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A Free Afternoon
“I don’t have any AP Lit homework,” Emily said feeling the lightness of her backpack, free of her large textbook.
“Really?” Liz asked with disbelief.
“Yeah, first time ever.” Emily told her.
“What are you going to do today then?” Liz asked laughingly.
“I don’t know…” Emily said softly, at almost a whisper, pondering the question herself.
“Well bye then,” Liz said quickly as she boarded her bus, waving from the doorway.
Emily started her usual walk home. The world to her seemed so much quieter. Her usual frantic thoughts clouded her mind and sealed her off completely. Now, with an empty afternoon to herself, she took her time walking home, enjoying the freedom of the day ahead. She started noticing things she hadn’t before, like the mailbox someone painted pink, or a cat she had never seen. Emily even waved back to the neighbors she previously ignored.
She saw how wide the sky looked that day; what a beautiful shade of soft, light blue it was. How the clouds looked painted, unreal almost, like nothing could be that perfect. She let her eyes close as she stopped and listened to the gentle rustling sound of the leaves in the light breeze. She loved how the light peaked through the leaves, sending down rays of sunshine onto her soft glowing skin. Looking up she marveled at how small she seemed compared to the vastness of the sky, to the outreached arms of the trees, to the world itself.
When she finally did get home, no one was there as usual. On most days she would have raced to her room to start some essay or reading that her AP Literature class required. Today, there was nothing urgent or pressing to get done. She lay on her bed, outstretched against the soft pink bedding. She sat there a long time, just listening to how quiet it was. Although she was usually the only one home, nothing ever felt quiet to her like it did this afternoon. Before, her constant worrying would fill up every thought in her head, making the world seem rushed and busy. Today, everything seemed so much different, a new world completely.
Emily wandered around her house; she truly did not know what she should do with all this time on her hand. She came to the kitchen, the walls were a bright white, the sky light and windows created a dull grey lighting to the room. Her body shivered as she felt the handles of stainless steel fridge. Inside all she found was her mother's various health food, words like “Fat-Free” or “Less Calories” jumped out at her. Emily sighed, realizing there was nothing for her in there and shut the door.
Her meandering path lead her to the upstairs living room, a room created more for show than for function. The couch was much too stiff for anyone to want to sit on for long and the matching blue and white chairs were no better. The bookshelves lining the left wall were filled with books no one had read.
On the opposite wall was Emily’s once cherished piano. It was a beautiful, rich dark cherry color with bright white keys. It belonged to her great-grandmother, Savannah and a small sepia colored photograph of her rested on top. When it first came into Emily’s house the keys were stained yellow and the piano had, what seemed like, an inch of dust coating the entire body. Emily’s mother had the piano cleaned, of course, but in the corners of each key you could still see bits of a parchment-paper-colored yellow.
Emily sat down on the bench in front of the magnificent piano. Her fingers traced the intricate pattern of roses that were engraved along the front side. The roses climbed from end to end. Her mother found them tacky, Emily saw them as beautiful.
Slowly she lifted the lid to expose their keys. Her fingers ran across the ivory, mapping out the C scale but too nervous to press the keys down. A small chill ran through her body, she hadn’t played in years. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
Her fingers, cautiously at first, played the first note of “Clair de Lune”. As they moved to create the second note they grew in confidence. A smile formed across Emily’s face but she kept her eyes closed, relaxing but concentrating on each note. The soft music filled the house, making it feel less empty. She was no longer alone, now she had a room full of music enveloping her.
Emily let each note roll into the next; she hadn’t forgotten a single one. When her fingers landed on the keys for the last time, only then did Emily open her eyes. She realized she had been crying. She closed the lid and rested her head on top of it.
She missed playing, painfully so. She missed how the music could take her away, how it could remove all the stress, worry and anxiety. It was the thing she could rely on; when it seemed like there was no one else in the world her music would transform everything. It was her escape, but more than that it was her home, the place she felt she truly belonged. Emily had given up on it when she started high school, when AP classes took up all her time and when her mother thought she was too old to keep playing.
She stood up and started to walk away from the living room but just before she crossed the threshold of the doorway, she turned back. She lifted the lid off the piano and left it off as she walked back into her bedroom.
She opened her planner deciding to get ahead on some other homework but in the margin of the page she wrote, “Buy sheet music.”