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Travel for Less

Suzie’s House 520: Hall Concert

Justin heard Emma’s voice from two floors down when he stepped into the stairwell. He checked the time on his phone. Now? When class was about to start? She’d start a riot!

He raced up the stairs and burst into the hall to see Emma and Bruce in the T intersection surrounded by a dozen students. She had on a mask. Bruce had his keyboard out and tried to play with one hand.

Justin kept himself from running over mostly because it wasn’t like running would be much help right then. The riot hadn’t started yet.

He’d seen it a dozen times in his life. Various relatives or friends of relatives would get mobbed when they started something in public. Everything was all honey and roses until someone decided they needed a keepsake to remember it by. Clothing, hair, instruments – everything became fair game.

Emma couldn’t be expected to know anything about that. Until this Summer the only place she ever sang was the shower. And there she was, singing her heart out.

“Hey. Decided to give a concert without me?” He smiled as he walked up.

He wasn’t really sure what he thought he could do. Just that Emma might need him. Bruce could take care of himself.

The music trailed off, but they both smiled. Bruce actually looked kind of relieved, though he was probably the one who instigated everything to begin with. That was the biggest problem with the guy. He seemed to have it together, but never seemed to plan ahead very well.

“OMG, It’s REAL.” One of the girls in the crowd looked from Justin to Bruce to Emma with wide eyes. She talked to a boy standing next to her as if no one else could hear. “I heard that new band – that Maliproperty thing – that they were actually high school students from our school. But the video is too good. It had to be a publicity stunt.”

“Maybe this is, too,” the guy next to her said.

“So band practice isn’t until after school. What’s going on?” Justin tried to make it sound like a joke.

“Our lead singer just wanted to stake her claim is all.” Bruce smiled gamely, but Justin notice he didn’t use her name and she still wore the mask. Then he got a belligerent grin on his face. “Care to join us?”

“Ah. No. I don’t have my busking hat with me.” Justin started to feel like a real idiot. Just what had he thought he could accomplish? So far all he’d done was get in the middle of the crowd.

The bells went off. A couple of the people at the back peeled off, but most looked like they had settled in for the show.

Justin took Emma’s arm. He almost called her name. “Which is your classroom?” He picked a hall randomly, then had to pivot the two of them when she pointed a different direction.

“Justin, this is Beth. Beth, this is Justin.” Emma waved at a girl who fell in next to them.

Bruce muscled past a couple of people and fell in at Emma’s other side but didn’t say anything.

“Nice to meet you, Beth.” Justin nodded.

“I can’t believe it. I… I never thought Emma, of all people!”

As they walked, Emma pulled off her mask. She stuffed it into her backpack. So he hadn’t even needed to keep her name a secret. She’d decided to face her fans squarely after all.

“You should have told me.” Beth sounded half way between petulant and hurt.

“I…I… I tried.” Emma lifted her chin. “But…”

“Yeah, Emma is surprising in a lot of ways.” Bruce smiled like a proud father, then turned a narrow eyed, butt-out look on Justin.

They all stopped in front of a classroom. Justin noticed that most of the audience had gone off now. Especially when a couple of teachers stuck their heads into the hall to see what was going on.

“S-so.. I’ll see you both later.” Emma faked a smile, then smiled for real. She waved a jittery hand down my her waist, then ran into the classroom with Beth right behind her.

Bruce and Justin turned to face one another.

“I had it under control, Hero. Next time mind your own business.” Bruce gave him a hard scowl.

“What gets to me,” Justin looked down his nose at the guy even though they were about the same height, “Is that you know better. I know you’ve seen out of control fans. This thing with Malaprop has been blowing up fast. Who knows what they might do to her?”

“She can handle it. She’s stronger than you think.”

Justin might have tried to argue, but right then Emma’s teacher told them to get to class and closed the door.


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