Genre: Young Adult
Length: 120 pages
Heat Level: 1
eBook Price: $.99
Print Book: $14.99
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 120 pages
Heat Level: 1
eBook Price: $.99
Print Book: $14.99
Lark Singer is seventeen years old and already on the way to a brilliant music career. As she and her band, Starlight, gear-up for an upcoming, life-changing band competition, though, life seems to be throwing her a few curve balls. The mysteries of her past seem to be unraveling, and she’s no longer certain she wants to know those answers, or how knowing about her past will affect her difficult relationship with her mother. And when her best friend, Bean, changes things between them, all her plans for a musical future are placed in jeopardy. How can she balance her unraveling personal life to keep her musical goals on track?
The guys are impatiently waiting for me. Bean’s foot jiggles so fast; it appears as if a current of electricity runs through him. We have to be down at Pearl’s by seven.
We’re all geeked about playing on stage, I can tell. Performing at Pearl’s gives us the face time we need for when it’s really going to count. The real event — the competition — is only a few weeks away. I pick up my pace, we have three hours to jam and grab some food before we go on stage.
“Come on, Chickie,” he says, gesturing with his sticks as he settles into position behind his drums.
Rushing forward, I plug in my amp. As I crank out a few chords to warm up, that old energy buzzes through my veins. After a couple of licks, I’m ready and my nimble fingers tingle. I’m wired. I love playing in front of a live audience. “Which one are we jamming on?” I look over at Bean and wait for his answer.
His brow creases as he tries to decide. “This one here.” He holds up the lead sheet and waves it impatiently in the air.
I squint to see it. It’s the one we titled “Secrets.” Pointing to the lead sheet sitting on Stevie’s stand, I get into position. I had taken a few minutes and titled Stevie’s lead sheets for him the other day.
He nods. “Thanks.”
Bean slams his sticks together and counts out. “One… two… three.”
We’re off, filling the garage with musical energy. My body’s rigid, as if every muscle’s flexed and ready for action. Screaming chords fill the air, as my nimble fingers crank on my Gibson. I feel like I’m a live electrical wire, popping and snapping with unrestrained energy.
When we’re done with that song, no one speaks. Instead, Bean holds up another lead sheet and then we’re off again. Tonight’s performance is going to be epic. I can tell just by how we’re coming together. I grin in spite of my intense concentration; my confidence is growing by leaps and bounds. We are so ready for this competition that I can feel it all the way down to my bones.
After the second song, I hold up my hand and say, “Our sound smokes. But don’t you think we should play some of the music we’re going to be performing tonight?”
Bean snorts. “Yeah. Probably.”
We take a few minutes and discuss some of the songs we want to play. We usually crank out tunes that were big hits in the seventies and eighties, a lot of Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Rolling Stones. They’re more mellow than what we’ve been playing, but they’re still good melodies and the crowd at Pearl’s digs that classical sound. Playing this type of music broadens our musicianship, but there’s nothing like cranking out our own songs. After choosing a few of the harder tunes we immediately start jamming.
We’ve chosen “Hotel California” by the Eagles. It’s a dark tune about moving to California and I love the melody. My guitar howls out the chords and I feel that quiver inside as I sing the lyrics. After cranking out three more Eagles’ songs, we change it up for a few Fleetwood Mac and Rolling Stones’ songs. They’re great dance tunes and we know we’ll get people out on the floor with these.
After the last melody, we take a break. The garage seems to hum with the absence of our music. As if it was vibrating at a rapid rate and is slowly winding down because the music stopped. We all take swigs from the water bottles Bean brought out earlier and then sit in the folding chairs by the wall.
“What time is it?” Stevie asks, screwing the cap back on his water bottle.
“Time to get going,” Bean answers after a quick glance at his watch. “My brother should be here any minute to help me get my drum set down to Pearl’s.”
“Cool. I guess I’ll ride down with Francine.” I grimace as I say this and Bean exchanges a look with Stevie.
“I’ve got my parents’ Toyota for the night. You could ride with me,” Stevie offers with grin and a shrug.
“Awesome.” I smile at him as my heart swells with gratitude for my band mates. The truce between Francine and me has been extended, mainly because I’ve been avoiding her and there hasn’t been an opportunity to wage another war. So I welcome any opportunity to keep the avoidance plan going.
A horn sounds off in front of the house. Moving to the garage door opener, I press the button. The Brown Turd sits in the driveway, rumbling and vibrating.
“There’s my ride,” Bean says. “Can I get some help?”
No one talks as we all gather around Bean’s drum set and help him disassemble it. It takes us about fifteen minutes to get everything in the car, but when we’re done, Bean’s satisfied with our work. He gives me a wink and says, “I’ll see you down there, Chickie.” Shifting his focus to Stevie, he says, “Later, dude.” They exchange a quick knuckle bump, and then Bean jumps in the car.
As they pull out of the driveway, Stevie gives me a nudge. “Come on. Let’s get going.”
I follow him back to the garage, where we grab our equipment and stow it in the backseat of his parents’ green sedan. Then we hustle inside and grab our coats. On my way out the door, I glance at my watch and realize we’ll just have enough time to eat before we play. Since we don’t charge for our performance, the owner of Pearl’s gives us our meal on the house. We’re okay with that because we need the face time and the food at Pearl’s is epically awesome.
After we climb into the car, Stevie starts it and pulls away from the curb. “What’re you going to get?” he asks after adjusting his mirror.
I tilt my head and think about it before I answer. “Probably a wet burrito.” I smile and face him. “How about you?”
“That does sound pretty good. I’ll probably get one of those too.”
We share a giddy laugh and then zoom down the road. I love Friday nights at Pearl’s, the relaxed atmosphere and the friendliness of the staff. The owner of the bar, whose actual name is Marge, always welcomes us with a smile. Her grandmother, the original owner, was Pearl.
Marge is a rotund woman with big boobs and an even bigger heart. When I was a young girl, I’d been afraid of her. Afraid that I’d get lost in that big pillowy chest and suffocate. I snicker every time I think about that now and chalk it up to irrational fears of childhood.
As we pull into the parking lot behind the bar, I turn to Stevie and say. “Hey, did Bean tell you we have a name for the band?”
Stevie shakes his head as he puts the car in park and shuts it off. “Nope. What is it?”
Stevie grins and fiddles with his glasses. He repeats the name a couple of times, then turns to me, and says, “I like it.”
I let out a squeal of delight. “I do too.”
Stevie laughs because I’m not the type of girl that squeals. I’m much more levelheaded, but I can’t help it. We have our songs picked out and we have a name for the band. And the fact that we’re getting face time tonight is just frosting on the cake.
“Where’s Bean?” I ask, scanning the parking lot for the Brown Turd.
Stevie frowns. “I don’t know. He should be here by now.”
“Well let’s get the equipment into the bar. Maybe by the time we’re done, he’ll be here.”
Climbing out of the car, I scrutinize the area again and still no Bean. Disappointed, I sigh and grab my Gibson and my amp, then carry them inside. Stevie’s right behind me with his gear in tow.
We trudge through the back door and find ourselves in a dimly lit hall. It’s narrow and smells of slimy grease and stale cigarettes. I figure this is where Marge’s staff comes when they want to have a smoke.
Traveling down the narrow corridor, we pass a bathroom on the right and the kitchen on the left. Coming from the kitchen is the sound of meat frying on a hot grill, the clatter of dishes, and the barking of orders as the staff hustle around trying to get through the dinner rush.
Inhaling a big whiff, I catch the scent of chipotle and cayenne pepper. Must be a Mexican dish is the special tonight, and my stomach rumbles in anticipation. We skirt the main dining room and enter the bar area. At seven, Marge opens the divider between the two rooms and we’ll start cranking out the tunes.
There’s a small stage at the back and we head in that direction. I flick on the light. It flickers before the room lights up. Booths with cracked upholstery line the walls, and there are tables sporting red plastic tablecloths with candles in the center of them. Surrounding the tables like troops taking a bunker, are chairs with the same type of upholstery as the booths.
Stevie bangs into a table with his Fender and curses under his breath. I make it up on the stage and place my equipment on the left. Stevie likes the right side and Bean sits center stage, about five feet behind Stevie and me. There’s a small platform for him that sits about ten inches higher than the stage. This way Bean isn’t lost behind his drums. Stooping, I arrange my stand and amp so they’re out of the way, but accessible. Stevie does the same thing, and we’re quiet as we work.
After I get everything situated, I glance toward the door and frown. Still no Bean. My stomach flutters. If we don’t have a drummer, we can’t play. I catch Stevie’s eye. “I’m getting nervous.”
Stevie gives me a smile and says, “Chill. He’ll be here. You know Bean, he’s always running late.”
Just as Stevie finishes speaking, Bean rushes in the door. He’s carrying one of his snare drums and his brother’s following behind him carrying his cymbals. I’m so glad to see him that my heart swells in my chest. The overwhelming urge to run up and hug him is so strong, that I have to clench my hands to stop myself. I play it cool and say, “Hey. We were wondering where you were.”
He gives me a wide grin and says, “We had to make a quick stop.” He’s pumped — I can tell by his energetic motions and bright, shiny eyes. “I’ll be right back with the rest of my drums.” He winks at me and then turns to Stevie. “Would you care to help, kind sir?”
Bean and Stevie share a laugh at Bean’s silliness, then leave to carry in the rest of the drums. Brian waves to me and then follows them out. They’re back within minutes and Bean goes right to work aligning his drums.
As Bean arranges his set, I study Brian. I haven’t seen him since his arrest a year ago. Whenever I’ve been over to Bean’s house, Brian hasn’t been around. He’s pale and thin to the point that his face looks gaunt. He has the same faded blue eyes as his brother, but where Bean’s hair is thin and straight, Brian’s is a darker blond and curly. He’s more subdued now as if his experience has sucked the joy for life out of him.
Growing impatient, I say, “Why don’t Stevie and I go get the food. By the time we’re back, you’ll probably be done.”
Bean laughs. “Don’t like standing around do you?”
“Not really,” I say with a chuckle and we exchange a warm look.
“Yeah. All right. That’s not a bad idea.”
“What do you want?” I ask although I can guess the answer.
“What else? A wet burrito.”
“I knew it.” I look at Stevie and shake my head. “He’s so predictable.”
Stevie cracks a wide grin and says, “And you’re not?”
“Shut up.” I push him toward the door and then turn to Brian. “I suppose you want one too?”
He shrugs and says, “Sure. Why not?”
I get the impression that Brian’s going to hang with us tonight. I’m pleased. Maybe hanging with Bean will keep him out of trouble and things will settle down in the Decker home. Maybe then, the Nazi will lighten up and Bean can enjoy life again.
I love the moments right before we perform. We’re all excited and in a positive frame of mind. We laugh, joke, and give each other grief. This gets us in a playful mood and we carry that on to the stage. That’s one of the things that makes our band so appealing. We have fun together and the crowd can sense it.
After we place our order at the kitchen door, we stand and wait for our food. I spot Francine delivering a tray of entrees to one of her tables. She looks harried and tired, and it isn’t even seven yet. A pang of sympathy punctures my heart, and I continue to watch her as she delivers meals to her customers and then hurries away to pick up more orders.
As she moves toward the kitchen, she spots me and gives me a worn out, tentative smile. When she shuffles closer, she says, “I wondered if you were going to play tonight.” She grabs a plate off the counter and places it on her tray. “I’m guessing you found your guitar?”
Nodding, I glance away. I’m not sure how she’s going to handle my answer and I want to avoid a blow up if I can. When I don’t hear an explosion, I glance up and she’s giving me one of her looks. It’s full of resignation and frustration. I can tell she’s struggling with wringing my neck or letting this latest transgression go. When her second dish appears on the counter, she decides to let it go. I can tell because she exhales a weary sigh and picks up the plate of steaming Spanish rice.
“Well, good luck tonight,” she says before hurrying away to deliver her food.
“Thanks.” I watch her scurry past, but I don’t have a lot of time to feel bad for her because our food arrives. Stevie grabs a couple of plates and I grab the remaining ones. We take a second to find our balance and then head back to the bar area.
We make it to the back room without spilling our dinners and we wolf them down. We only have twenty minutes before our performance. As I finish my meal, that old energy runs along the pathways of my nervous system. It’s like that low hum I hear when I’m close to electrical wires. When we turn the lights down low, I’m sure I’ll glow a bright neon pink.
For the show, I’ve selected a white T-shirt with a bright red lipstick kiss emblazoned on the front of it. I have my black jeans and hiking boots to finish off the look. The rest of the band’s dressed in T-shirts and jeans as well. We’re all about the music and don’t pay attention to our clothes.
After we take our last bites, Brian cleans the table, while the rest of us warm up. In about ten minutes, the divider will be gone. I can hear the buzz of conversation in the next room, the clinking of glasses against dishes, and the scraping of silverware as people finish their meals. I always associate this sound with the beginning of a performance. The adrenaline washes over me and my fingertips tingle with the need to play. I wiggle them to get rid of the excess energy.
Marge appears and pushes the divider aside. It folds upon itself like a giant accordion. The sound of chairs and tables scraping the scuffed wood floor overwhelms the sound of conversation and clinking glasses, as the wait staff move tables around.
While Marge and her staff are taking care of that, we continue to warm up. We don’t have to do much because we jammed for two hours before we arrived, but we’re full of electric energy and can’t seem to settle down.
I gaze out at the crowd and find Cassie Miller there with her family. They must have just finished their dinner because a waitress is clearing her table. Glancing up, Cassie catches my eye and we exchange a secret smile.
Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on books by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then. Her first published works are the “Super Spies Series.” These stories revolve around a group of friends who form their own detective squad and the cases they solve. “The Starlight Chronicles,” is the next series that Lisa created with musical misfit, Lark Singer as her main character.
After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree, she spent many years in the insurance industry, pining to express her creative side. The decision to stay home with her children gave her the opportunity to follow her dream and become a writer. She currently resides in Rockford Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on the next book in the Starlight Chronicles Series. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.