Read Amplified Online

Authors: Tara Kelly

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #Social Issues, #Friendship, #Performing Arts, #Music

Amplified

BOOK: Amplified
13.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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For Maestro

 
Chapter 1
 

I said no
to my dad this morning. The five-foot-seven soup can of a man nobody denies. It’s got to be his arctic blue eyes; they’re like the edge of a knife. And still, I told him I wasn’t going to Stanford or
any
college next year.

Now I was stranded on Ocean Street with a few hours to find some rat hole to rent. So much for a graduation present.

Smoke billowed from the hood as I got out of my Jetta, the melted rubber stench burning my nostrils. At least it was white smoke, which had something to do with coolant and not a fire—or so my limited knowledge of engines told me.

“Woo! Holla, baby,” a tanned boy yelled out the window of a silver car. Summertime in Santa Cruz was all about the strip mall of tourists inching their way down Ocean to the Boardwalk.

I sat on the curb to call a tow when an old blue Camaro pulled within inches of my bumper. Tinted windows, a bass line that made the ground vibrate—this should be good.

A guy hopped out of the driver’s side and slammed the door shut. His footsteps were heavy and purposeful, the sound of combat boots. I got a better look at him as he walked around the rear of his car. His head-to-toe black clothing matched his scowl. The last thing I needed was some guy with a chip on his shoulder yelling at me.

“Already calling a tow!” I wiggled my cell at him.

He pointed behind me. “Your car is in front of an auto shop.”

Sure enough, there was a big sign that said
PETE’S AUTO
. “Great, thanks.” I waved my hand to dismiss him.

“You’re blocking the entrance, genius.”

I stood up, telling him to buzz off with my eyes. He was a lot taller than he looked from the ground, but I was used to that. Crappy views at concerts and being the first person relegated to laps in a crowded car were also perks of being five foot two.

He glanced at my car and smirked. His eyes were an odd shade of green—bright like he was wearing contacts. “I’ll be right back.”

Camaro Boy headed for the auto shop and yanked the door open, nearly hitting a homeless guy leaning against the outside wall. The long-bearded man didn’t seem bothered, though. He pointed at my car and let out a phlegm-filled cackle.

“Yeah, hilarious,” I muttered.

Smoke trickled out of the engine now. I could at least
pretend
to know what was wrong. Dad, one of the best cardiologists in San Mateo County, taught me that trick. Seem confident—no matter how unsure of a situation I was.

I popped the hood and squeezed my eyes shut before attempting to pry it open. Burned fingertips and guitar playing didn’t exactly mesh. Dad bought this junker off his colleague’s son, seventy thousand miles and all.
New cars don’t teach values
, he’d said.

“I wouldn’t attempt that just yet, little lady.” I jumped at the sound of the gravelly voice behind me, expecting to see the homeless guy. Instead, a clean-shaven man with thinning blond hair held his hand out. “I’m Pete, the owner.”

“Jasmine,” I replied, shaking his grimy hand.

Most mechanics didn’t have a trustworthy smile. This guy did. “She’s got a bit of heatstroke, huh?” He motioned to my Jetta and winked.

I nodded and plastered a friendly grin on my face. Maybe he’d be willing to help me move it at least.

Camaro Boy emerged from the shop dressed in a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His dark chestnut hair stuck up in places, like he’d wrestled with his clothes. Despite the barbell through his eyebrow and the glare, his face was sweet—what I would call boyishly cute. Too bad he had the charm of a housefly.

“Let’s get this moved out of the street,” Pete told him.

“What do you need me to do?” I asked.

Camaro Boy rolled his eyes. “Get in and put it in neutral—it’s the letter
N
.”

“Yeah, I got it.”

Pete muttered something to him as I got in the car, his tone disapproving.

After we got my green clunker in front of the garage and Camaro Boy parked, Pete disappeared inside the shop and Camaro Boy poked his head in the window. “If you want us to look at your car, I need you to come inside and fill out some paperwork.”

My dad would’ve told me to shop around, but I needed every cent I had. Towing a car wasn’t cheap.

I climbed out and slammed the door. The frame groaned in response. Too bad cars couldn’t feel pain, because this one deserved it. “Where’s Pete?”

Camaro Boy held open the shop door for me. “Lunch.”

I grabbed the door and waved him in first. He raised his eyebrows but didn’t protest.

The waiting area consisted of a blue table surrounded by folding chairs. Old license plates, tires, and pictures of classic cars littered the walls.

Camaro Boy walked behind the white service desk and shoved a clipboard toward me. “We can speed everything up if you’d fill that out.”

I scanned the paperwork. An address—great. I was still seventeen, technically a runaway. Not that Dad would report me.

“Do you have a name?” I asked.

“Yes.” He stared back at me, blinking.

“What is it?”

“Clover.” He looked away and typed something into the computer. His mouth kept twitching, like he was trying to hold in laughter.

“Seriously?”

He pushed his sleeve up, giving me a view of a blue clover tattooed on his forearm. “I’m half Irish.”

And half shithead.

I took the paperwork, plopped in one of the hard chairs, and started to fill it out. Every now and then, I’d glance up and catch him watching me. But he wasn’t checking me out. His eyes were missing that playful spark guys get when they like what they see. Not that I was on the receiving end of that much.

Mousy brown eyes, stringy hair, and a generous bust and backside didn’t fly with the guys at Peninsula Hills Prep. Or Ken and Barbie Prep, as my best friend, Jason, called it. I’d finally gotten the nerve to talk to my crush at graduation and got this response:
You’re that chick who plays guitar. What’s your name again?

A tinny version of Placebo’s “Meds” sent me fumbling through my backpack.

Clover, or whatever his name was, nodded in approval. “Good song.”

I flipped my phone open, forgetting to check the caller ID. “Hello?”

“Where are you?” Dad asked.

“Nowhere special.” I gathered my stuff and walked out of the shop, not wanting Clover to be privy to my personal life. “You wanted me gone. I’m gone.”

“That’s not what I wanted. You made that decision.”

I squeezed my eyes shut, my stomach tightening. It was always my fault. “You said I had fifteen minutes to pack my things and get out.”

“You’re blowing off college!”

I had the power to make him stop. Just hang up. But my hand seemed melded to the phone. Despite everything, he was the only family I had. “I’m not. I’m deferring my enrollment. There
is
a difference.”

“So, what’s the plan? You can’t hide out in your chubby friend’s garage forever.”

“His name is Jason, okay?
Jason
.” I didn’t have a plan—Dad knew that. All I wanted was time for me, for my music. A break from pleasing him, the big, dark cloud looming over my head. Trying to
fix
everything about me.

“And is Jason going to let you live with him?” Dad asked.

“He’ll be in Maui until the end of August.”

“When school starts.”

“They’re upping my hours at the café. I’ll find a place,” I lied.

Like I’d stick around Woodside. A town run by rich people with a penchant for the Wild West didn’t exactly have a music scene.

“Serving coffee won’t pay rent around here.”

“I’ll figure something out.”

Dad let out his sarcastic chuckle. “There’s a great answer.”

“I just need a break—a year at most. It’s not a big deal.”

“A break from what?” His question cut into my ear. I had no reason to be unhappy. My childhood wasn’t like his.

“Why don’t you ever listen to me?”

“Say something worth hearing, and I will. Give me a valid reason.”

A pressure grew in my throat, and my breath shook. I moved the phone away from my mouth. No reason would be acceptable. According to him, I had only one thing going for me: my brains. And I couldn’t contribute to society without a degree.

“You can’t, can you?” he continued. “Because you haven’t really thought about what you’re doing.”

“It shouldn’t be like this.”

“How did you expect me to react? ‘Oh, you don’t feel like going to college? That’s okay, honey—just lounge around the house. I’ll keep paying your bills.’”

I kicked a rock across the parking lot. It felt good, but not good enough. “No, I knew you’d throw me out.” He loved his ultimatums and deadlines, and I’d always ended up doing what he wanted. Too afraid he’d actually let me go. Not this time.

“You think it’s easy for me to show you the door? Because, believe me, you’re going to be sorry you chose that route. You don’t have a fucking clue what you’re up against out there.”

“Guess I’ll find out.”

“Go right ahead, Jasmine.” He sounded empty, maybe even disgusted. “But you’ll be doing it on your dime. So you’d better make it count.”

“I’ve done everything you wanted me to.” I gritted my teeth. “
Everything
—even if the result wasn’t what you wanted. All you could say to me at graduation was, too bad I didn’t quite make salutatorian. Oh, and you wished I’d worn nicer shoes.”

“I’m not the bad guy you think I am.”

“I never said you were!”

“You don’t have to.”

My fingers tightened around the phone. “I need this time off to focus on music. To breathe without worrying about homework and classes. I’ve never been able to do that.”

Click.

“Dad?”

Silence.

I snapped the phone shut and stared at the display, my knees shaking. The salty air reeked of freedom, but I felt like I was going to vomit.

Clover flung open the door to the shop. “You done with that paperwork?”

“Uh…yeah.” I handed him the clipboard.

He glanced at the first page and gave it back to me. “Addresses come in handy.”

I followed him into the shop and tossed the clipboard onto the desk. “I don’t see why you need my address. Just call me when it’s ready.”

He leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. “You’re right. If you decide to rip us off, I’ll ask around for the blond girl who drives a Jetta. That’ll be real easy to narrow down.”

“I’ll wait here until you fix it, then.”

He shook his head. “Some things take longer than a day to fix. And this isn’t the Embassy Suites.”

“Fine.” I clenched my teeth and scribbled my dad’s address on the form, making it as illegible as possible. “Happy?”

He studied the paper, occasionally glancing at me. Something was amusing to him, because a slow smile crept across his face. “Woodside, huh?” He cocked his head and put a finger on his chin. “You know, I never would’ve guessed
that
.”

I rolled my eyes. “I need to get my stuff out of the car.”

My stomach did flip-flops when I gazed down at the boutique amp head and 1×12 speaker cabinet in my trunk. Carrying an amp around town
wasn’t
an option. I’d had to roll it out on my computer chair just to get it in the car. The entire setup cost me most of the birthday and Christmas checks I’d saved since birth. The remainder of my savings was sitting in my backpack, plus what I’d earned from a few months at the café. It added up to sixteen hundred bucks, which seemed like a lot. But the starting rent for a room around here was about five to six hundred.

“Is that a Diezel Herbert?” Clover asked from behind me, a hint of surprise in his voice.

I slammed the trunk shut and faced him. “Yes.”

“Whose is it?”

“Mine, obviously.”

“You can’t leave it in your trunk like that. Our garage is full. Your car is going to be parked outside tonight.”

“I can’t take it with me right now.”

He shifted his weight, looking almost shy. “I’ve got storage space in the shop I can lock it up in.”

“And how much would that cost?”

He shook his head and chuckled. “How does a hundred bucks an hour sound?”

“Leave it in the trunk and keep the car locked.” I opened the back door to grab my Taylor acoustic and PRS electric—these babies sang like nothing else I’d played. And they were irreplaceable.

I hadn’t realized he was right behind me until I backed into him and tripped over his foot. The weight of the guitars about sent me right on my ass, but he managed to grab my arm and hold me steady. “Mom and Dad will get you a new one anyway, right?”

I ripped my arm out of his grasp and backed away. “I’ve got a spare key. I’ll be back to pick it up later.”
If I find a place and a way to get it there.

“We close at five thirty. Make it before then. I’ll have your estimate ready.” He took the clipboard off my roof and grinned. “Jasmine Kiss? Is that seriously your last name?”

“It’s Hungarian.” I grabbed my guitars and walked away without another word.

Sweat formed at my temples as I hobbled down Ocean Street, a maze of decrepit buildings and sagging palm trees. Music from the passing cars became a wash of distortion, and grunts of frustration could be heard at every red light.

Santa Cruz had always called to me. The ocean, the grit, and the people who didn’t fit in anywhere else. People like me. I could dye my hair blue or do something crazier—like get my nipples pierced. But most of all, I wanted to join a real band and rock out every night. All I had to do was find a decent room and a cool job, like at a music shop. Everything would work out. I’d make sure of it.

Maybe I was being naive. Even stupid. I mean, who would trade Stanford for being homeless? I’d be lying to myself if I pretended I wasn’t scared shitless.

But I had to know if I was meant to be a musician. Otherwise, I’d spend the rest of my life regretting it. Asking myself…what if? And it’s not like my dad really knew me—he didn’t even know my favorite color or song. On my last birthday, I had to remind him I was turning seventeen, not sixteen. How could he possibly know what was best for me?

BOOK: Amplified
13.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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