The Double LifeBy: Nia Wilson
After so much practice, my fingers flew across the keys with nary a mistake, although I did notice one small mistake, which irritated me. A quick glance at the clock told me that I didn’t have time to go back if I wanted to finish the piece before Grace came, so I pushed on. I tried to ignore my fumble, but my mind insisted on mentally marking the spot so I could fix it later.
It wouldn’t be today. I only worked Wednesday through Saturday, but eight hours of piano lessons with only a thirty minute break for lunch was rough. I ended my week exhausted but inspired. At the end of the day, I had nothing to give to my own creative pursuits.
The second movement came to an end and I slowed for the third and final movement. With any luck, I would finish in time to spend a few moments straightening up the piano and music before Grace walked in.
No sooner had I thought it than the door handle turned and the door was shoved in. She was early, which wasn’t a shock. I stopped playing and looked up, my face already set in a smile for my favorite girl.
A young boy stared at me, his bright blue eyes frantic. He searched the room, panic growing as he found nothing familiar.
“Are you lost?”
“Where’s my dad?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know where you live. If you tell me your name we could-”
Before I could finish, I heard a man shout from the street.
“Declan, over here!”
The boy spun and ran into the yard. I stood and looked out the window in time to see him run towards a man standing next to a moving van. The boy flew into his arms. The man caught him and ruffled his hair.
I could hear their voices, but from this distance, I couldn’t make anything out.
A warm body pressed against my leg, the fat orange tabby purring loudly as he wrapped himself around my ankles.
“Well, Johann, it looks like the house next door finally got sold.”
Johann looked up at me and blinked.
“You’re right, what was I thinking. Why would you care about new neighbors when you’re obviously wasting away as we speak?”
Johann flopped onto his back, his fat spreading out around him. I walked into the kitchen and checked his bowl, which was of course empty. I’d adopted Johann from a shelter last year. He’d been obese at the time, but he was friendly and I couldn’t pass him up; even if I couldn’t pick him up.
After a year of exercise and a special food, Johann was now “pleasantly plump”, although he acted like he was going to disappear at any moment if he didn’t get a treat or something.
He was the most dramatic cat I’d ever met.
I filled up his bowl and headed back towards the living room just in time to greet Grace as she walked in. Her mother waved from her car before driving away.
After a few months, Grace had moved from a thirty minute lesson to an hour. Since she preferred to take her lessons alone, her mother was able to take her younger sister to gymnastics down the street. Linda had gone from a tired, overwhelmed mother desperate for anything to work to a younger-looking, more vibrant version of herself. Seeing her oldest child happy had had an amazing effect on the entire family.
“There are people moving in next door.”
“Yes there are. I’m sure they’re nice.”
“Do you know them?”
I had to chuckle a little. “Not yet, but I will soon I’m sure.”
Without another word, Grace started playing. Her fingers flew across the keys and her brow furrowed. It took a few bars for me to realize that she was playing the song I had been working on.
I moved beside her and turned the pages as she played. She struggled a little here and there, but over all her first time playing the song was beautiful.
She completed the piece and sat quietly, waiting for me to critique her work.
“Have you played that song before?”
“How did you know how to play it so well?”
“The music is on the paper.”
This time, I laughed out loud. “Grace, you are amazing.”
“I’m amazing Grace.”
“Yes you are.”
She smiled softly and pulled out her own folder. The thick binder held hundreds of songs. In a matter of months Grace had learned more than most adults could learn in a year. I couldn’t argue with her estimation that she was indeed amazing Grace.
Flipping through the sheets stored in protective sleeves, she found the piece she was looking for and began to play. I settled in beside her and closed my eyes, enjoying the hard work we’d both put into her lessons.
I cherished every moment of that hour, because an hour with Grace was never enough.
The last student walked out the door, turning to wave as he ran down the walkway to his father’s car. His lesson books slipped out of his hands and skidded across the concrete. Laughing, he stopped to retrieve them and looked to see if I had noticed.