I had forced myself not to run away this time and was walking next to Fleure in the desolate hallways of the monastery toward the chapel… But what was this uncomfortable silence? I could not come up with anything to say.
In the end, I asked her something about the speech she had to give at the opening ceremony, but still, the atmosphere remained tense.
When we arrived at the chapel, where Fleure told me she wanted to light a candle for her mother. I noticed the large candelabra where people lit candles to remember those they lost. She was right. We should not forget about those who left us behind when we were visiting a place of prayer. We walked over to candelabra. Just like her, I picked up a candle and lit one for my mother and father while I started praying silently for them, but a short moment later I noticed Fleure started to panic.
“What is wrong?” I asked. She was acting like the world was coming to an end.
“I lost my hair clip.”
“Calm down it is just a clip.”
“I need it. It was my mother’s.”
An heirloom of her mother’s... I imagined how I would feel if I lost something important like that.
“Calm down, I’ll help you to look.”
I brought my hand up to her hair where it should have been. Maybe it had just moved and was still in her hair somewhere, but Fleure pulled away and while doing so knocked over the candelabra.
All the candles were spread over the marble floor. This would be hell to clean up. To my surprise, Fleure started screaming and went through her knees. I could see the fear on her face. What was going on? Immediately I grabbed her, to try and snap her out of it but it did not work. She looked like she was in complete terror screaming about the fire, so I did my best to put out the couple of candles that weren’t out already as quickly as I could, but it didn’t help. Fleure kept screaming until she passed out. It really hurt to see her like that.
What on earth just happened? I checked if she was still breathing. While putting my hand on her forehead to see if she had a fever, I accidentally uncovered a scar from under her bang. “So that’s why she pulled away…” I whispered. “Poor girl. This is all my fault.” Without really thinking about it, I kissed her forehead. While I was doing it, I felt a spark go through me. I felt like I connected to her. Realizing what I had just done, I felt my face grow warm. What exactly did I think I was doing?
I quickly put my ear on her chest. I could hear her heartbeat, but it was going crazy fast. No time to lose.
I got into position to pick her up and noticed the hairclip underneath her head. At least I had found her heirloom. I picked her up and carried her to the elevator to make my way to the infirmary. Of course, there was nobody else around when I could actually use the help to carry her, so I was forced to carry her all the way by myself.
When I opened the door to the infirmary I shouted: “Someone please help me!”
The school nurse popped her head and immediately getting the urgency of the situation she helped me put Fleure onto one of the beds.
I quickly gave her a run-down of the facts. She nodded and asked her name. “Fleure. Fleure Bouts.” The nurse got a frightful look on her face when she heard that name.
“I had not thought to be confronted with this so soon. They told me she was doing better. Okay, I will take it from here. You can go back. The opening ceremony should start soon.”
“Will she be okay?” What the nurse said worried me. I could hear my voice waver. Fleure wasn’t going to leave me too, was she?
She looked at me and something seemed to click in her eyes. With a gentle smile, she started explaining to me: “It seems like she had a panic attack. A really bad panic attack at that. Even though what she is living through isn’t real, the mind made it real and shut down to help her cope. You can visit her later. I am sure she would want her…” she seemed to be looking for the right word before she continued, “close friend next to her. She should be fine after some rest.”
“So, she won’t be able to give her speech?” I asked, even though I knew what the answer would be. Fleure had told me she was nervous about giving that speech, but I could also feel that she really wanted to give it after all the work she had put in. I am sure she will be disappointed that she lost the chance.
“I think that is clear. I’m sorry but that is the last of our worries at this point.”
I squeezed Fleure’s hand one more time before leaving the room. It felt wrong to leave but I knew the nurse was right. I would come back as soon as I could. Once again, I made my way to the chapel. When I arrived, I noticed Frank, one of grandpa’s friends standing next to the candelabra with a few other teachers. I took a deep breath, went over to them, and started to explain what had happened. He looked genuinely worried and whispered “On the first day… Christina is going to kill me.”
It was decided on the spot that I would have to give the speech in Fleure’s stead. The teachers did not seem to mind much but what on earth was I going to say? I did not prepare anything.
When Sara and Axelle arrived, they asked me about Fleure, and I was forced to tell the story once again. Sara looked extremely worried. I could see that she wanted to drop all her responsibilities and make her way to the infirmary, so I said, “Fleure needs to rest right now. We’ll visit her together after the opening ceremony. Right now, we have duties to perform.”
Sara reluctantly agreed that we could not just shove our duties. Fleure wasn’t in life danger, she just needed some rest. Axelle nodded toward me and said, “Then we’ll catch you later.”She took Sara by the shoulder. I could see her whispering something to Sara. I am sure she was doing her best to cheer Sara up, and by the time they sat down, a bright smile was already plastered over Sara’s face again, and the two were happily chatting away.
“Nastya?” I recognized that voice. That was without any doubt, the other violinist that made it into the top 10, and my childhood friend Tobi. He was a bit of a special case. “How are you, Tobi?” I answered. It seemed that I was going to have to adlib that speech because I wasn’t getting even a minute to prepare it.
“I will finally get to show the world who’s the better violinist by the end of this year!” He shouted challengingly. He always wore a mask of arrogance, acting like he was near my level of playing, but I knew that he was just really shy and insecure and just wanted some attention from someone who was better than him. We had known each other since we were both 10.
“Oh? I don’t need your help with that. I can do that all by myself.” I retorted. He had been the eternal number 2 in all the competitions I ever participated in which had turned into a rivalry over the years. Not that he was a real threat to me. I knew he meant no harm. As a matter of fact, I think he was rather fond of me since he always came over to talk.
I noticed him looking behind me. While I hugged him and looked over to the place he was staring at. “You still haven’t asked him out? I’m pretty sure Fabio would say yes.” I whispered to him. Tobi’s cheeks turned red, and he instantly started acting bashful. I had found out his secret in a competition during the summer and it was the ideal weapon to get him all flustered.
“You know I can’t do that.” He grew quiet and went back to his own spot. His competitive spirit seemed to have lost him with a single blow. I knew I would use this to tease him for a long time to come. This was just too funny. If he didn’t want to be teased, he just needed to get it over with, work up the courage and confess.
He had a crush on Fabio, the Italian oboist. He knew I was acquainted with Fabio too and he had kept on asking questions about Fabio a bit too persistently giving his secret away all too easily.
Now that he had gone, I did my best to look busy so no one else would try to approach me. I had finally a couple of minutes to think of a few words to say. But when you are subjected to such an impossible deadline it becomes impossible to come up with something good.
The ceremony started and when the headmaster called my name, I stepped onto the stage. Everyone in the chapel was silent and waiting for what I was going to say.
“Since Fleure, unfortunately, can’t be with us this morning, a teacher asked me to say a few words in her stead.” After mentioning Fleure I could hear a murmur go through the audience. It seems there was already a lot of gossip making the rounds about why she wasn’t here.
“The entrance exam is over, and you are all part now of Virtuoso Academia. A lot of people were glad that they made it. But making it in is only the first step. It does not matter if you came in first or last. You all got in, and the real challenge starts now. The challenge is to live up to the potential that you have shown in the entrance exam. Work hard and become the best musician you can be. That is what this academy is all about.”
Instead of the standard generic speech, I just gave them a piece of my mind. I thought a lot of the students acted like they already made it, but even a musician like myself still had much to learn and would be surpassed soon if I did not keep giving it my all. We were all at the age where we would have to start competing with adults at competitions, and no longer just with high schoolers, and that would be a completely different league. When that time comes, our age and potential won’t matter anymore. Only our capabilities, so it was important to keep on working hard.
I left the stage under mild applause. When the ceremony was over, I dashed out immediately and made my way back to the infirmary.
When I arrived there, I immediately ran to Fleure. She was still sleeping. The nurse came up and said “Let’s talk a little. You can call me Tine.” While pointing at a couple of armchairs in the room. We sat down and she poured the both of us a cup of coffee. She was a very warm person and very attentive to everything I said. We had a short talk and she asked me some questions about how I met Fleure. When I told her about our duet in the courtyard garden, she got a dreamy smile on her face. She got up and said, “I have some more tasks to attend to, but you can stay with her for as long as you would like. With everything you told me, I’m pretty confident that she would like that too.”
She helped me move one of the armchairs next to the bed in which I sat myself down. And I took Fleure’s hand. Even if she wasn’t awake, I wanted her to feel that she was not alone and that there was someone that would not leave her.