I've always loved to sing solos
Hearing my voice soar over the music, the rush of adrenaline when I hit the highest note
The only problem?
As soon as I got in front of people, I'd forget how to breathe
My throat would close up, I'd choke on the words
So I sang in secret
In my bedroom, the shower, empty hallways
My mom always told me I had talent, and I should use it
But its impossible to sing when you can't breathe
When I entered high school, I joined the choir
My mom was satisfied that I was finally performing
But I was only mouthing the words
One day, choir practice ended early
We'd been rehearsing after school for our upcoming concert
I stayed behind to practice
Sitting in a practice room, I blasted music
I started to sing, allowing my voice to fly out and fill the empty room
I belted through the final verse, ending triumphantly
The music ended, and I stood in the silence, breathing hard
All of a sudden, I heard applause from behind me
My heart dropped, and I turned around
It was a girl from my choir-Emily
Emily had the most gorgeous voice I'd ever heard
(and it matched the gorgeous rest of her)
She always got the solos
I'd always envied her
"That was amazing" she said "I didn't know that you could sing like that! You have to audition for the next solo, you'll get it for sure!"
"What?" I said
She nodded encouragingly at me
"No, I don't do solos." I said firmly, gathering my things in an attempt to flee
"Why? Too good for school choir?" She asked, clearly offended
'Shoot, I didn't mean that' I thought
I would've loved to do a solo
I just couldn't
"No, I-" I tried, but she was already pissed
"I know choir isn't exactly cool, but I thought you were different that all those-" she started off
I finally got a word in, yelling "WAIT!"
She paused, finally listening
"It's not that I don't want to, I just can't." I explained
She tilted her head, confused
"What do you mean?" She asked me
"I get- I can't breathe, when there's people there. Looking at me. I just can't." I said, defeated
Now Emily knew how much of a loser I was
I looked down at my feet
"Hey," She said quietly, stepping closer "Stage fright isn't anything to be embarrassed about. Of course you'll be scared. I always am."
"You?" I asked, incredulous
"Yes, silly. I always get nervous. I just work through it." She explained
"How? Could you help me?" I blurted out before thinking
What was I doing? I knew I couldn't sing in front of my MOM, much less this gorgeous, talented girl or an entire audience at a concert
"Nevermind-" I tried to backtrack, but Emily was having none of it.
"Nope, you asked for my help and you're going to get it. Meet me here tomorrow at five, after practice?" She asked
I wanted to say no
But the look in her eyes pulled a hesitant "Okay" from my lips
She broke into a smile that made butterflies flutter into my stomach, before squeezing my hand and running out the door
Throwing a "See you tomorrow!" behind her
I just stood there, shell shocked-My hand tingled where she'd touched me
I was in deep trouble
The next day, Emily was already there when I arrived
"Chloe! Come in, I set up some stuff." She squeeled
She picked up her MP3 player, selecting a song I knew by heart
"Ever listen to Wicked?" She asked me
"Obviously." I replied, almost insulted
"Okay, here's what we're going to do. First, I'm going to put on these noise-cancelling earmuffs and close my eyes.
Then, we'll sing the song together, only I can't hear or see you, so it'll be basically like you're singing alone, okay?" She rambled off instructions, obviously excited
I was pleasantly surprised by how easy that sounded
Had I been nervous for nothing?
I nodded at her
"And if you can't breathe, or need to stop, just tap my hand, okay?" She asked
I was touched
She really wanted this to work and me to be comfortable
"Okay" I breathed
She started the music, put on her earmuffs, and closed her eyes.
I took a deep breath
It still wasn't easy to breathe, but I managed
She started to sing
After a brief hesitation, I joined in
By the chorus, I was full on belting, and, much to my surprise, enjoying myself
Emily was true to her word and kept her eyes closed and earmuffs on the whole time.
When the music ended, I tapped her knee, lightly
She opened her eyes, smiling at me
"Not so bad, huh?" She asked
I just nodded, blushing lightly
We kept working every day after school
Eventually, I got to the point where I could let her open her eyes
"Chloe, do you think you could sing with me listening today?" She asked
My first instinct was to say no
It sounded terrifying
But her eyes looked so hopeful
So I caved
The first time she started the music, I choked on air
But she put a soothing hand on my back, and whispered "take your time"
So I did
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and sang
It felt wonderful
When I finished, Emily pulled me into a tight hug
We were both giggling, ecstatic
The giddy atmosphere must have done something weird to my brain, because as she looked into my eyes, beaming
I learned forward
And kissed her
As soon as I realized what I was doing, I jumped back as if I'd been burned
And ran out of the room without another word
Alone in my room, I curled up in bed, furious with myself
Why did I have to ruin things?
We'd gotten to be such good friends
Between singing and laughing together, I finally felt like someone understood me
And then I had to go and ruin it?
What was WRONG with me?
Emily probably hated me.
I avoided her for two weeks
She left me a couple voicemails, but I deleted them before listening to them
It'd hurt too bad to hear her reject me
I'd rather not know what she thought
Besides, if she felt the same way, she would have just talked to me
Two days before the solo auditions for the next concert-I found a slip of paper in my locker
It read, 'I had signed you up for the solo auditions before you started avoiding me. If you don't want to audition, just tell Mrs. Connor. If you do, I'm still willing to help you.
Either way, just please, talk to me. -Em'
I was floored
Emily wasn't mad at me?
As soon as I got home from school, I grabbed the landline and ran up to my room.
I sat on my bed, dialed the number I knew by heart
As soon as I heard the first ring, my throat closed up
I couldn't breathe
"Hello?" I heard a breathless voice answer
I tried to say something, anything, but the words wouldn't come out
"Clo? Is that you?" She asked
I tried to say 'yes', but only a squeak came out
"It's okay, it's okay, try to breathe. That's it, deep breath in, hold it, out. There we go." She coached me
It felt so familiar
I'm such an idiot-she wasn't mad at me, she was confused
"Hi Em" I finally got out "I'm sorry."
"It's okay dummy." She laughed, then caught herself. "Chloe, what happened? Why did you run away?"
"Isn't it obvious?" I asked. "I was embarrassed. And worried I ruined our friendship."
"Did you listen to any of my messages?" She asked, sounding confused
"...no?" I answered, hesitantly
"You're such a wimp. Here." She pressed a button and her recording clicked on
"Hey Clo... Okay, so I didn't really expect what happened to happen, but I'm confused why you ran away. Do you not like me like that? Because I... I like you like that. I think-
-I don't know, I'm confused-
-Just talk to me, please? I want to figure this out. You're my best friend, and nothing will change that. Oh, it's Em by the way. Emily. In case you forgot. Bye."
"Em, I'm so sorry-" I started to explain, but burst into tears before I could finish
"Shh, shh it's okay, don't cry, it's okay." Emily soothed, trying to reassure me
"Y-you l-like m-me?" I finally sobbed out, and she broke into a beautiful laugh
"YES, of course I do." She answered, starting to cry a little too
We talked for the next three hours
Three hours filled with much laughter and occasional tears
Before her mom yelled that she had to come down for dinner
"Wait, Em, before you go-" I started
"Of course I'll help you with the audition." She inturrupted
I giggled, "thanks, but that's not what I was going to say."
"What then?" She asked, sounding confused.
"Will you-" I almost stopped breathing again, but remembered the feeling of her hand on my back, encouraging me, and continued, "-will you be my girlfriend?"
She gasped at my question
But didn't hesitate before blurting "Yes!"
The call disconnected before I could say anything else
But I don't know that I could've formed words with how huge the smile on my face was
It was the day of the audition
Emily and I had been practicing nonstop
(With only a couple kissing breaks)
Okay, maybe more than a couple
But it was finally time
Three other girls went first
Finally, Mrs. Connor called "Chloe?"
I stood up, hands shaking
Emily squeezed my hand before dropping it so I could walk to the front of the class
I turned around and looked into her eyes, just like we'd practiced
As the music started, she mouthed "breathe" at me
I smiled a tiny smile, and nodded
And, looking deep into her eyes, I started to sing
She mouthed the words right along with me
I started off a little shaky
But when I got to the crescendo, my voice was strong and confident
Emily beamed at me as I finished the solo
The whole class began to clap, and Mrs. Connor looked stunned
I don't think she actually thought I could sing
That night, Emily slept over at my house
We spent the whole night cuddled together, waiting for the phone to ring
The next morning, I got the call
I got the solo
She hugged me tight, peppered me with kisses
And I felt like I could conquer the world
To this day, whenever I'm on stage
Which is a lot, considering I'm a professional singer
I always have to start a song by staring straight into my wife's eyes
And she always mouths "remember to breathe"
And with Emily by my side, I always do
Because even if I'm singing a solo, it always feels like a duet