Monday, January 31, 2011

Melody

There's this melody I've carried with me all my life. A song no one knows but me. It's always there hovering at the edges of my consciousness, tickling the back of my mind. I hear it now riding above the thick bass that shakes the dance floor. It worms its way between the writhing bodies of my new classmates. A lingering echo of the déjà vu I felt when I entered the gates of this estate, maybe.

I’m an island in this sea of dancers. They’re fluid, moving through each other, greeting old friends with air kisses, all to the beat of some insipid techno music. Until now, I always thought these kind of people weren’t real. Something you see on tv. An over-exaggeration of the lifestyles of the super-rich. A joke. If my friends back home were here they’d laugh themselves silly. Nobody actually listens to techno, Dani would say. It’s euro-trash. They just dump it here in America. But I guess it's different if you've actually been to Europe.

Of all the crappy moments I’ve had today. From the front desk girl sneering at me as she handed me my room key, Oh, you’re one of them. To finding out that my roommate and everyone else on campus moved in yesterday. To watching my dad’s beat up station wagon pull out of the parking lot, this is the moment where I know for sure I’ve made a huge mistake.

My head aches. Whether it’s from the music or the champagne they handed me when I walked in the door, I don’t know. The crowd feels like it squeezing me in even though not a soul acknowledges my existence. I am furniture, or one of the columns holding up the domed ceiling. Something to be moved around, but otherwise ignored. I need to get out of this place.

I push against the tide until I’m standing in the grand foyer. It’s hollow and lonely now that everyone’s in the ballroom. I tug at waist of my favorite sundress and remember the smirks and gasps of horror from the girls in their evening gowns as I passed through earlier. I should’ve known and yet I never suspected. Who has a prom the night before the first day of school?

It’s only when the light changes that I realize I’ve been walking on auto-pilot. I’ve crossed the foyer and entered a dim corridor. I take one look at the sconces on the wall – the real, oil burning kind – and the red velvety patterned wallpaper, and déjà vu swells around me. I know this place. I’ve been here before. Which is crazy. Until yesterday, I’d never been outside of Michigan.

Stop. Go back, now. I couldn’t make myself turn around if I wanted to. Because I realize now, it’s my melody that’s calling me, singing in my bones, pulling me further down the hall. I pass the library and the parlor; rooms I can see in my mind’s eye before I reach them. The end of the hall opens into a wide circle. To my right are stairs that I know lead to bedrooms, and the study. To my left an archway looks into a large round room. My destination.

The room is empty except for a grand piano that stands in a pool of moonlight. The surface is so glossy it looks like water. Before I can stop myself I’m seated on the bench, driven by a need to hear my song need, to hear it come from somewhere outside of myself. My hands tremble. I’m suddenly certain in a way that I have never been, that this is the place my song comes from. This room, this piano.

My fingers begin to pick out the melody. Like always, I feel a stab of disappointment that I can’t play it better, the way it deserves to be played.

The song - my song - always makes me feel melancholy, like something beautiful was lost, but in this place, it’s overwhelming. I lose myself in the music. In the parts I can hear but can’t play. In the emotions it churns in me. And for a moment I’m not alone in this awful place, I’m not even Kyra. I’m transported to another time, where this song made me happy. Where this song meant... love.

“How do you know that song?”

I’m not sure what’s louder, my scream or the discordant noise the piano makes when I slam my hands down in shock.

The boy who spoke stands in shadow in the archway. His voice had sounded astonished, but even in silhouette, I can see his posture is indignant, tense. My heart thuds in my chest. I can’t think of a single word to say.

He walks toward me, into the moonlight, and I gasp. He could be a sculpture, he’s so beautiful. And this is the biggest surprise.

In this house full of things I know by heart, I don’t know this boy at all. His face is foreign to me. And unlike everything else I’ve come across tonight, he’s completely unexpected.

His eyes bore into me, searching for something I’m sure I don’t possess.

“How do you know that song?” he asks again. There’s no surprise this time, only anger.

I want to stand up and run from the room, but I can’t. His question and his eyes, pin me in place.

He moves warily around the piano, never taking his eyes off me, until he reaches the end of the bench.

It takes a few seconds for it to sink in that he’s still waiting for an answer. I focus on my guilty hands still smashed down on the keys.

“I don’t. It’s just something I always play.” I glance up at him.

He frowns at me and I slip my hands off the piano and into my lap. “I’m sorry, I was looking for the bathroom, and I saw the piano and I just…”

His eyes narrow with suspicion, like he’s really seeing me for the first time. “Do you even go to the school?” It’s more accusation than question.

“Yes. I’m new.” He looks at me skeptically. “I’m uh, one of the ten,” I say remembering my roommate’s disdainful nickname for us scholarship kids.

He nods, believing me, I guess, but his tone doesn’t get any friendlier. “This part of the house is off limits.”

“Right. Of course. I’m sorry.” I take a shaky breath and stand. He stays at the edge of the bench, in my way. Our eyes meet, and time stops. Everything stops, even my heart. This close, I can hear his breath catch in his throat. The hostility in his gaze falls away, replaced with something softer. A magnetic force pulls us closer. His lips on my lips is the only thing that matters. I lean forward just as he dips his head down to meet mine. Yes. I don’t even know his name, but I know this is how it’s supposed to be.

And then he jerks away from me, leaving me dangling in space and I remember to breathe.

He takes a step back and looks at me with an open, curious expression. I realize I’m trembling, and clutch my arms to still myself. The walls behind his eyes fall back into place and his posture returns to the indignant, you don’t belong here stance he had when I first spoke. He’s just like everyone else at this school. I don’t know why I expected any different.

“The guest bathroom is to the right of the ballroom.” He nods towards the door, no longer looking at me.

I step around the piano, still breathless. “Thanks.” I say. “Um, sorry.”

He sighs heavily but doesn’t respond. The silence is painful as I walk past him and out of the room. I can feel his eyes on me the entire way but I don’t look back. I’m afraid of what might happen if I do. As soon as I’m through the archway I manage to take three whole steps before I collapse against the wall.

My breath is coming in short gasps and I know I’m about to cry. I hate this place. I try to slow my breathing and collect myself. I will not go out there and let those spoiled brats think they got to me already.

At first I think the melody is only in my head, where it always is. But then it grows louder, fuller. It tumbles out of the piano room and into the hall. The rational part of my brain screams at me to run, but instead I creep closer. I peek my head around the archway.

The mystery boy sits at the piano, drenched in moonlight. His eyes are closed. All the tension in his body is gone and he’s playing my song. My song. Only more fleshed out than I’ve ever been able to make it. He plays it like it’s classical music; and it aches in a way I never imagined.

The floor tilts beneath me and before I know it I’m running. Down the hallway, through the foyer, past the shocked faces, and the laughter. I don’t care anymore, all I want is out.

With every footstep, his words echo through my mind. How do you know that song?

And with every breath, the question I don’t want to ask presses against my chest. How does he?


*****
Come back Wednesday for an all new short story by Lacey!

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