Melody leaves her one-note Midwestern life behind to join a new orchestra forming in the Big Easy. She falls head over heels in love with the concertmaster, Phillip, but his past comes back to haunt them both as his former lover, Chelsea, tries manipulation and sabotage to tear them apart. They must navigate the competitive New Orleans musical world and their own desires to discover if they can make beautiful music together. Can they find a way to live in harmony, or will there be only discord?
A melancholy trumpet song filled the rooms of the shabby shotgun house. The music was as mournful as the air was damp, and a bead of sweat rolled down Melody Bell’s face. She paused, flipping her head to dislodge the droplet. It flew a few feet and splashed against an unpacked cardboard box. Melody continued to play. The audition was tomorrow. She’d settle in afterward.
She swayed as she coaxed the music from her instrument. She tapped her bare foot on the floor, and her fingers moved the valves as if the horn were an extension of her own body. More of her curly hair escaped its bun with every shake of her head, and as the music crescendoed and flowed, her hair grew wilder. Her eyes were closed, every cell in her body vibrating with the music. Her mind, however, was wandering. As it did, the music changed. It became faster, more clipped, angrier.
Moving to New Orleans had been a spur of the moment decision. She was twenty-three and hungry to prove herself, with the ink barely dry on her Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance. When she heard about the new jazz orchestra forming in New Orleans, she dropped everything.
Including Aaron. Especially him.
Her brow furrowed when she thought about Aaron. The trumpet squeaked a sharp, wrong note. He had never supported her studies, encouraging her instead to drop out of university, take some classes in a trade, and become something practical like a nurse’s aide.
“You can do music on the side, as a hobby,” he’d said.
The longer she studied, the crueler he became.
“What if you fail?” he’d asked. “What if you’re not good enough to make a living? Does that mean I just keep supporting us forever?”
The reality was he wasn’t supporting them. She had taken out student loans to cover her share of the rent, and his when he was late with it, which was often. She bought groceries and paid their bills, and he’d continually offer commentary on his contributions to the household, and how that made them even.
She paid the electricity bill. He made a homemade laundry detergent that made all of her clothes smell like they’d been left out in a vat of room-temperature butter. She paid rent. He bought a new PlayStation and gaming chairs. During the breakup, she mentioned the discrepancy in their financial contributions to the household, and he called her a haranguing bitch who used too much toilet paper.
Her stomach churned at the thought of their last fight. She’d tried to keep her composure but had let it slip just a little. Her boxes were already in the mail to New Orleans. She was leaving, and she was finished with Aaron.
“You think everything you do is so perfect, don’t you?” he had screamed at her.
“Don’t shout,” she’d said.
“I’m not shouting, you’ll know when I’m shouting!” he shouted.
“I won’t. I’m done with this.” She stormed toward the door.
He stepped in front of her, faster than he’d ever moved, fueled by the quickness of rage. He slammed a hand against the door.
“You don’t get to just leave!” he thundered. He gathered up a handful of her shirt in an angry fist. She was shocked at his sudden violence, afraid, and furious at him for being him and at herself for staying so long.
This is it. This is when I become a news clip about a woman killed by an enraged boyfriend.
She didn’t know where it’d come from. It was like her knee had a mind of its own. It shot out and connected with his groin. He dropped to the floor in pain, groaning and clutching himself.
“You don’t get to tell me what to do,” she’d said, icily, and walked out the door.
Her music floated through the air, taking a sudden mournful turn at the memory. She hadn’t meant to let things go on as long as they had, so long that they’d both started to hate each other and feel betrayed by everything the other did. They had been good together, once. Her heart broke all over again as she replayed their two years together. Canoeing on a lake, her squealing as he dripped cold lake water on her back. Playfully fighting over frozen yogurt. The impossibly long nights at the beginning of the relationship, when they stayed up too late talking about music theory, her favorite, and the strategy of first-person shooting games, his. They would sit, rapt, as the other talked until, at last, they fell into her bed, in love and completely wrong for each other.
Another bead of moisture made its way down her cheek. A tear this time.