The Call Of The City – Episode 48

Allison Hay © Meg joins her sister and daughter in New York Illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

The concert hall was full of milling people as Grace took a programme and found her seat. She felt tense for all sorts of reasons, not least her aunt’s surgery the next morning.

Grace had left the room while her mum and aunt had their tearful reunion, but she’d heard enough to know that wounds were starting to heal.

That was wonderful. But the uncertainty of tomorrow made everything feel precarious.

As for this concert, and Lewis, Grace half-wondered why she was here at all.

She had barely seen him in the last two weeks, and when she had, he’d been distracted and distant, barely meeting her eye.

That had hurt more than anything. It felt as if their friendship was slipping away.

She’d texted Lewis a few hours ago, to wish him well for the concert, and he hadn’t bothered to reply.

Grace wondered what would happen after tonight, when the concert was finished. Would Lewis go off with his new friends?

More than once she’d seen him in the distance, walking into one lecture or another with someone she didn’t know at his side.

Once, he caught her eye and smiled apologetically, but that had smarted, too. It was as if he was dumping her though they weren’t even dating.

That possibility felt more remote than ever. All Grace wanted was to be his friend, but Lewis didn’t seem to care about that any more, either.

The lights dimmed and people settled into their seats.

The organiser of the concert gave a flowery speech about the hard work and natural talent of everyone involved.

Then the music began, and Grace lost herself to it. The soaring notes and melodies carried her away from her worries and fears for a little while.

When Lewis had his solo she held her breath, wanting him to do well even if it distanced him further from her.

He hit every note with perfection and she sat back in her seat with a sigh of relief as well as a pang of sorrow.

Would this mean the end of their friendship, or had it already ended?

The concert finished an hour later. Grace hung back, unsure whether she was brave enough to go backstage and congratulate Lewis.

A few weeks ago she would have done so unthinkingly, but so much had changed in such a short time.

She glanced down at the bouquet of tulips she’d bought, which now seemed silly. Who gave a bloke flowers?

But it was his first solo performance, and she’d wanted to give him something. Now, however, she was tempted simply to sneak away.

Grace watched a group of second-years head backstage to congratulate one of their friends.

No, she couldn’t leave without seeing Lewis and congratulating him.

Squaring her shoulders, she headed towards the backstage area.

The small space was thronged with people, the air full of excited chatter as Grace edged her way through the crowd, clutching her tulips and looking for Lewis.

She found him in a corner, and her heart sank as she saw he was surrounded by his new friends.

Taking a deep breath, she started forward.

“Lewis, hi.”

He didn’t hear her, so she cleared her throat and tried again, louder this time.

“Lewis! Congratulations.”

The conversation broke off as he saw her.

“Grace, hi. Thanks so much for coming.”

She thrust the tulips at him, embarrassed, and he took them, surprised.

“You didn’t have to…”

The second-year student, Helena, who had first approached him in the coffee shop, smirked and rolled her eyes at another person in the group.

Grace’s face burned. Lewis was looking as if he didn’t know what to do with the flowers. She wished she hadn’t come.

“Anyway,” she said, speaking quickly, “I just wanted to say well done. Your solo was amazing.”

“Thanks.” Lewis smiled awkwardly, and she realised he was waiting for her to leave.

“Lewis, are you coming out with us later?” Helena’s pointed tone made it clear Grace wasn’t included in this invitation.

“Um, in a minute.” He gave Grace a look of apology. “Thanks for coming.”

“No problem.”

Not trusting herself to say more, Grace turned and walked blindly out of the backstage area.

She didn’t know where she was going, only that she needed to escape.

Tears filmed her eyes as she walked through the concert hall and then back outside into a cold, crisp evening.

She blinked hard, willing the tears to recede.

Lewis wasn’t worth it. She hated that thought, but his actions had shown her what he was really like.

When it came to being a good friend or being with the cool crowd, he’d chosen the latter.

She wished that didn’t hurt so much.

To be continued…

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.