A Different Kind of Forever - By Dee Ernst


DIANE MATTHEWS CAME out of sleep as one swimming upwards, a slow brightening, an awareness of sound. Dog barking, slow ticking, a long deep breath. It was Tuesday morning, so no classes till after lunch. Tuesdays were her mornings to play, run errands and sometimes write. She sighed, moving deeper into the covers. Her first challenge: sleep another half hour, or get up now and get an extra jump on the day? She opened her eyes: empty room, quiet, pale curtains, alone. The cat, Jasper, a long, rangy calico, leapt lightly onto the bed. Good morning.

She rolled out of bed and stepped into the shower. She could hear the girls upstairs, the faint footfalls coming through the sound of water. Emily would have gotten up first, rousing her younger sister with her own bathroom noises. A school day, the regular routine.

“Mom, you need to sign this.” Emily stood before her in the kitchen, holding a sheet of paper that looked vaguely official. Diane sipped coffee, squinting. Emily let out an exaggerated sigh and reached for Diane’s reading glasses on the counter, handing them over with a small shake of her head.

“Some day, you’ll be old and I’m really going to enjoy it,” Diane grumbled, putting on the glasses and reading. A permission slip for the Science trip in June. She signed quickly, then marked the calendar. Megan came up behind her and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and a mumbled, morning, while reaching for cereal. Then, both girls froze. The sound of the radio, coming from the living room, caught their attention. They both grabbed for their cellphones and waited as the DJ droned on. Tickets for the concert. Of course. They had been in a frenzy for weeks, trying to win free tickets for NinetySeven, local boys made good, for their last show of the current tour. The question hadn’t been asked yet, but it didn’t matter. Between the two girls, they knew every bit of trivia about the band there was to know.

“This one’s easy,” the DJ was saying. “How did they get the name NinetySeven?”

“Oh God, I know that, I know that.” Emily had her cell phone to her ear. Diane looked at Megan and raised an eyebrow.

Megan had her cell phone in one hand and poured cereal with the other. “That’s the number they came up with when they added up all their ages, right after Mickey Flynn joined the band. He was the youngest, only 15.”

Emily was shaking her head. “How do people get through?” she howled. “It’s impossible. This is so unfair. I mean it. Mom, you should go down to the radio station and complain. It’s totally impossible.”

Diane studied her daughter’s face. Long, thin, deep-set eyes. Not a beauty, but arresting, intense. Completely different from Megan, who was so open and sunny. Emily was scowling now. She slammed the phone onto the counter as the DJ announced they had their caller. Megan shrugged and turned off her own phone, but Emily, as always, was taking it personally.

Diane winced as Emily stormed around the kitchen. Was she that self-involved at 16? She didn’t think so, but it was quite a while ago. Her oldest, Rachel, had been very quiet and self-assured, focused on becoming an actress since the age of ten and never wavering. Emily was flighty, over-dramatic and irrational in reacting to perceived slights. As for Megan, at 14 she was following Rachel’s footsteps, thank God.

“Mom, did you get Dad’s okay?” Emily asked suddenly.

Diane frowned. “For what?”

A heavy sigh. “If we get tickets. Did Dad say we could go to the concert?”

Diane sipped more coffee, thinking quickly. Her ex-husband had the girls on weekends, picking them up every Friday evening.

“No, I didn’t say anything to him yet, but he knows how important this would be to you. He wouldn’t give you a hard time. Why don’t you call him yourself, and give him a heads up?”

Emily cocked her head at her mother. “He’d let me go, but not alone. You’d have to come with me. So what about Megan? If we win this contest, it’s only two tickets.” Emily started pacing again. “It’s not fair, Mom.”

Megan raised her eyebrows at her sister. Diane took a deep breath.

“Em, why don’t we wait until you actually have tickets before we start to worry about your sister, okay?”

Emily turned abruptly and left. Diane turned and looked at Megan.

“Is there really a 15-year-old in the band?”

Megan put her bowl in the sink. “He’s not