Chapter 23: Wah

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Wynter knew exactly what to do, thanks to Jesse's website which had all kinds of tips on how to deal with the blood and the pain, as well as a suggestion to mark the calendar. None of which Rosa's book for little children had mentioned.

She felt she should tell someone. Tell a woman. Girls told their mothers, didn't they? Rosa already knew, because of the sheets, and had plenty to say. Unlike her book, she was actually quite helpful. She gave Wynter a microwavable heat pad and went out specially to buy chamomile tea.

Girls told their girlfriends, presumably. The girls at school had started their periods in sixth and seventh grade. One more thing she was behind in. Rosa said it was because she was malnourished in childhood. Wynter didn't care if her friends knew or not.

Girls told their sisters, surely. Should she tell Jesse? The way he guided and advised her, he sometimes felt like the closest thing she had to a sister. She hesitated over his name in her contacts list...

She texted Joy. For once, Joy responded quickly.

>> Wonderful! You're a woman now. Give me your address and I'll mail you a malachite crystal for cramps and rose quartz for mood swings.

Wynter thanked her and wondered what Jesse would say about that. People in the Light used crystals for all kinds of things. Wynter didn't want anything associated with the Light, but she'd seen plenty of crystals on the outside, too, so it wasn't only a Light thing. Maybe crystals would be okay.

Meanwhile, by Monday her cramps were so bad she went to the school nurse for help. That evening, the medicine wore off and she was clutching her belly in agony by the time Rosa came home.

"There's absolutely no need for you to suffer," Rosa said. "I'll get you something stronger, and if that doesn't work we'll put you on the Pill."

"My sister's sending me crystals." The pain was bad enough she'd try anything.

"Really, Wynter, that won't help at all."

It didn't matter anyway, because the crystals from Joy never came.

# # #

"I'm having a double sleepover for my birthday," Stacey told Wynter. "I'm only allowed to invite five friends, and you're one of them."

Wynter was stunned. Stacey had expressed dissatisfaction with the time she was devoting to the Clockwork Toys. Being in a band was in some ways benefiting her social acceptance—a couple of Ethan's friends had said hello, and Ethan's sister had come over with Arthur to chat at the lockers. With Stacey, on the other hand, it was never clear, day to day, whether Wynter was still in favor or not.

"What's a double sleepover?"

"Two nights over the first weekend of spring break. Bridge night is canceled—yay!"

Two nights in close quarters with five girls from school... Wynter knew she was supposed to be thrilled with the idea.

She said, "I'll have to check if I'm free."

"We feel you're not spending enough time on our friendship," Stacey said, vaguely indicating some other girls hanging around the lockers, packing their bags to go home. "You need to spend more time with us if you want this to work out."

"I sit with you in at least one class every day. I have lunch with you once a week."

"Did you know Hunter calls you a Nazi behind your back?"

"What does that mean?"

"The point is, friends don't say that about friends. He's not your friend, Wynter."

"He doesn't have to be, as long as he does what I tell him."

Stacey's eyes flashed. "You really have no idea how to—"

"I gotta get to rehearsal."

Wynter escaped to the practice room, to the boys who liked her for a talent she could rely on, rather than the girls whose friendship seemed conditional on however her last interaction with them had gone. Hunter didn't always do what she told him—sometimes he listened and sometimes he told her to shut up and did his own thing—but overall the Clockwork Toys were improving. Caleb had been right about Ethan, who worked hard to please her, excited by his own progress and motivated after the masterclass.

Overall, they still had lots of work to do on playing as a team, keeping time, adding dynamics and flourishes to their songs—all the things that happened naturally when she made music with her brothers. But she was having fun—they were all having fun. Gaining the respect of her bandmates felt good.

They whittled down their song list, thanks to Jesse's input and careful curation of the other band members' ideas. Everyone felt they had at least one favorite in there. Hunter, though, was hard to please.

"Only three of these songs have a guitar solo," he pointed out with an edge of suspicion, like Wynter had planned it that way. "I can do Sweet Child O' Mine. Why isn't it on the list? You know how hard that is? I spent my entire Christmas vacation learning those riffs. And I kill the solo with my wah pedal."

"Isn't that song really old?" Ethan said.

"But the kids all know it. That's what we want, right? Something they all know?"

"Play me the intro," Wynter said, knowing he didn't have the concentration for it.

Hunter spread his feet wide, assuming a rockstar pose, and launched into the opening riff. His fingering was a mess, the notes blurred and stuttered, and three bars in he was making mistakes all over the place. He stopped a few notes later.

"I'm out of practice but I can do it."

"I'll give you one month," Wynter said. "If you can play it perfectly after spring break, I'll consider adding it in."

Hunter accepted the challenge.

* * *

A/N: Coming up -- Jesse makes a solo visit to Rosa's house. What are the odds he can behave himself this time?

Just wanted to pause to say thank you again for reading Out of Tune, and for your votes and comments. It means so much to me. We're only about 1/3 of the way through this book, but as it's complete offline I'm spending my time finalizing the cover for book 3 (tentatively called Rhythm & Rhyme as Wynter hits her stride) and fixing up a few scenes to prepare it for posting down the track.

(Did I mention this is a ten-book series covering several years?)

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