A Different Blue Page 28

The sound had me sneaking up the stairs, following the thready notes. When I reached the second floor, the hallway was dark and the light from Wilson's classroom beckoned me forward. It was the only light on in the whole school, creating a spotlight on the man within. Wilson was outlined by the frame of his door, a bright rectangle at the end of the shadowy corridor. I walked toward him, keeping close to the wall in case he looked up. But the light that illuminated him would also blind him. I doubted he would see me even if he looked directly at me.

He was wrapped around an instrument. I didn't know the name of it. It was a lot bigger than a violin – so big it sat on the floor and he was seated behind it . And the music he was making wasn't frightening. It was achingly lovely. It was piercing, yet sweet. Powerful, yet simple. His eyes were closed and his head was bent, as if he prayed as he played. His shirt sleeves were rolled up, and his body moved with his bow, like a weary swordsman. I thought of Manny then. How Manny had remarked on Wilson's forearms, and I watched the play of muscle under his smooth skin, pulling and pushing, coaxing the mellow music from the moody strings.

I wanted to reveal my presence, to startle him. I wanted to laugh, to mock him, to say something cutting and sarcastic like I usually did. I wanted to hate him because he was beautiful in a way I would never be.

But I didn't move. And I didn't speak. I just listened. For how long, I don't know. And as I continued to listen, my heart began to ache with a feeling I had no name for. My heart felt swollen in my chest. I lifted my hand to my chest as if I could make it stop.

But with each note Wilson played, the feeling grew. It wasn't grief and it wasn't pain. It wasn't despair or even remorse. It felt more like . . . gratitude. It felt like love. I immediately rejected the words that had sprung to my mind. Gratitude for what?! For a life that had never been kind? For happiness I had rarely known? For pleasure that had been fleeting and left a desperate aftertaste of guilt and loathing?

I closed my eyes, trying to resist the sensation, but my heart was hungry for it, insatiable. The feeling spread down my arms and legs, warm and liquid, healing. And the guilt and the loathing slipped away, pushed out by the overwhelming gratitude that I was alive, that I could feel, that I could hear the music. I was filled with an indescribable sweetness unlike anything I had ever felt before.

I slid down against the wall until I was sitting on the cool linoleum floor. I leaned my heavy head against my knees, letting the strings Wilson played untie the knots in my soul and release me, even for a moment, from the burdens I dragged along like clanking cans and filthy chains.

What if there was a way to let them go forever? What if I could be different? What if life could be different? What if I could be somebody? I had little hope. But there was something in the music that whispered of possibility and breathed life into a very private dream. Wilson played on, unaware of the spark that had been lit inside of me.

The melody suddenly shifted, and the song Wilson played was one that stirred a memory. I didn't know the words. But it was something about grace. And then the words came to my mind, like they'd been whispered in my ear. 'Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me . . . '

I didn't know what grace was, but maybe it sounded like the music. Maybe that was what I was feeling. How sweet the sound. And it was sweet, impossibly so. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. Was a wretch the same thing as a bitch? Or a slut? My life was not a testament to being saved from anything. It was not a testament to love – not anybody's love.

My head firmly rejected the idea. Grace wouldn't save me. But in the tiny, neglected corner of my heart, freshly awakened by the music, I suddenly believed it might. I believed it could.

“God?” I whispered, saying the name I'd never spoken except in profanity, not even once. But I'd sung his name once, long ago. The name felt sweet on my tongue, and I tasted it again. “God?”

I waited. The music prodded me forward.

“God? I'm ugly inside. And it's not my fault. You know it's not. I'll take responsibility for some of it, but you've gotta own up to your part, too. Nobody saved me. Nobody gave a shit. Nobody came to my rescue.” I gulped, feeling the sorrow in my throat, making it hurt to swallow, but it was pain I'd been swallowing for a long time, and I forced it down. “So I'm asking you now. Can you take it away? Can you take away the ugliness?”

Something broke inside of me, and I groaned, unable to bite it back. Hot wet shame flooded out of me in waves of crushing grief. I tried to speak, but the torrent was almost too much. And so I gasped the final plea.

“God? If you love me . . . take it away. Please. I'm asking you to take it away. I don't want to feel this way anymore.” I wrapped my head in my arms, and let the torrent consume me. I had never let myself cry like this. I had feared that if I opened the floodgates I would drown. But as the waves crashed over me, I was not consumed, I was swept up, washed, my soul blanketed with blessed relief. Hope rose within me like a buoy. And with the hope, came peace. And the peace calmed the waters and quieted the storm, until I sat, spent, bled out, done.

Light bloomed overhead, illuminating the passageway where I huddled. I scrambled to my feet, grabbing my purse and turning my back to the man walking toward me.

“Blue?” Wilson's voice was hesitant, almost disbelieving. At least he didn't call me Miss Echohawk anymore.

“What are you doing here?”

I kept my back to him as I tried to remove the evidence that I had come undone. I scrubbed frantically at my face, hoping I didn't look as wrecked as I felt. I kept my face averted as he approached.

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