Marisa’s eyes dart over to the refrigerator, where her empty calendar hangs, between the small cards she gets in the mail from the counselor’s office, reminding her of her appointments. She can’t bring herself to throw away any of those little cards; she might need them in the future so that she can remember the exact number of times she’s visited the counselor. She wrenches her mind away from her therapy sessions and glances at the calendar. Today—December 17th—is marked with a pink X. It’s marked, but it doesn’t actually say those dreaded three words. And it’s pink, because pink is only somewhat red, kind of like only committing to something halfway. She wrote it on there, with a pink, fine-tip Sharpie, only so that Jenn would think she was planning on coming. Jenn was the only human being who could convince Marisa to expend precious Sharpie ink on anything other than homework.
From inside the purse, Marisa’s phone vibrates. It makes an obnoxious buzzing noise, which Marisa hates, not only because these tiny interruptions of her thoughts throw off her nerves, but also because the buzzing represents the person on the other end of the phone. Someone is trying to get a hold of her. She wishes she’d just silenced it so that she could live on in happy oblivion without the guilt of ignoring someone who was trying to talk to her. Only slightly less jumpy, she grabs her phone and turns it over in her soft, untried hands. Jenn, it says. She isn’t sure why she’d wondered who was calling; her call history on her phone can only boast of Jenn and the counselor. The phone vibrates again. Jenn’s trying to call her. Which probably means that Jenn hasn’t forgotten that she’d invited Marisa to the recital.
Marisa remembers when Jenn started taking lessons. The parents had been far too busy to drop Jenn off at Ms. Miriam’s, so Marisa had driven her there. She remembered watching Jenn’s small hands excitedly flip through the pages of the piano book she had already chosen in hopes that she could learn to play some of them. Marisa knew the book was too advanced for Jenn, but she had not wanted to draw attention to something that would crush her sister’s hopes. Jenn had been singing all the Disney songs on the way to the teacher’s house; even though Marisa preferred to drive in silence, she knew how important it was to Jenn that she be allowed to belt out the songs of her favorite princes and princesses.
The first time Marisa had attended piano lessons, she had been in a far different state of mind than Jenn. She had not been able to speak a single syllable as the car cruised down the smalltown streets. Every time she wanted to ask a question—“Do you think it matters that I don’t know how to read notes?” “Is the teacher nice?” “Will other people be listening?”—she’d remembered that the parents didn’t take well to her nervous questionings. Their favorite remedy had been to send her to a therapist. So it took Marisa by surprise that not only was Marisa capable of staying sane in the middle of her anticipation of her first lesson, she was also uninhibited enough to ask, speak, and sing whatever popped into her mind.