“Okay, that’s a wrap, everybody! Good work! Make sure to review your individual and overall instructions on canvas. Practice practice practice. See you next week for the performance!”
I started packing my sheet music as quickly as I could, desperate to get out of the claustrophobic room. I felt like passing out. My brain was fried from all of the word enunciations and pronunciations we went over. His-tree or his-tory or hi-story or hi-stree. MEE-DEE-aw-cra-TEES. Con-stit-too-shun-al not con-stit-too-shan-awl. And there were at least a dozen more. Why did we have to spend so much time on word pronunciations?
My ears were still ringing from all of the loud voices in our chorus. Sometimes, the chorus room has too good acoustics.
My vocal cords and throat were exhausted. Practicing a six minute twenty-five second Broadway musical song meant for professional adult singers over and over again with a chorus of literal kids that are from ages eight to fourteen. . . Yeah. Not a good idea.
It was a miracle that me, a mere ten year old, still in freaking fifth grade, managed to grab a solo. And a big one. Angelica’s vocals in our song aren’t exactly easy to master. But I had to. And I did. Sort of. I felt fully prepared. Mostly. I could do this. Probably. Don’t stress.
As I was heading out, our chorus teacher called out.
“Stop!! Everyone!! I have an important announcement!”
Everyone turned back to stare at them. Mx. Riley Hamilton had that expression when they’re about to announce bad news that we weren’t going to like. They said,
“Due to the very heavy blizzard in New York City, all transportation is cut off. No one is leaving until the snow stops.”
I groaned, and I heard most of the class join in. Today was a long day, preparing for the concert and all of that. All I wanted to do was go home. And of course when I wanted to go home, I couldn’t. I was stuck here. Great. Amazing.
As I walked out of the room, my mind’s wheels turned and squeaked, trying to think of what to do for who knows how long I’ll be stuck here. Of course the day I don’t bring my electronic devices nor books I have to stay here. I could practice piano, but at this time of day, I bet that all of the practice rooms were full. I was sure mom didn’t have anything I could do besides her phone (which doesn’t even work here because of the bad WiFi), crochet (which is boring and hard), or drinking coffee (with NO sugar!!!) . No thanks.
I sulked over to the lunge and flopped down. My mother frowned.
“Princesa, are you okay?”
She spoke in Spanish, which I translated effortlessly. Translating Spanish to English was as natural as breathing at this point.
“I’m not a princess.” I grumbled. “And no, I’m not okay. We’re stuck in here until the blizzard ends.”
“Speak Spanish.” My mother said. I was tired of hearing that. “And didn’t you bring something? Your iPad, your sketchbook, your books, or something like that? I’m sure you have plenty of things to do.”
“I forgot to bring those things. I have nothing to do.”
“Don’t you have something else?”
“I did bring my missing homework. Although I don’t feel like doing—“
“Do your homework.”
I sighed, but did as she asked. I looked at the sheet of paper.
“How did Nova Musica Johnson found our school?”
Easy. I wrote,
“Nova Musica Johnson actually wasn’t a musician at first. But when her twin sister, the musical prodigy, was wrongly framed, arrested, and killed, she became determined to carry on her sister’s musical legacy. She learned instruments, mastered them quickly, taught how to play to others, performed, and eventually founded the entire school in her sister’s honor.”
I answered the other “Nova Musica Johnson trivia questions”. After I finished, I looked at the time.
“Only thirty minutes had gone by? Seriously? You know what, I’m going to practice some music. Stay here.”
My mother nodded, barely looking up. I walked away, smiling when my mother didn’t notice that I didn’t grab my music. I sauntered toward the stairs, a plan in mind.
The eighth floor in Nova Musica was always a mystery. I wasn’t allowed up there. No one was. I wasn’t sure what it was for, who’s been up there, why no one’s allowed, or how did the eighth floor even exist if no one used it.
Which is exactly why I had to go up there. Who knows what might be on the eight floor? It might be boring, like more practice rooms, or it might be exciting, like a doorway to an alternate universe. Hey, you never know!
I climbed up the stairs, passing doors to different floors. Out of the fifth one, I heard multiple pianos playing. I cringed as I recognized Beethoven’s Für Elise in the mix. That song is played way too many times. Every single pianist plays Für Elise. Every. Single. Damn. Pianist. Not wanting to linger, I kept heading up.
From the sixth floor door, I could hear a cacophony of instruments from all sorts of genres. The strange combination of instruments formed a simply wonderful sound that truly blessed my ears. It seemed like the soundproofed rooms weren’t working today on either floors. I almost felt bad for the people practicing.
From the seventh floor, all I heard were a few voices and the sound of a few laptops. The office/work floor, probably the most normal floor in the entire school.
Finally, I stood in front of the eight floor door. It was the only one that was completely silent. I opened the door without hesitation, and it creaked.
I stepped inside and scanned the room. It looked old. There were holes on the floor, some that I could easily fall into. The black floorboards creaked and groaned. The walls were once painted black, but half of the paint was gone. The room smelled of dust and mildew. It also smelled. . . Dead.
In the room itself, there was a piano in one corner, covered in a fine layer of dust. I decided not to touch it. There was also a basket of fruit, or at least it was fruit. It looked shriveled up and moldy. I wondered when it looked good as new. A few flowers were strewn around, also shriveled up. In the center of the room, there was a box that looked like. . .
I widened my eyes. What was a coffin doing in here? I mean, there might not be a body in it, but I wasn’t anxious to open the coffin and find out. I walked over to the coffin and read the gravestone next to it. It read,
“Nova Musica Johnson”
I stopped reading immediately. Nova Musica Johnson. The Nova Musica Johnson’s coffin is here?!?! If you think that it’s probably just a replica, try smelling it. It definitely wreaked of that century-old-dead-body smell.
But why was the coffin kept here, out of all places?
I kept on reading the gravestone.
Killed for committing familicide
Rest In Peace”
What was written on the gravestone didn’t make any sense. Why wasn’t anything written about how she founded our school? It was one of the most prestigious ones in Northern America. And why did the tombstone say that she was killed for committing familicide? Nova Musica Johnson died in her sleep.
Behind the gravestone, I noticed a worn leather book, with pages that were brittle and yellow. I carefully opened it up. Inside, there was neat, slanted English cursive. I recognized it as Nova’s writing. Curious, I started reading it. Here’s the gist:
“Veteris is officially starting to found a music school. It’s a ridiculous idea. The music school idea is giving Veteris so much attention.
“Father now treats me like a servant. I don’t know what got into him. It’s like he’s possessed. It’s like I’m his servant now, not his daughter. All of his love is on the music-school-founding-Veteris. Why can’t I have some of his love?
“I can’t believe it. I’ve been framed. I’m going to jail for life. I could’ve bailed out with the money my father had. He easily had enough to bust me out. But he doesn’t bother. All of his attention is still on Veteris. It’s like he doesn’t care whether I live or die. Veteris does whatever my father does now. She treats me like a servant, too. So now I’m stuck in jail for life. All because they wouldn’t bother getting me out.
“Jail is terrible. The food is disgusting, the space is cramped, and no one is friendly enough to even notice me unless I get into trouble. Then the guards punish me. Worst of all, dad and Veteris don’t come to visit. I’m all alone.
“I’ve discovered a weakness in the jail. I know how to escape. I’ll be out soon.
“I did it. I escaped. I’m back home. Maybe my father and Veteris changed while I was gone.
“They’re acting like I’m an actual criminal. I mean, I did escape prison, but I was falsely accused. It’s a miracle they haven’t turned me into the police. I’m back to servant life, which is just as good as prison life. I’m considering running away. I can’t stand this any longer.”
The writing stopped. But I needed to know more. I flipped through the book carefully, and found more pages with writing on them toward the back of the book. Here’s the gist:
“Veteris’ music school is now open.
“My so-called family found me. My father and Veteris. They were so mad at me, like I was the one who did everything wrong. I couldn’t stand it. I killed them. They were far from the people I loved. They deserved worse.
“I took the credit for the music school. Twisted the story around. Pretended my family had died from diseases. It worked.
“Someone found out the truth. I don’t know who. But I’m scheduled for execution. I regret nothing.”
That was the last page. I couldn’t believe it. Nova Musica Johnson wasn’t the founder of the school. She was a crazy lady, murdering her OWN FAMILY. Why would people even do that? I was seriously considering how sane humanity actually is.
Veteris Musica Johnson was the true founder of the school. The school should be named after Veteris, not after a murderer. The real story was different from the one we were taught. I couldn’t believe that all of the teachers kept this from us.
Then I scanned the room, looking at how old it was. No one has been up here for a long, long time. It was more likely no one knew about this place.
Or the truth.
Outside the room, the PA system crackled.
“The blizzard has ended, everybody! I recommend wearing snow boots, but it’s perfectly safe to go home now, if that’s what you’d like. Have a good day, everybody!”
I rushed down the stairs to the lounge, where my mother was starting to pack up her things. She sighed in relief.
“I was starting to get worried! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Let’s go home. And mom?”
“I discovered the craziest thing about our school.”