A Symphonic Surprise

July 11, 2017
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     She set off at a brisk pace down 4th Street Avenue, wrapping her coat tightly around her in an attempt to block out the cold wind stinging her skin.  Her mother hurried along behind Elise as best she could, for it is dreadfully hard to run in heels.  As the two half-ran, half-tripped down the Avenue Elise proudly recalled how this came to be.  As a result of two years saving money from various summer jobs, Elise had scraped together enough to buy two tickets to the symphony!  Elise remembered the look on her mother’s face when she opened the birthday gift.  She basked in the memory, her mother’s face had first revealed surprise, then disbelief, then pure joy.  Elise’s mother had always had a passion for music, fueled by her father (Elise’s grandfather), who played all of the stringed instruments and had taught middle school orchestra.  He had also played in many orchestras and quartets, getting acquainted with many talented musicians and conductors throughout his lifetime.
     Her mother had taken lessons to learn two instruments as a child, including piano and violin (she was helped greatly by her father).  Unfortunately, Elise had never met her grandfather, for her mother had lost contact with him for reasons she never discussed.  Elise’s passion, of course, was sparked by her mother’s love of instruments and music.  She had grown up appreciating classical music and loved the way the music tangled together in an intricate dance.  Elise herself, at thirteen years of age, had started playing the viola when she was seven, and took her music classes with the ninth-graders at school.
     Elise cleared her head as they reached the music hall, and started climbing the shining stone steps.  After what felt like hours of climbing (but was probably only about a minute) Elise and her mother entered the grand music hall.  Elise glanced around her, subconsciously straightening her blouse as she took in the magnificence of the building. There were elegant stone stair cases on either side of the entry hall, wrapping up to the upper floor.  Intricate patterns were carved into the stone on the ceiling and stair cases, as well as several stone pedestals on both sides of the many doors leading into the building.  Gold accents adorned the hall and a soft glow seemed to emanate from every surface.  Elise and her mother followed the line of people heading into the main theater room before sinking into the velvet theater seats.
     Twenty minutes later, the music began.  Elise sat up eagerly as the conductor announced the first movement, then turned around and counted the tempo for the musicians.  She closed her eyes and leaned back as the music reached her ears- soft and sweet, but tentative, as if the musicians were afraid to get any louder.  The song got faster and slower throughout, louder and softer.  Elise could feel the emotion pouring out of the instruments and the musicians alike.  She wondered if her grandfather had ever met any of the musicians onstage, had ever played with any of them.  She whispered, “Isn’t this wonderful mother?  I bet grandfather would have loved to be here with us, right now.”  She smiled happily, and leaned back to focus on the music once more.
     It was not until much later in the symphony’s performance that Elise glanced at her mother, who was sitting to her right.  Elise nearly had a heart attack when she realized that her mother, looking like she had just seen a ghost, was stark white.  Elise, feeling like a failure, addressed her mother in a concerned tone, “Are you feeling alright?”  Her mother nodded, staring straight ahead at the musicians on stage.  After this point, Elise, who was worried about her mother, could not fully enjoy the music.
     As soon as the symphony came to a close, Elise turned to her mother, and was immediately relieved to see that the color had returned to her face.  Feeling much better, Elise asked her mother if they could go to speak with the conductor.  “I don’t know…” said her mother, “There are a lot of people here and I want to make sure we can get a cab to take back home.”  Elise, as any thirteen-year old would do, wore her mother down eventually with her persistence.
     They walked down the aisle together towards the conductor, who was speaking with other guests.  The conductor froze when he turned around, a curious look setting in his eyes.  Looking at Elise’s mother, he said, “Anna? Wow, what a small world it is.  I haven’t seen you since your father’s trial! How’s he doing?”
“Still in prison,” Elise’s mother muttered, blushing furiously.
“It’s such a shame,” said the conductor, “He was one of my favorite colleagues.  I suppose they still haven’t found the evidence to free him then?  It was a violin, wasn’t it? Stradivarius?”
“Yes,” she whispered, “worth 1.6 million.”
     Elise looked at her mother’s miserable expression and gently tugged on her arm, pulling her away from the conductor.  She smiled warmly at the conductor, “It was nice meeting you sir, but we need to leave now.”
“Certainly, certainly.” The conductor said, nodding to himself, “Yes, you do what you need to.  It was nice meeting you.”
     The conductor turned to his belongings as Elise ushered her mother down the aisle.  She stared after the conductor curiously, wondering how much he knew about her grandfather.  She watched as he bent over his violin case, glancing behind him quickly.  Elise squinted to make out the lettering on the case and gasped.  On the case, printed in small, blocky letters was a single word.  Stradivarius.

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