We all leave the school, Hailey leaves with Desiree, and I go with Conrad on his bike. Just as everyone is leaving the parking lot, Conrad turns in the opposite direction.
“Where are you going?” I ask him loudly over the wind.
“Your thinking spot,” he tells me as he presses harder on the accelerator and I wrap my arms around him tightly.
After parking the bike, we head towards my favorite spot at Mayfair Point. We make our way through the dark towards my hidden bench amongst the trees. I stay quiet, but I’m eager to find out why Conrad has brought me here. We find the bench and sit down, and Conrad wraps an arm around my shoulders and pulls me close to him. We stare out at the twinkling lights of the town for a little while until I can’t take it anymore.
“Why’d you decide to come here?” I ask him.
“I just needed to spend some time alone with you before we go to the house,” he says, “it’s been a hell of a day, Syd.”
“Yeah, a lot has happened. I’m sorry you lost your job.”
“Don’t be. I knew the risks, and I don’t regret it at all.”
“Okay,” I say, simply, as I rest my head on his shoulder.
“Okay,” he repeats.
“So, what happens now?” I ask him.
“Well, they will replace me for the remainder of the year, and I guess I’ll just have to focus on my music for now. I’m not sure what this news will do for my local popularity though.”
“You think this will negatively affect the band?”
“I don’t know. It might. Although most of our fans are not necessarily paying attention to the local high school drama.”
“I have a feeling that this will go beyond the high school once the parents start finding out.”
“Probably. Oh well, I’m not really concerned. What happens in this place won’t have any effect on the big picture. Once we leave here and tour…” He stops then and squeezes me harder, “I’m not sure how well I’m going to do leaving you.”
“Me neither. I’m going to miss you like crazy.”
I hear Conrad suck in a deep breath and let it out. I peek up at him, and he’s got one hand covering his eyes. Then I notice the way his chest shakes. I realize that he’s crying. Panic rises in my chest, and my heart breaks for him.
“Conrad, what’s wrong?” I wrap my arms around him and hug him to me. He rests his head on my shoulder and continues to cry. I just hold him tightly and let him let it out.
When he calms down, he stands up and starts to pace.
“Please,” I plead, “tell me what’s happening.”
“It’s my dad, Syd,” he says, his voice still gruff, “he’s sick.”
“What? What do you mean sick? I thought you said he was fit?”
“That’s what I thought. He just told me this week.”
His voice catches again, and he stops. I stand up and go to his side.
“How serious is it?” I ask, but I already have a feeling it’s grim.
“He has a brain tumor. It’s terminal and it inoperable,” he tells me.
My heart sinks.
“There’s nothing that can be done?”
“No. My Dad's been to every doctor imaginable, and they all say the same thing. We don’t know for sure how long he has, but it could take him at any time.”
“But that means he could still live for years?” I ask, hopefully.
“More like months.”
“Oh, Conrad… I’m so sorry. And just as you two were getting to know each other again. I don’t know what to say.”
“Just being able to talk to you about it helps,” he says as he reaches out and pulls me against him.
“What will happen with the tour? Will you postpone?”
“I don’t think we’ll need to. My father said that doctors gave him six months tops, if that, and the tour starts in eight.”
“Only six months? Oh, Conrad…” I can’t help it as I feel a sob coming on. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose one of my parents, let alone both of them, even if we weren’t very close.
“They said maybe an extra month or two if he did chemo, but he doesn’t want to spend his last months being sick. I can’t say I blame him. I wouldn’t want that either.”
“What is he going to do in the meantime?”
“He’s going to take that trip to France he has planned, and then I’m not sure. I know I’ll be spending even more time with him, and now that I don’t have a job, it will be a lot easier to do.”
“I wish there were something I could do.”
“Well, you could come with me sometimes when I visit him. He said he really liked you.”
“Really? Does he um…know?”
“He does. I told him after you and I had our fight. I was so angry when I hung up, and he got it out of me.”
“And what does he think?”
“He said he is glad that I’m so happy with you, but that I need to remember that you are very young. You haven’t had any life experiences outside of high school, so I have to be patient with you when it comes to our relationship.”
“I think that you are patient,” I muse.
“I wasn’t very patient the other night. I didn’t mean to get so angry with you for defending Dane. I know you try to see the best in people.”
“But you were right about him.”
“No buts. Conrad, I know I can be really naïve sometimes. I found out tonight that Dane has had some weird obsession with me for a really long time, and I never saw it. Although he did have help. It turns out we were both right, Violet helped him- she’s the one who took the video of us.”
Conrad’s eyes go wide in surprise, and then he frowns.
“How’d that happen?”
“They met at the Wrecker club one night. They helped each other. She took the video, and Dane gave her all the info she needed to take it and go forward with it. She revealed herself to us while you were inside talking to Mrs. Gallagher.”
“Wow. I really didn’t think she’d go that far. I guess I owe you another apology.”
“You don’t owe me anything. We were both right.”
Conrad nods and gives me a small smile. He runs his hands through his hair and sighs.
“Well, I guess that takes care of most of the obstacles in our way. Geez, what else can the universe throw our way? I mean, I knew this was going to get complicated, but shit…”
“It’s a little less complicated now that we’ve been outed. School won’t be as much fun. I’ve already been called a whore.”
Conrad frowns at me.
“Who called you that?”
“Just a girl in class. She didn’t exactly call me a whore, but I knew what she was implying. I’m assuming it’s just going to be ten times worse on Monday. I’m not so sure I even want to go, I’m considering arranging it so I can do all my work online and at home. I don’t think daily verbal abuse will help with my concentration.”
“Usually, I would advise you to stay and stick it out, but I have a bad feeling you might be on to something there. Maybe just until this blows over.”
“Yeah, maybe just for the remainder of this semester. I just worry about what it’ll do for my college prospects.”
“Don’t worry. You’re going to college, no matter what happens. Speaking of which, I’ve seen the list of where you’ve applied and where you've been accepted, but where is it that you’re hoping to go?”
“Honestly? My dream school is Princeton, but I haven’t heard back from them yet. Even so, I don’t think my family could afford tuition. I need scholarships. Some of my back up schools are Vanderbilt, Sarah Lawrence, Oberlin, and NYU. I’ve been accepted to those. ”
“Literary schools, I know, as I said. I just wanted to hear it from you. We’ve never really talked about your plans after high school.”
“They’re some of the best schools for book worms like me.”
“My sexy little bookworm.”
“The only problem with some of them is the fact that they put me farther away from you.”
“They’re all still on this side of the country Sydney. It’s not so bad. But back to my original point. What do you want to do after High School and College?”
“Well, you know my passion is reading, so I hope to do something where I can read all the time. Publishing. My biggest wish is to have my own small publishing house someday.”
“To be in a room full of endless stories to read? Of course, obviously that’s a long way down the road, but anything is possible if you work hard enough.”
“I hear you. I love your dream, Sydney. I can totally see you doing that someday. I just hope I’m still around to see it happen.”
“As I said, anything is possible if you work hard enough,” I say with a smile. Conrad smiles back at me and pulls me towards him for a kiss.
We finally head to his house. When we walk into the house, everyone stops and looks at us with amused smiles. Harrison is the first to comment.
“You guys stop for a celebratory quickie or something?”
Conrad can’t help but smile, even though I can tell he’s trying not to.
“Well you know, it’s hard to get any privacy these days. Between people barging into rooms and taking videos and whatnot.”
“Both Violet,” Desiree points out, “none of us would do that to you guys.”
“Anyway no, that’s not what we were doing,” Conrad assures them, “not that it’s any of your business.”
“What? Then why’d you take so long?” Harrison presses.
“Can’t a guy spend a moment alone with his girl?”
Desiree steps forward and addresses everyone.
“They don’t have to tell us what they were doing, and they don’t want to, so let’s drop it and just have some fun instead?”
“Thank you, Desiree,” Conrad says.
“No problem, Mr. Riley.”
“No more Mr. Riley for me.”
“I dunno. Mr. Riley was pretty sexy with his hair pulled back and those glasses on… and the way those trousers looked on your bum,” Desiree croons, but I know she’s just playing around to get a rise. I laugh at her and play along.
“Yeah, I agree. You made it really hard to concentrate sometimes.”
“Oh Conrad, were you eliciting dirty fantasies from your student body?” Kevin jumps in.
“Daily,” I respond.
“See Sydney, this is why I need you to have a diary so that I have something interesting to read,” Hailey adds with a giggle.
“I can go put the glasses on right now if you want,” Conrad says to me in a low voice.
“Maybe later,” I sing, “But right now, let’s have a drink.”
“Yeah, you guys, you have all night to do whatever it is you do. Come sit, relax,” Harrison orders, pointing to an empty space around the coffee table.
We go and take a seat on the floor, and Jake places a beer in front of Conrad, and a pink-lemonade cooler in front of me. I smile in appreciation at the girly drink.
“Conrad said you like the sweet stuff better,” he says with a relaxed smile.
A few hours later, Desiree and Harrison walk my sister home. I was going to do it, but Desiree insisted because she wanted to stop by her house anyway and grab a few things for us since we plan on spending the night here. Conrad and Jake are sitting on the couch with their guitars, strumming a slow, peaceful tune. Kevin sits next to me on the floor, his head slightly bobbing along to the music, and his hands tapping out a beat on his knees. Conrad starts to sing along to the tune, another song I’ve never heard. I love the sound of his singing voice.
“He’s been singing a lot lately,” Kevin murmurs, I just smile in response.
“I keep telling him that he needs to do a few songs on the next album, but he keeps saying no. Maybe you can convince him,” Kevin adds, not as quietly.
“We’ve already discussed this, Kev,” Conrad says, setting down his guitar.
“Kev’s right you know,” Jake says as he stops playing.
“Harrison is our frontman. He can sing anything. Hell, that guy can sing the alphabet and make it sound cool,” Conrad insists.
“Yeah we know that Conrad, but you can sing too, man,” Kevin says.
“I love your singing voice babe,” I tell him.
Conrad looks at me then and smiles his shy smile.
“No,” he says simply.
“But you sang tonight, and everyone loved it until you were so rudely interrupted,” I say.
“Special circumstance, Sydney. I’ll think about it, but I don’t see it happening, all right?”
“Fine, we’ll drop it for now,” Kevin says, “but just think about it. Those romantic songs you’ve been coming up with could really open up our fan base. The record label said they love our stuff, but we need to mix it up more. Maybe they need to hear from you.”
I can feel myself grinning like an idiot as they continue with their back and forth. Has Conrad written more love songs? I hope I get to hear them soon, his beautiful poetry. I stifle a yawn and try to put myself back in the conversation, but I see Conrad staring at me with an amused smirk on his face.
“Tired?” he asks me.
“No,” I lie.
Conrad stands up and holds his hand out to me. I look up at him and take it, and then suddenly without warning, he picks me up and throws me over his shoulder.
“Ack! Conrad!” I protest, slightly embarrassed.
“I need to tuck this Lil’ lady in,” he says as he starts heading towards the bedrooms. I hear the guys hooting with laughter.
“Tuck her in good, Conrad,” Kevin hollers down the hallway.
“See you two in the morning, don’t forget to lock the door,” Jake calls just as we step into Conrad’s bedroom.