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Once she was on the pavement, Laura paused and took a deep breath of the spring air. The sky above the New England Conservatory Building was blue. It was proving to be a good day. Laura had known she had a good chance of being in “Tales of the Wind”, the orchestra’s premium performance. But with auditions being compulsory nothing was guaranteed. She touched the paper in her pocket lightly; it was the performance pass that gave her the guarantee she needed. The slot was hers.

Her red Volkswagen bug was waiting for her in the parking lot. No matter what anybody said she loved the car. The car was a present from her Aunt Matilda; Laura thought it was cool for a cello player to drive a bug. Throwing her bag in the back seat she took to the driver's seat. The car's interior was nothing fancy, Formica on the dashboard, an FM radio with no USB, and her personal favorite the grey teddy bear that bounced on the windscreen. She called him Freeny, a name she couldn’t remember its origin. Freeny had been with her since she was thirteen. What a long time ago that was. So much had happened in the last six years.

Being in the afternoon, the roads were clear. Cruising along Huntington Avenue with WAAF FM was playing a nice love song. To this day Laura couldn’t explain exactly how it happened; all she heard was a big thump when her foot

pressed down on the brake pedal. The car behind her, a ford truck had rammed into her rear side. Lucky her safety belt was fastened on as she would have probably ended up in the windscreen. At first there was no pain and she unfastened her safety belt. But as Laura went for the door knob, pain shot up her knee. She must have jerked her leg upwards and hit something hard. Laura tumbled out of the bug to assess the damage. The car’s rear end was badly smashed in. The Volkswagen engine unlike modern cars has its engine housed in the back. On seeing the amount of damage Laura knew she had a big problem. It was the truck owner’s turn to assess the damage.

“Oh dear, oh dear. What have I done now?” The woman seemed appalled by what she'd done. Laura approximated her age to be about fifty. She admitted her mistake and promised to pay for everything.

“Oh dear," the old woman kept repeating. Laura could not get angry with her, she pitied the shocked woman. The Volkswagen would not start again and Laura called CJ Auto and Tow. The traffic cop arrived and proceeded to check out the situation. After taking down their details the officer concluded it was a simple case, and since nobody was hurt they could go. Laura didn't feel the pain in her knee at all. There was no need of complicating issues with such a small thing. She let it pass. The tow truck finally arrived and hauled her beloved bug to the garage. The kindly woman

gave Laura a ride apologizing profusely for the accident all the way to Laura’s apartment building.

Laura called her insurance agent when she got home. The car would be taken care of; she just had to use the bus for a few days. Her Aunt Matilda was livid when she heard about Laura's little accident. She settled down when Laura assured her she was fine. The accident could not however overshadow the day's good news. Laura had been chosen to play in the season’s biggest performance. Her aunt was happy as she knew what this meant to Laura. Ever since she was a little girl, playing the cello was her big dream. In no time Laura was blabbing about the acclaimed Italian director who would be conducting the performance, and the international soloist who will be performing. Aunt Matilda was her only family member. She had taken to raising Laura when her parents had died in a horrific road accident. Laura had been only three years old. Aunt Matilda was not only a mother to her but a good friend. When Laura decided to accept the offer to join the Boston orchestra music program, Aunt Matilda had supported her to make the transition. After a rather long talk they said goodnight. The practice sessions would be running for the whole week. Sleeping early was a good idea.

She felt some pain in her knee when removing her denim pants. Stroking the troubled area, a small swell could

be felt beneath the knee cap. She would get some medicine for it the following day. Standing in front of the mirror she gazed at her body. Laura had always been a little on the thick side. Her aunt said she got her full body from her mom. In junior high school some mean girls had called her names. She did not let their foolishness get to her instead becoming more careful with her clothing. Skirts, dresses and blazers filled her wardrobe. Soon she was no longer fat but curvy. With her auburn hair and oval blue eyes many thought she was beautiful. The only problem was cello practice and her overwhelming shyness. Her dream was to be a great cello player and that took practice. Between daily cello sessions and the studies there was never time for the opposite sex. She'd had only one boyfriend; Kevin. They'd attended the London school of music together. The innocent kisses they had shared were now a faded memory. Nobody else had come close. Now as she looked at herself Laura wondered how her friends felt to have a man touch them. Laura had never had sex with anyone. Only her best friend Selina knew. Selina played the violin at the orchestra and could keep a secret. Laura didn't have time to think about sex. Her career came first then the right guy, she told herself. The right time will come. It was time for a nap, tomorrow she was taking the bus.

Laura chose a tightly fitting cotton top, matched with a black hugging skirt for the big day. It would be the first day of practice leading to the big performance, she wanted to feel good. Laura had realized that she didn't mind when people looked at her. She kind of enjoyed it. Grabbing her bag which housed her cello, make-up kit and other girl essentials she was skipping from the apartment when her swollen knee ached in pain. The knee had swollen some more through the night. Her heels were putting too much pressure on it. Ruffling through her shoe stand she picked out a pair of black loafers. They were not as glamorous as the heels but they would do. She had to get something for the knee. The pharmacy was on her way to the bus stop. The pharmacist was an African American man with rimmed glasses.

"How can I help you miss?" he inquired when she walked in. "I need something for my knee, It is swollen, I hit something yesterday." Laura explained.

The pharmacist attention was divided between listening to her and staring at the crease of her protruding chest. He prescribed some painkillers. When Laura nodded in approval he got a bottle for her. Laura swallowed two on the spot and promised to see the doctor if it got worse. As she walked out Laura could see the pharmacist ogling at her

endowed back side in the reflecting glass wall. She turned her head suddenly looking at him. He was caught unaware staring at her bubbly buttocks, he looked away embarrassed. She smiled to herself. Laura had that effect on men. The bus was on time and soon she was cruising towards Massachusetts Avenue. Laura loved Boston, its deep history was etched into the city's architecture. The John F Kennedy library and museum loomed large as a reminder of ages past, the U.S.S Constitution and USS constitution museum cerebrated Boston's contribution to the greatest constitution in the world. Boston was not lacking in attractions. Laura had felt right at home in the city as soon as she’d arrived. She'd been there for eight months and loved exploring the town when she wasn’t very busy.

Selina was waiting for her in the cafeteria opposite the Boston symphony orchestra building. Practice was not due for another fifteen minutes. Enough time for coffee and some gossip. Selina was already on her second mug of coffee washing down slices of black cake when Laura arrived. Selina was the skinny type, never gaining weight no matter what she ate. Laura watched everything she ate and marveled at her friend’s stroke of good luck.

"Hello, girlfriend," Selina exclaimed as they pecked on the cheeks.

“Chocolate cake, really?" Laura joked eyeing the cake hungrily.

"The perks of being me." Selina replied playfully. “What happened yesterday?" She asked with concern referring to the accident.

“Well, I was on Huntington Avenue at the connection to the St.Stephen road..." Laura narrated her accident.

Once Selina was sure that her friend was alright the jokes began. They laughed heartily about the old woman who almost went to shock. Selina leaned in and said with a serious face “Do you know if you'd died you would’ve died a virgin. Never to know the feeling of a man inside you!" Selina went on to laugh hysterically enjoying her own crooked joke.

“I hadn't thought of that. Somebody come and rescue me from this curse." Laura retorted jokingly. The banter continued and before they knew it fifteen minutes were up. They rushed to the Orchestra, parting at the elevator. As Laura watched her friend run to her sessions she wondered what it was like to be Selina. She loved to have fun. She was always inviting Laura to parties which she declined. Selina loved to talk about her men. Sometimes the details were so real that Laura could picture them. Selina making love to a guy in the park bench was her favorite. It seemed so erotic to Laura. She was not as courageous and doubted she'd have the guts to get intimate in such a public place. She was still a virgin at nineteen; there were not many virgins her age. That she was sure of.

The practice session was held at the auditorium Basiron; named after the famous Renaissance era French composer. Most of her colleagues were already unpacking their instruments and fine tuning them. The assistant conductor walked around passing over the day’s score. Laura unpacked her cello in the string section. An orchestra is like an army. Many sections make up the whole ensemble with the soloist being at the helm. The people in the hall were some of the best instrument players in the country. Laura and one other guy who played the bass guitar were the youngest at nineteen. It was a great honor to be there and they all knew it.

Clapping ensued when the conductor walked in. Pablo Emmanuel was an acclaimed conductor who'd won many prestigious awards. He looked the part; with a well cut

fitting cream suit. The Italian was in his element. He went around personally saying hi to everybody. When he reached Laura he shook her hand. He was a handsome man, too handsome for a fifty year old. He obviously worked out as his body was sculpted in perfect dimensions. The cologne he wore was musky with a hint of earth. Or was it his

aftershave? Laura could not tell. “Miss Laura, I'm glad you could join us." he said softly kissing her hand. Laura blushed struggling to say something. Why did she act like a schoolgirl in front of handsome men? "I was very impressed with your masterly of the cello," he continued. She blurted out a curtsy not knowing what to say. It was said that conductor Pablo could have any woman he wanted. Notwithstanding that he was married to a Czech super model. As he continued on Laura reprimanded herself. What was she thinking, drooling over a man old enough to be her father?

The orchestra roared to life, the symbols and notes coming alive in the capable hands of the players. The acclaimed soloist Madam Adeline was amazing, the cadenza was magnificent; that moment when all the instruments go quiet leaving only the soloist. The underlying theme was movement; going from one mood to the next. From the old to the new. Rehearsals always ended too soon for her, and it was time to go. Most of her colleagues had other gigs. Laura only played at the orchestra. She helped the librarian organize the sheet music when she had free time. The assistant director called her over as she was going to the records office. "Laura, please help me with today's score. I am really tied up." she asked.

"Be glad to." Laura affirmed.

Nobody was allowed to leave with the music sheets before a big performance. Somebody might leak it. The orchestra world was full of con artists, a new piece from a big composer like Pablo would fetch a pretty price particularly from the many 'music' magazines out there. One of the A3 sized sheets dropped to the floor. While picking it up, a sharp pain shot up her leg. She’d unknowingly put pressure on the swollen knee. Without meaning to Laura cried out in pain. The room went quiet several people rushing to her.

“What is wrong? Are you alright?” Somebody asked.

Everybody knew she was the youngest. They treated her like a kid sister. Now concern was in everybody's faces. Even the great Pablo was fussing over her.

“It is nothing. I had a minor car accident yesterday. Only a bit of swelling here.” she pleaded.

“A car accident? And you didn't think of telling us?" the assistant conductor, a motherly woman demanded.

Soon everything was getting blown out of proportion. “This is very serious. If it gets worse you could miss the main performance. Then where will I get another cello player who knows the music? You should rest this week. We will replace you as we cannot put you or the performance at risk” Pablo said after looking at her knee for a few seconds.

Laura wondered which of the two he was more concerned about. She explained for the umpteenth time that she was fine. After a lot of back and forth the assistant director came up with what seemed like a deal. Laura would see a doctor, get medication and if the doctor affirmed she was fit to perform then her practice would continue. The assistant wanted to know if Laura needed a ride to the hospital. Laura decided to take the taxi instead.

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