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1.3 Lizzie

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The swell of my last note trembled not only inside my hands or my violin but also inside my chest. My heart shook like a skinny tree during a storm, and a single raindrop slipped from my eye and down my round cheek. I vibrated as if I could shake to pieces. The threads holding my person together frayed. The world around me was a black void, and I stood alone with only that last note. That note meant everything. It meant spending the night in my human form, before dawn where I'll become a swan again to swim forever in a lake made of tears. It meant while I longed to be human, I felt more poise and beautiful as a beast. It meant finding love.

Applause busted my bubble and reality faded back in. I took a sharp breath, holding the misery in my chest, keeping it down like I was going to hurl it all over the stage. Oh god. I don't think anyone has done that before. I really didn't want to be the first. I refocused on the small audience in our high school auditorium, my fellow band geeks, and for the next hour, my competition. Our band director, Mr. Burka, joined in with the clapping.

"Thank you, Lizzie," he said from behind his round spectacles. He had thick coiled curls with hints of gray. He had impressive crow's feet from obviously not taking life too seriously, and beige skin.

"Uh, you're welcome- I mean, thank you," I said, immediately wishing I could suck the words back in like spaghetti noodles. Someone in the crowd snorted, making their amusement known and suddenly, I was no longer a violinist on stage, I was the clown.

He jotted something down on his clipboard. He opened his mouth to say more, but all I could hear was the whispering. The crowded area of the brass section leaned into each other, eying me and saying whatever they wanted. It didn't matter if I knew they were talking about me and it was not good.

My face warmed, a wetness overflowing into my waterline and I hiccupped.

"Oh, god," I whispered and hiccupped again.

"Everything okay?" Mr. Burka asked the worst question in the world.

"Um, yes," I piped up, hearing the crack. Talking made it worse. Talking always made it worse. The pressure in the front of my face pushed harder, pushed me right off the cliff and my eyes burned, begging for the tears to douse the fire. I gripped the neck of my violin the way someone would hold onto a friend for support. Having a handle on my emotions was more like lassoing a bull. Out of control. Could turn on me any moment and murder me. Their whispers created weapons, pointing at me and shooting bullets through my confidence. When things fell apart, they fell fast, and I wasn't quick enough to catch all the pieces.

Why did Mr. Burka insist on having everyone out in the crowd during auditions? The situation is just asking for disaster. Statistics have shown that in every five girls making a presentation, at least one will cry, and I found that source straight from the paranoid part of my brain right now. Maybe it was why I went first, so I could lower the bar. I could take this for the team. Being the girl that always cried.

"Now, let's go over the sheet music. Can you read me the first stave, please?" Mr. Burka asked. I looked at him, swallowing my need to make a face. We both knew I could read sheet music. I'm in his class every day and with him during band practice. I played the piano for him if he needed to focus more on conducting. It should be like reciting my ABC's and yet, a lump formed in my throat, a high vault my words were forced to jump over.

"Y-yeah." I nodded and took a deep breath. My fingers itched. I'd much rather be at the piano. I wanted my fingers to keep busy, instead of picking up the sheet music with trembling fingers. A rush of whispers exploded from the corner of the auditorium. I heard my name. I heard a mocking sound of a baby crying.

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