A shriek like that of a tortured cat echoed around the room. Mrs. Lane covered her ears and scrunched up her face.
“Stop!” She shouted over the screeching notes. “Sweetie, you don’t have to press the bow against the strings like that. Light pressure will do.”
I looked down at the violin in my hands. I thought I was using light pressure. Would it even make a sound if I played any lighter? She sighed at the obvious confusion on my face.
“Sweetie, are you sure you want to do this?” She asked cautiously. “Learning the violin isn’t easy, and I’ve never really known you to be the musical type.”
“I want to learn,” I said, determined.
“If you were a child it might be one thing, but you’re already in college. Things will be much harder for you to understand and remember at this age,” she explained. “You’ve always had a nice voice. What about singing instead?”
“I want to learn violin,” I insisted.
She let out a sigh but smiled at me warmly. I wasn’t stupid about my ability to play this thing. I knew I was bad. I also knew my slow progress was probably troubling Mrs. Lane, but I didn’t have a choice. She was the only person I knew around the area who taught music. Aside from that, she was offering to teach me for free. I guess it was because she and Mom were such good friends.
“Alright, then let’s try again,” she said gently. “Light pressure, and start from the top.”
My performance was still less than amazing, Mrs. Lane’s occasional wincing made that obvious, but at least it didn’t shriek like last time. I never in my life thought Twinkle Twinkle Little Star would give me this much trouble. Still, I had to start somewhere. Especially if I wanted to work my way up to Sibelius someday.
The notes echoed around in my memories. The way I woke up to them as a child, fell asleep to them again at night. The beautiful, haunting notes that echoed down the hall and invaded my mind with such sweet dreams. The warmth I felt in their sound. I was going to play them. I would make it happen. One way or another.
“Not bad,” Mrs. Lane said cheerfully. “Definitely much better than last time.”
“And it only took three weeks,” I teased.
She chuckled softly. “Well, your progress certainly isn’t quick, but at least you’re making some. You’ll get there. Little by little.”
“Do you really think I can play Sibelius someday?” I asked nervously.
“With your determination? I don’t think anyone could stop you,” she said, reaching out and pinching my cheek. “Let’s keep that momentum going for the next class, okay?”
A small smile played at my lips. I nodded to her and began packing my violin in its case. Mrs. Lane organized the sheet music and placed it back in her folder.
“Any big plans today?” She asked.
“I’m visiting Mom after this,” I said simply.
“Well… say ‘hi’ for me then,” she said softly.
I nodded and slung the case over my shoulder. I shivered as I stepped outside into the brisk autumn air. I hoped it wouldn’t get any colder. I wanted to stay with Mom for a while and talk.
Leaves crunched beneath my feet as I walked down the street. The sinking sun covered everything in an orangish glow. How lovely. Mom would like it at least. I felt a little guilty. It’d been a while since I'd seen her, but I wanted to have something to show her before I visited.
The air only got colder as the sun dipped lower. I hoped I would be able to see what I was doing when I got there. I wished I could visit her earlier, but I just didn’t have the time. I had classes all morning and afternoon, and I had to meet with Mrs. Lane in the evening for lessons. This was the only time I could go.
There was one thing I did enjoy about visiting Mom so late. The silence. Not a soul around for miles and nothing but the sound of rustling leaves in the breeze. Perfect to give Mom a little performance. Without damaging anyone’s eardrums.
I smiled as I saw her up ahead. I hoped she’d be happy with my progress. I sat on the ground next to her and took off my case.
“Hey, Mom. Sorry I haven’t been around much,” I said sheepishly.
A chilly wind blew through, rustling the leaves left on the tree. One of them broke loose and landed on her. I picked it off gently and twirled it between my fingers. I smiled at the reddish-brown tint.
“I just finished my lesson with Mrs. Lane. She says ‘hi,’ by the way. She also says I’m making progress,” I said, shrugging. “Honestly, I can’t tell if I am or not. I remember how you used to play, how beautiful it sounded, and I feel like I’m not making any progress at all. She keeps telling me it’s about baby steps. If I keep up the determination, I’ll get there eventually. I hope she’s right.”
I reached over and unlatched my violin case. I pulled it out and plucked at the strings a bit. Not like it mattered, I didn’t really know how to tune a violin anyway. I drew the bow across the strings. It still didn’t “sing” the way Mom’s did, but at least it didn’t shriek.
It was just Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but I’d never focused so hard on doing anything in my life. I wanted to play well for her. As I finished I placed the violin back in its case. I hoped Mom was proud of me. I reached out and placed my hand on her gently. I sighed deeply.
“I’m still a long way from Sibelius, but I’m going to get there eventually,” I promised her. “Even if it takes until I’m one-hundred, I’ll play it. Then I’m going to come here and play it for you.”
The cold marble slab darkened in the fading light. I brushed my fingers across the engraved letters. She always wanted me to learn when I was little, I never wanted to. So I was going to do it now. For her. I’d play Sibelius so beautifully her tears would rain down from heaven. Little by little I was going to make her proud.