Bears Know Best
Part 18 of 28
Edited by Carla Ann
Thirteen year-old Taylor Landt’s step-mother believes that he should be the next great football player for the high school he’ll be attending in the fall. Having a dad who is an accomplished professional linebacker, and growing up surrounded by professional football coaches and players should all but guarantee his ability to dominate on the field. Unfortunately he hates playing football, and knows his height and build will never allow him to be successful at the sport. Faced with an obsessive step-mother who ignores his obvious talents in other areas but instead thinks he is a blight on his father’s reputation, Taylor does the unthinkable and moves to Ohio to live with his mother who abandoned their family and left him with his father eight years ago.
Soon after his arrival, Taylor discovers there’s more to his inability to follow in his fathers’ footsteps than just his height. Will it be possible for him to make friends in a new town in the middle of nowhere outside the shadow of his dad's fame? Will Taylor be able to finally make peace with his mother who abandoned them all those years ago? And how long can he keep his secrets to himself?
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The Legal Stuff: Bears Know Best © 2012 By Tiffany Shar
This is a work of fiction. Names, Characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 By Tiffany Shar. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.
Like the first three books I posted here on BigCloset, I will be posting a full copy here on BigCloset. I will be posting it up in 28 installments, but that may change if I feel like a posting needs more. The book has a total of 35 chapters and a short epilogue. The full version should be completely posted by September. For those that cannot wait however, I have an e-book version of the full book available from Lulu.com as of today. You may find it at My Store. My assumption is that the majority of my readers would be more interested in this edition of the book rather than a hardback or paperback. There are two types of eBooks available depending on how you wish to read it. One is the ePub format that you should be able to load on any e-reader (you may need an additional app, but I believe all will read it), and the other is a standard PDF formatted file. I believe the PDF is the best way to read it on a computer screen personally. If you enjoy this work perhaps you will consider supporting me by purchasing it ($8.95 for the eBook formatted files).
Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy reading Bears Know Best!
Chapter 23: Bikini Time
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON ALYSSA called me to tell me that we were all going to the beach on Thursday morning. I could tell that there was going to be no negotiating with her! That left me trying to decide which bikini of the three I had I was going to wear. Fortunately my flow had lightened up considerably by Wednesday afternoon, and Thursday morning there was just a small spot in the pad from all night. I decided for safety’s sake to wear a thin pad just in case, but hoped it wouldn’t show through my suit.
Breanna’s mom had volunteered to take us and make sure we weren’t too crazy with anything. Her youngest daughter was sitting in the middle seat of the van in her car seat when she pulled up to our house. Breanna was up front, her little brother sat in the back corner of the third row of seats, and Danielle sat in the seat next to her Breanna’s younger sister. It was then that I noticed there was only one other seat that didn’t have a high backed booster seat.
“Rock, paper, scissors?” Alyssa asked me with a smile.
I shook my head, “You’ll never get your rear into it,” I joked with her.
She stuck her tongue out at me.
“Oh, I meant to take that out earlier,” Breanna’s mom said when she realized the problem. “Give me just a second and I’ll find a place to stash it.” As she said this though, I didn’t see where else she could possibly fit it. The back was filled with bags, a cooler, and Alyssa and I had our own beach bags over our shoulders.
“It’s okay,” I told her, “I don’t really see any other place for you to put it. I’m below the weight and height limits probably for it anyway,” I laughed at my own expense to hide my dying embarrassment. I sat down in the seat and pulled the seatbelt across my lap. I felt like I was six years old again…
“Thanks,” her mom told me.
When we got to the beach her mom said, “It’s nice to see you again Taylor. Sorry about the car seat.”
“It’s okay; I sat in them till way too recently…” I blushed.
She gave me a hug and the seven of us walked down to the beach and claimed a spot on the sand to lay out our towels. I had no interest in going into the water before we got there, and afterwards I still didn’t, even if the doctor would allow me. Breanna’s little sister and brother had no intentions of staying dry though on the hot day, and I watched as little Kaylie, who was five, had to be all but held down to keep her from running straight out into the water. As soon as she got knee deep into the water though, she did a funny hop back out of the water!
I didn’t blame her, I was sure it was cold! My rule with water was if it wasn’t in Florida I wasn’t getting in! Too cold otherwise!
The four of us put sunscreen on each other’s backs and lay out on towels to sunbathe. I listened to various bits of gossips get passed back and forth, and the time seemed to pass quickly before we had a picnic lunch that Breanna’s mom had put together.
“So this is your last week off?” She asked us.
I nodded, “Band practices start Monday morning.”
“I’m scared of doing marching band,” Breanna said aloud.
“It’ll be fun!” Alyssa said.
“I hope so,” Danielle said, “I’m going to be so busy with trying to do cheerleading and band. I hope it’s worth doing both,” she said.
“It will be!” I told her.
We stayed at the beach for a couple more hours, and spent more time than my poor brain could handle watching boys walk down the beach. Several groups came and chatted us up, but we gave them fake numbers and laughed at them when they were gone.
“That one guy was totally into you,” Alyssa insisted as we packed up.
“Yeah, but he was like ten!” I told her, more annoyed by the little kid hitting on me than being hit on.
Danielle laughed at me, “Well, he was still taller than you!”
“Harrumph,” I vocalized, and stuck my tongue out at her. It felt like salt on my wounds when I realized what that must have looked like to the others as I sat the booster seat the rest of the way home.
“You know, you still fit in that really well,” Alyssa said to me. The funny thing is I didn’t think she was teasing or being mean.
I sighed, “I know. It took me showing my dad research showing the age of eight was more important than the height and weight to get him to let me stop sitting in one of these.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s a bone that begins to grow in your pelvic area as you get older, it keeps the seatbelt in place and keeps you from having the seatbelt slide around in a crash.”
“Huh,” Danielle said thoughtfully from in front of me. “I didn’t know that.”
“Well, I had to come up with something, the idea of going to high school and still having to sit in a booster seat would be really embarrassing!” I told them.
Of course this opportunity could not pass without the phones coming out to get pictures of me in the seat. I pouted the rest of the way to my house about that. I walked into the house and it looked like Mom had just gotten home. “Hey Taylor, did you have a good time?” She asked.
I nodded, “except for the little boy hitting on me.” I said giggling.
“We figure he was about ten.”
Mom laughed, “What did you do?”
We talked for about ten minutes before I decided to go upstairs and take a shower to wash off the sand that had inevitably found a way onto me during the afternoon. When I pulled off my t-shirt and shorts, and then the bikini underneath I found my breath caught in my throat. I wasn’t burned, but I was definitely tanned in a definite bikini set of lines. ‘That’s my first bikini tan I guess…’ I thought to myself.
I actually kind of liked it as I hopped into the shower and turned the water on. ‘Ow!’ I screamed internally as the water hit a part of my skin that must not have had sunscreen on it as well. It was right at the top of my shoulder and hurt as the hot water ran over the burn. I washed quickly and put on a bathrobe to walk over to my room. It was only five-thirty or so, but I decided to put on a pair of pajamas.
“I’ve got dinner ready downstairs,” she told me from the doorway.
“Okay, I’ll be down in a moment,” I told her with a smile. I made a quick decision to make her smile, and pulled on the knee length, Tangled nightgown she had bought me a few weeks ago. ‘If it makes her smile it’ll be worth looking like I’m five!’ I thought. I headed downstairs with my damp hair cooling the back of my neck. I was pulling a hairbrush through it as I walked.
“There you are,” she told me as I sat down at the table. She’d made some sort of beef stir-fry and steamed rice. She smiled at me as she saw what I was wearing, but didn’t say anything.
“Thanks for making dinner.”
“You’re welcome,” she told me.
I sat my hairbrush down next to my plate and began to munch on the meal she had made. Everything tasted great, but the snow peas seemed to especially draw my attention. When I had finished my plate, Mom took it to the sink and washed it. “I can do that Mom,” I told her.
She just smiled at me. “I’ll take you up on that in another couple weeks, but for now I feel like doing it… besides, you’ve probably already worn yourself out today, am I right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, the sun took a lot out of me.” I admitted.
“Any sunburns?” she asked.
I blushed, “Yes, and I have quite the bikini tan going!” I told her.
She laughed, “Before you go to bed I’ll put some aloe on the burn so it heals a bit quicker.”
I just nodded.
“So what do you want to do for the rest of the night?” She asked me.
I shrugged, “I’m so tired of movies and sitting, but that’s about all I feel like doing,” I admitted.
She came around the table and hugged me. “I can understand that. It seems like you are doing more before getting tired now though,” she observed.
I nodded. I had picked the hairbrush back up and was running it through my hair again. “Why don’t you go find a movie to put on, and we’ll watch together?” She suggested.
I heard her making noises in the kitchen and the dishwasher starting up. I went through the movies and couldn’t decide on one to watch. I swore I had watched every single one in the last few weeks. I eventually came across a copy of Annie from the early eighties that I thought would be fun to watch with Mom. I remembered playing seven shows of the live version last year with a pit orchestra and remembered enjoying it. Mom came into the room then with a blanket, and something in her hands I had a feeling she was trying to hide. I had just started brushing through my hair again as she sat down.
“May I?” She asked as I pressed play on the menu.
I looked back and up at her where she sat behind me and nodded. She took the hairbrush from my hand and brushed my hair for a few minutes or so as the opening overture played with the credits. As I hummed along to Tomorrow, Mom kept playing with my hair. I was pretty sure she was braiding it into pigtails, but I didn’t complain. I was pretty sure I’d only seen the movie version once before, but it felt new since it had been a long time since I’d seen this version. It was pretty faithful to the original musical, and I think I enjoyed it because of that. As the last scene ended I found some tears in my eyes, but I was smiling.
I turned around and gave Mom a hug, “Thanks,” I told her.
“For being my mommy!” I answered in a high pitched voice, but meaning every word.
She squeezed me, and asked, “Well, what else do you want to watch?”
I shrugged, “I always pick, it’s your turn to pick!” I smiled at her. “Why don’t you pick something while I go to the bathroom?”
She smiled and said, “Okay,” and I went upstairs to use the bathroom. I could have used the downstairs bathroom, but I wanted to grab Allie to cuddle with during the movie. As I washed my hands I saw she had used some Disney Princess themed ribbon in my hair that matched the dark pink of the nightgown’s background. I giggled a bit as I went back downstairs and sat down next to Mom.
“So what are we watching?” I asked.
“Ever After?” she said cautiously.
“You really have missed out, haven’t you sweetie,” she said with an annoying shake of her head and a smile that was both cute and annoying. The bad part is it looked just like my smile! She and I looked so much alike.
“It’s like a grown-up version of Cinderella,” she explained.
“Oh… okay,” I told her.
She started the movie and I found myself leaning against her with her arms around me for the movie. I cuddled Allie so she wouldn’t feel left out, and watched a movie that I did enjoy quite a bit… once it got going. It seemed really slow to start!
When the movie ended I yawned, “That was good,” I told her.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it. Time for bed?” She suggested. It occurred to me then that she had not once told me I had to go to bed since I had come to live with her. I’d never fought her on it either, but she was treating me as more of an adult like that than she had on my previous visits. ‘Maybe that’s because of our fight last summer…’ I thought guiltily.
She tucked me in that night, for the first time since I’d come home, and started to walk away. “Bedtime story?” I asked innocently.
Mom laughed at me, “I need to go to bed, tomorrow night?” she asked.
I nodded, “Okay,” and giggled a little myself.
That night I couldn’t help but reflect on all of the mean things I had said and done to her over the years since the divorce. It just didn’t seem fair that she was so nice to me still, given everything I’d done. I felt like being a sweet daughter for her was about the only way I could think to make it up, and I fully intended to avoid fighting with her if I could. ‘Not that I’ll be able to keep that up forever…’ I admitted to myself. I knew most of my friends fought with their mothers all of the time.
THURSDAY MORNING I woke up and regretted not putting aloe on my sunburn the previous night; it was absolutely irritating beyond belief as I took care of the daily care of my body before showering that morning. I went for a walk again with Alyssa before coming home and setting up to practice. I was supposed to have another lesson tomorrow, and I wanted Mr. Fark to see me be able to improve on things each time. It was more than slightly intimidating to think I was taking lessons with one of the best horn players in the country, if not the world!
I had just finished my warm-up routine when I heard the doorbell upstairs ring. I set my horn gently on the floor and hurried upstairs to see a UPS delivery man standing there.
“Taylor Landt?” He asked as I opened the door.
I nodded, “Yes sir,” I said politely.
“I have two boxes for you here,” he said and pointed to the two large boxes at his feet.
“Cool,” I said with a smile, knowing what was in the boxes. I had no idea how long it would take to ship them to me, two days was pretty quick!
“If you can just sign here?” He held out an electronic device for me to sign. As I signed for it I thought about something I needed to work on.
“Thanks,” he said with a smile.
I pulled the two boxes into the house and decided to take the contents out before throwing the boxes away. ‘I hope Dad doesn’t mind…’ I thought not for the first time since I’d placed the order Tuesday. Right away I could see cases that didn’t look like they had been manufactured in World War II or something, and I knew the instruments inside would have to be better. I carefully opened both cases to look inside at the shiny silver horns, but left them in their plastic wrap for the moment.
I decided downstairs would be a good place to keep them. ‘Hopefully Mom doesn’t freak out…’ I thought nervously. Dad probably wouldn’t mind or care, but Mom seemed to be unhappy that I had so much money in a bank account of my own. I think it was just a motherly worry. She probably worried that if I decided to start doing stupid stuff like drugs, I could pay for it and she would never know. Luckily for her I had no intention of ever doing anything like that. It was one of the reasons I was picked on so mercilessly at my last school.
‘What next…?’ I thought to myself as I sat them down.
I texted Alyssa, ‘Hey Alyssa, what are you up to?’
‘Not much, u?’
‘Practicing, you want to come and work on the marching band stuff together?’
‘Umm… sure (-:’
That done, I waited patiently for her to come over. I was a little surprised when she had the marching horn in her hand, but as long as she had her mouthpiece it should work I figured.
“Hey Taylor,” she said with a smile as I opened the door, “these things are heavy!” she complained.
“They’re also pieces of junk,” I added with a smile.
“Yeah…” she agreed.
She went downstairs with me, and I said, “So, how would you like to be another cool freshman like me next week and not have to play on that piece of junk?” I asked.
“Don’t you have the same junky type horn too?” she asked.
I smiled, “I have that one still, but I figured a better horn would be more fun.” I pointed at the two new cases that were sitting there.
“Wait a second…” she said with a bit of a gasp, “You mean you went off and bought your own horn…” she shook her head, “No, that doesn’t surprise me, you mean you bought two of them?”
I smiled at her. “Pick one; they should both play better than the pieces of junk.”
She kind of squealed and opened up one of the cases. I opened the other one, and we both began taking the instruments out of the plastic wrap. I pressed down on the valves and was impressed they seemed to move smoothly. I showed Alyssa how to oil the valves, as she’d never had anything other than rotors before. We both hung onto the instruments with some gloves that were in the case.
“They’re so pretty Taylor…” she told me, but her face twisted, “I can’t accept this though…” she said sadly.
“It’s too expensive…”
“Well, if it makes it better think of it as me lending you an instrument and you can give it back to me when we’re done with marching band?”
I watched her battle internally, “Okay!”
I grabbed the music that we had for this year’s shows, a total of twelve songs it looked like, and the two of us practiced for three hours straight together. It wasn’t my excerpts, I’d still have to work on those tonight, but it was still practice time. While we practiced I adjusted the slides on our horns so we’d be able to play in tune, and by the time we finished up I was pretty sure Alyssa knew the parts as well as anyone would on Monday.
She gave me a hug after we wiped the horns down and put them back in their cases. “Thank you Taylor.”
“You’re welcome Alyssa, I couldn’t go out and buy my own horn and leave my best friend playing on a piece of junk.”
She smiled at me. “So what are you doing now?”
I looked at the time and saw it was close to three in the afternoon. I shrugged, “I don’t have anything planned.”
As I said that, my phone rang with Dad’s picture showing up. “Hey Dad!” I said.
“How are you doing Taylor?”
“Great, I’m sorry I haven’t called the last couple nights,” I said guiltily.
“It’s okay Taylor, I could have called too. It’s been a busy week since we’ve started up with the training camp. Beating up on rookies is a lot of fun,” he must have been grinning on the other side, I could hear the smile in his voice.
“Don’t be too mean,” I said. I had a moment of weirdness there since a boy would never have said that… Every time I thought I was used to this thing, I found myself weirding myself out in a new way.
He laughed, “So what have you been up to?”
I told him about the last couple days, the doctors visit, meeting the band director, the visit to the beach, and just relaxing and hanging out.
“Say, what’s this about an order to a music company for three-thousand…?”
‘Busted…’ I thought to myself. “Well… I went to the high school the other day and they gave me a marching horn… but it looked and played like something that belonged more in a dumpster than in a band…” I said nervously. “So… I looked and that store had a brand new silver one for fifteen-hundred…”
“Okay, that’s half…” he said.
“Well, I thought I’d buy two because the one they gave Alyssa was even worse.” I said nervously. Alyssa looked at me worriedly.
“Are these new horns nice?”
“Yes, much better than the others…”
“And you’ll both get four years of use out of them?” he asked.
“At least,” I said. “If I go to college somewhere with a marching band, maybe more…”
“Okay then, next time would you please call me about anything over a thousand?” He said. I sighed, grateful that I wasn’t in trouble, “I know you have the money in the account, but they do call and confirm that you authorized that purchase at that point. I don’t like not knowing if you did or didn’t.”
“Okay Dad,” I said smiling.
“So what are you doing this weekend?” He asked me. We spent another twenty minutes talking and I motioned for Alyssa to get a drink from the fridge if she wanted to. All-in-all I loved my dad, and loved the fact he wasn’t mad at me!
After I hung up, Alyssa asked, “So he’s okay with the purchase?”
I nodded, “I knew he would be… but I probably should have told him when I did it.”
“You’re not in trouble?”
“You have such a cool dad.” She told me.
“Too bad I have such a wicked step-mother. We were watching Ever After last night and I couldn’t help but relate to her problems with her step-mother.”
“At least you don’t have three wicked step-sisters?” She asked with a small grin.
“True, I don’t think Rachel is ever willing to let her body be spoiled by pregnancy.”
I nodded, “At least I assume that’s why they’ve not had kids. Well that and she has no business being a mother.”
Alyssa nodded. “Before I met her I would think you were exaggerating, but she just glared at you most of the time.”
“I’m hoping some space will help.” I said, bringing the conversation about Rachel to a close. Alyssa hung out for a couple more hours, and ended up joining Mom and I for dinner out at the local Italian place. I decided to come clean to Mom when we got home about the new horns. Her look nearly melted me in place, but she asked what my dad thought and let it go.
Chapter 24: Fresh Starts
FRIDAY AFTERNOON MOM came home a little after noon and I found myself heading into Cleveland for the second time that week. “I sure hope we can cut down on these trips soon,” I complained to her. Alyssa and the girls were going to the beach that afternoon, but I had to skip it again. Granted at least this was for a better reason than a doctor visit. I had spent the morning warming up for my lesson, and hoped I had learned at least a little bit of playing on the new piece Mr. Fark had set me working on.
“Good afternoon Taylor,” he said with grandfatherly smile as I walked in. “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing well, you?” I asked politely.
“Great.” He told me.
We went through the lesson and I found him correcting very little on the new piece. He worked with me to fix a few tuning issues here and there on some extreme notes. He seemed impressed with my progress in such a short time on the piece, and set me working on several etudes in a book that he noted was what the All-State auditions would be on the following year.
As I was putting my horn up, he asked, “Taylor, Ms. Redding, I know it may be none of my concern, but I had a question for you…”
‘Oh no!’ I screamed inside.
“Last week I was in New York with Alan,” my former horn teacher, “and having drinks with some friends of ours. He asked how you were doing, and I mentioned that you were amazing… And when I said ‘she’ was a tribute to him as a teacher… he looked at me strange.”
‘Yep, going downhill in a hurry.’
“Please, if I may explain?” Mom said, before he could continue.
“No Mom, this is mine to explain,” I said with a sigh. “May I?” I asked Mr. Fark politely.
“Of course,” he said.
“Mr. Fark… I guess there’s no easy way to explain this. When I was born they did the normal thing of identifying my gender by looking at what they thought was a male part. My dad raised me down in Atlanta, where he plays football professionally. Dad is about six-and-a-half feet tall, and a line backer… well you can see I don’t take that after him,” I said with a thin smile. “It got more odd when chest area began to grow in May. I didn’t tell anyone about it until I moved here and Mom noticed…”
Mr. Fark nodded to go on, at least he wasn’t glaring at me, ‘Maybe he won’t want to stop teaching me…’
“Well, the doctor she took me to see thought there might be more going on so she did a really thorough exam and a whole bunch of tests.” I paused and breathed, “And, in the span of about five hours I learned that due to some weird medical reasons, you probably don’t want to know, I was really a girl… and that my birth identity was incorrect. I’ve spent most of the last month at doctor’s appointments and in the hospital having surgery to correct things. It was a big shock, but this seems more like the real me. I was a terrible boy anyway!”
‘Well, I’ve practiced this speech in my head a billion times, hopefully it comes across as the truth.’ He sat there looking at me for several moments as I hugged my horn case like it was a teddy bear, and hoping he wouldn’t hate me.
“That’s certainly a unique situation,” he told me with a smile, “this is all true?” he looked at my mom for confirmation.
She nodded, “Unfortunately it is, it’s been a long month,” she added.
“Well then, that explains Alan’s confusion. I don’t know how anyone ever confused such a lovely and talented young lady as a boy though,” he shook his head. “I won’t break your confidence with this, though you might tell Alan at some point if you see him again.”
I gave him a weird look, but part of me agreed. My horn teachers were some of my closest confidants it seemed, ‘Alan’ as Mr. Fark called him, had been as much of a counselor for me at times as a horn teacher. “I don’t know when that would be,” I said.
“I can understand that, just remember Taylor, that as talented as you are, people will be talking about you. There are several concerto competitions that are coming up this fall and spring that I think you would do well to enter. When you win something like that people will talk about you, and he could be a little… confused… otherwise.”
I nodded, “You’re definitely right Mr. Fark.”
“Of course I am,” he said with a grandfatherly smile and laugh. “Now, make sure you work on those things we talked about today. Will this same time work next week?” he asked.
“Actually, I think I have band practice at this time next week,” I admitted.
“Ah the joys of high school marching band!” He said with a grimace. “I assume you’ll be playing one of those dreadful marching horns.”
I nodded, “I actually went and purchased a new one after I saw the one they had for me…”
He smiled, “It’s still coming into your mouth from all the wrong angles. That’s the thing I hate most about them, might as well give you a trumpet!”
“Maybe,” I smiled back, “but, it’s one of those high school things.”
He laughed, “Yes it is. Well, if you can’t do this time, I guess we’ll need to move to weekends. Speaking of which, I’ve talked to a local director that runs a weekend youth honors band here, and she’s willing to listen to you play and maybe make an exception on the audition process since you just moved here.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Really! She said to give you this information,” he handed me an envelope, “and to call her this week.”
“Thank you,” I told him.
“Now, assuming she’s smart enough to let you in, we’ll schedule your lessons for Saturday afternoons?” he suggested. “That’ll make it just one trip to Cleveland each week that way?” He looked at my mom with that consideration.
“That would be appreciated,” she admitted.
“Great, I’ll see you next Saturday then?” he suggested.
“Sounds great,” I said with a smile. As I was at the doorway I turned and said, “Thank you Mr. Fark.”
“Taylor you’re welcome, and I can’t wait to see where you go.” He said with a smile.
Mom and I drove away from there with a feeling of relief, but I couldn’t help but wonder when my past would collide with my present. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing a little bit of shopping. I was determined to make a good first impression at the camp Monday morning, so we found a new top that we thought would be great with a pair of jean shorts I had. It was sleeveless and the shade of green seemed to bring out my eyes.
I didn’t say anything to Alyssa or Mom about it, but I was nervous and scared senseless about meeting my classmates from school. The band had about one-hundred or so kids in the marching band, and I knew this would be my first opportunity of making an impression on the other kids at school. I didn’t want to come across as a freak or a loser… I had carried both stigmas at my previous school.
Of course it didn’t help that I still thought of myself as a freak.
The weekend wasn’t the last before school started, but my friends and I had a big weekend sleepover at Alyssa’s house. Danielle was about to be pulled in all directions between cheerleading and band, not to mention school, and no one was sure when we’d get a chance to get together again. They made a point to tell me about every freshman boy that they knew of in band that I should avoid, which ones were cute, and which were nerdy. ‘What’s wrong with nerdy?’ I had asked with a smile.
So it was that Monday morning arrived and I had just checked my hair and makeup in the mirror for the tenth time. “Taylor? Are you ready?” I heard Mom call from downstairs.
I breathed deep, and hurried down the stairs to where she was waiting by the door to the garage in the kitchen. I had a water bottle and the marching horns in the back of her car already. I figured I’d return the other two horns this morning too. “Here, I’m ready,” I found myself in front of Mom.
She gave me a quick hug, and said, “Come on, Alyssa’s already in the car!”
I didn’t know what the hurry was about, we still made it to the practice by 8:10, twenty minutes before it was supposed to start. Mom was nice enough to carry my water bottle and music in for me, since I had my hands full with my new horn. Alyssa had a backpack on that she had her stuff in, plus she didn’t seem to be struggling so much, and managed to carry both of the old horns in one trip, before going back out and grabbing her new one out of our car too.
“Have fun,” Mom told me as she left. I think she did her best not to embarrass me as she did so, something I appreciated. ‘At least the rules are different anyways for girls and mothers, versus boys and mothers…’ I thought to myself. ‘If I was a boy there is no way I would have let her come in with me!’
Mr. Brandt saw the two of us and gave us a puzzled glance. “Did you plant those horns in the garden and get two of them?”
I shook my head, “No offense… but I thought I’d rather have a decent horn to play on during marching band.”
I watched his eyebrow rise, “And the other one?”
“Well, I didn’t want to leave Alyssa to the junker either, she’s my best friend…” I told him.
“So what did you buy?” He almost sounded worried that I’d bought junk.
I opened up my case and I watched his jaw drop. “These aren’t cheap horns…?” He asked.
I shook my head, “They’re good instruments I hope,” I said a little shyly. I knew what they were.
He said, “They should be.”
About that time a girl came up from behind us and said, “Mr. Brandt!!! You didn’t tell me you were buying new horns!!! This means I can give my junker to the freshman!”
I was more than slightly annoyed as it seemed she was reaching to pick up my new horn. A clearing of a throat though froze the motion. “Destiny, this is Taylor’s horn.” He pointed to me, and I watched World War III begin.
“Mr. Brandt I’m a senior, and section leader, you can’t give a brand new horn to some fish! Is she even a freshman? She looks like she’s too young to be in middle school…” Destiny screamed loud enough that I wanted to plug my ear.
“I’m not…” he tried interrupting several times.
“I’m the one who’s earned this…” her tirade seemed to be never ending, and her tears didn’t seem to be faked either.
“Ahem.” I said softly, and was surprised that it got her attention, “This ‘Fish’ as you’d like to call me, bought her own horn because the school ones were junk. This isn’t a school instrument, and neither is the one Alyssa is using. Mr. Brandt didn’t give them to us, and you don’t need to be mean to him over it.” I wanted to add so many more things, burn even more bridges with this witch, but I didn’t think it was smart. I decided to add as an afterthought, “Hi, I’m Taylor,” and stuck my hand out to her.
“Oh.” She said and I watched her jaw clench shut like some sort of cliché ventriloquist dummy. She stared at my hand for a moment before turning around and walking away and ignoring my hand.
“That went well…” I heard from over my shoulder and saw the boy drum major shaking his head.
“Is she always so friendly?” I asked, trying to force out a grin, but I was sure it didn’t look like one. I’d been in the room for two minutes and already had an enemy, whom I remembered was the section leader.
“You caught her in a good moment,” Mr. Brandt said with a shake of his head. “If you have any problems with her let me know Taylor.” He seemed genuinely concerned there for a moment.
“Umm… Thanks, I will,” was about the only thing I could say. He walked over to another part of the room while Alyssa and I pulled our horns out of the cases and Cameron showed us where we would be sitting. There were six more horn players besides Destiny that we met as they sat down. Cameron had shown the two of us seats towards the end of the section, but just after the last girl had sat down, Mr. Brandt had me switch with the girl that was sitting next to Destiny, who was sitting as first chair.
He left Alyssa down on the end, but she gave me a smile to let me know it would be okay. ‘Sure it will,’ I thought to myself as I saw Destiny give me another glare. I was pretty sure she mumbled something about being ‘stuck babysitting.’
She didn’t directly talk to me at all, and so I began doing some warm-ups and scales while she talked to people around me. I purposefully did the most impressive and rangy ones I had in my arsenal. I was not happy with her, and I wanted to make sure she knew in a hurry where she stood with me playing wise. ‘I may be the little girl, but I’m sure I play better!’ That lasted about ten minutes before Mr. Brandt stood on his podium and grabbed our attention. I caught a glance from Alyssa and she was snickering. A glance through my peripheral vision revealed a very shocked ‘section leader.’
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen,” he started off. “I’m glad to see all of you back here again, and would like to welcome our freshmen class members to their first rehearsal…” he talked for about two minutes before starting on a scale, and then a warm-up piece that he insisted we needed to memorize. It sounded pretty horrendous from most of those around me as they had obviously not practiced all summer. I glanced over and saw Destiny rubbing her lips as we finished that piece and began with the music we were using on our first show.
The girl to my right introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Cassie,” in between that and the first piece.
“I’m Taylor,” I said as friendly as I could manage. I still felt like my hair was standing on end from my little cat fight with Destiny.
“You’re really good,” she observed. “And…” she added nervously looking at Destiny, “that’s a really pretty horn.”
“Thanks,” I told her.
“Where are you from?”
She obviously knew I wasn’t from the town originally, “I grew up in Atlanta with my dad,” for one of the first times I was aware that I had a slight bit of a southern accent and wondered if she had caught that. “I moved in with my mom this summer though.”
“Wow, this must be a lot different than down there?”
I shrugged, “I hadn’t done marching band yet, so I don’t really know,” I lied a bit on the last part.
We didn’t have any more time to talk though, as Mr. Brandt had us begin working on the opening movement for our show. The piece was really easy for me, but I could hear a lot of others struggling. I saw Destiny use a few wrong fingerings, but didn’t want to correct her and make things worse. We were working on a section that had horns going higher than my fellow horns seemed to be used to playing, and it had some fast sixteenth notes in it for some reason.
“Horns, can you play that for me please?” Mr. Brandt asked.
He began conducting us and I just played it without thinking anything of it. I heard a horn down the row get it pretty close to correct and figured it must have been Alyssa. I’d spent a good twenty minutes helping her with that section alone last week. In the meantime Destiny gave up after a measure, and the rest of the horns didn’t seem to fair too well either.
“Taylor, would you please play that for us,” he asked politely. “The rest of the section, please follow along.”
I played it perfectly again, and heard some applause from behind me and in front of me.
“Very nice Taylor,” he told me.
“Now Destiny.” He said, startling her.
She started making excuses, but he forced her to try. Needless to say, I wasn’t at all sorry that she embarrassed herself when she played. Apparently it wasn’t just her he was trying to make a point to though, as he went down the line. “Pretty close Alyssa,” he told her as she played it.
I could feel the daggers puncturing my skin the whole rest of the next hour we spent on that piece before we went on break. We’d been handed a schedule that said we’d spend the second half of this morning learning how to march, and then have more practice inside when it was hottest, before going back outside for more marching stuff that night. Mr. Brandt had us rehearse for about ninety minutes or so before this, so it was already starting to warm up just after ten when we went outside. ‘Of course it doesn’t really cool down that much right now either,’ I thought to myself.
As I walked outside with Alyssa, Danielle, and Breanna, all of us talked excitedly. They introduced me to more freshmen and a couple of their older friends. Names flew by so fast I had no chance to catch all of the names. I noticed Cameron and the other two drum majors talking to Destiny off to the side. Something about their posture made me a bit worried for Destiny.
When she came over a few minutes later she didn’t look any happier. Everyone in the band was put into lines by section, and I stood in the middle of the line with Alyssa just behind me. I was kind of surprised when Julie started the part of the rehearsal with stretches like I was in PE. I was a little worried about some of them and if they would cause problems with my healing, but endured through them. One of the last ones we did, had a silly song that went with it, and everyone was grimacing and giggling at the end.
“Okay, the first thing we’re going to teach you guys…” Cameron started off. I was kind of surprised Mr. Brandt wasn’t running this part of the camp, but Cameron soon had us standing at attention and doing some simple facing commands. Mr. Brandt came out about that time and we showed him what we had learned so far. He ran through all of the commands in quick succession and had our section leaders fall out to look to see if we were doing things right.
Destiny stared angrily at me for a moment and then moved one of my elbows that she said wasn’t in the right spot. “Make sure your elbows stay that way,” she said a little less vindictively than she had spoken before.
Mr. Brandt gave us all a water break after he drilled us a little bit more.
“I see the ice queen is leaving you alone?” Cameron came up and asked me quietly.
I nodded, “I guess, I wish I could find a way to declare peace with her.”
He shook his head, “That’s going to take time if I know her at all… She gets kind of vindictive when she’s upstaged.”
He laughed and began talking with me trying to find out more about me. I told him about being from Atlanta and all of that. Something seemed to click inside his head and I had a feeling he might have figured out who my dad was or something. “What?” I asked.
“Oh nothing,” he said, blushing, “I just thought of an old joke,” he lied poorly.
“Oh,” I said while looking up at him. I guessed that he stood just above six-feet tall, and was rather gangly. I couldn’t imagine why he was talking to me right then. If I didn’t know any better I’d say he was…
‘Oh no, is he hitting on me?’ I freaked out a bit. I saw Alyssa and she smiled at me, winking while she did so, and I knew she thought he was. I looked at him again and decided I wouldn’t freak out about it.
“So what do you do when you’re not playing horn unbelievably well?” he asked me with a smile that I did kind of like. I could feel my entire brain and body do some weird screaming at each other then, but the part of me that had been raised a boy was thoroughly told to shut up.
“Well, I like to ride bikes,” I said as I searched for interesting things to say to him.
“Cool,” he said, and would probably have talked with me for longer, but Mr. Brandt signaled for everyone to rejoin their lines. He taught us how to march forwards and backwards for the next hour or so before letting us have a lunch break just after noon.
“What are you doing for lunch?” I found Cameron asking next to me.
“Umm… Breanna, my friend over there, her mom is supposed to be picking up my friends and me to go to lunch.” I told him. ‘Did he just try to ask me out???’ I thought.
“Oh, well… I just thought I’d say if you wanted to get something to eat another day, Hannah, Julie, and I would love to have you along.”
“Hannah and Julie?” I asked with a raised eyebrow. ‘If he’s asking me out, why is he involving the other two girls?’
“Oh, we’re just all friends and usually get together to do things during breaks,” he said nervously.
I thought for a moment and I decided to play nice, “Maybe Wednesday?” I suggested, before adding a way out, “But, I’ll have to make sure my mom is okay with me riding with whoever is driving,” I added.
He smiled at me. “You are really a freshman, right?”
I looked back at him and was suddenly scared I not only wanted to think about a date with him, but that he wasn’t thinking of me like that… “It’s the whole being short and looking like I’m nine thing, right?” I asked nervously.
He opened his mouth, shut it, then opened it back up. “Yeah, it kind of throws me for a loop. I mean you play amazingly well, and you’re obviously older when I talk to you, but yeah… my first impression when I saw you last week…” he choked.
“You thought I was Alyssa’s little sister, right?” I asked.
He nodded. “Sorry.”
“You’re not the first person to make that mistake… I really am fourteen, I just had my birthday two weeks ago,” I told him. “I doubt my mom will say no about lunch, but she will want to know.”
“Okay, that’s fine. Like I said, the other two will be there too,” he assured me.
I saw Alyssa standing by the door to Breanna’s mom’s car, and decided I needed to make my exit. “My ride’s here, I’ll talk to you later?” I said nicely.
He nodded at me, “Cool.”
I sat down in the back seat of the car and stared straight ahead. I knew if I looked at any of the girls there would be looks I wasn’t quite ready to deal with. Alyssa wasn’t going to let me get away with it though, and poked me in my side.
“Ah!” I griped.
“Weeeelllllll?????” She asked.
“Did he ask you out already???” Breanna turned around and asked me.
I blushed and said, “Maybe?”
We spent the two minute drive to Breanna’s house talking and analyzing everything that had been said. The looking like I was a little kid part was a little bit on the odd side, and no one knew what to make of that part. It seemed like that was either a really disturbing thing to him, or maybe he liked that about me. I was a little unnerved by the second reason, so I hoped it was the first. The ultimate conclusion was that yes, I had been asked out on a date.
LUNCH CONSISTED OF some pasta that Breanna’s mom had made with chicken and a marinara sauce. Her little sister Kaylie for whatever reason seemed to be latching onto me during lunch. She insisted that she sit next to me at the table, and then kept bringing me her dolls to see. “She likes you,” Breanna’s mom said as she left her in her brother’s care for a few minutes while she ran us back to the school. For a five-year-old she was cute, but I didn’t know the slightest thing about little girls! ‘Unfortunately I was never one…’ I thought somewhat bitterly.
I smiled at all of the right times though apparently, because Breanna’s mom said, “Taylor you’re really good with kids.”
“Umm… thanks,” I told her nervously.
“Would you be interested in babysitting Kaylie for us sometime?”
“I’ve never babysat before,” I told her honestly, “but I guess so… sure.”
“That would be great!” She told me with a big smile.
I nervously looked out the window as we pulled up to the high school. “Any ideas of what to do with Destiny?” I asked Alyssa as we closed the door.
“Besides the claw marks I think you’ve already left on her?” she asked me.
“You know exactly the claw marks I’m thinking of,” she told me with a raised eyebrow. “Outplaying her definitely did not help things.”
“So I should have played badly?”
“Do you normally do scales like that?”
I nodded, “Yes… just not normally before I’ve warmed up a bit more beforehand,” I admitted.
“Just be careful, she’s like six-feet tall and pretty vicious on the basketball court from what some of the girls on the end told me.”
I nodded. “Any ideas to stop the war?”
She shook her head. “She started it… and unfortunately I think it’s going to have to be stopped by her as well.”
We were about fifteen minutes early to the afternoon rehearsal, which thankfully was going to be inside. I was sweating from walking from the van to the building. I could only imagine how much worse it would be outside this afternoon marching! Cameron was also back and interrupted my practicing to talk to me.
“What are you playing?” He asked, noticing I didn’t have music on the stand.
“Oh, it’s a piece for an audition soon.” I told him.
“It sounds really hard…”
“It’s harder on this fake horn than it is on the real one,” I told him with a smile.
“You really bought that, and another one for Alyssa?” He asked.
“Aren’t they expensive?”
I shrugged, “I guess, but not compared to my concert horn. It doesn’t even come close to the custom made horns the pros use.”
The two of us ended up talking until Mr. Brandt went onto the program. I learned Cameron played trombone really well. He was even in the youth band that my teacher was trying to get me into at the last minute. I liked talking to him, even though he towered over me like my dad did, and hoped maybe we’d actually really go out sometime. ‘Where did that come from?’ I thought to myself, ‘boys have cooties!’ I giggled a bit at that thought. So much for that!
“Okay ladies and gentlemen, I need you to each take one of these schedules and handbooks…” Mr. Brandt started up. I looked at the calendar and remembered there was one Friday my three friends and I would have to miss next week for our trip down to Atlanta. I thought we’d be back for the afternoon rehearsal Monday, or at least the evening one. ‘I’ll have to remember to tell him… hopefully he’ll understand.’
Mr. Brandt spent a good half-hour on things like ‘if you’re on time, you’re late!’ He said he’d talk about bus trip expectations when we got to our first away game. That was something that I knew was different from the high school I would have gone to, we only would have played at home games and competitions there. Here it looked like we played every single game, and then a festival of some sorts. Mr. Brandt made sure that everyone knew what was expected of them, and then began rehearsing again. We spent two hours, with one quick five-minute break, playing through the music for the first two marching shows. Each piece was pretty boring to me, but I could feel the others around me struggling to play them.
At about four Mr. Brandt let us go for dinner, telling us to be back at six-thirty to go again until nine-thirty. I was seriously tired as I climbed into Mom’s car. Alyssa’s mom picked her up, so it was just the two of us.
“How’s it going?” Mom asked me.
“Other than Ice Queen, good.” I told her.
“That’s what I’ve dubbed my section leader, she and I got off onto a bad start… and it’s not getting any better since I can outplay her.” I admitted.
“What exactly is going on?” Mom asked. I filled her in on the cat fight that seemed to have started, and I wasn’t sure how to finish. She suggested I talk to Mr. Brandt about it, but I wanted to see if it would get better on its own first.
We ate a quick dinner that night, and I remembered I needed to ask her something. “Umm… Mom?”
“Uh-oh, what?” She asked suspiciously.
“A few of the older students are going out for lunch on Wednesday… would it be okay if I went with them?”
“Umm… well you met them the other day; they’re the three drum majors.”
I swore her eyes narrowed and read my mind… “Which of them asked you to lunch?”
I turned a shade of red, “Cameron.”
“The tall gangly one, that couldn’t keep his eyes off of you last week?”
‘Geeze Mom…’ I thought, but nodded.
“I don’t know Taylor, you’re only fourteen, and barely so… I’d really like you to wait to date until you’re sixteen. No offense, but I think it would be smart…”
“Did you wait until you were sixteen?” I decided to ask.
I smiled to myself, ‘Point to me!’ I decided to press on, “Besides it’s not really a date, he just asked me to go to lunch with them.”
“Taylor, a senior boy asking a freshman girl to go to lunch with him only has one goal in mind.” She warned.
I felt my face fall, that sounded like a ‘no’ to me.
She came and gave me a hug, “I’ll let you do lunch, but you are not to start dating him yet. We’ll see how it goes this fall, but I want you to be careful… you’re still new to this whole girl thing you know.” She reminded me. “Besides, didn’t you insist to me a few weeks ago that boys have cooties?”
I grinned, “That was before I turned fourteen!”
She sighed, hugged me again, and then said, “I want you to be careful none-the-less. If you want to hang out in a group, that’s fine, but no one-on-one dates at all.” She insisted.
I nodded, this was probably as much of a victory as I was going to get.
When she took me back to the school for the evening rehearsal I made sure to talk to Mr. Brandt about the next Friday, and that following Monday. “Why are you going?” he asked me. Danielle and Alyssa had joined me in his office, but Breanna hadn’t gotten back quite yet.
“It’s the first pre-season game for Atlanta at home,” I told him.
“You’re a football fan?” he asked.
“Umm… no…?” I responded.
He looked at me thoroughly confused.
“Look, please don’t spread it around, but my dad plays for them.” I told him.
“You’re kidding?” he asked incredulously.
I shook my head, “When he was here a couple weeks ago he offered to fly my new friends here down to go to the game and hang out there for a few days. He thought it would be easier now, than when school started up.”
He looked at me, and then glanced at the other two girls, “So you’re telling me the truth here?”
I nodded, “I’d rather not tell anyone about who he is, but I figure it’s only fair to tell you since I’m asking this.”
“I must say this is the most unique excuse I’ve ever been given to get out of days of band camp,” he told me with a smile. He looked thoughtful for a second, but said, “Well, you’ll need to make up any missed drill, but I’ll wager you’ll do it more than some of the other members. Try not to miss any other days if you can help it please.”
“Thanks Mr. Brandt!” I heard the other two say in unison.
“You’re welcome. Now go grab your instruments and head outside. We need to finish up learning the basics, so we can start learning the first show tomorrow!”
“Okay,” I said and joined the rest of them in grabbing instruments. He used a really booming voice to tell everyone to be outside in three minutes in the block.
It was a long evening, and I was really tired by the time we went in and put our instruments down at nine, but even more surprised when we ended up playing a couple of games. Mr. Brandt had us do a few things in small groups where we tried to untangle ourselves from a ‘human knot’ first. After that he had us get together in sections and passed around a ball to get to know people’s names. I felt like I knew about thirty names when I went home that night.
I was so tired as Alyssa’s mom drove us home that night. I forced myself to stay awake long enough to take care of my daily care, took a shower, and then promptly fell asleep in my bed!
I couldn’t bring myself to just post the first chapter today, it was a bit too short to be on its own in a posting. Hope you enjoyed the double posting! Thank you to all of you who have been leaving comments, I really do love knowing what you’re thinking!
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