What Happened at the Festival



I love my mom. I really do. But sometimes she really pisses me off. Like this one time I decided to go to a rock festival with Josh. My mom lets me go mostly wherever I want to, so I didn’t know what the big deal was when I told her about it and she freaked out. Supposedly she didn’t like that I was going alone with Josh. Usually I took my friend Meg with me everywhere. But Meg didn’t like rock. Well, neither did I, but it wasn’t stopping me from going to the festival with Josh.

Mom and I yelled at each other for an hour the night before, but I was set on going.

“This guy is 5 years older than you, Kate! I’m not letting you go with him.”

“So what? You never cared about how old my friends were before.”

Mom gave me a knowing look. “You are not going with him alone. I haven’t even met him. How long have you known him?”

Since the party last weekend. He had stopped in front of me and Meg, sipping something from the red plastic cup in his hand. Meg had smirked and raised her eyebrows at me that meant something like “Yeees, those biceps, though.” He’d said something like “Hey, babe, want to dance?” I didn’t remember much after that. He’d gotten my number and started texting me a lot and asked me if I wanted to go to this festival with him. He was really cute, and I liked him a lot, so I’d said yes before I realized what the genre was. Whatever. I knew some rock songs, so I’d be fine.

“Why do you want to go so bad?” Mom finally screeched when she ran out of logical questions. She wasn’t that logical anyway. She was only 19 years older than me, so sometimes I felt like she was more of a big sister. She’d never really cared about school either, so I always felt like I had the upper hand when it came to anything logic-related.

“I want to experience this side of music,” I rationalized. “It’s just a few concerts, and they’re his favorite bands.” I didn’t know if they were his favorite; he could’ve despised them for all I knew. I just really liked this guy and I wanted to hang out and get to know him. He was the perfect guy- strong, good-looking, in college, and his family was pretty rich. I didn’t know much more about him, but I knew that he must like me if he wanted me to go with him.

“No. That’s my final answer,” Mom said, slamming the door in my face.

But I wasn’t one to take no for an answer.

***

The next day, I walked hand-in-hand with Josh toward the huge field where the stages were set up. I’d felt my phone buzz a couple times in my pocket, but I didn’t stop to check. I knew Mom was looking for me, but she’d get over it. I was in high school and could take care of myself just fine.

We’d had to park like a mile away, because there were so many people there already. We were already in a crowd of people before we got to the gates. I tripped on this fat guy’s foot in front of me and instantly regretted wearing sandals. I also regretted walking into him, because he was super scary-looking with his sleeveless Disturbed shirt and shiny combat boots. Not to mention the sunglasses and bandanna. He looked like every old biker dude you see in the movies.

He turned, and I think he looked at me, but it was hard to tell from the sunglasses. Then he turned to Josh and growled at him, “Keep your girlfriend to yourself.”

Josh was too busy texting on his phone to notice. We could already hear streams of music drifting through the crowds approaching the gates. I hadn’t realized how big an event like this was. Just because I didn’t know any of the bands didn’t mean everyone else in the world didn’t either, apparently.

Suddenly Josh pulled me out of the line of people and walked toward the side, where a small group of college-age kids was waving excitedly. There were two girls; one had her hair shaved off on one side, the rest of it dyed almost white, and the other had piercings in every place on her body that was possible. There were three other guys there too, all smoking something that didn’t quite smell right. They were really happy to see Josh.

“We thought you ditched us, man!” The skinny guy said, whose name I found out later was Justin. His words were slurred and his eyes were bloodshot.

“Let’s go, I can hear Escape the Fate,” Piercing girl said, craning her neck.

They all started walking toward the gate, and I followed, feeling awkward. I hadn’t known that Josh’s weird, rocker friends were coming too. I hadn’t even known that he had weird rocker friends. I didn’t know like anything about him. It was kind of awkward too that he didn’t introduce me, so I had no idea who they were.

I hadn’t known that there was going to be security at the gate, and I could feel the girls’ judgmental looks when I found out I couldn’t take a water bottle that had already been opened in with me and had to throw it out. I think they were judging me more for bringing water. They’d all brought unopened cans of beer with them.

I really wanted to leave.

The music got louder and louder as we approached the main stage in the growing crowd. Everyone around me looked like they belonged in a metal band or tattoo salon. Makeup and hair colors ranged from every shade of unnatural, and I’d never seen so many outfits that consisted only of the color black. I looked at Josh, who had seemed so edgy at the party, but now he was the most normal-looking person there. And I didn’t fit in at all with my high-waisted shorts and gladiator sandals.

Piercing girl started freaking out about the band on stage and dragged us further into the crowd. Soon, I was tightly wedged between hundreds of people, struggling to breathe. I clutched Josh’s hand out of desperation so I wouldn’t lose him in the crowd. I couldn’t see anything, but the loudness of music was overwhelming.

Then the mosh pit started. People started pushing the crowd back a few feet from us, and I was plastered against some leather jacket-wearing, weed-smoking guys. Suddenly everyone around me was jumping up and down, pushing each other, and yelling at the top of their lungs.

I panicked when I almost lost grip on Josh’s hand. I had to be hurting him, as tightly as I had his hand in my grip.

“Hey,” I yelled as loudly as I could in his ear. “can we go farther back?”

I wasn’t sure he understood me at first, but he finally nodded when I tried tugging him farther from the stage and followed me as I tried to escape the raging masses.

“Dude, I thought we were going to die in there,” I said with a shaky laugh when we got out of the crowd. Josh jut nodded dismissively, more focused on the performing band. I just stood beside him awkwardly during the next two songs.

“Do you want to get something to eat?” he asked me when Escape the Fate had finished making everyone’s ears hurt and left the stage. The people around the stage started moving back towards us, and I wondered if I had agoraphobia and had never known about it until now.

“Sure.” I followed him toward the food stands, thinking that this was one of the worst dates I’d ever been on. He really didn’t even want to be with me right now. He wanted to see the bands, and there was no way I was going back into the audience again.

“Amber?” Josh stopped so suddenly that I walked right into him. I started to apologize, but he wasn’t paying any attention to me. He was staring at this girl who had long, flowing black hair with green highlights and wore black lipstick to match her black ripped jeans, combat boots, and Drop Dead shirt. She stared back at him, and her dark makeup kind of scared me. She looked like a goth.

Not for long though. Her somber face broadened into a smile, and she practically flung herself onto him and gave him a big hug.

“Chip!!”

Who the heck was Chip?

“How are you?” she gushed. “I haven’t seen you in forever. Didn’t think you’d be here. Weren’t they sick? I can’t wait for 3 Doors Down. Oh, who’s this?” She noticed me for the first time.

“Oh, this is… Kate,” Josh said, looking at me sheepishly. He didn’t elaborate.

“Nice to meet you.” The goth gave me a quick smile, which in itself was frightening. She looked about as happy to meet me as going to the dentist for a root canal. “Zach’s here, Chip.”

“Zach’s here?” my heart sank when he perked up. More friends to meet… And who was this girl? They were way too friendly with each other.

“Yeah, he was just talking about you.” She dragged him off without another word to me, and I was left standing alone. I watched them disappear in the crowd with a sick feeling in my stomach. I didn’t know if I should follow them or not. I really didn’t want to meet any more rockers. But on the other hand, I didn’t know anyone else here but Josh. Anger suddenly boiled up inside of me. How could he just leave me like that?

“That’s his ex.”

I jumped. I hadn’t seen Justin appear. Who knew how long he’d been there? He looked slightly less high than before.

“What?” I asked stupidly, not that it mattered to this guy.

“His ex,” Justin said again, pulling out a joint and lighting it with his long, skinny fingers. Well, so much for him not being high. “They broke up a few months ago. I liked her. She was hot.” He snickered.

“Why did they break up?” I felt panic rise in me like it had in the mosh pit, but this time for a different reason.

“Don’t know. I know he didn’t want to.” Justin started to wander away.

“Wait, where are you going?” I didn’t want to lose him, too. I followed him and watched as he bumped into a group of older, rough-looking dudes. They all turned to glare at him, and one of them started cussing him out. My stomach dropped. It was the same biker guy I’d ran into earlier who’d yelled at Josh about me.

“Get out of the way, dude.” Justin tried to push his way through them, but one swift movement sent him flying to the ground. The motorcycle gang flexed their muscles and didn’t look happy.

“Sorry, we’re leaving,” I said backing up slowly. I grabbed Justin by his jacket and pulled him away. I really didn’t know what to do. I had no idea where Josh was, his friends could be anywhere, plus they didn’t even know who I was and probably wouldn’t like me anyway, and I for sure couldn’t leave Justin on his own to get beat up.

I made my way through the people, and with another blast of music the next band was on. I needed to find somewhere to leave Justin. I wondered if you could get high from second-hand smoke.

I suddenly spotted the white hair of the girl from Justin’s group, and ran to catch up with her. She and Piercing girl were moving toward the stage. They stopped when they saw us coming.

“Have you seen Josh?” I asked them out of breath.

White Hair smirked and nodded to a couple a few feet away from us making out. My heart stopped when I saw it was Josh and the goth.

I turned around and left. There was no reason for me to stay. Halfway to the gate I noticed the tears running down my face. Why was I there? Mom had been right. I hadn’t known anything about Josh, and I’d been stupid to think he liked me and that I was anything special. I elbowed my way through people and started running. When I finally passed the gate with security, the noise died down a bit. I pulled out my phone and dialed my mom.

“Where have you been? Why haven’t you been answering me?”

I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard her voice over the phone.

“Mom, I need to go home. Can you pick me up?”

She must have heard the panic in my voice. “Calm down. Where are you? What happened?”

“Nothing. Just come.” I gave her the address.

“Okay, I’ll be there in 15. You sure you’re okay?” I knew she was starting to freak out.

“I’m fine, but I’d be better if you left to get me.”

I glanced around and became extremely uneasy. There were homeless-looking people all around, smoking and trying to sell fake tickets. I looked down and hoped none of them would approach me.

Time went by so slowly. My phone vibrated, letting me know I got a text from Josh.

Where are you?

Nice of him to finally remember the girl he'd invited to the festival. I sniffed and put my phone back in my bag. I never wanted to see him again.

Finally, I saw my mom’s red truck pull up. I ran and jumped in before she’d even stopped. She looked confused, but I just hugged her really tightly.

“I’m sorry, mom. You were right. I just want to go home.”

© 2020 by Nancy E Wood