At least that’s how it used to be. With a sigh, I pull the cello away from my left shoulder and set it against my right. Holding and playing the cello with my left hand is totally second nature, and to turn that around, to play the notes with the other side of my body, is something I’m still not used to. People compare it to trying to write with your other hand, but relearning how to play the cello this way is more like learning how to breathe underwater—impossible. Not that I don’t appreciate it. Griffon went to so much trouble and expense to get this righthand cello built for me; it’s the most amazing gift I’ve ever gotten. And I suppose I am getting better—every day it’s getting a little easier, and even though I’m a long way from playing concerts again, at least I can still teach.

Reaching for the bow with my left hand, I catch a glimpse of the raised, red scar that runs down the inside of my forearm, and immediately my anger at Veronique bubbles up in my chest all over again. Like I’d accept some halfhearted apology for everything she did. As I waited for the bus, I tried several times to text Griffon to tell him, but eventually I put the phone away. No sense getting him all worked up just as Owen arrives, and this way I can choose my words more carefully.

I close my eyes as my fingers stumble through a piece I wrote a couple of years ago, mostly finding the right notes on the right string, but without the confidence I’m used to. There’s no life to the music; it feels flat and empty, and the longer the bow pulls at the strings, the worse I feel. I stop trying for the right notes and start sawing at the cello, the bow making a mind-numbing screeching sound as it scrapes the bridge. Ever since the accident, I’ve had to put on a brave face, had to become the poor injured musician who will use all of her talent and ambition to overcome the setbacks. But it’s not going to happen. I know that now. I probably knew it the moment I woke up in the hospital with my arm wrapped in white bandages. Impatience and anger well up in my body, the frustration that’s been building for weeks finally exploding in my hands. As the notes fade into the air, I throw the bow across the room and watch it clatter against the wall. For a split second I feel better, but immediately the guilt sets in. It isn’t the cello’s fault it can’t sing. It’s mine.

Crossing the room to pick up the bow, I catch a glimpse of Herr Steinberg’s face in the window of the practice-room door. He’s looking at me with a measure of understanding, not the pity I’m used to from other people. I can feel my cheeks flame up, knowing that he’s witnessed my ridiculous temper tantrum. He catches my eye and glances down at the doorknob, the studio signal for “Can I come in?” I nod and pretend to adjust the strings of the cello, knowing that I can’t look him in the eye right now without losing it. Even though I realize that knowing how to play the cello effortlessly isn’t really a gift, only a memory of a skill I learned in another lifetime, not having an outlet for my emotions leaves me frustrated and angry.

I can feel the pressure in the practice room change as he opens the door, closing it quickly behind him. “Do I get to hear?”

I shrug, fiddling with the tension on the bow. “Not much to hear.”

Herr Steinberg’s eyes crinkle up at the corners as he smiles. In all the time I had away from the studio after the accident, I missed his steady presence the most. He’s been my teacher in one way or another for almost ten years, and even though I know that letting me teach at the studio was sort of a pity gesture because I can’t perform anymore, I appreciate it. “I find that hard to believe,” he says. “But you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“I’m not ready.” Tears spring into my eyes despite biting my lip to try to prevent them. I sniff and give him what I know is a sad smile, but it’s the best I’ve got. “I played better when I was seven.”

“As you were the most talented seven-year-old I’ve ever met, that’s not so bad.” He glances at my custom right-handed cello. “It’ll come back, not to worry.” He pauses. “Do you have a minute? There’s something in the lounge I want to show you.”

I glance at the clock. “I have a few minutes before my next lesson. What is it?”

“You’ll see,” he says mysteriously, leading the way down the hall. Herr Steinberg has a lounge set up for families to wait in while students are at their lessons—there are toys and games and even a mini fridge full of juice boxes for kids who behave, and I can hear kids laughing and parents talking softly as we approach. When we reach the doorway, I see Griffon sitting on the couch in the middle of the crowd, concentrating intently on something on the low table in front of him. He glances up and his face breaks into an embarrassed smile.

“It’s for you,” he says, turning back to the table. “But it’s not done yet.”

I peek over his shoulder to see him working furiously on an Etch A Sketch. I blink hard and have to catch my breath when I see what he’s doing. On the gray screen is a perfect picture of me in a long black gown playing the cello. The right-handed cello. “That’s amazing,” I say, constantly surprised at what he can do.

“It is,” Herr Steinberg agrees, and a bunch of the parents nod. One girl scoots closer to Griffon to get a better look.

“I had a little time on my hands.” Griffon shrugs like it’s nothing. Like anyone can just walk in here, grab an Etch A Sketch, and make it look like fine art. “I dropped Owen off at your house to see Kat and thought I’d come by.”

“I’ll be done in about half an hour,” I say.

“Great,” Griffon says, his hands twisting the little white knobs on the front of the toy. “That should be just enough time to finish this.”

“Is that your job?” one of the boys asks.

Griffon laughs. “No. It’s just fun.”

“You should totally do that for your job,” the boy says, a hint of awe in his voice.

I see my next student sitting right next to Griffon on the couch, with an unusually blank look on his face. “Zander,” I say. “Let’s go.”

“Right,” he says, nodding. He looks at Griffon. “That’s cool.”

That’s about the highest compliment anyone’s going to get from this kid, but I can’t say that out loud because his mom’s standing right next to me. We walk back toward the practice room, Zander kicking the cello case in front of him every step of the way. I try not to sigh because it’s not really fair to dislike an eight-year-old, but every half hour spent with him feels like an eternity. His mother has gone out of her way to tell me how smart he is, how he’s a genius with the computer, already skipping grades at a rapid pace, but that doesn’t hide the fact that basically, he’s kind of a frat boy in training.

“Hey, Nicole,” Zander says, plopping down in the chair opposite mine.

Miss Nicole,” I correct for the hundredth time. Herr Steinberg insists on the proper respect in the studio.

“Whatever,” he says, looking around. I hate to say it because he’s just a kid, but whenever his lesson rolls around, I make sure my bag and any other valuables are locked away in the teachers’ lounge. He always looks like he’ll pocket anything he can get his hands on. “Is that guy your boyfriend?” He draws out the last word like we’re on a playground somewhere.

“Maybe,” I say, although I know I’m smiling.

“Do you guys have sex?”

“Zander!” I say, looking up to make sure the door is shut behind us. “That’s not the kind of question you ask somebody.”

He stares me down. “I’m guessing the answer is no, then.”

I sit down in my chair. “I am not talking about this with you.” I lift up the cello and put new music on the stand, mainly to avoid his eyes. “Did you practice?”

Zander looks at me like I’m an idiot. “No.”

I sigh. His lack of improvement is going to mean another lecture from his mother on my teaching techniques. That her darling boy sucks at cello has to be my fault, rather than the fact that he hates it and never practices. I set the music on the stand between us. “I’m not even asking you to spend ages on this.” I’m not sure why I’m bothering with explanations. “Just a couple of hours a week.”

“A couple of hours that I could be doing something more useful,” he says, reluctantly dragging his cello out of its case. If it’s possible to feel sorry for an inanimate object, I wish that his poor cello could find a more deserving home. I know his parents bought it new last year when we started working together, but it’s already covered with the dings and scratches of a much older instrument.

I set my bow on the stand and turn to face him. “Why don’t you quit? Let’s just stop this huge waste of time and go out there and tell your mother you really don’t want to do this.”

I can see the conflict on his face as he thinks about what I just said. For all his snarky comments and bored attitude, he’s afraid of his parents. More than anyone, I know how heavy parental disappointment can be. “I can’t.” He sighs and picks up his bow. “Let’s just get this over with.”

“Amen to that,” I say, picking up my own bow and fingering the first note.


“I can’t believe I let you talk me into taking the bus,” Kat complains as we walk down Fillmore toward the bay, her stiletto heels on the sidewalk sharply echoing her agitation.

“What else are we supposed to do?” I ask. “All six of us can’t fit into a cab, and getting two would have taken forever. Not like it’s going to kill you to take a bus every once in a while.”

Kat glances back at me from where she’s marching slightly ahead of the rest of us. “You don’t know that. From the looks of some of the people on there, a person might actually end up dead.” She stops, bracing herself against a building, and lifts up her foot. “Besides, I think I got gum on my shoe.”

Owen grabs her around the waist and sweeps her down the street until she squeals with pleasure. “If I had it my way, I’d get you your own personal limo for transport.”

They stop, and Kat kisses him on the lips quickly, then so deeply I have to look away. Owen’s thick Scottish accent makes everything he says sound sexy to her, so every time he speaks they end up in a lip-lock. I’ve never hung out much with my sister before, and now I know why—the display has left me slightly sick to my stomach.

Griffon grabs my hand and grins at me, and I wonder if this is weird for him too. I’d hate that his best friend is dating my sister, except for the fact that if I’m being honest, Owen chasing after Kat is the only reason I’m with Griffon now. I turn to see what’s keeping Rayne and Peter only to see them leaning up against a building, locked in an embrace. “Seriously?” I shout back at them. “You too?”

“It’s not a bad idea,” Griffon says, bending down for a quick kiss. I laugh and try not to give in to the sensation or we’ll never get there. Which would actually be pretty okay with me.

“All right, guys, let’s go,” Kat commands, in the lead once again. She straightens her dress and takes Owen’s hand. “It’s just down here on Beach Street.”

“Fancy,” I say as we approach a modern loft building, looking slightly out of place among the old Victorians on the street. The windows flicker with candlelight, and I can see the shadows of people moving behind the sheer curtains and hear the hum of synthesizer music that seems to vibrate through the walls. “Does this whole place belong to Francesca?” I know Kat’s boss has to have some money lying around—not every twenty-one-year-old gets to run her own clothing store—but even I know that buildings down here aren’t cheap.

Kat turns to face me. “Yes. Promise you won’t embarrass me. This isn’t some little-kid party. Francesca and Drew have a lot of influential friends, big people here in the city. Don’t blow it.”

The mention of Drew’s name makes my smart-ass comeback catch in my throat. The only reason I agreed to come was because I wouldn’t have to see him. “I thought you said Drew was still out of town.”

“He is,” she answers. “He had to do some business thing in LA. Why?”

I glance at Griffon talking to Owen on the sidewalk. I haven’t told him about meeting Drew at the shop or the fact that he recognized my ankh. I don’t know how to explain my feelings about Drew when everything is so new with Griffon and me. “No reason. Just curious.”

Griffon joins me on the stairs as Kat pushes the door open. The house is lit with a combination of candles and little twinkling white lights. Every surface seems to shimmer, and the effect makes me a little bit light-headed, like I’m trapped in a fun house mirror.