by Lisa Orchard
Release Date: 10/21/14
Lark Singer’s relationship with her mother is prickly to say the least. As she enters a musical competition that could launch her career, Lark also searches for answers her mother would rather keep hidden. Throw into the mix the fact her best friend Bean has been acting strangely, and Lark finds herself launched into uncharted territory. Will her quest for answers sabotage her musical aspirations?
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I want to be like Gideon Lee. My lips move as I read the title of my essay. They twitch as I stifle a snicker. Looking around the room, I make sure no one has seen my facial tic. My eyes light upon the Presidents’ pictures lined up on the wall. They face me, each with a unique expression, and I wonder what they were thinking while they posed. They are above the clock so my gaze naturally falls on it. It’s almost time for lunch.
I settle back in my seat and my lips twitch again. A feeling of defiant exhilaration washes over me like a tidal wave.
Montgomery’s going to freak when he reads this.
Despite my best efforts, a giggle escapes and the boy in front of me turns around and gives me the evil eye. I return the glare. He is slumped over, and sweat beads on his upper lip. I think this is odd — it’s rather chilly in the room — but dismiss it before I turn back to my essay.
I bet old man Montgomery doesn’t even know who Gideon Lee is. This thought sends another giggle to the surface, but I quickly squash it by biting my lip.
I picture him searching Gideon Lee’s name on the Internet. I see his expression changing from confusion to disgust. I imagine him taking off his black, thick-rimmed glasses and shaking his head. I hear him mutter, “Lark Singer, what are you doing?” He rubs his face. I can actually hear the rough sandpapery sound as his hand finds his day old stubble. He sighs and puts his glasses back on. “What am I going to do with you?”
I remember when Mr. Montgomery first told us about the assignment. We were supposed to write an essay on someone we admire, someone who has contributed to society in some way. I know when he says this he wants us to write about an a historical figure. After all this is history class, but I raised my hand anyway.
“Lark,” he called out as he stood at his lectern.
“Do they have to be dead?”
He cocked his head as he studied me with his piercing blue eyes. Then he ran his hand over his military style crew cut, and I watched as his salt and pepper hair flattened then popped back into place as if each hair was standing at attention. I could tell he wasn’t sure where this was going. “Well… I guess not.” That’s when he froze, as if he realized he had just opened a door for me and he wasn’t going to like what was on the other side. He shifted his weight, and looked down at the floor before he backpedaled. “But they have to have made a positive contribution to society. It can’t be about a mobster or anything like that.” Pursing his lips, he stared at me, fiddling with those glasses. “This is one half of your semester grade, Lark. I wouldn’t pull any funny stuff.”
“Oh, I won’t. Scout’s honor,” I answered sweetly, placing my hand over my heart and giving him the scout salute, while inside I planned my rebellion.
I have him. I’m going to write about Gideon Lee, and there’s nothing he can do about it.
Just as I snag my books, the boy with the curls stumbles, then collapses on the floor. Mr. Montgomery moves fast and is at his side in seconds. I watch all of this like it’s a silent movie. I can’t understand the voices and everything is moving in slow motion.
Mr. Montgomery yells at another student to buzz the office. The boy does this and our teacher shouts from his
kneeled position. “Get an ambulance here, ASAP!” He slaps the boy’s face gently, trying to revive him.
“Tweaker couldn’t manage his habit,” another student says, shaking his head and stepping over the boy on the way to the door.
Tweaker? What the heck is he talking about?
Mr. Montgomery seems to have heard him too, because he lifts the boy to his feet and attempts to get him moving. Another student steps in to help, and together they escort the boy around the room.
The boy wakes up enough to hurl all over Mr. Montgomery’s shirt and skinny tie. His head lolls to the side with his mouth hanging open. That’s my cue to leave. I can’t stand the smell of vomit. It makes me feel like puking. Go figure.
I hustle down the hall and head to my locker. After putting my books away, I make my way to the cafeteria. Picking up my pace, I search for Bean. He’s not in the stream of students heading toward the lunchroom, and I hope he’s already there, saving me a place in line.
When I enter the cafeteria, there are freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors milling about and my ears hurt from the buzz of a thousand different conversations. A random sample. The words float involuntarily through my brain and the image of my math teacher, Mr. Sweeney, comes to mind. We’re studying statistics and probability right now. It’s not my favorite subject.
Disappointed when I don’t see Bean anywhere, I rush forward and step into line, right before a chubby kid who’s in my science class. I give him a quick smile and turn my back on him to discourage conversation. He’s another one of those musically challenged individuals, and those people don’t get me. I’m an enigma as far as they’re concerned. Sniffing the air, I’m hoping for a whiff of what’s on the menu. I’m hoping it’s pizza, but I can’t tell. I can’t distinguish between the mixture of fried meat, the sickly sweet perfume that clings to many of the girls as they pass by, and the musky body spray some of the athletes s wear to cover a more ominous scent.
Scanning the cafeteria, I continue my search for Bean and finally spot him, his face floating above the crowd. He
sees me just as I see him and he gives me a slow smile and waves. I wave back and enjoy how my heartbeat quickens as a warm tingle starts in my belly and spreads throughout my body until I’m overwhelmed with its warmth. It’s like this every time I see him.
I motion for him to step in line with me. He moves forward with that gangly walk he has. Bean is all legs and arms. Everything about him is tall and thin. Even his hair is skinny, clinging to his scalp as if it were holding on for dear life. He keeps it short just because it’s so thin. Otherwise, he’d have long hair just like the boy in my history class.
Brushing a stray lock out of his eyes, Bean gives me a slow, lazy smile. “What’s on the menu, Chickie?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I’m hoping for pizza.”
“Ahhh… Italiano.” He winks at me as he twirls an imaginary mustache and draws out the word Itaaaaalllliiiiaaano with a thick accent.
“We can only hope.” I give him a quick grin and he cuts in line ahead of me.
His jeans hang on his frame as if his legs go straight into his back, as if he doesn’t have an ass. I smile when I see the drumsticks wedged in his pocket.
Good old Bobby Bean… never without his sticks. He turns and flicks his blond hair out of his pale blue eyes again. There is a distance, a far-awayness in them that never seems to go away even when he’s focusing on you, as if he isn’t always entirely there.
He has been my best friend since third grade, ever since I broke Dwayne McIntyre’s nose during recess. His real name is Robert, but everyone calls him Bean because he’s so thin. Sometimes, when I’m feeling playful I’ll call him Bobby Bean. He hates that. He says it sounds babyish, but I don’t care. I like it.
“Hey,” I say, poking him in the back.
“Hey what?” he asks, turning around.
“A dude passed out in history class.”
“Really? Wow. That blows,” Bean says as he steps back and allows another student to pass through the line.
“Yeah. And then he did an epic hurl all over Montgomery.”
Bean snickers. “So how did the Old Historian handle that one?”
We share a conspiratorial laugh at the expense of Mr. Montgomery. Then I say, “The dude even got his skinny tie.”
Bean laughs aloud at this. One of his full belly laughs, which is hard to do since he doesn’t have a big belly. It gets the attention of several students standing around us. Bean smirks at them, turns toward me, and winks.
I smile and then grow quiet as I think back to last year when Bean dubbed Mr. Montgomery the Old Historian. We had been standing in the lunch line, much like we are today. He had been complaining about all the homework Mr. Montgomery had assigned.
“Dude gives us way too much homework,” Bean had said, shaking his head and frowning.
“Most teachers do,” I had responded with a sigh.
“What’s so great about history anyway? Everyone is dead. You can’t go back and change anything.” Bean had moved forward in line. When he caught up to the student in front of him, he turned and said, “That Old Historian needs to get a life, something to jazz up his mothball existence. I mean really. Skinny ties? Who wears those anymore?”
As I shred my Gibson, my troubles float away with the notes I create. Music has always been a release for me. As I relax lyrics form and I’m singing the words floating through my brain.
You’re like a rainstorm on a dry parched desert…
That’s what you do to my soul…
You fill that dry empty hole
Where my heart used to be
You turn it from dust to lush beauty…
You do all this with the warmth of your smile…
A touch of your hand…
I’d walk for a mile for that touch…
I send a riff to Bean and he gives me a quick grin as he finishes with a drum roll and the crash of his cymbal. “Those are awesome lyrics,” Bean says, but I catch the gleam in his eye and prepare for his teasing. “If you’re into that mushy crap.”
“Shut up.” I give him one of my death glares.
“No, really. It’s great. You must be singing about me,” he says and winks at Stevie. “That’s what I do to your soul.”
“That’s what music does to my soul,” I retort with a smug smile, even though I feel the heat of a blush spreading over me. “It has nothing to do with you.”
“Sure. Chickie. Sure.” Bean leans back on his stool and stretches his hands over his head. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to admit, you’ve got the hots for me.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Don’t you wish!”
While Bean and I are having this exchange, Stevie’s unplugging his guitar and putting it away.
“Awww…come on. One more song,” Bean protests.
Stevie shakes his head. “I can’t. I’ve got a test tomorrow.” He shoots Bean an apologetic smile and puts his guitar in its case. Bean and I watch in silence, as he prepares to leave. “I’ll catch you guys tomorrow,” he says, buttoning up his coat.
“Yeah. Later, dude.” Bean gives him a wave of his drumstick. Then he points it at me and says, “One more song.”
“Sure.” I stand and push the button on the garage door. It rumbles to life, groaning as it rises.
We watch Stevie stroll away, his guitar case strapped to his back bouncing with his movements. Before he disappears, he turns and gives us a final wave. I close the garage door and pick up my guitar once more.
“Let’s work on that first one again,” Bean says as he gets into position.
I rifle through the lead sheets until I come to the first song we played. I like the energy in this tune; so far, it’s my favorite out of all the music we’ve cranked out today. I look at Bean and he gives me the nod. That quick dip of his head telling me he’s ready. It’s a classic Beaner move.
After this last song, I’m exhausted. Bean begs to continue playing, but I protest, telling him I have homework too. I’m amazed at his energy.
“I could play for ten more hours,” he tells me as he steps from behind his drums and stretches.
“I can tell.” I give him an exasperated look. “All of these songs have potential.” I wave at the lead sheets. “Even though we couldn’t play, you’ve been busy.”
“You got that right, Chickie.”
“Well… I hate to kick you out, but I’m starving.”
He holds his hands up in front of him as if he were surrendering. “I’m going, I’m going.”
“See you tomorrow.”
“Later,” he says as he pulls on his coat and shoves his drumsticks into his back pocket. Bean turns and waits for me to hit the garage door opener. As it rises, he ducks under it and disappears into the night. I stroll forward, wrapping my sweater around me, hugging myself against the cold.
A smile pulls at the corners of my mouth as I watch him disappear under a street light and then reappear minutes later under another one, his blond hair flopping with his signature gangly walk. I watch him until he’s gone.
Blowing on my hands to warm them, I turn and stare at the full moon. It hangs low in the sky like a snow white Christmas ornament hanging on a thin branch of an evergreen tree. I marvel at its awesome brilliance. The sky is so clear and the moon feels so close that I can almost reach out and touch it.
I am the oldest of four children and grew up in a small town in Western Michigan. I grew up reading mysteries, starting with "The Bobbsey Twins" and "The Nancy Drew" series.
By fifth grade I was writing my own mysteries and illustrating them as well. I've always known that I wanted to be a writer and I tucked that little piece of information into the back of my brain; determined to take it out and use it when it was time.
After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree, I landed a sales job. I was on my way! After spending 13 years in the Insurance industry, I met my husband. We soon married and had two beautiful boys. I decided to stay home with my kids. A tough decision, but one I don't regret.
I did, however, miss the hustle and bustle of work - and working toward a goal. That is when the little voice inside my brain said, "It's time to write."
So I did, and "The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer" was born, followed by my new book, "The Super Spies and the High School Bomber."
I am very excited as I begin this new "chapter" in my life.