The Finish Line (Chapter One)
The finish line is in sight.
My fingers fly gracefully across the keys, not even pausing to question the notes they are playing. I am lost in the music as I marvel at the sounds because, even after all this time, music is still more beautiful than anything else I have ever experienced. I feel a small smile spread across my lips as my hand makes its way to the upper register of the piano, balancing a high sound with the beats of the bass hand.
It is as if I am alone with my music rather than playing for other people, my body simply a vessel for a lovely melody. Each movement of my hands is an outpouring of my soul, a diary exposed for all to see.
But just as quickly as music and I meet, we are destined to part. My hands settle on the closing chord and I am listening to the echo as it plays through the auditorium. The parting is always the hardest, this time no different.
When I surface to reality I am greeted by silence, the expected reaction during an audition. As the last chord reverberates through the room I am overwhelmed by a nauseous feeling that often accompanies anxiety. After the last remnants of the music dissipate from the large space my ears are pick up the quiet scratching of pencil on paper. Slowly I stand from my bench, each movement suddenly much harder than it should be due to my nervous state. I step to the edge of the stage, my heels clicking across the wooden surface as they announce my movement to the judges.
There are 3 of them sitting in the seats, their small existence startling due to the vast amount of seats the auditorium holds. As if part of one judgement-making machine, their heads rise from their papers simultaneously and offer me identical expressions of indifference. I smile nervously and bow to them, reminding myself to retain my manners in the face of anxiety.
“Thank you very much for your time,” I attempt to project my voice through the room, hoping to reach them at their distant seats. “I do hope you enjoyed my piece, and I would be honored to attend the music program at your college.”
“Thank you, Ms. Bradshaw,” one of the judges, a slender woman with curly red hair and a small nose, speaks up. “That was an excellent showcase of your abilities. We will be in contact with you soon regarding the results of your audition, but for now you are excused.” I nod in response to her words and flash another small smile in their direction.
As I hurriedly make my way towards the exit I can hear whispers from behind me, the judges discussing my recent performance. It takes great strength to continue walking, my curious mind aching to know the results immediately.
My sister is waiting outside of the doors. I find her leaning against the wall, scrolling through her phone, oblivious to my emergence. Leah and I differ in many ways psychologically, yet people never get tired of telling us how alike we look. The 23-year-old shares the same dark brown hair as me, straight and long. Her green eyes also match mine, although these two things are some of the only things we have in common. While she stands at a short 5’4”, taking after my mother’s height, I find myself standing at 5’9”, cursed with the tall traits of my father. Her short stature does not stop her from being a force to be reckoned with, of course. Leah has always been the athletic one of the family, to the point that she has recently graduated with a degree in sports medicine.
I clear my throat as I wait for her to acknowledge my arrival, something that causes me to cough, making my existence clear to her.
“That bad, huh?” Her tone is playful as she speaks, a small smile spreading across her lips. She puts her phone in her back pocket and spreads her arms open, offering no further explanation of her desire in doing so. She scoffs at my hesitation as I do not come immediately to her. “I’m your sister, I drove all the way here, and you can’t even hug me?”
“I feel like I need to be professional,” I mutter, my cheeks flushing from embarrassment at her outburst. “I really want to get into school here.” Leah moves her arms into a crossed position, her smile turning into a frown at my words.
“They’d be stupid not to accept you. How long have you been playing music? How many concerts have you already done by 17 years old? You’re already practically a professional, Ella. You’re a shoe in.” I sigh at her words, aware of the truth in them. Still, I can’t help but feel a creeping sense of doubt in my abilities. I attempt halfheartedly to push these fears away and shoot Leah a smile in attempt to reassure her.
“You’re right, I am being ridiculous. But, as a professional musician, I couldn’t possibly hug you. It wouldn’t be very professional of me, would it?” I grin at her playfully as I walk by her, attempting to add an excited beat to my step. I don’t want Leah to worry about me, and the last thing I need is for anyone to know that I have severe doubts in my abilities. As an already well known musician on several instruments, it is important to maintain my image and not spread rumors through the musical circles.
“Whatever you say, little sister,” I can practically hear the eye roll in her voice as she catches up to me. I giggle quietly at her words as I make one last request before exiting the building.
“But can your little sister get ice cream on the way home?” While I can’t control the results of the audition, I remind myself that I am still a musician with a long future ahead of me. No judge can decide otherwise.