ca·dence /ˈkādns/ noun

  1. a modulation or inflection of the voice.
  2. a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase.

It was Thursday night, which meant Family Dinner, which meant Gabby would have to come clean. Her twin sister, Arielle, already knew, and had promised under threat of blackmail not to tell. It was Gabby's news to share.

“So, Arielle, any fun plans for the weekend?” their mother, Patricia, asked breezily as she passed the dish of sautéed spinach across the table to the eldest twin. Since they'd turned sixteen a year ago, their parents had rewarded Arielle — and begrudgingly, Gabby — with a greater sense of freedom and autonomy. Though as their mom, Betty, liked to jokingly threaten, “privileges can be revoked at any time.” So far, that time hadn't come, and the twins intended to keep it that way. Well, had intended, anyway.

“I've got a pickup soccer game on Sunday morning,” Arielle replied, grabbing the spinach dish with both hands before setting it in front of her and scooping two helpings onto her own plate.

“The season just ended?” Betty asked. Her plate already overflowed with spinach, rice, and jackfruit sweet potato curry.

“Yeah, well, that district-wide ref scandal really screwed us all over—”

“Language,” Patricia cautioned.

“—really messed us all up. So myself and a few of the captains from the other schools decided we'd see who needed a bit of closure, bring us all together and mix up the teams a little. Let some steam out, you know?”

“That's wonderful, honey,” Patricia smiled, approvingly. She took a dainty bite of jackfruit.

“Now I know I'm looking at a future USC captain,” Betty beamed.

Arielle dipped her head but couldn't hide the smile fighting to break out. “Mo-om!”

Gabby gulped. She dragged her fork across her plate, stirring curry sauce into the spinach.

“What about you, Abigail?” Patricia turned, finally acknowledging Gabby. The second-born. The younger.

The forgotten. The failure.

Gabby took a deep breath.

“I actually have some news to share—”

“You know, Arie sweetie, we probably should reach out to your Coach there, get you top of mind. Prime them to pay attention to you freshman year, you know?” Betty jumped in, interrupting Gabby with a rogue thought on the previous topic.

“That's a wonderful idea, darling,” Patricia noted. “I'll talk to Janice on the Alumni Board, see if I can get a meeting set up. Now, Abigail, what were you going to say?”

Gabby balked, struck mute under pressure. Her mother actually directed the conversation back to her?

Gabby felt a light tapping on her foot under the table. Arielle, across the way, smiled gently at her. They'd started doing this ages ago, a light tap tap as a reminder that they were here for each other. No matter what.

Gabby took another deep breath.

“I'm going to Berklee.”

Both parents' eyes widened in surprise. “I didn't realize you applied to Berkeley,” Betty wondered.

Patricia narrowed her eyes. “Didn't we agree that that you would attend SDSU and stay close to home?”

Betty chided her wife, waving her silverware about. “Honey, it's Berkeley! That's a great school!”

“I'm not saying it isn't. I'm just reminding her that we made a plan as a family,” Patricia paused meaningfully, daring anyone to interrupt. “But you're right. Berkeley is a great opportunity.”

“So,” Gabby hesitated. “You're not mad?”

Patricia looked appalled. “Mad? Why would we be mad, Abigail? It's the University of California. I'm quite impressed you actually got in.”

Now Arielle gulped.

“I meant Berklee College,” Gabby corrected slowly. “Of...Music.”

Betty's spoonful of saucy sweet potato, mere centimeters from her mouth, clattered to the table in a flash.

Patricia frowned at her daughter.

“I distinctly remember your tantrum in sixth grade that led to a very difficult conversation with Bertrand's about the broken rental clarinet. You haven't played any instruments since.”

“I sing.”

“You sing?”

Arielle chimed in. “She's good, too.”

Gabby glared at her sister, and Arielle shrunk in her seat. This was Gabby's news, Gabby's fight. She didn't want or need Arielle to be her White Knight defending her in every battle.

“I'm good.” Gabby emphasized. “I got into the vocal performance program at Berklee. That's how good I am.”

Patricia scoffed. “You're not even in Choir. Your lack of extracurriculars is why we made the plan for you to stay local in the first place.”

“I auditioned.”

“You auditioned—” Patricia cut herself off. She let out a stilted laugh, both shocked and awed at Gabby's brazenness. Gabby, too, felt a bit in shock and awe. She felt bold. Brave.

Betty, still wiping up the curry splatters around her place setting, spoke up, “Why did you keep this from us?”

“Obviously because I figured this was how you'd react.”

“Now that's not fair.”

“There is no fair in this house. There's just Golden Arie and her shadow born fifteen minutes later.”

Betty gasped.

Gabby avoided her sister's eyes, but it didn't matter. She felt the heat of Arielle's hurt blaze into her core.

She hadn't meant to lash out like that, to drag her sister into this mess. Her sister hadn't done anything besides be her perfect self. Except, she had done more — she'd been a trusted confidant, keeping Gabby's secrets, covering for her during open mic nights, encouraging her to follow her dreams. Arielle had even helped set up the practice room at school for Gabby's audition over Zoom.

Patricia slammed her palms on the table, demanding attention. “Go to your room.”

“You're not going to stop me from going to Berklee.”

“Go to your room,” Patricia repeated icily. “Anything you had thought you'd be doing this weekend is now canceled.”

Gabby scooted out from the table and stood.

“I don't expect you to ever support me. I just needed you to know.”

She left the room. Privileges be damned.