Chapter 44:

Hospital visit

Phantom Adagio

The music for this chapter:

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


The rest of the first week of school had gone by quickly after that. I was happy to learn that Frank took teaching me quite seriously and the classes where I did not have to teach myself, were all diving more deeply into music theory. The only thing that was sorely missing from my education were opportunities to play the cello, so I dedicated all my free time to that. If there was no one to teach me, I would just have to teach myself.

I had gone home to Aunt Christina’s for the weekend since I wanted to visit Aleksei in the hospital this afternoon, to see for myself how he was doing, and to see if I could find out more about his son. Ironically enough there was a better connection to Brussels from Tienen than there was from Vaalbeek, so it was only logical for me to come home.

Aunt Christina had been wary when I called that I wanted to come home on the first weekend. She probably feared that I was being a loner again like at my last school, but when she heard about Aleksei being hospitalized after a stroke, she understood and I could hear she was genuinely worried about Aleksei and Nastya.

Right now, I was sitting in front of my desk in my old room to do my schoolwork.

The ensemble had postponed its first rehearsal to next week since we had to wait until Tobi and Nastya had their date, which was today. Each time I reminded myself of that fact, I got this uneasy feeling in my stomach, since I felt responsible that Nastya had to spend time on a date with that arrogant sod. However, practically, that condition of his had bought me some time to prepare the music.

Since the musical instruments at my ready were so atypical, I had no choice but to create my own arrangements, so I had a lot of work to do this weekend. I wanted to have at least one piece ready so everyone could start practicing. But I couldn’t keep my concentration up. My mind wandered constantly about how I had failed to protect Nastya. I had witnessed firsthand how violent Tobias could get in a second.

I looked at the alarm clock next to the bed. It was almost noon and I had made almost no progress. Since we would have to play at the school’s new year’s concert, I needed to find something fitting. The orchestra was going for traditional Strauss waltzes like the New year’s concert and he had told me we would also pick someone to perform a concerto at a later date.

So, the music for the ensemble I was wading through was something completely different because I wanted to avoid people comparing the full orchestra with a small ensemble. Perhaps I should pick something modern like Stravinsky or something with jazz influences like Bernstein? We had a lot of soprano instruments with different timbres, so what I was doing was rather complicated. This task was a lot harder to do than I thought it would be. So far, I had only made new versions of pieces for a single instrument. Making one for 10 was a completely different cup of tea. Especially with the lack of concentration I was suffering from now...

Eventually, I threw down my pencil frustrated, and decided to go and take a shower before lunch. When I came out of it, I could smell Aunt Christina’s home cooking and when I entered the kitchen, I could see she was chatting merrily with Inge while checking on something on the stove.

When Inge noticed me, she said: “Ah Fleure, I wanted to have a talk with you. It’s work-related, so let’s go somewhere private it won’t take long.” Aunt Christina quickly showed her approval and said, “Take your time you two, there are at least 20 minutes left until lunch is ready.”

I took Inge back to my room and after we closed the door she said “I heard you had a new attack. Your school nurse called me for advice. I know that I’m no longer your counselor, but I wanted to make sure you were alright.”

I nodded while turning my head away. I didn’t want to go into this with her. I had hoped she would not have found out. I could hardly start explaining that I got attacked by a wraith. “I just got careless around fire.”

“If you need to talk to someone, I can easily arrange for a colleague of mine to visit you.”

“That’s not necessary. It was a one-time thing, and Tine said she would follow up on me to see if that was needed.”

“Yes, the nurse told me you were so reluctant toward therapy. It’s not a punishment you know. We are only trying to help you.”

“I just don’t want everyone to think I’m the crazy girl this time,” I admitted. “I already started off school weirdly and I don’t want to add anything to gossip about.”

Inge frowned at my reasoning. “Just be sure to press the alarm bell in time. Any more symptoms or weird sensations and you have to tell that nurse alright! We don’t want you relapsing.”

I agreed reluctantly. I really did not want to go to sessions again. Inge’s worried face turned back into a smile, and she said “Now, let’s go and eat, your aunt is probably already waiting for us.” She clearly said her piece. I could see her change out of her professional demeanor.

When we arrived back in the kitchen, Aunt Christina was already putting the food on the table. She had done the effort to make mussels, which was a lot of work to clean. But it was indeed mussel season again. “I thought I’d make something you probably would not get in the school cafeteria.” Aunt Christina said with a gentle smile on her face.

“Perfect! As they say, you should eat mussels in the R-months.” Inge answered. Mussels are indeed known to be in season in all the months that end in an R, so September was the first month to enjoy them. I could see Inge's gaze becoming mouthwatering at the prospect of homemade mussels. That side of her stood in stark contrast to the professional side of her that I was familiar with. The way she and Aunt Christina were interacting made the atmosphere at the table feel really homey.

Aunt Christina put the big pot in the middle of the table and then went back to get the first load of French fries from the deep fryer. Seeing the spread I could not help but smile. She always made way too much when she considered something an occasion. Even if I had only been gone for a week, it felt nostalgic to be here.

Even though I wanted to stuff myself full of mussels, I held myself back a little since I still needed to go out and I did not want to feel bloated or fall asleep on the train.

After lunch, I got my purse and coat and kissed Aunt Christina and Inge goodbye. I teased them a little by saying “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Making both adults in the room blush like teenagers. I quickly left before they could retort. It was a bit funny to see those two like that. In any case, it seemed their relationship really was going well. I wondered how long it would take before Inge would officially move in. I noticed the extra toothbrush in the bathroom that was not there last week, so I was pretty sure things were moving in that direction. I felt happy for Aunt Christina.

I walked to the station and got the first train to Brussels. I felt a bit naked not having Lise and Rosalinde with me, but there was just no way that I could justify to Aunt Christina that I was bringing a priceless instrument to Brussels when I was just going to visit the hospital.

Once I arrived in the capital, I would have to take a metro and a bus to the university hospital where Aleksei was being treated. I had no real idea of his condition, so I hoped he would be able to speak to me.

While on the train I tried to read Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps as a potential piece to rework, but I still could not keep my concentration. Right now, Nastya was on her date with Tobias. I surely hoped that boy would not misbehave. Maybe I should send her a message to check up on her? No, I could not do that. That would be way too meddlesome. If she wanted to do this, as a friend I should be supportive shouldn’t I? Argh! This was killing me. I forced myself to look back at the scores. The piece looked as hectic as the state of my mind was at this moment. Due to that hectic state of my own mind, I did manage to make some notes here and there. It was amazing how this piece was so all over the place but still came together at the same time.

When I arrived at the hospital, I felt an odd sensation go through my spine. This was the same hospital where I woke up after the accident. It felt weird to be here again. I focused on my breath to not let that spiral of negative thoughts get to me and went to the front desk to inform myself where Aleksei’s room was. After getting a note with directions, I noticed the flower store. I should buy a gift when visiting someone sick, shouldn’t I?

I don’t really know the names of the flowers or their meanings, but I recognized those big white flowers immediately. They also grew in Aleksei’s courtyard garden in a big bush. They would surely make him feel more at home.

While closely following the directions on the note I got I made my way to Aleksei’s room. When I got to the ward in question, I did not need to ask for further directions. I could already hear Aleksei shouting “Couldn’t you at least have brought me something to eat? The food here is terrible!”

I sighed. On the one hand, I was relieved he was being his grumpy self, but on the other hand, I was disappointed, since he wasn’t alone so it would be hard to ask him about what happened between him and his son.

I made my way to the commotion to find Aleksei lying in bed while shouting at Nastya who was mostly ignoring his shouts and putting some stuff in order in the closet. What was she doing here? Wasn’t she supposed to be on her date? Not that I could ask her that in front of Aleksei, but I was really curious about what happened. I knocked on the door to make my presence known.

Nastya and Aleksei both looked up and Aleksei shouted “I hope you at least brought me something to do. Everyone is bringing me flowers while I am going crazy staring up the wall. Feeling the flower in my hand I gulped. I had only one other item with me… So, I gave him my scores to Sacre du Printemps instead.

Aleksei’s eyes turned big. “Stravinsky! At least my student knows what I like.” It seems like I made the right decision there. I would just need to pick up a new copy of those scores. I decided to give the flowers to Nastya instead.

Nastya instantly started blushing. “G-Gardenias.” Then she whispered to me a bit teasingly, “Your secret is safe with me.” And she slightly brushed her hand against mine while she went to get a vase from the nurses. She looked happy with the flowers. I made a note to myself to look up what gardenias meant in the flower language.

Aleksei made sure Nastya was out of the room before he said “I’m sorry. I thought I could make him listen. “

I shook my head. The last thing he needed to do was apologize for being in this state. “He attacked me too,” I replied. Aleksei looked at me with big eyes, before they turned sad. “I just can’t believe he would do something like that. He played with you when you were a kid for crying out loud.”

I could see he was completely disillusioned with his son.

“What piece did you use? What was his sign?”

“Don’t ask me that. He’s still my son.”

“Do you want Nastya to be next? Don’t you want to protect her?” I asked shocked.

“He’d never hurt his daughter. It’s the last testament of his precious wife that is present in this world. I refuse to believe he would ever hurt her!”

I could see Aleksei’s sadness had turned into anger by my words. Nobody would indeed believe that their son would hurt their granddaughter. But his son had turned into a wraith and the way I understood it, it was uncertain how much self-control he still had.

“I hope you’re right.”

Nastya entered the room again with the beautiful white gardenias in a vase while humming a tune. She had a sincere smile on her face. It seemed she was really happy with the flowers I gave her.

Aleksei immediately turned his head away, clearly not wanting to continue our discussion in front of Nastya. So, we talked a bit about music and about the ensemble I needed to build. Aleksei was full of fire for a short while, and he even showed me a few things I could do with Sacre du Printemps. But he was adamant about one thing. I needed to change one of the soprano instruments to an alt to pull it off. One sax alone for that role would not be enough.

But no matter how alive Aleksei seemed, I could see he had trouble holding the book with the scores and he soon grew tired, marking it time for me to leave.

I gave both of them a goodbye kiss and said, “I’ll try and visit again!” to Aleksei and “See you on Monday.” to Nastya who seemed to have made up her mind about something and said “I’ll come with you. He needs to rest anyway.” Then she turned to Aleksei and said “I’ll come back for visiting hour tonight.”