A hand was shaking me, interrupting my dreams of Claire. I felt like I'd just fallen asleep. It had been a tremendously long, hard journey from Massachusetts to Florida, and I'd finally found an unlocked door on what had looked like an airplane hanger and now I was being woken up by this... voice.
"Little guy... wake up, little guy."
I blinked my eyes opened slowly and was greeted by an oblong head with a tall forehead, and dark brown cow-like eyes. I did not know this guy.
His numbers were oddly low, though, which perked my curiosity for a moment.
Then I realized we were not alone.
I sat up quickly; the hanger was full of people, all talking loudly, the conversations echoing off the walls and ceilings of the dome in which we were all contained. Everyone in the hanger was a teenage guy. What the hell?
"Sorry," I muttered.
"Nah, it's cool," the offender said shrugging. "Just everyone's been cutting you for about three hours now and my Ma said to wake ya up." He nodded at a woman that stood behind him, fussing over a folder.
"Oh," I said.
"I can't believe you can sleep in here," he said, "I could never sleep in here. It's too freaking loud, you know?"
"Watch your mouth mister," the woman said automatically.
He rolled his eyes. "Anyways, my name's Alex. What's yours?"
"Nick, cool. Where's your 'rents Nick?" he asked, looking around.
"I... they... aren't here," I stuttered.
Alex's eyes raised and he looked back at the woman. "Maaaa, see? This kid's like ten and he's not chaperoned."
"I'm thirteen," I said defensively.
"I don't care what everyone else is doing Alex," muttered his mother, not even looking up from the folder. "If everyone else was jumping off the Empire State Building would you follow'em?"
Alex rolled his eyes again. "Ma, can I see the sheets?" he turned back to her, clearly done talking to me.
I took advantage of the opportunity to look around at the hanger. There were probably a thousand guys or more there... I clutched the straps of the duffle bag full of my thirteen year old clothes, saved from 1975, and pulled the bag a little closer to my side. Why are all these dudes standing around? Is this some kind of huge boy scouts meeting? A comic book convention?
Suddenly Alex was back in my face.
"What're you singing?" he asked.
"For the audition?" he said, as though I were stupid for not knowing. Which I probably was.
"Oh, for the audition," my mouth went dry. Yeah, go ahead, get out of this one, Nick. I racked my brain for a song I knew. "Uh I'll- I'll sing, uh..."
"You didn't prepare anything?" Alex asked, shocked.
"Ma, this kid didn't prepare crap!"
"Alex, really, watch your mouth." His mother looked at me for the first time and frowned, "I thought the audition was for fifteen and up?" she looked at a newspaper that was folded under her arm.
Seeing my opportunity, I said, "Oh damn, is it?"
"See? He swears too!" Alex whined.
His mother frowned, "Alex."
"I'm just sayin'... he's like ten..."
"I'm thirteen," I repeated.
"Hey, who's the short guy?" A latino guy, wearing way too many sequins suddenly appeared at Alex's mom's side, carrying two plastic cups.
Alex snatched one away from the latino and said, "That's Nick. He's badass."
"Alex, if I have to talk to you one more time about your language..."
"Yeah, yeah ma.. I know. Sorry." Alex downed the cup.
"Hey Nick, I'm Tony."
Alex snorted. "That's his stage name."
Tony glared at Alex. "Excuse me for wanting to maintain privacy after we're two fifths of the next New Kids on the Block. They get stalkers, you know."
Alex nodded eagerly, then winked at me. "Yeah... I know."
"You don't look fifteen, Nick," Tony said.
"I'm thirteen," I said.
"You're thirteen?" Alex asked, bewildered, "No f-" he stole a glance at his mom, who was reading, but decided not to chance it. "No way!" Apparently he hadn't heard me the first two times I'd said it.
"Well, I am..." I answered. Wish I wasn't, yet I am.
"D.. D.." Alex said, looking to Tony, "Get this... this kid... he didn't prepare anything to sing. He's like...wingin' it."
Tony raised an eyebrow. "You are? Is that smart?"
Considering I didn't have any intention of applying for this crap? Sure. I thought.
"I dunno," I answered.
Alex's eyes lit up suddenly. "Hey... Hey, D...D... yanno, the song, it's a harmony right? And since we don't got Jason..." he nodded at me.
Tony hesitated, "I dunno, we haven't even heard him..."
"Hey kid, sing us something," Alex said, turning to me.
"I... I dunno," I said. Claire had always liked it when I sang Beatles songs to her, but I had the distinct feeling that she might've been biased and only enjoyed that because it was me, and she was Claire, and the music was by her favorite band ever.
"Oh c'mon, what do you think, we're gonna steal your style?" Alex asked, "C'mon."
"Um.. okay..." I thought a moment, then sang the first thing that came to mind:
and if you saw my love, you'd love her too
and I love her...
She gives me everything, and tenderly
the kiss my lover brings, she brings to me
and I love her.
A love like ours could never die...
as long as I have her near me...
Bright are the stars that shine, dark is the sky
I know this love of mine will never die...
and I love her."
"Sorry," I muttered. "I should.. uh.. go."
"No, no," Alex jumped first, "Uh - hello? No."
"Nick, you gotta audition with us," Tony insisted.
"I love the Beatles," sighed Alex's mom.
"You thought I was good?" I asked, surprised.
Alex nodded enthusiastically, "Hell yeah!"
Tony pulled a folded sheet of paper out of his pocket. "Here, look, do you know this song?" He handed the page to me.
I looked over the sheet. "Yeah, I know it pretty well," I answered. Claire used to sing it in the car.
"You should definitely sing that other thing you just did when you get in there for the solo bit, too," Alex coached, "That was rad."
I tried to imagine Claire's face if I ever told her about this scenario. Me, auditioning for a boy band with an overzealous hyperactive and a Mexican kid with a fake name. She'd laugh her head off and it would be our private joke for ages. "Audition for any boy bands lately?" she'd ask me at any given moment, making me choke and sputter every time. The notion made me nostalgic and sorry to have left her behind.
Why didn't I just let her tell Greg? I wondered bitterly.
"Dude, we are gonna be awesome," Alex announced. "Seriously. You're upping the game dude," he slapped my back. "Plus you've got the baby face. Chicks dig that."
"They like latin blood, too," Tony pointed out.
"Yeah, yeah... keep tellin' yourself that, man," Alex said, waving him off and beaming at me. "Shit, I think we got a chance at this now, with small fry here on our team."