They rehearsed for three hours until the girls had to go. Wynter went upstairs with them, organized the next rehearsal, and stormed back downstairs. Jesse was still at his kit, just sitting there.

"Did I do okay?" he asked, feigning anxiety.

Wynter opened her mouth, stopped herself, closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. "Why would you screw up the ending to that first song? Why did you keep calling me ma'am? Why would you refuse to give cues?" She'd asked him to, on a later song, and he'd told her, inexplicably, he didn't feel ready to take the lead. "What are you doing?"

"Why, I'm doing my very best," he said sweetly. "Was I okay? Did I hit that cowbell just right? Not too many confusing fills? Did I play 'em just like the record?"

"I told you all that stuff because I was worried you'd take over. You are nine thousand times more experienced than me, but it's not your band."

"Did I ever say it was? I praised your line-up and offered to help. That's all I ever did." His voice was pleasant but his eyes flashed in anger—a sight so rare she wasn't sure she was interpreting his mood correctly.

"Okay. I'm sorry. I should've trusted you."

"That's what it's all about, Wyn. You put a bass guitar in Meisa's hands when she hasn't played in years, and trusted her to keep up. You put a keyboard player in your band—you hate keyboards but you trust her to help make your band awesome. Maggie acts like—god, I won't get into that. You trust her to eventually learn her job. So, yeah, you should've trusted me." Now he sounded more hurt than angry. He tilted his drumsticks at her. "Don't. Tell. Me. How. To drum."

Wyn held up her hands, contrite. "You're right. I won't. And they love you, just like you said they would."

"That was a given, cuz I'm lovable."

"I just want to point out you made a sexist joke yesterday about us girls doing our nails, so this isn't all on me."

"Fair point. We have twenty-seven minutes before I'm on kitchen duty. Let's jam."

# # #

Jesse would do anything for his sister, and that included teaching her a lesson when she needed it. Her attitude when he offered to play drums had pissed him off—he'd been asked a hundred times to step in for other bands, and for the most part people were professional about it. When it came to music, he was used to being respected.

He was also being a bit unfair. He didn't have a professional relationship with Wynter. The rehearsal with MOC made him realize that would have to change. They had big plans for Rule212, so they all needed to learn to be professional with each other.

For the Wednesday rehearsal he showed up as before, and Wynter treated him with friendly respect and he responded in kind, playing it like the record except when he had a better interpretation, struggling to comprehend Maggie's so-called cues, and restricting himself to two humorous remarks, biting his tongue on half a dozen others that he knew would've gone down well. If they still needed him next week, he figured he'd be pretty much back to himself.

Wynter saw the girls out and returned to the basement, giving him a strange look.

"What? What did I do?"

"We had meeting outside just now. They want you in the band."

"Huh." He wasn't sure how to react because she hadn't said whether that was an actual invitation, or whether she wanted him in the band, which was kind of crucial.

"Jesse, would you like to be a Mail Order Chick? I realize, once classes start, you might not be able to make all our rehearsals. We have a gig on the horizon, in about six weeks, if Eliza can persuade her brother to let us play for his fifteenth birthday party. We have possibly unrealistic aspirations of being good enough by then."

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