Part of the learning process

Submitted into Contest #38 in response to: Write a story about someone learning how to play an instrument. ... view prompt

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         I am waiting for you.

               The paper, imprinted with little black songbirds, all in a row, singing on the power lines, calls out to me:

               “Listen to my language.”

               But I am past listening; my heart sings along. My fingers glide upwards, synchronised with the hours of learning. I stumble, but the trip is only momentary, and my eyes return to the obscurity where those songbirds fly. It is a hush, a morning melody, the sound of a spring stream running tranquilly through fairy-tale air. The notes skip and dive through my head. Here it comes, up rises the sound, up the dynamic, in press my fingers, forte - the tune collides with the atmosphere. Strong, and glorious it sings, breaking through the peace and retuning with…

               I hadn’t finished the sentence. My fingers leapt from their melody, yet the bassline still pounds at my chest, my breath keeping time.

               “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Your hands command the doors closed. I look up at you, cheeky grin, hand on heart:

               “You almost scared the life out of me!” A little laughter overflows from our smiles. I cross my legs. “Looks like you just missed the rain – I thought it would put you off.”

               “Of course not; wouldn’t miss your playing for the world – it sounded good by the way, from what I heard.”

               “In a bit, I’ll play a piece for you all the way through, maybe once the rain quiets a bit.”

               A silent smile grows on your face, but dies upon a thought. You push your hand through your hair and your dark eyebrows sink to your eyes – your shoulders sinking with them as you let out a tired breath. “You might be startled at my asking but, before you play – I wanted to ask – how is Daniel Keeton?”

               The rain echoes your question in my mind as my cheeks become pink with autumn roses. You begin to pace towards the wall on the far side of the small room. Itching my nose, my eyes greet the distorted faces in the wooden floorboards– a distraction from the stormy waves writhing and rolling in my stomach. “I haven’t, exactly, been on friendly terms with him, since… why do you ask?”

               The partial shadows have become your companion with frivolous, silhouetted droplets from the skylight illuminating your distracted face. I feel your eyes on me, but cannot return the glance. “I met him in the holidays accidentally and he found out we knew each other. He didn’t stop talking about you after that, which at first, I enjoyed – being able to talk about you – to someone else, you know, but – his words – when we had been together, talking for some time – well – they became stronger – almost as if – he was in love.” Your earnest gaze tries to catch my eye. “Tell me – dearest – do you feel the same for him?”

               I keep my eyes on the steady fall of the rain; itself only constant for a while before it would soon die away to nothing, its effects unrevealed until the sun comes and kisses the earth again. “No. I do not love him – I’m not certain I ever did. I have to ask though, did he really speak so often and so warmly of me – to my face he is nothing but cruel – that is though, sometimes – when he is alone – his sweeter side comes out. It’s funny how he can be so interchangeable.” I laugh at the recollection, I pause, listening to the concerto outside, then gingerly, I begin again. “I guess… in the past, I fancied that I rather liked him – or at least his nice side.”

               Your head snaps away from me.

               “But I promise – I didn’t know him then. It’s not like you can really love someone you don’t know - and of his fondness; stupidity. I can only assume he’s playing some fanciful game he’s conjured all himself – I have no doubt he could, he’s a right tease.”

               “I tease you too.” You said indignantly.

               “Yes, but you’re not mean. Your teasing isn’t riddled with alternative motives, trying to trick me into romance. Oh look, the rain is heavier.”

               You shake your head. “I’m sure he didn’t intend to trick you into romance, but if that was his motive, then it is completely possible, and thoroughly understandable, if you did fall in love with him. Can you really blame the man for your own naivety and wearing your heart on your sleeve?

               “Oh please don’t. I have been over it so many times in my head and it only makes sense if we are both to blame in some way – is that proof enough of my indifference; I don’t like him, let alone love him – if I did I would just burden all the blame myself. But I don’t. Please, just forgive me for my past stupidity – I didn’t love him really – I didn’t know what love was – I see that now – even with others it was only fancy or a part of them I loved.”

               You leave the comfort of the wall and with your hand softly outlining the room’s shadowed circumference, slowly your footsteps begin to make their way to me. Tears hint on your stoic gaze but you hold your countenance. “When you move on, from loving me, will you also say you didn’t really love me? Will I just be part of your past folly and a fragment of your false fondness?”

               My face meets yours upon a gasp. Shaking, tears prick my eyes like a pot of sewing pins and my nose stings – I choke on my words: “I – I didn’t realise. I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, I love you, I don’t want to love anyone but you, I...” The tears formed puddles in my eyes but they were not my battle; they did not flow, they were not dramatic, they were little and meaningful and open and true. “How do I fix it?” The sky silenced.

               The next thing I feel is your arms enveloping me. I sob, but my palm protects the cordial air. I hold tight to your arms as you sit beside me on the piano stool, flaxen sunlight outlining retreating clouds.

               “I can’t help you fix it, that you will have to learn all on your own, but I will always be here to support you on the journey.”

               In the comfort of your arms, my tears begin to subside. My sobs become a hushed sigh, and a snivel wrapped in the sound of silent adoration. You love me despite my faults and I will always return all my love back to you:

               “Would you like me to play for you?”

April 23, 2020 17:32

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1 comment

Philip Baker
17:28 Apr 30, 2020

Esoteric, sensitive, and extremely powerful. Great work.


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