Summer Break

Once again, the anniversary of that fateful walk that changed their lives forever came upon them.

Ben was alone in his room, jamming out with a guitar that he got as a Christmas present thanks to his mother. Hearing her son's desire for another productive hobby during the summer, an electric six string was gifted to him the year before. Along with an acoustic electric, as a bonus. His new hobby soon turned into more than that, skyrocketing further to no one's surprise. Learning chords and scales, then soon wishing to write his own songs. All while being the noble hero he is.

Adding to his hero-ing and music aspirations were his dreaded classes; college classes, during his senior year, to be exact. This surprised even Gwen, shattering his mega-dweeb-slacker-lazy, first cousin persona he's held for these last few years.

Taking said classes weren't his first choice. It was either that or re-taking his current semester. Sure, he was pissed at first, but it beats the alternative:

Getting stuck with Gwen for another year.

They've grown closer, but that doesn't mean they don't get at one another's throats when they deemed it 'necessary'.

One of those times was when a project was assigned, and because of his ultimatum, Ben for once in his life was focused on that one thing.

He felt overwhelmed in the middle of it all- working from home, hence the guitar singing its song.

Stopping the recording, he plopped down upon his bed. The blanket was rustled under his weight.

An open button-up blue flannel on his shoulders hung over the sheets, fresh sweat stains on his dark red t-shirt. Dry, parched vocals in need of water.

"How am I supposed to be the greatest, if I can't get this *fucking* bar right!? Ugh! Fuck the song! Fuck this class!" He half-yelled, which turned into a cough.

Ben's heavy breathing brought his mind back to, of all things, Gwen. Why this moment of clarity came to him was unknown. His mind took him back to one of their 'arguments', and when she defended his honor.

"Don't tell me what I can and can't do! This is *my* fight! *My* weird watch! Not yours!" Ben yelled.

"Yeah, but you're *my* weird cousin." Gwen replied.

"Train him!? Tame him!? He's a person, not a pet! You can't talk to my cousin like that!" Gwen shouted, defending Ben.


"Only *I* can talk to my cousin like that! You just blew it, big time!" Gwen declared.

"Remember doofus, the times you had my back? It's time I return the favor. You can talk to me about anything. We're glue. Got it?"

Ben sighed again as his cousin's words echoed in his memory, gulping down the last of his water bottle.

"I don't give a shit that we're cousins. Whatever it is, we're thick as thieves, through and through. *Nothing* will change that."

He laid the guitar across his bed, stretching his arms and legs as he went to the restroom.

"Alright, just look over your notes. Don't paint by numbers, add your own creativity. And *don't* compare yourself to others. It's your project." He muttered to himself, splashing water on his face.

Forgetting his troubles, the studio session resumed. Playing back sections, adding effects here and there, clearer vocals, avoiding peaks in mixing levels.

A few sections were cut for time and replaced in favor with shorter, melodic riffs.

With a few final drumbeats and many playbacks, he was satisfied.

But he needed a second opinion, which appeared in his doorway in the form of his cousin.

Dressed in black jeans and grey Lucky Girl tank top, black sneakers hanging off her fingers.

"Hey," she remarked in a hefty manner.

"Big man on campus, right here." Gwen stated confidently.

"If I ace this project," he replied.

"You will. What's your progress?"

Her shoes clunked on his floor, tapping out their songs.

"Pretty much done; just need to change a few things."

"Let me listen, give those ears a break."

She slid on the headphones and listened, going back to a few sections, adding what was missing.

Her form stretched across his bed, prompting Ben to slide away.

"Alright, I gated your vocals better to get rid of your breaths and fixed your levels. Added some drum samples on top of the live recording, and added an amplifier effect to your guitar. Should be good to go." She smiled

Gwen was quite skilled in this, taking a few summer classes on recording music, trying to teach Ben two summers ago.

That interest was almost nonexistent till he got his guitar. Then the spark erupted.

He took another listen, eyes lighting up with its now "perfected" sound in his ears. His voice, solos, melodies. All wrapped up with original lyrics.

"Thanks, Gwen. It sounds great!"

"You're welcome, doofus. Before you ask, I let myself in. Told ya you'd regret giving me a key."

"Only this time, I don't." He replied saving the changes and exporting the song to his flash drive, and extra copy on an external hard drive.

A sigh escaped his lips.

"What are you so stressed about?" She asked placing his guitar on the stand, the clicks of its weight holding it in place

"It's not the song, it's what people will think of it. I mean, you've heard it, it's a ballad."

"So? I love ballads."

"Even about you?"

A blush appeared on her cheeks.

"Well, this is a first." She smiled

Ben quickly backtracked.

"I-I mean, you've always been there supporting me, and I'd like to think I've done the same. Even if we're at each other's throats like the crazy cousins we are. Just wanted to write this as a thank you." He said with a blush emerging

"Well, I kinda got that vibe from the first few listens, especially the lyrics."

"You gotta make them more cryptic, even though you didn't mention my name." She smirked.

"Though, the lines about having my back were sweet. Who knew all you needed was music to bring out this side of you?"

"Oh, who am I kidding? You've always had this, you just won't make it public." She concluded.

"Thanks. You really like this? Think I'll graduate?"

"I know you will."

The song finished exporting on his flash and external drive, concluding his work.

"I'm really proud of you, you've come a long way."

"Thanks, Gwen."

"Don't mention it. And don't keep the final grade from me either, we're celebrating when you graduate." She smiled

Ben gave her a thumbs-up as they cleaned the mess of wires and mic stands, both relieved that this project is finished.

"Who knows? If this works out, you and I can do shows together."

"The thought has crossed my mind. Not bad for a doofus," Ben smirked

A pillow smashed his pinch-worthy face.

"Now, we're even," Gwen said

"It's on."