Outside Riff-ter

Since the writing contest I wrote this for is now over, I can safely publish this on my blog. The prompt was: Submit a story about two people who have become the way they are because of their close relationship with each other: either as best friends or worst enemies – or both. Write it in 500 words or less without using either the words “friend” or “enemy.”

Outside Riff-ter

For the fifty-eighth time today, I scan over the list of solo acoustic guitar performers competing this year and I can come to no other conclusion but this: first place is going to come down to Caleb and me again.

I find him fiddling away backstage of the performance hall and jealousy pricks my ears with each perfect note. His raw talent can sometimes mesmerize me and so I walk over and hover above him until he stops.

“When do you perform your solo?” I say, putting my case down. My stomach is as tightly wound as guitar strings from just playing on stage minutes ago.

He sets his Martin aside and I give him my pity stare. I have always been a Taylor girl when it comes to acoustics and he knows it. We argue about it regularly while practicing together in his parent’s basement.

“I already did,” he says dryly, “I nailed it, as expected.”

My heart jumps in two directions at once, half buzzing with pride and half bursting with envy.

“I’m sure it wasn’t that good,” I manage to say, “With all those stupid sweeps you put in, I bet it was horrific.”

He ignores my jabs. “When is it your turn to get stage fright and pass out?”

My ears feel hot as I recall that nightmare years ago at our first state competition together. I despise that he knows my biggest stage blunder. It makes me brittle and all the strings in my stomach snap.

“I already went,” I retort, “But that’s funny coming from the guy who still needs my help reading sheet music.”  He shakes his head but doesn’t have any other snarky comments. Practice has made me a master of humbling him.

“We will now announce the winner of the solo acoustic guitar class, ” a voice booms over us.

I grab up my case and push past him towards the stage, my chin held high. Caleb catches my arm and gives me a once-over. We both know that I am his only real competitor for first. It has always come down to the two of us.

“It was a very close call,” the voice continues, “but a decision had to be made.”

“You got nothin’ on me, Candace,” he says.

I stare back confident and unwavering; I feel him flinch.

“The winner of this year’s solo acoustic guitar act is…”

We both hold our breath and I don’t know if I will punch him or hug him if he wins. I’ve done both in the past.

A round of applause erupts as the winner’s name is declared and yet we don’t move a muscle.

I finally break the silence: “Who the heck is Lori Snider?”

Caleb gives me a conspiratorial look and then pulls me in close.

“Lori Snider,” he mutters with an eerie calmness, “is the amateur we have to smoke next year.”

“Ah, yes,” I agree with equal deviance, “That’s exactly who she is.”

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