|"Can you sing?" Katy piped up. She looked surprised at this information. Naturally, I hadn't sung much around Mom's family before, so few of them knew about my singing ability.
"She is really good," Tracy told her. Katy looked at me with a puzzled expression. This was a side of me she had never seen, never even considered before.
Chapter 2.21 - Independent Women
by Megan Campbell
Copyright ©2010 Megan Campbell
Released: December 20, 2010
Editor Note: The images used for this story were purchased and used under royalty-free license* from Istockphoto.com . ~Sephrena
Author Note: Please email me at AngelJediGirl (at) gmail (dot) com before posting this story to any other site. Posting to a pay site is prohibited.
Comments and suggestions are also welcome at the above email address.
Sarah Carerra Book 2: Summer Medley
Chapter 2.21 - Independent Women
After church the next morning, I found myself laying on Sarah's couch while listening to the Countdown. Because it was Independence Day, both Emily and Ethan were with their families. Austin and Dad were out back throwing around a football, and Mom was in the kitchen making food for tonight's family dinner.
It was tradition in our family to go up to Grandaddy's house for a day at the beach and then we would have a wonderful meal followed by fireworks. Because the 4th was on a Sunday this year, we had broken the celebration into two days, which meant I still had the second half of a family party to look forward to later that evening.
As I sat there and listened to see where 'Intuition' landed on the charts, I thought about yesterday. I'd always felt close to Mom's side of the family, but never like I had when I had climbed into the car last night. The acceptance I got from everyone was overwhelming. There were still a few who felt uncomfortable around me, notably Derek and Kyle, but I felt they would eventually accept me.
I sighed and stood up after the last note of 'Intuition' came from the speakers. As I had known last Sunday, it was falling. My #1 song had dropped from second on the chart all the way down to sixth. At least I had another one on the way. I felt confident that 'You Can't Hurt Me' would be a hit.
I stepped out of Sarah's room and made my way down the hall to the kitchen. I hadn't had the chance to spend much time with my mom lately, and I thought now was as good a time as any. Dad and Austin were still outside, and I knew that Mom wanted the two of us to get closer.
She smiled at me when I entered the room, looking up from one of the many pots that were spread around the kitchen. By all the food she was preparing, one would have thought that she was feeding her entire family. Half of it would likely be coming home as leftovers. Family dinners with Mom's side of the family always had way too much food for everyone to eat.
"How did it go?" she asked me.
"Sixth," I told her. A small frown crossed her lips as she realized for the first time what I already knew. "It's okay," I said to cheer her up. "I think 'You Can't Hurt Me' is going to knock it out of the ballpark."
She grinned at me and looked around the kitchen to make sure there wasn't anything that needed her direct attention.
"Can I help?" I asked her. She turned back to me, shocked. In all the years that she had been cooking for us, I knew that none of the 'boys' had ever shown any interest in helping her. Mom never minded because she loved to cook. But I saw the realization dawn on her face that she finally had someone who might be willing to learn from her! The smile that followed was one of the largest smiles I had ever seen from her.
"Yes," she finally replied before motioning me over to where she was standing. The first thing she did was give me a hug. She didn't say anything, but I knew that I had just given her one of the best gifts she had ever received.
I knew that Mom was an excellent cook. What I didn't know, but that shouldn't have surprised me, was that she was an excellent teacher too. I had never considered that cooking might actually be fun before. I was beginning to suspect that there had to be some kind of cooking gene that ran through the women in Mom's family. While I readily admitted that I wasn't very good at what I was doing, it seemed relatively simple to understand what she wanted me to do and follow her instructions. And I finally was able to admit that cooking really was fun, or at least it was when working with my mom. I knew that this wouldn't be the last time I found myself in a kitchen.
We laughed and talked while we worked. I'd spent a lot more time with my mom since I'd made the decision to become Megan full time. But I had never done anything like this with her. I gained a new respect for Mom. I loved her so much, and I was so glad that I had someone like her in my life. I didn't know what I would do without her. The support and love that she had shown me not only in the last couple of months, but in my entire life, was so overwhelming that I didn't know how to repay her. I vowed to do everything I could to make her proud of me.
I knew, as I walked down to my room to get ready for the trip up to Malibu, that my mom was my biggest fan. Everyone always told me that they were Sarah's biggest fan. But I knew...I knew, that Mom was Megan's biggest fan.
"I want everyone to enjoy tonight," Dad said while pulling into Grandaddy's driveway. "This may be the last year we get to come."
"What?!" I asked loudly. His words had shocked me! "Why won't we be able to come anymore?"
I saw the sadness in Mom's eyes when she turned to explain it to me. I knew immediately when she looked at me that it was my fault, but that she was okay with not coming in the future.
"Honey," she said with a smile I knew she didn’t fully feel. "Next year you will likely be performing somewhere. We'll all be with you and won't be able to come here."
"Oh," I said with the full realization slamming into me of what my new career meant. This weekend was the only vacation I’d had from Sarah since school ended. What was I going to do when I didn't even get that much next year? I returned a smile to my mom that was much like hers. She nodded her head in understanding of how I really felt. Spending the Fourth of July with family was something we had done every year since I could remember.
It was with a solemn feeling that I helped carry the food that Mom and I had made together into the house. This was supposed to be a happy time, but Dad had just ruined it. He hadn’t done it intentionally, but he had still brought up the subject.
"What's wrong?" Tracy asked me when she saw how upset I looked.
"Nothing," I replied. She didn't buy that answer for a second, taking my hand and pulling me down the hall to the room that I had changed in yesterday.
"What's wrong?" she asked again after closing the door. I felt tears start to well up in my eyes and I sniffed to try to keep them in.
"My dad just warned me that this could be our last year coming to the party," I told her. "Sarah will probably be performing somewhere next year."
Tracy laughed. I was distraught, but for some reason she laughed!
"Oh Megan," she said once she had calmed down. "That isn't something that should make you sad. That should make you happy! I'd love to come to one of your shows instead of be here! Family will always be here for you. Enjoy the fame that you have now, because it will not last forever."
Her words made sense, and I realized that she was right. There were plenty of other times that the family got together; missing one get together wasn't the end of the world.
"Besides," Tracy continued. "Grandaddy rented a karaoke machine for tonight. I so want to see you up on that stage singing for us."
I laughed. I was not sure that singing for my family was a good idea. Somebody was bound to find out the secret.
"Thanks, Tracy," I told her. She had been able to make me feel better.
"Come on. Let's go get a good seat." I smiled, and followed her out the door.
The small backyard that Grandaddy had between the beach and his house had been completely changed for dinner. A number of long tables were spread out in the area with a small stage created on the patio. It looked like Grandaddy had rented a really nice system. There were big speakers on either side, a large flat-panel TV to see the lyrics on, and a professional looking microphone to sing into. We'd never had a karaoke machine at one of these parties before, so I felt it was going to be a lot of fun. There weren't many in my family whom I would consider calling 'musical'.
I ended up sitting at a table with my own family, Aunt Judy and her family, and Tracy and her husband. Derek gave me a smile when I sat down next to his sister, but he didn't say anything to me. I smiled back. I had a feeling it was going to take him a while before he was okay with me, but at least both my conversation and the talk he'd had with his dad yesterday had changed his attitude from yelling at me to grudgingly accepting me.
Before food was served, Grandaddy got up on the stage and tapped on the microphone. "Is this thing on?" he said, simultaneously proving that it was. "Good. I wanted to thank everyone for coming tonight. It means so much to have you all here every year. This year, after a number of suggestions from all of you, we did get a karaoke machine to entertain us throughout dinner and afterward. There are lists of available songs on each table, so all you have to do is come up on stage and punch the number of the song you want to sing into that keypad." He was pointing to a small keypad next to the monitor. "I hope to see everyone up here at least once, or you can't come back next year."
There was light-hearted laughter as he stepped off the stage and everyone made a beeline for the food. This was going to be an interesting evening.
After getting my food I returned to our table. Immediately, Tracy threw a stack of papers at me.
"What's this?" I asked.
"It's the song list," she replied with a sneaky grin on her face. "Start looking through it."
I laughed and started looking at the songs. I still didn't think that singing for my family would be a good idea, but I was curious to see what types of songs were available. There was a large selection. My eyes immediately settled on some of the Kelly Clarkson songs, or even some Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood songs. There were plenty of songs here that I knew I could sing well, but I did not want to risk letting the family in on my secret. I pushed the papers back at Tracy, and watched her frown while I started eating.
It wasn't long before the first 'victim' took the stage. A couple of the young girls decided they wanted to sing before they ate, and we watched as they selected a couple of songs to sing. As I ate my food, I watched many of the young kids in my extended family make fools of themselves up on stage. But they all had a blast doing it. As I watched the fun and excitement on their faces, I couldn't help but think of the rush I got every time I performed. I knew what they were feeling, and I hoped they enjoyed it every time they got up there.
"Have you picked a song yet?" Tracy interrupted my thoughts after a while. Everyone seemed to be content to let the kids sing while we ate, but now that I was finishing my dessert, it looked like she was determined to get me on stage. I shook my head. "You are getting up on stage," she told me. It wasn't a question in her mind.
"Can you sing?" Katy piped up. She looked surprised at this information. Naturally, I hadn't sung much around Mom's family before, so few of them knew about my singing ability.
"She is really good," Tracy told her. Katy looked at me with a puzzled expression. This was a side of me she had never seen, never even considered before.
"I'm not that good," I said, trying to defuse the situation. If Tracy talked me up too much, then I'd have Katy working to get me on stage too.
"Don't lie, Megan!" Austin unhelpfully joined the conversation. He looked excited at the opportunity to hear me sing again. I grimaced. I had a feeling that I wouldn't have much of a choice in this matter.
It was settled when someone handed me the song list. I looked up into Dad's eyes as he handed me the papers and saw the slight nod that he gave to me. He knew how much music meant to me now, and it appeared he wanted to share that with our family. "Be careful," he mouthed to me, and I nodded back. I could sing, but he didn't want me to give away the secret.
Tracy squealed in excitement as I started flipping through the papers again. There were plenty of nice pop songs that I could sing, including my favorite Kelly Clarkson song. But when I turned the page and saw the M's, a big grin formed on my mouth. It looked like all of the Mamma Mia! songs were included, and I immediately knew what I was going to sing. I even felt myself smirk at the thought of some of the lyrics that would be coming out of my mouth.
"Okay," I said, memorizing the number of the song. There was still a line of children waiting to perform, so I sat back to finish my dessert. It was another fifteen minutes before I was pushed out of my seat. Tracy had been so excited since I agreed that it had infected most of the people at the table.
I stepped up onto the small stage and pressed the number of the song into the keypad before turning toward the crowd. Unlike most of the people who had come up to sing, I had picked a song that I knew the words to. There was no need to look at the monitor. Most of my extended family were looking at me curiously, wondering what I would be able to offer them. The only people really excited to hear me sing were the people at my own table.
I closed my eyes for a moment as I felt the rush start to creep into my bones. Wig or no wig, Sarah was just below the surface waiting to be let out to sing.
When the piano interlude began for 'Thank You for the Music', I recognized the song as the movie version that Amanda Seyfried had sung. I'd only ever heard that version and the original ABBA version before, since I had never had the chance to see the show anywhere, but I liked them all the same.
When I started singing the words, Tracy started laughing hysterically when she recognized the song. There were a lot of lyrics in this song that spoke to the dual nature of my life. While on the surface it was just another Broadway song, it hinted at the fact that there was more to my life than just Megan.
As I started on the first verse, thanking everyone for the songs I got to sing, I had the attention of every member of the family. Those who knew my secret - my family, Tracy, and Aunt Judy - all had big smiles on their faces as they listened to my words. Many of the other family members had similar looks, without understanding the secondary meaning I had put into choosing this song.
I enjoyed watching my dad start to choke on his drink when I sang the third verse about being the girl with golden hair. Tracy and Aunt Judy were laughing along with my mom, garnering looks from the rest of the family. I continued singing, putting my best effort into the song, just like I always did.
Whether performing for a crowd of thousands like I had in Salt Lake City, or for my family, the rush came crashing over me as the song ended. I knew I had a huge smile on my face to go with my family’s clapping as I walked back to my table.
"That was so awesome!" Katy screamed as I sat down next to her. "Why didn't you tell me you could sing like that?"
I shrugged. I figured that it was better not to draw attention to myself.
"Megan has always been shy about singing," Mom informed the people around the table. "But I do think she is very good at it."
I smiled at my mom. It looked like Katy was going to say more, but I interrupted her before she could. "Now it's your turn," I told her. "What are you going to sing?"
"What? No! I'm not going to sing!" she exclaimed. She looked panicked at the thought of getting up on that stage.
"Come on," I said, and Tracy joined in by nodding vigorously. "I sang. Now it's your turn."
"No," she said. I pushed the song list in front of her. She pushed it back. I pushed it in front of her again. She sighed. I knew that she was going to get up on that stage just like I had, and she seemed to realize it too. She started to look at the available songs.
Now that I had broken the ice, karaoke turned from being the kids' entertainment to being the adults' entertainment. Many of the youngsters were sent off to the beach with a few of the older kids while the rest of us listened to the older guests singing. Katy didn't do nearly as badly as she thought she would, and Tracy even gave a pretty good attempt. Derek never got up on stage, but Mom and Aunt Judy sang a duet together. They really weren't very good, but it had everyone hooting with laughter by the time they were finished.
By the time it started to get dark and many of the children had come back, I had been persuaded to sing another song. Apparently, I had been voted as the best singer of the night, and they wanted me to sing the last song before we headed for the beach to watch the fireworks.
I climbed up onto the stage once again and looked out at my family. Instead of just the people who had been sitting at the table with me, there were now a lot of people looking on with excitement. I couldn't figure out why they seemed to want to hear me sing. I knew that they would have been excited if they knew that I was Sarah Carerra, but they didn't. I was just Megan, one cousin among many.
I entered the number for my second song of the evening into the keypad and stepped up to the microphone again. Some of the younger kids had crowded at the bottom of the patio, and I smiled down at them while I waited for the music to begin. I had first laid eyes on a Kelly Clarkson song earlier in the evening, and it was going to help me finish the night a little more upbeat.
As the music started playing from the speakers, I readied myself to sing, but had to stop abruptly. 'Long Shot' started with an opening sequence that only carried a melody from my voice, much like I had done with 'You Can't Hurt Me'. I had been ready to sing it, but because this was a karaoke version, and there were no words to that piece of the song, it had been recorded into the track. I laughed as Kelly's voice carried throughout the backyard, but I didn't have long before I knew that it would be my turn.
Just as the guitar started playing I quickly jumped in to sing the first verse. As I continued, a bass and then the drums also joined me, and I found myself doing something that I hadn't intended to do. I was moving with the music. Earlier, I hadn't done much but sing the song. But now, as I sang a song that I really enjoyed and that had a nice catchy beat to it, I found the dance steps that my choreographer had drilled into me coming into play as I performed for my family. Many of them seemed to be mesmerized by my words as I sang, and the rush was rising faster than it had during my last song.
This song was different than most. At least, it was different for me. The parts of 'Long Shot' that I liked the most were the verses instead of the chorus. But even so, I liked each piece of this song, and my family seemed to like it to. As I continued through the second verse many of the children at the bottom of the stage were moving along with me, and I saw others at the tables bobbing their hands or their feet along with the beat.
When I finished the second chorus, I had a few moments to catch my breath, and I looked out at the crowd after drawing out the last two words. I took the time to look over at the table where I had eaten dinner. I saw a lot of awed faces there, but my eyes settled on one face. Mom had been there with me at the concert. She had been there when I needed her most after the press conference. And she was there for me now. I knew that no matter what happened in the future, if we were in another city, another state at this time next year, she would be there for me then. And as long as I had her, everything would be okay.
I sang the song to its conclusion, and while I heard the clapping from the table and the screaming from the younger group right in front me, I couldn't keep my eyes from looking anywhere but at the wonderful woman who meant so much to me. She nodded her head in appreciation, and I choked back the tears.
Mom was motioning for me to sit next to her as I approached the blanket where she and Aunt Judy were sitting on at the beach. Katy was sitting next to her mom, and Tracy and her husband were sitting on their own blanket next to ours. I could vaguely see Austin sitting with Dad and most of the other guys farther down the beach.
I'd had to return to the house to get some water after finishing my song, and then I'd had to make my way through the crowd of well-wishers as they moved from the backyard to the beach to watch the fireworks. Nearly everyone stopped me and told me how good I was at singing or told me how beautiful my voice was. It was definitely different than what I got with a crowd when I was dressed up as Sarah, and I was grateful that I had such a wonderful extended family.
Eventually I'd made it to the beach. As I sat down next to Mom, she wrapped her arms around me. "I am so proud of you, Megan," she whispered in my ear. "I told you that you didn't need the wig to be an excellent singer. You are the artist, not Sarah. Please don't forget that. I don't want to lose my little girl."
I didn't know what to say to that, so I squeezed her back tightly to reassure her that I understood what she was saying.
"Megan," Tracy interrupted us. Mom let me go and I turned toward my cousin. "Thank you. I thought I had seen you perform when you sang that Mamma Mia! song. I was wrong. Thank you for showing me with that last one."
I knew she was being cryptic in her words since there were people sitting with us who didn't know about Sarah. I nodded back to her with a smile that I hoped let her know that I understood what she was saying. She'd been able to see a video of the concert, and she'd seen a couple of my televised performances, but she had never seen me perform in person.
"You're welcome," I replied. A boom and a bright red light pulled our attention away from each other and I turned to watch a second, blue burst fill the night sky. Soon an entire rainbow filled our vision as we watched the fireworks burst on either side of us.
I leaned in against my mom's shoulder, and she rested her head on top of mine. I was an independent young woman when it came to my music, but deep down inside, I needed my mom.
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