Kacheeks Can Play Trumpet?
She closed her eyes and played from memory—her favorite part of the song. It rose and fell and dipped. She could almost see the notes lingering in the air long after she had held that last one. They danced on the lined staff, quivering in the stillness after she’d finished.
The yellow Kacheek smiled. She could coax the beautiful sound from her trumpet with the best in the school band, and practice wasn’t a chore but a joy. A slight rustling in the doorway made her look up from the complicated music that was blacker than it was white.
“Hi, Kenzie,” the red Kau said as she sat down on the cleanly made bed.
Kenzie acknowledged her sister with a nod and grin, and picked up her instrument again. Jazzy swing music filled the small room and the Kau swayed along.
“That’s great, Kenz. You’re really good.”
The Kacheek turned to her sister. “Thanks, Kami. You know, the concert’s next week and I have a dozen tests. I’m going to have to make band period a study hall and practice at home—so don’t be alarmed if I’m in here a lot.”
Kamillen nodded. “Okay, Kenz. I’ll tell Rita.” Rita was their overprotective owner who was quite an artist and liked art of any kind.
Kenzie agreed and turned back to her stand. With a smile that crinkled her eyes, she picked up her trumpet and began to play the rollicking melody outlined on her sheet music.
Rita was dabbing her brush in the ivory-colored paint for her moonrise painting when her Kau raced down the stairs. The girl could hear the faint strains of McKenzie practicing upstairs. She set down the brush carefully on her easel and looked at Kami.
“Kenz has a lot of tests next week, along with the concert, so she’s gonna have to make band a study period and practice at home,” the red pet panted.
Rita frowned disapprovingly. The Kacheek had been shut up in her room from the time she’d arrived home until now. Even more practice? That wasn’t healthy for a pet. She understood Kenzie’s ambitions, but enough was certainly enough. Time to stop her. She stood and called up the stairs. “Kenzie?” The distant notes cut off abruptly and a voice sounded down.
“Come down for dinner please, darling. I’ve got to talk to you about band,” Rita answered, going to set the table. A last sweet ending for the song was heard, then footsteps on the stairs. They all sat down and said grace.
Kami eyed the Spooky Food on her plate irritably. “Rita, didn’t you get me a Faerie Bubble Treat?”
Rita shook her concerns about Kenzie out of her mind. “Oh yes, Kami, I’m sorry. Here.” She switched the pets’ plates. Kenzie dug in without a care as to what she was eating, obviously replaying the solo in her mind.
“Kenzie,” Rita tried. The Kacheek began humming a particularly difficult part, insistent that she get it right.
“Kenzie. Neopia to Kenzie. Wake up.” Kami waved a hoof in front of her sister’s face.
“A. G. E. F. A. G. F. B. Go back to measure 41 and repeat,” Kenzie whispered, oblivious to her owner and sister’s talking.
“MCKENZIE!” Rita shouted angrily. Kenzie looked up, startled.
“Sorry, Rita. Did I space out?” she asked, sounding so innocent it was extremely angering. “Rita?”
Her owner had already stalked out of the room.
Five days later, Kenzie was practicing again. The notes she played now had a feverish, rushed quality that she hated—but the concert was two days away! She had to practice with all her might, long after she normally would have stopped, long after her lips felt sore from buzzing, long after her clock said nine-thirty pm NST. Nobody else was getting any sleep either.
“No!” she cried, frustrated. “Why can’t I get it right?” The Kacheek tossed her folder across the room. It hit the wall and slumped down in a heap. Wearily, she went over and picked it up. Kenzie set it back on her stand and resignedly sat in her chair. The music filled the room again—but it no longer brought Kenzie any happiness.
Kami slammed her pillow over her head with a violence that Rita might have scolded, if she hadn’t been in Kenzie’s room persuading her to stop playing. It was midnight. Nobody was sleeping, and the Kau had a pounding headache.
“No, I need to!” she could hear Kenzie yelling. “I’m not ready! The concert’s tomorrow! I need to practice!”
Rita’s nerves were probably frayed, same as Kami’s were. She heard her owner cross the hall to her own room and relaxed. Success—no more trumpet tonight—they would sleep and be well-rested for the famed concert and Kenzie’s tests she had to take—no more trumpet—
The all-too-familiar melody blasted furiously again from Kenzie’s room, defying the fact that anyone might actually want to sleep that night.
It was concert time, and the band filed neatly onto the stage. The lights above made Kenzie feel hot under her cute dress. Her trumpet was balanced on one knee, and she sat straight and tall. SHE was the soloist. SHE was the trumpet soloist.
Not even that knowledge could make her feel better.
The teacher, a sprightly Faerie Ruki, pulled her baton into the air and it wavered there, seemingly on edge, and then swooped down.
The jazzy number that had given Kenzie nightmares when she actually got sleep was next, after the short ten-minute intermission. She was out of breath. Half of the notes she had played were sour and wrong. The other half were late, early, right, or not played at all. Her lips hurt from the constant pressure of the mouthpiece.
“Don’t press,” she could hear the teacher repeating as she did often. “Don’t press on your mouthpiece. That is one sure way to mess up your teeth and mouth.”
Now the Ruki came up to Kenzie. “Dear, are you okay? You don’t seem well. We could give Josh the solo—” The Fire Blumaroo behind her snickered and gave Kenzie the thumbs-up. ‘Ha-ha!’ Josh was mouthing. ‘Ha! Kacheeks can’t play trumpet!’
Kenzie’s pride warred with her hurting body. Malice won. “Josh can play it. If he can, that is,” she said sweetly. Josh hadn't practiced the solo at all, and she made it look so easy. Josh had next to no chance of getting it perfect or even passable. The Blumaroo looked as surprised as she felt.
“All right, dear. Josh—where are you?—here’s the music. Remember, you stand up and face the crowd. Count two beats. That’s one, two—and then begin to play, one two play. One two play. Silence silence play,” the Ruki lectured the new soloist. Kenzie felt slightly sick to her stomach. Had she really just given Josh that impossible solo? Too late, intermission was over and the concert continued.
The notes of the band swirled and faded away to almost nothing. The bells of the trumpets were practically touching the stands in an effort to be quiet. They stopped and all counted in their heads—one. Two—as Josh stood up and held his trumpet straight out.
The melody that had haunted Kenzie for days echoed haltingly from Josh’s trumpet. Notes jumbled... crashed... it wasn’t at all the solo that was written there.
Kenzie felt devastated. She shouldn’t have given him the solo! Well, she was going to be a friend now, if she hadn’t been one earlier. She stood up. Josh’s eyes glanced briefly from the mangled song he was playing to her in surprise. She lifted her trumpet—
The two trumpeters sounded out the solo perfectly and it went over great with the audience. Some of them began yelling for an encore, but Josh and Kenzie shook their heads, panting hard. The concert was over for them. No more.
“Hey, Kenzie—” The Blumaroo excused himself from his friends and dashed over to the Faerie Kacheek. “You like your new color?” he asked, indicating her newfound wings.
Kenzie smiled. “Yeah. Someone sent us a Faerie paint brush and I got painted instead of Kami. She wants to be starry, and Rita’s saving up for her.”
Josh grinned and nodded. “I've got to go. My friends are yelling. See ya around.”
“Kay, see ya,” Kenzie said to his retreating back. She smiled as he loped away. “Well that solves one problem,” she murmured. “Now I know who sent the paint brush.”
To all my fellow trumpet players! YOU ROCK! *cheers* Dedicated to all true friends in the world. You know who you are.