Chapter 2: Summer
It became part of the routine that after Darryl and I had finished the guitar lessons, we would have a snack afterwards speaking about general topics. His family, his gigs and learning more about his family and his life growing up. I was amazed by their resilience. His parents had married straight out of school, when they were legally able to. They had been high school sweethearts. He had twin sister named Emily, who was best described as a tomboy and totally opposite to him. She had raven black hair and resembled her father, while he resembled his mother. He explained that they did share one feature and that was the shape of their eyes, which belonged to his mom. While his was hazel, hers was deep blue. She was extroverted and more likely to get into a fight, while he shied away from confrontation. He said that the only way he knew he got to her was to tease her that she had been born after him, by fifteen minutes. It had caused a lot of bruises on his side when they were young, but sometimes it had been worth it.
His dad had been an engineer and his mom an artist in Scotland. A recession hit and a lot of places started closing their doors, to a point where it was hard for his dad to find permanent employment. After much deliberation between his parents, they had decided to emigrate. They sold all their possessions which they could not fit into their bags or on the plane and took the plunge and moved here. Darryl and sister had just turned six, and as excited as he says he was, he did not really understand what they were doing. The concept of moving countries and the distance they were moving was inconceivable at the time. The idea of leaving family and friends behind, that he would only see in a few years or not at all, was an idea that only became reality when they finally left. But as soon as he landed, the first thing that he remembered was seeing the blue sky and the fresh smell of the ocean. It was a different smell from Scotland. It was the first time he fell in love.
It was a bit difficult in the beginning. There was cultural differences and some language barrier. They had left behind a world where they were part of the norm, for a place and way of life that was unknown to them.
Trying to keep onto what you knew and at the same time learn new ways of life was like having a dual personality, but eventually one learnt to merge them into one.
The first year they stayed with family, as his mother tried to find a permanent position to help his dad financially. She had decided to put her artwork on hold till they were stable again. The next year they moved into a small two bedroom house that they rented for a few years. His parents furnished it in ingenious ways, by using second hand furniture and different materials. The gem in their crown was their first coffee table. It was made out of two cement bricks, with a piece of wood on top and a cloth covering the full size as to hide the materials.
In the meantime his dad did extra work in his free time and gradually as they built their life, his business grew. His mom gave up an administration position to go back to her art and help his dad with the administration of the side business.
Darryl told me about what he remembered about his life in Scotland. The cities were different from what I assumed, which had basically been based on media and movies. I was too ashamed to admit, but the countryside, castles and lochs were all that I imagined and more.
On a Sunday his parents would pick a place and they would either take a train or drive and explore the area. It had been his mom’s idea and he suspected that it had been secretly selfish, as she always took something that she could sketch with. As he told me about his childhood, it occurred to me how naive he seemed at the same age compared to me. He was so willing to forgive and forget, “Why hold a grudge? It only poisons that life that you are meant to live,” he had said.
I enjoyed hearing about his life, how his parents had shown amazing strength, both individually and in their relationship. How rare it was that people would endure so much and still be in love as they were, after so many years.
My mom and Ida would sometimes join us in those snack times adding to the conservation. Darryl was funny. His humour was best described as lame, but he had this way of delivering what he said in such a way, that all you could do was to laugh. There was a small spark in my mom again. Her laugh became almost like it was before, more contagious than forced. Ida added to the humour as well. She always had a dry one, something that had been hidden for awhile. She seemed lighter, less serious. Even Alice seemed less highly strung. After the first day they met, which I would always remember, the rage that had been building up inside her seemed to dissipate. Their first meeting had not been smooth, though.
The first time Alice had met Darryl, she had stormed into the house. It had been obvious that someone had angered her. She had walked in like a giant trampling around the house and had stopped dead in her tracks when she saw us congregated around the kitchen table. She first had a look of shock, which changed into pure rage in seconds. “Who’s this and what does he think his doing sitting in dad’s chair, like he owns the place,” she bit.
Alice could hardly be called diplomatic and sometimes her words were more like a bite than a bark. “Hello Alice,” my mom said calmly, “this is Darryl, Elisa’s tutor. Remember I told you about him?” “Yes, but it still doesn’t excuse him from taking liberties and sitting in dad’s chair,” she replied, the bite was gone, but she was still ready to snap at any time. “Alice, come on,” Ida protested, frustration emanating from her face. I looked at Darryl from the corner of my eye. I wanted to crawl into a hole. My sister could be as sweet as cotton candy, but days like these I wanted to pretend that she didn’t exist.
Darryl stood up and walked over to Alice. Why was he walking into the lion’s den, he was going to get ripped apart.
He calmly held out his hand, “Hi Alice, it’s nice to eventually meet you. You family has told me so much about you.” Well we hadn’t warned him about her bite. “I’m glad to be able to put a name to the face.” Alice towered over Darryl, but she seemed to shrink back and was at a loss of words. I suppose she had expected retaliation and not a calm greeting. “I apologize. I didn’t know that was your dad’s chair, but I do understand why he liked it so much. At the angle you sit, you in the middle and a part of everyone. It’s a lovely seat, but if you don’t want me to sit there, I understand.”
Alice seemed to be unsure of her next move. Eventually she opened her mouth, “Well if you like sitting there so much, who am I to refuse you.” Darryl smiled, “Thank you and if I do anything to disrespect it, you have my full permission to use my own favourite guitar to whack me over the head with.” Alice’s eyes widened and then there was a burst of laughter. My mom, Ida and I looked at each other confused. By the time Darryl had left, Alice looked as calm as a sloth. “I like him,” is all she said on the matter.
Those days became part of our lives and it was one of the days of the week I looked forward to. There were days we took the opportunity to enjoy summer before school started. We made trips to the beach and Darryl would bring along his acoustic and I would sit in wonder watching him play. Some days Alice and Ida would join us and after my mandatory lesson, we would enjoy the rest of the day splashing around in the waves.
It had been a long time since I had felt as carefree as I did on those days. Whatever had happened in the past, or what would happen in the future was not important, only the present.
When the school year eventually started, my friends commented on the change, “You seem actually to be listening to us these days, Elly, what happened?” “Nothing really.” “Oh come on, you looked like you were walking around in a daze, asleep, but now you awake. What caused this change?”
I wasn’t sure what had been the cause of the change, but I knew that Darryl was the catalyst. It was one thought I didn’t feel comfortable revealing to anyone just yet.
On one of these days Darryl had arrived at my house, excited. It seemed that he could not control himself. He was out of breath and when I asked him to explain, he put his hands on my shoulders, but he could not get the words out. “Calm down,” I giggled, “breathe and then tell me what’s happening.” “Breath,” he repeated, taking a few deep breaths, he started speaking slowly. “We have been invited to play at a small musical festival out of town in two weeks time.” It was my turn to get excited, “What?! That’s great,” I exclaimed. “It’s not a big one, maybe a bit bigger than a church bazaar, but they want us to play our own music. No tributes. I just got the call when I stopped in front of your house. We scheduled to play in the early afternoon” By the time he was done. I was jumping up and down like a five year old on Christmas morning. “So I can come and watch you play, eventually.” “Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he smiled. “Yay,” I shouted throwing my arms around his neck. We jumped around in a circle in excitement, eventually falling down laughing. My mom walked in, “What’s the entire ruckus about,” she asked, her hands on her hips surveying the scene in front of her. “Darryl has just been invited to play at a music festival. Isn’t it exciting,” I explained out of breath. “Well done Darryl,” she said walking towards him, “one day I may just be able to say I knew you when you were tutoring guitar lessons.” He laughed and grabbed my mom hugging her, “Thank you Mrs. James, I really appreciate it,” there was an amused look on my mom’s face after the shock had subsided. By then Alice and Ida had walked in to investigate what was happening. We related the news to them and it seemed as if the excitement increased. After we had calmed down, we decided to forgo the lesson for the day and celebrate. It was off to The Diner for a milkshake, where we sat around the table, excitement rising again, as we bombarded him with questions about the festival.
Thankfully the festival wasn’t that far away and I only had to wait those two weeks before it would arrive. Darryl and I would still do the next lesson, but we had to forgo the snack time as the band had to rehearse. Over the course of the two weeks he updated us on the antics that were happening during these rehearsals. The frustration about the decision over which of their songs they were going to play in the thirty minute set. The changes some of the band members wanted to make and the arguments over whether they should or not make changes. But other than that, they were all excited. They wanted play their best.
My sisters and I had arranged to go and I had asked Chloë and Jack to come with, but between their own activities they could not make it. I had wanted them to meet Darryl. I was sure that they would like him as much as I did.
The day of the festival finally arrived and I woke up long before day break. I couldn’t fall asleep again and decided to get ready. I had dressed and was busy finishing breakfast by the time Alice and Ida had woken up. I tried to keep myself busy with small chores as I waited for them to get ready, but the time seemed to stand still. I kept looking at the new kitchen clock, with its yellow back and green hands, like leaves on a flower. The hands stood still as if there was no breeze to move them. Bundling into Alice’s car, I sent Darryl a message to let him know we were leaving. Even the drive felt longer than it should. It felt like hours were passing instead of minutes. In the meantime we messaged each other, arranging where to meet when we got there.
Although they were playing later in the day, we had decided to make a day of it and go to the festival early.
As we arrived, I tried to rush my sisters to the meeting spot, but it was as if their legs were made of jello and could not move faster. As we got closer, I could see Darryl. His hair was like a flame in the night. I noticed that he was standing with a group of people. As he turned and saw us an expression of joy washed over his face. He came to greet us and taking my hand he pulled me along to the group he had been standing with. “I want you to meet the band,” he said. All of a sudden I became very nervous and hesitant. What would they think of me, would they like me? Would I like them? Would I have anything to say to them?
As soon as we got to where they were standing, he started making introductions. Joshua was the bass guitarist. He was shorter than Darryl, with a round face and short curly, brown hair. He was wider than Darryl and he had full lips, which looked like it was always pouting.
Malcolm played the drums. He was tall and lanky with sharp features with straight dark hair that covered his ears. He was growing it out. He wanted to see how long it would take him to cut it. Then there was Stephen, he was the lead singer and played the keyboard. He was tall, but shaped like a surfer. He had a tan and had light brown hair, with blonde streaks. Definitely a surfer, I thought. He was very good looking and had a charm about him, which I was sure made all the female fans melt at his gaze.
Just then a girl came up at Darryl’s side, laying an arm on his shoulder. She was slightly shorter than him, with raven black hair and startling blue eyes. “What about me? You haven’t introduced me to your friends.” He looked at her, the side of his lip turned up, “and this is my younger sister, Emily.” “Younger by fifteen minutes. You pushed me out of the way or I would be older, old man,” she smiled then greeted all of us. “Where’s Anne?” she asked. ”She’s not coming. She had some work to do.” “Oh,” was all that Emily replied, but she had a concentrated look on her face. Who was Anne?
Our group moved around the stalls and while Alice seemed to hit it off with Malcolm, Ida seemed to be in deep conversation with Joshua. Emily walked with Stephen, but his eyes seemed to wonder between Alice and Ida. I didn’t like that, if he was with Emily he shouldn’t be looking at my sisters. When Darryl and I were a few paces away from everyone and out of earshot, I ventured to ask him, “Is Emily and Stephen together?” He burst out laughing, “Heck no, his not her type.” I looked at him confused”. “His too much of a ‘pretty boy’, her words, and we’ve known each other since we moved here. The guys consider her their little sister and I think she thinks of them as brothers.” “Oh okay,” I replied. His face slowly turned serious, “Why you asking?” “No reason,” I replied, “Just curious.” “Oh, do you like him?” I laughed, “No, nothing like that. I just noticed he’s been watching my sisters and I thought he was with Emily.” His face changed again, to something close to relief. “Well your sisters are beautiful and he is use to being the centre of attention when it comes to woman, so I think that Malcolm and Joshua hogging your sisters are a bit strange for him.” “Oh.” Alice and Ida were beautiful, but what about me? Did Stephen not even think I was pretty and what about Darryl? It had never bugged me before if anyone had thought I was attractive, but now it irked me a bit that Darryl had left me out, when he had acknowledged my sisters’ looks.
Gathering some food from the stalls, we moved to the stage area. We were early enough to find a good spot in front of the stage and sat down to eat as we listened to the artists that were playing before Darryl was due to be on stage.
Emily stayed with us when they left to prepare for their set. She was just as funny as Darryl, but her humour was sharper, and even though Darryl had described her as someone that was quicker to get into a fight than he was, she had the same air of calmness and patience around her like he did.
The band was up next. When they came on, we jumped up shouting, “Go Blue Lava.” Even from a distance I could see Darryl’s face had gone crimson. They started playing and I was immediately in awe of their playing. The speed, the methods that Darryl exhibited were amazing. Stephen had a deep voice, which his appearance belied. Malcolm’s footwork and speed on the drums were like lightning. Joshua brought darkness to the music that was smooth. By the time they were done, we were not the only ones that were shouting their name.
After they packed up and joined us again, there was a larger group hovering around them congratulating them on their performance, including a few girls that seemed to be hanging onto their every word and movement. I found that amusing and shook my head.
These were the same people that had been sitting with us almost an hour ago, when they were unknown and none of them had noticed them. Now they had their own groupies. When they had made their way to us, through the crowd, we decided to go out for an early dinner to celebrate the success of their first big show.
But as they say, things never stay the same forever. It was about to come true and in a way that I had not even considered. Darryl had come over the next day, as usual, for my lesson, but he had a smile on his face that I couldn’t place. He seemed lost in his own world and by the time the lesson was finished, my curiosity was fairly aroused. What could make him look and act so strangely? My family was out for the day, but as usual we had our snack afterwards and spoke about the previous day at the festival, until I couldn’t contain myself.
His attitude had nothing to do with the show and if he wasn’t going to tell me, I would have to him directly. “Darryl, what’s up?” At my words, he seemed to wake up from a stupor. “Excuse me?” “I asked what’s up” “What do you mean?” he asked. This was exasperating. “Well that look on your face and all through the lesson you were in your own world. And the one thing I am certain about it has nothing to do with yesterday’s show,” I explained.
For the first time I saw Darryl look really uncomfortable, a blush appeared on his cheeks and his eyes looked everywhere, but at mine. His nervous movements made me nervous, till I couldn’t take the silence anymore. “Come on, out with it. You fidgeting is making me feel on edge.” He hesitated for a while. “Well, where should I start,” he said in a low tone. “At the beginning,” I said impatiently. “OK,” taking a deep breath, “A few weeks ago I met this girl. We started out as friends, but as we spent more time together, the more I realized I really liked being with her. My feelings grew as time passed.” Girl?! He had said nothing about a girl. He continued, “She’s really sweet, she’s a bit of a loner like me. Sometimes she makes me feel inexperienced and naive, but she either doesn’t notice it or show it.
My mind was reeling. Sweet, loner, making him feel naive and inexperienced? Could he be speaking about Alice or Ida? He had said that he thought they were beautiful. “Well last night I eventually asked her to go out with me and she said yes.” Last night? We were with them till after dinner, which wasn’t late. Did he ask them then? Why had either of them not said anything to me? After what Ida thought the first day, did she think she would be hurting me if she revealed how she felt and did Alice feel the same? How did I feel about it and what would happen if they broke up? Would I lose someone that I had become close to? “Who is it?” I blurted out, “is it Alice or Ida?” Darryl’s eyes widened, then he smiled nervously, “Uhm, neither,” he replied. “Neither? There’s nothing wrong with them, why neither?” I asked, stunned. “I agree there’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s not them. I think of your sisters as my friends.” “Oh, then who?” For a moment we looked straight at each other, then a thought dawned on me, but before it took root, he answered, “Her name is Anne.” Then I remembered what Emily had asked him. So that is who Anne was. He looked at me expectantly. “Why haven’t you told me about her before,” I asked in a sharper tone than intended. “Well it’s new and I wasn’t sure where it was going and a guy is allowed to keep a few things to himself if he likes, right?” It had sounded more like a statement than a question, even though he smiled. I recovered as quickly as possible and took a deep breath. I just hoped that Anne would be nice, the same fears I had about Alice and Ida reared its head. Things would definitely change, but the question was how. Would I still have my friend if he was with Anne?
Taking a deep breath, I decided to reserve my opinion, “Now that you have let out your little secret, do you want to tell me more about her? So where did you meet Anne,” I started. He grinned from ear to ear and started rambling.
Anne was a year younger than Darryl. He described her as petite and reminding him of a pixie. She was sweet and quiet, but she had the temperament of Tinkerbell from Peter Pan. She loved animals and that was the reason why she wanted to be a vet and spent most of her free time at animal shelters. A friend had introduced them the night he had found out about the festival and she was intriguing and seemed interested in him as well. And they ended up spending more time together. Last night after the dinner, he had called her and when he had told her all about the day, she had made him go out for supper. She had apologized for not being able to make it to the show. He could swear she had asked him out, but by the end of the night he was sure that he had made the first move.
From his description I felt more at ease that I would retain my friend, and I was became excited about meeting her. I was happy for Darryl, he seemed to glow as he spoke about her and that glow was infectious.
“So when do I get to meet her?” I asked. “Not sure, but I will make it happen,” he smiled. “I almost forgot. I’m giving you, your first real assignment. Next week’s lesson will be an audition.” “Audition? What?” Darryl laughed, “Don’t worry, it’s just for me. But I want you to pick your own song. Something we haven’t done before. I want you to find the music, practice and play it for me. But be warned, I will be brutally honest with you. Better you hear it from me first okay.”
Whew, I thought, that wouldn’t be so bad.
I walked Darryl to the door and all of a sudden he put his things down and hugged me. “Thank you,” he said in my ear, “thank you for being such a good friend and making me apart of your family.” With that he kissed my forehead and left. I stood there stunned, my mom came up behind me, “Elly what’s the matter?” “Nothing’s wrong mom,” I smiled back at her. When the rest of the family came home, I told them about Anne. My mom looked at me confused, “but I thought...,” she stopped herself in mid-sentence, “never mind.” “Thought what mom?” “Oh, nothing, just an old woman whose eyes don’t work so well anymore.” Then she looked at me, I felt that she was trying to see something, but I wasn’t sure what, “How do you feel about it?” “Well, I know things always change. It’s just going to be strange not seeing Darryl as much as we use to, now that he has a girlfriend.” “Having a partner doesn’t mean you have to change your life totally. It doesn’t mean that he will stop being your friend or coming around to see us, like before,” my mom replied. “Oh mom, come on. He’s got a girlfriend. He would want to be with her as much as possible and she with him,” I said getting up to go to my room. “Yes, sweetheart, but that doesn’t mean he should give up his friends, that’s not healthy,” my mom replied as I walked away.
My mom hadn’t had a new boyfriend in a long time. Had she forgotten how couples were in the beginning. All they wanted to see was their partners’ faces, not a person they were giving lessons to. I lay on my bed and my mind kept drifting to Darryl and Anne. How would this change our friendship? Before when he had left after a lesson, I had never wondered what had occupied his time between his lessons. It had seemed simple. Work, gigs, friends, family. Now there was an added level of a girlfriend. “What is wrong with you?”, I shouted at myself. “He is happy and you should be happy for him. You being selfish about his time. One would swear that you are jealous.” “I’m not jealous. Why had he not said anything about her before?” “Because certain things are private, even from you.” “And would he still be friends with me, as before?” “You are being silly, of course he will. What had he said when he left. Stop being so immature. It’s a girlfriend, not a new country. And you haven’t even met her.” “Oh be quiet. I’m going to choose a song now.” “Good it will keep you from thinking stupid thoughts.” And with that my mind retreated, not before she wiggled her finger at me.
That week I practiced every minute I could. I wasn’t sure if it was because I really wanted to impress Darryl with what I had learnt from him, or if it was that it kept me from having those nagging questions.
The next lesson arrived and I had butterflies in my stomach. The song I had chosen was close to home and I wasn’t sure if I could play it in front of anyone.
When Darryl arrived, he seemed tense. But as he put four seats in the living room to my surprise, he eased and seemed to relax.
“Who are those for?” “It’s a surprise,” he grinned at me. Those butterflies turned into knots that made me want to bend over. A few minutes later my mom and sisters walked in and took a seat. “I’m a bit biased. I needed outside opinions to judge better,” he had a mischievous smile on his face.
This would be harder than I thought. Strangers, I would never see them again, but my family, I couldn’t run away from them. Darryl must have arranged this in the week and they had kept it secret all this time. Darryl positioned me to side of the seats and addressed my family, “Good day ladies, today we have something special. Ms Elisa James will be performing a song, which she picked, practiced and will play on her own.” Applause. “Ms James,” Darryl motioned me to move forward. This was embarrassing, I looked at Darryl with daggers, but he seemed to stifle a laugh. “Hi everyone, the song I picked shouldn’t be a surprise, as I have been practicing it the whole week. It is ‘Sunshine of my love’ by Cream.”
I got ready, making sure that my guitar was in tune, but as I was about to play I looked at my mom and all the music disappeared. I stood there frozen, stunned like a rabbit in headlights. In the distance I heard someone whisper, “Don’t worry you got this. Close your eyes and hum the song. Take a deep breath and when you ready, start.”
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, hummed, and took another deep breath and when I finally opened my eyes, like fog that had lifted, all the music was back. I looked at Darryl, he winked at me, and I smiled and then strummed the first note.
When I had played the last chord, I looked up to see tears streaming down my mom’s face. It had been too close to home. I hadn’t known if I could play the whole song without breaking down, but it had been worse for my mom.
I rushed over to her, kneeling in front of her, “I’m sorry mom. I didn’t know you would be part of today. If I did, I would have chosen something else.”She smiled down at me, “This isn’t tears of heartache sweetheart, it’s tears of joy. When you played it brought back good memories. The day of my wedding when your dad and I took our first steps on the dance floor to this song. Before that, the first time you dad asked me to dance, was to this song. So my dear, dear girl you can play it anytime you like, do you hear me.” With that she hugged me and I felt relief move through my body like a tidal wave. After drying her tears, she looked down at me, “I am very impressed. The first time you played that in front of an audience and it was perfect.” “She’s a natural ma’am and she did more than was expected.”
Darryl stood up and moved towards me without looking away, “Music is about telling a story, moving people in a certain way. Love, happy, sad, excited, etc. Elisa did all that today. She put her heart into playing, and that is what we felt.” Relief seemed to wash over a second time. I was being silly about losing Darryl. He would be a good friend as long as I was a good friend to him and right now I was being selfish and not being a good friend.
We ended up sitting in the kitchen as usual, this time it was my mom that was leading the conservation with stories about how she and my dad had met. It was stories that we had heard a million times, but today it felt new. We laughed, we were shocked, but mostly we were happy.
The next week I added more songs to the list that I wanted to learn. They were mostly songs that my dad had enjoyed. I wondered what his words would be if he saw me play. Deep down I knew, he would be proud. He would say how jealous he was that I knew how to play and he didn’t. He would give me a new song every week to learn, just so that he could hear me play it. And I would be happy to do it, because I would know that he would love to hear it and he would love it even more because I was playing it. I missed him, but that hole wasn’t that empty anymore. Up until now, I had not seen that my dad was still with me.
The following lesson that Darryl had prepared was a bit more intense, with different techniques of playing to bring out different styles of music and sounds. After the lesson, we sat down to something to drink and we spoke about our week. He and Anne had gone to some charity ball for an animal shelter. It was the first time he had worn a tux since his matric farewell, “ Thank goodness I hadn’t picked up much size since then or I would really have been stuck.” I laughed. “ I have news. Some show producer or something has been to a few of our small tribute shows and he also saw us at the music festival. There is this big tribute to 70′s rock happening in about a month’s time and tomorrow he is supposed to confirm with us if he wants us in the show.” “ Awesome.” “ Well it’s not for sure yet, but let’s keep our fingers crossed.” I looked at him, shaking my head, “ Of course he will confirm. He will be stupid if he doesn’t. Promise to let me know as soon as you do.” “ I promise,” he smiled.
The next day I got a message, “ We got into the show.” I screamed and my mom and Ida looked at me. I explained what Darryl had told me and they couldn’t wait to call him to congratulate him.
With the following lesson, everyone had come together to congratulate him. They had already had their first rehearsals and Darryl described what had happened and how different it was from what he was use to. The production was big and there were so many things to remember, because they were performing with other musicians, “But it’s fun,” he said with a grin from ear to ear.
“I have a surprise as well. I never did give Elly her prize for such a phenomenal performance at her audition,” he said, a devilish smile forming across his face. My eyes widened, “What is it?” “ Well it’s in my guitar case. Would you like to fetch it?” Without answering him I jumped up, moving quickly to the case. In it I found an envelope. Opening it as fast as possible I found four tickets. I ran back to the kitchen, hardly able to keep my excitement together, “ Darryl got us tickets to his show,” I said with a slight squeal. He started to blush again, “Well I couldn’t get Elly a ticket without getting the other three. Mrs. James you fed me snacks and Alice and Ida, you had to put up with your sister constant practicing,” he winked at me, “so it’s more of a thank you, to all of you.”
We continued to speak about the upcoming show, till Darryl got ready to leave. As always I walked him to the door. “ I have an extra surprise for you, I got permission for you to come backstage after the show. So if you want you can join us and meet some of the other musicians. I will speak to you mom about arrangements.” “Are you serious?” “Yes.” I jumped at him, hugging him furiously, “ Of course I want to,” I said against his chest.“ How could you even ask, ‘if I want to?’ that so silly,” hugging him again. Looking up into those almond shaped eyes, my arms still wrapped around his waist, “ Thank you. It was very sweet of you to do that.” He smiled, his eyes seemed to be changing colour, his arms were still wrapped around my waist and it felt as if it was melting into me, “It was my pleasure. Having you experience it with me is all the thanks that I need. Plus it would be nice to have a groupie there. ” With the last words, his grin turned mischievous. “Groupie?” I squealed. “Yes, I need a few points with the other musicians backstage,” his smile seem to widen as he spoke. “Groupie,” I said again. “Who’s your groupie?” I said slowly. His grip seemed to tighten as he spoke. “ You of course.” “Me!!” I yelled, “ what made you think I would ever be groupie material and then your groupie on top of that.”I moved away, pushing slightly, but his hands were locked at the back of my waist. “I’m only joking,” he said, with that same grin on his face. I crossed my arms and I looked the other way. His face became crestfallen and his arms dropped immediately and just as suddenly I wished I had not pretended to be so angry. “I’m really sorry,” he said, “ I really didn’t mean what I said, it was a stupid joke.” My heart sank. “ Hey, I’m sorry. I was kind of pretending to be angry.” “Really?” “Really.” It seemed a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, but I could still feel his arms around my waist and I had to change the subject quickly. Something like throwing a bucket of ice on me. “ So will I eventually be meeting Anne?” “ I’m not sure,” he said, his eyebrows knotting. “ She hasn’t confirmed if she will be going or not.” That was strange, the second time she would miss a show and this was bigger. “ Maybe she’s just worried that she would have to work at the shelter,” I said. “ Maybe,” he replied unsure. “Well I’m excited about meeting her.” He looked at me, slightly smiling, “ I can’t wait for you to meet her either.” He looked at me, but it felt as if he was searching for something, but couldn’t find it. He finally moved towards his case, “ I have to get going, more practice and rehearsals.” As he left, I couldn’t help but feeling like there had been opportunity missed and that he had searched for some answer from me which he hadn’t been able to find.
The days from the time that Darryl had given us the tickets and the concert dragged by. He still continued our lessons, but with time drawing closer to the show, he had to rehearse more often, while they still played their normal gigs.
The time spent together after the lessons, grew shorter and shorter. It grew more of an updating session on the rehearsals than a true visit and although I was excited about the upcoming show, I missed the snack time discussions. It was exciting hearing about how the show was developing and we found out that Darryl and his band had to wear costumes. I secretly promised myself to take a camera with. It was an opportunity I could not miss.
The school days dragged by and the lessons seemed never ending. During one lunch break I sat under the cool of a tree with two of my closest friends, Chloë and Jack. “Elly, Elly did you hear me?” “What?” “You daydreaming again?” “Sorry Chloë, I have a few things on my mind. What were you saying?” “Hmm, there has been a lot on your mind, a lot of the time. Maybe if you tell us, it may relieve you of the some of the clutter,” Jack replied. I smiled back at him, but said nothing. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust them, there were certain things I preferred to keep myself and they had known me long enough to understand. “It’s nothing, school stuff.” “Uh Huh, whatever you say,” he looked at me with one eyebrow raised.
Jack and I had been friends from grade one. We hadn’t started off that way. Actually the opposite. One day he had thrown me with a mud pie and I had responded by punching him in the stomach. Our parents had come together and decided that the best way to punish us, was to make us spend time together. When he saw my Thundercats Tygra figurine and I saw his remote control Batman car, how could we not be lifelong friends?
As we had grown up, we still had common interests and likes. We seemed to be like different branches of the same tree. Our music tastes were almost the same. Which was a variant between rock, hip hop, alternative and even pop. We maintained the same idea that our like or dislike of a song didn’t depend on the genre, but the lyrics and music. We were both still hooked on comic books and fantasy heroes. And as kids, most of our time was spent gaming or researching games, which had been hard for our folks, as they tried to get us off the couches.
Because of this we had been teased all through schools as the ‘old married couple’. I suppose, that on the outside people would assume that, since we were close. And maybe due to this ‘pressure’, we had tried dating when we had become aware of romantic relationships.
Our first kiss had been horrible. Not only because of the lack of experience, but as we both agreed, it felt like kissing a sibling. We never ventured down that road again. It was tried, it had failed and we were both sure that it would never happen again.
Although we shared a lot of interests, there were some where we separated completely. These were where Chloë and I clicked. I had met Chloë on my first day of high school. We had both been running around a corner, late for class, but from opposite directions and had ended up in the nurse’s office with bloody noses. There we had struck up a conversation about an article that had been in the paper. We had debated and discussed and by the end of the day we had become friends. Chloë and I shared, what Jack said, or rather teased, as ‘intellectual’ interests. Where Jack and I hung around sharing childish antics, Chloë and I discussed serious topics like politics, art and literature. But the one good thing was that it seemed that the three of us brought the best out of each other. Jack brought out the funny side, Chloë was the serious side and I was in the middle, the one that balanced it all. Or so I always liked to think. We were three sides of the same coin, top, bottom and side.
We spent most of our free time together, between the weekends that Jack had to play sports and Chloë did her dancing.
Jack refused to acknowledge that since he had started high school, his ‘inner jock’ had been threatening to take over his body. He looked the part too. During the last years’ year end break, over the course of two months, he had gone from being almost a head shorter than me to over a head and a half taller. He had also filled out quite a bit in those two months and in a good way. Because of the sports that he started doing when we started high school, he was well built to where you could see the shape and curve of almost every muscle. He had a dark complexion, with dark hair and dark eyes, which seemed to emphasize his build.
His eyes were large, the shape of petals with the corners on the outside. He wore his specs more often than he needed to, and I suspected that it was a way to hold onto his persona of ‘nerd’. It had amazed and amused me, at his expense, how he was receiving attention from the opposite sex. Specifically those that had not given him a second glance the previous year. But I was proud of him. It did not go to his head and he had ignored the advances of those that had rebuffed him previously.
Chloë had, what some said, the perfect dancers’ body. She was shorter than me and petite, but I called her ‘ the little TNT’. She had blonde hair, which she refused to cut any shorter than her lower back. It was one of her assets, she had said. With deep, dark green eyes, the shape of sauces placed perfectly apart on an oval face. I couldn’t see her doing anything else. She didn’t like sports, as it was too rough and she was scared that she would break something and ruin her future dance career.
“I was saying,” she sounded exasperated. She always did when she had to repeat something. “After the mid-year break is the school’s talent show and I was thinking of entering and I wanted you to enter with me.” “What?” “ You heard me this time,” she looked at me with her eyes narrowing. “Last year you said it was for kids, now you want to enter?” “I know, but I need practice and I need to enter to get into practice for bigger auditions.” “But why do you want me to enter?” “Your weekends have been taken up by guitar lessons and your music tutor,” she fluttered her eyelashes, “You should be a maestro by now. And I had an idea that the one set, that is a group set, we could do together.” “Chloë, I’m not the performing type and I have never played in front of a big audience.” “Please,” holding her hands together and turning her head, pleading like a five year old. I rolled my eyes. Before I said yes I knew that I was going to regret it, but she was my friend and what friend would I be if I didn’t support, even if that meant putting myself in an embarrassing situation.
“Okay fine, but you paying for my reconstructive surgery and protective custody,” I answered. “ Thank you,” she hugged me, big grin spread across her face. “ And what about me? It’s not like I can play a game on stage or do a ‘show and tell’ of my comic books” Looking at Chloë, I smiled, “You can play our cheerleader.” Grinning back at me, she added, “ You can bring a few friends to cheer us on, just in case.” “So much for faith,” I looked at her, shocked. She just laughed. By the end of the day I had signed up for the show and I began to wonder what Chloë had gotten me into.
At dinner, I told my mom and Ida about the talent show, “That’s great sweetheart, what do you have to do?”
“Well we have two sets. One is a solo act and the second is a group act. Chloë and I are going to work out something where I play and she dances.” “Great idea,” Ida added. We continued the talk the rest of the evening, with my mom and Ida giving me ideas for both sets.
The day of the concert had finally arrived. The seconds ticked by slowly and every time I looked at my smiley clock on my side table, its grin seemed to mock me, saying, ‘today time will stand still’. My stomach turned to knots and by the time we left it was twisted in ways that made me want to bend over and curl up into a ball.
We arrived at the concert hall, slightly early. It was a large hall, which had been built over two-hundred years prior. It has not been changed, just updated to allow for new technologies like electricity and lighting. But other than that, it was as it was, when it was first built. The outside was pale with images of plays carved into stone above the door. As one walked through its heavy wooden double doors you were greeted with a large open area. Across the door were steps with gilded gold railings that lead to the top floor and the private boxes. There was a lush red carpet that lead from the front door all the way up the stairs.
In the foyer there were murals of cherubs, muses and nymphs all over the walls and the crystal chandelier gave it a soft glow as it sparkled with the colours of the rainbow. One could imagine ladies and gentleman, dressed in their Victorian finery attending operas and plays, waiting in the foyer, having private conversations as they waited for it to begin.
We made our way to our seats and as we moved to the front of the auditorium, we noticed that there were already people seated close to us in the same row. I saw that the first was a gentleman of about forty-years of age, with salt and pepper hair, who had a tanned complexion. He had a distinctive nose and oval shaped eyes, which were bright blue. Next to him, was a lady of the same age, with strawberry blonde hair, more strawberry than blonde. She had almond eyes, that were hazel in colour and a round face with a milky complexion. Seated next to her was a girl of about eighteen years old, with blonde hair, cut in a pixie style. She was pretty, but looked like she had a permanent scowl. It seemed like it stopped her being anything but just pretty. Right next to her was a girl about the same age, but with raven black hair.
As soon as I recognized Emily, she looked up and saw us. She jumped up and moved past everyone to greet us at the gentleman with the salt and pepper hair. “ You came,” she said hugging me. “ How could I not come, miss your brother in a costume?”, pulling out my camera, “ and I’m making sure he never forgets.” We both laughed. As we moved on, she tried to make introductions. The gentleman was their father and the resemblance between the two was uncanny. The next was her mom. Darryl looked like his mom, although his nose was more distinctive like his dad’s, where Emily’s eyes were the shape of their moms. I wondered if genetics somehow, purposefully made offspring resemble parents of the opposite gender The next was the pixie looking girl. “ This is Anne.” I bent to take her hand to shake it. She looked up at me. Her eyes were a light blue, like ice and when she looked at me I felt a chill go down my spine. “Nice to meet you Anne, I’ve heard so much about you and I’m excited about finally meeting you.” Her mouth hardly opened, as she took the tips of my fingers, “Hello,” she said and quickly she released my hand.
We got seated and Emily and I continued to speak about our plans about how we would tease Darryl with the photos I would take of him. I watched Anne. She seemed lost and as quietly as possible I gestured to Emily to include her in our conversation. Anne made little or no comment, even when Mrs. McDougal joined in, after hearing our plans of mischievousness. Anne sat as if in another world. Darryl had said that she was a loner, maybe this was just way out of her comfort zone, I thought. The lights dimmed and the show began.
With each performance it felt as if you were being transported into the time and place where the music had been recorded. Every now and again, one would be forgiven for being shocked that they had not been transported back in time.
When Darryl’s band came on stage, we made enough noise to make them proud. They were dressed in leathers and jeans, tight and black. On their heads were moppy wigs, which covered most of their faces. Malcolm had a shirt that was ripped all over, while Stephen walked on stage bare chested with just a leather jacket pushed up at his elbows. Joshua and Darryl seemed to be the only ones that had shirts that did not show some skin.
Again I was amazed at their skill. Would I ever be able to play like him? “Practice and push yourself” was what he always told me when I began to doubt my abilities. One more band played and then lights came on for the intermission.
We made our way out of the hall to get some refreshments. Screaming like that really dried ones throat. How did all those girls from those nineteen-fifties live music shows survive without bottled water close to them. No wonder most of them fainted.
While waiting for my drinks order, I felt a slight tap on my shoulder. Turning around I was greeted with Darryl’s face. I wanted to jump up and give him a hug and tell him how awesome their performance had been, but I contained myself. With a grin, I let him know how well they had done, “ I got some pictures to remember this night as well,” I said with an even bigger smile, he had a resigned look on his face, “ I saw the flashes, I figured you would bring one and not let me forget the costume. Where is the rest of the gang?” I pointed to where our families stood and we made our way through the crowd. His parents both gave him a hug and Emily slapped him on the back, “Seems the old man still has some juice in those old bones,” she laughed. “ Seems so,” he replied, “ well it seems everyone has been introduced,” he a said looking around at us. “I’m not like you, that waits for some to ask to be introduced,” Emily said looking at him with one eyebrow raised.
Anne had moved so quietly that I hadn’t noticed that she was standing right next to me. Darryl seemed to be unaware of her as well, till she put her arm through his. “Anne,” regaining his composure quickly, “ how did you like the show?” “It was nice,” she said looking up at him smiling. “My sister did introduce you to Elly and her family?” “ Yes, she did,” she gave me a side glance and then turned her attention back to Darryl. Her arms seemed to curl even tighter around his. “Well it took you long enough, Darryl,” his mom jumped in, “it was nice to eventually put the names to the faces.” “ And such pretty faces,” his dad added. “ We were starting to wonder if the ladies that were keeping Darryl so busy were a figment of his imagination. They were too good to be true,” he said with a grin on his face. I felt my cheeks warm up and in the corner of my eye I saw Anne’s head swivel towards me, the scowl on her face was deeper than before. “ Oh honey, stop embarrassing them,” she scolded him, all the while smiling at us. “Don’t mind my dad, between lame jokes and lamer complements, you eventually learn to ignore him,” Emily interrupted winking. I wasn’t sure if it was meant for us or her father.
The bell rang to signal the end of the intermission. We quickly waved Darryl away as he had to get ready for the second half, and then we made our way back to our seats. We changed the seating arrangements as our parents wanted to sit close together. So my mom sat with Emily’s parents, next to her sat Ida and then Emily. I sat next to Emily with Alice on my right and Anne at the end. We had offered her a seat between us, but she had refused and preferred sitting at the end. During the second half I noticed frustration building on Alice’s face as she tried to engage Anne in conversation, but it seemed that Anne was not interested.
Before I knew it, the show was done and we made our way to the foyer. As we spoke, I ended up standing next to Anne. It was the perfect opportunity to speak to her. “So Darryl says you want to be a vet, what made you decide on that?” “ Yes I do. I prefer them to human beings, they so much quieter and far more loyal.” “ It was too bad you couldn’t make it to the festival, it was the first time I saw the band play and I was blown away.” “I had more important things to see to, but from what I hear you didn’t really miss my absence. So I am sure you got along very well without me.” That icy chill went down my spine again, this was going to be harder than I thought. “Well it would have been nicer if you had been there,” I said trying to salvage the conversation. “I’m sure,” is all that she said. This was not going well. “ So do you play an instrument?” “No,” “ Why not?” I asked a bit astonished. I would have thought that she would have the same enjoyment in music as Darryl. “ Playing an instrument doesn’t really interest me.” “Oh ok, well I suppose different people find passion in different things.” There was silence, and I didn’t know how to break it, till she spoke. “I’m sorry, Darryl didn’t tell me much about you. We hardly ever speak about the people he tutors, since some of them can be a little bit childish and immature,” with the last comment she looked straight at me and I had no doubt which way the comment had been directed. I didn’t know how to respond and I was confused. I didn’t know what I had done to garner such a response from her. We stood there in silence as the conversation around us moved on.
Just then Darryl appeared, greeting everyone he came straight at us. “Are you ready?” he said looking a bit out of breath. “Yes,” I replied. Ida and Alice looked confused, with a bit of a smirk I explained that Darryl had been able to get permission that I meet the other band members, “And mom agreed, as long as he brought me home before curfew and he looked after me.” Saying good-bye to all, he took my hand, “Come along, before we miss the start.” As we were about to go, Anne appeared out of nowhere. “Did you forget about me?” a smile as sweet as toffee apples appeared across her face. Surprise and confusion spread over Darryl’s face. He spoke quietly, “But you said you didn’t want to come backstage when I asked you.” “Can’t a girl change her mind?”, she looked up at him, her eyelashes fluttering. It felt like a bucket of cold water had been thrown over my excitement. “I suppose so,” confusion still radiating from his face, “okay let’s go then.”
Anne held on to Darryl’s arm as if she was being blown by gale force winds as he lead us through the foyer. There were still quite a lot of people left behind and as we got to a tight knot of people Darryl took my hand so that we would not be separated. Anne moved ahead of us, moving fast through the other patrons, until it was nearly impossible for me to keep up with them. I lost my grip on Darryl’s hand, getting stuck for a moment. When I had wriggled my way through, I saw them disappearing around a corner and I moved as fast as I could to catch up to them.
As I neared the corner, I heard voices in the distance. I followed and recognized Darryl’s immediately. I moved faster, but as soon as I could make out what was being said, curiosity overtook me and I slowed down. “Anne, slow down, Elly lost us in that group of people. I promised her mom I would look after her, I can’t leave her behind.” “She’s a big girl, I’m sure she can make her way backstage and this isn’t the Royal Albert Hall.” Man, I thought my sister’s’ words could bite. “Besides, why all the excitement about introducing her to the other members of the show. You didn’t do this for the other people you tutor. What’s so special about her?” “Elisa isn’t just a someone I tutor. She and her family have become close friends.” “ A friend, huh?,” from the tone I could hear that it was unconvinced. “You sure that’s all?” “Yes, I am sure. Where is this all coming from anyway?” “You seem very interested in her.” “We share something in common. The love of music. Until the beginning of the week, you said you would not be coming to the show, even when I had told you that I had made arrangements to meet the rest of the show’s cast.”
I smiled a bit, he thought of me as a close friend, but I couldn’t understand Anne’s reaction. She was jealous, but of what? And why was she being so nasty to Darryl? It seemed that she did not take an interest in his music at all. “In any case, I’m going back to look for Elisa. You can stay here or come with me.”
That was my queue to move, in case they realized that I had been listening to their conversation. I moved a few steps back and started calling out. Darryl came around the corner. He was irritated. It was the first time I had even seen him like that, “There you are, I thought we had lost you.” “Sorry about that, there were just too many people to get past. I saw you turn the corner and figured the backstage was this way,” I smiled slightly. Anne came around Darryl and clung to his arm as before, she looked at me, with concentrated anger. “See I told you she could look after herself,” she said still glaring at me. He looked down at her with a flash of anger, but said nothing. Instead he turned back to me, “Come, let’s go before we miss the fun,” he smiled.
As we made our way deeper into the back of the theatre that looked like it could be the beginning of the basement, I kept my distance from both Darryl and Anne. For whatever reason, she was jealous, and I did not want to add to her reason or to Darryl’s irritation. As we made our way around another corner I could hear the muffled sounds of many people speaking and music playing. We came up to an old wooden door and when Darryl opened it, there was a cacophony of sound and light.
When we entered Darryl was greeted with handshakes and pats on the back. His calmness returned and the smile that he gave was sincere. As he moved myself and Anne along the throng of people, I lost track of all the names. I felt like I was in the middle of a whirlwind of laughter and introductions. We made our way to his band, and by the time we reached them I felt a bit relieved that I knew someone.
“Darryl’s groupie,” Malcolm exclaimed, as he hit me on the back. I rolled my eyes. “Where?” I said looking around me confused. He laughed, “So how did you enjoy show?” “Awesome, you always outdo yourself every time I see you perform. “Really?” his eyes narrowing. “You sure you not a groupie?” I crossed my arms, “If you call me that one more time I’ll advertise you as the-has-beens-before-their-prime.” Malcolm lifted his arms in defeat, “Promise not to call you that ever again.”
It was Malcolm’s turn to introduce me to more people, this time we took our time to stand and speak. Sometimes I would catch glimpses of Anne as they made their way through room. She hung onto Darryl as if he was her handbag she was scared would get lost. Stephen joined us as we made our own way through the different groups of people. “Hey Elisa, how you doing?” “Good,” I replied, “great show.” “Thanks,” looking past me, “where’s your sisters tonight?” I had to smile.
As beautiful as Alice and Ida were, they were not attracted to physical appearance only, intelligence and humbleness was a big part of it. If Stephen liked either of them, he had to prove that he wasn’t just a pretty face. “Sorry Stephen, I had the VIP ticket tonight. Maybe next time they can all come along.” He smile split his face, “That is definitely a plan.” As we moved along I kept catching Anne in the corner of my eye, she had started glancing in our direction now. Why the constant vigilance? She had Darryl all to herself.
A little later Darryl found me sitting down with a few musicians. “It’s time to leave Ms Muso.” I looked up, not believing the time had gone by so quickly. “Ah, can’t we stay for a little bit longer,” I tried to bat my eyelids. “Your mom will skin me alive, and do you know how hard it is trying to keep an eye on you, even with a few extra set of eyes helping me? I’m more bushed now than after we practiced and played.” He had been keeping an eye on me? But we had hardly been in the same company the whole evening. “I didn’t want to ‘cramp your style’, so I had a few helpers,” he smiled looking at his fellow band members. They smiled back at me and winked. They had taken turns to babysit me, “Thanks,” I said hugging them in turn, “I won’t ever forget tonight.”
Darryl and I gathered up my things and I said goodbye to a few musicians before we returned to the band so I could say my farewell. “Thanks again for tonight,” I said hugging them. Anne came up behind Darryl, “Darryl….I’d like to stay a bit longer. I’m sure Stephen will be able to take me home, it’s on his way. If that’s okay with him?” Darryl and Stephen looked at each other confused, “Sure if you want. Stephen are you okay with that?” Stephen looked unsure, “Well I’m okay with that. I’m not going to stay long though, about an hour or so, I’m bushed” “That’s okay,” Anne jumped in. For the first time the whole evening, I saw a real smile flicker on Anne’s lips. “Thanks Steve, see you tomorrow,” and we left.
A feeling crept up the back of my spine. It was strange that Anne had wanted to stay behind. She hadn’t wanted to come to the gathering backstage initially and the whole evening she had been stuck to Darryl like glue. She was obviously jealous of our friendship, but maybe it was because she didn’t know me. But why, after all of that, had she opted to stay behind with Stephen, instead of come home when Darryl and I left?
Darryl was unusually quiet as we left. There was definitely something bothering him. I wanted to ask him without overstepping the boundaries, but I couldn’t think of a way to do it. When the silence became over bearing I plucked up the courage to ask him straight out. “Hey D’, what’s wrong, you very quiet.” “Nothing, just been a long day, I guess.” “ So you really enjoyed tonight,” he asked, the usual change of subject strategy. He really didn’t want to speak about what was bothering him. I played along and we ended up speaking about the show. His spirits seemed to lift the more we spoke. “ Hey Elly, I have been meaning to tell you something for awhile, but with the show, I just didn’t find the right time. I suppose now is as good as any.” He was serious, but not upset. “What is it?” “Well it’s a kind of secret,” he smiled. “The band has been speaking and after the reception at the festival, we have been thinking about trying to actually make this a full time thing.” “Full time thing?” “ Yes. We going to save a bit of money and record some of our best music, and then next year do a type of tour to all the festivals. Get our music out there and see where it leads us.” “Wow,” I didn’t know what else to say. “That’s a really big step.” My excitement was starting to boil up. “I’m so happy for you,” starting to bounce in my seat. “It’s going to be awesome.” “ You really think so?”, he asked. “Of course. Playing is what you love. The band makes great music. I don’t think why it won’t work.” He had that toothy grin on his face, “But you are a bit bias though.” I looked astonished, “Me bias? Never, I can’t help that you make great music and you just so happen to be my friend.” He laughed and the rest of the drive back home was spent making arrangements as far as a world tour.
Always a gentleman, Darryl walked me to the door. Before I could put the key in to unlock, he turned me around. “Elly…., thank you.” I looked at him a bit confused, “For what?” “ For being such a good friend and one of the few people apart from my family that believe in me and my love of playing.” My mind suddenly jumped to Anne. Did she have the same belief in his playing? “That’s what friends are for,” I smiled back at him. “It’s strange. The first time we met, stumbling over that very same door frame, you face a red as an apple, I never thought that you would be such a big part of my life.” He seemed to be moving closer. “And you are a big part of mine to. Darryl you brought something into my home, that I thought had disappeared and it was good.” He moved closer and his hand taking mine. Feeling the fingertips, he had a slight smile, “You have almost as many calluses as I do.” “And one day I will have as many as you do.” He smiled brighter at that. “It would be nice if things between us can be like this forever,” he replied. I wondered why would he think it would change. I looked up at him, while he kept looking at my fingers, touching the edges. “Darryl, things always change, but that change doesn’t always have to be bad. Sometimes they can be good. Next year your life may change, but it will be for the good. You will be doing something you love.” He looked up from my fingers, I saw the same flecks of green and gold in his eyes that I saw the first day we met. He seemed to search for something again. With a wry smile, he softly echoed, “Good change. I’ll keep that in mind.”
Letting go of my hand, “I think it’s time we go in before your mother calls the police.” I unlocked the door and found my mom and sisters gathered at the kitchen table. Darryl greeted them, but bade them a quick farewell, apologizing that he was tired from the evening to stay longer. I walked him to the door, “Thanks again for this evening,” I told him as he was leaving. He smiled, “It was a pleasure,” He leaned in and whispered into my ear, “ You have been the best change.”
Lightly kissing me on the cheek, he lingered there for a moment. I could smell his cologne. It was a fresh sweet smell, like freshly cut grass after a spring ran. The heat of his cheek warmed mine and as he breathed, it moved past my ear and sent goosebumps down my neck. Softly he said good night and as he moved away, I watched him from the corner of my eye. His eyes had been closed and when he faced me again, he slowly opened it and looked straight into my eyes with an intensity I had never seen before. Not breaking any eye contact, he took a deep breath and told me, “Sweat dreams.” For a moment longer he stayed, then turned and walked away.
I watched as he left, my heart racing a mile. I couldn’t close the door because I knew that if I did, whatever had just happened would be over. I watched as he got into his car and drove off, my mind was reeling, everything zipped through my head. Anne, he was going around the country next year. I was a big part of his life. He wanted things to be as they were forever. What made him think that it would change? His good bye. His eyes closed. Why had they been closed? Why had he lingered there afterwards?
“Elly?” I jumped out of my skin as my mom called my name. “Elisa, why are you standing at the door like that?” “What?” “Please close the door.” “Sorry mom.” “What are you so deep in thought about?” “Nothing major. I’ll lock up and join you now.” “Ok sweetheart,” my mom looked at me concerned, she stayed for a moment, then made her way to the kitchen.
All I wanted to do is go to my room and lay on my bed. But if I didn’t give my family some sort of report of the evening, there would be a lot of more questions about details that I did not want to answer. I followed my mom into the kitchen where she was waiting with my sisters. I told them about meeting the other musicians, about how Darryl had gotten Blue Lava to babysit me without me knowing. I kept what had transpired with Anne to myself, those would bring more questions than I could not answer.
“So what did you think of Anne?”, Alice finally asked. I looked at her mortified. The one subject I had tried to avoid speaking about and she had to find it. “She’s okay. I didn’t speak to her much. Darryl and the rest of the band played tag team babysitting me and she was with Darryl the whole evening.” “There’s something about her that’s off,” Alice continued. “She’s probably just very shy. You heard she prefers animals to humans and Darryl did say she is a bit of a loner.” “Well whatever it is, it’s off. She doesn’t seem Darryl’s type. I tried speaking to her about the music during the show and she seemed uninterested. More like it was a bother that she had to be there.” “Alice, come on, you hardly know her and I don’t think any of us can say what is Darryl’s type.” “Well his type would be someone that actually looks like she wants to be at a show where her boyfriend is playing.” I couldn’t take it anymore, I needed my bed. “I’m not going to argue. I am tired and I need my bed.” I kissed my mom and made my way to my room.
This evening had been overwhelming. Too many things had happened that I didn’t understand. Anne’s clear dislike of me and possessiveness over Darryl which may come from her jealousy of our friendship, but why had she stayed behind if she had not wanted to be there in the first place? The way that Darryl had acted when we got home. He had never been so intimate before. In the same breath it had felt like whatever it was, was over before it began. If I thought about it anymore I would get a headache. I got ready for bed and fell asleep in no time.
In the middle of the night I woke up with a start, out of breath. Looking out into the dark, the images of my dreams passed and faded away. Anne coming at me like a raging bull. Anne stalking like a fox, while Stephen and I hideaway like chickens. Darryl holding me around my waist, like the day he had given me the tickets. My arms around his neck, cheek to cheek like we had been dancing. I could still smell that fresh sweet smell. The spot where he had planted the soft kiss felt warm. Why did my lips feel warm? My whole body felt warm.
As soon as I was sufficiently awake, I got up and went to the bathroom. I splashed cold water on my face, what was wrong with me? I looked at my reflection in the mirror. My eyes were bloodshot as if I had been crying. I remembered the last image. My hand outstretched as I saw Darryl fading into the dark. I washed my face again. Looking back at myself, “Stop this, this instant. You being silly, stupid and childish!!!!” He wasn’t going to another planet. You could still be in contact with him when he went to festivals. Technology had advanced from the dark ages. There was mail, text, video chat and voice calling. “Whatever your subconscious terrors and fantasies your mind has concocted, “GET OVER IT!!!”, I screamed inwardly at myself. Your first meeting with Anne may have been a disaster, but she was with Darryl and he is your friend and tomorrow you are going to try and make this right her!” I went back to bed, but this time it was hard trying to fall asleep again. The feeling of the dream still staying with me. I thought about the following day. It would one of the last few lessons. What would happen after that? Would he still want to come over as regularly as before? I couldn’t think about it, I needed to sleep.
The next morning I woke up feeling as if I had never slept the night before. The breakfast I had was sombre. My mom and Ida were chatting away, I tried to join but I wasn’t in the mood. They kept glancing at me, warily. Ida left for hockey practice, while I sat across from my mom, stirring my porridge, endlessly. My mom’s voice broke the silence. “Elisa what is wrong and don’t tell me nothing.” How do I tell her? What do I tell her and where did I start? “ I know it was easier for to speak to you dad,” she said, her eyes downcast, “ but I’m still here and always remember that you can speak to me about anything.” I smiled back at her, “I know mom, and I just don’t know where to start.” She gave me a slight smile, reassuringly she told me, “It’s always best to start at the beginning.”
I laughed at that in my head. Where was the beginning? Maybe it was easier to work my way back and start at the end.
So I started with the previous evening. What I had encountered with Anne.. Embarrassed, I confessed that I had eavesdropped on her conversation with Darryl when I had been separated from them. The rest of the evening and the surprising decision that instead of staying with Darryl to drop me off, she had stayed behind.
I skipped about the decision the band was making to travel the following year that was Darryl’s secret to tell. How he had acted when dropping me off and how I felt. I skipped over the dream, which was more than I was willing to reveal to even my mom. “Mom, I know things don’t stay the same forever and even though I told him to take change as good, it feels like a bad one is coming.”
My mom looked at me for awhile. It must have been a solid five minutes before she spoke up. “ Do you really want to hear my opinion?” “Yes mom.”
“Elly, I agree that Darryl was a catalyst to jump starts us from the morbid mood that we were in, but do you really think that we cannot continue if he isn’t around? Do you have so little faith in our relationship as a family?” I hadn’t thought of that. We had always been close, even if we were all different. I knew with or without Darryl we would eventually have gotten back to the way we use to be. He had just made it happen faster, which I think we had needed. “My dear, people move in and out of our lives. We never know if they will stay or not when we first meet them. I can’t say if Darryl will be one of those that stay, but what he leaves behind is most important.” The thought of not having him in our lives was unthinkable at the moment. “ Honey, I know it’s hard to think of someone not being there in the future, but if your paths go in different directions, sometimes you just have to let go. Forcing them to stay would be like caging a wild bird.” As she spoke, I felt as if I wanted to break. Even though I knew what she said was the truth, it was hard to hear. “Enjoy your friendship while it lasts, it’s a good one.”
And then her face became more serious, “When it comes to Anne,” she signed deeply, “Darryl is your friend and no matter what you think of Anne you have to respect their relationship. Some people, when they feel jealous or threatened, act out. One of those ways is possessiveness, it’s not a healthy way of expressing insecurity, but it happens. Their relationship is new and, yes she may feel threatened by you, because she doesn’t know you and she don’t understand your friendship with Darryl. She may fear that there is more to it than that. Does she have anything to fear Elisa?” I looked up at my mom, her eyes penetrating. Fear? What did Anne have to fear from me? “Mom, what do you mean?” “Do you feel more than friendship for Darryl?” I almost choked at hearing the words. Feel more than friendship? Darryl. The thought had not crossed my mind and I told my mom as much. She smiled and nodded. She had a look that she knew something I didn’t and I wished I knew what it was.
“Are you ready to hear my suggestion?” I nodded a yes.
“Until the things calm down, right now, don’t put yourself in a position where she may have something to fear. Be his friends, but at the same time respect their relationship and space. As his friend you don’t want to be the cause of any problems in their relationship. And even if she may not be too nice to you right now, try and makes things right with her.” I looked at my mom. Did she even realize how difficult it was just trying to speak to Anne?
“And now that the lessons are coming to an end, it doesn’t mean you have to stop with music. Find something else that you can do with what you have learnt. What about the talent show? That is coming up. You will have to start practicing for that.”I had forgotten it, and Chloë and I still had to decide on our routine. I got up and crossed the table. Hugging her, “Thanks mom, I needed that,” She hugged me back, “That’s what mom’s are for.”
Darryl arrived promptly at 11 am as usual. We went over a few techniques; he gave me a few songs to practice over the week. They were complicated chords and riffs. More complicated than I had ever seen before. Too soon the hour was done and for a moment I was unsure if he would stay, like he did before. We sat in silence while we packed our equipment away and when we were finally done I looked up. “Coffee or tea?” Relief showed on his face.
We made our way to the kitchen, but it felt like a funeral procession. Maybe it was that. We both knew that days like these were nearing to an end. What then? I set out the drinks and snacks, and for the first few moments we sat facing each other in silence. Suddenly the thought occurred to me, how similar this was to the first day we met. At the thought, I giggled.
“What’s so funny?”, he asked with an amused look on his face. “Nothing, really, I was just thinking about the first day we met. How we sat in silence, like just now.” “Well you certainly not that clumsy, red cheeked girl anymore. I thought you were this quiet, shy person. Oh, I was so wrong,” the last few words he exaggerated. “Oh really. Clumsy, red cheeked? I am quiet.” “Yeah right,” he laughed. “You only quiet when you don’t want people to know what you really thinking, then it’s like deciphering a million page book of hieroglyphics, in the dark, with no hints.”
“ Me? What about you? When you start talking you just can’t stop.” His eyes widened at that. “Are you complaining?” “ No..., never, just like you not complaining at me only being quiet. Well you have graduated from nerd to not-so-nerdy as well.” “Nerdy?” “Yip, Ida said you had this nerdy thing going for you with a ‘light of spontaneity’ at your centre.” His mouth formed into a smirk and his eyes narrowed, “Really now? And what did you think?” “That you would be good tutor.” “Is that all?”, he leaned in closer, his eyes probing my face.” “ Well you had a calmness and patience about you.” He cocked his head, “And?”
I felt my face flush. “And...Well. Your jokes are lame, but funny,” he chuckled, but instantly he turned serious. Another moment of silence.
“Today is one of our last lessons,” I said interrupting the silence. “I know,” he sounded dejected. “What are you going to do now with all your free time?” He shrugged, “Not sure. Get some students to tutor. Practice some more, I suppose.” He looked sad. Did he think he wouldn’t be able to come over now and that the lessons were the only excuse to visit? His eyes downcast, I covered his hand that was resting on the table to pull him out of the reverie. “Hey, you know you don’t need an excuse to come over if you want to visit, right?” He covered my hand with his other hand, his fingers tailing the shape of my knuckles. “Really?” I was a bit surprised. “What did you think? We are friends, you a part of our family. With what you and the band are planning for next year, do you think my family would forgive me if they found out I had known and you didn’t update them?” The smile that formed on his face seem to radiate all around him, “And instead of me coming to visit you all the time, you can come over to my house. I haven’t been able to show you my guitar collection and the setup I have.” “I would love to see that,” my face mirrored his expression. “Emily has been bugging me to invite all of you over,” he looked at me worriedly. “I’m sorry, it’s been crazy lately.” I smiled, “Don’t worry about it. I understand.” My hand was warm and it seemed to be moving up my arm. As gently as I could I pulled my hand from his and put both on my lap. Now for the next subject, this was going to be difficult.
“Darryl, I need to speak to you about Anne.” He looked up surprised, confusion spread across his face, then resignation.
Better start this quickly and get it over with. “It seems the two of us got off on the wrong foot and I want to smooth things over with her.” “There’s nothing you need to smooth over,” his voice had a sharp edge. “Yes there is. She doesn’t know me. She needs to know that there isn’t anything to fear from me.” “What would she have to fear from you?” How do I explain it without looking silly? “Well, maybe, she feels a bit threatened by our friendship?” “Why would she feel threatened?” It felt like I was digging a hole for myself. How do I get out of this one?
“It’s a girl thing and we can be just as territorial as men. I just need to reassure her, okay.” “Well if you feel that you need to do it, okay, here is her number.” He seemed to say good luck without saying the words. “Thanks.” And as quickly as I brought up the subject, he changed it and we spoke about his rehearsals.
After Darryl left I decided to call Anne. A sweet voice sounded in my ear, “Hello?” “Hey Anne, it’s Elisa.” Just as suddenly the voice changed, “Oh, hi Elisa.” “How you doing?” “ I’m good, how did you get my number?” “ I asked Darryl,” “ Oh okay, why you trying to contact me?” “Anne, it seems we got off on the wrong foot last night.” “Oh did we?”, pure sarcasm emanated through the speaker on my phone, I needed to breathe deeply. “Well I was calling if we could go for coffee or a milkshake or something?” “Why?” I had to clench my teeth and breathe. “Because I would like to get to you know you.” “Why?” “Because you are with Darryl and his my friend and I would like us to get to know each other.” “It’s not like we going to end up being B.F.F.’s” I had to keep myself from boxing the wall. “I didn’t expect that.” “Well I’ll let you know, I’m busy now, good bye.” “Good.” Click.
That had been tiring, but the ball was in her court and I just needed to wait and see what happened.
The week went by quickly, too quickly and before I knew it my last lesson had arrived. After the lesson was done and we had packed up, Darryl stood across from me with his hands on his hips, “Well Ms Elisa, you have officially graduated from the McDougal’s Musical School.” I laughed, that has a nice ring to it.” “Maybe one day,” he smiled. “What do you want to do now?” “Well I was thinking about doing things differently today.” That devilish grin was back. “In honour of you being an exceptional student, I thought we could go out to celebrate. What do you think?” “ I think that is a wonderful idea.” “Where would you like to go?” “Somewhere that makes the best milkshakes and banana splits.” He laughed, “How old are you again?” “I can be a hundred and I can still love them,” I said pouting. “True,” he nodded with a thoughtful look, “where is your mom and sisters?”
I gathered everyone, and Darryl made the announcement. My mom decided to stay behind. “Well Mrs. James, that just means you owe me a date,” Darryl smiled. My mom’s giggled, and made a noncommittal sound, but I could have sworn she blushed. We packed into Darryl’s car and were off. “Why did you let Elisa choose? She has the eating habits of a toddler,” Alice said mockingly. “My day, my choice. If I said peas and mash, you would have to be happy with it,” I replied sticking my tongue out at her. “Well I can’t argue there. Her day, her choice,” he winked back at me. We went to ‘The Diner’. The place was busy, but we got good seats at a window.
The afternoon was spent enjoying our order of different variations of my favourite drink and dessert, while we chatted and laughed. We teased Darryl about being the only male among a group of ‘very lovely’ females. He didn’t let us get away with it either, “I’ve been getting a lot of jealous looks, having my own personal harem can be very intimidating.” “Harem! you wish. They probably feel sorry for you. Having to babysit your sisters.” “If that’s what you want to believe, that’s fine with me,” he grinned.
The sunlight came streaming in from the window and it seemed to warm all of us. There was a glow that radiated from our table as we laughed. Alice, with her gracefulness, her laughter filled our ears to the brim and her face. Ida with her reserved demeanour almost ended up the floor a few times, not being able to control her laughter. Darryl’s hair seemed to be on fire as he gestured this way and that way, sporting a toothy grin as he spoke.
There are days in your life that you can pinpoint as the saddest or happiest time you can remember. That day was a day that was filled with pure joy and happiness. Sitting there, I knew it would end, but being a part of it, the memory and feeling of that time would stay with me forever.