He loves me . . .
Fifteen-year-old Alison Holland dreams of becoming a professional musician. No sacrifice is too great when it comes to her music—even if it means giving up extracurricular activities like dating and hanging out with friends.
Alison is overjoyed when she gets her first professional gig. Soon, she’s playing at events all over town. But lately, she’s starting to wonder how it would feel to go to a party as someone’s girlfriend instead of the keyboard player. She’s feeling lonely and left out, especially when the night of the big dance arrives—and she doesn’t have a date.
Then, at a wedding, Alison meets Ted Mollison, a photographer. He seems to really get her—to understand her dreams and ambitions. But is he more interested in his camera than in romance?
A book for anyone who has ever felt like they’re different, He Loves Me Not is about fitting in and branching out . . . and being loved for who you are.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||5 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Caroline B. Cooney (b. 1947) is the author of nearly a hundred books, including the famed young adult thriller The Face on the Milk Carton, an international bestseller. Cooney’s books have been translated into several languages, and have received multiple honors and awards, including an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults award and a nomination for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. She is best known for her popular teen horror thrillers and romance novels. Her fast-paced, plot-driven work often explores themes of good and evil, love and hatred, right and wrong, and moral ambiguity. Born in Geneva, New York, Cooney grew up in Connecticut, and often sets her novels in dramatic New England landscapes. She has three children and four grandchildren and currently lives in South Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
He Loves Me Not
A Cooney Classic Romance
By Caroline B. Cooney
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1982 Caroline B. Cooney
All rights reserved.
The phone call that changed my life came when I was just two days past fifteen, and it came from a twenty-seven-year-old saxophone player. I remembered him only because one month ago he had frowned at me the whole time I played the piano.
It was a dance at the community center: very casual, completely ordinary—no dates, just drop-ins. We danced mostly to records people had brought with them, but then somebody wanted "Autumn Leaves," and of course nobody had brought a record of that, so I played it on the piano. Then somebody else wanted Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" and then "Moon River," and what with one request after another I played steadily for at least half an hour.
All that time this fierce, tough-looking character slouched in the doorway and frowned at me. Pretty soon I had the idea that people were gathering around the piano more for protection from this thug than to hear my music. The dance chaperons went over to him, presumably to inquire about his intentions, and he burst out laughing and left.
It turned out he was our friend David's big brother, who had driven David down to the dance since none of us had drivers' licenses yet.
"He frowned at you because you're a good musician," said David. "Ralph always frowns when he's impressed. It's when he grins you know you've made an idiot of yourself." David's face grew sad. "My brother grins at me more than he frowns," David confided.
Which made me feel very good about a solid half-hour of frowns.
I intended to become a professional musician, specializing in the harpsichord and keyboard music of the French Renaissance. I was saving my baby-sitting income to buy a harpsichord kit and build myself one, so I wouldn't have to practice at my teacher's. It is very inhibiting to do all your practicing with your teacher in the next room yelling that you got your trill backwards. I had seven hundred and twelve dollars to go before I could order the kit. Which would then take six months to arrive. And six months to build. But that was before the phone call.
"Alison?" said Ralph. "This is David's brother. Remember me? I heard you play at that kid dance at the community center."
The way he said "kid dance," he managed to imply that I, like Ralph, was no kid. I grinned into the phone. "Sure, I remember you. David told me you're a sax player."
"Right. Now listen. You knew what you were doing and I'm going to take a chance on you. My keyboard man has just come down with a bad case of flu. I drove to his apartment to haul him off to a wedding reception we're doing and he's so sick he can't even remember what instrument he plays. Can you be ready in twenty minutes to substitute for him?"
I flung on my Sunday dress: pale blue dotted Swiss with little tracks of white bows down the front. I grabbed a pile of piano music that looked as if it might have something wedding-y in it and was ready to run out to the curb when Ralph's van arrived. My father took one look at Ralph, panicked, and decided to come along. Ralph grinned at me. He had the fishiest grin I ever saw. No wonder David preferred his frown. I looked down at myself to see what was the matter. "Change your clothes," said Ralph. "Something dramatic. You want to look at least old enough to get paid."
Ralph was making me more nervous than the prospect of playing in public for one hundred wedding dancers. "I don't have anything dramatic," I said, thinking of my closet full of oxford shirts and Shetland sweaters.
"Then something invisible. Black pants and a black turtleneck, maybe?"
He had to settle for white pants and a white turtleneck. I did not feel invisible. I felt fluorescent.
On the way over, Ralph said, "I don't usually fool around with infants. Just remember to be a musician first and a fifteen-year-old second."
"Yes, sir," I said.
"It's bad for my image to be called sir," Ralph told me.
"What's your image?" said my father. He was clutching the door, the seat, and the seatbelt to avoid being hurtled out of the van. Obviously Ralph did not intend to be late to this wedding reception.
"Music can be macho," said Ralph.
I was feeling about as far from macho as I ever had in my life. My fingers were so stiff with nervousness that I felt more like a reptile. I was growing a leather skin. We puffed into the country club dance hall with exactly two minutes to spare. The other members of Ralph's music group shook hands with my father and welcomed him to their combo. They nearly passed out when Daddy said, "I'm just along for the ride. Alison's your musician."
They actually scanned the room for a musician named Alison.
"That little girl?" said the trumpeter, Alec, as if praying to be told another Alison—an older, tougher, more experienced Alison—was going to pop out of the piano bench.
"She's okay," said Ralph. "Sit down, Alison. Start playing."
"Playing what?" I said, sitting down.
"Ralph," said the string bass player, a very laid-back woman named Lizzie, "she looks like a malnourished hitchhiker."
"We don't have time for an analysis of Alison's height and breadth," said Ralph coldly. "You know 'Some Enchanted Evening,' infant?" he said to me.
"Fine. In F. Give us a four measure intro."
And it all began: the wedding reception, the music, the tension, the terrible nerves—and my career.
The only group I'd ever played with before had included a cello, two violins, and a viola, and we'd practiced for two months with our conductor before we even started to think about a public performance. This wedding reception was quite a contrast. It was both the most frightening and the most companionable experience of my life. Whatever their feelings about my age and competence, the other members of the combo set about making the music work. Ralph on sax, Lizzie on string bass, Rob on drums, and Alec on trumpet were like a quartet of lifesavers keeping the piano player from drowning.
After what seemed like a decade or so, Ralph said, "Nice. Take a break, Alison."
"I'm already broken," I said.
They laughed, and incredibly, wonderfully, I was a member of the group.
Ralph, of all things, was a pharmacist who was a partner in his father's drugstore. Evenings and weekends he ran a pool of musicians who supplied most of the music in our city. He handled any job from supper club dances to strawberry festivals, from bar mitzvahs to Junior League gatherings. He produced music that ranged from hard rock to Lawrence Welk, from ballads to Beatles to polkas.
The keyboard man with the flu turned out to have mono. He was in the hospital for weeks and then at home for weeks, and after that he was just not very interested in trying to keep two careers going. Pretty soon I was the one trying to keep two careers going: school, in which I had to do well because I had to be able to qualify for college scholarships, and Ralph's assignments, in which I had to do well for my own musical pride—and to keep Ralph from throwing me out in favor of someone older and more experienced.
Basically, my skill—at least the one Ralph cares about—is that I can memorize. Let me hear a piece twice on a record and I have it in my fingers. Let me read it once off a sheet or a chart and I've got it down.
I love working with the group. There's a tightness and a looseness to it; we work so closely together, and so easily. It's kind of exhilarating, as if every gig is a competition and we're always the winners.
Don't you think "gig" is the funniest word? It means a music job. My father says he thinks it comes from "giggle" because it seems so funny to Daddy that anybody would pay us to have so much fun! For quite a while my father went along with us, which bothered me much more than it bothered Ralph (Ralph is not easily bothered, except by musical incompetence), but then Daddy decided Ralph could be trusted with his little girl.
It was the night of the Lindsays' party—a whole year and a half after my first gig with Ralph—that I first really thought about what I was giving up in exchange for what I was getting.
Mr. and Mrs. Lindsay had spared no expense in celebrating their daughter's engagement. Since it fell on Valentine's Day, they had decorated their enormous house in a symphony of pink satin and white lace, silver ribbons and red roses. I could hardly play the piano, because I was staring at the guests, who were beautifully and formally dressed. Even the food had been cut in valentine shapes, from the tiny sandwiches to the enormous, magnificent cake.
"Alison," said Ralph in his sweetest voice, which is also his most dangerous, "you're being paid, love. Try to find the beat, please. They're going to break their ankles dancing to the selection you're playing."
I pulled my eyes from the group of young men coming in the door and put my attention on the keyboard. Ralph was right. I was rushing with my right hand and dragging with my left. The dancers were getting that uneasy look of people who are thinking about sitting down.
We wrapped up "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and drifted into "Misty" and "Stormy" and "Raindrops" and "I Love a Rainy Night." Finally Alec said, "Hey, Ralph, we're all going to mildew in this lousy weather of yours, man," and Lizzie said, "Try to remember they got engaged, Ralph, they're happy," and Ralph said, "Oh, yeah, okay, how about 'I'm in the Mood for Love'?"
Even the piano was festooned with pink and silver. It was a beautiful old Baldwin grand—glistening, dark, satiny wood—and on top was a huge, lovely bouquet of carnations and baby's breath. We'd had to shift it precariously so we could see each other, and every few numbers Ralph sidled around the piano to shove the vase back from the edge.
Out on the floor, dancing couples swayed and laughed and held hands and toasted each other.
Much as I love being a musician, it would be very, very nice—just once—to be a guest. To have a date. To have a dance partner. To laugh with carefree delight instead of knotting up because I just mangled the repeat.
"Okay, infant," said Ralph, who for some reason always addresses me instead of the group. "Break time, kid. Good job. They love you."
I sagged on the bench. The dancers came reluctantly to a stop. I saw the bride-to-be and her fiancé drift slowly off the floor, but one future bridesmaid didn't feel like stopping; she and her boyfriend kept right on dancing until someone tapped them on the shoulder. They looked around, startled, and everybody laughed.
When am I ever even going to meet a boy? I thought, let alone dance with one? I'll spend my whole life on the bench while all the good ones dance on by.
I stood up, hungry and thirsty. Maybe one of the really good-looking young men who'd come in unattached would notice me at the buffet and romance would strike.
I have three outfits I wear to gigs, depending on what Ralph thinks is appropriate. This one was white velveteen trousers and a white satin blouse with lovely lace ruffles on the sleeves and down the front. I'm so slim I can always use a little fluff there, and the blouse is really becoming. I have rather long, dark hair, and for this party I'd done it ornately, with sequins and ribbons. I had on a pink sash, and Mrs. Lindsay had pinned a corsage of pale pink roses on me.
I felt smashing.
I've felt that way before, though, and no handsome young man has given the slightest sign of being smashed by me. Sometimes I feel as if the piano is attached to me, so that even when I'm not on the bench I look unavailable. The way some people look boring and others look sophisticated, I think I look employed.
The buffet turned out not to be a fraction as promising as Mrs. Lindsay had told us it would be. One thing I have found out for sure in the last year and a half: I have very low class, indeed peasant, tastes in food. I'll take a hot dog and cole slaw any time. The Lindsays, however, were fond of artichoke hearts, anchovy spread on pumpernickel squares, and asparagus on health crackers. I circled the buffet twice, but it didn't improve from any angle.
Three people—none of whom could possibly be classified as romantic young men—paused in loading their cupid-decorated plates with sardines and olives to tell me how much they were enjoying the music and I was awfully young, wasn't I?
I nodded mutely.
I am far more articulate with notes than with words. Ralph says if I could improvise with my tongue the way I do at the keyboard, I'd have the world by the tail. Lizzie says it only takes practice and if I would just open my mouth and try, eventually I'd learn the art of conversation.
I dipped the ruffled potato chip into a bowl and discovered the dip was something horrid and fishy. I buried the chip surreptitiously under a puffy crepe-paper valentine. By that time the adults had moved on, and my chance to improve my speaking abilities was gone.
I looked around forlornly for a slice of pizza or a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, but there was nothing edible on the whole buffet. The average age of the partygoers was roughly twenty-two (the bride's friends) and fifty (her parents'). I hung around the buffet hoping some male twenty-two-year-old would pass by, and some did, but their eyes were on the caviar, not me. I have no use for people who eat fish eggs, anyway.
Ralph came between me and the punch and handed me a can of 7-Up. His second promise to my father is that soda is the strongest liquid I can drink. The first promise is that if Ralph thinks there will be grass or coke at a party, he's to take one of his other keyboard players and not me. Once Ralph misjudged, and when the party turned out to be wall-to-wall marijuana, he actually phoned my father to come and get me. I didn't know whether to be glad or furious. The result of that phone call, of course, is that Daddy thinks Ralph is the most admirable man in the city. (Ralph agrees with this analysis and quotes my father at every opportunity.)
"About tomorrow's gig," said Ralph, taking my share of punch as well as his own. "I know you need money, infant, but I talked to the host, and it's going to be a lot more wild than I figured when I signed you up for it. So forget it. I'll get somebody else."
Actually, I was delighted. I had a term paper to do for biology and desperately needed an entire day in the library. "Term papers," said Ralph, making horrible faces. "Just when I'd almost forgotten what an infant you are. Still in school worrying about grades."
"How old are you, dear?" said an elderly lady dressed in a shimmering golden sheath. I'd like to look that good now, let alone when I'm eighty.
"Sixteen," I said.
"My goodness! And you play so well, dear."
I never know how to handle compliments. I blush and shift my feet like a horse pawing the ground. "Thank you," I said. Lizzie says when in doubt just say thank you. She's right, it never fails.
"May I make a request?" the lady said, smiling shyly.
"Certainly," Ralph told her, half-bowing.
For what they're paying, I thought, he should kneel!
My stomach knotted up, waiting to hear the lady's request. With older people I hardly ever know the song, although, of course, after a year and a half of this I'm a lot better than I was. But playing a good smooth rendition of a song you don't know is quite a trick. Ralph gives me the key, the beat, and the tempo. Then I lay out an intro, and from there on I have to follow the others at the very same moment I'm actually playing: feeling the chords coming before we get there. It's very, very hard.
And yet, I always hope for tough requests. It's like fighting a lot of tiny wars; every evening is much more exciting if there's a skirmish to win. I wish I felt that way about school.
"'My Blue Heaven,'" she said. "It's my favorite."
Sure enough, I'd never heard of it.
"I love it, too," said Ralph, who always says that even when he hates it and said last week if he ever had to play it again, he'd lose his sanity. I went back to the piano while Ralph talked to the lady, and meanwhile Alec (the trumpeter) hummed the tune for me, and Rob (the drummer) tapped out the rhythmic motif.
Excerpted from He Loves Me Not by Caroline B. Cooney. Copyright © 1982 Caroline B. Cooney. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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