Madame Vito finally makes her appearance, and the room quickly goes quiet. She doesn’t say a thing, but then again, she doesn’t need to.

 Her stern presence and the clicking of her signature moccasins are all that’s necessary to make all the chatter fade away into dead silence. The room gets so quiet you could probably hear a snowflake land.

Vito’s graying locks are pulled back into a tight bun as usual, and she’s covered up in a dark cardigan and an equally dark, conservative pencil skirt with leggings underneath like always. Her wardrobe knows no distinction between the seasons. She dresses the same all year round.

You’re not a huge fan of hers, mostly because of her rigidness and cold demeanor, and while you can’t imagine living your life by a lot of her rules, you can respect her approach to education—as strict and conservative as it is.

Trixie barely tolerates “the uptight hag”, as she calls her, but does her best not to butt heads with any professors, especially not Vito. Trixie may be headstrong and outspoken, but she’s not stupid. She wouldn’t be careless about getting on this woman’s bad side, not when her grades and future as a classical vocalist are at stake.

You don’t waste any time in taking your positions, arranging ourselves in semi-circles according to your various segments and vocal groups. Vito faces your entourage, and with her back to the wall of mirrors holds her hand up in a balled fist signaling that you’re starting. She does three silent counts with her fingers, motioning for you to begin.

As lead, you start out humming the melody of the song’s intro by yourself, and go on to sing the first stanza of the first verse as well. Kayla Daniels and Julianne both join you in the second stanza as the two other first-part vocalists. Trixie and the second-parters sing their way in next, and then eventually the bass-vocalists merge with everyone as you all round up the first verse. All your voices fuse together perfectly, and from Vito’s acknowledging expression, you’re doing a good job. She actually seems impressed.

And, boy, is it hard to impress this woman.

You continue your harmonized a cappella in synchrony and with precision, and you can hear the waves of your enthusiastic voices bouncing off the walls and echoing loudly in the spacious room.

 You try to keep focused, even though the thought of your stomach hitching again ails you. The bridge comes up again, and you brace yourself for it, instinctively balling your hands into tight fists until you feel your knuckles go sore.

Please don’t act up again. Please don’t act up again. Please don’t act up again…

You keep repeating the silent prayer, imploring your stomach to behave itself as you hold a high note for several seconds. Before you know it, the bridge is over and the song is soon coming to an end. And there are no signs of a hitch in sight.

Phew.

Thank goodness.

The vocal groups start to exit in the reverse order they came in. The heavy undertones and background rumbles dissipate as the bass vocalists fade out first. The intermediates follow right after, and then Kayla and Julianne’s voices softly linger until they eventually disappear, leaving you to finish the last verse and hum the ending melody by yourself once again.

Out of the blue, your body jerks almost violently, as if you just had a hippo-sized hiccup.

It’s back again.

Fuck.

You place your hand on your chest against the rising pain, even though the action provides no relief to the discomfort. You try to open your mouth to finish the song, but only a hoarse utterance escapes your lips.

Vito gives you a look that you think is a mix of surprise, concern, and annoyance. But mostly annoyance.

“Is there a problem, Miss Gallo?” she asks in her cold, rigid tone.

You hear patronizing giggles coming from the other side of your semi-circle, and they only stop when Vito shoots their owners a glare before she returns to face you.

You clear your throat. “N-no, ma’am.”

She holds her gaze on you for a few seconds before returning her attention to everyone else.

“From the top, then,” she says. “Hopefully this time Miss Gallo can pay attention long enough to actually finish the song.”

You can just feel the sheer vindication oozing from those around you, as if Vito telling you off just made their whole year. A glance in the mirrors ahead confirms this. The satisfaction is written all over most of their grinning faces. You guess you never really realized just how much of a public enemy you are here.

From the way they’re looking at you, you would think you were getting your just desserts for sodomizing all their cats.

Jeez.

You go through six more rounds, and each time, you manage to fuck up at some point. At the end of the seventh round, Vito gives you an unfaltering harsh look, and you can’t blame her. The lead vocalist just missed three keynotes.

Again.

Add that to the other mishaps and missing the entire ending the first go around, and you have one seriously pissed Gertrude Vito.

Time continues to go by, and you realize you haven’t had a single successful round today, and at the rate things are going, there’s no redeeming this practice session for you at this point.

This is a total fail. You can’t believe you’re struggling this much.

You’re extremely unfocused, and any shred of confidence that may have been there before has completely left your body. Right now, you have no semblance of confidence whatsoever. You totally sucked ass at the one thing you know you’re good at. You seriously want to hide under a needle.

Vito seems to note your highly unnerved demeanor and ends practice about half an hour earlier than usual. You’re incredibly glad that she does, even though you know she’s not doing it because she feels bad for you. She just has a low tolerance for “incompetence”, and gets frustrated with errors easily.

She’s definitely not the most patient person in the world. Either way, you’re grateful for the decision.

Anything to spare you any more utter humiliation today.

As everyone streams out of the studio, silently mocking and jeering at you, you can’t help but feel so alone and isolated—a feeling you’ve continuously had for practically all of your adult life. You know Trixie will always be a supportive friend, but even she has a ‘Seriously-what-the-fuck-just-happened?’ look plastered all over her face as she glances your way.

You sigh in exhaustion and frustration as you head for the door, feeling defeated and deflated.

“Stick around for a minute, Miss Gallo,” Vito calls out to you.

It’s not a request. It’s one hell of an order if you ever heard one. You wince internally as you can only imagine what’s coming next.

The last thing you want to do right now is talk to anyone, let alone her. Trixie gestures toward the door, signaling that she’ll be waiting for you outside as you have your after-class ‘chat’ with Vito. You brace yourself as you walk over to meet the older woman.

In five brutal minutes, she tells you off in her uber-strict, condescending tone, asking you if you realize how important this performance is and how close you are to it.

She continues to chastise you without even bothering to hear you out, writing anything you have to say off as either “excuses” or “slacking off because you’re relying solely on your talent”.

You feel yourself quickly losing patience, and it’s taking every bone in your body not to cuss this hag out right here and now.

Listening to her make all these inaccurate and judgmental assessments about you is really pissing you off, but you refrain from saying anything.

You think you have a renewed sense of hatred for this woman, and you can already hear Trixie spewing her I-told-you-Vito’s-an-uptight-bitch speech.

Vito finally ends her judgmental rant, and at her suggestion— well, more like her demand—you decide to head to the campus clinic for a check-up, just to make sure there aren’t any underlying medical issues at hand.

***

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THIS MAKES ME FEEL...
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