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One Last Glance
“And second seat?” asked Jen.
There was silence. Lots and lots of silence. PJ, being the best among us, had just been elected first seat -- principal -- without hesitation. But now six violists stared at each other, each hoping for someone to suggest their name for the second seat in the section, assistant principal. I knew the only ones who had a chance were me and Melissa, and I cast quick, furtive glances at her, hoping she both would and wouldn't say it.
“He's pretty good,” Melissa suggested timidly, waving her bow in my direction.
“Okay…” said Jen hesitantly, “everyone okay with that? PJ principal, Jemmin assistant principal.”
The six people in the room nodded slowly, the tension still hanging thickly in the air. I turned to look at Melissa in tentative admiration; she looked at me as well and I quickly twisted away. There was an unspoken understanding that she had just given up her position as one of the leaders of the viola section, and I felt both proud and ashamed. I knew that if I had said the same thing just the opposite would've occurred.
Sectionals ended in what seemed like seconds, and I was burning with the urge to thank her as we walked toward the green room for a full orchestra rehearsal.
Damn it, say something! I started to, but stopped when I realized I had absolutely nothing to say. The half of a syllable that I had started to speak made everyone turn around and look at me, including her. I had the odd feeling that she could read my mind as she looked at me with an expectant expression, eyebrows somewhat raised and curious-looking. I shied away and pretended to be looking for something in my folder.
We entered the green room and immediately felt the coldness that it was known for. I shivered but tried not to show anything, hoping that I looked at least something like a leader even when I was shorter than most of the violists in the section. I took my new seat at the front of the room. I had no one to look at except PJ, who sat on my left looking tall and much more leader-like.
“Hello, everyone, let's see who our new front stands are!” said Mrs. Mascaro, our conductor, in her ever exuberant voice. She pointed out the concertmaster and his stand partner, the second violins' principal and assistant, and then me and PJ. Again I could feel Melissa's eyes on my back, so I looked back. She smiled at me and I was sure my face instantly turned tomato-red; I spun around so fast I almost dropped my viola.
When she was done with the cellos, Mrs. Mascaro started the rehearsal. “Handel, please!” she called. I picked up my viola and placed my bow on the D string, noticing that the fingerboard was powdered white with rosin dust.
The music whirled around me and I felt perfectly at peace, even forgetting about Melissa for the moment as the orchestra played near perfectly. I could hear everything fitting together and I wondered how we could have possibly achieved this in five days. Four and a half hours of rehearsal every day, I reminded myself. But only two hours left today.
Those two hours passed quickly, and we drove home in Mrs. Gordon's car, my thoughts lingering on what had happened at camp.
Why didn't I say something, damn it! I cursed at myself. Thanks, at least. But I hadn't said anything. Throughout the three afternoon rehearsals I hadn't said a word to Melissa -- not that I usually did. I'd thought about what to say to her for hours, turning over every grateful adjective in the thesaurus. But at the end of the day when I had my chance, my tongue faltered and I silently slunk past her.
She's pretty. The random thought startled me. That holds no relevance, I told myself. But I knew better.
Twenty minutes later, Mrs. Gordon pulled into me and my brother's driveway. I walked in through the front door to be challenged to a game of ping-pong by my brother. Distractedly I picked up a paddle and played -- much the same way I moved through the next few days, until Saturday -- concert day.
The sun was shining brightly and I was wearing cargo shorts and a red WCSU camp shirt that was way too big for me. It definitely didn't feel like a concert day at all, but it was just as well; I wasn't thinking about the concert -- not even the improvised solo I was supposed to play. There were more important things on my mind.
I walked in to Ives Concert Hall feeling fresh and ready-to-go. Drifting through dress rehearsal, the only thing I noticed was that Melissa looked cute in the camp shirt. When the doors opened and parents poured in, Nick, the senior counselor, took to the stage in his usual shorts and faded red ball cap, announcing that he was going to give out some awards. They were the results of a vote we'd had on Friday, on ordinary categories like “Best Counselor” to the unorthodox -- “Best Manners”. Not expecting anything, I just sat back and clapped.
Then Nick revealed the last award, a half-price tuition for next year's camp, given to kids chosen by their conductors for enthusiasm, effort, and improvement.
There was a small tingling in the back of my mind and suddenly I heard my name called along with PJ. How Mrs. Mascaro had seen through my inability to smile and seemingly unmotivated expression I couldn't fathom. But despite my elation, I felt guilty because there were only two awards per section, and I was sure there was someone who deserved it even more.
I returned to my seat to find Melissa sitting next to it. Nervously I smoothed my hair and pulled my long-outgrown shorts down to cover my knees.
“Congratulations,” she said, smiling beautifully at me.
“Thanks,” I replied weakly; I could feel my ears turning red.
I wanted to add “for everything” but she’d already gotten up and was walking to the stage. I’d almost forgotten about the concert.
“Pianissimo,” whispered Mrs. Mascaro to us. I gave her a small nod, a habit I'd picked up from always being front stand at school. Her baton swished gracefully through the air four times, and we began.
The music was simply perfect, so connected and whole that everyone felt like parts of a single spirit, playing the music with an exactness that reflected the passion all of us had for orchestra music. When the concert was over, chords still ringing in my ears, I felt content to forget about everything but the music.
But I didn't. And the next second, as a dark realization dawned on me, I began to feel just the opposite of what I should have felt after a concert. Melissa was leaving.
I burst out the doors of Ives Concert Hall, stunned by the bright sunlight, and for a second forgot why I was bursting out of doors in the first place.
One Last Glance. The only words I could think at the moment slammed themselves back into my head for the fiftieth time within a minute, starting me erratically walking in one direction.
I turned a corner, saw a hallway I didn't recognize and turned back. Where are you? Damn it, Melissa, I love you. I froze for a second, then pushed on. I'd figure out if that was actually true later.
Parents and kids were coming out now, the hallways filling to more than capacity. I shoved my way through people, eliciting dark stares from a lot of them. I have to find her, I have to, I have to...
Then I turned a corner and there she was.
Not Melissa, but my mother. And my dad and brother. They were ordering the concert CD. Melissa was nowhere in sight, but my mom was already calling me over. My heart sank with the thought that I'd never get to see her again.
“Do you want the slideshow too?” asked my mom.
“Yeah, yeah,” I absent-mindedly answered. I stared emptily at the forms my mom was filling out.
Suddenly, I perked up. I could still see pictures of her on the slideshow! And next summer I'd get to see her, and she said she lived in either Long Island or Rhode Island -- both not too far. A rare smile broke out at the realization that she was not gone forever.
Then I gladly rode home, lost the CD when it finally came in October, and went on to completely, totally, and forever forget about the girl I'd had a crush on all that week.