"Are you going to come to my graduation?"
"Uh," John said, not sure how to answer that question.
Claire was out shopping and Melissa had decided to stay put with him and Claude. He didn't mind. Claude was currently busy listening to what they'd just finished recording.
"I'm sorry. I guess that wasn't the right way to tell you that I'd like you to be there."
He hadn't even thought about that. Stupid him. He'd known she was applying to colleges. He knew that she had narrowed it down to a handful from the way more than that she'd been accepted to. She'd mentioned Florida, but John suspected she'd be heading to Yale or somewhere else like it. John wouldn't blame her at all. He hadn't thought of the activity and right of passage leading to her going to college. Graduation.
"I guess your mom and I would need to discuss that."
"I can invite who I want."
"Yes, that may be true, but we don't want to piss off your grandparents. They were pretty nice to you last summer when you weren't speaking to your mom. From my understanding they've been pretty nice to you all along."
"Well, in my experience, limited though it is. When someone's nice to you, do your best not to piss them off. You never know when that niceness will be needed."
"Yeah, but you're my dad."
He sighed softly.
"I know I am. Some would argue that point maybe. The difference between a dad and a father. However, I'd like to talk to your mother. Maybe there's a way I can go without upsetting your grandparents. Not sitting with them or something."
"If it helps keep the peace it's something to consider."
"Yes, but you're together."
"I know, Melissa. I plan on us being together until whichever one of us kicks the bucket first, but that doesn't mean we need to shove it down her parents' throats months into things."
"So, we'll see what options your mother comes up with. Maybe she's thought on it. I admit I hadn't. I suppose that means you have prom this year, too. Did you go last year?"
"Yes, and sophomore year, too."
"Really? An older guy asked you?" Claire had told him she hadn't really had any boyfriends before Sean.
"Yes. He was just a friend. He didn't have a girlfriend so he asked me because he wanted to go. He lived two houses down from us until we moved into the new house a few years ago. So we sort of grew up together."
"Ah. I'd like to see pictures."
"Really? I'm sure Mom has a ton. She took plenty."
"I bet she did. Are you going this year?"
"Yes," she said.
"With Sean?" He hadn't heard one word about it, which he, Claude, and Billy should have to be sure nothing was scheduled that weekend. (The same with her graduation, too, now that he thought about it.)
"No," she said with a shrug.
"We aren't really talking anymore."
"Oh?" He'd sort of wondered, but hadn't realized they weren't talking at all. "Why not?"
"He told me about the argument you two had, what he said. I think he thought I'd take his side or something."
"Oh," he said.
"I don't want to go out with someone who's going to say stuff like that. No matter what happened between you. He knows you. And that's kind of insulting not just to my mom but me."
"I'm sorry he told you. I was in a bad mood that night. I'd read your email and was jealous I guess," he shrugged. He'd never admitted that outright and he couldn't say he'd ever experienced true jealousy before.
"I shouldn't have told you about that guy…"
"I didn't say that. I want you to be able to tell me anything. Everything. No limits or taboo subjects. Don't take that away from what I just said. It was just new to me and unexpected. Feeling that way. It had nothing to do with you. However, it made me realize that I needed to tell your mom what was on my mind. Something that is absolutely not my strong suit. I assumed after you left here in January she knew how I felt."
"I'm sorry about you and Sean. Distance is hard at any age, but throw you going to college into the mix and I imagine it'd be harder."
"That's sort of what he said," she said with a shrug. "You think you and Mom can do it?"
"I think Mom and I have a few things going for us you and Sean don't. Your mom doesn't work right now so she's a lot freer. I'm fortunate to work a job with a lot of time off as well. You won't be able to come and go as you please next year and Sean doesn't have the money saved up I do to afford things like plane tickets frequently."
"Yeah, he said that, too. He drove to Texas?"
"He did," John said. "I know he likes you, but maybe being my daughter was more than he wanted to handle right now with everything else."
"I know. I'm okay and everything."
"Good," he said, relieved to hear that.
"I'll talk to your mother."
"Would you come?"
"I don't know what part of I'll talk to your mother suggests to you I don't want to be there. I just don't want to cause problems. So if she can think of a way to avoid that, yes, I'll be there. Gladly."
"Why don't you sing more?"
John coughed softly at that, glancing at where Claude was.
"Uh, because it's just not my thing. It's one thing to play my guitar and another to sing."
"Is that the only reason?"
"Why will you sing with me then?"
He shrugged. "Because there's no way I can possibly catch up or make up for the past eighteen years, but we have something in common. Something we both do and do well. I'd like to do that with you."
"And if I wanted to make a record?"
"I'd help you."
"Would you play with me? Could you?"
"Sure," he said. He shrugged, glancing in Claude's direction again. The guy probably was choosing now not to listen in on the conversation in here. Or just enjoying John being asked such questions. "Why not? I'm not under any contract or anything. So, whatever you'd need. I'm pretty sure Claude would help. I can't speak for anyone else. Claude can play bass, though," John said.
"I knew that, I think. You had someone before Noel."
"Yup, Xavier. He, Billy, Claude, and I started Shooterz in Claude's garage. That's where I was, in fact, when I found out you were going to happen."
"Oh. Does Claude go home?"
"No. His parents don't live there anymore. They moved to Mississippi, I think."
"Louisiana," Claude said over the speaker from the other room.
"There you go," John said.
"And, yes, I'd help you," Claude said.
"Thank you," she said.
John chuckled at that.
"Now, we may not be the sound you want, though, and you really need to think about if you want to do a record of your own what you want. If you'd rather audition people and have us help you with that we can do that, too."
"I know. I'm okay with this for now."
"I'm going to be kind of busy."
"Well, if you're like Claude you need to write that stuff that comes to you so busy or not with school work you'll still write."
"Probably," she said.
"I can assure you that whatever you need if I can give it to you I'm in. Even if it's just to use my recording equipment. Yours is pretty good, though."
He chuckled softly.
"You're lucky you have a mom who was willing to do that. Even if it was simply so she'd have quiet in the rest of the house. I can assure you not all parents would build you a studio."
"You guys would really help me?"
"You bet. Whatever you need. I mean if that's what you wanted to do. This here what we're doing, we're doing more for fun. I mean, sure you'll get money out of the deal from any sales and what have you, but if you were serious about wanting to do something and wanted to audition people or whatever. For sure we'd help you. Honestly, I wouldn't want you doing that without one of us in the band present."
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because, sweetheart, this business can be pretty brutal to young, pretty girls and I hate the idea of you being chewed up and spit out, used, or anything else."
"You bet. Even if it's only this you do and you decide to sell your written work instead of perform it yourself I want you to have a positive experience."
"You guys haven't always."
"No, but we were together, a group. You're you and some people may try to take advantage of that."
"If they knew who you were …"
"Sure, but then you get the reputation of thinking you're entitled versus the next girl who writes music. Never mind I can't be with you every time you do something."
"I get it."
"Good. And, well, I've heard from talking to other people that it's just different for women. I don't want any of the stories I've heard to come true with you. Ever."
"He's right," Claude said from the other room. "I've told Paula if the girls want anything to do with any sort of show business she must talk to me before doing that."
"That bad?" Melissa asked.
"Worse," John and Claude both said.
"And it's not just girls, but I think they get the brunt of it," John said. He shrugged a bit.
"You make it sound so …"
"Hey, we've gotten lucky. We've had no problems. We've had good producers and good agents over the years. Some people aren't so lucky. It's a fickle business and it's not for the weak. For every Madonna there are one hundred girls trying to be here. One hundred girls who think if they do this or that they'll get the chance to be here, and it just doesn't work that way."
"And yet isn't that what you're doing for me?"
"We're not asking you to do anything in exchange for recording your song or getting it on our release. We just want your stuff to be heard because you're good and it deserves to be."
"Your mom was surprisingly all right with you going on tour with us this summer," Claude said.
"She'd never say no if it was something I really wanted to do," Melissa said.
"And you're lucky for that," John said.
"Would I stay with you?"
"Yes," John said. He chuckled softly. "I guess that's one way your mom can be sure I'm not misbehaving."
"I don't think she's worried about that."
"I hope not," he said. He wasn't so sure. It was easy to say that now. When they took off at the end of May he likely wouldn't be free for months. A night here or there between shows, sure. It was always particularly brutal after a release.
"Can we go swimming now?"
"You bet," John said with a soft laugh. "Claude? You coming?"
"Nah," he said. "You two kids have fun."
"Thanks," John said before they put their guitars away.
"You getting out of here so you can't tell me not to send it?" Claude asked.
"Kind of," she said.
"It'll be good," he said.
"If you say so."
"We know so," John said.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com