The sequel to Breathing Underwater.
Sometimes, the only one a girl can confide in is her blog!
Subject: Fresh Start
Listening to: Medea (the opera named for the mythological woman who killed her kids just to bug her ex-husband. …Reminds me of my mother.)
Weight: 112 lbs.
For most people, the word “diva” means brilliant, talented, over-the-top and glamorous. I, otoh, seemed to be trapped in the not-very-glamorous life of a cheerleader wannabe with serious ex-boyfriend issues and a permanent yo-yo diet. At least until the day I auditioned for Miami High School of the Arts and– got in! All I had to do was convince my mother, the cosmetics salesperson with mythically bad taste in clothes and men, that going downtown to hang with the music geeks was a good idea. I had to blackmail her to do it, but I’m here, a diva wannabe and not so sure I can cut it.
Diva’s Honors and Awards
- Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award Master List, 2009-2010
- Rhode Island Teen Book Award Master List, 2007-2008
- Missouri Gateway Award Master List, 2008-2009
“Satisfying . . . [Caitlin] sets an excellent example of someone who follows her dreams, despite other people’s opinions.” —Kliatt
“Realistic and thoughtful.” —Kirkus
“Flinn turns a fine eye on the seemingly never-ending mother-daughter dance, in which someone is always out of step. A fast read, but there’s meat here, too.” —Booklist
Excerpt from Diva
Lots of girls I know call themselves divas. “I’m such a diva!” they say, as they’re rubbing your nose in some five-hundred dollar shoes Daddy bought them. But being a diva’s a lot more than just being a rich grrrl. It’s about singing, about getting flowers thrown onstage — about being brilliant. I plan to be a diva someday. But first, I have to get through this audition.
And – wouldn’t you know it — there’s a wad of phlegm stuck in my throat.
The scene: I’m in an auditorium with maybe fifty other wannabes, trying out for the musical theater program at Miami High School of the Arts. Goths sit with Goths, punk rockers with punk rockers. The girl next to me has an eyebrow ring and hair Jello-dyed acid red. Everyone here has something freaky about them, except me. I’m the one and only person here in a dress
(which, maybe, is freaky).
And I bet I’m the only one here with gunk in my throat.
Don’t think about it. But I can feel it, lying behind my tongue like cafeteria spaghetti, at a life-changing audition. I clear my throat and Eyebrow Ring Girl gives me a look and nods at the person onstage.
‘Scuse me – I’ll choke more quietly in the future.
I sneak another look at her. My cheerleader friends would say she probably isn’t getting enough attention at home. But I think anyone who’d wear that outfit has to be cool, and I wonder what it would be like to want to be noticed.
Me, I’m all about not being noticed. I’m sixteen, and for the first fifteen, I was a fatgirl, invisible as they come. I was okay with that. Well, maybe not okay, but . . . used to it. But last summer, I went to fat camp and lost thirty-five pounds, and became (at least temporarily) a thin girl, a blond prettygirl. I actually made the homecoming court and dumped the hottest guy in school . . . and still became one with the walls most days.
If any of my friends knew I was here, auditioning for a performing arts school, that they’d notice. In a bad way. But I didn’t tell any of them. I didn’t even tell my mother. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever done anything all by myself.
There’s a bunch of reasons for that.
First, my friends all want me to be like them – cheerleaders, homecoming queens. I thought by losing weight, I could be like that. But now, even though I’m thin enough, I’m still not cheerleader material. Funny, changing how I looked didn’t change who I am. I picture myself doing a pyramid or making up a cheer and . . . oh, puke.
“See anything interesting?”
Too late, I realize I’m still staring at the girl with the eyebrow ring. I am a dorkus maximus.
“Um . . . I love your hair.”
“What are you doing?” she asks.
I stare at her. Is it that obvious I don’t belong here? Is it the dress?
“For the audition? Habla ingles? What are you performing?”
“Oh . . .I sing . . . opera.” I wait for her to laugh, or make a snarky comment.
“Cool.” She raises her pierced eyebrow. “You have one of those horn helmets?”
I make the face Mom calls my Diva face – eyeballs up, and trying not to snort. “Um, not yet.”
“Sorry. It’s just, you don’t look like an opera singer. You’re not . . .”
“Fat?” No. Not anymore.
The girl laughs. “That’s not what I was going to say.”
But I know it was. It always is.
The woman up front calls a name (not mine). Eyebrow Ring Girl turns to look.
Opera is the second reason I’m here. I love it. Most people think opera is a weird thing. Probably so. But it’s my weird thing – the one thing I’m really good at. Maybe good enough to get a dessert named after me someday (Peaches Melba was named after a diva) or maybe a town. Maybe even good enough to get into this school.
The biggest, hugest reason I’m here (and the reason I’d never tell anyone) is my ex-boyfriend. I need to go somewhere where everyone hasn’t already heard the sad, sad saga of me and Nick. And also, where I don’t have to see him every day.
I pop a cough drop into my mouth and make myself sit still for two whole minutes, until the girl up front finishes singing.
Omigod! What if I’m next?
“Sean Griffin,” the woman up front calls.
I actually really, really wanted to be next.
I read a book about auditioning. It said worst thing that could happen in an audition is that you don’t get the part, so you have no money, so you can’t buy food, so you die. Like . . . if you thought that the absolute worst thing that could happen at an audition was death, then you’d be less nervous about screwing up.
That so did not make me feel better.
“Here I am!” a voice sings.
The guy, Sean Griffin, is skinny and wears a purple unitard, which seriously clashes with blond hair and eyes so blue I can see them even from a distance. He looks older, and he’s been standing with the teachers, so I thought he was an assistant or something. Guess he’s just a suck-up. He walks onstage, plunks a Burger King crown on his head (Really!) and starts to sing.
Everything has its season. Everything has its time.
Show me the reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme!
As soon as he starts singing, I’m nervous. I mean, more nervous. Lots of people at the audition were good. But Sean Griffin is the first person who’s like a professional, even in that geeky outfit. I now know why he was standing up there with the teachers, like he belonged there. He knows he’s going to get in.
I wish I was confident like that. I know I’m good, but sometimes, when everyone’s staring, I wonder if it’s just some dumb idea, thinking I’m good enough.
He finishes singing, and the applause is wild. He smiles, like he’s used to it.
Now, it’s my turn. My throat feels worse. I wonder if it could be all in my head. Is there such a thing as psychosomatic mucus?
“Here.” I start downstairs.
Onstage, the accompanist says, “Hey, how about a bathroom break?”
“Oh.” The teacher looks at her watch. “Okay. Caitlin, do you need an accompanist,
or do you have a tape?”
I glance at the sheet music for Phantom of the Opera in my hands. But I’ve done the hardest part, I want to tell them, the standing up and walking down and having everyone stare at me in my too-cute dress part. I turn back around.
“I can play for her.” The guy, Sean, is reaching for my sheet music.
“Oh, that’s okay. I can wait. I wouldn’t want . . .”
“No worries. I can play anything. I’m a great sightreader.” He takes my book and flips it open to the page where I’ve had my thumb jammed for the past hour. “This?”
When I nod, he glances at the book. “Hard stuff.”
“I can wait if you can’t play it.” Except if I sit now, I might never get back up.
“I meant hard for you. This goes up to a C above high C, doesn’t it? That’s way high.
Are you that good?”
Wow, thanks. That really helped me feel less nervous.
Actually, I’ve had that C for over a year. I write down the dates when I add new notes to my range. High C was last March 13. Now, I’m working on E-flat.
“Come on, Caitlin. It’s Caitlin, right?” Sean puts his hand on my shoulder and guides me toward the stage. My legs are all shaking.
My legs always used to shake when I sang. It hasn’t happened in a while . . . .
Flashback: Me. Sixth grade. Looking like I might explode out of my jeans any second, at middle school orientation. I was with Mom (Big mistake). I was signing up for chorus. The music teacher, Mrs. Hauser, said I could either go for girls’ chorus – no audition required – or try for concert choir, which was mostly eighth graders.
“Girls’ chorus sounds fun. Right, Caitlin?” Mom stopped fiddling with the purple alligator clip in her hair and started toward the sign up sheet on the piano. She was wearing hot pink size one capris and a tube top. Doesn’t everyone’s mother?
“Wait. I don’t want to be in Girls’ Chorus. I mean, I do want to be, if that’s all I can be in, but I want to be in Concert Choir. I mean, I want to try.”
Mom had moved away from the sign-up sheet and was nudging me, all, “Caitlin, sweetie, there’s an audition. That means you’d have to sing in front of everybody. By yourself.”
“I know. I heard her. I get it.”
“But Honey-pie, you can’t sing by yourself in front of everyone. You’re . . .”
Fat. I heard it even though she didn’t say it. I heard her, thinking it.
“You’re shy . . . you’ve never sung in front of anyone in your life, dear.”
“Can I try?” I asked Mrs. Hauser, not Mom.
“Of course you can.”
“Are you sure, honey?” Mom said. “I have appointments. You heard what she said. It’s all eighth graders.”
Mrs. Hauser stood there with an Oh-God-don’t-make-me-get-involved-in-this look. I faced Mom down for the first time ever.
“I’m staying.” I took the pen from Mrs. Hauser and wrote my name on the audition sheet. I joined the kids in the corner, and Mom sat down.
When Mrs. H. called my name, I wanted to run. Mom was right. It was one thing to sing in my room. It was a completely ‘nother thing to sing in front of fifty people – and not one of them looked like a sixth grader. But I walked up, feeling like Snow White in the movie – pre-dwarves — when she’s dumped in the forest and all the eyes are looking at her from the darkness. My legs were shaking so hard I thought I’d fall over.
I closed my eyes, opened my mouth, and started to sing.
The world didn’t end. Halfway through, my legs stopped shaking.
I opened my eyes.
In Snow White, when the a.m. hours come, Snow realizes that the scary eyes in the night are really gentle woodland creatures. That’s how I felt that day. The people in that room were looking at me, but not in a bad way. I’d never met them, but they were like friends. They wanted to know me because I was good. I was really good. At that moment, maybe I was even a little visible.
I made concert choir that day — the only sixth grade girl who did, thank-you-very-much — and since then, I’ve made most things I’ve tried for.
Here and now: My legs are shaking so hard I can barely stand, so I lean against the piano like those opera singers on PBS. I’m calm. Really. I breathe. You’re good at breathing, Caitlin. Very good. You practice breathing for opera.
“Are you ready . . . Caitlin?” Sean says my name real soft.
I nod. If I could still close my eyes, I would. But of course, I’d look like a complete dork if I did that.
Right before the music starts is the quietest time in the world. I can hear other people breathing. Then, my song. I can feel it in my body. It’s too late to back out now. It’s sing or be forever known as the girl who ran away in the middle of the audition.
In the song, Christine’s this opera singer who’s possessed by the Phantom of the Opera. He sings through her, inside her, making his voice come through hers. I try to feel the Phantom singing through me, locked inside, making my voice climb higher, higher, until my muscles hurt from breathing. Up! I think, as I was taught, forcing the voice into my head, and through it all, I feel the Phantom inside me, hear his voice, screaming, “Sing, my Angel of Music! Sing to me!” like the voice on the CD. It seems so real, and my voice climbs higher, higher, and only when it gets to the highest note do I realize that the Phantom’s voice is real, not just in my head. It’s Sean Griffin’s voice behind me at the piano.
I gasp out my last note, a high C, and it’s over.
Then, silence again.
Then, applause. Big applause.
Sean grins at me from the piano bench. I grin back.
Okay. So I can, on occasion, rock.
Back in my seat, I listen to the fifth girl to sing On My Own from Les Miz. She’s also the worst. I feel bad for her. Then, the girl with the eyebrow ring, who does the witch’s rap from Into the Woods, and who is so good I sort of hate her, and a six foot tall football player type who actually sings I Whistle a Happy Tune from The King and I badly while everyone tries not to lose it.
And then, it’s over. “You’ll hear one way or the other next month,” the director tells us. “Thanks for coming.”
People start leaving. I want to say something to Eyebrow-Ring Girl, compliment her on how incredible she was, but she’s already gone. I stoop to pick up my music.
“Hey,” a voice says behind me.
I look up. It’s Sean Griffin. People are walking out.
“Hi,” I say. “Um, thanks for playing for me.”
“No problem. You need a ride somewhere?”
I took the train here, and I have to take a bus home from the train station. But I get in a car with some guy I don’t know, just because he’s a good singer. With my luck with guys, he’ll turn out to be a perv or a serial killer.
“Uh, no thanks,” I say. “My mom’s picking me up.”
“Oh, okay.” He grins. Up close, his eyes aren’t really blue, but they’re not green either. I wonder if they’ve changed since I first looked. Weird.
“Bye.” He walks away. When he reaches the door, he says, “Hey, Caitlin.”
“I’ll see you at school.”
It takes me a second to realize he means this school. I laugh. “Oh . . . if I get in.”
He laughs too. But he says, “You will. With a voice like that, you can do anything you want.”
He’s gone before I can say anything else. I look around. The room’s cleared out, and I’m all alone. The sun’s streaming through the dirty windows, and I watch Sean as he goes to the street. Then I watch his back until he is totally swallowed up by the glare.
Opera_Grrrl’s Online Journal
Date: April 5
Time: 9:37 p.m.
Weight: 115 lbs. this morning (Eek!)
Days Since I Auditioned for Miami HS of Performing Arts: 23
Okay, so here’s the deal. My former shrink, Lucia (*long* story) was after me to keep a journal. “Write your thoughts,” she said. “U don’t have to show anyone.”
I.e, a pointless exercise. No thx! I do enough of those in SCHOOL!
Besides, who wants a notebook where anyone can read my “thoughts?” Like, what if I got hit by a bus??? I can just picture it: Mom, drumming her pink-manicured nails on my hosp. bed, all “Oh, Sugar-Dumpling, I know u feel bad, but could u possibly explain this little thing on page 15?” Again: No thx!
But some of my friends started keeping these Online Journal things, & I thought that would be better. The anonymous thing is cool. The *world* can read it, but my ex-boyfriend, Internet stalkers, etc. (“etc.” meaning my mother), won’t know its me. The journal name, Opera_Grrrl, is my secret identity. Think Clark Kent/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Okay………..some important details:
Name: Well, I’m not going to tell you that (See above)
Occupation: Student @ a high school in Fla (but thinking about making a change)
Hobbies/Interests: See above…………I love to sing!!!
Pet Peeves: People who think my hobbies & interests are weird
Dating Status: Unattached
The question ur all wondering about (even tho probably no 1 is reading this: The reason I had a therapist is bc I recently broke up w/ the boyfriend from HELL!!!
What is the Boyfriend from Hell? It is one who seems really perfect:
-showed up on time
-told me i was fat
-said i should only hang out w/ his friends b/c mine were all losers
-said no one would ever want 2 be w/ me but him
-said my singing was stupid
-and, um, did i mention, HIT ME???
So this past Dec, I broke up w/ him, & I actually went to ct. and got a piece of paper that says if he comes 2 close, i can call the cops & they will throw his butt in jail.
That’s when i got the shrink 2. I went for a month or 2, sat in a circle w/ other girls who’d had bad boyfriends, talked about them, wrote poetry about them, did interpretive dances about them, role-played what we’d say if we saw them, cried, etc., etc., etc………… then i got tired of wallowing in my problems so i stopped going. i use the time for practicing my singing now. *That’s* therapy.
But every once in a while, I think about getting back together w/ Nick. How wacko does that make me???
Which is why I’m also thinking about switching schools.