Song 7 ♪ Stairway To Who Even Knows

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"Is there any alcohol in here?" I asked Addy as we had lunch on the same table. "I think I'm going to need it."

She flipped the pages of Vogue with one hand and held a pizza slice with the other. Without looking up she said, "You'll be fine. Ashton will give you one lesson to get the teachers off his back and then go off to do whatever his thing is. Girls, I guess."

"I don't care about that." But I lied. I did care. I just didn't care to share that the reason I was dreading him was because he forgot about me cleaning his bathroom. "I didn't sign up to this school to... sing. That wasn't even on my admission letter."

Her eyes drifted to mine for a second. "Seems to me like that's what they admitted you for, though." She took a large bite of food and, with her mouth full, said, "You must be something else for that kind of praise from Mr. Burlington. Did you know that our school has won awards for small chamber pieces before?"

My eyes were wide as saucers. "I don't even know what that is."

And this. This was the thing that distracted me. I spent the rest of the afternoon surreptitiously looking at my phone, googling things like what is a chamber piece, what is an orchestra, what does a singer do in an orchestra. And the answer to the last question was terrifying. If Google were a smartass it'd have replied they sing, duh, but instead a bunch of opera singers came as result. I was hyperventilating by the time the last lesson was done. And I hadn't made good notes on the lessons.

I jumped at Addy and held her by the arm. "Help."

She patted the top of my head. "You're gonna be fine."

I gaped as she left. Our friendship was still new but I felt betrayed.

Someone cleared their throat and I turned to find the perfect guy standing there with his guitar case. I pursed my lips. It was becoming a reflex every time I saw him.

"So, Vera," he said, running a hand through his annoyingly silky hair. It wasn't right that his hair was that smooth and shiny and mine was the next best thing to barbed wire. "I'm Ashton, you can call me Ash. Or Ashton. Whichever's fine."

I was going to call him never, that was for sure.

Even though I didn't like him, I was still trained by my ma's chancla to be polite. "Nice to meet you, I guess." But I couldn't help adding that last little passive-aggressive tag there. I avoided looking at his face because it made me nervous, so instead I zeroed in on his guitar. "So, um. What is it that we're doing?"

He waited until the last few people left the room until he replied. "To be honest, I don't know yet. I don't know where you're at."

I shrugged. "I can't read music or play fancy instruments or sing in other languages." A true smile escaped me. "Aside from Spanish. But I don't really think Miss Prissy would like to play the violin for a Selena song."

His lips slowly stretched into a smirk that lit his blue eyes up in amusement. "I'd pay to see that."

I cleared my throat and looked around me. I picked up my backpack because that was better than focusing on how that little smile made me feel. Like I was watching porn. I tried to remember that this was a Catholic school and that worshipping a boy was probably a pagan thing, and that I shouldn't go down that path.

"Okay," he said, sparing me from my thoughts. "Let's head out to the music room."

I looked up again. "There's a music room? I didn't see it in the map."

"Just follow me."

He turned around and I looked at his broad back with a strange feeling. It was clawing at my throat, and I couldn't explain it.

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