Authors: Nikki Godwin
Chasing Forever Down
y Nikki Godwin
Copyright © 2013
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For my sister, the real Enchanted Emily.
Thank you for lending so much of your magic to this story.
That chandelier should crash to the floor. I’d save one of th
e crystals as a souvenir, a symbolic end of corporate parties. It’s the same thing year after year – slinky black dresses on women too old to be wearing them, artificially whitened smiles, and the picture of Solomon Worthington, who built this building, still wrapped up in that awful bronze frame that’s the color of a spray tan.
But the guy beneath Solomon is different. No one shows up at th
is kind of event with a crooked tie, messy hair, or wearing Converse.
And he has.
It’s too late to look away. He’s already seen me all starry-eyed and frozen. His shadow shrinks beneath the picture as he pulls away from the wall and advances in my direction. There’s no time to bail. I wouldn’t dare try. I’d most likely trip on my way out the door and go down in corporate history as the idiot who busted her ass at Town Hall.
He stops in front of me and smiles what has to be the most charming smile in the history of smiles.
“Black tie affairs should make the top ten list of reasons why people commit suicide,” he says.
He tugs his tie to one side.
It’s a good thing I didn’t run. That has to be the best line I’ve ever heard.
I run my finger along my pearl necklace. “In a variety of styles,” I agree.
Parents drag you here?” he asks, fiddling with the knot of his tie.
I nod. They’ve dragged me here ever
y year since I started high school, when I was old enough to tag along. Mom always gives me the same speech, the one that starts with, “Haley, please make a good impression. Your future depends on this.”
Every successful businessman and businesswoman across the state is here in our Town Hall, and with them are their protégés
aka their children. Some of them can’t wait to take over that CEO position, and others are like me – looking for a way out.
What about you? Parents?” I ask. I can’t imagine why anyone would be here otherwise.
Yet he shakes his head.
“Nah. I was actually thinking of crashing the party, but it doesn’t seem worth it. Let’s get out of here,” he says, jerking his head toward the exit.
Nothing could sound better right now…except his name. And maybe a little background info to convince me
that he’s not a serial killer.
They’ll never know you’re gone,” he says, as if he can read my silly thoughts. “We’ll be back before this thing ever ends. They’ll be finishing up the last bottle of champagne.”
He looks over me, skimming the room
quickly, like he doesn’t want to be noticed. I want to ask who he’s looking for, but I already know his answer will be “no one.” I copy his action – looking for my parents though – and don’t see a familiar face. He pulls away from the wall and walks into the hallway. I follow, hoping someone other than Solomon Worthington’s portrait will see me leave…just in case.
There’s a cover band playing at The Lyric,” he says.
The Lyric Theat
er is the oldest landmark in Fallen Elk Grove. It’s the heart of downtown, just a block over from Town Hall. The city wanted to tear it down a few years ago to build shiny new buildings, but it’s part of our history. The good news is that it’s a very public venue and makes for many witnesses.
Who are they covering?” I ask. I try to read his face for something other than mystery.
The Ocean in Moonlight,” he says.
explains that The Ocean in Moonlight is a summery-feel band from Arizona, but I’m miles ahead of him. My best friend Linzi is in love with this band, their drummer Keegan in particular.
And cover bands usually suck,” I say.
He shrugs his shoulders and looks back into the adjoining room.
“Well, stay here and wait for the chandelier to fall then.”
It only takes about two minutes to locate my dad’s car in the parking lot. I type in the security code, toss my noose of pearls onto the backseat, and exchange my heels for flip flops. I don’t regret the switch, even if they do flap loudly against the sidewalk.
So…do you have a name or is that confidential too?” I ask as we pass the ancient hardware store. I stare through the window at a wall of hammers, crowbars, and wrenches to avoid eye contact with him.
Names are boring,” he says. He seems more relaxed now without the tie. “It takes the mystery out of people, don’t you think?”
He doesn’t have to worry about anything taking away from his mystery. He runs his fingers through his night-sky-black hair
and examines his reflection in a store window. My guess is that he was aiming for the messy-haired emo boy look, but he’s got more of a beach bum shag going on instead.
Nothing else is said in our two-minute walk until we see the vertical word LYRIC glowing in red lights. He looks both ways and grabs my
wrist before taking off in a run across the completely vacant street.
I’m guessing you’re from nearby since you knew about The Lyric,” I say.
e’ll know I’m prying for anything he’ll give me, but I don’t care at this point. He smiles but shakes his head.
Nothing a little research can’t tell me,” he says. “Besides, it’s the most historic place in the area, so it’s all over the tourist websites.”
That’s true, but I don’t believe him. Tourists call it The Lyric Theat
er. He called it The Lyric, which only locals do. And tourist websites? Really? What kind of guy checks out the tourist websites for a no-name town like this one?
on one of the double doors and holds it open for me. No matter how many times I’ve been here, I still feel tiny when I step into the auditorium. Multi-colored stage lights and splatters of glowing cell phones speckle the dark room. A mass of other teenagers huddle around the stage.
He keeps a grasp on my
wrist as we push through the crowd then he moves behind me so I can have a better view of the stage. He didn’t seem so tall until now. The cover band is halfway through The Ocean in Moonlight’s biggest hit “Ocean Air.” They sing about sitting outside all day and night, next to the ocean with someone special…then losing that person. I’ve always wondered if west coast ocean air is different from our east coast ocean air. Something about this song always makes me think I’m being cheated.
The girl next to us
slings her hair over her face and sings every word like she may erupt if she doesn’t scream her lungs out. I remind myself to smile so she won’t think I’m glaring at her. She catches my stare and yells, “What’s your favorite Moonlight song?”
“Chase Forever Down!”
The bass vibrates over my vocal chords
when I scream the words back to her. It keeps me from speaking when I realize that Mystery Guy screamed the same song title to her.
I spin around to look at him, but I still can’t speak because the stage lights
dance in his eyes – from red to pink to orange, then green to blue to yellow – and he smiles this totally perfect smile that makes my brain fizzle into hot summer ocean air. It’s like he knows everything I’m feeling and thinking in this very instance.
The vibrations in the floor cease and give me an excuse to look back to the stage. I watch the drummer hit his drumsticks together three times before the next song begins.
Mystery Guy leans down and says into my ear, “For a cover band, they’re not so bad.”
I halfway glance at him and nod, but I can’t turn and face him or else I may end up spilling my heart all over his white button-up.
He knows my song, and not only does he know it, he
“Chase Forever Down” is unlucky number thirteen on The Ocean in Moonlight’s debut album, the song that was never released as a single or even played on their live DVD that Linzi made me watch all last summer. But it’s always been my song, my secret anthem.
the only song that understands how I feel, how badly I want to escape. It embodies my daydream of running so far away that I can’t even see the North Carolina state line. It’s the song I plan to blast on repeat until I am away from the world of corporate parties and parents barking about business degrees and a realistic future.
Oh, that song.
It makes my heart skip beats and fuels me to make the great escape and chase my own forever down.
And just as my daydream of chasing forever starts to dwindle in my mind, the cover band’s guitarist strums those first few chords
, and Mystery Guy grasps my shoulder. He says the words over and over. “This is our song! This is our song!”
The scent of hair dye and his pineapple shampoo sweeps around me. The Keegan-wannabe-drummer bangs on his drums so hard that a drumstick flies out of his hand. Everything in the air feels so right – the freedom, the rush, the fact that I’m living for something more – and t
he only way it could be better would be if the real The Ocean in Moonlight was playing it.
The night falls silent as the cover band shoves their last amp into the back of an SUV. Mystery Guy was the only person nice enough to stick around and help them, which left me sitting on the curb watching for the past twenty minutes. Their drummer bangs on the side of the vehicle with his drumsticks and then hands them to Mystery Guy as a souvenir. He waves goodbye to us and climbs into the backseat.
We watch until their taillights
fade away. Mystery Guy pulls me up from the curb. Little is said as we walk back toward Town Hall, mostly just which Moonlight songs are our favorites. He drags a lone drumstick along the walls of the old downtown buildings. The click-pop sound bounces off the bricks and echoes against the empty night, in perfect rhythm with the town clock announcing the arrival of eleven o’clock.
He rattles his drumsticks against the stone podium at the bottom of Town Hall’s cement steps. A bronze plaque
details Town Hall’s history and the boring facts of the Worthington family. I run my fingers over the raised letters and avoid eye contact.
Solomon Worthington would totally tell you to ditch this place,” Mystery Guy says.
I want to argue because I could see the Worthingtons sipping champagne and conversing with the townsfolk about literature, art, and politics. But deep down, maybe beneath his bronze heart, Solomon wanted something more too. Maybe he didn’t want to draw blueprints. Maybe he wanted to jump into his horse-drawn carriage and chase his forever down.
“Champagne will last another thirty minutes,” Mystery Guy says. He flashes a sneaky smile that tells me to run before I get sucked in too deep, but it’s too late because I’m already wrapped up in his dark whirlwind of ocean air and cover bands. He gets it. And no one around here gets it.
We walk the sidewalk until we reach
Bristow Park, three blocks from Town Hall. I haven’t been here since sixth grade, when my best friend Chris was forced to move to Alabama because his mom was marrying her high school sweetheart who wouldn’t leave his hick town behind for the east coast.
This park was so much bigger in elementary school. It doesn’t feel like the massive ship we sailed
. This tiny playground has zero imagination. I lie back next to Mystery Guy on the wide slide. He rambles about the stars and making wishes and good luck, and none of it makes sense, but I watch his finger trace pictures in the sky.