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To Make Music


Juliet Anderson, age eight, goes to music camp for the first time. She doesn’t have a cello yet and won’t for two years, but she sees a teenage girl playing one in the rec hall and her eyes widen.


A year later, Katie McAdams, age nine, goes to music camp for the first time. She can’t decide what bunk she wants. She says to a girl at her left, “I’ve never slept in a bunk bed before.”


The girl replies, “Well, do you want top or bottom?”


“That’s what I’m trying to decide,” Katie says. “If I bunk on top, I’m worried I’ll fall off in the middle of the night. But if I bunk on bottom, whoever is on top might break the top bunk and I might get crushed underneath them.”


“Well, I’m on the top bunk here,” the girl says. “And I’m only five feet tall. I don’t think I’ll break the bed.”


Katie finds this to be very solid reasoning. She takes the bottom bunk. She asks the girl what her name is and finds out her name is Juliet, but she prefers Jules, because Juliet is just so stuffy, don’t you think?


Katie, whose given name is Katherine, understands completely.


Jules Anderson receives a cello for Christmas when she’s ten; Katie McAdams starts taking voice lessons when she’s eleven. There’s something about camp that keeps them coming back.


One day, when they’re both fifteen and still coming every summer to camp, Jules is messing around on her cello during free time and Katie starts humming along and suddenly—


There are colors in the air around them. Bright and pulsing. It’s like a multi-colored sun is shining in the rec. hall. Suddenly there are lights in the sky, orbs, almost, and they look soft to the touch.


Suddenly there’s a secret in the air around them. And they have to keep it.




Jules gets to drive to camp herself this year, which is surreal. She’s almost eighteen. She’s playing music in her little red Kia and turns the bass all the way up so she looks cool.


Jules Anderson is seventeen. She knows magic is real and she knows it lives at music camp. She’s got her cello in the trunk, two duffel bags in the backseat, and Katie McAdams’ number in her cell. She hasn’t seen her camp friends in a year.


Katie beat her to the cabin this year. “Jules,” she says brightly, “top or bottom bunk?”


Jules rolls her eyes. She hugs her. “I missed you,” she says.


“Missed you too,” she says into Jules’ shoulder. “You should move.”


“I like living in Ohio,” Jules replies.




Katie’s right, but neither of them like talking about life outside of camp, so she doesn’t say anything. She sets her bags down on the floor of their room. Katie says, “So, when are we going?”


“Katie,” Jules says, but she’s smiling. “I’ve been back for five minutes. We have stuff to do.”


Katie shrugs. “It’s like, our fifth year here. We don’t need to go. No one will notice we’re missing, either.”


Jules pulls her extra sneakers out of one of her duffels and slides them under the bed. She grabs her sheets next and climbs half up the bunk bed ladder to start making her bed. “We could,” she admits. “No one will notice. I’ll have to tune my cello though, and we’ll have to be quick.”


Katie hums for a moment, and then declares, “I’m tuned.”


“Ha-ha,” Jules replies. “Hilarious.”


Katie stands on her own mattress to help Jules tuck in her sheets. “C’mon, Ju,” she says. “It’s been a year. We have to.”


Jules gets it. She does. She misses magic just as much as Katie does. And she feels it, too, like a thrum under her skin. She felt it as soon as she crossed the camp borders in her terrible Kia. Something about this place breathes magic. Jules doesn’t know how she knows it, doesn’t know how Katie knows it, but it’s here and she loves it and she can’t think of another day without it.


The magic under her skin beats like a second heartbeat. “Alright,” she says. “Let me make my bed first.”


Jules makes her bed and then she and Katie slip around their cabin and take the beaten path in the woods behind the camp store. If you keep walking, you’ll hit Lake Erie. However, if you stop about halfway down and you take a left into the trees and bushes, you’ll find a small ditch.


This ditch is in all respects like any other ditch, except for, of course, the stone pavilion in the center. It must have been white stone once, but now it’s just dirty rock with moss growing on the walls and an open roof.


Jules left a chair in it several years ago after they first found the place. She was fifteen and she had discovered magic was real about a half hour prior. She and Katie were walking down the path and then she saw a dead fish right in front of their shoes. Its scales shimmered in the sunlight. It wasn’t cut open or anything. It was just a fish, and it was dead, and it was on the middle of the path. 


Naturally, Jules looked around to make sure no bears were hiding and hoping to maul the two of them to death. She didn’t see a bear, but to her left she did see stone walls, so she grabbed Katie’s arm and pulled her down.


Now, Jules takes her cello out of its case and sits down in the chair. She pulls out the endpin to its proper length and places it in the nick in the stone floor she’s created over the years. She tightens her bow. She doesn’t have music with her, because she doesn’t need it. Katie grins at her, and it’s all teeth.


She plays a quick G Major scale, just to get back into it. Does a few runs up and down the strings. 


Here’s the thing: every day of camp since the day Jules discovered magic and found the pavilion, she’s come down for at least an hour and played, regardless of if Katie could join her. She plays under her fingers ache at night and her right arm is sore from holding a bow. She plays until she’s so sick of sitting she has to stand up and stretch her legs. Jules wants to play. Jules wants the magic. 


Here’s the thing: Jules, more than anything else, wants to understand. She wants to know what the magic means. She wants to know why she knows it. She wants, plain and simple.


Jules is very lonely at home.


So Jules plays. What she plays, she couldn’t tell you. Katie starts singing, too, and Jules doesn’t know what she sings either, but it’s like a hello. Or maybe a welcome home.


There are lights in the sky around them, like multi-colored fireflies, floating, humming. Jules would reach out to touch one but her hands are occupied, so she just looks. Katie is swaying in place as she sings and she reaches out to touch one.


“Fuzzy,” Katie has described them before. “Fuzzy, but also warm, and also kind of sharp.”


“That makes no sense,” Jules replied.


Katie just shrugged. It is magic, Jules figured.


Katie sings and Jules plays and the magic surrounds them with a kind of hug, or a blanket, or something. She plays like it’s the only song her cello is meant to play. She plays like her home doesn’t exist, or maybe like this simply is her home. She plays like she doesn’t have to worry about anything but her fingers shifting to the right place. And Jules feels— she feels—


She plays a final note. The lights blink around her for another moment before floating off out of the pavilion. Katie sighs. She’s happy. Jules is happy, too.


“That was nice,” Jules comments.


Katie laughs. “A bit of an understatement,” she says. “I missed it.” Jules doesn’t say me too but she’s sure Katie knows. 


Jules picks up her bow again. “Again?”


“Again,” Katie agrees.


She starts to play.



Jules Anderson learns to play the cello because she sees a teenager playing it at camp and falls in love. Katie McAdams has a conversation with a girl about bunk beds and they become best friends for the rest of their lives.  


Jules is from Cincinnati, Ohio and Katie from New Bedford, Pennsylvania. They’re about five hours apart. They see each other six days a year. They text, and call, and send funny pictures to each other.


But Jules is, frankly, a very lonely person.


She has friends, she does, but she doesn’t really understand how to be a person with some of them. Jules tells her classmates that the gossip about Andrew Taylor sitting next to Anya Pearson is stupid and pointless. Jules tells one of her closest friends that she doesn’t understand why he keeps trying to talk to her about his crush. He knows that Jules doesn’t care, right?


Jules has known magic exists since she was fifteen. Jules is very bright, oh yes, but she’s not very nice sometimes.


Jules doesn’t know how Katie fares in the tiny township of New Bedford but Jules is strangled by the suburbs and wants to be anywhere but home. Jules could have friends who don’t know a fundamental part of her, but she doesn’t really want them now that she has one who does. 


Camp is aloe on a sunburn but by the time she’s stopped peeling, she has to return to the beach.


She plays with Katie, and it feels like a ritual. They don’t know what they’re doing when they let the magic break through their skin with music, but it feels nice and it feels like something Jules has wanted for so long has finally been placed within her grasp. They’ve never talked about it explicitly, but Jules assumes Katie feels the same.


They play for as long as they can on the first day until they have to go to dinner and pretend to be normal people at a normal music camp. Later that evening Jules goes down to the shore of Lake Erie and lets the water rush up to her ankles. Katie doesn’t accompany her because Katie despises sand with a burning passion but Jules doesn’t particularly mind. There’s something calming about the waves.


When everyone else leaves, Jules takes a moment say, “What are you?”


The waves don’t answer, because they’re waves. 



They skip breakfast the next day to play in the pavilion again, and then spend all two hours of free time there. Jules doesn’t know how to describe it. She just feels joy when she plays. Jules doesn’t particularly believe in God, but if she did, she thinks she would find it here. The world whispers to her at camp. Everything is music. Everything is magic. The wind in the trees makes the sun shine. The crash of waves on the sand makes the fireflies blink. The world is whispering for her to listen, for her and Katie to look.


I’m looking, Jules tries to say. I’m looking.


When they left the pavilion that first time, the dead fish wasn’t on the path anymore. Katie wondered aloud if a bear had come by while they were distracted and taken it.


Jules had privately wondered if someone had left it there for the two of them to find it.


 On the third day of camp, Jules says, “I feel so miserable at home I could cry.”


Katie chokes on her hotdog.


“Sorry,” Jules says. “I just… I’ve tried to make it work at home. It doesn’t.” Which is Jules-speak for I want it so desperately at home that I could taste it but it didn’t work there anyway.


“It’s magic,” Katie says. “It doesn’t always make sense.” Which is Katie-speak for It’s magic. It doesn’t always make sense.


Jules doesn’t know how to say she feels like magic is such a fundamental part of herself that she can’t imagine not coming to camp every year. She can’t imagine not seeing the lights in the sky around her as she plays. She can’t imagine not creating magic with Katie. 


So instead of saying anything she shoves three slices of cucumber in her mouth and pretends to drop the subject. 


 Camp ends after the sixth day. On the seventh day, God rested, and all the children at music camp drive home, including Jules Anderson and Katie McAdams.


Jules leaves camp like this: she puts her cello in the trunk of her red Kia and her duffel bags in the backseat. She turns the bass of her stereo down again because she really didn’t like how her car thumped on the drive to camp anyway. She hugs Katie close and tells her that she’ll see her next year and she’ll keep practicing. Katie tells her similar things.


Jules leaves camp like this: she drives away.


When she gets home, she cries and then pretends she never cried at all. Her left-hand fingers are red and calloused more than usual and her right thumb aches from holding her bow. Her parents silently worry about her but say nothing.


She plays the cello. She loves the cello. She plays the cello and there are no lights in the sky, but she loves music and learns music and plays and plays.


She always has next year. And the one after that.


One day, when Jules is much older, she will go to college. It won’t be in Ohio. She’ll bring her cello and her duffel bags in the back of her Kia. She will decide that she may not have magic here but maybe magic is what you make it. 


Jules will be determined to make this magical.


A couple weeks into the semester, she’ll play her cello in a campus orchestra. She’ll like the people who play with her. There’s another freshman who sits next to her, near the back of the cello section. They will stay stand partners the whole year. 


She’ll play a wrong note in the middle of a song once and flush, but her stand partner will look over and smile at her anyway. Jules likes her stand partner. She likes her orchestra. In fact, she will consider them her friends.


And then she’ll feel a familiar buzzing under her fingertips and a familiar hum under her skin. She can’t just let it happen, because she’s busy trying to sightread Beethoven’s Ninth. But she’ll call Katie that night.


“Did you feel it too?” Jules will ask excitedly.


“I think so,” Katie will reply, voice bright. “What changed?”


Maybe nothing. Or maybe everything. And maybe magic is what you make of it. 


 Jules leaves camp. But she’ll come back next year.


The magic will be waiting.



B. Rosenfeldt is an aspiring author from Ohio who likes to write about everyday magic. He started writing stories when he was nine, including a story written on his bedroom wall, to his parents' chagrin. He likes to think the world is what we make of it, and that there's magic to be found everywhere, if you know where to look.

© To Make Music | B. Rosenfeldt


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