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The Eclectic Pen - A Convenient Cadence

By: Stuart M. (reinonmyday)   + 2 more  
Date Submitted: 5/28/2009
Genre: Literature & Fiction » Short Stories & Anthologies
Words: 1,336

  Small, pale fingers against ivory keys, the girl plinked away a melody, her figure getting lost against the magnificence of the black grand piano. Stumbling over the notes, she heaved a gentle sigh of frustration. Never quite able to play Fur Elise up to tempo.

"I hate this." came her soft, childlike voice, begging for deliverance from this awful chore. She glanced up from the keys, her expression pleading. On a dustless blue ottoman sat her mother, a stately woman of thirty-four.

"Stop complaining, Emery." Said Mrs. Dare sharply, rolling her eyes at her difficult child. "Your recital is tomorrow, and I'd rather you didn't embarrass yourself." With that, the woman uncrossed her legs and stood up swiftly, smoothing out her lilac skirt and adjusting the string of pearls around her neck. "Supper is in twenty minutes. I do hope you can properly play that song by then." The dark haired matron then made her exit, not to make supper--but surely to yell at those paid to do so.

Emery clinched her small, ten year old fists in aggravation. Would her mother's dissatisfaction ever come to an end? The little girl felt forever plagued by criticisms, surely never to be out from under her mother's judgmental raven eyes. She pounded her fists against the keys, a crunchy chord emitting from her tension. She had been playing the same song for nearly two hours, immediately after her painting and dance lessons. Emery was tired, and though her practice timer above the piano had not yet dinged, she was ready to go upstairs. She stood up quickly, knocking sheet music to the floor in her haste to get away. And for once, she didn't pick it up.

The young blonde girl made her way upstairs, passing the wall of staged family photos and various certificates without a second glance. Her closed, whitewash door was the first one in the hall, and she entered silently, locking the crystal knob once shut. Finally, some privacy. Em wandered over to the cage below her single window, which housed her guinea pig and best friend, Hamlet.

"I'm so glad you can't speak, Ham. You shan't ever tell me I've done something wrong." She opened the door of the small cage to pet the spotted little thing. Hamlet was truly the only comfort she had in this home. With stark white walls and perfectly neat rugs, Ham offered her a refuge from the flawlessness of this house that she was sure she'd never live up to.

She handed the pet a piece of carrot from the small container underneath the cage. He nibbled at it quietly, and Emery smiled, motherly and loving. After feeding Hamlet, she shut the cage neatly and stood up. Her light blue eyes scanned the room, her gaze bouncing from one neat corner to the next. She signed once more, bored and wondering what to do. If she went downstairs, she'd be spotted by her mother and forced to practice or learn something else. She'd have to entertain herself until dinner.

Quietly exiting her room, Emery slinked past the staircase, and down the other end of the hall, making her way to the nursery that housed her infant brother Radley.

As she had done with Hamlet, all Emery did was quietly stand at the edge of the crib, looking in fondly. She finally reached in and put her hand on her brother's warm head, smiling softly as the child hiccupped lightly in his sleep. She smiled softly, and put her arms around the child, lifting him out of the crib and nestling him in a comforting hold. Again, she thanked the stars for another loving creature that would not criticize her every move.

She had been in the nursery for only a few minutes before her mother's shrieking voice rang through the house, announcing dinner. Emery tightened her grip on her brother and ascended down the stairs, ready to endure an hour of torture disguised as family dinner.

"Emery!" The yell bounced off the walls, startling the girl and making her jump at the bottom of the staircase, upsetting the floor lamp next to her. The shade rolled to the floor but the light bulb stayed in tact. Emery didn't have time to fix it, for fear of disconcerting her mother further. So she continued quickly to the kitchen, Radley still in her arms.

After spotting Emery, Mrs. Dare immediately made orders for her to go set the table and feed her brother. Em did as she was told, and finally settled on the counter with Radley and a small spoon of baby food, happy to be alone in the large kitchen with her brother before dinner.

It was a good ten minutes before she started to smell smoke. Glancing around, Emery attempted to identify the source of it, first looking to the oven, then the microwave. She didn't see her mother, and assumed that she had gone upstairs until dinner would be served. So Emery jumped up, took her brother in her arms once again, and opened the kitchen door.

She was greeted with curls of black smoke, and instinctively coughed and covered Radley's face. Her wide blue eyes tried to see through the fire, but no one could be found. So quickly, she scrambled out the door towards the front door of the house, where she could see half the downstairs flaming, the blazes climbing up the staircase and consuming the house like a disease. The source of the fire was obvious--for the place of the fallen lamp was the most severly burnt so far. She fumbled for the doorknob and finally had sweet release onto the porch. Emery ran away from the house towards the tree line beyond the front yard, and finally stopped. She stood, stock still, eyes wide, and watched as her house was consumed by the red monster, and destroyed.

The neighbors had noticed, of course, and soon enough the police had arrived. Throughout it all, the shocked Emery stood staring, Radley tight in her arms. It must have been hours before the flames were out, and still she stood. She jumped, startled, when one of the firefighters finally spoke to her.

"Were you the only one in the house?" He asked, obviously the kind of man trying to be nice, but without much child experience. Emery looked at him, silent, and neither moved nor spoke. It was apparent that nobody else had exited the house, and the firefighters had not found any signs of a person yet. Emery finally glanced around. No sign of her mother, she must still be in the house. But with a look towards the once beautiful mansion, Emery knew she couldn't possibly have survived. Only the concrete skeleton of the house remained, and the rest of it was in ash, smoking like a geyser.

She stared ahead once more, completely unaware when the fireman took Radley from her arms. They fell limp, by her sides, and Emery walked forward, as if sleepwalking. Once again, the girl went unnoticed, as the firemen had moved to another area of the house, and didn't even see as she walked, barefoot, through what was once a wall, onto the steaming rubble. Here she stood where the living room once was. Ash whirled around the destructed dwelling as if the sky was falling.

All that was left in the room were shards of the fireplace, the brick mantle lying in a large piece among the charred wooden bits of floor. Emery's metronome, fallen and ticking, lay on the floor. She reached down and stopped the needle, rendering the room silent. And next to it, stood the grand piano, fallen apart and still smoking. Emery approached this instrument, and laid one clean finger on an ashy, warm key. Slowly, she pressed down. The piano stayed silent, its obnoxious voice no longer taunting her inability to play. The peace was comforting, and an unforeseen smile crept to her face. Her hand moved to the other side, a higher key. She pressed this one, and again, it was silent.

Good riddance.

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Stuart M. (reinonmyday)

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Kaysie S. - , - 6/3/2009 9:55 PM ET
I loved it.
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