Krista sucked in a deep breath. “Okay, can I scream now?”
“No.” Poppy glanced at the door to the room she used to share with Grandma Audrey. At any moment, her grandmother could walk in—and it wasn’t like she could demand privacy. She didn’t have the heart to, anyway. Since she had gone away to college, the room had metamorphosed into her grandmother’s personal heaven. Floral curtains covered the windows, replacing the electric blue ones that Poppy had hung. Her old bed still occupied one side of the room, but her grandmother had turned it into a sofa of sorts with plush, extra-large pillows. Poppy had to admit the room looked cute, in a country sort of way.
“When, then?” Krista giggled. “You’re going to go on tour with Griff.” She sighed, a long and dreamy sound.
“I can’t,” Poppy said. “That’s the problem.” If her grandmother knew, she would say that Poppy just didn’t want it badly enough. She licked her lips. “I’m going to lose this job,” she said in a low voice.
“No, you won’t. We’re going to figure something out.”
She could imagine Krista sitting in their room, legs crossed as she sat on her purple bedspread. “Are we? I don’t think it’s going to work.” Scowling, she jumped up from her grandmother’s bed and paced the room. “Unless I drop out. My family would never forgive me, though.” Jay would understand, but she would need her whole family’s support. She loved her brother, but he flew back and forth between New York and Los Angeles practically every week. His support was strong, but it wouldn’t be constant.
“Hmn.” Krista clicked her tongue ring against her teeth. “I don’t think that’s the best idea. I mean, you’re already almost done with your first semester. Why stop now?”
“I know.” Poppy moaned. “But what other choice do I have?” She bit down on her lip. “I’m just going to have to give up South of Forever.” The second the words were out of her mouth, she knew it was the right choice. Her mother and grandmother were right. Without an education, she wouldn’t get very far in the world. Even if South of Forever did really well, if something happened and she had to get a new job, her new employer would expect some kind of degree.
Krista gasped. “Don’t do that. You’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
“I’m tired of playing the game, though, Krista.” Poppy sat down on her old bed and hugged a pillow to her chest, cradling the phone between her face and her shoulder.
“You’ve come so far, though. You turned that band around.”
“They’re talented. They have Jett and Griff. They’ll be fine.” She lifted her chin. She had to stand by her decision, even if it meant saying goodbye to Griff forever. Her heart twisted at the thought. She had known him for barely six months. It seemed crazy that saying goodbye should be so hard, but there it was. She would even miss Perry and Max, as crazy as they made her. She would miss the guys’ banter and Jett’s poise in the studio. She’d miss hanging out with Max’s girlfriend Savannah during practices. She couldn’t call them friends, not yet, but she was close. Give her another six months and they would all be tight. She sighed. Letting go felt like losing a second family.
“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?” Krista asked gently. “I know you’re really attached to this band.” She snapped her fingers, the sound traveling to Poppy through the phone. Krista must be wearing her earbuds, or had Poppy on speaker. “I have a crazy idea.”
Switching the phone to her other hand, Poppy drew her knees to her chest. “Yeah? I’m open to anything at this point.”
“What if,” Krista said, “you took school on the road with you? Admissions told me that you can switch back and forth between online and regular classes. They’re super flexible.”
“What?” Poppy squinted. “That is crazy. It’s kind of genius, though.”
“Right?” Krista laughed. “It’s not too late to add/drop. You could even make up a family emergency if you needed to. I’m sure they’ll be understanding, though. From what the admissions counselor told me, it’s pretty common.”
“Huh.” Poppy tapped her chin. “What would I do?”
“Just talk to your advisor. I bet she could do it really quickly.”
“I don’t know.” Poppy tossed her hair over a shoulder. “I’m already struggling.”
Krista snorted. “Oh, stop. Your GPA is like a 3.9, you perfectionist.”
Twisting her lips, Poppy nodded. “I did buy the iPad with my student loan money, and I’ve already been using it for school and work. It wouldn’t be much of a change from what I’m doing now.”
“You would just pop in whenever you need to, rather than showing up for a physical class. My brother did online classes for a while.”
“You have a brother? Is he cute?” Poppy smiled.
“Ew, keep your pants on. He’s an asshole, anyway,” Krista said. “We really shouldn’t waste time talking about him.”
Poppy considered her options. It was either drop out or go digital. She could handle it. She had to. Not only was her career at stake, but everything she had ever dreamed about was on the line. Once, not so long ago, she and Jay had planned on being a team, with Jay performing and Poppy managing him. When L.A.B. came into the picture, though, they made it very clear that they didn’t want someone still in high school managing their new star. It didn’t even matter to them that she was a senior, about to graduate. She ground her teeth just thinking about it.
“What do you think?” Krista asked. “Are you going to do it?”
“I don’t know. It’s a little crazy. Plus it’s a holiday weekend. No one will be in the offices until Monday, and Griff said that’s when we’re supposed to be leaving.” Poppy squinted, thinking. Remembering the way that Griff had looked at her while they talked, her cheeks warmed. Dipping her chin, she smiled. She couldn’t pass up a chance to find out what might happen between them. It was entirely possible that, during this tour, she would find more than one kind of success.
“I have another idea.” Krista paused. She blew out a breath into the phone. “It’s another crazy one, but you tell me. What if I go with you?”
Frowning, Poppy jumped off the bed. “What do you mean?”
“I can be your assistant!” Krista snapped her fingers again. “You know that music blog I’ve been working on, right?”
“Wait, wait.” Poppy paced the room. “You would do that for me?”
“Of course. You’re my favorite friend.”
“I’m getting the feeling I’m your only friend on campus,” Poppy said.
“Stop. You know I’m your only friend at school, too.” Krista laughed. “We’re freshy besties.”
Groaning, Poppy wished that she was in the same room so that she could throw a pillow at her. “You’re the worst.”
“Seriously, though,” Krista continued. “I can help you with all of your manager stuff and build up my music blog in the meantime. Do you have any idea how much it would help to document a new band on the road? It’ll be like reality TV. People love that shit.”
“That is a good idea.” Poppy tilted her head back. “Okay! Let’s do it.” She clapped a hand over her mouth. If she was any louder, her mother and grandmother would have a lot of questions for her. She glanced at the door, and lowered her voice. “This may be the craziest thing I’ve ever done.” It would surpass sneaking into bars at seventeen to watch her brother’s shows, or the time that she had skipped school to drive to New York with him to meet with L.A.B. She would have to be extremely careful. With Krista by her side, though, nothing could possibly go wrong. At least, she hoped not. “Do we have a deal?”
“Hell yeah.” Krista laughed. “Oh, this is going to be fun. The two of us, a bunch of hot guys, and the open road?”
Poppy giggled. “I think Perry is single.”
“Oh, hell no!” Krista sounded shocked. “From what you’ve told me about him, I’d be better off alone.”
“He seems pretty popular with the ladies. He must be doing something right.” Poppy glanced at the clock. She had been on the phone for over an hour. Jay was probably in the basement, working on his song and dying to know why Griff came to their house. “Okay, let me go,” she told Krista. “We’ll draw up a formal contract when I get back tomorrow.” She giggled, letting Krista know that she was kidding.
“You’re coming back tomorrow?”
“As long as Jay is willing to drive me back.” Poppy grimaced. She was going to owe her brother big time.
After they hung up, Poppy sat down again and pulled a throw pillow onto her lap. With Krista in her corner, she should be able to relax a little bit, but her nerves were as tightly wound as her natural hair. The tour was a huge deal for the band, and her career. If they pulled it off without a hitch, everything would change for the better. Should they fail, though, it could send them back several steps. With Max fresh out of rehab, he might have a hard time being away from his family—especially his daughter Chloe.
She took a deep breath. Things would work out. She would make sure of it.
They had to. There was no other choice.
South of Forever’s first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy’s career—if she can keep all her lies straight.
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