Chapter 26:

Interlude: Tory’s story

The Y-files [GL]

Belgian Trivia

The Queen Elizabeth competition

The Queen Elizabeth competition is an internationally renowned classical music competition that attracts musical talents from all over the world. This competition was started by Queen Elizabeth (1876-1965), the wife of Albert I (1875-1934), king of Belgium, in 1937. The competition is annual and switches each year between violin, piano, chant and since recently also cello. The preliminaries are broadcast on the radio, the final is broadcast on national television each year.

Interlude Tory’s story

Tory’s POV

I felt like I was walking on clouds. It had been a long time since something good happened to me. I had felt really alone in this strange country and up to now I had had a really hard time getting a connection with the people of this country. The people were friendly but remained distant at the same time. But tonight everything went right. Not only did I finally find a temp job for a really nice and warm lady, I had also found myself a girlfriend. I looked at Mari, and felt myself starting to blush if I think of everything that had just happened. That was a really wild and unbelievable job interview wasn’t it?

Everything had fallen into place in that magical moment and I was certain good things were to come. It all felt so right. I started pondering on how I had gotten to this point in my life.

After middle school my parents had divorced and dad had moved back to the States. I remained with my mother in Sapporo.

My best friend Arisu had been really supportive through all of it. Due to all the special attention she gave to me I found myself starting to always think about her. I thought she was the brightest point in my life and hoped she felt the same about me. The second I realized I was in love with her I risked and destroyed any chance of a normal social life on my first day of high school. It had become a real mess right away as I had confessed to Arisu right after the first year’s opening ceremony.

She had taken it the wrong way and had been completely grossed out by me. Calling me a freak of nature, she spread rumors of me all over school and I had literally spent the rest of my high school days alone.

Because of that I drowned myself in music. I had always been a rather talented pianist. But in order to forget my horrible days in school, I went really at it. Every free moment I had I practiced and soon my level was becoming high enough to attempt to participate in competitions. My mother was happy that I seemed so motivated and had arranged that my father would pay to hire a private tutor for me.

I was introduced to the Belgian Ans Semble. She had followed her husband to Japan and was one of the few Belgians to ever win the renowned Queen Elizabeth competition for piano in her own country.

While I was working with her a new world opened for me. I started to work even harder and always looked forward to our sessions. I wanted to be able to play like her, no, I must correct myself, I wanted to be like her. She was firm and gentle at the same time. I really looked up to her determination to leave everything behind and follow her loved one to the other side of the planet to a country where everything must appear strange. I could also see how much work she had put into learning Japanese and our customs. Dad never even bothered with either. I thought that was so romantic to put so much effort into it for your relationship. I was sure they would remain happily together for the rest of their days.

When she played the piano every note and every touch was just right. When I heard her play the préludes by Claude Debussy it transported me to a world of light where I wanted to dwell forever.

I started working even harder. I wanted to visit the country that had fostered Ans Semble and eventually my piano level managed to convince my father to pay for letting me attend the conservatoire de Bruxelles to get ready to participate in the Queen Elisabeth competition, but he added the condition that I’d first learn the languages of the country. I thought he was a real hypocrite when he said that. But he was aware of it. Because he added “I want you to learn from my mistakes.” It was the same conservatory where Ms Semble had studied and she had given me a letter of recommendation.

My instructor at the conservatory was very impressed with the letter. Apparently he had been Ms Semble’s teacher too, and I was the first one ever to receive her recommendation. That resulted in my teacher being at least twice as hard and expecting of me than he was of any of the other students. Well I considered that a good thing to be honest. I was here to win the Queen Elisabeth competition and for that I had to be number one. I did not want to become a mediocre professional piano player like there are so many.

Rent for a place in Brussels that was big enough for a grand piano and where I would not get into trouble with the neighbors for playing the piano all day long had led me to some financial trouble and I was forced to look for a part time job on top of my allowance.

I was often quickly hired and fired after a couple of days because of how some customers reacted and because I made small mistakes. The weirdest thing to get used to was every regular customer giving me a kiss as a greeting. It felt really invasive, and it took me a while to get used to it.

I also had no idea Belgians put so much importance on drinking beer from the right glass. Even if it was practically the same glass with just a different brand name on it! But I quickly learned and made sure that I never made the same mistake twice.

Today I felt proud of myself when I passed Frank’s test and when they told me that they would even allow me to play for the customers, I could not be happier. It was great to get as much experience playing in front of a crowd as possible before I would participate in the Queen Elizabeth competition.

When I was introduced to Mari, I was happy that I was going to work together with such a beautiful woman. Talking to her immediately brought back memories of what I felt for Arisu before everything went awry. So I was determined to just become good friends with her. Nothing good would come from doing something stupid like I did in High School again. This time I just wanted to cherish some time together with a beautiful woman while fawning over her. Maybe even write some music for her. I decided to keep it platonic.

But then I ate that éclair. That éclair had an impact on my emotions and views in life just like the best musical performances have. I had not been able to hold myself back like I planned. All I could think about was Mari. I needed her, wanted to be one with her. I was so happy when she showed that she felt the same when I tried to kiss her.

We were still walking silently hand in hand, so I pulled her toward me and kissed her while caressing her beautiful hair. The warm sensation spread over my entire body. I was already addicted to my beautiful blue haired Mari. My love for her felt like the emotions awoken by the most beautiful of symphonies. There was no way I was going to let her go, so I said “Your place or mine?”