Authors: Jacqueline Seewald
By Jaqueline Seewald
Published by Clean Reads
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead,
purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright Â© 2015
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“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Conclusion, 1854
For our three wonderful
girls: Abby, Ella, Leah.
You are each a unique, beautiful jewel.
When I was in junior high school, the boys used to call me “Giraffe.” I hated it, but they were right. I towered over them. On top of that, I had this skinny, long neck. Things got better when I became a sophomore in high school. It seemed as though most of the boys in my class finally caught up with me and I didn't feel so gawky anymore. But I'm still taller and skinnier than any of my friends.
When you're five
eleven and you wear a size twelve shoe, it's tough to be inconspicuous. And people think you can endure anything. So you start acting like you can because everyone expects it of you. But, I'm not that tough.
Sometimes I dream of being five feet tall and delicately-boned. I imagine myself in some frilly dress pampered by friends and family, everyone concerned about me because I'm so fragile and sensitive.
beautiful spring afternoon in May toward the end of my sophomore
year, I sat
daydreaming. It was such a warm day that my mind lazily drifted South to magnolias, mint juleps and white-columned plantation mansions with red brick verandas occupied by ladies in antebellum gauzy gownsâthings I thought I knew all about because I recently read Gone With the Wind.
A bee buzzed in the band room as the orchestra strained toward the final notes of The Bolero. Ravel would have turned in his grave if he heard our rendition. Mr. DeCamp's baton moved with emotive emphasis. I doubt he even noticed the bee. But I followed it out of the corner of my right eye, watching it circle like a kamikaze pilot and thinking I probably shouldn't have worn yellow because it's supposed to attract bees. As the music subsided, the bee flew out the open window, possibly bored and thinking about new flowers to conquer. As for me, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The passing bell jarred me.
Just as I placed my violin in its case, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was more like a poke. Like I said, that's the way it is with us tall girls. Behind me stood Liz Norris, another sophomore, who I knew only as a viola player.
“Stacy, could we talk for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” I said, “but I have to get to the other end of the school before the next bell.”
Liz nodded. She had honey bl
hair and keen gray eyes. And she's also shorter than meâbut then who isn't?
“I'm only going to lunch. No one will care if I'm a little late, so I can walk along with you.”
She managed to keep up with my long strides, although with some difficulty I must admit. “The thing is, my brother and I want to start a band. We're looking for an original sound. He writes music. We both sing and play a few instruments. We thought if we had another girl who could sing and maybe play guitar, we'd have a much better sound. I mean, we harmonize well together, but we need someone who can trade off lead. My voice isn't that strong. I heard you singing a while back. I know you've got a real good voice
a strong voice. I think it's just the kind of sound we need. Would you be interested?” Liz smiled at me in a gentle and uncertain way.
I wasn't sure what to say. “You kind of ambu
shed me with this, Liz. I
have to think about it.”
Liz gave me a disappointed look. “You do play guitar, don't you?”
“Yeah, but I've heard better.” I wasn't modest, just truthful.
“And the piano?”
I nodded. Actually, I'm better on the banjo, but I wasn't going to mention that and have her think I'm a total geek.
“I heard your solo for girls' chorus at Christmas. It was great. I know you're good on the violin. You're just what we need.”
Liz's comments made me uncomfortable. I increased my pace, pushing through the crowded hallway toward my locker. “I think the reason I got to sing was because I was the only one who could remember what the true love gave by the twelfth day of Christmas.”
Liz smiled, a polite expression, as if discounting my explanation. “Stacy, can we get together one day after school and discuss this?”
“Sure, sometime.” I pushed my violin into the locker just as the late bell rang for class. “Got to go now though.” I sprinted down the hallway, for once grateful for my long legs.
Liz seemed nice enough, but I wasn't eager to get involved in a band. For one thing, I have to work hard to get decent grades in school. For some kids it just comes easy, but not for me. Then there was Karen, my best friend. Karen's interests had become my interests. Point of fact, she only has two interestsâboys and cheerleading. But she's obsessed by both of them. Karen cleverly united her two goals by being attracted only to jock types. Her dream was to make cheerleader and become the girlfriend of one of the popular athletes at school. Sure, it probably sounds kind of shallow, but then again, who am I to judge? I'm no Einstein myself.
Karen and I spent hours practicing cheering after school, although neither of us made the squad at the previous try-outs. Not that it mattered to me. But I wanted it for Karen. Karen believed so much in her dreams that I had to believe in them, too.
I wasn't planning to bother with Liz Norris if I could help it, but she turned out to be persistentâokay, kind of a pest. Over the next three weeks, every time I saw her, she nagged me. Finally, I agreed to go to her house one day after school. Karen waited with me for Liz at the bus stop.
“I think joining a band is an amazing idea,” Kare
n told me. “You can meet some
cute guys that way, not as gorgeous as jock
s, of course, but musicians are
something too. And you do have a talent for music, Stace. I wish I could join you but everyone in my family is totally tone deaf or sings like a bullfrog.”
“It might take time away from the things we do together.”
“Hey, I know how much you love music. Why don't you give it a chance?” It was typical of Karen not to be selfish. That was what I liked best about her.
“Being a musician was my mom's dream. She didn't make it. And I don't even have her talent.”
Karen shrugged. “You won't know unless you try.”
I didn't argue with her. My dad had drilled it into me that I'd be better off not going after unrealistic goals. But I didn't mind that Karen dreamed for both of us.
Liz arrived just as the mud-splattered yellow bus pulled up. Of the three of us, Liz was the most petite.
ow I envied her! She gave the impression of being cute and fragile. I thought it had something to do with her bone structure and the high cheekbones in her face. It created an aura of sensitivity that both Karen and I lacked.
During the ride, Karen did most of the talking. She loved conversing with new people. But once Karen got off at her stop, Liz and I settled into an awkward silence. Liz seemed
ill at ease
, though I couldn't figure out just why. I breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived at Liz's stop.
We were in the old part of town where, by the standards of my development, the houses are small and shabby. I had no friends in this part of the township. There is no particular reason for this except that
our Central New Jersey town is
made up of more than one community. I live in an upwardly mobile, middle-class development, as my friends do. Mine is called Rolling Hillsâthough I don't know why since the land is flat and doesn't roll. For the most part, the people who live there are commuters. It's a “bedroom” community, a boring slice of suburbia, but still close enough to New York City where the better paying jobs are.
Many of the people in Liz's area have always lived there. Some families could trace back to the American Revolution. Many were originally farmers. In my area, the average amount of time living in town is about seven years per family. We've lived in our house ten years and are considered old-timers.
Liz and I walked two blocks from the bus stop to a white colonial-styled house that desperately needed a fresh coat of paint. Curls of black paint peeled off the shutters, parts of which were cracked. The lawn badly needed reseeding; dandelions grew in wild profusion. I was struck by the difference between this home and ours. My dad spent almost every weekend tending the house and lawn. He was a stickler about maintenance and upkeep. All our neighbors seemed concerned with appearances too. People here weren't. That was probably a good thing. Still, Liz's place had all the charm of a haunted house on Halloween. The house emitted unhappiness. I followed Liz up the porch steps with a decided lack of enthusiasm.
“Come on in,” she urged, noticing me hesitate at the door.
The foyer oozed darkness; the living room was equally gloomy, even after Liz pulled back the curtains. As my eyes adjusted, I was startled to see a boy sitting in the corner hunched over a piano. Liz saw him too.
“Michael, I didn't know you were there. Stacy, I'd like to introduce you to my brother. He's the
composer in the family. Michael
like you Stacy
is very talented.”
He didn't respond. In fact, he didn't even look up or acknowledge my presence in the room. There was something about him that made me feel uneasy. I could see him much better now that my eyes were adjusting to the dusky room. I figured him for around seventeen, with straight, sand-colored hair long
sides. He looked
fairly tall, though I couldn't
tell because he didn't bother to stand up. He wore dark glasses that I found particularly odd since the room was
“What do you play?” he asked in a voice that could have frozen a lake. “I'll need to hear what you can do. What did you bring with you?”
“I didn't expect an audition,” I responded with equal frost.
“Yeah, well, Liz thinks you're all right, but I'd like to decide that for myself.”
Liz seemed to sense the tenseness in the atmosphere and jumped in. “Why don't you sit down and relax, get to know each other better, and I'll go fix us a snack.” Coward! She didn't even bother to wait for a response, instead hurrying off to the kitchen and leaving an uncomfortable silence in the room.
Michael didn't look at me. He seemed to be busy composing, but I had a feeling that was bogus.
“Do you go to Wilson High?” I asked him.
An odd smile crossed his lips. “No, I'm too special for that.” There was a hint of sarcasm in his tone, as if his words had some personal or private meaning.
Not easily daunted, I tried again. If you can't discuss anything else, usually the
weather's a safe topic. “It's
turned beautiful, don't you think? This must be the sunniest day we've had in months.”
“I wouldn't know,” he said in a voice I can only describe as hostile.
“Wouldn't know or don't care?” I was sorry I said it even as I spoke; usually I'm polite, but this boy just seemed to bring out the worst in me. I hated the way he wouldn't even look in my direction. I guess he thought those dark glasses made him look cool. I felt a sudden urge to yank off his glasses and break them. “Look, maybe I just ought to go,” I said.
He rose to his feet with an awkward, unsteady movement. “Wait! I want you to try out some of our music. You can use Liz's guitar.”
“I don't knowâ¦” I said.
“What have you got to lose?”
I looked around and saw an electric guitar against the opposite wall. “I have to wa
I'm used to an acoustic
not an electric.”
big deal making the switch
for a re
al musician. If you're any good
I can show you in minutes.” He seemed to be daring me, taunting.
“All right,” I s
picking up the guitar.
As he started across the room
I pushed the coffee table forward to allow more foot spa
ce. Before I could say anything
el Norris walked into the table
losing his balance. I put out my hand to steady him; he almost fell on top of me. My heart started to pound like a runner racing toward the f
inish line. I withdrew from him
striving to regain my composure. I put down the guitar.
“Sorry,” he said, “I'm not usually this clumsy.”
Why had he walked into the table? Anyone could have seen it. Then a thought hit me. Of course! Why was I so naÃ¯ve, so dense? I spoke on impulse. “Look, we're strangers, but I think I should be honest with you. I know a lot of musicians are on stuff; they think it's the cool thing for musicians to do, but I think it's a real mistake. I mean, just look what it's doing to you already. Why
you can hardly see straight and you're falling over your own two feet. I hope for your sake and your family's that you can quit. Now I think I'd better be going. Don't worry, I won't say anything to Liz.”
He pulled away from me and shook his head. “I can't believe you said that!”