Page 4 of The Keeper

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Nikki pulls her technicolor pink hair up on top of her head and says she’s usually working at the restaurant on Sunday afternoons, so either morning or late night would work. Thankfully, recording studios are usually twenty-four-hour joints because artists are weird.

“I’m good with whatever,” Sven says, dropping the parental lecture for the moment. “What’s our set list for the Smiths and Stones Club?”

“I’m thinking let’s lead in with ‘Force of Nature,’” Nikki suggests. “Get them dancing right off the bat?”

We hammer out a few more ideas, arguing about changes in tempo and flow of songs until we have a set list we can all live with. We want to have at least two new songs for the festival gig, though, so Sven also wants to run through a basic melody he’s been kicking around. There’s always too much to do and too little time to do it, with only two practice sessions a week. I see why Sven wants more time, and I promise to call Stuart and ask for another day as we futz around with the new song idea.

It’s well into the middle of the night when I lock up and head to my car, waving to my bandmates as I start the engine. They’re obnoxious, but they’ve become like family to me these past couple of years. He may be an emo wretch, but Sven really is a strong storyteller. His lyrics are sick, and the fact that he can play gonzo guitar and sing in his growly, sexy way makes him a total triple threat. He’s tall and lanky, and he moves like a cat. His head is shaved down to a dark stubble that matches his five o’clock shadow. He’s pretty hot. If he wasn’t pretentious as hell, I might have wanted to sleep with him.

Nikki is a total badass. She’s actually older than the two of us but you’d never know it by looking at her. She’s calm and easy, where Sven can be emotional and intense. Me? Who knows how I fit in. I play the drums. I’ve got that going for me, at least.

The band’s new melody is stuck in my head as I drive back to my apartment, drumming out a beat on my steering wheel.

Stuart, my bestie and practice space hookup, calls me as I pull into my apartment complex parking lot.

“What’s up, big bad Stu?” I ask by way of greeting.

“Did you lock up?”

“Of course,” I say. “Can we get a little extra time this week? Big show coming up and all.”

“I’ll check the schedule, but it should be fine.”

“Thanks, bae.”

“Barf. Who says bae anymore?”

“I don’t know. I was trying to be cute.”

“You’re always cute, but still. Bae?”

“Sorry. Consider the word banned from my vocabulary.”

“Well, I was just making sure you made it home okay. The night is dark and full of scarecrows.”

“That’s not how the line goes, friend.”

“You got me. Speaking of which, are you caught up onBetter Call Saulyet? Can I talk about it yet?”

“No, man. I’m still only on episode three of the final part. I’m so late to that party.”

Stuart groans. “I hate you so much. Please go watch copious amounts of television right now.”

I laugh. “Okay. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for Stuart. Friends since middle school, he’s like a second brother to me. Well, more trustworthy perhaps than my real brother. We’re tight. Platonic friendship. Loyal. I know I’m lucky.

Always a little wired after playing, I head to the kitchen and make a bowl of cereal before sitting down at my laptop to check email. A note from my mom catches my attention. Or, more accurately, creates a pit of anxiety in my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, no question. They love me. I love them. But I made a choice to hold them at arm’s length a long time ago. Consequently, I always get a little anxious when they reach out.

On its face, the email is nothing remarkable. She mentions a production gig she’s been working on, then says my dad did the casting. No big surprise there. They work together all the time. Oh, and there is my brother, magically getting cast in the lead role. One, two, three Hirsch family members all in league on this one movie together. Ugh.

There’s a reason I don’t want my family to sprinkle the magical fairy dust and make Sven’s dreams come true. They can’t stop once they start. They are well-meaning, truly. They just want the people they love to be successful. But it’s suffocating. And somehow, even though it often starts out looking like what you might want, it always goes down some other path toward whatever ulterior motive they had. It’s never like,Oh, Billie is a good drummer, and her band wants to get a record deal. No, it’s like,Billie is now going to be remade into the Ariana Grande of drumming and she’ll have a record deal, but some pop-music asshole will be writing her songs, and once she delivers an album, she’ll also be in a television show and blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, it’s like that. I speak from years of experience and the resulting therapy sessions to back it up.

Okay, so I read through all the family business garbage before finding the actual point of the email. It’s coming up on my father’s sixtieth birthday and my mom is throwing a “little party.” A loose term indeed because this “little party” will probably be a who’s who of Hollywood, including my brother Kit—think Leo DiCaprio-esque to his generation of actors. He’s hot shit right now, so everyone who’s anyone will want the chance to party with him, even under the guise of celebrating my casting director father’s sixtieth trip around the sun.

Fucking wonderful. Sounds just like how I want to spend a Saturday night.Not.Reluctantly, and only because I really do love my family, I write back and tell her I’ll be there. I block it in my band’s calendar so we don’t book any gigs for that night.

She replies almost instantly because she’s rarely without access to her email.Will you be bringing a date? Do you want me to set up hair and makeup for you?

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