DISCLAIMER – The current Chapter One material is the only stuff you’ll see that’s anything other than raw First Draft in this project. In fact, I’ve revised the life out of this little opener. Blackjack hands have added up to less than the number of times I’ve re-crafted this little sucker.
Yet the truth remains… no one ever became a best-seller by finishing a single chapter.
We’ve got to keep writing forward. So in that spirit, I give you the first few pages of Kalokairi (it means “summer” in Greek), in hopes you’ll enjoy and join the journey of finally writing our books THIS YEAR!
This maestro knew he could make Stefanie lose control. The flute soloist’s silver floor-length gown shimmered in the footlights. Yet when her unyielding brown-eyed gaze met his, he wondered fleetingly if he was man enough for the task.
“Ready?” he mouthed silently, the pulse pounding at his temples.
Instead of acknowledging him, politely or otherwise, Stefanie shifted weight to her right foot, angled her lithe body away, and raised her chin. No reassuring smile. No tenuous movement that betrayed nerves. Not even a curt nod to appease him. Just cool confidence.
The conductor turned to face the orchestra. Elegant tuxedoed arms raised, baton inclined toward the violins, he felt the first beads of sweat dampen his upper lip. This little flute hussy has a lot to learn, he thought, and with fresh resolve he set a breakneck tempo for the final movement.
Faster, much faster than at rehearsal. He would push that high strung twenty-something to the height of musical abandon for the first time in her life. An aging child prodigy like Stefanie Petros needed something more inspiring to launch the next stage of her career than just technical prowess.
I can teach her to play with spirit, he thought. Nowhere less painful to learn than in a third-tier orchestra with no reviewers in sight. After a night of unrestrained and uninhibited performance, surely Ms. Petros will feel the difference it brings to the soul of her music.
All Stefanie felt was the weight of the diamond tennis bracelet when she raised her flute to play. If he’d wanted it this fast, she thought, he should’ve practiced it that way. For his orchestra’s sake.
A few moments into the piece, the second violinists and violists felt a sense of abandonment, though certainly not the kind of abandon the maestro intended for Stefanie. Bodies inclined perilously toward music stands, eyebrows furrowed, and bow-arms became fraught with tension.
Launching confidently into the fray, Stefanie stifled a laugh. Oh, I bet the caboose is going to mangle his engine after this train wreck.
“Dammit,” he muttered, fighting to reign in the musical beast he had unleashed. Stefanie Petros’s technique was far beyond what he had anticipated. Her unshakeable command of the repertoire was perfect. Bullet-proof bitch, he thought.
The flutist’s posture though, was passive and resigned. She was still no more in touch with the emotion of the musical moment than if she’d been shoe shopping. Probably less, he thought. Those manicured tootsies are wearing Prada.
He both heard and felt the orchestra’s relief when they reached the loud sustained chord before the soloist’s final cadenza. Their audibly released breaths made him realize how tightly his own chest had been constricting. “It’ll be over soon,” he whispered, and closed his eyes to block out the ensemble’s glares and angry scowls.
Only Stefanie remained aloof. Perhaps Maestro will rethink his profligate regard to setting tempo. She laughed at the haughty British tone in her mind. She’d come a long way from her second-generation Greek-American roots.
She let the moment sink in for a count of four. After a deep breath, she launched into a series of arpeggios and scales that momentarily distracted even the old man in the front row who had been gaping at her shallow but prominently displayed cleavage. Now it was the audience members’ turn to hold their breath.
A straightforward melody emerged from her flute, but around it Stefanie wove an intricate pattern of notes. Only one out of every eight was even part of the main tune. It was gloriously complicated, like the individual dots of a Monet painting. But from a few steps away, the picture crystalized in naïve simplicity.
Perfectly structured, Stefanie played with utter command, precise tone, and the confidence of someone twice her age. And she played it note for note the way she had at the afternoon rehearsal. Just twice as fast.
A final flurry of notes carried Stefanie’s solo up, up and over the top into a trill held perilously long. Does the conductor not realize that’s his cue? she thought malevolently, digging deep for her last reserves of oxygen.
Every pair of lungs in the house seized up on her behalf.
Reach for it, Stef, thought the man with the baton. Drops of sweat fell from his forehead to the musical score on the podium. Let the passion in this moment change your life. A pristine white handkerchief would later take care of his perspiration problem, but nothing could wipe the smug expression from his face.
Several seconds more he waited… then brought the stringed instruments back in for one last strained and frantic bow-scratching to the finale.
Magnificent, he thought. She’ll thank me for this later.
Fucking vanity, thought Stefanie. No wonder he’s stuck in this third-rate shit hole.
It’s strangely lightening to finally share this work — and know I’m ready to move on. There are about 300 more words of this chapter, which I’ll share soon, and then it’s off to the unknown for us all: for me as the writer, you as the reader, and Stefanie as well.
“Kalokairi” – a Greek summer’s romantic lessons on life, music, and the beauty of imperfection. Missed the intro to this project? Check it out here: TheScariestChapter
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