Chapter 2

  “Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold.”

                        -“Fields of Gold,” Sting




            “Bye, Hannah,” a violinist called out to her.

            Hannah waved at him and dragged her cello out to her car. They had just finished another successful matinee performance at the Kennedy Center. She loved playing the free performances. There was none of that pretentiousness usually seen at the other concerts and the crowd was always so diverse and interesting.

            After loading the cello case into the back of her car she climbed in the driver’s seat and cranked up the heater, letting the warm air unfreeze the interior and waiting for her glasses to unfog.

            She loved D.C., but it got colder and colder every winter. The weather was starting to wreak havoc on her cello’s strings and wood. But at least she was close to home and life was relatively uncomplicated.

            She turned on the radio and hummed along to the symphony as she drove home to her small apartment a few minutes away from the Kennedy Center.

            Hannah quickly jogged up the steps, her cello in tow, and let herself into the empty apartment. She was glad that the recent snow hadn’t frozen her heater like it had done with some of her neighbors.

             As she was microwaving her frozen meal, the phone rang.

            “Hello?” she asked, watching the seconds tick away on the microwave.

            “Hannah? It’s Mom.”

            “Hey, Mom, what’s up?”

            “Well, I just got a call from the Grammy production committee and Wright Entertainment Group,” her mom began.

            Hannah racked her memory for the names. She was familiar with the Grammy’s, of course, but Wright Entertainment Group didn’t ring a bell. “What’d they want?”

            “They’re putting together a full string orchestra for a performance with ‘N Sync at the Grammy’s, “ Mrs. Coverly explained. “And they received your name from a list of other talented musicians. They want you to try out for a position.”

            Hannah sighed, taking her meal out of the microwave and peeling the plastic off. “Why should I try out? Mainstream pop isn’t my forte. And who is ‘N Sync?”

            “Look, Hannah, it can’t hurt to try. You’ll be paid and publicity can only help,” her mother reasoned with her.

            Hannah stirred the rice, thinking over her options. “You’re right,” she finally agreed. “I’ll give it a chance and see what happens.”


*                       *                       *


            The fans were out in full force, lining the streets in front of the music hall where auditions were taking place.

            Hannah glanced at them, wondering why so many teenagers were out so early in the cold. I forgot how crazy New York could be. It felt good to be back, though. Some of her happiest memories had been formed while in New York studying at Juilliard.

            She pulled her roll-along cello case behind her with one hand, and with the other she pulled her coat tighter around herself. She had also forgotten how cold it became in the winter up north.

            A person carrying a violin case held the large glass door open for her up ahead, and she smiled her thanks. The man nodded abruptly and headed off, not sparing her another glance.

            Hannah stood in the entryway of the music hall, completely lost in all of the commotion. Musicians were everywhere, and the sounds of instruments being tuned filled her ears. Dispersed among all the people who had come to try out were official looking men and women with microphone headsets. They darted through the crowd, speaking rapidly into their little microphones.

            Hannah was surprised that so many people had showed up to audition. Who is this group, anyway? I’ve never even heard of ‘N Sync.

            She looked around for a friendly face, but she found none. Everyone was caught up in their own business, and those who did glance her way gave her haughty looks.

            She took a bolstering breath and went in search of the line for cellist auditions. Come on, aren’t there any signs or anything?

            After following some cellists only to be led to the restrooms, she turned around in exasperation and ran right into another person.

            “I’m sorry,” she immediately said. “Are you okay?”

            The smaller girl in front of her steadied herself and smiled kindly. “I’m fine, no damage done. Are you alright?” she asked, crouching down and grabbing the bottles of water from the floor.

            Hannah nodded and bent down to pick up the bags of chips the girl had dropped when they collided. “Here you go,” she said, handing them over.

            “Thanks,” the girl said. “Do you need any help finding your way? I know that it’s kind of hectic right now.”

            “To say the least,” Hannah laughed. “Where are the lines for cellist auditions?”

            “Just go down this hall, take a right, and you’ll see all the cellists,” the girl explained. “I have to be going now, but good luck!”

            Hannah watched as she ran off down the hall, the chips and water hugged to her chest. She wondered who that person was, considering she didn’t appear to be trying out for anything. At least there’s one friendly person around here.

            Taking a tighter grip on her cello case, she walked away in search of the auditions.


*                       *                       *


            Lillian knocked quietly on the door of one of the many audition rooms before letting herself in. She saw Justin and JC sitting along with some adjudicators at a fold-out table in one of the corners of the room. She quickly glanced to the center of the room to make sure she wasn’t interrupting anyone’s performance. The violinist was tuning up.

            “Sorry I’m a little late, I ran into someone,” she explained, handing out the snacks and sitting down next to Justin.

            “Don’t worry about it,” Justin said, slipping his arm around her. “Nothing interesting happened while you were gone.”

            “Did anyone in particular catch your eye?” Lillian asked JC.

            He shrugged grumpily, continuing to stare blankly at the table.

            Lillian sighed, seeing that he was still acting moody. Him and Bobbie had gotten into another fight. Their off-and-on relationship was starting to get on everyone’s nerves.

            They sat quietly as the violinist played the piece of music with great relish.

            “Thank you,” Morgan, one of the adjudicators, said after he was done. “We’ll call you.”

            The violinist nodded and walked out.

            “That was horrible!” Morgan exclaimed as soon as the door was shut and they were alone. “It sounded like he was trying to kill his violin.”

            The other adjudicator nodded. “I doubt he’ll be able to learn how to work with a group. I bet he’s too used to solos.”

            Morgan put the violinist’s contact information in the large pile of papers destined for the trashcan. “Well, gang, that’s all for us. We’re through here.”

            “We’re gonna go sit in on some other auditions,” Justin informed him.

            Morgan nodded. “Go on, we’ll try to figure out this whole mess.”

            Justin got up and nudged JC, who was still sitting like a stone in his chair. “Come on, man, let’s go find Joey and Chris.”

            JC sighed and stood up, allowing himself to be led out of the room. “This day is too long,” he complained.

            “It’s only ten,” Lillian replied. “The day’s barely even started.”

            “Exactly,” JC groaned.

            “It’s okay,” Lillian said soothingly, rubbing his shoulder. “We can leave as soon as the cello auditions are over.”

            They went into another room and joined Chris and Joey at the long table. JC immediately dropped into one of the chairs and put his head down. His four friends exchanged concerned glances.

            Joey was about to ask JC a question but Lillian handed him a bag of chips so JC wouldn’t be bothered. Right now, he needed some peace.

            “Thanks!” Joey grinned, ripping the bag of Fritos open. He pushed Chris away, who was reaching over his shoulder to help himself to some food. “Back off, get your own!”

            “Shh,” Justin whispered, seeing that the cellist was ready to play.

            They obediently quieted down enough to pay attention, or at least pretend they were paying attention.

            After a few more auditions, even Lillian was getting a little bored. It was monotonous, listening to the same thing over and over.

            The door opened again to admit another cellist and she perked up. It was the girl she had run into in the hall. Lillian could tell that she was nervous.

            Hannah sat down in the lone chair and quickly tuned her instrument. She surreptitiously rubbed her hands on her jeans, feeling her palms get damp. She always got nervous before an audition, and this was no exception. After she finished tuning she sat back in the chair and glanced around the room.

            At the table were two older, distinguished looking men, three younger men and one dark-haired man with his head down, and a woman. She looked closer at the last person. It was the girl she had bumped into in the hall.

            The girl smiled at her, and she smiled tensely back. Hannah was grateful for a familiar face, but in her anxiety she didn’t have time to dwell on it.

            “You can begin,” one of the adjudicators said.

            She took a calming breath and began the piece. After the first five measures, she was able to lose herself in the music. She stopped over-thinking everything and let instinct take control. Just as she reached the second page the judge stopped her.

            “Thank you, we’ve heard enough. We’ll call you.”

            Hannah was startled and stared at him. Then she broke out of her daze and stood up, whispering a quick thank you before leaving the room. Did I mess up or something? What went wrong? It’s okay, Hannah, you’ve heard stories of people getting stopped at auditions. But I’ve never been stopped before.

            She was disappointed. She had failed. Sure, she hadn’t really cared about the job one way or the other, but rejection was still rejection. She hated the feeling.

            As she emerged in front of the other cellists still waiting in line she put on a fearless expression. She wouldn’t allow them to see how upset she was.

            Hannah walked past them in the narrow hallway, holding her cello in front of her. Maneuvering through the cases and bows strewn on the floor, she didn’t notice the man heading towards her until they made contact.

            “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hit you,” he immediately said.

            Hannah nodded. Why do I keep running into people? She looked into his light green eyes. “It’s okay.”

            He caught sight of her cello. “Are you here for auditions?”

            “Yes, I already auditioned,” she answered.

            “Great. We’ll call you,” he assured her, smiling.

            Hannah scoffed at the same line hapless musicians were fed at every audition. “Look, we both know that’s a big lie. I honestly don’t care if you call me or not. This isn’t my thing, anyway.”

            She quickly stepped around him and left. For an instant she regretted her rashness. He wasn’t mean or anything. Just because you’re disappointed doesn’t mean you can snap at him. Then she shook her head. At least now she could go back to the hotel and forget about her failure.

            Lance stared after her, confused and taken aback. Did I say something?


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