“So what did she say?” Taylor asked.
“About what?” Joel replied, navigating to his favorite Asperger’s forum website to read the latest posts.
“Duh, about the prom,” Taylor said. “You asked her, right?”
“Um, well, I — she’s Mitch’s girlfriend, anyway. It, uh, it doesn’t matter.”
“Jooooel,” Taylor whined.
“What?” Joel snapped while he read through a post titled Dealing with Bullies. “Um, look, at least I talked to her, like you wanted me to. Why do you even care?”
“You’re sixteen and you’ve never even been on one date.”
“So? Um, have you been on a date?”
“Hello, I’m ten.”
“Just — just forget it, okay?”
“I just want you to be happy,” Taylor pouted, going back to her video game.
“Happiness is a state of mind,” Art interjected in a gentle tone of voice. “You can simply choose to be happy with life the way it is, rather than chasing after things you don’t have.”
Taylor shrugged the way she always did whenever Art spouted another one of his philosophical sayings.
“Um, I don’t think she can understand most of the things you tell her,” Joel said, now looking at his updated grades on the school’s website. Calculus: A. Language Arts: D. Ugh, he grimaced. Neither Nerd nor Normal.
“Sure I can,” Taylor huffed.
“She may be young, but she’s wiser than you think,” Art chuckled. “By the way, Joel, I’m almost finished mixing that awesome song you wrote. That was a killer solo you added to it yesterday. I’ll burn a CD of it for you after I add the drum track. Really good stuff, I tell you.”
“Um, okay.” Joel felt himself blush as he kept his eyes glued to the computer monitor. Despite all the progress he had made in his social skills group, he was still working on the whole “accepting compliments” thing.
A car horn sounded from the street outside. “Gotta go,” Taylor announced as she hopped off her stool.
“Uh — is that Mom already?” Joel asked. “I thought she was working.”
“Nope, I guess she took the night off. Something about big news. She said to come home right after you’re done here.”
Big news? Joel wondered. Hope it’s something good. I could use some good news today.
He navigated to the official Biledriver website, hoping to find that his favorite band had added a Seattle date to the North American leg of their tour. He couldn’t afford a ticket, but he thought that maybe Art could give him one in exchange for a few extra hours of work at the store. Instead of a tour schedule, however, what he saw made him nearly choke on his lettuce-less sandwich.
LATEST NEWS — MARSHALL BYLE THROWN FROM TOUR BUS IN CRASH ALONG IRISH COAST — BODY CANNOT BE LOCATED — PRESUMED DEAD
Joel shivered as he continued reading. “Byle, 27, was evidently thrown from an open bunk window after the band’s tour bus hydroplaned and tipped over while traveling through a torrential downpour. Search parties combed the area but were unable to find him. Band management is undecided at this time about whether to continue the tour or not.”
Continue the tour? Joel thought angrily. How can they continue the tour without their lead singer and guitarist? I can’t believe this. This is just —
Joel winced as the weird sound blared painfully in his ears once again. “Um, did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Art asked as he tried to piece together two sections of Joel’s broken guitar.
“Uh — nothing,” Joel said. That was the fourth time today, and Joel was getting worried. He started a search for “hearing loss symptoms” on the computer when suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw movement on the far wall of the store. He looked around. His eyes gravitated towards an old Biledriver poster that showed all of the band members in full scowl. He blinked several times. Did Marshall just . . . smile?
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