. They’re all looking for acceptance in some form, and this choir is a way to get some of that.”

Liam nods thoughtfully. Up to this point, they’ve been rehearsing for weeks and made little progress. Maybe that has to do with the fact that they have nothing to work towards. Any sort of group needs a focus, something to aim for.

So that’s what Liam needs to do.

“You’re brilliant,” Liam says, and he sort of adores the way it makes Bianca blush.


“So, how’s the gay brigade treating you?”

Romeo looks up at the sound of Casey’s voice. He leans up next to Romeo’s locker and crosses his arms over his chest, while Xavier walks around to his other side. Romeo wouldn’t classify Casey as his friend, exactly, but at school Casey hangs out with him and calls him “bro,” and is always claiming to have his back. When they’re not at school though, Casey joins the River Boys at the beach and doesn’t look at him twice. He’s also the first to point out when Romeo’s popularity might be slipping away.

Romeo sighs at Casey’s jab, focusing intently on finding his English essay which he’s sure he put in his locker, somewhere.

“Have you turned into one of Murphy’s fangirls or what?” Casey asks.

“It’s not like that,” Romeo reasons.

Casey leans in closer. “Really? Because where I’m sitting the only thing I can see is that you’re spending all of your free time wearing lycra and singing show tunes.”

“Look, it’s not a big deal. Dex is there too,” Romeo tries to explain.

Casey raises his eyebrows and Romeo can see the sly smile creep over his face. “That doesn’t help your situation.”

Romeo sighs. He knows Dex is a little strange, but he is Indi’s brother so he has an obligation to stick up for him. “Leave Dex alone.”

The bell echoes down the hall and Casey straightens himself up. Romeo slams his locker closed, still without his essay. The corridor begins to fill with students returning from lunch, swarming their lockers to collect books and notes for their next class.

“I can only do so much to protect your rep,” Casey says finally before he disappears into the crowd.

Romeo slams his head into his locker door, enjoying the dull thud against his skull.

“Do you agree with Casey?” Romeo asks Xavier who’s still standing by him.

Xavier shrugs, his eyes unfocused somewhere past Romeo’s shoulder. Romeo tries to find what he’s looking at so intensely. He’s scanning the heads and faces of his peers, but the only thing he sees is Dex and April huddled in the corner, laughing at something Dex is showing April on his phone.

“Is April in this singing thing?” Xavier asks suddenly.

Romeo snaps his attention back to Xavier. “Yeah,” he replies slowly. “Why?”

“Do you think you could, maybe, talk to her for me?” Xavier asks.

Romeo’s eyes widen. “Dude, do you like her?”

“No!” Xavier replies quickly, but the faint shade of pink in his cheeks gives him away. “It’s just that she’s so much more sophisticated than me, and we don’t have any classes together, and she’s always hanging out with Dex, so ...”

Romeo smiles, knowingly.

“You know, I think April will like you a whole lot more if you actually spoke to her yourself.”

“How am I going to do that?”


Mr Murphy has them all seated in a circle in the middle of the gym. They haven’t started rehearsing yet so Indi has her legs kicked up and resting in Romeo’s lap, twirling his tie idly in her fingers. Romeo leans across and kisses her on the cheek, and Ruby forces herself to look away.

“Not that I don’t appreciate the suspenseful atmosphere you’re trying to create Mr Murphy, but are you going to tell us what this is all about?” Dex asks.

Mr Murphy smiles and nods. “All in good time, Dex. Indi, can we focus please?” Reluctantly, Indi extracts herself from Romeo’s person and sits in her own chair. Mr Murphy clears his throat before he begins. “Okay, first of all, I’ve realised something. We’ve been rehearsing for a while now, so it’s time we actually got a chance to perform. I’ve spoken to Mrs Austin and she’s agreed to let you guys perform at the end of term assembly.”

Mr Murphy is looking around the circle expectantly. Ruby can hardly contain her excitement, but it seems like she’s the only one.

“Wait, we’re performing?” Dex asks.

“In front of an audience?” Romeo adds.

“Yes and yes,” Mr Murphy affirms, pointing at each of them in turn. “I know some of you have been feeling a little dejected with how things are going so this is something we can all work towards. You will be performing at that assembly, in front of the entire school, no excuses.”

Ruby watches as Romeo slides down further into his chair; his chin is practically touching his chest. “I’m dead.”

Mr Murphy claps his hands and exclaims, “Let’s get to work!”

Ruby scrambles to be the first on the stage, taking her position in the front and centre of the group. The others take a little longer; Dex taking April’s chair from her and stacking it on top of his own, Indi slipping her hand surreptitiously into Romeo’s back pocket as he stands.

Suddenly, the door to the gym creaks open and they all turn towards the noise. Ruby sees Xavier poke his head around the corner, eyes gazing around at all of them before he steps into the room.

“Are you lost, Xavier?” Ruby questions, her voice echoing in the open space.

Xavier pointedly ignores her as he announces to Mr Murphy, “I heard you guys could use another male voice.” Romeo practically bounds over to him, shrugging off Indi’s affections and offers his hand in a high-five.

“Not that this isn’t cute and all,” Ruby interrupts, “But we have a performance and we need to rehearse.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” Mr Murphy adds, picking up his guitar and moving to usher the rest of the students onto the stage. “Welcome to Sound Waves, Xavier.”


So apparently they are called Sound Waves now, which even to Dex is the most ridiculous name ever. Mr Murphy clearly thinks he’s being clever with the double meaning, but all Dex can think of is the fact that sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum and Dex is going to get his head flushed down the toilet if he has to perform in front of the entire student body.

Romeo is clearly happy to have some more testosterone floating around, because he keep shooting Xavier grateful looks as Mr Murphy hands out the sheet music to the song they are going to perform. Xavier just seems to situate himself on the outer edge of the group, nearest to April and hovers there, making April blush. But overall Xavier seems pretty stoked, particularly as soon as he realises that the song they’re about to sing has the word “breast” in it, which brings Dex to his next issue.

Despite the fact that the song is called Somebody to Love, Dex is fairly certain it is not appropriate for teenagers to be singing. But Mr Murphy is trying to be engaging or whatever, even though the song is from like, the 70s.

“Ruby, Romeo, can we run through the verses?” Mr Murphy asks and Ruby smiles broad and bright and grabs Romeo by the wrist and drags him over to the piano.

Dex has seen Indi first thing in the morning before she’s had coffee and the look she’s currently giving Ruby is ten times scarier. She’s glaring at her, crossing her arms and just watching as Mr Murphy sits at the piano to the side of the stage and begins playing chord progressions.

“Put the claws away,” Dex hisses to Indi.

“I will if she will,” Indi whispers back, not taking her eyes off where Ruby is smiling up at Romeo as they sing, “Don’t you want somebody to love/Don’t you need somebody to love.”


Mr Murphy is running late for rehearsal; not that Indi cares. The longer he takes, the more time she gets to spend with Romeo. They are currently snuggled in a corner, away from the stage where Ruby is trying to run through dance moves with Xavier, while Dex and April do homework or something equally nerdy.

“This song is terrible,” Dex complains.

“It’s not the song,” Ruby explains, “You just need to commit to it.”

Indi doesn’t want to be the jealous girlfriend, but she’s seen the way Ruby beams when she gets yet another moment of rehearsal time with Romeo. But what is even more concerning, is the way Romeo actually looks back. He smiles and laughs, ducking his head in that adorably shy way, before he showers her in compliments, saying that she’s so much better than him and he’s just holding her back. She swats his shoulder playfully and insists that he’s just as good as she is, and Indi feels sick.

Even when Romeo comes over for a ‘study session’ Romeo spends his time memorising lyrics instead of hanging out with Indi, so Indi is currently making up for lost time. She’s got one leg kicked up into Romeo’s lap, the dress of her skirt lifting dangerously high and she can feel Romeo’s hand just there above the hem. It’s warm as he presses his palm into her skin and she obliges by shifting down into Romeo’s lap, hand tugging lightly at the back of his neck and kissing him.

He opens up immediately, allowing their tongues to meet, and Indi hears the way he sucks in a breath as Indi scrapes her teeth along his bottom lip.

There’s a loud bang and Romeo pulls away and Indi tries not to pout. She swivels around to find the source of the noise.

It seems Xavier tripped over his own feet and is now in a heap on the floor of the stage.

“Sorry,” Ruby says, with a meek shrug, although she doesn’t look very sorry.

Xavier stumbles to regain his footing again, dusting off his pants and shooting a look towards April who is holding a hand to her mouth to stop herself from giggling.

“You know, this would work so much better if you would join in too,” Ruby says to Indi and Romeo. Romeo is shifting uncomfortably under Indi’s weight. He slips out from underneath Indi and begins to make his way to the stage, but Indi is fast and she reaches out and grabs his hand.

“We don’t have to do what she says,” Indi explains, then she looks up to the stage and speaking directly to Ruby says, “No one here voted her the queen.”

“Indi,” Romeo warns.

“I’m just trying to make sure you don’t get up on that stage in front of the entire school-” Romeo blanches, “-and make giant fools of yourself,” Ruby says defiantly.

“Of course, because you’re just looking out for us, right?” Indi raises a questioning eyebrow.

“Of course,” Ruby affirms.

“So, it has nothing to do with wanting to get close to my boyfriend?” Indi challenges, and Romeo instantly swivels his head around to scold her, simultaneously pulling himself out of her grasp.


“No, I know what she’s doing. This whole choir thing is one big excuse to get close to you and I’ve put up with her making googly eyes at you for too long.”

Ruby crosses her arms over her chest and shifts so she’s standing a little taller as she slowly replies, “I can assure you that my intentions have been nothing but pure. I just want to give the most authentic performance I can, and Romeo clearly knows that.”

Indi scoffs and rolls her eyes and Romeo turns to face her fully.

“Indi, where is this coming from? There is nothing going on between me and Ruby.”

“You’re defending her?!” Indi is practically irate. She can see Dex, April and Xavier shift uncomfortably, none of them wanting to move, but it’s like Indi only has tunnel vision. She sees Ruby up on that stage, gloating her talent and connection with Romeo over her, and everything goes red. “You’re obviously more gullible than I thought if you think that she hasn’t stopped flirting with you since you first spoke to her. So, Ruby, I’m going to say this as nicely as I know how; Stay. Away. From. Romeo.”

Ruby looks up to the ceiling, blinks once and bites down on her lip. Her eyes flick from Indi’s angry face to Romeo’s confused one and then she turns and runs out of the hall.

“I hope you’re happy,” Romeo says flatly, before he stalks off as well.


The door slams shut for a third time and the three remaining members of Sound Waves are left alone.

“Well, they’re not coming back any time soon,” Xavier says, looking around at the other two. “What are we supposed to do now?”

April shrugs and Dex just sighs.

“Mr Murphy is still going to make us perform, isn’t he?” Dex asks, reluctantly. April and Xavier are just staring back at him grimly and he collapses to the floor of the stage, tucking his feet under his body and sitting there. The sheer volume of drama in the past fifteen minutes has completely worn him out.

“I hate to admit it,” Xavier says slowly, “But we can’t do this without them.” The others nod in agreement.

“How are we supposed to get them to come back?” Dex asks from his spot on the floor.

There’s silence as April and Xavier just look down at him blankly. Then, when it seems there is nothing to be done, April speaks up.

“We have to convince them.”

“Look, I’m all for optimism, but trying to get those three to come back to this sinking ship is like trying to get Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort to sit down for a friendly dinner,” Dex says.

“Well, we can’t do nothing,” April says determinedly. She turns to Xavier, “You’re Romeo’s friend, you need to talk to him. Say whatever you need to.” Then turning to Dex she says, “Indi’s your sister, surely you can think of something. I’ll take Ruby.”

“What about the song? Even if we get them to come back, that song is going to get us killed,” Xavier says.

“Leave the music to me,” April says finally.


Xavier finds Romeo looking very morosely at a plate of fries in the Diner. He’s sat himself in the far corner, back to the door, so he doesn’t even see Xavier come in. Xavier ignores his glare and sits down opposite him, stealing a chip off his plate.

“Things must be bad,” Xavier comments, “If you’ve resorted to junk food.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Romeo says, not looking up from where he’s picking up and replacing the same chip.

“Okay fine,” Xavier concedes. There’s a beat of silence before he says in a rush, “So, you don’t have to say anything, just listen.”

Romeo looks up like he wants to argue, but Xavier just holds up a hand to silence him. Romeo heaves a sigh, glances down at his plate once more before pushing it away and slumping into his chair. Xavier reaches over, takes another chip and chews on it thoughtfully.

“Okay, so Indi was way out of line,” Xavier begins. “But seriously, even a blind man could see Ruby had a crush on you. And you know how intense Ruby can get when she wants something.”

“I just –”

“Uh-uh,” Xavier says, pointing a chip at Romeo, “Not finished. Forget about them both and think about why you wanted to do this show choir thing in the first place. Even after all the crap Casey gave you and what you knew it would do to your reputation, you still kept going back. Not because Ruby said it was a good idea, but the real reason.”

Romeo sighs. “I don’t know, I just keep thinking about the future, and what happens when all of this,” he gestures vaguely around him, “is gone. What have I got then?” Romeo shakes his head sadly, more at himself than anything. “I just thought that this could be something I was good at, you know?”

“You know that even when schools over, me and you are still going to be mates, right?”

Romeo rolls his eyes, but nods.

Xavier takes a fistful of chips and stands from the table. “You are good,” he tells Romeo, “It’d be a shame to throw all that away.”


Dex is hunched over, heaving deep breaths in and out, clutching at his sides in the entranceway of his house. Indi is looking at him very peculiarly from where she’s standing just inside the lounge room.

“I’m not –” gasp, “meant for –“ gasp, “physical activity,” Dex wheezes out between breaths.

“No one asked you to come after me, Dex,” Indi replies.

Dex sucks in another breath, swallows and tries to stand upright. “I totally get why you’re pissed,” Dex starts, following Indi into the kitchen when she walks away from him.

“Great, then we skip this whole conversation. I’m not going back,” Indi states sharply.

“Okay, fine, I get that,” Dex agrees, holding up his hands in surrender.

Indi nods minutely, grabbing an apple from the fruit bowl and making her way back into the lounge room. She sinks into the couch, kicking her feet up under her body and definitely not glancing in Dex’s direction. She inspects the apple carefully, running her fingers lightly over the red skin, but she doesn’t take a bit.

“I always thought you were too good for Romeo anyway,” Dex says conversationally. “Like seriously, a guy who looks like that obviously spends too much time in looking at his own reflection. I couldn’t say anything while you were still dating, but now that you’re not together –”

“Who says we’re not together?” Indi’s head snaps up.

“Oh well, I just assumed, after today. The amazing public humiliation and all ...” Dex trails off.

“I don’t want to lose Romeo because of this,” Indi says quietly.

“You don’t?”

“No! I just didn’t know what else to do, with the way Ruby kept looking at him; I could feel him pulling away.”

“So, you’re going to let her have him?” Indi looks scandalised, but Dex continues quickly, “Because that’s what it certainly looked like.” Dex walks over to the couch and sits beside Indi before continuing, “And that’s how Romeo probably feels right now.”

They are silent for a moment, before Indi asks quietly, “What am I supposed to do? I can’t go back to the choir, Dex.”

“I’m not asking you to. Just -- You need to figure out how much you are willing to fight for this. You storming out of rehearsal? Not one of your finer moments, sis. But facing the music, and putting things aside for Romeo’s sake? That would be enough to impress anyone.”

He doesn’t say any more, just takes the apple from her hand and takes a large bite.


The waves crash to the shore with a loud thump, the sand stirs at her feet, and Ruby appreciates how the sand must feel; beaten, trod on, messed up. The wind blusters around her body so she hugs her arms closer, bracing herself against the weather. It’s whistling past her head, tossing her hair about, causing enough noise to block out her thoughts. If she focuses on the push and pull, the rhythmic tug of the water surging in towards the beach, coming down with a crash before ebbing away, then she doesn’t have to think about the embarrassment. She blinks, determined not to cry again.

It’s not until she senses someone else at her side that Ruby finally pulls her gaze from the horizon. Much to her surprise, April is standing beside her.

She doesn’t say anything, just stares out to the deep blue water, and waits.

“I guess you got the short straw?” Ruby finally asks, curiosity getting the better of her.


“Who came after me,” Ruby clarifies.

April smiles slightly, “Not at all. I volunteered.”

“How did you know where to find me?”

April considers this. “A situation like this calls for the right backdrop,” she says, and Ruby’s surprise must show on her face, because April says, “You and I are more alike than you realise,” with a wry smile. “You think you’re the only one who has horrible things written about them on the bathroom walls?”

Ruby doesn’t quite know how to reply. She considers April carefully, how they’ve never really spoken outside of Show Choir, and she doesn’t really know why that is.

“Before you ask me to come back to Sound Waves, I’ll save you the trouble. My talents are clearly too big for the group. They intimidate others and I’m not appreciated,” Ruby says.

“I thought the show must go on?” April quips, and Ruby hates the fact that she seems to know her enough to use that against her.

Ruby drops her head sadly. She doesn’t normally admit her weaknesses; that she knows she can be abrasive and bossy, and just how unpopular that can make her. “Even if I wanted to come back, I don’t think they would take me.”

“You don’t know if you don’t try,” April reasons.

Ruby has got through high school thus far by always looking out for herself. She realised early on that you couldn’t rely on other people to have your back, so she had to do that for herself. It meant isolating herself from her peers, but it was a small price to pay to prevent getting hurt in the long run. But being part of Mr Murphy’s choir was different. She could talk to Romeo and Xavier without needing to look over her shoulder for Casey Braxton. She could find herself holding her sides in pain as she laughed so hard she cried at something Dex said. Mr Murphy could pull out his guitar and they would do impromptu medleys of pop songs and no one even battered an eyelid when Ruby knew every word.

Without realising it, being part of this group meant more to her than anything else.

“What do I need to do?”


They can all hear the hall filling with students. The chatter indecipherable from white noise, but gradually growing in volume, the occasional scrape of a chair against linoleum, and Romeo has never been this nervous in his life.

April had emailed them all with a youtube link and attachment of lyrics, and they’d used Dex’s shed at the farm to practice. It was still tense; Ruby deliberately positioning her between Dex and April, but she was making an effort to tone down he compulsive need to control everything.

Mr Murphy was oblivious, and according to April, was spending most of his time trying to seduce her sister, so he didn’t really notice if anything was off. Or maybe he had just resided himself to the fact that they weren’t going to get any better.

Regardless, Romeo is now backstage, the curtain pulled and he can feel his palms start to sweat.

“Are you okay, man?” Xavier comes up beside him, slapping him lighting on the back.

“Yeah,” Romeo replies, but it doesn’t sound all that convincing.

“Have you seen Dex?” Indi asks, joining them.

“He’s in the sound booth now,” April replies, sneaking a look around the corner of the curtain. “I don’t think Mr Murphy saw him.”

“I think we should begin with a show circle,” Ruby says stepping up to the small circle they’ve started to form. Indi looks wearily from Ruby to Romeo but doesn’t say anything. They are interrupted by Dex bounding up to them, deliberately squeezing his way into the group.

“We’re all set. I felt like a ninja.”

Ruby clears her throat, looking around at the members of Sound Waves.

“You’re not going to get emotional, are you?” Xavier questions, noticing the way Ruby’s eyes are starting to glisten, like she’s verging on tears.

She swallows hard, “No.”

“Ready guys?” Mr Murphy appears from seemingly nowhere. He’s standing between Xavier and Romeo, one hand on each of their shoulders, grinning at them. “It’s a full house.”

“Captive audience, you mean,” Dex mutters and it gets a giggle from the group.

“I’ll see you out there,” Mr Murphy says, and then he disappears as quickly as he appeared.

Standing in a tight circle they can hear Mrs Austin clear her throat at the microphone and announce to the population of Summer Bay High that they have a very special opening act for their assembly. Without saying a word April places her right hand in the centre of the circle. Dex stacks his on top, followed by Xavier and Romeo. There’s an awkward moment when both Ruby and Indi go to put their hands in at the same time, but Ruby pulls away so she’s the last one, placing her small hand on top of the pile.


Liam hurries back to his seat just as the curtain is drawn. He scoots in beside Bianca who smiles at him briefly before gazing back to the stage.

The six students are in a line, backs to the audience, and even though Liam knows it’s not him up on that stage he feels the nerves kick in. He starts bouncing his knee rapidly, waiting for the music to kick it.

There’s a wolf whistle from somewhere in the audience, and instantly Gina swoops in and practically hauls Casey Braxton out by his ear.

He feels a warm touch and looks down to see Bianca resting her hand on his knee, slowing his motion. As the lights dim, Liam holds his breath.

It starts with a single voice; Ruby’s.

We are not what you think we are/We are golden/We are golden

A second voice joins in (Romeo) and the chant continues, gradually building in clarity and volume until all six of them are singing this one line. Liam is confused, glancing around at the small sound booth at the back of the hall then back up to the stage. This isn’t the song they rehearsed.

But then Romeo turns around, facing his peers and teachers, and opens his mouth.

Teenage dreams in a teenage circus/Running around like a clown on purpose

The entire audience is silent. There’s no snickering or giggling; every pair of eyes is glued to the stage as one by one the remaining members of the group turn around, changing their formation into a triangle, Romeo in the front.

Ruby steps out to the side, Dex and Indi supporting her with harmonies as she sings,

Running around again/Running from running

And this is them to the core. This is their song, a message they want to send. Liam wanted to be appealing, basing their performance off hormones and short attention spans, but this is louder and more engaging than anything he could have choreographed.

He doesn’t realise it’s over until the hall erupts in applause and Bianca is squeezing down on his knee, beaming at him.

“I think you did it,” she says as Liam claps until his hands are sore.


They’ve been ushered off the stage, Ruby being dragged by Xavier, preventing her from taking a third round of bows. As soon as they’re out of sight Dex exclaims, “Nobody threw fruit!” like it’s an achievement and that sets them off.

April is hugging Dex, Xavier is slapping Romeo on the back, and Ruby is smiling at Indi and talking at about a million miles per hour about future performances and trying to add more songs to their repertoire so they can perform at nursing homes or enter competitions.

“One step at a time, Rubes,” Romeo says with a laugh.


Songs in order of appearance:

Take Me Or Leave Me (Rent) [Ruby]

Can't Fight THis Feeling (REO Speedwagon) [Romeo]

See You Again (Miley Cyrus) [indi]

Go The Distance (from Hercules) [Dex]

Somebody To Love (Jefferson Airplane)

We Are Golden (Mika)


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