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Between the Keys This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


   Thedoor closes behind me and I can't see. The room is cold and pitchblack. I hear myfootsteps on the tile and stumble to my right, where I know the switchbox shouldbe. After a moment, I find it and flip the bottom three switches.

Thestage glows in front of me. Sharp light casts blurry shadows in theauditorium.

I shiver and walk past the empty seats until I see her.

"Hey," I whisper as I sit down beside her.

She turnsand smiles. I try not to stare at her bloodshot eyes.

"What'swrong?" I ask.

"Nothin'."

"Come on, Sarah. Youdon't just sit in the dark and cry because nothing's wrong."

Her eyesharden into angry red and white marbles. She runs the back of her hand againstone of them and sniffles.

"Nothing's wrong. What do youcare?"

I shrug and lean back in my chair. Sarah trembles and, after amoment, leans back in hers, too.

"Why do they keep this place socold, anyway?" she asks.

"I don't know. It keeps the actorsfresh."

She sniffles again. "You make it sound like they'revegetables."

We sit for a while and stare at the stage. It shimmerslike an icicle in the sun.

"You know, I've never been herebefore," Sarah announces. "Always wanted to when I was in middleschool. I was going to be a musician or actor up there. Things don't always turnout though, do they?"

Her question is rhetorical but I answer itanyway. "No, they don't."

"Probably just as well. I'd be alousy actor."

"How's that?"

She answers quickly,"You have to step outside yourself if you want to be someone else. I'm tooself-centered."

I laugh and earn a scowl. "Sorry," Iapologize immediately. "Wasn't laughing at you. You've really thought a lotabout this, though, haven't you?"

She fidgets. I'm making her mad oruncomfortable, I can't decide which. "What's your problem? Why do you haveto go around analyzing people all the time?"

I frown at the stage andclench my fist.

"Well, what is it?" she taunts. "You wantto be a psychologist or something?"

"No. Awriter."

The light from the stage reflects off her nose and I noticefor the first time how long it is. It stands out against her cheeks and croppedbrown hair. A dozen freckles pepper her forehead. I almost like her.

Iclear my throat. "I can leave if you want."

She shrugs."No. You're right, I think too much. That's all I ever do anymore." Sheturns and forces me to took at her eyes. "Do you ever feel like you've gotsomething important to say? Something the whole world needs to hear and only youcan say it?"

"Sometimes," I admit.

"Well,that's how I feel all the time. These little voices in my head are alwaysblubbering on about it, only I don't know what it is. Even if I did, I wouldn'tknow how to say it."

Sarah's monologue sounds familiar and I stand."Come on," I motion for her to followme.

"What?"

"Just get up, would ya?" I pull herout of the chair by her shoulders and push her toward thestage.

"Clark, what's gotten into you?"

"Look, Ilistened to you whine for what, half an hour?" I grin to let her know I'mjoking. She frowns and stops fighting. "You play the piano,right?"

"Come on, Clark. I gave that up, like, ten yearsago."

We step onto the stage and I push the school's battered uprightto the center.

"Come on, let's play something."

Sarahshivers. "Nah. Thanks. I would but ... well, the lights are toohot."

I laugh. "Oh, they're hot alright, but before you know it,you'll be pushing people out of the way to play this old clunker." I smack afinger against middle C and hear a disappointingly in-tune note.

She givesup and sits on the bench beside me. Experimenting, I strike a few keys. The ivoryis cold, but I continue.

My fingers coax chords from the keys and I settleinto a rhythm. I rock forward and press the pedal, listening to the notes blurtogether. I nod to Sarah.

Tentatively, she creates a melody. It's rough atfirst. Missed notes. Weak fingers. But she slides it in between my chords,between the keys where music is made. Our improvisation swells to fill theauditorium. It reverberates across the stage and finds its way back inside us.Something new. Something simple and amazing.

She pushes the tempo,experimenting with a variation of her melody. Somehow, I find the right chordsand the piece grows.

I glance at Sarah. She stretches her fingers over thekeys, sways, and smiles. She understands what we've created.

And then it'sover, and we're both shivering under the lights.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the November 2001 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.






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