Listen to Chapter 8 on iTunes

Hey, guys! I hope you are enjoying your weekend. Just letting you know you can listen to Chapter 8: The Problem with not knowing on iTunes.

Elliot attempts to avoid Pete after the other night as she becomes even more attached to her new friends and unfamiliar grounds.

Elliot Granger & The Clueless Brigade is a work of fiction. The contemporary series is intended for listeners 16 years and up.

Chapter Eight: The Problem With Not Knowing

*Remember you can listen to the audio version of this series on iTunes and Stitcher 

My cell phone buzzed and lit up for the fourth time. In response to this, I shoved the phone between the sofa cushions as I turned up the television. A part of me was hiding, that I knew, but I wasn’t quite sure what I was hiding from.

“Turn that down!” Joan’s voice cut through the adjoining rooms and lodged itself directly in the center of my head.

Somehow seeing Amelia’s banana-soaked face made me only capable of smelling turned yogurt.

I said nothing and turned the television exactly one notch lower. Once I sunk into the overstuffed purple sofa, I felt the phone buzz again.

For the first time, I was avoiding Pete.

I kept asking myself why. But, not a single honest answer presented itself. I mean, I knew the basics: at least one thing was different, and I didn’t want to face it. I had experienced enough change already to have plenty of good reason to avoid any further variations of my life. The Christmas tree in the corner of the living room pulled at my nerves and the retaining wall to a mess of emotions that I also didn’t want to face. Dante fought with Katrina on the tv as my mind restlessly thought about Lincoln. Dark curls and a smile that warned trouble is a much more pleasant thought process than where my mind had been recently traveling. The million different ways I thought about Lincoln added to me not wanting to talk to Pete, but it wasn’t all of it.

I felt something twice about Pete I had never felt before. I wasn’t used to being jealous when other girls threw themselves at him, and I certainly wasn’t used to getting a queasy feeling when he touched me. I couldn’t lose Pete, but I couldn’t pull him in totally either—a new thing for us.

I saw Pete, and I felt my mom. We were two broken families merged together, and now somehow I feel like I was floating out into unprotected space even though I could clearly see Pete and his mother trying to pull me in. My head was too much of a mess to truly trust my own thoughts. This was another thing troubling me.

Why do all I want to do is run?

Brian plopped his full weight onto the sofa with all his might, “Whatcha watching?”

My little brother looked at me with eyes that once twinkled with possibility but now dimmed with the harsh reality of life much too soon. I wished with my entire self I could protect him from the unkindness of life. But, I knew that I couldn’t. I couldn’t even protect myself.

“The New Life with Amy.”

“What’s it about?”

“Nothing you need to worry about.” I flipped on the guide with my thumb. “Wanna watch Trik Yo Crew?”

Brian’s eyes light up, “Will you watch it with me?”

“Definitely.” I wrapped my arm around him and pulled him into me. Anytime I had Brian in my arms I asked myself if I was doing enough. Did my responsibilities as his older sister change now that our mom was gone? Was I screwing up just like Glen, but couldn’t see it because it’s me and not him?

“This is the one where Owlbear finds the gem of ultimate power,” Brain informed me as he wiggled in his seat.

The sound of the door to the kitchen squeaked open, then slammed closed.

Glen was home.

The shuffling of his entrance into the house faded behind the shill voices coming from the television.

“Did you get diapers?” Joan’s voice traveled from the hallway between the kitchen and stairs.

“No, I forget. Work was hell.” Glen groaned, not at all interested in giving her any wife respect. He seemed completely uninterested in her, and I wonder if it’s possible this is all just a terrible side effect of grief.

“What else is new?” Joan snapped those last words before the sounds of her footsteps padded down the hallway.

“Hi, Pete. Yeah, she’s right here.” Brain’s voice pulled my attention back to our shared spot on the sofa. His small blushed hand clutched my phone against his face.

“Your phone was shoved between the couch cushions.” Brain rushed his words with his phone-filled hand right at me.

“Oh that’s where it was.” My tongue tinged with guilt as I lied. I took the phone from Brain. “Hey Pete,” I mumbled. My stomach started an uncomfortable dance of multiple varieties.

“What’s up, you okay?” His voice was tense and filled with purpose. Going two days almost without talking was a rare occurrence.

I cupped my hand over the phone, “Brain I’ll be right back.”

“Promise?”

“Yep.” I slid off the sofa and into my small room off to the left side of the square living room. Once I closed the door, and I was in the quiet clutches of my temporary space, I whispered, “I couldn’t find my phone, sorry.” It was a weak attempt that I knew he wouldn’t buy as the words came out of my mouth, but that didn’t stop me from finishing.

“Why are you whispering?”

“I have no idea.” I hated that I was so nervous.

“Didn’t think of coming by?” I hated when Pete’s voice was tinged with disappointment, especially when I caused it. Sometimes I forget he seemed to think he needed me as much as I needed him.

“I didn’t Pete. Weird fog or something.” My words clumsily fell from my mouth.

“Yeah, I heard the news talking about one rolling in.” A forced update tone pulled falsely at the ends of Pete’s voice. “This might be what brings the zombies.”

“I don’t think anything brings the zombies, Pete.”

An awkward silence wasn’t something that often existed between Pete and me.

“El?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you mad at me or something?”

“No, I’m just, I dunno trying to deal, ya know?”

Pete sighed. “I know.”

“Great show the other night.”

“Wanna come over?”

“Nay, I told Brain I ‘d hang out with him.”

“Oh. Yeah, totally. I can come there.”

“Nay, Glen and Joan are having a thing.”

“Since when is that new?” Pete’s tone was short, which I understood. I wasn’t being a very good friend.

“Tomorrow after work, okay?” I needed the day. Tomorrow I’d be more ready to ignore the weird feelings Pete was causing.

“Deal.” Pete’s voice was a tone in his crafted cool book. I knew him too well for him to get much past me, but his sensitive side was mostly hidden to the rest of world.

After we had hung up, a vast emptiness started to swirl around me. Why was I pushing Pete away? Is that what I was doing? As my thoughts began to circle the drain, my mom’s voice broke past the distracted guards.

“You should just tell him you think you might have feelings for him,” her distant words crept in and broke my heart with each passing syllable.

Without reservation I gave in for a moment, allowing my eyes to close, allowing myself to see her freckle-covered face. Tears stung at my eyes.

I pushed out a panic breath and peeled my eyelids apart. I had to get out of there. I grabbed the phone and tapped on Molly’s number.

It took two rings before Molly picked up. “Hey, girl!”

I pushed out a rushed breath. “Wanna hang out?”

***

   I lay on the hood of Molly’s SUV between her and Malachi. She parked in the back of Swell Goose Park. We were completely hidden from anyone just passing by, which we good considering the park itself was off a major throughway—come to think of it I couldn’t think of many roads around there that weren’t ones.  Bare tree branches and swollen clouds drifted between us and the stars, knowing they were there wasn’t enough. I needed to see them. As my mind tried to picture the shimmering orbs, my mom’s smile snuck in the front of my head causing a knife to stab me in the chest.

    I feel like I was losing it.

    “Here you go Pixie,” Malachi sang to me. I took the J from him. Smoke and the harsh winter air seemed to be slowly encapsulating us in a world all our own.

    “I wish I could see the stars.” As my words made their way to my new found friends, I pictured standing beneath a crowded sky for glowing that went on endlessly. If wishing on stars were real, I’d wish for a time machine.

    “If we were down the shore right now, we’d be able to see them.” Molly sat up with her weight rested on her elbows. Her red hair, now slightly faded compared to the first time I saw her, hung around her perfectly shaped shoulders.

    “We need to make that happen soon. I’ll bring Matilda.” The confidence in my words surprised me.

     Molly nodded firmly as she slid the J from between my fingers with her bracelet covered arm. “That’s a date.”

    “Why do you want to see the stars so bad? They are there whether you can see them or not.” Malachi’s voice was followed by a series of coughs breaking through Molly’s lips.

    “I don’t think wishing on them works if you can’t see them.” I tossed the thought through my mind again, trying to imagine wishing on a star without its visibility. It just didn’t quite add up.

    “Why the star wishing?” Molly’s grin lazily laid on her face.

    I wondered what her natural color looked like and if it made her blend in more. My thoughts were probably no. “In a world where star wishes were granted, maybe people come back after they die in a different form.”

    “Like human into an animal?” Molly offered this to my self-exposing sentence. I wanted space from what I lost, but it was hard to put it somewhere I wasn’t it. Her eye’s fluttered as thoughts obviously turned around in her head. A spark seemed to always glimmer in her eyes, I wondered what it meant, and if I could ever have eyes that glimmered with sparks again.

    “Yeah.” I closed my eyes to see my mom looking back at me. “I’d come back as a bird.”

    “I often wish I had the power to change people like a witch can theoretically turn a boy into a frog.”

    “You want to turn people into animals?” Malachi’s voice was skeptic as his eyes narrowed in Molly’s direction.

    Molly and Malachi shared a look that only could be passed between really good friends. I was honored to be beside them and relieved to be somewhere unfamiliar.

    “I mean turn dirtbags into decent human beings.” Molly flipped her hair back somehow lightening the mood just as quickly as she had darkened it.

    “That would be quite a trick. I can think of a few candidates right off the top of my head.” Glen was standing onto of the list with his BMW and adulterine indiscretions.

    A hearty chuckled rumbled into Molly’s chest. “Right?”

    “Where’s lover boy?” Malachi asked me. His dreads here tied in a ponytail at the back of his head.

    “Pete?”

    “Yes, doll.”

    “He had something to do with his band.” My stomach instantly soured with the lie. I wasn’t sure why I lied. I could have just said at home. My mind flashed to a few hours earlier when I told him I didn’t feel like going out.

    I sucked.

    Maybe my mental version of my mom was right. Maybe I should tell Pete I think I might like him in a different way.

    No, no I shouldn’t.

    “I don’t understand how you two are just friends. I couldn’t just be friends with someone who looked like that.” Molly pulled me out of my internal conversation on the very same subject.

    “God, Molly quite a way to ask the girl permission to mack on her BFF.” Malachi tossed his hand to the side letting her know just how ridiculous the thought it was.

    A sharp heat tainted my cheeks. One that Molly definitely noticed.

    “Oh shut it, Malachi.” Molly rolled her eyes at him before focusing on me. “I don’t want that mess. He’s dangerously cute, and he knows it. Plus you two have some complicated dynamic I’m not super thrilled about putting myself in the middle of.” Molly pulled her bottom lip into her mouth. “I mean, I’m trying to put myself back together post almost dying and the modeling mom mess. I can’t do that while doing Pete.” Her mouth curved into a smile I was seeing a lot.

    “He does go through them.”  As my words made their way to Molly, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be just like any other girl to Pete if we hooked up. Pete and I could never do anything like that. It just wouldn’t happen. It shouldn’t.

    “Oh he does, I told her everything I knew.” Malachi widened his eyes.

    Molly smacked him on the shoulder.

    “Whatever.” Malachi shook his head. I was witnessing something that happened a lot. Seeing their closeness undoubtedly made me think of Pete. I wished and hoped that there would be a day when I could be around him in be in zero pain.

    It was possible I was too fragile for new relationships, but there was good chance it was important for me to expand my universe. The goal was not to suffocate.

    ***

    Monday morning seemed to swing back around fast; it certainly wasn’t lacking first day jitters. Well, maybe not first day jitters, but something more like a queazy flutter at the idea of spending the day working beside Lincoln. Not only today but going forward, for as long as we both worked at The Angry Crow.

    It wasn’t even ten minutes after my alarm went off when Molly texted me, Be at your bus stop to drive you with coffee!!!!!!

    I smiled naturally. Time in a lot of ways is the closet anyone will ever get to time travel. I tapped back. You rock. Thanks.

    I laid my head flat own on my pillow. Posters of fairies and dragons blanketed my ceiling and framed my blank walls. I wanted so badly to believe in the impossible and fantastic. I couldn’t help but think about how cool it would be if I had the power to talk to the dead, which would answer why I kept hearing my mom.

    The reality of course quickly reminded me that wasn’t, in fact, the case, but more likely a symptom of grief which I was finding was a lot like the ocean in terms of what people understood of it.

    I kept the image of my mom close as I showered and got dressed for my first day. I said nothing to Joan before I slipped out of the front door. There was no motivation there for me to try with her. I couldn’t bring myself to, even though a lot of me felt sorry for her, and for how cold I was to her. Some situations weren’t designed for anyone to succeed.

    The short walk to the bus stop battered me with the unforgiving harshness of an East Coast winter. The sky was a shallow blanket of off-white with occasional gray swirl which no one could be certain if they were clouds or pollution. Molly’s battered SUV was half parked on the sidewalk beside the pole which held the Bus Stop sign. She was leaning against the car holding two cups.

    “I’m happy that you were inspired to do this,” I said as I climbed into her car.

    “That’s what friends do. I’m always up early.” Molly’s eyes darkened. “I don’t do the sleep thing that good.”

    “Well, you should hit me then. I haven’t slept through the night in months.” The houses and business blurred as she raced around the traffic light littered streets. My stomach rolled around half upset from her breaking and the half unsettled from the extra shots of caramel in the coffee.

    My head hit the back of the seat in response to her breaking. “Door to door service. When do you get off?”

    “Two.”

    “I’ll pick you up.”

    “I have a therapy appointment at six.”

    “Maybe if you agree to get Chinese with me I’ll drive you there too.”

    “For real?”

    “Yeah, it’s terribly cold outside. I am totally enabling you not getting your driver license, but I like hanging out with you.”

    I smiled at this. “Same here.”

    “See you at two,” she shouted as she peeled off. Her tires left behind a stomach turning smell.

    As I carefully rode down the glass sided escalator that took me through guts of the football field sized food court it dawned on me I promised Pete we’d hang out later. I guess it would have to be after the therapy I promised to try. I’m not sure what Glen thought.  It was like he was handling me the way one would try to troubleshoot a car that won’t start.

    I could hear the growling of frantic music before I saw the crow sign that hung above the main entrance of the store. Rocks rolled around in my stomach as I got closer to the store, and were the size of Africa by the time I saw him.

    Lincoln was bent over the countertop. His dark eyes folded down. He was focused reading a piece of paper in front of him.

    I sucked in a deep breath as I walked in. I pictured Molly as I flipped my turquoise hair behind my ear. The moment his eyes found me, I considered the possibility I was knowingly going in out my head, and out of a familiar depth.

Let me know what you think on iTunes

Episode 10 is up!

Hey, guys. This week’s Too Many Words is now up. I continue on my quest for hobbies, as I discuss being in the editing stage of my YA project. Kevin Kelly, the creator of YouTube channel ‘The Irish Reader‘, is on the show this week. He talks about his booktubing journey, favorite reads and why, his plans for VidCon and so much more.

You can listen on iTunes and Stitcher!

Remember to visit the show on iTunes and let me know what you think!

 

Write backward and lean to the left

It can be hard to move forward when you don’t know where you are going. But, what happens when you know where you want to go but you can’t quite see the path there?

There have been moments where all my planning and ideas just take a pause. It honestly, surprises me every time. At first, I wasn’t sure why this was happening. I couldn’t quite get my characters smoothly from this one place to the other.

Staring at the blinking cursor and asking myself, “What happens next?” does obsoletely nothing.

My opinion?

It’s the small moments that make the story. The imperfect and real moments are the ones that cement relationships of any kind.

When something is lost, we trace our steps to find it.

When we know where we are doing but not how to get there, we write backward.

Moments line up closely and make memories. In a lot of ways, that is what a book is. A memory.

Say, I’m picturing a teenage girl standing near a willow tree in a silver moon pool on the planet Aerrytail. She’s been waiting for someone that’s she’s beginning to fear won’t be coming.

What happens right before that?

Writing backward rocks.
If you try it, let me know what you think.

Music Bending

I’m not quite sure I could survive without music. I can’t really do anything without it. I suppose technically I can, but I don’t care for it. Some people collect vinyl or CDs. I collect moods and playlists.

Music became a big part of my life around middle school. Listening to angst while I felt so angsty was everything. Music alongside books are my tunnels others worlds and aspects of my life.

I am currently working on two different YA contemporary projects, one, of course, is Elliot Granger, and the other a novel I’ve had on my plate for over a year and it’s in the process of transforming into something others can read. I quickly found that it was a lot trickier for my mind to jump from one contemporary to another than it is for me to hop between a contemporary and a fantasy project.

Yep, this is the first time I’ve had two of the same genre to juggle. Honestly, without my playlists, I don’t know how it would be possible.

The themes and characters of both are different, there are similarities because humans and growing up, but having completely different music selections to listen to while writing each one has made jumping around so easy. It took me a second to figure out how to handle the switch, but like everything else music sets my mood, therefore it all fell into place when I got my songs together.
Sometimes I need to walk away about from my computer or notebook, or whatever to get that needed epiphany. I’ll listen to the music while I do the other things and it is quite essential for backtracking ideas. That’s how I get some of my best ideas.

The worlds we have to build in order to create. I wish I could ask J.R.R. Tolkien what it felt like to write The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Creating the shire must have been an amazing experience.

Tone, something like perspective

What is the reader thinking?

This is something I ask myself a lot, especially during a content edit. I am currently knee-deep in one, and combing everything with a fine-tooth comb before I hand it back over.

I use to dread and fear this stage. Now, I count down the days until I get there. I don’t like riding in actual roller coasters, I don’t have the stomach for it, but novel-induced roller coasters, that’s something I ride with glee these days.

We have all have heard the saying, “Ride the waves.”

It’s easy to lean into the system of the water instead of fighting against it. Swimming in an ocean has similarities that leave breadcrumbs that could lead to writing a book.

As I child I spent my summers swimming in the ocean. The best part about living in North Jersey is being a little over an hour from an awesome beach. The food is another choice part about North Jersey. It’s crazy to think about how different it is there to where I live now in Seattle. I’ve been out here for close to eleven years now, which feels quite nuts. Setting my recent story in Jersey has been fun. A way to visit, I suppose.

I used up endless hours trying to swim against the current, and in a lot of ways, I feel like I’m doing that now as I build my writing career.

There is no path laid out. I need to carve that out for myself. I can get a sense of the groves in the land as I transverse the uneven and unknown landscape. There are moments I find myself craving direction, and proof that I’m on the right course. Eventually, I find that I can see that if I look in the right places.

 

Chapter Seven: Party at your risk in matters involving the heart

Pete and I open our car doors in the same moment Molly, and Malachi did. The nose of her beat-up, high-end SUV was barely an inch from Pete’s rusted trunk. A 1979 Monte Carlo had been Pete’s dream car since he saw Speed and Fury in the movie theater. The car became part of his Rock in Roll dream, granted a well-kept fully refinished version. The current Monte Carlo he had was barely passable as a car, and much more convincing as lawn furniture. The rumbling of the engine became the anthem of my friendship with Pete. I’d never be able to think of him and not the sound his car made.

    “I’ve seen nicer streets.” Molly looped her arm around mine. Her smile was keyed up and in the direction of Pete. I couldn’t blame her.

    “A house is a house,” Malachi sped up to keep pace with the rest of us. “I’d much rather have a house than a closet of a bedroom that sets me back six hundred a month.” Malachi’s face twisted in disgust.

    “One day I’ll live in a mansion,” Pete spoke to the sky. His hopeful words rained over me.

    “You plan on being rich?” Molly asked, her voice tinged with interest.

    “I plan on being a rock star,” Pete ran his fingers through his hair, temporally uncomfortable.

    Molly smiled to herself but said nothing.

    I reached out and squeezed Pete’s arm and mumbled, “A mansion with an apartment over the garage.”

    Pete laughed at this. “That goes without saying.” When his eyes held me in the center, I felt like I existed in a different world, a world just our own. But, once mom died, our private little world had more pain in than before. I found myself wanting space from all that was recognizable.

    The sidewalks were cracked and crumbled at the corners. Juvenile trees with bare branches cast shadows on the road, which were in similar condition. This particular neighbor didn’t allow space for driveways, so the street was narrowing by framing rows of parked cars. The air was so harshly cold that the clouds of breath burned my lips each time I exhaled.

    A melody of beeps broke the temporary silence that had settled between us. Malachi slid his bedazzled phone from his back pocket, “Oh nice!” He said, then turned to Molly. “Lincoln beat us here.”

    Pete’s whole body noticeably tensed.

    “That’s the friend back in town?” Molly rooted around in a bright orange purse before pulling out lip gloss.

    “Yeah, he’s had a rough year,” Malachi said this as his voice gradually fell in tone until he sounded nothing but grim. “Both his parents died in a car wreck.”

    My stomach tensed.

    Pete sighed to himself but continued not to partake in the conversation. I couldn’t figure out what his problem actually was, but it was clear, to me at least that something was getting under Pete’s skin.

    “Oh man,” Molly dabbed purple tinted lip gloss on her full lips. She smacked her lips together exactly once, then tossed her hair behind her shoulder. This brought Pete out of his unexplained mood briefly.

    Then Malachi said, “He’s staying with his aunt and uncle, but is looking for a place of his own. He should be around for a while.”

    “Is that the guy you hired right before me?”

    “Yeah, you open with him up Monday,” Malachi tossed his hand to the side before pulling a cigarette out from behind his ear. “How far did we park?”

    “We are in Lodi,” Pete growled. His mind circling around something.

    “True words, man,” Molly reached out and gave Pete’s arm a gentle squeeze, which made my stomach turn.

    He smiled.

    “Lincoln is by the fireplace, he’ll wait for me there,” Malachi slid his phone back into his pocket.

    Pete mumbled something to himself then said, “What’s Lincoln’s last name?”

    “Bachman,” Malachi’s sounds puffed out with the smoke.

    Pete’s hands clenched into fists. “Plays the drums?”

    “I believe that’s one of the many stories that follow that boy around. Some of us are just more twisted than others.”

    “I know him. He’s no good.” Pete’s face was nothing but a frown. He isn’t somebody that typically says negative things about others. More than not, Pete is all nice.

    “No good? What are you forty?” I elbowed him in the side.

    “This isn’t funny Elliot.” Pete jerked his arm to the side.

    Something spending so much time with Pete taught me was that teenage boys go through just about as many hormonal swings as us girls. They just don’t have grand finals one a month.

    “Okay. Sorry.” I tried to smooth my mouth out of its smile, but trying not to smile is a lot like trying not to laugh, more fun when it’s not proper timing.

    “He’s the one Cora cheated on me with, the one in out of juvey. He’s trouble. Trust me.” Pete’s face was completely serious.

    “Okay.” I always took Pete’s word to heart. But, for some reason, Pete’s stance on Lincoln made me want to learn everything about him I possibly could.

    “He is riddled the baggage.” Malachi took another pull form his cigarette. “Almost didn’t give him a job, but we all need chances, right?”

    “Absolutely,” said Molly. 

    “I’m not sure about that,” Pete crossed his arms.

    Every weathered shingle of Wilson’s house was now in sight.  It was a small white house squashed between two significantly larger ones. It stood in a barely existent yard lined with a loose chain link fence. Griddy bass and the skunky scent of just burnt weed crept out of the shack, inviting us in, signaling it was the weekend.

    Pete pushed the partial hung gate open, scrapping it across the cracked pavement walkway as he did.

    “So this is what’s it’s like to party with Elliot?” Molly jabbed me in the side.

    “I guess,” I shrugged feeling a sudden urgency to distance myself from them–a side effect of being broken, I suppose.

    “There is the suspect in question,” Malachi sung as walked up to Lincoln. His hair was in dark curls around his face, his eyes almost black. Darkness surrounded him in a way I hadn’t seen wickedness linger before. Just like that, suddenly I didn’t want to look away from him.

    Malachi chattered about some t-shirt misunderstanding as our eyes found each other. When Lincoln first looked at me, I felt like he already knew I was watching him. My stomach burned uncomfortably as I walked closer to him; Pete was on my left and Molly on my right.

    “Molly, what were you telling me about with keys and boxes?” Malachi’s voice beckoned Molly closer.

    “Let’s get a beer,” Pete said to me in a rush, loud enough for everyone to hear. His hand on my lower back.

    I took my eyes from Lincoln to Pete reluctantly. “Okay,” I said.

    “Catch up with you in a sec!” Molly squeaked at me. Her smile was so striking it felt disingenuous, but in the same breath caused me to feel special.

    I nodded.

    Pete muttered, “Lincoln Bachman,” under his breath as we squeezed passed a group of guys in the tight hallway. The smoke was so thick it created a haze to see through.

    “What’s up with you?”

    “I don’t like that you work with him,” Pete was frowning, which I couldn’t stand.

    “Well, technically I haven’t started yet.” I forced my lips into a grin, though this only seemed to worsen his mood.

    “Seriously, I got to know him pretty well. Lincoln is bad news, keep your distance.” Pete’s words might have reminded me of a father’s tone had I had one to compare it to.

    “Okay, I got it. I’ll proceed with caution.”

    “Don’t proceed with anything.”

    “Pete.” I looked him squarely. “I hear you.” This wasn’t the first time that Pete has laid his two cents on my life out that plainly, but it was the first time I wasn’t set on listening.

    “Okay, then.” Pete reached into the grease-smudged refrigerator. Half empty chip bags and soda bottles lined the ketchup pack covered countertops.

    I took one from him, our fingers grazed. That same feeling that kept in my stomach when I was watching Pete on stage came back. His eyes seemed to be feeling something different. There was a shift of some kind.

    “Thanks,” I mumbled.

    “I care about you,” Pete shrugged his shoulders to let me know it was no big deal, not something to dwell on. For the first time, there were things I didn’t want to tell Pete. This difference was notable to both parties.

    “El…Pete started, but Moly trotted into the room. Her eyes and hair wild. “Some guy just puked ll over your drummer.” She tossed open the fridge door like she’d been in the house a million times before or maybe even like it was her house. Every ounce of me ached to stroll around with that much comfort in myself. My hand naturally reached into my pocket, grasping the camera, without my permission.

    “Let me get one,” I said as I brought the camera between them and me. A safe sensation travels up my arm. Even though a pang of jealousy rose up my stomach into my throat I snapped a few pictures of Pete and Molly with their arms around each other, I felt safer than I would if the camera wasn’t between us. 

    The moment the camera was back in the barrels of my hoodie pocket the amount of exposure I felt was unbearable.

    “Is that a baby doll head hanging from the ceiling fan?” Molly’s whole face wrinkled in concern.

    “Oh, that’s nothing. Have you seen the naked devil lady on the bathroom wall?” Pete’s words rocked out with a chuckle.

    “Oh my god no, I haven’t!” Molly cooed.

    “Let me show you,” Pete grabbed Molly’s arm. “Be right back,” he threw at me as he walked off with Molly. I couldn’t help but feel confused and somehow responsible for encouraging them to leave the room together.

    I allowed the weight of my body to lean on the wall beside the fridge. I let my eyes close as the beer washed over my tongue. My mind drifted through different outcomes and possibilities. People’s talking and laughter, mixed with the music, but it was all happening outside the kitchen. Not one part of me wanted to remove myself from the quiet room. Certain moment’s felt so loud and bright that the idea of that happening ever gave me plenty of reason to stay hidden, or at least be motivated to be.

    Mom’s hair and smiling fell in the front of my mind, and even though it was mostly unwelcomed, I gave in. When I gave in completely, I could almost feel her touch.

    “You should be having fun,” her voice whispered in the distance. Anytime I heard my mom’s voice I couldn’t help but felt guilty as if I’d done something wrong.

    “Guarding the trove?” An unfamiliar male voice broke through my spiraling thoughts.

    Lincoln was standing there in a tight army green t-shirt. His lips up close seemed remarkably pouty. A barely notable stumble scattered his gaunt cheeks.

    “Yep.” My voice came out incredibly stiff. Pete’s warning felt like it was written on my face.

    Lincoln nodded, mostly to himself as he opened the refrigerator and got a beer out. “I hear we open together Monday.”

    “I hear that too.” I forced myself to look away as I chugged my beer back, hoping to dull the painful edges.

    “Pete your boyfriend?” Lincoln pulled another beer out of the fridge and handed it to me.

    At first, I just looked at him, not sure what to do or say. To admit I was flustered might have been the biggest understatement of my life.

    “Looked like you were gonna need another.” He raised one eyebrow.

   “Yeah. Thanks.” I took the offered beer quickly careful not touch his hand in any way. After the first sip, Lincoln just kind of lingered around waiting for me to say something. The cloud of darkness that swirled out of eyes quickly became intoxicating. I instantly regretted being cold to him at all.

    “Thank you,” I mumbled into my sleeve. “Pete’s my best friend.”

    “He told you his high opinion of me?” A knowing smirk played with the corner’s of Lincoln’s mouth in a dangerous way.

    “Something like that,” I couldn’t help but feel softer.

    “We all have bad days.” His full words settled on the floor between our feet.

    “Yeah, that’s for sure.” As my eyes watched him, carefully I couldn’t help but think of the beauty and draw of fire.

    “Hey, El,” Pete’s voice boomed down the narrow hallway packed with dudes and smoke.

    I quickly stood up from the wall, which Lincoln definitely noticed.

    “We gotta jet,” Pete said his words coming to a quick fault. “What’s up dude?” he said to Lincoln. “Been awhile.”

    “Yep. New Jersey has the way of sucking its kind back.”

    “That’s a scary sentence,” I said without any thought beforehand.

    “Truth often is,” Lincoln mumbled.

    I was fairly sure in the moment that I was going to have to kiss Lincoln Bachman at some point.

    Pete shook his head in disgust. “ My mom was walking Matilda and accidentally locked herself out.”

    Molly and Malachi came into the kitchen. “You guys are leaving?” She tilted her head in an attempt to make herself look like a wounded puppy.

    “Yeah, my mom locked herself out.” Pete looked at me, “Ready?”

    “I can give you a ride.” Molly offered, not paying much attention to Lincoln, who was still standing there.

    “No, I’m sleeping there. Matilda is my dog.” I smiled awkwardly. My eyes found Lincoln. “See you Monday.” I couldn’t believe it, but there was a smile on my face.

As Pete and I walked out of the kitchen, I couldn’t help but feel like I should be staying. For the first time in my life being by Pete’s side didn’t feel like that right thing. I wasn’t ready for the quiet.

    You can listen to the first five episodes on iTunes and Stitcher. New episodes air every Saturday.

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