Teens & Young Adult

Just as twilight was turning to dark night, Catherine quietly slid open her bedroom window and climbed out onto the flat roof of the first-floor extension. She crept along the edge, to keep her weight on the strongest point, and then jumped down and landed neatly on the lawn. Her escape was accompanied by the faint sound of piano music coming from the open living room window. She could picture the scene; her mother sitting tidily in her favourite armchair, her hands folded on her lap, her eyes closed, as she listened to recordings of Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Prokofiev. Her mother loved her piano music so much, and would now be so enraptured in their melodies, that Catherine’s escape would go unnoticed.

Behind the garden wall, in the quiet back street, her chauffer was waiting. Bad boy Deano, who was four years Catherine’s senior, was sitting in his car with his two bad boy friends, Barry and Jack. Catherine waved to them as she hurried across the street. When she opened the back door and jumped inside, Deano revved the engine loudly and they sped away. 

“Hey, Cat. How’s it going?” Deano called over his shoulder.

“Same as ever, D. Same as ever.”

“Well, the night’s young and now you can relax,” said Barry. “We found a new place to try out. Here, have a beer.”

Catherine accepted the offered can and took a swig. The beer was warm and she felt it travel slowly through her. She leaned back, closed her eyes and felt the rhythm of the car as it drove through the night. Eventually, they arrived at a rundown neighbourhood, full of boarded-up houses and derelict, empty shops. Deano parked in front of one particular house. It was a large family house, made of stone, something which belonged to a previous time and place, with two bay windows on either side of a grand front door. The glass of the windows was long gone, and the front door had followed close behind, so that now, in the darkness, the house front looked like an ominous inviting face. The four friends jumped out of the car and went inside.         

Using the torches from their mobile phones, they explored the empty space. The walls were covered in spraypainted graffiti. Broken glass crackled and splintered underfoot as they headed upstairs. Here they found four bedrooms, with broken bed frames and rancid mattresses. The bathroom had been stripped of its copper piping so that it no longer functioned, and the toilet, sink and bath lay smashed into pieces. Downstairs, a kitchen at the back had been emptied of its white goods. A first reception room contained a lonely sofa, old and torn. In a second room, they discovered a table and some chairs, and in the corner stood an upright piano. Everything, everywhere, was covered in a thick layer of dust.

Deano sat down at the table, stood his phone upright to use the torch as a light, and took his tobacco tin from his pocket. He threw the car keys to the other two boys, who disappeared and returned with more beer, while he made up a smoke which contained something more than tobacco. A few minutes later, they were all in chill mode, laughing and chatting, enjoying a moment together, comfortable here even though the space around them was hostile and stark.

In the early hours, Barry and Jack were asleep on the sofa. Deano and Catherine sat in silence. There was no need for talk. This was the best time; stress free, silent, cocooned in a bond of friendship which was held together by a mutual respect for each other and an absence of demands and expectations. They lived in the moment, just enjoying the hanging out together. During these bad boy nights, Catherine could be herself, for herself, leave all the trappings and traps behind, safe in the care of this strange group of knights in shining armour.

Suddenly Catherine got up and walked over to the piano. She pulled up a chair, brushed the dust away from the keys, spread her hands and began to play. The piano was in poor shape. It tinkled and pinged out of tune. Some of the keys produced only a dull thud, but Catherine pressed on regardless. Suddenly she was lost in the moment. Her fingers moved across the keyboard, fluid and flowing, playing a slow, sad piece which moved up and down in an arpeggio wave. Deano turned towards her. Gradually, a sleepy Barry and Jack appeared in the doorway. Nobody spoke. They just listened. When Catherine finished, she sat in silence and stared at the keys.  

“Wow,” said Barry. “I didn’t know you could play. You never said.”   

“What was that?” said Deano.

“Mozart. Fantasia in C Minor.”

“You really rocked it, Cat,” said Jack. “I’m impressed.”

Catherine turned to look at the bad boys. She didn't want to talk about her other life, how her mother was there at her shoulder all the time, watching, waiting, expecting.

“I should go home,” she said.

They drove back in silence. Deano dropped Catherine off in the back lane again. She waved once and walked round to the front door. Her mother lifted one of the curtains, dropped it again and then was waiting to let her in. On the door step, they paused and stared at each other. Catherine stank of beer, cigarettes and dust. Her mother said nothing, and stepped back to let her inside.

They drank tea together in the living room. Quiet piano music still played softly in the background on the radio. Catherine looked around the room at her success, at the photos of her school concerts, at the framed piano exam certificates and the newspaper cuttings, at her trophies and medals.  

“You still have to be up early to practice,” said her mother, matter-of-factly. “You know you can’t miss it, even if you…”

Her voice trailed off. She sat in her armchair with her hands neatly folded on her lap.

“I know,” said Catherine, and there was nothing else to say.          

July 28, 2023 21:32

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Kevin Logue
12:06 Aug 04, 2023

Welcome to Reedsy Maggie. This piece has potential, I just wish there was more from the mother though to show her being the one living through her daughter. Perhaps a mention that her mother forced the piano on her as she never made it big herself, or something of that matter. Regardless, your writing flows well and you set a scene nicely. Looking forward to seeing what else you come up with.


Maggie Holman
12:50 Aug 04, 2023

Thank you for your like and comments, Kevin. Much appreciated.


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