I glanced down the hallway at my Converse shoes laying tossed in the hallway. “I put them in the closet.”
She gave me a “bullcrap” frown. “Put them in the closet, please.”
I put them in the closet.
When dinner came along, Mom and I sat at the dining room table, her looking down at her cell phone, answering emails, and me looking down at my cell phone, commenting on Facebook posts.
“The lasagna tastes different,” I said, poking my fork around it.
“I used egg white omelets instead of pasta.”
“But isn’t it lasagna because of the noodle? Like, the name of the noodle is legit called lasagna. Without it, we are just eating eggs, sauce, and cheese.”
“This way it has less carbs, and you know how I told you that you should be watching your carbs before you go out to college. The freshman fifteen weight gain is a real thing, and plus, I read an article about how those who are already overweight tend to gain more weight than the normal people.”
“Than the normal people? Are you saying I’m not normal?” I felt my chest tighten a bit.
Mom dramatically rolled her eyes. “You’re overly sensitive, Alyssa. I wish you could be more stable like your sister Erika. Plus, her eating habits are ten times better than yours. I’m merely stating the facts. You need to watch what you’re eating more, that’s all.” She quickly changed the subject. “You never told me how your rehearsal was,” she said, taking a bite of her dinner.
“It was fine,” I replied. “You know me and the piano, same ol’ same ol’.”
She huffed. “Yeah, I know. Sorry I can’t make it to the recital thing tonight. I have too much work.”
Over the top, dramatic eye-roll from me, which she didn’t notice. She never made it to any of my recitals, because she always thought music was a hobby, not a life choice. When she found out I was going to college to study music therapy, she almost refused to help pay for my schooling, until my sister Erika talked her out of it. Even though my sister was just like my mom when it came to being realistic, she still believed in my music. Maybe because her boyfriend Kellan was a musician, and she loved him and the depth of an artist.
Sometimes I closed my eyes and tried to remember a time when Mom wasn’t so harsh—wasn’t so ruthless. In my memories, I sort of remembered her smiling. But maybe those moments were just my imagination, wishing for something beautiful to hold on to. Did she become cold the day Dad walked out? Or did his warmth just hide her icy soul for a while?
“I think I’m going to head to the music hall to get ready for tonight. Thanks for dinner, Mom,” I said, as she poured herself some more wine.
As I tossed on my light jacket, my Converse, and my handcrafted purse that Dad bought me when he traveled to South America for a concert, Mom called after me. “Alyssa!”
“Start the dishwasher before you go. And go dry that load of clothes. And pick me up a pint of ice cream from Bally’s Cream Shop. Make sure to skip getting some for yourself, though. You know, freshman fifteen and all.”
I felt like my chest was caught on fire.
Seat 4A was empty still when I peeked out from behind the stage. He was coming, I promised myself. He called me, he said he would be there, I thought. With daisies.
I loved daisies, they were my favorite flowers, and Dad knew that and was going to bring them to me. Because he promised he would.
“You’re up next, Alyssa,” my instructor said. I could feel my heart pounding against my ribcage. It felt as if I were falling apart with every step I took toward the piano. I was suffocating, knowing that he wasn’t sitting out there, lightheaded knowing that everything out of his mouth was nothing but lies. Lies. Hurtful, useless lies.
And then I looked up.
Seat 4A was filled.
I relaxed against the piano bench and allowed myself to get lost in the keys. My fingers connected to the piano, making magic happen. Making the sounds of my soul fill the space. I didn’t mean to cry, but a few tears fell as I played. When I finished, I stood and took a bow. The audience wasn’t supposed to applaud until after everyone performed, so the bad players wouldn’t feel terrible when they didn’t receive the loud roars of the room. But the boy in seat 4A was standing with a single daisy in his hands, clapping like crazy, hooting and hollering.
I smiled at the boy with a suit too big for him.
Quick, without thought, I ran into the audience and wrapped him into a hug. “The ticket was for you, anyway,” I lied into his shoulder.
That’s when he held me tighter.
Who needed Ass-Crack, anyway? I had Logan Francis Silverstone.
That was good enough for me.
“Your suit is too big,” she said, tugging at the sleeves that hung past my fingertips. The single daisy I gave her sat behind her left ear since we left the recital.
“It’s Kellan’s,” I explained. “He drove out to drop it off when I realized Ass-Crack wasn’t going to make it.”
“You’re swimming in it,” Alyssa joked. “But you still look handsome. I’ve never seen you dressed up before. Did you like the recital? It wasn’t my best performance.”
“It was perfect.”
“Thanks, Lo. I think we should do something fun tonight. Don’t you think? I think we should, oh I don’t know…do something wild!” She was talking and talking and talking, something she was very good at. As she walked, she spun in circles, smiling and talking, talking and smiling.
But I wasn’t completely listening to her, because my mind was somewhere else.
I wanted to keep telling Alyssa how amazing she was at the piano recital, how she was better than everyone else who performed. How she made me feel alive just from how her fingers played the keys. How she made my eyes never falter from her the whole time. How when she hugged me, I wanted to never let her go. How I sometimes thought about her when I was doing random things like brushing my teeth, or combing my hair, or searching for clean socks. I wanted to tell her everything I was thinking because all my thoughts were her.
I wanted to tell her how I felt about her. I wanted to tell her how I was falling for her. I wanted to tell her how I loved her wild hair, and loved her mouth that was always chattering about something or another.