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Gravel crunched beneath my feet as I crossed the railroad tracks. I was trying to hurry, feeling worried about the dark grey cluster of clouds on the horizon, creeping ever closer. I was also worried because hiking from my car down a path through endless fields and bushes was causing my asthma to act up. I checked my pocket once again for my inhaler and felt its comforting bulge under my fingertips.
As I walked, my thoughts wandered. And, as they always do, they wandered back to him and his last words. His smug smile. His bright eyes. He is one of the many people who wouldn’t understand my coming here and walking all the way just to find some silly little stream and spend time by it, all alone, playing my instrument. So I should be glad that he’s out of my life, right?
I’m startled to find a couple of tears dripping down my cheeks, and I angrily rub them away. If boys are worth nothing but tears, then I’ll stick to musical instruments.
Halfway through the huge grassy field, I hear music, carried to me on the breeze. A violin, singing a sweet melody that soars through high and low notes, hooks itself into my heart. I start to run, desperate to find the one playing this music. The sound comes from the direction of my stream.
I finally reach the end of the field and enter the trees. Just a few steps in, I find my stream. It tumbles over stones on its way and drags dead leaves along with it. On a sunny day, it would be glittering from sunlight that filters in through the canopy of trees above. The bank is dotted with ferns, bushes, and large rocks that are perfect to sit on. I would know.
The musician is standing on the other side of the stream, facing me, but his eyes are closed. There’s a sort of sad, half-smile on his face as he draws the bow across the strings and creates that Siren noise that drew me in. Blonde hair falls across his face and shades his eyes. He looks about my age, but I’ve never seen him at my school before.
I’m breathing hard from running here but I don’t need my inhaler yet. I quietly set down my viola case and pull the instrument out. The dark wood makes it seem so at home in the woods, I think. I settle it under my chin and use my bow like a wand to bring more magic into these woods and add to the spell of the song.
He’s shocked when the lower voice of the viola joins in and his eyes fly open, but he doesn’t miss a beat and he keeps playing. His eyes are green leaves, blending in with the world around us. I weave a counter-melody around his song and let myself fall into the bliss of this rare moment in time.
I never want it to end, but he pulls the bow across in a last word and drops his arm. I follow suit and sigh.
“Hi,” he says, which is so inadequate to the moment that I laugh aloud and then blush.
“Sorry,” I say, “It’s just…”
“I think I understand,” he grins, then steps forward to the very edge of the bank, tucks his bow in his pocket, and reaches out his hand. “I’m Theodore. Call me Teddy. ”
I laugh. Who was this kid, with his old-fashioned ways? I mimic him and shake his hand. “I’m Emma.” Now we’re standing only a few feet away, separated by the stream. I feel a sudden urge to close the gap. I pull my hand away. “How did you find my secret hideout?” I ask, smiling.
“I was about to ask you the same thing!” His eyes dart away shyly and then they lock me in their emerald gaze. “How ‘bout another song? Before it rains?”
I whip out my bow and answer with a flood of melody. He joins in with a smile. The skin around his eyes crinkles, my heart thuds, and it’s all too lovely to last. Thunder rumbles from the heavy quilt of clouds above us and we halt our song to turn our heads to the sky. Slowly, it begins to rain. Raindrops begin pitter-pattering onto the leaves high above us, but eventually they find their way to slide down and fall onto our heads. Teddy and I scramble to lock our instruments away safely into their cases. When we’re done, we’re left standing with a clear idea of what we have to do next but with no desire to. His eyes are searching my face and his expression is unreadable, so I uncertainly break the silence.
“Well… I suppose I should go,” I attempt a weak smile.
He smiles back brightly despite the raindrops flattening his hair and streaming down his skin. I shiver in the cold rain. “I wouldn’t want you to get sick so you can’t come back again,” he says.
I feel a pinch in my heart as I step back to head up the bank and back towards my car. I take another step backwards and slip in the fresh mud. I drop my viola case and fall forward just to be caught by Teddy. He pulled me up so I was standing. I would’ve noticed that he ran into the stream to catch me and was still standing in it if I wasn’t so distracted by his close proximity. His arms were still around my waist and his face was so close to mine, except that he was several inches taller than me.
“Will you come back?” he asked. I was close enough to see the freckles on his nose and the flecks of gold in his eyes.
“Maybe,” I managed to say. My neurons were having a party in my brain and I couldn’t focus.
Teddy grinned and pulled away. He picked up his violin case and steps out of the stream, his shoes squelching with every step. “Bye.”
“Bye.” And he’s gone.
I eventually remember that I’m getting drenched from the rain and my viola case is sinking into the mud behind me. I scoop it up and run back across the field towards my car.
I stop for a breather at the railroad tracks and consider taking out my inhaler, but really feel that I can manage without it. I crunch across the gravel once more and then keep going all the way to my car.
I throw my muddy viola case in and then myself. As I pull out and begin driving farther and farther away from the stream past the railroad tracks, I can’t help wondering when I’ll be able to go back.