Brrriing!! The bell announced that school was out. Kids poured out from different classes and the slams of lockers could be heard. While the rest of the kids ran out the door and into the winter air, Odette Barry walked patiently to the outside of the school. She was in no rush to arrive home to her demanding grandmother who insisted on being read her favorite childhood books. If Odette was lucky, she would arrive home at the time of her grandmother’s nap and enter through the back door.
Barry House was like a manor. Clara Barry, Odette’s mother, had suggested it had a rich look. There were gates, stone columns, heavy oak doors, and three chimneys. Through the back there was a great, majestic pine forest that had a stream flowing by. Odette discovered a path that led to the stream, across a tiny bridge, and then a stump. The stump allowed Odette to hoist herself over the wooden fence that dropped into Barry House’s lawn.
On this particular day, Odette was in for a surprise when she crossed the back door into the kitchen. Her mother was standing over the stove, shelling peas into a bowl. Odette froze. Trying not to make a sound, she tiptoed across the kitchen floor. A wooden board creaked and Odette’s mother turned her pretty head.
“Hi Mom,” whispered Odette.
A look of understanding crossed her mother’s face. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to read to your grandmother, Odette,” said her mother. “She’s sleeping.” Her mom was everything: understanding, intelligent, beautiful, and kind. Odette’s mother was a nurse who traveled around the world helping poor villages. She only came home once a month and when she did there would be a delicious dinner and Odette would play her treasure, the harp. She tiptoed past the sitting room where her grandmother napped, past the parlor where she played her harp, and up the stairs to her room.
Odette’s room was exactly like a composer’s office. There were three sections, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a mini-office. In the bedroom there was a bed and a quilted pillow with violins on it. It was next to the window that welcomed sunlight. A rolltop desk filled with notebooks and test results stood on the wall opposite the bed. In the bathroom, a pretty purple towel hung on a rack, while the smell of shampoo and soap danced off the walls. In the mini-room were mini-bookcases filled with papers and framed pictures of Odette and her harp. Two music stands stood together in a corner and a small table was put in the center. Her harp looked like something the angels dropped into the room by mistake. Its gold furnishings glinted in the sunlight that would sometimes reach the office by the small skylight. The small jumps provided slides for Odette’s fingers.
After finishing her homework, Odette grabbed a notebook entitled Music and seated herself on the stool next to the harp. Odette reached for a music stand to put her notebook on. On most days, she would turn to Composer’s Chapter and practice music for the harp, but today she decided to write her own song, “The Return.” At the beginning it was lonely and mysterious but then it turned gleeful and loud. She wanted to have cymbals go with it some day. These were the emotions that Odette felt during the return of her mother, but she wasn’t showing anyone her songs.
“Child,” said Odette’s grandmother. They were passing around bowls of egg salad at the dining table. “You didn’t read Treasure Island to me today.” Granny’s voice was stern and tired. Odette glanced a look at her mom, who exchanged a mischievous smile. After the salad was finished, brownies and ice cream reached the table for dessert.
“Odette,” said her mother, “I saw a pamphlet for a junior symphony called Angel’s Music. Do you want to join?” Her eyes looked expectantly at her. Odette gulped a brownie and knew exactly what she was thinking. Her mother wanted Odette to finally make some friends, not to play the harp.
“I’ll think about it,” replied Odette. She got up and went upstairs to get her harp. Odette needed some way to avoid the symphony, but she always wanted a chance to prove she was a great harp player. Odette decided to think about it later. She heaved her harp down the stairs, into the parlor, and started playing “Ode to Joy.”
“OK. I’ll do it,” said Odette that night in her mother’s bedroom. She had considered joining Angel’s Music and decided to do it.
“That’s wonderful, Odette,” replied her mother, smiling. “I’ll take you to rehearsals on Tuesday.”
As Odette lay in bed, arms on the back of her head, staring at the sky, she wondered if she really wanted to do this. Would she make a good impression and get a solo? For the first time in a while, Odette Barry looked forward to trying something new, even if it meant making friends.
* * *
Time flew by and soon it was Tuesday. Odette was seated in the car while her harp lay in a case on the back seat. “Odette, you are simply going to love this,” said her mother for the entire trip. “I did some research and Angel’s Music was the start for some really famous musicians.” Odette was silent during all this; she began to doubt that she would have fun with this symphony.
They finally found a place to park next to a giant building that had a sign that said Devin Hall. Odette stepped out of the car, opened the back-seat door, and got her harp. In its case the harp looked like a giant red mitten on wheels and Odette thought it was embarrassing. Odette and her mother were soon inside a maze of empty hallways that had doors every few feet. “Here it is, Odette,” called her mother, who was ahead of her, “room 312.”
Odette eyed the room with suspicion. One foot inside and she would not get out until the period was over. Odette saw her mother open the door and beckon for her to enter. The room was a lot like a movie theater, dark in some places and bright in others. A bunch of heads craned to look at Odette as she entered, which made her want to turn tail and flee.
A tall man smiled and said, “Welcome to Angel’s Music.” He shook Odette’s hand and showed her where to sit while he talked with her mother. Odette took her harp out of the case and reached for a music stand while holding the harp. Odette tried to reach it but she couldn’t. Suddenly, a hand came out from her right side and pulled the music stand towards Odette.
A girl about her age was smiling as she said some words that would change Odette’s social life completely, “Hi, my name is Jill. Do you want to be friends?”