Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three) (2 page)

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
5.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




I didn’t call Blake right away.  He’d barely said ten words to me in the last two weeks, and before I got him involved in any of this, I needed to know more.  With a forlorn glance in the direction of the library, I trudged back to my dorm room for some privacy.

our song been picked up by TMZ yet?  Was I going to get home to my computer and find my face on their home screen, yet again?  I could only imagine that Matt’s ambiguous ‘congratulations’ referred to this, but how far had it gotten?  A freshman frat boy didn’t seem like the type to scour the internet for celebrity gossip, but you never knew.

I got the usual stares walking back across campus to my dorm.  For the first few months of college, people had treated Blake and me pretty normally
— sure, there was an occasional girl who wanted a picture with him or a little gawking in our general direction, but that was pretty easy to ignore.  We certainly got a lot less of it in New York than we did in Los Angeles, where the paparazzi basically ran wild.

But then the tabloids had run a story about me supposedly cheating on Blake with Tanner Cole, the guitarist who’d replace
d Blake in Moving Neutral after Blake had quit the band to come to Columbia with me.  Since then, I’d been noticing more sidelong glances and whispers behind me than ever.

I hadn’t cheated on Blake (obviously).  Not even close. 
I’d been on what I thought was an innocent lunch with April, Moving Neutral’s lead singer, but I’d lied to Blake about it, hoping to smooth things over between him and the band, but then Tanner had showed up and… it was a long story.  The paparazzi had managed to catch shots that basically looked like I’d thrown myself into Tanner’s arms, and they ran story after story about how I’d broken up Blake’s band and then hooked up with his arch rival.

Good story.  But not the least bit true.  Kind of like me as a physics major.

Darby still wasn’t around when I got back to my room, and I breathed another sigh of relief.  I wasn’t going to call Blake if she was in the room listening, not in a million years.

I pulled out my laptop and opened it to the YouTube
homepage and scrolled down.  Sure enough, on the first page, under “Featured Videos,” there was a grainy video titled “Untitled (Blake Parker, Casey Snow).” 

We were eighth in YouTube’s front page video list.  Two million, two hundred and seventeen thousand, eight hundred and forty two people had watched this video.

And it was about to hit eight hundred forty three.  I clicked Play and maximized the screen.

And there we were.  The recording wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t terrible
— whoever had taken it must have been close by.  It started as Blake was playing his guitar on a bench in one of the Columbia courtyards, and I watched myself walk up to him.  My back was turned to the camera, so I couldn’t see how nervous my face must have looked, but I saw myself sit down next to him. 

It was a strange thing, to watch such a personal moment from someone else’s perspective.  Even
stranger to have two million people watch it without any of the backstory.

On the video, Blake stiffened as I sat down next to him, and I remembered
feeling terrified that he’d just get up and leave.

The guy (girl?) with the camera moved closer.  The courtyard had been crowded that day, and I’d been pretty wrapped up in trying to get through to Blake
— I hadn’t even noticed a cell phone camera recording us, but the shot was pretty clear and the audio sounded decent.

I watched myself sit down on the bench next to him, watched him struggle to not react.  He clamped his hands down on the strings, silencing the music, and
I remembered thinking to myself that was it — that I’d blown it, that my chances with Blake Parker were gone for good.

But then he started again, at the beginning of the song.  On the vi
deo, you could see the hint of my smile, shock and relief flooding my face. 

Blake started to play the
song again, and this time I joined in. 

Hearing my voice and Blake’s music together made my heart soar.  We’d hardly ever done it
— one concert on the Moving Neutral tour that summer, a few casual songs here and there since then.  But this song — even recorded from someone’s phone, even with all the pain and hurt that had led up to it… it was good.

It was really good.

Madison was right.  It was personal, it was embarrassing.  It felt like I’d read my diary out loud to two million people. 

But it was beautiful.  The words, Blake’s music, the two of us.  It was special.

Holding my breath, I clicked through the comments. 

I’d learned the hard way that internet comments could get pretty vicious. 
I couldn’t even read the articles after Blake’s band broke up, for fear of what they’d say about me.  Once the Tanner scandal got added to the mix, it got even worse.  I should have stopped reading them, but they were like train wrecks that showed up on my laptop every morning — impossible to look away.

Not bad,
read the first one.

Nice song,
read the second.

soooooooo good omg i love blake

I felt a grin start to form.  It was a personal song, a personal moment, but maybe Madison was right.  Maybe that’s what artists were supposed to do.

Blake wrote all the music for Moving Neutral.  No surprise his next song is good.  But their album without him?  Good luck.

I felt my smile waver, reading that one. I didn’t want the Moving Neutral album to fail —their drummer, Sophie, was one of my best friends, and I’d grown to like Tanner more and more as I spent more time with him.  But I was happy that someone, at least, appreciated that Blake had been the backbone of that band.

Wow she’s actually pretty good.  And the song doesn’t even suck.

That was basically a home run on the internet.  I stifled a laugh, and glanced down at one more comment. 

The song sucks.  Casey sucks.  LET BLAKE GO ALREADY SLUT YOU’VE DONE ENOUGH.

And… whoa. 

I’d developed a pretty thick skin over the last few months, but reading stuff like that still made
me feel like I was about to puke.  I scrolled back up to the video, hiding the comments from the screen.

In the
recording, we were just about to end the song.  I saw myself looking at Blake hopefully as he set his fingers down on the guitar.  My face was turned away from the camera, so it couldn’t catch what I said, but I remembered it crystal clearly. 

I love you
, I’d whispered. 

And Blake had finally softened, just a tiny bit. 
I’d seen it.  And then he’d walked away.

I hadn’t spoken to him since.




I stared at the phone.

The truth was, I had no idea what to say. 

Ever since that song, Blake and I seemed to have formed a silent truce — ‘silent’ being the operative word.  I knew that I’d hurt him, and he knew that I wanted to fix it, but there was this void between us that we still couldn’t get past, no matter how much either of us wanted to.

I dialed his number, my hand shaking on the phone. 
It would be better to talk in person, but Blake had moved out of his Columbia dorm room and I didn’t even know where he was living now.  I was just relieved he hadn’t changed his cell phone.

It rang once.  Twice.  Three times.

I exhaled, almost relieved that he wasn’t picking up.  The fact was, every time I opened my mouth when Blake was around, I said the wrong thing. 

Hey, i
t’s Blake, you know what to do.

I tried not to shiver as
his familiar voice came through the line.  I missed him so much that it felt like an actual ache, and hearing his voice was salt in the wound. 

And I still didn’t know what to say.

“Hey, um, it’s, uh, Casey,” I started, clamping my lips together and shaking my head at myself. 
Get it together, Casey
.  “So, I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but there’s this, um, video of us?  On the internet?”  I paused.  Something sounded wrong about that.  “I mean, not, like, a sex tape or anything — uh, not that you’d think that — ” 
Oh my God.  What was I saying?
  “It’s from the other day, but all these people have seen it, and I just think that we should probably talk about it or something.  I mean, I’m calling so that we can talk.  About it.  The video.  Yeah.” 

He was never going to call me back. 
Two weeks of the silent treatment had given me an acute case of word vomit. 

But, wait
.  Couldn’t you re-record voicemails?  I hit the star key frantically, hoping it would do something.

I waited a second.  Silence.  I hit the pound key.  Silence. 

“Uh, sorry, I dropped the phone—”


“Um, anyway… just call me when you get this.  Ok.  Bye.”

I hung up, and fell backwards onto my pillow.

I looked at my phone like I wanted to crack it in half.  “You suck,” I told it angrily, forcing myself to breathe. 

My phone buzzed.  I stared down at it, warily, as a
name popped up onto the screen. 

It wasn’t Blake. 

“Hey Lauren,” I said, giving in and picking up the call.  “What’s up?”

was a publicist in Los Angeles, and thanks to her, I’d had a place to stay after Blake had basically broken my heart.  A place to stay where everything in sight didn’t remind me of Blake Parker.  I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone, but I owed Lauren a lot.  She’d even managed to get me a modeling gig with a denim company — and if there was anything more ridiculous than Casey Snow as a YouTube sensation, it was Casey Snow as a fashion model. 

And yet, apparently, both of them had suddenly become
my reality. 

“Case,” Lauren used my nickname easily.  “How’s New York?”

“Cold,” I sighed.  “Crowded.  Dirty.  Did I mention cold?”

“Let’s bring you back to  L.A.,” I could almost hear the wheels turning in her head.  “Maybe a quick trip to Vegas?  I’m working with a new club there
— ”

Lauren,” I smiled,  “You remember I’m only eighteen, right?”

“Shit,” she
sighed.  “Ok, no Vegas.  I mean, I’m pretty sure they’d still go for it, but you’re right, let’s not make a mess of it.”

I smiled. 

“Yeah — let’s try to keep up the nice, upstanding image of me that we spent weeks creating?”  Thanks to Lauren, I’d finally managed to get into the tabloids for something
than dating Blake Parker — even if that ‘something’ was ‘wearing clothes and shopping.’  Still better than ‘ruining your boyfriend’s life.’

, a tiny voice in my head reminded me
  I scowled.

“So what’s up?” 

“Well, first of all, remind me never to do karaoke when you’re around,” Lauren said, her voice buzzing with excitement. 

“You saw the video?”

“Me and everyone else in Los Angeles.  Case, this is the coolest.  It’s like everything you do turns to PR gold.”

I wasn’t sure that was exactly something to be proud of
, but I smiled anyway.  “Maybe I’ll put that on my resume when I’m applying for summer internships?”

Lauren snorted.  “Oh, come on.  What internship is going to get you further than you can get on your own?  Make an album this summer, do a tour.  Do a reality show.  Please, please, Casey,” her voice turned serious, “do not spend your summer working till three a.m. at Goldman Sachs.  Do you know that nineteen year olds can get wrinkles?”

I laughed.  “I’m pretty sure that’s physically impossible.”

“Don’t be the test case,” she grinned.  “Besides… if you have the whole summer, m
aybe you and Blake could put together a few more songs?”

“Lauren, I’ve gotta go
—”  She knew I was lying but it didn’t matter.  For as long as I’d known her, Blake Parker had been an Off Limits Subject. 

“Hey, wait,” she said, “I was actually calling for something else.  Rolling Stone is doing a holiday party, and they want you to go.  Naturally, I said I’d handle dressing you.”

In high school, I’d dressed myself every day.  In the PR world, I was learning, “dressing” someone was a big deal.

“It’s in New York?”

“December 23rd,” she said.  “Mark your calendar.  Tanner’s going.”

felt my stomach flutter, and then shook my head, forcing myself to relax.  Tanner Cole was the last person I needed to see.  And yet… a little part of me was excited to see him.

Just what I need,” I said pointedly.

probably go too.  Half the music world will be there.  It’s a big deal.  Just block out an afternoon beforehand to do a fitting — don’t worry, you’ll love it.”

My expression
fell somewhere between an eye roll and a grin.  “Hey, before you go—” I needed some advice, and Lauren knew way more about anything celebrity-related than I did.  “What should I do?  About the YouTube thing?”

Her voice was warm and honeyed.  “Lock Blake Parker in a room and record a damn album.
”  I opened my mouth to tell her that wasn’t happening, but she continued.  “Short of that?  Find a new guitarist and record one yourself.” 

I closed my eyes for a second. 
“I can’t do that.”

Lauren paused, like she was debating whether or not to say anything else. 
“Case, right now, you’re polarizing — some people love you, some people hate you.  If you could put something out that was really good, as good as the song in that video, people might start seeing
.  Not just the girl who broke up Moving Neutral.”

I looked up at the ceiling.  It wasn’t bad advice.  But I wasn’t sure it was suited to me
— I was shy, quiet, smart.  I definitely wasn’t a rock star.  It was Blake’s song that had inspired me, and without him, why would anyone want to hear from Casey Snow?

Just at that moment, I saw the doorknob turn.

“Thanks,” I said quickly, turning my face into my pillow so that Darby wouldn’t overhear.  “I’ll think about it.  See you for the party, I guess?”

For sure,” Lauren said.  I was hardly paying attention as Darby walked into the room, dropping her bag on the bed and glaring at me. Whether I liked it or not, this conversation was over. 

said a quick good bye to Lauren and hung up the phone, slipping it into the pocket of my jeans. 

Reaching for my bookshelf, I
opened up the university’s phone directory.  I needed a plan, and thanks to Lauren, I had just figured out a pretty good idea for the first step.


BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
5.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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