Page 47 of Riot (Mayhem 2)

“What year were you?”

“Three under you.”

“Didn’t you used to come to our shows?” Mike asks, and Kit stares at Shawn for a moment longer, like she’s waiting for something. When he only continues staring at her like she’s a face he can’t place, she turns to Mike.

“Sometimes.”

The rest of the guys—with the exception of Shawn, who falls uncharacteristically quiet—continue asking her questions, and Kit finishes the introduction, telling them that she was in a band in college but that they broke up after graduation because some of them wanted to get nine-to-five jobs. Once everyone is all out of questions, she grabs her guitar and takes the stage. The rest of us seat ourselves at the table while she hooks her guitar up and does a quick sound check.

“Do you guys remember her?” I ask the guys when we sit down. The question is for all of them, but I’m staring right at Shawn.

“A little,” Mike says.

“She looks really different,” Shawn says, almost to himself. He’s staring up at the stage, and I allow my gaze to travel there too. Kit is getting set up in record time, like she’s done this a thousand times before.

“Did she used to wear glasses?” Joel asks, his head tilted to the side as he tries to place her face.

“Yeah,” Shawn answers. “And she didn’t have the nose ring, or . . .” he trails off when he notices we’re all looking at him. “Her brother Bryce was in our grade, remember?”

The guys start reminiscing over some senior prank Bryce played, and Kit eventually leans into her microphone and asks, “What do you want me to play?”

“Your favorite song,” Adam shouts to the stage, and Kit thinks about it for a moment before smiling down at her guitar and stepping back. With her hair, her outfit, and the guitar strapped around her neck like it’s just another accessory, she looks like she belongs there.

When she starts playing “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes—a song we’ve heard more times than we can count by now—we all begin to groan, but she quickly starts laughing and steps up to the microphone. “Just kidding!” she says, and then she starts playing a song I’ve never heard before but that the guys all seem to approve of. They sit straighter in their seats, watching her play it, until Adam lifts his hand for her to stop.

“Do you write your own stuff?” he asks, and when she nods, he tells her to play us something.

When she passes that test, the guys join her onstage. They all glance her way periodically as they play—all of them but Shawn, anyway, who seems dead set on not looking in her general direction. Afterward, he thanks her for coming and her face falls.

“She’s perfect, right?” I ask when she’s gone, wishing we could have told her she was in the band before she left. She walked out the door seeming so unsure of herself even though she knocked the audition out of the park.

“What do you guys think?” Shawn asks, and Adam speaks my mind.

“I’m wondering why we’re even talking about it.”

“Can we cancel the other auditions?” Mike asks, his stomach rumbling right on cue. “Please? If we don’t, I’m going to scream like a little girl.”

Rowan laughs, and Shawn says, “She was off on the third song.”

“What planet were you on?” Joel asks. “She was perfect the whole time.”

“Seriously Shawn,” I complain, “what’s your problem?”

He stiffens and scratches the back of his neck. “Nothing. I just want to make sure we don’t make a mistake.”

“You’re going to have to pick someone sometime,” I tell him.

“So we vote,” Adam says. “All in favor of what’s-her-name, raise your hand.”

Everyone but Shawn raises their hand, and then he sighs and raises his too.

Later that night, I’m sitting with Joel on my couch when I ask him, “What was Shawn’s problem today?”

I called Kit right after six hands went up in the air in Mayhem, and she sounded super excited on the phone, but I can’t get Shawn’s complete lack of enthusiasm out of my head. We’ve spent weeks looking for a guitarist, and he acted like finally finding her was the worst thing to ever happen.

“What is Shawn’s problem ever?” Joel asks, flipping through one of my notebooks. We’re at opposite ends of the couch, separated by a mountain of homework, since, under the arrangement I made with my professors in order to extend my Easter vacation, I need to finish all of my assignments and turn them in before I leave to go home. Like I haven’t been struggling enough with this crap as it is.

“He was being weird,” I argue.

“He’s always weird.”

I turn my attention back to the over-warm laptop resting on my crisscrossed legs, giving up on the Shawn conversation. “Do you think Kit is pretty?”

Joel’s gaze swings up from my notebook, and when I glance at him out of the corner of my eye, he gives me a one-sided grin. “Not prettier than you.”

I roll my eyes at him, trying to control the smile threatening to bloom across my face. “So you think she’s pretty,” I challenge, giving my attention back to my laptop.

“I prefer heels over combat boots.”

“So you noticed what she was wearing.”

Joel laughs and leans forward to close my laptop. “I think if you want to have make-up sex, you should just say so instead of picking a fight.”

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