The Everlasting Gift by David Matthew Barnes
When struggling college student and aspiring music teacher Sharleen Vega lands a seasonal position with a local Parks and Recreation Department, she’s not expecting to find her destiny and true love. Assigned to direct a holiday variety show at an elementary school the city has given up on (the same school she once attended as a child), Sharleen must come to terms with the grief of her past while bringing hope to a community she feels compelled to fight for.
David-Matthew Barnes is the bestselling author of fifteen novels, three collections of poetry, seven short stories, and more than sixty stage plays that have been performed in three languages in twelve countries. He writes in multiple genres, primarily young adult, romance, thriller, and horror. His literary work has appeared in over one hundred publications including The Best Stage Scenes, The Best Women’s Stage Monologues, The Best Men’s Stage Monologues, The Best 10-Minute Plays, 105 Five-Minute Plays for Study and Performance, and several collections in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. He graduated with honors from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and English. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. He is a graduate of the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA. To date, he has written five produced screenplays, including the award-winning Dutch film Wagon.
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The university was two centuries old, a beacon of hope and a symbol of knowledge positioned on the highest hill of the sleepy town of Harmonville. The view from the third floor of the music building was one of a kind. From there, it was possible to not only see the entire town, but the three smaller towns surrounding it. Beyond that: the Pacific shoreline and sequoias.
In a large classroom with bare walls, November sunlight streamed in through the small windows, illuminating the otherwise dingy atmosphere with a warm, golden glow. Stadium-styled seats were occupied by undergraduate students, all filled with dimming aspirations to take their love of music and turn it into something tangible. The mood was somber and serious. Anxiety hung in the air like a misplayed chord.
Late and flustered, Sharleen Vega entered the room. The noisy entrance immediately killed the serious vibe. Strapped to her back was an overstuffed school backpack. It was black and blue, looking more like a bruised shell, a large hump that seemed intent on punishing her with pain for every step taken. The weight of it made walking a struggle. Finally, Sharleen made it to a seat. In the process of sitting, she accidentally smacked a fellow student in the head with her backpack.
Did I just hit poor Beverly with my backpack? Why am I such a mess today?
“Oh, sorry, Beverly,” Sharleen said, tone genuine, voice warm and kind.
For a moment, other students appeared concerned blonde Beverly may have been knocked unconscious. Worry turned to relief when Beverly offered her classmates an enthusiastic thumbs up and gave the tambourine in her hand a light shake.
Standing near a piano was their professor, Lena Richter. She was formidable, German, and nearing retirement. She cleared her throat to command the attention of the room. At once, the students shifted their focus to her.
“Sharleen Vega, who always knows how to make a timely entrance, will be performing for us first today.” The professor turned to Sharleen with a questioning stare. “And this is an original composition?”
Nervous, Sharleen stood, making her way through the sea of students until she joined her professor. One hand reached down and smoothed out invisible wrinkles in her skirt with damp palms.
“Yes, it is,” she replied.
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