Chapter 21:

Für Elise

Phantom Adagio

Earlier in the year of the accident

“Fleure! Listen! Doesn’t it sound better this way?”

Lise looked at me with questioning eyes. It was the zillionth time that Lise had played Beethoven’s Bagatelle Für Elise for me over the last couple of weeks. Lise had always loved that song because her name was in it, and now that she had reached a level where she could play it, all hell had broken loose. She always claimed jokingly that she felt that Beethoven wrote it, especially for her, so she should learn to play it perfectly. Historically there was a lot of uncertainty as to who Beethoven dedicated this song too, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t for this Lise. So, every time when I pointed the obvious truth out, that it was written almost 200 years prior to her birth, she always answered “Some feelings transcend time.” With a haughty voice before we started giggling together. It had quickly become one of our running gags.

The biggest mistake I had ever made was telling Lise honestly that I thought her version lacked depth. She had been furious with me and had taken it way too seriously. Now every time we had a little break, just like now, she changed a little detail and made me listen to it all over again. Not that I minded listening to Lise, but it was the same song over and over again, and afterward she would look at me with those expectant eyes. I had hit her competitive side, and now she was out to beat the ideal version that I had in my head. I mean, who was the to say that I was right?

Most of the time, I couldn’t really hear the difference between the new and the last version. What was even worse was that I could not lie about how I felt about it. Lise had some sort of sixth sense that could sense a lie from me before it even left my mouth.

I listened to Lise’s new version, but she failed again to grasp the melancholy in the song, making it sound a bit cheesy.

I let out an inner sigh. How was I going to explain it this time? I decided to just try and show her what I meant and picked up my cello.

“Why don’t you try and play it more like this.”

After I played it through Lise was watching me with her mouth agape.

“The way you played does not really feel right. Even though the theme is the same, it should feel a little sadder at the ending,” I told her, explaining what I had just done.

Lise started pouting. She said “This is so unfair. I practiced this song for months and you just play it for the first time like this?”

“Well, you made me listen to it every day. I was bound to pick it up…” She played it so much for me, that it often got stuck in my head on repeat mode.

“If you continue improving like this, you are soon going to leave me behind and play on all the big stages without me.”

“As if I would ever do that. You know it is together or not at all.” I answered confidently, before adding “And as if I would ever be good enough to play those kinds of concerts.” We were both among the best students of this academy, but to become a world-renowned virtuoso that could travel around the world to perform, still required another kind of level. It was a bit like comparing inter-high school sports competitions with the professional nationals.

“Don’t make such idle promises. If you get the chance, you should just take it. We both knew which one of us has the talent to make it. It’s in your blood after all. Just promise me that when you make it, you’ll play my song for me on the big stage.”

I looked at her. She was staring back at me intensely. Even though we often joked around about what we would do when we would become famous, I could tell from her gaze that she was really serious right now. I felt myself become a little shy under her intense stare and felt that a blush started to cover my cheeks. Softly I whispered, “I promise.”

Lise seemed to be overjoyed by my answer. I always felt instantly happy when I felt a smile form on those tomboyish cheeks. I could almost see the dreams of the big stages and giant crowds reflected in Lise’s eyes as she gave me a hug and said “But first things first. Teach me how to play it like that, so there is still a chance for us to become famous together.”

I let out an inner sigh. It was clear that once again we wouldn’t be playing anything but Für Elise…



“Wake up Fleure!”

I felt sore all over as I slowly started to wake up from the gentle shakes. It seemed that I had fallen asleep in front of my desk while working on that transcription. My dream was still fresh in my mind, and I whispered “I’ll play your song on stage. I promise.”

When I opened my eyes, Aunt Christina stared back at me with a critical look in her eyes.

“I am not sure who you are talking to, but I am pretty sure it is not me.” I pushed myself up and was wide awake in a second.

“Working late is fine, but you should at least sleep in your bed.” Then she started looking around at the battlefield that was the floor of my room. Scores were lying across the floor everywhere. “Just look at this mess. You said you were going to tidy things up when you were done!”

“I-I’m sorry. I got an idea and started working on it and fell asleep.” I looked over the score I created. It wasn’t finished completely. But the last fine tunings would need to happen while playing. If everything went as I hoped, Lise and I might finally get reunited. I could hear Aunt Christina letting out a sigh over my excuse while she shook her head disapprovingly.

But if she came here… That meant it must be late already. She wouldn’t enter my room otherwise. I quickly asked: “What time is it?”

“It’s almost 10 am.”


I needed to hurry, or I would miss my train to go to Aleksei’s. I wonder how he would feel about the fact that I was planning to play a second adaptation that I made myself…

In a whirlwind, I got up and rushed past Aunt Christina, and made my way to the bathroom. I was almost under the shower when I realized I had forgotten my ritual. I chastised myself for forgetting something so important.

I stepped in front of the mirror and moved my bangs away from my scar. I tried focusing on my feelings of loss and desperation but before I could reach everything I could take, anxiety took over. “Is this really it? Were we finally going to be reunited?”

I looked at myself in the mirror and slapped myself. This was no time to be messing around and lose focus. Until we were reunited, I would do this ritual. I took a deep breath to focus again on my scar. Soon I felt the bitterness flow through me. The pain of the accident as I lost Lise and my parents overtook me. I looked at my ugly self. That is right, I’ll never be pretty or cute again. I kept the strain of negative thoughts and searched for darker and darker places until I could not take it anymore and screamed out. I fell out of breath afterward. My heart was beating like crazy. If I was right, today might be the last day that I had to do this ritual. “Lise, I hope I am right about this one.”

While I showered and got dressed, Aunt Christina had prepared breakfast for me and had packed it in tinfoil.

“Eat it on the train, because you are running out of time.”


A little more than an hour later, I found myself waiting nervously in front of Aleksei, in his music room. He was overlooking the scores that I had written with critical eyes and was making little changes in the bindings and fingering here and there to make it more suited for the competition, but all in all, he seemed happy with my arrangement of the piece.

“I always fear an extremely cheesy display when I see someone arranging Für Elise, but you seem to have avoided that death trap. You know Fleure, you have a real talent to make these arrangements. Maybe you should try your hand at composing. Now let us hear what you make of it.” D-did he just use my name? I felt a smile of accomplishment creep on my face.

After carefully tuning Rosalinde, I took a deep breath and started to play the song. First, the light romantic part, but with each repetition of the main theme, I always made it sound more and more dramatic until the drama exploded into a big event and melancholy and reminiscence were all that remained. This song was exactly like my relationship with Lise had been. I poured in all my feelings making the song sound grateful for the times we have had. This time the song was truly written for Lise, but Lise did not show herself. While I was starting to feel dejected about getting my hopes up for the wrong song, the room went dark, and a second later I found myself in front of Rosalinde, who seemed to be sitting in a 19th-century salon, reading a book.

When she noticed me, she looked up from her book.

“I could sense your doubts, so I decided to call you over. I can sense that this is the sign alright, but something seems to be still missing,”

Doubts started flushing my mind. Weren’t my feelings strong enough? Wasn’t I playing it right? It was just like last time. The second I got a strong emotion in this place, it instantly overwhelmed me, and the emotion of pure doubt was a very terrifying sensation...

“Missing, what do you mean?”

“I saw that dream you had last night. You promised to perform this song on a big stage for her, didn’t you?”

That’s true. I promised to play Lise’s song if I ever performed on a big stage without her. I nodded a bit dejected. Feelings of failure started to overwhelm me. I had really put my hopes on this moment. Why did I need to fail at the last moment? When would I ever get the chance to play on the big stage?

Rosalinde walked toward me and lifted my face. “Get a grip! This is nothing. You are so very close!”

Her touch blew away the overwhelming emotions. My mind instantly became crystal clear.

And then, it dawned on me. Next month I was playing the entrance exam at Flagey*. It would even be broadcast live on national television. If I could perform Lise’s song, there…

Determination started to come over me. This wasn’t a setback. I had just gotten a small step closer to my goal. The step was just smaller than I had anticipated.

“It seems like you have a moment in mind.”

I nodded. “Next month.”

Power was rushing through me, and when I looked at Rosalinde, a strong feeling of gratefulness was rushing through me. Without her, I might have thought it was the wrong piece and missed Lise completely.

Rosalinde was clearly shocked by my affection and started blushing heavily.

“Time to send you back.” She said all flustered. She touched my forehead, and everything started disappearing again. She had even been too flustered to tease me this time.


Rosalinde’s POV

After I sent Fleure back I snapped my fingers and Lise appeared back on the sofa. My spell should make her unable to move for quite a while longer. She wasn’t appearing on the other side in any case. Now was the time to put my own plans into motion.

“Why would you do something like that? This was the sign! My chance to talk to her.”

The girl started crying.

“You’ll get your chance again soon enough. I had to do this for Fleure’s sake since I made a pact with her to help her make you keep your promise.”

“My promise?” Lise asked.

“Your promise to make her happy. She became completely obsessed with it and thinks the two of you can be together again. She is so overcome with grief that she is going down a road of madness, just like my beloved Helmond once did.”

Lise looked guiltily toward the floor and answered, “I could not have known that accident would happen; besides you know the rules. There is no way now…”

I put my finger on her lips to shut her up. Her voice disappeared.

“Listen for a moment. I have a pact with Fleure. I have it in my power to give you a chance to be in contact with her every day, but I need a stronger connection to the sign. The promise that she would play that song between the two of you might just work.”

Lise’s eyes turned big.

“But remember the rules. As long as Fleure is alive, the two of you can never be together again in that way. You know what would happen. I want to give you the chance to make her find her happiness in a different place and say her goodbyes to you.”

I unlocked her voice again.

“You are so cruel to ask this from me.”

“Am I? I am giving the two of you a chance no one gets. You know the death and the living can never be together. Those aren’t my rules. You know what happens when that rule gets broken. The only way the two of you could be truly together would be for her to cross to this side.”

“That never!” Lise shouted shocked.

“Then let me offer a pact to you.”

“What do you want in return? I have nothing to give.”

I felt a smile form on my face. I had her where I wanted her. “But you will…”