Chapter 54:

Shock therapy

Phantom Adagio

The music for this chapter: (copy pastable version in the comments)


During the November break, I came back to Tienen. If it had been up to me, I would have spent this week at the academy, but my orchestra would unfortunately not be there, so there wasn’t anything I could do there that I could not do in my old room. Preparing for that duet with Sara had eaten up a lot of my time and now I was putting all my time into preparing for the new year’s concert.

After this week, I would start conducting the orchestra and we only would have 2 months to get ready.

My biggest obstacle at this moment was psychological though. Each time I started working on the concerto headaches still assailed me. I needed to get a grip on these symptoms and quickly. I knew that Inge could not help me. Therapy takes time to set in. I needed a quick fix so to speak. I needed to get used to hearing Sibelius’ violin concerto and all the associations with my dad. If I wanted to be able to help and protect Nastya, I needed to get over this fast.

So, during dinner, I resolved to get it over with in the most direct way that I could think of.

“Aunt, do you have my dad’s recording of Sibelius’ violin concerto?”

Aunt Christina was watching me with her mouth agape, while Inge looked at me suspiciously. Well, I could not really blame them. I guess this must have come rather unexpectedly.

“I-I think I should have it in the attic. But why? You made me put anything that had to do with him out of sight. That album is precious to me. I do not want you to burn it or anything like that.”

“Didn’t I tell you? Nastya and I are going to perform the same concerto in January.”

Inge spat out her drink. Was this so shocking?

“I cannot remember the recording though. So, I want to listen to it.”

That seemed to have calmed Aunt Christina down. “Sure, Fleure. I will look for it for you after dinner.”

“Now listen,” Inge interjected. “There is a reason you can’t remember that recording. This is nothing to act so lightly about. Let alone listen to by yourself.”

“Can’t I show interest in my dad’s music?” I tried to make it sound as innocent as I could, but I could see Aunt Christina grow suspicious while I said it.

“Why the sudden interest? Why the need to listen to that version specifically? Up to now, you loathed anything that had to do with your father. You would explode at the very mention of him.” Inge was putting the heat on.

My heart was beating like crazy in my chest. I never thought I would have to defend any interest in my dad. I had thought they would have just seen that as a sign that I was getting better.

“Nastya and I decided on this piece. We promised to each other to do better than our fathers, so I need to know what we are up against, and I need to get over the headaches that start each time someone mentions the piece. There is only one real way to do that, and that is listening to it until it no longer has that effect.”

“Although exposure therapy sometimes works, you should know that it can backfire. Since you seem to be so hellbent on it, and I am pretty sure you will obtain that recording even if Christina does not give it to you, I still do not think you should do this by yourself. At least let me or another counselor be present when you try something crazy like that.

Was that all?

“Sure, you can be in the room while I listen to it.” I knew I was bluffing. I really hoped I was going to be able to keep it together.

“Can I join in too? We can listen to it together in the living room tonight. We can make it a cozy family night.” Aunt Christina said to lighten the mood again.

I nodded but Inge who was still in her preaching mode looked at Aunt Christina like she wanted to object. Aunt Christina in turn looked at her with a smile. I knew that smile. Mom could make the same smile. It was most definitely that give in now or all hell breaks loose smile. I could feel the pressure coming from it. There was no way to say no to that. “You aren’t her counselor anymore, so I guess it is only normal that her guardian should be present.” Aunt Christina said in an upbeat voice.

Inge gulped. “Of course. Let’s make it a cozy family night.” As a professional psychologist, Inge was luckily able to read the room. The extreme pressure that came from Aunt Christina immediately dissipated and her smile changed into a genuinely happy smile. I was clear who was boss among those two…

And so, I found myself sitting in the living room with Inge while Aunt Christina was looking for the album.

“Are you really certain you are up to this? This isn’t going to be easy.” She asked me again now that we were alone.

“I’ve made my decision,” I said resolutely.

Inge shook her head and said “Try to get as calm as you can before we start. Please do the breathing exercises I taught you because this is most likely going to be very stressful for you.” I could hear by the sound of her voice that she was genuinely worried. Was what I was about to try really that hard? I

“I will guide you, just get in a comfortable position.”

I put laid myself out on the sofa and Inge started by guiding me through breathing exercises to clear my mind. Then she made me focus on every muscle in my body one by one, and made it relax. I was surprised by how much stress I was packing and how much lighter I felt when the exercise was over.

I heard Aunt Christina enter the room with an upbeat “Found it!” But she was immediately shushed by Inge who made me close my eyes and do another couple of meditation exercises.

Then the first notes of the concerto started to sound. Aunt Christina had clearly put the disc on. A headache immediately assailed me.

“Keep focussing on your breath. Both your Aunt and I are here with you.” Inge whispered.

I focused on my breath and the headaches started to fade. I started to hear the solitary violin that sounded very powerful and soon the orchestra joined in and it sounded like a conversation started between the violin and the orchestra. The violin was passionately trying to convince the orchestra, setting a wave of emotions in motion that went through the entire orchestra.

Memories of my dad started to flood into my mind…


Fleure's POV when she was 5

Dad had brought me up to the stage where he was rehearsing with his orchestra. The whole orchestra was looking at me with curious eyes and I was hiding behind dad’s leg.

“Here, let me show you what daddy does for a living.” Dad picked me up and put me on top of his wooden music stand and gave me his conducting baton.

I looked at all the grown-ups staring intently at me and felt a little shy, but my dad stood behind me, so I knew I was safe.

“Everyone, this is a serious exercise for all of you. Even if she is only 5 years old, she controls you now. . I want you all to follow the baton. Every strike will be a beat, no matter how erratic, and even if it isn’t like that on your score. You will follow the baton. The baton is your master, and you have no choice but to obey it. We are playing Uranus by Holst.”

Soft laughter went through the orchestra, while they shuffled and put the right score in front of them. Immediately after that, they all started staring intensely. I noticed they weren’t looking at me but at the baton that I was holding. I moved the baton and some of the musicians started playing. I strook it again and others started to join in. This was like a magic wand. I started playing around waving the baton in large gestures, increasing the tempo, and decreasing the tempo. The whole orchestra seemed to follow every movement I made.

After a minute or so, dad guided my hand, and the weird inconsequent melody started to sound like a beautiful song. I looked back at him surprised and he looked down at me with a big smile and whispered “Fantastic, isn’t it?”

I got a smile on my face too and nodded “Dad is a magician!”


Back to the present

Tears started rolling down my eyes as now the images of the last time I saw my dad were washing over me. I watched him disappear in the big ball of flames. I was angry at him. Doubt washed over me. Was I really angry at him? I was angry at myself. Angry that I did not disappear with them. Why was I the one left behind?

Suddenly I felt a hand on my head caressing me. I opened my eyes and saw Aunt Christina who sat crouched on the floor next to me, looking at me with worried eyes. “I miss them,” I said while letting the sadness take over. Aunt Christina gave me a big hug “I miss them too, Fleure. I miss them too.”

Her presence felt warm and relieving. I always felt like I was left behind alone. But I wasn’t alone anymore, was I? As a matter of fact, I had never been alone. Aunt Christina had always been there for me and Inge had always done everything she could in my best interest. I made wonderful friends like Sara and Nastya. The world was changing and so was I. The Fleure that was in that accident and stuck in the past was no longer here either. I realized that lately, I had been constantly working towards upcoming events. When had I stopped looking back and started to look forward again?