JAMIE AND CAROLINE
Spoon in hand and bowl of Cheerios placed securely to his front, Jack Brewer sat at the kitchen table, enjoying his meal of preference as he read through articles on his laptop speculating on the content and sound of his band, Vertical Limit’s, next album.
This was his favorite way to spend afternoons while his wife was at work and he was between tours. The next album was already finished and in the process of being made for mass sale, but he always found it entertaining to read what the music experts on the gossip sites were saying. Today’s dose of hilarity came from one analyst suggesting the possibility that the band would go country for their next album due to the fact that they’d tweeted about having an amazing time during their last concert in Nashville.
“Country,” he snorted, shoveling another spoon full of Cheerios into his mouth. “Can you imagine?”
The door from the garage opened just in time for his kids to miss hearing him talk to himself and his daughter, Caroline breezed into the kitchen, dropping her backpack and athletic bag by the door as she made a beeline for the fridge, exhausted from soccer practice and in desperate need of fuel. His first born, Jamie, followed behind, untucking his button up from his uniform pants as he came to plop down next to Jack at the table.
“Hey, Dad,” Jamie sighed as he dropped his backpack to the floor and ran a hand through his short, quiffed hair.
“Hey, J,” Jack furrowed his brow after swallowing his Cheerios. “How was school?”
It was a question Jack asked every day, despite knowing that the answer would be the same. Jamie was on the honor roll and Jack had never really had to worry about his grades. However, Jack’s son had recently been elected as the president of the senior class, which meant that he was pretty much constantly stressed out in his attempt to keep his classmates happy.
Sometimes Jack wondered how time could cause so much change. As a child, Jamison had been rambunctious and naughty, constantly in trouble for disrupting class to the point where Jack and his wife were on a first name basis with the principal. Once he’d hit his teenage years, however, he’d calmed down a lot. He still found practical jokes hilarious, but he let others perform them rather participating in the action himself.
“Fine,” Jamie shrugged and Jack didn’t ask any further because he knew that was all he was going to get.
“What about you, Care Bear?” Jack turned his attention to his daughter, who had found sustenance in the form of an orange and was peeling it as she made her way to the chair on the other side of her father. “How was practice?”
“Good,” she nodded, setting down the peel and beginning to pick apart the individual slices, her eyes lighting with excitement. “Coach says that if I practice really hard, I’ll be able to start before the season is over.”
“That’s great, sweetie,” Jack grinned, reaching out and tugging on the end of her sweat dampened ponytail.
Caroline had fallen in love with soccer when she was young and with the help of her Uncle Justin, the band’s bass player and resident soccer enthusiast, she’d become quite good. If she did end up starting on the team, at fifteen, she would probably be the youngest player to do so.
“Do you think Uncle Justin would help me with some passing drills?” She asked eagerly. It was pretty convenient that her uncle could double as a knowledgeable coach as well and she could use all the practice she could get if she was going to prove herself.
“I’m sure he could find some time this weekend,” Jack laughed, knowing Justin would jump at any opportunity to help Caroline on the field. His love of soccer had always stayed with him, despite having to choose between the sport and the band when he was a teenager, and he also found it hilarious that Jack’s daughter was so athletic when Jack was the most uncoordinated person Justin had ever met. “Things are pretty slow for us right now.”
“Not Saturday, though,” Jamie piped up. “Piper’s concert is that day.”
Jack’s eyebrows shot up in surprise as he turned his head to look at his son. Jamie had so much going on in his own social life what with all his extracurricular activities that he didn’t usually keep track of family events, such as the very important piano recital of the daughter of Vertical Limit drummer, Nathan Peters.
Jamie shrugged at the looks he was getting from his dad and sister. “I ran into Kira after school and she reminded me.”
He and Kira Saxton, daughter of the band’s lead guitarist, were the same age and had been quite the terrible twosome growing up, partners in crime, some might say. They shared many of the same classes in school now, though Kira was hardly ever actually there, preferring to spend her time skateboarding off the tables in the outdoor eating area or decorating empty wall space with spray paint. As class president, he probably should have condemned that kind of behavior, but he actually admired Kira’s guts and the fact that she generally gave no fucks and he often wondered where he’d changed from that attitude along the way.
She’d bounded up to him in the hallway after his student government meeting, having just gotten out of detention for skipping history, climbing onto him for an impromptu piggy back ride. She’d said she missed hanging out with him, that she was excited for Piper’s concert, and then hopped off his back and skipped down the hallway with her messy waves bouncing behind her, leaving him thinking that Kira Saxton deserved to be kissed until she was completely breathless.
The mention of Kira’s name caused Caroline to giggle and Jamie shot her an icy glare, silently daring her to mention his little infatuation to anyone. The only reason she even knew was because she’d caught him staring at Kira during a Vertical Limit extended family barbeque a few months back.
“What’s going on?” Jack furrowed his brow further, his gaze shifting back and forth between his children.
“What else did you and Kira talk about?” Caroline teased, her wicked smirk growing. “Did you tell her how much you loooove her?”
“Shut up, Caroline,” Jamie growled through his teeth.
“Jamie!” Jack scolded immediately, it taking him a few moments to process what Caroline had said and when it finally hit him, his eyes widened and he stared at his son in bewilderment. “You like Kira?”
If Jack had been told that Jamie had a childhood crush on Kira, he wouldn’t have been surprised, because as children, the two of them had been practically inseparable; two peas in a pod that went around pranking every member of the crew while on tour. But Jamie had done a lot of growing up since then. Kira had matured in her own way, but Ethan’s strong willed, rebellious daughter and Jack’s serious, rule following son had ended up on completely different paths.
Jamie was headed for a life in politics, with dreams of one day working for the national government, while Kira, much like her father at eighteen, found school to be tedious and torturous and would much rather be living outside the lines. Jack admired Kira’s spirit and the fact that she always knew exactly what she wanted because at her age, he had been pretty unsure of that, but he never would have expected his straight laced son to be interested in her romantically.
Flushing from a combination of embarrassment and fury, Jamie increased the wattage of the glare directed at his sister, thinking that if it was a war she wanted, it was a war she was going to get.
“Not as much as Caroline likes Brody.”
It was an immature response, Jamie knew, but he was too irritated by Caroline’s revelation to care. He had figured out that his sister had a crush on Nathan’s fifteen-year-old son when he went to pick his sister up from soccer practice and noticed her blushing every time she glanced into the stands. He was a little shocked to see that the person causing her to be so flustered was Brody, paying her no attention as he sketched in the notepad he carried with him everywhere.
Jack’s eyes bugged out and he could have sworn his heart stopped beating at thought of his baby girl liking a boy, but as he racked his brain for anyone he knew named Brody, the only one that sprung to mind was surprising and he shot his daughter a confused look. “Brody? As in Brody Peters?”
Despite the fact that he was wary of his daughter having romantic feelings for anybody, Jack supposed it could have been worse. Brody Peters was a sweet kid, shy and reserved. He mostly kept to himself and at social gatherings, could be found sitting at any flat surface, his black framed glasses pushed up against the bridge of his nose, drawing cartoons in the sketchpad his Uncle Ethan, lead guitarist extraordinaire, had bought him for his last birthday. Of all of the people Caroline could have developed feelings for, Brody was certainly a safe option.
Caroline was bright red by this point, her eyes shooting daggers at her brother as she grabbed what was left of her orange and stormed off, collecting her bags from the door before stomping up the stairs to her room.
“Wait, where are you going?” Jack called after her, wanting to know how he hadn’t noticed that his kids had developed feelings for his pseudo niece and nephew.
Huffing, Jamie grabbed his own backpack from the floor and left the room as well and as Jack heard their respective bedroom doors slam shut, he wondered, not for the first time since he’d become a father eighteen years before, if parenting would ever get any less confusing.
The hum of the sitcom he wasn’t really watching served as a soundtrack for Ethan Saxton’s night. Legs crossed at the ankles, he sat comfortably in his favorite recliner, fingers wrapped around a now lukewarm bottle of beer.
His wife had come back exhausted from the world’s longest day of work, so he’d drawn her a bath while he made her a frozen pizza in the oven and she’d crashed almost immediately after she ate.
But someone had to wait for Kira.
It was Friday night, so he knew she’d be out late, but he couldn’t help but worry. The crowd she hung out with made him uneasy, older skaters who might take advantage of a young girl. Kira was fearless, something Ethan absolutely loved about his daughter, but there were times when that unflinching, uncaring attitude was dangerous.
He saw a lot of himself in his older daughter; determined and reckless with something to prove, and it scared him a little. His biggest fear was that one day he’d get a call from a hospital or police station because someone had told Kira she couldn’t do something and she had to prove them wrong.
The front door creaked open and he let out a small sigh of relief as he heard Kira enter, tiptoeing across the wooden floor in the front hall on her way to the staircase, but he called out for her before she reached the bottom step.
Letting out an audible gasp, she turned on her heel and decided against pretending she didn’t hear him speak and padded softly towards where he was sitting in front of the television.
“Hey, Dad,” she smiled sweetly, plopping down on the couch to his left and lacing her fingers between her parted knees. “What are you still doing up?”
“Waiting for you,” he yawned, reaching for the remote to switch of the television so he could focus his attention on her fully. “Good night?”
He always asked about her days vaguely because he wasn’t entirely sure he’d be able to handle the truth. As a parent, he wanted to be involved in the lives of his children and know everything, but he also remembered how he felt when he was a teenager and he wanted to give Kira room to grow and discover herself, even if he might not like the process.
“Pretty good,” she shrugged, replying vaguely as always and he didn’t push the issue because he knew if she was ever in any real trouble, he would be the first to find out. She leaned back against the leather couch, brushing her long bangs from her eyes and stretching out her legs. “How about you?”
“Pretty good…” He used her same words, taking a deep breath to pause. “Except for the call we got from your principal today.”
He and his wife had debated whether or not they should bring it up tonight as Ethan had sat on the bathroom while his wife soaked in her bubble bath and de-stressed from her day. They knew it would be the early hours of the morning before Kira came home and they wouldn’t be able to stay awake that long, but the next day was supposed to be all about Piper’s piano recital and they didn’t want to dampen the mood. But if the two of them had learned anything from parenting it was that issues should always be discussed sooner rather than later, so they’d agreed that Ethan should start that conversation that night and his wife would follow up with Kira about it on Sunday.
Kira winced as though she already knew what he was going to say, parting her lips and leaning forward so she could start the speech in her defense. “Ok, I know I shouldn’t be skipping history, but Dad, it’s so boring.”
He couldn’t really argue. It wasn’t as though Ethan had been the world’s most stellar student. Until he dropped out when the band got big, he’d spent half his class time wishing he was anywhere else.
But Ethan also struggled with school, finding the work difficult, while Kira was absolutely brilliant. Identified as gifted when she was a child, she had an intelligence well beyond her years, her frustration with school stemming from boredom rather than lack of understanding. To Ethan, who had often wished school was easier, it was bewildering that Kira wasn’t using her potential…like Jamie Brewer.
He immediately felt guilty for even thinking that. There was no reason to compare his daughter to Jack’s son. Being the same age meant the two of them had been practically attached at the hip as children, but they’d grown into completely different teenagers.
“Keeks…” Ethan sighed, placing his half empty beer on the table to his right before using the force of his legs to lower the leg rest so he could plant his feet on the floor and lean towards her. “Do you really hate school that much?”
She cringed out of habit. Deep down, she actually adored the affectionate nickname whose use was reserved solely for her aunts and uncles, but that didn’t mean her father needed to know.
“I don’t hate it,” she admitted, playing with one of the many string bracelets tied around her wrist. “I just feel like there are so many other things I could be doing with my time. There’s so much out there, Dad. Why should I be stuck inside learning things that aren’t even going to be relevant to me in the real world?”
He felt like hypocrite lecturing her on the importance of education when he hadn’t even finished school himself.
“Well, you’re not dropping out,” he said firmly, despite the fact that she hadn’t made any such suggestion. “Besides, your principal says that if you miss any more class, they’re going to have to suspend you.”
She stared down at her bracelets, knowing she never would have asked to drop out in the first place. Skipping class on a gorgeous day was one thing, but Kira knew better than leave school entirely. All she wanted in the world was to make her parents proud, it was just that sometimes the world outside was too enticing.
“Dad,” she said softly, lifting her head to look at him, her blue eyes wide. “Do you ever wish I was more like Jamie?”
Jamison Brewer was the epitome of the perfect child; the kind who got grades and participated in school activities, the kind that teachers and parents alike gushed about. She didn’t resent him for it, though. She actually envied his ambition and drive, because although Kira knew exactly who she was, she didn’t know what she wanted and that thought kept her awake at night.
Sure, sometimes she missed the Jamie that would help her sneak out of the dressing room where the kids were usually corralled during soundcheck on tour to wander the venue on a mission to find the best vantage point, but she knew that people changed and Jamie had become exactly who he was meant to be. She just wished those piercing blue eyes and wide, charming smile didn’t make her so weak at the knees.
She held her breath as her father pushed himself to his feet, taking two steps across the room to tug her up and into his embrace. She breathed out against his chest, her arms wrapping around his middle as he hugged her tight and kissed the top of her head.
“No, baby,” he whispered, swaying her gently from side to side. “I don’t wish you were anyone other than exactly who you are.”
It broke his heart that she would think that way. Kira was passionate and uplifting, the kind of person who could light a fire in the coldest heart and although she had caused him plenty of headaches and stress, he never wanted her to believe that he thought of her as anything else than extraordinary.
“Thanks.” She blinked back tears as she pulled away, her smile small and watery. “Is Lucy home?”
Her expression softened at the thought of the younger sister she adored. Ethan was certain that Kira would set on fire any person that dared to mess with Lucy. Other than her parents, Lucy was the only person who Kira never wanted to disappoint. Not that it would even be possible, because in Lucy’s eyes, Kira could do no wrong.
“Yeah,” Ethan nodded, kissing her forehead and stepping backwards to let her go. “I think she’s asleep, though.”
“Alright,” Kira laughed softly, reaching to down to grab the purse she’d dropped to the floor earlier before standing on her tip toes to kiss her father on the cheek in gratitude. “Goodnight, Dad. Love you.”
“Goodnight, Keeks, love you too,” he whispered, watching his baby girl and realizing that she wasn’t a baby anymore.
TYLER AND LUCY
The smell of chlorine filled the air and Justin Copeland breathed it in deeply as he sat in the stands, still not accustomed to the scent. The smell, combined with the fact that it was about seven in the morning meant he wasn’t entirely sure what was happening.
Although he found the hour ridiculous, he’d gotten out of bed that morning with some amount of energy, kissed his wife’s forehead because she was still asleep, and driven Tyler to the swimming practice that the two of them alternated going to, mostly because waking up at five thirty every morning wasn’t something either of them particularly enjoyed. Meets were another story; Tyler always had the full support of the entire Vertical Limit family while he was competing.
Tyler had started swimming competitively three years ago, just after his tenth birthday, and Justin had never seen someone move so quickly through the water. Tyler later admitted that the reason he swam so well was because he just wanted to get out of the pool as quickly as possible. After a few more lessons, however, Tyler was hooked and now practiced six days of the week at an ungodly hour.
Justin had left his own career in competitive sports behind in order to pursue his musical career and although he never regretted that decision, it was nice to see his child participating in sport because it gave him the chance to return to that high energy, high adrenaline atmosphere.
“Hi Uncle Justin!”
Startled by the sound of voice far too cheery for the hour, Justin looked up to see Lucy Saxton standing on the bleachers in front of him, green eyes vibrant as ever, a fancy looking camera in her hands, its strap around her neck as an extra precaution. She had begged her parents to get her the camera for Christmas and Ethan had never been able to say no to the pouty bottom lips of his daughters, so he’d given in, but grumbled to the boys afterwards about how much it had cost.
It had paid off, though. Lucy was turning out to be quite a talented photographer, one of her recent pictures of her sister skateboarding being featured in the local paper.
“Hey, Luce,” Justin greeted, leaning forward to kiss her on the cheek the way he did with all his nieces and sometimes nephews before glancing over her to see if her parents were around. “What are you doing here? Ethan with you?”
“Nope,” she shook her head, climbing up beside him and plopping down on the hard metal seat. “Mom dropped me off. I think Dad’s still asleep.”
Justin held in a laugh. He had enough memories of how difficult it was to get Ethan out of his bed in the morning while they were on tour to appreciate the statement.
“I have to take pictures for the school paper,” she explained excitedly, her eyes widening and sparking with joy as she spoke, causing Justin’s mood to lift as a result. If the combination of sunshine and rainbows could take a human form, it would be Lucy Saxton. She was perpetually happy, with a warmth and affection for everyone and everything that reminded Justin of her father, on his good days, of course.
“Very cool,” Justin said honestly, loving the fact that she was passionate. She had no idea what kind of photography she liked best, but she had ages to figure it out. “Are you running that school paper yet?”
“Uncle Justin,” she scolded cheerily. “I’m not the editor. I just take the pictures.”
“Not yet,” Justin laughed, throwing an arm around her shoulders to bring her into his side, firmly believing that the bubbliness of her personality and the warmth of her smile could persuade even the hardest heart to give her anything she wanted.
“Look, there’s Tyler!” she pointed out, waving excitedly to Justin’s son, who had emerged from the locker room along with the other swimmers, dressed in a speedo with a swim cap and goggles pulled tightly over his hair.
Tyler, who despite being accustomed to being up early was still feeling a little sluggish, immediately brightened at the sight of Lucy, waving back with just as much enthusiasm, a phenomenon that the extended family affectionately referred to as The Lucy Effect.
Justin gave his son a thumbs up before lowering his arm from around Lucy, lacing his fingers together between his parted knees, and leaning forward to watch him lower himself into the pool.
Swim practice consisted of the team doing a bunch of warm up laps, followed by sprints and ending with races. Justin and Lucy made bets on who would win each mock meet, of course picking Tyler for each one, and cheering loudly as Lucy snapped pictures when they proved right in every case except for the butterfly, which was his weakest stroke.
Lucy scrolled through the pictures she’d taken while they waited for Tyler to exit the locker room after practice. Justin had offered her a ride home so her mother didn’t have to come back, figuring it was the least he could do since the entire family was probably beginning their preparations for Piper’s piano recital that evening.
Tyler walked out after about ten minutes, the strap of his athletic bag slung over his shoulder, sockless feet shoved into a pair of unlaced sneakers, a black zip up hoodie covering his otherwise bare chest on top of gray sweat shorts, the thick black curls he’d inherited from his father slightly damp and completely mussed from being beneath his swim cap.
“Hey, Luce,” he smiled widely, wrapping his arms around the Saxton girl and pulling her into his chest as soon as he was close enough because he had always been a hugger, something else he’d inherited from his father. “Did you get some good pics?”
She came to practice to take pictures every few weeks, so he was used to seeing her around.
Lucy looked a little flushed when she stepped out of Tyler’s arms, not so much because there were any sort of feelings there, but because they were both at the age when they were becoming increasingly aware that boys and girls were anatomically different. “Yeah, lots of good action shots of you.”
“You were great, bud!” Justin grinned, reaching out to ruffle his son’s hair affectionately.
“Thanks, Dad,” Tyler smiled in response, looking slightly anxious. “There’s something I need to talk to you about, though.”
“Sure, what’s up?”
Tyler glanced at Lucy, but spoke anyway because he knew she was practically family. “Coach says that if I keep my times down, he’s going to recommend me for the Olympic development program.”
Justin’s eyes bugged out of his head and he let out a loud cheer as he pulled his son into a tight hug, kissing the top of his head before he stepped back. “Ty, that’s great!”
“It’s pretty cool, huh?” Tyler replied breathily. He’d hardly been able to believe it when his coach had told him, at first thinking it was some sort of practical joke.
As excited as Justin was about the revelation, he could sense that Tyler was somewhat hesitant. Unlike his older sister, Tyler had never been one to be freely emotional unless asked, so Justin furrowed his brow and placed a hand on his son’s shoulder, looking at him with concern. “Do you not want to?”
Justin couldn’t be happier that Tyler was competing in sports, but he never wanted to force his children to do something they didn’t absolutely love. Tyler was an excellent swimmer, but that didn’t mean he had to swim.
“Yeah, of course I do!” Tyler assured him, because he never felt as home as he did when he was in the water. “It’s just…if I do get it – which isn’t for sure either – do you think it’ll affect my social life? Like, Luce and I both got invited to Keifer Hanson’s birthday party next weekend and what if I can’t go to things like that anymore because I always have swim practice.”
Justin let out a slight sigh of relief, holding in a laugh because although it was a relevant concern, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as what he’d been thinking. Squeezing his son’s shoulder, he shot him a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry about it. Your mum and I will make sure you get to have your fair share of fun as well. Life is all about the balance, right?”
“Thanks, Dad,” Tyler smiled gratefully, grinning at Lucy, who was nodding as though Justin had just delivered the motivational speech of a lifetime.
“Anytime,” Justin laughed. “How about I take you two to get some breakfast on the way home? I’m craving some pancakes.”
PIPER, JESSAMINE, AND BRODY
Pacing back and in forth in front of his daughter’s closed bedroom door, Nathan Peters ran a hand through his thinning sandy curls. He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous, but he hadn’t been able to sit still since he’d woken up that morning.
“You need to chill, Uncle Nate.”
He stopped mid step, turning his head to see Jessamine Copeland leaning against the opposite wall, next to Brody’s open door, frowning as she carefully inspected the chipping in her French manicure. Much like her father, she was always the picture of calm and collected in the most stressful of situations.
“Am I hovering?” he asked, scrunching his nose.
Laughing, Jessamine held out her thumb and her pointer finger just a space apart. “Just a smidge. She’s gonna be fine.”
Nathan wasn’t so sure, though. Piper didn’t have a history of getting stage fright, once describing the feeling of sitting on the bench and stroking her fingers over the ivory keys as her own personal nirvana, but tonight was big. Her piano instructor had been informed that the director of the best music conservatory in the country would be at the recital and if Piper was found to be impressive she could secure herself a position at the school. It would be an amazing opportunity for her to grow and explore her talent as a musician and Nathan was all for Piper figuring out just how incredible she was.
“What’s going on?” Brody’s soft voice echoed out of his room, the other Peters twin coming to stand in the open doorway, shoving his hands into the pockets of the black slacks he’d been asked to wear because tonight was a special occasion. He generally wasn’t a fan of fancy clothes, mostly because he inevitably ended up getting ink on them from one of the pens he perpetually had on hand in case inspiration struck and he wanted to draw.
Jessamine straightened herself on her feet, which were surprisingly stuffed into a pair of cork wedges. For a girl who owned about fifty pairs of shoes, she could most often be found walking through house hallways and alley ways alike completely barefoot. “Your dad is stressed.”
Brody’s lips stretched into a small smile and he removed one hand from his pocket to push up the center of the black rimmed glasses he wore because his eyesight was almost as horrible as his father’s. “Who’s surprised, though?”
Nathan shot a mock glare at his son, causing Brody’s smile to widen even more. Shrugging, he spoke softly, but made his point firmly, always the voice of quiet reason. “Jessa is right, Dad. You do need to chill. If Piper is freaked out, you’re not going to make it any better by being nervous as well.”
Before Nathan could respond, the door to Piper’s room opened and she stepped into the hallway, arms out at her sides to display the floaty lilac dress Jessamine had specially handcrafted for the occasion. Justin’s daughter was the resident fashionista, happy to sew clothes on the machine that had been a gift from her grandmother for anyone who asked, and had showed up at the Peters’ door an hour ago, arms laden with the dress she’d designed for Piper, despite the pianist’s protests that it was completely unnecessary.
This was a special night and everyone knew it. Even Caroline Brewer, who practically lived in athletic shorts and t-shirts, would be wearing a dress; a Jessamine Copeland creation, of course.
“This is gorgeous, Jessa,” Piper gushed, lifting the soft fabric of the skirt between her fingers and letting it fall to her legs again. “Thank you so much.”
“No problem,” Jessamine shrugged, combing her fingers through the ends of her curls. “You need the right clothes for these kinds of occasions.”
Stepping forward, Piper pulled her friend into a thank you hug before turning to her father and spinning on the balls of her bare feet to show off the way the dress flew out when she twirled. “What do you think, Dad?”
“You look beautiful, honey,” Nathan assured her, cupping her cheeks with his palms when she stopped spinning and quickly kissing her forehead before looking at her sincerely. “How are you feeling?”
“Alright,” Piper shrugged, sounding completely unconvincing, which earned her a raised eyebrow from both Jessamine and her twin.
“It’s ok to be nervous, you know,” Nathan said, trying to sound as comforting as possible. “I get nervous before I go on stage all the time.”
“It’s not that,” she sighed, stepping back to lean against the wall beside her doorway.
She wasn’t nervous about the crowd. She didn’t get stage fright. Once she sat down on that piano bench, everything seemed to disappear. Piper was practically a musical prodigy, picking up drums by the time she was four and guitar by the time she was five, but her rested with the piano and she never felt more alive, more sure of herself, than when her fingers were flying over the keys.
“It’s just…,” she continued. “What if the director doesn’t like me?”
“What’s not to like?” Jessamine piped up, the first to be positive in any situation.
Piper rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. What if he doesn’t think I’m good enough?”
Nathan chewed on his lower lip as he thought of the best way to respond. No matter how much he believed that his daughter was incredibly talented and any music school would be lucky to have her, at the end of the day, it wasn’t his opinion that mattered. Still, he didn’t want to dim her confidence. He wanted her to light that stage on fire, like she did every time she played, and not worry about anyone else.
“Look,” he began slowly, preparing to impart the wisdom he’d gained from years of learning it the hard way. “You’re never going to be able to control what other people think about you or how they’re going to react. All you can control is what you do, so if you go out there and play your heart and leave everything on that stage and know that you did your very best, that’s all that matters.”
There was a moment of silence as Piper soaked in his words, but it was Brody that spoke first.
“That’s pretty good advice, Dad.”
Nathan furrowed his brow and pouted as he looked at his son. “You don’t have to sound so surprised. I do give good advice sometimes.”
Piper grinned as Jessamine snorted, her laughter filling the hallway and relieving some of the nerves that were tightening into knots in his stomach. Stepping forward, Piper leaned up and kissed her father gratefully on the cheek. “Thanks, Daddy. That helped a lot.”
Turning back through her doorway, she went to find some appropriate shoes and Nathan smiled to himself as he noticed a little bounce in her step, thinking that after fifteen years, he might have finally gotten a handle on this whole parenting thing after all.