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“Whoa,” Lance said, staring at Aria in awe when she stopped. He started a slow clap with Daisy and me joining in. “That was fucking awful. It’s almost as if you walked up to the drums and said, ‘I am going to take these sticks and proceed to kill the fucking joy of music.’ No, seriously, are my ears bleeding? Because I think my ears are bleeding,” he joked.

I couldn’t stop laughing because he was right—it was pretty painful. Aria fell into a fit of giggles.

“Okay, since I’m terrible at the drums, do you think you can play the violin for me?” she asked, gesturing to the violin on display. It wasn’t any violin, but it was the violin that I kind of wanted to marry. A Karl Willhelm Model 64—the best violin in Soulful Things.

“I can’t play that,” I replied. People didn’t just pick up a Karl Willhelm violin and start playing. Especially a violin with a three thousand dollar price tag.

“Why not?” Lance asked, picking it up from the display. He handed it to me. “I think you and this violin might have a lot in common.”

I took the wooden instrument into my hands and smiled at it. Lance handed me the bow, and after a few minutes of tuning, I placed my chin on the chinrest. “Any requests?” I asked Aria.

She smiled. “Surprise me.”

I slid the bow across the strings of the violin, playing Henryk Wieniawksi’s classic, “Polonaise No. 1.” It was one of the hardest pieces of music I’d ever learned to play. Part of me was terrified of messing up and looking like an idiot. Another part of me wanted to impress Aria.

When I finished, the three started applauding and Aria mouthed, “Wow.”

Before we left she somehow managed to also murder the beauty of the piano, guitar, and a few tambourines.

I walked her home and stood at the end of her sidewalk. She kept fidgeting with her fingers and smiling.

“Thanks for hanging out with me today.” I smirked. She didn’t know it, but she gave me a few hours of not thinking about my least favorite word: cancer.

Her cheeks reddened and she kept fidgeting. “I’ll see you at school?” she asked.


“Okay.” She smiled and turned away. Then she turned back, and smiled again. “You’re amazing at the violin. I hope you know that.” She turned away and walked up the porch steps. She turned back to look at me. “Like, really, really amazing.” Another smile. Keep smiling. She turned away once more. As she stepped into her house, I started to walk away and heard her shouting my name. “Levi.”


More fidgeting. More smiles. “Do you think we can be friends?”

I laughed, rubbing the back of my neck. “I thought we already were.”

* * *

I stepped into my bedroom right as my phone dinged. Glancing down at the cell phone, I saw Aria’s name, and I instantly rushed to read the message.

Aria: Glitterati - noun plural | [glit·te·ra·ti \?gli-t?-'rä-te\] : Wealthy or famous people who conspicuously attend fashionable events.

Me: Sounds sparkly.

Aria: I bet they have wonderful punch that they pour into diamond encrusted glasses.

I reached for my dictionary and started flipping through it.

Me: Art – noun | [\'ärt\] : The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Aria: I like that.

Me: I think you’re art.

She didn’t respond. I went and worked on some homework, pretended that I understood calculus, and checked my phone. I spoke to Mom on the phone. After I hung up, I checked my phone. I cooked a nasty TV dinner, ate it all, and checked my phone. I sat in the foyer laughing at black and white comedies, and checked my phone.

I checked it one last time before I shut off my light and climbed into bed.

As I lay in the dark, I listened to the phone ding as the blue light lit up my room.

Aria: Goodnight, Levi.

I smiled in the darkness.

Goodnight, Art.

17 Aria

The next day at school, Simon slammed his lunch down on the table in front of Levi and me. His anger from the day before seemed to be placed in the back of his mind as he blasted his annoyance on another issue at hand. “We will NOT be allowing Awkward Abigail to eat with us anymore! I forbid it!” For the past few weeks, Abigail would walk to our table, sit for two minutes—three when she wasn’t in a hurry—talk about some random quotes, compliment Simon, and then hurry away. It had actually kind of become a weird highlight of my day.

“Why not? She’s great,” Levi said.

Whenever he spoke, I watched his lips.

He could’ve said poop and it would’ve sounded romantic.

Stop it, Aria.

“Great?! GREAT?! Look at this!!!” He reached into his backpack and pulled out two Ziplock bags. One had two new bottles of hand sanitizer in them, and the other had cookies. “See?!” he said, his pale skin turning red with emotion.

“…Hand sanitizer and cookies?” I asked, confused.

“Homemade cookies! Yes—that’s right! Awkward Abigail came to a full-blown stop in front of my locker! And she said, ‘Hi, Simon. I noticed you were running low on hand sanitizer at lunch yesterday, so I bought you two new ones. Plus, I baked you some cookies.’ Then she handed me these and left!”

“That’s nice,” Levi replied.

“Nice?! It’s insane! What if someone saw us?! What if people thought she and I were, were…a thing?!”

“What’s wrong with that?” Levi asked.