This flash fiction story (a story that is 1,000 words or less) was originally published last year in Splickety’s flash fiction magazine.
Mia adjusted the violin on her shoulder as the conductor lifted his hands. This was her favorite part of Les Miserables, where all the actors in the production came on stage to sing the last triumphant song. She slid her bow across the strings, feeling her heart rise as if it wanted to soar from her chest. She felt her tempo quicken and looked up to match the baton. Above the conductor, she saw the cast of characters form a line on the stage. And then Jean Valjean met her eyes. In real life he was Joel, captain of the high school hockey team.
Mia tightened her fingers on the bow and then relaxed too quickly, almost dropping it. Her stomach clenched, and she held her breath as her eyes scanned the sheet music, finding her place just in time to play the last two lines.
Applause cut into the final note, and the other orchestra members bustled around, stacking their music, and heading to the tent where their cases were stored.
Mia tucked her violin under her arm, weaving through the crowd that had come up to congratulate the performers.
Had Joel meant to catch her eye tonight, or had it been a coincidence?
For each of their four performances, she’d noticed him looking at her during the last song. Either way, they still had three more shows, and she was sick of messing up the grand finale.
Stepping behind the tent, she placed her violin under her chin and ran through the song again. The conversation and laughter died away as the orchestra members left, but she continued repeating the last two lines as the sun dipped below the surrounding trees. Finally satisfied, she lowered the instrument. When she turned, she drew in her breath.
Joel sat cross-legged in the grass a few feet away. He smiled. “I have a hard time appreciating the music when I’m acting.”
Mia squeezed the neck of her violin. “But I was playing the same line over and over.”
“It’s my favorite part.” He stood and brushed off his pants. “Well, I won’t bother you anymore.”
Mia’s voice felt trapped in her throat. Joel had never talked to her before, so this might be her only chance. “You did really well.”
He shrugged. “I’ve always sung in the shower and my car, but I wasn’t sure I could really do it in front of people.”
Mia tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. Joel wasn’t at all how she’d pictured him. She’d always thought of the hockey players as a single entity, better than everyone else.
“So why did you try out? I never would have pictured this as your type of thing.” She didn’t think any of the other hockey players were in the musical, but since she’d never gone to one of the games, she couldn’t be sure.
He shrugged one of his shoulders. “I didn’t want to wait until the fall to see you again.”
Mia shivered in the night air, despite the summer heat, and clutched her violin to her chest. “What are you talking about?” Now that she thought about it, this last year at school she had seen Joel in odd places, like down the music hall or coming out of the restroom near her AP English class.
Joel ran a hand through his hair and squeezed the back of his neck. “You’re way out of my league, but tonight I decided rejection would be way better than not knowing.”
Mia felt like someone had scratched the wood on her violin. Was this some kind of cruel trick? But as she studied his face, she couldn’t help laughing. “If you heard the orchestra members talking, you’d think differently about your league—and mine.”
He took a step closer, and Mia saw a spot of stage makeup beneath his eye. She wanted to wipe it off, but she resisted and pressed her free hand to her side.
Joel tipped his head back, looking at the stars beginning to ease their way out. “I’ve seen the way you treat people. You’re so smart and talented.” He bit his lip. “Just all-around awesome.” He stared at her so long she had to look away. His green eyes made her scalp tingle.
Then his words came spilling out. “Do you want to go to a bonfire with me after the performance tomorrow night? I hear they’ll have s’mores.” He pressed his lips together. Mia felt like her limbs had turned to ice.
When she didn’t answer, Joel dropped his gaze to her violin. “Do you think I could play it?” He took it as if it were made of glass.
Mia hesitated…then moved to stand beside him. She placed the violin on his shoulder, reminding herself to breathe. “You have to keep your wrist straight to reach the notes well.” Handing him the bow, she saw him clutch it in his fist. She reached over to adjust his fingers, and the warmth from his hand spread up her arm. She jerked her hand back.
He set the bow on the string, and she tried not to cringe at the squeaking note as he ran it too close to the bridge. Sawing the bow back and forth a few times, he sighed then grinned at her. “I guess I missed my chance to be a child prodigy.”
Mia laughed. “I don’t know what your friends would say about their hockey star playing violin.”
He handed her the instrument. “Who cares what they think? I don’t.”
She took a deep breath. “Well then, I don’t, either. But I have to be home by eleven tomorrow.”