Read Saint Anything Online

Authors: Sarah Dessen

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Family, #General, #Social Issues, #Friendship, #Love & Romance

Saint Anything (20 page)

BOOK: Saint Anything
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The phone beeped off, and I heard her exhale. Not sure what to do, I turned to the window, slipping my backpack over my shoulders, then looked out at the street. A beat passed. Another. Then she left the room, her footsteps padding upstairs.

For all I knew, this was how many of their exchanges ended, as I usually made myself scarce when they talked. But it had been a while since I’d heard my mom upset, and I wondered if I should go to her. I didn’t have the right words or even know what those might be. So instead, I put away the rest of the groceries. That way, when she came back down, at least one thing would be just how she wanted it.

* * * 

“Listen up,” Eric announced. “I have
big
news.”

I was the only one who looked at him. Eric was a fan of both announcements and pronouncements: never just information, always an exclusive. Everyone else had been around long enough to know not to fall for his conversational hype.

“Is this about the señorita?” Irv asked.

Eric looked at him. “Who?”

Mac, on the bench eating a Kwacker and doing his history homework, swallowed. “The girl from your Spanish group? The one you’re sure is obsessed with you?”

“Oh, no.” Eric flipped his hand: señorita, forgotten. “Bigger. This is about the
band
.”

Now, at least, he had Mac’s attention, if not everyone else’s. “The band?”

Eric, smiling, slid onto the end of the bench where I was sitting. “Well, it’s kind of about Layla. But also the band.”

“Huh?” Layla asked from my other side. As always, she had her phone in her hand, determined not to miss a possible midday texting opportunity with Spence. Cell phones were banned on the W. Hunt campus, and yet more days than not at this time he still managed to contact her. “What about me?”

Now that Eric had the floor, he was determined to keep it as long as possible. So we all had to watch as he pulled a paper flyer from his pocket, then unfolded it slowly before holding it up. “We’re going to enter this. And you’re going to help us.”

LOCAL YOKELS: A SHOWCASE,
it said in large black type.
FIVE BANDS, ONE PRIZE. ACCEPTING ACTS NOW. BENDOVENUE .COM/LOCALS FOR DETAILS
.

“That’s the big news?” Mac asked. “We’ve done showcases before.”

“This isn’t
just
a showcase,” Eric told him. “It’s a competition, with a record demo deal as a prize.”

“What does that have to do with me, though?” Layla asked.

“I’ll tell you.” A pause. Mac looked at me, then sighed, as we waited for him to do just that. Finally: “You’re our secret weapon.”

“Since when?” she said.

“Since I did my research and realized how few of the groups around here have girl singers, or girls at all, for that matter. Everyone’s like us, totally dude-centric. With you up front, we’ll stand out. Better our chances.”

“Wait a second.” Layla put down her phone, which meant she was serious. “Are you saying that you’re going to let
me
sing lead? Because that does
not
sound like you. Unless you have a head injury I missed.”

“I resent that implication,” Eric protested. “I am a team player, all the way.”

Irv laughed out loud at this. Mac said, “What’s the catch?”

“There isn’t one. I want to win,” Eric said. “Anyway, Layla wouldn’t be singing lead. She’d solo on one new song, in between two of our standards.”

“So I’m a guest vocalist?”

“You’re a member of the band! Just like everyone else!”

“Except that I’m not,” she told him.

“But they,” Eric said, shaking the paper at her, “don’t know that. Nor do they need to. We win this, get the deal, and then record what we want.”

“I don’t know,” she said, picking up her phone again. “I’m not much into the singing thing lately.”

Eric just looked at her. “You have to help us.”

“Actually, I don’t.” She scrolled down, tapping her finger on the screen. “Ask Rosie. She’s got the voice, anyway.”

“I don’t want Rosie. I want
you
.”

Now he had all of our attention. It didn’t matter that he was, ostensibly, still talking about the band. The fact that Eric still pined for her months after their short relationship and ensuing breakup was as much known to the rest of us as his ego and penchant for showboating. This was the first time I was aware of, though, that he’d said anything close to it aloud. He realized it, too: color was already flooding his face.

“You’re assuming we’ll be ready,” Mac said, breaking the awkward silence that followed. “We only just got back to a regular practice schedule. We don’t even have a name.”

“It’s three songs,” Eric said. “And only one new one.”

“When’s the tryout?”

“No tryout. They want a recording.”

“What?” Mac shook his head. “Then this is a moot point anyway.”

“Why?”

“Because we don’t have one? Or any way of paying to produce one?”

“It can’t cost that much.”

“It’s not cheap.”

“Well, I’ve got some birthday money. You work. And I bet Ford’s parents might chip in . . .”

He trailed off, though, obviously less sure of this aspect of the plan. Layla, who had gone back to her phone, gave him a sympathetic look.

The bell rang then, and we all started gathering our stuff together. Eric remained on the bench, glum, as everyone else got up to head off in their different directions. “There’ll be another showcase,” Irv said, clapping him on the shoulder. “With an audition. I promise.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Eric said, shrugging.

I grabbed my bag, then started—slowly—toward the steps that led up to the arts building, where my next class was. Mac’s sixth period was in the same direction, so he joined me and we started climbing the stairs. Eric, who had a free sixth, was still on the bench, his guitar case at his feet.

“Poor guy,” I said. “He’s like a kid who just dropped his ice-cream cone.”

“He’ll survive,” he replied. “And maybe it will inspire him to get a job, too. Then we’d have money for a demo.”

“They’re really that expensive?”

He shifted his bag up his shoulder. “The demo itself isn’t. Studio time is where it gets pricey.”

All through the ecology lecture that followed, and the calc test after that, I forgot about this entire exchange. In my final period, my English teacher, Ms. Feldman, was saying something about metaphors when a thought occurred to me. Some way that I might actually be able to help
them
for once. That afternoon, when I got to Seaside after the final bell, I was the one with a plan.

“Hold on,” Mac said. “You have a recording studio in your
house
?”

“A partial one,” I told him. “My parents were building it for my brother.”

“Oh, my God, that’s
right
,” Layla said, turning away from the front window, where she was in her customary spot, waiting for Spence to pull up. “And I’ve been there! How did I forget that?”

“Well,” I told her, “it was kind of a weird night.”

She thought for a second. Then: “Oh, right. Yeah. I blocked it out, for sure.”

Mac looked at me. “What, it’s haunted or something?”

“Not exactly,” she said. “That guy was there, her brother’s friend. Remember?”

“Oh.” He looked at me. “Right. The creeper.”

I hadn’t thought it was possible to like him more. I was wrong. I said, “I’m sure it would be okay. It’s not like anyone ever uses it.”

“We’d still need someone to engineer the demo, though,” Mac said.

“Isn’t that what Eric spent the whole summer doing last year, at that camp?” Layla said. “He certainly came back seeming like he could do it.”

“We’re talking about Eric here. He acts like he can do everything.”

“Just text him and ask.”

Mac pulled out his phone, then looked at me. “You sure this is okay? Because if I mention it to him, he’ll be like a dog with a bone. He will not let go of things, even when he should.”

Just then, a big black SUV pulled up at the curb. “Spence is here!” Layla called out to us and her dad, who was in the kitchen. “I’m going!”

“Back by five thirty,” said Mr. Chatham.

“Six at the latest!” she replied, then darted out before he could object. Mac watched her climb into the passenger seat, an expression of suspicion on his face. According to Layla, he was like this with
all
her boyfriends, way too overprotective and biased from first glance. I could see that. But she had been pushing limits a bit since Spence was around more after school: showing up late, then a bit later. Being evasive, even to me, about where they’d gone or what they’d done. If I was noticing it, I knew Mac had, too.

“I’ll ask my parents, but I’m sure it will be fine,” I said to him as they pulled away. “And I want to help you guys out.”

“You don’t have to,” he told me.

“I know.” I nodded at his phone. “Just text him. Give the dog a bone.”

Of course, Eric maintained he could handle everything if he had a studio and suggested we try for the next day or, barring that, the coming weekend. All that was left was getting official permission. And how hard could that be?

I walked into the kitchen two hours later. Usually, by six, my mom had her customary one glass of wine poured, dinner well under way, and her typical questions about my day ready. Today, she was nowhere in sight. I put down my bag, then headed upstairs to the War Room. The door was half shut, and I could hear her talking.

“I just feel like something else is going on,” she was saying. “He’s been so easily upset the last few times we’ve talked, and he doesn’t want to discuss anything. And then there’s the graduation . . .”

She fell silent as whoever was on the other end of the line spoke. Downstairs, my dad was coming in the front door.

“I did read that the three-month mark can be a transitional one. Something about the newness wearing off with so much sentence left to do.” Another pause. “Well, that does make sense. Peyton was never good at discussing his feelings. I blame that, in fact, for a lot of his troubles. If he’d only been able to be honest about the pain he was in . . .”

“Julie?” My dad’s voice came up the stairs. “Are you up there?”

I walked over to the landing. “She’s on the phone.”

“Oh.” He looked back at the kitchen, clearly wondering about dinner, too. “Okay.”

“Goodness, is that the time?” my mom said as she came out of the room. Spotting me, she gave a tired smile. “I don’t know where the afternoon went. I guess we’d better try to pull together something to eat, huh?”

I nodded, then followed her down to the kitchen, where my dad was uncapping a beer. “Long day?” he asked her.

“Epic,” she replied, walking to the fridge and opening it. “Now, let’s see. I was going to make a pork shoulder before I got distracted. I think I have some chicken in here . . .”

“Or we could do delivery,” my dad, who never met a takeout box he didn’t like, suggested.

“We could,” she agreed. She shut the door, then looked at me. “What about pizza? The place Sydney took me was delicious. They deliver, yes?”

“Yeah,” I said, surprised. “Sure.”

“Perfect. What do you think, Peyton? One large, half deluxe, half roma?”

“How about one large deluxe and one large roma,” my dad suggested. “I’ll take the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.”

This was hardly a surprise. My dad would eat pizza at any time of day or night, and had a seemingly endless appetite when it came to doing so. Leftover slices never lasted in our fridge, even if you set them aside especially,
with
your name on them. I knew this from experience.

“Fine,” my mom said. “Make the call.”

I did, and Mr. Chatham answered. “Sydney! Long time, no see. If you’re calling for Layla, she’s not here. Half hour late and counting. Again.”

Uh-oh
, I thought. “I actually need to place an order.”

“Yeah?” He sounded pleased. “Great. What can I get you?”

I told him what we wanted. He took my mom’s card number, then said he’d throw in some garlic knots—even when I told him it wasn’t necessary—and that I’d see Mac in twenty minutes.

After we hung up, I went and brushed my hair, changed my shirt, and put on some lip gloss. When I came back downstairs, my dad looked at me. “What’s the occasion?”

“Nothing,” I said as my mom looked over as well. “I just felt gross from school.”

“Pretty fancy for pizza,” he observed, picking up the paper from that morning and flipping through it.

“I think she looks nice,” my mom said, and smiled at me.

I rolled my eyes. It was a small moment, but right then it felt so wonderfully normal that I wished I could tuck it away in my pocket. Me and my parents, pizza on a weeknight, just your typical family. At least for a few minutes.

Maybe it was because of this that I decided, right then, to bring up using the recording studio. “So, Mom. I have a favor to ask.”

“Okay,” she said. “What is it?”

“Well, Layla’s brother, Mac? You met him, at the pizza place.”

“Yes. I remember.”

“He’s in this band. And they need to record a demo tape for this showcase they’re hoping to get. I was wondering if they could maybe use the studio downstairs.”

She looked at my dad, who was now scanning the sports page. “I don’t see why not.”

“Really?” I said.

“For all we put into it, seems like someone should use it, don’t you think, Peyton?”

“Absolutely,” my dad replied, in such a way that I knew, right off, he hadn’t been listening.

“Oh, that’s great,” I said. “Thank you. Seriously.”

She looked at me, surprised, and smiled. “You’re welcome.”

Just then, the phone rang. Thinking it might be Seaside, calling back with a question about the order, I grabbed it right up. “Hello?”

“This is a collect call from an inmate at Lincoln Correctional Facility. Do you accept the charges?”

“Yes,” I said, then waited for the buzz and the click. “Peyton?”

At his name, my mom looked over, immediately alert, invested. “Hi,” my brother said. “What’s going on?”

“Not much,” I told him. “Dinner.”

“Is Mom around?”

“Yeah. Hold on.”

She was already beside me, her hand ready to take the phone. When I gave it to her, she ran a hand over my hair before putting it to her ear. “Hey there! How are you? Getting excited for graduation?”

BOOK: Saint Anything
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