I'm back! I know it's been awhile, but between band, youth orchestra, and school, I really haven't had the time to touch Microsoft Word. Sorry. Oh, and I really did no planning for this chapter. So anyways, here goes.

Chapter 13 – In Your Blood

Valerie frowned as her black and crimson uniform already began to cling to her in the sweaty September sun. She would make an attempt to peel it away from her body, but she was unable to do so, as she had already been called to attention. Using her peripherals, she saw Cici shake with excitement next to her in the parade block. The flute-playing oboist had been ever so thrilled for the first football game, but Valerie's heart just wasn't in it.

I guess marching band doesn't really make me tick. I'm an orchestra and concert band person, she thought to herself.

TWEET! The drum major whistle pulled Valerie out of her thoughts. TWEET, TWEET, TWEET, TWEET! She stepped off with the rest of her line as the block that was Maingrove High School Band marched towards the field for pregame. The tiny freshman was lost in the sea of uniforms as the band marched daintily past regular football game folk.

As the drumline began a cadence, Valerie heard one of her non-band fellow freshman classmates whisper to his friend, "Is that the band? Wow! They look… imperial."

Valerie straightened up as she marched and made even a greater effort to improve her roll-step and keep her toes pointed to the sky. She was imperial.

Up ahead, Valerie saw crowds of people immediately split as the band paraded through. It reminded her of the Bible story where Moses and the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea.

"CLEAR THE WAY FOR THE BAND!" someone shouted. "THEY WILL RUN YOU OVER IF YOU DON'T!"

Valerie concentrated on maintaining her tough straight face, lest she allow a cocky grin to spread over it. She squared her shoulders as the band marched onto the field. One of the drum majors then proceeded to whistle for the band to halt.

"At ease! Now get ready for pregame!" hissed Peter as he and Allison walked to their spots.

Valerie found the thirty-five yard line and the people she was supposed to stand next to before going ahead and getting set. She waited for the next set of whistles before stepping off.

The next few minutes were a breeze. The "Star Spangled Banner" never sounded quite as lovely to Valerie, nor did her school's fight song sound quite as grand. When it was time to march off, Valerie was already on some sort of marching band high and felt like she could skip all the way to the top of the bleachers.

Stand tunes had never been so fun for the girl. They had always just been mere crowd pleasers will no real musical quality in them. But as she played in the stands, she was astonished to hear how much life and energy they had in them. The first two quarters were all too fast. Valerie learned quickly that Maingrove had a sorry excuse for a football team, as they were already being slaughtered by Brown Oaks with a lovely 35-0.

Richard, the clarinet section leader, patted Valerie on the back as he saw her eyes flick sadly over the scoreboard. "Get used to it. The football team is an embarrassment to our school. But it looks like we're ready to leave for halftime."

Halftime! Valerie couldn't believe she had nearly forgotten. Her heart raced excitedly as she stumbled down the steps of the stadium.

"Valerie!" Jennifer screamed. "Why didn't you come down with the rest of the flute section? You owe me thirty push-ups on Monday."

Valerie's wicked grin faded to a frown at Jennifer's words. Well thanks for peeing in my bowl of Cheerios.

Just then Allison strode up behind them. "Give her a break, Jennifer. It's her first game!" The junior drum major smiled warmly and put her arm around Valerie. "You enjoying yourself yet?"

Valerie tried hard to wipe away her triumphant smile as she glanced over and saw Jennifer's pissed off scowl.

"Yes," she replied, then added quite candidly, "but at first I didn't think I would."

"But now you have it in your blood, don't you?" Allison asked.

"Huh?"

"Marching band. It's in your blood."

"Yes, I suppose it is."

"No, you know it is."

"Fine. Marching band is in my blood."

Allison nodded. "Good."

After warming up and tuning, the band members kneeled on the sidelines to watch the Brown Oaks Band perform. Their show was Latin American, and Valerie found it rather neat, but considering that Brown Oaks was the rival band for Maingrove, everyone else found negative things to say.

"That kid's flute angle is bad," whispered Liana, who was sitting next to Valerie.

"See that trombonist? He's out of step," muttered Dylan.

"Hey Allison, can't you see how their drum major is letting the drumline drag like that?" murmured Peter.

"Yeah," she replied, "And his pattern is a little sloppy."

Valerie shrugged. "Hey, but their piccolos are in tune!"

Everyone around her turned and stared at the naïve little freshman.

She shrunk back awkwardly. "Just saying."

Cici broke in for her friend. "I mean, man, if only our piccolos could play in tune!"

Valerie thought she saw Sandy look a little annoyed, but the section leader held her tongue at least.

Deciding it was best to keep her mouth shut, Valerie stared across the field. She spotted someone she didn't think was possible to recognize in uniform—Aaron. He held his flute perfectly parallel to the ground and he marched tall and proud. There was no way he would be able to see her because his eyes were glued to his drum major.

Valerie didn't think this would ever apply to anyone else, but Aaron looked hot in uniform. She blushed at her own thoughts and continued to follow him with her eyes for the rest of the performance.

Soon enough, it was time for the Maingrove Band to take the field themselves. Valerie felt everyone around her tense with the pressure to do better than Brown Oaks. However, as soon as the first movement was counted off, Valerie decided to leave the tension at opening set.

She moved through her charts as flawlessly as she could as a freshman. The music poured out of her flute in seamlessly shaped phrases. Before she realized it, the drum majors had switched podiums and the second movement began.

Valerie thought of the crowds of weary football fans up in the bleachers. The home fans must have been sick and tired of watching their team lose. The visiting fans must have been laughing and shaking their heads at how pitiful Maingrove was.

But Maingrove wasn't pitiful at all. Maingrove had a band—and a darn good one too. And they had an awesome flutist who was about to play a lovely solo.

Don't play it for me—play it for everyone else, Valerie told herself, as she began to make her way to the microphone. In the past, Valerie had always played for herself. She had brought herself many musical honors in auditions, concerts, and competitions. She had been just a plain hot-shot flutist.

But that was never what music was ever about. Music was about the listener, not the musician.

Valerie sucked in a deep breath of fresh, nighttime air and filled up her lungs before letting it flood into the first note of her solo. She heard her own sound as it was emptied into the stands and was struck by the richness of it. The stadium, which had been so full of chatter and couldn't care less about the band before, now had grown silent. Valerie relished every pitch of the solo and couldn't believe when it was actually over. As she walked back to her place, she heard the stadium roar with applause.

Put that in your juice-boxes, Brown Oaks.

As Valerie reached her correct spot, she thought she might have glimpsed a pair of dark gray eyes burning steadily into her.

The show had ended. The band exited the field. Any feelings of nonchalance that Valerie might have had before the game were replaced by overwhelming pride. Marching band was in her blood.