Listen to Your Heart

Page 13


Frank, who had somehow ended up standing closer than I wanted, said just loud enough for only me to hear, “No, it was worse.”
I put my hand to my forehead and groaned. Maybe the best thing to come of this would be that I’d get fired.
“I don’t want to hear how you thought it was fine,” I said to Alana as soon as we were out of the room and walking down the wide hall.
“I wasn’t going to say that at all. That was awful. You kind of sucked.”
“It was more that nobody real called in. You sucking was secondary.”
I pushed open the door at the end of the hall. The heat of the day mixed with the scent of pine hit me at once. I stopped for a moment to breathe it in. It smelled a little like the lake and that helped release my tension.
“Thank you for saving us at least a little bit,” I said, glancing gratefully at Alana. “You’re the best.”
“Of course.” She paused. “And you know, I really do worry about you, Kate. And the stuff with Hunter.”
I grabbed her hand and squeezed. “I love you but I don’t want to talk about Hunter.”
“I know.”
“No, really.”
“Okay, I promise I’ll stop after this one question—I was right, wasn’t I? You really are still hung up on him. I suspected, because you haven’t looked at another guy in months. But I thought maybe I was wrong.”
“I’m one step past hung up on him. I was hung up on him over the summer, now I’m …”
“Hung down on him?”
I laughed. “Off the hook but still touching it?”
She shook her head. “Well, instead of touching that hook, you can help me in my romantic endeavors.”
“Are you still coming to Liza’s tutoring thing with me on Monday so you can hang out with Diego there?” I asked as we headed to my car. This was the strategy we’d come up with after several discussions.
“Would that be too obvious?” Alana asked, twirling a strand of her dark hair around one finger.
“A little, but when has that ever stopped you?”
Alana laughed. “Okay. Since you are now the expert advice giver, I’m going to listen to you.”
“Funny. When does the podcast get posted online, anyway?” I asked.
“Oh joy. Can’t wait for my debut.” It wasn’t like nobody listened to the podcast. It had actually built up quite a loyal following. I had two days to pretend this would all go away.
The wind whipped through my hair and pounded at my ears as I practically skidded across the lake on the WaveRunner. I knew I was driving fast, maybe too fast, but it felt good. I loved being out on the lake, doing something I was good at. I didn’t feel stupid or out of my element or judged. I felt strong and confident. I felt free.
Well, except for the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be out here. I was supposed to be cleaning this WaveRunner. A bucket of soapy water sat on the dock about twenty minutes behind me. It was nearing sunset and there was actually a whole row of WaveRunners I was supposed to clean. But as I’d stood on the dock, holding the bucket, I knew I needed this more.
I released my hold on the gas and the vehicle slowed to a stop. I put my forehead to the handlebars and let the tension melt out of my shoulders and back.
The way I felt now—relaxed and happy—was worth the look on my dad’s face as I pulled back up to the dock thirty minutes later. But not necessarily worth the fact that I realized he held a towel in his hand and had obviously just done my job.
He sighed. “Kate, I know the siren call is strong, but sometimes I wish you could resist.”
“I needed a break.”
“You always need a break.”
“That’s not true. I work here a lot.”
He let out a small chuckle. “I wasn’t talking about here. I meant the things waiting for you at the house—homework, chores, responsibilities.”
I couldn’t argue with that. “I’m sorry.”
“Hurry home. Mom said you were supposed to have your homework done before going out on the lake.”
“I know. Sorry.” I probably should’ve been more sorry. I hung up the keys and made my way home.
The next two days passed in a blur. Before I knew it, it was Friday afternoon, and I was pacing the floor of my bedroom. Liza and Alana sat on my bed, staring at me. The three of us had just finished listening to the first episode … or intro … or whatever Ms. Lyon was calling the thing. The editing team had done a good job editing out the silence at least.
“I thought you hated being called Kat,” Liza said. The editing team had also edited out every time I corrected my name.
“I do.” But my name was the least of my worries.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Alana finally said, echoing Ms. Lyon’s words from Wednesday. Anytime someone has to say something isn’t that bad, that just proves the opposite.
“You were funny,” Liza said.
“For sure,” Alana agreed. “You played the snark to Victoria’s straight. It almost seemed like you two meant to play it that way.”
“You used the word almost.” I sank to the floor and pulled my knees to my chest.
“You sounded a tiny bit froggy, but otherwise you were okay, Kate,” Liza said, playing with her blonde ponytail. “I don’t understand why you’re freaking out.”
“Thanks, Liza.”
“Did your group come up with any ways to get more callers?” Alana asked.
In class today, Ms. Lyon had split us into different groups to try and brainstorm ideas.
“Not really.” I sighed from my spot on the floor. “My group was too busy giving me advice on how to be more charming and likable on air.”
“Oh yeah, what kind of advice did they have?” Alana asked, shifting on my bed.
I thought back to their shouted suggestions. “One was to smile while I talk. Then I would at least sound happy.”
Liza screwed her lips up into a smile. “Does that really work? Do I sound happy right now?” she asked us.
“You sound like a robot,” Alana said. “You’re supposed to both smile and move your mouth.”
“Is that possible?” Liza practiced it a few times, whispering different words with a smile pasted onto her face.
“What about your group?” I asked Alana. “Did they come up with brilliant plans for more calls?”
“No. They’re thinking that once the first episode airs, more people will call in.”
“Based on what, exactly?” I asked, feeling defeated. “My winning charm?”
“Based on wanting to be on a podcast, I guess.” Alana shrugged.
I tapped my bare feet against the floor. “Maybe we’ll have to assign all the people who are in Thursday’s postproduction lab to call in on Wednesdays with fake problems,” I said, remembering how Alana had called in. “They can work on their voice manipulation and acting skills.”
Alana scooted off my bed and came to sit on the floor next to me. She put her arm around my shoulder. “Look on the bright side.”
“There’s a bright side?”
“It can’t get any worse than that episode, right? It will only get better from here.”
“You just totally jinxed it. Next week someone will call in about undercooked meat at the local hamburger joint.”