Every finger pushed down the right key, every chord complemented every melody line. Viktor was in the moment, he was playing Chopin, a waltz that reminded him of her. He thought of the piano as his shrink, only to remember what it did to her. Every white key held an ounce of relief, but in the same bar, every black key held an ounce of guilt. His fingers move at a hundred miles an hour, and showed no signs of stopping. But at the climax of the piece, they tripped on each other and crashed horribly with the worst dissonance possible.
Viktor let go of the piano. He looked up to the ceiling, breathing heavily. He opened his mouth and screamed into the empty room. His head fell and tears broke from his eyes as if a dam has been broken. A waterfall of sorrow was let go, wrinkles formed on his skin, sunlight emphasised his sweat, mixed with tears, revealing an unusual fragility.
Viktor is no longer the indestructible prodigy pianist. The piano had broken him.
He grasped the photo on the floor, and his tears fell onto it. He rushed to wipe off the taint, but more tears replaced it.
“I miss you so much.” He cried to the photograph.
Lauryn sat on the ledge with her legs dangling off the side, alone. Her face was imperturbable, but the battle in her heart was dogmatic. She felt as if she was in some crooked nightmare and she knew that she would never to come to acquiescence.
She used her left hand, her working hand, to call Viktor. The phone rang and rang, but only voicemail answered.
“Well, I don’t know how to say this, Viktor.”
“Thank you, I guess, for bringing me to the hospital and stuff after the fall and for, well, generally just being there for me.”
A tear rolled down her cheek.
“The doctor said I won’t be able to play the piano again, so I guess, I guess I was right. You know, about the whole dreams thing. I just didn’t expect it to happen like this.”
“Anyways, like you said, I’m not stopping you from anything. Just know that I’m thankful for you, and I wish you the best.”
“Mr. Jackson, it’s not that I’ve given up, it’s just.. it’s just that I don’t want to play anymore.” Viktor tripped over his own words.
“With all due respect, Viktor, you’re the best pianist we’ve got.”
“Your best pianist was Lauryn, not me.”
A silence hung in the air. The loss had struck everyone hard, some more than others. Viktor tapped the seat awkwardly, trying to get ahold of a slow rhythm. His trembling fingers prevented that, and his eyes were fixated on everything but Mr. Jackson.
“I know it’s been tough, Viktor. We all miss her badly.” Mr. Jackson shuffled uneasily. “But tonight’s important, not just for the school, but for you. Plenty of music college scouts are out there.”
“I..” Viktor stuttered, “I can’t. I can’t do it. I’m sorry.”
“Dammit Viktor,” Mr. Jackson shot back “you’re not about to throw away your future over some dead girl.” Before Mr. Jackson realised how insensitive his words were, the rain had made its’ impact.
“She’s…” Viktor was weary, “She’s not just some dead girl, can’t you see.”
“Viktor, I’m sorry. I realise she meant a lot to you. But please, for the love of God, we need you there tonight.”
Lauryn stared at the doctor relentlessly. She held her gaze, a mixture of pain and fear radiated from her face. “It’ll recover soon, right doctor?”
The doctor fidgeted his fingers, unsure of how to break the news. “Well…”
“I’m not paralysed am I, doctor?” Lauryn was wary, weary as can be. Her right hand was covered in bandages and she couldn’t even feel her fingers, yet still she was hopeful.
“Several months, Lauryn. The fall was horrible, and we’re lucky only your right hand was impacted.”
Lauryn turned away, her eyes blinked rapidly, trying to hold in the tears. Her lips pursed in discomfort.
“When will I be able to play the piano again?”
“Your bones and joints will recover, your motor neurones however… they’ll never work the same.”
“So Viktor, what do you want to be when you grow up?” questioned Lauryn, “As in like, what do you dream of?”
Lauryn looked at Viktor without blinking, trying to figure him out. Viktor was looking into the distance, lost in his own thoughts.
Viktor looked at the photograph one last time, holding it tightly between his trembling fingers.
“Up next.” exclaimed the announcer, “We have Viktor Charter.”
Viktor hurriedly put the photograph in his pocket and walked on stage. The lights were shining on him and him only. He took a bow, and the audience applauded. He took his seat at the piano, and placed the photograph on the sheet stand.
“I’m want to be great. Like, piano legend and all of that.” Viktor joked. “How about you?”
Viktor took a deep breath, positioned his hands, and let his fingers dance on the keys. They rung out sombre chords of pain, soft dynamics like whimpers of cries. His foot pressed down on the pedal angrily, his hands darting to every inch of the keyboard. His mind and heart were in the music, but he was anything but calm. He had heard stories of Chopin’s own sorrows, and the music he wrote during it. Chopin had asked for some of his pieces to be burnt when he died. Instead, Viktor felt like the piece might burn him alive.
Minor minims dragged on by the pedal, semiquavers of tears dropped with a staccato. The thunderous minor 9 chords only got louder, and soon enough, the piece had been finished, and all the pressure was alleviated.
He picked up the photograph, his fingers were steady as ever. He remembered what he had told Lauryn, and a bittersweet feeling overcame him.
“Honestly, I try not to think about it that much.” replied Lauryn, “I mean I do, of course, with piano and everything, but after a while you hear so much about, you know, dreams are just dreams, like what’s the point of just getting disappointed again and again?”
Viktor stepped towards Lauryn, and looked her in the eyes, trying to capture her vision.
“Well, as for me, I’m not going to let anything get in the way of my dream.” Viktor exclaimed, “Not even you.”