Kaley was mesmerized as everyone in the school passed around her. There had to be dozens of broken hearts, hundreds of missed opportunities, and thousands of reasons to fall in and out of love.
Every person at that school had a story to tell. She could have written a song about any of them. Their feelings, their joy, their sorrow. As she tapped her fingers on the table to an unnamed tune, she could already see the words forming into song lyrics.
|Secret Songs Series: Secret Songbook By Jamie Campbell|
High school was just rampant for songwriting.
One person in particular stood out above all others: Eli Stone. He was the head of the football team. A tall, strong guy with messy hair and mischievously sparkling eyes. He seemed extraordinary in an ordinary world.
He was talking to his friends, his face animated while his hands gestured to emphasize whatever he was saying. Kaley sighed as she rested her chin on her hand and watched him.
If there was a song she could write about Eli, it would be the tale of the fact he didnâ€™t even know she existed. How she felt her heart race whenever he was near but she may as well have been invisible to him.
That was her story.
There would be no love or heartbreak for Kaley Thorne. Just missed opportunities that never even presented themselves to her to begin with. She was invisible, completely under the radar of the vast majority of her peers.
She loved the way Eliâ€™s face lit up when he spoke to people. He could have a whole conversation where he was completely present and in that moment. He didnâ€™t just humor people, he really listened. If she could get him to look at her like that she knew she would be the luckiest girl alive.
â€œEarth to Kaley. Come in, Kaley,â€ Harper said as she waved her hand in front of her best friendâ€™s face.
Kaley snapped back to reality, her cheeks reddening with a flush of embarrassment at getting caught staring. Again. â€œSorry. I was just thinking.â€
â€œDaydreaming, more like it.â€ Harper slid into the seat next to her. She was dressed in the regal blue of the school band, ready for practice. â€œWhat are you looking at?â€
â€œNothing,â€ Kaley replied. Quickly, too quickly to escape suspicion. Harper eyed her carefully, knowing her friend was lying but letting it drop for now. â€œAre you practicing outside today?â€
â€œYeah, weâ€™re doing the full routine on the football field. Want to watch? Or, you know, you could always join the band.â€
Harper rolled her eyes. â€œWhen are you going to give in and just join already? You play, like, a million different instruments.â€
â€œI play the piano and the guitar. Hardly school band instruments.â€ There was no way she was joining the band, no matter how many times Harper asked. And she did ask a lot. At least once a week.
â€œYou could try the drums. Marty broke his hand over the weekend so we are in desperate need of a new drummer.â€
Kaley laughed, already imagining the visual. â€œI donâ€™t think that will work. But thanks for the invitation.â€
Harper stood, sighing. â€œFine. But Iâ€™m not going to stop asking you.â€
â€œI know.â€ She stood and followed her friend. As they left, Kaley caught one last glimpse of Eli. His girlfriend, Abigail, was now at his side. She was tugging him away from his friends, looking up at him like he was the most incredible thing in the world.
Nobody dared to mess with Abigail. And nobody stole her boyfriends away from her. She had marked Eli as her own and that was it. End of story. Another fact Kaley was acutely aware of.
She tore her eyes away from the couple and trailed after Harper. She took a seat in the bleachers while the band started their practice on the football field. They werenâ€™t that bad, Kaley considered. Their lines were very straight, even if their uniforms could do with some updating.
It wasnâ€™t so much that she didnâ€™t fit into the band but more the fact nobody knew how talented Kaley actually was. Nobody could play the instruments like she could, her hands moved with such ease that it was like something possessed her while playing.
And if she joined the band she would have less time for her songwriting. Nobody knew about her songbook but it was her most prized possession. Everything she felt, heard, or wanted to say went into that songbook. She turned every emotion into a melody. It was her diary in more ways than one.
As she watched the band, Kaley tried to get rid of the tune that had been making her fingers tap on the table. It had been with her all day, lingering in the back of her mind and begging to be extracted into a full song.
It seemed like a happy song, or perhaps it could be slowed down to a mournful tune. She needed to find some lyrics to accompany it, only then would she know for sure. Right now, she just wished her songbook was handy so she could make a start.
Maybe then the tune would leave her alone.
The view of the field was suddenly blocked as Harvey stood in front of her. He hitched his backpack higher on his shoulder while plastering on a smile. â€œI never thought Iâ€™d find you here.â€
â€œYou were looking for me?â€ Kaley asked. She didnâ€™t remember making plans with her next door neighbor. They usually walked home together after school but she had let him know she would be late and he should go on without her.
â€œYeah, check this out.â€ Harvey held up a poster. It was missing all its corners from where he had torn it off the notice board.
â€œA talent competition? Isnâ€™t that a bitâ€¦ outdated?â€
â€œMaybe. But thereâ€™s a thousand dollars of prize money up for grabs.â€ He sat beside her, neatly folding the poster before tucking it into his pocket. â€œJust think what you could do with a thousand bucks.â€
Kaley knew exactly what she would do with it â€“ buy the Taylor guitar she had been saving for. â€œPity we donâ€™t have any talent.â€
â€œYeah, there is that.â€ Harvey chuckled. He, like everyone else, didnâ€™t know about her musical ability. Harper knew she could play but had never heard her. Harvey knew even less. â€œMaybe we could learn something? Weâ€™ve got three weeks.â€
Kaley couldnâ€™t help but laugh. â€œI think Iâ€™ll give it a pass. But good luck with that.â€
â€œIâ€™m not letting you off the hook that easily, Kaley Thorne. I will think of something,â€ Harvey declared before he left her, walking like he was on a mission. She watched him leave with a smile on her face.
Closing the door to her bedroom, Kaley picked up her guitar and let the smooth lines dissolve the day. Nothing else mattered when she had her music, it let her be who she truly was.
She sat on the bed and strummed the strings, her fingers finding their way to the fret board and moving into position. She never really knew what she was going to play, the rhythms came from somewhere deep inside her.
A tune drifted into her head and then into the air. She imagined the song was floating in front of her eyes, there for her to see and sing.
The day started out like any other,
I was completely unaware about what was to happen,
I entered the room and looked around,
When I saw you, I felt my heart shudder.
Everyone else just melted away,
Until there was only you and me.
I could feel my heart beating in my chest,
For you were nothing like the rest.
I was too shy to move.
Iâ€™m not the kind of girl to dare.
You were too special to notice,
Too precious to even try.
Next thing I knew you were standing
Your walk so graceful and easy.
Then you were talking to me.
Before I could speak we were dancing.
Through each dip and turn,
You whispered secrets to me.
Only words we would know,
You swept me off my feet.
Her bedroom door suddenly opened as she was halfway through her song. Kaley froze, the words dying on her lips.
Her mother, Georgie, peeked in. â€œDinnerâ€™s almost ready. Weâ€™re having something super special tonight.â€
â€œGreat, Mom. Thanks. Iâ€™ll be out in a minute,â€ Kaley replied, trying to gather up some enthusiasm. Something special in Mother Barbieâ€™s world meant something experimental. That could mean anything from chocolate spaghetti bolognaise to fish rissoles with ketchup.
She scrambled to write down the words of her latest song into her songbook â€“ the one she kept hidden from everyone. She had hundreds of lyrics and music in the book. Some songs were complete, others were just ideas that led somewhere for her to finish later.
Kaley made sure the songbook was hidden before she joined her parents. There would be no way anyone could find her book. It was her secret, one she would die over if someone discovered it.
Her songbook was her diary. It held all the most intimate secrets of her life. Sharing it with anyone would be like cutting open a wound and letting it bleed. She would protect it at all costs.
Dinner was predictably awkward. Georgieâ€™s latest recipe was a meatloaf with pieces of candy mixed in. Everything tasted okay until she found the sickly sweet candy in amongst the meat.
Kaley was glad to get back to her room. Insisting she had piles of homework to deal with, she closed the door to her sanctuary and opened her first textbook.
As she did, a few pebbles knocked on her window. That could only mean one thing: Harvey wanted her attention. She opened her blinds and peered out.
Harveyâ€™s bedroom was only a few feet from her own. They had been neighbors for as long as she could remember.
She waved as Harvey held up his notebook, a message scrawled across it in his messy handwriting. It read:
Kaley laughed and shook her head. There was no way they could learn to juggle in three weeks. Not well enough to win the talent contest, anyway.
Harvey frowned and quickly wrote something else, holding up the notebook again. This time there were three suggestions:
Hip hop dancing?
Kaley giggled and searched around for her notebook. She wrote quickly before holding it against the window.
Think some more.
Harvey threw up his hands like he was frustrated with the whole thing. The smile covering his face gave away his amusement.
Kaley shook her head again as she closed the blinds. There was nobody in the world like Harvey Walker and she was so glad he lived next door to her.
They had been friends forever and she wouldnâ€™t change him for anything. Not even the thousand dollars from the talent show. He was unique and held a special place in her heart.
Forgetting about her school books, Kaley grabbed the neck of her guitar. She had a song swelling in her heart and it needed to come out.
There was nobody who inspired her as much as Harvey. There were more songs about him in her songbook than anybody else.
She started strumming as the words came to her.
Back when we were young
And our lives had only just begun
We would play all day
In a magical land far away.
As time wore on I could see
That you werenâ€™t the boy you used to be
Suddenly thoughts of you filled my mind
And I knew you were the one I wanted to find.
We were just two kids who would run
And laugh and play and just have fun
Until the day we held the magical key
And I knew how perfect you were for me.
It was the night of the big dance
When I decided it was time to take a chance
I crossed the room and headed your way
But when I got there my words I couldnâ€™t say.
I stared at you unable to move
My head said run but my head couldnâ€™t choose
You just looked and smiled at me
And suddenly you were all I could see.
You took my shaking hands in yours
And led me onto the dance floor
You wrapped me in your arms tight
And told me you wanted to dance all night.
As she finished, Kaley wondered what it would be like to sing in front of other people. What would happen if she played her song in the talent show?
She closed her eyes to picture it. She would take to the stage, hundreds of eyes would turn to stare at her. Even though she would have her guitar to clutch, it wouldnâ€™t shield her from their judgment.
She would play, she would sing, she would share her music with the world.
And they would laugh at her.
Her beautiful songs that were a part of her would be torn to shreds. They would rip them apart as if they were nothing, telling her she wasnâ€™t good enough to be a real musician.
The thought only made her more determined to keep her secret.
Kaley closed her locker, a stack of books in her arms as she prepared to go to class. Just as she was turning, Abigail crashed directly into her.
The books went flying to the ground, scattering in all different directions while the pages fluttered. Kaleyâ€™s fall was broken by the row of lockers as she fell against them.
Abigail never even noticed.
She was too busy with her conversation, her minions flanking both sides and listening intently. Their laughter echoed off the walls as people scrambled to get out of their way.
Kaley often wondered if she was, in fact, invisible. It was moments like these that brought the question to life again. Abigail hadnâ€™t seen her, neither had anyone else. Did that mean she had somehow turned see-through?
Nobody stopped to help her collect her books. Kaley crouched down and picked them up, grateful it was only her books that had ended up on the floor and not the contents of her backpack too.
Harper caught up with her just as she was standing. â€œI have the best idea in the world.â€
â€œYouâ€™d better tell me what it is then,â€ Kaley replied, waiting expectantly. She was used to her best friend making outrageous claims but maybe this time her idea really was the best one in the world.
Harper paused for dramatic effect, drawing out the anticipation to really annoying lengths. â€œIâ€™m going to play my violin in the talent show!â€
The smile on her face meant Kaley couldnâ€™t be unhappy with her. â€œThatâ€™s great. What song will you perform?â€
â€œWell, I decided Iâ€™m going to blow them all out of the water with something modern. Iâ€™m not going to stand there doing some classical, boring piece. Iâ€™m going to redefine the notion of cool.â€
They started walking to class, weaving through the other students who were all busy with their own missions. â€œWhat would you do with the prize money?â€
â€œPut it in the bank. Iâ€™m saving up for a car. By the time I can afford one, I might have my license. Or be a senior citizen, one or the other.â€ Harper shrugged, and Kaley loved her all the more for her answer.
They reached their English class and went inside, finding desks beside each other. The teacher joined them just as the bell was ringing out in ear-shattering levels.
Kaley settled into the lecture, listening intently but not really hearing. She was distracted by the boy sitting in the back row. She could see him out of the corner of her eye.
He was the very definition of hot. If there was one guy she could picture in a daydream, it would be him. Not only because of his cute, messy hair, but because he seemed different to the other jocks. He was smart, she could tell.
Her gaze roamed to him again, just in time to see him staring back at her. Heat made her cheeks rosy as she felt self-conscious embarrassment creeping over her face.
Perhaps she wasnâ€™t as invisible as she thought. If Eli could see her, maybe others could too? Maybe not people like Abigail and her friends, but they didnâ€™t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Just as Kaley was about to mouth something to Eli, he grinned and nodded. Confused, she turned her head around to the front of the classroom again. Eliâ€™s friend, Matt, was sitting at the desk in front of hers. He wasnâ€™t looking at her at all.
The embarrassment burned in earnest this time, making every part of her hot and humiliated. She was silly for thinking Eli was any different from the rest of them.
A note landed on Kaleyâ€™s desk a few minutes later while she tried to cool her skin. She smoothed it out, recognizing Harveyâ€™s familiar handwriting. It only had a few words on it:
Tap dancing duet?
Kaley turned around until she spotted Harvey. He was pretending to pay attention to the teacher but she wasnâ€™t fooled. In his mind, he would be trying to think of even more ridiculous suggestions for the talent show.
She shook her head and folded the note into her book. If there was a talent show for being a great friend, Harvey would definitely win it. He made her forget all about the earlier incident with Eli.
By lunchtime, it was just a distant memory.
Kaley took her tray to an empty table and sat down, looking forward to eating lunch. Her stomach was rumbling and begging for some tasty goodness. Unfortunately, the cafeteria only managed ordinary blandness.
Harvey quickly sat opposite her with his tray. â€œSo what did you think of my suggestions? I was expecting an outstanding â€˜yesâ€™.â€
Kaley laughed. â€œI donâ€™t think I excel at any of your suggestions. My frog impression sucks.â€
He shrugged and took a spoonful of the grey mush from his plate. It was supposed to be mashed potatoes. It might have beenâ€¦ a week ago.
â€œWhat about your guitar? You can play, right? Iâ€™ve seen you with it through the window.â€
Kaley froze, her mind reeling with a plausible lie. â€œIâ€™m really terrible at it.â€
â€œBut youâ€™ve been going to lessons since, like, forever.â€ His face wrinkled with confusion. â€œSurely you can play something by now?â€
â€œIâ€™m a really slow learner. Playing the guitar is hard. Trust me, nobody will call me talented. It wouldnâ€™t win us first prize.â€ She purposefully played with her food, making sure she didnâ€™t have to make eye contact with him again.
â€œWill you play me something so I can be the judge of that?â€ Harvey asked. â€œYou might be really good, just a really bad judge of yourself.â€
His perfectly reasonable request made Kaley want to run away from the conversation. She knew she wasnâ€™t the best guitarist in the world but she didnâ€™t suck either. If she played for Harvey, he would know part of her secret.
That couldnâ€™t happen.
Not for anything in the world.
â€œEven if you think Iâ€™m not terrible, I still wouldnâ€™t be able to play in front of the whole school,â€ she replied, hoping a half-truth was better than a total lie. â€œI would freeze up and then be the laughing stock of the school.â€
â€œIâ€™d be there with you.â€
â€œDoing what? Singing?â€
Harvey shrugged with just one shoulder. â€œI can hold a tune. Itâ€™s not like they expect us to be professional or anything. Itâ€™s just a school show.â€
Kaley gave him an apologetic look but wouldnâ€™t give in. Protecting her secret was the single most important thing in her life. If people discovered her talents or her songbook, everything about her would be exposed. It was too much of a risk, even for her best friends.
Thankfully, Harvey dropped the subject and they moved on to safer things like homework. Kaley excused herself halfway through the break. She had something to do that would guarantee her non-participation in the talent show.
She found the signup sheet outside the auditorium. The talent show needed crew members as well as talented acts. She added her name to the list, volunteering to be behind the curtains instead of in front of them.
It was a perfect solution.
The only downside to signing up was the fact Kaley had to attend the talent show committee meeting after school. She dreaded it for the rest of the afternoon but still showed up in the auditorium just as she was supposed to.
Not many people had signed up to help out, only another three besides Kaley. Most people wanted to enter the competition and have their shot at winning the thousand dollars. Being behind the scenes didnâ€™t pay anything.
Kaley listened to the instructions and details of the show, volunteering to work the sound for the performers. It only required her to press a few buttons and meant she didnâ€™t have to be anywhere near the audience. She could do that.
The organizer, Mrs. Petrovski, ran through their duties before fleeing to leave the school grounds for the day. Kaley lingered a little longer, watching the people rehearse on the stage.
Some of the performers were terrible, but some really shone. Kaley had to admit it but Abigail and her friends were actually one of the better ones. The three of them were doing a singing routine, relying on their good looks and popularity rather than choreography and originality.
When they were all finished and the auditorium was completely empty, Kaley approached the stage. The schoolâ€™s musical instruments were still in their cases just offstage. Discarded by the band earlier and ready for another rehearsal the following day.
Impulsively, Kaley grabbed one of the guitars from its case and slid the strap over her head. The guitar was tuned but not nearly as nice as the one she had at home.
Without thinking, Kaley walked to the middle of the stage and looked out over the empty rows of seats. It was like a spooky ghost theater but she didnâ€™t mind. The only way she could do this was with nobody filling the seats.
Her fingers strummed notes until they turned into a tune. It took her a moment to work out that she was playing â€˜Neon Lightsâ€™ by Demi Lovato. It was a slow version, bringing the upbeat song down to a ballad.
She started humming along before switching to singing the words. She was quiet at first but as she got into the song her voice grew louder. Her feet tapped out the beat, keeping time and making sure she stuck to the rhythm her fingers had started.
Her voice echoed around the empty room, picking up all the nuances of her singing. For a moment Kaley forgot it was actually her singing and enjoyed the sound she was making. She liked the way the guitar vibrated in her hands, the way it produced music so beautiful even though it was made with a few ordinary steel strings.
When the song ended, Kaleyâ€™s heart was beating like a drum and the room was too silent all of a sudden. She could imagine all the seats being filled with people that were standing and applauding for her. She pictured herself taking a bow, thanking everyone for being a great audience, and then leaving the stage on a high.
In the next moment, her shoulders slumped. It was just a silly dream, something she would never be able to do for real. The audience wouldnâ€™t be so kind to her, they would only clap politely and wait for the next act to take to the stage.
Somewhere in the distance, a door closed.
Kaleyâ€™s heartbeat kicked up a notch. There was nobody in the auditorium before. She made certain of it otherwise she would never have stepped onto the stage.
It had to be the wind, she tried to reassure herself. It couldnâ€™t have been anything more than a breeze making the door close. It just had to be that. The alternatives were too traumatic to think about.
She quickly picked up her bag and left the guitar in its case before rushing out of there. She didnâ€™t stop until she was home. By that stage, she had almost convinced herself there was nobody in the auditorium with her.
And even if there was, it had to be the janitor or someone else who didnâ€™t care about hearing her singing. She needed to stop worrying about it, she continually scolded herself.
â€œYou look like youâ€™ve seen a ghost,â€ Georgie said by way of greeting. Mother Barbie always had a way with words.
â€œNo ghost. Just wanted to get home,â€ Kaley replied, slumping down on the chair in the living room. Georgie was engrossed in the soaps but gave her daughter her full attention.
â€œWhy are you late?â€
â€œI signed up for the talent show committee. We had a meeting.â€
â€œOh. So youâ€™re not going to enter the show then?â€ Georgieâ€™s forehead wrinkled with dislike. She always harbored dreams of Kaley being the next superstar, even though she didnâ€™t even know about her talents.
Kaley sighed, why couldnâ€™t their school have come up with another event for raising funds? She would have baked her butt off if theyâ€™d gone with a bake sale. â€œNo, I donâ€™t have any talent. Who wants to stand up in front of all those people, anyway?â€
â€œYou might have fun. And Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re not completely untalented. You are my daughter, after all.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s your talent that I should have inherited?â€ Kaley asked, mainly to distract Georgie from the topic. Mother Barbie loved talking about herself and it was something Kaley used to her advantage quite often.
â€œI can sing like nobodyâ€™s business.â€
â€œYeah? Show me.â€
Georgie didnâ€™t need any further encouragement. She broke out into song, something Kaley couldnâ€™t place. Whatever the song was, Georgie sung it with passion and gusto, making all her facial expressions exaggerated and dramatic.
Kaley felt like laughing but she didnâ€™t, because her mother was better than good. She was great, something Kaley had never known about her before. Wherever this voice was coming from, it was a beautiful place.
She wished she was able to sing with that same unabashed enthusiasm. Georgie didnâ€™t care who listened or who watched, she wanted her voice to be heard. If only Kaley could muster up the same courage.
It was rare for Kaley to wish she was more like her mother, but this was one of those moments. She wanted her confidence, her ability to share her story with anyone and not worry about what they would think about it.
That was the ultimate.
The few weeks that passed afterwards went by in a blur. Kaley turned up to the technical run-throughs of the talent show while the others all chatted excitedly about their performance.
Kaley didnâ€™t say a word to anyone about her deep desire to perform. It was a crazy dream to think she could stand up in front of the whole school â€“ plus parents and teachers â€“ and share her music.
It was the day before the talent show when Kaley found herself in Harveyâ€™s backyard. She was stuffed in a box, waiting for her cue to spring out.
â€œAbracadabra,â€ Harvey said loudly. He had finally decided on a magic show for the contest.
Kaley jumped out of the box and tried to look like a beautiful assistant. All she felt was awkward as her arms flailed about. â€œTa-da!â€
â€œWhat do you think?â€ Harvey asked. Heâ€™d shown her the entire routine, encompassing everything from pulling a stuffed toy rabbit from a hat to sawing his assistant in half.
It wasnâ€™t great, but Kaley would never tell him that. Friends encouraged, they only told the truth if there was a good chance for public humiliation. And Harvey wasnâ€™t that bad.
Plus, his little magic act was adorable. It made Kaley laugh at times and she could never say a mean word to Harvey. While all the other guys at school were coming up with singing routines or ways to show off their muscles, Harvey was doing magic.
He was magic, Kaley thought.
â€œItâ€™s good,â€ she said. â€œMaybe you have a shot at winning the cash. What would you do with a thousand dollars?â€
Harvey didnâ€™t even have to think about it. â€œIâ€™d buy my mom a new washing machine. She keeps complaining about the old one breaking down. My stepdad has tried to fix it but now it leaks too.â€
â€œI hope you win then.â€
Only one more day and they would find out.
â€œHeâ€™s so awesome,â€ Harper gushed as her eyes were glued to the stage. â€œThe best singer I have ever seen.â€
Kaley tried to see Cooper Sutton through her best friendâ€™s eyes but couldnâ€™t do it. Cooper and his band were good, crazy good, but the lead singer wasnâ€™t exactly swoon-worthy.
Not to her, anyway.
All Kaley could hear was the music and see the sheer joy on their faces as they performed. Cooper wasnâ€™t afraid of having an audience. Instead of scaring him, all the people seemed to energize him. He fed off their adoration and it made his performance even better.
â€œCooper Sutton is going to be mine one day,â€ Harper declared boldly. â€œAs soon as I can get him to notice me, heâ€™s going to fall completely in love with me.â€
Kaley nudged her with her shoulder. â€œOf course he will. The poor guy wonâ€™t know what hit him.â€
Harper flashed a smile before returning to stare at the band performing onstage. Kaley was next to the control panel, waiting to turn off microphones as soon as the song finished.
The Sandyridge High School Talent Show was in full swing with so many performers that it was promising to be a long night.
Kaley didnâ€™t care. She had prime position next to the stage as she worked the sound and made sure the performersâ€™ routines went smoothly. So far nobody had gone out without their music.
Mrs. Petrovski gave her a thumbs up from the other side of the stage. She had been bustling about like a chicken losing its feathers all night.
The Ravens finished up and Kaley switched off their sound so there was no way for the audience to hear them say anything they shouldnâ€™t. She lined up the next track and waited for the following performance.
Harper was two acts away from going on stage herself. She was wearing a long dress made out of black slinky material. She looked like a world class violinist, ready to tackle the universe.
â€œDo you think Cooper will see my performance?â€ she asked, fiddling with the silver sash on her dress.
â€œI donâ€™t know, maybe. Most of the contestants hang around to watch after their performance.â€ Kaley shrugged, hoping it was enough. Seeing her best friend so in love with a guy who didnâ€™t even know she existed was painful. She wanted her to be happy and with someone who deserved her.
â€œI might suck.â€
â€œYou wonâ€™t suck. Youâ€™ve been playing the violin for years. You own those strings.â€
â€œWhat about if I forget how to play?â€
Kaley laughed. â€œHarper, you wonâ€™t. Youâ€™ll do fine, I promise. Just clear your mind and take a few deep breaths. You can do this, I know you can.â€
Harper nodded and shook out her arms, loosening up her joints. She twitched right up to the moment of her time in the spotlight.
â€œGood luck,â€ Kaley said, giving her a nudge on stage. She didnâ€™t have any sound for that particular performance, all the music would come from Harper alone.
As Harper walked out on stage, she found her position and held up the violin, resting it between her shoulder and chin. Just as she was about to start playing, Harper dropped the bow. It clanked onto the floor, seemingly loud in the quiet auditorium.
Kaley crossed her fingers and gestured for Harper to keep going. Running off stage now wasnâ€™t an option, she would never forgive herself.
Harper picked up the bow with shaking hands as she positioned herself again. It took her a few moments to regain her composure.
She dragged the bow across the strings and the sound of the violin cut through the silence. From there, it would have been impossible to get her to stop. Harper played the song perfectly, the strings making a beautiful, haunting sound.
Kaley was so proud of her by the end of the performance. Harper took an elegant bow and received a worthy response from the audience as they clapped. Somewhere, someone yelled â€œThatâ€™s my girl!â€ from the crowd, no doubt her father.
The performance afterwards paled in comparison and Kaley suspected Harper had a shot at winning the talent competition after all. She was extraordinary in amongst all the boring song and dance routines.
A few more competitors went by before it was Harveyâ€™s turn. Once again, he didnâ€™t have any background music so Kaley could watch the whole thing from the side of the stage.
His magic performance had improved significantly since Kaley had seen him rehearse. His assistant â€“ a girl named Clara from the grade below them â€“ sparkled in her costume and never stopped smiling.
He cut her in half, made her disappear, and she held the hat from which he pulled a stuffed rabbit. She was tiny, which was why Harvey chose her as his assistant. Still, Kaley couldnâ€™t help but feel a little jealous. Not only of the fact that Harvey chose her, but because she was so at ease on the stage.
She told herself it was silly, but Kaley couldnâ€™t help the way she felt. Still, she enjoyed the magic show and so did the audience. They cheered when he finished and made sure to be properly astounded with his tricks.
The next performance did need music, it was a routine from Abigail and her minions. She sang while the others danced around her in a synchronized routine that pushed all the decency boundaries. If anyone else had done the sexy routine, they would have been banned.
But Abigail always got away with everything. Kaley sighed to herself as she watched, ready to switch off the music at the appropriate time. Sheâ€™d seen them in rehearsals and thought for sure Mrs. Petrovski would tell them to tone down their routine.
She obviously hadnâ€™t. If anything it had grown raunchier.
Kaley noticed Eli in the front row of the audience, watching his girlfriend perform. He had a smile plastered across his lips, enthralled in the routine. He cheered the loudest out of everyone else.
Abigail didnâ€™t deserve such a good boyfriend. She always received everything she wanted. Out of all the performances, they received the loudest applause, people even whistled their delight. It was so typical of the way the world cherished Abigail and her friends while everyone else just shared her space.
It took them three bows before they finally left the stage. Even then, they were still blowing air kisses to the audience right up until the last moment. Kaley rolled her eyes and lined up the next track.
The remainder of the routines passed by in much of a blur. Two people sang the same song which was about as scandalous as it came. The audience didnâ€™t seem to mind, even though one was far better than the other.
At the end of the show, Kaley pressed the last button on the machine to turn it off and her job was done for the night. Sheâ€™d successfully managed to avoid being on stage and got to see the performances with the best seat in the house.
â€œCome on, Miss Thorne, weâ€™ve all got to do our bow,â€ Mrs. Petrovski insisted as she grabbed her arm on the way to the stage.
So much for remaining invisible.
With Mrs. Petrovskiâ€™s grip so tight on her arm, Kaley didnâ€™t have a choice but to follow the teacher out on stage. All the crew of the talent show were taking their bows, standing in front of the audience to receive their thanks and applause.
Kaley looked out at the sea of people, noticing individual faces under the lighting. There were so many of them, all looking at them on stage.
She wanted to run away and throw up at the same time. There were so many of them and nowhere to hide. They could see her and she could see them.
They all bowed together, Kaley a few seconds slower than the others as she caught on to what they were doing. It was like somebody else was standing there in her body as she watched on.
As the audience clapped and cheered for their effort behind the scenes, Kaleyâ€™s mind wandered for just a moment. She pictured what it would have been like for Harper, or Harvey, or even Abigail, to receive the same applause for their performance.
She imagined what it would be like for them to cheer for her singing performance. Receiving all that love and appreciation for something she had poured her heart and soul into would have been phenomenal. It would have been like every Christmas and birthday coming together for that one moment.
Just for those few seconds, Kaley wished she did have the courage to perform. She wanted to be one of the others waiting backstage and hoping to hear her name announced as the winner.
It would have been magical.
She reeled her thoughts in as they left the stage. It was silly anyway. The audience might not have been so enthusiastic after her performance. They might be so quiet that she could hear the crickets chirping from outside.
She would never be able to perform in front of anyone. It was too exposing which would only lead to her humiliation. Her songs and her songbook would have to remain a secret.
The anticipation of the evening came to a crescendo as the school principal, Mr. Lockie, took to the stage to announce the winner.
Everything became whisper quiet. The only sounds were the occasional feet shuffling on the floor as someone got more comfortable in their seat. Everyone was waiting for that one name, the winner of the thousand dollars.
Kaley crossed her fingers and hoped it would be either Harper or Harvey. They both deserved it. A tie between the two of them would have been perfect.
â€œAnd the winner of the Sandyridge High School Talent Show isâ€¦â€ Principal Lockie dragged it out for an impossibly long wait. â€œâ€¦ Abigail & the Dolls.â€
Abigail and her friends rushed to the stage, all smiles and glitter. She accepted the trophy and the check for one thousand dollars, blowing kisses to the audience as she did.
Kaley rolled her eyes. Seeing Abigail win anything made her angry. She expected to win, she wanted everyone to love her. But really, Abigail didnâ€™t deserve it. She was nasty to everyone and people only liked her because they wanted her to like them. Being in that club was exclusively invitation only.
After the applause of the audience died down, Abigail & The Dolls all walked past her to get backstage. Kaley picked up pieces of their conversation and wished she hadnâ€™t.
â€œItâ€™s a good thing they picked us, otherwise my father was going to complain to the school board,â€ Abigail said. â€œAnd everyone knows what happens when my father speaks to the board.â€ They all giggled in response.
â€œOf course they were going to pick us,â€ Madison said. â€œI mean, did you see all the other acts? Talk about pathetic.â€
â€œNobody can beat us,â€ Macy added.
â€œAre we going to split the money equally?â€
Abigail shook her head. â€œOf course not. I did all the work, youâ€™re only my background props. Iâ€™ll give you both a hundred and Iâ€™m keeping the rest.â€
For just a moment, Kaley actually felt sorry for her friends. Abigail was hard enough to take when she didnâ€™t notice you, she could only imagine how hard it would be being her friend.
While she was still seething about Abigail winning, Harper found Kaley packing up the sound gear. She wasnâ€™t hurrying, just taking her time to make sure it was put away properly.
â€œI guess the winner wasnâ€™t a shock, huh?â€ Harper said.
â€œNope. They really should have just had their own show,â€ Kaley replied.
â€œThey canâ€™t win every year,â€ Harvey added, joining them while still dressed in his magicianâ€™s suit with the top hat. â€œMrs. Petrovski said they are going to make the talent show an annual event. It would look suss if Abigail won every year.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to win next time,â€ Harper said decisively, like there could be no other alternative. â€œIâ€™ll practice all year and they wonâ€™t be able to resist me. I definitely wonâ€™t drop my bow again, Iâ€™ll tape it to my hand if I need to.â€
Kaley gave her a quick hug. â€œYou show them, Harp. Take the crown from Abigail and you will live in Sandyridge High history forever.â€
â€œI will, Iâ€™m serious about this.â€
Neither Kaley nor Harvey doubted her. When Harper said she was going to do something, she did it. There was no backtracking for her. It was only upwards and forwards â€“ one of the reasons they loved her so much.
They offered to help Kaley but she insisted everything was fine. Harper and Harvey left her alone to finish packing up. Most of the people were gone by that time, making it easier to move around backstage.
Kaley was just winding the last of the cables around the reel when she heard footsteps behind her. She ignored them, hoping it was just Mrs. Petrovski making sure she was finishing up.
When the footsteps stopped right beside her and she could see feet in her peripheral vision, she knew it wasnâ€™t the teacher. This person was wearing sparkling red high heels and Mrs. Petrovski would never be that fanciful.
Her gaze travelled upwards to see Abigail standing over her. Kaley stood quickly, almost knocking over the boxes she had stacked in the process.
â€œI donâ€™t know your name,â€ Abigail started, in her usual cranky tone of voice. â€œBut I do know Iâ€™m glad you didnâ€™t enter the talent show. I heard you the other day.â€
Kaleyâ€™s mind reeled as she tried not to panic. There had been someone in the auditorium the other day when she had stupidly sung on the stage.
Nobody was supposed to see or hear that.
She felt her cheeks start to burn with embarrassment. Out of all the peopleâ€¦ Why couldnâ€™t it have just been the janitor like she hoped?
Abigail went on, oblivious to her suffering. â€œYou better not get any ideas of performing in any talent show or auditioning for any school plays. There is only room for one diva here and it is me. Otherwise, I will destroy you until you change schools. Got it?â€
There were a million things Kaley wanted to say to Abigail. She wanted to tell her that it wasnâ€™t up to her and that Kaley could do whatever she pleased. She wanted to tell her that she was mean and she had no right saying things like that to other people.
Unfortunately, everything died on her tongue. All Kaley could do was stare at her wide eyed and hope she would leave her alone.
Abigail flashed her a sweet, innocent smile before turning and stomping off in her glittery heels. Kaley let out the breath she had been holding and packed up faster. All she wanted to do now was get as far away from the auditorium as possible.
As she placed the last cord into the box, Kaley looked at the stage once more. She had hundreds of songs in her secret songbook, every one of them coming directly from her heart as she wrote them.
Would any of them have won her the talent show? Were they good enough to beat Abigail?
Kaley wanted to find out. But, even more so, she wanted to keep her songbook a secret. The only way to do that was to keep all her songs to herself. The decision made itself up.
The songbook had to remain a secret at all costs.
CAN KALEY KEEP HER SONGBOOK A SECRET FOREVER?
READ THE EXCLUSIVE FIRST CHAPTER NOW
Invisible. That would be the one word to sum up the life of Kaley Thorne. No matter what she did, no matter who she spoke to, no matter what she achieved, she would always be invisible.
She was like a ghost that roamed the corridors of her life, never being seen or heard. Nobody ever remembered her and nobody ever actually cared about her. She didnâ€™t exist.
Of course, Kaley Thorne wasnâ€™t actually invisible, it just felt that way. She was, in actual fact, a living and breathing sixteen year old. She had ten fingers, ten toes, a nose and everything else you would expect to find on a female human.
She had long dark hair, blue eyes, glasses, and was average height. She also had a small freckle on her left cheek that often looked like a dab of chocolate.
There was just something about her that made people not notice her. They would even bump into her and not apologize, like she was a pesky wall that had jumped out at them.
Kaley was tired of it. She wanted to be seen and she wanted people to take notice. And she made that decision while standing in the middle of the school cafeteria at 12:43 p.m.
Summoning all her courage, Kaley put one foot in front of the other and moved toward the table. She stood on the seat and waited for people to notice. They didnâ€™t. She took a deep breath.
â€œI am Kaley Thorne and I am here,â€ she yelled at all her fellow students. The cafeteria was packed full of people, talking and laughing amongst themselves. They didnâ€™t even flinch at the sudden yelling from the invisible girl.
Not one person looked at her.
Deflated, Kaley got down and plunked onto the seat. She pulled her lunch closer and started eating. She had tried. She was always trying. It just never worked. Maybe someday people would see her, today obviously wasnâ€™t that day. Perhaps it would be tomorrow.
â€œWere you just standing on the seat or was I imagining things?â€ Harper, also a sixteen year old with visibility issues, sat across the table. She was red headed with sparkling green eyes hidden beneath her bangs.
Harper was one of only two people that actually saw Kaley for who she was and she loved her to bits. They had been friends since they could remember, an unshakable bond that got them through high school. Neither would have survived very long without the other.
â€œOf course I wasnâ€™t just standing on the seat.â€ Kaley smiled with her secret. â€œMust have been someone else.â€
â€œRight,â€ she answered, her voice dripping with sarcasm. And pigs might fly too. â€œSo did you hear about Eli and Abigail?â€
Kaley shook her head. Eli and Abigail were the â€˜itâ€™ couple of their school. They had been together for ages â€“ about three months â€“ and they were always smooching up the corridors.
To make things worse, Eliâ€™s locker was right beside Kaleyâ€™s. Too many times to count she had tried to get books from her locker only to have Abigailâ€™s perfect body pressed against it. She would always keep walking, they wouldnâ€™t notice her when she politely asked them to move anyway.
â€œWhat about Eli and Abigail?â€
â€œThey broke up.â€
â€œReally? Finally I get my locker back.â€
â€œThey had a big fight this morning in the courtyard, everyone saw,â€ Harper said, nodding with a look of knowing on her face. â€œShe cried and everything.â€
â€œAbigail cried? I didnâ€™t know she had tear ducts.â€
â€œFull on sobbing.â€
Kaley was impressed the girl had real emotions. She didnâ€™t seem too concerned when she was berating her underlings. She had never in her life spoken a word to Kaley, she never even noticed her enough to berate her.
There were good sides to being invisible sometimes. It meant the mean girls didnâ€™t see you either.
â€œOh well.â€ Kaley shrugged. â€œI guess life will go on.â€
â€œI wonder who heâ€™ll move on to. Eli is a good catch. Heâ€™s on the football team, heâ€™s smart, and his parents are loaded. Heâ€™ll probably be snapped up in a second.â€
â€œNot if you want to live. Abigail will kill anyone who comes near him. She will still claim him as her territory.â€
â€œShe wonâ€™t have a valid claim, theyâ€™ve broken up.â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter. Nobody will cross Abigail.â€
They both nodded in agreement, lamenting the fact Eli would always be off limits to any of the other girls in the school. It was a pity, but like Kaley said, life goes on. There were far more things to worry about in high school. Boys were only one of the distractions.
Harper stood. â€œIâ€™ve got to go to the library before the next class. You want to come with?â€
â€œSure, why not.â€
Kaley looked around, thinking nobody would miss her anyway. Every table held groups of chattering students, all happy and oblivious. It should have been difficult to feel isolated in a room full of people, but Kaley found it easy. If it wasnâ€™t for Harper, she may as well not even exist.
It was funny the type of kids that hung out in the library over a lunch break. If Kaley stood there long enough, she could identify three different types.
The first were the kind that didnâ€™t want to be seen there. They would hurry in, look around to make sure they didnâ€™t recognize anybody, grab what they needed, and check out just as fast. They were in and out in less than two minutes if they werenâ€™t caught in the act.
The second type were those that loved the library. They were the ones that volunteered to be student librarians and would spend every spare minute of the day there.
They were also the kind that jumped at their own shadows and couldnâ€™t make eye contact with others. Despite this, Kaley thought they had a certain attitude to them. Perhaps they were the rebellious ones, defying social conventions by being social outcasts.
Something to think about.
The third kind were the ones that were casual visitors. They needed something from the library but were quite content to take their time browsing. They didnâ€™t care who saw them there, they only cared about that elusive book they needed for some purpose or another.
That was Kaley and Harper. They wandered through the stacks looking for a book on medieval times. Either they were late and all the books had been checked out already, or the school was seriously underfunded and skipped the era entirely. Probably a combination of both.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing here,â€ Harper whined.
â€œYou could Google it. You know, like a normal person.â€
â€œI like books.â€
Kaley rolled her eyes and leaned against the shelf, conjuring some patience. She checked her phone â€“ no messages. She never got messages unless they were from her mom. Just once she would like to see notification of a million unread messages and missed calls.
The popular girls would always have messages, she lamented. Even her mom would have unread messages. The situation was starting to get dire. Surely people would start noticing her soon.
â€œAha! Here is it,â€ Harper said happily as she slid out a thick book on the medieval world.
â€œCan we go now?â€
â€œAfter I find a book on diseases. I want to look up my symptoms and see what Iâ€™ve got.â€
â€œGoogle it,â€ Kaley laughed. â€œThere is nothing wrong with you anyway. You really want to be diagnosed by a computer programmer?â€
â€œFine, letâ€™s go.â€
They checked out the book and stepped into the corridors. As they did, the bell rang right over their heads. They headed toward class in opposite directions.
Halfway to her next class, Kaley realized she didnâ€™t have the book she needed. It was safely resting in her locker, she had forgotten to get it with all the excitement of the library visit. She could have slapped herself.
Instead, she took a detour and changed directions. She couldnâ€™t sit through a whole hour of math without having the textbook. No doubt dodgy Mr. Spingle would have something to say about it.
Kaleyâ€™s locker combination was easy to remember â€“ 13, 3, 17. Thirteen for the number of times she had been left off the morning roll call, three for the number of teachers who asked who she was when she turned up at their class (at the end of the semester), and seventeen for the number of times her mother had asked her why she wasnâ€™t going to a school function. The numbers were slowly increasing.
She retrieved her math book and closed the locker again as quickly as possible. She didnâ€™t want to have to change the 3 for a 4 when she got to Math. She preferred playing it low key when it came to classes, it got her out of doing any extracurricular activities.
As Kaley turned to hurry away, she hit something similar to a brick wall and her books and bag scattered to the ground. She focused her eyes and saw Eli Stone standing there. He had run right into her, or visa-versa. It was probably visa-versa.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ Eli apologized, kneeling to the ground to help her throw everything back into her bag.
â€œItâ€™s okay,â€ Kaley replied, trying to quickly get the tampons back in her bag without them being noticed. She could feel her face burning with embarrassment.
â€œYouâ€™re late for Math too, right?â€
â€œYeah, I forgot my book.â€
â€œMe too.â€ Eli smiled as the last of the contents were back where they should be.
They stood, and as they did, Kaley realized something. Eli had seen her. Probably not when they had collided, but he had helped her and spoken with her.
That never happened.
Normally when people ran into her they would just keep walking. They would pretend nothing had happened, the way you do when you trip over a crack on the pavement. But Eli had stopped, he had looked, and he had seen her.
Kaley stared at him, wondering if it could possibly be true. Had Eli, the Eli, really spoken with her? Could it be she really wasnâ€™t invisible after all? It was all too much to wish for. She was being silly. She tried to make her body function again.
â€œYouâ€™re in my French class too, right?â€
â€œUh, yeah,â€ Kaley managed to stammer out.
Eli held her gaze for a moment longer before relaxing his shoulders. â€œIâ€™d better get my book and go to class.â€ He nodded toward his locker.
â€œOh, of course. Iâ€™ll see you there.â€ Kaley forced herself to turn around and walk away.
She was dazed and confused, a state she quite often found herself in lately. She hurried to class, trying to put all thoughts of Eli out of her mind. He was probably just being polite, or making fun of her. Whatever it was, it was nothing to get all girly about.
Sure, Eli was tall with luscious dark hair and blue eyes that shone like a thousand stars. And when he smiled he had dimples in his cheeks that were adorable. But that only meant he had much prettier and cooler girls after him.
It meant he couldnâ€™t possibly see her. It was stupid to think otherwise.