Chapter 5:

A session with my counselor

Phantom Adagio

The music for this chapter (I will put it in the comments too so you can copy-paste it):


Today was Wednesday. As the bell announcing the final hour of school rang, I witnessed all the other students leave, but I could not.

Today was the day of my weekly session with the counselor after all. I knew I could not skip these, as that could bring me into serious trouble with the administration, and even though I did not care much about my school results, at the same time, I would feel guilty if I caused Aunt Christina too much trouble.

After making my way to the CLB office, I informed the secretary I was here and was told to wait in the waiting area since Ms. Vanderstuck was still occupied. She would come and get me herself as soon as she was ready.

This happened almost every time. I wondered why I even bothered showing up for these meetings in time if she ran late every single time.

The room was filled with all those fear instilling posters you always find in a doctor’s waiting room. All types of warning signs you should look out for in your children and classmates. If you did not really need to see a psychologist when you got in this room, I was pretty sure that five to ten minutes would do the trick and create that need.

After fifteen minutes or so, I heard some stumbling and Ms. Vanderstuck emerged with a small girl from her room. She was a high schooler, but clearly a couple of years younger than me. When the girl noticed me, she froze like she had seen a ghost. I could overhear Ms. Vanderstuck say, “Moving isn’t easy Sara, but I am sure that if you start using what we are practicing, you will make plenty of friends soon.”

That brought the girl back to reality, and while Ms. Vanderstuck led her to the front door, she looked back at me one more time. It was like she recognized me but wasn’t sure.

I felt a shiver go through me and heard the Swan by Camille Saint-Saens being played in my head. A chaotic whirlwind of memories and emotions started flooding me. Why the hell did that girl trigger that memory? I shook my head to straighten myself out again.

When Ms. Vanderstuck arrived back at the waiting room she said, “Hi Fleure, sorry I was late today, you can come in now,” as if today was an exception on that front.

“I don’t mind, that girl looked like she could use it,” I answered.

“Oh, you noticed her. That is exceptional for you.” She remarked.

“What do you mean by that?” I said a bit irritated. She always tried to twist anything I said.

“Nothing really. Just that it is rare for you to notice people around you. Usually, you just call others faceless people.”

In the meantime, we had arrived at Ms. Vanderstuck’s office, and I had taken place on the sofa, and she was in her armchair. The classical setup for a psychologist’s office.

“It was the way she looked at me. It felt strangely familiar somehow. Although I cannot exactly place it.”

While I said those words those images from earlier, and some old memories started coming back to me from the time Lise and I were attending the music academy together.

“I notice you remembered something, please, let us investigate that together.” Ms. Vanderstuck said. Clearly happy that she found a subject to talk about.

I sighed. I did not really want to tell her this story, it felt a bit like I was violating Lise’s memory. Those memories are supposed to be mine. Why should I have to share them? Unfortunately, I already knew I got out of here earlier if I cooperated with her and that refusing would only lead to more of these sessions, so I started telling her the story I just remembered.


It was the year of the accident. Lise, my childhood friend, and I were walking to the music academy together like we usually did after school. It was the day of my public exam that was coming up to advance to the next grade in the music academy. Lise would accompany me on the piano, so I knew I was in safe hands.

Right before going on stage, she looked me in the eyes and combed my long brown hair with her fingers, and straightened my dress for me. To reassure me, she said, “You’ll be fine, I ‘ll be there with you.” She always knew when I needed reassurance and never failed to give it. We had always been together, so I guess that was only natural. I nodded to her a bit shyly. While we wear waiting for our turn to perform in one of the empty classrooms, I frantically kept rechecking my tuning, and nervously straightened the dress I just changed into. Mom had bought it for me, especially for this occasion. Unfortunately, she had to work, but mom told me my godmother, Aunt Christina, promised to come and watch, so I was sure there would be a friendly face in the crowd.

Lise snickered at all my fiddling. “Calm down! We practiced super hard. We got this!”

If I compare what I called practicing and working hard back then, and now… Let us just say, my standards changed. But now, a lot more was on the line than back then, when it was just about a grade in the academy.

When it was finally our turn, I was amazed by Lise’s strength.

I watched the short-haired tomboyish girl walk on the stage as if she owned it. Anyone would think that she was the main act, and I was the accompaniment.

I did my best to come over self-confident, but in comparison, I am pretty sure I must have looked rather meek.

Wasn’t she nervous? This was her exam for accompaniment after all. I looked closer at her and noticed a little shake on her fingers. I knew it. Nobody is that fearless. She was acting tough for me. She truly was my best friend, going through such lengths for me when she was suffering this badly herself. So, instead of going to the chair that was set up for me, I walked up to her and whispered. “We are here together. I am as much here for you as you are here for me.” I noticed a shine in Lise’s eyes, and she turned a little red and whispered a little too loud “We are already on stage, you idiot!”

I could hear a few snickers coming from the crowd. I felt a blush coming up my cheeks and hurriedly walked back to my chair knocking over my music stand. I could again hear some chuckles coming from the direction of the jury. While my face must have been red as a tomato, I quickly put everything back in order.

I took a few deep breaths and looked back at Lise who was smiling at me. At least my slapstick sketch calmed her down, and that in turn reassured me. She played an A on the piano to perform the final tuning and I quickly finetuned the little difference there was between this piano and the one in the practice room. It felt like they had done that on purpose. To provide us with an extra test. I looked at the scores that said, “The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns” During my practice I had written a million comments in pencil on them. It was a well-known piece and any mistake I made would be instantly spotted. As Lise set in the piano part, I could see her notes become the ripples on a lake and I was of course the swan that swam proudly across it. My cello played the melancholic proud part that I had practiced so well, and I let myself be transported into a world where only Lise and I were. I forgot about the exam and shared that intimate emotional connection with Lise on stage.

When the piece was over, I felt the applause from the small crowd in the hall bring me back to reality and I could see a smile on the faces of the jury. We had done it. I turned around and saw Lise give me a thumbs up. I looked back at the crowd, and I could see Aunt Christina wave at me. I felt so embarrassed by her enthusiasm, but at the same time, I felt happy she was there. She always made an effort to come to support me in these kinds of moments in my life.

Lise walked up to me and hugged, and whispered, again way too loud “Don’t be so surprised you did well. I told you we had this” Another snicker came from the jury.

As we left the stage, a small elementary schooler with a ¾ cello gulped, and said “I hope one day I’ll be able to play as beautiful as you.”

“If you practice hard, I am sure you will get there,” I answered. I had seen her play at the academy, and she was already well beyond the level of those her own age.”

“If I get that good, will you play a duet with me?” She then boldly asked. I could see she had been fretting to ask me that question and now she was really nervous to see how I would respond.

“It’s a deal!”

The eyes of the girl had become determined while she walked on the stage.

“It seems you got an admirer. You gave her purpose.” Lise said teasingly after my little exchange.

I shrugged and said “She is a hardworking underclassman. I heard her play some etudes with a lot of character. If playing a duet is what keeps her motivated, I do not mind it.”

In response, I got a “Hmph!” from Lise.

“What? What did I do?” Didn’t I just do the right thing?

“I guess it is nothing.”


I felt anxiety coming over me. That girl earlier… was that elementary schooler back then…

“So, you know Sara. Interesting…” Ms. Vanderstuck looked at me like something clicked inside her head. It was like a blurred image suddenly became crystal clear to her. But I think it wasn’t about me, but about Sara.

Observing my anxious state, Ms. Vanderstuck said “Let’s wrap up here for today. We’ll continue this in our session next week.”