“I wanted to talk to you about Friday,” I began, “and the showcase I told you about.”
The crease appeared between her eyebrows: not a good sign. “Showcase?”
“Mac and Layla’s band?” Don’t panic, I told myself. This might work in your favor. “It’s an all-ages show? You said you’d think about it?”
It was not good to be speaking only in questions; confidence was key. Time to regroup.
“It starts at seven,” I told her, as if she’d already agreed and we were just hashing out details. “They’re second on the bill. So I’d be home by ten at the latest.”
The crease deepened. I wished I hadn’t noticed. “I thought we said we’d start a bit more slowly than a night at a club, Sydney.”
“I haven’t done anything or been anywhere for weeks, Mom.”
She sighed, already tired of this conversation. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea. Why don’t you call Jenn and Meredith, see if they want to do something?”
“It’s not the same,” I replied, although I knew that was exactly why she’d suggested it. “Mom. Please say I can go. Please?”
Already I’d arrived at the last resort of the truly desperate: begging. Next time, I thought, no planning, no strategy. Just the fact I was already thinking of next time only confirmed the obvious: I was done here. Still, I stood there and made her say it to my face.
“Honey, no,” she told me. Then she gave me a sad smile, which just made it worse. “I’m sorry.”
And that was that. My Hail Mary, the field goal kick that could win the game but instead went so wide you felt stupid for expecting anything different. I could have stood there and pleaded more, circled back to all the bullet points and arguments I’d compiled. But there was no use. My mom was a lot of things, but a waffler wasn’t one of them. Once a no, it stayed that way.
“It’s okay,” Mac said to me the next morning, when I told him about this at my locker before the first bell. I’d actually started crying, which was so humiliating, not to mention unattractive. “It’s one show. There will be others.”
“What did you do?”
I turned, and there was Layla, glaring at him.
“Nothing,” Mac said.
“The girl is crying, Macaulay.” She dug in her purse, pulling out a pack of Kleenex and holding it out to me. “You guys better not be breaking up right now. If I can’t be in a happy couple, I at least need proximity to one.”
“It’s not him,” I told her, taking a couple of tissues. “It’s my mom.”
Just saying this set me off again, so I busied myself trying to get cleaned up. Mac said, “She said no about the showcase.”
“You’re crying about that?” Layla sighed. “Please. I wish someone would tell me I couldn’t go. Eric’s already so bossy and insufferable. It’s only going to get worse. Did Mac tell you that he wants us all to meditate before the show now?”
I was touched: I knew she was humoring me. “What?”
“Apparently,” she said, leaning against the locker beside mine so we were shoulder to shoulder, “that’s what serious bands do before big gigs. Meditate and visualize. He claims it will get us on the same mental plane, ‘in spiritual harmony before we make actual harmony.’”
I sniffled. “That sounds like a direct quote.”
“Of course it is!” She put her head on my shoulder. “You’ll be missed. But it’s just one stupid night. Sadly, there will probably be others.”
The bell rang then: time for class. The clock was never in my favor. Mac slid his arm around me, pulling me closer to him. “You going to be okay?”
“Yeah,” I told him, reaching for his hand. He gave mine a squeeze, then held on for a beat longer before pulling away. As he walked down the hallway to his class, I started crying again.
“Young love,” Layla said, handing me another tissue. I wiped my eyes, embarrassed. They were right: it was just one night, one show. But I wasn’t a big crier; my emotions, so sudden and fierce, had surprised me. So much, in fact, that it wasn’t until later in the day that I realized the most shocking thing at all. It wasn’t that I’d broken down, but that I hadn’t been alone when I did so. You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together. Mac and Layla were there for me. Even if, and especially when, I couldn’t do the same for them.
“DID YOU make plans with Jenn?”
My mom felt bad about saying no to the showcase. Not enough to change her mind, of course. But if I’d asked for just about anything else, I had a feeling my chances were good. Too bad it was the only thing I’d wanted.
“No,” I replied, shutting the dishwasher.
I could feel her watching me as I picked up a dish sponge and wiped down the counters. In the dining room, my father and Ames were still at the table, continuing a discussion that had begun over dinner about movement on the job/housing front. When this came up, it was obvious Ames was surprised. Clearly, he’d assumed that reconnecting my mom and Peyton had bought him more than just a few days. I could have told him that my parents never forgot anything. Once they brought something up, it was always still on the table, even if you chose not to see it.
“Well,” he’d said to them, reaching for another piece of bread, “my lead at the Valley Inn didn’t pan out. But I’ve got applications in at a few other places.”