Home > If I Stay (If I Stay #1)(10)

If I Stay (If I Stay #1)(10)
Author: Gayle Forman

But I still hated the shows and hated myself for hating them. The clubs were smoky, which hurt my eyes and made my clothes stink. The speakers were always turned up so high that the music blared, causing my ears ring so loudly afterward that the high-pitched drone would actually keep me up. I’d lie in bed, replaying the awkward night and feeling shittier about it with each playback.

“Don’t tell me you’re gonna back out,” Adam said, looking equal parts hurt and irritated.

“What about Teddy? We promised we’d take him trick-or-treating—”

“Yeah, at five o’clock. We don’t have to be at the show until ten. I doubt even Master Ted could trick-or-treat for five solid hours. So you have no excuse. And you’d better get a good outfit together because I’m going to look hot, in an eighteenth-century kind of way.”

After Adam left to go to work delivering pizzas, I had a pit in my stomach. I went upstairs to practice the Dvo?ák piece Professor Christie had assigned me, and to work out what was bothering me. Why didn’t I like his shows? Was it because Shooting Star was getting popular and I was jealous? Did the ever-growing masses of girl groupies put me off? This seemed like a logical enough explanation, but it wasn’t it.

After I’d played for about ten minutes, it came to me: My aversion to Adam’s shows had nothing to do with music or groupies or envy. It had to with the doubts. The same niggling doubts I always had about not belonging. I didn’t feel like I belonged with my family, and now I didn’t feel like I belonged with Adam, except unlike my family, who was stuck with me, Adam had chosen me, and this I didn’t understand. Why had he fallen for me? It didn’t make sense. I knew it was music that brought us together in the first place, put us in the same space so we could even get to know each other. And I knew that Adam liked how into music I was. And that he dug my sense of humor, “so dark you almost miss it,” he said. And, speaking of dark, I knew he had a thing for dark-haired girls because all of his girlfriends had been brunettes. And I knew that when it was the two of us alone together, we could talk for hours, or sit reading side by side for hours, each one plugged into our own iPod, and still feel completely together. I understood all that in my head, but I still didn’t believe it in my heart. When I was with Adam, I felt picked, chosen, special, and that just made me wonder why me? even more.

And maybe this was why even though Adam willingly submitted to Schubert symphonies and attended any recital I gave, bringing me stargazer lilies, my favorite flower, I’d still rather have gone to the dentist than to one of his shows. Which was so churlish of me. I thought of what Mom sometimes said to me when I was feeling insecure: “Fake it till you make it.” By the time I finished playing the piece three times over, I decided that not only would I go to his show, but for once I’d make as much of an effort to understand his world as he did mine.

“I need your help,” I told Mom that night after dinner as we stood side by side doing dishes.

“I think we’ve established that I’m not very good at trigonometry. Maybe you can try the online-tutor thing,” Mom said.

“Not math help. Something else.”

“I’ll do my best. What do you need?’

“Advice. Who’s the coolest, toughest, hottest rocker girl you can think of?”

“Debbie Harry,” Mom said.


“Not finished,” Mom interrupted. “You can’t ask me to pick only one. That’s so Sophie’s Choice. Kathleen Hannah. Patti Smith. Joan Jett. Courtney Love, in her demented destructionist way. Lucinda Williams, even though she’s country she’s tough as nails. Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, pushing fifty and still at it. That Cat Power woman. Joan Armatrading. Why, is this some kind of social-studies project?”

“Kind of,” I answered, toweling off a chipped plate. “It’s for Halloween.”

Mom clapped her soapy hands together in delight. “You planning on impersonating one of us?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “Can you help me?”

Mom took off work early so we could trawl through vintage-clothing stores. She decided we should go for a pastiche of rocker looks, rather than trying to copy any one artist. We bought a pair of tight, lizard-skin pants. A blond bobbed wig with severe bangs, à la early-eighties Debbie Harry, which Mom streaked with purple Manic Panic. For accessories, we got a black leather band for one wrist and about two dozen silver bangles for the other. Mom fished out a her own vintage Sonic Youth T-shirt—warning me not to take it off lest someone grab it and sell it on eBay for a couple hundred bucks—and the pair of black, pointy-toed leather spiked boots that she’d worn to her wedding.

On Halloween, she did my makeup, thick streaks of black liquid eyeliner that made my eyes look dangerous. White powder that made my skin pale. Bloodred gashes on my lips. A stick-on nose ring. When I looked in the mirror, I saw Mom’s face peering back at me. Maybe it was the blond wig, but this was the first time I ever thought I actually looked like any of my immediate family.

My parents and Teddy waited downstairs for Adam while I stayed in my room. It felt like this was prom or something. Dad held the camera. Mom was practically dancing with excitement. When Adam came through door, showering Teddy with Skittles, Mom and Dad called me down.

I did a slinky walk as best as I could in the heels. I’d expected Adam to go crazy when he saw me, his jeans-and-sweaters girlfriend all glammed out. But he smiled his usual greeting, chuckling a bit. “Nice costume,” was all he said.

“Quid pro quo. Only fair,” I said, pointing to his Mozart ensemble.

“I think you look scary, but pretty,” Teddy said. “I’d say sexy, too, but I’m your brother, so that’s gross.”

“How do you even know what sexy means?” I asked. “You’re six.”

“Everyone knows what sexy means,” he said.

Everyone but me, I guess. But that night, I kind of learned. When we trick-or-treated with Teddy, my own neighbors who’d known me for years didn’t recognize me. Guys who’d never given me a second glance did a double take. And every time that happened, I felt a little bit more like the risky sexy chick I was pretending to be. Fake it till you make it actually worked.

The club where Shooting Star was playing was packed. Everyone was in costume, most of the girls in the kinds of racy getups—cl**vage-baring French maids, whip-wielding dominatrixes, slutty Wizard of Oz Dorothys with skirts hiked up to show their ruby garters—that normally made me feel like a big oaf. I didn’t feel oafish at all that night, even if nobody seemed to recognize that I was wearing a costume.

“You were supposed to dress up,” a skeleton guy chastised me before offering me a beer.

“I f**king LOVE those pants,” a flapper girl screamed into my ear. “Did you get them in Seattle?”

“Aren’t you in the Crack House Quartet?” a guy in a Hillary Clinton mask asked me, referring to some hard-core band that Adam loved and I hated.

When Shooting Star went on, I didn’t stay backstage, which is what I normally did. Backstage I could sit on a chair and have an uninterrupted view and not have to talk to anybody. This time, I lingered out by the bar, and then, when the flapper girl grabbed me, I joined her dancing in the mosh pit.

I’d never gone into the mosh pit before. I had little interest in running around in circles while drunk, brawny boys in leather trod on my toes. But tonight, I totally got into it. I understood what it was like to merge your energy with the mob’s and to absorb theirs as well. How in the pit, when things got going, you weren’t so much walking or dancing as being sucked into a whirlpool.

When Adam finished his set, I was as panting and sweaty as he was. I didn’t go backstage to greet him before everyone else got to him. I waited for him to go to the floor of the club, to meet his public like he did at the end of every show. And when he came out, a towel around his neck, sucking on a bottle of water, I flung myself into his arms and kissed him openmouthed and sloppy in front of everyone. I could feel him smiling as he kissed me back.

“Well, well, looks like someone has been infused with spirit of Debbie Harry,” he said, wiping some of the lipstick off his chin.

“I guess so. What about you? Are you feeling very Mozarty?”

“All I know about him is from what I saw in that movie. But I remember he was kind of a horndog, so after that kiss, I guess I am. You ready to go? I can load up and we can get out of here.”

“No, let’s stay for the last set.”

“Really?” Adam asked, his eyebrows rising in surprise.

“Yeah. I might even go into the pit with you.”

“Have you been drinking?” he teased.

“Just the Kool-Aid,” I replied.

We danced, stopping every now and again to make out, until the club closed.

On the way home, Adam held my hand while he drove. Every so often he’d turn to look at me and smile while shaking his head.

“So you like me like this?” I asked.

“Hmm,” he responded.

“Is that a yes or a no?”

“Of course I like you.”

“No, like this. Did you like me tonight?”

Adam straightened up. “I liked that you got into the show and weren’t chomping to leave ASAP. And I loved dancing with you. And I loved how comfortable you seemed to be with all us riffraff.”

“But did you like me like this? Like me better?”

“Than what?” he asked. He looked genuinely perplexed.

“Than normal.” I was getting irritated now. I’d felt so brazen tonight, like the Halloween costume had imbued me with a new personality, one more worthy of Adam, of my family. I tried to explain that to him, and to my dismay, found myself near tears.

Adam seemed to sense that I was upset. He pulled the car off onto a logging road and turned to me. “Mia, Mia, Mia,” he said, stroking the tendrils of my hair that had escaped from the wig. “This is the you I like. You definitely dressed sexier and are, you know, blond, and that’s different. But the you who you are tonight is the same you I was in love with yesterday, the same you I’ll be in love with tomorrow. I love that you’re fragile and tough, quiet and kick-ass. Hell, you’re one of the punkest girls I know, no matter who you listen to or what you wear.”

After that, whenever I started to doubt Adam’s feelings, I’d think about my wig, gathering dust in my closet, and it would bring back the memory of that night. And then I wouldn’t feel insecure. I’d just feel lucky.

7:13 P.M.

He’s here.

I have been hanging out in an empty hospital room in the maternity ward, wanting to be far away from my relatives and even farther away from the ICU and that nurse, or more specifically what that nurse said and what I now understand. I needed to be somewhere where people wouldn’t be sad, where the thoughts concerned life, not death. So I came here, the land of screaming babies. Actually, the wail of the newborns is comforting. They have so much fight in them already.

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