Chapter 3

“I keep on fallin’

In and out of love

With you.”

            -“Fallin’,” Alicia Keys



            Hannah sat on the large bed, staring blankly at the evening news. After staying in her hotel room the entire day to practice the cello, she was sick of being cooped up. Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that in lieu of eating dinner she had continued to practice. Now she was ravenous.

            Maybe I can go out and get something to eat. She immediately brightened up at the idea. New York was always so exciting, she was sure to find something to entertain herself with.

            She grabbed her coat and left the room, making her way onto the streets outside. She stopped for a quick bite at a small deli before going back on the streets to look around.

            Most of the stores were closed or about to shut down for the night, and she wasn’t interested in buying anything anyway. What she wanted was a sense of belonging after spending several years away from the city she had essentially grown up in.

            Hannah roamed around before deciding to hail a cab.

            “Juilliard, please,” she requested, sitting down in the backseat and taking her gloves off.

            Ten minutes later and they pulled up beside a small auditorium. It was one of the several smaller auditoriums the music school had, and if she guessed right, a small group would probably be rehearsing right now.

            “Thanks,” she said, handing the cabbie the money and stepping out of the car. It pulled away with a screech of the tires and she stood in front of the steps leading into the auditorium, the place personal to her.

            She climbed the steps, hearing the sounds of strings fill her ears. Her prediction had been correct.

            Quietly pushing open the metal door, she slipped inside and sat down in one of the back rows. She remembered the first time she had performed on that very stage, so nervous she had felt her stomach at the back of her throat. Hannah smiled. Those were the times.

            This auditorium was small, but the acoustics were wonderful and it was perfect for the more novice performers. The teachers at Juilliard liked to let students perform here first, before putting them in the main concert hall.

            Hannah relaxed as the four-piece ensemble practiced their concerto, letting the soothing sound of the bass’s vibrato wash over her. She shut her eyes, picturing the music in her mind.

            A while later, the ensemble stopped to take a quick break. Hannah’s eyes slid open again, and she took the time to glance around the auditorium. Usually street bums and hobos would sit and listen on cold nights when they were bored or needed shelter. This January night was no exception, she noticed. There were probably ten other people in the seats other than her.

              Directly in front of her, three rows ahead, she saw a man who was slouched down low in his seat. His body language said he was feeling glum. She hoped that the music could help ease his sorrow, like it always did with her.

            The ensemble came back, ready to practice their next piece when the man’s cell phone rang. Hannah looked at him carefully. A hobo with a cell phone?

            He quickly answered it and got up from his seat, striding out of the auditorium. His tone was low but powerful, and she glanced up as he passed right by her seat, too caught up in arguing with whoever was on the phone to notice her.

            Then she did a double-take. “Josh?” she whispered.


*                       *                       *


            “Bobbie, just let me get a word in!” JC exclaimed. “You know I was busy this whole day. First we had to hear auditions for the orchestra, then we had our own rehearsals at a studio, and that was followed by who knows how many photo shoots and promos. I barely had enough time to eat a single bite of food, how could I have found the time to call you?”

            “Found the time?!” Bobbie screeched. “You don’t find time to call me, you make time to call me! Pencil me in your damn schedule or something, I am your girlfriend.”

            He sighed. “Yes, baby, you’re right, you are my girlfriend. I’m sorry for not calling you.”

            He didn’t notice Hannah follow him outside, he was too deep in the argument.

            “But I have a life, too, and when it gets busy you can’t just bitch at me!” he said. “I would have called sooner or later.”

            “Probably later,” Bobbie scoffed. “It’s a good thing I called you. What were you doing, anyway?”

            “I was listening to some music, before I was interrupted,” he explained.

            “Interrupted?!” she repeated angrily. “Well, I’m so sorry I’m not allowed to call you anymore. I hadn’t realized we had set up certain times when calling was allowed.”

            JC groaned, rubbing his hand over his face. “Bobbie, you know I didn’t mean it like that.”

            “Didn’t I?” Bobbie asked. “JC, I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

            “Nothing is wrong with me,” he shot back. “You know what? This is just making things worse. I’ll talk to you later.” He quickly ended the call before she could protest. Then he began a mental countdown to try to calm down. Ten…nine…eight…seven…

            The phone rang again. “What?!” he fairly shouted into it.

            From a few feet away Hannah watched him discreetly. There was no doubt about it. It was definitely Josh. But she had never seen him so worked up before. He was pacing on the steps, his whole body visibly tense.

            She wondered who was getting him so mad. She was trying not to eavesdrop on his conversation, but as his voice escalated she couldn’t help but overhear his end of the argument. It sounded a lot like a lovers’ spat.

            After a few more uncomfortable seconds, Hannah decided that she shouldn’t be hearing these things. It was private, after all. And anyway, it was definitely a bad time for a reunion. She moved away from the doors and walked down the steps.

            At that exact moment, he pivoted around and came pacing right at her, walking into her. He looked up from the ground quickly and mumbled an apology.

            Hannah stared at him for an extra second before realizing that he didn’t recognize her. She sighed and quickly left.

            JC looked after her absentmindedly as she walked away. A deep corner of his mind was dwelling on the stranger.

            “JC! Are you even listening to me?” the shrill voice came over the phone.

            He promptly forgot about the nagging feeling and began arguing with Bobbie again.


*                       *                       *


            I can’t believe I saw Josh again, in New York of all places. How weird is that? Hannah wondered who he had been arguing with. It had sounded like a girlfriend. She didn’t know what to feel about that.

            “Shoot,” she muttered to herself, “I completely forgot to call mom!”

            Hastily she grabbed the bedside phone and dialed her parents’ number, hoping that they hadn’t already gone to sleep.

            “Hannah, how did it go?” Mrs. Coverly immediately asked upon answering the phone.

            Hannah started a bit, she never got used to caller ID. “I don’t think I did too well,” she responded. She cringed as she remembered how the adjudicator had interrupted her, and then how she later snapped at that man in the hall. “They stopped me before I was halfway done.”

            “Oh, honey, that doesn’t mean anything! You know that,” Mrs. Coverly assured her daughter.

            Hannah sighed. “I guess. I’m just eager to go to bed and forget all about this day.”

            “Okay, I’ll let you get some rest. Don’t let this worry you,” her mother suggested. “’Night now.”

            Hannah hung up and turned the lamp off. She sighed as her head hit the pillow, wondering how she’d be able to fall asleep with all the thoughts of the day flooding her mind.


*                       *                       *


            “Jace, man, please turn the light off,” Justin pleaded tiredly.

            JC looked over at his younger friend, who was rubbing his eyes from the glare of the bright light fixture that was suspended on the wall. He felt a twinge of guilt for keeping him awake.

            “Sorry about that,” he apologized, reaching over and flipping the switch. The room immediately became drowned in darkness.

            “What’s wrong with you?” Justin asked. “You’ve been so stressed lately.”

            JC stared at the white ceiling of the hotel room, fixing his eyes on it blankly. “I know. It’s just girl troubles, that’s all.” That’s the understatement of the year.

            He could hear Justin snort from the other bed.

            “’That’s all’?” Justin repeated incredulously. “You and Bobbie have been arguing on the phone for a week now, and you’re always in a bad mood. If she makes you that mad, why don’t you just break up?”

            “It’s not that easy,” JC explained. “We’ve been together for more than two years now. Being without her would be…different.”

            “Whatever. Do what you want, but I just don’t see it.”

            “Look, Justin, I don’t need your help in this. I think I’m speaking from experience here,” JC said, not liking being on the receiving end of advice.

            Justin sighed. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”

            He groaned when a pillow suddenly hit him in the head. “JC! That wasn’t fair. How’d you hit me in the dark, anyway?”

            He heard JC laughing softly.  “That’s what you get. You know dang well that I wear boxer-briefs.”


*                       *                       *



            “Man, get her away! She’s ruining everything,” Casey complained.

            “Yeah, tell her to go home,” Matt demanded. He crossed his arms over his chest impatiently. “How are we supposed to play a b-ball game if she’s in the way?”

            The other boys on the court joined their protests, and Josh looked between them and Hannah.

            She stared back at him, the basketball clutched in her two hands. She was confident that he would let her play with them. He always defended her, after all. He had to.

            Josh took one last look at his irritated friends before turning to Hannah with a resolute expression on his face. “Go on, Hannah, you heard them,” he said, flicking his thumb over his shoulder casually.

            “Josh!” she burst out. “I want to stay here!” She took a step closer to him and grabbed his hand, pleading with her eyes.

            He gave an angry sigh and pushed her away. “I mean it. Stop being such a big brat!”

            Matt laughed. “Yeah, brat!”

            “She better not cry,” Casey added.

            Hannah searched Josh’s gaze for some comfort, but she found nothing but annoyance. His usually dark blue eyes were now steel and unyielding, and he was glaring at her.

            Now he’s mad at me, she thought, disconsolate.

            “Fine,” she bit out. “Here’s your stupid ball.” She threw the basketball at him and stomped off, trying to ignore the shouts of “Brat” coming from behind her.


            Hannah shook her head, remembering how immature she had been. From that instant on, the “Brat” nickname had stuck. Thank god I left for Juilliard before puberty struck. I don’t even want to imagine what they would have called me then.

            She also remembered how devastated she had been when Josh had failed to stick up for her. Of course, looking back now it didn’t seem that bad, but to a gawky and in puppy love ten-year-old girl, it was the end of the world.

            The phone rang and she picked it up, wondering why anyone would be calling her at eight in the morning. Her parents didn’t wake up until nine.

            “Hello?” she asked.

            “Ms. Coverly?” a polite man said on the other end.

            “Yes, this is she.”

            “This is Adam Harcourt from the auditions yesterday,” he introduced himself.

            Hannah heard where he was from and sat down on the bed, preparing herself for rejection. The usual ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’

            “Can you be at the concert hall tomorrow at seven a.m.? Bring your cello and be ready to play,” Adam continued.

            “What?” she asked in disbelief. “You mean I made it?”

            “If this is Hannah Coverly, then yes, you made it. You’ll find out your position and receive more information tomorrow at rehearsal, so be prompt.”

            “Oh. Thank you,” she said belatedly, still in a daze. 

            As soon as she hung up the phone she picked it up again to call her mom.

            “Mom! I’m so glad you’re awake. Someone from the auditions called, I made it! I’m going to play at the Grammy’s!” she exclaimed happily.

            “Well, that’s wonderful, Hannah. I told you not to worry,” Mrs. Coverly replied warmly.

            “Wow,” Hannah said, sighing in amazement. “I can’t believe they actually liked me.”
            “Of course they did,” her mother responded with the usual words of a proud parent. “And by the way, I looked around for some more information about that band you’re playing with. They’re some kind of boy singing group. Very popular with the girls, from what I heard.”

            After she hung up the phone for the second time that morning, she decided to do her own investigative work. I’ll head to the record store and check out their music.


*                       *                       *


            “Do you want to get a look at the final list?” Johnny asked, holding the sheet of paper out to the guys.

            JC declined. “That’s okay, we’ll see everyone tomorrow at the rehearsal.”

            “I seriously hope there are some fine ladies in the bunch,” Joey added. “Please, let there be some fine ladies.”

            Chris rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry, you horndog. You still have those blow-up dolls from our last tour.”

            Joey’s face lit up as he remembered. “Oh yeah! Thanks for reminding me.”

            Lance groaned. “Yeah, Chris. Thanks so much.”

            “No problem!” Chris chirped innocently. “So what are we going to do today? Photo shoot? Interview?”

            “We’re scheduled for promos,” Johnny answered. “The Grammy’s are coming up in less than a month. You guys are gonna blow the lid off that joint.”

            “Damn straight!” Justin cried. “We’ll show the world who can sing. And accompanied by a full string orchestra, no less.”

            JC grinned as his friends became more and more worked up over the performance. Even his most recent squabble with Bobbie couldn’t ruin this excitement.


*                       *                       *


            Hannah stood in the Virgin records store, flipping through the piles of CDs filed under “NSYNC.” She was frankly overwhelmed by how many products there were. Posters adorned the wall, T-shirts were hanging on a rack proclaiming their faces, and there seemed to be an infinite amount of their CDs.

            “Need any help?”

            Hannah looked up from examining the list of tracks from one CD and saw a blonde woman about her age standing in front of her.

            “Um…no, that’s okay. I’m fine,” she answered politely.

            “Oh no, I insist!” the woman exclaimed. She moved closer and took the CD from Hannah’s hand. “This is one of my favorites, you know. I think the guys are all so hot.”

            Hannah nodded slowly, feeling faintly creeped out by the odd glint in the woman’s eyes. “Well, I’m just looking for good music.”

            “You’ll definitely find that, too,” the woman replied. Then she peered closely at Hannah’s face. “Hey, you were at the auditions for the Grammy orchestra.”

            Hannah stared at her, surprised. How did she know that? “Were you there too?”

            The girl laughed and flipped her lustrous hair over her shoulder. “You could say that.”

She grabbed two other CDs and handed them to Hannah. “These ones are good.”

            Hannah nodded slowly. “Okay. I guess that’s all I wanted. Thanks,…” she paused, waiting for a name.

            The woman smiled widely at her, her eyes shining brightly. “Elaine. It’s Elaine.”

            Hannah nodded again. “Elaine. Well, thank you.” She backed away then walked over to the cashier’s counter, feeling Elaine’s gaze still on her. She shook her head quickly, trying to dispel a strange chill.



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