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Angel of Music
It’s the weekend before auditions meaning I actually drag my twenty-pound trombone home with me and practice for once. I start to unlatch the first of three locks on the case and began practicing. We’re working on the overture for Jesus Christ Superstar. Sure it’s fun, but there are only so many times you can play it before your tongue feels limp. I start to put the music away. I take a moment to look around the basement, dark and unfinished. We moved in three months ago and the previous owner left it this way so his boys could play hockey.
The basement is now our new recreation room, dimly lit and bare. Old carpet pieces surround a television hiding the scuffmarks from intense hockey matches on the concrete floor. Two tables near the stairs hold an unfinished puzzle of kittens, which I don’t think I’ll ever finish. I walk around, toward a faded white cabinet. A smaller puzzle sits atop the waist high cabinet. My friend Nancy made it by taking a picture from our Europe trip with the band. I’m in the center of the picture smiling like an idiot; Nancy is on my left eyes closed and laughing, and my boyfriend Ted is on my right with his hands over his eyes pretending he had disappeared. I felt a warm smile on my face looking at the picture, but then I stop and look again. Joe, my fellow section mate, was standing in the background of the blurry puzzle.
I force my eyes away from the puzzle and look down the length of the basement to see all our extra boxes of memories, toys, stuff we wanted to save, but didn’t exactly have room for. I tell myself to walk back toward my trombone, where I should be.
I remember when I met Joe. We were both little 5th graders just starting out in band. A little slip of paper told me to sit in the back row third chair from the right on the left side. I found my chair and sat as I was told like the goody-two-shoes-5th-grader I was. Then a pale, raven-haired boy sat in the first seat. I looked at him, puzzled. I had never seen this kid before, even though it was all kids from my elementary school. The director told me to move over one chair to fill the empty space.
We were told to say hello to the people surrounding us. “Hi I’m Monica” my little shaky 5th grade hand waved.
“I’m Joe” the raven-haired boy replied. After playing a few lines of Eerie Canal, he pointed to a note. “I think that’s E flat, right?” I smiled and nodded noticing his eyes are not exactly brown, but amber. Our waved her baton towards the door, telling us we’re dismissed.
At our first concert, all the other 5th graders were dressed in black and white ready to perform our little one page song. Joe waved at me as I get my trombone out. All the parents were in there beaming how their little angel could now play music. Flashes of cameras added a little more light to the room than necessary. Joe came up to me just as I finished putting my horn together and his Mom walked over.
“Oh you must be Monica!” I smiled without showing my teeth and waved. I looked away and hoped my parents would come soon. “Aren’t you a sweet little thing! Joseph let me get a picture” We stand next to each other and his mom crouches down with her oversized camera. A flash encased my eyes, but I knew I didn’t blink.
I turn a light on flashing brilliantly, a little too brilliant. I turn the light back off in the basement. I’m at my folder, worn from the holding my music for the past four years. Its green and white cardboard ripped and fraying, but still together. I take out my favorite songbook. Broadway Showstoppers blares the red letters at the top. I’ve always loved musicals; there’s a certain feeling within the music that tells more of a story than something computer generated.
I turn to one of my favorite songs, “Angel of Music” from Phantom of the Opera. I remember long ago people used to tell me I would look similar to Christine Daae, the main character, because we shared chestnut brown curly locks. It made the musical more special when we played it in 7th grade.
“Guys, be quiet. Trombones look at measure 62” our director tapped her baton on the podium. The section consisted of me and Joe, and two other 8th graders. Joe and I for once were on the same part. “At 62 you guys have the melody. Listen to the rhythm.” As our director hummed our line at 62, I scooted a little closer to Joe to see the music. Joe smiled a little. The director continued to hum as I attempted to connect the notes with the 6/8 time signature (which is not the easiest to follow). “Ready trombones? One-two-three, four-five-six”
The director’s baton swung down as we started to play. The melody swirled out of our bells. I was taken aback that this beauty we created. It almost felt as if we were waltzing all together. My foot slipped on some spit and happened to brush against Joe’s. We stopped and Joe turned to me “D flat Monica, over there” as he pointed to a note in the middle of the page. I nod and smile as I look at those amber eyes. Then the bell rang.
“That’s all for today. Nice job trombones” our director put down her baton.
I was putting my trombone away and snuck a glance at Joe. I couldn’t help it. I smiled as I noticed my mouthpiece went in the wrong compartment. Ted, the blue-eyed first chair trumpet, came up to me and Joe. “Monica and Joe sittin’ in a tree. K-I-S-S-I…” but Joe moved toward him with such a force I thought Ted was going to get hurt. Ted just shook his blue eyes looking like two plates serving blue jello, wobbling with every sudden movement.
This wasn’t the first time someone said that to us. By the water fountain, a girl whispering to me in my science class, even my math teacher always seeming to pair us up together for partner quizzes. What was scary is they were right. I did have feelings for him. How could I show that? If he did, I didn’t see it at all. My emotions always seemed be right on cue to turn my face pink. I’d still have to work on that…
My mouthpiece hits the concrete floor of the basement with a clang. I pick it up and inspect the freshest damage. I start to move my slide with difficulty. I needed to grease it up making a little smoother before I did anything else. I detach the slide and start to put Slide-O-Mix on it.
As I start to put the Slide-O-Mix away, I notice a card in the case. It was for my 18th birthday. It was homemade with “Happy Birthday Monica” in electric blue surrounded by music notes, balloons, and a stick figure that’s supposed to be me with wild curls drawn at random. I open it. “To my funny honey, happy birthday sweet heart! Love Ted.”
I remember freshman year when I fell in the hallway. I tried to rush back to class but my clumsy feet had other plans. Ted just happened to be walking in the hall that day. He found me lying in the vast hallway with my knee raw and bleeding. I was half expecting him to laugh at me and make some wisecrack about Joe. Instead, he helped me up and escorted me to the nurse.
Ted propped my leg up on the brown leather couch. Nothing in the room had changed since 1985. The nurse (who also hadn’t seem to change since 1985) saw my leg and hurried out of the room mumbling something about gauze. Ted was still sitting there with me, watching me with worried eyes.
“Ted?” I shifted awkwardly.
“Yes Monica?” Ted scooted a little closer.
“This has been on my mind since…well for awhile and I need to know…” I trailed off.
“You can trust me Monica, go ahead what is it?”
“Well, I know you’re good friends with Joe, and well, I was wondering if…you know…he…” I dropped my voice.
“I can’t say, I promised Joe I wouldn’t say anything to you about him.” Ted’s face seemed to drop and turn away. “I’m…. I’m sorry”
“It’s ok Ted, I understand” I put my hand on his shoulder and smiled. “You’re a good friend”.
I go back to the waist high cabinet and study the puzzle again. I just stare at Ted’s hidden eyes in the picture. I then shift my gaze to Joe hidden oh so carefully in the background. I sigh and walk back to my trombone sitting on the cement ground, shivering. I look at the birthday card again and turn it around to the back. It read “PS: Can you believe our one year is in February?”
“Monica it’s a F Sharp!” Joe snapped at me. Junior year. He slammed his finger against the page to where I didn’t know where he pointed.
“Y-yes Joe.” I stuttered without meaning to. I packed my trombone in its case and spotted Joe out of the corner of my eye talking to Ted.
“I swear Monica never seems to hit that note! The entire section sucks!” Joe rested a pale hand on just below his raven hair.
“You should be a little gentler with her. I mean its Valentine’s day, dude!” Ted tried to diffuse Joe “I don’t understand why you hate her so much. She’s a real nice gal” Joe’s eyes narrowed on him.
“She just has this weird crush on me! It really annoys me.” Joe attempted to hush his voice, but I still heard it clear as a bell. As I latched the last lock on the case I bite my lip using every fiber of will power not to cry.
“You should try! She’s real nice” Ted pleaded
“Then why don’t—“ Joe stopped and saw I was looking. Ted looked too and his face fell. Joe sighed and left as Ted ran to me. My face got warm and my eyes had a watery blur to them.
“How much of that did you hear?” Ted asked me as he pulled a tissue out of his pocket. I just nodded as more tears streamed down. I was far too upset to even answer. Ted gave me a hug, his hands rubbing my shoulders in an attempt for me to calm down.
“I…I should of guessed…” I was still sobbing, but I was attempting to shield my eyes. I hated it when I cried. I just look so hopeless and ugly. I glanced around the empty band room and noticed Ted didn’t let go of me.
“Listen Monica, I have to ask will you be my Valentine? I know it’s sudden, but I feel like you deserve to be happy right now. It is Valentine’s Day isn’t it? What do you say?” I wiped my swollen eyes and forced a smile. I nodded so fast my head felt like it was going to hop off my neck. I saw his eyes. I knew his eyes were always blue, but they looked a little more stunning at that moment.
“You’re more than a good friend Ted, you’re….” I trailed off not knowing what to say. Ted pulled me a little closer. I looked down still trying to shield my bloodshot eyes.
“I know you’re supposed to give Hershey Kisses on this holiday, but I may have something better” Ted winked at me.
“Ted only you could make this moment horridly cheesy,” I laughed a little.
“I’ve always seen it as my job to make you smile.” He put his fingers around my chin and tilted my head up. He began to lean in, but then froze turning beet red. Our director was standing behind us flickering the lights. We ran out not even thinking about how much she saw.
I open up to Angel of Music again, but with reluctance. I turn to the page and just stare at it for a moment. I hold my trombone to my lips and start to play. The melody began to swirl, just like in 7th grade. Then I hit a sour note, and wonder which one it was. “D Flat” It wasn’t my voice, but a strange far off voice that was stuck in my head. I restart again, the same melody still swirling and waltzing.
I finish and put down my instrument. I feel a little happier after playing it, even though I’ve played this particular song multiple times. I start dancing around the basement humming the melody pretending to waltz with someone. The cold concrete ground of the basement reminding me that I wasn’t in a fantasy, but just barely.
“When you said you were practicing, I thought you were practicing Jesus Christ Superstar not your ballroom technique.” I look up not expecting to see Ted, and feel my face turn a little pink. “Your mom let me in, she said you were in the basement” Ted puts his hands in his pockets and rocks back on his heels.
I aimlessly look around the room. I see a scuffmark just behind Ted. It was the first one I noticed when we moved in, but it was much more faded. I still can trace the wavy curve of the raven-black mark. Ted walks over to the white cabinet to admire the puzzle while I put my instrument away. I look back at the scuffmark and I realize my mouthpiece is in the wrong compartment. Ted turns back to me
“What are you thinking about Monica? You look like you’re spacing out a little”
“Well” I look at him, his blue eyes looking a little dull “I was just thinking about my Angel of Music” Ted held out his arms for a hug and we embrace. As I hug him I look at the scuffmark again, and swear I see two spots of amber staring right back at me.