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Authors: Noelle August

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BOOK: Bounce
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Somehow, there has to be a way for us both to get what we want.

Right?

  
Chapter 9
  

Grey

H
ow did the audition go?” Alison asks as she sets a takeout bag from our favorite Mexican restaurant on the kitchen table.

Brooks and Alison eat over so often, we all have our regular spots.

Adam's house doesn't look like a war zone anymore, but it still doesn't look normal, either. Some of the furniture, rugs, and paintings have been taken to special cleaning services, so the rooms feel empty. With so much cleared out, Adam decided to have the house painted, so a lot of what stayed behind is now in the garage or the storage pod on the driveway, where they'll be until the painters finish up later this week. And there's a piece of plywood where the new, custom glass door will go. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it looks like he just moved in.

I spoke with Ali a little while ago. Insurance is paying for the sliding door, the television, and a few minor repairs, but the total for the deductible and for the various cleaning services is twelve thousand dollars.

It's hard to believe that much damage happened in one night.

The further I get away from what happened, the worse I feel about it. I guess I thought I'd just run the vacuum after the party and wipe down the counters, and that'd be it. I didn't expect all this upheaval.

As we all take our spots around the table, I tuck into my tacos. All I want to focus on right now is getting this food into my stomach. I feel like I could eat everything on the table and still be hungry.

“The auditions were great.” Adam grabs a burrito and takes the chair next to Ali. “We've got three strong contenders. Funny thing is, two are Mia's friends. Beth Pierce and Skyler Canby. Sky was a real surprise. Apparently she's only been acting for a few months.”

So much for blocking out the day.

Ali smiles. “That's great! Mia must be so happy for them.” She dips a chip into the guacamole. “Wait—I thought I'd heard that Skyler was a musician?”

I pause with a taco halfway in my mouth. “What?”

Skyler
plays
music
? I don't have the mental power I need to process that right now.

“Yeah,” Ali says. “Mia told me about her once, but I can't remember what instrument she plays. I just remember it was something I didn't expect.”

Excellent. Now I'm picturing Skyler playing the flute while wearing pale pink lingerie. Weird image. Awesome and weird.

“She should be acting full time,” Brooks says. “Maybe soon she will be. The girl's got serious talent.” He looks at me. “Did you get a chance to talk to her?”

I stop chewing, wondering if I missed something. Was I supposed to interview her while we were acting? I swallow. “Well, we said the lines from the script. And we kissed. You were there.”

Ali's eyebrows go up. “Kissed?”

But Brooks forges ahead and says, “That's okay. It doesn't matter. I'll spend some time with her tomorrow and get a good read on her. But if she's a friend of Mia's, we can count on her being smart, dedicated, and responsible. I already like what I saw.”

Suddenly, I'm not loving a lot of things.

Brooks's comment,
doesn't matter,
felt patronizing. A brush-off. And the emphasis on Skyler being
smart
and
responsible
and
dedicated
. I mean, shit. Is she perfect? Because, yes, she was hot. And cute. But no one's freakin' perfect.

My nerves are shot today, no question, but all this focus on her sterling qualities isn't helping. It's making me feel pretty small—like a guy who Sharpied his scalp and threw a party that caused twelve thousand dollars' worth of damage.

Then there's the other comment Brooks made.
I already like what I saw
. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Pervert. I mean, I did too, but he's the director. Not right.

The conversation moves on without me, since it's all about the film. That's how it's been around here for months. Prior to the movie, it was all about the Blackwood/Quick merger that closed at the start of the year. Adam and Ali have merged, all right. I bet they
merge
every night.

Sometimes I wonder why I feel so much drive to get my music career going. Things can't get going fast enough for me. Then I look at the people in my life, and I get it. Overachievers, every one of them. Big time.

Which reminds me. I have to get to band practice.

“Thanks for dinner,” I say, tossing my wrappers into the trash.

“You're welcome, Grey,” Ali says.

I grab my keys from the hook. Adam gets up and follows me to my truck. I know what he wants, so I beat him to it.

“Ali already told me about the charges,” I say, climbing in. “I'll pay them. I'll work for you and pay you back. Could you just get off my back about it?”

Adam catches the door, keeping me from shutting it. “Mom called. She was looking for you.”

The blood drains out of my face. I didn't expect that. I just . . . ​didn't. Seems today is the day for me to get sucker-punched left and right. Still, it's been two weeks since Madeleine's last call. And here I was starting to hope she'd forgotten about me.


Your
mom called, Adam. Not mine.”

“Come on, Grey.” Adam gives me a pained expression, shaking his head. “Don't be an idiot. It's been eight months. When are you going to talk to her?”

I can't believe it's been that long, but it's true. I left home—home in Newport—in August. “Like you said, Adam. It's been eight months. What do
you
think?”

Adam doesn't move. He just watches me, waiting, I think, for guilt to work its magic on me. I know he's concerned. He's stuck in the middle of this situation between his mother—who raised me since I was five—and me. We have the same father, so the difference between us all stems from the maternal blood. His mom is a socialite; mine was a gold digger.

Is,
I correct myself.

She still is.

“What happened between you two?” Adam asks.

“Gotta go.” I pull the door shut. Then gun the engine and peel out of the driveway.

I sing my ass off on the way to Venice Beach. I just think of a tune and start putting words together and sing.

It's the only way I know to stop thinking.

“So?” I ask the band. “How'd that sound?”

We're in our rehearsal space—a soundproofed two-car garage a few blocks off the beach. It's Titus's sister's boyfriend's garage. Dirk charges us a grand a month, but we have a bathroom and enough space for our amps, guitars, the drum kit, a mini-fridge, a small table that seats four, and even a beat-up couch.

Titus walks over to the fridge. He grabs five beers and lobs them around the garage, keeping one for himself. “Amazing, man. Totally awesome.”

Usually he has blond dreadlocks, but since we shaved our heads last night, he has a huge third eye on his forehead, moving into his hairline. It's not a bad look. It suits him. He's a visionary with melodies.

Two hours ago, I walked into the garage and hummed the tune I'd been playing around with on my drive here. Titus had it worked out in minutes. The rest of the band fell in with some guidance from the two of us. Now we have something real to work with. The song is coming together.

“There are a few things I still want to play around with,” Titus says, “but it's great, bro. Really, really great.”

“Agreed.” Shane nods. “Badass song, Blackwood.” His drumsticks are still tapping out the song's rhythm.

I nod, relaxing a little.

This is the first song I've ever written. I'm pumped. I had no idea it was going to be such a rush, this part of being in a band. Who fucking knew I'd love writing songs?

It came to me on the drive. I kept thinking about what Adam said earlier.

Sky was a real surprise.

She'd surprised me too. I hadn't expected to kiss her. Twice. And the phrase stuck with me. By the time I reached Venice, I had a few verses and an idea for a melody for “Surprised by the Sky.”

Skyler inspired it indirectly, but the song isn't about her. It's about being so out of it, you don't even recognize the sky—the very thing that's everywhere. That starts at the ground, at your feet, and goes on forever. It's about making a mistake so big, it changes what you see and breathe and even move through. It's about being lost and not knowing how to
stop
being lost.

I've basically written the opposite of a love song, but it's cool. I love the song already, and it's only going to get better. And it's not like Skyler will ever know she inspired it.

“Let's play it again,” I say.

We spend another hour and a half working on getting the song right. By the time we wrap it up at midnight, we've got it locked in.

Pizza is ordered. Beer and whiskey start flowing. Everyone texts their girlfriends to come over. Except for Titus and me. We're the single guys. So we hit the whiskey pretty hard, especially when the girlfriends arrive, because there's nothing else to do.

The guys are happy with our rehearsal tonight. I can tell, because Reznick sits at the table with Renee, and Emilio and Evie are there, too. They pass around a joint. Weed's not my jam, but to each his own.

Nora's practically straddling Shane, who's sitting on one of the amps.

“Whoa,” Titus says next to me. We're witnessing some serious PDA.

We usually get the couch, which we call the Titanic because it's huge, grayish white, and starting to do a nosedive on one side. It's so disgusting, Titus and I are the only ones brave enough to sit on it.

“Yeah, whoa,” I say, passing him the whiskey. “Musss be nice.”

“Seriously. That's why you gotta land 'em when you're young. Shane hooked up with Nora when they were still in the womb or some shit.”

“So they're twins?”

“What?” Titus looks at me. Then it dawns on him, and he kills himself laughing.

After a little while, he joins the others at the table, but I lay back, feeling comfortably numb. I go over the song in my head, playing around with the lyrics. My voice is a deep baritone, and I have a natural growl in the lower part of my register. There's a perfect spot in this song to dig into that.

“Grey!” Renee yells at me from the table. “Stop being so antisocial! Come join us.”

“I'm good.”

“Do you want me to call Jamie?”

That's Renee's best friend, who I hooked up with last month over the course of a weekend when Adam and Ali went to Vail. I got some action. I love it when they travel.

Except when they come home early and bust me for trashing the place.

Damn it.
Why did I
do
that?

“She's into you, Grey. She still wants you to text her.”

“Wow,” I say. It's my standard answer when I want to say
no
but shouldn't. Works every time. People don't know how to interpret it. It shorts them out.

Renee looks at Titus. “What does he mean,
wow
? Is that good?”

He knows my trick but gives away nothing. “Not sure, Renee.”

I have no interest in getting involved with a girl I can barely remember. But I wouldn't mind a girl's company right now.

A soft body, sweet lips.

Shiny pink hair.

Yep.

Wow.

  
Chapter 10
  

BOOK: Bounce
9.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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