Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three) (4 page)

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
10.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




Even with all the potential hurdles, the thought of having a plan to see Blake put a smile on my face the next morning.  I knew that the situation between us was delicate, but this was the best — maybe the only — chance I had to fix things.  Despite all the things that could still go wrong, I felt myself acting almost chipper as I grabbed my bags for my modern literature class.

“Someone’s in a good mood,” I heard from the other side of the ro

almost dropped my bag in surprise.  It was the first thing Darby had said to me in over a week. 

“Yeah, I, um
— ”  I tried to think of a way to explain my good mood that didn’t involve telling the truth.  “Actually, I met Emma Harris at a party last night.”

the look on Darby’s face, I had clearly made the right choice.  Her eyes opened as wide as I’d ever seen them and she sat down on my bed, curious and excited, like we hadn’t been giving each other the silent treatment for the last month.

“Oh my gosh.  What was she like?  Was she so pretty?  Was she skinny?  What was she wearing?”

“All of that.  She’s pretty, skinny, her clothes were gorgeous.  I mean, she had a makeup team beforehand and the designer sent her the clothes, but yeah.  Still gorgeous.”

“Just like you,” Darby said, and I wasn’t sure if I
was hearing excitement or jealousy in her voice. 

I laughed.  “
For my fifteen minutes, you mean?  I think I turn back into a pumpkin pretty soon.”

Darby shook her head
, looking at me with a trace of something I couldn’t quite put a finger on.  “Say what you want Casey, but it doesn’t look like you’re going away anytime soon.  This is you now.”

searched her face for an insult or a sign that she was making fun of me, but I didn’t see one. 

“I guess,” I said, hoisting my bag over my
shoulder and grabbing my dorm room keys.  “Well, the famous, super-celebrity me is about to be late for calculus.” I smiled.  “See you later?”

“Later,” she said, almost friendly. 

I smiled again as I heard the door close behind me.  Darby had been a jerk to me in the fall, no question, but living with a girl who hated my guts was taking a toll on me too.  If random celebrity run-ins were the olive branch we needed, I was going to make sure this wasn’t the last one.

I took a
few steps down the empty hall, a thought flickering through my mind.

It was crazy, but…
maybe she had a point.  Last summer, it felt like I’d jumped onto a speeding train, thrown into a world where I had no idea what to do or how to act. 

Blake’s world.

But slowly and surely, I was getting used to it.  Somehow, somewhere along the line… it had become my world too.

And honestly, it
was pretty cool to meet Emma Harris.  It was even pretty cool to open up a magazine and see a picture of yourself.  (At least, as long as it wasn’t accusing you of cheating on your boyfriend).

If that had somehow become my real life, then maybe
it wasn’t so bad?



I’d left our dorm with time to spare before my class, and the walk to the far side of campus was frigid.  There was something I wanted to do, but I couldn’t do it with Darby leaning over my shoulder
—even this new, slightly friendlier version of Darby. 

A few blocks west of our dorm,
I ducked into a courtyard that hardly anyone used, on the edge of campus and next to the Comparative Literature classrooms. 

To my relief, the
building’s door was unlocked.  A redhead student aide with frizzy curls was sitting just inside the doorway, and when I walked inside she looked up at me, surprised.

“Can I help you?”

“I need to make a phone call,” I explained, holding up my cell.  “Is there any way you guys have an extra room that I could use?  It’s private.”

I wasn’t sure if she recognized me, but some trace of understanding crossed her face before she stood up, smiling politely.  “
Sure,” she said, leading me down the hall.  “Most of the classrooms are locked, but they’re empty and I have a master key.”

“Thanks,” I said gracefully, pulling out my cell phone.  “You’re a lifesaver.”

She smiled.  “Casey Snow, right?”

I gave a thin smile. 
“Guilty as charged.”

“No, I think it’s cool.  I like the new song.  Love’s not enough, huh?”

I felt a sad smile creep onto my face.  “You can say that again.”

“Well, I’ll give you some privacy,” she said, turning back towards the door.  At the door, though, she hesitated.  “
I mean—I know it’s none of my business,” she said, still facing the door.  “But, um… I think you’re wrong.  Love’s always enough.”

I heard
the door squeak closed before I could reply.  By the time my words came, they were probably to an empty room.

“I hope you’re right,” I said
out loud, my voice sounding small and not at all sure. 

After making sure the door was closed, I sat for a minute in silence, staring at the cream-colored business card that I’d taken from the nightstand in my dorm room.  I’d held onto this card for six months, just in case it could lead to something, but I’d never called the number.

It was time to find out.

Last summer, when I’d filled in for April at an acoustic show that Moving Neutral had played in Los Angeles, one of the producers from Moving Neutral
’s record label had left his card for me, and asked me to call him if I was ever back in L.A.  But when Blake and I had gone to Los Angeles over Halloween, I’d been too busy pulling the tatters of my life back together to even think about what this guy could potentially do.

But now… was different.  Blake was famous, but Darby was right
— I was, slowly, steadily, getting to be noticed for more than just being Blake’s girlfriend.  I had a modeling contract.  I had a fake-tabloid relationship with Tanner Cole.  I had a song on YouTube — or at least, Blake and I had a song on YouTube — with millions of views.

I’d always thought that if a producer wanted to meet with me, it would be out of pity.  But maybe
— just maybe — I actually had something to offer.

I dialed t
he number on his card, worried that my fingers were shaking too much to hit the right keys. 

Finally, the call went through.  It rang once, twice. 

“Paragon Records, how may I help you?”

I wasn’t expecting a woman’s voice. 

“Sorry, I might have dialed wrong — I’m looking for Zak Grant?”

The girl on the other end of the line let out a sigh.  I could hear her clothes rustle as she shifted positions.

“I’m sorry, Zak doesn’t work here anymore — if you tell me what this is about, I’m happy to see if there’s someone I can put you in touch with to take over whatever you’re working on.  What do you need?”

I bit my lip
.  What was I supposed to tell her?  That some guy had given me a card at a concert six months ago, and now I wanted to talk to him about making an album?  It sounded insane. 

Worse than insane.  It sounded like a lie.

“Oh, um, it’s ok — he’d asked me to call him, but I guess I waited too long.  He didn’t leave a forwarding number, did he?”

The girl hesitated.  “We’re not supposed to give them out,” she said, sounding almost apologetic.  “But you know what?  If you want to leave a message with me, I can call him and pass it on.  Does that work?”

Relief coursed through my body.  “Yes—” I said, taking a deep breath.  “That would be amazing.  You’re so nice.”

I could hear her
smile in her voice.  “You caught me on a good day.  Ok, so, what’s the message?”

“He may not even remember me.  We met at the Moving Neutral concert this summer and he gave me his card,
in case I was ever going to be in California again.  I’m coming up the first week of January for a photoshoot, and I thought we could talk.”

“Got it,” I could hear the girl scribbling, like maybe this was juicy gossip.  “And could you just give me your name and phone number, so he can reach you when he gets this?”

“Sure,” I said, barely hesitating.  I rattled off my cell phone number, and then, when I was sure she’d had long enough to write it down, I told her my name.

The pen scratches stopped.

“Casey Snow?”

“The one and only.”

“Like, Blake Parker, Casey Snow, Tanner Cole?”

“Like, Casey Sno
w, who the tabloids love to make up stories about.”

“Cool,” she said, her voice suddenly perking up.  “Well, I’ll absolutely pass this on to Zak, but if you’re coming to Los Angeles anyways, you sh
ould think about coming in here, too.  What do you think?”

“Don’t you represent Moving Neutral?”

“And about half the other artists on the top 20 lists in any given week.  I think you might find a meeting with us kind of… enlightening.  Listen, I’ll text you my contact info, and then you can decide, ok?  But I look forward to hearing from you.”

“Ok…” I said,
hesitating.  A meeting couldn’t hurt… or could it?  I wished, yet again, that I could talk to Blake about this stuff.  “Well anyways — thanks for getting the message across.  Happy holidays.”

Aww, you’re so cute.  Happy holidays to you too, Casey Snow.”

I closed my phone and set it down on the table, glancing around the room at the French and Italian novels that I could barely even recognize
the titles.  I curled my feet up in the uncomfortable plastic seat.

“Well,” I said to the empty room.  “
I guess that just happened.”


Chapter Eight


Three days went by before I heard from Liv, and each morning made me a little more nervous.  As hard as I tried to focus on exams, I still hadn’t come up with a Plan B for getting Blake to talk to me.  If this didn’t work, I’d have to start back at zero.

But as I made my way out of the library on Friday, my cell phone buzzed.  Looking down, I saw a text message from Liv. 

He’s in.  Friday night. 

When I called her back, she gave me the same address as the place I’d seen her band play that week.  The venue knew Blake was playing, but she assured me they wouldn’t promote him.  As far as anyone knew, it was just her band, just like before.

We spent an hour on the phone working out the plan, but I still felt my stomach flutter when I hung up.  Everything was in motion.  All that was left was to see how it played out. 



The next day,
as I walked back across campus to my dorm to get ready, I ducked down a path that I’d never taken before.  It was almost the end of the semester, but people hadn’t buckled down to study for exams quite yet, so I figured most of the department buildings would still be open for business.

I walked south down Columbia’s campus
, trying to force myself to think about the English paper I still had to write, the exams that were looming on the not-so-distant horizon.  I tried to think about multivariable calculus.

After a few minutes,
I sighed.  As hard as I tried, I couldn’t make myself think about anything but Blake. 

Walking to the far side of campus,
I passed crunchy, brown grass that the maintenance staff had clearly given up on until spring, hardly noticing the students with overstuffed backpacks and headphones.  Cold weather and final exams had definitely changed the tone of the campus—it felt like a million years ago that Darby and I had made our way in sundresses with dozens of nervous freshman girls to the sorority houses.

Consulting my
phone quickly, I found the building I was looking for and pulled open the heavy wooden door.

The building was on the far end of campus, so off my usual track that I’d never been inside. 
But today, I had a reason to go in.

Opening up a heavy wood door, t
he inside looked like someone had converted a catholic church into an office building, all maple moldings and intricate colored-glass windows.  My feet were muffled by an oriental rug as I made my way to the only person I saw, a man in his twenties with shaggy hair leaning over a desk in the center of the room. 

“Excuse me?” I
walked up behind him, trying not to startle him.  He hadn’t looked up since I’d opened the door, and I wasn’t sure he’d even noticed me.  “Is there someone who works here?”

He turned around, an easy smile on his face.  “That’s a good question,” he said.  “It seems to be just you and me.”

I frowned.  “So… do you work here?”

It’s a logical assumption.”

I frowned.  “Is that a yes or a no?”

“Depends.  What do you need?”

I frowned.  “Not the Cheshire cat,” I mumbled, and he snorted in response.  “I’m trying to sign up for some lessons.”

His smile widened.  “What kind of lessons?”  I opened my mouth, but he held up a hand to stop me.  “Let me guess.  Freshman girl, probably the top of her high school class… Piano?”

I glared at him,
shaking my head.


I rolled my eyes, shaking my head no again.


“Listen, I’ll just come back.”

“Ah, no, wait, I’ve got it.  Voice, huh?”

I paused for a second, and then shook my head a final time.  “Guitar,” I said, quiet and determined.  “I want guitar lessons.”

He looked me up and down, appraising
.  “You play guitar, huh?  Are you any good?”

I looked down at the
rug.  “No—I mean, not yet.  I’m a beginner, I guess.”

“Do you think you’re a little old to be starting a new instrument?”

I glared at him, eyes flashing.  “I’m eighteen.”

“Student here?”


“Why guitar?”

“Listen, I don’t think it’s any of your business.  If there’s someone here I could just talk to—”

“Ah,” he grinned, looking past me
at the doorway I’d come through.  “Good timing.  Here’s the department secretary.  She’ll get you all sorted out.”

I looked over my shoulder, and sure enough, a grey-haired lady in a business suit was walking towards us. 

“So who are you?” I asked, my eyes narrowing at the guy who’d obviously been messing with me for the past few minutes. 

He grinned.  “
I liked how you put it — I’m the Cheshire Cat.”  He turned to the woman, who was just in hearing range of the desk.  “Barb, take good care of this girl — she was just telling me she wanted to sign up for piano lessons.”

He caught my eyes with a smirk as he walked off down the hall, in the same direction that the woman had come from. 

I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at his back as he left.

“Of course, dear, let me see.  Piano lessons, hmmm…”

I sighed, and turned back to the woman.  “Sorry, He must have gotten confused.  Not piano.  I want to learn the guitar.”

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
10.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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