Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three) (19 page)

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
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Chapter Forty-Six


The first time I saw April in person, I thought to myself that she was so beautiful she didn’t even look real.  Long blonde hair, huge blue eyes, tall and slim and graceful — she was like a doll come to life, the kind of beauty that caught your breath. 

Every time the tabloids put a picture of me next to a picture of her, I couldn’t stop myself from
feeling mortified — it was like putting my eighth grade doodle next to the Venus de Milo, and asking you to pick.

The problem was,
her beauty faded off the radar every time she opened her mouth.

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see you, should I?”  She stepped past me to walk inside. 

Sophie gave me an apologetic look as April took a seat on the couch in Tanner’s living room. 

The confusion was evident on my face as I exchanged a glance with Jesse, Moving Neutral’s bassist, who I hadn’t seen since this summer.  He’d always been nice to me, but never willing to get in the line of fire between April and anyone she was up against.  Shrugging his shoulders as if my presence didn’t matter, he sat down on the couch next to April.

Everyone looked at Tanner expectantly.

Blinking my eyes, I looked around the room.  Was this a band meeting that I’d accidentally intruded on?

“Listen,” I said carefully.  “I don’t want to interrupt

April glared at me.  “Well, that’s new
for you,” she purred. 

I looked at Tanner.  Should I have checked with him before coming over?  I hadn’t realized it was even a concern.

He looked at me uneasily, as if he’d been thinking the same thing.

“I can just go,” I said, picking up my bag from where I’d laid it by Tanner’s coffee table.  I took three steps towards the door, and then paused.

“Something wrong?” April lilted.

I hesitated, looking at Tanner pleadingly.

He smiled.  “I think Snow would like to do the right thing, but she’s missing a key element.”

Sophie looked at m
e sympathetically, and I pulled out my phone.

“It’s fine,” I said, trying to ignore their glances, and my own budding embarrassment.  “I just have to call a cab.  I’m sure it’ll be here in a few minutes.”

April looked like she’d just eaten an ice cream cone, reveling in my embarrassment as I fumbled with my phone to find the number for a cab company.

“Listen,” Tanner broke in.  “Maybe Snow can just wait in the bedroom?”

“That’s not happening,” I blurted out, trying to stop a blush from creeping up my cheeks.  I was more interested in waiting for a cab on a street corner than having everyone think I was some conquest in Tanner’s bedroom. 

You guys,” Sophie broke in, obviously trying to calm me down.  “Are we really worried about Casey?”

April looked at me suspiciously.  The answer was clearly
yes, for sure, we are definitely worried about Casey after she stole our lead guitarist and nearly broke up our band this summer

To my surprise, Jesse broke in.  “Maybe Casey could just hang out on the balcony for now?”

Tanner’s condo had a beautiful balcony that looked out over the ocean — separated from the main living area by a wide sliding door. 

“That’s fine,” I said,
cutting the conversation off with a withering glance at the bedroom door.  “And Sophie, maybe you could give me a ride back to the hotel afterwards?”

fter this conversation, the last thing I wanted was for a group of people to leave me alone in Tanner’s apartment.

“Sure,” she said, ignoring the glare from Tanner. 

I looked around the room, at the people I’d spent most of the summer with… except for Blake.  Not for the first time, the ache of missing him overwhelmed me.  I wondered if they felt it too.

“Ok, well,” I said awkwardly, backing up towards the balcony and opening the sliding glass door.  “Good luck, guys.”

I stepped out into the California sunshine, shutting the door behind me.  Sitting down on one of Tanner’s chairs, I looked out onto the huge expanse of ocean in front of me.  I looked down at my cell phone, wondering if I should try to call Madison again.  She was probably bored out of her mind in Rockland by herself.

“…if we don’t pick something soon

I froze. 

Sophie’s voice carried easily through the glass doors.  You couldn’t hear it from the beach, but I was standing right outside the room. 

Tanner’s condo, while very beautiful, obviously hadn’t been buil
t with sound-proofing as a priority. 

I glanced inside for a second, but no one was paying attention to me.  Whatever the conversation was about, it was clear that they were all engrossed in it.

For a second, I wondered if I should go back inside and let them know I could hear them… and call a cab to take me back to the hotel.

But then I thought about waiting for twenty minutes in Tanner’s bedroom, like some sad groupie or a kid who’d been punished. 
No way
, I thought to myself.  I’d rather walk back to Santa Monica on my own.

“The problem isn’t the music
—” April’s voice carried through the glass door.  “The problem is that ever since Blake left, our publicity has tanked.”

I blinked, carefully turning my head to look out at the ocean.

Was it true?

I thought about it.  Blake and April used to be in the tabloids constantly—their relationship was a constant curiosity to fans, and the tabloids ate it up.  I remembered the first time that a photographer had gotten a shot of me and Blake together
, how livid April had been.

But since then…  Blake had been in the tabloids.  So had I, so had Tanner.

But… the rest of the band? 

ore importantly, April?  I racked my brain, thinking about the last story I’d read about her.  Maybe something about her dating an actor?  I couldn’t remember.

I would have been thrilled to
quietly avoid any celebrity gossip for a few weeks.  But April was the girl who’d tried to throw me off the tour bus when the tabloids got wind of me dating Blake. 

“Who cares?” Tanner’s voice cut through, and for a second I felt guilty for eavesdropping.  “Once the show comes out, we’ll be drowning in press.  Why not just enjoy the lull for now?”

“Easy for you to say.”  I could hear the icy tone in April’s voice, usually reserved for comments directed at me. 

“What does that mean?”  Tanner’s voice was defensive.

“Unlike the rest of us,” April’s voice was quiet, and I had to strain to hear it through the glass door.  A moment later, I realized why.  “
still getting it now,” she said coldly.  “Thanks to Casey.”

Even sitting outside, it was like I could feel the tension in the room go up a notch.

I felt my stomach twist. 

“Listen,” Sophie broke in.  “It’s none of our business who Tanner dates, right?”

, I silently agreed.

April’s voice was icy and cool.  “It’s exactly my business.  It becomes my business when it affects the rest of the band,” she said calmly.

“Like it was your business who Blake dated?”  Tanner asked her.  “Pulling this card worked out so well for you the first time, huh?  Are you sure you’re ready to go for Round Two?”

April’s voice rose.  “If we can replace Blake Parker,” she said, her voice clear and cruel.  “We’ll have no problem replacing you.”

I froze. 

“Can we please just
?” Jesse sounded tired and frustrated.  “This isn’t going anywhere.  I’m sick to death of having every discussion about this band revolve around Casey Snow.”

sick to death of every guitarist losing his mind over some random
high schooler
,” April snapped. 

“She’s in college, actually,” Tanner drawled.  “Remind me again where you went?”

“Stop—” Sophie cut in, and I could hear in her voice that she was starting to get upset.  “Listen, no one’s replacing anyone.  All we need is a great song and we’ll be back on top.”

The room was quiet, as everyone seemed to think about it for a moment.

And then April’s voice carried through, calm and collected.

And we need it in the next two weeks.”

I blinked, confused.  What was the rush?  Even my fleeting YouTube fame had a shelf life longer than a few weeks.
  Without thinking, I turned my head towards the conversation, glancing into Tanner’s apartment. 

Tanner’s voice was calm, measured.  “Why?”

“The season finale for the show,” April said quietly.  “They want us to pick a single, so the finale can focus on us recording it.  Then the label will release it before the premiere,” she explained.  “It maximizes the publicity on both sides.”

“It won’t maximize anything if we’re not ready,” Sophie said, sounding panicked.  “We’re not even close.”

April shrugged.  “Well, we’ve got to get there, and fast.  I can’t get any more time, guys, ok?  I’ve tried.  Six months ago, I had the clout to do it, but right now, they want to see us produce something new, and they want it yesterday.  We’re out of time.”

Everyone was silent.

“We’re not even close,” Sophie repeated in a murmur.

“Maybe we’re just being too picky,” Jesse said, uncertain.  “Maybe we should go back to some of the early stuff from this fall, see how it sounds to us now.” 

“We’re not going to the bench after three months,” Tanner jumped in.  “Bands have at least a year to put out a new album.”

April looked at him like he was being completely dense.  “Our last album came out eighteen months ago.”

I thought back, remembering.  It was right before I started senior year of high school when Moving Neutral released their debut, and I fell in love with Blake’s music for the first time.

Blake’s music.

Not whatever new song they were considering.

I’d been so focused on what my next steps were, and Blake’s, I’d never even thought of the rest of the band. 

They hadn’t just lost their guitarist.  They’d lost the core of the music. 

They’d lost the ability to create new

Even after the rumblings I’d heard from Tanner and Sophie, the idea that Moving Neutral’s next album was in jeopardy had never occurred to me.

Before I could think of how to react, my cell phone buzzed with a new text message.  I cast a guilty look down at it, thankful I’d silenced the ringer.

Can you do an interview with Teen Vogue at 4pm? 

It was Lauren.  I checked the clock
— I had two hours.   Even with Los Angeles traffic, that was enough time.

, I texted back. 
Can you have someone pick me up at Tanner’s?

“Listen,” I heard April’s voice, cool and assured.  “There may not be a great option here.  But we have to focus on the most important thing
— the show has to be a success.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“But—” Sophie said, sounding hesitant.  “Isn’t our new album the most important thing?” 

“Right now, no.”  There was silence.  Wasn’t anyone going to argue with her?
  “Listen, guys,” April continued.  “We’re not going to solve our problems with a great song.  I hate to say it, but it’s the truth.  I think we’ve all realized that we’re not going to stumble into some perfect solution, right?  So what we have to do now is figure out how to move forward.”

No one said anything. 

“So what now?”  I couldn’t read anything from Tanner’s voice. 

“First thing tomorrow, we go back to the studio.  I want everyone with an open mind, because we have to pick something,
fast.  We’re out of time.”

This time, the silence meant one thing.  That, for better or worse, April had

“Get a good night’s sleep, everybody,” she said.  “Camera crews will pick you up at eight.”

I quickly turned my eyes back to the water, pretending like I hadn’t heard a thing.  A moment later, Sophie rapped on the window.

“Hey, Case,” she said. 
I pretended to ignore the emotion in her voice.  “We’re all set.  I can take you back to the hotel if you want.”

I blinked at her. 
After spying on their whole conversation, I’d almost forgotten that I’d asked her for a ride. 

“It’s okay,” I blushed.  “I actually, um, forgot… I have
an interview this afternoon.  So Lauren’s going to pick me up in a few minutes.”

“Oh,” Sophie looked a little relieved, and watching her tugged at my heart.  “Okay, so, um, I guess I’ll see you
…”  She trailed off.

I was going back to New York in two days.  Suddenly this trip felt too short.

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
3.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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