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3.8 Day Three: Lizzie/Parker

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LIZZIE

I gripped my backpack straps, closing my eyes, and I counted my breaths. The buzz of the halls slowly died, the heartbeat of the school going silent. Fifteen breaths went by before I dared to walk through the band room's door and saw Mr. Burka at his computer, his glasses halfway down his nose. He looked busy. I shouldn't bother...

Ever since band class, his words had haunted me, "Your mom emailed me. Did I read it right? Are you really leaving orchestra?"

My brain halted all motor functions. Overwhelmed with too much to say, I couldn't say anything at all. Nothing intelligible, of course. Very on brand. My words tumbled out of my mouth like a box of Legos scattering down some stairs.

"Um, she did? Um, yeah..." I played with the tail end of my braid, examining the split ends. "I don't know. That's weird."

Why was lying always my default?

I sighed.

The anxiety in my stomach was multiplying like popcorn in the microwave, bouncing off the walls and soaking up the acids. I couldn't believe my mom talked to him. Behind my back. Without my blessing. She had her own life, so she didn't have to go around controlling mine. I touched my hair, cooking up a few bad ideas of my own that I wasn't planning on getting her blessing to do.

"There you are." Parker appeared around the corner. Her voice bounced around these empty halls. She jogged to my side. "Hey, like what's Camille's deal? You'd think she'd be happy that she got cast, but she's raining all over my parade." She stopped by my side, following my stare into the band room. "What are you doing? The floor's not lava, you can go in."

"I don't want to," I muttered.

"Why? Who's in there? Do I need to rough somebody up?"

I snorted and some of my anxiety flew away the way surprised birds jumped from tree branches. "Sure, if you wanna rough up Mr. Burka, be my guest. Maybe you can knock him in the head so hard he forgets every single embarrassing conversation we've ever shared."

"Whoa, whoa. You're fighting with Mr. Burka?"

Squinting at the teacher, I dropped my braid. "It's not really fighting if only one person has a problem and the other one is oblivious."

"Oh." Parker nodded as if understanding. "Been there." She crossed her arms, dropping her shoulder against the wall to face me. "So...?"

"So?"

"So, what's up?"

My stomach twisted, tucking itself into a tiny ball. "My mom thinks I should quit orchestra. I um..." I adjusted my bag, looking down at my shoes as if I had never seen a pair of converse before. "I sometimes cry on stage, so my mom thinks I don't like it, so she emailed Mr. Burka about it and I don't wanna quit. What I really want is another chance to audition for the spring symphony again with ninety-five percent less tears."

"Say all that then, you're rehearsed." Parker grinned. She walked behind me, putting her hands around my arms. Putting pressure against me, I straightened my legs. Parker insisted, "Just breathe-"

"Don't push me," I grumbled and tried retracting my neck inside my chest like a little turtle before a speeding eighteen-wheeler crushed it.

Parker pushed a little harder. Her breath tickled my ear. "Get in there."

"Don't push me," I said again, losing this battle. My sneakers squeaked as they slid over the linoleum.

"Speak your truth," she said and gave me one last hard shove and I tripped, stumbling into the band room. Behind me, Parker slammed the door. I jumped, snapping my head around at Parker waving behind the window, where she was out of my reach and safe. For now.

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