by Jean Blasiar
Rachel looked out her open bedroom window at her friends playing volleyball in the schoolyard across the street. It was a spectacular afternoon full of the scents of autumn.
In a rare defiant moment, Rachel had accepted a tape recorder from best friend Sissy and recorded the concerto she was practicing for Sunday. The luxury this tape gave Rachel that afternoon was a full ten minutes of not playing the concerto herself, of watching her friends from her window with the violin resting in her lap and her unsuspecting mother downstairs humming along.
When the tape stopped, Sissy waved to Rachel from across the street. She knew.
In the kitchen downstairs, Mrs. Katz stopped humming. She didn’t know. She called upstairs, “Rachel, I’m going to the market. You have another hour and a half of practice. I’ll be back before you finish.”
Rachel turned off the tape. “Okay,” she called downstairs.
Mrs. Katz pulled the large sedan out of the garage, backing into the street.
Quickly, Rachel started the tape again so her mother would hear. With her car window rolled down, strumming her fingers on the steering wheel, Mrs. Katz listened to the violin concerto several minutes before driving off, smiling, her head held high, ignoring Mrs. Nussbaum next door who was sweeping her walk.
The big brown sedan had barely turned the corner before the volleyball game came to an abrupt stop. Sissy came running across the street, looking up at the window. “Ray,” she urged, “come on.”
Fooling her mother with a tape was without a doubt for Rachel Katz a brash, insolent move. But joining her friends when she was supposed to be practicing her concerto was nothing less than mutiny.
As she raced down the steps with a chocolate chip cookie from the stash in her bookbag, Rachel waved to Mrs. Nussbaum. Mrs. Nussbaum would not tell on Rachel. Mrs. Nussbaum and Rachel’s mother hadn’t spoken since Sarah Nussbaum’s bas mitzvah four years ago, at which event Mrs. Nussbaum had not invited Rachel to play the violin. Rachel was grateful that she didn’t have to play, but Mrs. Katz was irate. Hearing the violin concerto coming from the Katz upstairs window and seeing Rachel running down the front walk was a delicious secret Mrs. Nussbaum was now delighted to know. She put her forefinger and thumb to her lips and turned it, like a key. Then she smiled and waved and hummed.
Sissy was waving for Rachel to follow her to the school parking lot. When she ran, Rachel was conscious that her overweight thighs slapped together, her rear stretching the seams far beyond anyone’s guarantee of ‘durable goods’.
Before Rachel could stop and catch her breath, Carter Grace and Mickey Martin circled the parking lot on their motor bikes, Sissy straddling Mickey’s bike and yelling for Rachel to hurry. “Come on, Ray” she yelled over the roar of the bikes, “before your mom gets home.” Sissy and Mickey took off down Olympic Boulevard. Carter Grace jerked his head toward Rachel, inviting her to climb aboard.
Cautiously, desperately trying not to look awkward her first time on a motor bike, Rachel hoisted her leg over the back of the bike. It was immediately after Carter took off with a sudden rush that Rachel heard and felt the back seam of her jeans suddenly separate. She screamed, taking both hands off Carter’s waist to grab at the seam, ungracefully sliding off the bike in full view of Mrs. Nussbaum and the other volleyball players, landing on her left arm, the arm that should have been holding the violin upstairs in Rachel’s bedroom.
Just before everything went yellow and then dark that afternoon, Rachel heard her own never-to-be-performed rendition of a Saint-Saens Concerto wafting through the open window.
Funny, Rachel thought, that she should be thinking about that fateful day now, two years and several operations later. The arm never did heal to the point that she could ever again play the violin again, but with all of the extra time she’d had for studies instead of practicing, Rachel Katz had graduated summa cum laude from high school.
Valedictorian with a full scholarship to State University, Rachel and best friend Sissy had entered college together. Male best friend–loathed pariah of Mr. and Mrs. Katz–Carter Grace had also entered State on a football scholarship and with the continual help of Rachel had maintained a C average and remained eligible to play.
On another gorgeous Saturday afternoon, Rachel sat in the stands and watched Sissy with her megaphone, her short skirt and long blonde hair, doing cartwheels and jumping off the top of pyramids, screaming cheers, while Carter Grace, star running back, ran the ball for two of State’s touchdowns.
It was just before the half that Carter Grace headed downfield for his third touchdown when a very large, very menacing looking linebacker lunged at Carter, snapping his leg and causing Carter to release the ball. Everyone in the stands stood horrified as the opponents picked up the ball and ran for a touchdown, everyone but Rachel focused on the action in the end zone. Rachel, through her binoculars, was glued on the terrified look on Carter Grace’s face as he lay helpless on the field, disabled.
Unable to move herself, the thoughts, the smell, the memories which suddenly swept over Rachel were of an afternoon two years before when she put her arms around Carter Grace’s waist, and for one brief moment felt the heat of his body and the wonderful smell of his leather jacket, his neck, and the back of his head as she leaned her body into him. For them both, one brief moment before life changed unalterably.
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Jean Blasiar is a published author with 12 books for middle grades, playwright (one of her plays was optioned by 20th Century Fox for a pilot), and theatrical producer. Please visit her website, www.jeanblasiar.com, for a complete listing of her books, plays and productions.