a short story
Eva was six years old when she was given her first violin, one belonging to her mother before her. From the very first moment, she beheld it with a magical kind of wonder. And that never changed — not when she was eight, or ten, or twelve, or sixteen.
The trouble was, the school system didn’t seem to see things the same way. They were doing away with the high school orchestra program. Budget cuts, the administration argued. What do you expect us to get rid of, the computers?
How about the football teams’ coach buses? Eva thought despondently. Or the cheerleaders’ fancy confetti canon?
She said it, too. She gave speeches at school board meetings, wrote letters, typed emails, even published a lengthy diatribe on her blog and in the paper. But no one would listen.
People liked football players and cheerleaders. Nobody liked violinists.
“What more can I do?” Eva bemoaned to her family over dinner one evening. “No one appreciates the sophisticated elegance that orchestra gifts to the world. I broadcasted the best string quartet album I have through the intercom. I serenaded the students at lunch. I even put posters up inviting everyone to public protests with free food. No one showed up. Nobody cares.”
“Perhaps it’s time you take up other interests,” her mother said gently.
“This town’s always been about football,” Richard pointed out. “You can’t expect to change a hundred plus years of history.”
“Can we please change the subject for once,” Viola pleaded. “I have a dance recital this weekend. Trump’s turning America to tyranny. We’re eating mashed potatoes from a box for the third time this week. Let’s talk about one of those.”
Eva rolled her eyes. “So overdramatic,” she said.
Viola glared at her over the mashed potato mountains she’d carved on her plate. “You’re one to talk.”
Despite the lack of support, Eva showed up yet again for a heavily-campaigned protest on Friday evening, precariously balancing a box of pizza and a tray of cookies. She camped out in front of the entrance near the music room and waited for someone, anyone make an appearance. In the distance, the sound of the Friday night football crowd could be heard, and occasionally a burst of noise from the band.
Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes. Nobody came.
Finally, she heard the soft sound of footprints padding through the snow.
“Really?” Viola said in exasperation. She was wearing her color guard uniform.
“Shouldn’t you be at the game?” Eva asked in response. “And where’s your coat?”
Viola shrugged and folded her arms around her body, shivering. “I had to pee,” she answered, ignoring the second question. “You know how I feel about porta-potties.”
Eva nodded her agreement. “You hungry?”
At this, Viola cracked a smile. “Aren’t I always? Budge over.”
They sat side-by-side, each nursing a slice of greasy pizza in one hand and a cookie in the other.
“I never liked the violin, you know,” Viola said after a time. “I only pretended to when I was younger because you liked it so much, and I wanted to please you.”
“You’re relieved,” Eva accused with a shake of her head. “You’re relieved you don’t have to play it now, since they’re shutting down the orchestra.”
Viola stared down at her pizza. “I am. I’m hoping to take up the trumpet, actually. No pesky strings to cross.”
“I hate the trumpet,” Eva said.
“I know,” Viola said, “and I hate the violin.”
There was silence for a moment, then Viola spoke again. “That’s not right. I don’t hate it. I love it when you play.”
Eva looked at her in surprise. “You do?”
Viola nodded. “I used to lie awake when I was little and listen. You’d play for hours into the night. And it was beautiful. I would make up stories in my head to go with the music.” She smiled. “It was your way of putting me to sleep.”
“I still think the school should keep the orchestra,” Eva said, wiping unsuccessfully at the tears in her eyes with grease-stained hands. “Music is important. Children need culture, and options.”
“I agree,” Viola said. “So long as I’m not forced to play in it. I’ll even help you.”
Viola located a napkin and pressed it into her mother’s fingers, for the first time in a long time feeling that they were on the same page. Connected. Family. She wrapped her arms around Eva, resting her cheek against her shoulder as she used to when she was a little girl. “Of course I will.”
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Anne Marie is a writer and entrepreneur. She lives with her daughter and husband in PA. You can find her at her online home, www.inspiration-kindled.com, or follow her on twitter @InspireEach_Day.