Unconditional, p.25

Unconditional, page 25

 

Unconditional
 


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“Well, now, that’s weird. She’s just singing backup. Why wouldn’t she be playing her violin? And why was she late?”

  Josh turned to Kylie, but she appeared to be asking those questions more to herself. He wouldn’t have been concerned, but realized something was wrong by the worry in her eyes.

  Valerie had joined the band onstage during the second song, discreetly coming on without a word from any of the other musicians. Josh had been watching an old movie that week, and he remembered a line spoken by one of the actors, about it being “a diamond of a day,” or something to that effect.

  He could paraphrase saying that was a diamond of an evening. The weather was almost tropical, a night that belonged more in some exotic place, like Tahiti or Hawaii, yet it was the perfect Jersey shore night. A silky white, full moon lit up the starless sky. The band had performed four songs, including a decent rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory.”

  “You think the violin could’ve been damaged?” The question had come from Elliot.

  “Oh, I don’t think so,” Kylie scoffed. “She loves that thing. That’s her baby. She takes good care of it.”

  Elliot spoke up first. “That’s weird, then.”

  “In all the times I’ve seen her playing with the band, she’s had her violin. Either the old one…” Kylie stopped to smooth the leg of her Capri pants. “Well, she sold that, so it’d be that beautiful, new one. I hope it didn’t get damaged somehow.”

  “No, I’m sure it didn’t.” Josh meant that to be an assurance to Kylie, but he didn’t know for certain.

  He was distracted when he saw Elliot stop to take a photo with his cell of Valerie with the band, showing it to Kylie first.

  “Hold on, Kyle. I’ll send that to you right now,” he told her.

  “Cool. Look up, Ell. Smile!”

  Kyle. Ell. Those two had affectionate nicknames for each other now. Josh smiled. Once more, he felt like the third wheel…which was more than fine with him. He watched Elliot tip his head closer to hers and they both smiled exaggeratedly as Kylie took of selfie of them together with her own cell.

  There were sparks flying between those two, no doubt about that. Elliot wore a pair of dressier jeans and a button-down, short-sleeved shirt. He’d shaved and made it to the hairstylist in time that day, getting his hair neatly trimmed. He actually looked pretty sharp, considering he rarely dressed up.

  Kylie was in black Palazzo pants with a figure-flattering, Boho-print tunic. She had been subtle and friendly, lightly flirty with his best friend. Josh had to admit they seemed to complement each other—and they looked good together, too.

  Then he riveted his attention back to Valerie. She had spotted him in the audience and smiled, yet he did get the feeling something was wrong.

  Wrong with…her violin? With the band? Had Perry scolded her because she was late, and she was upset over it? Or because she’d told him something had happened to her instrument?

  Or was it something that had to do with Josh himself? Yes, he’d waved to her and she’d only smiled back—but that was because she was performing. With the audience looking on, she couldn’t very well wave back at him unless she didn’t do it very obviously.

  Maybe she knows. Somebody told her.

  Again he was doing it, imagining something that hadn’t yet happened. He pushed the thought from his mind and sat back in his seat, a bench they’d been fortunate enough to find available right before the concert began. Other people were in fold-up chairs that had been set up on the boardwalk, with some area on the sides to walk. The band’s music seemed to fill the boardwalk. Yet that space in between songs were filled with the sounds of the night’s gentle waves and the activity and voices on the boardwalk.

  A perfect Jersey shore night, though not perfect because something was going on with Valerie.

  “Hey, I am sooo late!”

  Linda Cuthbertson came up from behind him, offering him a hug. Josh rose immediately as did Elliot, both waving at the spots on the bench they’d vacated for her.

  “I’m okay, I’m okay. Got my own chair.” Strapped to her shoulder was one of those folding chairs that was stuffed into a cloth holder. Linda pulled it out, telling them, “But thank you two for being gentlemen and offering an old lady like me your seats.”

  “You’re not an old lady, Linda!” Kylie laughed with her. “Hey, and—you have any idea what’s going on with Valerie’s violin?”

  “Uhhhh…her violin. Yeah, well, I’ll tell you later, baby.”

  Josh waited until she was situated in her chair to sit back down. He exchanged a glance with Elliot, who gave the slightest shrug.

  “Where’s Drew?” Kylie asked then. “I thought he was coming tonight.”

  “I thought so, too, baby. Last minute, he couldn’t come. Drew was upset about it, too. He really wanted to be here tonight. You know how that is.”

  “Mmm, hmmm.”

  To Josh’s surprise, it was Kylie who then glanced at him.

  What was it that had happened? Josh sensed that whatever it was, Valerie’s mother didn’t want to talk about it in front of him. Maybe it didn’t have anything to do with him at all; maybe her ex-boyfriend was involved.

  After another three songs, the band members made their way off the stage, leaving it open for the next band to perform. Three bands in total were playing that night. Josh noted how the musicians who could carry their instruments—the guitar and bass players—took them with them.

  Valerie looked as if she didn’t know what to do with her hands. Whatever had happened, her violin was gone. He had watched She Likes the Weather play before, and even he, not being a musician, could tell that the songs weren’t at all the same without the addition of her sweet violin.

  And the girl who had been named after a song appeared heartbroken about it.

  CHAPTER TWELVE

 
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