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Between the Dark and the Spotlight
I could hear the audience cheering for the band playing before us—Gavin’s band. I could hear them chanting the name again and again, and the unending mantra began to mesmerize me. Closing my eyes tightly, I stuffed a finger into each ear and began trying to sing the lyrics to the song we had spent hours aggravating over: composing, practicing, and perfecting until our throats were sore and our fingers were numb. My mind drew a blank after the first chorus, and my panic began to swell.
I couldn’t let my band down like this. The three of them stood a while off away from me, seemingly relaxed while I was slowly breaking down. We had worked too hard to earn the spot at the Young Voices competition, and I couldn’t be the one who would drag them down again. I couldn’t give Gavin the satisfaction of beating me again, when he was the one who had always emerged the champion in everything he had worked for. That was part of the reason we decided to form this band—to prove to our families and the world that we could make a name in this world, our way.
Wren put a hand on my shoulder, her face somewhat concerned. “Are you okay?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper over the din that surrounded every one of us in the darkness.
I wanted to scream “No!” as loud as I could. I wanted to run away, find a place in the quiet where I could find my drive and my will. I wanted to be anywhere but there in that tense moment, where everything would have to count on me and the progress we had made in those six months. But I knew that if I backed out now, we would never have a chance as good as this. Everything would have been for nothing, and even if they didn’t show it, my fellow band members would hate me. They would look at me and point their finger to the person who ruined their possible future, playing music around the country. And I couldn’t have that happen.
I nodded my head, my movement somewhat jerky in my haste to prove I was okay. Wren echoed my nod, and she turned around, shaking her arms out, and I knew I wasn’t alone in being nervous.
Just as I stood, I saw the band exiting the stage. They walked towards us, guitars in hand, with Gavin walking in the front of the line. I felt my heart stop as my eyes ran over his face, and his eyes locked with mine. I couldn’t breathe. I wondered if he ever felt the same way about me, and I quickly shook off the feeling because I knew it was too impossible.
“You were great,” I croaked to fill the silence.
A smile broke across his face as he stepped forward towards me. “You’re nervous, aren’t you, Beverly?”
I opened my mouth to retort, but my throat was dry and the words stayed stuck there. Time seemed to stop in that moment of utter embarrassment, and I felt my eyes were moist with tears of shame and fear. I began to shake where I stood.
His smile turned to that of alarm, and he strode forward quickly, wrapping an arm around me and pulling me into him. I did the same, holding on to him for dear life, it seemed. Time stopped yet again as he embraced me, and he took this time to look me in the eyes and say, “You’ll be fine. Because you’re the Beverly I’ve been competing with all these years, the only reason why I still try anymore. Because you’re the one who never gives up. Because you have so much talent that you can’t let it go to waste in a moment of indecision. You don’t know it, but you’re amazing.”
Then time went on, and he pulled back. It seemed too soon for us to part, as Gavin could tell from the shadow that passed over my face, but our band was being announced and Wren was gesturing wildly for me to grab the guitar and run on stage before it was too late. Just as I was running up the steps to the stage, Gavin called out my name a final time.
I turn around. “Yeah?”
He smirked. “We are so gonna own.”
And as I stepped out into the spotlight, the eyes of a hundred people on my face, I knew that I was where I was supposed to be. And glancing back near the shadows of the curtains, I smiled, knowing that he gave me part of the courage to step onto that spotlight. And the rest was, well, me.