Javi's Cafe, 4.
I shook my head. “Oh, the way people talk when they don’t know anything.”
Jerome laughed, then grew sober. “So tell me more,” he said.
I looked across the table at the broad, dark man across the table from me, and was convinced in that moment that Jerome would be able to draw out anything from anyone. “We have a music history class together, and pass in the music building from time to time, but don’t have time to talk much because we’re both so busy with school, and I don’t want to give up any of my time here – but even if I did she probably wouldn’t be free when I was.”
“Then invite her along!” Jerome said.
“I couldn’t. It would seem like a date, and I don’t want that yet. I don’t even know if that’s the way I want to go at all. I’ve seen so many relationships fall apart at school and don’t want to be another statistic of music major breakups at Julliard. They could fill a TV show, I tell you. If we start a relationship, it’s going to have to be different somehow.”
“And you want my help to know how.”
“My advice to you right now is to get to know her as a friend. That may be all you need – as you get to know her more it may be she’s not who you thought she was, or you’re not ready yet. And while you’re getting to know her, befriend her father as well. He’s the man in her life right now, and you need to get him involved if you want to be more than a friend to her.”
“But how? I’ve thought of every possible scenario and compared our schedules! I only eat lunch on campus, and we’re never free at the same lunch time, and it just doesn’t work, and we’re in different ensembles.”
Then I heard Emily’s voice from behind the counter. “Tell her we need a performer for our next concert, and that flute’s my favorite instrument.”
Jerome and I both turned her way. “It is?” we said together.
Emily nodded. “And we do need a concert for February, and if you’re that impatient she could even join you for our New Years’ Soiree.”
I grinned and looked at Jerome.
“What’s her name, by the way?” Emily asked.
The next day was my last at school for that semester. I was looking forward to break, but knew that I had to talk to Clara today, which was going to be difficult because I had no idea when I might see her. In between finals and juries I searched high and low for her. Whenever anyone walked by my practice room I leaned back to look out the window, and on practice breaks I strolled around the music building hoping to find her. When dinner time came, I packed up my things and considered the day a failure. But as I was leaving, I saw her waiting outside her father’s studio.
I waved to her as I came closer, and she smiled and waved back. At least I’m not an invisible student in the back of music history, I thought. I knew we’d talked a couple of times to make us at least acquaintances and not just a random person at school.
“Merry Christmas, Clara!” I said.
“Merry Christmas to you, too! Are you going anywhere for break?”
“No. Christmas isn’t a big deal at home any more, and besides, I have so much work to do. You?” And when she says no, I’ll ask her about our New Years’ Soiree!
“Everyone comes here for Christmas, so I’m stuck!”
I shuffled a bit where I stood. This is not a date, I reminded myself, so no nerves involved. “I don’t know if you heard about the café not too far from here that opened a few months ago.”
“You’ve mentioned it before,” she said.
I’m not one for reading people very well, but I could tell she was growing uncomfortable. Not a date, I thought again, so vehemently that for a moment I was afraid I’d spoken aloud. “I know the owner pretty well, and last month we started monthly concerts to foster community and bring business to the café. We’re having a New Years’ Soiree on January first, and unless I practice extra hard over break I won’t have enough music, and Emily’s favorite instrument is flute, so we were wondering if you’d like to help us out.”
“That sounds like a lot of fun! I’ll have to get back to you about it, though; I’m not sure what our New Years’ plans are,” Clara said.
I pulled a corner off of a piece of staff paper that was sticking out of my laptop case and scribbled down my phone number. “Just let me know. You’re welcome to invite anyone you want, even if you want to invite someone else to perform with us, and you could do unaccompanied pieces, or I could play with you, or your father, or anyone else.”
She took the paper and looked at it. “Is that a seven or a one?”
“A seven.” I said. “Sorry.”
“I’ll try to let you know as soon as possible.”
I grinned. “Thanks.”
“Well, have a great break.”
“You too. Merry Christmas!”
I walked away, replaying the whole conversation in my mind. I hadn’t had as much trouble talking as I’d thought I would, so that was a relief. But I couldn’t imagine how confused it must have left Clara. At first it sounded like I wanted to ask her out for a date. And then it was a business offer. And then I mentioned Emily, so maybe she thought… I pulled at my hair and groaned. But then I’d given her my number. And mentioned her father, so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.