4. Show Time
"But guys, I was sure it was her." Joe gave his friends an incredulous look. "She looked just like her and had the same name."
"Well, apparently it wasn't her. Otherwise she would have remembered you," Fred said.
"Why would she look just like her and have the same name then?" Joe replied.
"Twin?" Sam offered hopefully.
"I doubt it. She wouldn't have the same name too." Joe sighed. He hadn't been able to get his chance meeting with Sydney from yesterday out of his mind. When Sam and Fred came over to hang out, they immediately started asking questions about how it went and what happened and Joe was more than happy to answer them. He hadn't talked about it yesterday because he knew the moment he brought it up around Anna, she would ask questions non-stop and tease him relentlessly.
"What if she was faking it?" Fred perked up and Joe could almost see the light bulb turn on above his head. "This totally confirms that she's a time agent! She knows we're onto her and she's trying to hide her identity and avoid us. Oh man, her mission must be super important."
"She did seem eager to get away from me yesterday," Joe pressed his mouth into a thin line, "but I think that's just because I was freaking her out more than anything. I wish I had the chance to talk to her some more, but some friends of hers showed up and they had to leave for band rehearsal or something like that."
"Band rehearsal?" Sam and Fred asked simultaneously.
"Yeah." Joe nodded. "She said she was in a band, Heart on a Wire. They have a show tonight actually. She told me I could come if I wanted to."
Fred and Sam exchanged wide-eyed looks. "Are you going?"
"I don't know." Joe shrugged. "Maybe." In truth, he hadn't given it much thought. He had to admit, he wanted to go. If anything, it'd be a good chance to see Sydney again and try to talk to her some more. Maybe he could actually get some answers out of this time. He had been convinced that Sydney didn't know him, but Fred could be right. What if she was just pretending the whole thing?
"You have to go!" Fred leaned forward, an eager smile on his face. "I'm convinced that this is all code for a secret time agent meeting. She couldn't say that at the mall though because there were too many ears present. Dude, you could be drafted into an elite time spy team!"
"Or this could all be a trap set up by Mad Jack," Sam said as he pushed his glasses up his nose. "I hate to remind you, but we haven't ruled out the possibility that she's working with Mad Jack yet."
Joe wished he had the answers to all his questions. Both Sam and Fred had valid points, but Joe couldn't shake the feeling that they were both wrong. The Sydney he met yesterday didn't seem like the Sydney he met in Boston. He had believed her when she said she had no idea who he was. The only way to know more and get the answers he needed was to find Sydney and investigate her. Joe knew what he had to do. "Alright, I'll go tonight. And I'll bring The Book with me," he added when he saw Sam opening his mouth to protest Joe's decision. "Just in case this is a trap, but I do want to find out more about her. I don't want her to just be some cute girl I literally ran in to at the mall."
"I didn't say that." Joe blushed.
"You definitely said cute." Fred smirked.
"No I didn't."
"I heard cute," Sam joined in.
"Whatever." Fred waved his hand dismissively, but continued to look at Joe with teasing grin. "But if it is a time agent meeting, you'll try to get me in too, right?" Fred's teasing grin turned into a hopeful smile.
Joe rolled his eyes. "Sure thing, Fred."
At seven forty-five, Joe found himself standing inside the House of Rock on Fiftieth and Broadway with The Book in his backpack. He was surprised at the crowd of people that had gathered. There were a few adults here and there, but it was mostly kids around his age and a little older. He found a spot to stand near the front, but off to the side.
He took a moment to study the House of Rock. He was sure that Sam and Fred were wrong now. There was no way this was a time agent meeting or a trap by Mad Jack. If it was, it was the weirdest meeting or trap he had ever seen and nothing like he expected it to be. Still, he knew he needed to be cautious. There were too many unanswered questions remaining.
Joe was pulled out of his thoughts when he saw a flash of blonde backstage. He craned his neck to get a better look and was able to see Sydney chatting to someone behind the curtain. He couldn't see who it was from this angle. He was surprised by how much her appearance had changed since he had seen her at the mall, though he should have guessed that her everyday attire would be a lot different than her performance attire.
Her hair was messy, but in a stylized-way that looked like she spent a lot of time on a beach. A few strands were pulled back, giving her hair extra volume. Joe could see the black winged eye-liner and glimmer of lip-gloss from where he was standing. She was wearing ripped blood red skinny jeans with black converse and a white tank top under a form-fitting, black crop-vest. The look overall enhanced her curves and made her appear much older and if Joe was being completely honest, kind of hot.
He immediately pushed that thought out of his mind. Anna's just getting to you, he thought to himself. All that teasing yesterday about what she said about Sydney being his girlfriend was starting to affect him.
Luckily, he didn't have to think about it for long. The show soon started and Joe became entranced with the sight in front of him. They were astounding. He saw Sydney's two friends, Jake and Crystal, from the mall yesterday as well as two other people in the band, another boy and a girl. He didn't pay them much attention, his eyes were fixed on Sydney. She appeared to be the band's lead singer and her voice was absolutely mesmerizing. The band's set list consisted mostly of rock songs and her voice fit the genre perfectly. She knew just how to hit the belted notes and add the right amount of breathiness on the ballads. She even moved her body in a way that made you think the music was flowing through her. Her hips swayed in time to the music and her dancing was gracefully sexy.
Too soon, the show ended and the spell Sydney had put over him finally broke. He blinked as the present slowly came back to focus. How long had it been? An hour? Two? He had lost all track of time. What was he supposed to do now? He needed to find Sydney. Even though tonight hadn't turned out to be a secret time agent gathering or a trick set up by Mad Jack, he still wanted to tell her what an awesome job she did.
The audience casually dispersed. Some hung around and grabbed drinks at the bar and others headed home for the night. Joe's eyes scanned the crowd for any sign of Sydney. He spotted her sitting at the bar laughing with her two friends from the mall yesterday. He smiled, glad he had found her, and made his way to her. As he got closer he began to hear snippets of their conversation.
"I am her best friend you know." Jake said as he crossed his arms. He gave Crystal a pointed look.
"Second best friend," Crystal was quick to respond.
"Please. Every girl would kill for a gay best friend."
"Guys, I love you both equally." Joe could hear the exasperation in Sydney's voice. "Could you not bicker like an old married couple for just five minutes?"
"We do not sound like an old married couple!" Crystal and Jake looked equally offended by the remark.
Joe finally broke through the crowd and was able to walk up behind Sydney. Jake and Crystal spotted him at the same time before Sydney did. A mischievous expression flashed over their features as they returned their gazes to Sydney. They crossed their legs and rested their chins on their palms in perfect sync.
"What?" Sydney raised an eyebrow at them. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"No reason." They looked at each other and smiled.
"It's always a reason with you two." Sydney crossed her arms. "What's going on?"
Joe figured he should speak up now before things got weird, or weirder rather. "Um, hi, Sydney."
With a start, Sydney spun around to face him. Her lifted eyebrows and face gave away that she was surprised to see him there, which Joe found odd. She was the one who invited him to the show tonight. Why was she so shocked to see him?
"We need to get going." Jake and Crystal slid off their seats and tossed Sydney a wink. "We'll meet you at the usual place later, but feel free to take your time here. There's no need to rush."
"You're Joe right? The kid from the mall?" Sydney was studying him with that surprised expression on her face.
"Yeah." Joe nodded. He felt uncomfortable under her gaze. Did she forget that she had asked him to come? "You told me to come by yesterday, so I did."
"Right..." Sydney frowned. "I just didn't think you'd actually come. It was more of an act of kindness than an authentic offer. Honestly, we get paid per ticket sold so..."
Joe immediately felt stupid. Of course she didn't really want him here. Why would she? He was just some weird boy she had met at the mall the day before. Now it probably looked like he was stalking her or something. The situation suddenly felt awkward and Joe didn't know what to do to fix it. A heavy silence hung in the air.
"Well, you sounded fantastic tonight. It's like you were born to perform. Even if you didn't really want me here, I'm glad I came." Joe kept his eyes trained on the ground, too embarrassed to make eye contact with her.
"Thanks." He could hear the awkwardness somewhat ease from her voice. "Since you're here, you want to sit? The bands get free drinks, so soda is on me."
Joe cautiously glanced up at Sydney. He was standing close enough that he could see the flush to her cheeks from her performance. Her lip-gloss was gone and her eye-liner had slightly smeared. Was she being serious? Or was this just another kind act? Sydney patted the seat next to her and with a shrug, Joe hopped on it.
Sydney motioned to the girl behind the bar to bring them two sodas. "So, Joe. Other than stalking girls you just met, what do you like to do?"
Joe blushed. "I'm not stalking you. I just wanted to know more about you."
"Oh?" Sydney tilted her head at him. "And why is that?"
Joe's fingers brushed against The Book resting inside his backpack. He took a deep breath. This was it. The thing that would confirm who Sydney was and what she knew. Joe slipped The Book out of his backpack and held it up in front of her. "Do you know what this is?"
"A book?" Sydney squinted at him. "You brought a book to a concert? We weren't that boring were we?"
"No!" Joe quickly shook his head. "You were great! I couldn't take my eyes off of you." Realizing how that sounded, and seeing the bemused look Sydney gave him in response, Joe corrected himself. "I mean, the band. You all did amazing."
"So why the book then?" Sydney thanked the server as she handed over the drinks.
"You've never seen a book like this before?" Joe watched her carefully, waiting for any sort of recognition of The Book. Was she faking this?
"Nope." Sydney took a sip of her soda. "Is it any good? What's it about?"
"It's a history book mostly. It's also a fantasy and a sci-fi book. You can really get into it." Joe bit his lip. Maybe he should just come out and say it. What's the worst that could happen? "This book allows people to time travel."