The coffee house was large and very new; this was its first year open at Hertfordborough. The owners obviously thought it would be well received, as the festival was full of young musicians in want of caffeine. They were right: the place was packed. Liz and Jenna weaved their way through the crowd, lifting their bags over their shoulders so as not to bump into anyone. They spotted more than one person they knew among the masses of people with large colorful cups, but no one from their family. Finally, Jenna spotted Fran, and called to Liz, "Over there, in the corner."
Liz looked, and saw her family squeezed into a little booth at the far end of the room. Fran was waving wildly to them. "Ah, here we go," Liz said to Jenna, smiling dryly.
As they made their way closer, they noticed another person sitting with their family -- one they had never seen before.
"Liz, Jenna, there you are!" Fran cried as they, at length, reached the table. "How are you, my dears? Jenna, you still look pale; you're sure you're feeling better? Yes? Good, now you can get underway with your rehearsals. Liz, for heaven's sake, child, where's your instrument?"
"It's right --"
"Oh, there it is. Good gracious, you were about to give me a nervous attack." She sighed heavily, taking a long swig of her coffee and wiping her forehead with a napkin. Then, fully recovered, she smiled and gestured across the table. "This, girls, is Bill Collins."
He was a man of rather indiscernible age. He was plump, with a thin layer of greasy brown hair matted atop his very round head, and wore a white short-sleeved polo shirt and trousers that were not exactly flattering to his physique. Liz also noted his white loafers and the large gold chain that hung around his fleshy neck. He stood as Fran introduced him, smiling oleaginously. "Jenna, Liz, it is an honor to meet you finally in person." He grasped both their hands and shook them fervently. His handshake was damp and spongy.
"Liz, how good it is to make your acquaintance," he gushed to Jenna, the repugnant grin still spread across his face. "I hear you're quite a bassoonist."
"Actually, I'm Jenna -- this is Liz. I play the cello, and Liz plays the violin." Jenna glanced at her sister, giving her a half-amused, half "don't-kill-him-yet" look.
Bill Collins was mortified, and apologized profusely for this mistake. "I'm truly very, very sorry about this misunderstanding, and hope with all my soul that you will forgive me."
Liz forced a smile. "Don't worry about it," she said, her teeth painfully clenched.
"Sit down, girls," Fran requested. "I've ordered you both drinks -- they should be coming soon. You like espresso, don't you, sweet peas?"
Bill Collins sat on one side of the booth next to Mary and Livia (the latter gawking at him in blatant disgust); Jenna squeezed in next to her mother and father on the other side of the booth; and with Katie at the end in a chair, there was no room for Liz.
Livia noticed this, and volunteered, "Here, Liz! You can have my place next to Mr. Collins and Mary." She bustled out of the booth, perhaps a little too eagerly. Liz felt very ungrateful to her youngest sister, but nevertheless took a place beside Mr. Collins.
"I think I spotted Denny and Hannah across the room," Livia went on. "I'll just go join them for a second --"
"You'll do no such thing," Fran commanded. "It would be intolerably rude to Mr. Collins if you left. Now sit back down!"
Livia pulled up a chair at the end of the table next to Katie, grumbling stormily under her breath.
Fran waited until her daughter was seated, and then turned back to Bill Collins. "Mr. Collins, I'm so sorry about all of this. It's just been one hectic thing after another, as it always is at festivals such as these. But, that's the price you pay, for having such gifted daughters."
"Indeed, I fully understand. Even in the few minutes I have known your daughters, I have already detected an astonishing amount of intrinsic, artistic sensibilities that must unequivocally surface in their musical performance." Mr. Collins laughed; a smarmy, slightly-nasal chuckle. Liz felt her natural gag reflex coming on. "And, by the way, please call me Bill."
Fran was thoroughly delighted. "I am sure the girls would like to know of the occasion for our having a visitor such as yourself, Bill. Girls, Bill is the son of one of your father's cousins, Ferdinand Collins."
All of the Bennet daughters, save Mary, looked aghast. We're related to this guy??
Bill, gratefully, did not notice the alarm. "I am the adopted son of Ferdinand Collins the Second, actually," he told them, accepting a glass of carrot juice from the waitress. Livia sighed loudly in relief. "Ferdinand was, like your father, a conductor. Unfortunately, the two men never quite got along."
Liz heard her father snort.
"I believe there might have been some feelings of rivalry, which I don't quite understand, for both were very successful in their own ways," Bill Collins went on, completely oblivious to anything but his own oration. "Needless to say, I myself was put in a very awkward position, and have many times wished to 'heal the breach,' if you will. Now, since I have so recently had the bad fortune of losing my father, it seems like the perfect opportunity of bridging the gap. I just happened to be in this part of the country, and when I heard that you were up here as well, why, I thought, 'What a perfect opportunity!' And here I am!"
"Bill is going to be staying with us for the next week or so," Fran said.
Liz hoped she hadn't heard her mother correctly. "You mean, he'll be staying at Hertfordborough. In the hotel, perhaps?"
"No, no, Liz -- how appallingly unwelcoming you can seem at times, haha! Please, forgive her, Bill. No, Liz, Bill we be staying with us, in our apartment. Oh, and we're giving him your and Jenna's room. You know that we have limited space, and it's just for this week! You can two can sleep on the cot in the living room; it will be just fine."
"I truly hope it is no bother," Bill contended, his thick brow wrinkled on his shiny forehead.
Liz flushed with exasperation, but contrived another smile. "No bother."
Jenna sensed her sister's anger, and thought it best to steer away from the subject. "Are you a musician, Bill?"
"Why, I'm a conductor, as a matter of fact.
"Do you have an orchestra?"
"I am very glad you asked me that, Janie -- uh, Jenna! I have of lately received a very large grant from the worthy arts patron, Catherine de Bourgh." He spoke the name 'Catherine de Bourgh' as if it was holy. "There is a little town in South America, by the name of Labias de Vaca --"
"Labias de Vaca," Mary said, speaking for the first time since her sisters had arrived. "I've heard of that place before. Isn't it the town with the warring tribes, and the riots, and --"
Bill cleared his throat noisily. "Ah, that's the place. It is indeed a little, should we say, barbarous at times, but all that will surely change. Catherine de Bourgh herself has bought most of it up -- and, uh, some of the neighboring forest land -- and intends to turn it into the next Rio de Janeiro! The first step, as she so intelligently knows, is the integration of culture -- and, for that reason, she has hired me to start an orchestra down there."
"You say that Ms. de Bourgh has bought up some of the surrounding forest land," Liz said. "About how much forest land exactly?"
"I do not know the exact amount, but I believe it to be somewhere between ten and fifty thousand acres."
"And what does she intend to do with this amount of rainforest, sir -- if you would permit me to ask?"
"Well, uh..." Bill emptied a packet of sugar into his carrot juice and stirred nervously.
"You know what she intends to do with it, Liz -- to build up the city of course!" Fran cut in. "Now please stop bothering the poor man. Bill, please, tell me more about your orchestra. Do you have all the positions filled?"
"No, madam, I do not. I have hired quite a number of players, but am still in need of a few more positions -- namely, principals for all the sections, and a concertmaster."
Liz felt a pang of horror, as she suddenly realized her mother's full intentions in bringing Bill Collins to stay with them. Oh no, mother. Please, even you wouldn't stoop this low.
"I am fully looking forward to hearing all of my young cousins in concert this week." Bill grinned at the girls, raised his glass in salute, and took a long gulp. He apparently found the carrot juice a bit too sweet, for he choked, spilling the orange liquid all over the table and his nice white shirt.
Liz spent the better part of the next day trying to avoid any contact with Bill Collins. He was the most irritating, abominable, and slimy man she had ever had to deal with. On the unfortunate occasions that she was forced to be in his company, she was continually amazed at his pompous, foolish behavior and the constant praising of Catherine de Bourgh.
The second evening of his stay, Liz was sitting out on the front stoop, watching the sunset, when two loud voices began to waft through the kitchen window.
"You have such wonderful daughters!" Bill Collins was spewing. "Thoroughly delightful!"
"Yes," Fran replied. "They're remarkable girls, though I say so myself."
"And all so brilliantly musical," Bill went on. "Especially, perhaps, your eldest daughter, Jenna... I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but I have an opening for principal cello in my orchestra. I've been looking long and hard for just the right player."
Liz, about to inform them of her presence, stopped dead in her tracks.
"Jenna is admired wherever she goes." Fran's voice was, for once, cautious. "But I think I should warn you, that she may very soon have some opportunities for, if not solo work, chamber music in a higher sphere than the one she now occupies."
"Oh, I see."
Liz breathed with relaxation for her sister.
"As for the other daughters," Fran continued; "Livia and Katie are still very young, of course, and -- especially Livia -- have great futures ahead of them. But as for Liz... well, I don't think she has any plans at all, after this summer."
Liz stifled an exclamation of rage. So it was true! That was her mother's aim!
"Ah, Liz..." Even from out on the stoop, Liz could hear Bill Collins' brain ticking. Slow ticking, of course, but ticking all the same. "Yes, Liz plays the violin, doesn't she. Hmm..."
"Rrgh, Jenna, I'm going insane!" she growled to her sister as they went to bed that night. "Ick! That's all I can think when I see him -- ick! He makes me want to throw up --"
"Liz, please!" Jenna laughed, looking up from her book. "He might hear you! You know it's only five more days, and then he'll be gone."
"Oh no he won't." Liz got out of bed and began to pace. "You know what Mom's been planning for me -- I'm sure you do. What can she be thinking? That I'm that desperate??"
"Liz, calm down. I'm sure Mom's only reason for having Bill stay with us is to be friendly. He is family, after all."
"Yeah, right, 'family.' It doesn't matter -- I can see through it all like a window. Did I tell you what happened this evening?"
Liz related to her sister what she had heard pass between Fran and Bill, tactfully omitting his initial interest in Jenna.
"So you see, Mom wants me to be concertmaster of that orchestra! I looked up that town, that Labias de Vaca. It used to be a peaceful little rain forest village until about ten years ago, when a bunch of businesses began to hack down the trees. The people living there were forced to become 'civilized,' as the businesses put it, but all it's resulted in is warring between tribes. It's one hundred miles from any other city. And now Catherine de Bourgh wants an orchestra there -- oh, it makes me fume just thinking about it!"
"Liz!" Jenna's voice was unusually stern. "Chill. You're going to drive yourself nuts -- and is that really what you want the night before your recital?"
Liz sighed deeply and sat down on the bed. "You're right. I don't know what's wrong with me." She smiled. "Oh, Jenna, how much you have to put up with."
Author's Note: I'm sorry my posts here have been so sporadic. Life is very crazy at the moment (but then, when isn't it?). Comments, either here or by e-mail, are always appreciated. Thanks! -Hilary
Liz woke at six the next morning. This was not her usual time of rising -- far from it -- but today she was too excited to sleep. The day of her recital had come.
The first thing Liz wanted to do was to warm up on her violin, to play until her fingers were totally pliant. You can't practice now, silly. Everyone is sleeping, and God forbid you should wake up Bill Collins. This thought was so scary that Liz decided it best to get out of the house altogether.
The sun was just rising over the pine trees as she shut the front door and hopped onto her mountain bike. She began pedaling as fast as she could, up onto the bike trail. It was steep, narrow, and winding, but the view at the top made it all worth it. During the easier parts of the trail she hummed various tunes from her recital pieces. Once in a while another early-riser, passing by, would look at her oddly for crooning a Mozart Sonata at this time in the morning.
Liz reached the summit at seven. She balanced the bike against one leg, took a swig from her water bottle, and stared in awe at the vista spread in front of her. She had never truly appreciated its real beauty until this morning. The sky was a crystal-clear blue, the trees emerald-green, the encircling mountains dark purple. In one corner she could see the town that Hertfordborough inhabited; the little doll-like houses, the first cars of the morning moving like busy ants. Liz philosophized there for a moment longer, feeling truly peaceful, and then made her way back down the path.
On reaching the bottom, Liz still didn't feel like going home, so she did a cool-down ride over to a little bagel shop not far from the apartment. It was now almost eight, and the atmosphere in town was beginning to liven up. Liz found an empty stool at the counter and ordered a cream-cheese bagel and some lemonade. As she waited for her victuals, a familiar figure took the stool beside her.
The person turned. "Oh, hi Liz! What are you doing up at this time of day?"
"I would ask the same of you, but I believe the answer's written in the circles under your eyes."
Hannah Forster, a pianist and one of Livia's good friends, grinned naughtily.
"I see that I'm correct," Liz chuckled.
"Yeah, yeah. There was a big party at Denny Kim's apartment last night till about two-thirty, and some of us went out after that. No big deal; my dad lets me do it all the time." One of Hannah's main pleasures in life was shocking other people.
But Liz was perceptive. She tsk-tsked, feigning solemnity. The waiter handed her the lemonade, which she began to suck eagerly out of a red and white striped straw. "I dunno, Hannah... Isn't your recital soon?"
Hannah tossed her hair over one shoulder flippantly. "Not for another week. Anyway, that's no problem -- I know my pieces like the back of my hand."
"Well, it's your decision what you do with your time. You're a responsible seventeen-year-old. Just so long as Livia doesn't try to pull something like that..."
"Livia wasn't at the party, although I know she really wanted to be. She said Fran made her stay home, because of some visitor. What was his name -- Colon, or --?"
"Bill Collins." Liz groaned. "And please, don't ask."
Hannah laughed. "Anyway, your recital is tonight, right? I'll try my best to be there. Oh, and did you here about Mr. George?"
Liz took a bite of her bagel. "Who's Mr. George?"
"There's a new teacher here, an English guy named Wickley George -- you haven't heard of him? Neither had I, until last night. Well, he's a violinist and a violist, and he might be joining us at the conservatory this fall. He's, like, pretty young for a teacher, and really amazing, I hear. Really amazing to look at, that is!" She giggled.
Liz raised her eyebrows. "English, you say? We seem to be having a British invasion this year," she mused.
"Anyway, I gotta go take a nap before this afternoon. If I don't see you at your recitals, you'll be at Sue Long's masterclass Saturday, right?"
"Probably -- although right now anything beyond my recital tonight and the quartet concert tomorrow seems unimaginable."
"I know how it is. See ya around!"
Liz watched Hannah bounce out of the shop, then turned back to eat the rest of her breakfast in peace.
"Oh, Liz, are you nervous? Oh, you look very nice in that dress! Do you feel all right; could I get you something? Water? No? Well, you do look pretty in that dress." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "You're too short to have Jenna's body, but the material does bring out the color in your eyes." Fran Bennet took a mother's liberty and pinched her daughter affectionately on the cheek.
"Really, Mom, I'm fine." Liz batted the hand away, then smiled. "But thank you for asking. Now I think you should take your seats."
"Yes, yes, of course." Fran grinned at her daughter, a spot of bright pink lipstick evident on her teeth. "We'll leave you to your warming-up."
She made her way to the door of the green room. Bill Collins stepped up to Liz and shook her hand with enthusiasm. "Let me tell you with what expectation and delight I am awaiting this recital," he told her, beaming goonishly. "Zigeunerweisen , especially, is a particular favorite of mine."
"Actually," Liz replied, "Livia is the one playing Zigeunerweisen on her recital."
One of Bill's meaty paws flew to his mouth in concern, and he tried to apologize.
"No, no, it's fine," she promised him, glancing at the clock. "Now, I really think you should go -- to get good seats, of course."
"Of course," he repeated. "Then with this" -- grabbing her hand and pressing it to his lips -- "I shall bid you adieu; and, as they say (in particular Catherine de Bourgh), break both your legs!"
Liz pulled her hand away, repulsed beyond belief. "Thank you," she snarled.
He flashed her one more repellent grin, and backed out of the room, joining Fran in the hall. Liz waited until the orange and purple polyester-clad form was safely gone, then shut the door with a shudder. She hurried over to the bathroom sink and scrubbed the front of her hand until it was red.
Put all thoughts of Bill Collins and his kisses out of your head. You've got more important things to think about.
Liz walked to the chair where her violin was laid and took it into her arms. She looked into the long mirror beside the sink. The reflection showed a young woman in a long, sleeveless blue empire gown, dark brown curls piled atop her head, rosy cheeks flushed with excitement. She felt a bit strange in all this make-up Livia and Katie had applied to her face -- dark eye-shadow, wine-red lipstick, even a little foundation. Smothering. And the heels her feet were squeezed into -- she hoped she could make it through the recital without toppling over. And the color of her dress -- Liz had always preferred light yellows and greens, but Fran had insisted this dress was perfect. Oh, come on, Liz, she thought to herself. You look marvelous and you know it.
There was a rap on the door. "Liz?" Linda Phillips, the pianist for Liz's recital and a friend of the family, stuck her head into the room. "They're waiting for you out there, whenever you're ready."
Liz felt her heart jump to her throat. "I'm ready."
"Uh-huh. Let's go."
Picking up her sheet music, Liz marched to the stage door.
Liz looked out into the audience as she set her music on the stand. At first all she could see was black; then, as her eyes adjusted, the rows of people began to take shape. Don't look out there; it will only make you nervous.
She took her own advice and turned to Linda at the piano.
"Ready?" she whispered.
"Whenever you are."
Liz took one deep breath, raised the violin to her chin and the frog of her bow to the string, gave the cue, and the music began. The first piece was the Mozart Sonata in B flat major K 378. Liz loved this piece: it was elegant, yet still playful enough to be Mozart. At the beginning the piano sung the melody, and then the violin took over. Liz and Linda made eye contact. The latter was smiling confidently. She does these things all the time. But it still gave Liz encouragement, and she played out even more. The second movement was beautiful, with a dream-like quality, until the end, when the mood changed abruptly to loud, strong chords. The third movement was merry and gleeful -- first a happy little melody, then quick triplets, and then the melody again.
When the sonata was finished, Liz and Linda took their bows, and walked briskly off stage. In the wings, as Liz turned to go back on, Linda gave her one more encouraging pat on the arm. "You're doing great," she whispered.
Liz thanked her and headed back onstage, facing the full but silent auditorium. This time, she was all alone, no piano or music stand to give her comfort. Liz closed her eyes, taking two long breaths. And she began to play. It was the Bach Solo Partita in E major; the one from which she had played the first movement for Lotty in this same hall, on Saturday. Was that only five days ago? Seems like weeks... Those were Liz's last thoughts, for she soon drifted into a half-meditative state, sensible only of the music. The preludio flew by like a fleeting cast of light. The loure came next, slow and sweet, followed by a faster, spinning gavotte en rondeau . The minuets one and two were calm, the bourrèe fast and frolicsome.
Finally the last movement, the gigue , arrived: a fast, lively dance. This was Liz's favorite of all the movements; she always played it excellently. This time, Liz decided to take full opportunity of her current relaxation, to attempt some risks in the piece that normally she would not dare.
There was a spot that Liz usually played on the D string, but knew it would sound better if she shifted up on the G string. Should I do it? I never have before...
She was two bars away from the spot, getting ready to do it... And then, she caught a glimpse of her mother, father, sisters, Bill Collins, and behind them the Bingleys and F. William D'Arcy. Dear God, what is Netherfield doing at my recital?? Liz's mind was suddenly so preoccupied, that she almost forgot what she was doing. She was able to save herself, but her concentration was knocked, and all thoughts of the G string shift was out of the question. She had to settle for an uncertain smudge on the D, followed by a very bumpy ending.
The piece was over, and the audience began to applaud. Liz was perturbed, and though smiling and bowing like a true performer, once she reached the wings, she leaned unsteadily against one of Linda's arms.
"Did you see what happened?" Liz asked. "Did you hear me? I totally screwed up!"
Linda patted her on the back. "I heard it, Liz, but that's only because I've heard you do that piece a thousand times before."
"I messed up the whole gigue ! I --"
"Liz, no one in the audience heard it, I'm certain. You are beautiful, self-confident, and secure, and that's what comes across."
Liz smirked and sniffed into a tissue. "You're right -- I'm being foolish. It's just... I had it, you know? And then I had to look out into the audience, and see --"
"Ah, Liz, never look out into the audience! First rule of performance!" They both laughed. "Well," Linda continued, "the intermission is almost over. Your exalted piece is next; think you're ready to handle it?"
Liz discarded the tissue and nodded firmly. "Yes, I'm ready," she proclaimed.
After a short excursion to the drinking fountain, the two women went back out onstage. The talking in the hall ceased, and clapping took its place, as the musicians walked to their spots.
You can do this; this is your best piece, Liz thought as she quietly tuned her instrument. So what if F. Wil-- the Netherfield Trio is out there. Good! This is your chance to wow them and everyone else.
Liz nodded to Linda's questioning look. She motioned with her violin, and they started to play. It was Kreisler's "Praeludium and Allegro." Liz loved the power, force, and energy of this piece. In the first part, the piano and violin began together: the piano holding chords, the violin playing broad, bell-like tones. Then came the andante : softer, and full of rubato . After that the bell theme recurred, followed by the allegro : technically demanding, but boisterous and free at the same time. It ended with three bars of another andante -- the violin playing high on the G string, trilling, and then coming down in junction with the piano. The audience's reply was thundering, and the musicians looked satisfied.
As Liz prepared herself for the final piece, she felt fully confident and happy again. She remembered why she was up here, why she loved doing this so much.
Their final piece was the Brahms Sonata in G major. The first movement had a lot of communication between the violin and piano: moving from soothing to vigorous and back again. The adagio was slow and haunting. The last movement was allegro molto moderato -- a lovely, contemplative conclusion to the sonata and Liz's recital. As Liz heard it end, and the two soft chords faded away, she could not believe the whole thing was over. And then applause began, pealing through the hall like a waterfall. Liz glowed with exhilaration as she joined Linda for their final bows together. They walked offstage and waited a few seconds, but when the noise didn't subside they went back out. Liz was shocked at what she saw: half the room was standing in ovation.
When at length the performers left the stage for the last time, Liz proceeded hastily to her dressing-room to put her violin away. As she appeared again, her family was there, unluckily still with Bill Collins.
"Liz, my dear, dear girl! You were splendid! Indescribable!" Fran kissed her daughter on the cheek and handed her a bundle of flowers. "That Kreisler piece has never been played as well as you did it tonight, Lizzy! Of course, the Bach could've been better -- the mistake in the last part was unfortunate -- and the Mozart sounded a little unsure, but besides that, it was terrific!"
Liz smiled and shook her head. "Thank you, Mother."
Noticing Bill Collins inching towards her, most likely with another horrible smooch in mind, Liz took Jenna's arm and said, "Let's go out to the reception area. I'm starving."
"You were really excellent, Liz," Jenna told her sister as they walked. "Don't mind what Mom said -- I didn't notice it at all myself."
Liz laughed. "Don't worry about it, Jen. I had a good time, and that's all I wanted."
Livia and Katie joined them. "Liz, congrats. Great job," Livia said. "Really nice, especially the fast part of the Kreisler. Oh Lord, you know what? I had to sit next to Bill Collins the entire way through. Yuck! It was awful! I much rather would've sat with Denny and Carter and Greg Chamberlayne -- they were a couple rows over. But mom said 'no.' It was totally unfair -- I was so angry!" They entered the lobby, and Livia's eager eyes began to appraise the room. "Hey, there's Hannah! C'mon, Katie, let's go say hi!"
Jenna went off somewhere as well, so after many congratulations and "well-dones" from friends, familiar acquaintances, and even people she had never seen before in her life, Liz made her way to the refreshment table alone. She was scooping some punch into a plastic cup when, out of the corner of her eye, she spied a man advancing towards her.
"Wonderful, simply wonderful," he commended, his voice British. He was tall, young -- about twenty-three or twenty-four -- and extremely good-looking. He had wavy, light brown hair, blue eyes, and a bright smile that went nicely with his tanned complexion.
"Thank you." Liz smiled, and took a gulp of her drink.
"No, I mean it. The Brahms G major is probably my favorite violin and piano sonata, and your rendition was absolutely superb."
Liz set the glass down and faced him, still smiling. "That's very nice of you to say so."
The man bowed slightly. "It is my utmost pleasure, I assure you."
"Liz!" Fran wailed from across the room. "Come over here!"
"I'll be there in a second, Mother," Liz answered. When she turned back, the man was gone. Liz groaned in frustration. Why does she always interrupt at the worst times?
Liz was about to stalk over, when Charlie and Jenna approached. A few steps behind them F. William D'Arcy was admiring a very interesting floor plant.
"Brilliant, Liz!" Charlie cried. "I loved it!"
"Thanks, Charlie." Liz shot her sister a knowing little grin. "I'm glad you enjoyed it."
"I'm glad you're glad! I can't wait to come back for your quartet's concert tomorrow. Can you, Will?"
F. William D'Arcy looked surprised at being addressed. "What? Oh, no, no, I can't wait. Very nice performance by the way, Liz."
"Liz!" Fran's howl was becoming more impatient.
"Ah, Mother is calling. If you'll excuse me, Charlie, Jenna, Mr. D'Arcy."
What Fran wanted to tell Liz was something so trivial that I need not even recount it.
The Bennets arrived back at their apartment at half-past ten. Liz was for once exhausted. After a quick shower, she hopped right in bed. But once there, her mind began to float back to the recital, to the reception, to the handsome stranger who had praised her so earnestly...
(These are not the official definitions, so please forgive me.)
Triplets are three notes are squeezed into one beat. Try clapping a steady beat and saying "mer-ri-ly" or "pep-per-mint" at the same time.
All of the movements to the Bach Solo Partita are kinds of dances (minuet, gigue, etc.).
"Shifting up on a string" means moving your hand higher up (closer to your face on a vioin). Thus the amount of string vibrating gets smaller, and the note gets higher.
Andante is a slow walking tempo.
Allegro is, literally, fast.
Rubato is taking musical time; stressing or leaning on a particular note. As it's usually not written on the music, it is up to the musician's interpretation.
Adagio means slow.
Allegro molto moderato means fast, but not too fast.
Katie was chewing her thumbnail. "I'm so worried! I know I should've practiced the Dvoràk more. What if I mess up?"
"Katie, nonsense, child," Fran said to her daughter. They and the four other Bennet women stood backstage at Lodge Auditorium. "You'll do fine, and even if you don't, it won't really matter, for you play so quietly anyway."
"Mother!" Liz and Jenna cried. Katie looked hurt.
Fran huffed and looked into the mirror, patting her tightly curled tresses. "I wonder where your father could be! I hope he hasn't gotten lost -- that man has no sense of direction. He was almost late to our wedding; he said he couldn't find the church!" She laughed, and then in a snap her face was rigid again. She tapped her watch. "Oh, I do hope he hasn't gotten lost. It is so important for Bill Collins to hear you girls play! If he misses the concert, it will be your father's fault, as usual. I don't know why he insisted on taking Bill in the other car."
Liz was secretly grateful to her father for driving Bill Collins in a separate car. Nevertheless, she was trying to warm-up, and Fran's constant laments were not making it any easier.
Livia decided it was her turn to complain. "This is totally gross. Look at all this dust and hair in my violin case! Denny commented on it the other day: he said, 'Does your cat sit in your case or something?' I was so embarrassed!"
"If a man gives censure on something one has no control over, then that man's opinion is not worth having at all," Mary observed stolidly.
"Oh shut up, will you!"
"Girls, girls, would you tear my nerves into shreds?!" Fran screeched. "Livia, my dear, I am sure Denny was just teasing you. And as for you, Mary, please keep your opinions to yourself! Your sisters are about to play a concert, and the last thing they need is someone pestering them!"
Mary turned back to her book. Liz rubbed her forehead. She felt a little queasy.
"Well, it's about time for you girls to go on stage. Come along, Mary. And there is your father, just arriving! Thank goodness."
"Bye, Mom. Wish us luck." Liz kissed her mother on the cheek, then joined her sisters beside the curtain.
The Longbourn Quartet appeared onstage and took their seats -- Livia in the first violin spot, facing stage left, Jenna opposite her, and Liz and Katie in the middle. It was less than twenty-four hours since Liz had played in almost the exact same spot.
Their first piece, the Beethoven "Harp" Quartet, began with a few lines of adagio , and then moved its way into an active allegro . It was called "Harp" because throughout the first movement there was a recurring pizzicato theme passed between the instruments. Near the end of the first movement, the first violin had several lines of fast and crazy broken arpeggios , while the other instruments took the melody. These sixteenth notes were Livia's specialty.
Next was the andante movement, and then the infamous presto . Livia received several warning glances before they began. She rolled her eyes, but nonetheless started at a reasonable tempo. Finally, the brief, calmer last movement, and the Longbourn Quartet took their first bows.
"Did you see Denny and Carter in the audience?" Katie asked as they bustled offstage.
"They were sitting in the very front row, heehee!" Livia laughed resoundingly. "But who was that guy with them? I almost lost my place in the adagio , I was looking over so much."
"For goodness sake, they can hear you out there," Liz reprimanded her sisters from the water cooler.
Once they were refreshed, they again took their places in front of the audience. This time Liz sat first violin.
The "American" Quartet by Antonin Dvoràk was a fun piece. It had so many moods: sometimes fast, other times slow and dreamy, but always beautiful and very exciting. During the last movement, it occurred to Liz that this was her last real performance at Hertfordborough this year. She felt an odd combination of sorrow and relief. Suddenly, her mind flashed back to what Fran had said to Bill Collins: "But as for Liz... well, I don't think she has any plans at all, after this summer." Liz knew her mother was wrong, but she still had to wonder... What was she going to do? This fall she would be starting her last year at the music conservatory, and after that she had no plans whatsoever.
Liz willed these anxieties away, for they were harming her concentration. The piece ended with a flourish, and the audience was on its feet at once.
After the last curtain call, the Longbourn Quartet went back offstage to put away their instruments. Livia and Katie were in that certain intoxicated state that occasionally comes from playing a successful concert. Livia, especially, rattled on at a mile a minute. Liz and Jenna packed up a little more tranquilly, however pleased they were on the inside.
"That was so cool! The best concert we've had yet! I can't wait to have my recital here, can you Katie? -- Oh Liz, where are you going?" Livia asked her sister, who was heading towards the door.
"To the reception area," Liz replied, "before --"
Too late. Fran flew in, hands shaking wildly, face flushed in ecstasy. Bill Collins stood beside her with Mary, and farther back still was Calvin. Liz was repellently aware that Bill was grinning at her.
"My dear, dear girls, you are the best quartet in the world! Let me give you all a kiss!" Fran cried in delight. She proceeded to talk for five minutes at least. At length she ended with, "Well, we best be off -- Come along, girls!"
"What?" Livia exclaimed. "We can't leave now; I promised to see Denny in the lobby!"
"And Carter and Sanderson," Katie added.
"No no, we're going out to dinner; Bill has graciously offered to treat us all," Fran asserted.
Liz saw that her youngest sister was about to have a tantrum. "Mom, why don't you, Dad, Bill, and Mary go to the restaurant in one car, and the rest of us will meet you there in fifteen minutes or so?" she volunteered. "I can drive, and it means a lot to Livia to see her friends."
"No, no, absolutely not! It would be unimaginably impolite to Bill --"
"No, madam, I assure you that I would not be offended at all," Bill said. For one second, Liz thought he might not be so bad after all, until he added, "You and dear Calvin and Mary may go to the restaurant, and I shall stay with the rest of your daughters here. I have been so desirous to become better acquainted with my dear cousins, as well as the other musicians at Hertfordborough. This seems a perfect opportunity."
Fran beamed. "What an excellent idea!"
And so, with excruciating reluctance, all of the Bennet daughters (for Mary had insisted on coming along too) headed to the reception area with Bill Collins, while Calvin and Fran drove on ahead to the restaurant.
They soon found themselves in the crowded lobby. Livia and Katie began scanning for their friends.
"There they are!" Livia cried, and she and Katie began to push their way through to the other side of the room. The other four could do nothing but follow.
"Great concert, ladies," Denny told them on their arrival. "Please let me introduce you to my friend, Wickley George."
Hello s were said all around. Livia and Katie seemed intrigued by the newcomer, and took up much of his attention. When they finally lost interest, he drew near to Liz. "I have been extremely lucky this week, to hear you play not one but two concerts."
Liz laughed. "Thanks. So you're Wickley George -- I've heard of you."
"Yes, from Hannah Forster."
"Oh! Yes, Hannah and I met at Denny's flat a couple nights ago. Pleasant girl."
"Wickley," Livia interrupted, coming up beside him, "I hear you play the violin and the viola. I hope you'll come to Sue Long's master class here tomorrow at ten. Sue's a sweet old lady, and we have some fun afterwards."
"I'd love to come, but I'm afraid I haven't been invited by Ms. Long herself."
Livia laughed. "She doesn't care about that."
"Please come, Wickley," Katie pleaded, as she joined them.
Wickley shrugged, and smiled. "All right then."
They were then approached by Charlie Bingley and F. William D'Arcy.
"Absolutely marvelous!" Charlie's compliment was intended for the whole group, but he looked only at Jenna.
"Liz..." Liz turned at hearing her name spoken, and was surprised to see D'Arcy coming towards her; and -- could it be? -- she could almost swear he was smiling. "I really --"
Suddenly his voice stopped, his smile faded, and his jaw tightened. His eyes were fixed on an object beyond Liz's shoulder.
Liz turned, following his glare. At first she was confused, for the only thing behind her was a table of food, and Wickley... Wickley. D'Arcy was staring in surprise -- perhaps horror -- at Wickley, and, to Liz's extreme bewilderment, Wickley returned the stare. The latter had colored, and nodded his head in a curt acknowledgment. The former did not return this salutation; but, turning abruptly, he disappeared into the crowd.
Liz looked back at Wickley, who was wiping his forehead with a handkerchief. He didn't offer any explanation for what had just passed, and she did not press him. He murmured only, "Till tomorrow, Liz," and was gone.
More musical terms
Presto means just what you think it means: really fast!
Pizzicato is where, instead of bowing, string players pluck the strings with their fingers.
Author's Note: (And I must apologize for giving a wrong definition of allegro in my last post. I said allegro means fast, when it really means happy.)
Chapter Eleven Continued
The master class assembled at ten the next morning at the small auditorium. The small auditorium (as it had always been called) was not really an auditorium at all, but a refurbished warehouse, with a cluster of black metal chairs facing a large raised block that worked as the stage.
As Livia had said, Sue Long was a sweet old lady, but she was not the strictest in the world. Therefore, after everyone had played once, she let them chat together in a casual manner.
Liz was struggling to tune her G-string; the peg was being very stubborn. Suddenly, the violin was taken out of her hands, and in one swift motion tuned exactly.
"Thank you," Liz said, smiling, as Wickley George handed back her instrument. "That peg is monstrous -- especially in this weather."
"Peg dope will do the trick," he replied. "I admit, I thought I'd never get away from your younger sisters. They are very enthusiastic performers."
Liz chuckled. "They can be real hams at times; Livia especially."
"But they're pleasant girls; and really phenomenal musicians. And as for you... Well, let me say that I am constantly amazed. At your musicality, your performance -- I could go on and on. It was quite extraordinary this morning, but then it always is."
Liz laughed, blushing, and looked away. "Please stop, Wickley."
He sighed. "If you wish." He abruptly turned, surveying the room. "I don't see anyone from the Netherfield Trio here today."
"Mm, I think some people would think it beneath their status to be seen here."
Wickley raised his eyebrows. "Really?" He paused, as if considering something, then hesitantly asked, "Have you known F. William D'Arcy a long time, Liz?"
Liz shook her head. "Just this week."
"I've known him all my life."
Liz was baffled. "But --"
"Yes, you're surprised. Perhaps you noticed how we greeted each other yesterday at the concert."
"Yes, I did," she admitted.
"We're not quite as... close as we once were. But pardon me, I don't want to bother you with my troubles."
"No, no, it's okay," Liz insisted. "In the week that I've known F. William D'Arcy, I've realized what a self-satisfied snob he is, and I really don't mind hearing anything you have to say against him."
Liz was uncertain of how Wickley would take her bluntness, and relieved when he smiled. "I see you take my opinion of him," he said. "But there are few people, besides me, who would agree with you."
"But no one likes him here at Hertfordborough! He's turns people off with his conceit, his smug silences."
Wickley nodded. "Exactly. But it took me years to figure out how far his conceit extended. You see, William's father, Gautier D'Arcy, was an excellent violinist and composer, and one of the best men who ever walked the earth. He and my father were good friends. When my father died unexpectedly (I was seventeen at the time) Gautier took me in, cared for me, loved me as a son. I even studied at Pemberley -- You've heard of Pemberley, of course."
"It rings a bell..."
"Pemberley is an arts school in Derbyshire. Gautier D'Arcy founded it twenty years ago. He was an excellent man, very caring, and did a wonderful job as head of the school. When he died, almost five years ago, his son inherited it. Instantly, William made some extreme changes concerning the way the school was run (and I'm sure quite against what his father would have wanted). Not only that, but... Liz, in Gautier D'Arcy's will, he had explicitly stated that I was to be conductor of the orchestra at Pemberley when the position fell vacant. Well, the current conductor left soon after William became head of the school (no coincidence, I'm sure) and I naturally assumed William would follow his father's wishes, and give me the post. But instead, I was ignored, and he gave the job to someone else. I was hurt, but I still had hopes to get a job in an orchestra. William made sure that wasn't an option for me either. You know how powerful he is in the music business, even at twenty-five. I have no idea what he said or did, what tales he might have fabricated... The fact of the matter is that I took audition after audition, and didn't win any of them. I didn't even make it past the preliminaries. So now I must be content with teaching, and moving from conservatory to conservatory, looking for a full-time position. Never mind that I never reached my own full potential."
Liz was gaping, her cheeks flushed with anger. "This... this is... incredible," she stammered. "I didn't think William was as bad as all this. To go blatantly against his father's wishes, to make inappropriate changes to the school, to cheat you out of a job -- you, obviously very loved by Gautier D'Arcy himself. It's unimaginable! F. William D'Arcy deserves to be publicly disgraced! You could sue him for going against his father's will!"
Wickley smiled, and shook his head resignedly. "Until I forget Gautier, I could never bring shame upon the D'Arcy family. This will all come back to him some day, but not by me. Karma, you know."
"How could he treat you like this?" Liz wondered. "I remember him once saying that he had a short temper, and that he could be resentful. But this... all this, because of his idiotic pride!"
"Pride was always his best friend," said Wickley. "It's helped him get where he is in life. And he always had plenty of it, I assure you. Even when we were little -- I remember once, when we were boys, I beat him at a game of checkers. He was furious, and for the rest of the day he insisted I had cheated. But… I don't think pride was his only motive in taking away my job. Gautier D'Arcy was always affectionate to me; treated me pretty much as another son. William was extremely jealous -- he still is. I'm afraid I've been the brunt of some strange, misplaced childhood frustration. Really, his childhood itself -- traveling all over the world to give recitals, performing with major orchestras at the age of eight -- offers somewhat of an explanation for his behavior now."
Liz looked at Wickley with compassion and respect. How could anyone treat him like this, when it was obvious how intelligent and honest he was?
"William has a sister, doesn't he?" Liz asked. "What's she like?"
Wickley sighed. "I wish I could say she was nice. She's a very pretty girl, but too like her brother -- very, very proud. When she was a little girl, I baby-sat her quite often, and she was very fond of me. Really liked having me around. But then her mother died, and her father got sick, and she was more and more under the influence of William. I haven't seen her in a while. But I hear she's quite an up-and-coming flutist in London. She's now seventeen -- Lydia's age."
Liz glanced over to where her youngest sister stood, incessantly flirting with seven or eight different guys. "Uh, Lydia just turned sixteen." She smiled at Wickley's obvious surprise, then continued, "But I wonder, does Charlie Bingley know about all of this? He's such a nice guy -- how could he put up with William's behavior?"
"He probably doesn't know," Wickley replied. "Really, I didn't mean to give you the wrong impression of William. He can hide his ego in public -- I've witnessed him being even friendly, in his own way, and with people he doesn't think it a punishment to be seen with. Anyway, most people forgive him for his pride; some figure he's done so much, he's allowed to be a little ego-centric."
Just then, the loud, slightly pompous voice of Bill Collins (who had insisted on tagging along to the master class) floated their way. He had trapped poor Sue Long in a corner, and was forcing her to endure his speeches on the splendor that is Catherine de Bourgh.
"Does your cousin know Catherine de Bourgh personally?" Wickley asked Liz as they watched this funny scene.
"Yes," Liz replied. "Ms. de Bourgh has just hired him to be the music director of an orchestra down in South America. Heaven knows why she picked a character like him."
"You know that Catherine de Bourgh and Anne Fitzwilliam were sisters, don't you? That Ms. de Bourgh is the aunt of F. William D'Arcy?"
Liz shook her head, startled. "No, I didn't know that. To tell you the truth, I hadn't even heard her name until Bill started praising it to the sky. Was she ever a musician?"
"No, she gives money, that's all. She has a daughter who will inherit her fortune after her death." Wickley looked around, and then, in a lowered voice, said, "This is not public knowledge, Liz, but I trust you to keep the secret. Ms. De Bourgh's daughter and William have been, uh, intended for each other since their birth."
Liz stared in horror. "Intended for each other? You mean… to marry?! But they're first cousins! I thought that that was illegal!"
"William is half-French, and apparently it isn't illegal for first cousins to marry in France."
"Jeez," Liz breathed. "This is totally disgusting. Is this really what William and Ms. de Bourgh's daughter want? Are they really in love?"
"I have no idea. All I know is, F. William D'Arcy and Anne de Bourgh will be married, and their two families' fortunes united."
Liz was appalled -- an old-fashioned arranged marriage, and first cousins even! But then, as she thought of Carolyn Bingley, she couldn't help grinning; that poor, uninformed woman, who practically threw herself at William whenever she got the chance. Wouldn't she be horrified, when she learned the truth!
"Well, I best be off," Wickley said finally. "This was lovely; thank you so much for telling me about it."
"Not at all. Will you be around the next couple days?"
"Maybe. I have some stuff to take care of up north, but I should be back by Monday."
"And are you coming to that party Charlie Bingley's throwing on Tuesday?"
"Then I will most definitely be there."
"Great. See you then."
Liz watched him leave, and then turned to gather all her things.
Note: The G-string is the lowest string on a violin. Peg dope is sometimes used to loosen pegs.
When they arrived back at the apartment, Livia and Katie wanted to go out for pizza, but Liz opted out. Instead, she lay down on the couch in the living room, intending to take a nap. As she lay there staring up at the ceiling, her mind was full of Wickley and what he had said to her. At first Liz could hardly stay still, she was still so angry. But eventually, as the daily mountain rain began to fall, drumming lightly on the windowpanes, Liz's thoughts turned to daydreams, and daydreams to a quiet, peaceful slumber.
The sound of Jenna's cello awakened her. The clock read 4:30 PM. Yawning, Liz went to join her sister in the room next door.
"Oh, hi Liz," said Jenna, looking up from her instrument. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"No, no, it's fine. I had something to talk to you about, actually."
"I'm all ears."
Liz related Wickley's whole tragic history to her sister (excluding the information about D'Arcy and Anne de Bourgh, of course). When it was over, Jenna looked shocked and concerned. "…Unbelievable! Poor Wickley!"
"Yes, poor Wickley."
After a moment's pause, Jenna probed carefully, "But… but are you sure it's the… the whole truth, Liz?"
Liz raised her head in surprise. "How could it not be? It makes such perfect sense! Are you saying you don't think D'Arcy cut him out of the Pemberley conducting job?"
"No, I'm not saying that. I just… Maybe D'Arcy didn't have any dealings in those auditions; maybe Wickley didn't win them because he simply didn't play the best."
"That's ridiculous," Liz sighed. "You heard him play at the master class this morning. He put so much thoughtfulness into everything. Such gentle honesty."
"Yes, of course," Jenna grinned, and then, growing pensive again, she said, "I hope that there's been some kind of mistake or misunderstanding. D'Arcy couldn't be all that bad! How could Charlie stand to be around him, knowing what he'd done?"
"He probably doesn't know, Jen."
"But it's just so weird! There's got to be some mistake. That's all we can think," her sister continued. She sighed. "If we can really think anything."
"'Scuse me? I know exactly what to think!"
At that moment the phone rang. On placing the receiver to her ear, Jenna's countenance changed from worried consternation to bashful delight. "Hi Charlie…"
Liz grinned and picked up a book, trying to be unobtrusive.
"Uh-huh. Yes, of course," Jenna quietly responded; Charlie's quick, cheerful voice sounding on the other end. "We were planning on it. Yeah, a lot. We're really looking forward to it. Would you like us to bring some –- Oh, okay. Sure. All right. Bye…"
Jenna hung up the phone, and Liz looked up from her reading. "Well?"
"He called to issue a 'formal' invitation to that party on Tuesday."
"Yes. It will at the convention room at their hotel, at nine o'clock, right after the Netherfield concert. We should bring our instruments, because there will be sight-reading." Jenna tried to seem indifferent as she spoke, but failed miserably. Liz giggled.
"You look excited, Jenna."
"Oh, do I?" she asked playfully, picking up her cello bow. "So do you."
"Me?!" Liz cried.
"Mmm-hmm. Will Wickley be there?"
Liz blushed, and both sisters burst out laughing.
During the next two days, Liz both looked forward to and dreaded Tuesday. The anticipation was because of Charlie's party, and, therefore, the chance to spend more time with Wickley; the dread because Liz knew that she'd see D'Arcy there. "Oh well," she sighed, as she dressed on Tuesday evening. "I'll simply ignore him, just like he does to everyone else."
As she was leaving the bathroom, she bumped into Bill Collins. "Oh! My most humble apologies!" he cried, stooping to pick up the toiletries that had fallen to the floor. "I hope I haven't injured you…"
"I'm fine," Liz said, and forced herself to smile. She tried to move away, but he was blocking her path.
"You look quite pretty this evening, Cousin Elizabeth," he said -- and clearly not meaning her hair. "That's a very nice dress you have on. I like that one strap look excessively. Catherine de Bourgh's daughter Anne has many gorgeous gowns –- all from the top French and Italian designers, of course. Where is yours from?"
"Sears." Liz tried to push past him, but he still had something else to say.
"Please, before we leave –-"
"We?" Liz cried. "You mean –- you're coming to the concert too?"
He nodded. "And the party afterwards."
"But, but…" Liz stuttered. She really had nothing to say; there was no reason why he shouldn't come, except that she didn't want him there, but she could hardly mention that .
"That's what I wanted to ask you about. I hear that it's all the rage at Hertfordborough this year to hold 'sight-reading' parties, correct?"
"Yes," Liz acknowledged.
"I sincerely wish that, since I now know for myself what an excellent chamber musician you are, you'll be so thoughtful as to play a duet with me." He grinned, leaning closer towards her. "I would like it very, very much."
Liz unconsciously backed up a step. "I didn't know you played an instrument."
"I've never mentioned it before, but I was quite a bassoonist, before I took up conducting."
"Yes, and I just happened to bring my old bassoon along with me."
"Then I take it you're agreeing to play a couple numbers with me. Spectacular! I can't wait!"
Saying so, he trotted off. "Me neither," Liz muttered sourly. She now had two things to fear: seeing D'Arcy and playing a duet with Bill Collins.
But Liz was an optimist, and by the time her family reached Lodge Auditorium, she was in high spirits, and even her youngest sisters' constant bickering didn't bother her.
Inside the hall, Liz sat between Mary and Fran. "I hope you'll pay a lot of attention to Bill at the party, Liz," Fran whispered to her as they waited for the concert to begin.
"You heard me. He really likes your violin playing, and thinks you have a lot of potential. I don't want you to go blowing it with one of your saucy remarks."
Liz shifted uncomfortably. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Blow what? What is there to blow?"
"You know what. Don't pretend that you don't know about the orchestra down in South America."
"Shh, the lights are going down now. Just… keep it all in mind."
Liz snorted and looked away. Keep it all in mind -- ha!
The audience began to applaud as the Netherfield Trio walked out on stage. They bowed –- Louise, with endeavored elegance; Charlie, with bubbling jollity; and D'Arcy, with a quick, icy head-bob. What a group they make, thought Liz.
The first piece on the program was the Brahms Trio No. 2 in C Major. As Liz watched and listened, she accepted (though with more than a little reluctance) the fact that they were pretty good. Okay, so they were more than good. They were great. But Charlie is holding the whole thing together. D'Arcy's hardly even looking up from his music –- how typical.
During the intermission, Liz took the opportunity of looking around for Wickley. She spotted Denny and some of his friends, but didn't see Wickley with them. Of course he's not with them. It would be awful for him to sit through a whole F. William D'Arcy performance. Patience, my dear -- you'll get plenty of chances to see him at the party later.
The second piece was the Shostakovich Trio No. 2 in E Minor. Liz adored the piece, but tonight she was restless; impatient for it to be over with. When the performance was over, Liz almost rushed towards the door, and had to remind herself to wait for her family.
At length they reached the hotel. Jenna and Liz exchanged excited looks as they made their way into the large convention room. It was brightly lit, and streamed with decorations.
Liz found herself eagerly looking through the masses for Wickley. Silly. You're as bad as Livia and Katie.
"Hiya, Liz." There was Denny Kim, grinning, and looking very suave in his pin-stripe suit and purple tie. "Nice party, huh?"
"Yeah," Liz agreed. Just cut the crap and tell me where Wickley is!
"Oh, I have something to tell you. Wickley won't be able to make it tonight."
"He has to stay in Portland a few days longer; although I think, more importantly, he wanted to avoid someone." Denny looked pointedly at D'Arcy, who was standing alone in a corner, somberly observing the people who were filing into the room.
"Well, that's it. Have fun!" He ambled off. Liz realized that Jenna was gone. Probably with Charlie.
Liz walked awkwardly over to the side of the room and laid her violin case on a chair. She felt extremely self-conscious, and hoped that she didn't look as disappointed as she felt.
After her instrument was out and tuned, she searched for someone -- any one -- she knew. There was Lotty, over by the chip bowl. Liz rushed over to join her friend.
Lotty, who had been casually strumming her violin and looking very bored, smiled at her friend in relief. "Hi Liz, how's it going?"
"Ehh, comme ci comme ça."
"Tell me about it. It's times like these when I wish I had a boyfriend."
"So, what's up with you?" Lotty continued. "We haven't talked in a week."
"Well, we have a new visitor…"
Before Liz could reply, they were accosted by a thickset man, sweating lavishly and carrying a bassoon. "Liz, I've been looking all over for you. I've got five different pieces for violin and bassoon with me, so -- whenever you're ready!"
Liz realized that Bill hadn't noticed her friend. "Lotty, this is my cousin Bill Collins. Bill, my good friend Lotty Lucas."
Bill turned to Lotty, a bit surprised. "Oh, hello."
"How do you do?" Lotty returned cordially, shaking his hand.
"Bill is the music director of an orchestra down in South America," Liz informed her friend.
"Really?" said Lotty. "Where in South America exactly, Mr. Collins? I have an uncle who works in Venezuela."
He didn't reply -- nay, didn't even look at her. "Liz, I really think we should start reading this music now if we want to get through all of it," he whined.
Liz saw Lotty's cheeks turning pink from the obvious slight, and scowled at Bill. She was fiercely protective of her friends, especially someone so close as Lotty. She almost told Bill to go jump in a lake, stopping only because of what her mother had said to her earlier that evening, at the concert.
"Go ahead and get two stands," Liz said to her cousin. "I'll be right there." She watched Bill waddle off, then turned back to Lotty. "I'm… sorry about that. Bill's an unbelievable slimeball."
Lotty smiled quickly, and looked away. "Don't worry about it. I don't blame him, really. You're so pretty; it's a wonder anyone ever notices me when you're around." This was spoken in jest, but Liz sensed a trace of bitterness behind her friend's words.
The pieces that Bill Collins had mentioned were five Bach Inventions, arranged for violin and bassoon. Liz loved Bach -- really she did -- but playing Bach with Bill Collins seemed endless. First of all, his bassoon was very loud, and squawked and squeeked uncontrollably. Second, he could barely play it, and had to stop for breath every other measure. Third, he couldn't count -- something always vital, especially when playing chamber music, and when that music happens to be Bach. Liz was repeatedly having to count out loud to help him, and their tempo dragged so much that by the end of the piece they always ended in largo, no matter what the original marking was.
One Invention was so particularly awful that Liz became sensible of people staring at them. To make matters worse, Liz saw D'Arcy, not ten feet away, watching them with a look of smug diversion. Laugh all you want. Jerk. She didn't know who she was most angry with -- Bill Collins, for making her play with him; D'Arcy, for laughing at them; or herself, for getting into this mess.
"No, Bill, that's a B, not a G," Liz whispered viciously, while trying to keep some degree of dignity. "And it's a only half note -- you're holding it too long."
At last the horrible ordeal was over, and Liz stomped back over to Lotty, who looked softly amused. "I've never been so mortified in my entire life," Liz fumed, violently shoveling some ice into a plastic cup.
"Oh, you didn't sound that bad."
Evidently not, for Liz was presently tapped on the shoulder, and beseeched by Sanderson Little to play a movement of the Mozart Quartet in F Major with him and two others. Liz consented, and took advantage of asking them about Wickley George.
"It's too bad he can't be here tonight," said Sanderson, as he carefully searched his case for the right oboe reed.
The girl who played cello (whose name escaped Liz for the moment) agreed. "Yeah, what a bummer. He's such a nice guy."
"When I talked to him Saturday, he said he would be here," Liz informed them. "I wonder when he realized that he couldn't come."
"Oh, he was planning on being here up to almost the last minute," said Greg Chamberlayne, who was playing viola. "It was right before we left for the concert that he phoned Denny from Portland and said he couldn't make it ."
The four young people continued to discuss Wickley (in-between playing, of course), and Liz found that he was universally liked and admired. That cheered her up considerably, and it was in a good mood that Lotty found her afterwards.
"You're beaming," Lotty stated in wonder.
"Yeah. Guess my grumpiness wore off. You know, I have a new philosophy for life: Always look on the bright side, and never get frustrated. Things are never as bad as they seem."
"Funny, I thought you've always had that philosophy."
"Yes, but this time I'm really going to live by it."
Lotty chuckled. "Come on, Liz! You may not be gullible, but you're certainly an optimist! You were born one, and you'll die one."
"Really? I never thought so."
"Then what are you, a cynic? Ha! If you're a cynic, then I must be Antisthenes himself."
They both laughed, and kept conversing in this lively manner, until Lotty straightened, nudging her friend. "Look who's coming," she murmured.
"How are you ladies this evening?" F. William D'Arcy inquired.
It took Liz a couple seconds before she could reply, "Fine." Her voice sounded vapid.
"I'm glad to hear it. Listen, there's a group over there playing 'Death and the Maiden,' and we need another violinist. If you're not doing anything else, Liz, would you favor us with your company?"
Liz was flabbergasted. "I, uh… that is to say, I don't think I'll…" She searched uselessly for the right words to decline. "Sure. I'll be over in a sec."
He walked away, and Liz crushed an empty cup in her hands. "Great. Just great. Why couldn't I think up an excuse?! I always talk too much, and now, just when I need my wits the most, my tongue freezes up!"
"Hey, where's that 'look on the bright side' attitude you were talking about?" Lotty asked slyly.
Liz smiled. "Throwing my own words back in my face, are you?"
"Well, at least you know D'Arcy's a good musician. You can be sure you won't have to count out-loud for him like you did for Bill Collins. I bet you'll even start to like him," Lotty teased.
"Oh, heaven forbid!"
"If I were you, which unfortunately I'm not, I'd take this opportunity. Just 'cause you've got the hots for Wickley doesn't mean you can snub F. William D'Arcy and not regret it."
Liz couldn't argue with the voice of reason, and, with one last glance at her friend, marched to meet her doom.