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Music Saves OR Unsaid
She trembled as she ran her fingers across the glassy ivory keys. You ever heard of the saying, the calm before the storm? It was during the few precious moments of calm when Mika would run to her piano. It was actually Marcus' but he never minded. In fact, he was the sole reason she even began to play in the first place. He called it their lifeline. He would pick her up out of her high chair as a toddler and sit her on his lap while he played and They fought.
Mika didn't wait for the shouting to begin, she didn't want to feel like she was drowning Them out. She closed her eyes and allowed her fingers to dance across the keys. She imagined that she and Marcus were on the other side of the country on a huge stage in a grand auditorium playing a duet in front of millions of people. People who wanted to hear their beautiful music.
“Stop playing that goddamn piano, worthless nuisance!” Her fingers faltered briefly at the biting words, but she felt a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“Don't stop playing Mika. Play louder even, but never stop.” He breathed the words into her ear. She shivered slightly, but stayed focused as she applied more pressure on the keys.
“Nice going Greta, you just made It play louder.” The words stung even more than the first string, but Mika ignored Them. With her eyes remaining closed, she allowed herself to be engulfed by the series of gorgeous notes that she strung together. She felt a rare smile form slightly on her lips as she strayed with the melodies.
“Dammit Billy, shut the f*** up!” Mika heard the woman slur her words and knew They were drunk. Bad things happened in her house when alcohol was present. Once, when she was four, she poured all of the alcoholic beverages down the drain, with the help of twelve year old Marcus. They both got into so much trouble that Mika never again stepped foot into the den where the liquor cabinet was located. She had just wanted Them to stop fighting so much.
“Maybe I will Greta if you actually got a real job!” Mika began the short, easy process of tuning Them out as she began to hum Marcus' lullaby as she played. She felt the floor shake beneath her feet and fought the urge to glance up at the mirror above the piano. The sounds of shouting drifted to her ears, but she closed her eyes tighter and shut off her brain to the rest of the world, except for the sound of her music. With every note she played, she felt herself become calm and closed off to what was going on around her. She liked to pretend that she was playing the sound track to the movie of her life. It was at this point, when she felt separated from reality, that she would allow herself to open her eyes and stare up at the mirror above the piano that gave her a glimpse of what was going on behind her.
She gazed apathetically at the mirror. She caught sight of the large, heavy-set woman holding a small metal gun. She held it a full arm's length away from herself, pointed directly at a man. The man was tall and mostly slim with the exception of his beer belly that jutted from his stomach. His black hair was thinning and he had stubble growing on his face. The bags underneath his dull brown eyes just proved how little sleep he'd been getting. His right hand tightened around the beer can he gripped securely in his fist. Greta's large, meaty arm trembled from holding the gun straight out in front of her.
Mika couldn't hear a single word They spoke, but she watched the intense situation play out in their reflections on the wall. Billy said something that caused Greta's pig-like face to scrunch up into a menacing glare. The woman's fat hand shook gently as she pressed lightly on the trigger. A bullet Mika hadn't even known was in the gun, catapulted from the barrel, headed directly for the man. Billy didn't even flinch away from the speeding piece of metal, instead, he just closed his eyes and braced himself for the inevitable impact.
In his last few minutes of life, he didn't register the pain he was in, or how tired he happened to be. Surprisingly, his thoughts were trained on the music that had engulfed him. For the first time, he realized how beautiful it truly was. He turned his head slightly to the left so he could see the daughter he'd ignored for nearly ten long years. She had her back to him, her fingers dancing swiftly across the slightly out of tune piano. Billy's eyes drifted to the mirror above his daughter's head. Through it, he could see her thin, tanned face. Her honey-colored eyes were empty and hollow. She didn't even seemed phased that her father had just been shot. The man sighed, he guessed that it was his own fault she didn't care about him. He never even bothered to acknowledge her existence ever since Marcus disappeared when she was just six.
Billy wanted to tell her how gorgeous she'd become, he wanted to tell her that she was a lovely musician. But maybe, he thought, some things are better left unsaid. He tore his eyes from his baby girl to gaze at Greta. The sight of her pained blue eyes caused his heart to swell. Past her harsh, drunken features, he could still see the woman he'd fallen in love with all those years ago. He wasn't angry that she'd shot him, even though he knew he probably should be. In all actuality, he welcomed death. He no longer wanted to wake up every morning to his near worthless, pointless life. Greta was the only one he loved these days and she was the one to shoot him. He'd rather have died by her hand than anyone else's in the universe. Billy was the first to admit that he was a heartless, selfish, b****** and he firmly believed that Mika would be better off without him; without Them.
Greta stared at his pale face, blood dripped from the wound in his chest. She wanted to shout at somebody to call 911, but the only other person in the room was Mika. She tried to force the words from her lips, instead all she managed was a strangled cry. She couldn't believe that she had actually shot him. She was just trying to get him off her back about that stupid job crap. She didn't even think there were any bullets in the gun. All she had intended to do was scare him. Billy clutched for her round, chubby fingers. Greta gripped his hand tightly as he glanced at her. He looked more peaceful in his last few moments than he had since the day Marcus was born. A single tear escaped from his warm brown eyes before he went completely limp.
Greta managed to dig her cell phone from her pocket and dial 911. Because of the loud piano being played in the background, the operator was only able to catch the words, shot... dead... murder... accident and an address, but before he could ask any questions, Greta hung up the phone. Her sadness quickly turned to rage as she snatched up the gun, holding the cold, heavy object loosely. She glanced to her left at her daughter, she felt another rush of anger envelop her when she noticed that her child hadn't even stopped playing that wretched music to help her father. Greta wanted to slap the emotionless expression from Mika's face. How could she be so calm when the man who kept their family from falling apart at the seams had just died? First, she aimed the gun at her daughter, she wanted her gone more than anyone else in the entire world. If only she'd disappeared instead of my beloved Marcus, the woman thought wryly. The woman wanted to shout these things at the child. She wanted to tell her just how worthless she was, but some things may just be better left unsaid. The woman could hear the sirens approaching, becoming louder and louder. She had to do something quick.
Greta tightened her grip on the gun and as the calming music Mika played drifted to her ears, she lifted the gun to her head and pressed down on the trigger with her clammy finger. Her body fell limply beside her husbands. Their fingers remained intertwined as thick red blood pooled between them.
“Don't worry Mika, we'll be okay. We always are,” he breathed into her ear, causing another shiver to crawl down her spine. She looked sideways hoping to see Marcus standing beside her, a smile on his face. But she saw nothing. It was just her overactive imagination running wild once again. She cold smell the unmistakable scent of blood all around her. She knew They were gone. Just like Marcus had, They disappeared too. Mika thought that she should be sad, maybe even a little bit depressed, but she couldn't bring herself to be too disappointed about the fates of these strangers. She just wanted to be captured by the magic of the piano forever.