Josh remembered a time when seeing great a cappella inspired him—when he would see a particularly effective performance and make note of parts thereof that he could adapt for his own group, or otherwise saw something creative and thought of his own outside-the-box ideas. Most of the times he had felt inspired in this way, it was after watching The Grand Standers in action. As he and Amanda filed out of the auditorium Friday night he felt shell-shocked. He was increasingly certain he’d never guide The Acapocalypse to that level of excellence, and maybe it was a lost cause even trying. Maybe all the group would do was embarrass itself in competition, and they were better off bowing out with a little bit of grace.
All of that, and he and Amanda still hadn’t talked about what happened between them a week earlier.
Amanda must have recognized what Josh was thinking—at least the parts about The Grand Standers. In the past, the two of them would rave about performances after the shows, debating the best soloists, or which song they presented the best, or which arrangement they liked the most. Each argument remained good-natured and well-supported because there was just so much to like about what the group did.
“I thought the choreography was totally excessive for ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply,’” she said. “And who’s idea was it to cover that? Did they just find a stack of arrangements from 2000 and figure no one would remember them?”
“Yeah, that was dumb.”
“And did you hear the background syllables on ‘Love the Way You Lie.’ ‘Joop, joop, joop’ over and over again. What was that about?”
“The girl on the Rihanna solo was incredible, though. And the rap was really good.”
“But that’s just the obvious stuff.”
“Do you think we have any shot of competing against a group like that in two months?”
She touched his arm. “We’ve only had the group together since September—”
Josh flung his arm free, feeling free to be more overdramatic when they got outside, when they got closer to his car and there were fewer people around. “And why are you touching me?”
“It’s just, first you break up with me. Then you decide to kiss me.”
“We had a lot to drink that night.”
“Don’t tell me it was the beer and that we’re just friends. Because this isn’t just friendship—”
“I know.” Amanda ran a hand through her hair, stopping in her tracks. “I meant for us to talk about this, so I could explain—”
“Then explain already.”
Amanda started walking again, and Josh followed after, more slowly now. She continued when they were in the car. “I care a lot about you. And when I broke up with you it’s because I worried if I stayed with you, I’d miss out on everything else I might get out of college. New people, new experiences. I mean, all I did in high school was hang out with you and sing, and listen to a cappella, and talk about a cappella—”
“Then maybe you shouldn’t have started this new group with me. You could have said no.”
“The point is that I missed all of this. And I was going to get in touch this summer to see if you wanted to hang out, but then I saw all those pictures of you on Facebook with Carrie.” It was the first time he had heard her say Carrie’s name with that inflection—the same way Carrie said ‘Amanda.’ “I know I could have said no to starting the a cappella group. But I didn’t want to. It seemed like a chance to get something back.”
Josh hadn’t expected her to have an answer like that ready, hadn’t expected any of it really. “So what do you want to do now?”
“I made my decisions.” She reached across herself and buckled her seatbelt. “I want to be your friend, and I want to run the best a cappella group we can together. And whatever else happens happens.”
He nodded. For a second, he recalled the joy of making music with her back in high school. That and the joy of talking about music, dissecting music. Maybe even more than The Grand Standers, that had been what inspired him. All at once, he felt that inspiration, heard a song in his head—old, familiar, but one he still felt uniquely as his own. Syllables took shape on his lips, a chord structure. Any of the guys could take the solo.
He turned the ignition and started to drive.