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The Next Big Thing
Realization hits me while I look at the face smiling back at me in the frame. Forever gone. He is never coming back. I messed up royally this time. I’ll never hear that last song that he wrote. I’ll never write another poem for him to create music for. I’ll never smile at the way he falls asleep so easily only when I’m with him. Gone. The light that was his life has been snuffed out, but the light that is my love for him will always burn bright and strong.
I remember the first time we met. We were kids. His lemonade stand was right down the block from mine and he always managed to sell more than me. One day, I decided to find out what the big deal was about this guy and proceeded to walk down the street to do some spying. Sure enough the kid was selling his mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies along with his lemonade. That cheater! Everyone knows who my mom makes the best cookies and he got the idea first. That irritated me more than anything. He had the smart idea to sell food and increase his sales, while I was left with his customers that had already bought from him. He was stealing my sales! So I did the only logical move that I could think of: I calmly walked over, shoved all of the cookies in my mouth, and then ran away before he could yell at me for not paying.
Take that! I thought. His mom won’t be able to bake fast enough to make up for all the cookies I just stole!
Later that day, I was sitting in my room playing with my dollhouse when the doorbell rang. As I walked down the stairs towards the door, I saw Mr. Cheater himself standing in the window. I started to panic, How’d he find out where I live? Then I remembered that my lemonade stand is right in front of my house. Smart one Lydia. We are the only two kids in the neighborhood, and all he had to do was look for my table in my front yard that read “Lydia’s Lemonade 50¢.”
“Can I help you?” I asked when I finally got the nerve to open the door.
“Yes,” he questioned, “why’d you steal all of my cookies?”
“You’re a cheater, so I made our sales even. Lemonade only, bucko,” I plainly stated back.
“I am not a cheater! My mom made those cookies for me! I just wanted to share it with everyone,” His lip started to quiver.
“Share?” I challenged. “You were selling them to everyone!”
“No, you’ve got it all wrong. I was giving them to anybody that bought a cup. It’s bribery to get more customers,” As he spelled out his tactics, a light bulb suddenly went on in my head. This kid is pretty smart! I bet we’d make a lot of money if we combined businesses.
“What a clever strategy! Say, what do you think of joining together to get more money?” I asked as I guided him toward the kitchen.
“Keep talking,” and so Lydia and Joel’s Lemonade Stand was born.
Joel and I were inseparable from that day forth. We even had our siblings take over making the lemonade, so that we could have the stand all by ourselves to talk more. Our conversations never went dry; mostly because I could never stop talking. He always let me finish my stories though and never complained once if I interrupted him. I should have known he was too nice for his own good. I’ve always been infamous around home for my talking abilities, and he was the only person that paid attention to every word that came out of my mouth. Even if he had a bad day I never stopped talking, always trying to cheer him up with past stories about nonsense.
“And then the bee just went right past me! It didn’t sting me even though I hit it! I think the queen bee was calling for it or something!”
“Mm hm,” he would nod with his attention solely on me.
As the years passed, we still remained as close as ever, and he stuck by my side through thick and thin. Even when I went on a hunger strike until my parents let me go to a Ke$ha concert on a school night, Joel was by my side and did the same even though his parents already said he could go. Especially when the school let our drama class travel downtown to see a live performance of Phantom of the Opera, Joel was with me the entire trip to ensure my safety. He always cared a lot about me, even then.
It was during our senior year when another ingenious idea struck him: we needed to start a band. Ever since I’ve known him, Joel has been crazy about music and has played the piano since he was six. Throughout the years, he’s practiced every single day until he could play Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven blindfolded. That song was always my favorite and he plays it all the time just for me. He likes to call it Lydia’s Love Ballad, since I told him I’ve always imagined my wedding day dance with my husband to this song. Joel also had the tendency to play the song whenever I walked into the music room. Looking back I realize the subliminal message he was trying to send me. Once a romantic, always a romantic. Every night, he would call me and play me some music to put me to sleep. In return, I would go over to his house and whenever we watched a chick flick I would let him take a nap so he wouldn’t be “bored to tears” by it. This was the easy life that we lived. When the band wrench was thrown into the works, Joel wouldn’t shut up for once in his life and pressed me every day about it. Even though I couldn’t read a single note, if I heard a tune, I could copy it and sing it back better than the original singer.
Every day it was, “Lyd, please please please say you’ll sing in the band! I’ll have mum bake you cookies!”
Sometimes it was, “Lydia, you know I won’t let anyone hurt you. Please, just please, consider singing for me in the band.”
My personal favorite, “Lyd, I will personally come over to your house and give you a lollipop bouquet for every performance. You just have to sing in the band! You sing in the shower already, this is just adding some background tones to enhance your sound.”
Finally, after all of the unique begging and bribery, he had me under a blood oath and a triple dog dare. He may have even called me chicken once or twice. I hate being called a chicken. He also mentioned the infamous “Your name in lights!” line just to sucker me in. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Thus Lydia’s Ballad was born. We practiced every day in Joel’s music room, since that was where his baby grand piano was stationed. He had a thing against black, so all of his musical equipment was in white, even the piano. The best part about practicing in the music room was that it had top-of-the-line sound-proofing so the recorded audio was always at its prime. Most of the time we would just do songs that we both knew, and then as we learned how to work with each other musically, we started to write our own stuff.
One day when I walked into the brightly colored room, Joel practically jumped me from the moment I crossed the threshold.
“Easy tiger! What happened to you? Did you wake up on the right side of bed today?”
“No. Yes. Maybe. That’s not the point, though Lyd. The point is that we got a gig!”
“Yes a gig! Its downtown at Bennie’s Attic! I sent a couple tracks to them, and they love our sound! It’s this Friday at eight o’clock sharp!”
Wow. It’s really happening. I’m on the path to stardom. And I’m making my way to it with my best friend. Life can’t get any better.
That Friday night, we arrived at Bennie’s Attic about an hour early for the gig. Joel almost dashed the whole way to the back entrance. He even tossed the V.I.P. Musical Talent pass around like it was some kind of official badge. I honestly had never seen his face shine brighter than it did that day. Especially later that night, his smile was practically coming off of his face it was so huge. Back to the gig though. After announcing our presence to the bouncer out back, he alerted the sound guy who then broke down the basics to us about which mics to use and where to stay up until the performance. Lydia’s Ballad was opening for a regular Bennie’s Attic band that had a more Techno-vibe than our Alternative sounding band. As soon as the clock struck eight, we waltzed out onto the stage, took our positions and blew the roof off the place. Well at least, the ten-people large crowd loved us. At any rate, after our performance, the crowd gave a standing ovation and everyone wanted our autographs when we went to sit down.
“Hey,” said a tall, handsome guy about my age. “So pretty much I absolutely am in love with your sound. Definitely my style. You two wouldn’t perhaps be interested in a drummer would you?”
“Depends on what your skill level is. Why don’t you stop by my place later tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes? Make sure to bring your own drum set though, I don’t own one,” replied Joel. I had never seen him seem so confident before. I guess triumphing over the stage did a number or two on his self-esteem.
“Sounds great! My name’s Charles by the way,” answered tall, dark, and handsome.
“I’m Joel and this is Lydia,” Joel responded with a nod in my direction.
“Pleasure to meet you Charles,” I politely declared.
“The pleasure sweetheart,” replied Charles with a secretive smile, “is all mine.” And with that, Charles walked away to the exit and left the building.
Beside me Joel was fuming. “Hey Mr. Hotshot, what’s got you all in a tizzy?”
“That guy! I was incredibly nice to him and he has to go and hit on my girl-” Joel abruptly stopped.
“ Your what?”
“Just forget about it. Actually, no, can I talk to you for a minute Lyd?” As soon as Joel said this, my fear level went up a couple notches. Joel is usually the kind of guy to think before he says something, but I could almost swear that he was about to say girlfriend a little while ago. I followed him outside so that I could hear about this all important topic.
“Ok, spill it mister. What’s gotten into y-” Before I finished the sentence Joel had turned around and kissed me right in the middle of the street. It took me by complete surprise. Joel is more of a silent type, that’s why he loves music so much because he’s able to say what he feels through playing. So the kiss was a major surprise, since I never picked up any romantic-vibes from him at all in the past ten years that we had known each other.
“Well? Earth to Lydia?” For once my talking abilities were put on hold; I was shocked speechless.
“C’mon Lyd, stick with me here. Wow, I never thought I’d have to say this, but please Lydia speak to me,” Joel desperately grabbed a hold of my shoulders and gently squeezed them.
“Wh-why?” I was still so shell-shocked that I could only get out one word.
“Isn’t it obvious? I’m in love with you Lydia. I always have been since the moment I saw you shove thirteen cookies in your mouth at the same time and run away like it was no big deal.”
“Is that why you haven’t dated anyone else?”
“Yes. How could I hold another girl when I would always wish it was you instead?”
By this time, black spots were covering my vision and my emotional systems went into shutdown mode. So I did the only logical thing in this case: grabbed what was left of my scattered feelings and ran to the nearest bus station. Sure enough, right as I was about to burst into tears, Joel came sprinting down the corner and just held me while I let it all out.
“I’m sorry Lyd. I wouldn’t have told you if I knew it was going to upset you. It just irritated me so much that that Charles guy thought he could come in and sweep you off your feet when I’ve been trying to do that for years now. Wow, you feel extremely warm! Are you feeling ok?”
“Warm? I’m freezing. Maybe we should-” the black spots then consumed my vision.
When I opened my eyes, I saw the zebra print covering my room and knew I was home. Soon enough I heard a familiar voice saying, “Hey Lyd. You feeling ok?” and I remembered everything from the past night. In one night, life had entirely changed for Lydia’s Ballad. Joel asked me out properly, in front of Charles and Lizzy- Lydia’s Ballad’s new drummer and bassist- I might add. Lydia’s Ballad also played more gigs and before we knew it, we had a record deal. With the new record deal came a new image. The whole band had matching outfits in all white –upon Joel’s request of course- and I had to wear lots and lots of sparkles. Every outfit I performed in had some form of glitter or rhinestones on it. With a new image there’s also a more refined sound, and so Darcy was added to the mix as our new guitarist. All of the new additions led to a bigger fan base and soon enough Lydia’s Ballad was world famous. The small town band that started off with two best friends became an international hit overnight. Now those two best friends are the biggest couple in the music industry.
Except, the classic cover story is not what it appears. Soon after Lydia’s Ballad went international, I started to change. Not in the good direction either. The party life became the only life I knew. My sweet Joel didn’t like how the love of his life had completely transformed into an unfamiliar party beast. So he did what any knight in shining armor would do and tried to save me. I however fought him the entire way and had a few words to say to him –a few colorful words. That fight ended up on the cover of almost every hit magazine.
“Hey,” responded my dear Joel.
“Hey? Really that’s it?”
“Are we going to do this again? I’d really appreciated it if we didn’t. I’m driving back home and I can’t see the road with all of this fog.”
“Do what again? Have a fight? Because that’s not why I was calling. I’m out with Kitty and she says I deserve better than you,” the first hole was then dug. “Charles was there when I woke up. Charles made me breakfast when I got up. Charles bought me a bouquet of red roses for the performance last night. You would’ve known if you were there,” I so ingeniously started. The second hole had been dug.
“Charles? Wait, what? You woke up with Charles? He doesn’t even stay at the mansion anymore Lydia.”
“Maybe! Maybe I woke up with Charles next to me because he actually cares about me! The new Lydia! Not just the sweet and innocent Lyd,” third hole dug.
“Lyd, you slept with Charles? I can’t believe you would do that-” I never heard the end of that sentence. The call was ended just as I heard the sound of glass shattering and metal tearing. I frantically kept pressing redial over and over again. He never picked up his phone again. And he never will ever again.
He said that he wanted the old Lydia back. I told him that the old Lydia was gone. Forever. The next morning when I woke up, he had already packed his bags and left the mansion where the entire band lived. I have never felt more broken hearted than when I awoke to a bouquet of lollipops with a card that read, “For your last performance. Love always, J.” As usual, I tried to just brush it off and claim it was his loss; but in all honesty, it was me who had the biggest loss. I lost the only friend that actually, truly cared about me. And it was all because he couldn’t stand the sight of me.
“Please just give me one more chance. I promise I’ll change. Just stay with me. Please Joel, please.”
“Lyd, calm down. I’m still right by your side. Just I need for you to actually change this time. I’m sick of the new you. This isn’t even you! And I know you better than anyone else.”
The day after the crash I had my phone in my hand at all times. Finally, it rang.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Yes, Lydia, this is Officer Brandon from downtown. There’s something that I think you should hear. You may want to sit down for this,” replied the officer. I proceeded to sit down and hear the worst possible news that someone could say.
“No. No no no no. It can’t be. Please, please tell me this is a joke. A sick, sick joke.”
“My apologies ma’am, but it isn’t a joke.”
The fog was too much that night, and he had been distracted with our conversation as well. He didn’t see the railing on the road. He didn’t see the cliff. As I stared at the framed picture of us after our first gig, the realization hit me. He wasn’t coming back. I would never again get another bouquet of lollipops. I would never hear the last song he wanted me to hear. I would never again hear the sorrowful notes of Moonlight Sonata be struck as I entered a room. Dead. Left this world. Passed away. Whatever you want to call it, I no longer have my best friend, lover, and future husband by my side to protect me. Yes, as soon as we received the record deal, Joel proposed to me right there in the studio. I was going to be married this time tomorrow. That is if he had ever come back to me after I had cheated on him. Now, I’ll never know. All I’m left with is the memory of his kiss on my hand and the sound of his laughter echoing throughout backstage after our last performance together. This picture is the only connection I have to seeing his face again. I promise Joel, I’ll change for real this time. This time it’ll be for you.