My voice instructor, Mrs. Anniston, was waiting for me by the piano. “Oh there you are, dear. Let’s get you warmed up.” Mrs. Anniston sat down at the piano and ran me through my scales. Once my vocal cords were sufficiently awake, I began working on the song. I imagined my Juju as she sang, hoping my grandmother’s talent and love for the song would flow through me. After several run throughs, Mrs. Anniston closed the lid over the keys.
“What’s wrong, Mrs. Anniston? Am I that bad?” I searched my instructor’s eyes for any indication I was a total screw up. But all the woman did was giggle. Mrs. Anniston pulled an envelope from her briefcase and handed it to me. The seal of Berkeley College of the Performing Arts was emblazoned on the front with my name written in elegant script.
“You are perfection when you sing and this letter proves it. I believe Ella herself would be amazed at your talent.” I opened the envelope and read the letter with shaking hands.
“Oh my stars and garters!” I whispered.
Mrs. Anniston took my hand. “You have so much talent in you, young lady. The music you sing brings such joy to others and that is rare. Oh believe me, I’ve heard so many people who have no idea what it means to be a performer and they let others do the singing for them. But not you….you understand it on such a deep level. You speak through the songs. Your JuJu will be so proud of you. I certainly am.”
I was stunned. I wiped away the tears that had rolled down my cheeks as I listened to Mrs. Anniston. “I don’t know what to say,” I said quietly. Patting my hand, Mrs. Anniston got up from her seat and prepared to leave.
“You just feel, my dear. That’s what you do. Now, go home. You have this competition wrapped up.” With a pat on my shoulder, the instructor left. I couldn’t help but squeal in delight. As I spun around giggling, my phone went off. Snatching it up, I saw the text from Aksel. We had all exchanged numbers that first day in the basement.
Ty made the team! Pizza at Vito’s!
I smiled. Looks like today was a great day for my new friend as well. Gathering all my things together, I sent a quick text to Miranda. Then I bounced out the door toward the parking lot. I was humming to myself while I looked for my keys and missed the visitors leaned up against my car. I was so excited about what Mrs. Anniston had told me and the fact that Thyra made the cross country team, I dropped them. Bending down to pick them up, I caught bright red stilettos out of the corner of my eye.
“Well if it isn’t the red headed toad princess,” Bridgette sneered. Her cronies laughed behind her. She stood blocking the driver’s side door. Nervously, I tucked my hair behind my ear.
“Oh how adorable! She stutters!” My pulse started racing. I knew that tone of voice and the body language coming from Bridgette. I braced myself for what was coming. Bridgette stepped closer to me, separating us by only a couple of inches. It was times like this I wished I had Thyra’s height. Then Bridgette would think twice about what she was about to do.
“What are you doing, Bridgette?” I asked.
“What am I doing?” the other girl sneered again. “I’m getting rid of a troll, that’s what I’m doing. I see you made new friends yesterday. You think you’re good enough to hang out with the bad boys now?” Bridgette began to circle her like a caged animal. “You are too fat and ugly for those boys to find anything attractive about you. Although you are just the right height to give an easy blow job so maybe that’s why they let you hang around.” My mouth fell open, wishing Bridgette would stop.
“You are insignificant, a nobody. Without me, you don’t exist. The only reason I let your ugly ass hang out with me was because I looked much better with you around.” My eyes shone with unshed tears as Bridgette’s voice raised to shouting. “Nobody wants to date a fat, ugly, stupid troll like you with your big ass and thunder thighs.” Tears coursed down my cheeks. Bridgette continued to hurl painful insults at me, all while making sure there was a rapt audience. Leaning down close to my ear, Bridgette gave one last insult.
“You’re a fucking virgin, Amber. Why would anyone want you when they can have a goddess like me?” I was shaking with anger and anguish. I had never had anyone talk to me like this before. No one had ever insulted me, hit on every one of my insecurities and humiliated me in public like this. Drawing back my shoulders and throwing my chin in the air, I looked Bridgette in the eyes.
“That may be true, Bridgette. I may be all those things you just said but at least I am not a hateful, spiteful la souillon like you. I’d rather be ugly on the outside than ugly on the inside too.” I opened my car door and rushed in, locking it behind me. I pulled out of the parking lot, squealing my tires as I rushed to get away. By the time I reached Vito’s I was a blubbering mess.
Amber burst through the door with tears streaming down her face. Something was very wrong. She was distraught, to the point she could hardly breathe. She was fighting hard to get herself under control but the tears would not stop flowing.
“Ok who’s ass do I have to kick for making you cry?” Before the girls could move, I got to her first. She was too upset to be shocked when I pulled her close to my chest, wrapping her in my arms. “Why are you crying, beautiful?” I was content to hold her like this. I didn’t want her to move from the warm comforting cocoon I had wrapped her in. She mumbled something into my chest. “Sweetheart, you’re gonna have to repeat that. I don’t think anyone understood.” Placing my finger under her chin, I gently lifted her face. Her big green eyes were filled with pain and it was like a knife to my heart.