What was going on with Fleure? She conducted us completely differently than usual. Not that there was anything to remark, but it felt strange, it was like she had become another person entirely now that a crowd was present. And now that it was over, there was nothing left of the self-confident conductor. She stood there lost and was crying.
I signaled to Sara and Toby that we needed to go up there and help her. After my signal, Sara immediately noticed Fleure’s breakdown too and we walked up, and both took one of her hands, while Toby nudged the rest of the ensemble to join us. If she was in trouble, we would show her that we, her friends, would be there for her. I did not like involving Sara so directly, but I knew she was important to Fleure too. And to be honest, now that she was dating Axelle, and all the juicy stories Fleure had told me about them, I started to feel more comfortable around her. Maybe because she wasn’t monopolizing Fleure’s time anymore like she used to?
I could see Fleure look up confused as we all stood next to her hand in hand, to bow to the public as they do in the theater. I gave her hand a little squeeze, and she smiled at me in return. She seemed grateful for our gesture.
The second we bowed together the applause intensified even more. The pressure for the concerto was real, now that we had to top our own performance. I am sure Fleure’s adaptation of Sacre du Printemps will be something wildly talked about for quite some time in certain circles. Her talent to make these adaptions was frightening, to be honest.
The second we got backstage, I wanted to console Fleure, but we were overwhelmed by people that wanted to congratulate us.
“You okay?” I whispered in her ear between all the noise.
“I’m fine now. I will tell you about it later.”
I felt relieved. I could see that this was different than those panic attacks. I wondered what happened to make her all emotional like that. Sacre du Printemps was hardly a piece to get you into that state.
“Ahum! Nastya, can you please help me?” Frank walked up to me with a worrisome look on his face and guided me away from Fleure. I could see there was a sense of urgency behind his words.
“Why? What is happening? You know I need to go and get ready for the concerto.”
“It’s your grandfather.”
“What? Did something happen?” With the grave look on Frank’s face, I feared the worse. Did he have another stroke?
“Not yet. But I fear it won’t last long.”
He pointed toward an old lady that was driving his wheelchair around while talking to him. I could see he did not like it, but the woman wasn’t letting that stop her enthusiasm.
“Who is she?” I asked perplexed that grandpa had not yet exploded in a fit.
“The duchess. She is our main benefactor for this school. She insisted that she would wheel him around so they could enjoy the next concert together too. She is adamant that she wants to spend as much time as possible with your grandfather.”
I started to get the picture. But seeing grandpa wheeled around like that by a woman monologuing not listening to a word he said… That was actually quite funny.
I had been able to keep up my appearance so far, but this situation in combination with Frank’s panic was just too much. I burst out laughing.
“I am pretty sure that by now the Duchess knows what she is in for. I am not going to do anything about it. It is none of my business.”
I could see the fear in Frank’s eyes at my response.
“Don’t worry about it. It will be fine. He deserves some attention from a lady.” Especially after all his nagging that I did not give him enough attention and that I had even left him alone on Christmas eve. “He loves women that give him all the attention in the world.”
Frank looked a bit perplexed, and I noticed that he started looking at Fleure.
“Don’t you dare bring this up to Fleure! She has other things to worry about right now.”
Frank looked at me like a kid that just got caught planning to do something naughty.
I shook my head in disbelief. “Just let them be. It will be fine.” Well, maybe… At least I hoped it would be.
I left Frank to his own devices. I had a small hour to get ready for the concerto while Fleure and the other students played the traditional New Year’s Waltzes.
When I got to my room, I put on the silk blue dress that grandpa had bought me to mark my first concerto. I combed my hair and redid my make-up. Unlike earlier, I needed to stand out on the stage, so I put my hair up and gave myself a flamboyant makeover.
While going through the motions of getting ready, my mind started wandering. There was a lot at stake in this concert. I had been given another chance. Would I finally make papa hear me? Would I finally get through to him? I was not so sure I could do it by myself, but with Fleure’s help, there might be a chance.
I felt my mom’s necklace on my chest next to the matching one I shared with Fleure. I removed the latter and put it inside the locket of my mom’s necklace. They were both important to me, and this way I could have both with me.
I gave myself a final once over in the mirror. I was ready.
When I arrived at the backstage area in the chapel, Fleure and the orchestra were still playing Strauss Waltzes.
That gave me a little time; so I started doing my rituals to prepare to go on stage. I put fresh rosin on my bow and then started re-reading the scores one final time.
Everything was just like it was for any other performance that I had ever given, so it was safe to say that I wasn’t prepared for the drama that ensued when suddenly a loud scream came from the stage. I don’t think anyone could have been ready for a disaster like this.
That voice. “Fleure!” in a panic I ran toward the stage and noticed that Fleure was lying on the ground while everyone was confused about what was going on.
This… it couldn’t be. She wasn’t moving. I immediately put my ear to her mouth and nose confirming my worst nightmare. She was not breathing. What on earth just happened? I noticed her hair clip on the floor next to her. The fear that this was papa’s doing struck me. I quickly put it back on her and in a frenzy, I started doing CPR. While panicky tears were running down my face. I started begging the last person that I wanted to get involved in this to help her. “Please, Lise, help her. Please don’t be too late.”
I counted the speed of the heart massage like I had been taught. “21, 22, 23, 24, 25” Before I went over to mouth-to-mouth breathing.
“D-Don’t you dare leave me too.” Why did everyone always leave me? Why was it always like this? But I wasn’t going to give up! Not this time.
I wanted to switch again, but Tine had taken over the heart massage. “You’re doing great. We need to keep it up until the ambulance arrives.” She said to encourage me, but I could see by the look on her face that every second that passed was a second closer to the inevitable.
In the background I could hear Frank shout something about an ambulance coming soon and that the rest of the concert was canceled. I could hear the crowd being led outside of the chapel.
At this point, I could not care less about the stupid concert. “If this really turns out to be papa’s doing, I will never ever play Sibelius,” I swore to myself. “I don’t care anymore about getting through to him.”
Tears were running down my face ruining the make-up I had put so much effort into. I was looking forward to seeing Fleure’s reaction but that did not matter at this point. At this point, all I wanted was to get Fleure back.
“You promised you would not leave me. Am I not good enough for you to stay?”
Then I said the words that I had kept deep inside of myself because I feared her rejection since I knew she was still attached to Lise:
“Please stay. Can’t you see that I love you!”