“Hey Holden, what’s up?” I ask my old guitar friend. Holden looks up at from where he crouches beneath a set of drums. His eyes squint at me, before a grin flashes across his face.
“Brandon? It’s been such a long time!” he says, getting up from his crouch to walk over and hug me.
He then pushes me back a bit and looks me up and down. “You look so… grown-up since the last time I saw you!”
There’s a moment of silence before I awkwardly laugh, “Yeah, I guess I do.”
Holden looks past me and at a blue electric guitar on the stage and then points at it. “Do you think you still have it?”
I feel a confident grin flash across my lips. “Of course I do.” I walk over and grab the guitar, plucking the E string, before starting to shred up and down the metal frets of it. My fingers glide up and down the wood, as I finish out with a loud riff and a sustained chord.
I look up at Holden, whose mouth is gaping open, a spark of pride in his eyes. “Dang Brandon! You definitely still do have it!”
I shrug and put the electric back on its stand on the stage. “I suppose I do.”
Holden claps a hand on my back and starts to maneuver me in the direction of a row of chairs. He sits down, and I follow him, sitting on his left.
“Would you want to join our band? We could use a talented guitarist like you.”
I feel my shoulders hunch forward, unease settling in. “I don’t know, it’s been a while since I was in my last one.”
Holden sighs and shakes his head. “Well, at least think about it? Meet some of the other musicians… we have a super talented pianist. She can play Mozart like it’s nobody’s business.”
I laugh and say; “Psht... Mozart. I guess she’s one of those girls,” before I realize I just insulted the poor girl.
Holden lightly punches me in the shoulder, a defensive look etched across his face. “Just you wait until you see her play… like really play, not just chords. She’s amazing.”
I roll my eyes and stand up. “Sure, now I’m gonna go out there and grab a soda. See you in a bit.”
I walk out into the lounge, and towards the mini-cafe. “Can I get a coke, please?”
The register nods and takes the dollar bill I hand her, before walking off.
“Easton, come on, you know I could beat you in an instrument battle! Me on piano, you on drums… admit it, you know I’d win.”
An aggravated boy with black hair walks past me, with a very annoyed look on his face... before I notice her.
She has her half her hair in intricate braids, a blue shirt with white stripes across the shirt sleeves, and grey skinny jeans. She rushes past me, a feeling of emptiness beginning to wash over my heart in the fact that she didn’t even see me.
“Hey dude, your coke.”
My eyes focus back into reality and I grab my coke from the glaring cash-register.
“Who’s that?” I ask, for some reason short-of breath.
“Oh, that’s Olivia, our pianist. She can be a bit… spontaneous, but she’s very talented.” the register says with an amused smile, something in the way her eyes flashed as if she saw Olivia for the first time too. She snapped out of the daze before walking into a curtained-supply room.
“Hmmm…” I mutter under my breath, there’s something about that girl...
“Alright Olivia, here’s your solo… do you remember it?”
I glance over at my mentor, then at my bandmates, my friend Easton splashing the crash on the drums, as all of the electric guitars combine into one drawn-out note. “I hope so,” I whisper, “It’s been a while since I played this song.” My fingers hovered over the slick black and white keys, before launching into action, my muscle-memory taking over.
I play out my solo, a combination of high-pitched sharps and low base notes brought together into a sweet arrangement as the singers begin to join in. I close my eyes and nod my head with the beat of the notes I play out... until I hear a horribly off-key sound blare from my playing.
My eyes burst open to see my ring finger pressing down the white G key, which should be curved over the black G flat key beside it. I look up to see my mentor Holden giving me a stern look, while the band continues into the chorus. With a sigh, I lightly play out the remaining chords of the song and end with an A major chord.
“Great work everyone! Take a break to grab some water and socialize with your friends out there. The countdown will start at 20 minutes, and I want you all back in here when it reads 3:35 to get ready for when you’ll play.” Easton snickers at a joke Bennet, our second guitarist says, already walking off to the closed wooden-doors that lead into the main lounge-room.
I wrap my earbuds around the music stand in front of the keyboard and step off the stage. “Olivia, can I talk to you?” I look over to see Holden gesturing for me to come to him.
“Look, if it’s about my solo, I’m sorry. I got too wrapped up-”
“It’s not about your solo, I understand that was a mistake… but there’s someone I want you to meet out in the crowd tonight,” he says, nodding his head in the direction of the entrance doors.
I cock my head to look at him. “Someone you want me to meet?”
Holden smiles, “Well… not just you, but I find that your the most outgoing person in this band, the perfect… welcomer. And besides, he was the worship leader at his old church, and I want him to take over here so I can focus on teaching.”
My insides clench at the thought of a new person, that I’ve never met before, being the worship leader instead of me… who is very capable of leading a band, and has been playing piano for ten years.
“Fine, I’ll meet him. But I won’t be that nice.” I spin on my heel and push open the lounge doors. I immediately see my best friend Melody sitting on a chair with some of my other friends and Easton.
“Hi, Mel!” I say and hug her.
She smiles, “What’s up, how’d practice go?”
I pulled a stool out from under one of the oak tables and slid it next to hers. “Good, there’s some guy Holden wants me to meet-” I pause looking at Easton who’s sipping a coke in his palm. “He’s supposedly going to be our new worship leader.”
Easton’s body convulses in the weird way he reacts to… change. “New worship leader? What about Holden? Is he leaving? I don’t want him to leave! What about-”
“Shush Easton, you need to chill. Holden is just taking a step back from so much work, so he can focus on teaching us.”
Easton nods and takes a big gulp of his coke, which he chokes on immediately after. I laugh and grab Melody by the arm. “Want to go meet the new guy with me?”
We make our way towards the glass entrance doors when I see our bass-player Dawson talking to a short but muscular guy with blond hair, and a maroon shirt. Dawson looks up from the new guy and looks at me, a smile sliding onto his lips.
The guy slowly turns his head to me, and my heart gives a sudden lurch. I practically jerk forward, and my lips part a little.
“Oli, are you… ok?” Mel asks, shaking me. I immediately shut my mouth, and turn to walk back inside but Mel tightens her grip on my arm and spins me around. “What is wrong with you? I want to meet this dude!”
I shudder and quickly jerk open the door, already halfway through the door before muttering, “Then meet him! I gotta go to the bathroom, I’ll be back.”
I rush to the bathroom and slam the door shut behind me.
What the heck was that Olivia? You acted like you saw a ghost! I think to myself, you know I’m really shaken up when I use my name in 3rd person.
He’s just some dude that you’ve never met! Now go back out there and be yourself!
I scrub a hand down my face. “How ridiculous,” I whisper. That guy probably thinks I’m a freak. I practically swooned in front of him, no… I did!
I don’t even get it, I only got a glimpse of his face, and then my heart practically flew out of my chest. “How stereotypical,” I mutter, “I see a new guy, and I’m already all over him! Disgusting.”
I grab the door handle, take in a deep breath, and then walk out, back towards the front of the building.
Melody is already in a conversation with the new guy, smoothly assessing him.
“And then I-”
“Hi,” I interrupt, I stick out a hand for a handshake. “I’m Olivia! I hear you’re the new Holden.” I say with a smile until my mind registers what I said.
“The new what?” he asks, confusion in his eyes, as he takes my hand.
“New… guy! Did I say something else? Must be the soda!” I grab Melody’s drink with my right hand, my left still holding his, and take a swig. “Yup, definitely the soda.”
He hesitantly shakes my hand and gives me an odd look. “I’m… ah… Brandon.”
Olivia! He’s gonna think you’re a creep… say something!
“I hear you’re good at guitar! I play a little myself.”
Brandon’s eyes light up, as he lets go of my hand. “Oh yeah! I love playing the guitar.”
I give him a light smile, “How many years?”
“I’m self-taught… but I think two?”
My smile grows into a large grin, as pride creeps into my heart. “I’ve been playing piano for ten.”
His eyes grow large, which fuels my pride even more. “Wow, that’s… amazing! How old are you.”
He grins, “Really? I’m sixteen.”
I can hear Melody practically sigh beside me, as a competitive spark flares in my heart.
“Wow, can you-”
“Olivia, Dawson, we need to go to the stage to get ready for when we start,” Easton says, standing in the doorway. He looks at Brandon and jerks his jaw up in a greeting-gesture. “Sup dude, Brandon right?”
He nods, his eyes still on me.
I walk toward the door, “See you later Brandon.” I say with a smile, and walk off to the stage. My neck locks up, in the way it does when I feel someone’s eyes on me. I subtly turn my head as I walk, and catch an ambitious look spread across his face like he’s just been introduced to a new challenge that he’s eager to accept.
Alright, Brandon, I accept too… whatever this challenge is.