Memories and Melodies

January 26, 2011
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Young Julia didn’t know how she ended up in the piano store. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d even touched the piano. She wasn’t even sure if she could even play the piano anymore. But there she was, standing in front of the Boston baby grand piano, black and sleek, beckoning her fingers to play its keys. Ever since her mother died, her hands hadn’t come near the piano keyboard once, and all feelings of joy that had come from playing vanished. In fact, she’d gotten rid of the piano they once owned. Staring at the large instrument, Julia began to feel comfort and solace once more…

Her night was easily one of the worst she’d ever had. What was thought to be the best party of the year ended up being a disaster. She was throwing the biggest birthday party of the year and nearly everybody in her class was invited. That is, everybody who was an “anybody.” Julia had spent all day making sure the party would go smoothly, and making sure her outfit would outshine all the other girls’ by a huge margin.

At seven o’clock, she ushered all of her guests in. Julia played the role of the perfect party host, with her faithful boyfriend Tyler constantly on her arm. She made sure that she stayed the center of attention, because Julia would not take anybody stealing her spotlight. This included making sure Rachel Canning stayed in the shadows.

Everybody knew that Rachel had her eyes on the football captain, Tyler, and the only thing in her way was Julia. Julia hated Rachel with a deep passion. Not only because she was trying to steal her boyfriend, but also because Rachel was the “It” girl before Julia. Being in constant danger of being dethroned was not a favorite pastime of Julia’s. She’d reluctantly invited Rachel only to maintain a good cover. So when Rachel started to turn the crowd on her, Julia’s anger flared up.

“Rachel! So good to see you here. Especially with that dress of yours. You know, I swear I saw that on the Marc Jacobs runway… two years ago. Since when did Rachel Canning not keep up with the latest trends? Oh right, she never did.” Julia gushed.

The atmosphere of the party dropped suddenly. It was as if a sudden Siberian wind had rushed through, leaving everybody shivering in his or her places.

“Oh Julia, poor Julia. I guess you I’ll let you go easy this time, seeing as how you need all the sympathy you can get.” Rachel retaliated.

“What are you talking about?” a confused Julia demanded. What was going on in her kingdom that she, the queen, didn’t know about?

“Oops, this is embarrassing,” said Rachel. “Everybody knows about it. Why don’t you?”

“You better stop lying! Unless you have an early death wish,” Julia nearly shouted.

“Well, I guess it’s time for me to share the truth. Tyler is no longer your faithful boyfriend. He hasn’t been for the last two weeks.” Rachel declared.

Julia’s heart stopped. She wouldn’t believe anything that the snake’s forked tongue hissed. Especially at her party. And besides, Tyler wouldn’t do anything like that. He loved her, and they were never going to break up.

“Stop lying! You’re just making up excuses because you’re upset I insulted your dress. Well it’s the truth, it was on the runway two years ago.”

“Poor Julia, can’t face the truth when it’s staring her in the eyes. Ask anybody in the room,” sneered Rachel.

And sure enough, everybody was wearing an uncomfortable expression, the expression of reluctant witnesses. And when she looked up at Tyler, her not-so-faithful boyfriend, he was silently pleading with his eyes.

“You disgust me! I can’t believe you would do this to me! You were the one who promised me we would never break up!” she shrieked.

“Julia, I-I, I’m sorry! I-“ Tyler spluttered out.

Disgusted, she flung herself out of his grasp and ran towards the door, grabbing her car keys from the hook. Desperately, she shoved the keys into the ignition, escaping the torture chamber. She longed for a safe haven, and somewhere inside of her, the piano store came into mind…

And so she stood, in front of the piano. It was as if an old friend were calling to her, opening his arms to her. Surely, in his arms, she would find comfort. Not in her so-called friends, not in popularity, not in the things that gave her momentary happiness after her mom died. Finally, she sat down on the bench, and ran her fingers over the black and white keys. Memories of her and her mother composing duets together ran over in her head, and the first, real, genuine smile crept on her face every since the fatal accident. Motivated by the happiest memory she could remember, she began to play an old consolation her mother had taught her long ago.

Rusty at first, she tentatively clunked out the notes, mistakes being prevalent as well. Until alas, the most beautiful consolation flowed from her fingers like a brook flowing down a hill. Her left hand flitted up and down the keyboard while her right hand was floating over the keys playing beautiful chords like fluffy, white clouds in the clear, blue sky. It was Liszt done well; everybody in the store stopped what he or she was doing just to listen to Julia. The song seemed to put everybody in a trance, mesmerizing anybody standing in a 10-mile radius. Playing the piano soothed her soul, and all discomforts from the party disappeared, out of thought, out of mind.

As her fingers fluttered over the keys, her heart started fill with joy, joy she only felt with her mother when they created beautiful melodies together. For the first time in months, Julia couldn’t keep a smile off her face. It was as if her mother was with her again, sitting beside her on the piano bench. They had the time of their lives together, with her mother making up the goofiest melodies to match Julia’s chords. Reminiscing in those wonderful times, Julia finally opened herself up to all the emotion in the world, even the ones that hurt the most.

Streaming copiously down her face, tears were freely falling, dripping onto the keys below. All the feelings she’d bottled up inside of her were inside those tears. Deep sorrow for the death of her mother welled up inside her gut, the mother who could never be replaced with a surrogate. She desperately missed everything about her, the way she laughed about insignificant things, how she never failed to see the best in others, and how she would always have time for Julia. She had shut out these things about her mother after the funeral, for it hurt too much to think about them. But each note she struck was a little goodbye to her mother, each change of the pedal being a part of her letting go.

Julia would always keep her mother in her heart, she was sure. It was just easier to say goodbye. She didn’t need the material things of the world to fill the empty gap in her heart. She had her piano, and the memories of her and her mother were enough to satisfy her for an eternity.

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