Hannah listened in awe as the harpist before her set his fingers to the strings and began to play. She knew Emmanuel had skill, but his performance today far surpassed any she had heard from him before. This lad was her greatest rival, and yet on the odd times they had spoken she had found him funny, off-beat, cute. And though she would never admit it, whenever she looked into his deep blue eyes her heart skipped a beat.

As the cascading notes came to an end and the roar of applause filled the auditorium Hannah felt a gentle push between her shoulder blades.

“Your turn.”

Hannah shook her head, terror filling her. 

“I can’t.”

“You can. You’ve practised for this moment. You’re more prepared than ever before.”

Hannah took a deep breath, but still her feet would not move. 

“I can’t.”

“How long have you been having lessons now?”

Hannah dared not ignore the tone in her mother’s voice.

“Fifteen years.”

“That’s right. And how much money have I spent on lessons and travel and buying only the best equipment?”

Hannah cringed. “Over twenty thousand dollars.”

“Very good.” A loud sigh escaped her mother’s lips. “You know I’ve only ever done this for you, Hannah.”

Hannah nodded. She knew. She knew her mother had missed out on a dream career as a professional harpist because of an unplanned pregnancy and enforced marriage. She knew her mother took her to lessons, only after Hannah, at the age of four, began to pluck the strings of her mother’s harp and expressed a desire to learn. And now, at nineteen, Hannah knew she faced the same opportunity her mother had, nineteen years earlier. 

“This is an amazing College, Hannah. The facilities, the opportunities! They are only offering two scholarships! And let me tell you now Emmanuel has just won the first. I know what the judges are looking for. Don’t let me down now!”

Hannah thought on the college. She had not wanted to go, not wanted to move so far away from home. But now she thought about it, maybe it was a great opportunity. Two years – all expenses paid – away from her mother. She might actually be able to go out on weekends, instead of spending Saturday nights practising under her mother’s supervision. She thought of the books she wanted to read, the music – not classical, and not harp – she wanted to listen to. She thought of the friends she could have made over the years, if her mother had given her a speck of freedom. Yes, maybe this was a great opportunity.

Hannah glanced up as Emmanuel stepped off the stage. His eyes sparkled and when he flashed her a smile her breath caught.

“Good luck!” he said.

“Yeah, thanks. You too!” 

Hannah hoped her mother was right in saying he had a place. It made her determination even stronger, and when she sat down to play the notes flowed – years of practise and hard work paying off.