"Ah, thanks for coming," Keziah said as she opened the door and saw Eric standing there. He had black sweatpants on and a gray t-shirt. She hugged him. "No problem," he said when she let go. "Speaking of ‘problem’ you didn’t bring him along, did you?" Keziah asked and glanced around the front yard for a second. Eric laughed. "You’d swear we we're joined by the hip!" Eric said and walked into the house. "So what’s this big news?" Eric asked as they walked towards her room. Keziah bit her lip. "My mom got the STC to make me the opening entertainment for the JTC and STC ball," Keziah said with her eyes low. "You’re serious?! That’s amazing, Keez!" Eric said when they got to her room. "Yeah, that’s what everyone seems to be saying but I’m scared! Guess what the duet song is gonna be," Keziah said and took the steps up to her desk. She took the fax her mom had given her last night and handed it to Eric. He read through it. "Auditions are tomorrow at five," he noted.
Keziah scoffed. "I don’t have to go. Mom said they already decided," she said. It looked like Eric wanted to say something but just smiled knowingly and looked back at the page. "Against all odds?" He asked and looked up at her. "I don’t even know this song," he said. "The duet version is sung by Mariah Carey and Westlife," she said. Eric shrugged. "Still doesn’t ring a bell. You mind if I keep this?" He asked referring to the fax. Keziah shrugged and gave him a wave of her hand as a yes. "This is a difficult song! The ball is two weeks away and I don’t even know who I’m singing with! All I know is that we only have two formal practices with whoever is ahead of the entertainment for the next two Fridays. The ball is on Saturday next week. I’m dead!" Keziah said and sat at her piano. Eric chuckled a little and jogged up the steps, turned her desk chair towards her and sat on it.
"You need to relax. We both know you’re an awesome singer and pianist. You’ll do great," he said and smiled encouragingly. Keziah smiled a little. "Thanks, Eric. I just needed to hear that from someone I trust and someone my age," she said. "That’s what I’m here for," Eric said and stood up. He walked over stand next to her. Keziah turned around to face him. "Now, play me this duet so I can fully understand what you’re stressing about," he said with a smile. Keziah turned to her piano and positioned her fingers on the key. The sheet music was already there since she practiced the previous night. She looked up at the sheet and started playing, humming through the first verse which was sung by her partner then started with the second. She sang softly.
"How can you just walk away from me?
When all I can do is watch you leave
'Cause we’ve shared the laughter and the pain
And even shared the tears
You’re the only one who really knew me at all
So take a look at me now
There’s just an empty space
There’s nothing left here to remind me
Just the memory of your face
So take a look at me now
There’s just an empty space
And you coming back to me is against the odds
And that’s what I’ve gotta face."
Keziah lifted her fingers of the keys slowly. She didn’t want to keep going. The harder notes were somewhere along the end and she didn’t want to attempt those in front of Eric just in case she couldn’t make them. She looked up at her friend and he smiled at her. "See? I told you, you’re awesome! You’ve got nothing to worry about," he said. She smiled nervously. "Thank you," Keziah said softly and felt her nerves build up even more. "You really think I can get away with this without being completely scarred?" She asked. Eric laughed. "You’ll do fine!"
"Okay, so if the magnesium is oxidized then the copper –."
"You really need to get out of school more often."
Keziah looked up from her Chemistry book straight into Zack’s teasing eyes. Keziah rolled her eyes and closed her Chemistry book. "What do you want, Zack?" She asked. School ended two-minutes ago and she was just finishing up on some homework in the lab before heading home. Seeing Zack there was a massive surprise. Zack shrugged. "I was on my way home actually, then I saw you sitting here. What are you doing here?" He asked. "It’s really none of your business," Keziah said and packed away her book and pencil bag in her school bag. "Well if you’re packing up, maybe we could go somewhere together. I heard there’s a movie theater a block down from here," he said.
Keziah looked at him. Was he actually asking her out? "Zack, if it hasn’t been made clear before, I’d rather watch paint dry than spend ten-minutes in your company," she said, closing her bag. "Why are you always bouncing away from me? I’ve got a feeling you're avoiding something." He didn’t say it in a normal way. He said it in a suggestive manner. As if he thought she was falling for him and that just made Keziah roll her eyes again. She looked at him. "I think it’s quite clear what I’d like to be avoiding, Zack. Feel free to take offense on that when you figure it out," she said and got off the high chair she was on. Unfortunately, her foot slipped on the grip below and she found herself falling. Zack caught her and held on to her for a while, lifting her up. Keziah felt her face flush when she felt his strong arms around her waist. He lifted her up against him and Keziah looked straight into his eyes. Their noses almost touching and for one split of second she thought about kissing him. When he smirked and started leaning in she regained control of herself and pushed her way out of his arms. He just smiled at her but she could see a little surprise in his eyes. She glared at him. "Don’t think this changes anything," she said and did her best to get out of there as quickly as possible.
Keziah opened their front door and let out another laugh. Her mom stepped into the foyer with Karen in her arms. She smiled. "Oh, great! You guys are home," she said and walked towards Keziah and her dad. "So who won?" Mrs. Jones asked. "I did," Keziah sang as she twirled her tennis racket in her hands and passed her mom. Mrs. Jones laughed and looked at her husband. "She beat you?" She asked. Mr. Jones huffed a little. "Yeah, this little girl’s fast these days," he said. Keziah laughed again. "I’m gonna go take a shower," Keziah said and started for the stairs. "Wait!" Keziah turned around and looked at her mom. "This fax came for you earlier," Mrs. Jones said and handed Keziah a page.
Keziah frowned and gently took the page from her mom. She checked the title and realized what it was about. "Oh! The audition for the ball was yesterday. They must’ve decided who I’m doing a duet with," she said and scanned the page. Her eyes widened and her throat closed up. "Keez? Honey, are you okay? What’s wrong?" Mrs. Jones asked and lifted a sleeping Karen higher up her hip. Keziah felt her mouth open but no sound would come out. "Sweetie, what’s wrong?" Mr. Jones asked. Keziah looked at them, still shocked. "I’ll be right back. I just need to call someone quickly," she said and ran up the stairs to her room, still clutching the fax. She grabbed her phone off her piano and speed dialed Eric. He picked up after the third ring. "Before you say anything, I had no idea he was auditioning," he said as soon as he answered. "You had no idea?! Where did he even hear about this audition? He’s only been in town for three days!" She said urgently.
"Keez, just calm down. Please, don’t make a big deal out of this."
"It is a big deal! Imagine how I had to feel when I read the words; "Opening act - Keziah Jones and Zack Sampson"."
"I know, I get it but come on, Keez. I had no idea, I promise. He found the page in my bag when we were doing homework and he seemed interested in it but I didn’t think he would actually go for auditions."
"Eric! I am already stressed as it is and now I have to sing with him! I think I’m going to be sick."
"This might actually be a good thing, Keez." Keziah could hear his voice lower when he said that.
"How is this a good thing?" She asked quickly. "Well, it keeps him out of trouble for a while... and he’s a really good singer. You should-"
"No! Noooo! Eric, I can’t do this. I can’t stand him," she almost yelled. She saw her mom come in but she didn’t have Karen with her. She must’ve put her to bed. Keziah put her hand to her forehead. "Look, Eric, I’ve gotta go. Uhm, I’ll talk to you tomorrow," Keziah said and hung up before he could reply. "So that’s what it is, you don’t want to sing with Zack?" Mrs. Jones asked. Keziah rolled her eyes. "I really don’t want to sing with him. There are very few people on this planet that I’d rather eat dirt with than talk to and he is definitely, and without a doubt one of them." She said. Her mom smiled gently. "Look, Keziah. It’s only one song and you’ll enjoy it so much that you won’t even think about Zack while singing. Plus, he might not be so bad once you get to know him." At this point Keziah just crossed her arms and stared out of her window. She could see Todd’s room and felt herself calm down a little. She looked at her mom. "I just don’t want anything to do with him. I mean, he’s so rude and obnoxious. He’s spoiled and disruptive," Keziah said. Mrs. Jones smiled. "And you’re sweet and understanding. You get along with everyone well, Keziah. Just try for this one. I’m sure you won’t regret it," she said and paused for a second. "It’s only one song."