Thirty Four: Magic Carpet Ride

Taylor
December 25 -- Christmas Day


“Sleigh bells ring.... are ya listening... in the lane.... snow is glistening....” I sang softly to the empty house.  My voice echoed eerily in the foyer, causing Chester to come running down the stairs, an alarmed look on his furry face. I chuckled, leaning down to pet him.

“A beautiful sight.... we’re happy tonight...” I murmured. “Walkin’ in a winter wonderland.”

Chester purred loudly, nuzzling my hand with the side of his face. I smiled smugly. And to think, only months ago he refused to even come near me. I walked into the kitchen, and he followed, so I decided to give him a treat.

The clock on the far wall said 9:25. I leaned against the counter, wondering how I was going to waste another thirty-five minutes. Allison had promised to be home by ten. She was currently with Louise and her family across town. She apparently spent every Christmas with Louise’s family, since both of her parents were gone and she had no siblings. She had actually been quite upset that I didn’t go with her to Louise’s for the day, it being Christmas and all, but I’d told her it was pointless. 

“Come on,” she’d said, grabbing my arm fiercely and pulling me towards her. “Go with me. I feel bad leaving you all alone on Christmas Day.”

“No, no,” I’d argued. “I’ll just distract you.  You don’t need all of Louise’s family thinking you’ve gone nuts, too.”

“But--”

“No,” I’d said. “I’ll be fine.” She grudgingly accepted.

That was last night. Early this afternoon, she and Louise had gathered up their presents and headed over to the Sorrell family headquarters. Now, I was almost regretting not going with them. I was bored, lonely, and had struggled all day to not wonder about my family.

Thirty more minutes. Hmmm...A nap sounds good,
I thought. Definitely. I walked over to the couch and sprawled across it, closing my eyes.

I didn’t even remember falling asleep, but the next thing I knew, two big hazel eyes were directly in front of mine and my face was being lightly slapped.

I scowled. “What the hell?”

“Wake up, Taylor.” Allison kneeled on the floor next to me, grinning.

“Stop hitting me,” I grumbled, trying to roll over.

“Not until you get up. I have something for you.”

My eyes shot wide and I sat straight up. “What?”

She smirked, patting my knee. “I figured that would work.” She grabbed my hand. “Come on.”

I acquiesced, clutching her hand and standing up. “So, how was the Christmas thing? Where’s Louise?”

“The Christmas thing was fine.... Louise won’t be home until later... she decided to stay longer. One of her cousins had to leave early, and he gave me a ride home.”

“Ah, OK.”

She led me down the hall, practically skipping. I still felt a little woozy from sleep, and tried not to stumble as I followed. She sure was in a good mood. And she’d gotten me something? I’d thought we had decided not to do that.

We approached a door on the left, and she stopped in front of it, fishing around in her pocket for a key. The room we were about to enter was the formal dining room, and she usually kept the door locked or at least closed, to keep the cat from getting in and causing chaos. She found the key and opened the door, leading me into the dark room.

“Close your eyes,” she commanded.

“Why? It’s dark in here anyway, I can’t see a damn thing....” I scrunched my eyes shut.

“Fine. Here, I don‘t trust you to keep them closed.” She ducked behind me and covered my eyes with her hands. They smelled like apples. “OK, now walk forward a little....” She kept one hand over both my eyes and used the other to flip on the light switch. “A little more. OK. You can open them now.” She released her hands and stood back away from me.

“Should I be afraid?”

“Maybe...” she chuckled.

I opened my eyes, letting them adjust to the bright light for a second. Then my jaw promptly unhinged and slammed against the floor.

Nestled next to the wall, quietly waiting for me, was a keyboard. Not just any keyboard. A huge, beautiful, black Kurzweil keyboard. Full scale, practically the size of a piano. All 88 keys. Various effects buttons and whatnot scattered across the top.  A black leather-covered bench sat in front of it.

“Well?”

I knew I should turn toward her and offer some sort of answer, but I couldn’t. My throat felt tight and I realized that my hands were shaking. She had bought me a keyboard. There was no telling how much that thing must have cost.

“Do you like it?”

I finally allowed myself to face her. Her eyes were wide and a little uncertain at this point, probably since I hadn’t uttered a word since I’d opened mine. I offered her a trembling smile, hoping my voice wouldn’t break.

“I.... I love it.” I quickly wiped the back of my hand across my face and eyes.

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, good. I was worried there for a second....” She eyed me suspiciously. “Do you really like it?”

“I love it.... I.... this is... I can’t believe you got this...” I choked out a laugh. “Allison....thank you. Thank you.”

“Awww,” she said, coming over to hug me. “You’re welcome. I thought you needed a good Christmas present.”

“But I didn’t get you anything,” I whispered. “I thought--”

She interrupted me. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t need anything. But you needed this. You’re a musician, Taylor. One without any way of creating music at the present time.”

“I-I....” I was now reduced to a stammering fool. I buried my face in her neck and sniffled, feeling idiotic and yet strangely alive. “This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”

“Taylor!!” she said, a little alarmed. “Are you OK?” She patted my back tentatively.

I could only nod.

“Well.... why don’t you try it out?” She backed away from me and smiled, beckoning towards the bench.

“Um, OK.” I managed to match her smile despite my quivering lips and eyes.  I sat down on the bench and scooted it up, trying to adjust. I placed my hands on top off the keys, relishing the cool, smooth surface of the majors and minors. How long had it been since I’d played? I couldn’t even begin to count the days.

I bit my lip, trying to remember something to play, and was slightly alarmed when I realized I didn’t know where to begin. I hesitantly tried out a few chords and scales, aware of Allison’s watchful eyes.

“Um....” I turned to face her. “Turn around.”

“What?!”

“I can’t play with you watching. It’s making me nervous.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’ll play for millions of screaming freaks, but you won’t even play for me? FOR ME?!”

I laughed at her drama. “Well.... I need to practice. I don’t think I remember anything right off the top of my head right now...”

She sighed heavily, but her eyes crinkled in a smile. “Well, alright. I’ll give you a few days to get warmed up to it. But then --” She pointed a finger at me, shaking it ominously. “-- then, you better give me a show. Alright?”

“Alright.” I stood up, reluctant to leave my new toy. “Come on, tell me about your evening.” I followed her back out into the hallway, heading toward the living room.

“Nothing to tell, really,” she replied. “Ate a lot, drank a lot, gossiped a lot, opened a few presents.” She tapped the counter
thoughtfully. “Wait a minute. That reminds me!” With a grin, she dashed out of the room and upstairs.

I shrugged to myself and sat down on the couch. She was full of surprises today.

A few minutes later she came bounding down the stairs with a small box in her hand. “I can’t believe I almost forgot about this! I’ve been meaning to show you for a week.”

She tossed the box at me and I barely caught it, the smooth cardboard slipping through my fingers. I grabbed it, though, and held it upright. I laughed out loud when I read the title.

“Hanson Live at the Filmore
. Where did you get this?!” I grinned. “Don’t tell me you actually went out and bought it -- someone might have seen you!”

She grinned cheekily. “Of course not. I ordered it online.”

I burst out laughing. “I see. But why?”

“Well, you’re always defending your music. You know, all that crap about not being just a lip-synching, dancing pop band... to me, a live show is the indicator of a good band. If you can’t pull it off live, then you can forget it.” She smiled. “Here’s your chance, Taylor. Show me what you’ve got.”

“Oh, we will.” I tossed the box back at her. “Put it in, miss thang.”

She pushed the tape in the VCR before grabbing the remote and throwing herself down next to me. I watched, smiling softly, as my brothers and I took the audience through a small tour of the Filmore.

“You’re such a nerd.” She rolled her eyes as on-screen Taylor attempted to be suave and sophisticated.

“Hey, I didn’t write the script,” I joked. My brothers and I took the stage and launched into You Never Know.  “Hey, I’m gonna get something to drink. You want anything?”

“Yeah, the usual,” she replied.

I went to the kitchen, fixed both of us an Ale8 (she had me addicted to them by now), and retreated back into the living room. I walked in stealthily, quietly watching her watching me. I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed her slightly bobbing her head to the beat and tapping her hand against the couch.

“Enjoying it, are we?” I smirked as I handed her the drink.

Her head jerked up, and a light blush spread across her cheeks. “Enjoying? Hardly.” She smiled.

“Whatever.” I sat down next to her. “But really, what do you think about it?”

“I think those pants you’re wearing are hideous.”

I sighed. “You’d made a fine music critic.”

We spent the next hour watching the video. While the songs played, I explained to her how they came to be written, what they were about, and anything else I could think of that was interesting. I actually wasn’t entirely sure if she was even listening. She merely nodded at my words, her eyes remaining glued to the screen. Despite what she had said earlier, she seemed to be enjoying herself. Well, that is, until we played Mmmbop.

“Gimme the remote,” she demanded. “I’m very sorry, Taylor, but I can’t handle this.”

“No,” I said grinning. “You said you were going to watch it, and I’ll be damned if we’re going to skip anything.”

“Give it to me!” She leaped from her sitting position, launching herself at me.

“ARGH!” I screamed as her knee collided with my collarbone and we fell to the floor in a heap, banging ungracefully into the coffee table. Laughing, I used my legs to push it far out of the way, giving us room to wrestle. All the time, I still held the remote high above my head in my left hand, just out of her reach.

“TAYLOR!” She attempted to crawl over my chest to grab it, but I blocked her with my arm. She shrieked in indignation as I managed to roll us both over until I had her pinned to the floor, one knee on either side of her stomach, and my free hand pinning her wrists down.

“Looks like you don’t have a choice,” I said, smirking.

“Lemme go,” she mumbled, struggling. “This is TORTURE!”

  I was so tempted to start singing along with the television. “Would you rather I sing it for you live, right now? Just give me a few minutes, I could go back to the keyboard and practice....”

“You’re a FREAK!”

I laughed loudly, sitting back and letting her wrists go. Thankfully, for her, anyway, the song ended. The opening of Magic Carpet Ride began. She turned her head toward the screen and sighed with relief.

“Finally, a song with a little class,” she teased. I poked her in the ribs. She slapped at my hands, but didn’t attempted to throw me off. I wondered if she thought it was odd that I was still sitting on her.

Last night I held Aladdin’s lamp, and so wished that I could stay,” she began singing loudly and offkey. I grimaced.

“Please, Alley. You’re ruining a classic.”

“Why, you little--” She attempted to sit up, knocking me off balance. I fell on my back and she pounced on me. I fought back and we rolled all over the floor, wrestling and giggling. We were having so much fun, in fact, that we didn’t even hear the door slam.

“ALLISON!” Louise’s shocked voice was barely heard over the din.

Allison’s eyes widened in horror and she disengaged herself from my grip and stood up quickly, frantically smoothing out her wrinkled clothes. I sat still, staring at the both of them, wondering how in the hell she was going to explain this little escapade.

“Um... uh... hey.” It seemed she was going for the ‘less is more’ approach. I glanced up at the clock, and saw it was just seconds past midnight.

Louise chuckled, and shook her head, choosing not to say anything, which I found rather odd.

“Um... IthinkI’llgogetreadyforbed,” Allison mumbled almost incoherently, pushing the stop button on the remote and throwing it down. She took off towards the stairs but Louise stopped her with one hand, an incredulous look on her face.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”