Contributor: Amy Pollard

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Adamson College would unravel. Nadine just knew it. Adamson College would unravel and she would be the first to go. Biting into her lunch, Nadine grimaced and wiped her lips with a napkin. Nothing would ever be right again. A sour, tangy mayonnaise ground against the edges of her teeth, already lathered with viscous mustard. The slimy, paper-thin lettuce smudged against the roof of her mouth, washed down her throat only by a long sip of thick, goopy root beer. Cheap concession stand, she groused, glancing around the plaza as she wiped her lips again.

Named after some heck-of-a-rich professor, Adamson Plaza attracted many visitors from outside of the university. Smiley, gray-haired couples would often stroll the grounds with their yappy toy dogs, restrained by a mere thread. Accountants from other offices often came during their lunch hours to sit and gaze at the fountain or, as Nadine was, to eat their deli sandwiches on one of the stone benches.
Nadine groaned. Birds squawked around the prim birdbaths by the gazebo, where ignorant little girls and boys were teasing them with crumbs. The workers at the concession stand were laughing amid the clatter of banging dishes. Stroller wheels clacked alongside black, bushy-tailed squirrels pitter-pattering as they scrounged for leftovers. A flicker of stress shot through Nadine as she felt the yellow string tied around her forefinger give a tug. Oh yes, she thought. How silly of me. The files, of course, the files! She had forgotten to put new labels on them. Nadine shuddered beneath her cobalt-blue skirt, cobalt-blue coat and cobalt-blue tie. Lifting her sticky bangs off her forehead, she paused and listened. Was that an e flat hurdling through the bushes? Yes—yes, of course, it was! Nadine sat up straighter and leaned forward. The note was coming from the open stage a block away—the same stage upon which she had performed elaborate cello pieces. A giddy, girlish excitement seized her. The unlabeled files and her sweaty work clothes faded to the back of her mind as she remembered her first-ever cello recital, at the old, torn-down middle school. The audience was silent and the auditorium lights were dimmed. The stage lights, however, breathed fire upon her stretched fingers as they jerked the bow across the strings. Nadine remembered her cello instructor, telling her exactly which strings to press and the precise angle at which she should hold the bow. Every pulse of the melody, every whine of the bow and every thump in her chest seemed to mix into one beautiful blur of depth and color, as she listened to the music from the open stage.

As the memories began to fade away, note by note, chord by chord, a bitter numbness struck Nadine’s chest. Her hand itched to grasp the cello bow again, to retrace its fragile dance across the delicate yet resilient strings. Her ears craved the harsh, metallic thump of the music stand and the persistent whining of the notes coming to life on the sheet. But most of all, her soul longed to feel the music, just once more, as it throbbed through her, scraping against the roof of her mouth in a cold rush of wine, gushing into her bloodstream like a fey, tingling caress and, finally, echoing the drum of her heart, fathomless and true. Nadine shifted on the bench as the stage music swelled in a wistful seventh, almost resolved, almost whole, blurring the squawks of the birds, the clatter of the concession stand, the clacking of the stroller wheels and the pitter-pattering of the squirrels into one melodious torrent. Nadine felt a sigh escaping her; there had never been music like this. Music that could merge soul and body as it extolled legatos and fermatas, and all of the eternity that notes on a scale had to offer. Brushing the crumbs off her clothes, Nadine rose to her feet. The stage was not far, only one block away. Surely she could go, if only for five minutes, and inhale the perfection of that music.

Crumpling up the remains of her sandwich, Nadine started forward only to stop and wince at the slight tug on her finger. Why, of course, the string. About the undo the knot and toss it in the garbage can along with the ruins of her lunch, she paused and frowned. The files…oh yes, the files. The files must be labeled. More than that, the checks must be compiled and organized and all the old receipts must be sorted and shredded. Otherwise, Adamson College would unravel. Nadine just knew it. Adamson College would unravel and she would be the first to go. Tossing her wadded-up lunch into the garbage can, she gulped and hurried out of the park.

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Amy Pollard is a poet, writer and student. She maintains a book review blog at Her poetry has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Emerge Literary Journal, Eunoia Review and The Copperfield Review.
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