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Thomas leapt just as I crested the knoll, lithely snatching the frisbee as it sailed overhead.

"Nice catch," I called.

Thomas turned, his Kurt Cobain ‘do shimmering as it caught the golden shafts of late afternoon sun punching through the quad’s oak canopy. His smile put the world out of focus.

"Thanks, man." He dismissed his friends with a quick wave. "Alejandro, right?"

"You know my name?" I squeaked, my mouth suddenly dry. I'd imagined this moment on countless lonely, sweaty nights in my dorm, but never thought it'd actually happen.

"'Course. I saw you guys at the battle of the bands. Fuego kicked mondo ass, but if they didn’t have you as frontman?” He gave a playful, melodramatic shake of his head that ended with half his grin covered in that gorgeous hair. “I shudder to think. You’re a real lion on that stage, man. You going unplugged today?”

I blinked. “Huh?”

His grin widened as he pointed to the guitar slung over my back, and guilt gnawed my insides. In the forty or so seconds I’d been in his presence, Thomas had me short-circuiting, and in my excitement, I'd almost forgotten about Abuelo's guitarra.

Almost forgotten my plan.

Chittering anxiety crept back into my mind, giggle-whispering toxic little doubts that seemed to dim the sunlight ever so slightly. Thomas could have anyone he wanted. So what would he do when the lion he’d seen onstage turned out just to be a mask hiding a weak, shameful, smitten little mouse? Simple: sooner or later, he’d leave me - just like everyone else.

But Abuelo's guitarra would see to that, my anxiety reminded me.

A different voice, this one simpering and shrill, protested that Thomas might turn out to be different, that I ought to leave him free of the guitar’s curse. That love should be his choice, too, and earning his heart meant risking my own.

I pushed the voice aside.

“You good, man?” Thomas’ grin hadn’t faltered.

“Yeah, I — sorry,” I mumbled sheepishly. “Just still can’t believe you know who I am. Anyway, I’m — I'm actually working on something new. Wanna hear?" I readied Abuelo's guitarra.

Thomas flashed that easy smile again, and I strummed the vile chords Abuelo had taught me long ago. Each note crackled in the spring air, thrumming with otherworldly energy. Thomas' smile tightened. The frisbee dropped from his slackening grip.

It was then I realized that the simpering, shrill voice hadn’t been my conscience: it was my heart.

And now it was shrieking for me to stop.

But it was too late. Thomas belonged to the guitarra now, and if ever I strummed its wicked strings for someone else, his heart would literally burst.

So, under the sun-drenched canopy of oaks, I played on.


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