What I initially set out to be three hours of study in music theory quickly turned into an all-nighter. And what I thought would take only one night to learn turned into thirty days! Such was usually the case whenever I would get heavily involved in something, but never before had something ignited a fire that set my soul a-flutter so brightly as music. Just what is this thing, and how had I not realized its greatness before now? Learning music theory went from being a curious interest to being a complete obsession of mine! For the entire first month of school, I was consistently getting very little slumber due to falling head over heels in love with this thing. I still usually managed to get a firm four hours of sleep before I had to perform my daily reset: breakfast, school, homework, reading, and then staring at the ceiling all over again. This particular morning, however, things were a little off-kilter.
“Izzy……you have twenty minutes to make it to class. Izzy?”
A hard knock greeted my door, along with a concerning reminder from my father that I was running uncharacteristically late for school.
I quickly shoved my chubbiness out of bed and into the shower. I, yet again, quickly turned on the water and immediately let out a sigh of relief as soon as I felt the harsh blast on my bare skin. The super hot, steaming water from from the shower head provided a much needed shock to my system. All of a sudden, I began to daze. I dove off into a state of consciousness that I didn’t know how to describe. Eyes firmly closed, I started thinking about the man that I had run into the day prior. His mesmerizing accent, so-opposite-of-me/rock star aura and helplessly beautiful……..everything.
*Bang, bang, bang*
“Isadora! What has gotten into you? You are about to miss class!”
My friends (what are those?), let me tell you, I have not heard my mother yell like that in AGES! But yet and still, I took my time in answering her.
“Uhhh, yes mother. I………am coming.”
As soon as I turned off the shower, it was as if the consciousness switch in my head was turned back on. I slipped on my towel, gargled, and got dressed all within what seemed like a split second. Once I put on both of my shoes and messenger bag, I looked down at the watch on my wrist. Five. FIVE minutes until the opening bell rang for school!
“Darn it…..I’m screwing up.”
I muttered to myself, aloud. It looked like today was just gonna be one of those days. I bolted toward the school with cheetah-like speed, but elephant-like grace. I managed to shuffle into my first class for the day a millisecond before the opening bell rang. Fifteen. It would usually take FIFTEEN minutes to get from my house to the school, but this time warp of sorts could only be explained as magical.
“Miss Isadora Manon (Ms. Reacher would always say my Frenchie last name incorrectly, no matter how many times I would tell her that it is pronounced ma-nohn and not MAN-NUN), it’s so unusual to see you barely make it in, but we’re glad to see ya anyhow! Have a seat; we are taking a pop quiz.”
Before I knew it, the fire alarm rang as the class was barely five minutes into taking the super long quiz.
“Alright class, this is just a drill. Be civil and make your way toward the nearest doors.”
As usual, everyone else would immediately link up with their besties as the students of Joenby filed out of the school and into the surrounding grassy areas. As usual, also (sensing a theme here?), I would try to blend in with the masses as so as to not look too awkward with my pocket-sized dictionary in hand. I got maybe a few moments alone with my precious pack of words before a phantom set of hands swiped them from my grasp.
“Hmmm…….it’s all French to me. I don’t understand a lick of it.”
I turned my head to see this tomboy-ish looking girl toss my book back to me.
“It….is French. I am French. Well…my parents were born there, but I’m American. So…yeah.”
“Ah, so we have something in common. My parents are immigrants also, but from Argentina. I’m Jesse, by the way. Nice to meet ya!”
Jesse gave me a firm greeting-pat on my back as I returned a shy smirk.
“By the way, I’ve never noticed that we had the same first period until today, and it’s been, like, over a month since school started! I suppose you’re just the quiet type, eh? That’s pretty cool.”
I could already tell that Jesse wasn’t the kind to put on a front; as real as real gets. Plus, she didn’t seem to lament my quietness, but saw it as being rather admirable.
“Uh, yeah. Just not one for conversation, but I like….learning….different things.”
“That’s pretty awesome, chica. Hey, how about we sit together at lunch? All of my so-called friends have since ditched me for other, more popular people, so….it’s just you and me!”
What took maybe three seconds to answer felt like an eternity as I took the time to process that someone actually asked me to sit with them at lunch.
“Oh, uh, yeah! If you want to, I mean, uh, yeah.”
Although I sounded rather reluctant, I was actually quite excited to be able to not eat in the restrooms this time around!
Since our school was so small, everyone had lunch at the same hour, but that still didn’t stop people from dashing to the cafeteria like a herd of cattle, come lunch time.
I tried not to look too much like an outcast as I sat at an open table, patiently awaiting the arrival of my new
best friend acquaintance. I was in the process of taking my thermos of hot noodles out of my lunch bag when, suddenly:
“Hey there, chica! Sorry I took so long, the cafeteria is serving grilled chicken today and virtually everyone and their mom was here to grab a bite. They’re sold out now, but you better believe I managed to scoop me one! Want a bite?”
This Jesse character was quite the character, indeed. Although we were around the same height, she was considerably more athletic than me, and even though she claimed that she had never noticed me before that day, I had always sort of admired her from afar. She was everything I wish I could be: energetic, confident, stylish, and an absolute genius. After all, she was a part of the Prestige program also, so most of us were considered “upper crust”, although I considered myself to be of a lesser breed.
“Uh, no thank you. I’m sure it’s good, though. Is the lunch room always this crowded?”
I accidentally dropped a hint of my in-restroom eating.
“Uh, yeah. I suppose. I mean, you’ve eaten in here before, right?”
I had to save face.
“Uh….oh, yeah! It’s just that I…uh…usually spend my lunches in the libr..”
“Oh, wait! I totally forgot that freshmen are allowed to eat outside in the fall. It’s pretty sunny out there. Wanna come?”
Thankfully, Jesse was much more forward-thinking than I was.
“Oh, sure! I love the sun! (since when?)”
We transferred our belongings to one of the very last tables available outside. It was a park bench of sorts, complete with a bright red umbrella running through its middle. I felt much more at ease being surrounded by less people. Not to mention, our bench was situated in its own little nook away from the other tables; I felt like royalty. We finally got to munching on our lunches when Jesse decided that it was a fine time to bring up more of what was on her mind.
“So, are you a member of any clubs here at school?”
“No, I don’t really want to join any.” I replied.
“Oh, well, what things do you like doing?” She further inquired.
“Um, well, I do like music. I mean. I’ve been trying to learn how music works and everything, although I don’t own any instruments. Weird, I know, but I’m hoping get some lessons soon.” Not wanting to give too much away about my exact aspirations.
Honestly, though, I could have gone on and on with my answer as Jesse didn’t seem to be having any of it. She was too busy being entranced by this man who I had never seen before that day. He was quite a striking fellow, decked out in dress pants with a dress shirt on and his sleeves rolled up his forearm. He had this kind of foreign, sort of pacific islander look about him. All he was doing was casually taking a stroll back into the building from what I could only assume was his lunch break, but all eyes were on him.
“Hey, girls!” He said as he walked by our table, smiling widely. Once he was out of earshot, Jessie let loose, her chin resting pleasantly upon her open palm
“He gives me like…..such an endorphin jolt. If ya know what I mean.” Jesse was never one to hold back about her thoughts.
“Yeah. I can’t help but think that he looks kinda familiar.” Although that was my first time seeing him, I couldn’t help but feel like I had seen him before.
“You know who that is, right?” Asked Jesse.
“Um, no. Not really.”
“Seriously? He is Mr. Parata! He’s the new head of the music department here. He’s originally from New Zealand, which is why he has such a cute accent.”
“Ahhh. That’s explains it.”
There was still something about his face that I couldn’t shake from my mind. My fixation with his familiar looks, however, was cut short by Jesse’s continued chatter.
“So, what was this again about you liking music?”
“Oh, nothing. I just said that I wanted to learn more about music and, perhaps, take some lessons.”
“Ah, that sounds pretty cool. I’ve always wished I could do something musical, but my parents always pushed math and science on me. I mean, I see why they do that as they came to this country for better opportunities for me and my little bro, but I kinda wish I could just….ya know…do me.”
Jesse’s sentiments sounded an awful lot like mine: immigrant parents with aspirations of math and science for their first generation children, but personally wanting more out of life.
Suddenly, Mr. Parata made another appearance, this time carrying a stack of cards and going from table to table.
“Oooooh, pick us!!!” Whisper-shouted Jesse.
Sure enough, he made his way over to our table.
“Good morning, ladies. I was wondering if you or anyone you know would be interested in taking some guitar lessons! I give group lessons right after school in room 313 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they are free for Joenby students! Would you girls like my card?”
Jesse and I both looked at each other in amazement, but I let her do the talking
“You are speaking our language, sir! We will be there for sure!”
“Great! Looking forward to seeing you two there!”
As Mr.Parata walked away, we finally took the time to process what had just happened.
“Oh, what am I kidding, I doubt my parents will let me do this. I suppose I will just keep this card around just so I can say that I’ve touched something that he’s touched.”
I actually let out a visible chuckle at what Jesse said as it took me by surprise. Nonetheless, I was feeling oddly satisfied. I mean, I was already aspiring to enter a music apprenticeship for the organ, so what difference would adding guitar lessons be. Plus, these were free.
“I see what you mean, Jesse, but just look on the bright side. Perhaps, something amazing could arise out of this! What if your parents sensed your enthusiasm for the guitar and let you do it? Just think.”
“I suppose you are right, Izzy. I’m just letting things get to me.”
We carried on our lunch munching for a good little while. Today was starting to take a sharp turn for the better.
Then, we heard the gunshots.