A lot of winter days in Twin Oaks are like some of the black-and-white movies I’ve seen. Dreary, colorless, a total drag. (A Hard Day’s Night does not fall into this category, of course.)
The morning of the day that I made my wish … was not like that. As my eyes fluttered open, I could tell it was going to be bright and sunny. Unfortunately, that did nothing to soothe my anxious state.
My uptightness was not unusual. Most mornings I wake up with the same feeling in my gut. Kind of queasy. Like I’m not on solid ground. Like something is unresolved in my life.
So what was it that morning? Did I neglect to study for a test? Was someone mad at me at school for some reason? When I stumbled into the bathroom, I got to the bottom of this mystery.
There it was, staring back at me from the mirror. No, not my face. Well, come to think of it, that’s a good place to start. I’m not all that confident about how I look. But I don’t want to get into that right now.
So no, actually, it was the words on the mirror that cracked this little puzzle for me. Sometimes I write reminders on the mirror in lipstick. And what was there this morning was this:
BE FIRM. DO NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER.
I play guitar and sing lead vocals for a band called the Caverns. We’re a pop band, I’m proud to say. Mostly retro. Sixties British Invasion covers (more than a few Beatles songs, of course), a smattering of tunes from some of the smarter, newer pop groups, and—to keep things interesting—a few originals thrown in here and there. (None of mine, however. I’m kind of shy about playing my own stuff for people.)
I formed the Caverns during the summer. So far, we’ve only played a handful of gigs. A couple of times at the local coffee shop, a Battle of the Bands at our high school. A street fair near my house. So, we’re kind of a new band, which makes me a bit uptight sometimes about the whole enterprise. It’s like when you’ve just started dating someone and you’re not sure where things are headed.
Anyway, back to that message on the mirror. As it turns out, my anxiety about the band was justified. Julian, our lead guitarist, had told me just the previous day that the Circuit Club—a hugely popular band at my school and one that has played a lot more gigs than the Caverns—was interested in Danny, our drummer, and Lorna, our bass player. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it seemed that D and L were seriously thinking of accepting the evil band’s offer!
So that’s what my mirror-mirror-on-the-wall lipstick message was all about. “Be firm. Do not take no for an answer” referred to my begging Mrs. Densby, head of the Entertainment Committee at T.J. High, to let the Caverns play at the Back to School dance, which would be happening right after Christmas break. I figured if I could get the gig—which would not only be the biggest one we’d played so far, but would actually pay us something—it might prevent my fidgety bandmates from bolting for Circuit Club. One gig, that is what I was desperate for. Then I’d take it from there.
That’s my dad. The human clock. He yells those same two words at exactly 6:30 a.m. every school day. I kid you not. Another annoying thing about him is that he’s a morning person. Which is something I’m certainly not.
Unfortunately, I can’t avoid Dad in the a.m. He teaches music at my school. So not only do I have to listen to him chatter away as we eat breakfast (he insists we eat together every morning) but on the way to school, too.
I have to admit, Dad and I have a complicated relationship. Mom left us years ago. As a result, Dad is … overly protective, I guess you could say. I’m sixteen years old and trying to spread my wings a bit, right? Not untypical. Meanwhile, Dad is doing his best to keep them clipped. Also not untypical. The point is, our diametrically opposed viewpoints on this particular issue leads to more than a little tension between us.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Mister B, as the students call him. For one thing, Dad’s the reason I’m such a Beatles nerd. He gave me Meet the Beatles! (on vinyl) for my twelfth birthday, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. So I owe him. But still, a girl needs her space. Especially in the morning. But my space, as usual, was about to be invaded.
“What’s the cryptic lipstick message all about, kiddo?” Dad looked at me over the glasses he needs to read the morning paper.
“Nothing,” I replied, instantly defensive.
“Anything I can help you with?”
Dad got that wary look in his eyes. I had been shutting him out more and more lately.
“Look, Dad, sometimes a girl needs to figure things out on her own. OK?” Dad looked concerned. But he gave me a reluctant nod.
He was uncharacteristically quiet on the way to school. Which was fine with me. It gave me time to figure out what I was going to say to Mrs. Densby. I didn’t want to improvise this very important conversation. It had to be totally worked out.
So work it out I did as Dad drove silently through the peaceful, eternally slumbering suburban streets of Twin Oaks. By the time I entered the teeming halls of Thomas Jefferson High, I had my pitch memorized. That made me feel a little better, but there was still one very important thing I had to do before talking to Mrs. Densby.
Avoid my bandmates. That way they couldn’t even broach the subject of breaking up the Caverns. Ducking Danny and Lorna wouldn’t be difficult. They’re a grade below me, so I didn’t have any classes with them. But Julian was a different matter. We have the same math class and share the same homeroom. Most days, that’s good. Because, well, I guess it’s time to tell you about Julian and me.
I’m in love with him. He’s not in love with me.
Sorry. I know that’s so … typical. Unrequited love and all. At least I’m pretty sure it’s unrequited. Julian and I really get along, is the thing. We have a similar sense of humor. Kind of off, if you know what I mean. We like the same kinds of songs, of course. We sometimes finish each other’s sentences. I like it when that happens because that tells me we’re totally on the same wavelength.
All that said, what Julian and I have between us feels like a friends kind of vibe. So I’ve always been afraid to let Julian know how I really feel about him, because that might spoil what we already have.
Now you know one of the main reasons why I was so intent on preventing the Caverns from breaking up. I’m not sure if Julian and I would even see each other very much anymore. It could be the only reason we were friends was because we were in a band together. Take away the band … there goes Julian. And any chance for me to ever get up the nerve to tell him how I really feel about him.
Speaking of the boy, here he was. As soon as I entered my homeroom and sat down at my desk, he was standing right next to me.
“We gotta talk, Gina.” Julian wore his hair in a classic Beatles cut and dressed ’60s-style. Which made him all that more irresistible to me.
“I wouldn’t get too close, Julian. I’m … getting sick.”
“You’re the worst liar in the world. All I have to do is look in your eyes.”
I didn’t want to look in his. He has really terrific blue-green eyes. Soulful eyes. You could get lost in those eyes. As for mine, I put sunglasses on. (I always have a pair on hand, even in winter, just in case I want to look mysterious. Or inscrutable, I believe is the word.)
“I have to study,” I said.
“It’s the last day before Christmas break. What do you have to study for?”
“SATs,” I lied. Well, I was taking them sometime early in the New Year, but with my current crisis, I didn’t really care about them.
“Danny and Lorna want to meet during lunch,” Julian said.
“I can’t. I have to—”
“If they’re gonna quit, it’s better to know sooner than later, don’t you think?”
I didn’t want to answer that question. So I didn’t.
“C’mon, Gina, it’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of musicians out there. You can put a new band together.”
My heart sank. Because Julian had said “you,” not “we.”
“You sound like it’s a done deal,” I said. I wasn’t looking at him when I said it. Julian slowly removed my sunglasses. I glanced sideways at him. He looked kind of sad. Which told me he knew it was a done deal. “I gotta get back to … this,” I said lamely. And quickly put my sunglasses back on. Because I didn’t want Julian to see me cry.
Can you believe it? Tears first thing in the a.m. I couldn’t help it, however. The Caverns really did mean that much to me. Julian, Lorna, and Danny were my tribe, after all. The band was my identity. In the bizarre, surreal world called high school, the Caverns was my lifeline to sanity.
So that was one reason I started to lose it in homeroom class the morning of the day that I made my wish. The other reason was … I didn’t think I was that great of a musician. Or singer. Or songwriter. And I figured that’s why Danny and Lorna and Julian really wanted to break up the band. I wasn’t good enough. Plain and simple.
Maybe everyone at my age has these kind of doubts. For those of you who don’t, let me tell you, they can paralyze you. Just stop you in your tracks. Give you panic attacks.
My way of dealing with them was to keep moving. Like a shark. Keep practicing. Keep writing songs (even though nobody ever heard them). Keep trying to get gigs. That helped keep my insecurities at bay. But sometimes they took over.
This was one of those times. Julian, bless him, knew not to push it. He gave me a pat on the arm and said, “We’ll talk later.” I couldn’t get any words out because of the lump in my throat. So I just nodded.
That’s how my day started. And it would only get worse from there.
Copyright © 2011 by Greg Taylor