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He picks up the saxophone, smiling just for an instant. It’s what she’s been waiting for all day. She lives for these moments, ever since freshmen year, when they sat next to each other – flute and clarinet. He’s moved on since then, learning different instruments whenever it suits him. He’s gifted in that way – music is something he truly enjoys.
She used to promise herself that someday he would look at her and smile like that. She broke that promise, not too long ago. Now, it’s just a faint hope, a wish among wishes.
She sighs and looks away. She’ll go home and dance it out, just as she’s danced out all her feelings for him the past two years.
Talent show? Dance? Me? A flurried week full of advice and decisions. Culminates in-
She hands in her form to the teacher, who is sorting them out into piles – they had too many forms for instrumental music. They’re not going to even bother auditioning them: most of the school is in band, orchestra, or choir anyway, she says.
A sharp, barely audible intake of breath. The form resting on the top of the reject pile – it’s him. Is this her chance? She breathes out, letting go of all her words and thoughts in one gust of air. The teacher tells her to slow down. Slowly, she explains: he’s the best music student in the school; at least audition him. Pleading.
The teacher thinks for a moment. Relents. She’ll audition him.
She’s standing with her friend. He comes up. She looks away – he has an audition time slip in his hand.
He asks her friend – his friend too, she remembers – if she had said anything about him and the program.
She backs out of the conversation with as much grace as she can. He knows that he should not have been allowed in. What if he finds out she was the one responsible for it? What if he finds out about two years of secret feelings? What will she do?
She goes to another friend – how is he there again?! Is he following her? No, this is his best friend’s sister. It’s only logical he would come to her next. So he knows that it was a girl. What else does he know? she wonders.
He walks away. So does her friend. She has to tell him. What if he found out it was her – she’s heard him ask now, and if he came to her later…it would look foolish.
She calls his name. He turns around.
“It was me,” she says softly. She walks away before he can say another word. But as she glances back, she sees the beginnings of a smile playing on his lips.
She is dressed for her audition, the slip trembling in her hand. She opens the door, slightly nervous, but nothing she can’t handle. This is her stage and she will shine. Shine she does. Finished, she picks up her bag and leaves – only to find him waiting for her.
He was there the whole time. He saw her dance. Shocked – what should she say? He confesses: he’s there because he never got to thank her.
Her heart sinks. Why is he so formal? She wants to tell him that friends do this for each other. She can’t. The words are stuck in her throat.
It bothers her all through the next day. Finally, a decision is reached.
When he walks out of his audition, it’s to find her waiting for him. She sees that funny expression again – a cross between a question and a smile. He asks her why she came. She shrugs, smiling up at him. They walk together in some silence, she working up the courage to-
She stretches out her arms for a hug as they reach the doors. He submits, though without returning the gesture. Frustrated, she takes each of his arms and places them around her, then releases him.
“Is it really that hard?” she demands.
One eyebrow up, one down. “Perhaps.”
Her friend demands a hug from him on her birthday. Again, he allows the friend to embrace him, but she has to place his arms around the other like she did before.
Shaking her head: “You’re impossible.”
They talk more at the rehearsals – he has no one else there with him. He tells her she’s a beautiful dancer, and the thought of the compliment stays with her for days. She confirms that she did indeed tell them that he was the best musician in the school. He shakes his head, as though he can’t quite understand her.
The performance day draws ever nearer. Her friends begin to question the decision of the teachers to allow him to play an instrument but no one else. Soon, his friends begin to ask the same thing. They find refuge from the barrage of inquisitiveness in each other, feeling almost like co-conspirators.
He always has that half-smile playing on his lips.
Performance day. Backstage, she’s already perspiring. He appears cool and calm, but she caught him a couple of times – rubbing his sweaty hands on his pants, pacing up and down, biting his nails to the quick – feminine hands, he half-teased, half-complained to her once.. He performs. She watches his long, slender fingers – they do indeed look rather girlish. Concentrating on this soothing aspect of him, she takes her place on the stage.
For her. For him. For everyone and everything. For no one and nothing. She leaves it all on the stage, coming off shaking just a little.
He looks at her, covers the distance in two gigantic steps, and puts his arms around her. When she doesn’t respond, he takes her arms, placing them around his waist. They remain like that for a moment, then pull away.
And then- an expression that enhances his features to the point of perfection – he smiles.