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“Okay,” she said, glancing down at her sheet. “Special skills?”

“I’m a professional at the air guitar and lip syncing,” I said.

She snickered and placed her pencil down on the desk. “I’m not writing that.”

Arching an eyebrow, I asked why not.

“Because people aren’t professionals at air guitar and lip syncing.”

I smiled. “I definitely am a professional air guitarist and lip syncer.”

“Bull crap.”

It sounded like a challenge to me. I went digging through my backpack, which had at least a dozen of my favorite CDs inside. I pulled one out, walked over to Mr. Harper and asked if I could perform it. He agreed, allowing me to play the song on his computer. I stood in front of the classroom, tuning my invisible guitar.

Aria stared as if she thought I was insane, but that was no different from how she normally looked at me.

“10 A.M. Automatic,” by The Black Keys started playing, and I sat on top of Mr. Harper’s messy desk, and started to strum along. My fingers moved franticly, never missing an invisible string. When I started silently singing toward Aria, her cheeks blushed and her feet tapped against the floor to the music.

I hopped off of the desk and started moving around the room, singing to random girls, who giggled and twirled their hair. I lost myself in the music, feeling as if I was on stage playing in front of a real audience, strumming the guitar.

I felt everyone’s eyes on me, but only one pair of brown eyes really mattered. For the final verse of the song, I stood in front of Aria, playing the last chords, taking in the small grin on her lips.

Once I finished, the final bell of the day rang and everyone packed up their bags. A few girls walked up to me, telling me that I was great, and Connor made sure to mention the amount of chicks we were going to bang because of the air guitar, but I didn’t care what they were saying.

I wanted to know what Aria thought.

She picked up her pencil and wrote the words air guitarist and lip syncing under my special skills.

We were the last ones to leave the classroom, and we walked down the hallway quietly. She hugged a couple of books to her chest and when we walked outside, waiting in line for our turn to climb onto the bus, she stared at the sidewalk.

“That was really good, Levi,” she whispered, nodding slightly. “You’re really good at the air guitar and shockingly you sounded remarkably like The Black Keys.”

I laughed. “It’s a superpower of mine.”

“Do you have many superpowers?”

“Just wait and see, Aria Watson. Just wait and see.”

I felt like I was flying.

* * *

When I arrived back at Dad’s after school, he was staring under the hood of his car in the front yard. A cigarette was hanging out of his mouth, and he was muttering to himself about something or other when I walked up to him. The knots in the stomach returned.

“Hey, Dad.”

He looked up, shook a few ashes from his cigarette, and went back to fixing his car.

“You need any help?”

“You know shit about cars?” he asked dryly.

I didn’t.

He snickered. “Just go play your flute or something.”

“Violin,” I corrected, holding the straps of my backpack. He cocked an eyebrow. “I play the violin. Not the flute.”

“Flute, violin, both sound corny as hell.”


“Okay. Well, if you don’t need any help…” I waited for him to ask me to hand him a wrench or something. It was pretty pathetic the way I stood waiting, but I finally headed into the house.

As I tossed my backpack onto my bed and my cell phone started ringing, I knew it was Mom. After I answered, she sounded just as worried and concerned as before.

“How are you holding up?” she said, probably pacing back and forth as she talked.

“Still holding on,” I replied, lying against the mattress.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come back home? I can have a flight booked for you in about five minutes.”


“Not quite ready to pack it up just yet.”

“Why do you need this?” she asked, sounding somewhat irritated.

“I just got to try. I have to figure out who this guy is.” I wanted that father-son relationship I remembered from my memories. I wanted to try to get to know Dad again. The problem was I didn’t expect him to be so closed off, therefore that meant getting to know him again would be a little hard. I wasn’t afraid to put in the work at our broken relationship, but I knew it would take time.


We have time.

It wouldn’t be overnight, but it would happen.

Plus, Mom went through cycles of her own mental stability, and I knew she was currently struggling with her issues. It was those same issues that made me want to get away from her and come stay with Dad.

I wasn’t ready to go home to her.

Even if I missed her, I didn’t miss her enough to sit around and watch her fall apart.

She sighed into the phone receiver, expecting me to say yes to the idea of going home. “I spoke to Lance not too long ago. After a yelling match he finally let up why he thought it was so important for you to be up there with your father.”

“Yeah? And why’s that?” She paused. Her silence made me push myself up to a standing position. “Ma?”

“He’s sick, Levi.”

I laughed, because it was the only thing I could do. “Sick? What do you mean he’s sick?”

“He has lung cancer.”


Dad wasn’t sick.