Not For The Weak At Heart
I'm busted. At least that's what I thought when Taylor asked if I was wearing mascara. Never, and I truly mean never, did I think he would ask to borrow it-- as well as Jack and Mason. Who knew guys wore makeup? Apparently it helps make them stand out on stage and keeps the sweat from their eyes. As a girl, and well versed in the area of makeup, I know the sweat thing is made up, because sweat plus non-waterproof mascara equals raccoon eyes. And nobody wants that.
We huddle as a group backstage and Marcus Wright walks up.
"You guys ready to kill it?" he yells, to be heard over the chanting crowd.
The boys all nod and I look at my feet.
"Since this is Ray's big debut, I figure we can milk this. You boys go on first and Taylor I want you to introduce Ray." He turns and looks at me. "Then I was thinking that you could come on and start things off with a drum solo."
I open my mouth to answer but no sound comes out. Akiko pipes in, "He'll do it!"
Marcus turns to her, "And who is this?"
"My girlfriend," I mumble.
"Hm," Marcus says. "We need you in the game, no distractions."
"That's my cue," Akiko says under her breath as she walks away-- in the direction of the food tent.
He keeps staring at me.
"I'm ready," I say.
"Prove it to me, to us." Marcus turns back to the group. "Hands in," he says.
One by one the boys places their hands on top of his, I'm the last to join in. Together we yell and raise our hands.
"Show time," Marcus says.
I watch Taylor and the boys walk on stage. Lights bright, fireworks firing behind them. They wave at the crowd and a wall of screams return.
Taylor grabs the mic and says "How you all doing tonight?"
Girls scream his name, hold up signs asking him to marry them, or have his baby.
"We're so happy you could all be here with us tonight," he continues. "We have some big news for you."
Then the unthinkable happens, the crowd starts chanting my name. "Ray Harper, Ray Harper." Well, my almost name.
"That's right," Taylor says. I am so pleased to introduce you to our friend and new member of 10Four Ray Harper."
I raise my hand in a wave and jog to my seat behind the kit.
The crowd, a sea of people, scream my name. I'm too scared to be nervous. This is real. This is right. It's what I was born to do.
I lift my sticks above my head, smack them together three times and smash them down on the symbol, rolling the beats into a sick solo. My arms fly about like a breeze, I linger on certain notes, crescendo on others. I leave nothing behind and let the rhythm guide me. I slow down until it's just the bass drum, in rhythm with my heart. The band starts to join in, first the base, then guitar.
The next three hours are a blur. I hit every right beat, as a band we've never played tighter. The crowd loves us. They sing every word alongside Taylor, who works the ladies like it's his gift--he leans down in the slow songs to serenade them and touch their hands. I wish I could watch them swoon over him, but I have to keep my focus.
It seems like no time passes when I'm hitting the last beats of our opening set. We finish with a bang and wave to the crowd as we walk off stage for the intermission.
Akiko runs over to me. "That was awesome," she says.
"Yeah?" I wipe my sweaty forhead, careful not to move the wig.
"Oh yeah! I've never been prouder!" She puts her head close to mine and adds, in a low whisper, "plus I've already spotted two girls from our school oogeling you in the crowd. This is going to bring me so much joy."
"Oh, thanks," I say monotone.
"I know this is probably even stupid to mention." She pulls me aside. "If you leave now, you can make it home for your 10:30 curfew."
"I can't, we still have four songs to play."
"I figured you'd say that."
"My dad won't even notice I'm gone. It's the last episode of Shark Week. I'll be an hour late at most."
"Good point," she says.
Jack and Mason walk over to us, Jack hangs back a few feet.
"Time to go back on," Mason says. "You played really tight first set. I'm glad to have you as part of this band," he adds, throwing his arm across my shoulders and guiding me back to the stage.
The crowd lights dim, they begin to cheer. We ready ourselves on the stairs.
The spotlight hits us and one by one we come back on stage, the screams of the crowd are ear shattering. I wave at them as I settle behind my kit.
We play through two songs and are about to start into our next when Marcus storms on stage. The boys stop mid note and turn to look at him.
"What are you doing?" Taylor yells at him off mic. "We're doing a show here."
He waves Taylor off and continues his path. It's almost as though he's headed for me. That's when I see my dad. Side stage. He mouths, "I'm sorry."
My heart sinks. And before I can react, Marcus grabs my hat and wig and rips them from my head. My pink waves tumble loose. The crowd gasps. An eternity of silence passes. Then Marcus grabs a mic and says, "Ray is a fraud!"
I stand, holding out my hands in surrender. "Let me explain," I beg.
Mason shakes his head, Jack sets his guitar down and walks off stage.
I look to Taylor. In the background the crowd is livid. They boo, shout wounding phrases, some even throw cans on stage. But none of that hurts as much as the look in Taylor's eyes. It's a look that crushes the core of my soul.
Finally he opens his mouth to speak, the crowd stills.
"Ray," he says. "Get off the stage."