A hush settled around us as camera phones popped out.
“Fine by me,” Geoff said. He took Violet’s hand and led her away.
“That went well,” I muttered as I sat back down and scrubbed my face. Dazed.
Spider smoothed down his blue shirt and took his seat, looking surprisingly unruffled. He nibbled on a scone. “I don’t know about her, but you’re in trouble for holding out on me. Really? How could you not let me look when she stripped?”
Mila slapped his hand. “Be quiet. Can’t you see he’s upset?”
He pouted. “But it was naughty bits. I love naughty bits.”
She sighed. “Good grief, I’ll show you my tits later.”
It barely registered that Mila had said tits.
Because I wasn’t paying attention, too busy getting a read on Geoff as he followed behind V. I didn’t miss the triumphant smirk he shot me as they’d walked away
Geoff: 2. Sebastian: 0.
“He played me like a symphony.”
—from the journal of Violet St. Lyons
THE CONFRONTATION AT the coffee shop ruined the rest of Geoff’s visit.
I was angry that Geoff had acted like he owned me, even insinuating that we’d slept together recently. He fumed that I’d let Sebastian hear me play, when that had been one of the first things he asked for when he’d arrived at my house. And the whole naked thing drove him insane.
The one thing we did agree on was to allow him to speak with the chancellor at the Manhattan School of Music. Maybe it would spur me on to do something with my career.
The next day, I drove him to the airport and walked him to the security checkpoint. Most of the time I avoided anything that might trigger memories of the crash, so this was the first time I’d been inside an airport since that day. I took it in and didn’t get the cold sweats or want to puke. I felt okay—not great—but I could function.
“You good?” he asked, as we walked past several pilots and flight attendants.
I nodded. “I know it seems small, but standing here is big.”
“I’m glad.” He set his bags down and tugged my hand until our chests were touching. He looked sad, and part of me—the old me—wanted to make him happy again. I reached up and kissed him hungrily. Desperately. Trying to find a spark. He groaned and gathered me close.
But it felt wrong.
He sighed heavily as we pulled apart. “You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?”
He grimaced. “Why him? He’s not anything like what I pictured you with.”
I shook my head. “Sometimes there isn’t an answer—just a feeling.” I pushed a strand of auburn hair off his face and cupped his cheek. “Not that it matters because I can see you’re still jealous, but I’m not with him.”
“I think your heart is,” he said tersely as regret flickered over his face. “I know I’ve dated girls after you, but you were always the goal, and somehow, you’ve already forgotten all about me.” He sighed. “I came here for a reason and my offer still stands. If you come back to New York, I’ll be the best damn man for you. I will make you forget about him.”
I smiled. “You make me breathless with statements like that.”
He smirked. “But is it enough for you to let this place go?”
“I don’t know.” There were things I missed about New York: the zoo, the pizza, the winter weather. But here I’d played my violin at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. Here I was growing. Changing.
He fumbled around in his pockets and pulled out my promise ring. It glittered under the lights in the airport. “Whatever happens in the next few weeks, just remember that I still love you, and if you still want this ring, it’s burning a hole in my pocket.” He paused. “I’ve carried it with me for a year and a half, Violet. Waiting.”
His poignant words tugged at me. Was there a chance for us? Could he love the new me?
My throat clogged and I couldn’t speak. I nodded and hugged him.
“I’ll call you,” he said, and sent me one last lingering look and joined the security line.
I stood and watched until he disappeared into the crowd.
THAT NIGHT I crawled into bed with some old photo albums. I flipped through the pictures, looking at the moments captured there. I stroked the lines of my mother’s face. I traced my father’s smile. I wept. Yes, grief was its own fucking species, and I was tired of breathing it. Living it.
Meeting Sebastian and seeing Geoff again … it made me realize that I wanted my world back. And for the first time since the crash, something in me shifted—a desire to just be still and listen to my heart. To my parents.
My father had saved me. Was I going to let it all be for nothing? Is this the life my mother would have wanted for me? To wallow in guilt and sorrow? To give up my dreams?
Adrenaline rushed over me, and my head roared. I clung to it, jumped up and grabbed my violin and ran out to my balcony, too fired up to make it to the patio. I put my bow to the strings and ripped into the opening bars of Fall Out Boys’ “The Phoenix”. I surrendered myself to the heavy beat, letting the music take me out of myself and back into the girl I used to be. Feeling wild and light-headed, I stripped the song down, turning the low notes into maddening and powerful high notes. I twisted it around and made it mine.
I played furiously, letting all the pent-up anguish out, showing my parents that I still had it what it took to be a star.