The rest of the week went by well enough and with no more incidents with Ian, I was able to enjoy the excitement of my last high school homecoming. Maggie decided that if Drew was into the whole spirit week thing then she would be too. The three of us went completely over the top in our various outfits and drew the attention of several underclassmen, but since we were having fun, we didn’t care.
Maggie had a volleyball game on Tuesday and since I still hadn’t resumed my piano lessons, I went. Matt showed up at the game after practice and together we cheered Maggie and the Grizzlies to victory. After the game Maggie said she had to run a couple of errands and asked if I’d give Matt a ride home, which I did. We talked about school and the game and Maggie’s obsession with Drew and the big game on Friday. Our conversation lasted longer than the ride home so we just sat in the car, in the driveway and talked until Maggie’s headlights glared brightly behind us. As Maggie was getting out of her car Matt asked me to stay for dinner. I was going to say no, but Maggie knocked on my window a second later and asked if I could help her with her Trig homework so I called my mom, told her where I was, asked if it was alright if I stayed and then went inside to spend the evening trying to explain to Maggie the laws of sines, cosines and tangents.
Wednesday I found out my piano teacher was moving to Florida to live with her son. Apparently she wasn’t doing so well and he was afraid to leave her alone. I stopped by her house after work to say my good-byes and promised I’d keep in touch. It was sad, seeing Mrs. Hamilton looking so weak and fragile; she’d always been such a strong woman. On the way home I started thinking about what I would do now that my piano teacher was moving. Should I try to find a new teacher or should I just give up my lessons? I’d been taking lessons for so long, it just didn’t feel right not going; it’d been a month and I still wasn’t used to having a free afternoon, but that wasn’t what really bothered me. My true dilemma lay in the scholarship I’d been planning on auditioning for in the spring.
The music department at the university in Denver held a recital every year for promising art students and Mrs. Hamilton had somehow convinced me to participate. I had no plans to major in music in college but the thought of winning a five thousand dollar scholarship was too good to pass up. I truly hated playing the piano in front of people but I decided that even my nerves couldn’t keep me from at least trying.
I hated the idea of missing out on the chance of that scholarship so I decided to call around and find a teacher who was sending other students to the audition and see if they had an opening in their schedule for me. I told my mom about my plan when I got home but as usual; she was already way ahead of me.
“Oh honey, I meant to tell you, I’ve already found you a new teacher,” she smiled as we cleaned up after dinner.
“You did? When?”
“Yesterday. Mrs. Hamilton’s son was in the shop and told me she was moving back with him so I called around and found you a new teacher.”
“Who is it?”
“A Mrs. Something or other. I can’t remember at the moment. You know how I am with names.”
“Okay,” I sighed, wondering what kind of teacher my mother had found for me.
“Don’t worry honey, the guy at the music store said she was one of the best in the city. She’s got other students auditioning for that scholarship in Denver and a couple of her students in the past have gotten into Juilliard.”
“Seriously,” my mom grinned, obviously pleased with herself.
“Oh man,” I groaned, “I may be in way over my head.”
“Don’t worry, I talked to her and she seemed to be very interested in you. She knows Mrs. Hamilton and had only good things to say about her and her teaching. She seemed very confident that you would be ready for the recital this spring.”
“Okay, so you really don’t remember her name?”
“Do you know when I start?”
“But I have to work on Mondays.”
“Let me guess, you’ve already talked to Stella?”
“Yup, you’ll be working Tuesdays now.”
“Okay, so I guess Monday it is. Do you know where, exactly, I’m supposed to go for these lessons or did you forget that too?”
“Don’t be silly,” my mom grinned, “the address is on the fridge. You’re supposed to take your books with you and a list of the music you might like to play for the recital.”
“Well, I guess that means I ought to start practicing again. Do you think I could play a piece from Sweeney Todd for the recital?”
“I’m not so sure about that,” my mom chuckled.
“Right, too playful,” I sighed as I made my way toward my room and the mountain of homework that awaited me.
“How about something from The Phantom?” my mom called after me.
Thursday was the proverbial calm before the storm. Nothing exciting happened at school or work and I managed to finish my homework and have dinner ready by the time my mom got home. We spent the evening talking about anything and everything. She asked me how school was and how things were going with that boy. I knew she meant Ian and I told her about his amazing ability to completely ignore me, even when we were in the same group in Biology.
“That boy really doesn’t know what he’s missing,” my mom sighed.
“Yeah, well, his loss, right?”
“Absolutely! So, is there anyone else you’re interested in?”
“No. Though it seems Mattie has a crush on me.”
“Really! I thought you two were going to the dance as just friends.”
“We are,” I insisted, shocked that my mother would think otherwise.
“You might be going as just friends, but are you sure Matt is too?”
“Of course he is! I mean, I think so. He never said it was a date. Besides, Yuuki, Maggie, Todd and Will are all going to. It’s hardly a date when there are that many people.”
“Honey, I know you don’t see the dance as a date, but Matt might.”
“Oh man!” I groaned, “Saturday was supposed to be just a fun night with my friends and now you’re turning it into some high school soap opera!”
“I’m not trying to,” Mom insisted, “I just want to make sure you’re careful. I’d hate to see you lose a good friend over something as simple as this.”
“Do you really think Matt sees Saturday as a date?” I sighed.
“Well, I can’t say for sure, but odds are, he does.”
“Guess that means I’m gonna have to watch myself around him from now on. I’d hate for him to get the wrong impression.”
“I think that’s a very good idea. Don’t be so guarded that he gets offended, but don’t be so chummy he thinks you’re flirting.”
“Right,” I groaned. “Well, on that lovely thought, I’m going to bed.”
“Night Mom,” I sighed as I slunk down the hall.
As much as I wanted to say that my recent associations with Matt had been nothing but cordial, memories of the past month, and more recently, of the past couple of days, were suddenly looking anything but innocent. I crawled into bed cursing myself for being such an idiot. I had been inadvertently leading Mattie on and now that I knew it, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make him see that I was just his friend without seriously hurting his feelings. With no ideas as to how to cool things with Matt and my mind too busy for sleep, I turned to my sketch book and let my frustration run loose through its pages.
I woke up Friday, not really looking forward to what I knew lay before me. I had to begin by letting Matt know that I was totally not interested and at the same time, keep him as a friend. I just didn’t know how to handle anything when it came to guys. My five-year infatuation with Ian prevented me from ever having an actual boyfriend so my knowledge was derived from conversations with my mother and chick flicks. I must have looked pretty awful when I dragged myself into the kitchen and started scrounging for some breakfast because Mom immediately asked me if I’d slept well.
“I slept fine Mom. I’m just bummed about Mattie. I don’t how I’m supposed to act around him now. I’m afraid things are going to get all weird.”
“Don’t worry about it baby. You’re a smart girl, you’ll figure it out.”
“Sure,” I mumbled as I decided I was too upset for breakfast.
I left the house determined to find a solution to this whole Matt thing without ruining our friendship or the dance. I knew I had to go on Saturday, for Maggie’s sake, so backing out wasn’t an option. I just wasn’t sure how to make Matt see that we were just friends when the whole homecoming dance thing looked a whole lot like a date. By the time I got to school, I still hadn’t come up with any solutions, so I decided to just forget about the whole thing until later. I felt as little like Scarlett O’Hara as I made my way across the school’s parking lot; I’ll think about that tomorrow, I said to myself with a smile, after all, tomorrow is another day. Comparing myself to Scarlett O’Hara made me feel better and by the time I reached Yuuki’s locker I was almost back to my old self. I was amazed at how liberating it was, pushing off your worries for another day.
The entire school seemed filled with electric energy as the excitement which had been building all week escalated to the breaking point. Even after four years, the excitement of the homecoming game was still catching, especially when your friends were comprised of most of the football team. The guys at lunch were crazy! They spent the entire lunch break talking loudly about how they were going to kill the Crusaders and how awesome the game was going to be, blah, blah, blah. Maggie, Yuuki and I did our best to ignore them but really, it was impossible, so instead we talked about where we were meeting before the game and what we were going to do afterwards.
“I think we should go to your house,” Maggie told Yuuki as she dodged Todd’s wildly flailing arm.
“It’s fine with me,” Yuuki shrugged.
“Hey, what?” Matt cried, suddenly interested in our conversation. “No, no, no, you’ve got to come to our house.”
“Why” Maggie asked, annoyed, “so we can listen to you guys ramble on about the game all night? No thank you.”
“But you guys have been over every other night after the game, why not tonight? Come on! It’s homecoming!”
“Fine,” Maggie sighed, “we’ll be there, if it’s okay with Yuuki and Lyla.”
“Great!” Matt cried with a huge Cheshire grin on his face.
The bell rang before we could discuss whether or not we’d spend the evening at Maggie’s but I had a feeling we would. I didn’t see how Maggie would be able to get away with ditching her brother after the biggest game of the season.