Song 23 ♪ Courtesy Wake Up Call

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The first band finished and they turned on the weird electronic rock in the venue. The crush of people relaxed and I felt like I was able to breathe again when I had enough space to get away from Ashton. It had grown hot and humid and I was sweating everywhere. I didn't dare to look at him and see if there was a Vera shaped wet spot in the front of his clothes.

"Phews," Leti half screamed. "That was pretty intense."

"You don't say," Addy piped in. "And that was just a cover band."

"Yeah, but what you don't know is that these are the best cover bands in the country right now." Link had our attention as he explained, that today was the final of a year long competition that engaged bands from all over the country, and today the champion cover band was going to be chosen. "I'm going to be pretty disappointed if anybody but the Queen cover wins."

"What's their name?" I asked.

He grinned. "Yas Queen."

Ayrton laughed. "What are they? A gayer version of the original?"

"You'll see."

That colored me intrigued.

Leti slid up to me. "Your friends are pretty interesting."

"They're not my-" but I didn't finish that sentence. I looked as Ayrton teased DeAndre about something, and as Ash, Link and Addy were engaged in conversation as though there hadn't been years of barely talking to each other between them, and I realized that well, I didn't hang out with anybody else at school. And when they weren't giving me sass, they were pretty nice to me. So I guessed it wasn't a wild stretch of the imagination to say they were my friends.

Ashton's eyes shifted to me and I looked away.

Except him. It was stranger with him.

"Yeah, I guess," I told Leti at last.

"That was amazing," the older guy said back in the microphone suddenly, drawing our attention back to him. "But we have a lot left in store for you all. Up next, let's welcome these guys from Seattle, Washington. They're called Effervescent."

Ashton gasped so loud that we all looked at him.

"Vera, you gotta see these guys."

I was about to tell him that yes, I was short, but I could still see them. But all that died in my lips when he grabbed my hand and led me through the throngs of people all the way up to the front. I stood by the barrier and felt him slide behind me. I turned with difficulty and glared.

"Why did you bring me out front? Do you want me to die crushed by everybody?"

His eyes were wide and fixed on the band members as they walked up stage. But he still replied, "Don't worry, I won't let that happen." His eyes shifted down to me. "These are the guys I brought you to see."

I turned back to them and the only thing I found remarkable was that there was a girl among them.

"Why?" I asked him.

But then the first notes of a song I recognized came up and I froze. When the girl grabbed the mic and started singing, I felt a shiver run through my spine. I felt the tension coiling Ashton's muscles tight against my frame, and at that second I didn't have to guess why. It wasn't because of the crowd. It was because of the music. That electricity coming out of the band was passing through to us and I felt my body respond to the call. My mouth opened and the lyrics poured out of me. Ashton's body and mine moved together as if taken by the music. I felt his voice vibrate against me as he sang along to the man's lyrics.

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