Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 14

The finals for the inter-bourough musical scholarship awards were held in a rented hall on Lexington, almost in the shadow of the Chrysler building. It was hardly an ideal venue; every ten minutes or so the auditorium shook with a subliminal rumble as the Times Square shuttle ran underneath. The lighting wasn't so hot and the audience seats felt like some kind of punishment, but still there was a near-capacity turnout. Every hopeful music student had brought along a supporting entourage of friends, relatives, sponsors and well-wishers; the atmosphere was good, its edge keen, and standards were high.

Julie Miller's backup was as good as anybody's with the exception of fifteen year-old Martin Gish who played a solo piece two places ahead of Julie. Gish had brought along with him a whole dynasty of Gishes, enough of them to fill three rows of the auditorium. He was obviously the pride of a large family where things to be proud of were almost as scarce as money. Martin Gish played with a fierce intensity, screening out everything around him and showing none of the nervousness that had been evident as he'd stumbled onto the stage.

Julie went on second to last. She knew that, unless the final competitor turned in something really special, it was going to be between her and the boy. Everyone else had shown serious flaws - hesitancy, lack of familiarity with the notes as written, a couple of examples of sloppy fingering. Julie had no worries on the technical side, but she'd have to match the energy of Martin Gish's attack

When her turn came around, she and Bruno walked out onto the stage. The hall might be lousy, but the charge in the air was immense. As Bruno was taking his seat at the piano, Julie glanced out into the audience. Her people were there, Shorofsky, Doris and Danny; Coco Hernandez was just sliding in from the end of the row, her hair whipped by the wind and her breathing hard as if she'd run all the way from West Forty-Sixth.

Julie played well. The Haydn piece sang.

But when the head of the judges stood up to announce the results, Martin Gish had got it.

Three rows of Gishes went wild. Martin Gish smiled and glanced around in embarrassment, just another fifteen year old kid now that the cello was out of his hands. Julie took a deep breath, and looked at the ground.

It wasn't unfair. Gish had been good. But she'd wanted to win.

'Thank you all for coming,' the judge was saying, 'you should all be proud,' but the words were of little comfort. Second place was no good to anybody; no scholarship, no recognition, none of the essential feedback of success that Julie had come to need to sustain her as a performer.

She looked up; everybody was out of their seats, and Shorofsky and the others were gathering around her. She tried to fake a smile. It was an awkward moment; whatever was said first had a ninety per cent chance of coming out wrong.

Such odds weren't likely to discourage Danny Amatullo; after all, he'd made a life's work out of putting his foot in his mouth. 'Hey, don't worry about it, kid,' he said. 'It's only your career.'

'Mister Amatullo,' Shorofsky began heavily, but Danny threw up his hands in self-defence.

'Only kidding,' he protested.

Bruno said, 'Well, think of the great liner notes.'

Shorofsky turned to him in puzzlement. 'Liner notes?'

'You know, the stuff they always write on the backs of albums about what a tough life the artist had.' He went on earnestly to Julie, 'Believe me, early success makes lousy liner notes. That's why I'm holding back.'

Julie started to laugh, the ice broken, and Doris pitched in.

'Oh, I got lots of liner notes,' she said. 'I remember once, I tried out for the lead in this musical.. I thought I had it for sure.' She shook her head. 'Forget it. I didn't even make it past the first cut. I was devastated. I didn't eat for hours. Hours!'

Bruno checked his watch; it was almost three-thirty in the afternoon. Lydia Grant would be expecting them for a dance rehearsal at four. As Bruno went to get his score and the others gathered their books together, Coco asked, 'Which musical?'

'The Sound of Music.'

'The lead in The Sound of Music? The Julie Andrews part?'

'Yeah, well . . . the director said I looked too Hare Krishna for the part.'

They had to go. They knew that they could only try to raise Julie's spirits up to a certain level, beyond which the jokiness would become embarrassing. Julie was going to have to cover the rest of the distance on her own.

The hall was almost empty as she went to zip her cello back into its case. She held it for a moment, getting the same kind of comfort as she might from an old rag doll, and then she stowed it and closed the lid.

Up on the stage, two janitors in stained old coveralls were rolling the piano away. Shorofsky was still there, waiting for her. She tried to smile, to show that everything was okay.

'And behind the smile?' Shorofsky said.

'I'm fine, really.'

They started to walk up the aisle towards the exits. Shorofsky said, 'If you're fine after losing a competition, there's something wrong with you. And if there is something wrong with you, then you are not fine. So, what?

Julie shrugged as they came out into the foyer. Only a couple of people were still hanging around; the departue of Martin Gish and his relatives had half-emptied the building within a minute.

She said, 'More practice time. That's all I need, more practice time.'

'You practiced very hard. I heard you.'

Shorofsky opened one of the main doors to let Julie and her cello through. Outside on Lexington, the later afternoon traffic was building up.

'Obviously not hard enough,' Julie said. She said it quietly, because she wasn't sure that she wanted Shorofsky to here.

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