Feeling half foolish, half nervous, Juliet made her way to Dover Avenue on Saturday morning. She told Aunt Mary she was going for a walk to get some fresh air. Aunt Mary was the kind of person who thought that fresh air was a wholesome thing.
It was a bright, sunny day though not overly warm. Being October, the summer was decidedly over with the last heat of September slipping away, but it made for good walking weather.
Fifteen Dover Avenue was a house much like any of the other houses on the street. Nervously Juliet approached the front door and pressed the bell.
A short guy with dark spiky hair and thick dark eyebrows answered it. “Hey.”
“Hello,” Juliet replied. She had no idea how these things were supposed to go. “Drew mentioned I should drop by?” She was trying to appear cool but inside she was twisted up in knots.
“Ah yeah. Auditions.” He opened the door to let her through. She followed him down a hallway through a kitchen, then down into a basement where there was a group of people and a load of musical equipment.
Juliet felt horribly out of place. She was relieved to recognise Drew who smiled in a friendly way. “Hi. Glad you could make it. This is the band.”
There were five of them including Drew, who made all the introductions. Lead guitar, second guitar, keyboards, bass, drums. Plus two girls who weren’t members: one had red hair, the other was small and dark.
Juliet thought they must be auditioning as well. But it turned out that the girl with dyed auburn hair was dating the bassist. The other was the sister of the keyboardist, Jax, whose house it was. He was the dark haired guy who had opened the front door.
It was a lot to take in: a lot of names to remember. Not that she would probably need to remember them after today. She would probably never see any of these people ever again.
Someone offered her a beer, which she sipped tentatively. It wasn’t her favourite drink but anything might calm her nerves.
There was some discussion involving the guitarists about an amp and feedback, much of which was going over Juliet’s head.
“So what happened to your previous singer?” she asked.
“There wasn’t one. It’s mainly split between me and Jax, but we wanted a female vocalist for a new direction we’re taking,” Drew told her. “It’s kind of an experiment, like trip hop with some punk and new wave. It’s Jax’s baby, he’s the musical genius.”
Jax seemed to be a guy of few words. “You sing Blondie, right? Can you do Rapture?”
Juliet wasn’t sure. She had some idea of the first lines. “Not all the rap sections though.” It was really long, from memory.
“That’s okay,” Drew said. “It’s just to give us an idea.”
Somehow it felt a thousand times harder singing in front of these few people than in front of a crowded bar the other week. But Juliet steeled herself. She wasn’t sure where she got the courage but deep inside she had a burning desire to do this.
The microphone was on a stand though she would have preferred to hold it. To grip onto something, for dear life. She wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of accompaniment but the band clearly knew this one, as the drummer started playing and then the rest of them joined in.
Juliet closed her eyes and simply sang. Her voice winding and snaking around the high, melodic notes. She found that she remembered the start of the rap section from some long buried memory. In her nervousness her voice was huskier than usual but she could see images in her mind as she spoke, like her own music video.
When she finished, forgetting the lyrics and having to stop, smiling to cover her embarrassment, the band applauded her. “That was, like, flawless,” the bassist said.
He looked over at Jax, at did Drew, expectantly. Jax, whose expression gave nothing away, simply nodded. “Yeah. It will work,” he said.
And that was that. Somehow Juliet had passed some test, and they wanted her to sing with them. She had imagined a huge string of people auditioning but it seemed they were happy enough with her.
“So we rehearse Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays,” Drew told her. “Can you make that?”
For now she could.
“Do you write music at all?” one of the other band members asked her.
Juliet didn’t. She had never had the opportunity to learn an instrument, have lessons, anything like that. “Not really. Just lyrics, sometimes.” Lyrics were poetry after all. She could write poems.
“That could be useful,” Drew said. “I’ll email you anyway.” They also exchanged mobile numbers and Juliet left, in something of a daze. There was no way she could tell Aunt Mary anything about this. She was going to have to come up with some other reason to explain her new absences to her aunt.
The sky had clouded over by the time Juliet left, and a sudden downpour took her by suprise. She had no raincoat or umbrella and there were no suitable trees to shelter under.
So she kept going. She was going to be soaked by the time she got home.
As she walked along, feeling her mascara streaking down her face and her top clinging wet to her body, she heard a car draw up alongside her.
First assuming it was a kidnapper or something she quickened her step.
But a voice called out: “Juliet?”
It was Mr Spencer.
Oh god, how could he see her like this? was her first thought. She stopped, wishing that lightning could just strike down and have done with it. He leaned over and pushed the passenger door open for her from the inside. “Get in, you must be drenched.”
“You went out without a raincoat?” he asked.
“I didn’t see the weather reports,” Juliet mumbled, embarrassed “It was sunny when I left earlier.”
She was painfully conscious of her proximity to the Latin teacher and the intimacy of being in a car with him. It should have been the perfect seduction opportunity, if she had planned it, but she felt like a drowned rat. What must he think of her?
“Are you heading home? Where can I take you?” Mr Spencer asked her.
“It’s not far, I could walk, honestly.”
“Not in this rainstorm. I’m in no rush, just tell me where you need to go.”
Juliet gave him the directions to her aunt’s house. She found herself wishing it was further away, to prolong her time with him. Mr Spencer’s hands looked strong and firm on the steering wheel. His thighs were muscular in his jeans. If she put her hand on his leg, where might it lead?
But she didn’t dare.
Maybe if she had been less bedraggled. Maybe if she had been less caught off-guard.
“So do you live near here as well?” she asked.
“Just a few blocks away. Aspen Drive,” he told her.
She vaguely knew it. She wondered if he lived there with Rebecca. Would they live together before marriage?
All too soon Mr Spencer was pulling up outside her aunt’s house and parking the car.
He turned to her.
Their eyes locked and he spoke her name. “Juliet…”
He was about to say something or ask her something but he didn’t continue. The two of them just sat there for what seemed like minutes, though it was probably only seconds.
Then Mr Spencer suddenly straightened and became formal. “Well I guess I’ll see you at school on Monday.”
She wanted to stay with him in his car forever. “I guess so. Thank you so much for the ride, I hope I didn’t get your car damp.”
He smiled. “Don’t worry about that.”
As he drove off, Juliet noticed that his numberplate contained her lucky number. Seventy-seven. She told herself that it was just a coincidence, not a sign. If it was her entire birthdate, that might have been a sign.
Her aunt had seen the car dropping Juliet off and questioned her the moment she stepped into the house. “Who was that giving you a lift?” Her tone was curious but not overly suspicious.
“It was a teacher from school. He saw me walking in the rain, I guess it was really nice of him to stop.” She prayed her face wouldn’t betray her emotions, which were in turmoil.
“I hope you thanked him. It was very foolish, going out without an umbrella. This time of year can be very changeable,” her aunt chided.
“I know. I’m sorry.” Juliet fled to the privacy of her room, to lie down and try to sort out her whirling, tangled rush of feelings.