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The Boy in the Green Blazer
His fingers touched keys softly, lovingly. The music snowballed until his eyes shut and he danced with the piano. A jig into a waltz. He twirled in the notes, a spirit came from the dove-feather keys and took him swaying him like a willow tree. The final note skipped weakening as it traveled further into the stark white hall.
He nervously pushed up the sleeves of his velvety green blazer and flashed a grin to the audience, to old to hear but never to old to smile.
Seven-teen-year-old Frankie Dawni spent his free time in the blinding sanitized “lounge room” of Joans Manor spending his days with those closest to death.
His first lesson was when he was three. It consisted of his mother holding him on her lap while he eagerly slapped the keys. The thought made him wince. Since then almost no days in the Dawni household went by without the singing of a piano.
His audience was mostly asleep. Madeline never was. She was deaf. Some days she wouldn’t be there. Frankie caught whispers of varies ailments paired with her name. The piano notes could drown it out most of the time.
She didn’t look that old. Her skin was an ivory color. Her hair a cream puff a top her head. She liked red bows in it sometimes when she remembered to tell the nurses to help her put them in. Frankie wished he could get there in the morning so he could put them in for her, she’d like that.
She spoke little, in a high-pitched voice.
“Mrs. Lyn?” Frankie said setting his hand on her shoulder. This was two years, one month and a day ago. November, 2. Frankie never forgot that date. The nurses were used to peak capacity, running about with piles of medication and speeding by with people in wheel chairs trying to get them where they had to go. There had been a few nurses to retire in that month and it put a huge stress on the dwindling staff of Joans Manor.
Frankie was just fifteen playing songs on an invisible keyboard on the edge of his desk, his fingers pulling him away from his family. His grades had all slouched. His teachers worried. Mrs. Monroe, conductorr, suggestingly instructed hI'm play at Joans Manor so someone could hear him and so he could get out of the house a bit and “socialize”(Later he learned she was registearedto play and didn’t feel like it). He fell in love with it. Everyday after the school bell he would walk up to Joans Manor and the head nurse would take hI'm the dining hall or lounge area to play their beautiful spotless piano.
Today was peak of staff problems. The head nurse unlocked the door and told hI'm make sure he told his “biggest fan”, Mrs. Lyn, he was there to see him play.
Frankie didn’t know who Mrs. Lyn was. He sneaked into the room of snoring or half asleep elderly people. All but one.
She sat with a quilt on her lap and looked out at the grass field behind the manor. He knew it was her. Her chair had the name “Madeline Lyn” stickered on the back in typewriter font.
He grinned a little,” Mrs. Lyn?”
She didn’t respond. She just kept smiling looking out the window.
Frankie repeated, “MRS. LYN!”
Now every one was looking at him besides her.
She turned calmly. “Dear, were you calling me?”
Frankie nodded blushing.
“Honey I wouldn’t be able to hear a train whistle, just shake me and I’ll watch ya. I can read lips, but I don’t hear anything any more.”
She looked him up and down and grinned. “I know you,” She said,” You’re the boy in green blazer. You play beautiful music all the time.”
He paused puzzled and then continued,” Yeah, I’m Frankie. Nurse Daniels told me to let you know I was here.”
She looked back out at the field,” Well, isn’t that sweet of her, and to you I’m not Mrs. Lyn, I’m Madeline. Okay? Now go play.”
A solider taking orders Frankie darted to the piano and set to letting his fingers skate along the shiny clean keys. He glanced over to Madeline. She was still smiling looking out at the field. For a second his mind fumbled over the logic of his biggest fan being deaf, luckily this thought was too intense for a pianist in motion and it was swallowed by a wave of song.
He finished. Everyone clapped. For the first time he noticed it was her to start it. He fixed his velvety emerald blazer, took a tiny twitch of a bow, and made his way out down the halls like a speck of dust on a freshly cleaned kitchen floor.
Things went on like this. Eventually about a year had passed and now instead of walking two miles to the manor, Frankie pulled up in his mother’s rusty yellow truck. Every nurse knew him. Well, they knew of him. Madeline knew him.
She was the first one he felt connected to for a long time. She didn’t read lips to well so most conversations included awkward shouting and she’d get angry with that. Sometimes they could just sit and she could pick up what Frankie was feeling. He liked that.
Years earlier when driving was a thought curled up in the corner of a young mind, when Frankie was fourteen he walked home from school and threw his stuff down upon entering the house. Something was different. No mom. No dad. Intrigued he looked into it.
Mom sat on the edge of the bed. She was crying.
Frankie never saw his mom cry. It was scary. He hated when women cried. He felt like there was something he should be crying about, but was to stupid to understand, or it was him who caused it.
“Mom?” He squeaked.
She shook her head, hand to her face. “Frankie don’t leave me. Promise you won’t leave me!”
Frankie was scared, “Why would I…”
“Mom, I would never leave you?”
She broke out in tears. Frankie rapped his arms around. “Mom, I’m sorry! What did I do? Is it my grades?”
“Frankie he’s gone.”
Frankie glanced at what was in her hands. A note.
Attached to the note hung a little picture. A mom. Three little kids, much younger than Frankie. A father. Frankie’s father. The children’s father.
Frankie wished to know no more. His heart hung in the air. Nothing seemed real. Why? When? How? Suddenly business trips were lies, random phone calls were lies. He was a lie. He smiled briefly, it was a stupid joke and then he looked at his mother holding her head in her hands.
It wasn’t a joke.
They never talked about the other family. Frankie assumed she knew more, he didn’t want her to cry, so he avoided it. Frankie never told her this, but he always believed ever so slightly in two things. Frankie would wake up and he’d be there (everything only a long nightmare). He’d wake up and he’d be sitting at his piano stool before he went to work tying his shoes. Or, number two, that his dad would think about it and chose them over the other family.
He drifted a bit. His mom was his anchor at that time until that too frayed and broke, she switched to the night shift. After working everyday day in her life as the wife of a businessman and the mother of a musician, now she had to work every night as a cashier to make up for the businessman leaving and to support the musician. That’s when Frankie was referred to play at the home.
So Frankie, inching towards seventeen climbed the slippery steps to the lounge room with a slight sheepish grin painted on his face. Frankie didn’t really smile. Even when he was happy, it was always just timidly curled up at the edges of his mouth, like a little caterpillar.
He strode over to where Madeline sat to alert her he was to begin playing. The chair was empty. Her quilt was there. His eyes scanned the room. Shaking slightly he buttoned up his green blazer. He just stood there. It was like when he saw that other family’s picture, but scarier. People left the home every week. He never thought she ever would. He scolded himself for his faith in her and then realized he was still standing in the lounge room.
He tiptoed to the piano. It was his first day again. His fingers fumbled for the notes. After a few minutes he found them and a certain song took him away from the lounge. His living room again.
His feet almost touched the ground but not quite. His shoes were polished and he swore he could his reflection in them. A hand touched his shoulder and beamed watching his tiny fingers touch the keys. It was his dad.
All his friends were over in their business coats. He wandered why they’d choose to wear them. They sat in the living room on the fluffy cloud like sofas. Mom was making dinner.
“Very nice Frances.” He nodded and glanced to his friends who gave slight smiles.
That was the only time Mr. Dawni said anything to Frankie regarding his playing in a prideful manor. Of course he mentioned to hI'm stop or to stop playing and do his homework. Never did he applaud him. The sudden compliment still puzzled Frankie.
He tapped the final note and it pulled him back to the lounge room. He walked briskly out. A few scattearedclaps echoed from the room as he strode by.
Tears pulled at the sides of his eyes. He held them close until he sat in his mother’s rusty yellow truck.
He shook. He didn’t want to loose her too. He couldn’t loose her. She was alright yesterday. He pictured her, closing her eyes and smiling swaying her head to the music. How could she do that? He waved it from his mind. The tears stopped. The memory felt warm. She was okay. He knew she was okay.
He clattearedhome. After the bleep from the microwave his dinner was done and he sat down at the dinner table. He could hear the silence as of the buzz in the background. It was nice and peaceful to not be with any people to eat dinner.
Frankie wasn’t actually that anti-social. He played in the band and had gathered friends from there, but he genuinely didn’t like people. They stressed him out just trying to interact with them. He usually ended up having fun when he did and going out once in awhile kept him from feeling like an outersider.
People liked him. They were always calling “Hey Frankie!” in the halls. It confused him. Sometimes a girl would even flirt with him. That irked him. They generally stopped. His eyes, were mini golf fountain blue. His hair, a stack of chocolate mousse swirled atop his head. He wasn’t bad looking. Thirty minutes of his morning was spent editing his appearance, not to please other people but simply of habit formed by his mother making sure every hair was in order when he went off to school in his younger years.
A bite of chicken parm burnt his mouth. Sadly a beast within him hissed and grumbled starching begging for a piece of nourishment so he lived with the burning in his mouth. It was a different type of burning then came from an oven.
He walked over to the window and closed his eyes pretending there was something beautiful to look at out it like he imagined Madeline did. She would be there tomorrow. He knew it.
Actually, Frankie almost didn’t come the next day. He feared he wouldn’t be able to play.
Tears curled up in the corners of his eyes when he saw the puff of hair peaking over the top of her chair in the lounge room, they were sweet tears though. A young nurse stood next to her with a cup of multi-colored pills.
His eyes hovered on the nurse. Her skin was soft and her eyes were velvet. She wore a white knit hat on the back of her head. He didn’t budge.
Madeline squeaked “Frankie here yet?”
“Um, is that your son Mrs. Lyn?”
“No, and I’m Madeline to you. Frankie is a musician.”
“You kind of need to take your pills?”
She smiled. She wasn’t looking at the nurse. The nurse ended up repeating herself about three times till Madeline looked at her and chuckled,” So who are you and where is my normal nurse?”
“Nurse Ellen kind of moved, Oh and I’m Abby,” She held out her hand, Madeline didn’t take it. Abby set the pills on the arm of her chair and snuck off in a puff of steam.
Before passing Frankie she turned to him,” Hey I like the jacket.”
“My dad gave it to me…”
“Well, he has good taste”
“Hey, I like your hat by the way too.”
“Thanks, you wouldn’t happen to know where someone named Frankie is would you? I just started and I work with this woman, she’s well you know the kind on this level, a little off. Anyway, all she talks about is Frankie.”
A spark hit his face. “Actually, I’m Frankie. Frankie Dawni.”
“You are my savior! Please go play! It’s all that woman talks about!”
Frankie gave a nod and headed to the piano, sitting down on the clean black stool. Someone else sat. Her fiery hair glowed in the corner of his eye. His palms slick he still managed to grip the keys.
He was playing in his living room again. It was the day after his father left. He didn’t know where his mom was. He didn’t care. Brushing tears from his eyes his hands slipped off the keys tracing dreadfully angers tunes. Driving his fingers into the keys he held the note. He pushed harder but the note didn’t get any louder.
Ashamed he stopped wiping his nose. He hated angry music. Always did. Now he did even more knowing how it was created. A softer tune drifted into his head, one his mother would play when he got frustrated with a lesson. She wrote it herself on staff paper it was only like three notes. Even that he was to frustrated to remember, he needed the sheet music.
Hopping up he looked in the seat where it usually was. Inside was his dad’s green velvet blazer. The seat was a treasure chest, it an emerald. A little note,
“ Never stop playing the piano, I will be the back row of your concerts”.
He never showed his mom. It would just upset her. He planned to, just never got around to it, and really it confused him.
The final note bowed, hands still slick he looked up. Two people started clapping. Abby clapped fast, Madeline gentle, like always.
He became fond of this new guest to his concerts. Everyday he moved a bit faster to the manor.
He always darted out after until Abby began to catch him everyday by the sleeve of his emerald jacket and generally tell him how great he sounded. This day she caught up with him instead of pulling on his jacket.
“Hey Frankie,” She smiled, “You have somewhere to be?”
He froze. He weighed his option in his head and sighed,” I suppose not, why?”
“You’re always in such a rush.”
“I guess, never really noticed. I just like to walk with determination,” He said a slight grin peeking from the corners of his lips.
“My shift is over, Madeline has a treatment or something, you want to go to the diner down the block for some dessert?”
“Dessert? Where’d diner go?”
“It’s Friday, live a little! So you coming?”
“I guess, just for a little, I am hungry.”
The late autumn was touched with spring today. The air was touched with daffodils as Frankie and Abby walked. Frankie power-walked ahead and Abby tried to keep up. She was about a foot shorter than Frankie and a tad less conditioned.
They sat down. Parkway diner. Frankie had eaten there a few times when his mom forgot to get food at home and he got really hungry. Abby ordered a tea with milk and honey, Frankie a coffee, black with a few sugar cubes. They were quiet talking about the desserts on the menu and taking sips of warmth. Abby looked at the ceiling and then at him.
“Frankie, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” He said skipping over the top of the question.
“ I mean it! Why don’t you like people? Or is it just me, I am a little…”
“Do you really want to know?”
Abby blinked,” Yes.”
Frankie drummed his fingers on the counter recalling a tune he used to play for warm ups before attempting his middle school band pieces.
“I don’t have luck with people.”
“Come on, you’re so cryptic! I’m not going to tell anyone. Heck the only person I talk to is that old woman and she doesn’t hear a word I say!”
“My dad gave me this stupid jacket. It was his before he left me and my mom. After he left my mom moved to working nights. I haven’t seen her for more than a few minutes in weeks. She never worked before dad left so it was about all she could find. And now Madeline is probably leaving me too.” His head hit the counter.
It hit something in Abby. Her fingers skated on the warm mug handle.
The two white plates clattearedto the table both carrying a piece of angle food cake with whipped chocolate icing and a strawberry plopped on top.
“Right on kew!” Abby said hesitantly touching Frankie’s back. He flinched and swallowed, he wasn’t going to cry now. A part of Abby wanted hI'm.
Frankie didn’t want to talk anymore. He ached. “So what about you?”
Abby raised an eye brow, “What about me?”
“You hate working with Madeline, why do you work there?” Frankie’s heart rate slowed as the conversation was shifted away from the danger zone.
“I almost asked if you really wanted to know,” her smiled was broken,” I’m working to be a pediatrician. Ironic, I know working with old people. It’s the only thing I could find. My family is big, I get lost in the mix of other pretty little kids. I’m the only one from my mom. My dad re-married when I was like two and had like six other kids. It bothers me I won’t lie. I look different too. I look like her. I feel like I know her even though I never did. My dad doesn’t talk about her. I found out she went to med school and then worked at a nursing home for a bit. I thought I’d give it a shot until I can find a job and maybe find her.”
Turned from each other and slipped a piece of cake into their mouths. Abby stopped chewing forming a thought. “This is really awkward,” Abby smirked.
“People are awkward…” Frankie said absent-mindedly chewing.
Abby nodded feeling the urge to leave. She spun on the diner stool and stood up. Frankie grabbed her hand, not harshly though, comfortingly enough to make her sit and finish her cake.
Abby nodded sniffling a little, “It’s nice talking to you.”
Frankie stopped, having finished his slice, “I needed to talk to someone, and so did you.”
“It’s nice talking to you too?”
Music poured in waterfalls from Frankie’s apartment doors that night.
They kind of formed a trio of misfits. Madeline, Frankie, and Abby. After a concert they would converse lightly. No subjects from the diner ever came back. Things like the weather, Frankie’s music, and sometimes food followed in the air like music notes. About deeper things they conversed with their eyes, a comforting gaze was all they needed.
One day Frankie began to stride out after their daily conversation, a hand caught him on the collar of his white t-shirt.
“You aren’t getting away that easy today! You were truly amazing Mr. Dawni!”
“Thanks, I got to get home though.”
“I understand, but hold on one second!” She paused biting her lip. Something was different about hI'mday, it made her feel bold.
Frankie paused,” Okay?”
“Will you teach me?”
“What do you think?”
“I’m not a good teacher.”
“Well nether am I, just one lesson?”
He turned to go again.
She didn’t stop talking, “You know what I was thinking about, why does Madeline like your music?”
“I don’t know why do you like my music?”
“That doesn’t matter she’s deaf don’t you get it?!” Abby called at Frankie’s back as he turned on his heels headed out the door,” Wait!”
Frankie turned again. He met face to face with her and almost fainted from fright. Abby’s lips caught him. They held him up in the air and dropped him.
Frankie’s face flushed watermelon red and he mumbled,” Who says deaf people can’t know music?”
He was off. A gust of cool wind from him opening the open door was pleasant. She smiled skipped back to the lounge.
I wasn’t till in there she realized what was so different. Upon the soft piano stool his emerald jacket was draped. She ran it outside, but he was gone.
Her white sneakers chirped as she walked into the lounge with a basket of pills for Madeline. Minutes passed into hours. No music played.
It got later and later and later. Abby breathed,” I’ll wait just a little more, just a little more, just a little more.”
Madeline looked away from the window at Abby,” Where’s Frankie… that boy’s always here for us.
Abby, dark circles hugging her eyes, shook her head,” I don’t know, I don’t know.”
She laid her head on Madeline’s lap and through tears drifted off to sleep.
The head nurse called her in earlier that day when she came in. Her face was a blank piece of paper. She shook her head and took Abby’s hand. It was a dream. No! A nightmare. Next week Abby would be starting as an intern at the near by children’s hospital and the nurse was going to tell her how much they would miss her. Abby would tell her they still had Frankie, they would always have Frankie. He did more than any nurse, aid, or assistant in the building.
She didn’t say that though. She just shook her head.
“Abby, I got a call this morning.”
Abby just stood like a rock.
“Frankie’s gone,” She broke as she spoke.
Abby stuttered,” Wha-what?”
“On his way home something happened with his car, after I heard what happened I-I just didn’t care what exactly happened. You know what I mean? I didn’t want gruesome details, I was hurt enough.”
Abby nodded her white sneakers chirping as she walked into the lounge.
She sat up from Madeline’s lap.
Sitting at the piano she felt lost. She was looking for something. His blazer still stared at her from the other side of the stool.
Her fingers touched keys softly, lovingly.