C A L E B
The music room was empty, thankfully.
After school hours, even the most eager of musical students didn’t stay to bash out a couple more songs. Even the eccentric music teacher, Miss Garrett, didn’t stay more than five minutes once the bell rang.
Clouds shifted in front of sun. Orange sunlight streaked across the floor, illuminating the numerous instruments lining the wall. A grand piano sat on the raised floor in the centre of the room.
The music room was my favourite place in the entire school. It was the highest point on the top floor, and you could see for miles out of the windows. One entire wall was purely glass.
I slipped my bag off my shoulder and dropped it onto a table. Yanking my earphones out, I fumbled through my bag to find my glasses. I hated them, but I couldn’t read a single thing without them on. Some girls had told me I looked cute with them on. Whatever.
In front of Miss Garrett’s grubby mirror, I slipped them on unwillingly. I stared at my reflection. Floppy black hair, long tan limbs, brown eyes. Average. Taller than most, but still shorter than most of my friends. I wasn’t anything special.
I turned away from myself, and sat down at the piano. Unlike most of the instruments in the room, the piano was still flawless, despite being nearly eight years old. The keys were cleaned every day, the body of it polished regularly. It was beautiful.
I pulled a few sheets from the basket beside the piano. Most of the music Miss Garrett owned was either too easy for me to play, or too tedious. I preferred to improvise.
I watched the sun cast gentle colours of orange and yellow onto the far away fields as my fingers shifted softly over the keys. Quiet melodies spilled from the piano. I didn’t look at the keys—I was a million miles away.
At some point, my wrists grew tired and the sun slid down low. I pulled my hands away from the keys, letting them rest on the polished wood.
Both of my parents worked late hours, so it meant my house was empty most of the time. I hated going home and sitting in silence—most days, I stayed after school to play music. Miss Garrett had even given me my own key for the school. That hadn’t gone down well with my friends.
I picked up a piece of lined paper and began to scribble down some notes.
“For an idiot, whatever you just played was pretty good.”
I jumped, turning quickly.
Megan Carter leaned against the door. Her face looked oddly pretty when she wasn’t screaming. It had been more than a week since that had happened.
I grunted, turning away.
I heard a soft laugh. “Don’t be like that, kid.”
“Why are you here?” I sighed, ignoring the jibe. “The school closed a half hour ago.”
“Uh, try two hours ago,” she replied.
I frowned, glancing at the clock. Damn, it really was five o’clock.
She walked towards the piano. Her delicate hands ran over the ebony wood, her fingertips dipping into the whorls. Silver rings curved around her slim fingers.
“I have one like this at home,” she whispered.
I looked up from my sheet. “I used to have one like this.”
Her brow furrowed. “Used to?”
“My mum sold it,” I shrugged. “Said I didn’t need it.”
I caught her eyes and shrugged again. “She didn’t think I’d make it far as a musician, so she cut off the only thing that could help me become one.”
“That’s unreasonably harsh.” Megan scowled down at the piano body.
“It was a while ago. Besides,” I mumbled. “I still get to come here and practise every day.”
She walked over to the window, arms crossed over her chest. The dimming sunlight outside illuminated her gentle features. The soft slope of her nose, the swell of her rose lips, the length of her thick lashes. Her hair hung in soft ringlets down to the concave of her lower back.
Beauty in a human form.
I chewed my lip. Trying not to look at her was like trying not to look at an eclipse. Impossible not to stare at, but impossible to stare at.
If I looked, she would burn me.
She swallowed—I watched the bob of her throat underneath mocha coloured skin. A soft sigh.
“I am sorry,” she began. “Really, I am. I didn’t mean to accuse you of denting my car.”
The corner of my lips twitched. “I take it you also didn’t mean to storm into the canteen and scream at me in front of two hundred people, either.”
She grimaced. “No, I didn’t. Sorry about that. I was just pissed that my first day was going so crap.”
“How come?” Not that I cared. Well, maybe I did. Just a little.
She shook her head. Dark curls tumbled over her shoulders. Sighing, she turned and said, “I’ve already been called every bad name under the sun, and I’ve only been here for seven hours. My locker was trashed because of some second year fight.” Swinging her long legs up, she hopped onto a desk. “My bag split as I was walking up the stairs and all of my books fell down to the first floor.”
Megan snorted, “Yeah, just a little.”
“Where did you come from?”
Her body tensed. I worried for a minute that I’d asked the wrong question before I reminded myself, I didn’t care.
Megan didn’t answer for a while. I returned to scratching down a couple more notes.
“Aberdeen,” she replied, quietly. “I lived in London until I was fourteen. My parents decided they wanted a change of scenery, so moved me up to Scotland. I stayed in Aberdeen for three years and then transferred here.” Her jewelled green eyes locked with mine and she smirked. “Glasgow has a better programme of guys.”
I rolled my eyes, but I rubbed my sweaty palms against my thighs. This girl was the most interesting person I’d ever met—especially when she wasn’t shouting at me. She was completely different to all of the orange, bleached blonde girls that pretty much ran the school.
“So,” she said, jumping from the desk and rapping her knuckles against the top of the piano. “What’s your story, Dwight?”
My back stiffened and I stood up, pushing away from the instrument. Darkly, I said, “I don’t have one.”
“Oh, come on,” she laughed. “Everyone has a story. What’s your biggest fear? Who was your first kiss? How many houses have you lived in? Spill, big guy.”
My first kiss. I nearly laughed. This girl knew I was about as innocent as Virgin freaking Mary.
Megan watched me expectantly as I turned to face her again. I focused on the setting sun just behind her head so I wouldn’t have to look her in the face.
“There isn’t much to tell, really,” I started, itching at my neck. I needed to shave. “I’ve lived in Glasgow my whole life. I lived in a foster home for a few years. When I was two or three, Jill and David adopted me, and have been my parents since then.” A smile crept into my voice.
Megan, instead of looking pitying like most others, just smiled. “You love them.”
I nodded, a hot feeling brushing my cheeks. Oh hell no. There is no way she was making me blush.
“Yeah, I do. They’re great.”
“Even though your mum sold your pride and joy?”
I laughed—I couldn’t help it. “Yeah, even though. I mean, I do have an electric piano—“
“Oh you liar!” She laughed, kicking my shin. “She just got rid of your grand, it’s hardly like you didn’t have anything to practise on.”
Grinning, I shrugged. “Hey, you asked why she sold it, not whether or not I had other resources.”
Her white teeth gleamed at me. Jeez, she was gorgeous.
A phone started to ring. Sighing, Megan slipped her hand into her pocket and pulled out her phone.
“Hello? Dad?” She fell silent, and I could hear the angry yelling from the other end of the phone. Rolling her eyes, she pinched the bridge of her nose. “Dad, I stayed behind to practise some pian—no, I’m not with a guy. I’m not! Good God, Dad, I’ll be home in ten minutes. Goodbye.”
She hung up, cutting off the tinny grumbling. I raised an eyebrow at her.
“Protective father, much?”
Grunting, she hopped off the desk and picked up her bag, slinging it over her shoulder. Before she left, she glanced at me. Her ringed finger gently tapped my chin.
“You gotta smile more often, Dwight. It looks good on you.”
In a swirl of vanilla and a gleam of a white smile, Megan Carter was gone.