“Why are you following me?” Melody asked.
“I’m in your next class too, you know,” Ian said. Melody, in fact, did not know.
She wanted to listen to her music and ignore this guy, but it was too weird, and he had this sneaking suspicion that something was off about her already. This was not something she could just block out with her music and ignore.
“Can you sing?” Ian broke her train of thought.
“Can you sing? You seem to love music so much and you have a pretty speaking voice. I was just wondering if you can sing well.”
“Um, I don’t know. I guess.”
“Will you sing for me?”
“Dude, I don’t even know you.”
“Oh, come on. It’s not like I’m asking some great favor or anything.”
“If I sing for you, will you leave me alone?”
Ian laughed. “For a little while, maybe.”
“Fine,” Melody sighed.
They continued walking until Ian quickened his pace, turned around, and walked backward in front of Melody.
“Well?” he said.
“Let’s hear it!”
“Like, right now?”
Melody raised an eyebrow. “Because we’re walking to class and surrounded by people that will think I’m nuts.” She also didn’t want to attract any attention, but kept that to herself.
“You shouldn’t keep your beautiful voice all to yourself.”
“You don’t even know what my singing voice sounds like.”
“I already know it’s beautiful. I’m just waiting for you to prove it.”
Melody rolled her eyes. Was Ian hitting on her? Or was he just crazy?
“I don’t know.”
“How about at five o’clock in the park by the lake?”
“I’m not meeting a stranger in the park.”
“I’m not a stranger. I’ve already introduced myself.”
Melody groaned and stared down at the sidewalk, narrowly avoiding stepping on a crack.
“Fine, whatever.” The park was public, after all, and usually was filled with college students studying under the cool shade of the trees and families taking their young ones for some outdoor fun.
* * *
Melody stood under the shade of an oak tree whose branches stretched up over her head and just reached the shallowest part of the lake. The wires of her earbuds dangled down the sides of her face and traced a line back to her pocket. She was listening to the song she was going to sing for Ian.
“Where is he?” she muttered, removing her phone from her pocket to check the time. It was 5:10, and Ian was nowhere in sight.
The song played on in her ears, and she listened carefully to the singer’s voice – how she carefully controlled her intonation and always let the words leave her mouth with just the right feel to them.
She turned around.
“Hey, sorry I’m a little late.”
“It’s okay. Let’s just get this over with.”
“You don’t sound too excited,” Ian said.
“I’m not.” Her reply came both coarse and flat.
“I will find a way to fix that,” he said. “But go ahead, let’s hear this voice that you are too embarrassed to share with others.”
Melody groaned and took a swig of water from the bottle she’d been holding. It was warm and did very little to refresh her. She took a deep breath and began.
“Ever since you walked out the door
My feelings have been left scattered on the floor
And I know you don’t care,
But I just wanted to remind you…
I’m still here
I’m still here
I’m still here….”
Ian stood there unable to speak. Melody stared at him, unsure if he had figured out her secret yet or if his mouth was agape for some other reason.
“Amazing,” he said. “Incredible. Stupendous. You sing beautifully, Melody!”
A faint smile emerged on her face. “Thanks.”
“Please, please sing something else for me.”
She was unprepared for a second song, and she knew that Ian wouldn’t leave her alone unless she did it.
“Fine,” she said, doing her best to sound annoyed. “What should I sing?”
Ian thought for a moment and then responded, “How about ‘Clicks’ by Number 7?”
Melody froze. He’d guessed? Or was this some cruel coincidence?
“I don’t know that one,” Melody lied.
“What? How could you not know Number 7’s greatest hit? That’s like the biggest pop song of the past decade!”
Melody shifted her feet. “I’ve heard it. I don’t really like it enough to know all of the lyrics.” Would that work?
“Just sing the part you know, then.”
She was stuck. She could continue to lie, but he spoke truth. No one didn’t know ‘Clicks.’
She took a deep breath and prepared for the inevitable.
“Your smile washes over me
Hanging on to every word you breathe
To be alive here with you
Yeah, you make me one happy chick
With every step we take, we just click, click, click
We just click, click, click.”
Melody took a breath and sighed.
“Ho…ly…shit,” Ian stammered.
It was completely inevitable now.
“You…you’re Number 7,” Ian said. “You’re the biggest pop star on the planet!”
Melody gave him a serious glare and said, “You can’t tell anyone. Anyone.”
“I won’t,” he said. The look on his face screamed out disbelief.
“My identity is supposed to be a secret. No one can know who Number 7 really is,” she said.
“I know, I’ve seen the television specials and read all of the speculation blogs. I’m surprised your identity has been kept secret this long.”
“So if it leaks, I’ll know it was you, and I’ll find a way to throw the trail off of me.”
Ian smiled. “You’ve got nothing to worry about. I’m a trustworthy guy.” He traced an X over his heart. “Promise.”
Melody smiled. “Wow, it feels kind of weird to share my secret with someone. I always try so hard not to stand out. It kind of hurts sometimes, but I love singing so much.”
“Why are you in school anyway? There’s no way you’re worried about getting a degree to support yourself.”
Melody laughed. “You’re right, but I can better myself as an artist. That’s why I’m getting an English degree. Taking classes in creative writing and analyzing the stories and poems of famous authors inspires me.”
“Why are you in chemistry then?”
“I have to take a science. I chose chemistry – and don’t laugh – because I wanted to be able to make a song with clever puns about romantic chemistry and scientific chemistry.”
Ian stared at her for a second and then completely lost it.
“Hey, I told you not to laugh!” she said.
“I can’t help it,” he said.
Melody grinned. “You know, we may have just met, but I think you and I may just have fantastic chemistry ourselves.”