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After weeks of practice and anticipation, the day of Susie’s recital is finally here

My hands smoothed out the rose-colored dress I was wearing. The car hummed underneath me. We passed skyscrapers and other cars. I unfolded the music sheet, which was wrinkled and slightly ripped from all the times I’d inspected it.

“What if I forget this is an E instead of an A? What if I mess up . . .”

“You’ll be fine, honey,” my mom told me reassuringly. “You’re gonna do it.” Her optimism didn’t miss its mark on me, but still, I was worried.

“We’re here!” she said cheerfully, like it was an amazing day and not the scariest day of my life.

I mean, I had practiced for at least an hour every day, from six to seven, for the last two months, getting ready for this.

It was a large church, with a foyer in front. In the foyer, people were milling about, laughing and talking. My teacher finally found us. Mrs. Callie is an amazing teacher, and my favorite. She was wearing a sparkly blue dress that shimmered like the night sky. It reflected off of the chandelier, and I was so fixated on that little blue glint I didn’t notice Mrs. Callie was walking away until the glint was gone.

The main hall stood full and proud. It had windows at the very top of its walls, and an open circle window right in the middle. Under the circle was a large Christmas tree, twinkling and shining. And under that . . . the stage. There were many filled pews, and suddenly I felt a wave of terror wash over me. I put my head in my hands. I could see myself playing the flute, but messing up terribly, me realizing my mistake, and everyone booing over and over like a horror scene replaying in my mind. But then I felt my mom’s warm hand on my back.

“We believe in you,” she whispered.

“First,” Mrs. Callie read, “We have Alyssa Mcford. She will be playing “Grand Central Station” by Nancy Faber.”

Blooms
Blooms

Alyssa’s song moved by in a quick minute. Then the next song, “French Minuet.” Even though my turn was about twelve songs away, I began assembling my flute, sliding the parts into place.

The songs flew by. Finally, Mrs. Callie announced “Next we have Susie Jones, playing ‘Golden Roses’ on the flute.”

Silence. I gripped my flute until my knuckles went white. It seemed like the flute would crumble. But I couldn’t, for the life of me, move or sit up at all. No, I couldn’t do this.

“Susie?”

Why was I doing this? Why?!

“Hold on a sec.” Mrs. Callie started to walk over.

I covered my face with my hands. No, no, no! People were whispering, some were laughing.

“But Susie, don’t you want to hear the crowds cheer?” Mrs. Callie asked gently.

I shook my head. “They won’t! They probably hate me! I don’t want to play anymore. Let me go!”

“Wait,” Mrs. Callie replied. She walked away from me. “There’s been a holdup. Next, we will have Mary Albert playing ‘I Walk the Road Again.’ ”

Mary walked to the stage, and my world started to dissolve with terror.

“Come on, Susie,” Mom said, guiding me gently.

I heard our footsteps. Thump, thump, squeak, squeak. The tile floor seemed to count our way slowly. I felt dozens of stares on us, on me. Finally, after what seemed like hours, we reached the door. I looked around. Everything was so bright outside. Birds chirped; quiet wind blew through the trees. They rustled. All of it was so . . . serene. Then I heard music wafting out of the church. It flowed, twisting and whirling. I knew that song: “Greensleeves.”

I wished that I had that courage. The courage to speak to the bright, bold sun.

Memories flashed in my mind. I remembered the time when I turned on the light in my room, walking to the flute. My fingers found the keys, and they skipped from one key to another as I played the lulling song of “Greensleeves.” I pictured myself: There was me, pleading with my mom to let me play some more. Me closing my eyes like I was right now, but as I played the flute. Me spending more time with the flute than with human friends. I loved the flute. It was part of me.

I looked down at the flute in my hand. It glowed, answering the sun’s radiating light, pulling it down, then reflecting it back like a reply. I wished that I had that courage. The courage to speak to the bright, bold sun. Then I realized. Maybe I could.

“Let’s go back in.” The words jumped out of my mouth, loud and clear.

“Are you sure?” Mom asked me, concerned.

As an answer, I walked back into the church. She tailed me. I saw the kid playing. It was that boy I had never talked to. As I watched, he coaxed out the piano’s tinny voice, pushing it out into the cool air. He looked . . . happy. Like he really loved being there. If he could feel such joy when he was usually so nervous and scared, I could too. I took a deep breath and walked to our pew.

As we sat back at our seats. I ran my hand over my instrument. The silver of the flute felt cool against my sweaty palms. Finally, again, it was my turn. I took a deep breath, walking onto the stage. My shoe squeaked against it.

“Hi, I’m Susie Jones, and I will be playing ‘Golden Roses.’”

“Stand tall and proud. Take a deep breath, and play,” I remembered Mrs. Callie saying, so I did.

I stood as high as possible, taking a lungful of air, and blew. I closed my eyes and began pressing the keys on the flute. As I opened my eyes again, I skimmed over the sea of people. I could pick out Mom, Mrs. Callie, the quiet boy, and many I didn’t recognize. But they were all smiling. And those smiles threw me into a world of daisies, lilies, and golden roses.

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