Candy Crushing

When studious Isla meets the gorgeous Louis Tomlinson at the British Library, she doesn't have a clue who he is. All she knows is he's cute, friendly, and knows way too much about Candy Crush Saga.

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2. Level 66

My phone went off again as Mum pulled up in front of the black gates.

"Don't even think about it," she didn't even look over her shoulder, "whoever it is can wait until you finish."

I knew better than to argue. I'd tried, time and time again, but she was steadfast in her resolve. No phones in lessons. I could try and sneak it in, but she'd check. She always did. I left the bag, phone inside, on the front seat and pulled my music folder out of the glove box. 

"I'll be back in an hour." She inspected her lipstick in the rear-view mirror as I lifted the violin case out of the car. "Don't be late, I need to get Millie home so she can go to sleep." 

My half-sister was probably at her friend's house. She had tea there every Friday after ballet so Mum could get us everywhere we needed to go.

"Okay. See ya." I slammed the door and released the groan I'd been holding since we stopped. The tyres of the new four-wheel drive crunched over the ice and she was gone. Gordon, my step-father, had given it to her as an early Christmas present.

The old stone building glowered down at me. Did it dislike me as much a I disliked it? There was nothing better than letting my fingers dance over the strings of the violin, coaxing melodies  forth with my bow, but I hated playing scales over and over, and Ms Whittaker always picked the most boring sheet music. 

I picked my way up the stairs and pushed open the heavy door. A blast of hot air assailed me, and a veritable menagerie of musical noises. Violins squawked, trumpets blurted and flutes squeaked, as inexperienced musicians tried to tame them. They still hadn't learned it was a give and take relationship. I pressed the door shut and skipped past the receptionist while her back was turned. I refused to step foot inside the old elevator, so I took the stairs to the top floor instead. 

Ms. Whittaker waited, just inside her lesson room. Her foot tapped in time with the metronome. "You're late."

I glanced at the clock as the minute hand hit one past six. Arguing wasn't worth the effort. I'd learned to pick my battles. "I'm sorry." 

"Your parents pay good money for my time. Don't waste it."

The lesson dragged by, and several times Ms. Whittaker commented on my lack of concentration. I couldn't tell her why. She wouldn't understand any more than my mum would. It must have been years since she'd felt the flutter of butterflies in her chest about a boy. 

"See Margaery at reception on your way out," she said as the clock hit seven. "She has the sheet music for your audition pieces." 

I gulped at the thought. I'd sent in my application recordings, but if I made it to the next round of selections I'd need to play in front of representatives from the schools I'd applied to. 

"Practice the Bach sonata over the weekend," Ms Whittaker said as I zipped my violin case. "We'll go over it on Monday and start on the Mozart concerto. I expect you to be more attentive next time."

I nodded and, with one last apology, hurried from the room. I traced the pattern engraved into the handrail to the ground floor, counting the steps as I went. Eighty-seven, just like always.

Margaery had the phone to her ear and was taking notes on a legal pad when I stepped up to the counter. Barely looking at me, she slipped the pen into the knot at the nape of her neck and shuffled through the enveloped in her outbox. She pulled one out, almost an inch thick, and shoved it across to me. I was glad she was busy. At quieter times, she'd jabber for hours if you gave her half a chance. 

I tucked it under my arm and barrelled out the door. The frozen air was refreshing after the dry heat within. 

Mum, double-parked, waited right in front of the stairs. Millie sat in the front, so I slipped the violin onto the far seat and climbed in beside it.

"All done?"

"Yep." I leaned over the front seat, grabbed bag from beneath Millie's feet and slumped back. I dug in the pockets for my phone and unlocked it. A single message waited for me.

"Are you busy tomorrow? I can help you with level 66 if you like?"

I pressed the phone to my chest and squeezed my lips together to stop the excited squeak desperate to break free. 

"Are you okay?" Mum eyed me in the rear-view mirror. "You're looking a little flushed."

"Yeah," I tried to make my voice normal, "it's just cold out there."

 

 

 

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