• robinstratton23

13. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online

Updated: Dec 8, 2019


Lisbeth was sitting at the piano experimenting with some chords when Jules and Simon burst in. They were laughing as they stomped snow off their boots, and Lisbeth watched them with a momentary pang of jealousy at their almost obscene health. Eyes glowing, cheeks pink, laughter carelessly robust. She reached up and touched her hair, now about two inches long and surprisingly curly. She’d always hidden behind fluffy long bangs, and felt exposed; but oh well, two inches of hair was way better than no hair at all. Plus, Allie said she thought it made her look older, which she liked.


“Sidewalk all shoveled?” she asked.


“Yeah. Jules wanted to do the whole neighborhood. I had to stop her.”


“I love shoveling, I don’t know why.”


“I don’t know why either.” Simon’s voice was filled with affection. 


Lisbeth smiled. Like the rest of the family, she knew Simon was head over heels for Jules. Only Jules seemed oblivious. On the sly, they’d made bets on when she’d figure it out—Lisbeth and Mandy thought it would happen within a few months, Mom gave her a year, until the end of 1982, and Allie’s wry prediction was that the realization would hit Jules sometime during her fiftieth year.


“Hey, Simon, I’ve been working on this song all day and I’m going crazy. These chords are impossible to figure out.”


Simon shed his coat, scarf, boots and mittens, and was at her side in an instant. “Well no wonder!” To Jules he explained, “She’s trying to figure out ‘This Blessed Night’ by Food of the Gods. It’s one of Daniel Parker’s trickiest arrangements. Are you thinking the band can do it?”


“Maybe.”


“I love that song,” Jules said. “It’s practically my favorite song by them.”


They didn’t hear her. Simon was leaning over Lisbeth, suggesting chords, and listening to her try them. Jules took her coat off too, then put both pairs of boots on the mat near the door, then turned, and was struck freshly by the sight of them together: absorbed in the music, Lisbeth’s delicate hands wandered up and down the keyboard, dismissing with sheepish laugh something Jules would be proud to produce. The bright winter sun streaming in the window brought out the reddish golden highlights in Lisbeth’s curls. She’s really pretty, and she’s not fragile like she used to be. She’s seems so grown up somehow. Then she inspected Simon to see if he was enjoying Lisbeth’s transformation, too.


“C, I think… there… you think? It’s got like that optimistic vibe… ”


“Like this?” She played it as he suggested. “That’s it, right?”


“Play it again…  yeah, that’s the progression.”


Lisbeth turned her head to grin; their faces were suddenly so close that her nose grazed his chin, and she giggled. At the same time Jules noticed that Simon’s hand, no longer figuring out chords, was on Lisbeth’s shoulder.


Could Lisbeth be in love with Simon? You couldn’t tell when they were working together because they weren’t boy and girl, but musician and musician. But what about when they were just hanging around—wasn’t he totally attentive to her? And hadn’t he visited her every single day while she was sick?  Every single solitary day he’d come by; and if she was asleep, he’d leave her a little note—something private that he never showed anyone and neither did she. Pleased, Jules thought, If Lisbeth and Simon get married, Simon will be my brother! How cool would that be?


“Well, I guess I’ll leave you two alone,” she said coyly. They glanced at her, but her playful tone didn’t register.


“What? Okay, yeah, see you. Okay, now play those three chords again, but then the next part is different… ”



“So what did you and Simon talk about today?” Jules asked brightly while she and Lisbeth cleaned up after supper that night.


“About the band. And we figured out that song. Why?”


“I just wondered.” Jules’ shrug was accompanied by a cryptic smile.


Lisbeth was bewildered. “Why were you wondering?”


“I just was.” Jules tried to make her eyes say Don’t kid me, I know what’s going on, and Lisbeth hoped hers said, Please don’t be jealous, because there isn’t any reason to be! 


After a moment of unsuccessful nonverbal communication, Jules thought, Maybe Lisbeth thinks I like him, so she’s pretending she doesn’t. I have to let her know I only like him as a friend! So she said, “Simon’s great, huh?”


“He sure is.” Is Jules finally going to say she likes him? As if I didn’t already know! “He’s the best. He’s so sweet and thoughtful.”


I was right! Lisbeth is crazy about him! Jules was thrilled.


And Lisbeth thought, Mandy and I won the bet! 



Poor Simon was caught in the middle. He had no idea what was going on; all he knew was that suddenly Jules and Lisbeth were all over him, asking him questions about each other, if he liked their hair or clothes or whatever. “Girls are so weird,” he complained to Tim.


Tim shrugged and shook his head. “Teenaged girls are like a whole different species, Simon. The best thing you can do is stop trying to understand why they do what they do, and wait it out. There should be books about this.”


“About girls acting weird?”


“About the way girls think completely differently from boys. Girls grow up in a world that’s not like ours.” He was thinking about what Mandy had to put up with at work. It should be illegal for a boss to talk to his women employees that way. 



“Tonight, for sure,” Jules said firmly.


“Oh, I can’t tonight,” Lisbeth said.


“Why not?”


“I’m tired. It’s so cold out. I’d rather just stay in and —”


“Lissie, what are you scared of?”


The word scared pierced her. Because it was true. “I have homework. It would be different if practice was on weekends… ”


“I’ll help you do it right now, and it’ll be done before dinner. Come on.”


“But… ”


“What’s going on?”


Lisbeth sighed. “I know this is going to sound stupid. But… it’s Kevin.”


“What about him?”


“That he’s… the stuff you told me about him.”


“What did I say?”


“Well, I guess it was Mandy. That he was wild and weird. That he had an affair with that teacher.”


“Lissie, Kevin is nothing like what Mandy said! Well… I don’t know him that well, because he’s kind of quiet, he kind of keeps to himself… ” She stopped when she heard Simon’s familiar knock on the door: shave and a haircut—two bits! and called, “Come on in!”


He cut through the kitchen and joined them in the living room. “Hey, how’s it going?”


“Trying to talk Lisbeth into coming to practice tonight,” Jules said.


He turned to her. “Don’t bother to come tonight. Kevin won’t be there.”


“He won’t?”


“No, he said he had something going on. This is the first time he bailed, so I didn’t ask. Besides, you know how he is, he wouldn’t have told me anyway.”


“That’s true.”


“So it would just be Eddie and me.”


“Okay,” Lisbeth said promptly. “I’ll come. It’ll be nice to meet him, finally.”


That’s when a brilliant thought struck Simon: Lisbeth and Eddie would be a perfect couple! I bet when he meets her he’ll fall in love with her! “Eddie’s a great kid,” he said. “You’ll see.”



As soon as the dishes were done, Jules and Lisbeth hopped over the fence that divided their house from Simon’s, and went inside. Eddie was already there, and Simon introduced Lisbeth. He smiled, nodded, and rosined his bow. He was just about the least intimidating boy Lisbeth had ever met.


“Eddie really liked that funky tune you wrote a few weeks ago,” Simon told her.


Eddie nodded. “Yeah, how’d you come up with the melody?”


“Just came to me one day while I was fooling around,” Lisbeth answered casually, but she was pleased. It was one thing for Simon to praise her—he had to, he was practically family. But for a stranger, and a fellow musician at that, to comment favorably—that was something else.


Eddie pulled off a neat little riff on his violin, and suggested they could use it in the song. “Maybe if there was a bridge, or something?”


“I like that, yeah. But start it on the upbeat, so it’s different from the rest of the song. Then, for the verse, go back to the other beat.”


It sounded like a confusing concept to Jules, especially when Lisbeth supplied the name for it: syncopation. But when Eddie played it again, this time stressing the beat that hadn’t been emphasized before, she was impressed. 


“Hey, I like that.” Simon had a few chords running through his mind and was about to suggest they try it all together, when all of a sudden movement at the door caught his eye. His eyes opened wide and his mouth dropped open.


“Simon, what’s the mat—”


“Shh!”


Everyone stopped talking and moving. Then everyone stood when they heard the front door open and steps heading up the hallway.


“Gramps is home early!” Simon hissed. He looked around frantically, as if trying to figure out how to hide everyone in the few seconds it would take for his grandfather to walk in. 


But it was Kevin’s face that appeared in the doorway. “Just couldn’t bring myself to miss practice,” he said. 


Lisbeth’s breath stopped as she took in his long curly mane, glittering earring, tight black jeans, torn sweat jacket, and tee shirt which bore the logo of a popular beer. At the same moment, his eyes fell upon her. “Hey.”


“Kevin, this is my sister Lisbeth.”


Lisbeth ducked her head a little as she acknowledged the introduction, but her smile was wide. “Hi,” she said in a squeaky voice.


Kevin stood holding the pieces of his drum set that he’d brought in. “You’re the one who writes songs with Simon?”


“Uh huh. Yes.”


“I really liked the last one, that mellow one. I mean, I like them all… but that last one… the one that was mellow… I really liked it.”


Jules had never heard Kevin stammer. Her gaze turned to Simon and her eyes asked, What’s going on? His shrug answered, I have no idea! 


“I wrote it a long time ago, but I was never satisfied with it. Then last month I pulled it out, messed around with it, and then it had a much warmer groove.”


“Wow, cool.”


Jules didn’t think Kevin had even heard Lisbeth. He was staring at her so hard that he couldn’t possibly be in possession of any of his other senses. Lisbeth could have said she set her hair on fire every night in order to write, and he would have said Wow, cool.


“Should we get to work, then?” Eddie asked blithely, unaware of the amazing dynamics.


“Work,” Kevin repeated, and then the word reached his brain and made sense. “Yeah, work. I have to go out to the car and get the rest of my set.”


“I’ll help you.” Lisbeth grabbed her coat and followed him out. A second later, he reappeared and set down the drums he’d already brought in—she hadn’t brought in anything—and then they hurried back out.


“Nothing will ever surprise me again,” Jules announced.


“That was…  I don’t know what that was.” Simon shook his head. He picked up his guitar and played the riff from “Just What I Needed” by the Cars—something he always did when he needed to think. 


When Kevin and Lisbeth came back, they were deep in discussion. Lisbeth was saying, “…when Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys heard it, he almost lost his mind…”


“How come?”


“Because he realized it was the ultimate rock album, and he’d had nothing to do with it. So he just went to bed. For a couple of years.”


“I didn’t know that. You like the Beach Boys?”


Uh oh, thought Jules; Kevin hates the Beach Boys!


“Love them,” Lisbeth said. “A lot of people think their music is kind of simple and the songs all sound the same, but back then, all those harmonies were really out there. They were influenced by one of my dad’s favorite groups, The Four Freshman. My dad and I used to try to harmonize with them; coming up with all those different parts is really hard! Plus don’t forget, it was before musicians were supposed to have this, like, social conscience. They sang about girls and surfing because that’s what being young was about. When the war in Vietnam got so controversial, musicians started using their songs as showcase for the political beliefs, and the era of music just for fun ended.”


Jules looked away so that no one would see her smile. Lisbeth’s commentary had come from a written report she’d just done for school and gotten an A on. Very well researched, Lisbeth! the teacher had written across the top.


“I see what you mean. I never thought about it that way.” Kevin hadn’t even begun to put his set together, he was just standing in the doorway, hungry for more information about the Beach Boys.


Lisbeth returned to the sofa to sit next to Jules. She tried to look anywhere but at Kevin; at his legs, his muscular thighs visible in his tight jeans, his chest, his gorgeous, glorious hair.


“Hey,” Kevin said, “it’s a little late to start playing now. By the time I’m done setting up, Gramps’ll be home. Maybe we should bag it, and just go for a slice of pizza or something. I’ll drive.”


“Okay,” said Lisbeth.


Jules, Simon and Eddie didn’t respond. It was clear that Kevin wasn’t talking to them. They could have left the room and he wouldn’t have even noticed.


Simon put his guitar on its stand. “Okay. I’ll leave a note for Gramps in case he gets home before us.” 


“First let me call my mom so she can pick me up at the pizza place,” Eddie said. “We going to Luigi’s?”


“Sure,” said Kevin. “Whatever.”


“Luigi’s,” Lisbeth heard herself repeat, and then she and Kevin laughed together like it was the funniest joke ever told. 


Poor Simon, Jules thought; I guess Lisbeth isn’t in love with him anymore! At the same time Simon shook his head at Eddie’s loss; But at least now Jules can’t be in love with Kevin. And when Mr. Lamarck got home that night, he found a hastily-scribbled note that said Gramps—out! Simon

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© 2019 by Robin Stratton