Thirty-Eight: Sing

Taylor

“No way.”

“Come on! Why not?”

“NO. I am not buying that video.”

“Stop being unreasonable,” I said, exasperated. “Besides, you bought that other one.”

“I got that other one online,” she said, “that way, no one would see me buying it. Someone might see me here tonight.”

“It’s almost midnight! On Christmas, no less! Who here is going to see you?” I demanded.

She grabbed the copy of Tulsa, Tokyo, and the Middle of Nowhere from my hand and quickly tossed it back on the shelf. “You never know, Taylor. I have a reputation to uphold.”

“You don’t want to see little Taylor? How rude. I’ve had to look at your memorabilia, why shouldn’t you look at mine?”

“I’ve seen quite enough of ‘little’ Taylor in my lifetime. I’ve almost seen enough of ‘big’ Taylor as well…”

I scowled as I followed her down the aisle. “You’re really stubborn, you know that?”

“Yes,” she said absentmindedly as she turned a corner. She turned and grinned. “But face it, Taylor, you wouldn’t have me any other way.”

True, I thought. But I kept the scowl. “Whatever.”

“Now why don’t you shut up and help me pick out some good junk food?” she asked. She grabbed my arm and dragged me along behind her.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I muttered, looking longingly behind me.

“OK, here we go,” she said, leading me to the food section of the store. We wandered down the junk food aisle and stood, in awe of the vast selection. I could practically feel my teeth rotting, just looking at it.

“Twinkies?” she asked.

“Yeah… and some of those Little Debbie snack cakes…” I grabbed a box and threw it into the cart.

“Doritos…. Cheetos….. Fritos….” She paused. “Odd, isn’t it? They all have the same suffix… ‘itos’…..”

I rolled my eyes. “Only you would use a word like ‘suffix’ instead of just saying ‘ending’. They all have the same ending.

She narrowed her grayish eyes at me. “Excuse me for trying to educate you a little. If you want to continue to live your life in ignorance…”

“You sound like my mother,” I said dryly. “I think you two would get along well.”

“Well, I certainly admire her,” she replied. “Putting up with you for almost twenty years.” She grinned. “She ought to get some kind of Medal of Honor for that.”

I scowled again. “I see how you are. And here I thought we were friends.” I gave her the classic Taylor Hanson pout. Usually it worked on those of the teenage female persuasion… not this time, though.

“You’ll get over it,” she said breezily. “OK, now how about some doughnuts?”

“Doughnuts?”

“Yeah. That sounds damn good right about now.”

“Whatever you say,” I replied. I tapped the side of my chin before speaking again. “Yeah, get some glazed. Not those powdery kind.”

“OK.” She glanced in the cart. “Hey, you wanna do me a favor?”

“Not particularly.”

She ignored that. “Why don’t you go get the detergent and dishwashing stuff while I’m picking out the drinks and doughnuts? Then you just meet me over there. We’ll get done quicker.”

I stared at her. “So, you want me to carry large objects around the store in plain sight?”

“There’s hardly anyone here. You can manage it.”

“Yet you won’t even buy that video for us to watch?”

“That’s different.”

“Of course it is.” I sighed. “Alright. What kind do you want?”

“Um…. Tide, and Cascade, I guess. Doesn’t really matter.”

“Alright, I’ll be right back.” I turned and walked off.

I sang softly to myself as I made my way back across the store. At least I’m sounding better, I thought to myself. Lately, I’d started practicing, trying to get my voice warmed up and used to singing again. It was rough at first, but I already noticed major improvement in just a few weeks. And now that Alley had gotten me the keyboard, I would be able to start working on that as well.

I still can’t believe she bought that. It must have cost a fortune. I know she doesn’t  care about money, but still…


I suddenly realized that I’d been lost in my own thoughts and walking in circles for the past few minutes. “Where the hell is the laundry stuff?” I muttered out loud. It would have helped if she’d been a little more specific. I considered turning back and asking her, but I decided that might not be the best idea.

After wandering aimlessly for several more minutes, I finally stumbled upon the right aisle. I picked up the box of Tide, glancing around suspiciously before returning back down the aisle. I stayed close to the shelves, planning to throw the box down if anyone should appear. But thankfully, the coast was clear.

I found the dishwashing stuff and headed back to find Allison. Retracing my steps was fairly simple, and soon I was standing in front of endless shelves of cookies and snacks. But, of course, she was nowhere to be seen. I sighed irritably and ambled down the aisle.

“HEY!” I bellowed. “ALLEY! Where are you?” My voice echoed slightly against the white-tiled floor and shelves.

“Hello?” I called out again. I heard footsteps behind me, and, thinking it was her, I turned around. I caught a flash of long black hair disappear around the corner. Damn. I had probably just scared some poor girl out of her mind. Hefting the boxes under my arms, I set off at a jog, determined to check every aisle until I found a certain blond-haired girl. A certain blond-haired girl who was going to get it when we got home.

“God, stop yelling, Taylor, I’m right here.” I halted and whirled around to see Allison staring at me oddly.

“Where were you?” I demanded. “I came back here and you were gone!”

“Yeah,” she said slowly, “because you were supposed to meet me over in the bakery section. I was starting to think you’d run off or something until I heard your screaming.”

“Oh,” I said sheepishly. “I guess I wasn’t listening very well.”

“As usual.” She took the boxes out of my hand. “Well, are we ready to go?”

“Yep.”

We headed to the front of the store to check out. Being as late as it was, there wasn’t a line to wait in, so we walked right up to the counter and she began dumping the stuff onto it. While she chatted with the cashier and paid for our things, I wandered around behind her, looking at the tabloids. Ridiculous, as always. Yawning, I stretched and turned my body slightly, once more seeing something black whirl past from the corner of my eye. I jerked around, trying to see who it was, but managed to get my shoelace caught in the bottom of one of the shelves. I tripped and sprawled to the floor in a heap.

“Fuck!” I growled, rubbing my elbow. I heard Allison cough loudly several times, and I rolled myself over to glare at her. Her back was to me, but I could see her shoulders shaking slightly. Presumably from laughter.

“Shut up,” I said as I untangled my shoe from the shelf. “Not like you’re the queen of gracefulness or anything.”

“Your total is 54 dollars and 57 cents,” the cashier said cheerfully. Allison handed her a check, grabbed the cart, and took off out of the store. Once we were outside, she burst out laughing.

“I can’t take you anywhere, I swear,” she gasped. “I thought I was going to lose it there for a second.”

“Not like that’s anything new.”

“What the hell were you doing, anyway?”

“I’ll have you know that I was trying to get a good look at your stalker.” I scowled, pretending to be hurt.

“My stalker?”

“Yes. I kept seeing the same person while we were in there.”

“What did he look like?”

“Actually I think it was a she, they had long hair. But I didn’t get a good look at the face. Actually I didn’t see the face at all… Just a flash of black.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well, good detective work there. But you can’t assume it was a girl, Taylor. I mean, hell, you have long hair. Long, pretty hair. Hair that most girls would die for. Hair that--”

“--I get the point,” I said, cutting her off.

“Well, I’m just saying…”

“Let’s just get in the car.”

She laughed. “I agree.”

  We dumped the groceries in the back and headed back home. She turned the radio to a classic rock station, one of the few things we could agree on. She sang, like she always did, and she was loud and off key, like she always was. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“What are you laughing at?” she demanded. “I suppose you think you can do better?” Her grin was a mile long.

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Well, let’s hear it.” She looked over at me and arched one eyebrow, that grin still on her face.

“Hear what?”

“I want to hear you sing.”

“You’ve heard me sing before.”

“I mean really sing. You’ve never been serious before, you were always just messing around.”

“Well, I, uh—“ I stammered. Now that I thought about it, I guess that was true. I’d always just assumed she didn’t want to hear it, as much as she made fun of me for being a Hanson. “You’ve heard our songs before, and you hate them.”

“Well, yes,” she said. “But that was a long time ago. I haven’t really heard anything recent on the radio.”

“No surprises there,” I muttered under my breath.

“But besides,” she continued. “Hearing something live is completely different.”

“But we watched the Filmore video… that was live…”

“Dammit Taylor!”

“Alright, alright!” I patted her shoulder reassuringly. “OK. What do you want me to sing?”

She shrugged. “I dunno. You decide.” She looked behind her shoulder. “I have some CDs back there, if you want to look through them, you know, if you wanted to sing along with something, if you’d feel more comfortable…”

“Um, OK.” I grabbed the CD holder and started digging through it. I picked up one that didn’t have anything written on it. “What’s this?”

“I burned it. It’s got, um….” She scrunched her nose, thinking. “Powderfinger, Fiona Apple, The Band, Rage Against the Machine…”

“Well, variety is the spice of life,” I said dryly. “Did you say The Band? What song?”

“The Weight.”

I grinned. “I’ll do that one.”

“I really like that song…. You better not butcher it.” She laughed.

“I’ll try not to.”

I pushed the CD into the player and the music poured through the speakers. She leaned over and turned it down. “I want to be able to hear you over him,” she said.

I nodded. “OK.” I wrung my hands, feeling a little nervous, although I wasn’t really sure why. I had done this thousands of times before. I closed my eyes and pushed those thoughts out of my mind.

“I pulled into Nazareth, I was feeling ‘bout half past dead…I just need a place, where I can lay my head…”


The next four minutes disappeared. I belted it out, concentrating on putting everything I had into this one song. Showing off? Maybe. But one reason I had always loved music was because it really was an outlet, as clichéd as that sounds. I thought of my feelings for her as I sang, those emotions that were getting me nowhere and probably never would. I thought of my family back in Tulsa, spending the holidays, once again, without me. My eyes were closed, my head was tilted slightly back, and my hands were clenched in my lap.

The song ended, and I felt more relaxed than I had been in ages. I sighed deeply and tentatively opened my eyes, looking over. She was staring at me, mouth gaping open.

“Watch the road,” I said, smiling tiredly at her. “We’re about to miss the turn.”

She whirled her head back to the front and jerked the steering wheel to the left and turned onto our road, tires screeching. I gripped the side handle and the dashboard, my knuckles turning white.

“Damn, woman,” I said. “Was it that bad?”

She looked at me again with a God, you’re ignorant look on her face. “I think you know that wasn’t bad.”

“I dunno,” I said, shrugging. “It sounds different to me than it does other people.” I glanced over at her. “What did you think? Really.”

She chuckled. “As much as I wanted to be able to tease you about your singing…. I don’t think I have much ground to stand on there. It was good. Really.”

“Really?” I said incredulously, sitting up in my seat and leaning towards her. “You’re being serious?”

“Do I look like I’m joking?” She steered the car carefully into the driveway and turned off the engine.

“Well,” I said, hesitating. “I wasn’t sure.”

“I know I make fun of you all the time, but really, I’m serious.” She unbuckled her seat belt and got out of the car. “Come on, let’s get inside and eat.”

I got out, grabbing the groceries and following her inside. The house was eerily quiet. I assumed Louise was still upstairs in her room. Probably  writing a letter to the nearest insane asylum about us. I dumped the bags on the counter and we grabbed the snacks and headed for the living room.

“What do you want to watch?” she asked, walking over to the television.

“Ah, I don’t care. You pick.”

“No, you pick.”

After debating back and forth like this for about five minutes, we settled on Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I sat down, she leaned against me, and we spread our small buffet out around us.  We spent the next two hours eating, laughing, enjoying each other’s company.

Allison yawned loudly as the credits rolled, rubbing her face into my shoulder and arm. I laughed softly.

“Tired?”

“Yeah. And full.” She groaned, covering her stomach.

“Same here.” I patted her head. “You should go on to bed, before you fall asleep right here.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” She stood up, stretching her arms over her head. “You coming?”

“I’ll be up in a second. I just want to, um…” I hesitated. “Think.”

She smiled. “I understand.” She sat back down for a second, gazing at me, a soft smile on her face. “You know, I meant what I said earlier. About your singing.”

“Thanks,” I mumbled. “It was nothing, though. My voice is still a little rough, I need a lot of practice.”

“You know how much I love music,” she said. “Enough to know that it’s not necessarily about perfect pitch or harmonies. It’s about passion, and putting everything you’ve got into your work.” She paused. “And in those terms, it was amazing. You didn’t write that song, but you might as well have.”

“Uh….” I stammered. “Well, singing always makes me feel better.”

“Yeah…” She patted my knee. “You know, if you need to talk… I’ll listen. I know I’m a little… moody, to put it mildly, but I can be a good confidante. Besides, you’ve listened to me, Lord, hundreds of times.”

I leaned back, grinning lazily at her. “Too true.”

She squeezed my knee hard, making me yelp. “Smartass. Well, I’m going to bed.”

“Goodnight.” I reached my arms out to her for a hug, and she complied. “Thanks, Alley.”

“You’re welcome.” She kissed my cheek and ruffled my hair before walking down the hall and upstairs.

I flipped the TV off and sat alone in the dim light, my eyes closed. The house was silent except for the gentle hum of the overhead fan. It felt nice to clear my thoughts and relax, and in fact, I was so relaxed that I felt myself slipping into the first stages of sleep. I probably would have continued into dreamland if a voice hadn’t startled me.

“It’s true, isn’t it?”

“Huh?” I grunted, opening my bleary eyes and looking around. To my complete shock, Louise was sitting on the couch across from me. I was confused. When had she come in? I glanced at the clock, surprised to see that I’d been downstairs for nearly an hour. Hmmm. Maybe I really had fallen asleep.

“What?” I asked a little more clearly.

“It’s true.” This time it was a statement. She sat quietly, her chin resting in her hand, a pensive look on her face. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Yeah,” I said softly, immediately knowing what she was talking about. “It’s true.” I scratched my head. “But why are you telling me this now? At almost four o’clock in the morning?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

She was confusing me more by the moment. “So, you’ve been awake thinking about it and decided we were telling the truth?”

“After I left, I came back here…I was really mad at first--”

That’s an understatement,
I thought.

“—because I thought you were playing some kind of stupid joke. Then, I got worried. You all seemed so serious, and I was thinking, ‘she’s lost her mind.’ I mean, it’s so absurd, unbelievable, but you two were just acting like it was nothing. I thought maybe, you were both, you know--”

“Crazy?” I supplied.

She blushed and smiled softly. “Well, yes.”

“What changed your mind?”

“I started remembering every odd thing that’s happened here in the past six months… little things, like noticing the pillow on the couch has been moved when you turn your back, or strange noises here and there…. And it make me think. So I followed you all--”

“I knew it!” I said triumphantly. “That was you in the store!”

“—yes. You almost caught me that last time.” She laughed. “But that’s when I decided it was true.”

“Why?”

“Because….” She struggled with her words. “It was like you weren’t really there.

“Um, OK…”

“No one noticed you… except for Alley. You were yelling, running… hell, you fell down right in front of the cash register… no one said a word, even looked your way.” She rubbed her hands together. “Your explanation began to make sense. And truth is often stranger than fiction, I’ve learned.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve gotten rather used to that.” I chuckled. “Imagine our surprise when you walked in and asked to be introduced.”

“I can only imagine,” she said softly. She looked at the clock and sighed. “Well, I just wanted to apologize to you…. And I’ll have to talk to her tomorrow as well.”

“Well, thanks,” I said. “And I’m sorry about the whole situation. It’s more than a little bizarre.”

“You shouldn’t apologize. You can’t control fate.”

I smiled. “No, I guess not.” I stood up. “I should go to bed.”

“Same here.”

We walked upstairs together, quietly. When we reached the top, I headed for Allison’s room while she walked down the hall.

“You know, you can sleep in the guest room now. I know she can be a rough sleeper sometimes. And she talks in her sleep.”

“I, uh, well, it doesn’t bother me.” I was blushing furiously. “I don’t mind.”

She smirked. “Somehow, I didn’t think it did. Goodnight, Taylor.” She walked into her room, leaving me standing in Allison’s doorway with a goofy grin and a red face.