Little Girl Scared

She sits pressing down her crinoline skirt with her sweaty palms and leans back on the slatted church chair. She waits. There is no air in this fellowship hall, so she swings her legs back and forth and looks down at her new black shoes. The boy next to her turns roughly and nudges her. “Shhh!”

She wiggles forward, trying not to wrinkle her dress, and she listens. Not yet. She cannot stop rocking, so she opens her program and fans herself. “Stop moving!” the boy hisses.

She sticks her tongue out at him, and then worries her mother has seen, but no, the family sits on the other side of the auditorium.

I’ll breathe quietly, she thinks, and watch Mr. Lester. He said he would turn around and…a pesky fly swarms past her nose, so she crosses her eyes at it. She waits. She takes a deep breath and holds it as long as she can, but her throat catches, and she sputters. From behind, a gloved hand gently touches her shoulder. She nods slowly in acknowledgment and looks down again. From far away she hears her name. She stands and softly moves toward the front, music in hand.