Song 35 ♪ Enter Sad-Man

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We remained in lockdown for a month, just as the nuns promised. It was a fucking blessing. My ma did a lot of screaming over the phone, but it was easier to cope with it when I was surrounded by a group of people I felt I could really call my friends, as we did a lot of cool things together. We wrote more songs together as we watched the view count of our amateur music video escalate by the day. Link was quick to appropriate the credit for that after he posted the song on his Spotify account and directed all his social media followers to the Youtube link.

He rubbed his shoulder off for show one day. "What? You thought I was just the pretty, Asian token boy in the band? Bitch please. You're all gonna make it because I want it that way."

To which our collective response had been to sing Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way because we knew it'd piss him off. Also because we knew he was probably right.

Another thing that also annoyed the whole hell out of him? When Madison flipped her now jet black hair and said, "Puh lease, it's because of how sexy I look in the video. Those views are all for me."

And she also had a good point. I was stricken by her the first time I saw the official cut of Ayr's video. She moved fluidly with the melody, her body swaying in a way that was almost artistic as she played her bass and flipped her hair around like a goth siren. Like she was an expert at working the camera and this was not her first rodeo.

Our favorite pastime between lessons and at the cafeteria was reading the comments that people were leaving. There were generic ones that said cool song as well as others that said u suck. But a few in between were more substantial and those were the ones we lived for.

"The dude in the guitar is super talented and hot," Ashton read with a shit eating grin that I wanted to smack off his face. I rolled my eyes and he latched on to that to ask, "Are you jealous, V?"

"Of your self esteem, yeah."

He scooted closer with his iPad. "You got some good comments, too. See? This one likes your hair."

I sighed. I guessed it was a compliment, but I was actually pretty annoyed that I wanted more.

I could see why my ma upended her entire life back in Venezuela to see if she had a shot at living off of this feeling of being seen and loved.

By the time we were finally allowed to have a weekend outside of the school, we'd arranged to go to a couple of underground places that Ashton had checked out online, but actually never been to, to see what the Orlando rock scene was like.

"For research purposes," he explained as we were on the way to the venue, crammed in his Jeep. "Most likely some of these bands will be part of the contest too."

When we walked into the place, there was a band playing on stage some kind of fast rock with high pitched guitars that was making my teeth rattle and my brain melt. I felt the sudden need to listen to some old school merengue or even Selena songs to cleanse back my palate. I heard Ash and Link talking about it, some heavy duty progressive metal type shit, they said, but the only two words I latched onto were the latter two.

"This is horrible!" I shouted at them and even they had to agree.

Unfortunately for us, the three other bands we saw that night were a lot better. I couldn't put my finger on why because I didn't have the jargon to describe it. In one band the drummer was an absolute beast, it seemed like he was hitting all the drums at once. In another one the combination of the singer and the lead guitar was what carried the entire show. They had so much chemistry that I felt jealous one second and flustered the next, when Ash leaned down to me and promised that we could replicate that. I spent most of the night glued to his side, his arm around me and I was surprised with how comfortable it was.

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