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My life used to be simple. All I needed: a good book and my fluffy fleece blanket.
Then everything changed with the Trinvasion. Since Trin Adams moved here and took over our lives, my best friend Harmony and I have never been the same.
Sure, I'm glad Trin talked us into being a rock band. I'm a real drummer now. But I don't like being out front, even though I can do it. Thankfully, I won't have to worry about that for a while.
Now summer's here, school's over, and my only scheduled gig is going to Surf & Sand City, where Harmony and I spend a week every year - huge cliffs overlooking the ocean, tons of cute boys, and time to read and do a whole bunch of nothing.
But best of all, no band, no work, and no Trin ...
* * *
I had just rolled into my softest fleece throw and shuffled to my bookshelf to choose a book when my cell phone rang "La Bamba."
"Hello, Mello!" Harmony's voice blasted out at me. "Are you packed?"
"I knew it. Are you ready for some serious fun-o-rama?"
"I'm ready for some rest-o-rama, Harmony - picking out a novel as we speak."
I could practically hear her rolling her eyes.
"You've got to be the only teenager in Southern California who thinks a retreat at Surf &Sand City is about resting," she accused.
"You can do whatever you want," I answered. "You'll know where to find me."
"On your favorite cliff, reading a book," she said in her most disgusted voice.
I closed my eyes and pictured it. I could almost smell the ocean and feel the breeze. "Definitely."
"I can't believe we leave tomorrow. One o'clock, just like last year?"
"And you signed us up to room together, right?"
I punched the End button on my phone. Before I even put it down, it rang again. But it wasn't "La Bamba."
"May I please speak to Mello McMann?"
"This is she," I answered.
"Mello, this is David Karuthers. You know that I'm coordinating this year's retreat. Today I'm pulling together last-minute details at the office. Are you coming to choir practice tonight?" he asked in his bouncy voice.
"Yes," I answered, trying to figure out what choir had to do with anything.
"Do you think your friend Harmony could come with you? And maybe you could come early? I'd like to speak to the two of you about the trip."
I paused before I answered. Was this about last year's retreat? The speaker's shoes hot-glued to the ceiling? Or the toothpaste on the pillows? Or maybe the water-balloon launcher?
If so, he needed to talk to Harmony, not me. Maybe it wasn't the best idea to invite her to join my youth group on this trip every year.
I said, "I think so. I'll call Harmony."
"Great. Meet me at the youth center at six thirty."
* * *
"If I was going to get in trouble for that stuff, don't you think it would have happened last year?" Harmony whispered as we walked up the church sidewalk.
I shrugged. "Maybe they found out something new. Maybe someone just now complained. How should I know?"
"So why do you have to be here? All you did last year was read."
I threw an arm around Harmony's shoulder. "I guess I'm guilty by association," I said with a groan.
We found Mr. Karuthers inside the youth center. He didn't look mad at all. He smiled real wide, bounced over to some chairs, and pulled three of them into a triangle.
"Here, girls, have a seat," he said. "Thanks for coming."
I looked at Harmony, and she raised her eyebrows. So far, so good.
"Mello, Harmony, I want this retreat to be a special time for everyone who attends. I know it's a good time to relax, but I think it should be more than that."
Harmony shot me a look. I felt like saying, "I don't think he's talking about pranks and water-balloon fights."
"Last night I went down the list of students who will be attending," he continued. "When I got to your names, I knew I had the answer I've been looking for!"
My heart started beating out a warning. I didn't want to be anyone's answer to anything. I wanted to hide on my cliff and read.
He smiled at us and asked, "How would the Chosen Girls like to do an outreach concert on the beach Saturday night?"
"Cool frijoles!" Harmony said, probably as much from relief about not being in trouble as from excitement about the concert.
I tried to process. One concert wouldn't be such a big deal. I would only lose one evening of downtime. But I would have to bring my drums. And Trin.
It wasn't what I had planned on.
Mr. Karuthers talked on and on about how all the campers could pass out flyers Friday. Loads of people would come. He said the concert would be a great opportunity for people to hear the positive message our band loved to share.
I started simmering inside. I don't care if those people hear our message, Mr. Karuthers. I want to read my book, not do a concert.
But I smiled and said, "Definitely, Mr. Karuthers. We'll check with Trin, but I'm sure she'll say yes. Can our soundman come too?"
* * *
Lamont agreed immediately, offering to help with more than sound. He'd always wanted to go to Surf & Sand City. And Trin definitely said yes. Actually, she screamed, "Ohwow! Yes! Sweet! I can't wait! What should I pack?"
I knew Trin had been feeling left out since Harmony and I had planned to go without her. I finished packing and spent the rest of the night chatting online.
Trin: ohwow - it's right on the beach?
Harmony: sí. muy bonita. bring sunscreen.
Trin: sand volleyball?
Me: n surfi ng lessons, horses, mountain biking
Harmony: LOL! like mello ever did any of that b4!!! but u will luv it, trin - just wait til u c the cabins. way cute
Trin: i can't wait. i just have 2 learn 2 surf!
Lamont: i haven't been on a board in months
Me: thx for the warning - we'll stay out of ur way
Trin: how many pairs of shoes r u bringing?
Lamont: what does THAT matter?
Harmony: be quiet, Lamont. i packed 5
Trin: i think i can make it with 8
Lamont: we're only there a week. why do u need 8 pairs of shoes?
Trin: didn't some1 tell u 2 b quiet?
I could see Harmony was psyched about Trin's going. Now she'd have someone to hang with. I should have been happy for her, since I just wanted to kick back. But instead I felt irritated.
* * *
Friday morning we met early at the shed behind my house. Harmony and I had used the shed as a playhouse for years, but now it serves as a studio. We needed to run through the songs and make sure we were all cool with the plan. Lamont joined us, since he lives right next door.
I did some rolls on the snare to warm up. Harmony got out her bass, and Trin started tuning her electric. I asked what song we should start with.
Trin looked past me, smiled her hugest smile, and said, "I can just imagine pounding to the edge of a cliff on the back of a black stallion, overlooking the Pacific Ocean -"
"Just don't run over Mello. She'll be sitting on that cliff, reading," Harmony said.
I shook my head. "If we don't get started, I'll never get to chill. We'll be practicing the whole time."
"Should I bring the camera?" Lamont asked. "I can tape the concert."
"A concert on the beach!" Harmony said. "It might be our biggest one yet. Sí, tape it!"
"But in order to do a concert, we'll have to know what song we're opening with," I reminded them. "Which brings us back to why we're here this -"
"Are we changing to superhero suits halfway through?" Harmony interrupted.
"Wait! I forgot to pack mine!" Trin said, already walking across the room. "And my white boots. Ohwow, I better go right now." She packed her guitar into the case. "And I forgot bracelets! I so am not good with last-minute packing."
"You definitely should do the super suits," Lamont said. "That's your trademark. It's what makes the Chosen Girls stand out. Either super suits or chicken suits."
Harmony whirled to face him. "The chicken disaster is over. Do not mention the chicken suits, the chicken concert, or the chicken jingle unless you want me to practice my newest karate move on you."
Lamont shut his mouth, but he started humming the tune for Chik'n Quik / Chicken on a stick / It's so yummy for your tummy /Everybody loves Chik'n Quik.
Harmony put her guitar on the couch and raised her arms to fighting position.
"You didn't say I couldn't hum!" Lamont cried, crossing his arms in front of his face in self-defense.
"What about our practice?" I asked Trin. "We didn't even run through one song."
"We'll have to do it when we get there," she said as she ran out the door. "See you at one!"
Harmony put her arms down, and Lamont sighed in mock relief. She grabbed her bass, put it in the case, and fastened the latches. "Know what? I forgot my new bracelets too!" she said. "And I think I should take my purple flip-flops." She moved toward the door.
"Harmony," I whined. "I don't want to spend the whole time we're there practicing for the concert."
She looked back at me. "Don't worry, Mello. We'll be fine," she said. Then she left too.
I looked at Lamont. "Please don't tell me you need to pack bracelets or flip-flops," I begged him.
He shrugged. "Nope. But I do need to get my camera and the charger and -"
"Fine!" I said. "Just go."
He walked toward the door and said, "Mello, the concert will be great. The Chosen Girls can do this with their eyes closed. What's wrong with you?"
I shook my head. I did know one thing - now that the Chosen Girls were officially involved, this retreat would be anything but downtime.
Excerpted from Solo Act by Cheryl Crouch Copyright © 2007 by G Studios, LLC. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted June 27, 2012