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Authors: Chris Myers

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BOOK: Lennon's Jinx
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“She’ll
come begging later. You know how it works. They can’t play hard to get for too
long.”

Jinx’s
leg shakes as she watches us. She looks nervous, and she should be. Clive and
Danny will eat her alive.

Clive
glances back at her. “Are you sure it was her that dumped a beer on you? She
looks like she does it standing up.”

“Trust
me,” I say. “She doesn’t.”

We
break our huddle.

Since
I’m the lead, I give her the news. “You have to learn to read music.”

Jinx
sighs as if I’ve asked her to give birth to a baby hippo. “I don’t have the
money.”

“Show
up a half hour early every day, and we’ll take turns teaching you.” I’m
studying her harder now. A girl would be good in our band. Sex sells, and her
outfit says she’d spread her legs. Looks can be deceiving.

“Are
you sure?” Her voice is full of angst.

“Yeah.
Now about that beer.” The chill of the night air at her party lingers fresh in
my mind. I fold my arms across my chest.

The
guys leer at her to add to the overall effect, knowing full well I’m going in
for the kill, but I won’t. I’d rather see her bust Clive’s balls when he hits
on her again. Danny will give her a hard time, but only when Susan isn’t around.
He’s still one of us, except when he’s being squeezed hard between the legs. Clive’s
right. Danny is a whipped boy.

“You
were in my dad’s room,” she says.

I
wince at the mention of that. I don’t like it when people get into my business,
and I intruded into her private space.

“You
were acting like a pig,” she tries to explain but realizes she’s digging a
deeper hole with the guys. “It won’t happen again.”

Nothing
like handing someone the shovel for her own grave. “We cut loose,” I say. “You
don’t have to participate, but you do have to learn tolerance. It’s the key to
world peace.”

Jinx
cringes then nods.

Clive
cracks open another beer. “Cheer up. It’s not the end of the world.” He hands
it to her.

She
shakes her head and pushes it back to him, so she’s not a beer drinker. I can
live with that.

“We
don’t bite,” Clive says, brushing against her. “Unless you want us to, so relax.”

Danny
does a drum roll. “Let’s practice before we leave for the recital. I have to
pick up Susan.”

Danny’s
been dating her for over two years. He’s the only one in our group that manages
to sleep with one girl at a time. I haven’t figured out why.

Jinx
looks at each of us. “Recital?”

“Clive
has to see his girlfriend.” Danny Boy tosses a drumstick that Clive catches.

“It’s
mandatory for us to go to Currie’s performances,” Clive says.

I
sip on my beer. “You don’t have to go.”

“Who’s
Currie?” she asks.

“Lennon’s
sister,” Danny Boy says. “Don’t you go to school with him?”

Jinx
is silent for a moment. “Are we going to practice? When’s our first gig?”

Clive
holds his bass and picks on it. “We’re regulars at Kichee’s Joint on the
weekend.”

She
crinkles her nose. “There?”

“We
get six hundred a night plus the door,” Clive says.

“That’s
it?” She wears her disappointment, which makes me feel ashamed.

Danny
sits down on his stool and twirls his drumstick. “We have a wedding this
weekend. That’s thirty-five hundred.”

When
she perks up, Clive stares hard at her chest.

“That
sounds good,” she says.

“You
won’t say that when you see our set list.” I hand it to her. There are over a
hundred titles for just the clubs, and that doesn’t include the wedding music.
“We play some originals at the clubs. Otherwise we’re a cover band.”

“Oh.”
Her tone swings the other way.

“Memorize
these before the weekend.” Friday’s only two days away. “You get a percentage
on what you can play.”

Her
face droops as she scans the list. “I do?”

“It’ll
give you incentive,” I say.

I
pluck out a few chords to play one of our standard love ballads for the wedding
gig. The guys slide in. It takes Jinx a moment to catch up. She understands
chord progression, so she can fake her way through it and several other songs.
After that, she’ll have to learn the music. We’ll see how that goes.

“Can
you sing harmony?” I ask, even though she sings alto in the choir, which is
almost always the harmony part.

The
frightened kitty look washes across her face. “With you? I’ll try.”

I’m
amazed at her lack of confidence when she can belt out ballads in choir.

When
we practice, I face the band, so we can critique each other. Makeup covers the
bruise yellowing her cheekbone. Like her friends, I wonder if she torqued off
some guy at the party. I want to know. My mind plots on how to weasel it out of
her.

After
we play a set, I say, “Who wants to come in early tomorrow to help Jinx?”

“I
have to take Susan to work.”

“Clive?”

“Your
idea, so you go first.”

“Be
here at four tomorrow.” I pack up my Taylor. If the other guitars get stolen, I
wouldn’t care, but this one’s my baby.

The
other guys nod their goodbyes while Jinx stores her keyboard into its cover.

“We’ll
get a new keyboard before this weekend.” Usually a call to the music store will
do the trick. I’m a good client.

Before
she picks up her keyboard to carry it outside, I grab it and my guitar. She
walks with me to her car. Rust pockmarks the edges of her beat-up ride. The
paint is so faded it’s peeling off the roof and hood.

“Pop
the trunk,” I say.

She
does, and I place the keyboard inside. There’s an open gym bag stuffed with
clothes and toiletries. I do this, too, for practical reasons, like in case I’m
too wasted to drive home and have to sober up in some strange girl’s bed. I get
the impression her reasons are different from mine.

I
accidentally brush up against her. She jerks away.

“Hey,
I’m not going to take advantage of you,” I say.

“I’m
sure you’d like to try.” From the intensity in her words, I’m pretty sure she
hates me, and I don’t like it.

“I’ve
never forced any girl. If anything, it’s the other way around.”

Jinx
spins toward me. All five-two of her in a twisted rage. I try not to laugh.

“You’ve
done girls too drunk to remember,” she says.

“Nope.
Never. Besides, where’s the fun in that?”

“I
don’t believe you.”

“I
didn’t even take advantage of the completely blitzed Iz and Gabby the other
night.” Not that I didn’t consider it.

“They
did not hit on you.”

“Don’t
get your panties in a wad. You have nothing to worry about. I’d never touch them
or you.”

Her
tiny fists knuckle against her small hips. “Why, I’m not good enough?”

Ah,
she is interested. “Of course not. Little girls like you are great fun for a
big guy like me.” Now I’ve done it.

Her
face lights up like the aurora borealis. Flames shoot everywhere. “Keep your
distance, or I’ll find another drink to throw on you.”

I
shake like a wet dog. “I’m scared. It’s not the first time a girl has dumped a
drink on me, and it probably won’t be the last.”

“You’re
a pig.”

“Thank
you.” For some reason, it bugs me that she thinks I’m one, but she’ll never
know that. Currie’s normally right when it comes to working with people, but my
lips can’t seem to form I’m sorry again. It was hard enough to say it the first
time, and Jinx certainly doesn’t make it easy. She hasn’t mentioned the roses,
and she’s had plenty of time.

“What
do you have to wear to the wedding? The slutty outfit will work great for the
clubs, but this is a black tie affair.” Though I’m surprised she wore it and
came alone to the audition.

“I’ve
got dresses,” she says in a haughty tone.

“Bring
them and shoes tomorrow afternoon. We’ll need to approve them first.”

“You’ve
got to be joking.”

“No.
I’m not.”

I
open her car door that squeaks so loud it could be used in a horror movie for
special effects.

“I
can get that myself,” she says.

“Okay.”
I slam the door shut.

She
huffs and reopens the door.

“Why
did you dress that way if you were afraid to come here?” I ask.

Her
face puffs up. “I really need this job.”

“Honestly,
you would’ve gotten it based on your talents,” I say, walking away from her.

“Really?”
she asks in her usual timid voice.

I
don’t turn around. “Yes, really.”

I
slide into my SUV and fiddle with the glove box while waiting for her car to
stutter to life. Once she’s headed down the road, I pull out. I’d hate for her to
be stuck at the back of the warehouse after dark, even if she is a pain in my
ass.

 

CHAPTER
SEVEN
LENNON

 

That evening, I hold Currie’s
hand to escort her backstage to the recital. She’s decked in a fluorescent pink
tutu.  

“You
can’t let Jinx wear any old dress to that wedding,” Currie says. “She has to
match you guys.”

“You’re
right,” I say, fantasizing about spending the day shopping with Jinx in Chicago.
“I’ll text her later to let her know the good news.”

“Zoe
and I will help, so don’t worry.”

Even
better, Jinx will see me with the girls and know I’m not a scary guy.

Soft
cries come from the dumpster on our way to the staging area of the theater
where all the little ballerinas crowd together, wearing bright costumes. Currie
tugs free from my handhold and races for the trash bin.

Despite
the fact she’s wearing one of her coveted recital outfits, she goes dumpster
diving and yanks out a box of kittens. I amble over to help her down from the
bin. Something greasy smudges her tutu. I try to clean it off with Kleenex, but
it’s not working.

Currie
caresses one of the little fur balls.

“Don’t
touch them,” I say, calling the Humane Society, which is on my favorites list.
This isn’t the first rescue mission I’ve been volunteered for. Harry being one
of them.

She
picks up another kitten. Its tabby fur is matted down, and its eyes are gummy
with goo. “Can we keep one?”

“Put
it down,” I say to her before telling Kiki at the shelter our location.

That’s
right. We call so often I’m on a first name basis with half of the staff there.

When
I get off the phone, I say, “You weren’t scratched or bitten were you?”

She
suspiciously sucks her finger. “No.”

“I’ll
wait here until the Humane Society gets here. You go on and wash your hands.”

“Is
Mommy coming?” Her lips turn down because she knows the answer.

It’s
worse if I lie. “I don’t think so, but I’m here. I’ll always be here for you.”

“I
wish she’d come.”

“Me,
too.” With the box under one arm, I give her a one-handed hug and then a smack
on her butt. She scuttles up the stairs and stands next to Zoe who waves at me
while I wait on the street. I wave back.

I’ll
give Mom another talk, applying more pressure this time by holding the platinum
card out of reach. She should come, but partying with her male friends is
somehow more important.

Bailey
lines up her students. She teaches ballet and takes classes. That’s why she’s
so toned. I smile at her, thinking how I can carve out alone time with her
after the recital.

I
wait the few minutes it takes the Humane Society van to pull up. At Currie’s
insistence, we’re big donors, and when we have time, we volunteer.

Kiki
gets out of the truck. She wears protective gloves and takes the kittens from
me. She’s a middle-aged woman who’s donated her life to the abandoned animal
population. Where was she when I was young and had nobody to take care of me?

She
grins at me. “You’re on rescue duty again?”

“What
do you think?” I ask.

“Thank
you. We’ll take it from here.”

I
hand them off and hurry to the staging area to talk to Bailey. Several
ballerinas float over to me and hug my hips. “Lennon, Lennon,” they cry.

A
few moms wave at me. Several times, Currie has volunteered me as Den Mother for
her troop. At first, the parents were leery of a teenager, especially a guy,
watching over their pack, but after a while, I gained their trust. The Girl
Scouts still talk about me taking them into Chicago to see
Wicked
.

However,
a year ago, Currie retired her uniform, saying it was too babyish. Several
girls followed suit and took up dancing like her. She’s definitely the alpha
female.

Bailey
walks over to me and puts a possessive arm around me.

“Lennon
has a girlfriend,” a former Girl Scout croons.

Zoe
and Currie give each other their secret smiles. They know better.

Guilt
heats my cheeks. It’s really not fair to Bailey.

“Want
to get together after the show,” Bailey says.

“I’d
love to, but you know I can’t,” I say.

She
straightens my tie. “I can make up for last night.”

“Don’t
I know it.”

Bailey
nibbles my ear. God, she’s hot.

“According
to the rumor mill, no one at school hit Jinx,” she says. “There were a couple
guys I didn’t recognize at her party though.”

That
has my mind spinning. It’s not right for a guy to hit a girl, even if she
deserves it.

* * *

My band mates Clive and Danny Boy
save me a seat next to Zoe’s parents. Danny holds Susan’s hand. She clings to
him like she’s made of static electricity. Danny grins and nuzzles her cheek.
What bothers me is that he feeds off it, like a pet guppy skimming the surface
for crumbs.

Currie
and Zoe have five numbers to perform, so it’s worth my while to come. I hate it
when she only gets to dance once, especially with the small fortune we spend.

BOOK: Lennon's Jinx
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