Hope you all have been enjoying TAKE A BOW SNEAK PEEK WEEK! I know I have! HUGE thanks to Mundie Moms, Novel Novice, Eve's Fan Garden, and Page Turner's for hosting different excerpts all this week. And of course, big thanks to my publisher, Point/Scholastic for letting us do this.
To recap, Take a Bow beings with the auditions of the four main characters (click on links to read):
After that it jumps to Senior year, from Emme's point of view. It's pretty long, so please note that you have to go to the second page to finish reading it! So without further ado, more from Take a Bow!
SENIOR YEAR - EMME
I never in a million years thought I’d be sitting here. Well, truth be told, I think that every time I’m in CPA’s auditorium. Freshman year, sitting with Sophie by my side, I couldn’t believe I’d made it in. Then sophomore year, I was shocked that I’d survived the first year. Junior year was the biggest surprise since I’d almost wanted to sabotage my audition for that semester because I was so tired — tired of the auditions we have to do to be accepted each semester, tired of the extra classes and studios, tired of the concerts, the pressure, the competition. The constant competition.
Fortunately for me, the music composition department is the least competitive of all the programs. Ethan, Ben, Jack, and I work together on pretty much every project, and have since the very first day of school.
But other groups don’t have it so easy. Jack’s girlfriend, Chloe, is in the dance department, and she has to eat her protein bars in secret during lunch. It’s a double competition, to see who can dance the best and eat the least. It’s as if being the skinniest person in the group is a badge of honor, not an eating disorder.
The drama department is full of . . . well, drama. I stay far away from anybody in that department when a show is being cast. It’s not pretty. Leading up to the auditions, there is backstabbing and sabotage of Hamlet proportions, and when the cast list is posted, those without parts are les misérables.
And then there’s Sophie. As we wait for our first assembly of senior year to begin, I look four rows in front of me to where Sophie is sitting with Carter. Sophie’s had it a lot rougher than me and I feel so guilty. After all, if it wasn’t for Sophie, I wouldn’t even be here.
(Click below on Page 2 to continue reading...)
Ethan taps my knee and motions up front. Dr. Pafford, our principal, strides onto the stage.
“Hello, seniors.” He leans on the podium and takes stock of the room. Judging. We are always being judged. “Over ten thousand people applied your freshman year, 624 got in, and today there are only 513 left. Of that you should be proud.”
He pauses dramatically. We all know he never gives us a compliment without showing us its downside.
“But now is when we really figure out who will one day appear on this screen.” He gestures to the large screen that is rolling down behind him. Our first day of freshman year, we were welcomed with images of CPA alumni: Oscar, Grammy, and Tony winners flashed before our eyes. “As you all know, you are here two weeks before the start of class to discuss the opening-day performances for the freshmen as well as, of course, the Senior Showcase.”
It’s as if the air has been sucked out of the room at the mention of the showcase. Every January, CPA hosts talent scouts, agents, and college administrators to an evening that highlights the talent at the school. It’s the biggest audition of them all. Juilliard, Alvin Ailey, William Morris — they all come.
The mere thought of it makes me sick.
Both Ethan and Ben nudge me. They know me so well.
Dr. Pafford continues, “We will be holding auditions for the spots in the freshman welcome program next week. You’ll have three minutes. We have only ten performance spots available. Sign-up sheets will be up next Monday. And remember, everything you do this semester, and I do mean everything, will weigh in on who will be invited to perform in the showcase.”
He dismisses us, and groups immediately start to form.
“So, lunch?” Jack says as he stretches and pats his stomach. “I’m going to need a full stomach before I can even think of what torture you two will make me endure for this gig.” He nods at Ethan and me.
“Sure, um . . .” I say, then stop. We all see Sophie approach me, a smile on her face. I smile back. I haven’t seen her that much over the summer and we haven’t been able to get together since she got back from her family vacation. This is the longest we’ve been apart since we were eight, and I’ve really missed her.
“Hey, Em!” Sophie hugs me. “I’ve missed you!”
I hug her back. “Me, too! I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on.”
Sophie claps her hands enthusiastically. “You know I’m dying to hear it.”
She turns to the guys and gives them all a little wave.
“Hey, Sophie, nice to see you show up, just in time to get a song from Emme,” Jack says drily. “How convenient.”
We both ignore him.
“The guys and I are heading to lunch,” I say. “How about tonight?”
She looks disappointed. “I’d love to meet tonight, but Carter has this thing, some opening of something, and I promised him I’d go along.” I love how Sophie makes it sound like work. I know that she loves going to openings with Carter: the photographers, the attention, the coverage. We are complete opposites when it comes to that.
We settle on tomorrow afternoon after she consults her schedule and Carter’s. There’s always been some tension between Sophie and the guys, but they don’t get it. They just see Sophie singing my songs, but they have no idea (no matter how many times I’ve tried to explain it) how much I rely on her.
She gives my songs a voice.
When it comes down to it, I need her a whole lot more than she needs me.
“So!” Jack gives us a smile after we order our food at the diner. This can only mean trouble. “This feels like the first day of school and we’re eating lunch....”
Ethan and Ben groan. I try to contain a smile, but it’s too hard. It’s a tradition. It started back on our first day of school when we all met.
That first day, I walked into the cafeteria like a prisoner being sent to death row. I’d been dreading going to the cafeteria by myself since Sophie and I realized we had different lunch periods. To make matters worse, I hadn’t made a single friend all morning.
The cafeteria was filled with students already settled into their groups, laughing and enjoying themselves.
I looked over and saw a boy from music composition eating a sandwich by himself. I didn’t know his name, but Mr. North had said he was the only person who hadn’t had to re-audition to get in. I headed over to him, knowing that I needed to make an effort to get to know people.
“Hey, I’m Emme,” I said. He looked up at me, mid-bite. His black hair was cut extremely short, almost a buzz cut, and it couldn’t hide his ruddy cheeks. Also, he was wearing a T-shirt and jeans that were both about four sizes too big. “Um, we’re in music composition together?” I didn’t know why I’d made that sound like a question. “Um, can I join you?” My voice went up an octave higher than normal.
He nodded. Then, after he finished swallowing his food, he finally spoke. “I’m Ethan.”
“Hi.” I opened up my lunch sack and pulled out a bag of carrots. “Um, so . . .” I couldn’t think of anything to say. I wanted to ask about his audition, the kind of songs he wrote, what he played, pretty much everything about him. “I can’t believe I’m here, you know? My friend, Sophie, she’s in the vocal program and she’s so good. She has a different lunch period. I was so worried about finding someone to sit with at lunch and I’m so excited to see you.”
I remember thinking: You know, Emme, there is a reason why you let Sophie do all the talking.
Ethan smiled politely at me.
“Hey!” a new voice called out. I ignored it. “Hey, Red!” I looked up to see two guys from class standing over us. “Got room at your table for two more?”
“Of course!” I said, grateful to be saved from further embarrassing myself in front of Ethan.
“I’m Jack, this is Ben.” Jack had a friendly smile on his face, a bigger build that suited him well, and a massive array of curls on his head.
Ben sat down across from him. That day, he had on a funky green and navy plaid newsboy cap that almost covered his dirty-blond hair. He was way more stylish than anybody I’d ever gone to school with.
Jack laughed. “So are you going to tell us your name, or are we going to stick with my nickname for you?”
“Yeah, Red. It suits you.” He pulled on a strand of my hair.
“Oh!” I tried to laugh it off, but my bright red hair has always made me so self-conscious. As Sophie likes to remind me, often, you can’t miss me in a room. “I’m Emme and this is Ethan.”
“Ethan!” Jack started nodding his head. “Ethan the chosen one. So did you want to kill North for calling you out in class?”
Ethan shrugged his shoulders.
Jack continued. “’Cause I wouldn’t have wanted the attention, I’ll tell you that much. From what I can tell, competition here is pretty fierce.”
“Please.” Ben sighed. “We are in music, so we need other people. No need to get the claws out . . . yet. Plus, I hear first year you get paired off for a bunch of assignments.” Ben slammed his hand on the table. “That’s it! Right here. We should form a band!”
“I like where this is going,” Jack rubbed his hands together. “This is more like it. A brotherhood — no offense.” He winked at me. “Red here will be the hot-chick lead singer.”
“Oh, I don’t sing. But my friend Sophie —” I said it so quietly that Jack moved right on to the next band member.
“What do you play, Ethan?”
Ethan hesitated. “Guitar, piano, sax, drums . . .”
“Okay, we get it. Genius. Emme, how about you?”
“Oh, I play piano and guitar mostly. I played flute when I was little, but . . .”
“Yeah, we don’t need a flutist for our awesome rock band.”
Ben interrupted. “Why do you automatically assume we’re a rock band?”
“Oh, is this our first fight as a band? And things were going so well!” Jack’s large belly laugh echoed through the cafeteria. “I can already see the documentary on us now: ‘When CPA Cliché started off —’”
“What’s CPA Cliché?” Ben asked.
“Our band name. What’s the most cliché thing to do at CPA? I’ll answer that for you: Form a rock band! And we’re doing it on the first day. I wonder if we can get extra credit?”
“We are not naming our band CPA Cliché,” Ben protested.
“So you agree we’re in a band, then?” Jack looked around the table. Ethan shrugged and looked at me. All I could think to do was shrug back. I was just happy to have people talking to me.
Ben took a notebook from his bag. “All right, someone needs to be serious about this. Ethan, guitar. Ben, bass. Emme, keyboard-slash-guitar. Jack, drums.”
“Oh, so you assume I play drums because I’m a brother?” Jack asks.
“No, I assume you play drums because you’ve been knocking out a beat with your silverware since we sat down.” Ben nodded toward Jack’s hands, which were indeed wrapped around a spoon and fork as if they were drumsticks.
“Fair enough.” Jack dropped his silverware and took a bite of his chip.
The back-and-forth between Jack and Ben continued for the rest of the period as they plotted our rise and subsequent fall from stardom. I was upset to hear that I was going to have a drug problem and Jack was going to bravely lead an intervention to save me. Which would be all for naught when, on the night before our big comeback tour, Ethan would tragically die in a car accident.
Jack shook his head sadly. “So much promise . . .”
As we all got up from our seats, Ethan finally spoke up. “What exactly happened just now?” he asked.
I shook my head. “I’m not entirely sure, but I believe we are in a band with Jack and Ben. Although you need to be sure to always wear a seat belt.”
He smiled. “Oh, okay. You should stay away from the smack.”
Now, three years later, we’re still talking about the future of our band.
“So nobody wants to hear what lies in store for us?” Jack pretends to be hurt. “You all want to throw away something we’ve worked so hard on?” He scrunches his face up like he’s about to cry. “That’s fine, that’s fine.”
Ben sighs. “Oh, you are such the martyr.”
“Well, at least you understand my role.” Jack wipes off his pretend tears with a napkin.
“Yeah, but if it wasn’t for me, we’d still be called CPA Cliché.”
Everybody at the table groans. For weeks we couldn’t come up with a name for our band, and Jack had plenty. After we all vetoed CPA Cliché, we swiftly turned down Jack’s other suggestions: Jack and the Irish (since the rest of us have Irish last names: Connelly, Quinn, and McWilliams), Black and the Irish (Jack’s warped sense of humor), and his personal favorite, Jack and the Not-So-All-Star Band.
Ethan came up with Dissonance Youth, which we didn’t think any non-music people would get. Ben and I were trying to come up with similarly obscure references, then suggested we just call the band Obscure Reference. Jack vetoed that. He didn’t want there to be anything obscure about our band, he isn’t into obscurity . . . or subtlety.
Then, as with everything about our band, our name sort of just came to us. Ethan started playing the opening chords of The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks” during rehearsal for our first gig and it just stuck. Teenage Kicks. We know that pigeonholes us as a teen band, but that’s what we are.
The thought that this is our last year together makes me a little sad. I think everybody is thinking the same thing, because Ben finally says, “Okay, what happens to us next, O wise one?”
Jack replies, “I’ve realized that I’ve been a little too hard on Red here.” That’s the understatement of the year. In every telling of our story, I end up with some horrible addiction . . . and Ethan dies tragically. Of course Jack becomes a huge star and Ben is some weird recluse who raises llamas or something. “I think you’re going to like this one, Red.”
I doubt it.
“We become instant sensations after we open up for U2.” Nobody bothers to ask how we went from CPA to opening up for U2, we just go with it. “Bono obviously becomes jealous of my dynamic personality and charisma.”
“Obviously,” Ben says with a dramatic rolling of the eyes.
“So he produces Jack and the Background Players —”
“Wait,” Ben interrupts. “When did we get a new name and why on —”
“Hey! I’m telling a story here. So he produces the band’s album and we become major stars. Soon U2 is opening up for us. You know, because it’s important to remember those little people who have helped you along the way. Soon tension begins in the band as the attention shifts from our beanpole of a lead singer —”
“Hey, I’ve gained some weight this summer, thank you very much,” Ethan protests.
Jack gasps. “Yeah, you are probably what, a buck fifteen soaking wet? Big improvement.”
I shake my head; the last thing we need to do is make Ethan even more self-conscious about his appearance. It took me two years to get him into jeans and T-shirts that actually fit. And then I swear he grew another six inches.
“Okay, so the attention shifts from our bulking stud of a lead singer to the magnetic drummer.”
Ethan interrupts. “Yes, because that often happens with drummers.” Jack glares at him. “But do go on. . . .”
“You’re all obviously jealous of the attention I receive.”
“Obviously,” Ben and I say in unison.
“But things get even more complicated as Red realizes that Ben will never return her feelings for him.”
“Um.” I know better than to try to reason with him, but I try anyway. “Maybe the fact that Ben’s gay has something to do with that?”
Jack nods at me with such sympathy. “But the heart, it wants what it wants.”
“Sorry, Emme, this —” Ben gestures at me. “Not my thing.”
Ethan begins to bang his head against the table. “Okay, we do have an audition next week, so can we please get on with this?”
Jack finally gives up. “Fine. I leave you all to become a ginormous star and marry an Oscar-winning actress-slash-Victoria’s Secret model, while Ethan dies by getting hit by a bike messenger while busking outside a subway station, Ben goes to Montana to raise wild goats, and Red, to recover from her heartbreak over Ben’s rejection, turns to her old friend Jack Daniel’s. Happy?”
Ben claps. “That it’s over? Yes.”
“Wait, how exactly is this being easier on me?” I ask. “I still have an addiction and I’m miserable.”
“You guys wanted the short version.” Jack shrugs his shoulders and dives into his food.
Both Ben and Ethan glare at me, not wanting to prolong this any more.
“Plus” — Jack shoves a few fries into his mouth — “I thought it was best to make it short and sweet. We don’t want Mount Saint Emme erupting again.”
Ethan’s fork drops, Ben looks down at the floor, and I just sit there with my mouth open. I can’t believe Jack would bring up . . . The Incident.
Jack realizes, too late, what he’s done. “You know, I . . .”
“Oh, so now you’re at a loss for words?” Ethan says through clenched teeth. “Two seconds too late.” He gets up to go to the bathroom.
“Emme . . .” Jack’s voice is a low whisper.
“It’s okay, it’s not your fault. I’m the one . . .”
I don’t even want to think about what happened this summer. Ethan and I haven’t talked about it since. None of us has.
I was hoping that we’d returned to normal. Things seemed to be a lot better.
However, Ethan’s abrupt departure from the table makes it clear:
Appearances can be deceiving.
Excerpt from Take a Bow, published by Point/Scholastic, copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth Eulberg. Used with permission.