Alex was one of those popular girls in school. The ones that did cheerleading, track and field, concert band, and stuff like that. All the girls wanted to be her. The boys wanted…well…you know what boys want. But she changed the day I brought Julie over to her home. She started focusing on the stuff that Julie liked. Guitars, tambourines, and other smaller instruments. She learned to play a real mean fiddle. She could pretty much play anything she wanted to if I’m being honest. I learned to play a lot of the stuff I play now from her. Not that I loved every minute I spent with her. She was real suspicious of my motives, and I don’t blame her. I would have been suspicious of me too in her shoes. But she was willing to deal with me if it made Julie happy. She was willing to deal with a lot if it made Julie happy. Her boyfriend? Not so much. He was beyond suspicious of me, and that led to some…difficulties.
Julie came out of her shell after moving in with her aunt. She learned to play the clueless ditsy innocent blonde like a fiddle. All the boys that never noticed her before followed her around like puppy dogs. I didn’t get the chance to echo them. She just dragged me along, you see. She practiced her music every day. She taught me how to study. She sang with the voice of a carefree angel. She did homework. She did track and field, ice hockey, and cross-country skiing. And yes, she joined the cheerleading team. She did band and choir. She tried out for everything her father would have held her back from. She grew up before my eyes, leaving behind the shy and reserved girl she had been, and becoming a self-assured and confident young lady. She kept me by her side through all of it. I loved every minute.
Julie’s life changed the day she moved into her aunt’s house. She barely let me leave her alone in the weeks that followed for one. That did a few things for my sense of importance, let me tell you. She tried on a whole new wardrobe, and I loved every minute of it. She looked awful good in just about anything, you see. But I also loved it because every day she woke up and tried on another sleeveless shirt or pair of shorts was another day that she proclaimed her independence from her former life. She had a good home. She let me take her to parties in other people’s homes. She flirted with all the pretty boys. She stayed up way too late at night. She did all the things a girl does when she’s becoming a young lady. Some would say she had a little too much fun. Not me. She deserved all the fun in the world, and I wanted to give it to her. She loved every minute of it. So did I.
I was a know it all. I thought I was three meters tall and bullet proof. I got into fistfights over stupid things. And some real important ones. I was stubborn as the sky is wide. I never did know when to quit. I lived my life at full throttle, never slowing down for a breath I didn’t need. I fell for sky-blue eyes under small town lights. I fell for deep brown eyes under dark woods canopies. And God Almighty, those green eyes were something to behold. I never had everything I exactly wanted, but that’s part of what was so beautiful. Life was good. Life was great. And I was…fantastic. Because I had a name to live up to. A name I’d earned, and one I very much was not going to let go to waste. I was Jack. Still am, I suppose, but I’ll always remember the Jack I was when I was fifteen going on eighteen. When I was eighteen going on thirty. When everything was right in the world.
Music was my first love. Until I discovered girls, and realized that music could be used to woo them. Then I loved music even more. The feel of guitar strings under my fingers brings back so many memories of growing up in Northern Minnesota. Dipping my toes into cool spring waters while playing a lilting tune. Add a girl or two sitting next to me, maybe more, and it was pretty much the perfect way to grow up. Some people accused me of having a one-track mind on that account, but I always knew they were wrong. Blonde. Brunette. Redhead. My mind was always good at multitasking. But thinking back on it, I suppose some people had a point or two on the matter. I was wild and free, driven by hormones and thinking I was all grown up. I thought I was ready for life back then. I thought I had everything I needed. I sure did think I was all that and more.