The Perfect Song

My fingers swiftly danced across the wooden keys. As the rhythm rushed through my body, my foot started to tap the beat. My mind flushed out the stress and just focused on executing each note perfectly.

“Mandy!”

My finders didn’t miss a beat. As the crescendo neared, every part of my body moved with the music. Here it comes …

“MANDY!!” My sister, Rachel, screamed at the top of her lungs. This snapped me out of every good feeling I was experiencing, and I flew to the floor.

“Will you get off that thing and get ready for school?! Hurry or we will be late.” She spoke with a stern voice.

As I stepped away from the Kawai 48” upright piano, I gave it one more glance. I have had this piano forever. It was my friend. It was my life.

I’ve been playing piano since I was a little girl. When I first started out, I didn’t take any lessons. I received the piano the Christmas of 2007. My parents never expected me to be this into it, so i was never enrolled in lessons. At the beginning, I just banged keys to get used to it. That banging soon turned into the correct duration of notes, to music. I flew through the beginner books in the first week. My mom told me I wasn’t an average youngster. Instead of playing with dolls or watching T.V., I would head straight to the piano.
At first, my parents were annoyed with my banging of the expensive keys. But, once I started playing actual music, they got used to it. For my mom, it became entertainment unlike my dad.

For my dad, playing the piano as well as I did wasn’t something to be proud of. My dad was a big sports guy. He grew up being the star of the basketball team in high school and then in college. This competitiveness and athleticism rubbed off on my sister, Rachel. Not me. Rachel is the star of the high school basketball team as a Junior and it has been like that since she was a freshman. As my dad has always dreamed of, she has already been recruited for many Division I teams out east.
During my childhood, in order to cope with the disapproval from my dad, I played the piano even more. I perfected many songs that have not yet been mastered by college majors, and composed many pieces. I practiced every day and participated in many competitions and recitals.

My mom has always been the supportive one. She grew up around music, and I think was happy that I picked up the piano as quickly as I did. She attended every recital and even helped me when I had writers block. She was my rock.

“Are you finally ready?” My annoyed sister exclaimed.

In the time I was allowed, I threw on jeans and a ragged sweatshirt that I had wore so many times already. I slipped on a pair of (shoes that Renae has).

“Ready.” I replied.

Rachel scanned me from head to toe with an unsatisfied expression. “You’re seriously wearing that, again?”

“Yeah. What is my underwear on top of my pants?” As growing up in this household, I gained a sense of humor.
“No, but have you ever thought about changing up your wardrobe? Like, if you want to borrow something of mine, you can always ask.” That was just her nice way of saying:
“You can always borrow my clothes to replace your ripped ones. You need to be presentable if I am going to call you my sister.”
Rachel has always been the girl of the family. She would always be dressed up for school. Even though she was tough on the court, she was a girly girl off it. No one assumed I was her sister because we looked nothing alike. She had blond hair and blue eyes while I had brown hair and brown eyes. I had a more plump face while hers was the shape of a golden egg.
“I’m good for today, but thanks for offering.” Yeah. Not happening.

As we drove in our navy blue Audi to school, we listened to the country station. I hated country. My only interest was in classical because it would allow me to imagine I was playing that piece on the piano.

As my sister attempted to mouth the words, I glanced out the window. We passed large green fields with houses to match. The city of Minnetonka, Minnesota was full of rich kids with many prize winning pigs. If you hadn’t noticed already, I don’t have many friends. I have two best friends. One’s name is Cece and the other is Peyton. Cece is a math wiz and holds the highest grade in the entire senior class. We’re freshman. My other friend, Peyton, is the more normal one of the bunch. She plays sports, including basketball, and is good at it as well.
We finally arrived at school. It was packed with the normal snotty rich kids and their Vera Bradley handbags. As I slowly made my way to the entrance, I heard people whispering from behind. I peeked over my shoulder hoping I didn’t have toilet paper stuck to my butt. But, who would’ve guessed, they were all pointing at my sister in awe. Great. Some things never change.
Picking up my pace to out run the paparazzi, I ducked inside the band room. Now, don’t worry, I am not one of those band nerds, but the room does have a beautiful piano. For some reason, I have always been very self-conscious of who I play my music for. Playing in front of my mom is no big deal because I have been doing it for my whole life. It’s just, no one knows of my talent except my family and close friends. I don’t want people taunting or making fun of me because it.

I know, playing in the band room seems like a risk, but no one is ever in the band room in the mornings. Classes don’t start until the afternoon, so the room is vacant, just how I like it.

I take a seat on the nicely padded bench, I start to play (something sophisticated). I have the same wonderful feelings and my whole body gets into. When my mind loses itself in the song, I forget where I am. As displayed earlier this morning, it is not the best stage to be in.

“Wow.”

I stopped dead in my tracks. I slowly turned a 90 degree turn and glanced up at the soul of the unfamiliar voice. There, standing in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt was Jack Peterson. The most popular kid in the grade.

“Uh. Um.” I was speechless.

“Oh I didn’t mean to intrude. I just … well to be honest with you, this is where I hide out to get away.”
“Oh. Yeah, me too. I’ve never seen you in here before.” I replied shyly.
“I usually hide by the instruments because it’s a little more secluded. So I go in the other door, but I wanted to change things off.” His white teeth glimmered as he tried to clear the air.
I didn’t want to seem like a snob so I smiled back. I’d never talked to a guy before.
“Anyways, you are amazing.”
“Uh. Thanks.” I didn’t know what to say. I’d never been in this situation before.
“Well, I’ll let you get back to your music, but I think you might want this.” He walked toward me and handed me a flyer. It stated:

Amateur Pops Contest

Do you have talent? You could become famous. Perform at the Wellman Theater on May 15th and the winner gets a contract. If interested call: 1-800-b-famous!
When I looked up, Jack said, “I think you should really do it. I think you could win.” I thought about it some more. It did sound interesting, but I didn’t know if i was ready for something like this.
Jack read the contemplation on my face and quickly said, “Only do it if you want. But, keep it in mind.” The bell interrupted my answer, but Jack finished with, “Okay, well I got to go to class, but it was nice talking to you!”
“Uh. Bye.” I was still in shock. My mind was racing with images of me winning the contest. It was be amazing and then people could finally see what I was capable of. But then again, I didn’t know if i was ready for people to see what I was capable. I liked being to myself. My own little secret.
As the week trudged along, the contest never left my mind. I had multiple tests, but I don’t even know what they were about. The contest would be a great opportunity for schools to see me. Who knows, maybe I could get into Julliard!
After a few weeks had passed, i finally got the courage to tell my mom. She was thrilled.
“Honey! This is amazing! This would be the perfect opportunity for you. I really think you should do it.”
“Okay. I think i will, but there’s one problem. I don’t know what to play.”
My mom thought really hard about this one. The song selection is key on getting the judges attention. Suddenly a large grin crept across my mothers small round face.
“What?”
“Why don’t we compose one! We can’t use any other the other ones you’ve created. This one needs to be different. Unforgettable. Like you.”
It was a risky move but at this point it didn’t matter. Who cares if i lost. As long as i had fun. That was my motto.
Over the next couple of the weeks, my mom and i furiously worked to perfect this song. It had to represent who i was and what my strengths were. My mom did a little bit of research on the competition. The past couple of years, only dancers or singers won. It would be hard to win because hundreds of people participated, but it was worth a shot.
One day when my mom and I were finished up this masterpiece, my father rushed into the office.
“Rachel was awarded MVP!” His face was beaming and proud.
As if on cue, Rachel walked in holding a large trophy with in carved letters saying “Rachel Leroy: MVP of the state tournament.”
“Wow, honey that’s spectacular! I am so proud of you!” She leaped up for a hug.
The Girls’ Basketball team had made it to state, thanks to my sister. Every year they awarded the MVP of the winning team at the banquet. And, obviously, Rachel came home with the award.
“Speaking of awards, Mandy is participating in a contest!” My mom stated hoping to gain my dad’s attention.
“Yeah. We are composing a song, and hopefully I can win.”
Looking up for recognition, my dad hadn’t even heard a single word. He was so focused on discussing where they were going to celebrate. Noticing my energy decreasing, my mother said, “it’s alright sweetie. Let’s get back to writing, so you can crush the competition. ”She realized that her words didn’t soothe me and moved in for a hug.
That night we traveled to Oceanaire to congratulate Rachel on her award. Of course she picked the most expensive restaurant and one i didn’t like. The whole night was revolved around her. My dad talked about how many college scouts are going to want her and so on. Worst. Night. Ever.
As the competition neared, i began practicing my piece. Every day I was in the office playing over and over again.
To get a different angle on my piece, I called Cece and Peyton over to see what they thought. After I finished the three minute long song, I glanced over for their approval. Both of their jaws were dropped and no words were coming out.
“it was really that bad? Back to the drawing board.”
Peyton was the first to speak up. “NO NO NO NO NO! It was fantastic! It tells your story and it’s perfect.” She then nudged Cece out of shock and she replied with, “Beyond amazing. It’s the best you have written so far.”
With their enthusiasm and encouragement, I pushed myself even harder. Every free second I had to spare, I jumped on the piano. In three days, i had memorized the song like it was the back of my hand.

***


The. Competition. Is. Today. I started to freak out. The entire day I couldn’t focus in class. I probably looked like i was in shock because I didn’t comprehend anything said to me. My friends were understanding and let it slide while my sister didn’t.

“Hello? What’s the matter with you today?” She hadn’t even realized how much today meant to me. “Mandy! Watch where you are going! Gosh.” Whoops.

When I arrived home from the long day, my mom had prepared a special meal for me. It was my “pre-recital/contest” snack. It consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a glass of apple juice, and a jumbo chocolate chip cookie. Yum.

When it was time to go, the nerves kicked in. I realized so many more people would be at this contest. Record dealers, college scouts, and many, many competitors. My mom sensed my giddiness and attempted to calm me down. She gave me a pep talk that really did help.

“You are going to do great. You have the skills that not many COLLEGE MAJORS have. This is your moment to shine. Be yourself. Have fun. I love you and I couldn’t be more proud of you.”

With this new boost of confidence, I strutted into the auditorium with swag. This was my moment. This was my time to shine.

When I walked up to the stage, I was introduced to the head of the competition. His name was Mark. He told me the order that people would be competing. I was last. Dead last. Oh crap. With new set of nerves setting in a took a few deep breathes. It helped.
It was seven o’clock and the competition began. There were dancers, singers, kazoo players, and guitar players. I was the only piano player. That meant I would stick out more. Score!
“Up next we have Mandy Leroy playing an original piece on the piano titled ‘Fly to the Moon’.”
I made my way to the shiny piano and sat down gracefully. I took two deep breaths and started playing my piece.
With no sheet music to follow, i solely based my movement from memory. As I played, I thought back to the past couple of weeks. Even though I did not possess my dad’s approval, I definitely had my mom’s. She has helped me through so much and I will never be able to repay her. This song was for her. Everything was.
With my hands slowing to the end, I let my mind lose itself in the song. I let it wipe away all the misery and frustration. I was in heaven.
My song had finally come to an end. I played my heart and soul out. It represented everything I was capable of and it showcased who I was. I Stood and bowed to the audience's applause. I searched the crowd for my mom, but instead I spotted two shadows in the back corner. There was a tall man and a girl about three-four his his size. They were so secluded from everyone else. I squinted my eyes for a closer look and to my astonishment, the two figures became clear. It was my dad and my sister. There were tears in their eyes. Once we made eye contact, my dad mouthed ‘I am so proud of you. I love you my baby girl.’
This moment fixed everything. The disapproval. The unwantedness. The lack of love. It was better than any trophy or award. It was my life.





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