I clutch my pillow closer to my chest, holding on tight, willing myself to sleep. I had hoped that playing my favorite song on repeat would lull me right to sleep, but sleepless nights have become a routine thing for me throughout the summer. I’ve always been a night owl, but my habit of staying up until dawn crept up on me. At first, I was up late with my nose in a book, unable to put it down until I finished it, and then I grew to love walking to the park in my neighborhood, my only company being my music and the moon. Soon, I became restless, unable to sleep until at least six in the morning daily, so my nights were full of good books and attempts at writing, both music and stories. Often, as I was just falling asleep, I could hear the stirrings of my parents waking up, going through their morning routine. They haven’t noticed much of my habits, mostly because they sleep like the dead and they’re out like a light at nine o’clock, sharp.
They’ve always been early birds, and my brother, Lucas, is just like them. Typically, he makes it until ten or ten thirty before passing out, but I’ve never seen him up later unless he’s cramming for a big test. My sister, Jennie, is just like me- she’s big into academics like the rest of my family, but leads a double life as valedictorian and top party girl. I’ve always known when she’s sneaking out, but I’ve never said a word. I keep her secrets, and she keeps mine, and its always been an unspoken pact.
Tomorrow is the first day of my senior year, and I don’t think it’s possible to be less excited than I am. For me, school is a prison. We’re required to go and learn exactly what they tell us to, leave when we’re allowed to, with people we’ve been stuck with our entire lives. I don’t have many friends, I prefer to keep to myself. I do have one good friend, Katelyn Montanez, who has stayed with me through it all. I don’t know how she did it, with my hot and cold moods, and the meltdowns. I appreciate her more than she could ever know.
I guess the best part of being a senior is having free periods. In previous school years, after school, I would find myself in the practice rooms by the band and orchestra hallway, practicing piano until Mom summoned me home for dinner. Once I scarfed down my dinner, I would find myself back at the keys in our basement, practicing until my parents went to bed. Then, it was usually just me and a book or my writing. In the past, I tried my hand at poetry, and even though Katie told me it was good, I could never believe it. I have a notebook full of it stashed away somewhere, in case I want to try again or edit some of what I’ve written previously. So far, I haven’t felt the need to write poetry again, just stories with fantasy worlds that take me far away from where I am in the moment. As long as I can feel like I’m living in a world I create and not the real one, I feel safe and welcome there.
At two in the morning, I decide to get up and run, in an attempt to wear myself out. We have a treadmill in the basement, but nothing beats fresh air and a cool summer night. Last run of the summer, let’s make it count. The park greeted me with open arms as always, and I ended up swinging before making a mad dash home at three thirty. I’m going to hate myself in the morning.
I woke up, my alarm roaring in my ear, at seven thirty the next morning. Like a zombie, I stumbled into the kitchen, fumbling around for a mug and freshly brewed coffee. I didn’t bother with creamer and sugar this morning, as I had enough time to grab a mug and head back to my room to find an outfit and hopefully cover the dark circles under my eyes with concealer. On days like today, it felt like there wasn’t enough concealer in the world to hide these circles, but I just have to do what I can and hope for the best. I arrived at school at about eight thirty, rushing through the doors with just enough time to sneak in through the back of the auditorium and grab a seat near the door. Our school holds a senior assembly every year, basically welcoming us back for the last year of high school, pumping us up to finish high school strong instead of succumbing to senioritis as many have before us. In the dark auditorium, I attempted at fighting sleep. With Principal Andersen’s monotone droning on and on, I felt myself doze off more than once, my head falling off of my hand propping it up. Finally, the sound of cheering and clapping brought me back to the land of the living.
I stayed behind a few minutes to find Katie, checking my phone while waiting. I had a few texts, a couple from my parents telling me to have a good last first day, and one from Katie asking where I was. As I was typing a message back to her, I heard her squeal at me. “Cami!” Katie rushed up and threw her arms around me. I hugged back, then on the way to first period, we compared schedules. We have one class together this semester, and both of us have the last period of the day open. As seniors, if we have our last class period as a free period, we can do whatever we want- roam the halls, go to the library, or study, but most seniors just go home early. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to hide away in one of the practice rooms in the music hallway, one hour of peace and my music.
Time dragged slowly, and as a general first day tradition, all of our teachers went over syllabi and rules for the classes, as well as what to expect that semester. What I said earlier about there not being enough concealer to hide my dark circles? It’s still true, but there was not enough caffeine in the world to keep me alert for my classes today. Getting back into a normal, school routine was going to prove difficult, but I knew it was a necessity if I wanted to survive and graduate with my class. I don’t want to be here any longer than absolutely necessary.
Finally, sixth period ended, and I made a mad dash to the music hallway. I plopped my bag down by the piano bench, and dug through my bag for my sheet music and composition book. I had tried writing an original piano piece, but I’ve been struggling lately, so I settled for learning a piano version of some other songs I loved. Most recently, I had been working on My Heart I Surrender by I Prevail. The original song is played on acoustic guitar, so it’s been a little odd to learn, but it’s still beautiful. I got lost in the music for about twenty minutes, singing and working out all the kinks and mistakes. I was at peace and completely in music land when I heard three soft knocks on the door, and a boy standing outside of the door, facing away from me. He had a guitar in hand, and appeared to be nervous.
When I opened the door, he turned to face me, looking like a deer in the headlights. “Hi,” he said loudly. “Was that- was that you in there?” As soon as he asked the question, the color drained from his face, as if he was scolding himself internally for asking a silly question.
I raised an eyebrow and nodded. “Well, there isn’t anybody else here,” I sighed. I didn’t need a distraction right now, and just wanted to get back to practicing. We stared at each other for a few more seconds before I broke the silence. “Um,” I stammered, “Can I help you with something?”
“What?” He looked down and back up at me again. “Oh yeah, um, sorry to interrupt,” He stuttered. He was clearly nervous, though I had no idea why. “I heard you playing and just wanted to know maybe if I could watch you play, or listen? I feel like I’ve heard the song before, but-”
“I’m sorry, I don’t do well with a crowd,” I cut him off. He looked down, a little bummed. He started mumbling about how he was sorry and started walking away, and I immediately felt bad. Here I was, with literally one friend, chasing people away, when I could really use another friend. And one that loves music like I do? Jackpot. “Hey, wait.” He turned to look back at me. “I could use the company, but I have a favor if you come in and listen.”
“Sure, anything.” He agreed quickly, a hint of a smile on his face.
“Well first, I need to know your name. Then, I want to learn how to play guitar, and I think you could teach me.”
“I could totally teach you, I’ve played guitar for years. Do you have seventh period free every day?”
“I do. What’s your name?”
“Nathan,” he sighed. “Sorry, I’m kinda terrible with introductions. I kind of ramble on, and forget to do that… anyway, what about you?”
“Camille, call me Cami. Come on in, Nathan.”
He settled down in the chair next the door, holding his guitar and watching, eagerly waiting for me to play again. I started to play again, but the feeling of eyes boring into the back of my head made me too nervous and I had to stop. “Hey, um..” I stuttered. “Sorry, I wasn’t kidding about the stage fright thing, but are you able to maybe close your eyes or look away? I don’t perform well when I feel like I’m being watched. I start to panic.”
Nathan held up a hand towards me, as if no more explanation was needed. “No problem, I totally get it.” He stood up and straddled the chair, so he was facing the wall away from me. Half of a smile crept to my face, and I breathed deeply before playing again. The first playthrough, I didn’t sing, I just played and let my fingers dance across the keys. At some point during the song, he turned back around to face me. When the song ended, I turned to face him, and he had the biggest grin on his face, from ear to ear. I didn’t know Nathan for long, and I didn’t know hardly anything about him, but I knew that he played guitar and that he had a nice smile. A smile I would see daily, from today on.
The first couple of days, he just let me play piano, listening to me practice. On the fourth day, he asked me to sing. “Do you remember that song you played the first time we met?” I nodded, and he continued. “I know I’ve heard you play it a couple more times, but would you sing it for me?” I hesitated, and he went rambling on like he said he does. “I know we’ve only talked for a couple days, and I only heard you singing the one time by accident, but I’d really love to hear you sing again.” I gave him my usual half smile, and agreed.
“Fine, but only if you face away from me again the way you did on the first day. I’m serious about the performance anxiety, Nathan.” He chuckled and turned around again, and like the first day, he was facing me by the time the song was over. His same, amazing smile was back, and he had his hands on his knees and was leaning forward, like he was listening intensely, afraid to miss a single note. “So,” I sighed, “I know it’s not special or anything-”
“Say no more, Cami,” he cut me off this time. “You’re great, truly talented at what you do. I’m so glad we get to work together on music. Hopefully some of your talent will rub off on me.”
“Oh, stop it!” I smacked his arm playfully, and this time, a full smile escaped. “You’re great too, and you know it.”
“I guess I am pretty great, huh?” He joked, grabbing his guitar and handing it to me. “Now, are you ready to be great at guitar too? You’ll be a triple threat by the end of the year.”
I looked back at him, confused. “How am I a triple threat?”
He smiled, looking down before answering me. “With that voice and your piano skills, it’s a matter of time before you master guitar and pass me up. Nobody will be able to resist you.”
I couldn’t fight the blush that rose to my cheeks, surely turning me into a walking tomato. I also couldn’t fight the full smile that formed on my face, and soon, Nathan’s smile mirrored mine. Breaking the silence, I laughed softly, then strummed obnoxiously on the guitar. “Easy there, killer. Don’t hurt the strings!” Nathan plucked the guitar from me and held it close, stroking it as if the guitar were a dog or a cat. “This is my baby, you see. I can’t let you do that to Nellie!” This time when I laughed, I couldn’t help but throw my head back.
“Wow, Nellie?” I giggled. “I knew guys had a habit of naming their cars and trucks, but I’ve never met a guy who’s named his guitar.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything.” Nathan stood and handed the guitar back to me, gesturing for me to sit in the chair. I obliged, moving to the chair he was just sitting in, but instead of sitting across from me, he stood behind me, showing me how to hold the guitar. My heart jumped when his fingers brushed against mine, and before I knew it, I was blushing again.
Before we both went home that day, Nathan insisted he needed my phone number. I was a little hesitant, but only because I had never really had many guys interested in me before, and I was so distant and awkward with them that we never really hung out or talked much after the first day or two. Finally, I agreed, and we swapped phones, quickly tapping our numbers in. Nathan walked out with me to my car, and before leaving, he told me if I wanted to talk or hang out outside of the practice rooms to just give him a call and he would be there, any time of the day. “Well, you might regret that,” I warned, before starting the car and leaving him there with a sweet, confused smile.
To be continued
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