thirteen

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Two weeks have gone by since out first kiss, and we'd hung out almost every day since. It was both wonderful and terrible, the latter because Justin didn't want anyone to know that we were seeing each other.

Our new relationship needs privacy, he claimed. If you tell, it will change things.

How? I'd asked.

In a million different ways.

That's fine with me, I thought. It's not so bad having him all to myself.

On a Sunday morning, while I focused on the piece I needed to know for the following week's lesson with Mr. Watson, Justin showed up. The usual way, via my porch. I'd been immersed in the frenetic world of Paganini, my fingers working hard to keep up. I jumped at the rap on my door, the bow flying out of my hand. It bounced on the edge of the mattress and clattered to the floor. I bent down to pick it up.

Justin laughed as he slid my door open. "That's one scary song. I could hear it all the way back to your fence."

Scary? I'd never thought of it that way. It was definitely a fast piece, though I wasn't even close to playing it at tempo.

Justin took the bow from me and placed it on my desk. He reached for my viola, grasping it by the chin rest. I held my breath until the instrument made it safely beside the bow. "No more practicing," he said, grabbing my hand. "Boring Sundays are a thing of the past."

"Wait!" I resisted his pull long enough to scribble Going out, back later on a Post-it. I slapped it onto my computer screen before succumbing to his strength.

Out on the street, Justin showed me his new Yamaha motorcycle—a belated birthday gift from his parents. I'd never been on a motorcycle before. I kept my eyes soldered shut the entire way.

We arrived at the entrance to his favorite place, then hiked up a steep path to the peak of the hill behind his apartment building. Lowell's Cemetery, overgrown with scraggly weeds and dried grass, looked more like a field than a graveyard. It was almost hard to believe that thirty-eight people from nine families were buried beneath our feet, but that's what Justin said.

"We should have a meeting up here sometime," I told him. "It's so quiet."

He shook his head. "I don't want anyone to know about it. Just you."

I lowered my eyes, amazed at how happy his words made me.

Justin lifted my chin with his finger, delivering a kiss that made my heart pound in my chest like a rainstorm.

When I came up for air, he said, "I come here when I get stressed. It chills me out."

I laughed. "You get stressed?"

"Certain people stress me out. Up here, I can scream all I want, and no one can hear me."

He pulled me close, his lips floating across my neck, my cheek, my ear. Whatever question I was about to ask drifted away, out of reach.

....

Halfway through Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik," Mr. Watson held up a hand. "Start again from measure three. And remember, it's an allegro. Lively, Ariana, not a funeral procession."

I flipped the chewing gum to my other cheek and began, but my mind strayed from the page. I imagined Justin and me, embraced in a slow dance, his breath in my ear, body pressed against mine. Every part connected ...

Mr. Watson flipped the music shut.

I looked at him. "What?"

"That was a soulless rendition, Ariana. No confidence. No commitment. Have you been practicing?"

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