One of the admittedly fair criticisms I’ve sometimes heard about TRAVELER is the complete lack of female friends for Jessa. That’s actually by design in the first book – Jessa is an incredible introvert, choosing to live in her stories until Ben becomes a steady buddy and a potential love rival for Finn. I won’t apologize for my love triangle. I love love triangles and mine is not your usual sort of love triangle.
Anyway, I seeded a female friend for Jessa into book one, but she really blooms in DREAMER. So here’s your re-introduction to Olivia, in one of Jessa’s many alternate realities. . .
Olivia finally releases her death grip on my hand and gives me an enormous shove from behind, as an older guy hands me a microphone. A spotlight hits me right in the face and I squint as my eyes adjust. I finally notice the crowd, and they’re all staring at me.
The pieces begin to fall into place.
Oh my God. I’m singing karaoke. In front of people. A lot of people.
I don’t sing.
I mean, I really, really don’t sing.
My panicked eyes find Olivia, and she’s doubled over, laughing, the traitor. I narrow my eyes back at her as the memory trickles in.
She bet me that I wouldn’t score as high as her on my pre-collegiate interviews today. She was right. I didn’t even come close, and I’m really perturbed about it, too.
And now I have to sing here at Martinetti’s open mic karaoke night, as my loser’s price.
“Liv . . .” I mouth, pleadingly.
“Sing!” She shouts back, and the crowd – many of whom go to school with us – echoes loudly behind her.
I let out a groan as the music comes blaring over the speakers.
My eyes widen and I give her a searing look.
“Oh, you did not do this to me . . .” I grumble under my breath.
I am in no way, shape or form qualified to sing Somebody to Love by Queen. Or anything, for that matter. But a bet is a bet, and my memories assure me that Olivia will never speak to me again if I don’t honor our agreement. Dammit.
I open my mouth to sing, and nothing comes out. I swallow, and try again. Something comes out this time, and I focus on the words scrolling on the video prompter in front of me. Hey, I’m doing this! I’m singing!
Then I look out at the crowd, most of whom are staring at me like I’m up here strangling a frog. Because that’s what my voice sounds like. Like I’m strangling a frog. Oh, God.
I shoot another panicked look at Olivia, and she’s smiling and shaking her head as if to say, You’re not getting out of this.
I go back to looking at the prompter, and the irony of singing about dying a little when you wake up each morning isn’t lost on me, the girl who’s been murdered in more realities than I can count.
And with that thought, the tears rush to my eyes, and I blink them back furiously as I stare at a spot on the floor and try to pull myself together. My voice falters, and I’m really not sure I’m going to make it through this. My eyes swing back to Olivia again, but she’s not there.
Instead, I feel her arm come around my shoulders from behind, and her hand wraps around mine on the mic as she starts to sing with me, and wow, can she wail. Her voice is amazing, and the crowd is singing along. So am I, for that matter, and I don’t need my memories to tell me why I adore this girl. We end to thunderous applause, as we join hands and take a bow. Then I hand the mic off and walk right out of the restaurant.
The cold hits me in the face, and a moment later, a blast of warm air as Olivia comes through the door, carrying my coat and my backpack.
“Hey,” she says. “You did better than I thought you would.”
“That’s because I had you.”
She bumps my shoulder with hers. “You’ve always got me. But damn, you really can’t sing.”
Liv always tells it like it is, and you’ll be seeing more of her in DREAMER – coming Feb 2018!