It was eleven on a Tuesday night. The outside air was warm and still, a complete contrast to the tempest raging inside Remi's head. The lamps in his bedroom glowed a solemn shade of yellow, trying to console the boy who was sleepless for an entirely different reason than most nights. Sheet music scattered all over the floor, hopeless and abandoned. Had it been any other night, the old guitar wouldn't merely stand against the gray wall, letting the unbearable silence take over like this. But tonight was not like any other night. The only sounds in the room were from the clock ticking on the nightstand and the quivering creature curled on the ground. Amidst the quietude, Remi sobbed, pale hands pressed hard on his face, the loudness of his cries making him feel out of place in his own room.
A ghost of a girl hovered above Remi, swirling in spirals as if she was caught up in his whirlwind. Try as she may, she could not help the poor boy, for he refused to look up. In fact, the boy refused to look anywhere at all, squeezing his eyes shut, shying away even from the tiniest trace of light. Suddenly, Remi's quivers started turning into violent shakes, possibly out of his despondency, or it could be due to the icy waves from the ghost above him. It was anyone’s guess. The reason didn’t matter anyway.
If only his voice hadn't got caught in his throat. If only he had belted a little louder. If only he had held the mic at another angle…
If only he were better, they would have heard him.
They would have loved him.
Remi pressed harder into his palms as their pitiful ‘thank you’ pounded in his head like a broken record. He could have saved himself from a lot of heartbreak had he bolted out the second they let him. But he didn't.
As Remi used his last ounce of energy to push the metal door—which had gotten much heavier since he came in fifteen minutes before—he heard the music start again. Remi stiffened once the door closed behind him with a thud. It was the first time in his life that he tried to tune out something he loved dearly. He couldn't bear to let it hurt him, anything but the music.
But his feet glued him to the ground, forcing him to acknowledge the sounds penetrating through the soundproof walls. The drums took an awfully cheerful rhythm, and someone started singing, something that he didn’t hear himself do moments ago.
And he realized that he did a better job soundproofing himself than the thick walls ever did.
Remi knew that had it been someone else in there—someone with a better, stronger voice—they wouldn’t have bothered to soundcheck again. He also knew that the band had to strain to hear him over the drums and stopped listening to him altogether after the second verse. And although they were kind enough to let him finish, the looks on their faces made him wish that they didn’t.
Now, secured in the fortress of his bedroom, where pitiful glances could not touch him, Remi finally let himself cry to sleep. He couldn’t grasp why he was so upset anymore. The reasons merged, intertwining like a million serpents devouring one another until the boy was finally left weeping about nothing at all.
Remi didn’t know, but his ghost ached above him. For years she had looked after him, listened to him, loved him. When Remi finally worked up the courage to join a band, she let out the loudest voiceless laugh in her afterlife. She listened to his highest and lowest notes, suggesting song choices in whichever way she could. Every random track that popped up on his phone, every lyric that he heard in malls and on the radio were all of her craftings.
Like Remi, she thought he would make it. He had been doing so good and even went as far as the final round. But for some reason, the music drowned Remi's voice the moment he needed it the most. Maybe it was because of his nerves. Maybe it was because he didn't practice enough. Maybe it was because he wasn't ready to sing in front of a crowd.
But the reason didn't matter. It didn't matter how hard it was for Remi to sing for strangers. It didn't matter how bad Remi wanted the part. It didn't matter how hard he tried. In the end, he was just another dreamer.
And the reason couldn't care less.
The ghost drifted into the vintage mirror beside the wardrobe and gave a loud knock. If there was anyone who cared about Remi, it was her, the only other soul in his bedroom. Remi's head shot up, his cries lost in his throat as he turned to noise. He gasped. There in the mirror was a small boy in a white shirt and faded blue jeans, brown eyes red and puffy, face swollen from tears. It took almost ten seconds for Remi to recognize himself.
It wasn’t the first time strange noises erupted from the old wooden mirror. In fact, the pattering had been going on for years now. Last week, when Remi was rehearsing for his big audition, faint tapping came creeping out of the corner of his room, coaching him through the song. The peculiar sound seemed almost normal to the boy. He could easily shrug it off if he wanted to, but there was something different about this knock—something urgent and desperate.
Remi waited for another peep from the antique, but nothing came. For a while, he just stared at his reflection. Isn't it ironic how happy he was minutes before he went through that room? Now he was just a sad boy who couldn't remember why he bothered to audition at all.
Just as Remi was about to avert his eyes from the mirror, his reflection shifted slightly like ripples disturbing a peaceful pond. His face became rounder, softer. His messy brown hair grew to his shoulder in wavy locks. His eyebrows were no longer as thick as they used to be.
And suddenly, he remembered.
Before pungent gasoline and screeching tires muffled his nerves, they were in a café. He was eight years old and so proud of her. She was seventeen years old and so proud of him. Strumming the chords they both knew all too well, she sang. Her honeyed voice blended perfectly with the rich deep brown aroma filling the air. A group of people gathered around to hear the girl play, but she was looking only at him. Bouncing on the tip of his toes, the boy waved at her. She smiled and suppressed the fit of giggles bubbling in her throat, pushing their way to join in with the song. Like him, the crowd was enraptured by her singing. And anyone could tell that she loved to sing for them. Occasionally, the boy would turn to the stranger beside him and cheer: "That's my sister! That's my sister!"
The girl in the mirror smiled at Remi, who was now grown and no longer eight. She brushed a strand of hair from her face, the same curls Remi had. Her brown eyes mirrored his; if Remi didn’t know better, he'd think that she was real.
"That's my brother," the girl mouthed, her lips spreading into the wildest of smiles. "That's my brother."
And like that, she was gone.
Remi quickly wiped away his tears, jumped to his feet, and collected the sheet music he had left scattering around his room.
Because it felt urgent and desperate.
Because It felt like the only right thing to do.
Because Remi finally remembered his reason, and his reason did matter after all.