Dad and I leave town in the early dark. It's the second Sunday of the holidays, and we pack up the old blue car with enough clothes for summer and hit the road. It's so early he's wiping hills of sand piled in the corners of his eyes. I wipe a few tears from mine. Tears don't pile, though. They grip and cling and slide in salty trails that I taste till the edge of the city. It's our first Christmas in the country since Gran died. At six o'clock the sun rises and lights the car from the outside. Blinds us almost. Dad squints through his glasses at the road, but me? I close my eyes. I like things better when I listen. Everything in the world's got a voice; most people don't hear hard enough is all. Sunrise sounds like slow chords dripping from my guitar this morning. Sad chords, in B-flat.
"Open your eyes, Charlie love," Mum whispers. "You'll miss out on the day." Not a lot to miss out on, really. My days have been sort of shaky lately. Like a voice running out of breath. Like a hand playing the blues. Like a girl losing her bikini top in the pool at Jeremy Magden's final party for Year 10 last week, if we're getting specific. Mum says look on the bright side. Okay. I guess I was only half naked.
The thing that really kills is that the party started so well. I was talking and making jokes and the words were rolling easily, and I thought: I've done it. I've found that thing, whatever that thing is, that most people have but I don't.
"Check out Alex checking you out," Dahlia said, and we laughed. I felt good because it sounded like she wasn't mad anymore. And a guy was finally looking at me, not straight through to the other side. There was this beat under my skin, a little disco weaving through me. That's how it is when I'm alone and playing the guitar, but that's never how it is in a crowd.
Only, that day it was. I had the first line of a new song in my head. A song about a guy and a party and a smile. The words were in my mouth and the tune was in my blood, and it felt so loud I thought: If Alex kisses me, he'll hear it singing through my skin.
And I wanted him to hear. Because he grinned electricity through my bones, when most days I play solo and acoustic. Because Dahlia's new friends might like me if I had something other than music to talk about during Louise Spatula's post-party analysis.
"You look good. The sunglasses are working. You can do this," Dahlia told me. And I really thought I could. I was confident. I was ready.
"Just remember," Louise said, "a blow-up doll could get Alex."
I was stuffed. "Thanks. I won't keep that in mind." But I did keep it in mind. If things went badly, Louise would make sure everyone knew it and I'd be a step below plastic for the rest of my high school life. Dahlia took Louise inside so I wouldn't have an audience, but she did it too late. My disco disappeared. I walked across to Alex, humming a song I called "Fuck" because that was the only word in it.
The chorus was moving through my head and I was so busy humming I didn't see the football game. I walked straight through the middle. David Amar threw the ball; Joseph Ryan sprinted to get it and collected me on the way. I ran in front of him for a couple of seconds, and then I ducked and rolled into the pool. Unexpected, sure. But not entirely uncool.
It was kind of funny. Till I realized the force of the fall had loosened my bikini top and it was impossible to find in the middle of all the water-bombing that was going on around me. Swimming along the bottom, I forced my eyes open and searched through legs. I could have done something creative with a couple of chip packets and a leaf at that point, but I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except a little voice inside me screaming out for one, just one, normal encounter with a guy. Or at least abnormal with clothes.
Excerpted from A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley Copyright © 2010 by Cath Crowley. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher
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