GENRE: MG Fantasy
You have to attack that first note. The B. It tells your audience everything about what’s to come. Quasi improvisando, the music says. You need to put your life into it. You need to show that you can be wild, fanciful, dramatic, free.
Basically, everything I’m not.
Mr. Loyola would announce the results any moment: First place in Gleam’s Champion Cellist Competition goes to Briar Palustra! I adjusted my tortoiseshell glasses so I didn’t have to look at the other finalists standing next to me backstage. Especially Damian Silver, the only one unimpressed by my icy perfection. I could feel his dark glare from a meter away.
He knows you’re a fake. Heat spread across my cheeks to my ears. My hair usually covered them, but Mother insisted on pinning it up in some sort of lumpy braided thing. I adjusted the silvery feather earrings that my brother Brook made for me to wear for finals.
“I’m supposed to win,” Damian hissed. “You haven’t even had your Career Commitment Recital yet. You’re not a real musician.”
He was right. Today, I was a fake in more than my playing. “They changed the rules, remember?” Entirely for me—not a teenager for two more days—because Mr. Loyola thought I deserved it. If I won this contest, I’d become an official Champion as soon as I performed the customary thirteenth-birthday Commitment Recital.
“Come on, Briar.” He gouged the floor with the pointy tip of his cello’s endpin. “You could’ve waited.”