A girl learns how everything can change at band camp.
Lena was raised on violin lessons and minimal parental supervision. She loved her violin and hated when someone referred to it as a fiddle or played one that way. To Lena, everything about a violin said classical from the shine of the wood, the taut straightness of the strings, the sleekness of the bow, and the soft lines of its curves. She kept her violin cleaned and polished and in the finest case money could buy, nestling it in crushed velvet surrounded by black leather and silver workings.
Lena stopped a minute to caress the superb case before moving on to the rest of her packing. It was Spring Break in Colorado Springs and Lena was preparing to go to Band Camp. She hated that name too. Every year when she arrived, she and the others who played classical instruments were led to the dorms where the Orchestra ensemble was housed. She was excited to go this year because the camp had been chosen to audition for scouts from various famous orchestras and schools. A select few of the students could be chosen to receive scholarships.
Lena hoped with all her heart that she would be chosen. If she got a scholarship to a school away from Colorado, it would be her ticket to freedom. She received only so-so grades with the private tutors. What time wasn't taken of her day in session with a tutor was filled with her violin lessons. Her violin instructor had been known to use the word prodigy when describing Lena and admitted that Lena had almost surpassed what she could teach.
School, violin and not to leave the Manor unaccompanied. If Lena adhered to those three things her parents did not complain. She had gotten into trouble only once when she had more freedom. She and some friends had broken into an abandoned house and ended up setting it on fire. That was when Lena was locked away, given more tutoring than actual school time, and heard for a year about the embarrassment she had caused her parents.
That was another reason Lena was excited about camp. She would be able to do things like interact with other students her own age. The camp was exclusive so she would see Jessica and others who she hung with in previous years.
Lena hesitated as she came down the staircase, smoothing her velvet dress and checking her brownish locks in the mirror. There was one more thing she had to do before leaving, for herself if not for her parents.
Lena entered the parlor, head held high, and light footed. When her parents didn't seem to notice her entrance, she cleared her throat quietly at first, then a bit louder.
"Lena," said Jane DuRue, "Our little pumpkin ready to go?"
Daniel DuRue rattled his newspaper as he straightened it after turning the page. He did not look up. Jane had not looked up from her sewing either.
"There will be auditions for the finest schools this year," said Lena.
"Then you better do well," said Jane. "Only those from the finest schools will have their choice of orchestras."
Daniel scoffed. "The best schools will take Lena just because they want our money."
Lena looked down at her shoes. "I guess I better go," she whispered. Neither parent responded as Lena shuffled her way out.
Lena remembered as she left her parents that she would need paper and pens for camp. She went across the hall and into her father's study. She had gone into his desk before to get supplies. She went into the right bottom drawer and took out two notebooks. As she searched for pens, she opened the top left drawer. The pens were there but so were a stack of envelopes marked "past due". Most were unopened. There were also letters from her tutors asking for payment. Finally, there was a letter from the mortgage company about the house payments being past due. Lena thought about when she had asked for new clothes for camp. She was given the excuse that there was no time to shop. Lena scribbled a note to her parents asking what it all meant and left it on the desk.
Lena went outside and got into the Lincoln Town car where Jack, the driver, was holding the door for her. They drove to the public-school parking lot where Lena and the other students would meet the bus to go to the campsite. Many of the other orchestra students waved at Lena, but only Jessica Talsworth came up to her.
"Lena how are you doing?"
"I'm fine, Jessica. Your Cello must already be loaded."
"Yes, yes. I insisted that it go on the back of the bus and not underneath. Let those band people put their instruments under there." Jessica twirled a strawberry shaded curl around her finger and looked off into the distance. "I'd better get on the bus."
Lena watched her walk away as she caressed the case for her violin.
Lena took the seat behind the driver where she knew she wouldn't be bothered and stretched her legs across it. She nestled into the corner, wrapping her arms around the violin, and leaning her head on the window. Feigning sleep was another way to deter anyone from disturbing her.
It was a smooth ride to the campsite until they entered the dirt road leading up to the campsite. As always, the band students were led down to the left and the cabins, as the orchestra students were led up to the dorms to the right.
Inside her dorm room, Lena stayed dressed and brushed out her soft brown curls three times. She was always like this on nights away from her own bed. The mattress just wouldn't feel right, and she would toss and turn if she wasn't good and tired before going to bed. She decided a walk in the woods would help.
Lena wasn't far down the trail when she saw him. He was in just jeans and a T-shirt and had sandy blonde hair. He seemed to be examining a yellow flowered plant with feathery leaves.
Lena politely cleared her throat. The boy stood up and turned around, pushing some of his hair out of his face.
"Oh hello. Enjoying the night air?" he asked.
"I can never get comfortable away from home. I thought a walk would help."
"Same here, so I thought I would come out and put some herbs in my journal."
"Are there a lot of herbs around here? My Aunt uses a lot of them."
"Yeah, this one here is fennel and there is some nettle over there."
The boy sat on a nearby log and brought out his journal. "I'm Joe Whitaker by the way."
"I'm Lena DuRue."
Lena blushed when Joe took her hand.
"Come sit with me while I draw, Lena."
Lena sat on the log thinking how Joe's green eyes looked like moss in the sunshine.
"Look, there is some thyme behind us," she said.
"Yeah I got that when we first got here."
"So, what instrument do you play?"
"I play around with a guitar, nothing fancy. I like it because you can play a variety of music with it."
Lena stood up, brushing debris off her dress. "I play first string violin on a lot of the symphonies we play."
"A violin can play a variety of music too. My friend's pa plays the fiddle all the time..."
Lena pushed Joe off the log,
"A violin shouldn't be played that way! It is an insult to its design. Your friend's pa should have his hands broken for such insolence."
Joe stood and brushed himself off. "I guess everyone's entitled to their opinion. Personally, I think that classical stuff lacks something."
Lena could barely control her shaking and kicked a stone down the hill. "I bid you a good evening, Mr. Whitaker." She strutted off toward the dorms.
When Lena had got back to the dorm she had told Jessica of the encounter. Jessica laughed and teased her about having a crush. When she woke the next morning, she was determined to put the night before and Joe Whitaker out of her mind.
Lena tried several different ways to put her hair up in a bun, from a simple twist to a complicated braid. Her hair wouldn't have it. In the end she just yanked it back into a ponytail and went down to the dining hall for breakfast.
One of the teachers, Ms. Talbot, stepped up to the podium at the head of the dining hall. Ms. Talbot reminded Lena of a crane with her long spindly body and flip of blonde hair.
"Welcome students and faculty. I am Ms. Talbot. I just have a few announcements. First, there will be auditions this year for a few of the finest conservatories in the country. As we approach the time for the auditions, the instructors will be working with individuals and groups alike. There will be a sign-up sheet for individual tutoring if you believe you need it. Secondly, we will be pairing students at our discretion to learn from each other."
Jessica leaned toward Lena. "I hope we get paired together," she whispered.
Lena was looking at Greg Lasse, the second chair violinist. Her eyes twinkled when she thought of being paired with him. Greg had wavy black hair, not unlike hers, and perpetually tanned skin. His brown eyes reminded her of fine chocolates.
Ms. Talbot continued. "Finally, we will be having an excellent musician playing a short concert in the auditorium this afternoon. We hope all will attend."
The students went back to eating and casual conversations.
Jessica kept scanning the other side of the dining hall where the band students sat. "Which one is Joe?"
Lena didn't look. "I don't think we can see him from here."
Out off the corner of her eye, Lena caught sight of Joe emptying his trash.
"That's him by the trash where he belongs," said Lena.
"The blonde with the hair in his face?"
"Yeah, that's him."
"He's cute. Not on our level, of course, but he is nice looking."
When Joe looked their way, Lena quickly turned her head. When she turned back she saw Joe talking to another boy with curly red hair and freckles. The two boys looked their way and laughed. Lena flushed and pounded her fist on the table.
"What's wrong Lena?" asked Jessica.
"Nothing," Lena pouted and crossed her arms. "We need to get to class."
After the first class was Lena's session with Mr. Gram. He was a stout man with wire rimmed glasses and balding brown hair. Lena liked him because he was honest with her and usually gave her the freedom to practice what she wanted.
"Today we need to start something different," he stated.
"Please none of those common composers," Lena said, "You know how I feel about them."
"No, this is something completely different. Today I want you to listen to some contemporary music."
Lena huffed and rolled her eyes. "I am thoroughly not interested."
"Lena your rigidity keeps you from becoming the most brilliant violinist I had ever had the joy of teaching."
Lena plopped into a chair and looked away from him. "I'll try if I must."
Mr. Gram played snippets of classic pop music (Dylan, Beatles, Chicago, Eagles, Styx, Celine Dion), skipping through a few songs. Lena scrunched up her face, switched her position in the chair several times, and finally stuck her tongue out. Mr. Gram gave up and took the disc out of the player and handed it to Lena.
"I am cutting our session short for today. Your assignment for tomorrow is to learn to play at least part of one of these songs or to find a song you would like to play that is not an instrumental."
After her session with Mr. Gram, Lena took her violin down by the lake. She liked playing fantastical pieces while out in nature, and she began playing Bazzini's "Dance of the Goblins." She had her eyes closed, letting the music take her away to a place of fantasy. She didn't notice until the end that she had an audience of younger students. They all clapped when she finished. Lena curtsied and headed toward the dining hall for lunch. After lunch, everyone was given fifteen minutes to get ready and settle into the auditorium for the concert.
Ms. Talbot walked up on stage and tapped the microphone, making it squeal with back noise. It served the purpose of getting the attention of the students. Everyone quieted down and sat expectantly. Jessica sat next to Lena.
"Thank you all for coming," said Ms. Talbot. "I'd like you to welcome to the stage a brilliant guitarist, Mr. Joe Whitaker."
"Oh look, it's your boyfriend!" said Jessica.
Lena punched Jessica's arm and sunk back in her chair as everyone else clapped.
Joe began playing his version of "Dance of the Goblins." Lena listened and smirked when Joe hit a few wrong notes. Joe then began a descent into Requiem which made Lena take notice. It was the only song she liked by Mozart. Joe played a melody of several songs, a couple of which Lena recognized from the cd Mr. Gram had her listen to. They sounded nice on just the guitar, and it made Lena start thinking about how they would sound on her violin.
Lena turned to see Ms. Talbot and Mr. Gram talking to each other and nodding in her direction. As Joe finished, Lena joined the others in giving him a standing ovation. He bowed and left the stage.
As the students filed out of the auditorium, Lena was pulled aside by Ms. Talbot. The teacher led Lena to a classroom down the hall.
"Tell me Lena, what did you think of the concert?"
"Well, he made a few mistakes, hit a bunch of wrong notes...."
"But over all what did you think?"
"The music was quite interesting. I liked the way he blended the songs."
"Good, I'm glad."
The door to the classroom opened and in came Mr. Gram with Joe.
"What is this?" asked Lena.
"This is the student peer to peer program," said Mr. Gram. "We have decided to pair you and Joe together to learn from each other."
"I'm not working with him."
"You don't have a choice in the matter, Miss DuRue," said Ms. Talbot.
Lena turned to Joe where he was leaning on one of the desks. "And what do you think of this?"
Joe stood up and pushed his hair out of his face. "I think it could work out for both of us."
Lena huffed and left the classroom. She got halfway down the hall before Joe caught her.
Lena stopped but wouldn't turn to look at him. Joe came around in front of her.
"Just hear me out, then, if you want to push me into a locker, you can."
Lena tried her hardest not to smirk. "Okay, I'm listening."
"Okay. First off, I don't know why, but I feel like I should apologize for the other night in the woods. I still don't understand your thinking, but I shouldn't have been so rude."
Lena sighed and relaxed her stance. "I should at least apologize for putting my hands on you. It wasn't lady like at all."
"Hey, I think I got to see a little bit of the real you. For that I'm glad."
"What do you mean by that?"
"You remind me of me a couple of years ago. All pent up with anger over something. I learned to get it out in better, more creative ways. I think I can help you too."
"You know, you seem to have some kind of Zen insight or something."
"No. I can't think of anything I'm angry about."
"Well, whether we like it or not we're stuck with each other."
"I did kind of like some of the music you played. Mr. Gram gave me this cd he wants me to listen to."
"How 'bout I go get a player and we meet at our log. We can listen to it together."
"I guess that would be okay. I want to change my dress though. It really isn't woods friendly."
"That's fine. I'll meet you there in an hour."
Lena watched Joe walk away, all the while thinking she had never met anyone like him. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. She couldn't stop thinking about him the whole time they were apart. She thought about how he had done all the fumbling of notes in his concert on classic pieces. It was a good match putting them together after all. She was more than capable of helping him play classical music.
When Lena got to her dorm room she almost stepped on the letter that had been slid under her door. The return address was one of her parents' business stickers. Lena sat on her bed and opened the letter.
Our dearest Lena,
Now that you know there is no way to put it softly.
Your father's company has been the victim of a hostile takeover. He no longer owns it or is in charge. Many workers were laid off, including your father.
We are moving closer into the city and after the break you will be attending a public school. There will be no more tutors or violin lessons. I'm afraid you will have to give up your dreams.
I have already found work in a dress shop. Your father is still looking, but it will be easier once we live in the city.
All we can hope to do is make the best of this. We still love you very much.
Lena crumpled up the letter and threw it across the room. There was no time for tears right now. She was going to meet Joe.
Lena put on a pair of black slacks and a white sweater with her black slip-ons. She caught sight of herself in the mirror and decided she needed to fix her hair. She brushed it out and decided to leave it down, pulling it away from her face with a green ribbon, thinking how the ribbon matched Joe's eyes.
One her way out of the room she grabbed her violin and small denim backpack with her music and notebooks. When she arrived at the log, Joe wasn't there yet. Lena wanted to be sitting exactly right when he arrived and fidgeted with several positions on the log. She was trying a different position once more when she lost her balance, falling backwards off the log.
Lena could hear Joe's laughter coming up the trail.
"You need help?" asked Joe.
Lena stomped to her feet and brushed the debris off her slacks. "Not fair. Now I'm all scuffed."
Joe took Lena's face in his hand under her chin and made her look directly at him.
"I think you look fine."
Lena felt her face go pink and was glad when Joe let go and set the player on the log. Lena's legs felt weak as she sat on the other end.
"Oh, you brought your violin. I should have brought my guitar."
"I just thought I could play some of the music you were having trouble with during your concert."
"That would be cool. I know you play "Dance of the Goblins" well. I heard you down by the lake earlier."
"You were there? I didn't see you."
"I didn't think you would want to."
"I saw you at breakfast. My friend Jessica thinks you are nice looking."
"Is she the red head you were sitting with? My friend Kyle has a crush on her."
"Is that what you were laughing about?"
"Just that the two of us were together and the two of you were. With us fighting, Kyle thought there was no way he was going to meet her now."
"We should introduce them. Maybe after dinner."
"Yeah that might be interesting. Maybe we could all learn from each other, you know?"
"I think the instructors would like it if we took initiative like that. Jessica plays the Cello. What does Kyle play?"
"Kyle plays the saxophone, but he likes to play blues music."
"Hmmm. I don't know what music Jessica likes besides the symphonies."
"Oh well it doesn't matter right now. We need to work on us. You got that cd?"
Lena sat with Joe on the log listening to the cd. She really listened to it this time, asking Joe to clarify the lyrics on a couple of songs. Per her request, Joe restarted the song and sang her the lyrics when it got to the part in question.
All too soon for Lena the skies dimmed, and it was time to head to the dining hall for dinner. Joe said he had to return the player to his friend, but Lena had a portable player in her room. The two parted ways and Lena went to drop her backpack in her room before heading to dinner.
Lena got to the dining hall fashionably late and grabbed one of the last trays. Jessica waved her over to the table. Lena barely sat before Jessica leaned over to her.
"Rumor has it you got paired with your Joe."
"He's not my Joe. We're barely friends, but yes he is my peer partner."
"It seems to be a weird pairing unless someone requested it."
"It's not weird. I need help with learning new music and Joe just happens to need help with the classics."
"Still, everyone says it is an awkward pairing."
"Everyone can just stay out of my business." Lena glared at Jessica. It was to mean the discussion was over.
Lena played with her food, cutting it up and pushing it from one side of the plate to the other. She didn't eat any of it. When Jessica looked like she was going to start talking again, Lena got up and threw her tray away. While at the trash she caught sight of Joe. When he smiled Lena smiled back then looked at Jessica. She turned back to Joe and shook her head no. She left the dining hall and went to her dorm room.
In her room, Lena put on her headphones and listened to the cd again. She got one of her notebooks and wrote down some of the lyrics. Lena plopped across the bed, listening to the cd over and over. She fell asleep with Joe's voice singing the lyrics in her head instead of the artists.
When Lena woke the next morning, she thought about how short time at camp really was. This would be the second day of only six. It was strange not to run into Jessica in the hall, and she didn't seem to be at breakfast. Lena sat alone and ate before going to class.
Lena went to the log in the woods. She had her notebooks, her violin and the cd player and headphones. She listened to the cd for a minute, picked a song, and decided to try and play it. She had one headphone in, and her violin leaned against the other ear, so she didn't hear Joe come up behind her.
"Hey, that sounds pretty okay," said Joe.
Lena jumped and the headphone came out of her ear. "I didn't hear you come up. You shouldn't sneak around like that."
"I'm sorry, but you should be paying more attention. What if I had been a bear?"
"There aren't any bears around here. More than likely, you would have been a squirrel."
"Well, if I was looking for nuts I think I found one," Joe grinned.
"You would more likely find a nut in the mirror."
"Okay, okay. Still, you did sound okay when I was walking up. Wasn't that supposed to be "The Sound of Silence"?"
"Yeah. I'm not hearing it right."
"I got my guitar this time. Let me play the notes for you."
Lena and Joe worked on that song and a couple of others before deciding to take a break. They walked to the vending machine by the dining hall to get sodas.
Lena and Joe chose to sit at one of the stone picnics tables outside the dining hall. Joe had brought his bag and pulled out the music sheets he had to some of the songs that were on Lena's cd. He also brought out another cd.
"Here Lena, I want you to listen to this. I think it might change your mind about some things."
Lena took the cd from Mr. Gram out of her player and replaced it with the one Joe handed her.
"Here, if I sit next to you, we can both listen each with one earphone."
Lena sat next to Joe and gave him an earphone. They started listening to the cd. It was a cd of several country artists who played the fiddle/violin in their songs. Lena tried to keep an open mind and really liked it when it started playing Devil Went Down to Georgia.
"Wow," said Lena. "It is like some of them almost make the fiddle talk. The way that one does the devil playing and then Johnny? That was so cool."
"Do you think there is anything on there you would like to learn?"
"Yeah I think a lot of it would be fun to learn."
"That's good. Maybe after lunch we can work on me?"
"I almost forgot. I have a session with Mr. Gram after lunch, but we can get together after that."
"I have class in the afternoons," said Joe. "Maybe this evening right after dinner?"
"Well, look at you two all snuggled up cozy like," said Jessica coming out of the dining hall. She was being followed closely by Greg Lasse. Lena could not believe they were together.
"We were listening to the cd player," said Joe.
"Any excuse will do," said Jessica.
Jessica and Greg set their lunch trays down and Lena and Joe got up.
"You two are coming back here, right?" said Greg.
"Sure, why not?" said Lena.
Joe went ahead of Lena as Jessica caught her by the arm.
"Can you believe it? I actually got paired with Greg."
"Nice for you," said Lena.
"Nice for me? Its nice for you. You are all he wanted to talk about when we met."
Lena looked back at the table. Greg's wavy hair was perfectly combed, and his chocolate eyes glistened. He smiled a perfect white smile and winked at Lena. Lena felt herself blush slightly, but it was nothing like the flushness she felt when Joe touched her hand.
Lena's stomach had begun to feel funny, and she didn't want to eat by the time she got to the head of the line. She only took a bowl of berries and a peanut butter sandwich with some juice and water.
When Lena returned to the table the others were laughing.
"Joe here was just telling us about you falling off the log earlier," said Greg.
"Oh really," said Lena. She sat at the other end of the bench from Joe.
"Lena, you don't even like peanut butter," said Jessica.
Lena leaned on one of her hands as she took a blueberry and popped it in her mouth.
"Are you sure you're okay?" asked Jessica. She reached across the table and felt Lena's forehead.
"I'm just not really hungry." Lena got up and took her tray to the trash. For some reason it felt like her whole life was all wrong.
Joe ran over to her. "Hey, you all right?"
Lena avoided looking directly at Joe. "I've got a lot to think about."
"Okay, well, I got to get to class anyways. I'll see you later?"
Lena got to her room and put her violin and backpack on the bed. She sat at the desk and investigated the mirror behind it. Her hair wasn't nearly as unruly as Greg's seemed to be. He looked as though he used product to keep his in line. Her eyes were that smoky brown mysterious type. She stood up and smoothed her sweater over her torso. She wasn't over endowed, but she wasn't small either. No wonder these two boys were interested in her.
Lena sighed heavily and sat back down. She took the notepad and pen that was there and began writing two lists: one for Greg and one for Joe.
Greg. Lives close to me. Well-off family. Plays violin. Carries himself well. Looks at people when talking. Shows confidence. Probably dependable.
Joe. Where does he live? How did he even get to camp? Plays guitar. Slouches and slumps all the time. Hair in his face. Don't care attitude. Dangerous.
Lena looked at the lists. She crumpled up the paper and threw it across the room.
"Why am I attracted to Joe? Why does he make my legs weak?"
Just thinking about Joe and how he made her feel sent happy chills through her.
"I can't spend any more time alone with him. I don't care what the faculty says."
Determined to tell Joe that she didn't need to work with him anymore, Lena left her room and headed for the classrooms. She would confront Joe when he got out of class. Leaning against the wall across from the classroom, Lena tried to think of what she was going to say. Nothing would deter her. She had to stop seeing Joe.
When Joe did come out of the room, however, Lena became infuriated. Holding Joe's arm, leaning on him and laughing was Linda Moore. Linda was a statuesque blonde with blue eyes, large breasts, and that tiny build that seemed to be in these days. She was the star model for her mother's cosmetic company, as well as an accomplished flutist with her own custom pink flute.
Being so mad she couldn't see through her teary eyes; Lena abandoned confronting Joe and ran. She ran out of breath as she reached the doors to the dorms. Jessica was just coming out.
"What's wrong Lena? Your face is all streaked."
Lena wiped her face with her hands. "It's nothing really."
"I know what will cheer you up. Let's get your violin and you can come with me."
Lena took a minute while in her dorm room to wash her face before grabbing her violin and backpack and meeting Jessica back outside. Jessica led the way to the auditorium.
"We're not allowed in here unless we are asked to come now," said Lena.
"Ms. Talbot told me that as long as we are quiet we can come and watch other students audition."
Lena and Jessica slipped quietly inside and took seats in one of the upper rows.
"You can start playing whenever you wish, Mr. Lasse," said Mr. Gram.
Greg stood on the stage looking more like a conductor than a violinist in his black tie and tails. He lifted his violin, took a deep breath, and began playing "Requiem". He then faded into "The Last Rose of Summer", "God Save the King", "24 Caprices", and trailed off with "Violin Concerto in D Minor". Greg went over the three-minute time limit, but the judges let him play it out. When he was finished, the judges gave him a standing ovation.
"Very good, Mr. Lasse. We will be in touch," said a judge.
The judges and instructors whispered to themselves as Greg left the stage. Lena and Jessica slipped back out into the hallway.
"I can't even play some of those pieces," said Lena.
"I didn't bring you here to make you feel bad," said Jessica. "I just wanted you to see Greg. He really wants to see you."
"Now? But I look such a mess."
"You look stunning to me," said Greg, walking up.
Greg and Jessica exchanged a polite hug and air kisses. Lena let Greg hug her, but he squeezed her tighter than he had Jessica and he kissed Lena's cheek.
"I wanted to see you to ask if you would go on a picnic with me tomorrow."
Lena thought of the sight of Joe with Linda hanging on his arm.
"I believe I would like that very much."
"Good. I'll meet you by the soda machines before lunch." Greg took Lena's hand and kissed it. "I will see you then my lady."
Lena couldn't speak. Suddenly, things seemed right in her world again. She belonged with the orchestra players, not some band member. She would see Ms. Talbot as soon as she could and tell her that fact.
However, the auditions continued through that evening Lena did not have the chance to talk to any of the instructors, especially not Mr. Gram or Ms. Talbot. Lena did, however, manage to avoid Joe, which was great with her.
Lena met Greg the next day before lunch by the soda machines. Greg was holding a picnic basket and a blanket.
"Hey Greg." Lena stopped a couple of steps away from Greg and they blew air kisses over their shoulders.
"You look great in that sundress. You ready to go?"
"Yep. I just can't think of where we could go to have a picnic. The beach?"
"You'll be surprised. I wanted something a little more private than the beach."
Greg handed Lena the blanket and then took her other hand and led her up the hill into the woods. Lena fretted that they were going to the log where she always went with Joe, but Greg led her off to the left instead of the right.
"I'm glad you didn't bring your violin," said Greg. "Today isn't about us knowing each other through our music."
Greg led Lena into the woods above the back of the cabins. Lena could barely see any buildings through the thick trees. Then the trees thinned and opened onto a small clearing. There were small blue and white flowers scattered through the grass.
"This is perfect," said Lena.
"I thought you would like it."
Lena laid the blanket down a few feet into the clearing and Greg set the basket down and took out the plates and utensils.
"I can't wait to see what is for lunch."
"I think you'll be even more surprised."
Greg removed a large bowl of strawberries from the basket. Then he brought out a bottle of champagne. Lena didn't know what to think.
"I don't know that we should have that."
"Oh, come on, Lena, don't be a baby. Haven't you ever snuck a glass at a party?"
"Maybe. The hosts always had sparkling grape juice for the kids when I went."
"Well, anyone can plainly see you're not a kid anymore."
Greg took out the large, fluted plastic glasses and opened the champagne. The pop of the cork made Lena jump. Greg filled each glass about halfway and handed one to Lena. Lena put the glass to her nose and tried to sniff. The bubbles made her sneeze.
"It's not wine, silly. It's champagne." Greg tilted his glass to his lips and took a long drink.
Lena tried to take a drink and choked. She spilt the rest of the glass on her dress.
Greg grabbed some napkins and dabbed at her dress as Lena caught her breath. When Greg looked up at her they were staring into each other's eyes. Lena swallowed hard.
"You okay now?"
"Yeah, I think so I just think....."
Before Lena could stop him, Greg's lips were pressed to hers. He pushed her down to laying on the blanket as his tongue sought entrance to her mouth. His hand slid up her side and squeezed her breast.
Lena brought up her knee and caught Greg just above his groin. She pushed him off her and got up and ran into the woods.
Lena didn't stop running until she got to her dorm room. She slammed the door shut behind her and threw herself on the bed crying. She kicked off her shoes and sought the comfort of the blankets to surround her, covering her head. She cried herself to sleep.
Lena strode confidently as she took the stage. Her black velvet dress draped her sides perfectly and her hair was tightly wound in a braided bun with small loose tail. Lena raised her violin to her chin and began to play "Requiem" and "Dance of the Goblins". Then a cockroach crawled out of her violin. Lena wanted to throw it down and run but this was it. There were no second chances to audition. She swallowed hard to keep down the bile that had rose in her throat.
Her bow hairs began to fray as she continued. The screw fell out onto the floor. She could see the violin's bridge pulling away from the body. She tried to keep playing but it sounded like nothing more than noise...
Lena bolted upright in her bed, a scream coming through her clenched teeth.
Lena tossed and turned the rest of the night.
Lena was headed into class. She had stayed in her dorm room until the last possible minute hoping not to run into Greg. She had already planned on feigning illness if he was in the class. However, she also didn't want to let Greg see he had affected her so.
Lena hurried through the hall clutching her violin to her chest and her head down. Suddenly Greg was there in front of her.
"Lena wait, I want to talk."
"I don't. Just leave me alone."
Lena tried to sidestep Greg, but he shoved a bouquet of roses in her face.
"Lena, please, I just want to.."
"Just forget I exist Greg. I already have forgotten you exist."
Lena pushed past Greg and went on into class.
Lena Set her violin case on the floor and opened it, gingerly removing her violin and bow. She set them on the chair and went to get a stand for her music.
Linda Moore came in and went straight to Lena's chair. She picked up the bow and violin and proceeded to set them on the floor.
"What do you think you're doing?" asked Lena. She went to Linda and tried to grab her things..
"You don't deserve him!" screamed Linda..
Lena got ahold of the violin and ripped it out of Linda's fingers. Linda pushed her down and bent the wood of the bow until it snapped.
All Lena remembered after that was seeing red. Later, she didn't remember grabbing Linda by her hair. She didn't remember dragging her to the piano. She didn't remember slamming Linda's head into it.
Someone grabbed Lena by the arm.
"All right girls, that's enough!" yelled Ms. Talbot.
Mr. Gram was holding the broken bow. "Linda, did you do this?"
"She deserved it," mumbled Linda.
"Both of you are suspended from classes for the rest of the day pending disciplinary action," said Ms. Talbot. "And you are confined to your dorm rooms. Now gather your things and go."
Lena was in tears as she gathered her music and violin. She had a backup bow, but it was old and frayed. She couldn't look Mr. Gram in the eye when she stepped up to him to retrieve the broken bow.
"Let me hang onto this, Lena. There might be something I can do," said Mr. Gram.
Lena nodded slowly and turned and left the classroom.
Back at her dorm room, Lena got out the old bow. It looked worn and dirty. So much so that no amount of rosin would make it play like her exquisite custom bow that Linda had broken. Lena took the bow in one hand and the rosin in the other, looked at them both, and threw them across the room with tears in her eyes. There was no way she was going to be picked for a scholarship if she had to play her audition with that bow.
There was a knock at the door. Lena straightened herself as best as she could, wiping her face as she went to the door. She opened it to find Joe standing there.
"I thought you might need a friend. I heard about your bow."
"Yes, of course. I'm sure your friend Linda is bragging about it to anyone who will listen."
"She's not my friend. She asked me about being partners, but I told her I already have one."
"It didn't look like that to me when you came out of class."
"Oh Geesh. She was trying to get me to do her project. I pushed her off me and told her to stop touching me. She knows I'm better at reports than her."
Lena still wasn't convinced. Linda was beautiful. Any boy would love to have her. Lena was plain and easily ignored.
"Do you want to practice? You have another bow, don't you?"
Lena sighed and went and picked up the old bow from against the wall. She picked up the rosin, too, and got her violin case from off the bed.
"Let me see that bow," said Joe.
Lena handed it to him and sighed heavily.
"You can cut some of these frays. Don't rosin it too much though or you'll only end up rosining the strings of the violin."
Lena wouldn't look at Joe. "You want to go to our log?"
"Yeah that sounds good. I'll get my guitar and meet you there."
Lena got to the log and tried to softly rosin the bow. It seemed to just be making the frays worse. She gave out an exasperated sound then opened the case to her violin. It almost brought her to tears at the thought of touching her beautiful violin with this worthless bow. She tried to play a nursery rhyme to warm herself up but even something that simple just sounded wrong.
"You can hear that you don't like that bow," said Joe. "You're trying too hard even with something so simple. Let yourself go. It's okay to make mistakes during a warmup."
"How do you choose to warm up?"
Joe positioned his guitar and began playing. It sounded like a song but at the same time a bunch of random notes.
'I don't think I know that one," said Lena.
"That's because it was a combination of interludes I wrote and a few random notes and mistakes. It's not important what you play to warm up. Just that you have fun with it and get yourself relaxed."
"Why don't we just work on you today? We haven't done that yet and maybe just getting into the classic symphonies will help me get used to this bow."
"Alright. I'll start with "Requiem" and then we can go from there."
Joe tried to play "Requiem" and parts of several other symphonies. Lena would listen until Joe made a mistake and she winced and make a face. Then she played that part of the song over again on her violin. Lena thought the violin sounded screechy, like it was protesting the less than pristine bow. Still, she played, and Joe clapped and praised her on her knowledge of the notes.
Joe looked up at her from where he sat on the log. "There's something else that has been bothering you besides your bow."
Lena sighed and sat on the log next to Joe.
"It's my family. I feel like a prisoner at home but now I guess that's all going to change."
"Isn't that a good thing?"
"No. My parents barely notice me now. When we move to the city, and they have jobs that they will have to be at all day it will be even worse. I won't have any staff in the new house, and I will have to go to public school. I will also have to give up playing my violin. It will probably get sold."
"Then you will get one of the scholarships. You'll go to a fine school and be able to keep your violin. I know you are getting better at playing, Lena. You will get one."
"What if the school isn't in Colorado?"
"What if it isn't? Lena you've got to think of yourself and what you want."
"You are so sweet, Joe." Lena hugged Joe and kissed his cheek.
"The sky is getting dark," he said, hiding behind his hair.
"Yeah. I can't believe camp is almost over. I should be getting to the dorm though. I'm supposed to be staying in."
"I'll see you at breakfast then. We are eating together, right?"
Joe smiled when Lena said yes. Lena thought it was a smile that lit up the night and sent new sparkles into his green eyes. She hoped Joe hadn't seen her blush.
When Joe and Lena met for breakfast the next morning, she felt like she was walking on air. The only thing that could upset her good mood was that this was the last full day of camp. Her audition should be coming up soon, but she couldn't even think about that. Today was her last day with Joe and she was determined to make it the best.
Joe and Lena sat down with their breakfast trays. They had started to spread some sheet music to go over between them on the table when Jessica came over with Kyle.
"You two look especially giddy this morning," said Lena.
"Kyle and I just realized we only live a few blocks from each other. Isn't that incredible? We never even saw each other until now."
"I actually had seen Jessica in school before," said Kyle, "but our school is so strict on fraternizing I didn't want to chance getting us both in trouble."
"Well pooh on school policy now," said Jessica.
Jessica and Kyle set their trays down and sat with little room between them.
"What you got there?" asked Kyle.
"Lena and I wanted to go over reading sheet music before she has to audition."
"Yes," said Lena, "who knows what they might ask us to do."
"We could use some brushing up ourselves," said Jessica.
The foursome chatted and studied the music sheets until it was time for Lena and Joe to go to class.
Lena entered the classroom with a spring in her step.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Gram."
"Ah, Lena. I've been looking forward to this today. I hear you are making great progress."
"I have sort of been looking forward to today, but in some ways not. I can't believe this is our last session. I still haven't auditioned yet."
"You will be pleased to know that you were chosen to be one of the last to audition. The final auditions are tomorrow morning. You will need to be there at 10 o'clock sharp."
Lena took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She still didn't feel she had the contemporary music down good enough.
"I really need your help and opinions then, Mr. Gram." Lena turned and opened her case. Her hands began shaking when she seen the worn bow.
"You know that is why I am here Lena. What do you have for me today?"
"I can't even play the classics with this thing." She whispered.
"What was that?" asked Mr. Gram. He stepped up beside her. "Ah I see your hesitation. Lena, it is not just the tools that create the music. It is what is in the musician that counts the most."
Lena gave Mr. Gram a half smile. "I have something special for you."
Lena stepped over to the music stand though she had no sheet music on it. She let herself relax and try not to think about the bow. Playing with her eyes half closed, she launched into "Wind Beneath My Wings."
When Lena finished, Mr. Gram clapped slowly. He had to dab a tear from his eye. "That was one of the most beautiful things I have heard. You have indeed progressed beyond what I could have hoped."
Lena hugged Mr. Gram. "Thank you so much Sir."
"I look forward to your audition tomorrow, Ms. Lena. You will knock them dead. I just know it."
Lena was almost skipping when she left the classroom. The only thing that kept her from being completely happy was that this was the last day of camp. Tomorrow she would have to leave the teachers and other students and go back to the uncertainty of her home.
What she didn't want to think about most of all was that she would have to leave Joe.
Lena headed for lunch. She was fidgety after hearing that her audition was finally happening. The only that made her feel semi-confident was Joe. They had worked hard together, and evidence was showing that it was paying off. Besides, she had won out over Linda Moore. Let Linda have Greg Lasse. Lena had her Joe.
She went to the picnic table after grabbing her tray. Jessica and Kyle were there.
"Has anyone seen Joe?" asked Lena.
"He said he had something he had to do," said Kyle, "and that he'd see you after lunch."
What could he be doing, thought Lena that would take him away from lunch with me?
Lena looked around. Without a word, she got up and went into the lunchroom, abandoning her tray. There was Greg Lasse, sitting alone. He got up and came over to Lena.
"Looking for your boyfriend?" asked Greg. "I seen him headed to his cabin with Linda."
Lena slapped him. "You're lying."
Greg snickered. "If I'm lying then why did I see him ordering flowers yesterday?"
Lena gasped. She had told Joe she didn't like roses. She shook her head frantically, tearing out her barrettes and ties as she ran into the woods.
Lena had been running aimlessly and had tripped and fallen twice. The third time she tripped she found herself against the log. She folded her arms over her head and sobbed.
"Lena," says Joe.
Lena wipes her tears. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you."
"What? Did Linda dump you?"
"Linda? She's gone home already."
"Greg told me you were with her."
"And you believed him? Why?"
"I told you before I didn't like roses. He said he saw you ordering flowers."
"Yes, these." Joe hands Lena a bouquet of pink carnations.
"Why did you get me this?"
"Look at the card."
Lena took out the card and read it. "Because I really like you and want you to do well. Luv Joe." Lena blushed. She smelled the carnations. That's when she saw the wooden part of a new bow nestled within the flowers. She pulled out the bow dropping the bouquet on the ground.
"Oh, my goodness! It's exquisite!" Lena went to her case and took out her violin. She put it to her chin and tried a few notes. Smiling she played "A Whole New World."
When she finished Joe clapped enthusiastically then swung Lena around in a hug.
When Joe put Lena down their eyes met. Joe leaned in and Lena let herself melt into his kiss. When they parted they were both blushing.
That night, Lena dreamed of having children. Her sons played the guitar, and her daughters played the violin.
The next morning Lena tried to get ready for her audition.
"Why me?" cried Lena.
The velvet dress ripped out a seam when she tried to put it on. Then the tab on the zipper of her boot broke off. Lena went to the hallway looking for help. Thankfully Jessica was just coming out of her room.
"Everything is going wrong," said Lena. "I don't know what to do."
"Calm down," said Jessica "We can fix this together."
Jessica brough Lena one of her dresses and a pair of shoes. The dress was blue velour, and the shoes were matching low heels.
"At least I didn't get a run in my tights."
"I brought another pair, just in case."
Lena was feverishly running a brush through her hair. "We're not going to be able to do anything with this. We have to get to the auditorium."
"I can do a quick French twist when we get there."
Lena rolled her eyes and coughed as Jessica doused her in a cloud of perfume.
"Now, a little makeup..."
"I don't wear makeup."
"Well, you should wear a little."
Lena sighed. She had needed Jessica to bring her back to focus. The least she could do is indulge her.
The two headed for the auditorium. Lena kept trying to run in the short heels and stumbled three times before slowing down. When they reached the auditorium, Jessica pulled Lena aside and twisted her hair into a messy French bun. She took a blue lace kerchief and tucked it into the rubber band.
Lena felt like she was going to faint. She was nauseous and walked drunkenly down the aisle on rubber legs. Jessica caught up to Lena just as she was about to take the stairs to the stage. Jessica was holding Lena's violin case.
Lena felt at ease as she reached center stage and opened the case. Her violin was an old friend just waiting for them to do this together. She picked up the violin and the bow and stepped forward, positioning herself to start playing her classics.
She was staring at the bow that Joe had gotten her. This was her moment of truth. A thousand voices went through her head in that second: the instructors, Joe, Jessica, Greg. All of them were trying to tell her what she should do.
Lena took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then she began to play. She almost started with "Requiem", but then she skipped to the devil's part of "Devil Went Down to Georgia". She kept going for the three minutes they were allowed, switching from parts of classics to parts of contemporary music. She trailed off at the end with "The Heart Will Go On".
Lena finished and curtsied. The judges clapped.
"Miss Lena that was the finest playing of a medley I've heard in ages. Bravo," said the first judge.
"Nicely done. I could see the emotion you put into each song," said the second judge.
"You have grown in the past five days, but you still have plenty to learn," said the final judge.
"Though it isn't official yet," said the first judge, "I think we can safely say 'welcome to Berklee College of Music in Boston.'"
Lena was almost in tears. "Thank you." Lena curtsied again. She put her violin back in the case and left the stage.
Lena knew that she was only going back home for about a month before having to be in Boston, but she still didn't look forward to telling her parents. They may already know when she gets there as the schools would send notice.
As Joe approached her she began to tremble. She didn't know how to say goodbye to him.
"I see you're all packed," said Joe. "Don't worry about going home. You won't be there long before the semester starts at Berklee."
"I know. That's not what I'm sad about."
"Well, my father's business, making musical instruments, is in Boston. I make deliveries for him to Berklee all the time. It's just up the road from where we live."
"Tell me your serious."
"As serious as I can get."
Lena flung her arms around Joe's neck and hugged him tightly.
"That is the best news I have ever heard in my life!"
Joe laughed and hugged Lena back and then they kissed.