The music for this chapter: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3idg5050ciiQcyUYBRU7oM?si=3d2d7b0bf2124eee
(I will put a copy pastable version in the comments)
The next few weeks were filled with practice and rehearsals from dusk till dawn and passed by in an instant, and before I realized it, the first half of October had already passed. The days were becoming shorter and the woods surrounding this monastery were starting to turn red. Fall was in its full course and soon it would be winter. I had started wearing my wool sweater since it was pretty cold and breezy in this old building and the temperatures had already dropped below 0 a couple of times during the night. Only Olle, the Swedish boy, still thought it was too hot for a sweater. I guess they have different standards on what is considered cold in Sweden.
Once school had really started, I found myself constantly occupied with music in some way. Either I was working on scores for the ensemble, studying up on my theory, teaching others, or practicing the cello. I had been worried about the teaching, and even though there had been a few hiccups, in the end, thanks to some tips from Frank, it was going easier than I thought it would go. Frank really had a way with people, and even if I did not like to admit it, he was a great teacher.
Frank was teaching me stuff that Aleksei never would. His only downside was that he turns instantly into a creep when there was a woman he was vaguely interested in nearby. Usually, the amount of interest was as big as her cup size. I could not help but cringe each time he stopped looking into my eyes and I noticed he was ogling a girl or one of the other teachers behind me. I tried giving him a punch when he did that, but I had a feeling the creep actually enjoyed that, so I did not repeat it.
While visiting Aleksei, I discussed my path for the cello with him. He told me which pieces to focus on in the meantime and made some extra notes on my scores without even hearing me play. The worst part of those notes was that they made perfect sense and that they were indeed things that I had overlooked. Was I that transparent to him? It was clear I was not yet at the level that I wanted to be with my score-writing skills if he could catch me off guard like that.
I could see that he was happy to discuss music but at the same time, it was clear that it was hurtful to him. “I am placing my hopes on you since I won’t be able to do it anymore,” he told me in a very grim tone. At first, I thought he was being really defeatist about his whole situation, but when I heard the doctors were not hopeful about him recovering some of his finer motoric movements, I realized his condition was a lot more serious than I initially thought. Even if he did manage to play again, it would never be on the level he once had. Aleksei was no longer in the hospital and was being nursed at home. He would return to teach me in January. So, figuring out which contests I was going to participate in would have to wait at least until then, but that gave me time to work on the concerto with Nastya.
Nastya often visited me in my room, and I had been studying the concerto with her, which really wasn’t more than just telling her honestly what I thought about what she was playing. If I really wanted her to make changes; like usual; it needed to be changed on the score. Her skill to play a score perfectly was beyond compare.
There wasn’t much I could teach someone of her caliber after all. But she seemed happy with my remarks, and I felt that we grew a lot closer now that we shared a secret. She was the only one I could talk to about Lise and Rosalinde. We had become really good friends and we often stayed up after curfew just to talk.
On the wraith front, luckily things had been quiet and if it wasn’t for Aleksei’s condition, I would have started doubting myself if it really happened, but Rosalinde hammered it into me not to let my guard down. Ghosts perceive time differently than the living. A minute, a day, a year… It is all the same to them. They appear when certain conditions are met, and it is very hard to pinpoint those conditions beforehand. I just hoped we would get enough time to take care of the wraith and to keep Nastya safe. I had been feeling guilty about this whole situation. Wasn’t this, after all, all my fault? There would not be a wraith after us if I hadn’t brought Lise back.
My rehearsals with the Saint Cecilia ensemble were another problem. I had been having more and more of these flashbacks about my dad, but since nothing bad happened, except maybe feeling a little dizzy and a little tired after one of those episodes, I had been keeping quiet about it to everyone. I was sure I could handle it. On the contrary, those memories often seemed to help me with what needed to be done.
Right now, I was waiting for Sara since it was time for our tutoring session. She should have been here 2 minutes ago. So, I decided to practice the cello a bit by myself. Any moment of practice that I could get in was a moment won after all.
I only just started warming up when I heard the loud rushing steps of someone running in the hallway. I got a smile on my face. “That has to be her,” I whispered to myself while imagining a red-faced Sara running like crazy to get here. And sure enough, a second later with a loud bang, the door to the classroom opened and a panting Sara entered the room. “I’m so sorry I lost track of time!”
She was 4 minutes late and was looking at me like I was going to chastise her, cursing herself under her breath. Anyone would just have apologized and entered and that would have been it. For a second there, I felt tempted to act all strict on her as a joke, but the face she was making was just too much. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.
“Just calm down and get ready. We will just take five minutes from our lunch break.”
After noticing that I wasn’t angry, Sara seemed to instantly liven up, but she did not get that smile on her face like she usually gets. I could see she was brooding on something or wanted to ask me something but did not know how to broach the subject. That girl was always way too easy to read.
I decided to give her some time, but when I noticed it was influencing her playing, I stopped her and said “Enough of this. Just spill the beans. What is going on?”
Sara looked at me surprised and then looked downward with a guilty look on her face.
“Promise me you won’t get angry? You can just say no if you don’t like it.”
What on earth could she want from me that would make me angry like that? Now I wanted to know. But did I really want to know? Stuff like that can drive me crazy.
“Just say it. I won’t promise anything, but you know I am not a monster. I won’t eat you.”
“Well, it is November soon.”
Like every year… “What’s so special about that.”
“It will be All Saints Day soon. And they are having a memorial for all children who died in the Brussels area at the church in Laken.”
Sara looked at me like her point should already have gotten across. “I want to go to honor Lise.”
Ah, so that was what this was about. I grabbed my cello, knowing that Lise was here with me was making this conversation at least bearable. I looked at her with big eyes. I felt like I knew what she was going to ask.
“I want you to come with me and…”
And? There was even more to it?
Sara sighed and then said, “Don’t get angry but…” I held my heart for what she was about to say.
“My parents are kinda friends with the priest there, and they promised I would play something in honor of Lise and since you said we would play a duet together, I told them that we might be able to do it together but then forgot to tell you. I thought I could still take it back, but since we were on tv, they already put it on all their social media and the news of our concert even made it into the paper.”