Loveless Summer – “We Will Rock You”

D-Day. In four hours and two minutes exactly, Superhype would be taking the stage for the first time ever, and Cynthia, who was excitedly hugging both of her parents before jogging to Kyle’s car with a huge tell-all smile wrapped around her face and a large, bulky backpack casually slung over her shoulder, would be putting on her debut performance as well. She threw open the back door, chucking her bag across the seats with reckless abandon before plopping into the seat behind Ben, her exuberance roaring through with a bright, starry giggle.

“Hey guys! This is so exciting!” Cynthia cracked open a Snapple bottle before continuing. “Are you guys pumped?”

“Dude, I’m pumped like a gas station,” Ben announced, gently moving his torso to accommodate Cynthia’s knee smashing into the back of his seat. “Fun times, innit?”

“This is gonna be great,” Kyle said as he drove off toward his house, waiving to Cynthia’s parents while turning around in their driveway. “It feels like ages since I’ve been on stage. I think last spring was the last time I did a show.”

“It was last summer for me,” Ben explained. “The show that ended a band, actually.”

“This is the first time since ever,” Cynthia proudly exclaimed, bouncing in her seat and clapping her hands together like a toddler who’d just been given an ice cream cone. “I’m so stoked!”

The three of them talked about how excited they were about the show for the entire drive back to Kyle’s house, with Cynthia’s enthusiasm blaring out above that of Kyle or Ben. A few minutes later, they pulled into Kyle’s driveway, where they were immediately greeted by a surprisingly-sprightly Mark Boon, who’d already loaded his entire drumset into his car.

“Dude, how’d you get into the house?” Kyle asked as he stepped out of his aging Honda Civic. That’s when he recognized that his parents were oddly home from work early.

“Your mom let me in. They’re coming to the show tonight, too! Dude, I never got my parents to go to one of my shows, how’d you pull that off?”

“I dunno, it’s a surprise to me, too!”

After everyone briefly exchanged their hellos, Kyle led the band into his living room, where both of his parents excitedly greeted everyone. Kyle’s mom threw hugs around to everyone, especially Cynthia, whom she knew was probably extremely nervous under her cheerful and vibrant facade. A few moments later, everyone had taken a seat in the living room, and Kyle’s mom started serving soft drinks to everyone, except Cynthia, who showed her trusted iced tea bottle, and Mark, who claimed he wasn’t thirsty. After everyone settled down, Kyle decided to stand up in front of everyone to explain their process.

“Okay guys, listen up. In about two and a half hours, we need to be the restaurant and ready to go.”

“Two and a half hours? We’re going an hour early?” Cynthia had never done a live performance, so her question was warranted.

“Yeah, about an hour early is the norm. We want time to set up our instruments, chat with the owners, all that good stuff.”

“Okay, sorry, continue.”

“So, yeah, two and a half hours, so anything we need to do in that time needs to get done. Mark, you already loaded up your kit?”

“Yeah, everything’s in my Subaru, ready to go. I didn’t want to handle you-guys’ stuff though… didn’t know what you needed to pack or anything.”

“Cool, okay, we’ll all get to work then and have everything packed up early.” Kyle saw Cynthia’s hand shoot skyward. Having been home-schooled her entire life, he didn’t imagine that she’d ever needed to do that. “Cynthia?”

“I’m going to need, like, half an hour or so to get ready. My mom helped me pick out the perfect outfit, but I didn’t want to mess it up before the show.”

“Not a problem, Cynthia. It shouldn’t take long to pack up the gear or anything.”

“Cynthia Dearie, if you want, you can use our shower before you get ready. I have a hair dryer you can use.”

“Oh, that would be great, Missus Winters, thank you!”

“Okay, I’ll leave you guys alone then. Kyle, me and your dad got out of work early today just to see the show, so if you guys need anything, let me know, okay?”

“Uh, sure mom, thanks!” Behind Kyle’s smile, he was wondering, and slightly worried about, why his mom was suddenly being so supportive of the band. First, she came up with their name, and now, she was leaving work a few hours earlier than usual and asking if anyone needed help with anything, even offering Cynthia the use of a shower? Perhaps he’d underestimated just how much his mom cared about his musical ambitions? Or maybe she was trying to be supportive, so that if the band broke up, she could swoop in and push him toward becoming a doctor or something. No one could ever tell with Kyle’s mom. She was always the wild-card.

For the next forty minutes, the band went about the grueling work of unplugging equipment, winding cables, packing pedal boards, and loading all of their equipment into Kyle’s car, as well as some of the remaining space in Mark’s car. It was quickly apparent that without Kyle’s parents being home from work, they’d have been forced into making two trips to the restaurant, as both cars were packed to the brim with their equipment. Mark had a full drumset, complete with several cymbals, two cowbells, and miscellaneous hardware. Kyle had his trusted 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, a backup Fender Telecaster in case of an emergency, his pedal-board with its eight pedals on it, and a small Marshall tube amp, also relatively vintage, or at least, more vintage than Kyle himself was. Cynthia had her Vox AC30 amp, knowing that her Marshall half-stack would never fit in their cars, her Epiphone Casino, a Gibson SG as her backup guitar, her pedal-board, smaller than Kyle’s with only five pedals, and her emergency kit of picks and strings. Ben had his Rickenbacker 4003 Fireglo bass, a solid-state Peavey amp, and his multi-effects processor pedal. And all of this didn’t include Cynthia’s microphone and stand, cables for everything, and the random other equipment that they’d need to bring along just in case . At one point during all of this labor, which mostly revolved around packing the cars efficiently, Ben remarked that his last band, Vertical Horizon , would rent U-Haul vans for their shows… an idea that everyone seemed pretty keen on by the time they were finished loading the last cable into Mark’s Subaru wagon.

By the time everyone had finished packing, and then eating the turkey burgers and chicken Caesar salad that Kyle’s mom had prepared, they found themselves left with slightly less than forty minutes to finish the last of their chores before they had to head off to their show. With time running out, Cynthia headed upstairs to take a remarkably brief shower, getting ready in Kyle’s room five or six minutes later. Meanwhile, Ben and Mark decided to “go for a walk,” which was code for heading down the street to smoke a joint, and Kyle took that time to read over the band’s set list a few times, as if he didn’t know the order of their songs by heart at that point. By six-fifty, nearly everyone was sitting in the living room, ready to go. Kyle’s mom had dressed up for the show, probably more than she should have. His dad had broken out an old Misfits t-shirt, probably the first time he’d seen his dad wearing it since elementary school, a look which his dad spoiled by wearing khakis and his running sneakers. Even Kyle’s brother Tim was prepared, with his babysitter, a few years younger that Kyle, setting up a board game and wishing everyone in the band good luck. The only person who was missing was Cynthia, who still hadn’t emerged from Kyle’s bedroom.

“Cynthia?” Kyle asked, knocking on his bedroom door. “You almost ready?”

” Uh… almost…” her response was less than convincing. Her voice was audibly shaken and obviously distraught, but not in a panicked, I need to get ready as fast as I can way. Something wasn’t right.

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah… I’m just peachy… almost ready!”

Kyle headed back downstairs, his puzzled expression immediately worrying everyone. “Uh, Cynthia says she’s almost ready.” Everyone nodded in response, and went about re-engaging in their various conversations. But as the minutes ticked by, Everyone started getting more and more concerned. Soon, seven o’clock had come and gone, and three minutes later, Kyle found himself wondering what could possibly take her so long.

“I’m going to head upstairs and see if Cynthia needs help with anything,” Kyle’s mom offered. “Be right back!” With this, she headed upstairs, the fate of the band’s first live show resting in the hands of the one person who, more than anyone, had put forth efforts to prevent the band from reaching this point. But, six minutes later, Kyle’s mom came downstairs with a smile. “All good, just a bit of the jitters is all. Cynthia will be down any moment.”

And just like that, with Barbara Winters’ words still echoing through the room, Kyle’s door slowly creaked open, and Cynthia Foster emerged with a grin on her face. Cynthia was already a beautiful girl, but at that moment, she was the most beautiful thing Kyle had ever seen. She was so breathtaking, in fact, that Kyle had utterly forgotten that Tara even existed, and wasn’t able to process that he should feel guilty about looking at Cynthia in the way he was eying her down. Her hair was brilliant and full, far more than any of them had ever seen it before. She was wearing just enough makeup to highlight her best features, and not one drop more. Her dark gray Save the Whales t-shirt was tight enough to make Kyle realize that Cynthia did in fact have breasts, something he’d never really known or thought about before seeing her that evening. And while she almost always wore jeans or cargo pants, or long dresses that reached her ankles, Cynthia was instead wearing a jean skirt, slightly shorter than knee-length, with red and neon-green tennis shoes. Kyle was never the sort of guy who said “oh, look at the legs on her.” In fact, he didn’t really understand what all of the hubbub was about when guys would comment on a girl’s legs. But he did at that moment. Hers were perfect , athletic and evenly-tanned, and so smooth that he was wondering, somewhere in the back of his mind anyway, if she’d airbrushed them.

“Woah, Cynthia’s a babe!” Ben remarked, provoking a playful slap in the back of the head from Kyle’s dad. “you all ready chikita?”

“Yes, all ready. How do I look? Not too much, is it?”

” you look amazing ,” Kyle’s brother Tim announced, the genre of his grin indicating that he had, at that precise moment, discovered girls.

“Okay then, let’s rock!”

By the time they reached the restaurant, the clock on Kyle’s phone read 7:21 pm, meaning they were nearly half an hour later arriving than they should have been. After quickly checking with the restaurant’s owner, a person whom Cynthia had met several times before, and learning that they could set up their equipment, the band raced to empty the gear from the two cars, setting everything up and being ready to go with only twelve minutes to spare.

A few seconds after Kyle started tuning his Les Paul, Jennifer Mays had arrived, with eight friends following her into the establishment. It wasn’t until her arrival that Kyle had realized just how empty the restaurant was. There was an older guy sitting at the bar, sipping a beer, who would probably prefer country music over the modern rock that Superhype would be performing. Near the back of the room, a few college kids were sharing a pizza, apparently oblivious to the band that was preparing to take the stage. And shy of the party of nine that had just arrived, Kyle’s parents, and Cynthia’s parents, who followed Jen’s group in, no one seemed to be there to support Superhype, despite the band’s best efforts to promote the show. It was starting to seem like the entire night would prove to be a letdown, but just before Kyle’s negativity could continue onward, the door opened again, and this time, five more teenagers, two of whom looked familiar to him, came into the restaurant, waving at Ben before taking a seat. A few seconds later, Mr. Meier, Kyle’s and Ben’s health teacher, had also arrived, dressed eerily similar to Jimmy Buffet, and invited himself to sit with Kyle’s and Cynthia’s parents, ordering a beer and most likely chatting about how he’d come to learn about the show. And with less than two minutes on the clock before they started their first song, another group of teenagers arrived. The crowd was humble, but respectable, seeing as how this was Superhype ‘s first live show, and as the band prepared themselves for their pending performance, Kyle also considered how this might make things easier on Cynthia, who was visibly nervous, even after Kyle’s mom had given her a pep-talk earlier.

” Good evening, everyone,” Cynthia announced, finding more of her nerves with each word and clearing her throat before continuing. “Thanks for coming out. We’re called Superhype. We hope you like it.”

Cynthia nodded at Mark, his queue to start their first song, Blind Mind , which Kyle and Cynthia had written together. Mark’s thunderous drums rattled the bottles on the walls of the restaurant’s bar area, forcing everyone in the room to glance over at the band, even the older man who probably couldn’t care less about anything that happened next. Soon, Ben’s slick walking bass line came in, followed by Cynthia’s chunky, perky rhythm guitar riff, and Kyle’s smooth supplemental lead guitar. After the song’s brief introduction, things seemed to be going pretty smoothly, right up to the point where Cynthia started singing anyway.

“The color of… color of…” she stumbled, apparently losing her place in the song, and her guitar hiccuped as she stopped strumming. Panicked, her eyes roamed the stage toward her band-mates, looking for a life preserver. Kyle grinned towards her, mouthing the next line. “We’re not… meant… to be…” her second stutter was more noticeable. Kyle watched the older man chuckle to himself before taking another swig of his drink and turning away from the group. For whatever reason, the show had turned into entertaining that one guy, for Kyle anyway. He turned his body to face Cynthia, who looked as though she was on the verge of tears. Again, he grinned, slowly nodding his head to the beat of Mark’s powerful drum beat. Cynthia smiled back at him, the color racing back into her face. She closed her eyes, turned her head back toward the microphone, and as if a switch had been flipped inside her, she roared into the next line of the song, her guitar screaming as she pounded her pick into the strings. The audience perked at her sudden burst of energy, some even letting out a cheer to drive her on. She kept her energy level at a blistering high until the group reached the song’s chorus, and by the time they were into the second verse, she had opened her eyes, and with her sense of accomplishment showing brightly for everyone in the dimly-lit restaurant bar to see, she carried the song through to the end, the small audience roaring in approval with a volume that made them seem to be twice as big as they were.

Superhype went into their next song, Not Your Caddy , a song that Ben had written, with a heightened level of confidence and bravado, and by the time the band had finished their third song, Cynthia had completely taken control of the stage, beating it into submission like a dominatrix. The audience seemed to be completely captivated by the band’s showing. The older guy had started clapping and bobbing his head around, smiling the whole time. The college kids in the back of the room had gotten up from their booth and had come to the front of the room, participating by dancing and singing along when the choruses were simple enough to warrant it. As Superhype charged into the final of their eight songs, having saved their best and most energetic song, Remorse , for last, the audience had grown, mostly from the next band’s fans, and everyone in the room seemed to be fully captivated by the group’s showing. Cynthia, who’d written the song Remorse , had truly gotten into the mood of things, jumping around during the chorus and putting her head on Kyle’s shoulder when she sang the line “my head’s on your shoulder, your head’s in the clouds,” her act of dotting the final “I” to what was truly an astounding live performance, excluding the mistakes in the first song anyway. As the closing note of Remorse rang out from the band’s instruments, the audience exploded in applause and cheering, the likes of which no one in the band, or anyone in the audience, had ever seen. The room had maybe a total of fifty or sixty people in it, if you counted the cooks and waitresses that had come out to see the final song. But they sounded like three hundred people.

“Thanks again, we’re Superhype,” Cynthia chirped into her microphone, her voice coarse from her loud and cogent singing. “See you next time!”

It only took the band a few minutes to tear down their equipment, bringing it outside and putting it near the cars, where Kyle’s dad, engaged in conversation with Mr. Meier and Cynthia’s dad, volunteered to stand guard. Kyle’s mom hugged Cynthia, with her own mom joining in, both of them seemingly oblivious to how sweaty she was, before they helped the band load up the equipment. Everyone was a bit tired, but extremely enthusiastic, and when the cars were finally packed, they all headed inside to watch the other two bands perform, each of them feeling, or perhaps knowing, that they were by far the best group to grace the stage that night.

After the last band finished their show, everyone piled into their cars and returned to the home of the Winters family, where they haphazardly unloaded the band’s equipment before piling into the living room to relax together and talk about the show. Cynthia’s parents came along as well, and her dad was the first to comment on the performance.

” I was incredibly impressed,” her father, Takumi Foster, began. “I’ve been making music for a very long time. I’ve never seen an audience react like that, not for a band’s first show, anyway. You guys were excellent!” This was quite the endorsement, coming from Cynthia’s dad, who was orphaned as a toddler and raised by a white American family who inspired his own love of jazz music, and was a very experienced and accomplished musician in his own right. “We need to see if we can book you guys for another show soon!”

” I agree,” Cynthia’s mom, Bethany Foster, proclaimed. “I didn’t know how talented you guys were. To be honest, I thought this was more of a hobby for you, but there’s a passion there… you guys have a passion .”

” You know, a few months ago, I would’ve disagreed,” Kyle’s mom began, forcing her son to shudder at the thought of what might come next. “But after these kids spent so much time, and worked so hard, to make it to this point, I have to agree. If you guys can keep wowing audiences like you did tonight, then maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time… maybe there is a future for you in music.” Kyle started wondering if he was dreaming. Could his mother have just said that? Really ?

” Back when I met Kyle’s mom, I was a musician, too,” Kyle’s dad started weighing in. “I was in a punk band. Actually, Kyle’s Les Paul is a hand-me-down, it used to be mine. Anyway, I have to say it… you guys killed tonight. I’m really proud of you, Kyle!”

For the next hour, the Winters’ living room buzzed with the possibilities that Superhype had. Kyle couldn’t help but feel completely shocked by how fired up his mom was. By the time everyone had started looking toward their watches and thinking about driving home, she was probably the most enthusiastic person in the room, talking with her husband and with Takumi Foster, the two most veteran musicians in the room, about what the band could do to get more exposure. The ideas of putting up a website, recording a demo CD, and even the lofty concept of future touring, three things that no one in the band had put any serious thought into, had been floating through the conversation by the time the Fosters decided to call it a night and head home. Twenty minutes later, Mark’s parents called, and it was time for him to head home as well, and shortly thereafter, Ben expressed how tired he was, prompting Kyle to drive him home. It was just after one-thirty in the morning before Kyle finally got home, said goodnight to his parents, and retired to his room, reading and then responding to Tara’s email before he flopped onto his bed, totally knackered from the full day of events. Kyle’s parents, on the other hand, were up for another two hours after that, his mom refusing to allow his dad to get any sleep until she’d exhausted every possible vision she had about her son’s future. Her complete about-face was just as shocking to Joe Winters as it was to his son. He thought that perhaps his wife was quietly hoping the show would go badly, but during the show, her entire attitude about her son’s music had somehow undergone a radical polar shift.

“Is there anything I need to know about Cynthia, Kyle?” Tara was barely awake, and being several hours behind Kyle, she was expecting him to be far more awake than he was. His late night had completely drained him, and he slept in much later than he usually did. If it weren’t for Tara’s calling him and the beeps of his cell phone stirring him, he’d probably have slept another hour or so.

“What do you mean? She’s our singer, Tara…”

” Jenny told me that you guys seemed, I dunno, close , during the show.”

“Well, we’re up on stage, you know? I mean, she was standing right next to me.”

” So what’s this I heard about her putting her head on your shoulder or something? Jenny said you guys were practically kissing on stage.”

“Tara, seriously, she’s just a friend, the singer of our band, there’s nothing there. And Jenny smokes enough pot to overdose on it.”

“You can’t OD on pot, Kyle.”

“Case in point, babe… case in point…”

” So, you swear there’s nothing going on between you two?”

” Well, she did change in my room last night before the show. That’s as close as we’ve ever gotten to anything .”

“WHAT?” A dog next door started barking, and Kyle imagined that Tara’s yell had somehow stirred him.

“I wasn’t in the room or anything, lighten up…”

” Don’t tell me to lighten up, Kyle. I won’t lighten up , okay?! This slut is getting naked in my man’s bedroom, and you’re telling me to lighten up ?”

“Tara, seriously, she’s just the singer of our band, okay? We’re friends. I’m not even her type anyway.”

” What’s that supposed to mean, Kyle? Is she your type, is that what you’re telling me? Is it? You’d probably throw yourself at her if you were her type, right? I don’t believe this!” With that, she hung up. Kyle was half-asleep when she called, but he was fully awake now. What could Jennifer Mays have possibly said to Tara to rattle her like this? Before he could finish his thought, the phone rang again. “Kyle? Why did you hang up on me? What the hell!”

“I didn’t hang up on you Tara, you hung up on me!”

Tara let out a long grr before her tone shifted downward, becoming flatter and less hostile, though she was still quite obviously agitated. “Whatever, look, you’re the first guy I’ve ever cared about. I… I love you Kyle .” This was the first time she’d ever said that, probably to anyone in her life, actually.

” I love you too, Tara. But seriously, I don’t know what Jen is talking about. She did put her head on my shoulder, but she was singing the line `my head’s on your shoulder’ when she did it. It was showmanship. She would have done the same to Ben if he were right next to her.”

“So, at the next show, can Ben be standing next to her when that happens?”

“I don’t know, it depends…”

Depends? ” her hostility flared back up again before she’d even finished saying the word. “What do you mean, depends?

“Well, it depends on what the stage is like. If it’s a smaller stage, it’s better to have Ben in the back, because the neck of his bass is longer, and he’d ram into either of us. So it’s easier to have both guitarists up front. On some stages, I could go in the back and Ben could go up front.”

” Why can’t Cynthia go in the back?”

” Because she’s the singer , Tara. Singers need to be up front .”

“Don’t get snooty with me, Kyle. I’m not happy about this.”

” Tara, look,” Kyle paused for a moment, regaining his composure and wiping away his frustrations before finishing his comment. “Cynthia’s a member of our band. That’s it. There’s absolutely nothing between us. Even if I had a huge crush on her, and I don’t , and she liked me too, and she doesn’t , we’d never be involved, because we’re musicians, and relationships in bands never work out. Okay?”

” Okay Kyle. But promise me you’ll never mess around with her, or with anyone . I love you .”

“I love you too Tara, and I promise.”

Tara’s emotions under control, she went about asking what the show was like, seeming to have put their first argument as a couple behind her. But as enthusiastic as her now-awake long-distance boyfriend was about the greatness of the group’s show, she didn’t seem to share any amount of his passion with him. It was obvious to Kyle that Tara was still upset about whatever it was that Jen had told her, but there wasn’t really anything Kyle could do about that. After conversing for another half an hour, they went their separate ways, and immediately upon hanging up the phone, Kyle found himself zoning out, thinking about how volatile and furious Tara had gotten over what was nothing more than a tiny, insignificant moment in the band’s show.

But there was, however, more to it than Kyle cared to admit to his new girlfriend. He wisely excluded the fact that the previous night, when Cynthia emerged from Kyle’s bedroom dressed the way she was dressed, that he was momentarily intoxicated by her incredible beauty. And when the band performed the song Blind Mind , at the opening of their show, the smile that Cynthia had offered to Kyle was on his mind more than a few times after they all got back to his house. While it didn’t affect him during the actual show itself, he couldn’t stop thinking about it afterward, and at that moment, her haunting smile crept back into his mind.

You have a girlfriend… a great girlfriend, who loves you . But even after he told himself this, Cynthia’s smile reared itself again, and the image of her walking down the stairs the night previous decided to follow through his mind. He could deny it all he wanted to Tara, or to anyone else if it ever came up, but the truth was that Kyle did have a crush on Cynthia. But was it a minor one? Would it pass before the end of the day? It didn’t threaten his relationship with Tara in any way… did it?

“It wasn’t like that, not at all,” Cynthia explained. “I don’t think he, like… you know… did it intentionally or anything. I don’t think there was anything behind it.”

“Yeah, but how do you know?” Cynthia’s best friend, Megan Anne Nesbitt, inquired. “I wish I was there, I hate this stupid island.”

“It was a great show, Megs. But I don’t think it meant the same thing to him as it did to me. And it’s not like I’ll ever bring it up.”

“What do you mean? Why not, Cynthia?”

” He has a girlfriend… he’s in a long-distance relationship with a girl named Tara. He wrote a song for her even. It’s a really good song , too.”

” Well, when my family finishes this dumb trip to Bermuda, again , I want to meet this guy.”

“I’ll take you to a band rehearsal or a show or something, it’ll be fun.” Cynthia paused before continuing. “But seriously, I don’t think there’s anything to it, I really don’t. I think he just smiled at me because he was trying to encourage me to stop sucking so bad. You should’ve heard it, seriously, I was terrible. I got better eventually, but yeah, big mess.”

” Well Cynthia, let me tell you this… I’ve never had a moment like that. Where a guy smiled at me and made me fall in love with him? That’s special, isn’t it? I mean, it probably means something.”

Cynthia sighed. “Yeah, but we’re in a band together, and he has a girlfriend, and… oh, I dunno. He probably hasn’t even thought about me once since I left his house last night.”

“Yeah, maybe. But you never know.”