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The foundation series bo.., p.32
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.32

           Kira Adams

  “For the most part?” she pressed.

  “Felix wasn’t your average high school student. His normal attire consisted of a trench coat and combat boots. His hair was longer than many girls at our school. Because of this, he was the target of quite a few incidents of bullying.” I rubbed my arm which seemed to have raised goose bumps at the memories of Felix.

  “How many times had you witnessed Felix being bullied?”

  “A few times,” I answered honestly. “But I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing.”

  “So you stood up for him?”

  I nodded slowly. “On more than one occasion.”

  “Let’s go back to that day. You can hear the shots closing in, what were some of your last thoughts?” She was staring intently at me.

  “I was hoping the police would hurry up. Felix saw me before I saw him. He tried to let me leave unharmed.”

  “So, the same person who had gunned down so many of your peers and classmates in cold blood attempted to allow you to live?” she asked; the question a very grim one.

  I nodded. “I guess he thought he owed me.”

  “Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you weren’t there to potentially pause his attack on the school, how much further he would have taken it?” The question was not one I wanted to answer in the slightest.

  “He wouldn’t have stopped,” I replied simply.

  “Okay, we need to take a break, but when we get back we will delve further into Jace’s dark past. Hold tight,” she spoke to her live audience and cameras simultaneously. “How are you feeling?” she asked me during the first commercial break.

  “I’m okay,” I answered honestly. Instantly, my eyes searched the crowd for Peyton. My heart rate began to slow when I saw her staring back at me. “Can I?” I motioned towards Peyton.

  “Sure, go ahead, we have thirty seconds left.” Kelley took a sip of her water as I jumped up quickly, making my way to the edge of the stage and jumping off of it right in front of Peyton.

  “How am I doing?” I asked as soon as my arms were wrapped around her body.

  “You’re doing great, babe.” Just hearing her voice and knowing she was there for me made me feel like I could go into any battle and come out victorious. “You can do this,” she whispered into my ear.

  I released her and quickly kissed her on the lips before hopping back onto the stage and beside Kelley.

  “Welcome back,” she addressed the cameras and her audience. “We’ve been handling some tough topics here today. Sitting alongside me is Jace Austin of Day Heights, Ohio, the young teenager who brought down a school shooter along with his local police department’s help.”

  I nodded slightly as the audience finished clapping.

  “Now Jace, the police reports say you tackled the gunman, in turn, nearly killing yourself.” She wasn’t really asking a question, more so, stating the facts.

  “He was only going to let me go. I had already seen too many victims fall prey to his attack on our school. I wasn’t willing to lose Peyton as well.” I looked out in the audience, locking eyes with her. “I was willing to do whatever it took to bring him down.”

  “Even if that meant losing your own life?”

  I nodded without hesitation. “She is my life.”

  I heard the audience collectively sigh like they had just been subjected to the most romantic gesture.

  “I think we’ve been waiting long enough to meet this mystery girl you so willingly put your life on the line for. What do you say guys? Do you want to meet Peyton?” I don’t think I had ever heard louder cheering in my life.

  I hadn’t expected them to call Peyton up to the stage, but was grateful. Now, I could have her seated right next to me as I relived the gory details of my life.

  I watched her long tangerine dress flow behind her as she ascended the stairs and the producers brought out a third chair, seating it right next to mine.

  Peyton was glowing. I swear I had never seen her look more beautiful. As soon as she took a seat next to me, I grabbed her hand in mine, squeezing it lightly. The audience ‘oohed’ at my public display of affection. I couldn’t help but blush. America in its entirety was watching me profess my love to her.

  “Hi there, Peyton,” Kelley greeted her.

  “Hi Kelley.”

  “You have one hell of a boyfriend, but I don’t need to tell you that, do I?” She smiled politely back at Peyton.

  Peyton locked eyes with me quickly, her hazel eyes capturing mine. “Not even for a second.” Again the audience reacted to our mutual affection for one another.

  “So, we got to hear Jace give an account of what happened that grim December day, but you were there too, right?”

  Peyton nodded, tucking some of her brown curls behind her ear. Her brown eyes sad. “I was there.”

  “Tell me what it was like, hearing the shots, knowing the gunman was closing in, and witnessing the deaths of so many of your peers.”

  “It was…heartbreaking. I was terrified like all of my classmates.” Peyton’s eyes became glossy as she had to relive the details.

  “Did you think you were going to die?”

  “Absolutely. One hundred percent.” Peyton paused, taking in a shaky, deep breath of air. “Jace told me he wasn’t going to let anything happen to me, but when you witness others being shot right in front of you, it’s hard not to expect the worst.”

  “Did Jace save your life?” Kelley asked, looking up from her notecards.

  “Without question. If he hadn’t tackled Felix when he had, I honestly believe I wouldn’t be sitting here today.” She squeezed my hand lightly. “He was fearless when he needed to be.”

  The audience erupted into cheers again.

  “We’re going to take a short commercial break, and we’ll be right back with Ohio’s favorite hero,” Kelley said.

  Peyton and I had two minutes before we would be back on the air.

  “You two are so adorable,” Kelley said softly, touching Peyton’s arm as she did so.

  “Thank you,” Peyton replied for the both of us.

  “How long have you been together?”

  We both shifted our eyes to one another, smiling. “How long has it been?” Peyton asked me. “Eight months?”

  I chuckled knowing full well most girls would have memorized the date and framed it by now. But Peyton was unlike any girl I had ever met. I nodded. “Yeah, that’s about right.”

  “Well you two sure seem very devoted to one another.” Kelley was smiling brightly back at us. “You ready?” She was referring to the cameras about to begin rolling.

  “As ready as we’ll ever be,” Peyton answered for the both of us, yet again squeezing my hand gently.

  “Alright, we are back today with Jace Austin, Day Height’s local hero and his beautiful girlfriend, Peyton.” She waited for the audience to quiet down before continuing. “So, Jace, not too long after the shooting, you again graced the headlines in yet another incident involving a gun, correct?”

  The audience reactions were loud and in charge. I could hear people sucking in loudly, unaware of my history.

  I sighed loudly, attempting to quiet my heart which was now pounding against my ribcage. I hadn’t spoken out about what had happened with my father to anyone other than Peyton and the police. I was still coming to terms with all of it. I nodded eventually, finally able to make eye contact with Kelley.

  “Tell me what happened…”

  “Well, unfortunately for me Kelley, death seems to follow my family. I lost my mother in a terrible car crash a little over a year and a half ago. Nearly a year later my brother met the same fate in a drunk driving accident.” I could hear the audience’s reactions as they realized just how much I had been through; just how much I had lost. I could see their reactions, and surprisingly there were people I didn’t even know being affected so much so, I could see tears spilling down their cheeks. “My father took their deaths really hard, taking a lot of his anger and frustr
ation out on me.”

  “Are you telling me that your father physically hurt you?” The way she posed her questions was strategic, as if she didn’t already have the answer right in front of her. As if she hadn’t seen the live coverage of my trial.

  “I’m saying that my father made a lot of mistakes, yes.” I nodded, choosing carefully how I worded my answers. Although my father hadn’t won any awards as father of the year, I didn’t want to tarnish every memory I had of him…I didn’t feel like that would be fair.

  “We have the 911 call audio from that day…do you mind if we play it for the audience and everyone at home?” I didn’t really feel like I had a choice, so I nodded, remaining quiet.

  Everyone listened as I confessed to shooting my father. More hands went up to cover mouths as people found themselves shocked by what was on the tape.

  I couldn’t deal with their eyes burrowing into me now. I couldn’t handle that they were now questioning my character. “It was classified as justifiable homicide. I acted on impulse to save a friend.”

  “Your trial was one of the biggest ones of the year. Do you know the mayor himself signed a petition to have all of your charges dropped?” That was news to me. Kelley was releasing details of my case I had never been aware of before.

  I shook my head lightly. “I didn’t know that.”

  “Some people argue that you got away with murder.” I had heard this accusation before. Mostly, it was people naïve and unaware of my family history; of my history.

  “And that’s their right,” I answered swiftly. “But if that were true, I don’t believe I would be sitting here today.”

  The audience clapped lightly at my statement.

  “Touché,” Kelley replied.

  “Can I say something?” Peyton spoke after what felt like an eternity of silence from her.

  “Of course, go right ahead.”

  “Jace has saved my life more times than I can count. He saved countless lives the day of the school shooting and then he selflessly saved his friend the day he shot his father. He has had to deal with more than anyone that I have ever known and he’s always done it with grace and integrity. He owned up to his own mistakes and he did the time. I wasn’t willing to watch him rot in jail for making the world a better place.” She locked eyes with me then. “I knocked on every door and spoke to every citizen of Day Heights who would entertain me because he would have done the very same for me. He didn’t deserve to go to jail, and if they hadn’t let him off with justifiable homicide, I would have never stopped fighting for him.”

  The audience erupted in cheers louder than I had ever heard before. My girlfriend had just done it again. Peyton was the best decision I had ever made.

  Chapter 25: Am I Being Punk’d?

  “Well, I bet they weren’t expecting that.” Peyton smiled back at me on the plane ride home. She was referring to me declining a check for ten thousand dollars from Kelley Lacey.

  “I’m sure they weren’t.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. To anyone else, ten thousand dollars could mean anything. But I had money, already, and I knew there were others who needed it more than me.

  “They panicked when you turned it down.” Peyton squeezed my hand lightly. “I could see it in Kelley’s eyes.”

  I nodded silently. “The families of the victims deserve the money.” Instead of accepting the generous offer, I asked Kelley Lacey if she could make the check out to an organization instead; Hope in the Darkness. It was an organization which had been created after that fateful December shooting; an organization that helped raise awareness to mental illness while also giving back to the families of the victims.

  Losing a loved one was not easy. Apart from grief, the families of the victims found themselves faced with funeral charges, burial fees, memorial costs, and more. I wanted to be able to give even a little bit back to them. Although I could never grant them another face to face with their lost loved ones, it was the least I could do.

  “That’s why you are Day Heights’ hero.” Peyton nestled her head into the crook of my neck as we began our final decent into Cincinnati.

  I kissed the top of her head, savoring the moment, knowing this was going to be the last time we were going to be able to travel with one another for a long time. Peyton had made the decision to take part in Twisted Tour with her band, a Change in Time, which meant she would be off traveling alongside them for nearly three months. “I need to hurry up and write my college essays.”

  Peyton picked up her head and looked longingly back at me. “You have so much material at your disposal, I don’t think you’re going to have any trouble coming up with some topics to write about.” She yawned lightly, running her hand through her long hair. “Did you decide where you want to go?”

  Obviously I wanted to be wherever she was, but with her postponing college to explore singing, I wasn’t entirely sure where that was going to be. I shrugged. “I need to do a little more research.”

  There were a few majors that interested me, social services, acting, and even art. Social services was definitely the most logical route, but I was known for going against the grind, and luckily for me, it almost always worked out.

  “Madison told me they’re holding auditions for a major motion film that is going to begin filming in June, why don’t you audition?” How does she do that? It had to be her other super power; reading minds.

  “Yeah, maybe.”

  “You don’t have to doubt yourself in front of me you know.” Peyton eyed me down as the captain came on the speakers asking everyone to take a seat, buckle up, and prepare for landing.

  “I don’t…I feel like I can fly when I’m with you.”

  Peyton giggled at the statement, her eyes wandering around the aircraft. “Good one.”

  * * *

  We had been home for close to two weeks. With our graduation looming, Peyton had been spending endless amounts of hours practicing for the tour. I spent the time preparing college applications, looking for an apartment, and spending time with my closest friends.

  “I don’t know why I let you talk me into this…” Eli groaned. In all fairness, we had been standing in line for close to three hours, and still hadn’t made an enormous amount of headway.

  “What else would you have been doing?” I challenged him.


  “Well this sure as hell beats sleeping.” I punched him in the shoulder.

  “I beg to differ.” The sarcasm dripping off of his voice made me chuckle.

  “I heard they are not only looking for extras, but also speaking extras! That means more money. Weren’t you just complaining the other day about not having a job?”

  Turns out Madison had been correct about the feature film casting and filming in our neighboring town. Because I was still unsure of where my future was headed, I decided to go. Dragging Eli was a last minute decision that I was beginning to regret by the minute. He had no patience. Hadn’t he ever waited in line for tickets to his favorite movie? Tickets to his favorite show? The way he acted told me no.

  “This is no guarantee Jace! Plus, we’re up against thousands of others—do you really think we are going to stand out?” He had a point, but I had always been an optimist; a glass half full kind of guy.

  “You can leave whenever you want Eli, no one is making you stay here.”

  “You’re my ride man!” he whined yet again.

  “Yeah I am, and if you want a ride back, you’ll suck it up and quit your bitching.”

  He looked down, glaring back at me. Even though he was taller, his intimidation tactics didn’t work on me.

  After another hour passed, we had finally made our way inside the building they were holding the open auditions at. It was an old church with high backed, wooden benches. Sun snuck its way through the stained glass mural that was located near the entrance.

  Elijah had been called into the audition room before me and judging by how quickly they pulled me in, I assumed he must have either done
a fantastic job or a terrible one.

  “Who is this?” I heard one of the heads ask quietly from the white long table positioned at the front of the room. They had my head shot in front of them as I walked in, all studying it.

  “He looks really familiar—what’s his name?” A middle aged man with silver hair asked.

  “Jace Austin,” I answered the question, knowing it wasn’t directed at me.

  All four heads popped up from my picture and I was now staring at four different sets of eyes.

  “Jace Austin,” the middle aged man spoke again. “Have you been in any tv shows or films that we may have heard of?”

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