Famous in a Small Town(10)

That was Dash. The most serious four-year-old I’ve ever met, my mom would say. Always looked like he was trying to solve the world’s problems. She and Aunt Denise would trade off watching us sometimes, when the other had to stay late at work. But when Dash smiled, Mom would always add, it was like the sun coming out from behind the clouds.

Tonight Dash nodded at August when I introduced him.

“Where’s Terrance?” Brit said.

“Getting drinks,” Dash replied.

“Good idea.” Brit turned to us. “Dash is covered. We need boring sodas for Sophie and Flora.” She pointed at August. “What about you?”

“Surprise me,” he said.

I followed Brit into the house, because a surprise-me drink from her could be lethal.

“So what’s going on with you and the secret brother?” she asked when we reached the kitchen. She started uncapping a two-liter as I set out some cups.

“Nothing,” I said.

She eyed me for a moment. “But you want there to be.” She raised and lowered her eyebrows several times as she began pouring drinks. “You want to get your Teen Zone on his Teen Zone.”


“Tell me I’m wrong.”

“You’re not right.”

“That’s a certified Sophie lie right there,” she said, and forced two cups of soda into my hand. “Take that to your boyfriend. Tell him you’re the surprise.”

“I hate you.”

“Now that’s a certified Brit I love you,” she replied, which was entirely accurate.

* * *

At any party or school thing, we always managed to carve out our own little spot. This time, it was at a wooden picnic table back by the trees, a little ways from the fire pit. Close enough that there was still light, but not so close that it was too hot. One of the drum majors, Jason Sosa, was nearby, strumming on an acoustic guitar, while two girls from the woodwinds—Alexa Valenti and Jessica Walsh—watched lovingly. Brit rolled her eyes at me in a Get a load of them kind of way, and I acted like I didn’t remember that she had a momentary crush on Jason Sosa in the seventh grade, and one on Alexa Valenti in eighth.

Terrance and I told everyone about the booster club meeting, which Brit pretended to find really boring. I had had to convince her—hard—to even march this year.

“It’s a huge commitment,” she had said, sitting on the wall out by the athletic fields, playing slapjack with Dash. “I hate commitment. Anyway, you know I need to train.” She had been spending more and more time at the track or in the gym, conditioning. She was trying to shave time off her 200 meter.

“Training sounds like a commitment,” I said.

She made a face.

“You’re a good drummer. We need you.”

“One more drum’s not gonna make a difference.”

“Brit.” I blinked. “Please.”

She had stared back for a long moment and then rolled her eyes. “Jesus. Okay. Fine.”

“You gotta teach me how you did that,” Dash said with a grin.

Tonight, we seemed to be the only people talking band-related stuff, if the snatches of conversation from the surrounding groups were any indication. Jason Sosa probably wasn’t thinking about fundraising during yet another flaccid acoustic ballad.

“The July Fourth barbecue should be good,” I said, when we reached the end of our rundown. “But we need to be able to bring in some real money at Fall Fest.”

Terrance took a sip of his drink and looked at me innocently. “Is this the year you guys finally win the Megan Pleasant contest?”

“That was one time,” Brit said. “In sixth grade. Let it go.”

“I’ll never forget those moves,” Terrance replied. “Brit looked like one of those inflatable guys at a car dealership. Sophie looked like a knife caught in a garbage disposal.”

“What did I look like?” Flora asked.

“Perfect, right?” Dash supplied.

“The best dancer ever seen by human eyes,” Brit guessed, before Terrance could answer.

“Who’s Megan Pleasant?” August said from next to me.

Terrance, probably about to expound on Flora’s talents as a dancer, froze. “Who is Megan—Who? Who is Megan Pleasant?” he repeated, expression aghast. He turned to me. “Who is this kid? Where did you find him?”

“She’s a singer,” I told August. “From Acadia. She’s pretty famous.”

“Never heard of her.”

“‘Gave You My Heartland’? ‘Letters Home’?”


“She was on TV,” Flora said helpfully. “They play her stuff on the radio.”

“What kind of music?”


He grimaced. “Oh.”

“It’s not terrible.”

“I’ve never heard a country song that doesn’t suck.”

“Maybe you haven’t listened to the right ones,” I said.

“I know a country song that doesn’t suck,” Brit interjected. “Written by a small-town boy with big-city dreams—”

Terrance’s eyes grew wide. “Everybody needs to shut up right now right this second.”

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