Halfway to Virtuosity Ch2 (in which the chronically anxious gay cellist nearly gets a crush)
Posted December 27th, 2014 by meerkat
*No author's note needed, really. The title says it all. Also there is an excessive amount of little-kid-induced awkwardness. In addition, Catherine having an actual girlfriend may or may not become actual canon (that will not be disclosed, and if she ends up with someone it might not even be this girl), but ship names are welcome here! I couldn't think of one... Possibly Neelimeow because Cat = meow. Claire would approve.*
I have an alarm recorded specifically for me by Alecia, my quartet’s first violin player. It’s simply the highest note on her instrument and it works every time. Tomorrow isn’t even a school day but I need an alarm to wake up before noon so I can get to work. I should’ve set my alarm an hour earlier to practice now but even I know there’s a limit. My dad is away with my sister and my mom is probably working this weekend, so I quickly microwave a Pop Tart and pour a glass of apple juice. I scarf the whole thing down before heading off to my job.
I only work so I can have some pocket money to spend on music things. I’m saving up for a decent stand. Sometimes I give lessons to little kids, but that doesn’t happen very often anymore, so my main income source is the library. The music store pretty much never needs new employees, unfortunately, but I sort of like this job. Sure, I constantly think I should be practicing, but at least I know I’m earning money to buy things that will help me practice in the near future.
For the next three hours I shelf books and sort art supplies in the children’s room while listening to a playlist of every orchestra piece I’ve ever played or hope to play someday. Listening is the closest to practicing I can get for now, but it’s not a replacement.I’m texting with all the quartet kids at once while I work, and that makes me feel a lot better. Near the end of my shift I’m forced to do the little kids’ “storytime” reading, but decline with the excuse that I am too occupied with shelving to think of anything else.
Apparently that’s not enough to get me out of it, so I’m stuck with the job of going into the reading room with a copy of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” in my hands. I can’t talk in front of this many people. If I had my instrument it would be a lot easier. I should start bringing my cello to work so the library could have classical music concerts every Saturday morning in addition to storytime. I’m pretty sure that tall gangly boy who ditches every other day plays the guitar or possibly the piano. That would be an interesting duet.
“Hello,” I say, a little softly. “I’m Catherine. Today’s story is about... uh... mice. And cookies.” I’m only thinking two things now: “Shut up, idiot!” and “I should be practicing.” The kids stare wide-eyed at my pure stupidity and awkwardness as I read the story in the most mechanical, emotionless way possible. It’s a lot like those scales that I can play perfectly but without any feeling. If only that concertmaster was here.
When I’m done the kids applaud, so I can assume I didn’t fail. I check a few novels (a distraction from my music career, but a good one nonetheless) and music books out and leave the building as soon as possible, my employee badge pricking me under my shirt. I should be practicing.
But I can’t. The moment after I get home, my phone decides to play Mahler for me again. The caller is yet another number I don’t have in my contacts, but which has my area code, so I know precisely who it is.
“Go away, Claire,” I murmur before even introducing myself. If there’s an unidentified number it has to be her. And if it’s a telemarketer, well, sucks for them.
I’m spot on, as it turns out. “Darn it, Kit-Cat, you got me that time. His name’s Andrew. I dare you to guess which one.” This is such a common name I don’t know which music-program kid it could be referring to. Fortunately, this year I helped coordinate the annual fundraiser, so I have a complete list of everyone’s names and sections. I quickly pull it up on my laptop.
“Hm. There’s an Andrew in orchestra -- two, actually, but one’s a freshman bass player so it’s obviously not him. The other one is... hm... a senior percussionist. In all the bands, I have a sophomore trumpet, a freshman horn, and a junior bass clarinet who I think is in my bio class. And for choir, there’s just one tenor, but he’s a freshman. Judging by your past tastes in men, Claire, I’m guessing it’s the bass clarinet.”
“It’s the drummer! It’s the godforsaken drummer!” She practically yells it and I have to hold the phone a full six inches away from my face. I almost drop Fortissimo, which is even worse. I absolutely cannot break or mishandle my instrument in any way, shape, or form.
I’m not one to yell, however. I try to keep my cool while calmly saying “Um, you made me nearly smash Fortissimo into a million pieces.” She knows precisely how it feels. The last time her instrument got a broken string, she was crushed for a week even though she tried to hide it around her party-girl friends.
“Oh. Um. Sorry. Anyways, Andrew is a little out of my league, considering he’s a senior and all, and I’m not even entirely sure of his last name... what is it anyways?” Claire is so shallow. I haven’t really been interested in dating since last year and I can tell that. The girl drives me nuts so often.
I sigh with secondhand embarrassment. “Callahan. His last name is Callahan.” I’ve forgotten what he looks like as well. I guess I don’t really stare at guys that often. I don’t even stare at girls that often, though I’d most certainly go out with one if it didn’t interfere with my practicing. The only thing I stare at very often is my homework and my sheet music.
Claire sighs into the phone. “Andrew Callahan. He even has a hot name. Rescue me, Catherine darling.” I wish she’d just close her mouth and stop being so hormonal.
“Oh, Claire dearest, thou shalt fear not! Um... well... I should really be practicing. I wasted three hours of my life putting books on shelves and reading about mice to little kids. And if you practice, this Andrew dude will probably like you more once you get second chair next semester!”
She seems a little offended, in a sarcastic way. “Second? For real? Not even first? Wow, Cat. All along I thought we were the closest and cutest stand partners in the whole orchestra, and now you do this to me? I love you too!”
I smirk. “Weirdo. We all know I’m getting first chair. We’ll still be cute and stand-partner-ish, it’s just that Prince Charming-whose-name-happens-to-be-Andrew-Callahan-the-hot-drummer will finally notice you.” This is my only goal now: first chair. And after that, all-state orchestra and solo-and-ensemble festival and applying for Juilliard and Manhattan and the other best music schools in the whole country (if I don’t decide to be a psychologist or a neuroscientist instead. Honestly, getting into people’s minds is pretty cool).
“Geez. I didn’t even take my cello home this weekend. Too many parties and stuff to go to. I mean, yesterday was Melanie Lin’s sweet sixteen, then today evening is Kat McCandless’s ever-so-famous holiday party, and tomorrow I’m visiting relatives all day...” Excuses, excuses, excuses. I usually try as hard as I can to not be an evil sadist, but I can’t help but feel glad that there’s one less contender for first chair.
“Oh, well then, I guess I’ll have a new stand partner next semester because I’m going to go practice now unlike certain drummer-lovers I know! Fare thee well, noble friend!” I hang up, rip off my wrist cuffs, and play my twelve major scales faster than ever before. Sure, it sounds emotionally bland, but it’s quick and pretty and I still like it.
Of course, my phone starts ringing again, but I leave it be. I’m not helping this lovesick party girl hook up with some random guy who’s a year above her. If I’m facilitating any romances, it’s going to be me and the first-chair spot next semester. Still, out of curiosity, I take a quick look at the number. It’s not the same one Claire just called me from and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t go steal someone else’s phone in under thirty seconds just to call me again.
“Catherine Low speaking.” It’s definitely a spam call. Literally no one calls me except Claire, the entire quartet, my parents, and telemarketers.
“Oh, hi! I don’t think you know me very well.” It’s a girl, whose voice sounds vaguely familiar as if I pass her in the hallways at school a lot. “I’m Neelima? Second horn in your orch class?” Oh, that’s who it is. I remember what she looks like, partially because she has this weird reddish-blonde hair that is apparently natural. I can spot that hair a mile away, not literally.
“So anyways, I think you accidentally picked up my music folder yesterday after class.” Well, she is right next to me in alphabetical order... I decide to stay with the call because music folders are more important than good-looking percussionists. Plus, there’s no competition between us because we aren’t in the same section.
“Hold on, lemme check...” I lean Fortissimo against my bedpost, the phone still pressed to my ear, and dig through my weathered purple backpack. There’s nothing significant, just school textbooks and homework and my student ID picture where my hair is flying out of its ponytail and my eyes look too small. I do, however, come across a red folder that looks quite similar to my own. It’s probably what Neelima is looking for. It even has her name on it. “Found it! Where can I drop it off?”
She just laughs. “You’re the fundraiser coordinator. You have my address. Any time today is fine, I’ll just be lazing around at home and possibly practicing. Possibly. So... um... see you around, I guess? Bye!” I actually have the addresses of everyone in the music program, but only a fool would trust Claire with Andrew Callahan’s location.
So I pull out the folder and disconnect the call and slip into an oversized black windbreaker that had once been Eva’s. I lock up the house because there’s no one else home to do so and start my car and pull up her address on my phone. She lives really close to school, actually. It’s like she can cross the street and she’s there. It’s the same street as Aaron, my quartet’s violist.
I knock quietly on the door and it takes about two seconds for her to answer. “Hi! I’ll just take that... thank you!” She swiftly pulls the folder out of my hand without even forcing me to talk. I officially like this girl, but not in an I’d-date-her way. I haven’t liked anyone in that way for a while. “Wanna come inside? I have nothing to do, I swear...” In the background I can hear little boys screaming at each other. Someone’s playing Super Smash Bros with the volume loud.
“No thanks. I should be practicing.” Whoops, there it is. At least this is a fellow music person I’m dealing with, and I know she’s not another Claire because she actually went out of her way to call me and ask for her folder just so she could practice and possibly move up a chair. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I completely get it. So should I, but with those dorks and their loud games, I can hardly hear myself!” She raises her voice at “those dorks” and I’m under the assumption that the Super Smash Bros players are her brothers or cousins by the way they retaliate. “Have fun practicing!” she calls as I walk back to my car. “See you later!”
“You too!” I reply. Aaron spots me just as I’m about to stick the keys in the ignition. He’s out walking his golden retriever Mozart, even though it’s a bit too cold for that, and he jokes about how he finally has some source of physical activity. Aaron’s secretly (or not-so-secretly) a track star, but he doesn’t really do anything in the winter, and this is something we all like to make fun of him for.
Claire calls yet again once I reach home. She’s actually using the number I have stored in my contacts. “I found him on Facebook!” she squeals, and for a moment I forget who she’s talking about. Then I suddenly remember. It’s the godforsaken drummer again.
“Good. Now go chat with him. Be all like, oh hey, I’m Claire, and I’ve sent my gay cellist friend to follow you around! She knows where you live, by the way. No, what’re you talking about, I’m not a stalker!” I do a pretty decent Claire impression, but I should be practicing. I really should be. Between reading about rodents and baked goods and returning sheet music to very adorable horn players, I wasted a lot of time today. Plus, the entire quartet is coming over today while Katherine McCandless is celebrating the holidays with her famous party.
“Shut. Up!” she groans at me. “You are the hugest idiot ever, Catherine Low!” I honestly don’t care when people use my full name. I don’t even have a middle name anyway. I’m fully Asian, so people expect me to have a different name, but I was born and raised in the States by parents who were also born and raised in the States.
“Claire McEvoy, you’re worse! This guy obviously has no chance with you whatsoever. Give up already!” I’m that one killjoy friend no one likes. I do a pretty good job of it, actually. I hang up, quite rudely, and pull out that one annoying piece and skip to measure fifty-six, count two.
But no matter how I try, I can’t get the picture of that gosh-darned adorable horn player out of my head, or her strange lilting accent, or the way she slightly flips her discolored hair over her shoulder and flashes a split-second smile. I push it away, then play a little more intensely, but it comes back while I hold out a long note or a trill. No. I have a crush. This can’t happen. At least it’s a platonic crush now. I get those a lot, but always manage to repress them before they become something more. I had one on that stupid Claire last year, in fact.
Anyways, I am practicing now and it’s the present moment and that’s all that matters. And fast scales can solve every problem. At least she probably agrees.
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