Chapter 32:

Settling in

Phantom Adagio

The music for this chapter:

(I will put a copy-pastable version in the comments)


After seeing off Aunt Christina I went back to my room and took out the pamphlet to go over today’s schedule. I still had 40 minutes or so until the entrance exam. So, I decided to spend my time practicing.

Like always, I started my practice by playing some warm-up exercises, but the second I touched my cello something felt off.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Are you girls, okay?” They were just making fun of me a second ago, so I wondered what could have happened.

“I’m scared,” Rosalinde said. “This place feels like it is haunted.”

“It’s a bit late to be scared of ghosts now,” I answered.

“This does not feel like a regular ghost. I can feel the darkness within these walls. I think it might be a wraith. They could have sent one for me.” Rosalinde said in a wavering voice.

“Come, come there is no such thing as wraiths. We all know that is just a fable to keep fresh ghosts in line.” Lise interfered.

“You used to say that about ghosts too,” I replied.

“You’re not helping!” Lise bit back at me. “She’s really scared senseless. I do not really know what to do.” By the tone of her voice, I could hear Lise was actually scared herself. She was just putting up a brave front in the hope it would help Lise. She used to do that kind of thing for me all the time. I could feel the jealousy sting inside of my chest to see Lise’s affection go to someone else. But I tempered it. Rosalinde needed help. Even I could see that. This wasn’t the time for my petty jealousy.

After taking a deep breath I said: I’ll see what I can do.” I thought for a second and started to play a song that I used to play with Lise a long time ago. “Courage within” it was called. It was a rather simple song. A bit cheesy even and not really intended to play alone, but it was a song that always used to lift Lise’s spirits when she was down if I played it with her.

Although Rosalinde and Lise were not really helping me, I wanted to let them know that whatever we faced, we would be together to deal with it. Together we could overcome anything. That was the emotion I was conveying.

I closed my eyes and imagined how Lise used to play the piano part reacting to it like it was there. Softly I started to hear the piano for real and it took me a moment to realize that it wasn’t Lise or in my imagination. A couple of very flamboyant fills and turns made that very clear. I realized it was coming from one of the other rooms. Then a second cello who played a bit hesitant, but slowly but surely was getting more confident joined in. Right before a bright violin cut in with a sparkling melody empowering the whole which brought a smile to my face. So, she was not mad at me.

While the song proceeded, I felt a tear trickle down my eye, since sending out a message that we would overcome everything together, had made my friends join in. It made me realize that I wasn’t alone either. I had made friends that I could count on and rely on.

Slowly but surely, I could feel Lise and Rosalinde breaking free and their mood was getting better and as soon as they joined me, I took the lead and drove the song to an unscripted climax.

As soon as the last note resounded Lise said, “Thank you we needed that,” in a meek voice. “You’ve become a lot stronger than you used to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“I used to be the strong one. Rosalinde was right. The living change.”

Before I could answer Lise, there was a knock at the door before Axelle and Sara burst into my room. “Oh, I thought you were talking to someone after the song,” Axelle said.

“If we’d known you were alone, we wouldn’t have burst in like this,” Sara said apologetically.

“Yes, who knows what we might have caught you doing,” Axelle said while giving me a wink.

“I don’t understand. What on earth could she have been doing?” Sara replied innocently.

“Beats me.” Axelle with a grin on her face.

Sara looked confused. I knew that look on her face. I needed to change the topic quickly before she would really start to ask a million questions.

“It was nice to hear the two of you play again.”

“Half improvised songs like that are always fun to play,” Axelle replied while nudging Sara with her elbow. But she shook her head obtaining an even more insistent nudge from Axelle.

I watched the comedy sketch unfold for a second until Sara gave in and said, “That did not count as the duet you promised me.” She looked a bit nervously and then looked back at Axelle. To see if she did it right. Axelle gave her a thumbs up.

I thought about what she just said. I did promise her something like that a long time ago.

“A duet would be just the two of us, so of course, it does not count,” I replied to her.

“It only counts when we perform it for an audience.” She then said.

She just raised the stakes. I looked her in the eyes, and I could see that the tension was killing her. I could see how Axelle had put her up to using these tactics. Sara was very bad at bluffing like this. She was almost on the verge of tears. Just the idea of making that girl cry made a grip around my heart so I really had no choice but to say, “Sure. I am sure we will get the chance someday.”

A bright smile immediately appeared on Sara’s face, and she gave me a big hug. “I was really scared that you would say no.”

“Why? Aren’t we friends?”

“Well, you only used to play with Lise, and I know you refused to play with another pianist.”

Of course, they did not know that Lise had returned and was bound to my cello, so now, Lise was always with me whenever I played so I wasn’t really worried about that anymore.

“Just pick something out silly,” I said while patting her head, but she turned my show of affection into a big hug like I had done her a super big favor.

When she released the hug, she immediately gave Axelle a high five and said “Thanks!” with that most disarming smile of hers. I could see Axelle take a critical hit, but she did her best to not show it. It seemed Axelle had trouble keeping her cool Casanova-act up around Sara. I almost expected her to start fawning.

Then in the open door, Nastya appeared.

“When you are done fooling around, it’s time to make our way to the chapel for the entrance ceremony.” She said in a haughty detached voice. I looked at my phone and noticed we had some time left. If we left now, we would be at least 20 minutes early.

“The residents of the Cecilia dorm should be early as an example to the other students. We are the elite after all.”

Well, with all these visitors, it’s not like I was getting more practice in any way, and it might be a good chance to finally talk to Nastya, so I said “Sure, just a second. Let’s go all go together.”

She had clearly not expected me to take her remark as an invitation, but since we were all going to the same place, it seemed rather stupid not to go together.

“The two of you go together. I have something to discuss with Sara first.” Axelle replied giving me another one of her knowing winks. Really that girl…

Realizing it would be just the two of us, Nastya started blushing heavily but this time she did not run and waited for me.

Unfortunately, there was no way I could bring my cello to the opening ceremony, so I just packed Lise and Rosalinde back in their case. “I’ll be back soon,” I whispered to them.