My hands were cold and clammy, clenched in tight fists at my side. I hastily wiped them on the hem of my dress as my eyes darted around the room, searching for familiar faces. I brushed a stray wisp of hair out of my face and touched the tight spiral of my bun one last time, making sure that everything was in place.
"I'm so nervous," the girl next to me whispered, breath tickling my ear as she leaned in. "I hope we don't mess up!"
Ditto, I thought, but my mouth wouldn't make the words. My lips were dry. I licked them once, then looked at the stage in front of me. Breathe, Sam, I reminded myself. Relax.
Then it was time.
The group of us stood, fifteen girls, all in black. The air seemed to be getting hotter by the moment as we climbed the stairs to the stage. Our harps seemed to loom over us, imposing and seemingly impossible.
I sat down on my bench, swallowing hard as the conductor smiled at us.
"It's shine time," she mouthed, and we all nodded.
Fingers on strings. Thumbs high, fourth finger low. Scan your music, then look back at the conductor. Wait for her to give you two measures, and then... go.
Suddenly, the tension within me was gone. My hands were no longer clammy or cold. My dress was not itchy or uncomfortable. My hair didn't bother me anymore. My heart was pounding, faster and faster to the pulse of the song.
The eerie melody of the piece drifted over the audience, and they went silent.
I let the music carry me, let the song's voice be my wings. I poured my emotions into the song, feeling the swell of the notes, rising to a single chord that pierced the air. My fingers were flying now, positively dancing over the strings as I plucked and strummed. The crescendo was still going, notes fluttering higher and higher as the conductor's baton weaved out of the corner of my eye.
A single note, high and clear, rang from all fifteen harps. The baton lowered as the note drifted away.