Chapter 46:

Third wheel

Phantom Adagio

Rosalinde’s POV

After talking to Fleure, Lise had been crying. Fleure had told her about how she had accidentally been on a date with Nastya and had felt incredibly guilty about it. Lise had done her best to keep up a strong front and sound supportive and gently guide Fleure away from her as she promised me to do, but I had felt how heartbroken she was while she did that. She was suffering from the realization that Fleure was slowly changing and that she was starting to notice other people. She realized that it would be impossible to keep on being Fleure’s everything. The cracks were slowly starting to form.

In my eyes, these tears were a good thing. It was better this realization came sooner rather than later. Their relationship like it used to be needed closure on both sides because we all knew it could no longer exist that way.

Unfortunately, Fleure had seen through Lise’s gentle pushes, and she was grabbing back firmly at Lise. She adamantly stated that she considered Nastya her friend and would not hear otherwise whenever I teased her about it. She still could not bear the thought of leaving Lise behind and got furiously angry over it. During their talk, Lise seemed to have been convinced, but only a minute after Fleure had left us, the hard reality that it needed to happen hit her hard. Lise also understood that Fleure needs to let go of the dead and embrace the living. But understanding that did not make it any easier.

In the meantime, Fleure was already 3 years older than Lise and had become a lot stronger than in the days when Lise was next to her. Having seen their memories, I would even say that Fleure is stronger these days than Lise ever was. Her growth as a person was enormous even if it was still buried under the mental damage she suffered from that horrible accident. It was kind of funny to see how she did not realize how everyone looked up to her as a leader and still considered herself weak. She was like a spring flower slowly growing under the snow to then just pop up and show its beauty. But her beauty was shown on the side of the living. We, the dead, could only watch over it. I had experienced this hard reality firsthand.

I know how much it hurts to see the living move on. I had seen it happen myself. They evolve and change, but we are eternal. We experience time completely differently. That is just the way of things. Lise and Fleure have had their time together. They should cherish it for what it was and be grateful for the time they got. All I could do for them now was give them a little extra time so they could say their goodbyes. Fleure was stuck in the past and needed to move on and I provided Lise with a chance to help the one she loved when she was alive. I knew it was cruel to ask this of Lise but at the same time for them, it had been a unique chance to borrow some extra time and get closure.

I sat down next to Lise. She immediately put her head on my lap looking for comfort. “It’s not fair. These moments should have been ours. We should have grown up together and gone on dates together. But I am stuck here, while she keeps on changing. The only thing that is keeping her with me is her stubbornness.”

“I know my dear…” I caressed her head. I could feel her conflicting emotions rush through her. “Just a little more and it will all be over. It needs to happen, I know it is not easy. I will make sure you won't need to suffer anymore once our pact is completed. That is the least I can do.”

Once this was over I would be all alone again. That idea stung me deeper than I would care to admit, but I had set my plans in motion. It was too late to back down.

“I won’t leave if you don’t want me to.” Lise suddenly said. I looked surprised at what she just said. It felt like she replied to my most inner thoughts and feelings.

I did not know how to react to that. She was always so genuine in her feelings. I could feel she really meant it. I knew how cruel it was to be bound alone to an instrument for all eternity. It was not something you would wish upon someone else.

“Don’t make idle promises.”

“I wasn’t…” Lise said with a pout on her face.

She was not only dependable, but she also had a really cute defenseless side to her. My focus wandered to her lips. I wondered if she was the type that liked to kiss girls or get kissed by them… I shook my head to clear these thoughts out of my head.

“AND STOP PUTTING THESE WEIRD THOUGHTS INSIDE MY HEAD!” I shouted. Sharing your thoughts with a lesbian can be quite tiresome!

“Those weren’t mine…” Lise said with a blush and a pout on her face not knowing where to look

“Well, they most certainly weren’t mine. HMPH!”

Fleure’s POV

After coming home from my hospital visit, I had a serious talk with Lise and let her know that I really loved her and that I would be more careful from now on.

Even though she reacted like she understood, and even encouraged me to spend more time with my friends, I felt like I had betrayed her. And even though she acted that way, I could feel when I played my cello that I had made her sad. I had done my best to cheer her up, but I kept on sensing the melancholy. I cursed myself for getting myself into this situation and hurting the one I cared most for.

Over the next couple of days, I buried myself in my schoolwork to run away from it all.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that the next rock on my path made its existence known. I was back at the Academy, and next to my regular classes and practice, the last couple of days I had worked hard on getting my first version of Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps ready, but the problem that Aleksei had pinpointed remained. He had been completely right when he said I needed a larger alto section and fewer sopranos. At the moment only Ian played an alto part on his alto-sax and there was only so much that I could let Axelle cover on the piano.

“It would be great if I could convince Tobias to play the viola... But the way he acted toward me the last time, and what it had cost Nastya to join the ensemble... I was not sure how much more I could make him fall in line.

The other night, Nastya had visited me in my room, and we had talked and gossiped a bit before bedtime. She had shown me a picture of Fabio and Tobias together on their date. It seemed it had been a huge success and the two of them were a thing now. She was really excited about having been successful in shipping those two. She seemed to be really passionate about that matchmaking hobby of hers.

At first, when she visited, I had been a bit tense due to my inner conflict about Nastya. I was not sure if I should avoid her or not, but Nastya quickly made me feel at ease by just acting like a good friend. We spend almost the entire evening on the bed just talking. She had some pretty big aspirations as a violin player, and I was sure if anyone could make them real it would be her. It would have been so embarrassing if she had made a big thing out of that cup of coffee, that she had called a date.

Maybe I should ask Nastya to help me convince Tobias to play the viola? No, I could not do that. Frank had been clear about that in his lessons. I was the conductor. I needed to be the one to convey these messages and explain to the musicians what I wanted of them. I thought of all the interactions I had with Tobias, and how they had made me want to explode and I wondered if there was a way that they could have gone differently. If I could not find a way to deal with him the ensemble was bound to have a bad atmosphere.

Then an idea suddenly hit me. But it could not be that easy… Could it? I quickly wrote out a viola score for Tobias. This would be it. I guess it would still be hit or miss, but certainly worth a try. I put my hand on my hair clip to gather some courage before heading out of my room. Only a few moments later I am taking a deep breath before knocking on Tobias’ door.

The door opened but to my surprise, it was Fabio and not Tobias who opened the door. It seems like I might be disturbing something that I do not really want to imagine… Maybe it wasn't the best of times.

“If I’m interrupting, I’ll come back later.”

“How could our conductor ever interrupt us? We were just loafing around anyway. Come in!” While I walked inside the room, Tobias was looking at me with weary eyes. Our last interactions most certainly would not suggest that I was on a “visit his room whenever I wanted”-basis with him. But Fabio seemed to ignore the social awkwardness and started talking like we were all the best of friends.

“The oboe part you gave me is really interesting. I was honored to get such a prominent role. I was really surprised to see you pick out something risky like Stravinsky. I can’t wait to hear us play together.” Fabio said while making large gestures. Those gestures with his hands were distracting me a little from the conversation. He had done that the last time when I spoke to him too. It seemed to be a Fabio thing.

“So, what do you need?” Tobias interrupted us. Well, interrupted him really. Since I hadn’t gotten a word in between Fabio’s monologue. I could hear from his tone he was already on the defensive and I could see on Fabio’s face that he was surprised at the tone he took toward me.

“Hey babe, I thought you told me she had a hand in us getting together. Aren’t the two of you good friends?” Fabio whispered to Tobias. I think that was the point where I learned what they mean by getting third-wheel vibes the second you set foot in a room.

I did not really want to go into why Tobias and I weren’t on the best of terms, and I remembered how Nastya instantly took control of the situation. It did not really matter what I would say, but I needed to say something to steer the conversation away from our fight, so I went with, “I am glad to see the two of you are getting along so well.”

Fabio immediately got a smile on his face and Tobias looked away a bit shyly like I knew a secret of his that he did not want anyone else to know. That gave me an opening to cut to the chase.

“I came because I want to change your part in the ensemble.” I then said to Tobias, answering his question. His eyes turned bigger.

“I talked it over with Aleksei, and I am certain that I can bring your brilliance out even more if you would agree to play the viola.”

I hoped my plan would work. Go in on the superlatives he used to describe himself. Lay it on nice and fat. Make it look like I was doing him a favor. I hoped he would fall for it though… I was being pretty obvious.

“But I play the violin!” He said shocked. To my knowledge, the viola and violin are not too different to play. So, in my eyes obtaining an instrument should be the only problem and I am pretty sure that Frank could obtain me a decent instrument on loan if it was really needed.

“Just think of it this way. Right now, you would have to play next to Nastya and everyone will compare the two of you. But if you play the viola, you will have your own unique part, and everyone will listen to you without prejudice. You would be the only viola in the ensemble.” I put the accent on “the only”.

His weary eyes turned dreamy as I continued describing how people would admire his greatness if he would only agree to play the viola, of course, while using the cheesiest superlatives that I could think of.

“L-let me see the score!”

I quickly gave him the score I wrote. In reality, his role would be connecting Sara’s cello and Nastya’s violin so the string section would have the complete array that I needed, but I wasn’t going to point that out at this point. Right now, I needed him to think he was special.

While he was overlooking the score, I saw his eyes starting to sparkle. “Look at those beautiful arpeggios combined with those bindings. This looks amazing. Oh, Fabio look, I will be supporting you here on this part.”

Miraculously my plan seemed to have worked. Was empty flattery really all that was needed to deal with his type? I was really amazed by how well that had worked…

Fabio had made us all a cup of tea in the meantime and even though the tea was good, I did not get a word in after that. The two of them were talking but at the same time, the two of them acted like a pair of lovebirds making me feel rather uncomfortable. I mean… that continuous flirting…I’m right here you know.

So, after I finished my cup, I politely said that I was going to go practice some more and reminded them that our first rehearsal would be this Friday. Fabio got up and led me to the door. Right before leaving, he whispered to me “If you had been a boy, I would have been jealous of the way you played Tobi. I did not take you to be the player type that can charm anyone when they want to. You have to teach me some of your tricks one of these days,” and he gave me a little wink while he waved me off.

Those words left me standing perplexed in the hallway. Player? Me?