Chapter 4 (draft 1-2)

Dizzie slumped down in her seat, taking up as much of it as possible. Beside her, Kira was straight-backed, scowling at Dizzie.

“What?” Dizzie croaked, sensing her friend’s displeasure.

“You should listen to Madam Hapnes. You chose this life path. If you don’t take it seriously, you’re going to fail.”

Dizzie snorted. “She wants me to follow her life path. I’m fine on my own.”

“That’s not—”

Madam Hapnes cleared her throat. “Am I interrupting your conversation, Dizzie?”

“You are now.”

Kira punched Dizzie in the shoulder.

Madam Hapnes nodded quiet approval.

“Since you seem to enjoy interrupting my class as well, First Mandolin Ashakiran, why don’t you come up here and present your music for examination.”

Kira took her mandolin up to the stage and briefly tuned her strings.

“I’m ready.”

“Then begin.”

Kira started off with a simple, silent melody, like the distant tinkling of a musician on the road. The students stopped their chattering. They had to strain their ears to listen. Then she slapped the back of her mandolin three times. Her fingers danced along the strings and the sound of joyful, celebratory music reverberated inside the music hall. Using the mandolin as both a stringed instrument and a drum, she floated from chord to chord, key to key and back again. At times, she held on to a note, bent it until it sounded like it was whistling and crying. Then, just as suddenly as she began, the lively music ended and went back to a wistful, contemplative melody. She ended with three quiet pats on her mandolin.

When the last small echo had vanished from the room, the students rose to their feet shouting and whistling and applauding. Kira lowered her head and bowed. Dizzie hated it, her humility. Kira had played the best music of her career but Dizzie knew all she was doing was sitting up there tallying all the mistakes in her head. It was infuriating for someone like Dizzie who never looked back.

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