It Was Meant To Be

Molly dreams of two things: getting into her first-choice university and finding true love. Music-loving slacker Zayn also dreams of two things:winning the battle of the bands- and winning Molly.He is determined to make her fall in love with him.

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35. Shocking Facts

Shocking Facts
5th January, 10.05 am

Zayn's POV

Shocking Fact 1: I still do my maths homework.
And my grades are still decent. I'm determined to show Molly that I've changed. That I'll be as successful in college as she wants me to be.

I feel so good that I'm also determined to do something crazy in pre-calc. Mr Perry is picking people to put homework problems on the board.

"Twenty-three?" Mr Perry growls. "Who wants to put up number twenty-three?"

Five kids are having competitions, their hands straining to punch right through the ceiling.

Shocking Fact 2: I am currently raising my hand right along with them.

I've never raised my hand in maths. Ever. Not even to answer a simple question. I've been doing all my work, but that's as far as it goes. Nothing extra included.

Everyone stares. One girl barks out a laugh.

Mr Perry thinks I'm joking. "Yes, Zayn? What can I do for you?" He says in this weary tone.

"I'm volunteering to put up twenty-three."

Everyone freezes like they're in a game of Red Light Green Light and I just screamed "Red!"

Mr Perry is not amused. 

"Very funny." Mr Perry starts to call on someone else.

"No, I'm serious. I did my homework. See?" I wave the paper around over my head. "And I want to do twenty-three."

"Very well." But he still looks uncertain, like I might run up to the front of the room and rip some maths posters off the wall. "Twenty-four? Anyone?"

As I walk up to the board I'm grinning like  crazy. I can't help it. It's Molly's influence. Even when she's not around, she's still with me.

I know twenty-three was the hardest problem and I know I got every step right.

Shocking Fact 3: If I didn't know better, I would think that look in Mr.Perry's eyes is something like hope.

                             *
There's been tension between us ever since Battle of the Bands. Our momentum has changed and we're so stressed out with everything else going on.

"What key is this in?" Mike squints at the sheet music I wrote around two in the morning.

"F-sharp," I say.

Mike squints some more. "Oh yeah duh. I see it now."

Josh is sprawled out on the garage floor. "This floor is cold."

"So maybe you should get up," Mike says.

"I'm trying. My body hasn't responded yet."

Mile pinches the bridge of his nose. He puts the sheet music on top of the amp. "You sound more exhausted than I feel."

"There's no contest in the exhaustion department," I say. "I already won."

"Now you know how we've felt all year," Josh says. "I can't believe how much effort it takes to maintain a C average."

"That's because you've been smoking the chronic again," I joke 

Josh tries to throw a crunched-up Coke can at me. He slowly lifts his arm a few inches off the floor like it's too heavy to be attached to his body. The can lands next to him with a tinny clank.

"Take that," Josh says. He looks like he's about to fall asleep.

"What's happening to us?" I say. Lately it's like we barely have enough energy to get through half of our set list and we're not playing up to our usual standards.

I don't want to be here as much as I used to and I don't think I'm alone.

"We're in a rut," Mike says.

Josh yawns, still on the floor.

"Maybe we should...' I want to say maybe we should take a break for a while. I'm still making up work from last marking period, and I only have like a week left to get it all done. Plus now that I'm maintaining an A average, I have to do all these stupid projects and reports and stuff. And after the Battle of the Bands fiasco, it occurred to me that maybe we're not going to be famous after all.

Maybe we'll even break up.

"Should what?" Mike looks at me.

"I don't know. I was just thinking... we're all so busy and tired, and... it's not the same. Practice, I mean. Maybe we should... take a break?"

This perks Josh up. "You can't take a break if you're trying to make it." He pushes himself into a semi-sitting position. "You have to work at it all the time."

"I know that," I say. "Don't you think I know that?"

"So what are you saying?" Mike demands.

"Just that maybe--" But then I stop. I haven't even thought about what to say yet. "Forget it. Let's just take a break and... How about I play my audition piece? I could really use some feedback."

Mike calms down a little. "What are you playing?"

"You had to write your own piece. I haven't titled it yet."

I swing my guitar strap over my head and strum a few chords. Then I start playing from memory. That's one sweet skill I've always had - being able to play without sheet music. I can also sight-read pretty decently. So at least I have those things going for me because diverting the judges' attention away from my lacking academic history is the only thing that will save me.

This song I write is definitely my best work. I want to show them how good I am. Its really technical in some places, but I don't think it's too busy. Just enough to distract them from my transcript.

When it's over, I try to read their faces. "Well? What do you think?"

Mike and Josh exchange a look.

"Ummm..." Josh squints and messages his temples like he had colossal headache.

"What was supposed to be?" Mike says.

"My song, scumwad."

"So, what? You're playing that in public?" Josh shakes his head. "Bad idea."

"Yeah, maybe you should... What do you call it when it's like lip synching, but with a guitar? Strum synching?"

"I think the term you're looking for," Josh says, "is pluck synching."

"OK, you ass-munchers. Seriously. How was it?"

Josh pushes himself up off the floor. "Incredible!"

"Seriously?"

Mike nods. "They won't know what hit' em."

Maybe this can really happen and maybe there's a real chance that Molly and I can stay together next year.

"Let's bounce.' Josh starts to pack up.

"Are we still on for tomorrow?" Mike asks.

"Why wouldn't we be?

During the ride to my place the dark trees moving past us, I think about Molly. I wanted to tell her the whole truth about Cynthia before, but I couldn't. I don't want to scare her off but it has to come up sometime. Especially if things keep going the way they are. The couple of times we've hooked up since my car have been just as intense, even more but here's the thing. I don't want to hurt Molly. If she knows there was someone before her, would that scare her away? would she think I'm like Andrew, just using her for sex? And if she knows it was Cynthia, will she still like me?

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