Nocturne
Author:Andrea Randall & Charles Sheehan-Miles

Whatever.

 

I hadn’t seen much of him around campus since getting in, but, three years later, he was walking into Madeline White’s Music Theory class. With his cello case. He still had the same beard, though it was slightly shorter. It was well-groomed but made him look a bit older than the thirty-one years I knew he was. That was probably what he was going for. I read an interview with him once, in the BSO newsletter that was sent to my grandparents’ house every quarter, along with newsletters from the other four Big Five orchestras. The reporter asked him what he thought about being one of the youngest first-section cellists for the Pops. He shrugged it off, arguing that age and experience were trumped by hard work. His dark hair didn’t seem to have any grey in it, though I assumed that would change quickly if he never wiped the scowl off his face.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced unapologetically. “Unfortunately, Madeline White has had a personal emergency and will be out for the whole semester.”

 

Nathan leaned over and whispered in my ear, “And they couldn’t find someone else to fill in for her today but him?”

 

I shrugged. “We should call Madeline after class and see if she’s okay,” I whispered.

 

“I know. I really don’t want to have to find another instructor. I’ve worked with her forever.”

 

“Compassionate.” I smacked Nathan’s arm and shifted in my seat before I turned my eyes back to our new, attractive professor.

 

“So,” Fitzgerald continued, “I’ll be taking over this class.” A cacophony of complaints and cheers filled the class.

 

Christ.

 

Gregory Fitzgerald was a surprisingly divisive topic amongst students, given how little time he spent with the actual student body. Most of the population was in agreement about his ability; there was little you could do to argue that he was at the top of his field. And, most of the females seemed to be in agreement about his looks. As the guys around us began to frown at not getting to have class with the beautiful Madeline White this semester, the girls took on blushing grins, suddenly looking much more interested in music theory. His allure didn’t come exclusively from the clear blue of his eyes, but from the way they sought me out. Like prey, as he surveyed the field of students and targeted in on me.

 

Breathe.

 

The disagreements, however, began when we all tried to break down how it was he got there. He was known to spend twenty hours a day practicing before he made it to the Pops. Sure, that’s fairly typical, I guess. But, what wasn’t typical, were the rigorous hours he put in on a regular basis. Ten, fifteen hours every single day was the rumor, and it was only slightly less on performance days. Work, work, and more work was definitely his reputation, and my excitement about music theory this semester bottomed out in an instant.

 

“If you’re all quite finished and ready to act like the adults the government insists that you are, let’s get started.” He set his cello case on the floor by the podium and began the driest introduction to an upper level music theory class in the history of humanity. He didn’t even introduce himself. He didn’t have to, but that he knew he didn’t have to really got under my skin.

 

Nathan wrapped his arm around my shoulder once again. “Get comfortable, beautiful. It’s going to be a long-ass semester.”

 

By the end of the lecture I was watching the seconds tick by on the clock, certain it was slowing down on purpose. I bounced my knee anxiously as Gregory spent the lecture discussing why musicians should learn certain scales in certain orders, and how that translated into certain classical pieces. He stepped away from the podium and the students began to shift in their seats, collecting their bags, some standing up. He grabbed his cello and headed for a seat in front of the podium. I looked up at Nathan, and he just shrugged his lean shoulders and turned back to Gregory. Without addressing the class, without asking anyone to sit back down or be quiet, he started playing.