Quarter Note - Book One

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Chapter 3: Autumn

The following day felt like an anticlimax. The only thing that Chloë could speak about was the upcoming talent show. “Okay guys, enough now. I need some attention as well.” We both looked at Jack, opposite eyebrows arched.

“This weekend is one of the biggest games of the season, are you coming?” I playfully slapped his back, “You have asked us every day for the last week and what has our answer been?” I looked at him, both eyebrows raised. “You said yes.” “So since this morning, till now we haven’t changed our minds. We coming.” “ I have one little favour to ask as though. Can you guys just so happen to be at the same place we eating? The coaches know each other and they want to catch up after the game. So they are taking both teams out together. There is just so much ‘game talk’ I can take.” This time he looked exasperated. Chloë and I laughed, “ For one of the best players on the team, you really trying hard not to be a sports man.” “Pwetty please.” “Sure why not,” we agreed.

The day of the game arrived and, unfortunately, we lost by one point. This would make ‘game talk’ a bit harder for Jack, as it would probably be more intensified.

The teams had decided on The Diner, which was great. After the game was done, Chloë and I made our way straight to it, since we figured that a few more players had ‘accidentally-on-purpose’, let out where they were going to eat to a few of their friends.

Not that it was suppose to be a secret, but the coach always preferred that there wasn’t an entourage, which almost always consisted of more girls than boys.

We had gotten seats close to the window and I was facing the door, so that I could see when Jack arrived. We had just ordered our milkshakes when I spotted a red head and blonde walk into the restaurant.

The red hair was unmistakable. Molten rock combined with blood wasn’t as common as you would think and I knew the way the person who owned that hair walked. I freaked.

“Chloë I need to change seats with you and quick,” I hoped that I had not been spotted as quickly as I had spotted them. I was making my way under the table while I explained to her, “Make sure no one sees you, and come around while I go underneath.” I saw the hesitation in her while I was moving under table, then I saw her sit where I had sat. I was trying to make my way up, when I heard a familiar voice. “ What you doing playing under the table Elly?”

Ouch! I got such a shock and bumped my head on the bottom of the table. Cheeks on flame, I struggled to make my way from under the table, which seemed more difficult than getting under. As my head peaked out, I was greeted with two very amused faces.

What the heck was I going to say? This was embarrassing. “Hey there..Darryl and Anne. How you guys doing?” I could feel my face burning up and any idea that I could have had to explain me being under the table seemed to vanish.

“We good. So what was so interesting under the table?” He wasn’t going to let it go. “I rubbed my ear in frustration. What now? Then it hit me, “I lost my earring and it’s one of my favourites.” “Really,” he didn’t sound convinced, “it’s a good thing you found it and put it right back on your ear.” “ Yeah,” I replied silently. I felt a kick underneath the table. I was shocked that I had not shouted out in pain, but I felt frozen. I looked across the table to see Chloë staring at me. I looked at her confused. What had that been for? Her eyes motioned to the two guests. “Darryl, Anne this is my friend Chloë. Chloë this is Darryl and Anne. Darryl is my tutor”

“Nice to meet you Chloë, Elly has told me quite a bit about you. What are you guys doing this side of the world. Milkshakes and banana splits?” At that moment the two teams came bursting through the doors and I saw my saviour, Jack, with them. “Well a friend played a game today and he asked us to meet him here afterwards and you?” “What friend,” Darryl asked, his eyebrows slightly raised, making it seems as if the skin was being pulled back slightly. “Jack”, his face relaxed.

Anne glanced at me and then at the team as they seated. She had a questioning look on her face. “And you,” I repeated. “Well I had a desire for milkshakes and a banana split, and you were right, this is the best place in town,” the side of his mouth twitched, “I’m hooked now.” Anne’s face turned to a slight frown as she heard the words.

I saw Jack moving towards us and quickly moved past Darryl to greet him. Hugging him I whispered help into his ear. Putting his arm around my shoulder we moved back to the table, “Jack this is Darryl and Anne, guys this is Jack.” He shook Darryl’s hand and greeted Anne, “Nice to meet you. So this is the tutor that’s made ‘My Elly’ into a maestro,” he looked at me with a smile on his face.

Sitting down next to me, Jack held onto me as I leaned into his chest. “I suppose so, but she had it in her,” Darryl replied, confusion on his face, glancing between me and Jack. Anne looked surprised. This had to work. Maybe she would stop feeling threatened if she saw me and Jack. “ I just came to say hi. I need to eat with the team, but I’ll be back afterwards, is that okay?” he said it sweetly, lifting up my chin. In the corner of my eye I saw Chloë’s eyebrow arch. I knew I had a lot of explaining to do. “That’s fine,” I looked up at him, smiling, and “don’t be too long.” Kissing me on the cheek, he whispered in my ear, “You owe me,” then loudly as he left he called back with an evil grin, “later babes.“ Chloë’s eyes were as big as two moons. I tried to contain my own surprise and smiled back at Jack. I felt the heat of three pairs of eyes boring into me. I was not shocked to see all three looking between Jack and myself in confusion.

There was silence for a moment and my mind raced for a solution on how to make sure that Darryl and Anne would not join us. Darryl eventually spoke up, “So we still on for tomorrow?” I looked up a bit bewildered. “Don’t tell me that you have forgotten so soon. Our last lesson was last week,” he teased. I laughed nervously. “Yes it’s on,” I replied. Then I had an idea. “ Anne you will be coming too, right?” She looked at me as if she had just woken up. Surprised she tried to answer, “Uhm, well, I’m not sure. It’s been really busy at the shelters.” “Well we would like to have you, if you have time, please come.” I smiled as sincerely as I could. “Okay,” she hesitated, “I’ll see.” “Well let’s not keep you from your milkshakes,” she said, “maybe see your guys tomorrow?” It was clear that she wanted to leave and I was glad that she had made the move.

They moved to their seats and I had a sigh of relief.

“Spill. Now!!” “Wha..?” “What was that all about? Wasn’t that you your ‘tutor-friend’?” “Yes?” “And why did you and Jack act as if you were together?” This was going to be tedious. “Do you want the short or detailed version?” “Short, my patience is low.” And so I began. “Yes that was Darryl, the guy that tutored me. We have become good friends and that’s his girlfriend. Who seems to be threatened by our friendship. And I asked Jack for help. You know what we do when we want to get someone that’s interested and won’t take no for an answer off our backs. I thought that if she saw me with someone a bit cosy she wouldn’t feel so threatened and move one.” Chloë looked at me, not quite believing, “Oh okay. Then why did you jump under the table if you and Darryl are such good friends and she has nothing to worry about.” “Honestly, I was surprised to see them here and I freaked. I didn’t really think things through.” “ I noticed,” she replied,” so what now? You invited her over tomorrow.” “I really didn’t think that through either. I invited her out awhile ago, but she never came back to me. I just want her to see that there isn’t anything to worry about.” “If you say so. You going through a lot of effort to make sure she doesn’t feel threatened” “Well Darryl is my friend and after the evening of his show, I thought maybe I could do something from my side.” “Well, if you make the effort and she doesn’t respond, there isn’t anything else you can do about it. You will just have to accept the way she feels.” “Well I’ll see what happens tomorrow”. We ordered our burgers and soon Jack joined us. He brought a few friends he had made from both teams. Knowing Jack, he had dug out those that were like-minded. Which were those rare sportsmen, where being a sportsman wasn’t the beginning and end of their world. Jack and I acted or rather behaved as if it was any other day, like the friends we were.

Darryl and Anne had been seated in a booth in view of ours and every now and again I had caught Anne looking at our table. She watched every move that Jack made and every time she saw me catch her, she would have an embarrassed look on her face and concentrate on Darryl.

I wondered how he did not notice that she was watching our table and that she was watching Jack specifically.

They finished early and made their way towards our table again. This time I could not make out the mood on Darryl’s face as he came closer. His eyes scanned everyone that sat at our table and rested on Jack, he still seemed confused. “Hey Elly, you going to be okay getting home?” I looked up. Anne stood next to Darryl, but her face scanned the group before her. Recognition crossed her face for an instant. She moved slightly away from Darryl. That was different. “Yeah, Alice and Ida are joining us in a little while and then they taking us home.” He looked concerned, “ Okay then, well if you get stuck getting home from here, you have my number, okay? And tell your sisters I say hi, uhm let me know when you’re safe.” It seemed as if he wanted to stay, but he had run out of excuses. “Okay, I’ll tell them,” I replied. “ And let me know when you safe?” “ Yes, I will.” “See you tomorrow and enjoy your evening,” he smiled, but still looking at the crowd seated around our table.“ Goodbye and enjoy the rest of yours to,” I said. He walked off with Anne, still looking back every now and then. I had a feeling that by the time he had gotten to his car, he would have called Alice or Ida to make sure that they were coming to join us.

“Was that your brother?” I turned looking towards one of the players from the opposing team, which Jack had introduced us to.” I laughed, “No, his just a friends.” “And that’s his?”, he continued. “His girlfriend. Why do you ask?” “ Oh, no reason. She just reminded me off a girl my brother knows.” “Really?”, he had peaked my curiosity. “Yeah, I haven’t seen her up close, but your friends’ girlfriend has an uncanny resemblance to her. She must be a doppelganger,” he smiled. The conversation changed quickly after that.

My sisters joined us soon afterwards. Alice greeted me, “Why did Darryl call me to make sure that we were picking you up tonight, he sounded worried.” “He was here not long ago with Anne. I suppose he wanted to make sure we got home okay,” I replied. “Oh Okay.” “And I invited Anne over tomorrow. “You did?” Both my sisters looked at me and then each other, eyebrows arched, but said nothing. Turning towards the others sitting at the table, I tried to change the topic.

We left a bit later with promises from all the added companions that they would be attending the talent show in support of myself and Chloë. I had tried to stuff a cloth into Jack’s mouth to stop him, but in the end he had replied that it was our own fault. We had nominated him as our cheerleader, and we had specifically told him to get more cheerleaders. He was going to make sure that he made us proud.

The following morning I woke up to a message from Darryl confirming that Anne would be joining us for the day. Half asleep I wondered why I had been so quick to invite her, but I hoped that the ruse had helped in some way. My mom and sisters would be around for the day.

When we got home the previous evening, I had told my mom that I had invited Anne over with Darryl and she had insisted that we ‘pull out the stops’. That was my mother’s way of entertaining. Make sure that your guest felt at home and put the best out for them, no matter who it was. By the time Darryl and Anne were due to arrive we had cooked medium sized lunch, cleaned and cleared up.

When they did arrive, I lead them to the sitting area. Anne’s demeanour was different. She still hung to Darryl as if she might lose him, but I thought that was probably because she was going to an unknown place.

My mom and sisters joined us and shortly afterwards we were seated at the dining table for lunch. The conversation started slowly, mostly my mom asking questions. Then Alice brought up the talent show. “So Darryl what do you think about Elisa taking part in the talent show?” Darryl’s fork stopped in mid air and then looked at me, “Well nothing really. She didn’t tell me anything about.” Swallowing hard, “It’s nothing really. Chloë asked me to sign up with her, since she wants to take part.” His eyes drilling into my skull, “Oh ok, when did you decide to do this?” “Uhm it came up just before the concert. It was spur of the moment.” Darryl’s eyebrows knotted as if he was in deep thought about something.

“They have two sets to do,” my mom jumped in, “a solo and a group act.” Darryl glanced at my mom for a moment, with a slight smile, then immediately he was drilling those eyes into my head again. “That’s cool. So what you doing for your group act?” “Chloë will be dancing while I play.” “Oh,” his voice sounded dispirited.

“And what about Jack,” Anne asked aloud. We all looked at her a bit stunned at hearing a sound come out of her. “Well, apparently he has been nominated as the cheerleader,” Ida laughed. “It seems he started early.” Darryl replied with a smile that was not a smile. “Well that’s Jack and Elly I suppose, it can’t be helped. They know more about each other than most married couples do,” Ida continued, her voice mocking. “Really,” Anne’s ears seem to peak at the subject. “ Yip,” Ida went on, “they have known each other since grade one, and how did it happen again?” I smiled, but secretly wished the earth would open up and swallow me whole. “Jack threw Elly with mud and then she punched him in the stomach. Our folks got together and decided that the best punishment was that they spend time together to learn how to get along.”

I tried to stop Ida with my eyes and looks, but either she did not see me or she ignored it. “It was really cute. Jack came over. They at sat opposite ends of the room, but when they brought out their toys, what was it again Elly,” “Really Ida, I think that is a boring story,” my smile was forced with the effort of trying to get Ida to change the subject with everything I had. “No, please continue,” Anne said, a smile on her face. I struggled from putting my hands over my face. “Well, I think Elly had a figurine and Jack had a remote control car and when the one saw the others toy, they moved in unison and they have been together ever since.” Ida smiled, she was obviously enjoying embarrassing me, thinking it was something small.

I hadn’t told my sisters about what Jack and I had done in front of Darryl and Anne. I was hoping that this would not blow up in my face. “I suppose friendships like those make the best start to romantic relationships, everlasting...” Anne added, glancing from the corner of her eye at me. She was probing and my sisters were going to give her all the information she wanted. I had to stop this now.

Darryl’s eyes were burning into my skull, but I refused to look his way. “I suppose so,” Ida replied, a questioning look crossed her face, “ they did try that.” “Come on Ida, I’m sure that Anne doesn’t want to be bored with silly stories about Jack and me.” Ida looked at me puzzled. “Oh that’s fine, the story seems sweet, I’d like to hear the rest, if you don’t mind?”, Anne replied to my statement.

This time she looked straight at me, there was something behind those cold blue eyes. I couldn’t make out what it was, but it was more than general curiosity. Why today of all days had Ida decided to be chatty?

What could I do but to agree, so Ida continued, “Well I suppose since they were always together, people just found them an easy target to tease as an ‘old married couple’. But at some point it caught on and they took it to heart. They crossed the line and ‘dated’ for awhile when they were about thirteen.” I wanted an earthquake, tidal wave, anything to happen to make her stop. “And,” Anne looked at Ida moving forward, enthralled by the story. “Well it didn’t really work in that way. Didn’t you guys swear it off as an experiment gone horribly wrong and never to try it again,” Where was that hole in ground when you needed it.

Anne looked at me with her eyes narrowing and Darryl’s were pinched. I looked straight at Ida, ignoring their stares, “Things change,” I said, a bit louder than intended. There was confusion on my family’s face and as Ida was about to say something I kicked her under the table and gave her a pointed look that was intended to let her know to drop the subject. My mom came to my rescue and she immediately changed the subject by asking Anne if she had, had enough to eat. Anne seemed to jump at the sound of my mom’s voice. Alice looked across the table, with the ‘what-was-that-about’ look. I mouthed in a way that the others didn’t see ‘not now’.

We had, had our fill and I volunteered to clean up. I needed an excuse to get away from the table. Alice joined me as I cleaned up the dishes, “sis, I’ll explain later, but please keep away from Jack as a subject if you can ok.” She agreed, but I could see she was very confused. Everyone made their way to the sitting room and again I volunteered to make the coffee and drinks. I needed time to regroup.

I was happy to get a few minutes reprieve. Ida had almost blown my ruse and I still wasn’t sure if they had figured it out yet. I hoped that Anne and Darryl would take my discomfort as embarrassment that my family didn’t know about Jack, rather than the truth.

“Hey Elly.” I came to my senses at hearing Darryl’s voice. “Hey D’ what’s up?” “Your mom wanted to help, but I told her to sit her behind down”. He moved around the counter in one effortless motion and stood next to me, leaning against the table, arms crossed. It seemed strained, “So, Elly,” he started slowly, looking down at the floor, “why didn’t you tell me about the show?” “Sorry. It happened so quickly and it’s been hectic this week, it slipped my mind.” “Like it slipped your mind to tell your sisters about Jack?” , he knuckles were white as he held onto his arms. I struggled to continue with making the drinks, I wanted to run somewhere out of his sight. “I thought you and Jack had come to conclusion that you would never get romantically involved again?”

This time I could feel his eyes bore into the side of my head. I refused to look in his directions. If I did, I would surely run. “Things change, I suppose,” was the only reply I could muster. “ I suppose they do. Like you having the need to crawl under a table when you see me walking into the same place as you?” My eyes widened and I was grateful that I was busy, so that he could not see the reaction on my face.

He had found me hiding, caught me and put on display all my faults in one sweep.

I tried to look at him from the corner of my eye. There was disappointment on his face and pain in his eyes. I turned my head slightly, I couldn’t look him straight in the face. I didn’t know how to explain, “Sorry, it was a knee jerk reaction, I can’t explain. It was silly.” “ It was silly and it hurt, we suppose to be friends and you hide from me when I see you somewhere.” Why did he have to look so sad and why did his knuckles have to be so white from the strain of holding onto his arms, it crushed me seeing him like that. “It wasn’t hiding away from you, I just can’t explain. Not now okay.” He kept quiet. “What about Jack?” He looked at me more with a more concentrated look. I hated that I wasn’t being honest with Darryl. If this was going to work, he couldn’t know the truth. “Like I said things change,” was the only reply I could think of that was not an outright lie. “I get that, but are you together or not?” Why couldn’t he leave it alone, I was going to digger a bigger hole with all his questions. “We’re in between at the moment and what’s it to you, anyway?”, I said, trying to counteract his questioning. “Because I care about you, that’s why.” “That’s fine Darryl, but you don’t need to play babysitter all the time. You’re my friend and you should respect that I can look after myself.”

I suddenly felt his hand under my chin, gently lifting my head to face his. He turned it so that he could look him straight in the eyes, they were piercing and it seemed as if they were door vaults holding something back. “ He smiled, “ I’m not trying to play babysitter and I know you can look after yourself, most of the time, but I do care about you and I don’t ever want to see you get hurt.” I looked at him, as much as I felt he was holding something, it felt as if he was scanning the back of my brain, finding every piece of information that I had hid in the dark parts of my brain and it was hard trying to hide this. If I stood like that any longer, he would know absolutely everything, I couldn’t let that happen. “Jack won’t hurt me,” I replied. I released my face from his grasp. “Drinks are done.” I handed him a tray. Clutching the counter I waited till he left before letting out the deep breath that I had held all the time. It took a few moments to compose myself. I couldn’t tell him now, if he ever found out he would be so angry with me.

I followed him with the second tray, placing it on the table. I seated myself on the side of the sofa in a way to try and avoid being in direct view of Darryl and Anne.

“So Elisa, where is Jack today?”, Anne asked. She wasn’t going to let this go either. Thankfully I had a great reason. “His with his family today, they make Sunday their family day.” “Oh okay,” she sounded disappointed. Darryl spoke up, “When do we get to buy the show tickets? I thought you would have had them ready for us by now,” he smiled, but the warmth that always accompanied it wasn’t there. “Let me know how many you want and I will get them ready for you,” I replied.

Anne spoke up this time, “So how is Chloë taking the relationship with Jack, it must be hard being a third wheel, especially with two people that have so much history.” She was probing and harder this time. She wasn’t going to let go till she knew everything. I clenched my teeth. “Well we don’t treat her like a third wheel. We are all friends before anything else.” “Oh, it’s just that when there is a third person, they always end up being the third wheel.” “Well, I suppose we aren’t that shallow to exclude a close friend.” “ I must say that thinking about you and Jack is a bit surprising. Chloë seems to be more his type, the pretty petite type.”

His type? Pretty, petite? Where was she trying to go with this? I had to force myself to remember that she was a guest. I repeated the mantra in my head, ‘she’s a guest, and she’s a guest’. “Well I suppose she would be. Jack likes intelligent, independent girls, who don’t feel threatened by other girls easily.” I felt a bit of a victory saying that. She looked at me directly and I could see that there was an eruption happening behind those blue layers of film. Darryl broke the moments’ silence, “Mrs. James, my parents have asked me to extend an invitation to you and the girls. Lunch next week. I have been meaning to ask you for awhile, but it had slipped my mind and my mom warned me not to come home today without an answer.” “Well I’m free, but I’m not sure about the girls.” Alice thanked him, but she would have to stay at college the following week. She had to finish an assignment she could not research at home. Ida would be able to come, but only after her hockey match. That left me. If Anne would be there, after the last few minutes, I didn’t want to be there either. I didn’t know how to get out of it. Darryl looked at me for an answer. I felt trapped. “Well, I don’t have anything planned as yet, so I suppose I will be joining my mom,” I smiled, resigned.

“What about Jack, Darryl?”, Anne feigned concern, “You can’t invite Elisa without inviting him too.” He looked at her confused, but before he could answer, I spoke up. “I’ll ask Jack if he will be able to make it. It’s the start of the season though, so they have a lot of games and practice at the beginning, but I will see what he says.” “I’m sure he will be able to miss at least one, for you..” she said smiling, it didn’t look sincere, more like a sneer. “ I wouldn’t expect that of him. And we not conjoined twins. We can do things individually.” I heard a giggle stifled from both Alice and Ida. I refused to look at Darryl. “I’ll let my mom know, but there is another issue we have to discuss.”

We all looked at him. I was nervous. What issue was he speaking about? He continued, “Well there is a birthday of a certain pair of twins coming up and we having a small gathering at our house,” he smiled. I quietly let out my breath. “And I am officially inviting all of you. Alice and Ida, please feel free to bring your partners along and Elisa,” he looked directly at me, “please extend the invitation to Chloë and,” he paused,” Jack, if you would like.” Oh this was going to be fun, I thought, sarcastically.

Not too long afterwards Darryl and Anne left. By the time they left I was drained and I was actually glad to see them go. I returned to the living room and saw everyone waiting for me in anticipation. Fun, fun, fun. I flopped down on the couch waiting for the bombardment of questions. They kept looking at me, but I could see Ida was sitting on the edge of her seat waiting for an opening. They were waiting for me. I knew my sisters, if they hadn’t spoken by now, they wouldn’t till I said something, but until then, and the questions would be hanging over my head.

“So what do you want to know?” I said, my eyes closed. “Jack!!” Ida burst out, “What was all that about Jack and you and Chloë?” “Nothing is happening between me and Jack, or Chloë.” “Well that’s not the way Anne sees it, even Darryl. Her questions and statements were all directed as if you were together or something.” “And do you know how hard it was to keep her at bay, with all the questions about you and Jack, while you were busy in the kitchen?”, Alice added. “Where is it all coming from?” “It was something I did on the spur of the moment. It was intended to just get Anne off my back.” “And what was it that you did?” Ida asked torn between curiosity and outrage. I hated explaining my actions, but they would not let it go till I had. “Yesterday at the diner when Darryl and Anne bumped into us, Jack and I might have acted in a way that might have made them think that we were more than friends.” “How exactly did you act Elly?” Alice was serious. “It wasn’t anything serious. When Jack came to say hi, he had his arm around my shoulder.” “Why does it feel like there’s more?” “Well, he may have kissed me on the cheek and said something along the lines of ‘later babe’.” “He kissed you on the cheek?” Two pairs of astonished eyes were looking at me. “And he said later babes?” “No wonder Anne thought the two of you are together.” “I didn’t plan that. That was all Jack. I never said he was my boyfriend.” “Seriously, we suppose to believe that even though he did that on his own, you didn’t anticipate that they would think he was more than a friend?” “Okay, fine. It went a bit far, but it was better than them finding me under the table. If Anne assumed that he was something more than just a friend, then maybe she wouldn’t feel so threatened.” “Finding you under the table?”, Ida looked at me incredulously. “I put my hands in my face. “I saw them coming in and I had a knee-jerk reaction and tried to move so they wouldn’t see me and I went under the table. But it seems Darryl did and that’s where they found me when they came to the table.” Alice and Ida looked at each other and then burst out laughing. Alice was the first to regain some sort of composure, “Little sister you have found yourself in a fine mess,” the smile she had on her face was less than reassuring. “It wasn’t my finest hour. Then I had to go and invite Anne over today. I didn’t think she would come or even ask so many questions.” “No you didn’t think. Did it cross your mind about how they would react when they found out that you had been lying and you made Jack an accomplice?” “Like I said sis, it was a spur of the moment reaction. Maybe I can tell them that we had gone back to being friends or something.” Ida and Alice looked at each other again, but this time it was more sombre. “A word of advice little sisters, before this gets out of hand, come clean.” She paused, taking a deep breath, “I hope you learned something from this.” “Yeah, tell you two before your chattiness blows it up in my face.” Ida just smiled, “No, this is what happens when you don’t face your problems and issues.” “Thanks.” It was too late now for that advice. Now I had to figure out how deep that hole was and how I was getting myself out of it. We cleared up, but Alice and Ida didn’t give me moments of peace regarding Jack giving me a kiss. They found that hilarious and jested at my expense until Alice became serious again. “Elly how you going to fix this? Darryl is your friend. He needs to know the truth and even if Anne isn’t on your top ten lists, she deserves the truth as well.” I knew Alice was right, but it was harder said, than done. I couldn’t face Anne. I could imagine her face, scowl and daggers, but how could I ever face Darryl again, especially after what I said earlier. This had not worked out as I had hoped.

The following day at school Chloë and Jack were waiting for me. Jack was the first to speak, “So what was Saturday all about?” Explanations again. I gave him the short version, but at the end he had a grin on his face. “It’s not that funny. They were at my house yesterday. Anne was very chatty, especially about you and now my whole family knows and I basically got a lecture about coming clean.” “Well your sisters are right, you can’t run from your issues,” Chloë looked at me with that look she put on, when she was being mature. “Okay, apart from that, this weekend his parents invited us for lunch and Jack you have the honour of joining me, if you are able.” Jack looked shocked, “Well I have a game I can’t miss, so sorry Elly you on your own.” I frowned, pretending that I was unhappy about it, but I wasn’t, really.

I had to figure out how to fix this and not having Jack around, trying to pretend to be my boyfriend, would help. “That’s fine, but after that is Emily and Darryl’s birthday. You both have been invited. No matter what, I need you guys there with me, please.” They looked at each other, “Oh okay, well we will try our best, okay?” “Okay.”

“Now we got that out of the way, when are we going to start practicing properly for the talent show. We still haven’t worked out what we going to do.” You could always count on Chloë changing the subject to something that interested her and this time I was really happy about that. I was tired of explaining and speaking about what had transpired over the weekend. It was on my mind constantly, I didn’t need to speak about it as well.

The rest of the week was taken over by Chloë speaking about the talent show. Her constant chatter, changing her mind and then frustration about what she was attempting not working, didn’t irritate me. It was a distraction from everything else and I was glad for the distraction.

Saturday arrived quicker that I had hoped for. I accompanied my mom to the McDougal’s home. Although I was nervous about seeing Darryl again, I was curious about where he had grown up. There was something about seeing someone’s home that gave you an insight about them. It wasn’t in the big things, like the size of the house or how many rooms it had, but in the small little things. The pictures on the wall and how they looked in them. The way it felt when you walked in. Would it be warm, like him, or would it feel engineered like what his dad did? How would his mother’s artistic side fit in and then there was the sporty side of Emily.

We arrived at a double storey house that reminded me of a cottage, with a large tree in the front yard that had a swing made out of an old tyre and rope hanging from it. We parked in front of the house and as I got out, I saw pieces of wood sticking out of the branches. I smiled a tree house. I tried to imagine Darryl and Emily playing in it when they were younger.

I wondered if they had been allowed to sleep in it on summer evenings. Under the stars, the night air cooling them down from the heat of the day, looking up at millions of lights trying to make out their shapes.

The house was cosier from up close. There were flower beds and shrubs all around its base. It must be an explosion of colour in spring time. As we walked to the dark stained wooden door, it became clearer that there was a picture carved into it. A picture of a boy and girl playing with a kite.

My mom rang the doorbell and not long afterwards Mr. McDougal opened up. “Liza, Elisa comes in. How was your drive? Did you find the place easily?” As my mom responded, I walked in behind her. I was amazed at what I saw in front of me. The size of the house was deceptive from the outside. It had looked like a small double storey cottage, but when you entered and was faced with the openness of the place, it looked ten times bigger. We entered a large foyer and across from the door was a staircase spiralled to the first floor.

To the left was what seemed to be a sitting room and to the right was the dining room. Mr. McDougal showed us to the sitting room. As I entered the sitting room, I saw that the room extended to the back of the house. All the walls had been broken out, but it had been hidden away by the wall from the front door. Next to the sitting room was what looked like a study, then after that was what I could only describe as an entertainment area as it had a pool table at its heart. The three rooms seemed to flow into each other.

The sitting room was earthy colours made up of wood, steel and stone. The study was modern, which concentrated more on the steel side and the entertainment area was rustic with stone being its main decorative feature. The pictures along the walls seemed to flow as well, in the sitting room there was a painting, which I assumed Mrs. McDougal had done, with a mirror opposite it. It was at an angle where, depending on where you stood, you would either see the reflection of the painting or the pictures in the study, which were pictures of the family.

Across from those pictures was what looked like an accolade wall. The entertainment area had pictures that were more commercial, or rather vintage commercial, like old adverts in frames. The three rooms were so different, but they worked well together and they felt warm and cosy.

Mrs. McDougal joined us, “Liza, Elisa, so glad you could eventually make it. I can’t believe it has taken us so long to do this, but Darryl insisted that it happened when he could join us.” I was surprised at what his parents had said. Why had he insisted being around?

My mom and Mrs. McDougal fell into conversation instantly and my eyes started straying, trying to look at what was around me.

Mr. McDougal must have seen me looking around, “Darryl and Emily aren’t here just yet, but would you like to take a tour while your mom and my old bat chat?” “Yes thank you,” I said eagerly. “Well as you can see this is our main sitting room, we broke out the walls when we could. The house was dark when we bought it and we thought by doing that we would bring more light into the house. And it makes it look larger than it is. That’s if you get it right.” “But isn’t it disturbing when one person is in the entertainment room and another is in the study and sitting room.” “Well, sometimes it can be, but all we do is find a way to keep from disturbing the other person, like using earphones,” he smiled. “Plus as a family, doing things separately doesn’t mean doing it alone. If you want your privacy, just say so.” We walked through the study and I got a look at pictures of Darryl and Emily when they were younger. It was strange looking at a ten year old Darryl. He seemed so shy, introverted. Emily looked a bit like spaghetti. Stringy and almost a head taller than Darryl at the time. Ida had been correct pegging him as a bit of a nerd, looking at the accolades he had received at high school. The last three years, he had been top of his class, with Emily second.

We moved into the entertainment area, in the one corner a mini gaming area had been set up. “Darryl’s baby. He saved since he was a kid and every year he would add, sell or replace. Even the odd jobs he did, some of the money would go into building it.” I was jealous and I knew Jack would be as well. In front of a small flat screen, there was a seat that was comfortable for gaming. To the side, there was a table that seemed to roll out with a racing wheel attached and to the sides, on hinges, were different controls. I wondered what games he had and if I would ever be able to try it out.

As we walked, I found myself in front of a large sliding door that looked out into their back yard. There was a porch and beyond that was a sizable pool with a lappa to the right of it. On the other side of the pool was what looked like a fire pit. We went outside and walked along the back of the house as Mr. McDougal explained how they excavated the pool and had built on the Lappa. Darryl had helped him build the lappa and it had taken a few months of Saturdays to get it done. We entered another door at the end of the house that ended up being the entrance to the kitchen. You could see straight through to the dining room, except for a slight wall that covered a wash basin.

As you walked through the door on the left side there was a small breakfast nook. On the right hand side there was a door leading to another room, which I assumed was the pantry and scullery.

The kitchen was large with an island in the middle. It was decorated in a pale yellow, something like a farm kitchen, but not overly done. No doilies or flower pattern. Mr. McDougal lead me through to the dining room area, which had a large dark wood table.“When we bought this house,” Mr. McDougal started, “it was falling apart. But Helen saw the potential in it and so room by room we decorated it.” “Well you have a beautiful home. You must be really proud at the end result.” “I’m proud of Helen. It was her vision that made it this way,” he smiled.

Just then the front door swung open and Emily walked in with a few packets. As soon as she saw me a grin appeared on her face. “Elisa you made it,” I hurried to help her with the parcels to the kitchen. “I said I’d come didn’t I?”, I smiled back. “That you did. Sorry we weren’t here to greet you, but my mom made us go out for more supplies, as if she hadn’t already prepared for a hundred guests.” The last part was yelled out, obviously so that her mom could hear her. I giggled, “Don’t worry, I understand. My mom does the same and by her account, I will be exactly the same when I have my own home.”

“So has my dad given you the tour and bored you with the aesthetics of the place?” She smiled at her dad and winked. “Not bored and you have a beautiful home.” Darryl entered, huffing away. Emily had left him with the bulk of the parcels and he was struggling a bit. As he looked up, he saw me and a smile appeared through the effort of carrying his load. “Elly, you here.” Going over to help him, “Hey, let me help you.” “Thanks, so did you find the place easily?” “We here, aren’t we?”, I pretended to be offended. “So you are, just you and your mom?” “Yeah,” I knew he was referring to Jack, but I didn’t want to bring it up anymore than he did. “So my dad gave you the tour. What you think?” , he asked as he and Emily were unpacking. “Well we finished up the ground floor when you came in, but so far it’s a beautiful home.” “So it’s only us today then,” I needed to know if Anne was coming as well. I had assumed that she would be there as well, but I just had to make sure. “Yip, just us, is that enough,” he looked at me with a hint of something I couldn’t quite make out. I was slightly relieved at that. “Well seeing as my dad only did half a job,” Emily began, “would you like to finish the tour?” “That would be great,” I replied. “Well I have to finish up a few things for my mom, maybe Darryl could show you.” I smiled.

I would have preferred Emily, “Don’t you need any help? I wouldn’t feel okay if you were stuck down here preparing things without any help.” She laughed, “ It’s actually better if I do it alone. It’s just heating up a few things and setting things out. Will go quicker if I do it alone, sometimes Darryl can have slippery fingers,” she looked at him and then nudged him. “Okay then if you say so,” I smiled back.

I followed Darryl towards the stairs. When you were on the first landing you saw that the rooms surrounded the opening. There were wrought iron balustrades all around. When you got to the top step, there was a large window right across it. One could either go to the left or right. “Which way” “Hmm, the opposite way from your bedroom.” Darryl looked a bit stunned; it had come out all wrong. “I mean I want to see it last. Your guitar collection should be very interesting and I would like to keep that for last and maybe you will need time to tidy up,” I babbled on, a bit of a blush on my cheeks. He laughed, “My mom made me do that this morning, not that it was bad, she just had me make it perfect.” We moved to the left.

The first was a guest room. It was decorated in a very pale blue. It had its own bathroom and it looked very comfortable. The next was what looked like a studio. “This is my mom’s room. It use to be Emily’s, till she moved into my old bedroom.” “Where did you move to?” I looked a bit confused. “That is a surprise, left for last, like you asked,” he smiled. The next was his parents’ rooms. It took up most of the back of the house and overlooked the backyard. The bathroom was open planned, but it didn’t look too public. There was a sitting area to the one side, close to the window. Most probably used when Darryl and Emily had friends over and their parents wanted a bit of privacy.

The next door was the bathroom. It had a bath and shower. The next was the lavatory.

The last door was Emily’s room. It was larger than the guestroom and studio, and it was different from what I had imagined. The room was white with thin black, vertical stripes. There were paintings and drawings covering the one wall and in the opposite corner was sports equipment. I had forgotten that Emily was in her first year doing architecture. A perfect combo between engineering and art. And the room reflected her dual personality, the art and engineering side.

When we closed her door, we heard Emily coming up the stairs, “Lunch time guys.” “It seems you will have to wait a bit longer to see that guitar collection,” Darryl said smiling. “Seems so,” I said looking up at him. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. It would mean we would probably be alone and I would have to come clean about Jack.

We followed Emily down and found our parents already seated at the table. Mr. McDougal was at the head, with Mrs. McDougal on his right. My mom sat across from her and I moved to sit next to her. Darryl moved to sit next to me and Emily sat across from him, next to her mother.

Before us was something that only could be described as a feast. There were different salads, some I recognised, but most I didn’t. There were also different cold meats. Salt, venison and chicken. We started on lunch and I expressed my appreciation at how beautiful their home was. Mrs. McDougal blushed and started telling us stories about the renovations on the house.

How she and Mr. McDougal had disagreed about colours as he wanted everything to be in steel and stone and she wanted some warmth. How Emily and Darryl helped out with some of the redecorating that they had done themselves. Mr. McDougal then directed a question at me. “ So Elisa, Darryl says that you will be taking part in a talent show. Blushing furiously, I replied “Yes. It was at the request of my friend Chloë. She wanted me to enter so we could do the group section together.” “ Well from what Darryl says you will be playing while she is dancing, that sounds very interesting. I hope you don’t mind if we come along to watch.” I must have looked like a tomato. “By all means, but please remember, I’m not a performer like Darryl. This will be my first time on a stage in front of a crowd.” “That’s not true,” Darryl broke in. I rolled my eyes, “ I mean a crowd that doesn’t totally consist of my family.” “Well everyone has to have their first time on a stage, but the way Darryl describes your playing, I don’t think there will be a problem,” Mr. McDougal answered. Darryl had spoken to them about my lessons? What else had he discussed with them?

“Well apart from my family, I’m going to need tickets for Joshua, Malcolm and Stephen.” The band? I looked at Darryl dumbstruck. “Well you supported us; it’s our turn to support you.” My food stuck in my throat.

The thought of performing in front of both the McDougal family and Blue Lava on the same night was nerve-wrecking. “Darryl don’t make her nervous,” his mom scolded, “Do you remember your first time on a stage?” “I’m not trying to make her nervous, just letting her know early,” he winked at me. “How was Darryl’s first time on a stage,” I asked curiously. Emily jumped in, “Well as far as I remember, the shirt he wore my mom tried to get the stains out every day of the week. It eventually had to be thrown away. Word of warning, don’t eat anything red or that stains clothes.” “Well I think I had to throw a few more t-shirts away before I realized that it wasn’t worth being so nervous.” I had never thought of Darryl as being nervous on stage. It had seemed that he had always been comfortable on stage, playing.

After lunch was done, we cleared up, while our parents went to the sitting room to chat. I sat at the island while Emily and Darryl did the dishes. Emily asked me more about the talent show and what we were planning.

The conversation turned to their birthday. “Will your sisters be bringing any partners?” “Well they don’t have any steady partners as far as I know. Alice may bring her friend Janice and Ida may bring Sylvia, if that’s okay. Why?” “Just wondering, plus there were a few people belonging to a certain band that have been asking about it.” I laughed. “And you, who will you be bringing?” ,Emily gave Darryl a side glance. His face lowered, concentration emanating from it. “Well Darryl said it would be fine if I bring two of my friends with, Chloë and Jack.”

Splash!!

We both looked in his direction. “Sorry, plate slipped,” his mouth pulled into a closed, wry smile. I had to tell him the truth and soon. “That’s cool, the more the merrier,” Emily smiled, her eyes narrow. As they finished, Darryl looked at me, “We haven’t finished our tour yet. You left the best for last and now we can do it at our leisure.” “Well you guys go ahead; I have to get dessert ready.” The thought of being alone with Darryl scared me a bit. It meant that it was time for me to tell him the truth. I didn’t know if I had the guts to do it.

I followed him up the stairs again. This time we moved to the right and we stood in front of a wall. He smiled back at me. “Okay now what?” I was confused. “Well if we were going underground, I’d say welcome to my bat cave. I think I still can, since we going high.” He pressed on the wall and square piece moved back and the door opened. It was a false wall. It had looked like it was a part of Emily’s bedroom, but if you actually measured it, you would see her room was shorter.

My mouth stood open. “That is so cool!” The door opened and sun flooded down the steps. “Emily complained that I was keeping her up at night with my practicing. So I decided that with a bit of soundproofing, I could move up here. I think she just wanted my bedroom for the view though,” he smiled, “want to come and see?” “Are you serious? Of course. I’m glad I left it for last,” I said making my way up the stairs.

When I reached the top I could see that the attic room took up almost a third of the top area. To the right of the room, under a window, was his bed. Across from his bed was what looked like a small music set-up. There was an amp, mixing desk and other music gadgets I didn’t understand. Behind it was a few guitars and across from the stairs was a window. It was large and there seemed to be a seat built underneath it. The floor was covered with soft carpet. I took my shoes off so that I did not dirty it. As I stepped onto it, it felt soft and my foot sank into it. On the wall where the door was, was his cupboard and next to his bed was a bookshelf. Around the walls were posters of musicians, but in the middle there was a painting of a young boy playing a guitar. It looked like him, but maybe at the age of twelve or thirteen. It was stunning. It looked like when he had been unaware that someone had been watching. The look on his face was serenity and joy mixed.

“My mom did that for me and Emily for our thirteenth birthday.” “Its beautiful. You look so happy.” He smiled and that same serenity seemed to be showing. I moved to the bookshelf. There were different music magazines, fantasy and sci-fi novels and computer magazines. “Quite a range you have here.” “Yip, Sci-fi is my favourite though. So what do you think?” “I think I’m jealous,” I said turning around and taking in the whole view of his room. He laughed and then took my hand and we moved to the guitars.

I sat down on his bed as he moved to pick up one of the guitars. “This was my first electric,” he said holding up a gorgeous, black guitar. It had large dark orange and pink flowers that snaked its way around the body. When he picked the first string it sound like the low hum of a humming bird. I could feel the vibrations in the pit of my stomach. He put it down and then moved to another, “Then I got this one,” and so he went showing me the different makes and plugging them in to show the different ways they sounded and played.

“Here, try one.” “Really?” “Really.” I stood up and put the strap on of his first around my shoulder. He came up behind me to adjust the straps so that the guitar was at a comfortable position and I could feel his breath on my ear. It sent a warm tingle down my spine. “Okay, now go.”

I was taken by surprise at the beginning. The strings felt different and the sound that came out was different from playing an acoustic.

“Which one do you like?” “Your first,” I smiled. “My favourite as well. If she’s the one you like, then you can lend her till you get your own.” “What?” I looked at him shocked. If I didn’t have the strap on, I’m sure I would have dropped the guitar. “I can’t take your guitar,” I protested. “I didn’t say take it, I said lend it,” he said, with a laugh in his voice. “You need to learn how different guitars play and electric are the next step. There are many different ways of playing it.” I was speechless. All I could say was thank you.

As I was putting the electric away, he spoke up again, his eyes had a faraway look, “I can have my amp at almost full volume up here and they can hardly hear downstairs, but that’s not the only reason I’m glad I moved up here. I want to show you something.” Taking my hand he lead me to the window.

Sitting down, he faced me to the window and bent over. His one hand resting on my furthest shoulder with his other arm extended, he pointed. When he had hugged me in the past, I had felt the warmth of his body, but those had been short moments. Now, sitting there, it felt hot. His face inches from mine and I could smell the familiar sweet, fresh grassy smell coming off of him.

“Do you see that large open space behind the white house?” I nodded. I took a deep breath of his smell and I could feel my face flush. “Look beyond that. Do you see a small lake? It looks like a mirror now.” “Yes,” I replied a breathlessly. His voice low, he continued, “When the sun sets on some days, I sit here watching as it goes down. Sometimes it reflects the light like rainbows.” As he spoke I felt the warmth of his face and I knew if a moved a millimetre closer I would feel the bristles that was starting to show on his cheek, my heart started to beat faster.

His pointing hand moved to his side. “Sometimes I just sit here watching.” I turned my head slightly to look at him. His face had an expression of thoughtfulness and his eyes had a faraway look. “What are thinking about when you are watching it set?” “Numerous things. Rhythms, riffs,” a slight smile formed on his lips, “that’s when I sit and play, but when I’m just watching, it’s mostly daydreams,” the corner of his mouth moved higher up his face and turned to look at me. I caught my breath, “What type of daydreams?” I felt my heart in my throat. My skin was on fire and I could feel his eyes all over my face. First straight at my eyes and I saw the green and gold swirling in a pool of hazel. Then it moved to my lips, instinctively I licked them, then back at my eyes again. We seemed to stay there for ages. He smiled again, moving to sit next to me.

I wasn’t sure if I was relieved because it had made my heart race to have his face so close or if I was sad that I couldn’t have his smell surround me. But him sitting had brought other predicaments. The seat was just big enough for two people, at a slight squeeze. With his one arm resting on the window sill, his hand touched my back and a fire started to rage there. I felt the side of his chest against my arm and a heat raged there. The right side of my body seemed to melt against his. I needed to move before I caught on fire. Why did him being so close bring out these reactions in me? I needed to move. Yet I didn’t.

“I daydream about the band, sometimes,” he was looking at me in that same concentrated manner he always did, when he seemed to be looking for an answer, “and sometimes I daydream about other things.” What other things?” I desperately wanted to know what they were, but I could guess at least one topic.

I knew I had to move before I did something even more stupid than before. He was my friend and I didn’t want to cause him anymore trouble.

“Darryl,” I breathed slowly, his eyes searched mine, “I need to tell you something.” He cocked his head to one side. The sun reflected off those green and gold flecks, and the way he looked at me made my skin burn “What do you need to tell me?”, he asked, his lips slightly pouty. I had to get my thoughts straight. I needed to tell him.

“Actually I need to ask you something. I need to ask your forgiveness.” At that point he seemed to wake and looked at me, his eyebrows knotted in confusion. “My forgiveness? For what?” I breathed deeply. “I lied about Jack. There isn’t anything happening between us.” “What?” he seemed to jump at what I said. “Why did you lie about that?” He looked at me with disbelief. “Because of Anne.” He expression changed into surprise, “Why would you do that because of her?” His face moved now from confusion to irritation. “Because I know she feels threatened by me and our friendship. Last weekend was a day riddled with knee-jerk reactions. When I saw the two of you, I didn’t know how she would react to seeing me at the diner and, honestly, I wasn’t in the mood for a bad vibe. And then when Jack came along, I thought, maybe, if she thought I was interested in someone else she wouldn’t be the way she is.” I babbled on. Now that the gates were open, everything came gushing out. “That is also why I invited her over the Sunday to involve her, but she asked a lot of questions about Jack and me. And I was advised that if I didn’t come clean soon, it would get worse. I’m sorry I lied to you as well.” He sat there staring at me and for a long time he was just quiet.

The he suddenly spoke up in a quiet voice. “I don’t know what to say to that, actually. It was kind of silly what you did.” “I know.” His eyes downcast, he sat in silence again. Then suddenly he looked straight at me, “What you did wasn’t cool. You lied and you messed around with people’s feelings.” As he spoke, a sinking feeling was beginning to grow in me. “I can forgive you; however, you have to promise me one thing.” “What is it?”

I would do anything; promise anything to make it right.

He reached for my hand as he spoke and I felt that warmth again,“ Don’t ever lie to me again. Just be straight with me and don’t try and manipulate people. No matter what the reason behind it, it’s not cool.” This felt too easy. Why had he forgiven me so easily? I looked straight at him, “I promise, our friendship is too important to be so silly.” He smiled and I went to hug him, “Thank you.” “Just make sure you keep to your promise okay,” he said in my ear and I could hear my heart in both. “I promise,” I replied.

A few moments later I heard footsteps on the stairs, Emily emerged, “Desserts ready and afterwards, if you can stop hogging Elisa, it will be my turn to entertain her,” she said smiling at me. “That sounds like a tasty plan,” I replied. I tried to see if Emily had noticed that I was red, I could feel the heat in my face, I just wasn’t sure if it showed. I needed air and I needed to get out of the room quickly. I followed Emily down towards the dining room and was relieved that she had moved faster than I did. I had been scared that I would out run her downstairs and that would have caused a few questions.

As we got to the table his dad teased, “What took you so long, the dessert is getting warm.” Could they see my face? Did they know how I had reacted when he had sat so close? “ Darryl has an awesome attic room and a gorgeous view of a lake. I’m jealous, but mostly of his guitars and his own sound proof room.” I knew I was babbling again, but I couldn’t stop it. Ida had arrived and had, had some lunch while Emily had been busy getting the desserts ready. She looked at me curiously. Darryl entered the room and he looked effortless in his movements as if nothing had happened. As if he had never been that close to me. As if I had never told him about Jack. I wanted to put my face in the bowl of ice-cream to cool down. I wish I had brought a swimming costume. No matter how cold it was outside, it would feel better than this heat I felt all over now. And it didn’t help that he sat next to me again.

Afterwards, we decided on playing a game of pool, which ended up being a few games. We swapped partners constantly, but it was clear that Emily was the best player. “It’s all about the angles,” she said smiling. When we had tired of that, Ida, Emily and I moved up to Emily’s room. She showed us some of her artwork. She was as talented as her mother. A little later Darryl joined us and in no time we were laughing as if someone had snuck laughing gas into the room.

When we left there were hugs all around. “Don’t forget about next weekend.” “5pm sharp,” we all said together. “And don’t forget about those tickets.” “I won’t, promise,” I replied.

On the way home my mom and Ida chatted about the day, while I sat in the back, quietly thinking about the same thing.

Today had gone differently from what I had imagined. Coming clean had been easier than I thought. The promise about never lying, never lying to him. I could do that. Sitting at the window, looking at that lake, thinking about him being so close made my heart race again. Imagining him sitting at that window, with that same thoughtful look. I wondered what his daydreams were about. The ones that were not about the band. My index finger traced the lines of the guitar case. He had lent me his favourite guitar, his first electric. My mind drifted, trying to imagine him practicing on it. How many hours had it taken him to be as good as he was? Would I ever be that good?

The phone rang and woke me out of my day dreams. “Darryl, what’s up? We just left a short while ago, are you already missing us?”, I teased. “Every minute of every day,” he replied and for a moment there was silence. “I forgot to give you my birthday request before you left.” “What?” “Uhm my birthday, have you forgotten about that already?” I laughed, “No I haven’t.” We had already got their presents, now I wondered if they would like them. “Well it’s my birthday present, so you can’t say no and Emily has said that she wants the same.” What was he talking about and would I have enough savings for this? “I’m emailing you two music sheets and links on how to play the music. You need to practice them as much as you can before Saturday.” “Excuse me?!” “You heard me and you have to be at my house by 2pm the latest. Oh yes there are lyrics to the one song. You need to practice them as well.” “What?” “Stop that,” he laughed, “there is no backing out. It’s your birthday present to Emily and me.”

I could imagine that devilish grin as he spoke. He always had it when he planned that I do something I would normally shy away from. Yet, somehow he always got me to do it. What was he up to now? When we got home I checked my mails and as he had said, there were two from him, with lyrics and links to videos on how to play. I was surprised that he had sent the song by Cream ‘Sunshine of my love.’ I just hoped that he wouldn’t really expect me to sing it. The second one, I recognized the music, but I just couldn’t remember the name. I wanted to get stuck into practicing immediately, between school and practicing with Chloë, there wouldn’t be much time for anything else during the week, but I had to do something else before that.

Come clean with Anne.

It would be one of the hardest things I would have to do, but I had to do it. I called her and as always, that sweet voice seemed to change to something else when she heard I was on the other side. “Anne, I really have to speak to you, if you can’t make it to The Diner tomorrow, maybe I can meet you at the shelter.” She sounded very hesitant. “Please Anne.” “Okay, fine. Meet me at the shelter after 11am.” Okay. I was going to do this. I had to do this. It was the right thing to do.

The following day was nerve wracking. I could imagine Anne’s reaction at hearing what I had done. I knew that she would probably never let me forget it and I probably deserved it, just a little bit.

I got to the shelter just before 11am. I was nervous and wanted to stall as long as I could, but Ida put a stop to that idea quickly by threatening to pull me out by my ear. I knew she would do it too.

I moved between the kennels looking for Anne, eventually finding her at a lone kennel with a small dog. None of the tension I always saw in her was present. She was calm and smiling.

Anne smiling in that contented way? That was a first. I moved closer to the kennel, when she looked up, her demeanour changed immediately. “Hi Anne,” I said nervously, “Is there somewhere we can chat?” “Elisa, hang on for a second I just have to finish up over here.” I waited till she was done and then she led me away from the kennels. “So what was so important that you needed to come all the way over here?”

I didn’t know where to start; mom always said start at the beginning. I looked away awkwardly as she stared at me with those icy blue eyes. “I wanted to apologize. I may have led you to believe something that isn’t true.” “Oh really.” She breathed out heavily .“Yeah, Uhm, last weekend when we bumped into each other. Well…. Jack and I are only friends. There isn’t anything happening between us and there won’t ever be.” She crossed her arms and I could feel anger coming from her. “I’m sorry that I did what I did. It was a spur of the moment thing.” I was babbling again. “It’s just that after the first time we met, you were so..,” nasty, rude, erase that, “distant. I thought that maybe if you thought that there was someone else that you wouldn’t...,” feel so threatened by my friendship with Darryl, forget about that. “..Be so scared about my friendship with Darryl.”

She laughed. “You think I am threatened by your friendship with Darryl?” Her reaction stunned me and I stood there speechless. “You’re a kid, like his little sister. I don’t think, no, I know Darryl wouldn’t ever look at you twice. Even once for that matter. So, no I am not threatened by you. What I don’t like is that you fawn over MY boyfriend like there’s no tomorrow. You need to keep your distance little girl. And about Jack. Well the fact that you guys aren’t together makes more sense. You’re not in his league.”

I sat there frozen. I was torn between saying sorry again and wanting to throttle her for saying that I fawned over Darryl. He was a friend and even though Jack and I would never be more than friends, the way she had said that it made ‘more sense’ and that I was not in ‘his league’, was a direct insult I couldn’t miss. There was only so much I could take. I stood up, “Anne, I came here to apologize, not to be insulted. I apologize for what I did. You can either accept it or not. The rest of what happens is up to you now. I would like us to be friends for Darryl’s sake, but that is up to you.” She sat looking up at me, her eyes narrowed and at last I knew that would never happen. Well I had done what I had come to do, “good bye and enjoy the rest of your day.” I walked away, not giving her a chance to say anything. When I got into the car, Ida looked at me, “That bad hey.” “Yip,” I replied, there was no need to go into details.

The following week was so busy that by the end of each day, I was tired and barely made it to bed, wanting sleep. I wondered how I was going to make it to Saturday. I would probably be asleep through the whole of the party, if this continued.

On Friday I passed out earlier than usual, too tired to even practice. I had arranged that Ida bring Chloë and Jack, while I went to the McDougal’s before the party.

As I walked up the path to the door, I started to get nervous. What was Darryl up to? He opened the door, “ Early, good, put your things in the other room and then we can get ready.” He seemed anxious about something while he led me to the sitting room. “Hi Darryl,” I said slowly, “Happy Birthday, by the way.” He laughed, “Oh yeah, thanks.” I gave him a hug and handed him his present. “I got this before I knew all you wanted from me was to learn to play two songs.” He grabbed the present, “Thank you,” came from the big grin that was planted on his face. He started ripping at the paper, looking up every few moments. When it was open, he looked up amazed.

In the wrapping had been a frame. Enclosed in glass was what looked like two CD covers. The top was the front cover, which had a picture of Blue Lava that I had taken at the festival. It was one of the best that I had. It showed all of the band members perfectly and it seemed to emanate the energy of their set. Their name was at the bottom in blue. The bottom was the back cover, which had in its background a picture I had taken of them while they had been sitting and relaxing. It had a list of their most popular songs. A list I had gotten from Emily.

“It’s perfect,” he said grabbing me, almost squeezing the air out of me. “Wow, it’s really perfect and it’s going up now and I have the perfect place for it. Wait here.” He ran to the kitchen and returned with a hammer and a nail and hung the frame on the wall with all the accolades. Moving back with his hands on his hips, smiling while he looked at it. Emily came down the stairs, “What’s with the knocking?” Seeing me for the first time, she smiled, “Hey Elly, what’s my bro doing?” “Putting up his gift,” he smiled at her, “look what Elisa got me,” he pointed at the frame now hanging on the wall. “Wow that’s really cool, you have a good eye Elly and Darryl if you ever make it, you already have a cover.” “Emily I don’t have your full gift, but here is a teaser. Happy Birthday,” I smiled handing over a brightly coloured package and hugging her. She quickly opened it. She was neater at opening presents than Darryl, but she had the same enthusiasm.

Inside was a mini handbook on anime art. She laughed, “Awesome. How did you know I love anime. My mom isn’t really into it.” “I saw your drawings in your room. Most of them are in an anime style.” “Well it is perfect,” she said grabbing me to hug me again. “Okay, well we can’t stand here all day. Elly we have to get ready before the party. You did bring the electric with, like I asked?” Darryl was anxious again. “Yes, I did,” I replied slowly again. “Leave the rest of the bags here so long, you will only need the electric and the sheets I sent you.” “Come along then,” he called back, moving quickly towards the entertainment areas sliding doors.

As we made our way, I noticed something like a stage outside. “Well, hurry up, we don’t have much time,” Darryl called back to me. The closer I got to the sliding doors the slower I wanted to walk. When I reached them I saw that to the one side of the porch there was a makeshift stage. Darryl turned, looking at me, “Ok Elly, you have been practicing on the electric like I asked, right?” I nodded. “Well set it up over there,” he pointed to the stage. He couldn’t be serious. “We’re going to start off with something that you know.” I stood looking at him, not sure what my next move would be, my feet stuck in their place. “Why are you standing there,” he looked confused, “you will be playing lead guitar.”

“Lead guitar, for what?” , was the first thing I could make myself say. “Well it’s my birthday present remember,” he smiled back at me. “Your present was that I learn the music you sent me,” I started backing away slowly. “Yes, so that you could play lead guitar for me tonight,” his smile was broader. “What?!” “You heard me right. It’s a bit of a tradition that the band plays something on our birthday.” “And?” , the realization of what he had planned dawning on me. “Well this year, I hoped that you would join me. It would be a great way of doing a dry run of playing in front of people.” “What?” I said disbelieving, stumbling backwards. In front of a crowd. I wanted to run, I backed away, but ended up tripping over my own feet, or cords, or something. I felt an arm grab me around the waist, pulling me back up. My body found a seat, my legs feeling weak. “Elly, are you okay?” “I don’t know. This was not what I was expecting.” He had concern on his face and kneeling in front of me, he seemed to try and reassure me, “Sorry Elly, I thought it would be fun playing together. It would be a great opportunity to get over those nerves. And, plus..”, he looked away for a moment, “I thought it was a great way to play alongside each other.” “I just need a few moments to get use to the idea,” I looked at him, “I’m okay,” I smiled back weakly, “you are really sneaky you know that.” He had a surprised look on his face, “Who me? How?” “You planned this whole thing. You knew, if I knew, I would try and back out of it somehow.” His lips started to form a smile. “And you are right. I suppose I had to do it sometime, play in front of a crowd.” His face brightened, “Well it’s a good thing you said 2pm, cause we going to need a lot of time to rehearse.” I stood up, my legs still unsteady. I had to do this sometime, might as well be sooner than later. Darryl followed me to the makeshift stage. “Don’t worry everything will go well and just follow my lead.” “How can I, I’m lead guitar remember.” He burst into laughter at that.

It felt like the first day of my lesson. My fingers were all thumbs, but as usual Darryl was calm and patient. After an hour we were playing the first song as if we had been playing it together for years. “The next part is to do the lyrics we practiced playing; now we have to practice everything together. Here is the sheet and the part I want you to sing.” “Sing, me, you can’t be serious...” “Yes I am.” “I can’t sing.” “Yes you can. Just do it, okay, trust me.” I surrendered to his instructions. I had heard Darryl sing before, but it had always been quiet. He had never put his full force behind it. Now that he did, I wondered why he didn’t sing lead as well. It was full bodied with a husky undertone. It could be dark and seductive at the same time.

“Okay now for the second one. You practiced the lead, now we have to practice it with me singing it as well. It’s a favourite of mine. Okay here we go..

As I played, his voice sounded more enchanting with each line and verse and my guitar seemed to flow. Why did he not sing more often, his voice was amazing?

When we played the last note, I was breathless, but not because I was tired. He looked at me, “Why don’t you sing?” , I asked, “you have an incredible voice.” He blushed, “It’s not my thing. I love playing guitar. Stephen is the lead singer and that is what he loves to do.” “Well you should do it more often, you hiding a talent away. You should share it more often.” “Well you should as well,” he replied. “Me?” “Yes, you. I’ve heard your voice,” he smiled mockingly, “It’s a talent that you should share more often,” he replied imitating me. I rolled my eyes, “If that’s what compliments get me, I’m going to keep quiet in future.” His only response was to stick his tongue out at me. We went through the songs a few more times, just to be sure everything sounded right. Darryl was a real perfectionist. Eventually he looked up, “I think we got it. We can just move your bag to my room before everyone gets here.” “Thanks, I just need to freshen up quickly.”

I went up to his room with my bag while he got something to drink. I had brought a second set of clothes. Something better suited for the birthday party than my jeans and t-shirt. I closed the door, but looking for a key, I saw that there was none to be found.

I was glad that I had brought a second set, I was soaked. I put everything on the bottom of his bed. Thankfully they weren’t creased. Getting undressed I noticed something sparkling from the corner of my eye. It came from the window where we had been sitting. Moving closer I saw the lake. At first all one could see was a shimmer, but as you neared the window, the shimmer began to part into different colours. They were dim at first, only slight hues of the seven colours. I stood there for awhile, when I heard something behind me. I turned seeing Darryl’s face emerging from the steps and down to realize that I was still in my underclothes. “Elly, why did you...?”

Trying to decide between going for my clothes and jumping behind the bed took a second longer than it should have and I was faced with Darryl looking at me, stunned, his mouth was open in mid-sentence. Everything moved slowly as I decided to go behind the bed. I saw Darryl’s eyes as I jumped. It was a combination between shock and something I didn’t know. I felt my body heat up as his face changed colour. Not looking where I was going to, I did not see the guitar case that had been lying next to the bed. I hit my head trying to curl up in a ball at the same time.

“Ouch!!”

I heard soft footsteps on the carpet run towards me. “Elisa are you okay?” Unfortunately I was. “Darryl stay there!!”, but he was already at the side of the bed. Nowhere to hide, curled in a ball in my underwear, I burst out laughing. “I’m fine, but can you give me a bit of privacy please.” His face was the colour of a ripe tomato. “Yeah sure, next time I’ll knock.” He left quickly and I tried to dress even quicker. He didn’t come back upstairs again, so I went down to the kitchen.

“Hey Elly, you sure you okay?”, he looked up, his face crimson. “I heard that bang against the case from where I was standing.” “I’m fine, I don’t think I’m bruised physically, just my ego.” “Nothing to feel bruised about,” the colour of his face seemed to be competing with his hair.

“Uh Uhm, it’s my fault. I didn’t see a key and you were a bit quicker than I anticipated. I should have warned you.” “ No need to apologize. I should have knocked when I saw the door was closed.” “Well it’s your room.”Could his face get even redder than it already was? We stood there in awkward silence for a moment.

“I saw the rainbow,” I blurted out, trying to break the silence. “Rainbow?” “Yes, the one on the lake. That is why I didn’t hear you come in…., ” I blushed as I relived getting caught in an embarrassing situation.”It’s beautiful. I can understand why you can sit there and watch it. It’s hypnotizing.” “It is,” that mesmerized look started to fill his eyes again, but something made him come back to earth and he looked straight at me. Smiling he said, “Well, the party is almost upon us. My mom and dad just helped Emily finish setting up outside,” he held out his hand,”do you want to take a look?” “Sure,” I replied putting my hand in his. It was warm and I could feel the calluses on the parts that came from playing guitar, the rest was soft. He led me to the kitchen door.

Although it was autumn, it was a warm, clear day and it seemed that the evening would be clear as well. I stepped outside to see the sun just about to move behind the horizon.

The lappa had been decorated in white fairy lights and there were couches with cushions and blankets positioned in a semicircle facing the ‘stage’. There were also cushions on the floor in the middle and a table to the one side that would probably have snacks on it. Around the ‘stage’ area, there were large colourful lights that had been connected to poles that made a square shape surrounding the ‘stage’. “Is this what you do every year?”, I asked looking at the scene displayed in front of me, “it looks like a mini-concert.” He turned looking at his backyard, “Not as big as this, we invited more people than normal. Usually we just set up in the garage and play.” “Well it looks amazing.” Behind me the doorbell rang and soon afterwards Ida entered with Chloë, Jack and Sylvia. I walked over, “Hey sis,” and hugged my friends. Darryl was behind me, “Hey Ida, glad you made it. This must be Sylvia,” shaking her hand, “nice to meet you.” Then he turned towards Chloë and Jack, he shook Jack’s hand and hugged Chloë, “Thanks for coming,” his smile was sincere. They looked at each other, but it was Chloë that spoke up first, “Thanks for inviting us. We weren’t sure what to get you, but we hope you like it, Happy Birthday,” handing over the parcel. “You didn’t have to, but thank you,” he took the bag and pulled out a book. He looked at me stunned. It was the complete collection to date of all of Bon Jovi’s music. I smiled sheepishly. “He looked back at Jack and Chloë, “This day is just getting better and better. I’m thinking of doing this every year if I get presents like I got today.” He hugged Chloë again, but a bit tighter than before, that made her look like her eyes would pop and slapped Jack on the back, pushing him forward with the force.

“I’m just going to put this somewhere safe, would you like to go down to the lappa so long. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Chloë and Jack’s eyes eventually settled on the backyard and their eyes grew wider as they moved along. “Wow, it’s really cool how they set up everything,” their eyes made their way to the stage. “And what’s that for?” “It’s a stage. The band will be playing a bit later,” I breathed a bit. I had almost forgotten about that, I sighed, “Plus yours truly.” “What?” “Yip, which is why Darryl asked me to practice those songs for his birthday. He wants me to play with him.” Jack and Chloë’s faces seemed to mirror each other, from doubt until a smile crept over them. “I like the way Darryl thinks, “Jack finally said. His voice seemed to have a naughty edge to it, “He knows you well enough to know not to reveal too much just in case you try to worm your way out of it.” “Well I get to see Elly play and I’m excited about it.” “Me too,” they both grinned back at me. This was not going to be too bad, but that was if it was only Jack and Chloë.

We moved down to the lappa and were joined by Emily, my sister and Janice. With snacks in hand, we sat down as more and more people started arriving. It didn’t take long for the lappa to be filled to the brim. There wasn’t a seat available, so some of the guests stood around chatting.

Emily introduced me to Kendrick, which was a newly acquired boyfriend. They were both studying architecture, but he was in his third year. They seemed well suited as they were both sports fanatics, while maintaining a very artistic side. Kendrick was far taller than Emily. So tall that she had to stand on her toes to give him a kiss and he was funny.

It was in mid conversation with Malcolm, my head tilted back to face him, that something told me to look ahead. When I did, I saw that there was a figure of a girl with blonde hair, cut in a pixie-style haircut, standing on the porch watching the scene in front of her.

Anne stood there, as if surveying the land in front of her. My heart sank a bit. I had expected that she would be there, but after the last meeting, I had decided to ignore that fact for as long as I could. She didn’t make a move to join us, but she kept watching. Darryl went up to greet her and it became clear that she had waited for him to escort her to the group below. When they joined us, Anne sat at the edge of the group although space had opened up so that they may be in the middle.

The lappa was abuzz with everyone speaking and laughing at the same time. In the middle of it Stephen stood up, clinking his glass as loudly as he could to shush everyone. “I’d like to make a toast.” Everyone quietened down. “To two of the coolest people that I,... we have ever met. Always there, always a smile on their faces and always fun to be around. We are all here because of you to celebrate a special day. Happy Birthday guys and enjoy.” Everyone cheered and started to sing Happy Birthday.

Darryl was the next to stand, “Thanks Stephen and now I’m sure, like every year, everyone is anxious that the entertainment begins.” There was a louder cheer. “Everyone knows we put on a little show each year, but this year is a little different as we have an added bonus.” Darryl gestured that I follow him, I felt myself go cold. There was far more people than I thought there would be and he wanted me to play in front of all of them. What had he been thinking? He patiently waited, my legs felt like they were stuck in cement. He gestured again and I took a deep breath and moved. Or it could have been Chloë pushing me forward. Walking up to the stage, my body felt like lead, my hands were sweaty and my stomach was in so many knots that I felt like bending over right there and being sick. He saw my face, “Remember what I told you when you played in front of your mom. I promise you will be fine.” I tried to speak, but my mouth was cotton wool.

At the stage Darryl took the mike while I stood at the door. I glanced in its direction. If I was quick enough I could make my escape and maybe no one would notice. Looking back at the group below us, I saw everyone’s focus was on us and Darryl was looking at me. There was no escape. He winked.

“Good evening everyone. Thank you for joining us. Like I said, this year we have a little bonus, which is our opening act tonight.”

It was now or never, I was at the edge of the sliding doors. I looked down again and saw Anne’s face. She was upset, more than upset. I could feel myself melting under that glare. I wanted my legs to move, but it felt as if they had been caught in quick dry cement. Darryl continued, “I’d like to introduce Elisa, a good friend and possibly the first student of the McDougal music school.” His announcement had woken me from a daze. I looked in his direction. That smile showed all the faith he had in me. I had said I would do this and he wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t think I could do it. It was a dry run, if I couldn’t handle this, how would I be able to handle the talent show. My feet were planted where I stood. I had to dig deep for strength to do this. It was the only thing that he and Emily had wanted and if I chickened out now, what type of friend would I be to them? “So please give a warm welcome to Elly,” he gestured me to my place.

There was a burst of applause and cheers and I tried to move as quickly as possible, but it felt as if I was dragging a ton on each leg. It seemed to take forever to get to the guitar. When I eventually got into position, Darryl leaned towards me, putting a hand over the mike, “Remember, breathe and we can start when you are ready, okay?” I nodded. “And don’t worry take your time,” his face was full of reassurance. Breathe, I thought. I checked the guitar again to see if it was in tune, even though I knew I had left it perfectly earlier. Breath. Closing my eyes, I breathed. I waited till I felt calm, then I opened them and looked at Darryl. I smiled and concern changed to joy on his face and he smiled back. “Tonight we will be starting off with something special...” he announced. Taking another deep breath, I strummed the first note.

As I did it felt as if something exploded in me. All that fear, nervousness, the knot in my stomach seemed to move out of every pore of my body. A calmness, that was deeper than the one before, seemed to take its place. With every chord and note I played I felt like I was transported to a world where there was music in every corner. The harmony and sound of the instruments were colours covering us. The first line I sang seemed like a gust of wind that had been held captive in my chest and now was freed. The gust mingled with the colours to make a whirlwind of shades. The more we played, the larger it got and it seemed to reach those that listened. There were different colours twisting around each listener and as it reached their ears it seemed to fill them with something that made them move with the music.

As the music came to an end, it seemed like millions of little lights, like stars or glitter shinning in the night was slowly gliding to the ground, leaving this world as before. I could feel the huge grin on my face. My cheeks were starting to hurt. Looking at Darryl, his face mirrored mine. An explosion of sound broke the silence after we had finished and broke me out of my stupor. It was a huge applause and I turned to see that everyone was standing. I took a bow, my face still stuck in a stupid grin. I turned to Darryl, “Thank you for having faith in me. That was awesome.” “I told you not to worry. In future, why don’t you just listen to me. It makes it easier for both of us,” he laughed. We made ready for the second song. This time I felt more confident and as we played together that feeling and colours returned. Applause erupted as we finished.

We made our way back to the lappa. “How are we supposed to follow an act like that,” Malcolm teased. “Well you can always become my groupie,” I teased back. “Congratulations,” I turned to see Anne standing with her arms wrapped around Darryl’s like a serpent, “it seems that the tutoring Darryl gave you was worth it. But I didn’t know he did voice lessons as well.” I was not going to let her spoil this for me, “Darryl is a very good teacher, but the voice is my own. No help was required there,” I replied. I walked towards Chloë and Jack, not allowing her to respond. Their bottoms looked as if they were on fire.

“Elly you were great and I never knew you could sing,” Chloë exclaimed as if she was on a combination of a coffee and sugar high. “I didn’t know it either,” I laughed. “You were amazing up there. I can’t describe it, just that you are a natural.” “You most certainly are,” Jack chipped in, “I have known you almost all my life and I didn’t know you could do that. You always surprise me.” I blushed, “Come on guys, now you’re embarrassing me.”

Next was the bands turn to play. Even though I had received compliments from anyone that was close to me, watching them play still made me feel like an amateur. But something had changed. Before, when I heard them, I heard the colours of the rainbow, mix and move into each other. Now I could see the colours emanate from them towards us. As those tendrils of colour reached the listener it seemed to awaken something in them. Their bodies vibrated at the same intensity as the music. The chairs and pillows were moved out of the way, so that those that wanted to could dance. With the clear night and cool air, the lights that looked like fireflies above us. The music enfolded us. It was as if everyone was moving in a dream. We moved as one, individually, laughing and swaying to the rhythm and colours that the sound created.

After awhile I felt thirsty and moved to the table to get something to drink. I noticed that Anne was standing to one side, while everyone squeezed for a spot to dance. I heard her come up behind me. Deep breaths I thought.

“You and Darryl looked really cosy playing together,” she started. “He was my tutor, so we practiced together quite a bit.” “So who’s idea was this anyway, to play as a duet, under the pretence of an opening act?” she asked, looking at me then Darryl. “Actually it was Darryl’s. A birthday present for him and Emily,” I replied, annoyance rising in the back of my throat. She had a smirk and it showed that she did believe me. “So Darryl requested, for his birthday, no, his and Emily’s birthday present, that you accompany him on stage to play those two songs. Right? That’s what you want me to believe?” “Believe what you want Anne, but that is what he requested.” She laughed, but it sounded shrill. “I told you before. I don’t trust you. I think that if you had half a chance you would try and take Darryl from me. So I am warning you, stay away.” I wished I could slap her right there. I had enough. “Darryl is a big boy and he can make up his own mind about what he wants and who he wants around. No one, not me or you can force him to do what he doesn’t want to,” breathe, I thought. “And if you knew Darryl at all or even tried to get to know me, you would know that we would not do that to you.” I had to breathe again, before I erupted, “And not that you require an explanation. The first song was the first one I ever played in front of anyone and I am comfortable with playing it, it was my dad’s favourite. The second one Darryl chose because it is his favourite. I suggest you ask Darryl why he wanted me to perform with him on his birthday. Maybe it’s because I actually take an interest in his music.” I clenched my hand to keep myself in control. I had made my peace with the fact that Anne didn’t like me. What did she see that made her feel as if I would take Darryl away from her?

“Anne, I have made peace with the fact you will never like me, but have a little respect that we are both in his life. I have, no matter what I think of you.” With that I took my drink and walked away. If I hadn’t, I would surely have done something unpleasant and it was not the time or the place.

As I walked away, it still saddened me that Anne and I had come to this point. We were both in Darryl’s life and it would have been nicer if we had got along. I wanted to see what Darryl saw in her.

“What was that about?”, Chloë asked as I reached their seats. “Anne and I came to an understanding.” I breathed out slowly, “she doesn’t trust me and I don’t care.” Chloë looked at Jack, who in turn looked at me for a more detailed explanation. They would have to wait. Even though I knew there would always be that barrier between Anne and me, I felt relief that it was out in the open now. I was not going to allow anyone to spoil my evening further. It felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

The last song was played and the band put their instruments away to join us. There was still music in the background, but the atmosphere was more subdued now. Anne seemed more attached to Darryl than usual and every time he moved closer to our group, she seemed to hold him back.

I knew the reason why. It was me. I ignored it as much as I could and while the cool air calmed my skin from the heat that I felt after dancing, inside I raged with fire. I tried to absorb the air through my skin and calm my insides, as it calmed my outside. When you ignore something long enough, at some point you can fool yourself enough to think it doesn’t exist. And that’s what I did.

I had sufficiently convinced myself into forgetting the animosity that Anne had towards me, so I could enjoy myself.

While speaking to Emily and a few of her friends I felt a slight tap on my shoulder. I turned around expecting to see Darryl, but was confronted with someone that was more than a head taller than myself.

I stopped breathing for a second when I turned and saw his face. He had dark hair, but I couldn’t make out if it was black or dark brown in the night light. It was cut in a school boy’s style which opened up his face. The first thing I had seen was deep blue eyes, blue as the ocean on a clear sunny day. They were shadowed by slightly thick eyebrows, which made them look both innocent and seductive at the same time. His nose was strong, but not large and his lips were full. The bottom being slightly thicker. It was all framed in what can only be described as a chiselled faced, but there was softness to his square jaw line. It would not grow harder with age, just more masculine.

“Hi there, we haven’t been introduced, I’m Kyle.” Taken aback for a few seconds, I put out my hand to shake his, “Hi I’m Elly, Elisa.” “I know,” he replied with a skew smile. I returned that smile, my cheeks on fire. “You really played well earlier. How long have you been at it?” “A few months.” “You wouldn’t say,” he looked a bit surprised at my answer. “Thanks, I had a good teacher,” the blush spreading from my cheeks to my neck. “Yeah, Darryl is an awesome teacher. He has a lot of patience. He could probably teach a leopard to play the violin.” He looked a bit uncomfortable, as if not sure what to do next. We stood, looking at everyone moving around us, laughing, speaking, everywhere but at each other. His body language showed that he wanted to stay. What to do next?

I was the first to break the silence. “So do you play?” He smiled as if thankful to continue our introduction, “Yes a bit. I play the keyboard or rather the piano,” he laughed slightly. “A bit old fashioned I know and I sing.” “There’s nothing old fashioned about the piano. A lot of good music has come from drumming on the keys. How did that start?” “My mom. She loves the piano and she says she heard me singing when I was really young and, as she puts it, ‘it sounded like an angel from heaven’.” He shook his head clearly embarrassed by the last statement, “So she got me involved with choirs from a young age.” “A choir that’s interesting.”

We moved to one of the couches that had been replaced under the lappa. “We try and keep up with trends and contemporary music, but it always has to have a good message behind it.” “From what age have you been singing?” “Six.”

Kyle explained that he had been part of choirs for twelve years. He had enjoyed them, but the older he got the more he wanted to get involved in other forms of music. He had just started a band with members of the choir. They were brothers, Ethan and John. Ethan played the drums and John was the guitarist, but he preferred the base. They were trying to find a sound that all three enjoyed. So far they leaned towards a soft, bluesy rock, as Kyle put it. Kyle was finishing off his last year of high school and planned on doing sound engineering with a few business subjects the following year. He wanted to get into the music industry whichever way he could. Listening to him speak about music was enthralling. He seemed to be captivated by it and became more excited as he spoke.

There was something about Kyle that made me nervous to my bones. As he spoke and described his band, I felt butterflies in my stomach. He wasn’t overbearing. He was rather charming and attentive, but the way he smiled at me, with a skew smile, made me blush. He listened to every word I spoke with more attention than was needed. It made me self-conscious and those blue eyes were penetrating. I wanted to hide and jump up and down at the same time.

In a moment of silence I noticed two people nearing us from the corner of my eye. “Are you trying to steal my opening act?”, came an amused voice. Looking up I saw Darryl and Anne standing in front of us. I wondered how he had managed to get this close with Anne suctioned to him like an octopus. “Maybe I am,” Kyle smiled, but there was something that was brewing behind that smile. “So Elly you rather want to be our competition, hmm.” I looked up, with pretence of indifference, “Well your band is full. I can’t play on my own forever,” I smiled. Anne’s eyes grew as narrow as slits. “I suppose there is nothing wrong with a bit of competition between friends,” Darryl replied. “True, it makes things more interesting,” Joshua stepping in at the last sentence. “And did I hear something about friendly competition?” “Yes you did, and I know exactly what you want,” Darryl smiled that devilish grin. “You know me so well already.” Joshua mirrored his expression, “Yip, I think it’s time for the game.”

‘The Game’ was a combination between music trivia and karaoke. Each team was made up of six members. Half would answer the questions and the other half would perform. Those performing could not help their teammates by verbally answering questions, but they could give them clues, like charades. After a question was asked you had two minutes to answer, if you could not answer then the other team mates could sing a chorus or verse. Answering first held more points.

Emily got a black bag with different colour balls, so that the teams could be split up randomly. There were three teams and the competition between the three teams would be fierce. With Joshua, Ida, Kyle and myself on one team, we seemed to work well. Anne was on a team with Jack, Emily and Stephen; and Darryl was teamed up with Malcolm, Chloë and Kendrick. I wasn’t sure what was worse, the competition between siblings or the rivalry that seemed to come through between Stephen and Kyle.

We moved along, laughing at the mad gesturing that happened between those that answered and those that sang, or the disbelief when an answer was missed. At the end my team and Darryl’s had moved into the first two places. Which brought us to the last round that was a sing off. Each team had five songs that they had to answer. If they could not answer the song, it went to the other team at half the points. There was some deliberation about who would do the singing in the last round. Kyle and I decided to do the singing, while Darryl and Malcolm sang for their team.

We started.

At the last song, we were even, but it was the other teams’ song. It was nerve wracking. If they got it, they won. If they didn’t we had a chance. It was Darryl’s turn. After he finished the verse, everyone was stumped. I gestured to Ida and as time grew to an end, I sat on the edge of my seat and waited to see if we would have a chance to answer. They missed it and when it was our turn to answer, Ida had worked herself up to a frenzy and shouted out the answer, and that was it. We had won.

Kyle walked up to Darryl smiling, slapping him on the back, “It seems you got a little taste of what competition would be like if Elly joined my band.” Darryl laughed, “Seems so, maybe I should see if she would rather join ours,” he smiled at Kyle, but there was a tension between those lips, “a second lead guitarist is maybe what we need.” “Hey guys, it’s my choice and I may just start my own band,” I replied looking at the both of them, arms crossed. They looked at each other and then at me, “That may just be a problem for both of us,” Kyle stated, with a sly grin on his face.

It was getting late and people started leaving, until there were only a few of the guests left behind. We still sat under the lappa. The night was clear and the stars shone brightly. The fairy lights seemed to increase the number of stars in the sky. There was a low quiet hum of voices and music mingled. We started clearing some of the used cups and plates that were still on the table.

Standing with a black bag in my hand at the table, clearing uneaten food off plates into the bag, I heard motion next to me. “Hey Elly.” Looking up, I found Darryl next to me clearing used tissue rolls and other waste. “Did you enjoy tonight?” “Is that a rhetorical question?” I replied. “No, why?” “Cause tonight was really awesome.” A big grin appeared on his face that brought warmth to his whole face. “Did you enjoy your night,” I asked back. “Yeah, one of the best nights ever.” I smiled. We cleared up in silence for awhile, till he broke the silence. “Elly, you really thinking about joining Kyle’s band.” I laughed, “I would if he had asked me. We didn’t get that far.” I smiled. Another silence, then he breathed a bit loudly, “I’m sorry I wasn’t around tonight. There were a lot of people.” I tried to avoid his face and moved around the table. I knew why he had not been around and it wasn’t that there had been too many guests to make it possible.

There was no reason to point it out. It had been a lovely night irrespective, but I felt that I had to make him feel better about it. He seemed to need assurance that I was not upset. “Don’t worry about it. I think we were both kept busy tonight. You have many interesting friends. Where did you meet them?” “Here and there over the years. Sports, music, school.” Silence. “So what did you think about Malcolm’s cousin?” I looked at him confused, “Who was that?” “You don’t know, Kyle. The two of you spent a lot of time together. I thought he would have mentioned it. “Oh, okay. No he didn’t, but he’s cool and the fact he started in a choir at the age of six, wow.” Just then a honey sweet voice could be heard from the other side of the table, “Honey are you almost done?” Anne was moving around the table towards us. How to leave before she joined us, without Darryl noticing, was on the forefront of my mind. Her arm slid into his, looking straight at me with contempt shining through. “I’m tired, when will you be able to take me home?” She looked up at him, all those emotions gone. Now it looked like a child trying to get their parent to do something they wanted. I wondered if Darryl knew how she felt about me. I continued to clear in the opposite direction, trying to put as much distance between us. “I’ll be done in a bit, and then I’ll take you home, okay?” She pouted up at him, like that of a child who had not gotten their way, “Okay.” Ida came towards us. She gave me the perfect excuse to make my escape. In a few moments we were saying our goodbyes. Alice would stay a bit longer; she and Malcolm seemed to hit it off.

Darryl got my things I had left in his room when Kyle came up to me to say good bye. He walked with us as we made our way to the front entrance. “So about joining our band,” he started. I cocked an eyebrow, “And who said I wanted to join your band? I haven’t even met the other band members yet. Maybe we don’t ‘gel’.” “I doubt that. They will want you to be a part of it as much as I do,” he smiled, “but we can remedy meeting them.” We had reached the front door by then and he stood in the doorway, leaning against the door with his hand on the top.

Standing like that made you aware of his height. He was almost as tall as the door and with a muscular frame, more than half as wide. He had a smile that was uneven as it came up higher on the one side. Eyes of deep blue pools, like the colour of the ocean on a clear day. In the light, I had to admit that he was more handsome than I had initially thought. “How do you suppose we do that?” I asked, feeling the heat rising to my cheeks again. “What are you doing this weekend? We can meet for something to eat and then you can meet Ethan and John.” “Interesting,” I smiled. “I’ll let you know. I don’t have my itinerary on me,” I teased. “Sounds like a plan,” he smiled the one corner of his mouth moving higher.

Darryl had made his way down the stairs without a sound, “Here’s your things Elly.” I was startled by the sound of his voice, which seemed to break the hypnotic look of Kyle’s eyes. “Thanks, almost forgot about that,” I replied. Kyle looked down at me and smiled, a wider one this time, “Well hope to see you soon, Elly.” “Sure, I’ll let you know.” He waved bye to the others and made his way back to the lapa, while Darryl and I watched. Darryl was the first to look away. “So what was that about?” I shook my head slightly to get back to the present, “Oh nothing. Kyle wanted me to meet the rest of his band. We may meet up at The Diner. I’ll see.” He looked back at the direction that Kyle had left and then at me, “Oh.”

We made our way to the car and I said my final goodbyes. First to Emily, then moving to Darryl. He bent over to hug me, squeezing harder than usual. As he did he whispered, “Thank you for making this the best birthday ever.” Moving away, I smiled, “It’s a pleasure, but it wasn’t only me.” He smiled, but there was also serenity on his face, “But it was mostly you.” I didn’t know how to reply.

On the drive back everyone reminisced about the evening, but when we got home, I couldn’t wait till I was in bed. My thoughts wandered over the evening again. Standing in front of everyone and playing, how it had made me feel. The confrontation with Anne, how bad I felt that we couldn’t move past her dislike and how happy I was that I decided not to worry about what she thought about me. Kyle asking me out to eat to meet his band. How things were so different from a few months ago and it had all started with a guitar.

I had asked Chloë and Jack to accompany me to meet Kyle at the Diner. I didn’t know what to expect and I preferred having my closest companions with me.

After the party, they had expected a full explanation of what had happened between Anne and myself. Chloë was conspicuously silent and Jack had a strained look on his face during the whole commentary. “So your opinions?” They were uncharacteristically quiet, but their faces spoke millions. “Come on, I know you are both burning to give me your take on the whole situation.”

Chloë was the first to break their silence. “Well maybe she has a point.” I felt my eyes widen at her words, “What do you mean, she has a point?” I retorted. “Elly, I am your friend, one of your best friends and you know I will always be honest. So don’t get upset by what I am going to say, okay.” “Okay, let me have it.”

It was apparent that they had seen something that I was unaware of. She continued, “Well you and Darryl, how can I describe it? When the two of you are together, especially when you are playing, like at the party, you seem to be in your own world. And I am sure that is unsettling for her.” “I don’t understand why that would unsettle her. Darryl and I share our appreciation for music, something she seems to have no interest in.” “It’s not only about the two of you playing together. Even just sitting together it’s the same, a little bit less intense though.” “And you?” I looked at Jack. His eyes were averted, which was a sure sign that he was trying to avoid saying something. “What are your thoughts?” He looked up at me slowly, “From the other end, if you were really my girlfriend, I would be concerned about your friendship as well.” I sat there, stunned. I had never thought that Darryl and I were in our own little world, as they put it. It had always been so easy being around him, speaking to him. And when we had played together, it was more that he had opened up another world to me. Something that I could have only shared with someone that loved it as much.

After what they had said, I played the times that Darryl and I had been together. Trying to look at it from the outside. I remembered the last few times we had been alone, the way my heart had started racing when he was close to me. I hadn’t understood why. Had everyone seen what I had been missing? Was that the reason why Anne was so resentful of our friendship? I had to try harder not to put myself in an unpleasant situation. Things were always changing and they weren’t as pleasant as I thought they would be. The rest of the week I tried to replay everything that Chloë and Jack revealed to me. It still felt like they were holding something back, but they denied it. I had to be more conscious of my actions around Darryl. Maybe everyone was misinterpreting our friendship.

In the meantime Kyle had somehow found my number and I could only guess that it had been Malcolm that had given it to him. I had agreed to meet him and he started messaging me frequently over the week. He was funny, but his humour was dryer than Darryl’s and he seemed to be interested about almost every topic under the sun.

The Diner was full when we arrived. It seemed that everyone had decided to go out on one of the last few ‘good’ days before winter hit us. The next few months would be cold and rainy. It didn’t get cold enough to snow. If we wanted to experience that, it was at least a three hour drive inland, on a rare day and it only lasted for a day before it turned to sludge.

While we waited for seats, Kyle arrived. He walked in with an air of confidence that was so different from what I had seen when he had introduced himself. As soon as he saw us, his mouth split into that lopsided pearly white grin I had seen the evening of the party. There should be a law against teeth being so perfect and natural. It hit me again how handsome he was. “Hey Elly, you made it.” “I said I would.” His smile was infectious. “Good thing too or I would have hounded you.” A waitress approached us at that time to show us to an open table. My silence was enough of a reply.

We made our way to our table. It was obvious that Chloë was mesmerized. She had a smile planted on her face that only came out when she was enthralled, and she was twirling a strand of her hair on her finger more often than not. Jack on the other hand seemed guarded. He watched every move that Kyle made and with more concentration than was required. I wondered if alpha-male-syndrome only came out when the opponents were the same size or was it just more evident then.

It didn’t seem to phase Kyle. He was either unaware of their reaction or really didn’t care. He emitted an ease and self-confidence that others, like me, would wish they had. It came out as charming and with an intellectual dry humour, every now and then a quirky side coming out; he would make the most hardened girls knees weak. Our conversation turned to the talent show and Chloë took it upon herself to explain what we were planning. “Sounds like something I can’t miss,” Kyle added. Before I had time to think about answering, Chloë replied, “I agree. You should come.” I rolled my eyes at the thought that by the end of the week half of the town would probably be invited to the show if she continued the way she was. Kyle looked directly at me, “I can’t wait to see you in action again.” I smiled back weakly, between Darryl’s family, the band and the teammates that Jack had invited; I would have to be blindfolded as not to faint on the stage when I saw them. Kyle’s blue eyes scanned my face, “You have a nervous look. What’s wrong?” “It’s just the thought of the show. It’s my first competition and it’s a bit nerve wracking. Not like playing in front of a small group of people for fun.” His smile was warm, “I agree. Competitions can be like that, but you really don’t have to worry, you’re talented. I’m sure you will knock their socks off.” He softly patted my hand reassuringly.

Two tall, dark faced people made their way to our table. They were mirror images of each other, except for their hair. One was cut short almost to the scalp and the other had a head of floppy dark curls. The dark chocolate colour of their hair seemed to melt into their skin. They were both slender, but as they came closer one could see that they walked in a different manner. The short haired one walked straight as if he had a broom attached to his back, the other had a relaxed gate, walking straight but with more flowing movements. Kyle stood up to move towards them. They must be John and Ethan that he had told me about. He motioned them towards our table and introduced them. The moppy hair one was John and the short crop one, standing slightly behind him was Ethan. “Hi everyone,” John greeted with a large grin. It was quick to see that John was the more extroverted one as he sat down next to me, while Ethan sat across from him. “So you are the Elisa that Kyle hasn’t stopped blabbering about.” “Blabbering?” I was taken aback by the news that Kyle had been speaking to them about me, “I hope it’s been good.” “Yes it has, but he understated how pretty you were, for one thing.” I heard myself giggle like an idiot. I tried to get my composure back as quick as possible, but I felt my cheeks heat up. “Thanks,” was the only word that I could get out without sounding like a complete fool. Ethan looked more serious though, “He did also tell us about your playing skills. Apparently you are phenomenal, even though you’ve only been playing for a few months.” “I think he overstated my skills with that one.” “Don’t underestimate yourself like that. The hardest opponent to beat in a competition is really your own fear.” John and Ethan looked at each other confused. Kyle explained about the talent show and by the end of the conversation they were also interested in seeing us perform. “It’s not a big thing, just a school show,” I had to divert their attention; “it was actually Chloë’s idea. She’s a dancer and she had the great idea of the two of us doing the group set together.” “So you will be playing while Chloë dances. That should be good,” John looked at Chloë with an admiring eye. “And I will be joining Jack as their cheerleader,” Kyle announced, his head tilted to the side, the skew smile appearing on his face. My face flushed, while Chloë seemed to encourage the idea, “The more the merrier. Jack has a few teammates joining and between Darryl and the band, we may just have a very good fan base. It may help persuade the judges of the extraordinary talent before them.” “Chloë, we’re not the only ones that are talented in the show. You know I can rattle a few names that can take us any day,” I said trying to deflate both her attitude and the idea that we were better than I thought. “Well, in my opinion, I can’t see anyone else taking the top prize,” Jack added. “Here, here I agree,” Kyle leaped in.

“So Kyle says that you were all part of the choir and you started a band. Why the change?” John was the first to respond, “It was nice at first, but when we got older our tastes expanded from just singing in a choir.” “Kyle says you have been playing around with a blues rock sound.” “Yes, that is because we have different tastes. I am the alternative guy, Ethan likes grunge and Kyle is into blues, but the one genre we all like is plain old rock. So we played around with different combinations that all three like and it seems we settled on a blues rock sound.” “How long have you been together?” Chloë asked. “Well.., we agreed that we would have an open relationship. I like to keep my options open till I find something that I can know I would be able to put my full commitment to. But without the danger of getting bored too quickly.” “He means we have been playing together for a year,” Ethan spoke up, “but it’s been more garage band stuff,” he was clearly not impressed with his brother’s obvious flirtation. The longer one spent time with them, the clearer their differences became.

Apart from their hairstyles and the way they walked, the personalities were on the opposite side of the spectrum. John was extroverted and very flirtatious. He had a very laid back attitude that didn’t allow for any seriousness. While Ethan was serious. He was matter of fact. He wasn’t really what you could call rigid, but he didn’t seem to take part in anything that seemed frivolous. I enjoyed the company of both brothers though.

“How does it work?” “What do you mean?” Ethan asked. “How do come up with your music?” I replied. “Well Kyle is the poet among us. He has a book full of lyrics. John and I come up with the music most of the time, and then we try and put good lyrics together with a good sound. But sometimes it’s the reverse, Kyle will come up with a great tune and John and I will have some poetic inspiration.” “I’d like to see that process. I haven’t gotten to the part where I can make my own riffs? Sometimes I hear the music, but I don’t really know how to put it into action.” “Well that is easier than trying to come up with something that doesn’t sound like a repeat of a popular melody. But quick advice. Listen to that music you hear and when you play, you will hear if the chords and tune is the same as what you hearing. It takes a while and you start of slowly, but you will get there.” Kyle spoke up then, “You can always come and watch us jam.” “Really? Will it be okay? Won’t we be a distraction?” “Well it’s a distraction I am willing to live with,” he said with a smile growing on his lips, “or you could join us. We have a practice session tomorrow.” John and Ethan agreed to the idea. “Well Chloë and I have a practice session on as well, so I am not sure if we would be able to,” I replied. “You can always practice at my place, there is enough space.” “That’s a great idea,” Chloë blurted out. “Yes, a preview would be awesome,” John added. I looked at Jack, he just shrugged his shoulders. There would be no help there. “Okay then. Jack, Chloë and I will come over with my sister.”

Following the directions that Kyle had given, we arrived at a double wrought iron gate. Behind it we saw, what could only be described as an estate. In the background we saw a large building. It was white two storey structure with large windows at the bottom and a balcony that went all the way around the front. It reminded me of houses that one saw on old movies about plantation owners in the American south. There was a perfectly manicured garden in the front, with lolly pop trees all along the driveway. Were we at the right place? Ida pressed the button on the intercom. A male voice came over the speakers, “Good afternoon, how may I help you?” My sister answered, “Hi there, Elisa James to see Kyle.” “Come in Ms James, the gate will be opening shortly.” Ida and I looked at each other, opposite eyebrows arched. This was more than we expected, far more. The gates swung open and we drove up a stone driveway. There was a fountain in the middle, in front of the doorway and you would have to drive around it to get to the door. From up close the house looked even larger. “Did you know Kyle lived here?” Chloë asked, craning her neck to get a view of the house through the car window. “No, it never came up.”

Ida stopped in front of steps that lead to a large double door. Everything seemed clean and immaculate on the front porch. There were pillars all along the front that supported the balcony. As we all got out of the car, the doors opened and Kyle came walking out. He seemed smaller against the door. He moved quickly down the steps, “You here, awesome.” “Nice place,” Jack replied as he strained his neck to get the full view of the house. “Thanks, my mom likes big things,” Kyle said in a matter-of-fact manner. Ethan and John appeared behind him at the door as I made my way to the back of the car to get my guitar. “Need help?” Kyle asked as he appeared at my side. “No thanks, it’s just my acoustic.” “Let me help,” he insisted, reaching to take my case. I let him, it was obvious that he was not going to take no for an answer. Ethan stood at the car and Jack introduced him to Ida, while John took Chloë’s bag. We made our way to the massive door and I pondered, if the doors were that big, what was inside?

As we entered, we were greeted by a foyer that could rival some hotels. It was large with marble tiles in a mosaic design of white and gold. There was a large crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling that glittered different colours of the rainbow as the sun hit it and a staircase stood across from the door that could easily accommodate all of us walking up. Above it hung an over-sized painting that seemed to be of an Aphrodite-like maiden in a forest and to the right was what seemed to be a sitting room, or maybe it was a waiting room. The furnishings looked antique and I was afraid that I would bump and break them.

Our silence was broken by Kyle’s voice. “This way, we already set up.” We moved through what seemed to be the waiting area, as I had correctly judged, and then through an archway to the room behind it. It was larger than the foyer and decorated all in white. It looked more like a sitting room compared to the waiting room outside with white couches and a very furry white rug that covered most of the dark wood floor. I imagined that if you lay on that rug it would be cosy and soft like a down blanket. I checked my shoes, fearing that I would dirty the snow white interior. There was a glass table in the middle with an elaborate vase that held white roses and to the side there was a large fireplace, with a mantle that was the same colour as the wooden floors. Above it hung a geometric painting coloured in red, black and brown. As we moved through, we came to French doors that held another large room. This one seemed to be the entertainment area. There was a large flat screen on the one wall, with shelving below which held different remotes and dark tan leather couches arranged to face it with speakers and two stands in front of the television. There was an archway that lead to another room, but we changed direction to face a non-descript door at the end of the room. When he switched on the light, one could see steps leading down to a basement. We reached the bottom and the staircase opened up into a large room that seemed to be the size of all the rooms we had just seen, put together. At the bottom of the stairs there were two tables, one was for table-tennis and the other a pool table. There was enough space between them so that parties at either table would not bump into each other. In the middle of the room were couches that faced each other, with a table in the middle. It was arranged so that depending where you sat you could view a part of the room. Next to that was a gaming set up that would make any gamer jealous. A large flat screen was mounted against the wall with a round table in front of it that had different remotes attached with a gaming wheel at the one end. Two gaming couches were positioned in front of that and beyond was an open area with instruments. It had a music system set up that I would think would only be in recording studios.

“So what do you think?” Kyle asked, arms stretched out. “I think I’m jealous. I wouldn’t leave this place.” “It gets a bit lonely and one needs some outside interaction.” “You can just invite friends over. You don’t have to go out.” He laughed, “I’m not a vampire. I need some sunlight from time to time or I’ll have a pasty white complexion. Take a seat everyone, “he gestured, “I’ll get us some snacks.” He moved to a corner of the room where there was a fridge and cupboard. As we sat, I noticed that Jack was looking at the gaming set up, he looked at me with a huge grin crossed his face, I smiled back. Kyle came over with a tray of drinks, “Jack, you want to have a go?” he nodded towards the seats. “Can I?” Jack replied like a six year old in a candy shop. Kyle laughed, “That’s what it’s there for.” Before Jack could be encouraged any further, he dashed for the seat. Kyle pulled out a draw of games. Ones that I had never even played before and before anyone could speak another word, Jack had a pair of earphones on and had started one of the racing simulations. Ethan was the next to speak up, “Do any of you enjoy table tennis?” Ida and Chloë nodded. “How about a doubles game, before we start?” “Well it would be a good warm up,” Chloë answered. “Good, so who’s in?” “I haven’t played it in a while,” Ida replied. Both Chloë and Ida were far better than I was and I didn’t feel like being embarrassed twice in a row today, so they made their way to the table with Jack and Ethan in tow.

“Seems as if everyone has found something to do? Why didn’t you join them?” Kyle asked as he neared the couch. “Not today,” I replied, “one embarrassing situation is enough for me.” Sitting down close to me, “Well I’m happy about that, it gives us a bit of time to talk.” I smiled at him, unable to think of anything else to say. “So you say you jealous of my little cave. To jealous to consider practicing with us more often and making it your home?” “Well I would have to hear the acoustics of the place,” I said looking around.

The acoustics must be great. If they had set up the basement like this, they would surely have tried to get that right. “I assure you it sounds good enough.” “And then there’s the logistics,” I replied, “I mean, I can’t always ask my sister to chauffeur me around.” “Well that’s an easy problem we can solve. If she can’t bring you, I’m happy to come and fetch you”, his face had a smile I didn’t understand yet.“That’s really sweet of you, but I can’t ask you to do that” I replied. “Its no problem at all and you not asking, I’m offering.” There was that same confidence that I had seen when he walked into the Diner. What was he so confident about? “So it’s settled?” “What’s settled,” I asked confused. “That you will be joining us to practice?” “I’ll see about that.” Something inside of me told me that I needed to keep him at arm’s length. At my answer his eyes narrowed as if he was trying to figure out something.

With his handsome face and his charm, he was probably not use to girls not falling at his feet, or saying yes to everything he suggested. He took a deep breath and licked his lips before he continued, “Tell me what made you start playing?” Did I really want him to know my deepest thoughts? How would he use them? Did I really want to speak to him about my dad? He made me nervous and I couldn’t put my finger on why. Messaging him had been easy. The conversation had been light and I was not confronted with the intensity of his blue eyes that was wrapped around a handsome face that was exuding confidence. At that point he felt a little bit intimidating. My instincts told me that letting him in too quickly could be perilous. He looked at me expecting an answer and I cleared my throat, “I’ve always wanted to play an instrument and the guitar seemed the natural choice.” “What is you inspiration?” “Inspiration?” “Yes, what inspired or inspires you to play?” “My dad,” I blurted out.

He was digging. How deep did he want to dig and how far would I allow him to go? “Your dad played?” “No.” He looked confused. “He loved music of any kind. Where ever he was there was music,” I explained. “You sound as if you are really close to him.” “Was really close.” “Was?” “He passed away last year.” Concern covered his face, “I’m sorry to hear that.” “ Not as sorry as I am.” I looked down. He reached for my hand, “I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to touch on a subject that could hurt you.” I looked up, fighting back tears. I hadn’t thought of my dad in such a long time and I felt guilty about it. “It’s okay, really. Can we change the subject?” “Yes, of course.” His hand felt cool. They were soft all over and smooth. I slowly pulled mine away to wipe away what would have been tears. He had dug a bit too deep without me noticing.

He seemed to be looking for something to say, “Apart from music what else do you enjoy?” I smiled to trying to convey that he didn’t need to be that uncomfortable,“Well I’m really into gaming. I’m a bit jealous of Jack right now.” He looked shocked, “Why didn’t you say anything earlier?” I smiled, “Because, Jack was quicker on the draw.” “What else do you like?” “Books, being with friends. A lot of things other people enjoy as well.” The questioning seemed to die out and we sat watching the others in silence for awhile.

It was Kyle that was the first to speak, “How did you meet Darryl?” I was stunned by the subject. Had he been leading up to it all along? “My mom heard of someone that was good at tutoring and she arranged it. “Oh. And you and Darryl?” “What about Darryl and I?” “Watching you play together the other evening, there is a bond between the two of you that is unexplainable.” “Darryl and I are just friends. We just seem to be on a similar wavelength when it comes to music, I suppose.” “And you and me, do you think we are on a similar wave length?” How could I respond to that? “Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know you that well to answer that right now,” I replied. “Then how about you get to know me better then?” Those eyes were as blue as the sky on a clear day.

“Why?” “Because I find you interesting and I want to get to know you better and what is laying behind those dark vaults you call eyes.” The one corner of his mouth curled up in an enticing way. He was definitely dangerous, dangerously charming. I laughed, “You make me sound like a project.” “Not at all. It’s just rare that I meet someone that I haven’t figured out by the second time I’ve met them.” “I’m a simple person. There is nothing intense to figure out. How about I ask you some questions? You have learnt a lot about me, but I know almost nothing about you, other than you are Malcolm’s cousin, which you didn’t tell me.” This time I looked straight at him, eyebrow rose. “Well I didn’t say anything because the subject never came up.” “Well the subject is coming up now. Before I say anything further, I want to know your story, your inspiration. Everything.” His head tilted, eyeing me from beneath long eyelashes. “Everything?” “Yes. Everything. From what you can remember about being potty trained to your first kiss.” He laughed with delighted amusement, “Everything you say?”

His eyes narrowed again, but this time it felt like he was planning something. His smiled, closed mouth, but the one side still moved higher than the other. Finally with his chin resting on his hand, he spoke.

“Well, my first kiss was with a girl named Zelda.” Why had he started with the first kiss? Why had I even said it? “And how did you know Zelda?” “When I was twelve I took part in a musical production. It was my mom’s idea. Seeing if I could act as well as I could sing. Zelda was one of the leads. She was pretty, but the kiss had been a dare. I actually liked her understudy, but the other boys had dared that I could not make her kiss me and I have always been one that could not turn away from a challenge.” “What did the understudy say?” “Well she wasn’t too happy when she found out. I tried to make it right, but there wasn’t hope. Zelda wasn’t the nicest of people either.” He sighed, drawing in a deep breath, “When she found out that her understudy had a crush on me as well, she basically threw it her face at every opportunity she could.” “So you gave up your first kiss to a girl you didn’t like, just so that you could prove a point?” “Well it taught me an important lesson.” “And what was that?” “ Make sure that the next person I kissed was worth it.”, he looked at me intently with those clear blue eyes and I had to look away.

I said the first thing that came into my mind, trying to break the silence and that intense stare.“When did they remove your tonsils?” “My tonsils?” “I said everything?”, I looked up smiling at him. “I was seven and you?” “I was six. My mom was so worried about it, but my dad bought a month’s worth of ice cream. It got to a point I couldn’t look at ice cream for a very long time and your folks?” “Well my mom was so worried they would accidentally damage my vocal chords, which she insisted on being in the operating theatre.” “And did she get it right?” “No, but she did get it right to be in a viewing room though.” “How did that happen?” “Well medical students have to see a real operation in progress right. My mom made a deal. I could be one of the operations they do for medical students as long as she was in the viewing room with them.” “Your mom seems…,” “To always get what she wants?”, he interrupted. “I was actually about to say resourceful.” He laughed, “That she is.” He tilted his head again, looking at me curiously, “You really want the full story don’t you?” “Yes, I do.” “Well, here it is..” as he moved to face me directly.

His mom had been a violinist. She had a good voice, but the violin was her best instrument. When she had met his father, she had been part of an orchestra that had been touring. His dad was starting off as a banker at the time. He had played the piano and had been considered a protégé, but his parents weren’t supportive of a musical career. They had pushed him into a direction that would be, as they had said, more financially secure for a future family. He was good at what he did, but Kyle’s mom had reawakened that love he had had for music and had kept him sane all these years. They had known each other for almost ten years before they had married. When his mom felt that her career as a violinist was coming to an end. He, however, felt that it had more to do with his father than either of them would let on.

He was the only child. His parents had tried for a second, but by the time that he was ten years old, after all the hospital visits and the procedures, they had decided that it was not worth it to go on. “What about adoption?” “Well, I think by the time that the idea had occurred they were too drained from trying to go through the adoption procedure. I remember my dad saying that he had wanted two, a boy and a girl. My mom had joked and told him that two was too few.”

As the years passed by, his dad had become busier with his work, but once a year he tried to make it up with a family vacation. “What was your favourite vacation?”A smile spread across his face as he reminisced. “I can’t, its cheesy.” “Come on, with the smile you just had it looked like it was fun.” He shook his head, “ I can’t, it’s embarrassing,” he said as he looked at me through his eyelashes, my heart skipped a beat. Dangerous is what I reminded myself. “I promise I won’t laugh or make fun of you, just tell me. It can’t be that bad.” “Okay, but only if you agree to the following deal.” “What’s the deal,” I asked uncertain to what I was getting myself into, but curious to what he wanted. “If I agree to tell you, you agree to go to the movies with me?” I was taken aback. “That...sounds...more..like..blackmail.” “Not blackmail, maybe...bribery. You don’t tell anyone and I buy you dinner and a movie too.” “ Dinner as well?” “Well if you learn my little secret, I need to keep you quiet,” he winked at me. “Really, why does it feel that it’s a win-win for you.” He shrugged his shoulders “Who says, it’s as humiliating as you make it out to be?” “I’ll give you a little taste, Disneyland.” “What’s so bad about Disneyland? I wish I could go.” “Well, maybe one day I’ll take you.” I laughed, “Come on, it can’t be that bad.” He made a gesture as if he was locking his lips. I shook my head, “Okay I agree to the movie, if it’s really that bad.” “Agreed. When I was nine, my dad took us there for the first time. It was one of the few times I saw my dad really relaxed and just enjoying himself. His silly side came out and my mom seemed to react well to it. Very unlike the straight arrow, serious person he usually is.” “And… what is so humiliating about that. It actually sounds like fun.” “That was just the back story...For my sixteenth birthday, my dad asked what I wanted and I said to go to Disneyland.” “And?” “Well we acted like I was nine again, to the point that I stood in lines with real nine year olds’ to take pictures with the characters. Went on a few rides I may have been too old to go on.” I raised an eyebrow. “Some of the conductors asked if I had lost my kid. I was sixteen.” “Why do you think that is humiliating?” “Well firstly I was sixteen going to Disneyland, then there are the pictures.” He shook his head and looked at me sheepishly. “Oh I want to see those,” I grinned. “Its going to take more than a movie for you to see those,” his grin was wide and I could see the cogs working in the back of his head. “More, like what?” “You will only have to wait and see.” The skew smile he had on his face promised a lot of fun. Kyle was perilously captivating. It scared me and I knew that if I wasn’t careful I could get lost and there would be a cost. What the cost was I didn’t know yet and that was the scariest thing of all. I shook my head to bring myself back to reality and away from the thoughts that were threatening to race through my head, “You said that it was embarrassing. I still haven’t heard anything that could justify it?” He still had that smile on his face, but a slight blush starting creeping over his cheeks, “You know those really big shows they have?” I nodded. “I don’t know how my father had managed it, but on one of our last evening we were there, we went to see one of them. It was actually one of my favourites as a toddler.” “Which one?” He looked away and then peaked at me from underneath his eyebrows again, “It was actually….Cinderella……” I gulped down a giggle and bit the inside of my cheek to try and stop myself from expressing a bit of a shock. “Cinderella….who would of guessed….,” I eventually managed to get out. “I know. It’s not something I advertise.” “Uhm...Is it the Prince complex or the blonde bombshell that got you?” Surprise exploded over his face, “Neither actually. I prefer dark haired girls.” It had taken seconds for that smile to return, but now I was interested in why he liked that particular fairytale, “So explain. What is the attraction to Cinderella?” “Well... I think I liked it as a kid because good overcame bad. And come on, it’s one story that shows that Karma can be ruthless. Cutting heels and toes to get a guy based on his status and its the hard working, beautifully underrated girl in the corner that actually catches his fancy...” Again there seemed to be more said than was spoken. I felt my cheeks burning for no reason and as I looked up at Kyle as he continued, his eyes drew me into the blue horizon. “At the end when they have the Prince ride the kingdom looking for Cinderella, instead of taking the found slipper to the actor that played the prince, uhmmmm… they brought it to me….” “What?” “Yeah, my dad had arranged that for the final scene, I would play the prince and put the slipper on Cinderella’s foot….” I was speechless. When I was very young, I had dreamt of the same but from the opposite viewpoint. But to actually be able to do that. “And this was in front of thousands of people and it was filmed…….” “Are you serious…?” “Yeah…” For a moment I wasn’t sure how to say it but I eventually got it out, “That is so….COOL!!!!” “You really think so?” He seemed a bit stunned at my reaction. “Yeah, it’s cool. Come one. At some point most kids have either dreamed about being Cinderella or being the Prince and you, you got to do it. Okay fair enough, most people would have gotten sick. Did you get sick?” He shook his head. “But you did it. You became part of a story that you loved. I think that is an awesome experience.” “I’m glad that you think that,” he moved in closer in the attempt to whisper, “because to tell the truth and this is what makes it embarrassing, I actually liked it.” He moved away and we sat there looking at each other smiling. It felt that we had crossed a bridge, but the other side was not as scary as I thought it would be. It looked like it could actually be fun.

“So Elly, I think I’m warmed up enough. We going to get ready to practice?” .Chloë said, coming up to the couch. I had almost forgotten about that and I was glad that Chloë had interrupted us. “Where can I get changed?” Kyle stood up, “You can get changed through here,” he moved to a door that was at the end of the room. “So sis, Kyle seemed to be keeping you busy. What did you chat about?” Ida said as she sat next to me, her eyes scanning for any information. “His folks and some of growing up.” “His really good looking and it seems his really into you.” “Into me?” “You are so blind,” Ida laughed. “Yes his into you. You can see it the way he looks at you.” “I don’t know,” I looked in Kyle’s direction at the moment he looked up. He smiled and I had to smile back,

’His just too..” I didn’t know how to put it into words, perfect maybe.

“We will see how things go. He got me to agree to a movie.” I sighed. Ida didn’t look as surprised as I thought she would, she just had a smile on her face. I got my case and moved to the music area. I needed to get set up while Chloë got changed and I hoped it would give me a little time on my own.

Kyle had joined Ethan and John on the couch. Even Jack had moved over after his consistent playing. I thought it was probably his stomach that had been nagging him to take a break. I tuned my guitar and did a few finger exercises. Chloë came out in her leotard and I noticed John’s eyes widen. She put her bag to the side, “I’m just going to do a few stretching exercises, then we can start.” “Cool, I’m almost ready. Just doing a few exercises myself.” After a few minutes, Chloë came up to me, “Okay done, on the count of three, I’m going to get into position.” I nodded my head. Chloë lay on the floor, one leg bent under her, with the other out stretched. Her arms touching her toes. One. Two. Three…. I started, she lifted her head and moved her hands around her head as if she was making a slow circle.

I loved watching Chloë dance. She was graceful and it was like watching her absorb the music into her body. I had gotten into the habit of glimpsing at her while I played, it helped me keep track of where we were in the song, and watching her energy, somehow energized me. I felt a smile move across my face. Those colours started swirling all around me now.

The song came to an end and she moved to me when we were finished. “Okay our timing seems to be good. I’m thinking of speeding up the song a bit, can you do that? Just a little bit.” “That should be fine, good thing I brought the mini metronome.” I adjusted the timing a bit, “Okay ready to go?” “Ready,” she answered back. The timing between us was a bit off at the beginning, so we tried again, and the more we tried the more it felt as if the music and the dancing were merging. Everyone stayed away while we practiced, but I noticed Kyle and John watching us. Every few moments Ethan would look up from the conversation that he was having with Ida and Jack had gone back to playing on the console. This wasn’t as nerve wracking as I thought, especially as everyone made themselves as inconspicuous as possible. I was grateful. We kept practicing, as Chloë wanted to perfect her positions and I didn’t want to make any more mistakes. My playing had to be as perfect as Chloë’s dancing.

After about half an hour we took a break to have something to drink. “You are awesome,” John said standing up, but it was directed more towards Chloë than me. “Thanks,” she replied with a slight blush on her face which didn’t come from the last half hours excursion. “I agree, you guys are going to blow the crowd away with that performance,” Kyle said, his eyes more powerful than before. Why was it that with every look he gave me, it felt like I had less on than before? I sat next to Ida. I needed distance from him. I didn’t think that I would be able keep anything from him if he kept looking at me like that. He sat speaking with Chloë and John, but his attention was across from the table at me. They didn’t seem to notice as their attention was on each other.

Soon Chloë gave me some reprieve by summoning me to finish of the last part of practice session. This time Kyle sat facing us directly. The rest went their way, keeping themselves busy with whatever was available to them. His eyes traced every part of my being and every move I made as I sat down to start. It was unnerving and exciting at the same time. I closed my eyes. It was the only way I could concentrate. Breathe, remember breathe and take your time. I opened them and looked at Chloë. One. Two. Three. And we began again.

A few more things to work on and we would be ready by the time the show came around. I packed my guitar away, while Chloë went to change. As I was busy, I noticed a shadow making its way towards me. Straightening, I saw Kyle close by. I turned around to face him. “You are really phenomenal and it’s not just the way you play.” He reached out touching my cheek with the back of his hand, slowly stroking it, “It’s the expression on your face. It’s so intense as if you are a part of the music.” I made the mistake and looked straight into those blue pools, “It feels that way. Doesn’t it feel that way for you?” “Sometimes.’” He placed a stray strand behind my ear, “But I don’t think as strongly as it does for you. It shows a part of you that you don’t show much.” His fingers were softly threading their way behind my ear, “What part is that?” I asked, feeling tendrils moving along my scalp. His only reply was a smile and a look of fierce determination, which hypnotized me.

Everything seemed to stand still, except his face. From far away I heard his voice, “ The supernova part.” Seconds became hours and I felt frozen and alive at the same time.

“Elly.” I heard another voice from a distance and I suddenly snapped out of the trance I was in, turning to the person that had called me.

Chloë came out of the bathroom, busy with her bag, clearly unaware that she had broken a trance. She looked up at the scene in front of her. Kyle’s hand was still in my hair and he seemed to have frozen in the same position before she had called me. I took the opportunity to release myself while she stood there, motionless.

“Chloë, you were about to say?” “Uhm, well..I was going to say..that this..was a great..practice session.” She still stood frozen, her hand halfway in her bag. I moved quickly toward her or was it quickly away from Kyle. It didn’t matter. “I agree. A few more and we should be perfect.” She looked at me and then behind me at Kyle. “Yeah.” I took her arm guiding her towards the couches, “ I think we should join everyone, don’t you?” “Yeah,” she replied, looking at me then back towards Kyle. He stood on his own, where I had left him. I ventured to glance back, but instead of a vexed expression that I had expected, he seemed amused.

Finding sanctuary at the group, I sat next to my sister again trying to find shelter in her conversation. Kyle had slowly made his way back to the seats. His movements looked like a jungle cat that had lost a prey, but was still on its trail. My heart was in my throat and my face a fire at replaying what had just happened.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t slightly attracted to Kyle, even I could see that, but I was torn in two. One half wanted to be drawn in, like a moth to a flame and the other side warned that I would get burned if I allowed that. He came to stand behind my seat, his hand on the edge of the chair. He seemed to be absorbed by the conversation of the party, but somehow I knew that was a ruse and most of his mind was concentrated to what was seated in front of him.

I had to do something before being drawn in again. “So when is it our turn to hear your practice session?” I asked out aloud. “We did come over to see you play.” I put on my sweetest smile and John laughed, “We’ve had such good company that we totally forgot about the fact we were the ones that were actually supposed to practice today.” Ethan added, “You may have forgotten, but not me. I just stalled,” he smiled towards Ida. “I suppose now is as good time as any to start,” he said getting up. “Come on guys let’s not disappoint the ladies.” John and Ethan made their way to the instruments, but I still felt Kyle behind me. I felt a hand on my shoulder, then hot breath against my ear, “The first one is for you.” There was a light pressure on my ear and even if I hadn’t felt it, I saw in Chloë’s eyes what had happened. He moved towards the others, but his movements were like a tiger retreating to rest before the next hunt.

The breath I let out was deep. It felt as if I had been holding it in since Kyle had approached me when I was packing my case. Chloë immediately made her way to our chair. It faced the stage area, but I doubted very much that it had anything to do with seeing them play.

“What the heck was that I saw just now and just now?”, Chloë asked irate in a hushed tone. “I don’t know and I don’t know,” I replied in an even quieter tone. “What are you talking about?” Ida asked. Smiling towards John, Chloë spoke through her teeth, “As I came out of the bathroom I saw, what seemed to be, Kyle about to kiss Elisa. And just now when he left, he bent over and kissed her on her ear.” “What?” “Yes.” Seated between Ida and Chloë I wanted to curl up. The group in front of us had finished checking their equipment and John spoke up, “Ready ladies? We hope that this is as a good a performance as we just saw.” Kyle looked at me a smile of delight spreading across his lips. If my best friend and sister could stare at me, without being obvious, they would, I was sure of that. They began and I heard a mesmerizing voice. It was sensual and sultry, like a fallen angel that had given up its wings and in return it would bewitch you. The words were sweet words of eternal affection, fire and passion. Was this one that he had written? The first was for me, he had said.

“So what’s going on Elisa?” , I heard Chloë’s voice trying not to be too loud as they played. “Nothing.” “Well it didn’t look like nothing.” “Chloë I can’t give you an answer, because I don’t have one. The only thing I can tell you is that I’m going to try very hard not to be a moth and get burned.” “A moth? What has that got to do with anything.” “Think about it, but we not speaking about this now.” I could see Chloë’s impatience, wanting to hear every detail, but she would just have to wait. I wasn’t going to have this conversation now and especially here, with that song and blue eyes watching my every reaction as it sang the words. By the end, my heart was racing, I was flushed and I needed to go to the bathroom to cool my face down.

The following lyrics more light hearted and it gave me a chance to cool down, but Kyle had succeeded in lighting something in me.

They were good, very good and their sound was unique. Jack had joined us to listen and he brought a light hearted atmosphere to the conversation.

Joining us again, we were separated by gender this time. Ida, Chloë and myself sat on the one couch and they sat on another. We spoke about the music and the sound and if it was something that people would listen too. All the while Kyle’s eyes kept roaming towards mine and when I caught him staring, I would blush and he would smile.

I couldn’t handle being in that state of perpetual fire anymore and I was thankful when the time came to leave. “It’s too bad you have to leave so soon, but there will be a next time, right,” Ethan looked towards Ida. “I’m sure there will be,” she smiled back. Making our way to the large door, we seemed to pair off, except for Jack, who walked with Chloë and John up ahead. Everything that happened ran through my mind and deep in thought I fell behind everyone. I didn’t notice when Kyle had fallen back next to me, “I scared you didn’t I?” “What?” “Earlier, when we were speaking, when I brushed the strand out of your face, I scared you.” I didn’t want to look at him, my face would flush all over again. He would know how it affected me, that’s if he didn’t know already. “I’m sorry. It’s just when I know something deep down, I tend to jump in head first. Sometimes I don’t realize that one of the consequences is that it is unnerving and scary for the other person. But I’ll try harder from now on to be patient.” “Patient about what?” “I’m not sure how to explain myself without coming off as weird, but you should have realized that I am very much attracted to you and it feels as if it is the same with you.” “I don’t know about that. I don’t know you well enough yet.” “That is why I said I will be patient. Even though there is a fire inside of you, you only show it to those you trust fully. And right now, I am not in that category, yet...” I looked at him amazed. “One day, I hope to be the one that you show your unbridled supernova to,” he smiled as he said it.

We reached the door and I was glad to escape. Escape his eyes that seemed to be all over at once. I was right when I thought he was dangerous and I was even more correct when I thought that I would get burned if I ventured to fly to close. I knew now what that cost would be. He had the power to break someone if they weren’t careful.

We drove away from the house and it felt as if that fire was cooling down inside of me. Chloë had waited till she thought I was happy enough to have put some distance between me and Kyle. “Now are you ready to spill what happened?” Jack looked at the both of us, “It looks like I missed a great deal while I was playing.” “That you did,” Chloë replied, giving him a side glance. “So Kyle made a move, so what?” “So what?”, she responded. “Kyle is charming, dangerously charming and I have the feeling he is someone you have to be careful with.” “Kyle is perfect. His good looking, his charming, his confident. The two of you seem to have a lot in common. What’s the problem?”

What was the problem? Another girl would have melted at his feet. Another girl would react the same way Chloë was acting and think I was an idiot for keeping him at arm’s length. Kyle was perfect, but was he too perfect? There had to be something and I wanted to know what that something was first.

“You right he is perfect, but he feels to perfect. I need time Chloë.” “Time for what exactly. It’s not like there’s someone else standing in the wings, waiting.” She looked at me with an expression of knowing something that she would not share with me. “I know that. I just need time. Okay.” She shook her head, clearly thinking was I was being stupid and too careful. Kyle had a power, a hazardous power of being able to break someone if they weren’t careful. I had no intention of being broken.

When we got home later, I went straight to my room. I had no intention of being in my families company and being interrogated about what had happened. I wanted to calm down. I wanted to clear my head. I took my case and placed it against the door, next to Darryl’s electric.

What was wrong with me. Everything Chloë had said was true. Why didn’t I just go with it? There was an aching in me that I did not understand. I needed to clear my head. I picked up the electric and plugged it into the amp Darryl had loaned me. With earphones on I started playing. There was music there and I tried to listen and copy it on the guitar. As I played all the unanswered questions vanished. My mind only concentrated on my fingers and the chords I heard as I played. I don’t know how long I had played for, but by the time I was done, my fingers were aching and I felt great.

I flopped down onto my bed, absently taking my phone, not expecting anything, when I saw that I had three messages.

The first came from Darryl:

’Hey Elly, how’s your day going? Practice with Chloë going well?

You at the Diner yet?’,

that was just after I got to the Diner.

The second was from Kyle:

’Elly, thank you for this afternoon,

it was amazing to get a preview of your performance. John and Ethan agree that you would be a great addition to the band,

And don’t forget about our deal, whenever you want to go for that movie

Let me know,

Kyle xx’

The last was from Darryl again:

’Well it seems you are busy, don’t forget about tomorrow

(smiley face)’.

I responded to Kyle first, it was the easiest. I thanked him for a great afternoon and I would let him know about the movie. I thought about what to say to Darryl. Was I going to see him again tomorrow? After what Chloë and Jack had told me, I wasn’t so sure about it, but it was letting go of a good friend. I didn’t want to throw him out in the cold, like he didn’t matter. I just had to watch myself.

I responded to him, apologizing for the late response and telling him that if he still wanted to come over, it was business as usual. Within seconds I got a response, he was coming. I said goodnight and left my phone in the room while I ate and got ready for bed.

The next day was just a bit colder. It was more difficult to get out of a warm bed and Darryl was coming over.

We sat down at the kitchen table and I got snacks and drinks ready as usual. He spoke about the gig he had played the previous night. They were still doing playing odd shows, but now they were playing more of their own music rather than the tribute shows they had started doing in the beginning. I listened, glad not to be speaking. “And your day? You must have been really busy if you could only reply when you did.” “It was okay. Yeah, I was kind of busy.” I didn’t want to go into detail. “Is that all?” “All?” He laughed, “You too busy, then when I ask you about it, all you say is ‘yeah’. Come on what did you get up to. I told you my day in detail, your turn. I haven’t seen you since last week.” I smiled, which must have looked more like I had cramps. I told him about my week. I spoke around the meeting with Kyle and going to his house. “And Kyle, did you meet him at The Diner?”

Why was it that when you wanted to avoid a subject people always seemed to go straight for it? “Yeah, I did.” “And?” “And it was good. I met John and Ethan too. Have you met them?” “A few times.” “What do you think of them?” “Well they seem like good guys. Haven’t spent much time with them though. Why?” “It looks like Chloë and John hit it off.” “Oh okay.” He looked expecting more, “Kyle invited us over to his place. We got to speaking about how they put their music together and they were going to practice and invited us over to watch.” The expression on his face changed. It became more guarded.“And were they good?” Was he really scared of the competition with Kyle. Their music was so different. There was no need to fear competition from them. “They are. Their sound’s different from Blue Lava’s though.” “And your practice with Chloë yesterday?” It seemed as if he wanted to change the subject, “How did it go?” “It went well and Kyle has a nice area and the sound in the basement is good.” “You practiced at his place,” Darryl face pulsed disappointment. “Uhm, yes we did.” I hadn’t meant for that to slip. Music was one thing we shared. I had to explain. “When they were speaking about their practice, Chloë suggested that we could practice with them as well. I think she got over enthusiastic, wanting to spend more time with John.” “Oh, so they saw it?” His face was downhearted and his eyes were downcast looking at his cup. I felt terrible that Darryl had not been the first to see our routine, “ I don’t think so, you’ve seen Kyle’s basement. Jack was hardly with us, playing games the whole time and the others were either playing table tennis or chatting. I hardly think anyone even took notice of us.” He looked up with half a smile, but there was no joy behind it. “I doubt that anyone could concentrate on anything else when you play.” He looked directly at me and I had to look away. “Kyle seems to be really taken with you as well, apart from your playing.” I looked back at him, surprised. How did he know? He looked down at his cup again. There was a line drawn where his mouth normally was.

“What do you mean?” “I mean, I think he likes you. He couldn’t stop asking about you after you left last weekend.” “Oh.” “What do you think about him,” he asked, looking up, his eyes were intent on mine. “I don’t really know him, so I can’t say right now.” Something inside me told me that I could not tell Darryl that being around Kyle seemed to ignite a fire inside me that I had not known before and that it scared me, because I didn’t know if it would warm me or consume me. “Oh.” I needed to change the subject that would take the focus far away from me.

“How is Anne?” He looked at me in that same surprised expression that I had had a few moments ago. “She’s fine.” “Is she okay with you being here?” “What do you mean?” So she hadn’t told him about our face off. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? How do I play this? “Well I told you before I think she is a bit threatened by me, by our friendship and after much thought I think she has good reason to be.” “What do you mean by that?” He looked anxious, worried. “Well, we have a close friendship right,” he nodded, “people on the outside may misinterpret it.” “Misinterpret?” I couldn’t say the words. Saying them meant something I didn’t quite understand and it would draw a line forever. “You know what I mean. Like there is more than there really is.” His eyes seemed to draw back in his head, like he was drawing away from me. I could see the hurt reflect in those specs of green and gold. “Oh, okay.” “So I just wondered if she would be okay with you being here.” His eyes downcast again, “Like you said, there isn’t anything more than a close friendship, right? So she has nothing to worry about.”

We sat there in silence for a moment, a few moments longer than we should have. He lifted his cup and drank the last of his coffee, and then eventually he spoke up. “Well, I have to be going.” “You do?” “Yeah, a few things to do for my dad.” He avoided my eyes as he spoke. Gathering his things, we walked to the door in silence. He turned at the door, putting his hand up towards my face and stopped midway, placing it on my shoulder instead and smiled that same smile that had no joy behind it. It seemed as if he struggled to get something out, but the only thing that came out was a good bye. Turning, he pulled his coat around him as if he was shielding himself from the cold. I watched him leave. It was like watching a phantom disappearing into the fog.

I had succeeded in avoiding taking up Kyle’s invitation for a movie. I wasn’t ready to be alone with him and no one had had the time to accompany me. Darryl still came around, but those days weren’t the same anymore. He was the same, same lame jokes, same interest in how the rehearsals were going. Telling us about the band’s preparations to travel next year, but the conversations were strained. There was something that was standing between us and I could see it in his eyes every time we happened to look at each other. That was usual followed with both of us looking away.

Chloë and John seemed to be getting on well and most days I had to listen to her banter on about the messages he sent her or how they sat up speaking for hours. I smiled as mush as I could to share in her happiness, but it was hard when it felt like something had been lost and the longer I took to find it, the less likely it was that I would be able to.

“Well, John and I were speaking about doing something like going to the movies.” “That’s nice, what were you thinking of seeing?”, I replied. “Not sure yet,” she contemplated, “but I was thinking, that maybe you could come with, be my wingman, woman?” “What, why?” “Well, we haven’t really gone on a date yet . I need someone around that won’t let me do or say something stupid.” “Why don’t you ask Jack?” “ No way, I’m not playing third wheel and who says I don’t have plans of my own?”, Jack replied. We both looked at him, “What plans?” “You girls are always so secretive, it’s my turn. You wait and see,” he smiled back. “Please Elly, come with. I promise you won’t feel like a third wheel,” she looked at me pleadingly. I knew she really liked John and how could I not help her, so I agreed.

That Saturday Chloë came over to my house to get ready for the movies. Just after we had finished, we heard the ding-dong of the bell. We got our jackets and went towards the door to meet John, but as I turned the corner I saw someone else standing next to my mother.

I stopped dead in my tracks. What was Kyle doing at my house? My mom had a small bouquet of flowers in her hand. “Oh Elly, there you are,” she had a bright smile on her face, “ I was just about to call you. Your friend is here to pick you up for the movies.” I could see that, but it was the wrong friend. “Hey Elly,” Kyle had that skew smile on his face. “Hey Kyle, where’s John?” “Right here.” John moved out from behind him. “Kyle brought me these beautiful flowers, aren’t they gorgeous Elly? It has been awhile that someone got me flowers.” “They very pretty mom,” I replied, stifling my exasperation. “Well Mrs. James, it was nice meeting you, but we must be off if we are going to make it on time. If that is okay with you,” Kyle looked at my mom for approval. “By all means, I don’t want to keep you, but Elly does have a curfew, so don’t be late.” “Yes Mrs. James, we understand.” “And she is my youngest, so take good care of her.” “Yes Mrs. James, that is my plan,” his smile spread wider across his face. Chloë had made her way to John’s side with in a split second, but I moved slower, much slower. Kyle waited till I had made my way to him, I kissed my mom on the cheek good bye. He held out his arm for me and we excited.

“So it seems that we have eventually made it to that movie,” he looked down at me with a gleam in his eye. So that had been the plan behind Chloë asking me to come with. Well it had worked out ,as I would get the movie out of the way and I wouldn’t have to be alone with Kyle. “It seems so,” I replied.

As I closed the door and turned, I was greeted by a fearful sight. In the light of the setting sun, something dark red, like a ripened raspberry, stood in front of my drive way. It looked like a sleek beast. I was both afraid and in awe. “Wow, what is that?” “You like?”, Kyle smiled, “it’s my other baby.”

The car stood gleaming in the setting sun, like a mountain lion after a meal. “Its a gorgeous car.” I couldn’t deny that. “Well you carriage awaits, my lady,” he gestured me ahead. Before I could move to sit at the back, Chloë and Jack jumped ahead of me. I had hoped that I would sit in the back with her, but they had other plans.

As I seated myself in the front seat, Kyle came around and closed my door. I had to admit that sitting in the front seat would probably be better than the cramped quarters at the back, but it seemed that John and Chloë were enjoying the closeness. When Kyle turned the ignition, the car hummed like a wild cat. I wondered if it roared like it as well. “Let’s be on our way then”, he said with a wide smile on his face, “Let’s” I breathed. As we rode, the car felt smooth, but as if it was being held back by a leash. I wondered how fast it would go, but was too nervous to ask Kyle as I wasn’t sure if he would take it as an invitation to test the limits.

We got to the movies and before I could get my things and get out, Kyle was already standing in wait at my door. It was the early show and there were many people around. As I got out, I saw them staring at the car, then at who was exciting. There were many envious looks, from both male and female and I became very self conscious about arriving in such an ornate vehicle. It was beautiful, but it was too much, especially for an eighteen year old.

Kyle held out his arm again, as usual unaware of what was happening around him, reluctantly I took it. I noticed a few surprised looks from those very females that had watched us getting out. I lowered my head in an attempt to hide. This was embarrassing. “Why so shy all of a sudden?” he asked. I tried to smile, “Oh nothing. Just a lot of people staring, it’s a bit embarrassing.” “You should stop worrying about people looking. They will always look at you.” “Why?”, I asked a bit shocked. He lowered his head as if telling me a secret, “Because you beautiful and a puzzle.” I shook my head, “I think you have me confused with someone else.” “That’s another reason why you are so intriguing. You are exactly what I described, but you do not even know it.” I bit my bottom lip.

We eventually got to the movie theatre, which felt like the longest walk ever. I had noticed a few glances my way, mostly from the female folk. Their eyes had first noticed Kyle, which I understood perfectly. Then after lingering there for awhile, they had moved to me. I suppose, after they noticed that there was an arm attached to his. There was a look in those eyes that I could only describe as a combination of envy and disbelief. How could anyone date Kyle if they had to put up with that all the time?

We couldn’t decide on what movie to watch. Chloë wanted to see a romance. I could chastise her for coming up with that decision. A romance was not on the list of movies I wanted to watch with Kyle. There was an action movie playing and I opted for that. Unable to come to a consensus to which one we would see, it was decided that we split up and meet up after the movies were finished.

We made our way to our seats, but soon realized that there were only a few people in the theatre. Maybe I should have gone with the slasher movie, it may be not what I enjoyed, but it seemed as if more people had booked that one.

The lights went out and I held onto my box of popcorn as if it was my lifeline. Sitting in the dark, next to Kyle, made me nervous and I tried to put all my concentration on the movie and pretend he wasn’t there. His arm rested on the armrest between us and as much as I wanted to rest mine on it as well, I made no move to be any closer to him. Half way through, he lifted up his arm to stretch and put it on the back rest of my chair. I rolled my eyes at the cliché move. With that I put my arm on the middle rest, with his gone. It was my turn to rest it there. I became more enthralled with the movie and without noticing, he had moved his arm back, next to mine.

At the most spellbinding part of the movie I grabbed onto what I thought would be the armrest, but seconds later I realized it was his hand. I froze and then let go as quickly as I could. I looked slightly at him, not wanting to see his eyes, “Sorry, I didn’t know your hand was there.” “No problem, you can grab it anytime you want,” he replied. I shied away, back into my seat, trying to disappear. The rest of the movie his hand stayed on the rest, more on my side than his, but I refused to put my arm back there.

After the movie had ended, we made our way out and I walked as fast as I could, hoping that Chloë was already waiting for us. Kyle grabbed my hand, holding me back “Why are you walking so fast, there’s not rush.” I stopped and looked back, “Chloë may be waiting for us.” “Their movie is a bit longer than ours, so we have a few minutes before they done,” he replied. Shoot!! Now what? “Oh,” I slowed down, but I pulled my hand out of his to adjust my jacket on my arm. “Can I carry that for you?” “No, its okay. I should have left it in the car. I thought it would be cooler in the theatre.” He smiled, “I know what you mean.” I know I blushed and had to look away from those blue eyes, which seemed to intensify with every minute. “So what do we do now,” I asked trying to break the tension. “Up to you. Do you want something to drink, I’m a bit thirsty. What about you?” he asked. “Me too,” I replied. After what had happened in the movie theatre and the salt on the popcorn, my throat was parched.

We made our way to a little side shop that made different types of smoothies. It had a few small tables and we sat down. I sent a message to Chloë to let her know where we were, so she knew exactly where to find us when they were done.

“So what did you think of the movie?”, he started. “It was good, but a few parts were lacking. On the whole it was not too bad.” “Do you prefer action to romances?” “Well it depends.” “On?” “My mood and the romance, I suppose.” “So was it your mood or the movie tonight?” Where was he going with this? Why was he so interested in the fact that I had chosen one over the other? “I think it was a combination of both.” “Oh,” he looked at me in that intense, questioning way again. “So what do you feel like doing now? It’s still a bit early to go home, dinner?” “I think I have eaten my weight in popcorn, so I’m a bit full at the moment. What do you feel like doing?”, I replied turning the questioning around. “Hmm, well, I’m not sure if you will go for it.” “Give it a try, you never know.” I smiled. “Well its between two things, go-karts and mini-golf.” I laughed, “Awesome.” He smiled a wide lopsided smile. “I would say go-carting, but I suppose we have to take the other two into account.” “I suppose,” he replied, smiling. “You like go-carting, that’s really cool.” “Yip, I enjoy racing and go-carting is as close to doing it myself.” “Me too, you saw the beast out there. I have always loved sports cars, old and new. My mom was a bit scared that I would be silly and drive recklessly, but I had done advanced driving before.” “Really? You so lucky. I wish I could do that. Actually learn how to drive like that.” “Well it does teach you more than driving fast, it also teaches what can go wrong if you make a mistake and why.” “Don’t you ever get tempted to push your car?” “Yes. Every day, but they have race tracks for that and when they have an open day, I usually go.” “Really?” “Yip. You can come with the next time I go, if you want to.” “Yes I want to!!”, I shouted and then looked down a bit embarrassed. “I was actually wondering what the top speed was and how it felt. I was a bit nervous that you would take it as an invitation to go faster.” He smiled, “I wouldn’t do that. Be reckless with a priceless package in my car,” he reached for my hand that was on the table, but instead of taking it, he only used his finger tip to outline it, “I wouldn’t forgive myself if that package was hurt in anyway.” This time I left my hand where it was. One side of my brain was screaming at what an idiot I was, the other was sitting, eyes closed, in pure bliss.

“There you guys are,” I heard Chloë say from far away. I quickly retracted my hand and put it under the table on my lap. Thanks Chloë, you saved me twice now, I thought. Kyle’s hand was still on the table as he looked towards the oncoming pair. “Elly, you should have really seen that movie. You would have loved it.” “Thanks, but I really enjoyed the one that we saw.” “So what do you guys want to do now,” Kyle asked. “Elisa and I were thinking of maybe go-carting or mini-golf.” Chloë scrunched her nose at go-carting, “Well go-carting is over so quickly, how about mini-golf.” I looked at Kyle and shrugged. I should have known she would go for that. “Mini-golf it is then.” We made our way back to the car and Kyle opened the door again. I was becoming use to him doing it and I was more comfortable getting into his car now.

Driving to the course, Chloë told us about the movie and the more I heard the better I felt at not going. It was definitely a first date movie and this would not, in any shape or form, be classified as a first date.

The course was quieter than the movies had been and we were the last group to get onto it. John and Chloë seemed a lot closer than they had been before we had watched the movie and they seemed to be touching each other for no apparent reason.

It was obvious that they were in their own world, which I felt too embarrassed to disturb. Chloë had a very competitive nature, but when John had offered to show her how to hold the club properly she had allowed him to. I rolled my eyes. Why, oh why did girls always act like that around a guy they liked. It was the first time I had ever seen her take a submissive role and it made me wince. As I shook my head I turned to see Kyle watching me. He had a knowing smile on his face and I knew he had seen my reaction. He came to stand next to me as we watched Chloë take lessons from John.

“You don’t approve?” he said as we faced them. “Approve?” “Of John?” “I do approve of John. He seems nice and Chloë likes him.” “Then why the head shake.” I sighed, “I don’t approve of what Chloë is doing.” “And what is that?”, he turned his head to me, eyeing me. “Pretending to be helpless,” I replied. He laughed at my statement. “What’s so funny?” “Nothing.” “I know my friend and she is very competitive and she has played before, countless times. Now it’s as if she has never played a day in her life.” “And you don’t approve of her doing that?” “No. Why should she change the way she is, just to make a guy feel better about himself.” He looked back at John and Chloë, thoughtful. “So you wouldn’t do that.” “No way. I am who I am. You either like it or not and if I’m better at something than you, get over it,” I said with a tone that had an edge of irritation it. “That’s good to know,” he said smiling again. “Do you prefer a girl doing that rather than being herself?” He kept quiet for awhile. “It depends, who being herself is, but as for your question, no I don’t like it when girls do that.” “But,” He continued, “I don’t think you friend is doing that because she wants to seem helpless.” “Then why?”, I asked confused. He moved closer, standing behind me, as close as John was to Chloë. He bent over and spoke quietly against my ear, “Maybe it’s because she wants him to be as close as I am to you right now and it’s an excuse without being too obvious.” That fire was starting in the pit of my stomach as I watched John have his arms around Chloë, both holding the golf club. I noticed her cheeks were like the petals of a rose as she laughed and looked back at him. Kyle continued as I felt the tip of his nose close to my hair, “ So who do you think is the helpless one now? John, who has been given permission to have his arms around the girl he really likes, feeling the warmth of her, being able to smell her sweet smell? Or Chloë, who can at anytime, walk away from him and never give him the chance to be that close again?”

I stood there, unable to move when everything in my body was screaming at me to get away. Who was the helpless one in this situation, I thought. I wanted to tilt my head towards his, relax my body against his, but I kept it rigid. It was the only thing I could do not to melt into him. After a few moments Kyle moved away, but I still felt him up close. He had a dark smell, almost musky but there was a faint sweetness to it.

Eventually John and Chloë finished up and it was our turn to play. “Need any help?” , Kyle looked at me, eyebrow arched with a smile on his face. “No thanks. I’m good.” I couldn’t ever have him that close again. It took longer to finish up the game, between us laughing at the silly mistakes we made and Chloë and John not being able to keep their hands off each other. It had become a little awkward after a while. I had kept my distance from Kyle as was physically possible as well.

In a quiet moment I would catch him look at me in a questioning look, when I caught him he would smile and look away, but I would always have the feeling that after I had looked away he looked at me again.

After the game, we made our way to the car and then John made a suggestion. Kyle’s house was close and his car was there, if we made a little detour, he would pick it up and he would take Chloë home, instead of Kyle having to drop us all off. I hoped that Chloë would reject the offer, but I hoped to much. I pulled her aside for a moment. “Chloë are you sure about this?” “Yes, don’t worry about me. My gut is saying everything will be okay.” “You sure it’s your gut speaking?” “She looked at me shocked and then laughed. “You asked me to be your wing woman,” I replied trying to get her to be serious again. She put her hands on my shoulder, “Elly, I’m going to be fine. Is this about me or is this about you?” “What do you mean?” “I mean, does Kyle make you uneasy?” Not in the way she thought.

Being around him was unnerving and I was more unsure of my own actions, rather than his. I was fighting against myself at every turn. Half of me was being drawn into the light and the other was running a mile. The next time that he was close, I was not sure if I would slap him or …...“Not uneasy.” “If you need me with you, tell me, okay?” she looked concerned. “It’s not that I’m scared of what he would do, but what I would allow.” Her eyes narrowed, then she looked at Kyle. “Okay, we were supposed to go together and I’m not going to leave you alone. We go home together. I can sleep over at your place. I told my folks it was a possibility anyway. I just have to call them to confirm.” I was so relieved. “Thanks, I really needed you to stay with me.” She smiled and gave me a hug, “That’s what friends are for.” We walked back to the guys and Chloë informed them that she had forgotten that she had told her parents she was sleeping over at my place. John looked dejected, but Kyle looked at me, that same amused look he had when I had walked away from him at the stage.

We drove home, mostly hearing Chloë and John giggle in the backseat. I looked out the window as the scenes past by, thinking about the evening. That flame was burning bright and the quicker I got home the quicker it would be extinguished. “Why so quiet?”, Kyle asked, breaking the silence. “No reason, just watching the scenery.” “Did you enjoy this evening?”, he asked looking at me slightly then back at the road. “Yes, I did and you?” “Very much so, even though you beat me.” Was he speaking about the game? I had only beaten him by one point that had been a fluke shot. “Does it bother you that I did?” “Not at all. It makes it more interesting and gives me something to work towards.” “So you think we will have a replay.” “Oh, I hope so and this time I hope I can show you a few things.” It was my turn to be amused. “You think you can show me a few things?” “Yes, you keep your body to rigid when you play.” “If you say so,” I replied, pretending to be ignorant of the real reason that I had been stiff. “I do,” he said with amusement. “What if I want to go go-carting next time?” “So there will be a next time?” He had caught me out with that one. “ Well, maybe, depending if Chloë wants me to accompany her.” “So you won’t go if it’s just the two of us?” “I didn’t say that.” He had started playing a word game to catch me in a trap. “So you will?” “I suppose it wouldn’t be a problem.” He smiled as he watched the road. We got home and I was grateful.

As usual, Kyle made his way to open my car door as John and Chloë climbed out from his side. I could see on Chloë’s face she wanted a bit of privacy. I had made her come home with me, it’s the least I could do. So Kyle and I made our way slowly to the door, to give them enough time.

“I’m really happy you enjoyed tonight, I was bit nervous about it.” “You nervous? You always seem so confident” I replied. “Yes, I do get nervous. I wasn’t sure how you would react to me coming with. But when John told me that Chloë was bringing you, I had to come with as well. I suppose he was too happy to oblige. He really likes Chloë. I don’t think I have ever heard him speak so much about a girl before.” We looked towards them as I replied, “She likes him as well and I’m glad he feels the same. She’s my best friend and I wouldn’t like to see her get hurt.”

“Have you thought about joining the band?” I looked up, his eyes were a dark hue of blue. Joining their band, seeing that every day? Could I get use to it enough to be able to ignore it? “I haven’t really thought about it. There hasn’t been much time.” “Well, I have a suggestion. After mid-terms, during the mid year break how about coming and rehearsing with us? You can see if you like us enough to join.” “I like you enough,” slipped out before I could stop myself. He smiled broader when I said that. I had to salvage this somehow. “John and Ethan are really cool. I’m not sure how I would fit in, but I’ll give it a try,” I rambled on. We had reached the door when we heard John and Chloë move away from the car. He looked down at me, a bit disappointed, “Well it seems it’s my cue to leave. It was really a wonderful evening Elly. I really hope we can do it again.., soon.” “It was really cool, thank you.” In one sudden movement his face was close to mine, but it moved to my cheek. He kissed it lightly. Taking a deep breath, he moved away.

I followed him with my eyes, a bit shaken. He looked down at me, the back of his hand brushing where he had kissed my cheek and I could see that same fire that was in my belly in his eyes. He let his hand fall to his side and smiled. My insides were shaking, “Good night Elly, and sweet dreams.” “Good night,” I said back, trying my hardest to keep my voice level. Chloë and John approached the door and I unlocked, saying goodnight to John as I made my way inside. I waited a few more moments for Chloë before she entered and then locked up.

She rested against the door, a bright smile on her face, eyes closed,” That was a wonderful evening. Don’t you think it was a wonderful evening?” I smiled back at her, she was so happy, “Yes it was a wonderful evening,” I replied. “Okay I have to call my folks quick. Let them know I’m sleeping over and then we can have a good ole’ chat,” she winked at me.

While she spoke to her parents, I got ready to put on my pyjamas. By the time I had showered and dressed, Chloë had my mom and Ida around the table, relating the whole evening’s events to them. Thankfully it was more about her and John. I sat down, nibbling at the snack on the table, when my mom looked at me, “And your evening. Did you enjoy it?” Mid snack, I shook my head to say yes. “And Kyle, what is he like?” “A real gentleman,” Chloë piped up, “opening Elly’s door. Holding out his arm. He even allowed her to choose an action movie, when I’m sure he wanted to watch the movie John and I were watching.” “How do you know that?” , I asked my mouth still full of snacks. “Because it was what he had suggested to John, before I even decided on it tonight and that’s not even the half of it?.” “What do you mean?”, I asked, a bit confused. “You are really silly and blind do you know that?” , she laughed. “Okay, but what do you mean?” “Well, when John told Kyle that you were joining us, he practically begged John to come with. Not that John would stop him. Two for two. He had wanted to make a really good impression on you. He suggested some fancy, exclusive restaurant to John a then the movies, but not a normal one. The one where it’s 3D and your seats move.” “If that was the first what would he do for the second?”, my mom replied. “It wasn’t a date,” I said exasperated. “I was a wing woman and he came along.” “Well whatever you think it was, that’s what he wanted to do, but John stopped him.” “Why?” “Because he said it would be too much, apparently he told him too much extravagance would scare you away. Kyle isn’t use to taking small measures.” “What’s he use to then, since you know more about him than I do.” I said, slightly irritated at the thought that Kyle and I were the subject of their conversation for the evening. Chloë must have missed the tone, because she continued, “Well as far as I do know,” she gave me a pointed look, she hadn’t missed it, she was just ignoring it, “ you are unexplored territory Elly.” “What does that mean?” “It means that the type of girl that Kyle always seems to attract are those that fall at his feet because of bling or his looks. You, my friend, are the first girl that he has encountered that he actually has to work for. To try and get your affection. And when he moves too fast you shy away. He has to move at your pace and it’s not natural for him, because everyone always goes at his pace.” So I was just a new game for him, it irritated me.

A new challenge that he could win, then what? “Was that all you discussed this evening?”, I asked even more irritated at the thought of just being a challenge that could be won. “No. I wanted to know more about Kyle and his intentions, so I asked John about it before tonight. You are one of my closest friends and I just wanted to make sure you weren’t going to get hurt. Plus, I had access to intel, so why not ask?” I looked at Chloë, she looked hurt. She had done what I would have done if the roles were reversed. I immediately felt guilty at being irritated at her. “I’m sorry. Forgive me?” , I looked at her, the same way she always looked at me when she wanted something. She couldn’t keep a straight face. “Yes, you forgiven.”

“So it seems this young man is really interested in you Elisa, how do you feel about that?”, I had completely forgotten that my mom was at the table. “Not sure mom. I’ll see how things go. I don’t know him that well.” I just knew that he set a light a fire inside me, but by Chloë’s account, he probably only saw me as his next challenge. “I only think of him as a friend.” A friend with deep blue eyes that were hypnotizing and a charm that was dangerous. “Sweetheart, as they say, all that glitters isn’t gold. Take your time and no pressure, okay. You don’t have to feel or do something you don’t want to.” I smiled at my mom. She said little, but the reassurance and support behind it was enough.

We made our way to bed and laying in the dark, I listened to Chloë’s chatter about John. At the back of my mind I was still irritated at the thought that all I was, was a prize to be won. I fell asleep to hearing Chloë speak about John. My dreams were frenzied.

The following morning I woke up to a sweet musky smell surrounding me, but the dream had escaped and I knew I had to get ready. Darryl was coming over. It was one of the few times that anyone apart from the family had been with on those days when he came to visit. Chloë kept the conversation going, asking Darryl more about the band and what their plans were. His band had saved just enough money to book a studio to record and now they were deciding which of their music they would use. It was one step towards their tour next year. After saving money for the recording, they were going to save money for the tour. They were getting more gigs and they were moving further out of town. Their sound was spreading. I was happy. His dreams may come true and he deserved them.

Stirring my tea, deep in thought about nothing, I heard Darryl speak, “Elly why so quiet?” “Huh?” “Why so quiet, am I boring you?” I smiled, “No, not at all. I’m letting Chloë do all the talking today.” “Oh really,” he looked suspicious. “So what have you girls been up to?” “Nothing major.” “Well we went to the movies last night,” Chloë interrupted, looking at me from the corner of her and then directly at Darryl. “Really? What did you see?” “Well I saw Lady Love, but Missy over there wanted to see Venom.” “So the two of you went to the movies, but watched separate movies on your own?” “Well we had company. So that was okay.” Darryl’s eyes narrowed slightly, “ So Jack persuaded one of his friends to make it even, in case the two of you didn’t agree on a movie.” “No, he didn’t want to come with, we went with John and Kyle.” “Oh, I see.” Darryl’s voice lowered, “ was the movies good?” “Well mine was, not sure about Elly’s, she hasn’t said much about it.” “Well you haven’t let me,” I pulled a tongue out at Chloë. I caught Darryl’s eye and the look behind it made me look away quickly. It was full of questions.

“It was good. There was this one scene, I’m not sure how the FX guys got it right, but it was awesome.” I looked at my cup, not wanting to look at anyone. The thought about grabbing Kyle’s hand had popped into my mind. “It was a good story too, so I recommend it. No spoilers.” “I should go and see it some time,” he said, but there was an edge to his voice I didn’t understand and I didn’t know where it was coming from. “You should”, I replied, “you should go see Lady Love,” I continued, “ Chloë says it’s really good, something you and Anne can see.” At that moment I looked up and saw a cold feeling move over his body from head to toe. It was as if he had frozen in an instant. I sat there looking straight at him. I was upset. Upset that he had had accusing eyes, which he had an edge to his voice, which he was cold and for reasons I didn’t understand. I couldn’t think of anything that I had done that would make him react to me like that.

Chloë broke the silence with talk of the talent show. She had been thinking about costumes, but I had refused. I was not going to add humiliation to my list when it came to performing in front of an audience. I was already nervous that I would go blank on stage. At the word costume, Darryl seemed to thaw, “Costumes, you are wearing costumes?” “Maybe, if Elly eventually agrees to it. It’s to go with the theme of the song.” A slow smile came over his face, “Well it seems the wheel may turn and in my favour to.” “How so?” , I asked. “Well you have pictures of me in a costume, now it’s my turn,” he smiled, there was a warmth there, but it was cooler than usual. “Well mine would not be as awesome as yours, if I agree,” I teased. “It’s still a costume.” The conversation seemed to move to lighter topics and that tension that had been there before seemed to lift like fog.

When Darryl left, Chloë stayed behind in the kitchen to clear up while I walked him to the door. For a moment he seemed to contemplate something, then he finally spoke up. “So you and Kyle are starting to spend a lot of time together.” “Not really.” “But last night?” “I didn’t know he would be with. I went with Chloë as a friend and he ended up being there.” Why had I felt the need to explain last night to him. “Oh.” There was silence again and he seemed to be searching for something. “Remember what I told you in the kitchen that Sunday I thought that you and Jack were together?” “Yes,” why was he bringing that up? “Well I still feel the same.” “And I’m okay, don’t worry about me,” I smiled. “I know. You stronger than you let on, but if you get overwhelmed or you need to speak, I am always here,” he smiled back at me, but there was a sadness that lay behind it. “I know.” Standing at the door, he seemed to waiver, “Elly, I...” He was fighting with himself, I could see it. What was he fighting? “Yes?” His mouth opened, but it was a long time before any sound came out. “I can’t wait for the talent show,” he said at last. “Well I’m nervous, I hope it’s as good as I think it is.” “Well I’m certain it will be better.” He hugged me goodbye, which felt as if he was trying to absorb me. He let go and that same sadness that was behind his smile returned.

I closed the door behind me, not waiting to see his car leave and joined Chloë in the kitchen.

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