The first person I see as I get backstage is Jayden Depaul.
“Latoya!” he calls. “Amanda! That was fantastic. You two were great. Anyone would think you’d been singing together your whole lives.”
He gives Amanda a quick peck on the cheek before turning to me and taking me in his arms. He’s so tall that I hardly come up to his shoulder.
“I’ve never heard you sing like that before,” he says, smiling down into my eyes. “I had goose-bumps the whole time.”
My heart is hammering in my chest as he holds me warmly against him, as though we’re the last two people left on earth. It’s finally happening, I realise dizzily. Jayden Depaul is finally going to kiss me.
And he does. But just for a moment. I barely have time to register the firm press of his lips against mine and the barely-there smell of pine forests, when he pulls away again. And as I open my eyes, I suddenly realise something.
There’s not a spot on him. No measles, no chicken pox, nothing. He made the whole thing up to force Amanda and me on stage together.
As I see my mother’s set, angry face appear behind him, I suddenly turn on Jayden.
“You tricked me again!” I snap. “You always think you know what’s best for me, but you don’t. When are you going to stop interfering in things that are none of your business?”
I can see the hurt in his eyes, but I’m too upset to care.
“I just wanted you all to talk to each other,” he says, gesturing to my mom and to Amanda’s parents who have now also arrived.
The expression in my mom’s eyes as she comes face to face with my father chills me to the bone. He’s looking from me to her, and back to me again, like he can’t bear to take his eyes off me. He clears his throat as though he’s about to speak, but no words come out.
We stare at each other in silence until help comes from an unexpected quarter. Amanda’s mother turns her tired, tear-streaked face to her husband and says, “Richard… don’t you think it’s time you talked to your daughter?”
WHAT DO YOU THNK? Latoya is angry with Jayden because he interfered. Can you think of a good reason why she should forgive him?