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Frozen in Time This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     My heart pounded wildly while my head throbbed. My hands, sweating with nervousness, gripped my wobbling knees. The older girls next to me exchanged excited giggles and "good lucks" and waved confidently to parents. Conversation swirled around me: "Oh, Lisa, you look beautiful. I’m sure your performance will be phenomenal."

"Oh, I’m not so sure, even after two first-place awards at this competition. Do you remember the one at the conservatory last year?"

"Of course. How could I forget my perfect rating?"

Amid all this confidence I took a deep breath and peered down at my tiny buckled shoes, barely kissing the hard floor so far below. I searched the huge, echoing music hall for my parents, looking for some small comfort, but all the faces swirled together. I smoothed out my favorite dress as I hummed my piece, trying to prepare for what lay ahead.

Spotting my parents in the sea of onlookers boosted my confidence, and I relaxed a little to listen to the others play. I anxiously skimmed the fancy program, looking for a familiar song. None of the pieces were ones I had ever heard and most I couldn’t even pronounce. I stared at my wrinkled music, limp in my fists, dreading the moment I would be forced to abandon it to mount the huge stage alone. My piece was hard.

I sat up a little straighter with my music open, showing off those belligerent eighth notes I had just mastered. I then glanced at the music of the boy next to me, filled with so many notes the white of the page was barely visible. They marched ant-like across page after page until they made my head spin. Feeling suddenly dwarfed by everyone around me, I wondered why I was here. My embarrassed music slipped under my chair, leaving me feeling out of place.

The mob of music-mastermind clones left one by one to present the awed audience with yet another masterpiece, each perfect and elegant. The older girls’ black dresses swept them off the stage, as they knowingly smiled to the thunderous applause. Returning to their seats, contentment graced their faces at their flawless performances. Some selections lasted as long as the day before Christmas vacation.

Then the small girl in front of me stood to take the stage. Her tiny hands and cherubic face comforted me. Thankfully, I thought, I was not the only one at a lower level. Her timid steps echoed in the concert hall as she made her way onto the stage. She bravely asked for a booster chair to reach the pedals and then climbed onto the shiny piano bench.

As she carefully placed her fingers on the keys, I prepared to hear a simple version of "Chopsticks." To my astonishment, her miniature fingers flew over the keys, stretching her arms to the limit. Her piece seemed even more intricate than the older players, if that were possible.

Notes peeled from the black gaping mouth of the grand piano and overflowed into the auditorium with passionate feeling and rhythm, losing the audience in an enchantment of trickling waterfalls, vile villains and heroes of old. Booming applause met her as she politely curtsied. I was next.

My head pounding and my stomach churning, I stood and moved toward the stage. The room was silent, and goose bumps started to sprout on my arms and legs. I finally placed my trembling fingers on the keys. I raised my fingers and struck the first chord, but all was not well. I played it again. What was wrong? I played the same chord again, and again, and again, but with each strike, it sounded worse. I sat there, frozen, completely dumbstruck. I could not remember a single note.

I could feel the audience’s uneasiness as they shifted in their chairs. They cleared their throats. Each second seemed a lifetime. Not knowing what to do, I just sat there until finally one of the hostesses helped me off stage. Close to tears, I wanted to disappear, but something broke the silence. It started in the back of the auditorium and spread like rich hot fudge down the slopes of an ice cream sundae. The sound of warm applause filled the entire building. Even though I had not been able to get out one correct note, I felt that the applause was louder than for any other performer. Perhaps they admired the courage it takes to perform as much as the quality of the performance itself.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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