School. Damn. The building itself is characterless, newly built but with no imagination. Walls inside and out are white or grey, corridors identical with no displays or noticeboards. Fences coiled with barbed wire border the grounds, making it feel more like a prison than ‘A safe haven of learning’ as advertised by every damn sign they could lay their hands on. No inspiration to be found, except in the music department.
In a single-handed rebellion, the walls of every practice room were plastered with the most colourful posters and the most wonderful artwork. One room in particular holds a print of a painting with so many layers of beauty and horror that I still have never quite managed to do justice to with a single instrument. It shows a boy, mourning the corpse of his father; subtle strokes of silver show his tears. From his back extend broken wings, feathers dropping to the floor, rendering them useless. But holding him is his mother, her wings glorious in their pure white. The sun sets behind her head, such that the flare creates the illusion of a halo. The long fingers of the trees’ shadows scratch at their faces, willing them to turn from the corpse. The father is dead, but dead with a smile. A red sky joins his blood in the reminder that all must end, every day, every life.
I found the print discarded at the back of the art classroom almost a year ago. No one seemed to know whose it was so I asked to take it. Of course, they couldn't let me just take it, but they allowed me to possess it on behalf of the music department.
It instantly drew me in; I couldn't help but reach out to touch those amazing wings. Though shadowed, still able to shine, radiant despite the sorrow of the setting sun. That feeling of hope in the darkest time was one I've tried recreate countless times. But it requires more than melody to express such an emotion, it needs harmony. Unfortunately, I can't persuade anyone to help me; no one wants to be associated with me. So I keep trying, adding more subtle rhythms, more grace notes. Desperately attempting to condense the two parts into one. It never quite sounds right though.
Someone walks in as I play, probably just picking up an instrument. So I continue, reaching the end of the page and still not hearing them leave. I turn to see my sister's eyes, no, Abigail's eyes, glazed over, staring. It takes her a moment to notice the returning stare I give her.
"Oh, sorry, that was just...just beautiful." She blurts out, rushing her words. Her compliment stumps me; I don't often get feedback on anything. I wasn't quite sure how to deal with it.
"Th-Th-Thanks" I settle on a simple response, though for me it was very difficult. Just like before, she smiled an apology for making me struggle.
"It sounds like you're trying to fit in too much though." She said, standing up from the table she was leaning on to come and look at the sheet in front of me. She flips it over to find my initial draft. "Oh, it was in two parts."
"Yes, but I couldn–" Damn 'n'. "F-find anyon–" Her face tells me I don't need to say anymore. Eyes wide, a grin forming. She bolts from the room, returning almost instantly with a violin case.
"You play violin?" I ask, impressing myself with my fluency. She nods, eagerly revealing the polished spruce front of the instrument. I've never seen such a perfect finish, not a scratch or dent to be seen. I wrote the part for viola, but a violin could pull it off, especially one of this quality. Even as Abigail tunes, I can hear the exquisite tone.
"Can-n-you play th-this Abigail?" I ask, handing her my scrawled initial idea. She scans it, eyes darting swiftly across the creased page.
"I think so, and call me Abi - Abigail is just-" She shudders. "-you know?" I don't know what she means, Abigail sounds alright to me, better than Volani anyway. I still nod though, not wanting to create any tension so soon after finding her. Noticing the clock tick closer to the beginning of school, I am keen to at least try it once.
"Sh-shall we try it th-the--" I don't see the need to attempt the final 'n', she knows what I mean. She nods and raises her bow, eyes fixed on me. Instead of counting in, I conduct a bar before to set the tempo, so that my stammer doesn't mess up the beat.
We breathe together, I sway in time, she moves with each phrase. She lets each note resonate with precision, as I find myself able to relax now that my part allows a little room for manoeuvre. She makes a couple of mistakes, but acknowledges them instantly. Finally, I am able to hear the intricacies that I penned in back when I was optimistic. I notice slight clashes between our counter-melodies, some resolved, some less so. When the piece ends, all I can do is beam a grin of absolute gratitude towards Abi.
That is, until I notice the time. Damn. I'm an idiot. We both scramble our instruments away and run to our first classes, me streaming apologies in Abi's general direction. She waves them off, not allowing me to take the blame. But when I burst into the room, I know I will have to.
I'm late, my uniform isn't right, I've forgotten my book and I've been moved seats. Not a great start to History. And that's before I saw who I'm sat next to. Ellie. Damn.