Playing Second Fiddle
by Cynthia Trapp
"Does this look familiar?" Maya shoved a piece of paper into my face as I sat down to eat lunch.
My heart pounded when I recognized my own handwriting. "Where did you get this?"
"You tell me." Her voice shook. "Everyone else saw it before I did. Thanks a lot, Amy. I'm the laughing stock of camp!" Maya's brown eyes were puffy. "How could you write that about me? I thought you were my friend!"
Her angry voice drew everyone's attention in the crowded cafeteria. The noise level suddenly dropped. My face burst into flame. "I am! I didn't think anybody would see it. That was before..."
"Just never mind." She flung her thick dark curls over her shoulder and spun around to leave.
"Maya, wait! I can explain. Please. Walk with me to rehearsal," I pleaded. I tried to ignore the eyes I felt from every direction.
She stopped. "Meet me outside," she said without turning around.
Maya's friend Heather followed her out, but gave me a sympathetic look as she went by. At lest she didn't hate me too.
Maya wore dark shades, probably as much to hide her eyes as to block out the sun. She was tapping her hand impatiently on her violin case when I walked up. We followed a winding trail through the nearby pine woods.
I finally broke the silence. "I am so sorry! The first couple of days I wrote a lot in my journal about camp: the food, the music, all the people I met." I swatted a mosquito on my leg. "And when I met you, the first thing I noticed was how pretty you are. You saw that part too, right?"
Maya hesitated. "Yeah."
"The second thing I noticed was your laugh. It really is loud."
Maya glared at me.
I added quickly, "But I never should have written that you sound like a hyena. It's not true. Now that I know you, I don't even notice your laugh anymore. That night I was tired and it just seemed like something funny to write." I glanced sideways at her as we walked. "I never meant for anyone else to read it."
"Obviously," she said coldly.
We stopped while two boys carrying French horns passed us.
Maya set down her case to adjust her barrette. "So you wrote that the first day we met?" she asked.
I nodded. I shifted my case to my left hand and wiped my other palm on my shorts. "I've been too busy to write since then, or I'd have said what a good friend you are. And that I'm glad we're stand partners." We started walking again.
Maya sighed. "I guess I can understand. I was just so humiliated. People laughing at me, calling me Hyena Girl. I had no idea what they were talking about until I saw that page posted on the bulletin board before lunch. And then to find out you wrote it..."
I felt horrible. "I'm sorry, Maya. I would never want to embarrass you."
"I know. Let's just forget about it. Besides, at first I thought you were a real snob."
"And I was obviously wrong." She smiled.
"Yeah, well, so much for first impressions," I muttered. I watched a blue jay swoop across our path.
"Did you really mean it when you called me pretty?" Maya looked at me hopefully.
I rolled my eyes. "Are you kidding? I wish I looked like you!"
She put her arm around my shoulder. "Thanks."
I was relieved that Maya and I had made up. But the question remained of who wanted to cause me trouble.
That night I locked my suitcase and hid the key when no one was looking. Heather, who slept two bunks over, sat down as I got ready for bed. "I saw you and Maya talking at rehearsal. It looks like she finally cooled off."
"Yeah. It was a big misunderstanding, but we worked it out. Everything's fine now."
Heather lowered her voice. "So, do you have any idea who stole the page from your journal?"
I looked around before I answered. "No, but I'd love to find out. You haven't seen anyone snooping around my stuff, have you?"
Heather shook her head. "No, but I'll keep an eye out for you." She got up, but didn't walk away. "Amy," she said, "there's something I think you should know."
"What's that?" I leaned back, worn out with the day’s stress.
She looked down at me with pity. "Maya's jealous of you."
"Jealous? Why?" I couldn't even imagine.
"She thinks you're a real snob and that you don't deserve first chair." Heather's green eyes flashed as she spoke. "She said she's going to challenge and take it away from you, because she's the best violin player here."
No, Heather must have it wrong. "When did she say this?"
"Yesterday." There was no hesitation.
"Are you sure?" I asked with a dry mouth as my nerves kicked in. I thought I knew Maya better than that.
Heather laid her hand on my shoulder. "I like Maya too, but I don't want to see you hurt. Promise me you won't say anything. I wasn't supposed to tell you. "
My stomach knotted up. Around me the other girls chatted happily, but I just wanted to hide. I crawled into bed and waited for lights out, grateful that Maya stayed in a different cabin.
Mist still blanketed the pine forest as I made my way to morning rehearsal. I knew going to breakfast had been a mistake. When Maya waved me over I froze and pretended like I couldn't see her. It was lame, but I wasn't ready to face her yet.
A mourning dove called sadly from the branches above. I rounded a corner of the trail and stopped cold. Maya and Heather stood just a few yards ahead. Luckily my footsteps were muffled by the carpet of needles, so I ducked behind a tree before they saw me.
"I can't figure out why Amy avoided me at breakfast. There's no way she didn't see me waving," Maya said while she tied her shoes.
Heather shrugged and pulled her blonde mane into a pony tail. "I told you she was stuck up. You're better off without her if she's going to treat you that way. Besides, I heard her say she's a better player than you are, and we both know that's not true."
Suddenly the situation crystallized. I stepped out from behind the tree, sweating despite the chilly air. Adrenaline made my voice strong. "Funny, Heather, I don't recall that conversation. Can you tell me when I said that?"
They both turned in surprise, and Heather's smirk disappeared. "Amy!" was all she managed to say.
I looked Maya directly in the eyes. "Maya, she's lying to you. I never said that."
Before Maya could speak, Heather scolded me. "Amy, you've caused Maya enough trouble. Why don't you just leave her alone?"
Ignoring her, I asked Maya for an answer I already knew. "Did you really say you're going to take first chair from me because you're the best player and I don't deserve it?"
"No I did not!" Maya's face flushed.
We both glared at Heather, who wilted right in front of us. The color drained from her face, and she shook as her voice rose. "Y-you two have it all!" she stammered. "Top chairs, laughing together all the time...so perfect. I wanted to be part of it too." Tears welled up in her eyes and she fled toward the cabins.
Maya and I stood gaping for a minute, then gave each other a big hug. "I'm so glad that's over with," I said, feeling weak after the adrenaline rush.
"Now we know who stole your journal." Maya shook her head sadly. "She really had me fooled."
"Me too, but I don't think she'll give us any more trouble," I said. "Come on, Hyena Girl, we'd better get to rehearsal."
Maya giggled. "Okay, Miss Stuck-up Snob, let's go."