The band warmed up, emitting a cacophony of sounds and rhythms all in their own stream. The din of the instruments mixing with shouts and the clatter of dishware reverberated against the cinder block walls. Kevyn grabbed his clarinet and blew a column of air down its body without a sound as he lightly touched each key. Cory, drawn by the action, was mesmerized by his fingers playing up and down the black body of the instrument. He turned his back on the crowded room. His shoulders lifted as he drew in a tremendous breath. The sound of the clarinet, deep and resonating, vibrated out its bell and over the noise. The notes glided up the scale to the top of the register until they reached the sound there that was almost piercing, a deliciously painful squeal. When the ear could stand it no longer, he slid back down the scale again to the deep, woody tones at the bottom. Kevyn spun around. All heads turned to look. He signaled the rest of the band with two snaps of his fingers, then a sound of primal rhythm and energy erupted, underpinned by drums, bass guitar, and punctuated by trumpet blasts. The throb of the beat echoed deep in Cory’s chest as her foot tapped the beat. Heads bobbed in time, heads attached to confused and stunned faces. Her shoulders relaxed. It was all so unexpected. So Kevyn.
A kid dressed in black with greasy hair and pale skin stood directly in front of the band, legs spread apart, and inserted his iPod earbuds. When he slumped over to the drink bar he drew a like-dressed crowd in his wake. He gathered them around him and with a smirk made an obscene gesture to the band. Laughter erupted from the black circle. Cory’s heart hiccupped as she saw how others watched the group, pulled in by the negative energy. No one wanted to choose the wrong side, to be branded a loser.
The band kept up the energy with a bass guitar riff filling the air. A couple girls broke from the crowd to dance right in front of the band, glancing over their shoulders to smile at the guys as they writhed to the beat. One girl in a jean miniskirt and wearing big hoop earrings tossed her fringe of black hair back and forth across her face as she danced. Strands of it caught on her lacquered red lips. Eyes turned from the circle near the drink table to watch her instead. Other girls mimicked her, dressed almost exactly alike but without the exotic black hair and catlike movement. They watched her, but she watched no one. She’s the kind of girl who sets the standard for everything, Cory decided. Sure enough, in a few minutes the dance floor swelled with bodies, bumping into each other, laughing, and trying out new moves.
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