Chapter 22

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Tuesday, October 7th

I invited Bailey over to Josh's house (actually barn) after school to watch us practice since we already have picked out one song for sure, and she cannot contain her amazement to save her life.
"You guys are going to blow them away!" She squeals after our first attempt of 'I Want Crazy', "I can't wait!"
Josh just smiles and tilts the paper with the lyrics on it back toward our faces. He nods and begins. I am so glad he's going to lead this song.
"I'm booking myself a one-way flight,"
I smile. "I gotta see the color in your eyes."
"Yeah tellin' myself I'm gonna be alright,"
"Without you baby is a waste of time."
"Yeah, our first date, girl, the seasons changed," he grins at me in a rather flirty way.
I suppress a chuckle. "It got washed away in a summer rain."
He wiggles his eyebrows. "You can't undo a fall like this,"
"'Cause love don't know what distance is."
"Yeah, I know it's crazy," we sing together.
The next part is sung in complete harmony, layering our voices.
"But I don't want "good" and I don't want "good enough", I want "can't sleep, can't breathe without your love". Front porch and one more kiss, it doesn't make sense to anybody else. Who cares if you're all I think about, I've searched the world and I know now, it ain't right if you ain't lost your mind. Yeah, I don't want easy, I want crazy. Are you with me baby? Let's be crazy."
We song the rest of the song, following that pattern of alternating between lines and then singing the chorus together.
Bailey claps at the end. "So what other songs are you going to sing?"
"We don't know-"
"We haven't decided-" 
We say together, drowning each other out, so she doesn't understand anything. I clarify.
"We aren't sure yet, but we have two that we need to choose between."
"What are they?"
"'Friday Night', by Lady Antebellum, or, 'Compass', also by Lady Antebellum." 
"Why Lady Antebellum?"
"Hey!" I pretend to scold her, "No hating on Lady Antebellum!"
She shrugs. "That's a toughy. They're both duets, so you won't have to tweak with them like you did with 'I Want Crazy'. That's a bonus."
"Yeah, but it's like choosing between my children!"
Josh chuckles. "I'm with 'Friday Night'. At least it's manly enough that Eric Pasley got away with singing it."
"Are you suggesting that Charles Kelley isn't manly?" I gasp. Bailey just watches, looking too amused for her own good. "He's married and has children!"
"His last name is Kelley."
"So? That settles it. We're singing 'Compass'."
Bailey laughs suddenly, and rolls off her seat, that happens to be a hay bale. "You two are hilarious!" She gasps, her face turning bright red from lack of oxygen. Josh starts laughing too.
I punch him in the arm. "Oh, hush." I grumble.
He shakes his head, still laughing. "You're so pretty when you're irritated."
I roll my eyes and throw my hands up in the air. "Whatever. I don't know these crazy people."
He wraps his arm around my shoulder. "It's okay. We don't know you either." He gives me a peck on the end of my nose."Yeah, I know its crazy," he croons into my ear.
"Hey I just meet you," I joke, "and this is crazy, but here's my number, so call me maybe?"
"Real funny," Bailey butts in, "but I'm hungry. Let's go back to my house. We're having barbeque crock pot ribs." She says in a singsong voice.
"Crock pot ribs?" Josh queries eagerly.         
Bailey narrows her eyes and grins at me. "Leah, I do believe I'll need to set an extra place."
"Seems so." I giggle.
"Deal me in then!" He adds, standing up and stretching both legs in turn before he tucks the lyric sheets into a random saddlebag. "When should I come over?" He asks.
Bailey and I both stare at him.
"What?" he says incredulously. 
"You drove us here, crazy!" I laugh.
"Oh yeah."
Bailey and I roll our eyes in unison. He just chuckles.
"So you want a ride?"
"No crap, Sherlock, we want very badly to miss dinner."
"Okay." He walks off, and I restrain a laugh on account of me being stranded as well. We both watch him leave, strolling right out the door, whistling the Looney tunes theme song.
"Hey!" I scream, running after him. "Come on, we NEED dinner!"
"Fine." He whispers, leaning down to kiss me, and laughing deep in his throat.
I go along with it, but pull out the second before his lips would meet mine.
His eyes pop open and he gawks at me, surprised. "What was that for?"
"Well, it was kind of payback for the pasture incident," I venture.
He grins. "Which one?"
I roll my eyes. Well played, Joshua. 
I walk into my darkened house at nine-thirty, stomach full of Bailey's mom's barbeque ribs, and tiptoe through the kitchen. All the lights are off, and in my waltzing through the dark kitchen, I manage to stub my pinky-toe on the leg of some stupid barstool.
"Crap!" I hiss, trying to steady myself with a hand on the counter. "Oh, it hurtssss!" Tears sting my eyes as I do the one-legged agony dance, swearing under my breath.
I close my eyes and stand silently for a moment, then recompose myself and limp on.
As I walk down the hallway, a hand grabs at me out of the darkness of a doorway. I jump and emit a short, but very loud, shriek.
"Ssh! Honey! It's just me! I need to talk to you!"
"Mom?! What the heck?" Why the hell was the light off?!
She flips the switch. Oh. That's why. It looks like my escapade woke her up, and she didn't bother to turn the light on before she grabbed me. "We need to talk."
"What?" I follow her into her room and sit down on the foot of her bed. 
"First of all, about Saturday. I know you and Joshua have plans, but Dr Frank is calling you in to reassess your condition." I open my mouth to protest. "I'm sorry, but he can only get you in on Saturday, but he's eager to see how the 'boy therapy' is working."
"Cowboy and horse therapy." I correct, frowning a little at the thought of not being able to practice on Saturday.
"Second, about the whole 'after dark' thing. Next time you have a midnight breakdown, wake me up and tell me before you go anywhere. The woods are dangerous. Do you remember that one year, that time they found the escaped man? It wasn't five miles from here. So please, don't leave the house at night."
"It really scared me. Cora came running into my bedroom at like seven in the morning, screaming that you were gone, and I called both Joshua AND Bailey many times, before Joshua finally answered. Don't do it again."
"Thank you. Love you, sweetie."
"Love you too, Mom." I smile back at her before retreating out of the room, and walking quietly to mine and Cora's.
I change into a plain gray T-shirt and shorts and slide carefully into bed beside my sister, my mind still undeniably awake despite the fact that it's bedtime.
I know that Josh won't mind my absence on Saturday, or at least won't admit to minding, but I know that I'll l see that familiar flicker of disappointment when I tell him. I wish-no, maybe I don't know what I wish. 
I adjust the position of my pillow and nestle my head further into it, then close my eyes, sighing quietly.
Cora stirs beside me, and I almost jump when her voice comes out of the darkness.
"I waited forever for you to come home."
I smile a little. "You did? Why?"
"I have a secret to tell you." Her voice is slow, scratchy, and tired, but also vaguely excited.
I move a bit closer. "What?"
I can almost feel her smiling. "I have a boyfriend."
My answer is a quick, protective, reflex. "No you don't."
"Yeah, I do."
"No, Cora, you need to wait a couple more years."
"But he won't."
I restrain the urge to scoff. Who are these children who think they know enough about love to actually be in a relationship? I don't understand them. Oh wait, yes I do. "Who is he anyway?"
"Matt Tarpin. He's 13.”
"You had better warn him. When Josh and I were talking about you the other day, he said he'd turn the first boy to hurt you into a eunuch."
She sucks in a breath. "Dear Lord..."
I almost laugh. Note the 'almost'. "Don't get involved with boys yet, Cora. Don't even think about them until they really prove that they love you."
"How do you prove something like that?"
"Well," I dig through my tangled thoughts, trying to find an example in the mess that is my memory. "like how Josh didn't abandon me when I revealed my issues."
"That would have been really shallow if he had."
"True, but most boys are really shallow as far as things go if they don't really love you."
"Yeah." She yawns.
"I'm serious though. Don't get involved."
She doesn't reply, and I know that she won't take my advice.

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