The band take Lou and Yankee to the park, where some intriguing conversations take place. Part 2 of 2.
Oh, and I know that I seem to be focusing on Ryan and Spencer a lot in this chapter and leaving Brendon and Jon out, but I will probably make up for that in the future sometime.
“And… cross!” Jon said, leading me gently forward.
The four boys had decided to take Yankee and I to the local park just ten minutes away from the venue. They insisted on buying me lunch – since it was only fair, seeing as I 'had to put up with them,' according to Brendon – and it also gave Yankee a bit of freedom too. Zack was accompanying us, just in case a crazy fangirl turned up, and had kindly demanded that I wear sunglasses like the band to try and protect my identity.
“But I’m just a blind girl; no one’s gonna care about me!” I protested, slipping on a pair that Ryan had given me.
“We care,” Spencer said firmly, coming up behind me and resting his hand on my shoulder lightly. So that was that. I would wear the sunglasses and they would take Yankee and I to the park for lunch.
Now, Jon was leading me across an intersection, holding my hand to help guide me while the other was wrapped around Yankee’s harness. Since he didn’t know the neighbourhood, Spencer had clipped a leash that he had found in a bag that Chris had packed for me onto his collar, and was leading him at times. Ryan walked behind us, discussing something with Zack while Brendon was in front, bouncing one of Yankee’s tennis balls that he had also found in the bag.
As we reached the sidewalk on the other side, I threw back my head, inhaling deeply and slowing my steps.
“What?” Spencer asked, “Haven’t you ever smelt fresh air before?”
I humoured him with a small laugh. “No, it’s just… the freedom. I’ve never been out with Yankee without my parents or Chris. Sometimes they can just be a bit…”
“Caring?” Brendon suggested. “Loving?”
“…Suffocating,” I finished.
“You wish it was different?” Jon said.
I mentally slapped myself. I had given too much away. It was a small slip, but if they tried to dig any deeper, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from telling them the truth. I didn’t want to, but there was something about them that made me trust them, made me want to be honest. It had been hard enough lying to Spencer yesterday, but the four of them? I wasn’t sure I could do that. I felt like I owed them something, for taking me under their wing and making me feel wanted, even though we had only been introduced yesterday. With them I could relax and be myself, and that was a rare thing. I was only myself around… well, Yankee. I definitely couldn’t open up to Chris – he would find out about what really went on at home and it would be the start of World War III.
But, I told myself, it probably wouldn’t matter if I had a few slips around Panic!. After all, it was likely that I would never see them again after this, what with their busy lifestyle and upcoming tour. It was a shame though. I was really starting to like them ... a lot.
“I wish for a lot of things,” I finally answered Jon, turning my head to give him a blank glance. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they come true. Some things aren’t meant to be.”
Brendon snorted. “Now you’re starting to sound like Ryan,” he said. “All deep and mysterious.”
Cocking an eyebrow, I asked him, “And when has being mysterious been a bad thing?”
“It is if you’re a twelve year old fangirl who wants to find out everything about you!” Jon laughed, pulling me slightly to the left so I would avoid a collision with an unknown (to me) object.
“Can you say, ‘stalker’ boys and girls?” Ryan chimed in.
Swivelling my head so it was pointed over my shoulder, I gave him a grin. “Stalker!” Brendon and I said at the same time. We laughed, realising what we had just done.
Ryan blew a raspberry at us. “It was a rhetorical question.”
I laughed again, giving him another smile before turning around. Brendon started humming a song under his breath. “So, Lou,” he said. “You never actually sang for us.”
I did a double take, feeling a shocked expression slide onto my face as I began to splutter. “What?! I… I… No… I…”
“Yeah, you never did explain why you never told us,” Spencer added.
“Explain?” I choked out. “There’s nothing to explain, I just…” Sighing, I pressed my lips together, biting my lower one. “… I didn’t know I could, that’s all.”
“And I suppose you weren’t gonna tell us about having perfect pitch, either?” Ryan butted in.
“Perfect whaa?” I asked, confused.
“Perfect pitch,” he explained patiently. “or Absolute pitch. It’s when you can recreate a musical note without having it been played before hand or with any external references.”
“Yes, thank you, Mr. Dictionary,” Brendon cut in before Ryan could say anything more. “It’s what you did when you picked up on the fact that the guitar was out of tune, then tuned it correctly using the notes that you sung to yourself.”
“That?” I scrunched up my nose. “That was just me tuning a guitar. I used to do that all the time for Chris.”
Jon directed me around a corner. “Seriously, we should like, hire you as our guitar tech, or something!” he joked. “Cause it was pretty impressive.” His band mates voiced their agreement.
“So,” Brendon said again. I could hear him throwing the tennis ball from one hand to the other. “Do we get to hear you sing properly?”
“Do a duet,” Spencer suggested.
“Yeah!” Brendon exclaimed, breathing in excitedly. “Or,” he added, his words fuelled by another thought, “a trio. Ryan could-”
“Oh, no no no. I am staying out of this! Don’t you dare include me.” Ryan hastily said, his tone firm. “A duet. Not a trio.”
I laughed, and was surprised to hear Spencer join in. He moved closer to me, leaning over to whisper in my ear. “He goes on about how he’s such a bad singer, but when we play, he does back-up vocals without a second thought. Where’s the logic in that?” I smiled.
“What sweet nothings are you whispering in her ear, Spence?” Zack asked teasingly. He had been quiet for the duration of our previous conversation and I had forgotten he was with us, so it was a shock to hear him speak.
Spencer moved away and I could hear him playing with his sunglasses. “Pff, you wish, Zack. I-” But whatever he had been going to say next was drowned out by a gleeful whoop from Brendon and an excited bark from Yankee as he heard two words he loved.
“Finally! We made it to the park!” (Those two favourite words of Yankee’s being, ‘the park.’)
I was lead over springy grass to a spot where I heard trees rustling softly in the gentle breeze. The temperature dropped slightly, and I figured we were in the shade. I heard the sounds of the band and their bodyguard lowering themselves to the ground and letting go of Jon’s hand, fiddled with Yankee’s harness. It finally slid off, and he immediately transformed into a whole new dog, barking and leaping around. I could feel the confusion of the others.
“Taking his harness off means that he’s not working anymore,” I explained before they could ask. “This is how Yankee normally is. When the harness is put back on him, it tells him that he’s working again, so he sobers up instantly.” Grinning, I said to Brendon, “Go on, Brendon. Play with him. Throw the tennis ball for him or something.”
“Seriously?” he asked, almost in awe.
I rolled my blank eyes. “Seriously. I would do it myself, but it’s better if you do it; I might end up hitting someone in the face or throwing it in the wrong direction or something. And he’s obedient – all you have to do is call his name and he’ll come.”
The sounds of Brendon and my faithful companion leaving us reached my ears: Yankee’s excited panting, Brendon’s cooing and the crushing of leaves under foot. As they left, I became aware of the other band members trying to control their laughter.
“What?” I frowned.
“Nothing,” Jon chuckled. “Just… you said ‘but it’s better if you do’.”
I looked in his direction. “Uh, yeah, so? Are you gonna tell me what’s so funny about it?”
“One of our songs is titled ‘But It’s Better If You Do’,” Spencer told me.
“Oh,” I said sitting down and making myself comfortable. “Oh yeah,” I added as the revelation dawned on me. “The lap-dance one?” I hummed the tune. Or, what I could remember of it.
“Yeah,” they confirmed.
“Oh,” I repeated, nodding to show I understood. We sat quietly for a few minutes. Leaning back on my hands, I tipped my head back, closing my eyes and enjoying the feeling that sitting here with the (well, three-quarters of them) band gave me. Soon, Jon excused himself to go and join Brendon and Yankee. Zack followed him not long after, though not before making sure that Ryan, Spencer and I would be fine by ourselves. The silence continued for a short time after and I could hear someone playing with twigs and leaves directly in front of me.
“Lou, can I ask you a question?” Spencer’s voice asked. From the direction it came from, I deduced that it was he who was fiddling with the twigs.
I pushed myself upright again, opening my eyes and brushing dirt off my hands. “What is it this time?” But I wasn’t upset.
“I-huh?” he asked. “What do you mean?”
I half-smiled, twitching one corner of my mouth up. “I’ve noticed that whenever you’re about to ask me something to do with my blindness, you always ask that question. So what is it this time?”
Spencer stayed silent for a few seconds before he voiced his question. “Do you ever wonder what you look like?”
A sharp hissing noise came from my right as Ryan sucked in air – probably to have a go at his band mate for asking such a question – but I turned to him, saying, “No, it’s okay.” The air was expelled and we sat mutely before I answered Spencer.
“I… I used to,” I started slowly. “as a kid. I would often wonder what I looked like – what colour my eyes were, my hair colour, was I tall? Short? Skinny? Average? But I guess, over time… I dunno. I never really asked my parents or Chris, and they never told me. I used to…” I sighed, shaking my head. “It’s stupid now, but I used to try and come up with all these mental images of what I looked like. One day, I was blonde with blue eyes and the next, I felt like being a brunette, so I gave myself brown eyes. It’s stupid now, but it used to make me feel… I don’t know."
The quietness covered us like a blanket and it would almost been a serene moment if not for the seriousness of the question and the churning emotions inside of me. But… I didn’t really mind Spencer’s queries. The more he asked me, the more I had to look deep inside myself and answer honestly – to myself, if not him. It was bringing up issues and feelings that I had tried to squash for so long, trying to keep it bottled up inside me, and now that I was addressing them… It made me rethink so many things about my life and look at them in a different light. And I was doing this after meeting Spencer, what? Less than twenty-four hours ago? But the thing was, I liked the fact that Spencer was asking me these questions, that he was taking an interest in me. No one else had before in all my eighteen years, and now suddenly, four boys (who just happened to be music’s next big thing) were.
“I have this one memory,” I said, hearing Yankee’s barking and the yelling of Jon, Zack and Brendon in the background. “Well, I don’t know if it’s a memory; I’ve envisioned myself so many times that it could… but it feels real enough. It’s of a little girl, looking in the mirror. I think it’s me. The reflection’s kinda blurry… But she has dark hair – brunette or black, I don’t know – and her eyes… Her features on her face are hard to make out, but I remember those eyes. A greeny-grey, nothing like I’ve every imagined before.” I stared off in a random direction, trying to bring up the memory without success. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter.”
The air had become void of words again and I don’t think any of us wanted to fill it. Until Ryan did.
“We could-” he began.
“No,” I cut him off. “I don’t want you to tell me what I look like. I’m fine not knowing.”
“Uh… okay, but I was actually going to suggest getting some lunch,” he replied sheepishly, an apologetic tone in his voice. “I’m starving,” he added.
Spencer snorted. “Like that’s anything new. Your daily gummy bears not sustaining you for long enough?”
“Hey!” Ryan began, defending his eating habits. “For your information…” And with that, they began to bicker over eating habits and lunch choices. (“You eat the most and you’re still the skinniest little fucker I know!” Spencer exclaimed loudly.) I laughed to myself, marvelling at how quickly the atmosphere between us had changed, going from serious and deep to light hearted and cheerful.
Spencer and Ryan were still arguing when the others came back.
We decided that to save me the stress of being in an unfamiliar environment, Jon would stay with me at the park while the others went and got some food. I didn’t mind: I chatted to Jon casually while patting Yankee, who was laying beside me. When there was a lull in the conversation, I took a deep breath, voicing a question that I had been wanting to ask ever since Ryan had taught me that riff.
“Hey, Jon… What was up with Spencer this morning? I mean, I might be wrong, but it just seemed like he was acting a bit strange.”
Jon chortled. “I think that’s something you should ask him yourself.”
I frowned, not really happy with the answer I had gotten. “But…”
“Look,” Jon said, interrupting me, “it’s not really my place to say. It’s nothing to worry about, Spencer just has his moments.”
I nodded, hiding my reaction. Damn! I had been sure that Jon would tell me. Guess not. I opened my mouth to reply but stopped when I felt Yankee lift his head and stare at something. Shortly after, Brendon’s voice reached us.
“We got food!” he cried in a sing-song voice.
“Brendon, shut up!” hissed Ryan. “Are you trying to get us recognised?” I shifted my weight against the tree I was leaning against, turning so I was facing the direction they were coming from.
“Relax, Ryan,” Spencer said. “It’s not like fans are gonna jump down from trees, or anything.”
I heard the guitarist mutter something in reply that suspiciously sounded like, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” I can’t be too sure though; the grass beside me let out a sigh as Brendon threw himself down beside me.
“What do you want, Lou?” he asked. I guessed he had begun to rifle through bags because I picked up on plastic rustling and paper crackling. “We got salads, sandwiches-” There was the sound of a plastic packet being torn open. “- and gummy bears.” Brendon finished.
The rough edge of the packet grazed my bare arm as it was held out to me. “Want one?” Ryan asked, his mouth slightly full. I shook my head, laughing quietly.
“That’s okay, I wouldn’t want to deprive you of your daily nutrition or anything.” Spencer snorted loudly at my comment, quickly disguising it as a cough.
“All the more for me then,” I heard as the packet was withdrawn and a hand was shoved into it.
“Lou?” Brendon asked again. I looked in his direction. “What do you want?”
“Whatever I get,” I told him. “I don’t care, I’m not a fussy eater.”
Someone handed me a sandwich. “Lettuce, tomato, ham and cheese okay?” Zack asked me.
“Fine,” I shrugged.
Soon we were all eating, which meant the talking had died down considerably. Not long after though, everyone went off again and I could hear them throwing balls for Yankee, laughing as he happily barked and woofed. Spencer stayed behind to keep me company. I thought of this morning again, and decided it was now or never.
“Okay, Spencer. You’re always asking me questions, now it’s my turn. Why were you so clumsy this morning?”
“I-uh-huh?” The drummer started. “I… well, I, I just wasn’t looking where I was going and knocked over a chair.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Uh huh. Are you sure that’s all it was?”
“What are you implying?”
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly, “but you don’t strike me as a clumsy sort of person. I don’t know,” I repeated. Sighing, I resumed my earlier position – head tilted back with my eyes closed. We sat in silence, though whether it was comfortable or awkward I couldn’t tell. Then Spencer said:
“Are you… Do you ever… I mean, do you ever feel someone’s face to try and create an image of them in your mind?”
I shook my head. “No. I’ve never done that. I… I don’t really – Well, I know if I was the one getting my face felt by a creepy blind girl, I wouldn’t feel comfortable. So no, I’ve never done that.”
“You’re not creepy,” Spencer said. “You’re really smart; you have this whole other way of looking at things.”
Pulling a face and sitting up, I told him, “Yeah, maybe because I can’t actually look at things.”
“I wasn’t referring to your sight, or lack thereof. You just provide a fresh opinion on things that none of us would have ever thought of before.” His voice dropped lower on the next sentence. “And I like that.”
I was saved from having to answer by the arrival of someone. “What are you guys up to?” Ryan asked as he sat near Spencer.
“Not much,” I said.
“Brendon seems to be enjoying himself,” he told me, shuffling to adjust his position.
“That’s good,” I smiled.
Ryan and Spencer watched the others for a couple of minutes, occasionally laughing or telling me what was going on with a witty comment or observation.
“Hey, Ryan,” I said suddenly, “that riff you taught me earlier, what’s the name of that song?”
“‘Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks’,” he told me. “Why?”
I shrugged. “Just curious. What the hell does that mean, anyway?”
I got the feeling that I was that close from asking the wrong thing accidentally and that I had touched on a pretty serious subject from the was he took a while to answer.
“‘Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks’,” Ryan repeated, letting the words roll off his tongue. “It’s, it’s something my dad used to tell me. It basically means ‘toughen up’.”
“Oh, right,” I said nodding, unwilling to press the subject any further.
Our old friend, Silence, descended amongst us again, each of us deep in our own thoughts. Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks, I said to myself. Toughen up. Then a thought hit me as Jon rejoined our group. What if the only reason I found my home life so bad was because I was weak? Maybe I just had to toughen up. I mean, there are other people in the world who are in worse situations than I am. At least I have food, shelter and clothing. Perhaps I was just being ungrateful and needed to toughen up. After all, I was better off than people in third world countries, wasn’t I?
I listened to the conversation the others had struck up, Ryan’s previous words embedded permanently in my brain.
Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks. Toughen up.
I'm pretty sure that Ryan's dad actually did used to tell him that - I think I read it in an interview somewhere. Anyway, don't forget to click those magic buttons called 'Rate' and the all important one, 'Review'.