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There's Not A Star In Heaven (That We Can't Reach)

Guest Jen

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Story Title: There’s Not a Star in Heaven (That We Can’t Reach)

Type of story: Short/Medium fiction

Main Characters: Aden/Annie, Belle/Drew, Matilda, Henry

BTTB rating: G

Genre: Romance

Does story include spoilers: No (Yes, if you've never seen HSM)

Any warnings: None

Summary: High School Musical - Home & Away style.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Plot and most of the dialogue is ripped straight from the original.


there’s not a star in heaven (that we can’t reach)

Part 1/5

If Aden had to summarise his life in one word it would be this.


The single sport has overtaken his life to such an extent that it is pretty much the only thing he thinks about. After school every day he’s down on the field, the centre of the rest of the team, running plays and tackles, his dad, coaching him from the sidelines. He can hear his father’s shouts in the back of his mind even when he’s not at practice. Sitting in the middle of calculus, he finds himself drawing stick figures in his margins, trying to figure out if he can get Lucas Holden to master the fake left before the championship game. Aden doubts it.

It’s only when his mother demands they go on a vacation, as a family, over the Christmas break that Aden realises how much it has dominated over everything else. Their father happily agrees, but Aden can see him slip a football and pair of boots under the passenger’s seat when his mother isn’t looking. When Aden spots him, he just presses his finger to his lips and winks. Aden thinks his father might be more attached to the game than he is.

What Aden doesn’t expect is how much he would actually miss it. They’re at some ski lodge in Thredbo and he’s been there for a week and he’s already craving to find some sort of surface that isn’t covered in snow. He wants to be able to run laps around the ground, breathing out fog in the early morning, goosebumps rising on his arms as he runs faster to keep off the chill. But he can’t.

Aden and his father end up retreating to the lodge’s gym, in between trips down the slopes, so he can work on his upper body strength, which according to his dad, he is lacking.

His mother finally puts her foot down on New Years Eve. She finds them in the gym, his dad watching him intently, counting each time Aden raises the dumbbell above his head. When Aden finally pleases his dad, he puts down the weight at his feet, gratefully accepting the towel that is thrown at his head.

His heart is still pounding in his chest, the beating reverberating around his head, so he doesn’t even hear his mother come in. She’s dressed up, Aden notices. Wearing some sparkling black dress Aden has never seen before, a see-through kind of shawl around her shoulders. She twirls on the spot, when she sees both her boys gawking.

“The party?” she reminds them.

“Right, the party. New Years Eve,” Aden’s dad stutters out. Aden just rolls his eyes. It’s so weird that his dad is still so openly smitten for his mother. He thought you grew out of that stuff once you became, like, an adult. Clearly, no one told his dad.

“Aden, there’s a kid’s party,” she tells him.

“Kid’s party?” Aden retorts, letting the disgust seep into his tone. He’s sixteen. He’s not going to be spending his New Years Eve sipping orange juice out of plastic cups, sitting at a table that is no more than two feet off the floor. He’d rather go another round in the gym with his father, even though he knows his face is completely flushed red and he’s still panting.

“Young adults,” his mum amends. Like it will actually make a difference. Aden still rolls his eyes. “Now go, shower up,” she tells him, and that is the end of it.

He finds himself in one of the back lounges of the lodge, a room decorated with balloons and streamers and the bar stocked with a variety of soft drinks. The party is already in full swing when Aden arrives. His mother had forced him into a suit jacket, which he reluctantly pulled on, on top of his t-shirt. It’s not like it matters all that much. He’s not trying to impress anyone.

Slipping down one of the walls, narrowly avoiding some boy in an oversized cowboy hat, Aden spies a stage at the end of the room. Music is pumping from the speakers, as two gleeful looking kids sing into the microphones to a tune he vaguely recognises. Aden claps when they finish, because he does admire their courage to do something like that, but he also shakes his head at their stupidity.

The MC, some toothy young guy who can’t be much older than Aden, is up on the stage asking for volunteers for the next song. Aden leans back on the wall, eyes gazing around the party while a spotlight whirls around above his head. Before he realises what is going someone has their hands on his back and he’s being thrust into the spotlight. He has no control over his feet as he stumbles forward and is hauled onto the stage, a microphone being shoved into his hand.

He feels like a deer in the headlights as the MC mumbles something that sounds like, “Someday, you guys might thank me for this,” before he disappears. Yeah, right.

There is an uneasy shuffling beside him. With all the commotion, and shooting daggers at the MC, Aden didn’t even notice that someone else was on the stage with him. He looks across and catches her eye. Immediately she ducks her head, crossing her arms tightly across her chest. She looks as eager to do this as Aden feels. But he can’t help but take in how pretty she is. Soft brunette curls falling past her shoulders, framing her soft skin and blue eyes he managed to get a glimpse of.

He’s almost too busy staring, probably making the poor girl more uncomfortable than she already is, that he doesn’t hear the music start. The opening bars waft through the air, and as if on instinct, Aden glances down at the screen and begins reciting the words. Or, not reciting exactly. He is ... singing?

He manages to get through half of the first verse without throwing up, but as soon as it’s over he turns, ready to sprint from the stage. But then she starts; her voice timid and small, but sweet and pure, with every note, her confidence growing. As she sings, her arms still firmly across her chest she occasionally shoots him a weary glance, and maybe a shy smile.

Aden finds himself joining her at the chorus, and much to his surprise he actually sounds decent. Not to mention how they sound together. They sound good. He manages to shoot her a smile, and she immediately blushes, shying her head once more. But by the end of the song, he’s made her laugh and unfold her hands. And he’s singing, like really singing. Not to the crowd, who are watching with anticipation, but to her, and thoroughly enjoying himself.

He doesn’t even know how it happens, but as he holds the final note, he’s standing in front of her. They’re face to face, her blue eyes shimmering under the bright lights and he smiles, and so does she. The audience erupts into applause, but Aden doesn’t notice. He just can’t stop staring, getting lost in her eyes, adrenaline still pumping. Aden finds himself awkwardly sticking out her hand, just stating his name.

Her hand is small and warm inside his as they shake, making this stupid grin on his face even more prominent.

“Annie,” is all she says.

They are out on the deck now, new snowflakes beginning to fall. Annie has one single white speck caught on her eyelash, and Aden has to use all his willpower not to reach out and brush it away. Fortunately, they both have steaming mugs of hot chocolate in their hands, so he’s not really in a position to do it anyway.

“You were amazing,” Aden says, “You’re a singer, right?”

She smiles up at him shyly, blushing at his compliment, although it is hard to tell. The wind is cold and whips around them, making both their noses and cheeks turn pink from the chill.

“Just church choir is all. I tried a solo once and nearly fainted,” she confesses.

“Really? Why?”

“I took one look at all those people staring at me, and the next thing I knew I was staring at the ceiling. End of solo career,” she finishes with a giggle.

“Well, with the way you sang tonight, that’s pretty hard to believe,” Aden replies.

“Yeah, well, that was the first time I’ve done something like that. It’s was so cool.” Aden thinks she might be glowing.

Aden nods in agreement.

“What about you? You’re a singer, too?” she asks.

Aden looks away, suddenly kind of bashful. “Yeah, sure,” he mutters, “My showerhead is very impressed with me.” Luckily, she laughs and it’s a little bit less awkward.

From somewhere off in the distance someone begins the countdown to midnight. Aden had got so caught up in the singing, and with Annie, that he had completely forgotten why he was there in the first place. He shifts uneasily from one foot to the other as the clock strikes midnight and there is an explosion of colour above both their heads. Aden instinctively looks over at Annie, because that seems to be all he can do, and he thinks about kissing her. That is what you’re supposed to do at midnight, right? But he’s only just met her, and it would probably really awkward and weird to just lean over and plant one on her, no matter how cute she is.

Annie bites unsurely at the bottom of her lip, like maybe she’s recognising the weirdness of this too, before she stammers something about having to go and find her mum and wish her a Happy New Year.

“Yeah, me too,” Aden agrees without even thinking. It then dawns on him what he has just implied, and quickly stutters something out to cover his mistake. “I mean, my mum. Not your mum. And dad,” he says, even though he really doesn’t want to leave just yet. He fishes out his mobile phone from his pocket, while she does the same. They exchange numbers, with the promise that he will call her tomorrow.

The screen glows back up at him as he stares at her number, thinking about all the things he suddenly wants to do with her while he’s here on holiday. He’s so busy absorbed in his own thoughts, murmuring something aloud about how singing with her was the most fun he’s had on this entire vacation. He gets around to finally ask where she’s from, but Annie is no longer there.

Another couple have wandered out onto the deck and are too wrapped up in each other to notice Aden. But Annie is gone, and Aden feels his face fall, because he didn’t really get to say goodbye. But he has her number and it’s a start.

For some reason, Aden feels like his holiday is about to get a lot better.


Sooner than he likes, he’s back home. The squawking of sea gulls and rolling of the ocean greets him, rather than the rustling of pine trees and soft coverings of newly fallen snow.

As soon as he walks in, he’s met with many high fives and slaps on the back. Every one of the students bright and excited for the year ahead, although Aden can’t think why. But then he remembers, it’s not an excitement for learning they are looking forward too, but something else. The big match is no less than two weeks away, but the chatter and predictions started way before. The game is up against their rival club, Yabbie Creek, who although aren’t the brightest crayons in the box, have taken them out of the playoffs every year for the past two seasons.

But this year is different. It has to be. Aden is captaining the side, his dad is training them (him) harder than ever, and it’s just their year. Everyone seems certain.

As soon as Aden makes it around the corner he is engulfed in a friendly headlock, but he doesn’t have to see passed the dark mop of curly hair to know who it is.

“Hey dude, how’s it going?”

“Hi Drew,” Aden replies, letting his shoulders go limp and fall out of Drew’s grasp.

Drew just casually tosses his arm around Aden’s shoulder and shoves some poor junior out of the way as he escorts Aden to homeroom.

There’s more cheering and greetings as Aden walks through the door, while their homeroom teacher Miss Vale shoots him a weary look. One by one his team mates surround him, clamping him on the back, asking about his holidays, Jules is already explaining why he’s going to be late to practice (First day of school and already on detention), and Aden is feeling slightly overwhelmed. Not since he was on stage on New Years Eve, with all those pairs of eyes staring at him and his heart in his throat, has Aden felt like this. But then he remembers the relief, the way his body relaxed as he let the song take over, focussing on the lyrics and melody and keeping his eyes on Annie next to him.

There is this twisting in his chest as he remembers her. The way she smiled up at him, face only made brighter by the spotlight, and this feeling of ... well, it doesn’t really matter now. Because she didn’t call him, and he’d wanted to look for her at the lodge on New Years Day but his dad was already sitting in the car with the engine running, so he didn’t really have time.

Finally, Aden makes it to his seat. But then there’s this flurry of blonde hair in front of him and he has to really restrain himself from groaning out loud. Matilda Hunter just giggles and flips her blonde hair over her shoulder. Even in the school’s mandatory uniform she’s managed to accessorise with earrings that should be chandeliers, and some sort of sparkly lip gloss. She smiles at him brightly.

“Hi Aden,” she says. If she wasn’t trying so hard to flirt with him, as she has every day since their first day at Summer Bay High, Aden might be flattered by the attention.

Miss Vale stands and clears her throat, waiting for the homeroom to fall silent.

“Good morning everyone. I trust we all had splendid holidays.” Miss Vale was the head of the drama department, an actor in her former years, and had a habit of making everything a performance. Once she gave the morning notices in the form of interpretive dance. It’s something Aden hopes to never see again. “Check the pin up boards for new activities, Mr Jefferies.” Aden looks up at the sound of his name. He shoots Miss Vale a quick smile, acknowledging that he is, sort of, paying attention. “Especially our school musicale...”

Drew kicks his chair. “You okay?” Aden nods.

“... and auditions for our two leads.” Aden hears Drew make some sort of Pfft noise behind him, and has to suppress a chuckle. Drew was his best friend since pre-school, and Aden knew the only thing he cared about was sports, sports and more sports. They had signed up for their first little league together the summer they both turned six, and from then on they had been on every sports team together. Including the football team, the one that had its championship game in two weeks. So now was not the time to be getting distracted.

Miss Vale however was not amused. She looks down the bridge of her nose, shooting Drew a look. When she got angry, Miss Vale had this one vain that kind of popped out the side of her neck, and her eyes went all squinty and her voice cracked. It was sort of terrifying. So Drew knew she meant business. He immediately clamps his mouth closed and sits up straight.

Aden can smell Matilda’s perfume from her seat across the aisle. It’s sort of fruity but pungent at the same time and Aden wonders if she actually bathes in it. She notices him staring and gives him a wink. Oh boy. He wishes Annie would have winked at him, that way he would be sure that whatever he felt on vacation wasn’t some figment of his imagination. Not that he actually thinks Annie would wink, because she didn’t strike him as that sort of person, but really, Aden doesn’t know all that much about her.

There it is again. This tugging in his chest, something that makes him squirm in his seat and he finds himself fishing out his mobile phone. He hides it beneath his desk, knowing that Drew can probably see but would never rat him out, while Miss Vale is still nattering away about extra-curricular activities and pointing out Belle Taylor who is in charge of some scholastic decathlon. Whatever that is.

The first name in his contacts says Annie and before he realises what he’s doing, Aden hits call. Almost instantly there is a shrill noise coming from somewhere at the back of the room. Aden shoots a look over his shoulder in time to see someone with long brown hair duck underneath her desk, rummaging through her school bag.

Miss Vale stalks down the aisle, carrying the infamous Confiscated Mobile Phones Bucket, at the sound of the ringtone. The poor girl at the back has managed to switch off her phone, but as soon as she does she’s forced to hand it over. Even from the front Aden can see the shade of pink begin to rise in her cheeks.

“We have zero tolerance for mobile phones at this school,” Miss Vale says, “So we will be getting to know each other in detention. And welcome to Summer Bay High, Miss Campbell.”

As Miss Vale walks past she sinks down into her seat, and Aden realises that he’s seen her before. Not like, in his homeroom, because she’s obviously new, but like, he’s seen her before. And then it hits him. Annie. Before he can catch her attention, wave or call out or something, Miss Vale is standing over him dangling the Bucket in front of his face.

“Mr Jefferies, I see your phone is involved. So we will see you in detention as well.” He hadn’t even realised he was still holding his phone, so with a sigh he drops it in.

As soon as the bell rings Aden is out the door. Leaning back against the white-washed wall he waits, accepting high-fives and handshakes as the rest of his classmates head off to first period. He’s busy fist bumping Drew as he walks away, giving him an apologetic look about the loss of his phone and detention on the first day back, that he almost misses her. But there she is.

She slips out the door and begins walking in the opposite direction, blue school bag hanging off one of her shoulders.

“Hey,” Aden says when he’s beside her. Her look is one of surprise when she seems him. She blinks a couple of times, like she almost can’t believe it either.

“I don’t --” she begins.

“Believe it,” Aden finishes.

“Well, me --”

“Either. But how?”

“My parents have just bought a farm outside Summer Bay,” she explains while they walk. Then she shakes her head, “I don’t believe it. I looked for you at the lodge on New Years Day.”

“Yeah, I know. But I had to leave first thing,” Aden replies in a whisper as a couple of members of the football team stroll past them, raising their hands in acknowledgment. Aden gives them a nod in reply.

“Why are you whispering?” Annie asks, voice soft as well but a smile is tugging at her lips.

“What?” Aden hadn’t even realised he was doing it. “Oh, uh ... well, my friends know about the snowboarding. I, uh, haven’t told them about the,” Aden drops his voice to a whisper again, just for emphasis, “singing,” then right back up to normal, “thing yet.”

Annie is looking up at him sceptically. “Too much for them to handle?”

“Nah, it was cool. It’s just, not what I do.” Annie looks like she might want to ask him something else, her lips quirking up, but she seems to decide against it. And then she’s staring at him, and they’ve stopped walking, and Aden suddenly feels like his tie is on too tight and someone has turned on the heaters instead of the air conditioning.

It’s then that he notices the sparkling pink poster right in the middle of the pin-up board. Really, it would be hard for anyone to miss.

“Anyway,” he says, clearing his throat, “Now that you’ve met Miss Vale, I bet you can’t wait to sign up for that.” Annie looks over her shoulder to where he is pointing and lets out a soft laugh as she reads the Summer Bay High School Musical Sign Up Sheet.

“I don’t think I’ll be signing up for anything for a while. But if you sign up, I’ll consider coming to the show.” She’s smiling up at him again, and his stomach seems to do this flip-flop thing, and it’s all he can do but choke out some sort of response.

“Yeah, yeah. That’s completely impossible.”

“What’s impossible, Aden?” Aden almost involuntarily shudders, but makes himself grin as Matilda waltzes past him, completely ignoring Annie’s presence, and goes straight to the notice board.

Pulling out a bright pink felt-tip pen she flourishes her hand over the page, leaving behind her full name in curly letters.

“Oh,” she says, feigning surprise. It’s like she’s noticed Annie for the very first time. “Were going to sign up too? My brother and I have starred in all the school’s productions. But we always welcome new-comers. There are a lot of supporting roles in the show.” She places the emphasis on supporting, and Aden rolls his eyes.

Aden’s not entirely sure why he puts up with her. She’s clearly a drama queen, and doesn’t think about anyone but herself, but she always brings him cupcakes on his birthday and is attractive to look at, so.

“No, no, no,” Annie stutters, and Aden doesn’t really blame her for being intimidated. Matilda is a lot to take in all at once; fortunately Aden has had a lot of practice. “I was just looking around.” But then she begins to walk away. “Nice penmanship,” Annie comments, sneaking Aden one final glance, and Matilda is left just glaring at her. Wow, is all Aden can think.

Thinking that he was finished, Aden begins to leave as well. But then Matilda has sidled right up next to him and asks, “So Aden, I didn’t see you over the summer. What’d you do?”

“You know, um,” Why is this question suddenly so hard? “Play football, snowboarding, play football.” He knows he has left out one giant part of his holiday, but for some reason he doesn’t want to go spreading around that he sang karaoke and now he thinks he might like Annie. Just a little bit. Because it’s stupid, and he knows his friends. They’ll call him a girl and all he wants to focus on right now is the Big Game.

“When’s the big game?” Matilda asks. It’s like she can read his mind.

“Two weeks.”

“You are so dedicated,” Matilda coos. “Just like me!” That thought seems to please her. “I hope you come watch me in the musical. Promise?”

She’s looking at him all sweetly, but Aden is fairly certain that saying no to Matilda Hunter is like withholding meat from a mountain lion. You just don’t do it, unless you want your hand bitten off. So Aden nods, and then gets away as quickly as possible.


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there's not a star in heaven (that we can't reach)

Part 2/5

The thing is, Aden can’t stop thinking about it. This adrenaline rush he felt surge through his body as he belted out those notes. It’s the same kind of feeling he used to get when he made an awesome pass or scored the winning points in a game. He wants to feel it again, craves it almost. To have his blood pumping, mind whirling, but no amount of laps around the field, practice passes or weights training seem to be helping. Aden can’t get it back. He’s chasing it, and throwing everything he has into preparing for the game, but his mind seems to be elsewhere.


Aden is still not sure what he’s doing there. Sneaking into the back of the school theatre to watch auditions instead of being on the football field. It’s like, completely ridiculous, and if any of his team mates found out he would never hear the end of it. He already had to lie about it, scooting past Drew in the hallway saying he had homework to catch up on before doubling back and walking up the steps to the theatre. So, now he’s hiding behind a cleaning cart left behind by the janitor, peering through the head of a mop to watch tone deaf teenagers get up on stage and belt out a song that sounds like some sort of whale mating call. Seriously.

He almost jumps out of his skin when a small voice says, “Hey,” right beside him.

“So, you decided to sign up for something?” she asks coyly. Her cheeks slightly pink, even in the dimly lit theatre. Aden just kind of shrugs off this feeling of butterflies in his stomach.

“Uh, no. You?” Annie shakes her head in reply.

They turn and stare at the stage. A lanky boy with flaming red hair gets on stage and opens his mouth. Nothing comes out.

“Thank you. Next,” Miss Vale says without waiting.

“Miss Vale is a little ... harsh,” Aden says in a low voice, trying to avoid drawing attention to the fact that the butterflies in his stomach seem to be doing somersaults.

“The Summer Bay Superstar is afraid?” Annie’s lips turn up at the sides, a shy smile appearing.

“Nah, I’m not afraid,” Aden replies, waving his hand aimlessly, like he does this every day. “I’m just ...” Annie is looking at him expectantly. “Scared,” he admits, hanging his head a little. He can’t believe he just said it out loud. He’s played football in front of the entire school and never been nervous. Now, he’s watching kids get rejected by a drama teacher and suddenly his throat is exceedingly dry.

“Me too,” Annie says quietly, and Aden immediately feels slightly better. Like maybe he can still talk.

Suddenly Miss Vale is standing up in the very front row of seats, hands outstretched like she’s addressing an audience, not an empty school auditorium. “Now, for the lead roles of Arnold and Minnie we only have one couple signed up.” She pauses, (some sort of dramatic effect?), then smiles. “Matilda and Henry, I think it might be useful for you to give us a sense of why we are gathered in this hallowed hall.”

Matilda and Henry stand from where they were sitting in the second row. The already rejected students stare up at them as Matilda leads the way, blonde hair shimmering under the stage lighting. Her twin brother Henry, slightly shorter, polished shoes squeaking, follows. He leans over saying something to a girl who is sitting at the piano, already on the stage. Aden hadn’t noticed her before. She kind of shrinks back into her stool, taking her fingers off the keys as music starts from somewhere backstage.

Aden nudges at Annie’s side and they slink quietly into the very back row, watching in a mixture of awe and horror as Matilda and Henry begin clicking their fingers and tapping across the stage. Aden can see Annie is holding back a smile as Henry does an elaborate jazz square followed by a one handed cartwheel, while Matilda parades around in front of him, stealing his spotlight.

When it is over (thank goodness it’s over) they bow, Matilda shoots what can only be described as a glare at the girl at the piano, who is forced to begin the round of applause. Matilda is blowing a kiss to someone in the small assembled crowd while Miss Vale stands.

“Any last minute sign-ups?” she asks to no one in particular as students begin to filter out.

Aden stands, ready to sneak out unnoticed, whispering, “We should probably go,” to Annie.

“No? Good. Done,” he hears Miss Vale reply to herself.

He doesn’t realise Annie isn’t following him until it’s too late.

“I’d like to audition Miss Vale.”

Aden stops, freezing on the spot before forcing himself to hide behind a pillar and watch as Annie walks down the aisle of the theatre. Miss Vale stops, handbag already on her arm, ready to leave.

“Punctuality means something in the world of theatre, Miss Campbell. The individual auditions are long over and there are simply no other pairs.”

That’s ridiculous, Aden finds himself thinking. Why is Miss Vale turning her away? She was always asking for more volunteers to be part of her plays and musicals and whatever, and now she’s not even hearing her sing. Annie is still standing in the middle of the aisle, alone, as Miss Vale turns away.

Aden doesn’t even know what comes over him. He’s raising his hand taking one large step out from behind the pillar and announcing, “I’ll sing with her.” Because really, if it’s because Annie doesn’t have someone to sing with, then he’s not going to just sit back and do nothing. He doesn’t want to be in the show, but clearly Annie does. So he’s doing something about it.

“Aden Jefferies?” Miss Vale sounds surprised by his appearance, also, slightly suspicious. “Where is your sports posse, or whatever it’s called?”

“Team,” he replies simply. But that’s not the point right now. “Um, but, I’m here alone.” He takes a deep breath, and did someone turn the air conditioning off because it is really hot in here. “Actually, I came to sing with her.”

Miss Vale is looking down at him like she still can’t quite believe Aden is standing before her asking for a chance to sing. “I see,” she says. “Well, we take these shows very seriously at Summer Bay High. I called for the pairs auditions and you didn’t respond. Free period is now over.”

“She has an amazing voice,” Aden insists.

“Perhaps the next musical,” and that is final.

Miss Vale disappears into the darkness and Aden can see the disappointment in Annie’s face. She gives him a small shrug like it really didn’t matter, but he still feels bad. Like there is something more he should be able to do.

Then there’s this loud thud and Aden turns to see the piano girl sprawled across the stage, musical sheets and papers flying out of her hands. Without thinking he jogs up the stairs at the side of the stage and begins gathering up the pages. Annie follows and helps too and soon he’s passing all the arrangements back to the girl.

Up close she’s quite cute. Her curly hair is back in a pony tail, a single plait tucked behind her ear and Aden recognises her from some of his classes. Actually, Aden thinks she might be in his homeroom -- Riley or Rosie or something.

“So, you’re a composer?” Aden asks her as she stands up. He offers her a hand but she just stares back at him, eyes bugging out slightly.

Aden tries again. “You wrote the song Matilda and Henry just sang?” She only manages a weak nod in reply, hands still shaking as she begins to reorganise her sheet music. “And the entire show?” Again, a nod. “Well, that’s really cool. I look forward to hearing the rest of the show.”

She still looks slightly terrified, although Aden can’t quite comprehend what she thinks he’s going to do to her. Maybe she’s just afraid of everyone.

“So, why are you so afraid of Matilda and Henry? I mean, it is your show,” Aden says.

“It is?” It’s barely a squeak, but it is a response nonetheless. It feels like some sort of achievement.

“Isn’t the composer of a show kind of like the captain in football? Like, you’re the one who makes everyone else look good. Without you there is no show. You’re the captain here --” Aden hesitates, a question dangling at the end of the sentence.

“Ruby,” the piano girl supplies. Aden totally knew that. But she’s smiling now, looking between Aden and Annie, something passing over her expression that Aden can’t quite read. “Do you want to hear how the duet is supposed to sound?”

Annie is nodding and leading him towards the piano. Ruby sits down arranging her pages so both he and Annie can see. It’s just a blur of black dots and squiggles, really. Aden cannot read sheet music. Apparently Annie can though, because as Ruby begins to play, the soft, smooth melody echoing throughout the room, she begins to sing.

It’s like he’s hearing her voice for the very first time again. Sweet and delicate, each word hovering on the note, perfectly in pitch. Again, Aden is caught up in the music, in letting the words on the page enter his mind and come out his mouth. He catches Annie’s eye and she’s smiling back at him, her pink lips singing the words to the song; I’ve finally found / what I’ve been looking for.

Aden can hear is own heart, thumping in his chest, beating in time to the music (in time to Annie). He’s startled when a voice calls out, “Jefferies. Campbell. You have a call back. Ruby, give them the duet from the second act. Work on it with them.”


All Aden remembers is that Miss Vale appeared out of nowhere proclaiming that he had a call back for the school musical. Which is ridiculous on so many levels because he a) has football practice every spare moment of his life, b) doesn’t sing, and c) hasn’t told anyone he has even thought about doing musical theatre. But Annie was smiling at him and Ruby was babbling on about coming to her house and working on the song, while sheet music had magically appeared in his hands.

Things seem to go from bad to worse. Drew and rest of the team find out, although that’s not really surprising since the list is posted on a notice board outside their homeroom for anyone to walk past and read. But still, Aden walks into the Diner, minding his own business when he hears a high pitched shriek.

Matilda is fanning herself like she might be ready to faint, while she has what appears to be fries and tomato sauce smeared down the front of her uniform. Aden just watches as Annie appears to help, gathering up napkins and beginning to mop up the mess. But Matilda is fuming, cheeks bright red, eyes wide, and Belle Taylor ushers Annie away before Matilda has time to retaliate.

Aden slides into a booth next to Drew, their usual spot in the corner.

“You do not want to get involved in that, dude,” Drew tells him. “Too much drama.”

“What’s up?” Aden asks casually.

“What’s up?” Drew parrots. “Uh, let’s see. You missed a workout yesterday to audition for some heinous musical.” Aden just blinks, while Drew continues. “Don’t you see what’s going on here? Our team is coming apart because of your singing thing. They’ve got you thinking about show tunes when we’ve got a playoff game next week.”

The thing is, Drew is sort of right. He has been thinking about the song, about performing, about Annie. The way it felt to be up on that stage with nothing but him and the music. He knows a lot is riding on this game, has heard from his dad about the state team scouts that are supposed to be there, but it was nice to not feel that pressure for a while. To just escape from it all, and do something because he enjoyed it, not because he had to.


Maybe it was a bit premature to invite Annie out. But he shoved a small hand written note in her locker between third and fourth, hoping that she’d read it and come looking for him. Now he’s sitting on a rock, sheltered from the breeze that has just picked up, watching the waves roll in before ebbing out. It’s the same pattern, predictable, and Aden thinks any normal person would be sick of it. Watching the same thing over and over again, but it’s like football plays, he can keep replaying them over and over again inside his mind, never considering that anyone else would get bored. This little alcove is Aden’s sanctuary, a spot that no one else ever visits, except now. Maybe. If Annie decides she wants to show up.

He’s thinking about leaving, when he sees a small figure approaching. The afternoon sun overhead makes it appear as though she has some kind of halo as she walks along the sandy shore.

“Wow,” she says, gazing out over the ocean when she reaches his side. Aden pats a spot next to him on the flat stone. They sit in comfortable silence, both of them staring out over the horizon.

Aden thinks about reaching out and taking her hand. Her fingers are tapping out a beat on the rock and it would be so easy to just reach out. But maybe it’s too soon. His palms are sweating and the rolling of the waves is suddenly making him nauseous, so maybe it’s not a good idea after all.

“It’s so peaceful here,” Annie says, her voice cutting through Aden’s internal struggle. “Do you – do you come here often?”

“Yeah, sometimes. It’s a good place to just think, you know? Get away from everything. Everyone.”

Aden sneaks a glance in Annie’s direction, and she’s looking up at him, brow furrowed, some sort of confusion in her eyes. Aden can see her concentrating, like the little cogs inside her head are turning, trying to piece him together like some sort of complicated math problem. It’s a bit unnerving. Aden looks away, clearing his throat.

“It’s got to be tricky,” Annie says, looking back over the seas like nothing has happened, “Being the coach’s son.”

Aden nods. “He makes me practice a bit harder, I guess.” Which is pretty much the understatement of the year. And then it dawns on him, this feeling of doom swelling from somewhere inside. “I don’t know how he’s going to react when he finds out about the singing thing.”

“You worried?”

“Everyone in the Bay knows me as The Football Guy. Telling my parents they must be so ... proud.” Aden lets the disappointment seep into his tone. It’s not that he’s ungrateful for his talent. But at every community function family friends, town council members, people who Aden doesn’t even know come up and slap him on the shoulder and tell him to keep up the good work. It’d be nice for once, to be able to walk around without his dad throwing an arm around his shoulder and smiling down at him as he gushes about the last game-winning pass Aden has made. What happens if they lose? “Sometimes I don’t wanna be The Football Guy. Sometimes I just wanna be a guy, you know?”

Annie is looking up at him curiously, but her face relaxes and she smiles shyly. “I saw the way you were with Ruby at the audition. Do your friends know that guy?”

Aden just kind of shrugs. Talking to Annie, it’s the first time he’s really been honest, with anyone. With himself. He doesn’t know why, but he just feels comfortable. Like, she’s not going to laugh at him like Drew would, or try to make out with him like Matilda, or just tell him he’s in a rut and needs to train harder like his dad.

“At my other school I was the shy little girl who was home-schooled. It’s cool coming here and being anyone I want to be.” She’s gazing at Aden, pink lips turned up in a smile. “When I was singing with you I just felt like ... a girl.” Annie shakes her head, knowing how silly it sounds. But Aden get’s it. Being up on that stage, Aden wasn’t just The Football Guy. He was someone else entirely. Someone who could sing, someone who felt emotion, someone who could let the melody of a song take over his body.

“You even looked like one too,” Aden quips, because maybe they are getting into deep and meaningful territory, and Aden likes Annie, but he’s not sure whether he’s ready for her to know everything just yet. Fortunately, Annie giggles, getting the joke. But then he realises he wants to be serious, for just one more moment. “I certainly never thought about singing. Until you.”

The sun is warm, but even with the heat of the rays, Aden can see the blush spread along Annie’s cheeks. She has these cute freckles across her nose, and Aden smiles goofily in return.

“So, you really want to do the call backs?” Annie asks.

This is his one out. His one chance to come to his senses and Aden knows that he should be saying no. He knows exactly how his friends are going to react if he auditions for this musical thing. Knows that he should be focussing on the game and football training and he doesn’t even know if he’ll have time to rehearse, but before he can back out he’s saying yes and there is no going back now.

Aden glances down at his watch realising the time and mutters something about having to get back to school. He can see Annie’s shoulder’s sag, like he’s leaving her behind, but then he’s actually reaching out and taking her hand and he’s dragging her along the beach.

It doesn’t go unnoticed that their fingers remain intertwined until they are just outside the gates. Only so Aden can make sure Annie can keep up, is all.


Apparently getting involved with this musical thing is a lot more complicated than Aden could have envisioned. He’s been roped into painting sets and meeting Ruby in the music room (which, Aden didn’t even know they had) to practice the song for the call back during his one free period.

Once, he thought he heard footsteps coming and panicked. Aden clamped his mouth shut and held his breath as the footsteps got louder and then stopped. He’d managed to keep his audition a secret for this long; he really didn’t want it getting out now. That Henry Hunter kid, Matilda’s brother, the one with the many different hats, had even started poking around his locker and watching him in a weird way in the Diner when he was eating lunch. It was a bit unnerving.


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there's not a star in heaven (that we can't reach)

Part 3/5

Aden is late for practice (again).

It’s not even like he did it on purpose. He was with Annie and Ruby, rehearsing in the music room making sure they had the bridge down perfectly, and they all completely lost track of time. As soon as Aden had realised he’d sprinted to the boy’s locker room and changed into his football uniform and run to the field.

Even from a distance he can see his father standing on the sidelines, clipboard in hand. He grabs his whistle from around his neck and blows. A high-pitched squeal erupts and the boys stop running, descending on the coach. They are huddled around him and Aden can hear his dad dismiss them for the evening as he jogs to the edge of the oval.

As the team pass him, heading back towards the change rooms, Lucas looks confused, Jules rolls his eyes and Drew just shakes his head at Aden. Aden sighs, waiting beside his father for the lecture that is about to come.

But it doesn’t. There is just silence between them as Aden picks up the oval ball and states to no one in particular that he’s going to practice his kicking. His father makes some snide comment about the team deserving a bit of effort from him, and Aden tries to make himself care. He’s sure his dad can hear him rolling his eyes in return, even though he can’t see Aden’s face.

Aden has only just picked up the oval ball, preparing to kick it with as much frustration as humanly possible, not even caring if it goes anywhere near the goal post. But then there’s this voice behind him and Aden spins around frantically.

“So, this is your real stage?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess,” Aden mutters, tossing the ball from one hand to the other. Annie is just watching him, and he can see the blue in her eyes and the afternoon breeze picks up and her skirt maybe flutters a bit around her knees and the ball tumbles out of his grasp. Embarrassed, Aden bends over and goes to pick it back up, but then Annie is swooping in and snatching it from right under his nose.

Aden is momentarily in shock. The girl has some serious reflexes. She’s laughing at him now, holding the ball out in one hand.

“I’m gonna need that back,” Aden says dumbly, taking a couple of steps forward. He’s closed the gap between them, he could reach out and take the ball if he wanted. But she’s smiling up at him, cheeks flushed, lips slightly parted and he wants to kiss them. Kiss her. If this were some kind of movie, there would be a swell in the music, a light breeze, and he’d lean over and whisper something romantic in her ear before touching her cheek.

But Annie obviously has other ideas because she’s giggling and then disappearing. Running off across the field, Aden stares for a moment, watching as she gracefully twirls around and waits for Aden to chase after her. He reaches her easily and clamps both his hands around her waist before she can run off again, and suddenly they are impossibly close. He can feel her breath on his skin, the ball pulled tightly into her chest, and his heart is hammering inside his body. His cheeks flush with redness, but he’s hardly even run.

Carefully, cautiously Aden pries the ball from Annie’s grasp then takes a step back, because right now he can’t really handle being this close to her without doing something stupid. “Uh, just so you know. I missed practice, so if I get kicked off the team it should be on your conscience.”

“Hey, I wasn’t the one who told you to --” Annie stammers out a reply, slightly defensive. He kind of likes it.

“Annie, I was kidding,” Aden replies with a smile, and something inside him loosens slightly.

The moment is spoiled by a short sharp whistle and both Annie and Aden look across the field to where Aden’s dad is walking purposefully towards them, whistle swinging around his neck.

“Excuse me, Miss! This is a closed practice,” he shouts across the grass, and Aden’s hands instantly ball into fists. What is his dad doing?

“Dad, c’mon. Practice is over,” Aden replies when he reaches them. He can feel Annie’s eyes on him, flicking between the two of them.

“Not until the last player leaves the field,” Dad responds. “Team rule.”

Aden has never heard of this so-called rule before. He knows exactly what his father is doing. He’s making a point. Since he started working on this musical Aden has been spending more time with Annie. Ruby too. And so maybe his football has suffered a little. But his dad has no right to waltz in and dump this all on Annie. Aden is old enough to make his own decisions. No one is forcing him to do anything he doesn’t want to.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Annie apologises.

“Dad, this is Annie Campbell,” Aden supplies. Annie politely produces her hand for Aden’s dad to shake, but he ignores it.

She gives Aden a brief smile. “I’ll see you later, Aden.”

Aden can’t even watch as she leaves, walking away from the field. Aden just squeezes his fists tighter, feeling his nails dig into his palm. Aden and his dad rarely fight. Sure, they’ve had arguments before. Little things, really. Like, when Aden and Drew kicking the football around in his backyard at the start of year eight and they may have accidentally broken a window and then not told his dad about it. They kind of just panicked and ran away to the park, pretending they had been there the whole time. Somehow, his dad had found out (Aden still doesn’t know how) and had lectured him on the importance of honesty. He wasn’t even that mad about the window, more about the fact that Aden had lied about it. He was sent to his room, grounded for the week and had his allowance reduced to pay for a new window. But after that week of no TV, no computer, Dad never mentioned it again.

Similarly, last year when Aden wanted to go to Jules’ party, but it was the night before the finals and Dad was adamant that Aden couldn’t go. Not even for a little while and then leave. Aden had stormed into his room, slamming the door and yelling that he hated everyone. But after a while of pounding his pillow and sending off some aggressive text messages to Drew, he’d calmed down enough to realise that the finals were important, and Dad was only looking out for him.

“You haven’t missed practice in three years,” Dad is saying. “Suddenly this girl shows up --”

That girl is named Annie,” Aden retorts. “And she’s very nice.” That doesn’t even begin to describe her, really. But it’s all he’s got right now.

“Well, helping you miss practice doesn’t make her very nice,” Dad replies. “Not in my book. Or your team’s.”

“Dad, she’s not a problem. She’s just a girl,” Aden says, raising his voice slightly. Why is this so hard for his dad to understand?

“But you’re not just a guy, Aden!” his dad yells. Aden stops, breath hitching in his chest. He’s using that voice he uses when he’s trying to rally the team. Trying to get everyone’s attention right before a game. They’re in the locker rooms and Ric Dalby has lost a sock and Lucas still has his nose in a book and Drew is already doing push ups and his dad will yell “Huddle Up!” and everyone will suddenly be all eyes and ears. Dad must realise that he’s gone slightly too far, because Aden watches as he takes a deep breath before extending his hand and talking in a more even tone. “You’re the team leader. What you do affects not only this team, but the entire school. And without you completely focused, we’re not gonna win next week. The championship games - they don’t come along all the time. They’re something special.”

“Yeah, well. A lot of things are special, Dad.”

“But you’re a playmaker.” It’s almost like he’s pleading with him. “You’re not a singer.” He puts a bit of a laugh in his voice, like maybe it’s one big joke. But this only makes Aden more determined.

“Did you ever think maybe I could be both?” Aden asks. He doesn’t even wait for his dad to reply, just drops the football he’s still holding and stalks off the field. Aden is still riled up. He’s just putting one foot in front of the other and trying to remain calm and not to turn around and get into another argument with his dad. He’s so focused on all of that that he doesn’t even notice Drew and Jules hanging out in the bleachers, watching the scene unfold.

They share a look and Drew just shakes his head.


It wasn’t only his Dad that was giving Aden grief about the call back. Apparently Drew was the spokesperson for the football team. Aden had taken to hiding from his teammates in between classes. Normally he’d be all in favour of hitting the beach or hanging at the Diner, but recently Aden had been forced to abandon any sort of public location in favour of the school library, just so that he could avoid the disapproving looks his so-called friends were giving him.

Aden had to give them props for effort though. Drew had tried everything from making out like Annie was the bad guy, to saying he would have to wear leotards and makeup in the show, to being fair game for his mum’s crazy diet ideas. Apparently Jazz Curtis uses visual aids to help her lose weight. Aden got a bit too much information from that one.

Aden was feeling especially guilty for dragging Annie into all of this as well. Apparently Matilda had done some of her own research and sized her up as perfect for some sort of smart kids club. Annie was, according to Matilda, a certified genius, and had convinced Belle Taylor to invite her to be part of the Scholastic Decathlon. Aden would still meet up with Annie for rehearsals with Ruby but he could tell everything was getting to her. Her hair would be falling out of her pony tail, little lines appearing under her eyes, but she wouldn’t complain. If she was stressed out, she didn’t say anything, and her singing voice certainly hadn’t been affected by the extra load she was carrying.

Time kept passing them by as they rehearsed, the date of the call back edging closer. He would sometimes catch himself humming under his breath as he ran laps around the football field or tapping his pen on the edge of his desk in math class. At some point during the term things changed. For the first time during rehearsal with Annie, when she would sing and meet his eye, Aden knew that without a doubt, he wanted this.


Not everyone shared Aden’s enthusiasm for performing.

He was walking into the boys’ change room, ready to get his gear on for practice when he rounded the corner and came face to face with his entire team. They were sitting on the benches normally reserved for changing or stretching, but now there are pictures frames and trophies and they are all dressed in uniform and Aden suddenly feels outnumbered.

Aden’s about to ask what is going on when Drew begins to speak.

“Tony Holden, class of ’72. He was the MVP in the league championship game.”

“Nick Smith,” Jules continues, “Class of ’02. Captain, MVP of a league championship game.”

Lucas pipes up. “ ‘The Mayor’ Josh West, ’95. Led the team to back-to-back city championships. A legend.”

“Yes,” Drew agrees, staring back at Aden. “Legends, one and all. But do you think that any of these Summer Bay legends became legends by getting involved in musical auditions.”

Suddenly it all makes sense. Since Drew couldn’t get Aden to quit the audition by himself, he’s gone in for back up. Aden can’t keep himself from rolling his eyes. It’s all a bit excessive really. He’s just as committed to the team now as he was at the start of the year. Just because he’s spending some of his time in the auditorium as opposed to the gym, doesn’t mean he cares any less.

“Get your head in the game!” all the boys shout, snapping Aden out of his reverie.

“Now who was the first year eight to make the senior football squad?” Drew asks to no one in particular.

“Aden!” the team responds.

“So who voted him our team captain?” Drew asks again, voice reverberating around the enclosed space.


“And who is going to get their sorry butts kicked in Friday’s championship game if Aden is worried about an audition?” Drew questions.

“We are,” the boys reply, completely deflated.

“Guys, come on,” Aden says. He’s staring at each of the boys, eyes lingering on Drew for a just a fraction longer than the rest. “I mean, there’s 12 people on this team not just me.”

“Just 12?” Drew challenges. “Oh no, I think you are forgetting one very important 13th member of our squad.” He picks up one of the picture frames and hands it to Aden.

He takes it, staring for a moment at the faded photograph. It’s a young man, no older than Aden. He’s wearing the Summer Bay green and white stripes, football tucked neatly under his right arm. His face is one Aden would recognise anywhere. “My dad,” Aden says, throat suddenly dry and low.

“Yes, Aden.” It’s Drew’s voice again. “Summer Bay football champion class of 1981. Champion, father, and now coach. It’s a winning tradition like no other.”

Aden can’t tear his eyes away from the portrait. He’s heard his dad tell the stories often enough. Of a time when he was the youngest captain in history, how he scored right on the final siren to put the team in front by two points. He often hears his voice inside his head at night, when he’s trying to sleep and can’t get his brain to switch off. Just imagining the scene, knowing how much it meant to his dad then. How much it means to him now. The only thing that could give this story its perfect fairytale ending is if Aden could do the same. Lead a Summer Bay team to victory.

Aden looks up; every member of the team is staring back at him. They put their trust in him when they voted him as captain. They believed that he had the skill and the motivation to give them the win that they have all been dreaming about. He owes them that championship.

“Guys, if you don’t know that I’ll put one hundred and ten percent of my guts into that game, then you don’t know me.”

“But we just thought –” Drew interjects, but Aden isn’t finished.

“I’ll tell you what I thought. I thought that you’re my friends. Win together, lose together. Teammates.”

“But suddenly the girl ... and the singing,” Drew says.

Aden has to make them realise, has to gain back their trust. He has to make them see that he wants this as much as they do. That he’s willing to do anything to get that championship, anything not to let his dad down. Not to let the rest of the team down. Aden should never have done anything to make them doubt that.

“Man, I’m for the team!” Aden says, exasperated. “I’ve always been for the team. She’s just someone I met, alright? The singing thing is nothing. Probably just a way to keep my nerves down, I don’t know. It means nothing to me. You’re my guys and this is our team. Annie is not important. I’ll forget about her, I’ll forget the audition and we’ll go out and get that championship. Everyone happy now?”

The team are watching with rapt attention, no one moving while Aden speaks. He is their captain after all.

Then Jules lets out a “Whoop!” in celebration and the boys erupt. They are patting him on the back and saying how they never doubted him as they usher him out of the change room. Aden is grinning as Ric ruffles his hair and slaps his upper arm. He didn’t realise how much he missed this, missed them. Even though he didn’t go anywhere, Aden feels as though he’s got his team back. And with all this cheering and energy, Aden suddenly realises that maybe they have got what it takes to win the championship.


Aden goes looking for Annie right after lunch. There’s this moment where he’s just watching her as she stacks her books away and Aden catches himself with this goofy smile on his face. He rearranges the features on his face so that he appears to look calm and nonchalant, and strolls up to her side.

“Hey, how’re you going?” Aden asks. Annie either doesn’t hear him (which is highly unlikely since he’s standing right beside her) or she ignores him. Aden clears his throat and continues anyway. “Listen, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Annie then turns to face him, her blue eyes staring directly at him. “Then here it is,” she says, and Aden notices how her eyes are slightly red, cheeks pink, like maybe she’s been crying. “I know what it’s like to carry a load with your friends. I get it. You’ve got your boys, Aden. It’s okay. So, we’re good.”

She turns back to her locker and Aden realises he has no idea what she’s talking about.

“Good about what? I was going to talk to you about the final callbacks.”

Annie sighs and looks over at him again, hugging a book close to her chest. “I don’t want to do the callbacks either. Who are we trying to kid? You’ve got your team and now I’ve got mine. I’ll do the scholastic decathlon and you’ll win the championships. It’s where we belong.” She reaches into her locker and pulls out a folded piece of paper and hands it to Aden. Then she closes her locker and walks away.

Aden is left stunned. He’s standing by Annie’s locker with this useless piece of paper in his hands and she’s walking away.

“Annie,” he tries to call after her, but she’s gone.

Looking at his hands he unfolds the page and see’s her loopy handwriting and his stomach sinks. It’s Annie's copy of ‘Breaking Free’.


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there's not a star in heaven (that we can't reach)

Part 4/5

Everything sucks, Aden decides.

Annie isn’t talking to him and he can’t seem to think about anything else. He doesn’t sit with Drew and the rest of the team at lunch, instead retreats to the beach, where he watches the waves and tries to work out where it all went wrong. It’s not like they’ve broken up, because it’s not like he was actually dating Annie, but he was spending so much time with her rehearsing for the show, and then suddenly she’s avoiding him in the corridors and leaving the Diner when he arrives, that it feels as though she’s dumped him. For Belle Taylor and her smart friends.

At one point Aden catches Drew and Belle talking, with their heads down and in hushed voices, that he’s not entirely sure what to make of it. Drew looks up and catches his eye, and quickly scurries up to him - babbling on about plays and passes and when’s the next practice? - all the while ushering him in the opposite direction. He’s so confused about Annie that he doesn’t even bother to ask what is going on.

The problem is that this deep funk he’s in, isn’t only affecting him. It’s affecting the team too. He’s dropping passes at training, and messing up plays. Simple ones that he used to be able to do in his sleep. His dad has obviously noticed, but hasn’t said anything. For that, at least, Aden is grateful.

Aden is picking at his sandwich, tossing bits of his crust at a lone seagull. It pecks at the stale bread before flapping its wings and taking off. Even the freaking birdlife is rejecting him.

A shadow passes over him and at first Aden thinks that the sun must have just gone behind a cloud. But then it doesn’t move, and it is shaped like a person, so Aden is forced to look up, to see Drew, flanked by Jules and Ric, staring down at him.

“Hey,” Drew says. He glances sidelong at Jules. “Um, we had another team meeting.”

“Oh,” Aden replies. “Wonderful.” He virtually has to hold back the urge to roll his eyes. How much worse could things get? They’ve all taken a vote and decided he is no longer their captain. Or he’s been playing so badly they’re kicking him off the team. Aden really doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. But he’s sitting in the sand and they’re looking down on him like he’s a pathetic loser, so he doesn’t really have any opportunity to get up and leave. Instead he avoids eye contact and watches the ocean.

Aden hears Drew suck in a deep breath. “We had a team meeting about how we haven’t been acting like a team. I mean us, not you.” Well, that wasn’t what Aden was expecting. But Drew isn’t finished. “Look, about the singing thing –”

“Look, dude, I don’t even wanna talk about it.” Aden has really had enough people telling him that auditioning for the school musical is a stupid idea. Clearly Annie agrees with them.

“We just want you to know that we’re going to be there, okay? Cheering for you.” Aden looks up, and Drew actually sounds sincere. There’s no twinkle in his eye or smirk on his lips that tells Aden he’s kidding.

“Huh?” Aden can’t hide his surprise.

“Yeah, if singing is something you want to do, we should be boosting you up, not tearing you down,” Ric says.

“Yeah,” Drew agrees with a nod. “Win or lose, we’re teammates. That’s what we’re about.”

Aden is close to his team, particularly Drew. They’ve been friends for what seems like forever, but they’ve never talked about feelings or whatever. They’re guys, they don’t do that. The only indication of support or ‘I’ve got your back’ is the occasional slap on the back of high five in the middle of the football field. So this is beginning to get into foreign territory, but then the corner of his mouth twitches up and Drew adds, “Even if you turn out to be the worst singer in the world.”

“Which, we don’t know, because we haven’t actually heard you sing,” Jules concludes.

“And, you’re not gonna hear me sing, guys.” Aden hates to burst this bubble of team spirit that has come over these guys, but realistically this whole singing thing isn’t going to happen. He doesn’t want to say it’s because of Annie, but. It sort of is. “Because Annie won’t even talk to me, and I don’t know why,” he finishes pitifully.

Something passes between the three guys standing overhead, but it’s so quick that Aden isn’t even sure that it happened. But then Drew is opening his mouth and his voice is small and timid.

“We do.”


So, apparently that conversation Aden saw between Drew and Belle wasn’t a one off. They had completely choreographed the whole situation. Confronting Aden in the locker room, making him pledge his allegiance to the team, telling them all he’d forget about singing with Annie so they would lay off. Yep, all of it was a set up. Annie heard the whole thing. Which, if Aden wasn’t so furious with them, he would be kind of impressed.

But now at least he can try and fix things.

He feels a bit like a creeper as he scouts out her house. He doesn’t know how he convinced Belle to give him her address, but she seemed keen to make up for what she and Drew did, so he’s thankful for that. Plus, he thinks Drew might have said he’d take her out to dinner if she helped them.

So now he’s taking slow, quiet steps around the side of the wooden farmhouse. He feels a bit like a ninja, except then he steps on a stick and it cracks. Aden freezes, eyes darting up to the house. He lets out a breath and continues when he’s convinced himself that no one heard him. In the grand scheme of things, one twig breaking isn’t likely to cause alarm, particularly when you live on a farm.

He thinks he’s finally got it figured out. A white framed window with soft curtains, a soft yellow light making the room glow, and Aden is convinced he’s seen Annie wandering passed.

Bending down he picks up a small pebble and tosses it at the window. It hits the glass with a small tap. He waits, but nothing happens. Then, he gets another idea. Aden takes out his phone, and hits call. Her number is still the first in his contacts.

She picks up on the third ring, her voice small and seeming far away. “Hello?”

“What you heard, none of that is true,” Aden blurts out before she has a chance to hang up. “I was sick of my friends riding me about singing with you, so I said things I knew would shut them up. I didn’t mean any of it.”

“You sounded pretty convincing to me,” she replies and Aden’s stomach sinks. She just sounds so sad.

“Listen, the guy you met on holiday is way more me than the guy who said those stupid things.”

“Aden.” The way she says his name makes his stomach do this flip-flop thing. “The whole singing thing is making the school crazy, you said so yourself. Everyone’s treating you differently because of it.”

He needs to convince her, say something to make her change her mind. “Maybe I don’t want to only be the football guy. They can’t handle it. That’s not my problem, it’s theirs.”

“What about your dad?”

“And it’s not about my dad. This is about how I feel, and I’m not letting the team down,” because he knows that’s what she’s going to say next. “They let me down.” Then he takes a deep breath, pausing for a moment, because this is it. “So, I’m going to sing. What about you?”

There’s silence on the end of the line. “I don’t know, Aden,” Annie says finally.

“Well, you need to say yes. Because,” Aden doesn’t know why this suddenly much harder to say out loud. “I brought you something.”

“What do you mean?”

Aden is standing outside her window and he can see her stop pacing just in front of him, but she’s facing away from him.

“Turn around.”

Annie turns and sees Aden standing there. She hangs up her phone and pulls back her curtain, before sliding open the window. It’s not exactly a big space, but Aden gets as close as he possibly can. He’s got his head in her window, feet on the ground outside, pulling a folded piece of paper from his pocket.

“It’s a pairs audition,” he says simply and finds himself biting back a smile as she blushes and takes the sheet music from his hand. Her fingers brush his hand and Aden hopes that Annie can’t tell that his heart suddenly speeds up and he can feel a rush of heat to his face.


Much to Aden’s surprise things begin to look up. It’s like a switch has been flicked on and everything falls into place. He’s busier than ever between practice for the Big Game, rehearsing with Annie and Ruby for the audition as well as the endless stream of homework the teachers insist on giving him. But, when he’s singing at the top of his lungs about reaching for stars and soaring high, he honestly believes he can do it. Do everything. Win the game, blitz the audition. Everything.

But then he’s walking down the school corridor and Ruby is staring at the notice board, a sullen look on her face. Aden stops when he reaches her side, Annie joining them and her face falls when she sees what Ruby is looking at.

Aden finally takes it in. He’s reading and re-reading the notice, his eyes darting across the words and he’s trying to get it to make sense. He doesn’t even notice that Drew, Jules, Ric and Belle have joined them and are also staring blankly at the page ahead.

“Callbacks the same time as the game?” Aden manages to say.

“And the scholastic decathlon,” Annie adds sadly.

“Why would they do that?” Belle asks to no one in particular.

“I smell a rat named Miss Vale,” Drew replies bitterly.

Then a small voice pipes up. “Actually a think it’s two rats. Neither of them named Vale,” Ruby says.

“Do you know something about this ... small person?” Drew asks, appraising Ruby up and down.

Aden thinks Ruby might be ready to do a runner. She blinks a few times in quick succession, but then she’s turning and facing him, addressing him directly. “Miss Vale might think that she’s protecting the show. But Matilda and Henry are pretty much only concerned with protecting themselves.”

“Do you know what I’m going to do to those two over-moused show dogs,” Drew bites out and Aden notices how he’s hand is balled into a tight fist. He’s on the balls of his feet, but then Aden cuts him off.

“Nothing. We’re not going to do anything to them,” he says as the idea is forming the back of him mind. “Except sing, maybe. But this is only going to happen with we all work together.” Aden is looking around at all the faces staring back at him. Football players and nerds and musicians standing side by side, like some sort of team. They’re actually listening to him.

“Now, who’s in?” Aden asks.


Apparently it pays to be friends with geniuses. Aden doesn’t really understand the actual workings of what Belle and Drew did, but looking down at them all, heads craning to see the computer screen, he feels this warmth inside, something like pride. All his friends, (yes, he’s even friends with Belle and Ruby now) working together for him. And then Annie caught his eye, smiling at him and he had to look away, otherwise he would break out into a stupid grin, which would totally ruin his whole cool persona.

But he can’t think about that now. He’s tying his laces, pulling up his socks in the change room. He can already hear a faint hum of a crowd filling the stands outside. The rest of the team already out on the field, starting their warm ups. He should be out there with them, leading the charge as it were. But he needed a minute.

He knows how much is riding on this game. How important it is to the team, to the school, to the town, and to his dad. Especially to his dad.

As if on cue, Aden hears footsteps and looks up to see his dad poke his head around into the locker room. He’s dressed in a suit, which is a change, but he’s still got a whistle dangling around his neck.

“How are you feeling?” he asks Aden.

“Nervous,” Aden confesses.

“Yeah, me too,” Dad replies, buttoning up his suit jacket and then undoing it again. “I wish I could suit up and play alongside you.”

“Hey, you had your turn,” Aden replies, letting the corners of his mouth turn up into a smirk.

Aden’s dad walks into the changing area, perching himself next to Aden on one of the wooden benches, taking a moment to just glance at his son.

“Do you know what I want from you today?” he asks, and Aden thinks that this is a bit of a redundant question.

“A championship,” Aden replies, like ‘duh’.

Dad shrugs. “Well, that’ll come or it won’t. What I want is for you to have fun.” It takes Aden a moment to take in what he’s just heard. His dad suddenly isn’t interested in a glimmering trophy or impressing university scouts, but on just being proud of him. Aden is beaming on the inside. “I know all about the pressure. And probably too much of it has come from me. What I really want is to see my son having the time of his life, playing the game we both love. You give me that, and I will sleep with a smile on my face, no matter how the score comes out.”

“Thanks Coach,” Aden replies, then he amends. “Uh ... Dad.”

His dad gives him a nod, before standing up, adjusting his suit one last time and leaving Aden alone once more.


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there's not a star in heaven (that we can't reach)

Part 5/5

Aden doesn’t have time to think about Annie and her competition, whether his plan is actually going to work, because as soon as he runs out onto that field there is a wash of green and white and Aden is engulfed in a loud cheer from the packed stands. It seems like almost the entire school has turned out. Almost, because Aden knows Matilda and Henry are probably preparing for their audition in the school auditorium with Miss Vale, while Annie and Belle are in the science labs balancing chemical equations for an adjudicator. But the stands are pretty much full, that he pretends not to notice. Drew slaps him on the back and Ric passes the ball, while Lucas is running drills down the sidelines with Jules.

The applause is broken by the announcer speaking into the microphone, his voice amplified across the field.

“... And now introducing the team from Summer Bay High for this championship game against Yabbie Creek.”

Aden can hear his father’s voice from the bench, shouting last minute instructions to the team, before Aden calls them into a huddle. They form a tight circle in the middle of the field, temporarily blocking out the calls from crowd, the taunts from the Yabbie Creek team and supporters. Aden just looks around at his teammates, his friends, and they all know what they need to do.

Drew puts his hand in the middle first, followed by Jules, and before long the whole team have their hands stacked high, Aden placing his on last, on the very top.

“Summer Bay!” they chant in unison before breaking apart and taking their positions on the field. The crowd erupts in applause and it takes all of Aden’s concentration to keep his eyes on the ball and not letting his mind wander to Annie and how she might be going. His opponent, a tall, thick-set boy with a shaved head is nudging him in the side with his elbows, already roughing him up. Aden knows it’s going to be a tough game.

It’s nearing the end of the first quarter and Ric has just caught the ball down the field, intercepting a pass from a Yabbie Creek player. He’s on his toes, running straight down the sidelines, seeing Drew out of his peripheral vision, passing it sidelong as Drew continues to run towards the line. Aden can’t seem to shake his opponent. He’s doubling back, just about ready to make a lead as Drew is being barrelled down on by two Yabbie Creek lunkheads, when all of sudden there is a rush of water. The two Yabbie Creek players stall, forgetting they are supposed to be tackling Drew, and Drew ceases to run. He’s looking around at the field, where both teams are staring in bewilderment as the irrigation system seems to have gone into overdrive. The sprinklers have popped up from the ground, soaking both the teams and the ground. The grass is now slippering and the naked patches of dirt are turning to mud. Aden is watching this all unfold, letting himself get wet, when Drew rushes up to him, nudging him hard in the back, silently telling him to ‘move it’.

Aden doesn’t even look at his dad as he sprints from the field. He runs to the change room, hearing the game announcer over the loud speakers.

“We seem to be experiencing some technical difficulties, uh. We’ve got a time out on the field. We have a problem. Stop the game.” There is a shrill whistle from the umpire. “The referee has signalled a time out. Everyone please remain calm.”

Aden tearing off his soggy football uniform, tossing his tracksuit over the top, when he hears the principal, Mr Bartlett over the speakers. “We’ll get this figured out very soon. In the meantime, per safety regulations, we need to all make an orderly exit from the field and move to the school auditorium.”

Aden doesn’t wait for his team, he doesn’t have time. This was the distraction Drew and Belle cooked up, giving him barely enough time to change and sprint to the auditorium for the audition. They had assumed that Matilda and Henry would go first, which seemed to be a good idea at the time, but now he’s pushing open the doors of the auditorium and he can see Miss Vale on the stage with Matilda and Henry in sparkling costumes, smiling brightly, while Ruby is on her other side looking around frantically.

“They’ll be here,” Aden hears Ruby splutter.

“As I have often pointed out, the theatre waits for no one. I’m sorry,” Miss Vale explains, although she doesn’t sound very apologetic. Matilda shoots Henry a very satisfied look.

“Well, we are done here. Congratulations to all,” she announces to the empty seats. “The cast list will be posted.” Ruby scurries off the stage, head down.

“Wait! Miss Vale!” Aden calls as he runs up the aisle. “We’re ready, we can sing.”

“I called your names. Twice,” Miss Vale replies with a shake of her head.

Annie is running up beside him. “Miss Vale, please! Please!” Aden did not go to this much trouble to be turned away now. He wants to do this. He needs to.

“Rules are rules,” Miss Vale says with an element of finality in her voice. Annie looks dejected, Matilda and Henry rather smug. If Matilda wasn’t a girl, and Henry wasn’t ... well, Henry, then Aden would be very tempted to punch them both in the face right now. But he doesn’t have time to even contemplate it because in an instant the entire school begins pouring into the auditorium. Aden gazes around as the seats begin to fill. There are cheerleaders from the football game, students from the stands, parents who were spectators at the scholastic decathlon. They all scatter into the seats, all the way from the first row to the very back. Aden spots the football team sitting together in the middle, his dad standing right at the back a very pissed off expression on his face, arms folded tightly across his chest.

Matilda, on the contrary, looks ecstatic. Her eyes light up at the large audience. “We’d be happy to it again in front of our fellow students,” she offers.

“I don’t know what’s going on here,” Miss Vale begins slowly. “But, in any case, we haven’t got a pianist.”

“Well, that’s show biz,” Henry supplies, still watching Aden very suspiciously.

“We’ll sing without a piano,” Aden says quickly.

There is a rapid tapping of footsteps and Ruby appears at Aden’s side. “Oh no, you won’t,” she says. Face set, determined. “Pianist here, Miss Vale.”

Matilda takes a step towards Ruby, mouth in a thin line. Her sequined costume catches the light and Aden is momentarily blinded as she leans in. “You really don’t want to do that,” she threatens.

Aden is waiting for Ruby to run. For to be intimidated and disappear backstage, but much to his surprise, she steps forward determinedly. “Oh yes,” she says. “I really do.”

A look of shock appears on Matilda’s face and Miss Vale looks on with quiet approval.

“Now that’s show biz,” Miss Vale comments, and that is it. Matilda lets out a gasp before storming off stage, Henry following behind. Ruby disappears momentarily, reappearing behind a piano that has been wheeled on stage. Aden looks down to see a microphone shoved into each of his hands. He passes one off to Annie.

Aden has a momentary flashback to that party at the ski lodge on New Years Eve. When he was pushed on stage with that stupid MC, Annie avoiding his eye, and he thought he was going to throw up. Now, he’s on stage again, Annie beside him, the whole school looking up at him expectantly, and he still feels sick to his stomach. But he’s determined. He’s prepared, so he looks across at Ruby at the piano and gives her a nod.

Her delicate fingers fly across the white keys, notes hanging in the air as the opening bars of the song begin. The audience falls silent and Aden waits for Annie to start. Her cue comes and goes, and Aden looks across at her. She’s frozen to the spot, eyes wide and unblinking. She’s staring at the crowd, fingers gripping the microphone, mouth slightly open, but nothing is coming out.

The music from the piano stops.

“I can’t do it, Aden,” she whispers. “Not with all these people staring at me.”

She goes to run off the stage, but Aden is fast. He reaches out and takes her hand, keeping her at his side.

“Hey, hey, look at me,” Aden says. “Look at me, right at me. Right at me.” Annie slowly looks up, meeting his gaze. “It’ll be like the first time we sang together.” She doesn’t look convinced, and Aden can feel her small hand trembling slightly in his own.

As much as Aden wants to sing, he won’t do this without Annie. She’s become his other half. The part of him he didn’t know was missing. Plus, the song is a duet, so he can’t really do it by himself. Matilda would probably barge on stage and try and sing it with him, and he does not want that to happen. So he gives Annie’s hand and a squeeze and shoots her a reassuring smile while motioning to Ruby again.

This time the music drifts above their heads and he opens up his mouth and sings.

We’re soaring / Flying / There’s not a star in heaven / That we can’t reach

He’s never lets go, just holds on tight as Annie stands beside him. Her voice pure and sweet joining him.

If we’re trying / So we’re breaking free

You know the world can see us / In a way that’s different than who we are

Aden is looking out in the audience, watching as Drew is on the edge of his seat, Belle slipping her hand into his. He doesn’t tear his eyes away from the stage. Jules is beside him, tapping out a beat on his knee, Ric next to him, gazing up, mouth slightly agape.

Creating space between us / ‘Til we’re separate hearts

But your faith / Gives me strength / Strength to believe

We’re breaking free!

Aden feels as though he can do anything. He’s bouncing around the stage, eyes meeting with Annie’s, tugging her towards the piano where Ruby is playing. She smiles up at them both brightly, fingers never stopping. They’re voices blend together seamlessly, harmonies they’ve practiced, ones their just making up on the spot.

The music begins to slow and Aden takes her hand once more. They stand side by side in the centre of the stage, looking out at the school. This is who he is. Aden is the captain of the football team. He’s a singer. And everyone needs to accept that. He’s not going to change.

You know the world can see us / In a way that’s different than who we are.

Their voices fade and there is a moment of absolute silence. But then Drew is standing and letting out a “Whoop!” before the entire school erupts in applause. It’s better than any feeling Aden has ever experienced. His heart is pounding hard in his chest as the football team is on their feet, hands clapping. His eyes sweep the room and Aden feels this rush of pride, of adrenaline. He wants to do it again, and again. He feels as though he could play six football games back to back. But in all the joy and celebration from the audience, Aden’s gaze ends up falling to the very back. His dad is standing there, arms unfolded, hands clapping harder than probably everyone else. This is more than Aden ever expected, and he never wants it to end.

He notices that he is still holding Annie’s hand, looking down at their fingers interlocked. She smiles up at him, a pink blush covering her cheeks and Aden can’t resist. He leans down and kisses her on the cheek.


The crowd is buzzing with anticipation. It’s the last quarter and Summer Bay is down by one point and running out of time. Aden is puffing, taking deep breaths as he sees the Yabbie Creek player begin to streak towards the far line. Aden is too far away to do anything; he’s forced to watch as the player makes a quick left around Lucas, their first line of defence. But then out of nowhere Ric is powering towards him. Head down, shoulder out. The player goes for a quick pass, knowing he won’t be able to escape the Dalby tackle. But it’s soft and Jules pounces. While Ric takes out one player, Jules grabs the air-born ball, jogging in the opposite direction. It catches the Yabbie Creek attack off guard, allowing Jules to get a head start. He passes it across to Drew and Aden knows this is it. The clock is ticking down, less than one minute remaining and they need to score. Aden sprints forward, alongside Drew who is focussed straight ahead. He’s ploughing for the line when Aden spots a Yabbie Creek defender coming up from behind. Aden opens his mouth to call out, while at the same time Drew sees it for himself. The defender is reaching out to take Drew to the ground, but somehow Drew manages to get the ball away.

Everything seems to happen in slow motion. Aden is watching the ball arc through the air, and it’s almost like everyone has stopped playing to watch it. Aden can do nothing but hold out his arms, waiting for it to come down. He feels the crowd get to their feet, yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs, but it’s like he’s in a bubble. The sounds are muffled around him while he tucks the ball under his arm while running at full speed to the line.

But then there’s this wall of a player in front of him, but it’s too late. Aden makes a dive for the line as the referee is bringing up his whistle to his mouth.

There is a piercing squeal as the referee blows his whistle, and the crowd erupts. It’s a blur of green and white as Aden is instantly surrounded by his team mates. The ball gets lost in the shuffle, dropping somewhere after the line as Aden is hoisted to his feet. There is a lot of cheering and Drew is screaming in his ear, while Jules is thumping him hard on the back. Aden’s heart is pumping, breathing short and sharp as he tries to take it all in. He can’t see any further than the faces in front of him, his whole team surrounding him, jumping up and down in celebration.

There is only one thing Aden thinks would make this even better.

He has a trophy shoved in his hands, which he quickly gives off to his dad, who is beaming and telling him how proud he is. Players, fans, students alike keep coming up to him. There are congratulations galore; Aden hasn’t been able to get a moment to even look up at the final scoreboard. But then he spots her, standing back from the crowd, Belle at her side.

She’s changed, Aden notices. She’s no longer in her school uniform, but a fluttery, floral dress that touches her knees. Aden has to push past a couple of excitable girls to reach her, ignoring their toothy smiles and awkward giggles. She looks up and sees him approaching and smiles. Belle shoots them both a look when Aden is right in front of him before making herself scarce.

“Congratulations,” she says when Aden is close enough to hear her.

“What about your team?” Aden can’t resist asking.

“We won too!” Annie beams, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. Aden unexpectedly pulls her into a tight hug. He can hear her laugh shyly into his ear and he steps back, letting her body go. He suddenly misses having her so close.

It feels like everything has fallen into place. Aden has his win, the team have their championship, and Annie has her victory too. It’s like he’s invincible. She’s smiling up at him, her lips shining, covered in some sort of gloss. Aden can see every one of her freckles as he leans in. He’s parting his lips when a dirty ball is thrust in between them. Drew is practically jumping out of his own skin, oblivious to everything else.

“Team voted you the game ball, Captain!” he says excitedly.

“Yeah, thanks,” Aden replies, slightly miffed at the ruined moment. Annie holds back a giggle.

So Aden is left holding the winning ball, the very ball that put both him and the team over the lines in the dying seconds, and all he wants to do is kiss Annie. He spies Ruby hanging back, away from the intense celebrations, where Drew is now making out with Belle and Lucas is working up the nerve to go and talk to Matilda.

Aden holds up a single finger to Annie, asking her to stay where she is, while Aden dashes away. He pushes the ball into Ruby’s small hands, a look of surprise and confusion on her face. But she turns it in her hands, and she looks up at Aden, giving him a smile in thanks.

Aden turns back, looking over his shoulder at where he left Annie. She’s standing there, waiting patiently. He jogs up to her, because he doesn’t think he trusts himself to leave her alone any longer, and then without waiting for any more interruptions he leans down and kisses her.

It’s greater than winning the championship, better than singing in front of the entire school, and maybe because it’s been so long coming, it tastes that little bit sweeter.

The End


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