Evangeline’s friend Lucy sidled down the row of seats to reclaim her place next to Carrie on the auditorium. The two of them hadn’t met before that afternoon, when they joined The Acapocalypse at its meeting point at SCC to caravan to the evening’s competition. They were the only two people to go who didn’t belong to the group, and had become de facto friends. Carrie liked Lucy well enough, but despite their small talk, didn’t have a good enough sense of what she would find funny, or what kind of music she liked to make much conversation during breaks from the show.
Lucy had gotten up to brave the bathroom line during intermission. Carrie didn’t want to take chances on missing Josh’s set, so she stayed put for the duration and put her bladder on hold.
“How long before they start again?” Lucy shifted all around in her chair, rearranging the coat, scarf and gloves she had just sat on, propping them against the seatback.
Carrie checked her watch for the hundredth time. “Should be any minute now.” She had spent the past two weeks sending Josh reassuring emails, telling him he was going to be great, that there was no way she would miss the show, and offering to sit in on rehearsals. He never took her up on the offer, just sent her messages to acknowledge he got her messages, and to confirm how busy he was. He didn’t mention the rehearsals, and so the last time she saw The Acapocalypse perform before that night was their end of semester show over a month before.
The house lights flickered. A minute later, they went down altogether, and the emcee came back on stage to introduce The Acapocalypse.
They jogged out onto stage, just the way they had for their end of semester show, and just the way The Grand Standers had for their set. It wasn’t until Carrie saw The Grand Standers that she realized how much Josh and Amanda had derived from them—not just the jog, but dressing in the same all-black look, but trading The Grand State maroon school color in for SCC’s forest green ties and sashes; standing in a similar cluster to what The Grand Standers had used on their opening.
Josh blew his pitch pipe and they began. They opened on “Listen to the Music.” The alternating solos produced a genuinely different effect from anything else on stage that night, and Carrie felt certain it played well to the judges. The audience certain applauded loudly on the song’s finish.
The next song was Bush’s “Glycerine.” Josh had arranged the song over winter break to give the group more depth and more of an emotional core. He talked about how it would appeal to the female audience for the romantic content, and to a male audience for the rock edge to it. He had complained to Carrie about the difficulty of making the arrangement interesting while retaining the original song structure.
Russ had the solo, and his deep voice seemed to approximate Gavin Rossdale’s well. Josh stepped from the group to sing a backing part on the choruses, and Carrie watched him closely. She thought she caught his eye, thought that, just maybe, he was really singing to her.
Carrie thought Josh might be singing to her until the bridge. At that point most of the guys and girls paired off on stage, the guys taking them by the hand and walking all the way around them in a dancing circle. Josh held Amanda’s hand. Carrie crossed her arms tightly around herself until it was time to clap at the end of the song.
The group ended on “Livin’ On A Prayer.” Carrie had been so excited to hear that song after all of the great things Josh said about it before started keeping to himself. She couldn’t really focus on the performance, though.
Two more groups performed, then the judges went off to deliberate while a group from the host school sang a few songs. Then the emcee returned and called the groups up onto the stage. The Acapocalypse resurfaced. Some groups just stood in a cluster, others had all their members hold hands. The Acapocalypse group members linked arms. Just about all of them had their sleeves rolled up by that point, and Carrie was careful to take note of Josh’s bare forearm touching Amanda’s.
Josh won an award for outstanding choreography on “Livin’ On A Prayer.” Carrie couldn’t help but smile again upon seeing the look on his face—that smile of vindication.
The emcee cleared his throat. “As we announced earlier, the top two groups from tonight’s show will advance to the ICCA semifinals. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce tonight’s second runners up.”
Josh relinked arms with Amanda.
“The Shermantown Community College Acapocalypse!”
Carrie clapped loudly, and Lucy even stood up to cheer. To their credit most of the group looked happy as well. That is, except for Josh and Amanda—most of all, Josh. He hung his head as he walked up to the emcee again to claim another certificate; forced a smile and shook the guys hand before shuffling back to the group.
Though the group had placed, though after a half a year together they were recognized as the third best of six groups, Carrie recognized the reality pressing down on Josh’s shoulders. They would not progress in the competition. They were only the best of the groups that didn’t get to continue.
The Grand Standers took home first place. A guy with a mess of black hair and a girl with brown hair that stretched almost as far as her waist came up together to accept their certificate, then stood front and center to sing the harmonizing parts of the solo for their group’s encore.