© “Unwritten Melody” Excerpt – Written by Tessa Emily Hall – Published by Clean Reads
James must sense my sudden fear, because he says, “Don’t worry, Cass.” His voice is almost a whisper. “You can trust me.” A corner of his mouth lifts. He lowers his hand, offering to help me up.
How can I resist?
I cram the phone back into my purse and place my hand in his. On my feet, I expect James to release my grip, but he doesn’t.
Instead, he shuts my door, squeezes my hand tighter—then he takes off into a jog, pulling me along with him.
The blend of new emotions I’ve experienced tonight builds in my stomach, giving way to bursts of laughter. I struggle to keep my strides at the same pace as James’s. We dart across a field, further and further until we reach the cluster of willow trees. Vine-like branches drape over us as we weave between the trees, our feet pounding the ground.
Then we approach the creek, and James comes to a halt.
My breaths are heavy as we face the water that rolls over rocks before us. I keep my hand buried in his, snug and warm.
He turns to me. “Hear that?”
“Shhh.” He slides his hand out of mine and places a finger on his lips. “Listen.”
Another giggle slips out. “What, exactly, am I listening to?”
Slivers of moonlight trickle between the willow tree branches overhead, illuminating his goofy grin. “Close your eyes and just listen.”
I bite my lower lip and do as he says, forcing myself to remain still.
A stream of water from the creek trickles over rocks and gushes downstream, emptying into the small waterfall. A swish of wind causes leafless branches to brush against each other. A car roars in the distance—probably a redneck trying to show off their souped-up engine.
“All of this—” James’s words are barely audible. It prompts me to open my eyes.
He stands in front of me, hidden from the moonlight, covered in thick shadows casted by a willow tree. “This is where I get my inspiration. Similar to the way a photographer snaps pictures of everyday-sights that most people take for granted—and the same way a poet uses words to capture everyday feelings and moments.” He holds up both hands for emphasis. “I capture sound. Sound that most people can’t hear unless they really make an effort.”
Wind rustles through my hair. A wave of chills extends from the top of my neck and down the length of my spine.
“Do you know the kind of impact we could make if we combine the two, Cassie? If we capture and combine poetry and sound to create melodies that mean something? Songs that make a difference?” Passion drips from his voice.
I swallow. This is a side of James Russo I haven’t seen.
And yet, standing beneath the willow trees and listening to him talk about creating music that makes a difference—I’ve never found him more attractive than I do in this moment.
“I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to go blind.”
Okay, now I can’t help but laugh. “Have you officially gone crazy?”
“Just think about it.” Leaves crunch as he takes a step closer, into a beam of moonlight. “When someone loses a sense, another one becomes stronger. How awesome would it be if our sight became momentarily lost, and our hearing was strengthened? I can’t imagine the sounds I’d discover that I’ve never heard before. Melodies I could create because of it.”
An owl hoots in the nearby distance. Almost as if it were trying to emphasize just how true James’s words are.
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