3.08: TUNE UP
Tim smiled back from where he sat behind the keyboard. Lee hit the cymbals and gave Corry a thumbs up. Sue adjusted the strap of her bass guitar.
“What was the significance of that song anyway?” Sue inquired. “Flying to the moon, it’s a little sappier than our normal fare.”
“Request from my sister,” Corry shrugged. “Reminds her of some animated TV show she likes. Actually, maybe we should wrap up today with something different?”
“Which one?” Lee inquired, spinning a drumstick in his hand.
“That one which is also a popular theme song,” Corry said. “Remember? It goes like this…”
Glen smiled as Carrie’s father opened the door. “Hello, Mr. Waterson. I’m here to pick up Carrie.”
Hank Waterson stepped aside. “She’s still getting ready, but do come in. I’ve been hoping to get the chance to meet you.”
“I figured.” Glen entered the house, knotting his tie a little tighter. Inwardly, he cursed whatever human had invented the things, and wondered who had made this school dance a semi-formal affair. At least a nice shirt sufficed, no need for him to have a jacket. “I hope to make a favourable impression,” the redhead continued. “As my intentions are completely honourable, and I’ll try to have your daughter home by whatever time you specify.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Carrie’s father closed the front door again. “I gathered as much from her, but there were a few things that she was unable to tell me. For instance, you seem to have no family in town. What is the story with your parents?”
“Oh, they’ve now purchased a house over in that new development to the north,” Glen replied, gesturing vaguely. “But mom’s still wrapping up with business out east, and as such they’ve arranged to have me stay at the Clayton Hotel for a few more weeks.”
Hank Waterson’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re staying at the hotel?”
“Ah, yes.” Glen supposed that Carrie hadn’t mentioned that detail. Made sense, in retrospect. “It’s not a big deal, really. The room has a small fridge and hotplate, and the maid service tidies daily. My parents wanted me to be here for the full semester, you see, and this was the best way to do that.”
“I see,” Mr. Waterson said slowly. “And what business is it that your parents are involved in?”
“My mother is a scientist – that’s what’s keeping her out of town, at the lab – while my father is a pilot, so he’s all over the place,” Glen said easily. “I’m hoping to go into the field of sciences myself someday. It certainly seems profitable enough.”
Mr. Waterson seemed to size him up. “Yet Carrie tells me you’re a long distance runner.”
“Yeah, well, I run, I act, I skate, I paint… everyone needs hobbies,” Glen said. Time to spin a question back, perhaps. “A person should be well rounded, don’t you think?”
Before Hank Waterson could answer, Carrie’s voice came from upstairs. “Is that Glen down there? Don’t you dare give him the third degree, Dad! Tell him I’ll be down in another few seconds!”
Glen half smiled. “You heard her – so, any final rules I should know about, before your daughter comes charging down and admonishes you for giving them to me?”
Hank eyed Glen again, then shook his head. “Nothing that isn’t common sense,” he decided. “And you seem to be the sort of boy who knows what I mean by that. In fact, I’ll level with you, a part of me is glad to see Carrie making new friends like this. She’s seemed a bit more withdrawn from her peers ever since she was hospitalized last year.”
“Ah, when she was shot?” Glen said. “I heard about that. Nasty business.”
“It was,” Mr. Waterson affirmed. He then leaned in closer to Glen’s face to speak more quietly. “An incident which has helped me to realize that, should you or anyone else lay an inappropriate finger on my daughter’s body, I will be forced into drastic action. Understood?”
“Naturally,” Glen affirmed, maintaining his composure. “Indeed, I would have been disappointed not to hear such concern from her only surviving parent.”
A frown tugged at Hank Waterson’s features, but before he could say anything more, Carrie appeared at the top of the stairs. “Glen! Glad to see you.” She lifted the skirt of her long purple dress slightly in order to avoid tripping during her descent. “I trust my father hasn’t been bothering you?”
“Oh, no, not at all,” Glen said, turning to face her. “And may I say, you look radiant in that outfit.”
“Why thank you,” Carrie said, pinkening mildly in the cheeks.
Her father cleared his throat. “Carrie, remember our deal. You’re home by eleven thirty.”
The blonde rolled her eyes. “Yes, Dad.” She grabbed her jacket out of the closet. “Come on, Glen, we don’t want to arrive at the dance TOO fashionably late.”
Glen nodded in reply and the two teenagers left the house, Carrie’s father watching them from the front door until they reached the sidewalk. Glen glanced back as the front door closed. “So, you made a deal with your Dad?”
“Yeah, he’s letting me wear the dress with the plunging neckline on condition that I come home right after the dance ends at eleven,” Carrie admitted. “Probably realized that I was going to wear this thing no matter what, and tricked me into that compromise.”
“Ah. Clever man. Something that runs in the family, I see.”
“Ha! He wasn’t so devious back before my brush with death. I swear, last year, he didn’t care at all! It’s only been during the last several months that he’s taken an interest.”
“Must be a real pain then, huh?”
Carrie pursed her lips. “No,” she murmured. “It’s nice. We need to be home on time.” She reached out to take Glen’s arm. “But never mind about my Dad, let’s get to this dance! I want to make sure Julie has someone to talk to when she turns up.”
“Uh oh.” Chartreuse looked down. “It’s, like, that bad, huh?”
“Oh, I didn’t say anything!” Laurie protested.
“That’s the thing, normally you have so much to say,” Chartreuse pointed out. She fanned out her skirt, staring down at the multiple splashes of colour that adorned it. “I, you know, thought it would compliment the sparkly sequins I added to my blouse. No such luck?”
“It… kinda works? It must be the lighting in the room. Don’t worry Chartreuse, I’m sure lots of people will ask you to dance!” Laurie Veniti adjusted the big, puffy shoulders of her own long, red dress. “Now me, I probably shouldn’t have gone with this choice of colour which is so similar to my hair because I probably look exactly like a tomato or a big red candle or something and the dress is too formal anyway plus so many people here are already in couples so I doubt I’ll be asked to dance by anyone!” She sighed.
“Laurie, stay calm. You look fine,” Chartreuse countered. “Anyway, worst comes to worst, we can always dance with each other.” Which didn’t mean she fancied her friend in that way, but Laurie was probably the only girl she could dance with and not spark gossip.
Chartreuse looked out across the dance floor. The music had started under half an hour ago, yet there were only a few people out there. Semi-formal dances seemed to be less popular these days – student council should have picked her suggestion of a Hawaiian theme. “So, when is your brother’s band going to be, you know, performing?”
Laurie’s brow furrowed in thought. “Golly, it’ll be at least another half hour, because I remember Corry saying something about Lee not being able to make it until after eight. But I know they’re doing two sets, whenever the DJ wants a break!”
Chartreuse’s gaze settled on where Corry and his group had set up their equipment, near the stage. It looked like Sue was double checking the electronics. Which is when Chartreuse realized she was getting a vibe. Why was she getting a vibe? “Remind me how the four of them, like, hooked up? It was second semester of last year, right?”
“Yeah. Partly on account of me,” Laurie agreed. “See, Corry had practically given up on the band idea after the mess with Julie. But last March I pushed for him to give it another go, particularly after Clarke talked to me, saying that Tim was trying to come out of his shell, and that he was a pianist. Knowing how hard it can be to put yourself out there, I had my brother hear Tim play, then Corry finally held guitarist auditions. Sue had the best one. And Lee got personally invited in, after Corry heard him drumming after school at around the same time.”
“Sweet. Nice that they’ve come such a long way in, like, a relatively short amount of time.”
“Corry really wanted to do this performance too,” Laurie continued. “In fact, he’s pushed for more and more rehearsals since school resumed… to the point where it kinda worries me that the other members resent him for that.” She followed Chartreuse’s gaze over to the band setup, then back again. “You’ve got that look. Why?”
“A feeling.” Chartreuse shook her head. No point causing her friend to worry. “Probably nothing. Yeah, it’s nothing Laurie, never mind. Come on, let’s head closer to the door. I think the guy there is, you know, trying to get your attention!”
It wasn’t a standard code, since rearranging the words – if you called them words – hadn’t helped. Luci hadn’t had any success reading the first letter of every word either. Or with ROT13. But perhaps if she… the young girl’s thoughts were interrupted by a pinch in her side. “Yipe! Hey, what was that for?”
“Well, I only asked you twice if I could take your jacket for you,” Frank pointed out with a grin.
“Oh. Sorry.” Luci felt her cheeks warm as she shrugged it off. “Guess I got lost in thought.” She looked down at her outfit. “Gods, I hate that this is a semi-formal affair! I don’t have any clothes like that, and even though Carrie offered to help me shop, I didn’t want to do that either.”
“Luci, don’t worry, those are nice pants and you look just fine in that blouse. It’s a nice shade of blue. Anyway, it’s not like I’m wearing a tie.”
“But you have a proper jacket. Which you can simply toss on a chair. Why can men can get away with that stuff, while we’re supposed to be all dressy?” Luci grumbled. “High heels should be against the law.”
Frank adjusted his glasses. “Well, I see some other girls around who aren’t in heels either. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Luci sighed. “Says the guy who won’t get laughed at behind his back for his outfit. Girls are the worst.”
Frank stared, then reached out to take Luci’s hand, gently squeezing it. “Okay, what’s bothering you? It’s not simply the dress code here, you’ve been in a bit of a mood all week. Are you still upset with me? Is this a test to see if I’m actually paying enough attention to you?”
“What? Oh, no, it’s not that,” Luci assured.
“Then what’s the problem?”
Luci shifted her weight back and forth. “It’s that logbook of Linquist’s,” she admitted. “The one Julie found. I’ve been working on cracking the code, to figure out exactly what sort of stuff that nutcase was doing, but I’ve had no luck! It vexes me. And because I was working on that, I didn’t go shopping, and so now I’m going to look like an social idiot, and it’s all that Linquist’s fault again!”
“Ah. Um, that last is a bit of a stretch – are you sure you’re not simply looking for more reasons to hate the guy?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. I wish they’d picked Chartreuse’s suggestion of a Hawaiian theme,” Luci groused.
Frank lifted an eyebrow. “Oh, so you’d prefer to be wearing a grass skirt? I mean, not that I’d be complaining, but…”
“But, ugh, point made,” Luci realized, looking back down at her legs. “Fine, point to you, it could be worse, let’s enjoy what we have.” She attempted a smile.
Frank grinned back. “Okay then. I’ll just check our coats, be right back.” He moved off towards the coat check area.
Luci spent a couple of seconds admiring the decorations, but she couldn’t help it, her mind was soon spinning with more ideas, more possibilities for that book. Perhaps a Caesar cipher…
“How’s business, Joe?” Frank inquired as he set the jackets down on the table. The late September dance was usually better for snacks, as compared to the coat check part, which was better in February. Regardless, their booth was a way for the business club to make a bit of money, splitting the proceeds with Students’ Council.
“Slow but steady,” Joe Drew replied. “Actually, we haven’t missed your expertise back here at all. I’d be worried for your job.”
“I’ll bear that in mind,” Frank said dryly. His fellow senior tore off a couple of numbered ticket stubs, exchanging them for his quarters. “But I have to say, I prefer Luci’s company to yours.”
“I can understand that,” Joe granted. The blonde boy leaned in a little closer. “By the way, I’ve heard Julie might turn up later tonight. Can you believe that girl? I bet a brawl will break out, and Mr. Fisk will cancel all future dances forever!”
“Oh, come on Joe… I think she’s learned how to behave herself,” Frank said, hoping he sounded reassuring.
“Hrmph,” Joe retorted, drawing back. His eyes shifted to the stage. “I suppose that, deep down, it’s all that idiot Corry’s fault. Guy should have dealt with her last year. I mean, he exposed what Julie did! How she manipulated folks like me! So why did he turn around and start acting all nicey nice to her?!”
“Yeah, uh, I suppose there’s stuff we don’t know about the situation,” Frank offered. He began to wonder how to best extract himself from the conversation.
Joe shook his head. “I know as much as I need to. Julie probably paid him off, so Corry’s even worse than she is!”
Before Frank could think of a good reply, a couple came up behind him to place a coat on the table. “Service, please,” the boy stated.
“Coming right up,” Joe said, finally handing off Frank and Luci’s coats to his co-worker before moving to deal with the newcomers. Frank took the opportunity to escape back to Luci’s side.
Carrie tried to decipher the noise Glen made upon their arrival. Failing that, she spoke up. “What? Is this so different from dances at your last school?”
Glen shook his head, still eyeing the decorations. “The faculty there didn’t believe in dances. So you’ll have to forgive me if I tread on your toes, dancing’s a skill I never really developed.”
“Ooh, amazing, something you’re not good at,” Carrie teased. She smiled. “We’ll manage, just don’t make a habit of toe crunching.”
“Scuze me, comin’ through!”
Carrie recognized Lee’s voice, and she turned to see him dashing though the front doors, dodging nimbly around the nearest couple. “Whoop, sorry ’bout that, gotta hook up with the power cad, pardon me, scuze me…”
“Glory be, now his gang’s all here.”
This time, it was the sheer bitterness in the tone that made Carrie look for the source. Which turned out to be a light haired boy leaning against the wall. He was glowering at the crowd in general, but when he saw that Carrie was observing him in particular, he turned and shuffled towards the cafeteria/dance floor.
“Wonder what that guy’s problem is,” Glen mused aloud.
“That’s Tommy,” Carrie explained. “Looks like he’s still upset that Corry picked Sue to play bass guitar in the band, over him.” She tugged idly on a strand of her hair. “See, Sue was a side switcher – with Corry in Grade Nine, but then she joined me and Julie. Only to return to Corry last November, after Julie’s secrets got exposed. Meanwhile, Tommy’s been on Corry’s side since grade school.”
Glen grimaced. “So this is some kinda loyalty thing?”
Carrie nodded. “Yeah. I mean, Corry wasn’t wrong to choose Sue for his band, in that she IS the better guitarist. But it might have been the last straw for Tommy. It was the people who were closest to Corry who were blindsided the most, you see. When he cracked down on any attacks against Julie. Speaking of, you WILL look out for her here, right?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Glen rolled his eyes. “School politics. How irritating. Stop me if I ask again.”
“Why? Is that another thing that you didn’t see much of at your last school?”
“Not over such petty issues,” Glen countered, shaking his head. “Where I come from, it’s all about world domination.”
Carrie blinked. “Pardon me?”
He winked at her. “Kidding. So, shall we go and have a dance or two?”
Kidding? Or were they back to him keeping her off balance? Carrie pursed her lips. Every so often, he said something to make her wonder if she should be more suspicious. Except, she’d recently realized that Glen didn’t trigger any temporal headaches. Implying that no changes were occurring to her timeline. No, this was on her, not him – she had to stop overthinking this.
“Yes, dancing. Watch the feet,” she warned, hooking her arm around his as they headed for the doorway.
“I d-d-don’t know if I can d-do this,” Tim said, peering around the door frame at all the people out on the dance floor. “I d-d-didn’t think there would be so many p-people here. N-Not given the theme, and what happened last year!”
“Tim, first of all, breathe. Second, you can’t cut out on me now!” Corry crossed his arms. “Not after all the hard work we’ve put in.”
“Yo, dudes and dudette,” Lee said, breezing past Tim at the door to emerge into the far hallway. For once, his worn suit jacket was actually appropriate to the occasion, even if the T-Shirt he wore underneath it was not. “Have I missed anything?”
“No, but you are five minutes late,” Corry said, irritably. “What’s more, that’s becoming a habit for you this month.”
“Hey, cut me some slack, jack,” Lee protested. “I told you when I came on board that family matters and schoolwork would have to take precedence over this band.”
“All right, come on, everybody calm down,” Sue put in. “There’s still plenty of time to tune up and decide on the songs for our first set. We’ll knock ’em dead, no worries.”
“Right, good, I like that philosophy,” Corry said, pointing at her. “Now, I’ve already seen to the drums, the keyboard and the electronics… so Sue, let’s go get the guitars and do one final check. The DJ told me we’re on after another couple songs.” The two of them hurried off to the music room, leaving Tim and Lee behind.
“I’m n-not so sure about this,” Tim murmured to Lee, after checking to see that Corry was out of earshot. “What if I mess up notes? What if we g-get heckled off the stage?”
“Don’t even think about it, tiny T,” Lee soothed. “Mrs. Willis said we sounded great, and the school crowd ain’t that hostile.” He glanced towards the cafeteria. “Well, okay, some of ‘em are, but it’s only towards the power cad. We’re clear.”
“I g-guess,” Tim said uncertainly. He took a few slow breaths. “I’ll feel SO much better after tonight. When Corry isn’t so obsessive.”
Lee rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, uh, I wouldn’t totally count on that though?” he warned. “I figure the better this goes, the more the guy will want to perform. If you can’t handle his scheduling, you’re gonna have to learn to stand up to him. Like I do sometimes.”
“Oh,” Tim said sullenly. He shuffled his feet. “How about you stand up for me too?”
Lee shook his head. “Sorry, T. I would, but I don’t really want the guy on my case any more than he is already. Besides, you’ll eventually have to learn to do it yourself.”
“I g-guess.” Tim sighed. “Know what? It’s gotten to the point where I wish Corry would disappear. Only for a little while.”
Lee frowned. It looked to Tim as if he wanted to say something further, but before he could, Laurie Veniti peered out of the cafeteria. “Corry?” she said, timidly.
“Hey, double V. He’s on his way,” Lee offered, turning towards Corry’s twin. As if on cue, Corry and Sue appeared at the far end of the hallway with their guitars, walking towards them.
“Great!” Chartreuse said brightly, stepping out from behind Laurie. “Because the two of us wanted to, like, wish the whole group the best of luck on your little, you know, debut.” She offered an encouraging smile to all the members, before reaching out a hand towards Corry as he strode up.
“Sure, thanks,” Corry said absentmindedly, reaching out to shake Chartreuse’s outstretched palm as he passed. He was brought up short, however, when Chartreuse didn’t release him. Instead, she grabbed hold with both of her hands. He turned to fire an irritated look at her, only to flinch back upon seeing Chartreuse’s horrified gaze.
“Ohmigod,” the pink haired mystic gasped out. She shifted her attention from Corry’s hand up to his face. “You, like, totally can’t go out there!” Chartreuse declared. “If you do… you’ll die!”
(Return for Corry’s fate next week. A reminder that a vote at TWF is appreciated.)