Famous in a Small Town(6)

He was gone when I emerged.

I checked the living room and out the back door. Shepherd bounded up, tail wagging, and I stepped aside to let him in. He followed at my heels as I opened the basement door and stuck my head downstairs, although there was nothing much down there. Just a washer and dryer by the stairs, and some old tools and piles of drywall—Kyle had been saying for ages that he was going to fix it up down there, make it into a proper room, but he hadn’t quite gotten around to it yet.

The place was empty. Except for Harper and Shepherd, I was alone. August didn’t return for the rest of the evening; he was still gone when Heather and Cadence returned.

“Jammy time,” Heather said, ushering Cadence toward her room and then plopping her purse down on the kitchen table to riffle through it.

“August was here earlier,” I said, trying to sound offhand but probably failing.

“Ah, sorry,” she replied. “I forgot to give you a heads-up he might be around. Kyle said you guys ran into each other the other night, so hopefully it wasn’t a total surprise.” She located her wallet, thumbed through it. “I, uh, didn’t want to say anything before about him coming because some stuff was still up in the air about it. But that’s where Kyle was at, when he was gone last weekend. Getting August.”


She handed me some money for the evening. “Hey, do you think you could do me a favor?”


I had been babysitting for the Conlins for almost three years now, ever since she and Kyle and Cadence had moved into the house two doors down from us. There were very few favors I wouldn’t do for Heather.

“Maybe you could help ease him in here a little bit, introduce him to some people. Help him get settled in so when school starts he’s not going in cold, not knowing anybody?”

I bit back the word temporary and nodded instead. “Yeah, sure.”

Heather looked relieved. “Great. Thanks. That would be great.”



Is it hard being a new person in school?


Yes but no

I mean everyone is new at the start of college

So at the very least, you’re all in the same boat


How did you make friends?


I honestly don’t know


Super helpful


No, I just mean it kind of happens organically I guess

If you’re lucky

There are people in your classes that you just start talking to

People in your dorm that you see a lot

Going to events on campus, joining clubs and stuff


You have to be good at talking to people though


Good thing I am

And you are too


You think?



Who do you think you learned it from?


I had gotten a job working at Safeway last year and had boosted my hours for the summer. I wanted to work as much as I could before band stuff started up again, so I was dedicating a fair amount of time these days to bagging groceries and collecting carts and restocking shelves.

I was helping an older lady load her grocery bags into her car, a couple of days after babysitting for Harper, when I heard voices nearby. I recognized one—it was Mrs. Benson, from the booster club. She taught at Harrison, the elementary school. Her voice carried, which was an excellent quality in a fourth-grade teacher, and also in an eavesdropping target.

Not that I was trying to eavesdrop. But I couldn’t help it.

“You know, it’s a huge honor, it’s incredible, I get that,” she was saying. “But good Lord, the money that goes into this thing, it’s unfathomable.”

“How’s the fundraising going?”

“Honestly? I know everyone thought it was a long shot when they were getting the audition together, but I wish we had started then. With that kind of lead, we’d be all right, but as it stands … there’s so much more to go. Michelle, you have no idea. These kids would have to sell candy bars to the moon and back.”

I finished with the bags and shut the trunk. Quietly enough to not draw attention.

“Thank you, sweetie,” the older lady said, and I smiled as I took her cart and steered it back toward the cart return outside the front of the store. Slow enough so I could keep listening.

“There’s more to come, though,” the other woman—Michelle—said. “Sponsorships, July Fourth, the sports banquet.”

“Yeah, but we really need to get creative. If we do what we always do, we’ll get the same we always got, which is just enough to fund those little trips here and there. Honestly, coming from Indianapolis, I just don’t think she gets how chipping in two grand is impossible for most of these kids. And there’s only so much money we can wring out of the people and businesses in town.”

“She” was undeniably Meredith Hill, the band director, who had taken over for Mr. Haverty, the long-standing director of the Marching Pride of Acadia. He retired four years ago, and Ms. Hill had come from Indianapolis to replace him.

“I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” the other woman said.

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