Faces turn towards her, eyes shining in the somehow bright lights of the dim school auditorium. She inhales deeply, feeling the tremors along her body as the opening notes rose in the air, those hesitant birds afraid to fly. It’s her first solo performance, and she is desperately afraid.
There’s movement along the wall; she looks up, her eyes shining. Her hands tremble as she pulls the microphone close, her lips nearly brushing its cold surface. She traces the familiar outline of his shoulders, framed against the light and she smiles to herself. The notes flow from her throat, cascading against one another and soaring through the air, almost jubilant. Her heart crows with triumph. He’s here, he’s here, he’s here. She croons into the microphone, praying that not only her words, but her fear, her longing will reach him. She sends her hopes into the air with reckless abandon, fearless for the first time in her life.
She finishes, the ending note lingering in the air with a solemn and beautiful finality. She inhales deeply once more, allowing her voice to settle back into its quavery tone as she steps away from the microphone, flattered by the applause.
She runs along the wall of the school auditorium, her fingers brushing against the rough hewn stone that borders the tech booth that houses the sound equipment that she’s so familiar with, but more importantly, him. She flies up the stairs, catching herself once as she curses her clumsiness. Her crew congratulates her on a wonderful first performance, but she doesn’t hear them. She throws herself at him, for once not caring if she’s being awkward or too forward, because she is too flushed with the joy of seeing him. Thank you for coming, she whispers, unintentionally breathy as she presses her hand against her chest, feeling her heart race beneath her skin. He smiles at her, pulling her into a hug even as he presses two fingers against her wrist, feeling her heart race, race, race, blood borne along by veins, by arteries, all singing with a frantic abandon.
You did such a good job, he whispers. I’m so proud of you. His words echo letters that she holds close to her heart, those folded and worn papers carrying so much hope that stays tucked in her equally worn wallet, waiting for those bleak and hopeless days to show that the stars do shine, somewhere. He has no idea how long she will treasure that simple phrase: the cadence of it, the way he looks at her when he says it, these are things to be treasured.
He asks her, in those quiet minutes as he drives and she finds herself back in the passenger seat of his car (a seat she had not occupied since they had fallen out of love), why did you choose that song? She laughs quietly, a self-conscious effort to hide the sob that bubbles up in her throat. Why not? she asks. It was a pretty song. He laughs back, equally self-conscious, his eyes studiously trained on the road. She turns, watching him in profile, as she remember watching him just like this all those years ago (short years that feel like entire eternities). She chokes on the memories. You never do anything just by chance, he says, his voice low and lovely and familiar.
She bites her lip, conflicted. She doesn’t know what to say. She knows what she wants to say. The words press against her vocal chords, begging to be released. Her fingernails dig into the palm of her hand. No. She can’t. She can’t tell him how much she misses him. She can’t tell him that she saves every memory of him like treasures, tucked away and safe from view. She can’t tell him that she still dreams about him, that she still finds him in her writing, in her poetry, in her head. She can’t tell him that he’s somehow become an integral part of her that she can’t escape no matter how hard she tries and God only knows how hard she’s tried.
The moment passes and the question goes unanswered. He turns and looks at her, with his piercing eyes, and she can’t help but look away. How could she meet his eyes when she holds such heavy secrets?
She believes that she will never find a love quite like what she had. She sits alone, hours after those few frantic, hopeful moments, wondering and wishing. What would she give for a second chance? Anything. She would give anything.