Chapter 55: Almost There

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Indio turned in his exam paper five minutes before the official end and raced over to the other side of campus, where Turk was sitting his biochem final. He pulled Turk aside has he walked out of the lecture room.

"I need a favor."

"You need a favor? You still owe me for Piper."

"Dude, it's been five months and you have a new girlfriend."

Turk gave him a smarmy smile to show he was joking, in a sick sort of way.

"I can't do the gig tonight," Indio said.

Turk slapped Indio's hand off his arm. "You fucking can! What d'you mean? These are our last gigs for the semester."

"I can do tomorrow, just not tonight. I have to be somewhere else, for someone else."

Indio wouldn't relent, and Turk was forced to accept it. Turk could handle lead vocals if they dropped a couple of numbers, and he'd have to figure things out as the only guitarist.

Indio texted Caleb.

> I'm leaving for Richland in 20 minutes

He didn't get a reply, and didn't expect one because Caleb would still be in the air.

Earlier in the day, Jesse had let him know Caleb wasn't going to make Wynter's graduation. Jesse had three finals and wouldn't be done until six. That's too bad, Indio had written back. It would never occur to Jesse or Caleb that he'd ride over there. Indio had a gig, and that commitment would not be questioned. It had taken him a few hours to decide what he was going to do, and now he was doing it. He would represent the family—an easy choice, in the end, because he wanted to support Wynter and see her play.

He had a harder choice to make, and it played on his mind all the way up the I-84 to Richland. He owed Caleb three thousand dollars and hadn't yet paid back one penny. He didn't have a summer job lined up. He'd lost his chance with Frankie, who had found someone else for the teaching job at E Sharp.

He did have a phenomenal opportunity with Gareth's band. They'd wanted him as a guitar tech and backup player, and he'd pretty much talked himself out of it. He couldn't imagine playing Christian music for money any more than he listened to it for pleasure.

That morning Gareth's friendly requests had turned into outright begging. Their guitarist couldn't come on the tour. They had one month to find someone else. Gareth had emailed him four times already, encouraged by Indio's total lack of response, sending increasingly detailed information about the tour dates and hotels, splashy posters of the headline act, and links to the music "just in case" he wanted to have a "quick listen" to the guitar parts.

He could really use that money.

He stopped for gas and thought about texting Caleb again—he'd have landed now, and he'd be wondering if Indio had actually done what he said he was going to do. Indio could tell Caleb he was halfway to Richland and put him out of his misery. He decided not to. Caleb didn't like repeating himself, so why should he?

He'd already looked up the school's website so he knew where the ceremony was and that it started at seven. He'd missed the first hour, which was okay because the musical performances were listed at the end of the program. That first hour would be speeches, the part he was happy to skip. He'd also probably miss seeing Wynter walk up on stage, and that felt bittersweet. He'd not attended his own middle school graduation because he'd had no interest in going and Harry hadn't pushed him to. He hadn't attended his high school graduation because he'd spent that last week of the semester tripping at a girlfriend's holiday house on the lake while her parents were in Europe. Harry had by then entirely given up on him, and Caleb was at sea. No one to tell him what to do, which was exactly the way he liked it.

At the auditorium he parked his bike in the empty motorcycle bay. The sun hadn't yet set—the evening was warm and beautiful. He locked down his helmet and jacket, walked up to the door, nodded a casual greeting to the security guard standing outside. A woman in her thirties, presumably a teacher, sat behind a table in the foyer. On one corner of the table was a small stack of graduation programs. He heard distant violin music.

The woman looked up from her phone with a smile. "Good evening. You're a little late. Ticket?"

"I don't have a ticket. I'm filling in for someone."

"I'm sorry, you'll need a ticket. Seat number?"

"Don't know. I'm here for Wynter Wild. She's graduating tonight."

"I'm afraid I'm not familiar with...?" The woman looked around her table helplessly, as if a solution would miraculously appear. Perhaps not a teacher after all, then. He couldn't imagine any teacher not knowing who Wynter was—but he was biased.

He pulled out his phone and called Rosa. It went straight to voicemail.

"Listen, I have to get in," he told the woman. "I came all the way from Portland. I'll stand at the back."

"I'm so sorry, I can't let you in."

She leaned to look around him, and he turned to see the security guard coming in. Great.

"Can I help you?"

"This gentleman doesn't have a ticket."

The security guard looked Indio up and down, unimpressed. "This way, sir." He pointed to the front door.

Indio thought about making a scene. A year ago, he would've made a scene. He went outside, disappointed his charms hadn't worked on the woman like they had on Rosa, who didn't even matter.

This did matter.

He walked off into the parking lot, aware the security guard was watching. He circled around the building out of sight and found the stage entrance. He selected a rock from the nearby garden bed and broke the handle, with its integrated lock, clean off the door.

The backstage area was deserted tonight. From above came the sound of applause. It died down and there was near-silence for thirty seconds as he made his way up a short flight of steps.

A familiar guitar riff blasted through the hallway. Then Wynter, singing Joan Jett.

He was almost there.

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A/N: If you're enjoying Out of Tune, don't forget to vote! I love votes and comments -- makes it all worthwhile. :)

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