You know how most stories begin. "Once upon a time..." And we all know they end with "happily ever after." But the one thing I never seem to understand about fairy tales is what happens between the love at first sight and the end. I tend to think that most people inherently skip over the middle of most every story, the development, or as I like to call it, the journey. People don't want to see the unavoidable heartache and anguish that must fill every worthwhile story's interior. The world isn't just summer and sunshine all the time. It can't be.
But you know what I think is the funniest part of it all? Yes, the beginning and the end are beautiful, but only because of what unfolds in the center of the story. Fairy tales aren't true. They can't be. Not the ones that are perfect, anyway. The reason I think the journey of every story is the best part is simple. It shows us who the characters truly are. It wipes away the doubt and uncertainty of the bonds and friendships that connect lifetimes and pull at heartstrings. It shows us why the characters deserve their happy ending. They've earned it.
And love, well, just let me say, is most beautiful when tried true. When it is challenged; when it must rise to meet those challenges. When it is proved through pure trust and undying devotion. Then we know nothing can take it away.
But enough of my rambling. I have a story to tell you -- one that I'm not sure you'd even believe if you read the first chapter and skip to the end. Things will seem too good to be true. But trust me, stick with the characters on this journey, and you will be amazed at what's to come. Now, without further ado, let's begin.
Once upon a time, there was a girl. But not just any ordinary girl, no, not at all. Eighteen-year-old Aria Emelia Davis was renowned for a quite unheard of talent.
I'm sure you've heard of the violin before. You probably know famous figures like Hillary Hahn or Linsey Stirling. But this is different. Have you heard of the cello?
Well, for now, think of it as a big violin. That's what Aria played. And she was good.
Born into a family of famous musicians, of course Aria was expected to pick one along the way. Starting at just four years old, she went on to somehow win every competition, baffling older musicians and inspiring the younger generation. She was unstoppable.
Until this morning, at least.
*BEEEEP* *BEEEEP* Rolling over in the thick comforter, she smacked the top of the alarm clock.
"Ari, you up, dear?" a face peeked into the room.
"I'm up, Mom." Aria sat up groggily and rubbed her sleep-filled eyes. She turned to the door, but it had been re-closed.
One foot on the floor, then the other, she looked around the room. A turquoise satin dress hung on the door of her closet. Then the night before came rushing back.
The lights were dimmed, only one still remaining. It hovered on a single empty seat in front of the huge orchestra. She saw it all from the side of the stage, where she was standing, waiting for her cue. The conductor gave a slight nod. She started to walk on stage.
The room was large, very large, like a deep, endless cavern. And so quiet. You would've been able to hear a pin drop on the floor. The audience's eyes were wide with excitement. So were Aria's.
Now at the front of the stage, she took a step into the spotlight. The audience erupted with applause.
She shook the concert master's hand, then the conductor's. Then she took a seat. The audience suddenly quieted.
She gave a nod to the conductor, and the orchestra began to play.
The music slowed. That was her cue.
As Aria began to play, the crowd seemed transfixed. Her sound was clear and bold, ringing in the massive auditorium. Without even trying, one girl overpowered the whole orchestra.
Her face was calm and collected, no expression of weakness or fear. She acted as if it were the most natural thing in the world to play in front of nearly two thousand people. And for her, honestly, it was.
She loved the thrill - the tangible excitement in the air. Her heart beat fast, but only out of anticipation. The music swelled, fell, swelled, fell again. Back and forth and back and forth. She loved it desperately.
She leaned into a run of notes, then crescendoed to a climax. The suspense rose, her fingers running frantically.
Then she hit the highest note yet. An impossible sweetness filled the tone, gliding into other notes; the new melody filled with emotion.
She swayed gently in her seat, eyebrows knitted, dreamy expression on her face.
Then the orchestra blasted out the final melody, and Aria came in, strong and certain. Her notes rang with joy, and she went into a series of notes, quickly, with all determination.
Hitting the final note, her bow stroked off the string with a flourish. The audience went wild with applause as she took a final bow before making her way off stage.
A broad, satisfied smile stretched across her face, and her heart filled with a grand feeling of total accomplishment. What could have been better? Well... nothing.
Well... except maybe canceling school the next day. They definitely should've canceled school for her. She had gone to bed around one in the morning, having stayed around and kept light conversation with several of the orchestra members until around eleven. Only a few had dropped by the time she left, and she assumed most would continue drinking through the night. She had never been one for drinks, and had no intentions of getting involved in them. She always tried to leave more adult-ish parties before things turned for the worse. Besides, she had better things to do.
When she had gotten home, her immediate first action was to call her best friend, Erik. Aria had met Erik toward the end of elementary school, when her family moved to Minnesota from Florida. At first, the friendship seemed shallow, but as time moved on, the two became fast and true friends. Erik was a petite girl, with long blond hair and an easygoing personality. All the guys were crazy over her, but she couldn't have cared less. She was too good for them, anyway. She deserved SO much better. I swear, her smile could light up a room a mile away, and she could always make sense out of the most complicated situations. A lot of times, that why I would be calling her. Trying to get myself out of a pickle. But last night, it was to celebrate.
"Does that mean you might get a chance at the audition?" Erik asked, "That audition for Julliard that you've wanted since like, I don't know, fifth grade?"
I laughed, falling back onto my bed. "Yes, yes, hopefully it means the judges will finally notice me. I mean, how many people can play at the nicest Concert Hall in the state and not get noticed, am I right?"
She laughed too, "We're getting a little full of ourselves, aren't we?"
"What, you think I haven't already won myself a spot at Juilliard?" I asked teasingly.
"No, I think you'll go wipe them all out." she said.
But there was just something about her voice that said otherwise. Something wasn't quite right. I knew she believed with all her heart that I could, and I dare say, would win. So what was wrong? A sudden thought cut through my head, and my blood turned cold.
"Erik?" I asked slowly, "Who's my main competition, do you think?"
"Who's competing?" I said, now very on edge.
A deep sigh.
"Ari, I'll call you back tomorrow, it's getting pretty late-"
"Erik. Who is it? What's happening?"
"Look, you should probably look yourself. You know I've never been great with determining musical skill level." She was trying to deflect from the point. Something was definitely up. "I mean, you remember that one kid in choir that I thought had the prettiest voice, even after she got the lowest score on that online intonation test-"
I don't know what Erik said after that. I had just Googled the public list of possible auditions on Juilliard's official website. And now I knew why she was acting so strange. Because on the list, out of all people, I saw only one name. Jackson Melford. The undoubtably greatest violinist of our generation. And now we were competing for the same dream.
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