—from the journal of Violet St. Lyons

CHEST HEAVING, I ran back in the house from the patio and came to a stop in front of the fireplace, the enormity of my performance settling on my shoulders. I panted. I clutched my pounding heart. Mortified. Excited. Good lord, I’d played for Blond Guy.

I’d nearly stripped for him.

I wholeheartedly blamed the tequila I’d consumed earlier.

My hands went to tapping against my leg erratically, my new go-to reflex since the crash. Without fail, if I were stressed, my hands bounced around, trying to ground me.

I groaned and paced around the den like a madwoman.

No way to deny it—I was officially an exhibitionist.

Blond Guy had moved in a few weeks ago on a bright and sunny morning in May without a cloud in the sky. I’d been out on the back patio, messing around with some of the plants, when he’d raced down the road in his gray Hummer and pulled in at the house behind mine. A girl with crazy red hair and a man bigger than the Blond Guy had pulled in behind him in a black Escalade. Siblings? Most definitely family, I’d decided as they carried suitcases and bags in the house, the sounds of their laughter echoing across the grass that separated our secluded properties. Like a shadow, I’d hidden behind a palm tree and squinted across the distance to watch them. I felt silly and tried to tear my eyes away, but when Blond Guy pulled out a guitar—and not just a regular guitar, but a Gibson Les Paul, the same model as my dad’s—I’d been lost.

A musician.

My interest had quickened.

Yesterday, thanks to my handy telescope, I’d been shocked when I’d caught him watching my house with binoculars right at the time when I usually played my violin outdoors. Immediate anger filled me—along with a good dose of something I couldn’t identify. Anticipation? Fear? Most definitely both.

Words like creep and Peeping Tom brushed at my mind, but somehow I refused to associate him with those. The truth was, I hadn’t knowingly played for anyone since the crash because the thought of having eyes on me gave me the shakes and made me want to hurl. My therapist called my fear PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder); I called it cowardice. I hated it.

I used to be Violet St. Lyons, violin prodigy, but now I was just a freak.

Either way, my music career was ruined. They don’t let pukers play in the New York Symphony; it kinda ruins the show.

But he was watching me, obviously listening to my music.

And I’d wondered if I could play knowing he was out there.

My therapist said I should bite the bullet and play on stage whether I lost my cookies or not. Her theory sounded simple, but doing it was another thing. The remedy is in the poison my father had liked to say, and that was the one voice in my head I gravitated toward.

I wanted to try. I wanted to push myself.

Like the flakes in a snow globe, music has danced around in my head since I was a little girl, and without it, I was lost.

I’d already lost my parents.

I tightened the belt on my robe and let out a puff of air. That’s why tonight—after those shots—I’d found some backbone, slipped on my robe and gone out to perform. Technically, I hadn’t been able to see him, so I hadn’t known for sure if he watched, yet I’d felt his eyes on me. Burning. Waiting for me to take it all off.

Which begged the question, did he watch because he liked my sound or did he watch because he was attracted to me? Probably the first. I wasn’t much to look at lately, not with my yoga pants and T-shirts.

Nerves settled by my breathing exercises, I headed to the kitchen where I scrounged for a celebratory chocolate bar and a soda. My brain knew my eating habits were out of control since my parents were gone, but I couldn’t seem to muster up the effort to do better. I devoured the Hershey bar and then headed to bed, checking my phone on the way. I sighed. No one had called. My friends from rich kid prep school hadn’t. My fellow musician friends from the Manhattan School of Music hadn’t. Even my promise-ring-kinda-fiancé Geoff who was now dating a fancy socialite hadn’t. They’d given up on me. Not that I blame them, of course; I’d pushed them away. And really, who’d wait two years for me to get my shit together when it might not ever happen? I swallowed down a sip of soda and burped. At least alone I didn’t have to worry about the niceties.

I eventually crawled in bed, but by two in the morning, sleep still eluded me, and I considered taking one of the sleeping pills my doctor had prescribed. Instead, I got up and went out to the balcony to peek through my telescope. It was dark at his house and hard to make out details, but I found him sitting out on his patio, a guitar between his legs and a beer on the table. I zoomed in my Celestron 2000, my eyes taking in the tattoos that snaked up his muscled biceps that my fingers suddenly itched to touch. I bit my lip. He was beautiful. Transfixed, I watched him smile to himself as he’d play a few strings then stop and jot down something on a piece of paper. Writing music?

Who was he?

Who was I?

Two years ago, I’d been a girl surrounded by fairy dust. I still vividly remembered walking into our Upper East Side apartment, not a clue that my parents had planned a surprise trip to Ireland for my birthday and we’d be leaving for the airport within the hour. They’d made such a big deal of it, trying to get me to guess what my present was. This had included my dad doing his crazy version of the river dance while my mom pulled out a stuffed leprechaun and danced along. They’d been so silly. Fun. Everyone had loved my parents, even the crabby old lady in 4A who hated everyone.

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