“How you holding up?” Maddie rubs her hands up and down my arms as I flick my fingers, trying to get the feeling back. I take a few steadying breaths. If I don’t get my breathing under control, I won’t be able to sing for shit.
Everything is riding on this. Everything. This is my one chance and if it doesn’t pan out, I need to knuckle down at school and give it my all. My dad wants me to follow in his footsteps and become a vet and take over our private game farm to look after the animals we have on our 1000-hectare land. I don’t hate studying to be a vet and I love helping my dad on the farm but performing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s all I ever wanted since I was three years old. I sing constantly and drive people crazy. Well, except Maddie and Papaw, they love it.
Maddie frowns and takes a step back so she can extract her phone from her jeans, her blonde hair skims her shoulder as she smiles at the screen. “It’s Papaw.” She hands me the phone and I place it on speaker. It’s crazy loud backstage and we both lean in.
“Hey, Bubbles, I figured you wouldn’t have your phone so I tried Maddie’s. How are you doing, kiddo?”
“Oh, I’m good.” I can’t stop smiling. I know this call is costing him a small fortune being all the way from South Africa and I want to hug the phone to my chest.
“She’s lying. She’s wearing a hole in the floor with all the pacing.”
My papaw’s booming laugh is clear as a bell over the din and helps steady the pterodactyls in my tummy.
“Now, Maddie, you’re supposed to be keeping my Bubbles calm. I’m counting on you.”
“I won’t let you down. Bubbles is in good hands.” She shoots me a wink and her hazel eyes sparkle. I smile at the exchange between my best friend and grandfather. And more so, Maddie’s use of the nickname Papaw gave me when I was old enough to walk and it stuck.
Every Thursday afternoon, Papaw would fetch me and Maddie from school and take us to the Crazy Store—a discount store about twenty kilometers away from home where we’d get cheap bubble tubs for R2.20. We’d spend about half an hour or more deliberating the color matches for the tub versus lid, like it was the UN’s answer to world peace. Papaw never rushed us while we tried to decide if it was best to have a green lid and an orange tub or a yellow lid with a pink tub. He’d point out other color combinations and even swap some of the lids out for us. When we’d made our final decision, we’d drive home and spend the afternoon blowing bubbles in the yard, while either giraffes or black rhino would graze on the other side of the fence.
Sometimes we’d chase the bubbles and pop them, and other times I’d watch them float away, envious of their freedom to fly away on their adventures while I felt trapped under family obligations. A weight I felt from as early as my primary school days.
That is why this is so important. I need to get a judge to hit the button for me tonight, or hurting and disappointing my father will be for nothing and the guilt was already stifling.
“Now you listen to me, Blair because I really want you to hear this.” I swallowed at my papaw’s use of my real name. “I want you to forget everything, you hear? Forget what your father said, forget about the last semester at school you’re missing, forget about everything except this moment. Those judges, the people in the audience, they are about to get the biggest blessing of their lives by hearing you sing tonight. I’m proud of you for getting where you are. You go get them now.”
I clear the lump in my throat when I hear Papaw’s voice crack with emotion.
“Blair McKenzie?” I look up to see a woman with a headset clutching a clipboard scanning the room.
“Thanks, Papaw. I’m up. I have to go, I love you.”
“I love you most, Bubbles.”
I hang up the phone and hand it back to Maddie.
“You heard him.” She wipes a stray tear off her cheek. “This is your time. Go get ’em.”
I yank Maddie to me and hug her hard.
“Oh, and I brought spare panties in case you need them. You know, for when Dean Carter hits the button.”
I blush and looked around to see if the lady with the clipboard heard. “Shut up, you!”
Her throaty laugh follows me on stage.
This is it!
Thank you for reading this first chapter of Beatbeat, releasing 18 September 2019. Visit GoodReads to add to your TBR pile!