Lara Johnson's eyes were closed tightly as she sang in her Saturday voice lesson.
"Oh, suddenly, these emotions are in control of my heart
Can you see it in my eyes?
Ev'ry glance, ev'ry smile must give me away
'Cause I feel so much I can't hide..."
When she cracked on the word "hide," she stopped singing and looked to the woman playing the piano in frustration.
"You have to really push it from here," Nicole Peters, Lara's vocal coach, told her as she patted her stomach. "Or else you're going to crack like that every time."
"Okay...where should I start from?" Lara asked.
"How about 'Oh suddenly,'" Nicole replied.
Lara's brow furrowed in concentration as she started to sing again.
"Oh, suddenly, these emotions are in control of my heart.
Can you see it in my eyes?
Ev'ry glance, ev'ry smile, must give me away,
'Cause I feel so much I can't hide.
"Oh, and I don't know what I'm doing anymore,
I'm feeling like, like a little girl, a little girl,
Caught up in emotions,
I'm out of control, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Isn't it obvious?"
"I did it!" Lara grinned triumphantly.
"Because you pushed it from there," Nicole pointed out, indicating her diaphragm.
"Yeah," Lara agreed.
Nicole glanced up at the clock and saw that it was time for the lesson to end. "Oh, it's twelve o'clock."
"Okay. I'll see you next Saturday," Lara said, gathering up her books.
"All right, sweetie. Keep working on what we went over today for next week," Nicole instructed.
"Will do. G'bye." Lara gave her teacher a quick hug. After all that had happened to her in the past, Nicole had become very close to her, despite their twenty year age difference. But then, music had a tendency to connect people like that, regardless of age. Nicole had been Lara's voice teacher for six years now, since Lara was only twelve, and she had been there through every single thing that had happened in that time.
Lara got into her blue Honda Accord and threw her books on the seat before putting the key in the ignition and firing up the engine. She immediately turned on the radio and flipped stations, whimpering when she couldn't find the song she wanted. Thank goodness Nicole got me that car CD player for my birthday! she thought as she popped in Backstreet Boys' Millennium and turned up the volume. The Backstreet Boys were her entire life besides singing; their music had been a comfort to her ever since the age of thirteen. She knew that eighteen was a little old to still be liking them, but what the hell. She didn't often let other people influence her opinions, and this was no exception to that. Lara turned on the CD to number nine, "Back To Your Heart," the song that Kevin Richardson had written. Kevin Richardson, her love obsession for five years. Her friends always would give her a lot of crap about that, but she didn't mind it. All she had to do was look at a picture of him, with his beautiful green eyes and perfectly formed muscular body, and everything was magically better again.
When the song was over, Lara turned on the radio again, and her eyes widened when she heard the advertisement that was playing. It was for a giveaway: free tickets to the upcoming BSB concert. Lara listened closely to the D.J. as he spoke:
"Here at the new 105.3 Kiss FM, we've got tons of floor, even first row seats, and even a few backstage passes to the BSB's sold out Into The Millennium concert on March the twenty- first. Just listen for the dial tone...[He played the dial tone.]...and for the message from the Boys themselves, and then call in for your chance to meet...the Backstreet Boys!" The commercial faded out playing "Larger Than Life."
Lara sighed dreamily as she pulled into her driveway. Backstage passes to the Backstreet Boys concert! That would be so amazing. As she got out of the car and walked into the house, she imagined herself walking up to Kevin and tapping him on the shoulder, telling him her name. He would smile, maybe say that it was pretty, and tell her his name—even though she already knew that. Then his green eyes would meet hers, and he would step closer to her and wrap his arms around her and—
Lara's step-mom calling her name interrupted her daydream and pulled her back down to reality. "Yes, Jackie?"
"Where have you been?"
Lara rolled her eyes. "I have voice from ten thirty to twelve on Saturdays, remember?" Lara silently wished an obscenity upon her step-mother. You've only been married to my father for a year, and I've only had a voice lesson from ten thirty to twelve every single Saturday for six years! she thought angrily.
Jackie let out an exasperated sigh. "Well, I wish you would tell me and your father these things. We need to know where you are. I was planning for us to go out to lunch, and we need you around to watch Kyle," she reminded Lara.
"I'm sorry...it's just that going to Nicole's is such a routine for me that I don't usually think about it that much," Lara replied coolly. She hated it when Jackie did that whole "me and your father" thing. It made her sound like a real mother, which she was most definitely not.
Jackie's eyes narrowed. "Don't you get smart with me, young lady," she warned.
"Don't worry, I won't be around to get smart with you for too much longer," Lara returned. "In June I'll graduate from high school, and I'll be out of here for L.A., and you won't have to deal with me any more. You'll like that, won't you?" Lara glared at Jackie as she hurried past her and towards the stairs. She needed Kyle, she needed to see her sweet baby brother who meant the world to her.
"L.A.? I thought you were going to Harvard," Jackie recalled.
"Yeah, well, I changed my mind," Lara replied.
"You're just throwing a perfect life away like this? Do you know how hard it is to get into a prestigious college like that?"
Lara hated it even more when Jackie said those kinds of things. It made it seem like she actually cared about her step-daughter, which she certainly didn't. "Look, it's my life, and I don't give a shit about how fucking hard it is to get in or how fucking prestigious it is, singing is what makes me happy, and that's what I want to do!" she yelled, running up the stairs.
"What did you say?" Jackie asked, her eyes having widened considerably when she had heard Lara's use of language. "Lara, come back here right now!"
"Fuck you," Lara whispered through tears as she hurried into her baby brother's room and closed the door carefully behind her, as he was taking a nap. She put her hand on the door and leaned against it as she cried softly. Ever since her mother had died three years ago, everything had gone downhill. Her father had changed into an alcoholic. All of her friends—except her best friend Linz—had turned on her. Jackie had come into her life and had refused to go back out again. Not to mention the fact that her singing "career" was going nowhere, among other things. Lara swallowed hard as she turned around, and couldn't help but smile when she saw her little brother. He was smiling in his sleep, most likely dreaming. Lara sat on the edge of his bed and pulled some curly brown hair out of his face. He looked so much like the pictures of their mother when she was three years old. Lara started to stroke his hair.
Kyle's eyes fluttered open, and he grinned widely to see his older sister sitting there. "Lara!" he exclaimed.
"Hi, sweetie," Lara said, pulling her hand away. "Did you have a good nap?"
"I had a dream! I was falling, and then you catched me," Kyle said excitedly as he sat up.
"Caught, not catched," Lara corrected mindlessly.
"You caught me," Kyle repeated dutifully. "I was very, very scared. But then you were there, and everything was good!" Kyle sighed.
"Lara!" Jackie yelled from downstairs. "We're leaving!"
"All right, bye!" Lara yelled back.
"Where is Dackie going?" Kyle asked in confusion, his tiny brow furrowing as he tried to grasp the concept. He couldn't pronounce the letter "J" yet.
"Jackie and Daddy are going to eat lunch," Lara explained, staring off into the distance.
"Oh. You and me go too?"
Lara shook her head. "No, you and me stay here," she said. "Together," she added in a whisper.
"Will you stay with me forever 'n' ever when Dackie and Daddy eat lunch?" Kyle asked worriedly.
"Of course I will, sweetie," Lara replied, pulling her brother into her lap as tears stung her eyes. He was the only one who really cared about her any more. Except for Nicole. And Linz of course. But besides that...her mother was gone, and Dad...he didn't care about much of anything any more, except his alcohol. He didn't even care about Jackie, although he pretended to. Lara knew her father, and he knew how much he hated to be alone. Jackie was...well, she was pretty, that much Lara granted her. She was also cold, selfish, judgemental...the complete opposite of his first wife, who had seemed to love everyone and everything.
"Lara, why are you crying?" Kyle asked with concern.
"Nothing, Kyle," Lara said quickly, knowing that he would not understand. He didn't even know what a mother was. Mrs. Johnson had died when he was only two months old, and Lara refused to let Jackie legally adopt either of them. She forced a smile. "Hey, let's play!"
Kyle brightened. "I wanna play space aliens!" he exclaimed.
Lara got onto the floor and pulled him with her. "Okay...what planet are you from?"
"Planet Bubbabubbabub!" Kyle decided. "And you're from Planet Dubbadubbadub!"
She laughed. "Okay! Come on, let's go play in the living room!" She pulled Kyle up on
her shoulders and carried him downstairs, laughing as he pretended to shoot intruders with an
imaginary laser gun.
Lyrics from "Obvious" by Christina Aguilera
from Christina Aguilera
Words and Music by Heather Holley