I hadn’t liked Lincoln Atherton when we were kids, and I liked him even less now. I avoided him as much as I could, which was pretty easy since we didn’t have many classes together. It was impossible in music classes, however. We were both in Honor Choir, Swing Choir, and Band. As much as I hated to admit it, Lincoln was very talented musically. He had a strong tenor voice which contributed to him getting many solos. Much to my chagrin, we were often picked by our music teacher, Mrs. Chapman, to sing duets together because our voices blended very nicely. I was a strong soprano, so we were evenly matched. I was a pretty decent flutist, and Lincoln could play the saxophone expertly. Since both of us played the piano and guitar, that was also another avenue for us to be thrown together.
Before Band would officially start, Lincoln would show off with his saxophone, doing flamboyant moves while playing “Baker Street” as if he were going the concert of his life. He’d really ham it up on the piano before choir rehearsals began. Most of the girls would be crowded around the piano making eyes at him as he crooned some cheesy love song. He’d give them flirtatious winks and smoldering smiles that made them preen and simper. Lincoln was a pompous ass and I found the entire display disgusting.
Lincoln was very good-looking, and most of the girls thought of him as their ideal dream date. He excelled in athletics and music, and he had this charming quality that sent most members of the female species into worship mode. It seemed that I was the only one immune to his antics, which didn’t bother me in the least.
One day, Mrs. Chapman told the Swing Choir that we would be putting on a 70’s and 80’s show, featuring songs and choreography from that era. She selected a few key people to sing solos and duets. I stifled a groan when she looked right at Lincoln and me and said she wanted us to perform “Endless Love.” My jaw literally hit the floor. Sure, it was inevitable that Lincoln and I would be singing together, but “Endless Love”? The very thought of it was hideous. Apparently, Lincoln didn’t share my opinion. It was the exact opposite, in fact. He got this wicked gleam in his eye while I pretended to barf on the floor. What really irked me was when he started calling me Diana and wanted me to call him Lionel. I flipped him El Birdo, which got me a detention. Lincoln got off scot free. Mrs. Chapman wasn’t amused, and I was seething.
I had no choice but to suck it up. Mrs. Chapman held extra practices and worked individually with each act. it didn’t take long for Lincoln and me to learn the song, and we were technically spot on. It was a beautiful song with deep meaning, but Lincoln and I weren’t feeling it. During the times when tension was the highest, Lincoln would make jokes, which made Mrs. Chapman laugh. I’d just shoot him filthy looks and roll my eyes. I was going to be a laughingstock thanks to Lincoln Atherton, who obviously didn’t care one iota about the show or how well or badly we’d do.
It all came to a head one day. My temper was short because I’d pulled a late night study session for a big exam I’d had. I was exhausted and wanted to skip the practice and go straight to bed. However, the show was only a week away, and Mrs. Chapman wasn’t happy with the lack of progress on our song. She commented on the lackluster job that mainly I was doing, which irritated me. She never harped on Lincoln for goofing off, but she sure had a lot to say about my so-called lack of emotion. After what seemed like the umpteenth time going through the song and Mrs. Chapman’s critiques, I growled low in my throat, stamped my foot, and banged my fist on top of the piano. I was thoroughly enraged and ready to throw an all-out tantrum. “With all due respect, Mrs. Chapman, this isn’t going to work. You were barking up the wrong tree when you chose this…this…” I glared at Lincoln, who, by now, looked quite perplexed. I took a calming breath and continued. “I can’t do this with him. He doesn’t care, he clowns around all the time, and you’re like all the other women who fall in love with him. You blame me all the time when it goes south, but he is always a saint.” To my horror, tears filled my eyes, and I blinked furiously to try to keep them at bay. I turned my back so I wouldn’t have to look at either of them.
I felt Mrs. Chapman’s eyes boring into the back of my head, and both she and Lincoln were silent a long time. Finally, she spoke softly. “Lincoln, would you excuse us a moment, please? I’d like to speak with Lenora alone.”
“Yeah, sure,” Lincoln said. I didn’t need to use my empathic senses to realize that Lincoln sounded bewildered. When the door clicked closed, Mrs. Chapman got up from her seat and put a caring hand on my shoulder. I wanted to shrug it away, but I couldn’t. I respected Mrs. Chapman very much and I hated to be a disappointment to her, but I was certain in this instance she was wrong.
“Lenora, talk to me,” she said in her soft voice. “We’ve been friends a long time, and this isn’t like you. I chose this song especially for you and Lincoln because the two of you are two of my best singers. I thought for sure you’d knock it out of the ballpark, but you don’t seem to care. Is everything OK at home?”
“Everything’s fine,” I squeaked. One tear escaped each eye and rolled down my cheeks. “I love the song. I really do. It’s just…why him of all people? You know he doesn’t care. He thinks this is all just some big joke. How can I sing such a meaningful song with someone I loathe and who hates me in return?”
To my surprise, Mrs. Chapman chuckled. “This is where you’re wrong, Lenora. Lincoln does care, and he is far from hating you. He’s enjoying himself and wants you to do the same. Another thing, he likes you more than you know.”
“Oh, right,” I mumbled and sniffed.
“In time, you’ll see I’m right,” she said serenely. “Now, I can sit here and lecture both of you all day, but I know anything I say won’t put this into perspective. You both are going to have to find a way of working this out or neither of you will be happy with the performance you’ll give. I’m ending this session early, and I want you to think about what I’ve said.”
I just shrugged and bolted out the door. I didn’t even realize I’d forgotten my bag as I ran down the hall toward an empty practice room. What I needed now was to play some hard-core Rachmaninoff to work out my frustrations. I slammed the door and got right to work. If that poor piano I was attacking was capable of sensation, it would have been groaning and sobbing under my brutal pounding.
I was really going at it when I was rudely interrupted by someone knocking on the door. I stopped playing and let out a maniacal long scream. Dammit! Why couldn’t I be left in peace?
The door opened, revealing the last person I wanted to see. I snarled at Lincoln and spoke through gritted teeth. “What the hell do you want?”
“You forgot your bag,” he said in his easy-going voice. He smiled at me as he set it down on the floor. Then, he cleared his throat and spoke slowly. “Look, Lenora, Mrs. Chapman says we have to figure out why this song isn’t coming together for us. We know it, and we can sing it in our sleep, but it’s missing something.” He closed the door, flopped into a chair, and stretched his long legs out before him.
“What it’s missing is two people who are in love to sing it. She’s a complete head case if she thinks we can pull this off,” I snapped. “Just go away, Atherton. The less I see of you, the better.”
Lincoln shrugged and rubbed his hand on the back of his neck. “I don’t know what I’ve done to piss you off and I’d like to find that out sometime. The bottom line is, we have a show in a week, and we suck. I’m trying, but you…”
“I what?” I challenged.
“You’ve got a cob stuck up your backside about me for some reason, and it’s getting in the way of what we’re supposed to do.” He got up from the chair, his height stretching above me in lordly fashion.
By then, i was on my feet, my hands planted on my hips. “Of all the nerve!” I yelled. “You’re not trying at all. You don’t give a damn, and you do everything in your power to irritate me.”
“Princess, it doesn’t take much to irritate you. You’re just an ill-tempered prima donna witch who wants it all her way. You’re too busy sulking to figure out you’re not the only one involved here.”
I swore fluently in Gaelic and then got right up in his face. “How dare you speak to me that way! You’re an ignorant attention-seeking jerk who flaunts his money so he can get any girl he wants to in bed! Oh, I could just…just…” What I wanted to do was turn him into a toad, but then, the spell wouldn’t last long because there would be a whole gaggle of princess wannabes who’d grovel at the chance to kiss him. Where was the justice? It sure wasn’t on my side.
“I dare to speak that way because it’s the truth. You’re so busy finding every reason to hate me that you can’t see past it. I didn’t hate you before, but I’m finding reasons to now.”
“Of course you hated me. You always have. You attacked me on the playground when we were kids, you called me names like egghead and taunted me about you being rich. Then, you start calling me Diana when we’re supposed to be serious about whipping this song into shape. You’re immature, irresponsible, and stupid.” I could all but feel the steam comin out of my ears, I was so mad.
“I may be many things,” Lincoln said, glaring at me, “but I’m not irresponsible or immature. I might not be as smart as you, and the reason I started calling you Diana was because it was my way of trying to get deeply into the song. And if memory serves me correctly, you attacked me on the playground.”
“Because you were calling me names!” I shot back.
“We were kids, for God’s sake. Kids always call each other names but hardly ever mean it past the moment it happens. I can’t believe you’re still holding a grudge about that after all this time.”
Well, he did have a point. I did start the fight and I hated that he ended up getting the better of me at it. To know I was being unfair made me even madder. “Well, still. It wasn’t nice, and I still say you’re an irresponsible playboy of a jerk. Now, I have nothing more to say to you. I’m getting out of here, and you can find yourself another partner, Lionel.” I went to the door and tried to turn the knob, but it was stuck. I turned it rapidly from left to right, but it remained stuck. “Hey, what the…?”
Lincoln came to stand beside me and tried unsuccessfully to open the door. I cocked an eyebrw at him when he riffled through his bag and took out a bobby pin. “From your latest amor?” I drawled sarcastically.
Lincoln curled his bottom lip at me in a look of unmistakable distaste. “Naw. It makes a great toothpick.”
“That’s disgusting,” I grunted, wrinkling my nose.
“Maybe so, maybe no, but I’m going to use it to pick this lock,” Lincoln said.
I fixed him with a long, doubtful look and crossed my arms over my chest. I stood there, fidgeting from one foot to the other while Lincoln made grinding noises with the bobby pin. I prayed he knew what he was doing for once, but when he muttered, “Shit!” I took that as an ominous sign.
“What? What?!” I demanded, my head whipping around to glare daggers at him.
“The damned thing broke off in the lock. Looks like we’re stuck,” he said matter-of-factly.
Panic rose within me, and I shook my head. “No, we can’t be. We’ve got to get out of here!” I shook the knob furiously in a futile attempt to jar the broken pin loose. I whimpered in both disgust and panic, then pounded on the door. There was no possible way I could be stuck in here, especially with Lincoln Atherton. I started to scream as I yanked on the knob and pounded on the door at the same time. “Someone, let me out of here! Oh, please, someone help me! Let me out of here! Let me out of here!”
Lincoln snaked an arm around my waist and dragged me away from the door. “Hey, take it easy! We’ll get out of here. It’ll just take a while, that’s all. Don’t be scared.”
“My worst nightmare becomes a reality,” I said helplessly. My shoulders shook with sobs, and I sagged in defeat against him. I was defeated and exhausted, and I was in the midst of a massive pity party.
Author’s Note – There is a real Mrs. Chapman who this page is dedicated to. She was my music teacher and was the one who sparked my passion for music. Thirty plus years later, we are still the best of friends. Thank you, Marianne, for all the joy and love you were generous enough to share with me. You are the harmony to my melody, and your smile and tender heart will always light up any room you are in.