“I’m not going on stage with that idiot,” she screamed, forgetting all reason to restrain her voice. “Richie can hardly play anything. His music sounds like shit.”
Franklin raised his hands and tried to calm her down. He’d worked with hundreds of talented young musicians before, and had seen it all: tantrums, arguments, fights, passive-aggressive remarks, and name-calling. But the one thing he hated was when a kid called another kid’s music “shit”.
“Anna, what did I tell you about saying the ‘S’ word?”
She glared at him, crossing her arms.
“I’m not going out there.”
But she was going out there. In twenty-seven minutes, she would walk out onto the stage, right beside Richie. She would play her violin, and nobody would know that twenty-seven minutes earlier she’d refused to play.
“When you joined the program, you didn’t have a problem playing with him — what’s the deal? What happened?”
She rolled her eyes. Something about the way she folded her body into an apathetic shrug made him recall a flood of memories. He’d seen this sharp display of contempt before, but usually not from someone her age: it was the same shrug he’d seen from his own tour manager, the same sarcasm he’d seen from his agent, the same cynicism he’d seen from another musician he’d toured with last fall. Those moments resonated in his mind, striking a vibrant, raw chord through the theater hall, along with the time when he overheard one of the other musicians call Franklin’s work “shit.”
“You don’t have a choice, Anna. Get your violin and get ready.”
“It’s called a fiddle!” she yelled. “And I’m not going out there.”
“Okay. Fine,” he said. He’d seen all of this before, he’d dealt with all of it before. The only difference was that kids were easier to negotiate with than adults. He continued: “Do you want me to go out on stage and tell everyone that you didn’t want to play, and so Richie is taking the spotlight? Hm?”
“No, no,” she started, “Just tell them that — ”
“Look — ” he interrupted, moving aside a curtain so they could both peer out over the bustling amphitheater. “See all those people? They paid to see you play with Richie and Sue and Hines.”
She fell silent for a moment — but just for a moment. Then she turned back to her violin and started tuning.
“If Richie would just grow up, none of this would be a problem,” she mumbled under her breath.
Franklin wanted to tell her “Things just get worse when you grow up,” but he knew better than that — the truth is no fun. It’s not encouraging, it’s not exciting, and it’s not what anybody needs to hear right before they walk onstage. He watched her walk into the spotlight, pull a broad smile across her face, and step up to the mic, right beside Richie.