Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 1

“Morning sweetie. It’s time to get up.”

I cracked my eyes open and then squinted as I tried to get my wits about me.

“Mom?” I asked.

It took me a second to realize I was back in the trailer, looking at the ceiling of the small living room past Mom’s head.

“Yes, baby. You fell asleep halfway through the movie, so I just let you sleep here. I called to let Hanna’s mother know where you were, and she said Kat would get your school stuff together and put it in your room. I know it’s earlier than you usually get up, but you still need to go take a shower and get ready. I think Katherine wants to ride with you to school.”

Finally, my brain caught up. Mom had invited me over to have dinner and watch movies with her, since it was our last night of Winter Break. We’d gotten back from New York and the amazing New Year’s Eve concert late on Monday. I’d basically been a bum all the next day, so it wasn’t like I had been doing anything. I’d also been working hard to repair our relationship after a very rough fall, and I knew she was still feeling a little sensitive about it, so I couldn’t say no. Not that it wasn’t fun. We ate junk food and watched two full movies, or I guess I watched one and a half movies, since I didn’t know how the second one ended. Things had been much more relaxed between the two of us, and it almost felt like things used to, before Dad had ruined our relationship.

Sitting up, I did have one regret about coming over last night, and that was sleeping on this couch. It felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my neck, which was stiff and sore from the weird position I’d been in all night. Still, Mom was practically beaming as she shoved an egg sandwich into my hand and hustled me out the front door.

Before she could close it, I stopped and gave her a big hug, saying, “Thanks for the great night, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetie. I hope we can do this more regularly.”

“We will. I promise,” I said, giving her a kiss on the cheek before letting go and skipping down the steps of the trailer.

She was still standing in the front door, practically beaming, as I circled around the trailer and made my way across the creek to Hanna’s house. Even with my stiff neck, I was feeling pretty good myself. Things were starting to get back to normal, or as normal as they’d ever been. I couldn’t undo the emancipation and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever move back in with her. I only had a year and a half of school left, and while things were better, they hadn’t stabilized yet.

Dad was still in jail, but this charge didn’t come with a lengthy prison term like his overturned conviction for manslaughter. He’d get out in the next few months, or a year at the longest, and he’d be back. Mom had said that she filed for divorce, for real this time, but that didn’t mean he was going to stay away. It was easy for Mom to declare she was free of him while he was locked up again, but she’d already shown how weak she was when it came to him, so there was no telling what would happen when he returned. Until that was all settled, I wasn’t going to put myself back in that situation.

For now, I had a place to live that was safe, and that would have to do. Once everything with Dad was really settled and I could feel safe being with Mom, I’d consider moving back home. Until then, I’d stay with Mrs. Phillips.

Kat was waiting for me by the front door, after I finished my shower and had gotten dressed, holding my backpack out for me. Kat was one of my best friends, along with Hanna, who was off at UNC for her freshman year of college, and I don’t think I would have made it through the last year without her. Yeah, she was a challenge at times, but who wasn’t?

She was also a good reminder that, no matter how rough I had it, it could have been worse. She was also living with Mrs. Phillips, placed there by Child Protective Services after having problems with her own father. She’d suffered a lifetime of mental and physical abuse from her abomination of a father, who’d treated her as some kind of daughter-wife after her mother died. It had left her with a lot of trauma that she was still trying to undo, but in spite of it, she was still a really great person. If she could make it through everything she’d dealt with and make it out the other side, I could deal with an asshole dad. Thanks to Chef, who’d been teaching me self-defense for the last year and a half, I didn’t have to worry about my dad hurting me, physically at least.

“Ready for your last semester as a high school student?” I asked her, grabbing my keys off the key rack and my backpack from Kat.

“I guess. It’s weird to think it’s only like five months and I’m done here for good. You spend your whole life in one place, thinking about getting out, and when it’s time to go, you feel sad. How weird is that?”

“I have no idea. I’ve only been in one place for the last year and a half.”

Mom and I had traveled the south with Dad while he’d tried, and mostly failed, to make it as a traveling musician. That had ended after he’d drunkenly stabbed another guy in a bar fight and Mom settled us here in Wellsville to start finally building a life. It was only our poor luck that the judge and the prosecutor who’d sentenced him had been secretly getting it on, which had caused all of the cases they worked together to be thrown out once it was discovered. If they’d just kept it in their pants, Dad would have stayed in prison and I wouldn’t have had to fight to get emancipated and moved out.

“I keep forgetting. It feels like we’ve known each other forever.”

“I know what you mean. Being friends with you does feel like an eternity.”

She pushed me as I went out the door, causing me to stumble and her to laugh.

“Hey,” I said, smiling back at her.

“That’s what you get. Just be glad I don’t call Hanna and tell her you’re giving me trouble.”

“Fine, fine. I give up. Let’s get to school.”

“Hey, Charlie,” Lyla said, waving at me from the garage as I walked up the driveway of the house my bandmates shared.

Marco and Seth, the other two members of the band, were busy setting up Marco’s keyboards. This was our first practice since getting back from the New Year’s Eve show in New York, and apparently, they’d taken the opportunity to take some downtime. I didn’t blame them. The previous weekend had been exciting, but it was also exhausting. At least they were all in their early twenties and didn’t have to deal with going back to school.

“Hey, guys. You ready to get back into the groove?” I asked.

We were supposed to be playing at the Blue Ridge the next day, just like we always did. For some reason, after New York, it all seemed a little bit smaller and less glamorous than it had when Chef had first let me up on the stage at the bar and grill as one of his weekend music acts. Not that I didn’t want to do it. My dad would have killed for this kind of steady gig when he was trying to make it as a traveling musician. It was just, after playing for tens of thousands of people in Times Square, everything else kind of paled in comparison.

“I’m ready to get back up in front of thousands of people. I swear I’m still flying high from last weekend,” Lyla said.

“That was probably the bowl you smoked an hour ago,” Seth commented, and then ducked as she threw the towel she’d been cleaning her bass with at him.

“I was actually thinking the same thing. Everything else seems so much smaller now,” I said.

“That’s why you need to push the label to start getting us better gigs. We’ve shown them what we can do,” Marco said.

Our record contract was really my record contract. MAC Records, who signed me last summer, had made it very clear they were signing me, not my band. I was welcome to play with them, and even perform using our band name, but it was on me to pay them out of my cut. I’d ended up splitting everything with them 4 ways since I really couldn’t have gotten where I was without them. They’d all been gig musicians when we’d joined up last year, and I’d learned so much from them that I wasn’t sure I could have gotten my contract without their help.

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