Here we were, after weeks of practicing, weeks of rehearsals and weeks of late nights, we were here. ScreamSingSpeak the music competition taking New York by storm now stood facing us, completely daunting and intimidating.
'I'm not sure I can do this,' I gasped, getting a glimpse of the crowd from the side of the stage. I had never performed in front of so many before. My hands were clammy and it felt like I was going to drop the guitar at any moment, God knows how I was actually supposed to play it.
Ryder had his bass guitar clutched in his grip and Dinah's hand was shaking, her trembling fingers desperately grasping the microphone. It seemed we were all suffering from nerves.
'We'll be fine,' Dinah smiled. 'Okay? They're gonna love us.'
I wasn't sure if she was trying to comfort me or herself, but it wasn't doing anything.
'And now,' the man suddenly announced over the speakers. 'Three young artists new to ScreamSingSpeak will be performing next. Please give a warm welcome for Ryder, Dinah and Lexi!'
My legs refused to work, until Dinah shoved me in the back to get me going. I stumbled onto the stage in a daze, taking in the sea of expectant New Yorkers all staring up at us.
I took a seat beside Ryder, who was setting up his guitar, Dinah standing in front of us to form a triangle.
'I'm gonna fuck up,' I whispered under my breath. Ryder smiled encouragingly at me and Dinah crossed her fingers behind her back for us to see. This is it, the moment everyone was waiting for. The problem was, were we going to be any good?
My fingers began playing, plucking the strings in a way that formed a soft, gentle melody. I was playing to silence: no one had begun cheering or clapping or anything. I didn't let this put me off though. Keeping my eyes firmly attached to the guitar, I carried on, a mental note of the tabs still fresh in my mind. On her cue, Dinah began singing.
Her voice still blew me away even now. It was so powerful, so melodious that it really gave me goosebumps. The crowd had begun to stir and as I glanced up, I noticed each of their faces had turned to surprise, slowly dissolving into support and praise. This gave me the hope and optimism to carry on. We had created the melody to specifically complement an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar and Dinah's unique, distinctive voice, twining them together to create something powerful.
Upon Ryder's entrance with the bass, the applause began.
I finally tore my eyes away from my guitar, my fingers still deftly creating the tune we had agreed upon. I began to smile, even nodding along to the music. Dinah started swaying her hips slightly, the microphone had been taken off it's stand and brought closer towards her lips.
The feeling was exhilarating. It was like all of our hard work paid off. The crowd seemed to be enjoying it, we were enjoying it, everything was going smoothly.
The lead up to the big finish made me slightly nervous, but I carried on. If Dinah could pull this off, it was going to be phenomenal. Ryder stopped playing, seconds later I followed his lead, to allow Dinah's voice to break through. She paused, then belted out the final lyric to a deafening applause.
I rose, ecstatic that it had gone so well. We all held hands and took a bow, before leaving the stage.
'Ah!' I squealed excitedly. 'That went so well!'
Dinah gave me a massive hug before turning to Ryder.
'You two were amazing,' she said.
'Not as good as you! You have an incredible singing voice!'
'Well done love,' Ryder murmured. They began to kiss and I looked away. I started to head off down one of the corridors, to find a drink's machine or to just get a nice blast of fresh air when I heard my name called. I recognized the voice instantly and it made me freeze mid-step, my heart started palpitating and an uncontrollable blush surged straight to my cheeks.
I whirled round. 'Elijah.'
'I saw you playing,' he smiled, taking a step forwards.
'You did?' I fought to keep my voice completely steady. 'Were you in the crowd?'
'No actually, we're one of the competing acts,' he shrugged. 'We were first on the stage.'
'That's cool,' I replied, as indifferent as he was.
'Yeah, this is awkward.' He chuckled slightly. 'You were good yeah, but we've won four years in a row now. Somehow I just don't think you're going to come to any success. I guess it is what it is, eh?'
My mouth fell open at his cold, cruel words. How could I have ever thought I had feelings for this jerk?
'You're wrong Elijah,' I laughed. 'You think you're good, but I saw you playing in the park the other night and you're fucking terrible.'
'Ooh, I'm hurt,' he clutched his hand to his heart dramatically. 'Not as terrible as your sob story: Ooh my parent's died, I'm the little orphan with no family, no one to love me. I know, I'll run away to New York. Maybe I'll find hope there. How original. I've heard that a million times.'
I was stunned into silence, too shocked to even take offence at his words.
'Guess what sweetheart? You just weren't good enough,' he winked at me before sauntering off.
Without warning, hot tears had begun splashing down my cheeks. It felt as though he had just gotten a dagger and plunged it into my heart. It would have probably hurt less if he had. I stumbled along the corridor, trying to find Dinah and Ryder, wiping at my cheeks furiously. I ignored the churning of my stomach, the nauseating despair and painful memories of my parents flooding to the surface.
I wouldn't let him do this to me. I wouldn't.
I got back in time for the results to be announced. Dinah and Ryder were waiting for me and gasped when they saw me.
'What's wrong Lexi? You've been crying!'
'No I haven't,' I muttered. 'Let's go.'
I stormed onto the stage where the other contestants were waiting, a baffled Ryder and Dinah close behind me. I saw Elijah's smug, arrogant expression and it took all I had not to wipe that smirk off his face. I stood rooted to the spot, rigid and firm, with my head held high. It had gotten to the point where I didn't even care if we didn't win, just so long as he didn't either.
'It's been a tough competition. We've had new entrants,' the man gestured to us. 'And some returning,' gesturing to Elijah. 'But you've all been incredible. Unfortunately, we can only have one winner. '
Dinah grasped my hand tightly.
'The winner is....Lexi, Ryder and Dinah!'
It didn't register that they had called my name until I heard the sharp intake of breath from Dinah, the startled laugh from Ryder and the noise of disbelief that Elijah made.
'Is that us?' I blinked stupidly, much to everyone's amusement.
'Yes!' Dinah laughed, grabbing us both forward. 'Thank you so much everyone. We can't tell you how much this means to us!'
'Well you certainly seemed to be the public's favourite this year,' the man praised. 'Do you think you'll be entering next year, Lexi?'
He thrust the microphone in my face. I took in Dinah's massive grin, Ryder's look of relief and pure happiness and Elijah's glare of hate and anger. This was all I needed.
'Yes, yes we will.'
It is what it is - Lifehouse