These Walls by Noell Mosco by Noell Mosco - Read Online

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These Walls - Noell Mosco

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it.

Chapter 1

Now

I couldn’t believe that I had done it. I had graduated from college and it was a big deal, especially with a Doctorate degree in physical therapy. Only one thing stood in my way of getting a great job, at least, I hoped a great job: passing my boards. I didn’t really have time to think about passing my boards just yet because I had to pack up my bags and move home, at least for the summer, to my parent’s house in Bowling Green, Ohio.

I packed away things I had forgotten all about: old diaries, board games and video game systems. Most things I threw away because I had no need for them anymore. Clothes from years ago that didn’t fit or that I’d never be caught dead in again went into piles for the Salvation Army. Books that I knew I’d never crack open in the future got tossed aside and would be taken back to the bookstore in hopes for some extra cash. In the end, I was able to fit the last six years of my life in my huge military style duffle bag, two large suitcases, one carry-on, a laptop case and six boxes that were being shipped home via UPS.

I pulled the sheets from my small bed and untucked the corners of the fitted sheet. Something stuck to the sheet and prevented it from pulling out of the corner. There was a flashlight on my nightstand that I reached for and shined it behind my bed. I cringed as I peered over the edge of the bed. Something hard, wooden and small was in the way and stopped the sheet from pulling out. I tucked my hand between the wall and mattress and my fingers were able to grasp around the object.

It was picture frame. I smiled when I saw it. The photograph was a picture of me, circa 16 years old, with my arm hung over the shoulders of the most attractive boy I have ever laid eyes upon. Lucas Kingston. Lucas and I used to be best friends growing up in Bowling Green. Okay, strike that. Lucas was my best friend of the opposite sex in Bowling Green. Then, he got all famous and well… I pried the photo from the frame. Scribbled on the back was Lily and Lucas 1999, BFF.

I heard a noise from the hallway, which was my cue to hide the photograph, so I hurriedly put the photo back into the frame. Melissa, my best friend and roommate, came bursting into my room with a plane ticket in her hand. Her long blonde hair flowed around her shoulders like she was in a shampoo commercial and her cheekbones were flushed with excitement. Her bright blue eyes twinkled as she smiled at me.

Lil, guess what? I’m going home with you for the summer! My mom just called and said her plans to vacation in Europe fell through, which means she wants me to be at home with her, so we’ll get one last summer together before we have to start our real world lives! she exclaimed in one huge breath.

Great! I joined in her excitement. Are we on the same flight? The mere thought of my best friend being on the same flight as me eased my mind greatly.

No, my flight isn’t until Friday, she said dully.

I’m sure we’ll be able to spend a few days apart from each other. It won’t kill us.

Guess you’re right. Oh my gosh, I have to start packing! Melissa said as she exited my room. I pulled the photograph out from under my pillow and looked at it once more. I touched the glass over Lucas’ face fondly.

Lucas was smiling. His smile always made me melt. It then occurred to me why that photo had been stashed behind my bed to begin with. Melissa. She would be furious if she knew I didn’t destroy it. Long story. I smiled at the photo again. We both looked so young and innocent. I sighed. I missed him. Why weren’t we friends anymore? Oh yeah, it’s my fault. And he’s famous now… My memories and thoughts took me back in time.

* * * * *

Wood County Chili Cook-off and Wingfest, 1999

I heard a cheer come from the crowd that surrounded the performing tent. I struggled from my blanket on the grass to see who was taking the stage: a young band. I smiled because I knew them. The Fingers of Fish, which they called themselves, walked across the stage and I immediately locked eyes with the boy who took stance behind the main microphone with a guitar strapped across his chest. Lucas, my best friend, looked at me one last time before he took a deep breath and thanked the crowd for the great welcoming applause. The crowd responded appropriately. Lucas looked at the other guys in the band, whom looked ready to rock the faces off of the people in the audience.

Ooh, who are these guys? my best girl friend asked as they started playing. Melissa and I both attended Cutler High School, while Lucas went to a private school on the other side of town, where his father was the principal. Funny as it might sound, in all of our years of friendship, I never told Melissa about Lucas being my friend. Maybe it was because I secretly knew better - Melissa was a flirt and really knew how to get what she wanted from a guy, and I didn’t want her to corrupt Lucas.

They’re called The Fingers of Fish, I said and looked at the information brochure I had picked up from the ticket booth. I still wanted to play dumb and didn’t want to let on to Melissa that I knew the band just yet.

What a weird name for a band, she commented and looked at the brochure over my shoulder. There was a small photo of their band in the brochure, which Melissa held close to her face to get a better look.

As they played their set, I took notice to all of the attention Melissa paid to Lucas. Her eyes never left him as he performed and worked his way around the stage. I knew it would happen, which was why I never introduced them before. Of all four members of the band, Lucas was, by far, the cutest. That didn’t go to say that the other three were hideous, but Lucas had the blonde hair, blue eyes, all-American look that so many girls found attractive.

Let’s go over and say hello, I suggested when the set was over, against my better judgment.

We just can’t go over there! Melissa gasped.

Why not?

Because! We just can’t!

Sure we can, I reassured her. The look on her face was priceless as we made our way over to the backstage area and I flashed a pass to the person that stood at the gate.

Backstage pass? How? Who? Wha? Melissa stammered. I could only laugh in response. We walked around the corner and almost collided with Billy, the drummer.

Oh, hey, Lily, he said in a rush, Lucas is over there. He pointed around the corner.

Okay, thanks. Great job, by the way. I loved the solo! I patted him on the shoulder and we passed ways. He smiled. I knew he appreciated a little time in the spotlight since a lot of songs didn’t hand over solos to the drummers.

Hold on a second! How do you know these people? Melissa exploded.

The lead singer is my neighbor and they practice in his garage. I hang out with them a lot, I said simply.

You’ve had a hot guy living next to you and I never knew about it? she asked rhetorically.

I simply gave her a Look and she shut up. Or did she shut up because Lucas was on his way over to greet us and she mysteriously lost her voice?

I was so nervous, did you hear me mess up the words in Mysterious Shadows? I thought I was going to die, Lucas greeted me quickly, while he wrapped his arms around me in a hug. He was sweaty from performing and I retreated as fast as I could. Melissa’s eyes caught the entire moment and it didn’t go unnoticed.

Luke, this is Melissa, my best friend from school, I introduced, Melissa, this is Lucas.

I felt nervous as I watched the two of them shake hands. It’s nice to meet you finally. I hear about you all the time, Lucas told Melissa.

Wish I could say the same -- I never knew you existed, Melissa said honestly. Lucas looked at me with surprise.

Hmm, is that right? his voice had a teasing tone, but my cheeks flushed with embarrassment anyway.

As we talked, I noticed Melissa gave Lucas some of her classic I-want-to-flirt-with-you moves. Either Lucas was still too pumped from the show or he ignored her advances because he didn’t pay much attention to her attempts. He wasn’t rude about it, but he didn’t drool over her like most other guys did. I couldn’t say the same for Billy, Isaiah, the keyboard player or Craig, the bass player. They caught sight of Melissa and quickly joined in the conversation. Finally, it was Lucas who took charge and said it was time to say goodbye because they needed to do some post-concert stuff, like make sure all of their equipment and instruments got put in the right places.

As we left the backstage area, Melissa couldn’t wipe the gooey smile from her face. She looked at me slyly when we walked through some of the food vendors.

So, Lucas is hot. And I think he’s interested in me, she said.

Yeah? You really think so? I played along.

Oh, come on, Lily! You mean to tell me that you spend all this time with him and you don’t think he’s good looking? Melissa playfully shoved me.

That’s not what I meant. Actually, to tell you the truth, Lucas and I are just friends. I’ve never thought about him like that. He’s like my cousin or something. Gross, I said. I looked at the ground as I spoke because I honestly did think he was cute. It was something I noticed when I took some pictures for the band so they could have some options when it came to advertising, like posters and the brochure for the fair.

Well, you saw how he was playing all hard to get, didn’t you? she explained. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I knew Lucas, so I knew better, so I just let her think whatever she wanted.

* * * * *

Now

Melissa dropped me off at the airport. I honestly couldn’t believe that I was going home. I graduated college and was returning to my parent’s house and I felt like a loser. What else was I supposed to do when the lease on my students-only apartment was up? I could’ve looked for my own place, but without a job lined up, mostly because I hadn’t taken my licensing boards, how would I be able to afford it? Living with my parents meant free and gave me no pressure to study for my test. I was grateful for the opportunity my parents were offering to me.

I had given Melissa $200, which should be more than enough money to ship home all of my boxes. She would stop at the post office after she dropped me off at the airport.

I checked in with the airline and found my way to the terminal. I still had over an hour before my flight was scheduled to board. I pulled out my copy of Pride and Prejudice from my hugely oversized purse, opened it to my bookmark, and started to read.

My concentration was at level zero. There was a lot of background noise and I found myself reading the same two sentences over and over again. I sighed while I dug around my purse again and procured my iPod. I plugged the ear buds into my ears and selected the shuffle button. I had a ton of music on my iPod and lost count of the number of songs I had on the small device.

As if on cue, a studio version of Mysterious Shadows began to play. It had been so long since I listened to it that I nearly forgot it was in my collection. I stopped trying to read and closed my eyes to listen to the song. It made me smile. Luke’s voice filled my ears and the edgy rock music lulled. I felt peaceful as my mind took me into the past…

Chapter 2

1999

It was a week after the chili cook-off and wingfest and I was at the mall with Lucas. I was looking for some back to school stuff. I dreaded the return to school because it meant my junior year, which also meant dealing with the US Government teacher, Mr. Coffman, and every student loathed this man.

Lucas wandered into the music store and that meant it kept me off task from my school supply list. In the rock section, at the top of the rack, was the featured CD of the week. Lucas picked one up and turned it over in his hands. It was a band I’d never heard of.

How awesome would it be if I had a CD in the featured section one day? he asked curiously.

Definitely very awesome, I agreed. I heard a distant giggle and turned to see the source. A row behind us were two girls, and both looked wistfully at Lucas. He tried not to notice. You’re already getting some recognition since the festival; do you think you could handle it on a higher level?

Luke smiled, finally looked up to make eye contact with the giggling girls, and then returned his gaze to the CD in his hands. I think I could get used to it, he said quietly with a sheepish smile on his face. A couple more minutes passed without either one of us saying much and we looked at various CDs to pass some time. I got the feeling that he wanted to tell me something, but I couldn’t be sure.

So, what did you think of Melissa? I asked to break the silence, and I had promised I’d talk to him about her.

Eh, she was okay. A little too confident and girly for my taste, he mocked. Why?

Because she wanted me to ask you. She thinks you’re hot, I admitted. She’d kill me if she knew I told him that, but I didn’t care.

He laughed. Yeah? What do you think?

His question caught me off guard. I felt a hotness travel to my cheeks as I deliberated how to answer. Did he seriously ask if I thought he was good looking? Of all the years of our friendship, we never went there. I glanced sideways at Lucas from the corner of my eye to get an idea of what he wanted to hear. He was looking at me, awaiting my response. The blushing felt hotter.

I ran my fingers through my brown hair. I wasn’t used to feeling awkward, especially around Lucas. I was just an average girl, with a normal face and a normal figure, and I was someone the boys generally didn’t pay any attention to. I think it’s typical Melissa - to pounce on the lead singer of a band… I said casually.

Right, he said, like I said: she’s not my type.

Crisis avoided, although, Melissa was going to be disappointed when I reported back to her that Lucas wasn’t interested in her. Maybe I wouldn’t report back. I hated having to dishearten her.

On the way home Lucas pulled into the local electronics store, which wasn’t on the agenda, so I was confused as he put his car in park and shut off the engine. Lucas was a year older than me so he had his driver’s license already. He bought a cheap beater car a couple of months ago and he was proud of it.

Why are we here? I asked.

I have something I need to tell you, he said and turned in his seat to face me.

Okay, let’s hear it, I said, ready for anything. I knew there was something he wasn’t telling me earlier. I studied his face as he decided what words he wanted to use. He looked a bit uneasy.

I’ve actually been trying to find a way to tell you all week, he said.

Well, don’t leave me in suspense!

After our gig at the festival, someone called me. Someone big. Someone from L.A. The guy works for Gearworks Records and was in town visiting relatives and he was at the festival. He wants The Fingers to put together a little demo for him to give to his boss. So, I need to buy this computer program and a few special adapters to plug into the guitars and drums and microphones so we can put together a demo, Lucas explained.

I didn’t know what to say. My voice escaped me for a few seconds as a million thoughts rushed through my head. This is his big break! What if he has to move? Will he still be my best friend? Why does he look so cute? Wow, I never realized how sexy his blue eyes were until this absolute second. His hair is messy, but it looks great. Wait, concentrate Lily, you need to say something. Say anything!

Congratulations? I stammered and it sounded like more of a question than a remark. I paused. This is a big deal, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s huge! Lucas didn’t seem to notice my hesitation. I need you to help me, though. I need you to show me what to do. You’re such a nerd with computers and I don’t want to try to do it myself and we can’t afford to get a professional demo done. Plus, it’ll give you and me a project to work on before school starts next week.

Okay, great, I said, still in a bit of shock about the news. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Lucas needed to record a demo album for a guy who actually worked for a record label! Wow. Wow! Luke, this is amazing!

Took a few seconds to sink in, didn’t it? he teased. I nodded. It’s okay; it took me nearly a whole day to realize it. Let’s go, we’ve got a lot of work to do! Lucas reached for my hand and gave it a small squeeze. My fingers tingled where his touched mine. I pulled away though and reached for the handle to open the passenger door of the car.

* * * * *

Now

Something tapped my shoulder and my eyes jolted open in surprise. My surroundings were unfamiliar and at first I felt startled from not recognizing anything. Slowly my eyes took in everything and I remembered I was in the airport. I turned to my left to see what, or who, tapped my shoulder.

Miss, you dropped your book, an elderly lady told me and pointed to the floor.

I pulled the ear buds out of my ears and quickly picked up my discarded book. Thank you, I replied. Crap, I lost my place, I thought as the pages ran together. I couldn’t remember what page I had been on before I started my daydream. I knew I was somewhere past page 50, but other than that, I had nothing in my memory to help me out. I skimmed through the pages and absent-mindedly glanced at my watch. Instead of trying to find my place in my book, I returned it to my purse and pulled out my boarding pass.

My pulse sped up as I walked down the tunnel to get onto the plane. Why was I nervous? I didn’t have the faintest idea. After I sat down in my seat and buckled my seat belt, I realized why I felt nervous. I forgot to call my parents to confirm my flight times so they knew for sure what time to pick me up when I arrived in Detroit.

I loved living in the suburbs of Bowling Green, Ohio. It was small enough to feel safe and be out of the city, but the closest international airport was all the way in Detroit, which was a good hour and twenty minutes away, without traffic. My flight times hadn’t changed, but the fact I forgot to call my parents to make sure they had the correct times gave me an uneasy feeling. The flight attendants already began the speech about no cell phones and no electronics until the pilot approved it, so I was out of luck to call.

I leaned my head against the uncomfortable seat and closed my eyes again. What else was there to do but to continue my trip down memory lane?

* * * * *

1999 Fall

School started for both Lucas and me. Our summer schedule of hanging out nearly every day was ruined as real life kicked into gear. Weeks passed and there was no word on the demo Lucas sent to Gearworks Records. I tried to keep him optimistic, but The Fingers weren’t so easy to convince.

The band practiced every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights in the garage at the Kingston’s house. Usually I was there and gave advice and input from an outsider’s opinion. The guys usually had a no girl policy in effect -- ever since Billy brought a girlfriend to practice once and she was terribly annoying and interrupted the whole time -- but I was exempt from that rule. Melissa didn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to hang out with me while they practiced.

Mel, you just can’t come over while they’re practicing, I tried to explain it to her one particular Friday night. It was the end of the school day and all I wanted to go was get home and get my homework done so that I didn’t have to try to do it during the band’s practice.

Why not? Maybe Lucas will see that I am interested in him if I happen to show up during a practice, she reasoned. She was still on the trying to nab Lucas plan.

They have a no girl rule, I said.

But you watch them practice, she pointed out.

That’s different, I said quickly.

I don’t see how it’s different, she countered.

Because I’m not interested in any of them and they know that! They feel comfortable with me being there. I help them, I said.

Melissa was quiet for a few seconds. Whatever. Do you want to go see a movie tonight then? I’ll pick you up around 8:00? They’re done by 8:00, right?

I was relieved she dropped the topic. Yeah, 8:00 is fine. See you.

The Fingers were in the middle of their last song when I saw Melissa stroll up the Kingston’s driveway and peer into the garage through the side door. I glanced at my watch and noted that it was only 7:45. She was a sneaky little devil. Melissa opened the door after she and I had made eye contact and I motioned for her to come in. The band wrapped up the song they were playing and she joined me on the ratty couch, which was my normal hang out spot, and left the middle cushion open.

Sorry, I know you guys have a no girl rule, but I came to pick up Lily - we’re going to see a movie tonight, Melissa explained to all of them.

It’s okay, Lucas said and plopped down on the couch next to me. I had his laptop on my lap and played with some of the special effects on his photo shop program; it was my lame attempt to make a cover for their next demo. He leaned closer to the screen and, in turn, leaned closer to me to look at the photo. He pointed to the screen, Can you make the words green, like lime green?

No problem, I assured him. After a few clicks, the words The Fingers of Fish turned a hideous neon lime green color. Lucas smiled and let his arm drape across the back of the couch behind me. His fingers nonchalantly played with a strand of my hair. It was nothing to make a fuss over because Luke and I were touchy like that, but Melissa read into it too much and felt flabbergasted.

Ya know, she said rather loudly, which startled Lucas and me and his fingers stopped playing with my hair, why don’t you guys come along to the movies with us?

I can’t, I’m going over to Heather’s house, Billy said from across the garage.

Yeah, I’ve got to get home to make sure my sister isn’t home alone with her dirt bag boyfriend, Craig said and punched his fist into his hand for effect. We all laughed at him. Isaiah already ducked out of the garage; he mostly kept to himself and was the quiet one of the group.

How about you, Lucas? Melissa asked hopefully.

He shrugged his shoulders. Sure, what else do I have to do tonight?

At the movie, I sat between Melissa and Lucas, much to her disappointment and his delight. The movie we picked was a romantic comedy and I was surprised Lucas agreed to see it, instead of his usual selection of the action and blood filled plot. The three of us shared a bucket of popcorn and since I sat in the middle, I took it upon myself to hold the bucket. A few times, my hand brushed against Lucas’ as we both reached into the bucket at the same time. I swear I felt the same tingles I felt the day in the car when he bought the music program for his computer when he squeezed my hand. Tonight it was different, though. For some reason, I didn’t automatically pull my hand away. It felt good. My mind liked the good feeling.

After a while, I forgot Melissa sat on the other side of me. My brain wasn’t focused on the movie. I actually had no idea what was going on as I stared blankly at the actors on the screen. All I could think about were the tingles. What did the tingles mean? Mid-movie, I felt Lucas trace a finger along the outer part of my knee. I looked at him. He looked amazing in the dark light, like a black and white photograph, with shadows cast across his face from the screen.

What? I whispered, after my heart settled from the sudden realization my brain formed about how good looking I thought Lucas was.

Lucas leaned closer to me so he could whisper in my ear. My heart picked up the pace again. I’m glad I decided to come with you tonight, he said. His breath was heavy and it tickled my ear. Our eyes connected and I felt the moment.

Me, too, I agreed quietly. He continued to lean toward me and I knew what was going to happen. I didn’t want it to happen. He can’t kiss me. Not as Melissa sits beside me. He’s not allowed to kiss me. We’re best friends! Didn’t he think about that? I don’t want him to kiss me. Yes, I do. I want him to kiss me. I want it so badly. But he’s not allowed! So many thoughts raced through my mind. His lips were so close to mine before I reacted.

I pulled my head away and backed away from him. He opened his eyes and mine searched his for an answer, an answer to know what on earth he was thinking! He pulled away, too, and looked down, and finally faced forward to watch the movie.

I allowed my hand to sneak across the arm rest to find his hand. I gave it a quick and reassured squeeze. He didn’t return the squeeze, but he didn’t shake my hand away from his. Now what does this mean? I thought.

Chapter 3

Now

The plane landed on the runway and the nervous feeling I had at the beginning of the flight only grew in strength. There were butterflies in my stomach and they didn’t feel like the good kind. I had no idea why I felt so nervous. I tried to reassure myself that everything was going to be fine. My mom was pretty good about utilizing the internet to look stuff up, so I knew if she questioned my arrival time, she would go to the airline website and look it up. The nervousness wouldn’t let up. Why?

Maybe it was because I was going to be home for the first time since I left for college. I had been home to visit, like during winter break or for a week or two over the summers. Maybe it was because I didn’t know how it would be to live with my parents again. Were they going to be cool and treat me like an adult? Or were they going to pretend I was still 16 and give me all kinds of rules to follow?

I walked through the airport and allowed my eyes to take in the familiar decorations and stores that lined the corridors. The clicking of the wheels on my carry-on suitcase filled my ears as I pulled it along the tiled floor. I caught the tram to the main part of the airport and could only hope that my parents were waiting for me since I forgot to call them before I left.

As I exited the tram and walked into the area of the airport where families and friends waited for their passengers to arrive, I looked around to see my parents. People from my flight were connecting with their families and hugs and laughing happened all around me. I saw no one I recognized.

I waited until a little of the crowd thinned out. I sighed when I didn’t see my parents and headed toward the escalator to take me to baggage claim. Some homecoming this turned out to be. No one loves me, I thought bitterly to myself. Even though I knew that wasn’t true, it was how I felt.

Lily! someone shouted my name as I dug through my purse for my cell phone so I could call my parents to see where they were. I turned around and half expected to see my father running toward me, his face flushed from the running. I didn’t see my father. I still didn’t see anyone that I recognized. I shrugged my shoulders and turned around again, once again focused on finding my cell phone.

LILY! the same voice shouted. I spun on my heels. What was going on? Was my head playing a trick on me? Then I spotted a guy walking toward me. He smiled when he approached.

Oh my God.

* * * * *

1999

Melissa tried her hardest to convince Lucas and me to get ice cream after the movie. All I wanted to do was go home and I had an idea that Lucas wanted to go home, too. I knew I wasn’t imagining things, so I knew Lucas felt bad about his attempted kiss. I could only hope that Melissa didn’t see the whole scene.

I really just want to go home, I said, I have a headache.

Aww, I was really looking forward to all of us getting ice cream, Melissa half whined. She looked hopefully at Lucas. He looked at me briefly and then back to Melissa.

If you want, we can take Lily home since she has a headache, and you and I can go back out to get some ice cream, he offered. Then he turned to look at me. You wouldn’t mind if I hung out with Melissa without you, would you?

My mind froze. What was he doing? He was just going to lead her on! Why did he want to hang out with her if I wasn’t there? He told me he wasn’t interested in Melissa.

No, why would I care? I fronted. Of course I care, you moron! You don’t like Melissa! You obviously like me! You just tried to kiss me during the movie! I yelled at him inside my head. And why do I care about this so much? It’s just Lucas. I don’t care who he likes. Yes, I do. I want him to like me because I like him! Wait, did I just think about liking Lucas? Why is he smiling at her? God, I love his smile. My mind ran a mile a minute.

Okay, cool. Lily, we’ll take you home, Melissa said and couldn’t keep the sneaky smile off her face. She was in her glory -- she finally got what she was after for so long; a date with Lucas.

Melissa stopped in front of my house and I got out of the front seat without so much as a goodbye. I didn’t think she’d care or be offended since she was high on cloud nine about her date with Lucas. I would blame it on the headache tomorrow when we talked. I was surprised to hear another car door slam as I was half way up the walk to my door.

I paused at my door before I shoved my key into the lock. I heard footsteps behind me. I took a deep breath before I turned around. I knew it was going to be Lucas.

What? I asked.

You don’t really have a headache, do you? he asked quietly.

"What