Chapter 1  

“Two drifters off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see.”

                        -“Moon River,” Henry Mancini

            “Josh, wait for me!” came the high-pitched pleading cry.

            The thirteen-year-old boy turned around in exasperation. “Hannah, try to keep up!”

            His friend beside him nudged him impatiently. “Josh, why do you let her follow us around, anyway? She’s so annoying!”

            Josh shrugged. “As long as she doesn’t get in the way it’s okay. Besides, my mom would kill me if I was mean to her. You know how our parents are good friends and everything.”

            Casey sighed in frustration. “You’re too nice to her.”

            “I can’t be anything else, or I’ll be grounded forever!” Josh explained. He turned to his other two friends that were standing with him. “Now let’s go, we can play some basketball at the park.”

            Hannah ran up to the four of them, huffing from the exertion of trying to run as fast as boys who were taller and older than her. Just as she stopped next to them, they raced off again.

            “Wait!” she shouted to their swiftly departing backs. “I can’t run that fast!”

            In response they only laughed, not turning around. She sat down on the grass, upset and on the verge of crying. It wasn’t fair. She wanted to play with them, because all the girls were only interested in trying on clothes and make-up. We’re only ten! Make-up is stupid. She felt a hot tear trail down her dirty cheek.

            Hannah sighed, absentmindedly scratching her shin where the untrimmed grass tickled her. What would she do now? She sniffled and stared at the ground, looking for a four-leaf clover out of the patch surrounding her. She was so bored. And tired. Those boys might be able to run forever, but I can’t!

            A shadow fell across the small patch of clover she was examining with feigned interest. She looked up to see who it was.

            “Come on, Hannah, stop crying and get up,” Josh said reluctantly, holding his hand out to her. She was a pest, but he felt responsible for her.

            “No, I don’t want to,” she responded childishly. “Go play with your stupid friends.”

            He sighed impatiently. “You’re going to get bug bites if you sit on the ground like that.”

            She shrugged. “I don’t care. Leave me alone.”

            Josh thought quickly. “Well, I guess you’re too girly to play with us. If you can’t keep up with us, you should have just told me!”

            Hannah stared at him, offended. “Too girly?! Shut up, Joshua Chasez, because I could beat you up if I wanted to.”

            He rolled his eyes, exaggerating the action. “Sure. Uh huh.”

            “I’ll show you!” she shouted, jumping up. “You’re going to play basketball, right?”

            He nodded. “But if you can’t handle it…”

            “I can handle it!” she retorted, the tears from before completely forgotten. “Hurry up, because I’ll show you how to really play!” She stuck her tongue out at him and sprinted off in the direction of the park.

            Josh stared after her, grinning in satisfaction. His plan had worked.


*                       *                       *


            Josh beamed from ear to ear, never feeling so excited in his life before. He nodded dazedly as people congratulated him as he passed them.

            “Josh!” Casey called, coming up to him. “Man, that was pretty good.”

            “Thanks,” he replied. “I didn’t even think I would win.”

            “Well, sweetheart, you did!” Mrs. Chasez exclaimed. “I’m so proud of you. And you chose such a nice song too. ‘Right Here Waiting For You’ is one of my favorites.”

            Josh thanked his mom then turned back to Casey. “Well, I did the dare, and I won, too! Pay up, sucker!”

            Casey groaned and handed him a twenty-dollar bill. “You won, fair and square.”

            Josh pocketed the cash happily. The thrill he had gotten from standing up on the stage and singing his heart out had been amazing. His heart had been beating so fast he thought he was going to die, but he loved it anyway. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.


*                       *                       *


            “Josh, that was so beautiful! I never knew you could sing so well,” the girl cooed, smiling flirtatiously at him.

            Hannah glared at Lindsey, the girl every boy on the block worshiped. She wouldn’t even be paying attention to Josh if he hadn’t won that contest.

            Josh smiled and blushed slightly. He had been getting so much attention, just because of the talent contest. Girls had been calling him at home all the time, and now Lindsey was talking to him!

            “Thanks, that means a lot coming from you,” he said, his eyes shining at her.

            Hannah let out a loud sigh from beside him. He hadn’t said that when she complimented him.

            “Really, Josh? You’re so sweet,” Lindsey replied, flipping her golden hair over her shoulder.

            Hannah examined her own mousy brown hair. It just wasn’t fair. “Josh,” she spoke up impatiently, “We have to go now. You promised you would take me to see a movie today!”

            “A movie?” Lindsey asked interestedly. “Wow, that sounds like fun. I haven’t been to the theater in so long.”

            “That’s too bad,” Hannah said quickly. She grabbed Josh’s arm. “Come on, let’s go.”

            “Hannah!” he admonished her, pulling his arm out of her grasp. “Actually, Lindsey, you can come if you want. It would be cool. Hannah and I can go another time, it doesn’t matter.”

            Hannah gasped. What?! Go another time? It does matter! Since when did Josh even care about girls, anyway? He was never even interested until Lindsey came along.

            “But…Josh!” she protested, staring up at him.

            He ignored her and continued to look at Lindsey. “We can go now, if you want.”

            “Sure!” Lindsey agreed eagerly. “Just let me tell my mom.” She went into her house, the screen door banging behind her.

            As soon as she was gone Hannah tugged Josh’s sleeve persistently. He finally realized she was still there and looked at her. “What?” he asked.

            “Josh, you promised me!” she whined, close to tears. It’s not fair. It’s not!

            He rolled his eyes. “We can go another day! Stop being such a baby. Go home and play with your dolls or something.”

            “Okay, let’s go!” Lindsey said, coming out again and cutting off Hannah’s response.

            “Great,” Josh said, smiling at her.

            The two of them walked down the street, leaving Hannah standing frozen on the sidewalk as she stared after them. They looked so perfect together. Josh, with his summer tan and his body showing hints of the man he would be when he grew up. And Lindsey, with her shimmering blonde hair and perfect body.

            Hannah looked at her own skinny self in disappointment. If she was pretty, Josh would spend time with her. Why can’t he pay attention to me? I’ve stuck by him forever, and he doesn’t even care.

            Her frustration and anger built up, and finally she couldn’t hold it in anymore. “I hate you, Joshua Chasez!” she yelled at his back as he and Lindsey turned the corner at the end of the block. “I hate you!”

            Then she burst into tears and ran home.


*                       *                       *


            “Honey, don’t you want to go say something to Josh?”

            Hannah looked up from her cereal and glanced at her mom. “What do you mean?”

            Mrs. Coverly shot a quick look at her daughter. “He’s leaving today. To go join that television show, the ‘Mouse Club’ or something.”

            “The ‘Mickey Mouse Club’?” Hannah corrected her.

            “Yes, that’s it. He was chosen to be in the cast. Haven’t you heard? He’s leaving in…” She paused and checked the wall clock. “In ten minutes.”

            Hannah bolted up from her seat and ran out the door, in a panic. Josh is leaving? He can’t be! He never even told me.

            She raced down the street, wishing she had longer legs so she could run faster. She had to talk to him before he left.

            When she finally turned and ran up his driveway, she saw that it was empty. Glancing down the street, she watched in dismay as his family’s station wagon drove away. No! Why did Mr. Chasez choose today of all days to be early?

            “Josh!” she shouted, waving her skinny arms frantically. “Wait!”

            But the car didn’t stop.

            She sat down on the curb, out of breath and devastated. “I didn’t mean it, Josh,” she whispered. “I don’t hate you.”


*                       *                       *


            “Hannah, you have to get off that couch and do something!” Mrs. Coverly exclaimed. “You can’t spend the whole summer indoors watching TV.”

            “I’m watching Josh,” Hannah replied, staring as the cast introductions rolled on the screen.

            “Why don’t you go play outside?” her mother suggested.

            “No one will play with me. The girls are acting stupid and the boys don’t let me play with them anymore.”

            “Then find some new friends!”

            Hannah looked at her mom in disbelief. It wasn’t that simple, to just go outside and find new friends.

            After hearing no response, Mrs. Coverly sighed and left the living room. Hannah turned the volume up on the television set and stared in rapt fascination as Josh sang and danced in one of the songs. He looked so happy. In fact, he always looked happy whenever he was making music.

            Then it dawned on her. That’s what she could do. I’ll make music, too! Suddenly she paused. She couldn’t sing if her life depended on it. So what else was left?

            Hannah grinned and dashed out of the room to look for her mother.

            “Mom!” she shouted. “Can I learn an instrument?”


*                       *                       *


            “Stop, stop!” Mr. Hodge exclaimed. “Do not move.”

            Hannah froze, her fingers still touching the neck of the cello and her bow perched in mid-air above the strings.

            Her cello teacher sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Good. Now move that finger up a centimeter. Lift that wrist. Sit up straight. Keep your arm stiff.”

            Hannah obeyed his directions.

            Mr. Hodge surveyed her position, then nodded. “Okay. Now play.”


*                       *                       *


            Hannah carefully placed her cello on the rack in her room and before sitting down on bed. Then she reached into her nightstand to find a band-aid for her blistered fingers.

She practiced diligently at her instrument everyday, ignoring the disparaging comments of her classmates and parents. They told her to give it up, because she had no natural talent for the cello. But she had never wanted to succeed at something so badly before, and she was determined to show everyone what she could do.

            If I don’t have natural talent, I’ll develop it on my own.


*                       *                       *


            “I still can’t believe you’re leaving us,” Mrs. Coverly said, happy for her daughter but sad that her only child was going away.

            “Me neither,” Hannah agreed, hugging her mother and her father. “I’ll miss you.”

            She disappeared onto the airplane that would be taking her to New York.

            Mrs. Coverly sighed and turned to her husband. “She’s only thirteen, Hank. She’s so young.”

            Hank Coverly put an arm around his wife comfortingly. “Don’t worry about that. Just remember all the opportunities she’ll get. She’s going to study at Juilliard.”




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