Her fingers cascaded the flute, the keys being pushed down just enough to get one note out, and then onto the next. She was sweating, her upper lip causing the flute to slip out from under her, to where she would adjust by taking a breath and stiffening her arms. The pianist was having trouble keeping up with her movements, because she was doing this like she was creating a scene. She was a character in a book, and she was taking you along on this journey. All the twists, turns, you could feel the climatic approach. It wasn't music anymore, it was alive, flowing.
Her fingers slipped, as she went up and down the scales of 36th notes. She kept on, her eyes closed and her body alight. The audience was bitter silence, and her mind was no help at all. Not to mention, she couldn't hear a single note. She was drowning, and everyone knew.
She finished her last few notes, dragging out the vibrato and letting the tone sit, before she pulled her flute down and bowed.
"Time!" A judge yelled from the audience. No one moved.
She took a deep, heavy breath. The weight in her hands, she could feel her tension mount. She pulled her self upwards to face the crowd. Her breathing became labored, and the audience stared back. She swallowed all of her spit, causing her to lead into a fit of coughs. She slid onto the ground of the stage. She couldn't breath. The air was too dry, she was too nervous. It was falling apart in front of her. She was crying now, her tears making everything worse. The audience stared, not muttering a word.
The pianist went to pick her up, but she swatted at him and screamed.
"DON'T TOUCH ME!" Suddenly, security guards were coming up behind her, forcing her off the stage. She was screaming and kicking, and she was losing. She watched, as her flute lay back on the stage, her music scattered on it floor, she was over.
She stared at the piano player, watching his moves. He played with passion, sure, but it didn't sound like he played from the heart. He had invited her to watch his performance earlier that week and, with a large amount of convincing (and pocky bribing), she agreed. The tempo was great, and his diminuendos went perfectly with the movement of the notes, but there was nothing behind it. No intense feeling. She felt lackluster towards his playing.
He finished with sweat running down his face. His breathing was labored, and he smiled. His metronome went off in the distance, and she stood up to turn it off. As she did, cherry blossoms fell through the window. The encircled the piano, and then her body. The pianist stared in awe, but she felt impartial. She grabbed the tip of the metronome with her forefingers, and sighed.
"How did I do?" The sixth grader was impatient. His eyes sparkled, but her face held no emotion. How could it? Music meant nothing to her anymore. She mustered up a smile, and turned to face him.
She walked back towards the piano, and touched his hand gently. "You're stiff. Don't be afraid of the piano. It may be alive, but it's only going to hurt you if you let it. The piano needs to breath. You need to guide it, hold it close to you, and you need to play with heart. If your heart isn't there, it's dry. It's dead. It's meaningless."
The kid looked at her, clearly upset. "B-but, it was good, right?"
She nodded, solemnly. "It was good. It wasn't great. Great comes with practice. Now, I have to get going." She looked at the clock, right above the classroom door.
"Wait! I'll see you here next week?"
"Next week," she stared at the kid, his brown eyes begging. "I'll see what I can do, Yagami." The umber-skinned child nodded gleefully, snatched up his music, and left. She watched him, music flying away from stands and into his path. She sighed, picking up the music. Sonata Number.9, Meditation de Thais, Ode to Joy, Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, and Swan Lake were among the few. Some of the greatest pieces ever composed, being played be prodigies at some school. She felt the disrespect hang in the air like a dead weight.
She placed the music on the desk that their private instructor kept. She knew the instructor kept extra copies, because everything was getting lost in the music room, but she felt the originals might be of some importance. She grabbed her flower print bag off the ground next to it, and headed for the door.
A familiar caramel-skinned face greeted her outside the door. His bushy black hair was tied back in a slick ponytail, and his smile was glinting in the light streaming from the windows. His eyes were squinted, until he opened them to gaze into her eyes. Warm and brown, his eyes made he feel encased by something, as if she couldn't move, but also gave a reassuring comfort.
"I'm guessing you didn't play today," he said, slinging his arm around the strap of his school bag. His face fell, and he looked like a wounded puppy.
She shook her head, her silky black hair covering her eyes. She brushed it out of the way, revealing her ashen skin. Compared to anyone, her Asian heritage made her look like a ghost.
"Why not, Su-Chan?" Her friend's eyes pleaded, and a bulging upper lip jutted out.
"I thought I told you not to call me that."
"But Su-chan," he whined. He huffed, and started walking down their school hall, her following in pursuit.
"Santiago, please slow down. I don't have the legs to keep up with your strides." She begged. She took long leaps to catch up with him on the marble floor. Even though he wasn't much taller than her, he still towered her. That was saying something, too, because he was one of the shortest males in their class.
"Masumi, I'm not going to leave you behind. Now, be careful. I don't want you to slip on the marble, or your hair. Have you been growing it out?"
Masumi hide, shyly, underneath her hair. It was almost to her ankles, but she always kept it in a french braid. "Yeah, kinda."
"Well, it looks great. Listen, I have to stop off at the lockers. If you want, you can get a head start on the trip home." Santiago looked at her questioningly, but she shook her head and continued to follow. He shrugged his shoulders, and they started entered through a stairway, that lead to the lockers.
They walked in silence, their bags bouncing slightly on their shoulders. It wasn't too long before they stopped at Santiago's locker, and Masumi watched him spin the comm in to open it. She slouched on the lockers next to his, watching him pull out a pair of baseball cleats, some gloves, and a candy bar. He wasted no time opening the candy bar, and sticking in it between his teeth. Masumi didn't question it, because he practiced baseball for hours a day, just like Masumi used to practice music. Relentlessly, never-ending, and oh so passionately.
They kept the silence up for sometime as they walked home. The heat from the day was coming to a close as they passed through the city. Shops were closing up for the night, and the sun was saying goodbye in orange and pink. It wasn't unusual for them to be coming home so late, because they went to a school for prodigies. Their hours went for long than anyone else's, and practice after school, for anything, would take up the rest of their day. It was sometimes completely dark when they finally left school. It wasn't something that was judged or worried over either. The prodigies that went to their school worked hard to be there, so why wouldn't they work just as hard when they were in school. All of it was very surreal, sometimes.
It wasn't until they were cleared of the school did they start speaking again.
"You haven't practiced at all since then, have you?" Santiago stared at the ground, kicking pebbles further down their path.
"No, I haven't."
"You're going to get sent somewhere else if you can't start up again soon." Santiago's voice filled with sadness.
"I have more to offer than my flute playing. I'm extremely intelligent, and I'm great at mixed media. They can't just get rid of me because I stopped playing," Masumi grunted, and became very disheveled in her posture.
"They can take away your scholarship." Santiago suddenly felt threatening to Masumi. He knew Masumi could only attend their school due to the scholarship she was awarded for her flute playing. Certainly she could be offered another scholarship, but it wouldn't be nearly as much as the one she took now.
"Like they'd do that."
"Masumi, you had a mental breakdown in the middle of a performance. You were on new stations, newspaper, even in magazines. Everyone in the classical world knows what happened. You caused our school a bad image, and they're going to drop you if you don't come out of your slump soon."
Suddenly, a big gust of wind pushed through them. It caused wind chimes everywhere to sound off, dogs to bark aggressively, it made Masumi's skirt billow around her, it skittered leaves, and made it's own sort of music. A music no one with any instrument could copy. Music by Mother Nature. Both looked enthused by the melody, but it did not last long. While Masumi's eyes sparkled with longing, the wind died down and all remained calm again.
Santiago grabbed Masumi by her arm, and forced her to make eye contact with him. "You're drowning yourself," he said, clear as day.
Masumi ripped herself from his grasp. "You don't know what music even feels like."
"I know how it makes you feel," he whispered. Masumi shook her head at him, and trotted ahead on their path. She would have none of this.