Josh scanned the coffee table, covered in audition information sheets with black and white print outs of a picture of each group member to better remember who was who, to get a better feel of who should be a part of the group.
Josh’s mom had looked more than a little surprised when Josh escorted Amanda into the living room. He didn’t talk with his parents much about his social life, but expressed enough so she knew it when Amanda broke up with him. She had also met and seemed to like Carrie when Josh had her over for dinner that summer, or to sit in that very living room and watch TV. He hadn’t yet explained the new a cappella group or the partnership he had struck with his ex.
“So we’ve got five definites, seven maybes, and twelve nos.” Carrie sipped her ginger ale through a straw. She always drank from straws. Josh once overheard his mother complain about it, insinuating that the girl didn’t think their cups were clean enough for her pristine lips. The reality of it was that Carrie drank from straws at restaurants, and at school, and in her own home. The only time he’d seen her without one was at a post-prom party where she drank her beer from a Solo cup, and he assumed she only did so then for lack of any straws to be found.
“I don’t see how you can have Katie in the maybe pile.” Josh slid the high school girl’s picture from the rest, to a neutral space between maybe and definite. “She knocked it out of the park.”
“And she’s sixteen. She might be taking college courses, but she’s also got a high school schedule to keep up, and probably has a curfew.”
“So we’ll work around it. We need people like her—people who are outside the box, and who really want to be with us. And she’s less of a flight risk than most people at SCC. She’s sticking around town for at least two more years.”
Josh’s mom poked her head into the living room. “Josh, you have another visitor.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Phillips.” Carrie slid past her, into the living room.
Although Josh did nothing wrong—although he had even told Carrie he would be hanging out with Katie that night, and on top of that, had even volunteered that they used to date—despite all of this, Josh still felt a twinge of compunction to be in the same room with both Carrie and Amanda.
Carrie took the first step, stretching out her hand, introducing herself. Amanda got up and met her halfway.
“I tried calling to see how things were going,” Carrie said. “But I couldn’t get through.”
Josh felt his jean pocket. “Sorry, I must have left the phone back in my room.”
“No biggie. I hope you don’t mind my stopping by, but I went out to dinner with the girls and had some leftovers.” She lifted a brown paper bag, the top of it stapled shut. “Thought you might be hungry.”
“That’s great—thanks.” Josh didn’t know if he should invite her to stay or explain they were still busy. They didn’t have that much longer to go, but he didn’t know if either one of them felt as awkward or more so than he did.
Fortunately, Amanda made parts of the decision for him. “Well, I should get going. We can work out the rest of the details over email later.”
She nodded. “And I think you’re right, Katie should get in.”
Carrie took a step back from them. “I didn’t mean to interrupt. I was just going to say hi.”
“No, it’s fine,” Amanda went on. “Really, I have hours of reading ahead of me. And you guys should hang out.” She offered a couple more excuses, a few iterations of goodbye, then shook Carrie’s hand again. She sort of leaned toward Josh, looked like she would hug him, then stretched her fingers in a wave, spun on her heel and headed out.
Josh plugged his hands in his pockets, alone with Carrie, and feeling little less awkward. “So, what’s for dinner?”