Song 17 ♪ Smells Like Teen Angst

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Madison and her beau, Quinn, stood holding hands and looking at us.

She smiled and strode inside, pulling at the other boy inside as well. "That kind of mad playing could only be you."

I turned back to Ashton. His face looked like stone. Link just shrugged at me.

"What are you doing here?"

I'd never heard that kind of ice in his voice. When I thought about it, it made him sound like a younger version of his father. I looked around me and figured to my great sadness that if I wanted to walk away from whatever shitstorm was about to whip up, I'd have to leave right through the eye of it because I was right between Ashton, the approaching couple and the exit door.

"Were you the one responsible for that last song?" she asked, motioning at me. "I doubt the newbie over there has the skills to arrange the vocals of one song on top of another."

Ashton must have decided that his best course of action there was to ignore her. He turned toward Link. "Well, I think I'm the clear winner."

In turn, Link must have decided to play along. He bent down to unplug his guitar. "Fine, I admit you're only a bit better."

"A bit?" Ashton asked with a laugh. "I swept the floor with your ass."

I smiled to myself. He kinda had.

From the corner of my eye I saw Madison fold her arms and cock her hip, obviously annoyed that she was not the center of attention. I made eye contact with Quinn, and it was super weird. I'd never exchanged a word with him but I could see it clear as crystal that he wanted to be anywhere but there.

"Are you going to ignore me?" she asked. "Because I come in peace."

Ashton snapped then. "Nothing about you is peaceful. You're a headache."

She pretended to look hurt with a delicate hand on her chest. "Really? Is this what I get for trying to be friends?"

"We'll never be friends again."

Ashton grabbed the box with one hand and his guitar with the other. He turned away and headed to the cabinets.

"Right," I muttered. "I'm just gonna take my leave. I have a lot of things to do."

That was a stupid move because it drew her attention to me.

"Was it fun? Completely screwing up our first recital?"

I imitated her hand to chest move. "Wow, is this really your version of coming in peace?"

To everybody's surprise Quinn snorted a laugh. When his girlfriend glared at him he just said, "What? That was a good one."

Ashton was done putting his instruments away and head back over, hands in pockets.

"Impressive, so she hasn't finished brainwashing you quite yet," he said.

Quinn intercepted him on his way out with his palms up. "Wait, man. I just want to talk."

Ashton smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. "Too bad we don't always get what we want, huh?" He tried bypassing the other boy, whose reflexes were just too good and reacted fast enough to keep blocking him. Pretty boy sighed.

Lincoln came back from putting his guitar away too and tugged my arm to sit back down. He joined me and whispered, "Let's just sit back and enjoy the show."

I whispered back, "Got any popcorn?" This earned me a smile.

"I've been trying to apologize for months, man, but you keep ignoring me," Quinn said. He had a similar puppy look as Ashton. Hard to resist by anybody except each other, it seemed. I wondered if they'd learned it from each other when they were friends.

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