Haha, this piece is an odd one. It’s supposed to be an alternate spin-off of my characters from a sci-fi/fantasy series (where they are high schoolers), but I couldn’t help but imagine their lives as adults if they got to lead a normal life in a normal world free of all the chaos they experienced.
In the end, I got this concept of the main characters as a married couple, and their trials and tribulations as they try to stay together despite their difficulties. I got inspired from this interview about a young woman who was paralysed while saving her children, and another about a singer who became paralysed after suffering severe burns when her recording studio went up in flames. In both cases, they were supported by their husband/boyfriend through the critical times, but their relationships both fell through when their partners found it difficult to continue so for the rest of their lives.
I wanted to put that to the test for my characters. While what you see below is but the first glimpse of their life, it was a pretty successful trial that allowed me to see that the idea was a pretty feasible one.
In case you guys are wondering, Janet is blind, not autistic. Her childishness is an aspect of her personality, not due to her disability. I was going to write a continuation to ascertain this, but I decided to put it off. If I ever get to write the full story (which might only happen after I finish the original story these characters are from), then what you see here will surely be the introduction.
(In a review of my writing here, it seems that there are a lot of aspects of the story which would have not been obvious to people who are not familiar with classical music. Janet plays the piano as described, and though Colin knows how to play the piano too, his career is that of a violinist. This can be seen in the conversation about Kreisler, who is a violinist and composer who wrote mostly violin pieces.)
Readability — 6th Grade
Est. Reading Time — 00:05:00
It wasn’t the light of the morning sun that would wake her, and she never sets any alarm. Yet every morning at the exact same hour she would open her eyes before I do, and would have left our bed with such care that I would never be stirred awake. She would find her way to the washroom, filling the apartment with the sound of running water before she abandons her brushes. Her feet would bring her into the hall, searching the floor cautiously, before leading her to the black, velvet instrument.
The first sound she used to greet every morning was a clear C major. It was as natural as the sun’s rise, as bright as a bird’s call. Her sensitive fingers would seek the rest of the keys and erupt into a musical number, varying depending on her mood. Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, Ravel. She moves randomly between her favourite pieces, her favourite movements, sometimes humming along or making sound effects.
Her piano was my wake up call. But I never told her. I could tell she always intended it to be a soothing lullaby since she never plays anything too intense. Her energy, however, was a brilliant call more effective that any alarm. Even her Adagio Sostenuto would sound excited, which… would probably make Beethoven rise from his grave.
I always pretended to be asleep, making sure not a movement of mine would make a sound as I slipped into the washroom or dressed up for the day, but it’s not always perfect. In the few times I misstepped she would look up blankly, her pupils running around in random directions, before covering her mouth with an adorable exclamation.
Despite having long settled into our daily routines, Janet was in truth still recuperating. There was apparently a lot she had to go through before she could be considered ‘independent’. They’d teach her how to find her way through everyday life: how to go shopping, how to cook safely, how to navigate a street, etc….
Unfortunately, Janet was the kind who tries out a new skill the very moment she learns it. While I appreciated the existence of such lessons, every week I would have to suffer through a trauma of some kind as she attempts to cross the road unsupervised, or cook with raging fires and razor sharp knives. “No!” I would exclaim, and before I realised I would be a traffic hazard running across the road, or a madman wielding fire extinguishers like guns. Often I had imagined tying her to a chair and locking every door so she doesn’t leave my sight, but ultimately I have to give in to the fact that I had (literally) signed up for this life when we signed the marriage papers.
My work tended to be unpredictable, susceptible to the changing tides of tastes and preferences. To deal with that I joined any competitions that seemed useful, with Janet as my accompaniment. Once our enrolment in a competition was set we would practice together, skip meals and rests together, and apologise together should a neighbour knock on our door in a fit of rage. We were having fun, as far as we were concerned, and neither of us felt frightened even as the competitions drew close.
Most of the competitions ended with me in the top three, my photo on the news the following day, and my name a top search on the internet for a few weeks. Janet would celebrate by cooking my favourite cream pasta, with hazardously chopped mushrooms and broccoli, which continued to appear even after I learned to lock up the kitchen. She would give me her mischievous and victorious smile as she served it, and I’ve learned to just go with it than to get angry.
My agent, a tall stern man with an unnaturally pale face, never liked the way I did things. He perhaps thought me lazy, since I always turned away his work, but I had hoped he would understand. The work he had was always too time-consuming, and I couldn’t bear to take them up.
He had seen Janet once before when we met by coincidence, at a restaurant new to us. He came to our table, disregarding the young lady he had apparently brought with him, and gave us a quick conversation which I forever wished he hadn’t.
“Hello, Colin. Is this your wife?”
“Oh hi, what a coincidence! Yes, this is Janet. Janet, this is my agent, Mr Olenski.”
“Hi, Mr Olenski, it’s nice — ”
“I have heard of your winning the competition, Colin. It was a decent Kreisler. Hope you’ll start taking up some work soon.”
I knew what he was trying to do. Janet’s brows lowered into a frown.
“Ah well… I was waiting for your call actually,” I said.
“Is that so? You haven’t been answering my calls, so I thought you would call me back.”
“Oh. Then I’ll call — ”
“Please don’t dally any longer. The music industry is ever evolving, and no amount of competitions will change that. I’ll wait for your call, Mr Reed.”
And he was off, ruining our mood and our appetite. Janet did nothing except eat with puffed cheeks, and I kept a close eye on Olenski who, thankfully, sat facing away from us. Fearing for indigestion we left the restaurant earlier than planned, and made a silent consensus to never eat there again.
“A decent Kreisler, he said. Decent!” On our drive back Janet ranted off her frustration to no one in particular, despite knowing that only my car and I could hear her.
“What kind of agent is he to not see the talent he’s working for, huh? Who is he to even speak to us like that? ‘I’ll wait for your call, Mr Reed.’ Well damn you! No wonder no one’s calling you, you jerk!”
And so it went on, and eventually died off by the time we reached home because she had fallen asleep. I had to carry her out the car, up to our apartment and down onto our bed as gently as possible. Thank goodness Janet was a heavy sleeper. I sighed with relief.
I was bent on calling Olenski first thing in the morning, lest he starts trying something, but my thoughts were blown away when my morning alarm became a rushed, depressed and amplified Presto Agitato. I awoke with a start, and wasn’t surprised to walk out into a hall full of furious knockings on our door. Janet remained jamming the keys, a frown etched deep in her brows, as her fingers leapt from left to right. Her pianos became fortissimos, and her fortes… fortissississimos.
I apologised to the neighbours at our door, pleading guilty and hoping for a lighter sentence. Janet heard my every word, but did not cease her playing. After Moonlight Sonata was Chopin’s Torrent, with the same dynamics as before. I shut the door with an apologetic frown, and quickly went to pull her hands from the keys. She gasped, having not heard my approach.
“What was that for?” she exclaimed.
“The neighbours are complaining,” I said. “What happened to your usual playing?”
“I’m in a bad mood,” she said, ripping her hands from mine. “All thanks to that stupid agent.”
“You don’t have to take it out on your piano. Poor thing.”
Janet pouted, though her eyes made clear that she hadn’t considered that. Her hands searched for the keys and caressed them, as though in apology.
fortepiano :: TO BE CONTINUED? ::