RUSH (City Lights_ New York City Book 3)(3)

By: Emma Scott

And now love for Keith. Of all the women who flocked around him like doves around a bronze statue, he’d chosen me. My heart was full to bursting, but I would win my spot honestly. I would give them everything.

The size and elegant, warm beauty of the Alice Tully didn’t intimidate me. Neither did the other violin hopefuls. Nor did Keith and the other directors of this student-run quartet. There were only three spots available: One cello, one bass, and one violin. Keith played the guitar himself.

I would play Mozart, of course. Mozart, whom I felt was my spirit guide; who called to me from across the centuries with his music that, in my estimation, was absolute perfection. I felt Mozart’s music in my very bones, in my heart and soul. I gave everything to the music. I always played with my heart in my hands, but with Mozart, I stripped myself raw.

The first three rows of the Tully were full of hopefuls, some muttering beneath their breaths, some giving me the obvious stink-eye. They all knew I was dating Keith. But it didn’t matter. The music was alive in me and I was about to unleash it.

I played the fiercely technical cadenza to Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 for Keith and the other two student directors—both seniors like Keith, both women, both eyeing me dubiously. I was too lost in the music to watch their scrunched-up faces loosen, morphing from surly doubt, to shock, to stunned joy. I was too immersed to see the other hopefuls’ faces lose their scorn as they listened. Until the end. Then the applause, small for the nearly empty Hall but thunderous to me, came and I awoke as if from a warm sleep.

They surrounded me on all sides, congratulating me even though half of them had yet to play. Some wiped tears from their eyes, some just shook their heads as they showered me with compliments.

“Amazing. I felt that in my gut.”

“I’m crazy-jealous, but in the good way, I swear.”

“And here I thought you were just Keith’s latest, but no…”

That one caught my attention. “His latest…?”

But then Keith was there, sweeping me into his arms and spinning me around. “Have we got a super star, or what?” He laughed and kissed me and then put his mouth near my ear. “I think I love you, Charlotte.”

Tears sprang to my eyes. Now I was sure my heart couldn’t hold another drop of happiness. I kissed him back with everything I had. “I love you, too.”

* * *

One week until opening night. I was hanging out in my dorm room at the residence hall with Melanie Parker. She’d won the Strings’ coveted cello seat, and we’d become best friends before the end of the first rehearsal a month ago. Now, we were talking and laughing as I read dumb jokes off the Internet.

“Okay, wait, here’s a good one,” I said. “What’s the difference between a pianist and God?”

“Seriously, Char…”

“God doesn’t think he’s a pianist.” I wagged my eyebrows at her. “Get it?”

“Yes, I get it. How someone can be as talented as you are and yet such a ginormous dork, is beyond me.”

I shrugged, laughing. “Why should musicians be stuffy and serious all the time?”

“Is this another joke?”

“I guess not all musicians,” I mused. “Mozart used to write letters to his mother, describing particularly satisfying shits he’d taken.”

“Only you would find that admirable.” Melanie glanced at her watch through her cat’s eye glasses. “Damn. We’re late.”

We packed up our stuff and headed out when my cell phone, still on my desk, rang.

At the door, Melanie hoisted her cello case. “Tick-tock.”

“I know, but just let me…” I hurried back to the desk and peered over at the display. “It’s a Bozeman number. Someone calling from home.” Not my parents or Chris, or it would have ID’d them.

“You know how I feel about tardiness,” Melanie said, tapping her foot. Her pragmatism, plus her dark, pageboy haircut never ceased to remind me of Velma, from the old Scooby-Doo reruns Chris and I used to watch as kids on some cartoon network.

I wish I had listened to her. I wish I had left the phone alone and gone to rehearsal. I would have had a few more hours of ignorant bliss before the knife came down, like a guillotine, forever dividing my life into Then and Now. Then had been so full of light and love and music. Now was dark and cold and quiet.